Chapter 3-4

Artwork: MioChin
Proofreader: Orion Dye

My throat is dry. That’s to be expected because I talked about how good of a husband Kenta is. “And have you seen Kenta watching the fire all by himself? He is always pondering then, and afterward, he comes up with an idea on how we can improve as a group, be it regarding organization, or battle strategy, or something else.” When he stares intensely into the flames, they’re reflected by his black eyes, it looks so divine, the fire in the dark sea. The way he moves his arms when he begins to put some more branches into it, every single movement is calm, controlled. Watching him so centered makes my heart beat so strong, that it feels like it’s about to burst out of my chest.

Kyou silently looks at me, it makes me a bit uncomfortable as if she is expecting something. Had none of my arguments been heard? Did she even listen to me? Or does she still want more?

I take a sip from my cup, it’s juiced water.

That is the moment when Kyou asks Ara: “What about you?”

Ara, who is about to finish her lunch, replies: “While I think that what Katarine-san said is certainly biased, I-”

“Biased!?” What I say is the truth. Arako always thinks she’s right. She may be smart and I’m not, but if a person always thinks that they know better, they become arrogant and insolent, they stop being smart!

“Yes, biased. I-”

“Wait, both of you.” Kyou interferes. “I think we should head to a doctor next. Rine-chan needs to have her eyes checked, and Arako her ears.”

“What is wrong with my ears?” They are flapping. Her ears are flapping!

“Buh!” But what is supposed to be wrong with my eyes! They are fine!

“I have known Ken the longest, so both of you are wrong!”

My jaw drops.

Wha- What is she saying! Kyou, you’re the same as Ara!

“Momo, don’t you think that-”

“Arako, shut up.” Kyou’s looks at Ara as if she was just a mere child. One who tries to explain why the broken window was not her fault despite being seen throwing the stone.

With this, Ara falls silent. Her eyes are a bit wide, and her ears are twitching and a bit red.

“Now let me explain to you something about Ken: If given a choice, he would be far, far away from any of us. That’s the kind of person he is. He wants to be alone, and he won’t join up with anyone as long there is no dire need to.”

“You’re wrong! Yes, maybe Kenta dislikes the curse, but he likes us! He is just shy!”

“Rine-chan, did I allow you to speak?”

“You can’t-”

“Don’t interrupt me please.”

“But-”

“What did I say?”

I- I have never been treated like that! But somehow Kyou’s words, her stern but calm voice, make it hard to talk back to her. She talks to me like my parents, as if she has no reason to listen to me if I’ve done wrong!

And exactly that makes me feel like I’m wrong!

But I’m right! At least this time!

It would be easy to make Kyou listen to me, but she’s my friend, so even the tiniest bit of becoming physical is out of the question!

“Now that Rine-chan understands, we can continue.” Kyou looks at both of us, Ara and me. Her dark eyes are calm and calculating. “Arako, do you think that Ken likes you?”

“Yes, as a friend.”

“I doubt that he even knows how friendship works. Maybe he only uses you to prove all his ideas right?”

“Our thoughts are similar in many respects.”

“And whenever he thinks of something, you agree, right?”

“That’s not right.”

“Because you try so hard to be his friend. What a great friendship you have.”

“I-” Ara falters.

“STOP!” That’s me. Kyou… Kyou is… “Stop being mean, Kyou!” The people are looking at us, but I don’t care! “Ara and Kenta are friends, they are such good friends, that I’m jealous! I want to talk with Kenta on the same level like Ara does! But he’s too smart! I can’t!” Tears are welling up. “Ara is smart, Kyou is smart, you can talk with him like that. All I can do is look at him and admire how smart he is… *sob*”

“Katarine-san…” Ara’s ears are lowering. “I… No, I mean… I can’t even express what I want to say. You’re sad, right? That’s why tears are coming, it’s because of human physiology, right?” She pauses a moment. “I admire you.”

“…what?”

