Chapter 94: Chapters with a lot of random stuff happening is hard to come up with titles for
My nodachi won’t be much use, but I examine it anyway.
Katana v3, and several tantos…
Clean, sharp, and ready to go.
As for other supplies, I still have bandages, ointments, and water ready to … actually, because I have Inventory, is there really a worry that I wasn’t able to bring something?
Although that doesn’t help if I’m short-sighted and didn’t put something we needed IN to Inventory, but since we’ve been traveling dangerous roads, I already have a lot of stuff that we will need for investigating the area around Warden’s Post.
Ah, I guess it’s still good to investigate the condition of the stuff we might need. Even if my Inventory has time stop, the moment when you need something is a horrible time to realize it got partially destroyed the last time you took it out.
I quietly stow the rest of the things I was inspecting. Quietly because I’m in the small room Hibiki-chan and I are staying in, and Hibiki-chan is sleeping.
Un, even though I’m not really tired, maybe I’ll take the time to get an hour or two of rest –
Just when I thought that, I hear some sniffling coming from the other side of the room.
Was I imagining it?
I listen carefully.
Un. Hibiki-chan’s breathing has changed from sleeping to awake.
Did she have a nightmare?
I wait a few moments before I half-whisper,
As expected, I startled her.
“Is everything ok?”
That’s very unconvincing.
“Did you have a bad dream?”
Sometimes I feel like I’m coaxing a kitten, when it comes to Hibiki-chan.
“… I thought I was at home. Mom got mad at me for skipping cram school, but then I woke up…”
Hibiki-chan’s voice got a little choked up, so she turned her face into her pillow for a few seconds.
I suspect these are recurring dreams.
Although I don’t usually say anything, I’ve noticed that there were times when she’d wake up a little in the night. But usually she doesn’t cry this much. I always ignored it for her sake, since Hibiki-chan avoided talking about it and always put on a cheerful face, but I’m at my limit of ignoring it.
I hesitate a bit. I’m not exactly sure of what the best thing to say is, but since I’ve stopped pretending not to see, I’d better see it through.
“I see. Your mom was a good mom, huh?”
Hibiki-chan nodded into her pillow.
“Was the high school you wanted to get into hard?”
She nodded again
“Did it have cute uniforms?”
“… they were okay.”
Heh. Well, it’s probably a good school, at least.
Let’s see. Masaki and I were 2nd years, but, un. The middle school 3rd years were probably about to take their high school entrance exams when we were transported. They were so close to being high schoolers, huh?
While I was thinking things like that, Hibiki-chan started to speak. It was like her words began to tumble over each other as they spilled out of her mouth.
“I wanted to go to high school. I wanted to make new friends, find a senpai I had a crush on, or get a boyfriend. I wanted to wear the school uniforms, and forget to make lunch and have to go buy something. I wanted to stay out late, and get into fights with my dad about dating someone. I haven’t even made up with my big brother because he ate my pudding.”
Although she’s not crying hysterically, tears continue to leak out from her tightly closed eyes.
I got up softly and sat on the edge of her bed, gently stroking her head.
I don’t have anything to say to that. I feel like I can’t say anything.
We’ll find a way home or you’ll be able to live well here too. Anything like that feels like it would only be false hopes or denying her feelings.
Hibiki-chan cries silently for a little longer before she calms down and says,
“Jun, I’m jealous of you. You’re able to deal with everything like it’s no big deal. The way you act, it wouldn’t be weird even back in Japan. You even changed genders and you act like it’s fine. Even though my body just changed in some dimensions, I keep getting weirded out by my height and chest. You’re so strong.”
Nonono. Let’s correct that misunderstanding.
“Ah… Hibiki-chan? In this situation, I shouldn’t be admired, you know? It’s not that I’m strong or anything. I just don’t care.”
Oh, I shocked her a little.
“… You don’t care? That we’re thrown into some kind of other world, and we can’t get home?”
“I don’t care.”
It seems like she’s not sure how to process that.
“So… yeah. I’ve always been the type that just ignores things I can’t do anything about, but I don’t really think that’s a good thing. It’s something that kind of bothers me. How should I say it… I’m abnormal and heartless, and maybe a lot selfish. At first, I didn’t even think about how my friends and relatives would feel. Like, I kind of forgot about them. I think Hibiki-chan has a healthier outlook. Even though you regret a lot of things, you’re still working hard to make it in this world. It’s better than me who’s mindlessly going out to play.”
It actually doesn’t bother me that much, but it DOES bother me a little that I can just light-heartedly live in this world. And I DO think Hibiki-chan is doing really well, for an almost-high-schooler who got enslaved for two months in another world without any warning, and now must kill dangerous animals for a living.
Having those kinds of thoughts about home are normal.
I’m the one who’s abnormal, Hibiki-chan.
“… *sniff* Then, it’s okay to think about home? Even while I’m trying to accept living in this world?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
I stay sitting there, patting her head, until Hibiki-chan falls asleep.
