‘What am I doing?’
Lime Latte was at a slightly further away place from the camp as he said this monologue.
(Seriously, something is wrong with me. Like this, it really is as if I am in a party.) (Lime)
Since the time he saved the priestess Chiya in Lorel Union with hero Hibiki, Lime has been moving together with them.
At first, it was obviously for the sake of gathering information by the order of his superior, Tomoe.
And yet, for some reason, Lime had meshed in with their party, and currently, he has ended up accompanying hero Hibiki because he was asked formally to a mission.
It is an infamous forest, but there were no signs of demonic beasts or beasts coming close to him who was smoking tobacco.
The creatures that live in this forest have recognized that this man that looks defenseless while smoking a tobacco, is actually a strong one.
And so, the natural instincts of the beasts are providing him with safety.
(…Frankly speaking, it is comfortable. As if I am with comrades I have been adventuring together for several decades.) (Lime)
There was a reason why he felt like he is together with comrades he has been along with for a long time.
It isn’t to the point of decades, but in the past, Hibiki’s party had one swordswoman.
A woman by the name of Naval.
Lime knew this from the information he had.
And the fact that he is in the spot she should be.
It is also the reason why at times it felt like he had a set place for him when in battle.
Not only that, Lime actually knew the woman named Naval in more detail than Hibiki herself.
(To think that that Naval was a companion of the hero. She was in Tsige for a temporal time, but… the Vengeance Oni has become quite a kind one. To die for the sake of her comrades is a way of dying that she definitely wouldn’t have done in the past. Well, I can’t talk about others though.) (Lime)
The Naval that Lime knows was an embodiment of revenge that pointed its fangs of hatred towards the demon race.
It is not only once or twice that he has seen people bleach with the blood of the demons.
Their power and gold is all used for the sake of killing as many demons as possible.
That’s the kind of woman she was.
But the Naval that Hibiki and Chiya tell him about, were all stories of a charming woman with hyuman kindness.
Thinking that Naval was changed by Hibiki, Lime thought that maybe Naval was happier than in the time he knew her.
He felt something similar to gratitude towards Hibiki.
(You didn’t die in loneliness and with a maddened smile. That’s great. Moreover, that dancing blade technique is still living within Hibiki.) (Lime)
He blows out a big smoke.
A thick smoke that looked as if it could take the whole head. And after he felt that he let out enough, he once again inhales heavily.
(Hibiki is truly a heroic existence. To the point that it is easy to see. That is also because she is purposely acting in that way, and it is also because the people wish that from her. Acting to become the vessel of hopes is not something that a person would be able to do with a normal spirit. I can tell why Boss sings praises of her.) (Lime)
In the time that Lime was keeping an eye on Hibiki, he noticed that she was putting on an image of a ‘hero’ as she acted.
At first, he thought that it was an action of deceiving the general public, but…
(She is doing exactly what’s wished for in a hero. What part of that is bad and who would suffer losses from it? She is quite the person.) (Lime)
It is certainly true that Hibiki is highly calculative.
To the point that at times, he rolled his tongue as he watched her.
But Hibiki wasn’t showing contempt or planning something.
Without denying the image that the populace holds of heroes, she instead accepted it and showed them actions that fit their wishes.
As a result, she has much more support, and people that don’t falter in cooperating with the country for the sake of Hibiki, are born.
And Hibiki will have a stronger authority within those people, obtaining the root of support.
No one is losing.
Lime doesn’t think of idealistic thoughts like ‘it is bad because she is deceiving’.
He is being affected by the charisma of Hibiki and it increases that view of his, but just like Makoto, Lime was starting to approve of Hibiki.
(I have been ignoring the calls of Sis Tomoe a few number of times already. I do think that something’s wrong with me, but…is there an option of following Hibiki like this? No, my life was changed by Boss and Sis Tomoe. To change jobs to Hibiki wouldn’t be cool.) (Lime)
Lime’s worries were that.
The tobacco ashes were falling to the ground three time faster than normal.
It was indicating the distress he was having at this moment.
It seems like Hibiki’s way of acting was something that made Lime want to see and continue seeing it from now on as well.
