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Izumi was soaking her body in the slightly shallow bath.
There was a little less water than usual, and it only came as far as her navel.
Today, on top of having to stand on the train, Izumi had spent her whole work day on her feet. In order to help the circulation of her legs, she was enjoying a bit of hot water.
Although she had heated her bathroom before she got in, at first the skin on her upper body was a little chilly.
Still, as time went by, her whole body began to warm up, and the discomfort in her calves seemed to melt away in the hot water.
Letting out a great sigh, she gave her weight to the bathtub behind her.
Baths truly had to be enjoyed like this. By no means were they to be taken with a swimsuit on.
She left her head against the rim, and as her gaze tilted back, the rope strung across the room came into view.
It was sturdy-looking, formed from a weave of orange and brown string, and an unlucky thing that had once been party to a suicide attempt.
Each time she saw the rope, Izumi recalled the sensation of the man’s hand on her hips, and was forced to swallow down a scream.
The bathrobe that she had prepared to wear in case her window ever connected to that mysterious world again, had been completely useless. Not only that, it was thick, and on rainy days it wouldn’t dry properly.
Thinking about it, each time her window connected to that world, its denizens were often in some form of crisis, and she wouldn’t always have the leisure or time to put on her robe.
Having realised that, Izumi decided that starting tomorrow, she would wear a swimsuit to the bath.
She had bought the two-piece short sleeve and shorts swimsuit for her fitness club. But when she wore it to the shower, it would cling to her skin and felt terrible. Not only that, it covered a lot of skin, and it was annoying having to slide it around to clean beneath.
The next day, she dug deep into her closet to find her scantier bikini swimsuit.
Although it was much better than her fitness swimsuit, the experience was far from the relaxing time that Izumi was looking for.
A one-time shame days from now, versus her enjoyment today.
When she weighed them on the scales, it was the latter that won out.
She would hardly be fired from work just because the denizens of some strange world saw her naked, and it obviously wouldn’t affect her friendships either. It was just, embarrassing.
She was embarrassed now that she knew she might see the same person again, but she could just bear the shame for a few minutes, and then grab a bath towel from the changing room once she knew what was going on.
Izumi convinced herself that, and decided to go back to enjoying her baths properly.
While trying her best not to see the rope and its gloomy presence, Izumi spaced out and enjoyed the water.
Sweat was forming at her brow. Just as she was half-standing, deciding that it was about time to leave…
She heard the sound of something speeding past at incredible speeds.
Of course, it was impossible for anything to move like that in the narrow alley by her window.
She knew that the window had connected to somewhere again.
Izumi had enjoyed her bath plenty, already. And more importantly than anything, she was grateful to be rid of the rope.
She placed her hand to the window.
But the shame that she thought she had conquered, was giving her pause again.
Am I going to be stuck climbing over the window with everything completely exposed again?
Is it going to be a huge audience like the time with the arrijighock again?
But just like the time with the suicide attempt, it might have been a race against time again.
On the brink of making a decision, Izumi opened the window just a small bit, and peered beyond the window frame.
What she first noticed was a huge amount of water.
Water that spanned from left to right, and roared as it flowed across.
It was a river.
And quite a wide river at that.
After making sure that there wasn’t anybody she could see, Izumi shifted the window again until it was half-open.
When she peered below, what she found was grass, swaying in the wind. Apparently it was a grass field beneath her. On the other hand, there was a thick forest on the other shore, and the branches of trees hung over the water.
The water was muddy, perhaps due to recent rain, but ‘scenic’ was still the perfect way to describe it.
But still, she thought, as she cocked her head.
Far from somebody in need of a rope, there isn’t a single person around.
Is there some mistake? she wondered, as she moved to shut the window.
“Ukoh-… goho-… sav-… gohoh-”
What reached her ears was a low scream, followed by coughing and a cry for help.
Mixed in with the roaring water was the sound of intermittent screams, currently getting closer and closer.
Somebody was drowning!
Izumi immediately pulled down the rope.
After wrapping it around and around her left hand, she formed a loop, and began to swing it the way cowboys did in the movies.
Very soon, the person came into view.
An old man with white clothes, white hair, and a white beard, was waving his arms about as he bobbed up and down the water.
Izumi was stunned.
The old man was being washed down the middle of the river; much too far for the length of her rope to reach.
No, even if it was long enough, with Izumi’s strength it was impossible to pull him to her side.
Would she be forced to watch helplessly as the old man washed down the river?
Feeling frustrated, Izumi leant out the window and looked about.
And what she found was a fallen tree, locked between two boulders, that the old man had luckily attached himself to.
It was an impressive feat to hang on in the rapid currents, but it wouldn’t last for long.
“HANG ONN!” she screamed.
