༺ Arden, the Renowned Household of Swordsmanship (1) ༻
Nothing big happened after the final exam until the start of the holiday.
The only thing related to the main scenario in the 2nd semester of the 1st year was the festival and a few small quests from the mission board.
A few of those missions were in correlation with my Precepts so I cleared those and focused on training. In the end, I couldn’t reenact the Demonic Aura release and Sebancia Duke’s demonic sword but… Regarding that, there was no choice but to meet the old man from the east and ask for some advice.
– Knock knock!
“Senior. I’m here.”
Marie had told me to come to her room on the day before the end-of-the-term ceremony so I went and knocked on her door. It was right after dinner so it shouldn’t be discourteous of me to visit her room.
I opened the door after receiving her permission and walked inside. The girl wearing casual clothes handed me a small golden board with an engraving of a potato flower as soon as I walked into the room.
“This… is the emblem of your family, isn’t it?”
I had seen the emblem of the Dunareff family a bunch of times during the summer holiday so I immediately recognized what they were.
“We are… still a duke, so as long as you have this board, you should be able to ask almost anyone for cooperation.”
“…That is a very valuable item then.”
The emblem of a noble was the symbol of the household and its power. It was pretty much a license saying that I was under the protection of the dukedom that reigned over the south of the country.
In the last iteration, I had received an emblem of the royal family so I knew just how powerful these were more than anyone else.
These didn’t exist in the game, and players had to follow the right procedure for every quest. If the Quest NPC went, ‘Good sir! Please harvest some of the crops we are growing in our front yard!’ then the player had to crouch down and harvest them regardless of whether they were a hero or not but…
In the real world, it was possible to use power and authority to say, ‘Shut up! Just give me the information I need!’ and press them on.
“Is it okay to give something this precious to anyone?”
“You’re not ‘anyone’, Korin.”
She said while placing the board firmly in my grip.
“Korin, you are the benefactor of our family. You really need to think through on who exactly it is that you have saved.”
“Of course. I did save the imperial princess of the Potato Empire after all, right?”
“You’re teasing me again! At least treat me like a princess if you are going to say that all the time!”
Marie said with a big pout as if she was upset but when I tapped her back with a smile, she quickly returned to her original expression.
“You’re going straight after the holiday ceremony tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah. You’re going back home as well, right Senior?”
Because Marie was the oldest daughter of that Dunareff family, she had to return home and show her face every holiday. From what I heard, it seemed that there was a winter festival that was hosted by the Dunareff which she couldn’t miss as the successor of the household.
“I, I will quickly go after you! Go and wait for me there!”
“Sure and thanks for your help. As I’ve said before… there might be some dangerous people coming there as well so I really need your help.”
“Yep yep…! I will definitely go and help you, Korin!”
Since Park Sihu, the player, wasn’t here, the strongest powerhouses of our group were Marie and Hua Ran. I hoped they could make it there before the Solar Eclipse.
“Don’t hurt yourself! Don’t forget to take the bag of potatoes that I gave you! And don’t follow strange women even if they lure you with potatoes!!”
“Am I a kid?”
It was just going to be a slight farewell during the holiday and yet she was being way too serious about it.
“I’ll go back to my room then.”
I was about to turn around and leave the room but that was when she held onto my sleeves. Her skin which was as white as white jade was flushed in red – it was something we were both very used to.
“B, before you go, one last time…”
“Don’t hold back and suck as much as you want. You would have to live on blood packs for a long time.”
“Nn… Thank you.”
On the day before my departure, I left Marie’s room right before the dates changed.
Returning back to my room, I washed myself and was about to go to sleep.
– Knock knock!
Right as I was about to fall asleep, someone knocked on the door. I had just gone to Marie’s room so it could only be one person but… why?
I opened the door and as expected, outside the room was Hua Ran in her pajamas. It was late at night in the special dormitory. Even though there was no rule stating that you couldn’t go to the room of a different gendered person at night, it was still common sense was it not?
