Helping this Crimson Demon girl make friends!
Editor: Adam, Cannongerbil, Veritaum, Boring bone, Xenthur
“Hey–Kazuma–Where’s Darkness–? Isn’t she back yet?”
In front of the fireplace in the living room, Aqua, who was seated on the couch she claimed as her private seat, asked in a bored manner while hugging her knees.
– It had been several days since the verdict had been passed. To fulfill her promise, Darkness went off to see the landlord…
But after setting off last evening, she had yet to return.
I remembered the lecherous way the landlord checked Darkness out, and felt stuffiness in my chest.
After all, Darkness would follow her desires even when she faced a general of the Demon King’s army.
The situation right now should be to her liking.
I didn’t like Darkness in that way, and didn’t harbor any feelings of love toward her. If she wanted to go off with anyone, I had no right to stop her.
But she stayed out the whole night after saying she was going to fulfill her promise, which meant she stayed in the hotel room rented by the landlord, and was probably…
“Hya–what’s the matter? Hey, what’s wrong with you, why are you screaming while hugging your head! Kazuma, you’re already strange, but you’re acting especially weirdly today!”
As I was screaming and Aqua was alarmed.
– Megumin came to our side while hugging something.
Megumin didn’t say anything to the two of us, simply quietly holding on to the thing.
– I had been curious about that since long ago.
An animal known as a cat… That’s what Megumin was holding in her arms.
Megumin didn’t say anything, and just kept staring at us.
“… You want to keep this thing in the mansion?”
“… Yes. This is a good child, and would not cause trouble for anyone… Is it fine?”
I didn’t know where the cat usually hid itself, but I saw it by Megumin’s side every now and then.
It allowed Megumin to hug it, squinting its eyes lazily.
“It should be fine, I guess? I don’t think anyone living here is allergic to cats… Oh, what’s with this guy, she’s good with people.”
I offered my hand to the cat in Megumin’s arms, and she used her paws to play with my fingers.
… This was a dangerous world.
Staying in this party full of problematic children induced a lot of stress.
Maybe I needed a pet that would heal my body and soul.
“That hurts! Why’s this cat only clawing at me? What’s going on, be it the black fur or that arrogant attitude… I can feel an evil aura from the body of this cat!”
Aqua, who was scratched after harassing the cat, was furious.
To protect it from the crazy blue haired beast, I took the cat from Megumin’s arms.
I turned my back to Aqua and placed the cat onto the carpet in one swift motion, protecting it.
… Speaking of which, we didn’t finish the fish we had for breakfast.
“Hey, Megumin. What’s the name of this evil beast?”
I picked up the plate with the leftover fish from the dining table…
“… What did you say the cat’s name is again?”
… I held the leftover fish and squatted before the black cat… Chomusuke, it must be hard on you to have such a weird owner…
I placed the fish before Chomusuke, but she didn’t eat it immediately, and just sniffed it a little.
“Hey, Megumin. That’s a female cat, right? I don’t think that name suits her.”
“No. Its name is Chomusuke.”
As I listened to the conversation behind me and was looking at Chomusuke.
– Chomusuke spit out a small burst of fire to grill the fish.
… What was that?
I hugged my knees and sat on the carpet, watching Chomusuke eat the leftover fish…
“… Hey, Aqua, this cat can spit fire.”
I told Aqua softly.
Since the cabbages in this world could fly, cats spitting fire aren’t anything unusual.
“What kind of silly talk is that? Kazuma, are you all right?”
“Cats don’t spit fire. Cats are animals that purr and meow.”
“That’s right. And they like to eat fish and look cute too.”
I know that.
“No, this thing just spit fire and grilled the fish before eating it.”
“… Kazuma, you must be tired.”
“You were detained in court after all, a lot of things have happened.”
“It’s true! I’m not crazy!”
I yelled while pointing at Chomusuke. Megumin said:
“Anyway, what were you two arguing about just now? If it’s about Darkness, she’s not a kid anymore, it’s fine even if she doesn’t return for a few days. Please calm down.”
Megumin didn’t believe me at all.
“… You’re too calm. Do you know what the landlord is doing to Darkness right now? It must be something terrible.”
Megumin scoffed at my words.
“He’s a landlord after all, what could someone with such status do to Darkness… Wait, I did hear quite a bit of negative news related to this landlord, but Darkness is an adventurer. I don’t think she’ll just let him have his way with her.”
This idiot! She doesn’t understand Darkness at all!
“This is why people call you a child! You spent so much time together with Darkness and you still don’t understand that pervert? She’ll definitely end up blushing bright red and saying, ‘Ugh! Even if you have your way with my body, you’ll never have my heart! I will not yield to you!’”
After Megumin finally got what was going on, she hugged Chomusuke who was biting into the fish.
“Wh-Wh-What should we do? Darkness, Darkness is in danger! What should we do, Kazuma?”
“She left yesterday and it’s already been one night, so it’s too late. Listen up, when Darkness comes back, you have to treat her as gently as usual.”
“I-I will! Since Darkness has become an adult, we can’t ask her what happened either, right?”
“Ahwahah…! Darkness… Darkness, she…!”
Aqua clenched her fist to show that we could count on her while Megumin’s face turned pale from helplessness.
If not for Darkness’s actions, I would’ve been executed. I was grateful for what Darkness did for me and had no grounds to complain, but…
… Ah, damn it!
I stress this again, I didn’t like Darkness that way or had any feelings for her. Even though there were no feelings of love, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated for some unknown reason.
When a female friend hitched up with another guy, that was the complicated feeling I felt back then. At that moment–
“Satou Kazuma! Is Satou Kazuma here–?”
With this angry shout, someone pushed open the door into the mansion suddenly.
The one who pushed the door open in a rough manner was the panting Sena. Her face was red and her shoulders were shaking.
