“Cough, cough, ugh.”
“Huff huff, are you okay, Kaori?”
“Y-Yeah, somehow… Everyone is…”
In front of Kaori, who was coughing from drinking a large amount of seawater, were Hajime, whose hand was coiled on her waist, and a pure-white sand beach. There was nothing else beside those around her, but she could densely see packed mangrove-like trees in the distance, and the surface of the waving sea high in the sky. The seawater was like a barrier, preventing any intruder. It was a vast s.p.a.ce.
“Looks like we are getting separated… Well, I gave everyone a smaller version of “Treasure Box,” so they should be able to do something by themselves.”
Hajime lightly said after letting go of Kaori, and fixed his hair. However, Kaori’s mind seems to be somewhere else.
While watching Hajime stand up and began to change his clothing, Kaori recalled what happened a while ago.
Hajime’s party attempted a strategic retreat from the huge Clione.
The place they fell into was a gigantic, spherical s.p.a.ce with tens of tunnels, where there were spouting seawater with tremendous force. Or maybe it could be said that they were flowing from there; a place with storm-like and messy current.
Swept by the swift current, Hajime’s party somehow managed to stick close together, but next the current mercilessly separated the party. Yue tried to control the current with magic, but it didn’t work well because the current was too random. s.h.i.+a controlled the weight of Doryukken in cooperation with Tio; a fine play.
Hajime had actually wanted to take out the submarine and ride it, but it was impossible inside the swift current. Clenching his teeth, Hajime took out ultra-heavy, compression ore, and tried to use the weight to overcome the current just like s.h.i.+a.
At that time, by luck, he saw Yue getting swept towards him, and Yue would meet up with Hajime thanks to the current. s.h.i.+a and Tio had already disappeared into a tunnel somewhere, and their figures could no longer be seen inside the s.p.a.ce.
Hajime tried to reach out to Yue so she wouldn’t get separated from him, but Kaori’s figure was being swept to the lower side had entered his view. The pained gaze of Kaori’s met Hajime’s. He previously reached out to Yue before him, but his and Kaori’s gaze had indeed met.
There were two choices.
If he catches Yue, Kaori would be swept alone into a tunnel. The same thing would happen to Yue if he was to catch Kaori. The current Hajime could only choose one of them. Within that moment, it felt like eternity. Hajime exchanged gazes with Yue, and he made a decision.
Using the weight from the ultra heavy compressed ore he took out from “Treasure Box,” Hajime rushed below, and then he caught Kaori. Kaori’s eyes were wide in surprise, but the two were immediately exposed to an even stronger swift current. Together, the two were thrown into a tunnel.
While being swept away, Hajime activated “Vajra” to protect Kaori in his arms, enduring it even when he was thrown at a rock wall. Then, he was able to see light coming from above once the current weakened and went up.
And there was the pure white sandy beach spreaded across the coastline.
“… Nee, Hajime-kun. Why… why did you save me?”
Kaori questioned Hajime whose back was turned towards her. Hajime only tilted his head, thinking “what kind of question was that?”
“Why did you save me and not Yue?”
“Well, Kaori seemed to be dying and Yue can do something by herself. Yue’s eyes also told me to save Kaori.”
“… You really trust her, eh.”
“Isn’t that natural? We are partners, you know?”
The already depressed Kaori was even more depressed after hearing the answer. Suddenly, a shadow stretched over the downcast Kaori.
Puzzled, Kaori looked up and there was Hajime’s face very close to her own. His eyes and nose were right before her. A distance that would conclude in a kiss if he move even a little closer. Kaori felt as if she was sucked by Hajime’s eyes, and suddenly, her cheeks were pulled.
“Ift huwt! Waft au uing!” Kaori protested with teary eyes.
However, Hajime ignored Kaori’s protest and played with her soft cheeks without reserve for a while. After finally being released, Kaori looked up with a reproachful gaze while rubbing her red cheeks, but Hajime only snorted with “Hmph”.
“If you have time to be depressed, then it’s better to use and move. We’re inside a Great Dungeon, you know? Just until when will you stay wet like this? Or, are you trying to gain my sympathy?”
