Water was being filled into a shallow container brought over from the kitchen. After stopping at around the half-mark of the container, small, dark brown beads, also borrowed from the kitchen, were smoothly thrown into the ordinary, transparent water. The reason for the small beads being colored and bigger than usual stemmed from them not having been refined properly, but expecting them to be pure white in this world would clearly be asking too much. And since this small flaw would also be within permissible range for the taste, Renya didn’t mind it overly much.
He waited and observed the beads for a while, which were melting only slowly, probably because of their size. In response, he crouched down next to the container, which had been placed directly on the ground, and started to stir the water clockwise after thrusting his index finger inside.
Currently, he was in a deserted place in a corner of the city he was ruling in his position as earl. Obviously, anyone who saw him now while not knowing who he might be, would undoubtedly ask themselves just what he was doing over there. And, assuming someone had the nerve to actually confront Renya with that question, Renya would likely answer the following with a serious look:
“I’m making sugared water.”
In other words, the beads he had borrowed from the kitchen were sugar – a fairly expensive ingredient in this world. Melting them in water to make sugar water would be the outcome from the previous chain of actions.
However, even if people would understand this part, the next question should pop up in their minds right away.
Just what is Renya trying to achieve by making sugar water in such a deserted area?
There shouldn’t be anyone present who would ask that question which anyone might harbor even after having the current state of affairs explained to them, but against all expectations, there existed someone who called out to Renya from above his head as he was crouching and stirring the water.
“Just what are you doing over there?”
Reacting to that voice, Renya looked above, just to find a black-haired twintail girl floating up there while flapping two small, faintly-glowing wings (probably an energy-conserving version of her bigger wings from before).
Wearing a pure white dress with its hems fluttering loosely, the girl peered down at Renya with a puzzled look, not understanding the meaning behind his action.
Identifying her, Renya pulled his finger out of the water, and after shaking it lightly to get rid of the water droplets, pushed the container with the finished sugar water towards the area underneath the floating girl’s feet. Next he silently took a distance and hid himself in the shadow of a nearby building.
The girl timidly called out to Renya after he did all that under her eyes without muttering a single word, but without giving her any kind of answer, Renya fixedly stared at the girl and the container beneath her from his hiding place.
Just what is he expecting me to do here? The girl asked herself. From the fact of Renya having stopped to stir the water after having spotted her, the girl could easily tell that all of this very likely had something to do with her. However, no matter how she pondered about it, she couldn’t connect the dots between herself and the container beneath her.
With just a look, she could identify the water inside the container to be sugar water. She was also well aware that sugar itself was a luxury item, but from her point of view, it was no more than another irrelevant material existing in a transient world. Of course, even the girl was willing to admit its charm for being sweet.
Having thought up to this point, an idea suddenly struck her.
The sugar water beneath me is sweet.
Currently she was floating in the air above it, and on top of that, shed a light strong enough to be detectable even under the sun.
“…I really, really want to believe that I’m wrong here, but you’re not putting me on the same level as a firefly, are you…?”
Shion, who had apparently been lurking on the roof of the building which Renya used as a hiding place, followed Renya’s order and threw a casting net as it’d likely be used for catching fish.
Giliel, the girl in question, looked up to the net as it fully expanded above her head with a somewhat resigned expression, and rather than questioning why Renya was trying to catch her, she felt depressed over the fact of him considering to catch her with sugar water, because she was flying and shining just like a firefly, as a viable option, resulting in her being unable to dodge.
“Bah! In which world would you find people trying to catch their chief goddess with a net!?!?!”
“For example, this world?”
“Are you an idiot!? No, you’re obviously an idiot!! Though I’m also an idiot for allowing you to catch me!!” Giliel’s body was completely covered from head to toe by the net as she had remained standing upright without evading in any way. “But! I’m still the one serving as chief goddess in this world! There’s no way that I’d be unable to slip out of something as silly as a net… Huh? What’s this? I can’t get out…huh? Why? Hey!? The entire net has had divinity applied to it!? When it comes to whom I’ve granted my blessing, it must have been Rona, right!? It was that big-boobed, fat saintess, wasn’t it!?”
“…I’ll pretend to not have heard any of what you said just now.”
Even Giliel would have been easily capable of escaping a simple, ordinary net. But, anticipating that, they had blessed the net, making it possible to easily catch Giliel’s divine body as the net now possessed the same divinity as Giliel.
No matter how much Renya might be outside the norms of this world, even he didn’t possess the ability to grant divinity to objects. Basically, it showed that someone else had cooperated in this capturing operation, and if it came to people capable of blessing items that would also work against gods in Klinge, no one other than Rona would come to mind.
“Rona! For you to treat the goddess you should serve like this! You’ll receive divine punishment!”
“Giliel, I’ll curse you, you know?”
“…is what I had considered to do this time, but I’ll let her off the hook this time!” Giliel attempted to change the flow of her words in panic.
After all, when it came to Renya’s curse, it’d be something so potent and ferocious that even Giliel’s mistress would suffer very serious damage. Of course that little goddess would pull through one way or another, but Giliel, who was far lower in status, didn’t have any confidence about surviving that curse if she got squarely hit by it.
“For the time being, let us put the matter of divine punishments aside…just what kind of business do you have with me?”
If one ignored the fact of Renya putting Giliel on par with a firefly, it’d only leave the sequence of actions Renya apparently took to call over Giliel. Leaving aside the means, Giliel had absolutely no clue as to what matter would require Renya to summon her in such a way, and thus directly asked Renya while struggling in an attempt to somehow wriggle herself out of the net.
“There’s something I want to ask you.”
“Then use a normal way to call me, please. Wouldn’t you be able to summon someone like me over right away if you used your hotline with my mistress without setting up schemes like this?”
Once Giliel looked up to Renya with a sullen expression, he turned his face away as if to dodge her accusing stare while lightly scratching his head, and mumbled, “It’d just wear me mentally out to contact ‘that,’ so I want to avoid it at any cost.”
“It’s because my mistress is bored. If she got a contact from you, Renya-san, she’d definitely come over to get involved in matters, so I can understand your feelings on this,” agreed Giliel with Renya’s reply, but Shion, who had been waiting on top of the roof while repeatedly nodding, jumped down, walked up to Renya, peered at Giliel beyond Renya, and after confirming that Giliel was squatting on the ground with her body entangled by the net, she lightly clenched a fist.
