In the evening, the GoldenGoose was thriving as the bar’s guests sat around the tables, enjoying some light chats while having some drinks together.
One young man, who sat at the counter by himself, emitted a gloomy atmosphere ― Kei.
In front of him lined up a luxurious dinner, even by the standards of his former world, including things such as freshly-caught lake fish à la meunière, a soup full of summer veggies, a soft bread smeared with cowberry jam, a platter with various fruits, and so on. However, he couldn’t really muster an appetite. Since a while ago, Kei was merely stirring the soup with his spoon.
It was pretty obvious, but the underlying cause was the situation with Aileen. He had lost sight of Aileen in the city, and couldn’t find her anywhere even after looking for her all over. Considering it a vague possibility, he had come back to the inn, just to find out that she had already returned a while ago.
That feeling of despair when the hostess informed him with an business smile that his companion had already come back――
Even after he timidly knocked on the door, he got no response. And yet he kept at it, calling out to her from outside the door. The result of all his efforts was Aileen peeking out her face for a moment, merely informing him, “I’m sleepy!”, and slamming the door shut in front of his nose.
No matter how much he knocked or called out to her afterwards, she ignored him.
…She totally hates me now…
Back when she had opened the door for a moment, it allowed him see just how upset she was, putting him so much at his wit’s end that he could scream out in frustration. Hence, so as to avert his eyes from reality, he drained down the ale in his wooden mug ― a liquid that was just bitter, rather than tasting good or bad. But, he felt that it suited his current self quite well.
…What should I do…?
Even as he let his thoughts wander while stirring the soup with a lifeless look in his eyes, no good idea how to salvage the situation struck him. And while beating himself up over being such a weak, gutless guy, his thoughts kept getting muddled by the alcohol in the ale he was downing. He was completely stuck in the vicious cycle of a drunk.
“…It doesn’t suit your taste?” The hostess asked worriedly across the counter.
She appeared concerned after seeing how Kei made no progress with his meal.
“No…that’s not it…I just have something on my mind.”
“I see. Do you want a refill of ale?”
The hostess refilled the empty mug with ale from a jar. While nipping on that every now and then, Kei resumed with his dinner. Being able to eat a warm, delicious meal in such a peaceful environment ― something he could experience with his tongue, and not just some virtual taste simulations ― he fully realized that he had to be thankful in this situation.
Why does food taste so bland if you eat it by yourself? Wouldn’t you rather call that an intake of nutrients than enjoying a meal?
As he silently ate by himself, the process of stuffing the food into his mouth, chewing it, and swallowing the pulp dominated all of his attention.
With a deep sigh at the end, he thickly spread some jam on a piece of bread, and forced it into his mouth, wrapping up his dinner.
But having something weighing on his mind for a while now, Kei spoke up, “Hostess.”
“Yes, how may I help you?”
“Do you have something for takeout, like a sandwich or similar?”
“Certainly. For a midnight snack, I assume?”
“Something like that, yeah.”
After Kei paid for the extra order, the hostess made him a sandwich with bacon and leafy greens. While at it, he also borrowed a quill and a piece of paper, using them to note down a few words. Climbing to the second floor with plate and memo in his hands, he came to a halt in front of Aileen’s room with a nervous expression.
He lightly knocked on the door.
“…Look, I’m sorry about earlier. I’ll leave a sandwich in front of the door, so feel free to eat it if you get hungry.”
Still no answer. Kei sighed as he wondered whether she was really asleep, placed down the sandwich in front of her room, and passed the memo with his message through a gap in the door. Then he staggered back to his own room. A small room with his luggage messily thrown down all over the place.
This inn didn’t provide any lamps for their single rooms, as far as he could tell. There existed no light source besides the bonfires’ glow shining into the room through the window, but with Kei’s enhanced eyesight, this illumination was more than enough.
