Chapter 1 – To Another World and Back Again
On that day, Tsugami Kazaya had once again traveled to another world as per his usual routine.
“An Orc Knight… It appeared just as I thought.”
It looked a lot like a pig that walked on two legs. It held a longsword in one hand, and was wearing simple armor.
Judging by the way it glared in his direction while breathing heavily through its nose, it was definitely not friendly.
However, the same held true for Kazaya as well. Kazaya was here to defeat him (or maybe her, it was hard to tell) after all.
All of a sudden, the Orc Knight kicked off from the ground. It let out a wild scream, raised the sword above its head, and swung it down.
Under ordinary circumstances, it was a blow that should have cleaved his body in two while creating a spray of blood.
However, when the tip of the sword was close to making contact with Kazaya’s head, a sharp sound rang out and sparks flew.
The opponent’s blade was stopped mid-swing, as though it had hit an invisible wall.
The Orc Knight snorted several times as if it was dissatisfied and tried to force its way through, but there was no way brute force would work.
Kazaya glanced diagonally upwards, and looked at what appeared to be a cylindrical bar that was floating horizontally in mid air. It looked exactly like a HP bar display that you would see in a game.
The bar was displaying a red color, and the size was so small that you had to strain your eyes to see it.
“It’s useless. Such attacks won’t work on me.”
Kazaya said that with confidence and stretched his arm outwards.
“Ye heavenly weapon that cuts through all of creation, appear in my hand—Azure Sky King!”
As soon as he said that, particles of light appeared in mid air, concentrated at one point, and created a sword. The sword was easily longer than his own size, and it was a bulky and brutish weapon.
Kayaza grabbed the hilt of that greatsword with both hands and lifted it up. Despite the size, it was not all that heavy. Atmost, it was as heavy as a light dumbbell.
Seeing him ready his weapon, the Orc Knight visibly faltered.
“Evil demonic beast that brings harm to mankind! By my authority, I hereby judge you guilty!”
Kazaya took a single step forward, raised the greatsword 『Azure Sky King』 up high, and swung it down with a yell.
The Orc Knight reflexively tried to defend against that strike with its own weapon.
The loud noise from the impact lasted only for a moment. Kazaya’s greatsword snapped the other weapon cleanly in two and cut straight through the opponent’s body as well, armor and all.
A cry of agony rang out. The Orc Knight fell down to its knees while wavering, and then slowly collapsed.
“Don’t think badly of me. This… was for the sake of destiny as well.”
Kazaya took a deep breath and threw the greatsword into the air. It immediately changed into particles of light and vanished.
At the same time, he heard a loud sound coming from above his head. It was similar to the sound effect that was heard in old RPGs when the player’s character levelled up.
When he moved his finger through the air as if tracing something, a rectangular screen appeared in front of him. There were several bars similar to the one from earlier on that display, and there was a number at the top of the screen.
“Alright, mission accomplished! I got a decent bit of experience and leveled up too. It looks like it’ll still take a while until I learn any new skills , though….”
After confirming that, Kazaya moved his finger in the opposite direction, causing the screen to disappear.
Confirming that with a glance, he reached into his chest pocket and took a cube-shaped item that looked like a dice, opened a small hatch on one side, and pointed it at the fallen Orc Knight.
Immediately after he did that, its body vanished and the sphere of light that was left behind was sucked into the box.
He closed the hatch and returned the item to his chest pocket. With this, all the work was done. The only thing left to do was to return.
However—at that instant, he heard a faint scream coming from somewhere far away. It was clearly the scream of a human.
There were no ordinary humans here. Any humans here would be existences similar to himself.
“Could it be, a new 『Visitor』……?”
Kazaya started running even as he muttered that to himself. After dashing through the forest, he suddenly reached an open space.
It was there that he saw it. A lizard-like monster covered in red scales. And it front of it, there was a girl who had collapsed to the ground in fright.
“A 『Salamander』, huh…..”
It was not a difficult opponent for someone like him who had accumulated a fair bit of experience. However, if his instincts were correct, the odds were stacked against that 『beginner』 over there.
Kazaya quickly ran, slid to a stop in front of the person who was being attacked, and stuck his hand out in front of him.
“Ye weapon clad in freezing storms, appear in my hand—Hailstorm King!”
The particles of light came together and created a beautiful blue rapier. He grabbed the hilt and pointed the sword towards the Salamander.
The blade of the sword was enveloped in what looked like a thin film. Despite the fact that the temperature in the surroundings was supposed to be fairly high, the grass that was near the sword was covered in frost. It was as if a limited area around him was suddenly plunged into mid-winter.
The Salamander opened its mouth. Kazaya caught a glimpse of the small flame that burned in the back of its mouth before it shot fire at him like a flamethrower.
However, Kazaya immediately swung his sword upwards, and the thin film that coated the blade flew forwards and wiped out the flames.
No, it was not just that. The film proceeded to cover the body of the Salamander, and in the next instant…
The Salamander’s body was completely covered in frost and frozen solid.
“Vanish, ye ominous fiery dragon!”
Kazaya kicked the Salamander, causing its body to shatter like glass.
He pulled out the box and opened the hatch, and just like the Orc Knight from before, the pieces of the Salamander’s body were converted into a sphere of light and absorbed into the box.
“Are you okay? You’re not injured, are you?”
Kazaya turned around while putting the box away.
At that moment, as soon as he saw the girl properly for the first time, he stiffened.
“……Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for saving me.”
That girl had glossy black hair that reached her waist, white, unblemished skin, almond shaped eyes, and a face that was so perfect that it would make anyone gulp. She was like the 『Personification of a Japanese beauty』, a phrase that was close to disappearing from the language in recent times.
However, the girl’s lovely features were not the reason for his surprise.
The girl was wearing a uniform that he recognized.
At first he thought that he must have been mistaken. However, there could be no doubt. This girl… This girl was—
Hearing Kazaya say that, the girl—Mikoto Chihiro—tilted her head slightly to one side.
“Yes, that is my name. Have we met before?”
Mikoto Chihiro was also a student of Bunan Public High School just like Kazaya, and she was a year older than him.
She had at least three nicknames that Kazaya was aware of.
『Empress of Absolute Zero』, 『Celestial Maiden』, and 『Goddess of the Hallowed Ground』.
They were all names that had been given to her because of her beauty, the atmosphere around her, and the way she conducted herself.
Based on what Kazaya had heard from other students, she was the kind of person who would warrant a second look from others from the very first day that she joined the school, and she even had an unofficial fan club before a month had passed.
That was only natural. Not only was she exceptionally beautiful, she had also cleared the entrance examinations with a record-breaking high score. Moreover, she had such a high level of physical ability that all the club leaders of the various sports-oriented clubs came to scout her specifically.
However, despite her popularity, Chihiro never smiled, living up to her nickname of 『Absolute Zero』. In addition, due to the fact that she was constantly surrounded by an intense aura that made it hard for people to gather around her, just like a 『Celestial』 being, the few meters of space around her was a 『Hallowed』 area that was hard to sully.
Due to that, no one tried to approach Chihiro, and they were all content to just gaze upon her beauty and elegance from afar.
According to rumors, she came from a family that was part of a business conglomerate that had existed since a long time ago, and her father was an important person who was well known in political and business circles. The atmosphere around Chihiro also lent credence to those rumors.
Nobody knew why someone like Chihiro attended such a completely ordinary school, and it was treated as one of the biggest mysteries among the students of Bunan High School.
On the other hand, no matter how you looked at him, Kazaya was completely unremarkable, the kind of person who might be used as an example for the phrase 『lacking personality』in a dictionary.
It goes without saying that he obviously had nothing in common with Chihiro, and in fact, the two of them had never even spoken to each other before.
He would just make an idiotic expression every time he saw her while thinking that there were such girls in his world after all.
However, it was impossible to tell how fate would work to bring people together.
“……To think that Senpai would come over to this side as well.”
Kazaya unconsciously muttered that to himself as he descended from the boat to the harbor.
“What do you mean by ‘this side’? By the way, where are we?”
Chihiro asked him that while looking around at the surroundings. She had stopped speaking in an overly polite manner, probably because Kazaya had given her a simple self-introduction earlier that had established his identity as one of her juniors from school. Despite that, there was no change in the fact that her voice was still robotic and lacked warmth.
In any case, he had not explained a single thing to her yet, asking her to wait until things had settled down, so there were probably a lot of things that she did not understand.
“I’ll explain it to you now. Do you have any questions?”
“Questions, huh? You said your name was Tsugami-kun, right? In that case, Tsugami-kun—”
Chihiro had been looking downwards until now, but she suddenly raised her head and asked with a serious expression.
“What is this?”
“Senpai, that question is too vague.”
Even if she suddenly asked that, he could only reply by asking “What are you talking about” in return.
“………I guess you have a point. Give me a minute.”
Chihiro put her hand on her forehead and started to think deeply about something.
(Maybe… she’s just really confused?)
It looked like the composure that she was famous for was a little lacking. That might be only natural considering her situation, but Kazaya still felt that it was extremely unusual behaviour for Chihiro.
“So there are times when even you feel perplexed, Senpai? You usually have this composed and unshakeable aura.”
“……Tsugami-kun. I’ve been thrown into an unknown place all of a sudden and I was attacked by a creature I’ve never seen before. Don’t you think that it would be more uncanny for a mere high school student to be composed in such a situation?”
Kazaya felt a chill run down his spine when he saw Chihiro say that in a low voice with her eyebrows slightly raised.
“Eh, ah, t-that’s true. I’m sorry….. Are you angry?”
It certainly didn’t look like that was the case, but he abandoned the idea of continuing with this line of questioning.
“So, where exactly are we?”
“…We are in another world called Grimveria.”
“Another world, Grimveria? ……What do you mean we are in another world?”
“Just what it sounds like. It is a world where things such as common sense, civilization, the laws of physics, ecology, and many other things are different from the world that we are from.”
“……You can’t be serious. This is really a different world? There’s no way I can believe that.”
“In that case, let me ask you this, Senpai. We saw a lot of people on our way here, but many of them were obviously not Japanese, right?”
“What of it? It just means we are in a different country, right? Of the two, that seems like the more believable explanation.”
“If this really is just a different country, then why were all of them speaking in Japanese?”
Chihiro suddenly froze, and her mouth opened slightly. She must have realised the reason behind the sense of discomfort that she had been feeling since she came here.
“……That is certainly true. But why?”
“Before I explain that, let me ask you a question. Senpai, didn’t you meet someone before you woke up in this world?”
“Meet someone? No, I don’t think so….hang on.”
Chihiro once again put her hand on her head and groaned to herself for a while.
“……Now that you mention it, I did meet someone. A person who looked like she was six or seven years old, in a completely dark place.”
“I met that person as well. Or rather, every person who comes to this other world, Grimveria, will definitely meet her.”
“Just who is she?”
“She’s a goddess.”
Chihiro glared at him when he gave her that answer. As befitting someone with the nickname of Absolute Zero, it was a gaze that threatened to freeze him to the bone.
“Tsugami-kun. You are free to believe whatever you want, but I think it would be better if you don’t speak of such things without hesitation to other people. It might make some people want to avoid associating with you.”
“T-Thanks for the warning, but I’m not trying to recruit you into a cult or anything. That person was a god of Grimveria.”
“……So you refuse to back down. Very well. For argument’s sake, let us assume that she really was a goddess. In that case, why did that adorable little goddess of Grimveria appear before me and you?”
“That’s because she is the one who summoned us to this world…. Senpai, didn’t she talk to you about all sorts of things? About Grimveria, the reason why we were summoned here, and the 『powers』 we were given to us for that purpose?”
“About that…. huh? She did say a lot of things to me. In short, she wanted my help in saving this world… I have a feeling it was something like that.”
“Yes, that’s right. We are warriors who have been selected by the goddess to save this world called Grimveria. The people of this world call us 『Visitors』.”
“Something so ridiculous… but I feel like I am gradually remembering these things when you speak of them. Is all of this true? This is really a different world….?”
It looked like she was gradually coming to believe him. Chihiro’s voice had been initially filled with suspicion, but that was beginning to fade away.
“In any case, do you understand your present situation?”
If she did not accept the things he had told her so far as fact, then they would just end up going around in circles forever.
Chihiro stayed silent for a while, and eventually nodded.
“I understand. I will accept your explanation for now. Still… no matter what the reason might be, I was suddenly brought over to a different world without even being given a chance to prepare myself, you know? Tsugami-kun, how are you able to stay so calm? Don’t you want to go back to the world we came from?”
“I mean, we can go back whenever we want; it’s almost too easy. In fact, I came over here today after school ended, after all.”
Chihiro furrowed her beautiful eyebrows. She had probably not expected that response. He had felt the same way back when he first came here.
“Senpai, do you have any pockets on your clothes? You should try checking them.”
Chihiro did as she was told and put her hand into the pocket of her school uniform. She searched around inside that pocket for a while, and her expression changed as if she had found something unexpected.
Chihiro pulled her hand out of her pocket and tilted her head in confusion at the small green stone that rested on the palm of her hand.
“That’s a 『Teleportation Stone』. Everyone who is summoned to this world by the goddess is given four things, and that is one of them.”
“A Teleportation Stone… Ah, yes, I remember the goddess telling me about it. It is something that connects this world to the world that we come from, is that right?”
“Yes. Well, you can think of it as something similar to a teleportation spell from an RPG.”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“Senpai, do you play any video games? Or perhaps read manga or light novels?”
Chihiro shook her head. As a young person from modern Japan who did not know about manga, light novels, or games, she was in some ways a precious variety of human being.
“Okay, then. In that case, it might be easier to understand if you actually experience it. Hold it in your hand and focus your thoughts. Think about the place that you want to go to. Umm, since it’s your first time, let’s try it out with the rooftop of our school.”
Chihiro held the Teleportation Stone in her hand, and Kazaya pulled out a similar stone from inside his clothes.
Chihiro closed her eyes and furrowed her eyebrows, and in the next instant…
Her surroundings were filled with darkness for a moment, but as soon as it cleared up, she saw that her environment had changed completely.
She could see a faraway range of mountains on the other side of the tall fence that surrounded the area, and the crimson light from the sun that was setting behind those mountains was illuminating the residential district . She could hear the voices of students going about their club activities from the grounds below her, and a chime rang out to signify that it was five o’clock in the afternoon.
“……This certainly is the school rooftop.”
Chihiro kicked the ground beneath her feet several times, as if desperately trying to understand all the different things she had gone through.
“I can’t believe something like this is actually happening in real life… Hey, weren’t you wearing armor just a moment ago?”
Chihiro appeared dazed for a little while, and looked at Kazaya.
“Ah, that. When you return to this world, you go back to what you looked like before transferring to the other world. Convenient, isn’t it?”
