An Adventure for those Bodyguards!
Editing: Boringbone, Ulti
“Are you listening, Trash!?”
In a drunken stupor, the white-suited woman shouted at me.
“She’s calling you, Trash-san.”
“Shut up unless you want me to smash those small boobs of yours.”
Taking advantage of Claire’s outburst, Lynn started calling me strange names as well.
Actually, why the hell is Lynn here too?
“Claire-sama, please lower your voice! You’re attracting a lot of attention!”
Sitting next to her was a plain-looking girl dressed in a magician’s robe.
The two of them wanted to discuss things over a drink, but then Claire started spilling her worries, and now this is happening.
Lynn joined us before I realized it, and now the four of us are seated around the table.
“She used to be so precious that she could very easily pass for an angel or a fairy… Well, even now, she’s still very cute!”
She’s been gushing about Alice ever since we started, so I haven’t actually learnt what exactly they’re here for.
“Ever since she met that man, she has started picking up bad habits. She has become more wilful and acting like more of a tomboy, using strange turns of phrases and sneaking away behind our backs… Well, that kind of innocence is cute too. However, what I absolutely cannot accept is her calling that man onii-sama!”
“She’s getting more and more inventive with her escape methods too.”
The two of them heaved a big sigh.
From the sounds of things, this onii-sama isn’t related to Alice by blood, and is probably the nickname that she gave to someone she idolizes.
A person whom the crown princess refers to as Onii-sama, huh? Yeah, of course Claire would be vexed.
“Sure, I was somewhat cold to her back when we first met, but that was only natural! I wanted to be in charge of Justice-sama’s education-”
“Aah, yes, Alice-sama’s onii-sama sure does bear a resemblance with Justice-sama, right!?”
The plain looking woman loudly said in an attempt to pave over the state secrets that Claire is leaking.
“Justice is the first prince of Belzerg, right? I’ve heard rumours that he’s really handsome guy and has been fighting on the front lines for quite some time.
“Tsk, strong, handsome, and a prince. Grah~ I can’t stand these types of people.”
“Now, now, don’t be jealous.”
Lynn patted me on the back as I grumbled.
I wonder if Lynn is weak to handsome guys too. Come to think of it, is she even interested in such matters?
Other than that one time I thought she was being pressured by that nobleman, I’ve never heard any such rumours about her.
“But I was taken in by that innocence and purity! By now, there’s no way I can live without her!”
It’s her business to say what she wants, but I really wish she wouldn’t scream such dangerous stuff in the guild. She’s starting to attract the attention of the nearby patrons, and I don’t fancy the kind of looks they are giving us.
“So, anyway, what business do you have with me?”
“The truth is, I had to give Ir-Alice-sama a just so very slight reprimand over a recent incident and warned her not to see that man again. Ever since that, she started sulking and wouldn’t listen to a word I say… No, I’m not doing this because I want to! It’s for your own gooood!”
At that, she sunk her forehead against the table and started crying. Is she the sort of person who gets weepy when they drink?
“She hadn’t even drunk half her tankard. She must really be weak to alcohol.”
The plain looking girl next to her started patting her on the shoulder… Say, what was her name again?
“Um, the person who isn’t wearing the white suit-”
“It’s Rain… Indeed, I’m plain and unmemorable, aren’t I?”
She gazed towards her feet and mumbled.
“Er, sorry. But, seriously, why did you come all the way out here for?”
“The truth is, Alice-sama has always idolized adventurers. She always said that she wanted to go on an adventure, and her admiration for adventurers has only increased ever since she started associating with that person. So, we were thinking that if we understood what going on an adventure is like, we could give her a taste of the adventurer lifestyle and sooth her anger that way.”
“Yes, that’s exactly it! There’s no telling when the Demon King’s army might attack the capital, so it’s too dangerous to adventure there. Thus, we’ve come all the way out to this podunk town of newbie adventurers!”
Having Claire loudly insult the town of Axel drew cold stares from the surrounding adventurers.
Claire, being completely drunk, failed to notice any of it, but Rain immediately stood up and started repeatedly bowing to the nearby adventurers.
“You know, you don’t seem very much like a noble.”
“Yeah. Leaving Darkness aside, nobles generally carry themselves with more pomp and grandeur, like that Alderp fellow.”
Normally, nobles wouldn’t lower their heads towards commoners so readily.
“Err, well, while I’m technically a noble, my house is a minor one without much lands or prestige. It can scarcely be compared to the likes of the Dustiness or Claire-sama’s Symphonia house, so there’s no need to stand on ceremony with me.”
It seems like Rain is of the more reasonable sort.
Though, Claire on the other hand seems more like the typical high-ranking noble with zero common sense.
“I’m not really that on board with this plan. Adventuring is fundamentally a dangerous task, and us deliberately exposing Alice-sama to danger is a little…”
Claire seems to be all for the idea, but Rain seems a little more hesitant.
“We wanted to ask that handsome Mitsurugi-dono at first, but no matter how hard we looked, all we found were sloppy and poor looking adventurers! It really troubled us!”
This girl just seems intent on drawing the ire of the other adventurers. It’d probably be best to shut this drunkard up before she makes things any worse.
“What’s with that blonde woman!? Blonde hair means she’s a noble… a noble…”
“Ah, a noble. I see. Well, there’s not much we can do…”
“The former lord Alderp is the same way, and Lalatina has her own quirks too. The nobility sure are a collection of eccentric weirdos…”
The moment they realized that she’s a noble, the anger of the surrounding adventurers melted away like a snowball in summer.
Thanks to Darkness’s daily behavior and Alderp’s scumminess, the amount of respect the title of nobility commands in this town is at an all time low.
“You know, you really seem fated to get involved with the nobility lately.”
“Yeah, and it’s all good for nothing!”
I’ve never had much good memories with the nobility, but it’s been a parade of weirdos ever since I came to Axel.
The two nobles in front of me are relatively normal by those standards, but I still want as little to do with the nobility as possible.
“Oh, Claire-sama, please keep quiet! I’m really sorry about this!”
At Rain’s apologies, the other adventurers waved their hands in a ‘don’t mind it’ manner.
It would seem like this girl acts as a sort of diplomatic liaison for the pair. Well, with her plain appearance and clothes, she certainly does seem more approachable.
“Err, in any case, with Mitsurugi-dono unavailable, there is only one other adventurer we know of in this town.”
“And who is that?”
“We had quite a bit of, umm, interactions with him in the past. But he is a little problematic, and there’s no way we can let him get close to Alice-sama.”
Huh, they seem to be beating around the bush.
Did they have some sort of dispute with that adventurer?
“We’ve heard rumours that there is a Crimson Demon girl that Alice-sama has gotten close to in this town, but she seemed really uneasy when we approached her…”
I think I know exactly who they are talking about.
“So that’s why she has been staring at us all this while.”
Following Lynn’s line of sight led me to Yunyun, who has been surreptitiously glancing at us ever since we entered the guild.
I waved her over.
“Why did you drag me into this?”
“That’s not it! I originally suggested Megumin and Kazuma-san, but they immediately prostrated and begged me to spare them. The only other adventurer I know is Dust-san…”
So she dragged me into this because of her loner personality.
Still, why do they hate Kazuma’s party so much?
I recall Kazuma telling me that he went to the capital and made friends with a princess back when we got absolutely hammered, but… No, that can’t be. Even he couldn’t be that lucky.
Still, regardless of the situation, I really don’t want to get involved with nobility.
“Sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be a good fit in a party with a pair of nobles. I know nothing about courtesy and proper forms of address and such, and that’d cause some problems, wouldn’t it?”
“You need not worry on that front. There’s no need to concern yourself with such matters during an adventure. Just treat us like you would your companions.”
“You might be fine with that, but I don’t think she’ll accept it.”
Rain will probably forgive any improper behaviour with a laugh, but the one who’s currently sprawled on the table will definitely raise a fuss.
“It’ll probably be fine. If it’s for Alice-sama’s sake, Claire-sama will endure anything. Plus, she has spent a lot of time dealing with that person as of late, so she’ll be able to tolerate some selfishness and rudeness.”
Hearing her state such with so much confidence just makes me more curious as to who that mysterious person actually is.
A selfish and rude person who teaches Alice bad habits and strange phrases, and is close enough to her that she’d address him as Onii-sama…
No, nothing’s coming to mind.
“What kind of benefit would I get out of this?”
“We would prepare a suitable compensation. Will that do?”
Money, huh? Well, these two probably don’t lack for gold, so I can expect quite a sum from them.
“I know that you dislike the nobility, but that’d clear your debts, so why don’t we give it a shot?”
“Dust-san, you probably have no money and lots of free time, right? Then just accept it. Don’t you feel sorry for them?”
Lynn and Yunyun seem all for it. What should I do…
This Alice must be a really important to Yunyun if she’s willing to go this far for her.
… Well, I do owe quite a bit to Yunyun. I might get some divine punishment if I don’t return the favour from time to time.
Plus, without Alice here, things shouldn’t become too troublesome.
“Oh, fine. I needed the money anyways.”
The next day, Yunyun was the first to appear in front of the guild
“Eh, why is Dust-san here before the meeting time!? Did I arrive early by half a day?”
“Is there a problem with me being here early?”
“Is something wrong? Do you feel sick or something?”
This girl is seriously worried about me.
I might be late often, but this is still way too much of an overreaction.
“I just drank my fill thanks to those noble ladies last night and found myself here when I woke up, that’s all. More importantly, why are you here so early in the morning?”