Hajime’s sharp words made Kaori’s face instantly reddened. It was of shame. She noticed what he unexpressed said, isn’t this the wrong place for that?
“Th-There’s no such a thing! I was just daydreaming. I-I will change my clothes soon. Sorry.”
Kaori hurriedly stood up and began to take off her clothes after taking out subst.i.tute clothes from mini-“Treasure Box” (around the size of a house’s storage) that was given to her before the party left Elisen. Hajime nonchalantly turned his back towards her. The normal Kaori would do an approach by saying, “It’s okay to watch,” though embarra.s.sed, but the current Kaori hurriedly finished changing her clothes without saying anything.
“I-I am done… So, what should we do?”
“Let’s see… Even if we go to seabed again, we still don’t know where the others are… but there’s nothing we can do other than keep searching. Those girls would probably do so as well.”
After looking at the jungle nearby, Hajime turned around. Kaori nodded at him while smiling; a smile hiding her depressed heart. Hajime slightly narrowed his eyes at Kaori’s smile, but he didn’t say anything in the end and started to walk.
Advancing along the pure-white sandy beach, creating sounds as they walked, the two entered the jungle. The dense trees and bushes were cut by Hajime. Kaori was only following him from behind.
Then, Hajime suddenly halted and turned towards Kaori, put his hand on the back of Kaori’s head as if to embrace her.
“Fue? Ah, umm, Hajime-kun? Wh-What’s with this sudden…”
Kaori blushed, but Hajime immediately separated and she instantly paled when she saw the thing on Hajime’s hand.
It was a spider. With size almost as big as a palm, it was moving its twelve legs with violet liquid dripping from it. Some of the legs grew like a normal spider while some grew from its back; a structure expressing it was capable of moving using both sides! It looked disgusting.
“Don’t let your guard down, okay? A Great Dungeon is vastly different compared to the surface of Orcus. Don’t think of it as the same or else you’ll experience pain.”
“U-Un. Sorry. I will be careful.”
The spider Hajime caught didn’t have magic stone, a normal poisonous spider. The fact that she was almost killed by creature other than a demonic beast, and how Hajime helped her, made Kaori even more depressed.
When she was still in Kouki’s party, she was an all-rounder, however, in Hajime’s party, she isn’t at all useful. It made Kaori panic more and more inwardly.
As such, Kaori put even more attention towards the surroundings which caused the conversation between the two to lessen, and they got out of the jungle with a subtle atmosphere between them.
Ahead of them was…
“This… isn’t this the so-called s.h.i.+p’s graveyard?”
“Amazing… those are sailing s.h.i.+ps, but the size…”
In the rocky area ahead of the jungle were several partly rotted sailing s.h.i.+ps lodged. The sailing s.h.i.+ps were around a hundred meters in length at the lowest, and in the far distant was an even bigger one with at least three hundred meters in length.
The bizarre spectacle made Hajime and Kaori unconsciously halted their advance. However, it didn’t take a long time for Hajime and Kaori to regain their senses and entered the s.h.i.+p’s graveyard.
They advanced by pa.s.sing through the gaps between rocks, sometimes pa.s.sing over them, while at other times, they walked on the s.h.i.+ps.
“Even so… there are only battles.h.i.+ps here.”
“Un. But only the biggest one there seems to be a pa.s.senger boat. It has luxurious decorations on it…”
The s.h.i.+ps in this graveyard didn’t have cannons located at the starboard side like those battles.h.i.+p (sail-type) on earth. Even so, Hajime was able to conclude they were battles.h.i.+ps because there were marks of fierce battle on all of the s.h.i.+ps. From the appearance of the s.h.i.+ps, they seemed to have received magic attacks. Some have their masts cleanly cut, burnt, carbonized decks, and petrified ropes and nets.
They didn’t have any cannon, so they used long-ranged magic to defeat the enemies which was a battle method imaginable from the marks remained.
Then, Hajime’s guess was proven to be a fact when he and Kaori were halfway through the s.h.i.+p’s graveyard.
