Editor: BoringBone, Ulti, Xenthur
A Demon King’s General and a Dark Priest, Celestina.
She’s an opponent that far outclasses a NEET-turned-adventurer like me.
Right now, I’m standing over her in a deserted alley, where she’s crouching after Wiz exposed her identity and Vanir fleeced her off all her money.
—Serena looked up at me, pointed her index and middle finger at me and opened and closed them repeatedly.
When I replied with a puzzled look, she angrily snapped.
“Tobacco. I’m talking about tobacco. Someone with such a bad reputation as you must have some of that on hand, right? Come on, give me some. I haven’t had the chance to smoke ever since I came to this town.”
“N-No, I don’t have any.”
What even passes for cigarettes in this world?
They probably don’t have any disposable ones wrapped in paper, so perhaps she’s talking about a pipe?
No, wait, this woman is a punk?
As a former hikikomori, I subconsciously started speaking in a polite manner when confronted like that.
I get along just fine with Dust and his friends, so I wonder why only she causes this kind of reaction in me.
Hearing my reply, Serena looked down and irritatedly scratched at her head.
There’s not a single trace of her prim and proper demeanour left.
Eventually, she heaved a big sigh.
“I guess there’s no point in trying to keep the act up… I’m Celestina, the Demon King’s General in charge of schemes and infiltration, and a Dark Priest that follows the Dark Goddess of Puppetry and Vengeance, Regina.”
“So you actually call your own goddess a Dark Goddess. I would’ve thought those of the cloth would treat their own god as absolute and decry all the others as heretics.”
The moment I said that, Serena’s face instantly shot up.
Her expression was completely different than what she had before, a cold and expressionless mask like that of a doll’s.
She’s quite beautiful, but seeing her look at me with such a mask sent a chill down my spine.
… I let my guard down because Wiz and Vanir were here, but now that I think about it, I’m alone, without any proper equipment, and standing in a secluded alley with a Demon King’s General.
Isn’t this really bad?
“My goddess is the patron of vengeance and puppets, you know? What else can she be other than a Dark Goddess?”
She showed me a gentle smile, one at complete odds with her rough tone.
Her smile seemed artificial yet carefully crafted, resembling ones that you’d see on a doll.
As expected from a follower of the Goddess of Puppetry.
It gives off a gentle allure when she’s saying her usual kind words, but it couldn’t be more out of place in this situation.
This situation where she could kill me any time she pleases.
My heart was pumping wildly, but I did my best not to let it show.
“… Puppetry. Don’t tell me, the zombies at that graveyard that were immune to Turn Undead were…”
“Oh, yes, that was all me. Those weren’t zombies, they were simply corpses animated by the power of the Dark Goddess. It was really hard to set all of that up. I had to dig up all the corpses one by one in the middle of the night and put them under my control. When the priests in town found themselves helpless, I would come in and handily take care of all of them… It’s a good technique to use to gain the trust of all the adventurers in a city in one fell swoop.”
This girl really is rotten.
No, perhaps I should say, as expected of a General of the Demon King’s army.
“… Then, all those things you said earlier about the Demon King being a girl and the curse and whatnot is…”
“Huh? What, you actually believed that? I tell that story to every skilled adventurer that seems like they’d be a threat to the Demon King. The curse afflicting the girl will eventually wear off and the Demon King will disappear, so peace will return to the world even if they don’t risk their lives fighting the Demon King. Most of them give up after hearing such a story. Everyone values their own hide, after all. If you give them an excuse that makes risking their lives unnecessary, they’ll happily take it and be on their way.”
This girl really plays dirty.
There would also be those who’d stay their hand upon learning that the Demon King was originally a young girl.
As expected of the Demon King’s General in charge of schemes, she really is cunning.
I would like to take back those passionate feelings I felt when I first heard that story.
“But, why are you telling all of that to me? Sure, your identity was revealed thanks to Wiz and Vanir, but showing your entire hand like this is a little…”
Serena replied without her smile faltering in the slightest.
“I just thought that rather than pile on more lies and put us both on guard, it’d be better to tell you the truth and come to an arrangement… I’ve been observing your conduct and actions these past few days, but I still have absolutely no idea why the Demon King considers you a threat… I’m just going to lay it out plainly, you’re a NEET who dislikes hard work.”
“Yep, that’s me.”
I instantly replied.
“You have no intentions of risking your life to defeat the Demon King for the sake of humanity, right?”
“Not at all.”
Yet another instant reply.
“… If you hear that someone you never knew living at someplace you’ve never been has been suffering under the Demon King, what would you think?”
