|This chapter is translated by Cobalt
and is rehosted with due permission.
“It seems that everyone survived safely… Then, let’s go.”
“Wa, wait, wait! If Kouki-kun is not healed…”
Hajime urged everyone to go ahead while unhesitatingly ignoring Kouki who had fainted and was spread-eagled with the white of his eyes exposed. Kaori stopped him while rushing towards Kouki in a panic. It seemed that she wanted a bit of time for healing.
When Kaori examined him, Kouki’s body was even more ragged than his appearance suggested. On top of using the derivative of ‘Limit Break’, the ‘Supreme Break’, for a long period, Kouki also took in the reddish black magic monster-like power into his body and then further raised his specs forcefully.
As the result, just like Hajime who once ate the flesh and blood of monster and experienced the breakdown of his body, atrocious damage was accumulating throughout Kouki’s body. Also because Kouki even took in the rejection of his negative emotion to increase his ability, his mind was also damaged from the mental burden to a degree that one couldn’t ignore.
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With regeneration magic and her common healing magic, if it was Kaori, then she could immediately heal Kouki’s body. Even so, it was a delicate work that couldn’t fail, so Kaori wanted a bit of time. Above all, the damage to Kouki’s mind couldn’t be seen by eyes, it needed to be treated even more carefully. If the healing failed and Kouki opened his eyes only to became a person who would jovially laugh “HAHAHA-!!” or something else, that would also be troubling.
However, toward Kaori, Hajime made a complaint without even trying to hide his reluctant expression.
“… Spare me from you healing him completely. It’s fine as long as he is not dead, right? Just make him faint for a while.”
“Eh? Why… aa, yes, it’s better like that, I guess?”
For a moment, Kaori tilted her head in doubt, but she immediately guessed Hajime’s thinking and frowned with a troubled look.
“Oi Nagumo, I understand that you cannot stomach Kouki but… you see…”
In contrast, Ryuutaro and Suzu thought that Hajime said that because he didn’t think well of Kouki. However, after they looked at Kouki’s appearance just now, they couldn’t protest strongly. So, as expected, they made a weak and troubled expression.
Shizuku looked sad somehow. Her look was unrelated with Hajime’s unwillingness to aid Kouki’s recovery, but it was directed at Kouki himself. The current appearance of her childhood friend that had been like family since they were still children was just really really sad.
Hajime looked at Ryuutaro and Suzu who while being lost for words still sent him pleading looks for Kouki’s recovery. He then made an expression displaying just how troublesome it was without showing even a bit of hostility and pointed to Kouki while speaking his mind.
“You guys, just think of how troublesome it will be after that over there is healed completely.”
“Troublesome? … ah.”
“Looks like Taniguchi understands, huh? Listen well. Amanogawa couldn’t clear this trial. He averted his eyes from himself and the result was him exploding at me. Even if he woke up now, that still won’t change. And so…”
“It will be just like now again, won’t it…”
“That’s how it is. Well, just now it was also because of his false image’s influence and also his bad habit of convenient interpretation spurring him on, so even if he wakes up, perhaps he won’t rampage right away, but…”
Hajime dropped his eyes on the compass he took from his pocket while continuing.
“The deepest part is just close. Maybe this is the last trial already, but I cannot say for sure that there is anything else ahead. There is nothing more irritating than to be attacked from behind when something happens.”
“… Haa, be grateful that he still has his life, that’s it, huh.”
Even Ryuutaro sighed deeply while nodding “Can’t be helped” at Hajime’s words. And then similar like Shizuku, he sent an earnestly sad gaze at Kouki.
Beside Ryuutaro and Shizuku, Yue directed a gaze as though looking at a trash and whispered to herself.
“… Rather, it’s better to just leave him alone here.”
“No, no, Yue-san. Rather let’s deal the finishing blow.”
“The two of thou… it’s not like I don’t understand the feeling but restrain thyself. The hero is dealt with a nightmare having pinpoint killing intent like that on him, see.”
Shia whispered even more dangerous things in succession and began to tap Doryukken on her shoulder. Her gaze was exactly like a certain person with self-employed profession and arrow attached to the head (TN: Don’t know what reference this is). With an expression that couldn’t say anything, Tio looked at Kouki who was beginning to groan “uu” while trickling cold sweat. Perhaps he was attacked by a neck reaper rabbit and a vampire inside his dream.
It seemed that Yue and Shia were still irritated by being called without honorific and Kouki’s vilification of Hajime.
