Interlude – 1
“Khalija-san, do you think Onii-chan and the others would have reached Ante Lande by now?”
“I think it might take a little while longer.”
“What are they going to do once they get there?”
“Most likely, they will be welcomed as guests and enter the house of the Krone family, and receive an explanation about the current state of affairs. During their stay in Resteria, Major Krone and Her Excellency Erijina will be looking after them.”
“Haah. That sounds nice. Diana-san is from a family of important nobles, right? I bet they eat really tasty food, and the bedrooms are massive with the bed placed right in the center.”
“Maybe. Did you want to go as well, Nodoka?”
“Me? Hmm, I dunno. If we were going there on vacation, then maybe?”
“If people found out that you were the daughter of The Hero, Hideo, you would be caught in a hailstorm of marriage proposals.”
“Yeah, I don’t particularly want to end up as a gold digger in another world. Ah, but would Onii-chan receive the same treatment? Uwaah, I can almost see him get carried away with lecherous thoughts and getting scolded by Diana-san.”
“No, rather than Major Krone, I think it would be Shouko…”
“……No, it’s nothing. In any case, this is an informal visit. Most likely, they will not interact much with people other than the Krone family.”
“Yeah, but it is still the house of the most important nobles in the kingdom, right? I bet there are people like butlers and maids. Aargh, it looks like Onii-chan is going to make some good memories, it really pisses me off.”
Chapter 2 – Beginning of an Adventure
The first thing he noticed was the smell of damp soil.
Also, the sound of running water.
Yasuo’s consciousness slowly returned along with a feeling of blurred vision and stiff limbs, as if he had taken a long afternoon nap.
The reason why he was smelling damp soil was because it was raining.
A gentle rain fell incessantly, and it felt like the humid air was sticking to his body as it surrounded him.
The moment he fully regained his senses, he realized that the thunderous sound he had been hearing was not merely his ears ringing, but instead was rising up from his surroundings.
When he attempted to stand up suddenly, he slipped in the slimy mud under his feet and nearly fell down.
“What the heck is thiiiis!?”
When he finally realized what kind of situation he was in, Yasuo unintentionally let out a loud shout.
He appeared to be a on sandbar in a large river, surrounded by a thick forest.
The river was fast-flowing, and wide.
The reason why his body and clothes only felt slightly damp despite the rain and the location he was in was because he was underneath the branches of the only tree that grew on the sandbar.
“Where am I? Is this Resteria?”
He couldn’t stop himself from saying that aloud, despite knowing that it couldn’t be true.
Even though it was an informal visit, he had entered the Gate Tower along with Diana, his father, and Shouko after being invited by the Resteria Kingdom.
Yasuo hurriedly scanned his surroundings.
Although he finally managed to stand up by holding on to the tree, his feet were still unsteady.
He was alone.
He couldn’t find any traces of the other three people who had supposedly entered the Gate Tower along with him.
“What… is going on…”
No matter how he thought about it, his current situation looked like the result of the Gate Tower malfunctioning.
A strong gust of wind caused both Yasuo and the tree to shake violently.
The rain also seemed to have gotten stronger at the same time, as the river seemed to be flowing faster and the volume of water also started to increase.
“This is bad…”
Yasuo once again fruitlessly looked around, but even with the most optimistic estimation, the distance between the sandbar and the riverbank was over five meters.
What’s more, the riverbank was much higher than the muddy and surging water’s surface, and with Yasuo’s physical ability, it did not look like he would be able to make it in one leap.
However, even as he watched, the area of land available to stand on the sandbank gradually reduced due to the increase in the volume of water.
At this rate, he would be swept away.
It happened just as he was thinking that.
“There you are!!”
Hearing that faint voice, Yasuo turned in the direction it came from and shouted on impulse.
Shouko was standing on the riverbank.
However, she did not look normal.
The voice and attire certainly belonged to Shouko, but both of her eyes were emitting black flames, for one.
If it was just that, it would still be within acceptable limits, but there appeared to be fire gushing out of both her wrists and ankles, and even from her waist.
“I’m coming for you! Stay right there!”
Without even giving him time to frame a question, Shouko jumped with the speed of a bullet from the riverbank to the sandbar where Yasuo was.
In the next instant, she took Yasuo under one arm and jumped up again without caring about the muddy ground, and carried him over to the opposite side of the river.
While Yasuo was staring agape at her astounding physical ability, Shouko put him down and grabbed his hand.
“Yasu-kun! It’s really you, right? Are you hurt!? Are you okay!?”
“Uhh, yeah, how about you, Tatewaki-san?”
“I’m perfectly fine!”
As Yasuo somehow managed an answer while still being in shock, the black flames gradually started to disappear from around Shouko’s body.
“Thank goodness…! I thought I heard your voice, so I thought to check, just in case…! Thank goodness you’re alright!”
In just a few seconds, the black flames had retreated to just Shouko’s left eye.
“Haah… Now that I’m relieved… I feel kind of weak”
Shouko looked disconcerted.
Just as Yasuo thought that Shouko’s eyes were closing, she suddenly fell to her knees.
“Sorry… I just feel really weak… My head is spinning… I need to lie down for a bit…”
“Ah, are you okay? Here, lean on my shoulder, there is a large tree over there, so…”
Despite having just shown astounding movements that looked like those of a Magitech Knight, Shouko’s face was now pale, as if suffering from the backlash of that.
While supporting Shouko, Yasuo distanced himself from the riverbank that looked like it could crumble at any moment, and got closer to the outer edge of the forest. He moved towards a conspicuously large tree with wide branches and broad leaves, and leaned against the trunk.
“T-This place should be fine…”
As he helped Shouko sit on a large and thick tree root, he saw that Shouko was breathing heavily as she leaned against the tree trunk.
“Sorry… I’ll recover in a minute… I just feel a little anaemic.”
“I-It’s going to be fine. I’m sure you’re just exhausted because of what happened earlier, thank you, everything’s going to be alright.”
Caught in the middle of a situation he didn’t understand at all, Yasuo could not stop the flood of meaningless words that came out of his mouth, but even so, after meeting up with Shouko, he felt a little hope come back into his heart.
Just what had happened for them to end up in such a situation?
What had happened to Diana and his father?
What was this place?
Were they really on Ante Lande?
While listening to Shouko’s rough breathing settle down just a little, Yasuo finally remembered what had happened just before he ended up in this place.
Yasuo once again entered the Gate Tower that he had previously entered to keep Shouko from being taken away, while riding on the back of his father again after more than ten years.
Yasuo, who had heard that a one-way trip would take about two hours, feared that he would need to piggyback on his father’s back for two hours despite being eighteen years old, but as soon as they entered the Gate Tower and the entrance closed, Hideo and Diana put down Yasuo and Shouko, whom they had been carrying.
