By the time I finished discussing with Gaund, it was already night.
Few people were walking in the streets and the pubs and restaurants were bustling with customers. Arnesti is famous for attracting new adventurers. I could see numerous young looking people trying to blend in that environment. Aside from the shouting of the near social areas, the surroundings were peaceful. One could really tell that this was the capital, with all the big buildings and wide streets. When there aren’t that many people around, it really does make one feel that everything is bigger.
Several lights illuminated the streets, similar to the lamps I saw in the cave. They were most likely powered by mana as well. Just how in the world is the mana supplied?
Anyways, I still have many things left to do. Gaund told me that the weapon will be done in a week or so because he also has to gather the other materials. So I will be staying close to a week in this place. I hope Melroc has lost interest in me, I don’t want any more trouble than I already have.
I stretch my sore limbs.
So much happened today, the day felt like an eternity.
“However, the day is not over yet”
I still had one more thing to do.
While I was heading to that place…
I heard a melody. A really faint melody that resounded in the night. This melody reminded me of an instrument.
Someone was playing a violin in the late night. A piece that was extremely familiar. I felt like I have heard this piece before, but I am no connoisseur of music so I am not sure about it. Only thing I knew, is that this piece is beautiful. It feels like it blended perfectly into the night, the melody entering deep into myself and healing the stress I had as I listened to it.
I slowed my walking pace as I indulged in that gracious melody.
“It really does feel nostalgic”
What a strange feeling that is. Even though I don’t know much about music, even though I haven’t explored this world that much yet, I still felt like this.
Without noticing, I was following that sound. My steps guided by this strange sensation.
Once I arrived at the source, I see a number of people at the side of the street, gathering around the place where the violin continued to play. Everyone was just silently standing there, entranced by this shapeless beauty.
I get closer to that crowd and peek at the center of it. In there, I saw one masked man. Like the ones used in masquerades.
The masked man had one feet on a box, playing gracefully with his violin. He had long brown hair that reached his shoulders and modest clothes. The light of the moon felt like it was a spotlight illuminating his performance, creating a surreal feeling and adding spice to the violin which was dancing as it gave birth to this tune.
It was a calming performance, yet it had so much impact. As if the violin had a magic casted on it, attracting anyone that heard it. I had a faint feeling I was one of those.
“Thank you everyone. I didn’t expect so many people would come to listen. It makes me a bit embarrassed”
Once the performance ends, the crowd applauded and the violinist gave an embarrassed speech. One could tell they were still deeply affected by the performance as they absentmindedly clapped.
“Ah! That’s where you were!”
Suddenly, one loud shout brought everyone back to reality. Everyone turned to look at the source. There, a girl in leather armor, tapped her feet looking annoyed.
“Oh, if it isn’t Miss Merryl, were you listening to my- Ah! Please stop, not my exquisite ear which I use to listen to my splendid music!”
The masked man seemed pretty pleased by the arrival of what seemed to be his acquaintance, but was soon yanked by the ear and dragged away.
Everyone stood dumbfounded by that sudden turn of events. She came and went just like that.
It didn’t take long before everyone just accepted the fact that the performance was over and began dispersing.
“What an interesting fellow”
“That performance was just magical”
“I want to hear it again”
“I heard he performs at random nights in different places. We were lucky to listen to his performance just now”
Multiple people were talking as they went by. I also resumed my steps and headed to my destination.
I have to admit, his ability was truly phenomenal. If those were actually the effects of a magic of some sort, this world really does have quite the methods.
I considered myself lucky to have heard that performance just now. It strangely reminded me of my homeland.
“Youma! You are back!”
I get hugged the instant I enter the inn. A big man with scruffy beard had me in between his arms shouting in joy as he lifted me off the ground.
“Yeah, I am back”
I could only smile wryly as the inn keeper continued to press me and laugh. The other people around were also pitching in and laughing as well. All of them merrily indulging themselves in the mood.
Ah, this is what I like about this place.
