—There was a time when I thought that.
The girl I am confronting, I can’t feel any openings in her, as if she were a seasoned veteran.
I have been active for 1 year, but I don’t know this girl. A girl I have not seen before.
Maybe she was exploring in a different dungeon? No, in that case, she wouldn’t be bronze.
It isn’t impossible to get stronger in places aside from the dungeon, but it is not easy. But places where monsters show up in droves are really limited, and when defeated, they leave corpses.
The Spirit Energy the body absorbs is apparently less compared to when it is in the dungeon.
Then, there’s no way she would be that strong.
If I were to hit her shield a bit hard, she should cry in defeat.
—That’s what I thought, but that crumbled in just the first few exchanges.
She had dealt with my sword with her big shield as if nothing.
At first, I was angered by it.
That maybe that armor and shield were something that Hikaru had bought for her.
That I must crush that whole equipment of hers.
That I should have her feel complete defeat.
In other words…I was underestimating her.
The intense sound of metal and metal clashing.
My sword is a special weapon made to defeat monsters. I am still lacking, so there’s no hellfire steel used for it, but it is made wholly of steel and it is heavy. There’s no way someone could easily resist the impact of a sword like that at full speed.
But my sword…didn’t manage to get through the defense of that armored woman.
She even showed a smile as she received my sword with leisure.
Now that it has come to this, I have no choice but to slip through that shield to get a hit in.
It might injure her, but this is a duel to begin with. She should be prepared for that.
Those emotions similar to hesitation must have been making my attacks sloppy.
That armored woman didn’t miss that opening and I ended up allowing her approach.
Just as I was about to be pushed by the shield, I took it with the body of my sword.
Within the scraping of metal and metal, she looked at my eyes, smiled faintly, and she said something I didn’t expect at all.
“He made a promise with me to conquer the dungeon all the way to the lowest floor together with me.”
For a second there, I didn’t understand what she was telling me here, but strength left me and my brain went completely blank.
“Conquer the dungeon all the way to the lowest floor.”
That’s an objective any explorer would speak of at least once.
I was also all cocky saying I would be the first person to step into the lowest floor when I came to this dungeon city.
But it is shocking that Hikaru would make that promise.
Even though he said he wouldn’t party with anyone.
I thought this woman simply had gotten hold of a weakness of him.
“He also made a new party with me and we have already entered the dungeon countless times. We have practiced our teamwork, and we are making a plan to conquer it.”
The armored woman continued even further.
At this point, maybe out of anger, or…from despair, my knees trembled and were about to lose strength.
That’s a given.
We are talking about that Hikaru here.
Hikaru who felt as if he had ‘no choice’ but to form a party with me.
I wouldn’t have even imagined him being so proactive about conquering the dungeon.
I thought for sure that he would be so sad after I was gone that he wouldn’t even go to the dungeon, and would shut himself up in the inn.
Once I showed up, he would be brought to tears, hug me, and if I were to tell him to marry me, I believed that he would answer me with a passionate kiss, and yet…
“Also, me and Hikaru are already…living below one roof!”
“No way…” (Rifreya)
With those powerless words, I fell onto my knees.
Living together… They are living together…?
I see. Of course she would be all confident even when I showed up.
The battle was settled…from the very beginning.
I really shouldn’t have returned home.
I should have…should have stayed with him forever and ever.
…I have lost.
I have no choice but to accept it.
Even though I had so many chances, I couldn’t make Hikaru fall completely. We didn’t make a promise of aiming for the lowest floor of the dungeon, and most of all, living under one roof! I couldn’t have even imagined it.
In the end, I was simply a girl with no love experience.
I can’t match a veteran woman who has a cute face like her and can roll men in the tips of her fingers.
I have admitted complete defeat, but the armored woman didn’t attack me.
When I raised my head, she was simply looking at me with a refreshing look.
There was the leeway of a winner in her attitude.
I don’t want to lose.
I haven’t lost yet.
Seeing that so composed look of hers, I once again burn with a faint fighting spirit.
Didn’t I already decide to do anything to obtain Hikaru?
Didn’t I already decide that I would marry Hikaru for the remainder of my life no matter what happened?
I already decided to walk together with him.
Hikaru said that she was just a party member.
She herself too.
She may be saying they live together, but it could be that the usual kindness of Hikaru was showing here, and he is simply letting the girl stay together with him because she doesn’t even have enough to afford lodging.
I can still make it.
As long as I don’t admit defeat here!
I stand up and take distance from her.
“If what you said is true, then more of a reason to defeat you! For the sake of my own future!” (Rifreya)
More than half of it was me telling myself that, but the armored woman answered with something unexpected.
“Come! Show me you can cut open your future!”
Are those really words she should direct at a love rival?
If it were me, I would crush the opponent completely so that they don’t come close ever again.
I wouldn’t direct words like those as if I were inspiring my opponent -I wouldn’t be able to.
Anyways, I still haven’t done my everything.
I closed the distance and shouted the name of that Ability.
A sphere appeared right in front of her face.
I don’t get affected by this light. If I get a hit in while she is blinded by this, it will be over.
Her relationship with Hikaru might just be me jumping to conclusions here, and it might not be a weird one. That’s why I will forgive her and Hikaru.
