Chapter 1-2

Proofreader: ramna27, Orion Dye

“What is this supposed to be?” It’s almost dinner time, and for some reason, Ara-san and Rine are not only sitting beside me, but also holding my hands.

Ara-san explains it. “It’s a measure to maximize WP and minimize the needed time. Holding hands for an hour is quite long, and if you do it three times a day, that’s three hours. Since you kept complaining, we thought about it and found the solution, that we just can do several things at the same time.”

“And since we’re waiting for dinner anyway…” Rine looks at me with upturned eyes, even though we’re about the same height.

“But when dinner comes, we need to make a break. And how does this work with multiples then?” After doing some tests with Ara-san, we found out that we can take breaks. But as I was out most of the days, there were little chances to learn more about it, like if there is a time-limit for the break to still count, or how it’ll work out with multiple people holding hands.

An hour is a lot, so I don’t want to waste it!

“We already thought about that, Kenta-kun, we don’t need to interrupt it,” Ara-san assures. “It’ll be good for you.”

“I hope that it’s some training with [Spirit Magic], instead of the two of you feeding me.”

“We know that you’d never let us feed you voluntarily.”

Why don’t I like that almost non-existing smile? It’s not nasty or so, but it gives me the chill.

A few minutes later Kyou-san puts the food on the table. It’s something I hunted down yesterday, something similar to a deer. “Here you go. Thanks for the food.” Here is definitely something going wrong, Kyou-san looks at me without any expression, it’s neither excitement, disgust or anticipation, her face is so neutral, that all of my warning bells are ringing and I look at the exit.

It just closed down. It has to be Ara-san.

She now takes an eating instrument similar to a fork, picks up some meat, dip it into the mushroom sauce and turns to me. “Say ‘Ahhhh.’”

… …

Seriously, I was worried for a second. I just say nothing and- “AH!” Rine just twisted one of my fingers!

Ara-san uses the opportunity and put the meat into my mouth, while Rine let go of my finger and closed my jaw with the now free hand.

 

You gain 1 WP.
The “Ahhhh”-game, it’s a good opportunity for some serious flirting, so use it well to deepen your relationship.

 

Don’t f*ck with me!

I’m about to stand up, but the girls pull me down, using my hands.

… Let’s go rough.

I squeeze their hands with my own, hard.

“Ah, Kenta-kun! Stop!”

“…this hurts.”

Rine might beat me effortlessly in any fight, but I’m still above her in [Strength], even with my [Ranger]-class, so my grip might be stronger than hers. On the other hand, Ara-san never had a chance in the first place.

Now both are squirming, as I got their fingers.

Kyou-san is sipping some Aeolferelda-tea. “Called it.” She’s still totally neutral. “The next step would be, where Rine will break Ken’s fingers while trying to free herself.”

I loosen the grip. This is just too probable to ignore. “Rine, Ara-san: Why did you make me do something like that?” I can ask them properly first.

“Kenta-kun, you’re rough. I have to worry about you breaking me, if – ah, ouch, please stop!” I just prevented the incoming nonsense by squashing Ara-san’s hand a bit more. “I will just be honest: I thought it’d be fun- Ouch, no, please, ah!” I put some pressure for ten seconds and then soften my grip again.

“Rine?”

“Ara told me, that if I can do it, I may feed you. I want to. Please!” If I don’t look into her face, I won’t have to answer her begging eyes.

Seriously, that girl.

But- “You know what? You may.”

“Huh?” Kyou-san’s poker face slipped due to the surprise.

“Oh?” Ara-san’s blinking and her ears are swinging up and down.

“Really?” Rine’s probably smiling as wide as the horizon right now, with glittering eyes.

“Yes.” If you ask me, why I’ll endure being fed by Rine, there are several reasons. First, since I already started holding hands, it’d be a waste to interrupt it, and it saves time, so I have more for myself.

Second, it’s too exhausting to get overly excited about every little thing, so if I concede now, it’ll be less trouble overall.

Third, I want to get back at Ara-san, who instigated this and Kyou-san, who clearly enjoyed every second behind a faked calm.

Fourth, Rine is an idiot. It’s useless to be too harsh on an idiot, who can’t do better.

