“Is it all okay?” In the living room of the ice home, Suzu muttered to herself with an anxious voice while sitting on the sofa.
Therefore, Kaori who also sat on the sofa asked gently. “Is what ‘okay’?”
“Mmm? All of it? Did Nagumo not fall unconscious? Can we return to Japan, truly? Will Kouki be alright? This trip to the demon territory… this…”
After taking this period to rest, it leaves the body with nothing else to do but think about these various things.
Since Hajime had started to make the artifact using concept magic, they had shut themselves up in their room for the last two hours.
When you include the time that Hajime and Yue had fainted, where they had nothing to do, they had plenty of time to recover. This left them time to think about unnecessary things.
“Suzu-chan… we’re safe. Hajime will get past any difficulty. And with Yue by his side, the impossible only becomes possible.”
“In addition, it’s up to Kouki to do something about Kouki. Of course, I’ll help as far as I can. As with Eri, I think… yes, we need to charge forward. There is nothing more to it. Thinking too much will only make you tired.”
To the rough encouragement, Suzu responded instinctively with surprising courageousness. “Kaori… has become handsome. You’ve already have become completely influenced by Nagumo-kun.”
“It is different, Suzu. For a long time, Kaori charges when she can decide. Kaori’s decisions, 90% of the time, are to charge forward.”
“Suzu-chan, It is… Shizuku-chan… so cruel… I am not like Ryuutaro-kun…”
“Hey, Kaori… why is being the same as me considered cruel? Am I noticing casual abuse?” Ryuutaro spat out with a bitter expression which concerned nobody.
Though Kaori wore her lips in a bit of sulk, but she took to heart immediately and fixed her eyes on Suzu.
“Anyway, I don’t know how things will turn out with Eri, but I will follow you and help. We need to get out of there in the confusion if things go bad.”
Kaori smoothly declared something frightful, but it was another word that Suzu was caught on. Blinking in surprise, she responded timidly in confirmation.
“Oh, oh, then Kaori will come with me?”
“Of course, I can’t neglect Shizu and Suzu.”
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“It’s the same as Shizu-chan, it’ll be a while before we have the artifact that will allow us to return. We’ll also need to meet up to Lemia and Myuu. I can’t help with the artifact, so I think what I should do it protect Suzu then…”
“Ah… Kaori is… a good child, a really good child… and, thank you very much.”
“Suzu-chan, what’s with the Kansai accent?”
To Kaori’s words, Suzu made a joke while whipping away a tear. She was too embarrassed to return her sentiment seriously.
“If Kaori comes, you should be fine. Hmmm… before this mistress goes to Goshujin-sama’s world, I should return to my clan as well.”
“That’s right, Tio-san. You’re a daughter of the clan. What’s it like, I had forgotten about that.”
“Well, I mean… I guess you’d like to meet the dragonkin?”
“Well, we have space transfer magic set up so we could go there immediately. It’s definitely beyond the mountains in the north - across the continent on a solitary island.”
Tio gave a puzzled look so Shia recalled from her memory. When they left this world, Tiothought that she might not have the time to visit her family.
“Well…well, that is certainly the case. If I could receive jealous love punishment from Goshujin-sama before departing, that will be… let’s double the speed. Return home through the gate!”
“…If we return and her kin sees her ecstatic expression on her face… they will be shocked. It would be good if it doesn’t become a panic.”
While Tio imagined Hajime’s love and floating a smirk, Shia, and the others had a sick feeling while imagining the unpleasantness of that reunion.
After returning and seeing Tio, who has changed into a deviant, what kind of reaction would the dragonkin have? As Shia imagined it, Hajime would need to take responsibility. Shia let out a sigh as she imagined what should be done with Tio’s family.
At that point, the door of the living room made a noise as it slowly opened.
“Did we stay here…”
“Oh, Kouki. You woke up, how do you feel?”
It was Kouki who had entered. It seems he had awoken to find the other members.
Although it was Shizuku’s aim to look aloof, she had immediately hidden her vigilance in a smile while asking about his condition. Kouki smiled back, in the same way, However, it seemed that his expression was shadowed.
