「Hey, Onee-chan? What’s wrong? Weren’t you supposed to come back tomorrow?」(Chiya)
Hibiki replies with an embarrassed look on her face.
「... That was the plan. But it looks like I’ve caught up with you.」(Hibiki)
「Did your business in Rotsgard go well?」(Chiya)
「Yes. We were supposed to gather just before we enter Lorel, but now it looks like I can enjoy the view of the Gold Highway.」(Hibiki)
「Being together with Onee-chan makes me happy!」(Chiya)
「Me too. Ah, sorry, Chiya-chan. I was busy today, so I’ll go to bed first.」(Hibiki)
「Mhmm, see you tomorrow. Good night.」(Chiya)
Hibiki’s face does indeed look a little pale. As Chiya sees her off, she assumes it is just fatigue.
Hibiki hired an extra room in the inn, some distance away from the rest of her party. She enters the room and throws herself onto the bed.
She lets out a large sigh.
(The inside of my head feels like mush. I did everything I needed to do in Rotsgard, but the final matter with the Kuzunoha company really wore me out. I’m thankful for the restoration of the kingdom and the fact that we managed to negotiate for command over the academy’s mage corps, but to think that there was another Japanese person here other than that from the empire. Someone I know, even. At this rate, I can use our senpai-kouhai relationship from when were in Japan to hear reliable information from him. But his identity as Raidou is problematic. He’s the representative of a company with unknown influence. Even his majesty and Joshua-sama acknowledge their power. It seems they want to have the company as their ally, but...)
Hibiki considers the information she gained in her conversation with Raidou, AKA Makoto, in relation to what she already knew about the Kuzunoha company.
(He was hiding it, but the reason he’s using a fake name is because he doesn’t want his whereabouts to be known by the goddess, right? I didn’t feel a shred of respect for her in his words. I was summoned in a castle, but he told me that he was summoned at some corner of the world. It’s probably true, but if that’s the case then it’s basically indirect murder. Which means that it’s quite likely that Misumi-kun and the goddess don’t have a good relationship. Is it alright to accept someone like that as an ally? That company’s equipment and Mio-san are absolutely excellent. I wonder what I should do. I’m not worried about him as much as Tomoki, but imagining what could happen after the war, Misumi-kun’s existence is...)
When the war between humans and demons eventually reaches a conclusion, anyone who endangers the kingdom of Limia’s existence would be undesirable.
For Hibiki, who thinks that the goddess’s system should continue in this world even after the war, Makoto seems like he could become an attractive source of military power. But at the same time, she thinks he has shown some signs that he could become a source of evil.
(There’s no doubt that Tomoki will set out to unite the world after the demons are defeated. It would be impressive if those ambitions that he put no effort into hiding were only a bluff, but I’m sure that’s not the case. If I were to ask Misumi-kun for assistance and he turned out to be the goddess’s enemy, it is quite possible that it would become a great reason for the empire to start a war between hyumans. That would be bad. We don’t even know if we’ll win the war against the demons, but that doesn’t mean that we can just focus on what’s in front of us and hope for the best. So the safest option is to associate with them purely just as a company at first, then slowly request military power. Even then, a request from just Limia and myself is a hand we can only play in a situation where we have no other choice.)
She knows that the Kuzunoha company is powerful.
Hibiki has seen that first hand.
Hibiki considers a truly ideal scenario where, just as the demons are brought to the brink of annihilation, the Kuzunoha company would use the Devil to face the empire, have the two destroy each other and then be defeated.
She might appear heartless in comparison to Makoto, even though they are both Japanese. But during their conversation, Makoto did not give any impression of being on either the hyumans’ side or the demons’ side. Hibiki has an ominous feeling about him that will not disappear. So she has decided that as a hero, she should make her decisions without taking into account her personal feelings.
Her decisions have too much impact for her to think things like “I will believe him because I know him” or “I can relax because we went to the same high school”.
(We don’t even know the background behind Larva and that white guy. This is just a hunch, but the one who blew away Stella is that white Devil. I thought I could get some kind of lead on him if I came to the academy city, but I suppose it’s impossible to get that sort of information in only one day. I have a feeling I can figure something out in Lorel as well, so there’s still some hope. With regards to Misumi-kun, Joshua-sama is summoning him and I have to return to the kingdom as well, so I’ll meet him in the kingdom in the near future and ascertain his standpoint there. It’s not a good idea to investigate too much right now, since that person called Tomoe-san gave me a warning.)
Hibiki remembers the blue-haired woman who is the very reason she was able to meet up with her party so quickly in the first place.
She is confused as to what to think about Tomoe.