Noticing her voice, the old man looked up, only to widen his eyes in disbelief.
If somebody saw a naked goddess, floating above the grass plains, they’d be shocked too.
But this time, it was Izumi’s turn for shock.
After flashing a toothy smile at Izumi, the old man raised his right hand to wave at her.
Izumi couldn’t believe her eyes. Just who on earth wanted those courtesies right now.
It was naturally impossible for him to hang on with the one arm, and so the old man was once more swept off by the river.
Fortunately, although perhaps the situation could also be called unfortunate, the dead tree forced his body onto a boulder.
He lay atop the rock, breathing heavily.
Although she had managed to avoid the worst case scenario, the old man was still stuck in the centre of the river.
I guess I really should find something.
In order to tell the man to “Wait a moment,” Izumi cupped her mouth with her two hands, before taking in a deep breath.
But her voice was drowned out by loud thumping that rumbled alongst the ground.
With her hands still stuck to her face, Izumi turned her head towards the sound―――upstream to her right.
Two horse-like creatures covered head-to-toe in long hairs, and two humans straddling those things.
Both were young men, and whilst one sported long, blonde-hair that he tied behind his head, the other had unkempt hair, like he had given up on the act of combing.
Stopping before her eyes, the blonde man dismounted the horse-thing. The moment his feet touched the ground, he shouted at the old man.
“Old Maestro!! Are you safe!”
Apparently he was familiar with the old man. Izumi gave a sigh of relief.
As for the old man, sitting atop the rock, he scowled when he saw the blonde man.
“Did I not tell you to desist from calling me ‘Old Maestro’!”
“Please listen! Please don’t move from that spot, Old Maestro!”
“I told you! Don’t call me ‘Old Maestro’!”
While the two were busy with their skit-like conversation, the frizzled-haired man descended from his horse-thing before promptly removing the bridle.
Rang the bell that hung across its ears.
Around the time he was done with the first beast’s bridle, the man noticed Izumi. His eyes immediately sparkled, and then he gave a slight bow. Seeing that, Izumi greeted him back.
The man quickly parted his eyes from her, and worked on getting the other bridle off as well, before tying them together.
“Aloma, take off your coat,” he said to the blonde man――Aloma――as he took off his own coat.
Aloma turned around with a suspicious expression.
“It isn’t long enough.”
Aloma’s gaze first went to the makeshift rope in his hands, before immediately moving to Izumi behind him.
“Wha-, an angel!?”
This made the third time that Izumi had been called at angel.
Looking carefully, she felt that their features resembled that of the armoured man.
The blonde man kneeled on the spot.
“O Angel. Would it not be possible to delay your escort of the Old Maestro? The King desires that he sculpt the tragorn-slaying hero, and compose a song to praise him. I beseech you postpone things until he completes his final job.”
“Don’t say something unlucky like ‘last job’! And also, how many times do I have to tell you not to call me ‘Old Maestro’ before you understand.”
Ignoring the old man in the background, Aloma pulled at the cuff of the other man’s pants.
“Oi, Solt. You beg the angel too.”
The frizzled-haired man――Solt――lightly lowered his head as he stretched the bridle.
“Please wait until I collect my payment.”
It’s him, right? thought Izumi, after hearing about the trangorn-slaying hero, but the rest of the conversation lost her. Was it another skit of some sort?
“Um, if the length of your rope isn’t enough, please take this. It should be stronger than your coat at least.”
She decided to first hand over the suicide rope.
“Oohh, my sincere thanks for your mercy!”
Aloma lowered his head down to the ground.
Standing up with vigour, he turned to the old man on the river.
“Old Maestro! The angel has postponed it.”
“Umm, I didn’t actually come here to reap his life or anything…”
“Once we save you, please complete that statue and song.”
“Umm, like I said…”
He was completely convinced that she was an angel here to take the old man to heaven.
Pulling back the hand she had stretched to Aloma, Izumi sighed. She recalled the armoured man’s wife. Was it perhaps a trait of this country to ignore what others were saying?
While the two were beginning another “Don’t call me ‘Old Maestro’!” skit, the frizzy-haired Solt took the rope from Izumi’s hands.
“I will be borrowing this.”
He tied it to the makeshift rope, before stretching it violently enough that it made a sound.
“We somehow managed to make it long enough. Move, Aloma. Old Maestro! Here it comes!”
After forming a loop with the rope, he tossed it towards the old man.
It landed splendidly on the old man’s rock.
“Please put the ring around your body,” shouted Solt as he wound the rope.
The old man stepped head-first into the noose. When Solt confirmed that he had fixed it tightly beneath his chest, he braced himself.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Aloma grabbed a rope in a panic to assist.