Unable to see a floor to put their feet on, both Yasuo and Shouko stumbled.
However, within the starry path where they could see a vast region that looked like outer space which extended far beneath their feet, the four of them were currently standing at exactly the same level, on what appeared to be an invisible platform.
“So this is… the path to the other world…”
“Do we just have to keep walking in a straight line?”
Diana shook her head at Yasuo’s question.
“No. Once the entrance closes, we can just let it carry us along. It is not necessary to walk.”
“Eh? In that case…”
“Yes. Even if you were to go to sleep here, you will eventually reach the Ante Lande, via the Gate Tower in Resteria.”
“It almost feels too easy. It’s like we are being carried in an invisible car or something, right?”
“If you must forcefully compare it to something from Japan, wouldn’t it be a traveletor instead? I only used one for the first time after coming to Japan, so I’m not really sure, but I’ve heard that if you walk in the direction of the travel here, you will actually be able to shorten the time required for the journey… Hideo?”
Diana, who had been caught up in answering Shouko’s question, suddenly noticed that Hideo’s face had gone pale and he was sitting down.
“Dad? What’s wrong?”
“Are you okay? Do you feel ill……”
“I have some tea, would you like some?”
“Aah, no, thank you. Sorry, I just felt a little dizzy…”
“Hey, come on, pull yourself together.”
Yasuo was rubbing his father’s back while speaking to him in a scolding tone, when he suddenly started to feel strangely anxious.
“Are you nervous or something?”
“……No, that’s not it.”
Yasuo tried to talk casually to make Hideo feel better, but Hideo’s face was still grim.
“I… Both your mother and I don’t know how we first arrived at Ante Lande.”
“Ah, yeah, I heard about that earlier…”
“My head… hurts, what is this…”
“Hideo!? What’s wrong?”
“O-Oji-san, are you okay?”
“O-Oi, Diana, that reminds me, didn’t Khalija-san say something about mass being a limiting factor or something!? There are four of us in here, will that cause any problems…”
“T-That shouldn’t be the case! This was originally just meant to be a path for my return and Hideo’s summoning, but since Yasuo and Shouko will be traveling along with us, we made sure to take that into consideration from the other side and increase the output accordingly, so there shouldn’t be any problems with the mass!”
“You three, get away from me… Aahhhhhhh!?”
Inside the Gate Tower with the swirling stars, Hideo screamed and began to shine with light.
“T-This light, don’t tell me!”
“The Holy Sword, Liutberga!”
“I-It’s too bright, I can’t keep my eyes open……”
“Diana-chan! Take care of Yasuo and Shouko-chan—!!”
That was the last thing that Yasuo remembered hearing.
Hideo started shining brighter than any star within the Gate Tower, and everyone closed their eyes against that light. Everything was dyed in a white color.
While they were inside the Gate tower, his father had suddenly complained about feeling unwell, and started to give off the same light as when he was summoned along with the Holy Sword.
He didn’t have any memories after they were engulfed within that light, and when he woke up, he found himself on a sandbar in the river.
“Was the problem caused due to some factor in Dad or his holy sword that didn’t agree with the Gate Tower?”
As a child of modern times who had a fair amount of interest in games and anime, Yasuo desperately searched his fantasy-related knowledge and came up with that hypothesis.
For some reason, the sorcery used to construct the Gate Tower had bad affinity with Hideo’s Holy Sword Liutberga, or perhaps with Hideo himself.
Due to that, the Gate Tower malfunctioned and did not work as it was supposed to.
“Understanding that doesn’t help us, though!!”
Yasuo shouted that on impulse.
Even if he understood that, there was no changing the fact that he and Shouko were isolated in a completely unfamiliar land.
“Dammit… In any case, I should probably call Dad over…”
There was no disputing the fact that they were in an unfavorable situation.
Luckily, he had managed to reunite with Shouko, and Diana was not the kind of weak person who would get into trouble, no matter what her circumstances.
In that case, he first needed to meet up with his father.
Yasuo cleared his throat with a small cough, and started reciting the chant in a resonant voice.
『The Hero, Hideo, is the person who will obtain victory for new frontiers! Wings, go forth! Flower petals, take flight! Gather the shining azure sunlight! Avatar of the wind, Holy Sword Liutberga! Answer my call and take form!』
For a while, the only sounds that reached Yasuo’s ears were the sound of the raindrops hitting the leaves, the sound of the flowing river, and the sound of Shouko’s breathing.
That chant was used to summon his father’s holy sword, Liutberga.
When Yasuo chanted it, his father would be transported instantaneously even between the distance from Shin-Yokohama and Tokorozawa, but he didn’t appear this time.
His heart rate suddenly sped up.
Did he make a mistake in the chant?
Yasuo hurriedly pulled his Slimphone out of his pocket and opened the memo pad application.
Yasuo had copied he chant to summon the Liutberga into his Slimphone and his pocket diary, just in case he ever forgot the wording.
That is why he suddenly felt extremely anxious when he read out what he had written word for word, and neither his father nor his father’s holy sword showed any signs of appearing.
“O-Oi, you’ve got to be kidding…”
Until now, he had managed to stay calm no matter how serious the situation looked because he had the safety net of being able to call his father over at any time.
However, right now, the foundations of that safety net were instantly demolished.
“W-What’s going on… Just what the heck…”
However, the situation did not even give Yasuo the time to panic.
All of a sudden, Shouko grabbed onto him from the side and covered his mouth with her hand.
He was about to say “What are you doing?” but after hearing Shouko’s tense whisper close to his ear, his body stiffened.
“Something big is coming this way. Stay quiet.”
However, Yasuo couldn’t hear anything of that sort.
Moreover, since he was being hugged by Shouko almost directly from the side, the only thing he could hear was the loud sound of his own heartbeat.
They stayed that way for about a minute.
As far as Yasuo, who was experiencing a state of being stuck close to a girl he knew, was concerned, that time seemed to stretch on for eternity, but then he finally heard the sound Shouko had spoken about.
It sounded like the trees in the forest were being pushed aside by something large.
Along with that, he heard the sound of something stepping on the ground with thick feet.
Just as Shouko had said, something massive was coming closer.
“I think it’s coming from behind us. It shouldn’t be able to see us because of the trees, but…”
Even Shouko’s whisper sounded extremely tense.
Eventually, they heard something that sounded like the 『giant creature’s』breathing.
The only thing the two of them could do was to stick close to the tree and pray that the 『giant creature』 would go away without noticing them.
The breathing sound was coming from a fairly high place. At the very least, the sound was coming from one meter above Yasuo’s height.
Moreover, they could smell the beast’s stink even through the rain.
The distinctly offensive odor that was overpowering the smell of the rain and soil was coming from the mysterious giant beast’s breath.