Lately, she has not been asking him to participate permanently in her party.
To take away an employee of Kuzunoha Company without permission is as expected, not something good, is what Hibiki said.
But if in that time Lime has a change of heart, she did say that she would really request it from them.
An invitation that’s not forced.
If it’s solved peacefully, it would be great, is what Lime said.
And so, Lime was wavering.
Because it was awkward, he was unable to make contact with the Kuzunoha Company, and at the same time, it signified that Lime was leaning towards Hibiki’s side.
(Hm? Hibiki huh. How unusual for her to come alone.) (Lime)
The face of Lime that was facing up and down, was now faced towards the side.
Because in that direction, he felt the presence of Hibiki.
“Even though I thought I had properly erased my presence. I can’t win against Lime.” (Hibiki)
“Anything you need?” (Lime)
“You said that you would be eating your meal separately, right? I do have to take care of our helper here after all.” (Hibiki)
With an accustomed smile, Hibiki gives Lime the plate she had.
When Lime’s gaze went to the plate, Hibiki took out the cloth that was on the plate as if she was in a play.
The scent of vegetables and meat spread to the surroundings.
“When the person herself says that she will take care of me… it is just…” (Lime)
“It is because it is Lime that there’s no need to decorate my words so much, so it makes it more comfortable. I told you before, right? If there’s no evil in it, then acting is not something bad.” (Hibiki)
“…I am an outsider though.” (Lime)
“But you are helping us. Even though there’s no need to cooperate with the request of Lorel Union. This is not necessary in the preliminary inspection of the company after all.” (Hibiki)
“…Is that steamed food? How? There’s no kitchen. I don’t know how you made it, but it is well made. I will take it.” (Lime)
“Ara, you are correct. Even if it’s steamed, it isn’t anything complicated. I also have some convenient cooking methods.” (Hibiki)
While giving the food to Lime, Hibiki begins explaining.
While being slightly grateful at Hibiki for understanding that he wanted to change the topic, he took the food.
“Delicious. Even if you stop being a hero, you would be fine. Today was made by Hibiki and Chiya, right?” (Lime)
“Thanks. That’s exactly right.” (Hibiki)
“The affinity between the vegetable and meat was well thought out, and there’s the seasoning as well. Even though you are a hero, you are able to do housework. That’s like undermining the whole women out there.” (Lime)
“It isn’t something that would trouble me for being able to do it. You as well, for someone that smokes tobacco, your sense of taste is pretty good. Isn’t that also undermining?” (Hibiki)
“Ah, you got me there.” (Lime)
After that, Lime gobbles up his food.
Hibiki didn’t hate the silence, and at times, she would make conversation as she stays there.
“Thanks for the food.” (Lime)
“Eating all the food makes me feel good. It was worth making it and bringing it here.” (Hibiki)
“And? You didn’t come here just because you were in the mood, right?” (Lime)
“It is true that I came to conquer your stomach, you know?” (Hibiki)
“Those kind of things, do them for brother Bredda. At my place, there are many people that like cooking, like Sis Mio. Something of this level won’t conquer me.” (Lime)
“Too bad. It is about tomorrow.” (Hibiki)
“The purple cloud huh. It seems like it is withering the forest and approaching at quite the fast pace.” (Lime)
Matching the change of mood from Hibiki, Lime also responds seriously.
“Yeah. It possesses strong toxicity, without doubt. It isn’t on a lukewarm level like acidic rain. The fact that there’s few living beings escaping, it should be safe to say that there’s something even more dangerous.” (Hibiki)
“Something that’s making the animals late to run, huh. This is big.” (Lime)
“The only ones in our group that can deploy wind to our surroundings while fighting are Wudi and I. Thinking about the danger of the cloud, we have no choice but to place Chiya-chan and Bredda as backup.” (Hibiki)
“It was an emergency, so everyone came after all. But I am able to fight while deploying wind, you know?” (Lime)
“…If you weren’t part of it, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.” (Hibiki)
“I see. In other words, you are asking me to join in the attacking role.” (Lime)
“Yeah, please.” (Hibiki)
“How straight.” (Lime)
It was different from how he felt with Makoto. Lime felt a sensation as if wanting to stretch out his hand.
