Chapter 5 : Reunion at Lakeside Town
In the middle of the vast plain was a highway stretching far to the North. Although it was called a highway, it was actually just ground without weeds since it had been treaded on so many times, thus it naturally became a road. Since there’s no such thing as a suspension in carriages of this world, the carriage crew would surely have sore butts by the time they reached their destination.
Suddenly, a shadow ran through the uneven road at an unbelievable speed. On its black body were two wheels advancing forward on the uneven road, carrying silhouettes of three people.
They are Hajime, Yue, and Shia. They moved on the highway at a speed incomparable to the time when they were at the bottom of the Raisen Grand Canyon. It might be more than 80km/h. Because there was nothing to obstruct his magic, the magic-driven two-wheeler’s original specs could be displayed. Their seating order was just as usual: Yue between Hajime’s arms, and Shia at his back. Shia’s rabbit ears were pata pata, fluttering in the wind.
Warm sunlight poured down because of the good weather, and with Yue using her magic to adjust the wind pressure, it could be said it was good weather for touring. In fact, Yue and Shia were feeling the warm sunlight and comfortable wind with their entire bodies, closing their eyes because it felt pleasant.
“Hau~, it’s niice~, Yue-saa~n. We should exchange places when we retuurn~”
“… … That won’t do. This is my spot.”
“Eh~, don’t say that, let us change our places~, it’s nice in the back~”
Shia demanded to Yue that they exchange their seats with a slackened and stretched tone. With an unpleasant face, Hajime looked at Shia’s relaxed face over his shoulder and answered in Yue’s stead.
“You know, you can’t sit in front, right? Also, you’ll only obstruct me. Especially those rabbit ears. They’ll hit my eyes when the wind blows.”
“Ah~, that’s riight~”
“… … It’s not good, she’s almost asleep.”
Apparently, Shia was half-asleep because of how comfortable it was. She laid her head on Hajime’s shoulder with all of her weight. She was also half-asleep when she was talking to Yue before.
“Well, with this pace we only need one day. I’ll go non-stop, so let’s rest when it’s time to rest.”
Just as Hajime had said, Hajime and his party were going to a town only one day away; the town closest to the northern mountain range area where Will’s party undertook the investigation request. They had advanced as is without taking a break, so they would probably arrive at sunset and start searching after a night’s stay in town. The reason they were in a hurry was, of course, the fact that as more time passed, Will’s party’s odds of survival decreased. But because Hajime was being proactive for another person’s sake, Yue was glancing upward with doubt on her face.
Hajime let out a wry smile when he saw Yue adorably incline her neck in between his arms.
“… … Proactive?”
“Aa, it’s better if he’s alive. If it’s like that, he will truly be grateful. After all, problems from the Kingdom and Church are waiting ahead of us. So, isn’t it better to have more support? I don’t want to take care of them one by one, after all.”
“… … I see.”
In fact, he didn’t know what could possibly be done with Ilwa’s support. If anything, the possibility of him being a type of useless support was bigger. But, if it could be acquired with little work, then the work might not be regrettable.
“I have also heard that our destination, the lakeside town, has plenty of rivers. That’s why the town’s outskirts are the continent’s number one rice-producing area.”
“… … Rice farm?”
“Ou, in other words it’s the rice. Rice. It’s the staple food of my hometown, Japan. I haven’t eaten it even once since I came here. So, although I don’t know if it is the same thing or not, I want to hurry to eat it.”
“… … Nn, I also want to eat it… … The town’s name?”
Hajime looked far into the distance while remembering rice dishes. Looking at the Hajime with a content expression plastered across his face, Yue hadn’t yet actually heard of the town’s name and asked him. “Hah”, Hajime was startled, he even was a little embarrassed when he noticed Yue’s gaze. He then replied with a somewhat loud voice to hide his embarrassment.
“It’s the Lakeside Town called Ul.”
