The ship that rescued me and Victoria, after we fell into the boundless ocean due to the plane accident, was a high-class cruise.
It couldn’t be ignored because it was a cruise, however.
In these present times where the importance of security has grown along with the happening of the alien invasion, the cruise ships of marine cities which received global investment boasted anti-air defense abilities that rivaled that of a battleship.
Even so, however, the situation wasn’t all good.
“Mr. Kang Han Soo. What you see isn’t all there is to it.”
“What else is there?”
“The coastal cities on the shores of the Pacific Ocean are currently in a state of emergency due to unprecedented natural disasters. Fortunately, though, there wasn’t much damage thanks to the Heroes stationed in those cities stopping those tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic ashes and on.”
“Is that so?”
I see that Earth’s quite capable on its own, eh?
“But the marine city took a big blow. There were few casualties thanks to disaster countermeasures, but the scale of damage is beyond imagination what with the production factories being flooded and the equipment being swept away by the waves or discharged.”
“It’s a relief people weren’t hurt!”
The lives of people came first. The rest were trivial issues.
“There weren’t exactly no casualties.”
“It’s a relief there were none.”
“No, I’m saying… Ugh! Whatever.”
The ocean was settling down bit by bit. Although the volcano that erupted underwater was still raging, it would eventually calm as well.
There was nothing that would become a problem.
The Earth I had come back to in a year and a half was peaceful and beautiful.
I sat my bottom down on the deck of the wrecked ship, to deal with these wings of mine however I could.
Its appearance differed entirely from that of an angel’s or demon’s. It didn’t have the feel of the Etherwings that the Demon King’s daughter showed either.
It possessed an aesthetic that was a little more primal.
“Mr. Kang Han Soo. I’ve been wanting to ask since a while now, but what are those creepy wings on your back?”
Victoria asked as she crouched next to me.
Was that her idea of a question?
“Why are you asking when you called them wings yourself?”
“Th-that’s right, but… Come on! Do you really have to talk like that? I’m allowed to ask, aren’t I!”
She expressed her discontent as she pouted her lips.
Although I wanted to break her damp neck by accident as she annoyed me by the side, I held back the urge as we weren’t the only ones on this shipwreck.
That being the case, I had to give some answer, but…
It was after 10 seconds of pondering that I came up with one.
“They’re wings that only a Hero that received SS-grade in combat ability can get.”
I thought it up from computer games.
The achievement system.
Special rewards would be given upon completing difficult achievements, a marketing strategy through which players would be granted incentive and motivation.
For an excuse that was thought up on the spot, it was rather good.
Victoria grew round-eyed upon hearing my words.
“Your combat ability is SS-grade?!”
“That’s right. If your curiosity’s satisfied then get away a little. Don’t go and hold me responsible when you end up getting stabbed by my wings.”
“It’s fine. My body’s sturdier than it loo-… Huh?”
Victoria’s expression turned stiff as she was poking at the horns protruding from my wings with a smile.
A hole had appeared on the finger she had poked with.
Scarlet blood began to pour out soon after.
Her face became stark pale, Victoria immediately scrambled away and opened the red medicine bottle hung on her belt and poured its contents on her finger.
The wound quickly stopped bleeding and began to heal.
It opened up again in a moment, however; there was an effect on the horns similar to a curse that interefered with healing, apparently.
“W-what on earth is…”
Victoria used more of the medicine, sweating heavily. She sprinkled and spread it on the finger with the hole, and even drank a part of it.
Thus she barely succeeded in treating the wound.
During that time I had been focusing on my wings.
As I was able to observe the inside of my body through Master Mollang’s teachings, it wasn’t impossible or hard to do.
And I realized a surprising truth.
“Is it derived from my ribs? Hm…”
For angels and demons, those winged races had an entirely new addition of an organ called “wings”.
But my wings were different.
Rib bones that protruded like snaggletooth had shot out of my back and transformed. From an evolutionary perspective, they could be called “primitive wings”.
To take several animals for examples…
The wings of the only mammal that can fly like birds, bats, are elongated fingers shaped like webbed feet.
Flying fish that lived in the sea were also similar. These fish that are capable of flying up to 40 seconds for 400m have pectoral fins shaped like wings.
The wings on my back were similar as well.
The three pairs of bones could be gathered and folded like an umbrella, which I realized during the previous battle as I moved them several times.
The problem came after this, however.
