51 – A Demon’s Awakening – B

My conquest of Xontdix’s castle was interrupted by more militarized monster avatars.

They looked similar to the crab-spiders I encountered that first time. Their design was seemingly less armored in comparison, instead focusing on mobility judging from their long legs. But higher combat power meant higher defense in the end, anyway. At least that’s what I thought.

They had around 4,000 in combat power. 1,200 magic, too, so they were going to be slinging quite a bit of spells. How did they get so strong? There were even fifty of them. I might have ten times the power of each, but that was enough number to overwhelm me.

Also, I’m surprised they sent so many monster avatars inside a human country’s barrier. There weren’t just humans here, there were tons of players too. What was that corporation thinking?

 

Oh, crap, all of them just started buzzing. I immediately jumped away. A blast of force exploded not a second later, shattering the frozen statues and turning even uninjured players and soldiers into minced meat, spraying the pristine castle wall with a new coat of paint.

Mute screams from the blood-splattered survivors and the spectators from inside the castle rang out, echoing, coming together to form a low rumble of horror.

I mounted an immediate counterattack, spraying out cold mist, but their response was no less prompt. Several spiders shot out smaller blasts of shockwave to blow away my fog.

Damn them and their training. So annoying.

My unique skill [Causality Alteration] was also not very effective against avatars. Sure I could force them to fail their actions just like always, but that was it. They had just been created, after all. Their past barely held any significant events for me to mess with, and Earth was still much too far away for me to actually try to reach all the way over there. Still, there was something I could do.

I created some more mist. The spiders attempted to blast it away once more, and I forced their spells to fail.

My mist touched and froze a few of them, but did no damage other than simply stopping their movements. Looked like they’d taken measures against the cold.

I instantly attempted to follow up and destroy them, but interference came in the form of more explosive bullets from the other spiders. I pretended to dodge the projectiles, swerving ninety-degrees to the side and utilizing my 40,000 combat power to accelerate towards a few of the spiders. My claws tore them apart as I ran.

 

…and even all that only netted me two kills.

They weren’t impossible to put down, but I had to expend too much mana in comparison.

This couldn’t continue. I couldn’t stay like this.

To pick a fight with two worlds and survive, I needed more than just power. I needed to change.

Just a little more… just one more, and my transformation would be complete.

 

***

 

“Deputy Director, what in the world are you thinking?!”

The secretary slammed open the door. Inside the room, Brian was setting up his personal VR device. He turned to look at her, a beaming grin in his face.

“Heeey, Audrey, what’s up?”

 

The individual thought to be No. 13, the girl who had attacked the facility on Earth, had begun destroying the corporation’s sources of mana over in Yggdrasia. Security and surveillance was more stringent than ever, and the top brass was demanding the white girl be captured as soon as possible.

And so Brian had requested more budget for his special plan, which was an operation to capture the girl by utilizing the players, as a surveillance network, and the guild. But just as soon as it began, every single one of the new militarized monster avatar models were deployed. The operation did not call for this.

 

“Why did you deploy the new models in front of the public?! And what was with that amount of magic and power?! That was far beyond the allowed value!”

“You’re asking me why…? Isn’t it obvious? I’m killing the bunny.”

“What…”

Seeing Brian’s twisted smile, Audrey clenched her teeth.

 

With the current technology, 800 was the limit for the militarized avatars’ starting magic power. Any further and the link between the user and the avatar would degrade, causing unpredictable behaviors on the avatar side and increasing the mental burden on the user side. Originally, the militarized models were supposed to be gradually building up their magic in a process similar to ‘leveling’. The corporation would then move to analysis for several years before beginning development of high-leveled monster avatars.

Pushing the starting magic all the way up to 1200 must have been Brian’s own unsanctioned idea.

Ever since the white girl had taken his leg, Brian had been displaying more and more instabilities with every single passing day, and now, he was even ignoring his orders. Vengeance was the only thing on his mind.

 

“Come on, little bunny…” Brian chuckled darkly, “let me hear you scream…”

 

***

 

Despite the large-scale monster-repelling barrier, dozens of black spiders had suddenly appeared and began attacking people.

At first, many had thought the monsters were minions of Shedy’s, the mysterious rabbit beastman girl possessing an unknown mean of transport. Contrary to their expectations, however, the girl was no exception to the black spiders’ assault. Battle was joined between the two.

“Infighting?!”

“Regroup! Regroup while they’re still busy! Bring the magicannons, now!”

Those who had recovered from the chaos were beginning preparations for a counterattack.

The magicannon was an enlarged version of the guns that used magic to shoot out lead bullets. Due to the mana consumption, the cannons required a supply line directly from the Sapling in order to shoot. They had enough power to shoot down a flying dragon from several kilometers away.

As they expected Shedy to fight their soldiers and adventurers in a melee, their original plan did not call for the cannon. But now that she was busy with the spiders, there was no more reason to hesitate.

Three cannons were set up on top of the castle wall to point inward. With a roar of thunder, the whole courtyard was blown away, ground and all.

“Got you!”

“Serves you right, damn rabbit!”

“Fucking rabid demihuman, that’s what you get for biting your masters!”

 

Between the spiders and Shedy, who was more dangerous here? To humankind, the girl destroying Saplings was Evil, that much was true, yet it was not what had guided their aim in truth. No, it was simply the hatred they felt for the cattle that dared to rise up against humankind.

However, their decision had led to a tragedy. The cannon shots had damaged the black spiders, making them lose track of the girl that had been their objective. Abnormalities began to show in the monsters’ actions, and they started attacking humans with no discrimination.

 

“AaaaaaAAaRGhh!!”

“Exterminate those spiders!”

“Fuck, they’re toug-aaAAAAAAGH!!!”

The spiders clung to the castle wall, attacking the nobles standing behind windows or on terraces. Several black shadows descended upon the cannons, massacring the adventurers and soldiers nearby. In his desperation, the last soldier managed to fire a single cannon shot moments before his death. The projectile punched a hole through the castle wall. The spiders began pouring inside through the new opening.

 

“Your Majesty, please evacuate!”

Led by his knights, Tiz left the terrace. No matter how confident of his skills he was, Tiz could not stand up to the spiders and their 4000 combat power.

Still, he did not think Shedy would be so easily brought down. He looked back for a moment. In what remained of the courtyard, he saw a mass of white mist bursting out from the cloud of dust. It streamed through the hole in the castle wall as if it had a will of its own.

Something is about to happen, Tiz thought, and I’m not going to miss it.

“I’m going down! Follow me!”

 

***

 

“The secret beta testers are showing signs of mental collapses! The experiment can’t go on!”

The staff members monitoring the secret beta testers shouted, panic coloring their voices. Audrey hurried to give her order.

“I authorize the cessation of-”

“Oh no no no, Audrey, can’t have that now.”

The muzzle of a handgun was touching the back of her head, she realized. Audrey gasped.

“W-Why…”

“Oh, you sure asked some silly questions.” Brian laughed. “Anyway. By my order, freeze Audrey’s authority for today.”

With Brian’s voice, the green lights on Audrey’s mobile device all turned red.

The secret beta testers were showing signs of mental collapses much too quickly. Yet despite that, Brian seemed intent on driving them to their limits in order to kill No. 13.

Audrey stood, aghast. Brian took a look at her, nodded in satisfaction, then booted up his personal full-dive VR system.

“You just stay there and watch. I’m going to kill that little bunny myself.”

 

***

 

Inside, the castle was a mess.

I managed to turn into mist right before that surprise bombardment hit me. Once I flew into the castle, I returned to human form.

The militarized avatars had suddenly gone on a rampage. They weren’t moving mechanically like they did before; they were acting like a swarm of actual locusts, attacking anything alive and devouring humans left and right. Messy eaters, too.

Metallic screeches reached my ears.

Some of them had found me, and they promptly attacked. Their combat power hadn’t changed, but their movements had gotten much smoother, displaying a kind of animalistic nimbleness.

I immediately froze one of them, gouging out its head with my claws.

They might have gotten individually stronger, but they’d lost their cooperation in exchange. One on one, they posed no threat to me. Well, the humans being attacked probably wouldn’t think so, but it wasn’t like I had any obligation to save them anyway.

At any rate, I needed to deal with this group. Just as I finished off the last of them, I noticed a few humans approaching me from behind.

