The magic-driven four-wheeler dashed out at faster speed than when they’d departed, but the land-leveling function couldn’t keep up, so Tio, who was crucified on the ceiling, received the impact. The male students in the carrier received a mixer-like shaking.
Then, at that time, he discovered the fully-armed bodyguard Knights who fiercely drove their horses in the area between the town of Ul and northern mountain range. Hajime’s “Farsight” could see David in the lead wearing an oni-like expression while Chase who was beside him couldn’t hide his frustration as they swiftly rode.
Having ran for a while, they discovered a black object that created a clamor as it moved. It was natural for them to think what they saw was a demonic beast. With their weapons drawn, they changed their formation. Their response speed was fast, and indeed, it was clear how they were praised as the VIP’s bodyguards.
In particular, even if he was going to be attacked, Hajime didn’t have any problem to just charge past them, but Aiko didn’t know that because she thought it’d be a serious matter if Tio, who raised a bewitching and charming scream, and the pale male students were exposed to such attacks. She showed her face through the sunroof and desperately waved her hands as she shouted at David to notice her.
As they drew near, David tried to invoke his magic. He narrowed his eyes as he could see a human-like figure suddenly spring up above the black object that came in high speed. Normally, he’d do a preemptive strike as there was nothing to argue about, but something inside him told him to stop. It could be said that it was his sixth sense exclusive to Aiko, the so-called high-sensitivity Aiko sensor.
With his hand held out, he sent his subordinates the signal to stop their attacks. Although the subordinates were suspicious about it, they became wide-eyed as they heard the familiar voice from the human-like thing that grew out of the top of the black object as it approached them. David had already displayed an expression as if he couldn’t believe it and muttered, “Aiko?”
For a moment, don’t tell me Aiko’s lower half was eaten by that demonic beast!?, as David and the others became pale, but Aiko waved her hands energetically and said, “David-sa~n, it’s me! Please don’t attack us~!”, with a voice full of life.
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They understood that they had misunderstood the situation, and they let out joyful expressions at this reunion because the one on the black object was undoubtedly the person they held dear. As if he was drunk on the situation, David greatly spread his arms with an expression that said “Come! Jump into my arms!” Chase and the others at his sides also spread their arms as if saying, “Jump to me—!”
Seeing the Knights’ appearances with their hands spread, Hajime looked displeased. Although Aiko and the students thought Hajime would obviously stop before David and the Knights… Hajime suddenly poured more magic power, and they accelerated.
Because they were at a distance where deceleration was absolutely necessary, the Knights became stupefied when the black object accelerated further, and moved away in panic.
Hajime’s magic-driven four-wheeler just passed David and the Knights who spread their hands in smiles. Aiko could only shout, “Why?,” that became smaller because of the Doppler effect, while David and the Knights just hardened and smiled as is. After that, in the next moment they screamed, “Aikoo~!,” just like those separated from their lovers, and began to fiercely run after the four-wheeler.
“Nagumo-kun! Why, why did you do such a dangerous thing!?”
Aiko became angry, getting back into the vehicle and fiercely protested against Hajime.
“There’s no reason to stop, Sensei. If we stop, they’d likely ask about the situation. Do we have such time? We’ll explain the situation in town after all, so there’s no need to do it twice, right?”
“Uh, th-that’s true…”
She was somewhat convinced, the things about them slipping out without permission and Hajime’s four-wheeler would certainly take too much time, so Aiko shut her mouth. Yue, who got back into her seat, drew her face to Hajime’s ear and asked him.
“… Real intention?”
“Those smiling Knights made me feel unpleasant.”
“… Nn, same here.”
By the way, right behind the Aiko poking her face out of the sunroof, was Tio tied up on the vehicle. An expression of ecstasy floated across her face because her damaged body continued to be stimulated by the vibration of vehicle’s frame, but it seemed the Knights and Aiko didn’t see her.
In addition, when they arrived at the town, Yue who knew of Tio’s disgraceful behavior said “… is this, the Ryuujin race?,” as she raised a slightly shocked expression. Since the first time Tio released her Dragon Form at the Northern Mountain range, she was in a subtle mental state and seemed to “feel” the pain, that’s why Yue finally broke free from her illusion-like respect and yearning towards the Ryuujin race.
* * *
Arriving at the town of Ul, Hajime and his party calmly walked, while Aiko and the others were running towards the town headman’s place. Hajime thought of parting with Aiko and the students here and quickly taking Will back to Fhuren, but he reluctantly followed them because Will had started running before Aiko and the students.
