Chapter 6 : Aiko’s Worries
Because of Aiko’s roar, Hajime and his party were guided to a VIP seat, away from the eyes of the other guests. Then, Aiko, Sonobe Yuka, and other students bombarded him with questions. However, Hajime was focused on the Nilshisseer (other world’s version of curry) in front of his eyes. He answered them in a daze.
Q : You fell from that bridge, what happened afterwards?
A : I did my best.
Q : Why did your hair turn white?
A : The result of me doing my best.
Q : What happened to your eye?
A : The result of me doing my ultra best.
Q : Why didn’t you immediately return?
A : No reason to do so.
After hearing that much, Aiko yelled angrily with her cheeks puffed, “Please answer us seriously!” Indeed, her being unable to show any intensity in that action was a sad thing. As usual, Hajime looked like a willow when the wind blew. Without matching her gaze, he deliciously enjoyed the Nilshiseer, while sometimes listening to Yue and Shia’s quarrel. His face was full of satisfaction.
Angered by his appearance, was the commander of Aiko’s bodyguards, David. He couldn’t endure the woman he fell for being ignored. That’s why he threw his fist onto the table and a loud sound rang out.
“Oi, you! You’re being asked by Aiko! Answer her seriously!”
Hajime took a glance at David, then “Haa”, let out a sigh.
“Aren’t we eating now? Behave yourself.”
His protest was completely ignored. However, David has great pride because, as a Temple Knight, he was entrusted as the commander of an important person’s bodyguard, so he couldn’t endure it and his face turned red. Following that, because Hajime wouldn’t give him a clear answer, he changed his target as he turned to look at Shia.
“Hmm, did you say behave? That word, I return it back at you. To have a dirty animal share the same table as humans, you are the one who has no manners. Won’t you at least chop off those ugly ears? She will look more human like that.”
Shia’s body trembled as she was stared at with eyes full of disdain. In Brook town, from her impression of the inn, having been close to Catherine, added to Hajime’s existence, it was full of amiable people. Although there were lots of discriminating eyes in Fhuren, and even though they recognized her as a slave, no one made fun of her by directly saying that.
In other words, since the beginning of her journey with Hajime, this was the first time she had directly received discriminating words as a demi-human. Although she wanted to think nothing of it, she was slightly surprised by the attack, even after she had got accustomed to the outside world, she could still feel the damage. Shun, Shia looked down depressedly.
If she looked carefully, she could see that it wasn’t limited to just David. Chase and the other Knights also looked at Shia with the same eyes. No matter how intimate they were with Aiko and her students, they were Temple and Imperial Knights. They were men from the Church of Saints and the Kingdom, so their discrimination towards the demi-human race was strong. After all, the source of discrimination were the Church of Saints and the Kingdom. Even though David and the Knights were influenced by Aiko and could think for themselves, they wouldn’t have changed after only a few months because this sense of value was not so shallow-rooted.
Because it was something unreasonable, Aiko instinctively tried to protest. But before that, Yue who grasped the downcast Shia’s hand, directed a glare as cold as absolute zero at David. A cold gaze that seemed to be able to freeze one’s body came from the highest class, bisque doll-like beautiful girl. David flinched for a moment, but became enraged when he saw that the pressure was coming from a girl with the appearance of a child. Usually, he wouldn’t easily lose his temper, but the words he’d just spoke, and looking at his dear Aiko, he had lost it.
“What, what’s with those eyes? That’s rude! Even though you aren’t a God’s apostle, you are trying to oppose a Temple Knight!”
David spontaneously stood up. Although the vice-commander Chase tried to stop him, faster than that, Yue’s words clearly rang out in that uproar.
“…A small man.”
Those were words of ridicule. Words that ridiculed how small his vessel was, to shout just because of a difference in race, and lose his temper when glared at by a girl. David was already lost in anger. As a man, being called small in front of Aiko drove him over the edge.
“… You pagan. I’ll send you to hell along with that animal.”
As he quietly muttered that without any expression, David reached for the sword by his side. Because the carnage appeared all too sudden, the students were flustered, while Aiko, Chase, and the Knights were all trying to stop him. However, as though he didn’t hear the surrounding voices, David finally slightly pulled the sword from its sheath.