Hajime was exasperated even while his cheeks loosened happily towards Yue and Shia. And then he approached the side of the two and put his hands on their shoulders to soothe them. Yue and Shia turned to look over their shoulder and guessed that those hands were stopping them. Their expression became a little dissatisfied.
“Hold back just like Tio said. If not, then there is no meaning in me doing something as troublesome as letting him live.”
“Muu… if that’s what Hajime says.”
“You are keeping your life, for now, damn hero.”
As expected, Shia was a little black.
Both of them sent a glance at Kouki who was still having a nightmare and immediately averted their gaze before they hugged Hajime fawningly. Yue was nuzzling her cheek at Hajime’s stomach, and Shia was leaning her cheek on Hajime’s chest silently with her eyes closed pleasantly. Her rabbit ears were flopping wassa wassa, and her rabbit tail was happily shaking furi furi.
Various things happened with both of them, so their break didn’t work now that they were reunited with Hajime as they completely behaved like a spoiled child. Inside their heads sounded something like “Aa, I’m healed (desuu)”. (TN: The desu refer to Shia. She usually talks politely and has desu attached on her sentence.)
Yue and Shia clung at Hajime rubbingly and pressingly as though they were trying to absorb Hajime factor into their whole body. Looking at them, Hajime guessed “They are acting really spoiled huh, did something happen?” And then with a smile that was dyed with happiness somewhere in it, he patted the back of the two soothingly. The two embraced Hajime happily even further. It was the invocation of super pink space. It was fifty percent more than usual.
Being hit by that pink color, Tio approached unsteadily. She put her finger on her lips longingly and looked at Hajime fixedly. It was a lovely gesture that really tickled a man’s heart.
Tio was also an important comrade for Hajime that didn’t change. In this labyrinth that was burdening the mind strongly, surely Tio was also exhausted, Hajime sent Tio a kind gaze…
“Annoying. Don’t look over here.”
“-!? Haa haa, an attack that completely destroys the place’s mood… nn… what a discerning master… ahn… but, I feel like crying a little.”
A pervert that felt it even when she understood that it was no good. She embraced her own body while her thighs were rubbing at each other fidgetingly. However, it was also her true feeling of wanting to be added to the circle similar to Yue and Shia, so her eyes were a little teary.
Looking at such a Tio, Hajime shrugged his shoulders feeling that it couldn’t be helped, his hand beckoned ‘here here’. Immediately, Tio went “waai” like a young child and rushed at Hajime’s back with a wide smile.
Dropping down and then raising up… Hajime who was able to naturally use the carrot and stick properly was in enough possession of the factor to be a pervert’s master. Though the person would surely deny that vehemently.
The pink space that thickened, even more, making Ryuutaro and Suzu avert their gaze as though they were going to puke sugar. But ahead of their gaze was another factor that might increase the sugar content even more while sending glances at Hajime and co. with an impatient look.
“Uu, I got a late start… The healing is… it’s fine already with this yep! Hajime-kun!”
“Eh? Wait Kaori! That last thing, it felt like something really irresponsible…”
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Kaori who treated Kouki until there was no danger to his life, in the end, went “Ei!” and threw a healing light at Kouki, and then leapt at the pink space of Hajime and co. Kouki who received a healing that was brimming with irresponsibleness twitched. He looked a little pitiful.
Kaori was rushing with a pitter-patter and tried to hug Hajime without stopping, but she received nonchalant obstruction from Yue. A pebble of wind was shot with god speed and aimed at Kaori’s forehead. However, Kaori dodged that just with a light shake of her head and embraced the arm of Hajime beside Yue.
Naturally, the sensation of the arm that was hugging Yue disappeared. Yue’s smiling face that only looked like it was smiling while not smiling was directed at Kaori. Kaori too returned a smile that seemed to ask “Is there something wrong?”. Just like usual, phantom lightning from a dragon and a hannya mask glared at each other from close range.
A low-temperature space was formed together with the pink space, Ryuutaro and Suzu averted their eyes with different meaning this time. Inside such an atmosphere, it was only Shizuku who for the moment confirmed that Kouki’s complexion and breathing had returned to normal. His pulse was also beating normally. When she was convinced that there was no danger to his life she sighed in relieve.
“Ryuutaro. Can you carry Kouki?”
“No prob… So, it’s only Kouki who is no good. He is going to be down, huh.”
“That’s… but, it’s also still unclear whether Suzu and you two passed… Besides! As long as we are alive we can take the challenge no matter how many times!”
“That’s true… He did a really stupid thing but, if he is alive I can also wallop him later. Well, if this guy got to go ‘one more time’, then I’ll accompany him till the end. Just like usual.”
