[Vol. 2] Chapter 28 – Red Crystal

“……It was beyond my expectations that I’d return so quickly after departing.”
Seeing this familiar cityscape which I left behind just a few days ago, I muttered in a somewhat bitter voice. Thinking that I received a new life as an elf in this world only to be about to set foot in a town I didn’t plan to return to anytime soon I could only laugh in self-derision.
 However, interestingly I felt nostalgic though it’s only been a few days and life in Natosha felt more concentrated.

“But……I like, the town”

 Well, Cheryl seems to be happy and the me now, other than in my previous life full of ties, I don’t hate the crowds anymore, so it’s been a good decision to revisit Alfareia.

“No, I’m sorry for having bothered you with this. But……It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? There are many people here as usual.”

 However, there’s one thing that’s different from when I left this town a few days ago.
 It’s the existence of Sonia. The martial artist who uses wind magic and crossed fists with me in Natosha.
 As she didn’t want to expose her beautiful, real face to the public eye she was wearing her bird mask today.
 Giving her a side glance I noticed that this mask was slightly different from the one I smashed in our bout, it seems like she had some kind of fixation and possessed multiple similar masks.

“So, didn’t you say we were heading to the research institute?”

 I thought we shouldn’t loiter around the town entrance forever so I urged us to move indirectly.
 I’m not really in a hurry, but, whether that is a reaction to my previous life’s last years, I have a hard time keeping still.

“That’s right, let’s not talk while standing so how about we find place to sit down? How about a coffee shop?”

 Sonia, having noticed my state, suggested a detour and pointed to a coffee shop.
……Fumu, there’s also some truth to what Sonia said.
 In other words, we aren’t really in a hurry and my throat feels dry…… companions and a drink. At such a meaningful time this is more than welcome.

“Coffee shop? Is there……Tea……?”

 Cheryl also showed interest in Sonia’s words again.
 That reminds me, Chester had a hobby of making tea.
 Perhaps she did it because of Cheryl as well, whose eyes were sparkling although her face looked the same as usual.

“If it’s a coffee shop they should have it. Cheryl likes tea, right?”
“I love it. Next to Slava-kun, Grandpa and fighting”

 As one could see, Cheryl still seems to like tea. That old man’s grandchild liking his hobby, he’d die of happiness.
 ……However, I can’t let him hear this because that guy would misunderstand it.
 The moment that sentence reaches his ears he’d attack me while shedding bitter tears of blood.

“Aah, I see……But let’s not say that in front of Chester, okay?
If he asks you just say you love it.”
“……? Got it……”

 I’m not sure……. if that’s fine, but it’s not a bad idea to set up some precautions for the time being.
 If that guy hears that directly from her mouth he might say something like: I’ll kill you and after that, I will die as well.

“Okay, how about that coffee shop over there? I thought it was quite delicious, the last time I came here.”

 While I was praying for Cheryl to not tell Chester that sentence in that order Sonia pointed towards a coffee shop with an open terrace.
 It was a good shop with a classy atmosphere. Just by looking at its outer appearance one could expect something great.
As no one really objected we headed to the shop and sat down after being guided by a waiter.
 Both the customer service and atmosphere were really good. When I was in the human country, I didn’t really see any coffee shops. This is also a fresh and good experience.

“Eehm……Three cups of tea, please”

 When I told him my order, not breaking his smile even after seeing Sonia’s strange appearance, the waiter disappeared into the depths of the shop with light steps.
 ……How professional. It takes some guts to look at someone with such a strange appearance without batting an eye.

“……Well then, where do we go?”

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 Sonia, who saw off the waiter, let her voice resound in our minds through her mask.
When I nodded instead of replying Sonia removed her mask and put up a finger.
 While thinking that she removed the mask, after all, I concentrated my consciousness on Sonia’s words.

“I said it before, but it’s a research institute. There are a great many research institutes here in this elven country. It’s one of them”

 Sonia’s long beautiful fingers which lay to her side intertwined with her other hand.
 Sonia’s eyes above her crossed fingers were narrowed and looked like she was in deep thoughts.

“Though that place mainly studies the mountain creatures, but I kind of got acquainted with someone because I helped with her work. I intended to rely on her.
 Though her speciality is mountain creatures, but she’s a very knowledgeable child brimming with curiosity and I think she’ll be a big help this time.”