While I was thinking that, I tried to swing my sword…but at that instant, the armored woman charged straight into the light, and I -who was only thinking about attacking her while she was defenseless- was pushed and held down.
“Too bad. Spirit Abilities don’t work on me.”
“No way…” (Rifreya)
Why?! Normally, you would get blinded and be unable to move.
My head was filled with questions, but the current situation was everything.
The armored woman was grabbing both of my wrists and straddling me.
I tried my best to change our positions here, but she was so strong, it made me question where she was getting that strength from that small body. I couldn’t move one inch.
This time for sure…I have lost.
With this, I have to listen to whatever she says.
If she were to tell me to forget Hikaru and return to my country, what would I do…?
…No, she herself said it before.
I can’t do anything. I have lost the duel, so I would have to return to my home.
…I don’t want that. If I have to live separated from Hikaru, I would rather die.
“Kill me. I would rather die than live without Hikaru.” (Rifreya)
That’s why those words came out naturally from me.
This is an official duel, and she won, so she wouldn’t be persecuted even if she were to kill me.
“Don’t say something so stupid. I went through the trouble of winning here.”
“You are going to make me go back to my country, right? Fine by me, I would just die anyways.” (Rifreya)
I have completely lost, placed in a position where I can’t move at all, and I was half in despair.
But she loosened her grip on me.
“Don’t make such a sad face. We ended up fighting on the spur of the moment, but it is not like I intend to take anything away from you. Having you return to your country was a joke.”
“Then what should I do?” (Rifreya)
“Before that, let me reveal one thing. First, I am an otherworlder. The reason why he has allowed me by his side is because we are of the same world.”
That was a shocking revelation.
Even Hikaru had a hard time revealing this to me.
But that’s exactly why, if she is from the same world as him, I can kind of understand the reason for that smile.
“But Hikaru was talking about being watched by everyone… Are you the same?” (Rifreya)
“That’s right. Just like Kuro, the people of our world are watching this moment too. However, I am not as delicate as him, so I don’t really care though.”
That unreal story of Hikaru.
The unbelievable talk that several millions of people from his original world are watching him.
It is not like I didn’t believe him, but even when told like this, it really doesn’t click with me.
“You actually were rejected by Kuro, right? That surprise of his was the type of surprise a man would show after seeing a woman he didn’t expect would come back, you know?”
I actually already knew.
I don’t even need to think about it. It was clear that Hikaru didn’t have any intentions of meeting me again.
I simply thought that ‘something could be managed if I were to push despite him thinking that way’.
He was taking distance from me in order to not drag me into his own circumstances after all.
“I will convince him, so come with us.”
“He is a hard nut to crack, serious to a stiffening degree, and his heart is slightly ill. I think he has to be looked after for a good while. If left alone, he would leave somewhere on his own… that’s how I feel.”
“I…think that way too. I returned in order to stay by his side… But is that okay…for you?” (Rifreya)
I don’t understand her proposal well.
It is true that Hikaru is in a dangerous state, and he is a person you must stay by his side to protect him, but I definitely wouldn’t be able to leave another woman by his side.
“It is okay. If you are okay with that. I don’t have such possessiveness. It is more important to grow older and foster the relationship after all… However, I won’t be letting him go, okay? It would be a different story if he were to hate me and leave me though.”
In other words, she doesn’t mind leaving me by his side as his ‘cheating partner’.
I really don’t get her well. It seems as if she is totally sure that Hikaru won’t be leaving her side. I don’t know what’s the basis for that confidence, but maybe she really is holding some sort of weakness on him?
But after talking with her, I didn’t feel any evil.
That’s why I don’t get it.
“B-But why…? What benefit would you have in leaving me be?” (Rifreya)
“I need strong comrades… Also, I don’t hate women like you.”
“Women like me…?” (Rifreya)
“I am talking about someone that doesn’t look at the other side, is frank, and lives following her heart.”
Is she praising me there? I feel like she is vaguely making fun of me…
I don’t get her. She is a person that came from the same world as Hikaru after all.
Even so, just like Hikaru, she is really calm and composed.
Is that a trait of the people of that world?
“Just that…right…let’s prohibit any love in the house. Kuro should yield to that condition. The biggest reason for him is that he doesn’t want your slovenly figure to be shown to the viewers after all.”
“Prohibit, you say… But I…might not be able to endure it…” (Rifreya)
“Endure it. It is better to watch over him with a prospect for the long future. Don’t worry, we will be battling in the dungeon everyday till we are all wasted, so you won’t even feel like doing anything.”
The condition she brought out sounded difficult for me.
The more exhausted I get after battle, the more I want to be pampered after all. But I wonder how it would be. Maybe a bit of pampering is okay? I hope it is. I am sure it is. Alright.
“Understood. But…tell me at least one thing. What do you think of Hikaru? Uhm…do you like him or…want to become his lover…? Anything like that?” (Rifreya)
“Right. I like him. But what kind of relationship you wish for depends on the person. You wouldn’t be able to get it. A Chosen who has obtained a certain Gift gets way too lonely alone.”
At that moment, she made a slightly sad expression, and that made me wonder.
I don’t know what’s this ‘Gift’ she is talking about.
But at the very least, I certainly do feel as if she is my ally rather than my enemy.
And from that day on, her, Hikaru, and I began living together.