A food……that was like a yogurt that had gone past its expiration date and started to rot into something like a slime, and drinking water……that was like it had been left to pool in a garden’s planter that hadn’t been touched for a year. The demon king & hero were cordially stiffening together in front of such menu.
Gazes were stabbing into them, *stab stab* Gouging deeply into their flesh.
The empty stomachs of the children were groaning like the growl of a hungry beast. Mindy-san’s gaze was making round trip between those children and the food she had presented. And then from Jasper’s words “Everything has been decided” that he said before this, it was easy to guess that this food was something that they possessed in very limited amount.
Even so, no one here raised any objection to Jasper’s action, not the children, and not Mindy-san. The amount of trust that they placed on him was unbelievable after seeing how he was abandoned by his comrades in the underground space.
It could be understood from the firm determination blazing inside his gaze that wasn’t laughing at all despite his friendly smile.
Kouki made that analysis in his mind to escape from reality while thinking that he should say 「I’m not hungry so you children should eat it instead」 here. He made up his mind to say that……but then, Hajime sighed. Right after that, he quietly took the wooden spoon and gulped down the slimy yogurt in one go.
A strange voice came out from Nagumo-san. It seemed the food was as bad as it looked that he couldn’t hold back his voice. His eyes turned a bit teary, even so he didn’t stop and swallowed down the water too.
He placed down the wooden cup *DON* on the table and,
「Don’t think that you can win against me. I’ve eaten even the monsters in the abyss.」
「Nagumo, just who’re you competing with.」
Hajime wiped his mouth while making a fearless grin. Perhaps he was a bit broken. Kouki was bewildered by Hajime’s behavior, while the children & Mindy were making a sad expression that clearly say 「Aa~~~ our meal……」. Then,
「Thanks for the meal. Here, my gratitude.」
Hajime said and magic power suddenly surged. Though of course it was just a fleeting magic power that was like toy fireworks, even so the treasure warehouse obeyed its owner’s will and emitted crimson light.
Jasper jerked backward in surprise while Mindy reflexively covered the children.
A yell of fighting spirit! Etemp & Netemp-san held out mini pompons that they took out from somewhere and cheered 「Yay~, yay~, my - mas - ter!」 like cheerleaders!
Kouki realized when he saw Hajime exerting himself like that. At the same time he smiled wryly and muttered 「I’m beaten」 with a small voice. Next he also gulped down the slimy yogurt and water. His eyes turned teary.
Jasper was gazing at amazement toward the supernatural phenomenon that was happening before his eyes while raising his voice.
「O-oi! Just what are you――」
「Come out! Emergency rations!」
As expected, perhaps Hajime-san really got a screw in his head turned a bit loose. He even yelled out embarrassing line that normally perhaps surely most likely he wouldn’t yell.
As the result, emergency rations appeared on the table just as stated. Biscuit and soup of bean and vegetable, every kind of nutrition block (Calorie Mat○), and then fresh drinking water.
「Gasp, gasp……my thanks for the lodging and meal. Eat them as you please.」
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Hajime was breathing heavily while pulling the string that was attached under the container that was filled with soup of bean and vegetable. Steam was instantly puffing out when he did that and warmth and delicious aroma reached Jasper and others.
Naturally the sound of gulping saliva resounded.
It seemed that Hajime’s effort just now tired him. He was folding his arms morosely and sunk into silence while Etemp & Netemp were busily wiping clean his sweat. Kouki sent him a glance before taking over the explanation. He opened the bags of biscuit and nutrition block,
「Children, here you go. This is that big brother’s thanks for sharing your food with him. Come here and eat.」
Kouki’s face was kind and attractive by nature. When he said that with a gentle smile, the children timidly looked at Mindy and Jasper to implicitly ask for permission.
「Err, just now……where did these foods come out from? Is, it alright to eat these?」
「It’s fine. But, you have given us enough hospitality already.」
「……Sorry. We served something like that even though you have better food.」
「That’s not what I mean. We’re really thankful that you are sharing what little food you have with us. Just as you can see, taking out the foods put a big burden on Nagumo. But, it’s hard to endure seeing children going hungry.」
That was why, Hajime responded to the perseverance of the children who shared their food with them by eating the food. On top of that Hajime forced himself to take out foods as gratitude and also to return the favor.
