“The sky is already graying. Hah…looks like this was an all-nighter.” (Makoto)
At a place a little further away from the entrance of the grand labyrinth, returning to the portal that let’s you go to the floors you have already been to, the far away sky was faintly changing in color.
It might be a bit fast to call it gray.
The main point is that it was an all-nighter.
Now, I will return to the hotel, arrange my thoughts on the current situation, and practice with the bow for recreation… yeah, there’s no doubt it will be morning by then.
It is true that I can go without sleeping for several days though.
Must be thanks to my youth.
In just this kind of times, I honestly think it is great that I am young.
Normally, there’s quite a lot of times where I feel like I am lacking in experience and lacking in ability as well, so there’s not many times where I get happy about being young.
“Well then, let’s return to the hote—huh?” (Makoto)
I call both Akashi-san and Yuduki-san who used the portal together with me.
Before, Akashi-san had an ashen face and had a hand on the wall with her face facing down breathing heavily. Then, how is she now. Her face is ghastly pale and Yuduki-san is lending her a shoulder.
Can’t be helped.
Since then, her muddy memories were slowly returning, and had remembered what she did and for whose sake after all.
For the sake of a master that she has not seen yet, Akashi-san was trying to increase the amount of comrades. Trying to reel in Yuduki-san, Iroha-chan, Shougetsu-san and the others.
Moreover, as if rubbing salt to the wound, the one who ordered this was the person that seemed like she would become a strong and dependable ally, Iroha-chan’s mother, Haruka-san.
There’s a lot she can’t simply swallow.
She was looking for her in order to have her become their strength, and yet, not only was she lured, she was forced to change sides.
“I…what have I done…” (Akashi)
“Akashi, just think about returning and getting rest.” (Yuduki)
But Akashi-san is still the better one.
Even when looking back at her memories, the time she was charmed was not that long.
She hasn’t hurt people willingly for the sake of Tomoki, or killed anyone yet.
That’s why…she probably can still return.
I think it is fine.
Those three that I killed have long since killed people for his sake.
If those three were trash to begin with and didn’t think anything about it…I probably would have thought they were still saveable.
But those girls were not.
They were all girls that had strong conviction and ideals.
That’s why it was ‘too late’.
There’s no point in dispelling the charm.
Even if it is dispelled, as long as there’s no miracle occurring, in the end, they will just…
Why was I able to tell all that in that one instant?
Hmm…did the power of Tomoe flow into me again?
It happens every now and then.
Even though it would be pretty useful if I were able to activate it at will, I still am not able to.
Yeah, I could tell.
When I once again look back, I could roughly grasp the memories -or maybe it was the knowledge- of those three and also their upbringing.
If I had to put it in words, it would be as if a drawer I didn’t know of had been stealthily added in my own room. A strange sensation.
Those three were originally the daughters of nobles in the Empire.
They held deep concerns towards the current situation of the Empire, especially in the relationship with the surrounding countries, and did their best to try and bring their points to the center of the Empire in a fair and square manner.
But it was the misfortune of them that Tomoki was in the Empire at that time.
Ah, so this is the Pione person.
It is certainly true that if she is like this, she would definitely hate me.
I have killed a close friend of hers after all.
Or more like, to think I would see the face of the woman called Pione in such a manner.
Even though I haven’t met her in person, her figure was already inside my head, and have already seen her laugh, cry, and get angry.
Truly a strange feeling.
“Monster huh. It is true that I am steadily straying from the boundaries of a human being. Even I can tell that.” (Makoto)
“It is nothing. Let’s go—hm?” (Makoto)
I unintentionally mutter the word that the gazes that are normally directed at me say.
Yuduki-san sharply reacts to it, but I just wash it away.
It is not really something to tell others after all.
The moment I was going to urge them to return, familiar presences appeared from the portal.
Oh, it really is the two birds one stone.
“Now, let’s return. If we don’t return to our beds while it is still dark, we will create unnecessary worry.”
“We somehow made it.”
“Sniff sniff, this is black. A black hole, you know? A bottomless pit, you know?” <black as in wrong>
It seems like the three are in a hurry.
One of them looks incredibly reluctant.
“Beren, Hokuto, Shii, what are you guys doing so late?” (Makoto)
He seriously went ‘Geh’.
“You’re not gonna say you went to the labyrinth to train, right?” (Makoto)
“Ah, no. Uhm, you see…” (Beren)
Unclear words came out from Beren.
“How should I explain it…” (Hokuto)
Hokuto is the same.
“In my case, it was practically kidnapping.” (Shii)
Shii’s words were clear, but it is not the answer I am looking for.
I once again ask.
I am not really angry. I simply want to hear what they were doing.
My tone is not severe since the beginning.
“If I had to put it in words…it is embarrassing to say, but it is like preparation.” (Beren)
Hokuto also nodded at the words of Beren.
Shii was discouraged and sighed.
I should try asking the continuation from her.