The expression of Ryuutaro who carried Kouki clouded while thinking of Kouki. Suzu was also almost caught by that mood, but then she displayed her mood making act and livened up their feelings. Ryuutaro immediately burst into a grin of sympathy too.
Shizuku stared at those two with a smile. Her look was exactly like a mother…
Although, she wasn’t that Shizuku who only kept wracking her brain for her surrounding and concealed her emotion anymore. She had decided to stop that way of living by only acceptance without even realizing it herself.
Therefore, she directed a gaze that was filled with extraordinary heat without hiding it toward Hajime who was crowded and fawned by four beautiful girls and woman. The one who sharply noticed that gaze was Tio. “Oho?” She tilted her head like that while looking at Shizuku observingly. Yue and Kaori were constraining each other while Shia was busy intermediating the two so they still weren’t in the state to notice.
Shizuku put her hand on her chest to affirm the feeling she realized from the trial and her new determination. And then, she clenched her fist tightly as though to grasp something important. From that gesture, Tio guessed what was inside Shizuku’s heart.
“I say… fufu. Do your best, I guess I have to say that here.”
“Aa? What did you say?”
“Oh, master heard that? Fufu, what, that’s only a meager support for a maiden with worrying habit there.”
Hearing the whisper of Tio who was embracing him from behind, Hajime asked back with a doubtful look, and then such answer was returned to him.
For a moment, Hajime frowned wondering what that meant, but Tio was looking at the beyond when he looked over his shoulder, and then he understood when ahead of Tio’s gaze he saw Shizuku who was encouraging herself. After all, Hajime heard that extremely nonchalant confession of Shizuku to him. There was no way he didn’t understand.
“… Oi oi, don’t tell me.”
The cheeks of Shizuku whose eyes met Hajime’s were quickly dyed crimson, the next moment she approached with a determined expression. Suzu and Ryuutaro who shouldered Kouki who had no way to guess what was inside Shizuku’s heart followed her.
And then at the side where Shia was hugging??the spot that faced at Kaori, Shizuku stopped her feet. Her position was excessively close with Hajime. That position almost glued at Hajime’s left hand that was holding Shia’s waist.
With Shizuku, that close, the members other than Tio also noticed Shizuku’s state. “Mu?” They directed her fishy look.
For a moment, Shizuku’s eyes met Kaori’s. At that moment, Kaori discerned Shizuku’s heart because she was her best friend and her eyes opened wide. Although it wasn’t because of the feeling that Shizuku harbored, but it was because she was surprised at Shizuku’s state that didn’t even try to hide it.
During that time, Shizuku’s gaze returned to Hajime, and she spun words from her slightly trembling lips.
“Nagumo-kun, thank you for saving Kouki.”
“I just punched him out, though?”
“You didn’t kill him, right? It’s for Kaori and a bit for me. About twenty-percent, isn’t it?”
“… Well, something like that.”
‘Fufu’ Shizuku smiled. Looking at the dialogue of the two that connected with each other somehow, Yue mumbled “mumu-“, Shia leaked a murmur of “Aa, is it, finally?” in realization. And then Kaori, she didn’t really say anything, she was merely sending Shizuku a gentle gaze.
“Really, when you say that you will protect, you will protect even the heart, don’t you?”
“There is a line even in my heart. It doesn’t mean that I’ll do it for everything.”
“I know that. But, I, we don’t lose our childhood friend in the end. He is really a troubling guy in various things, a big idiot that displayed that kind of disgraceful behavior but… but, even so, he is still like a family.”
Toward Shizuku who was showing eyes where sadness and gratitude were entangled, Hajime shrugged his shoulders with an expression that couldn’t say anything. If he had to speak honestly, he wanted to just kill Kouki with a snap also for the sake of severing the potential trouble in the future (it was doubtful whether it would happen or not though), but looking at Shizuku right now, also at Kaori’s expression, he could think that letting Kouki live was the right thing.
At the very least, compared to having the seed of nightmare of the childhood friend they were raised with killed by the man they were in love with right in front their eyes in this world far away from their homeland, shouldering the trouble that Kouki might bring wasn’t anything big, Hajime thought. At the same time, the strength of Shizuku’s feeling who could still feel sad even after looking at that figure of Kouki, “As expected from a worldly-wise woman” Hajime couldn’t help but holding such a feeling of half admiration and half exasperation.
No, even Ryuutaro and Suzu, it would be a lie if they said that they weren’t disillusioned at all, but even so, their feeling of sadness was the biggest feeling. This showed just how much things had piled up between them until now.
