Chapter 96: The problem with contractors is that they don’t have any personal investment, so as long as they get stuff done, collateral damage is inconsequential
“You’ve come back after decimating parts of the forest…”
Idra pinched the bridge of his nose. He looks a little conflicted, like he’s glad we were able to find and confirm the presence of demons, but at the same time, Ragnall cut down 3 large trees, and the one I used as a kickoff block has a large dent and a few splintered parts, and it’s totally leaning over in the wrong direction. Which is not straight up.
“Ah… so you knew about that?”
I said, scratching the side of my face lightly.
“Of course we did! We were wondering exactly what kind of catastrophe was occurring when the ground shook and the trees seemed to dance!”
Eh… was it that bad? That was only Ragnall going on a rampage, you know? Imagine what would have happened if Hibiki-chan and I also went crazy.
“Haha, isn’t it fine? There aren’t that many people who could have come out unscathed from an attack by seven demons with just three members. To be quite frank, I don’t believe any other party could have rescued us.”
Desmond, the deep elf leader guy, laughs refreshingly and speaks up in support of the three of us.
Idra frowns, but it’s a light, slightly disgruntled frown instead of an upset, angry one.
“I believe the same thing, but I’m worried about what I’m supposed to put in the report.”
“A little collateral damage has to be expected.” – Ragnall.
“Un. Bureaucratic organizations can be kind of a pain, na.” – me
“Y-you guys, you don’t need to be so blunt…” –Hibiki-chan
Idra has a look of exasperation at the three of us, but his lips quirk a little in amusement.
It didn’t take us long to return to Warden’s Post, despite the worn and weary group we were escorting.
Of course I mean Desmond’s group.
Anyway, now we’re giving a report, together with Desmond and his group.
Idra shook his head lightly and bent back over the desk that held the report he was putting together.
“Well, let’s go over this again… so there were seven demons…”
According to Desmond, the seven demons might be one of several scouting parties, from the little bit of the demonic language he could understand.
“It’s a shame, since Ms. Jun here happened to know Krasmyr, that Sir Ragnall, Ms. Jun, and Ms Hibiki didn’t manage to meet up with us earlier.”
Hibiki-chan and I averted our gazes.
I didn’t think that we’d run into this little problem with Translate-sama so soon.
And like, ‘Ms. Jun’? It still makes me feel itchy.
Maa, that’s just how Desmond talks, I guess.
Anyway, after we gave our report about fighting the demons, Ragnall, Hibiki-chan, and I headed out.
I thought we’d be going back out to finish our planned circuit of the areas around Warden’s Post, but Ragnall led the way back to the cafeteria area at Woodrest.
“Hey! Over here!”
Ah, the two black-haired elves are sitting there, waving us over.
When we first walked in, they were sitting there staring with a glazed look into their bowls.
I understand, I understand. There are just times when you’re so tired that you can’t eat even if you’re hungry. Although that hasn’t happened to me ever since I’ve woken up in this world.
Resilient Body is probably the biggest cheat I have, right after Augment Body.
… Am I human anymore?
“Desmond’s still giving his report, huh? Ah, I’m Aislin, and this is my brother Aidan.”
The female elf said.
“Good timing. Although I heard most of the report, I wanted to hear about your guys’ opinions too.”
Although he said he hated being a leader, Ragnall’s really doing pretty well.
Maa, we don’t act like a normal group, I think, so it might not be too difficult to deal with us.
“If it’s something we can help with,”
The male elf said.
“Right. Jun and Hibiki-chan too. Just so we can all be on the same page.”
“Yeah, okay, so what is it?”
“Nah, just… what did you think about the demons? We can’t just say ‘yeah, they’re demons’ when it comes to tactics.”
Hibiki-chan tilted her head and asked,
“Un… I think I get it, but how exactly do you want us to quantify it?”
“So like, do you think they’re bandits, or how good you thought they were at attacking.”
“Ah, uuuuun… I think they’re pretty tough. Like, they moved a lit more smoothly than some of the Adventurers from Nyl City.”
Hibiki-chan tends to relate everything to something she’s experienced, but it does make it pretty easy to understand.
But I expand on it just in case Ragnall and the others want something more concrete.
“Yeah, I agree. At least, the two that I fought had a kind of coordination that would be difficult to pull off without training.”
The female elf, Aislin, nodded.
“Our group, aside from Eadan surveyor, consists of some pretty strong members. His bodyguard, Breamond, is an official member of the Inourian Guarde, and we two twins are well-known as military mercenaries, although technically we’re C Rank Adventurers. And Desmond, of course, is very well-known, being one of the few deep elf Adventurers, and he’s A Rank.”
“Even though that’s the case, we had a difficult time against the demons. Not because the demons were stronger, but because they cooperated extremely well.”
The male elf, Aidan, finished.
“Yeah, I agree. That’s what I felt too.”
Ragnall said, rubbing the scar on his chin thoughtfully, then continued, saying,
“When I fought them, at first they tried different formations and tactics, but when it became apparent I would be more trouble than it was worth, they retreated immediately.”
