「Nice to meet you mongrel. So, where is the power plant?」
「Power, plant? Err……what is that――」
The mongrel――aka Jasper showed a clear bewilderment at Hajime’s question.
*Grit* Donner’s muzzle was grinded between Jasper’s eyebrows. 「Hih」 he raised a small scream. The eyes that were visible through his disheveled hair were agitated. It could be seen that he was racking his brain, but it didn’t look like he was trying to squeeze out words for dodging the question. It simply looked like he was thinking the meaning of Hajime’s question.
For the time being, Kouki interrupted even while thinking inside his heart 「He’s really used to give verbal abuse huh. What an unpleasant thing to get used to. As expected from Tio-san’s owner……」 after seeing Hajime calling Jasper mongrel so naturally.
「I’m sorry Jasper-san. This man is like a bomb with its fuse lit. It’ll be better if you don’t make him too――」
*Grit* A gun muzzle was grinded on the back of Kouki’s head. Kouki’s expression didn’t change. Only his words that splendidly changed.
「Could it be, you don’t understand the meaning of the words power plant itself?」
「Y-yeah. I’ve never heard that word before……I guess, that you’re asking of a place somewhere but……」
The answer was too unexpected. It was impossible that he didn’t understand the meaning of “power plant”. It was like he was saying that he didn’t understand the concept of “electricity” itself.
Hajime and Kouki looked at each other. They could see perplexity flickering at each other’s eyes. Jasper’s way of tricking them was too sloppy to decide that he was lying to them. In that case this might be the reverse case where this man really was ignorant of the meaning of those words……
Hajime tapped Donner on his shoulder while narrowing his gaze toward Jasper.
「……You were the one leading those people who summoned us, so I won’t let you say that you don’t know about that summoning device. How did you prepare the capacitor then?」
「I, I don’t know――」
「Hiih!? I really don’t knowww~~~!」
Hajime’s evil countenance that would make even mafia ran away with their tail between their legs shaved off Jasper’s willpower! He was being wrapped in strings so he could only wiggle like earthworm.
「Nagumo, calm down.」
「I’m calm. I’m just calmly threatening him.」
Because, that was just how a demon king was.
Kouki smiled softly while desperately blocking Hajime who was going to sink his boot into the tearful Jasper if a chance presented itself.
He didn’t notice how he was oddly forming a bad cop good cop routine by doing that.
「Jasper-san, please calm down. It’s fine. I won’t let him lay his hand on you.」
「No, I might not be able to stop Nagumo if he seriously try to lay his hand on you, but I’ll do my best.」
「Don’t take back you words like that! Please reassure me theree!」
「……In the world, there are things that you realistically can do and things that you can’t do.」
「In other words you are saying you can’t!? God dammit-」
Seeing Kouki’s really distant look, Jasper-san realized that the good cop wasn’t that good of a cop and despaired. It seemed that this had gone over the limit of his tolerance and he cursed in desperation.
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「……Amanogawa. You have grown huh.」
「I’ll take that as compliment. I feel really conflicted though.」
Hajime’s eyes looked like he had just discovered an UMA. Kouki was making a conflicted expression just like he said and coughed.
「Jasper-san. Not just “power plant”, you don’t even know what “electricity” mean. Is my understanding correct?」
「Then, how did you use the device that summoned us?」
「I-I only did just as I was told. We had all the materials for that thing prepared for us and we only assembled them together……I don’t get how it works at all. In the first place, we are “underworlder”. Even touching metal other than supplies is a “taboo” for us……」
Hajime massaged his forehead when he heard Jasper’s words. The situation was far more complex than he thought.
「There are a lot of words that I’m concerned about but……for now, who was the one giving you the order?」
「T-the lord of the paradise.」
「Lord of the paradise? Who’s that? Where can we meet him?」
「I-I don’t know.」
「I-I’m saying the truth! I’ve never seen him directly! I suddenly heard a voice half a year ago, and since then he gave us instructions with only his voice while never showing himself to us! That’s why……that’s why we called him the “lord of the paradise”……that’s all! That’s why stop giving me eyes like that!」
「Nagumo, Nagumo. Your pupil is shrinking too much. That’s seriously scary. It’s really scary!」
Hajime scratched his head.