(She should probably be about as strong as Mio-san. She was someone I can’t understand no matter how hard I try. She seemed to know the basic way of handling a katana, but she’s either never been through a competition between katana-users or she’s just inexperienced at fighting. Even so, her stance was quite solid. Ah, that’s what it reminds me of. It felt like a staged sword fight. What exactly has she been doing to learn how to use a sword like that? I don’t understand her. I don’t think Misumi-kun has any understanding of kendo or swordsmanship, but I wonder if you would be able to have such a solid foundation just by hearing a report on how it’s done. That company has far too many secrets.)
After Tomoe had insisted on it, they spent almost an hour at the academy having a contest with katanas.
The only magic they used were strengthening magic and healing magic, so it was a true contest of sword techniques. Hibiki won nine out of ten matches.
Tomoe’s powerful technique that made use of her physical ability had taken Hibiki by surprise initially, but Hibiki won the rest of the matches afterwards.
To Hibiki, who has studied kendo for a long time and even learned proper swordsmanship, Tomoe was but an inexperienced swordswoman.
(She recovered straight away even after I cut her, didn’t she? Though she did say that she had prepared healing magic in advance.)
It was a truly spectacular magic.
To the point that Hibiki unconsciously watched her in fascination.
After a deep blow that Hibiki had thought might even endanger Tomoe’s life, Tomoe had stood up as if nothing had happened. Hibiki was completely shocked.
Hibiki had immediately decided to make it one of her objectives to find out whether Tomoe would be able to demonstrate such an ability a second time.
Tomoe did give her an explanation.
She willingly explained to Hibiki how the magic works.
It was not exactly a deal they agreed upon, but in exchange, Hibiki taught Tomoe a way to train the Japanese sword’s iai*.
(As a swordswoman, her physical strength is terrifying, but not particularly special otherwise. She probably normally uses magic to fight. I defeated her that many times and yet she wasn’t even upset about it. But more importantly...)
Tomoe, Mio, Makoto.
And Larva, whom she might be able to find clues about in Lorel.
In addition to that, the restoration of the kingdom, the empire’s movements and the war with the demons.
Even though she is exhausted, Hibiki does not stop thinking about the various subjects that float into her mind as she goes through a sleepless night.
I’m naïve to think that winter would stop the development of the land.
Are you serious?
Ema is in a bad mood, which is unusual for her. After hearing the situation, it seems she is unhappy that Kaleneon’s farmable land is expanding slower than expected.
Apparently I’m naïve for believing that snow falling on the land is a valid reason for that.
Kaleneon’s a northern, inland area with lots of mountains, so my only thought was that it would be unreasonable to try to develop the land during the winter.
According to the Super Secretary Ema, it wouldn’t be a problem if magic was used.
I had this thought during the restoration of Rotsgard as well, but we’re in a situation where we have to use magic for all kinds of work.
... There’s no shortage of workers capable of that among the demi-humans that are temporarily working in Kaleneon, but still...
I asked Root to secretly move hyuman and demi-human adventurers that pass certain requirements to Kaleneon as immigrants. It’s normal for those kinds of people to have a lifestyle where they’re doing some work on the side, anyway.
I need more information than just what Ema has told me, so I’ll make a decision on how to deal with the situation after I hear from the Ansland sisters in Kaleneon.
More importantly, I need to focus on the present.
「Tomoe, explain. What’s with those torn-up clothes?」(Makoto)
This is the problem at hand right now.
「How good of you to ask! I asked the hero Hibiki to demonstrate her knowledge of true swordsmanship. Well, we had a small contest. These are wounds of honor, so to speak!」(Tomoe)
「Where is the honor in having a contest for your hobby?」(Makoto)
「Let us not worry about the small details! She was amazing, Waka. Her sword moved like this so quickly, and in the next instant, it was slashing back at me! I think that the trick to this would be to use the wrist and the back. It really surprised me!」(Tomoe)
「... It’s amazing that only your clothes got torn.」(Makoto)
「No? My blood scattered through the air multiple times. I was healing at the same time, so it was not a problem. Though I cannot repair my clothing, so that is why I am in this state.」(Tomoe)
Tomoe touches her torn clothes. She seems like she’s enjoying herself.
They fought each other with real swords...
「Weren’t you supposed to stop Senpai from being exposed to danger?!」(Makoto)
「Of course. I did not use most of my magic and we fought only using swords; in my current state, there is no way I can land an attack on her.」(Tomoe)
「So you thought it would be fine because you can’t hit her, seriously, you. It’s not just a matter of healing yourself when you get cut, is it?! Do you think I’d find it interesting to imagine you being cut?」(Makoto)
There’s no way I’d find that interesting.
I’d be worried instead!
