Chapter 3 – How to become popular with girls

Chapter 3 – How to become popular with girls

Proofreader: Rooker

“…Why are there dead squirrels in my bed?” Sleepy Rine’s is puzzled by the sight she saw after waking up. She’s surrounded by a sea of dried blood and squirrel-cadavers.

“Rine, don’t think about it.” I could catch some sleep, Kyou-san, on the other hand, was plagued by nightmares. The sounds of the sleeping Rine, one-sidedly massacring the squirrels, weren’t loud enough to make Kyou-san wake up, but they invaded her dreams. I think, the smell of blood did its part, too.

Kyou-san is smart enough to have figured out what happened last night. “It’s a prank from Ken.” And lied without hesitation.

“What!?” Backstabbing me again, huh?

“Kenta… Even though I’m glad that you like me so much, that you play pranks on me, this is going a bit too far.” Rine’s face is a mix between chiding and feeling flattered.

“It wasn’t me! It was your habit of killing everything within reach while sleeping.”

“Hn?” Rine tilts her head. Is that your standard answer, if you can think of nothing else!?

“Let me get a quick death count and then we should tidy this mess up.”

Kyou-san is snorting: “It’s your prank, so you clean it.” You know what happened!

“I’ll help.” Rine, even though it is your responsibility in the first place, thank you for not pushing it on me.

So Rine and I clean it up, while Kyou-san is preparing breakfast. I think there are eighteen corpses, but it’s hard to be sure with all these crushed, bloody furballs and dismembered body parts.

After breakfast, I and Ara-san are sitting through another session.

“There are some points from yesterday’s story, that I want to go into. Especially about the curse and the one, you call Rine-san.” Uh, the two topics I’d like to avoid. “It’s hard to read a human’s mannerism, but I think I hit a nerve.”

In fact, there are subtle differences between physical expressions between our species. For some reason, the pointy ears of the alfar are always moving, sometimes like some sort of facial expression, while their faces themselves aren’t that informative. The movements are small and subtle, it’s a bit doll-like.

So while she may have features like a human, she doesn’t feel or move like one.

Ara-san’s eyes, on the contrary, seems to be locked on my eyebrows to read my face. Strange.

“Then first about that Rine-san. You said she’s from another world than you and Kyou-san, which seems plausible. And that she was summoned before you, so she’s already settled in this world. But after remembering seeing eyes like hers before, I recollected my data. I found out, that there is a certain princess of the Feuerberg-kingdom, which, I quote: ‘has blonde hair like the sun, eyes like embers and inherited the warrior spirit of Hagen of Feuerberg himself’. She’s called Katarine-san and before I go to her and ask her myself, I give you the chance to retell me that part of the story.”

She got me. So Ara-san not only collects data from heroes but also from the countries, which summons them. And she most likely had contact to Feuerberg’s royalty before. So I have no other choice but to tell her. The revised story.

So that’s what I do.

“Ah, I see. So the curse made her a hero? And now you three are bounded by it?”

“Something like that.”

“An interesting curse. I thought the ring might be a relic before, only working because you’re a hero, who could actually get these penalties. But the relics I know of don’t create heroes. Fascinating.” Ara-san still doesn’t know about all that marriage stuff.

I told her the negative effects of the curse since I hoped that she might know that ring, and that contaminate the curse keeps it in check.

Ara-san is writing something down and ponders, I can see it by her flicking her right ear. Maybe it’s comparable to rubbing one’s chin.

“You want to break that curse and for me, it’s something which is entirely new. A curse who can only affect heroes. So it’s in both our interest, that we delve into some details here. How did you contaminate Kyou-san and Katarine-san?”

“Hey, just don’t take my cooperation for granted.”

“Kenta-kun, like I said, it’s in your own interest. You want to break the curse, but a curse like this is most likely unknown to everyone. If we can determine its true nature, we alfar might provide you with some hints what to do next. I’m only interested in the knowledge, so it’s an inexpensive price to pay.”

“What about that relic, which allows you to deselect a class?”

“I already sent word to the elder, but you’re sure to be still untrustworthy in his eyes. Work with me and I will actually vouch for you. Or I can ask the girls, but I think that it wouldn’t be in your interest.”

Ara-san’s sharp and self-determined. That’s the reason why she takes the reigns, whenever something picks her interest.

I have to be wary around her, but otherwise, she reminds me of someone from a guild I was in. An MMORPG-guild, of course.

“You really know how to make your point.”

“I’m just that interested. Even though I was an accountant before, I think I have the heart of a researcher.” She smiles. Or something like that. Her mouth corners are lightly up and her ears are standing up. “Even though the case of Katarine-san seems to be more interesting, it’s better to go in chronological order. That’d be Kyou-san, right?”

“Yes.”

“And it was in the chasm of Muaotef, right?” For some reason I could see a bit of regret, her eyes are narrowing and her ears are twitching.

“Yes.” Maybe she wants to know more about our encounter with Muaotef as well.

“Then let’s begin at the point, you were left in the chasm by the ss’rak to get in the same mood. That will help you remember the details.”

Back then… unable to climb the cliffs. Being constantly drained of SP, relying on Kyou-san’s healing. The mobs down there weren’t that hard, but the environment made every encounter taxing and dangerous and in the long run, we would’ve run out of everything. Then we found the spring, which recovers SP. The bath-time.

Ara-san’s expression was twitching when I came to that part, but whatever she had to say, she holds it back.

Then these ostriches with the saberbeaks. Too many to fight under these conditions. We had no gear, I was stuck in the [Student]-class. We ran into a dead-end and then… We jumped. Onto a ledge, but Kyou-san was falling. She was asking me to not let her go.

“What did you said to her?”

“Erm…” What did I say? Yes, I have ensured her, that I won’t let her go. Then the curse changed, Kyou-san was also affected since that point.

I told Ara-san everything as in trance. And with every word, I feel a bit of weight lifted off my shoulders.

Ara-san wrote everything down in her usual fast writing pace. “This would be all. We should take a break. Do you want to drink some tea?”