“So it’s not that they thought they couldn’t beat you, but because they thought it wasn’t worth it?”
“Well, it’s hard to know for sure, but it would have been kind of a drawn out battle. The terrain isn’t favorable for me, you know.”
“Ah, that’s true.”
Un. Ragnall would have made a new clearing in the forest if they continued.
“Even if they were organized enough to not be renegades or bandits, it didn’t really feel like they were soldiers. More like shinobi.”
“Ah… I get that feeling too. More like guerilla warriors than military.”
… ‘Shinobi’ translated okay?
“Either way, I think it will be hard to find them again any time soon,”
“Yeah, if they’re that organized… well, they’ll probably retreat for now.”
“I… also think they will take some time to recuperate. Although they seem pretty resilient.”
Since that one guy was still running around with his hand chopped off, na. It could have just been adrenaline, but I suspect they were experienced with pain.
Although actually losing limbs…
“Well, even if we can analyze them that far, it doesn’t really help. They could be mercenaries, they could be intel seekers.”
The scholarly-looking elf and his bodyguard have joined our table.
The scholarly-elf only has some cracker-like food.
Maa, he looks pale in a sickly way, so maybe he doesn’t think he can stomach any food.
That was a lot of running if you weren’t a physically fit guy.
“It could mean a demon invasion, or maybe they are working for their own interests. And that goes for just about anyone, whether they’re mercenaries, a better-organized group of bandits, or someone completely separate to the Arcene rulers. Or however that world works.”
“There’s a lot we don’t know about Arcene, after all, so it makes things difficult to understand when they invade Orelia.”
Aidan said in agreement.
“By the way, are you from around the Tren area? I heard there are a lot of peaceful demons and halfs there, so…”
Aislin was looking at Ragnall as she said that.
Ragnall has a kind of complicated look on his face.
Uum… Tren is the southern Labyrinth, I think, around where the beastkin territories are?
“I would assume one of my parents was from thereabouts.”
Ragnall finally says.
“Ah… I see, you have some circumstances… I apologize.”
Aislin said quickly.
At my confused look, Ragnall says,
“There are some demons who ran away from the Arcene government and are living south of where the beastkin are. It’s just a small handful of them, but it gets a little…”
I don’t really know all the details, but there will be time to find out about it later, since Ragnall seems a little uncomfortable with the topic.
It seems there’s more to the demons than I initially thought.
“Desmond, you’re done?”
“Yes. There wasn’t much to report, after all. Demons have no regard for Orelian statuses, so it’s most likely a coincidence.”
“There’s no point for them to attack a surveyor who is responsible for an obscure part of the forest, after all.”
The surveyor’s bodyguard said.
“Coincidence, is it? Eadan-san is emitting a lot of magic power, though…”
Although technically, it’s more like his mana is pretty potent.
It doesn’t seem like most people can see the ‘glow’ that’s being emitted by mana, which is the magic power the body uses to keep itself going. Instead, the overabundance of mana, which is ‘useless’ magic power (not really, since magic power is what is used for spells) is what can be most commonly detected.
Although even then most people have to use special spells or magic devices to be able to actually see it.
I had a hard time distinguishing between the two until that Light Magic avatar fiasco, since they tend to overlap, but now I can see it if I concentrate enough.
Again, am I still human?
… Ah, actually, it might be far too late to be asking that question.
It might be that none of us gamers are human any longer.
The ‘glow’ from charged up magic gemstones might be similar to the ‘glow’ emitted from mana. I wonder what that might mean.
… I’m getting sidetracked again.
Anyway, I decide to keep it short and simple for the people who don’t know about that distinction.
“ “ “Ah…” “ “
The black-haired elf siblings and the bodyguard all simultaneously leak that sound.
Eadan, the surveyor, has a confused look.
“Ah, that’s, we all are used to suppressing our magic and presences while on the move or in combats, but you probably aren’t…”
The two black-haired siblings explain.
“I suppose a magical presence like Eadan’s would be very tempting for beings that must live off of others’ mana.”
Desmond finishes up the explanation.
“…So it was my fault?”
The surveyor looks kind of annoyed.
“Not ‘fault’. I think you might have been attacked either way, honestly. They’ve been going after anything humanoid, after all.”
“Un. Idra-san said that there have been no animal or plant casualties, just humans and demi-humans, so I think they use more than just magic power to figure out who to attack, right?”
Hibiki-chan said, tilting her head a little.
“… I see.”
Eadan glances over at Hibiki-chan, then looks down quickly.
I’m not the only one looking at Eadan with a kind of suspicion.
Ragnall as well notices the slight flush in his ears.
Oi, koraa-! She’s 14!
But, maa, she doesn’t look it.
More like, if it’s between an elf who’s the scholarly type and Hibiki-chan – no, a wyvern and Hibiki-chan, I think Hibiki-chan can take care of herself.
“Although this is quite off topic… Tethys. Are you going to come down from there at any time? You’re quite heavy, you know?”
Who is Desmond addressing?
The bird that’s still on top of my head.
Ah. It’s sulking. Because Desmond called it fat?
