Arifureta - Chapter 271
Arifureta After II Darkness in the Move
The Arquette territory that was the nearest territory to the Synclea kingdom's capital. (TN: Last chapter I wrongly used Arcnet. The correct one is Arquette.)
Due to the notification that was sent by Rothko, the feudal lord of that territory, Koone party that hurriedly arranged their preparation in the same day and departed rushed their Arous until the sun set and dashed straight toward Arquette territory.
Be that as it may, currently when the curtain of night had completely fallen, as expected they hesitated to advance through the dangerous night desert while escorting a royalty, and with the words of Spike who was charged to be the guard captain, the party camped for the night.
The night of desert had a face that was completely different from the afternoon.
In the camping ground where simple protective wall could be created using blessing art, four tents that looked simple but quite large were set up. Things like the framework and so on could be just formed from the ground using blessing art, so a tent could be created with only curtain that was excellent in heat retention despite its thinness. It was a really comfortable space with spaciousness and moderate temperature.
At the center of those four tents was a bonfire blazing up to drive away the night darkness. The bonfire was also created using blessing art where a kettle was put on a simple cooking stove.
The dinner was also over, while a part of the guard squad was acting vigilance against the surrounding, the squad captain Spike and his vice captain Lilin, Koone and Anneal who was accompanying the group as Koone's personal lady attendant, and then Kouki, they were surrounding the bonfire.
Kouki accepted a warm drink that seemed like black tea (?) personally prepared by Anneal for after meal. He blinked when he put the drink into his mouth.
「......This is delicious. It's bitter, but it also has a faint sweetness. Also it smell nice.」
「Fufu, thank you for the compliment, Kouki-sama. It's extracted from the leaf of a fruit called paruru. It's nutritional value is high, and it also has the effect that warm the body, so it's a necessary drink for travel that is expecting desert at night. Although Koone-sama dislike it.」
「Uu, because it's bitter. It makes Koone forget the taste of the delicious dinner. This is a medicine. Koone won't recognize paruru tea as tea. Koone declare, that Koone won't recognize it!」
Spike smiled wryly at Koone's bitter expression and insistent assertion, while Lilin was chuckling smilingly.
Koone sometimes acted mature, and actually she was really a schemer, but it seemed that her tongue was normally childish. Bitter taste and astringent taste were her natural enemy.
Drinking paruru tea was a must, so she still drank it without any rejection, but she was drinking it bit by bit while making a grimacing face. That figure of hers was indeed charming.
「......What are you laughing at, hero-sama?」
「N, no, nothing.」
Koone glanced at Kouki with a sulky face. To that Kouki averted his face that was almost bursting into laughter. She was someone that was hard to deal with and carried out various schemes, but he couldn't hate her at all when he was showed her figure that was fitting of her age like this. Though, perhaps it was only Kouki being foolish.
Perhaps knowing that Kouki was holding his laughter, Koone was staring at him fixedly.
「Co, come to think of it, Spike-san is Spenser-san's child isn't it?」
Kouki had heard of it from Spenser already, but he didn't receive introduction of name and job before the departure from the person himself, so Kouki tried to ask for changing the topic.
Spike smiled wryly sensing Kouki was escaping using him while answering.
「Yes, we aren't related by blood though. It was a honor, or perhaps I should say a fortune, that when I was still a kid, it was discovered that I who lost my family to <Dark Being>attack had talent for sword, and I was welcomed as an adopted son.」
「Ah, I'm sorry......」
「No no. There is no need to feel apprehension like that. Because it's not something rare to lose relative or friend from the attack of <Dark Being>.」
Saying that, Spike smiled brightly as though telling him that he really wasn't offended.
This young man possessed brown short hair and eyes. His age was 24 years old, but his trained body and the scars carved on his body, and then the atmosphere he was clad in told Kouki that this was a first class warrior.
His features didn't resemble Spenser, but the sharpness as warrior that he could caught glances of within his eyes was exactly like his adopted father, so he could accept it if he was told that the two were parent and child.
Although Spike told him to not mind it, but Kouki's expression turned awkward due to his careless topic change where he heard that this person was an adopted child.
「Hero-sama, you don't have any delicacy! Koone think that hero-sama has no delicacy!」
「Even all of Koone's family except Onee-chan had died, Anneal's grandpa and Lilin's mother also passed away at the previous battle. Aa, it hurts! Koone and also everyone are really hurt!」
「I, I'm sorry. I have been told often how I don't have delicacy. I'm really sorry!」
「Koone is big hearted, so apology accepted. However, forgiving for ’’free’’ is just......」
While showing her tolerance by saying that, Koone slowly held out the cup that she had drank half.
The formidable enemy of children tongue──paruru tea.
......It seemed that her limit had came after defeating about half the content. Surely she was telling him to drink it in her place also for revenge how she was getting laughed at just now.