After that he questioned Jasper even more. It seemed that Jasper didn’t even know about the underground space in detail.
It seemed there was a real mountain if they went through these countless huge trash mountains that could be mistaken as a mountain range. There was a city with that mountain as the center. Jasper and others were living at the foot of that mountain. Originally it was forbidden for them to come to this place. They didn’t even know there was underground space here until the “lord of the paradise” showed them the way.
Jasper followed the instruction of the “lord of the paradise” and gathered people who wanted to escape their current life even if they had to violate the taboo for it. They secretly went back and forth from their city to this garbage collection point while assembling the summoning device little by little.
And then, the parts of the summoning device including the capacitor were brought into that underground space while Jasper and his group were at the city, so they didn’t even know who and how those parts were transported into there.
「Th-that’s right. Say, you two. What about my group……」
「They were annihilated. You’re the only we one we brought out from there.」
「Tsu……I see. So we were tricked as expected……」
Jasper bit his lip and blood trickled down. He squeezed out words of sorrow.
「We were told……that we’ll be able to go to paradise. There we’ll be able to eat until we’re full, and there won’t even be “life span treatment” there. He said we will be able to live more, properly, freely in a place where there’s no “mother”. He told us that……we did, everything he told us, and yet. Dammit……」
Light of hope vanished from his eyes and his body turned limp in depression.
Both Hajime and Kouki judged that Jasper wasn’t lying after seeing the state he was in.
They could sense from every part of his story that Jasper had received almost no education growing up. His appearance suggested that he was around forty. His appearance looked shabby on the whole and his body was filthy from not being washed for a long time. His massacred comrades were also the same. All of them also looked thin, suggesting that they were unable to eat decently.
In other words, the environment that they were placed in was just that harsh. They wanted to escape their current circumstance because of that and even grasped at straws by obeying an unknown person. From all these it could be seen that his story seemed credible.
「In the end, we still haven’t learned anything.」
Hajime let out a deep sigh. He switched his thinking to use what little information they had to make deductions and decided the fundamental of their course of action.
「We learned that there is a mastermind behind the summoning this time. Our business is with that one. In that case, why won’t he show himself……oi, Amanogawa. Did you hear any strange voice? Something like 『Hero, I’ve waited for you』 for example.」
「N-no, I didn’t hear anything like that.」
「Really? Is that head of yours that is prone to receive other world signal working properly?」
「Wording! You made it sounds like I’m someone with screw loose in his head.」
Kouki sighed and started trying to take off Etemp’s web to free Jasper.
Of course, he couldn’t take them off.
「Hey, Nagumo. Is there no possibility that this is simply a mistaken summoning? ……Eh? This string! It won’t come off-」
「You mean the plan of this so called “lord of paradise”’ went wrong when he was seriously trying to migrate to other world? Well, it’s possible. So you mean that our guy ran away because of something like 『Crap! Double crap! Even though I want to go to other world, some strange blokes showed up instead! ……Yeah, let’s run. I don’t know anything~!』?」
「Why is he sounding so frivolous like that? Hup, eh!? Even the holy sword can’t cut it!? Why!?」
「Either way, we have too few information. First we have to gather information. Oi, mongrel. Tell us everything you know about this world. About that robot soldiers, starfish imitation, and most importantly, where did they come from. Also things like who are controlling them and so on.」
「Wait a second Nagumo! This string, it’s seriously cannot be cut! What’s with this string that even the holy sword can’t cut!? Isn’t this just a monster’s string!?」
「Ah, wait, you! I was cut! Just now my body also got cut slightly! It’s touching me, it’s touching meee!」
「Eh!? Sorry! My sword got entangled……this stupid stringgg-」
「Aaaaa, it hurts! It really hurts! Do you want to kill me!?」
Jasper who jerked *twitch twitch* and Kouki who slipped his holy sword between the strings and scrubbed *squeak squeak* to pull out the sword. The string got slightly dyed red……
Actually this string had been improved by kneading into it powder of Stal ore (the ore from the scorpion imitation in the abyss) that would harden when magic power was flowing through it. Even under magic dispersion phenomenon of this world, the damping effect could be suppressed to a certain degree because the magic power was permeating in the string itself, so it could display its endurance sufficiently.
