Translator(s): Yomigaeru Editor(s): Yuzuha Proofreader(s): Yomigaeru
I need to remain calm in times of crisis. First, let’s sort out the situation.
「M-Mi-Mi-Mistress… She called me a mistreesss…」
For starters, it’s not like I’m in that kind of relationship with anyone in particular. Eris doesn’t seem to think of me as much more than a roommate, and even with Ruruka it’s only to the degree of occasionally letting me rub her breasts as compensation for medical treatment. So calling her my mistress is a mistake.
But I probably can’t say that to Aria. Aria seems to consider the fact that Eris is living together with a man to mean that I’m more like her lover or fiancé. Even if I tell her that Eris and I don’t have that kind of relationship yet, I don’t feel like she’ll take my word for it. The reason that I’m living at Eris’ hospital is due to the fact that I bought it back for her, though.
But how do I explain that to Aria? She’s considerably upset, crossing her arms beneath her chest and glaring right at me. If I tell her that Eris and I aren’t in that kind of relationship, she’ll probably go “So you’re just playing around with Onee-chan!? Toying with her!?” and make things unnecessarily complicated.
…Ah, no, maybe it’s fine if I just explain normally? Usually there are many things to feel guilty about with my behavior so it slipped my mind, but this time I was only having Ruruka guide me to a magic tool shop.
「Aria, that’s a misunderstanding. I’m just looking for a magic tool, but I don’t know much about them. As an adventurer, Ruruka knows more than me, and she told me she knows of a good store, so she was guiding me there. Right, Ruruka?」
But, the crucial Ruruka is looking down for some reason, grumbling to herself instead of replying. Did being called a mistress shock her that much?
…But I’m counting on her right now so I wish she’d help me solve this misunderstanding.
「Why are you looking for something like a magic tool…? Ah, but weren’t you just holding hands with that person!? I saw it clearly!」
「T-That’s, look. I was watching that priestess giving treatment for a while, so Ruruka was just pulling to hurry me up. Besides, the reason I’m looking for a magic tool is…」
「Suspicious… definitely suspicious!」
Without waiting for me to finish answering, Aria interjects. I guess she no longer has any confidence in me. Most likely, the amount of trust I’d earned from Eris’ letters was used up between the hitting on girls in town incident and this latest one.
She won’t hear me out. Aria is probably the same stubborn type as Eris. This is pointless.
「Even if you say it’s suspicious…」
Unless I wait for her to calm down a bit, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to untangle this misunderstanding.
…Although, why am I doing nothing but unraveling misunderstandings? I feel like this has been happening all the time lately. Well, many of those weren’t misunderstandings but rather hiding the truth. But anyhow if I have to unravel something, instead of misunderstandings I’d rather it be panty strings.
While I’m running from reality,
「Those people aren’t the ones acting suspiciously! Quit playing around and get back to your post!」
Aria gets knocked over the head along with a scolding.
「Y-Yeowch! Who… wait, d-deputy leader!?」
The one who hit Aria is a female knight who appears to be a few years older than her. With a considerably angry face, she’s glaring intensely at Aria.
「You’re on guard duty right now! Under no circumstances is there anything strange about this situation, do you understand!」
「Ugh… I-I know that, but…」
Aria is being savagely reprimanded by the female knight she called the deputy leader. Somewhat self-consciously, Aria awkwardly averts her eyes from the female knight. The impression I get from listening to their exchange is that Aria was in the middle of work but she slipped away when she noticed me.
…She deserved that scolding.
「Look here, you’re going back. This is neither a game nor a simulation. Failure will not be permitted. Why do you think that a student like you was even accepted?」
「…Ah, b-but please wait! I still have a few more things to sa… ah, please don’t drag me, w-wait!!」
「Denied. We’re really short on hands right now. And there’s also the Krankheit Turtle incident investigation, escorting Saint-sama, mediating disputes between travelers. If the priests from the Church of Medine hadn’t offered to help with the patrolling, the knight brigade would’ve fallen apart by now from being stretched so thin. Seriously…」
Then, Aria is dragged off by the female knight and disappears into the crowd. Even Aria can’t disobey her boss, apparently.
…Looks like the crisis has been averted. I’m sure it was only postponed, but I’m saved for the time being.