「I see……as I thought, you two aren’t from here.」
There was no way human who gave such consideration toward people with the lowest status like them was someone of this world. Jasper implicitly said such thing with a wry smile, then he called Mindy and the children to come to the table. The children cheered and rushed forward.
Even though she was flustered, Mindy distributed the foods so that every child would get equal amount. Then the children couldn’t hold back anymore and wolfed down the biscuit and soup,
They said with a wide smile. There were even children who got completely absorbed with doing nothing but inhaling the food. Mindy and Jasper were also in the same state.
Kouki was staring at that sight with a kind expression, and then he addressed Hajime with a small voice without turning his gaze.
「You have mellowed down a lot before I knew it.」
「……That’s because I’m always keeping it in mind.」
「Keeping it in mind……aa, you mean about being a virtuous model Japanese.」
Kouki smiled wryly while muttering 「Ah, but」 in his heart. When he thought about it, this guy was also helping a small child even during his travel in Tortus when he was still bloodthirsty. Right now that child was this guy’s cherished beloved daughter. It was understandable that he wouldn’t calmly abandon hungry children before his eyes.
「……Bring out better food, a lot more. I thought you would say that if it’s you Amanogawa, but you’re unexpectedly docile.」
For Hajime, the emergency rations he took out were his plainest food and in only the minimum amount. When Kouki who was watching the children being absorbed with eating heard that, he replied back with a calm expression while his gaze was still fixed on the children.
「We’ll go home. If we don’t have any intention to change the way this world work, then we can’t do anything irresponsible. Isn’t that right?」
If Hajime wanted, he could take out anything from delicious preserved food to high grade ingredient, and even freshly cooked dish.
However, in the end would it count as fortune for these children if they ate such sumptuous meal for only this once?
The answer was surely no.
「In the first place, these food are yours Nagumo. It’s not my place to complain. As long as it’s not an emergency.」
「So you’re going to say it if it’s an emergency.」
「If there’s emergency, Nagumo will take measures first even without me saying anything, right? Just like now.」
「……It’s only natural for adult to wipe their own ass. But――」
「――That’s not the case with children. Originally it should be fine for them to be helped without any string attached. Right? Just like what Nagumo did for Myuu-chan in the past.」
Hajime thought. Seeing Kouki’s calm attitude he thought――What’s with this guy, he’s irritating.
「I’ll turn you into swiss cheese.」
「Why!? Don’t you think you’re being too sensitive!?」
For some reason Hajime felt that it was extremely offensive for Kouki to talk like he knew him well. But he didn’t say that out loud satisfied himself with Kouki’s look of trepidation. His shoulders relaxed and he put his mind into a state that was close to meditation so that his body could recover.
Then, one of the children suddenly stood up from her chair. It was the five years old girl whose eyes met Hajime previously. Her brown hair that looked really similar with Mindy was worn in braids and she was wearing a dress that really dirty.
That girl hurriedly held her share of biscuit and soup container in her arms to keep them away from her surrounding, then for some reason she trot around the table until she stood between Hajime and Kouki.
Hajime and Kouki dropped their gazes on her with a questioning look. She looked alternately between the two of them and……
「Ah, oi, you」
She ignored Hajime’s bewildered voice and clambered on Hajime’s lap right after she placed her food on the table.
The girl who was sitting on Hajime’s lap looked back over her shoulder. She stared into Hajime’s eyes without blinking.
Hajime looked around with a troubled expression. Mindy and Jasper were looking surprised while Kouki was looking this way with astonishment.
And then, he noticed how the kids who were relatively older among the children, especially the boys were hungrily watching the foods that were the share of the other children to steal them.
They were unable to do so because Mindy and Jasper were keeping a watchful eye on them, but still, it seemed that there was also struggle between kids here, something that was common in a big family. And then, it seemed this girl was coming here because she was aiming for a safer place.