Guessing the intention of Koone who was holding out her cup smilingly at him, Kouki smiled wryly while accepting the cup but,
「Kouki-sama. Please don't spoil Koone-sama too much. Also, the one who doesn't has delicacy is Koone-sama.」
「Ouch ouch ouch ouch-. Annee─all, please stop stretching Koone's cheeks! Koone is whrongg! Soryyyyy-」
Shockingly, Anneal was pinching Koone's cheeks *mugyuu-* with a nice smile on her face. Koone was apologizing with teary eyes while taking back the cup she was holding out.
Kouki was feeling chilly wondering whether it was okay that she laid her hands on a royalty. Lilin who was watching Anneal and Koone smilingly opened her mouth toward him.
「Anneal-san is the attendant of Moana-sama and Koone-sama since they were children, so they are practically like sisters. Anneal-san's grandpa was the art user head of the previous generation, and he was a close aide that was heavily trusted by the previous king. My father was the direct pupil of Anneal-san's grandfather you know?」
Most likely, the granddaughter of a trusted confidant was the best choice for the playing partner of sisters who were the king's daughters. The lack of reservation that Anneal sometimes showed, and the love that she directed toward Moana and Koone which was more than expected from a lady attendant must had came from that, Kouki thought.
But, there a doubt suddenly emerged. The daughter of the present art user head Linden, Lilin was as expected playing an active role as an art user. Then, why was Anneal who was the granddaughter of the previous generation art user head wasn't an art user?
Perhaps, like the combat maids that a certain demon king was placing in the side of princess Liliana to protect her while he wasn't at her side, keeping it a secret from the person herself, Anneal might be actually absurdly strong even while being a lady attendant?......thinking that, Kouki stared at Anneal with a shivering expression.
By the way, the ten maid-san who were selected after their loyalty and ability were ascertained received special training straight from the demon king, and after that they were also getting training camp at Hauria clan's place, and their strength, inside, presence manipulation, etc. were demonically remodeled. In addition, they were armed with artifact class hidden weapons that were the demon king's quality product, if compared with the active duty knight, even alone they were at the level that could crush even enemies at battalion scale......
Kouki who was made to realize the truth of the true state of affairs of that (or rather he was made to accompany them with training on occasion. He thought he was going to die......) was always desperately enduring the tsukkomi that wanted to get out of his mouth when he was talking with Liliana at place like her office and so on.
'That person who is smiling gracefully behind you right now──her inside is a hyahha person, and throughout her body is loaded with awful hidden weapons all over you know'......such tsukkomi. 'Their splendid conduct of diluting their presence so as to not be a distraction for their master──is actually directly taught to them by those dangerous head-reaping rabbits you know?', he wanted to say.
Of course, if he actually said such thing then his head would go *flop*, so he absolutely wouldn't say it.
Anneal who seemed to read Kouki's question from his gaze made a wry smile while answering.
「I don't have the talent in blessing art to the degree that I can enter the art user force.」
「I, is that so......」
「Fufu. Your expression turn awkward again, but please don't mind it.」
Kouki tightened his expression thinking that he had done it again. Anneal directed a kind expression to such Kouki. And then, she formed words with a gaze that was looking at a little far away.
「At the past, I also dreamed to become an art user like grandfather. One that wouldn't falter against any kind of harmful enemy, using that strength to repel them, protecting the royal family, my comrade, and then the people......」
When Anneal's gaze returned to Kouki, she spoke with her cheeks reddening looking slightly embarrassed.
「For me my grandfather, was a hero.」 (TN: The word hero here in the raw doesn't use 'yuusha/the brave', but actually 'hero')
Suddenly, at the back of Kouki's mind the figure of his grandfather──Amanogawa Kanji emerged.
Kouki who was a grandpa boy idolized that person so much, he was a hero for Kouki.
He had never directly watched the figure of Kanji doing his work, but each time he came playing to his grandpa's house he asked his grandpa to tell him numerous tales of Kanji's experience as a capable lawyer.
Kanji who was a main character that done good and punished evil in his tales that was overflowing with human drama was truly the aspiration for Kouki, the ’’ideal image’’ that he someday would aim for.
「I cannot become like my grandfather, when I understood that, I was a bit, no, honestly speaking I was really down.」
「......How, did you come to accept it in the end?」
Unable to become the self he wanted to become──he was able to imagine such shock, and the negative emotion that welled up with it. That was exactly why he got curious. He wondered, how was she able to smile brightly right now?
「Because even though I cannot become my ideal self, life is continuing.」
Those words were calm, but nevertheless they felt powerful. In those words, there weren't resignation toward something that couldn't be helped residing in it, but an earnest will to be more positive.
Kouki was at a loss for words. For some reason he didn't know what he should say.
In the place of Kouki who had no words, Spike spoke with a gentle expression.