“I’d send them my condolences…”
I flippantly answered while picking my ear.
Serena stared at me with that expressionless mask of hers.
… She’s expressionless, but for some reason I get the feeling that she’s looking down on me.
Back when I was living in Japan, I never felt any righteous indignation or call to action whenever someone brought up unfortunate children or similar topics.
Even if I was a billionaire back then, I probably wouldn’t have spared a thought about helping unfortunate children I’ve never met living on the far side of the world.
I’m not some kind of fiend or anything, I’m just a regular Japanese person.
… I think…
“… Umm, I’m pretty sure most people would give similar responses, so can you please stop looking at me like that?”
“Eh? A-Aaah, sorry. There have been people who’ve given me similar replies, but this is the first time someone has answered instantly without even the slightest hint of hesitation, so…”
She sounded slightly flustered, but her expression didn’t change at all.
“… I was ordered by the Demon King to investigate this town where several Demon King’s Generals went missing, and the man whose name kept cropping up in relation to them, but… At the end of it all, the man who’s at the center of everything is you. Leaving that aside…”
“Wait, hold on a minute, being described as the man at the center of it all doesn’t sit well with me. If anything, I’m the one who’s constantly getting caught up in such matters.”
“Indeed. Leaving that aside, I’ve gotten a firm understanding of your personality.”
Saying that, Serena smiled.
“Satou Kazuma, the Demon King’s Army would like to offer you a deal.”
Serena stooped lower to the ground.
“Thanks to a certain person, the war between the Demon King and humanity that’s been at a stalemate for quite some time has started shifting again. After losing so many Generals, the barrier around the Demon King’s castle is on the verge of collapsing.”
“Oh ho? Could that certain person be referring to me?”
“… Yes, it is referring to you. Why do you seem so smug? Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
Serena averted her eyes, but, yeah, I’ve become quite manly, haven’t I?
“I see, so it seems like the Demon King is in quite a pinch right now. If the barrier were to fall, the famously combative Crimson Demons will launch constant teleport raids on the castle.”
“True, we aren’t in a very good position right now, but that’s the same for humanity, no?”
“In the past, strong people with strange names and a disregard for common sense would constantly appear in this world. Those people caused us a lot of pain. However… I think it was around the time our fortune teller detected a strange presence in this town? Well, for whatever reason, those hero candidates have completely stopped showing up.”
Hero candidates with strange names and a disregard for common sense most likely refers to the people like me who are transported here from Japan.
And for those guys to have completely stopped showing up…
“… What’s wrong? It feels like you’ve come to some sort of realization… Why are you all shaken up? … Well, whatever. Anyway, we would like to strike a deal with you.”
I have an inkling of the reason why new cheat wielders have stopped appearing in this world.
Isn’t it because I brought Aqua to this world?
No no, her job should’ve been taken over by that replacement angel.
She looks pretty capable, so she should have a good handle on things.
I told myself that this has nothing to do with me to calm myself down and maintain my composure.
“W-What kind of deal?”
“Your voice is cracking, you know? Seriously, what’s wrong?”
Even though Serena seemed concerned about me, she continued.
“You should join the Demon King’s Army.”
She said that in the same manner one would use to invite a fellow classmate to an after-school club.
“… … … … Huh?”
What did she just say?
“Don’t give me that. I’m asking you to join the Demon King’s Army… You are our kind of people. I know that very well.”
Hey, don’t screw with me.
“Don’t misunderstand me. Sure, as you’ve most likely already known, people in general call me a brute and scum and NEET and lolicon and such, but—”
“This is the first time I’m hearing about the lolicon bit.”
Ignoring Serena’s words, I straightened up and raised my fist.
“True, as a human I might have more bad qualities than good ones… Indeed, I have more than enough money for my needs, any indecent desires I have can be satisfied through that shop, and I have affectionate companions that fawn all over me. I would like to be pampered while living an easy life. One where I occasionally splurge on useless expensive things and occasionally book out the tavern for a whole day and trouble everyone…”
“You’re even worse of a human than I thought…”
I grew more and more passionate as I continued.
“But even I have a small amount of compassion and a sense of justice. I don’t care if someone I don’t know is suffering in a place I’ve never been to, but I’m not so scummy that I’d ignore someone asking for aid right in front of me. … I understand why you might want my power on your side. I understand, but I have no intention of turning upon the people who’ve taken care of me all this while.”
“… No, it’s not like we want you because of your strength…”
“What, aren’t you afraid of my full power and would rather have me as your friend instead?”
