As I hear the bell that signals the end of lunchtime, I walk forward with my back to the main school buildings. My footsteps are heavy.
「… The Alzas Fort, huh.」(Kurono)
It’s the place we once desperately defended, and now it’s become an important location for the Crusaders that allows them to extend the reach of their next invasion. This fact alone causes emotions of defeat, a mixture of anger, fear and regret, to swirl around in the bottom of my heart.
Advancing fortifications, marching soldiers. Spada’s increased vigilance in response. Signs of rebellion in Daidalos.
I’m glad that the thing I was most worried about, Spada letting their guard down, isn’t happening. But there’s no doubting that an air of tension is rising, to the point that one can say it’s the eve of war.
That much is clear from the fact that Spada’s messengers haven’t returned and the Crusaders haven’t given any form of reply.
「How much time is left before they come attacking…」(Kurono)
Even as I whisper this question, there’s no way I can know the answer. There are limits to Spada’s ability to gather intelligence. And there’s no way that the Crusaders will suggest a fair battle like the Dragon King Garvinal. They can appear at any time, with no warning.
「I have to hurry.」(Kurono)
According to Will, if there’s not an invasion within the month, it will be peaceful until next year’s spring. The reason is simple – There’s going to be snow.
The passing of seasons of Pandora’s middle-eastern regions is similar to Japan; snow could fall as early as November, or by mid-December at the latest. Incidentally, the equivalent to November is the Month of Frozen Earth (Toudo) and December is the Month of Gloom (Meian).
Anyway, in those months, the Galahad Mountain Range that’s the only invasion route from Daidalos will be blocked off by blizzards. Spada will be attacked by a cold wave fit to be called the coming of a hard winter.
Well, I haven’t experienced winter in Daidalos or Spada yet, so I don’t know how it’s really going to be, but Will had gone into serious-mode during his explanation so I have no doubt in his words. In fact, it’s said that even Garvinal would never attack during winter.
Now that I think about it, Fiona said that the Sinclair Republic has faced many harsh battles during the winter. War during winter is difficult, no matter which country it’s in.
「Still, I can’t stay so carefree.」(Kurono)
The fact that the enemy is approaching from across those mountains doesn’t change.
I have four trials remaining. Lust, Gluttony, Pride and Envy. I don’t know which elements will correspond to which sins, but the remaining elements should be ice, wind, water and light. The darkness element falls under black magic, so it can be excluded.
Drive that enhances my physical strength, Gear that enhances my defense and Accel that enhances my concentration. Considering that they’re all effects that enhance my abilities, I should at least be able to gain a speed enhancement from one of them.
In the Boost system of modern magic, there is something called『Element Boost』, but, hmm, it’s difficult to judge whether I’d be able to gain that effect.
Either way, if I’m going to fight not only the Crusaders but the Apostles as well, I want to finish all of the trials and gain the Demon King’s true divine protection.
At first, I thought the divine protections were a little dull since it just let me change the element of my mana, but now that I’ve learned of their true power, I understand how incredible they are. With seven such transcendental enhancing effects, I’m sure I’ll be able to hold my own in a head-on fight with an Apostle.
The fact that this hope exists is making me even more impatient.
「Where are the monsters for the trials… No, I suppose I have no choice but to just search for them.」(Kurono)
Well, I should go to the Adventurers’ Guild to gather information while I’m out shopping.
Now that I’ve reached the highest Rank, Rank 5, I can freely visit the upper district contained within Spada’s inner walls, the celeb-zone inhabited by the nobles. And I can use the main headquarters of Spada’s Adventurers’ Guild as well.
At the main branch of the Adventurers’ Guild that only high-Rank adventurers can use, I’ll be able to get more complete information on monsters than at the academy district branch that I’m very well-accustomed to. It’s possible that there are extermination quests for Rank 5 monsters that aren’t posted in the other branches, and some of them might be the monsters I’m aiming for.
I have a feeling that my day’s plans are getting busier and busier, but I suppose it’s fine. With my current mental state, I’d feel more restless if I was taking it easy.
As I finish gathering my thoughts, I arrive back at the dormitory. The same worn-out, wooden front door greets me.
I could have gone straight into town, but I thought I should say something to Lily and Fiona first. Well, I’m not certain that the two of them are in the dormitory; there’s a high chance that Lily is attending a Necromancy lesson and Fiona is in the great library. This is just in case.
My voice echoes as I announce my return and open the rickety door.
There’s no response, so it seems that the two of them aren’t home after all.
「… Ah… Onii-sa… Gah…」
But I can hear a muffled voice coming from the lounge that’s right down the corridor past the entrance.
「Huh, has Simon come back already?」(Kurono)
My ears can make out a small voice through the door. I recognize Simon’s lovely voice.
He returned faster than expected. Well, he’s back, so whatever!
Coming to this positive conclusion, I open the door and speak out.
「Yo, Simon, welcome back!」(Kurono)
I see the face of a beautiful Elf girl, no, a handsome Elf boy, which I have not seen since I rescued him at Iskia Fortress.