“When you do what you want, you get results. While I… do barely. I mean…” She flicks her ear. “I think this is not the best place to talk in depth, but-” Her double-irises wanders around the room, where the people are still watching us. “I want to say, that I respect you. Also, in regards to Kenta-kun, you’re ahead of me in some ways. You’re the only one, who can stand beside him right now. Neither Momo nor I am able to do that, we have to stay behind him. I also think that he admires you as much as I do.”

…I didn’t notice. Ara and Kyou are trying to become stronger. They are trying to be better in combat, that’s why they asked me to train them. So the reason for that is so they can stand by Kenta’s side, as I do.

It looks like I was the one, who was arrogant, who took my own abilities for granted, who was so overly confident in them that they started to make me feel better, even though Ara has her own merits and is right to be confident as well.

No, we are both at fault. In the armory shop, she was proud of what she knows of the hero-system and therefore trying to tell me what is right, without even thinking about what I can contribute.

I was offended because I know so much about fighting, that I thought of her as ignorant, without even trying to understand that she wanted to help me. Even though she worded it poorly, I didn’t ask her what she meant, I just assumed that she was totally wrong.

“I’m sorry for the armory shop, Ara. I was acting stupid. You were just trying to help me.”

“I’m sorry as well, Katarine-san. I was thoughtless and didn’t realize that some minor remark could end up like that.”

“I’m also sorry for what happened last night. I… I’ll try to work on that.”

“It was scary, and I won’t let it slide without punishment, but I’m sorry to bring it up at the worst moment.”

“I’m also sorry.” Kyou smiles awkwardly at both of us. “Sorry about being so mean, but I hate it when my friends fight, and you’re both too stubborn, so I used some drastic measures. I’m soooo sorry for setting both of you up. I know that it was just a minor fight, something that would be forgotten soon, but if you don’t talk about it, then it would linger. I didn’t want that.”

Kyou is smart. She’s my best friend. She cares so much for others. I remember something mother told me once. ‘Any conflict, be it between farmers, or between countries, starts about something concrete. Although the more the conflict escalates, the less important the original reason becomes. What people really want is to be acknowledged, to be respected, to be taken seriously. If you deny them that, they will be offended and emotional.’

Mother is smart. Just like Kyou. It was never about Ara criticizing my standards of equipment, but that she did it in a way that made me feel, that she doesn’t acknowledge my opinion.

“Thank you, Kyou.” I put my thoughts into words.

“Thank you, Momo.” Ara follows me.

It might be only a little fight, something that may have been forgotten after a few days, but now I feel closer to Ara. To Kyou as well. I feel like I understand them a little bit better now.

“Come here!” I stand up, open my arms and invite them in for a hug.

“…come Arako, for the audience. Please be careful of Rine’s splinted arm.” The people around us are still listening and watching us, but I don’t care.

“…please be gentle.”

All three of us hug, while the crowd cheers.

I feel how Kyou is as warm as I am, how Ara feels a bit cooler. How both of them are smaller than me, but still tall enough. I squeeze them a bit, Ara’s head lies on my breast, but I don’t mind. Each of us are different, but we’re the same. Kyou smells a bit like Kenta. Ara has the scent of the forests of Aroahenn.

This is a great moment: me hugging my friends.

 

You gain 3 WP.
Reconciliation is part of every successful wedding. Sister-wives trying to understand each other, trying to work things out, is a crucial part to lead you and your husband to pure happiness.

Continue to do so!

 

I will! I will!!!

Hn? Something strange is happening. There is something, something at the edge of something. The edge of my… emotions? I can’t even describe it, but it feels strange yet somewhat familiar.

“I… I didn’t know that this can happen with humans…” Ara mumbles. “…or is it because of something else?” I feel how her ear brushes my breasts while moving. Alfar really move their ears a lot.

I feel how tears are running down my cheeks again because I’m so happy.

This is the best!

 

―○●○―

 

This is the worst!

It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!