「I heard that Anneal-dono's ability as a lady attendant is the best. If she doesn't go outside to accompany her majesty and her highness, it's possible for her to become the head of maid even in this young age. Besides, although her blessing art's power and scale are insufficient, but it seems her detailed control is rivaling even head Linden. Her personality is also great, with a lot of people seeing Anneal-dono as the ideal woman. With you realizing your own ideal, it's very hard to catch up to you. Please, I wish that you will stop at your current charm.」
Anneal's expression became very troubled.
As though to represent her feeling,
「Spike. That's a great guts you have there to hit on Koone's Anneal in the middle of a duty! Koone think, that it's a great guts you have there. ......Koone will report it to Spenser when we get home.」
「Wha-, Koone-sama! I, I don't have such intention!」
Spike who was starting to hastily make desperate excuse, and Koone who toyed with him half teasingly, and half seriously speaking 「Koone won't hand over Anneal!」. And then, there was Anneal who was watching over that with an even more troubled look.
The occurrence of the small chaos caused the guards who were standing guard against the surrounding, preparing for tomorrow, or taking rest to watch the ruckus with half smile.
Beside Kouki who was watching while thinking 'no matter where they are, getting involved with Koone will turn into chaos huh', Lilin got closer to him and whispered into his ear in amusement.
「Vice captain Spike has a straightforward personality, perhaps because he is raised by captain Spenser. He is too straightforward that his words also came out straightforwardly, I too has thought several times before you know, is this person hitting on me? Like that.」
Kouki wondered why, he was feeling a déjàvu at this.
「He, hee......is that so. By any chance, is there a lot of women that he do that to?」
「Right right. Exactly. Once it became a bloodbath, and at that time it finally made him became self aware that he ought to re-examine his own speech and conduct, so recently he tried to choose his words carefully, but sometimes he did this out of nowhere. Because of that, it's like the value of his needless words increased, or the vice captain's poisonous fang toward the female who received the out of nowhere words is......」
At the back of Kouki's mind, his ponytail childhood friend came out, pushing away his grandfather that was emerging to the surface until now. And then, that childhood friend was directing an exasperated gaze to himself.
Kouki's feeling became unable to endure that gaze for even a second longer, and unconsciously inside his heard he yelled 「Right now is different! I'm properly paying attention to my action and speech! It's true!」, he repeated his justification like a little brother whose mischief got found out by the big sister. The same like Spike in front of his eyes.
「By the way, his poisonous fang is sometimes toward the male too......」
「That way too!?」
「Kouki-sama. Please be careful okay?」
「To what!? No, I understand what you want to tell me though!」
「Currently he is still being a bit withdrawn because of his reservation toward Kouki-sama who is the hero, but vice captain's act toward male is unreserved originally, so if by any chance he is coming on to you persistently, please speak to him clearly.」
「Speaking, about what......」
「Of course, speak your rejection. By the way as for me, if it's now I understand that he isn't actually hitting on me but, at the time I was normally thinking 『This guy is seriously annoying huh』, and I spoke really harsh words to him. But vice captain only got a bit down before he immediately got back on his feet, so I wish that Kouki-sama won't mince your words, it's better if you will tell him things that you don't want to say. After all vice captain, he has a side that is a bit dull in human relationship.」
Kouki shuddered in fright.
Not toward Spike's weak point (lol). But toward Lilin's words 「This guy is seriously annoying huh」 that came from her heart.
Lilin Stole. She was selected as royal guard's art user at sixteen, a young talented woman to the degree that she was selected to have captain status at temporary sortie. Her long brown hair that looked similar with Kouki was tied into twintail (she said it was to make it easier to feel the wind or something), her physical feature also left a bit of immaturity, so she looked younger than her age.
Her brown eyes that were attached with long eyelashes were shining powerfully with self-confidence and resolve, while she was slender, her limbs that depicted feminine curve was charming.
Looking objectively, she was a high level beauty.
That beautiful girl was saying 「This guy is seriously annoying huh」 while smiling brightly in amusement......
Kouki tried to ask her with a feeling of seeing something scary.
「By the way, Lilin-san......what did you say to Spike-san?」
Lilin who was staring in puzzlement at Kouki, without any particular shyness or intention to hide anything,
「──『If you say revolting thing even more than that while we are in the middle of training, I'm going to chop up your balls you know?』 was what I said though?」
From the back of Kouki's mind, the first wife of the demon king appeared with his ponytail childhood friend getting chased out. Her hand was in the shape of finger gun. It was beyond obvious what she was going to shoot at. After all she was the smasher who mass-produced manly woman......
Why was it the females that Kouki were acquainted with were all totally peculiar like this he wondered.
Even his one other girl childhood friend who was supposed to be a soothing person, without noticing it when he realized she had hannya coming out on her back, and not just that when he noticed she now became able to attack at man's vital place without any hesitation.