At the same time,
A dry, explosive sound echoed inside “Water Fairy Inn”. At the same time, David, who was about to pounce at any time, was hit in the head and got blown away. As it were, the back of David’s head hit the wall behind him, hard, and a terrific sound resounded. His eyes turned white as he collapsed. The sword was released from David’s hand and gashan!, it fell to the floor.
No one was able to comprehend what had happened just now, and were all stunned. Their gazes turned to David who collapsed with the whites of his eyes showing. Then someone was curious as to what had happened to emit such a large and explosive sound, it was Foss, who pulled the curtain. Following that, he became wide-eyed as he was stunned by the disastrous scene in front of him.
On the other side, Aiko and the others were finally able to regain their senses when Foss entered. Their gazes which were then directed toward David, were naturally drawn to the source of the explosive sound.
In that place was something Aiko and her students had knowledge of, but had never actually seen. It was something from the other world, something completely unknown to the Knights. There was the figure of Hajime holding a “gun” while seated. White smoke came out of Donner. At least the bullet he shot was a non-lethal rubber bullet.
Although they didn’t know the details, the Knights had guessed it was Hajime’s attack, so they simultaneously put their hands on their swords while letting out killing intent. However, what immediately followed, was by a violent killing intent incomparable to the Knights’. It was as though they were attacked by a hammer that fell from heaven, as the Knights who began to stand were forced to sit back down into their seats.
Although they weren’t submerged in the killing intent, having felt the pressure Hajime emitted, Aiko and the others turned pale as they trembled.
Hajime put Donner on the table and gotoh, it made an unnatural noise. Its purpose was to threaten them. Following that, he clearly declared his standing and asked where Aiko and the others would choose to stand.
“I have no interest in you lot. I have never thought of wanting a relationship with you guys. Moreover, I won’t say anything about what had happened to me or what I want to do. I am only here for work, so I’ll resume my journey once it’s over. That’s where we say good bye. Also, let’s not intervene with each other. No matter what kind of selfish things you want to do, just don’t obstruct me. Just like now, if you become hostile… I’ll likely kill you.”
Understand? Was what Hajime’s eyes asked, but no one said anything. Immediately, he turned his gaze towards Chase and the Knights, who desperately endured the Pressure, and all they could do was slightly nod.
Next, Hajime turned his gaze towards Aiko and her students. Aiko didn’t say anything. No, more like she couldn’t. It was not only because of the pressuring feelings that gushed out, but also because of Hajime’s words, and how her student change without her knowing. Those were not something Aiko’s pride could allow.
Hajime sighed as he shrugged his shoulders and canceled the “Pressure.” Although there was no answer from Aiko, Hajime could somehow sympathize with her feelings, so he didn’t force her for an answer. The other students were obviously frightened, so he guessed they wouldn’t dare challenge him.
With the tremendous feeling of oppression vanished, the Knights collapsed and let out deep sighs. Aiko and her students were also exhausted and sat deeply on the chairs. As though nothing had happened, Hajime resumed his meal, and talked to the depressed Shia.
“Oi, Shia. That’s something normal “outside.” There is no need to take it seriously, okay?”
“Yes, that’s right… Although I understand that,… as expected, for humans, these ears are disgusting.”
With self-derision, Shia patted her ears with her hands and let out a bitter smile. To such a Shia, Yue whispered words to comfort her with honest eyes.
“…Shia’s ears are lovely.”
“Yue-san… Is that so?”
Even so, Shia was still unconvinced about it, so this time Hajime followed up with a somewhat amazed expression. Because Yue often said “Bad!” to him, Hajime’s attitude towards Shia had softened little by little, and he tried to comfort her with the utmost of his ability.
“You know, their education was practically brainwashing from the Church and nobles of the Kingdom, so it’s just their feelings of aversion. Don’t you know that the Rabbitman tribe are the number one most popular pet slaves? In other words, no one thinks of you as disgusting in general.”
“Th—… that’s so… …U-umm, by the way Hajime-san,… Umm… what do you think… about my ears?”
Having guessed that those words were Hajime’s own way of comforting her, Shia felt slightly happy. Then she asked him with an upward gaze with blushing cheeks. As if saying, “I want to know, but at the same time don’t want to,” her rabbit ears completely drooped, and sometimes they twitched towards Hajime.