Well, I guess there was nothing I could say as someone who had been in Marie’s room for a very long time.
Before I could even tell her to come in, Hua Ran walked forward in large strides and did something strange.
She suddenly laid herself down on my bed.
“I’m sleeping here.”
“How could a lady in her marriageable age…”
The east should have a Confucian doctrine though… A boy and a girl shouldn’t sleep in the same room after turning 7; have you never heard of that?
“Not going to sleep?”
“You think I would?”
Hua Ran asked while looking at me with blinking eyes. She was already under the blanket.
“Umm… You see? Society has come to a common agreement that it’s a little weird for a grown-up male and female to sleep in the same room.”
“I don’t know about that. And we slept together before.”
Look at this lady. Excuse me! Others are going to misunderstand if they hear that.
We did spend the night together, but that was in an emergency situation where we had to hide from the rain. That wasn’t anything normal.
But in any case, she had a memory of spending the night with me, and seemed unable to understand why there was something wrong with doing the same thing again.
I was a bit scared of what would happen if Lady Josephine was to find out about this later on but… there was nothing I could do when she wanted to sleep together. It should be okay as long as we didn’t get busted.
Ever since the festival, Hua also became a lot more open just like Ran. Shouldn’t she be the one with a more Confucian mindset?
I took off my gown to go to sleep. It was then.
A pillow flew towards me. Of course, that was the only pillow I had on my bed.
“Why… are you taking your clothes off?”
“…I usually take my clothes off when going to sleep.”
A shapeless burst of demonic aura struck my chest. This girl… she learned how to shoot aura from a distance!
Well, considering her strength, she probably could have done the same thing by putting a little bit of strength into her punch.
“That was a joke but I can’t sleep in a gown can I? I have my pajamas as well!”
“…Turn around and change.”
“Okay… wait what?”
What was this about? I’m the one changing so why do I have to turn around? Shouldn’t she be the one turning around?
I turned back to her for an obvious complaint but was met with another shapeless ball of aura.
“…My fault for being weak.”
I was already in my pants anyway, so I quickly took out a T-shirt and put it on.
“Move to the side will you.”
What was fortunate was that it was a double bed. Back when I was going to college on Earth, all my beds were single or bunk beds so they had been tiny but I didn’t have to worry about that now.
In any case, I pushed her to the side and laid down on the bed. But of course, there was only one pillow and one blanket in my room.
Turning her body towards me, Hua Ran silently looked at my face. A stubborn ray of moonlight seeped through the curtains and her red eyes sparkled under it like rubies.
She returned the pillow that I gave her after picking it back up from the floor.
“This is your room.”
…I couldn’t understand her standards of respect.
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. I don’t need a pillow to sleep.”
“Isn’t this my room?”
Why was she refusing my offer after acknowledging that this was my room?
“Just use it.”
“Alright. I’ll take one for the team then.”
Resting my head on the pillow, I stretched out my right arm.
“It’ll just be a little numb tomorrow morning. Use this as your pillow.”
This time, Hua Ran rested her head on my arm without turning me down.
“You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
I had no idea what I had to do to please her. Maybe I had to buy another pillow or something… wait, couldn’t she just bring a pillow from her room?
“Are you… leaving straight away tomorrow?”
“I… am going to Zeon.”
“I know. You have to meet the Saintess right?”
Hua Ran also had something to do.
Every holiday, she had to return to the Great Chapel of Zeon that was located in the west to meet the Saintess. It was partially to reinforce the restriction cast on her, but it was also for an attentive test of her mental stability.
Well, since it was that princess, she wouldn’t do anything bad to Hua Ran.
I remembered them being kidnapped whenever they were too careless, and wondered if that was still the same. The fight between those siblings was a bit extreme after all.
“I’ll be waiting for you there, and don’t forget to eat your meals in time and listen to your elders.”