Dusk has just fallen when we go to meet Ragnall back down in the lobby.
As we head down the wooden, rustic spiral staircase I glance at Hibiki-chan.
Her expression seems lighter.
Even though I’m only 2 years older than her, I didn’t think she’d be worrying about that kind of childish stuff, like whether feeling upset is a sign of weakness or not.
…No, that’s not just worries that a child would have.
Either way, I wish I had noticed sooner.
“Oh, the two of you are already awake. Ok. Let’s discuss what we have to do over a quick dinner. Order something light; we’ll probably also eat when we get back.”
Calling out, Ragnall waves us over.
Fuu-n. He said he doesn’t like being in charge, but he’s doing pretty good as our team leader. Well, the other two of us are out-of-worlders with no common sense, so it’s more like he HAS to be team leader…
We ordered soups and sandwiches, and I’m amazed as Hibiki-chan devours hers in an instant.
I think crying might have made her hungry. Or maybe it was the mental growth. I’m not aware that there ISN’T any correlation between mental activity and physical sustenance, anyway.
“So what’s the plan?”
I ask Ragnall, as he’s dipping his bread in his soup.
“Right. Since –“
Before he could finish, the doors to the inn opened, and a Scandinavian female body-builder – er, I mean the elf warden Toal walked in, looking around anxiously. As soon as she spots us, she walks quickly over.
As expected. Somehow I knew she was looking for us.
“I’m so glad you are here! Please excuse me, there was an emergency request, so I came to find you immediately!”
Heh… I suspect her “you” refers to Ragnall.
She’s been making sparkling eyes at him since we first met.
Even though Ragnall has two girls with him, she’s still completely starstruck.
Not that any of us are with any of the other, but still.
Isn’t this the kind of treatment that famous actors would get?
Nn… I knew Ragnall was kind of famous, but to this extent?
Although he seems uncomfortable, so maybe this isn’t common.
“…Alright, well, first, what is the emergency?”
I asked, to move the conversation along.
“…Ah! Yes, um, well, we just received word that there was a Parliament surveyor that should have arrived here two days ago, along with his escort. A young Lord and various higher-ranked knights appear to have been with him too.”
“A few days’ worth of tardiness shouldn’t be something Inouria should freak out about. It’s about a two weeks’ trip, and a surveyor is gonna take longer.”
Toal nodded eagerly.
“I agree, but with circumstances how they are right now, the Chief Warden and Squad Leaders are kind of anxious.”
“Hm. So? What does that have to do with us?”
Nn. I think it’s obvious what they want with us, but I will leave Ragnall to the negotiations, I guess.
“We’d like you to cooperate in searching for them. Of course there will be an extra reward through the Guild.”
“Is that reward negotiable?”
“Um… uh… yes? I’m sure they could do something about it…”
That’s not convincing at all.
Ragnall sighs, but since it’s not much more work than what we were already doing, he doesn’t make a fuss and just agrees.
“We were just about to head out now anyway, so it’s not a big deal if we make searching for the surveyor our priority.”
He looks at us to confirm, but, maa, there’s no real reason for us to refuse.
Or like, he knows Hibiki-chan and I are likely to agree.
“You were heading out now? At dusk? I mean, I know you have experience, but…”
Toal looks doubtfully at me and Hibiki-chan.
Un. Hibiki-chan has gone on night hunts, though, with Niera and the others.
“Let me think. The only one who hasn’t done a night hunt is Jun… so none of us will have any problems.”
Of course he’s dead serious.
Since I’m the one with the best detection skills in the group.
Toal has a kind of confused look on her face.
Don’t worry about it too much.
After a little bit more back and forth, another warden, a cat-ish beastkin, comes barging in.
“Toal, what’s taking you so long?!”
“Oh, uh, sorry…”
“Good grief, in this kind of emergency…”
Reluctantly, Toal stands and follows him out.
As we watched her go…
“She seems to admire you a lot.”
I commented kind of off-handedly.
Ragnall scratched the back of his head.
“I don’t get it. All it was, was that I was part of a skilled merc group, and was a stupid kid who’d run in head-first and almost get killed if sheer luck hadn’t come along first. It’s not like that’s anything worth being praised about, but then you get people like that.”
He’s not just saying it to be humble; Ragnall honestly doesn’t get his fans.
Well, I don’t really understand what his reputation’s like, so I can’t say much.
I make a mental note to buy Toal drinks later so I can hear about some things that will embarrass him. But first…
“… So, are you going to date her?”
Hibiki-chan almost spit as she tried to conceal her laughter.
It’s been a while since someone’s ground their knuckles into the sides of my head.
Although I’m saying ‘ow’, it’s not like it really hurts, but it’s no fun to not just go along with it, right?
“Jeez, Ragnall, if it weren’t me, that would be really painful.”
“Like I care. What the heck are you thinking?”
“No, well, people with famous reputations can get girls easily, right? You should take advantage of it. She doesn’t look like she’d mind…?”