 

“Shedy!”

“…Tiz.”

He was still here? I thought he’d skipped town already.

Well, it wasn’t like I cared what happened to him anyway. I made to return to my search for the Sapling, when Tiz called out to me again.

“Are you so set on killing humans that you would even recruit monsters to do your bidding, Shedy?!”

It was his tone of voice, not what he said, that made me stop. I quietly turned around.

“…no. The spiders are enemies. I’ve nothing to do with them.”

“Then-”

“But,” I looked into his eyes and declared, “destroying the Saplings is my wish. Humans are just reaping what they sowed.” If you must hate, then hate me. That’s the only thing I can do for you. For humankind.

Tiz heard what I left unsaid. He scowled. After a few moments of thought, he raised his hand toward a direction.

“…Xontdix’s Sapling is over there. The path’s tricky, so go through the walls if you’re in a hurry,” he said, his words bordering on treason.

“Boy!” The old butler raised his voice in rebuke. The young emperor paid no heed to him and continued.

“I’m taking Xontdix’s royalty family to escape. I won’t stand in your way, but do something about those spiders until we can get out of here.”

“…understood.” I quietly nodded.

 

I didn’t care all that much, but if people I knew were to die, I’d prefer they at least do so away from my sight.

 

We shared one final glance, then turned away from each other and ran.

I took his advice and simply went through the walls. Several minutes later, I arrived at the Sapling.

 

I was greeted with a cackling laugh.

“Did you think you could save them?! Too bad for you, rabbit!”

Salia, the supposed bodyguard of Tiz, was standing there together with the knights of this country.

Below her feet lay dozens of beastmen and elven corpses, all cut into ribbons and charred black.

“How’s the taste of despair?! That’s what you get for getting in my way and making me look like a fool… t-the hell is that look for?! Brazen vermin!”

Salia had killed the demihuman slaves of this castle. Apparently, her grudge had convinced her I was trying to rescue them.

I supposed it wasn’t surprising people would think so. I had saved demihumans, even if it was all on a whim of mine.

 

“Out of my way.”

I clenched my right hand. The knights, including Salia, instantly had their arms and legs broken. They collapsed into pools of blood, howling cries of agony.

I leisurely walked through them. Salia still struggled. She reached a hand toward me, eyes full of hatred. I froze only the surface of her face.

The woman renewed her screams and scrabbled at her iced-over skin. It only made things worse. Oh well, I’d be spending some time with her later on anyway.

 

“…sorry I made you wait.”

I whispered. Xontdix’s Sapling scattered into light, and I grabbed hold of the white magic stone inside.

 

***

 

“Where, oh where are you, little bunny…”

 

While the dozens of spiders were ravaging the castle interior, an enormous monster appeared outside. A bluish-black centipede twenty meters long and one meter in diameter went through the castle wall, crushing the fortifications with claws and the sheer weight of its armored body. Whoever could use [Identification] despaired, when the skill revealed its combat power to be over seven thousand.

At that moment, the barrier protecting the castle disappeared, announcing to the world the destruction of the Sapling. All hope was gone for the humans.

From inside the ruined castle, the source of the calamity quietly walked out. The white rabbit showed herself.

 

“There you are!!”

The giant centipede attacked as soon as it caught sight of Shedy. The knights ran towards her in a last-ditch attempt of revenge.

“Gah-”

And as she raised her right hand, everything stopped moving.

Her cold, impassive eyes swept through the men and monster standing stock-still as if frozen in time. Her hand clenched into a fist, and corpses of knights fell down in bloody showers.

 

Brian, sitting in his VR device, was forcibly logged out when both his eyes and arms were suddenly pulverized.

 

And Shedy began her silent transformation.

Pale skin, yet still faintly pink of flesh and blood, was now being bleached of all color, turning alabaster white. Scarlet pupils bled out to stain the white of her eyes crimson-red.

An enormous cloud of fog billowed, exploding to cover the whole capital city in a blink of an eye. All living creatures — including the human population of one hundred and fifty thousand — were turned into ice sculptures.

 

Tiz looked back from the airship that had just barely cleared the blast zone. He saw Shedy standing in the center of a wasteland of frost, of deathly silence, as though the ice had entombed even the resentment of the deceased. He thought her cold gaze was pointed at him. He forgot to breath for a moment.

 

And so, Shedy had shown herself to be the worst Evil of this world. People started calling the sorcerous rabbit something else.

White Bunny, the Dark Lady.

 

[Shedy] [Race: Bunny Girl] [Archdemon Lv. 10]
・The rabbit demon of Laplace. Trickster and guide of man’s fate.

[Magic Points: 56,000/56,000] 19,800↑
[Total Combat Power: 61,600/61,600] 21,800↑
[Unique Skill: <Causality Alteration> <Cyber-Manipulation> <Absorption> <Materialization>] 
[Racial Skill: <Fear> <Mist Form>]
[Simple Identification] [Human Form (Wonderful)] [Subspace Inventory]
[Dark Lady]

A/N: Readers who have read my other work might think something’s a bit strange. That’s because Shedy isn’t the ‘savage’ or the ‘hedonistic’ kind of demon. She’s a ‘cold-hearted’ demon.


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50 – A Demon’s Awakening – A

A/N: Newest map. Story currently taking place in the southern part of the map, slightly to the east.

*Destroyed Saplings are crossed out.


 

“Quasix… has fallen?”

The Crown Prince Aslan muttered in a daze upon hearing the news. Tiz next to him was silent, his face grim.

 

Quarrevingts, Kancinq, and now Chisept. Small countries they might be, the fact that three Saplings were destroyed in a row was undeniable. Their governments had broken down.

There had been zero casualties among the governors’ families and barely any among the citizen population. However, the vast majority of their magitech weapons had been rendered useless, and the large-scale barriers protecting their cities had disappeared. The inevitable monster attacks would soon turn these countries into ruins.

Until now, a country’s refugees could rely on the prompt support and protection of their neighboring nation. But what would happen if even their neighbors lost their home?

On this isolated subgroup of continents, far away from the other landmasses, what few countries there were had forged a deep alliance with each other. But now, the small alliance had further diminished with their members being picked off one by one, and the very isolation that had been their strength was now pushing the survivors into a corner.

 

And now finally, the Sapling of a large country, Quasix Kingdom, was destroyed.

Part of it was because they had carelessly believed she wouldn’t be keeping her assault up for so long. Mainly, however, no one had thought a large country would fall so easily.

The reason was plain to see: Quasix had sent away too much of its soldier in helping the other countries, and the rabbit beastman girl – Shedy – had been far more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine.

 

The northern and southern landmasses of this subgroup of continents had held five countries. Now, only Xontdix was left standing.

Rumors had it that Quasix’s king had immediately given up on his own country when he saw what had happened to his neighbors, and that the royal family had escaped to the Central Continent on their private airship together with their riches.

‘Gramps.’

‘Understood.’

Tiz looked at his butler. The old servant quietly left, heading toward Touze’s airship to give the order to hasten the mana recharging.

They needed to plan for the worst, even if the worst was something that could not be allowed to happen. With that said, they could not openly prepare their escape. Fear had driven this country’s nobilities and soldiers into a frenzy. There was a very real chance Touze’s entourage would be attacked if they were seen to be getting ready to leave.

“Damn that rabbit! I had always known she was nothing more than a foul villain ever since I first lay eyes on her. By my hand, the hammer of justice shall strike her down!”

Simple-minded Salia was getting worked up in front of Xontdix’s knights, forgetting about her own position of being the Emperor’s bodyguard. At the same time, she was unwittingly making for a great distraction to keep eyes away from their escape preparations.

 

Two small countries in the east still survived, but none of them had more than a hundred thousand in population. They did not have the power to help anyone else. They could only help each other to coordinate their defenses and hole up in their castles. They stayed on utmost alert for Shedy, while praying she never appeared.

In these trying times, both the adventurer’s guild and the Temples had spared no expenses in providing support. Airships carrying adventurers of Rank 4 and 5 gathered from all over the world. At Rank 5, an adventurer was practically equivalent to an officer knight.

 

Since half a year ago, new adventurers with explosive speed of growth were coming out of the woodwork, and a few among them had shown true talent.

But these new adventurers didn’t bring only their talents. They had also brought their own problems.

