Alyssa groaned while looking at a parchment.
The image of her lying on top of a stack of blankets with her boots taken off, bare-footed to top it off, in the tent which was set up for her sake coupled together with her appearance, that looks childish, doesn’t give the impression of someone leading an army at all.
“Did Hifumi-san come back?” (Alyssa)
What was written in the parchment the messenger brought from Fokalore by changing horses was the news of Hifumi’s return.
“We still haven’t done our job though.” (Alyssa)
In fact they have been encamped in the plains next to the national border for around a week, but except them killing countless monsters by ganging up on them in groups they didn’t do anything but just sending back the messenger from Vichy.
Everyday they were rotating the shifts of training, vacation and guarding. Alyssa showed her face sometimes at the training and guarding duties.
Kind of unchanging from what they have done in Fokalore, except being unable to go home, even the soldiers enjoyed the peaceful campaign without a hint of tension.
“What’s wrong?” (Miyukare)
Miyukare entered with hot water she boiled at the burning bonfire outside.
Observing Miyukare who pours the tea in an accustomed manner, Alyssa, who got up quickly, waves the paper she’s holding in her hand.
“It looks like Hifumi-san has returned to Fokalore.” (Alyssa)
“Oh. I wonder where he will rampage around next. It will be fine if it doesn’t cost any excessive amount of money again though. Rather than that, I guess he hasn’t brought any new residents or slaves along. If the number of people increased any more, it would become quite difficult for Paryu.” (Miyukare)
There are jokes mixed in, but where residents, who were invited by the feudal lord himself, are concerned, it will become necessary to treat them as privileged guests and that will radically increase the workload of Paryu who has the role of dealing with people from outside.
Actually, Paryu felt secretly relieved since Hifumi unexpectedly came back without anyone tagging along.
“I wonder if it’s best for us to return as well, is what I was pondering about.” (Alyssa)
“Let’s see…” (Miyukare)
Miyukare, who handed a cup filled with tea to Alyssa, held her own share with both hands to warm them up. By gently touching the wood of the cup, the heat within permeated to her hands.
“It will definitely finish with Lord-sama saying “Ah, yea” no matter which choice you pick. The most important point is to do what is good for you, Alyssa-sama.” (Miyukare)
“Ahahaha, that would be just like him to say that.” (Alyssa)
While drinking the still hot tea with little sips after cooling it down with a sour look, Alyssa laughs.
“Then let’s return for now, eh? Everyone likely wants to go back home, too. I also want to meet Hifumi-san.” (Alyssa)
Miyukare acknowledged Alyssa’s decision while showing a somewhat complicated smile.
“Understood. I will tell everyone right away.” (Miyukare)
“Let’s depart tomorrow early morning? We will slowly advance while getting rid of monsters along the way.” (ALyssa)
“Oh?”, Miyukare tilted her head to the side.
“Won’t that cause us to take quite a bit time until getting back to Fokalore?” (Miyukare)
“It’s fine, to go slowly at it.” (Alyssa)
While looking at the tea that doesn’t diminish easily, she blows at it once again.
“I have a feeling that it’s slightly dangerous for me to meet with Hifumi-san before Origa-san does.” (Alyssa)
She was able to consent to that but whether that was a good thing or not was something Miyukare didn’t know.
However she has no objection about the time she can spend with Alyssa lengthening.
(I have to enjoy a picnic with her during our return as well.) (Miyukare)
Leaving the tent, Miyukare was smiling cheerfully.
A report identical to that of Alyssa reached Origa’s place delayed by one week.
In a room within the castle where she already felt at home thinking of it as her own dwelling, a female soldier, whom she brought along from Fokalore, conveyed the news in a dignified voice while standing up straight in front of Origa.
“Madam, a fast letter has arrived from your territory.”
“Fast, huh? Did something happen?” (Origa)
Origa, who was writing in her office, put down her pen considering it as unusual.
“Lord-sama has returned…”
At the moment she started to say that Origa literally leapt at her all of a sudden and snatched the paper from her.
Looking at Origa who tightly grasped the report to a degree of it being close to getting torn with widely opened eyes, the female soldier sighed within her mind.
(As long as she isn’t like this, she is a lovely madam, but…)
While the female soldier is thinking about such things, large tears gather at Origa’s eyes.
“Ah, Hifumi-sama… how wonderful for you to be alright…” (Origa)
She tightly embraces the report in her chest while shedding big drops of tears.
