Chapter 36 – Dilan’niren ◆


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The hard clacking of hooves thundered into the vicinity. They were galloping across the northern parts of the United Duchy of Acland, following a highway that led north as it followed the Aria.

The riders looked like they were breezing past the road made out of red bricks like a gale.

One of them, a masculine warrior clad in leather armor and carrying a vermillion composite bow, was riding a beautiful dark-brown horse with a muscular build

The other tough-looking black horse, closely following the first, carried a young girl dressed in black, equipped with a saber and round shield, as well as beddings, leather bags, and similar goods.

Needless to say — the two riders were Kei and Aileen.

“Keeei! Don’t you think we’ve already covered quite a bit of the way?” Aileen asked in a lively voice as her golden ponytail swayed in the wind.

Out of the corners of their eyes, both could see a giant mountain range towering through the gaps between the trees on one side of the road.

The mountains with their tips covered in a layer of white served as a natural boundary separating the Duchy and Northland, and apparently fed the Aria with a constant supply of fresh water. Maybe because of how far up north they had already traveled, the river had drastically narrowed down and gained lots of speed, compared to further down south near Urvan.

“The mountains are quite close. Should we take a little rest?”

“Yeah! I was starting to get hungry anyway.” Aileen smiled broadly, apparently having waited for him to be the one to say it.

The two decided to take a break at the riverside.

Two days had passed since they had departed Urvan, seeing them follow the Bratya Highway northwards, which would bring them to their destination Northland. On their way the two had stopped by various relay stations and smaller villages.

Today early in the morning they had set off from a relay station, traveling this way for about three hours straight. Given the long ride, their buttocks and waists were quite sore. Having said that, Sasuke and Suzuka, who had been the ones doing the galloping, were surely more exhausted than the two, who had only to sit on their saddles.

They dismounted under a tree that leaned towards the river and took a short break.

“Good work. Let me remove this.”

Aileen patted Suzuka’s neck and skillfully removed the luggage fastened to the saddle.

For the sake of maintaining Sasuke’s mobility, Suzuka was in charge of carrying the travel utilities. Being originally a Grasslander horse, Suzuka fell behind Sasuke in terms of potential speed, but her sturdy build allowed her to transport more weight and contained more than enough stamina for traveling long distances.

Aileen was diligently caring for her every day, brushing and feeding her vegetables, thus Suzuka was completely accustomed to her by now. She licked Aileen’s face and neck, causing her to break into laughter.

Kei watched this scene with a gentle look while spreading leather on the ground, but then he felt a gaze. Looking to the side, he saw Sasuke blinking at him as if to say, ‘want me to do it too?’

“…Nah, it’s fine.” Kei answered with a wry smile as he removed Sasuke’s reins and bit.

In response Sasuke tilted his head as if asking, “Is that so?”, before licking Kei’s face once and starting to graze the grass at his feet.

“Now then…”

After being done with Suzuka, Aileen planted herself in front of the mountain of luggage, her hands pressed against her waist. Then she suddenly turned to Kei as if she had just thought of something.

“Should we eat our lunch a bit early too?”

“…Well, I guess we could do that.”

They covered quite a bit of distance in the morning hours, so they had no need to rush ahead for the rest of the day. Thus, the two decided to get ready to eat their lunch as they saw Sasuke and Suzuka grazing together.

Aileen rummaged through their luggage, retrieving wooden tableware, a pot, travel-use charcoal, and other necessities. Meanwhile, Kei was in charge of gathering fitting stones at the riverbank, building a simple hearth with it, and setting it on fire. In addition, he picked up some twigs from the ground, ignited the charcoal and boiled water in a saucepan.

“I guess we’re making porridge now… But maybe tea first.” Aileen muttered to herself, taking out dry herbs and a tea strainer out of one bag.

Since they were traveling as a duo, there was a limit as to how many things they could bring with them, and thus they only had one pot. It was inconvenient but unavoidable for the journey, so they couldn’t complain. Still the two couldn’t help to wonder whether it might have been smarter to have also brought a kettle with them.

“Please do.”

Although Kei had dismantled game and monsters to obtain ingredients in the past, he had no other experience with cooking except roasting meat, so he left everything to Aileen. As far as he could tell, it wouldn’t be impossible for him, but since Aileen seemed rather keen on taking the initiative when it came to cooking, he’d usually depend on her.

In exchange – perhaps you could describe it like that – Kei was in charge of cleaning up and extinguishing the fire afterwards.