If it was the people who didn’t have a strong relationship with Kouki?for example, the classmates that even now were in the Heilig Kingdom or the ladies that favored Kouki, there was no doubt they would be easily disillusioned and turned away. In the relationship of these childhood friends, there was a deep bond that was more than a simple word. That was exactly something in the degree that could be said as ‘the same like family’.
(If Yaegashi is the mother, then Amanogawa is just like a difficult child huh…)
Without even guessing that Hajime was holding a little impolite impression like that, Shizuku faced Kaori with strong eyes while listening to the sound of her heartbeat that was rapidly heightening from nervousness. There, Kaori returned a really gentle and soft smile as though she had understood everything.
It was as though she was pushing from behind at Shizuku’s determination. No, it was undoubtedly a warm cheering yell from a best friend. Shizuku felt her chest tighten strongly while feeling a deep emotion where she wanted to cry out very much, she nodded a little. And then, once more she directed to Hajime a heated gaze that might scald the person that was looked, and she spun her words.
“… It was the first time I relied on someone like that, but it felt really pleasant. Thank you for that too.”
“… Even though you threatened me easily.”
The redness that dyed Shizuku’s cheeks deepened. What she said about relying on wasn’t about having Hajime carrying her, she meant about him making her relieved that she could entrust her heart to him. That she could be fast asleep even with thunderous sounds raging was a good proof. And to go as far as calling that ‘pleasant’, certainly it couldn’t be helped that she became red.
The gap with her normally dignified atmosphere was really terrific. Without anyone noticing, even her hand was touching Hajime’s left arm gently. The hand wasn’t even clutching, it was really just touching, but on the contrary, it was expressing her feeling of wanting to touch Hajime even just for a little.
By the way, Hajime’s tsukkomi was ignored like air. A person that couldn’t read the atmosphere would become the atmosphere (air).
Shizuku thought that her heart was going to explode from all the gazes that gathered on her, even so, the determination was residing in her eyes, and then, she earnestly conveyed her feeling with those trembling lips.
“Tha, that’s why this is my thanks. A, also this is the proof that what I said at that time isn’t, a, a joke.”
Shizuku faced Hajime who couldn’t take any action because he was being embraced by Yue and co, at the same time she stood on her tiptoes. Her heels rose to the limit, the hand that touched at Hajime’s arm grasped tightly. And then, Shizuku whose body leaned forward by activating even ‘No Beat’, those lovely lips that nobody was permitted to touch touched… Hajime’s cheek.
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The outrageously soft sensation was transmitted on Hajime’s cheek. A little vapor and burning heated breath tickled not just Hajime’s cheek but even his heart. The contact was just an instant. However, that kiss certainly conveyed Shizuku’s boiling heart.
whomp Behind Shizuku a sound of something heavy dropped resounded. Actually, Ryuutaro who was shocked by Shizuku’s action unintentionally dropped Kouki’s body that made such sound, but there was no way Shizuku had the spare energy to notice that. Rather, no one noticed it.
Shizuku was looking down with all her skin dyed with so much red that it reflexively made one doubt if she was actually going to explode. Hajime had a distant look thinking what was the deal with the sensation remaining on his cheek. Even so thinking that there was no way he could ignore this, so he tried to open his mouth, but before that Shizuku raised her face with strength filling her eyes.
“Yue, Shia, Tio… Kaori. In this trial, I realized many things. About my bad habit, and the emotion that I am feeling right now too. He already, has Yue and others, above all he is the person my best friend loved… I think that I am the lowest. But…”
Shizuku lost her words. There Kaori gave words with expression and tone filled with affection.
“Shizuku-chan… it’s fine. You are not the worst or anything. Because it’s a matter of heart you know? It’s something that cannot be helped at all. Rather than that, Shizuku-chan who will prioritize other people than yourself is now, trying to have your own way, this Shizuku-chan makes me happy.”
Perhaps she would make Kaori have unpleasant thoughts, by some chance she would make her sad, even though Shizuku knew well that Kaori wasn’t someone of that nature but she couldn’t help but feel fear, yet hearing Kaori’s words which were filled with overflowing kindness without a speck of shadow made Shizuku able to relax his stiffened shoulders.
Looking carefully, although Yue looked displeased, but it didn’t appear that she intend to cut in, she then stared at Shizuku while shrugging her shoulders. And then, she slightly showed a daring smile. The same like when with Kaori, she was saying that she would accept the challenge. Shia too was helplessly shrugging her shoulders with one of her eyes closed. Tio looked like she was having fun.
Such Yue and co and Kaori made Shizuku showed a natural smile without any stiffness, with calmness but overflowing determination, she put her feeling into her words and declared.