And the instant I think that.
「I’ll have you properly explain about that mistress later! Absolutely, no matter what, got iiiiiit!」
Her shout carries over to me from within the crowd.
「Oi, Ruruka. What’s the matter? Let’s get going.
Well, there was an unforeseen incident, but I can’t forget my original purpose. As for as why I’m walking through town with Ruruka, she’s guiding me to a magic tool shop for the sake of leveling up Eris’ healing magic.
But Ruruka’s been acting strange for a while. She’s been looking down the whole time, as if she’s thinking about something. She doesn’t even respond when I call out to her.
「Hey, we’re getting weird looks here thanks to Aria… Ruruka, could you hurry and guide me to the store? Let’s get out of here already.」
Maybe because I was called a cheater in front of such a huge crowd, but by the time I notice it I’ve gathered some disapproving stares. For me, this place is a bed of nails at this point.
And as I continue to call out to Ruruka, she finally raises her head in realization.
「…R-Right, guiding, that’s what I was doing!」
Ruruka says that and sets off toward the back alley.
…Although, her voice is cracking a bit. I thought she would walk into the alley, but she quickly stops after just a few steps. Then she slowly turns to face me and slightly lowers her head as she inquires.
「…Hey Shiki… that girl earlier, who was she?」
I was expecting that question from her. Frankly, I can’t predict how she’ll react once I tell her that it was Eris’ younger sister. Though I’m not confident about it, I get the feeling that Ruruka is… positively inclined towards me. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m treading onto a landmine.
But she asked, so I have to give her an answer.
「Yeah, that was Aria…」
「Ah, a-actually, wait! That blonde hair… and ‘Onee-chan’, d-d-don’t tell me… n-never mind, it’s fine, you don’t have to answer! I-I’m not particularly interested or anything!」
What’s with that reaction. Although with a reaction like that, quite the contrary, she seems very interested. And somewhat nervous.
「C-C’mon, the magic tool shop! let’s get going! It’s this way!」
Well, as long as she’s guiding me it’s fine. Ruruka turns on her heels and hurriedly heads toward the alley. I guess the conversation is over.
With Ruruka leading the way, we traverse the dim alleyways. There’s no light banter like from before we ran into Aria, just Ruruka guiding me in complete silence. It’s been this way ever since then.
Man, I haven’t said anything since it’s kinda awkward, but just how much further is Ruruka going to take me? It shouldn’t have been that far away, but we’ve been walking for quite a long time.
Besides, these alleys.
Since the sun doesn’t hit between the shade of the buildings, there are still puddles left in the thin alleys from the rain a few days earlier. And because we’re flanked by ancient buildings that don’t seem like they’re being used anymore, I can’t get a good view of our surroundings. And in the first place the alleys themselves meander back and forth and aren’t maintained very well. Besides, I have a feeling I just heard some strange animal noises.
It’s honestly freaky. But the streets are too complicated, so I don’t even know the way back anymore.
「Hey Ruruka, for a magic tool shop, wouldn’t it usually be on a big street? Are we really going to get there this way?」
There’s no reply.
「No matter how you look at it I don’t think there could be a store this way though… wait, is there actually like a hidden famous store there that only adventurers know about?」
There’s no reply. It’s as if Ruruka isn’t even hearing my voice; she keeps going further and further into the alleys without changing her pace.
Something is definitely strange, so I grab her shoulder to stop her, and Ruruka reacts with a jolt.
「Don’t ‘what’ me. I’ve been calling out to you for a while now and you were completely unresponsive… is this really the right way?」
When I say that, Ruruka starts to look around the area anxiously. She shifts her gaze between my face, our dark path, and then 2 or 3 of the surrounding decrepit buildings. Her face immediately turns pale.
「…Ah… sorry, it’s not this way.」
「…Thought so. Well whatever, let’s hurry back. This alley is gloomy and it’s giving me the creeps.」
Come to think of it, we haven’t even passed by a single person.
Even for an alley like this the houses themselves are numerous, so it wouldn’t be odd to come across a person or two. This is kinda freaking me out. If it’s not a shortcut, I want to quickly turn back.
However, before Ruruka turns around, she stops moving and double-checks our surroundings.