“It looks like it went well.”
“That was quite the performance. Like this you could totally make a living as a fisherman.”
“Being a fisherman is a bit…if possible, I’d like you to support me, Renya.”
“…I’ll consider it.”
Him requiring a moment stemmed from Renya being unable to immediately reply to Shion’s request. She was someone he didn’t dislike, and at this point it was proper to say that Shion had already been widely recognized as a member of the eccentric earl in the Trident Principality on the human continent.
Renya was trying to not pay overly much attention to it, but the name of Earl Renya Kunugi was actually connected to good and bad reputation at the same time. Him being the main protagonist behind the Holy Kingdom’s ruin played a major role in this.
Renya was wondering whether it was beyond hopeless for the comrades of such an infamous earl like him to actually find a husband. Choosing Shion as a marriage partner might come with a certain extent of benefits, but at the same time it had the huge drawback of triggering a quarrel with Earl Kunugi’s surroundings which outweighed any advantages by far.
No one would go out of their way to snatch a treasure in front of a dragon’s nose, no matter how wonderful and valuable that treasure might be. And assuming such a man existed, they’d be either utter fools or heroes in the sense of possessing extraordinary courage. Then again, as far as Renya knew and expected, neither of those two types existed on the human continent.
Rona had been put into a similar situation, but as she was designated as saintess by the humans’ goddess, her situation differed from Shion’s. Although it didn’t go as far as her being highly popular, Renya had heard from Mayria that she had been approached by suitors from all over the place at a fairly regular frequency. This appeared to be based on the thinking Rona would be able to somehow oppose Renya as someone backed by the goddess, if it should be needed, but that very goddess, which was their last ray of hope, was currently writhing at Renya’s feet.
Shion had started to fidget around with an extremely happy face, apparently because Renya hadn’t outright denied her request. On the other hand, Renya decided to shelve the matter with her for the moment, and crouched down to match his eye line with that of Giliel.
“There’s something I’d like to know. It’s related to the original gods of this world. I think only the demon god’s whereabouts are currently unknown, but that guy is staying over at the demon king’s place right now, correct?”
“I can’t check it, but it seems that he’s hiding out somewhere on the demon continent. I mean, there are no other places he could go to… But, Renya-san, why are you suddenly thinking that?”
The former demon supervisor likely being somewhere on the demon continent was evident even without her being able to confirm it. After all, Giliel had already fully grasped the situation of the other continents with the help of her new subordinates, the former human and beastman supervisors. At this point, it was impossible for the former demon supervisor to go back to the domain under the control of Giliel’s mistress. And in a situation where it immediately became clear if he descended on the surface, the only place for the former demon supervisor to guarantee his own safety was the demon continent.
However, Renya had clearly asked whether the demon god was to be found at the demon king’s place. As soon as Giliel asked whether he had some backing for that assumption, Renya answered, “The timing for the demon king’s army to invade the dragonoid continent is too weird. Since they can only invade in one of the four directions, you could say that it’s not so much a matter of a 25% chance to hit, but rather a 75% chance to miss. It also feels out of place for them to attack the dragonoids, who are currently easy to attack as they’re weakened the most among the four races on top of having a hero who’s acting independently at the moment.”
“You’re saying the timing is too good to be true?”
“It’s almost as if they’ve been watching our circumstances from somewhere, don’t you think? Since I can’t believe the demon king to have such an ability, I’ve started to think that someone near the demon king must have such an ability.”
“What’s your reason for assuming that the demon king doesn’t possess an ability allowing him to do just that?”
“If we assume that the demon king is originally supposed to be somehow defeatable by four heroes, it’d mean that the demon king’s abilities excel that of a single hero, but if they had added something like clairvoyance to the demon king’s abilities, it’d have actually been odd for the world to not belong to the demons by now.”
Unlike the heroes among the different races, the name of demon king referred to the strongest entity among the demons. Contrary to fighting while relying on the assistance by their surroundings like the heroes did, the demon king was able to move all demons through orders like his own limbs. If such a demon king possessed the ability to gather information from distant places without leaving his castle, he’d dispatch his armies to the most efficient places before the heroes could gather and form a united front against himself. Renya believed that it’d have been possible for the demon king to crush the heroes individually before they could mount any reasonable resistance.
It was conceivable that the demon king didn’t possess such an ability as such accurate army movements hadn’t been carried out by the demons so far, but them suddenly having started to move after choosing the perfect timing and opportunity meant that someone with an appropriate ability was now near the demon king, Renya had judged.
“I see. Leaving aside whether your hypothesis is correct or not, what do you want to do from now on, Renya-san?” Giliel fixed her eyes on Renya.
Her expression was so serious that it made Shion bate her breath while watching from the side, but even if she directed such a grave look at Renya, it could only look ridiculous when it had to pass through a casting net.
“Unintentionally I had my breath taken away by the extremely retarded impression of the whole picture.”
“That’s the part worrying you!? Shion-san…so far as it goes, I’m a being similar to a goddess for you people, you know?”
“Could I have you repeat this frequently since I’m otherwise going to completely forget it, if you don’t remind me constantly?” Shion retorted nonchalantly.
Giliel could only grind her teeth out of vexation in response. Disregarding her state, Renya voiced his thoughts, “I’d like to retrieve Albert one way or another.”
“Not a rescue or aid, but a retrieval…you’re really…”
“On an emotional level I’d like to rescue him. After all, he’s one of the very few decent heroes. But, timewise that might be somewhat difficult to pull off, so I used retrieval here.”
In short, it meant he didn’t try to feign ignorance, but actively chose to abandon the other party. Renya wasn’t one to hesitate in making such a decision, if no other options were available. Moreover, in this particular case, Renya had a reason why he had to retrieve Albert at all costs, besides his feelings on the matter.
“I said it a moment ago, but the demon king is an opponent that can be somehow defeated with four heroes. That’s the setting of this world. Right now we have four heroes on our side if we add the demon hero Emil.”
“Are you possibly worrying that the demon king’s side is going to use some kind of method to add the dragonoid’s hero to shift the current balance in their favor, Renya?”
