It’s been a day and half since they set foot once again into the world of brown.
Hajime aimed straight for the Ankaji (Ancadi) dukedom with the help of the magical powered four-wheeler while great heaps of dust rose from behind. Their original destination was the Sea of Trees, but they changed directions because they thought they might be able to repair the oasis if Koari used her reproduction magic.
The reproduction magic has the effect of literally returning anything back to its original form. So Hajime judged that he should be able to restore the polluted oasis, succeeding with reproduction where recovery magic’s purification failed.
Hajime had no reason to particularly object. They hadn’t had a chance to try the local specialty fruits last time, so he easily took Kaori’s suggestion to return.
Unlike last time, the entrance to Ankaji was full of people waiting in line. A lot of big wagons lined up, and judging from the atmosphere, it felt like a line of merchants.
“That’s a very large caravan.” Hajime stated flatly.
“… Nn… will take time.” Yue added.
“They’re probably bringing in new supplies?” Kaori suggested.
Kaori’s guess seemed to be right. The reason behind the long line was from relief request from the Heilig Kingdom. Merchants were taking advantage of the troop’s movement and traveled with the relief corps. The Heilig relief corps seemed to accept the Ankaji merchants as long as they didn’t cause problems.
Anyway, because the oasis had been ruined, other than the stockpiled crops, it was necessary to destroy the tainted crops for safety reasons. This caused a large need for food as well as water. Ankaji couldn’t afford to be choosy who they got help from.
Hajime disregarded the caravan. Not wanting to wait under the desert heat, he drove the four wheeler up to the gate without waiting in line.
People of the caravan began to notice the black object and started to run, their hearts likely screaming out “Is that a demon they’re sitting in?” Towards the dangerous stares mixed with fear and wariness, Hajime brandished his weapon as the vehicle approached the gatekeeper in a cloud of dust.
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As they drew near, the soldiers saw the 4 wheeler and suddenly became noisy. They moved to challenge Hajime, but colleagues who recognized the 4 wheeler convinced them to approach without their weapons. As they approach Hajime, they dispatch a messenger to run back to the city.
Hajime and his company left the 4 wheeler while ignoring the chaos their presence caused. As always, several people are enchanted by Yue’s good looks. As Hajime placed the 4 wheeler back into his treasure warehouse, their eyes turned to wonder.
“It’s like that. Has the God of the Apostles returned?” the gatekeeper asks as he watches the figure of Kaori.
The soldiers were relieved to see Kaori. Perhaps they recognized her from the time they had brought Randzi back or when they went to recover the serene stones from the Guryuu-en Great Volcano.
It appears like the 4 wheeler had become known as Kaori’s transport, and they named her the “God of the Apostles”. Hajime didn’t feel the need to correct them as they were not exactly wrong. Since they recognized Kaori the best, they put her out in front.
“Yes, we returned to try to purify the Oasis. Please pass this on to the lords…” Kaori began.
“Oasis! Is it true?” The gatekeeper responded.
“I’m only saying it’s possible…”
“Nevertheless, if it’s an apostle… and we apologize for the impoliteness in such a place. We’ve already sent a messenger. I cannot leave my post, but a lord should be coming immediately to escort you if you’d like to come to our waiting area.”
It seems they’ve gained recognition for previously rescuing the country. Hajime can see the respect in the eyes of the soldiers as they gaze at him. They were getting the VIP treatment. While cautiously watching the merchants that gave him curious looks, Hajime once again set foot into the Ankaji Dukedom.
The lord Randzi ran up breathlessly after about 15 minutes of waiting. It was pretty quick arrival. At least to Randzi, it looked like they were important.
“It’s been a while. I’m glad you’re all safe. I was worried when you did not come back after entrusting the serene stones to Tio-dono. It would have been troublesome if our savior had died before we could express our gratitude.”
“I’m just a mere adventurer. But well, I thank you. As you can see, your relief is safely received.”
“Oh, and we finished stockpiling the food with the assistance we received. Along with the reservoir that Yue made, you’ve bought us sufficient time. The people won’t go hungry thanks to you and the merchants.”