“-!? What the!?”
“Hajime-kun! The surroundings are—!”
When they felt they heard shout of many men all of a sudden, the surroundings scenery began to distort. Hajime and Kaori stopped walking from the surprise and they observed the surroundings to observe what was happening. The surrounding distortion became even more intense and before they were aware of it, Hajime and Kaori were already on a s.h.i.+p’s deck, above the vast ocean.
Following that, they looked at their surroundings, it was not the s.h.i.+p’s graveyard, but hundreds of sailing s.h.i.+ps divided into two groups, confronting each other. Above the s.h.i.+ps were people raising their weapons while shouting.
“Th-The heck is this…”
“Ha-Ha-Hajime-kun? Am I currently inside a dream? Hajime-kun, you are here, right? Right?”
Both Hajime and Kaori were taken aback, but they somehow managed to get out of their confusion, however, they weren’t able to look at their surroundings.
While they did so, a big spark rose into the sky, generating firework-like loud voices followed by the hundreds of s.h.i.+ps moving out simultaneously. The fleet on the side of the s.h.i.+p Hajime and Kaori rode on also moved out after the firework rose.
And when the s.h.i.+ps approached a certain distance, they used the momentum to ram the other s.h.i.+ps used its bodies, while magic were also fired.
Flame bullets fired accompanied by roaring sounds and created holes in the s.h.i.+ps’ bodies. Huge tornadoes advanced aiming at the masts. The sea’s surface froze, stopping the s.h.i.+ps. And bullets of gray-colored sphere instantly petrified everything.
Even the deck Hajime and Kaori were on was. .h.i.t by the flame bullets and began to blaze up grandly. The s.h.i.+p’s crews immediately activated magic to draw up the sea water and extinguished the fire.
It was literally a battlefield where innumerable people and s.h.i.+ps fought on. The fired magic clad in killing intent grazed their skins.
Hajime and Kaori absentmindedly watching these spectacle, and once again fire bullets fired from behind them. The bullets’ courses were aimed straight towards Hajime and Kaori.
Hajime buried his question of why did they suddenly were involved in this war in his head, and he pulled out Donner because it was OK to kill everyone because they attacked first. Thus, he intercepted the fire bullets using the railgun.
The bullet fired was accompanied by explosive sound and a flash, but unexpectedly it didn’t even hit the flame bullets much more intercepting them. The bullet flew into the sky, and it disappeared.
Raising surprised voice for the nth times, Hajime embraced Kaori by his side and began to evade.
“Wait, I will obstruct them! “Light Severance”!”
With Kaori’s chant, the beginner-level defense magic of light attribute appeared.
Hajime tried to evade because the unknown magic kept going even after their cores were hit, but Kaori had activated her magic and couldn’t move away from there. Reluctantly, he activated “Vajra” and waited for the flame bullets.
However, Hajime’s worry proved to be groundless because Kaori’s barrier completely blocked the flame bullets. With dubious expression, Hajime thought whether he just misfired while tilting his head, and he once again fired at the incoming flame bullets. Even this time, Hajime’s Magic Eye indeed saw the cores being hit, but the bullet just pa.s.sed through the flame bullets and flew towards the day after tomorrow..
“… Is that it?”
Seeing that, Hajime was guessing why his attack wasn’t effective and decided to try another method of attacking. Kaori tried to put up another barrier to block the incoming flame bullets, but Hajime stopped her and activated “Wind Claw” in Donner. Following that, he evaded, and at the same time, he slashed the flame bullets using “Wind Claw.” This time, the flame bullets didn’t pa.s.s through and slashed in two.
“It doesn’t seem to be an illusion nor was it a real thing. The physical attack didn’t effective, but attacks that contained magic power are effective. Good grief, what’s with this situation.”
Hajime spat a sigh from this troublesome situation and “Gwaa,” an agonized voice rang right from behind him. While wondering what it was, he turned around and there was a young man crouching while suppressing his abdomen, while his other hand was holding a cutla.s.s. Looking carefully, there was a pool of blood below him and blood covered icicle rolling nearby. He must have been shot with the icicle.
