Arifureta - Volume 6 - Chapter 7
Chapter 7 : Northern Mountain Range Area
With the waning moonlight, the eastern sky began to lit up. Hajime, Yue, and Shia, these three people completed their travel preparations, and soon they would leave the ’’Water Fairy Inn.’’ In their hands were packaged riceballs that could be eaten as they move. Even though it was still early in the morning, no one wore unpleasant faces as Foss prepared their breakfast. It was just as expected of a high-class inn. Its management was admired even by Hajime and his party, as they thanked him without reserve once they received the breakfast.
Within the morning mist, Hajime and his party faced towards Ul's northern gate. There was a highway that stretched from this place to the northern mountain range area. It would take at least a full day by horse, but they would arrive in three to four hours using the magic-driven two-wheeler.
It was the fifth day since they had lost contact with Will Kudeta and his party, who had gone to investigate northern mountain range area. Survival was hopeless. Hajime also thought Will and his party's odds of survival were low, but there was still a chance. Ilwa's image of Hajime would climb to a pinnacle if he brought him back alive, which was why he began searching as soon as possible. Fortunately, the weather was good. An ideal day to search for someone.
With sounds of activity beginning to resound inside the buildings, they advanced towards the northern gate, and could finally see the gate. He narrowed his eyes because he could sense signs of people near the northern gate. They didn't move or anything, but only hung around the gate.
What he saw through the morning mist... ... were Aiko and the six students.
’’... ... Although I can guess what you want, let me hear it anyway... ... What are you doing?’’
Hajime and his party looked at Aiko and the students with half-opened eyes. For a moment, Aiko twitched from the pressure in the atmosphere, but she still faced Hajime with a firm attitude. After having a discussion, the students;Sonobe Yuka, Sugawara Taeko, Miyazaki Nana, Tamai Atsushi, Aikawa Noboru, and Kawahara Akira, drew near Aiko.
’’We are also going. You're searching for missing people, right? It's better to have more people.’’
’’No. I am okay with you going. But, I refuse to go together.’’
’’Simply because our pace is different. I don't want to match your slow speed.’’
If one were to look closely, they would notice that there were several horses readied behind Aiko and the others. For a moment they thought, ’’Was it because he cannot ride horses?’’, as they doubted Hajime. Since it was trivial, he just let it go through their heads. No matter whether he could ride it or not, its speed couldn't compare to the magic-driven two-wheeler, after all. However, the virtual leader of Ai-chan's royal guard who loved her;Sonobe Yuka, snapped at Hajime's objection. Apparently, she had forgotten her debt and intimidation from Hajime yesterday because of the strength of her love towards Ai-chan.
’’Wait, how could you say that? Even if Nagumo doesn't think well of us, there's no need to involve Ai-chan sensei.’’
Because of the incredibly irrelevant objection, Hajime let out, ’’Haa?’’, with an amazed expression. Hajime thought it'd be a hassle to explain, so he silently took out the magic-driven two-wheeler from ’’Treasure Box’’.
Suddenly, a big bike appeared from the void, Aiko and the students could only let out stupefied looks.
’’Do you understand now? Yesterday I said that I absolutely don't care about whatever you guys want to do. That's why there's no need to snarl at me. It's just like I said before, our speed is different.’’
The magic-driven two-wheeler's profound form, and maybe because it was an existence that didn't belong in this different world, made Aiko and the onlooking students speechless. There, the bike-lover in the class;Aikawa asked Hajime while somewhat excited.
’’D-Did Nagumo make this just like the gun from yesterday?’’
’’Something like that. We are going now, so move aside.’’
Hajime answered him perfunctorily as he was about to embark, but Aiko kept standing still. Aiko wanted to tag along with Hajime and his party no matter what it took. She had two reasons. One was to search for the truth about what Hajime said last night. Aiko couldn't just overlook the words, ’’A classmate was trying to kill him’’, so she wanted find out if it was the truth or just Hajime's misunderstanding. If it was the truth she wanted to know what Hajime was going to do. She wanted to hear more details from Hajime for the sake of avoiding any accidents that might happen in the future. Once the search ended, she didn't know when she'd be able to meet Hajime and his party again, so she mustn't miss this chance.