“…yes.” Somehow I feel strange. I take a sip from the strong herbal tea and it revivified my whole body. My mind is clear again. “What’s this?”

“Aeolferelda. Look.” The pattern on Ara-san’s dress has a strange, algal embroidery pattern on its sleeves. “It’s an important tree to the alfar since it gives food, water, medicine, magic and protection to the people. There is only one of those trees in Aroahenn, maybe the only one in this whole world. In Alfarheim there are so many of them, but here we have only one. The life-giving tree.”

I feel a sense of nostalgia from her words. To be honest, the embroidery is so detailed, that it shows the full ugliness of these leafs, but for Ara-san it’s important.

I’m untypical considerate for a change. Somehow I feel even kinda sorry for Ara-san. I miss my games too, you know?

“Ara’ainn?” Something interferes in that damp atmosphere. “Aera’jos here. I bring some provisions.”

Aera’jos. That name seems to be familiar. Without waiting for an answer, an alfr enters. Did I see that guy before? I think. It’s not Oro’hekk, but maybe one of his subordinates. That alfr carried a crate under his arm. And he glares at me, full of hostility.

“Thank you, Aera’jos.” I learned yesterday, that calling an alfr by its full name is formal. “You know that you can put them in front of the tree?”

“I want to check on you occasionally. You tend to let yourself go if no one visits you from time to time. And I thought it’d be time to clean up your kitchen again.”

“The humans already did.”

“What!?” He glares at me again, but while I could read hostility from an alfr’s expression, this one is new. His eyes are narrowing, the ear points angle themselves to the back and his mouth corners are tensed up. Is that anger? Dislike? Or a face full of joy?

I can’t tell at all.

“Yes, they were really helpful. And I ate breakfast today as well. That Kyou-san offered me to include me every day from now on. Even though it needs some time getting used to, it’s tasty. And I actually slept two days in a row. So I’m fine.”

“Phew, seeing you at work, I totally forgot how much of a dirt magnet you’re supposed to be, Ara-san.”

My interference in this conversation was not taken well by the alfr, I may know: “’Ara-san?’ How dare you to call her that? So informal!”

“Aera’jos, I asked him to. Both of us are colleagues as heroes.”

“If you don’t like it, then just drop dead.” I hate guys like him, who thinks of themselves and their acquaintances as high and mighty.

“You!”

I switch to [Pikeman], I want to teach him a lesson, but- “[Entangle]!” Branches grow from the wooden floor and restrain me and the alfr-male. Ara-san just used a spell. “Aera’jos, let him be, he’s my guest. And Kenta-kun, if you provoke him anymore, I will put you over my knee. Understood?”

I can’t read her expression, but her voice is as cold as ice. ““Yes.””

That guy left after Ara-san let him go, while she keeps me in this entanglement. “I like to make an experiment. Can you free yourself from my spell?”

“…Seriously?”

The alfr’s version of a smile: “Yes.”

“Phew…” I change to [Scout] since this should give me some space to wriggle, but the branches just got tighter. “Hm…” I change back to [Pikeman], the branches are rustling, but then they grow longer to adapt to my more bulky form. “Strange. What kind of magic is this!?”

“It’s [Spirit Magic], unlike other magic, a semi-aware consciousness is inhering and controlling the spell. Back in Alfarheim, we just called it magic, it’s the only kind we knew back then. Communicating with spirits, asking them to reshape to our needs, a bit of our aura for a change.”

“That’s overpowered.”

“In fact, it’s the weakest form of magic I encountered so far. It only works where spirits are, in trees, in animals, in people, all life forms, living and deceased, but its strong point would be the utility.”

“This is supposed to be weak?”

“Try to break free and you see.”

I tense up my muscles and with a snap, some branches broke. Some new are growing, but with another jolt, I could break even more branches, breaking myself free.

The branches tried to get me, but became slower and stopped moving altogether.

But there is a question, I had. “When you knew, that I can easily break through it, why did you conduct that experiment in the first place?”

“To see what kind of person you are. Your chosen procedure of solution gave me a bit more of insight.”

“What are you looking for?”

“I’m interested in you.”

“As a test subject?”

“In another matter.”

“Stranger danger?”

“*Sigh* only humans can be like that. Hear me out. Even though I must decline of becoming the sex toy of a human, I think that both of us could become friends maybe.”

… … …

“Huh!?”

“Hm… is that confusion on your face?”

“Erm… yes!?”

“I thought that’s how humans make friends. Strange.”

“You mean, by experimenting on each other?”

“No, by simply asking others. We could also go the alfar way of making friends, but this might not please you.”

“Wait, why do you want to become friends with me?”

“Because you’re funny?”

“…E-…Y-… Arghh!” I can’t say a word which would describe what I want to say at that point.

“I’ll just sum it up. I think that you and I are fitting for each other. In a platonic way.”

“Why are you always ensuring that I know, that there is no attraction from your side?”

“You’re human?”

Ah, my head hurts. This is too much for me! I totally forgot, that each of these alfar is a bunch of emotions, impulsiveness, and dirty jokes.

Ara-san noted something and mutters to herself. “So words of affection lead to a mental meltdown.” She”s just Kidding with me! I want to hit her! Seriously!

 

―○●○―

 

Afternoon. For a change of pace, Kyou-san, Rine and I are taking a walk, together with Ara-san, since you need [Spirit Magic] to move inside the forest without getting lost. Every alfr can use it, it’s an inherent cheater-ability.

Rine is laughing and studying everything we see, every single tree, every single insect, she’s walking around us at a pace which makes me doubt that she actually is examining anything.

Kyou-san and Ara-san are currently talking to each other. Kyou-san is currently in her [Healer]-class and use her [Herbal Lore] to identify the herbs. “This herb seems to be full of mana.”

“Yes, it’s iroelsa. It collects onto the mana in the air, just like any magic user or hero.”

“Mana is supposed to be a power, which comes from the planet itself, right?”

“That’s what the humans think. We alfar have another theory.”

“And that is?”