Once Shion asked with an expression, showing how much she had strained her brain to come up with this, Renya nodded deeply as if to agree with Shion’s suspicion.
“In addition, if we go by Frau’s report and the information extracted from that Lost called Sazane, the demon king’s side currently possesses an ability to manipulate the opposite sex of the user at will. It’s highly likely that they’d make Albert switch sides.”
“However, all methods of contacting or reaching the dragonoid’s side have been crushed, and even if we tried to travel to the northern dragonoid continent one way or another, it’d take too much time.”
When their conversation reached that point, Renya and Shion looked at Giliel at almost the same time, as if they had arranged to do so in advance. Noticing their stares on herself, Giliel grasped why they had called her to this place, and stopped her efforts to get out of the casting net.
“You might say so, but I don’t think I will be much of an assistance, you know?”
The place they had moved to while taking Giliel along, who had been still tangled up in the net during the transport, was Renya’s private room. As for why they chose this particular place, one reason would stem from Renya believing that neither humans, elves, or beastmen would be overly happy about him getting involved with the dragonoid continent. Another reason was to be found in the dragonoid hero Albert having left Renya’s place because Renya had headed out to rescue Emil, a demon, and as such, a common enemy shared by the world thus far.
However, Renya didn’t feel any shame about having done any of it. If he were to be placed into another similar situation with the same choice to be made, he’d opt for this approach, no matter how often he had to.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t as if Renya didn’t understand where Albert was coming from. For this very reason Renya wasn’t all that willing to completely abandon Albert, but the highest authorities of the three races seemed to believe that it’d simply lead to the dragonoid’s demise sooner or later anyway.
Since he was planning to go rescue those dragonoids, even going as far as borrowing Giliel’s power, it was unthinkable for them to be happy about it. Therefore he had decided to secretly transport Giliel to his room in order to discuss matters with her over here.
As if it was only natural, Shion, who had assisted in the Giliel capture, was present as well. The earlier statement marked the first words leaving Giliel’s mouth after having been brought to Renya’s room.
“Look, you tend to forget it, but so far as it goes I count as a goddess in this world, okay? Though I suppose I can at least send you and your friends to the dragonoid continent, Renya-san.”
“It sure sounds like you have some strange inferiority complex going there…”
“No, not really. It’s just that I can evaluate myself properly. Or is there something else I’m missing here?”
As soon as they had entered Renya’s room, she had dived into the bed normally used by Renya, and kept grumbling her replies with her face buried in the sheet. Seeing her like that, she looked like an ordinary, sulking girl, but definitely not like anyone you’d connect with the word goddess.
Renya, who watched her antics with a fed-up expression, and Shion, who had raised an eyebrow at Giliel occupying Renya’s bed, looked at each other, not quite sure what to do with her. Whether she might be sulking or have grown timid, at present Giliel was the only feasible option to send Renya and his party to the dragonoid continent.
With the usual means of using a transfer gate thwarted, the methods for reaching the dragonoid continent were gone, and even if some kind of method were to be available, it’d require a humongous amount of time to arrive there. Of course Renya would have the option to use his huge amount of mana to <Fly> all the way there, but in that case he’d need to resolve himself for accumulating a big amount of fatigue on top of spending a long time for such a flight.
The recovery skill owned by Renya restored his mana and stamina at an astounding rate, but for some reason it didn’t work on mental or emotional things, and thus he’d be stuck with accumulating mental fatigue.
“What are we going to do about this?” Renya asked while pointing at his bed where Giliel was fidgeting around.
Shion pondered for some time while groaning, before voicing out the reply she had apparently reached at last.
“How about using gentle words to win her over for once?”
“Are you telling me to do that? Isn’t the grade of difficulty way too high?”
Given that Renya didn’t have any memories of his previous life, he didn’t know what kind of personality he had before coming to this world. Therefore he couldn’t deny the possibility of him possibly having been quite proficient at such flattery, but if he asked himself whether his current self would be able to do what Shion had suggested just now, he completely lacked confidence in confirming it.
“In my opinion, you’re always harsh on Giliel, so I feel like a little push by using just a few, nice words for her would do the trick.”
“You say some pretty nasty things yourself as well, don’t you?”
“By the way, I’d easily fall with a little push as well.”
“That’s no answer to my question, is it?”
After coldly shooting down Shion who was looking all smug after making her remark, Renya brought his face close to Giliel who was lying prostrate on his bed. He felt like it’d be a vain endeavor either way, but he also believed that he might as well go along with a fellow woman’s, Shion’s, proposal as he didn’t have anything to lose anyway.
“Giliel, currently I’m in a terrible bind. I’m counting on you.”
If I had been able to say that she’s the only one I can count on, it’d have likely been a lot more efficient, Renya himself believed as well, but since it wasn’t as though Renya was relying only on Giliel in everything, Renya couldn’t stress that part. Even if this obstinacy of his lowered the effect of his cajoling, Renya was unable to lie about something he didn’t really mean.
There was no reaction.
Although he got assailed by the hunch that the strategy might be the problem here, Renya cheered himself up that he’d need to try for just a bit longer, and further whispered into Giliel’s ear, “I’m sorry about not having repaid you overly well. And I’m well aware that it might be a bit shameless to request even more from you on top of that, but could you please lend me your strength while considering it a small assistance?”
As he had expected, there was still no reaction.
Just when he was on the verge of pulling his face away from Giliel’s ear, believing that this was a failure, Giliel beckoned Renya over while still laying face-down on his bed.
“Is something the matter?”
Renya almost clenched his fists in joy, but reminded himself to hold back until he got her to promise. In the eyes of someone who was kindly asked to provide a little more service, it wouldn’t be such an outrageous demand as it was just a matter of raising the reward a bit, and not one where you’d need to scold the requester. Once he considered it like that, it soothed any irritation within him, but even then, Renya had absolutely no idea what else he should say to answer her request.
“I’m always thankful. You’re my guardian angel.”
At the same time as Giliel raised her face that looked totally slovenly and loose, Renya felt like he ended up saying something he should have never said out loud, and thus hung his head in dejection with a very gloomy expression.
Once he faced Shion who came over and clapped his shoulder in an encouraging manner, she said to him with a serious gaze, “That’s something I’d love to occasionally hear from you as well.”