“I’m okay, I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Even now, it’s fine as long as you’re safe.”
“It seems that I have recovered.”
“That’s really good.”
Shizuku rejoiced at Kouki’s recovery. Kouki smiled once more and gazed around the room looking for someone. His expression stiffened as if he was getting nervous. Kaori who saw this answered with a bitter smile.
“If it is Hajime-kun, he’s in another room now, so he isn’t here.”
Well…so…so I probably need to apologize for being a nuisance… in various ways, but…”
Apparently, it seemed like he was no longer rampaging against Hajime like he was during the trial. His mental condition seemed to be relatively calm. Rather, it may be more accurate to say he seemed depressed over calm.
“I don’t think Hajime-kun minds, as long as you’re not rampaging anymore he wouldn’t demand an apology.”
“Shia-san… maybe so, after all…”
Kouki wore a sour look full of bitterness. Though Kouki’s recklessness has been troublesome, Hajime did not worry especially because it wasn’t that inconvenient. The way it was, it could be said to be like a child who had a temper tantrum and struck out.
Though it was certainly murderous intent he had faced, the behavior was stupid and Hajime gave priority to avoid hurting Kaori (and incidentally Shizuku). At least, he had not given a great deal of time and effort, his body and heart having become strong enough to shoulder that troublesome burden.
“Did the sleep snap you out of your delusions, or do you still think Nagumo-kun has brainwashed us?” Shizuku asked severely while narrowing her eyes.
Kouki being unhurt and Kouki being in control were different questions entirely. Hajime likely wouldn’t permit him raging out of control a second time, and it needed to be understood that Hajime didn’t kill him despite the killing intent because of them.
After receiving the still voice and glare from Shizuku, Kouki quickly turned his eyes. But Shizuku didn’t permit such spoiled behavior.
“Kouki, don’t look away.”
“Well… ah… I do not think that anymore. At that time, it really seemed like…”
Kouki’s face held a shadowed expression, but he answered firmly while looking up at Shizuku. For a while, Shizuku looked back at Kouki. Likely to try to understand his thoughts through his eyes. Shia acted similarly.
Eventually, although it was hard to say for certain, they were convinced that showed a tentative assent. Shizuku nodded.
“Well, if it is OK… Kouki. Is there anything you’d like to ask?”
Because the atmosphere was awkward, to change those drifting feelings, Shizuku turned to Kouki.
Were those feelings transmitted to Kouki? Kouki floated a small wry smile. He asked what happened after he had fainted.
And… all of the members except Kouki captured the labyrinth. Hajime and Yue looked into the abyss of concept magic. And at the present, they were shut off by themselves trying to create an artifact for their return.
Although Kouki’s expression didn’t particularly change as he remained silent and listened, it was obvious that he had wanted to overcome his native self. When he couldn’t capture the last trial, it was easy to imagine his inner heart wouldn’t be calm.
And has his childhood friend, Shizuku was hesitant on whether she should say was Kouki wanted to hear most. That is what caused Kouki to fall apart in the first place. Kouki made his own convenient interpretations in defiance of Shizuku’s attempt to persuade him.
Shizuku waited for Kouki to ask, but decided that the likelihood that he wouldn’t hear what she said was high given his situation.
“…Kouki, I came to like Nagumo-kun. I want him to see me as a woman.”
To Shizuku’s words, Kouki’s expression distorted momentarily. The words were told to him by his childhood friend right at his side. However, the reality of it would take a long time for Kouki to recognize. Shizuku appearing on Hajime’s shoulders with a sleeping face that seemed happy and relieved crossed his mind.
“With that, will you follow Nagumo in the future? Nagumo has a favorite, and there is Kaori, too? Shouldn’t you reconsider… Shizuku? It’s kind of a bad trap…”
While paying close attention as to not leak out black emotions that gushed from his heart, Shizuku shook her head to cover over Kouki’s words.
“Kouki, I’m not looking for your opinion. I am merely telling you. Because you are a childhood friend.”