Different from the time I got nut shot by Kyou-san, but comparable in pure pain! Something of mine was set ablaze, that was never supposed to burn! What is it even, is it my nervous system? My veins? My very soul?

I can only see white, my ears hurt because of my own screams, my throat feels like it’s about to rip, each of my muscles has seizures, and I can hardly even think!

Make it stop, make it stop!

I don’t want to die, but even I would hesitate to choose to live if it’s with this pain!

Through the white, something pops up.

 

You gain 3 WP.
Your three wives have a great moment, be sure to pamper them a bit later.

 

Oh yeah, so those three have a great moment, while I’m feeling immeasurable pain, huh!?

I hear something: “Be careful, he’s standing up!” Oh yes, I guess I am.

“How can that be!? I mean, Captain’s [Judgment] is working! No sinner should be able even to remain conscious!” Do you want to know? Pure defiance! If those three can have a ‘great moment’ while I’m burning, then I refuse to let those shitty Crusaders have their way!

It doesn’t make any sense, but I’m through! These bastards hurt me, they hurt me so much, that I’m going to make them pay!

“Why…” There is only one question I ask in my hoarse, pained voice. “Why are you doing this!?” Slowly, my sight returns, I can see the two Crusaders who were my allies, plus the Captain and his two goons.

None of them, not even the two who stood at my side just now, look at me with sympathy. Not even hate or disdain, they look at me like I’d look at a mob.

The Captain, that bastard Alchenain, answers my question, eerily calm, totally convinced that he is right. “You’re a sinner. I felt it just now, and [Judgment] only works on those, who broke the divine laws. Death to all sinners.”

Oh no, the idiocy of the divine laws. There are five of them, each one dumber than the next.

  1. You may only serve one god at a time.
  2. You may not change your gender.
  3. You may not bring the dead back to actual life.
  4. You may have only one partner in marriage.
  5. You may not officially change your name, unless due to marriage.

When you break one of these laws, then you’re a sinner. If there are too many sinners within the same species, it’ll come to genocide. That’s at least what the people believe.

That’s why every discovered sinner is killed.

Now I learned something: the stupid curse actually counts as marriage in the eyes of the gods!

Are you fucking serious!? I mean, it’s not like I wanted to be cursed, but they don’t care!?

Wait, why am I even questioning that, I mean, if the shitty gods cared at all, then they wouldn’t be involved in this mass-kidnapping called ‘hero summoning!’

I should have known that the Crusaders would be on the other side! I mean, they ‘hunt the profane,’ so why wouldn’t sinners be on the list!? But can you blame me for not taking that into account!? I thought, until now, that the whole ‘marriage business’ is just the kind of sick humor this curse has! Or that it only proclaims it!

How does marriage even work in this world in the first place!? Is it more than just some vows!?

Argh, my hate of the whole situation got in the way of my information gathering! Wait, that’s not important, the Crusaders are readying their weapons and about to attack me as well.

As well?

“Pipsqueak!”

“Don’t call me that, puny!” The girl-oni is obviously as pissed as I am.

“You and I.” I look in her eyes.

After a moment, she looks at the Crusaders. “Let’s make them suffer!”

Since both of us got the short stick on these very target-specific but painful as hell spells, we have a sort of understanding. We’re both too beaten to take them on alone, but with the two of us working together, we’ll be able to figure something out.

“First the mace. Grab his weapon!”

“Good idea, bro!”

“No, you don’t!” One of the new Crusaders, who also wields a sword, tries to intercept the oni. “[Exorcise]!”

There is a flaw in that spell. I step into the cone, blocking the light of it. “Too bad.”

A small girl’s body slams into a full-grown man. Said full-grown man is taken for a ride inside one of the wooden buildings. This should help! I slip through the hole. I have no idea how exactly that [Judgment]-spell works, but maybe I can take cover from it.

The slammed Crusader is unconscious. Well, he was already beaten up to some degree. The oni picks up his mace. “It’s so small.”