“I, like Nagumo-kun… That’s why I’ll do my best for my own sake.”
The refreshed smile of Shizuku who said that was something so lovely and pretty that charmed everyone there. Exactly like her name, like a drop of morning dew that was illuminated by the light of rising sun, or possibly, like a drop that overflowed from the berry, that smile was sparkling radiantly with a sweet fragrance. (TN: Shizuku means drop/drip/trickle in Japan)
“Fufu, Shizuku-chan, you are really cute there… Yosh, from now on in order to win against the Yue-Shia pair, let’s oppose them with the childhood friends pair! We are going to fight from now on!”
“Ee? Kaori, geez-. But, fufu, indeed perhaps that is better. It’s like I and Kaori monopolizing the left and right of Nagumo-kun.”
“… Shizuku, I had the premonition that it would be like this one day. I will consign you, together with Kaori to oblivion.”
“Yue-san, oblivion is no good. But, if you are talking about monopolizing, then there is no way we will draw back! We accept the challenge, Shizuku-san!”
Yue and co made a noisy ruckus. Hajime who still hugged and couldn’t move still looked far away. It was because there was no sign that they would ask him about his opinion. “Normally, isn’t it the person confessed that replied?” Even while thinking of such question, he couldn’t put a tsukkomi. Because this was something usual. Because he understood it was pointless.
For the girls surrounding Hajime, in the first place other than Yue the assumption was they were rejected, but even so they were determined to get close to Hajime. Speaking clearly, at first Hajime was unable to understand the feeling of such girls including Shia, but when he thought about how he had been made to surrender by Shia like this, he couldn’t say any complaint after this far.
“… Nou, master. How should I react when I am nonchalantly left out like this? They art roused up with the pair confrontation but…”
“Your character is the most eccentric, right.”
The weight on his back increased. Tio was leaning in while whispering sadly. In response Hajime’s reply was careless. Rather than that, Hajime wanted the two sides sandwiching him in between to stop arguing about how much they loved Hajime, that was what he thought from the bottom of his heart. He was busy thinking of how to stop the heated Yue and co.
“… So Shizuku too? Just how this happen that Nagumo. No, really I don’t get it.”
“Hawawa, even Shizushizu has fallen… Nagumo-kun you womanizer! What to do, if even Suzu fall without realizing it then…. together with Onee-sama, do, doing thing like this and that-! … … … …… fumu, that’s not bad.”
“Oi, get back to your sense Suzu. I don’t want to become alone in this strange space.”
Ryuutaro sighed in exasperation at Suzu who was pondering with her hand supporting her chin. And then, he noticed that there was no weight on his back and he picked up Kouki back in panic.
“Haa… Kouki. It’s not like I don’t understand your feeling you know. Certainly, I cannot complain anything even if you got carried away by your fake.”
With complicated expression, Ryuutaro murmured with a small voice even while knowing that it wouldn’t reach the ear of his best friend. When Kouki woke up, what kind of action he would take… imagining that, he hardened his resolve for the worst case to stop Kouki without fail as his best friend so that he wouldn’t make the mistake for the second time.
“… I see. Yue’s memory…”
While walking through the new passage that appeared in Kouki’s room, Yue talked about the discrepancy in her memory at Hajime. And then she talked without hiding anything about how perhaps herself was a unique existence more than she thought, and maybe in the future something that her uncle feared would occur.
Yue took Hajime’s hand and hugged tightly while looking up at Hajime questioningly. However, she didn’t find the serious expression that she expected there. Rather, Hajime was returning an exasperated at Yue, causing her to blink her eyes.
“What to say, that talk is already far too late at this point of time isn’t it?”
“… Nn? … By any chance, Hajime noticed?”
“That’s, yeah. If Yue’s immortality is absolute, then I can be more at peace of mind but… if that’s not the case then that’s the most important matter that concerns the life and death of my lover, how your automatic regeneration won’t activate if you are in an exhausted state. Then, even though there are many ways to cause magic power to be exhausted, why were those bunches could only seal Yue and nothing else? That’s just obvious question, right? After all, if I understand the reason then perhaps I can make Yue to absolutely not die.”
“Even if I say that, based on what we talked when we were at the abyss, it felt like Yue didn’t remember about that anyway right? You were in a daze from the sudden betrayal and when you noticed you were already sealed you said.”
“That’s why. Rather than dredging up that doubtful point forcefully from your memory to investigate, I thought it’s just better if I simply do something about it. Perhaps by any chance, you don’t remember it because it’s a painful memory. In the end, no matter what kind of existence Yue is, my conclusion won’t change… I won’t hand over Yue to anyone if it’s for that sake then I’ll do anything. If someone tries to steal Yue from me, then no matter what kind of existence, no matter what kind of situation, I’ll kill them all.”
