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Arc 03: Betrothal, and a manuscript of olden gods.
We finally reached the town of Rifield after all the tribulations and informed the gatekeepers about the cemetery barrier being destroyed as well as what happened with the fallen men.
The previously kidnapped girl was carried here by Rita. There was no way we could have left her alone on the highway, right?
The guards knew about the young girl, and their eyes widened when we arrived at Rifield with her in tow. Her name was Iris Hoffmeier, a young lady who lived in the mansion in town.
Apparently, she couldn’t remember anything after she was kidnapped by the undead black armor on her way to the cemetery. However, she testified that we indeed saved her, and then retired to rest in a separate room.
As for us, we were questioned at the guard station about our circumstances, to which we gave the following explanation —
We just happened to pass by and saw the girl and the men being attacked by the undead. After some struggle, we somehow managed to rescue the girl. Being scared due to the destruction of the cemetery charm, Rita and I rushed to the town. I wasn’t aware of the detailed circumstances. No~, I was too frightened.
That’s what I told them, but I wasn’t sure whether the guards believe me or not. However, they had no way to doubt the testimony. What was more important is that the girl named Iris gave evidence to the fact that we saved her.
As we were leaving the guard station, Rita and I passed by people who apparently were in charge of the girl. A maid with an intense stare, and butler-like man.
“I would like to express my gratitude for saving my lord, Iris Hoffmeier” — maid bowed to us. Rita and I replied with “No-no, it’s nothing to thank for, we were glad to help, cya later” and left.
Now then, shall we head to the inn and take a rest?
Rifield was a hot spring town built along the highway. Passing through the gate was leading to its main street, which wasn’t all that different from any other town. Stalls, carts, and shops were lining up the way, and, in comparison to the capital or the Metekal city which had lots of shops aimed at adventurers (namely: skill shops, weapon shops, etc), there were no skill shops, and the smithies were much smaller. It looked like their main business was just to repair the weapons broken during one’s journey. As a skill research base, this town was a bit unfit.
Most of the stalls on the street sold either gifts or food. Scents of soup and fried meat was drifting in the air.
The inn allowed to do the cooking ourselves, so we decided to go shopping once we stored our luggage. Aine would surely be able to cook up something that’s nutritious and good for digestion if we asked her to.
Having left the main street, we crossed over a small stone bridge.
It was said that Rifield was referred to as “the town of spring water”, due to a large number of clear streams flowing through the town. It was also implied that the town partitioning into multiple areas was done through them.
The area beyond the bridge was the inn area.
Steam is rising from everywhere, that’s where hot springs must be, right?
Everyone is likely tired from the long journey. I guess we should stay here for some while until Cecyl recovers.
“You’ve finally come, Nagi-san! Rita-sa-an!” — standing in front of the inn at the end of the street was Leticia. She was waving at us.
“Thank god, both of you managed to get here safely”
“We did, somehow. So, how is Cecyl?”
“Aine is attending to her right now. The rooms have already been booked. Let’s give her some time to rest and look at her state afterward”
As expected of Leticia, I was impressed. She was used to the ways of the world due to her upbringing as a child of the viscount house.
“Is that so? That’s good”
It would be for the best to not let Cecyl move too much for the time being.
If I think about it carefully, Cecyl and I were on the move most of the time ever since we had met. The sudden change in surroundings might very well turn into quite a burden. I can say it from experience myself.
“That was a great help, I am glad for Leticia being around”
“It’s only until I hand over my villa to you, but you may say it’s included in the payment that I owe you. I am just carrying out my duty as a noble”
Leticia looked away like she was embarrassed.
“Moreover, I am not your slave, but a friend. Just like Aine continues to be my close friend even if she’s a slave… It doesn’t matter what kind of person Cecyl-san is, it won’t change the fact that she’s an important member of the party”
Damn, Leticia really so nice of a person.
During our journey, Cecyl said she could not allow herself to hide her true self from Aine and Leticia, whom she viewed as her comrades, and so she told them about her being a [demonkin]. Both of them tried to stay composed despite being very much surprised.
Leticia said that she would rather put her trust into the tender looking girl standing in front of her than into some scary legend about [demonkins] told to her by a random person whom she didn’t know. “That’s all there is to it” — is what she said readily.
Aine was resolute as well, saying “What does it matter? Cecyl-san is still an important slave to Na-kun, isn’t she?”
I was truly glad that the two of them became her comrade.
“Here, this is how we have split the rooms” — Leticia shrugged off her shoulders to the trivial question and continued to speak.