“Okay. Ran… asked you to think about her even when you’re away.”
“…I would have no choice but to.”
Ran had the ability to make other people’s hearts beat fast in a way that differed from Hua.
“Is Ran not going to say goodbye? I thought she would jump out and say a few things though.”
“…Because Ran was up all morning.”
Today was the last day of the final exam so that made sense. Ran was sitting the tests huh? Wasn’t this… cheating?
I was wondering if that was okay but that was when she turned her head towards me with her head still resting on my arm. Her soft cheek was pushed in by my wrist and made her look chubby yet cute.
“Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Hoh. Are you worried about me?”
Hearing my prankish question, she looked back at me with a sad look in her eyes. Ever since the festival, she had been very sensitive about me getting injured.
It seemed that seeing me in tatters wasn’t a very good experience.
“My heart stings when I see you injured.”
She appeared to be blaming herself for the thing that happened that day. Because of that sense of guilt, these days she was very concerned and worried about me despite being cold as always.
Despite others calling her a jiangshi and a demonic beast, she was still a very kind girl at heart and seeing changes like that made me feel proud for protecting her.
“You… will probably continue to fight. Just like how you did for me.”
A sense of duty flickered in her eyes. I wasn’t sure if that stemmed from the desire to repay her debt or from a different emotion but…
“I will protect you. So please don’t get hurt as much.”
Regardless, I could feel her sincerity and that was a very commendable sight so I stroked her cheek and gave her a smile.
“Thank you. Thanks to you, I now have the power to try harder.”
“Wait for me. I’ll make it quick.”
“Alrighty. You will be of massive help when you come.”
After that, we chatted until late at night. Sometimes, she even conveyed the words of Ran.
– Huu, huu…
Closing my eyes, I whispered to Hua Ran who buried her head into my chest in her sleep like a kitten that found a warm place to rest in the middle of winter.
The right side of my body felt extremely warm to the point that it was even hot but… well, it was a more pleasant night than usual.
The group heading east this time around was composed of 3 people.
First off was Alicia and me. Alicia was the successor candidate of the Arden family, the renowned household of swordsmanship that was in charge of the east all the way to the borders, so she was a must-bring.
Although her position inside her family wasn’t very stable, it still meant that I might be able to rely on Arden’s forces when push came to shove.
The other member of the group was Yuel, who would be guiding us to the secret land of the druids, ‘Findias’.
I had requested her to look for Findias and Uzkias last holiday, and she was the only one that could guide us to those lands as the only one that had the blessing of spirits.
We had to cross the borders and it would be very rough without her help.
“You’re very early Mr. Korin.”
We had promised to meet at the wyvern dock after each taking care of what we had to do. I was the first to arrive and following that was Alicia.
“Is Ms. Yuel not here yet?”
“She said she’ll drop by the library. It shouldn’t take too long so I guess we can wait at a cafe.”
Heading to one of the nearby cafes, we walked up to the terrace on the second floor which had a brilliant view of the village for a cup of coffee.
“Here you go, Mr. Korin. It’s today’s newspaper.”
I started reading the newspaper, looking for anything noteworthy.
The first thing entering my eyes was the main article and a massive headline on the first page of the paper.
“Alicia. Isn’t this you?”
Alicia, who had been munching through a cake after handing me the newspaper, raised her head and asked with a mumble.
An ever-so-fierce competition between the successor candidates of the Arden Family!!』
“T, this is my first time hearing this though?”
“It was pretty much set in stone already.”
After the Sword Challenge with Lunia, Alicia’s position in the household had become firmer than ever before.
For the Ardens, strength was justice. As the one who enacted the greatest ability of their lifetime pursuit, ‘Domain Severance’, Alicia couldn’t avoid becoming a powerful successor candidate.
“I guess you won’t be treated as a nobody anymore.”
“…I guess not.”
As if she wasn’t that happy about it, Alicia cut her cake with a bitter expression on her face.