“Not at all. The truth is I’d rather keep you as far away from me as possible, but, like I’ve said earlier, those people with strange names have stopped appearing.”
She suddenly stood up and brought her face inches away from mine.
“There’s a persistent rumour about these people with funny names. That they are chosen by the gods or some such.”
That’s exactly the case.
… I won’t confirm it for her, of course.
“But then, those people who were constantly popping up like weeds suddenly stopped appearing after you showed up. It’s almost as if the gods are saying that you alone would be enough. Even the Demon King thought that you might be the descendant of some legendary hero or the other that shows up in the fairy tales.”
At the same time I brought Aqua to this world, the cheat wielders stopped showing up, and my name kept cropping up in the incidents relating to the defeat of the Demon King’s Generals.
Indeed, this would cause anyone to sit up and take notice.
What an annoying misunderstanding.
“I don’t have the strength or force of will to survive in a place surrounded by monsters like the Demon King’s castle. Please tell Demon King-san that I’m not that amazing of a person. Getting involved in the vanquishing of your Generals is just a stroke of luck. I just happen to have really amazing luck. Apart from that, I’m a weakling with the weakest job, Adventurer. Having you treat me like an enemy really scares me, so please stop. Please relay that to him.”
Hearing my words, Serena let out a bitter laugh.
“… Yeah, I thought so. I’ve confirmed that after seeing you in person. The only person who wanted you to join us is the Demon King, and I do think that he’s worrying too much… But is this okay? There’d be quite a few benefits for you if you were to join us… Ah, yes, you’re a virgin, no? If you join us, you’ll be able to indulge in all your wildest sexual desires. Incidentally, most female demons have really hot bodies.”
“… … … … I-I’m not going. If it was me from a few months ago, I probably would’ve been convinced, but right now, I’m in my popular period. Such cheap benefits wouldn’t sway me.”
“Why are you so restless?”
As expected of a Demon King’s General. What a terrifying negotiation technique.
Anyone without a will of steel like me would’ve fallen right away.
“… Well, it’s fine. I’ll tell the Demon King that you’re a small fry too insignificant to bother with. He’ll probably stop keeping his eye on you after that. I’ll also arrange for him to tell his underlings not to lay a hand on you.”
“Thank you very much!”
“S-Sure… In return, keep my identity a secret, even to your companions. Don’t interfere with my business in this town. And, as for my two colleagues… Don’t tell them about what I’ve been up to. Especially Wiz. … Those are the conditions of my deal.”
I hesitated for an instant.
“… Tsk, I don’t have a choice. My conscience and sense of justice are yelling at me to punch you, but the town would be in big trouble if we clashed against each other directly…”
“Yeah, yeah, you can drop that now. So I take it we have a deal? It’s good that you’re a sensible person.”
Saying that, she patted her butt and turned to leave…
“… Ah, sorry, but… Can you lend me some money?”
Wordlessly, I handed some money to the Demon King’s General who just got fleeced by her colleague.
“You owe me one.”
—As I was making my way back after parting ways with Serena.
My head was swirling with thoughts of the future.
“Still, even if she’s a Demon King’s General…”
I do feel a little like I betrayed humanity as a whole, but with this, my safety is assured.
As an adventurer that fights with monsters, it’s not like I hold no regrets at all, but there’s not a whole lot I can accomplish by picking a fight right there.
Sure, technically I’m involved in the destruction of several of the Generals, but to be honest, I mostly contributed by giving instructions to others.
Like in Beldia’s case. Aqua was the one who weakened him before I stole his head away.
Vanir was taken out by Megumin’s Explosion.
Against Hans, Aqua purified the hot springs while Darkness protected her, and Megumin once again blew him up with her spell.
As for Sylvia, he actually ended up getting a power boost thanks to my actions…
And Wolbach was pretty much all Megumin…
All of those incidents ended well, but there was probably nothing I could’ve done if I faced them alone.
If I had rejected that deal back then, it would’ve immediately turned into a fight…
Challenging a Demon King’s General head on would undoubtedly result in my swift and sudden demise.
I’m nothing but a simple small fry. Just escaping the Demon King’s notice is good enough for me.
While my head was filled with such thoughts, I absentmindedly opened the door to the mansion…
“There, there, please stop crying. Kazuma should be coming back… Ah, Kazuma, welcome back. You came in at just the right time.”
I stepped right back out and closed the front door.
The door flew open with a bang.
“Hey, don’t pretend you didn’t see this! This is a really serious matter!”
Hearing Darkness’s words gave me nothing but bad premonitions, but I tentatively asked.
“… So what happened this time?”