“… I don’t think anything about them…”
Stealing a glance at the rabbit ears, Hajime returned his gaze towards his meal as he tried to deceive her, and replied snappishly. The rabbit ears drooped even more as though they regretted asking. However, with the next line from Yue, they immediately regained their energy as they stood up;hyupa!.
“… They are Hajime’s favorite. He cuddles them when Shia’s sleeping.”
“Yue!? Didn’t you promise not to tell her that!?”
“Ha-Hajime-san… you like my rabbit ears… Ehehe.”
With her cheeks dyed red, Shia tried to suppress her grin with both hands, and as if saying “Wa~i!”, her rabbit ears above were moving, expressing her delight.
The awkward and strained atmosphere of massacre that floated in the air until now had dissipated as if it were an illusion. The atmosphere had mysteriously turned pink-colored, so Aiko and her students, even the Knights were blinking in amazement. For a while, they watched Hajime’s love-comedy interaction, then one of the male students; Aikawa Noboru muttered.
“Huh? How strange. Although until just now Nagumo was truly scary, now it isn’t killing intent that’s gushing out…”
“You too, huh. Rather, those two, although they are dangerously cute,… although they’re totally in my strike-zone,… but, to flirt in front of my eyes is torture for me…”
“… It’s just as Nagumo said, those things don’t matter at all. But, having the skill to get along with girls from another world… I want to ask him how!… Noboru! Akira!”
“”Heh, we are going to hell together, Atsushi!””
With their eyes boiling with envy, they stared at the Hajime who made them shudder until just now; it was the unison of three males from Ai-chan’s bodyguards. The serious atmosphere was completely blown away. The female students began to regain their original demeanor, and they looked at the male students with terribly cold eyes.
Chase, having realized the atmosphere had calmed down, started to heal David. At the same time, with his caution and hostility were subdued, he asked Hajime with a smile. Apart from Hajime’s circumstances, there was something he had to hear by all means.
“Is it okay to call you Nagumo-kun? About before, my commander had been rude. No matter what, we are Aiko-san’s bodyguards after all, so we become oversensitive if it concerns Aiko-san. Somehow, I would like for you to forgive us.”
Although Hajime wanted to interrupt him and say, “How can oversensitivity turn into murder?”, but the word ‘murder’ itself made him unable to say anything. That’s why he just silently waved his hand to tell him to stop that. Because of this perfunctory attitude, Chase’s eyebrows slightly twitched, but his poker face-like smile didn’t crumble. Following that, with quick thinking, because he couldn’t just leave it at that, he cut to the case about Hajime’s artifact-like thing in front of him.
“I assume… that’s an artifact. Although I can’t be sure with my limited knowledge, I can see that it’s quite a powerful one. It’s much faster than a bow, it also didn’t need chanting or a magic circle. Just where on Earth did you get it?”
Although he was smiling, Chase’s eyes weren’t. Judging from his words, since there wasn’t the presence of magic being used, he thought it had a bow-like pure physical mechanism and could be mass-produced. If so, it’d be a great help for the sake of dominating against enemies before war breaks out. However the Knights weren’t a match for Hajime, so he at least wanted to get information out of him.
Hajime stole a glance at Chase. Following that, before he could say anything, he was interrupted by an excited voice. It was a male classmate; Tamai Atsushi.
“Th-That’s right, Nagumo. Isn’t that a gun!? Just, how did you get ahold of that!?”
Chase reacted to Tamai’s shout.
“Gun? Tamai, do you know anything about that?”
“Eh? Ah, that’s right, I know of it. It’s a weapon from our world.”
Chase’s eyes shone because of Tamai’s words. But afterwards, he stared at Hajime.
“Hou, in other words, it isn’t an artifact from this world… If that’s so, it must be made by someone from a different world… and of course the maker is…”
“It is me.”
Hajime easily answered that he made it. Chase, because he held the impression of Hajime as a secretive person, was surprised by how easily he admitted it.
“You admit it so easily. Nagumo-kun, do you know what it means to hold that weapon? That…”
“It could completely change the situation of the war in this world,… right? That’s if you can mass-produce it. Mostly, you want me to return with you and teach you how to make it, or something like that? Naturally, I reject it all. Just give up.”
