「So with that, let’s start the first Element Masters emergency meeting.」
「The topic of discussion concerns Kurono-san bringing the princess of Avalon to his bed during our absence.」
「No no no, wait, just wait a minute.」
The lounge that was supposed to be filled with a light-hearted atmosphere as we told stories about our journeys has instead turned into a danger zone with a strained air of tension.
I’m seated in a chair. Opposite me is Lily in her White-pun robe who has taken the effort to transform into her juvenile form, and Fiona standing in an imposing stance, holding the『Ainz Bloom』for some reason, even though we’re indoors. I can feel their spirit; they look ready to fight a Rank 5 monster right now.
However, there’s no way that there’s a powerful monster here. I’ve just been forced to sit here on this chair in the middle of the room by myself and face these two.
Because I’m sitting down, my eyes are around the same height as Fiona’s. It feels like I’m the only one whose height has been reduced – in other words, I feel intimidated.
「Yes, we will wait. Until Kurono-san spits out everything.」
「Hey, Kurono, you will tell us everything honestly, right?」
Lily’s eyes are directly telling me that even if I lie, she’ll know because of her telepathy. Freaking scary.
Wait a minute, what is this, what the hell is this?! Has a new trial started for me?!
I wonder why things look so hopeless for me. My mind was more at ease when I was fighting the Greed-Gore compared to being cast into this hell.
「Ah, err, umm... This is, you know...」
And so, as I fumbled my words, broke out in a cold sweat and became flustered and desperate, I talked. I said everything.
How I met Nell and had her teach me magic, how I taught her how to cook, my appearance in the『Curse Carnival』, my victory, the injury of my right arm, the treatment of that injury. And finally, the battle at Iskia Fortress.
As Fiona said, I spat everything out.
What a development, how laughable. I’d thought that I played a huge role that I could boast about to these two, but who would have thought that I’d be telling them my story feeling like this...
「– so, that’s how I became friends with Nell.」
「Hmm, I see.」
「I see, that’s how it was.」
「I’m so glad you two understand –」
「Kurono, you’re too defenseless.」
「Kurono-san, you are too defenseless.」
Huh, why are they saying that? I thought I completely resolved the misunderstanding, but the words being said to me are entirely unexpected. And both of them gave the exact same response, as if they’d arranged it beforehand. And their gazes are still cold.
「O-oi, what do you mean, I’m too defenseless?」
The defenseless one is Nell, isn’t she? She came into contact with a man like me showing no signs of wariness right from the beginning. Most importantly, the distance between us was small, I mean physically. Isn’t it just that she’s a person with only ten centimeters of personal space?
「You can’t do that, Kurono. You have to be more wary of women that approach you.」
「Yes, because you can never tell what kind of ulterior motives they might have.」
「No, isn’t it the woman who has to be more wary –」
Fiona’s staff strikes the floor with a thud. Please don’t do that, Fiona-san, it’s really scary.
「Listen, Kurono-kun. Women are monsters.」
What is that logic? It’s equivalent to the saying that all men are wolves*. But Lily’s eyes are dead-serious.
「A man like Kurono-san is a reasonable trophy, isn’t he?」
I wonder if that’s supposed to be a compliment. Thanks to the look in Fiona’s eye that’s as if she’s looking down on me, I don’t feel like it’s a compliment at all.
「But I’ve never had any experience with being particularly popular with women.」
In today’s parade, the women were squealing for Nero, the prince on a white horse. That should be what you call popular with women.
My practice with Mia-chan was in vain; the women didn’t make a single sound, let alone cheer for me. No matter how you look at it, there’s no way you can say that I managed to win their hearts. In fact, I seemed to have repelled them.
「I’m the one who knows the most about Kurono’s charms –」
「No, I know much about Kurono-san’s charms as well.」
「Objectively speaking, Kurono has quite a lot of attractive elements.」
I-I don’t know about that... Those are flattering words that I don’t find very convincing. I can only assume that she’s biased towards me.
「First, your kindness. One could say that you’re a hopelessly soft-hearted person.」
「You forgive me without getting angry even when I hit you with heavy friendly fire.」
Well, I don’t think I’m the short-tempered type, but I’m still a man who wouldn’t think twice about murdering someone if I get really angry. I’ve already killed countless numbers of Crusader soldiers and those masked guys from the research laboratory.
And Fiona, it’s true that I don’t get angry even if I receive friendly fire, but I do get scared.
「And you’re strong. There aren’t many people who could defeat you, Kurono.」
「You’re completely fine even if I hit you with friendly fire.」
Indeed, even I have the confidence to say that I won’t lose a fight easily. It would be impossible for me to win against an Apostle, or Fiona and Lily if they fought me together, though.
And Fiona, if I take damage, I feel pain like a normal person. Don’t misunderstand.
「You’re tall, and your body is so well-tempered that even the knights of Spada are nothing in comparison.」
「You have a nice body, Kurono-san. You may take your clothes off right here.」
I’ve always thought that my height was the only thing about me as a man that I could feel proud of, ever since I was a high school student. Well, it only adds to the scary, intimidating air that my face gives off, though.
