When we arrived at the barrier room, everyone was already there.
I glanced at the corner of the room.
The ‘not yet’ writing that I made was there.
“Everyone has gathered now then. Just in case, let’s confirm whether the ring and the barrier are alright.” (Shizun)
When Shizun-san proposed this, everyone nodded, but there was only one person that hurled insults.
“Tch! What a pain! If the ring is gone, I as the oldest would be the successor anyways, right? I am going to become the successor one way or another anyways, so isn’t it fine for it to be taken?” (Fai)
The one who said this is a thin man with tobacco in mouth, the eldest son, Fai.
The oldest sister Mizu reacts to the rash remarks of Fai, but he simply grinned.
“What? Got a problem? If you do, try undoing the barrier on your own right this instant.” (Fai)
He even provoked Mizu.
“If our abilities are the same, it only makes sense that I should be succeeding the family as the eldest son, right? If you are unhappy about that, try using 2 elements right this instant! Come on, do it! If you can, that is!!” (Fai)
“Kuh, it is because you have such a nasty personality that I can’t just leave you the family with peace of mind, Onii-sama! Why is it that you are so—” (Mizu)
“Stop it already, you two!!” (Shizun)
But the quarrel of the two was stopped by the shout of Shizun.
“Even if the ring gets stolen, the barrier would still stay. The standard of choosing the next head of the family is still the same. Also, in the case when no one can use 2 elements, I will be deciding the next successor by my own judgment.” (Shizun)
He said this firmly and urged his children on.
“More importantly, you should all have something to do.” (Shizun)
“…Tch! Got it.” (Fai)
“If our esteemed father says so, it can’t be helped.” (Mizu)
Fai and Mizu nodded reluctantly and move forward.
Earth and Fuu also followed behind.
In order to undo the barrier, you have to pour barrier magic of the opposite element in the respective crystals.
Fai of the fire element went to the blue crystal, Mizu of the water element went to the red crystal, Earth of the earth element went to the green crystal, and Fuu of the wind element went to the yellow crystal.
And then, the 4 began to concentrate their power into the crystals in front of them.
According to the lore of barrier magic, only the bloodline of the Aken family can use this magic, but it is not like everyone in the Aken family can use it easily.
Contrary to Shizun-san who managed to finish the barrier magic in just a few seconds, the casting speed of his children was slow.
Especially the oldest son Fai and the second daughter Fuu, they warped their faces slightly in pain.
In contrast, the oldest daughter Mizu and the second son Earth seemed to still be fine.
“…Me too!!” (Earth)
The first ones to finish in around 1 minute were Mizu and Earth, and then, in around 1 minute more, the other two finished theirs.
“Now then, please do it.” (Shizun)
The 4 casted the spell onto the crystal at the order of Shizun-san.
The crystals shone brightly for a second at the opposing element as if fighting back, but they eventually lost their light as if pushed back by the shine of the spell.
The barrier in between pillars dissipates at the same time as this happened.
“…Now then…” (Shizun)
Shizun-san approached the pedestal and grabbed the ring placed on top of it.
And then, after raising it to show it to everyone in the room, he stared intently at the ring.
“…There’s no doubt about it. This is certainly the Immortal Oath.” (Shizun)
After asserting this, he gently returned it to the top of the pedestal.
“Now then, the barriers.” (Shizun)
The 4 moved locations at the order of Shizun-san.
Fai to red, Mizu to blue, Earth to yellow, Fuu to green.
This time they all moved in front of the same color crystal as theirs and used their magic again.
The 4 crystals regained their light again, the ring was blocked by the barrier, and was hidden once again.
And then, we properly locked the barrier room with the key, left Elm-san to guard it, and we returned to the living room.
But in the middle of our way back to the 1st floor…
“Souma-san, what should we do about this…?” (Ina)
Ina called me to a stop with tears in her eyes.
In her hands, there’s a familiar vase…no, it is already a former vase…or you could even call this uneven object a ‘strange lump’.
There were no events in Nekomimi Neko where you had to repair a broken vase with super glue.
While I was troubled in what to say, big boobs—no, the useless maid hopped in from the side.