Randzi gently laughed with slightly hollow cheeks. It seemed he had been run ragged to save Ankaji. The fatigue seemed to ooze out in his expressions. He wasn’t getting enough time to rest.
“Lord. As for the purification of the oasis…” Kaori began.
“Apostle-dono… No, Kaori-dono. The Oasis is as usual. Thanks to the fresh groundwater, the purification is proceeding little by little. At least half a year and the oasis should be completely purified. One year before it soaks into the nearby soil and purifies it so that we can plant again.” Randzi responds a little depressed.
Kaori explains that she might be able to immediately purify it. Randzi’s response is dramatic. Taking a moment for it to sink in, “Seriously!?” Randzi spits out feverishly. Kaori shyly nods in verification while moving to hide behind Hajime, taken aback by his exuberance. The distraught Randzi corrects himself, then asks for the purification politely.
Since that was their intention anyway, Hajime nodded and Randzi led them to the oasis. The oasis is not very popular right now. In the past, it was a crowded place where people relaxed. Randzi was expressionless, but gave off a lonely atmosphere as he remembered the former oasis.
Kaori moves up to the shore of the oasis and begins to cast reproduction magic.
Although Hajime had obtained the reproduction magic, as usual his aptitude for it was virtually nothing. However, in the case of Shea, it seems there is an automatic recovery effect, but it had to be activated consciously. Also, her physical and mental strength seem to recover far faster. Steadily, Shea is becoming even more superhuman. Along with her proficiency levels, body weight manipulation, and body strengthening, she has come to be like a heavy tank with automatic recovery installed.
The one with the most aptitude was Kaori, followed by Teo, and finally Yue. In the case of Yue, as usual, as a consequence of her own special auto-regeneration, this magic seems to have a poor recovery in comparison. On the other hand, for the healing Kaori, her high aptitude for recovery magic seems to lead to her having a strong grasp on “reproduction”, allowing her to use it more comprehensively and efficiently than anyone else. It’s a bit sad that Yue won’t be able to use it to improve her combat prowess.
Kaori’s begins to chant. It’s a long cast. It initially took her 7 minutes but after practicing she was able to bring it down to 3. Since it only took her a week to learn it, it was practically a cheat. However, since Yue was present it was hard to truly call her a cheat in comparison. Compared to Yue’s abilities, this seemed easy.
“-Stopping elephant” she extends a white staff while closing her eyes and murmuring the final words.
In the next moment, a pale light resembling a firefly appeared, and then fell into the middle of the oasis. The entire oasis started to shine, and pale light particles began to bubble up to the surface and float into the sky. It was a majestic scene that touched the heart. It truly felt like the corruption was being purged by heavenly light.
Everyone forgot to breathe as they admired the sight. Even after the mysterious glow covering the oasis floated away into the sky, Randzi stood without a word, immersing himself in the afterglow.
While supporting Kaori who was swaying a little from exhaustion, Hajime taps Randzi. Randzi snaps out of it and orders his men to survey the water quality. His subordinates hurry to examine the oasis with detection magic. After making a hard swallow, Randzi watches over his men, whom upon finishing their inspection report their results with expressions of disbelief.
“… It’s recovered.” A subordinate mutters.
“Repeat that?” Randzi demands.
The subordinate adds words of confirmation and Randzi sucks in his breath, now knowing the truth.
“No abnormalities in the oasis! It is the original oasis! It has been completely cleaned!”
At that moment, Randzi and his subordinates cheered in unision. They threw whatever documents they had and abandoned whatever they were holding as they hugged each other and slapped their backs, expressing their joy. Randzi also looked up at the heavens, exhaling deeply and wondering if this was a bit too easy.
“After that, soil regeneration. Lord, where were the crops you discarded?”
“… Well, it is all collected in one place. Because of all the time and labor, it was regrettable that we had to toss them… wait, you don’t mean…?”
“If Yue and Tio join, it should be possible…”
“… Nn, no problem.”
“They were grown with effort, it’d be a shame to throw them away.” Hajime added.
