The “saint shield” barrier finally dissipated as the outside blaze consumed the remainder of the tar and extinguished. The only remaining vegetation adhered to a strangely metallic ground covered with ash. It looked like an apocalyptic landscape.
Hajime sat in the middle of the burnt out wasteland with Yue, Shia, and Kaori holding him tightly with their eyes closed. They each opened their eyes in turn and tilted their heads.
“Oh? What’s the matter?”
Hajime asked with a worried voice as he noticed a strange look on Yue. Yue and the other girls looked at each other, acknowledging what they all had to gone through before nodding and turning to Hajime.
“…Nn, we endured.”
“Yes, the pleasure seems to be gone.”
“I also don’t feel anything, I’m back to my senses.”
It seems to be that way.
They seemed to have endured the aphrodisiac effect of the milky slime that took their sanity with their mental strength. Excessive pleasure wasn’t all that different from pain. Hajime couldn’t imagine how much Yue and the others had suffered from an attack unlike any other they’ve ever experienced.
Hajime praised the three of them for doing a good job passing the labyrinth’s ordeal.
“As expected, all three of you did a good job. I was worried for a bit but I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Ehehehe, it’s embarrassing to be told that so forwardly.”
“It’s thanks to Hajime-kun. It was your support that allowed me to endure.”
Hajime no longer had to hug the three as they were no longer under the effect of the aphrodisiac. Nevertherless, they didn’t let go as they grew gitty over being praised by Hajime.
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Hajime tried to loosen his grip assuming it’d be alright by now, but Yue responded by hugging him even stronger.
Did they need more praising? The three girl looked upward at Hajime with blushing cheeks while they clang to him even more aggressively. They didn’t wear expressions that suggested they had lost their sanity. However, those expressions hold a certain allure of their own.
When they were under the aphrodisiac effect, it was easy for Hajime to reject their approaches, but it was a bit more difficult to resist Yue’s charm when she meant it. He gave up trying to get his arms back.
“Gohon! Sorry to interrupt you, but since we’re all better now I was wondering if you might untie Kouki and the rest?”
“Oh yeah? You did well too. You managed to make it without help. Indeed, a swordsman? Is this one of those spirit unification techniques?”
“Oh, Shizuku. Ehehe, I’m sorry, At the same time… my Shizuku-chan!”
After everything was over, it looked like Shizuku had managed to escape the pleasurable hell at the same time as Yue and the others, but had a haggard expression when she saw the pink space the group had made beside her. The interruption had managed to disrupt the mood and turn the group back to normal.
The girls who had been basking in Hajime’s praise turned away, slightly embarrassed.
“Oh, thank you. Well, I was able to keep calm since my father hammered self-control into me since a young age during fencing. But it was a little dangerous. I mean, I wonder if things would have turned out this way if Kouki and the rest weren’t constrained. I survived because I had the room to concentrate, without having to worry about defending myself. Thank you, Nagumo-kun. ”
“That’s good to hear. The pleasure could have knocked you unconscious. Enduring pleasure in place of pain could do that. While I prepare, Yaegashi, you might want to fix your clothes and mud situation.”
“Clothes? Mud? Oh… yeah. I understand.”
At first, Shizuku did not understand what Hajime had meant, but when she glanced down at herself she noticed that a change of clothes was in order. (It was sweat, Shizuku was just covered in sweat!) She blushed at the comment, nodding tightly.
Hajime used his transmutation to create several simple dressing rooms built from a wall of soil. The “Treasure room” had changes of clothing for Kouki and Ryuutaro as well (clothes bought in town). He took them out and tossed one over to Shizuku. Hajime collected the Bora Cursed Objects from Kouki’s group, releasing them.
Kouki’s group immediately drop. Shizuku managed to catch Suzu before she hit the ground, but Kouki and Ryuutaro collapsed to the ground with a rather painful noise. It was the hero and his sidekick, so Hajime had no worries.
While the female teammates used water magic to clean up and changed their clothing, Hajime concentrated on collecting all the spider golems.
They had finished destroying the ground around the immediate vicinity. There would be no Milky Slime coming out of the ground in surprise this time. These extra measures seemed necessary after the amount of time the milky slimes has previously wasted.
“You… master. I wouldn’t mind if you looked at this mistress. There is no need for a locker room.” At that point, a voice timidly came from behind.
Tio had managed to break through the aphrodisiac effect readily even though she had received the most slime.
