Chapter 4 – How to fix relationship problems

Chapter 4 – How to fix relationship problems

Proofreaders: Dreen, Rooker

A few days went by. Some little things changed, like the relationship between Kyou-san and Ara-san. Both of them are hanging out together, sometimes Ara-san calls for Kyou-san for the daily interview instead of me.

When she does so, I learn letters with Rine.

“That’s a *Guyu*, like in wood.”

Could you please tell me, how that strange sound is in the word ‘wood’? I get now, why Ara-san is annoyed when we talk about language, since it gives me a headache to form a connection between things which can’t be connected for me.

I’m currently in the [Student]-class, relying on [Fast Learner] to get this down, but I have to learn every letter by itself without having a logical consistency to anything Rine teaches me.

But when I read a word, its meaning just springs into my mind, so at least this works out fine. But writing… not so much. I can write words that I know the letters for, but only if I blank my mind and don’t concentrate on what I’m writing, and that’s quite difficult.

The moment I think ‘I want to write ‘fish”, is the moment it becomes 魚. I spent years of effort to learn kanji and now it’s all backfiring on me. So now years of schooling is not only useless but harmful if you ever find yourself transported into a fantasy world.

So better remember: Don’t get yourself transported into a fantasy world. It sucks in general.

Things that didn’t change so far: Ara-san is still in charge of us, the relic which allows deselecting a class is still in the village we can’t visit yet, and we’re still along way from undoing the curse.  Kyou-san and Rine are still gathering basic knowledge about curses so they can figure out the hard stuff.

Another thing that didn’t change: Our levels. We got some AP, these are for raising the rank of [Abilities] and are always increasing by using skills and what the [Ability] stands for, my rank in [Perception] is quite high because I can’t stop looking around.

They’re less fancy than XP, but important as well. Mostly because they somehow relate to skills.

But while the AP are doing well enough, we’re clearly missing XP from killing mobs and this standstill is frustrating. But the moment we go out of the forest to hunt, the alfar might never let us in again.

For security reasons.

Even though Ara-san is kinda important here, she’s only one single alfr with little political means. She may be favored, but she clearly isn’t in charge of anything besides her home. So she can’t decide anything regarding this. She can only ask for us.

That’s the reason why she can spend her evenings talking with Kyou-san or have discussions with me about the hero-system during the day. For some reason she asked me about my opinion about some details and my own theories.

Ara-san, as the hero-sage, has a lot of thoughts about the power of the heroes. But she’s still lacking numbers and experimental data to prove them. For example, she’s sure that [Attributes] are not only level-dependent, but also base-dependent. So someone, who was athletic before becoming a hero, should have higher stats with the same class at the same level as someone who didn’t practice a single day. A human would have different stats than an alfr with the same class and level since their base bodies are different.

Hearing and contributing to all these ideas is fun in a way. Reminds me of times, when I discuss per voice chat builds and strategies for MMORPGs.

And today we’re conducting an experiment. Combat data. This means Ara-san and I will fight in a sparring match.

 

―○●○―

 

It’s noon and Ara-san, Kyou-san, Rine and I are in a clearing. There is someone else here too: Jazzman! He checked in on us on a daily basis, and every time he glares at me as if I’ve committed a capital crime.

The spectators are surrounding Ara-san and me. She changed into her [Acrobat]-class, I’ll be in [Pikeman]. Every skill is allowed within our classes, but no [Class-Change], that would make the data unreliable. We want to get more of an idea how the difference in [Attributes] will work.

Ara-san’s best class for melee combat, [Acrobat], has high stats in [Dexterity], [Agility] and [Luck], moderate ones in [Strength] and [Persuasion], and is weak in [Vitality] and [Intelligence].

My [Pikeman] is focused on [Strength] and [Vitality], moderate in [Dexterity], [Agility] and [Luck] and weak in [Persuasion] and [Intelligence].

So she’s a quick fighter and I’m a basic one, stat-wise.

Her level is above mine, but not by that much. So number-wise, we should be almost matched, so we can actually try, how this difference in builds and therefore [Attributes] will actually influence the battle. She already has some data from other matches between other heroes, but the more, the better.

Comparison

Comparison

Ara-san is still in her dress, it’s similar tailored as a Chinese Cheongsam and is able to keep up with her excessive [Acrobat]-movements. She also wields a strange pole, which is made of three branches which are intertwined. One end is thick and heavy, just like a club, the other has twigs and leafs.

“On my mark.” Rine is the referee. “Begin!”

Without a moment of hesitation, I begin with [Speedthrust]. Ara-san’s ears are trembling, a sign of bewilderment, but after the initial shock of this bold move, she reacts and uses a skill as well. [Windfeeler].

She jumps in the air, using her pole to hold herself up, and evades my attack. I swing my spear to knock that pole down, but she lifts it in the exact same moment to perform a somersault and attacking me from above.

It’s an attack with a large arc, so I can simply evade it. But instead I  counterattack, thrusting the blunt side of my spear right in her stomach, before the staff could come down.

Ara-san grunts, which is definitely not a normal sound an elf would make, guess alfar are really different. Losing some momentum from my counterattack, the club-end of her pole hits my shoulder, but while it did some damage, it’s nowhere serious.

“You’re dead.” If I have used the pointy end of the spear like normally, I would’ve seriously hurt her, most likely making her unable to fight.

“Another round?” Ara-san is using her slight smile, but she seems to be in pain. “After some healing, I mean.” Of course, we have our nurse, Kyou-san, who healed her, while throwing me hostile glares.

Same as Jazzman, who seems to be ready to kill me with stares only.

Hey, it’s a mock battle. So I won’t hold back more than necessary.

“Round two. Ready… fight!”

On Rine’s signal, Ara-san jumps. And it’s high, several meters. How is that possible? Ah, [Acrobat], huh? And now she begins to glow, while she begins to spin in the air.

Well, it may be untypical for me, but while Ara-san seems to charge some kind of airborne attack, I will just do it. I throw my spear, blunt side first again.

Ouch, that was bull’s eye. Or more like alfr’s eye. I aimed for her face, but to hit an eye socket wasn’t intentional.

If you can lose your balance in the air, then that’s what Ara-san did. I didn’t only disrupted her skill-charging, she also fell like a brick.

And the second pain.

Seems like she couldn’t break her fall. Kyou-san is running to her and casts a healing spell again, while I pick up my weapon.

Rine is also kneeling down by her and casts a spell or two. “Ara’ainn, please be serious.” Rine scolds her. Well, until now it’s a bit pathetic. Seems like Ara-san favors the spectacular, causing her to make these really flashy, but fail moves that are easily countered.

Jazzman is caressing the shortsword on his waist.

Please stop that, it makes me nervous.

“Third round. Ready… fight.”

This time, Ara-san moves in for a close quarters fight. I hate these! The only thing you can do is to try to land blow after blow while being beaten to a pulp yourself and reacting on less than a moment for incoming danger. Her [Agility] is higher than mine, so this should serve our experiment well. She should be able to own me in this.

Alternatively, she can be beaten by some powerful blows. A thrust with my spear pole will cause her nose to bleed before she can fall down and whimpers.

And that’s exactly what happened.

“Arako!” Kyou-san is again by her side. “Ken! What did you do?”

“Kyou, don’t be mad at him. He’s just better than her.”

“I am?”

“Not that much. Both of you are moving poorly, but Kenta is bolder and that’s why he breaks her defenses so easily.”

“Katarina-san, I did my best.” Ara-san seems to be a bit mortified. “I block him and then he pulls through, throws me off and then attacks by himself. It’s like he’s not even thinking about it.”

So I’m actually a better fighter than Ara-san, who lives in this world for about a century? Is that talent? Or the fact, that she spent most of these years without any fighting?