“Are you okay!?,” Kaori immediately raised her voice while approaching him, and then she used her healing magic. A pure-white light released from her and wrapped the man. He should be healed in a blink of an eye because Kaori was a “Healer”… or so she thought, but the result was unexpected. The moment the young man received Kaori’s healing magic, he turned into light particles and disappeared.
“Eh? Eh? W-Why…” After a little pondering, Hajime told the confused Kaori what he thought had happened.
“Wasn’t it because the effect and attribute of the magic didn’t matter as long as it carried magic power?”
“… Then, I-I just… killed that person…”
“Kaori, this is not reality. Just think of it as “an illusion where we can move freely.” Besides, you can’t call something that disappeared by being healed a human.”
“Hajime-kun… un, you are right. I am sorry that I was confused a little there. But I am okay now.”
Though slight, Hajime said words of concern to Kaori. However, Kaori didn’t feel happy like the usual her, only drooping her shoulders apologizing. Then, she smiled to smooth things over. Seeing her reaction made Hajime inadvertently muttered the thing he had thought since earlier.
“… You keep apologizing, eh.”
“Eh? Did you say something?”
“No, nothing.” Hajime moved his gaze from Kaori.
It was not because of the subtle atmosphere drifting around Kaori, but because he felt ominous presences. When he looked around, the soldiers were shouting and attacking the nearby s.h.i.+ps, and before they were aware of it, several men with dark gazes were looking at Hajime and Kaori.
Kaori noticed Hajime’s gaze and looked at the direction he was watching, and the men immediately came to attack Hajime and Kaori.
“For the G.o.d!”
“Long live! Eht-samaa!”
“Pagans! Die for our G.o.d!”
They were in frenzy. With bloodshot eyes, they declared while scattering saliva around. Completely abnormal.
He was able to guess it was a war between countries from how the fleets looked like, and he finally understood the reason for it. It was a religious war. If he strained his ears, he could hear the other soldiers in the other fleets were shouting similar things. However, they were shouting different G.o.d’s name.
Kaori could only stand in blank surprise inside the frenzied atmosphere.
Embracing Kaori from behind, Hajime thrust out and fired Donner over his shoulder. Only, the fired thing was not a bullet but ma.s.s of pure magic power. Using “Magic Power Compression” and “Magic Power Emission” derived from “Magic Power Manipulation,” he was able to blow off magic power without affecting the target physically. In a sense, it was a flawless technique to disarm the target because human and even demonic beast wouldn’t be able to move if their magic power was exhausted. This move had always been kept inside of him because he would not use such a lukewarm method on his enemy.
However, this lukewarm method was the most useful in this situation. The bright red bullet fired by Donner momentarily cut through the s.p.a.ce and pierced the forehead of one of the frenzied, cutla.s.s swinging soldier. Without stopping, the bullet hit the soldier behind the previous one, too, and their bodies instantly dispersed.
“Kaori! We are going to jump! Don’t bite your tongue!”
It would be troublesome if they were surrounded on the deck, so Hajime jumped using “Aerodynamic” while embracing Kaori. Kaori screamed from the powerful momentum.
Kicking the soldier on the crow’s nest, Hajime landed in one of four crow’s nest on the masts.
Below them, the frenzied soldiers were looking up at Hajime and Kaori with bloodshot eyes.
Even though there were the enemies from other countries, too, somehow some of the men were targeting Hajime and Kaori. Moreover, the ones targeting them didn’t have any distinction between allies and enemies. Their numbers keeps increasing one after another just like a bad case of contagious virus.
Before even a moment pa.s.sed and in front of their own enemies, the soldiers suddenly stopped moving and twisted their heads, staring at Hajime and Kaori. They immediately came crowding towards the two like a horror movie. The frenzied air even made Kaori pale.
“Now then, what shall we do to get out of this disgusting s.p.a.ce?”
“… Maybe there’s something like… an exit?”
“We are in the middle of the sea, you know?”