“What happened to your club anyway!?” I push her deeper into the building.

“I had to leave it outside. I can’t change shape with it.”

“Then why does it work with clothes?”

“It simply does. I don’t care about the ‘why’!”

“Argh, just try to find some stairs!” My plan is to escape via the roof. The Crusaders shouldn’t be able to follow us there, considering their chainmail. Then we can jump from roof to roof.

“I don’t need stairs!” Proclaiming this, she jumps, punches the ceiling, and makes a hole.

“Id-” The hole widens, because there happened to be a cupboard above! The wood of the ceiling is creaking, and the cupboard slips through the hole.

I throw myself to the side, evading the damn thing. The retarded pipsqueak is not able to. “Is this a movie or something stupid like that, pipsqueak!? I don’t think so!” Of course, you can’t just blindly make holes into ceilings to…

Wait, the creaking is becoming louder. Don’t tell me… I know some basics of architecture. There are load-bearing walls and beams sometimes. Did she just…

I grab pipsqueak, who stands up as if the cupboard was just some sort of pillow, and throw her out of the window. The glass breaks, but now I can also jump through it.

Instead of falling into shards, I use pipsqueak as a stepping stone, landing with my hands first on her body, and then do a quick a roll. The shards piercing my back are either stopped by my backpack or my armor.

For pipsqueak: “Ouch! What was tha-”

I can’t hear the rest because something loud occurs inside the building. Looks like more of the ceiling broke in. It will be a great obstacle for the Crusaders. Also a good opportunity to run away!

…are you serious? Why are there three more exactly on this side of the building? These are different guys as well. Even some of the city guard are here… Don’t tell me that they’re supposed to cut off the escape routes?

I hate these organized bastards!

Wait, if they are different, then I might just sacrifice pipsqueak here and pass through them.

“Wait, the one in the red armor is a sinner!”

Ah, dammit. So not only the captain is able to tell.

Please no [Judgment], please no [Judgment], please no [Judgment]! “[Judgment]!” Dammit!

I watch his hand, trying to see how the spell is shot, but something casts a shadow on me. Pipsqueak in her giant form, shielding me. … the spell comes from above!?

It hit the back of the oni, and she doesn’t take any damage.

So you have an anger-ridden, murdering oni here, and she doesn’t count as a sinner, but I do!?

I hate you, fantasy world. Why can’t you just end, while sending me back home!? You seriously are so flawed, that you’d ruin a company that would bring you out as a game.

Still, the oni somehow saved me. Well, like I did to her before. So instead of thanking her, I just nod. “Let’s break through!”

“[Exor-]” The oni swaps to her true form, hiding behind my back. “[-cise]!” So the spell is blocked by me.

Well, they already had their weapons ready, and now they’re taking stances. Is trying to break through in my current condition actually a good idea?

I mean, they have the two spells, which will take out one of us for several seconds.

Pipsqueak… is already turning around and trying to run away. Trying to leave me behind, huh?

I run after her, leaving the guards and Crusaders. “Don’t you want to fight!”

“I do, but I can’t!”

“Make sense, pipsqueak!”

“Don’t call me that!”

“I call you as I want!”

“Call me ‘scary oni’!”

“No way!”

“I’m not a pipsqueak, puny!”

“Yeah, yeah, big pain-in-the-ass oni!”

“Huhu! You called me ‘big’!”

“And a pain in the ass.”

“Doesn’t matter!”

Well, if that makes her happy, then I don’t care.

What I do care about is this guard post in front of us. Including the Captain of the Crusaders, who somehow was able to foresee where we’re going to be and is coming from another alley. Most likely he has some stupid spell or skill, which allows that.

What a pain!

Shit!

My vision is blurring. My SP were low before, but now they’re almost gone. My mind begins to blank, and my thoughts are slipping.

“Any bright ideas?” I can hardly concentrate on what’s going on.

“No. Hihihi!” Why is she cackling? “But a stupid one!”