It could also be used as slicing string by thinning the string further and upping the hardness but……there was limit that the arachne needed to keep in touch with the string and the sharpness would only continue as long as they hadn’t run out of magic power that was stored inside them.
In other words,
「So it’s you two! Stop pouring magic power into the string!」
Etemp and Netemp had been secretly touching the string that tied Jasper and hardened it. Their front legs were raised up in banzai as though to say 「What holy sword! Just try to cut it if you really can!」.
These, these guys, they are really irritating for some reason, Kouki thought with vein pulsing on his forehead.
But, at that timing, a heavy bass sound *GOOOOOO* that sounded like it came from the depth of earth suddenly shook their eardrums. Hajime and others turned their gaze in surprise.
「That sound is……this is bad, it’s the aircraft soldiers! We’ll get disposed off if they found us!」
The sound was approaching this way in high speed from the other side of the trash mountain. Jaspers’s complexion instantly turned pale hearing that.
Hajime made his decision instantly.
「Etemp! Netemp! Hide us!」
Hajime threw Etemp & Netemp into the trash mountain right beside him as soon as he gave the order. The two went right into the heap of trash and right after that, Etemp made a cave by entangling a part of the trashes and hauling them out while Netemp swiftly formed a dome of web that hardened to create a space for the three of them to enter.
Hajime and Kouki leaped into that space while dragging Jasper inside. Immediately after that, Etemp pulled back several trashes that it hauled out back into place and the entrance was blocked once more. The figure of Hajime and co was perfectly hidden from view.
While Jasper was going 「Wha-, wha-」 in shock at the work of Netemp & Etemp, Kouki tilted his head when he felt the two arachne were still doing something.
「Hm? Netemp is pouring magic power into the string?」
「It’s for blocking things like heat detection, infrared, X-ray, or that kind of things while also blocking sound from going out.」
「Isn’t that string is overly useful?」
「Ah, yeah. I can understand that they’re being smug right now.」
For spider type Grim Reaper, string was their main strength. It was great hardship to grant numerous abilities to that string, but exactly because of that it was overflowing with romance! It was under such thinking that Hajime repeated trial and error until he used up all his sleeping time for it and ate a backdrop from Shia to create this product he was proud of.
Even while they were having such talk, the sound that was like jet engine was approaching……and then, it stopped. Most likely it was hovering above the collapsed entrance to the underground.
「O-oi, are we really alright?」
「Just shut up and watch.」
They watched outside quietly from the slight gap of the trashes while Jasper was muttering anxiously.
Floating in the air was a black humanoid with two pairs of wings. Overall it was small and had different weapon in each arm. It was spurting bluish white light not only from its wings, but also from its back, waist, and legs to fly.
There was a groove in the shape of cross at its head. A single eye was moving up, down, left, and right restlessly inside it.
(That’s seriously an SF robot. No way it’s searching us with only sight……)
It was extremely troublesome that the opponent had air force. They wouldn’t be able to get away once they got detected by something like that. Even if they swiftly defeated it, there was no doubt that a reinforcement would immediately arrive.
That was a situation they wanted to avoid for now when they still didn’t really understand this world. Therefore Hajime prayed in his heart that the robot had no searching method that surpassed his countermeasure.
The tension that he was feeling for the first time after so long made his lips formed a fearless grin unconsciously. Doing speedrun of game in super hard difficulty was Hajime’s favorite hobby, but doing that in real life that put their life on the line was really not something that could be laughed at.
That was exactly why he was laughing though.
Seeing Hajime like that made Jasper who was holding his breath to look shocked as though he was watching a lunatic. Kouki was shrugging as though to say that it couldn’t be helped.
While that was going on, it seemed the so called aircraft soldier finished its inspection. Its single eye was fixed at the center of the cross shaped groove and flickered, then its bluish white light that seemed to be afterburner shined even brighter and it flew off to somewhere.
