To Accomplish One’s Obligation
Hajime’s mutter made the black-clothed boy, Endou Kousuke, respond with “!,” a response similar to a certain cardboard-loving mercenary when an enemy appeared in a game. He kept looking around and began to shout as if he was irritated, because he could not find the one he was looking for.
“Nagumoo! Are you here!? Is it really you!? Where are you!? Nagumoo! Come out if you’re alive! Nagumo Hajimee—!”
Because his shout was too loud, one by one people began to shut their ears with their fingers. His voice was filled with desperation since he wanted to ascertain whether the should be dead classmate of his had survived.
Yue and the girls turned their gazes towards Hajime. With an expression as if he didn’t want to be involved in this, Hajime scratched his cheek and spoke towards Endou who repeatedly shouted his name out loud.
“Ah~, Endou? I can hear you just fine so stop repeatedly shouting my name.”
“!? Nagumo! Where are you!?”
Endou turned his face towards Hajime, reacting to Hajime’s voice. Hajime was inadvertently taken aback because Endou looked so desperate.
For a moment, Endou’s gaze met Hajime’s, but he immediately averted his gaze and began to look around again.
“Damn it! I can’t see him even though I can hear his voice! Is he a ghost now? As expected, he returned as a ghost!? So that’s why I cannot see him!?”
“No, I am right in front of you, you big idiot. Rather, calm down already. You whose thinness shadow ranked the best in the whole world.”
“!? Again, his voice!? Wait, whose shadow did you say was so thin that even the convenience store’s automatic door didn’t react to it and disappears from time to time! The automatic door opened at least one of three tries!”
“So, it didn’t open two times in three tries… as expected of you.”
After conversing that much, Endou finally noticed the source was the white-haired, eye-patched boy before him and he began to carefully observe Hajime’s face. Towards Hajime, who averted his face since he felt unpleasant due to not having a hobby where he’d be pleased from being watched by a man, Endou spoke as if he could not believe what he perceived.
“Y-You… are you… Nagumo?”
“Haa… yeah, that’s right. Though I look like this now, I am Nagumo Hajime.”
As he carefully observed Hajime from head to toe, Endou became dubious because Hajime was quite different from the one in his memory, but he finally believed Hajime after looking at his features and how he knew about the thinness of his shadow.
“So… you are alive.”
“Of course, after all I am right before you now.”
“Somehow, no you have completely changed… Your looks, atmosphere, and tone…”
“I crawled up from that abyss with my own power, you know? So, of course, I’ve changed.”
“I-Is that so? No, but, I see… You really are alive…”
Although Endou was perplexed by Hajime’s blunt attitude, his gaze softened as he was relieved that the classmate he thought to be dead was alive. No matter how he envied him like the other boys because Kaori paid attention to Hajime, and how he pretended to not see Hiyama’s gang bullying Hajime, nothing was more frightening than thinking Hajime had died. Hajime’s death had such a great impact. That’s why Endou was purely glad his classmate was alive.
“Rather… when did you become an Adventurer? Moreover, a “Gold”…”
“Nn~, well it just happened.”
After Hajime replied, Endou’s expression completely changed. The relieved expression he had because his classmate was alive, had changed into an expression as if he was in a pinch. Hajime looked at Endou again and he noticed Endou was in ragtag state. He tilted his head, wondering what had happened.
“… In other words, you came back alive from the depths of the dungeon by yourself, and became strong enough to gain the Adventurers’ highest rank? That’s rather unbelievable…”
“Well, that’s true though.”
After Hajime confirmed what Endou said with a serious expression as the truth, Endou sprang up towards Hajime and gripped his shoulders, and in a voice filled with more desperation than before, he began to speak in sorrow.
“Then, please! Please enter the dungeon with me! We must hurry or else everyone will be dead! We need someone with battle potential even if it is just one person! There’s also the possibility that Kentarou and Kondou have died! That’s why please help us, Nagumo!”
“W-Wait a sec. What’s with you all of a sudden!? I don’t know the situation, you know? So what’s with the dead thing? And can’t Amanogawa somehow do something about it? There’s also Commander Meld, so there’s no need to worry about another failure like when we faced the Behemoth…”
Hajime perplexedly asked back because even though he usually didn’t stand, out Endou wore an expression as if he was truly at his wits’ end. And at the moment Endou heard Commander Meld name, he fell to his knees with a truly dark expression. Next, he muttered with a low, subdued voice.
