Chapter 2-2

Proofreader: Dreen, Rooker

When you’re in a fantasy world, you can’t cut the traveling time. So if you need five days to get to a location, you have to be prepared to walk five days, sleeping outside five days, killing monsters attacking you for five days and so on.

Lucky for you, I’m the one who needs to endure it. For you, it’s a simple: ‘Five days later’. Bastard!

“So this is the forest of Aroahenn.” I already crumpled the map Correo gave us and burned it. Why? Because I hate that guy! And it wasn’t that accurate either. So I needed to do something to get rid of this irritation.

“Ken, now that we’re here, we have to talk.”

“Talk about what?”

“Your face.”

“Are you implying, that I’m ugly?”

“As a matter of fact, you are. So let’s cover it up unless we wanted to be shot by arrows.”

“Bi-”

*slap*

… … …

Did Rine just slap her hand on my mouth? Why? It’s Rine!

Wait, it’s Rine. So she won’t like me calling Kyou-san a bitch. The blonde girl looks at me with apologizing eyes, but it’s like she couldn’t help it. Well, it didn’t hurt much, she was just so fast in silencing me.

… Why is Kyou-san upping her thumb to her? When did that happen!? Kyou-san is manipulating Rine behind my back! And I did let it happen, even though it was so predictable! When!? How!?

“Ken, let me finish. Do you remember the lizardmen?”

Slowly, Rine removes her hand. “The ss’rak? Of course.”

“Do you remember how every single one of them, who saw you, tried to beat you up or to kill you?”

“Yes?”

“Since I don’t want to risk anything, I would feel much safer, if you cover your face and won’t say anything. Like ever again. But for some days would be sufficient for now.”

“You’re jok- You’re not.” Maybe there were some problems in the past, but it’s not like I wanted these things to escalate. I’m almost innocent!

Now Rine chimes in: “Kyou, Kenta isn’t ugly. He may not be handsome compared to some other men I know, but he’s not as bad as others.”

“His face may get a passing grade, but only if he would actually smile for a change. And I mean a heartfelt one and not one of his usual smirks.”

“That’s unfair, Kyou. Smiling is not his strong point.”

Rine, please stop. It’s a too pitiful display of a defense.

I rub my temple. “Kyou-san, I let you do the talking, but I won’t cover my face. We have neither a mask nor do I want to restrain my [Perception] by one bit. Even facial hair is supposed to help you to perceive your surrounding, by feeling the air currents.”

“That sounds stupid, but as long as you’re quiet, it’s sufficient.”

So we walk towards the trees, I’m a step ahead of the rest. “Wait. There is something. The air is… flickering a bit.” It seems like a TV, which tries to display a definition it’s not compatible with. You see things as they are, but it’s a bit blurred.

Without [Focus] and [Farsight] I may have missed it.

I take a pebble and throw it. It’s flicked away by that obviously magical barrier. I look for some more pebbles and repeated the process. “We knocked. Let’s wait.”

And it doesn’t take long until the barrier opens up a hole, large enough for us to enter.

This seems fishy, but do we have a choice?

So we enter and behind us, the barrier closes. Then suddenly, I see several creatures around us, pointing their arrows at us. Elves, eight of them.

Or are they?

The elves I saw in games and movies are beautiful humanoids. They have pointy ears, but otherwise, they look like slim humans. But how do I say… these ones look strange.

Pointy ears, check. Beautiful… their eyes are wide and their irises are two-colored, an inner and an outer ring. Green and yellow is the most common combination, but one has red and green and another one blue and gray. The pupils are long, a bit cat-like.

Their nasal bones are also long, their cheekbones on the high side and the heads rather large compared to the rest of their bodies. These are rather short, and instead of slim, they’re more skinny. Even though some of them look female, they have no breasts. Not even a bit.

Their hair is bright, most of them have of light green color, but there is also one with copper-colored hair, someone with bluish green hair, I can even see two of them, whose hair was yellow. Not blonde. Yellow.

Wait a minute, is there a bit of green in their skin color?