“It’s rude to keep others waiting. Unlike you, I always make sure to arrive an hour before!”
She says that, but she was probably just looking forward to adventuring in such a large group so much that she couldn’t sleep.
“You know, I mentioned this before, but aren’t you packing way too much luggage with you? We’ll be back in town by nightfall, you know?”
“There’s no telling what will happen on the journey. I brought a change of clothes and a portable cooking set and- oh, yeah, Wiz-san gave me one of her unsold magic items. There were originally two of them, but one of them broke and the other one wouldn’t sell. Err, where did I leave it…”
She placed the large rucksack on the ground and started rummaging through it, pulling out item after item from its depths.
Seriously, how much did you bring with you?
“I don’t really care, so you don’t need to show it to me. It’s about time for the meeting… Huh? Hey, what are you doing here?”
“I accepted this request as well. If I weren’t there, you’d probably cause some kind of incident with the nobles.”
Lynn said she wouldn’t be taking any jobs for a while, but she still showed up all the same.
“So Lynn-san is participating too! That’s a relief… I was worried because there wasn’t anyone who could deal with Dust-san.”
“If he does anything funny, don’t bother holding back, just blast him with magic.”
“Stop saying strange things! She’s a Crimson Demon! The power of her spells ain’t nothing to laugh about!”
The two of them ignored me.
Yunyun seemed quite elated to have a companion that she’s familiar with and happily welcomed Lynn.
It’s probably worthless to continue this line of discussion, so I simply left them be.
“Sigh, you guys really don’t trust me. Anyway, those two… Ah, there they are.”
The two nobles arrived together.
“I’ll be in your care today.”
“Please take care of me.”
Claire stood proudly without even lowering her head, but Rain gave us a proper, polite bow.
Rain came fully equipped with a staff and a full set of magic rings. Between that and her robes, she does look the part of a proper adventurer.
Claire, on the other hand, arrived wearing only her white suit and her sword.
Does she plan to take up the position of vanguard while dressed like that?
“We’ll be in your care too!”
“I’ll be joining you as well, so please take care of me.”
“Yeah, yeah, good morning.”
Yunyun bowed numerous times like she always does.
Perhaps because she’s dealing with nobles, Lynn too put on a polite front. To be honest, it just gives me the creeps.
I just gave them a casual greeting.
A flash of annoyance graced Claire’s features, but at Rain’s gentle nudge, she simply let out a “hmph” and turned away.
“Dust-san, you’re dealing with nobles here! Please be mindful of yourself!”
“You’re going to get executed if you get carried away, you know?”
“It’s fine. Right, Rain?”
“Yes, please treat us as you would each other. We’re here today to learn how to act like adventurers, Claire-sama.”
“Indeed, I can endure this for the sake of Alice-sama. There’s no need for any special treatment.”
That’s not at all convincing when you’re staring at me like that.
Still, I can understand how much she loves Alice after seeing how she acted last night.
“By the way, Dust-san, what is the plan for today?”
“You just want to act like adventurers, right? I was thinking of hunting a few goblins and maybe a giant frog or two. That’s standard fare for adventurers around here. You have no objections, right?”
Incidentally, I already accepted a goblin extermination quest from the guild. I’ll be able to get rewarded by the guild while playing babysitter for these two, so it’ll be a very profitable day.
The meat of a giant frog can be sold for quite a fair sum. That’d cover the costs of drinks tonight.
“Goblins and giant frogs, huh? They sound like small fry to me, but I suppose they’ll do.”
“Those are standard fare for adventurers. I’m sure Alice-sama would be interested and start listening to us again.”
“I-Is that so? Then let’s put our backs into it!”
It’s obvious how high Claire’s spirits have risen with just those few words.
I see, using Alice’s name is a good way to get Claire to do what you want. It seems like Rain has truly mastered how to manipulate her.
“Right, let’s go. Don’t fall behind now.”
I led the way, Lynn and Yunyun followed behind me, and the other two took up the rear.
Yunyun repeatedly shot curious glances behind her, but, as can be expected, she couldn’t muster up the courage to raise her voice, so the entire party advanced in silence.
Having a party of five people travel in silence bestowed a really heavy atmosphere around us.
Right, guess I’ll have to break the ice.
“Just to be sure, the two of you can handle yourselves, right?”
“I’m quite confident in my skill at magic. There won’t be any problems.”
“Of course. Protecting Alice-sama is my job! A few goblins aren’t even worth mentioning!”
“Don’t just swing your sword around, you idiot!”
I shouted as she drew her sword and started demonstrating a few strikes with it, and she shot back with a glare. I feel like I’ll get stabbed in the back if I piss her off too much.
On the other hand, Rain seems quite reliable.
Claire and I are the vanguard, and the rearguard consists of the mages Rain, Yunyun, and Lynn. As far as party balance goes, this isn’t too bad.
There are certain problems with Claire’s personality, but judging from how she was swinging her sword earlier, her sword arm is pretty reliable.
Well, they are the bodyguards of the princess, after all. I suppose it’s to be expected that they’d be somewhat skilled.
In addition, nobles would be able to afford foodstuffs that contain a lot of experience points like onion ducks, so their levels should be fairly high.
It doesn’t seem like they have much actual combat experience, but they shouldn’t be done in too easily.
“Let’s go hunt the giant frogs first. With how it is around these parts, they can’t hibernate and are active pretty much year round.”
“Hold on a minute, what do you mean by they can’t hibernate?”
“Isn’t that obvious? Every single day… Actually, it’s about time, isn’t it?”
“Ah, it’s the usual time for Explosion, right, Yunyun?”
“Yeah. I heard that she is going with Aqua today, so she’ll probably let it loose somewhere close to the city.”
Yunyun answered while keeping an eye on her surroundings.
As her childhood friend, she has been dragged along with the Explosion Girl whenever she’s free, and it seems like that experience has given her a firm grasp of exactly when that girl gets the urge to let loose.
“No, really, what-”
Claire’s question was cut off by a loud boom that originated from the plains a short distance up the road from us.
Even though we were quite some distance away, the shockwave was still strong enough to buffet us.
“W-W-W-W-W-W-What is going on!?”
“What was that!?”
Ignoring the two of them who had assumed a combat stance, the three of us gazed out at the rising fireball in the distance.
It really isn’t something to get so worked up over.
“That’s quite a sight. It’s been a while since I was this close, but hasn’t it become bigger than before?”
“You can really feel the power of that blast when you’re this close.”
“It seems like she wasted her points on raising its power again. And today seems to be a pretty good day for her too. I really wish she’d learn some other spells…”
It seems like Yunyun has learnt how to judge the Explosion Girl’s condition just by the sound of the Explosion.
Come to think of it, I’ve heard Kazuma say that he’ll give it a rating based off its firepower and provide feedback, right?
“No, wait, why are the three of you so calm!? That explosion happened not too far away from town! It could be an act of terrorism or an attack by the Demon King’s army! Please raise your guard!”
“We need to return to town and inform Lalatina-sama!”
“Calm down, that’s just Explosion magic. It’s an everyday occurrence here in Axel.”
Seeing those two work themselves into a panic, I let out a sigh.
There’s no need to raise such a fuss over a small matter like this.
“Why are you so calm!? And Explosion is a joke spell that uses so much mana that you wouldn’t be able to do anything else after firing a single shot! The only people who would bother to learn that spell are experienced mages with points to spare! There’s no way such a mage would just let loose with it every day for no reason!”
Rain shouted in a panic, and Yunyun repeatedly nodded to her words.
“Yes, but there are two mages in Axel who can use Explosion magic. The poor one and the crazy one.”
“Eh? Even though this is a town of beginners?”
Rain’s jaw dropped open. Claire didn’t react quite so badly, but she still seems taken aback nonetheless.
“You know, you guys won’t make it very far as adventurers if you get surprised by every single little thing. It’ll be tough going on if you don’t sort out your expectations.”
I placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her a gentle smile.
“Why are you treating me like I’m the strange one!? The residents of this town are really strange! Vanir-sama treated us like we lacked common sense before too, but it’s definitely the residents of this town that are strange!”
“Indeed! Not even the authority of nobility holds any weight here! There must really be something wrong with this town! ”
It seems like they have experienced similar incidents when they were here before.
Yunyun and Lynn gave me a wry smile.
“Okay, okay, fine, we won’t talk about such matters anymore. You wanted to do something adventurer-like, right? Here they come, now’s your chance.”
I thrusted my thumb behind me towards the emerging bodies of the giant frogs popping up from the ground.
Such monsters don’t do well in the cold, so normally they wouldn’t be showing up around this season, but thanks to a certain crazy girl recklessly throwing around magic every day, the frogs around Axel couldn’t hibernate and are active even now.
“So that’s a giant frog. It’s the first time I’ve seen one, but I’ve heard that they are easy prey for knights and warriors. I’ll handle this, don’t interfere.”
Saying that, Claire drew her sword and stepped out in front of us.
Rain is clutching her staff, but it seems like she intends on leaving things to Claire. Well, if she can really handle it on her own, it’d save me a lot of trouble too.
“I wonder if Claire-san has fought a monster before?”
“Umm, is it really fine for us not to help?”
“It’s fine. She’s the one who wants to do it, so let’s leave it in her hands.”
My two companions seem worried, but it’s really not a big deal.
I’ll step in if it looks like she is really in danger.
“Hmph, lowly monsters like them won’t lay even a finger on me!”
Claire confidently declared.
It’s true that with Claire’s skills, she shouldn’t have any problems dealing with a single giant frog.