As Randzi realized they might be able to not only recover the soil, but the lost crops as well, his hand went to his chest and he lowered his head deeply without hesitation. It was not something a lord should do, but that was the extent of his appreciation for their actions. The love for them was deep in this country. It was the kind of thing that transforms your sense of appreciation.
After receiving Randzi’s bow, Hajime tried to move them towards the farmland. However, he suddenly stopped when he felt a disturbance. A frenzied group of people were approaching in the distance. The soldiers of the Anjaki Dukedom were coming towards them in a straight line with numerous soldiers of different attires. Using “far vision”, Hajime could see that the group was populated with Seikyo church officials and temple knights from this town.
As soon as they approached Hajime’s group, they immediately surrounded them in a semicircular shape. An elderly man in white regal robes of the temple knights stepped forward. The dangerous atmosphere between the man and Hajime was only divided by the presence of Randzi.
“See them, they are dangerous.”
“Foribin Bishop, what the hell is this? They are dangerous? This hero has saved out dukedom twice already. I will not ignore disrespect to them as a lord of Ankaji.”
“The elderly man who was called Forbin Bishop snorted a laugh at Randzi’s words.
“Hmph, hero? Hold your tongue. They are already accredited heretics. Careless words will come crashing down around you!” the Bishop snarled.
“They’re branded heretics? Ridiculous, I have not heard of this.”
Randzi was shocked at the word heretic being attached to Hajime. Randzi was a follower of the church though. He was aware of the weight of those words. Did they make a mistake? He met the Bishop with disbelief.
“Of course you wouldn’t know, the news just arrived this morning. And the heretic showing up right now, don’t you think that’s exquisite timing? Surely this was a message from God. Destroy the enemies of God… now on to Center…”
Hajime couldn’t hear the voices of the last lines, but apparently Hajime has been branded a heretic. Randzi and the Bishop eye him unintentionally.
Hajime seems neither shocked nor in any particular hurry, only offering a shrug as if to ask “What was I supposed to do?” to Randzi.
Randzi wrinkled his eyebrows after seeing Hajime’s response. However, the bishop opens his mouth and openly laughs.
“And now, I have to subdue the enemies of God. They say this man is quite brutal, but I have a hundred temple knights behind me. Come with us quietly so we don’t upset the public peace, and we won’t make things more difficult for you.
Randzi closes his eyes. Without any more information, he could guess why Hajime was branded a heretic considering his power and his personality. Hajime was a force the church couldn’t manage and thus couldn’t allow.
However, given the strength of Hajime’s companions, stopping them was a decision equal to suicide. Randzi doubted the sanity of picking a war with Hajime. He was wondering if they had their priorities straight.
It is a fact that Hajime saved Ankaji. He healed the people who were fallen by poison, prepared the water that was their lifeline, subdued the monster lurking in the oasis, and further purified the oasis back to how it was before.
To this huge debt, it was troubling considering what they could provide as an award. Randzi’s eyes grew wide at the realization that an opportunity just presented itself. And, with a serving lord’s dignity, Randzi broke the silence and provided the impatient Bishop an answer.
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“… I’m sorry, what?”
To the totally unexpected words, the Forubin bishop provided an interesting goofy expression. The appearance of the bishop, inwardly, put a wry smile on Randzi. It should have been impossible for Randzi to go against the decision of the Seikyo church. Randzi repeated the words with unexpected determination.
“I said I refuse. These heros are our national salvation. If you would make them an enemy, then I cannot forgive the Seikyo church.”
“Are… you… insane? You cannot go against the church. Do you want to be branded as a heretic as well?”
In response to Randzi’s words, the bishop raised a startled cry clogged with anger. The temple knights also looked at each other with puzzled looks.
“Bishop, does Central not know their accomplishments? He saved the dukedom when we were attacked by a deadly poison. Your reports should also mention that he rescued Ur town, don’t they? I don’t understand the sanity of this heretic claim. Reconsider the heresy on account of these new facts.”
“Silence! The decision is final! This is God’s will! That is unforgivable. If you continue to protect this heretic, then Ankaji itself will be branded. Take heed!”
