While Kyou-san and Rine are treating the injured with their [Divine Magic], I accompany Ara-san to check the cave under Aeolferelda to find out what’s missing.
Aside from the quill, the other relics are still there, but some magic items were taken away. But at least not the dangerous stuff, so it’s still alright.
I heard what happened outside Aeolferelda from the others, looks like we were lucky.
But some things are bothering me. The strength of the [Oni Fire] seems to be inconsistent or maybe the oni can charge it. This would make sense, she didn’t have the time to charge the skill much in the fight between Rine and her.
Or maybe it’s more effective against objects and trees. Don’t know, no way to find out. But even without that skill, she would’ve killed me and Ara-san, so I made the right call that time.
The squirrels disappeared after the other demons got to Aeolferelda, maybe they’re waiting for the next chance to exert revenge.
Generally, this whole demon attack has many question marks to it, so the elder is investigating the scenario. “Phew. Only got some torn rib cartilage and some bone cracks.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Like hell, but I got my HP back so at least I can move fine, even though I need some real treatment later.”
“I see. I want to talk with you. About these two humans.”
This might turn sour. “What?”
“There are several things, but first, my condolences. They’re never coming back.”
“Aha. Well, they brought it upon themselves.”
“They’re something similar but different now. The memories of their former life are information only, no thoughts, emotion or importance remains. It’s like when you read about your life from a history book. And their lives will be filled with new, real memories, which will make them entirely new people. It’s a path of no return.”
“Couldn’t they re-select the [Student]-class?”
“It won’t be the same.”
“I see. Well, there were many opportunities for them to die until now, so I think it’s alright. I mean, they could have been killed by mobs at the start of their hero-careers. And it’s not important, I have enough problems myself, so I don’t need to think about other people’s.”
“I won’t pry deeper into it, but there is another thing: I saw power rings on their hands.”
“A strong relic. We had heroes who used them. If you wear one on each ring finger, all of your stats are raised.”
“What a cheat.” I take off my glove and look at my left ring finger. I can’t even use these cheat items since I got this one cursed ring I can’t remove. “What a pain.”
“And there is a final matter. I want to conduct an experiment.”
“Phew… What a timing.”
“Now, after the battle and in this state of mental exhaustion is the only time to try it.”
I can’t even think of what she’s about to do, but at the moment, I don’t care about anything, so I don’t mind. “Let’s get over it.”
“I’ll ask you some questions and you have to answer them truthfully.”
“This seems like a pain.”
“Kenta-kun.” Ara-san’s eyes are serious. “Did you like fighting beside me?”
Why does she ask that question? “…yes. You’ve got some good spells and know how to use them.”
“So if given the chance, would you fight on my side once more?”
“Yes, I’ll do so gladly.” She really is an asset, as long as she keeps on spell-slinging.
“And do you want to have more conversations with me about heroes and such?”
“You’re the only one who I’ve ever met, who actually cared about the system. Yes, I do.”
“And do you want to stay at my house, as long as possible?”
“It’s OK. Beats sleeping in the woods every day.”
Ara-san takes my left hand. “…Do you like me?”
Ah, I see. Since I’m mentally exhausted, she wants to use that opportunity to build a friendship. That’s sly.
But maybe being friends with Ara-san might be actually fun. It’s not like we’ll stay in Aroahenn forever. So I open my mouth. “Yes, I like you as a-” Wait. Why is my ring glowing? “No. No. NononononoNoNoNoNONONO!”
And Ara-san is glowing as well. “Seems like my experiment is successful.” Why is Ara-san glowing as well? It’s similar to Rine’s case, but she wasn’t a hero like Ara-san. And the glowing is more gentle if I have to compare it.
Wait, do I glow as well!? What is different this time!?
“Ara-san. Why!?” She knew this would happen, I can see it in her demeanor.
So tell me, why did you do this!?
“It piqued my interest. After listening to some of Momo’s and your stories and the fragments you let me hear from Katarine-san, I concluded that the ring has to be a powerful relic, which makes it possible to see the stats of each other and share the XP you gain. It’s like multiple people are treated as one.” She smiles. It’s her normal, slight smile, but her ears are giving away that she’s beaming!
“But how did you trigger it willingly!?”
“Simple. It’s obvious as an observer, and maybe you overlooked it as the one, who was involved? You need two conditions to be cleared. First, a great amount of power, the power of the pilgrimage ritual back with Momo, and the power of the Etna back with Katarine-san. Now we’re using the power of Aeolferelda, which resides in us right now.”
“And the second?”
“Something like a verbal contract, recognizing each other as friends.”
“Hahaha…” Ah, even a half-hearted laugh hurts. ”Ara-san. You may be smart, but you’re also an impulsive idiot.”
The glow dissipated and a ring appeared on Ara-san’s left ring finger.
|Congratulation! You just wed Ara’ainn!|
|This was a piece of work, I tell you. Both of you are from different species, therefore there were some things to be done with the both of you, so you may share all the happiness a normal married couple would have. So please be ready to get accustomed to some unusual feelings and events.