After that, she stares firmly into my face. With an expression that’s mixed with anxiety…
Then she speaks.
「S-Sure. But, Shiki… that’s, well. Before that, there’s something I have to tell you.」
I wonder what. It’s just the two of us in this dark alley. Ruruka’s anxious expression and her nervous attitude. Plus her reaction to Aria’s diatribe earlier has been on my mind. Don’t tell me the reason she’s been silently walking all the way to a place like this was for the sake of this “something she has to tell me”? To purposefully take me down the wrong street, to a place with no prying eyes?
Just a little, just the tiniest bit, I’m getting my hopes up.
「W-What’s the matter, Ruruka. Anytime is fine with me. I’m ready, so c’mon, you can tell me.」
When I say that, a bit of anxiety disappears from Ruruka’s face. Then, she gathers her resolve and speaks.
「Sorry, I have no idea how to get back…」
That’s not quite what I was expecting.
Oh yeah. From an objective point of view, she’s been spacing out while we were walking. Of course she doesn’t know the way back. Of course it’s nothing like a confession of love.
I can’t believe I got my hopes up.
「Sorry, Shiki. I just kinda zoned out… I can tell that we’ve entered the old town, but the streets are too windy, so even I have no clue which direction to go to get out.」
「This is bad, I don’t remember the way back either…. hm, the old town?」
「Yeah, the old town is a place where the housing district was really cramped back when this city was smaller. But because they were so close together and the sun didn’t hit them, the houses got moldy. And the sewers weren’t maintained so lots of people got sick, and no matter how many healers there were it wasn’t enough, so the area was abandoned.」
So an entire district was vacated due to health issues? Nah, maybe the mold in this world is so toxic that it immediately affects the human body. Actually, as far as I can tell from looking at the buildings, it does seem like they were abandoned an extremely long time ago. Well, whether or not it’s harmful doesn’t matter if you have healing magic, so I don’t really care either way.
「You’re surprisingly well-informed.」
「You see, Fran loves things like the city’s history, so…」
Now that you mention it, I have the feeling Yuel was having a conversation with her before about the city walls. That girl, despite those blonde drills her choice of topics is refined.
「Well, let’s keep walking and pray we come out on the main street. Theoretically we’re in the center of the city, so we should hit it sooner or later.」
「Right, it’s a pain but it’s our only option. I’m sorry, I’ll guide you properly once we get to a road I’m familiar with.」
「Well, you don’t have to apologize that much…」
Ruruka getting lost is no doubt because she was deep in thought. And the impetus for that was Aria’s tirade.
Being called a mistress, what could be making her think that hard…? Oh yeah, something like that happened back when we entered the labyrinth together too. I’m interested. I’m awfully interested. I wonder if I should strike up a conversation in order to figure it out.
While I’m considering it,
「…Huh, wait, don’t you hear some sort of voice coming from over there?」
Ruruka murmurs. Then, cupping her hands to her ears, she starts moving her head around.
I try straining my ears as well. Yeah, I can definitely hear something.
「You heard it too, Shiki? Thank goodness, maybe we can ask them for directions!」
The source of the sound doesn’t seem to be very far away. Heading towards the voice along with Ruruka, we turn down two alleys. And there it is.
Not a human. In a space that looks like it was forcibly created by crushing a house, there’s a huge, lizard-faced monster. A monster covered in chains attached to stakes driven into the ground, with a collar around its neck.
Taking a closer look, this monster has scales covering its entire body that are brown and orange and every color in-between, and large wings growing out of its back. Its overall size is somewhere around 4m long.
…This thing, ain’t it a dragon? I get a feeling this is the monster known as ‘Dragon’.
When I try using Appraisal on it, ‘Earth Dragon’ appears. Yup, it’s a dragon. Looks like what we heard wasn’t the voice of a human, but the cries of this dragon.
「W-What is a monster like that doing in a place like this…」
Why is there a monster in the middle of the city, not to mention in a deserted area? What the hell are the knights who’re supposed to be guarding the city doing? If this dragon came at us, could Ruruka and I win against it? No, would we be able to run away from it?
I have so many questions.