A single giant frog, that is.
Five more giant frogs came running towards us from the direction of the explosion.
“Hey, are you sure you don’t want me to lend a hand?”
“There’s no need. Rain too, just stand there and watch. Giant frogs might devour livestock and humans, but they won’t eat knights or warriors!”
Her information isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t exactly right either.
The horde of giant frogs rapidly approached Claire, and one of them shot its snake-like tongue towards her.
Claire stood confidently in its way… And was promptly wrapped up in its tongue and dragged headfirst into the frog’s mouth.
Claire’s frantically flailed her legs around, the only part of her that’s sticking outside the frog.
“Yeah, I knew this would happen.”
The reason why giant frogs don’t eat warriors and knights is because they hate the smell of metal. They wouldn’t have any issues with eating someone wearing nothing but a suit.
“Claire-Sama! I’ll save you with magic- ah, no, I can’t get a clear shot-ah!”
Rain too was snatched up in a glup the moment she hesitated.
The two of them were taken down almost instantly.
“I-It’s slimy in here! Don’t just stand there, help me!”
“Ugh, no, this feels disgusting! Ah, don’t lick there-!”
They’ve managed to extract their upper bodies from the giant frogs, but there’s not a lot they can do after they’ve been grabbed like that.
“They won’t be digested right away, but we should still help them.”
“Hang in there, I’ll cut you free right now! Light of Sa-”
“Hold it. Give them a few minutes.”
I stopped Yunyun before she was able to let loose with her magic.
It seems like she was taken aback by the serious tone that I used, and stared at me in surprise.
They were still being slowly swallowed while we waited, but their slime-covered bodies were jiggling as they struggled, and they were constantly saying stuff like “C-Cut it out!” and “Ah, no, not there!”
“Their clothes are getting more and more transparent by the second!”
Between the slime and their desperate struggles, their clothes were getting more and more messed up, revealing skin and even precious flashes of their underwear.
“Are you an idiot!? Light of Saber!”
A blade of light emerged from Yunyun’s hand and flashed across the giant frogs.
Ah, and it was such an erotic situation too. What a waste.
The two of them flopped onto the ground after getting rescued, their bodies shiny with slime and saliva.
“How could I have let my guard down!?”
“This feels disgusting!”
“You guys really smell, so keep your distance.”
I pinched my nose and made shooing motions with my hand.
Claire’s face scrunched up in anger, but Rain seemed to notice the kind of state her body is in and blushingly covered herself up.
“Dust-san, I really don’t think they should be left like that. Can’t we take a detour to a place with some water? We have to wash away the slime… And the smell is really strong too.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to request we do that too.”
However exciting this sight might be, I too don’t want to endure this smell for another moment longer if I can help it.
“We aren’t too far from that lake, so let’s swing by there.”
Lynn’s voice is unexpectedly gentle. I guess she feels a sense of kinship toward them too.
Oh well. The lake where we fought against that tranquillity girl is pretty close, so let’s head over.
“Okay, let’s head over to the lake. You’re fine with that, right?”
Claire and Rain followed us without complaint. It seems like the slime really does feel disgusting.
It is a little bit of a bother, but a bath by the lake… well, I suppose that isn’t too bad.
“Dust-san, did you imagine something strange just now?”
“I can pretty much guess what it is.”
“There’s nothing but gentlemanly thoughts going on up here.”
In order to avoid giving away my expression, I took up a position at the front of the party.
I sat by the shores of the lake, my back against a large rock that blocked my sight of the lake itself.
Well, perhaps seated is the wrong word. It’s more accurate to say that I’m tied behind the rock. With rope.
The moment we reached the lake, Lynn and Yunyun surrounded me and bound me up without brooking a single argument from me.
“Hey, come on, untie me already! Don’t you have any trust in me!?”
“Just exactly what part of Dust-san is worthy of any sort of trust? A person who’d charge into a horde of wild beasts naked is more trustworthy than you.”
“Well said. That’s exactly it.”
No matter how much I asked or begged, all I got back in return was refusal and cold gazes.
Yunyun and Lynn were supposed to be in charge of standing guard, but they paid no attention to any surrounding monsters that might be present and focused all their attention on me.
I’ll completely miss my chance to take in some beautiful sights like this.
Falling silent to think of a way out of this predicament, the only noises I could hear were the two nobles chatting away in the distance.
“I finally got rid of the stickiness. Guh, it went all the way to my panties…”
“I need to dry my clothes…”
What kind of torture is this? The nude forms of two women are just a turn of the head away, but yet I can’t see them.
Two beautiful girls are taking a bath. It’d be an insult not to take a peek.
“Lynn, you know I’m not that sort of person, right? We’ve been through a lot together, right? All those obstacles we overcame-”
“I still haven’t forgotten how you tried to lay a hand on me.”
She flashed the dagger on her waist with a dark smile.
How long ago was that?
And that dagger she’s playing around with is that very same one she threatened to cut off something precious of mine back when I tried to play a prank on her, right?
She’s the sort of person who’d actually go through with it.
Thankfully, there aren’t any issues with keeping my urges in control nowadays thanks to the succubus shop… I should treat Loli Succubus better when I return to town.
Anyway, it doesn’t seem like I would have any luck convincing Lynn right now. That only leaves the easy one.
I dexterously stood up while still bound and tried to casually lean against the rock.
“Say, Yunyun, we’re friends, right?”
“We aren’t friends, just acquaintances. And trying to strike a cool pose while wrapped up like that just makes you look weird.”
“Don’t be so cold. Aren’t we close enough to see each other naked?”
“T-T-That’s… Don’t make me remember weird things! There’s been a strange rumour floating around that I’m on good terms with a blond delinquent lately! The people at the guild even give me pitiful gazes whenever I show up! What are you going to do about this!?”
She frantically waved her arms and advanced towards me. I tried to take a step back, but due to the ropes, I lost my balance and ended up on the floor.
“Gwah… It hurts!”
I could feel a large bump growing around my forehead. I must have smacked my head on a rock or something.
“Aah, sorry! Are you okay, Dust-san!?”
Normally, I would’ve been losing my temper right about now, but I need to be gracious in this situation.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. But, seriously, could you untie me? Something really bad is going to happen if you don’t.”
Yunyun recoiled slightly in fear.
“Y-You won’t scare me with such threats! What can you possibly do all bound up like that?”
“Oh, you’ve said it now… What can I do? If you leave me tied up like this, I’ll piss myself for you.”
“And it’s not just piss, I’ve drunk quite a bit of wine too, so my stomach isn’t feeling too good. If the dam breaks, it’ll cause quite the mess… you know?”
In response to my confident declaration, Yunyun nervously glanced away.
When I rolled a little closer to her, Yunyun fearfully moved away.
Ah, this is quite amusing.
As I sneaked ever closer to her, she repeatedly tripped over herself in her attempts to distance herself from me.
There aren’t any actual problems with my stomach, but those are some truly amusing reactions. Maybe I should tease her a little more.
“If you leave me like this, I’ll cling onto you after I’ve soiled myself!”
“Stop, you pervert! Don’t get any closer!”
Lynn simply looked on at our antics with an exasperated look as I crawled after Yunyun like a worm.
Suddenly, Rain’s screams cut through the air.
I turned around, but of course, the large rock blocked my view of what’s going on.
“Eh? Eh? What’s going on!?”
Lynn and Yunyun left me behind and rushed over to the lake.
“Hey, come on, don’t leave me like this!”
I tried standing up, but I just couldn’t keep my balance while bound up like this, so what followed was a series of bumps and scrapes as I slowly shifted my way around the rock.
My vision was somewhat blurry by the time I made it to the lake, but I could make out the two nobles engaged in combat with several goblins.
And the sight that greeted me made it impossible for me to tear my gaze away.
Sadly, they had their pants on, but there was nothing covering their upper bodies. They were trying to fend off the goblins while using one arm to cover their chests.
Claire had her sword, but Rain had neither her staff nor her rings with her, so she had no way of attacking.
Being waist deep in water and having to fight while keeping their chests covered obviously made moving around hard for them.
“Damn, how could mere goblins make a fool out of me!?”
The goblins seemed well aware that they couldn’t demonstrate their full strength in such a condition, and they taunted them while staying slightly out of their reach.
Claire had a lot of trouble landing her attacks in this situation. Her vigorous movements while chasing the goblins made it seem like certain parts might slip out at any time.
Dammit, the reeds are in the way!
On top of that, Lynn deliberately rushed into my line of sight.
“Hey, position yourselves better! Right, you, move a little further to your left and get that right arm out of the way! And someone cut these reeds! You too, Lynn, you’re in the way! Move!”
I unwittingly started cheering on the goblins, and a few sets of murderous gazes were shot my way.
“Hey, doesn’t it sound like that guy is actually cheering on the goblins rather than us!?”
“I had a bad feeling when I heard that he was a friend of Kazuma-sama, but I didn’t think he’d be…!”
“I already knew this, but you really are the worst! Hang in there, I’ll help you right away!”
Perhaps sensing Yunyun’s magic power, the goblins facing us immediately started running away.
Lynn hastily scrambled out of the way, leaving only me surrounded by goblins.
Yunyun’s hand glowed with magical energy.
“Hey, wait, hold on a minute! You’ll get me with that spell too! Hey, come on, um, Yunyun-sama. Come on, are you listening to me!? I’m not like Darkness! I don’t have that sort of tastes!”
Ah, she’s acting like she can’t hear me.
She can’t be still holding a grudge over how I teased her earlier, can she?