“Youma, what took you so long? 2 weeks, 2 weeks you know? That’s how long it took you. You are not gonna tell me that is the time it took you to return from training right?”
After finally letting me down, the inn keeper places a hand on my shoulder and asks me.
When I went to my training, I did tell him I would come back here after I was done.
“Well, what can I say? It really did”
“Are you serious? You better tell me all about that! We got all night son, we are not sleeping until you tell me everything! Come on drink up, the food is on home today”
“Eh~? Inn keeper, aren’t you favoring Youma too much?”
“Yeah yeah, we want a bit of that love too!”
“Bahahaha! Everyone gets a free meal tonight!”
“Wooo! The food of Miss Lana!”
“Yay! Cheers for Youma!”
All the people began cheering as they lifted their drinks. I smiled at that view as I was being urged onto a table where the inn keeper and a few others sat and I began my storytelling. Of course, taking out the last portion about the cave.
It was a long night indeed and by the time we finished it was close to morning already. But the inn keeper was full of energy and listened through my whole story and cheerfully added a portion of his own as well as every other adventurer there who was listening. They all gave a portion of their own stories and the mood got better and better as each one joined in.
At the end of the day, even though I was tired, I felt strangely relieved. After cleaning my body up, I went to sleep comfortably in my long awaited bed.
“Youma? You are there right?”
I heard someone knocking the door and calling for me. I lazily open my eyes and get up from bed. The sun was already shining strongly from the window. My head hurts a bit as well.
“It seems I overslept”
We were drinking and talking until really late in the night. It’s no wonder that I woke up late today, more like, I wanted to rest a lot today. Why did they wake me up? Did I ask for a human alarm?
I scratch my head and lazily walk to the door. The knocking was continuing as I approached.
“Yeah, yeah. I am here~”
I open the door and look at who is outside. It’s the Inn Keeper’s wife. She has a basket of bread on her hands and her usual aproned look.
“Oh Youma, you really were there. Since you wake up early every morning I thought you were already up or had gone out through the window or something”
I do have a habit of waking up early because of my previous life. But today is a special case.
“I have been working out too much lately after all. I wanted to indulge myself a bit… Anyways, what brings you here so suddenly? I don’t think everyone gets the chance to get a personal alarm”
The Inn Keeper’s wife laughs: “I came here because someone was requesting for you”
“Requesting for me? Did I accidentally accept work in a brothel?”
“Haha, oh Youma, when you just wake up you are such a joker. Here take this bread and clean yourself up, you don’t want to make her wait”
The Inn Keeper shoves a loaf of bread in my mouth and ruffles my hair with a smile. Before leaving she winks at me and closes the door again.
Seriously, it may not look like it, but I am not a morning person. I wanted a day off today since all the crazy crap I went through.
I stretch my limps and do a big yawn. Then I do some light morning exercises before putting on my pants.
When I finished preparing, I left my room and went down the stairs of the inn.
“What took you so long? BUAH!”
And there she was, Elinalise was sitting in a table waiting for me. But the moment she saw me, she made a strange noise.
“Oh hey Elinalise, what brings you here?”
“W-Why are you so refreshingly talking to me in that appearance?! Y-You are topless! Put on some clothes. Weren’t you taking so long because you were changing and cleaning yourself?!”
Oh, so it’s that.
“Well, I did some morning exercise and I ended up sweating quite a bit, so I don’t want to put on a shirt. Morning routine you see”
Everyone in the inn is already used to this sight so they don’t show any sort of change. Actually, being topless isn’t that strange in this place and there isn’t anything to be ashamed of right? … Or is my body that shameful?
I see Elinalise that was still holding her cup of coffee in the air, her hands trembling, drops of coffee splashing here and there. Her gaze totally fixed on me with her face flushed. I could see spirals going around her eyes.
“Oh, Youma. What a cute girl you brought out! It’s so refreshing to see such an innocent sight!”
The Inn Keeper speaks out loud with a big smile.