“Back in Alfarheim, there was nothing like mana. There were spiritual particles expelled by the Aeolferelda, which would stick to our bodies and form an aura, which couldn’t be seen by the eyes. But alfar can perceive it and use this aura to stimulate the spirits to do like we ask them to.”

“And mana?”

“Most alfar of this world think, that what I just told is the gist of mana, brought by another life-form instead, just like the Aeolferelda.”

“And you don’t?”

“I have few theories, but for now, I can only say this: SP come from an inner source and MP are from an external source.”

“You didn’t share anything at all.”

“I may, but considering your lack of the needed basic knowledge, it would take hours. And we make this forest walk to change the mood, right?”

“Right…”

To be specific, Kyou-san and Rine wanted to get out of this tree house. Personally, I had no problems, but I didn’t want to be left behind. There are still squirrels left, another crazy alfr may enter, and I need to keep an eye on my ‘wives’, so there will be no another kidnapping incident.

I’m positive, that Ara-san and I could stay holed up in the house until there is nothing left to eat.

But those two, who were reading the whole day, need a break.

Kyou-san tries to inquire more of the alfr-girl. Or more like alfr-women? “Then, Ara-san, what do you do in your free-time?”

“Sleep.”

“…” For some reason, Kyou-san has trouble to hold up a non-topic-focused conversation. Maybe because Ara-san’s personality is straight up and while she’s knowledgeable, she’s not very open to talks that aren’t functional.

But nonetheless, Kyou-san tries again. “Could you tell me about the world you’re from?”

“I certainly could.” Maybe I should get some advice from Ara-san later about how to make Kyou-san look like an idiot. She’s definitely good at that.

Talking about idiots… “Where is Rine?”

““…””

“Oh boy.” I facepalm. At some point, Rine, who was strolling around us like a watchdog, just vanished. “Ara-san, can you tell where she is?” I use [Track] and see the way we were going. “Otherwise, I may find her.”

“Don’t go alone. The spirits are instructed to hinder you. Let me ask them.” Ara-san closes her eyes. “I need to borrow your sight. … There she is, surrounded by squirrels… How did this happened, show me what you saw… One squirrel led her away from us.”

“Thank you, Ara-san.” Kyou-san bows to her and looks at me. “Should we wait?”

“I’m not too keen about seeing another massacre either, but for some reason, they decided upon attacking Rine after last night’s tragedy, so they may have an ace up their sleeves. But seriously, what is with these squirrels, they’re too smart for animals. Are they mobs?”

Ara-san is never at a loss for an answer. “To be precise, they’re descendants of squirrels, which minds were awakened by the forefathers of the alfar of Aroahenn.”

“This means?”

“They’re technically still animals, but almost as intelligent as alfar. So they might be smarter than you.”

“I refuse being called stupid by someone of a never-mature race.”

“Ken, shut up! Ara-san, lead us to Rine-chan and stop teasing Ken.”

“Kyou-san? Did you just treat me similar to Kenta-kun?”

“Shut up and go!” Kyou-san is looking at Ara-san as if she was blocking the line of the checkout clerk in a supermarket.

Ara-san is blinking with wide open eyes and looks at me, I think she’s asking me for help. Seems like she totally got what Kyou-san’s look was telling her, despite only hardly being able to read a human’s facial expression.

I shrug my shoulders. Seems like Kyou-san gave up to befriend her. At least for now.

We hurried, I follow the tracks, while Ara-san makes sure that the trees won’t attack us. And Kyou-san is being useless again, but at least she’s not in the way.

We’re there, I could tell by the flying squirrel-body parts. Rine has her sword drawn and is defending against the squirrels, who are about to overwhelm her by sheer numbers. I can see how one got through her defensive footwork, only to get picked up and neck-broken by the Feuerberg princess.

They’re just squirrels in the end, even if some of them are able to get to her, they’re just too weak to do anything on their own.

And Rine just does her usual thing. Evading, attacking, counterattacking, using her whole body as something, that makes killing an art.

The squirrels retreat before we could even help Rine. The third loss of the panda-squirrels. I hope for them, that they’ve learned their lesson, since it may lead to genocide if they continue.

Fighting fairly doesn’t work, attacking her while she’s sleeping doesn’t work, pulling her away and ambushing her with masses doesn’t work. Most likely Rine is squirrel public enemy #1 by now. Generations will remember her as the mass murderer of the squirrel population, who single-handedly killed almost every single one of them.

I may try to make fun of it, but somehow I have the feeling, that this is actually quite accurate. I almost feel sorry for the critters.

“Kenta! Kyou! Ara’ainn! I’m here!” And the girl in question just waves at us, as if nothing was going on.

Someone next to me falls over. It’s Ara-san. “I can’t believe…” She’s holding her mouth. Is she sickened by the display of violence? But she took it quite calm in the kitchen.

“Ara-san, everything alright?” Kyou-san shows her concern and knees down to her, checking her face and eyes.

Ara-san grabs Kyou-san’s wrist with her free hand. “Kyou-san, I have lived a life, which might be short for a alfr, but long for a human. And I never witnessed a display like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Was it my imagination or did she performed a vertical spin, to attack and evade at the same time?”

“Yes, she did.”

“And did she stabbed three squirrels without even looking in their direction?”

“I didn’t count, but that’s what she usually does.”

“And did she catch a squirrel in the air, used it as a shield twice, before throwing it against another squirrel, which caused both of their skulls to be crushed?”

“I didn’t see that, but that seems like her.”

“Is this because she became a hero? Could she adapt that quickly to use such a common-sense-scorning fighting style?”

Kyou-san’s eyes shift to me, she definitely blames me for revealing that, but I had no choice! Nonetheless, she answers Ara-san: “She did it before becoming a hero, too.”

“I… I heard that she has the warrior spirit of the hero Hagen, but that’s…” Ah, since the last attack Ara-san witnessed was inside the kitchen, she couldn’t see how Rine normally moves. The whole kitchen was a mess and since there were walls and the ceiling, Rine adopted a less sweeping fighting style.