“I see. Well, I would expect no less from a goddess…. In any case, I didn’t think that I would be able to come back so soon.”
“It looks like the goddess doesn’t want to force us to do anything. So we can take things easy.”
“True, it certainly does seem that way. But there is something that bothers me if that is the case. Tsugami-kun, why do you still keep going back there when you are able to come back here of your own free will?”
“Oh, that’s simple. That’s because Grimveria is a fun place.”
“……A fun place?”
“Yes. You see, I love playing games. That place lets me experience the feeling of playing a game in real life. After all, I can use weapons, defeat demonic beasts, and go exploring on islands. It is far better than any open world FPS or virtual reality system.”
“But it can also be dangerous, right? What if you are attacked by those so-called demonic beasts?”
“It looks like the goddess also took that into account, so you don’t need to worry about it. I’ll skip the details for now, but while things can get a little thrilling, your life is never in any actual danger.”
Kazaya smiled and thumped his chest.
“The Visitors have fun while going on adventures, and as a result, the people of Grimveria are saved. There’s really no bad side to this.”
“That… might be true, but….”
“Senpai, my aim is to clear the whole of Grimveria without leaving anything undone. There are still many things in that world that I have never seen before. Seeing all of them before anybody else is my dream.”
That is why he excitedly traveled to the other world after school. Because it was a more fascinating experience than anything else.
“That place is overflowing with so many exciting and wonderful things, it’s like living in a dream.”
Chihiro looked downwards, and Kazaya had no way of telling what she was thinking about.
“Still, I think it’s fine for you to not force yourself, Senpai. Like I said before, your safety is not completely guaranteed. Unlike me, if you have no reason to go then you would be better off not going over there.”
“But I was chosen by the goddess as well, wasn’t I? Is it okay to do whatever I want despite that?”
“I don’t think there are any penalties for not going. There are other Visitors in Grimveria apart from you and me and I’ve met a few of them, so I know a person who had to retire due to personal reasons. He came over again once after a while out of boredom, and when I spoke to him, he said that nothing really happened to him when he stopped coming over.”
“It sounds like that goddess is really generous.”
“Well, the other side is basically summoning us over by force, after all. That is the minimum level of consideration. If you don’t want to go, then you don’t have to.”
After hearing what Kazaya said, Chihiro closed her eyes and whispered that in a low voice.
“Yes. However, if you say the word, I will gladly serve as your guide.”
Kazaya said that half in jest, and bowed his head.
“Well then, I should be on my way. I’m glad I got to talk to you Senpai, even though it was under such strange circumstances.”
“The same goes for me as well. Thanks for everything.”
“It was nothing.”
Kazaya responded to her thanks, waved to her, and turned around to leave.
“……Exciting… and wonderful things….”
Just as he was about to open the rooftop door, Kazaya thought he heard Chihiro whisper something.
Despite saying that he wanted to clear the whole of Grimveria as a warrior, he was still just an ordinary high school student when he returned home.
The next day, a groggy Kazaya went to school right after waking up, and somehow managed to get through his lessons that threatened to lull him to sleep. He purchased a bento to fill his empty stomach during lunchtime.
“It just feels like every single day is so boring.”
Maesaki, who sat in the seat in front of his, grumbled. Kazaya had known him since middle school.
“I thought high school would be a place with beautiful girls, or that a bizarrely powerful student council would be in control of the school, or that there would be a corps of people who secretly fought against monsters on the school grounds late at night, you know?”
“You’ve been reading too many manga and light novels.”
As Kazaya said that with a wry smile, another student looked in his direction from the seat next to him.
Her name was Ayukawa, and she had also been one of Kazaya’s friends from around the same time as Maesaki.
“I know what you mean. Like, imagine if I actually turned out to be a princess from some country, and a young man transferred into our school to be my bodyguard. Or maybe five extremely popular boys would fight fiercely with each other for my attentions. As a girl in high school, I want to hope for things like that as well!”
“You seriously daydream about stuff like that all the time?”
Ayukawa said that with a straight face. Kazaya thought that both she and Maesaki were suffering from an illness, in more ways than one.
“There’s just no excitement at all. Do you know how I spend my time everyday? My days are just filled with social networking games. Sure, they’re fun, but what I’m looking for is something that would really let me enjoy my youth.”
Maesaki lamented while looking up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, I agree with you completely. I spend every single day just interacting with lovers who are on the other side of a monitor. I mean, that’s not particularly bad, it’s just that I feel empty inside from time to time!”
“I know, right?”
Ayukawa and Maesaki shook hands across Kazaya’s desk.
“Then why don’t you just quit playing social networking games?”
““I’d sooner quit being human.””
The two of them simultaneously answered Kazaya’s question. Kazaya shuddered and wondered at what point the two of them had fallen to such a state.
“I wish something interesting would happen to me. Like getting summoned to another world all of a sudden, or something.”
“Hahahaha. There’s no way that will happen.”
Kazaya was startled by what Maesaki said, but he was careful to not let his feelings show as he laughed and shook his head.
“Well, yeah. But if it’s not that, it could even be something like that Mikoto-senpai coming to talk to me all of a sudden.”
“The chances of that happening are even lower than getting summoned to another world.”
Maesaki collapsed onto his desk at Ayukawa’s comment.
Kazaya wondered how the two of them would react if he told them that not only had he been summoned to another world, he had actually held a proper conversation with Chihiro instead of just exchanging a few words with her. Of course, he had no intention of actually telling them about that.
“You don’t know that for sure, Mikoto-senpai might open the classroom door at this very moment and come up to my desk—”
It happened in that instant when Maesaki was continuing to talk about his delusions.
The classroom door was opened vigorously, and the noise from the students instantly stopped.
Kazaya looked in that direction wondering what had happened… only to see Mikoto Chihiro standing there.
She looked around the classroom with her sharp gaze, and fixed her eyes on a particular location. It was in the direction where Kazaya and the others were sitting. After that, she started walking towards them without a hint of hesitation.
“O-Oi! Is this for real? I thought it was just a dream, but it’s actually real!? Mikoto-senpai! I had no idea that you felt that way about me—!”
Maesaki spread his arms with a blissful expression. However, Chihiro just looked at him,
“Sorry, but I have no business with you.”
And cut him down with a single sentence. In addition, Maesaki held his chest as if he had been pierced through by her frosty glare.
“I-I know, right!? There’s no way you would have any business with a piece of trash like me! Aah, but those eyes of yours that look at me like I’m a troublesome stone that is getting in your way on the road, I feel like I’m getting addicted to it……!”
Kazaya started to wonder if this guy had that sort of fetish, but then he noticed that many of the other students around them were reacting in the same way. It looked like Chihiro’s gaze had the ability to awaken a certain something in people.
“Tsugami-kun. Would you mind accompanying me for a while after school if you don’t have any other plans? I’ll wait for you near the school gate.”
“Eh!? Ah, umm, sure, I don’t mind.”
“See you then.”
Hearing Kazaya’s answer, Chihiro turned and walked out boldly just like she had done while walking into the classroom.
The whole classroom was filled with silence, this was not particularly unusual.
However, in the next instant, people all over the classroom suddenly started whispering to each other.
“Oi, Mikoto-senpai just asked Tsugami to accompany her. It’s Mikoto-senpai, that person who is like inviolate hallowed ground, you know!?”
“Impossible… the Celestial Maiden cannot possibly have any interest in commoners. What’s going on?”
Ayukawa leaned towards him with an excited expression.
“Hey. Hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey. Kazaya, what sort of relationship do you have with Mikoto-senpai? Did you become her servant or something!?”
“Why would I become Senpai’s servant……”
“In that case, don’t tell me you are lovers!? No way…..”
Ayukawa and the others spoke in shrill voices.
“No, no, it’s nothing like that!”
He panicked and denied it, but it looked like his classmates were already convinced that they were lovers. They all looked at him with eyes alight with curiosity. He couldn’t blame them. The Empress of Absolute Zero had never spoken to anyone of her own volition until today, after all.
“Kuh….. Guh….. Tsugamiiiiiiiii!!”
Maesaki suddenly stood up and grabbed the collar of Kazaya’s school uniform.
“You bastard! Since when? When did it start!? Dammit! But still! Even so!!”
He released Kazaya on his own, and gave him a salute instead.
“Jealousy is unsightly! In such a scenario, I should just swallow my tears of blood and cheer my friend on while he enjoys the bounty of spring……!”
“Aah! Maesaki! Well done, you’re such a great guy!”
Seeing Ayukawa praise Maesaki and clap loudly, the rest of the class followed her lead. Even Kazaya was somewhat touched.
“Maesaki… You’re a good guy. But seriously, it’s not like that. We just have a bit of a connection, that’s all.”
“What the heck is that supposed to mean? Do they sell that ‘connection’ somewhere!? How much should I pay to have a connection with her as well!?”
“Calm down, Maesaki. You’re not making any sense.”
Ayukawa intervened to calm Maesaki down. As for Kazaya, he thought that he had become mixed up in something troublesome, and mentally sighed.
After that, he continued to receive various questions about his relationship with Mikoto-senpai from his suspicious classmates, and somehow deflected all of them until school finally ended for the day.
Staying there would just expose him to further barrages of questions, so he packed up his belongings and left the classroom.
“Where are you going, Tsugamiiiiiii! Let me guess, you’re going on a date with Senpai, aren’t youuuuuu!”
Kazaya ran as Maesaki shouted out his pent-up resentment from behind, and he was out of breath by the time he arrived at the front gate.
Chihiro was already waiting there, and she called out to him as soon as she spotted him.
“What’s wrong? You look really tired.”
“……I went through hell because you decided to speak to me in a place like that, Senpai.”
“Did I do something bad? I assumed that the classroom would be the most convenient place to contact you.”
“No, that is… Senpai, you should be more aware of your own position… Never mind.”
Kazaya decided to stop there because it would take a long time to explain. Chihiro probably didn’t even know how the other students in the school saw her.
In any case, there were too many people around their current location, so Kazaya walked to a nearby park along with Chihiro.
After confirming that there weren’t any people nearby, they both sat on the single bench that was available.
“……Tell me, Tsugami-kun. Do you intend to go to Grimveria today?”
Chihiro opened the conversation with that question. Kazaya answered her, although he was a little taken aback.
“Yes, it has become part of my daily routine…. Were you planning on stopping me from going?”
Kazaya thought that she had come to him to warn him against doing any more dangerous things. Of course, just telling her that the other world was generally safe would not be enough to make her accept it. There was a chance that she might have been worried about him.
Chihiro just stared at him without saying anything. However, just that stare was strangely overwhelming. Perhaps that came from the indescribable sense of dignity that hung about her.
(Ugh… She’s pretty even without trying…. But I won’t lose!)
Kazaya fired himself up and collected his meagre amount of bravery.
“N-No, Senpai! I’m glad for your consideration, but Grimveria really isn’t—”
“I want you to take me along.”
He reflexively asked her to repeat herself. It was just that unexpected a request.
“I want to go to Grimveria as well. However, I am still unfamiliar with this sort of thing. So I thought of requesting your guidance. You said earlier that you would gladly serve as my guide, after all.”
Chihiro explained it in more detail, maybe because she thought he was having trouble understanding what she meant. However, Kazaya wasn’t talking about that.
“P-Please wait. Senpai, do you really want to go? Why?”
“Because I want to. That world is a fun place, right? You said it yourself.”
“I mean, sure, it’s a fun place for me, but…”
Kazaya continued to speak, trying to find out what she was thinking.
“Senpai, you have no interest in games or manga, right? In that case, I think you won’t feel the same way about that world as I do.”
“When did I say that I have no interest in games and manga? I just said that I don’t know about them.”
“I-I see. So you are actually interested!?”
Chihiro nodded. This was unexpected. This was way too unexpected. Kazaya gazed intently at Chihiro’s face without intending to.
“……What is it?”
Chihiro’s expression turned slightly suspicious upon seeing Kazaya’s reaction.
“Ah, it’s nothing. I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect you to be interested in things like that, Senpai.”
“What do you say? I won’t force you or anything. If you think it will be too much of a burden, I can try going alone.”
Kazaya stood up and pulled his Teleportation Stone out of his school uniform pocket.
“No, I don’t mind at all. If you want to see what that world is like, Senpai, then I would be glad to have you along.”
“……Really? I’m grateful. I’ll be counting on you.”
Chihiro also stood up and took his hand. Kazaya felt his heartbeat speed up when he felt her cool and soft skin.
“I-It’s nothing… Well then, let’s go over there right away.”
This was something completely beyond his expectations. To think that he would be traveling together with that Mikoto Chihiro… Honestly, this was even more surprising than the time when he had first been summoned to the other world.
Chihiro and Kazaya held their Teleportation Stones and closed their eyes.
And so, the two of them flew over to the other world, Grimveria. They arrived at a place that was excessively large and spacious.
“……Tsugami-kun, this place really is different from our world, right? Meaning there are no other students from our school here except for you?”
Chihiro whispered that while looking around at her surroundings.
“Eh? A-Ah, I think that is the case.”
Kazaya furrowed his eyebrows because he couldn’t understand what she meant by that question.
Chihiro let out a small voice. At the same time, she crouched down and started trembling all of a sudden.
“Senpai? What’s wrong? Do you feel sick?”
Kazaya was confused because of the sudden change that came over her, but in the next instant…
“Yessssssssssss!! I’m freeeeeeeeee!!”
Chihiro yelled loudly all of a sudden, sprang up, spread her hands out, and looked up at the sky. In addition, she turned around and grabbed both of Kazaya’s arms, moving closer to him with a big smile on her face.
“Hey! So what are we doing today!? What kind of things are we going to do!? Something… something adventurous, right!? Or maybe we should have a meal first? Sweets from the other world!? A full course of other world food!? What should we do, Tsugami-kun!? Freedom! We are free to do whatever we want, right!?”
“S-Senpai!? Wait, is this really you!?”
The cool beauty image she possessed until just earlier disappeared like a building built on loose sand, and only an innocent highschool girl was left behind.
“Yes, it’s me!! I’m your Senpai! My name is Mikoto Chihiro, it’s nice to meet you!”
“Yeah, I already know that! What’s with the sudden enthusiasm!? Isn’t it a little too much for you!?”
“Nope! I’m not straining myself at all! If anything, this is how I really am!”
It was far too different from her usual behaviour. Just what had happened to make her this way?
“You know, ever since I was a little girl, my father told me to always behave like an elegant and cool-headed lady as befitting a woman from my family. So when I’m at home and school, I pretend to be the perfect honors student who doesn’t flinch at anything. But there’s no one watching me here, right? So I don’t need to care about that!”