“…Okay, I guess I’ll go fish or something.”

Kei tied a thin thread to the arrowhead and turned himself towards the river, pointing “Dragon Stinger” at the water.

“Kay, I’ll get the skewers ready.”


Aileen started to shave slightly scorched twigs with a knife behind him while Kei carefully observed the glittering river surface. The fish were swimming around in the river — he homed in on one of the bigger ones among them, and immediately unleashed the arrow without holding back in consideration of the water resistance.

The arrow caused a flashy splash, and all the fish scattered away, except for the shot target. He changed his location and brought down another one in the same way. Afterwards he prepared the two fish for cooking by getting rid of their scales and gutting them.

“Tea’s ready!”

“Okay, coming!”

After washing his hands, he headed back to Aileen with the fish hanging on a thread that passed through the gills. He sat down under the tree, enjoying a short break in its shade as Aileen gave him a wooden cup of herbal tea.


The murmuring of the river stream blended with distant bird chirping. The midday sun was radiant, and the verdantly blooming flowers were equally pleasing to the eye.

“…This sure feels nice.”


Kei relaxed, leaning against the tree’s trunk. Next to him, Aileen also let go of all tension.

The reason why they could feel so safe while traveling as a duo was mostly owed to them still being within the borders of the duchy. On top of that, they were in a territory under the direct control of Archduke Klauzé, which upped the region’s safety by a notch. Patrols were stationed at every relay station, and the forest along the highway was also maintained. So there was no need to be cautious of ferocious beasts.

“Nfufu~ ntatta~ ntatta.”

Aileen threw assorted grains into the pot and heated it up once more, all the while humming a mysterious melody. Kei put down his cup. Then he started to skewer pieces of fish, using the spits Aileen had prepared, and seasoned them with salt. Finally he stabbed the skewers into the ground, close to the fire, so that they had only to wait for the flames to roast the meat. Kei expected that the fish skewers would be done by the time they finished eating their porridge.

“Okay. How do you want your porridge? Sweet? Or maybe with salt and pepper?”

“The latter.”

“You really hate your porridge sweet, don’t you Kei?”

“I mean, I don’t exactly hate it.”

Perhaps it was due to his Japanese eating habits, but he couldn’t get used to putting raisins in porridge, or seasoning it with jam or sugar. That said, he rationally understood that this porridge was closer to oatmeal as it was made by soaking smashed grains and cereals in hot water, making it something entirely different from the Japanese rice porridge.

“Here you go.”


He received a wooden bowl filled with steaming hot porridge and dug in with a wooden spoon. It contained crispy nuts, beans, and similar to keep the nutritional balance. However, its only seasoning was salt, giving it a strange taste you couldn’t really describe as extremely delicious. Then again, it wasn’t bad to enjoy this atmosphere with Aileen as they gazed at the magnificent scenery spreading out in front of them.

Plus, even if this was a little lacking, they still had the grilled fish.

He was moving his spoon while thinking of such things, and the food disappeared before he knew it.


Aileen put the bowl aside, tapped her belly, and then lay down where she sat. Kei pulled out his pocket watch to check the time while enjoying the grilled fish’s fragrance.

“What time is it?”

“Looks like it’s 11 am.”

“Wonder how long to go till we reach Dilan’niren.”

“Good question…”


———————- End of Part 1 ———————-


Kei squinted his eyes and gazed at the mountain range. At the foot of that mountain was the immediate goal of their journey — the Buffer City Dilan’niren.

Dilan’niren was located in the middle of the duchy and Northland, and as the name suggested, it was a large city that also functioned as a buffer zone. Apparently, it was originally a fortress that served as a bridgehead when the duchy invaded Northland. At present, it was divided and ruled by Archduke Klauzé and Northland’s influential clans.

Excluding Dilan’niren, there were no other routes to Northland aside from crossing those steep mountains, so it served as an important traffic point that could be called a gateway for both Snowlanders and Plainsfolk.

Initially, Kei had planned to follow the mountains to the northeast once they reached Dilan’niren, but after the advice from the “Silver Mushroom,” aka Valgren Kremrart, they decided to follow the Bratya Highway, which was considered safe, further north, until they would reach the Commercial City Belyansk, and then take the eastern route.

“Well, I guess we’ll get there by evening.”

“…I see.”

The two gazed in the direction of Dilan’niren, which was yet to appear on the horizon.

Beyond that mountain range was Northland—


Faint crackling could be heard from the charcoal, and the nearby fish sizzled with steam rising into the air.