Aqua was curled up in a fetal position on the sofa in the main hall and crying up a storm, clearly in no position to answer any questions.
In her place, Megumin heaved a deep sigh and said.
“… Apparently, she caused some kind of ruckus in the guild and was thrown out by the adventurers… I don’t know exactly what she did, but it seems like Aqua is barred from entering the guild for a while.”
… Did she actually end up turning all the wine in the guild to water?
“Megumin and I came back to the mansion after investigating that woman and found her crying with an invoice in her hand.”
That must be the bill for all the wine she turned into water.
“Are you investigating Serena? Is that why you two have been spending all your time out lately?”
Darkness excitedly replied.
“Exactly! Listen to this, Kazuma, something’s really odd about that woman! Someone skilled enough to take out an undead horde that large should be a fairly famous priest, but when I went all over searching for more info… there isn’t even a single rumour in any of the cities I contacted about a priest named Serena!”
After Darkness, Megumin, while patting Aqua on the head, continued.
“… On top of that, according to the guild staff, that woman has never once claimed a reward from the guild. No matter how saintly of a priest she is, this is way too absurd. You need to present your adventurer’s card in order to claim a reward… So we were thinking that perhaps there is a reason why she can’t show others her card.”
… These girls. They normally only ever get up to stupid things, but for some reason, they just have to be really sharp in this instance.
“If only you could demonstrate such competence every day… That being said, don’t look any further into her. We’ve reached an agreement. Serena will no longer approach us or badger me to let her into the party.”
In response to my words, Megumin and Darkness gave each other puzzled looks.
The next day.
“It’s a really fresh feeling for just the two of us to be out together. Still, what business do you have at the guild? Are we going to get lunch at the tavern?”
Darkness and I were headed to the guild.
Megumin was still playing babysitter for Aqua who has holed herself inside the mansion.
Plus, if things really take a turn for the worst, she wouldn’t be able to cast Explosion in the middle of town.
That’s why I brought Darkness along, but…
“… Why are you dressed like that?”
Instead of wearing any sort of armour, Darkness was wearing a very upper class seeming dress that I almost never see her wear.
Instead of her usual straight skirt that’s easy to move around in, she’s wearing a white frilly dress with a matching set of elbow gloves.
In her hands was not a weapon, but a parasol.
“… What are you saying? You were the one who invited me. Everyone in this town already knows about my identity, so there’s no need to go out of my way to hide it.”
Darkness answered, her face blushing as she looked down at the ground.
“… Well, I guess it’s fine.”
It’s not like we’ll get into a fight the moment we see each other or anything.
<Thanks to Kasen for the coloured insert art.>
… Indeed, I’m heading out to observe Serena’s actions.
With Darkness’s strong sense of justice, she’ll probably kick up a fuss if she learnt that I struck a deal with a Demon King’s General, so I kept it a secret from her.
Similarly, Aqua would probably head right out to pick a fight with her if she knew she was a Demon King’s General, so I kept it a secret from her as well.
And telling Megumin is out of the question.
Striking a deal with the Demon King in order to guarantee my safety.
Even I think that’s low, but if Serena too were to be taken out after coming to this town, the Demon King will definitely take action.
This is not just for my sake.
If it comes down to that, the entire town itself might be at risk.
Serena said not to interfere with her business in this town.
That one line piqued my interest, so I headed off to the guild to investigate, but…
“Not many people have heard the name of the Goddess Regina, but her power is the real thing. Any number of your wishes may be granted with her power.”
“Is that true!? Will she allow me to get a boyfriend!? I don’t have much choice but to sleep in the stables, but whenever I confess to a man that isn’t an adventurer, they would say ’The smell of horse dung is a little… ’ and reject me!”
“That can be accomplished. Bring me the hair of the man in your heart. With the aid of Regina-sama, I will make a charm that helps him return your feelings.”
“Serena-san! Me too! Please make one of those charms for me too!”
“Hey, don’t cut in line! I was here first!”
A massive ruckus greeted me from the moment I entered the guild.
… What’s with this commotion?
Serena has pretty much become the face of the guild. She was seated at a table at the center, and the adventurers were crowded all around her.
She addressed the concerns of one adventurer after another with a gentle smile plastered unfalteringly on her face.
“Come, no problem is too small or worry too insignificant. I shall hear you out. That is the duty of a priest, after all…”
“… U-Um…! I have trouble making friends in this town…! I came back to this town with my best friend, but she has been quite busy lately… A f-friend…! I want a friend with whom I can eat dinner with! I don’t want to eat alone anymore…!”