* * *
“Haa, there’s no clue today, too… Shimizu-kun, where on earth did you go…”
With her shoulders dropping dejectedly, the person who was walking through Ul’s main street was one of the summoned ones; the teacher, Hatayama Aiko. Her usual cheerfulness was gone. Currently, she was tortured with anxiety and worry, while a gloomy atmosphere hung around her. Somehow the main street’s color, and even the streetlights were dimmer than usual.
“Aiko, don’t be so disappointed. We still don’t know anything. It’s enough to just think he is safe. What can you do if you don’t even believe.”
“That’s right, Ai-chan-sensei. Shimizu-kun’s room didn’t seem to be attacked. So isn’t the probability of him going out on his own be higher? Please stop thinking of just bad things.”
Because Aiko was low-spirited, the commander of Aiko’s exclusive bodyguards; David, and her student; Yuka, called out to her. In her surroundings were the familiar Knights and students. They were also severely worried about Aiko and tried to talk to her.
One of the classmates, Shimizu Yukitoshi had disappeared for a little over two weeks. Aiko and the others had tried to search for him, leaving no stone unturned. However, his whereabouts were still unknown. There had been no sightings in this town, so they had sent messengers to the other towns and villages in the vicinity, but in the end their efforts were still in vain.
Although, at first they thought he was involved in an accident, Shimizu’s room was clean. Shimizu himself was a “Dark Magician,” a class that possessed high aptitude toward dark magic. He also had high aptitude in other magic systems, that was why he couldn’t be done in by the neighborhood thugs. A lot of them thought he left voluntarily.
Moreover, Shimizu was an obedient indoor type who had low sociability. Even among the classmates he didn’t have an especially close friend. It was also surprising that he wanted to be Ai-chan’s bodyguard. Because of that, other than Aiko, the students were sure of his safety. They were more concerned about Aiko, who became more low-spirited as the days passed. There was no need to say how worried her bodyguard Knights were.
Incidentally, they had reported it to the Kingdom and Church, and it seemed like a search party they had organized was coming. Shimizu was a summoned one with talent in magic, unlike the episode with Hajime in which the top management didn’t even take an optimistic view. The search party would arrive in another two to three days.
Because words of concern came one after another, Aiko mentally hit herself. Whether he was involved in an incident or voluntarily disappeared, didn’t matter, it didn’t change the fact that it worried her. However, she must put it aside for now. Now her duty was to cheer up the other students at her side. That’s why, “I am these children’s teacher!”. Aiko took a deep breath then slapped her cheeks with her hands to recover her spirit.
“Everyone, I am sorry for worrying you. It’s just as you said. Nothing would be solved by brooding over it. Shimizu is an excellent magic-user. He’ll surely be okay. Now, let us believe he is safe. Now, for today’s dinner! Let’s eat our fill and prepare for tomorrow!”
Although they knew she was overdoing it, the students obediently replied to her with a shout “Ye~s”, as they cheered up. The Knights were also pleased with her appearance.
When that sound rang out, the door of the inn Aiko and the others were staying at opened. It was the number one inn in Ul. Its name was “Water Fairy Inn”. A long time ago, a pair of husband and wife fairies stayed in Uldeia Lake, and that was the origin of its name. Uldeia Lake was the lake boasted as the largest in the continent, and located on the outskirts of Ul town. Its size was about four times that of Lake Biwa in Japan.
The first floor of “Water Fairy Inn” was a restaurant. It served dishes that were also Ul’s specialty products. The interior was calming, there were tables and bar counter that gave out a dignified atmosphere. Their ornaments were made with detail in mind, but did not stand out. Moreover, there was a modest chandelier on the ceiling, and flowers were arranged to add onto the calm atmosphere. It made one remembered the words “well-established”, an inn where one could feel its history.
In the beginning, Aiko and her students weren’t able to calm down because the inn was too high-class. It was impossible for Aiko and her student to stay at an ordinary inn because of their reputation, since people began to called them “God’s Apostles” and “Goddess of Good Harvest”. After some persuasion from the Knights, they agreed to stay at this place while they were in Ul.