Fifth, I can set the rules. “You may feed me, but only with these conditions: First, you have to be quick. Otherwise, we waste more time at dinner. Second, no ‘aah’ or other gimmicks. Just feed. Last, don’t be overly conscious about it, relax and concentrate.”

“…yes…” She’s a bit depressed, since I degraded her to nothing else than a feeding bot, but by this, it’s ensured that it won’t be too taxing for me. “Can I sit on your lap?”

“For the WP, huh? … No.” This would be too much, I can barely endure her sitting on my lap without any additions.

“…here I go.”

Kyou-san and Ara-san are staring at us, while Rine is feeding me. Ara-san rubs her ear. “What happened to you today? Did Oro’hekk used some [Spirit Magic] on you?”

“Nah.” I got another bite. “I was only recognized as a [Ranger].” The next one.

“Is that so? Did you also got an alfr name?”

“Kenta’aihr.” I’d better keep the ‘Red Ranger’-business to myself.

“…good for you.” She’s holding in laughter, she’s totally holding in laughter!

“What’s ‘aihr’?” I don’t know much about the alfr culture, but it seems, that there is some meaning behind it, like with Japanese kanji, which can significantly affect the meaning of a name.

“Didn’t I told you, that it gets complicated when heroes talk about linguistics?” I don’t have any idea, what Ara-san actually hears since the hero-system translates everything she says into this world’s language, while everything she hears becomes Alfr Speech.

As long it’s normal conversation, there will be no difference, but when talking about grammar, translations and other linguistic stuff, it becomes pretty jumbled up.

It’s most likely saying a sentence in Japanese, put it into an English translator and translate it back in Japanese, the languages are different on a fundamental level, so there will always be discrepancies.

“Then let me ask this: What does Kenta’aihr imply?” Rine puts another piece in my mouth, which totally doesn’t fit the mood.

“That you have to train more.”

I chew and swallow slowly. “So they’re calling me fat?”

“Something like that.”

I somehow feel sick, as Rine feeds me the next bit. But as alfar are so scrawny, every human must look fat to them.

Also, they did saw me in the [Student]-class, where I’m a bit roundish.

Rine is keeping feeding me.

You know what? I just won’t care anymore. That’s too stupid. They’re alfar after all.

Maybe I’m growing a bit. Or maybe I’m too lethargic to even complain anymore.

 

―○●○―

 

Evening. After training a bit with Ara-san to get used to the new spear, I return to the room. Rine isn’t here, and Kyou-san is sitting at the desk and studying. I take a look over her shoulder and see, how she’s brooding about plants.

“Where are your notes?”

“Huh?” Kyou-san looks over her shoulder.

“Your notes.”

“Why should I show them to you?”

“Why indeed.” I walk to the bed, take my backpack, open it, and put my hand into it. A window pops up, the [Inventory]-screen. Since I share an [Inventory] with all of the girls, I can just pull out their belongings.

Here they are.

“Stop it!” Kyou-san’s displeased, but I don’t care about it.

“Seriously?” I look at these notes, they’re written in Japanese, but it’s more or less just like taking notes from classes. “What have you done the last twenty days? These are crap.”

“They’re not!”

“They are. Is this how you studied back in Japan? How was your average?”

“That’s none of your business!”

“You’re right, it’s not.” I give her notes back to her. “But it’s my business how long it’ll take until you class-up as well.”

“It’s not like I was in the [Healer]-class almost the whole time, unlike you and your [Scout].”

“And I learned a lot these past few days. You got a mentor, you got the material, the rest is up to you, and it looks like you’re doing bad.”

“I’d like to know how you’re supposed to judge it?”

“You’re looking pale the whole time, you got red eyes, and don’t sleep well, so you need to sleep during the day to keep it up. Plus, even though your cooking is still way better than everything I did in the past, it lost quality. ”

Kyou-san is looking at me, as if I’ve told her about the adventures and wonders of some childish anime world, including the pink unicorn, the chocolate river and a rainbow made out of the happiness of laughing children.

“Don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I’m blind.”

“…no, you certainly paid attention.”

“Maybe you’re trying your hardest, but your hardest is sometimes not enough. You have to do things differently then.”