And from that, the answer was already decided.
If it turns bad, they can just retreat; is what Lime delineated as he nods.
“Understood, I will help you. Seriously, just how much I have lend Hibiki already. You are properly remembering it, right?” (Lime)
“You are really a big help.” (Hibiki)
With a wide smile, Hibiki expresses her gratitude to Lime.
She nods once and continued her words.
“If I am to your liking, how about I marry you and return this debt for the rest of my life?” (Hibiki)
“What an ill mannered joke. I don’t want to be the man of a hero, what a pain.” (Lime)
“Instantly rejected?!” (Hibiki)
“I like all women, but I have never wished for marriage even once.” (Lime)
“…You will be stabbed in time, seriously.” (Hibiki)
“I am already tired of hearing that warning.” (Lime)
“Aah, I have been rejected. I am bad at giving up, so I will be tackling it again some other time, okay?” (Hibiki)
“You won’t go down huh, as expected of a hero.” (Lime)
“Well then, I am counting on you tomorrow.” (Hibiki)
“Leave it to me.” (Lime)
With just those words said, Lime stayed in place.
The night was still long.
Lime was troubled once again.
That’s probably the biggest weakness the hero Hibiki holds.
The fighting power of Hibiki increases every day.
But in regards to long-ranged attacks, it always ends up weaker than those of close combat ones.
This time’s opponent is a cloud.
It is high in the sky.
If you want to attack it, it is obvious that there’s the need of a method to have your attack reach it, or a way to reach all the way there.
For Hibiki, her only option was the latter.
And the magician Wudi and Lime who were accompanying her, will approach as much as possible to the cloud, and while avoiding the poison that is being poured down along with a wind akin to a storm, and the colored rain that would definitely produce damage to the body if made contact with.
They were releasing the attacks that they have thought of and trying to disperse the cloud.
The actual attackers are Wudi and Hibiki.
Lime was acting as a support.
As long as their opponent is a giant cloud and they are unable to get close to it, it was natural that it would come to this.
Hibiki was currently in the sky.
“This was my trump card though. So even perforating it isn’t showing any effects huh. What should we do? No other choice but to get…closer?” (Hibiki)
Hibiki’s tone still had leeway in it, but her expression was quite stiff.
“You can’t joke around. We can’t get closer than this. In the first place, to change your sword pressure in such a way and send it flying is already at plenty of a monstrous level. You can be proud of it.” (Lime)
Lime returns a honest opinion to Hibiki.
What Hibiki thought of for a long distance attack, was using the sword pressure as a bullet, an out of norms technique.
But she was able to do that.
She was finally able to do it by borrowing the power of the sacred treasure.
And to release it in full power, there’s also the need for the support of Lime, but she will probably be able to achieve it alone in time.
Her abnormal ideas and her growth that makes it possible.
Lime was looking at Hibiki, and has personally felt the reason why Makoto praised her, but even so, this time’s trump card was a surprise for him.
“If it’s about attack power in one point, you are higher than me, aren’t you? Seriously, to think that I would be slapped in the butt to aim for higher heights at this age. Being a member of a hero party is not gentle sometimes.” (Wudi)
Wudi mixes a sigh as he laughs.
He also hasn’t been able to produce an effective attack against the cloud.
Frankly speaking, they were at a stalemate.
“This looks like…it will be impossible. Let’s return once and make a plan. That’s the best option we can choose right now.” (Lime)
“…If we return, there will be several damages incurred. Definitely.” (Hibiki)
“People can be evacuated. Villages can be made again. Well, in a different place, that is.” (Lime)
“Wudi, is there a way?” (Hibiki)
While Hibiki and Wudi were doing thought transmission with the members on the ground and making a plan to break through this, Lime had one idea.
(If I contact Sis, it will probably work out somehow. This cloud is probably something from the wasteland. Looking at the direction it came from, there’s no doubt. Sis and Boss might know something about it.) (Lime)
But he thinks, that for someone like him that has been attracted by Hibiki and neglected his contacts a number of times, it would be asking for too much.