Perhaps imagining a vision of being separated from Yue, Hajime looked straight ahead while his eyes were glaring fiercely toward an unseen enemy. In the end, it was the usual conclusion of “Don’t mind about the small thing! If there is any hindrance, then just slaughter them all!” The truth was it was really simple and clear.
Toward such Hajime whose affection and desire to monopolize Yue was exposed out and plain to see, Yue’s eyes turned so moist that even now they looked like they would burst. With a gaze filled with so much heat that it seemed to burn, Yue stared at Hajime wholeheartedly, and then… gabacho! Yue jumped while hugging at Hajime’s neck, her lips were going to devour??but,
“… Shizuku, what is the meaning of this?”
A black sheath was thrust before her eyes. It was pushed out between Hajime and Yue, obstructing Yue’s kiss. Yue traced the source of the pushed out black katana and stared reproachfully and asked at the source Shizuku.
Shizuku’s gaze was wandering around restlessly, it seemed that rather than obstructing intentionally she did that reflexively.
“E, err… you see, we still haven’t even confirmed that the trial of the great labyrinth is over yet, right? That’s why, I wonder if doing something like that is better to be put on hold for later, something like that?”
“… And the truth?”
“It’s envi… not that. I as well… not that. Let’s pay attention to TPO, that’s what I mean. Yep.” (TN: TPO=Time, Place, Order (?))
Shizuku whose gaze was swimming around lied with a really unconvincing lie. Kaori beside her was “To stop Yue’s attack… as expected from my Shizuku-chan!” she was giving Shizuku extremely high praise.
“Even though you say that, but it feels like someone kissed me normally just before, though?”
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Hajime looked back over his shoulder while talking to Shizuku teasingly. Immediately, Shizuku’s cheeks blushed with vivid red autumn. “Uu. That’s, because, something that only I haven’t done is… lonely.” She leaked out such whisper that sounded like an excuse. There Tio continued the talk with further teasing.
“Although, it was only a ‘chuu’ at the cheek. If thou art swordsman, then how about gallantly cutting in? The lips of master won’t be stolen without some forcefulness thou know?”
“Ste, stealing or anything… that’s improper. Something like that, I think it has to be in a proper situation, it should be done with the mutual consent of both parties. That, if possible, if Nagumo-kun is the one that does it by his initiative… I’ll feel happy.”
Reddened cheek, somewhat bowed head and the bashfully talking Shizuku. On her bosom was the black katana that she had already drawn back?the present from Hajime, she hugged it tightly as though it was the expression of Shizuku’s emotion of wanting to do something like that to the person himself.
And then Shizuku’s walking position was three step diagonally behind Hajime as though it had been already measured. Her gracefully following figure was just like a Yamato Nadeshiko (TN: Graceful in Japan could be spelled as shizushizu). With a momentary flash, the second part of Hajime’s present to her that was the hair ornament was shining at the base of her trademark ponytail.
With continuing silence, Hajime was directing a staring gaze at Shizuku as though he was looking at a rare animal.
Basically, the female camp that was surrounding Hajime was a carnivore with an assertive aspect. They are girls that wanted with all their might for Hajime to accept them. Therefore, hearing the word ‘improper’ just from one kiss made Hajime show his surprise with his eyes widened reflexively. “Eh? A girl like this, really exists?” He was thinking like that inside his heart, it could be said that he was already considerable dyed by the color of Yue and co.
Looking at that state of Hajime, Yue murmured. Even though it seemed to be a whisper, but her voice was transmitted enough to Shia and Kaori and the others too.
“… What girl power. Yaegashi, is she a monster?”
It seemed that Shizuku’s girl power that Yue witnessed was really a cheat. For some reason, Kaori was looking at Yue with the tremendous triumphant look. And then, Shizuku who was showing a tremendous gap of atmosphere with her unease of getting showered by attention from surrounding compared to her usual dignified air was suddenly pushed out forcefully by Kaori as though to show her off.
Yue groaned “muh”, and then she pushed out Shia beside her. “He? Wha, what is it?” Yue flapped the rabbit ears of the troubled Shia using wind to further appeal at the appeal point even more while directing a fearless grin at Kaori.
It appeared that they were doing partner showdown. “My best friend is absolutely cute!” Such wordless confrontation was being unfolded right now.