The other reason was, because Shimizu Yukitoshi was currently still missing. Although they had tried to find any scrap of information without leaving even a stone unturned, there were no sightings of him in any of the nearby towns and villages. However, because there was no one living in the northern mountain range area in the first place, she remembered there was no information gathered there. Even if it was on his own accord or by accident, she naturally never thought he'd enter the northern mountain range area. But with the thought he'd left on his own, she thought of searching for Shimizu's trail while Hajime and his party looked for the missing people.
By the way, it was partly a coincidence that Sonobe and the other students were here. Aiko had wanted to go to the gate earlier than Hajime, in order to ambush him, so she tried to leave the inn before dawn, only to be seen by Sonobe Yuka who was going to the toilet. Because Aiko equipped herself with travelling gear and tried to leave at such an unreasonable time, Sonobe Yuka of Ai-chan's bodyguards questioned her without letting her tell a lie. As the result, because they couldn't just leave Ai-chan to the changed Hajime. Sonobe woke up all of the students and tried to join the search mission. It should be noted that they had left a letter to the Knights, telling them to watch the house, since it seemed like they would only strike up more trouble if they went with Hajime and his party. Though it wasn't known how they'd react...
Aiko drew near Hajime and whispered her decision to him. Hajime moved his face close to Aiko's because he didn't want the contents and only the contents to be heard by others, but when he looked carefully he noticed she used thick makeup to conceal dark shadows. Surely, she was hardly able to sleep having heard Hajime's story.
’’Nagumo-kun, because sensei is a teacher, it's necessary to hear the details from Nagumo-kun. That's why, I won't let you go until you tell me everything, I'll chase you if you try to run away. For Nagumo-kun, won't that be troublesome? I don't care if you tell me while we are travelling or when we are searching, so will you spare some time? If you do that, then it'll be as Nagumo-kun said, it'll be good bye after this town... ... for the time being.’’
Hajime could see the light of determination in Aiko's eyes, and he slightly regretted his last words from last night resulted in this failure. He understood Aiko's ability to take action (Although she's often idle). If he tried to deceive her or run away, she'd likely use the Guard Knights to search for him.
He averted his gaze from Aiko and looked up at the sky, which was becoming more and more bright. Without throwing away the possibility of Will's survival, he regretted time had passed while they argued. Hajime let out a deep sigh. He admitted that he'd just reaped what he'd sown, and faced Aiko again.
’’Okay. I'll let you go with us. Even though I say that, I don't have time to speak with you...’’
’’I don't care. I only want to hear it from Nagumo-kun's mouth.’’
’’Haa, geez, sensei won't give up at all. Whatever and wherever, always a teacher, huh.’’
Aiko, ’’Munh!’’, stuck out her chest with a joyful look when Hajime gave up. Because it seemed the negotiations had gone well, the students showed relieved looks.
’’... ... Hajime, are you going to bring them?’’
’’Aa, this person is a ’’teacher’’ even here. She will not compromise anything regarding her students. If I just leave her, it'll absolutely become troublesome in the future.’’
’’Ho~, she is a good teacher who thinks of her students~’’
Because Hajime had given up, Yue and Shia were surprised and asked him. Following that, having heard Hajime's words accompanied with a bitter smile, the eyes with which they looked at Aiko, had changed slightly. They were filled with some respect. Even Hajime thought Aiko's attitude as their ’’teacher’’, which couldn't be shaken at all was not a bad thing. For example, she didn't find any value in categorizing the classmates and students, so he thought of her as an adult who should be respected.
’’But, this bike can only hold three people, right? What should we do?’’
What Sonobe pointed out was the truth. It was out of the question in regards to time, to match the horses' speed, and it was impossible to leave Yue or Shia behind to bring Aiko instead. Reluctantly, Hajime put the magic-driven two-wheeler into ’’Treasure Box’’, and pulled out the magic-driven four-wheeler in its stead.
Pinpon, Hajime made it vanish and at the same time a big object appeared, probably because they knew he'd used an artifact, Aiko and the students were not surprised at all. Having seen the current Hajime, who on Earth could imagine he was once called ’’incompetent.’’ Sonobe and the students received the message ’’Those who are unable to get on will be in the carrier’’, looked at Hajime who quickly got on the driver's seat with complicated expressions.