Of course Origa, just like Alyssa, harboured no anxiety about Hifumi being safe himself. Rather than that, she was worried about him not returning after having found a country more comfortable than this one or him, who was summoned from another world, having returned to his former world at some point of time unknown to her.
Origa is aware that territory and peerage, which he only accepted “for some reason or another”, isn’t that much of an attachment to him.
“I cannot stay here like this!” (riga)
Folding the paper happily and stuffing it into her pocket, Origa returned her look at the female soldier, who stood around in a daze.
“We will return to Fokalore right away.” (Origa)
“Yes, right now. Since I will go to bid farewell to Her Majesty, the Queen, get the carriage ready in that time. Please prepare a large quantity of light food centred around preserved food as we will cover the whole distance of the highway without resting as much as possible.” (Origa)
With Origa’s eyes throwing daggers at the head of the flustered female soldier while giving her the instructions, the female soldier dashed out of the room.
“Well, then I will get ready as well.” (Origa)
“Is it fine to talk for a little moment before that?”
The face, which peeked in from the door which the soldier had left open, was that of Royal Knight Order Captain Sabnak.
“Isn’t it a breach of manners to peep into the room of a lady without even knocking?” (Origa)
“No, no, the door was open after all. I’d like you to overlook this much at least, but…” (Sabnak)
“I don’t particularly mind though.” (Origa)
Putting her hand on her cheek, Origa shakes here head.
“If I tell your wife, Shibyura-san, about you having peeped into the room, Sabnak-sama…” (Origa)
“I’m very sorry!” (Sabnak)
Origa laughed in a pleasant, high-pitched sound due to Sabnak bowing his upper body vigorously to the degree of it being level to the ground.
“It’s a joke. However, I have gone for a tea together with your wife a few times. Since you have such a high position, your wife will worry about you if you aren’t careful.” (Origa)
“I shall take it to heart.” (Sabnak)
“So, what’s your business with me?” (Origa)
“… I heard that Hifumi-san returned from the wastelands alive.” (Sabnak)
“Oh, as expected, news travel fast in the royal capital.” (Origa)
“We are still inferior to the elites of Fokalore”, Sabnak scratched his head.
“I wonder just what the heck Hifumi-san has done this time. I thought maybe you may know about that, Origa-san.” (Sabnak)
Sabnak sat down on the sofa urged on by Origa and tasted the prepared tea.
He looks at Origa who is quietly sitting in front of him.
Compared to the time when I met her for the first time, she looks quite mature now, Sabnak judged. Even though it’s not like many years have passed, does a woman changes this much once she becomes a wife? He wonders.
“I’m sorry.” (Origa)
Origa lowered her sight to her hands which were resting on top of her knees.
“I haven’t received that much information. However, it’s not important what my husband has accomplished. What’s important is that he did me the favour of coming back home safely. Being able to meet him again is more important than anything else.” (Origa)
Sabnak was unintentionally captivated by her smile.
He senses a dangerous beauty from her that hastens the beating of his heart.
“I-Is that how it is…?” (Sabnak)
“Yes. Even Shibyura-san will be always far more delighted by you returning home safely than you accomplishing a showy deed of arms.” (Origa)
Sabnak looked at Origa, who shows a bright smile, without saying anything in return.
“What’s wrong?” (Origa)
“N-Nothing. I believe that you have become a lot more cheerful compared to the time when I met you first.” (Sabnak)
“Is that so? … Yes, maybe.” (Origa)
Picking up her own cup with a hand, Origa looked at the tea’s swaying.
“As you might know, I was a slave. Turning from a free adventurer into a slave, I was bought by a dangerous man who killed the king and who isn’t from this world but of some unknown origin. Even though I received training and carried out my revenge, there were still many more worries regarding my future from then on.” (Origa)
“However”, she lifts her face.
“While proceeding in my interactions with Hifumi-sama, I got gradually charmed by the way he does things and obtained the happiness called marriage which I gave up on at the time I became a slave. Being apart from him is saddening, but I believe that he will spoil me as compensation for that time once we meet again.” (Origa)
Sabnak smiled wryly at Origa in front of him who spoke fondly of her spouse while blushing and showing a bashful side of her.
“Well, well, I give up. Hifumi-san is an amazing person after all. … Because of that I have a single question though.” (Sabnak)
“What is it?” (Origa)
“… What is Hifumi-san’s aim, I wonder? Not only this country, he is even teaching techniques to Vichy and Horant as well. Even at the time he fought against Vichy and Horant as opponents, he didn’t go as far as destroying their countries in the end. Albeit he has the strength to do so.” (Sabnak)
“I know that he isn’t a simple destroyer”, Sabnak faced Origa with a serious gaze.