In fact, they had spent time in one of the luxurious rooms of the Royal Palace, so Aiko and her students had gradually become accustomed to it. Now the inn had became a place where they could truly relax. For Aiko and the others who came back exhausted from farmland improvement and in search of Shimizu, this inn’s dishes were their only daily enjoyment.
All of them were seated in VIP seats in the innermost section of the inn, as they enjoyed today’s dinner.
“Aa, it’s always delicious~ I never thought I’d be able to eat curry in this other world.”
“Well, it looks like stew though… … No, is it white curry?”
“No, there is also the bowl of rice topped with tempura, remember? Even the sauce is superb, right? Won’t Japan lose?”
“That, isn’t it because Tamai-kun only eats the premade ones? It’s not good to compare it with Hokaben’s.”
“Well, I’ll choose the fried rice-like things. So, let’s stop this.”
The student’s tension was raised every night because of the dishes closely resembled those from Earth. Although there were slight differences in appearance and taste, the concept itself closely resembled their counterparts on earth. The abundance of ingredient was one of the reasons that increased the quality of Ul town’s dishes. Other than the rice, there were fishes from Uldeia Lake, in addition to herbs and spices from the mountain range area.
While Aiko and the others ate the delicious dishes happily, a splendidly mustachioed male of around 60 years of age, approached them with a smile.
“Everyone, what do you think of today’s meal? If there is something you want to say, please tell us without any reserve.”
The one who talked to Aiko and the others was the owner of the “Water Fairy Inn”; Foss Selo. He straightened his back, his eyes were gently narrowed, and gray hairs were mixed on his swept-back hair. He was a man who suited the calm atmosphere of the inn.
“No, today is also delicious. It heals us everyday.”
When Aiko replied with smile, Foss gladly said, “Thanks for the compliment”, and smiled. But, in the next moment, his expression was clouded as though he wanted to apologize. It was an expression unbecoming of Foss who always smiled gently. Wondering what had happened, everyone stopped eating and focused on Foss.
“Actually, although it’s regrettable… I can only serve this much for the dishes that uses spices today.”
“Eh!? You mean, we can’t eat Nilshisseer (the version of curry in this other world.)?”
Sonobe Yuka, who favored the curry, was shocked and tried to ask again.
“Yes, I am sorry. Anyway, no matter how many ingredients were used… it would be enough if it were the usual… However, there’s an unrest in the northern mountain range this month, so the number of people going to harvest the ingredients have sharply declined. Even a few days ago, a party of Adventurers who came to investigate the situation had gone missing. Thus, even more people don’t want to go there. It became a situation where this store doesn’t know when the goods will arrive.”
“Umm… What do you mean by unrest?”
“Something like the sightings of groups of demonic beasts… It’s a comparatively safe place as long as you don’t go into the mountains of the northern mountain range. Although there seems to be strong demonic beasts inside the mountain, they never come near on purpose. However, there were sightings of groups of demonic beasts in the mountain where there shouldn’t have been any.”
“That’s truly worrisome…”
Aiko frowned. The others were somewhat depressed and mutually looked at each other. Foss said with an apologetic expression, “It isn’t the right topic to talk while eating, huh?”, then he continued to speak with a bright tone to recover the atmosphere.
“However, that disaster should be solved soon.”
“What do you mean?”
“Actually, today there were new customers who just arrived before the sunset. It seems they are going to the northern mountain range in order to search for the Adventurers who had gone missing. They were appointed by the Branch Head of Fhuren guild, so it looks like they are some serious big-guns. They might be able to determine the cause of this disaster.”