While not everyone was the same, those to whom the moniker of ‘troublemaker’ would apply were causing no small amount of headaches. Some looked as if they were coming to a festival, even when the country’s very own survival were hinging upon them. Some started fights with the tense soldiers, and in worse cases, even injuring them and getting arrested afterwards.

Ostensibly, the guild was there to provide adventurer support to individuals or small-scale mercenary groups, in order to combat the monsters that had started multiplying in recent years. Keeping the peace – for example, patrolling the streets – in place of the guards was one of their missions. Yet these new adventurers were neglecting their job. They were only there to fight the rabbit beastman girl, all the while making more problems for the knights.

 

“Still, this is quite the sight…”

There were hundreds of Rank 4 and 5 adventurers in Xontdix’s palace courtyard. They made for a force practically equivalent to the whole of Xontdix’s order of knights.

How would Shedy react if she saw this? If she actually attacked this place, how would she do it?

Tiz had poured a fortune into his bounty to capture her. But with the situation being what it was, he doubted many would think of taking her alive.

Alongside the awareness of being the representative of an allied country was a perverse desire to see her breaking apart this army of adventurers. A peculiarly childish excitement welled up inside him. He felt like he was once again that boy who had just acquired his magic sword for the first time.

 

It began the next day, in the early morning.

Thanks to the stabilizing influence of the Saplings, the three small continents had climates similar to those of tropical countries. But many of the countries on these continents were near the ocean and thus, constantly humid. No one thought the morning fog was anything out of the ordinary.

Some of the adventurers were mysteriously and unexpectedly disappearing from times to times. The lack of people on watch had been one of the contributing factors to this disaster.

“What is this chill…?”

“Weird mist, don’t you think?”

“Wait, that’s no mist!”

The several soldiers and adventurers blocking the castle gate turned into frozen statues in an instant, and the ice-covered gate shattered inward. People inside the castle witnessed the rabbit beastman girl marching right through the front door.

 

“That’s the bunny!!”

Whistles and bells announced her assault. As the knights attempted to leave their barracks, they found out the drifting mist was more than just a show.

“The doors are all frozen!”

“Break them open! If you can’t, then break the windows!”

Outside, there were 300 soldiers and 100 adventurers. They would need to hold on until the troops from the barracks and castle interior arrived. Against a single normal teenage beastman girl, it would have been considered excessive firepower.

She was not normal.

 

“There she is!”

“The Fluffy Bunny’s here!”

Some of the adventurers rushed forward in the drifting chill, sparing not a single glance for the fearful soldiers.

No one would have thought these men to be high-rank adventurers. They looked far more like clowns prancing around in their inefficiently huge weapons, spiky pauldrons, and overly revealing armor. They leered at Shedy, the girl now mid-way through her teen standing in front of them. They charged at her, looking more like they were trying to push her down rather than actually fighting.

She turned her cool gaze upon them. She dashed, several times faster than the speed the adventurers’ 1,000 combat power could afford them. Her palm smashed into the face of the man leading the charge.

He gurgled and exploded into glimmering light. The adventurer right behind him jumped toward her. She bent backwards to dodge his wild swing, leg snapping upward to deflect the enormous scythe, then twisting her torso to deliver a roundhouse kick. Her razor-sharp heel pulverized his head.

“Holy sheeeiiiit, that’s OP as fuck!!”

“Front line, surround her!”

“Back line, debuff magic now!”

The latecomers were beginning to work together. They seemed to have finally realized the threat Shedy posed.

Enfeebling spells clashed against her resistance and lost, disappearing into sparks and ear-grating crackles. She faintly frowned. The girl turned on her side, pointing her right palm at them and squeezed.

“Whoa?!” “What the fuck?!”

The adventurers’ spells failed, disturbing their battle lines. Shedy spread her chilly mist and ran through the gap in their formation, felling the now-sluggish adventurers with flashes of claws and kicks.

 

Since the fight started, dozens of adventurers had already fallen in just as many seconds. Around eighty percent of the corpses had disappeared, the sight chilling the spines of the soldiers and rooting them to the spot. It was then that the knights finally broke out of their frozen prison.

“Take down the rabbit!”

The officer knight’s shout turned the desperate knights and soldiers into a veritable tsunami of spears and swords.

As Shedy took in their vehemence, their zeal, her countenance turned just a little gentler than what she had shown the adventurers. Frosty mist dripped off of her, sapping heat and magic from everyone in the area, and finally freezing them all.

 

“What is that…?”

Tiz was watching from the upper floor terrace. He turned to his butler, seeking confirmation once more. The old man only grimly shook his head.

Just as before, they could not [Identify] Shedy’s combat power. But they did not need the skill to know that her power was far beyond imagination.

The Rank 5 adventurers with over 1000 combat power were being effortlessly dispatched, and the soldiers and knights with 300 to 500 power might as well be a mob of feeble kobolds facing a Hero.

 

…a Hero.

Indeed, a Hero might be able to do what Shedy was doing right now.

In this world, there were three persons acknowledged as Heroes by the Holy City Ayune.

The Hero of Might, the [Champion].

The Hero of Knights, the [Blademaster].

The Heroine of Magic, the [Sage].

Rumors had it that these people, chosen by the elementals of light, had combat power over ten thousand; that they were acting upon a different set of principles than what the Temple at Ayune espoused; and that they were vanquishing evil all around the world.

Tiz had met the Champion before. He thought the man truly deserved being called a Hero.

The Champion, the Blademaster, and the Sage were all humans. Then what if the other races – the demihumans – had a Hero of their own?

And if such a person existed, then who would be their enemy? Who would be the Villain to the demihumans’ Hero?

 

To humans, Shedy was inarguably Evil.

But then, to the other races, what was she?

 

“…no, that’s just stupid.”

Tiz shook his head, getting rid of a notion much too silly for an emperor of a human country to hold.

He liked Shedy. But he didn’t covet her so much that he would forget his throne, his empire.

To prevent any further losses, Shedy must be the Evil they must destroy, right here and right now.

But was it even possible? It had been only a few days, yet it seemed like she had had another boost in power. They had hundreds of adventurers, over a thousand knights, and several thousand soldiers. Would it be enough…?

 

“Gramps, how are the preparations?”

“Going well. However, lady Salia is currently joining His Highness Aslan in combat…”

“…worst case, we leave her.”

If this army could not defeat Shedy here, then Tiz must immediately return to Touze Empire. He gave his order: if needs must, Salia – the bodyguard who had let her personal indignation and enmity pull her away from her post – would be left behind. Then he turned his sight back to Shedy.

Suddenly, pools of liquid darkness began to seep out from thin air, coalescing into monstrosities.

“What… are those…?!”

 

Grotesque spiders of Stygian blackness. Three meters tall. Fifteen meters wide, including their twelve legs.

There were nearly fifty of them.

[MO—07—B] [Militarized Monster Avatar]
[Magic Points: 1200/1200] [Hit Points: 2000/2000]
[Total Combat Power: 4000]

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Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 229

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Happy birthday, Sneha. Originally this chapter was supposed to be released together with the next one due to its short length.

Over the last 3 weeks it has become clear to me that the next chapter isn’t coming any time soon, so here you are I guess. Do you hate me yet?

But you have to see it from my perspective. the raws have been on hiatus for a billion years now, so it’s reaaaaaaaaaally hard to feel like I have to catch up.


After a tearful farewell with the little cuties of the Petit Pivoine, I was half-dragged by Kaburagi to our usual little room.

I moaned to no avail about how I wanted to talk with the children more, or about how I still had plans after this. Kaburagi simply snapped at me to move it, and grabbed me by the top of my arm to take me away.

What was particularly bothering was that when his fingers sunk into more flesh than expected, he gave me a shocked double-take. For a woman with a dainty, delicate heart like a fine blancmange, that kind of reaction was deeply upsetting.

You’re wrong! It’s just my clothes that are making me thick! Underneath this bulky blazer I’m wearing my blouse too so it’s just all the clothes that make me feel fat!

Stop it!

Stop looking back and forth between my arm and your hand to compare!

*

*

“Well? Whatever might you wish to talk about~?” I said with disinterest.

The secret of my arms revealed, I now found myself sulking in front of Kaburagi.

“That’s not a good attitude,” he complained, but I ignored it.

I still had cram school after this. I just wanted to go home and change already.