“…yes.”

“Studying is all about efficiency. First, you should make clean notes and reorganize the information and put it in an order you can learn best from. Writing stuff repeatedly is also helping, it’s called learning with your body. Plus, if you would write it down in this world’s script, the learning effect is most likely even better, since you have to ponder much more about each word. At least the names and functions.”

“…”

“What’s wrong with you? Why are you just blandly staring at me?”

“Ah, I… This is just unexpected.”

“What?”

“…” Why does she pause at every opportunity? “It’s hard to express in words. Could it be, that Oro’hekk and the others actually did mess with your head today?”

“Why are you asking that?”

“Because you’re strange today.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You even let Rine-chan feed you.”

“I’m just tired of getting upset about every little thing. It’s not worth it.”

“But yesterday you were like alway-” She pauses again. “Nevermind. Thank you for your advice.” She smiles, and it’s not one of her usual ones. Neither a fake one nor one of her evil ones.

Why is Kyou-san suddenly so meek? It reminds me about the time in the chasm. Back then, she was lethargic, but now there is something different.

If I wouldn’t know about her actual nature, I would most likely think of it as cute. “Is there something in it for you?”

“…At least this didn’t change.” Why is Kyou-san sighing in relief?

Strange.

 

―○●○―

 

Later in the evening, Ken is currently enjoying alone-time in the living room, while Arako, Rine-chan and I gathered in Arako’s room.

Arako starts the meeting. “The fourth wife-conference is starting. *Pachipachipachi*”

““*Pachipachipachi*”” Rine-chan and I are clapping, even though I only do so halfheartedly. For some reason, these two are more or less enjoying the whole mess. Maybe it’s a way to accept it.

“This meeting is chaired by Momokawa Kyou.”

“Thanks, Arako.” Mentally, I call these meetings Anti-Katsuragi-Kenta-Summit, but with the inclusion of Arako, the nature of these conferences itself changed. It’s still more or less about Ken, but the focus shifted from being sure, that we’re dealing with him the right way, to being more about getting along with him now.

This is the seed I sowed myself, by helping Arako in her quest to become Ken’s friend. She just decided by herself to skip some steps and ended up being his ‘wife’ as well.

“The first topic would be, as always, the question, if anyone has problems and trouble regarding Ken.”

“Me.” Arako shoots her hand up. “I’m still sexually attracted to him, and it’s still hard for me.” Please, not again. “I think I’ll be able to control it better from now on, but I think, the so-called curse has changed something in me permanently.” Arako still thinks of this curse as a form of hidden blessing, but I believe she’s in denial. She acts like someone who doesn’t admit when they’re wrong, even to themselves.

“We already know this. Or is there more than you already told us?”

“Yes. When I was in mating season before, my nipples swell, and my ears got flushed pink, that’s not the case here. Additionally, the desire for reproduction is different: While in the normal cycle I think about how great it’d be to have children, now I feel as horny as a human all the time.” I pull her ear. “Ouch!” Alfr ears are especially sensitive. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that! It’s only a proverb!”

“Rine-chan, what about you?” I’ll just ignore Arako’s words. While keeping pulling.

“I’m alright. He’s friendlier than he used to be.”

“That’s one thing I wanted to address.  He showed something like actual concern for me for the first time.” This was surprising, Ken actually paying attention to me, even though there would be no direct benefit for him.

“I think he was always kind.”

“No, Rine-chan, he’s not.”

“Momo, I’d like to approve of Katarine-san’s statement, but am afraid that you will pull my ear even stronger if I do that.”

“Sigh.” I let go of Arako.

“Thank you.” She slowly rubs her ear, which is already red. “In general, Momo and Kenta-kun are more or less still suffering from the consequences of being summoned. In general, there are several issues and phases, but unlike normal mental states, there are prominent differences.”

This is the first time I heard about that. So I’m currently going through some sort of phases? “Tell me more about it.”

“It’s all based on my research of heroes and my own opinion, but I think when you’re being summoned, something is done to your mind. Until now, I heard of no cases of denial, depression or suicide as a short-time consequence for being summoned. Somehow the summoned heroes always keep moving forward.”