“Please spare me. Do you intend to kill me emotionally…?”
Contrary to Renya who felt like locking himself up in some small, dark place and cowering there for a while, Giliel jumped off the bed after having fully recovered her good mood.
“Now that you’ve gone this far, I have no other choice! As your guardian angel, I, Giliel, shall lend you my power!”
“Just earlier you said that you wouldn’t be of much assistance, didn’t you…?” Shion rebutted while looking somewhat unhappy.
In response, Giliel toned her tension down a bit while answering, “Well, it doesn’t change the things I can’t do. If you told me to revert time for the sake of reliably rescuing Albert, for example, that would be impossible. Time isn’t a domain we can interfere with as it has some parts that can only be manipulated by higher beings.”
“There are higher beings?”
“Yes, Renya-san knows one of them.”
Even though he hadn’t fully recovered from the emotional shock yet, Renya calmly nodded when his name was dropped.
“How about asking that person then?”
“Please don’t. That’s no joke either, okay? We don’t know what kind of effect it’d have on this world if my Mistress used her power to manipulate time. In the first place, if she were to send you back into the past, it’d create a time axis with two Renya-sans existing in this world, you know? At that point, anything and everything could happen, so please consider the side who has to supervise this world, too.”
“Would it be that bad if two of me existed?”
Giliel flapped her wings while answering Renya’s question, “There’s no problem if a Renya-san of world A and Renya-san of world B live in world C. But, if Renya-san of world A is sent back one hour on world A, it’ll result in two Renya-san of world A existing, and this will become a problem.”
“As someone who’s crossed the boundary, I know that several worlds exist, but are there several me’s on other worlds?”
“That’s something I can’t say. The world seems to fork into infinite branches depending on probabilities, possibilities, and choices. But, at this point a being of my level has to pass since I can’t observe all of them. The only one who seems to fully grasp all words with all their variations seems to be my Mistress. Probably.”
The talk was about to get quite complicated, but it didn’t contain anything Renya wanted to know right now.
Renya switched his thinking as he had to bring back the conversation to the dragonoids.
“So, what would you be capable of?”
“I could send you and your friends to the dragonoid continent, is what I’d love to say, but since the demon continent is between here and there, it’s not like I can offer to send you wherever you like.”
It wasn’t as if Renya didn’t wonder whether this was enough to demand a service from others which would kill them emotionally, but he didn’t voice any of his doubts. Her having mentioned ahead of time that there were some things she couldn’t do meant that she could still do other things. As he had offended her before asking about what she could do, complaining now would clearly count as a disservice towards her.
“If it’s the transfer gates located on the dragonoid continent, I can set up a path to them, but…I don’t know whether it’s because the dragonoids intended to completely cut off all contact with everyone, or whether it’s because of yet another reason…but, it looks like the transfer gates themselves have been destroyed. Though I’m going to look for a location allowing me to connect a transfer path,” explained Giliel evasively. “They were pushed up to this point by you, Renya-san. In the worst case, I’ll consult with my Mistress, and we’ll force a way open to the demon continent…”
“Giliel, isn’t the transfer gate near the dragon’s nest, which we used the last time, still active?”
Renya suddenly remembered about that gate and immediately asked Giliel about it. That transfer gate was definitely located on the dragonoid continent, but not only was it extremely close to the dragon’s nest said to be inhabited by the dragons, but it was situated in a shrine which was far away from any dragonoid habitation. In other words, it was a gate leading to a deserted, isolated place.
Renya believed that no one would have meddled with such a remote transfer gate, even if the dragonoids or someone else might have destroyed the gates.
“Dragon’s nest? Ohh, come to think of it, such a place existed at the northern tip of the dragonoid continent, didn’t it…? Umm, was there a transfer gate around there…?”
“Since it’s not like I’ve seen it on a map, I don’t know its precise location, but we used it in the past, so yeah.”
“Over there, huh? Sure feels somewhat nostalgic at this point.”
In front of Shion who seemed to wistfully recall the past, Giliel pressed a hand against her temple with a troubled expression as if trying to remember something, but then her face suddenly brightened up, and she looked directly at Renya.
“I found it! It looks like the gate over there is still working!”
“That makes things quick. Please open a path to that gate.”
“Sure thing, is what I’d love to say, but there’s still a problem left, you know?” Gliel poured cold water on Renya whose expression had loosened up as he was sure that things would work out one way or another now that they found this solution. “At present I don’t know the situation on the dragonoid continent. I’ve turned the former human and beastman supervisors into my subordinates, and we’re currently managing this world, but in addition to us not grasping everything that is going on because we’re short-handed, the dragonoids don’t seem to have an overly nice relationship with you, Renya-san, and thus we didn’t route much effort into observing them.”
“And that means?”
“How do you plan to gather information about Albert-san’s location and so on after going over there? If you think that you can simply head over and things will work out one way or another, I’d recommend you to give up on that idea.”
Seemingly intending to warn him rather than make him desist altogether, Giliel tried to get a read on what Renya was thinking from his face.
While scratching his head, Renya answered, “It’s not like I don’t have an idea.”
“Would it be possible to tell me about that idea of yours?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing that grand or confidential. Don’t you understand from the fact of the transfer gate being close to the dragon’s nest?”
“I see, so you’re planning to ask the dragons in the dragon’s nest for information about the dragonoids?”
Shion clapped her hands together as if it was a magnificent idea, but hearing Renya’s words, Giliel put on an indescribably grim expression.
It was a story apt to be forgotten, but dragons were beings with absolute strength in this world. You could even describe them as symbols of death. For the ordinary inhabitants of this world, a meeting with a dragon meant a one-way ticket to the netherworld, so it was usually unthinkable that they’d consider the option of gathering information from dragons as feasible.
Such an idea could only stem from Renya, and Shion going along with it was just proof of her being totally influenced by him. Though Giliel couldn’t make up her mind whether to label either as good or bad.
“Very likely Rubydra, Emedra, or both should be present in that dragon’s nest or whatever it is, right?”
“You mean it’s a great bargain since we’ll be able to procure information and a means of transportation in one go?”
“In the worst case, we’ll at least have some method to move around, even if we can’t get any information over there. Regardless of whether Rubydra and Emedra are over there or not.”