Maybe I should mention the attack last night, only to make Ara-san even more unbelieving. Nah, another time maybe: “Ara-san, let me tell you this. There are strange things in this fantasy world, things you can’t even understand and that defies common sense. And Rine is one of them.”

“She’s not even out of breath.”

“Like I said, it’s mysterious.”

“Kenta, are you complimenting me?”, Rine asks eagerly.

“Something like that.”

“Yay!” At least she’s happy.

Kyou-san helps Ara-san up and all of us continue the forest walk, even though Ara-san has still yet to digest what she just witnessed.

Rine takes my hand. I want to scold her, but we still have to grind these WP and last evening it was tedious to do so in the little time frame. So I’m a bit conflicted about it. And there is another problem: “Do you plan to do it for an hour now?”

“Hn?” I should’ve known it. Rine isn’t considering WP at all. “Ah.” Now she realizes? Wait, no. She’s just strengthening her grip. It hurts you know. “Hehe.” And don’t laugh!

“I already saw something like this in a human town. Is that a human way to show affection?” Ara-san has picked up our verbal exchange. I think that alfar really have a keen sense of hearing. Those big ears aren’t for show, huh?

So they start off with two inherent [Abilities]: [Spirit Magic] and [Perception].

Isn’t that cheating?

“Phew. Something like that.” So alfar doesn’t hold hands, huh?

“May I try it?”

“What?”

“Holding hands.”

“Erm…” I take a look at Kyou-san and we drift into our own little language, conveyed by looks only. ‘What should I do?’

‘Why do you ask me?’

‘Because I have no idea.’

‘If you weren’t holding hands with Rine-chan, this would never happen.’

‘Do you think, I took the initiative?’

‘No. *Sigh* we want to get her on our good side, so just do what she asks.’

‘Why am I the one, who has to please her?’

‘Just do it already!’

‘Fine, fine.’

“Yes, you may.”

“…your eyebrows were moving more than normal, but I guess I got what I want.” She takes my free hand. A flower in each of my hands, huh? The one is a carnivorous plant and the other is more of a fungus than a plant, but it’s not like I have a choice her. “You’re still wearing gloves. It’s rough on my skin.”

“I have one on my other hand, too.”

“But Katarine-san is also wearing gloves.”

“Phew, just be happy with what you got.”

“And your hand is big and lumpy.”

“Your hand is just skinny.”

“I think, that this form of showing affection isn’t meant for alfar.”

“What do your people do?”

“This.” Ara-san lets go of my hand and put her hand on my chest. “Right above the heart, feeling the heartbeat. Yours strong. And rapid. Unlike an alfr’s. Come on, do the same to me.”

Well, if this is all she asks me to…

“Kenta? Is Ara’ainn asking you to put your hand on her breasts?”

… With this innocent notion, Rine destroyed any minority of this matter. Seriously, Ara-san may be female, but that’s it. I have no sensual feelings for her. She and I are different species.

Do alfar even have breasts!?

Someone grabs my earlobe. It’s Kyou-san, of course. She pulls on it, forcing my head to shift to her mouth. “Don’t think about that.” A small, sinister whispering.

“I don’t plan to.”

Ara-san heard it of course. “Ah, so putting your hands there is something bad for humans. Might be because of breasts. As expected for an organ, that only developed for sexual reasons.” Is this how human breasts are viewed in alfar culture!?

But seriously, is there a reason for breasts? I mean, the growing type human have, while most other mammals just have teetz or something like that, that totally serves the nursing part. Breasts are just full of fat, right? So what purpose does that serve?

Don’t misunderstand me, I like boobs like the next guy, but now, after hearing Ara-san’s statement, I want to ask Darwin-sensei how breasts fit into his theory! I need that answer to make the right comeback!

While I was thinking that, Kyou-san hides her breasts from the curious eyes of Ara-san. It’s untypical cute of her. Normally she’s more of a prickly character.

Steps.

I use [Pitch]. These are steps I already heard. Someone from Oro’hekk’s group.

A male alfr comes from between the underbrush. “Ara’ainn. There are new intruders and they’re quite violent.” For some reason, that alfr takes his time to glare at me.

What did I ever do to him?

Ah, he stares at Ara-san’s hand, which is still on my chest. So maybe he’s upset, because a human is seemingly close to one of his folk, huh?

Ara-san turns to the alfr again. “Tell me the details, Aera’jos.” So this alfr is called Aera’jos. I think I heard that name before. Maybe I should try to remember it.

This Aora’jas-guy tells how two humans were camping right outside the forest for more than a day, sometimes shouting into the forest, that they wish to meet the alfar. Those two called them elves, which actually made the alfar pretty angry. Sometimes the humans use spells against the barrier and try to break it with brute force.

“Sometimes people like that appear, trying to get our secrets,” Ara-san explains before turning to the other alfr. “Can’t you handle them on your own?” So Arr’jazz tries to recruit Ara-san for an ambush?

“Only as back-up. I’ll lead the ambush, so I want to make sure, that we have a reliable reinforcement for the case, something goes wrong.”

For some reason, Kyou-san smirks. I know that it’s the same face she had when she gossiped in school. It sickens me.

Rine heard the exchange but wasn’t interested in it. For some reason, she tries to draw near to me sometimes. Do you really think, that I will let my guard down around you? Well, sometimes I do, but not now!

Ara-san flicks her ear once. “Well, I can see no reason not to. Everyone, do you want to join us?”

Hey, alfr-man. Keep it down! Your grinding teeth are hurting my ears! Seriously, what did I ever done to you? You’re so silly, A… What was your name again? A’Jazz?

Kyou-san answers. “We would be happy to.” I exchange look with her. So information gathering, huh? Knowing what normal alfar are capable of. And because she’s about to see something fun. What does that mean?

“Fine.” Jazz… let’s call him Jazzman! So Jazzman complies. “But don’t think of doing something stupid. Ara-san is more than capable enough to take you down on her own.”

One look to Ara-san tells me, that she’s highly doubting it. She’s most likely afraid of Rine, who still clings to my hand, like a dog who got his bone. Well, I wouldn’t cross Rine either, as long I have a choice.

