The hero’s reputation which had been fearlessly soaring into the skies plummeted. The sewers of cities flowed backward, rivers overflowed and submerged villages, dams broke, houses and livestock were washed away by floods… the fall in reputation was caused by these various problems occurring across the continent.
If there was a silver lining in all this misfortune? It was that the torrential rain had stopped after ten days. That was already after my reputation had been washed away with everything else, however.
“Should I go over to the 4th Playthrough…”
I was by the window on the 3rd floor of the royal palace from where three delicious-looking mermaids could be seen swimming in a pond. There, in that ideal location, I sat and gazed blankly out of the window. The sky free of rain was without a dot of cloud, clear and blue.
What a very good weather it was for taking the Demon King’s neck!
‘Ah! Professor Morals. You came right when I messed up the vacation.’
‘I was fooled by those vile mermaids! Only my reputation blew up because those damned fish-tarts woke up some strange catfish! I’ll catch them all and turn them into sushi and hot chowder…’
‘… Sieg has an A-grade in character? Wish this kind of world would just go to hell.’
“There’s no end to this whole charity thing…”
No matter how I thought about it, Sieg’s level was at a severe level. It had recently risen to Level 5. In this situation where the heroes’ reputation was despairingly bad enough as it was, it would truly be a disgrace if Sieg went off adventuring alone and ended up caught by bandits or dead in some ditch. In the end, my answer was already decided.
‘I’ll feign insanity and help him just once.’
Saintess A, who had seemed like she would promise Sieg her full support, played innocent and went back on her words, while Sieg’s standing went up in smoke as well.
The officials of the kingdom felt deep fury. They had summoned him, fed him, washed him, gave him a bed, clothed him, slaved and ordered him around, beat him… yet this damned hero tried to set off to the Holy Kingdom?
He was branded as an ungrateful hero.
Nevertheless, Alex held Sieg dear as ever. He instructed him all day long, saying that he was too weak to go adventuring alone. Although it did seem like Sieg, being smothered by that passion, seemed like he would be committing suicide sometime soon.
I decided to give him a slight breather.
“Yes. Please speak, my queen.”
After being completely corrupted by Dark Energy, the queen obeyed me so blindly as to not even hesitate in kissing the back of my foot. I had given her an order: to make Alex move.
“This may be the presumptuous meddling of a woman ignorant of the martial, but…”
“What sort of words is that, my queen! Give whatever command it may be to this humble subject, Your Majesty.”
Kicking Sieg, who had become more dead than alive, far away like he was trash, Alex prostrated himself before the queen. That barbarian did have loyalty at least.
“Then Sir Alex, I ask that you remove the threat which has emerged in the palace sewers. I have heard rumors saying that it is serious.”
The queen relayed my words directly as commanded to Alex—the hunting ground location, risks, way to enter… she told everything to Alex except for the most important point which was the boss’ Level. Just that was enough, however; as the palace knight captain whose duty was to defend the palace and the royalty, it was a command that could by no means be refused.
Alex replied unhesitantly, “Protecting the kingdom is a knight’s mission. I will obey Your Majesty’s command!”
Alex immediately assembled the palace knights. As it was a matter befitting of knights after so long, with the end of that insane weather bringing a drought and then floods in succession, they were all bursting with motivation.
At that time, Sieg, who had been spread out on the dirt ground and twitching like an insect as he listened on from the side, yelled in a loud voice, “I’ll help as well-!”
Things were playing out as I had predicted. Sieg’s wild, black eyes which I observed from a distance away were quite to my liking. That was the look of someone thirsting for EXP.
Sieg had also come to a realization while one-sidedly being pummelled by Alex all day long in the palace training grounds—that at this rate, he would forever be unable to escape from even the situation of being Alex’s sandbag, let alone find the Holy Sword of legend. The efficiency of his Skills fell due to his low Level, and his attack Skills were poor due to being beaten throughout the days.
“If Sieg wishes for it, then I’ll have to take him along.”
Alex accepted Sieg’s request without objection. The perpetual high-strung look on Alex’s face eased a little. Perhaps he was satisfied by the hero’s attitude of volunteering to free service.
But it wasn’t long before his expression turned menacing again as he clutched at his waist. It was that herniated lumbar disc, which would rear its head whenever he was about to forget it! It was none other than my work.