And maybe buy some dumbbells along the way…

Seeing that I was determined to sulk, Kaburagi let out an exaggerated sigh before beginning his story.

“…What I wanted to talk about was my time in Rome with Takamichi during the free period.”

No surprises there. Actually I’d be surprised if it was anything else.

Fine, fine, I’ll hear you out. Stop glaring at me.

Go on, continue, continue.

“…Just like our time in Paris, the two of us toured the dessert shops that she wanted to try. At the tiramisu shop she couldn’t pick because they all looked so good, so we ordered a whole lot of them are shared them between us. Strawberry tiramisu isn’t really a thing in Japan, but she liked it the most and asked if she could have the rest. I told her that I didn’t mind, and she just thanked me with such a happy smile…”

At this point Kaburagi began grinning to himself, seemingly lost in memories.

It was kind of gross how womanly he was being. I swear his voice went soft and high just now.

At any rate, he couldn’t stop talking about it.

After that they went to this shop, ate that, when they went for their same plate their fingers touched which had them both in a fluster etc.

I wanted to roar and tear his head off.

Villagers, charge! Enemy attack! Enemy attack!

The enemy have come for us!

“There was one thing that could’ve gone better though. She was going to meet up with her friends afterwards to go shopping, so she asked me if I had any souvenir ideas. Something did come to mind, but she didn’t seem too keen on my suggestion.”

Hmph. This was Kaburagi we were talking about. No doubt he suggested something that was way beyond the means of a normal high schooler to buy.

Oh, that reminded me. I had to remember to hand over souvenirs to everyone at cram school. I bought Italian stationery goods and sweets that hadn’t reached Japan yet.

Compared to the kids at the Petit Pivoine, it had been way, way harder coming up with souvenir ideas for my cram school friends and my underclassmen in the Handicrafts Club.

After all, I really dreamed about being thought of as a stylish person by everybody else.

That’s why I only bought these sweets after strenuous consideration.

It would not do to think of these sweets as simple chocolates bought in a random gift store. This was a chance to show off my taste, after all.

A stylish person would never stoop as low as simply buying yatsuhashi from Kyoto, or macadamia nuts from Hawaii. No matter how tasty they were! Not even if they were always so delicious that you finished the box in one go!

Yatsuhashi is a typical Kyoto souvenir made from rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. The rectangular shape is said to represent the koto (a traditional string instrument of Japan) or a bridge.
Although the macadamia nut tree originated in Australia, Hawaii is well-known for its cultivation of them, and they are a popular Hawaiian souvenir.

The idea of goods that weren’t being sold in Japan yet was just so ‘premium’. After all, when they eventually made their way here it would be like,

“Oh! Kisshouin-san/Reika-senpai actually bought these as souvenirs a while back. As expected of her~”

Right? So it would be like I was so stylish that I knew the trends before they became trends, even.

I didn’t really have much confidence in my taste. But that was why I so badly wanted to be seen as tasteful.

I wanted them to look up to me as a stylish lady.

I wanted to become the trendsetter for Zuiran──

“Oi, are you even listening to me?”

“Yes, why of course I am,” I nodded vigorously.

And so the Roman date continued.

After eating they went on a stroll to help with digestion. They went and saw churches and ruins and whatnot. Wakaba-chan was overjoyed at how delicious the gelato place he recommended was. It seemed like he had a great day.

By the end of it they were even careless enough to get out of a taxi together, not far from Roma Termini train station.

Honestly, what were they thinking?

After I warned him so many times to be careful too.

Wasn’t it this damned idiot’s fault that they got spotted, and now everyone was hating on Wakaba-chan again!?

Since it was our last school trip, there was no end to girls who dreamt about making happy memories in Europe with everybody’s beloved Emperor.

People already had a bad impression of Wakaba-chan. If you added ‘stealing a march’ on top of that it was little wonder that they were muttering about her being sneaky, or an ugly girl who thought too much of herself.

And just when the bullying was dying down, too…

Worse yet, she was spotted touring London with Fellow Stalking Horse as well. Apparently he had jealous fans too.

Oh. And according to the girls, apparently there were also rumours about me flying around.

Like how I’d had fun shopping with Enjou in Paris. Or how I had a chat over some coffee with Enjou and the Emperor at our hotel in Rome. Or how I received macarons from Kaburagi.

In my rumours I was living as delightfully as Wakaba-chan it seemed.

I feel empty…

“Anyway, moving onto the main topic…”

“Ehh!?”

Don’t tell me that long ass talk about his never-ending date (Roman Edition) was just the introduction!?

It’s too long, Kaburagi. Too long. It’s so long that I’m actually dumbfounded.

I really wonder if I can’t get a summary report for this…

“I feel like we’ve gotten a lot closer this trip.”

“Truly, good sir?”

“So I’m thinking that I’ll go with the flow and try inviting her here and there.”

“That sounds like a fine idea indeed.”

“Where do you think would be good?”

“I believe you must ask your heart that.”

“Oi, can you answer seriously!?”

I can’t, I’ve already had my fill of listening to other people’s romances.

“What if you had this conversation with your best friend, Enjou-sama?” I tried.

“I’ve already talked to Shuusuke. He suggested that I talk to you.”

…That guy pushed all the work onto me, huh?

“Then as I have mentioned before, I think the best place would be somewhere that will not intimidate Takamichi-san.”

“Intimidate, huh?”

“She did not take your souvenir advice when you failed to consider her scale of money, no?” I pointed out. “This is what I am asking you to pay attention to.”

“Money, huh?”

“How about checking some magazines? Perhaps an article on date spots,” I suggested.

“But relying on a manual is a bit…”

Kaburagi folded his arms and stared upwards.

“Come to think of it, Takamichi said something about going with a friend to a supermarket in Rome. Apparently she wanted to buy something that you couldn’t get in supermarkets here… Hey, Kisshouin,” he asked, “Have you ever been to a supermarket before?”

“I have,” I nodded, obviously, much to Kaburagi’s shock.

“What on earth were you doing in a supermarket?”

“What, you ask…?”

Replenishing food supplies, obviously.

For sweets or cup ramen and the like, a regular supermarket will do. For the side dishes I snack on at night, or if I want some imported sweets, I can get them at a high end supermarket that I sometimes visit. I try my best to go to each one on days when they’re giving 5 times the points for your point card.

“…Market research.”

“Market research…?”

“To know what families put on their dinner table is to know modern day Japan!”

Kaburagi’s eyes narrowed in question.

“How is that different to a convenience store?” he asked.

“My! What in heavens are you saying!? The products are completely different!” I exclaimed.

Supermarkets sold sweets in family packs. You could never find those in a convenience store.

Those ever alluring family packs…!

“I hope that explains it,” I finished.

Kaburagi turned sullen after I shook my head at him in pity.

“Fine! In that case, let’s go to a supermarket!” he announced, shooting to his feet.

“Hah?”

That sounded like he was about to drag me off to a supermarket.

“Takamichi has an interest in these supermarkets. I want to experience it too. Also I can help you with that market research or whatever it is you’re doing. C’mon, get to your feet and let’s go!”

“Wha-, please hold on a moment. I have cram school today.”

“Cram school?” he parroted.

“Yes.”

His enthusiasm dampened, Kaburagi looked dissatisfied.

But I wouldn’t let him have this.

The mid-terms are coming up soon, you know? Go and study, damn it.

“…Fine then. So when can we go?”

“Well, one the mid-terms are over perhaps…”

“That’s ages away! How about tomorrow? Or this weekend?”

Tomorrow? This weekend? My, my, you do have too much time on your hands. You poor thing.

To think that the Emperor of Zui’ran actually had nothing on his schedule all day, every day. It was enough to bring a tear to your eyes. Uupftpft.

“What are you looking at me like that for?” he asked.

“Nothing, nothing,” I said.

Ohoho, you must excuse me. My schedule is simply packed, and even if I make room for you it shan’t be until next week~ I’m simply so envious of people who have free time~

“If you are truly so desperate to go, then how about going by yourself or inviting Enjou-sama?””

“…What are Shuusuke and I supposed to do at a supermarket?”

I opened the door as I laughed as his pouting face.

Geez. Maybe I could do some research on normal date spots for him.

 


<Previous Chapter | Imouto | Next Chapter>

 

Schizophrenia – Chapter 40

A reminder that statuses for upcoming chapters are updated here every week.