At those words, a barrage of thunderbolts swallowed up both me and the goblins.
“It seemed like you’ve awoken.”
“You’re alive. How wonderful…”
I’m still tied up, but my life hasn’t ended just yet.
The two nobles seemed to have wrapped up their bath while I was out, and looked down at me with wet hair.
Their clothes were dry too. Rain probably used some kind of spell to do that.
Dammit, I can’t believe I slept through such a beautiful sight.
Still, I’m surprised I managed to take such an advanced spell without any damage… well, I’m not unharmed exactly, but it’s certainly less damage than I expected.
“Would it not be best to simply leave this man here?”
“I support that notion.”
“I can’t see him as anything but a detriment!”
Why are Lynn and Yunyun so on board with this!?
I wanted to say that up front, but I swallowed those words the moment I met their contemptful gazes.
“Now, now, hold on a minute. You’ll lose out on quite a bit if you abandon me here.”
“Oh? Then why don’t you tell me exactly in what way will leaving you here be a loss for us?”
Claire crossed her arms and glared down at me.
“First of all, the one who accepted the quests was me. Without me to handle the paperwork, it will be difficult for you to get any money for the work you’ve done today.”
“I don’t care for such dirty money.”
“I kinda do want it…”
Claire, being from a family on the same level as the Dustiness house, doesn’t seem to want for money.
But Rain is a different matter. She’s from a impoverished noble family, so prospects of fame and fortune are particularly tempting for her. I’m certain of that after the time we spent in the bar last night.
“You might even be able to end up with some treasure.”
“Treasure!? Tell me more about that!”
Rain’s tune changed completely. It seems like even the nobility aren’t free from the concerns of money.
“It’s worth… well, probably not as much as you’re expecting. Still, if the knowledge that certain nobles are secretly working on behalf of the commoners were to spread, your reputation would increase by quite a bit. Darkness… Lalatina might have her own eccentricities, but she’s widely loved by the people of Axel because of her actions as an adventurer.”
“Umm, I’m a little interested in what you mean by Lalatina-sama’s eccentricities…”
Of all things, Rain just had to get interested in the most problematic bit.
“I’ll tell you all about it over a few mugs of beer. Anyway, secretly supporting the commoners from the shadows certainly seems like it’d strike Alice’s fancy.”
“Let’s untie him.”
Claire untied me in a flash.
She really will do anything if you bring up Alice’s name.
“Fuah~ I’m finally free. Anyway, we technically went giant frog and goblin hunting, so… what do you want to do now?”
Personally, I’d rather just head back to town, get paid, and start making merry.
“There’s no way we can go back just yet. We haven’t done anything great at all. Relaying what happened today to Iris-sama would just end with her laughing at us.”
“All we did was get eaten by the giant frogs and tormented by the goblins…”
True, these two didn’t really get a chance to shine.
Still, were there any other monsters lurking around here?
“Hmm, I really don’t think there are any other monsters within reach. It’d really be best to head back for the day.”
“But, I don’t know what Alice-sama will say if we shamelessly dragged ourselves back without going on a proper adventure…”
“It doesn’t have to be hunting monsters, isn’t there anything else adventurer like we could do? I don’t mind paying more money, so isn’t there something you can do? Even if it’s just an everyday task for you…”
It seems like they won’t want to go back without going on a proper adventure.
If they are offering to pay me more money, there’s no reason for me to refuse. Let’s see, something that’ll satisfy them…
“What I did yesterday… Well, I tried to sponge some food from the old man at the general store, but he said some petty things and drove me out when I tried to use some of the products as collateral for a loan. I didn’t have money, so I went to the guild and ordered some water. They threw me out after I stared a little too long at one of the barmaids’ butt. Then, I went to a nearby cafe to take in the sights, but they threw me out because I didn’t- ”
“Umm, isn’t there something more adventurer-like that you can talk about?”
But that is plenty adventurer-like.
In my time as an adventurer, I’ve done monster hunting and been a bodyguard. Oh, and I’ve also gone dungeon delving, haven’t I?
“The only thing that comes to mind is dungeon delving.”
“A dungeon!? That’d be great!”
“Alice-sama really loves those kinds of stories.”
Oh, that’s caught their interest alright.
The dungeons around these parts are…
The dungeon where we fought the mini-destroyer has completely collapsed. There were a lot of books in there, so it really is a waste, but there’s nothing I can do about that.
We could go to Keel’s Dungeon. It’s a beginner’s dungeon, so it’s relatively safe with the only monsters we’d run into being gremlins and the occasional undead.
Oh, wait, that dungeon was cordoned off after Sir Vanir did something there.
“Just any dungeon would do. Hey, Yunyun, do you know… Nah, nevermind. There’s no way a loner would’ve gone dungeon delving.”
“What exactly do you mean!? Sure, dungeons are dark and kinda scary and not a place I want to enter on my own…”
So what I said was completely accurate.
There are other dungeons in the area, but none of them would be reachable before sundown. Is there really not a single place close enough…
“Dust, what about that castle the Demon King’s General turned into his base?”
“Oh, that’ll do. You two would love it. That place has ties to the Demon King’s army.”
“Please, lead us to it!”
That place isn’t exactly a dungeon, but as far as providing material to spin a tale out of, it should do just fine.
“So this is the castle that Demon King’s General was living in.”
“It was the dullahan, Beldia, if I recall. The one that Kazuma-sama and his party defeated…”
The two nobles gawked around like a pair of tourists.
In the red rays of the setting sun, this old castle certainly has the atmosphere befitting that of the castle of a headless knight.
“I have seen it from a distance before, but this is…”
It seems like it was Yunyun’s first time here too, if the note of wonder in her voice is anything to go by.
“It’s a lot more sturdier than I expected.”
Lynn was tapping against the walls as she moved along, seemingly checking their structural integrity.
This castle was abandoned for a long time before the Demon King’s General, Beldia, turned this place into his hideout a few months ago.
He didn’t make any moves on the town of Axel, so the adventurers were happy to leave him be, but that situation didn’t last thanks to a certain crazy Explosion Girl and her penchant for casting Explosion every day.
“From what I’ve heard, the Crimson Demon in Kazuma’s party lured Beldia all the way to town with her magic, where the combined might of the adventurers managed to bring him down.”
Claire nodded, her voice brimming with admiration.
Well, that isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t exactly accurate either.
Not only did I not get any rewards from that incident, the flood that the party priest called down caused me to lose a small fortune. It’s not a pleasant memory.
“There may still be a few remnants of the Demon King’s army skulking around, so don’t let your guard down.”
Well, I say that, but that is very unlikely.
Treasure-seeking adventurer parties have swarmed all over this place after the defeat of Beldia. Not only that, but the guild has also posted multiple missions to try and get information on the Demon King’s army.
Every nook and cranny has been thoroughly scoured clean. There’s no way a member of the Demon King’s army could’ve stayed hidden here.
By now, it’s simply become a spot for the local residents to test their courage. Well, it does have a spooky atmosphere, so it will serve just fine for the purposes of those two nobles.
“Doesn’t this just get your heart pumping!?”
Yunyun is definitely enjoying this.
She happily chatted away as we proceeded down the corridor, excitedly poking her head into every room we came across.
Nothing particularly exciting happened, but Claire and Rain seemed content with simply exploring the castle. I haven’t heard a single word of complaint from either of them.
“This castle is really well put together. The surrounding earth has been almost completely churned up. A truly fierce battle must have taken place here for the land to be scarred this badly.”
“I suppose so. I can feel traces of high level magic all over the place. The adventurers of Axel and the remnants of the Demon King’s army must have clashed here. It seems like there was a mage capable of controlling some really powerful magic amongst them.”
It’s your prerogative to let your imaginations run wild, but this are all marks left by that Explosion Girl.
After receiving an Explosion each day, even a sturdy castle would be reduced to such a state. The childhood friend of the culprit of such destruction was shrinking and blushing as if it was her that was being talked about.
Come to think of it, I wonder if Sir Vanir knows the dullahan Beldia. He’s an Archdevil, after all.
I think I recall seeing a similar mask to Sir on a wanted poster with a bounty rivaling that of a Demon King’s General, but that must’ve been someone else who wore a similar mask.
“Still, unlike the exterior, the interior seems pretty well maintained. It’s hard to imagine it being the home base of an army of undead at one point.”
“There are traces of people passing through here, but apart from that, this place seems to have been kept pretty clean.”
The room that we entered seemed to be an old parlour of sorts, complete with a long table and a dusty sofa.
It’s covered in a thin layer of dust right now, but it seems to have accumulated after the dullahan was defeated. Normally, you’d expect things to be far more run down in an old abandoned castle like this.
Taking a closer look, I noticed a bucket and a set of rags in the corner.
… Do undead sweep and clean too? It’d be quite a surreal sight if that was the case.
“Beldia was going on about being a knight and whatnot before he became a dullahan, so maybe he still liked things clean even after he died. At a glance, it seems like he took pretty good care of this place.”
“Even though he’s an undead? There’s no way… Umm, maybe it’s time we took a break? We could have some tea in this room…”
The prospect of enjoying a tea party inside a castle must be quite appealing to Yunyun. She retrieved a teapot from her bag along with a seemingly endless stream of teacups.
Is this why her bag is so huge?
“Well, we did run around a lot. I shall gladly take you up on that offer.”
“Allow me to lend you a hand, Yunyun-san.”
Claire sank down deep into the sofa, and Rain busied herself with preparing the tea alongside Yunyun.
Lynn helped out with arranging the cutlery and teacups on the table.