“No need to worry! You will drop it and break it again anyways, so you just have to remake it nicely then!” (Rirumu)
“Wait, wa, eeh…” (Ina)
Ina made a dubious look at the useless maid that said something horrible with a smile.
She grabbed Ina’s hand and said.
“Also, I believe in you. I am sure you will get better really quickly, Ina-san!” (Rirumu)
“T-Thank yo—wait! You are implying that I am going to break the vase again, right?!” (Ina)
“Yes, I won’t lose to you, Ina-san!” (Rirumu)
“Y-You are wrong! Don’t make me your comrade!!” (Ina)
“It is okay! Just gain experience like this and you will be able to bring back snapped cups, broken plates, missing parts of the wall, or chopsticks broken in weird places by using super glue!” (Rirumu)
“Listen to what I am saying!” (Ina)
The two were having such a lovely conversation and…
“You people, can I have some of your time?”
A cold voice rang from behind.
It is Mizu.
“Aw! I-I remembered I had something to do!” (Rirumu)
The useless maid that noticed this ran away without even a millisecond of hesitation.
Right after the useless maid was out of sight from the corridor, I heard the sound of something rolling down the stairs, but I ignored that and faced Mizu again.
“Good grief. That girl…” (Mizu)
Mizu said this annoyed, and Ina quivered with the vase she broke in hand.
Ina nervously shows her the vase.
“Give it here. I will throw it away.” (Mizu)
Mizu said this and extended her hand.
Seeing that Ina moved back as if by reflex at this, she snorted.
“Do you know how much tableware that girl broke yesterday? 1 plate and 2 glasses for a total of 3. And yet, she already broke 2 jars, 1 vase, 3 plates, and a set of cups.
Could it be that this pace of hers is because she is jolly about you people having come?” (Mizu)
“I-I am so—” (Ina)
Ina hurriedly tried to apologize, but…
“…Thanks for getting along with her.” (Mizu)
She gently placed a hand on Ina’s head.
“She is a girl that my father brought from the city. Despite appearances, she actually had her fair share of difficulties. Even though she could just take it more easily, she seems to be reserved towards us most likely because she has been hired by father.” (Mizu)
“But the vase…” (Ina)
Unable to follow the situation, Ina said this and Mizu giggled.
“Aah, there’s no need to worry about this. It is a cheap one for 100E anyways. There’s no way we would leave something expensive in arm’s reach of that girl, right? What we have out here are either cheap stuff or sturdy things that won’t break even when it falls. We have the actual expensive things stored.” (Mizu)
“I-I see…” (Ina)
Ina said this as if impressed.
No, no matter how you think about it, that’s a really crazy story, but it does make sense after seeing that useless maid.
“I was worried since that girl hasn’t been too cheerful lately. That girl only broke 2 things the other day, you know?! Two! Can you believe it?!” (Mizu)
“I-I see…” (Ina)
The unbelievable thing is that two is few for that useless maid, but it is probably already the common sense of this house.
Mizu was making an actual worried expression.
However, that face turned bright soon after.
“But she has finally found a brethren. I don’t have to worry anymore.” (Mizu)
Ina’s face stiffened, having a bad feeling about this, and Mizu made a smile that you could lose yourself in.
“Oh, that’s because you are a clumsy brethren of hers, right?” (Mizu)
“I-I am not clum—aaah!!” (Ina)
The breaking sound that rang at the same time as she shouted this was proof enough.
After disposing of the vase that broke again, I returned to the living room while pulling the hand of the dejected Ina, and Shizun-san began to explain the plans from here on.
“We have 6 hours from here to midnight. I am thinking of having watches on shifts excluding myself.” (Shizun)
The plan proposed by Shizun-san went like this:
6:00 p.m: Butler Elm.
7:00 p.m: Useless Maid.
8:00 p.m: Mizu.
9:00 p.m: Earth.
10:00 p.m: Fai.
11:00 p.m: Fuu.
“You will be guarding the door in this order, and we will confirm once again at 12 whether the ring is safe. If nothing’s wrong, we repeat the shifts. If nothing happens after that, we can consider the theft notice as a prank.” (Shizun)
Shizun-san paused there and Maki asked without a moment’s delay.