“Before I came here, I overheard several people talking about it. There was talk of His Highness The Prince breaking off his engagement before, but now it seems to be confirmed.”

“S-So it would seem…”

—Lilia, calm down! Yer voice ish trembling!

—You’re the one talking strangely. So what, did this boy actually know who I am?

—I-I don’t think so. No, I don’t think he does. He was probably just bringing up something to talk about, I think.

Lilia peered at Ray’s expression indiscreetly. He was glaring at the textbook at front of him, and then he let out a moan.

“Ray, why…why are you bringing up this Lilianne person all of a sudden?”

“Huh? No real reason. For her to be able to get into a quarrel with the prince, I was simply wondering just what kind of person she was. Come to think of it, you’re also part of the upper-class nobility, aren’t you, Mistress Lilia? Have you met Mistress Lilianne before?”

—Sakura. Which one is it? Has he realised who I am? Or has he not?

—Nn…He probably…hasn’t realised.

—Alright. I’ll trust your judgement, Sakura.

Lilia took a deep breath, and reciprocated Ray’s gaze. Ray’s smile was carefree as always. Seeing that, Lilia couldn’t believe that he was deceiving her.

“I do know of her. However, I haven’t talked with her personally.”

—Yup. That’s not a lie.

“Ah, that makes sense. Just based off the fact that she was quarrelling with His Highness The Prince, she sure seems like quite the self-important person, huh?”

“Y-You could be right there…”

Lilia’s expression stiffened. Knowing nothing about her, it would be easy to see her that way. As Lilia was thinking to herself, perhaps I should think more carefully about the way I conduct myself, Sakura said:

—Umm, Lilia. People who do know you well also think you’re self-important.

—That’s… I’ll take more care from now on…

“I’m sure I’ll have the chance to talk to her eventually.”

Before she could say something tactless or unnecessary, Lilia tried to bring the topic to a close. Whether he realised what she was doing or not, Ray said,

“Oh, really? I’ll look forward to it.”

He said so with a smile. Lilia returned a vague smile of her own, and brought her gaze back to her book.

 

After that, Lilia’s normal everyday life continued for some time. From the next day onward, Sera no longer followed Lilia around. However, it wasn’t as if she’d stopped coming to class altogether. She simply remained at her own desk quietly.

Of course, when Lilia entered the room, at first Sera tried to start a conversation with her. However, when Lilia ignored her, she gave up and returned to her own seat. After that, every time someone she knew came in, Sera tried to talk to them, too—but nobody wanted to speak with her.

Even so, the fact that Sera didn’t attempt to flee from the classroom was something Lilia could honestly praise her for. Lilia didn’t know whether that was because Sera had reflected on her actions or not, but for the moment, it seemed she wasn’t going to make a move.

By way of a rumour, Lilia had heard that Sera was summoned by the prince after school had ended. The prince likely pushed her relentlessly for answers. Lilia hoped Sera and the prince would both take something away from the incident, but Sakura thought that would be expecting too much.

Incidentally, Tina was quite troubled when she heard about this. However, in front of Lilia, she simply gave her a strained smile and thanked her.

By the weekend, nothing had changed. Sera sat at her own seat, and cast her gaze down in silence.

—Hey, Lllia.

Sakura’s voice echoed in her head, and Lilia turned her thoughts to that.

—Is it okay to leave those five people aside from Sera alone?

Sakura was referring to the remaining five people who had sent those notes to Tina. From her agents’ investigation, Lilia knew who the culprits were. Yet, Lilia had not laid a hand on any of those five people.

—There’s no need. By making an example of Sera, I don’t think there’s anyone left stupid enough to pester Tina any further. Well, it’ll likely only serve as a temporary measure, though.

—Hmmm…that’s fine, then.

At that moment in their conversation, the teacher, followed by the prince, entered the classroom. Just as usual, the teacher sat at his desk, the prince at his, and class began. And of course, Lilia…

—Today’s lesson isーscience!

—Yes, yes.

In order to listen to Sakura’s lecture, Lilia tuned everything else out.

 

The morning classes were over, as was lunch, and so Lilia spent the afternoon at the library. After this completely ordinary day came to an end, Lilia didn’t head back to her room, but rather, headed towards the classroom.

Just as class ended, the teacher came out of the classroom. When he saw Lilia, his eyes opened wide.

“Sir, aren’t you being a bit disrespectful?”

“A-ahh…Sorry about that. I didn’t think you’d be coming back… But, Aldis–and I realise I’m being a bit rude–but I don’t want to be told that by someone who doesn’t even pay attention in class.”

“Oh my, so you did realise. My deepest apologies.”

“It’s obvious you have no intention of changing your attitude. Well, while your grades are still good, I won’t say anything more.”

The teacher ended the conversation there, and without saying anything else, disappeared down the hallway. Lilia watched him until he was out of sight, and a slight sense of admiration showed on her face.

—That teacher, he realised, huh. That you weren’t paying any attention to his class.

—I didn’t think that he’d realised…surprisingly, he saw straight through me. I need to be more careful.

If that class was at least a little more meaningful, Lilia started thinking, but comparing it to Sakura’s lectures was perhaps too harsh. Lilia sighed slightly, and then opened the door to the classroom.

The classroom was full of students making idle chatter, but as soon as Lilia stepped in, the room fell quiet. They really didn’t need to be so mindful of me, thought Lilia as she looked from one end of the classroom to the other. Nobody would meet her eyes.

Though she felt that something was off, Lilia started looking for the person she’d come here to see; Sera. And she found her instantly.

Sera was still sat in her own seat. Because she was looking down, Lilia couldn’t see the expression on her face. And surrounding Sera were Kris and her entourage. Lilia could also see her other two followers hanging around the same place. Just by seeing that, Lilia could imagine what these girls were up to.

—Just what is that Idiot Prince doing?

—He’s nowhere around, huh. Well, he’s an unpredictable guy that can disappear at any moment, so I guess it can’t be helped.

—Well, he is still a prince, even if he doesn’t act like it. It’s possible he has been summoned to the castle. More importantly…

When Lilia looked at Kris and everyone standing around her, they all averted their eyes. My, my, Lilia thought as she started walking over to them.

—Lilia. Help her out, okay?

—I know.

Lilia kept her reply short, and moved to stand in front of Kris and her entourage.

 


Author’s Note:
Mr. Teacher is surprisingly perceptive.

Sakura

Lilia


<Previous Chapter | JAONNN! | Next Chapter>

49 – The Emperor’s Trap – 4

After sniping the barrier magitool at Xontdix’s castle, I jumped on the unstable connection, forcing it to carry me back to the World Tree.

“I actually did it, yessss.”

So many things could have gone wrong back there.

There were hundreds of adventurers and almost a thousand of knights at the castle. Even if each of them only had 300 to 500 combat power at most, that was still enough people to grind down my own 26,000. If I took too long back then and allowed the corporation to interfere, I might have gotten into real trouble.

I had needed the trap-setters to fear me as preparations for my next move. To that end, I had pulled out all the stops.

 

I had shown the hundreds of adventurers the full power of my magic without reservations, to get them to become wary of me.

When I noticed Tiz’s group, I had attempted to use [Causality Alteration] on those important-looking people. They were there so I might as well take the shot, I thought. It failed when a few others jumped into my aim, but well, that wasn’t important.

I was a lot more worried about whether I could destroy the castle’s barrier.

In the countries I’d been to, the barrier’s magitool was always at the center of the castle, near the Sapling, and so I had aimed my [Causality Alteration] at that general direction. If it hadn’t been there, or if the magitool’s supervisor hadn’t been nearby, the skill would have failed. I would have wasted a ton of magic for absolutely no reason.

Then, with the cloud of mist already scattered, I forced a connection to the network. I had had to repeatedly use [Causality Alteration] to get the unstable line to work right.

So much mana spent. Thankfully, I was regenerating a lot faster just by staying near the World Tree. I stayed for an hour, getting my magic back up and calming my racing nerves. And then it was time to go back to Quarrevingts, where a part of me awaited.

 

Panda was lazing about in the shadow of the Sapling’s branches. As I arrived, he jumped at me, clinging to my waist.

“Hello Panda. I’m here.”

“Ook.”

I told you, I didn’t need bananas.

“…wha-who are you?!”