“Thank you! Mr. Alex!”
Clenching his fists tightly, Sieg seemed as if he was dreaming of sweeping up EXP. While his attitude was desirable, I thought it would be good if he didn’t overdo it as a Level 5. It would be meaningless if he died, wouldn’t it?
I stuck my head out of the window from which the training grounds was visible and asked quietly, “Should I come along too?”
Alex and Sieg refused almost simultaneously. Perhaps they were unwilling to share EXP with me.
I didn’t insist, backing off quietly. I had wanted to at least keep alive Sieg who was expected to get an A-grade in character, but what could I do since both the person in question and leader of the group both didn’t want me?
I had done all I could.
“To the sewers!”
Sieg and Alex’s palace sewers exploration began.
And thus 2 nights and 3 days passed.
I wasn’t so free as to escort people, who didn’t want protection, for nothing. I didn’t pathetically follow in secret after the two and the palace knights who had gone to the sewers.
I was stressed all day long from just facing those three women, after all. Lanuvel, Saintess A, and Aqua. And that the bad memories from the 1st Playthrough kept popping up in succession was an added bonus.
Right now, I was completely engaged working on my reputation.
“In memory of Captain Alex, cheers!”
I opened a party in my dear friend Tony’s pub. I fully opened the money bag I had received from the Dumpling King, and bought a drink for every customer who frequented the pub. The power of freebies was great indeed. I didn’t regret it in the least.
Alex had died.
He had run into the Level 450 Chimera living in the palace sewers. In the 1st Playthrough, I had smoothly hunted it down with the same group members. If there was a difference to this 3rd Playthrough, it was that Sieg went in my place. The result was the complete opposite, however.
How could I not drink on a day like this when my mood was so fine? While this high-performance body of mine was incapable of getting drunk, the noisy party atmosphere of the pub was good. While helping Tony by raising his sales, I grew closer with him too. It felt like the stress built up by the re-tests were dissolving all at once.
“Brother Hero, you’re too considerate.”
“Indeed. I heard Alex went around cursing Sir Hero.”
“You’re too wonderful, even cherishing his memory like this.”
The pretty ladies of the pub stuck right beside me, each making a comment. Their looks were far from being compared to the beauty of Saintess A and Aqua, but I liked these ladies—they were pleasing my mood as service for the free drinks from me. Today, however, the girls were being somewhat awkward around me. And that was because…
“Lanuvel. Get lost while I’m talking nicely.”
Aqua couldn’t come to the pub as she was still a patient, while Saintess A was in charge of nursing that fish, so the two were naturally away. This disrupter, however, had come along like a leech. She really was no help in my life!
Ah! She was a little helpful in the 2nd Playthrough.
“Sir Hero! I’m also a customer of this pub!”
“Then stop propping up your chin on the table acting cute, quietly have your bloody drink and go. It’s a bother to have a hole stared through your face.”
“But the ladies here are openly staring at Sir Hero too, though.”
“Then you want to do it as well tonight?”
At my meaningful suggestion, Lanuvel cracked a smile and replied lightly.
“Nope! Lanuvel will shut up this instant! I’ve been very rude!”
“You, really get on my nerves!”
Rare was the person who disliked freebies in the world. Tony’s pub was so crowded that there wasn’t room to sit for the customers who had come from all over the city hearing the news. We merrily ate and drank without Lanuvel. Everyone cried out with united hearts:
“In memory of Captain Alex, cheers!”
Truth be told, I hadn’t expected Alex to really die. Although the Level 450 boss was higher in Level than the Level 300 Alex, the Skill ranks of the majority of monsters including bosses were extremely low. Since the other palace knights who were around Level 180 had also gone with him, I had judged that it was fully possible for him to escape even if he couldn’t win.
But there had been a variable in the equation.
“To Hero Sieg as well, cheers!”
Alex and the palace knights had tossed themselves in danger’s way to save Sieg—they gave up on escape and recklessly fought against the boss monster. Shouldn’t they have known that there wasn’t only one hero? They had made much too foolish a decision.
“Damned idiots. What about the wife and children they left behind… Hmhm! For the palace knight order who fought bravely until the end as well, cheers!”