As it was pretty clear from his words that he intended to secure a dragon, even if he had to force his hand, Giliel sent her heart out to the dragons in the far north of the dragonoid continent.
If the dragonoids had been eradicated by the demon king, it wouldn’t be odd for the dragons to have suffered damage as well since they were inhabitants of the same continent. As such Giliel felt slightly guilty for sending the calamity with the name of Renya to such a place, but at this point she couldn’t do anything about it, nor could she stop Renya from going through with it.
Despite essentially being a goddess, Giliel had no other choice but to offer her prayers so that any kind of disaster that might befall the dragons would at least be limited to the lowest level possible.
While Giliel was opening a gate connected to the shrine close to the dragon nest, Renya swiftly racked his brain about who to take with him.
Going by the situation, the option of not taking Shion along doesn’t exist anymore, meaning, she’s set. If I opted to not take her with me at this point, she’d obviously go berserk to a degree that it’d be hard to rein her back in. And seeing how we’re about to go to the dragonoid continent to resolve a dispute, I’d love to avoid adding even more troubles, Renya honestly assessed. If not for that, I’d be quite capable of retrieving Albert or what used to be Albert by myself.
Accordingly it wasn’t as if Renya wouldn’t be somehow able to cope if he went to the dragonoid continent with just Shion alone, but he felt slightly reluctant to go there with just the two of them. His discomfort stemmed from the trailing memory of how the archduchess had earlier told him to choose one of the three. Of course, thanks to the archduchess including herself in the choices, Renya couldn’t quite tell how serious she meant all of it, but limited to just the content of her words, Renya didn’t believe them to be a joke either.
If he were to ever find himself in a situation where he had to make a choice no matter what, it’d be mostly settled whom he’d pick, going by level of association, but going on a trip with Shion alone before actually wording it out felt somewhat questionable to Renya. Mostly owed to his embarrassment taking precedence here.
The objective of their upcoming mission was the prevention of the demon king’s side’s obtaining of Albert, so it wasn’t as if it bore some special, romantic meaning, but Renya still felt like it’d be a bad idea anyhow. Even though this argumentation would be in vain if he were told that he was overthinking things, but even so, Renya felt like wanting someone else to accompany them for the sake of his mental and emotional stability.
However, when he thought about it, he realized that Emil was currently training as a hero, and Rona had been spearheading the recent chain of events as a saint. Moreover, Mayria didn’t have the ability to be of any use for this mission, even if he took her along, and Renya would actually feel sorry about forcing her to travel abroad as someone completely specialized in administrative matters. As for Frau, he wanted her to rest up a bit longer since he had her deal with Sazane’s cleanup just recently. Given that the elves should have a certain level of exchange with the dragonoids, it seemed like a good idea to take Croire along, but she didn’t have an overly good impression of the dragonoids after having watched their previous actions, and since she often used words and behaviors that could be interpreted as insulting and thorny, he had a slight issue with bringing her along. When it came to the other heroes, taking them along was out of the question to begin with.
Having considered things up to this point, Renya noticed that he didn’t have anyone else he could take with him.
“You seem to be troubled?” Giliel spoke up in the middle of her work, seeing Renya’s expression as he mused that he might have to go on this long trip with Shion alone, assuming there was no other possible option.
Giliel had opened a dresser-like gate smackdown in the middle of Renya’s room, just to stop her hands for a moment and clap her own chest. Only that gesture was enough to engulf Giliel’s body in a light, which immediately disappeared, replaced by Giliel now being clad in her peddler outfit.
“If you so like, I, Kilie, shall accompany you on your journey this time.”
“Huh? It’s been decided from that start that you’d come with us Giliel, no?” Shion answered while looking confused, forestalling Renya who was about to respond to Giliel’s proposal.
Because Giliel didn’t intend to hide the fact of Kilie and her being one and the same person, what with her face, speech pattern, and gestures being the same, Giliel suddenly transforming into Kilie didn’t surprise Shion and Renya. On the other hand, Shion’s words were a surprise for Renya.
Without noticing any of that, Shion looked at Kilie, who had frozen on the spot with surprise dyeing her face, with an expression as if he asking her what she was talking about after all that happened, and announced, “As we’re going to go over there through the transfer gate here, we must come back here once we’re done, so if you, as the one capable of opening the gate, don’t come with us, we’re going to end up stuck over there, no?”
Renya had planned to get in contact with Rubydra and Emedra over there and return to his earldom by using either of them as transport, but if they took the person, who could open a transfer gate, with them, it’d certainly become unnecessary to force the dragons, Renya realized.
Not only Renya, but even Giliel ignored the fact of Shion addressing Giliel, the being who was pretty much the goddess of this world, without any honorific titles due to Shion coming up with such an overwhelmingly reasonable argument.
“That’s how it is, but could we ask you to accompany us once more?”
Even though it was a good idea, they wouldn’t be able to move on unless they got the approval of the party concerned. Following that train of thought, Renya directly asked Giliel.
Giliel, now calling herself Kilie, bowed her head towards Renya in a manner that made one feel a certain extent of reverence. “I shall gladly take you up on that. A-Also, please call me Kilie while I’m in this appearance.”
It was a small detail, but appeared to touch upon a part within Giliel she was unwilling to yield on. Renya readily nodded his consent as he didn’t really care whether he called her Giliel or Kilie. Shion likewise nodded, although she didn’t get the meaning behind using Kilie as name.
“With this, it is going to be us three. But, is there anyone else you wish to accompany us?”
“No, let us go just like that. It’d be pointless to head over with too much of a group.”
In Renya’s eyes, it was more than enough to have one more person to serve as buffer between himself and Shion, and thus he didn’t see any need to get more people to come with them. Rather, he feared that taking along too many people would lead to them losing their goal out of sight.
“You’re right. …It’s just a tiny bit of a disappointment for me, I guess…”
Kilie revealed a vague smile in response to Shion’s words that brimmed with composure for some reason, whereas Renya scratched his cheek with a troubled expression. Apparently Renya’s thoughts had leaked to both girls present.
“Is it going to be fine to not notify anyone before departing?” Kilie asked Renya as if to expel the strange atmosphere in the room.