The town was full of liveliness. The dishes came in wide varieties and abundantly, and the town was near a lake. It was the location where people and nature gathered. No one would ever dream that this town would be trampled by an army of demonic beasts in a day. Hajime and his party were looking at such a town, remembering they didn’t have any meals since yesterday, so they advanced towards the town hall as they enjoyed skewers from a stall.
Hajime and his party finally arrived at the town hall, and the place was already in a commotion. The branch head of Ul’s town guild, town executives, and the priests from the church were gathered and in a state of uproar. All of their expressions showed they couldn’t believe and didn’t want to believe the information brought by Aiko, the students, and Will as they closely questioned them.
Normally, they’d just put it off as nonsense from a madman if they heard tomorrow the town would be annihilated, but they were words that came from Aiko the “God’s Apostle,” and also known as the “Goddess of Good Harvest.” That was followed by the recent fact that the Demon race was capable of manipulating demonic beasts, so they couldn’t just ignore this information.
By the way, from the discussion inside the vehicle, Aiko and the students had agreed to hide Tio’s true form and there was a possibility of Shimizu Yukitoshi being the mastermind behind this. It’s undesirable for the Ryuujin race’s existence to be exposed, so Tio asked them to stay silent about this, and the mastermind’s identity was just a possibility, so Aiko didn’t want to carelessly convey it.
Aiko somehow or another agreed to conceal the information about the existence of the Ryuujin race because the race is something half-taboo for the Church of Saints, and it’d only cause chaos followed by the formation of a subjugation unit.
Within such commotion, Hajime came towards Will. He only thought of the surrounding chaos as blowing wind.
“Oi, Will. Don’t just run all of a sudden. Remember that you’re under my protection. If you’re done reporting, let’s quickly go back to Fhuren.”
With Hajime’s words, Will, Aiko and the others were surprised as they looked at Hajime. The others, the town leaders seemed to feel displeased as they looked at Hajime interrupting the emergency discussion, as if saying “Who the hell is this?”
“Wh-What are you saying? Hajime-dono. It’s a time of emergency now, right? Don’t tell me, you’re going to desert the town…”
Will started arguing with Hajime with an expression as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just said, and Hajime replied with an expression as if he expected this hassle.
“Deserting or whatever it is, in the end, aren’t you also going to abandon the town, take shelter, and wait for rescue to come? I’m already aware of this town’s defenses from sightseeing… if you want to take shelter, it’d be okay to go to Fhuren. For a while now you’ve only talked about quickly evacuating the people.”
“Th-That’s… right… but, I can’t just run away by myself in such a serious situation! Even I should have something I can help with. Even Hajime-dono…”
“Hajime-dono, please cooperate too,” was the continuation of Will’s words, but his words were interrupted as he was frozen by Hajime’s cold eyes.
“… Do I need to speak more clearly to make you understand? My job is to take you back to Fhuren. I don’t have anything to do with this town. Listen, I won’t hear your opinion. If you still don’t want to go… I’ll just crush your limbs and drag you back.”
From Hajime’s atmosphere, Will guessed those words were serious as he turned pale. His expression said he couldn’t believe it. Hajime, who could overwhelm the dragon that easily annihilated veteran adventurers like Gale’s party, looked a little like a hero to Will. That’s why even if he was merciless, Will unconditionally believed Hajime would somehow help the townspeople under such an emergency. That’s why Will felt betrayed by the cold words thrown out by Hajime…
As he was at a loss for words, Will unconsciously distanced himself from Hajime, but Hajime decided to approach him. Because of such a strange atmosphere, the surrounding people could only alternate looks between Hajime and Will without moving. Then someone suddenly moved and blocked Hajime.
It was Aiko. She immediately looked up straight at Hajime with a resolute expression.
“Nagumo-kun. If it’s you… can’t you do something about the army of demonic beasts? No… you can do it, right?”
Aiko’s voice carried conviction, he can do something if it’s Hajime. In other words, she declared he would be able to save the town. With those words, the surrounding town leaders started to make noise.
If they were to believe the reported threat from Aiko and the others, the enemies were tens of thousands of demonic beasts. Furthermore, they gathered from several mountain range areas. That meant it was on the scale of a war. Consequently, an individual wouldn’t be able to influence the war. That’s common sense. To overturn such common sense, there was a special existence even among the ones summoned from another world, that’s a Hero. But, it didn’t really mean he could win alone against an army. What it meant was leading the human race and together with his companions, simply using quantity. That’s why they couldn’t believe the boy in front of them who wasn’t even a Hero could do something, even if those words came from Aiko. Even if they were words from the “Goddess of Good Harvest”
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Towards Aiko’s powerful gaze, Hajime waved his hands gloomily as he tried to deceive her by denying it.