“Count me out from this conversation.” Rine-chan already throws in the towel. She has almost no interest in studying, even though I believe that she’s actually smarter than she thinks she is, but with complicated things like that, she loses all motivation to even try.

“Keep going, Arako.”

“I think that’s done so that there won’t be inept heroes. We’re summoned for a reason, so it won’t be good if we can’t even muster the will to fulfill it. But that doesn’t mean, that this form of mind-altering is healthy. Maybe those post-summoned-mental-phases are a reaction to deal with all this stress, and it differs from person to person, even though I categorized them for easier understanding.”

“And as what would you categorize me?”

“This is only my opinion, but I think you’re the lingerer-type. You more or less try to maintain a status quo, which you know about your own world, you adapt slowly, but are willing to do about everything, as long as you have your anchor points.”

Maybe Arako got a point, maybe not. When I think about the time, I was left behind by Masahiko-kun and the others, I felt loss and frustration. When Ken came back to Esse, I was ready to join him, it was for my own benefit, but maybe I tried to be at least with one of my former classmates? “Why do you think that?”

“From your behavior towards Kenta-kun and your stories about the time before. You told me that Kenta-kun was ‘kinda cool’ when he was fighting the ss’rak patriarch or other situations, but you still treat him bad. Even after all this time.”

“Well, he’s Ken.”

“But he’s not the Kenta-kun you used to know back in school. So maybe you’re trying to maintain that habit? Though I won’t pry any further, it’s like I said only my own opinion.”

She might be right. I don’t think so, but Arako left me with an option to not continue this point of the discussion. “…then we leave it at that. What kind of type would be Ken?”

“He’s somewhere between returner-type and endurer-type. The returner-type is motivated by the possibility to return home, which let him adapt quickly, while most of them are so fast at accepting the summoning, that they may actually forget why they are doing it. The endurer-type, on the other hand, is mentally very rooted at home, but often willing to adapt. There is a bit of a difference since the endurer-type doesn’t necessary have a purpose and is more about accepting instead of adapting.”

“So how exactly fits Ken into it?”

“I think, he started out as a returner-type, but when he got the ring and mingled with you, he began changing into an endurer-type. Which means, that he’s accepting the curse, accepting that he has to be with us, accepting us in general, and just wants to get over it.”

“This seems appropriate. But why would he show now a ‘kind’-side?”

“If you put alfar – and humans of course – into an extreme situation, they will change according to it. As far as I know, he didn’t have any friends back in school and his only regular acquaintances besides family were people he knew from the games he played.”

“Sounds about right.”

“Now he’s living beside others, eating beside others, fighting beside others, and his interpersonal conversations grew exponentially.”

“So you mean, he got social skills?”

“I wouldn’t dare to judge that. He gets along fine enough with us alfar, but it’s more that we know, that humans are strange in the first place, so it’s easier to tolerate your flaws.”

“So you don’t think that your immature behavior and love for pranks and sex jokes isn’t strange at all?”

“It’s not like we particularly fond of sex jokes, we do them only when humans are around.”

“This is wrong on so many levels… But you’re right, in human society, Ken would most likely not survive on his own.” He’s too blunt, unfriendly and fast to throw insults, which aren’t even clever.

“If we consider his type and the changing in his environment, I’d say that he might get over this post-summoning-disorder soon.”

“Will Kenta be happy then?”, Rine-chan interrupts. She’s tilting her head, and I can’t help but stare at her. “I never saw Kenta laugh.”

I saw Ken laugh before. Like in the chasm, after he found out, that he scare the crimson bear away. Or when we were setting up traps for Masahiko-kun and the others, we laughed together the moment I was sure, that they were caught.

…That’s it. He laughed when he was relieved, and he laughed from schadenfreude. What about me? When did I have my last, real laughter?

“The only time I saw Kenta-kun laugh was when I did something, that wasn’t entirely thought-through. But Momo also hardly laughs.”

“Kyou laughs a lot.” That’s because I’m chatting with you. The same goes for Arako, but she’s a bit keener than that.

“Katarine-san, it’s linked to their condition. Back then, I was an obsessive-type, which only wanted to understand as much as possible about heroes and everything.”