Flopping down on the bed, he unfastened his belt, scabbard, and bow case, undressed his jacket, and took a breath. He felt how the tension in his body unraveled. In the end Kei couldn’t really relax unless he found himself in a closed space with guaranteed safety. He cast a vacant look at the wall which was no more than an array of wood planks that had been nailed together.
“…Spacious, isn’t it?” He mumbled under his breath.
In spite of now being in his own room which he had desired so much a few hours ago, he didn’t really feel like jacking off. Instead, he asked himself whether it hadn’t actually been meaningless to have booked his own room under circumstances like these.
No…if we had shared a room, it’d have been a lot more awkward, I’m sure
Still, he might have gotten closer to getting a clue how to fix this mess while directly facing Aileen.
…It’s pointless to think about this now
Either way, the current situation was all that mattered. Considering hypothetical possibilities was pointless, and thus he didn’t do it. He followed a very grounded logic.
Kei rolled over on the bed so as to stretch himself out, and sighed for the umpteenth time today.
Just like that, he slowly fell asleep.
The next day Kei slept like a log, probably due to the alcohol.
“Ugh…ouch.” He groaned with a hand on his forehead after sitting up on the bed.
His head pounded in pain, and his vision swayed. Kei realized that he had drunk too much last night. Thinking that he should first drink some water, he fixed his outfit, and left his room. When he looked towards the neighboring door, he saw that the plate with the sandwich was gone. However, he couldn’t judge whether Aileen had actually eaten it, or whether some other guest or an inn employee had nabbed it.
…I hadn’t even considered the possibility of someone else taking it.
It was obvious to Kei that the alcohol had significantly impacted his ability to think yesterday night. In the worst case, if Aileen had found no sandwich after reading his memo, it’d become next to impossible for him to look at her.
All alone in the corridor, Kei pulled a grim face. For a while he wavered whether he should call out to Aileen through the door.
…She could already be up and about.
After changing his mind, believing that he should first wash his face after only having woken up, Kei shrugged his shoulders, and went downstairs.
Down in the courtyard, he used the water in a bucket to rinse his face. And since he had completely forgotten about a towel just like yesterday, he fell back on the option of wiping himself with toilet tissue. Although he called it a tissue, it naturally wasn’t the one manufactured out of paper, but instead a dried leaf with the name 『Popyurius』. Although it was inferior to genuine toilet paper or tissues, its texture wasn’t unpleasant, and it served various uses. Just like now, it had helped Kei on countless occasions since coming to this world. Without it, the sanitary situation in this world might be much worse. Not having anything equivalent to toilet paper would be somewhat tough on a modern person, too.
It’s really a big help that this world uses 【DEMONDAL】 as a reference…
He seriously assessed while looking at the palm-sized, hexagonal leaf.
Even inside the game, the Popyurius leaves were very well-known among the players. They grew en masse everywhere, making them easy to obtain, but in contrast to that, it was easy to sell the leaves to NPCs thanks to their high demand. Of course, considering its nature, it didn’t sell for much, but the Popyurius leaves also played a role in building trust with NPCs for the sake of being introduced to advanced work.
Very likely the mission every beginner of 【DEMONDAL】 had to surmount at the beginning was 『Tissue Gathering』. Atrocious player killers who were loathed like pest and cholera, and top players who led mighty mercenary bands, had all to run around gathering Popyurius leaves while close to naked in the beginning.
As Kei gazed at the leaf in his hand, he smiled gently, recalling his beginner days. His memories of how he unluckily encountered a pack of wolves when he worked hard at collecting the leaves in the forest, and how he got bitten to death, unable to do anything, even while trying to fight back with his harvesting knife.
However, it’d be anything but funny if that had happened in reality
Realizing as much, his expression quickly turned serious again.
In the game there was also a setting where NPC children were gathering leaves to earn some pocket money, but I wonder whether that’d be really alright here…
While brooding over such things, Kei went back inside the inn. But, just as he passed through the back door, he heard someone yelling, “Hey, Alexei,” causing him to stop.