“Hey, hey, what are you doing here? There’s still some time before the deadline for me to prove my innocence, right? Sorry, I don’t have time for you right now, my comrade…”
“You say you have no time for me? Don’t bullshit me! So, you really are a minion of the Demon King’s army! You’ve got guts to cause this mess!”
It was a false accusation, but seeing Sena act so agitated gave me an ominous feeling, so I asked cautiously:
“Wha… What do you mean by ‘this mess’…?”
“It’s frogs! The frogs that should be hibernating came out and are moving everywhere outside the town!”
She should be referring to the giant frogs that were synonymous with monsters here. But what did such a thing have to do with us…?
“Don’t frame us for this. Or are you insinuating that we’re controlling the monsters and woke the hibernating frogs up? Show me the evidence for that!”
Megumin moved in front, ready for a quarrel.
“According to the reports from the guild staff, the frogs seemed to be fearing something when they emerged from the ground… Speaking of fear, it reminded me of someone casting an explosion spell not far from town, terrorizing the citizens.”
Aqua and Megumin made a run for the interior of the mansion, but I grabbed the back of their collars before they could get away.
“Wait, let me explain! I only did it because Aqua asked me too! I was the one who did it, but the mastermind’s Aqua!”
“How sly Megumin! Weren’t you excited when I came to discuss it with you? You even said, ‘Let me show you my power!’.”
Grabbing the collar of the two who were turning on each other, I said:
“Now’s not the time to fight so disgracefully! Go and clean up the mess you made!”
Looking outside, the town was already covered in snow.
“No–! I had enough–! I don’t want to be eaten by the frogs–!”
Aqua’s scream echoed out loud.
“But to think the frogs are still agile even when it’s this cold outside. They’re moving as fast as usual. Both animals and vegetations are strong around here.”
I watched the frogs chasing Aqua around on the snow field and commented thoughtfully.
“Because of the harsh environment in this world, all living beings try their hardest every single moment. We mustn’t lose to them; we have to become stronger to survive in this dangerous world.”
Megumin answered my words with a serious expression.
– While her body below the shoulders was inside the mouth of a frog.
Perhaps because of her prior experience, Megumin remained calm and didn’t resist, allowing the frog to swallow her.
Prior to this, Megumin had already cast explosion magic and took out many frogs.
Megumin couldn’t move after exhausting her mana, but the frog didn’t continue its swallowing action and stopped moving.
Maybe Megumin’s staff was stuck in its mouth.
“Hold on, I’ll save you.”
I raised my sword and faced the frog that was eating Megumin.
“No, it’s fine for you to take down the frog chasing after Aqua first. It’s cold outside, I prefer the warmth inside the frog’s mouth.”
I thought this girl was normal aside from her obsession of Explosion and didn’t expect her to have such great tolerance.
“Why you… One of your comrades is being swallowed by a frog while the other is being chased around, how can you remain so calm?”
Sena who was here as a witness found this strange and asked stupendously.
That might be so, but this was normal for our party.
I decided to save Megumin later. I stuck my sword into the ground and took out my bow and arrow I purchased earlier.
During the invasion of the Mobile Fortress Destroyer, I defeated some golems and raised two levels.
After getting the skill points, I thought about what skills to learn. After careful consideration, despite having a tough iron wall in Darkness, we lacked someone who could attack from range.
Megumin could be considered as one, but she could only attack a single time, and might drag Darkness into the explosion.
And so, it would be up to me. I might be weak, but I could learn the skills of all the classes.
Using the unique point of this class, I got the archer Keith to teach me the skills Bowmanship and Snipe.
As its name suggests, Bowmanship is a skill that allows a novice like me to learn how to use bows.
As for Snipe, it increased the range of projectiles, raising accuracy proportionally with luck, and was a skill well suited for me.
I nocked an arrow and aimed for the frog chasing Aqua…!
“Kazuma–! Hurry–! Hurry up–!”
Seeing me draw the bow, Aqua shouted as she fled.
… I felt like letting them chase her for a little while longer.
Seeing that I wasn’t intending to shoot the arrow, Aqua ran towards me. It made me feel like I might get in danger too, so I had no choice but to fire the arrow at the head of the frog.
The arrow brushed over the top of Aqua’s head, and pierced the frog’s head.
Aqua, who was on the verge of tears, continued charging toward me.
“Well then, I’ll save you now Megumin.”
“Hey, Kazuma, were you waiting for me to be eaten just now? Hey, you were going to let the frog eat me, right?! And your arrow almost destroyed the charm point on my head!”
I ignored Aqua, who was pressuring me, and pulled out the sword in the ground.
“… Do you always fight in such a dangerous manner? Are… Are these bunch of people really related to the Demon King’s army…?”
Sena was mumbling something as she noted down the ongoing battle.
I raised my sword at the immobile frog to rescue Megumin–
“Wait, there’s frogs…!”
Megumin, who was sticking out from the frog’s mouth, said tensely.
Aqua and I, who were facing Megumin, turned when we heard what she said.
Another three giant frogs came out of nowhere.
I was cool and collected earlier, but could now feel the cold sweat on my back.
This was bad. Now there are four frogs.
In that case, there weren’t enough baits… I mean, people to distract the frogs.
I could Snipe them one at a time if there was some distance, but…!
“Aqua, we’ll split up! I’ll pull away and try to dispose of one, you continue luring them!”
“I don’t wanna–! I don’t want to be chased by frogs anymore–! You be the bait–!”
“Your attack power isn’t enough to defeat frogs, stupid! If we can take one down, there’ll just be two left! We can stop them with you and Sena!”
“Ehh? I-I’m just here to inspect, I shouldn’t take part in the fight…! And are you planning to use a normal person like me as bait?”
As Aqua was wailing and Sena shouting, Megumin said:
“Excuse me, I’m being gradually swallowed, you can save me anytime now.”
“I’ve had enough, if only Darkness was here! That armored girl wouldn’t be swallowed by frogs! When will she come back–?
As I raised my sword toward the frog preparing to swallow Megumin–!