 I see, was that nostalgia in those eyes as well?
 Sonia’s state, who happily recalled an old friend, made me recall Chester suddenly. While sweeping that fearless smile out of my mind I wait for Sonia’s words to continue.
 ……Certainly, that man is suitable to be called my best friend, but why is it so frustrating to admit that.
“Besides, Slava-kun might be interested in her because she’s an interesting person.”
“Hoh? Can that person…… do it?”

 I directed a fearless smile towards Sonia who was throwing a mischievous smile back at me.
 However Sonia looked somewhere and laughed after all.

“No, I think she probably wouldn’t be too far behind Cheryl in close combat, I think”

 Apparently, my expectations seemed to be off.
 I felt a little disappointed but Sonia continued happily.

“But, that child is my master in magic–that might be a bit too exaggerated. As a teacher she’s quite capable.”
“She taught Sonia magic, huh? I see, she surely has caught my interest”

 However, Sonia piqued my interest in a different way. There’s also Sonia’s personal talent, but in front of the creator of such powerful magic something like that would be useless, I certainly can’t suppress my curiosity.

“Well, that child’s character is quiet considerably as well
though.……Ah, Miss, over here”
The clerk carrying three cups of black tea on a tray seemed perplexed seeing Sonia without her hood and mask calling her over with her hand raised.
 Yeah, it certainly is unexpected that such a beautiful girl hides behind that bird mask.
 My apologies, I received the tea while sympathizing with the clerk.
 After Sonia expressed a smile to calm down the woman, then when she asked about Cheryl, it seemed like she just placed the cup on her lips.

 Following that, I took a few breaths of the tea as well, letting the fragrant amber enter my mouth.
 ……Fumu, it’s a nice fragrance. The slight astringency is pleasant.

“……Grandpa’s tea is more delicious”
“Hey, that’s not something one should say. ……Well, I agree though”

As I said this in a low voice it seems like Cheryl’s and my opinion regarding tea was the same, as I thought.
 Initially, I thought there was something missing, but as I rarely got to enjoy this kind of luxury good, originally, I only had one object to compare it to.
 This tea is very delicious as well, however — I feel like it’s somehow not sufficient after all.
 ……This irritation might be caused by a weird kind of sense of defeat to that guy.
 Should I also look for a hobby like that? While thinking there is no benefit to that I let some tea flow into my mouth. It certainly is delicious but it’s still lacking something.

 We, who left the coffee shop, slowly moved towards the research institute Sonia told us about.
 Unlike Alfareia’s townscape I usually saw, it turned into a dreary place with lesser shops but there seem to be a lot of research facilities scattered over the area.

“Eeehm, it certainly was around here…. Ah, found it, there it is.”

 Sonia who was carefully observing the area while walking took off her bird mask.
 It seems logical to find a building one hasn’t visited for a long time with their eyes, though she might just have done it because of the lack of traffic.
 Still, it’s not like there weren’t any people other than us and every person we met turned back to look at Sonia, without exception. As expected, it goes without saying but it certainly seems inconvenient to live without the mask.

 Aside from that. The “research institute” in front of which Sonia stopped was larger than any of the ones standing around here.
 I looked around the area to check but only this building felt out of place, there’s no building it could be confused with.
“It seems to be a research institute directly under the country’s control. Though it seems like it’s mostly used to store books and documents — Hm, are you there, Monica-chan?”

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 Sonia unreservedly rang the bell installed at the research institute’s entrance gate while murmuring — probably that acquaintance’s name.
 The name Great National Research Institute is a name to be daunted by, however for her to be able to call someone inside of that place without an appointment…… This girl might unexpectedly be a big shot.
 They probably added resonance magic to the bell. Despite the bell only emitting a small sound which didn’t even seem to reach the institute the door behind the gate opened after we waited for a little while and a girl appeared.

 Looking about 15 or 16 and having black hair, which was rare for an elf, she was an impressive girl.
 While shaking her long, jet-black hair, the girl, who wrapped her petite body in a light looking, long-sleeved garment, stepped forward.