「Muh, that’s... It was a little rash of me.」(Tomoe)
「Katana this, katana that. I know I can’t give you a match using a katana. But take care of yourself a little more! You understand me?!」(Makoto)
「I will be certain to take care from now on.」(Tomoe)
Now that I see Tomoe seriously reflecting on her actions, I’ll forgive her.
「So? What happened to Senpai?」(Makoto)
「It seems that her main objectives were to secure the academy’s cooperation to assist with the restoration of the kingdom, as well as the assistance of our company, which she also has business with.」(Tomoe)
「Tomoe-san! What’s with your appearance! You told me to calm down, and then you went and punished Hibiki, didn’t you?! Isn’t that unfair?!」(Mio)
Mio has barged in, right in the middle of Tomoe’s explanation.
In her hand is... an octopus?
She’s holding a bright-red octopus.
Even for a new dish, that’s quite amazing.
But octopus, huh.
「I just fell over! It has nothing to do with Hibiki!」(Tomoe)
「Where would you have to fall for your clothes to be cut to ribbons like that?! If you are going to play dumb, please think of a better excuse! I had things I wanted to say to Hibiki as well, but I held myself back! If you are going to do such things, Tomoe-san, then I will do as I please as well!」(Mio)
「Unfortunately, Hibiki is no longer in Rotsgard. I politely escorted her back to her party.」(Tomoe)
「... Waka-sama! Tomoe-san is horrible!」(Mio)
「Ah, jeez. I already scolded Tomoe a little while ago. Oh, that octopus looks delicious. Did you boil it?」(Makoto)
「Octopus? A-ah. I am just checking the salt seasoning, but it has been boiled quite well. I would certainly like Waka-sama to try it.」(Mio)
Mio is even explaining how she cooked it.
「Waka, you have grown used to dealing with Mio. That is very reassuring.」(Tomoe)
「As for you, go and get changed first. You know that Mio and Shiki have been obsessed with seafood cuisine these days, don’t you? Let’s eat together. I’ll hear your detailed explanation then.」(Makoto)
Mio and Shiki have been going to port cities recently to stock up on seafood.
I sometimes participate in the cooking if they’re using ingredients that I’m familiar with.
Mio wants to increase her number of seafood recipes and Shiki apparently wants to collaborate with Gotetsu and do research into making nabe with seafood. Their interests coincide, so they often go out together.
Shiki was in high spirits today, saying that he’d be putting crab in a nabe.
He’s holed himself up in Asora’s kitchen, going through a trial-and-error process to test out different combinations of various soups and vegetables.
He was enthusiastically combining the different soups that he received from Gotetsu.
I say he’s combining them, but it feels more like a drug manufacturing process. I’m looking forward to the final product.
「Shiki is making a nabe today, correct? It seems much more promising than Mio, who merely boiled her ingredient. I am looking forward to it.」(Tomoe)
「... Merely boiled?」(Mio)
Mio’s eyebrows are raised.
Oh man, should I follow up on this?
I cut one of the legs of the octopus that Mio has brought and hold it in my hand.
「Huh? ... Muguh!」(Tomoe)
「Is this the taste of something that has been merely boiled?」(Makoto)
「... This is delicious. Hmm.」(Tomoe)
「Is there something you’d like to say to Mio?」(Makoto)
「... Mio, I apologize. This is very delicious. I am sorry for saying that it has been merely boiled.」(Tomoe)
Tomoe earnestly bows her head in apology.
「... It is fine as long as you understand. I have other dishes prepared, so you can look forward to them as well.」(Mio)
「By the way, Mio. What dishes are you planning to use an octopus for?」(Makoto)
Mio lists out her planned menu for me.
She’s not listing anything that I can make.
Let’s add two items to the dining table.
There’s still time for that.
「Well then, I’ll make something too.」(Makoto)
「Oh! It has been a while!」(Tomoe)
「What kind of dish will it be?」(Mio)
「One will be the nabe and the other will be a dish using flour. Tako-shabu and takoyaki!」(Makoto)
Shiki will probably enjoy it, since it’s a nabe.
I’ve never showed them a shabu-shabu before, so it should be fresh for them.
Mio is always interested in new dishes no matter what they are.
Tomoe is looking forward to my cooking as well.
This is also my chance to redeem myself.
I remember the time I asked the Dwarves to make me an iron plate to make takoyaki with.
It’s a bitter memory.
I’d prepared the ingredients before realizing.
I had no octopus.
Nobody was selling them at all. I wanted to cry.
In the end, I used shreds of chicken meat to make toriyaki*, but I felt a true sense of defeat that time.
I couldn’t show anyone my failure, so I ended up eating it all by myself.
I can finally sweep away my trauma.
Now then, let’s go to the kitchen.