On the other side of the tree that Yasuo and Shouko were hiding behind, they could feel the presence of the creature as it turned toward the direction opposite them.
The heavy footsteps moved away from them at a surprisingly fast speed, and after the two of them judged that it had gone far enough from them, they finally moved away from each other and peeked at 『that creature』 from behind the tree trunk.
It wasn’t like Yasuo was knowledgeable about all the various animals that existed on Earth.
However, he was sure that there were no animals in Japan that were larger than an elephant and covered in alligator-like scales.
Even after the creature disappeared into the rain and its footsteps could no longer be heard, Yasuo continued to stare in that direction without moving.
“Yasu-kun… As I thought, this place really is…”
Hearing Shouko’s whisper as she continued to stare in the direction in which the mysterious creature had disappeared, Yasuo replied in a dazed tone.
“Yeah… It’s Ante Lande. We are…”
“Stranded here, aren’t we?”
Shouko said that in a hoarse voice within the drizzling rain and with the forest’s broad-leaved trees blocking her line of sight.
“Haaah… I seem to have recovered somewhat, for now. Yasu-kun, how do you feel?”
Once they could no longer see or hear the mysterious giant creature, Shouko finally stood up.
Her face, which had been white as a sheet earlier, finally had a tinge of color again.
“I… am fine, thanks to you, Tatewaki-san. Are you sure… that’s okay?”
Yasuo nervously asked her.
It was true that some color had returned to Shouko’s face.
However, the black flames of the Shii were still leaking out of her left eye.
“Ah, this thing? It feels like I can’t get it to disappear, no matter how hard I try. It should be fine, though. It’s been like this for the past hour, since I woke up here.”
Those words had a greater impact on Yasuo than she had intended.
At the very least, it would mean that Yasuo and Shouko had already been stranded in this unknown place for more than an hour.
Also, neither his father not Diana were in any sort of condition to come and save them.
Moreover, the fact that he woke up on the sandbar meant that Shouko had been all alone in a forest which had that kind of giant creature, even if it was only for an hour.
“I’m really glad that nothing bad happened… No, I suppose we ended up in this mess because something bad happened.”
The state of Shouko’s left eye was proof that something bad had indeed happened, but she understood what Yasuo was trying to say and gave a small smile.
“Well… I don’t really understand the difficult stuff, but… I suppose for once I should be thankful for this thing.”
“I’m not sure why, but… It was the same thing back then and just now, but when the flames get stronger, I start to hear and see things very well. My body also feels lighter. But… The reason why I felt so weak earlier is because I think that sort of power up has a time limit… Putting it like that, it feels like I’m on some dangerous drugs or something. Hahaha.”
Shouko explained that while talking quickly, but that conclusion was something that made sense to Yasuo as well.
Earlier, Shouko had detected the approach of that creature far more quickly than Yasuo had.
Back when she had rescued Yasuo from the sandbar, her physical ability had looked close to that which she had when she had been completely taken over by the Shii.
“Well, I was saved thanks to that power. Now, and earlier as well.”
“Really? But, it’s hard to tell which one of us is the Hero candidate now.”
Shouko nodded while still smiling, but there was a hint of relief in her expression as well.
“I suppose I should ask just to make sure, but do you have any idea where we are, Yasu-kun?”
“No, not at all.”
“Yeah, I thought so. I looked around for a bit before I found you, but this place looks pretty dangerous. Everything about this place is different from Japan, even down to the weeds. Moreover, the fact that neither Diana-san nor Oji-san have still not shown up even after this much time means…”
“By the way, what you chanted earlier was the incantation to summon your father, right? Did it work?”
“No, normally my father would have appeared instantly along with a massive amount of light. Since that didn’t happen, that means…”
“This is the worst… Is this my fault, after all?”
“Eh? Why would you think that?”
Yasuo turned to look at Shouko after hearing something he didn’t expect, but it looked like she was serious.
“I mean, just look at me. I’m like this.”
She pointed at her left eye with a serious expression.
“The Shii are enemies of the people who live in Ante Lande, right? Maybe I triggered some barrier or something that is meant to repel enemies or demons, which caused the magic to go haywire, or something like that.”
It looked like Shouko was also a child of the modern times, as she had come up with her own explanation of the situation.
Yasuo rejected Shouko’s hypothesis and told her that his father’s holy sword was probably the cause.
“I heard that my father and mother didn’t use the Gate Tower when they first appeared in Ante Lande. If there was any factor that caused a problem, it was my father or his holy sword. Do you remember? My dad started shining right after we entered the Gate Tower, right? It was probably because of that.”
However, Shouko’s expression did not change to one of relief.
“So, what do we do next?”
“……In any case, the only thing to do now is to 『search for civilization』. And maybe probably look for water and food as well?”
“I brought along a bento, tea, and some snacks… But the bento is only enough for one person. Ahh… I moved around so much when I saved you earlier, Yasu-kun, I bet the contents of the bento are all mixed up.”
“I didn’t bring a bento… but I did bring water and some snacks.”
“Ah, I have some instant miso soup as well.”
“You know how you hear about people who go abroad getting desperate for a taste of Japanese food? I head that we would be staying for at least a week, so I only brought four packets.”
No matter what the reasoning was, anything that they could safely eat was a blessing in this situation.
“Aah, I wish it would at least stop raining.”
“Really? I’m glad that it’s raining.”
“Yeah, I guess… well then, shall we?”
“Yeah, let’s start moving.”
The two of them stood up sluggishly.
“Yasu-kun, do you have any rain gear?”
“I did bring this, just in case.”
Yasuo pulled out a small folding umbrella.
“I suppose it’s better than nothing.”
“Yeah, as long as the path doesn’t become too treacherous to walk on.”
“You’re right. The branches of the trees in this forest are quite wide, I think we won’t get that wet if we walk under them.”
“Which way should we go?”
“We should follow the river… or that’s what I would like to say, but…”
In a wooded area like this, walking along the bank of a river that wasn’t reinforced would be suicidal.
At the very least, getting close to that fast-flowing river while it was still raining was not a good idea.
Not only was the rain hampering their vision, the swiftly flowing water would be eroding the river bank and there was a chance of them suddenly losing their footing.
“How about that way, then?”
“……I wonder if it’s safe.”
Yasuo was pointing in the direction in which that mysterious creature from earlier had left.
“It’s been a while since then, I think it should be fine. Besides, it’s raining.”
“What about the rain?”
“The thing passed right by us, but didn’t notice us. I think the water washed out our scent. If not for that, I think it would have probably found us. Also… take a look at the trees around us. I only caught a glimpse of it from behind, but I don’t think it’s carnivorous.”
“How can you tell?”
“Seeing how big it is compared to the trees here, I think it must be eating whatever is the most plentiful in the forest in order to maintain that size.”