* * *
They moved forward on the road expanding straight into the northern mountain range area using the hummer-like magic-driven four-wheeler. Even though the highway was a bad road, thanks to the suspension and ground transmutation feature it shared with the two-wheeler, most of the impact was nulled. Naturally, the male students, aboard the hard metal luggage carrier attached to the back didn't seem to be in discomfort.
By the way, although there was the ’’Treasure Box’’, the reason he specifically installed the carrier was because it was a set with the gatling that'd be used while driving, it was his aspiration. A small commitment from Hajime.
For the seating inside the vehicle, Hajime naturally sat in the driver's seat, while Aiko sat at his side and Yue was next to her. Aiko sat beside Hajime for the sake of hearing his story. Although Aiko seemed to not have told it to the other students, she wanted to hear about it sooner.
Originally, the seat next to Hajime belonged to Yue, but Yue already knew the contents of the story Hajime would tell, so reluctantly, she gave her seat to Aiko. But, Aiko and Yue were small, so there was still a considerable amount of space in the seat.
In contrast, Shia who was seated in the back seat looked slightly cramped. Shia aside, Sonobe and Sugawara had voluptous bodies, so they took up a lot of space. The slender Miyazaki looked so uncomfortable.
But, the one who felt the most uncomfortable was Shia. She had been placed between Sonobe and Sugawara for a while now, and they interrogated her about her relationship with Hajime. Love between different races in another world was something female high schoolers wouldn't miss hearing. They were so curious that they repeatedly asked Shia, and the flustered Shia tried her best to answer their questions.
On the other side, Hajime and Aiko's conversation also reached its climax.
Having heard the situation in detail about that time from Hajime, while she knew the possibility of magic being fired intentionally was high, Aiko was still unable to believe it and was troubled by it. When he heard her, Hajime only snorted as his reply.
For now, he already guessed it was someone like Hiyama, and although Hajime's guess was closest to the right answer, he only said this was one of the possibilities. After all, Aiko wouldn't be able to arrive at such a conclusion, and even if the culprit could be specified, how could she restore the mind of someone who attempted murder? How could one compensate for that? She was troubled, with those thoughts on her mind.
She groaned because she was troubled by this, but due to the soft seat and vibrating vehicle inviting her to sleep Aiko started off on her journey to the world of dreams before she was aware of it,zuruzuru, her body slipped until she fell onto Hajime's lap.
Normally, he'd send her flying because it's a hindrance, but because he felt it awkward to act rude toward Aiko, he hesitated over what to do, then he decided to leave her as is. After all, Hajime's information was the main cause of Aiko's sleep deprivation. So if it's just this, he felt that it couldn't be helped, as he displayed unusual generosity.
’’... ... Hajime is gentle to Aiko.’’
’’... ... Well, it is someone I'm indebted to, so something like this is okay.’’
’’... ... Fu~n.’’
’’Yue-san, please don't ignore me.’’
’’... ... Next, I will also use the lap pillow.’’
’’... ... Okay.’’
Even though Aiko was still lap pillowed, Hajime and Yue were able to enter a world of their own. In the back seat, the female high schoolers watched them while going ’’kya kya,’’ followed by a sulking rabbit-eared girl. From now on, they were entering a dangerous zone where unknown accidents might occur but no one thought about it as they made such a noise.
* * *
The northern mountain range area.
Several mountains extended with altitudes ranging from 1000 to 8000 meters. Plants and trees were somehow able to grow there. It was a mysterious place with a scattered environment. The colour would make one remember the mountains of Japan in autumn, and the other area was filled with trees with fresh green leaves, just like in mid-summer, but there were also places with withered trees in contrast.
Moreover, even if one could see past the mountain range, another mountain range stretched out beyond it. There were more and more of them to the north. Currently four such mountain ranges were confirmed, and beyond that was a completely unknown area. As to how far it went, a certain adventurer aimed to cross the fifth mountain range, however, demonic beasts got stronger and stronger with every passing mountain range, and in the end, there was no sign of success.