Hajime recalls the fact and glances back at Tio.
“Were you still there, Ms. Clarce?”
“!? Please Master! You’re still doing that? It was certainly pleasant to begin with, but can you go back to the usual way of naming me!”
“That, what are you even talking about? As usual, Ms. Clarce is Ms. Clarce. Please don’t get any closer to me.”
“!!!!? Please, Master. I’m getting too excited. I’m repenting, please turn back!”
As Tio crawls up to his feet and scratches at his shoe, Hajime looks away and ignores her. The distant attitude by calling her with her last name and treating her like she was invisible were unbearable for Tio. Hajime was happy about this, Tio seemed genuinely saddened by this treatment, it looked like he found an effective punishment whenever she acted up.
Tio was trembling as she watched Hajime. By any chance, did Hajime go too far? Her look was becoming more and more tearful.
“This is a terrible master. I ask… call me Tio.”
Hajime had dealt a blow to stunt Tio’s abnormal behavior at last; it was a very satisfactory feeling.
However, Tio’s rueful appearance wasn’t the transformation Hajime was hoping for, destroying her beautiful appearance in her deteriorating kimono. Hajime’s devious heart considered things a little more, whether he punished her objectively, it seemed to be the role of a master. Happy or not, she wasn’t aware of it.
“It’s pointless, Tio. It’s already too late for you to change the kind of person you are, so at least be a little prudent.”
While Hajime shrugged while saying so, Tio was dumbfounded. Her expression brightened, and she gave a smile that looked like it belonged to a sweet, young girl. That smile was beautiful enough to tug on even Hajime’s heartstrings.
She was knowledgeable and could have some deep thoughts, understanding the subtleties of the human mind. Understanding someone and making an effort when she could have lost her composure. She had courage and decisiveness, unmatched combat strength. She was affectionate and kept her word. And her appearance was the best. If it wasn’t for her abnormality, you could say she was a “perfect woman”.
“Really, it is a shame… Because in a sense, I…”
It seemed like Hajime had opened a new door for Tio. He felt partially responsible for her abnormality but he was helpless to fight it.
“What’s is it? Master…”
“…No, nothing. Go get changed and freshen up.”
“Yikes, it’s a… That’s okay then, master? For me to change right here in the corner?”
When Hajime planned for Tio to use the makeshift changing room, Tio gave an expectant look and said such a thing.
Hajime’s cheek twitched as he wondered “where’s that prudence?” and pulled out a grenade.
“…How about this? It’s a special present for you. It’ll blow the dirt away along with your skin!”
“!? I get it. I’ll go change my clothes immediately!”
Tio waved her hands and dived into the dressing room. The words “responsibility” and the horological serpant flickered in Hajime’s mind as he watched her back. He shook his head to drive the characters out of his mind.
Others began to emerge from the dressing room after cleaning themselves. Sure enough, Kouki, Suzu, and most of all Ryuutaro emerged with downtrodden looks. They were all hunched as if burdened by unbearably heavy stones, and the atmosphere was wrapped with dark clouds as if magic was being used.
Although they had lost their sanity during the aphrodisiac effect, they seemed to remember what they’d done. Pleasure followed by hell, it seemed that Tio was right when she predicted this would try the bonds of relationships, Kouki’s group seemed proof of that.
Ryuutaru and Kouki couldn’t meet the girl’s eyes and Suzu seemed determined to keep her distance. Suzu kept to the shadows with their heads down and red ears. Hajime feared he’d need to follow up with Suzu if they couldn’t figure things out on their own.
Because they nearly sexually assaulted each other, it made them uncomfortable and provided a sense of guilt that couldn’t be ignored. In particular, Suzu was a girl. The fact that she could have started that kind of relationship with her peer caused a certain kind of damage to her spirit.
“Let’s just forget it, Suzu…? It was unavoidable. Things didn’t go too far… so… There are one or two memories no one wants to remember, probably…”
“… Shizu, Shizu.”
“Look! Remember that time I was wondering around the dirty game section without noticing what was for sale? It was serious, the male customers around were all looking at me with judgmental eyes… and I became depressed…”
“Is… Shizu interested in dirty games?”
“That’s not it! That was an unfortunate accident!”
“Shizu investigating dirty games… kufufu, with a serious look… pukuku.”
“It is terrible to laugh, Suzu.”