No, elves are not beautiful. They’re strange. Different. I look at them and I can’t help to think, that they’re an entirely different species. All these differences are subtle in nature, but they sum up to something inhumane. Maybe that’s why in Japan foreigners were considered as monsters centuries ago.

So unless these are the freaks, I suppose that there are no attractive, big-busted elven girls in this fantasy world. Again it proves me, that it’s not a game.

And it’s all summed up by their choice of clothes, which’s style is strange. And none of them wears footgear if you don’t count soleless cotton and leather laces.

The elves are calm. One of them slowly lowers the bow, his eyes has a combination of yellow-green, that’s a bit brighter than the rest. “Hands in the air.” We do as he said. “Before we begin with the standard procedure, there is one question we have to ask.”

Kyou-san stays calm and answers: “Ask.”

“It’s for the male one.”

Hey, that wasn’t discussed! I thought I would just stay beside Kyou-san and do nothing. The same Kyou-san is definitely displeased, but nods at me.

No chance, huh? “What is it?”

“Which one of these two do you pork?”

… …

… … …

… … … … What!?

I look at Kyou-san, who’s as speechless as I am and Rine, who’s cocking her head, not understanding what was just asked.

“Can you repeat the question?” I must have misheard it.

“Which one of these two females do you pork. Or screw. Wedge? You know, nighttime actions.”

Is he serious?

“Answer me, or we will turn you into a pincushion!” He lifts the bow and aims at me. The other elves are also aiming directly at me, instead of our general direction.

He… He IS serious!?

“Kenta has night action with Kyou, since they won’t let me join.”

… RINE!!!

I fall down to my knees, unable to support my weight with my weakening legs. Kyou-san is about to faint, rolling her eyes that much, that there is no iris to see.

The elves are laughing: “Oh, we have a playboy here. Well, not our problem, but the black-haired one, huh? I just lost a carving knife, bastard! You seemed like one, who would do blondes.”

Why is there a strange sound? Ah, I’m hitting my forehead repeatedly with both of my palms. Please, stop! I don’t even know, who am I addressing, but please, stop!

“After we got the answer of that important questions, let’s start the interrogation. Who are you and what do you want here?”

I want to answer, but I’m busy hurting myself. Kyou-san is also putting her faces in her hands in dismay. So we have only one party member left, who could answer.

“My name is Katarine von Stolzherz, this is Katsuragi Kenta, that is Momokawa Kyou and we’re heroes. We’re here to visit the elves.”

Suddenly, the air freezes. The elves, despite not changing their facial expressions, are looking at us with hostility and most of them draw their bows. “What did you call us?” The leader is obviously pissed. At least going by his voice, I can’t tell by his body language.

“Elves?” Rine is tilting her head.

“Aera’jos! Don’t-” Before the leader of the elves could interfere, an arrow is shot at Rine, but without breaking a sweat, she draws her sword and deflect it with a swift motion.

Rine, you’re too overpowered, being able to do that! Even most of the elves’ mouths are agape! It’s only slightly, maybe elves just don’t have much facial expression in general?

“Please, Mr. Elf. I’m sorry if I have offended you.” She does a curtsy and apologizes. Even though the hostility remained, it calmed a bit.

The leader answers, still a bit in shock about Rine’s display of overprowess “Katarine, I’m sorry for Aere’jos. But you have to know, that ‘elf’ is a word used by humans, which is like an insult to us. If we called humans constantly ‘dumans’, you would be also feel insulted.”

“I see… so how do you call yourself?”

“Alfar. Singular alfr.”

“Sorry, Mr. Alfr.”

“We’re the Ljos, which means ‘The ones who lives in the light’ in common tongue. If you refer us as ‘high-elves’ or ‘light-elves’ we’ll kill you.”

“OK.”

Hey, isn’t Rine quite capable of taking over negotiations? She already starts to befriend them! Well, her [Persuasion]-value is high, after all.

“My name is Oro’hekk, by the way. I’m the leader of the guards. Katarine, there is another important question, I have to ask you.”

“What is it?”

“What are these things on her chest? They seem to be bouncy and needless.”

“On Kyou’s chest? … Ah, her breasts? Human women do have those.”

“Do you have these ‘breasts’ as well?”

