Chapter 40 Gathering (2)
As I entered the castle, I felt a cold breeze caress my cheeks. The stone-made castle was extremely chilly, especially during winters. I wonder how cold do these iron armour clad knights are feeling standing as guard like that for so long.
While thinking of that, I walked beside Kudou through the corridor. Were they used to seeing Kudou’s weird maid getup, as the passing by guards and nobles didn’t seem to pay any attention towards her. It could be that they are mistaking her for my maid………..actually, it’s very likely that that’s the case. Even though I have no intention of ever hiring such a dangerous, unmotivated maid, ever. In the first place, I don’t even have the option to do so.
“By the way, where is Utano-san right now?”(renji)
I came back to the castle since I was called but I realized that I hadn’t asked where exactly she was in here. For now I was normally walking towards Utano-san’s room but it’d be a pain if she wasn’t actually there so I asked Kudou just in case. But the person herself seemed to maintain her usual tired-looking expression.
“Probably in her room?”(rin)
[You didn’t even ask her?]
“She just asked me to bring you back after all.”
Saying that, she stopped walking. I did the same. Since, coincidentally, we were no standing right at the crossroads of the corridors, all the guards’ attention focused towards us making me feel a bit uncomfortable.
I looked at her asking ‘what happened?’ but she simply looked at me. It’s difficult to even converse with her. She must have stopped on a whim, I’m sure.
“I actually have to go to the training grounds.”(rin)
[Now that’s rare.]
“Well, rather than Yuuko-chan, that place seems to become more interesting after all.”(rin)
Just then, a slight sense of emotion appeared on her face. It felt a bit devilish, like she was about to pull a prank——She’s definitely going there just to tease someone.
At times like these, someone will definitely end up as a victim. The ones I could think of were me, Utano-san and Aya. Were children outside her aim or maybe she actually had some shred of conscience left in her yet, she didn’t seem to tease Yui-chan ever. In a way, she plays the role of a helpful elder sister to her. That may be her true feelings as well though.
That aside, with this timing, is the victim going to be Aya?
“It’s not Aya-chan.”(rin)
Did my thoughts appear on my face? She answered me before I even spoke.
But then, who else is left? I began thinking, but I soon realized that we were still standing in the middle of the corridor, that too, at the centre of a crossroad. Feeling the gazes of the nobles and knights passing through, I cleared my throat.
“Then, I’ll head towards Utano-san’s room.”(renji)
“Sure. You can see the grounds from her room as well, right?”(rin)
“When you get to her room, be sure to look from the window.”
Saying that, with light footsteps as if she was skipping, Kudou walked away. I could only tilt my head in confusion alone.
[What was that?]
I can’t really tell how her mind works anyways. That fact has never changed. It seemed to be the same for Ermenhilde as well thus the question. I didn’t have an answer and neither did Ermenhilde ask anything further.
Well, I’ll understand when I get to Utano-san’s room. I also began to walk. The training ground, training ground. Did something happen there? I was busy with my adventurer jobs so I haven’t had the chance to go to the barracks and talk to others making me feel a bit regretful.
As I kept on walking, I suddenly recalled that Souichi and the others should have reached here by now. I forgot due to the incident with Solnea but if I recall correctly, he was supposed to get here by noon.
“Is it Souichi?”
“Kudou’s prey. Souichi is supposed to get here today.”
Finally recalling that, I felt much more relaxed having figured it out. Though I wonder if there really was a need for me to worry about it that much. It was a small thing, but figuring out something still feels fulfilling. Well, the fact that I raised my voice in excitement a bit too much only to get the guards look at me weirdly was a bit embarrassing though.
Talking with Ermenhilde, I finally reached Utano-san’s room. Knocking the door twice, a reply came soon enough. As I opened the door, I felt the warm air that comes from a fireplace burning.
“Hey there, Utano-san.”(renji)
“Hello Yamada-kun. Where’s Rin-chan?”(yuuko)
“She had something to do at the training grounds apparently.”
[You know something Yuuko?]
“Not really. Since it’s the training grounds, she probably has some business with Souichi-kun or Yuuta-kun maybe?”
The first thing I noticed after entering her room was the giant spherical blue crystal on the table. Kept on a gold pedestal with intricate designing, one could tell at a single glance that it was extremely expensive. The first thing that came to my mind was that it resembled the crystal balls used by shady fortune tellers back in our own world. If Utano-san wore black robe and tried to act like one…….it’d actually suit her very well.