My body is something that was forcibly remodeled this way during my time in the laboratory. I don’t really train my body now; in fact, I’m spending all my time learning about magic.
And I’m just going to ignore Fiona’s nonchalant sexual harassment.
「And your face is – ah, mhmm, I think it’s handsome, but I suppose everyone has different tastes.」
「Yes, it’s scary enough to make a child cry, isn’t it?」
「UOOH! It’s like that after all, is it?! Damn it!」
Even Lily can’t help but to agree with Fiona’s comment on my villainous-looking face.
Ah, that makes me miss Shirasaki-san who would look down and tremble in fear every time she saw me.
So it’s true that Lily, Fiona and also Nell are all special exceptions who are quite open-minded when it comes to a person’s appearance. I’m more terrible at making first impressions than anything else, so that’s something that I’m grateful for.
「Anyway, just looking at these superficial things, there are so many attractive things about you, Kurono. I’m sure any Spadan woman with an interest in strong men would take a liking to you.」
「Of course, those factors are not the only reasons why Lily-san and I are with you, Kurono-san.」
Yeah, even I know that much, Fiona. You two are definitely special to me after all.
「But that doesn’t mean that all women will truly understand you like me and Fiona do, Kurono.」
「That is what I meant when I said that you can never tell what ulterior motives they might have. Kurono-san, when ladies approach you, you unwarily treat them with kindness as if it were only natural, don’t you?」
Th-that’s... I do my best not to be rude. And, well, I am a man, so I don’t have any negative feelings if a woman calls out to me.
「And once you get close to someone, you don’t abandon them easily, do you, Kurono?」
「That’s why there is a risk of your goodwill being taken advantage of, Kurono-san.」
Even though Fiona calls it goodwill, I don’t think my interactions with women are out of the ordinary. Just because they’re my friends doesn’t mean that I’d lend them huge sums of money without thinking, co-sign a contract with them or become their accomplice in a crime.
「Well, I understand what the two of you are trying to say. The world isn’t all filled with virtuous people.」
In fact, in this world, it’s the bad people who have everything going their way. Of course, I’ve met even more good people than bad ones, and had to say goodbye to many as well.
「Yes, that’s it, even you have the common sense to understand that, Kurono.」
「But Kurono-san, you’re still defenseless.」
Eh, so in the end we’ve come back to where we started. I don’t really understand, just what exactly about me is defenseless?!
「I’ll take this opportunity to make it clear. There’s something suspicious about that princess of Avalon.」
As Lily declares this with a stern expression, I inadvertently let out a stupid-sounding noise.
「Look, Lily-san, it looks like he had no caution after all.」
I’m the only one who doesn’t understand. Just what about that kind-hearted Nell are Lily and Fiona so wary of?
「But there might be no helping that. After all, Kurono isn’t from this world to begin with.」
「You’re right; Kurono’s homeland of Japan or something is apparently a society without noblemen or slaves.」
「... Is it the fact that Nell’s a member of the royal family that’s bad?」
Both of them let out a small sigh. The way they sigh at the exact same time is incredible, as if they calculated it. Sure enough, that’s the answer.
「Exactly. Forming irregular relationships not officially recognized by others with royal family members is a dangerous business.」
「Eh, but Will is –」
「That* is fine.」
「I agree; that person is alright.」
What’s with that difference in reactions? Is this what you call a disparity in popularity? And Lily, you said “that”...
「Prince Wilhart is a person that is alright to trust. He shows symptoms of being a daydreamer and making thoughtless remarks, but he is still able to tell the difference between delusions and reality.」
「Telepathy is a truly convenient ability, isn’t it?」
I see. Will’s brain went through Lily’s telepathy check without me even noticing. I’ll keep quiet about this; let’s make this an Element Masters secret.
「But that princess... I couldn’t see much of what she was thinking. I am guessing that she has telepathic abilities herself.」
「Yeah, though they’re not as great as yours, Lily. She can’t read your emotions unless she directly touches –」
「Did she touch you?」
「Did she touch you, Kurono-san?」
As Fiona asks me this question, her eyes are extremely serious. Her usual sleepy-looking eyes have opened slightly wider, and there’s a flaming brightness to the light in her golden pupils.
In the next moment, the staff in her hand gives off a pressuring aura, as if she’s going to suddenly release a fire-magic attack.
「Well, we did hold hands. Thanks to that, I was able to learn『Force Boost』, and that turned out to be the key to awakening my first divine protection. You know, it’s really amazing, this『Overdrive』–」
「That’s not... what I mean...」
As if enduring some kind of pain, Fiona quickly turns her face away and speaks in a strained voice.
「Calm down, Fiona.」
「... I’m sorry.」
Just what was such a shock to her? Fiona’s trademark three-cornered hat is pulled low over her face so that I can’t see her expression.
I’m somewhat surprised by the unusual sight of Fiona losing her composure – actually, I remember when the ring I gave to Fiona broke and she continued to hit the devilish murderer Joto after he had already died. A chill runs down my spine as this memory flashes through my head.