「Ah… Onii-san… Th-this is…」(Simon)
Simon is indeed here. However, this is not an emotional reunion between close friends.
「Hey, you must be the rumored Nightmare Berserker. Excuse me for being in your home.」
Because there is an unfamiliar third party present.
She’s a beautiful woman in the prime of her youth. She has brown skin that overflows with exotic charm and silver hair that looks as if it’s made of pure Mythril. And considering she has the same long, pointed ears as Simon, she’s undoubtedly of the Dark Elf race.
Hmm, I definitely don’t know her. I don’t have a single Dark Elf acquaintance.
「Come to think of it, I’ve heard lots of stories about you, but this is the first time we’ve met, isn’t it –」(Dark Elf)
See, it really is our first time meeting. Now I’m certain of that, but honestly, I don’t really care about that right now. The problem is, there is something I am far more concerned about than trying to figure out who she is.
This onee-san’s appearance is really erotic.
「– Nice to meet you. Call me Sofie.」(Sofie)
She’s wearing clothes like a dancer from Arabian Nights. The design of these clothes, their shape and the way they expose her body, are perfect. They match her tall stature and her ridiculously glamorous figure that looks like an embodiment of a man’s fantasies as if they were order-made. That makes this even more troubling.
Her voluptuous flesh that is clearly visible through a see-through veil is beyond captivating.
A white top that looks as if it will burst trying to contain her large chest and a thong with a dangerously small surface area are the only substantial things covering her bare body. The fact that I can catch glimpses of what is essentially her underwear beneath the decorative pieces of cloth fluttering near her chest and waist is incredibly bad for my heart, in a psychological way.
「Nice to meet you, I’m Kurono.」(Kurono)
But still, I somehow, just barely, manage to give a calm response.
Thanks, Mom, I managed to avoid being mesmerized by the Dark Erofu* Sofie-san because I’ve grown tired of seeing your huge breasts.
「By the way, Sofie-san, what business has brought you here?」(Kurono)
「I’ve come to see Simon. Ah, Lily can vouch for my background, so you don’t have to worry. I’m not a suspicious person.」(Sofie)
「Yes, well… It’s true that Lily-san introduced us, but…」(Simon)
Judging from Simon’s incredibly awkward testimony, I guess Sofie-san is speaking the truth.
The thing is, her face below her clear-blue eyes is covered by a veil, masking her expression. The veil is transparent, so I can see her nose, mouth and the contours of her face, but for some reason, they won’t stay in my mind at all.
This strange sensation is an unmistakable sign that her face veil is a Magic Item with an effect that prevents her from being recognized.
Considering that she’s covering her bare face with something like that, she’s more suspicious than a man wearing a ski mask, but I suppose it’s fine to trust her if Lily has vouched for her background. At the very least, there’s little chance that she’s a robber who uses her erotic appearance to have her target let their guard down.
Now that I know this much, I suppose it’s about time.
「I see, well then, please make yourself at home.」(Kurono)
I, the hindrance, should leave.
「Yes, thank you for being so considerate.」(Sofie)
「Eh, no way, wait, Onii-san!」(Simon)
Pretending not to hear Simon’s voice as he clearly tries to stop me from leaving, I hurriedly leave the lounge behind me.
「Come back, Onii-saaan!」(Simon)
As I hear Simon’s heartbroken scream, I reach behind me to close the door in order to make absolutely sure that I won’t turn around.
「Sorry, Simon. I can’t stay there and pretend not to read the mood…」(Kurono)
I read the mood with everything I had. With desperate feelings in my mind, I left Simon and Sofie-san alone out of consideration.
Why is that? It’s simple; I could tell with a single glance. From the moment I foolishly opened the door and said,「Simon, welcome back!」
Indeed, Sofie-san was firmly holding onto Simon. A passionate embrace, as if they had fallen in love.
My romantic experience is nonexistent, but if presented with such a sight, even I can sense the atmosphere that indicates the relationship between the two is one between a man and a woman. I can sense it more than I’d like. To the point that it’s extremely awkward for the third party, me, to witness.
In other words, the conclusion my intuition comes to is that it’s a problem to be solved between the people involved. Therefore, I’m just a hindrance. I would only be a hindrance if I stayed, and so would Lily who introduced Sofie-san to Simon. It’s only natural for us to not be there anymore. Now we just have to leave the rest up to the young couple.
「… Haah, I suppose we’ll have to cancel tonight’s drinking plans.」(Kurono)
As the image of Simon’s red face buried in Sofie-san’s cleavage due to the difference in their heights resurfaces in my mind, I begin walking.
I look up to see that a few wispy clouds have appeared in the previously clear sky during the short time I was in the dormitory. As I look further, I see a gray sea of clouds closing in on Spada from the Galahad Mountain Range.
「Looks like it’s going to be stormy tonight.」(Kurono)
Whispering this cool-sounding monologue line, I head towards Spada’s town to go shopping, trying to forget about everything.