「It looks like it has no absurd detection ability that is fitting for SF.」
「Haa, that’s great. I can’t attack from range with magic, and I also can’t make foothold using barrier, so it’s also impossible to slash at it directly.」
「Now that you mentioned it. What, so the hero right now is useless against flying type enemy.」
「……Say, do you about “sugarcoating”?」
「Obviously. It’s the useful thing that can be used not only to coat snacks but even words.」
「Then sugarcoat it! Coat those overly sharp words of yours!」
*Snap snap* Veins were pulsing on Kouki’s forehead. Hajime ignored him and made Etemp and Netemp to withdraw the strings they used to form the dome and binding Jasper.
「……If you can please call me Jasper……」
「That’s fine. In exchange take us to this so called city of yours. Answer all of our questions too on the way there.」
Hajime demanded a compensation just to have him call his name. Jasper nodded helplessly while starting to walk toward the city.
They kept up their guard toward the surrounding while jogging between the mountains of trash. Sometimes they would climb over the mountains or passed through it using a tunnel.
The trashes included raw garbage among them. There was offensive smell that stabbed into their nose. Other than wreckages of things made from wood, stone, or plastic, they also saw large things that seemed to be building frame, or wreckages of unknown machines here and there. There were small bugs crawling everywhere.
It was a horrible place that made them wanted to call it the graveyard of this world. Even Hajime and Kouki who had experience with various unique smells felt slightly depressed by this.
「So Jasper. You called the thing just now aircraft soldier? What are those machines? Who is managing them?」
「……Before I answer, there is something that I want to confirm……from the conversation until now, you two aren’t people from upperworld right? It looks like those small machine soldiers are obeying you……」
「We’re certainly not human of this world. We’re someone from the paradise that you mentioned, after a fashion.」
「Tsu, I see. I see……the paradise exist……」
Jasper seemed to ruminate something and clenched his fist tightly. Seeing that, Kouki continued the talk.
「We want to return to our former world. The device was destroyed but, there is other way. We want Jasper-san to tell us what you know in order to do that too. We don’t know anything about this world.」
「A way……I, see. …………Just call me Jasper. You don’t need to talk formally like that too. I was born like this, so I have never been addressed with polite language like that. It makes me feel strange.」
Jasper scratched his head looking slightly troubled. Then he started talking after taking a breath.
「The aircraft soldier is one of the machine soldiers. Simply put, they are the soldiers of “mother”.」
Hajime and Kouki tilted their head. Jasper explained while heading toward a fixed direction through trackless path――toward the direction of the dark cloud where the lightning flashes were especially intense.
According to him, there was a mountain if the passed through this mountain range of trash. The mountain was called the sacred mountain Coltran. It seemed there was an existence called “mother” at the summit of that mountain although no one had ever seen her before.
And then there was a city that was built as though clinging on the surface of that sacred mountain Coltran. The area from three-tenth of the mountain below was called the “underworld”, the area from the four-tenth until seven tenth was called the “upperworld”, and the area from eight-tenth above was called “heaven”.
Humans only existed until the upperworld. Only humans chosen because of their excellence lived there. There was a wide difference in the treatment and environment that they received there compared to the people of the underworld.
「Everything has been decided for us in the underworld. Whether it’s the amount of food we can eat in one day, the water we can drink, what we do, or the time to do it. Anything and everything. Freedom……is something we have only when we sleep.」
That was like slavery. Kouki swallowed those words. At the same time, the reason why Jasper didn’t wake up for a while even after getting his injuries healed by the healing medicine――Kouki realized it was because of his extreme fatigue.
Most likely in this half a year, he shaved that sleeping time to come and go between the city and that underground space to do the work assembling the machine.
「What about this upperworld? You guys can’t go there?」
「We can’t. The upperworld is the upperworld, the underworld is the underworld. Everything has been decided from our birth. Well, conversely there are cases where upperworlder get dropped into the underworld because of some reason though.」
The underworlder heard about the upperworld from those demoted people. Hearing that story made them harbored envy and despair, and also a bit of hope. Because they were free to do anything in the upperworld as long as they didn’t break the general rule. And also because a handful of underworlder could go to upperworld if the passed the “examination” that was done to them once in every ten years.
They didn’t understand what was “examined” from them and what was the basis of the selection, but depending on the situation, it seemed there were also times when not even one person was chosen.
And so, from Jasper’s perspective, it was the same as being unable to go there.