“No no, Sensei. Isn’t that impossible? Aren’t there more than 40,000 of them? It’ll be very, very—…”
“But, at that time in the mountain, you didn’t say it was “impossible” when Will-san asked if Nagumo-kun could do something about it. Also, didn’t you say “the obstacle would be too big and it’d become a fight till the last one standing for me alone”? To put it plainly, there’s a possibility it’d become a fight till the last one standing, right? Did I hear it wrong?”
“… What good memory”
Because of Aiko’s good memory, Hajime’s face distorted as he awkwardly said that. He didn’t regret what he’d said. Aiko requested with a more serious expression to Hajime who averted his face.
“Nagumo-kun. Can’t you somehow lend us your power? If this keeps up, not only will this beautiful town be destroyed, a lot of lives will surely be lost.”
“… How unexpected. I thought you held students as your top priority. Even all the things you’ve done were inevitably because there’s the possibility it’d be able to return you even a bit earlier, right? Nevertheless, for the sake of unfamiliar people, you are trying to send a student to his death? You don’t have the intention, but it’s as though you’re just like those guys from the church who tried to spur us to war, you know?”
Hajime’s words were full of ridicule, but Aiko was still the same. Her expression was not the worried expression from just a minute ago, it was a resolute and “teacher”-like expression. There were priests from the church who listened to Hajime and Aiko’s conversation nearby. They frowned and watched him with narrowed eyes because Hajime’s words were full of disdain towards the church. That’s why Aiko didn’t move from her spot as she straightened her gaze and posture.
“… If there’s a method to return to our original world, I’d quickly return the students, and my feelings haven’t changed even now. But, if that’s impossible… then, we are living in this world now, the words we exchanged and the people who smiled at us, at the very least I don’t want to abandon the people within my reach. Thinking like this is natural as a human. Of course because sensei is a teacher, my priority will not change even under such an emergency…”
Aiko spun her words of confirmation one by one.
“Nagumo-kun, you’re calm even now, that’s why I think you’ve experienced something beyond our imagination, to become like this. That’s why I feel that you have the composure to think about other people. The words of a teacher who couldn’t be by your side when you were most hurt… might be too light for you. But, please hear me out, somehow.”
Hajime kept quiet as is, and he returned Aiko’s gaze, urging her to continue.
“Nagumo-kun. Last night, didn’t you say you’ll absolutely return to Japan? Then, Nagumo-kun. Are you going to return to Japan with everyone important to you except the ones who obstruct you? Are you going to leave everyone who becomes a hindrance to you? Will you be able to live like that in Japan? When you return to Japan, will you change your way of life? The reason sensei didn’t want the students to actively fight is because I am concerned if they would be able to return to their old lives when they returned to Japan. Killing is… , I don’t want you to become accustomed to that.”
“Nagumo-kun, you have your own sense of values, your choice for the future is your own. In addition, you don’t have the obligation to hear the words from sensei’s mouth. But sensei thinks that no matter what kind of future you choose, the way of living which casts others away, other than those important to you… is a truly “lonely” one. Surely, that way of living will not make you and the ones important to you happy. If you wish for happiness, at least for those within your reach… please don’t forget how to sympathize with them. From the very beginning, that’s the important and priceless thing you once had… so don’t throw it away.”
One by one, Aiko spun words filled with her feelings, and she tried to convey all of them in front of Hajime. The leaders of the town and even the students heard Aiko’s words in silence. Especially the students. They looked down as if they were scolded as they felt bad they got carried away by their power. At the same time, because Aiko was serious about bringing them back even now, and even thought about how they’d live afterwards. With newfound feelings, they could be seen smiling happily as if something tickled them.
For Hajime, even if he crossed the worlds, no matter what the situation would be and even if the students had completely changed. Aiko who didn’t even deviate from a “teacher” made him smile wryly inside. It wasn’t out of contempt, but admiration. Aiko was treated special because of her rare value. She didn’t experience Hajime’s hardships, so he’d easily refute her with “Even though you don’t know anything!,” or “Don’t spout things as if you know them!” In a way it’s just like what Aiko had said, her words were “light.”
But, Hajime couldn’t do that. Even now the “teacher” was looking straight at him, so to refute them as “light” words would be too unsightly. Moreover, Aiko hadn’t even once pressured him about the “right” thing to do. All of her words were only for the sake of wishing for Hajime’s future and happiness.
Hajime immediately turned his gaze towards Yue at Aiko’s side. Yue somehow looked at Aiko as if feeling nostalgic. However, when she noticed Hajime’s gaze, she immediately matched him straight with a serene gaze. Her eyes said that she’d adhere to whatever answer Hajime gave.