「O-oi! Listy! What are you doing!? Come here!」
Mindy raised her voice in panic. In respond the girl――Listy-chan’s reply was very clear and concise.
It seemed she refused. For some reason Listy-chan desired to have her meal on Hajime’s lap.
「O-our pipsqueak is opening up to someone she just meet for the first time……even though she always cautious even toward the people in this neighborhood……especially Listy, she should be particularly scared against stranger……」
Unbelievable! Jasper said. In this place where everyone was only given the minimum requirement to live, one should be on their guard even toward their neighbor. They had already heard about it before.
It seemed that wariness was also taking root in the children. And apparently Listy-chan was a kid with strong wariness.
「Why are you approaching me? It’s no good to throw away your wariness easily just because someone give you food.」
Hajime too became worried for Listy-chan’s future if she was this simple. She said that to her with a scolding tone. But, for some reason Listy-chan made a relaxed smile instead when faced against such strict voice and expression as though she was relieved.
Seeing that, not just Mindy and Jasper, even the other children who were absorbed with eating were startled. They were saying things like 「Listy smiled!?」「Even though she never smiled except toward Min-nee and Jas-nii!?」「The machine soldier faced pipsqueak smiled!」 in shock.
That Listy-chan answered Hajime’s question still with that loosened smile.
「You feel kind, like Jas-nii.」
It seemed she was feeling a kind atmosphere from the demon king-sama just like the guardian that she trusted.
「……If you want someone kind, go to that guy instead. He is a bottomlessly kind guy.」
「It sounds bad when it’s Nagumo who said that.」
A blank stare came from Kouki. Listy-chan reacted and turned her gaze at Kouki. But then her gaze moved toward Jasper next before returning to Hajime right away.
「You feel the warmest and fluffy.」
I don’t get it, Hajime thought with a frown. But Kouki somehow understood what Listy-chan wanted to say after hearing her reply.
She must want to say that there was magnanimity in Hajime. Undoubtedly she also felt that this person looked like someone that could be relied on. In other words, she felt that she would be able to feel the safest at his side.
At times children could be sharper than adult. They could tell apart whether the other party was dangerous or not, how much peace of mind they could give them……if that was true, then this must be something like that. That was the reason Listy-chan chose Hajime instead of Kouki.
「Looks like your fatherhood has been polished even more in this one year huh, Nagumo?」
Kouki said with a bit of envy, or perhaps a bit of vexation.
Somehow, Hajime often got liked by small children. In contrast what about him……he ran his mind and, 「Eh? I can’t really remember small children taking a liking to me……?」. He felt a bit shocked.
Suddenly, a small child that took a liking to him (he thought)――Koone crossed his mind.
But, however, Koone was able to make judgment by weighing both good and evil. She didn’t loath to sacrifice even herself. She was resolved to shoulder the fate of her country even when she was just eight years old. Could such “little girl of rock solid resolve” like that be called a “mere little girl”?
――Eh? What is it Kouki-sama? You want to hug Koone on your lap and adore her? How perverted! But, it’s fine if it’s Kouki-sama! However, naturally Koone will ask for the compensation if Kouki-sama want to have your fill of Koone! It’s natural to demand compensation, so Koone declare!
Suddenly it felt like he could hear the voice of Koone-tan followed with a loud laughter. Kouki shook his head to shake off the thought.
On the other hand, Hajime who was teased by Kouki unexpectedly didn’t get angry. Instead he was scratching his cheek with an increasingly troubled look.
「Well, that’s a nice evaluation but……」
Nowadays there would be times when he would worry whether he was able to be a good father, so it seemed he was honestly happy to be evaluated like that.
But, it was also a fact that it was troubling to have someone who he shouldn’t have gotten too close with taking a liking to him.
It was a fact but……looking at how he was unable to immediately tell Listy-chan to get off his lap right away when faced by her upward gaze, as expected the influence of his beloved daughter to him was great. Even the demon king had opponent that he couldn’t win against now.
「Come on, finish your food already.」
Listy-chan’s smile loosened even more and she faced the table. She resumed her meal with an expression that looked at ease as though there was no distress troubling her at all. Her small legs were swinging back and forth happily.