Seeing how Klinge, the land ruled by Renya, had become the front base in the battle against the demon king, it seemed to Kilie like the ruler of that place, even if only in name, arbitrarily coming and going as he pleased would entail all kinds of problems.
However, Renya’s answer was short and curt, “It’s not like I’m needed here, am I? And the stuff needed for traveling is all stowed away in my void storage.”
“You got a point, I suppose?” Kilie replied, but in reality, this wasn’t much of an explanation.
But, assuming she had said it was not an option, it’d have been unthinkable that the archduchess would have granted her permission after Renya informed her about going to the dragonoid continent for a bit to secure Albert. Even if she might have understood that it’d be quite bad for the demon king’s side to get their hands on Albert, she’d be labeled for all eternity as utter idiot or woman of legendary boldness, if she had given her approval after being told that three people would head over to a territory, which was most likely in the midst of being attacked by the demons, to retrieve a hero.
However, thinking that Renya would give up on the idea just because he was told to not go would be preposterous. In the end, either choice would lead to the three heading over to the dragonoid continent, and as such it’d wouldn’t change anything whether they informed someone about it ahead of time or just let it rest. If anything, keeping quiet about it would avoid any nitpicking until they got exposed, and thus Kilie judged that it’d be the most ideal option in this situation to silently leave.
“Shion-san, are you okay with this as well?”
Kilie passing the baton to Shion here didn’t have anything to do with her wanting to hear Shion’s opinion. Instead it was a precautionary measure of wanting to make sure that not only Renya’s and her decision about going to the dragonoid continent would be heard, but also Shion’s.
“I’m fine as long as Renya doesn’t mind, you know?”
“Very well, then let’s sneak out. Are we going to depart right away?” Kilie asked Renya while feeling satisfied about having received the answer from Shion she had expected.
It’s not wrong to put things into practice as soon as possible once you’ve decided on them. The faster we leave Klinge, the less likely the risk of being found out.
“Right away…is impossible, I’d say. My preparations are in order, but Shion, Kilie, you’re not ready yet, are you?”
Renya had stored mountains of food and medical supplies away inside his inventory, but even Renya wouldn’t have prepared changes of clothes for Shion and Kilie. For a period of time Renya had considered putting in spare clothes for his friends since he had more than enough capacity available anyway, but when he imagined himself taking underwear out of his inventory for Shion and Rona, he had given up on that idea as that sight would be just too outrageous to behold.
“I’m a peddler, so I always carry all my belongings on me.”
“Ah, so you’re going to fully capitalize on that setting, eh?” Shion whispered a retort upon Kilie’s bragging.
Shion had an urge to ask in what world you’d find a goddess who always carried her everyday necessities with her, but she gave up on it since there was definitely one right here.
“Naturally, I don’t have anything with me. I’ll immediately gather up my stuff and come back, so wait for me please.”
“Don’t worry. Now that things have developed this far, we’re not going to leave you behind.”
It’d definitely be possible for Renya and Kilie to go to the dragonoid continent without Shion, once she left to pick up her stuff, but Renya was scared of what would await him when he came back after they had accomplished their goal.
‘There’s nothing better to wrap up things without buying someone’s resentment, if you can avoid it.
After casting a glance at Renya’s face, Shion quickly rushed out of the room. And it didn’t take her much time to return either.
As far as determinable by the slightly big bag in her hand, Shion had apparently put together her belongings in advance to make it easy for her to travel on a short call, probably for the sake of following Renya who had a tendency to often travel all over the place.
While believing that he should raise her evaluation for being so well-prepared, Renya extended a hand towards her.
“What’s up, Renya?”
“I’ll carry all our luggage. So, pass me your stuff.”
Thinking that it’d be better to throw everything into his inventory rather than having Shion carry it, Renya had stretched out his hand in order to grab Shion’s bag. But, Shion hid the bag behind her while blushing somewhat.
Shion whispered to Renya, who wondered whether he had made some kind of mistake, “This, umm…contains my underwear.”
“I haven’t told you to show me the content. I’m going to toss it into my void storage bag and all, so don’t mind it.”
“Renya-san, then my underwear as well…”
“You just boasted that you could carry your things yourself, didn’t you? Moreover, why is it limited to underwear?”
Until this very day Renya remembered how he had bought his katana from Kilie. Naming herself a rare peddler, Kilie had approached Renya with the sales pitch of her possessing a void storage. At this point Renya had no intention to let her claim that she couldn’t carry her own luggage. And even without all that, Kilie was in reality anything but a real peddler.
Normally, it wouldn’t be strange at all for her to transport Renya and Shion – let alone her own luggage – to the dragonoid continent without a transfer gate.
“If you have enough time to blather about pointless stuff, then hurry up and pass through the gate. What do you plan to do if someone finds out what we’re doing here?”
“What a waste, Renya-san. Even though it had been such a great chance for you to take a direct look at the underwear of a goddess.”
“A normal goddess wouldn’t wear any in the first place.”
As far as Renya’s knowledge went, no depictions in myths showed gods taking off their bras and panties, but suddenly he recalled the events of the time when it was decided for him to come to this world alongside a little pang of nostalgia. That little goddess, who was a major pain to his eardrums upon her appearance, triggered Renya to kick her for the very reason of not wearing any underwear.
“It was smooth, wasn’t it?”
“…Since I value my own safety, I won’t ask you what you might be talking about…,” answered Giliel towards Renya’s mutter while something similar to cold sweat formed a light sheen on her forehead.
Not understanding in the least what the two were meaning with their words, Shion could only cock her head in puzzlement.
After experiencing a temporary blackout, Renya opened his eyes, just to find himself standing in a dim cave. The small, shallow cave, which the dragonoids called Shrine of Foreigners, was located in the northern part of the northern dragonoid continent with its only use being a location for the transfer gate.
Renya, Shion, and Kilie had arrived here from Klinge. As it was a place he had visited once before, Renya felt a slight pang of nostalgia. Looking through the gaping opening of the cave, Renya was somewhat relieved to see nothing other than the usual, empty wilderness sprawling outside.
“It sure looks like this place hasn’t changed at all since our last visit.”
If the demon king’s army, fires, or black smoke had been visible, they’d have no choice but to suspect that the situation had deteriorated a lot more than before, but as far as one could tell from the shrine’s vicinity, the demon king’s influence hadn’t yet reached this region.