I had no way of wearing normal topwear in this state.
“Urgh… that’s the one thing I want to be spared…”
I shivered at recalling the outfits of angels and demons.
The clothes worn by their females were relatively better.
Their dresses and aprons that were completely open at the back were a kind of fashion that emphasized the attractive lines of their back.
But for men?
Putting aside the case of outright not wearing anything on the top, an outfit that covered only the front while revealing the back is just right for being pinned as a pervert.
This was why angel and demon males wore no topwear, or only wore specially made clothing that took their wings into account.
“Mr. Kang Han Soo. What are you doing?”
“Don’t talk to me. It’s serious.”
The wings of angels and demons were “summoned”.
When the summoning was undone, their wings would disappear from their backs, enabling them to lie down completely like humans.
I couldn’t do that, however.
Summoning rib bones made no sense, no?
“By chance… is it because of the wings?”
“I see you can’t bring yourself to be honest.”
“Lady. Aren’t you often told that you’re annoying for talking too much?”
“People like me talking to them, though.”
Victoria replied proudly.
“Hah! I’m sure they pretend to. Who knows what loss they’ll suffer if they speak honestly? Who would do something that’ll lead to kissing goodbye to their promotion or worse, being fired or put out to pasture.”
“How mean! I’d never do such things!”
“Look, look. You’re flaring up just ’cause I said a few words. If I were an employee, you would’ve already been howling to have me fired.”
“Well that’s because you… Urgh! Never mind!”
I continued to think on how to hide my wings even as we conversed.
And the conclusion I came to?
To break it off.
While it seemed somewhat an idiotic solution, there was no problem at all from my careful investigation of my body structure.
Not a drop of blood was spilled either.
They were wings designed to be easily broken off, to begin with.
The wings that fell off my body became destroyed rapidly.
Every joint of the bones connected by the things resembling cartilage disconnected and fell apart, and the bone fragments easily crumbled away like chalk.
The membrane of the wings weren’t too much different either.
Even the sword strikes and magic of those barbaric aliens had no effect on it, yet it tore simply like tissue upon separating from my body.
“The truth was near, huh?”
To not hide the wings but outright pull them out!
There couldn’t be a method more certain than this.
“Mr. Kang Han Soo. Is it fine to throw them away? They’re special wings obtained from getting an SS-grade, after all.”
“… Are you, worrying for me right now?”
I fixed an intent stare on Victoria’s face.
“Am, am I not allowed to? Why are you making a face like my nephew that saw elephants mating at the zoo and got shocked? Do I look that shocking?”
It was honestly shocking.
“In times like this, deny it even if you don’t mean it please!”
“But it’s too shocking, isn’t it? That you worry for me when you can’t even beat a pet of the Demon King on your own.”
“Can’t I worry?”
“Why don’t you use that time to work on improving yourself instead.”
That was how I had grown stronger, and it was the same now.
I gathered my focus.
As I did so, new wings protruded from my back like bamboo shoots.
It took approximately 10 seconds for the wings to completely form as the three pairs of bones elongated and the membranes on them appeared. It wasn’t possible to take them out in the blink of an eye like when summoning.
They were wings that needed a bit of preparation.
Forming the wings was fine, but there was something I had overlooked.
“Mr. Kang Han Soo. Your expression’s become serious again. Is there some problem with your new wings?”
“… There’s not enough calcium phosphate.”
It turned out that the bones of my wings weren’t simply made out of nothing.
“I feel like I’ll get osteoporosis if I don’t munch on some anchovy or something this instant. Is there something to eat on the ship?”
These wings abided by the law of equal exchange.
As befitting a luxury cruise, its restaurant had plenty of things to eat.
I simply gave up the vow I had made to first taste the bad beanpaste pot stew my mother makes upon returning to Earth someday.
I had thought it such a wonderful dream at the time, but…
Apparently, it was just my imagination.
In the restaurant, I replenished the nutrients I had consumed to create the wings. I performed some tests in between as well.
And here came the conclusion.
If I were to regenerate my wings three times in a state of having eating nothing, my bones would become as weak as millet stalk.
It seemed that caution would be necessary regarding this point in future as well.
“You’ve totally got the appetite of a child.”
On Fantasia’s continents, I had tried several times to reproduce the cookings of Earth.
But while I knew how to pay at a restaurant and eat, I was utterly clueless as to cooking myself. This wasn’t my fault.