The place was filled with a different kind of silence than before. Kei and Aileen were thinking about Northland in their respective ways.

It was not clear what awaited them at the end of their journey.

However, they were both confident that they‘d find some answers there.

“…I guess it’s about time.”

Kei reached for the fish as if to get rid of the overly quiet mood. It smelled savory and seemed properly grilled.

“Oh, guess I’ll eat too.”

Aileen sat up, grabbed her fish, and bit into it before Kei.

“Mmh! So good!”

“Glad to hear.”

As he took a bite, he felt the white, firm flesh under the crunchy skin. Its straight salty taste was tinged with a bit of umami. It had a light taste with no hints of muddy smell.

“This is a pretty tasty fish, though I don’t know what it’s called.”


They’ve eaten it a few times during their current journey, but they still didn’t know what it was called. Since it had white dots on its body, he felt like it was similar to Iwana, but he didn’t know what it was called in English.

More than two months had passed since they came to this world, but at the end of the day, they were still “Étranger,” not more and not less.

“Let’s ask some locals for its name when we get a chance.”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Kei casually nodded at Aileen’s proposal, while wondering if they’d really have such an opportunity.

He decided to keep those thoughts to himself and finished his fish.



They relaxed for a while after that, and then departed again.

They advanced at a slower pace to not burden the horses, particularly Suzuka. They didn’t need to rush, as Dilan’niren was already quite close. Estimating the distance through the majestic mountain range which kept getting closer, Kei corrected his prediction, now believing they would reach it before the sky began to darken.

As they advanced north, they started to see more and more homing crows with letters or small tubes attached to their legs. They had also spotted them on many occasions in Urvan, but their numbers were particularly high over here. Given that it was the pivot point of traffic and trade, there seemed to be a big demand for communication.

Incidentally, homing crows were a species of familiars. They were commanded by magicians who were contracted with a Spirit called Plague. Inside【DEMONDAL】, Plagues were major Spirits ranked right after Fairies. They had physically manifested in their current world, which was rare for Spirits. They closely resembled crows, enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart at a glance.

The condition to form a contract with one was to kill a Plague that wasn’t contracted to anyone. It’d offer you the ability to control black-winged birds, possess your familiar, turn yourself into a Plague, and other extremely versatile techniques, but as a drawback, you couldn’t cancel the contract and would receive a semi-permanent debuff — a curse that lowered your physical abilities.

No matter how much you worked on training your character, the moment it killed a Plague they would weaken, so it was common sense for people, particularly archers like Kei or hunters, to never lay a hand on black-winged birds.

At the very least, inside the game, a contract with Plague was given the setting of a curse that gnawed at the contractor, but did the contractors in this world aware of this downside? Or, could it be—

The scenery around them changed gradually as Kei wondered about such things. The river narrowed down further, and the soil also started to change from a damp blackish to a dry brown color.


Seeing the scenery beyond a big hill, Kei reflexively stopped his horse.

“…Is that Dilan’niren?”

Aileen, who caught up to Kei, also pulled the reins, stopping by his side.

“…It looks like a giant wall.”

Aileen’s murmur described the city’s appearance perfectly.

Stuck between mountains, in a deep ravine, sprawled an ashen cityscape. The city itself was a mess, mixing stone buildings closely following the duchy’s architectural customs, and wooden buildings with domes and many curves.

A massive stone gate, which had apparently lasted throughout many years, was coldly exposing its scarred surface, as if to reject any new arrivals. The solid arrangement of rocks forming a gapless wall — setting aside the few giant gates it had — wouldn’t let even a single ant pass through. The entire city seemed to be functioning as one giant checkpoint and bulwark.

It seemed as if its gates were there to remain locked.

The appearance of Dilan’niren was bluntly and solemnly screaming this into their face.


Still, it was also a fact that this ashen city was the entrance to Northland.

“…We can’t really avoid going through it.”

Aileen muttered with a frown while folding her arms on top of her horse. Seeing her expression, Kei thought that she was also feeling some kind of reluctance to go there.

“Well, we came all the way to the entrance, so we might as well knock on it.”

“…Right, let’s go then.”

Aileen shrugged and tapped Suzuka’s flanks with her boots.

Before long, the two galloped downhill and knocked on the gate of the ashen city, a place where two conflicting races clashed.

This would become the place where their journey to Northland would truly begin.




Depiction of the Buffer City Dilan’niren.




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