I… don’t like where this is going!

“Clench your teeth!” With these words, she grabs me by the ankle and spins around her axis, using me like a weight.

Motion sick… why is being a hero so closely tied to vomiting? I mean, it’s not the first-

I’m flying. I am flying! Or better said, I’m hurled while a red bunny is holding onto my ankle. So pipsqueak threw me and transformed into a bunny during the throwing motion so that she can ride along as a stowaway.

Yes, that’s certainly a stupid idea. While we got over a block and therefore a pretty good head start, there is still the landing to worry about.

…dammit!

 

―○●○―

 

I’m sure we had a spirit connection even though Momo and Katarine-san aren’t alfar. It wasn’t particularly strong, but it was there. So is it possible with humans after all, is it because we’re all heroes, or is it the ring that makes it possible?

Momo has [Spirit Magic], so I wouldn’t wonder about it. Her [Spells] might be not adequate, but she has attained the necessary functions for it. Katarine-san is someone from this world. Humans of this world can learn to use [Spirit Magic], even though it’s something difficult to acquire for them. Not only humans, hynoar and the folk as well, like many other races. Maybe even the dari, but the only dari capable of using [Spirit Magic] I know of are confirmed heroes.

Alfar and dari have some difficulties with getting along. This dates back to the Age of Heroes when the humans and alfar were allies for a while.

I don’t particularly dislike the money-grubbing broken off squats, who waste their time digging in dirt each day to find even the tiniest crumb of metal.

Coming back to the original topic, I’ve never heard that a spirit connection is possible between alfar and humans.

So maybe it’s the tampering with our bodies and minds, which made me able to connect to them, as faintly as it was. Even though it sounds arrogant, it’s very likely that I’m the source of the connection.

Momo is hardly able to even feel her own spirit, while Katarine-san is oblivious to the senses that humans, in general, lack. Rather, this sense seems to be dormant, seeing how other humans are able to learn it.

A spirit connection is the overlapping and intermixing of spirits. In every living being is a spirit, a half-sentient energy which originates from the mind. Like the body, the mind is composed of many, many parts and one of them creates and manages a spirit, the spiritual center.

Emotions, thoughts, memory, everything the mind is made of, runs through the spiritual center, the spirit is always a part of it, but just as a gate. However, alfar can influence this gate, like humans can touch and control doors with their hands, we have some power over the spirit.

This interacting part of the mind is called a spirit branch, and it has a physical counterpart. Like emotions comes from the glands, perception comes from the sensual organs, and thoughts come from the brain, the spirit branch has an organ inside both ears, the ophi asabeti. Right under it is the ophi untern, the sensory organ for perceiving spiritual centers.

These organs worked much more precisely in Alfarheim. In this world I needed some time to get used to the strange feeling of background radiation and strong magical fields, which make it much harder to perceive spirits and almost impossible to influence them.

Maybe because there is no such magic in Alfarheim? An interference, or is it because everything magical is powered by MP in this world?

Be that as it may, I have most likely unwillingly intruded on the spiritual centers of Katarine-san and Momo. I might have used my spirit branch to move my own center into theirs. If I did, then I didn’t notice before it was too late.

In fact, this is the reason why I have still my doubts that I was responsible.

Creating a spirit connection this way is much harder than it sounds. You’d usually put your ears on each other, ear-plugging. Doing it otherwise is like some positions in the sexual intercourse of humans. It seems impossible for many, even after seeing it.

So could I do something like that without knowing it myself?

It was only faint, but I could witness the passing of thoughts, of their senses, of their emotions, everything so fast and so different, that I was unable to read anything. It lingers still. It was a very personal experience.

Both of them also felt it. Momo felt connected, Katarine-san accepted.

I felt nostalgic, myself. It’s said that fetuses share a spirit connection with their mothers. This sense of security, this absolute trust, all of it resurfaces from memories too early to remember. It was only faint, as faint as the connection, but that might be the reason, why there were connection junkies in Alfarheim. It might be dangerously addicting.