But still, that wasn’t here till yesterday. And it’s almost twice the size of my fist. Realizing my gaze, she stood up from her work desk and moved towards the table. When she pointed her palm towards the crystal, purple lightning flashed inside. Now it looks great and all, but I can’t tell anything just from that much you know? Though I can tell that it’s some sort of magic item.
“So what is it?”(renji)
Ignoring my question, she spoke that. By purple, she means the colour of that lightning eh? Looking at her again, I urged her to explain.
“The tournament table. Since it’d be a pain otherwise, I’m deciding it through magical energy colour.”(yuuko)
“For the martial art tournament of course.”(yuuko)
I was about to pray for her hearing her tired voice but then suddenly stopped. Wait, wait, wait a second.
“I’m not entering though?”(renji)
“Work for your debt.”
So I am not even allowed to have an opinion it seems. Well, it was my fault to fall into the debt. Actually, it was my bad to sell the sword I got from the king himself just cause I was low on money I guess? If it was a game, it’d be one of those items you cannot sell or will be stopped by the merchant himself, or something like that.
While thinking of that, I sat down on the chair near the table. But still, this really is one damn big crystal. I wonder how much you’d get if you were to sell it. Did I instantly think of that solely because I was currently in debt or simply because I naturally possessed the mind of a guy in poverty?
“Don’t make such a face. I’ll give you a proper reward for it as well.”(yuuko)
“If you appear, it’ll be one silver coin. If you win, the prize is 5 silver coins so it isn’t exactly a bad deal for you, you know?”(yuuko)
Fumu, I see. I thought putting my finger to my chin. As she said, there is merit for me as well. Above all, there’s one silver coin just for appearing. Though it might vary depending on allotment of groups, but I doubt I can win the whole thing though. After all, I know for sure that Souichi, Aya and Masaki-chan will appear. I really can’t win against those 3. Utano-san probably won’t take part but maybe even Kuuki might enter it.
I don’t what she thought of me as I pondered over such things, Utano-san ringed the bell kept on her desk. In a moment’s notice, the door was knocked. A maid appeared from behind the door with, unlike Kudou, a refreshing smile on her face. As you’d expect, this is what a true maid is all about. Yeah.
Ordering some drinks and snacks from her, Utano-san sat down on the chair opposite of me on the other side of the table.
“So Kudou said you had some business with me?”(renji)
“This was it.”(yuuko)
[Participating in the tournament, eh?]
“Yes. I’ll be counting on you to pull in lots of crowd okay?”(yuuko)
“Even if you tell me that so straight……….”
I can’t feel happy at all. I am aware how many people are working hard just to enter this tournament but when she says it like that, I understood what she meant by it.
Though the Demon god is dead, it’s only been an year after that. Just as there are people with hope, there are also those who are wounded and those who are still in despair. How should I say this, but the people of this world really need something they can completely rely on right now. And that would be the Goddess Astraera and her apostles, the 13 heroes. That is, us. Appearing in the tournament, she is basically asking for us to make a presence and stand out for the people. Seeing the people who saved the world, the masses would also feel more motivated. Or something like that.
I doubt it’d go that easily but it’s true, it might have some effect.
“For the time being, if I have to face someone in the first round…”(renji)
“Souichi-kun or Masaki-chan, which one suits you better?”(yuuko)
“Souichi, I guess.”
[Are you aiming to win?]
“Don’t ask for the impossible.”
The problem is me. I don’t intend to let my guard down or anything but there’s a heavy chance that I really might lose to some random adventurer or a student. Nobody wants to see a hero like that.
That’s why when I asked Utano-san to face another one of the heroes in the very first round, she quickly gave approval. It seems she has put some thought about it as well. So I guess it’d be the one silver coin for participating. With this pace, I’ll be free of my debt after completing Utano-san’s request 10 times eh?………..I doubt it’d be that easy.
Just then, the door was knocked again. The maid from before appeared. I could smell the soft fragrance of sweets. She gently placed the expensive looking teapot and cups on the table and then placed the plate filled with baked sweets. It really looks tasty.
As I gave a small thanks, the maid left the room after giving a bow.
“What is it?”(yuuko)
“Nothing, just, she was really different from Kudou.”(renji)
“Rin-chan is well…”
“She suddenly appeared in maid clothes at the guild. It was really embarrassing.”
“Well you have my condolences.”
Saying that in a voice that seemed to be enjoying it, she poured tea in the cups. Smelling the brilliant smell, I was about to pick the pot when Utano-san poured a cup for me as well. As I gave my thanks, she gave a small smile. She seems to be in a good mood. I also feel happy seeing her like this.