「……You, don’t tell me you have any plan to lay your hand on Lis――」
「Jasper. Which eye do you want to turn into a real peephole, left or right?」
「It’s scary that you can reply instantly with that kinda line!」
「That’s because you ran off your stupid mouth. It’s just that she’s the same age with my daughter.」
「D-daughter? I see, you mentioned that you have family.」
Hajime said a terrifying sentence to Jasper while picking the vegetable scrap on the corner of Listy-chan’s mouth, catching a falling bean midair and feeding it back to her, then next he also wiped the drop of soup trickling from the corner of her mouth.
The terrifyingly natural fathering action that Hajime done in an unconscious level made even Jasper to sigh in relief.
But, a small voice muttered 「……wonderful」 in that timing.
「Hah!? D-don’t misunderstand, Nii-san. I didn’t mean anything strange just now……」
Mindy-san kept sending glances at Hajime. The other young children were also sending glances to Hajime. They looked like they wanted to be spoiled too!
Listy-chan who was making a serene expression suddenly gasped. Then her gaze ran through Mindy and other children before she hugged Hajime’s right arm.
It was as though she was asserting, This person is my papa, so hands off!
And then, seeing that.
「Oi, Netemp, Etemp. What are you two doing?」
Etemp-san and Netemp-san were making recording. There was no doubt about it because a part of their eye lens was blinking red that showed there was recording in progress.
「What? You two are recording to show it to Myuu later?」
Hajime-san conversed normally with them like usual. Even though Kouki also possessed language comprehension skill, their mysterious language only sounded like normal Iii to him. He wondered how they could converse normally like that.
Next it was Netemp who was showing some kind of theatrical gesture while Kouki was groaning in puzzlement.
「――Ii! I~Ii! I-I-I-. I―I-, iIIIII!!」
「What’s that, are you imitating Myuu? Let’s see……『Papa! You’re horrible nano! You’re making a girl from who know where into your daughter even though you already have Myuu nano! You cheater nano!!』……you say?」
The pantomime was pointlessly refined. It was just like actor that came out in the masterpiece silent movie. It was clear what Netemp-san was conveying just from watching her. The image of Myuu saying and gesturing just like that in the future came into mind easily.
A vein pulsed on Hajime’s forehead.
Etemp & Netemp-san’s reaction was godspeed. They moved in a whoosh in the blink of eye.
They moved to Kouki’s shoulder. Furthermore it was the shoulder that was opposite to Hajime. Kouki’s head naturally became their shield.
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「Wait, don’t make me into your shield so naturally like that!」
They treated Kouki’s protest like a passing breeze and beautifully dodged Kouki’s hand that tried to brush them off while leaning out half of their body to peek at Hajime, Etemp from the back of Kouki’s head, while Netemp was from the front of Kouki’s face.
It was as though they were saying 「I-it’s just a joke, master」「Yes, just a joke. That’s why please don’t be that angry. That’s immature of you!」.
That comedy skit of Etemp & Netemp & Kouki, and Mindy’s flustered look, and Jasper’s doubting gaze that contained a different meaning this time toward Hajime, and then the children who were targeting the seat on the demon king’s lap……
The dining table was starting to turn into such pandemonium. However, Listy-chan was the only one who continued to eat her meal while settling herself snugly on Hajime’s chest.
Her mind’s eye that seen through people’s nature accurately, her decisiveness to secure the safe place when it was necessary despite her fear of stranger, they showed just how capable this girl was.
「You might become a big shot in the future.」
Listy’s face looked like she didn’t understand anything. Hajime smiled wryly while patting her head.
A while after that, when everyone finished with their meal, Hajime glanced at the children who was starting to doze off because of their full stomach before his atmosphere changed and he opened his mouth.
「How about you bring the pipsqueaks back into their room?」
Hajime’s words sounded like he was being considerate to the children, but actually it was to give a warning to Jasper who was being restless.
Jasper jerked for an instant, but a beat later he took a deep breath and shook his head resolutely.