“I-I see. So that’s what happened. It looks like you’ve had a rough time, Senpai…”
“That’s right, it was really a pain! I really wanted to own manga, light novels, and games, but my father didn’t allow it, saying that things like those reek of vulgarity and are are not necessary for a person from the Mikoto Family! That’s why, I’m going to do as I please, at least while I’m in another world. Understand!?”
“S-Sure, I don’t really mind… Umm, didn’t you consider that I might tell everyone your secret?”
Chihiro crouched down and held her head.
“I was so happy that I forgot to consider that possibility…”
(Are you an idiot?)
Kazaya swallowed the words that he almost said aloud.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anyone. It would probably just get you into trouble, after all.”
“Really? You mean that, right!? It’s a promise, okay? If you break it, you have to drink molten lead, okay?”
“Hell no, that’s scary! It feels more realistic than swallowing a thousand needles, and you might actually make me do that!”
“I was kidding about that. But I would really appreciate it if you kept it a secret.”
“I understand. I definitely won’t tell anyone.”
“Alright then, let’s pinky swear.”
Saying that, Chihiro held up her little finger. While Kazaya hesitated to touch the skin of a member of the opposite sex who was older than him, Chihiro apparently did not care about that at all and grabbed his hand and entwined her finger around his. His heartbeat sped up at the feeling of that cool skin.
“……Alright! Now, I suppose it is time for me to enjoy this world called Grimveria to its fullest!”
Chihiro faced forward and started walking away boldly.
(I-I had no idea that Senpai could smile like that…..)
Since she was usually hard to approach, the gap between her two personalities was so large that it felt like he was dreaming.
(Still, her current personality isn’t bad either. Actually, it’s pretty nice.)
Despite her stunning beauty, she was acting excited like a child. It was strangely adorable.
“Hey, who is that?”
Chihiro came to a stop and pointed in a certain direction. There were no buildings in the place they were currently standing in, but there was a large statue of a beautiful woman placed in the centre.
“That’s the goddess.”
Chihiro became silent after hearing Kazaya’s answer. However, the look in her eyes as she stared at him spoke more eloquently than any response.
“Yeah, I know. You’re thinking that it doesn’t look anything like her, right? I thought the same thing. However, the people of this world have never seen the goddess, after all.”
“Even so, this is just too different! Haven’t they heard about what she looks like from other people like ourselves?”
“Even if you tell them, they will just laugh and refuse to believe you. It looks like they have considered the appearance of the goddess—whose name is also Grimveria and served as the inspiration for the name of this world—to be like this since ancient times.”
“Eeeeeeeeeh. I can’t accept that at all. Tsugami-kun, what do you think of going around with me and spreading the truth about the goddess’s true appearance?”
“Please don’t. What if we get cursed by the goddess!?”
Chihiro reluctantly backed off when Kazaya stopped her. Perhaps she understood that there was no point in arguing about Lady Grimveria any further.
“By the way, this place looks different from the spot where we used the Teleportation Stones last time.”
“Ah. We can go back to our world from any location, but when we come to this world using a Teleportation Stone, we will always appear in this place without fail. I assume it was made this way because there were many things to consider, such as the risk of appearing in the middle of a dangerous situation. It is something like a ‘save point’.”
“A save point is a fixed location in a game from where you can start over if you want to do so. By the way, we are currently in a city called Reancos, which is a capital city in the Central Continent. It is the biggest city on the continent.”
“I see. Since you said ‘capital’, I assume there is a country here?”
“Yes, there are quite a few. Reancos is in the Heinart Kingdom. Well, Visitors like us don’t really need to worry about the different countries, though. For now, please follow me.”
Kazaya started walking, and chose the middle path from among three paths that extended radially from the center of the open space.
There were many people entering and leaving the city. They were dressed in a wide variety of clothes, from travel clothing to armor. Some people were carrying heavy luggage, and a few people were using horse-drawn wagons to move around.
There were many street stalls that were constructed in a simple fashion, and the owners were loudly announcing their wares which consisted of seafood that had been skewered and roasted or made into a soup.
“Oh? I thought the same thing yesterday as well, but it looks like the time period here is not comparable to our modern age after all. Judging from the clothing and their choice of transportation, it looks more like Europe in the Middle Ages. But there are a few cultural aspects that don’t seem to match up to that….”
Chihiro spoke out in curiosity as she walked behind Kazaya.
“That’s right. It’s quite different from the history of our world.”
Kazaya answered her as they continued to walk, when a man who was passing by called out to him.
“Oh, if it isn’t Kazaya. How’s the harvest going these days?”
“Not bad, I suppose. I’m going today as well, so I’ll bring something back for you.”
“Oh, I’ll look forward to that. You always bring back something good when you go exploring on an island. Thanks for all your help.”
The man said that, waved his hand, and left.
“Is that person a friend of yours? Tsugami-kun, are you perhaps quite popular?”
“No, not really. It’s just that I’ve done a lot of stuff since I came here.”
Kazaya gave a vague answer and continued to walk while skilfully avoiding people in the crowd that had become even larger.
“Ahh, this is so much fun! I’ve never been to one, but I wonder if this is what it feels like to visit an amusement park. I feel like I’ll end up smiling like a fool if I don’t keep myself in check.”
“There’s no need to hold back, is there? I’d like to see you making that kind of expression as well, Senpai.”
“Tsugami-kun, that’s sexual harassment!”
“Please don’t joke about stuff like that, it’s bad for my heart.”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll make it up to you by requesting a lighter sentence at your trial in court.”
“So you’re still going to sue me for sexual harassment after all!?”
Chihiro gave an evil cackle upon hearing Kazaya’s objection. She was really different from her usual self. It could even be said that this was a different personality altogether. It probably just meant that she had been putting on such a strong mask in school all this time.
(……In that case, it would be good to let her be completely free at least in this world.)
Watching Chihiro enjoy herself was soothing even for him. In that case, he would accompany her no matter where she wanted to go. Kazaya firmly decided that in his heart.
“Still, this is quite strange. Putting aside the spoken language for now, I’m sure I have never seen this form of writing before. And yet I can read it as though I learned it a long time ago.”
“It looks like that is because of the goddess’s power as well. She made it that way so that we would find it easier to adjust to this place.”
Kazaya walked along a street that was lined with buildings on both sides, and stopped in front of one that had a red roof.
The words 『Spring Bell Inn』 were written on the signboard.
“When Visitors decide to take action in some location in Grimveria, they decide on a store that serves as a base of operations. Most of them are inns or taverns with lodging facilities. The Spring Bell Inn has great food and the rooms are clean, so it’s quite popular. I like this place a lot as well, and I always make sure to drop by when I’m in the neighborhood.”
“So there are times when you stay here overnight?”
“It depends on the situation. Some Visitors have stayed here for as long as a week.”
After they pushed through the double doors and walked inside, Chihiro found herself in a spacious room with a number of tables and chairs lined up. There were already a number of red-faced patrons who were drinking from ceramic vessels. They probably contained beer or wine.
There was a bar along the far side of the room where a single man stood polishing a glass. The shelves behind him were tightly packed with bottles of alcoholic beverages.
“Well, if it isn’t Kazaya.”
Seeing the man at the bar smiling and stopping his work, the nearby customers looked in their direction and started whispering amongst themselves.
However, when Chihiro glanced at them, they got flustered and returned to drinking.
“Are all the people in this shop Visitors?”
“Not all of them are Visitors, but most of them are. Hello, Bado-san.”
When Kazaya approached the bar, the man called Bado looked at Chihiro and blinked.
“Oh? I don’t think I’ve seen this young lady before.”
“Yes. Her name is Mikoto Chihiro, and she will be participating in clearing the islands starting today. She might be using your facilities here in case something happens.”
“I am glad to make your acquaintance.”
“Nice to meet you.”
After Chihiro gave a polite bow, Bado replied with a cheerful smile.
“Hmm? Bado-san, where’s Nina?”
“I asked her to go buy a few things. I feel like she’ll be angry with me for sending her away on an errand if she learns that you came by.”
“Sorry, I’ll come by again when she’s around. Two fruit smoothies, please.”
After placing his order, Kazaya sat down across from Chihiro at an open table.
“She works at this store. She’s Bado-san’s only daughter.”
“Oh? Is she your girlfriend, Tsugami-kun?”
“No, no, she’s just a friend.”
“Oh, so you used to be friends before you started going out?”
“Like I said, we’re just friends!”
“So you’re going to go out with her eventually?”
“We’re friends! Why are you trying to move the conversation in that direction!?”
Chihiro brushed her long hair back with her fingers and smiled suggestively.
“That’s because… I find it extremely amusing, Tsugami-kun!”
“…Right then. If you want to go adventuring in Grimveria, Senpai, you need to know more about this world.”
“Ah, you ignored me! That’s so mean!”
“If you know of any way to handle that situation apart from ignoring it, please tell me! Anyway, what would you like to know about first? There are so many things to talk about that even I’m not sure where to begin.”
Chihiro looked down and started to think. During that time, Bado brought over their drinks and Kazaya paid him.
“What is this?”
Chihiro picked up the ceramic cup and asked that while looking at the contents.
“It’s a fruit smoothie. It’s made by mixing the juices from various fruits and adding milk and honey. You can think of it as a mixed fruit juice.”
Chihiro took a sip and opened her eyes wide.
“Delicious! Drinking something like this that is made locally really makes me feel that I am in a foreign land!”
“Rather than a foreign land, the world itself is different, though.”
“There’s no need to nitpick…. By the way, we can use our Teleportation Stones to go back home from any place in this world, right? So why did we use a boat to get back to where we first met?”
“Ah. I thought it would be better for you to come into contact with some of the things and the people here so that you would be more willing to accept that this is a different world.”
“Ah, so that was the reason.”
Chihiro nodded as if she was convinced.
“Fumu. Alright, here’s a question. For starters, can you tell me what kind of world this is?”
Kazaya pulled out a small, folded parchment from his pocket and spread it out on the table.
“Roger that. This is a world map of Grimveria.”
The map had a color that was distinctive of aged parchment, and it showed a large land mass surrounded by a many small islands.
Kazaya pointed to a spot on the map.
“Grimveria consists of this land mass here, called the 『Central Continent』, and a few dozen islands that surround it. The islands contain food and other necessary resources, but at the same time they are also home to dreadful monsters.”
“You mean creatures like the one I ran into, correct? Umm… did you call it a 『Demonic Beast』?”
“That’s right. Visitors like us are tasked with traveling to these islands, exterminating the demonic beasts or securing resources and food supplies, and bringing them back to the Central Continent. The demonic beasts can also be processed into food and other necessary items, so we secure a supply of those as well.”
Chihiro tilted her neck.
“Why do we have to do those things? What about the people from this world?”
“Of course, there are some people from this world who make the journey as well. But such people are very rare. The people of Grimveria are peaceful and friendly, but putting it another way, they basically loathe violence. Most of the people here have never so much as held a weapon, and that is why we are needed.”
“I see… What about resources on this continent?”
“I heard that there were some resources here in the past, but it looks like they’ve all been used up.”
“Despite that, they don’t want to travel to the islands? Hmm. That’s a little—or rather, it’s very strange.”
“I thought the same thing. I assume there must be a reason why the goddess went to the effort of bringing people here from a different world.”
However, the goddess hadn’t told them anything about that. Perhaps she thought it was unnecessary, or maybe she just didn’t want to talk about it.
“Okay, I understand. So that’s why you were on that island at that time?”
“That’s right. …..Well, that’s pretty much all I wanted to talk about. There are still a number of things you should know regarding the Visitors, but I think you’ll understand those while traveling to and from the islands and making the necessary preparations to do so. There’s something we need to take care of before that, though, so we should get going.”
Kazaya put his hand on the table and stood up, and left the shop after saying goodbye to Bado.
After leaving the pub behind, they walked along the street for a while and finally arrived at their destination. The signboard had a picture of a green-colored Teleportation Stone drawn on it.
“This is the place where new Visitors are registered. Once your name is added to the register, you will be given an identification card that you will need to travel to the islands.”
After opening the the door and going inside, they saw a tall and slender man sitting at a desk and reading a book.
“Notto-san, we are here to register a new Visitor. She’s the one.”
“Hmm? Ah, Kazaya. It’s been a while. Oh my, she’s certainly quite beautiful. Is she your lover?”
Chihiro affirmed his guess without any hesitation.
“Wha—Come on, you’re supposed to deny that!!
“Come on, it’s fine, isn’t it? If you don’t have feelings for that girl called Nina, it might as well be me.”
“T-That’s not what I’m talking about, and besides, are you really okay with someone like me, Senpai!?”
“……S-Sorry. I only wanted to tease you a bit, but I didn’t expect you to take it so seriously.”
“E-Eh!? I-I wasn’t taking it seriously at all! Not one bit! Whatever gave you that idea!? I was definitely not thinking about anything of the sort!! Hahaha!”
Kazaya broke out in a cold sweat while talking continuously.
“Well, you two certainly look like an interesting pair. We will gladly accept your registration. What’s your name, pretty lady?”
“I am called Mikoto Chihiro.”
Notto nodded, pulled a register out of a drawer, and wrote down the name 『Mikoto Chihiro』. He then took out a business card-sized piece of parchment from another drawer and wrote her name on that was well. After that, he used the candle that was burning on this desk to dribble some wax on to the parchment, and pressed a seal into the hot wax before it finished solidifying, leaving behind an impression of a Teleportation Stone in the wax.
“Okay, here you go. This is proof that you are a Visitor.”
“Thank you very much.”
Chihiro accepted the paper that he held out towards her, thanked him, and bowed.
“Do we only need this for getting onboard a ship?”
Once they had left the store, Chihiro asked that while looking at the rear of the identification card.
“No, there are other advantages to having one of those as well. You can get tools and armor you will need to go exploring on islands for cheaper, and you also get a discount on the cost of your meals and lodging.”
“That’s quite a bonus.”
“According to the people here, it is because they depend on us Visitors for their survival.”
Chihiro nodded as if she was convinced.
“You just said that people with an identification card could purchase armor more cheaply, but do people who are not Visitors have any use for armor?”
“Yes. Remember how I told you earlier that a small number of people from this world go to the islands as well? However, it is still dangerous work, so people who are not Visitors are usually not welcome, and they are also forced to buy armor and other things for a high price as well. Selling items to people like them is basically the same as supporting the actions of a reckless person, after all.”
“Oh, I see. So they are trying to reduce the number of such people by keeping the prices high.”
Kazaya agreed with her analysis and stopped in front of a shop that had a picture of armor drawn on the signboard.
“Now then, it’s time to get you some armor, Senpai. Well, you won’t get hit even if you don’t wear armor, but this is just in case.”
“I won’t get hit even if I don’t wear armor? Why is that?”
“I’ll explain more about that later. —It’s been a while, Ruma-san.”