The bishop’s pupils had the light of mania in them. The way he was screaming gave an atmosphere that did not seem very clergy-like. Randzi stared at him with a cold eye. Hajime had come up beside him with an imperceptible motion and asked with a surprised look.
“Are you sure about this? Both the Kingdom and the Church are going to retaliate. As a lord, will you be alright?”
Randzi does not answer Hajime. Instead, he turns Hajime’s gaze to the surrounding men, who gave off an aura of preparedness and acceptance. Their eyes shown with death as if saying “to die killing is the way to go.” It was that kind of expression.
The bishop also seemed to read the change in mood and shouts out a last warning while his face reddened and became more frenzied.
“Is this your answer? Public, your way ends here. Well, your way is not. This is the end for anyone who gets in my way. You’ll receive God’s divine punishment and fall to ruin!”
“This is Ankaji, we’re not so shameless as to sell a hero who saved us. Divine? Like I’d believe God’s judgement would be so shameless. I guess my faith differs from the Bishop’s God.”
The Bishop’s word became expressionless afer the angry words from Randzi. He raised one hand to try to send a signal for the Temple Knights to attack.
At this time, there was a thump! Something flew at the knights and struck one of their helmets with a clang. At their feet was a pebble. It didn’t do any damage to the Knight, but why was it there? Such questions were fleeting as another stone was thrown, bumping noisily against the temple knight’s armor.
If you looked where the stone’s came from, many of the inhabitants of Ankaji had gathered in the intervening time, surrounding the Templar knights.
They had come in response to the mysterious lights that had previously come from the Oasis and came upon the scene of the temple knights surrounding their lord and Hajime.
They remembered the treatments they had the received from Kaori as “God of the Apostle”, the serene stones, and the magic bullet challenging the labyrinth to save them. They were indignant at the behavior of the church which turned into hostility as they began to throw stones.
“Stop! People of Ankaji! They are God’s enemy. Heretics! You are going against the will of God!”
Forubin is shouting loudly, trying to solve the excited inhabitant’s misunderstanding. They just didn’t know that Hajime was labeled a heretic and will relax once the bishop explains things to them, or so the bishop thought.
In fact, the words of Seikyo church bishop caused the inhabitants to stop throwing stones and look at each other in confusion.
This time, Randzi spoke out with dignity.
“My beloved people, Listen! I was just informed that the oasis was purified. Our oasis has been returned to us through Hajime’s efforts. As well as the contaminated land. And the crops. They used their purification to return our Ankaji back to the way it way. They also brought me back to Ankaji. Make your decision with your own mind. Keep our hero of national salvation, or turn on him. I decided to keep him!”
The Bishop tried to mock Randzi’s speech, “in such empty words, there is no reason to go against the majesty of the church,” however, his smile of ridicule slowly dropped.
The inhabitant’s intention is shown in the form of stoning.
“and I, a…” The bishops words were sounded out by the slams of stones hitting armor.
“You act playfully, this is a matter of life or death!”
“The church did not do anything. Yet your insanity makes you want to harm the apostle who helped us!”
“What’s a heretic anyway? You’re abusing the term!”
“It must have been heretics that authorized this!”
“Long live the lord!”
“Kaori, I dedicate myself to you!”
“Let’s start a Kaori fan club!”
Apparently, the inhabitants seemed to have a sense of deep love and respect for Rindzi and Kaori. Pushing aside the faith, they defended Rindzi and Kaori with all of their spirit. No, it’s more like they changed their faith itself. However, it seems like they have a faith of their own, belief that no one will harm Kaori who saved them as the “God of the Apostles”. In short, it was a faith that exceeded the confidence of the bishop. It wasn’t known where that trust was to begin with.
Residents gathered one after another. The people’s forces are not at all inferior to the Temple Knights, but the bishop became a beacon of anger and hostility that raged endlessly. The Temple Knights started to back up in retreat.
“Bishop-dono, these are the intentions of Ankaji. What of your previous allegations?”