“Hah? I can’t hear you. So, what did you say?”
“… I said they are dead! Commander Meld, Alan-san, and the other Knights are dead! All of the Knights who entered the dungeon are dead! They died to let me escape! Because of me! They are dead! They died!”
“… I see.”
“They died,” Endou said repeatedly like a child throwing a tantrum, and Hajime only replied with two words.
Hajime’s class was not a fighting one, so he didn’t have much encounter with Commander Meld. However, he remembered that Commander Meld was a good person, and he recalled that Commander Meld believed the “incompetent” him before Hajime fell into the abyss. If it was Hajime who just got out of the abyss and heard of Meld’s death, he would have probably just said, “So what?” However, the current him thought it was little regrettable. At the very least, he prayed for their happiness in the next world in his mind.
“So, what happened?”
Still on his knees, Endou tried to explain the situation to answer Hajime’s question, while he hung his head. However, a hoarse voice interrupted him.
“Please continue your conversation inside. After all, you are my guests.”
The owner of the voice was a powerful man with a good body build, and had a large scar on his left eye who was around 60 years of age. It was obvious his eye had the ability to perceive the situation, polished for years, and ambition was overflowing from his body.
With the previous receptionist by the man’s side, Hajime guessed the man must be the head of this guild branch. And because Endou’s wails and shouts made the guild atmosphere returned to one of high tension similar to the time Hajime’s party entered the hall, he thought this was not an appropriate place to have such a talk, and obediently followed the man.
Endou had probably already made such a commotion earlier, and exposed that something had happened to the Hero’s group and the Knights. And that was the cause of the strange atmosphere when Hajime’s party entered the guild.
The man Hajime thought of as the branch head grab Endou’s arm to force him to stand up and lead them to the guild interior without saying anything. Endou was considerably emotionally unstable, and currently had lost all of his strength.
Because the content would not be something pleasant, Hajime’s party moved after the man while expecting the unpleasant.
* * *
“… Demon… race, huh.”
Hajime’s mutter rang out inside the reception room of Holad branch Adventurer guild. Seated on the sofa before him were the Holad branch’s head, Lorr Vauabith, and Endou Kousuke, and seated beside Hajime were Yue, Shia with Tio at Shia’s side. Myuu was sitting on Hajime’s lap.
Hajime’s first response after hearing the situation from Endou was something Endou had said during his explanation. The talk of how the Hero’s party was attacked by the demon race and was in pinch, made Endou and Lorr’s put on serious expressions, and the room was filled with an oppressive atmosphere.
…Or so it should be, but the little girl sitting on Hajime’s lap was munching on the snacks, and it made her cheeks swell up like a squirrel, so she didn’t even notice the serious atmosphere. The conversation between Hajime and the others was slightly difficult for Myuu, and she could feel the uneasy atmosphere. However, Hajime gave her a snack so to divert her attention from being uneasy.
“More importantly! What’s with that!? Who’s that child!? Why is she eating the cake!? Doesn’t she understand the situation!? Everyone might have be dead, you know!”
Unable to endure Myuu’s existence, who destroyed the mood in the room, Endou stood up and said with an angry voice while pointing at her. Surprised, Myuu raised a small scream and clung to Hajime.
Naturally, bloodlust far above an ordinary person could emit, overflowed from Hajime. Papa would not forgive his daughter’s enemy.
“Bastard… Who are you to snarl at Myuu, ah? AH? Should I kill you?”
Screaming just like Myuu, Endou dropped into the sofa. Because of what Hajime said, “…Really, Hajime is completely a Papa now,” or “Before, Hajime-san casually said “our child”, right~,” or “In the end, this one wonders whether Master will be able to separate from this child once we arrive at Elizen~,” could be heard only to be ignored by him. It was more important for him to calm the frightened Myuu.
While Hajime calming Myuu down, he leered at trembling Endou trembling after he had collapsed into the sofa. Lorr entered the conversation with an amazed expression.
“How then, Hajime. I have roughly understood your situation from Ilwa’s letter. You’ve quite the rampage, haven’t you?”
“Well, all of them were just the course of events.”
