Mentor and Disciple
After noon on the day we left Rinnal.
We hadn't reached the royal capital, nor had we reached the next city, but we were getting ready for the famed sleeping outdoors.
Right, I thought we could go on further, but Till said stop so we did.
Well, even if I say sleep outdoors, we had prepared a tent beforehand, so it doesn't feel that uncomfortable.
Besides, I had learned how to put up a tent back when I went to a summer camp, so there was no problem either.
There was a nice place right below some trees, so that's where we put it up.
There was a lake nearby, but even if it should rain a lot, we'd probably notice before the water level rose enough to submerge us.
We made the entrance face downwind, properly fixed the ropes with pegs and preparations were complete.
Well, more or less.
"Good work, Ilya."
"You, too, Alice-sama. I would have made it alone, too."
"It's fine, it's fine."
I don't hate moving my body... originally.
However, it's nice that there's a lake nearby.I can go wash up later.
"Do thou have a moment, Alice?"
While I was taking a breather from putting up the tent, Till came over.
She'd taken care of the horse, but had disappeared along the way.
I wonder what she'd done?
"Yes, what is it?"
"Hm, could thou show one thy Status?"
Come to think of it, since meeting we haven't had the time, so we hadn't done that kind of self-introduction.
Even though, I should say, she's my proper mentor.
There's no reason for me not to show her.
"Sure. This is it."
As told to by Till, I revealed my Status to her.
Thinking about it, this is the first time I've showed it to someone other than Shion-san in this much detail.
"——W-what? ... a half, thou say?"
As she confirmed my Status, Till's expression hardened as if she'd seen a ghost.
"Whose... child are thou?"
Halfs are cool, aren't they?
And riding on that feeling alone, I'd made the setting to half an Elf. But Elves themselves seem particular here, what the hell, this is bad!
I stepped on a landmine!?
"Is it Estoria? Are thou Estoria's child!?"
Till shook me by the shoulders.
"Honored mentor, please compose yourself."
Softly rebuked by Ilya, Till awkwardly let go of my shoulders.
Ilya, good job!
I mean, there's nothing I could tell her.
If anything, I'm the child of god.
"I'd known thou were an elf... but a half of all things..."
How should I put it, if Till gets so surprised by it, I start feeling uncomfortable myself.
"Till, isn't it fine now? It's not particularly pleasant having that topic dragged up."
"Apologies. Thou are right."
It's not that it's unpleasant, there's just nothing I can say.
"Anyhow, I also want to know about you, Till. Because there's nothing I know about elves."
"...is that so. Understood."
Name: Tillbell Aynshaura
I reflexively stared at Till.
The way her lovely, pointed ears twitched was extremely cute.
And red as apples, well, I guess I should call them rinnals?
Red as rinnals, her springy cheeks made you feel better just looking at them, like she were some pet animal.
Not one strand of her blond hair, tied in twintails, was dull. You could tell its vibrancy at one glance.
There was not a crack in her cherry-blossom pink lips and not one impurity in her eyes blue like the deep sea.
———in other words.
"A Legal Lo-... crap, crap. I mustn't say it out loud. I mustn't."
"Hey, stop it! Do not pet one's head!"
Till brushed my hand away like it was a bother.
"Ah, I'm sorry, my mistake."
By mistake, I poured my affection on her.
"A little girl having not even lived a hundred years will not treat one like a child."
That's an amazing line.
You'd never be able hear that in my former world, would you.
"Are elves that long-living, after all?"
"Did thy mother not——no, that's right. Elves are fundamentally long-living, but people with strong mana are particularly so."
"Hee, then Till can reach an amazing age."
"The village chief is over a thousand."
"A thousand!? Elves are..."
No, wait a second.
Elves with strong mana are particularly long-living?
Then... what about me?
"Alice, thou will probably live more than a normal human's life span."
Till had replied like she'd read the question off my face.
At the moment, that life span is a fact that hasn't clicked.
Somehow I got the feeling that Ilya started feeling depressed.
From our talk about life spans?
I knew Ilya's Status.
During my business talks with the Firm, it had been shown to me.
And to begin with, now I could operate Ilya's Status myself.
On the other hand, Ilya couldn't operate her own Status.
That was proof I was her master.
In this world, if you couldn't operate your Status, you basically couldn't get a job.
Falling into slavery seemed pretty harsh.
Anyhow, I checked her Status once more.
Class: Apprentice Lancer
What surprised me when I first saw this Status, well, it was the Apprentice part of her Class.
Because she was that strong, I'd thought she'd been experienced in combat, but apparently not.
Bertrand-san hadn't lied or anything.
She hasn't fought with monsters, but maybe dragonkind was originally blessed with an instinct for combat.
Besides, apparently she'd done practice.
Then, there was Ilya's pure body.
Ilya's pure body.
That's important, so I repeated it.
The guys at the Firm hadn't raped her.
A written pledge from the auntie looking after the Firm's female slaves confirmed that.
They told me to check it myself if felt so inclined, but there's no way I could do that.
No, well... well?
"I want to... live the same time as Alice-sama."
While I was having bad thoughts, Ilya revealed her thoughts on the topic.
So was it really about that?
By the way, elves and dragonkind.
Which were rarer in this world?
Honestly, are they possibly both super-rare?
Ilya is young, she has those looks, and she's strong to boot!
With that combination, the price I bought her for feels cheap instead.
I didn't especially ask the Firm the reason, but...
"Dragon lass. Why don't thou just live the time? It's not that there is no way."
"Honored mentor... please, say no more."
"Although your precious meeting might have been a kind of fate."
Somehow the two had started speaking about something I couldn't follow.
Not that it matters, but could you please stop driving me out of the conversation and heat it up on your own?
But a precious meeting, huh.
Which reminds me, how did Ilya fall into slavery?
And dragonkind... they're not like that Ice Dragon, but human-looking?
As always, Ilya was full of mysteries.
Although, as my slave, I think she would tell me a lot if I ordered her.
But that's a little... it's not how I roll.
"Well, don't get so angry. From one's position, your meeting feels akin to fate," Till admonished Ilya with a gentle look on her face.
Ilya in turn avoided her gaze in perplexity and met my eyes.
She immediately looked away.
Is she bullying me?
And then, my training under Till already started.
Apparently that's why we stopped while the sun was still high in the sky.
"Alice, how high is thy proficiency with Thunder?"
"Yes. Right now... it's 13."
"Hm. Then get it to 99 before the sun sets."
Had I misheard?
"Get it to 99 and come back."
"I could hear you!"
I just couldn't believe it!
You don't have to laugh with such a mean look!
"The monsters on the mountain that way are just right for you. I checked it out earlier," Till pointed at the mountain beyond the lake.
So that's why she'd disappeared earlier...
"Proficiency with Attack Magic doesn't go up unless you fight enemies of higher levels or simply strong foes. The basis of everything training while you're young and efficiency is high."
But thinking of Till's scary level, does that mean that Till's not going to get any stronger?
Well, at this point I cannot see the limit to her strength though...
"No need to worry. To begin with, one's level doesn't rise that easily, and it rises no higher than one's age. In thy case, it will stop at 15."
A shocking truth.
Is that how it works?
Well, from seeing Till's level, I'd understood that the limit wasn't 99.
Ah, I see.
That reminds me, both Shion-san and Uncle had trained raised their levels almost to their ages, but they hadn't passed them.
That explained it.
"...and if I don't finish by sunset?"
"Hehe, then you don't need to come back."
"Ri—ght?"She's not soft, I see.But this not-soft attitude reminds me of the time I was pushed during club activities.
It's not a bad thing, I think.
"Let us do our best, Alice-sama. Of course, I shall help you."
"One is going to sleep."
This person really is my mentor, right?
At least ask me to stay safe!
"It's fine, I understand! I'll show you!"
My legend begins now!
The time for me and nobody else to become the world's strongest has come!
Get ready and wait for me, Tillbell Aynshaura!
Right, intending to chase her, I'll never catch up.
I have to aim to overtake her!I defiantly looked at Till.
Her daunting smile gave me a little scare.
Well, I don't have to antagonize my great senior... maybe.
I can just become my generation's strongest.
I'm sure that's right!
"... thou are so cute."
Till let out another big yawn and walked over to the tent.
Now then, if I waste time, I really might not make it.
"Ahh, one forgot. Make sure to come back to make dinner."
"Are you a demon!?"
And this time, Till really got into the tent while carelessly waving her hand.
"... let's go, Ilya!"
Ahh, that immediate affirmation felt so good!
And that marked the beginning of a sleepless night for Ilya and me.
... not in the dirty sense, alright!
"Alice-sama, are you alright?"
While gasping for breath, I raised a hand to signal Ilya I'm alright for the moment.
After going around the lake, while going up the mountain, the limit of my endurance had come.
In the first place, there were only not-quite-paths like animal trails.