Such usual Yue and Kaori made Shia remonstrates them while showing a troubled smile. She tried to remonstrate them, but a vein appeared on her forehead seeing the two continuing to exchange sparking stare, she cut in between two while tapping Doryukken on her shoulder. A wordless pressure was spreading.
Yue and Kaori drew back with a stiff smile. Shizuku was directing a respecting gaze at Shia. Truly, since they came into this great labyrinth, Shia’s growth was striking.
Hajime was looking at the state of Shia and co, he then changed the talk while making an admiring expression.
“… Nevertheless, you reached a draw with Yue who fought seriously. You also rebuked Yue strongly, I’ve got to prepare a present for Shia like this.”
“Fue? I, is it fine?”
Hajime smiled believing that Shia was the MVP for this time with how she scolded Yue’s nonsense and made Yue revoked it with her strength. Shia who was praised suddenly looked happy even while getting flustered.
“… Shia’s slap. It was the first time for me who had never been hit even by my parents. I cannot forget the pain running through my cheek. Wish to your heart’s content.”
“… Yue-san, you are lightly holding a grudge, aren’t you? Well, it’s not like I have some special wish or anything. Everything has already been granted already. It’s fine if Hajime-san gives me a handmade present. The matter with Yue-san was something that I did because I wanted to do it.”
If it was in the past, Shia would yell things like “Date!” or “Take my first time!”, but now she didn’t really get high-spirited overly, rather she was smiling happily while leaving the choice to Hajime.
“… What composure… so Shia has already turned into a formidable enemy that rivaled Yue. It was careless of me of all people.”
“E, err, Kaori? For some reason, your face looks like a character of a dramatic story you know?”
“Shizuku-chan, so that we can obtain that composure, I think it’s no good if we are contenting ourselves with our position as a challenger.”
The composed attitude of Shia made Kaori feel impatience. Her appearance with her arms crossed and one hand supporting her chin pondering was like a certain scholar searching for the truth somewhere. Naturally, Shizuku was bewildered by her best friend’s eccentricity.
Looking at such a Shizuku, Kaori opened her eyes wide kah! and declared.
“Yes, we are not the challenger but we should be the attacker!”
“… Kaori. You are getting tired you know? Let’s calm down a little.”
“Shizuku-chan, when the conquer of the great labyrinth is over, let’s attack Hajime-kun when he is asleep with the two of us.”
“Really, just what are you saying!?”
“It’s fine. With the trial this time, I have grasped almost all the function of this body, so I think if it’s with the two of us we will manage it somehow.”
“The thing that has to be done at all cost is about the way Kaori’s head work. I beg you to please come back to your senses…”
“I, it will be the first time for both of us but… let’s have it plundered together okay, Shizuku-chan!”
“… I wonder if I should hit you flying just like what Shia did.”
Toward Kaori who was making clenched fists with both her hands while speaking her resolve with rough breathing “Funsu!” and red cheeks, Shizuku began to seriously considered whether she should slap her with a tired expression. It appeared that her worrying habit still didn’t change even with the various things she had become unbounded from.
“… Stop with the love comedy, we are proceeding forward.”
“Feeling this tired after we linked up, just what’s with that.”
Suzu and Ryuutaro’s voice that sounded even more tired than Shizuku resounded in the passage, but it seemed that it didn’t enter anyone’s ear. This was after they had finished a serious trial of facing themselves, so perhaps it caused them to lose the restraint of their heart in various things.
With that kind of feeling, they advanced forward with light atmosphere even while putting their guard up for ten minutes.
The party finally arrived at the end of the road. On the ice wall of the end of the road, there was a magic circle carved there in the shape of heptagon where its tops were arranged with the crest of each great labyrinths. When Hajime and others approached, it began to shine faintly. And then the whole wall was covered with something like a membrane of light. It was a phenomenon that really resembled the entrance of the great labyrinth.
When Hajime touched it lightly with his fingertips, a ripple spread as though a stone was thrown into water surface. As expected, it seemed that it was a teleport gate.
Hajime turned behind and ran his gaze at all members, then he nodded. Yue and others nodded in response.
And then Hajime and others lept into the light membrane all at once.
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“… It seems this time we aren’t separated, huh.”
“… Nn. Also that.”
“Hmm, it appears that we hath finally arrived.”
“What a pretty sanctuary.”
When the light that dyed their sight cleared up, there was a wide space there.
That beautiful quadrangle space that was supported by several thick ice pillars was made from ice just as expected. It wasn’t ice with high reflection rate that could be mistaken as mirror like all the ice walls until now, but ice wall that was made from pure ice that was really transparent.