“In other words, it eats things like tree leaves or grass?”
“Well, if the logic from Earth still applies here, then yes.”
Judging by the situation, the two of them were definitely on Ante Lande.
In that case, it was possible that they might run into something that could not be measured by the common sense of Japan or Earth.
There was a very good chance of them running into some creature or monster that did not follow the rules of the food chain as seen on Earth.
To use a commonly known example, there could be monsters like slimes that fed by dissolving the bodies of their prey.
There could be demi-human races like goblins, or giant carnivorous plants with advanced abilities to catch their prey.
There could even be things like grotesque demons that overturned the conventional concepts of a food chain. For examples, remnants of the demon hordes that Demon King Kaul had released into the land.
“So, Tatewaki-san, let’s move slowly. Keep looking at your surroundings, and if something seems even slightly strange, let’s stop moving immediately until both of us are convinced that it is safe. No matter what happens, we should always stay within sight of each other.”
“That’s right… Wait, what about…”
“Going to the toilet?”
“……! W-Well, yeah!”
Seeing Yasuo use the word “toilet” so easily, Shouko’s face once again turned red and the flame in her left eye got a little stronger.
However, Yasuo still spoke in a serious tone while continually glancing at his surroundings.
“I guess that is unavoidable. But… Ah, that’s right.”
Yasuo suddenly remembered that he had a dictionary of English words that he had packed in his luggage, intending to read it in Resteria if he had nothing else to do.
“We can use pages from the dictionary as toilet paper. Even regular paper should be usable if we wipe firmly.”
“As for the rest… maybe this could work.”
Yasuo timidly picked up some vines that had fallen to the ground when the giant creature had passed through.
“Good, it’s pretty long. While we are separated, each of us can hold one end of this vine.”
“I-Isn’t it too short?”
The vine that Yasuo had picked up was no more than two meters long.
“Well we can find more along the way to add to the length. But when we can’t see each other, we should always be holding this vine. In the forest, our voices will echo and we won’t be able to tell where the sound is coming from. If we make it too long and it frays at knots, that would defeat the purpose, so… I know it’s embarrassing, but I’d rather we don’t move more than five meters away from each other at any time.”
“F-Fine, I’ll try and endure it somehow.”
“That reminds me, Tatewaki-san, do you have anything that can be used to dig a hole?”
“Like a trowel or something? Of course not.”
“Yeah, thought so. Oh well, the ground is soft because of the rain, so we should be fine for a while. Let me look for a broken tree branch or something.”
“Y-Yeah. But why do we need something like that?”
“To bury the poop, of course.”
“We definitely have to do that. Things are going to get horrible otherwise.”
Yasuo stressed that dealing with excrement during camping or mountaineering was the most important of manners and rules to follow.
“That thing from earlier might not have been a carnivore, but if medium-sized meat-eaters find the poop of animals that are not predators, they will start stalking us.”
“Some animals, like bears, are like that. Besides, leaving it out in the open will disturb the ecosystem. Some animals use poop as a way of marking their territory, so if we leave it out in the open, even herbivores that consider that area to be their territory might turn hostile.”
“F-Fine, fine, I get it, geez… This is the worst. Why the heck do we have to talk about things like this when we’re all alone…”
“It’s nothing! Is there anything else I should watch out for!?”
“Hmm… Let’s see, there’s just one more thing. Neither of us have gloves, so we should try to avoid touching the trees and plants as much as possible. They might have poisonous bugs living in them, and sometimes the plants themselves have poisonous spines.”
“Got it… Haah. Still, Yasu-kun, you seem to be awfully knowledgeable about living in the wild.”
“There’s a video series on YouSubway about a middle-aged foreigner guy who is loves to live out in the wild. It’s a lot more interesting than most documentaries. There’s even a book based on his videos that has been published in Japanese, and I’m actually a fan.”
“Ah… I think I heard about some guys in my class talking about that. It’s the guy who eats things like bugs and snakes with a big grin, right… I don’t… like bugs…”
“Of course, I hope we won’t have to resort to that as well…… I’d really prefer to not eat the bugs from Ante Lande.”
“I don’t want to eat the ones from Earth either! I may be the daughter of a pub owner, but I swore that I wouldn’t eat soy-preserved locusts unless the world ran out of every other type of food!”
“I-I see. Well, let’s just start moving for now. Quite some time has passed since that thing left. If we lose its trail, we might get lost for real. Let’s keep walking.”
After saying that, Yasuo pulled out the folding umbrella from inside his luggage.
The umbrella that Yasuo had brought along was a compact-sized version that was just barely enough to protect one person from the rain. The only redeeming feature was its portability.
“It really is just barely adequate, but this thing has its own uses. Right then, let’s go. Be careful where you step.”
“……Ok, got it.”
Kenzaki Yasuo, who was not yet a Hero or Magitech Knight, extended his hand toward Shouko in a completely natural manner.
Tatewaki Shouko, whose left eye was giving off black flames that were a sign of humanity’s enemy, also took his hand naturally.
When they held hands, the flame in Shouko’s left eye got smaller for just a moment.
Shouko’s eye behind the flame looked bright as she spoke.
“I’m sure you’re just as anxious as I am, but… I’m counting on you.”
“……I’ll try my best.”
The fact that he could not bravely say “Leave it to me!” in that situation showed the pitiful side of the Hero’s son.
However, when it came to adventures, the timid people had a better chance of making it out alive.
If anyone was curious about when Kenzaki Yasuo’s 『adventure』 began, the answer would be that it started here, in this moment.
The giant creature that Yasuo had arbitrarily named 『scelephant』 had left a rough trail of sorts in its wake, and Yasuo was carefully following its tracks while pulling Shouko along by her hand.
Against the heavy rains that fell in the woodlands, both Yasuo’s compact folding umbrella and Shouko’s emergency waterproof poncho were barely of any use.
Both Yasuo and Shouko had decided to quickly change into clothes that would not stand out, so they were wearing regular sneakers, and shirts and sweatshirts made of thin cloth.
It did not seem to be winter in this region, but their sodden clothes weighed them down and were unpleasantly cold.
Yasuo accidentally stepped into a puddle formed in one of the footsteps of the scelephant, and sank down to his ankle in the mud.
“Ah, geez, this is depressing.”
“Be more careful, okay?”
The two of them smiled wryly at each other, but they still had plenty of stamina left.
“This was probably a good thing. After walking so much, I had started to let my guard down… Oof.”
Yasuo pulled his foot out of the mud with a dull sound.
“How long has it been since we started walking?”
“I dunno, probably an hour and a half, I think.”
Luckily for them, the ground had been fairly even so far.
At the very least, since they were not in a mountainous region with large differences in elevation, they did not need to watch out for avalanches or landslides, and walking up and down hills would be far more tiring than walking on even ground.