So we followed Jazzman to the forest border. We hid in the underbrush, which changed shape to engulf us without restraining our movements.

From there, we just need to observe.

Jazzman is posing, pumping his fist into the air to let us know, where he is. He has five other alfar with him, while Oro’hekk and some others will stay inside the border. So they’re another back-up, so why does he even need Ara-san?

I activate [Farsight] to see, what they’re up against in the first place. Without it, I can see two human-like shapes, but with this skill, I…

I know both of them. They’re my classmates. Erm… The nerd and the delinquent. Don’t ask me for names! What are they doing here? There should be no reason for them to be here if they didn’t hear about the job-deleter.

Ah, there is another reason. One that makes too much sense to dismiss it. “Kenta? Why are you looking at me like that?” The head-tilting Rine. If they heard from Inoue’s party what happened, they might have tracked us down to bring the princess back to her country.

What a pain!

“Ara-san, they’re dangerous. Can you signal your people chase them away?”

“Do you know them?”

“Well, you know that Rine is a princess. They’re hired specialists to retrieve her.”

“They’re what?” Said princess is shocked about the development.

“*sigh*” One sigh of Kyou-san makes me understand, that she saw through me entirely.

“You will tell me the entire story later, Kenta-kun. [Whisper].” Ara-san whispers some words after using that spell and Jazzman seems to react to it. Ah, [Spirit Magic] works on lifeforms, so it also works on alfar and most likely humans.

Is mind control possible with it? If so, did Ara-san used it on me in the past? When I talked about the incidents the curse spread, I felt strange. Did she use a spell on me back then?

For some reason, sometimes she says the spell’s name and sometimes she won’t. I can’t tell why and she might have used a spell back then without me noticing. I have to investigate it.

Jazzman’s party merged with the environment. Really, even I can’t see them anymore. Should I have used [Focus] on him? About three minutes later, the five alfar are emerging from the grass and bushes around the two heroes.

Instead of capturing them, the alfar used bows to shoot grazing shots to the arms and legs. Then Jazzman exclaims: “This is the land of the noble alfar. Either you turn back or we will end your lives.”

This is quite menacing. Good thing that we didn’t call them elves before we encountered them. Looks like this pisses them quite off.

“Aera’jos is quite into it, right Ara-san?”, Kyou-san asks.

“Is he?”

“So no reaction…” What kind of reaction is Kyou-san looking for?

In the end, after being attacked and hurt by the alfar both of my former classmates fled in terror. Well, another problem solved.

 

―○●○―

 

Yoshimura and Hoshibashi finished their training and traveled to the forest of Aroahenn. The map Correo gave them was accurate. But so was his warning about the magic barrier. They couldn’t get through it.

They shouted, they pleaded, they tried to break through, nothing worked. So they decided to mimic a certain movie, waiting right in front of the ‘gates’ of the elves.

Only to be ambushed in broad daylight. Before they could even react, elves emerged from the ground and they shot arrows at Hoshibashi and Yoshimura.

Yoshimura almost pissed his pants. Since he was a hero, he only bled a bit, but the shock of having his confidence he built up after the training crushed in an instant led to these feelings.

Hoshibashi was also at his wit’s end, so they retreated.

They tend their wounds with patches, which already healed most of the damage. “In broad daylight! Elves are crazy!” Hoshibashi kicks against a bush.

“We need to get that item. But an up-front approach seems to be impossible.”

“Maybe we can dig under their barriers?”

“How long would that take? And wouldn’t they treat us as enemies that way? We can’t take the entire village on with only the two of us.”

“You’re right.”

Yoshimura takes a certain item from his backpack. It’s a whistle. “If nothing else helps, we may ask Correo again.”

“But he will ask for another astronomical sum.”

“We have enough to pay him once or twice. His prices are reasonable.” Twenty thousand Newgold for these hero-class identifying manacles seems to be fair. But they bought the power rings instead and got the whistle as a bonus.

Hoshibashi calms down and make a suggestion. “I think we should try again tomorrow. We need to show them, that we’re sincere. It’s like getting into a gang, if they don’t know you, they might rough you up first, to see how much of a character you have.”

“Is that how that works?”

“Yes!”

“I doubt it, but… As long as the wounds stay on this level, we can use that tactic. But if they go too far, don’t hesitate and kill them.” Even though Yoshimura was surprised by how easily the elves were able to sneak up on them, he had no doubt, that they would win a fight with them as easily.

This time the elves got the moment of surprise and neither Yoshimura nor Hoshibashi wanted to hurt them. But taking care of only a few of these elves wouldn’t be a problem. Since both of them have broken the hero-system.

03-3-1

―○●○―

 

It’s evening, Ken and Rine are currently engaged in lap-pillows and such, so I step outside the room. I already did it for the day and Ken won’t bug me anymore. He really is keen to get these WP.

What is that sound? It’s coming from the kitchen. Are the squirrels back? They should just give up, Rine isn’t an enemy they can take on.

Carefully I take a look, it’s Ara-san. She seems to be looking for something inside the cupboards. “What are you looking for?”

Ara-san turns around to me “Snacks.” She’s open about it. “There were supposed to be some in the delivery today, but I can’t find them.”

Seeing how slender all elves we met so far are, I think things like calories don’t bother them. “I put them on that wall cupboard.” Whenever I use the [Cook]-class, I can identify food and ingredients, so I already knew about these zuckies snacks. They are sweet, jellied branches, tender enough to eat them. “If they absorb some sunlight, they after-ripen.” Additionally, I can read some menus to how to prepare those meals.

In the case of the zuckies, I unpacked them, put them on a plate and left them somewhere, where they can absorb sunlight without being in the way.

“Do they? I heard they become poisonous with too much sunlight exposure.”

“Strange.” I take the plate and look at them. The after-ripen is still in process. How can they be poisonous, if they… A new window appeared. It’s poisonous for alfar, not for humans. “Sorry, my [Cook]-class didn’t consider you.”

“I see. But you’re able to switch that menu if you want.” She pauses and takes another look at the zuckies. “So humans can eat them after this decomposition process?”