And then what attracted their attention the most was the ground. It was overflowing with water that they had never seen at all since they came here. It appeared the temperature of this space wasn’t that low. It seemed that a lot of spring water was flowing in, small fountains were put here and there on the spacious lake surface. Most likely there was also the hole where the water was flowing out.
And then on such a lake surface there was the floating floor in the shape of stepping stone that was made from ice. At the other side, ahead of that floor, there was a huge ice sanctuary. It was just right opposite the side where Hajime and others came out from. The foothold of floating ice was continuing until there on the quadrangle lake surface.
Because the water didn’t freeze, Hajime experimented by taking off his cold protection artifact. The result was as expected, it was a cold space but it only felt cool and not freezing. Just as Tio said, there was no doubt that this place was the deepest part of the [Ice and Snow Cavern]. Even for a ‘liberator’, surely, they would beg off to have a residence with extreme cold.
“… We… conquered it… hic- “
“Suzu-chan… you did it.”
Suzu was overcome by emotion and became teary eyed while looking at the sanctuary. In various meaning, she reached this achievement just barely. She failed, broke, but even so, she gritted her teeth and endured, and finally she reached the goal. It was natural for her to be moved. Kaori was gently putting her hand on Suzu’s shoulder while also crying in sympathy.
That deep emotion was also similarly felt by Ryuutaro. “Heh,” He chuckled while something shining was gathering a little in his eyes.
“… We did it.”
“Yeah. I don’t know how many times I almost died though.”
“That’s because every time you didn’t think of the consequences and just charged.”
“Nooo, haha, well, the result is alright so ain’t that fine.”
When Shizuku slapped lightly at Ryuutaro’s arm, contrary to his words Ryuutaro averted his eyes awkwardly.
With Hajime at the head, they used the ice foothold and advanced to the sanctuary. They managed to cross to the opposite shore without anything especially happened. A magic circle was drawn at a deep pool of the opposite shore. Nothing happened when they stepped on it, so thinking about it based on the position, perhaps it was a magic circle for a shortcut.
The entrance of the sanctuary was a large double door, there a crest that resembled snow crystal was drawn. It was the crest of the liberator ‘Vandol Shune’. There was no sign of something like a seal or anything, when Hajime put his strength and pushed, it opened without resistance.
“Even though the appearance is a sanctuary, the inside is like a house, huh.”
“… Nn. It’s like Oscar’s hideout.”
Ahead of the opened door, there was nothing at all like stained glass or altar like in church. In exchange, there was an entrance of the mansion with a chandelier made from ice hanging above. There was a corridor that continued inside and a stair that went to the second floor from two sides.
Hajime used the compass and searched for the magic circle’s location. According to the compass, it seemed that it was at the inner part of the straight passage on the first floor. Everyone advanced to the inside following Hajime’s lead. On the way, there were several rooms, so they tried to open the door, inside there was just normal furniture put there. The ice wall too when they tried to touch it only felt cool and not cold. Just like Hajime’s cold protection artifact, surely there was some kind of cold protection measure applied to it.
Like that, they advanced while admiring the inside of the mansion, and finally, they found a thick door.
Hajime whispered that and opened the door without hesitation. Inside there was indeed the magic circle that was their aim.
Everyone quickly entered into that magic circle. Just like usual, the inside of their brain was scrutinized and in the head of the people whose labyrinth capture was recognized, the age of the god’s magic was engraved immediately.
The last of that??by acquiring the [Metamorphosis Magic], Shia and others looked at each other’s face with their happiness plain to see, at that time,
“… -, UuUUUUH!!”
Screams filled with anguish resounded. Shia and others were startled and moved their gaze in that direction. Over there were the figures of Hajime and Yue on their knee while holding their head as though they were enduring fierce headache.
“What’s the matter, both of you!!”
Shia and Shizuku raised shocked voices.
“Calm down! Kaori! Don’t be befuddled!”
“Eh? Ah, yes, I’ll examine them immediately!”
Tio’s thunderous roar fell on the members that were all shook up from the sudden happening. The healing expert Kaori was also scolded before she returned to her senses.
And then when she was about to examine in hurry, right after that,
Hajime and Yue that were sweating a lot seemed to be released from the unknown pain, strength left their body and they slumped down, they fainted just like that. Shia and Shizuku immediately supported them. Looking for their state, it appeared that the two of them fainted together.
A burden to the degree that caused the two who had surpassed cheat character and reached bug level to faint… just what in the world happened. Silence returned to the room and a dumbfounded atmosphere was flowing.
“For the time being, we have to rest the two of them…”
The words of Tio (pervert), who became reliable with admirable calmness in this kind of time, made the confused members look at each other’s faces.