Kouki kept silent with a sour expression not knowing how to speak. Somehow, it was Ryuutaro and Suzu who covered for her with their own glances. In a look, Kaori provided meaning that they would not struggle for the same man as best friends. It was a quiet expression of affirmation from all three of them. Of course, it was Shizuku’s words that were affirming how she felt.
Realizing there was no one to back him up, Kouki erased the expression on his face. It was impossible to dismiss the reality that was unfavorable to Kouki. All those feelings of irritation, frustration, envy, and hatred began to wander for a false point to cling to.
However, there was nothing to rampage with just feelings. This wasn’t about Hajime as an object and above all else, it was made clear. The feelings that stagnated darkly didn’t have any fangs to bite. This was a big opportunity…
Although Suzu empathized with the dark feelings that Kouki could separate himself from, but either way, he had to get over it himself, he needed to face the problems.
Even with such an attitude caught in the heart, Kouki emitted unwanted emotions and made a sarcastic comment.
“Haha, everyone is that guy’s ally. It’s a guy who easily kills people and easily abandons…”
Suzu spoke up unexpectedly. Shia and Tio wore narrowed eyes. Kaori’s smile deteriorated a little.
But Kouki, whose mind was like a child couldn’t stop the feelings that had no place to go. Thus, he said…
“If so, at that time, would I fall off a bridge, if it was okay?” (Tn: In other words… maybe I should just kill myself… I think)
To such insensitive and heartless words, Kaori stopped those words that hurt her heart. PASHIN! Kaori’s slap made a flashy noise and exploded on Kouki’s cheek.
Though her hand also throbbed, Kaori began to talk with an expression that looked regrettable to Kouki who had a hand on his cheek in dumb surprise.
“…Kouki. I think Kouki is an important childhood friend… so don’t make me dislike him.”
Kouki was at a loss of words from the unexpected shock but still opened his mouth as if he had something to say.
An impact resembling wind pressure ran through. Its identity were waves of enormous magical power. Although it should not be “shock transformation” or the like, an enormous amount of magical power spread through the wall of the mansion so that their bodies responded to it in shock.
“This is… Hajime-san! Yue!”
To this obviously abnormal situation, Shia flung herself out of the room at a dash. When Hajime makes an artifact, this kind of current is not usual.
The wave motion of magic continued to pulse intermittently. Magic in each of their bodies was severely stricken. However, Kaori who was startled back by Shia’s actions straightened herself and followed Shia immediately.
According to Shia, the wave motion of magical power seemed to be coming from Hajime and Yue. The waves of magical power seemed to increase in density the closer they approached the room the two people stayed in. It was as if a typhoon had hit them directly as they arrived before the room.
The door was already opened as Shia verified that the two were safe. After going in, it seemed to be the case. While protecting her face from the bewitchment that raged on, Kaori made up her mind and stepped inside.
What spread out from there was a scene where the magical power of red and gold became a torrent of spirals. The scene blew off from the center with the Hajime and Yue on their knees facing each other and holding hands. Before the two of them, there was a crystal of a giant and some minerals that emitted a pale light.
“What’s happening, Shia… this…”
“I do not know, but they seem to have done something.”
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As she had already assessed the scene, Kaori asked Shia who’s rabbit ears were dancing in the storm of magic. Shia protected her face with her arm and a lower posture but was able to confirm Hajime and Yue’s appearances. When she could see they were both safe, she gave out a breath of relief.
If you trace their glance, it seemed a certainty that neither Hajime nor Yue was at risk. However, both of them were concentrating extremely hard. Shia’s entering was not even noticed. A large amount of sweat flowed from them. At this moment, it was clear they were focusing on making the artifact with concept magic.
“…If it is safe, it seems better to leave…”
“Well, if I fail as a mistress, I should be punished.”
“…You should seem so happy about it, Tio…”
Shia retreated towards the door softly as to not disturb Hajime.
Meanwhile, only Kouki was staring at Hajime. You couldn’t see the color of emotion in those eyes, but they seemed to hold down passion and looked dangerous.
