「Welcome to the Lorel Union. We are honored by your presence, hero Hibiki-sama.」(Sairitsu)
A woman wearing a robe bows her head respectfully as she offers words of welcome to her guest.
As Hibiki thanks the woman for her kind words, she senses a coldness to the woman’s behavior.
It is very faint, and has completely vanished by the time the woman speaks her next words, so Hibiki decides to overlook it for now.
「Welcome back, Chiya-sama. You are aware that everyone has been anticipating the priestess-sama’s return?」(Sairitsu)
「Sorry it’s taken me so long, Sai. It’ll only be for a little while, but I’ve come back together with Onee-chan. Hey, Sai. Hibiki-onee-chan –」(Chiya)
「Chiya-sama, I would love to listen to such details leisurely at a later time. For now, I am sure you are tired from your long journey, so we will now lead you to the rooms that everyone will be staying in.」(Sairitsu)
The one who has come out to meet the hero, the visitor from Limia, is Sairitsu, one of Lorel’s influential people.
The existence of Lorel’s priestess is openly known to the public, and the people adore her.
Sairitsu has significant power, holding a position where she governs those around her.
She is a representative worthy of being sent to welcome important visitors from other countries.
The religious importance of the priestess makes Sairitsu’s position much more influential than it originally was.
She is “strong” in various ways that exceed Misumi Makoto’s impression of her as a powerful leader in her country.
She looks at her subordinates, signalling for them to begin leading the guests. As she watches the hero, the priestess and their companions leave, she confirms her plans with another subordinate.
「Sairitsu-sama? Is there something wrong?」
「... I just thought, we wished for the priestess’s return to our country so desperately, however.」(Sairitsu)
「The diplomacy employed by everyone, including yourself, Sairitsu-sama, is showing results.」
「... If that really were the case, I would be feeling happier.」(Sairitsu)
「Sairitsu-sama, Chiya-sama has returned, so I think it is best not to worry so much. In the same way that Limia treated our country, if we have the priestess-sama stay in Lorel from now on, that will be –」
「You. If one only thinks of returning the treatment that one has been dealt without considering the time and situation, it will lead to the worst possible outcome. Be sure to engrave this lesson into your mind. At the very least, we will not be able to do it on this occasion. Though if Chiya-sama is forced to take part in the war, there will be plenty of opportunities.」(Sairitsu)
「M-my apologies. I have said too much.」
「There is also everything that has occurred until now. I do not condemn you for feeling animosity towards Limia. But the reality is that Chiya-sama strongly supports the hero from the bottom of her heart. She came here “for a little while” of her own volition. The thing I am more worried about is...」(Sairitsu)
(That would be the fact that when Raidou requested the Dragon Knights prolong their stay in Rotsgard to help the city’s restoration, it felt more like he was making a demand. “I may be able to meet the priestess-sama soon”, huh... Even though Limia and Lorel are both considered part of the four great powers, I do not believe them to be equal. But we are still a great country; even diplomatic measures would not grant him what he requested, yet he got what he wanted so easily... I would like to have Chiya-sama examine him once. I wonder if I should have her stop by Rotsgard on her way back. It seems that she has already realized that the hero Hibiki is a wise person; maybe she could find something out about Raidou. Fu, if he thought those words were merely to console me, how relieved he must be.)
「... It is nothing. Things will be busy from now on. I will be relying on you.」(Sairitsu)
「Please leave it to me! I will serve Chiya-sama with everything I have!」
「Well then, let us go.」(Sairitsu)
Sairitsu remembers the person she met in Rotsgard not long ago.
His suggestion to have the Dragon Knights stay to help with the city’s restoration, and his offer in return.
There is no way a single company would have the power to influence the movements of the hero or the priestess, let alone an entire great country.
Normally, this would be the case.
Currently, the priestess has made her anticipated return to Lorel and brought the hero with her.
Though it is temporary, this is still a major event.
She must not focus all of her attention on that.
Sairitsu cannot erase Raidou’s name and the Kuzunoha company from her mind.
I was there.
「You weren’t a hyuman after all.」(Makoto)
「I don’t think I want to be called that by you, since you’re still talking despite the large hole in your stomach.」(Makoto)
「I must not allow you to meet Hibiki-sama...! No matter the cost, I will stop you here...!」
I’m facing a guy wearing black armor.
But he’s kneeling and has a large hole in his stomach, like I said.