School didn’t teach me the methods on making ketchup, margarine, soy sauce, soybean paste and teriyaki, and they didn’t come up as examination questions either.
How was I supposed to know something I didn’t learn?
I had resolved to learn cooking without fail when I returned to Earth, yet in reality that thought disappeared like melting snow after actually coming back.
It wasn’t like I was going back to the dimension of Fantasia, was I?
I just had to buy food or eat the meals made at home like I used to. There was no real need for me to learn to cook.
“… Why do you keep on smiling? Getting on my nerves.”
Factoria had been appearing to be in a very good mood since a while ago.
“Because being by your side, it feels like I’ve gone back to Fantasia’s continents.”
“You sure can say something horrible so easily!”
That was why I wasn’t able to even sleep.
It felt like if I needlessly fell asleep, I’d be kidnapped again and be shaken awake by a little sister-version Lanuvel saying “Brother! Get up quickly! Come on~”.
Truthfully, the thought was frightening.
“Don’t you miss it, Mr. Kang Han Soo?”
“Not at all.”
I was even insulted that I was more knowledgeable over there than its native residents. Never again did I want to go back to that wearisome world.
“I recall the faces of my companions, now and then. The cute Lanuvel, kind Alex, beautiful Sylvia, pure Aqua, the solemn Sir Sage…”
Apparently, she had gone to a dimension that was the same in name only.
“I did vaguely feel that I’d be able to return to Earth upon defeating the Demon King, but who would’ve known that forget choosing, I wouldn’t be able to even say goodbye… If I did, I wouldn’t have rushed the subjugation.”
“… I’m the same.”
Was it really a dimension with the same name only?
I had taken a whole 10 years despite rushing, after all.
“You miss it in truth, don’t you?”
“Are you mad?”
I quietly listened to the reminiscing Factoria, and while doing so I put together the information she knew.
The graduates didn’t know in detail regarding the existence of the teaching staff.
They only knew of them as “angels” sent by the Fantasy God.
The real angels I had come across in the Hero Festival were a thug race of cockheads, but it was inevitable that the other graduates would misunderstand as the angels didn’t make a proper appearance in the elementary education curriculum.
She didn’t have much to say of use.
“Chief Director Victoria! Here you were!”
“I hear a salvage ship has just set sail.”
“Director. The captain is in a hurry to find you.”
“Our stock is fluctuating due to this incident!”
Hundreds of passengers and crew members aside from us had been on this wrecked ship.
I felt like I heard about some couple that ignored the warning to go on the deck and mimicked The Titanic at the ship’s bow to end up going missing, but surely I was imagining it.
There were many people looking for Factoria.
Among them were officials who worked under her, but the number of businessmen and politicians who got on the cruise ship to meet her, the Chief Director of the Pacific Ocean’s third marine city, and unexpectedly ran into her weren’t few.
I took advantage of the confusion to quietly slip away.
“Where are you heading to, Mr. Kang Han Soo?”
Factoria, who managed to notice me, came running over in a fluster to ask me this.
I replied honestly.
If it weren’t for the problem with my wings, which I hadn’t expected in the least, I would have ignored the wrecked ship and immediately flown over to Korea.
But even that problem was now over.
It was time to go back to my hometown.
“Could I ask for just one favor before that?”
“I’ll sufficiently reward you.”
I found Factoria amusing to be proposing a trade with me.
Could there be anything more important than going back home to read the comics and novels that I had missed out on?
There was no reward that could possibly satisfy me.
While I did have a slight interest in Factoria’s refined body, there were bound to be other ladies better than her if I were to search well.
My interest wasn’t to the extent of hearing out a bothersome request.
“It can’t be helped then.”
Factoria took a step back as she shook her head.
“I see you giving up quickly this time?”
“I’m a learner myself, I’ll have you know? I’ve roughly figured out your personality. I don’t want to bother wasting brainpower when I know you won’t listen no matter how much I ask.”
I stood on the deck of the wrecked ship and focused my mind to create my wings.
At that moment, I overheard the conversation between Factoria and a crew member.
“Chief Director Victoria. The alien woman we fished out of the ocean has regained her senses. Let us head to the captain’s cabin.”
… Alien woman?
“That name doesn’t even matter.”
“But I don’t like it!”
Ignoring Victoria’s protest, I slapped my chest and made a heroic exclamation.
“Entrust the peace of Earth to this Hero, yours truly!”