Kazaya opened the door, walked in, and greeted the female clerk who sat at a counter on the far side of the shop.
“Oh, Kazaya-san. You should have let me know that you would be coming over. I need some time to prepare myself as well, you know?”
“I mean, if I knew you were coming over, Kazaya-san, I would have changed into a dress that shows more of my cleavage and bare legs.”
“W-What are you planning to do!?”
“Ufufu, playing dumb, I see.”
Ruma gave him a sweet smile. She was a person who would sometimes say things like this to make him feel uncomfortable.
“…..Umm, this is Mikoto Chihiro-san. She is a Visitor like me, and will start exploring from today. Since she’s a girl, can you prepare some lightweight armor for her?”
“Hmm? I understand. But before that, do you mind if I ask a question? Is this Chihiro-san your lover, Kazaya-san?”
“……Eh? Umm, why do you ask?”
After hearing the same question as before once again, Kazaya looked up at her with a dazed expression.
“Isn’t it obvious? How I interact with her will depend on your answer, after all.”
“Eeeeeeeh. Why would you do that?”
“Nevermind. Just answer the question.”
Kazaya covered Chihiro’s mouth with his hand as she was about to answer. He didn’t want to end up in the same sort of situation once again.
“N-No, we are not lovers. Not at all. She is my senior from school.”
“Oh my, it looks like the pretty girl over there is trying to say something important.”
“That’s just your imagination.”
Kazaya saw the ends of Chihiro’s eyebrows sag a little. He could feel a sense of regret coming from her.
“Well, that’s fine. A ‘school’ is where people from your world go to study, right? If that is the case, then it’s okay. I look forward to your patronage in the future as well, Chihiro-chan.”
“……Yes, thank you.”
Chihiro, who had finally been freed from Kazaya’s grip, turned her face away and answered. It was not apparent to Ruma, but Chihiro’s expression was very sullen.
“Alright then, please wait for a little while. I’ll find something for you.”
Ruma walked away from the counter while swaying her hips, and started selecting pieces of armor from around the store.
“Senpai, why do you insist on, umm, declaring that you are my lover so many times?”
Kazaya called out to Chihiro in a low voice.
“We are in a different world, after all. What’s wrong living a little dangerously?”
“Please don’t get me mixed up in that.”
“…..You’re right. Having someone like me as your girlfriend would just be troublesome for you, Tsugami-kun.”
“Eh!? N-No, I didn’t mean it that way, and it certainly makes me happy when you say that, but…”
“There are some very calculating women who will say things like that to mislead men, so be careful.”
Hearing Kazaya’s reply, Chihiro smiled and patted his head. Kazaya could not help but think that he was being made to dance in the palm of her hand. However, having these kinds of interactions with a girl who had been a faraway existence to him until only recently felt both fresh and amusing.
“By the way, is that person called Ruma always like that?”
“No, according to what I’ve heard from people I know, she is perfectly ordinary with other customers. Well, she’s six years older than me, so I guess it’s sort of like an older sister teasing her little brother.”
“……Well, I guess that is also a possibility.”
Chihiro let out a meaningful sigh. Just when Kazaya furrowed his eyebrows in confusion—
“Sorry to keep you waiting. I think this should be fine for a girl, don’t you?”
Ruma returned while pushing along a handcart filled with different pieces of armor and started arranging them on the counter.
“All of them are of the variety that just protect the chest, elbows, lower back, and a part of the legs, but I think that should be more than enough for a Visitor. But the one I would recommend is ~this one~.”
The armor Ruma lifted up to display after saying that had thin metal straps and it looked like it would barely cover the breasts. What’s more, the part on the bottom was made with a risque angle that would only cover the important bits.
“It’s a lot more sturdy than it looks, so don’t worry.”
“Wow, this is amazing! So this goes over my clothes?”
Chihiro asked that while examining the armor closely. Ruma continued to smile and answered that.
“What are you saying, Chihiro-chan? You obviously aren’t supposed to wear anything beneath this.”
“Wait, isn’t that a bikini armor? No way, no way, no way. Senpai won’t wear that!”
Kazaya retorted without thinking.
“Ehh…. I think it’s fine. It looks easy to move around in.”
“It’s not enough if it just easy to move around in!”
“It is easy to become a female pervert while wearing this as well.”
“What is the point of making it easy to become a female pervert!?”
“Tsugami-kun, I think I’ll take this one after all!”
“Senpai, stop looking so excited about it! This won’t do!”
Kazaya shook his head violently upon seeing Chihiro eagerly pick up the armor with a high degree of exposure.
“Ehh… Why not? I definitely won’t be able to wear something like this in Japan.”
“Not just Japan, I don’t think you will be able to wear it in other countries either. Senpai, don’t you feel embarrassed about wearing something like that?”
“Sure, I’m embarrassed, but I feel like I can slowly get addicted to that embarrassment!”
“Please give up on trying to go down that particular road!”
He rejected that particular armor and pushed it away.
“But it was my recommendation….”
Ruma pouted, but she put away the bikini armor.
“Muuuuuu. Tsugami-kun you cheapskate.”
“It’s not about being a cheapskate…. And besides, I don’t like the idea of you displaying your bare skin to the general public, Senpai.”
“Ehh… So you’re saying that it’s okay if I wear that just in front of you, is that it?”
Chihiro suddenly blushed, causing Kazaya to become flustered.
“N-No, I didn’t mean it that way!! No, I mean, there may or may not be a small part of me that feels something similar to that…. Okay, there is.”
“……So there is a small part of you that wants that.”
“Well of course! Senpai wearing something like that!? Of course I would want to see it!”
Kazaya unintentionally said that out aloud, and Chihiro blinked several times.
“I-I see. Umm…. thank you.”
Chihiro game a small cough to clear her through and bowed her head. Her face was red once again. Even Kazaya started to feel embarrassed.
“Oh? So the two of you are going out after all?”
“N-No, we’re not!”
Ruma was looking at them with an interested look on her face, and Kazaya denied it.
“But does armor like that really protect the body?”
“……No, it does not. I think that is just something Ruma-san keeps around because of her interests.”
“What is the point of making armor that doesn’t protect the body?”
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be used in battle. There’s, you know, stuff like night-time play.”
“Never mind. Ruma-san, we will take those.”
Kazaya pointed out a breastplate and elbow guards that even Chihiro would be able to wear without putting strain on her body, and Ruma started to calculate the cost.
“Hey, what is ‘night-time play’? Come on, tell me.”
Kazaya thought that he had successfully put that topic to rest, but Chihiro continued to ask that while pulling on his sleeve.
“You don’t need to worry about it. It is something that is completely unrelated to you.”
“We don’t know that for sure, right? You never know, there might be a time when I have to play that with you.”
“T-That’s not going to happen!”
Kazaya answered in a shrill voice while secretly thinking that it would be nice if such a thing were to happen.
“Thank you for waiting. The total is two thousand gauls.”
Kazaya started to feel like things would take a turn for the worse if they stayed there any longer. He took out two paper bills from a leather bag he pulled out of his clothes and put them on the counter.
“Thanks for your help. I’ll come back again soon.”
Kazaya picked up the armor and they left the shop in a hurry.
“Hey, the paper bills you used to pay earlier, is that the currency of this world?”
“Yes, that’s right. Do you want to take a look?”
Kazaya stopped walking and took out a number of coins and paper bills from his leather pouch.
“This is the currency that is used throughout Grimveria, called ‘gauls’. There are coins for denominations up to a hundred, and paper bills for amounts ranging from five hundred to one thousand. It is roughly worth about ten times as much as the Japanese yen.”
“I see… as expected of another world. The currency here is nothing like the currency we use back home.”
Chihiro nodded as if she was impressed, and then suddenly raised her head as if she realized something.
“You said it was worth about ten times as much as the Japanese yen… so this armor is worth twenty thousand yen?”
“That’s about right. We got the Visitor discount, though, so this is actually fairly cheap.”
“I see. Okay, then. I only have Japanese money with me right now, but allow me to pay you back.”
Kazaya saw Chihiro take out her purse, and stopped her.
“That’s fine. It’s on me.”
“I can’t allow a junior to pay for me. And besides, you might use that as a pretext to demand something outrageous from me later on.”
“There’s no way I would do that! What do you take me for?”
“I was joking. It’s okay. If it’s only that much, I can pay it right away.”
“That’s not what I was talking about… Just consider it as a gift from me, for becoming a Visitor. Over here, I’m your Senpai, after all.”
Chihiro looked a little perplexed on hearing that, but she eventually put her purse away.
“I see… Well then, I will happily accept it! Thank you, Tsugami-kun.”
“You’re welcome. I just hope it suits you.”
Chihiro accepted the armor that he handed to her. However, she immediately staggered backwards.
“Uwaah, it’s a lot heavier than it looks! By the way, how do I put this on?”
“Ah, I see. Of course, you wouldn’t know about that yet.”
Kazaya remembered that he too had needed help from another Visitor in the beginning, and wondered what to do about this situation.
“Hey, Tsugami-kun. Can you help me put this on?”
“….Eh!? Me!? Really!?”
He asked for a confirmation because he would not be able to avoid touching her body if he did that, but she just blinked once when she heard his question.
“Yes, but only if you don’t find it disagreeable. ….Ah, were you thinking of something dirty? That’s no good. Onee-san won’t allow it.”
Chihiro said that and then gave him a bewitching smile. Since her face was already beautiful to begin with, that expression was incredibly seductive.
“E-Ehh? N-No, I wasn’t thinking of anything like that! Really, I didn’t think about anything like that at all! T-There’s no way I would find it disagreeable! Very well. I will humbly assist you in putting it on!”
“I’m not sure why you’re trying so hard to be formal, but please do.”
Kazaya silently took a deep breath, fired himself up, and accepted the armor from Chihiro. He moved to stand behind her and fixed the breastplate in place. There was nothing he could do to keep his fingers from trembling as he did so.
Also, the clasp of the armor didn’t fit properly, so he pushed down on her back lightly while trying to get it in place, and felt something that was strangely hard to touch.
“Ah. ….Umm, Tsugami-kun. Could you please move your hand away from there?”
“Eh? Why’s that?”
“That’s my underwear you’re touching. It’s a little embarrassing.”
“Or would you like to try unfastening it, for the sake of your education for the future?”
Chihiro turned to face him, and the corners of her mouth twitched.
“Nononononononononono, I wouldn’t dare!”
Kazaya raised a hysteric voice, quickly forced the armor clasp into place, and vigorously stepped away. He then automatically prostrated himself on the ground.
“I-I-I’m sorry! I will I will atone for this by cutting open my stomach!”
“H-Hey, you don’t need to cut open your stomach, and please, stand up. Thank you for helping me.”
“N-Not at all! In that case, I will put the elbow guards on…..”
Kazaya somehow managed to attach the elbow guards while being extremely careful.
Chihiro looked down at her body and then spun around once in place, causing the skirt of her school uniform to flutter elegantly.
“Thank you. It feels great! Still, I don’t think I will be able to have any flashy adventures while wearing this. I might get my school uniform dirty, and there’s a chance my underwear might be seen as well.”
“Ah, that’s right. We will start off with something simple for today, though, so I don’t think you need to worry about that.”
“Okay. I will make sure to wear appropriate clothes next time. Still… I just feel so happy.”
Kazaya tilted his head to one side, and Chihiro explained.
“I have to pretend to be the perfect honors student at school, so I can’t speak to other people casually like this. When I was striving to keep my emotions from rising to the surface, I naturally started to limit the use of my facial muscles as much as possible. Due to that, I seem to have ended up with an expressionless face that makes it hard for other people to approach me. So I was always alone.”
“Eh? Was that also the reason why you would occasionally glare at people?”
“……I didn’t have any intention of glaring at them. But as I kept telling myself that I had to deal with people in a level-headed manner, I somehow ended up with that kind of expression. I always feel really bad about that.”
Chihiro was holding her head in regret. However that meant that the same held true for the time when she had spoken to him and Maesaki as well.
“Hey, do the other students hate me after all? Are people avoiding me because they think I’m scary!?”
“N-No, I don’t think that is the case at all!”
If anything, that behavior of hers was causing the number of her fans to increase, but he decided to not talk about that for now.
“Umm, don’t you have any friends?”
“My classmates will talk to me, but there’s no one that I am really close to. I’m more or less used to it now, but there are still times when I feel really lonely.”
“That’s all because of your father’s instructions, right? I think that’s quite horrible!”
Seeing Kazaya get angry, Chihiro smiled bitterly.
“Perhaps. But since I was born into the Mikoto family, I have no choice.”
Saying that, she closed her eyes for a moment.
“But when I came to this place—Grimveria—I realized something. If nobody here knows me, I should be able to start over. I can go on adventures and make friends, just like I always wanted. That is why I got ahead of myself and called out to you, without thinking of the consequences.”
“……I see…. In that case, getting summoned to this place must have been a stroke of good fortune for you.”
“Very much so. That’s why I plan on working hard! Tsugami-kun, I would be glad if you could teach me about all sorts of things!”
“Of course! If you have any questions about Grimveria, please feel free to ask!”
Kazaya held up his fist and answered energetically, and Chihiro nodded strongly.
“Well then, we’ve finally got you some armor, so would you like to try going to an island?”
“Yes, please! Uuu, I’m getting excited!!”
Chihiro said that as if she was truly happy from the bottom of her heart, and raised both her hands into the air. Seeing her act that way after hearing about her circumstances just earlier raised Kazaya’s spirits as well.
Kazaya raised his own hand and gave Chihiro a high-five.
“Kazaya-san! Found you!”
At that moment, Kazaya found himself being hugged by someone all off a sudden. He looked around, but there was no one around him. But when he pointed his gaze downwards, he saw a girl there.
Judging from her appearance, she was probably around thirteen or fourteen years old. She had fluffy golden hair, and her face, with large, round eyes and cheeks puffed up like freshly-baked bread, still gave an impression of her youth. She was wearing an apron over a checkered dress and her trousers looked short enough to be called hot pants.
“Hey there, Nina. How have you been?”
“Yes! Nina has been doing great! It’s such a coincidence, meeting you here!”
Nina looked up while still hugging him and gave him a bright smile. As usual, she appeared to be the personification of innocence. Judging by the paper bags she had set down on the ground, she must be on her way back home from shopping.
“Nina is so happy that she was able to meet you in a place like this! This must be fate!”
“It’s not something so exaggerated.”
“No, it is definitely fate. The two of us are fated to be together under any circumstances. In other words, it is our dustiny!”
“It’s ‘destiny’. I see you still remember the words that I taught you.”
“I revise them everyday before going to sleep!”
Kazaya praised her, and Nina looked proud of herself.
“Ah, so this child is the Nina-chan you were talking about earlier? She’s so cute!”