「Wah, wahh, amazing, amazing, Shiki! It’s a dragon! This might be my first time seeing one this close up! …Uwaaa, it’s so cuuute.」
But it doesn’t seem like Ruruka is thinking about any of the same concerns that I am.
Pointing at the dragon, she’s innocently delighted. Her eyes are sparkling, she’s gazing at the dragon from different directions, talking about how its scales are nice and glossy, and how big and hard its claws are.
H-Huh…? I feel like my senses are messing with me.
「Ah, I might still have some of that royal capital marbled beef left… there it is! Will it eat it…? Wah, Shiki, it ate it, the little guy ate it! Ah, it’s nuzzling my hand with its head. C-Cuuuute!」
Then, showing no sign of fear, Ruruka starts to feed it. By grabbing the meat by hand and holding it directly in front of the dragon’s mouth. This is crazy dangerous. But, the dragon is carefully eating the meat without taking a bite out of Ruruka’s hand, and watching it makes Ruruka’s eyes sparkle with glee.
…I wonder why she’s not afraid of it biting her even though it’s a monster? I’m half-expecting it to suddenly chomp her like that round, black doggy thing from a certain plumber game. Just looking at that dragon’s sharp fangs is bringing back my trauma from being bitten by the Giant Ant.
「O-Oi, don’t get so close. It could be dangerous.」
「Eh? Ah, y’know, dragons are different from other monsters. They’re highly intelligent and sociable, so they won’t attack you unless you lay a hand on them first. And they can understand human speech; they’re not evil monsters… Shiki, that’s just common sense, you didn’t know that?」
Seeing me drawing back from the dragon, Ruruka clarifies. So that was the source of my disconnect. I had an image of monsters as aggressive creatures that attack humans indiscriminately on sight, but apparently that doesn’t apply to all of them. Now that she mentions it, the wolves we previously encountered in the forest were waiting for us and the Armor Ogre to weaken each other, and the Krankheit Turtle became enraged when its egg was broken. So there are monsters with intelligence too. Depending on their level of intelligence, it’s reasonable for there to be monsters that don’t attack people.
Rather, the way Ruruka puts it, that seems to be common knowledge in this world.
「Ah, nah, even so it might accidentally bite you or something.」
「I’m fine. And look, it’s so friendly.」
The part about it being sociable doesn’t seem to be a lie. Towards Ruruka who fed it some premium meat, it’s nuzzling her profusely and licking her hand.
Besides, now that I get a good look at that dragon’s collar, from the way it’s decorated I get the feeling that it’s some kind of magic tool. When I try using Appraisal on it,
Magic Tool Properties: Enslavement - Monster Conditions: Target Surrender
It appears to be something like the monster version of a slave crest. I haven’t heard much about it, but perhaps there’s something like that too in this world. Target Surrender probably refers to a condition such as having to make it admit defeat before the effect will activate.
Although, the fact that there’s something like this attached means it must have an owner somewhere. Well, I figured as much from the collar and chains already.
「Hello, it’s wonderful that you appreciate it… though, please refrain from feeding it without permission.」
No sooner do I arrive at that conclusion than a man’s voice calls out to us from behind. A tall man with deep circles under his eyes. he’s wearing a dark hood and there’s a whip attached to his hip. Is he the owner of this dragon?
「Eh? Ah, I-I’m sorry. This dragon was just so cute that I unthinkingly…!」
Ruruka also notices and distances herself from the dragon a bit. The hooded man glances at Ruruka before turning his gaze on me. His expression is asking what we’re doing in a place like this. By some chance, he may be suspicious that we’re dragon thieves or something.
「Sorry to bother you, we got lost and we heard some kind of voice, so we thought there was a person here…」
I start with an explanation. Though the hooded man nods in understanding, he’s still eyeing Ruruka and I with suspicion. He’s being wary of us. Well, most likely people don’t normally come to a place like this.
…I say normally, but there normally aren’t dragons in a place like this either.
Or perhaps I should say, who is this guy? Even if dragons are monsters accepted by people, I can’t comprehend the reason why there would be one chained down in such a deserted place.
「…Yeah, this dragon is a surprise participant in the martial arts tournament that’s going to be held during the festival, so it’s being kept here. If word gets around then it’ll ruin the excitement, so, well, could you please do your best to keep this a secret?」
Perhaps sensing the suspicion in my look, the hooded man gives us an explanation.