I would really like to take a seat on the sofa too, but somehow I get the feeling that sitting next to Claire wouldn’t end too well.
Instead, I took a seat on the end of the table furthest from her.
Once the preparations were done, Claire and Rain ended up sitting next to each other, and Lynn and Yunyun took up seats on either side of me.
Yunyun fidgeted nervously as the others helped themselves to the tea and snacks.
You really should just come out and say it if you have something to say, but this loner…
“This tea is quite delicious.”
“That’s great~ I got it from a highly recommended shop in Axel.”
“It must have cost quite a bit. It has a great fragrance too…”
“W-Well, it is from a high-end shop…”
Thanks to Rain speaking up at just the right time, Yunyun didn’t have to stew in her discomfort for very long.
Though, listening to such a stiff conversation makes me itch for some reason. There’s nothing pleasant hearing two people tread so softly around each other.
Lynn simply enjoyed her tea in silence. She’s being unusually quiet today. I would’ve expected her to start up a conversation with someone, but I guess she has times when she’s shy too.
Or perhaps she’s simply nervous about interacting with nobility.
Feeling bored, I rummaged around Yunyun’s bag that she left by the sofa.
It isn’t long before I felt a something against my hand. Taking it out, it turned out to be a wooden box just about the size of my fist.
“Say, what’s this?”
“That’s the magic item that Wiz-san gave me… Hey, you went into my bag again!?”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. So you got this for free?”
Yunyun’s face turned red as she started complaining at me, but I ignored her and opened the lid of the box.
Inside is a large crystal orb with countless glowing sparkles floating within its depths.
It might roll off if I simply placed it on the table, so I improvised a cushion out of the nearby rag before placing it on top.
“Seriously, what is this? It looks like something a fortune teller would use.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen what’s inside, so don’t ask me. Umm, I’m pretty sure the manual is in the box… Ah, there it is! It says that something will happen if multiple people pour their mana into it… Hmm? I feel like I’ve seen a crystal orb like this before…”
Yunyun trailed off.
“You probably just saw it when it was on display at the store. This orb seems interesting, but will it really not work unless you pour mana into it? I won’t be able to make use of it in that case. Why don’t you give it a try, Yunyun?”
“Wiz-san gave this to me, so it shouldn’t be anything weird, but I swear I’ve seen this somewhere before…”
Yunyun continued making strange faces as she stared at the crystal orb.
“What about you, Lynn?”
“I’m not interested.”
How cold. Why is she in such a bad mood? I’ve even made sure not to cause too many problems today. At least, not compared to my usual days.
I’ll just get burned if I try to engage with her right now. It’s best to leave her alone.
“Alright, then, why don’t you two give it a shot? It might make for a good story to tell Alice when you return.”
“I suppose so. We still don’t really have much to tell her.”
“I don’t mind giving it a try.”
They said it in a carefree manner, but they certainly do seem more into it than I expected.
The two of them placed their hands on the crystal orb and started pouring mana into it.
After a short moment, a dark purple glow came from the orb and the surroundings suddenly turned dark.
“H-Hey, this isn’t dangerous, is it!?”
The sudden change caused shivers to flow down my spine, and Yunyun’s eyes lit up like she just made some sort of realization.
“Oh, I remember now! This is the friendmaking crystal!”
Before I could do anything more, several rectangular boards of light appeared around the crystal orb.
“What is this? There’s something moving on those boards…”
The one closest to me showed a scene of a plainly dressed girl, Rain, repeatedly bowing to an angry-looking old man.
“Ah, that’s from when I got chewed out for giving Vanir-dono all that money!”
Another screen showed a heavily breathing Claire laying on an expensive-looking bed as she stared at Alice’s sleeping face.
“What’s with this image!? How do you know my nightly routine!? Staring at Alice-sama’s face before sleeping gives me the most wonderful dreams!”
… She does this every day?
I’m seriously worried she might actually cross the line someday.
“Um, this item exposes the embarrassing memories of those who provide mana to it in order to deepen their bonds of friendship towards each other… supposedly.”
Yet another screen showed a somewhat younger looking Rain walking into an expensive-looking restaurant alongside a few other nobles. As the others were ordering, she reached into her wallet…
“Er-My stomach doesn’t feel so good.”
She muttered, before satisfying herself with only a cup of water.
I knew she was fairly poor as a noble, but I didn’t expect her to be this hard pressed.
“Don’t look! How do you stop this!?”
She has stopped supplying it with mana, but the various screens don’t seem to be fading away.
Pretty much all of the scenes that Claire appears in involve Alice in some way. Most of them depict her staring at her in a dangerous way or spoiling her rotten, but one of them has Claire looking coldly at a younger looking Alice.
There isn’t even a hint of a smile on her face. It’s hard to imagine Claire ever being capable of looking at Alice this coldly given her usual behavior.
Claire noticed where I was looking and let out a small sigh.
“That’s from when we first met. All I felt back then was bitterness from being passed over for the position of her brother’s educator. It’s really nothing to be proud of.”
I seem to recall her saying something about Alice not being her first choice back when she was drunk.
So she had a time where she wasn’t head over heels with Alice.
“Becoming Justi… Her brother’s educator was your dream, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was. I had high hopes of being in charge of that person who had extreme potential in both looks and talent, but when my appointed position was made known to me… I was stuck with a fragile-looking girl. My eyes were really clouded back then… I couldn’t see how wonderful Alice-sama was.”
Well, I suppose anyone would be just as disappointed if they were lead to believe that they’d be in charge of the first prince of the country.
“How could I have been so blind!? No matter how little time she could spend with her family who are constantly at the front lines, no matter how much she’s hurting inside, she still kept smiling without showing any of it! It’s that strength that won me over!”
Watching her enthusiastically declare that with such exaggerated movements honestly kind of annoys me.
As I started searching for some other interesting scene to focus my attention on, I noticed one that doesn’t seem to feature either of the nobles.
“Hmm… wait, this is…”
Drawn by my surprised voice, everyone else turned to look at the same screen.
That screen depicted a black-armoured knight holding a helmet under his arm- A dullahan.
“So this will be my residence from today onwards… Terrain-wise, the hill makes it easily defensible, and the view is great too. Let’s start with a little spring cleaning.”
The dullahan placed his head on the desk, pulled out a rag from the bucket and started scrubbing the walls and floor.
He happily hummed along as he worked.
“This will take some time. Undead knights, lend me a hand!”
The knights with rotten bodies and tattered armour followed his orders, quickly picking up brooms and rags and getting to work.
The next scene depicted the dullahan contentedly walking around a much cleaner looking castle.
He brushed his fingers against the windowsill to check his work, and it came away without a single speck of dust.
“Well, this has turned into quite a nice place, hasn’t it? Now that I’ve secured a base of operations, I suppose I should focus on building up my forces-”
His musings were suddenly interrupted by a loud boom.
The screen shook violently, and pieces of rubble fell from the ceiling. The dullahan was so shocked that he almost lost his grip on his head.
“What the!? What’s going on!?”
He hastily thrusted his head out a nearby window. Scorch marks have been left along the wall, along with several newly made holes. Furthermore, the interior has been turned into a complete mess from the shockwave.
This… looks like the work of that Explosion Girl.
“Just what was that…”
The dullahan seemed rattled, but he quickly regained his wits and started assessing the damage, repairing what he could alongside his undead knights.
“Could that have been the work of the adventurers of Axel? Hmm, no matter, that town of newbies probably did this as a test of their courage. It would be unseemly to get angry over such a small matter. As the general of the Demon King’s army, I shall be the bigger man and let them off this time.”
He moved his head in a nodding motion, even as it was held under his arm.
“That sound was Megumin’s Explosion, right? … As her rival, I’m really ashamed of her. On the other hand, the dullahan seems like a real gentleman. He’s a Demon King’s general, but he’s completely different from what I imagined.”
“I agree, but why is it showing the dullahan’s memories?”
“It’s just my speculation, but perhaps this item is picking up some residual magic from the rag beneath it?”
I don’t really get it, but I’ll just nod along to Rain’s explanation.
The rag the crystal orb is resting on does seem to be the same one that the dullahan is holding.
“This one shows the dullahan too. We might be able to get some good information on the Demon King’s army.”
Claire ignored the screens that showed images of the nobles and focused squarely on the ones featuring the dullahan.
It certainly seemed more interesting than delving in the past of these two, so I joined her as well.
One screen showed the dullahan dropping a vase in shock as a loud boom interrupted him while he was carrying it. The vase shattered into pieces.
Yet another screen showed him standing in front of a newly-repaired piece of wall, wiping the sweat off his helmet. At that exact moment, a loud explosion turned it into rubble yet again.
And the next screen showed him just about to sink into the sofa after a day of hard work, when the sky outside his window glowed red and the tremors started.
He leapt off his seat just in time to watch a large segment of wall be reduced to rubble.
“Just what kind of grudge do you have against me!?”
His anguished cries echoed throughout the castle as he threw his own head against the ground.
“… This is horrible…”
Claire and Rain muttered at the same time.
“Even I can’t bring myself to do something this nasty.”
“I’ve never put much thought into this before, but Megumin is really…”
“I feel like I want to apologize to dullahan-san…”
I never thought there’d come a day where I would sympathize with a General of the Demon King’s army.
The next few scenes showed the dullahan trying to keep up with the repairs as the castle gets ever more dilapidated due to the daily explosions, until he finally lost his patience.
“Every day, every single day they blast the place with magic! That’s it! And here I thought I’d let them off easy because they’re a town of beginners!”