However, what caused it if it wasn’t me? While the hero-system might be a factor, I can’t remember even one thing in my research that would hint at this power and I’ve read many legends, many journals, many stories, and also written down what bards, the most unreliable sources of storytelling, had to offer.

So my theory is, that this came from the Lioness’ Wedding Rings we wear. Each of them was made by the Lion’s Cursed Ring, which became the Lion’s Wedding Ring after spawning Momo’s ring.

There is already this connection between us, but until now I thought we’re all connected to Kenta-kun, and share no direct line.

I have to rethink this, so I take another look at the ring. I already know it like the back of my hand. Each line, each of its features, showing the head of a lioness, or what a lioness is supposed to be. There are no lions in Alfarheim, and I’ve never met one in this world.

It’s a simple design, but some effort was put into it. The pupils in the eyes are visible, and the whiskers are distinguishable, it’s certainly a small piece of art. I have compared my ring with Katarine-san’s and Momo’s and they are practically indistinguishable, each of them. The same colors, the same dullness and brightness, even the way the rings reflect light is identical.

Only one difference: The size, which perfectly fits our fingers. However, other than the different scaling, everything is the same.

I did try to put a scratch on the ring with a blade once, just to see if it’s possible and if it would influence the other rings. I was not able to.

They are powerful and they’re practically the same. Also, this was the first time that we got WP without any connection to Kenta-kun. So yes, it’s reasonable to think that these wife-rings are connected to each other, not only to the husband.

The connection may be much weaker. Because of the stat bonuses by being near the ‘wedding partner,’ we need to be by Kenta-kun’s side, not each other.

A new layer has been opened up.

“Ara, watch out.” Katarine-san takes my hand and pulls me over to her. We are currently moving through a crowd, but I was busy pondering and didn’t notice the several armed people who try to find their way through.

They are guards, right?

One of them glances at us, and then stops. “Maybe I found someone, go ahead!” He stays behind and turns to Katarine-san. “Are you a mercenary by chance?”

“No- Yes, I mean yes!” A short look at Momo was enough to make Katarine-san rethink her answer. She most likely forgot our cover identity.

“Thought so, running around with a sword. And these two?”

“We are part of the same squad.” Momo takes over. “So what is wrong?”

“We’re looking for people to hire. A demon and a sinner are running around the city, we have fortified the exits, but need every helping hand to capture them before they can harm anyone!”

“Wow, a sinner!” Katarine-san seems to be strangely excited. “Is that sinner that much of a problem?”

“Yes, he’s armed and in league with the demon!”

“A sinner and a collaborator? That’s heavy!”

“Please, gear up and report to the next guard station. There you can hear the details, like the reward for taking care of them.”

“…” Momo looks at me, I think she has an idea. I’m not Kenta-kun, so I can’t read the question in her eyes. “Are there any notable features, this sinner has?”

“I heard he has a red armor and a hood.”

Now I know what Momo was suspecting. She is even whispering an almost soundless “I knew it…”

“Wow!” Katarine-san exclaims. “A red armor? That’s bold, it’ll be easy to find him!” Katarine-san doesn’t.

A sinner with red armor and a hood? It has to be Kenta-kun. For some reason, people believe now that he’s allied to the demons.

I want to know the circumstances because that sounds like fun.

“We’ll do that.” Momo nods to both of us. The guard hurries down the road, trying to find even more helpers. We turn around, back to the Bronco’s Bucket. “Back to the inn!”

“Yes, we’ll show that sinner what it means to break the divine laws!”

“Katarine-san, we know that sinner.”

“We do?”

“How many sinners do you know personally?”

“Sinners who I know personally?” She tilts her head slowly while pondering my question. “… … Oh.”

“Certainly ‘oh’.”

I hope that Kenta-kun is able to avoid his pursuer until we can help him. Especially after seeing his status, he will need any help anyone can provide him.

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