Incidentally, the highest mountain was the ’’God Mountain’’. Currently, the place Hajime and the others had first arrived in when they came into this world was 1,600 kilometers east of the God Mountain. The vivid colors of red and yellow of the fresh leaves on the trees made them easy on the eyes. If a knowledgeable person were to look carefully, he would find spices and edible plants in the area. They were what enriched Ul town, a truly bountiful mountain.
Hajime and the others stopped the four-wheeler at the foot of the mountain, and were charmed by the artistic display of nature's magnificent colors for a while. One of the girls let out a ’’Ho~’’. Some time ago, Aiko was apologizing while blushing, after making the blunder of sleeping in a student's lap. But having seen the fresh scenery, she succeeded in placing the 'black history' into the far recesses of her mind.
Hajime also wanted to slowly appreciate this, so he put the four-wheeler back into the ’’Treasure Box’’, and pulled out certain things in its stead.
Those were, imitation models of birds which spanned 30 cm each, and a ring with a small crystal embedded on it. Each of the models had a gray crystal buried in a part of their heads.
Hajime put on the ring, took out four identical models, and slowly threw them into the air. With that, one would assume they'd fall due to gravity. However, these fake birds were floating in place. Aiko and the students let out an ’’Ah’’.
The four mechanical birds began to turn around on their spots and flew towards the mountain.
’’Umm, those are....’’
Having seen the model birds flying away without any sound, Aiko represented the other students and inquired something of him.
Hajime answered her with ’’Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes’’, and just like the vehicles and gun, they were items that were out of place in this different world..
The imitation model of birds called ’’Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes’’, were something Hajime made in reference to the remotely operated Golem Knights from Raisen's Great Dungeon. They were also produced using the materials he got there. Using Creation magic, he granted minerals Gravity magic because he didn't have the aptitude for using the magic himself, and they became minerals capable of neutralizing gravity as they floated. And thus, gravity stones were created. Furthermore, the induction stones which used to control the Golem Knights were used. In addition, Farsight crystals were also installed in each part of their heads. The mineral used in the eyes of Golem Knights were Farsight stones. Similar to induction stones, it was a mineral capable of reflecting scenes witnessed by other fragments of the crystal, regardless of distance, so long as the same type of magical power was supplied to them. It seemed this was what Miledi used to determine the detailed position of Hajime and his party. Hajime installed the farsight crystal inside his magic eye, and he became capable of seeing scenery the ’’Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes’’ could see.
In the first place, there's a limit to the processing performance of a human's brain, using four simultaneously was the limit, allowing them to move around in the sky. It's a complete mystery as to how Miledi was able to operate 50 Golems at once.
Tentatively, His brain's processing performance had been boosted when he awakened the’’Light Speed’’, if he only had to control one plane, he could do precise movements. Moreover, when he uses ’’Light Speed’’, he could make seven planes do precise movements within a certain time limit.
This time, he took out the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes because being able to search from the air is useful, since the scope of search was too vast. Having watched the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes fly far away, Aiko and the students tried to stop being surprised by Hajime's actions, however, it was a vow that might never be fulfilled.
Hajime and the others advanced into the mountain using the same path used by the adventurers. The sighting information of demonic beasts were just slightly beyond the other side of mountain path. It's in the vicinity of the sixth and seventh mountain. Because of that, Will's party of adventurers should be investigating around those parts. Having thought of this, they quickly advanced through the mountain path at a high pace, after Hajime released the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes in that area.
Hajime and the others reached the sixth mountain in almost an hour, and stopped. The reason was because it was necessary to search for any traces around the area...
’’Haa haa, i-is it a break... ... kehoh, haa haa.’’
’’Zee zee Are you okay... ... Ai-chan sensei, zee zee ’’
’’Ueppu, is it okay to rest now? Haa haa, it's okay, right? I'll take a break now, kay?’’
’’... ... Hyuu Hyuu.’’
’’Geho geho, Nagumo-kun and his party are monsters....’’
Aiko and her students had less physical strength than what he had expected, so it was necessary to take a break. Naturally, Aiko and her students' statuses were originally several times higher than the average people of this world, so they didn't get exhausted until they climbed the sixth mountain. It's just that the movement speed of Hajime and his party was just too fast, that's why they climbed the mountain using all their might, and when they noticed it, their physical strength was exhausted and their legs became wobbly.