In addition, it seemed no one knew anything about heaven. There was nobody who ever went there. Only the machine soldiers were coming and going from there.
「And, those machine soldiers are the one managing us.」
「In other words, this so called mother is the one managing you all? And, in the end who is this mother?」
「I don’t know. But, I heard that she already existed all this time since many hundreds of years ago, before I was even born……so generally people call her our “protector god” religiously.」
Instantly Hajime and Kouki’s faces twisted into ‘uheee’. Their faces were awful like powder that was a pure essence of bitterness and astringency and pungent taste got mixed together into dumplings that were then stuffed into their mouth.
「Nagumo, the way this situation is progressing is just like usual huh?」
「This is your fault. This sh*tty god-bait hero.」
「……It’s painful that I can’t deny it. Also, doesn’t that sound like I’m becoming like Shia-san’s ○○bunny series?」
The hero’s eyes were starting to die. Although, they still couldn’t judge that this mother was the mastermind. The method was too roundabout for such an existence, and her objective was also unclear.
Kouki somehow dragged back his focus into reality while asking a question in puzzlement.
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「But, Jasper. Based you’re your condition and behavior, the people of the underworld aren’t in a good environment. And yet, many people are worshipping this mother. Isn’t that strange?」
「……It ain’t strange at all. Rather, I’m surely the one who is strange.」
「What do you mean……」
「Eating until the stomach is full. Living long. Freedom. I am greedy and ungrateful for wishing to have such things.」
Jasper made a self-depreciating smile that was filled with inferiority complex. Hajime and Kouki narrowed their eyes wondering just what was this guy talking about.
The answer to that question lied ahead of the last tunnel of the trash mountain that led them outside.
「That is the sacred mountain Coltran. And then――」
What entered their sight was the dark clouds with countless lightning running through them and, the mountain that was towering high a few kilometers ahead. Its height couldn’t be measured accurately because its summit was covered by clouds, but it was a cone shaped mountain so measuring from its inclination it must be around 5000 meters high.
The mountain was covered densely with artificial light the higher it went. It was like watching a flashy and gigantic Christmas tree. The mountain from the three-tenth below was dark with only the light of the upper level illuminating it. It made the area to look even more like trunk of a tree.
Hajime used his magic eye while Kouki used the sunglasses’ telescope function to observe the mountain. The mountain was scraped off to a certain degree to have some level ground like stairs. It looked like terraced farm or perhaps like a huge cone shaped cake stand for afternoon tea.
Although, it was the surrounding of that mountain that they should focus at the most.
Yes, there was a gigantic and long wall that surrounded the whole mountain and the city in a complete circle.
No, it was a bulwark.
Jasper’s words resounded in their ears.
「That’s mankind’s last city. The fortress protected by mother and the machine soldiers. ――The fort city Coltran.」
After that, they entered into the underground path once more through an entrance that looked like a manhole hidden at the edge of the garbage gathering place. They walked through the passage that stretched toward the city.
Although that underground path was reinforced by supports made from iron, rock and soil could be seen exposed through them. The structure didn’t give any feeling of security to them. Unlike that underground space that was full covered with metal surfaces, it was obvious that this was just an improvised path.
But, the so called “lord of paradise” apparently had prepared a method――an electrically powered rail car for Jasper and others to shorten the time they needed to travel the distance of several kilometers back and forth using their limited time. They arrived to the destination in the blink of eye.
And as expected, Jasper was only taught the method of operating the rail car. He didn’t understand at all how the rail car was moving, or what was the energy used to power the light that cut through the dark underground path. Naturally he was also similarly ignorant about the light adorning the city.
The information control here was thorough. Hajime felt suspicious about it, even so he muttered to consolidate the other points that he learned from Jasper.
「Hmmm? In other words, this invader, it’s an existence that you don’t really know about but it has driven mankind into extinction, and this mother is the one opposing them to protect mankind.」
「That’s right. That’s why, we the underworlder should live in gratitude for our current livelihood. To ask for more than this is just indulgence……I know that.」
According to him, due to this so called “invader” that suddenly appeared a long time ago in the past, mankind fell into the danger of extinction. It was mother and her machine soldiers, and the fort city Coltran that held back the invader at the critical moment.