Add the slope and it's tough on the current me.
"Till went straight over the lake, didn't she... such an unfair shortcut."
That magic to run through the air.
She created footholds out of ice in the air and produced propulsion by exploding them, is the conjecture I made from seeing it a number of times.
The point is the following:
Isn't that a consecutive application of Blizzard?
Isn't she repeatedly creating Blizzards with regulated power in midair?
"Just imagining it, it's awe-inspiring..."
If I'm right, the difference in ability is beyond words.
Does that mean that, during the fight with the Ice Dragon, Till cast high-class magic while running through the air with repeated Blizzards?
I already know that Till can Double Cast.
"That wall is so high..."
If the current me repeatedly cast Thunder without waiting for the cooldown, I feel I'd collapse after the fourth one.
But even if I could repeatedly use it, I might not be able to run through the air due to the attribute of my magic to begin with?
Of course, it's probably impossible with fire magic, too.
Every attribute should have some special feature, so I guess I don't have to be pessimistic about it.
"I think your mana rivals that of the honored mentor, Alice-sama. I believe in you more than anyone."
"Ilya... you're such a good girl."
I'm the type that improves when praised, that's right.
Ahh, with my current age, she's one year older than me.
But she doesn't seem to find it unpleasant if I talk to her like that.
She answered me by smiling gently.
Still, I remembered while toying with the bracelet around my left arm.
Till had warned me.
I normally shouldn't use it, she said.
In other words, should I just shoot my magic with my right hand?
Certainly, if I use the bracelet, the mana consumption is enormous.
"——Alice-sama, they're coming."
Ilya protectively stepped in front of me.
She took a stance with her iron spear.
Ilya's equipment was that Iron Spear which we had received as service from the Firm and a spare Leather Robe from Aunty.
I was wearing the leather robe that Aunty had fixed and remodeled by adding Uncle's mantle as something of a pareo.
Its defensive properties seemed quite high.
Level 13 Killerwolf
I checked the enemy Status.
Still, after experiencing the fight against the Ice Dragon, I'm comparatively calm now.
But this time, there were more than one.
Four in total.
My first combat against a group.
Come to think of it, I've heard that wolves are good at hunting in a group.
With that thought in mind, suddenly not just the enemies in front of my eyes, but the thicket to the side started bothering me.
——aren't there some still hiding?
"Learn that you will not harm a hair on Alice-sama's body!"
Nonetheless, the enemies before us came first.
With a swipe of her spear, Ilya held the wolves at bay.
What's with this sense of security.
Not being alone is wonderful!
Without chanting, I sent them an instant, preemptive attack.
Shooting out from my right hand wasn't the pentagram-strengthened magic from the fight against the Ice Dragon, but my usual magic.
However, there was no problem with its power.
Catching them off guard, my magic hit one of the wolves and toasted it.
With one of their comrades defeated, the wolves stopped probing the situation and jumped at us.
Ilya stopped all of their attempts through skilled handling of her spear.
Ilya may have low agility, but she was good with her weapon.
How she made use of the spear's reach to zone out the wolves was extraordinary.
I see, this weapon is great for Ilya.
I dare say Ilya isn't suited for swords.
To go at it at close range, you needed agility no matter what.
Although she had the form competing with the bandits, but of course it's better to play to your strengths.
Well, leaving that aside, she really was the best shield for me.
She didn't dodge, but took it all.
And so that the enemies didn't get to me, she zoned them out.
On the backline, there was nothing as reassuring as such an ally.
In that case, I decided to make a somewhat reckless experiment.
I thought I'd repeatedly cast my magic like Till did.
I'd ignored the cooldown.
The second wolf turned into a splendid toast.
I could still go on.
The third one.
I hadn't aimed properly and it was dodged.
Was it a problem with my concentration?
I felt dizzy and staggered.
Hmm... was this the limit?
"Please stop, Alice-sama."
At the same time as she spoke, Ilya stepped forward and skewered a wolf.
However, maybe the enemy's defensive power exceeded Ilya's attack power, it was no lethal wound.
They repeated such exchanges a few times before Ilya finally defeated that wolf.
As for myself, the world was spinning and spinning and I thought I was done for.
I focused on recovering.
That right there was the nigh insurmountable difference between Level 3 and Level 275!
... no, well, that's a matter of course.
But I can recover from that much dizziness in a bit.
I think I've solidly grown stronger.
After recovering, I defeated the first wolf Ilya had driven away.
With that, the proficiency went up by 3.
Still, I cannot believe that the difference between Till and me is only in our levels.
Her repeated casting came from the difference in how we used our magic.
Right, so... I need to regulate the output?
When Ilya called out to me, my body moved right away.
A wolf had jumped out of the thicket lining the animal trail that had bothered me in the beginning.
I somehow dodged the wolf lunging for my throat by crouching down.
——and, at the same time.
It was a momentary decision, a complete coincidence.
From below, I thrust my palms into the unprotected belly of the wolf whose attack I had dodged.
There was no strength behind it, so it did nearly nothing.
Thus, I hurriedly added my magic.
It was an momentary, unstable activation, a Thunder lasting only an instant.
It couldn't defeat the wolf, but...
"I am deeply sorry. Are you alright, Alice-sama?"
Ilya cautiously killed the wounded wolf and came to check up on me.
However, it wasn't the time for that.
"Ha... hahaha! Just you wait, Till!"
I had definitely grasped that sensation.
——I think it's human nature to get elated over such insights. I really do.
"So, what is it the dragon lass is shouldering? A corpse?"
"No, ehm... how should I put it."
By evening, the battle with the wolves on the mountain and the round trip on the originally harsh way had completely brought be to the limit of my endurance.
On the way back from the mountain, I collapsed and ended up being carried by Ilya all the way to the tent.
I carried Ilya's spear and Ilya carried us both.
Come to think of it, Ilya's Strength was nothing special, but her Endurance was excellent.
Still, how pathetic of me...
Till's half-closed eyes pierced my heart.
There was nothing I could say.
"No matter. Quickly prepare dinner, Alice."
"Demon!!" I shouted from Ilya's back.
Oh, hey, I could still speak...
Alright, what should I make.
Tomorrow we're going to stop by the nearby town once, so I can probably use up what we've brought with us.
Freshness is important.
That being said, we've only brought non-perishable food like bread or jerky anyway.
Well, I individually had packed some vegetables.
For lunch, I'd had Aunty's sandwiches, but my pride didn't allow me to make the same as her...
I have brought spices, too.
"Right. I've felt unsatisfied because all I've had is solid food."
Fortunately, we've brought lots of water.
Our trip wasn't hurried or anything, so it should be alright to use it for something other than drinking.
"Alice-sama, what should I make?"
"Let's see... I'm going to use the camping pot, so can you put together a hanger?"
She just needs to bind together some of our firewood with a rope, so it probably won't take that long.
For the cooking fire, we had a portable Fire Crystal, so there was no problem.
The portable Fire Crystal, unlike those at home, are throwaway items usable once.
If you traced the cavity in the stone looking like the character for fire, it would gradually heat up and ignite.
I've heard in this world with a low absolute number of magi, they were used for military purposes, too.
Well, military-use Fire Crystals probably didn't give off cheap, weak flames like this one.
"The camping pot? Are you going to stir something? Or did you want cook rice?"
In fact, the camping pot could also be function as a frying pan. It was such an excellent portable cookware, but I was not going to make anything fried.
And just like Ilya's confused expression said, we had not packed any rice.
"I'm going to make a soup," I answered and dragged the ingredients and flavorings off the carriage.
I had Ilya build the hanger for the camping pot, heated everything up with the Fire Crystal and firewood and made a simple soup in the camping pot.
As expected there was nothing handy like a ready-made soup base, so I used the consomme I had used for cooking the other day, too, and salt for flavoring. With beans and cabbage, the ingredients were simplistic.
I tried tasting it, but my tired body was penetrated by the saltiness.
I beat the jerky a bit to soften it and used it for sandwiches along with the salad I had brought.
We would use up all our vegetables in a day, but whatever.
They wouldn't get any better.
But it really helped that the foodstuffs were just what they looked like. There was no need for me to hesitate when cooking.
"Ohh, this is good!"
The soup accompanied by sandwiches was met with a favorable reception.
That one line was the real pleasure of cooking.
"Really... and it makes the bread so easy to swallow, too."
With only solid foods... right?
Besides, we were outdoors, something to warm us up was great.
"I am sorry, it really should have been me to prepare it... but Alice-sama seemed to enjoy herself so much..."
"Eh? D-did I?"
No, well, certainly cooking is great change your mood.
"One has taken a liking to this, Alice! Well done!"
"No, uhm... thank you."
Somehow I'm only being praised for things outside of training...
Still, damn she's cute when she's gobbling up a sandwich.
Not that I would ever say it; she'd kill me.