The old man took a deep breath, gripped the rope strongly, checked the temperature of the water with his feet, and then leapt into the river.
The rope immediately strained.
For a moment, the old man’s body bent, before approaching the shore.
Aloma and Solt continued to pull, like a tug of war.
Izumi saw the old man’s hand grip the grass on the river bank.
With one last strong brace, Solt pulled the old man onto the shore with one final tug.
Now that she was sure that he was safe, Izumi quickly rushed into the changing room.
She wrapped a large bath towel around her body and turned to the bathroom to find that the sitting old man was now standing up.
Smoothing his white moustache, the old man walked towards her.
“Thank you, little miss angel.”
No sooner had he said that did the old man pull her shoulders towards him, quickly landing a kiss by her eyes.
“N-, No. You’re welcome.”
His movements had been incredibly practised. His smile was refreshing, and he seemed relaxed even in his old age. He was probably quite popular in his youth.
“Perverted geezer,” muttered Solt.
“I never imagined that an angel would be as lovely as you. The heavens must be as wonderful as the church says. I had lamented my old body, and the little time I had left, but it seems that was an incredible mistake.”
Even though he almost certainly heard Solt, the old man ignored him, and stroked Izumi’s hand.
Mysteriously, she felt no discomfort. Was it because he was an old man?”
“Ummm, I’m not actually here because I’ve come for you or anything, so let’s leave the heaven talk for some other time. Earlier, that trangorn-slaying hero you mentioned. Are you talking about the knight that came from the countryside?”
“You are well informed. Quite right. Right now he serves as Knight Captain in the capital.”
“I knew it!”
Izumi placed her remaining hand over his.
“So how is he? Did he make up with his wife?”
Although he had smiled broadly when her hand covered his, her following words made him frown.
“That man had a wife?”
“Eh… Yes, in his hometown. There was a bit of a misunderstanding, so he left his wife behind to go hunt the trangorn. Umm, did she not arrive in the Capital?”
The corners of his mouth turned down into a tight frown.
“I hear that the man is currently engaged to the princess of Jebas. OF all things, to think that he had a wife in his hometown is… Truly a disgrace. Aloma, I will be rejecting this job after all.”
“You can’t reject it. It’s a direct order from the King, you know!?” Aloma screamed.
“I didn’t like it from the start. My voice exists to spread praise and appreciation of female beauty, not to sing about men. My sculpting is the same. What’s supposed to be fun about carving muscular men in armour.”
“He isn’t just some muscular man. He succeeded in a trangorn slaying; something that hasn’t happened in centuries. Isn’t he the hero that even brought back its heart? He’s incredibly popular amongst the people right now, and blacksmiths are being flooded with requests to make swords in the design of the mysterious sword that an angel besto――――angel?”
As Alome fervently persuaded the old man――who was apparently a hardcore womaniser――he seemed to notice something as he looked at Izumi.
“It couldn’t be that the angel that bestowed the treasured Keropii Sword upon Arshu-sama, was you?”
Arshu was probably Armour. To think that that keropii sword had ended up classified as a treasured sword.
“Is that wrong?”
“Well, no, I guess it isn’t, maybe.”
It wasn’t her sword to begin with, and neither was it a treasured sword, but it was true that she had given it to him.
“I knew it. Did you hear, Old Maestro? The man is a hero who received a sword from this angel, and was led to victory by her. And right now that very same angel has saved your life. I really don’t think that anybody can write the song but you.”
“Fumu. I do not mind carving the scene of the angel granting him the sword… But I have no intentions of writing a song.”
Upon hearing that there might be a statue of her, a stiff smile appeared on Izumi’s face. Could it be that she would be stark naked there as well?
Having listened quietly so far, Zolt cut in with a “However”.
“If Arshu-sama truly has a wife, then things are dire. Bigamy is one of the 49 Deadly Sins.”
“49? That’s quite a lot, isn’t it.”
“Yes, we have a lot of commandments, starting with ‘Thou shalt not invade other countries’. Those who violate the commandments, even the King, will be punished. Is Arshu-sama truly married?”
She was actually curious about what the other 47 were, but now wasn’t the time for that. It would be terrible if Armoured Man was punished.
“No, that was just in the beginning, so he should be divorced right now. Ummm, do you guys acknowledge divorces?”
“Is that how it was? Yes, there is no problem if he is divorced.”
Both Solt and Aloma let out a sigh of relief.
“But you know,” continued Izumi, “he had a reason for it, you know? Arshu, was it? Because his wife had a weak body, he declined the subjugation mission at first. But the messenger from the King got him drunk, and apparently threw him into a brothel. And his wife found out and got mad, driving him out of the house. Or so Arshu thought, but actually she didn’t have much longer to live, so thinking about her husband’s future, she decided to step down. But then various things happened, and her body was healed, so she set out on a journey to find her husband in the Capital… Or at least I thought she did.”