An unknown helplessness shook Kouki in shivers.
Lilin who seemed to perceive that shaking of Kouki to be fear, or rather from feeling creeped up toward herself then made excuse a bit impatiently.
「No, see here. I too am not someone who is normally saying something like that you know? My motto is being combat ready at all times. My hobby is training. My dream for the future is to stand in the lead of extermination battle.」
Those words that were unsuitable to be coming from a girl of her age, were words that could easily be shut out by the current Kouki who somehow remembered of the many teaching to select his words carefully that was beaten up to him by his childhood friend.
And then that seemed to be the correct action for him to take.
Lilin proudly puffed up her chest and continued her words.
「Because, I was born for the sake of fighting. Not for being protected and also not for love, but for the sake of fighting to protect all those.」
She was born as a fighter. She was convinced of that. That was why, she didn't need words that would make teenage girl happy. If someone was going to praise her, then she wanted to be praised for the skill she had acquired, not her look. She didn't want praise for her hair and style, or her clothing or personality, but praise to her achievement of protecting something.
It depended on each person of how to feel toward those words that came from a girl in the middle of her teens. If it was people of a peaceful world, perhaps they would pity her thinking that those were sad words.
As for Kouki......she looked dazzling to him. Of that figure that was convinced of her own existence and pushed forward undauntedly.
「Lilin-san, you are really cool.」
Lilin was surprised at Kouki who gave words of praise toward herself who threatened his superior that she would chop up his balls when that superior was praising her.
Kouki praised after they were talking about Spike, so for a moment, Lilin wondered whether he was making fun of her, but looking at Kouki's expression, she immediately changed her thinking. There was envy emerging on Kouki's expression.
That was why, Lilin then,
「......Thank you very much.」
Those were words of praise that made her happy after so long outside of the words of praise about her skill mastery and battle result from her seniors and Linden. She thanked Kouki back a bit bashfully.
「......Hero-sama. That's a great guts you have there to make a pass on Koone's Lilin. As expected, here Koone need to report to Spenser and others that hero-sama messed around with Koone──」
「Koone-sama's possession is a lot! Or rather, I'm not making a pass to her at all! Enough with this, can I please ask you to stop speaking those words without any basis and yet can possibly become fatal to me!?」
Koone was looking!
'While I am dealing with Spike who is making excuse, this son of a bitch is making a pass at Lilin whose age is relatively close to me and is a good friend!' That fixed stare seemed to be saying something like that!
Kouki moved his gaze at Lilin to ask for help, but Lilin was already taking a bit of distance from Kouki and she was staring at far away direction. Her secret talk to Kouki about Spike was also over, so now she hated to become a target for that kind of talk and seemed to attempt to persist to not get dragged into it.
'Really, there is just too many people with strong peculiarity among my female acquaintances!' Kouki yelled that inside his heart.
But, he suddenly thought. Although Moana-sama was a siscon, a thickheaded person toward the emotion of the animal she was keeping, and some other various things, but he was able to spend warm time with her really normally.......such thought.
The positivity level inside Kouki toward Moana rose sharply.
At the same time he thought.
Toward Spike and other guards who were tilting their head saying 「Messing around like what?」, Koone suggestively said 「Yesterday, on the bed, with Onee-chan and Koone and Spenser at the same time, hero-sama was──」 , where hearing that Spike shudderingly said 「Not just the royal sisters, he even brought my adopted father to the bed with him!?」. Koone was watching that with complacent smile. Kouki's thought from seeing such Koone was,
──'This small gangster. I've got to do something about her quick'
For the time being, in order to refill his paruru tea that was going to run out after a bit more, Kouki extended his hand toward the kettle hurriedly.
Next day. Just a bit before the sun reached its zenith at the sky, it came into view.
What could be seen from above a conspicuously large sand hill was a line of sand color and green color like a horizon being drawn. At the other side of the end of desert, there was a grass field spreading as far as the eye could see.
「This place is the end of desert......」
「It's also the end of the battlefield. Fufu, hero-sama. Your eyes are opened really wide!」
World of desert──such impression was carved into Kouki's head. For such Kouki, the vast grassland where weeds were growing thickly and the verdant mountains that could be seen at far away deep in the southwest side made him couldn't help but felt moved emotionally. He was able to strongly feel it for real, that this was exactly what Moana and others were desperately protecting.
Seeing Kouki's emotional face, not just Koone, but even the guards and Anneal were letting out amused chuckles. There was even pride vaguely emerging on their expression.
Kouki who became embarrassed scratched his cheek awkwardly and asked to divert attention from him.
「Arquette is located ahead of this grassland?」
「Yes, hero-sama. At this pace we should be able to see it around noon.」
Spike's arous climbed down the sand hill in the lead.