Shizuku looked somewhat relieved now that Suzu was laughing.
It seemed like any comfort would work to overcome the dark history sealed in people’s memories, and “sympathy of embarrassment” was a self-torture ingredient necessary to help Suzu’s spirit recover a bit.
As expected of Shizuku, willing to sacrifice herself. It was admirable!
Kouki had his head down, so Suzu watched him.
“Nagumo cared for everyone. We should be thankful he stopped us.”
“Yes, you’re right. We were saved by Nagumo. I’m serious. Thank you very much.” Ryuutaro who seemed to be uncomfortable following Kouki turned his eyes to Hajime and expressed his thanks.
“Be thankful. Make sure to remember that. Always be conscious of your debt. So that when you’re better, you can return it to me by resolving to be an appropriate meat shield. If I make a mistake, it’ll be fine. Because I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to make sure you repay it.”
Hajime came off more like a Yakuza business lending out money at 11 to 1. When someone skipped a payment, they really did go to any length to make them pay. A thank you didn’t seem to be the kind of payment he was looking for.
The church or someone like Nointo might want Kouki’s party to become his enemy (no matter how hopeless). So he wanted to keep them conscious of the debt, just in case.
But not really knowing what was on Hajime’s mind, Kouki’s group had twitching cheeks and disturbed expressions like cheat victims who had just found themselves consumed by an unreasonable debt.
It certainly mad a big debt in that sense unless they could stop relying on Hajime. They recognized that and gave each other a silent nod.
However, the awkwardness seemed to clear up after the speech that trampled the common sense of Hajime.
The thought of the debt collector coming to make unreasonable demands seemed to inspire Kouki and Ryuutaro, and apparently Suzu and Shizuku as well. In a sense, they felt unity over not wanting to be consumed by debt, burying the break between them a bit.
Without being attacked by any more Milky slimes, they advanced across the wasteland with ease and finally arrived at the giant tree. The gather at the entrance and step into the next magic circle.
The place where Hajime and company appeared was as expected. However, the light being emitted from it was different from usual. There was a doorway leading to the outside and was open from the beginning.
Hajime glanced around, seeing that he wasn’t missing a single member. The magic eye could not detect the present of any fakes. In other words, they needed to proceed as is.
Hajime cautiously moved forward towards the exit bathed in light as Hajime gave everyone else a nod.
“This is… like fair Bergen.” Hajime looks ahead and nods as so.
Yue and the others had similar impressions and nodded.
Ahead of the cave exit was an aisle, or rather a huge branch that could easily be mistook for an aisle. When Hajime glanced back, he could see a huge wooden trunk that went back so far he couldn’t see the end. In other words, the empty cave came at the root of a branch that Hajime and the others were on.
The tree was too big, and the branch made a 5 meter across aisle just as it is. Other big branches protrude from the tree intertwining here and there. It was an air corridor in the same way as Fair Bergen.
Unlike Fair Bergen, it was a single branch growing from the tree and intertwine to make the air space, as opposed to a several groupings of branches.
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If you look up, there is a stone ceiling, so they were definitely still underground. This tree branch was likely part of the Great Tree as Hajime couldn’t imagine there being any other giant trees like this.
“It’s likely this is a space just under the Great Tree.”
“But the Great Tree is visible on the ground.”
“Well, it seems to grown branches below the ground. The real roots might be much deeper underground. We only see the tip that’s visible, it might be just a small part.”
“How big does the Great Tree get?”
Overtaken by the min-boggling enormity of the Great Tree, it was almost too great to contemplate. The ceiling obstructed the view ahead, but Hajime still imagined the tree towering above them.
Shia’s Usamimi twitch and begin to move. Shia’s appeared to pick up some kind of sound. Shia wonders “What’s that sound?” and sets out to verify the identity while walking the distance of the branches.
The faint sound is leathery and her ears flop around with disgust. Shia frowns as her Usamimi pick up the sound, an imperceptible sound that sent goosebumps across her skin. She peers over the edge cautiously.
“? Dark and invisible, that’s it.”
‘What’s the matter?”
“I’m hearing a somewhat unpleasant sound, but it’s too dark for my eyes…”
“You want me to look for you?”
“Yes, thank you. What is that? The sound of such a feeling, like wriggling.”
“I understand, something theta sounds disgusting?”
Hajime glanced over the edge on the left of the branch passage after shea called. Certainly, the darkness could not be pierced at this particular height, but with “night eyes” and “far vision” it wouldn’t be a problem for Hajime.