“Er, well, even with the aid of the great Regina-sama, I’m not sure what I can…”
“… Is that so… I’m sorry…”
Serena is acting like the perfect exemplar of a priest.
Apart from a certain lonely Crimson Demon who left in low spirits, most of the other adventurers had their problems resolved one after another.
“Hey, Kazuma, what’s going on? Don’t tell me, the reason you invited me to the guild is because of that woman…!”
Darkness said uneasily as she repeatedly tapped me on the shoulder.
“… ? Yeah, I’m here to investigate Serena. I’m a little curious as to what she’s up to.”
“Y-You…! You said you reached an agreement with her! You were the one who told us not to look any further into her! I even… I-I even dressed up like this…”
Darkness gradually deflated as she continued.
“… Did you think I was inviting you out on a date or something?”
“N-No…! N-N-Not at…!”
Darkness blushed deeply and panicked, destroying any of her attempts at denying it.
At the same time, Serena stood up and made ‘come over here’ motions at me.
Shortly after, Serena moved over to a corner of the guild.
Perhaps being considerate of us, the other adventurers started milling around, leaving me and Serena alone in the corner.
“It doesn’t seem like you’ve spoken about me to anyone. Just a fair warning, this is also for their benefit. I might not be particularly combat focused, but I’m still a Demon King’s General. The Dark Goddess Regina is the patron of puppetry and vengeance. If I were to die, not only the person who killed me, but people in the general area would be struck by a powerful curse. At a guess, I’d say perhaps half the town would be wiped out.”
Serena narrowed her eyes as she started, but her smile didn’t falter at all.
Her expression remained the same as she drew closer.
“There are a lot of different types of curses. Ones that render body parts useless, ones that petrify, and even some that are far crueler. If someone other than you finds out about my true identity, I’ll probably have no choice but to defend myself. In that case, there are bound to be a lot of casualties. You should think deeply on that if you ever think of breaking our deal.”
I wonder why this girl is telling me all of her secrets.
… Wouldn’t just saying that you’ll be cursed if she dies do the trick?
Simply saying that would’ve made anyone hesitant to kill her.
Perhaps my thoughts showed up on my face, as Serena thrusted her finger out at me.
“Go ahead and stab my finger with your dagger. Ah, but don’t stab too deep now.”
“What are you saying? I can’t do that in front everyone. What are you, Aqua?”
Saying that, instead of using a dagger, I pricked Serena’s hand with a toothpick from one of the tables instead.
The same instant I pricked her with the toothpick, I felt a stabbing pain on my finger as well.
Looking down, I noticed a small bubble of blood forming on my right finger.
It’s the exact same place I prodded Serena at.
I see, that’s why Regina’s called the Goddess of Vengeance.
“… Do you understand now?”
“… This town is like my sanctuary of sorts. I won’t make an enemy of you. I don’t know exactly what you’re planning, but would you stop scheming in this town and go back to the Demon King’s castle?”
In response, Serena merely gave me that same smile.
With a sigh, I left her side and returned to the table that Darkness was sitting at.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Darkness…”
“Ojou-sama! Lalatina ojou-sama, what’s with your outfit!? What’s with your maiden-like outfit, ojou-sama!? It looks really cute!”
“Lalatina-chan, your frills are really cute! Don’t hide your face, let me have a good look!”
“Hey, ojou-sama, why are you blushing? Come on, strut your stuff!”
Darkness, dressed in her frilly one piece dress, was blushing all the way to her ears as she covered her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking.
The usual adventurers were gathered around her and teasing her.
“Hey, don’t bully our ojou-sama! She’s not a display piece! Shoo, Shoo!”
Even as I chased away the adventurers, what Serena was planning weighed heavily on the back of my mind.
“Hey, I’ve heard that Serena-sama’s holding a sermon! Get a move on!”
“It’s this way! You’ll miss out on seeing Serena-sama’s esteemed face if you don’t hurry!”
It’s been a few days since we had that chat.
Aqua’s ban on entering the guild has since been lifted, but now, there’s something very odd with the town.
“Over here! Over here! Serena-sama’s about to start! Hurry up!”
“H-Hey, wait up! Why are all of you acting so odd? Serena-sama this and Serena-sama that… Isn’t she just a priest?”
The name on everyone’s lips was Serena-sama.
In the blink of an eye, everyone’s started looking up to that Demon King’s General as though she’s a saint.
“… What exactly happened to this town in the few days since I was sealed away in the mansion?”
“What do you mean sealed, you hikikomori? While you were cooped up at home, Serena has become the idol of this town.”