“My apologies, Ms. Jun. It seems she’s taken quite a liking to you… manners not withstanding.”
Desmond gives the bird kind of a sharp look, and it sulkily gets off.
“No, it didn’t really bother me.”
Even if it’s heavy for a bird, Augment Body takes care of that so my neck doesn’t feel any strain.
The bird sounds like it’s saying, ‘So there!’
But it just perches on the back of my chair instead of back on my head.
“Ragnall, we aren’t going to go back out, then?”
“Nah, I don’t think it will be very productive. I guess we’ll just bum around the post for a while, or go hunt things or something.”
It’s pretty late now. If we were in Nyl City the Farmer’s Watch bells would have already rung.
I’m not sure exactly when the sun is going to rise, but I think it will be in the next 3 or 4 hours.
“Hm. Exactly how long are we going to stay around, Warden’s Post, Ragnall? Now that we did find demons and stuff.”
I ask as the three of us get up and leave the elf party to their very late dinner.
“Ah, I dunno. It’s troublesome, but I don’t really want to stay for a month or something.”
“Because we don’t know what they want, it’s hard to decide, ne?”
“Well, yeah. Anyway, I’m going to the baths. It’s been a while, and I got foliage all over me.”
Ragnall waves a hand as he disappears into his room.
Well yeah. When you fight like a bull dozer, that happens.
“Baths… let’s go take one, Jun.”
“Hibiki-chan, the baths here are communal, you know.”
“Jun-kun… you have to get used to it at some point. You’re a girl now, you know? It’s going to be weirder if you aren’t used to it.”
“Even if you say that, I’m still mentally a guy” – I think – “so it’s going to be too stimulating in all sorts of ways.”
I try to be a little subtle. Hibiki-chan’s a girl, after all.
“Nn, but Jun-kun, even if you get xxx, it’s different from a guy. It won’t be obvious at all.”
“THAT’S NOT THE PROBLEM, IS IT?!”
“Eh? Eh… hm…”
My concern was apparently unnecessary. Come to think of it, the girls in the naginata club were sometimes surprisingly crass, too.
“Is it really that big of a deal? It’s not like Jun-kun is going to jump anyone, or going into the baths to peep on purpose, right?”
“… Hibiki-chan, how can you be so uncaring about this?”
“Eh? Um… maybe it’s because one of my friends was a lesbian? She always said, ‘I have all the equipment myself, so it’s not a big deal, right? if I was that desperate I’d go pose in the mirror, or get a call girl.’”
Heeh… Hibiki-chan, that girl was a middle-schooler, right? Do middle-schoolers, male or female, use call girl services now?! No way, right?
“… And you and the other girls were okay with that?”
“Un… some weren’t, and some people bullied her or refused to change with her, but our school said that gay people weren’t just going to disappear, so they should figure out ways to deal with it, but they weren’t allowed to deny her the rights the school was obligated to give her. There were lots of angry parents… but in the end everyone just kind of got used to it.”
… Is that school going to be ok? I don’t mean there’s something wrong with their policy, I mean, is it going to be okay with the parent teacher association?
“I didn’t like it at first either, but, um… well, it’s one thing if all she thought about was sex or was always trying to peep on girls, but I mean… she didn’t act like a pervert. In fact, some of the girls who were bullying her do more sexual harassment to other girls… When you look at it like that, it just feels like it doesn’t matter anymore.”
“…Somehow, it feels like Hibiki-chan’s middle school was very hectic.”
“Un. But at the same time, I’m happy I met Kyouko-chan.”
Hibiki-chan falls silent.
Ah. She made herself sad, reminiscing.
Because it wasn’t the painful, heart-breaking sadness she’s shown recently, I let her be.
Sadness isn’t an emotion you should try to stuff away, after all.
“…Anyway, so Jun-kun should just get used to it! It’s super late, anyway, so there probably won’t be too many people in there.”
Shoot, she remembered.
“… You will be there.”
And you, Hibiki-chan, are really too stimulating in certain places.
“Jeez. I’ll properly put on a towel, and go in on the other side of the tub-“
Hibiki-chan is dragging me down the hall. I better dig my heels in and put a stop to this…
“Ooooh! If it isn’t, um, Hibiki and Jun! Hahaha! Hey, let’s go in together and have some girl talk!”
Before I knew it, Toal the body-builder elf had swooped in from behind, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shoved me through the partition.
Eh? Eh?! EH?!
I can hear the ‘tehe pero’ in Hibiki-chan’s voice.
Don’t just say “oopsie!”
<a/n: Thanks junior1210 and Raist for your donations!
Speaking of donations, I now have a patreon button to the right, underneath the ko-fi button, for those of you who wanted to donate more regularly. The patron perks are not over-excessive (I think) because I’m not a fan of penalizing people who don’t/can’t donate, but do check out the page at least, because I doodled some of the characters from my original stories for the banner.
Bird-Jun pic will come next time… It’s been busy.
Cursed chap 12 up.
Nai’s Senses Chap 2 up.
This wasn’t planned… When did it become Hibiki-chan’s goal to get Jun used to communal baths?>