"So, how far did thy Proficiency rise?"
I worked quite hard.
"Hoh. Then it shouldn't take much longer."
Nono, I just finally came back.
This is the place for 'It'll really take until freaking dawn', you know?
"If thou have exceeded 50, thou should already be able to target an area with it. With thy mana, one strike should still suffice for the likes of the enemies there."
I hurriedly checked Thunder.
Thunder (Proficiency 51) No Cast Time, 10s Cooldown, Area possible
"In that case, it really might not take all night."
"It doesn't hurt getting used to nocturnal combat, either. Alice! Thy eyes can see, too, right?"
About elven eyes, huh.
"I can. As I thought, you too, right, Till?
"Yes. And the dragon lass should be skilled at reading presences. It's good to further train it via nocturnal combat."
Ilya strongly nodded.
Ahh, that wolf's surprise attack still bothered her.
Although for me, it had been a fortuitous mistake.
Thanks to it, I had noticed a neat little trick.
"Then do thy best. One is going to sleep."
"You really sleep a lot."
Just like the child she looks like!?
As if drowsiness had shown itself the moment her stomach was filled with sandwiches and soup, Till rubbed her eyes.
"... come on, Till. Please sleep properly in the tent."
I took Till's hand who had started dozing off right then and there.
Her steps were uncertain, too.
By her hand, I guided her to the tent.
We entered and right after I pulled the blanket over her, she fell asleep.
"She has the sleeping face of an angel, though..."
Sheesh, I wanted to sleep, too, but as the disciple, I couldn't do that.
For the moment, I decided to clean up after the meal, take a little bath and go out again.
When I came back to Ilya, she had finished dinner, too, and had begun the clean-up.
"Ilya, when we're done cleaning up, I'm going to bathe a little in the lake, so please give me just a little bit of time for that."
"No, Alice-sama. During the bath you are the most unguarded; we have no idea what danger might lurk there. I shall accompany you."
She'll come with me?
"Uhm... your clothes?"
"Even without wearing a single shred, I shall not fall behind any enemy."
"I-is that so."
Well, she can stop a sword with her bare arm.
But, no, that's not where the problem lay.
"Now, let us go."
While talking, Ilya quickly finished cleaning up and now pulled me by the arm.
She took towels from our luggage and dragged me along.
You're so strong, Ilya!
I was no match at all.
I had already resigned myself.
And embarrassingly, my eyes worked really well at night...
This world had two moons.
One blue, one red.
The way the blue moon seemed to chase the red moon around in the sky, like they were close siblings frolicking around, made me smile.
"The twin moons Klayne and Krysna. I find them very beautiful tonight, without any clouds.
"Yeah, it's calming my heart..."
So they were named Klayne and Krysna.
Well, put frankly they were moons.
Somehow it seemed like there'd be a story behind it.
But it really was a mysterious scenery.
When I had moved to the city, I had slowly forgotten to look up to the sky because I hadn't been able to see the stars anyway, but this world's nature is really mysterious and wonderful.
No, well, that's the same in my former world, but it depended on where you were.
In that sense, where I am right now really is wonderful.
"Alice-sama, doesn't——your neck hurt?"
Unnaturally looking up at the sky for a long time did make my body feel uncomfortable after all, it seems.
I understood Ilya coming closer from the sound of the water.
"W-why are you coming closer, Ilya?"
"Well, my movements are not quick, Alice-sama, so I thought I should be as close as possible to become your shield."
Ilya... you're such a good girl!
But right now, I don't need your concern!
"This lake has few stones and the soft sand feels nice. Is the water temperature alright for you?"
Come to think of it, it really was nice how there was no sludge on the ground.
I'd thought it would suck to accidentally cut my leg, but like this, it might be okay to walk around a bit.
"It's not that cold, so I'm fine. Wanna go under a bit? Like, splash?"
I'd finally had enough and turned around to Ilya to mess with her a bit.
My eyes were locked to her face, though.
Still, Ilya wet from the lake water made an amazing picture.
Illuminated by the moonlight, it wasn't too much to called her a faery.
"You are so very beautiful."
"The word may be used a lot, but Alice-sama, I feel there is no necessity to use other words."
Suddenly being told the word that had gone through my head made me feel like she'd read my heart.
Ahh, she'd surprised me.
Something about Ilya gave you the impression she might.
"But I shall dare say it."
"Your bewitching hair glittering in the moonlight is beautiful like the silver flowers blooming in the village of the faeries. I could lose myself in your clear golden eyes are the very jewels of amber, which they say was brought from the savage lands by the god-dragon. In addition to the alluring strength in those eyes, your face is so fair that it fascinates me, of the same gender, as does your well-balanced body. Alice-sama, you are akin to a goddess sent by the gods."
"...i-is that so? Somehow, sorry."
Sorry, for cheating.
What's this, her praise makes my heart hurt.
Furthermore, digging up legends handed down in this world to praise me, that's embarrassing!
"——but the most beautiful aspect of you, Alice-sama, is your beautiful heart."
"My, you do not believe me?"
Seeing my dumbfounded face, Ilya laughed impishly.
I was pleasantly surprised.
I'd only seen her refined conduct, but she could also smile cutely like that, befitting her age.
"It is as clear as day to me. It may be boasting, but——that is my magic."
What is this. Ilya is polite, beautiful, reliable, docile... and just a little bit distant.
——of course, if I had to say if I liked or disliked her, I like her.
Even more than before.
"Ilya, that's what you're like?"
"Yes, that's what I'm like."
The somewhat proudly smiling Ilya was so funny I couldn't hold in the giggle.
"Ahh, this feels so nice. Alright, time to go splash."
I let myself fall backwards into the water just like that.
There was a little splash, but my body seems really light, so it really wasn't that big.
However, submerging my whole body in the water really was a bit chilly.
"Then, me too."
Next to me, Ilya let herself fall just like me.
Ilya didn't make that big a splash, either, but because she did it right next to me, I got the full brunt of it.
"Wawa, you're getting water all over me! Come on... ahaha!"
"I got caught up in the moment just a little bit. Hehe, I'm deeply sorry, Alice-sama."
The two of us floated in the lake, under the light of the moon.
With this sensation of becoming one with nature, no impure thoughts came up.
"Ilya, be honest with me. ——do you want to be set free?"
"No, not at all."
Her reply was instant.
"Are you being considerate?"
"Do you think I am?"
"I might be."
"My? Hehe, Alice-sama, you are not reading the mood."
"Let's say I can't and am troubled by it every day?"
Mood? What's that?
"I really want to live with you forever, Alice-sama," Ilya replied with just a little bit of seriousness in her voice.
"As the honored mentor said, I want to believe that my meeting you was my fate, Alice-sama. That is my answer, including my lowly personal desires."
That talk, that she had with Till.
"So you have ulterior motives?"
"Yes. Are you disillusioned?"
"No, I'm rather relieved."
Isn't that much more human, rather than being the object of a loyalty for unknown reasons?
Being with me has some kind of merit for Ilya.
——Or it might in the future.
That's how it is."I think having human flaws is important, you know?"
I hold out my hand, as if to grasp the moon.
Human hearts are vague and difficult to grasp. But forcing it, or not trying it at all, are both no good.
Well, finding the right measure is difficult.
But in that respect, reading the mood is not all there is to interacting with people.
"I am really glad to have... eh, this presence!?"
Ilya's whisper turned into surprise and she jumped up.
I looked around for what had surprised her, but there was nothing.
Only the sound from the water as Ilya had jumped up penetrated the silence.
And still, Ilya warily looked around.
Was she reflecting on the event at noon?
Sheesh, Ilya, you're so serious.
The moment I tried to get up, too, someone grabbed my arm.
I looked at my stretched-out arm.
Something like an squid's arm coming from the water surface was wrapped all around it.
"Alice-sama!? My carelessness!!"
The moment I noticed it, I was dragged away from the shore with incredible force.
Ilya who had been right next to me had quickly grabbed my other arm and was dragged along.
"Wa-, just when we were at the good paaart!"
Forget the emergency situation: Read the mood already, you damn squid monster!!
In no time at all, Ilya and I were drawn near the middle of the lake and then under water.
"Uwah! It's under water!?"
"Take a deep breath, Alice-sama!"
As per advice, I took a deep breath before my face was submerged.
I could hear the water like a buzz in my ears.
Underwater was like yet another world.
It had yet another stillness than silent air.
This silence made the ears hurt, but that might be my eardrums bursting from water pressure!
If we got drawn too deeply, it'd be bad!
Level 15 Lake Sepia
My elven eyes found the enemy lurking at the bottom of the lake.
Even with little light, I could see it.
It looked like an archetypical invertebrate with a number of tentacles.
Its leg which was wrapped around my arm had suckers and no matter how much I tried, I couldn't pull it off.
