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.