“Oh, what’s wrong guys? It’s quite unusual for you to come to this place.” Alexei’s usual husky voice reached Kei’s ears from the bar room.
For some reason, Kei hid himself in the shadow of the stairs, which were positioned in a blind spot when looking from the bar, and quietly strained his ears.
“No, you see, we’ve been talking about going to the lake’s temple, and since we thought you might wanna come along, we came over to invite you.”
This voice probably belongs to one of the young men who had joined the caravan. I can also sense the presence of several others. Come to think of it, Alexei seemed to be quite close with the other young apprentices.
“Ah, you mean the one of the Water Spirit, right? No, I’m fine. Go on without me.”
“Oh, you sure?” At this point, the apprentice showed signs of lowering his voice, “…Is it because of Princess?”
Alexei’s voice, filled with a faint laughter, reminded Kei of Alexei’s usual casual smile.
“In fact, I had thought about going to the temple as well. The weather’s nice today. The perfect day for a date, right? I’ll make sure to close the distance between us, this time for sure.”
The apprentices raised their voices in admiration at Alexei’s confident statement.
“But, is that okay? That Kei guy――”
“What, it’s no biggie.”
Another youth asked nervously, but Alexei laughed his concern off with a snort.
“The guy himself said that she’s not his woman. Then I don’t see any reason to hold back.”
“I see. I suppose it should be fine then…”
“In short, you’ve already made a promise with the princess, Alexei?”
“No, not yet.”
The clacking sound of a mug being placed down on a table.
“I’ve been sticking around here since morning, but it looks like the princess is still soundly asleep…she’s kinda not getting up no matter how much time passes.”
“Since morning, you say…? Haven’t you already waited for four hours then?”
“As I’ve been waiting here since before the six hour bell, it’s five hours…I don’t even feel like drinking anymore.”
Pity crept into the apprentice’s voice due to Alexei’s feeble voice.
“I mean, even I’d get tired of waiting so many hours. Oh right, you guys, sit down. If you keep me company to stave off the time, I’ll treat you to some booze.”
“For real!? Count me in!”
The cluttering of chairs being pulled could be heard in response to Alexei’s proposal.
“Alright, go ahead and order away.”
“I’ll go with ale first.”
“Wine for me.”
“I’ll take some whiskey straight.”
“Whoa, just a sec! None of the expensive stuff!”
The bar-room, which had felt deserted before noon, became noisy all of a sudden.
Once he came to his senses, Kei had rushed out through the back door, as if running away.
Walk, steadily, one step after the other, on and on.
It wasn’t as if he had a destination. He simply kept going through the confusing maze of back alleys, surrendering himself to his impulses. His expression was a halfhearted combination of regret, irritation ― and some kind of anger.
…What a disappointing, bad joke I am when compared to Alexei
That feeling seeped through his chest like hot iron.
Why am I always belittling myself? …In the first place, was I always such a pointlessly stoic guy?
――No. At least until now I’ve never been trapped one one thing. Of course the circumstances back in the game and now are different. There’s a lot I must take into account. But, me moping around while being stuck like this feels kinda different from usual..
Look at Alexei’s manliness
Even though I’ve got such a rare chance after having gained a new body by coming to this world, what’s the point if I don’t enjoy life?
“…Haah.” Kei sighed lightly, despite having reached that conclusion.
He had remembered that even if he wanted to go on the offensive, his current relationship with Aileen was a mess.
First, above all, I have to somehow fix Aileen’s mood… What would be the best method to achieve that? Assuming she hates me, it seems like it’ll be difficult to recover
As he considered it like this, he immediately felt at his wit’s end.
…But, why did Aileen get so angry?
Only now Kei’s thinking probed into that fundamental question. So far he had merely let his imaginations run wild over the fact of Aileen appearing to be angry, but at long last he genuinely asked himself what had caused Aileen to get so pissed off in the first place.