“Yes. You can’t see mine since I’m wearing armor.”

“Ah, so what do you do with these?”

“…” She’s fidgeting. “Adult stuff.”

““““““““Wo-Ho-Ho-Hooooooo!”””””””” All alfar are celebrating this news in a choir. But at least they’re lowering their bows, to pump their fist into the air.

What a bunch of pubescent brats! Every one of them is looking like they could be around our age, despite being disfigured, so yes, you may have only one thing in your head at that age. But seriously!

Oro’hekk continued: “Well if we consider everything, I think that you may pass after the last test. We need to see if your story about being heroes is true. Is there any evidence?”

Rine is looking at me. Kyou-san is still squirming, unable to respond. I think I can hear a quiet mix of whining, curses and strange noises from her.

I stand up and see, how an alfr girl is humping her waist. It’s not the least bit sexy, but very annoying. “Do you know class-change?”

“Yes.” Oro’hekk is totally relaxed, but his ears are waving a bit. What does that mean?

Nevermind. “Then watch.” I select the [Pikeman]-class and my muscles grow. “One.” Then I select the [Student]-class, my muscle mass decrease and my belly grows. “Two.” Then [Scout] again. “Three.”

Oro’hekk put his bow into the quiver on his waist. “That is quite a display. Even though I don’t know, which class makes your belly bloats.” I want to hit him! “Aera’jos”, Oro’hekk turns to the one, who just shot at Rine: “As punishment, you will run ahead and inform Ara’ainn about the coming heroes. She will be delighted.”

Aera’jos complains about being degraded to a messenger, but Oro’hekk only insisted and Aera’jos complies. Well, Oro’hekk called himself the leader of the guards, of course, he outranks that Aera’jos-guy.

The bowstring-happy alfr runs deeper into the forest and we follow Oro’hekk and the rest of the alfar at a slower pace.

―○●○―

After the magical wards comes a labyrinth made out trees and bushes. Is this me or did we passed the same trees several times? Even though the way the branches are growing differs, the bark pattern seems to be the same. And I feel observed. By something hostile.

“We’re here.” Oro’hekk declares this while showing us a perfect panorama of the middle of nowhere. Seriously, some trees, scrubs and nothing else.

As I expected. “So this is the part, where you try to kill us?”

Oro’hekk blinks in disbelief: “What are you talking about?”

“You brought us deep into the forest, only-“

“Ken.”

“-only so that there will be no chance-”

“Ken.”

“-will be no chance, that we-”

“Ken!”

“Stop interrupting me!”

“Stop being a moron and look up.” Kyou-san points to the treetops. And there is something strange, the branches of several trees have formed like a basket, merging several crowns to something, which resembles a dome. Between the branches are sometimes big holes, which are covered up by leafs.

Is this a building? Are these windows and doors?

“Close your mouth, insects are flying in.” Kyou-san makes a sardonic remark.

Oro’hekk simply snickers and asks: “Any questions left?”

“…” This is shameful. “Yes, how are we supposed to get in?”

“Ah, humans. Almost forgot.” Oro’hekk steps forward. Addressing the tree he spoke.  “We like to enter you, would you be so kind to help us?”

And the tree lowers a humongous branch, which acts like a small bridge to the leaf-covered hole, which is supposedly a door.

Moving trees. This… is actually quite fantasy-like. But I don’t like it. I get the feeling, that every tree inside this forest might become my enemy.

“Kenta, look! It’s moving by being asked, this is unbelievable!” Rine’s eyes are sparkling. She’s  so simple.

Kyou-san narrows her eyes, maybe she’s thinking the same as I am. Then she whispers with a shake of her head: “Don’t think about it.”

We cross the bridge and enters the building. It’s… a mess.

Books, papers, and scrolls are scattered through the whole room and on all furniture, most of them seem to contain countless lists of numbers and quite a few of them are covered in dust.

The room in general, is dusty and unkempt. I can smell old leftovers, reminding me of my own room in Japan after a gaming marathon.

Some space was made, obviously just now, since I can still see the things which were thrown aside to free some sitting accommodation. On one of these seats is the guy, who was sent here by Oro’hekk.