I told off Aqua who finally came out of the mansion and was surprised at the state of the town.
“… That woman really smells fishy. Well, since Kazuma told me not to go after her, I’ll leave it as it is.”
Megumin, trailing behind Aqua and me, muttered.
“… Well, her acts are praiseworthy, at the very least… It’s a little odd for me to be saying this, but the way she seems to have no human failings at all doesn’t quite sit well with me. Still, since Kazuma said that, I too will leave things be. At the end of the day, I always treat your warnings seriously. I won’t ignore your words and head off to do my own thing anymore.”
And Darkness said that almost immediately after Megumin did.
… My chest hurts for some reason.
I wonder what they’ll think of me if they know that I made a deal with a Demon King’s General to keep her identity secret.
Will they look at me with contempt?
Will they punch me?
Sure, I made that deal to protect my hide, but it’s also for their safety as well.
Especially Aqua. If she learns that Aqua’s an actual goddess, there’s no way the Demon King will stand idly by.
Yes, keeping my nose out of her business is for the best.
With the three of them in tow, I headed down the street towards the guild…
“Serena-sama, please, please grant my wish!”
“Yes, yes, there’s no need to rush. Please line up orderly…! Regina-sama can grant any number of your wishes, and of course, there’s no need for any payment. Now, please.”
“Thank you very much, Serena-sama! The truth is…”
… The street ahead of us is filled with a crowd of people. And right at the center of it all is Serena.
It almost looked like a popular idol being cheered on by her enthusiastic fans.
Seeing that, Aqua snuck away and hid behind me.
Seems like getting repeatedly overwhelmed by Serena has taken its toll on Aqua, giving her an instinctive aversion to her.
Serena met my gaze and gave me a slight bow of acknowledgement.
“Serena-sama! Please, this guy got heavily wounded during an extermination quest…! It’s a pretty serious wound! Can you please help him!?”
A band of adventurers appeared near the town gates.
Two of them were carrying a third upon an improvised stretcher.
He must have taken quite a serious wound. His eyes were lifeless and his breathing was ragged.
And, in a voice almost too soft to be audible, he muttered.
“… —Qua… Aqua… Nee-chan… please…”
I wasn’t the only one who heard that voice. It seems like Aqua heard it too.
“I’m right over here! Leave it to me, you’ll be completely fine in an instant!”
Perhaps overjoyed that she’s being relied upon, Aqua happily rushed over to the injured person.
—Only to find her path blocked by the crowd around Serena.
“Ah, what are you doing!? You’re in the way! Do you want a taste of my God Blow!? If I don’t heal him quickly…”
As Aqua angrily protested, Serena crouched down next to the injured adventurer.
“Heal! Heal! Heal!”
As Serena repeatedly casted heal, that adventurer’s wounds rapidly faded away.
It wasn’t long before the light returned to the man’s eyes.
“… T… T-T… Thank you very much, Serena-sama…!”
The man who was calling for Aqua just a short while ago was breathlessly thanking Serena while tears flowed down his cheeks.
What’s with that?
Healing wounds with magic is an everyday occurrence for us adventurers.
Normally, just having your wounds healed isn’t enough to make an adventurer break out in tears and start attaching -sama to their healer’s name
Aqua even revived several adventurers, and no one treated her with anywhere near the same amount of reverence.
Sure, it’s normal to be thankful, but those are all adventurers who put their lives on the line to go up against monsters.
Healing wounds is the job of priests, just like how it’s the job of the vanguard to stay out front and protect the priests from harm.
It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Priests can’t take down monsters by themselves, and on the other side, the simple presence of a Priest in the party makes a great difference in their survival rate.
In other words, Serena is simply doing her job as a priest.
Of course, it’s natural to offer thanks.
As I was thinking that, Aqua casually wandered over to that adventurer and placed a hand on him.
His life threatening wounds may have closed, but he was still sporting a few scratches here and there.
It seems like fully healing him is outside of Serena’s power.
Aqua must have moved to heal him up.
The hand Aqua offered was brushed away.
And not by anyone else, but by the very adventurer she tried to heal.
Aqua let out a soft gasp of surprise.
“I want to be healed by Serena. There’s no need for you to do anything, so please get away from me.”
The man said directly to Aqua’s face.
Aqua plodded back towards us with drooped shoulders.
Seeing her so depressed gave me an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Something feels very wrong about today’s incident.
Megumin and Darkness were looking at Serena and the surroundings with a complicated expression.
Serena had her usual carefully crafted smile plastered across her face.
This is Axel. The town of beginners filled with nothing but weaklings. Why would a Demon King’s General be doing this all the way out here?