“Yes, it’s supposed to become quite delicious.”

“I see. Good.”

“…What are you planning to do with them?”

“I want to give them Kenta-kun as a present.”

This seems wrong on so many levels. “Why?” Ara-san has clearly picked an interest in Ken, but while I thought, it’s only curiosity and the fact, that they got to know each other better in the course of the last two days, somehow I get the feeling, that there is more to it.

But it’s not the same kind of vibe I got when observing Aera’jos and Ara-san.

“I want to befriend him.”

“Again, why?” Objectively I should be glad for Ken, that finally there is someone who is willing to become his friend, but something in me rejects that idea. I think it’s called ‘common sense’. Who would willingly befriend someone like him?

He doesn’t even try to get along with anybody!

“He’s funny.”

“Fun to tease?”

“Ah, that’s a good expression.” I can’t read Ara-san’s face, but I think she might have realized something. “Yes, it’s funny to tease him. His reactions are always overboard and his eyebrows move in a strange way, which is captivating. Ah, yours are also moving!”

Of course they do, if I furrow them! It’s definitely curiosity, but I still don’t think, that this is everything.

Ara-san is someone I can’t read, neither her body language nor her intentions. She’s definitely different from other girls, maybe it’s because she’s an alfr. No, she seems to be a strange one among them as well. So she’s double-strange.

She may be on my side for now, but if things become complicated, she will surely turn. And since we were found by two of our classmates, regarding what Ken said, it has to have been Hoshibashi-kun and Yoshimura-kun, things are almost bound to become complicated.

Even though I can be glad it’s only those two losers, who knows what they’re capable of. Especially how things turned out with Masahiko-kun and the others, they might even think that they’re in the right.

And that’s why I have to befriend Ara-san. But she won’t let me.

Ironically, she wants to befriend Ken, so we’re in a line of unrequited friendship… wait. If I help Ara-san in befriending Ken, then my relationship to Ara-san becomes closer in the process. So it’s a win-situation.

“Kyou-san? Do you want to say something?”

“Please wait a moment.” Ara-san seems to be unsure what I’m thinking about. She can’t read my face either, so she doesn’t realize that I’m pondering.

My plan so far isn’t bad but has one fatal flaw. I have no idea how to befriend someone like Ken. Back in Japan, I couldn’t even get along with him and his hostile attitude towards everyone. I tried to be friendly to him up to some point, but any kind words were answered with snorting, grumbling, and malignant glances.

“I’ll help you, Ara-san!” I made my decision.

“With what?” Since there was such a pause, Ara-san lost the thread of the conversation.

“With your attempts to befriend Ken.” I still hold a grudge for his attitude back then. I couldn’t even collect a paper, without an arrogant grunt, which made every class president work which included him nerve-racking. This time, I will make him beg to become friends! With Ara-san that is, since the thought of me being friends with Ken is actually disturbing.

“Hm…” Ara-san is considering my offer. “Having a human as a support to befriend another human seems to be advantageous, but I’m worried about one thing.”

“What?” I have no idea what she means? Maybe she noticed my bad relationship with Ken?

“If a female human tells me, how to befriend a male one, wouldn’t it be through mating rituals? Even though it would definitely be effective, I would be troubled, if Kenta-kun jumped on me, releasing his human urges on my poor alfr body. I’m just a woman, you know?”

What is this girl talking about? In such a serious tone?

Well, considering Ken’s gaming habits, it shouldn’t surprise me, that he would jump an elf without a hint of hesitation, but why is Ara-san jumping into the conclusion, that I would give her advice on ‘mating rituals’.

Headache.

I hold my forehead. Even though it’s not a migraine, it almost feels like one. I need a new word for this kind of headache, since they occur more often after I met Ken again back in Esse.

 

―○●○―

 

“Please!” Rine’s big eyes are pleading me.

But I closed mine. “No!” With a rough nudge, I push Rine from my lap and stand up immediately, so she won’t have a way to return.

At least, if this wasn’t Rine. “Please!” Her foot hooks behind my ankle and with a shove to my shoulder, I’m pushed back on the bed again, and her blossom behind is already sitting again on my thighs.

“Phew, why are you asking me, while forcing me at the same time?”

“Hn?” Stop cocking your head, if you don’t have an answer!

And stop snuggling on me. So much body-contact tears me apart between lust and discomfort!

*Knock, knock*

Instead of a nudge, I literally throw Rine from my lap, while she was distracted by the sound. Now she lays on the floor and there is some water in her eyes.

I snort. “Come in please.”

As expected, only Ara-san would knock. She looks at me, at Rine on the floor, which is about to burst into tears, her behind still uplifted. “Sorry to disturb you. How long will one mating take?”

“Mating!?” Rine blushes and holds her cheeks, closes her eyes and began to drift off in the far realms of her imagination: “ah… he will see… but I want him to… stop, Kenta!”

Unsure if I’m about to yell, cry or sigh, I rub my face with both my hands, massaging the mixed emotions out. “Now is good.”

Ara-san blinks. “Kenta-kun, it may be a fetish of yours, but I’m not interested in the mating of humans.”

“And you never considered, that this might be different from what you think?” – “Ahn… Kenta, that’s embarrassing.” – “Let me rephrase it: I’m not in any kind of personal relationship with either Rine nor Kyou-san and don’t plan to be.”

“Then why did you insist on sharing a room?”

“Stuff.” I decided to not directly lie to Ara-san anymore. She’s too good to find flaws within it and it’s exhausting to explain too much to her.

“I see.” She flicks her ear.

“Why are you here in the first place? Didn’t we finished today’s interview?”

“I wanted to ask you if you like sweets.”

“…why?” Does she want to hand-feed me? Training me like some pet?

“To befriend you.”

… “Hah?” Is she still going about this? “Could you please stop trying to make friends with me?”

“It’s my decision to make the attempts and you only have to answer them.” What kind of logic is that? “Back to the question: Do you like sweets?”

I take a glance at Rine, who jumped ahead to a life with children. Headache. Ah, just treat Ara-san like the princess, the faster you answer them, the less annoying it will be. “…I eat them.” Well, I really love chocolate, but I don’t need to go into details.