Most likely the latter.

“Hey, human!” Ah, Jazzman is finally pissed. “Fight me.”

I so don’t want to do this. “No. Get lost!”

Ara-san’s the same opinion: “You’re not a hero, Aera’jos, so there is nothing to gain from it. Even though I’m no one to talk.” Ah, she’s bitter about how easy I defeated her.

“I’ll fight Kenta instead.”

… No, Rine. Just no.

Kyou-san is smiling. It’s her pleasant smile, which scares me a bit. “That’s a great idea. Rine is a hero as well, so it will give some very interesting- I mean, valuable data.”

No, Kyou-san. Hell no!

Ara-san is pondering. “Even though their levels are significantly different, I guess it would give me some insight to Katarine-san’s combat potential.”

No, Ara-san. Please no!

But there might be a way out! “You know, my dear alfr.” I put my hands on Jazzman’s shoulders. “You’re lucky. You won’t get me, but the best of all of us, so you’ll have the honor to fight our precious Rine.” Don’t blame me for pinning this duel on Jazzman!

If you fight Rine seriously, it’s a short and brutal execution. But thinking about her holding back, using the blunt side of her sword, can only be like some long, slow kind of torture, which will break your bones and leave  you to bleed to death.

I seriously don’t want to fight Rine under any circumstances. I’m afraid.

“You lowlife, I want to fight you! I don’t care about your women, but you’re the one who hurt Ara’ainn!”

“He called me ‘Kenta’s woman’!” Rine blushes a bit, while she grins as bright as the sun.

But the other girl in questions stays calm. “Aera’jos, it was an experiment. So even if it hurts, it’s all fine with me.”

Ara-san, you’re on my side.

“So stand aside and let Katarine-san and Kenta-kun fight each other.”

On my execution site.

Rine snaps out of her delusion and her face changes into combat-mode.

“Ready…” Kyou-san, stop being a referee for a fight, that won’t happen. And don’t smile at me like that, it gives me the chills. “Fi-”

I put a hand in my backpack, pull out a smoke bomb, throw it to the ground and use the cover to run away.

Or so I thought.

“-ght!”

Even though I had the perfect smoke cover, I feel my knee kicked and bend, while a hand grasps my hair, and pull my head back. Ah, I can see the pommel, which is about to hit my face…

This will hurt.

 

―○●○―

 

“Dear!” The moment my consciousness returns is the moment, my head is hugged. I know these breasts, it’s Rine. I guess I passed out after twelve repeated blows into my face.

I check my status, I was healed. Feel no swellings on my face as well, but I can taste my own blood and my nostrils are caked.

“You’re calling him ‘Dear’?” Ara-san’s ears are moving. “Kenta-kun, when you told me, that you don’t have a relationship with anyone, was it a lie? Ah, I see, so you want to add me to your dirty love nest by sweet talking me. Poor me.”

“Stop joking around. And Rine, let me go.” I actually feel good in your bosom, so please stop this.

 

You gain 1 WP.
Your wife took care of your sorry self, showing that she wants to be with you, even if you have your unreliable moments.

 

Who do you think knocked me out in the first place!?

I look at Kyou-san who just rolls her eyes, and Rine who giggles. Their reactions to these messages are usually that polar.

“Hey, where is that alfr?” I can’t see Jazzman.

“He left, after being called by Oro’hekk. Something at the border again. Seems like those two humans out there won’t give up.”

They’re coming back on a daily basis, that’s annoying. Maybe I should ambush them by myself, making it clear that they stand no chance. But I’m still limited in my freedom here.

For Ara-san, who doesn’t know that they’re heroes, it’s an unimportant nuisance right now. “Since Kenta-kun didn’t even try to fight Katarine-san, the data of the last fight is not worth anything.”

“What did you expect? Rine is much stronger than I.”

“Oh, Dear.” Rine blushes and holds her face in her hands, making an alluring pose. “You’re exaggerating. I’m not that good.” And the worst part is, she means it.

“Who are you calling ‘Dear’!? And you, Ara-san, just don’t give in stupid ideas, just because you’re frustrated by the fact, that I owned you!”

Ah, her ears twitch. I got it nailed down. “You only won because my skills are rusty. I have not had a melee fight in years. I would incinerate you with my [Druid]-class.” Druids are supposed to be able to use [Elemental Magic] and [Spirit Magic], which is a strong combo.

“It was a test. So don’t get too emotional about it.”

“You’re just a poor winner!”

This girl… technically, it would be more like ‘woman’, but calling her a ‘girl’ just seems to be more appropriate. So: This girl is such a sore loser. I can’t stand them, even though I’m one as well.

“Ken, Arako, just try to stay calm. It’s time for lunch.” Kyou-san is putting a blanket on the ground, taken from her backpack with dishes follows after that. Today’s a picnic.

It’s something like cabbage rolls. I don’t know what kind of animal the meat is from, but I have the suspicion, that it’s squirrel. At least I never saw any meat in the provisions, that Jazzman brings over, so that’s the only explanation I have.

But oh well, it’s not like I saw every delivery. Although the thought, that the squirrels, which harass Rine on a daily basis, are eaten by us is amusing.

Can squirrel-meat even be eaten?

“Here, Kenta-kun.” Ara-san pours me some tea, Aeolferelda. It revives mind and body, even though Ara-san only has a limited supply of it, she shares it with us. It’s the closest you can get to green tea in this world.

I take a sip. “Ahh…” It actually regenerates a lot of MP and SP, Ara-san explained it to me, that the Aeolferelda tree is like a mana generator. So even its dead leaves, from which the tea is made, are soaked in the stuff, which actually creates MP. “Good as always. Thanks.”

“*sigh*” Seems like Kyou-san is holding back a complaint by drinking a bit as well. “Thank you, Arako.”

“How can you drink that?” Rine’s sense of taste is a bit different, to be blunt: The tea is too bitter for her. Not only her personality, even her taste is childish. So she drinks water mixed with a bit of juice.

The cabbage rolls are delicious like every other dish Kyou-san serves us. This is a real upside of the [Cook]-class, Kyou-san can make everything tasty, as long as it’s even remotely edible.

Not that I’d ever say that to her. She’s conceited enough as it is, no need to encourage that behavior.

Ara-san enjoys the meal as well. You can tell that by her ears, which are pointed straight up while twitching slightly. Over the days I became sure that an alfr’s ears are like a human’s eyebrows, a vital part to interpret the emotion of the person.

Rine has impeccable manners when eating, not even letting a bit of grease on her mouth or clothes. Guess she really is a princess, even though she looks and behaves like some tomboy normally.  I guess, she knows the etiquette.

I don’t care about table manners anymore. I just pick up the cabbage rolls with my hand and shove them in my mouth. My mother would scold me for this, but now that I’m in a fantasy world, nobody except the girls can see me.

Ara-san’s ears are moving, aligning themselves. “Kenta-kun, everyone. I just got a message from the elder.” With [Spirit Magic] it’s possible to send a message through plants to another person, who has [Spirit Magic]. There seems to be a range limit and only a few alfr can use it, but it’s really handy. “Tomorrow we may visit the village.”

Kyou-san is delighted: “So we can see the relic?” Well, of course, she’s keen to deselect [Healer], even though I still think, that would be a waste. It’s a craft class, you know? I like those, it’s always a pleasure to organize equipment, materials, time and other resources.

But Kyou-san is thinking far ahead, for the time when she and I will separate, when the curse gets lifted. When that happens, she will need to take care of things by herself.

Ara-san takes another sip. “Maybe. Depends on what the villagers have prepared.”

“What kind of item is that in the first place, Ara-san?”

“Didn’t I tell you? It’s a quill.”

“A quill… any other interesting relics there?”