Although they were not situations that normally appeared as the course of events, Hajime who shrugged his shoulders as though nothing big had happened, made Lorr curve the edge of his lips, finding it amusing.
“From the letter, with the acceptance of you as “Gold” rank, it was written that you want to be accommodated in the best possible way. I’ve roughly understood the situation… but to annihilate around 60,000 demonic beasts with just a handful of people, and decimate the underground organization based in Fhuren in just half a day… that is something unbelievable. But for Ilwa to purposely tell me this through a letter… I won’t think it is strange if someone said you are actually one of the Demon Lords now.”
Lorr’s words made Endou opened his eyes wide to show how surprised he was. Even though he thought Hajime must’ve gotten stronger since he had escaped from the depths of «Orcus Great Dungeon», he thought Hajime was still weaker than himself.
After all, Hajime’s class was “Transmutation Master,” which was a non-fighting class, and he was also called as “incompetent.” Even if someone said he was “Gold” rank, it was just the standard of being an Adventurer in this different world, and couldn’t be compared to those summoned here. That’s why he thought, at the very least, Hajime should be able to repair the destroyed teleportation circle and become his support in battle.
To begin with, Endou came to the Adventurers’ guild to ask high ranked Adventurers to help him in rescuing Kouki’s party. Surely even if he could not take them to the dungeon depth, they would at least be able to protect the area around the teleportation circle. And though there were also stationed knights, they would not do anything before they reported this to the Kingdom, and their level was so low that at most they could do was protect the teleportation circle on 30th floor. He needed Adventurers with at least “Silver” rank to protect the 70th floor’s teleportation circle.
He entered the Adventurer guild with such thoughts and grandly exposed the current situation to those in second floor. He thought he could ask for the Adventurers’ cooperation, for heroes, who were the humanity’s hope, fell into such a predicament along with the annihilation of the Elite Knights. However, in addition to the unexpected request to protect 70th floor’s teleportation circle, made everyone avert their gazes and at the same time, uneasiness about what would happen to the humanity spreaded.
Noticing the commotion, Loor grabbed Endou by the scruff of his neck and dragged him inside to question him, when the receptionist ran inside with Hajime’s status plate.
As such, Endou noticed he had underestimated Hajime’s ability and the possibility that Hajime was even more powerful than him made, Endou astonished when he compared the current and past Hajime.
Even though Endou was stiffened due to the shock, Lorr and Hajime’s talk kept advancing.
“Please don’t say such a stupid thing… How could you think we are as weak as the Demon Lords?”
“Hmm, so even Demon Lords are small fries, huh? What confidence… But, if that’s the truth, I want you to receive a commission with Holad branch Adventurer guild’s head as the referral.”
“… Rescuing the heroes, right?”
Endou returned to his senses when he heard the word rescue. Next, he leaned forward and spoke to Hajime.
“Th-That’s it! Nagumo! Come with me and help them! If you are that strong, we can surely save everyone!”
Although Endou’s eyes shined because he could see the hope, but Hajime’s reaction was an unfavorable one. He was looking at the distance as though he was thinking of something. Endou naturally had thought Hajime would surely help him to rescue the others, so he was perplexed because there was no prompt answer.
“What’s with you!? Even now, they might be dying, you know! Don’t hesitate! Aren’t we comrades!?”
Hajime, who averted his gaze earlier while thinking of something, was once again looking back at the heated up Endou with a cold expression. Endou instinctively backed away due to the coldness in Hajime’s eyes. He hesitated after recalling Hajime’s earlier bloodlust, but he obstinately answered because Hajime was a valuable force that could not be missed.
“Y-Yeah. We are comrades! So it’s natural to he—…”
“Don’t selfishly make me your comrade. Frankly, I only recognize you as nothing but a human ‘from the same world,’ no more, no less. You are no different than the others.”
“Wh—!? Why… why did you say that…”
Hajime’s unexpectedly cold words and leer made Endou confused. Hajime resumed thinking, in other words, he thought of the demerits from rescuing Kouki’s party.
Just as Hajime said, he recognized the classmates as nothing more than acquaintances. Until now, he neither thought of using his power to return to the way he was in the past, nor revenge. He was truly disinterested and thought them as trivial things.
However, he could not just bluntly answer with a “NO.” As for the reason, he connected that answer to the words Aiko said, “lonely way of life.”
