Chapter 38 New Life
It was a cold place. A cold, silent, and lonely place. An empty, dark, and sad place.
At its centre, was me. Was I standing or sitting? What’s up and what’s down? I knew nothing.
Who am I?
I asked. But there was no answer. I couldn’t even tell whether I asked that question out loud or did I simply think of it. I was simply there, in solitude.
I want to meet people. Anyone would do. Anything would do. I just want to meet someone. Inside this pitch black darkness, I kept on wishing that.
I want to meet.
*giii* with a screeching death cry, the green scaled monster I cut down finally fell. A lizardman. Normally in fantasy games, it’s usually a monster race we get to see a lot. A 2m tall body and limbs like that of a human, their body was covered in green scales and they still wore iron or leather armour above it. They also carried either swords or spear-like weapons as well.
Their physical abilities were incredible, possessing speed like that of a beast. Their weapons were dangerous but the true danger came from their tail attacks. At full strength, it could even smash through a rock.
Cutting down this lizardman, and while breathing out, I put my mithril sword back into its sheath. The sound of battle ended and the sound of the nearby river reached my ears. The well grown trees and the mountain stream brought in a cold breeze. It would be a perfect space for camping if not for the monsters. Even though we’re close to the capital, the number of monsters was still large. And, maybe due to the effect of the huge battle that took place here 2 years ago, the monsters here are pretty strong among the ones on the Imnesia continent. Even lizardmen had physical abilities far surpassing their brethren in rural areas. It’s the same for other monsters like goblins as well. Even though, normally, monsters don’t even come close to places like this where humans gather.
“As usual, your skill is incredible.”
“I felt like I could die any moment though.”(renji)
As I took on the one lizardman in one-on-one combat, Feirona, who was beside me dealt with the surrounding goblins and said that to me. His golden hair swayed in the wind, an incredibly handsome guy. This good looking elf, had the skills to take on 5 goblins without losing a single breath.
And from behind him, a beauty with honey-coloured hair and a silver haired, dog-eared beauty walked nearby. The silver haired girl didn’t seem to be bothered by anything and but the other seemed to droop her shoulders a bit.
“What happened Miss Francesca?”(renji)
“Nothing, it’s just………”
“By the time Francesca even thinks of using her magic, the battle is already over after all.”
Ah, I see, so she’s worried that she isn’t being of any use. She doesn’t really have to, to be honest. Well, since we’re fighting together as a party after all. I guess she must be feeling inferior seeing that she wasn’t able to contribute much to the party.
“The last goblin.”(mururu)
“You were able to destroy its balance. It helped me.”(mururu)
Feeling moved, Miss Francesca hugged her from behind. Due to the difference in their heights, Mururu’s head was completely buried in Miss Francesca’s chest. Well, it doesn’t look as lewd as it sounds though. Anyway, it does make it difficult for a guy like me to look at them directly though. Mururu, still had her uncaring face on her face as well.
Averting my gaze from them, I kneeled down near the lizardman’s corpse. Cutting away the right hand from the wrist as proof of subjugation, I put it inside my bag. At the same time, I also picked up the single edged sword made from the bone of some animal as well. Since it looks like a rare type of sword, it might sell for quite the sum.
“They seem to be getting along quite more in the week I was away it seems.”(renji)
“Well, they’re both women after all. It was troubling for me, as the single guy, to be alone you know.”(elf)
He said that but I don’t think he was actually troubled much by it. His lips were loosened in a slight smile. Seriously, these guys have really started to get along each other in the past one week. How envious, really.
“I’ll go wash my hands.”(renji)
“Yeah, don’t go off too far though.”(elf)
Why am I being treated like a kid?
I left the area and went to wash my hands at the stream. The clear water was cold and made my finger joints hurt a bit. Frowning a little, I carefully washed away and removed the blood sticking to my hands.
“What happened? Why so quiet today?”(renji)
As I called to my partner inside my pocket, her voice clearly indicated that she was angry. It’s her usual voice but recently it has always been like this for the past few days. She isn’t saying it out loud but I guess its probably because I’m using the Mithril sword again.
“Don’t sulk like that, c’mon.”(renji)
[I am not sulking!]
An instant reply came. Due to her somewhat childish voice, I ended up smiling instead. I wonder if it was childish of me to think that such an Ermenhilde was really cute?
Done washing my hands, I stood back up. Today’s spoils were- 5 lizardmen, 20 goblins. It’s pretty good but splitting the reward in four, the amount wouldn’t be that great though. How many years would it take to repay my debt to Utano-san at such a pace? My earnings for this whole week have been just 4 gold and 10-something copper coins.