“Light of Saber–!”
– A clear voice echoed on the snowy field.
At the same time, a beam of light shone across the body of the frog.
A moment after the light faded away, the frog split in half.
As I was busy dragging Megumin out of the frog’s mouth–
That clear voice announced again.
At the same time, the three frogs closing in on us suddenly caught on fire. With fire pouring out of their mouth as if they were burning from the inside, they morphed into bluish white fireballs.
As I sniffed the fragrance of cooked frog meat, I used Drain Touch to share some mana with Megumin since I didn’t want to carry her back while she was covered in goo.
… And so, Megumin, somewhat unsteadily, managed to stand up.
In Megumin’s line of sight was a young girl in black robes.
She was probably a year or two younger than me.
The girl I had never seen before was staring at Megumin.
“That was Advanced Magic just now…! There’s someone who could use Advanced Magic in this town…?”
As Sena who was behind me shouted in surprise, I bowed towards the girl before me.
“I don’t know who you are, but thank you for saving us.”
After I thanked her, the girl stole a glance at me and seemed a little shy as her cheeks blushed.
“I-I wasn’t planning to save you. It’s just that having my rival be eaten by a mere frog would leave a bad taste in my mouth, that’s all…”
She lowered her head and mumbled.
“What? You and Megumin know each other?”
After the frogs were defeated, Aqua regained her composure and asked the girl excitedly.
“Rather than know each other, we’re more like rivals… – Long time no see, Megumin! As promised, I’ve returned after completing my training! As you can see, I can use Advanced Magic freely now! All right, it’s time to fulfill the promise I made! I’ll settle our long-time rivalry today!”
That girl said as she pointed at Megumin. She seemed happy.
What kind of hot-blooded development was this?
As for the one who was asked for by name–!
“…? Who are you?”
Megumin who was covered in goo said nonchalantly, making that girl shriek.
On closer inspection, that girl seemed to be dressed in a similar way to Megumin.
The black robes and cloak on her body were similar in design with Megumin’s.
She held a silver staff in her hand, and had a short sword sheathed on her waist.
She was slightly taller than Megumin, and had a slender and proportionate body.
She had a determined expression and looked gentle, and she was also very beautiful.
If she were in Japan, she would’ve been the class monitor or the student council president. She gave off that kind of model student feeling.
Her black hair was tied together with a ribbon, and the most striking thing about her were her crimson pupils.
That’s right, her eye color was the same as Megumin.
“It’s… It’s me! You remember, right? We were classmates at the Crimson Demon Academy! Megumin was always the top student, while I was number 2! And I said I would go on a journey to train myself until I could use Advanced Magic…!”
The Crimson Demon girl pointed at her own face as she explained frantically with teary eyes.
Wait, she just casually mentioned something amazing.
“… Hey, I can’t ignore that. Did she just say you were the top of your school?”
Hearing me say that, Megumin smiled softly.
“Why are you still saying this? I already told you that I was the best wizard of the Crimson Demons when we first met, didn’t we? Kazuma was just too dumb to realize the truth. But after knowing me for so long, it’s about time for you to believe me, right?”
“If someone believed what you said after seeing you covered in goo, I would want to see how that person looks like.”
“Why, why you!”
“Please, please, wait a minute!”
Seeing Megumin and I quarreling, the Crimson Demon girl interrupted.
“Hey, it’s me Megumin! Did you really forget about me? Try to recall how I was always challenging you in everything at school. You always said I had to place an adequate bet, and would accept if I bet my lunch! And you conned me of my lunch every time!”
So, she had been doing for a long time.
I looked at Megumin, and she averted her eyes.
“Hey, I think they’ll take a long time. Can I go back to the guild first? Otherwise, the frogs’ meat will go bad. Can I go get the people from the guild to ferry the frogs back?”
Aqua said while she pointed at the carcasses of the frogs.
To be honest, it would be a pain for me to stay behind alone.
But given our current situation, whatever money we could scrounge helped, so it would be better to send Aqua back to settle this.
And that way, Megumin and I would be able to return to the mansion directly, and I could dump Megumin who stunk like the insides of frogs into the bath.
“… Hmm. Seems like you still have much to talk about. Well then, I’ll take my leave today… Kazuma-san, your adventure today was pathetic, but I won’t throw out the possibility that this was just an act to deceive me… I can’t trust you just yet.”
After looking at me with stern eyes, Sena returned to town together with Aqua.
After being left behind on the snow field, I asked Megumin once again:
“Why did she keep saying she knew you? She seemed to know you very well, so hurry up and remember her, all right?”
“I don’t know her. And she didn’t even mention her name. Isn’t that suspicious? This must be the scam Kazuma told Aqua that she mustn’t pull, that ‘it’s me it’s me’ scam. You must absolutely not trust her.”
Megumin pulled on my hand after saying that and wanted to leave.
Seeing that we were planning to leave for town, the girl said in a hurry:
“Wait, wait–! I-I know, it’s embarrassing to do this in front of others, but I’ll introduce myself!… I’m Yunyun, an Archwizard, wielder of Advanced Magic, and the one who’ll become the chief of the Crimson Demons in the future…!”
After Yunyun introduced herself with a blushing face, she flicked her cloak.
Do the Crimson Demons have a culture of making exaggerated performances when introducing themselves?
As she looked at Yunyun, Megumin said to me:
“That’s how it is. She’s Yunyun, the daughter of the village chief of the Crimson Demons. She claimed to be my rival during our school days and will inherit the position of village chief in the future.”
“Okay. I’m this girl’s adventuring comrade, Kazuma. Nice to meet you, Yunyun.”
“So, you do remember me!… Hmm, this is strange. Kazuma… san? Um, why didn’t you laugh after hearing my name?”
Yunyun was confused and asked me timidly.
After getting used to Megumin’s name, I wasn’t really fazed upon hearing the weird names of the Crimson Demons.