“Shii, what were you guys doing?” (Makoto)
“Thanks for asking, Waka-sama! Those two were cruel. They tied the opposing me in a tortoise shell style and kidnapped me into the dungeon.” (Shii)
“Hoh hoh, and?” (Makoto)
For now, let’s leave aside the talk about tortoise shell and kidnap, and see what she has to say.
From what I see of the gazes Beren and Hokuto direct at her, there must be some sort of reason behind this.
“From what I saw…the last part today was…pretty tough for us. Mainly for me and Beren-dono. But from tomorrow on–wait, that’s today? Ah, my sleep time!” (Shii)
“Even so, if we were to bring the masterpiece series of Beren-dono, we might damage the labyrinth, so we decided on gaining experience first by going beforehand.” (Shii)
“Beren said that we should prepare ourselves beforehand in order to accompany Waka-sama and the others. And so, it ended up in us leaving at night.” (Shii)
Well then, let’s hear about the kidnapping and the tortoise shell since I have the chance.
“I see, I understand. And so, about the kidnapping…” (Makoto)
“I said ‘I haven’t gotten serious yet, so it will be fine’ and tried to go back to sleep! I would probably be able to manage somehow tomorrow after all. And yet, Hokuto-cchi used some sort of tying technique, tied me up in an instant, and forced me to go to the labyrinth!” (Shii)
“Shii, it is fine. It seems like you were bothered by it, but you were plenty slim and light, you know. There’s no need to get anxious about your muscles. I think it is attractive.” (Hokuto)
“Shut up! I don’t know whose suggestion it was, but repeating the same thing over and over again doesn’t work, okay?!” (Shii)
…So Hokuto was the one who carried her there.
And he made a follow-up by saying she was light.
He has said those words several times already, moreover, Shii should be angry about the kidnapping.
This is derailing.
Well, in this kind of aspects, I can’t say much about others.
“Waka-sama! We are truly sorry for doing something like this without your forgiveness! But please, please bring us to the labyrinth as well. We will definitely—” (Beren)
“Of course, that’s what I was intending to do, Beren. My feelings have not changed at all.” (Makoto)
“I am looking forward to the results of your preparation. However! I won’t forgive any recklessness that might affect your health. Understood?” (Makoto)
But well, looks like it was my misunderstanding. I thought we had easily arrived at the lower floors.
Beren and Shii were actually beginning to feel it tough.
If I believe in the words of Shii, apparently, she can still manage in the next exploration without any preparation though.
And Beren as well, if he were to bring his treasured equipment without any restraint, he would have plenty leeway.
He has quite the outrageous equipment, so even I can tell.
But it is probably difficult to use them around this place.
To take into consideration the well-being of the labyrinth, or take into consideration the well-being of Beren; there’s no need to place a balance in which one is more important.
I will have him redo the selection of the equipment he will be bringing, and have him do his best as Beren ver. 1.1.
I wouldn’t want him get injured by doing too much of those preparations.
From what I have heard while we were walking to the Chihiro Man Rai restaurant, Hokuto doesn’t really have much difficulties in battle, but it seems the high pace exploration and mapping at the same time was beginning to prove difficult.
It seems he also thought that Shii required the preparation for tomorrow.
Looks like the three had their own places of concern.
I am probably the one who should notice these kind of things and do follow-ups for it.
We can have Mio help in the mapping, and regarding the weapons, we can reselect it to the ones that are best suited for the labyrinth.
And about Shii, we can have her get some advice from Akua and Eris.
The cordial backup of Asora is one of our big strengths.
Inside the labyrinth, a part of that strength is restricted, but it is not like we are always inside the labyrinth anyways.
We have to properly make use of it.
“Thank you very much!!”
“Same here, it is a big help that you guys are doing your best. Thanks.” (Makoto)
As I grew aware that my consideration towards the company’s employees was not enough, we returned to the hotel.
Even though it is this time of the day, the moment we entered, quite a good amount of people welcomed us which surprised me a bit.
Chihiro Man Rai restaurant is impressive.
Are they active at full force 24/7?
When going to the deep parts, you will find quite a good amount of temples of Lorel’s Spirit religion, and there’s one Kishimo temple there as well.
This underground area, where there’s no average temple, was currently being used for something different from religion.
But for the people that use this place as a stronghold, it is not that it is different from religion, it might be called a new religion.
A new existence that should be loved and revered.
It is the headquarters for the people that have been taught and are spreading the existence of the Empire’s hero, Iwahashi Tomoki.
“Looks like Akashi has failed. I still don’t know the particulars, but the communication with Manju was severed.”
At an underground hall where there’s purple smoke floating around, a report was being relayed.
Manju is the suspicious bar that Makoto had stepped into not that long ago.
The woman that was listening to the report shook her head to the sides in sadness.
“I thought that I would finally be able to teach Iroha about that person. As I thought, it wasn’t something to leave in the hands of the inexperienced Akashi.”
“Look for a chance, in as peaceable manner as possible. There’s no need to hurry. It is not like there’s anything that girl, who has not stepped into a ruling position and doesn’t know left from right, can do. And, if Akashi is not dead, retrieve her. She should still have her uses.” (Haruka)
“Seriously, if we offer the people and the control to Tomoki-sama, everyone would be able to live in happiness. My daughter is really a troublesome one. Not knowing is truly pitiful. Don’t you think so as well?” (Haruka)
“Yes. A life without knowing of Tomoki-sama is just worthless.”