His pride has already been completely destroyed by Makoto and the others, but he still hesitated.
The reason he wants to be helped is for personal reasons, and there’s also the feeling of wanting to help the hero mixed in it as well.
(No, there’s no time to be hesitating. This is the last. In terms of time, it is already about time I have to return anyways. If this will save a number of people and children from the villages, there’s no need to hesitate. It will result in helping Hibiki. It is just because of that.) (Lime)
Lime hesitated and hesitated, and then, he decided.
He sends a thought transmission to his superior, Tomoe.
Tomoe soon responded.
(Sis, it is Lime.) (Lime)
(…It’s been a while. Is that side comfortable?) (Tomoe)
The words of Tomoe were as if she had seen through him.
(…I am sorry. I…to the hero…) (Lime)
Lime soon gave up the idea of smoothing it over, and told everything to Tomoe.
(No, I don’t mind. I have done something slightly ill-mannered. Sorry for that. Even so, you contacted us. That’s fine. What’s your situation?) (Tomoe)
But Tomoe controls this and urges him for an explanation.
(RIght now there’s a purple cloud that is causing damage to the Lorel Union. From my guess, it is probably something that came from the wasteland.) (Lime)
(It is close to it-ja na. There’s no mistake in that guess.) (Tomoe)
(And so, I was wondering if you have any sort of plan to take care of it.) (Lime)
(…Fuh~, you have really been taken in-ja na.) (Tomoe)
(Sis, the number one essence of Hibiki is coexistence and mutual prosperity. I think that she would be able to get along well with Boss and us.) (Lime)
(That’s only if she doesn’t throw away that number one essence of hers, that is.) (Tomoe)
(This is only an assumption, but if Hibiki’s way of thinking reverses, she can also become the existence that would hurt Waka the most. You do know the way to deal with people that hurt Waka…right?) (Tomoe)
(…So caution is necessary no matter what huh.) (Lime)
(Is how I think. I haven’t told this to Waka. You are the only one I have told this-ja zo? The only thing I told Waka was to be careful of the politician after all.) (Tomoe)
Lime was troubled by how to answer.
Hibiki and Makoto can help each other out.
Even though he proposed this, Tomoe was looking at a further future from that.
‘Then what can I say?’, he was at a loss of words.
(Also, Lime, you still don’t understand that our master is Waka.) (Tomoe)
(I will show you a performance with that cloud. Don’t move from there. And don’t let anyone else move.) (Tomoe)
Tomoe cuts off the thought transmission.
“Hibiki, Wudi.” (Lime)
Lime simply felt that something was going to happen, and calls for the two that were with him.
“Is something the matter?” (Wudi)
“Don’t move from here. Also, tell the two below the same thing, please.” (Lime)
While saying this, he uses his perception at his surroundings with all his power.
There was something that…caught his attention.
(A gate has opened! The ones that came out are…winged-kin? Two of them.) (Lime)
Lime felt that an Asora gate opened at the very edge of his perception range.
It wasn’t a coincidence.
It was certain that Tomoe did this on purpose so that he would be able to feel it.
People that have white wings and black wings went high up into the sky.
Residents of Asora.
They are at a position that’s a lot higher than Hibiki and Lime.
They are higher than the purple cloud.
The winged-kin were going up.
(What? What’s going to happen?) (Lime)
“Lime, did you think of a way? Can you tell us, please?” (Hibiki)
“I have…played the card already.” (Lime)
“That’s why, don’t move. Don’t do anything and just watch, please. If you wish for the best, that is.” (Lime)
Lime himself doesn’t know what’s going to happen.
That’s why, there was practically nothing he could say.
This time, the winged-kin stopped close to the end of where Lime was able to perceive.
(If I remember correctly…the black winged-kin are able to link information with another person, but…with who?) (Lime)
The altitude that the black winged-kin can fly is lower than that of white winged ones.
That’s why they are holding each other in that way, is what Lime could tell.
In other words, the one that’s necessary is the black winged one.
Noticing the special trait of them, Lime tried to infer what was happening, but…the answer soon came out.
“No good, we won’t make it in time for defense!!”