“Who will be in charge of that room’s key?” (Maki)
“The key will be in my possession in most cases. However, when switching, I will have them bring the key and have the two of them enter the room to check.” (Shizun)
For example; in the case when Elm and the useless maid are going to switch, the useless maid will go to the place of Elm with the key in hand. They will then open the door and check the state inside.
If there’s no issues after that, Elm will take the key and bring it back to Shizun-san.
“Is there any other spare key aside from that one?” (Maki)
“This is the only one.” (Shizun)
“Hmm, I see, I see.” (Maki)
Some heartstrings must have been pulled there, Maki was groaning constantly.
“More importantly, what about us? Is it okay to move around freely?” (Fai)
It was Fai who asked a question this time around.
Shizun-san frowned at that tone of his, but answered his question.
“No, I will have them in the same room as much as possible. Especially Fai, Mizu, Earth, and Fuu. In the case when you 4 have something to do elsewhere, you have to bring someone along no matter what.” (Shizun)
Fai clicked his tongue at this, but didn’t object to it.
After confirming that the questions have been answered, Shizun-san softened his expression.
“…Now then, let’s leave aside the complicated talk for now and eat.” (Shizun)
After that, we all moved to the dining room.
“Elm cooked enough for everyone before heading to his watch duty. Please accompany us on the table if that’s okay.” (Shizun)
We followed the proposal of Shizun-san and took a seat too.
“N-Now then, I, the unworthy Riruru, will take the place of Elm-san and bring the food to the table!” (Rirumu)
The one who ran quickly to the useless maid after speaking words that instilled dread was the green haired second daughter, Fuu.
“Y-You must not! …I mean, c-can you please let me do that?” (Fuu)
“But bringing the food is my job…” (Rirumu)
The useless maid persisted, but Fuu pleaded desperately.
“When Elm-san is here, he always brings it all in by himself, so I wanted to try it out myself today at least. Can’t I, Rirumu-oneechan?” (Fuu)
“…It can’t be helped. If you say so, Fuu-chan.” (Rirumu)
The tension in the dining room softened in one go after the useless maid nodded.
Everyone in the room directed gazes of praise at Fuu who saved the food.
Fuu noticed those gazes and laughed with an ‘ehehe’ shyly.
“Geez, getting happy about something like that. You really are a child, Fuu-chan.” (Rirumu)
Seeing this, the useless maid told her that, and the shy smile turned into a bitter one.
The dishes brought out may not have much in terms of portion, but it was an assortment of fancy stuff fitting of a meal of nobles.
“Hooh, this is quite…” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki, who seems to be a gourmet despite being terrible at cooking, had her ears wave, displaying her happiness.
“Wow! So the magic of Sazan-niichan was what defeated the Demon Lord?! The Demon Lord is super strong, right?! So amazing! You are super amazing, Nii-chan!!” (Earth)
“Fufufu, that’s natural for the strength of this Sazan-sama.” (Sazan)
I heard the stupidly loud voices of Sazan and Earth at the neighboring seats.
“That’s incredible. Also, the name Sazan is cool!” (Earth)
“Right?! Fumu, you have promise! Fufufufu…!” (Sazan)
The tragic development of a child getting attached to Sazan.
Well, the chuunibyou attire of Sazan must look cool in the eyes of a child.
The rare praise Sazan was getting must have completely gone to his head.
“I actually hate my own name! Earth has a weird ring to it, right? Aah, I would have liked a cool name like the Flash Tir, or the Omnipresent Fo.” (Earth)
I thought ‘that’s just the nicknames being cool’, but I didn’t say it out loud.
Seeing the way Sazan dealt with it…
“Hmph! There’s no point wishing for what you don’t have. What’s more important is to make achievements so big that they change the image of your own name.” (Sazan)
“I see. That’s amazing! You really are amazing, Sazan-niichan!” (Earth)
“Hmph, well, you could say that.” (Sazan)
Leaving aside his tone, what he is saying was unexpectedly decent which is surprising.