Like that when they stepped into the grassland, Kouki felt right away as though the air changed. It was a mysterious sensation, but it felt as though he moved from a quiet place right into the middle of a festival, a sensation of his heart boiling strongly.
Now he got it. So this was the difference between a ’’death land’’ and a ’’living land’’......Kouki comprehended. The mysterious sensation that felt like extending through his skin surely must be the breath of life. This was surely what it meant by a place that was overflowing with blessing power.
All the arous were also advancing with somewhat pleasant steps. They advanced in such mood for a bit less than an hour.
Just like Koone said, by the time the sun reached the zenith, they came to see a splendid protective wall that was obvious even when seen from afar.
「That's Arcquette you know, hero-sama. The protective wall made us unable to see from here, but at the other side there is grain-producing region spreading. Right now is the time for the crop to ripen up, so Koone think that it will be really impressive to see!」
They advanced for a while listening to Koone's information guidance. Several silhouettes came out from Arcquette's direction. They were heading here rapidly by riding arous. It seemed the Arcquette's side also came out to confirm and greet Koone party.
The person advancing at the lead was a female with very short blonde hair, sharp blue eyes, and domineering air. She was wearing warrior equipment and five soldiers were following behind her.
「Excuse our impoliteness in your presence. I am Arcquette's vigilance corps captain, Ivana Borgia. We are here to welcome your highness.」
It seemed the one who introduced herself with really clear voice was the leader of the private army of Arcquette territory. It seemed that she was a person that Koone and others were well acquainted with because Koone replied with a broad smile.
「Long time no see isn't it, Ivana! Koone came to visit!」
「Yes, it has been a long time, Koone-sama. I never thought that your arrival will be beyond fast like this, I am slightly surprised.」
Koone hopped down and greeted. Ivana also smiled gently seeing that. She gave a cold feel from her first impression, but the gaze she was looking at Koone with was very kind. She was a beauty who stole people's eye in addition with that gap too.
「There is no way we won't rush here after getting told that there is abnormality in Arcquette's land. After all Koone exist for that sake.」
「Thank you very much, Koone-sama. Now, our lord is waiting. Let's go.」
Kouki reflexively stared once more at Koone who was acting seriously. He averted his eyes when Koone looked back at him with a really nice smile while saying 「Is there something?」. While feeling embarrassed from getting snickered at by Anneal and Lilin, he entered into the city of Arcquette led by the vigilance corps.
「I never dreamed that your arrival will be beyond fast like this. My greatest gratitude for this swift response, your highness.」
Koone and others were led to the reception room of the feudal lord. The people of the guard squad were standing by in another room, but only Spike, Anneal, and then Kouki were accompanying Koone.
Like that they were enjoying the tea that was served to them for a few minutes. And the first voice that came out from the mouth of the feudal lord who was rushing into the room was that.
Rothko looked like he was still at the middle of his thirty, however, he was a person that was endowed with the appearance as a feudal lord. His moderate length dark blue hair had swept back style and he was wearing a monocle. If one had to say he was slender, and from a glance one could see that he was a civil officer rather than a soldier.
Behind him there was a woman that looked lady-like, with her strong-willed eyes expression making her distinctive. Her long blonde hair was beautifully arranged, and including her bearing, elegance could be felt from her.
Rothko's arm was pulled by that woman as though to chide him. Rothko came to his sense suddenly that he was acting too impatient. He changed his expression and fell on his knee in order to perform his greeting against a royalty.
「It has been a long time isn't it, Rothko. Also Syla. There is no need for any stiff greeting. Rather than that, please speak in detail regarding the content of your letter.」
For Kouki whose mind couldn't let go no matter what the impression of Koone's audacious behavior in the capital, as expected, he felt an intense discomfort seeing the speech and act of Koone that was really like a royalty. With a perceptiveness that was at the level of esper, Koone sent a glance at Kouki so he maintained his poker face.
Rothko smiled wryly saying 「I beg your pardon」 while standing up from his difficult posture. He then sat down on the sofa inside the room. Syla sat down following him.
「Hero-sama. This is Arcquette's feudal lord──Rothko Arcquette, and his wife Syla Arcquette.」
「It's an honor to meet the two of you, I am called Amanogawa Kouki.」
The gaze of Rothko and Syla turned toward the unfamiliar young man, so when Koone introduced him, the feudal lord couple both opened their eyes wide from hearing Koone's way of calling Kouki.
「Some time ago, there was a notification coming about the oracle that Foltina-sama summoned an existence that was called a hero but......to think that it's true. It's an honor for me to catch sight of you, hero-dono.」
It seemed that they were notified beforehand only about the possibility of the summon of an existence called hero. Rothko nodded in understanding and introduced himself politely.
In panic Kouki appealed his wish to Rothko to not act so humble toward him, and so that he called him by name.
And then, Koone told them that Kouki was accompanying her also with the objective of widening his view about this world, and after that the talk finally touched the topic of the letter.