Even though the world was under a strict management, it was for the sake of protecting mankind.
Therefore the majority of people were worshipping mother religiously and obediently accepted even this environment where they had no freedom at all.
Hajime and Kouki listened to that story in front of the ladder that led to outside. They stared at each other.
There were a lot of questions in their eyes.
After all, that so called invaders were――
(Hey, Nagumo. The invaders are that starfish imitation right?)
Yes, the invaders referred to that starfish imitation. It seemed the machine soldiers and the starfish imitations were completely unrelated to each other.
Outside the fort city was a dangerous area that was infested by invaders. Then, it wasn’t strange for the invaders to be nesting in that underground space. It wasn’t strange but……
The two of them didn’t look convinced at all. Jasper tilted his head at them while putting his hands on the ladder.
「Ah, no, it’s nothing, Jasper.」
Kouki calmly shook his head. And then he looked at Hajime. He was folding his arms in deep thought. Kouki asked him as though he knew what was in his mind.
「Nagumo, how about we stay in this underground path for a while?」
It was Jasper who let out a voice of bewilderment. Hajime glanced at him before asking Kouki back with a sharp glint in his eyes.
「Amanogawa, how long will it take for your magic power to recover?」
「If there is nature magic power around then I’ll need around one or two hours using the skill of high speed magic power recovery but……in this place, in the end it will depend on how much I can rest my body and mind.」
Kouki concluded that most likely it would take half a day in this current situation. Kouki told Hajime that and continued.
「If you ask me that, it looks like you’ve decided our course of action huh. Are we going to head to the summit just as expected?」
「Yeah. It’s going to take too much time searching for this mysterious lord of paradise. But, the nearer we get to the summit, we’ll get nearer to the power plant facility at the very least. There’s no doubt about that.」
「Naturally there will be a lot of enemies there. It looks like they’re doing a strict control on the people after all. They don’t even tell the people about the concept of electricity.」
「I want to prepare some trump cards from both you and me regardless whether we’re infiltrating or breaking through from the front.」
「Indeed. I want to be able to use Limit Break before doing anything. Then it’ll be better to take a rest in this secret underground path before entering the city.」
Hajime nodded at Kouki’s correct answer. Kouki also nodded in acceptance.
Jasper was staring dumbfounded at the two’s conversation. But then he immediately returned to his senses in surprise when Hajime’s gaze turned toward him.
「D-don’t tell me, you two want to go up!? You’ll die!」
「That’s not your business.」
「That’s not-. You two want to go back to paradise right!? Then――」
「You’ll be troubled if we die? You also want to go to paradise, so it’ll be better to search for a more peaceful way and look for the lord of paradise, is that what you want to say?」
「Tsu, th-that’s the safest way right!? Going to the upperworld is suicide!」
Jasper’s voice echoed inside the underground path. His voice was fervent and desperate.
Certainly, for Hajime and Kouki who were under a harsh limitation, it would be safer to search for the lord of paradise and remade the summoning device.
「My family is waiting for me.」
That was why, they couldn’t take their time leisurely.
Hajime’s quiet but profoundly heavy words turned Jasper speechless. It was as though he had only noticed this just now.
When he looked at Kouki, he was also smiling wryly, but residing deep inside his eyes it wasn’t the wish of “I want to go home”, but a strong glint that said “I have to go home”. There were people waiting for him.
They would reach their hand toward the necessary “best plan” for the sake of their objective, for the sake of their wish. They would acknowledge the risk and overcome it.
Jasper realized that he was being overwhelmed.
Because he had never seen eyes that were “alive” to this degree.
However, at the same time, he also realized that there was an emotion that he didn’t understand undulating inside himself. That was, surely the heat of his desire. He wanted, those guys to have this kind of eyes――
Perhaps that was why.
Suddenly, the two’s gazes snapped toward the underground path that they had just passed.