The two protruding eyes with which it stared at us left no blind spots.
Its appearance was just like that thing.
It's a squid!
Such a naming fraud!
No, well, at the moment nothing of that matters though.
If I didn't do something quickly, we'd drown before the enemy could do anything to us.
Ilya was still trying hard to separate the tentacle from my arm.
I also didn't feel like dying, but the bigger my trouble became, the more danger I'd expose Ilya to.
But it would still be foolish to shoot Thunder here, under water.
It might be alright since it's magic lightning, but I really didn't want to electrify myself.
But the longer I hesitated, the more time went to waste.
The tentacles dragged us towards the huge mouth opening at the bottom of the monster's belly.
... come to think of it, golden cuttlefish were carnivores, weren't they?
Apparently I was calm enough to think something so unimportant.
Well, I could only test it in a situation leaving no room for failure, but I wasn't unable to do it.
I had grasped the sensation.
And I had no intention of obediently becoming squid food.
I tapped Ilya, who was still grappling with the tentacle around my arm, on the shoulder and shook my head.
And with my free arm, I pointed above.
——surface before me.
It should have gotten across.
Ilya was grimly shaking her head, but no, no.
I'm not the way anymore I was against the Ice Dragon.
I gave Ilya a serious look.
She looked perplexed, but after hesitating for a few seconds, she strongly nodded and began rising to the surface.
Now I only had to...
Certainly there was no time to waste on composure.
I grabbed the tentacle wrapped around my left arm with my right hand.
I had limited the way I was using too much to begin with.
The first culture shock that had overturned that had been that magic of Till's.
A single idea held a bunch of possibilities.
So I'll show you what I can do with it! Eat that!
I activated magic from my right hand and directly poured it into my enemies body.
A cornered rat with bite that cat.
The monster, which had looked down on me as simple prey, raged under my attack.
But regulating it was still difficult for me.
But that could be my homework in the future.
Like it was throwing me away, the monster let go of my arm and I quickly started surfacing.
The moment I relaxed, the anguish suddenly doubled.
The surface! Quickllly!
I broke through the water surface with speed and sucked the air into my lungs with all my strength.
Just how delicious can air be!
"Alice-sama!" Ilya called out to me in relief and swam over.
"Ilya, grab on to me!
She didn't seem to understand my plan, but it's wonderful how well she could respond to changing situations.
And your body feels wonderful, too... Ilya.
The monster wasn't defeated yet, so if we stayed here we'd only repeat what happened earlier.
And there was no guarantee that the monster would be as negligent the next time it attacked.
In that case——I'd jump all the way to the shore!
"Watch my magic! Till!!"
I suddenly challenged my mentor.
Putting my right hand on the water surface, I regulated my magic.
——that being said, of course I couldn't do minute adjustments.
We just had to fly all the way to the shore!
Ilya peeked at the light of mana gathering in my right hand full of interest.
It slowly got stronger and——
Like it was exploding, it turned into propulsive power.
From the repellent force, Ilya and I were flung out of the water.
With rather amazing force, we flew through the sky towards the land with our tent.
"T-this is amazing! Alice-sama! We're flying!"
Although to be exact, we'd only been thrown into the air...
"Do you know of the electric jellyfish?"
"Well, don't mind, then."
It had been quite the repellent force.
Ilya cocked her head with just a bit of wonderment.
And then, she looked like something had clicked for her.
"Ehm... By the way, how are we going to land?"
The air seemed to freeze.
The very hard-looking ground came closer and closer.
Crap, at this rate it's a direct course to minced meat for us!
I could try the same trick one more time to cancel our descent, but right now, I decided to go with a better bet.
Right, I decided to call for my final trump.
I'd decided to do so since the beginning, okay?
With a composed smile on my face, I looked at Ilya.
"I leave that to you, Ilya."
"Hehe. Yes, Milady."
Changing our posture, she held me in the princess carry I had gotten completely used to by now.
Our high momentum was dangerous, so I laid my arms around Ilya's neck and held on tight.
And then, our eyes inadvertently met.
There was nothing artificial about it.
And Ilya somehow felt closer to me than before.
While we were caught in each other's eyes, Ilya broke into a little smile.
Then she whispered something and we were covered by a green light.
That was... what she had done against the Ice Dragon?
I looked down, and there was the ground.
As expected, I stiffened.
Contrary to my expectation, the shock wasn't that strong.
Although we had landed with amazing momentum.
Or I should rather say, we had crashed.
Usually, we'd had enough momentum to end up dead for sure.
Was it thanks to the green membrane?
In fact, the ground had been gouged out a few meters by the light orb around us.
"Are you alright? Milady?"
"Y-yes... just surprised."
In this world, people don't die when they fall from the sky.
I learn something new every day.
The green light disappeared and I had Ilya put me down.
And not a second later, water rose by the lake shore and the squid showed itself.
"And here I went out of my way to let you off!"
If it wanted it that way, I wouldn't go easy.
This time the tentacles didn't come to capture, but whipped through the air to smash us to pieces.
Ilya stepped forward and stopped them cold.
"——Split the heavens and become a ray of light, to strike my enemies! Thunder!"
With chanted magic from my right hand, I pierced the squid.
The reaction was enough.
Like foam, the squid melted and disappeared.
There was a drop item.
"...what natural enemies does it have in a lake?"
The mysteries of fantasy kept deepening.
——The following is a certain other event from such a night.
"——well done, stupid disciple."
Somewhat happy-sounding like that, someone said praise into the night.
The thoughts of the mentor watching everything from beginning to end from the skies above the lake.
The two people who had dried themselves off to not catch a cold and were having a friendly chat while warming up at a fire noticed nothing of it, though.
"Now then, time for one to sleep for real."
With a long yawn, she began moving through the sky like going down the stairs.
Suddenly, she looked at her own magic.
"One's own magic, huh. Sheesh, that greenhorn."
Contrary to her words, her heart was elated.
"Hmm, what punishment should one give her if she can't raise the proficiency to 99 by morning..."
Those exceedingly happy words disappeared into the night sky.
The sun rose again after that all too eventful day and it turned noon.
Finally we reached the town we'd stop by.
Size-wise, it might be the same as Rinnal?
Being closer to the royal capital, it seemed livelier from the distance.
I wonder how much of the way we have behind us?
Yesterday, we've traveled from morning until after noon.
Today, we've traveled from morning once more until noon.
It was only the three of us on the carriage, so even with our luggage we should've been quite fast.
We'd mostly stuck to the main roads, too.
But from looking at it, we're still lucky if the carriage makes ten kph. Well, if you also consider the breaks...
We've come for about a hundred kilometers.
A hundred, huh...
I spontaneously turned around on the carriage and looked in the direction we came from.
What is this, I wonder, there's this strong pain in my chest...
When I am strong...
Strong enough to not lose to anyone on my own, strong enough to protect everyone, is it okay to return to that town?
"Haha, even when coming to another world I didn't feel homesick..."
Ilya, who had been lightly sleeping against my shoulder, woke up.
She'd fallen asleep there before I noticed it, so I'd just left her like that.
It had consoled me a bit, too.
"Ah... I am deeply sorry."
Grasping the situation, Ilya straightened herself in a fluster.
"Don't mind it. I know being rocked like this makes you mysteriously sleepy."
I had thought the ride would be more uncomfortable, but it really didn't shake that much, this carriage.
Besides, we'd been up all night...
"But while you are awake, Alice-sama..."
"I... was thinking a little."
"How disappointing of me..."
Ilya is serious, so she's awkward about this.
Would it be my job as her master to scold her here?
"Then I'll punish you."
Why does she look a little bit happy?
"Show me your forehead."
"This is an ancient and honorable punishment from my birthplace."
"I-is that so?"
"Indeed, prepare yourself."
Ilya closed her eyes and turned her forehead toward me.
Forgive me, Ilya.
I bent the middle finger of my right hand, laid it against the thumb and pushed outside."
Take this——Forehead Flick!
With a snapping sound, my attack hit Ilya's forehead!
I didn't flick her too hard, did I?
For a moment, I felt I had overdone it.
But this is also a master's duty.
They're bitter, these acts of evil...
"Ehm... are you going to do something?"
Not knowing what had happened, Ilya opened her eyes after hearing my brainless reaction.
What... did she say?
Is the wall I have to overcome so high it doesn't even allow for little pranks like this?
The separation between Strength 0 and Protection 5!
"...you are already reflecting enough. Only a fool would add a punishment on top. That's how it is."
I tried to interpret it a bit coolly.
Ilya stared at me with innocent eyes.
There was a person who had seen through everything on the coachman's bench.
Leaving the carriage at the outskirts, we checked into the inn first.
It was a typical inn, a three-floor building with a combination of dining hall and bar on the first.
I think it's going to be alright, but if they're noisy at night the third floor would be good.