“Kouki,” Shizuku called out.
Kouki did not answer. Rather, he took a step forward straight ahead, just one step forward.
Shizuku immediately grabs Kouki’s arms. While her trademark ponytail flapped in the magical storm, she looked straight at Kouki with a serious look. In the gaze, as if frightened, revealed shaking. Kouki made a step backward. One step backward.
At that moment…
Suddenly, images began to appear before their eyes. Like a fog projecting a picture instead of a screen, magical light fragments became a medium. To this strange situation, Shia and the others forgot to even leave the room.
At that time, Suzu muttered to herself.
“Somehow, it looks like Orcus.”
“Certainly, speaking of a large cave illuminated by green light, it would be the Orcus Great Labyrinth.”
Tio affirmed Suzu’s guess. Speaking of a cave illuminated by faint green walls, it would be the Orcus Great Labyrinth that was created by digging into veins of Illumination Stone.
However, since the scenery was different from the structure of the upper labyrinth that Suzu knew, she could not say it for certain. This looked like a natural cave that had not been crafted by a human hand. The magnitude of the height and width of the cave was different from the labyrinth Suzu knew.
The sudden situation and mysterious images deepened their bewilderment, but before long the image projected from the angle of the shadow next to a rock at a large crossroads, showed white hair, long hind legs, and deep red lines crawling across its body like blood vessels, and the true colors of the image was realized as the feelings of having been caught by the demon of the rabbit type were transmitted to them.
“This is anxiety? There is also impatience.”
“I also feel fear. This image is a memory.”
“It is probably Goshujin-sama’s. The memory of the place of hell this one heard him speak about.”
Shia’s guess was correct.
Along with the image, feelings were transmitted from the magic that filled the room. Anxiety, impatience, and fear were overflowing due to the clearly abnormal monster he had never seen before. They couldn’t understand what had led such a situation to occur, but they at least understood that the images they saw and feelings they felt were Hajime’s.
Apart from the time after he had met Yue, Hajime did not speak much of the time in hell before that. It was already over, and Hajime did not have a hobby of boasting about his misfortune. It was simply troublesome to talk about it, too.
So, being given the chance where Shia and the others could learn from Hajime’s past that they don’t know about, after exchanging a glance with one another, they stared hard at the image as if to drill a hole in it without leaving the room. To learn the beginnings of the person they loved, it was impossible for them to leave the room. Similarly, Ryuutaro and Kouki began to concentrate on the image with interest too.
So, at that time, someone raised their voice with an “Ah.” In the image, the demon releasing an abnormal atmosphere suddenly charged at him with an amazing power.
Instinctively, Shia and Kaori cried out a warning with a raised voice. Meanwhile, the image moves hectically while the feelings of fear and uneasiness transmitted by the bright red magic swelled up.
They ground their teeth seeing Hajime made sport of by the kick rabbit. And then, when Hajime’s left arm was finally smashed, the feelings of anguish transmitted to them caused Suzu to avert her gaze.
“Hajime-san was…such a one-sided…”
“This is the Nagumo-kun that we knew. His fighting strength was equivalent to having none at all…”
To Hajime being one-sidedly toyed with, Shia’s expression became teary eyed as she couldn’t believe it. Shizuku spills her words to such a Shia while biting her lip.
Before long the image becomes momentarily interrupted because Hajime had closed his eyes when feeling the impending death from the kick rabbit approaching. While Hajime’s feelings of terror are spread to them, the image appears again. This time the frightened kick rabbit’s image was seen.
The view of the image was changed tracing the kick rabbit’s line of sight, and there stood a huge white bear. A glance was all it took to understand the bear was not a normal demon. To prove that, the kick rabbit that toyed with Hajime in the image was easily cut in two and preyed on, while scattering blood around Hajime.
The glint in the claw bear’s eyes crosses over through the image to shoot through Shia and the rest. In the case of them today, the power of the claw bear’s gaze would be no big deal, however, because of the feeling it had in its eyes that it was looking only at food rather than an enemy and the fundamental fear that was driven into Hajime caused them to shake unconsciously.