Although Aiko and her students were still seated, the bodyguard Knights commanded by David and currently eating with them let out “Hou”, with a half admiration-filled and half-interested tone. Even among the guild’s staff members, the Head of Fhuren branch was considered first class. For someone to be appointed to accept a request from that Branch Head meant that they were capable of clearing something only powerful people could accomplish. Their curiosity was aroused because they wanted to fight in the same battle as such people. Inside the Knights’ heads, they were listed the famous “Gold” class Adventurers.
Aiko and her students were looking at the unusual chatter of David and the Knights, then they began to hear voices from the stair connected to second floor. They were the voices of a boy and two girls. It seemed like one of the girls was complaining to the boy. It was Foss who reacted to those voices.
“Oya, speak of the devils. It is them, Mr. Knights. If you want to talk to them, please do it now because they are going to leave tomorrow morning.”
“I see, I understand. But, those are fairly young voices. Are there any “Gold” class that young?”
David and the Knights had already memorized the famous “Gold” class in their minds, but because there was no one with such young voices. Some of them looked at each other with perplexed expressions.
While they were in a state of confusion, the trio were approaching while talking.
The seats where Aiko and the others sat were the innermost seats enclosed by walls on three sides. It was a place where they could look anywhere inside the restaurant. For now, it was made into a private room with the use of the curtain. Needless to say, inside was the conspicuous Aiko’s party, was Aiko; the one hailed as the “Goddess of Good Harvest”, which made them even more conspicuous. It was why they often used the curtain whenever they ate their meals. Even today, they closed the curtain so they wouldn’t be seen.
From the other side of the curtain, they could hear the conversation of a boy and two girls.
“Mou, how many times I must say it until you understand. Please stop leaving me alone and create a world with just the two of you in it. It makes me feel really, really lonely. Did you hear me? “Hajime”-san.”
“I heard, I heard you. Just stay in another room if you don’t want to see it.”
“Nmah! Did you hear what he just said, Yue-san? “Hajime”-san just said something coldhearted.”
Within their conversation, the name the girls said instantly rattled Aiko’s heart. What did the girls just say? What was the boy called? This boy’s voice… isn’t it similar to “that boy”?, were the question that immediately floated into Aiko’s mind. She stiffened as though something had tied her down, so she could only stare at the curtain.
The same thing happened to Sonobe Yuka and other students by her side. In their minds, thoughts of a certain boy who had disappeared into the abyss four months ago resurfaced. He was a boy who the classmates strongly believed to have “died in this other world”. A boy they wanted to forget, a boy who stood out for better or for worse.
Because of the abnormal expression on Aiko’s and her students’ faces, Foss and the Knights tried calling out to them with dumbfounded gazes, but no one reacted. The Knights were wondering what on earth had happened as they looked at their faces. Then, Aiko blurted out a name.
Because of the word she unconsciously let out, her body which had stiffened because of the unbelievable situation had regained its freedom. Aiko immediately stood up and her chair fell to the ground. She then pulled the curtain opened, so hard it might tear.
Because of the unexpected loud sound that came from when the curtain was pulled, boy and two girls trio were only able to look with stupefied expressions.
Aiko shouted without confirming who the other person was. It was the name of her important student.
“Ah? ……… Sensei?”
In front of her, with his eye wide open in surprise, was an eyepatched, white-haired boy. He looked completely different from the Nagumo Hajime in her memory. Not only his appearance, his atmosphere was also completely different. Nagumo Hajime Aiko knew was a boy who always daydreaming, gentle, and quiet. Actually, Aiko admitted that a wry smile fit him, but it was her secret. However, the boy in front of her eyes had sharp eyes, clad with an unapproachable atmosphere. He was too different from her memory. If she passed by him inside the town, she was sure she wouldn’t recognized the boy in front of her as Nagumo Hajime.
But if she looked carefully, his voice and face were the same as the one inside her memory. Above all… it was how the boy in front of her called her. That’s right, it was “sensei”. Aiko was convinced. Although his look and atmosphere had greatly changed, the boy in front of her was certainly her own student, “Nagumo Hajime”!