“But still, this world is inconvenient yet convenient in weird places. Back in our world, we had to pay just to see a maid.”(renji)
[In your world, was money required just to meet maids?]
Telephones, cars, internet; we don’t have the convenience that comes from a developed civilisation but instead had magic and maids that appeared from a single ring from a bell. If you were to ask which is more convenient, I can’t really answer.
While I was thinking of it, I suddenly felt a sharp stare coming from Utano-san’s narrowed eyes.
“Have you visited such shops?”(yuuko)
“You know, those shops where you get to meet maids by paying money, have you gone there before?”
“Oh. Nah, I never had the courage too.”
I didn’t actually had the time to, either. I wasn’t really completely focused on work but if you were to ask if I had a lot of free time, the answer would be ‘No’. Really, what the hell had I been doing with my life? I don’t even think of that nowadays. I’ve already forgotten all about it. I wonder if that’s because I have accepted this world as a place where I can live.
Such gloomy thoughts. Holding the tea in my mouth for a while, I ended up gulping it all together.
[What happened, Yuuko?]
Was she in deep thought? While I was distracted, Utano-san seemed to have been thinking about something while supporting her beautiful chin on her fingers. Ermenhilde asked her but her reply seemed to be a bit absent-minded.
While looking at her like that, I took another sip from my tea. And also one of the sweets kept here. It resembled the cookies I knew of. Though a bit smaller. As I ate it, it’s faint sweet flavour spread inside my mouth and I ended up eating another one. These are really tasty.
Just then, I suddenly remembered what Kudou had said. I was supposed to look at the training grounds was I?
“Excuse me for a second.”(renji)
Saying that, I stood up a headed towards the window and looked through it. Just like my room, the training grounds were fully visible from her window.
It was easy to find Kudou. She’s in a maid dress after all. There was only one like that at the grounds. And for some reason, that maid was currently hugging at Souichi’s arm right now. Really, what the hell is she doing? Near Souichi were two women. One was Yyayoi-chan, Souichi’s younger sister. My enhanced eyesight, due to the cheat, showed me her cramped, or ratehr fake smiling face. How scary. From here, I could only see Souichi and Kudou’s back but I’m pretty sure, the elder brother is currently making an extremely pale face right now. I could easily imagine it.
The other one was a woman, slightly older than Souchi and the others, with long black hair tied at the neck area. She was also wearing a blazer similar to Souichi and a skirt that ended just above her knees. Her bare legs were really dazzling to the eye. Where have I seen—–I think that uniform is probably from one of the schools at Tactics City. This woman seemed to be laughing. I can’t hear her so I’m not sure though. In her hands was a sword in a scarlet scabbard. It was a curved sword, a katana, that shouldn’t normally exist in this world.
And the soldiers were looking at these 4 from a distance. Among them, Kuuki and Aya were also present. I feel like they should be stopping this but I guess they won’t even if I was directly there. It’s just too much fun to watch after all.
“Those guys get along, as usual.”
On my words, Ermenhilde answered with a question. Well, I’m pretty sure they do. How long has it been since I’ve seen this fight over Souichi?
How nostalgic. Well, Kudou’s just there to instigate the other 2 though. As I gazed at them through the window, Utano-san came close to my side. It ended up with both of us looking at them through the window.
“Well, since Yuuta’s there, it won’t end up bad I guess.”(yuuko)
“I doubt Kudou would instigate them so much in the first place though.”(renji)
She’s just having fun teasing Yayoi-chan and Masaki-chan. Was this what she wanted to show me? Just then, Kudou, looked towards us from the grounds. When our gazes met, she gave a wide smile with her usual half-open eyes. Just when I was wondering what was that about, she whispered something in Souichi’s ears. Suddenly, with a surprised face, Souichi looked towards us. Kudou, what the hell did she say to him?
“It seems the children are having fun.”(yuuko)
“They playing around energetically, aren’t they?”
Can you call that playing around? I do think they’re energetic but it’s a bit different isn’t it?
Currently, [Demonic Sword User] Masaki-chan was manifesting a demonic sword in her hand so I doubt we could call it ‘playing around’ anymore. Well, she hasn’t unsheathed it yet so it’s fine right?
Going by the colour of her scabbard, it should be a fire type sword. If she drew that out, a part of the training ground will become charcoal.
“Oh well, whatever.”
I had lots of things to say but I decided to just let it go. I’m sure Souichi will deal with it somehow. Do your best, Brave-sama. It’s the privilege of the Brave hero to have trouble with women.