I’ve already forgotten his name.

Well, let’s hope that this won’t be important anymore.

“Where is Ara’ainn?” Oro’hekk asked the alfr.

“Back in what’s left of the kitchen. After a hard negotiation, she’s preparing drinks.”

“…”

Hey, why are you silent?

And why am I hearing some strange noises from a room further inside this wooden building?

Steps are approaching, accompanied by clattering. Someone is carrying dishes, I think. And finally with a thud, that someone falls to the ground, the dishes fall to the ground and break.

Seriously, what’s going on!?

“…Ah.” I can hear the voice of a girl, who seems to wonder what just happens. “I fell asleep.”

I throw a glance at Kyou-san, who doesn’t have the [Pitch]-skill and therefore can only hear faint, strange sounds without knowing what’s going on. Same for Rine, whose head is tilted.

Then I redirected the glance to Oro’hekk, who explains with a shrug: “She’s rarely sleeps, so sometimes she falls asleep while standing. Or walking. Or eating. Or about every other form of activity.” Why are you so calm about it!?

Who is she, and why do we have to meet her!?

“Aera’jos, please help her.”

“Why do I have to?”

“Because I’ll put fleas in your bed, if you don’t.”

“I hate you!”

But that Aera’jos-guy does what the other alfr asked him to do. Actually, he seems even a bit eager about it. Strange.

We seat ourselves and after around two minutes, finally we can see that Ara’ainn-san-girl.

The way she’s looking… is about the same for me as the other alfar. High cheekbones, long, pointy ears, wide dark green dark blue eyes, and hair white as snow. I think, that she looks like a girl around my age, but it’s hard to call her pretty. At least from a human’s standpoint.

But even though she’s supposed to be so tired, that she even falls asleep while walking, she doesn’t have bags under her eyes. But I think the points of her ears are a bit sacked.

“Welcome to my research facility, I’m the one in charge, Ara’ainn.”

Kyou-san and I are looking at Rine, so she can take over the conversation. But she’s looking at me, for some reason, so I try to push the burden to Kyou-san, who sighs and does what she’s originally supposed to do. “I’m Momokawa Kyou, that’s Katsuragi Kenta and finally, this is Rine-chan.”

“At least your names sounds hero-like. All of you are humans?”

“Yes.”

“And all of you are heroes?”

“Yes.”

“Then…” Without any sort of sign, Ara’ainn-san’s upper body lost all of it’s tension. Before it could fall, I catch her by her shoulders. I was the first to notice, since I got the [Focus]-skill.

Ara’ainn-san is blinking several times, while the alfar are drawing their weapons, that Aera’jos-guy already had an arrow drawn on his string. Hey, I just helped her!

A bit of life comes back to the girl, I just caught. “Oro’hekk and everyone else, he just caught me, when I fell asleep.” The alfr-girl sighs and looks me into the eyes. “Hm… you’re quite a specimen. Did you catch me, to win a bit of my favor?”

I avert my eyes. …She got me. That’s exactly what I would do and why I did so.

Even someone like me wants to befriend as many alfar as possible, after witnessing only the tip of the iceberg of their defense mechanisms.

Oro’hekk makes a gesture, and the guards lower their weapons. “Sorry, Ara’ainn, we thought he was going to rape you.”

…What!? Hey, doing it with an alfar would probably feel like bestiality! They’re an entirely different species! Does anyone getting off, doing it with apes!?

“Sorry, Kenta-kun,” Ara’ainn-san explains. “In alfar literature, there are a number of pieces about humans raping alfar women.”

… …

…We have these in my world as well. I kinda feel guilty.

And some humans actually perform bestiality, after all.

“I have a question.” It’s a very important one to me. “Why are you ‘-kun’ing me?”

“…” She’s sleeping again.

I let her drop to the floor.

Oro’hekk is the first one to act this time: “Everyone, drop your weapons until he drops his pants!”

This… is the worst.

After an hour, Ara’ainn-san awakens and her ear-points are a bit higher now. She sends the other alfar outside, being confident about being able to protect herself.