It would have been fine if we were just hunting monsters but renting an inn, meals and repair and maintenance of equipment also costs money.
“Miss Francesca, have you calmed down yet?”(renji)
“Ah, yes. Renji-san, are you fine as well?”(fran)
“It’s already been a week. I’m perfectly fine. Thanks for worrying about me though.”
“No, you don’t have to thank……..”
Near the embarrassed Miss Francesca’s chest, Mururu gave a tired voice. By ‘heavy’ did she mean Miss Francesca’s weight or just her chest. Having changed her equipment at the capital, Miss Francesca did not wear her leather breast plate anymore. Instead she was now dressed more like a magician.
A deep blue coloured robe, and beneath it she wore a blazer of the same colour and a white blouse. At the bottom she wore a long skirt and knee length socks. The attire simply seemed to be made for looking good but contrary to my expectations it actually did have a high magical defence. Well, if it suits her and also provides good defence, nobody can complain I guess.
The only problem, if I were to say, was that now her bountiful chest that had been suppressed by her breastplate before was now fully released. My gaze would automatically end up there at times. Just how incredible are they seriously?
“It’s actually weird how you could recover from those kinds of wounds in just a week, to be honest.”(elf)
“Unlike me, I do know a very skilled Sage after all.”(renji)
After getting the treatment, the only reason I kept on sleeping was due to fatigue. Other than that, I could move around from the very first day.
Gathering the spoils for today, I began to prepare for returning back with Feirona. The sun was still up high but I don’t want to get injured again by pushing myself too much.
“But still, you sure seem more energetic after coming to the capital. Back when we first met, you always seemed to be out of energy.”(elf)
“Things happened. I am, well, in need of some money.”(renji)
To be frank, it’s not just ‘some’ money. Considering 1 copper coin to be hundred yen, I am currently in a debt of around 10,000,000 yen. As you’d expect I haven’t told anyone that I am in such a big debt. After all, it would be so uncool. Even I think that people would look at me weirdly.
10 silver coins. If that debt was made solely to make me work harder, I guess I am dancing right in Utano-san’s palm. Well, I must be overthinking it.
“We’re returning already?”(fran)
“Hm, yeah. Today, Souichi and Yayoi-chan will reach the capital as well after all.”(renji)
“Yes, him. Unlike me, he’s an actual hero.”
At least, he’s not the type to go live in debts. I can’t even imagine him living a life like me. Yayoi-chan will probably stop him before he fell into a debt after all. It seemed, Mururu had no interest in it as she simply played around throwing stones in the stream. At least help us with packing back up.
Maybe because she realized my gaze, she spoke up. Unable to understand what she meant, I followed her gaze towards the stream only to see that she was taking out fishes with stones. Just how good is her dynamic vision, this wolf!?
Since it’d be a pity to let the fishes she killed flow away with the stream, I took off my boots and folded up my trousers.
“Well, I wouldn’t want Mururu to go into the water in such a cold weather.”(renji)
Saying that, I entered the river. Due to intense cold of the water, my legs stopped moving the moment I entered the stream.
“Are, are you okay?”(fran)
“Obviously. It’s the [ninth month] already…….after getting injured, do you plan on catching a cold this time?”(elf)
While listening to Feirona and Ermenhilde’s fed up voices, I quickly gathered the fishes floating on the river. Only Miss Francesca was worried for me. In the meantime, Mururu took down more fishes and she didn’t even seem to care about me.
Even though the fishes should have been scurrying arround due to me entering the stream, she was still taking them down effortlessly with those dazed eyes of hers. By the time I finished gathering the rest of the fishes, Miss Francesca and Feirona completed packing up.
“Share some with me as well.”(renji)
“I’ll start a fire so hurry up and warm yourself up.”(feirona)
Coming out of the stream, as I tried to wash away the smell of fishes from my hands, Feirona said that to me. It was inevitable. My whole body felt completely cold.
“How caring of you. Comrades I can trust are really the greatest thing one can have.”(renji)
“Don’t say things you don’t mean.”(elf)
“No, I’m actually serious you know.”
Feirona gathered the branches and Miss Francesca lit the fire with her magic. As wiped my legs and turned them and my hands towards the fire, that alone seemed to have warmed me up.
“The fishes, will you cook?”(mururu)
With a plop, Mururu sat beside me. Soon after, Miss Francesca and Feirona also sat around the fire.
“It’s a bit late but let’s have our lunch, shall we?”(renji)
Miss Francesca gave a somewhat happy reply. She really likes outdoor things like these. Sleeping in tents, preparing a campfire, cooking and eating animals and fishes caught fresh from the wild etc. Unlike what her appearance would suggest, she’s pretty bold.