「Tch, sh*t. This shouldn’t be a secret path ain’t it」
「The ground back there collapsed. Of course they will investigate the area thoroughly, it was only a matter of time.」
「I thought that we would be able to buy time using this place. We’re unfortunate……because of the hero’s fault.」
「Can you stop making everything to be my fault!?」
「Look, even Etemp and Netemp are saying 『This damn trouble magnet hero! Go launch a suicide attack while yelling ‘What a misfortuneeeee’!』 because of what you said」
「I really want to give tsukkomi to everything of what you just say but I’ll only say this! You understand what they’re saying!?」
Light was faintly coming into view from deep in the corridor ahead even while they were cracking jokes like that. Jasper realized that the cavalry had sniffed them out……
「Tsu, let’s go out to the surface! We’ll be able to avoid them if we slip into the city now! There’s also a safe place there!」
Jasper thought to bring them to his most important place.
The two looked back to him in surprise. Jasper pestered them to follow him while rushing up the ladder. Hajime and Kouki looked at each other for an instant before immediately following behind him.
They came out to inside a dilapidated wooden house. It seemed the bottom of a wooden box became the entrance to the underground.
Jasper opened the door of the house’s entrance, however he didn’t go out from there and pushed on the room’s wall. Then a part of the wall slid off.
「This way! Quick!」
Hajime and Kouki did as they were told and entered the neighboring room, then Jasper put back the wall into its original place and began to jog ahead.
They didn’t go outside. Jasper would take off a wall, passed through holes that were hidden by trash or box, sometimes he would crawl on the roofs of houses that were crowding together, anyway he kept going through places that people wouldn’t pass through or places that were hard to be discovered without any hesitation.
The more they advanced, the more they sensed countless presences with their presence detection. When they secretly checked the presences, they would find people who looked filthy just like Jasper.
It seemed they were already mixing in among the crowd. They were going swiftly through overly complicated route and put some distance from the underground path. Like this it didn’t look like they would be captured even if the cavalry came out from the underground path.
「Where are we heading to?」
The lowest layer of the city was dark without any street lamp with only the light shining down from the upperworld illuminating below. The buildings here were crooked and shabby. The best buildings were made from stone or wood, while there were those who only lived under fabric that was spread out like a tent. The buildings were also laid out randomly. It was just too disorderly. The smell of human waste and oil pierced their nose. This place really looked like the slums of a ruined world. The contrast with the resplendence of the upperworld was horrible.
Kouki was speechless by that sight while Jasper quietly answered what Hajime quietly asked just now.
「My house. You two need rest right?」
Hajime narrowed his eyes at Jasper cooperativeness. Next he glanced at Kouki who was following right behind him. Kouki was restlessly looking around at his surrounding. He was gritting his teeth with a pained expression.
There was this person who was proactively helping them, and voices of people in distress asking for help……Hajime hoped in his heart that this wouldn’t turn into something troublesome.
For a while they passed through a route so complicated that even Hajime was about to lose track of it. Then they finally arrived at a messy building that was made from stone. Its size was around the average house in Japan. Its edge was crumbling with only clothes and wooden planks barely covering the holes.
Its entrance was facing a relatively big street, but at the back there was only a narrow path that a single person could only barely pass through.
Jasper had splendidly led Hajime and Kouki here without anyone noticing despite their conspicuous appearance. They passed through the back street and Jasper softly knocked the door three times.
「? This isn’t your house?」
「……This is a place where orphans gathered and lived. I originated from here and live here even now. The cavalry will deal with anyone who makes a commotion in the city, even so that doesn’t mean there is no quarrel at all here, so you should knock like this when entering the house.」
That sounded plausible. It was inevitable that there would be orphans in a deteriorated place like this. However, did that meant Jasper wanted to leave behind these children and went to the paradise?
Kouki was about to open his mouth reflexively, but then,
A small voice of a girl reached them. When Jasper answered 「It’s me」, there was a small relieved sigh and the door opened.
From inside, a girl around the age of twenty with brown hair tied roughly into a braid appeared. This girl was also slightly dirty all over, but she had an adorable appearance with kind atmosphere. Her ragged dress swayed and she reached out to Jasper in relieve.
But there she noticed Hajime and Kouki behind Jasper. Her eyes widened in surprise.
「I’ll explain the situation later Mindy. For now let the two of them inside.」
「Eh, ah……I understand Nii-san.」
Jasper pushed the bewildered girl called Mindy inside. Hajime and Kouki also followed behind.