Be sure to stay by the side of your new wife since it’ll take more of a toll on her. But by being there for her your relationship is sure to bloom.
Is there no end to your luck?
Counter-question: Was there even a beginning?
Ah, Ara-san is also reading the message. “We… we…” Her eyes are rolled way back, I can only see the white of her eyes, despite the fact, that her double-iris takes up most of her eyeballs.
“Never act without having accurate information,” I reprimand her. Her eyes are returning and she looks at me with a face full of shock, her ears don’t even know where to stand anymore. Somehow this is cute.
Ara-san is an alfr, she can’t be… She is. For some reason, the strangeness I feel when seeing Ara-san disappeared and is replaced by something else.
“Kenta-kun? Something strange is happening.”
“KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!” Looks like someone else, who is far, far away, got over the initial shock and tells us this with this outcry.
Seriously, I’m innocent!
The red oni put the two heroes down. “Nobody following me? Fine, fine, fine.” Now that there’s no one looking, she falls back into her usual demeanor. Even her voice now sounds girly and childish, with a bit of malice in it. “So, time to buck off the cargo.” Without any care, she tosses the shelf she stole right next to the heroes. “Stupid sis, who almost got me revealed. I hate exorcism magic!”
The oni stomps on the ground, trying to get her irritation out of her system. She was enjoying the fight with that blonde girl, and then the black-haired one pulled out a nasty spell, which didn’t only hurt like hell, but is also a countermeasure for her favorite skill.
The oni inhales and exhales, trying to calm her mind. Then she pulls out a paper and a whistle from under her dress and blows the latter. It made no sound, but the one who put everything up should come shortly.
And *puff* here he is, using the paper to open a gateway. To do that, you have to use a special ink, and just one person can use it. This time it’s a human male with long black hair and a beard.
He looks at the unconscious heroes on the ground, who are bleeding badly. “How did it go?”
“Bad, bad, really bad. Not for me, but in general. For some reason, the Katsuragi-boy and his two girls were there and aligned with the alfar. The blonde is strong, and my heart was pounding with awe and excitement! Rine! Yes, she’s called Rine. I want a rematch!”
“Did you lose!?”
“No, no. She just hurt me bad, but it already healed. And the other one almost got me with her [Exorcism], but don’t worry. I’m fine thanks to my ‘condition.’ But without the midnight dolls, it would’ve been dangerous.”
“I see. So you did as I commanded?”
“Yes, master! I did, I really did! As good as possible, you see. I could only get a bit of stuff as I emphasized on rescuing our new allies!”
“I see.” Correo looks on the shelf, while the oni is tiptoeing. “Well, maybe it will please M’lady.”
“Master, may I ask some questions?”
“*Sigh*, you’re a servant, you don’t need that much information.”
“But these are bothering me. Please, I want to serve you with full attention, so please explain it to me, so that I won’t be bothered by it anymore.”
“Your subservient behavior is only a farce, but you did adequately. Ask.”
“Why didn’t the map of Rine and her pals react when they went to the village?”
“Either they got rid of it, or they entered the village for the first time just a moment after these two.”
“Ah. And why did the midnight dolls took on the form of demons?”
“Because you never sell your services only once, if possible.”
“So you got another employer? Who would profit from it, when demons attack the alfr village?”
“Figure it out by yourself. There are more important things to do.” Correo kneels down in front of the two heroes. “More war potential for M’lady. I only need to figure out how to persuade them.”
The midnight dolls, a hundred which could be put on a single piece of paper so that they can be transported easily, plus the instant transportation ink, are all gifts of the one who paid for Correo’s services.
And she will be pleased with the magic items and the heroes, Correo will bring her.
“Master, master! I still have one question!”
“What it is!” Correo is obviously annoyed by this disturbance in his thoughts of self-glory.
“Why are squirrels gathering around us? They did the same back when I fought Rine and even helped me! Are these yours?”
“Squirrels?” Correo doesn’t know about any squirrels.
But in fact, there are some, a big group actually, which surrounded them.
This is… unexpected.
“Elder…” Aera’jos is lying in a provisional sick bay, he got several broken bones, ripped muscles, and he just got his internal bleeding healed by that blonde human, who was visiting him before, while the rest was taken care of by a herbalist. Not only got his body shattered, but also his pride took some hits. And now Elder Gaer’mon is asking him about what exactly happened. “It was all my fault.”
It would be easy to hide the fact, but it would be irresponsible. Aera’jos doesn’t want to cover up this shame since it endangered everyone and maybe even cost some lives. After he was hit by that red demon once, he was out cold and couldn’t see how the whole fight went.
Aera’jos is responsible for everything, so he decided to come clean. To tell the elder about his involvement and how he led the two humans into the village.
Of course, Aera’jos didn’t know about the demons, which were transported in, but he wasn’t careful enough, so he didn’t use his lack of knowledge as an excuse. He only states the facts and how he thought, that the alfar would be able to handle it.
“And that is all.” He ends the story and asks himself, what would happen to him. What kind of punishment will wait for him? Banishment? That seems to be appropriate. There is no death penalty for alfar in Aroahenn, so banishment is the usual sentence for capital crimes.