Even when they had to relieve themselves, on even ground it was possible to avoid getting into a situation where they lost track of where the other person was, and since they were unable to find any more vines to lengthen the one they already had, they had to go behind a tree that was just barely out of sight from the other person.
“Really… this is just the worst…”
Shouko didn’t really want to grumble, but as a person who lived in modern day Japan, she had absolutely no interest in having the experience of relieving herself in the open and moreover having to dispose of the waste herself, unless she was staying at a secured campsite or something.
“How much longer do you want to follow this game trail for?”
“I would like to keep following it until we discover a clue of some sort, or run into an obstacle.”
“Or unless we find a safe place to hide, right, I wonder if Scelephant-kun is really not dangerous.”
“There’s no such thing as a wild animal that is not dangerous. By the way, I remember hearing about this in biology class a long time ago, but do you know which mammal in the wild is known for causing the most harm to humans?”
“I remember hearing about that. Hippos, right?”
The hippopotamus was popular among the Japanese for it’s comical and endearing appearance, but the personality of hippos in the wild could be summed up in a single word: ferocious.
They would not forgive any intruder in their territory, even if it happened to be another hippo.
On land, they could reach speeds of up to forty kilometers per hour. Not only could they also swim fast enough to catch up to mediocre motorboats, they were also capable of crushing intruders in their symbolic jaws or just squashing them using their enormous bodies. It was said that nearly three thousand people were killed each year in Africa by hippo attacks.
Even elephants that were said to like humans and have a gentle personality were starting to become a problem in Southeast Asia, where the number of wild elephant attacks on vehicles and settlements had increased in recent years, and that alone served as a perfect example of why it was better to quickly abandon thoughts such as 『herbivores are harmless』.
“That being the case, I’d rather not get too close, and I think it would be dangerous if there’s a whole herd of those things out there.”
“What are you planning to do if that thing just goes back to its lair or something?”
“……We would have no choice but to turn back, I guess.”
Yasuo looked back at the game trail that they had been following until now.
“As long as it keeps raining, I think we can run away and avoid being discovered even if we run into a herd of them.”
“I hope we can make it out of the forest before it stops raining.”
“That’s right… But I’d rather find a place where we can sleep safely for a while.”
Feline carnivores like lions and tigers were better at climbing trees than most people would think, and large herbivores like giraffes and wildebeest were very territorial and aggressive.
Moreover, sleeping out in the open in another world where they didn’t have any idea of what the ecosystem was like was tantamount to suicide.
“I get it now, though. I thought that if the weather was clear, we would be able to tell the direction from the sun, and be able to judge the distance once we get out of the forest, but it looks like rain has its uses as well.”
“Yeah. Even though Ante Lande is a different world, neither Diana-san nor Khalija-san said anything about finding it noticeably easier or harder to move after coming to Japan, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so…”
“So I thought that Ante Lande might be a planet with a mass similar to that of Earth.”
“What, did you think it was a flat disk supported on the backs of elephants and a turtle?”
“Where did that idea originate from, again?”
Shouko’s sigh was visible as a white mist, and she wiped the water dripping down her bangs and looked up at the sky.
“I noticed the surroundings slowly getting darker after I met up with you, Yasu-kun. That means that there is a sun in the sky that is moving, right? Or rather, it is the planet that we are standing on that is moving. Moreover, the soil, trees, rain, and gravity feel basically the same as what you would find on Earth, and the differences, if any, are negligible. Which means that we can safely assume that the planet’s diameter, mass, composition, distance from the sun, main components of the atmosphere, and speed of revolution are not very different from the Earth. Actually, it makes me think that this other world might be just one of several dimensions that overlap on top of the planet Earth. Ah, when I say ‘dimension,’ I don’t mean like 3D or 4D, but in the context of parallel worlds, okay?”
Although Yasuo said that he understood, in truth he was struggling to keep up and didn’t really get what Shouko was talking about.
“I’m 152 centimeters tall, and my eyesight is probably at around 142 centimeters above the ground. If we assume that the radius of Ante Lande is the same as that of the Earth, which is, umm, about 6370 kilometers… Let’s see, it’s like this, and this, and that, so… If we were standing at a spot that was close to sea level and could see the horizon, that means that whatever is on the other side of the horizon is hidden by the curvature of the planet, right? So we can conclude that everything around us which is visible must be within 4.5 kilometers from where we are standing.”
“U-Umm, why is that?”
“It’s a simple application of the Pythagorean theorem. This is like middle school math, you know?”
For Yasuo, who had decided a long time ago that he would be taking exams for the liberal arts course, this was a phrase that he had not heard for a while.
Of course, even Yasuo remembered that it was a formula by which you could find the length of one of the sides of a right-angled triangle if you knew the lengths of the other two sides.
However, his memories on how exactly to apply that formula had become fairly vague, and besides, there was too much difference in the units used to measure Shouko’s height and the radius of the planet, and he had not memorized the value of the Earth’s radius in the first place.
“Well, it would depend on the elevation of the area that we are in right now, but even after walking for so long I am not particularly out of breath and my head is clear, so I assume that this place is pretty close to sea level.”
Shouko was probably talking about how neither of them were exhibiting signs of altitude sickness.
If they were at a high altitude, then the amount of oxygen carried by the bloodstream to the body would be reduced, which would cause problems in various parts of the body.
“In my case, this thing might be be affecting me in some way, but that’s not the same for you, right, Yasu-kun?”
Shouko smiled while pointing to the flames of the Shii in her left eye.
“Besides, it would be nice to know what direction we are traveling in as well.”
“My wristwatch is analog, so can’t we use that find out?”
“Ah, that thing about aligning the short hand with the sun?”
Yasuo remembered reading in a detective novel that there was a method to tell which way was north without using a magnetic compass, but Shouko shook her head.
“I don’t think it’ll work. We don’t know if we are in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere. If we are in the southern hemisphere, the method to do that is different, you know.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Also, there are very few places where that method will show the true north, because of differences in seasons or latitude. There’s also the method of using the Big Dipper and the Pole Star, but even that depends upon your current location. In the first place, it is necessary for the sun to cross the meridian at noon to use that method, but even in Japan, the further you get from Akashi in the Hyogo Prefecture where the sun accurately crosses the meridian at noon, the more your results will be skewed.”
“Wow, you really know your stuff.”
“I heard about it in Earth Sciences class.”
“Oh, so Sayamazawa high school has Earth sciences courses? Our school doesn’t. When it comes to sciences, at our school we basically have a choice between either Physics or Chemistry, and Biology isn’t given much importance at all.”
“Well, it’s true that a lot of people pick those subjects for their college entrance exams, after all.”
At that point, Yasuo suddenly showed a strange expression.