“Most of them were taken by our own heroes for their quests, like our other powerful magic items. Some of said heroes are already confirmed dead, we don’t know about the rest. Without Aeolferelda we can’t call them.”

“So the tree also increases the reach of [Far Call]?” [Whisper] to anyone who the user can see, [Far Call] to any [Spirit Magic]-user within a certain range. Both have similar effects but are still different.

“Aeolferelda is the source of magic in our world. They’re everywhere in Ljosgrond, and they’re the basis for our culture. It was hard to adapt to a world with only one Aeolferelda. It’s very important here. Without it, we couldn’t hold the magical wards, which protects Aroahenn.”

Ah, I see. It’s basically like electricity. Something the whole society began to revolve around. You can live without, but it’s just not the same. Now, the alfar of Aroahenn have only one power plant, which is used to power the defense mechanism and is used to produce some other things than magic, like tea.

“But you said ‘most of them’, so there are still some relics left?”

“Useless junk.”

“Like?”

“An amulet, which glows, if it’s worn by a hero. A bell, which rings, if you level up. And a belt, which vibrates, if you use a [Skill] while wearing it.”

Kyou-san and I exchange glances. ““Useless.””

“Like I said.”

“Couldn’t you use the amulet to identify heroes?” Rine asks.

“Only if they don’t show it by other means. [Class-Change], a wide array of skills, or simply showing your status to someone else.” Not that Ara-san can actually read our status windows since it’s in Japanese. But she copied mine and Kyou-san’s, while I ask Rine to copy hers since the princess is constantly learning or teaching and we do our best to let her and Ara-san never alone. “So it’s useless unless you try to find out about the hero-status of a person, you have imprisoned. And we don’t make prisoners here.”

I better remember to not cross the alfar. “The belt seems to be annoying, I mean, you use a skill and then suddenly something vibrates around your hips. And since I check my level regularly, there is no need for the bell. Ara-san, I thought that everything about heroes is collected here!”

“Nowadays, knowledge only. And that’s because of me, if I were to go, then there would be nobody left, who would even care much about all the details and workings of heroes. They don’t see the point of the investment in knowledge. They’re just putting up with my wishes.”

“Hard time, huh?”

“Arako…”

“Ara’ainn, won’t you come with us?” Rine invites Ara-san into the party.

Could you please try to read the mood?

“Why?” Ara-san is confused. I don’t have any idea why Rine even did this as well. But this may be her conclusion after being lost in her pink colored thoughts of friendship and such.

“Because you’re a hero, not a researcher. You need to put your powers to good use and I want to be friends with you!”

“Erm… thanks?” Ah, so that’s how you look after Rine runs you over with her words. Even though an alfr’s facial expression isn’t strong, Ara-san’s face is a picture-book example of being unsure of what to do.

“Yay, Ara and I are friends!” Ara-san looks are alternating between me and Kyou-san. While Kyou-san gives her a forced smile, I just sigh. Rine doesn’t even care. “You may call me Rine as well, Ara.”

“Erm… I still prefer Katarine-san.”

“OK, Ara!”

“Aren’t you glad, Ara-san? You made a new friend!” Actually, it’s amusing. Especially since Ara-san tries to befriend me, she got befriended in an avalanche herself instead.

“This just came out of the blue.”

“Ara, I was the only one you’re not close to, so I felt left out. It’s not like I didn’t think about it before.”

Seriously, there was no introduction and no setup, this event just jumped into the middle part. If this were a game, it would be bad story design, but reality is just like that sometimes.

“But Katarine-san, I must decline your earlier offer. There is no advantage for me to join your party, instead, you can stay here until I have all the data I need from you. It might take a while since there are many unusual circumstances with you. But afterward, it’s back to analyzing.”

Somehow I feel it’s a pity. Ara-san seems to be a mage-type normally and would be a good addition to the party. And she’s someone, who actually tries to understand the hero-system, so we could always brainstorm about the things, which irks me as strange.

On the other hand, I’m also glad. Since having another person in this party would definitely tire me out.

 

―○●○―

 

Aera’jos is irritated. He doesn’t like humans, but that’s normal if you consider the long history of the alfar with them. For someone like Ara’ainn, who is foreign to this world, it’s hard to imagine what it means to have a hereditary enemy. Or at least something close to it.

In the distant past, humans and alfar tried to get along in a time when the gods have spurred the races to go to war with each other. But Elmli, the alfr goddess of knowledge and Vynnwor, the alfr god of war, decided it would be best to make an alliance with one of the less brutal races.

Little did they know about the hidden nature of humans.

They’re driven by their desires, which are so strong that they’ll devour everything in the end. The alliance held a mere two hundred years, before the humans raided the alfar in a swift motion, shattering the realm of the alfar into many pieces. Most of the survivors fled, so now the alfar are in the hidden places of the world.

Since then, many alfar did their best to avoid humans or members of the other races, choosing locations far away from them for their settlements. For a while, the Feuerberg-kingdom tried to convince Aroahenn to help them in the war against the demons, but even though the treason is in distant the past, the mistrust is still in the hearts of the alfar.

At least in some of them.

And for some reason, the humans began to call them elves, which is an outright insult. They are proud to be the Ljos, part of the alfr-race. Especially since the Dökk are legendary nowadays, they have to carry that name with pride for both tribes.

So seeing Ara’ainn getting along with these humans is grinding on Aera’jos’ nerves. Even though he has deep feelings for her, it isn’t him who has done so much for her, but them. Complete strangers, who were able to get close to her.

Twenty years of courtship and he never could do so much as flirt. And in less than a week, the humans have gotten all cozy with her. Even though they brought those other humans to Aroahenn!

“Aera’jos, keep your focus.” Oro’hekk reminds Aera’jos what he is supposed to do. Watching the wannabe-intruders. Seriously, they’re still trying it. Camping around like they don’t care, shouting into the forest, like some sort of savages, they get on Aera’jos’ nerves.

Oro’hekk is a veteran, he’s almost as old as the elder, the next in line. An alfr as old as him is like a beacon of wisdom. He doesn’t call any of the guards informally so he expects that others call him by his full name. “What do you think, Aera’jos? Are both of them a thing?”

“Most likely.” Human’s desire is endless, especially their sex-drive. They’re supposed to mate with the same gender, which let any sane alfr ask: What’s the point if you can’t bear children?

Oro’hekk calls out to the rest of the group. “They’re stubborn, so instead of scaring them off again, I think harassment would be the next step. Any suggestions, everyone?”

“We could throw itching powder at them.”

“Or maybe we can call them dumans for hours behind our wards.”

“Should we put some shit in their backpacks, while they’re not looking?”

“If we do that, we should set it ablaze.”

“Or we may put it in a bag, set it on fire, and throw it at them. When they try to douse the flames, then ‘splash’!”

“How about we let them stay until one of them sleep? We knock the one on  watch unconscious and then we scribble on the face of the one who’s sleeping.”

“Why don’t we take a piss on him instead?”

“Or we may sting him with a needle in the back, right into a point he can’t reach. And leave the needle in.”

“Itching powder in the underwear!”

“We could also steal their gear.”

“And throw it in a pile of shit.”

“Then we have to make a map so that they can get it back. Then they have to dig in the shit for it.”

“All of them are very good suggestions.” Oro’hekk interferes. “But I’d like to make something big, like digging up a big hole, fill it with shit. Then we pretend to lead them to the village, make them fall into the pit, then throw itching powder from above, taking a piss and call them repeatedly ‘stupid dumans’. And if anyone has any idea, how we can including the scribbling and the stealing, then everyone will be happy. Except for these humans.”

“You forget the fire.”

“And the fire! This is how the noble, alfr race does things!” Oro’hekk is really a wise leader, to able to combine so many ideas into a grand plan. “These dumans will learn, that the alfar won’t back down!”