“Your name’s a bit strange, but that has nothing to do with your personality, right? There are people in this world with a strange name and a strong presence, but still somehow manages to get the nickname of ‘Explosion girl with a screw loose’.”
“Is that me? Are you talking about me? That nickname stuck on before I knew it!”
Hearing me say that, Yunyun showed an astonished and surprised expression.
“… I see, as expected of Megumin, you found a good comrade. You’re my rival indeed.”
For some reason, her impression of me seemed to be improving.
“Anyway, do you want to talk about this at another place? It’s inconvenient to talk while standing here.”
Hearing me say that, Yunyun remembered something. She lifted her head and moved away from Megumin and me.
“It’s all because Megumin pretended not to know me that it became so weird…! Megumin, I’m here to settle things with you! I’m the one who will be the chief of the Crimson Demons! If I don’t defeat you, I can’t possibly take the position of the chief in the future! And most importantly…!”
Yunyun lifted her hand and said while pointing at Megumin:
“As promised, I learned Advanced Magic. Next, I’ll be defeating you and getting the title of strongest of the Crimson Demons. That way, no one can fault me when I take the position of chief. I won’t let anyone say I depended on my family connections! Come Megumin, let’s duel!”
With resolve in her eyes, Yunyun declared in front of Megumin.
“I don’t wanna. It’s freezing outside, and my body temperature is starting to drop.”
Hearing Megumin say that matter-of-factly, Yunyun said “Hmm–” and stood there stiffly.
“It’s settled then, let’s go back. I’ll heat the water up, so go wash up first. After your bath, we’ll all have a meal together.”
After I said that and was about to leave together with Megumin…
“Wait, wait, wait! Hey, why? We haven’t seen each other in so long, so why are you treating me so coldly? Megumin, please duel with me, okay–!”
Seeing us move, Yunyun stopped us in a hurry.
“… But I can’t use magic anymore today, my mana’s exhausted. And you were planning to duel with me using magic, right? Kukuku… You underestimate my strength. With just my strength alone, I vaporized eight foolish frogs in one shot. Can you do that, Yunyun?”
Megumin lowered her tone, saying this in a chuunibyou manner. Yunyun looked at me with a surprised expression.
She was probably asking me if this was true.
“Yeah, she did vaporize eight frogs with just one spell.”
She couldn’t move after that and was eaten though.
Hearing my confirmation, Yunyun turned pale and gulped with her head down.
“You weren’t in this town so you might not know… But did you hear about these rumors? A boss of the Demon King’s army was tricked by me and lured to this town by my constant explosion spells cast at his castle, and was defeated. The Mobile Fortress Destroyer that claimed to be invulnerable was blown up by explosion magic in this town!”
After hearing all that, Yunyun alternated her gaze between Megumin and me with fear in her eyes.
… She didn’t lie.
“Well, the boss of the Demon King’s army did come to town because Megumin cast explosion magic daily, and the one who dealt the final blow to the Destroyer was definitely Megumin.”
That’s one way to look at the truth…
After I said that, Yunyun’s face turned deathly pale.
“E-E-Even so, I still want to duel! I must duel…! No matter how slim my chances are, I’ll keep challenging you!”
Even though she was blinking away tears, there were things she would never back down from. Yunyun was afraid, but she still resolutely announced this.
Seeing this, Megumin heavily sighed once again.
“… You’re really troublesome. How about this, since I can’t use magic anymore today, how about sparring physically? You’re an adventurer now, so competing in an academic test should be unacceptable for you, right? No weapons; we’ll battle until one of us surrenders… Is that fine with you?”
Yunyun said with a surprised expression:
“… Is that really fine? That Megumin who skipped most of the physical education classes… Could it be…? You want to let me win? That Megumin who kept walking before me during lunch, and rob me of my lunch when I challenged her?”
“… You really are a good-for-nothing.”
“… That was a matter of life and death for me. Because of the circumstances in my family, her lunch was my lifeline. If I had taken the initiative and challenged her, wouldn’t that be the same as extortion?”
Yunyun closed her eyes.
She took a deep breath and smiled brilliantly.
“I understand, we’ll spar then… I know what you’ll say next. ‘If you want to challenge me, you have to place an adequate bet!’ The bet this time is this manatite crystal. It’s a high quality manatite with remarkable purity, an item all mages crave for!”
Yunyun took out a small jewel.
With the name Manatite, it should be jewel that contains mana.
Megumin looked at that thing and gave a satisfied nod.
“Very well, I’ll accept your challenge! Well then, come at me!”
Megumin opened her arms in a taunting stance and announced.
Opposite of her, Yunyun lowered her stance and clenched her fists.
From the looks of it, Yunyun had the advantage in size.
Yunyun was taller, bigger and had longer limbs with proportionate muscles. In contrast, Megumin didn’t look like a proficient melee fighter no matter how loose the standard was.
The impression Megumin gave was of a little girl you could find anywhere: a weak mage.
Yunyun closed in slowly.
Megumin maintained her open arms posture, ready to grab Yunyun at any time…
“… Hey, Megumin. Hold on… Um, you seem a bit wet and shiny, is that…”
“That’s right~ It’s goo from the frogs.”
Megumin immediately answered Yunyun’s uneasy question.
Yunyun’s face twisted instantly, but Megumin ignored her and continued:
“Thank you for saving me just now. This slimy thing all over me are fluids secreted from the stomach of the frog… But enough about that, attack me. The moment you come near, I’ll hug you without reservation and wrestle with you.”
Megumin declared with her arms wide open, advancing slowly bit by bit while Yunyun backed away with a disgusted face.
“Me-Megumin? Don’t joke like this. You’re not serious, right? This is just a strategy to diminish my will to fight and trick me to surrender, right? Right? You always did that when we were in school. I-I won’t be fooled anymore!”
Yunyun put on a strong front as she backed away, but Megumin got closer to her slowly, her crimson eyes shining.