Speaking of possible explanations, only that group of street performers comes to mind. Or to be precise, me having ogled that danseuse while being completely spellbound by her seductive, naked body. But, her getting upset over that means――
――Isn’t that what you’d usually call jealousy?
Even Kei understood what it meant for Aileen to be jealous in such a situation. It was unthinkable for her to get jealous because of some random run-of-the-mill guy, and jealousy was no emotion that would occur unless she was interested in him to some extent.
In other words―― …I‘m not completely off her radar?
The very first word that came to his mind was wishful thinking, but once he considered it further, he felt like he still had a chance.
And at the same time, his field of view opened up. Apparently he had escaped the back alleys while walking. What spread out in front of his eyes was the lake shore.
The blue, transparent Lake Synapeia. It wasn’t that big of a lake. Many freighters with set sails were traversing it, and down in the lake’s center was a small islet that appeared to float.
The islet was small enough that it’d take several minutes to walk from one end to the other, but a building made out of white stone peeked out from in-between the abundantly growing trees.
Which reminds me…they mentioned a temple or something like that, didn’t they?
Sporadically larger boats crammed to the limit with people could be seen among the freighters. Boatmen rowing their oars, and wayfarer-styled crewmen clad in robes. Additionally, some people holding staffs, some joining their hands in prayer, and some sprinkling themselves with the lake’s water ― basically, people who could be associated with the term pilgrim.
“That’s the temple enshrining the Water Spirit. Legends say that your wish will come true if you ring its belfry’s bell thrice. Folks worshiping the Water Spirit arrive here on pilgrimage from all over the world.” Someone suddenly explained from behind Kei.
As soon as he looked back in surprise, he found Dagmar standing there, lifting a hand with a red face, greeting with a “Yo!”
“What’s with that greeting? Don’t you know any other ways to address others?” Dagmar cackled, seemingly amused by something.
Kei grimaced at the faint stench of alcohol drifting his way.
“You bet. Sleeping as much as you want, eating great food, drinking booze, and lastly playing around with women! This is how a mercenary’s holiday gotta be! Yulia rocks!”
He forced an arm around Kei’s shoulder while cheering gleefully. It was the very definition of how a drunk old man acted. The looks of the passerby were painful.
“Bah, stop getting all chummy with me!”
“Man, what’s with you? You’re being a party pooper.” Dagmar pouted with a sulky look when Kei brushed his hand off.
Being treated like that by an adult man was nothing but repulsive, but fortunately Dagmar immediately put a teasing grin back on.
“So, what’re you up to? All alone out here.”
Kei felt like he hadn’t just imagined Dagmar stressing the part about him being all alone. He groaned, turning his eyes towards the lake with his arms folded.
“Hmm? …Did something happen?”
As Kei didn’t get angry or ill-humored, but merely remained quiet, Dagmar stopped messing around. Apparently he sensed some change behind that withdrawn facial expression of Kei.
“It’s not like something actually happened, but more like something might happen, I suppose.”
Kei’s roundabout way of expressing himself piqued Dagmar’s curiosity, but even so, he silently waited for Kei to go on.
“It looks like Alexei is planning to invite Aileen out on a date.”
“However, luckily he hasn’t been able to get in contact with Aileen yet.”
“…That means you don’t intend to just watch it happen, right?” Dagmar deepened his smile as if to announce his delight over this.
While staring at the lake’s temple, Kei nodded, answering, “Yeah,” with a grim look.
“Up until now I’ve been considering all the various, small complications, but after watching Alexei, I’ve realized how ridiculous it was…I mean, I want to be close to Aileen, and I also want us to be together. That’s why I’ve decided to become an idiot myself as well.”
“I see. Why not go for it then?” Dagmar’s grin was gentler than usual.
“…But you see, there’s one problem to solve before that.” Kei unfolded his arms, and faced Dagmar, “Dagmar, I need your advice, but would that be okay?”