The dullahan hefted his greatsword and dashed out of the room.
A different screen showed the dullahan back in the room, a spring in his step as he busied himself with cleaning up.
“After casting Premonition of Death on her, that crazy Crimson Demon girl will surely come charging in here with her friends. I have to prepare a few traps as well as a few rounded hit squads to face them. Still, I shouldn’t make things too difficult. It wouldn’t do if they were to die before I have the chance to entertain them myself.”
Saying that, he called out to his undead knights and began a strategy meeting.
It might just be my imagination, but he seems to be really enjoying it.
The next day, the dullahan went about setting traps and cleaning up, but the castle shook again just like it had in the days before.
Dashing outside, a new hole has been blown into the walls of the castle. In addition, the tremors from the explosion has ruined all of his traps.
“They-They’re still doing this…”
The scene ended just as he dropped his head in disbelief.
All of us sat on the sofa in silence. None of us could say anything.
Yunyun rested her face in her hands and let out a huge sigh.
“… So, did this give you any ideas on how to deal with the Demon King’s army?”
It might’ve been a Demon King’s general, but it seems like even they held some reservations about the Explosion Girl’s methods.
“But, um, she has her good sides too. Like being thrifty with money and willing to eat anything…”
Yunyun hastily tried to cover for her friend, but at this point, it’s hard to tell who exactly is the subordinate of the Demon King.
Lynn was staring intently at the screen with a frown, even after it faded to white.
“That showed the dullahan in this very room, right? He was doing something at that pillar next to the wall. Isn’t it this one?”
She said before moving over to that pillar.
I followed her because it piqued my interest, but it just looks like a normal pillar to me.
“If only we had a thief amongst our party… There isn’t any dust around here. Did someone touch it recently? There’s something sticking out…”
I heard a clicking noise, and the floor in front of the pillar slowly shifted away, revealing a stairway leading further below.
“This must be a secret passage. Well, it’s not unthinkable for such a thing to be in a castle.”
“Indeed. It might be an escape route or a passage that leads to a hidden panic room for use in case of emergencies.”
The two nobles appeared behind me before I realized it, commenting on the stairwell as though it was an everyday fixture.
“Wow, it’s just like the story I recently read! The princess and her imperial knight used a similar passage to escape from a burning castle, hand in hand!”
Ignoring Yunyun who was off in a world of her own, I peered into the depths of the stairwell.
It’s hard to see very far in the dim lighting, but it seems to stretch on for quite a while.
“If the dullahan was using this passage, it wouldn’t be surprising for there to be documents or treasure hidden away here! Treasure would be best!”
What an unexpected chance for some extra income!
If I land a windfall here, I wouldn’t need to concern myself with money for quite a while.
“Then we have no choice but to head in! If we recover some important information here, Alice-sama will surely be overjoyed!”
“If we get our hands on something important here, we might even be able to get rewarded by the king himself!”
Claire and Rain seemed to be on board too.
“I-I’m interested too!”
Yunyun excitedly raised her hand in support.
“Hmm, I’d rather not let those two nobles do anything too dangerous, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any chance of convincing them otherwise.”
“There you have it. I’ll go prepare the lantern.”
Lynn’s probably nervous because we don’t have our full party here. It’d be great if Taylor and Keith were with us, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.
“I’ll go first. Don’t make too much noise now.”
Normally, the heavily-armoured Taylor would go first, but in this situation, I have no choice but to take the lead.
Claire is too ill-armoured to be the vanguard, and the rest of the party are mages.
Furthermore, if I was at the lead, I’d be able to get first pick of anything valuable we happen to stumble upon!
Taking the lantern in my hand, I carefully headed down the stairs.
The marching order is me, Lynn, and Yunyun, followed by a small gap before Rain, and Claire bringing up the rear.
The walls and ceiling look to be made out of solid stone, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll collapse on us. The fact that the stairway keeps going down makes it highly likely that it leads to a treasure room instead of being an escape route.
Looks like I can expect to get something out of this.
“I wonder what kind of treasure they are keeping here?”
It’d be boring just heading down in silence, so I tried starting some small talk.
“It’s the hideout of a Demon King’s general, so wouldn’t it be arms and armour and the like?”
“You don’t have a sense of romance at all, Lynn. What about you, Yunyun? What do you think?”
“Um, couldn’t it be a friend dullahan-san had while he was alive? Like, he was hiding a girl away in such a place…”
If the dullahan really did have someone hidden down here, I can’t imagine her being anything other than a prisoner. One kidnapped for unsavory purposes.
From his appearance alone, he certainly gives off the impression of being capable of something like that.
The spiral staircase eventually led to a small, circular room. There’s only a single door on the walls, and it’s locked with a heavy padlock.
I strained my ears, but I couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side of the door. Doesn’t seem like there is anything living here.
“Well, we don’t have any thieves with us, so we’ll have to force our way through. Don’t let your guard down. There might be monsters or traps lying in wait.”
It took awhile, but the lock eventually broke apart after repeated blows from the pommel of my sword.
I carefully inched the door open and peeked into the room.
Inside was a tuxedo-wearing, masked devil sitting on a chair that resembled a throne.
“Fuhaha! Moi is glad you brave heroes made it here! Those dark emotions of having your expectations betrayed are quite delicious indeed!”
“… Sir, what are you doing?”
I stared blankly at Sir as he rose up from the throne.
It’s so far outside of my expectations that I couldn’t even act surprised.
“Well, after hearing that there is an abandoned castle out here, Moi visited this place multiple times to check if it’d be useful in my goal to create the ultimate dungeon. This hidden room was discovered during one of my visits, and it’s low humidity and temperature made it perfect for storing foodstuff, so that’s what Moi has been using it for. ”
So that’s why there are crates stacked up all around the throne.
“Umm, you’re Vanir-dono, right? It’s been some time.”
“You helped us out a lot the last time we met.”
Oh, yeah, come to think of it, Claire and Rain knew Sir, right? The three of them were together when I first ran into them.
“Oh, if it isn’t the plain girl with barely any presence and the girl who would make a move on her master if it weren’t for her sense of loyalty.”
“T-That’s not true at all! My affections towards her are completely platonic! I posses no such ill intentions!”
Rain fell into a depression whereas Claire hastily refuted that label.
That’s definitely a lie. The way she conducts herself towards Alice is far beyond that of simple protectiveness.
“Just what are you, Vanir-dono? You’re clearly not an ordinary person, and you don’t strike me as an adventurer either.”
Toward Claire’s question, Sir simply stroked his chin and laughed.
“Has my master not said that Moi is Hachibei? Is there truly a need for any other explanation?”
“I… suppose so. My apologies.”
Seriously, you’re convinced with that?
“Sir, what is a Hachibei? And master?”
“That is a secret. Everyone has one or two things they want to keep to themselves. Isn’t that right, delinquent adventurer who hides his past?”
The last part was said in a whisper just loud enough that I was the only one who can hear it.
Well, if you put it that way, there really isn’t much I can say.
“It must be some sort of fate for us to meet here, especially for your team to be mostly women. Would you care to try the new product that Moi created?”
Sir retrieved a small paper bag from one of the crates.
The words “Diet pills” were written in large letters across it.
Wait, could these be the products made from the fruits of the tranquility girl…
“This is a miraculous snack that will never make you fat no matter how much of it you consume. Despite that, it’s both filling and delicious. It truly is the ultimate snack!”
“Vanir-dono, do you work as a merchant? Even though you are strong enough to easily brush away a knight!?”
“I think I recall him saying that he runs a consultation corner and works part time at a magic item store before we parted ways…”
Rain seemed extremely surprised, while Claire folded her arms and fell into deep thought.
“Sometimes, Moi is Hachibei. Other times, Moi runs a consultation corner. And yet other times, Moi is a part timer at a magic item store. That is the sort of person Moi is!”
With that sort of explanation, I can’t help but think of him as a suspicious person.
He didn’t say it, but he’s also an Archdevil, so that just makes it more suspicious.
“Leaving that aside, Moi shall offer you a special discount, so why don’t you buy a few? As a snack that would go well with tea, it’d be the perfect gift to offer to your master. It’s also perfect for people who are worried about their waistline due to their security duties preventing them from getting much time to exercise.”
Rain and Claire gulped at the same time.
Seems like that comment struck pretty close to the mark.
“It certainly sounds appealing, but it’s hard to imagine that such a remarkable item really works as advertised. ”
“Indeed. Though, if it’s real…”
It seems like they are still unable to take the final step of putting down money for it.
Sir shifted his gaze towards Lynn. Changing targets, huh?
“What about you? Even though you’ve been skipping out on adventuring recently, haven’t you still been eating the same amount of food? Have you been taking care to make use of all the calories you’re taking in? Have you been slacking off just because you don’t have anyone to show your body to?”
“Wha!? O-Of course not.”
You don’t sound convincing at all if you say that while covering your belly, Lynn.
Nodding contentedly, Sir turned his attention over to Yunyun.
“I-I’m not buying them no matter what you say!”
“This product hasn’t been released yet, so no one is really talking about it, but there is no doubt that it shall become a great hit. The stocks will soon run out, and the town will be full of girls who are looking for this product. What do you suppose will happen then if, say, someone were to have a large stock of it on hand?”
“T-They would ask that person for some of it…”
“Indeed! Even if you do not use it, by simply buying a box of my product, you shall surely become very popular. The amount of friends you have shall surely exceed your ability to keep track of them. On account of our friendship, Moi shall offer them to you for a very special discount.”