「No, it’s fine like this.」
「Eh, but, Nii-san. It’ll be time to work in two more hours. If we don’t let them get a little sleep at least……」
Mindy pleaded with a bewildered look. Her gaze was directed at the children around the age of five including Listy. It seemed that even children weren’t allowed to be free in this world. They were also assigned with some kind of labor.
「It’s fine, just stay here.」
Jasper repeated his order with a strong tone that didn’t allow any objection. Mindy seemed to sense Jasper’s unusual air and nodded even while looking unconvinced.
And then she turned her gaze to Hajime to have him hand over Listy so she at least wouldn’t hinder the conversation.
She unconsciously gulped.
Because Hajime’s eyes were really cool-headed. Beside him Kouki was making a terrible contrast to Hajime with his somewhat bitter or perhaps pained expression.
「Listy. Go to Mindy.」
Listy who was relaxing on his lap looked back over her shoulder. She stared still at Hajime’s face with her unchanging expression.
「No, it’s fine even if she stayed like――」
「Jasper. Something like that won’t work with me.」
Jasper interrupted, but Hajime cut him off decisively. Listy turned her gaze slightly toward Jasper who got his breath taken away.
And then……as expected, Listy was a smart child. She turned back toward Hajime once more and seemed to understand that her selfishness wouldn’t go further than this. She got down from his lap looking somewhat dejected.
Mindy was perplexed because she didn’t understand the meaning of the two’s conversation. But for the time being she lifted up Listy and put her on her own lap this time.
The other children were also looking bewildered by the atmosphere that was growing tense for some reason. Hajime took the initiative and opened his mouth first.
「Sorry but, I’ve no intention to hear your request.」
「――Tsu, please-. Help my family-」
As expected, Jasper asked that. Hajime closed his eyes. He could sense Kouki trembling beside him.
Jasper gave them shelter, gave them the food of the children, and kept the children here even though the time of work was approaching, everything was for this. He was trying to appeal to Hajime and Kouki’s emotion so they would sympathize or even pity them. In order to go to the paradise.
「We’re going up. You’re the one who said that it’s a suicidal act.」
「But you still said that you’re going even then. That means you have a chance to succeed right? Then please-. Bring us too with you.」
Kouki’s trembling was growing stronger. He was gritting his teeth as though he was enduring a great pain. It was as though he was being hacked at the interstice between reality and hope.
If it was Kouki from before, he would undoubtedly agree to Jasper’s request right away. He was holding himself back right now because he was seeing reality. In this situation where he had no choice but rely on Hajime, in this circumstance where he couldn’t solve the problem with his own strength……that was why, he couldn’t say anything. He still didn’t know much about this world. He couldn’t possibly promise that he would protect these people without fail.
Troublesome, Hajime thought while glancing at Kouki’s state. He then opened his mouth to restate his refusal――but Jasper’s yell cut him off.
「Our life span-」
Hajime narrowed his eyes. Now that Jasper mentioned it, he recalled him saying something about “life span treatment” before.
「We residences of the underworld has fixed life span. Thirty years. We will receive “life span treatment” exactly thirty years after we were born. This year, I’ll be thirty years old……」
「……Treatment? By treatment you mean……」
Kouki opened his eyes wide with a dumbfounded look. Jasper muttered 「Obviously I mean that I’ll die」 with an air like an exhausted old man. Jasper looked like he was in his forty, but in reality it was only his appearance that looked aged.
「It’s necessary to limit the number of people because of the limited living space here.」
「Th-that’s, that might be so but, but-, such thing……」
Kouki was at a loss of words. Meanwhile Hajime muttered in his heart 「Now that he mentioned it, I didn’t see even a single old man on our way here」 in understanding while showing a slightly doubting expression. Jasper didn’t notice that and continued.
「I’m gonna get the treatment anyway this year. That’s why, I’ll cross any dangerous bridge. If a path to the paradise can really be opened, I planned to bring along everyone here after confirming it.」
「Wa-wait a second, Nii-san! Just what are you talking about!?」
Mindy couldn’t bear it anymore and cut in. As expected, it seemed Jasper didn’t say anything even to his family. Perhaps, those people who he called his “comrades” in the underground space were actually only test subject for Jasper.