What happened after that was too tragic for the girls who loved Hajime.
Being cornered, the left arm was taken, and it was eaten in front of him. The eyes that see him as food and the arm that lost its shape while spewing blood, such a reality was unnecessarily given to him whether he wanted it or not.
The scream that could not be heard was transmitted to them by the magic. Eyes that a human should never show are shown, having part of the body scattered and eaten, breaking down from terror and agony. And without either shame or respectability, he crawled desperately to get even one millimeter further away from the incarnation of terror.
The reflected image is already dark. The transmitted feelings reached a saturation point or were already unable to be defined. Just…Hajime screams, however even that began to weaken as the light of life faded away.
Shia is pouring out tears. Nearby, Kaori and Shizuku… Suzu covers her mouth with her hand. Tio’s gaze is severe. Before their eyes the murderous intent to want to tear the claw bear limb from limb welled up.
While they watched, the blackout ended. Hajime, doubting his own survival, advanced to the interior of the wall and found a strange crystal that dripped water. The god crystal and holy water.
Hajime drunk that, holding his broken mind while he cowers in a dark cave. While asking for help…
There where the memory is vague the image became interrupted. However, to substitute for that, the feelings being transmitted increased in density.
Overwhelming loneliness is felt as no one responded no matter how much he asked for help. The darkness in which even his own existence seemed to be swallowed. Hunger to the degree where it seemed he’d go mad. Unending phantom limb pain.
Day after day he bore the torture-like pain. While lying down as if to die, eventually wishing that he could die, however, the taken holy water did not allow that, and so his feelings of hatred with nowhere left to go were directed at his classmates as he came to curse the unjustness of the world.
And yet, in addition to that, he gradually began to improve. Hajime’s heart was dyed the blackest black. The longing to live, and, the murderous intent for existences that are a hindrance.
Hajime began to move. He started to collect holy water in a depression on the ground. He will begin with eating the wolf. His hunger and phantom pain have not changed, and only his energy had recovered, while his features reflected in the pool of water were already another person.
With the glitter of murderous intent shining in his eyes… Hajime slipped out of his cave. His only weapon that could not be called a weapon (transmutation) is freely used to hunt the demons.
“…This is that appearance…”
“I heard about it, but he’s strong.”
Eating the demon’s flesh with his hands and clothes becoming bloodstained, the appearance of Hajime with his face made dirty with blood is exactly suitable for a monster.
And, a scream which isn’t given a voice is transmitted again. The amount of his agony cannot be imagined. Beating his head on the ground many times, with Hajime’s body writhing it is only possible to see the repeated breaking down and regenerating sometimes as it enters his field of vision.
Unable to bear watching the ghastly spectacle with the transmission from the hell of the storm of agony, Kouki and Ryuutaro both averted their gazes. Suzu, looked like she could vomit at any moment, desperately trying to endure it.
Before long the transformation ended. Looking at his appearance in the pool of holy water, the reflection shows the Hajime of today. Still more than the Hajime of today, the deep tenacity and murderous intent overflowed from he who had gotten a strong body and a new power.
And, using the power of a transmutation that could not become a weapon because it is only a common job, he made full use of the raw materials and the other world’s gunpowder to produce a weapon after much trial and error that he could use to challenge the claw bear and by crushing it prove his ability to fight.
At the end of a fierce battle where the claw bear is overcome and its flesh is eaten, Hajime becomes self-conscious. In the innermost depths of himself, his true longing has come out.
-I want to return.
Responding to the desire, the magic in the room pulsed. Before they were aware of it, Hajime’s body was covered in the bright red magic power… With Hajime and Yue in the center, the magic power shot up.
However, it was not magic power indiscriminately scattered. It was focused so that it was inhaled in a spiral torrent with the two people at its center.
-I want to return.
Once more Hajime’s pure, strong desire was transmitted through the magic power. Deeply touched by such a wish, Shia, and the others tightly clasped their hands at their chests.