Yeah, I have to admit. This show is actually quite unique. To think I could see such a reaction this early in the morning. It fills me with determination.
It is no good if she continues like that though. So I walk to the Inn Keeper and receive the towel he gives me every morning to wipe myself and after that, I put on my shirt.
“Really, I wonder what kind of training you do to sweat that much in the morning”
“A trade secret” I jokingly smile at the Inn Keeper as I answer, then thank him as I return the towel and walk to Elinalise.
“Sorry for the wait Elinalise. Now, what brings you here? To actually come all the way to this inn”
The inn is quite a few ways away from her residence. She really walked all the way here just to see me?
“Y-You said you would come afterwards, but you never did”
“Oh that… I was planning on going there later today you know?”
I may have worded it wrongly when I told her I would be seeing her soon.
“Youma really likes to break his promises. I really thought you ran away again. Good thing Lylian knew where you were staying and guided me here”
Lylian knew where I was?! Am I being tailed by her?
“Wait, she is here as well?”
“No, she said something about having other business to do so she left me here”
“Well, I was gonna go to your house anyways. Let’s go together then”
Elinalise smiles happily, cheerfully jumps off her seat and grabs my hand firmly.
I’m not running anywhere you know?
“Yum~, this place really does sell the best gelatin”
“Yeah, it has a pretty good taste”
We were now in a sweets restaurant. Why are we here?
It was already noon so I thought I would get lunch in the inn, but the Inn Keeper’s wife pushed me out and told me to go eat outside. In return she will be making a delicious meal when I return, is what she told me.
I could only accept her offer and ask Elinalise for a suitable place to eat since I literally have only eaten “outside”. To think she would recommend a place with only desserts.
And the thing we were eating just now was also a recommendation of her. Its texture is the same as the gelatin in my world and it’s even called the same. Though I am not sure what it’s made out of and when I fearfully asked…
“Hm? It’s made of red slime”
I got that answer… as if obvious.
Of course, I have eaten so many mana beasts in the forest that I didn’t care that much if I ate a slime, but to hear her say that while eating it so easily.
I really thought she was a sheltered princess that would reject anything made of mana beasts. Or maybe this is just a culture gap.
Anyways, I asked her various topics as I was interested and surprisingly, Elinalise was incredibly knowledgeable. It seems most of the consumables are made out of mana beasts and it is one of the most stable food there are. They are treated just like normal animals. But to be able to make a sweet directly from slime.
I could only stare at the wiggling gelatin on my plate. I then take one spoonful and eat it.
“… Yeah, it tastes good”
Not as good as the ones in my world, but this one is pretty unique in its way. It wriggled in my mouth as if alive… wait.
“Is this raw?”
“Hm? Isn’t it dead? It’s on our plate after all”
Elinalise merrily eats one plate after another and continues to order more. I couldn’t help feeling that the gelatin-like movements it did were pretty lifelike, but I just brush it off. At least the lunch is not running off and it does taste good.
Suddenly a spoon, with a piece of what seems to be a cake with a blue liquid, is placed in front of my face. Elinalise was stretching her arm with spoon in hand and bashfully looking the other way.
“W-Want to try a bit of Blue Lake Cake?” she asks with her hand trembling.
Well, it does intrigue me and if I don’t eat it soon I feel like the cake on top of that spoon will not survive for long.
So, I accept the offer and place the spoon in my mouth. A refreshing feeling as if a breeze were flowing permeates the inside of my mouth.
“Lake Glob?” Its taste resembles the Lake Glob I ate in the Forest of Beginnings. Though this one is a lot better. Or more like, the Lake Glob tasted awful.
After the spoon leaves my mouth, I stare absentmindedly at the dish.
Interesting. What seemed like non comestible food, could actually be turned into this. Is there a trick behind cooking Mana Beast? Maybe a skill of some sort?
I hear a strange sound not far away. Elinalise was trembling as she slowly took a spoonful of cake. Her hands shaking abnormally, wait… Is she sweating?