“Good, so you eat them.” Ara-san turns around and leaves the room.

What was this about?

 

―○●○―

 

“What was this about?” I can only hold my head, as Ara-san returned to me after she went away to ask Ken if he even likes sweets.

“Didn’t you tell me, that I should consider his preferences before I should give him a gift?”

“Do you know the word ‘subtlety’?”

“Theoretically.”

“*sigh* And what did he say?”

“He eats them.”

“…Without any remarks?”

“He asked me to not make friends with him.”

“…that’s all?”

“Yes.”

… Back in school, there was an event…

‘Katsuragi, we want to prepare some snacks for the sports meet and we wanted to ask everyone for their preferences. Do you like sweets?’

‘…’

‘Katsuragi?’

‘…’

‘Katsuragi! Don’t ignore me!’

‘Stop bothering me. Just shut up and nag someone else!’

Besides ignoring me first, he was very rude and when I turned away to ask Yamaguchi-san next, I could clearly hear some sort of insult coming from him.

What is this difference in treatment!?

Maybe it’s because Ara-san is actually trying to befriend him? Maybe he changed due the whole ‘being in another world’-thing. Or maybe he has actually the hots for Ara-san. So many maybes, but seriously, whatever it is, it makes me angry.

“Kyou-san, why are you clenching your fist?”

“…no reason.” I change to a smile while forging my anger inside to something which will be used to make him pay for the things that happened. Including this world and our home world.

“So if he eats sweets, we can proceed with the plan.”

“He says, he eats them, so it’s not like he likes them. Food is generally hard to come by in this world since there are so many differences. Zuckies is something, I never heard about before, so I think there are none in our world.”

“You’re right, the fauna and flora are often quite different, there are only a few things in this world I know from Alfarheim. So you have to find replacements, if possible.”

“Is there a replacement for rice?”

“Please assume, that there is no specific plant from your world, that I know. I think our home worlds differed greatly in many aspects, so I’d be glad to hear more, but for now I like to set a plan up to make friends with Kenta-kun.”

She’s kinda stubborn. But at least it’s easier to talk to her, since I know one of her interests, even though I can’t possibly understand it. “Were there games in your world?”

“Like board games, leaf games, sports competitions, and such?”

“PC? Console? Electronic games?”

“These are unknown to me. Is that something Kenta-kun likes?”

“For better or worse.” For better, since it prepared him quite good for this fantasy world, for worst, since they’re sure at fault, that his personality turned out like that. There are always these kids that are too influenced by TV and games and stop even trying to be social.

I put one hand on my scarf. Liking something and being overly possessed by it are two different kinds of things.

Ara-san flicks her ear again. “So if I talk with him about these electronic games, he will be pleased?”

“…probably? At least he goes on and on and on if he has the chance to talk about them.” And it is boring. Telling me, how he had a character, which deals 50,000 damage per second, even though I have no idea, how much damage that actually is, relatively speaking, how he spent hours to get certain gear and… Oh my god, I actually listened to him. I’m sure that every word of his game prattle made me a bit dumber.

“Hm… Something else he likes to do?”

“Other than constantly complaining, whining, and falling into fits? Nothing as far as I know.” One of the problems we have is the fact, that I know nothing about Ken. I never asked him, since I’m not very interested in him.

I don’t even know his taste preferences since he silently gulps down everything I cook.

“But there are other ways to befriend him, Ara-san.”

“How?”

“Maybe you should reconsider your behavior toward him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Ara-san, considering the last two days, I want to insist on one point. Humans aren’t sex-driven animals.”

“…this doesn’t make any sense.”

“It does.”

“Kyou-san, do you masturbate?”

This headache again. I rub my temples. “What does have this to do with it?” I will ‘not’ talk about my private habits with this woman!

“Everything.”

“Why?”

“Almost every intelligent species has certain time-conditioned mating cycles. Humans do not. Maybe sexual intercourse isn’t the only thing on your mind, but it has to be a very vital part of everyday human life. Since it’s something we alfar don’t have, it’s very interesting.”

“So to cut it short, you’re having fun.”

“Exactly.”

Ara-san is free-spirited. Considering the alfar I know, it might be an alfar trait. So this might be the reason, why I have so much trouble befriending her: I like to have some amount of control. So someone like her, who’s practically only bound to her whims, isn’t a good match to me.

I really thought, that Ara-san is more of an organized person and just bad at managing herself. Like taking work seriously, but being sloppy in housework.

So she’s much like Rine, but less predictable. Rine is caught by her emotions and these emotions are simple and direct, Ara-san is caught by her interests and these can be more complex than it might look.

For example, she definitely wants to befriend Ken, especially since he’s refusing. It picked her interest, how someone can be so strange like him and so she decided to take the course, which seems to be the most interesting.

Something just clicked within me. I think, I finally see a way to interact with Ara-san in a way, which will make us allies.

You can’t have enough friends in a fantasy world, but Ara-san, as a hero, is immune to my [Persuasion]-attribute. This just means I’ll just have to use my cunning.

“Ara-san, let’s move the talk to your room.”

“Why?”

“Because we need to talk a lot. Especially about you. In our world there is a saying: If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”

“Do I have to fight him? Well, I already heard about-”

I cut in. “It’s a proverb. We already know about Ken a bit, but for further planning, it’d be ideal to know about you as well. Then we can make a strategy.”

“But I know myself already.”

“And I know how humans work. So we need to share.”

Ara-san seems to be skeptical, but complies. The moment girls are gathered in a private room, they will begin to chat and gossip. Nobody is safe from a pajama party!

 

―○●○―

 

I grunt. That’s natural since I had to wrestle with Rine while explaining her, why she still can’t sleep in the same bed as Kyou-san and me, she totally doesn’t believe, that she’s a murderous machine while asleep, despite having the proof of dead squirrel bodies.