“A beastman?! Rabbit ears?!”

Shouts rang out. A few researcher-ish humans, who had been harvesting mana near the Sapling, were spooked by my sudden appearance..

“Get her! She’s that rabbit in the bounty!”

Thinking their opponent was just a single normal beastman girl, the researchers didn’t even call for the guards. They charged at me all by themselves. Really, if they knew I had a bounty, they should have known I was going around destroying Saplings. That I was a “dangerous terrorist”.

“I’m gonna be rich-aaaaaAARGH!?”

I blasted icy mist at the five, freezing them in an instant.

Hearing the noises and feeling the chilly air, the guards quickly showed up. I disabled them with [Causality Alteration], turning their old scars into debilitating wounds. I made them watch me grind the Sapling down into dust right in front of their eyes.

“Bye.”

Despair pulled all the color out of their faces. I gave them a casual wave, then jumped on the now-available connection to go back to the World Tree.

 

To the next one.

 

***

 

“Quarrevingts’ Sapling was destroyed?! The country had fallen?!”

 

Xontdix’s Crown Prince grabbed his messenger by the lapels and roared.

Thanks to the geographical closeness of the landmasses, the countries on these three small continents had forged a powerful bond, stronger than any relationship another continent’s country could have with their neighbors. Bloodlines frequently crossed beyond borders. Xontdix’s princess, Aslan’s little sister, had married the Crown Prince of Quarrevingts several years ago. She was expecting their first child soon.

“Then what was father… what was the king’s decision? We need to send help right away!”

“Y-your Royal Highness… R-reportedly, the culprit was the rumored rabbit. His Majesty believed the rabbit will come here again, so he had ordered priority to be given to our own country’s defense.”

“Then what would happen to Quarrevingts?! What would happen to my sister?!”

Aslan looked ready to set off with his own army at any moment. He would have, if it hadn’t been for Tiz’s intervention.

“Aslan, calm down!”

 

When Shedy showed up within their trap, they had thought her no more than a bagged rat. When she suddenly disappeared, they had thought she was either hiding in the castle or the royal capital. Yet just a few hours later, she had shown up at Quarrevingts thousands of kilometers away and destroyed their Sapling.

Their hypothesis was that she possessed an unknown mean of transportation. With her unpredictable appearances, Xontdix’s king had made the right decision to focus on the security of their own Sapling.

Even if Quarrevingts’ Sapling was destroyed, the continent still had Xontdix’s own. The climate hadn’t changed much. Quarrevingts might have lost their mana source and all the conveniences born from it, but if their royalties still lived and there was no official request for assistance, then the most a foreign country could do was to ask if they needed help or not. No more.

 

“Y-Yes… that’s right… it’s not like Quarrevingts’ royal family are gone, after all.”

“Right. Things would get much worse if this country’s Sapling was also destroyed. For the time being, you should send a few people to confirm the situation first.”

 

All the same, Tiz thought there was no way Quarrevingts could get back up again after this.

There had been countries attempting to recover after the destruction of their Saplings. But before they could start to deal with the loss of their markets and utilities, they had to face a far more fundamental problem: how would they eat when all the animals and fish had all left for more abundant lands?

There were talks of going home among Tiz’s group, his entourage from Touze Empire. They decided to stay in the end, however.

Even if Xontdix did nothing, there would still be refugees coming in. People who had given up on their country the moment the Sapling was gone.

Monsters that had never appeared near towns and highways before were now attacking settlements and the refugees on the move. The country was forced to send out most of its knights and soldiers, which left the Sapling’s defense understaffed. As soldiers of a country with friendly relations, the smattering of knights from Touze Empire were voluntold into helping to watch over the Sapling.

Three days later, the situation changed.

The large country Quasix Kingdom, situated on the neighboring continent to the north, had announced their intention to send several thousand soldiers as help in maintaining public order, as well as large quantities of food as aid.

The two continents were separated only by a thin strip of ocean. Ships, merchants’ or otherwise, filled the channel.

Travel preparations were already done. By their schedule, the soldiers would cross the ocean and begin peacekeeping one week later.

 

However, just as Quasix Kingdom’s support fleet left port, disaster befell the small country Kancinq to the west of Quasix. Its Sapling was destroyed by Shedy.

Trade coming to and from the Southern Continent had to pass through the doorway that was Kancinq. It was a capital of commerce, a leader of fads and fashions. The country only had a population of 80,000, but its streets were always lively with sailors and merchants.

Of course, Kancinq was aware of the destruction of the Sapling in Quarrevingts, as well as that of Rantetrois Principality across the sea. They were on high alert. However, the king had requested ships, including the merchants’, to come to the channel to transport food and other daily goods. A large number of soldiers and adventurers had to accompany them by necessity.

Which left barely two hundred guards to protect the castle’s Sapling, including both knights and soldiers. They were powerless against Shedy’s night assault. They lost the Sapling in just a few hours.

And so, Quasix Kingdom had requested Chisept Principality in the east to come to Kancinq’s aid. But only half a day after the destruction of Kancinq’s Sapling, Shedy suddenly appeared inside Chisept’s castle and destroyed their Sapling.

 

***

 

I greeted Blobsy, still waiting for me at Chisept’s Sapling.

“Hey. Sorry I’m late.”

*boing*

She jumped, snuggling against me. She must have felt a bit lonely. Panda rewarded her with a banana to stuff herself with.

I broke the Sapling, took back the mana package I left behind, put up a token fight with the guards there, then jumped to the newly reborn Sapling.

“You too, sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Whenever I visited the reborn Saplings, they were always in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The World Tree must have picked locations humans would find difficult to live in.

As always, I built a small mulch hill to hide the young plant together with Blobsy and Panda. And as always, it sent me a white magic stone.

[Shedy] [Race: Bunny Girl] [Lesser Archdemon Lv. 8]
・The rabbit demon of Laplace. Trickster and guide of man’s fate.

[Magic Points: 33,000/36,200] 10,800↑
[Total Combat Power: 36,600/39,800] 11,900↑
[Unique Skill: <Causality Alteration> <Cyber-Manipulation> <Absorption> <Materialization>] 
[Racial Skill: <Fear> <Mist Form>]
[Simple Identification] [Human Form (Wonderful)] [Subspace Inventory]

After reviving three Saplings, I got to level 8. I got a ton more magic and combat power. By now, I should be able to pick a head-on fight with a developing small country and win.

But that didn’t mean I’d be any less careful.

The eastern continent in this group of three, the one with two small countries, would be left alone. I was pretty sure they were turtling up by now. I think I’d just forget about them for a while, actually.

And out of the countries in the two continents I had attacked, the only ones with Saplings left were the large countries Quasix and Xontdix.

Honestly, with how much attention was on me these days, it would be for the better that I ignored them too. But at the same time, I could feel something inside of me awakening, urging me to continue.

 

Well then, let’s.

The region around Xontdix was slowly descending into chaos. Just as I planned, the country had feared me. They didn’t dare make a move.

Soon, there would be a large wave of refugees pouring into Quasix Kingdom. Furthermore, most of their soldiers and adventurers had been sent to Xontdix’s countryside. They didn’t have enough manpower.

I used the new Tree connection at Chisept to get to the eastern side of Quasix. After half a day’s travel, I approached the capital. The town gate was closed, and the lack of soldiers was evident. I charged right through the gate as mist, shattering it.

“What happened?!”

“Mist?!”

The soldiers were making a fuss. I ignored them and rushed through the city, freezing anyone blocking my way. Once I arrived at the castle, I turned human for an instant, freezing the gate and making use of my high combat power to smash it apart with a palm strike.

The soldiers and the castle’s staff members were all struck dumb by the sight.

I twirled around, showing off my red dress and white ears. One of them must have recognized me. Their shout announced my arrival.

 

“That’s the bunnyyyyyyy!!!”

 

Knights and soldiers poured out.

I dove straight into the army of hundreds. I killed only the ones in my path, parrying spells on the move if they weren’t too dangerous. It took only thirty minutes for my blitzkrieg to carry me from the town gate to the Sapling’s destruction.

Next up, Xontdix.

I had a premonition. Somehow, in some way, I would be transformed by this next battle.


Previous Chapter | Index | Next Chapter

48 – The Emperor’s Trap – 3

“All right. Panda, if you’d please.”