“Even though he likes fighting, destruction isn’t his goal. Having said that, that doesn’t mean that he’s helping anyone. He doesn’t desire profits and social status either…” (Sabnak)
Having said this much, Sabnak noticed that the emotions within Origa’s look have changed.
Her smile is warm filled with a kindness completely as if she is watching a child, but Origa’s green pupils stood out.
“… I can’t tell you yet. But, at the moment you learn of it, you as well as Her Majesty, the Queen, will definitely feel delighted.” (Origa)
“Yes, Hifumi-sama is the hero summoned from another world by Her Majesty, the Queen, after all.” (Origa)
For Sabnak it was the first time for him to be scared by a woman’s gentle smile.
There’s a commonly shared water well in the garden of the feudal lord’s mansion.
The water well is an extremely simple vertical construction where one draws water by lowering a bucket which dangles on a pulley. It serves as place to do washing as well as spot for the mansion’s servants to fetch water.
However, missing the calm atmosphere of every day’s life, everyone, who was currently there, kept silent while sending fleeting glances at the man who usually doesn’t visit that place.
“Ouch… for the time to come where I have to experience something like shaving my own hand.” (Hifumi)
The one who mutters “that’s something novel” is Hifumi who is crouching next to the water well.
He, who woke up from his long slumber, stuffed the prepared food into his belly with gusto and turned up at this location while knocking his left hand, which changed into hard wood, with the pommel of his katana.
The servants kneeled in panic due to the person above-the-clouds who suddenly turned up, but once he waved with his right hand while saying 「Don’t mind me」, he drew plenty of water from the well after taking a bucket which was nearby.
And then he sat down with his back turned towards the other people present and began his work.
He began to shave his hand, which turned into a wooden artificial hand, with a small knife.
At the beginning he shaved the exterior of his thumb completely as if peeling the skin of vegetables while saying something like 「It has totally the feel of woodcarving」, but he started to feel pain after having merely carved around one centimetre.
While roughly washing the small knife in the bucket’s water, he looks at the spot he shaved off and discovers a membrane of white mucus in the shaved part and blood seeping out from below that.
“The fingertips are mostly a lost case. The bone surrounding around the palm are safe, huh?” (Hifumi)
He shaves his fingers, the back of his hand and the palm. At the end he even lets the blade slide across an area very close to the wrist.
“It’s the same as with the elven lot, eh? No, the speed of progression is remarkably faster though I don’t know the reason for it.” (Hifumi)
At the beginning he wondered whether the mucus had a pink colour, but once he washed his hand by thrusting it into the bucket, it became pure white.
The skin, flesh, bones and blood are replaced by the mucus and it hardens sooner or later?
If that’s the case, Hifumi cuts a part of his forearm.
“This place looks alright.” (Hifumi)
The thin red line soon gets enlivened by puffed up blood and it turns into one long, red stream.
Once he confirmed that the change was happening from the wrist downwards, Hifumi fixedly stared at his left hand after putting down the small knife.
“It’s also fine to get rid of it by cutting it off, but… even if the hole is closed up by that medicine, it won’t recover the loss.” (Hifumi)
There are still several healing magic potions remaining, however even if they have the effect of closing a wound, it’s not like they can re-grow something that has been lost.
It probably won’t progress as long as I don’t enter the elven forest. I guess it’s fine if it stays in a wooden state, Hifumi scoops out the white mucus, which is similar to thick sap, with his right hand.
“Be that as it may, just what the hell is this stuff?” (Hifumi)
Once he forcefully clasped the white mucus he held in his right hand, he slightly felt a different texture except that of liquid.
Hifumi, who noticed something, turned around vigorously and the shoulders of several people, who faced him by chance, jumped up.
“Please lend me a bit fire.” (Hifumi)
“T-There you go!”
Heading towards the fire prepared to boil some water, Hifumi held out his left hand.
“If it’s just like I thought…” (Hifumi)
While listening to the sound of bursting open by popping firewood, he gazes steadily at his left hand being scorched and blackening.
“Ah, I got it…” (Hifumi)
The white mucus, which was visible from the cut up wound, lost its moisture from being touched by the flames and fell down into Hifumi’s right hand just like dry sand while maintaining its pure white appearance.
That white sand was identical to the one which formed the body of the late demon king Agathion.
Hifumi’s lips slanted upwards unintentionally.