Aiko and her students desperately gasped for breath on all fours, and Hajime glanced at them with a somewhat troubled look. In any case, he had decided it was necessary to search the surroundings, as they went to the nearby river to let them rest. He was able to determine the location because of the information from the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes. After stating the location to Aiko and her students, who were still breathing roughly, he and his party advanced towards the river. The probability of Will's party having rested there was also high.
With Yue and Shia in the lead, they strayed from the mountain path and onto the mountain. Rustle, rustle. The sound of fallen leaves was enjoyable as they continued to walk between the trees, and before long they could hear the sound of a river. It was a sound pleasing to the ears. Shia's ears swayed happily.
Finally Hajime and his party reached the river. It was at a bigger scale compared to a small river. Shia, who held the highest search ability, observed the surroundings while Hajime once again used the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes to search for any presences, and there was no sign of demonic beasts nearby. They relaxed for now. Hajime and the others were sitting on the rock in the riverbank, then they talked about their search plans. Yue took off her shoes and put her feet into the river after saying ’’Just a little’’. It was her selfishness to enjoy the moment. Hajime overlooked it because Aiko and her students still hadn't caught up to them. He's a man who spoiled Yue. Shia also took this chance.
Having thought of a possibility, they moved upstream along the riverbank. Hajime moved the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes upstream while he looked at Yue, pasha pasha, playing with the river water with her bare feet. Although Shia was also barefooted, she only put them in the water. The feeling of the river flowing seemed to tickle her.
Aiko and her students, who finally regained their breaths, arrived. They stayed in place as they stared at Hajime and his party. However, the three male students shouted ’’Is this Heaven?’’, with sparkling eyes as they saw the barefooted Yue and Shia, while the female students returned to look at them with cold eyes. It made the male students shudder. When they noticed the gazes from Tamai and the others, Yue and Shia got out of the river.
Aiko and her students were diligently replenishing their moisture in the riverbank. Because of the displeasing gazes from Tamai and the male students a while ago, Yue and Shia returned slight glares, and the male students trembled as they averted their gazes. Having seen such a spectacle, Aiko and the female students looked at Hajime with warm eyes. Especially Sonobe and the female students. Since they had heard various things from Shia, they wore very annoying expressions.
’’Fufu, Nagumo-kun truly treasures Yue-san and Shia-san.’’
Aiko said such things while smiling. Hajime wanted to say something, but stopped and just shrugged his shoulders when he saw the depressed Sonobe and the other male students. Yue was the one who took action in his stead. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, she suddenly sat on Hajime's lap.
She was so pleased that she entrusted all of her weight to Hajime. It could also be called her proof of trust. Seeing that, Shia, who looked lonely, embraced Hajime from behind. Aiko's cheeks immediately blushed because a pink-colored space was generated. Sonobe and the female students were shouting, ’’Kya kya ’’, in excitement. Tamai and the male students ground their teeth.
Hajime being Hajime, without shaking the two off, just averted his gaze. He seemed to be slightly embarrassed. However, Hajime's expression suddenly sharpened in the next moment.
’’... ... That is.’’
’’Nn... ... did you find something?’’
Having heard Hajime's muttering while he was looking far into the distance, Yue asked him. Because of his appearance, Aiko and the others blinked their eyes wondering what happened.
’’On the river's upstream... ... is that a shield? Also, there are bags... ... it looks like they're still new. It might be a hit. Yue, Shia, let's go.’’
Hajime and his party harmoniously stood up and began to prepare for departure. Aiko and the students actually still wanted to rest, and although they knew they were overdoing it, they couldn't just stand still once they saw that Hajime had found some clues. They laborously raised their still exhausted waists and once again desperately tried to follow Hajime and his party, who were advancing upstream with blistering speed.
At the location Hajime and his party arrived at, just as he confirmed with the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes, small round shields made of metal and bags were scattered around. However, there were dents on the round shields, and the bags were torn up in the middle with their strings pulled out.
Hajime and his party carefully examined their surroundings. Then they found some nearby trees with their barks peeled off of them They were roughly at the two meters of height. It was apparent that the bark was in such state because something had scratched it off, and at that height, it clearly wasn't the work of humans. Hajime instructed Shia to use her search ability to the fullest, while also using his own perception skill as they approached the barkless trees.