“I slept an hour, what a disgrace.” Ara’ainn-san seems to be crestfallen. “Before we start, I’m sorry for them.” She means the other alfar, who take their jobs as guards actually seriously.

Well, they seem to be young, but… “How old are they?”

“Oro’hekk just turned 648. The others are around three hundred. I’m 144 years old, by the way. Ah, not surprised. Are you knowing about our lifespans due to the stories of this world or your own?”

“So you know about us being from another world… Well, we heard, that Aroahenn has a lot of knowledge about heroes.”

“That’s me. I’m the one, who gathered it all. Me, Ara’ainn, the hero-sage.”

“Never heard of you.”

“…ignorant.”

“You…”

“Ken, keep quiet! And Ara’ainn-san, please don’t provoke him. He’s badly educated and we just got him housebroken.”

Anger is welling up, but I keep quiet. “Bitch.” Almost.

Slap.

Rine slapped my mouth shut again!

“Well done, Rine.” And Kyou-san is encouraging her!

“Sorry, Kenta, but Kyou told me to do this if you call any of us names.”

I’m about to throw another insult, but who knows what Rine will do, if I keep doing that?

Dammit! I’m oppressed by my wives!

Oh shit, I have wives!

“It seems like Kenta-kun is hurting.” Ara’ainn-san steps closer to me and take a deep look into my face. “In the heart, that is.”

“Ignore him.”

“I can’t because it’s funny.”

I want to hit someone. Each of this girls would do fine! Except for Rine, she can fight back. And Kyou-san, she got Rine on her side. And Ara’ainn-san, since there are several of her companions just outside and making them my enemy would most likely be deadly.

I’m out of girls to hit! I hate it!

“Kenta-kun.” Ara’ainn-san is looking at me apologizing. “I’m sorry, I got carried away. Everything has a certain order. So let me re-introduce myself: Ara’ainn, the hero-sage of Aroahenn. The alfar hero of knowledge.”

… So Ara’ainn-san is a hero as well? Or is it just a title? “So you’re from another world, too?” If she’s a hero, she has to.

“Yes, I’m from a place called Ljos on the planet Alfarheim.”

Rine is excited: “You’re from another world, too? Just like Kenta and Kyou!”

Ara’ainn-san’s look changes. It’s just a bit, but a small smile is forming on her face. But somehow I got bad vibes from it.

“Rine!” I put my hand on her head, forcing her face to my direction: “Do you know, what you just implied?”

“Don’t be hasty, Kenta-kun. Just let me talk to Rine-san and everything will be fine.” Ara’ainn-san eyes are sparkling, but it’s different from Rine’s sparks of excitement. These are the eye-sparks of a vulture, who just found prey.

Kyou-san sighs. “Keep it down, seriously.” She’s like the voice of reason. A very annoyed voice of reason who bears an unsaid threat in her tone. “Ara’ainn-san, you too.” Even the alfr is taken aback by Kyou-san’s tone. “Since you’re about to throw off the order again, let me get some points straight.”

Ara’ainn-san leans back. “Do so.”

“You’re Ara’ainn-san, the hero-sage and a hero, plus the boss of this research facility, right?”

“Right.”

“And you research heroes, right?”

“Right.”

“We have some questions regarding that and we like to get the knowledge of the el-” She corrects herself, after a warning look of Ara’ainn-san. “-alfar about curses. We can pay you.”

“I don’t want any money. I want to know everything about heroes!” Ara’ainn-san has a strange vibe to her. But somehow I can empathize with it.

She hates being in this world. I’m sure of it. And she wants to escape it. The same as me.

“Phew. Why are you studying heroes? Aren’t there other ways to return home?”

Ara’ainn-san seems to be surprised, that I was able to read her, but she remains calm. “Because I can’t figure them out. There are wars, there are gods, who interfere in them, so far it’s strange enough but somewhat reasonable. But why heroes from other worlds? If there is a system for exceptional beings, why won’t the gods imply the system to people of this world? The heroes have to be the key to these mysteries. And solving it will probably solve my dilemma as well.”

Kyou-san and I exchange looks.

I already had my doubts, but cast them aside for now, to pursuit the power needed to make my own decisions.