At the end, I couldn’t convince her to accept it, but at least she will sleep in the other bed again. So tomorrow we’ll have to have that conversation again…

I really have problems with types like that. Even though I could only realize it by spending time with Rine. I’m so glad, that there was never a person like her to deal with before, though I would be even happier if I’d never met her.

Well, at least she contributes to the party. Kyou-san does as well, to be fair, but mostly outside of battle. Not much, but she does.

If they were some nameless player characters, I could better deal with them, but this isn’t a game and everyone got a real personality and if you’re not a fictional character, it’s not set in stone. Sometimes someone will do something completely out of character for reasons I can’t even imagine. There is much more going on in the inside of a person than what you can see.

If Rine would always be happy and clingy, then it wouldn’t be that hard. OK, it would still be annoying as hell, but her spurs of insight and attempts to obtain what she wants by any means are throwing me off.

Oh well. I think, that the me that thinks a bit fondly of the now asleep Rine is also out of character. Or maybe I’m about to burst again since her sleeping breaths are turning me on and make me imagine some scenarios, which are R-rated.

I need Kyou-san. She’s the one, who can kill any amorous feeling I have and seriously, it’s time to sleep and I want neither miss out the WP for sleeping next to each other nor a lack of sleep because I waited for her.

For safety purposes, I check her status, but it’s good. No damage, no conditions, everything as it should be, so she should probably be alright. Man, maybe it’d be better to get the radar first, before the XP-bonus in the WP-store. But I want that bonus, the earlier you get it, the more it’ll bring.

Since I have no radar to check, I better look for her myself. I use [Sneak], since I don’t want to trigger Rine’s self-defense mechanism and open the door.

First I’ll check the study Kyou-san used with Rine for research. Books and scripts are laying out on one table, while two of the four desks were cleaned and free. I take a book and yes, I can’t read the letters. It’s the same script as the ones I saw before. Ah, there is a piece of paper, written in Japanese. Notes.

Five different basic types of curses: Inherit, obsessive, parasite, smoldering, and extra-dimensional. Most cursed items are parasite… Kyou-san can be diligent. Perfect notes, at least if you’re taking them in class. Would be horrible to use them for learning, but considering that she more or less just copies from the books, it’s fine. She even wrote them in Japanese, maybe so I can read them as well?

Nah, it’s Kyou-san after all. Maybe it just happened without her noticing. I don’t know how this whole translation process works, so I better don’t interpret anything here.

How about Rine? Ah, I can’t read her notes. But Rine takes notes? This is unexpected.

But I should keep looking for Kyou-san. Maybe in the kitchen? Not there either. The study Ara-san and I used? Nope. Bathroom and toilet? No one inside. So no obvious choices… Better I ask Ara-san before I jump into conclusions.

Her room was… I think this one. I knock. No answer.

Seriously, I don’t have time for this. I open the door, it’s clearly not Ara-san’s room. It’s an untidy one, which might be a study as well. With my [Darkvision] I can see multiple creatures hiding in the shadows: the panda-squirrels, which are staring at me full of hostility, sure that I won’t be able to detect them.

I slowly close my door. My backpack is still in my room, so I can’t throw a stink bomb inside, to chase them out. Maybe the squirrels are planning their next step to overcome Rine and I surely hope, that they won’t try to kidnap any of us to blackmail Rine.

But man, why am I so cautious of squirrels!?

For starters, I return to my room and check, if Kyou-san returned. But she’s still not back, so I start to look into the other rooms, knocking first and then taking a look.

*Knock, knock*

“Come in.” Finally.

The door opens by an invisible hand and I see Ara-san in one of Kyou-san’s self-styled pajama, sitting next to the Japanese girl on the bed.

Somehow I get the feeling, that I’m not supposed to be here.

But I don’t care: “Kyou-san, it’s late. Come.”

Kyou-san rolls her eyes and looks at Ara-san, whose left ear-point is standing up and the right sideways. “Sorry, Arako.”

“Don’t worry, Momo.”

What the hell is going on here? This newfound familiarity is only slightly annoying to me, but my instincts are telling me, that I should be careful.

…instincts? When did I drop to the ‘woman’s intuition’-level? I start to think like Kyou-san!

“You may keep the pajama. Let’s talk more tomorrow.”

“With pleasure. Good night, Momo, Kenta-kun.”

“Good night, Arako.”

Without even waving my hand, I turn around and wait for Kyou-san to leave the room. The door closed automatically, like always when Ara-san is around.

“’Arako’!?”

“She asked me about Japanese culture.”

“Could it be, that you’re trying to brainwash her?” Kyou-san is looking at me as if I had just told her, how wet water was. “You’re serious trying to brainwash her?”

“It’s called ‘to befriend someone’, something you’re not familiar with, so you may think of it as brainwashing, but it’s all about socializing. Ah, since this is a foreign word for you as well, let me explain it to you like this: You can actually be nice to others and they treat you kind in return.”

Why does she sound, like she’s presenting me the best concept of the century?

I already know that she thinks of me as stupid, but I only care about it, when she’s pretentious like this.

So let’s return that ‘kindness’. “You know, there is another concept. If someone is entirely useless and leeches of the efforts of others, be it in combat prowess, XP-acquiring or other matters, while completely relying on the fact, that it’s impossible to get rid of said person, it’s called ‘parasite’. And if she’s constantly nagging, complaining and slandering, it’s called a ‘bitch’. And if someone is never grateful for everything someone else did for her, it’s called ‘unthankful’. If someone is doing all three, you may call it an ‘unthankful bitch parasite’. But excuse me, you’re more than familiar with things like this, right Kyou-san?”

Our glances strike sparks. We walk into our room without any other word, just trying to kill the other with eye contact only.

“…hn…” Rine moves, her head turns our way, her eyes only half-closed. She’s in sleeping murderer mode and about to draw her sword.

Geez! She really picks up any hostile intent around her, even if it’s not directed at her.

Kyou-san slaps my shoulder two times, gives the sleep-murdering Rine a smile and lay down on our bed. “Phew.” That girl can really change gears fast.

But Rine is slowly closing her eyes again, satisfied with what she saw.

Just forget it for today and go to sleep.

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