“Ook.”

The little monkey confidently nodded. He gave me a banana.

It turned out that by leaving a part of me inside the Sapling and having one of my Kins near it, the network link to that Sapling would then be partially available to me. With Panda staying back, I used the now-active Quarrevingts connection to go back to the World Tree.

“Let’s go.”

*boing*

We immediately left for the continent above Quarrevingts. That one had the large country Quasix, but it wasn’t a country I could conquer quickly enough in a head-on fight. That left the two other small countries.

As usual, I bounced off the barrier and landed somewhere unfamiliar. With the awareness of the Tree’s and Panda’s locations in my mind, I quickly gained an approximation of my location. I moved toward the small country Chisept to the east.

According to the guidebook, the three countries on this continent were allied nations, with very strong ties to each other.

I arrived at Chisept after half a day’s travel. The security they had was still only to defend against other humans, so I easily slipped through. I did the same thing to the Sapling there, sending a part of me inside it to take over the connection. I left Blobsy there, then transit through the World Tree to go to Xontdix.

Finally, it was time to crack the trap wide open.

 

***

 

Inside the royal palace’s guest manor, Tiz was lounging around on a wicker sofa, sending a grumpy look to his ex-classmate sitting nearby. The other man was smiling. Sexily, at that.

“Heeeey, Tizzy. You sure that bunny’s gonna show up? It’s been four days. Foooouuur!”

“According to that Temple researcher, we should wait for ten days at least. If she still doesn’t show up by then, that means she’s going for the other countries high up on the list. Also, can you please speak normally?”

Tiz had come here to Xontdix to set a trap for Shedy, even if he didn’t quite trust the Temple scholar’s vague conjectures and numbers. Still, it was the only lead he had. Plus, Mason had been awfully eloquent in his presentation. Tiz thought it was worth a try, at least.

“That guy was called Mason, right? Yeah, so the guy also showed up at my place and told me the same thing. I thought he looked fishy as all hell, so I kicked him out. Looked mighty fine though. A pity he wasn’t even a little bit scared of me. Like, that’s just rude.”

“…huh, he wasn’t? That’s amazing.”

Tiz looked at his friend. Then he revised his opinion of Mason, just a little bit.

So Mason had come here to Xontdix first, then. The country he had predicted to have the highest chance Shedy would attack.

The Temples were an international power. Xontdix could not ignore them, and so the talking had been entrusted to Tiz’s classmate and close friend, who then proceeded to reject the whole deal on the grounds that it was ‘dubious’. Which was why Mason had come to negotiate with Tiz to get the young emperor’s help in convincing Xontdix.

“Teehee, you know me so well, Tiz!”

“…well, we do go way back, after all.”

 

Aslan von Xontdix. Crown Prince of Xontdix.

The two had become friends when they were studying abroad in the Academy City Cinqres. At 220 centimeters in height, the dark-skinned man was a giant. Short haired, with an aura of youthful liveliness.

Despite the impression one might get from hearing him talk, he had no interest in crossdressing, nor did he like men exclusively. He was simply in love with all things cute and/or beautiful. Salia, Tiz’s bodyguard, had good enough looks to have been asked out by Aslan. It was one of the few times she showed fear.

And if Mason didn’t even bat an eye at the prince’s advances, the scholar must’ve had nerves of steel.

 

“And you had such a cute butt back then! What a waste, Tiz. If only you never grew up from being that adorable boy.”

“Shut up… which reminds me, with how much you like cute stuff, I thought you’d be more excited.”

“What about?”

“Shedy… the bunny, I mean. She’s cute too, you know?”

“But she’s a beastman, right? I like playing with slaves, sure, but I’m not interested in taking care of them. Like, if I’m going to have a pet, a lion would be better.”

“Well, yeah, no wonder… you kill your pets all the time.”

The prince kept wild beasts in his room. With the blessed physique he was born with, he would choke them to death whenever they misbehaved. It was his hobby.

He used to have beastman slaves. With how often he was killing them, the king had forbidden him to own slaves.

“She’s mine, you know?” Tiz said.

“Nah, I don’t care. As long as you’re the one paying the adventurers and that the bounty money goes to us, she’s all yours.”

 

As they talked, the room door opened. The Temple scholar Mason and one of Xontdix’s civil officials walked in.

“Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, we are sincerely grateful for your cooperation. We have gathered the required amount of adventurers of Rank 3 and above, and they are currently within the knight’s training ground.”

“I see. Got it.”

“Eheheh, this is gonna be fun!”

Tiz and Aslan led their personal knights toward the training ground. Behind Tiz, Salia was tightly gripping her sword, white-knuckled. She looked like a woman heading for war.

 

There were over a hundred adventurers of Rank 3 and above in the training ground. Nearly a thousand knights stood at attention in a circle, surrounding the adventurers.

Following a short greeting from the Emperor of Touze and the Crown Prince of Xontdix, Mason began the explanation for the adventurers’ gathering.

“Your main mission will be to guard the Sapling. The duration is ten days, just as we’ve mentioned in our announcement. Even if nothing happens, you’ll still be compensated with one small gold coin. In case enemies appear, your reward will be increased depending on your contribution.”

The adventurers nodded. Many among them – players – were looking obviously apprehensive, their weapons ready for combat at any time. Their strange attitude garnered looks of skepticism from the native adventurers.

“First off… please search for anyone around you whose faces are hidden!”

At once, the adventurers blanched.

 

The adventurers were assembled in order to set a trap for the ‘rabbit beastman’.

She was attacking the World Tree Saplings for reasons unknown. If adventurers were gathered up in the castle, it was likely the rabbit would take the chance to infiltrate. To that end, the country had purposely relaxed their adventurer identity checks for the time being.

 

The moment the adventurers realized the assailant might be among them, they pointed their weapons to anyone still hiding their faces behind hoods, demanding them to reveal themselves. They complied, except for a single girl.

Several adventurers moved to surround her. The moment they reached out their hands, they were met with an explosion of mist, instantly turning them into ice.

Her claws shattered the frozen sculptures, and she threw off her cloak. Tiz, standing on stage, was greeted with the sight of a bewitching young woman of scarlet and snow. She was no longer that little rabbit girl he saw once before. He stared at her like a man lovestruck.

“Shedy…!”

 

Upon hearing his voice, Shedy turned her chilly gaze toward the stage. She gave him the faintest of smiles.

 

“Capture her!!”

With the command of a knight squadron leader, the adventurers shook off their stupor. They charged.

Shedy jumped over the carpet of swords and spears, freezing the wielders. Then she pointed her palm toward the stage and squeezed.

Driven by pure instinct, several knights jumped in front of Tiz’s group to cover for their lords. The veteran knights all collapsed in pools of blood, their old wounds reopened.

“Damn you! What did you do?!”

Aslan roared at the impossible sight.

After her attack, Shedy once again put distance between her and the stage, all the while spreading arctic mist to impede her opponents.

 

“Do not panic! Our enemy is but a cornered rabbit. The mist is weak to wind, use magic to block her escape!”

Being the person with relatively more experience fighting Shedy, Salia gave her orders to the adventurers. She sent a gust of air to blast away the cloak of mist around the rabbit girl. Seeing the sight, several adventurers followed suit and used their own wind magic. Outnumbered, Shedy stopped moving.

Then she pointed both her hands toward the direction of the castle center. Her palms joined together in a motion to crush something.

 

*crack…*

 

Several magicians took notice of the change. They shouted.

“The barrier?!”

The barrier covering the castle holding the Sapling was much sturdier than the one covering the city. Assaults from outside would have to break it, first. But if someone could enter the castle and break the barrier’s magitool, the protection would disappear.

The castle had spare magitools, so they could recover the barrier in just a few hours. The issue here, however, was that they had no idea how the magitool was broken.

 

The disappearance of the barrier prompted a panic among the people. The girl of white, wielder of powers inconceivable, coolly watched with a demonic smile on her face.

Then she melted into the mist. Everyone, from the adventurers to the royalties, were struck dumb by the sight.

And then, several hours later, news of the destruction of the Sapling of their neighboring country Quarrevingts reached them. Once more, she had made fools of them all.


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47 – The Emperor’s Trap – 2

To the south-east of the Central Island where the Tree was, there were three continents around the size of Australia.