“It’s not as simple as you think…”
The Bishop turned his heel while grinding his teeth, a scowl leveled at Hajime. The knights rapidly move to follow after him. The bishop seemed to lose steam, giving off the last of his passion with loud footsteps as he headed back to the church.
“Is this really okay? Will they leave it at this?”
Hajime had a concerned look, having been left out of the loop until the end. Kaori’s direct involvement with the crisis with the church left a worried look on her face.
Despite this, Randzi replied with a cool look like it was no big deal.
“This is the choice of Ankaji. The people who live in this dukedom are grateful to you. It’s unthinkable to have you die in our territory that is why they would have killed to protect you. I don’t want such a coup in this country.”
“That aside, I wouldn’t be hurt by someone of their level…” Hajime responded scratching his cheek.
Randzi laughed at his words.
“If that’s so, then that means you guys are scarier than the church. Being the nation’s hero is only half the reason we protected you. We also don’t want to become your enemies. I can’t even imagine the amount of magic you possess to slaughter an unknown monster in a breeze and capture a large labyrinth in just a few days. You ignore the church and don’t respond to the threat of a hundred knights either. You’ve defeated an army of ten thousand and there are even rumors you defeated a demon instantly. No, it’s downright scary. There will be a time when I succeed after my father passes, but I’ll take pride in having made a wise decision between the two.”
So Randzi had no intention of catering to the church’s hostility towards Hajime. He put the church and Hajime on a scale of who was a stronger ally and chose the latter. Indeed, it could be said the country itself would act against the majesty of the church. To say this was a bold decision would not be an exaggeration.
Hajime smiled at the thought that his confrontation with the church was thwarted by the people themselves. As the people moved around them in a fluster with care for their safety, Kaori laughed happily. Hajime realized this was the path Aiko had hoped for him, one that was not a “lonely way of life.”
Three days after the turmoil from the church.
Hajime’s party had finished purifying the agricultural areas, and he was watching the oasis shine from a hilltop.
Hajime could see the sparkling surface of the water. People had gathered around the oasis once again with liveliness and smiles. Couples sat in the grass watching the kids frolic in the water. There were people pier fishing, and lovers in their own little worlds on boats. People had returned to the oasis, and they all had smiles.
This is how Hajime passed this day in Ankaji. He had intended to leave as soon as he had bought some of the specialty fruit, but he had been kept there by the lord and the inhabitants’ generosity and ended up staying a few extra days.
Hajime worried that with the current mood in the city, their departure from Akanji would be met with a parade. He had to make a request to Randzi to keep things modest. They were able to finish their send-off at the lord’s mansion, and finally Hajime made it to the gates, taking one last look at the oasis before they left.
“You stand out, perhaps you can wear something a little less conspicuous.”
Hajime mentions to Yue nearby as he turns to leave.
“It does…? Tired of?”
“What? Is that so? Hajime-kun.”
“Well, Yue, Kaori. From my view, you guys just stand out.”
“Well, I - it’s because this dress is not to pass through the gates…”
Shea had said these outfits where part of the so-called belly dance costume. Their navels were visible between a high top and short pants. It was very sensational, their tiny navels dazzling. It guaranteed that every eye would be on the one wearing it.
It seems like a common way of dressing in Ankaji. When Yue received the gift from a lady of the manor, she immediately began wearing it to show off. Upon seeing Yue in it, Hajime’s eyes became like a wild beasts. Apparently, Hajime seems to be weak to that kind of costume. His eyes were glued to Kaori once she started wearing it, prompting Shea and Tio to do the same.
Other than with Yue, they didn’t elicit enough response from Hajime. As a result, they started wearing the outfits all day. However, Yue’s outfit collapsed all reason in Hajime.
Even now as the set out, everyone remains in their erotic costumes. Finally, Hajime had reached his wits end and started to poke the point loudly and aggressively, despite being somewhat happy, to make them dress normal once again.
It’s been two days since leaving Ankaji.
They were on the road leading to Horuado. Hajime’s four wheeler steadily approached a caravan that was being attacked by Rashiki thieves.
It was at this point that Hajime and Kaori would meet a surprising person.
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