“As usual it’s quite the dreary patch of land,” commented Shion, probably recalling their last visit.
On the other hand, Kilie, who had temporarily severed the connection to Klinge after passing through the gate last, restlessly looked around, appearing to be quite curious for some reason.
“So far as it goes, you’re a goddess, aren’t you? So there shouldn’t exist anything you haven’t seen yet, no?”
“No, not at all. There’s a wide difference between looking down from above and surveying the actual area on the ground, you know? Having said that, this area doesn’t seem to be overly interesting for sightseeing.”
“Rather than worrying about such stuff, what are we going to do next?” Shion asked.
After brooding it over for a while, Renya answered, “We’ll head north and take a look at that Dragon Nest or whatever it is. At the moment, the area over there still appears to be safe.”
“How long is it going to take us to the Dragon Nest from here?”
Renya had no ready reply at hand for Shion’s follow-up question, so after exchanging a glance for a moment, Shion and Renya almost simultaneously turned their faces towards Kilie. Their gazes clearly carried the message that she should at least know this much if she already dared to call herself goddess, but even while perceiving their implicit demand for information, Kilie readily betrayed their expectations.
“It should be quite far away.”
“Okay, and how far?”
“I don’t know. It’s not like I deliberately measure distances when looking down on the surface.”
Because of how Kilie proudly announced her own lack of knowledge, Renya quickly gave up on her, and tried to recall the conversation with his party back when he came here the first time. Eventually, he remembered that their current position, the Shrine of Foreigners, was situated roughly in the middle between the Dragon Nest and the Miasma Forest. However, at the same time, it made him realize that they had quite a long way to travel in order to reach the Dragon Nest from here.
“It’s far. Way too far. I don’t want to even consider how long it’d take to reach it by foot.”
“It’s because this world is pointlessly vast,” argued Kilie indifferently as if she was talking about someone else’s problem.
“And who created this world!? Tell me! Who!?” Renya managed to barely squeeze out while arresting her in a headlock.
Kilie tapped his arm, indicating her surrender, but he ignored her and continued to put the screws on her neck, resulting in her body soon losing all strength as she had fainted. After carelessly tossing her limp, unconscious body away like a piece of garbage, Renya began to consider their current situation seriously.
No matter how superior his and his companion’s physical abilities might be, walking would waste a lot of time and stamina, and as such it wasn’t an option he wanted to take. But, while that might be true, Renya couldn’t come up with another means of travel either.
“How about we walk for the time being? It looks like there’s still some time left until sunset, and even if it does sink, our current group won’t have much trouble with camping out.”
After listening to Shion’s opinion, Renya looked up to the sky.
She’s right. The sun is still quite high up in the sky, so it’ll take several hours until it becomes dark outside.
He also felt that it wasn’t a bad plan to think about the rest while moving if a quick solution wasn’t apparent, but he had a hunch that leaving the the Shrine of Foreigners, a place they knew, and heading northwards through wilderness without anything that could serve as a landmark would complicate any further actions even if they came up with some great idea.
Of course, even Renya understood that they’d only waste time if they didn’t take any action at all, but it was only understandable that he wanted to avoid making any careless moves in unfamiliar terrain he had visited only once for a short time.
Having revived at some point, Kilie rotated her head, causing her neck to crack, while offering a different suggestion.
“It’s not like I don’t have any idea at all, though.”
“Very well, then let’s hear it,” urged Renya without holding too many expectations.
Whatever suggestion she might have, it isn’t bad to put all options on the table. Even if it’s a completely useless suggestion, it’d still be possible for it to serve as the basis for another idea, so you don’t lose anything by listening to all proposals as long as time allows for it, Renya believed.
“How about having you use all your mana for some spell, Renya-san?”
“And what would be the point in that?” Shion asked as she didn’t grasp the intention behind Kilie’s proposal.
While Renya silently watched their exchange, Kilie nodded curtly and replied, “If you possess the senses of a dragon, you’d pick up on an abnormally huge cluster of mana created by Renya-san. If such a mana cluster suddenly was unleashed as a wide-area spell without any kind of reasoning, some dragon might come around to take a look at what’s going on.”
“I see, and then we catch the curious dragon, is what you mean, huh?” Shion had grasped the idea behind the suggestion.
Meanwhile, Kilie looked all smug, her face being a display of bragging.
Renya retorted flatly, “Wouldn’t it also draw the demon king army’s attention if it’s a spell so strong that you can sense it from far away?”
It’d pose no problem if it were to only draw the attention of the dragons. Then again, Renya didn’t believe that it’d be absolutely no problem for the dragons either, but even so, he expected that they should be able to work something out if it was only limited to the dragons. However, if the demon king army noticed it and came to check things out, it wouldn’t be overly funny.
Of course, it wasn’t as though they were trying to secretly sneak around, so Renya didn’t intend to insist on them not being found by all means, but he didn’t regard it as his duty to expressly inform the enemy of their presence either.
“Well, the idea of causing something similar to a signal fire isn’t completely worthless, but… A signal fire will be seen from everywhere within its visible range, so…,” Renya tried to continue, but he stopped midway.
Shion called out to Renya who was staring into the sky as if having noticed something, “Umm, Renya?”
“Kilie, Shion and I don’t know the area around here and thus we don’t know the correct route, but north is over there, right?” Renya asked Kilie while pointing a finger in the direction he was looking without answering Shion.
In response, Kilie nodded several times even though appearing somewhat startled.
Not having received an answer to her question, Shion attempted to call out to Renya once more, but then turned her eyes in the same direction as Renya as if having finally noticed what Renya meant.
While puzzled and asking herself just what had triggered those two to act like that, Kilie turned her face in the same direction as the two, and strained her eyes. After a short moment, she grasped what Renya and Shion had perceived.
“Something is over there, isn’t there?”
It wasn’t as though she could see something in particular, but more like a sensation, or rather, an intuition tugged at her. Kilie could perceive that something was present in the far distance.
Kilie, whose main body was divine, noticing this fact only after Shion, not to mention Renya, was a manifestation of what could be called a limitation to her abilities because she had descended into the transient world as Kilie, but she still hadn’t expected that she’d even fall behind Shion. Kilie felt somewhat offended, but rather than dwelling on this, it was more important to think about what was laying ahead of them.