“Nagumo-kun… You’re Nagumo-kun, right? You’re alive… You really are alive…”
“No, you got wrong person. Bye.”
To meet the student who was thought to be dead, was a miracle. Being deeply moved, her tear glands loosened, and Aiko eyes became teary. “Where was he until now? What on earth happened? I am truly glad that you were safe.” Were only some of the many things she wanted to say, but couldn’t. Even so, the reply to her desperate words was a completely unexpected answer.
She unconsciously let out a stupid voice, and Aiko’s tears were also withdrawn. She could only blankly stare at Hajime who had begun to suta suta, walk towards the exit. ‘HAH’, she returned to her senses, and panicky ran after him while gripping onto his wrist.
“Please wait a second? Aren’t you Nagumo-kun? Didn’t you just call sensei sensei? Just how is that the wrong person.”
“No, you heard it wrong. That was… Right, it was a dialect meaning “small”. Un.”
“Even so, that’s extremely rude! Rather, there is no way such dialect exists. Why are you trying to deceive me? That appearance too… Did something happen? What are you doing in this place? Why, why didn’t you immediately come back to everyone? Nagumo-kun! Please answer! Sensei won’t let you deceive her!”
Aiko’s angry voice resounded inside the restaurant. Several people and guests looked at the rumored “Goddess of Good Harvest” as she caught and shouted at a man. “Suwah, is he Goddess’s man!?”, as they misunderstood, their eyes sparkled with curiosity. The students and the bodyguard Knights were also came out from the interior.
The students who had seen Hajime’s appearance had shocked expressions as they couldn’t believe what was in front of them. Half of it was because he was alive, while the other half was because of the drastic change to his appearance and atmosphere. However, they didn’t know what should they do, so they could only blankly looked at Aiko and Hajime.
On the other side, although Hajime looked calm, his mind was attacked by petit panic. In the town he came to, after accepting the request from the guild’s Branch Head he got acquaintanced by chance, he never thought there was a chance he would meet Aiko and his classmates again.
Because it was such a sudden event, he inadvertently muttered “sensei”, he even thought, “That can’t be~”, as he tried to deceived himself. His lifecards after Aiko’s angry barrage of questions were to “run away”, “continue with the mistaken person act”, “became a suspicious foreigner”, and “let’s just kidnap Ai-chan”, were all the cards that came to his mind. He especially didn’t know how the last one came up.
Then, Hajime was saved by his reliable partner. Of course it was not the regrettable rabbit ears character, but the Vampire Princess. Yue, came in between Hajime and Aiko, then she forcibly shook off Aiko’s hand which was gripping Hajime’s arm. On their side, the bodyguard Knights were letting out slight bloodthirst.
“… Let go, Hajime is troubled.”
“Wh-What are you? Currently, sensei have an important talk with Nagumo-kun…”
“… Then, calm down a little.”
Because the beatiful girl stared at her with cool eyes, Aiko slightly flinched. There wasn’t much of a height difference between the two. Normally, it would be labeled as a fight between kids. However, Aiko was actually younger by age, and Yue wore a bewitching atmosphere despite her appearance. No matter who saw it, they looked like an adult (Yue) and an angry child (Aiko). Aiko was wary of Yue, so she quietly back away from Hajime with blushing cheeks because of her own words and the way she got mad at him. As she straightened her back to show her dignity as an adult, although it was too late, Aiko was… just like a child doing a stretch.
“I am sorry, I was distracted. Let’s return from the beginning, you are Nagumo-kun, right?”
This time, Aiko said it quietly, but her voice was filled with conviction as she tried to ask Hajime, and matched her glance with him. Having seen such Aiko, Hajime was convinced no matter how he tried to deceive her, she wouldn’t change her conviction and she would chase after him no matter where he go. Thus, scratched his head and replied with a profound sigh.
“Ah. Long time no see, sensei.”
“As expected, you’re Nagumo-kun after all… You’re alive…”
Aiko’s eyes became teary again, but Hajime didn’t think anything about it as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Something like that. After a lot happened, I’m somehow still alive.”
