“Well then, why don’t we introduce ourselves? My name is Yuuto.”
It looks like this Yuuto serves as the de facto leader of this party. I hope we’ll get along swell.
“And I’m Mary. I’m a nun, a follower of the Angel Faith.”
The woman in habit offers us a sweet smile as she introduces herself. Wait, the Angel Faith…? Something tells me she and Anat wouldn’t get along in the slightest.
“I’m Longmann! Nice to meet ya, lil’ Laladi!”
Longmann gives us a shining, toothy grin, unabashedly displaying his favor for Laladi. She, in turn, breaks out into a forced smile so pristine it borders on the unnatural.
I don’t think Laladi’s particularly fond of the man. Her hand discreetly latches around mine, making sure that the onlookers wouldn’t be the wiser. She starts shaking, almost as if she’s fighting against something.
…Please, tell me it’s not the urge to beat them all into a pulpy mess.
And finally, at long last, we’re made privy to the name of the last girl in their party. You know, names like Maho’s – and Yuuto’s, for that matter – aren’t exactly the kind of names you tend to hear that often in life.
There is, if memory serves, some sort of island country to the Far East that’s stock-full of these types of names… If my guess isn’t too far off, then they must have traveled quite the long way to be here.
In passing, I ask them whether they’re adventurers of some sort. Longmann takes it upon himself to respond, his tone overtly boastful.
“Hey, come on now! No need to put is in the same boat as those people! We’re the Hero Party, don’t you know?!”
Ohoh, Heroes, eh…? While I won’t exactly call myself well-informed, even I’m familiar with that term.
So that’s how it is. The age of heroes is finally taking over, huh? Really now, how long am I supposed to live again…?
“…What about you? Your names?”
Maho gives us… or rather, gives me a pointed stare. Oh, right. They’ve already introduced themselves; returning the gesture is only proper. I chase away the minor intrusion of ennui.
“Lala’s name is Laladi! ‘Not that I want you to call me that.’ And him, he’s the Master! He’s super handsome, super great, and super dreamy!”
Hey, Laladi?! Don’t you think it’s a little weird if you barely say anything about yourself but just keep talking about me like that?!
Also, you really aren’t supposed to call me Master. I was planning to hide that we’re from a Dark Guild… Oh, what do we do now…?
“So, Laladi, you must really like… Master? Is that right?”
“You bet! ‘Don’t you dare talk like you know what you’re on about.’”
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Ah… While it’s true that Mary did us a favor by just playing along, it doesn’t change that she’s making a really strained face right now… Also, Maho’s stare is getting sharper by the second… Does this mean she’s onto us…?
“Um… So, you’re called… Master?”
Yuuto looks towards me, clearly confused. W-What do I do now…? It’s not like I can just tell them that I’m the Master of a Guild, can I…? If I tell them, they’re bound to ask which guild I’m talking about. I-I know…
“Interesting… So you’re a scholar?”
I meet Yuuto’s question with a nod. W-Well, at least that’s settled for now…
If I just pretend that I’m Laladi’s teacher, tasked with instructing her in the ways of knowledge and more practical endeavors, then it’s not too strange if she goes around calling me her Master… at least, I hope it’s not. I offer them a further excuse, telling them that we’d come in search of a rare plant.
“Well, since introductions are out of the way, why don’t we get moving?”
“Ah, I need a minute.”
Laladi interjects just as Yuuto’s done talking. Hm? I wonder what’s she’s up to…
“It’s just nature calling. I’ll be quick.”
Oh… that makes sense. Are you sure you’ll be fine on your own?
“I can handle it! M-Maybe when we’re close enough to show each other, but… if Master can hear, that’s just as embarrassing…!”
Laladi fidgets about, her cheeks going dark. What do you mean, ‘when’?
“Oh, Laladi-chan! Why don’t I tag along?!”
“Hahah. You wanna die, you damn maggot?”
Laladi turns to Longmann’s no-holds-barred sentiment – sexual harassment, rather – with an adorable little smile.
But what she’s saying is just too much! Look, Laladi, I understand. I can completely understand getting angry at the fellow, trust me on this.
But could you do me a teensy little favor and just hold yourself back, please?! Her outburst is enough to make my usual smile recede by a tad.
“Well, Master! Imma get going!”
Right, sure. I don’t think you needed to go out of your way to tell me that, but take care. Laladi had made a complete turnaround, looking away from Longmann and giving me a bright smile, and now totters away into the thick obstruction of trees until she was too far to see.
“Is… Is it just me, or did she say something that was a little… out there?”
“I’m sure it’s just your imagination. And if she did, Longmann, then it’s entirely on you. That’s not how you talk to a girl, you know.”
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Longmann, picking up on something that had emanated from Laladi, goes on to shiver, his teeth clattering against each other. Mary, on the other hand, just laments his actions and warns him to watch his mouth.