““““““Hell yeah!”””””””

After some brainstorming, the alfar decided to use flammable itching powder, the powdered pololpo is much stronger when burned once, but it’s such a short burst, that you can’t be hurt by it, even if you stand right in the middle of the flame explosion. Additionally, the alfar will take the equipment from the humans, before they lead the humans to the ‘village’ and scribble their faces, so that ‘everyone can see, that they’re friends’.

The plan is perfect.

Since it will take time and planning to dig the pit and find enough animals to ask to shit into it, this will take a while. But tonight, tonight they will be able to pull it off!

 

―○●○―

 

Later that same night.

“At least they didn’t attack today.” Yoshimura and Hoshibashi returned every single day and were chased off again.

“Why don’t we just smack these guys the next time we see them?” Hoshibashi, as a former delinquent, was the one who suggested showing the elves their determination, but also the first to get sick of getting hurt every day.

“We know too little. Even if we beat them, there might be no way to get into the village. Elves are supposed to be very secretive, so stay patient.”

“And humans are supposed to be dumb.” A familiar voice, it’s the leader of the elves. He steps out of the shadows of the campfire, his voice is clearly irritated. “So, what do you want to do today?”

Hoshibashi stands up and clenches his fists, but Yoshimura tries to calm him down with a hand motion. “No. This is a chance.” Hoshibashi sits down with his arms akimbo while staring at the elf. “Sorry about my companion, but he’s a bit angry after your treatment in the last few days.”

“You deserved it! Trespassing our territory.”

“Again, sorry. But there are reasons for this.”

“Speak.”

“Erm… Who am I talking with?”

“Aera’jos. I’m adjutant of the guards of Aroahenn.”

“Aera’jos-san, my name is FortuneVillage. That’s my partner, StarBridge-san.” These are their surnames’ kanji in English. Both of them wanted to use aliases, just in case. “We want to talk to your people since we have much information to offer to you. And goods. We’re originally mercenaries, so we come around a lot and we heard, that you collect relics. And we have some.”

“So you have relics? In those backpacks of yours?”

“Yes. And we want to trade with you.”

“I see, I see. Even though I’m curious, from where you heard about that information. It’s a tad old, currently, we’re not that much into buying things.” He smiles slightly, so it must be good. Yoshimura is trying to get something out of Aera’jos face, but it barely moves. Only the ears twitch from time to time, but Yoshimura can’t tell what that means.

“Could you make an exception?” Yoshimura was in his [Trader]-class, which has high [Persuasion] plus the [Conversation]-ability, so he was sure, the moment they’d talk, is the moment he needs to get into the village.

“Seems like I have no choice. Let me call for some more people. And of course, you have to give us your gear, keep your underwear. It’s just for security.”

“I won’t hand you my weapons!” Hoshibashi’s weapon of choice is a greatsword he can barely lift in his [Student]-class. As secondary weapons, he uses a club and a shortsword. His hands wander to his waist, ready to use both weapons at any time, even though he lacks the [Dual Wield]-ability, which limits the effectiveness.

“StarBridge – you humans really have strange names – let me tell you this. There are five of us still in hiding and pointing their arrows at you. So you can either agree with us and come into the village, or we make sure that you won’t be able to come back. An arrow in the knees tends to end any career as a mercenary.” Aera’jos voice is laughing, it’s something which can only be described as malicious glee.

“Please, StarBridge-san, stay calm. And Aera’jos-san, would it be possible to keep at least one weapon? What about clothes? And how can armor be of any harm to you?” Yoshimura tries his best, hoping in the effect of [Persuasion].

Aera’jos looks at both humans. Then he says with a shrug: “Fine. Clothes, armor, and one weapon, but a big one. Hand over all your knives.” It worked! It actually worked!

Three of the five elves in hiding reveal themselves and take the backpacks and the weapons. Yoshimura keeps his longsword as a weapon and Hoshibashi his greatsword. Even though it packs some power, the elves don’t seem to mind.

Both of them were searched for hidden weapons, but there were none.

“Next comes the signs. Without those, you will be treated as intruders. Turn around, we’ll paint them on your faces.”

This is somewhat strange but still seems logical. Even though Yoshimura can’t help but think that Hoshibashi’s face looks kinda dumb with all these symbols. Some of them seem strangely familiar.

But looking like that, they can finally follow the four elves.

Aera’jos explains: “This is the wrong side. The entrance is about an hour walk away, so we can’t even open the wards for you on this side.”

“Ah, I see.”

The elves around Yoshimura and Hoshibashi are strangely tense. But Yoshimura couldn’t tell, if they’re smirking or if this is a stern expression. He guesses it’s the latter, bringing strangers into their village is a big risk.

So the two heroes walk mostly in silence. “We’re here.” After an hour of walking, Aera’jos explains. “See that path? It’s the entrance.”

For Yoshimura there was no path to see, but elves are supposed to be nature-bound, so they may see something as a path, a human wouldn’t even notice.

“Go on. So that we can see you clearly. Just follow the path.”

Yoshimura and Hoshibashi exchange looks, then Hoshibashi murmurs: “Just need to do it.” And walks ahead.

“Next to each other, please. And a bit more to the right.”

The heroes do like Aera’jos told them. Then they step on something, both are looking to the ground. Nothing.

“Strange.”

“You’ve just passed the first ward. Keep going. The next few steps may be strange, but afterward, it’ll be fine.”

If Aera’jos says so, Yoshimura has no other choice but to trust him.

Both of them take the next step together, just a step before they got between the first trees. And then the ground caves in.

They fell maybe 5 meters (around 16 feet) and landed in something muddy. Just that… “*Bluargh*” Hoshibashi utters a cry of pure disgust. “Got it into my mou- SHIT!”

Yes, it’s shit. Literally. The stench, the texture, it was too dark to see clearly, but Yoshimura was sure, that it’d look like shit as well and most likely taste like it. Well, Hoshibashi got a taste.

And something comes from above. A strange powder. It got into the hair and the skin. And it itches like crazy. “And the finishing touch.” Something like a match is falling into the pit and the powder in flames.

“AHHHH!”

“NONONO!”

Both of them cried out in panic, but the flames disperse as quickly as they came. But somehow… the itch got even worse! They scratched themselves like crazy, but it won’t stop.

“You need some water to wash it off, right?” Several elves are at the top of the hole, dropping their pants and showing their… things… what is that? It’s strange and weird and something, which should be put in mosaic.

Yoshimura doesn’t know, how much genitals of mammals can differ. But what he does know now is the smell of elven urine.

And one single question is torturing him: “Why!? How can you be so cruel!?” He was about to cry, feeling like a frog in the bottom of a shit-well. But in fact, they were far worse off. They’re chest-deep in the brown mass, their upper bodies itch like hell, they were tricked, humiliated and insulted.

“Tell me, human, what are we.”

“Assholes!”

“We’re the alfar. Never forget it. We don’t deal with you, dumans.”

“““““Dumans! Dumans! Nananana-dumans!”””””

“By the way, I’ll take your stuff. Don’t worry, we’ll pick you up tomorrow. Take this as a lesson and never come back again!” Then suddenly roots are growing at the top of the hole, covering it entirely. Yoshimura and Hoshibashi were left behind, robbed of their equipment and dignity.

Yoshimura can’t hold it in: “WE’RE HEROES, YOU MONSTERS!”

 

―○●○―

 

‘What did he say?’ Aera’jos has a good hearing, even for an alfr. ‘Heroes…’

“Good work, everyone.” Oro’hekk and the rest of the alfar, who lost the drawing, had to be the back-up, so they could just laugh and congratulate the lucky ones, who were allowed to directly interact with the humans. “Aera’jos, as expected from you. Now we need to hide their equipment far away from here and make a map, then we’re good.”