And what exactly is she planning?
It’d be far easier to come up with a countermeasure if her plans were more easily understood.
Normally, I would’ve just pretended I didn’t see it and moved on with my life.
But, for some reason, I have a really unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.
It’s like this combination of irritation and impatience… I can’t really describe it too well.
The crowd surrounding Serena were enamoured with her to a degree that defied common sense. The priest only appeared in this town a short time ago. It’s almost as if they were under some sort of spell.
The Goddess Regina is said to be the Goddess of Puppetry and Vengeance.
… I only have my suspicions to go on, but could this be the power of puppetry?
As I was thinking that, Aqua, who finally made it back to us, looked enviously towards the crowd surrounding Serena before depressedly turning her back on it…
It’s been quite some time since we started living in this town.
Even Aqua who was treated as a troublemaker has become a sort of mascot of the guild.
She would head over to the guild to drink up with familiar adventurers whenever she’s free, but now even those adventurers wouldn’t give her the time of day.
… She was a person who would cause all kinds of trouble the moment I take my eyes of her and leave me to clean up after her. A handful of a goddess.
She never listens to a word I say, and would do that exact thing I tell her not to. A Goddess that is more associated with public entertainers than any sort of divinity.
She who possessed not a shred of cuteness nor holiness, a Goddess in name only.
A goddess who sent me to this world only to force upon me a life of hardship.
Someone who caused me no end of irritation every day, and the one who’s been with me the longest in this world—
… Ah, god dammit!
Seeing Aqua all depressed and completely unlike her usual bubbly self really doesn’t sit well with me!
She’s the only girl who doesn’t cause any feelings in me as a member of the opposite sex.
Whenever she gets into trouble, it’s just her reaping what she’s sown, so I never paid much thought to it, nor did it elicit any particular feelings in me.
So, what exactly is this clawing feeling in the pit of my stomach?
… Dammit, should I ignore our deal and start moving against her?
But, she’s a General who came to investigate this town on the Demon King’s orders.
If she doesn’t make it back safely, I’ll definitely be targeted by the Demon King.
Me, who almost pees his pants just by getting close to a thug with a scary face.
If I get targeted by the Demon King…
Someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“… Kazuma, I don’t know what’s going on, or what exactly you’re troubled over right now, but it’s something you decided for everyone’s sakes, right? Then isn’t it fine? No matter what you choose, it always works out in the end.”
What Megumin said not only didn’t help any, it actually intensified what I was feeling.
“… Indeed. I’m sure you thought hard about it before telling us not to get involved with her. That’s why… Just do as you wish so that you won’t have any regrets.”
Knowing Serena’s true identity, Darkness’s words only made things worse.
That said, Serena had the power of Vengeance.
Killing her would bestow a curse upon the surrounding area, but perhaps Aqua would be able to do something about that?
No, no, I can’t be hasty. This isn’t something I can just brush away if it doesn’t work out. It’s too dangerous of a bet to take.
Well, at the end of the day, she’s still a human, so could I ambush her with a Bind and drag her off to a dungeon somewhere and deal with her there?
No, no, she’s a Demon King’s General and a Dark Priest on top of that. She might be able to dispel the Bind even after she’s been captured, just like Aqua did in the past.
… Ah, dammit! I can’t consult with anyone about this either, so what should I do!?
Perhaps I’ll break my promise and consult with Wiz and Vanir?
But if Serena finds out…
—Just then, unaware of my inner turmoil, Serena walked over to us with a smile on her face.
Seeing that, Aqua jumped up with a start and hid behind me.
Surrounded by her followers, Serena moved to pass me by the streets.
Just as she crossed my path, she stopped for a moment.
And in a voice just loud enough to be heard by me.
“You remember our deal, yes? I hope you remember the kind of disaster that would befall this town if you break it. … Though.”
She let out a small laugh.
“You seem to be making quite the anguished expression. … Ah, yes, I still owe you a bit of gold, don’t I? … Hmm, if you attempt to challenge me alone without the aid of Wiz or Vanir or revealing my identity to anyone else… Yes, if you do that, I shall face you as a Demon King’s General without taking the inhabitants of this town hostage. … But you’re very similar to us. A coward and a realist, one who can weigh the pros and cons. I trust you won’t do something so foolish.”
Almost as if she was taunting me, she left one final line before moving on.
“Now, my debt to you is cleared.”
Argh, this really makes me sick.
I’m not some hero of justice or anything. Of course, I value my life the most.
But at the end of the day, I know the people in this town.
… No, wait. Don’t be hasty, think about this.