“Are you okay Elinalise? Don’t force yourself” She has eaten a lot after all. Seriously, just where is all the food going?
“I-I am fine!” Saying that, she noms the spoon… and proceeds to shake even more.
I just laugh at that display and call the waiter. “One more Blue Lake Cake please”
The taste intrigued me so I ordered one for me.
“Ah! Why did you do that?!” But when I said that, Elinalise exclaimed in protest.
“I liked it, so I ordered one for me”
“W-We can share mine!”
I look at her Blue Lake Cake. There is barely anything left. What are you planning on sharing from that? The spoon?
I reject her offer and wait for the Blue Lake Cake that arrived not long after. I like feel a slight glare from Elinalise.
“By the way, the streets are pretty lively today”
I say that while looking around.
The streets in Arnesti are usually lively but it is especially lively around today. I can see people moving around restlessly, carrying around stuff and there are more stands than before. I could even see some that were decorating the area.
“Is there a festival coming soon?” is the first thing that came to mind.
Elinalise takes a bite off what looked like a tiramisu and blissfully turns at the streets, with spoon still in her mouth she says: “Weah, theul will wi a pwetty big ewent- puah! Don’t pull out my spoon so suddenly~! I was still tasting!”
“Then don’t go explaining with your mouth full. And so? What event are you referring?”
There are a lot of things I need to buy, so in an event where many people gather there are sure to be useful goods.
I spin the spoon I pulled out from Eli’s mouth and eat a piece of her “tiramisu” with it. Hm, this one is good too. Could this be mana beast as well?
“Kuuh~ M-My spoon! That spoon was… my… your…”
“Hm? Fwo awout tuat ewent…”
“Don’t copy me~. Uh… It’s the return of the heroes. There will be a festival to celebrate the return from their expedition”
Oh? The heroes?
Now that I think about it… I feel like I heard something similar yesterday at the inn. Well, I was too distracted at that moment and my consciousness was pretty faint as well.
By the time I came to this world, the heroes had already gone somewhere and I wasn’t able to meet them at all. Or more like, I wasn’t even treated like one even when I was transported from the same summoning room.
No, it is even worse. I’m not even treated as a human anymore.
I scratch my head and look at the people preparing for that festival. Will I be able to learn something if I meet them? Maybe they have been searching for a way home as well. I should find a chance to speak with them.
“Youma… Is something troubling you?”
I hear the voice of Elinalise, her weak voice brought me back. Her face was looking at me intently with worry.
I smile at her and softly place the spoon back at her side.
“Don’t worry. I’m interested in that festival. Maybe you can guide me around when the time comes”
She happily responds with a flushed face and puts both fists in front of her chest.
After that, she strongly insisted on paying. I tried to refuse but she forced it by saying: “I-I ate the most out of the two so please let me!” I didn’t want to let her courage of saying that go to waste so I withdrew. Promising in a corner of my mind to invite her a meal in the future.
On our way out, I saw her sneakily talking to the manager and leaving out with a spoon.
I look the other way and pretend not to see anything.
People are walking around energetically. Every one of them with faces full of anticipation.
Heroes. What kind of mission have they been given?
What “God” did they meet?
I just couldn’t help but ask these questions in my mind. Wondering if they are similar to me.
– Melroc’s Office –
In an office where there were just small amounts of decoration and a big desk and table, two men were present. One standing in front of the desk at attention, while the other is sitting behind a pile of papers having a not so happy face.
“Sir, we have received reports of Youma’s return to Arnesti”
The one behind that pile is Melroc, his hand taking one paper after the other while his remaining hand held a pen. His hand movements were so coordinated that it felt like they possessed individual intelligence. Melroc didn’t spare a glance at the attendant in front of him and just continued his work while showing a face of discontent.
The attendant was entranced by that show of dexterity and was once again reminded just how important Count Melroc is to the Kingdom of Arnesti. Most of the management and control of the personnel is done by him. All the most important decisions have to pass by him before reaching the King. Melroc is practically the second highest in power in this kingdom.