「Then, Rothko. The letter mentioned about the crops drying up though......」
「Yes, your highness. We first confirmed it about a week ago when we received the report.」
According to Rothko's explanation that started after he said that, it seemed that from some time ago the growth of the crops was obviously slow. The growth of this world's plants was very fast due to blessing power. Therefore, if the growth slowed it would quickly become obvious.
Be that as it may, it was something natural, and it wasn't like there wasn't precedent of the land's fertility decreasing temporarily before. They sent report to the capital, and if they saw no improvement they would ask Koone to come, it was a problem at the level where they were allowed to deal with it leisurely like that.
But, a matter occurred a week ago where they couldn't be leisurely like that.
In an area where a gold colored carpet was spreading due to the grain plants' tip ripening, there were withering plants making it like a gaping hole was opened in the carpet of plants......
There was no such natural phenomenon that had ever been observed until now.
It was also possible that in that place there might be <Dark Being>that was clad in miasma which caused that, but in that case there should be a track──track like a path of plants dried up without any vitality──of the perpetrator's intrusion stretching until the center of the grain-producing region, however, such trace was nonexistent.
If it was possible, there was only the possibility of the perpetrator dropping from the sky, but in that case where was the falling <Dark Being>going to then?
Naturally, there was no trace of intrusion moving in toward the grain-producing region, so there was also no trace of the intruder going out.
Just in case, the vigilance corps searched the surrounding in full force, but they didn't find even a speck of shadow of the <Dark Being>.
While they were doing that, the dried up land was increasing bit by bit.
Because of that, if the cause of that wasn't <Dark Being>, they judged that this must be an abnormality in the blessing power, something that they weren't able to manage by themselves anymore, and Rothko reported it to the royal family and asked for help.
「I see, Koone don't get it at all!」
「Yo, your highnessss」
For some reason Koone decisively said such thing with a smug look. Rothko's eyebrows hung down dejectedly at that. Syla's expression also turned troubled.
Koone added on her speech as though to calm down the feudal lord spouses who were like that.
「There is no precedent of such phenomenon, so Koone doesn't understand of the cause just from listening to it. Going to the scene a hundred times! Investigating by foot! The matter about land can just be asked right from the land! And it's not like the cause really have to be known, the research of the cause can be postponed for later and it's fine if Koone just regenerate the land's blessing power for now.」
「It will be great if the land can be regenerated but......」
'The incident doesn't occur inside this room, it's occurring in the actual scene!' saying that, Koone swiftly stood up and demanded for guide to the location. Seeing that shocking lightness of footwork, the feudal lord spouses, and even Anneal and others who should be used to Koone's attitude were making a really speechless expression.
As for Kouki, in his own way he secretly made tsukkomi 「Are you a self-made detective huh!」 inside his heart. Recently, he felt like he had became a remarkable straight-man character but......
Kouki chose to not think deeply of that.
The grain-producing region spreading at the west of Arquette city was turned into a really splendid gold colored carpet. Perhaps it was wheat or a plant that was similar with that. The plentifully ripe plant tip was rustling from the wind, the scenery of the whole area swaying rustlingly gave anyone watching a feeling that couldn't be described.
At place like 【Ur City】, it was also near 【Nort Mountain Range Area】, so Kouki often visited the place for monster extermination. There was vast rice cultivation area nearby that city, so this was a scenery that he was familiar with but......
Rather, it was that point of familiarity that was giving permeating feeling into Kouki's heart.
That was why, Kouki's eyes were fixed excessively at what he saw.
At the existences of gaping wide hole of withering crops everywhere, as though there were insect swarm chewing at those spots, or perhaps like failed work of mysterious circles.
The figure of the crops that lost their golden shine, rotting on the ground with discoloration caused him a melancholy that was comparable with the deep emotion that he felt before.
Kouki and others arrived at a spot that was withering in consciously larger size. At the center of dried ground in circle shape with diameter about 5 meter.
「Your highness, how is it?」
Rothko asked with a grave expression. Koone didn't answer right away, she was staring at the ground with an expression so serious that Kouki had never seen from her before. And then, she suddenly went down on her knees, and her hand softly caressed the ground as though in sympathy.
「......Certainly, blessing power is gone from this place. It's in the verge of turning into desert. There is blessing power from the surrounding land, so even now the blessing power is flowing in bit by bit to recover the land.」
「That's......then, it will go back to before someday even if we left it alone?」
「Yes. Koone think so.」
Rothko and Syla, and then Ivana and others, the vigilance corps members who were accompanying them sighed in relief and tension left their soldiers. Syla timidly asked.
「Does your highness understand the cause?」
Koone slowly shook her head to the side still with a difficult expression. It seemed she was saying that the cause was unknown. And then, as though choosing her words carefully, she opened her mouth.