Advancing ahead, they found signs of combat one after another. There were trees and branches that were broken in half. There were also plants that had been trampled, and furthermore, there were fragments of blades and blood scattered around. Everytime they found such traces, the expressions on Aiko and the students' faces stiffened. For a while, they chased after the signs of combat, and Shia suddenly found something shining.
’’Hajime-san, this, isn't this a pendant?’’
’’Nn? Aa... ... it's probably something they left behind. Let me confirm it.’’
After he washed off the dirt from the pendant he had received from Shia, he noticed it was not just a pendant but also a locket. He removed the clasp and saw what was inside, it was a woman's photograph. Perhaps, she was someone's lover or wife. Even though it was not a significant clue, it was not an old one but a recent one... ... it could belong to someone from the adventurers' party. That's why it'd be kept for now.
Afterwards, they found more articles of the deceased or so they called them, but they only collected items that would allow one to identify their owners. Having searched around for a while, eventually day turned into night, and the time for them to set up camp was approaching.
Even now, there were no signs of life aside from the wild animals. Although they were cautious because of how Will and his party encountered and were attacked by demonic beasts, there were no sign of demonic beasts in their immediate surroundings. Their current location was between the eighth and ninth mountain. From what was said about crossing the mountains, usually, they would encounter one or two demonic beasts, so Hajime and the others could feel the eeriness of this situation.
After a while, the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes once again found a location with abnormalities. There were leftovers of great destruction 300 meters to the east. Hajime urged everyone to rush to that location.
There was a big river. A small waterfall could be seen upstream, and the volume of water was immense, with a violent current. Originally, it was likely to flow straight towards the foot of the mountain, but currently, there was a large and small river branching along the way. It was as though it was gouged by a laser or something, from the flank.
The reason they had such impressions was because the gouged part was a straight line, while the surrounding trees and ground were scorched. Furthermore, as if they had received a big impact, a lot of trees were partly broken and thrown tens of meters to the side. On the riverside, there were big footprints measuring more than 30 centimeters.
’’It seems the real combat happened here... ... These footprints were of large bipedal demonic beasts... ... Surely, there were demonic beast called Brutal beyond the second mountain after this. But, the way the ground was gouged....’’
What Hajime described as Brutals were something similar to the Orcs and Ogres in RPG. Although they didn't have high intelligence, they took action as group. Because they had a weaker version of the peculiar magic;’’Vajra’’, called ’’Strong Wall,’’ they were recognized as quite powerful enemies. They usually descend into the second mountain of the mountain range, but these demonic beasts never came into towns. In addition, they didn't have any attacks that could make such river tributaries.
Hajime thought of the Brutal as he observed the footprints, he hesitated whether to go upstream or downstream. Although Will's party had likely to escaped upstream, he thought it would be hard for them to run upstream after such combat. He doubted that they would physically and mentally run further from town.
Hajime decided to direct the Unmanned Reconnaissance Planes upstream while they head downstream. Even though the Brutals' footprints were on the riverside, the possibility of Will and his party jumping into the river was high. If so, he thought they'd likely be swept away because of physical exhaustion.
The others also agreed with Hajime's speculations, and descended towards downstream on the riverside.
Afterwards, they encountered a much more splendid waterfall compared to the one from before. Hajime and the others nimbly descended from the cliff on the side of the waterfall and landed on the vicinity of the basin. The refreshing wind peculiar to a waterfall healed their minds and bodies which were exhausted from a day of searching. Then, Hajime felt a reaction from his ’’Sign Perception.’’
’’ ! This is....’’
’’... ... Hajime?’’
Yue immediately reacted and asked him. For a while, Hajime concentrated while closing his eyes. Following that, while slowly opening his eyes, he let out a surprised voice.
’’Oi oi, seriously. The Sign Perception picked up something. From the feeling, I can say it's a human. The location is... ... in the interior of waterfall's basin.’’
’’You mean there are survivors!’’
Hajime nodded towards Shia's words of confirmation. He answered, ’’Only one person’’, when Yue asked for the number of people. Aiko and her students were also surprised. It was something natural. Although the odds of survival were not zero, they actually didn't expect any at all. It was the fifth day since Will's party had gone missing. It was a miracle for even one of them to remain alive.