Yuel arrived right when I was pretty much done with the newspaper.
We called her as loudly as we could from the terrace, and she soon climbed the stairs to our table.
“Do you want any drinks?” I asked her.
“Water is fine.”
“Excuse me. Can you get us a green tea frappuccino please?”
“…Well, I can have that too.”
After having a short morning tea break, I asked the two of them just in case before departing.
“Did you guys all bring your cold-resistant equipment and belongings?”
“Yep! Look! I have a coat here with food as well as a bag with a bunch of clothes!”
Alicia was carrying a jam-packed bag like an adventurer character that came out in cartoons.
“What about you, Yuel? Doesn’t look like you have much with you.”
“Nature is already like a shield to me, after all.”
“Huu… You guys. You’re showing off your newbieness too much.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“We are going to be getting on a wyvern to head straight to the east. Do you know what this means?”
They really seemed clueless but that was understandable, because it was one of the common newbie mistakes.
“Do you think you can ride a wyvern 1 km above ground with a single coat and bare eyes?”
It would become tremendously cold at a higher altitude and the violent gust would make it impossible to open your eyes. Regardless of the season, it was necessary to wrap yourself with cold-resistant clothing and goggles.
“Here it would be 1.5 times more expensive than in the city but they do sell them here so hurry up and go get them!”
“Y, yes sir!”
“…Okay. Hopefully they will accept ginsengs in exchange.”
“Yuel, give me that ginseng and buy it with Alicia’s money! Don’t even think about giving away something so precious!”
After confiscating the ginseng from Yuel, I sent the two of them to a store that sold flying equipment.
The journey to the east wasn’t that bad. Going through the unpaved roads of the east would have been quite the arduous task but it was over in a flash thanks to riding on a flying beast.
Sometimes, we came across mail riders that posted mails and the royal military that patrolled the air but they went their way immediately after seeing the golden board I received from Marie.
We could even stay the night at docks that were only for the military and mail riders for free thanks to the board.
Just like that, we arrived at Taklakan of the east in just 1 week.
“MR. KORIIIINNNN…! OVER THEREEEEEEE…!”
Because we were on a wyvern, it was hard to communicate with words. Proper wyvern riders with adequate training would communicate through gestures and signals but unfortunately, I was the only one here who knew how to use them.
But looking at where Alicia was pointing, I could tell that something was happening over there.
On the grassland were rampaging demonic beasts.
Oliphants – they looked similar to elephants but they were so massive that comparing them to elephants didn’t feel very reasonable. They were semi-Grade 1 demonic beasts taller than 20 meters that were bigger than most buildings.
“Those demonic beasts… are heading for the village that we just went by.”
“At this rate, the village will be devastated.”
Two oliphants. They were monsters that were unstoppable without guardians or military. A village would be reduced to rubble in less than 5 minutes.
“We will stop them here. Yuel, grow roots in front of them. Whether it be vines or thorns, just make sure to slow them down.”
“Okay. Please go closer to the ground.”
I drove the wyvern down and closed in on the oliphants. The plan was to dive down like a bomber and drop Alicia.
“Alicia. Can you do it?”
“I, I will try…!”
When we were about 100 meters away from the ground, light started leaving from Yuel’s oak staff. At the same time, vines emerged from the earth and wrapped themselves around the two oliphants.
The monsters seemed confused by the sudden emergence of vines that stopped their feet but their confusion didn’t last long.
After easily breaking themselves free from the vines, they resumed their march.
“Uhk… they’re too heavy…!”
“Focus on stopping the one at the front!”
Yuel once again used her magic as the blessing of spirits and every organism of the earth replied to her request. Vines soared up again and this time, they secured themselves around one of the two oliphants.
With the Demon-Slaying Sword in hand, Alicia jumped down from the wyvern but the oliphant noticed her as well.