When I told to old guy from the inn, he laughed carefreely and accepted my request.
A three person room came at 450 Rook.
150 Rook per person.
Well, it came with food so the price was appropriate.
We paid with five silver coins and got fifty copper coins as change.
Every place had a special frame for change. You threw coins in there and it had markers for ten coins, twenty coins, thirty... Like that, you could easily count the change.
A coin counter.
Well, you obviously couldn't count the coins one by one.
Even without paper money, doing it like this came with surprisingly little discomfort.
Still, did the royal capital have not enough influence to make paper money?
Or was it a problem of technology?
Anyhow, after smoothly checking in, we fetched our luggage and went up to the third floor.
And after getting into our room and putting down or stuff...
"One will be heading out. We will be staying three nights, do as you like in the meantime," Till said, so we saw her off.
And what about my practice?
For now, my Thunder had reached proficiency 99.
As for what's changed, the cooldown has halved.
That meant I could use it with more energy efficiency.
Whether its power has changed, I don't know.
It's just, lately I've keenly felt just how important that energy conservation actually is.
If I start panting every time I fight someone a little strong and it draws out a little bit, I can't ever be the strongest.
I took a good look at the three beds next to another.
The room was wider than expected.
That being said, due to the three beds it still ended up narrow.
Still, hotel rooms with three beds had been rare in my original world, too.
In tatami rooms you could spread out futons and give any number of people room for the night, though.
But well, let's leave the impressions of the room for later.
"For now, let's sleep," I declared to Ilya and decided to honor Till's instruction.
Free time, YAY!
When I woke up, the evening sun was alright shining in through the window.
When I looked around the room, I noticed Ilya had put a chair next to my bed and was sitting there motionlessly.
"You have awoken, Alice-sama?"
Don't tell me, all the time she's been...?
When I looked at her curiously, she returned a cheerful smile.
"Sorry, Ilya, I should've told you you're free to do as you like, too."
I had clearly intended to do so, but I suppose for a slave is a problem if the the master leaves it at the intention.
"Hehe, I could watch your sleeping face forever, Alice-sama. I considered pinching your nose a little."
"So you are angry."
She was quite the mischievous slave.
"I was joking, Alice-sama."
But when she laughs like that, she's cute.
"But during your sleep-talking, I was a bit jealous."
Had I said something?
Ilya formed a troubled smile and shook her head, saying it was nothing.
For the time being, I got up and stretched.
My sleep deprivation was gone and I felt refreshed.
"Has not returned yet."
What was she doing?
She had quite a lot of secrets.
"It looks like it's just the right time. Let's go have dinner."
Ilya was a slave, but she slept where and ate what I did, of course.
I've already told her so.
For example, what if I kicked her out of this inn for the three nights and some strange man attacked her?
No... uhh, leaving the result that she'd take him apart in return aside.
What I want to say is that if that happened, it would just increase my mental burden so it's pointless.
It's important for Ilya to be by my side, so I'll not unnecessarily treat her like a slave.
In the beginning she did show reserve, but as a result of my persuasion, she relented.
It was fine like that.
"By the way, how's this town called?"
"We are in the town of Rufin."
What was it this time?
Going out would be annoying, so we decided to do the quick and easy thing and get food in the dining hall on the first floor.
We could always go for a walk after dinner.
Seeing the special of the day we ordered, I couldn't help but think of fried chicken.
Seeing the salad coming with it, I thought they should stop putting the dressing on beforehand, I like it better without.
While getting those impressions, I enjoyed dinner with Ilya until——
"YOU BASTARD!!" someone shouted loud enough to make the bustling dining hall fall silent. Two men were having a fight.
At a closer look, they were boys rather than men?
They seemed younger than Blackie, which made them around my age, maybe?
Their fistfight began escalating while a girl, again around the same age, tried to stop them.
"A love triangle, huh..."
"They are that age, Alice-sama."
After arriving at that conclusion in an instant, we started eating again.
We didn't care.
But speaking of which, just how would my love affairs turn out?
Is it okay for me to like girls?
Is it not?
If it's not, then...?
"...the thought gives me goosebumps. Thank god, I'm still normal."
I'll protect it, this mindset.
"You! You said you loved Cyra! And yet you want to hit on that woman? What's wrong with you!"
Oh, he totally pointed at me.
"The fight's spreading, Ilya."
"It cannot be helped, Alice-sama. It is your fault for being too beautiful."
But even if Ilya tells me so...
"——hold it, boys," a man sitting at the counter, apparently drinking alcohol, called the boys to a stop. His voice rung awfully clear through the noise.
It sounded impressive enough to suddenly gather the eyes of all the eaters.
The man looked like an adventurer with the longsword on his back.
When I turned around to him, he was rather handsome.
While I was just observing the events, our eyes met.
He winked at me.
Ahh, like a foreigner.
Although we're in another world.
Just let me eat my fried chicken.
"Before you punch it out in a bar like this, booze is the perfect appetizer! How about it! If you're men, show some guts already!" the man heartily slammed the mug he had drunk from onto the counter and smiled daringly.
Challenging minors to a drinking bout, is this guy going to be alright?
Although there might be no such regulation in the first place.
And when do you become an adult anyway?
"Hm, fine. I grew up in this town! If it's a drinking match with lufin wine, I can lose even less."
"...no objections from me. If I win, I won't let anyone interfere with who I fall for."
The surrounding people had changed into spectators in the blink of an eye.
They easily went with the mood.
"By the way, Ilya, what is lufin?"
That's what her face said. Ilya pointed at the dessert coming with the food.
"These fruits. They are this town's special product. If you press the fruits and ferment what you get, you get an alcoholic drink."
How can you move a hundred kilometers from the town of rinnal and get to grapes as a specialty product?
Or is the difference in altitude big enough to make that work?
Just what's going on with this world's climate...
"Bring on the big mugs!"
On the other hand, the other guys were getting fired up more and more.
Come to think of it, I don't know if I can take my liquor or not.
That needs finding out.
"Ilya, may I drink something, too?"
"I think it will be fine. I think you will be very cute when you're drunk, Milady."
"No... I wonder."
Isn't this the time when I have to display a manly drinking manner?
Shouldn't I assert my manliness sometimes?
Well, in the worst case, even if I get smashed I have a reliable partner by my side.
"——I'll treat you!"
At some point, the handsome guy had put down the big mug he had just ordered on our table.
What's with this natural and mature consideration?
When I looked up at the man loitering next to me, I got a good smile in return.
His teeth were pure white.
"You're not going to make me drink alone, are you?"
"What, you're game?"
The handsome guy used his free hand to imitate drinking from a mug.
The corners of my mouth lifted.
Like this, we lit the fuse to a match a man definitely couldn't lose.
Lufin wine was sweet and easy to drink.
Its fresh fragrance tickled the nose, it reminded a bit of pure fruit juice.
But it had a good amount of alcohol, blending that adult taste into it.
It appeared to be extremely popular among women, and yeah, with that taste I could really understand that.
And as a fruit wine, it didn't have the bitterness of beer, either.
"Ahh, this is pretty good," I splendidly emptied my mug in one go and ordered another from the staff.
"You're good yourself, missy, but I can't let you beat me."
Seeing me drink, the handsome guy increased his own drinking pace to catch up to me.
So~~mehow I can see ulterior motives there.
Don't think you can do whatever you like with me even if I get smashed!
"Would you not say drinking while judging the state of a lady is unmanly? ——or did you have some inappropriate thoughts?"
With quite an amazing smile, Ilya warned the handsome guy.
Ah, a beauty glaring at you is intense...
"Heh, don't rush me, we're just warming up, right, Misses?
The handsome guy was rather bold, it seemed.
Please look after me, Ilya.
"——still, a match is a bore if we don't bet something, like those boys over there."
I could see a vein pop on Ilya's temple.
She was still smiling, but...
"...what would you have in mind?"
"Heh, nothing much. If I win, the miss here and I spend the n-woah."
"Hahh? Did you say something?"
Ilya-san, if you stab knives at people's hands, you might cut off some fingers, you know?
Ilya was smiling after she stabbed the knife from the food between the handsome guy's fingers.
Nono, that's scary, okay!
"Wow, that's scary, blond Miss."
"Well, calm down. I like the women, but I'm no monster. A date in the evening is all I want. How about that?"
That show-off winked again.
It looked quite catching, so I couldn't laugh.
But it looks like it didn't work on Ilya.
"You're a tough one! Hey, how about you, silver Miss? We're talking about you here?"
While they were talking, I had emptied another big mug.
This is so nice...
"Ahh~, this might be delicious.... eh? Ah, a date? Ah, having fun, right? Sure~"
I wonder what she has, I'm in a great mood here...
"Hyahaha, you get it, Miss."
In high spirits, the handsome guy also ordered his second mug.