“……To think that we would be talking about exams even after coming to another world.”
“Well, we both have college entrance exams this year, after all. Strictly speaking, we shouldn’t have the free time to be worrying about things like Heros or the Shii. Even if you call it a hiking date, I wasn’t looking for this sort of thrill.”
“A hiking date? What the heck.”
“I can’t keep going if I don’t think of it in that way.”
Certainly, the current situation was that they were in another world that they knew nothing about, with no one to rely upon and insufficient preparations, and moreover they were risking their lives to secretly stalk a mysterious giant creature while being stranded in that place.
Despite having said that herself, Shouko suddenly looked embarrassed, and she strengthened her grip on Yasuo’s hand while slightly pressing down on her left eye.
“B-By the way, there’s that thing where people stuck in snowy mountains warm each other up with their body heat, right?”
“If you actually tried that, heat would escape from the portions of the bodies that were not in contact with each other and you would immediately get hypothermia, so don’t get any strange ideas, okay?”
“O-Of course I won’t! So you shouldn’t be saying strange things like that as well!”
“You have no right to talk, do you have any idea how many strange things you said to me before bringing me to Ante Lande?”
“Ugh… Umm, that is… Sorry, actually after that…”
“Diana-san got mad at you?”
“……Looks like you’ve seen through the whole thing.”
“If you ever give me a favourable answer, Yasu-kun, you should know that you will not be able to hide any cheating from me.”
Despite the current situation, or perhaps it was exactly because of their current situation.
Yasuo and Shouko were getting heated up while talking about the most commonplace topics.
It was true that they weren’t facing any trouble in tracking the scelephant, but more importantly, their own mental states were causing them to act that way.
They were both so anxious that they were desperate to encourage each other and be encouraged in turn by talking about commonplace things.
They had little food, and had no idea how large the forest was.
They were following the trail left by the scelephant because it was easier to walk and there was less chance of encountering danger, but it was possible that they were just headed deeper and deeper into the forest.
The fact that the surroundings were getting progressively darker only served to add to their anxiety.
In a forest at night, where the rain incessantly fell.
That darkness inspired an almost unimaginable level of fear in the two of them who had grown up in a world where every street corner had a lamp post like it was only natural.
The Shii were a different species that originated from darkness existing long before the advent of human civilization.
If light could be considered as a barrier that protected the human world, then this was someplace outside the human world.
And in that sort of place, humans were far too powerless.
When the two of them heard that sound, they stopped moving for the first time.
“Y-Yasu-kun, d-did you hear that?”
Shouko, who had been speaking in a bright and courageous manner until a moment ago, now said that in a trembling voice.
“……I-It should be fine. It s-s-sounded like it was still far away.”
His reply had no reassurance at all, perhaps because his tongue wasn’t working properly.
The sound of howling had reached their ears, through the trees surrounding them and over the sound of the raindrops.
For the people who lived in Japan, the word carnivore brought to mind the feline predators that ruled over the kingdom of the wild animals in jungles and savannas.
Lions, tigers, cheetahs, and leopards were the main representatives of that family.
Next in the list came bears, which had a recorded history of causing harm to humans.
These were animals that could be seen at a safari park or a zoo, and putting it another way, they were just that familiar to most people.
That is why the two of them had forgotten about sources of danger that they wouldn’t normally come into contact with.
There was no way for an unarmed person to resist if they were targeted by wolves inside a forest.
Wolves were highly social hunters with strong territorial instincts, and they hunted in packs with a high degree of coordination.
Had they perhaps been walking into the territory of wolves or whatever their equivalent was in this world?
“……Let’s hurry up a bit.”
It was not that they had a plan or any reason to hurry.
However, Shouko wordlessly nodded when Yasuo proposed that, and they started walking faster through the forest in the rain.
They heard the howls a few more times, and their surroundings also kept getting darker.
There was no trace of the leeway that they had earlier on their faces.
The only thing they could do was to desperately follow the trail left by the scelephant, as if they were being chased by something.
By Yasuo’s estimate, it was about one hour after they had heard the first howl when the situation changed suddenly.
“The trail is…”
The trail left by the scelephant had suddenly vanished.
They had reached a wide clearing in the forest, due to which the trail left by the scelephant had suddenly disappeared.
However, the forest still continued on all sides of the clearing as far as they could see.
“W-What should we do?”
As if to mock their fears, Shouko’s words were immediately followed by more howling.
“The river. Let’s get to the river.”
Yasuo’s quickly made that decision.
“I don’t see any other paths we can take. The rain is not so bad that we need to worry about landslides or flooding. As long as we’re careful, I think we’ll be fine even if we follow the river.”
Seeing as there were no other indications on where they should go, Shouko didn’t resist his idea either.
Had the scelephant’s path angled away from the river more than they had thought?
“I think we should go this way. The sound of running water from the river was always on our left side, after all”
“You’re right… but I think we should backtrack a little. The path to move in that direction from here looks a little complicated. Let’s go back along the game trail for a bit and find a place that looks easy to move through.”
“But the wolves… will it be okay?”
“I’m a little worried about that, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get through this place…”
“Can’t you do something about it with magic?”
“As pitiful as it sounds, the answer is no. I can’t use any attack magic. I’ll just keel over from mana depletion. Nodoka has more talent for that sort of thing. Although I seem to have talent when it comes to healing magic and the ability to send off the Shii.”
“That’s pretty amazing too, but I’d rather not fall into a situation where you have to use that power which requires someone to be injured.”
“But if things take a turn for the worse…”
Even if they were hurt, he could heal them. Just that fact alone was a big advantage.
Due to that, the two of them felt a momentary relief from the stress.
However, as if to mock the two of them, the sound of howling could be heard from a spot overwhelmingly closer than before.
Shouko opened her eyes wide from fright, and Yasuo threw away the folding umbrella almost on reflex, grabbed her hand, and started backtracking along the game trail.
However, it was clear that that would not be enough for them to get away safely.
Close on the heels of that first howl, they could suddenly feel multiple presences popping up in their surroundings.
Just towards his right hand side that he was currently looking in, he saw more than ten creatures running parallel to them.
They looked similar to wolves, but Yasuo didn’t have any leeway to observe the specifics.
While moving back along the muddy game trail, Yasuo bitterly cursed his naive judgement.
From the moment they had heard that first howl, they had already become the targets of the predators in this land.
The moment he had lost the trail of the scelephant — which he assumed was a herbivore — he should have been on his guard.
Yasuo was not able to react to Shouko’s voice that was close to a scream.
Two of the creatures that had been running parallel to them had run far ahead, turned around suddenly, and were now running straight towards them.
On the heads of the creatures that came rushing in from both above and below like bullets, there were scales and and a horn that had a metallic sheen.