Giving a small smile seeing her reaction, Feirona began to prepare to cook the fishes. Peeling off the scales, removing the innards, he skewered the fishes on an impromptu stick. While admiring his skill, I also helped in the preparations. That said, I was only copying what he was doing. The first job of my newly bought iron knife was to cut open a fish.
Having completed the preparations, as the fishes roasted over the flames, I washed my hands in the stream. Just then, I felt a strange gaze on me.
I looked towards the place I felt the gaze coming from but there was noone there. Since we have been hunting in this place for a while now, I know there is nothing in that direction.
Was it a monster?
It’s normal to think like that. Since we’re 4, it probably ran away maybe. Without thinking too deeply, I returned back towards the bonfire.
“Did anyone sense something just now?”(renji)
“Yeah. I think I felt a strange gaze at me but….”
Saying that, I looked towards Feirona and Mururu. These two are far more sensitive than me in these areas but they shook their heads.
“Must be my imagination then.”(renji)
Ermenhilde didn’t sense anything either so that really must be the case.
Deciding to forget about it, I decided to simply stare at the roasting fishes. For some reason, I always feel like I stare at fishes at times like this. It seems it was the same for Miss Francesca and Mururu as well, so there was total silence among the 4 of us. I felt like both Feirona and Ermenhilde gave a sigh but I didn’t care about it.
After some time finally, the fishes had been roasted well. There were 6 fishes. Ms Francesca and Feirona took 1 each and me and Mururu took 2 each. Feirona, though his body is of the same size as me, was actually a light eater. It’s amazing, to be honest, how he manages that. I feel like I could eat even three of them. Though I probably won’t in the end. After all, it’s always better to not overeat. As I bit into the fish, since the it came from a clear water stream, there was no taste or smell of mud in it. Since we just caught it, it felt really fresh as well. I ate up my first one very fast.
[Just now, did you sense magical energy as well?]
When I turned back sensing the gaze once again, Ermenhilde seemed to have sensed magical energy as well.
“I felt that gaze again.”(renji)
I stood up. It would have been fine if it was just a gaze but since Ermenhilde sensed magical energy as well, I need to be cautious. Confirming the Mithril sword hanging on my waist, I closed in towards the river.
The others as well, though they didn’t sense anything, seemed to have become on guard. But even after waiting for a while, nothing happened. Was some other magician fighting somewhere a bit far from here? Seems unlikely. Ermenhilde only sensed magical energy once and can’t sense it any more. What’s going on? I scratched my head.
In my view was the same old clear stream, trees and the cold wind. There was no change. In fact I felt like the strange one.
“Well, I guess it can’t be helped.”
I’ll just have to deal with it when something happens. Thinking that, I returned near the fire. When I did, Feirona and the others also dropped their guards and went back top focusing on their meal.
“………Oi, one of my fish is gone.”(renji)
On turning my gaze, the chibi sitting beside me began to chew the fish in her mouth at a vigorous speed. It’s bad manners, but that isn’t the point. There were three sticks lying in front of her. I called her but she panicked and turned her gaze away.
“Oi Mururu, I won’t get angry so look towards me.”(renji)
“nn…..you won’t get angry?”(mururu)
When I said that, she averted her face again. This brat.
Miss Francesca and Feirona kept on eating their fish with a wry smile. Well, I did eat one so I guess that’s fine. Suddenly I felt the gaze again. I turned again.
“Now this is really getting weird.”
Feirona stood up and began checking his equipment. Miss Francesca quickly finished her meal and took similar actions. Only Mururu, whose weapon was her body itself, remained the same. She’s still enjoying the taste of the fishes. During the dinner, I am definitely stealing a part from her food. I thought of such childish things. But still, why do Feirona or Mururu still not sense that. That’s what worrying me more.
“I guess there’s no choice. Let’s cross the river.”
It’s so damn cold though. Well, at least the stream isn’t deep.
Walking for sometime after crossing the stream, there was a tall cliff there. Probably 30m high. And above it was nothing, just a vast plain. No flowers or trees, just plain land. After getting summoned to this world, it was there where we first defeated a Demon God’s descendant. Maybe due to its effect, that place has become a dead area. And if you were to walk through that land for almost a week, you’d reach the Tactics City.
Well, leaving that aside, there was something I had not seen on this cliff. Even though we had come here a few times before. It was a cave. It’s size was approx, enough to let an ogre get in……a 5m tall cave. I ended up tilting my head in confusion while looking at the entrance.