「This way of drying up, the way the blessing power is lost. ......It's really similar when miasma poured down, and <Dark Being>absorbed the blessing power. Koone think, that it's similar.」
「However......your highness. If this is the doing of <Dark Being>......」
There was not a single trace of <Dark Being>being here except of the dried land phenomenon. It was as though the perpetrator suddenly appeared in that spot like a ghost before suddenly vanishing, but......
No one had ever seen or heard about such phenomenon.
Certainly, surveillance and security were carried out at night, but this was a vast grain producing region. It was impossible to illuminate everywhere with light, because of that even if for example <Dark Being>, or perhaps something else was materializing at that spot in midnight, there was high possibility that no one would notice.
But, in that case then why was that intruder appeared and then vanished without causing anything......
How did the intruder vanish......
As expected, it was natural to think of this as the land's abnormality......
Koone also nodded again at Rothko's thinking.
「For the time being, Koone will try <Regeneration>.」
If perhaps the cause that made blessing power was lost from here was alive, then the land would dry up again even after the regeneration, or perhaps Koone's regeneration power would be neutralized.
In that case, there was also the possibility of understanding something by observing that process of event.
The ceremony of Koone's heaven's blessing art <Regeneration>started with such intention.
「Those who pour old blood, Koone de Shelt Synclea pray──」
With her small body, she slowly spread out both her hands as though trying to embrace the world. Her jade eyes that were half closed and peeked out slightly seemed to stare at one point, however, her eyes also looked like they weren't looking at anywhere.
The pattern that was painted on Koone's body was increasing in brightness each time she spoke the scripture that wished for good harvest.
「──Oh great will, oh our mother. Your child offer her life.」
Gently, Koone's golden twin tail fluttered. Not because of wind, but an invisible power was whirling around her.
That power could be felt flowing into the land with Koone as the center.
「Abundant crop to the land, healing to the water, ripening to the wind, will to the fire──」
The land shined. Particles that could be mistaken as spark of golden fire rose up. The boisterously dancing particles looked as though the land was displaying its delight.
「Right now one more time, to the dead world──the power of living」
Koone's wholehearted prayer and wish revived the dying land. From below the rotting crops, a new life was budding. It was not a crops but a mere grass, but without doubt nature was returning to a place that almost turned into desert.
Kouki reflexively whispered that. Different from simple magic or blessing art, it felt like there was something sacred from Koone's art. The age of god magic his childhood friend specialized at must be able to the same thing too, but even so, the art of the small Koone who was praying wholeheartedly was something that really compelled on his heart for some reason.
「Fufuhn, isn't that right, isn't that right! Koone is amazing!」
Kouki who was in a trance came back to his senses with 'hah' when he heard that voice that sounded so smug it sounded odious.
As expected, he saw a little girl with tremendously smug face there. She was puffing up her chest so much he wondered whether she would fall behind.
The solemn and scared atmosphere was instantly dispersed.
Kouki answered with a really complicated expression.
「Haha......yes, it's amazing. Koone-sama is really amazing.」
「Hnfufuh. It's fine you know? It's fine to praise Koone more you know? Rather Koone won't mind even if you worship Koone! Koone won't, mind it at all!」
The princess-sama was really getting on high horse.
Kouki was feeling somewhat wanting to hit her, but seeing Koone who seemed to concentrate of the regenerated land even while getting on her high horse, he decided to praise her more for now.
Koone looked terribly in a good mood, however, her expression immediately turned serious and,
「Rothko. It looks like the land has returned to before. There is no sign of blessing power vanishing. This place need observation for a little bit more but......」
「Is, that so....... Hmmm, just what in the world cause this....... How eerie. Although, we now understand that your highness's power can recover it. For the investigation of the cause, we will examine the land around Arquette too, but for now we can have a peace of mind. Your highness, I'm really thankful for your help in this!」
「This is Koone's role. But, there is no way we can leave alone a bizarre phenomenon of a part of land suddenly drying up, so Koone is thinking of staying in Arquette for a while to investigate. Rothko, is there a problem with that?」
Different from with Kouki, Koone interacted with Rothko seriously without any smugness.
「It doesn't matter, I'm just a mere swordsman anyway......the other party is a feudal lord-sama after all, there is nothing wrong at all」 Kouki consoled himself inside his heart.
「That's the best I can ask for, your highness. By any means, please stay in my mansion.」
Saying that, Rothko nodded happily.
After that, Kouki and others were treated with late lunch.
At the seat of the lunch, the son of the feudal lord spouses──Rondo Arquette (ten years old) was introduced. He was an intelligent boy with dark blue hair the same like his father, and a strong willed eyes he inherited from his mother. He had a serious personality for his age.