Hajime’s words had left him completely helpless. Those words seemed to be prepared beforehand. But, Chase didn’t give up. That’s how attractive the gun was.
“But, the Soldiers with low levels can have high offense if it could be mass produced. When that happens, we can make use of a lot of people in the upcoming war, and our chances of victory will also greatly increase. If you cooperate, doesn’t it mean you also help your teacher and friends? If so…”
“No matter what you want to say, I won’t cooperate. If you try to take it, then it means you’re my enemy. At that time… be prepared to be annihilated even before the war breaks out.”
Hajime’s quiet words sent a chill toward Chase’s whole body and he shut his mouth. Then, Aiko managed to intervene there.
“Chase-san. Nagumo-kun has his own intentions. Please don’t force my student. Nagumo-kun too, please stop saying such extreme things. Be more peaceful… Nagumo-kun, are you seriously not coming back?”
“Ah, I don’t want to return with you. Tomorrow morning, after I complete the request, I’ll leave as is.”
Aiko looked at Hajime with a pained expression, she wanted to know his reason, but Hajime rose from his seat before she could ask. Unbeknownst to them, Yue and Shia had also finished their meals. Although Aiko tried to stop him, Hajime ignored her and climbed the stairs to the second floor, accompanied by Yue and Shia.
At the time Aiko and the others were left behind, a subtle and indescribable atmosphere was in the air. They were glad the classmate they thought was dead was actually alive. But, for the person himself, they seemed to have not even registered in his eyes. Moreover, he had become strong to the point, that it was impossible to compare him to his past self. He was not the same as the one who was once called “incompetent” in contempt as they looked at him from above.
Moreover, about the contempt, they had pretended not to notice Hiyama and his friends bullying him. Followed by that “friendly fire” incident, they could only feel more indebted because of Hajime’s ambiguous attitude. As a result, no one could proactively reach out to Hajime.
Aiko herself was greatly shaken by her student’s change and angered by the current development in her mind, so she was unable to stop Hajime.
Chase, while he looked at the currently recovering David at the side, seemed to think of something.
With their meals completely cooled, their appetites also disappeared. Without looking at the food in front of them, all of them began to deeply think about how “Hajime survived” after he left them.
Just what on Earth could completely change a person like that, what did Hajime think at that time when the “friendly-fire” incident happened, what the current Hajime thought of them… Most likely, he held a grudge against them. With those thoughts making revolutions in their minds, all of them became depressed, and the day was over.
* * *
In the middle of the night. Surrounded by the night, they were completely exhausted. Both physically and mentally, thanks to the unexpected development. All of them fell asleep, but Aiko wasn’t able to sleep even now. Aiko’s room was a single room, so it was not a large one. A table set and bed with carved wooden feet, a small fireplace, and a leather sofa in front of it. In the winter, the flame would surely brightened the room, and the inn guests would be warmed just by seeing it.
Aiko was thinking about what happened earlier today, she watched the unlit fireplace while deeply entrusting her body to the sofa. The insides of Aiko’s head was like an unarranged bookshelf, with all of that information in disorder.
Even if she couldn’t think about it, she wanted to think. And from then on, her head that ran round and around in circles didn’t give out any constructive opinions at all. She recalled smiling when she found out her student was alive, then she could only knit her eyebrows because of his unamicable attitude.
She had seen a glimpse of Hajime’s power through David’s speech and conduct, she thought he wouldn’t have been able to survive if he didn’t change, and how much hardship Hajime must have experienced. At that point she could only let out a sigh because she couldn’t help him at all. However, she recalled his interactions with the two girls, she thought he must have found companions he could trust, and she smiled again.
And, suddenly, a voice rang out inside the room where there should be no one but her inside.
“Why do you keep changing your expression, sensei?”
Aiko turned around to the source of the voice while wide-eyed. There was Hajime who stood at the entrance door with his arms folded. Aiko was so surprised that she became tongue-tied, but somehow managed to speak.
“Na-Nagumo-kun? Wh-Why are you here, how…”
“Even if you ask how, I just came through the door, no more no less.”