“Do you need something? There weren’t any visitors scheduled for today.
 ……Also, who are you people? Do you have anything with which you can prove your identity?”

 When the girl stopped in front of the closed iron fence gate she observed us doubtfully.
 Though I said doubtfully — but her expression didn’t really change. The reason I mentioned it was because it got barely transmitted from her voice.
 However, asking for our identity and needing an appointed to visit, this seems to be a different person from Sonia’s acquaintance.
 Given her young appearance, could she be an assistant of this research institute?
 Did she come in “Monica’s” stead? While I was silently doubting, Sonia raised a light voice sounding like a musical instrument.

“Come on, Monica-chan, it’s me, Sonia. Don’t tell me you forgot about me?”

 Somehow, this girl in front of her seemed to be “Monica” looking delighted about their reunion.
 Maybe that acquaintance was just a one-sided thing. Just one word of that black haired girl… was able to destroy these doubts I was harbouring.

“……Sonia? You were an elf. I thought you were a new variation of sub-humans for sure. That mask was one reason”
“Eeh~? How mean, but I guess this is the first time I showed you my real face, isn’t it?”

 Aah, I see. That certainly is a slightly strange girl is what I thought.
 However, the same thing can be said about Sonia — us, as well.
 An elven boy with the mind of an old man.
 A half elven, half Majin girl who occasionally had some destructive impulses.
 An elven girl who always wears a bird mask.
 And, a researcher who was convinced that the bird mask wearing girl was such a creature.

 ……Well, she seemed to hold a great sense of pride.
 How many times did I gulp down a sigh about to flow out?
 Suddenly, I felt exhausted and dropped my shoulders.

“……So, those people are?”

 The girl called Monica, who probably noticed some figures behind Sonia, asked about our identity.
 Her suspicions about Sonia seemed to have been cleared, but this is unmistakably the first time she met us.
 It can’t be helped that one would be cautious to some extent.

“Hm, aah, shall I introduce you? This is Slava-kun, who is a martial artist in training, and his friend Cheryl-chan.
 I had a match with Slava-kun and I lost.”
“Heh, you beat Sonia? Though you look rather young, that is a considerable thing, isn’t it?”

 As Sonia introduced us I together with Cheryl lowered my head.
 Contrary to her voice, her expression didn’t change much more than Cheryl’s.
 She had a good looking face, but it seemed like a mask.

 Somehow, I got the impression that it’s the opposite of Sonia.
 A girl who doesn’t show her emotions on her face and Sonia who is rich in emotions while hiding her face.
This adds to my curiosity on how those two got to know each other.
“……Well, it’s fine. There’s no reason to reject you if you got introduced by Sonia.
 Anyway, you brought something troublesome again, didn’t you? I’ll ask for more details inside.”

 When the girl called Monica moved her finger the gate opened automatically.
 Perhaps the gate itself is enchanted. When we passed through the gate it closed again without anyone operating it.

 Following that swaying black hair, I stepped into the research institute and let my gaze move from left to right observing the long corridor while maintaining the minimum amount of composure.
 This certainly seemed to have cost some money to make. The great number of doors indicated that there was the same amount of rooms.
 Still, it placed emphasis on functionality and its calm and modest appearance left a favourable impression.

 ……However, it was somewhat different from what I thought.
 As it’s a national research institute I imagined a place where a large number of researchers wrapped in enchanted clothes busily moved about.
 I didn’t detect any signs of life in here. It can’t be that everyone is out — or that’s what I think, but if it isn’t that what’s with this?
 Monica, not knowing whether she noticed my inhibitions, continued walking without breaking her constant rhythm.

“We’re there. I’ll listen to your story in this room. Sit where ever you want.”

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 After walking for a while, Monica stopped in front of an impressive door, opened it and invited us inside.
 ……Looking at it, it resembled a dining room in Chester’s residence — or rather, this is a dining room, well, anywhere is fine.
 Sonia entered first and immediately sat down on a chair, following that Cheryl and I sat down close to her.

 Monica pulled her chair to face us.

“Honestly, I would have wanted to serve you some appetisers in the parlour, but, you see, that place is rather cramped.
 Well then, let’s start with self-introductions. My name is Monica Renfield.
The only researcher of the National Institute of Biological Research.”