’’... ... Nn’’
While watching the waterfall basin, Hajime called Yue. Yue was able to guess Hajime's intentions from just those few words, and she shook her right hand as the magic's trigger.
’’’’Wave Castle,’’ ’’Wind Wall’’.’’
Then, the water in the waterfall and its basin began to split in two just like the Red Sea in Moses' legend. Moreover, the scattered water was perfectly brushed off by the wall of wind. It was the result of water magic making a high-pressure wall of water called ’’Wave Castle,’’ and wind magic called ’’Wind Wall.’’
Without chanting, magic of two different attributes were activated at the same time. Having seen how they were used, Aiko and her students, although they didn't remember how many times they had done it, dropped their jaws in astonishment. Surely, the Hebrew people also displayed such expressions.
Because her magic power was not infinite, Hajime urged Aiko and the others on, as he led them into the interior of the waterfall basin's cave. The cave they entered immediately curved upward, and they arrived at quite a large cavity. Water and light poured down from the ceiling, and the fallen water flowed into the water pool below. The reason it didn't overflow was surely because they continued flowing inside.
They discovered a man lying down in the innermost part of the cave. When they arrived at the man's side, they confirmed that he was a young man, around 20 years of age. Although he looked like a noble, he currently looked pale and displayed the complexion of a dead person. However, there was no large injury, and because there was food remaining inside his bag, he was simply sleeping. His bad complexion was surely related to how he was the only one here.
Having seen the anxious Aiko, and because Hajime wanted to immediately identify the young man's identity, he used his artificial arm, while restraining his power to the limit, to flick the sleeping young man's forehead.
He screamed as he woke up, the young man writhed while covering his forehead with both hands. Aiko and her students shuddered because of the powerful and merciless forehead flick. Hajime ignored Aiko and the students, and approached the young man with teary eyes to ask his name.
’’You, are you Will Kudeta? The third son of Count Kudeta.’’
’’Ah, eh, you are, just how on earth did you guys get here...’’
Because the young man only blinked as he couldn't grasp the situation, Hajime once again made a stance to flick his forehead and slowly aimed at it.
’’Answer my question. I'll increase the power by 20 percent every time you say something other than the answer.’’
’’You, are you Will Kudeta?’’
’’Umm, uwah, yes! That's right! I am Will Kudeta! Yes!’’
For a moment, when the young man hesitated in answering, Hajime's eyes gave off a dangerous light, and he immediately thrust out his left hand. The panicked young man immediately announced his name. Apparently, he was truly the person in question. He seemed to have miraculously survived.
’’I see. I am Hajime. Nagumo Hajime. I have come here on the request of the head of Fhuren's branch guild, Ilwa Chang. (For my convenience) It's good that you're alive.’’
’’Ilwa-san!? Is that so. Once again... ... I am indebted to that person... ...Umm, I am thankful to you. You must be a remarkable person to receive a request directly from Ilwa-san.’’
Will voiced gratitude with respectful eyes. It seemed he didn't mind the forehead flick with unbelievable power from a little while ago. If so, he might be an unexpectedly good person. A great difference than a pig from somewhere. After that, having introduced everyone, they heard the story of what happened to Will.
This was the summary.
Five days ago, Will's party came to the vicinity of the upper part of fifth mountain using the mountain path just like Hajime and the others. Suddenly, they encountered ten Brutals. As expected, they couldn't win against the number of Brutals they encountered, so Will's party tried to withdraw. But, the number of attacking Brutals kept increasing, and they were by the river of the sixth mountain when they noticed it. Then, the Brutals encircled them, so for the sake of escaping from the encirclement. Two people;trifling and unimportant soldiers, were sacrificed After that, when they arrived at a big river, despair appeared.
It appeared to be a jet-black Dragon. As soon as Will's party came along the river bank, the Black Dragon let out breath, and Will was blown off into the river by the attack. From what he saw while being swept away, one person vanished because of the breath, while the other two were attacked from both sides, by Brutals from the back and the Dragon from the front.