However, Nina was taken aback when Chihiro came to stand next to Kazaya, and she drew away from him.
“A-An unknown person is standing next to Kazaya-san!? Who is she?”
“Hello, my name is Mikoto Chihiro! It’s nice to meet you, Nina-chan. Would you mind if I hugged you!?”
“Yes, I would! Nice to meet you! My name is Nina!”
After returning Chihiro’s greetings, Nina turned to face Kazaya and raised her hand.
“Who is this person, Kazaya-san!? Nina has never seen this person before!”
“She’s my senior from school in the world I live in. You remember what a school is, right?”
“Yes, Nina remembers! Why is that senior here with you?”
“She is a Visitor as well. She was summoned here yesterday. She is going to start exploring the islands along with me starting today.”
Nina staggered back two or three steps as if she was shocked by Kazaya’s words.
“She’s going to be exploring the islands together with Kazaya-san… does that mean the two of you will constantly be together?”
“Well, that’s true.”
Nina let out a loud shout all of a sudden, turned around, and crouched down while hugging her knees.
“Such an unexpected critical situation… Nina, who was ahead of all the others due to her position as an employee of the inn that Kazaya frequents, is in danger of losing her position for the first time? No, perhaps this new opponent will actually surpass her…”
“Nina? What are you muttering about over there?”
Kazaya called out to her because he felt that she was acting strangely, and Nina stood up and once again turned to face him.
“You can call me Chihiro! Nina-chan, would you mind if I patted your head!?”
“Yes, I would! Chihiro-san! Please keep this in mind!”
Nina suddenly pointed energetically at Chihiro.
“Nina has been taking care of Kazaya-san ever since he first came to this world and entered our store! I thought him all about Grimveria when he was still a complete beginner! Isn’t that right, Kazaya-san!?”
“Yes. I am very thankful.”
“You’re welcome! That’s why, the relationship between Nina and Kazaya-san is… How do I put it… we are very close, or rather, we have a deep relationship…. That’s right—we are in an intimate relationship!”
“Nina. think about how you word it more carefully.”
Kazaya urged Nina to correct herself to prevent Chihiro from having some sort of horrible misunderstanding, but Nina wasn’t listening to him.
“That’s why, even if you are a senpai from school, a person like you who just appeared a day ago cannot get in between Nina and Kazaya-san! Please make sure you remember that!”
After speaking continuously, Nina put her hands on her waist as if she was satisfied. It looked like she was boasting after having won some mysterious battle.
“I see! I understand! By the way, would you mind if I lifted you up!?”
“How many times should I say that you can’t do that!? Why have you been trying to get closer to Nina since earlier!?”
“That’s because you’re so cute! But let me tell you one thing, Nina-chan. Even though you and Tsugami-kun share a bond, you can’t let down your guard!”
“W-Why is that!?”
“Tsugami-kun and I will be together both in Grimveria and in our world, after all. In other words, I will be spending twice as much time with him as you! I will deepen my bond with him twice as fast as you. Will you still be able to win!?”
Nina opened her eyes wide as if she had just realized a shocking truth, and took a step backwards.
“T-That’s right… Nina was careless….! Uwaaaah! Kazaya-saaaan!”
After shouting out all of a sudden, Nina hid behind Kazaya.
“P-Please! Take Nina back with you to your world as well!”
“No, that’s impossible. The people from this world cannot travel to my world. You know that, right?”
It had already been proven that the Teleportation Stones did not have any effect when used by the people from this world. It would be bad for people from Grimveria to go to Earth, so this was an obvious safety measure to take.
“T-Then you can just live here in this world forever, Kazaya-san!”
“Don’t say something so unreasonable…”
“Give up, Nina-chan. Tsugami-kun belongs to me!”
“Senpai, stop teasing Nina. This girl is innocent so she’ll believe anything.”
Kazaya stared at Chihiro with a puzzled expression after letting out a sigh.
“No, I was being serious.”
“Tsugami-kun, you are the first person who is not a family member to accept my true personality. My relationship with you is extremely precious. So I will compete seriously with anyone who tries to take that away from me, even if the opponent is such a cute little girl! So prepare yourself, Nina-chaaaan!”
“”Hiiiiiiiii, a powerful foe has appeared!”
Nina buried her face into Kazaya’s waist as if she was frightened.
“……T-Thank you very much.”
Having something like that said straight to his face was embarrassing even for Kazaya, and he looked downwards.
“Hmm? Why are you thanking me? If anything, I should be thanking you.”
“No, it’s just that I didn’t think the day would come when you would say something like that about me, Senpai.”
He felt like he was going red all over his body.
“Uuuu… They are so close…. They are too close…!”
Nina started to sniffle while mumbling that.
“Well, putting that aside, I hope the two of us can get along as well, Nina-chan.”
After Nina replied reluctantly, Chihiro patted her head.
“Anyway, Nina, Senpai and I are going to the harbor now. Do you want to come along with us until then?”
Nina nodded while still pressing her face into his clothes.
As the three of them walked along the street, the ocean eventually came into sight in the distance.
At the same time, the number of people wearing armor like Kazaya and Chihiro also increased. They were Visitors.
“I thought the same thing when we went to the bar, but the Visitors all look quite young. Are all of them teenagers or in their twenties?”
Chihiro’s guess was correct. The people who came to Grimveria were pretty much all young people in that age range.
“I think the goddess is selecting people from the age group who are likely to have the most endurance.”
“I suppose that makes sense. Are there Visitors from places other than Earth? Like aliens.”
“I don’t know, but the Central Continent is quite large, after all. I haven’t met any people like that so far.”
No matter where they are from, as long as they are in Grimveria, they will be able to understand each other. Even if there were people who came from other planets, as long as they looked like humans it would be hard to tell the difference.
“Oh? If it isn’t Kazaya! It’s been a while! Ah, I see Nina is with you as well!”
A young man with a muscular body and short hair called out to Kazaya all of a sudden, came closer to him, and started thumping him on his back. He wasn’t wearing any armor, but had a massive iron construction equipped on his right arm. The construction covered his whole arm, including his fist, and the part that was on the back of his hand was unusually thick. At a glance, it looked like a robotic arm that one would see in some anime on television.
“Oh it’s you, Souya. Fancy meeting you here.”
“No need to sound so distant, just call me Tohru! We’re buddies, aren’t we? Hahaha!”
The young man once again thumped him on the back.
“Shut up Tohru. How many time do I gotta tell you to rein in your volume while talking?”
The young girl who appeared from behind him was covering her ears like she as truly fed up. She was wearing a simple breastplate just like Chihiro, and a single knife gleamed at her waist.
“Oh, you were here as well, Kotobuki? Are the two of you going to clear islands together?”
“I can’t let that pass, Kazaya. Why would I work together with a noisy and hot-blooded man like this who has muscles for brains?”
“That’s a harsh way to put it.”
“Hahaha! She’s right, so I can’t say anything in my defence!”
The young man laughed expansively. Seeing that, the girl frowned even more.
“Hello, Tohru-san and Izumi-san!”
“Hey there, Nina! ”
“I see you’re still as small and cute as ever.”
After the two of them returned her greetings, both of them started patting her head.
“Tsugami-kun, are they friends of yours?”
Chihiro tugged at his clothes from behind and asked him that.
“Yes. Both of them are Visitors, just like us. Their names are Souya Tohru and Kotobuki Izumi. We’ve worked together a few times while exploring on islands, and since we are around the same age, we got along well. The two of them are also regular patrons of the Spring Bell Inn, so Nina knows them as well.”
“Hmm. So they are a team, just like you and me, Tsugami-kun?”
“No, Kotobuki wasn’t kidding about what she said earlier, it’s just that the two of them often end up together by pure chance.”
“Oh, I see. So do Visitors usually work alone?”
“No, not necessarily. A lot of people work in teams. The two of them also apparently work with other people as well. Well, working like that makes it easier to clear the islands, after all.”
As Kazaya explained that to Chihiro, Izumi looked over at them.
“Hmm? Is that newcomer?”
“Yes, I’m Mikoto Chihiro! Nice to meet you!”
Chihiro bowed her head towards Izumi, and Izumi nodded in return.
“Yeah, nice to meet you. Ah, you don’t need to bother with this noisy and hot-blooded man who has muscles for brains.”
“Oioioi, that’s harsh, Izumi!”
“Like I said, shut the hell up!”
Tohru yelled loudly near Izumi’s ears, and she kicked him without holding back.
“Ouch! That hurt, hahahaha!”
Tohru just laughed it off cheerfully and didn’t seem to mind at all.
“…..It feels like they two of them are quite interesting.”
“Yes, in more ways than one.”
Kazaya nodded and agreed with Chihiro, and then called out to the two of them.
“By the way, which island are the two of you going to?”
“Ah, we’re going to Island #1.”
Izumi replied to his question, but Kazaya found it odd.
“Island #1? The two of us are going there as well. But that place is for beginners, right? Isn’t it way too simple for the two of you, Kotobuki?”
“That’s right, but one of the taverns I frequent put out a request for some plants that only grow on Island #1. Just when I decided to take that request, I ran into this fool.”
Izumi glared at Tohru who was standing beside her as she explained.
“I was planning to go there on a separate request to kill some demonic beasts! Hahaha! Izumi, don’t you think the two of us are bound by fate!?”
“Say anything more, and I’ll kill you.”
“Hahaha! So scary!”
Kazaya accepted their explanations while listening to their usual bickering.
“So you’re training the newcomer? It’s pretty rare for you team up with another Visitor, Kazaya.”
“Is that so?”
Chihiro asked Izumi while tilting her head, but Tohru answered her instead.
“Yeah, Kazaya is always alone after all! I’ve asked him to team up with me a few times, but he always finds some excuse to turn me down!”
“The same goes for me as well. So I just assumed he didn’t like to team up with other people.”
“It’s nothing like that…. Even when playing online games, I was basically a solo player. I think that way just suits me better.”
Kazaya said that and turned towards Chihiro.
“Ah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to work with you, Senpai! I’ll make sure to teach you everything you need to know until you are able to work by yourself!”
“Sure. Thank you, Tsugami-kun.”
Seeing Chihiro smile at Kazaya, Izumi lowered her shoulders and spoke.
“Well, I don’t really get it, but do your best. It’s about time for me to leave.”
“I’m going as well!”
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop following me, Tohru!?”
“We just ended up going in the same direction! Hahaha!”
Izumi walked towards the harbor with Tohru, even though she kicked him several times along the way.
“Are the two of them always that way? They are like oil and water.”
“Well, for the most part. Despite that, they are still on good terms.”
Kazaya slumped his shoulders and started walking again, but…
“Oh? Hey, it’s Kazaya! How have you been? On your way to clear some islands?”
“Hey there, Kazaya. You’re the one who defeated the boss on that last island, right? I see you’re still as amazing as always!”
“Eh, so that’s Kazaya!? No way, this is my first time seeing him!”
“Same here. He looks surprisingly ordinary.”
Many people called out to Kazaya, and a lot of people started whispering about him as he passed by. No matter if it was Visitors or people from Grimveria, they all showed some sort of reaction when they saw Kazaya.
“…..You’re really popular, aren’t you, Tsugami-kun?”
Chihiro said that as if she was surprised.
“What are you saying all of a sudden? Even among the large number of Visitors, Kazaya-san stands at the very top!”
Kazaya was about to answer her, but Nina replied faster than him.
“Ever since he first came here a few months ago, he has continued to produce remarkable results, and successfully cleared many islands that were said to be impossible to clear! Also, thanks to the raw materials, food ingredients, and valuable treasures he brings back each time, the economy of Reancos is soaring! There are even rumors that he is going to receive a medal of honor from the King himself in the near future!”
“Oh? That’s amazing, Tsugami-kun!”
“It’s not that big a deal. I was just doing it for fun, and at some point it ended up like this.”
As for Kazaya, he just thought of it like completing quests in a game. Due to that, he was a little confused by the overexaggerated impression that people seemed to have about him.
“It’s something I would have never imagined, after seeing how you look when you’re sitting in the classroom at school!”
“Haha. Well, I’m unremarkable, after all. There’s nothing I’m particularly good at.”
“What are you talking about? The only thing that matters is the strength of your heart!”
“I’m glad that you’re trying to cheer me up, but please don’t agree with my words in a roundabout way.”
“……I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Chihiro openly looked away from him. Kazaya scratched his head while thinking that he didn’t really mind because it was the truth, after all.
“Still, you are a hero in this world, right? That’s amazing.”
Kazaya looked bashful when Chihiro said that. He felt happier to hear that from her compared to anyone else.
However, he realized that Nina was puffing up her cheeks in a strange manner next to him, so he shifted his attention to her.
“What’s wrong, Nina?”
Kazaya reached the harbor while still feeling puzzled by how Nina turned her face away from him like she was dissatisfied about something.
There were a number of boats waiting at the wharf. They were used to travel to the islands.
“It’s finally time, Senpai. Are you ready for your first taste of exploring Grimveria?”
Chihiro nodded strongly with a large smile on her face.
“Well then, Nina, it is time for us to go. See you later.”
“Yes! You definitely have to stop by at our store when you get back!”
Kazaya and Chihiro boarded a boat while waving to Nina.
Before long, the boat left the harbor and nimbly cut through the calm ocean.
“I never imagined that the day would come when I would head for an uninhabited island on a sailing boat.”
Chihiro spoke while standing on the deck and resting her hand against the railing. The intermittent salty breeze caused her long hair to flutter.
“……I wonder what my father would say if he found out.”
Chihiro muttered that and laughed softly. Maybe she imagined herself getting scolded.
“Still, I can’t exactly tell him about this. Even if I did, I would just be called a liar and treated like an idiot.”
“That’s right. Only the people who have been summoned here by the goddess can use the Teleportation Stones.”
“That’s right. I suppose it would be a problem if too many people from our world came over.”
“That is one reason, and the other is a matter of selecting the right people. Calling over someone with evil intentions would be terrible, after all.”
“I see, that’s a good point. So, as far as possible, the goddess is summoning only relatively harmless people over? Well then, I’ll make sure not to tell anyone else about this world, for the goddess’s sake as well!”
“Yes. It’s a secret.”
“That’s right. ….It’ll be our little secret.”
Saying that, Chihiro put her long and slender finger on her light pink lips. That mischievous gesture contrasted with her usual grown-up appearance and was strangely charming.
(“Our little secret”, huh….)
Kazaya reflected on that phrase and thought that it had a nice ring to it.
The boat reached the island after a short while.
A gangplank was run out to the shore, and the two of them used that to disembark.
There were a number of other Visitors as well, and all of them headed into the deeper parts of the island and vanished from sight.
“Right then, let’s begin. The demonic beasts here are relatively weak so you don’t need to be afraid of them, but you still shouldn’t let down your guard—”
“Amazing! It’s like a tropical resort! Wow!”