Jasper confessed what he had been hiding until to Mindy and the children. He also told them about Hajime and Kouki’s real identity.
「That’s why……that’s why, Nii-san, you didn’t even rest after the labor finished and went off somewhere……you became that exhausted……what are you thinking! To violate the taboo like that! Why did you obey that kind of suspicious voice!? I never wish, to become free just because my life span is approaching the end, not at all-」
「Sorry to keep it quiet from you. But, the machine soldier could find out anytime.」
Jasper must be thinking that it would be safer for his family to not know anything in case they were discovered. Though he called them family, there wasn’t any blood relationship between them, so he wished that what he done would only be considered as a foolish man who feared life span treatment acting rashly on his lonesome.
「Even so to violate the taboo because of that――」
「I was worried! What would become of you guys after I got the treatment-」
「I wish that you guys can live longer that the like of me. I wish you guys can eat tastier food until your stomach is full……」
Jasper hanged his head while speaking out his wish with a voice that was gradually growing smaller. Mindy and the children became unable to say anything seeing him like that.
In this world the fixed life span was something as natural as the natural providence. They couldn’t believe Jasper who was trying to oppose such thing, on the other hand they were also speechless from the happiness that Jasper was thinking so much for them.
「Excuse me……what is this “taboo” that everyone has been mentioning since just now?」
Kouki asked a question to change the heavy and awkward atmosphere. Hajime had been closing his eyes while folding his arms since some time ago, so Kouki was the one to hesitantly ask.
「……To be more accurate, it’s called “mankind prohibition”. Anyone who break it will be disposed with no question asked. It’s the absolute rule that is imposed on humans.」
First, it’s forbidden to go against mother’s will.
Second, it’s forbidden to touch any metal.
Third, it’s forbidden to investigate why they are forbidden.
Actually the rules contained more detail than that, but in the end it was those three points that were forbidden. The rules were ranked by their order of priority. Mother’s will was to be prioritized in everything. For example there were also metals that humans were allowed to touch and possess, like the metal used for the supply can.
「I know, they are necessary rules in order to protect mankind and prevent our downfall. Wishing to go to paradise is just me being selfish. But, but still, even so I……!」
Surely Jasper would be able to accept his fate if only he didn’t know anything. However, he heard about the paradise’s existence. He learned about the existence of other world.
It was something natural to become unable to give up when one harbored hope.
「……That so called lord of paradise, what he did is really cruel.」
Hajime let out a small mutter. What kind of emotion was put into it? But, his tone was horribly, no, terrifyingly flat. That was why Kouki also couldn’t say anything more to Hajime.
But to Jasper and everyone,
「I’m sorry. We can’t bring you all with us. I can’t make any kind of promise. I’m, truly sorry.」
Kouki hardened his tone and said that while bowing deeply.
In their current situation where their strength was greatly limited, even with just the two of them would already put their life in danger when they broke through the protection of the fortress city. To bring along the children with them while protecting them, he couldn’t possibly propose such thing.
Perhaps if only they could just secure the electricity, they might be able to bring along just Jasper and the children through the gate. But, doing that would necessitate them going back to here because they couldn’t bring them along. There was no guarantee Hajime and Kouki would be able to do that after causing a lot of ruckus.
It was a promise that he couldn’t make at all. It wouldn’t be good to have them harbor such uncertain hope. That would be the same like what the lord of paradise did.
Kouki spoke out words that represented Hajime’s own opinion. His closed eyes slightly opened in surprise by that. And then he saw Kouki’s figure that was bowing his head while clenching his fist and gritting his teeth so hard they might broke.
Jasper’s expression turned grief, even so he opened his mouth again to plead vehemently. But Mindy stopped him. She grabbed Jasper’s hand while staring at Kouki’s trembling body.
With that Jasper also became unable to say anything. Mindy smiled and spoke in Jasper’s place.
「We should be the one saying sorry because Nii-san is asking for the unreasonable.」
Kouki didn’t lift his head. Mindy’s troubled smile deepened and she continued.