Will fell into the basin of the waterfall after he was swept away as is, he went into the cave he had found by chance, and he seemed to have been hiding here ever since.
Somehow, it sort of resembled what may or may not have happened to a certain someone.
Will, as he told them that, was feeling proud of it, and then suddenly started to sob. It was not something unreasonable, the senior adventurers taught him the know-how for adventurers and took care of him even though one of them wore a displeased face. Without confirming their safety, the pathetic him was only able to tremble in fear and wait for help to come, the him who felt relieved because his rescue came while his companions were dead, various feelings continuously emerged and his tears overflowed.
’’I-I am d wost. Wuu, aljo evyone ish ded, I din't ju anyching. Hikk, fer me chu be d cole curvibor... oso, sniff... chu fil relif... I !’’
(I am the worst. Wuu, although everyone is dead, I didn't do anything. Hikk, for me to be the sole survivor... Also, sniff... to feel relieved... I !)
Will's wails echoed inside the cave. No one could say anything to him. Toward the Will who blamed himself with tears flowing down his face, they didn't know which words would be good for him. The students looked at Will with sorrowful expressions, while Aiko gently patted Will's back. Yue was expressionless as usual, while Shia looked troubled.
But, at the moment Will found himself at a loss for words, an unexpected person moved. It was Hajime. Hajime, approached Will and gripped Will's collar. He used his inhuman strength to hang him mid-air. Following that, towards the Will who was in pain because he couldn't breathe, Hajime spoke with an unexpectedly permeating voice.
’’What is wrong with wanting to live? What is wrong with being glad because you're alive? That wish and feeling are something natural and inevitable. Even more so because you're a human.’’
’’B-but... ... I was....’’
’’Even so, if you're worried about those who died... ... then continue to live. From now on keep living as you struggle, and struggle as if you're going to die. If you do that, someday... ... there might come a day when you understand the reason why you survived today.’’
’’... ... Keep living.’’
Even while crying, Will repeated Hajime's words in blank surprise. Hajime violently threw Will down, he tsukkomi'ed himself with, ’’What have I done,’’ his words just now, more than half of them were directed towards himself. Will's situation was a little similar to his, and for him to belittle his own life was like saying, ’’It's wrong for you to survive,’’ towards Hajime, so he was inadvertently angered.
Of course it was just his persecution complex. More than half of it was said on an outburst of anger, so it wasn't different from a child's tantrum. Even though he had seen through various things, Hajime was still a 17 year old boy, and there was still more for him to learn. Hajime knew he had fallen into slight self-loathing. Having seen such a Hajime, Yue came to his side and grasped Hajime's hand tightly.
’’... ... It's okay, Hajime isn't wrong.’’
’’... ... Yue.’’
’’... ... Live to your best. Keep living on. Together with me, right?’’
’’... ... Haha, ah of course. I'll keep on living no matter what might happen... ... so, don't leave me alone.’’
’’... ... Nn.’’
They left Will who was still talking to himself, then Hajime and Yue created a world with just the two of them. He couldn't match Yue, and Hajime gently stroked Yue's cheek, while Yue was also being spoiled and let his hand stroke her cheek. Not understanding what happened to cause such a development, Aiko and her students could only blink, while Shia watched Hajime and Yue with half-opened eyes.
The chaotic situation continued for a while (thanks to Hajime's recklessness), and somehow everyone managed to regain their senses. The party then decided to immediately descend the mountain. There was still more than an hour before sunset, so if they hurried, they would likely reach the foot of the mountain by the time the sun set.
Although they were concerned about the Brutals and the jet-black Dragon, those were outside Hajime and his party's mission. It was unthinkable to continue the investigation while having to protect those with low combat potential. Will also understood that he would just be a hindrance, so he understood that they must withdraw. Although the students insisted on continuing the investigation because of their slight sense of justice that came from the troubled townspeople, Aiko stubbornly refused to investigate because of the great danger the Black Dragon and Brutals posed. In the end, they descended the mountain.
However, nothing proceeds smoothly. Once again, they were passionately welcomed when the party got out of the waterfall basin with Yue's magic.
Letting out a low groan, with its whole body covered in jet-black scales, its golden eyes glared at them in mid-air while fluttering its wings... ... it was the ’’Dragon.’’