Although I’m not really a good judge about this kind of thing.
“So YOU’RE the type to go after any girl you can, then?”
“Hey, this isn’t about me.”
“And exactly what kind of person do you see me as?”
I look away.
“…Hey. Well, whatever. Let’s see… I don’t think it’s a good idea to split up tonight, since we’re all not used to the area. I’d be worried if Hibiki-chan moves alone, since this is the first time she’s hunted in a wooded area where the visibility isn’t that great, too. Although the efficiency goes down, I think that’s the best idea. How about it?”
Ragnall recovers too fast. If it was Masaki… un. He’d just freak out. It’s a little lonely.
“Ou. Although this is my first time too?”
“No, when we ended up fighting the python we were in the forest on the 2nd level?”
I had forgotten about that. Well, he’s right that I won’t have much trouble; with Augment Body I can detect things pretty easily.
“So then, that’s that?’
“Yeah, I guess… Eloise-san! We’re done over here!”
I call over Woodrest’s receptionist, who is also doubling as the hostess for the eatery.
“Oka~y! Table 4 is ready to be cleaned!”
Eloise called in the direction of the kitchen.
Ragnall, Hibiki-chan, and I stood up as the eatery’s staff came in to clear our table.
“We don’t need to make any fancy preparations for this?”
I ask as we head out the door.
“Yeah. Normally we’d need light-stones or something, but that’s unnecessary with this group. We also aren’t going to go too far out, so we don’t need food or shelter or anything.”
Is that how it works?
“See or hear anything, Jun?”
Ragnall called up.
I am currently up in a tree.
“No. Nothing urgent, anyway.”
But really, the trees and foliage dampen the sounds I can hear, not to mention how they obstruct my line of sight.
It’s not like it’s to the point where it would be a problem, but it’s just kind of eerie, compared to the mountainous terrain of Nyl City, where sounds carried easily with an echo.
I slide down the tree, leaping off a lower branch, and land lightly on the ground.
“Well, I didn’t see anything like suspicious activity, but there were some clearings in the trees. Are there ruins in this forest? So close to Warden’s Post?”
“Hm. Yeah, the forest grows pretty fast, and in this area, the tree elves are pretty nomadic. They’ll stay in an area for 600 to 1200 moons, about, and then move on. If there’s no one tending to it, their tree-houses merge into part of the forest in just a few hundred moons, so they’re actually not that old.”
No, I think several decades is still a long time to us humans… but I understand. It’s not centuries old.
That is quick, for a city or town to turn into ruins in just a few decades.
“So then, Warden’s Post is also in danger of being overrun?”
Hibiki-chan makes a “now that you mention it” look.
“Nah. It’s the tree elves’ way of making towns. Some weird magic that makes the trees bend and grow in the way they want them too… Well, don’t ask me how it works. Anyway, Warden’s Post will take a little longer to disappear.”
“Although it might be in the same timeframe, according to the elves.”
I said off-handedly.
“…I kind of want to see what they look like.”
Hibiki-chan’s eyes are sparkling.
Un. I bet I know what she’s expecting… like a certain movie with golden trees and an entire elven city up on platforms.
I don’t think it will be what she’s expecting, but to help support her I say,
“It would be likely that anyone stalking the people who come into and out of Warden’s Post might be camped out in one of the ruins out here.”
Ragnall scratches the back of his head as he thinks about it.
“…Yeah, alright. The residual magic there is a little uncomfortable for me, but it probably wouldn’t bother an actual demon, if one is there.”
Hm. I guess Ragnall’s magic power “allergy” isn’t actually a trait of normal demons. Well, yeah, when I went poking around in there, I could tell that there was some weird mix of traits regarding magic. It’s just the result where only part of human or demon traits were included, so things that came in didn’t go out, or things that should have been made weren’t.
“Is the residual magic there that powerful?”
“Nah. How should I say it… tree elf magic is kind of spooky.”
Hm. That tells me nothing.
“Are tree elves different from elves?”
Ragnall gave a wry grin.
“Heh. Right, you don’t really know… elves are pretty normal, just like long-living humans with a slight ability to manipulate plant mana, but tree elves are something almost completely different. They live solely in this forest and not very many of them like to come into contact with other races. There’s a greater proportion of them that can use light magic than in other races, and the things they can do with magic feels like it transcends any common knowledge.”
Hibiki-chan and I say.
We’re heading off into the direction I had seen the closest ruin.
“By the way, the deep elves are an even more secluded group of tree elves. Even tree elves aren’t sure where they live. Though you see one once in a loooong while. They’re easy to tell because their white hair seems to glow.”
“Yeah, but when you see it, you’ll understand.”
Was all Ragnall responded.
“Although there’s no guarantee I’ll ever see a deep elf.”
“Well, you’re Jun, so I wouldn’t count it out.”
<a/n: Thanks Raghalin for the donation!
I’m off to write the next chap…
Cursed this time as well.>