First, Hajime can’t see everything, but as he narrows his eyes doubtfully he gives out a cry that couldn’t be voiced. He looked up, his face blue and his expression giving away danger.
“Ha, Hajime!? What’s wrong? To see you react so much. What exactly did you see?”
Hajime was the height of fearless arrogance and boldness. For Hajime’s face to display fear gave something very difficult to imagine. Yue anxiously rubbed Hajime’s back. Shia was holding his hand gently.
Hajime finally recovered as bit of warmth and murmured while trembling and overlooking everyone with a serious look.
.”…The devil is there…”
Everyone inclined their necks at Hajime’s pointless words. Kouki and Ryuutaro turned their eyes from Hajime, who to them looks most like the devil himself, to declare something else a devil, gave them watery eyes.
“Yes, it’s a devil. It’s black and you know it well…”
When he said only that, Hajime pulled out a crossbit and sent it down. A small crystal was put up so that everyone could see.
The one which reflected after a little noise right in front of Yue and others was…
If you find one, there is at least thirty more. It bears the name of the black devil, having been feared with the word inititals G. Always creeps, rustling by chaos, life force causing it to doggedly survive, struggling in the shadows moving at high speed. If you are flying in the air, the Earth, enemy of the strong which cause abnormalities in a state of confusion and panic in restaurants, they are soldiers of unique magic.
The name of… cockroach.
The cockroach is, at the bottom of this underground space, millions, several tens of millions, no their wriggling had no measurement. It was an incomparable sea of cockroaches. The leathery unpleasant sound was the sound of cockroaches rubbing against each other.
“So, what things… look…”
“Yeah, so many, lots and lots.”
With blue faces, Suzu and Shizuku look away as well. They both have goosebumps n their arms. The other members were pretty much the same. In particular, Shea’s Usamimi’s were now hanging down, she was desperate to cover up the sound now that she knew what it was. She buries her head in her hands and squats down, her eyes teary.
“…Hajime, will burn them.”
Yue unusually says a dangerous thing, but Tio and Kaori seemed to already have the same intention. Their desire to so the things destroyed were indicated by the look in the eyes and the goosebumps on their skin.
“It might be better to stop… that number? I suggest… what if they flew in large quantities?”
Thousands of cockroaches coming flying all at once up at them, Hajime proposed. Yue lost her fighting spirit, and her face changed into a complicated expression. Apparently, the heart was broken in an instant.
“If we don’t fall, I think it’s okay. I think… as… I’ll advance first and stop any that come up quickly. It might only attack when we stop.”
Everyone wore a more serious expression that they previously had at Hajime’s words, they gave firm nods.
Hajime traveled out on top of the thick branch passage. For now, there was only the goal of advancing along the road, but since the place was major scaffolding, there appeared to be a joined branch passage in the distance which he supposed was where he was going to aim.
Along the way, the roaches had not jumped up or been startled and they had made it from the entry branch to the next branch aisle. Things looked good, and then…
A feared sound was heard.
It was flapping sounds, in a large amount.
Hajime who confirms with a look below. Sure enough, a brown tsunami was coming stretching out and rising as flapping hordes of cockroaches emerged with a furious spectacle.
“Uo… it’s covered!!”
“Hey, oh, oh oh!!”
“Come now, oh, oh!”
Everyone was raising cries of disgust as they prepared for the biggest attack of their lives.
Hajime shoots rockets from Orukan. Yue uses her “thunder dragon”, Shia fights with burst slug ammunition out of the Doryukken, Tio invokes breath, and Kaori released decomposition while Kouki’s group uses whatever long distance attacks they could muster.
Blooming flowers of crimson perched below, roars of thunder. Spreading ripples of blue light, cut blank flashes of black and silver. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to declare overwhelming annihilation. If this force was put in front of the kingdom and the imperial army, surely, they would oblige to leave this world.
However, the attack didn’t dent the mountainside of blossoming black tsunami coming towards them. Attacking the sea itself is the same as pointless. The tsunami of cockroaches jumped freely in the movement spread throughout space as birds do in perfect order.
“It is terrible! Holy shield!””
Already half crying, Suzu put up a barrier.
Shortly after, the Zaa Aaaa continued move up into the sky. A wave of cockroaches descended as if attracted by gravity and pounced towards Hajime’s party.