“Eh, but the lock…”
“My class is transmutation master, you know? Unlike the locks on earth, I can open this kind of lock mechanism.”
Hajime lightly answered, which stunned Aiko for a while. Her heart loudly throbbed in surprise and that somehow managed to calm her down. She frowned, then criticized him.
“At such a time, moreover it’s rude to suddenly barge into a woman’s room without even a knock. To purposely open the lock… just what do you want?”
For a moment, the word yobai came into Aiko’s mind but she immediately erased the thought. She slightly shook her head as she recalled the fact that the other person was her student. Hajime only warded off Aiko’s scolding like a willow blown by the wind, and he told her the reason for this thoughtless visit.
“Well, I am sorry about that. I just didn’t want anyone to know about this visit. I wanted to talk to sensei, but before, there were the fellows from the Church and the Kingdom, so I couldn’t do it. After all, the contents of this talk might have angered those guys.”
“A talk? Nagumo-kun, it was okay to talk to sensei and the others…”
By chance, she thought he wanted to return with them, and Aiko’s eyes shined in expectation. If it was a consultation from her student, then it was as though the room was a teacher’s office. But her expectations were immediately denied by Hajime.
“No, I don’t want to return, you know? So stop looking at me with those eyes filled with expectation… What I want to talk about now is something I thought sensei would be the most calm to listen to it. After this talk, I’ll leave what you want to do to your own.”
Having said that, Hajime began to talk about the story of “Liberators” and the Mad Gods he heard from Oscar.
Hajime obviously had his own reasons for telling Aiko this story. According to the Gods’ intentions, the heroes; Kouki and the others, were made to dance in their game, and the Gods never intended to return them to their own world. To save the human race from the demon race, in other words to win the upcoming war, is the result of the Gods pulling the strings behind the stage in the first place. The heroes themselves were only interesting pieces they had gathered without any real reason. Rather, they only thought it was more appropriate to start a new game using the heroes.
However, for Hajime, there was no reason to pointedly explain this to Kouki and the other students. He wasn’t interested with what his classmates wanted to do, and it would also only be a hassle for him. Even if he told him, that man who believed that justice always laid with the majority wouldn’t believe him.
Because he was alone, between the words of a boy who had changed drastically and words that requested to save the majority, he didn’t even need to think about who they would trust. Rather, because many people believe and worship “Ehito-sama,” he’d only be mocked and criticized. Because of that, Hajime didn’t want to become related to Kouki in the least.
However, by coincidence upon coincidence, it resulted in him meeting Aiko. Hajime himself knew Aiko’s main principles always centered around her students. In other words, regardless of the circumstances of this other world, she would calmly make a decision for the sake of her students. Following that, judging from the attitudes of his classmates today, and how they yearned for Japan, if it was Aiko, surely her words would be able to influence them. Those were Hajime’s thoughts.
Although, he didn’t know how her influence would change their actions. With this information, if the movement of Kouki and the others became different from what the Gods intended, they’d surely put much more attention towards Kouki and the others. Hajime already knew that his existence would stand out like a sore thumb when he journeyed to conquer the Great Dungeons, and there was the possibility of receiving interference from the Gods. That’s why, by indirectly passing the information using someone they trust, he could rearrange the actions of Kouki and the others. Thus, he could delay being noticed by the Gods. His only objective was to draw attention away from himself.
In addition, without relying on the Gods, Hajime’s aim was to search for different ways for them to return. Furthermore, just like the “Liberators,” he wanted to show Kouki and the others how their original allies became manipulated enemies, it’s his intention to plant the wedge of distrust towards those Gods.
In the first place, he was only able to think of this idea because of the coincidental meeting with Aiko, so Hajime never expected anything out of it. For Hajime, there was no grudge nor hatred towards his classmates. He was just indifferent towards them. If they could be used, then he’d used them, and he’d leave them alone if they didn’t seem useful. That’s why he didn’t disclose this information only by chance.
Having heard the truth of this world from Hajime, Aiko was dumbfounded. It was not known if she truly understood it. Processing this information, no matter what kind of ideas she got, it still took her more time.
“Well, that’s all. That’s what I came to know from the depths of the Abyss. I’ll leave what to do after knowing this to sensei. It’s okay to think of it as just nonsense, and it’s also okay to move into action if you think it’s the truth. Just do as you want to.”