Megumin’s face looked like a kid who wanted to pull a prank on a friend.
“We’re friends, right? Real friends must go through thick and thin together.”
When she heard what Megumin said, Yunyun turned back and ran.
Megumin chased after her.
“Surrender! I surrender! I’ll give you the mana crystal, so please don’t come over!”
After Megumin smeared goo all over Yunyun and made her leave in tears, we made our way back to the mansion.
“Ah, Kazuma, take this. It should fetch a good price. Clear some of the debts with it.”
On the way back, Megumin gave me the Manatite crystal.
I remembered Yunyun saying that this was something any mage would want.
“Is that fine? Why not keep it? I don’t know how to use it.”
Megumin laughed softly when she heard my question.
“A Manatite crystal is a convenient item that can take the place of mana when casting spells, but it’s just a consumable item. From the purity and size of that crystal, it’s not enough to sustain the massive mana expenditure of explosion spells. That thing is precious for normal wizards, but useless to archwizards like me who cast magic on a grand scale.”
She’s saying this so arrogantly…
“… Isn’t that a good thing? Hey, I’ll say it again, but do you have any intention of learning spells other than Explosion…”
“I don’t intend to.”
“I thought so.”
Hearing Megumin’s immediate reply, I sighed heavily.
Never mind, I couldn’t force her. And there were times when she was dependable too…
… Was there ever such a time?
The girl named Yunyun used Advanced Magic.
She elegantly took down the frogs in an instant.
Apart from her spellcasting abilities, she looked pretty good too. She had a pretty face and a nice body.
Compared to that excellent mage…
“… What is it? Why are you sighing… Aside from powerful magic abilities, the Crimson Demons also have high intelligence, so I can tell what Kazuma’s thinking about.”
Seeing me sigh as I walked, Megumin asked with a face full of doubt.
“… I was thinking that compared to that girl, Megumin’s much prettier.”
“Thank you for your compliment! As thanks, I’ll give you a tight hug!”
“Stop, stahp! Don’t come near me, you still stink like a frog!”
– I opened the door to the mansion and saw that Aqua had not returned yet.
I was hoping to find Darkness here, but there was still no sign of her.
My back was feeling all sticky so I walked briskly towards the bathroom.
“Ugh… It stinks… I never thought a hug from a girl could feel so unpleasant.”
“You should be happier about it. Some people are willing to pay a lot for a girl covered in goo to hug them.”
Megumin who was following behind me nonchalantly said.
– As I headed into the changing room, Megumin tugged on the corner of my shirt.
“The goo’s making me uncomfortable, let me bathe first.”
“I’m uncomfortable too, and this is your fault. And if I don’t go in first, there’s no way to heat the water up. Our heater needs mana to work, so you can’t use it since your mana’s depleted. The mana I shared with you can only produce lukewarm water. If you understand, wait obediently in front of the fireplace for me to finish.”
I waved my hand, gesturing Megumin to leave. She said with a displeased face:
“If I don’t wash away the goo and sit before the fireplace, my robes will stink after they dry. Haven’t you heard of ladies first? Men should take care of ladies.”
“I’m someone who sincerely wishes for equality for all genders. I hate people who push for chivalry when the situation benefits them, and complain about not being men when they’re at a disadvantage. And you’re not old enough to be a lady anyway.”
“Ah! You’re treating me like a kid! We’re just three years apart, okay! Ten years later, we’ll be 23 and 26, there’s not much of a difference…”
“The future’s the future, and the past the past. I’m a man who lives in the present. In my eyes, you’re a child right now, that’s it. All right then– I’ll be the first one to bathe!”
As I was saying this, I headed into the bathroom and lit the magic heater. I then took off my shirt that was covered in goo.
“You’re really stripping!”
Megumin was surprised by my actions, but I didn’t feel anything about a kid seeing my naked body.
“I’ll need to charge if you want to continue watching. I will not back down. Never.”
Megumin bit her lips vexingly, and then laughed when she remembered something.
With a smile confident of victory, she taunted:
“… I see. I understand, Kazuma doesn’t see me as a woman right now. Then how about bathing together. Since you don’t see me as a woman, there should be no problem, right?”
“You’re right, there won’t be any problem if we bathe together. I’ll go on ahead.”
Seeing me reply nonchalantly, Megumin who suggested this was surprised.
“Ex-Excuse me, shouldn’t the next development be you saying something shyly like, ‘Id-Idiot, it would be nice if we could do that’, and then let me go first unwillingly, right?”
“Why do I have to follow such a cliché script? Let me tell you first, I won’t follow such cliche developments. Let me give you an example. Let’s say Megumin falls for me, and some other girl starts flirting with me and Megumin became jealous. If you use unreasonably violence on me, I won’t hesitate in fighting back. I’ll do the right thing when the time comes, you better remember that.”
“… I underestimated Kazuma. Don’t worry, I’ll never fall for you. And that’s not how you use the phrase ‘Do the right thing at the right time’, but never mind.”
After stating her piece, Megumin seemed to have given up and walked out of the bathroom. And so, I…
“Oh? After taunting me about it, you’re not going to bathe together with me? You gutless girl. That’s why I see you as a kid.”
“You say I have no guts? How dare you, it’s just bathing together; you think I’m scared?! Stop covering with your towel and hurry up!”
“Hey, you jerk, let go, don’t pull my towel you pervert! Why are you so open about this! Did that girl Yunyun ever tell you that you’re like a boy? You are too carefree about this, watch yourself!”
Megumin took off her robe without hesitation, covered her body with a towel and walked into the bathroom.
For an instance, I thought I saw some sort of tattoo on Megumin’s butt through the gaps of her towel.
“The water isn’t warm enough. Pump more mana in, more mana! Come here, hurry up!”
Megumin yelled after putting her hand into the bathtub.
Was I mistaken?… Never mind, forget it.
“Fu… It’s nice to bathe leisurely during the day… I think I can fall asleep here…”
I soaked my shoulders under the water in the wide tub, and stretched my limbs out to relax.