Chihiro had started to sprint on the beach with all her strength.
“H-Hey! Listen to what I’m saying, Senpai! Wait up!”
Kazaya panicked and chased after her. Once they crossed the beach, they entered a thick and dense forest that was shrouded in darkness even during the day due to the trees.
“Tsugami-kun! Where are the demonic beasts!? Where are they, how do you defeat them, and what happens after you defeat them?”
Chihiro glanced about with sparkling eyes.
“Please stop looking for demonic beasts as if you are searching for mascot characters at an amusement park!”
“Come now, Tsugami-kun! Defeating the mascot characters at an amusement park will just cause the police to come running! It would be rude to the demonic beasts to compare them to something like that!”
“Wait, you’re defending the demonic beasts instead!?”
Kazaya spoke while he was out of breath.
“P-Please calm down for now. There are many things that I have to explain to you.”
“Fine. I understand, so hurry up, faster, faster, faster! Tsugami-kun, hurry up!”
Chihiro was so excited that she was not able to keep her feelings under control, and stamped on the ground impatiently. Was this really the calm and self-possessed Mikoto Chihiro that he knew about? Even if he told the people at school about this, it was certain that nobody would believe him.
“Like I said, calm down first. Senpai, do you remember when I said that all Visitors are given four things when they are summoned over here?”
“Ah, that’s right, I remember. One of them is the Teleportation Stone, so what are the other three?”
Kazaya glanced around. He saw a stone that was lying on the ground nearby, and picked it up.
Chihiro caught the stone that he had tossed towards her. She tilted her head slightly to one side, probably because she didn’t understand what he was trying to do.
“Please throw that stone at me. As hard as you can.”
“Eh, is that really okay? Won’t you get hurt?”
“It will be fine. Please go ahead.”
Kazaya urged her to proceed. Chihiro hesitated for a while, but she eventually drew her hand back and wound up like a baseball pitcher.
She let out a yell, and at the same time sent the stone flying towards him.
The stone cut through the air and was on the verge of colliding with his forehead.
However, the stone made a loud noise as it collided with something that looked like a barrier that had appeared out of nowhere, lost its momentum, and fell to the ground.
“You really didn’t hold back at all, huh!?”
“But you asked me to do that! I thought I might never get the chance again!”
While Kazaya wondered what kind of chance she was talking about, Chihiro looked at the stone that was lying on the ground.
“More importantly, what was that just now? I think I saw something that looked like a wall, appear out of nowhere.”
“It’s called a 『Protective Barrier』. It is something like the goddess’s divine protection. When you are attacked by enemies or about to get injured due to an accident like what happened earlier, something like an invisible barrier will appear to protect you from harm.”
“……Ah. I remember the goddess telling me about something like that. She also said that I would be able to sense the durability of the barrier if I focused on it or something.”
“That’s right. Please try and do that. It might be easier if you imagine stroking the air gently while trying to do that.”
Chihiro followed Kazaya’s instructions and gently traced her finger through the air.
When she did that, a red, cylindrical gauge appeared at the edge of her field of vision, near the top right corner.
“That is the durability. It is something like the HP gauge you would find in games. Your Protective Barrier will break when that bar is completely empty, so please make sure to keep an eye on it.”
“So once it breaks I will be vulnerable to injury again?”
“No, you will be forcefully teleported back to that open space in Reancos.”
Rather than calling this a penalty, it might be more appropriate to say that it was something the goddess arranged out of goodwill for the sake of protecting the lives of the Visitors.
“That is why you should always stay alert while taking action. You must stay aware of your Protective Barrier’s durability at all times. This is one of the most basic things that a Visitor in Grimveria needs to know about.”
“Got it! By the way, do only Visitors have Protective Barriers?”
“I guess so. People from Grimveria say that they can’t use it, after all.”
“Even those strange people who travel to the islands?”
Kazaya nodded and continued to speak.
“It might be because the total number of such people is fairly low, but it appears that the goddess does not interfere with the lives of people from Grimveria as much as possible.”
It is possible that she originally did not want to bring Visitors over either, but was forced to take that step in order to deal with some crisis.
“—Anyways, the other two things are the 『Divine Works』 and the 『Insect Cage』. Rather than trying to explain them, it would be easier for you to just try it out for yourself…”
As Kazaya was speaking, the nearby undergrowth suddenly became noisy. Not long after, something appeared in front of them.
At first glance, it looked like a jelly that someone had thrown away. It was a poisonous-looking shade of light blue, as if food coloring had been used to make it that way, and it was trembling constantly. However, it was slowly crawling towards them like a slug, as if to prove that it was alive.
“Uwaah, what’s that!?”
Chihiro hid behind Kazaya, probably because she found it to be creepy.
“It is a demonic beast, called a 『Slime Jelly』. Good timing, this is the perfect opponent for a beginner. Senpai, you should try and fight it.”
“There’s no point if I defeat it, right? I brought you here today so that you could learn how to be a proper Visitor, Senpai.”
“Ehh…. But it’s all quivery and gross, aren’t there any normal-looking demonic beasts for me to fight against?”
“There’s no such thing. All demonic beasts fall into the following categories; disgusting, scary, strong, and annoying.”
“……That sounds awful. But seriously, I can’t handle things of this type.”
“Senpai, you might be senior in the other world, but over here, I am your senpai. Please do as I say.”
Kazaya said that because he assumed it would be better to take a strict tone, but that just made Chihiro pout.
“Ah, you’re going to play that card? That’s unfair. Tsugami-kun, just when did you become so heavy-handed? You used to be a lot more honest and gentle back in the day, and you would follow me around everywhere like a puppy.”
“Please don’t fabricate memories! …You won’t be able to become a proper Visitor unless you clear this hurdle. This is like that story about lions throwing their cubs off cliffs to make them stronger.”
After a little while, Chihiro let out a small sigh and moved to the front.
During that time, the Slime Jelly had continued to move slowly but surely towards them.
“Alright. I’ll do it! Bring it on!”
Chihiro clenched her fist and took a fighting stance. However, after a few seconds, she looked back at him.
“So, what exactly should I do?”
“Why did you act like you knew what you were doing just now?”
“I was just going along with the flow. Anyway, hurry up and tell me what to do. Look, the brine teddy is creepily getting closer little by little. ”
“It’s a Slime Jelly! What the heck is a brine teddy? Please don’t turn it into an even more incomprehensible monster than it already is. Anyways, you have to use your Divine Works. Please focus your will while thinking that you want to defeat the enemy.”
“I have no idea what that means, but… like this?”
Chihiro extended her hand in front of her and closed her eyes. Before long, particles of light appeared in mid-air, gathered together, and took on a shape.
It was a bow. Moreover, it was not a compound bow, but instead looked more like a bow that was used in Japan. However, it did not come with any arrows.
“Wow, that’s amazing! Hey, something appeared!”
“A bow, huh? It suits you, Senpai. So, what is the name of your Divine Works?”
“Umm… Apparently its name is 『Celestial Bow』. The name just popped into my head.”
Chihiro had taken a stance with the bow in her left hand as soon as she opened her eyes. She then placed the fingers of her right hand on the bowstring as if she was holding an invisible arrow, and slowly drew the string back.
Immediately after she did that, an arrow surrounded by a dazzling light appeared in her hand. It looked like a power that was created by a goddess of myth for the sake of defeating evil.
“That’s good. Now just go ahead and release it!”
As instructed, Chihiro let go of the string. The next instant, the arrow vigorously cut through the air.
However, it just flew past the Slime Jelly without doing any harm.
“…..You’re a liar, Tsugami-kun.”
Chihiro narrowed her eyes and glared at him.
“I didn’t say that you would hit it. It’s hard to get the hang of it in the beginning. Please keep trying.”
Chihiro fired another arrow. However it once again completely missed the Slime Jelly, stuck upright in the ground, and vanished.
“Ei, ei, ei, ei, ei, ei, ei, ei, ei, ei…!”
She fired several times, but all of her shots missed the target and ended up as wasted shots. The Slime Jelly was not dodging them. It was just that Chihiro’s arrows were following a weird path.
“Senpai… You’re really bad at this.”
Kazaya unconsciously said that aloud, and Chihiro, who was out of breath, suddenly froze in place.
“I-I’m not bad at it! I’m just a beginner! It can’t be helped because I’m a beginner!”
“No, even considering that, this is a little… umm, how do I put it, your skills are fairly ‘special’.”
“It’s too late to try and make me feel better! Ah, just tell me how to do it right!”
Kazaya scratched his head when he saw Chihiro looking at him angrily with a red face.
“Even if you say that, a bow is outside my area of expertise… Anyway, just calm down and point the arrow at the middle of the target. With a real bow, you would need to consider various things such as what direction the wind is blowing in, but such things are not needed for a Divine Works. Just don’t aim for dead center, it might be better to shift your aim a little.”
Chihiro carefully drew back the bowstring and released it.
An instant later, an arrow cut through the air as it flew straight towards the Slime Jelly and pierced its body as if it was getting sucked inside. The demonic beast trembled violently and jumped up.
Chihiro stepped back as if she was wary of what might happen next, but the opponent suddenly stopped moving.
Or so she thought, but then it exploded along with a loud sound. The remaining fragments of its body fell to the ground.
“I-I did it!! I really did it! Tsugami-kun, look, I managed to defeat it!”
Chihiro jumped for joy, and then rushed over to him and hugged him tightly.The sweet smell and soft sensation caused Kazaya’s heart rate to skyrocket.
“Wha— Umm, Senpai!?”
“Hey, did you see it? You saw it, right!? That was amazing. It was much better than any class at school. Tsugami-kun, thank you for teaching me how to do it. It’s all thanks to you!”
“N-No, not at all. Congratulations….”
Kazaya somehow managed to reply even though he was flustered, and Chihiro suddenly came back to her senses.
“Oh… S-Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
Chihiro backed away from him with a red face and cast her eyes downward while clutching the hem of her skirt. That reaction that was typical for a girl her age just made Kazaya’s heart beat even faster, and he mirrored her and lowered his gaze as well.
After a while, Kazaya spoke up to break through the awkward silence caused due to embarrassment.
“What you used earlier is a special 『Power』 that is effective against demonic beasts. The power varies from person to person, and my Divine Works is called 『Demonic Sword』.”
Kazaya raised his hand, and a sword appeared. It was a simple sword without any ornamentation.
“When I defeat a demonic beast, I gain the ability to use a 『Sword』 with that demonic beast’s abilities.”
“Wow, that’s amazing! Do you have many such swords?”
It looked like Chihiro had finally regained her calm, as she was staring at the sword in his hand.
“Yes. The number is equal to the number of demonic beasts that I have defeated.”
“That’s cheating. I just have a bow. Trade with me!”
Chihiro stuck her hand out with an unsatisfied expression on her face, and Kazaya smiled wryly.
“That’s impossible. People can only use the Divine Works that were bestowed upon them. Based on what I’ve heard from others, there aren’t any other Visitors with Divine Works like mine, so maybe mine is actually pretty rare. But your Celestial Bow will also become more powerful as it grows.”
“Divine Works grow stronger the more demonic beasts you defeat, and in some cases they gain new abilities. Speaking in terms of a game, it is similar to grinding experience points and raising your skill level.”
“Okay! I don’t understand at all!”
Chihiro put her hands up in surrender, and Kazaya was unsure how to proceed. Since he liked games, he had a tendency to use them as examples. How should he explain it so that it would be easy for her to understand?
“Hmm.It is something like the result of hard work that can actually be perceived. There is a fixed objective, and once you reach it you will be able to go further than you can right now.”
“Ah, so that’s what it was. I understand it perfectly now.”
“That’s good. Visitors call that process 『Leveling up』. Now, try and check the durability of your Protective Barrier again like you did earlier.”
As Chihiro followed his directions, Kazaya pointed at a location different from where the gauge was displayed.
“Do you see two numbers around there, one above the other? One of them will be large and the other will be small.”
“Yes, I see them. 1 and 10….?”
“The one on top is your current level, Senpai, and the number on the bottom shows how many demonic beasts you need to defeat in order to change that ‘1’ into a ‘2’.”
“So I need to defeat ten more?”
“That would normally be the case, but defeating a strong demonic beast counts as defeating multiple weak ones, so there are cases where defeating a strong opponent can instantly raise your level.”
Chihiro nodded to show that she understood, and closed the screen that was displayed before her.
“A person who is used to video games would find it easier to understand, but you will eventually get used to it, Senpai.”
“I see. So this is what games are like. That’s pretty interesting.”
Chihiro smiled as if her curiosity was piqued.
“Well then, let’s move on to the last step of the process. Senpai, apart from the Teleportation Stone, you should have been carrying a small box as well when you first appeared in this world, right?”
“Ah, yes. This thing, right? I wondered what it was for.”
Chihiro pulled out a small cube-shaped box and placed it on the palm of her hand.
“I mentioned this earlier as well, but the objective of Visitors is to clear islands, procure things like food, raw materials, and treasure, and take them back to the Central Continent. Raw materials obtained from demonic beasts are also useful in many ways, so we take them back as well. But that doesn’t mean we have to carry around each demonic beast we defeat, as that will obviously impede our ability to fight.”
“That’s right. I might probably get sick of carrying something so heavy and consider pushing all the hard work to you while I relax, Tsugami-kun.”
“I am definitely… going to take it easy!”
“Please don’t declare that with such a serious face. Anyway, that is what this Insect Cage is for. The method to use it is simple. You just open the small hatch on the side and point it at whatever you want to obtain.”
Chihiro opened the hatch on her Insect Cage just as he said. All of a sudden, the remaining fragments of the Slime Jelly trembled, turned into a sphere of light ,and got sucked into the box.
“Wow, it’s like a vacuum cleaner. This is pretty convenient, isn’t it?”
“It really is. If you close the hatch, and open it again while saying 『Release』, whatever you stored inside the box will be released outside. By the way, you need to be within one meter distance from something in order to store it in the box. This concludes my explanation of the four abilities given to all Visitors. By the way, you can only use these abilities when you are on an island, so please keep that in mind.”
“I see. They are quite literally divine abilities, right? If not for the fact that this was a different world, I would have assumed there was some trick to it.”
That was true. The fact that all of this was made possible by that overly friendly and pretentious little girl just served to drive the point home even more.
“Alright then, the tutorial is over. You would have eventually remembered all of this on your own, but it’s easier to have someone who is experienced explain it to you.”
“Yes, it was really easy to understand. Alright, now that I have the basics down, let’s keep moving forward!”
Chihiro was gradually getting more and more excited, and it looked like she might run off by herself at any second.
“Ah, wait, hang on! For today, please stay behind me. Like I said earlier, even though this island is suitable for beginners, it can still be dangerous.”