“Na-Nagumo-kun, don’t tell me, to deal with those “Mad Gods”… you began your journey?”
“Hah, that can’t be. I feel from the bottom of my heart that it doesn’t matter what happens to this world. I am only searching for a method to return. That’s why I went on a journey. The reason I’m telling you this is because it seems like it’d be convenient to do so, that’s all.”
Aiko wore an indescribably subtle expression because he snorted at her question. Although she was relieved he didn’t rashly poke his head into danger, she couldn’t help but frown as a teacher because of how easily he said he could cast the others away. But, she herself also made her students her first priority in this world, so she couldn’t say anything back. As a result, she tried to change the topic with a subtle expression.
“Do you believe in that?”
“That’s so. The Great Dungeons are the keys. It’s okay if you search for it if they interest you. Once you exceed the 100th level of Orcus, you’ll happily find the real Great Dungeon. First of all, by looking at your appearances today, you’ll immediately die when you go there. It’s out of the question if you can’t ignore “Pressure” of that level.”
Aiko was reminded of the pressure that gushed out from Hajime at dinner time. Following that, she opened her eyes filled with complex feelings of sympathy, admiration, and other various feelings when she thought again about the harsh conditions he must have lived through.
For a while, their silence continued. The room was filled with silence. Hajime was certain the information was received after looking at Aiko’s appearance. And because he had no more business, he immediately turned his heels and walked towards the door. Behind him, Aiko told him about a certain student she remembered when they talked about the Orcus dungeon.
“Shirasaki-san still hasn’t given up on you.”
Hajime stopped walking because of the unexpected words from Aiko. Then, Aiko spoke softly with Hajime’s back in front of her.
“Although everyone believed you were dead, she is the only one who didn’t give up on you. Before she confirms it with her own eyes, she believes you are still alive. Even now, she’s still fighting in the Orcus Great Dungeon. Even though Amanokawa-kun and the others are only going to the dungeon for training, her only purpose is to search for you.”
“… Is Shirasaki okay?”
After a long silence, Hajime asked Aiko. Hajime who took an indifferent attitude towards them, began to ask about another with words of concern. Aiko, who discovered that the original Hajime still existed, displayed a joyful expression.
“Y-Yes. Although the Orcus Great Dungeon is a dangerous place, her ability has developed well, and she continues to conquer the dungeon. Sometimes letters come from her. Are you curious about her? Nagumo-kun and Shirasaki-san got along after all.”
Aiko talked with a bright smile, but Hajime only expressionlessly looked back over his shoulder without denying or affirming anything.
“Although I didn’t mean it like that… it’s good if you tell her this when you exchange letters. What she should be cautious of is not the demonic beasts in the dungeon. It’s her companions.”
“Eh? What do you…”
“Sensei, I can already guess the situation from the attitude of Tamai and the others today. The cause of me falling in battle against the Behemoth, you think it was just an accident « … », right?”
“Th-That’s… Yes. Some magic went out of control and resulted in accidental friendly-fire… Nagumo-kun still holds a grudge against everyone after all…”
“I don’t think of anything like that. The thing I want to say is this. Friendly fire? That’s wrong. That was a magic bullet clearly specifically cast with me as target.”
“Eh? Specifically cast? Targeted, you say?”
Aiko’s expression said she couldn’t understand what he meant. But, Hajime left words that mercilessly pushed Aiko’s worry further.
“It means, a classmate was trying to kill me.”
Aiko was stunned and her face paled, “I only know that the culprit is someone related to Shirasaki, it’s someone who’s able to kill another person out of envy. Because she is still okay, it’s good to advise Shirasaki to be careful of an attack from behind.” After leaving this message, Hajime went out of the room.
Shin, there was an illusion of cold wind blowing inside the room, and Aiko embraced her own body with both arms. There was a possibility that one of her precious students tried to kill a companion. Furthermore, they used a cowardly method by aiming at his back when he was at the brink of death. For Aiko, who treasured her students, it was something she couldn’t accept easily. But, she couldn’t deny Hajime’s words without any evidence. Her mind that wanted to believe her students clashed with each other.
With her worries deepening, Aiko’s sleepless night increased.