He tried to activate his magic, but he wouldn’t make it in time.
The situation was completely different from the time when he had destroyed Marfik’s control bangle, and in the first place Yasuo was incapable of any magic that could hit a target at a distance.
Yasuo steeled his resolve and decided to use an electric attack at close range, even if it meant risking his arm getting bitten off. He spread his arms wide to protect Shouko who was behind him, and prepared to confront the creatures that had horns and scales.
In that instant, just as the creatures were about to sink their bared fangs into Yasuo’s flesh, he heard a battle cry from behind him and at the same time, the two creatures were sent flying to the right and left.
Yasuo wasn’t able to believe what he was seeing with his own eyes.
It was Shouko, with flames gushing out of both eyes, just like when she had saved him from the sandbar in the river.
However, as expected, it wasn’t just her eyes.
From both her wrists, both her ankes, and her waist, the flames of the Shii were gushing forth, looking like fashion accessories.
However, the voice was still Shouko’s.
It was certainly not the kind of repulsive voice that had issued from her mouth when she had been completely taken over by the Shii back in Tokorozawa, the kind of voice that had chilled his blood and sent shudders down his spine.
Shouko looked like she was wearing the Shii around her instead of being taken over by it, and boldy rushed towards the pack of creatures that had not stopped attempting to corner them despite being surprised by the unexpected resistance from their prey.
The dirt on the game trail scattered greatly beneath her feet as she ran.
That was a sign of just how much her leg strength had increased, and she used that strength to kick one of the creatures that happened to appear before her up to a terrifying height.
The enemy was also formidable and it spun around once in mid-air, but it still failed the landing and fell heavily onto the soft mud; it didn’t get up again.
At that point, the pack of creatures stopped hiding their presences, surrounded Shouko and Yasuo, and started to observe them.
It looked like they were hesitating, thinking about whether they would be able to kill the intruders who had entered their territory or not.
As if to prove that, a number of the creatures bared their fangs and advanced menacingly towards them while growling.
They had ash-gray fur tinged with green that would allow them to blend into the dark forest, and their heads were covered by a scale-like carapace.They also had a horn on their head.
The scale-like carapace was probably meant to reduce the impact of a hit from the front or the rear, but seeing as how they had attacked with fangs bared, it was not apparent what purpose the horn served.
The question that momentarily flashed through Yasuo’s head was immediately answered in the form of a new threat.
A small flame started to gather at the tips of the creatures’ horns.
That was magic.
Were the wild animals of this world capable of using magic?
Although the flame initially appeared to be small, it seemed to be slowly growing larger at the tip of the horn.
The creatures were attempting to kill them from a distance, perhaps because they judged that they were safe from Shouko as long as they didn’t get close to her.
Yasuo had been told that there were methods of defending against attacks from magic and sorcery, but since he could not even produce a satisfactory flame with magic, he had no idea what those methods might be.
A number of flames were turned towards Shouko and Yasuo, resembling nothing so much as will o’ wisps which existed to kill living creatures that had lost their way inside the forest.
Shouko’s increased strength that could send one of those creatures flying with a single hit obviously came from the Shii’s flames, or rather, the change in Shouko’s body after she had merged with the Shii.
However, since the flames only covered Shouko’s eyes, wrists, and ankles, if the creatures’ magical attacks scored a direct hit on her, she would probably not get away unscathed.
It wasn’t as simple as just healing her wounds afterwards.
Yasuo still had a slight scar on his side where Khalija’s attack had pierced him.
Since they had promised Shouko’s parents that her safety was guaranteed on this trip, Yasuo could not allow so much as a hair on her head to be hurt.
Yasuo took a deep breath, steeled his resolve, and prepared to once again jump in front of Shouko to protect her.
“Yasu-kun. Cover your ears.”
However, Shouko said that in a soft, yet determined voice.
Yasuo reflexively obeyed her, and in the next instant, he felt like he was about to get blown away.
Shouko let out a shout.
Yasuo felt like he had been struck by a wall of sound and fell on his backside, and the creatures that were surrounding them backed away while whining.
The trees and plants were shaken violently by the force of that shout, the raindrops that had collected on the branches and leaves were shaken off and cascaded down like a waterfall on their surroundings, and the magical flames that the creatures had been preparing abruptly went out.
Hearing Shouko once again take a deep breath, Yasuo pressed his hands hard against his ears and prepared his body for the shockwave.
The impact from the shockwave was too much, even considering that he was hearing it at close range, and Yasuo let out a groan.
Along with reverberating heavily throughout Yasuo’s body, the shockwave from Shouko’s shout and the air pressure sent a ripple through the dirt at Shouko’s feet.
The creatures closest to her were unable to resist, and were blown away.
Seeing that, the creatures that were surrounding them broke formation, turned around, and disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding forest one by one.
Shouko, who had lowered her center of gravity and stood in a stance with her right hand in front of her and her left hand pulled back, stayed in that stance for a while even after the last creature had disappeared.
Yasuo also continued to cover his ears with his hands, and stayed alert for signs of the creatures returning by looking around.
They probably stayed that way for a full three minutes.
Shouko finally relaxed her stance after she heard the howls, which seemed to be trembling slightly, from far away.
“Yasu-kun, are you okay?”
“H-How about you, Tatewaki-san?”
“I… I’m… probably not okay.”
In the next instant, Shouko fell to her knees and was about to fall face down in the dirt.
Yasuo hurried to support her body, and in that instant, most of the black flames were extinguished.
He wondered if his power that was specialized in healing and sending off the Shii had unconsciously activated and dispelled the flames, but he immediately rejected that.
The 『mysteries』 of Ante Lande could only be activated through force of will.
There was no way that such a convenient reaction could occur spontaneously, and there had to be a proper explanation for that phenomenon.
In the end, the black flames receded until they turned into a small flickering flame in Shouko’s left eye.
Once the flames had receded, Yasuo saw how pale and weak Shouko looked, and once again started to panic.
“My body really hurts. It feels like the toenails on the foot that I used to kick that creature are broken.”
“Ah, I’ll heal you. Tell me where it hurts…”
“Ah… No, it’s okay… It’s not like I’m dying, but I feel like I’ve used up all my strength… I think I’m falling asleep… Sorry…”
Shouko’s head suddenly dropped while she was still leaning against Yasuo.
Yasuo felt his blood run cold for a second, but after he heard Shouko’s breathing even over the sound of the rain, he felt relieved.
Despite that, it couldn’t really be said that their situation had improved.
Night was getting closer, and the light had faded enough that he already couldn’t see for more than a few meters ahead.
He would not be able to walk very far while carrying the unconscious Shouko, and trying to find the river in the dark during bad weather would be the height of folly.
Even the pack of creatures might attack once again if they realized that Shouko, who was the source of danger, was out of commision.