"Then if I win~, you're going to settle the bills for everyone here tonight, okay~"
Whooooooo, the people around us cheered.
I answered by waving back.
What is this~, I'm in a good mood~
"H-hoh? You sure know how to play the game, silver Miss? Sounds fun, I'm in!"
With the terms clear, the handsome guy's eyes turned serious.
His cheek muscles seemed to be twitching, though.
Anyhow, he looked motivated.
His eyes were glittering.
We daringly glared at each other.
Next to us, Ilya seemed upset for some reason.
"...hey, blond Miss."
"Humans can smile like that?"
"It would seem so."
Next to me, Ilya and the handsome guy were talking.
What is that all about?
"Ahahahaha! What's with you, you keep your hat on even inside? Ahahaha!"
"This is my style! Hey, silver Miss, aren't you drinking too much!? Are you alright!? Uargs"
With a pale face, the handsome guy held his mouth.
Wimp. He should've had two mugs less than me...
"Well, ignoring who is more smashed, the match is decided, is it it not?"
"Ridiculous, this is... I... against such a Miss? Uargs."
"Is it not?"
Pressured by Ilya, the handsome guy nodded while he kept moaning.
"Urg... a man doesn't go back on his word. I just need to pay, alright? Alright?"
"Ahahaha, have you heard that, guys~~?"
Whooooow, the cheers rose again.
"You heard the lady! Eat more~! Drink more~! Today, everything's that dude's treat!"
It turned into a hearty revelry.
Ahhhh, what is this, I feel really good...
Ilya, what's with you? You look so kyeewt...
"Ilya, come on~ you're not gonna drink with me~?"
"If I drink as well, the wolves around us will get wrong ideas."
"Hmm? I don't really get it, but well, alright."
Still, this is boring~
Having nobody to drink with is boring~
There's someone good~
——The case of Takeshi
"Damn, my head's killing me... shit."
"Don't drink with such a depressing face."
First, I headed to the boy who had lit the fuse to the drinking matches.
It looks like he's drunk quite a bit, but he's lost to the other one over there.
I think the other one said he'd chat me up in case he won, but the girl was considerately keeping him company.
Hah, this is beyond hope...
"Woah, who are you!?"
"Oh shut up, Takeshi. You sure you're alright with losing to him?"
"Who's Takeshi! I've never even heard the name!?"
Apparently getting talked back to with a frown comes with some pressure.
"Who cares about names."
"That's way too arbitrary! Ouc-, shit, my head rings..."
"Pathetic, you're really pathetic. Won or lost, you're beyond hope. Are you stupid? You think that's cool?"
I think if Takeshi had won, he'd have gone out with that girl, was it?
Oh, well, who cares about the details..
"Shaddup. What would a woman know of my feelings!"
"Hah, you can't win, drown your worries in booze and bother strangers with them. Of course she won't look at you then."
He vigorously reached for my collar to draw me up——and stopped as Ilya lay her knife against his throat.
Ilya's so cute~~
"If you have this much energy, then direct it at her."
"Have you ever told that girl your feelings?"
"...but... Cyra likes him..."
Takeshi visibly faltered.
I took a big gulp from my mug.
Ilya's face looked a bit displeased.
"But you still like her, don't you?"
"There's no guarantee. But it'll never be over like this, will it? Your love."
Ah, come to think of it, back when I was in the soccer club, I get the feeling I'd been asked for advice like this a lot.
I'd listened to people's worries so much it had tired me out.
I still couldn't leave them alone though.
"Have some courage. And if it's still no good... I'll join you when you drink your worries away again."
I made an encouraging, good smile.
Oh, who cares.
——The case of Kenji
When Takeshi had formed some sort of resolve, the other boy had shaken off the girl and moved to a seat at the counter.
"You drinking, Kenji?"
He looked at me quizzically when I sat down next to him.
"Weren't you going to chat me up if you won the match?"
"Heh, I know, you used me as an excuse. You're also quite the pussy."
"What would you know about it!"
He hadn't done anything in particular, but Ilya was warningly knocking her knife's grip against the counter.
It made a pretty good sound.
The faces of the staff cramped, though.
"Dunno. You think keeping quiet and running away is manly?"
"Are her feelings or your feelings ever going to settle if you're acting that vague?"
I ordered the next big mug from the old guy at the counter.
Ilya seemed about to cry.
"I'm an outsider, so in the end whatever I say is irresponsible. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably be lost, too. But you know," I stopped for a moment and smiled at the boorish Kenji. "If those two are important to you, then treat them with your utmost sincerity. Otherwise you'll regret it."
Kenji looked like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Sorry.... you're right. You're a good woman, Sis."
"Have a good love, Kenji."
I raised the mug in my hand for a toast.
By the way, what am I doing here?
When I returned to the table we'd been at in the beginning, I patted the handsome guy sitting there with his head hanging, on the back.
"Owouch! Wait, no? Wait, what are you doing, silver Miss!"
"Why so gloomy? Thanks to you, at least those two boys' mood has cleared!"
"Hahh? And your tone...?"
The handsome guy quizzically looked at Ilya.
Ilya shook her head in exasperation.
"Sometimes, relaxing like this is fine, too..."
I took one coin from the leather bag hanging at my waist.
I flicked it onto the table.
"It's been a blast. If this isn't enough for everyone's tabs, you pay the rest."
A noticeably loud cheer arose around us.
Without turning towards them, I say bye and waved as I left, my back toward them.
Instead, Ilya made a proper bow, though.
"Sis... you're so cool."
I left the dining hall in a pretty good mood.
——The next day
The moment I woke up, I was assaulted by a furious headache.
"My head hurts... what's... going on..."
Ilya looked at me with a difficult mien. Why is it you don't answer me!?
"Did she do something, dragon lass?" Till, who had returned at some point, looked at me through half-opened eyes.
Just what had happened to me!?
"It was nothing of importance, but... I believe it would be better for Milady to abstain from drinking."
I didn't catch the latter half properly, but Till nodded exasperatedly.
"One will head out again. You at least make the dragon lass's class-up," Till said and strode out of the room.
Her harshness kinda makes her cute, that Till...
"Mmm... I wonder when we have to checkout. If we stay another two nights in this room, maybe we should make reservations already."
I took the coins from the leather bag on the shelf.
"Hm? Isn't there a gold coin missing...?"
"...you are imagining things, Milady."
"I-I do? If you say so, Ilya."
This is weird...
Anyway, my head hurts and I can't think properly.
"Sorry, Ilya. May I lay down for a while?"
"Of course, Alice-sama. Should I bring you some water?"
"Hehe, as I thought. I like this Alice-sama."
"But that one really is..."
For some reason Ilya blushed. Then she quickly got up from her chair to get water.
I don't really get it, but there's a lot for us to do today.
As Till said, Ilya's class-up is indispensable if we're thinking about the future.
We need to quickly find the Ruins around here and get it done with.
If it's Ilya and I as we are now, there's no way we can't make it.
Also, I want to take an easy job from the Guild here.
Have to pay traveling expenses.
Besides, leaving aside whether I buy it or not, I need new equipment.
I picked up the Lightning Rod at my bedside.
"Since it's cracked, I guess I can't use it anymore..."
In fact, when I had recklessly gone out on my own and thrust it into the mouth of that bear, it seems the lightning jewel cracked and it doesn't give off lightning strikes anymore.
With that, in combat it's nothing but a wooden stick.
No matter how much I mainly fight with magic, it's still harsh.
"But I still don't want to throw it away..."
I gently put the rod back and sighed.
Either way, there's a lot to do.
It wasn't the time to remain in bed.
But thinking really made my head hurt...
Ilya came back with just the right timing.
While being healed by Ilya's smile, I took the glass and drank.
After booking the room for the following nights, too, it was afternoon when Ilya and I finally went out.
It turned so late because my headache just wouldn't get better.
We headed out after I had a light lunch in the dining hall on the first floor.
...now, that lunch.
I don't know why, but when I ordered some of the customers seemed scared and some people looking like regulars cheered. There was no end to the mysteries, but Ilya didn't say anything so I decided not to think anything of it.
Actually, the customers weren't afraid of me but Ilya?
Really, what happened there?
"Ilya, speaking of yesterday..."
I remember dinner, but nothing thereafter. Whatever happened there?
I have some fuzzy memories of someone starting an argument and that handsome guy mediating, but...
"Uhm... didn't I do something weird?"
"No, Alice-sama, you were beautiful as always and very cool."
That's the first time I was told that since I was reborn into this body.
I'm busy today, it's not the place to keep mulling that forever.
"Let's head to the Guild first."
For now, we should work.
On the way to the guild, I got the feeling that this Lufin was prospering more than Rinnal after all.
By carriage, they were only a day's travel apart, but if you looking at a map, Rinnal was certainly remote and no halfway point to some place further out.
In short, if you didn't have business in Rinnal, you didn't go there.