And that Melroc right now is totally not in the mood for a talk, but the attendant could only hold back those tears and report anyways. That is the duty he has been given after all.
“Well, there is a problem. All contact with the stealth corps that were following him has been lost”
“… So that woman is already on the move huh”
“Excuse me Count Melroc, did you say something?”
“Nothing. There is no need to put more people. Concentrate on the heroes who have returned and make sure to not lost sight of them. Also keep a close eye on the movements of the Holy Radiance Church, make sure they don’t make any unnecessary contact with our heroes”
Melroc already had a slight idea of who was behind the disappearance of the stealth corps. The image of an annoying woman appeared in his mind and a vein popped out on his forehead. There is no helping it if he is going against that woman. Right now Melroc had no desire to compete with her. If she had grown an interest in Youma then so be it. He still had a lot in his hands, he had no time to struggle uselessly and waste resources.
The heroes were a lot more of a handful than he thought they would be. Since the time they appeared, Melroc had no time or leeway. Almost every day filled with paperwork and stress. The numerous reports he has to receive daily were already a pain for him.
“… Is there something more?”
Melroc lifts his head annoyed. The attendant didn’t show any signs of leaving, so Melroc asked him. The attendant’s eyes swam a lot and cold sweat ran down. His head lowered slowly as if it were getting heavier.
He was hesitating. The words that he had to say were incredibly heavy for him.
Melroc could already tell from his expression that this were not good news.
“Hurry it up. I don’t have the time, you better tell me fast if it’s something important”
“Y-Yes Count Melroc! You see, our “energy source” for some reason has stopped regenerating… and its capacity is lowering as we speak. We don’t know the reasons of it or how it came to this situation, but at this rate the energy will definitely dry out. It is calculated that with the current consumption rate we have at least 4 years”
Melroc couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
The energy source has stopped regenerating? The source that is powering the whole Arnesti and has been supporting it for generations now has a lifespan of 4 years in the least?
Melroc shouted out loud and slammed his palms onto the table. Several veins popped out, his expression changing drastically. All the papers were sent in a disarray and the attendant who saw this, hurriedly began gathering them.
“There’s no doubt about it… it’s her”
Melroc whispered madly. A hand supporting his head as he stares into nothing. Thinking about that woman once again, that young-looking vixen. She is the only one he knows who could have the ability to do such thing without leaving evidence.
But how? How did she do such a thing?
That “energy source” is just way too dangerous for any living being to get close to, and there is no way to stop it from generating energy. That source is connected directly to the world after all. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it an organ. Such a connection would not be severed that easily. No, first of all, for what would she do such a thing? She doesn’t gain anything in making the human race decay.
Or maybe she is actually not related to this at all? Did it suddenly lose its ability after all these centuries?
‘The world has been decaying after all’, is what Melroc thought. His face was being drained from its vitality. He could only imagine the crazy amount of work and administration he would have to do now that their “energy source” is limited.
But this just placed Arnesti in the same spot as the other two human race kingdoms. Arnesti only gained an advantage because of this, but now it has suddenly come to this point.
What will happen with the relationship they have with the other countries? How many troubles and discord will this cause?
Melroc has no time to think about the heroes anymore.
He calmed down his mind and arranged his thoughts.
“Arrange a meeting with all the higher-ups”
“Yes, Count Melroc it has already been done. The king has arranged a meeting which will take place today in the evening”
“Also make sure this doesn’t leak out. Until we seal all the matters and prepare for a counter-measure, no one without the proper authority is allowed to know”
“Understood! Now, excuse me Count Melroc”
With a deep bow the assistant promptly leaves the room, heading onto the next person he has to relay the message to.
Melroc was left standing there, looking as if he had lost a number of years in his life.
“We will have to accelerate our plans…”
He whispers to himself. His tone carrying a scent of desperation.