Furthermore, Hajime recalled the conversation under the moonlight. Having been called “incompetent” and “weakest” in this different world, there was the girl who said to Hajime, “I will protect Nagumo-kun.” In the end, Hajime was reckless and disappeared as he fell into the abyss, just like what the girl was uneasy about. She had promised “to protect him” to remove her uneasiness, but that promise could not be accomplished. And somehow, Hajime had frequently recalled the time he was about to fall into the abyss and the girl who outstretched her hand with bitter expression after returning to this town.
“Shirasaki… is she safe?”
Hajime muttered and asked the confused Endou. Letting out, “Eh?,” a dubious voice because of the sudden question, Endou panickedly began to speak about Kaori since he thought Hajime would not cooperate if he didn’t say anything.
“Y-Yeah. Shirasaki-san is safe. Rather, we would not have survived if not for her. Jyuugo and Yaegashi-san were dying from the first attack… but Shirasaki-san was truly amazing. Her healing magic was unbelievable, rather… she turned ghastly since the day you fell, you know? She trained so hard, so much that we wanted to stop her… and her aura also changed? She somehow looked mature as though she was always thinking of something, and the fluffy atmosphere around her had disappeared…”
“… I see.”
Hajime only replied as such to the Endou who frantically talked even about the unnecessary things. Thus, Hajime looked at his precious partner who watched him as he scratched his head.
“… If it’s something Hajime wants to do, I’ll follow you to wherever it is.”
With affectionate gaze, Yue said so and quietly grasped Hajime’s hand. Hajime returned her grasp, watched her gently, and thanked her.
“M-Me too! I’ll follow Hajime-san to wherever it is! Hajime-san!”
“Hmph, of course this one will, too. Master.”
“Umm, umm, that’s, Myuu, too!”
Because Hajime and Yue began to create their own world, Shia and Tio panicky asserted. Although she didn’t understand it well, Myuu clung and insisted so because she didn’t want to be left behind.
Before them, Endou said, “Eh? What’s with this harem…,” with an amazed expression to which Hajime responded with a leer, while telling his comrades what he wanted to do.
“Everyone, thank you. Although I don’t want to purposely make connection between us and the God chosen Heroes… I have someone I’m indebted to. That’s why, I thought to at least help. Well, if it’s them then they might be able to do something themselves.”
Hajime’s real intention was not to help Kouki’s party. He didn’t want to purposely approach either the Heroes or the Mad God who chose them.
However, he thought to at least show his face to Kaori who pushed herself to find him. In addition, he’d help her if she was truly in a pinch. In other words, he had an obligation to Kaori who wanted to protect him and still believed his survival even now.
He didn’t even worry about the risk involved. He had fought the four-eyed wolf in Endou’s story, and the Chimeras’ strength should be below tenth floor of Abyss dungeon, so there was no problem at all.
“E-Excuse me, so, will you go with him?”
“Ah, branch head Lorr. For now, I also want to request something from you…”
“You don’t want to be seen unconditionally helping them by the ones above, right?”
“Yes. There’s one more thing. I want you lend me a room for Myuu until we return.”
“Ah, I don’t mind.”
Resultantly, Endou who breathed a sigh of relief because Hajime would come with him, was ignored while Hajime continued his conversation with Lorr.
As expected, he could not just take a child into the depth of the dungeon, so he entrusted Myuu to the guild. Although Myuu fiercely resisted, somehow everyone was able to calm her down, and Tio was entrusted with baby-sitting and guarding her. Finally, Hajime’s party were able to depart with Endou as their guide.
“Oi, guide us quickly, Endou.”
“Uwah, don’t kick my butt! Rather, you are changing too much!”
“How noisy. As for the time, a day… No, let’s end this in half a day. Though reluctant, we left Myuu behind, so we need to return quickly. I’m also worried because she’s with that pervert.”
“…You, so you really are her father… To create a harem of beautiful girls… just what has happened to turn that Nagumo into this…”
While dashing towards the depth of the dungeon, Endou muttered, trying to comprehend something from Hajime’s attitude and the surroundings. With such powerful help, Endou’s mind regained some composure. If he had the time to talk, he wanted to use it to run faster since he had confidence in his high agility, but it had been smashed to pieces. In addition, Endou was praying for his best friends’ safety.