A big bathtub was the best point about this mansion.
“By the way, are you going to ignore that girl Yunyun? Hasn’t it been a long time since both of you met?”
“We’ll meet again soon enough anyway. That girl claiming to be my rival loves to chase after me.”
Megumin soaked her shoulders into the water and kept her chin near the surface of the bathtub. Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be enjoying herself.
“The name Yunyun might be a bit off, but she looks cute. For an acquaintance of yours, she seemed to have good manners and common sense.”
“Are you insinuating that I lack common sense? And she’s my age, why aren’t you treating her like a child?”
While keeping her chin at the edge of the water, Megumin opened one eye and stole a glance at me.
Megumin’s the same age as that girl… I took a good look at Megumin who was soaking in the bath.
“… Hey, tell me what you’re thinking while you’re looking at my body.”
“… I’m thinking that the speed of growth is different for everyone… Hey, stop that, don’t chant Explosion! I know you’ve exhausted your mana, but this isn’t good for my heart!”
As I said that, I copied Megumin’s posture and moved my chin to the edge of the water.
“But that means she’s just thirteen years old. My strike zone’s two years younger than me, so thirteen’s out. If she were fourteen, that would make us middle-two and high-one, which is borderline acceptable for me.”
<TL Note: Second year of middle school and first year of high school.>
I muttered casually.
“Middle-two and high-one?… I’m not sure what you mean, but I’ll be fourteen next month. You won’t treat me like a kid after that?”
Megumin who was relaxing in the bath said with her eyes closed…
“… Huh, are you serious? Your birthday’s next month? Eh, fourteen? You’re graduating from being a loli character?”
“Who’s a loli character? I don’t recall making such a character! And… what’s with you? Why are you suddenly acting strange…?”
Someone I thought of as an incapable young sister was gradually morphing in my mind into an incapable junior…
“We-Well, I suddenly think this situation’s a bit embarrassing.”
“Hey, don’t say that, that’ll make me feel embarrassed too! What is wrong with you? Is one year that much of a difference? And can you stop shyly stealing glances at me?”
Why? For some strange reason, my heart started racing.
At this moment, I realized I was in an incredible situation.
“… Hey, why am I bathing together with Megumin? Thinking about it, isn’t this situation bad?”
“Why are you saying this now? Don’t suddenly come to your senses!”
Megumin started inching away from me in the pool.
I also backed away from the other end and told Megumin:
“Not that, I mean if someone were to see us like this, we can’t just laugh it off, right? There should be a law or rules governing this. Especially a girl that can’t read the mood will tend to…”
Before I finished my sentence.
From the distance came the voice of that girl who can’t read the mood.
“It’s all your fault Kazuma! You were the one who triggered this flag!”
“Now’s not the time to say this! Anyway, one of us needs to get out now!”
Megumin and I got out of the tub at the same time, and returned immediately.
“Why are you getting out together with me? The towel’s soaked, I already saw a lot of you, and you saw a lot of me!”
“You’re one to talk! I’ll get out first, you stay in there! Did you lock the door? Did you lock the door into the changing room?”
“No, no I didn’t lock it! Aqua will certainly come here at a time like this! What should we do? Think of something quick!”
What’s there to think of, one of us just needs to exit the bathroom and it should be fine!
If Aqua were to see us like this, she’ll won’t let me off, and give me nicknames like ‘LoliNEET’, ‘Lolima’ and spread it all over town!
“Kazuma–! Megumin–? I’m home–! Will someone welcome me back?! I sold the frog and brought the money back–!”
Aqua’s voice was getting closer.
I hastily got out of the bathtub and charged towards the changing room.
As I ran, the thumping footsteps drew near…
“Kazuma–!… What, so you’re bathing?”
Aqua seemed to notice I was in here.
The moment before the door to the changing room was about to open, I used all the mana within me and stretched my right hand out, concentrating with all of my might!
Using all my mana, the Freeze I bet everything on froze the door handle of the changing room door in an instant. Fatigue and weakness assaulted me after I exhausted all my mana, and I collapsed onto the floor.
“Kazuma–I left both of your share of the money on the table in the living room! Let’s grab a bite after you finish your bath!”
After that, Aqua left without opening the door.
… That made sense. If she knew someone was inside, why would she open the door and look at my naked body? This wasn’t a manga.
“Are… Are you okay, Kazuma? Did you deplete your mana? I should say that was a close one. If things were to have escalated…”
“… I would be labeled a lolicon. Too close… Ah, Megumin, sorry to trouble you, but can you help me wipe my body? I’m completely out of mana and can’t move. I’ll catch a cold if I lie down here.”
I lay face down on the floor, asking for her help without seeing Megumin’s face, but…
“… Hey, why will you be labeled a lolicon if you bathe with me, explain clearly. You have guts to say such things when you can’t move.”
“Hey, stop it asshole! Why are you grabbing my towel! You want to be labeled a pervert?! Hey…! A-Aqua–! Aqua–! There’s a loli molesting me–!”
Aqua barged into the room after hearing me crying for help, and bestowed on me the nickname of ‘LoliNEET’.
The second dinner that felt a bit lonely without Darkness ended without incident.
– The next morning.
“… The two of them are out early.”
I muttered to myself when I reached the living room.
After discussing with them last night, we reached the consensus that going on quests without Darkness was too dangerous.
So, we decided to act on our own for today.
… Darkness didn’t return last night.
I heard the landlord was very obsessed with her. Was she being detained?
Or did she have some accident…?
If she didn’t come back tonight, I would need to take action.
It was too troublesome to make breakfast for myself, so I decided to eat out. As I was wandering around town, I saw a familiar Crimson Demon girl.
That girl was strolling along the street while looking at the food in the stalls.
In the end, she hung around the kebab stall, observing it.
A short while later, a customer came to the stall, chatted with the owner for a while, and left after buying three kebabs.