Phew… Well, at least this didn’t end up in some major screw-up. We shouldn’t waste any more time; we’ll just join up and play along until we reach the village, then get away from the Hero Party as soon as we can. I’ve always thought that Dark Guilds and Heroes tend to get along as well as oil and water.
“Woah! Maho, what’re you doing…?”
“Just shut up and get over here!”
Maho seized Yuuto’s arm, dragging him along with her. Once they’d made sufficient distance between themselves and the other three, she finally let him go.
“Don’t you think that’s obvious?! Why do we have to take that guy with us to the village?!”
Maho’s anger at Yuuto, who had taken everything in stride and didn’t even have the slightest impression of anything having gone awry, had finally erupted. The girl had never been known for her patience and being dragged into another world, and its affairs against her will had only served to make her fuse all the shorter.
“What do you mean, ‘why’? We messed up and put those people in danger, didn’t we? We have to make up for that; it’s the right thing to do.”
“B-But can’t we just leave it at an apology?”
“That’s not enough if you ask me. It’d be a little cruel, even.”
There was a good heap of reproach mixed into Yuuto’s tone. And Maho, for all her faults, was still very much a kind girl at heart.
She did feel indebted to both the Master and Laladi, if only because of the group of orcs they’d inadvertently sent their way, and she normally wouldn’t have taken issue with guiding them all the way to the village as a form of apology. But… there was one thing.
“It’s just… there’s something about him that scares me a little…”
“Him…? Are you talking about the Master?”
Maho nodded in response. As far as Yuuto was involved, he didn’t have an inkling as to what might make the Master scary in her eyes.
He spared a glance in the Master’s direction, who stood a good distance away from them.
The Master appeared to be extremely orderly in appearance, and his handsome features were a good cut above average.
He had neatly kempt golden locks, blue eyes, and while he was similar enough in appearance to all the other people they’d met in this world, he was by far the one who presented himself the best. He was tall and lean, but not thin to give anyone the impression that a light shove would topple him.
Another feature that made him stand out was his constant, incredibly gentle smile.
“…Are you sure it’s the Master you’re talking about?”
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His renewed appraisal of the man gave him nothing to imply that there was cause to hear him. When he asked for confirmation, incredulity present in his voice, Maho nodded repeatedly.
“Well, I mean… Look at him; he just keeps smiling. I have no idea what’s going on inside his head, do you…? I-I mean, sure, I think he looks pretty handsome, but still…”
The first part, Maho spoke with an ominous undertone. When she spoke the latter, on the other hand, she appeared more embarrassed than anything else. Yuuto, who’d seen nothing but grief and anger in her expression as of late, thought there was a good deal of joy to be found in his friend’s rarer expression, even as he made to speak again.
“Aren’t you just overthinking this, Maho?”
“B-But…! I saw something when the orcs tried attacking him!”
“You saw… What exactly did you see?”
“Magic was moving to his hand, a lot of it! I got a really powerful magic skill when I came to this world, but even I don’t think I could use as much as he did!”
Her words were enough to catch Yuuto by surprise. They had all, upon being summoned into this world, been gifted with skills; special powers to call their own.
Yuuto had received the power to wield swords and had even been offered a Holy Blade, one that was almost without equal in this world. Longmann had been given immense defensive powers and a talent that suited the position of a vanguard.
Maho had been gifted with the skill to manipulate powerful sorceries, as well as the wisdom to use them without flaw. She had been blessed with a power that had played a large part in chasing away one of the Lieutenants of the Demon Lord’s armies, and in only a short period of time.
And here she was, someone who possessed that powerful a skill, admitting that the kind Master from earlier had wielded a kind of magic even she couldn’t control.
“Well… Do you think he might be some kind of noble?”
“Yeah, Mary told us something about that, didn’t she? Everyone in this world has the potential to use magic, but a lot of the people who can use high-level spells are connected to some sort of noble lineage.”
The older the lineage, the more the consecutive generations behind a sorcerer, the more powerful their initial attempts at sorcery became. With that in mind, it was entirely logical to assume that the Master belonged to the progeny of a noble line that could be traced back into the older annals of history.
“But he told us he was a scholar…”
“Well, the only one eligible to lead a noble household is the eldest son. Maybe the other children just go and do other things; some of them might turn into scholars and teachers.”
“…You really think so?”
Even Yuuto’s on-point conjecture didn’t have the power to win Maho over fully. Nevertheless, she seemed much more mellow than earlier, when she’d be yelling, and her demeanor had bordered on the hysterical.
“Besides, the Master and Laladi are only going to be around us until we reach the village. Do you think you can just wait until that happens?”
Maho nodded, though she was still unsure. Yuuto appeared satisfied with her reply.
“Come on then, let’s get back to the others. We’ll get going as soon as Laladi comes back.”
“Fine by me.”
Maho, still not entirely convinced, joined Yuuto, and they went back to where the Master lounged about with the others.
Neither of them ever noticed the flower, whose mounted eyeballs stared their way as if it was observing their exchange.