The sword was stopped by the oliphant’s ivory. Alicia wasn’t expecting the beast to raise its head to stop her attack and was caught off guard.
“T, that got blocked?”
The roaring oliphant began marching at Alicia the moment she landed on the ground. Sliding under its belly, Alicia sliced at the thick ankles of the monster.
“Uhk…! They’re too thick!”
“Focus on keeping it busy! Big monsters like this will go down eventually without smaller mobs protecting them!”
It’s not like Alicia didn’t have the strength to beat it so the monsters were bound to go down with time. The problem was that there were two of them.
It was then. A loud whistle echoed from a distance along with the appearance of a group of horsemen. The group of light-armored cavalry that amounted to 30 at the very least charged across the field.
– Click-clack click-clack…!
The sound of four-legged animals crushing through the grass was multiplied by 30 and filled the wide grassland with a harmonious rhythm.
Marching against an enormous elephant with horses seemed reckless at a glance but they weren’t normal humans either.
Right before closing in on the vined-up oliphant, the cavalry scattered. When the enormous monster lost track and was confused as to where to look, one of the horsemen marched under the oliphant and unsheathed their sword.
– Pak! Pabak!
The first horseman sliced at the ankles, followed by another horseman attacking the exact same places.
Each of their slashes were weak and seemed futile but when tens of people slashed at the same part on repeat, even the thick legs of the oliphant had to spurt out blood.
They were very experienced. They specialized in hunting demonic beasts, and were masters at group battles.
The oliphant toppled after having all of its four legs cut off by their seasoned attacks and after that was a one-sided slaughter.
“Demon hunters of Arden, huh.”
Right, they were the swordsmen of Arden, the household of swordsmanship. They were noble fighters that guarded these far-off lands and the borders from demonic beasts.
“Uahkk…! Mr. Korin!”
That was when the oliphant Alicia was keeping at bay started marching towards us. It seemed that it decided to ignore Alicia to help its monster friend.
I picked up my spear to kill the charging monster but—
“Let me use this as a foothold.”
Yuel screamed as someone suddenly landed on the wyvern, but even the wyvern was used as nothing but a foothold. The swordsman pounced at the oliphant after kicking off of the wyvern.
The sword pierced through the oliphant’s forehead like a lightning bolt. Despite being tougher than steel, the skull of the oliphant was like tofu before the swordsman’s sword.
“H, huh? Unni?”
The Sword Master of the contemporary times. She, who was also Alicia’s older sister from a different mother, gazed down at Alicia while standing on top of the dead oliphant.
“Still pathetic as always. Can you not even kill a fat pig like this?”
She looked down at Alicia as if she was pathetic. After a while, she threw her hand into her pocket and picked something up.
She flicked it with her fingers. After catching it, Alicia scratched her head with flushed cheeks.
“T, thank you.”
Taking her eyes off of her younger sister that she met for the first time in a while, Lunia turned to me as I got down from the wyvern.
“It’s been a while, Miss Lunia.”
She walked to me in large strides before similarly flicking something at me.
It had the unique packaging of a chubby bee – it was Alicia’s favorite honey bomb candy.
“I heard you got promoted to Grade 1.”
“Ah, yes I did.”
“That is a magnificent progress. Keep it up.”
“T, thank you.”
Her attitude was dry as always. This lady didn’t seem to hold anything against me even though I had interfered with her succession by planning the Sword Challenge.
Well, she was a cool person after all.
I had spent quite a lot of time with her in the last iteration as comrades so I already knew how she wasn’t the type to hold grudges. After all, there was only one person in the world that could make her hold an extreme grudge.
“More importantly, Korin Lork.”
“Yes? What is it?”
After standing right in front of me, she scanned me from top to bottom before mumbling something incomprehensible like, ‘Not bad’.
“Umm… is there something wrong?”
I asked an obvious question but Lunia replied with an extremely dry and business-like attitude.
“Korin Lork. How about you marry me?”
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