It was a bit faster than the words of Hibiki and Wudi, but well, there was no meaning in the difference in speed though.
From far in the distance, a thick heavy thread of light was aimed at the purple cloud, and Hibiki’s group.
(Does that mean I am already not needed? Sis?) (Lime)
With a feeling emptiness, Lime thought this.
But that was only because Lime still didn’t understand him, his master.
The words of Tomoe were correct in a variety of meanings.
(Boss…Well, if I am to be killed by Boss… in the first place, this life was picked up by him. He is a person that would make a person like me believe that he will be able to pull it off even if I am not around anymore.) (Lime)
Lime uprightly accepted his death, and then, he closes his eyes.
He can’t tell where that attack was shot from.
But Lime was able to understand that the one that the winged-kin was linked with was Makoto.
In other words, this is an attack from Makoto.
The light drew near until it was at the very eyes of Hibiki’s group.
In an instant, it spread into several threads and skilfully passed by them, and the fine threads of light pierced the purple cloud.
There were no words.
Not from Hibiki, Wudi, or Lime.
And from that group, Lime’s silence held a different meaning.
The cloud that was forcefully cut into a thousand pieces, began to scatter.
If he had to compare Hibiki and Makoto, Hibiki would be higher, only if he were to take out one point.
And that hasn’t changed at all, even now.
But the meaning of that one point, he probably underestimated it, is what he thought.
No, he noticed that he had forgotten about it.
(This power, this power that is able to hold down anything no questions asked; I was shown this. Right, I…want to see the destination of Boss that is even able to own the land of Asora.) (Lime)
Lime still holds good will towards Hibiki.
But he vividly remembered the memories he had in Tsige.
(…To drop in the middle of it would be a waste. I am a member of Kuzunoha Company, Lime Latte.) (Lime)
“Now then, let’s return. We are done now, after all.” (Lime)
Looking at the blue sky that didn’t have a single sign of the purple cloud, Lime spoke to Hibiki and Wudi who are still in silence.
The surroundings still had the remnants of Makoto’s magic power.
Making a spell of that level, Makoto was able to accomplish a stunt like leaving the three unscathed when they were in the area.
Lime was proud of it, shocked, and had a strange smile.
“…Is this Lime’s trump card?” (Hibiki)
With a slightly trembling voice, Hibiki finally opened her mouth.
“…Yeah. Of course, there’s no problem in taking the all the credit like the time in the temple.” (Lime)
“You won’t tell us what you did?” (Hibiki)
“I don’t know.” (Lime)
“I don’t know. I just consulted. To a person that might have known of that cloud, and if that person had some sort of plan.” (Lime)
With a refreshed face as if an evil spirit had left his shoulders, Lime answers Hibiki.
“What in the world…” (Wudi)
“Seriously. It is shocking right? I can only laugh at it.” (Lime)
Those were words that were said as if affirming the Wudi.
“Kuzunoha Company…” (Hibiki)
Hibiki probably already inferred a certain amount of truth.
But right now, she limited herself to only muttering these words.
To avoid saying anything imprudent and have Lime hear it.
She could also tell the change of heart in Lime instinctively.
“I have to return soon. I have a mountain of work over there.” (Lime)
“I see… It was fun, but too bad. When Raidou-dono comes to Limia, I would like you to come as well. It would be sad if this were the end after all.” (Hibiki)
“If Boss asks me to, I will. I also had fun, Hibiki.” (Lime)
After that, they returned to the ground, and regrouped with Chiya and Bredda.
The hero that was requested by Lorel Union, was able to splendidly defeat the purple cloud and save the people of Lorel.
The reputation of Hibiki has increased once again.
It’s a result that can be considered a success.
But a bit before regrouping, Hibiki bit her lips.
(Lime… I…) (Hibiki)
The first person that Hibiki wished for the most, had slipped from her hands.
She understood this.
And Hibiki was trying not to show her emotions in her face, but this time she was unable to.
She was mortified, and those feelings welled up to her throat.
That she didn’t say anything was maybe because of her obstinacy.
Whatever the case may be, the assistance of Lime and the competition with Makoto, had ended in the victory of Makoto without his knowledge.