I see, a martial arts tournament huh? I’m betting it’s some “Showdown between the winner and a dragon!”-style exhibition. And I heard that the festival is going to be grander than usual this year, so perhaps there are a number of events planned.
「…The martial arts tournament, huuuh… I doubt I could win against this dragon though…」
「Are you participating too, Ruruka?」
「Nah, I’m not. Fighting solo isn’t really my specialty and all.」
Now that I think about it, Ruruka has nothing but shield skills. She might not be that great at the kind of swordplay you’d find in a martial arts tournament. Even so, without a doubt she’s still stronger than me.
「Besides, the blacksmithing convention, the singing competition, the beauty contest, there are so many events on the day of the festival! Participating in the martial arts tournament would take up the whole day, so that’d be a waste.」
There’s even a beauty contest? I know what I’m doing on the day of the festival. Let’s go see some beautiful women. Let’s go have a look at the number one buxom beauty in town.
「Beauty contest, huh… maybe I should try to encourage Eris to join.」
If there’s really a beauty contest, rather than just watching I might be able to encourage Eris to participate. With her figure, if she enters then I’m sure she can gain worshippers of a sort. And if she earns reverence there, her healing magic ability should increase.
…Ah, but is that hopeless? If she stands out too much and attracts some nasty stalker, things could get ugly. Besides, even if I tell her to participate, I can’t possibly see her nodding in agreement.
「Eris-san… entering the beauty contest?」
While I’m thinking about it, Ruruka questions me.
「Ah, no, I was just thinking of encouraging her to join.」
When I reply, Ruruka’s head droops slightly. She appears to be thinking about something. What is it, did I set fire to her competitive spirit with something like “if Eris joins then so will I”? No, I wonder if she’s just being a little overly self-conscious.
–The hooded man lightly clears his throat.
「Right, you folks were here because you lost your bearings. If you head straight east along the street over there, that’s the shortest route onto a major road.」
The hooded man is looking at us with a flabbergasted expression. His wariness from when we first met seems to have been cleared up. And I feel like he’s implicitly telling us to go away already. Well, in front of someone connected to the martial arts tournament, talking about other events on the same day and calling participation in the martial arts tournament a waste, I guess that’s how it would turn out.
「Ah, thank you very much… let’s go, Shiki.」
Glancing reluctantly back at the dragon, Ruruka enters the alley the hooded man told us to use. I follow behind her.
「All things considered, that sure was a cute dragon, right Shiki?」
She’s looking for my affirmation, but I don’t really understand her sensibilities. Or rather, she really likes dragons that much? Maybe she read some tale of adventure with a dragon in it and that’s what made her decide to become an adventurer? Actually, what adventurers do in this city is basically just hunt monsters that they can handle, in the labyrinth. There are hardly any legends of epic adventures.
No, maybe that’s exactly why she’d yearn for such things.
I think it over while I make small talk with Ruruka as we aim for the main street.
Suddenly, I spy a muscular man coming towards us from the opposite end of the road. He’s carrying a mace on his back and seems really robust. When I get a closer look, he’s wearing the garments of a priest from the the Church of Medine. His physique isn’t priest-like, but that’s unmistakably a priest from the Church of Medine. Maybe he got lost just like we did.
Then, as he’s about to pass us by.
I feel like the priest is glaring at me and Ruruka. That look is as if he’s sizing us up.
…Something along the lines of “You got a lotta nerve bringing a woman to such a shady alley”, I wonder?
Even though he’s a priest, he’s giving me such a thuggish look. But I’ve had quite enough trouble for one day. Getting involved in a “Hey bro, nice woman you got there!” incident on such a lightly-traveled road would be more than I can take. I try my best to avoid eye contact as we pass him by.
「…I think it’d be great if Shiki were that well-built.」
After we do, Ruruka blurts out something like that.
「No, don’t be absurd. Besides, I have no intention of fighting if I can help it. All I need to train are my running legs.」
「But at the very least you should really be able to look at a dragon without drawing back.」
…I got a good look, Ruruka-san. But dragons are scary after all.