“Maybe there’s an exit in one of these s.h.i.+ps? … see, something like wherever door.”
Kaori recalled and compared it to the convenient tool of the blue cat robot. Looking at the surroundings, Hajime frowned and objected her idea because the s.h.i.+ps were too numerous.
“… From what I can see, there’s at least six hundred s.h.i.+ps here… it’s impossible to search one by one. Don’t you think we’ll be able to find the exit faster if the war ended?”
“Umm~, indeed, there are also the sunken s.h.i.+p… Then, shall we…end the war?”
“End it… I see, time to kill everyone, huh? Kaori also can say something extreme, eh.”
“Eh? Umm, I don’t mean that…”
“Yup, that must be it. No other thing comes to my mind, and I like it better this way.”
Firing bullets of magic power and shooting through the several soldiers climbing using the ropes on the mast, Hajime thought it would be better if he had make a magic gun. He thought so while he continued firing the bright red bullets along with “Remote Control” derived from “Magic Power Manipulation,” making them intercepted the incoming flame bullets.
“Kaori, I know you aren’t proficient in offensive magic, but even healing magic becomes offensive magic here. And even if we don’t know how to escape from here, it is the truth that we are being attacked, so let’s knock them all down.”
Hearing Hajime’s words, Kaori began her chant with resolute expression while trembling. The frenzied battlefield seemed to shave off at Kaori’s mind, but she absolutely didn’t want to show a disgraceful behavior to the important one beside her.
Hajime was glaring at the surroundings as if protecting her.
Looking down, allies and foes were mixed as they boarded the s.h.i.+p, killing each other. Unlike what happened when Hajime and Kaori attacked, the killing in this illusion was full of bloodshed.
On the deck were someone’s entrails, cut limbs, and splattered heads. Everyone was repeatedly shouting “For the G.o.d,” “Pagan,” and “Divine Punishment,” with frenzied eyes as they spread killing intent.
Within the fresh blood of the soldiers scattered just like a storm of cherry blossom, the crow’s nest where Hajime and Kaori, no, it was more like the soldiers were obstinately targeting Hajime and Kaori.
Time to time, bright red bullets flew about in all directions, shooting through the enemies. Furthermore, they flew around Hajime and Kaori to protect them, positioned as both offense and defense at the same time.
However, the frenzied soldiers weren’t even worried, repeatedly attempted suicide attacks. Tens of the soldiers used flight magic while there were those who approached by going from one mast to another. It could be seen that the fight was concentrated on the s.h.i.+p where Hajime and Kaori rode. Hajime’s Magic Eye also caught the fluctuation of magic power of highest-ranked magic from the hand of the magicians aiming at them.
At the time, Hajime thought of sniping them, but Kaori’s chant ended and she activated highest-ranked magic of her.
“— — people, held out your arms as this is the place where Holy Mother smiling at, “Scripture”!”
Then, ripple of light spread into the battlefield with Kaori as its center.
The ripple throbbed as it expanded for so so many times, reaching one kilometer in radius. The enemy who touched by the ripple was wrapped by light.
Highest-ranked healing magic of light attribute, “Scripture.”
It was a super wide-ranged healing magic with effect of healing everyone inside its area. The range itself was depended on the amount of user’s magic power and proficiency, but at its worst, its effective range was 500 meters in radius. Moreover, if the user gave out the “sign” beforehand, it would be able to heal specific object. And normally this magic was used with tens of magician, and took a lot of time to chant along with its stupidly gigantic magic array. To be able to activate it in only one, two minutes alone was impossible unless one was a cheat-like character.
At the same time the light of “Scripture” activated by Kaori wrapped the battlefield, all soldiers inside the effective area had their bodies dispersed without distinction of ally or foe. When the magic ended, Kaori’s body tilted from magic power exhaustion, and was thus promptly supported by Hajime.
“Ohh, a ma.s.s reproduction of the Mary Celeste, huh. You did great, Kaori. No, should I say as expected of you?”