“…could I do that?” Aera’jos wants to confirm some things.

“If you like working overnight, be my guest.”

“I personally want to make this the perfect prank.” Calling this a prank is a great understatement from a human’s standpoint. But for the alfar, it was just a bit of fun time.

After talking with some of his peers about this big success, Aera’jos is running to the west. He confirms that nobody followed him, then he checks out the backpacks. Empty. Just like a hero’s. A magical backpack which can only be used by its owner. A special kind of relic.

So are they heroes? He won’t know unless he gets some proof and to do that, he will have to visit them again. It’d be better to just let it go.

But if they are heroes, then why are they chasing the other human heroes? And why didn’t they tell the alfar about the true nature of these intruders… The heroes at Ara’ainn’s side might be not what they proclaim to be.

Aera’jos knows too little and he is reminded of that. Better he hears those two out, especially since they’re in quite a predicament and that way of no harm.

Because every hero will raise Ara’ainn’s interest and everything that would proof that these three in her house are dangerous, would end up in killing them. Which would align with Aera’jos’ wishes.

He returns. Back to the root-covered hole. But the moment he saw it, the root-cover bursts open and a single, human figure jumped out it. It’s StarBridge, who’s full of shit, from head to toe, but his hair protrudes in strange ways, his eyes are glaring so much that they’re practically burning, and his teeth seem to be twice as big as before.

That’s no human, it’s a savage beast.

Aera’jos draws his bow and tries to meld with the shadows, but StarBridge is suddenly right before him, catching him by the throat and lifting him up. “UUUUURHRHRHRGHHGHG!” An inhuman sound roars from his mouth.

The alfr could practically feel, how his neck is about to break, but then another person climbed up the hole, FortuneVillage. “Hoshibashi, change!”

Suddenly, the fierceness of StarBridge vanishes and he looks only angry. Then Aera’jos is released, coughing on the ground. “Let us kill this worm.”, StarBridge demands.

“No.” FortuneVillage is also angry, but his anger is as cold as winter. “Aera’jos? Are you that?” Aera’jos only nods. “I see. There seems to be a misunderstanding and even though it took us time and we had to overcome our disgust to dive into the muck long enough to get the itchiness away, we’re still willing to talk. At least I am, I won’t be sure about Hoshibashi, I mean, StarBridge. So say me, elf, are you ready to talk?”

The air around the two of them is totally different from before. Aera’jos feels a bit of fear, but he still can deal with that much. “Was that a [Class-Change] right now?” How the wildness of StarBridge suddenly changed, after FortuneVillage gave an order, seems a lot like a [Class-Change], a hero would do.

“So you know? Yes, it was.”

“And you’re a hero as well?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it.”

“… Here.” FortuneVillage let some kind of sheet of light appear with strange symbols on it. A hero’s status-screen. “Satisfied?”

“Do you know, if you told so from the beginning, we wouldn’t have used the pit.” Aera’jos laughs about the absurdity of this situation. “First, let me guide you to a place where you can wash you off, then we talk. You stink.”

Aera’jos might have been in a tight spot before, but he keeps his calm, despite this tad of fear. He’s a proud alfr, so he won’t be afraid of humans!

But maybe it’s time to talk to them on eye level.

 

―○●○―

 

Morning. Aroahenn.

The village of the alfar is unlike any I saw before. Some houses seem to be grown out of the treetops, just like Ara-san’s, where branches and leafs build an entire building. Bigger buildings are even made of whole trees, which twists around each other and then there are building between the roots of particularly big trees.

Branches are connecting buildings on three levels with each other, just like bridges. Vines hang from above, which are nimbly climbed by the alfar to get to higher level. Sometimes they’re intertwined like a net, so they can just jump down from a higher platform.

It’s like a huge climbing crag, but the roughly thirty alfar I could see treat it as normal. So alfar have amazing balance as well, huh?

Ara-san shows her slight smile, her ears are wiggling, she seems to be interested in our reactions. Her best, but still small, smile widens by a bit, as she sees my impressed look, she giggles due Kyou-san’s face of disbelief and seems to be unsure, what to make out of Rine’s open admiration.

“This is like another world.”

“Whooooaaa.”

“After you’re done staring, we’ll go into that building. It’s the elder’s hall, there we’ll meet with Elder Gaer’mon.”

But there is still one question, I want to ask. “Where is our escort? Hidden in plain sight, ready to ambush us, if we do something stupid?” There is no way, that the alfar will let us do as we want here.

“Exactly. You already know how alfar do things.” Ara-san’s expression is harder to read than usual, but if I try to make it out of her voice, it’s somewhere between displeasure and cheerful. Strange combination.

We enter the elder’s hall, a building made entirely out of living trees. It’s like a big tower, but we already saw the elder at the ground level. He seems to be about as old as Ara-san or every other alfr we saw. His hair is dishwater blonde, his eyes have an inner yellow iris, shining like an amber, and an outer green one, who looks like an emerald.

Could it be, that you can measure an alfr’s age by the eyes? Ara-san seems to be still young for an alfr and has dark colored eyes, most of the guards have brighter eyes, Oro’hekk more than the others, and now we have the elder with his sparkling eyes.

Well, if we go by that, Rine must seem like an old lady for the alfar, too, since her eyes are bright and sparkling, too. But not like a gem, more like a forge.

Ah, I guess I read too much into it.

Or did I?

The elder steps up. “Welcome to Aroahenn, humans. I’m Gaer’mon, the elder of this village. I wanted to see you all by myself before we decide what to do with you. It seems like you’re taking good care of Ara-tan, I’ve never seen her so well rested, well-kept, and jovial before.”

“Elder, could you please-”

“I remember like it was yesterday, when we had downpour after downpour, uprooting some of our trees, when Ara-tan’s house fell to the ground, sinking into the mud. Oro’hekk had to salvage her since she was dozing off and it took hours before she even considered to wash her dirty self off. She went out in the rain, since cleaning herself seems to be too much work.”

“I would really appreciate it, if-”

“Or the time Aera’jos came in panic into the village with an unconscious Ara-tan in his arms since the girl was so absorbed into her work, that she actually didn’t eat for days.”

“I beg you-”

“And there was one time when she-”

“AAAAAH!”

“Ara-tan, I am trying to talk with our guests.”

Kyou-san is smirking, holding a hand before her mouth, like an aunt from the neighborhood: “Please keep on, Elder.”

I’m also smirking, holding my chin while nodding: “It sounds interesting.” I somehow find this situation unbelievably amusing.

Rine is smirking as well, but I think she’s just mimicking us.

“I’m sure, the three of you are not smiling, but smirking! I can read it from your brows!” Ara-san, on the other hand, is embarrassed as hell, her ears are blushing and twitching like crazy. Even her still aloof face can’t hide it.

Normally, she’s more or less collected and in charge, but now she’s dominated by the elder. As expected from someone, who knows you for a couple of years. Every moment of embarrassment is saved only to talk about it openly at the next opportunity.

After sharing some of Ara-san’s less glorious deeds, the elder discussed with her about us. Ara-san’s estimation of us is: “They’re dangerous in a fight but harmless in general. As long as we don’t provoke them, both parties will profit from sharing our respective knowledge.”

“Ara-tan, I can see, that your research will profit from this, but what about the rest of us? Oro’hekk told me about the two intruders, so there is a risk. If there was no risk, then I wouldn’t even care, but even if we chase those two outside away, won’t others still come for these three here? Especially for von Stolzherz-tan?”

All of us are alarmed, even Ara-san seems to be blown away that the elder knows it and told us. I take over the conversation: “How do you know?”

“How can I not know about the ember-eyes of Feuerberg-kingdom’s royal bloodline? Come on, everyone knows!” He smiles, what arrogance! “Just joking, I’ve already met two of their kind, Eberhardt and Cassandra von Stolzherz. I asked them about their eyes back then.”