“I see. So that’s how it is.” Elder Gaer’mon is pondering, rubbing his ear. “It does seem to be less retribution, and more like an elaborated plan. There was no indication that the humans would bring the demons in here?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“Good. Take a good rest.” The elder was about to leave.
“What is it?”
“What about my punishment?”
“For bringing this kind of disaster into our dear village?”
“Aera’jos, are you serious!?” The elder is wondering.
“I did fail the village.”
“Take a look at yourself. Most of your bones are broken! Isn’t that punishment enough? Somehow everyone survived, thanks to you and the other guards training every single one of our people in combat. We got many lethally wounded, but the two human girls are here to heal them, and we have our herbalists. This is a miracle, and I don’t want to spoil it by punishing someone, who’s so beaten up as you. If you’re so keen on it, then jump off a tree by yourself, but climbing it might be complicated with broken limbs. If you actually want to help our people and me, then get well soon and never, ever do it again, right? If I punish everyone for every mistake they make, then I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Plus, anyone could’ve been the one who got us into this mess, since it’s clear as day that this was a planned attack. If we have enemies among the demons, they were looking for a way in. And in the end, they would have done it somehow anyway. So be thankful that it was right now when we had help from the humans, who-”
“-who are trying to communicate through the whole village by yelling, even though I don’t know why. I will ask them now, but let me say this, Aera’jos: You’re part of our village, and as long as you don’t intend on harming us, this will not change. So instead of saying that you’re guilty, tell the rest, that you’re sorry. Seriously, youngsters these days.”
Aera’jos’ jaw wants to drop, but since he got bandages under his chin, there isn’t much room for this. The elder left the sick bay and left the speechless Aera’jos behind.
He was ready for a scolding, but he didn’t expect one like that. He looks at the other wounded in this room, and a single sentence left his mouth. “I’m sorry.” Magical healing alone won’t be enough to quickly recover completely, and he will most likely need a month or two, even counting in the work of the herbalists. But now he’s motivated to get well soon and do whatever he can do to help.
He will become stronger. Strong enough, so that there will be no need to get help from humans in future.
In Esse, the capital of the Feuerberg-kingdom.
“I see. I apologize about this matter, Inoue-dono, but it was my fault for not seeing what kind of character Katsuragi-dono truly was. I thought of him as shady but trusted in Momokawa-dono’s judgment. Who would’ve thought, that she might be forced to do as he says.”
The king of Feuerberg, Heinrich von Stolzherz V, deeply bow before Inoue Masahiko and his friends. They just returned and reported the matter regarding the princess to the king.
“No, I’m sorry that I couldn’t save her and Kyou.”
“Inoue-dono, you did your best, I’m sure. Going against my daughter is already a dangerous task, but doing so while being betrayed by the people you wanted to trust makes it almost impossible.”
“We’ll bring them back!”
“No.” The king denies the offer determined. “If mind-control may be part of it, it’ll be too much for you, who are still growing. Inoue-dono and friends, you shall take up the training again. We’ll take care of this matter and don’t worry: It may take some time, but we’ll use our resources to gather a team of specialists. Your power is needed in the war, so please leave the matter with Momokawa-dono to us for the time being.”
“…yes.” Masahiko doesn’t like it, but he knows, that he’s currently lacking. “But if we become strong enough, we want to participate.”
“That seems fair.” With this, the heroes are dismissed. “Ralf.” The king turns to the chancellor. “I have three tasks for you.”
“Yes, my liege.”
“First, make the preparation to announce, that Katarine lost her right to inherit the throne. Eberhardt is the next in line, so he will become crown prince.”
“Yes, my liege.” This step is only natural. Katarine might be mind-controlled, but first, she ran away from home, which questions her sense of responsibility, second, if she no longer inherits anything, she loses value as a hostage.
But she’s still family, his beloved daughter. “Then gather experts to form a team for tracking and catching my daughter and everyone who is traveling with her.” But there is something more: “And we need to get Friedensbote back, even if it chose her, it’s an important treasure of the kingdom.”
“I heard that Meldorn is currently in Esse.”
“A solid choice. There may be heroes among those kidnappers, but they’re still inexperienced and far off from the elite non-heroes. We should ask Gottfried since he knows Katarine well and is besting her in combat.”
“This might be difficult since he retired from active duty.”
“She’s his pupil. Maybe he will make an exception.”
“Yes, my liege.”
“And the final task: I want to make sure, that Inoue-dono and his party get the best possible training. Something about this boy is special. We summoned the heroes for their potential, and he and the ones he gathered around him have plenty.”
“Yes, my liege.”
Feuerberg is in trouble up to the neck. They couldn’t use much of their forces since they have a war at the front and a possible danger right in the neighborhood, the sword of Damocles right above their heads, called Muaotef. At least, if Momokawa-dono and Katsuragi-dono were truthful. But everything the scouts found out so far points to it.
You can’t be king if you’re indecisive. So Heinrich von Stolzherz V will do, what is necessary.
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