Not only had Yasuo been protected from the creatures by the unknown power of Shouko and the Shii, he didn’t have a single technique to protect Shouko in return.
He felt foolish for having confidently declared that he would become the Hero, with this kind of ability.
It was only natural that Khalija had been astounded by his lack of ability.
Although Yasuo had said that he understood the situation many times, the truth was that he didn’t understand anything.
He had gotten overconfident, just because he could use some half-baked healing ability and some ability to send off the Shii.
After experiencing it for himself like this, he finally started to understand what it meant to be 『powerless』.
Whether it was weapons, armor, magic, or comrades, they only had meaning when they were obtained by a person who had become strong after diligently devoting themselves to the basics.
The people who surrounded a powerless person were not comrades, but guardians, and weapons, armor, and magic were nothing more than pointless luggage when carried by a person who could not even defend themselves.
Out of the corner of his eye, Yasuo noticed the umbrella that he had thrown away at the place where the game trail ended.
He had thought that they had run a fair distance from the pack of creatures that had attacked, but now he saw that they had not moved very far away at all.
The reason why Yasuo did not fruitlessly call out to his father or Diana for help in this situation might be because of the last bit of pride that he had left.
Or perhaps it was because of the depth of his despair.
He could see light from a fire slowly closing in on him from deep within the forest.
Yasuo put Shouko down on the dirt and forced himself to stand on shaking legs as he prepared to face the will o’ wisp.
If there was just one of them… If there was just one of them, he might be able to drive it away by hitting it with his electric attack, even if it meant that he would get taken out at the same time.
The solitary light that continued to get closer glowed like the eye of a Shii, or like the eye of William Bareig, as it seemed to be inviting him into the depths of hell.
With a slight sound of splattering mud, the will o’ wisp showed its true form in front of Yasuo.
When Shouko opened her eyes, the first things she noticed was that she had a dull headache, and that there was a ceiling made of wooden planks above her.
When she tried to sit up, she realized that there was a thick and slightly stiff bed sheet beneath the hand that she used to steady herself.
There was a stiff but warm blanket covering her body.
It was dark, but it was indoors.
It was a room, protected from the elements by walls and a roof.
When she took a breath and looked around, she saw Yasuo, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in a chair beside her bed.
“Where… am I?”
When she looked down at her body, she realized that she was wearing a simple one piece hempen dress that she had never seen before.
“Oh, you’re awake?”
“I’m sorry, I seem to have surprised you.”
When she turned to look, she realized that a woman holding a lamp that was giving off a yellow light had appeared there at some point.
She was a middle-aged woman, who appeared to be in her fifties.
She was wearing a long robe that looked like something a witch would wear, and her short hair looked like it was silver colored instead of having gone grey with age.
“Be at ease. You are safe here. The beasts from the forest will not come close to this place.”
“D-Did you save me?”
“I didn’t do anything special. I just found the two of you when you were lost in the forest, and brought you here.”
“T-Thank you very much. You saved us. We are……”
“Don’t worry about it. I only did what was natural. Actually, you were lucky that it was I who found you. If you had been found by ordinary people, I’m sure the situation would have taken a turn or the worse.”
Saying that, the woman pointed her finger at Shouko’s eye.
Taking her meaning, Shouko immediately let out a startled cry.
The flames of the Shii were still gushing out of her left eye.
In Ante Lande, the Shii were the enemy of mankind.
If the people of this world found a person who carried the flames that were a symbol of the Shii within their own body, it would not be surprising if that person was lynched on the spot.
However, this woman had not done that. What was the reason for that?
“My name is Catalina Yostern. Have you heard that name before?”
Seeing Shouko shake her head, the woman gave a wry smile.
“I see. The boy didn’t know who I was either. It’s a pity, I’m actually pretty famous, you know?”
“I-I’m sorry, we are… I mean…”
Shouko was worried that she had hurt that woman’s feelings and started to apologize, but the woman who called herself Catalina cut her off.
“The two of you are from 『Japan』, isn’t that right?”
Shouko was so shocked that she forgot to speak.
That’s right. She had felt that something was strange.
She had not met Catalina before. She was sure of that.
And this place was obviously not on Earth.
Despite that, she had been conversing with Catalina in 『Japanese』.
“Did… he tell you that?”
“Yes, he did. However I knew it the moment I saw his face. Although, it seemed like he was intent on saving you and didn’t find it strange that I was speaking to him in Japanese.”
Catalina looked at Yasuo who was still fast asleep in the chair and smiled.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was the face of a person whom I thought I would never meet again.”
“What do you mean…”
“Can you stand? You must be thirsty. I’m boiling some water right now. Come this way, and be careful not to wake the lad. There are sandals over there.”
Shouko’s headache had faded, so she obediently got out of bed as Catalina asked.
She saw that there was a pair of simple sandals at the foot of the bed, and she put them on.
The adjacent room was larger than the room that Shouko had been sleeping in, but there were a number of objects in the room that were covered with cloth.
“This place is my private workshop.”
“Are you a painter?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I am. So I would be glad if you are surprised after seeing this.”
Catalina hung the lantern from a hook on the wall, raised her palm towards the ceiling, and created a sphere that gave off a faint light.
Even Shouko was able to understand that it was a magic meant to illuminate the room, but compared to the shock she experienced in the next moment, it was a trivial thing.
There was a single painting hanging on the wall that was illuminated by Catalina’s magic.
It was a portrait of a young swordsman who was holding a beautiful sword.
However, Shouko’s eyes were riveted on the face of that man.
“Yasu-kun… A painting… of Yasu-kun?”
The face of the young swordsman in that painting was definitely Yasuo’s, there was no doubt about it.
“During the war with Demon King Kaul, I went on a journey to convey the situation in various parts of the world to the people through my paintings.”
Catalina spoke while looking up at the painting of the young swordsman who looked like Yasuo.
“I met him at a range of mountains that runs through the Baskelgarde Federation. He was with his companions, in the middle of his journey to save the world that was being consumed by the forces of Demon King Kaul.”
“I have met him before. The man whom that boy seems to be an identical replica of.”
There was no need to ask who she was talking about.
“The Hero, Hideo Kenzaki. I think that Erijina Radagast and Alexei Krone might be the only people in the world who remember his features of that boy’s father better than me. The painting of his father that I painted has now been designated as a national treasure of Resteria. Due to that, I became quite famous and I am now able to live a leisurely life like this while pursuing the art of painting that I love.”
The traveling painter, Catalina Yostern.
In the past, she had traveled all over the world, and her painting of the Hero, Hideo, called 『The Hero, Hideo, gazes upon the sunrise at the Sacred Mountain』 that she had painted when she met him in the mountainous region of Baskelgarde was one of the most famous paintings in the world.