“A true explorer will move forward without caring about danger, right!? See you around!”
As Chihiro once again made to dash off by herself, Kazaya panicked and grabbed her arm.
“Wait! I want you to promise me this. Stay behind me. Don’t run off by yourself all of a sudden. Even if you see something interesting, do not approach it carelessly. Do not eat anything that is fallen on the ground or if it looks strange.”
“Ah, you’re treating me like a little kid! Even though I’m your senpai.”
“If you really think that, then please act your age! If anything, you’ve been behaving like you’re younger than me ever since you came to this world, Senpai!”
Chihiro put her hands on her hips and stared at Kazaya as he let out a sigh.
“……Well, I suppose that is true. Sorry, I was acting a little too freely.”
However she eventually said that and came to stand behind him.
“In that case, I will be relying on you, Tsugami-kun.”
Kazaya felt a strange sensation akin to being tickled when she called out to him in a soft voice.
Kazaya cleared his throat and resumed their exploration of the forest.
“By the way, how far are we going to go today?”
“Hmm… I think we should keep going as far as we can. I’m here to watch over you as well, so it would be good if you can go all the way up to defeating the boss if possible. The island boss stands above all the other demonic beasts, and it is incomparably stronger compared to the rest of them, but due to that you can get a lot of experience by defeating it. You will be able to raise your level right away.”
“I see. But isn’t that a bit unfair? Something like using a cheat… umm, what do you call it… an exploit? Games have things like that, don’t they?”
“Something of this level doesn’t count as an exploit. A new player raising their level while accompanied by an experienced player is something that is done all the time in online games.”
“Oh, I see. That’s like online etiquette, right!?”
“Not at all. Senpai, don’t tell me you don’t use the internet either?”
“……T-That’s right. I don’t. I also don’t watch dirty videos, unlike you, Tsugami-kun.”
“I-I-I don’t watch them either, okay!? And besides, I’m still underage!!”
Although he did watch the gravure videos of idols posted on their official websites, but Kazaya decided to keep that particular piece of information a secret.
As they were talking about such things, another demonic beast appeared in front of them.
It was skinny creature with a long nose and muddy yellow eyes, and it was wearing only a filthy vest. It was holding a chipped sword in one hand.
Before long, a number of creatures came into view from behind the first one. There were more than ten of them, and they all had an appearance similar to the one that was standing in the front.
“Another one appeared, and it looks like it brought friends!”
“『Class Goblins』, huh… They always work as a group, which makes them tricky to handle. A person is considered an experienced Visitor if they can defeat a group of them by themselves.”
Kazaya raised his hand while standing in front of the Class Goblins.
“Vulgar beasts that eat their own kin and defy the goddess! I will judge you with my power! Ye blade of death that gives birth to storms, appear in my hand—Razor Wind King!”
A sword appeared in Kazaya’s hand in response to his chant. The blade of the sword was so thin that it looked like it might break if you hit it. The Class Goblins raised their offensive voices and attacked Kazaya as a group, probably because they sensed his hostility from his actions.
“Senpai, please stand back. Leave them to me!”
Saying that, Kazaya casually swung his sword. A roaring sound heralded the disturbance caused in the air by his attack.
At the same time, a massive shockwave blew all the Class Goblins away at once.
“Rest, Razor Wind King. Ye who aspires to mow down sins with all-consuming hellfire, appear in my hand— Scorching King!”
After Kazaya spoke those words, the Razor Wind King vanished, and a different sword immediately took its place. The blade was wrapped in blazing flames.
Taking note of the fact that a number of opponents were trying to rise, Kazaya stabbed the sword into the ground.
“Loathsome demonic beasts, burn and disappear!”
Magma erupted from the ground immediately below the Class Goblins. They were engulfed in the magma in an instant without even having the chance to run away. The entire group of demonic beasts received heavy burns and were defeated.
“……That was incredible. It’s already over.”
Chihiro gazed at the spectacle before her.
“No, it’s still not over. I held back, so they are all still barely alive. You won’t get the experience points unless you kill them yourself, Senpai. Use your arrows to finish them off.”
Chihiro nodded, summoned the Celestial Bow, and fired off arrows one after the other.
As expected from someone who was a quick study, she seemed to have gotten the hang of it already. All her attacks pierced through the Class Goblins, and they stopped moving completely.
“Perfect. Now, use the Insect Cage.”
Chihiro followed his instructions and opened the hatch of her Insect Cage, and the bodies of the Class Goblins were sucked inside.
After she did that, she suddenly heard a cheerful sound coming out of nowhere.
“What is this? Where is it coming from?”
Kazaya spoke to Chihiro who was looking around while covering her ears.
“It’s okay. That’s just a notification from the goddess that you leveled up. Check your display to make sure.”
Chihiro nodded and opened up the display that showed her experience points. She saw that the numbers 『2』 and 『15』 had appeared there. In addition, there was a notification saying 『Remaining: 3』 next to those two numbers.
“Ah, you’re right! …..Hmm, there’s a different notification that I can use a new skill.”
“When you learn a new skill, the goddess will let you know what kind of skill it is. By the way, the 『Remaining: 3』 means that you can learn another new skill after three more levels.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is. Hmm, it looks like I can make the arrow of light larger and more powerful, although it takes some time.”
“A charged attack, huh? That’s pretty nice. Let’s keep defeating enemies like this and raise your level.”
“Sure! By the way, Tsugami-kun, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what is it?”
Kazaya replied to her as the started to walk.
“Why did you start acting a little cool back then when you were fighting?”
Kazaya involuntarily stopped walking.
“…..I-I did that?”
“Yeah. You said something about them eating their own kin and defying the goddess. You also said something long and complicated when you summoned your demonic swords, but is that absolutely necessary? I didn’t need to say anything to summon my weapon.”
“W-Well, you see, umm… it’s not strictly required, per se, but…”
Kazaya felt a chill run down his spine. It looked like his usual idiosyncrasies had come to the fore.
“Why did you do that if it’s not required? Is there some other reason behind it?”
“Umm… that is… I just wanted to make it more game-like, I guess.”
He couldn’t say the real reason. There was no way he could say it.
(There’s no way I can tell her that I feed my ego by acting like characters from my favorite games, just because this is a different world and nobody can overhear me when I’m on the islands anyway! That would be incredibly embarrassing!)
“Eh? Don’t tell me you were actually taking the effort to pretend that you were a character in a game?”
She saw through him completely.
“So you’re one of those people, huh? Umm… The boys in my class were talking about it. The kind of people who speak using complicated words on purpose, stare off into the distance for no reason, and convince themselves that they have some hidden superpowers… that’s right, eighth-grader syndrome!”
“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Please, stop talking about that!”
Kazaya fell to his knees and covered his face with both hands.
“Tsugami-kun, do you have some kind of illness? Have you consulted a medical professional?”
“I-I-It’s not like that, eighth-grader syndrome is not a real illness. How do I describe it… It’s just a sign of wishing to become a hero… Umm, really, there’s nothing wrong with me!”
“Are you really sure about that? Despite saying things like 『Mow down sins with all-consuming hellfire』 and 『Appear in my hand』? Why? What is the purpose of saying things like that? Does it have any meaning?”
“I’m begging you, please stoooooooooooop!!”
Kazaya, who was rolling about on the ground while Chihiro spoke, curled up into a ball and lay there trembling.
“……I don’t really get it, but it feels like pressing any further would be cruel, so I’ll stop here.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it…..”
Kazaya finally managed to recover and stand up, and Chihiro clenched her fist in front of him.
“Still, you were enjoying Grimveria in your own way, right, Tsugami-kun? In that case, it’s fine. Don’t feel obliged to hold back for me, feel free to do that… whatever to your heart’s content!”
“Please stop trying to make me feel better by saying things like that!”
Kazaya yelled with teary eyes. However, he knew Chihiro wasn’t doing it on purpose to tease him, so he decided to set this matter aside for now.
Kazaya walked deeper into the forest along with Chihiro. After that, when they encountered demonic beasts, Kazaya would first beat them within an inch of their lives and let Chihiro finish them off. In this manner, they continued to take down demonic beasts one after the other.
Despite her clumsy fighting style in the beginning, Chihiro seemed to get the hang of it quickly. Before long, her movements became more decisive and quick. This was probably only natural considering her level of physical fitness.
Upon hearing Kazaya’s command, Chihiro released an arrow of light that had been powered up to the maximum level.
When that arrow hit the 『Wood Soldier』, a demonic beast that looked like a tree with holes in place of its eyes and mouth, it opened up a large hole in its body. The opponent let out a shriek and fell over with a loud noise.
After putting away its body inside the Insect Cage, she once again heard the music that she had already heard several times before..
“Tsugami-kun, I did it! I’m level 5! It looks like I’ve learned a second skill. Apparently, I can fire two arrows at the same time and freely control the trajectory of any one of them!”
“Congratulations! It looks like your skill is pretty useful as well.”
Despite the fact that he had been helping her, reaching Level 5 in a single day was probably more than enough.
“……Alright, I guess it should be okay to go looking for the boss now. Speaking frankly, it would be better if you were another one or two levels higher, but it’s getting pretty late.”
Looking upwards, he could see that the sun was already low in the western sky.
“I agree… By the way, does the time in Grimveria pass by at the same rate as that on Earth?”
“Yes, it seems that way.”
“……That’s bad. Tsugami-kun, I have a curfew. If I don’t get home before six thirty, I’ll get grounded on top of receiving a harsh scolding from my father.”
Kazaya pulled out his smartphone and checked the time. It was still not yet five o’clock.
“Hmm, I think we’ll be fine, but only if we find the boss right away.”
Chihiro hesitated for a while, but she eventually decided to believe him. She asked him a question as if she was trying to switch gears and get back to the matter at hand.
“Doesn’t the boss just stay at a particular location?”
“Demonic beasts are still living creatures, after all. The area around here is supposed to be its territory, but sometimes it moves around quite a bit.”
As Kazaya explained that to her, something appeared from within the shadows.
The two of them put up their guard thinking that it was an enemy, but it turned out to be Tohru and Izumi, whom they had met at the harbor earlier. Seeing them, Kazaya remembered that they were coming to the same island as well.
“Hey, Kazaya! What a coincidence! Hahaha!”
“Hey. How’s your job going?”
“Well, I managed to finish it somehow! How’s the newcomer training coming along!?”
“I am somehow managing to get through, thanks to his accurate advice.”
Chihiro replied to Tohru’s question with a smile, and Tohru laughed expansively.
“By the way, I see the two of you are together again. It looks like you are really on good terms.”
Izumi frowned when she heard what Chihiro said.
“The place I went to to get what I was hired to retrieve just coincidentally happened to also be the nest of the demonic beast that this guy was chasing. In that case, it’s more efficient to work together, right? That’s all there is to it!”
“Oi, stop blushing, Izumi! The truth is that you just like to hang out with me, right!?”
“Shut up! And seriously, lower your voice a little, Mr. Low fat percentage!”
Tohru received an elbow strike from Izumi and complained of pain despite not showing such an expression on his face at all.
“‘Mr. Low fat percentage’? That’s not even really an insult.”
“I really can’t tell if the two of them are on good terms or not….”
Kazaya and Chihiro were talking among themselves.
“And besides, when I was writing a memo in my notepad, Tohru came over and started repeatedly asking me what I was writing!”
“I was just curious! As for me, just writing down one sentence gives me a headache so bad that I feel like I’m going to faint! I was just thinking how amazing you were, Izumi!”
“If you got any lower as a human being, you would go straight through the earth and come out on the other side! A compliment from someone like you doesn’t make me feel happy at all! Go away!”
“You don’t have to be so embarrassed!”
This time, Izumi stabbed her stiff fingers into Tohru’s stomach, but he just gave a reply that was off the mark without even flinching. Kazaya became even more convinced that the two of them made for a really strange pair.
“Well then, that’s how it is! The two of us will be heading back first!”
“I don’t think you’ll have any problems, considering it’s you, but don’t let down your guard!”
Tohru and Izumi were about to leave, but Kazaya held them back.
“Ah, hang on, Do either of you know where the island boss is?”
“Hmm? Ah, I saw it earlier. I think it should still be in its nest around this time.”
“It was sleeping after all! It’s not going to wake up anytime soon!”
“Don’t mention it.”
Kazaya bowed and thanked them, and the two of them waved their hands as if to say was no big deal. A short while later, they left and disappeared from sight.
“Did the two of them come to Grimveria for the same reason as you, Tsugami-kun?”
“No. Souya said that he loved nature, and that he was in the mountaineering club at school.”
“True, this world seems like the perfect place for someone like him. How about Kotobuki-san?”
“Ah, despite her looks… I guess putting it that way is rude. She wants to become an author. Moreover, she wants to write fantasy stories, so it’s perfect for her. Adventuring in Grimveria, I mean.”
“That’s… quite the stroke of good fortune.”
“I think so too.”
Kazaya nodded and agreed with her. If she used the knowledge gained in this place, she would be able to write a very realistic story about traveling to another world.
“It looks the people who came here have a wide variety of goals.”
“That’s right. Well then, we should go ahead in order to achieve our own goal.”
Following the advice he received from Tohru and Izumi, Kazaya moved towards their destination.
They walked for some distance through the trees. After a while, they started to hear what sounded like earthquake tremors.
Kazaya put his finger on his lips, warning Chihiro to be silent. He retreated into the shadows and gestured towards the front with his chin.
There was a strange creature in the direction that he indicated. It resembled a giant, plucked chicken.
It had pink skin covered in gooseflesh, a sharp beak, and small wings that would be useless for flying. Three toes extended from each leg that were as thin as branches, and it was perched heavily on the ground.
However, its eyes were closed and it showed no signs of moving. There was a strange donut shaped construct made of straw nearby. That must be its nest.
“It’s the 『Panic Chicken』. This island’s boss.”
“It certainly looks like a chicken monster. It’s massive! I wonder, how many people do you think could eat their fill if you turned it into fried chicken? I think I could manage to eat it in an hour, but considering that size, it might take longer.”
“Senpai, stop moving the conversation along based on the premise that we are going to eat it. Besides, does it really look like one person could eat all of that?”
“Don’t worry, Tsugami-kun, I’ll let you have some too. Like the meat that is between the bones.”
“That’s the part of the meat that people usually give up on because it is the hardest to get at, right!? Anyways, putting that matter aside. Just like the two of them said earlier, it looks like it is fast asleep. We’re lucky. Let’s begin the attack.”
“Eh, we’re going to fight something that big?”
“All the island bosses are about that size. It’ll be fine. It’s not as strong as it looks.”