Yunyun floatily walked towards Sir.
It’s too late for her. She’s completely done for.
Sir really is amazing at this. If he didn’t shackle himself to that eternally broke shopkeeper, he would surely be far richer than he is now, but he must have something in mind.
“Of course, it’s merely natural to have some doubts when faced with such a convenient-sounding item. Moi shall provide a sample, so go ahead and dig in.”
The items he retrieved from the bag are a series of bite-sized manjus, each bearing an image of Sir’s mask.
The girls all looked at it with interest, but none of them reached out to grab it. Well, I understand where they are coming from. It certainly does smell fishy.
“Good grief, are you still suspicious of it? Moi has confirmed that it is safe for consumption, so there’s no need to worry on that front. That useless shopkeeper sung its praises when she ate one a few days back. Now she always eats one before every meal. It’s to the point where Moi fears that she might finish all of it, so Moi decided to move the stocks over here.”
The girl’s frown deepened after listening to Sir’s story. It doesn’t seem to have eased their distrust at all.
If what he said is true, the addictive effect from the original fruit might still be active… Is this really safe?
Putting some distance between me and the rest, I moved over to Sir and whispered into his ear.
“… Sir, this is really harmless to the human body, right?”
“That has already been tested. It causes cravings for more of it, but apart from that, there are no other side effects. The hallucinative effects have been completely removed. It is indeed good for dieting, but it still contains enough nutrition that one cannot die from starvation. The cravings will fade away within about a week, so there’s no need to worry about that either.”
If that’s the case, then there shouldn’t be… no, there is a problem.
I still have a few reservations, but while Sir enjoys tricking humans, he doesn’t kill them, so I can put my trust in him.
“Ideally, Moi would like to spread it all over the town and get a lot of people addicted to it before it sells out. Five days later, Moi shall acquire new stock, and the women in town will rush to get their hands on it. Just as Moi starts selling the stocks of these products, a mysterious explosion shall turn all of them into ash. Don’t you think Moi will be able to taste the best dark emotions in that situation?”
“You might be able to obtain dark emotions, but I really doubt you’ll be able to make it out safely after making an enemy out of all the women in town.”
The obsession that women have to become beautiful is a terrifying thing.
You can’t complain if you get killed after doing something like this.
Glancing over to the side, it seems like the others are still on the fence about this issue.
“Moi does not know what you’re concerned about, but if you are not buying it, Moi shall move on to some other product. Moi has plenty of other appealing products on hand.”
As Sir moved to stow away the items, the hand holding the manjus were instantly grabbed by everyone else at the same time.
“Could you please wait for a moment? F-Fine, it’s for the sake of my waistline! I’ll have one!”
“I-I understand. I’ll do this together with you, Claire-sama!”
“I suppose I’ll have one too.”
“I-In that case, I don’t want to be left out, so I’ll eat one too!”
After getting one manju each, the four of them looked at each other and brought them to their mouths at the same time.
“This sweetness and rich fragrance! It even goes down easily! I’ve only eaten one of them, but I can already feel a sense of fullness!”
Claire’s eyes sparkled as she sung praises about it.
For a noble used to eating good food every day to regard it this highly, it must be quite delicious indeed.
I’d really like to give it a taste myself but…
“Aah, I can’t get enough! It’s so delicious that I can’t stop!”
“What is this!? Oh my god, I can’t get enough.”
“I really want to give Megumin a taste too, but I have to get my fill here first.”
After seeing the women frantically snatching bun after bun from the bag, I gave up on that notion.
The were going after it with the same ferocity that the undead would go after the living. Is this really okay?
“Okay, that’s enough! Moi is not running a charity! If you want any more of it, you’re going to have to pay!”
Lynn and the others tried to move on to the other boxes in the room after cleaning out the bag, only to be kept in check by Sir.
Yunyun and Lynn ended up buying quite a few bags.
Claire and Rain bought an entire crate.
“I knew my gaze wasn’t mistaken. Allow me to present you high rolling customers with a special Vanir-style mask. It is certain to make your master happy. You may have one too as thanks for introducing such generous customers to me.”
Sir produced a pair of identical masks and gave one of them to me.
“Ahh, how nice~”
Yunyun sighed longingly as she looked at the mask in my hand.
I’ve heard that this is a surprisingly popular item. I’ll sell it to Yunyun if I ever run into problems with money.
“Alice-sama will probably be happy with this, but is it really okay to give it to her? She’s gotten really fond of chivalrous thieves ever since that incident, so this might just make things worse.”
“Indeed. It seems like she has been quite interested in imitating a chivalrous thief as of late. It’d be quite problematic for someone of her position to head down the path of a thief.”
The first princess of a nation getting involved with thieves, really? You two should really do a better job as her guardians.
… The chivalrous thieves they are talking about is that pair of silver-haired thieves that only target nobles with bad reputations that I’ve been hearing a lot about recently, right? They were using a mask similar to Sir Vanir’s to hide their faces or something.
Not too long ago, the Explosion Girl and Yunyun formed a group to support that thieving band and tried to recruit me into it.
If I recall, Alice was with them too… Oh, I see. I finally understand how they are all linked together.
Anyway, this seemed to satisfy their desire for adventure, so after helping them move the crate back to the teleport station and seeing them off, the request was finally complete.
They properly paid me for my services, so I have no complaints, but are they really satisfied with that? It feels like they had nothing on their minds other than Sir’s products.
Lynn and Yunyun too quickly headed home with their bags of newly purchased products in hand.
I moved to head back home too, but Sir stopped me.
“There is no doubt that this will sell. There is also no doubt that Moi shall be short handed. You shall be properly compensated, so what do you think about lending me a hand?”
“Ah, sorry Sir, I’ve gotten my hands on some money, so I intend to spend my time relaxing leisurely for the foreseeable future.”
“Is that so? That is a pity. Moi was thinking of giving you an employee discount and preferential purchase rights. Once this item becomes a hit and sells out, the girls in this town would not stand idly by if they learnt that a certain man has gotten his hands on a large amount of stock in advance. It truly is a pity, but Moi would not force you into this.”
“What are you saying? There’s no need to be so distant. We’re friends, aren’t we? Of course I’ll help!”
I firmly grasped Sir’s outstretched hand.
After helping Sir Vanir move his products back into his store, I’m currently enjoying a cup of tea that Wiz thoughtfully provided for me.
“Hmm, what would you say to some cheap wine to go with that?”
“Wine? Hmm, I’m sure there’s a good bottle lying around here…”
“You really are the ideal of a delinquent, as usual. If all you want is alcohol, you can get it from a hand wash. More importantly, the products I left here seem to have gone missing…”
Seeing Wiz avert her gaze and start acting twitchy, I finished the last of my tea and stood up.
There’s no doubt that she did something and is about to get yelled at.
“Sir, I’ll swing by tomorrow to talk about the business stuff again.”
It’s best to get out of here before I get dragged into it.
Wiz was pleading at me with her teary eyes not to leave, but I ignored her. Usually, I’d at least try to entertain the request of a beautiful lady, but I’m not foolish enough to go up against Sir.
“What did you do with the two masks I left here!? Those are special, high grade items that can swap the spirit of those who wear them…”
I heard Sir’s angry voice start up the moment I stepped through the door, so I quickly made haste from the store.
A small flash lit up the shop as I left. That must be the mysterious beams that Sir shoots from his eyes.
With the image of Wiz burnt to a crisp in my mind, I hurried over to the guild.
My pockets are bursting with gold today. I’m going to drink my fill!
My vision is blurry.
It feels like my eyes are covered in fog, and I can’t be sure of where I am right at the moment.
Furthermore, it feels like my field of view has been narrowed. It’s almost like I’m wearing a mask of some sort…
I felt my hands impact something hard when I moved them towards my face.
Oh, yeah, I remember getting drunk and crawling into a bed somewhere.
The lights were too bright, it was too bothersome to extinguish them, so I used the mask that Sir gave to me as a blindfold. At least, that what I think my thought process was.
“Isn’t that the souvenir we brought back for Iris-sama? What are you doing wearing it, Rain? Ah, well, I guess it’s fine. She might be more inclined to listen to us if you have it on. Anyway, let’s hurry up and go.”
This voice is Claire, right?
Why is Claire in my room… And she just said Iris just now, right? Wouldn’t there be a lot of problems if she leaks the secret to me?
While such thoughts crawled through my mind, I followed after Claire in a daze.
My vision was gradually becoming clearer, so I could get a better grasp of my surroundings.
A very expensive-looking carpet was laid on the hallway I was walking down.
Looking up, the ceiling was needlessly high, and sported an extremely extravagant chandelier that illuminated our path.
“Huh!? Where is this place!?”
“Why are you shouting all of a sudden? Did you sneak in a few drinks or something? It sounds stupid to point out the obvious, but this is clearly the royal castle.”
Just as my face turned pale, the surroundings suddenly became clear.
Countless high quality items furnished the hallway I was standing in. The hallway itself extended far enough that I couldn’t make out the end of it.
It was still dark out, but the lights from the houses were so numerous that they rivaled the stars twinkling in the night sky.
Wow, so this is how the city looks like at night from the castle.
… This feels quite realistic, but this has got to be a dream.
“What’s wrong, Rain? Iris-sama is awaiting us. There’s no time for you to stand around in a daze.”
So in this dream, I’ve turned into Rain, huh?
I don’t remember it, but I must have stumbled into the succubus shop in a drunken haze and told Loli Succubus all about what happened today while ordering a sweet dream.