「There is a chance that she looked around your memories when she did that, Kurono.」
It can’t be; there’s no way that Nell would do something that’s equivalent to stepping all over someone’s privacy with muddy feet. But the only one who believes that is me, because I’ve spent time with her.
「But there’s no way that we can confirm that now. Be careful from now on, okay? Watch out for telepathy users other than me.」
「That reminds me, Lily-san, you have tried to search through my mind as well, haven’t you?」
Fiona, who seems to have regained her composure, nonchalantly asks this frank question. Of course, Lily ignores it magnificently.
In any case, it was careless for me to have put myself in a situation where my thoughts could be read while knowing that Nell has telepathic abilities. But if there were a telepathy-user as powerful as Lily who could read my mind just by standing in front of me, then there’s no way to deal with it unless I have a Mind-Protecting Magic Item.
Still, it’s only because Nell used her telepathy that I could understand the spell formulas of modern magic...
「It seems that you trust that princess quite a bit, Kurono, but the problem is that your relationship with her involves more than just the two of you.」
That’s what Lily meant by「irregular relationships not officially recognized by others」, I suppose.
「Sorry, how do I put it... I just completely forgot about it until now... I’m known as the「Villainous Tentacle Man」or「Nightmare Berserker」here in the academy, after all...」
If a man with such clearly dangerous-sounding titles called himself a friend of the beautiful princess, nobody would understand. If I was in their shoes, there’s no doubt that I’d consider it ridiculous.
「Even if there weren’t those annoying, disgraceful rumors about you, I am sure that a mere male adventurer coming close to the princess would generate a lot of animosity, Kurono-san.」
That response is certainly easy to imagine. Actually, I’m an idiot for not having given that a single thought up until now.
Though this is only an excuse, maybe because I was lonely from not having Lily and Fiona around, I subconsciously spoiled myself with Nell’s presence.
「Say, Kurono, didn’t anyone harass you while we weren’t here? If they did, let me know and I’ll punish them for you right away.」
「Yes, I shall make them explode for you.」
「Ah, no, there’s nothing to worry about in that regard for now.」
Th-that reminds me, right after the incident in the dining hall, these two got really angry, didn’t they? I’m happy that they’re willing to do so much for me as a friend, but they seem a little like they’re not joking. They might seriously go on a rampage, so I’m slightly scared.
For now, if it’s harassment on the level of someone putting pins in my indoor shoes or scrawling on my desk, I’ll keep it quiet from these two. Well, we don’t wear indoor shoes at the academy, nor do we have our own personal desks.
「But still, the biggest problem is that we don’t know just how that princess is going to meddle with Kurono.」
「Meddle, you say... She hasn’t been a bother at all; in fact, she’s done nothing but help me.」
「No, since Lily-san was unable to find out her true intentions, we don’t know what she is planning. Even if she does not plan to deceive you, Kurono-san, if she is unexpectedly harmed or the people are set against you, in the worst case scenario, you will be executed for crimes against royalty.」
Th-there it is... Execution for crimes against royalty... So there’s a chance of that happening after all...
「Even if that doesn’t happen, it would be simple for someone of a royal family to destroy a single adventurer’s life.」
The scene of Nell shouting,「I’m telling you to stand down, aren’t I? I’ll have you executed for treason!」in the arena flashes through my mind.
Indeed, she’s capable of not only destroying someone’s life, but ending it. Very easily, with a single half-hearted order.
Though it’s a bit late, I start to wonder if that Chris-something lady is alright.
「If she intends to do so, then she definitely can, and even if she doesn’t, it is still possible for those around her to misunderstand and go on a rampage.」
「If it were just a matter of not being able to use the Adventurers’ Guild, it would not be such a serious matter. But if you were declared wanted by the entire nation of Avalon, you would have bigger things to worry about than fighting the Crusaders.」
「Th-that would be... bad.」
「It is very bad.」
Damn, I’ve been horribly oblivious to this potential disaster up until now. I didn’t grasp the true meaning of the fact that Nell is a member of a royal family. At most, I guess I thought of her in the same way I thought of one of my female high school classmates that was from a really wealthy family.
「Kurono, you’re ignorant to the differences in social positions.」
「When it comes to dealing with royal family members and nobles, there is a thing known as an appropriate sense of distance. If you were to be friends with the princess and treat her in the same way that you treat us, Kurono-san... You can’t do that.」
I-I see... I finally understand why these two got so angry, no, I suppose they aren’t angry, but I can see the reason they got so serious.
「Sorry, my carelessness has caused you guys to worry unnecessarily.」
At first, I was firmly under the impression that I was in trouble because they thought that I’d brought a girl into my bed while they weren’t here, but... Damn it, what a stupid misunderstanding on my part.
Even though Lily and Fiona were just really worried about me.
「It’s fine now that you understand, Kurono.」
「And we will never leave your side from now on, so do not worry, Kurono-san.」
Gentle smiles finally return to their faces.
「Thanks. I’ll be more careful from now on as well.」
And so I realize once again just how blessed I am to have these party members, and with that, the first Elemental Masters emergency meeting comes to an end.