The inside of the house was even darker with the light of the upperworld not reaching this far. Because of the messy construction of the building, light could still enter from the cracks so it wasn’t completely dark inside, and there was also the light from the lamp, but the atmosphere of this place made one to miss the presence of sun very much.
「Err, Nii-san. Could it be, these people……came down from the upperworld?」
They were inside the dining room that also doubled as living room. The table there was only a wooden plank that was placed on piled up rocks, but it was quiet big. Hajime and Kouki who were led into that room sat on chairs that seemed to be made from tree stump. It was then Mindy couldn’t hold back anymore and asked.
「No, they aren’t from the upperworld……」
Mindy was looking even more perplexed that the only possibility she could think of was denied by Jasper even if awkwardly.
「Err, I’m sorry to visit unannounced like this. Can I call you Mindy-san?」
「Eh? C-call? Mindy-san?」
She must be the same like Jasper and had never got addressed with polite language. Mindy was flustered by Kouki’s question and his gentle smile. Her cheeks were also blushing slightly……
「Etemp, record this. It’ll be a souvenir for that queen.」
「What are you planning to hand to Moana!?」
Of course, he would hand the evidence of the hero raising a flag with other girl.
「Your name is Mindy? Be careful. If you let you’re your guard against this hero, he’ll start to make you fall right away.」
「You’re the only one I don’t want to hear that from!」
Mindy-san was looking greatly confused. Even so she turned her gaze to Hajime who warned her like that and for some reason she averted her gaze with blushing cheeks too.
「Netemp-san! Please record just now without fail! I want to make it a souvenir for the most atrocious first wife-sama!」
「You bastard, what are you planning to hand to Yue!?」
Of course, he would hand the evidence of the demon king looking like he would raise a flag with other girl.
「Mi-Mindy. Sorry but, please bring out some water and food. The two of them are……guests. They need rest.」
「Water is alright but, food too? ……I-I understand, Nii-san.」
It seemed she had realized that the guests weren’t scary people from the stupid conversation just now. Mindy’s tension had relaxed slightly, but her face tensed slightly by her brother’s next words.
She entered another room with hurried steps and returned immediately. Her hands were holding wooden cups and wooden plates.
「Now, eat you two. Don’t be reserved.」
Perhaps, surely, this was Jasper’s consideration in his own way.
Even if there was a self-serving calculation mixed in it.
Even if, the water in the cup really murky with some strange things floating in it here and there.
Yes, even if, that thing that was placed on the wooden plates was hard to describe and looked like a murky yogurt.
The good kid Kouki was feeling conflicted. When he glanced to the side, there was Jasper-san smiling slightly at them. There was no malice in it.
「Sorry. Surely the food you have in paradise is something even better than this, but unfortunately this is the only food that is distributed to us.」
「I-I see. Thank you, for your hospitality.」
Although he said that, Kouki-kun’s hand that was holding the wooden spoon was shaking. He sent his gaze to the side asking for help and gasped.
Because he understood. He guessed it looking at that cool-headed expression. Ah, this guy, he is going to plainly refuse……Kouki thought.
「Sorry but, I don’t really――」
The demon king-sama who would plainly refuse their hospitality. But, those words stopped in the middle.
He felt gazes on himself.
When he looked there, there were countless eyes from the room in the back looking over here ‘jiii~~’. After that there were also the countless stomach sounds ‘guu~~’ ringing out.
Yes, those were the wistful eyes and sounds of empty stomachs of countless small children.
「Ah, oi, you guys! Go inside! We have important guests eating right now!」
The children jerked at Jasper’s voice. Suddenly the eyes of a small girl met Hajime’s eyes. the girl’s gaze moved alternately at Hajime and the food before,
「……You can, eat that you know?」
She said that. While her stomach was crying ‘guuu’ once more. As expected, even the devil king couldn’t say「Who can eat something like this」 in front of the consideration of a girl the same age as his daughter. Rather, he wanted to say I’m full so you eat it.
「You don’t need to pay the children any attention. Come, you’re your stomach and then rest a lot.」
‘Guu guu’ The chorus of crying stomachs. The tragic but brave expression of Mindy-san. Jasper’s smiling face that was hiding some kind of heavy determination deep inside his eyes.
The hero and the demon king thought.
No way we can emotionally rest like this.
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