“You met aunty and my little brother?” Thank you, Rine, for giving the necessary exposition.

“Didn’t Ara-tan already told you? Your people seek an alliance with us, to fight the demon country. Of course, they will send royalty as diplomats, as a sign of good will. Not that I’ve agreed to it. Human’s wars are human’s responsibility. There is nothing in it for us.”

“Hey, Elder!” I stand before the elder and don’t make a big deal about hiding my hostility: “I don’t care about that war and such, so cut the chase and tell us, what you’re planning to do with us and I tell you if I’ll agree!”

“Ken!” Kyou-san hisses at me. “Shut up!” Then she adds in a louder voice, directed to the elder: “I’m sorry for him. He’s just an idiot. No, that’s an understatement, he’s incapable of clear thoughts 90% of the time, so just treat him like a mentally retarded person.”

“Who are you calling mentally retarded!?”

“You of course?” What are you making the expression, as if I’ve just asked if the sky is blue?

“Kenta, Kyou, please. We stand before a leader of a country.” And why is Rine the voice of reason again!? And it’s a village, not a country!

“Ah…” Ara-san seems to be unsure what to do in this situation.

“Hm…” The elder is deep in thoughts. “Considering this development, there is a rather important question I have to ask before I can decide what to do with you.” All of our heads turn to the elder. “You and you!” The alfr is pointing at me and Kyou-san. “Do you pork with each other?”

Double-K.O.

Kyou-san and I have seizures, our eyes are rolling backward, indefinite sounds escapes our throats and our bodies convulses. These words are so typical for an alfr and so inappropriate to the situation, they physically hurt.

“…I’m feeling sick again.” Kyou-san whines.

I groan. “Why does everyone…” Ask that question? Jump to strange conclusions? Have not even a bit of common sense? Make my life a living hell? All the above?

“Yes. Both of them has night actions with each other.” Rine, not again! Ah, I totally forgot to explain her, why it was bad the last time! I regret! Please let me make a do-over!

“Oh? And I thought that Momo and Kenta-kun weren’t in that sort of relationship.”

““We aren’t!””

You gain 1 WP.
In prosperity as in adversity, in fun and embarrassed moments, the two of you share everything. And you even say the exact same words at the exact same time.

Yes, please add insult to injury! I obviously haven’t enough of that!

“Human relationships are complicated since they can’t keep it in their pants.” The elder gives a comment in a composed tone, which makes me want to yell at him. “But regarding this… three weeks. You may stay for 30 days, it’s the usual time we give asylum. Then you have to leave.”

“This is plenty. Thank you, Elder.” Kyou-san is quick to thank, but the time frame it’s still more than I expected.

“Oh, only three weeks?” Ara-san is sighing. I guess for her, it’s only a short amount of time. So a week in this world has ten days, huh? And it’s still not one month?

“Three whole weeks? Please, don’t make me read all these books for so long!” On the other hand, Rine is opposing to study that long. Ah, she hated studying in the first place, that’s the reason why she even left home.

“Rine, the harder and faster you work, the less time we need. Just keep going, smiling like the idiot you are.”

“I’m aware, that I’m not bright, but it still hurts, if you say that like this.” She pouts. Man, what is with this girl.

“Elder.” I’ll just ignore it.

“Don’t ignore me, please!” Now she’s clinging to my arm.

The elder is jumping into conclusions by himself. “Ah, I see. She’s the one you pork.”

“*grooooooaaaaaan….*”

 

―○●○―

 

“And don’t try anything funny. We’re still surrounded by other guards, so just behave.” Aera’jos guides Yoshimura and Hoshibashi to Aroahenn. After a long discussion, Yoshimura learned some interesting facts.

Yoshimura tries to be calm. But he couldn’t. Aera’jos told him and Hoshibashi about the other heroes here and there is one piece of information, that got his full attention: Momokawa Kyou-chan is here. He didn’t know it, but it’s a lucky coincidence. And for some reason, she was with Katsuragi and another girl-hero.

How did Katsuragi pull it off? Having two girls in his party, especially Momokawa-chan!

Well, considered what Yoshimura heard before, Momokawa-chan was left behind by her friends, so she most likely joined the party of the only person available. Even though Yoshimura was sure, that Katsuragi is dead.

Hoshibashi claimed to have seen them back in the Wächter-fort, but Yoshimura dismissed it. A miscalculation, but it’d be easy to convince Momokawa-chan to join their party if her only other alternative is Katsuragi.

Yoshimura has a crush on Momokawa-chan. For a long, long time. But whatever he did, it was never enough to gain her attention.

However, in this world, the cards got reshuffled and now he will show her, what kind of man he has become.

This is a chance!

“We’re about here. Stow your weapons into the backpack, every one of them.”

“Kch!” Hoshibashi clicks his tongue, but after looking how Yoshimura complies, he did the same. Yoshimura thought of his partner as reliable, but with some anger issues. Especially since he got ‘that’ class.

Yoshimura put his weapons into his [Inventory] and he saw on the screen something strange. The map, that Correo-guy gave them, was blinking slightly. He takes it out. It’s normal in his hand, so why did it flashed in the [Inventory]-screen?

“What’s this?” Aera’jos takes the map from Yoshimura’s hand. “A map? This is how you found us? So not only rumors, maps as well?”

“Yes.”

“Another thing we have to tell Elder.” Aera’jos seems to be concerned or in joy, it’s hard to tell for Yoshimura. “Everything stowed? Then let’s go.” He moves between some trees and thicket, which opens for him, like the whole time before. Who knows how hard it would be to move in this forest without an elven guide.

And then they saw Aroahenn, with its unique buildings, which are made by the effort of living trees, its bridges, and vines. It seems to glow…

No, the glow came from elsewhere. From Aera’jos or more specific: Correo’s map, which still is in his hand. “What…” Then there is a loud bang with a light-explosion.

Yoshimura sees colorful dots and hears strange noises. His sight slowly returns and he finds himself surrounded by many strange people. Horns, claws, wings, tails, everything is mixed. Some are twice as tall as him, others are only up to his knees.

But he knows what this is from his time at the border… demonkind! And they attack the village with roars of bloodlust and viciousness, ignoring the ones, who they just surrounded.

How… HOW? Yoshimura doesn’t even know what to think. They come into the village and then demonkind appears out of nowhere – no, from the map.

Correo!

They were used! They brought disaster to the elven village!

One of the demons, a particularly big one, bow down to them. “If you want to get those relics, they’re under this tree, like the other treasures.” A droning female voice from something, which can only be seen as an oni. Two large, black horns on a red body, long arms with strong muscles, armor at the top, a striped dress-like undergarment with a bone armor over the chest-piece, and a long club made out of iron in her hands.

The oni groans as she was hit by three arrows. It’s Aera’jos. “You tricked me! Duman scum!” He’s seriously pissed.

“Go, heroes. I’ll take care of the puny alfr.” The oni is full of confidence. “It’ll take only a little time. The relic you’re searching for is a quill. If you have it, you’ll know how to use it.”

In situations like these, humans will show their true character. And so do Yoshimura and Hoshibashi. They run to the direction of the tree, the oni was pointing to.

Yoshimura sighs. Looks like they just switched sides. But who knows, maybe the demons are the better people. Being a dark hero doesn’t sound so bad as well. And considering the treatment they got from the elves, it seems only to be some kind of righteous judgment.

The elves are the true evil!

 

―○●○―

 

“What kind of explosion was that?” With [Pitch] I could clearly hear that the sound was like an explosion, I’ve never heard before. “And there was something else mixed in.”

Battle cries are starting to emerge. This is most likely an attack, even though even I can’t think of anything, which could break through the wards of the alfar.