“I have taken the room with Cecyl-san and Aine, a separate one from their master. So I am asking Nagi-san to stay in the same room with Rita-san. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?”
“Yeah, I don’t. Not a problem for me”
“…Wa-waaa?! Y-Yeah. N-not a p-problem for me a-as we-e-ell!”
“Hmm? Say, the two of you are very late, you know? Has something happened on the way?”
“We saved a little girl — no, a young girl who was about to be swept away”
“… I am sorry, I don’t understand what you just said”
“A girl was attacked by an undead, so Rita and I went to rescue her. Her name was Iris Hoffmeier. Was that the right name? It’s hard to recall”
“Hoffmeier, you say? I heard about them”
Leticia cocked her head.
“… If I remember it correctly, the feudal lord of the port city Irgafar had relatives with the same name”
So Leticia said with a clap on her hand.
Port city Irgafar… our destination.
“… I am sorry for causing you troubles… Please forgive me, Nagi-sama ”
Aa-ah, as I feared, Cecyl still looks pale.
Even though she tried to get up from the bed, she staggered a bit. I touched her on the forehead with my palm.
Yeah, she still has a fever.
Sighing seemed painful to her.
“Yeah, as expected, you better rest until your fever goes down”
“Yes, Nagi-sama… I am… prepared”
Her small hands grasped the blanket.
“Since I ended up causing a burden to Nagi-sama, I have to accept the punishment”
Aaah, so it’s that talk again.
I had a tendency to forget this from time to time, but Cecyl was still my slave. Her choker was hanging on the neck.
“Still… somehow, please”
Tears were gathering in Cecyl’s eyes as she looked at me.
“I will do anything… Please let me stay at your side, Nagi-sama…!”
“Okay. In that case, I will have Cecyl keep me company during my vacation. Consider this your punishment”
“I’ve been silent until now, but there is a rule among the people of my nation. We like hot springs very much, so it’s a must for us to visit it if we happen to come to such resorts” — I placed my hand on top of Cecyl’s head.
“This town has clear water and nice atmosphere — it’s a good place to stay, isn’t it? Ever since I came from a different world, I was on the move all the time. That’s why I have been thinking about resting in here for a short while”
“So until you get better, staying in this town is fine. No, that’s wrong of me. You will be accompanying me on my hobbies. I feel bad for you, but that’s my order as the master. Listen to me and — hey, why are you crying?!”
*sobbing* *sobbing* *sobbing*
Beads of tears were spilling from Cecyl’s red eyes. W-what more should I say?
“Thank you very much, Nagi-sama, Nagi-sama-a” — Cecyl clung to me while still sobbing.
“T-that will be your punishment. Look, the rest of us will enter hot springs, but Cecyl is going to have to wait until your fever goes down, okay? You will be forced to watch us saying how good it felt and bite your finger. Wouldn’t that be a quite severe punishment? I wouldn’t be able to deal with it!”
“Yes, Nagi-sama… Yes”
“Aah, that’s enough. Calm down already”
It would likely do her better not to get excited, due to fear of her fever rising up though.
This outcome was inevitable, and I just rustled Cecyl’s hair. It was a little wet, but still silky. It felt good to the touch. This feeling might even be a reward for me. Cecyl also seemed to calm down when I caressed her head.
After holding onto my chest for a little while, Cecyl let me go with a red face.
“… Please excuse me, Nagi-sama. I will… gladly… a-acc-company you” — Cecyl was trembling.
Aah, as I feared. She got excited and her fever went up.
She was completely drenched, the forehead, the nape, even a pit of the stomach was sweating. It’s better to wipe her body and change the clothes.
“Aine, may I leave Cecyl to you?”
I sent the words to the Ms. Maid who was standing next to the door all this time, and Aine nodded.
She was holding a mortar and some medicinal plants in her hands. On the floor was a bucket with hot water and a cloth. A spare of clothes was already prepared as well.
“Aine’s service isn’t limited to just Na-kun. Every single member of Na-kun’s party is a target for Aine’s service. That’s natural, no?”
Just how reliable our big sister is?
“I will attend to her until Cecyl-chan says “enough already, please forgive me’”
“You are going to respect her wishes, aren’t you?”
“If it was Na-kun, I would’ve continued the service until you could no longer speak and ask for forgiveness”
“So you would rather prefer to ignore my will if given the choice?!”
“That was a joke, of course”
“For now (in a whisper)”
… For a minute I thought I heard some disturbing words there.