I still regret not being able to see them naked at the lake, that’s why I asked for a dream with them in a lewd position. Yeah, that must be it.
That’s some pretty good deduction, if I do say so myself. I didn’t get myself blackout drunk all those times for nothing.
In that case, I’ll play along in my role. I want to see exactly how good Loli Succubus has gotten with her dreamcrafting.
“Please wait for me, Claire… sama.”
This is how Rain spoke, right?
Heading down the corridor, we eventually came to a stop in front of a very expensive-looking set of double doors. This is Iris’s room, I suppose.
Still, when did Loli Succubus get such detailed knowledge of the interior of the imperial castle? Everything from the design of the hallway to the decorations on display seemed quite authentic for such a castle.
Ah, she must have based it off an old castle or something she studied. Not bad. I’ll give her ten points.
Claire softly cleared her throat, but took no further action.
It seems like she’s hesitant to call out to Iris because she’s angry with her.
She didn’t slack off on the mundane build-up. I don’t mind immediately starting with the erotic stuff, but taking the time to set up the scene isn’t bad either. I’ll give her another five points.
Seems like my criticism has finally borne fruit. This must be how a master feels when he sees his disciple grow. I’ll take stock of your full capabilities today!
“Are you not going to call out to Iris-sama?”
“I know! But, whenever I think about her rejecting me again…”
“It’ll be fine. Iris-sama is simply sulking. I’m sure she’s looking forward to hearing Claire-sama’s voice too.”
I encouraged her with a gentle smile.
… That acting is perfect! It’s good enough that anyone looking on would think it’s a pity that I became an adventurer.
Since Loli Succubus prepared such a great stage for me, I shall give her the best Rain act I can pull off in response.
“I-Is that so? Yeah, of course. Right! … Iris-sama, it’s Claire.”
She knocked against the door.
After a short silence…
“What is it…?”
An annoyed-sounding voice came from the other side of the door.
There is a little anger in her voice, but it really does sound like a child throwing a tantrum than anything else.
“I went too far the other day. I apologize for that.”
“Then you’ll let me meet with Onii-sama?”
“No, I cannot sanction that. That man is a bad influence on you!”
“I hate you!”
Oh, she sure doesn’t hold back, does she?
And now Claire has collapsed onto the floor.
I suppose she set this situation up so I, as Rain, could pick up after her and reach a better payoff once the erotic stuff starts.
“Iris-sama, we went to visit Axel today.”
“Eh? Axel!? Really!?”
I heard a loud smack on the other side of the door. Did Iris hit her head after getting too excited?
“Yes. Claire-sama and I went down to do some research so we could preten… give you the experience of what being an adventurer is like.”
“I can become an adventurer!?… You aren’t lying, are you?”
“It’s the truth. Isn’t that right, Claire-sama?”
“Yes, indeed! We can’t move freely right now due to that issue with the neighbouring Elroad, but once that has been taken care off, we should have some free time for that.”
The door opened a crack, and Iris popped her head out and looked at Claire with puppy dog eyes.
“It’s… It’s a promise, okay?”
“Of course! I swear on the name of the Symphonia family!”
“Then, I’ll forgive you.”
Iris broke into a wide smile.
It’s an innocent smile, yet it has a certain royal elegance to it. Seeing that, Claire took a step back.
“Pant pant… What is this overflowing emotion…”
… That’s called Lust, I’m pretty sure.
There really aren’t any normal folks amongst the nobles.
“Ah, it’s almost time for my bath. I’ve been so cooped up in my room all day that I almost forgot about it.”
And here’s the standard bath event.
It really is a great set-up for erotic scenes, like having the guy and the girl end up in the mixed baths without realizing it.
It’s a cliche, but it’s the good kind of cliche.
You really do get it, Loli Succubus. I’ll add another 20 points for that.
“Yes, it is. It’s been some time, but how about we take one together? We can talk all about the adventures we had in Axel.”
“That’d be great! You can also tell me why Rain is wearing such a cool-looking mask too.”
“We ran into Vanir-sama as we. I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Then, let’s make haste! Claire, too, stop trembling by the wall and come with us.”
Iris grabbed onto Claire’s hand and pulled her along.
Claire, her face wrought with barely contained glee, turned back and gave me a thumbs up.
Now, all the setup is done. I can join them in the baths as Rain too.
I followed the two into the dressing room, and they have already started undressing.
“W-Wait, Claire, that tickles!”
“W-We’re both women, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Pant Pant. Come on, let’s go.”
A girl laughing as she twisted her body and Claire, approaching her with heavy breaths.
You really can’t see her as anything other than a suspicious person. But, right now, I’m thankful for that.
I can confidently declare that there isn’t a single man on this world who can pry their gazes away from two young ladies wrestling with each other!
“I can undress myself, so please don’t stare at me!”
“I-I see. Then I’ll strip too! That’ll make us even, right!?”
Iris and Claire both started stripping down right in front of me.
I never got a good look at Claire’s assets because of the white suit she usually wears, but she’s really packing some nice goods underneath.
Her breasts practically popped right out the moment she unbuttoned her jacket.
Iris started removing her clothes too while keeping an eye on where Claire was looking.
Her skin is as unblemished and clear as porcelain. She has a very promising future ahead of her.
The three stooges would probably get excited upon seeing this, but I personally still prefer someone with a more filled out body.
Just as I was thinking that, the two of them grabbed their towels and pushed past the door separating the dressing room from the baths.
“Right, now all the cloth that stood between us has vanished! Let’s have some skinship!”
“Your eyes are scaring me… What are you doing? You can’t join us if you don’t take off your clothes, you know?”
Looking at my still clothed form, Iris pestered me to hurry up and take them off.
Rather than being suspicious of my clothed state, it’s more like she’s concerned over being alone in the baths with Claire.
“I got… I understand.”
It’d arouse their suspicions if I didn’t strip here. Keeping my current role as Rain in mind, I made sure to use the same polite language that Rain would use.
I’ve never worn women’s clothing before, and it’s actually quite tricky to remove.
Furthermore, I’m still wearing the mask that Sir gave to me, so my field of vision is narrow and it’s actually a little hard to see.
Well, this mask came with the setting, so there’s no need to keep it on. I also want to take a good look at Rain’s body that Loli Succubus made for me.
Right, I’ll just take it off-
The people at the familiar guild tavern were in extremely high spirits as they raised a toast.
What the hell? Was I woken up from that dream?
I was this close from the best scene!
Come on, don’t show me a dream while I’m passed out at the bar. Wait till I climb into a proper bed!
But, hold on, I’m pretty sure I went back to my room after drinking my fill. Was that part of the dream too?
Don’t tell me this is part of the dream?
I punched myself to test that theory.
Yeah, it hurts. This is definitely reality.
“Why did you suddenly start punching your face? Are you alright?”
The one who said that was Taylor.
He seemed to be a few cups deep too, if his beet red face is anything to go by.
“It’s too late to say you’re joking now. Well, you already paid up, so even if you back out, you ain’t getting it back.”
Keith patted me on the back in a jovial mood.
Lynn isn’t here, but it seems like I was having a drink together with my companions and the rest of the folks in the tavern.
“Ah~ I was having a weird dream. I was wearing Sir Vanir’s mask…
“You’re still wearing it, aren’t you?”
Keith pointed at my face, and just as he said, I was wearing a mask.
I took it off, placed it on the desk and stared at it.
What’s with this nagging feeling? Hmm, after I got drunk, I went back to my room and collapsed on the bed. The next thing I knew, I was at the capital.
And when I woke up from my dream, I’m right here.
“Say, when did I come to the tavern?”
I asked my two comrades a simple question.
“You are acting really funny today. We came here to catch up over drinks after hearing that you made it back, and you were here acting all strange while wearing that mask of yours. That’s when we called you over to join us.”
“You were really polite and feminine sounding for a while. It was uncanny. You really should take care when you drink in the future. After you had a few drinks, you said ‘Ah, so I’m dreaming! I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to have so much money to spare that I can treat others!’ and declared that tonight’s drinks are on you.”
So I got blackout drunk, huh.
Wait, hold on, did Taylor say something weird just now?
“Wait, what did you say?”
“You were really polite-”
“Not that part, the bit at the end.”
“What’s with you all of a sudden? The part where you said tonight’s drinks are on you?”
Taylor gave me a puzzled look.
Keith on the other hand was giving me an exasperated one.
The patrons at the bar made toast after toast and freely ordered more drinks and snacks.
“You’ve been really generous recently, Dust! Don’t mind if I indulge myself tonight!”
“Give me every single item on the menu! Drinks bought on someone else’s dime always tastes better! Food you don’t have to work for is the best!”
“Bring me the most expensive alcohol in this store! I’ll going to drink till I drop!”
Wait, you’re kidding right? If I’m paying for everyone here, all the money I earned today is going to go up in smoke.
“Hey, no, don’t drink anymore! Don’t bring out anything else! Wait, let go of me!”
I tried to rein in the damage, but it seems like all the money I paid up front was already used up.
Never mind my profits being wiped out, I actually ended up in the hole.
Holy shit, this is a fucking long chapter. For the record, this one chapter alone takes up almost half of the entire book and is twice as long as any single chapter in Volume 14, or for that matter, any chapter I recall working on. It’s to the point where I considered splitting it into two chapters in order to keep up with the update schedule, but I managed to finish it in the end.
Still, it was pretty close. If it weren’t for the fact that splitting this chapter means Volume 15 gets delayed, I might have even gone for it.
So, yeah, holy shit.