Inside the Abyss, she was his precious person who held his humanity right before he “fell,” that’s why Hajime certainly wished for her happiness. He thought it’d be okay if he did it by himself, but if he were to believe Aiko’s words, Hajime’s way of life wouldn’t be able to make Yue happy.
When he changed his gaze further, he found the rabbit-eared girl who looked at him worriedly. Towards his world which narrowed to only Yue and him, she was the girl who brought liveliness. No matter how many times Hajime treated her unkindly, she desperately chased after him curiously, and now she was just like Yue, someone he loved as a friend and companion. For Hajime to accept Shia, didn’t it bring happiness to Yue?
For Hajime, this world was like a prison. A cage that obstructed him from returning to his hometown. Therefore, it was extremely difficult for him to accept the people and everything in this world. Inside the Abyss, he discarded everything for the sake of returning, it wouldn’t be an easy thing to change the sense of values carved in his mind which wouldn’t forgive those who obstructed him. But even if it was difficult to “sympathize with other people,” he could do it. As a result, his precious things… if that’d bring happiness to Yue and Shia, he wouldn’t be that stingy to pitch in and help.
Hajime didn’t agree to all of Aiko’s words. Even so, it was a serious “scolding” from “his teacher.” To disregard it as nonsense would be too childish. WIth this time’s rampage, the possibility of the trouble of Hajime’s existence being published would suddenly become bigger, but it’d be okay to work hard as just “Aiko-sensei”‘s student. Whatever he chose, he already knew he’d be marked sooner or later. He had prepared to strike all of the troublesome things, he decided not to respect this world. That’s why it wouldn’t be bad to flashily show off his power.
With that, he thought a while for an excuse, then Hajime looked at Aiko again.
“… Sensei, no matter what happens after this, are you still my teacher?”
What Hajime implied was if she’d be his ally.
Towards that, Aiko replied without hesitating.
“… Whatever my decision? That’s, even if the result isn’t what sensei hoped?”
“That doesn’t have to be said. Sensei’s role isn’t to decide the students’ future. I’ll just help to make a better decision. Nagumo-kun has heard sensei’s talk, so I won’t refute your decision”
Hajime watched Aiko for a while to confirm whether there was a lie in her words. For him to intentionally have such commitment was because Hajime himself didn’t want to become hostile towards Aiko. After he confirmed there’s neither lie nor deception in Aiko’s eyes, Hajime turned towards the entrance. Yue and Shia immediately followed after him.
Seeing such a Hajime, Aiko panickedly called him. Hajime looked back, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, having been beaten by Aiko’s “teacher style.”
“As expected, to take on a huge crowd of tens of thousands as opponents, I’ll need some time to prepare. Continue your discussion without me.”
Aiko’s face shone because of Hajime’s reply. Hajime could only smile wryly at such an Aiko.
“It is advice from the best “teacher” I’ve ever known. Moreover, if it’s connected to these girls’ happiness… I only need to consider it a bit. Anyway, I’ll just kick those guys around for now.”
As he said that, he patted Yue and Shia’s shoulder, then once again he turned his heels and went out of the room. Yue and Shia raised a truly joyful atmosphere, and began to run after Hajime in small steps.
Patan, the sound of the door being closed, the leaders of the town who shut their mouth after being drowned by the atmosphere between Aiko and Hajime, and immediately asked about the situation from Aiko.
Aiko, whose shoulders were shaken, stared at the door which Hajime went out of. Her face didn’t transmit any joy towards Hajime. What she said to Hajime were Aiko’s true feelings, that his way of life was a sad one.
But, in the end, there’s no denying that she made an important student confront an army of demonic beasts. While she said she didn’t want them to grow accustomed to using their power, she was conscious of the contradiction she’d made by sending him off to fight. She thought she wanted Hajime to rethink his way of life, but she also thought of wanting to help the townspeople of Ul. As a result, both of them seemed to be fulfilled… but she wanted to search for better ways. Aiko secretly let her shoulders droop because of her helplessness as a teacher.
She prayed, for all of her students to not lose their hearts, and to return to their homes… but, Aiko’s wish couldn’t be fulfilled. After hearing Hajime’s story last night, Aiko herself felt that her wishes were already just an illusion. However, she couldn’t stop wishing for it.
Surrounded by the leaders who raised a ruckus and the students who looked at her in respect and affection, Aiko didn’t realize she let out a sigh.
By the way, Tio who had come to the town hall with Hajime and his party muttered, “Although this one is an important witness… i-is this neglect play… as expected of Mas—”, with a flushed expression, and she was naturally ignored.
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