After seeing that, the girl made up her mind and bought three kebabs just like the previous customer.
… Seemed like this was the first time she was buying things here, and was unsure of how to place orders.
I was considering approaching her, but looking at how happy she was eating the kebab, I decided to leave her alone.
“– Strange monsters are appearing near town, they aren’t strong, but…”
“Right, I heard about that too. That thing has a weird shape, and will grab onto anything that moves and detonate, right?”
I had breakfast at a random shop, and heard two adventurers talking about this topic while wandering around town.
… Strange monsters?
To me, most of the monsters in this world were strange.
I’ll be careful of this anyway.
As I was thinking about that while strolling, the girl I saw earlier appeared before me again, walking around the target shooting game stall this time.
The target shooting game was different from Japan. It used real bows and arrows with a round end. Most of the players were couples, with the guy shooting and gifting the prize to the lady.
I see, couples visited this street often. It’s something akin to the holy grounds for dates.
The stall was targeting lovebirds going on dates.
This was obvious from the prize displayed in front of the store.
That girl was probably too shy to play the shooting game by herself. She waited for all the couples to vacate completely before she started challenging the game.
Maybe she wasn’t proficient with bow and arrows, but she couldn’t hit the prize she wanted no matter how many times she tried.
After that girl challenged many times, another couple came in to play the game. She returned the bow to the owner and was about to leave in shame.
Strictly speaking, her relationship with us should be rather bad since her rival was in my party, but…
I walked towards that girl and said ‘hi’ casually.
“…? Ah! Um, hello, Kazuma-san…!”
– I didn’t even look at Yunyun who greeted me, handing my money to the owner of the shooting game stall directly.
Using my sniping skill, I hit the prize Yunyun wanted in one shot.
The prize that I hit was a samurai-like doll that looked a little like Winter Shogun.
“Here, you want this right?”
I grabbed the prize and handed it to Yunyun a bit cockily.
If I were in Yunyun’s shoes, it wouldn’t be surprising to fall for me because of that.
Yunyun’s cheeks turned red and hesitated for a moment, unsure if she should accept.
Moments later, she smiled brilliantly and said:
“Thank… Thank you…”
“Customer, you can’t do that. Can’t you read the sign? No archers and Snipe ability users allowed. You can keep the prize, but you have to pay me three times the fees.”
– I didn’t look very cool as I apologized to the owner while topping up the fees.
“Well then, I’m still looking for my party mates, see you.”
I was a bit embarrassed, so I raised a hand and said that to Yunyun as I prepared to leave…
“Hmm? Ah, um…”
Yunyun looked as if she wanted to stop me, reaching a hand out for me…
But she withdrew her hand halfway, putting it on the doll in her arms and bowed to me.
“Um… Thank you, thank you for getting Winter Shogun for me!”
So that doll really was Winter Shogun.
Because of my trauma of being killed by that guy, I had the urge to shoot the doll with a real arrow. But since she looked so happy, I let it go.
– After parting ways with Yunyun, I started strolling around town once again.
With how prominent my party mates were, finding them should be a breeze.
“All right, next challenger–! Is there no one else–?”
Following the source of that noise, I saw a crowd gathering around a spot.
This piqued my interest and I went closer. Most of the people in the crowd with beefy, muscular guys who obviously worked out.
I observed the situation…
“All right! I’m next!”
The one who stepped up was a man with bulging muscles, who looked like an adventurer.
It was hard to judge what his class was, but from his body type, he was probably a vanguard.
The man picked up the hammer prepared by the store owner…
And swung down mightily.
The hammer slammed on top of a certain rock.
When the hammer impacted the rock, it created plenty of sparks.
After the pounding by the hammer, the rock was…
“Damn, this still isn’t enough…”
Just as the vexed man said, the rock was as good as new.
When the stall owner saw that, he shouted:
“My friend here failed! The prize is now 125,000 Eris! The entrance fee is 10,000 Eris! For every challenger that loses, the prize will increase by 5,000 Eris! Is there anyone else who is confident in your arm strength? Magic is fine too! This is Adamantite, if you can break this thing, you’ll be known as a top-class adventurer! Come, isn’t there anyone else who wants to test their might?”
I see–business came in all sorts of forms.
I was contemplating on starting a business myself, so this was a good place to learn.
But with my skill and strength, it was pointless for me to challenge this.
… In the direction, I was looking at incidentally, I said to the figure I saw for the third time today:
“… We meet again, Yunyun.”
Seeing Yunyun, who was clenching her fist as she watched the adventurer swing their hammer, I greeted her on reflex.
She claimed to be Megumin’s rival, so I thought she would be hostile towards me. But from her reaction, I didn’t think she disliked me.
Yunyun saw me…
“Ah! Thank you for your help just now Kazuma-san! Look at that! Everyone’s taking up the challenge of smashing the Adamantite!” She said with her eyes sparkling.
Were there no gaming stalls like these in the Crimson Demon village?
“Yunyun can use Advanced Magic, right? Want to give it a try? The owner said spells are permitted.”
After hearing that, Yunyun said:
“I can’t break Adamantite with my powers… That requires powerful Detonation magic. Leaving the destructive explosion spell aside, detonation magic should be fine. But using explosion magic is the safest bet…”
She said with a wry smile.
As we were chatting, more people went up to challenge it and failed.
The prize money was over 200,000 Eris before we knew it.
The crowd was getting bigger, and the owner of the stall yelled to raise the tension higher.
“Is Adamantite too difficult for the people in this town? I came here because I heard this town took down the Mobile Fortress Destroyer! Is there no one who can break this stone? Come on, come on! Is there no other challenger?”
As the stall owner was getting into his groove, the adventurers pushed each other, gesturing for each other to take up the challenge.
Everyone knew what the stall owner was trying to do, but it still felt vexing if no one broke the rock.
– As the adventurers on scene stared at each other.
One young girl stepped forth from the crowd.