In comparison, this Lufin connected the royal capital in the south, Rinnal in the north and towns to the east and west to boot. You could call it a blessed town, location-wise.
That's why there were many travelers of all kinds of races.
Actually, when I spotted a girl with dog ears, I stared for a while.
Ilya admonished me for it, though.
Yes, you must not undress people with your eyes.
All those went through my head while I looked at the map leaning against a wall in the Guild.
To be honest, if the map were a little bigger I could've found out more about this world, but it was a local map so what can you do.
"Looking at this, it's about 3 days by carriage to the capital? That's a bit far, isn't it."
"Indeed. We need to settle your business today, Alice-sama, and use tomorrow to prepare for the journey."
Preparing for a journey, huh.
It seems like if I don't properly calculate our expenses, we're going to run into some huge problem midway.
But even saying so, well, it's only three days so I guess it's nothing to get that nervous over.
Speaking of which, I looked at Ilya.
We were about to head out adventuring, so she had equipped her leather robe and her iron spear, but Ilya apart from this and the one set of service clothes she had worn at the Firm, she had no clothes.
I had easily gotten changes of clothes from Aunty and bought what I lacked in Rinnal.
Not thinking about Ilya then was my fault indeed.
Won't I be a failure of a master if I leave it like this?
"Ilya, let's go shopping for clothes tomorrow. For you, of course."
"There is no... no, thank you very much, Alice-sama."
She almost declined, but after seeing my face she apparently reconsidered and nodded.
Her smile was a little sheepish.
Crap, I may have looked a little bit sulking.
But I mean, isn't it a bit lonely if people are that reserved?
From Ilya's point of view, that's how slaves are in this world.
But for me, Ilya is my comrade I'm traveling with.
"In fact, I did find myself wanting underwear."
Certainly, she might need more than just a change of clothes.
As far as her clothes go, for now she can swap between her casual clothes and the Leather Robe.
Does she mean I'm going to buy it with her?
Considering how we arrived at the topic, it's a bit difficult for me to tell her to buy it on her own.
The memories of when Shion took me shopping came back to me.
"It's not weird. There's nothing weird. I'm a woman. I'm a... woman. Maybe."
When I stop having this inner conflict might be the end of me.
Be strong, me!
When we asked the guild's receptionist about the ruin's location and if there wasn't an easy job around there, they told us there was just one job of escorting someone through the ruins.
Literally two birds with one stone.
The reward was fifteen silver coins, 1500 Rook.
Apparently we could depart right away, so it was just right for us.
It would cover our hotel fee in this town.
But thinking about it, owning your own house really would change a lot.
If we stayed in inns all the time, any amount of traveling funds would run dry sooner or later.
Let's buy a house in the capital.
I began mulling such a dream just a little.
"We're accepting this request."
"Understood. Please sign this form, then. Also, if you either forfeit or fulfill the request, please hand in a report."
I signed something like a contract and received some documents.
Speaking of which, Shion-san had also signed something.
"Dear customer, is this the first request you accept?" the receptionist asked after checking my registration information.
"Yes, that's right."
"Would you like me to give you an explanation of working for the Guild?"
"Ah yes, please do."
Come to think of it, I never had the leisure or always left it to other, so I have no idea about my job.
"Understood. Basically, jobs from the Guild come with a rank. S-Rank, A-Rank, B-Rank, like this jobs are classified until E-Rank. The request you just accepted is categorized as E-Rank, a job that any and all adventurers can accept.
"Heh, I see."
If you can earn 1500 Rook with an E-Rank request, then adventuring pays quite well.
Well, it might also cost you your life, so if the compensation is little or much is rather difficult to decide.
"To take on higher-ranked requests, you need to clear ten requests of a lower rank. If you forfeit a job, as a penalty it is subtracted from the achieved requests. If you have no achieved requests for that rank and you forfeit, it is still counted as a minus, so please take care, okay?"
I see, so you can go into the negatives, too.
I nodded that I understood.
"Rank mainly denotes danger or difficulty. Of course the rewards increase along with the rank, but please don't forget that so does the danger to your lives," the receptionist bowed earnestly.
If you actually work at the Guild, aren't adventurers dying an everyday occurrence?
Like during the bandit extermination just the other day...
"Requests have a time limit. If you pass it, it will automatically be judged as forfeiting."
She didn't say it, but this rule was for when you couldn't make the report yourself.
In other words, in preparation for you losing your life and thus your ability to report and such, that rule had been established.
Looks like you couldn't rise in the ranks that easily.
"Also, the Guild will purchase any drop items you gain if you fight monsters, generating additional income for you. Please bring whatever you get, okay?"
Come to think of it, wasn't there something like that?
Medicinal herbs, Bear Ears, Squid Ink?
What are they going to do with bear ears...
Well, that doesn't matter now.
"This, while simple, is the initial explanation. Whenever you have further questions, please ask any time."
"That was very informative. Thank you very much."
Was Elenore-san doing this in Rinnal, too?
If adventurers she knew had lost their lives in the incident the other day... that'd be a shock, huh.
"Then I will envelope this introduction from the Guild for you. Please make your way to the client yourself. The term for this request is four days, including today. Please make your report during the Guild's business hours before the four days are up. The details are written in the materials I just passed you. Good luck!"
I politely returned the bow to the polite receptionist and left the guild behind.
I cursorily checked the documents I've been passed and headed to the client's house as depicted on a map.
I was glad to be given a map, but it was still trouble in this unfamiliar place.
"Alice-sama, is this alright?"
"Hm, what's wrong?" I tore my eyes from the documents and looked at Ilya.
"Yes, it not not be my place to say, but fundamentally, requests like escort and the like that involve other people are dangerous and you should be careful when choosing the job."
Was escorting people that dangerous?
We were only going to the Ruins, right?
"Not to doubt the client, but there are also people who catch adventurers off guard like that and rob them. No matter where an adventurer loses his life, the militas and knight orders won't move a finger.
I see, in that case the Guild will just file it as a failed request.
Magic won't be a problem if we're in the same party, but that didn't work with physical attacks.
Just like Shion-san had said some time, they could literally stab me in the back... something like that.
"Besides, even if that doesn't happen, guarding someone unused to combat is more difficult than you'd think. You'll never know what unexpected actions they'll take."
"It's difficult, isn't it, in all kinds of ways."
Come to think of it, a fight to protect, huh.
So far I've always fought while being protected, so fighting to protect will be a first.
Thinking about that, I tensed a bit.
Another's life rested on my shoulders.
But Shion-san has done a good thing training a weakling like me.
That's my Onee-chan!
"But I am your shield, Alice-sama. No matter where Milady goes, I will follow. That has not changed."
"Thanks. You were worried, weren't you? ... this body's weakness is the one thing I can't do anything about."
It's paper, after all.
Someone gets a lucky punch in and I'm done for.
It's too late now, but the way I spent my points really is for pros, huh.
I have ways to bring down anyone and anything, but there's a chance for anyone to take me down, too.
I really want to live long, though.
"I suppose 'a woman you grow wanting to protect' refers to people like Milady."
"...what a sad fat. I won't cough up blood, though――," I set on to say myself when I inadvertently looked at Ilya.
She had her never-changing, cheerful smile.
"Ilya, your body... is it alright?"
It suddenly bothered me.
I cannot pretend ignorance forever, leaving it alone.
"Alice-sama... ahh, all because of the honored mentor."
Ilya tried to jokingly play it down, but there was somewhat of an edge to her voice.
"I am very sorry, Milady... but it is nothing that changes over a day or two."
"Then... in a year?"
"Can I take your silence as the answer?"
"For now... please let me keep it a secret a little while longer."
"It's... not an illness, is it?"
"It is not."
I had somewhat guessed that.
So, the problem really lay with me, huh.
I still lacked something, didn't I?
Something to make Ilya resolve herself to 'something'.
Shit~. But Till hadn't told me anything yet, so I think it's okay for now.
Those two just had that atmosphere of a silent understanding between the two of them.
And, while I was sorting my emotions, we finally arrived at the client's house.
I checked the map again, but it was probably here.
"Smithy Lute" was written on the sign.
"Alright. We'll continue this some other time. Now we have work to to do."
From the outside, smoke rose from the chimney as it did with smithies.
As expected, they were using fire.
Could they also change raw materials into weapons like with magic, as Tailors did?
Well, asking couldn't hurt.
"Excuse me, we're here for your request at the Guild," I knocked on the door. I felt someone inside rush to the door.
It opened right away.
In the door appeared a petite girl wearing a hat.
Seeing her stained apron, this girl might be a Smith.
Her hair was light-brown and reminded vaguely of Shion-san, but the atmosphere around her was completely different.
Adorable would be a good word to describe this girl.
Maybe because it would get in the way of work, her hair was gathered behind her head and flowed down her back.