“Okay then. I am leaving this to Aine as well” — I took out a skill crystal from the breast pocket and passed it to Aine.
“Aine always has a cleaning tool in her hands, after all. I think this skill would suit you the best”
[Sewage Increase LV1] (Rare)
A skill “to increase (10% + the skill level * 10%)” “unclean water” with “cleaning tools”.
It was a skill that I got along with [Soft Water Swordsmanship].
Although I thought that it would probably become similar to [Slime Bringer LV1] and allowed me to order slimes, the result was different.
It was, as I feared, necessary to do the restructure with someone if I wanted to get a cheat skill.
“Just so you know, this skill is the result of an experiment. There was a puddle of water on our way here, so I tried soaking a worn-out cloth in it”
“And what happened, Na-kun?”
“The cloth got a little wet”
“I meant what happened when you invoked the skill?”
“The puddle grew in size and drenched the cloth completely”
The day was drawing to a close, so I had no time to experiment on the details. Like what was the effective range, or how far would the drawn water come from? Stuff like that.
“We might hit upon a possible use for this skill eventually, so Aine should hold onto it”
“… Thank you very much, Na-kun” — Aine wrapped the skill crystal with both arms like it was some kind of treasure.
“Whatever Na-kun gives to Aine becomes her reward, you know?”
“Make sure not to use it until we do the full experiment, okay?”
Although it was a rare skill, I didn’t know if there some unknown effect wouldn’t possibly come out.
“Okay, as long as we won’t arrive at the situation where it would rescue the lives of Na-kun and the rest”
“I believe there is no scenario where growing a puddle of water in size would save our lives though”
“You never know what may happen in life”
Aine started rolling up her sleeves.
“Take Aine for example, I could never imagine until now that I would be able to have such an enjoyable trip. It is so fulfilling. Even though Cecyl-chan talked about causing us troubles, Aine doesn’t regard them in such a way. Rather than that, it brings joy”
Cecyl muttered from atop the bed. It looked like she was about to cry again.
“Thank you very much. I plan to do anything I can if it would benefit Aine-san”
“Okay. Well then, will you let me do the service?”
With a cloth in one hand, Aine made grabbing motions with her hands.
Her eyes have a strange light in them. Ah, now I remember it. This is a signal that her service “switch” has been turned on.
Cecyl instinctively drew away on top of the bed, but Aine didn’t mind that and slid on top as well.
“I am listening”
“Aine is now going be fully undressing Cecyl-chan, and carefully wiping her every nook and cranny. Will you prefer to stay and carefully observe her every corner, or will you step outside the room? You’re free to do as you like” — So Aine said.
I chose the latter.
… I suppose I will prefer the former once Cecyl gets a little better.
I decided to return to my own room. Once I opened the door — I heard a voice coming that sounded like a spell?
“What to do, what to do, what to do. What should I tell Nagi once he returns?”
A golden tail was flapping on the opposite side of the bed.
“It’s my first time staying in the same room with just the two of us. Will I say ‘Welcome back, my esteemed master?’ or should I say ‘Nagi-sama’? Cecyl-chan is recuperating right now, and Aine is looking after her. It would be no good of me to get special treatment and further only our relationship, right?”
“… O-o-oi, Rita-a”
“Aah, but what if Nagi says that he wants me to do something? I can’t refuse… I won’t refuse. What should I say to Cecyl-chan? What if she told me ‘Rita, I hate you’. I would die instantly. A-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah. What should I do?”
*purring* *purring* *purring*
*patter* *patter* *patter* *patter*
*flapping* *flapping* *flapping* *flapping*
As I entered the room, the beastgirl was rolling around with her ears flapping and her tail patting.
“Still… Nagi was so-o-o cool today” — stopping her circular tumbling, Rita faced towards the wall and began muttering.
“To be able to send that armor flying with just one hit of [Delay Arts]… Aaaah, isn’t it dishonest of me to be the only one who has managed to witness it?! That’s what called being ‘sneaky’, right? Aaaah, but how am I going to speak to Cecyl-chan and Aine about this throbbing in my heart?”
“Umm, Rita participated in the fight too, so I wouldn’t call it being sneaky or anything”
“But it’s my job to be a vanguard for the party. That’s why I get many opportunities to fight with Nagi side by side. One might say that it’s natural, but still… aaah, it’s enough. What’s with this feeling of guilt”
“So Rita is unexpectedly diligent, isn’t she?”
“I am nothing any sort of diligent or earnest! This is the question of upholding my moral code as a girl! I am happy Nagi feels that… eh? Nagi?”