If I do try and pull something here, in the worst case scenario, the entire town might end up in a pinch.
But, wait, isn’t this town already in quite a bad situation?
The thing that disgusts me most is that I’m the only one who knows her true identity and can’t tell anyone else about it.
Ah, dammit! Why exactly…!
Why am I the only one who has to shoulder the fate of this town!? Why do I have to think so hard about his!?
—Suddenly, I felt Megumin’s hand on my right fist that was clenched so tightly that it has gone completely rigid.
She was staring straight at me, so I thought that she was going to say something, but…
“… … ”
Megumin continued to wordlessly stare at me.
At that point, I felt something touch my left hand too.
“… You too? What do you want?”
“… … ”
Turning back, I saw Darkness holding onto my left hand.
“What’s up with you two? If you want to say something, just say it.”
… Well, after being together for so long, I’m sure they can tell that I’m hiding something.
They might have even figured out that there’s a reason why I couldn’t tell them about it.
… Maybe I should just go for it.
Come to think of it, I’ve tangled with plenty of strong foes in the past.
Those all happened as a result of some kind of circumstances or just me getting caught up in things.
This is different. This would be me and me alone picking a fight with a Demon King’s General of my own free will.
Normally I had everyone with me, and even if the worst does happen, I had the insurance known as Aqua.
But if I were to challenge her by myself and get killed without anyone knowing…
Just thinking about it made my knees grow weak. This really isn’t like me at all.
It’s me. Me who has the weakest job picking a fight with a Demon King’s General all on my lonesome. Is it really fine to cross such a dangerous bridge because of a fleeting emotion?
Yeah, if I just turn a blind eye to this, I’ll be able to continue living a luxurious life, the same as before.
—Though, there is one thing.
There’s just the one thing that might be the impetus to kick me into action…
“… What, you too? Seriously, say something already.”
I said to Aqua who started pulling on me by the hem of my clothes.
I really wish the three of them would stop silently judging me like that…
Unlike the other two, Aqua softly spoke.
Turning around, the Aqua who’s normally all bubbly and to whom the word depressed seems to hold no sway over.
That girl who never thinks deeply and could scarcely be imagined to have any sort of worries.
Having her hand shoved away by that adventurer must have shaken her quite deeply.
She looked up at me through teary eyes, and in a voice that seemed on the verge of breaking into tears, said.
“… Does this town not need a goddess like me?”
“Let go of me.”
I softly admonished the three of them who were holding onto me.
Instead of complaining like she usually would, Aqua obediently let go of my shirt without a single word of protest.
Then, turning my back on Aqua who’s making an expression that reminded me too much of an abandoned dog, I said.
“Cast some support spells on me. Ones that increase my strength and speed.”
Aqua casted those spells without a single question.
I’m not looking at those three.
The only thing within my sights is a distant back slowly striding further and further away from me.
That’s why I don’t have even the slightest idea what kind of expressions those three are making.
Taking my eyes away from Serena for a moment, I turned to face Aqua behind me.
“I’m probably about to take a whole lot of damage and get knocked out, so I’ll need you to heal me. Darkness, please take my unconscious body to the police station. Megumin, those people surrounding Serena right now will probably raise quite a fuss, so I’ll leave threa- soothing them to you.”
“W-What? Kazuma, what exactly are you saying!?”
“Wai-Kazuma, what are you planning to do!?”
After conveying my instructions, I kneeled and entered into a crouching start.
The only thing in front of me was Serena, her back turned upon us as she was leisurely walking away.
“Hey, Kazuma-san, what are you doing? I have a really bad feeling about this…”
Aqua was saying something, but that isn’t important right now.
“Hey, wait, Kazuma, what are you doing all of a sudden…! I know I said to do as you wish, but that woman is merely suspicious. She hasn’t actually broken the law, so don’t do anything vio—!”
Darkness was also saying something in a panic, but before she could finish, I, strengthened with Aqua’s support spells, sprinted towards Serena’s back.
“K-Kazuma, I don’t know what you are doing, but you are really cool right now! It really tickles my Crimson Demon heartstrings!”
My name is Satou Kazuma.
I’m a man who supports true gender equality, a man who wouldn’t hesitate to dropkick a woman in the face.
“Don’t encourage him, Megumin! Kazuma, wai—”
Leaving the voices of my comrades behind me, I sprinted full pelt towards Serena and shouted at her…
“Let’s both take a nap today! I’ll leave thinking about how to seriously get in your way for tomorrow!”
Serena turned around in surprise, only to be met by a full powered drop kick directly to her face.