While thinking of that, I sat back down on my chair. I took a sip from my now cold tea, but it was still pretty tasty. As expected of the royal castle, the tea leaves used are top class.
“Oh right, I needed to discuss something with you as well, utano-san.”(renji)
“What is it?”
“umm, do you have a map?”
“I found a new cave. Probably, it’s a very recent one, that someone made with magic, I think.”
“……What’s this about?”
Saying that she stood up and brought out a map neatly kept in one of the drawers in her desk. Since the crystal was in the way, I picked it up to move it away somewhere else. Looking around, for the time being, I decided to keep it on the bookshelf near the window.
“Ah, be careful with that. It’s very costly okay?”(yuuko)
[Use both of your hands to hold it, fool!]
Yeah yeah. Giving a half-hearted reply, I decided to place it carefully on the work desk in the end. If it’s expensive, bookshelves won’t do, yeah. If I broke it here, my debt will rise yet again. It’s normal that I instantly thought like that.
“So, where did you find this new cave?”(yuuko)
“hm, umm, let’s see..”(renji)
I looked over at the full map. It’s not very different from what I had seen some time ago. A few new places have been added as well but those are mostly lakes or forests we marked as landmarks while on our journey back then. The map lacks a proper measurement scale though, so it’s not that reliable.
Leaving that aside, as expecetd, even on Utano-san’s map there was no indication of the cave where we found Solnea sleeping. So it really is a brand new cave. Well, it’s not that deep and there isn’t anything inside it now either though.
“The cave was somewhere around here, I think.”
While standing beside Utano-san, who was sitting on a chair, I pointed towards the location of the cave. East of the capital, near the [plains of death] where we once battled a descendant of the Demon God. 2 yrs ago, we fought the strongest Demon on the Imnesia continent there.
But it seems even Utano-san remembered that there was no cave there before since she looked at me doubtfully.
“……..I’ll send the soldiers to check it out, just in case.”(yuuko)
“Yeah, do that. That cave seemed really suspicious.”(renji)
“It seemed to have been made with magic, it wasn’t there when I went there 2-3 days ago, and above all there was a person living inside a crystal in the cave.”
“A person inside a crystal?”
I only shrugged my shoulders when she asked that back to me. Well it’s only normal I guess. Humans, normally, can’t exactly survive inside crystals after all. Then what was she?
Thinking about Solnea, I brought out a fragment of that crystal and placed it on the table.
“It’s a fragment of the giant crystal inside which the person was sleeping. It broke when they woke up.”
“……..You can’t expect me to believe this so suddenly.”
Saying that, she picked up the crystal and brought it close to her eye, examining it looking like an expert.
[Can you sense anything? I can’t even sense magical energy from it anymore.]
“Anymore? It had magical energy before?”(yuuko)
[Yeah. I definitely felt it. Though the magician in our party didn’t feel it.]
Softly, her flaxen hair swayed even though there was no wind insdei the room. Magical energy. Most probably, Utano-san must have put in magical energy inside the crystal.
But there was no visible change in the crystal. After some time had passed, Utano-san gave a small sigh and the slightly oppressing feeling of her magical energy disappeared.
“Looks like a normal crystal to me.”(yuuko)
“It’d be great if that was true. The person is currently staying with us for now. Above all, according to them, they are also suffering from amnesia.”
“………How troublesome. Amnesia, eh? I want to meet them once.”
“That’d be really helpful. Should I come here with them tomorrow?”
“Yes, do that. Let’s take care of all such troubles before the tournament starts.”
Saying that, she put down the crystal fragment back on the table. Solnea—-the woman who was sleeping inside the crystal. That alone was suspicious enough, but she’s also an amnesiac. She gets full points for being suspicious. Suddenly, I felt Utano-san staring at me again.
“Eh, umm, what?”(renji)
“This person, she wouldn’t happen to be a woman would they?”(yuuko)
[How did you know? It’s as you say.]
What’s up with that heavy sigh!
“Somehow it feels like you’re making this out to be my fault but it’s just my imagination right?”(renji)
“Yes, of course, you did nothing wrong. Nothing at all, okay?”(yuuko)
[What happened? Yuuko?]
“Nothing, I’m just a bit tired.”(yuuko)
No, seriously, I didn’t even see Solnea as a proper woman. Giving a wry smile at Utano-san’s reactions, I drank more tea while hiding my lips with the teacup.
If I told this to Aya, will I get the same reaction as well?