From the way he’s speaking, I think I probably did it.
So, is this guy one of Senpai’s acquaintances?
「A black knight, huh. Is this the supposed loyalty of a knight?」(Makoto)
A black knight.
I’ve never heard of them.
But it seems he knows me.
I look at that place in a really absentminded way.
It’s like there’s one me who is the performer, and another me who’s the audience.
The heavily wounded person who’s apparently a black knight has had his solid-looking helmet broken to reveal the face of a demi-human, not a hyuman. No, his face is a “wrinkled yet smooth” face that might not even be that of a demi-human.
「Raidou, no matter what, I will stop you here!」(Black knight)
A greatsword that would be better suited for smashing rather than cutting its target is being swung down at me.
I stop it with my bare hands.
I’m not even using my magic power armor.
I just grabbed the sword with my hands and stopped it.
No way, I shouldn’t be able to do something like this.
It was travelling quite fast, wasn’t it?
「Hey, do you know what a microwave oven is?」(Makoto)
「Ahaha, sorry, sorry. Forget it. Oh yeah. Could you tell me your name? Surely your name isn’t “black knight”?」(Makoto)
I hear my voice that has no hints of tension in it.
There are two of me; this is a strange sensation.
I look around anxiously.
There is rubble scattered everywhere, and the air is filled with fire, smoke and noise.
It’s a battlefield.
「My name, you say? Fu, kukukuku! You do not know? You should have seen many, many others with the same unsightly appearance as me at that place! And you buried them all!」(Black knight)
The black knight points at himself as he shouts the word “unsightly”.
「... I don’t know. I don’t remember. What, do you have some kind of grudge against me?」(Makoto)
「The academy city! Rotsgard! The school festival! Are you going to say you have even forgotten all of those, Raidou?!」(Black knight)
「Ah, the mutants, huh. In fact, you’re kind of similar to them. So you’re one of the mutants who survived? But you know, the ones who transformed in that incident were just suffering the consequences of their own actions in a way, weren’t they? I don’t think it’s reasonable to have a grudge against me, is it?」(Makoto)
「I am...」(Black knight)
「I am Ilumgand Hoperaise!」(Ilumgand)
Huh, but if I recall, he was supposed to have been killed during the school festival by Amelia...
「Ilumgand, huh. The mutant attack itself is a thing of the past, so I don’t really remember individual names. But Ilumgand Hoperaise, right. I got it.」(Makoto)
But perhaps I really don’t remember his name; as I face Ilumhand, I don’t seem to have any particularly strong reaction.
I wonder what this bad feeling I’m getting is.
「You, how far do you have to go to make fools of people before you...!」(Ilumgand)
「Despite being ridiculously tough, it looks like you can’t fix that hole in your stomach, so this is the end of the show. I’ll make sure to finish you properly. Now there’s nobody left in Senpai’s party except that priestess, and even though I’m clumsy, I can finally put her into checkmate.」(Makoto)
What kind of situation is this?
Despite the strangeness of these circumstances, the me standing there doesn’t question anything as he extends his left hand towards the black knight.
「You would tell me in advance that you intend to finish me?!」(Ilumgand)
Ilumgand kicks the dirt as he tries to escape from the palm that is coming towards him.
But he snaps back to his original position, as if colliding with something, and stumbles.
Is that a barrier?
But its range doesn’t include my surroundings.
It looks like it's been set up to act as a wall that encloses Ilumgand completely.
What is that, isn’t that unfair?!
A barrier that doesn’t have the caster at its center, that’s some super-evil skill, you know?!
「Back to my earlier topic, the microwave oven. It’s a tool used to heat up food.」(Makoto)
「Why... How can someone like you possess so much power?! Someone like you, who does not hold any faith!」(Ilumgand)
「At first, I thought “wow, the inside of the oven gets really hot~”, you know? But that’s not what happens. These wave-like things cause tiny vibrations in whatever’s inside, or something? It’s quite amazing technology.」(Makoto)
Ah, I’ve heard something like this before.
It causes the molecules to vibrate, I think?
Even though it’s a familiar, convenient household appliance, I remember being amazed that it’s such a complicated thing.
Though it’s only a vague memory of having seen this explanation on television or something.
But what is this me thinking, saying such things in another world, to an enemy, no less?
As this question occurs to me, he says something strange.