Kyou-san asked herself these questions when she was left behind in Esse, while she went through her own sufferings. She didn’t reach a conclusion.

Rine wasn’t originally even able to become a hero, but now she’s one due to the curse. If she can, why can’t others?

There have to be logical reasons for it, but we know too little.

Ara’ainn-san has researched heroes and got a vast amount of knowledge about them. Enough to call her the hero-sage. As long as it’s not a self-proclaimed title.

Kyou-san nods to me, telling me, that she knows what to do. “Ara’ainn-san, we have several secrets, but we can’t give you them for free. What we want are only two things: The most important thing would be the alfar knowledge about curses. The secondary objective would be the use of the relic, which can delete a class.”

“The first one is easy, but the relic… Even if you just want to use it, it’s a bit complicated. So what do I get for exchange?”

“This one.”

… …

Kyou-san, why are you pointing at me?

“…to keep?” Ara’ainn-san asks in a tone, that I don’t like.

“For now only for investigations, after we got the information about curses, you may keep him.”

She’s serious, right? “Doesn’t my opinion matter!?”

“Deal.”

“Sold.”

It doesn’t.

“Kenta, I think you were just sold.”

“Rine, I was.”

“Selling Ken for something actually useful is a bargain.”

“You can’t sell Kenta!”

Ah, Rine. You’re like a beacon of hope, easing the pain of my soul.

Kyou-san is looking at Rine as if she just declared, that you have put trash on an altar to worship it.

“Kyou, are you looking at me, as if I proclaimed, to worship waste on a shrine?”

“Sorry Rine-chan, I never considered, that anyone would actually stand for that thing if given a choice.”

“Rine-san, Kyou-san, can I consider Kenta-kun as an ugly specimen of your race?”

“Yes/No.” Both answered at the same time. Of course, Rine is the one, who denied me being ugly.

“Hm…” Ara’ainn-san is looking at my face. “Maybe he’s cute? Hard to tell… So we might consider him as ‘not handsome’?”

“At least/Maybe.” Rine, please! Don’t falter!

“How about you, Kenta-kun? Do you consider yourself as handsome.” Ara’ainn-san is looking deep into my eyes. She doesn’t want to tease me, she’s seriously curious.

I avert my eyes. “…no.” And speak the truth. “I’m not ugly, but…” I’m a bit round, my face isn’t that pretty and my eyes might be a bit mean-looking. But openly admitting it is hurting me!

“Don’t worry, Kenta-kun. For me, you’re fine.”

I hear undertones in her voice that fill it with a deep thirst for knowledge and implies: ‘I’m fine for research as a lab rat’, but it’s still more support than I got from my own party members.

“Hm!” With a pouting face, Rine is putting her arms around my neck. “I like Kenta the way he is.”

You gain 2 WP.
Even when facing despair, a single declaration of love can lighten your heart, making the world brighter again. Throw a hug in, and the happiness is perfect.

These pop-ups… I close it without hesitation.

Ara’ainn-san is watching us in suspect. Why? Does she know?

No, of course not.

But alfar have probably good senses, it seems, so she may have seen, that all of us were reacting at the same time to something. And decided to not ask us about it.

Wait, that’s not it! Her body is swaying, I think she’s about to fall asleep again. So maybe she was just looking at us like that, because her vision is blurring, while she fights sleep.

“Ara’ainn-san, may I make a suggestion?” I may make use of it to strike a bargain. “We trade information. We about us and the hero-system and you will let us see the writings of curses of your people. And everything else will be negotiated after one side runs dry.”

This is reasonable and since she’s sleepy, she might not realize, that this would make us into kinda equals, instead of beggars.

“You’re trying to manipulate me, right?” Ah, she’s keen on the uptake. “But I don’t care. Be my guests, since we’re still outside of the actual village, I can do what I want. Stay a few days and tell me everything about you.”

“Are you all OK with that?” Unlike a certain other person, I ask the concerned people about their opinions!

“Sounds acceptable.”

“It’s OK.”

And so we became the guests of Ara’ainn-san.

Ara'ainn character design (Chapter 2-2)

Ara’ainn character design (Chapter 2-2)

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