It was the worst victory stained with sacrifice. Reinforcements had found Sieg on the brink of death and rescued him.
The corpses of the warriors were retrieved afterwards. Saintess A had attempted the resurrection of Alex and the palace knights, but as the damage to their bodies were severe and quite a bit of time had passed since their death, there were extremely few who could be saved, and Alex wasn’t included among them. That why Sieg, who was also here in remembrance of those lost, was looking melancholy.
His Level had greatly increased while clearing out the sewers. Although his Skills still being emphasized on defense was a flaw, it would work out if it was steadily improved.
“Because of me, Alex… Hic!”
“Now now, Sieg. There’s no need to be so down like that. Didn’t you take out the boss which was eating Alex and gain EXP? One plus one! At the end of it all, you’ve become one with Alex! So cheer up!”
Alex would live for eternity in Sieg’s heart.
Sieg hugged his beer bottle and began to cry.
“… This guy, really troublesome.”
I shouldn’t have given alcohol to a 17-year-old minor. It was slightly outside of my expectations, however—I had thought Sieg was enraptured by the immoral Saintess A, but who’d have known that in truth he liked macho men!
Could it be that he was a masochist who enjoyed thrashings…?
“He must have depended on Alex a lot even as he acted like he hated him.”
Lanuvel gazed at Sieg with pity.
“Like how you act cute?”
“It’s not acting, Sir Hero! My cuteness is natural!”
“Wha-? Why are you laughing suddenly?”
“That was the funniest thing today! Lanuvel! Where’s your conscience? Puhahahah!”
The sight of Sieg bursting with tears… it was he kind of scene I had often witnessed in the 1st Playthrough. A gloomy air would fall over the entire party when a companion died. While a saintess’ resurrection ability might appear omnipotent, the prerequisite was that the cost in EXP grew more if the corpse’s condition was bad or if there was delay in casting the spell.
Would the death of the saintess be the most despairing situation?
Although there wasn’t only one saintess on the continents of Fantasia, no two saintesses would go around together as they were all of a rival relationship, worshiping their respective gods. The rule was one hero to one saintess, perhaps it should be said. From my experience, Saintess A, B and C were all similar in ability and appearance. When it came to business at nights, however, Saintess C was the best.
In any case…
“Really now… matters keep going wrong.”
It was a plan I formed to raise Sieg’s Level, but the strict Alex and palace knights had ended up dying.
“Uh, Sir Hero.”
Lanuvel, who had claimed to shut up herself, began to meddle again.
“I’m asking because I’m really curious, but when did the culture of remembering those who passed away by opening a drinking party start?”
“Huh? You don’t know?”
“Yes, I don’t.”
That must mean she really didn’t know.
“Then I don’t know either.”
“I thought there’d be one such culture somewhere in Fantasia’s continents. Seeing how even you don’t know, it must be completely non-existent.”
I did know the original way folks here respected the dead, though. If you visited a temple which each city had at least one of, prayed and offered donation, a priest would cast a blessing on the deceased one’s body and return it to nature. It would disappear, just like monsters which vanished after giving EXP.
“Got a problem with my way of respecting the dead?”
“Then shut it and take my drink. That’s right! You drink well. I’ll carry you out on my back if you collapse drunk, so don’t worry.”
‘Where should I bury her so there won’t be rumors?’
“One more glass! More more! Hic!”
We spent the whole night giving and taking drinks. Although I didn’t get drunk, I had to frequently expel the water which accumulated while downing shots. And then I realized it—why didn’t I know in the 1st Playthrough?
“This darned girl, is she really human…?”
Going by the buckets-worth of drinks I had fed her, the alcohol level in her blood should have easily passed 0.45, and yet Lanuvel didn’t die despite that. Only my previously bulging wallet croaked its last.
I should have secretly put poison in her glass or some…
‘Ahem! Who said anything? I’ll catch a heart disease from you popping out everytim-’
‘Geez! Why is this hero acting crazy startling people? Ahem! I don’t mean that Professor Morals was acting crazy.’
Sieg had slammed both hands down on his table and shot to his feet.
He declared in a loud voice, “Aleeexx! I’ll inherit your dream and will! A heart-thumping adventure right this instant, lez gooo…! Hic!”
… This punk, was he for real?