Did she not end up going? She seemed so happy after she was healed too.
“Aha. So those are the circumstances behind that muscled man. I always wondered how he could be in line for the throne, and still always look so gloomy,” nodded Solt, after some particularly honest commentary.
Izumi was relieved. From what Solt said, it seems that Arshu hadn’t had a change of heart or anything.
“Could it be that his wife arrived at the Capital, only to hear rumour about his marriage with the Princess?”
Izumi facepalmed. It sounded entirely possible. If it was that woman, then it was entirely possible that she would step down again after hearing about a marriage with a princess. Was it already too late?
“Hey, could it be that he really is engaged now? Also, Arshu might not seem happy, but what about the Princess?”
“It isn’t final, but I heard that the one pushing it was the King himself, so it should only be a matter of time. Arshu-sama certainly looked gloo- …I mean, I never saw him smile, so perhaps he still has feelings for his old wife.”
Then what about the last concerned party, the Princess?
“The Princess… is still only nine years of age, and I do not believe she understands anything that is going on yet.”
Even at best, Arshu was in the first half of his twenties. A nine-year-old and somebody in their twenties. Izumi thought it was absurd, but then perhaps political marriages were just like that.
But still, to think this happened. I even healed her and everything.
While she wondered if there was anything that could be done, a certain idea came to mind. Izumi looked at the silently sulking old man.
“…Um, you’re going to write a song, right?”
“No, I will not.”
With a frown, he turned the other way.
“Didn’t I say that you couldn’t refuse!?”
Aloma rebuked him, but the old man just grew more stubborn.
“Won’t you write a song for us?”
“A song about a fool who was tricked by the King’s messenger, and then left his wife behind?”
The old man had apparently already no intention of doing it. He seemed to find it so stupid that he was liable to pick his nose at any time.
“No, about the tragic love of a hero who separated from his wife to go on a dangerous mission.”
“You must be very famous if the King is asking for you personally. If you sing about Arshu and his wife’s tragic love, I think the hearts of the King and the citizens might even be moved.”
The King obviously had his own plans, so that was probably impossible, but if they had the huge support of all the people, then perhaps they could change something.
“That may be a good idea,” agreed Aloma.
“Didn’t you say that I couldn’t disobey the King?” glared the old man.
“What are you saying. The King simply said that he wanted a song of praise written about the Hero Arshu and his subjugation of the trangorn. Not once did he say that you were not to sing about the beloved he left in his hometown. You wouldn’t be disobeying him.”
“At worst, you wouldn’t get a reward for it,” added Solt, apparently onboard.
“To be honest, even if Arshu-sama is a hero, I didn’t really agree with marrying him to a nine-year-old princess.”
Not everybody could simply accept it because it was a political marriage.
“I’m sure the King is anxious. The Prince ran away to another country, and so his successor is the Princess alone,” said Aloma with a meaningful gaze.
“How pitiful the Princess must be. As the one who tempted the Prince with tales of the fraud, Conyork the Second, you must surely be feeling guilty, Old Maestro,” continued Solt.
Apparently this old man had a deep relationship with the Prince and Princess.
“Gununu,” he groaned.
“Will you not do so for the Princess instead? Think about that beautiful face, despite her age. She will surely become a beautiful woman of your taste in the future.”
“Hmph. I doubt I’ll be alive at that point!”
After cursing, the old man gave a deep sigh.
“Eei! I just have to write a song, right?”
“As expected of Old Maestro!”
“This is why I cannot quit being your disciple.”
“Thank you, Old Maestro.”
Izumi, followed by Aloma and Solt all gave their cheers.
He frowned again.
“I told you not to call me ‘Old Maestro’.”
The moment that Izumi bowed to him, something suddenly forced its way past her side.
“Wawah-!” she screamed, before looking to her side.
The horse-thing had thrust its nose into her bathroom window.
It stretched its head to drink from her bathwater, but when it realised it couldn’t reach, it began licking at the water droplets on the wall instead.
“Stop that! You’ll go to heaven!”
Aloma pulled at its hair in a panic, but the horse-thing showed no signs of stopping.
Perhaps he had lost control because it no longer had reigns, but the horse-thing was just doing as it liked. It was only when Aloma and Solt both pulled at the hair on its neck that it let out a neigh of dissatisfaction, before backing away. The bell rang -shan- again, as it got caught on the window frame.
“Excuse us, O Angel. Please do not worry about the issue with Arshu-sama!”
No sooner had Aloma finished shouting, Solt placed his hand on the window.
The bell rang as it dropped into the water, and at the same time, the window closed.