Although, he also had a side that was appropriate for his age. Spike and Lilin told him various heroic deeds like how Kouki was an existence that was called a hero, how using the magic of another world, in the first day he was summoned he crushed named <Dark Beings>by himself, how he fought the tag team of the soldier chief and art user head by himself and won, and so on. Hearing those stories, the eyes that he directed toward Kouki were already sparkling, causing Kouki to plainly bear damage to his heart.
And then, perhaps seeing through the inside of Kouki's heart that was like that, Koone blabbered about things that were true and things that were false, or rather most of what she blabbered was false, and in the end, she even told Rondo about the incident on the bed, and the incident of secret midnight meeting that were already nothing but scandal, so the feudal lord spouses' expression convulsed, and Kouki desperately made excuse......
What was the most chaotic above all, was how Rondo lad was gradually starting to look enviously at the exchange between Kouki who was turned into tsukkomi machine and Koone who was fabricating incidents looking like she was absurdly enjoying it.
No, if it had to be said without any indirect expression, wasn't that already jealousy despite his young age......
In the end, was that jealousy directed to the princess who was getting along well with the hero,
Or else, was it something directed to the hero who was getting along well with the princess,
Thinking if it was the case of the latter, Kouki yelled with all his strength inside his heart toward the Rondo lad.
'For that kind of future, you gonna need resolve for it not just about status or position, but in various meaning y'know!' Like that.
He must not be called a good for nothing for not speaking it out loud. It was Koone-tan that was scary......
The recovery of the land was finished for the moment, and in the preparation for the investigation that would be carried out seriously from tomorrow, Kouki and others rested their body in the feudal lord's mansion.
The time was evening.
The blazing red sun was about to sink at the west's ground. The shadow was greatly stretching to the east, the world was being dyed red.
The golden grain producing region was tinged with red color, producing superb contrast with the deepening shadow, the vibrant hue that was different from afternoon also created picturesque scenery.
There was watchtower built inside the protective wall of Arquette. Two young vigilance corps member that were charged to keep watch were looking fondly at the scenery that was always familiar, yet they never got bored to look at.
「Hey. Did you see hero-sama?」
「Ou, I saw I saw.」
「What do you think about him?」
To confirm once more that there wasn't anything unusual, even while staring at the nature's picturesque scene one of the guard devoted himself to run his gaze vigilantly around while asking that casually. The other guard showed a thinking posture for a bit before answering.
「I thought that he looked somewhat normal.」
「What an impolite guy. Should I report this to the captain......」
「You are the one asking me. But, you also thought so right?」
「Well, he is different from my image. I thought he would be something like, someone that is more majestic or like domineering, when someone see him they are going to get 『This person ain't ordinary!』 right away, like that.」
「Right right, from what I heard he is really strong but......somehow he doesn't look like soldier huh.」
The two guards talked to each other about their impression that if Kouki heard them, he might reflexively shouted 「Cannot deny that-」 with his hand pressing on his chest and his body fell on all four.
But, at that time, one of the guards raised his hand to stop his partner who was opening his mouth to say some more thing, and his eyes narrowed.
「......Oi, over there. I cannot see well because of the shadow, but is there something there?」
Both of them focused their sight.
Something was there. Something black, clad in mist, a figure's──
「tsu, this must be a joke! Why here-」
「Sound the warning bell-」
The true identity that the guards saw through was an existence that shouldn't be here. Yes, something like an existence that was clad in black mist, there was only one such existence in this world.
The guard who took into his hand the hammer to ring the bell set up in the watchtower thought that in any case, he had to sound the alarm. While staring fixedly at that existence──the <Dark Being>, his hand was swung......
「What, the......what the hell is going on!」
The impossible sight made him stopped his arm reflexively.
Perhaps that was something that couldn't be helped.
After all, ahead of his gaze, they were appearing one after another. Like black ink that was sprinkled on the grain-producing region, spheres of miasma were suddenly materializing from empty air.
*bo-bo-bo-*, Deep darkness color even deeper than the shadow created by the sunset was increasing with terrific momentum everywhere in the grain-producing region. Those spheres of darkness vanished a beat later like cocoon that was shattered from inside.
What was left behind was human shaped <Dark Being>clad in thick miasma.
It wasn't just one or two. In the blink of eye, the number was increasing into a corps, no, an army scale.
「-, -!? Ring the bell quickly!!」
The guard who forgot himself recovered his senses from his partner's yell. He immediately struck the warning bell strongly as though to shake off his fear.
Their colleague rushed toward the bottom of the watchtower to inquire what was going on. The two guards entrusted their colleague to immediately close the gate, and then to inform the feudal lord.
Even during that little bit of time, the grain producing region was invaded by beings clad in miasma......
They spontaneously implored to a great existence. Their body was petrified as though they were being bound hand and foot.
That was how much their despair was.
The golden color that Arquette's grain producing region boasted of, was currently painted over with darkness color by an army of <Dark Being>.