 After declaring this without faltering with her spine stretched, holding a dignified form, Monica let out a small sigh.
 ……What, looks like my senses weren’t mistaken back then after all, huh?
 When I didn’t detect any signs of life I thought my senses had grown dull, but those were just unfounded fears as it seemed, which made me feel relieved.

 However, there’s only one researcher at the national research institute?
 That’s what I’m rather interested about.

“This girl, though she is like this, she’s very able. For the sake of supporting this child the country established this research institute in name only…… Well, it is a research facility on the paper though.
 Though it’s a biological laboratory, her main job is the development of magic tools. Ah, biological research seems to be that girl’s hobby.”
“Scandalous. I more or less do work fitting the name”

 I almost racked my brain over this, but thanks to Sonia’s explanation she saved me the effort.
 Fumu, the country made up that name to support the girl. This certainly is pretty exaggerated.

“I’d like to introduce myself once again, as well. I’m Sonia Alven. Natosha’s Sky Gazer”
“I know you already…… is what I want to say, but this is the first time I saw your real face. Unexpectedly, I was slightly surprised.”

 Despite saying she was surprised there wasn’t any change in her expression or intonation.
 Actually, when I saw Sonia’s face for the first time I was pretty surprised.
 Well, I didn’t even know that there’d be a woman of the same calibre nearby.

 As I was distantly observing those two who came close to the image of the word friendship, unexpectedly, Sonia’s and Monica’s eyes locked on me at that time.
 I guess, they want to tell me it’s my turn next.
Well then, how should I do this? The girl named Monica should be older than me as an elf. It might be better to keep a minimum amount of courtesy.

“I am called Slava Marshal. I met Sonia in the middle of my martial arts training, we got along well and are now acting together”
“That sounds rough.
 Yes, nice to meet you……what’s the matter, Sonia?”

 Apparently, my polite speech hit her weak spot, as Sonia tried to stifle her laughter which nearly managed to gush out.
 ……It’s nothing to laugh about. Well, I myself feel a sense of incongruity, however — I don’t think it is funny to be polite to a person you meet for the first time.

“Kuku……No, it’s kind of refreshing”
“You’re weird Sonia. Well then, that one’s –”

 However, Monica didn’t ask anymore, probably because she was used to the person called Sonia.
 Anyway…… that said, Monica fixed her eyes on Cheryl.
 Cheryl, who stared back at her with round eyes that still had some childishness left in them, gave a small nod.

“Cheryl Prime. Half Majin and half elf.”
“Cheryl-chan, is it? Nice to meet you”

 As they both weren’t people of many words they ended the conversation with a bow without prolonging the conversation.
 Well then, this is the end of our greetings.
 Can we finally get to the main point? I gave Sonia a signal with my eyes.

“Uhm, shall we get to the main point then?”
“Yes, please do”

 Sonia who nodded in my direction took out the crystal in question out of a pocket attached to her clothes.
 Just then, Monica’s look changed.
 That look seems like she did know something, as we thought.
Monica watches the crystal which was taken out and gives Sonia quiet instructions through hand movements.
 Give me the crystal. Sonia, who understood her silent demand, moved the crystal from her fine fingers.

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 Letting light shine through the crystal she received, it remained cloudy as expected.
 The crystal let some light from the chandeliers attached to the ceiling shine through it dying Monica’s silver eyes red.
 The dark red light which dyed Monica’s eyes seems to drip out of the crystal like blood.

“……As I thought, this is”

 Monica’s sharp eyes kept narrowing.
 Her first change in expression as far as I saw. The situation might be more serious than I thought. That’s the feeling I got from these eyes.

 Monica straightened her expression before long and fixed her eyes on us.
 The crystal which was exposed to light was handed over to us so that we could look at it.

“That’s the first time I saw such a big crystal.
 This doesn’t have a fixed name yet, but we researchers, out of convenience, call it”

 She paused to breathe in a little.
 Instead of exhaling, Monica told us … that things name.

“”Dark coloured crystal” –”

 The calm voice of the orderly girl sounded through the dining hall illuminated by inorganic lights.
 Wondrously, my — no, our eyes got stolen by that crystal. We were able to very naturally accept that name for some reason.


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