“Sure. You won’t find anyone else as experienced as I am when it comes to love affairs and debts. Ask away.”
“Thanks, that sounds promising. Actually I made Aileen angry yesterday, but…I wonder whether it’d be best to honestly apologize. Or would it be better to patch things up with something else without bringing it up again?”
“…I’d say that depends on why she got angry.”
“I unintentionally got captivated by the naked skin of another woman…”
“Ahh… Well, then you gotta apologize obediently. Straightforward, without any nitpicking.”
“Gotcha.” After nodding in gratitude, Kei slapped his own cheeks, and encouraged himself with a spirited, “Alright!”
“Okay, I’m off then.”
“Sure, sure, go for it, man. …But, tell me, do you have a plan, Kei?”
“…I think I’ll try to invite her to go to that temple with me for starters.” Kei answered with a shrug, and then added, “I’m also kinda curious about it.”
“I see. In that case, head to the wharf over there afterwards. In the hut with the red roof you’ll find an old man who lends out rowboats for cheap. Just tell him that Dagmar sent you.”
“…Thanks. I owe you for that welcome piece of information.”
“It’s no big deal.” Dagmar waved it off, slapped Kei’s back, and immediately turned around. “Best of luck to you. I’ll wait for the good news.”
“Sure, look forward to it.” Kei responded with a smile, and started to walk as well.
――First I’ve got to meet her. The rest follows afterwards. In the first place, I don’t even know whether Aileen is still at the inn. When necessary, I won’t even hesitate on using Emerald, but ― most recently I haven’t used it for any decent magic, have I? Kei smiled wryly.
Once he thought that Aileen might have already been invited out by Alexei by some chance, his pace naturally sped up. Heading back the way he came, he sneaked in through the inn’s back door, heading inside while killing his footsteps.
The apprentices seemed to still be kicking up a jolly fuss in the bar-room. Alexei’s voice could also be heard mixed in among theirs. Kei perceived that Aileen apparently hadn’t left her room yet.
After slowly climbing the stairs, he came to a halt in front of Aileen’s room with nervousness coloring his face. Putting a bit of strength into it, he knocked on her door.
“Aileen, are you in?”
He waited for a short while.
“Aileen, we need to talk.” He knocked once more. “Ai――”
In the middle of him calling out to her, the door opened with a clack.
Aileen’s expressionless face was suddenly visible through the door’s gap. For just an instant Kei faltered due to her blue eyes glaring at him, but after clearing his throat, he straightened himself.
“…I’m sorry about yesterday. It was my fault. Sorry.”
In response to Kei’s apology, Aileen’s face shifted from expressionless to pouting.
“…Is that all you wanted to say?”
“No,” scratching his cheek, he resisted the urge to avert his eyes, meeting Aileen’s straight on. “Did you know? There appears to exist a temple worshipping the Water Spirit in the middle of the lake.”
“…I’ve heard about it.”
“I’m told that the temple has a bell, heralded to grant your wish if you ring it thrice. The weather is nice today, too. So―” Suddenly he experienced the optical illusion of the air freezing over, “―would you be interested in visiting the place with me?”
The corners of Aileen’s lips went down as she kept her silence, “…Just the two of us?”
“Yeah, just us two.”
“Hmm…” Folding her arms and leaning against the door, Aileen turned her face away. Eventually she pulled off the stunt of breaking into a smile while still frowning, and declared, accompanied by a little nod, “…I’ll go.”
Under the pretext of needing to get ready, Aileen had Kei wait outside her room for a while. Having said that, she came out of her room a few minutes later, ready to go out, but then grumbled quietly, “It’d been great if they had at least provided a mirror.”
Since Alexei and his gang were still making a racket downstairs, the two of them sneaked past, heading out through the back door.
“Kei, let’s grab something to eat on the way, okay?”
“Sure thing. Actually I haven’t eaten anything today yet.”