“Ah, uh, th-there’s no such a thing. Hajime-kun and the others are far more amazing…”
Honest praise from Hajime made Kaori’s cheeks blush from embarra.s.sed. She made a self-ridiculing smile as she thought Yue would be able to use more powerful magic quickly. Then, she muttered “”Replenish,”” to replenish the lost magic power from the pendant given by Hajime. Hajime had improved the pendant with magic array and the ability of taking out the stocked magic power by chanting because Kaori was incapable of directly manipulating magic power.
Hajime slightly knitted his eyebrows and wanted to say something when he saw Kaori’s expression, but he put it aside for now because he had to deal with the new incoming enemies. The battle had restarted.
With the ineffectiveness of physical attack, it was a situation where the large amount of soldiers didn’t falter against any kind of attack as they battled on the s.h.i.+p. Normally, it might be a hard situation, but there were cheat-like monsters present.
Big fleets of two countries were afterwards annihilated by the two humans in a span of one hour.
“… Uuh, cough, kafh, sorr-…”
“It’s alright. Just endure it.”
Immediately after the last soldiers were annihilated, their surroundings were once again distorted. They noticed that they had returned to s.h.i.+p’s graveyard from before.
Wondering if the annihilation was indeed the correct answer, Kaori immediately sighed in relief, ran to the nearby rock, and vomited. However, she vomited nothing since the dinner she ate had already been digested, and thus she felt a pain from trying to vomit.
With tears acc.u.mulated in the corner of her eyes, Kaori used one hand to tell Hajime “Don’t come,” to stop him.
However, Hajime still approached her and rubbed her back. Kaori didn’t want to show such a pitiful sight to him, but she felt comforted from the gentle and warm feelings transmitted to her back. Her nausea and spirit gradually recovered.
Hajime took out apple juice-like drink from “Treasure Box” and presented it to her. Kaori obediently drink it heartily and her energy returned. The sweet and fresh taste, flushed the sour taste of gastric juice.
Kaori who knitted her eyebrows and apologized for the trouble made Hajime narrowed his eyes.
“Well, I think it is inevitable. Even I feel disgusted by it. I never thought humans would be so frenzied because of their blind belief. …Anyway, let’s rest for now. Even I want to recover my considerably used magic power.”
“… Un. Say, Hajime-kun. What was that illusion? Is it related to these s.h.i.+p wreckages.”
Kaori stood up then sat on the nearby rock, and then she asked him. Hajime took a little time to think before told her his conjecture.
“It is just a maybe, but I think the illusion might have been reproducing a battle in the past. … well, it seemed there’s also some improvement to attack those challenging the dungeon… or it might have been the concept of this dungeon.”
“Yeah. Tio said it when we were in “Guryuu-en Great Volcano”. She said ‘isn’t it possible that each of the dungeon had its own concept prepared by the “Liberators”?’ If that’s true, then here is…”
“…To know the misery brought by the Mad G.o.ds… maybe?”
“Aah, I think so, too.”
Continuing Hajime’s words by muttering the answer, Kaori recalled the spectacle from before, her face once again turned pale, and her body trembled as if she was suffering from a cold.
What made Kaori felt sick was the madness from the soldiers. Their behavior and speech were exactly of those so called “Fanatic” while she also couldn’t help but feel disgusted from the killing.
The people continued to laugh loudly in a frenzy even when blood were spraying from their bodied. There were even those who died from gouging their own hearts out, raised it towards the sky as an offering to their G.o.ds. There was also an older brother who stabbed through his own younger brother just to attack Hajime and Kaori, while the younger one laughed proudly. War itself was a place filled with madness, but one they just saw was far too ghastly. And it was wage all “For our G.o.d,” so…
Seeing Kaori covering her mouth because she couldn’t endure it, Hajime sat right beside Kaori and grasped Kaori’s hand. He couldn’t leave Kaori, who sickened by the madness, alone. Kaori was slightly surprised, looked at Hajime, relaxed, and squeezed Hajime’s hand back.
“Hajime-kun, thank you…”
“Don’t mind it. I understand… the pain from being exposed to the madness. I felt that when I fell into the abyss…”
“… Then, how? … Wait, there’s no need for you to answer… It was… Yue-san, right?”