“We should help!” Rine is quick to decide that and before she even finished her words, she’s already through the door.

“Don’t decide it on your own. Phew.” I’m not that keen to help, it’ll get dangerous. But at least I can take a peek. “Erm, everyone?” I turn to the ones behind. “Could you look as well? I think that these things are demons, but I might err.”

Ara-san and Kyou-san are also taking a look and the alfr girl is the one, who confirms my suspicion. “Yes, they look like demons. And they’re attacking the village.” Without any more hesitation, Ara-san joins Rine, who already butchers her way through the demons.

So demons don’t die with a body, but turn into midnight blue smoke?

How game-like!

“Ken, we should also help.”

“Why?”

“First, there is Rine and Ara-san. I would feel bad if someone hurt them. And finally” Kyou-san draws close to me: “We will gain the trust and the thanks of the alfar, so they’ll bound to help us with everything.”

How exploiting. But she’s right. It’s not like I have to go into grave danger, and if things go bad, I can most likely retreat. “You know just the right words, Kyou-san.”

Time to change to [Pikeman]. I run towards Rine: “Rine, change!” Rine steps backward and let me do my thing “[Whirlwind]!” And with this, a bunch of demons is blown away, some of the small ones already smoke badly. “Change.”

Rine swaps positions with me and takes care of the ones, who are already on their feet. Ara-san is now beside me. “[Icicle Knives]!” Ara-san conjures a fan of ice and throws it, it splits into five knives, which are hitting the enemies.

“Can you hold them with [Entangle]?” The same thing she used to keep me and Jazzman off each other.

“[Entangle]!” With this, the movement of several demons is entangled by the grass, branches, and roots, which grows like vines.

“Kyou-san!”

“Do I have to?”

“Just do it!”

“Uh…” Kyou-san still has her ss’rak-knife, which deals an enormous amount of damage to unmoving targets. With this, she can take care of the entangled, while I keep the free ones at bay, which are about to attack us.

It took only a little time before the demons here are either killed or have retreated. But something seems strange, they’re like mindless beasts, not much of a threat to have a longstanding war with anyone. Maybe there are some demons like this and others, which are actually intelligent?

At least it feels like killing mobs to me. But it’s better that way since it’s easier than killing sentient beings.

The guards of the alfar are also helping, they fight like heroes. But as far as I know, Ara-san is supposed to be the only alfr-hero here. Are these guys just that strong!?

Then something catches my eyes. Humans. Two of them, Japanese. Ah, they’re the ones, who were camping outside before.

How were they called? Nah, not that important.

One of them wields a greatsword, the other one has a longsword. Their movements are keen and their teamwork is superb. It’s much better than what Rine and I are currently capable of.

But why are they fighting alfar? And with such a success? The alfar they beat are as competent as the others, but the two Japanese parry the arrows slashes through blades and flesh. I think, each of them is stronger than me! How!?

“Kenta-kun, look.” Ara-san, I can already see it, but I don’t want to. “How can they fight like that, despite their- KENTA-KUN!” Ah, she’s honestly pissed. “Did you hide heroes from me?”

“Yes, I did and no, I don’t regret it.” Honesty.

“You… but why… Where is Oro’hekk!?”

“He’s fighting that big oni-type there, who just smashed Jazzman.”

“Who?”

“You know, Jazzman.”

Ara-san is looking in the direction I’m pointing to and see, how Oro’hekk is completely occupied with fighting that one enemy. And I’m glad that I’m not the one, who has to do this. That oni is way above the other demons, maybe their leader or even an actual boss type mob. The attacks are fierce, sending shockwaves through the air. I really wouldn’t want to fight it.

But Ara-san is pointing at the direction of the two enemy heroes. “Kenta-kun, Momo, Katarine-san. Please help me with fighting those two.” So she wants us to fight our former classmates? Every other day I would agree, but this day, I feel clearly inferior to them. “They’re moving to Aeolferelda! We need to protect it.”

“We’ll do it!” Rine is about to run off, but I hold her arm.

“Don’t decide on your own, Rine! Ara-san, these guys are strong. I don’t know why, but they are. Even if you and Kyou-san take over the support, Rine and I are having the most risk here! What’s in for me?”

“And me?” Kyou-san seems also to be against it.

“Momo, under the roots of the Aeolferelda is the treasury. The relic you’re seeking is there and I think they’re trying to steal it with the other treasures.”

“Uh… Only if Ken’s also going.” Her desire to get this quill and the wish to survive are even, so she wants to max out, huh? But I’m not going to fall!

Ara-san looks deep into my eyes. “Kenta-kun. Please.” Determination, the will to die for the cause. She knows that she will if I won’t help her. But she’s ready to.

“Dammit!” How did she convince me!? Just by looking into my eyes? But somehow I feel like I really want to help her. Why!?

‘I’m interested in you!’ What? ‘I thought that’s how humans make friends. Strange.’ Hey, that’s not how it works! It’s…

I fell. I fell. There is something inside me. A bit of friendship.

Talking with Ara-san can be fun. She takes good care of us, siding with us. She’s a bit calculating, but in the end, she’s doing it to satisfy her curiosity, not for some ulterior motive.

I hate it. I hate it! I HATE IT! “DAMMIT! I just have to do it, right!? Rine, stay right behind me! We’ll try to separate them!”

“Yes!” Happy about my change of mind, Rine obediently follows me.

I hate myself for doing this. Aren’t I supposed to be an A-hole? But somehow I get the feeling, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life if I won’t do it.

“[Speedthrust]!” Aiming for the bigger one, the one with the greatsword, I launched myself with my [Spear]-skill.

“Katsu-!? [Crescent Moon]!” with one swing, the greatsword creates a wind sickle, flying at me.

I abort my skill, sidestep and: “[Speedthrust]!” just do it again. To abort a skill is hard, but it’s the [Spear]-skill I use the most. So I know exactly, how it works.

But- “[Gust]!” The other one used the already known OP-spell against me, knocking me back.

“Don’t worry!” These words were passed at me by Rine, who just overtook me. “Leave it to me!”

The greatsword is swung at her, but Rine jumps, uses the enemy’s blade as a stepping stone and smacks her knee right into the face of the wielder. That sounds like a broken nose. “Aaaah!” And a lot of pain.

You may have [Gust], but we have [Rine], which is much stronger than that!

Ara-san speaks to the alfar around us: “Retreat with the wounded! We have this under control!” Actually,  I’d rather keep them in the fight.

Oh well.

I get back on my feet and lift my spear. The one with the longsword looks at us. “Katsuragi. Class rep. We don’t need to fight.” Ah, Kyou-san also joined the fray.

“Then just give up, erm… you.” I give another option.

“It’s me, Yoshimura Rentaro! We were sitting next to each other in class! We even shared a room back in Esse! Did you seriously forget my name?”

“It’s less about forgetting and more about not trying to remember it in the first place. And who’s the bloody-nose?”

The delinquent yells out in anger while holding his nose. “Hoshibashi Takashi!”

“My deepest condolences.” Some people just don’t know how to name their children.

“…I’ll tear you apart.” And now he’s angry.

Please, blame your parents for being so bad at naming you. Your name almost sounds like a tongue twister.

Yoshimura smiles wryly. “Even though this is supposed to be a heartwarming reunion, things got quite complicated. Class rep, I know, this might be sudden and not the right mood, but please: We’re in the right here! The elves are evil! So don’t join with them, but with us. Ah, and the others may as well. Humans have to stick together!”

Why do I feel like a side note? This pisses me off.

“Yoshimura-kun.” Kyou-san is looking at our former classmate like a damsel in distress, then she looks to Rine and me. “I can’t.”

Ah, because you’re cursed. Otherwise, you would switch sides? Or at least consider it?