"Ah!" the girl voiced as she saw me.
"Ehm... the one who requested an escort...?"
"Yes, that's me. I'm Cira. Please come in."
Ahh, this might be fate.
Anyhow, my first job.
Refocusing myself, I followed Cira's invitation.
After being led into the room, we first sat down around the table and had some tea.
When you invite people, you treat them to something.
Whether in Japan or in another world, that doesn't change, does it.
"Once more, I am the one who accepted your request at the guild, my name is Alice. This is my companion, Ilya."
"It is a pleasure to meet you."
"And this is the letter of introduction from the guild."
When I was done introducing us and handed over the sealed letter of introduction, Cira did open her eyes wide in surprise.
She had probably thought we were some representatives or errand girls to hear her story.
We're not though, not that.
"You're so young, but already adventurers..."
Her hat twitched once.
Frankly, I couldn't help but be intrigued by that more than anything else.
Take it off.
I want to take it off!!
What's hidden below there!?
While Cyla had lowered her head to read the letter of introduction——I had unconsciously reached for the hat.
Before Cira raised her head again, I was drinking tea again, okay?
I was holding the cup in my hand acting thus.
"Is there a problem?"
"No, this tea, it's delicious."
"You're exaggerating, it's not that ameow... amazing."
I'm not going to point that out or anything, okay?
Ahh, I'm making a pointless fuss.
Time for reflection.
Oh, and Ilya?
That smile, it's scary.
"Ehem. So, about the request: If you are uneasy with us taking it on, we will of course accept a cancellation."
Because of the circumstances of escort missions, cancellations are possible if the client feels uneasy.
It's even written among the main points.
"No, if you are adventurers, then you've gone into Ruins before, right? Besides... personally, ehm, I can trust Alice-san, or should I say..."
For some reason she was looking at me with a blushing face.
"Last night, I was also in the bar. I remember you really well, Alice-san."
"I-is that so."
I on the other hand remember hardly anything~
Worrying won't help you any if you can't remember.
If it doesn't turn into a problem, it's all right.
It won't turn into a problem... will it?
"We can depart any time, so once you are ready, Cira, give us a call any time."
"I'll also be ready right away! I'll change into some other clothes, so please wait a moment," Cira said and hurriedly disappeared into a room further into the house.
In the room next to ours... or rather, in the smithing area I could catch glances of, there was a big furnace with a fire burning inside.
We've been hearing louding noises of iron being hit for a while. Was somebody working there?
The owner, maybe?
"Sorry I took so long. Let's go."
Before enough time to call it "waiting" had passed, Cira had returned.
Even after changing clothes, you're not going to take off that hat, are you?
Cira was a level 10 Apprentice Smith.
We formed a party and headed to the town's Ruins under Cira's guidance.
While chatting about this and that, we found out Cira's business there was the same as ours.
Hearing about it, it was obvious. In this world, there were classes suited to combat and those that were not. Smithes and Tailors and classes like them didn't earn experience and level up by defeating enemies, but by improving their skills.
In other words, Cira had practiced enough and reached the level to become a proper smith, but because she couldn't fight, she had made a request at the guild.
"Heh? So after you become a proper smith, you want to have your own store in the royal capital?"
"Yes, I cannot rely on my teacher's kindness forever after all."
"Eh? He's not your father?"
"No... I was a refugee."
Cira smiled dejectedly.
Damn my insensitivity.
I really should abandon my peace-addled thought processes, I think.
"...I'm sorry, Cira-san."
"Ah, no! My teacher has been really good to me... it's embarrassing, but, like you said, Alice-san, I think of him as a father just a little meowt... bit."
Is that how it meows...?
"But if you're aiming for the royal capital, then you're going to the same place I am."
"Eh? You want to go there, too, Alice-san?"
"Yes, we will only stay in this town until tomorrow before we head on to the capital."
"That's so nice... I know I keep talking about it, but I don't know when my dream will ever come true."
A smith, huh.
A connection to a smith.
Shouldn't I treasure this?
"Cira-san, do you have regular customers?"
"Y-yes. In this town, there is someone I'm receiving some favors from. But as I'm only my teacher's assistant, the inscriptions are all in his name."
Her embarrassed actions are so cute.
Maybe I should use her as a reference?
Anyhow, that aside it means she's a good smith, doesn't it?
"Unless there is a problem with it, you could ask Cira-sama to show you her Attributes?" Ilya suggested from behind us.
Does looking at her Attributes tell us something about her skills as a smith?
"Ah, yes. I don't mind."
"Really? Thank you. Could you show me, then?"
Strength 1, Endurance 1, Protection 1, Agility 2, Smithing 5
"Until my teacher picked me up, I had no idea I had a talent for smithing... embarrassingmeow... -ly."
That... what is that all ameowt?
"That is a wonderful talent."
I'm a little lost as to what it exactly means, but I understand that much.
I'll just ask Ilya the rest later.
But with an Attribute at 5, as far as I know that makes her a monster!
Well, maybe I should use another word.
Genius should work better.
Be it Onee-chan, be it Ilya, Till... I haven't asked Till, but I guess that goes without asking.
I... might not be able to let Cira go.
"... do you have connections in the capital?"
"None at all..."
"I might become your patron in the capital."
Cira looked at me with sparkling eyes.
"I'm an adventurer, so I'd be really glad about being close with a good smith. And if it's a golden egg like you, I think that's something to look forward to."
If she won't have a place to live in the capital, I won't mind offering her one.
Of course first I'll have to get my own livelihood in the capital going.
"A golden egg, you're embarrassing meow... me."
Even if you say that, I won't let you escape, you kmeow?
This girl might be a good enough smith to cause rumors even if I leave her alone.
That I've met her now while she's still an apprentice could be my luck.
Her inscriptions haven't started circulating, either.
If possible, I want to monopolize her.
And I want her to produce order-made equipment for me.
"My dream is to open a shop in the capital, or rather, to find one, right person among the many people there and become that person's exclusive smith. Becoming exclusive is every smith's dream!"
"Mine! Become my smith!"
Ah, I didn't mean to say that out loud...
"I-I couldn't... Alice-san... embarrassingmeow..."
This cuteness that makes me writhe inside, is it that kind?
The cuteness of animals?
I'm also certain what's hidden under that hat, Cira.
"Sorry, I got ahead of myself. If I don't show power worthy of you, there's no point talking about it, is there? Please use this escort mission to judge meow skills."
I don't mind.
Who would willingly become the personal smith of someone weak?
Cira must also have the pride of a craftsman.
I'll have to show her my power.
Enough power to shock her heart.
——I'll show her my new magic.
Level 5 Petite Panther
On a hill outside town, on the way to the Ruins, we encountered a formidable foe.
Ahh, I see.
Outside town, the enemies don't suddenly become strong.
I mean, no beginning adventurers would go to such ruins.
I agilely avoided the formidable foe's charge.
"Alice-sama? You're not going to blow it away?"
Blow it away?
Ilya, who I had asked to protect Cira, was curiously cocking her head.
Monsters are monsters, so having her switch from protecting me to protecting Cira didn't need much persuasion.
"...where I am from, there were people who could communicate with monsters. That's what I want to try right now. That's how I feel."
"You can do that? That's amazing, Alice-sama."
"Do your best!"
With their encouragement, I kept sidestepping the formidable foe's charges like a matador.
Heh, I've already seen through your attacks.
They won't work on me!
I took a deep breath.
This animal is attacking me because it's scared.
They are scared, those animals.
That misunderstanding is the tragedy here.
Can we allow that to go on?
When we give up because we can't understand each other, that is the real end.
Even if everyone else gives up, I won't!
"See... I'm not scary."
I crouched down and stretched out my hand towards the growling formidable foe.
I could tell Ilya and Cira were watching over me with bated breath.
The formidable foe looked at me with its round, adorable eyes.
It looked at me somewhat dubiously.
"I'm not scary..."
The formidable foe and I stared at each other, and when my hand was finally about to touch its——
The moment I was about to get bitten, I pulled back my hand.
"How is this possible... It was still scared of me."
I quickly built up some distant.
The formidable foe looked straight at me.
What indomitable will rested in those cute, adorable eyes!
"...I see. It is my duty to answer that will, is it."
I formed the image of my magic activating.
My body became hot.
"——Blade of Light descending from the Heavens, become my Sword and split the Darkness! ——Lightning!"
The middle-class magic I had recently learned mercilessly pierced the formidable foe.
The formidable foe... quietly fell forward.
I walked up to it and embraced the fallen formidable foe.
"This is the only way..."
While the soft body in my arms faded, I shed a tear.
"Just now, was that magic necessary?"
A lion uses its full strength even to hunt a rabbit, they say.
You're still too naive, Ilya.
Today the sky is so clouded, it looked to be almost crying.
The sky is crying for you, too.
Rest in peace, my friend.