“Was that here before?”(renji)
“No, it wasn’t, it seems.”(fran)
While looking at the map in her hands, Ms Francesca told me that. It’s just a simple map but if a cave was this near the capital, it would have been mentioned in the map. That means it’s a newly made cave but we had come here only a few days ago as well. Are caves really that easy to make?
[I can sense magical energy. It’s the same as the one before.]
“So this is it. Ermenhilde, can you tell what it is?”
[I can’t. It’s too weak……very low level, most probably.]
I lightly tapped Ermenhilde inside my pocket.
[It could be a trap as well. You’ll still go?]
Hearing Ermenhilde’s voice, the other 3 looked straight at me. I am not hiding Ermenhilde’s voice from them any longer. It’s something like a proof of my trust. Each and everyone of their reactions were fun to see. Right now, since she’s sulking, Ermenhilde isn’t talking much though. Just how much do you hate seeing me use other swords?
But, right now as expected of the situation, she’s not objecting anymore. Hearing Ermenhilde’s voice, Mururu asked for my confirmation as well.
“It’s majority rule in such cases right?”(renji)
“You’re the leader though, Renji.”(elf)
“I said this before as well but when the hell was that decided!?”(renji)
While talking like that, I took out a torch from my bag, wet it with oil and asked Ms Francesca to light it up. It will be dangerous but my curiosity won. I was curious of this gaze only I could sense. And for some reason, even now, I don’t feel a sense of danger. If we were to rely on my intuition, we should be fine. I thought that without any meaning.
“Hmm then, let’s go, shall we?”(renji)
When I said that lightly, Ms Francesca gave her agreement as well. We walked in a line with me at front, then Mururu, Francesca and Feirona at the end. I held the torch and Ms Francesca was using her magic to light the place up as well.
The inside of the cave did not feel uncomfortable and air seemed to pass through well. It might be connected somewhere on the other side. The cave seemed to have been dug very uniformly in the same shape. Normally, a cave is more uneven and rough. Such a well made hole is not something that occurs naturally. It must be dug out through magic.
As I walked on while making theories, Ms Francesca raised a small scream from behind. At the same time, Mururu made a very unwomanly *gueeh* sound. Both their voices resounded in the cave.
“It’s a bug. I’ve killed it though.”
If there’s some trap ahead of us, our voices must have given us away by now. I put my hand on the handle of the Mithril sword. It seems Feirona thought the same as I could sense him becoming a bit more tensed.
We stayed there unmoving for a while but there seemed to be no change. Relaxing a bit again, I removed my hand from the sword.
“Is there nothing here?”
“There are bugs though…….”(fran)
Mururu’s voice felt a bit sullen. Most probably, getting surprised by the bug Ms Francesca must have hugged her neck way too tightly from behind. Her voice felt as if her throat was being tightened.
We continued walking deeper inside. It had been 10 mins already I think when I finally saw a bluish light in front of us.
“Could it be the exit?”(fran)
“Seems to dark for that.”9renji)
[…….There’s something there.]
Hearing Ermenhilde’s voice, everyone drew their weapons. Mururu turned her hands into claws.
“I’ll go first. Feirona, I’ll leave you to cover me.”(renji)
“It might be difficult though.”(elf)
“Mururu, follow me with some distance between us.”
Due to the lack of light, it must be difficult for Feirona to shoot arrows. Then, I’ll take Mururu, who possesses extreme physical abilities with me towards the bluish light.
If this really is a trap, I should be the perfect target since I am also holing the torch. I said that but I couldn’t feel any presence other than me. The cave seemed uninhabited. I was sure of it.
But Ermenhilde said that something was there, then there must be. While being cautious I continued walking when the cave opened up.
I lost my breath.
In front of me was a crystal giving off blue light. It was around 5m big. A really big gem-like crystal was, floating in the air. But even that wasn’t the problem. Floating crystals were definitely rare, after all this a world of swords and magic. I have seen them a few times before as well but,—–
“Someone’s sleeping inside?”
Seeing a human sleeping inside a crystal; that was a first even for me. While being cautious of my surroundings I went closer to it. Just as Mururu said, her eyes were closed as if sleeping.
Inside the blue light, a girl, completely naked, was sleeping while hugging her legs. That was the first impression. Since I could feel her life force, I know she isn’t dead.
“It’s fine, you guys can come as well!”(renji)
As I shouted towards Feirona, I handed the torch over to Mururu.
“Can you tell what she is?”(renji)
I asked but got no answer from Ermenhilde.
While feeling mystified, I slowly, timidly put my hand on the crystal. It was warm. It didn’t have the coldness of a rock, of an inorganic substance. It felt warm, like the skin of a person. And—–
My eyes suddenly met with the girl inside the crystal.