Rita rotated once more against the wall and looked in my way. In one moment her pure white skin got beet red, from the tiptoes to the top of her head.
“Nagi-i-i-i-i-i?! Since when? How long have you been here?”
Where has her sense as a beastkin went to, I wonder?
“Let’s leave it aside”
“Let’s not! Uwa-a-a-a-a-n” — Rita rolled around while holding her head.
“Rita, STOP” — I stopped Rita from rolling at the bed with my both hands. Or rather, with my back.
“As a matter of fact, it was decided that we would be staying in this town for a while”
“Until Cecyl gets better — no, that’s not it. The reason lies with the customs of my hometown”
I explained to Rita the same thing I told Cecyl earlier.
“ — And that’s how it is”
“I see~. Cecyl-chan even cried, didn’t she? That’s natural, given the words you said”
“No, as I said, it’s due to the customs of my birthplace”
“I understand, my esteemed master. Shall we put that matter aside for later?”
“After all, we will be basically doing things that I want to do”
In my former world, I did things for the sake of my livelihood that I didn’t want to do after all. Thus I decided that I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to in this world.
“…. Um, my esteemed master” — Rita kneeled on the floor. With pursed lips, her cherry eyes were staring fixedly at me.
“If it’s for Nagi, I will be able to lay down my life, okay?”
“….. Even you, Rita?!”
I have a notion that Cecyl too said that she would readily follow after me in death.
“Nagi…. No, my esteemed master. The place I belong to, it’s here. Being next to my master is the happiest place for me. From the time the master accepted me… this place has been warm since” — Rita clapped on her chest. And then she laughed — probably feeling awkward — her ears were drooping.
“This is the happiness I received from my master, so I will accept everything and anything if it’s done by Master. Rita Melpheus belongs to you. The only thing I ask is to please remember that” — whilst she was speaking, Rita’s body began to tremble. She was looking at me with upturned eyes and hung down head. The face was so red I wondered how steam didn’t raise yet.
Aah, that’s not fair. If you make such face, I too will start feeling embarrassed —
“Nagi… my esteemed master. You, who brings me happiness, in this world is the most im… the most impo… importa…….. Uuu, not good, as I feared……. I am at my limit!”
Grasping her face, Rita slammed against the floor.
“…….. it’s my limit. I am poor at such stuff… So embarrassing… it’s embarrassing”
Even I am at my limit. This Rita, she could say something this serious once in a while.
As for me, the plan was to keep surpassing the limits of my strength without being unreasonable about it until I could finally reach the future where I could idle about with everyone.
With Cecyl, and Rita, and Aine. I will be with them as long as they wish for it.
The truth was that I wanted to build a family, but only after making sure my livelihood foundation was stable. Otherwise, I would be just like my parent… Oh well, that doesn’t matter.
I still had a long way to go, the problems were the size of a mountain.
“…. Rita, you should say as well if you have something that you want to do” — having deeply breathed and calmed down, I spoke to her with the tone of a master.
“I am a master who came from civilized society, I believe that I should listen to what my slaves wish as much as possible”
“Master… is that true?”
Still grasping her red face, Rita looked at me from between the gaps in her fingers.
“Yeah, you should say whatever you like”
“Then, I won’t hold back”
Rita grabbed her golden hair with one hand and brought her face near. She pressed herself against my nape, and run her nose through it, sniffing everywhere.
“… I am replenishing the scent of my esteemed master. I won’t be able to sleep without doing it once a day”
“Um, but isn’t this the first time you do this?”
Why are you averting your eyes, Rita-san?
“You see, Nagi… Once you fall asleep, you don’t wake up…”
“Oh, Rita Melpheus. Tell me everything you are guilty of during the time I sleep!”
I didn’t like using the compelling force of the ring, so I would have to make sure I was swift in reaching the answer.
“…. I am extremely sorry, esteemed master. Please punish me”
“I will do so, once we reach port city Irgafar”
So that’s how it is. During the time when I slept, Rita was apparently trying to memorize my scent.
Accurately speaking, her favorite spots were my palms, behind the ears, and the nape. She usually sniffed them for ten-some minutes. It seems like coveting the scent of a person whom they submitted to was a common trait for therianthropes.
As Rita told me, she also wanted to make herself remember my scent with her all instinct in case she ended up getting separated from me.
Her puppy-face was getting more and more red.
Oh well, it wasn’t big of an issue, so I should let it slide… Still, it’s a rare opportunity. I should think of some punishment once we reach Irgafar.