“I wonder what this is?”
“Somehow…it’s kinda like Dra-kun, although the scale is completely incomparable.”
“Shion, that’s not kinda like Dra-kun, but simply what you call a dragon’s presence,” explained Renya to her, and yet couldn’t quite believe that he was currently sensing a dragon’s presence.
The dragons Renya had encountered so far were Dra-kun, Emedra, Rubydra, and the evil dragons following the demon king, but neither of them emitted a presence that would make Renya feel like they posed a threat to him.
However, the presence he felt right now was so powerful that it made Renya believe that it’d be a considerable menace even for him. Moreover, the really terrifying part about this was him being actually able to sense that presence all the way from the very distant Dragon Nest.
Just how many dragons exist who are mighty enough to emit a presence so strong that it’d clearly indicate their threat level from a location so far away that considering to walk the distance could be seen as absurd?
“…Would it be delicious as food?”
You can’t unconditionally state that young and fresh meat will always be great. If we take chicken as an example, it’s certainly more tender and delicious the younger the chicken, but older chickens with their tougher meat are definitely better for soup stock and such.
“Considering food issues in front of such a presence is definitely something that would only come out of your mouth, Renya-san.”
“Well, it’s quite typical for Renya, so no surprise to be found here.”
Kilie rolled her eyes whereas Shion chuckled.
What’s so weird about considering whether it’s edible, seeing how eating is so essential for humans anyway? Renya wondered with a sour look, but he had no time to become sulky here.
“It looks like me coming here got exposed before we could take any action at all.”
When Renya’s party visited the dragonoid continent last time, it didn’t appear like anyone sensed their arrival. It was hard to imagine that something with such a huge presence had been born just recently, and thus it had to have erased its presence under normal circumstances. As such, it was only natural that this being had deliberately revealed its presence after noticing their party, following some kind of intent.
“Isn’t it great that we’ve been found out by just the dragons then?”
“So, are we going to wait here for the dragons to approach us from their side?”
Renya immediately shook his head at Shion’s question, “Things have changed now that the dragons are aware of our presence. Let’s try walking northwards.”
“Could I ask for the reason?”
As soon as Renya took the lead, walking in the northern direction, Shion immediately caught up to him, walking at his side. With this leading to Kilie walking behind them as she was a bit late in reacting, she ended up directing her question at Renya’s back.
Without looking back, Renya replied, “Given that they’ve sensed our presence, they’ll sooner or later head over to take a look if we start traveling in their direction.”
“And that’s when we’ll catch one, right!?”
Shion clenched her fists as if saying that they should leave it to her, but because Renya would be fine as long as their visitor would provide them with the information they sought or gave them a ride on their back, he didn’t feel like forcibly catching them.
But, since it was meaningless to dampen Shion’s motivation by telling her all that, he decided to keep walking without correcting her.
In the end, it didn’t take that long for a dragon to show up at the location of the three walkers in order to take a look, but Shion and Kilie became dumbstruck when they saw what kind of dragon had shown up.
“That was unexpectedly fast. Him showing up here so quickly despite the fairly long distance must mean that he’s rather fast on the wings… Mmh? What’s wrong, you two? Why are you gawking with your mouths agape? Let me warn you just in case you didn’t realize, it makes you look even dumber than usual, you know?”
Probably because she was told that she looked like a retard, Shion forced her mouth shut, before kicking Renya’s shin.
Despite feeling disappointed as he thought that he’d given her such precious advice, Renya directed his eyes back to the dragon diagonally above them. The huge, hovering body was far bigger than Dra-kun’s, and even compared to Emedra and Rubydra, it was twice as big.
If such a huge object were to hover by flapping its wings, it would cause a tremendous wind pressure on the ground, but Renya and the others didn’t feel any wind pressing down on them whatsoever while the dragon slowly swung its wings up and down.
(What kind of business do thou have with the land inhabited by us dragons, tiny ones?)
Renya thought that he might be the only one to hear the telepathic voice reverberating inside his head, but once he looked at his companions, both girls were staring up at the huge dragon with surprise written on their faces.
While he admired the dragon for having gone out of his way to open a telepathic channel to all three of them, the dragon continued speaking.
(I demand a reply. Depending on thine answer, I might be unable to allow thou to proceed beyond this point)
“That’s a surprisingly narrow-minded view, considering how far away from the dragon’s home we still are.”
Shion and Kilie were preoccupied with their feelings of surprise or whatever, and thus were in no state to hold a decent conversation. Although it was too late now, Renya started to feel that it might have been a good idea to have brought Mayria with them as she seemed to be quite adept at negotiations, but since she wasn’t here anyway, Renya stepped forward himself – in a way that protected Shion and Kilie behind him – and spoke up as he looked up to the dragon.
“Just what right would you have to hinder us from passing?”
(Right, huh? Very well, let me tell thee. I am the guardian of the other, young dragons. Therefore I must inquire about thine intentions as one possessing mana that is unimaginable for a human, and make a decision based on that)
“…Somehow, an arrogant one turned up.”
Renya had expected that only someone like a scout would appear if it came to taking a look, but as far as he could tell from their conversation so far, the dragon in front of him talked in a way you’d expect from an officer or even a general, if put in army ranks.
“U-Umm! Would it be alright for me to ask for your name!?” Kilie asked the dragon while lowering her back after having pulled herself together before Shion.
Renya stared at Kilie with a flabbergasted expression, wondering whether it was really fine for a goddess to act so humble, but Kilie looked quite serious.
(Thou ask for mine name, tiny one? Very well, so be it. I might start to believe that thou plot against me out of ignorance if you do not know this name)
The dragon spread its wings widely. Then it descended on the ground just like that, finally allowing the three to take a proper look at its big, deep crimson body. It was a red much more vivid and powerful than that of Rubydra.
The dragon introduced itself to Renya and the others who had reflexively narrowed their eyes.
(I am the Ruby Dragon, Rubeus Corundum. One of the Four Greater Dragons that protect the Dragon’s Nest)
Renya cried out due to an unexpected name cropping up here, while Shion reacted in total surprise. Even though their reactions were based on different emotions, both ended up raising their voice in the same shocked manner.