She wasn’t in her usual robe, but a black dress for traveling in town. My party mate moved forward and puffed out her chest.
She had the same determined arrogant face she had when she faced off against the Destroyer.
“– The main character’s turn.”
The moment Megumin said that, all the adventurers including me rushed in to restrain her.
“Hey, I’m just an innocent girl, treating me like this is too much.”
I locked Megumin’s arms and neck from behind, ready to cover her mouth if she started chanting.
On either side of her were built adventurers grabbing her hand tightly.
“Hey old man, stop doing your business here! This girl noticed you! She’s an infamous explosion maniac in town. Your business is too stimulating for her!”
Hearing me say that, the stall owner turned pale and started packing in a panic.
Megumin started struggling when she saw that.
“Ahhh! I can break it! I can definitely break that stone with my explosion spell!”
“Run! Hurry up, old man!”
After finishing packing, the stall owner began sprinting at full speed.
Megumin saw him off with a face of regret.
After confirming the old man had escaped, we released our hold and Megumin regained her freedom.
As the crowd dispersed, I said to Megumin:
“… Really, Aqua is more than enough trouble without you joining in. Anyway, you’re not together with her?”
“Nope, she wanted to go somewhere else so we split up. The payout from defeating the Destroyer gave the town an economic boost, so all sorts of people are getting drawn here. There was someone performing in the streets for money from tips, but he was driven to tears after Aqua started doing far more impressive free performances next to him.”
How… How pitiful…
I thought about doing something about that girl, but it would be a bother if I got entangled in their squabbles.
He might be pitiful, but I decided to leave Aqua to that busker…
Megumin tugged on my sleeve.
“Let’s walk together since we ran into each other. There’s someone over there who’s doing something like the guy that ran off. I want to loiter around him to scare him.”
“I thought you were a girl with common sense, aside from your explosion-maniac personality.”
As Megumin and I chatted as we prepared to leave, we heard someone calling out to us from behind.
I turned back and saw Yunyun looking at us with a lonely expression.
“… Want to come along with us?”
Yunyun made a happy expression for an instance when I said that, but she reverted when she saw Megumin and shook her head.
“I-I came to this town to defeat Megumin! I’m not here to build a friendship with her! I’m grateful for the shooting game just now, thank you very much! But… I can’t come along with you two!”
Yunyun hugged the doll before her chest and took a large step away from us.
“Since she doesn’t want to, let’s go Kazuma.”
When we left, Yunyun seemed to be rejecting us, keeping her back to us.
In the end, Yunyun let out a depressed sigh, slumped her shoulders and walked away with heavy steps.
She then looked back longingly.
… And locked eyes with the two of us who were walking a few steps behind her after we brought something-like crepes from the stall nearby.
“… Um, why are the two of you following me?”
“I was thinking that I’ll be able to see your lonely and sulking face if I follow behind you who’s alone like usual”
When she heard that, Yunyun pounced on Megumin.
“Among the Crimson Demons, Yunyun was well known for being a weirdo that was ashamed of her own name. In school, she spent most of her time eating alone. If I loitered around Yunyun who was eating alone, she would happily challenge me, worked every time…”
“Wait! It’s, it’s not that bad… It shouldn’t be… Right…? Fine, it’s true. I challenged you every day, but I’m not lonely at all. I have friends too.”
The three of us chatted as we walked out of town.
After talking for half the day, the two of them decided to have another duel.
Megumin stopped when she heard Yunyun say that.
“I can’t just ignore what you just said… Yunyun, you have friends…?”
“Why… Why are you reacting like this? I have friends too, all right! Megumin should know too. Like Dodonko and Funifura, they say we’re friends, I even invited them to lunch before…”
Hey, stop it! I can’t bear to hear anymore!
… This seemed to be the situation. The village of the Crimson Demons was full of weirdos and this child was the only one with common sense, so she stood out from everyone else.
“And so, what shall we compete in today? I can only use explosion magic, so I don’t really want to fight with spells.”
“… That’s right. You should learn some other spells too. You should’ve saved quite a bit of skill points by now.”
“I did. I used all of them for explosion power raise and speed chanting…”
“Idiot! Why are you so obsessed with explosion magic?”
Good, tell her more.
“But that’s really troubling… What should we duel in…?”
As Yunyun was pondering about that, Megumin said:
“Anything’s fine, I’m not a kid that’s bothered by winning or losing anymore.”
Hearing the loli say that casually, Yunyun smirked softly.
“Not a kid anymore? I remember when we competed in our degree of growth before. Since you say you’re not a kid anymore, want to try that again?”
Facing Yunyun’s taunt, Megumin simply said:
“No, I mean I’m not a kid anymore in another way. My relationship with Kazuma has progressed so far that we’ve even bathed together before.”
“Hey! Shut it, don’t tell others about that!”
After hearing my conversation with Megumin, Yunyun’s face turned red. Her mouth opened and shut, her entire body turned stiff.
“… It’s, it’s my loss today–!”
After saying that, Yunyun ran away in tears.
Megumin and me stood in place for quite a while.
Megumin then took something out and started writing.
Looking closely, it looked like a notebook.
She wrote the date for today and marked a small circle beside it.
“I won today too.”
“You, you… Is this really fine…?”
– After seeing Yunyun running off wailing, Megumin and I decided to return to the mansion.
“Ara, you’re back. Hey, look, look. There was a guy busking in the streets, he said he didn’t need it anymore and gave it to me. He seemed to be planning to inherit the farm in his hometown. I don’t understand why, but that’s lucky!”
When we got home, I saw Aqua sitting on the couch in the living room, toying with some trinkets happily.
After breaking the heart of the busker, she took his tools of trade.
I wanted to tell her not to disrupt the lives of other people, but…
“Darkness is still not back… She should be coming back tonight, right?”
Watching Aqua playing deftly with the trinkets, Megumin muttered.
– In the end, Darkness didn’t come back today.