Well, that’s Kyou-san for you.

“I see.” Yoshimura has made a conclusion by himself. “Then we’ll take care of them.” … Ah, she did it, so they’ll concentrate their attacks on Rine and me!

And don’t stick your tongue out so cutely, Kyou-san, it makes me vomit!

“Rine, be careful. Their teamwork is good.” Rine is a monster, she is a powerhouse and can even fight multiple enemies all on her own. As long as they’re weak. If these two gang up on her, she’ll probably sustain some damage, if this piles up, it’s over.

So the trick would be to keep Hoshibashi and Yoshimura separated, but this might become the trickiest part. And until then, I have to keep one of them busy enough, so that they can’t combo against her.

Considering the stuff they’ve shown, it might get difficult. “Rine, I’ll concentrate on the one with the big sword.” Hoshibashi seems to be an easier match-up. I already have some experience fighting greatswords.

“OK.” Fast as thought, she steps up to Yoshimura.

Hoshibashi tries to interfere, but: “[Whirlwind]!” I knock him back. If I can keep it up, I’ll separate them.

“[Rocksmash]!” Hoshibashi swings his blade right into the ground and earth and rocks are flying at me.

“[Watershield]!” Ara-san conjures water around me, a hollow sphere which takes most of the force of Hoshibashi’s attack.

Surprisingly, the rocks are still coming pretty fast and powerful, but with the dropping speed, it’s rather easy to avoid them.

Nice support!

But seriously, what’s up with these rocks? The [Watershield] should’ve been more efficient than that! Are they bullets? Is it the [Skill]? Or is that how much [Strength] Hoshibashi has?

The [Watershield] falls and I shorten the distance between me and Hoshibashi. Letting him swing his sword seems to be dangerous. I take my spear in both hands like a quarterstaff and perform a flurry of blows with both sides.

It doesn’t make much damage, but he couldn’t counter with his sword. He throws a punch at me, but I evade it, even though it’s insanely fast and powerful. But for some reason, it doesn’t seem that dangerous.

I hook the blunt end of my spear behind the leg of Hoshibashi, then I pull his leg from the ground. He falls and I stab him with the spear into the chest. But his hide armor and his [Vitality] takes most of the impact, so I can’t impale him.

“Ah!” Irritated, Hoshibashi draws both weapons from his belt: A shortsword and a club. At the same time, he loses some buff, his arms and torso became sleek. Then he nimbly stands up and moves much faster than before. He covers me with blows and I can feel and see how my HP and SP are drained.

“[Heal]! [Stamina]!” But I got two supporters. While Kyou-san heals me, Ara-san throws [Icicle Knives], she hits Hoshibashi at the side and I take the opportunity to smack the point of my spear right across his face. But even so, it’s only a cut.

I need some distance. I step back, but- “Whoa!” Feel another back on mine. It’s Yoshimura, who is more similar to a bloody bag than he used to be. I try to knock him down, but he pushes me away with ease, right back to Hoshibashi.

He has much more [Strength] than me, that’s why I hate heroes. “[Steel Slicer]!” Hoshibashi, buffed again, uses this opportunity to make a big swing from above with his shortsword, surely to half me. Ah, I’m dead.

“[Fountain Gun]!” Or not, Ara-san shoots a spurt of water, powerful enough to knock Hoshibashi a few meters back. I kinda like that kind of support.

Thank you again, Ara-san!

Hoshibashi class-changes to his slender form again and picks up speed. Then he vanishes. How… I jump sideways and see how something, which looks like a patch of grass, is attacking me. [Camouflage]. Don’t use the skills I know against me!

Then he throws his sword, and while I do my sidestep, he closes in and swings his club, which hits me in the chest. Ah, this sounds like broken ribs. And it’ll definitely hurt in one, two… “AAAAARGH!” The pain is nothing you could just shrug off with an ‘Ouch!’. But my cry of pain is hurting me as well.

“[Heal]! [Heal]!” At least I got my support.

But I wasn’t the only one, who got hurt. The moment I realized I couldn’t evade the club, I attacked as well and Hoshibashi is coughing, since I almost smashed his throat with a horizontal thrust of my spear-pole.

Time to deal the finishing blow!

“[Falling Mist]!” And suddenly I couldn’t see anything. Yoshimura has cast a spell. “[Speedthrust]!” I try to stab the place where Hoshibashi was, but he’s already somewhere else. “Damn!” He could use the fog to hide, using [Camouflage]. I did it often enough myself. “Everyone, keep your eyes open, Hoshibashi has the [Camouflage]-skill!”

I change to [Scout] and use [Pitch], but the sounds of the battles elsewhere are too loud to locate the two of them. Especially, considering Hoshibashi may also have the [Sneak]-skill.

“Ken!” Kyou-san’s voice is coming through the mist. “They don’t need to fight us, they-”

“Dammit!” I realized it.

“We must stop them!” Ara-san also got the idea.

“What?” Rine… didn’t.

“They need only to get to Aeolferelda,” Ara-san explains it and I can hear her already running. Then she hits an object, most likely a tree/building. She can’t see either.

“Ara-san, is there nothing [Spirit Magic] can do?”

“Nothing I can use. And the spell is strong, it makes all the spirits blurry.”

“Do you know how long this fog-skill is in effect?”

“Usually about a minute.” Ah, I can see how it begins to disperse already, just slightly.

“I can see a path, follow my voice.” Slowly I walk through the mist, which dissolves bit by bit. “Here, here, here.” I just to say something, so that they can follow. “Good, I’m through the mist.” I wait for the others to come and they do.

Then all of us run to Aeolferelda. The tree is easily distinguishable by its sheer size and these algae-like leafs. Hoshibashi and Yoshimura are right before its roots. Hoshibashi slashes at the door with another greatsword. So he had spares, huh? But the branches and leafs of the door regrow faster than Hoshibashi can cut them.

“Ha!” Triumphantly, I approach. “You’re back in a corner. Give up!” Yoshimura looks badly battered, the result of a fight with Rine. Hoshibashi might be stronger than me, but as long as we can separate them again, I should do well with the support.

“[Heal]!” And Kyou-san’s treating my ribs. So everything is fine.

“[Oni Fire]!” Except when it’s not. Suddenly, the red oni who was fighting Oro’hekk jumps in and burns the door to crisps. Hoshibashi and Yoshimura enter it, while the oni stands in our way. It appears to be female and somehow I recognize that voice, even though I’m not sure where from. “Two down, two to go!” Jazzman and Oro’hekk are down. I hope the other two are not Rine and me.

Speaking of Rine: “Kenta, what are your orders?”

“You ask me!?”

“You’re the one who knows best!” Since when? But Kyou-san and Ara-san are also faltering.

So I have to make a call? “Rine and Kyou-san, this oni is dangerous. Some of us need to keep it at bay. Do that.” I have the theory, that this oni is the strongest of all, so only Rine can fight it. And she will most likely suffer damage by doing so or exhaust all of her SP. And since she won’t have any opportunities to cast spells herself, Kyou-san needs to be the support. “Ara-san and I will follow the two others.” Yoshimura is hurt and Hoshibashi might overcome me in terms of power, but I still got Ara-san. This has to work out.

We just need to cover the healing with pots.

“Understood!” Without even wavering, Rine charges at the oni.

“Keep Arako save!” Kyou-san keeps herself ready to cast any spell necessary.

“Let’s go, Kenta-kun!” Ara-san and I use the moment, the oni is distracted with Rine to pass by it, into the roots of Aeolferelda. “You’re worried?”

“We had a hard time before and now we have to deal with both of them on our own.”

“Don’t worry. I have home advantage.” Ara-san is smiling slightly, but very mischievously.

Previous Chapter Volume Page Next Chapter
Advertisements