「Well then, what do you think would happen if you did that to a person?」(Makoto)
「... I do not know what you are trying to say. Are you trying to tell me that you want to burn me to death?」(Ilumgand)
「That’s what you’d assume would happen, right? Either that, or you’d think that it’d be something like being boiled to death. But that’s not quite right. It’s like being disintegrated through something like magic, but there’s no need to deal with a corpse afterwards.」(Makoto)
Something like magic, huh.
He’s referring to the barrier, I guess.
What would happen if you put someone in a microwave?
What a vulgar way to kill someone.
I’ve never even imagined that before.
「... Be sure to remember this. You will definitely receive your punishment. Hibiki-sama or the goddess-sama will definitely punish you. The world will never acknowledge you.」(Ilumgand)
「I’d be happy about that. If they were to come to me, it’d save me a lot of trouble. Well then, bye-bye.」(Makoto)
Unbelievably, a woman’s voice calling Ilumgand’s name comes with perfect timing.
The owner of the voice is Senpai.
I call out Senpai’s name as if nothing has happened.
A person swells up and bursts.
He explodes like a balloon being popped, armor and all.
The inside of the hemispherical, invisible barrier that was surrounding Ilumgand is painted red and black.
I definitely didn’t think that’s what he meant.
What have I done?
To imagine that there is such a way for a person to die.
The red hemisphere quickly disappears and all that’s left is a large red stain on the ground.
It’s hard to believe someone just died there.
There’s no corpse or even a single shred of flesh left.
「How dare you do this to Ilum-san!」(Chiya)
Senpai and the young priestess saw this sight as soon as they arrived here, and now they’re glaring at me.
With eyes full of anger and hatred.
I can’t blame them, since they just saw one of their companions die right before their eyes.
But was Ilumgand an ally of Senpai’s known as the black knight?
Not only that, but I think the hatred towards me in the eyes of those two is clearly not something that was only just born from this event.
There’s no signs of surprise or confusion; they started glaring at me with loathing and fury straight away, which means that from the very beginning...
Wait, it can’t be!
My face is pointed downwards slightly, and my mouth twists visibly into a smile.
You’re kidding, right?
Why am I doing such a thing?!
What are Tomoe, Mio and Shiki doing?!
There is no particular emotion in my eyes.
Only the very ends of my mouth are pointed upwards in a smile.
As I raise my face, my left hand is pointed towards Senpai and the priestess.
Oi, stop it.
「It seems you were too late. I will end you quickly, and then the goddess is next. I think it will not even be painful.」(Makoto)
「I have completely misjudged you. It’s too late for me to realize this now, when there is no going back, so I’m really left with no other choice.」(Hibiki)
「Well, that’s life. Ah, Senpai.」(Makoto)
I’m showing no signs of bloodlust at all.
But I understand what the actions of my future self mean.
Don’t fuck with me!
Why would I do this to Senpai?!
「The way a microwave oven works is –」(Makoto)
It takes me a while to realize that this ragged breathing is my own.
As I touch my forehead, a large amount of sweat flows from it.
I can feel the wet sensation. I can feel that it’s cold sweat.
I stop my shallow breaths for now and take a large, deep one.
I exhale slowly.
「A dream, huh.」(Makoto)
This is Asora, my bedroom.
This isn’t a battlefield and Senpai isn’t here.
It was a dream.
「... It was a dream, right?」(Makoto)
For such a crazy dream it was so strangely vivid that I question myself unconsciously.
Ilumgand is supposed to be dead.
And nobody resembling a black knight has appeared around the hero of Limia or the Hoperaise family.
If we’re talking about a knight who protects Senpai, I think there was another one in her party.
One of the kingdom’s knights.
I’m not even in the mood to go back to sleep.
I’m completely awake.
Tch, even though dinner with the takoyaki and tako-shabu was a great hit and everyone enjoyed it.
Even Shiki pressed his hands together* in admiration, wondering aloud just how deep the nabe’s mysteries are.
I laughed at that. Even though I was quite drunk, that was actually pretty funny.
I let out a small laugh as I remember this enjoyable memory.
It was just a dream, after all.
There’s no use worrying about it.
... Oh yeah.
「It’s a bit early, but I guess I’ll do some bow practice. I want to calm down a bit anyway.」(Makoto)
I change my clothes.
I get my bow ready and leave the room.
I head to the archery range that I had built on the grounds.
Until the morning sun rises.
I fire my bow, free from obstructive thoughts.