“Make sure to properly ask for my permission next time”
“I understand, my esteemed master… As an apology for before, I will do anything. Please give me any order”
“Okay. You are to accompany me on the shopping”
“…………….. too light”
Rita raised her face, much to my surprise.
“…….. I have finally managed to gather all my resolve, and you are being so cruel with your indifference, Nagi”
“You will be my guard. Isn’t that enough?”
“I don’t think there is anyone who would attack us right in the middle of such town”
“I just like being prepared, you know? The mastermind behind that black armor might be looking at us from somewhere right now. I am asking Rita to confirm the safety of our surroundings because of it. In case we will need to skip the town, there needs to be an escape route, which I want to prepare beforehand”
Also, there was a matter with Iris Hoffmeier.
Leticia confirmed my thoughts earlier.
The Hoffmeier surname extended to the family of the feudal lord who governed port city Irgafar. To be more accurate, it was a surname of a concubine who married into the family of the said lord. Leticia’s mother was apparently a distant relative of the feudal lord, so she heard about it when she was small. Still, Leticia was unaware of the intricacies of minute relationships and circumstances of their family.
“There is a possibility that a noble daughter will contact us in the near future”
“And when that time comes, you want me, who is aware of the circumstances, to be together with you. Is that what you imply?”
“Something like that”
Looks like I got her consent. Rita hit her chin and a hand and nodded many times.
“Roger that, my esteemed master. I have received your order and accept the duty of being your escort”
“I would also like to run with you about the location of the hot spring”
“……….. Nagi, you really do like baths, don’t you?….”
I can’t do anything about it, I am Japanese after all. I just didn’t have enough time to go on a trip to a hot spring in my former world. Isn’t it fine to take it easy at times when you visit them in another world?
With such reasoning in mind, Rita and I left the inn together.
It’s there, in front of the inn, that we met the sharp gaze of one ms. maid.
“Please forgive me for not being able to express proper greetings before. My name is Matilda, I serve Ms. Iris Hoffmeier”
Standing in the middle of the road, Maid bowed deeply to the two of us.
That’s some way to perform an ambush, I give her that.
“I am here to convey the desire of the young lady Iris to invite you to her residence. Would it be fine with you? May I request you to accompany me to the place?”
“We just happened to save said young lady and the rest when they collapsed. There is no reason to go that far for us”
I returned a light rejection.
Let’s see her reaction first.
“Your feelings alone are sufficient as gratitude”
“It seems like your comrade is not in a very good physical condition, isn’t she?”
… so that’s how it’s going to be. They are fast. So they have collected the information about us?
“How do you know that?”
“The innkeeper is a simpleto — no, it was just a rumor”
Something clanked in the maid’s hand. Taking a closer look, I noticed a silver coin jutting out.
I see. I did hear it being said that the inns in fantasy worlds have no concept of them having to safeguard the personal information of their residents. I guess that’s true.
“A detached house of the Hoffmeier villa has been prepared for you and the rest of your comrades. I believe it will be more suitable than this run-down — excuse my rudeness, it will be more suitable than this place, where many people come and go, could ever be”
So that’s her proposal. The conditions do not sound bad. At least in terms of security, the noble’s villa should be better than an inn. Should the comrades of that Living Mail attack us, I would be grateful to have the soldiers of the young lady on my side. It’s a valid strategy even in games to gather war potential in advance, and no one could argue that.
Still, I had this one thing I was curious about.
“Why are you going to such lengths for us?”
I thought the nobles were far more self-important being. Those whom I met thus far — with the exception of Leticia — was like that.
“It’s a rarity for the young lady Iris to hold interest in other people. That being the case, I believe it would be more appropriate to just get rid of not so special wandering adventures and the ilk — sorry, to pay them an adequate reward”
While ms. maid was speaking, she took out a contract medallion hanging on her neck.
“Iris-sama has ordered me to entertain you and even allow you to go free. All this under the name of [Contract]. By the decree of Iris Hoffmeier, daughter of the feudal lord of Irgafar, please accompany me, suspicious adventurers — no, the honorable benefactors”
[Sewage Increase LV1]
This enigmatic skill allows increasing the amounts of muddy water and puddles by several dozens of percents once they are touched with a cleaning tool.
The effective range, the number of usages, and the source of newly acquired water remain unknown for now.
The skill belongs to the [Drain Cleaning] series of skills, but it didn’t become a cheat skill, like [Slime Bringer] did, because Nagi had created it by himself.
However, all that matters is how the skill is used…
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