“I am glad. I truly am glad.”
After he took a glance at Aiko who was unable to say more than those words, Hajime went to the nearest table and sat down. Having seen him, Yue and Shia also sat. Shia was somewhat perplexed. Aiko and the others were astonished by Hajime’s sudden action. Hajime had regained his composure and he ignored the surroundings, only to beckon towards Foss who had watched how the situation progressed while he stood behind the students.
“Umm, Hajime-san. Is that okay? Aren’t you acquaintances? Although it was just my guess… the other world’s…”
“That thing doesn’t matter at all. I was just surprised when they suddenly appeared, well, that’s all. We are originally came for dinner, so let’s order now. I have been truly expecting this. Don’t you know? This curry… Ah, you didn’t know it. The spicy dish was called Nilshisseer. I am happy just by imagining the taste…”
“… Then, I’ll order that, too. I want to know what taste Hajime like.”
“Ah, to casually appealed him… just a expected of Yue-san. Then, me too. Clerk-saa~n, we want to order~”
In the beginning, Shia was timidly sneaking glances at Aiko and the others, but changed her mind after Hajime said those words. Then Foss came by to take their order with a troubled smile.
However, naturally, there was no time for them to wait. Aiko, who was dumbfounded again by how Hajime seated himself at a nearby table and began to order, returned her to her senses and she approached Hajime’s table. She said, “Sensei is angry!”, with a truly angered expression as she pishi, hit the table.
“Nagumo-kun, our talk isn’t over. Just how can you start to order as if it were the most natural thing in the world. In the first place, just who are these girls?”
What Aiko had said represented the feelings of everyone around them. The Knights who guessed Hajime was Aiko’s student, who they heard had died four months ago, the students who waited behind Aiko, and everyone else were, “Un un.”, nodding and they waited for Hajime’s answer.
Hajime frowned because of it would be an annoyance. Because he thought he couldn’t have a calm meal thanks to Aiko, who would keep waiting until he answers her questions even as they ate, he reluctantly turned his glance toward Aiko.
“I have come here in just a single day, without stopping, because of a request. That’s why I am hungry, so just let me eat my meal. Also, these are…”
Hajime turned his glance towards Yue and Shia. And these two, before Hajime could say it, began an impactful introduction towards Aiko and the others.
“I am Shia.”
“” I am Hajime(-san)’s woman.””
Aiko somewhat stammered said, “Eh? Eh?”, as she alternately looked between Hajime and the two beautiful girls. It seemed she couldn’t processed the information. The students behind her were also perplexed. Well, the male students’ expressions said, “That can’t be!”, as they restlessly looked between Yue and Shia. Gradually, their face reddened as they were charmed by their beauty.
“Oi, setting Yue aside. Shia, aren’t you different?”
“That! Hajime-san so cruel. Even though you stole my first kiss!”
“No, just how long you want to drag that thing. That was lif—”Nagumo-kun?”…What is it, sensei?”
Because of the remark that he “stole Shia’s first kiss”, it seemed her thought process had finally caught up. Then, Aiko’s voice dropped an octave. Inside Aiko’s head, it seemed she imagined the scene where Hajime was laughing loudly while being attended by the two beauties in each arm. Her expression said everything.
Blushing, Aiko interrupted Hajime’s words. Her face was filled with determination to return her misconducting student into the right path. Following that, a large thunder called “Sensei’s anger” fell into Ul town’s number one and first class inn.
“To steal a woman’s first kiss, and even t-two-timing! So, you didn’t immediately return because you wanted to play around! If so… that’s unforgivable! Ee, sense will absolutely not forgive it! It’s time for scolding! Just wait there, Nagumo-kun!”
Hajime looked at Aiko with a skeptical gaze, who yelled “kyan kyan,” as he let out a deep, deep sigh thinking it was going to be troublesome.