“I ate some dried raisin, but it was somewhat lacking, so I’m a bit hungry.”
Aimlessly wandering across the main street, they toured food carts and street stalls. Buckwheat crepes with cheese filling, stuff like chunks of dry-cured ham sold by the piece, sweet-tasting apple cider with an invigorating taste, and heaps of seasonal fruits such as cherries and loquats – they kept buying whatever caught their fancy as seemingly delicious.
“Oh, by the way, Kei…”
“…Thanks for the sandwich.”
While chatting about such things, Kei was in charge of carrying everything, but around the time when they left the main street, they had bought so much foodstuff that it was impossible for one person to carry it all.
“Somehow it looks like we’ve been starving.”
“This isn’t at the level of eating on the go anymore… It should actually last us two for a whole day.”
“Where are we going to eat?”
In response to Kei’s question, Aileen placed her hand on her chin, and groaned. “…Since we’ve come all the way out here, I’d like to eat while looking at the lake.”
“Figures. Come to think of it, I saw some rowing boats.”
Just as Dagmar had told him, Kei headed over to the wharf at the edge of the town. And there he borrowed a rowboat from the old man in the hut with the red roof. The rental fee amounted to a mere five copper coins. It was at the level of slightly splurging expenses covering the food of a day. According to what he heard, the old man apparently made a living by earning his daily income by renting out the boats to just the people he could trust while also fishing in the lake.
“Still, I must admit it’s my first time in a rowboat…”
“Same for me. I wonder how this works.”
Next to the hut was a boat storehouse. Looking nervous, the two got on a large rowboat. Even though the boat swayed only faintly as Aileen boarded it, Kei placing a foot onto it from the wharf was already enough to make it rock violently.
“…This is not going to sink or anything, right?”
“So far as it goes, up to three big men can get on this boat. You guys seem to have fairly good physiques, but in the end it’s still no more than the weight of two people, correct?” Holding his walking stick, the old man laughed off Kei who looked uneasy while donning a cramped smile.
“Now, now, with these things it’s essential to go at it without any hesitation. It’s going to be just fine if you place your foot in the center of the boat, and board it in one swoop.”
With his back being repeatedly poked by the old man’s stick, Kei resolved himself and got on the boat. Being tossed about by the irregular rocking, he almost lost his shaky balance and tumbled down, but he somehow remained standing by lowering his stance.
“Pheew, that was close…”
Aileen and the old man broke out in loud laughter after seeing Kei’s pale face.
No, you see, I don’t really know how to swim, okay?
Although he thought that, Kei kept silent about it since he’d hate to spoil the chance for them to spend some time all alone.
“Take care to not get in the way of freighters when you row the boat, okay? They won’t stop their boat for you since their maneuverability is too stiff for sudden course changes. As the freighters will obviously come out unscathed even if they run into you, make sure to stay clear of them. Also, whatever you do, don’t throw any trash into the lake. It’d anger the Water Spirit.”
“We’ll pay attention to it.”
They listened to the old man’s lecture while loading the foodstuff on the boat. Kei understood the part about them having to pay attention to the freighters, but since it was such a pretty lake to begin with, he didn’t even feel any urge to pollute it by deliberately throwing thrash into it.
“Food set, crew set.”
Kei smiled while clumsily grabbing the oars, making it obvious that he had no experience with those.
“Alright, let’s head out then!” Aileen replied to him with a smile.
“Be careful and see you later!” The old man saw them off while looking fondly at them.
Kei and Aileen began to row across Lake Synapeia.
I wanted to get past this awkard emotional trip of the ML and FL, so I asked Mui to do some extra this month. The whole matter with Alexei will be nicely resolved in chapter 28, which you can already read here.
This is also the first part that hadn’t been mutila…err MTLed before, and the only chapter I’ve translated of this series. As I’ve told you before, I’ve gone into prepayment with this translation, so if you want to see it continue being translated, support it. Every bit helps. 🙂