「Just like Nii-san himself said, this is only our selfish wish. If that wish comes true, we will be the only one ignoring the rule even though everyone else is living here while obeying it.」
Though she was saying that, Mindy’s gaze toward Jasper was warm.
「Mankind live under mother’s protection and give our all to fulfill the role that is given to us so that mankind won’t perish. Doing that will protect the place for the next generation of children. That’s how we have been living all this time.」
Everyone listened to Mindy’s words without saying anything. Even Hajime completely opened his eyes and stared at Mindy.
「It’s a lie that we don’t have any hope. Because, if we keep doing our best to live like that, one day mother will defeat the invaders for us. And then, surely, the day will come when we can live longer and eat tasty things until we are full.」
Her tone was gentle as though to persuade Jasper and the children. However, there was strength that could be felt somewhere in her voice. Jasper’s expression turned from the grieving look into a troubled smile that looked exactly just like his sister. Surely, that was how he looked before he listened to the voice of the lord of the paradise.
「That’s why, please stop bowing like that.」
At the end, Mindy looked straight toward Hajime and Kouki and spoke with a smile.
「Thank you for the delicious foods. Thank you from bringing back Nii-san from danger. Please take your time to rest at ease before going forward to achieve your objective.」
Silence filled the room. Kouki lifted his head and looked up to the sky.
Jasper took a deep breath and opened his mouth.
「Sorry to asked for something unreasonable. Even though it was my fault that you two were torn away from your family. Please forget what I said just now.」
His expression was awkward. He looked like the thing that had been possessing him until now had left him.
「……I pray that there’ll be victory and fortune in your future.」
「Haha, thanks for that.」
Jasper laughed at Hajime’s words.
After that, Jasper told Hajime and Kouki that they were free to use the living room to take a good rest. He left taking the children into their room.
Hajime and Kouki kept silent for a while in the empty room.
It was unknown how long they kept like that.
Before long, Hajime suddenly stood up and sat down with a wall on his back. He quietly closed his eyes to genuinely take rest this time.
Seeing that, Kouki also stood up and also sat down while leaning on the opposite wall.
Hajime kept his eyes closed for a while before some words spilled out from his mouth.
「I’m amazed you didn’t say “Let’s bring them with us” at all.」
「……Mindy-san had said everything that need to be said.」
He was asked for salvation but it wouldn’t become salvation. Even for a hero who wouldn’t balk to sacrifice himself when the necessity arrived, right now he had with him a partner that he dragged into this situation. He couldn’t say something irresponsible. He couldn’t wish for it.
Hajime took out a vial from his tactical vest and tossed it at Kouki. It rotated in the air and landed on Kouki’s palm without accident.
「Apply it on your palm. You’ll trouble me if you blundered because your sword grip isn’t perfect.」
It seemed his nails hurt his palm when he clenched his fist. Hajime’s rare meddling that sharply noticed that fact might be his own way to show consideration. Kouki smiled wryly in his mind.
Like that time flowed and around one hour after they started resting.
It suddenly came.
『Can you hear? Can you hear?』
Hajime and Kouki moved into combat readiness in surprise. They stood up at the same time and reached toward their respective weapon.
It was a female voice, sounding like it resounded through the whole space. A mysterious phenomenon. However, they couldn’t see the owner of the voice.
Don’t tell me……, Hajime and Kouki thought. They looked at each other before their tension swelled up.
If their guess was correct, this voice was the lord of paradise that Jasper heard――
『Right now I’m talking directly into your brain.』
Hajime-san immediately narrowed his eyes. Even Kouki’s gaze was twitching. Even Kouki who wasn’t an otaku had heard this phrase before. (Note: Seems to be reference to Dragon Ball)
The tension was dispersing and Hajime was about to say 「Are you screwing with us you bastard」 with vein pulsing on his forehead. But in that instant.
A sharp and urgent voice that ran counter with the jesting phrase resounded.
『Please escape quickly! The enemy is approaching!!』
Was it truth or lie?
Either way, it seemed they wouldn’t be given any leeway to recover.
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