The brilliantly shining crimson magic mixed with the golden magic. As the torrent of magic calmed down, glittering lights like the stars of the Milky Way galaxy began to spin around them.
-I want to return to my hometown.
It is quiet; however, everyone cannot help but shake understanding the strength of will being transmitted by that desire. It should exactly be called the will of the utmost limits.
Hajime in the image, after looking up at the sky once, he quietly closed his eyes. In himself, he must have been making certain of his resolution. And, when he suddenly opened his eyes he unhesitatingly faced the interior of the abyss while proceeding down the passage to the depth of the labyrinth.
The magic light the image was projected on was then absorbed by the whirlpool surrounding Hajime and Yue.
Shia’s and the others’ reaction was generally the same. They were dumbfounded by the extremely violent process Hajime went through to become the Hajime of today.
Shia, Kaori, Tio, and Shizuku shed tears from the emotions that even they did not understand how seriously far Hajime had gone, but at the same time also faintly floated smiles feeling proud that he could stand back up again after crawling up.
Suzu and Ryuutaro couldn’t speak as if they were simply overwhelmed, with somehow assenting looks on their faces as they thought “I can’t match this”.
They thought they’d survived some truly rough battles, but they’d always had the support of Meld and the other experienced knights in the order, and above all, had been surrounded by comrades with cheat abilities. When they tried to imagine whether they could truly, all by themselves, get through all that hardship and crawl out of the abyss, they shook their heads. Even the scene they were seeing now was just the beginning. They didn’t think that they would be able to handle it at all.
And Kouki… gazed into empty space vacantly, as if his power had left him. In his heart, it crossed his mind how he’d just said: “If I’d been the one to fall into the abyss…”
Up until now, Kouki had actually thought that Hajime’s strength was unfair. Even though Shizuku had said Hajime must’ve had a horrible experience, the idea was completely abstract to him. Kouki had seriously thought that Hajime was a guy who did whatever he pleased and easily obtained power just by falling into the abyss.
But now that he’d ended up knowing Hajime’s way of obtaining it, it was so incredible it blew away those thoughts.
(‘I want to return’… huh.)
He whispered it in his mind. A doubt welled up: do I actually desire to return home as much as him? At the same time, when he compared his thoughts when he’d declared that he would save this world as the hero everyone needs, with Hajime’s pure and intense wish, he had a feeling it seemed very cheap.
(N-No… I’m not wrong. Nagumo’s feelings… I understand them, but… But, even so… And, now, Shizuku’s also… He’s taken everything from me…)
He desperately shook off the self-criticizing emotions that floated through his mind.
As Kouki engaged in a mental dialogue with himself, a change occurred with Hajime and Yue. To be precise, with the crystal structure and mineral in between them.
It was wrapped in bright red magic. The shape gradually changed, or rather, it united as if to prove it was taking in magical power.
“Is that a key…?”
“Well, it looks like an antique key made out of crystal.”
Shizuku added to Kaori’s mutterings. It was shaped between Hajime and Yue, with a regular dodecahedral crystal body on the side of the hand. It was a key with a terribly sophisticated and complex magic line drawn in the planning part of the trip.
It was created with the fusion of the god crystal and other minerals, finishing as an antique key that captures the beautiful artworks that incorporated a lot of magical powers from Hajime and Yue, decorated in gold designs with a red crystal.
And just after the shape was perfectly formed, Hajime and Yue who did not make movements until now opened their eyes with their hands connected. It seemed that nothing was reflected in their thin eyes, which seemed to be looking at something only visible to the two of them.
In a strange way, the atmosphere felt mysterious, there was a sound that someone swallowed with a gulp of saliva. The next moment, the two lips trembled in time. Then the words spun from a small opening mouth…
“Open the door to the place you wanted.”
A moment later, a torrent of dazzling light like a fixed star blew up around the two. The flow of the galaxy that once calmed down dyed the room into pure white light as if it had caused a supernova explosion, and painted everyone’s consciousness with white as well.
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