Kazaya whispered in a low voice and created a demonic sword. It had no particular special powers, and it was the one Kazaya had possessed since the beginning. He usually used this sword when the enemy was so weak that he had to hold back, or when he wanted to test what sort of abilities it had.
“The only thing you need to watch out for is that thing’s 『Shriek』. In other words, if it doesn’t cry out, this will be a piece of cake. I’ll attack first. Please deliver the finishing blow once it becomes weak enough.”
Kazaya moved out after Chihiro nodded. He carefully got closer to the Panic Chicken.
(First, I’ll cut its throat to keep it from crying out. After that, I’ll cut its legs and bring it down. That should do it.)
He had fought against this demonic beast several times. The proper method to fight it was ingrained into his body.
Kazaya crouched down all of a sudden. The creature’s throat was still some distance away, but at this range it should not be a problem.
Kazaya was aware of the fact that the physical abilities of people who were summoned to Grimveria were elevated to some extent. Probably to make it easier to fight.
That is why, when Kazaya kicked off from the ground, his body rose several meters into the air.
The demonic beast’s throat was right before his eyes. He raised his sword and prepared to slash it in a straight line across its throat—
However, at that moment, a wild roar rang out from a place close by. When he looked in that direction, he saw that a different demonic beast was getting closer to Chihiro. It was a 『Gran Mouse』, a demonic beast that looked like a mouse but was about the size of a human.
Kazaya called out to her, but she was already quite experienced. She no longer panicked like she had done in the beginning, and calmly called forth her bow and started attacking the opponent immediately. The arrows that she fired found their mark, and the Gran Mouse fell to the ground, defeated.
However, that still left one problem.
When Kazaya looked back towards the Panic Chicken, he saw that its eyes were fully open. It looked like it was wide awake. Kazaya once again readied his weapon, but it was too late. The creature had already opened its beak—
A shriek rang out that seemed loud enough to rip his eardrums to shreds. It sounded like someone loudly scraped their nails across a blackboard right next to his ears, and Kazaya plugged his ears closed. This shriek was the reason why this creature had been given the name ‘Panic Chicken’.
After Kazaya just landed on the ground, unable to do anything, he received a sudden charge from the creature. His Protective Barrier protected him from the direct damage, but the impact forced him backwards.
“Tsugami-kun…!? Are you okay!?”
Chihiro ran closer to him to check on his condition.
“Thanks to the barrier, I’m not injured. Although I’m not sure about my ears.”
Even Chihiro’s voice sounded faint, like it was coming from somewhere far away.
“Now that it has come to this, getting close to it is impossible. The moment you get close to it, you’ll get hit with that shriek.”
“What should I do? Should I try my luck with my bow?”
“That’s right, let’s do that. But just shooting at it normally won’t work. Despite that size, that thing moves very fast, so it will probably just dodge your attacks. And so…”
Kazaya turned around, and looked back at her.
“—For now, let’s run away.”
Saying that, he dashed away.
“Eeh? We’re just going to run away!?”
Kazaya replied to Chihiro who was following him.
“Sometimes, to solve a problem, you have to tackle it from a different angle.”
Obviously, the Panic Chicken was pursuing them. Apparently, humans and demonic beasts were alike in the regard that they would get angry when woken up against their will.
Kazaya ran past the trees in the forest as fast as he could, and when he reached a certain large tree, he turned to the right.
“Please follow me! Back when I was still a beginner, I came to this island so many times that the layout is burned into my memory!”
After a short time, the two of them reached the edge of the forest, and instead found themselves looking at a narrow path that ran between two rock faces. Kazaya ran towards it without hesitation. However, after moving down that path for a short distance, they found themselves at a dead end. Looking up at the rock face, it was apparent that it would be difficult to climb.
Kazaya turned around. The Panic Chicken had forced its massive body into the narrow path, and was pushing its way towards them with a terrifying amount of strength while scraping against the rocks on either side.
“Haah— ‘Tis indeed the height of recklessness. But remember this, thou cannot defeat me with mere strength, and only tragic defeat awaits ye. Thy assault is akin to a single, weak soldier attacking a sturdy fortress! ….Ah.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. You can keep talking.”
“……Umm… Y-Ye fist of steel that crushes all things, appear in my hand— Cavern King!”
Kazaya raised his hand and grabbed the the hilt of the sword that had appeared. There was a spiral of energy wrapped around the blade, like a snake coiled around a tree trunk.
Without wasting any time, Kazaya stabbed that blade into the ground and chanted.
“Cry out— 『Pulverise』!”
A loud roar rang out. A large hole suddenly appeared in the ground, a little distance away from them.
The hole had appeared in front of the Panic Chicken, right where it was about to move next. The Panic Chicken fell into the hole, just as Kazaya had planned. It struggled painfully, but it was apparent that it would not be able to leave the hole anytime soon.
Following his instructions, Chihiro immediately activated her Divine Works, pulled back the string of her bow, and shot an arrow.
The arrow flew true and crushed the throat of the Panic Chicken.
The Panic Chicken cried in a muffled voice and its eyes turned upwards into its head.
“With this, it can’t shriek anymore. The rest is simple.”
Kazaya made the Caven King vanish, and once again summoned a simple sword like he had done earlier.
“Suffer the despair of the abyss, demonic beast!”
Kazaya ran close to the Panic Chicken, and slashed it.
He slashed it again for a second, third, and fourth time, chipping away at the enemy’s endurance. The Panic Chicken struggled violently in the beginning, but eventually, its movements became feeble. That looked like a good time.
“Senpai, use the Charged Shot!”
As Chihiro turned towards the target and readied her bow, light started to gather in her hand. It got bigger with each passing second, and eventually it reached a giant size.
“Let’s do this— Teaaaaaaaaah!”
When Chihiro released that arrow, it flew through the air while gouging a furrow in the ground before it, and pierced through the Panic Chicken. After letting out one last cry of agony, the enemy went limp while gazing blankly upward.
“We did it! We did it! Our teamwork paid off, Tsugami-kun!”
After innocently jumping up and down a few times, Chihiro came closer and opened the hatch of the Insect Cage. As soon as the body of the Panic Chicken turned into a sphere of light and got sucked into the box, she heard a loud sound.
“……Amazing! I went up three levels all at once!”
Chihiro’s eyes opened wide after she confirmed her status.
“That’s about right, considering that you defeated a boss. You did good, Senpai!”
Chihiro looked at Kazaya and smiled after he praised her.
“Tsugami-kun, you’ve fought this boss before, haven’t you? Doesn’t that mean that the boss should have already been dead?”
“Ah, that’s right. Both the bosses and the regular demonic beasts will resurrect a while after they are exterminated.”
“Eh!? Really? It feels like there’s not much point in defeating them after all.”
“That’s not true. The raw materials we get from them are useful, and defeating bosses gives us the experience points we need to level up. What’s more, once an island boss is defeated, the other demonic beasts on that island become noticeably weaker until the boss resurrects. Although the reason for that is not known.”
“Ah, I see. Now I understand why the boss is so important.”
“For that reason, Visitors who are able to defeat bosses gain a lot of respect in this world. Even from other Visitors.”
That is why all the Visitors try and defeat an island boss if they can. Just like how players of an online game try and defeat an area boss.
“In any case, congratulations on your first successful island clear, Senpai.”
“Thank you! Aah, there’s no way you can experience such a sense of accomplishment on Earth. I might really get addicted to this! Still, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without your support, Tsugami-kun.”
“It’s like that for everyone in the beginning. Even I received a lot of help from a person I know when I just started out, which is how I got to where I am now.”
“I see. Even so… I’m grateful.”
Chihiro bowed deeply to him.
“No, I didn’t do anything special… By the way, did you have fun?”
Chihiro nodded strongly when Kazaya asked her that to confirm.
“Yes, of course I did! At first, I thought it would be something like an amusement park, but it’s completely different! It was so exciting and fun! It was super—wait, is ‘super’ the right prefix? Super fun? Duper? Duper fun? What do you call this sort of thing!?”
While watching Chihiro talk incessantly as if she was in a daze, Kazaya found himself infected by her mood and shared in her enjoyment.
“That’s great! This world is great, isn’t it? It’s a lot more realistic and exciting than any MMO game. I mean, it’s real life after all, so I guess that’s obvious. I mean, it’s a different world that you can experience directly! The system itself is orthodox, but it is structured like a game with clear objectives and it gives a sense of accomplishment just like you said, Senpai. At the beginning, I was so excited to be here as well….”
After actually saying it aloud, Kazaya suddenly realized that at some point he had turned into a complete nerd.
“Ah—Sorry about that, Senpai. I guess I spoke too much.”
“What are you talking about? It’s fine! It’s great how you can talk so passionately about something!”
Chihiro spoke as though she was not troubled by his outburst at all.
“R-Really? It’s not really anything that great, though.”
Praise was the last thing he had expected to hear, so Kazaya scratched his cheek while feeling embarrassed.
“Aah, this feels like a dream. This place is wonderful… Not only can I be myself without having to put up a front, there’s so much fun to be had here…. I’m glad I asked you to bring me here, Tsugami-kun.”
Chihiro’s expression turned serious, and she placed her hand on her chest as if she was making sure of something important.
“T-The same goes for me as well, getting to spend time with you feels like a dream, Senpai.”
“……Fufu. Thank you.”
Chihiro’s smiling face was tinged with red. Kazaya cleared his throat to bring his soaring feelings back under control.
“Umm, should we head back, then?”
“Ah, that’s right. We finished what we came here to do, after all.”
“Oh, it’s not over yet. We still have to take care of the last step.”
Chihiro slightly tilted her head at Kazaya’s half-joking words.
After that, Kazaya started walking back the way they came, but headed in a different direction from the beach.
After walking for a while, they came to a place that suddenly showed a wide scenery.
It was a small town surrounded by a high wall. There were a number of tall buildings lined up in a row.
“Every island has a town on it. This is where you hand over the items you collected on the island. After that, the merchants who specialize in such things will package the items to make them easier to transport, butcher the demonic beasts, and ship them back to the Central Continent. The towns on islands also have taverns and lodging facilities, so after an island boss is defeated and the demonic beasts get weaker, there are some Visitors who set up a temporary base camp in the town to actively sweep the island during that time.”
“I see. But don’t they get raided by the demonic beasts?”
Chihiro asked that while looking at the people who were walking along the streets.
“Islands have a particular spot that is called Holy Land, and the boss and other demonic beasts can’t enter that area for some reason. That’s why, the towns are build on top of such areas.”
While answering her question, Kazaya visited a shop that was a slight distance away from the street.
The plot of land that the shop was built on was very spacious, and the shop itself was the size of a school gymnasium.
After entering the building, Chihiro handed over her Insect Cage to the elderly shop owner who was sitting at a counter.
“We are here to exchange these.”
“Hey, Kazaya. How rare to see you around these parts. What’s today’s spoils?”
“Several demonic beasts, and one island boss. Apart from that, there are fruits and other raw materials. Well, considering that we are on Island #1, there’s nothing particularly rare among the loot.”
“Fumu. Give me a minute.”
The shop owner, who seemed to know Kazaya, retreated to a back room.
“What sort of place is this, Tsugami-kun?”
“This is a place where you can exchange the items obtained on islands for this world’s currency. There are a few such places in this town. Well, the exchange rate doesn’t change, so it doesn’t really matter which place you pick.”
A short time later, the shop owner returned and placed the Insect Cage and a cloth bag on the counter.
“I confirmed it in the storeroom at the back of the shop. I’ll contact a trader to come pick up the items, so leave the rest to me. The payment is two hundred.”
Kazaya thanked him and picked up the Insect Cage and the money bag.
“By the way, Kazaya, when are you going to clear the uncharted islands? Everyone I know is looking forward to the exploits of the 『Lightning-quick wielder of the Demonic Sword』.”
“Come on, there’s no need to be embarrassed!”
Seeing Kazaya struggle to form a response, the shop owner smacked him on the shoulder and said that.
After they left the shop, Chihiro asked him a question.
“Hey, what does ‘Lightning-quick wielder of the Demonic Sword’ mean?”
“A-Ah. Umm… I don’t really know how it happened, but at some point, people started calling me by that nickname. I suppose they are calling me that because I killed a lot of demonic beasts in a short amount of time.”
“I see. That’s so cool! I want a nickname too. Something like ‘Chihiro, The Apex Predator of the Food Chain’ or something.”
“Why would you want such a dangerous-sounding nickname?”
“I mean, doesn’t it have a powerful ring to it? How does, ‘Chihiro, Killer of Two Birds with One Stone’ sound?”
“That sounds like some sort of bargain sale!”
“What’s wrong with that? It sounds like I would make a healthy profit all the time!”
Chihiro said that in a satisfied manner, and Kazaya smiled bitterly as if to say that he wasn’t so sure about that.
“Anyway, here you go, Senpai.”
Kazaya handed the money bag to Chihiro.
“Eh? You’re giving it to me?”
“You’re the one who killed the boss and most of the demonic beasts today, Senpai.”
“I was only able to do that because of your help, though….”
“That’s why I am not giving you the whole amount. I already subtracted the guidance fee, so please take it.”
Chihiro initially hesitated to accept the money bag when Kazaya pushed it into her hands, but she eventually accepted it.
“….Money that I earned, huh….”
Chihiro muttered to herself and looked down at the money bag like she was lost in thought. Looking at her from the side, Kazaya saw that she looked happy.
“Senpai, have you never worked part-time?”
“No, I haven’t. My father would not allow it. That’s why… this feels a little strange.”
Chihiro held the money bag close to her chest as though it was very important to her.
“I see. That’s great. Well then, let’s drop by the Spring Bell Inn to say hello and then go back home.”
Chihiro nodded in agreement to Kazaya’s proposal.
After the two of them returned to Reancos and visited the inn, they were welcomed by the innkeeper and Nina. They were invited to stay for dinner, but since Chihiro had to return home before her curfew, they politely declined.
After that, the two of them used their Teleportation Stones to return to Earth. They appeared in front of the school gate. Chihiro looked at the clock that was fixed to the wall of the school building and made an expression of relief.
“Five minutes past six. Looks like we made it back in time.”
When Chihiro turned to look at him, he saw that she had become very subdued, as though her appearance until just earlier was a lie. Her expression was stiff, and overall, she gave off a cold aura.
“……So you’re back in your usual act?”
“Now that we are back here, there’s no telling who might be watching. I can’t let my guard down.”
“Looks like you have it rough, Senpai.”
“It’s not that bad.”
Chihiro brushed her long hair with her hand and said that. Looking at her now, it felt like the version of her that he had seen in Grimveria was a hallucination.
“Thank you so much for today. I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
The slanted rays of light from the sun illuminated Chihiro with a beautiful radiance as she waved goodbye and walked away.
Compared to the time they had spent in Grimveria, that sight looked a lot more unrealistic to Kazaya.