“Yeah, it was because of her. If I hadn’t met her inside the abyss… I wonder how I would have ended up.”
Hajime looked into the distance in affection and nostalgia. He was surely recalling the time he met Yue. Seeing his expression made Kaori felt her chest squeeze.
“It’s mortifying. To defend, to protect Hajime-kun… I wanted to do that. But even if I said that, it’s not like I can do anything. Since it’s me… who I couldn’t even protect a promise. Ah~, Yue is a really powerful enemy~.”
Kaori joking laughter made Hajime narrowed his eyes again. Kaori’s smile was not the usual warm, positive smile because it might have also included self-torment and self-ridicule.
“… You’ve been apologizing since we came here, and don’t make such a smile.”
Hajime’s sudden words made Kaori raised “?” above her head. However, her smile immediately collapsed and her expression stiffened from Hajime’s next words.
“… Listen, Kaori. Why did you follow us here?”
“… That’s… am I just a burden after all?”
The downcast Kaori made Hajime sigh, and he didn’t answer her question.
“I remember the talk we had under the moonlight while drinking that disgusting tea that day. That’s why, honestly, I don’t think it’s weird that you have goodwill for the current me.”
“However, I have no intention of denying it. I am sure Kaori had things only you can see, and that’s what stirred your heart. Thus, there’s no meaning for me to deny the decision you made. I have given you my answer, “even so” I think it’s a good thing that you favor me. Even s.h.i.+a didn’t even feel discouraged. Rather, she recently made me seriously worry if she was going to attack me in my sleep.”
Hajime recently felt the dread as he thought of the rabbit-eared girl with bugged physical strength. Seeing such a Hajime, Kaori made a wry smile in agreement.
“… Un, I think her aggressiveness and positiveness amazing.”
“I treated her harshly at the beginning. I didn’t think of anyone as “special” other than Yue… I honestly thought she was going to give up quickly.”
“No matter how harsh I treated her, how I treated Yue as special, and she was always neither angry nor did she cry, but she seemed happy about it. She couldn’t compare to Yue in magic usage because she didn’t have apt.i.tude in magic, and even if she was defeated in a mock battle against Yue, she didn’t stop to move forward. She didn’t cower even though she was attacked by her own inferiority complex.”
“I-I, thing like inferiority complex…”
Kaori who silently listening to Hajime, couldn’t help to object and stood up. However, she was exhausted and immediately sat back.
“Didn’t you notice it? You’ve been apologizing since we came here. Even the way you smiled is completely different than the usual.”
“Listen, Kaori. Don’t keep looking down. Raise your face and look into my eyes.”
That being said, Kaori finally noticed she had been looking down for a while now. Before, she made sure to look at the other person’s eyes when talking… thus, when Kaori met Hajime’s gaze she realized.
“Listen here, I will not say it for the second time. I love Yue. Even if I thought of others as “important,” it won’t change that only Yue is “special.” So if you feel pain from it, if you feel you are inferior compared to Yue… Kaori, you should part from me.”
The blunt words made Kaori look down again. Hajime continued talking even though he did see her reaction.
“The reason I allowed Kaori to accompany us at that time is because of the same reason as s.h.i.+a; I judged it’d be the best for Kaori to be by my side, because I trust Kaori. You understood my feelings, “even so” you moved ahead for your wish. That’s why I thought it’d be okay for you by my side if you favor me… but, I don’t feel the same way now.”
When Hajime ended his words, he separated his hand from the downcast Kaori’s. Then, he spun the ending words.
“Please think carefully about it once more. Why did you come along with us, and if should you stay by my side from now on… Kaori is not s.h.i.+a. s.h.i.+a likes Yue, too. …Depending on your answer, I will send you back to your best friend (Yaegas.h.i.+).”
Kaori wanted to say something as she watched the hand separating from her own, the words wouldn’t come out.
Inside the awkward atmosphere, Hajime urged Kaori to move because it was necessary for them to approach the biggest sailing s.h.i.+ps enshrined at the distance.