There’s cases where you finally do get a nickname once you become famous but it is a weird one, however, you could say it is a healthy suggestion.
“How can I become strong like you, Nii-chan?” (Earth)
“Right. First, have an objective. With an objective up high, the strength will follow.” (Sazan)
“In that case, I already have one!” (Earth)
Earth shouted with pieces of vegetables flying out of his mouth.
“I will become better than my brother and sisters…no, better than even my father, and become the number one barriermancer!!” (Earth)
The air in the dining room froze for an instant.
But the two in question didn’t notice this and continued speaking gleefully.
“Hoh, number one, huh. Sounds nice.” (Sazan)
“Right?! I will definitely become number one! …Cause, if I do so, my brother and my sisters won’t have to fight…” (Earth)
Earth looked faintly discouraged there, and Sazan hurriedly stood up intentionally and declared…
“Fu…Fufufu! Then, I shall make a special exception and show you my secret art!” (Sazan)
“Eh, really?! Show me, show me!!” (Earth)
It is fine to try and cheer him up, but nothing decent comes out from him getting ahead of himself.
I doubt he is going to drop a dangerous spell all of a sudden inside the house, but let’s be careful just in case. I nodded to myself and…
“Listen and be surprised! Watch and tremble! This is the ultimate spell that ended even the Demon Lord! Here I go! [Tidal Wa—” (Sazan)
“Alright, stop there!!” (Souma)
I grab the collar of Sazan who was about to do something idiotic at the speed of light, and forcefully stopped him.
Why is this guy so stupid?
It makes me want to cry.
“W-What are you doing?!” (Sazan)
But more trouble came while I was sighing at the struggling Sazan.
“Tch! As if I can eat such bad tasting food! Meal is over! I am leaving!” (Fai)
The red haired man that was eating in silence until now stood up aggressively from his seat and left the dining room with his plate that still had food.
Mizu stood up from her seat at the thoughtless remarks of Fai, but I stopped her.
“I will keep an eye on Fai-san. Everyone, please continue your meal.” (Souma)
I say that and, without leaving any opportunity for someone to object, I followed after Fai.
Fai was swapping the remaining food to a different plate by the time I arrived.
When he saw me, he clicked his tongue audibly and began talking as if monologuing.
“This house doesn’t have the magic bags or pouches that you adventurers use, so the maid is going out often to do the groceries. Tomorrow is that time, and yet, even though we are already low on ingredients to begin with, you guys came.
There’s no way there would be enough for everyone.” (Fai)
He swiftly lined up the food and warmed it up as he said this bitterly.
“That damn Elm geezer, if you are going to make such bad tasting food, you gotta eat it too. That’s why I’m gonna go to the place of the geezer now and give him my scraps. If you want to keep an eye on me, go ahead and do it.” (Fai)
A smile leaked out from me after seeing the food lined up nicely.
“Y-You bastard, don’t go laughing! I’ll kill you!” (Fai)
I carried half of the dishes while listening to the insults of Fai from beginning to end, and kept him company all the way to the barrier room.
And then, on our way back to the dining room…
Fai clicked his tongue while holding his stomach, so I offered him skewer dangos which I had found just a few moments ago when rummaging around my bag.
“What’s this?” (Fai)
Fai opened his eyes wide at my sudden action.
“Can’t tell just by looking? They are skewer dangos. I have so many in my bag, they are getting in the way. Can you please free me from some of them?” (Souma)
“…Why me?” (Fai)
I pushed the dangos forward with Fai’s eyes still nailed onto them.
“Isn’t it fine? I am learning from you and asking you to get rid of my scraps.” (Souma)
Fai clicked his tongue somewhat happily at my words and…
Said this in a low volume as he wildly ate the dangos.
“Salty. Damn it, this is so damn salty!” (Fai)
He said this as he rubbed the corner of his eyes.
But there’s no way the skewer dangos are that salty, and even if they are, it wouldn’t bring you to tears.
“…Want one more?” (Souma)
“No, I don’t! I really don’t!” (Fai)
Maybe Fai is trying to hide his shyness here, he shook his head hurriedly.
…Good grief, the people in this house are all tsunderes.