Two large countries and five small ones occupied the landmasses. Despite their Saplings being discovered quite a bit earlier than the City of Pleasure’s, they weren’t all that developed. They had nice, comfortable climates, but that was it. They had no special industries. The only thing they had going for them were the isolated ecosystems, which attracted adventurers coming to hunt subspecies monsters.

According to the newest guidebook I bought last time, the large country Quasix always had 400,000 people inside it at any given time, but their actual citizen population was only 150,000. The rest were composed of adventurers of wilder leanings, plus the merchants buying monster materials from them. Tourists were recommended to be careful.

…they were being way too loose with their information. Had the people of this world gotten complacent from the long-lasting peace?

 

“Well then, let’s go.”

*boing*

“Ook!”

Blobsy jumped on my shoulder, while Panda clung to my calf. Panda’s spot was normally my arm when I wasn’t wearing the cloak, or my hips or legs when I was. The locations themselves weren’t a problem, but Panda eating bananas and littering the peels while clinging to me was.

Stop that. You’re setting a bad example for Blobsy.

 

My destination this time was the southern continent of the group of continents I mentioned, the one with two countries on it. Xontdix and Quarrevingts, a large and small country, respectively.

I did think attacking two large countries in a row was dangerous, to be honest. All the same, I still chose this region, mainly because they had more adventurers than citizens. Which meant public order there wouldn’t be very good.

Xontdix’s ruler was also called the Mercenary King. Over a hundred years ago, a mercenary had exterminated the lizardmen there and taken the Sapling, and the country had gone into the hands of their descendants thereafter. Even until now, the country still had a meathead for a king. It was an awesome country.

It had quite a lot of powerful soldiers and adventurers, apparently. Of course, I got much stronger myself too, so unless something unexpected happened, I was confident there wouldn’t be a problem.

The lack of public order stemmed from the fact that a large part of the population was composed of thugs and ruffians, and these people tended to solve problems by themselves. It hinted at the fragility of their police force.

The country had a lot of adventurers, true, and I did pick a bit of a fight with the players back then. Still, it was just a small group of players. I thought it was about time the mess was forgotten.

 

As always, I bounced off the barrier. My landing spot was a dense forest with absolutely zero signs of human civilization.

Before, I would’ve had problems orienting myself. Now, I could vaguely sense the direction of the World Tree at all time. I wondered if it was because I had gained more power, or because I leveled up.

All the same, if I didn’t know where I was, that sense of direction wouldn’t really mean anything. I didn’t know if I should go west or east. West would be the right choice if I had landed in the middle of the continent, but if I landed on the edge, I would have no idea where I’d end up.

“…where do you think I should go?”

*boing*

“Ook.”

The two pointed to the east. No, Panda, I don’t need a banana. I had thought I should go west, but well, they pointed east, so let’s go there.

I put my two Kins into [Inventory], dispersed into mist, and got moving.

 

One whole day of high-speed flying later, I saw a farming village and patrolling watcher drones nearby. I turned human and followed along the road, hiding in what cover I could find and ignoring the farming village. After a while, a decently large town showed up in my view.

I had no idea what country this was. And as this small continent only had two countries, asking for the name would make me look too shady.

I found a railway track on the way and used it to sneak inside the town. At the station, I finally learned where I was.

 

“Welcome to Quarrevingts!”

 

What the hell, this was the exact opposite of where I wanted to go!

*boing*

“Ook.”

Blobsy and Panda, already outside of my inventory, just tilted their heads. Then they started eating bananas.

Oh, fine then… focus, focus. No one was to blame. If I had to, I supposed I could only blame my luck.

This wasn’t what I had planned, but now that I was here, I might as well try to get some information. I headed toward the adventurer’s guild.

 

…wasn’t the atmosphere of the town a bit weird? Maybe it was just how it was. I’d never been here before, after all. Looked very busy, with all the adventurers running around and making travel preparations. The air felt charged with tension.

…no, something really was off here.

I immediately changed my plan, instead heading for a clothier for adventurers some way away from the guild.

I took the chance to get a few more spare coats and hooded cloaks. The shopkeeper at the counter was a woman in her late twenties. I attempted a casual chat with her.

“Did something happen? The town looks weird.”

“Oh, you didn’t know? Were you on a long hunting trip? If you have any spare materials, you can sell it to me.”

She seemed to be quite a chatterbox. I didn’t have anything good, so I shared with her some of the drugs I got from the City of Pleasure. After a few more meaningless back-and-forth, her lips were loosened.

“A few days ago, the guild in the neighboring country Xontdix just called for a gathering of adventurers. I didn’t know what for. Apparently they were only required to stay there for ten days. Even if nothing happened, as long as they were Rank 3 or above, they’d get paid one small gold coin.”

“Hmmm… I wonder why.”

“Oh yes, that reminds me. I’ve been seeing new adventurers coming to this town recently. Those people were saying something about a bunny trapping… quest? I think it was ‘quest’. The old-timers here just laughed and made fun of them, saying there was no such thing, but when I asked the new adventurers directly, they played dumb in a hurry. I asked a few others too, and the same thing happened. How curious.”

“Bunny…”

 

Gotta be me, right…? I didn’t know how large-scale it was going to be, but considering the adventurers were gathered by the guild itself and that the players were most likely aware of the details, there was a high chance the corporation had a direct hand in this.

A trap, perhaps. If I’d gone to Xontdix instead, I might have been caught wholly flat-footed.

I gave Panda and Blobsy a few headpats.

Hey, did you two guide me here because you knew that country was dangerous? …no, not that, I don’t want bananas, that’s not what my headpats meant.

I gave my thanks to the shopkeeper woman. Just as I was about to leave, she spoke out, looking like she had just suddenly remembered something else.

 

“Oh yes, I heard that the emperor of Touze would be there in Xontdix incognito. Really, with how famous he was, he shouldn’t have bothered trying to sneak about. You’re quite cute, you know? If you catches his eyes, maybe he’ll even let you be one of his mistresses.”

 

So Tiz was coming? Interesting. Very interesting.

If the corporation also had a hand in this, that meant either he was cooperating with them, or that the two were trying to use one another. I might not know how serious he was, but if he wanted to make me his slave that much, then I had an answer of my own.

“…Blobsy, Panda. You two are with me all the way, right?”

*boing!*

“Ook!”

They responded with solemnity. Seemed like they’d realized the subtle change within me.

 

I waited until dark, then made my move.

The Sapling in Quarrevingts’ capital was inside the governor’s castle, a stone fortress as large as a baseball stadium. It was protected by a surrounding moat and a simple barrier. I didn’t try to go through the barrier, instead infiltrating through the sewers that connected to the moat.

A metal grate with a grid spacing of around 30 centimeters blocked my way. There was no barrier here, so I simply turned mist to go through.

I wouldn’t kill anyone this time. Any demihumans slaves I saw would be ignored.

Not only was the security unusually loose, it even looked like there were less guards around. Perhaps the people were all going to Xontdix.

I moved, keeping myself hidden and away from the eyes of the patrolling guards and watcher drones. After a few hours, I reached the Sapling.

I could only use this sort of plan only once, really. They’d be very careful to not let the same thing happen again afterward. I had thought about keeping this to be my trump card until I had no other choice, but it’d probably be fine. By then I’d have already gotten a lot stronger anyway.

 

There might not be any workers around to harvest the Sapling’s mana, but there was a watcher drone staying on guard 24/7.

I came as close as I could without being discovered, then slowly reached out to the Sapling with a bit of faint mist. Once the mist touched, I was intensely aware of the horrible condition it was in.

I really want to save you right now, but… sorry. Just a bit longer. I swear you’ll be reborn, soon.

I cut off a bit of my mist, telling it to burrow into the Sapling’s roots. My maximum magic went down a thousand. Still, this was necessary.

 

Every time my level of Lesser Archdemon increased, I could feel myself changing bit by bit.

Not negatively, no. It felt more like the true self that I’d been burying deep inside me ever since my childhood, so that I could survive, was now being let out. Step by step, it was inching closer to freedom.

Step by step, I was changing.

I was changing into a [Demon] by my own will.


Author’s Note: If her personality looks like it’s getting more and more relaxed now, that’s because she no longer felt trapped. Or maybe because she’s turned into a demon.

Her Kins can’t fight. In exchange, they have pretty good luck to cover for their hapless master.

Map update.


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