The roaches hit the walls, the momentum causing tons to smoosh and sprinkle their fluids as the survivors crawl all over the barrier wall.
Suzu’s barrier stretched under the weight and she started to lose consciousness. Kouki resists and tries to give out an encouraging voice over the desperation.
“Suzu, don’t pass out. If you become unconscious we all die. Keep up your spirit!”
Which was part of the attack. To be swallowed by the wave of cockroaches in flesh and blood, but it’s an attack on the spirit as much as a magical attack. These kind of abnormalities couldn’t be avoided. On the contrary, they could traumatize you for life.
“Yue, take over the defense!”
“…Nn, will absolutely not be broken.”
Yue deployed her holy shield to superimpose the one Suzu had raised up with an arm covered in goosebumps. The outside of the barrier was stained black with cockroaches crawling and rustling.
“Somehow, it has been like this since I came to this labyrinth.”
“Extremely messy huge labyrinth. Well, this on assumes you’ve beaten several of these others and have obtained their cheats so it raises the difficulty up several steps.”
“It would be very difficult if you did not have time to analyze things calmly.”
“Kaori, it’s okay, there is no problem. That out there is just a black sesame thing. Black sesame pudding or black sesame furikake and I quite like it. Especially black sesame furikake seasoning soy sauce flavored”. That’s delicious. Rice is great.”
“Shizuku-chan! Oh no! I broke the already fragile Shizuku-chan.”
Kaori gives a heartbreaking cry as Suzu’s pupils go dead. Meanwhile, Hajime reaches into the “treasure room” and starts preparing for extermination while rubbing the goosebumps on his arms.
However, before that happens.
The cockroaches that flocked to the barrier drew in unison. The wave of cockroach in front of everything move into a sphere of air, producing a circular ring to surround the center.
Superimposed further circular rings on the outer periphery of the giant circular ring form. The next cockroach column begins to sequence around the ring. Gradually, the sight begins to form a geometric pattern created in air. Hajime’s cheek twitched.
“Hey, Hey, Hey, believe it or not. Are they forming a magic circle?”
Once a magic circle was formed by Nointo handling and lining up its Gunba formerly in the air. The countless cockroaches were now doing the same thing. Hajime and the other’s declared “how gross” and continued their attack simultaneously.
However, the wave of cockroaches lay ahead so that the spear in the center of the magic circle was maintained.
It’ll be a meat wall literally, and Hajime’s and the others attacks were obstructed. A dead body of the cockroaches where were blown away fell in a torrential downpour into the lower part, but this did not decrease the number at all.
While continuing to fight in this way, the magic circle seemed to be completed. Close to fifteen meters in diameter it floated in the air, a magic circle emitting light of intense red and black. And when it burst the next moment, a central sphere which consists of cockroaches began to rise and change shape. It was a huge cockroach of about three meters at full length, at last.
But rather than taking the oval form as cockroaches around it, it came with a needle like tail and a torso similar to a centipede, complete with 10 legs. Its front feet had sharp finger like knives. The face had black color eyes, and a sharp chin, along with three pairs, six total translucent wings. Perhaps this was a monster of the boss class.
“Gigi Chchichichichichichi chip!!!”
The boss cockroach wore dark red phosphorescent color and emits unpleasant cries. Then the cockroaches gathered around further, beginning to for another magic square. Apparently the boss cockroach could control the other cockroaches. A rather small sphere begins to be formed, plenty in the center of a new magical center. It isn’t the boss cockroach, but it’s clear that a special cockroach appears big.
“Tch… what to do?”
Suddenly a torrent of the magic generated the moment Hajime and Yue tried to make an attack on the magic circle from their footing.
The both turned their eyes down immediately, but there was nothing in a branch aisle to hold. However, his magic eye caught that further down the branch aisle, on the other side of the aisle, out of sight, the cockroaches were forming another magic circle.
It was trying to focus their attention on it, probably forming a magic flash to hide the other circle. Bad Hajime! It was actuated already the moment Hajime realized that.
Red and black magic was transmitted through the branch passage along the scaffold. Hajime protected his face from the intense light. After the flash exploded, it wrapped the surrounding region and settled there. Hajimei and the others appeared intact.
What on earth was it? Hajime looked next to him to Yue while suspecting.
The feeling that welled up within Hajime at that moment was not relief for her safety and was not the usual love, it was…
-It was hate.
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