The informant responds to the words of Haruka as if it was obvious.
There was no hesitation in her eyes and no doubt in her words.
Words that came from her innermost depths.
As if saying she was also of the same opinion, Haruka smiles.
“Is this what they call ‘the pleasures of subordination’, Haruka?”
“…That’s unrefined, Kougetsu-sama.” (Haruka)
“If I don’t interject here, it will once again end in foolish racket.” (Kougetsu)
“Are you denying the love of Tomoki-sama?” (Haruka)
The eyes of Haruka that had been gentle until now, were now showing sharp hostility and bloodlust.
The man that had just entered the place, Kougetsu, shrug his shoulders and shakes his head to the sides.
“No way. You have heard already, right? I am the one cooperating with Tomoki-sama. In other words, your ally. What I wanted to say was that you should do what needs to be done before drowning as much as you want in that love of yours.” (Kougetsu)
“What has to be done, huh. This city, the settlements in the surroundings, the real power of the Osakabe household; isn’t it almost all in your hands now? I as well, for the sake of showing my love to Tomoki-sama, won’t be frugal about my cooperation with you, Kougetsu-sama.” (Haruka)
“That’s what I am talking about, Haruka. The problem is that it is ‘almost’. It is not complete yet.” (Kougetsu)
“Men are always hurried in that way. If we continue further, as long as the father of Iroha doesn’t die, it cannot proceed. We have to make him die in a natural-looking death so that even Sairitz doesn’t suspect anything, or it will turn troublesome.” (Haruka)
“…The father of Iroha, huh.” (Kougetsu)
Haruka’s manner of speaking makes Kougetsu narrow his eyes.
Because he felt two meanings behind her not calling him her husband.
The first one is that he is not the ‘true father’ of Iroha; and the other is that he was certainly one of the people she loved, and yet, she said it as if her relationship with him was far away.
(In those days, everyone in the Osakabe’s authorities knew of their blighted love, but…the charm of the hero is truly scary. Once she fell to it, she happily did things like revealing the father of Iroha was the current head, and continuously prescribed medicine that was actually poison and would definitely not be discovered.) (Kougetsu)
Kougetsu himself doesn’t wish to cooperate with the Empire.
He is currently resisting the charm of the hero and is utilizing the Empire. After grasping the real power of the Osakabe household, he plans on eliminating everyone, beginning with Haruka.
The effect that the power called charm brings about, Kougetsu properly felt it as a threat.
“Yeah, her father. Wait for only a few months. And then, feel free to make the children that you have influenced into the head of the family. You can take one of the princesses here and make her the successor for you to control. The problematic thing has been dealt with, since they have already been taught to love Tomoki-sama.” (Haruka)
“Haruka, you also know about the irregulars called the Kuzunoha Company, right? Thinking about his connection with Sairitz, there’s no doubt that they have some sort of aim with the Osakabe.” (Kougetsu)
“Is that your reason for hurrying? You can just leave those kind of guys alone. The circumstances of Iroha are well known. And in turn, the things that Kuzunoha Company can do are also limited.” (Haruka)
“So you are telling me that it was a complete coincidence that the only girl in the Osakabe household, who has not been caught in the charm, has come in contact with a foreign company that is connected with Sairitz, and that I shouldn’t worry at all about it?” (Kougetsu)
“Yes. The situation has advanced plenty. We have already won. There’s no need to involve ourselves in it and have people die pointlessly, like the time with the Shadowless girls.” (Haruka)
“…I see.” (Kougetsu)
The assassination attempt with the Shadowless class assassins that ended in failure.
Moreover, not only did they not hunt Iroha, for some reason, they headed towards the company’s representative, Raidou, and got disposed of instead.
To be exact, it was them doing what they wanted, and it wasn’t the error of Kougetsu, but a failure is a failure.
It is also true that important pawns were pointlessly lost.
The biting words of Haruka had enough effect to stop the pressing of Kougetsu.
Kougetsu had a bitter expression surface and only gestured in response as he turned on his heels.
“Are you leaving?” (Haruka)
“Yeah, I will be coming back another time.” (Kougetsu)
“Tread carefully, okay? I am, in outline, an unknown factor after all.” (Haruka)
Haruka laughs sweetly.
Kougetsu doesn’t respond to it and only his steps were heard as he left the place.
(I’m impressed at how thoroughly that strong spirited woman was broken. A hero that shows no hesitation in using a power that maddens people to this extent. Was it okay to utilize it? No, don’t waver. Everything is for the sake of the Osakabe, for the sake of my own justice. At any rate, there’s no room to return.) (Kougetsu)
Remembering the original nature of Haruka who he knew well in the past and has now been changed by the power of Tomoki, Kougetsu felt his conviction waiver.
But he immediately throws away the doubts that were being born while thinking about his next move against the Kuzunoha Company.
He went his way back in a dark morning.