“Did you change, Ara?” Rine-chan’s honest questions can hurt sometimes.

“Somewhat. It’s less of obsession and more of interest now.” For some reason, Arako lifts her chin, and her ears are set back close to the head. Is that the alfr way to puff out the chest?

“I see.” Rine-chan buys it.

“So basically” I meddle in: “We can tell that Ken is changing and it might be for the better. Is there anything else?”

“Me!” Arako’s hand shoots up again.

“…” Most likely it’s about her physical condition again. “Tell us.” But if she has something to say, I can’t deny it because of personal preference.

“Currently, Kenta-kun is giving Katarine-san a bit of slack, so I want to suggest her to not cross certain lines.”

Rine-chan is tilting her head. “What exactly.”

“Like night-crawling!” Please Arako, don’t.

“What’s night-crawling?”

“Slipping into someone’s bed in the night.”

“I already did this once.” Is she talking about that one time, she sneaked into Ken’s and mine bedding, where things led me to slightly damage Ken’s manliness?

“Woooohoooo!” Arako, please stop making these sounds. Rine-chan doesn’t get it. “How was it?”

“It was great as long as it lasted, but when I woke up next morning, nobody was there. I didn’t even notice how he vanished.”

“Ah, Kenta-kun, you lost your virginity before me!” Is Arako really that happy, that she’s about to cry or is she just getting along with her own joke? Often I’m not sure, what she’s thinking.

“Did he!?” Please Rine-chan, don’t look at me like that.

I silently shake my head while weaving my hand to gesture her, that Arako is totally wrong and that I’d never do something like that with Ken. My precious first time will belong to a person I love.

First time… no, don’t think about it. Ken never mentioned it again, so it’s like a silent agreement: We’ll try our best to forget it. What happened back in the fight with the patriarch took never officially place!

“Something is off with you, Momo.” Arako is keen to my mood changes, even though she can’t read them that well. “What are you-”

“Nothing I want to talk about.”

“Kyou? You’re not looking good.”

“Really, it’s nothing!”

“There is no reason to hide anything from us, so-” Arako’s ears are twitching. “Nn?” She looks down on her body and blinks. “What’s this…” She lifts her skirt a bit and put a hand between her legs. After feeling something there, she takes her hand out again and looks at her fingers. They were red. “What’s this!?” She lifts her skirt a bit and confirms, what exactly happens down there. “I’m bleeding! And it’s running down my thighs!”

Seriously, Arako?

“You’re just having your period.” This timing is unfortunate, but shouldn’t she know her cycle? She’s really unprepared.

“This isn’t my period! I already had mine for the year! Blood is coming out!” So an alfr woman’s menstruation is different? “Momo, please heal me! I’m injured! Masturbating injured me!” Arako is in panic.

Her panic is contaminating Rine-chan: “I’ll help as well. [Heal]! The bleeding isn’t stopping! What to do!?”

Of course not, [Heal] doesn’t stop normal bodily functions. So it can’t stop the bleeding of a period, it can’t even dull the discomfort or pain. “*sigh*” I can’t see it as anything else than a period. It may be human menstruation, but it’s nothing to lose your head about.

And what did she just said about the m-word?

“*Sigh*.”

This curse is really messing with our lives.

 

―○●○―

 

“Miriam – says. – She – then – took – the – pitchfork…” I’m reading the book, Rine gave me. Or at least I try. I read the letters one by one and they become somehow words. It’s really taxing, but I slowly become better. Thanks to the [Student]-class and [Fast Learner]-skill.

Too bad that the book itself wasn’t particularly interesting.

What is this ruckus? Why are you screaming like that, Ara-san? Without my [Perception]-ability, I can’t hear the exact words, but for some reason, it seems like Ara-san is in a raging fit or something. Is she in danger? I open up her status and check her conditions. SP are slightly drained, as well as HP, and she got the [Bleeding]-condition, as well as-

Ah, she’s only on her period. I already got to see how that looks like on a status screen, I’m with Kyou-san and Rine longer than a month already, so of course I know the picture.

I’ll continue in my reading lessons. I won’t get involved in it.

That’s my right as a man.

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