Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
Chapter 1 – Encounter
Hiro’s consciousness was awakened by a dazzling light coming through his eyelids and stimulating his pupils. After creating a shadow with his hand, he slowly opened his eyes, and the first thing that jumped out to his eyes was a large tree that made him feel like an annual ring. Sunlight spilled through the gaps in the branches and leaves that grew haphazardly.
When he raised his upper body and looked around, he saw countless trees―a forest so dense that it was impossible to see beyond. But strangely enough, he didn’t find it eerie. Rather, there was something calming about it. Hence, Hiro wasn’t distraught or crying out, but it was also unpleasant to remain silent――.
“…Haha, where is this place?”
It’s a cliché line, after all―still, those are the only words that come to his mind.
Besides, he must have been walking along the way to school a while ago, but the feel of the bushes to the touch and the natural aromas that the wind brings are so real that it’s hard to believe that it was a dream. And what’s more, it’s not the asphalt that spreads out in front of him, but a dense growth of trees.
“If it’s a dream, I’ll wake up eventually…”
Hiro muttered to himself.
Soon he would wake up in a familiar room―he would be writhing with the embarrassment of remembering how scared he had been in his dreams.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore until then.”
He forced himself to convince his mind and decided to leave the big tree and proceed through the forest. But no matter how far he advanced, he was unable to get out of the forest. The dense trees still filled his vision, and even if he strained his eyes, he couldn’t see ahead.
When Hiro’s spirit was about to be frustrated by the fact that he was too exhausted to walk.
A golden pair of eyes emerged in the darkness, shining like a blur. It stomped the earth forcefully and approached with a loud growl. Drool was dripping from its long, bared fangs as if it was pleased with the appearance of food.
The sunlight spilling through the trees illuminates the beast, and he notices that it has beautiful white fur. It’s probably about the size of a medium-sized dog… it closes the distance as it gouges the ground with claws that extend from its well-honed quadrupeds.
He braced himself for an attack, but the beast stopped at a certain distance.
(Is it being vigilant?)
Then―it might be possible to escape. As he recalls, wild creatures are supposed to be afraid of fire… but there’s no way he has anything like that. After that, you don’t have to look away; you don’t have to be afraid; you just have to step back and escape slowly.
Hiro decided to put into practice what he had heard on television.
But then as he stepped back, keeping eye contact, the wolf took one step forward. When he took two steps back, it took two steps forward; when he took three steps back, it took three steps forward.
Ah―this doesn’t make sense…
He doesn’t even know how far to walk backward or where the exit is in the first place.
(Besides, isn’t this wolf going to chase me all the way?)
Despite Hiro’s confusion, the wolf suddenly sat down on the ground. It opened its big mouth and made one missing movement. It scratched its head with its hind legs, looking bored.
Without looking away from Hiro, the wolf stretched out like a cat and lay down on the spot. Stay alert; if I move, it will bite me. The golden eyes told him so.
…How much time had passed? The wolf that had been standing still suddenly twitched its pointed ears and stood up. Almost at the same time, a rustling sound could be heard from behind the bushes.
He didn’t expect to see a new wolf… but the one who appeared in front of Hiro was a beautiful girl.
“Hmm? Who are…you?”
The girl stopped beside the wolf as she wiped her wet hair with a cloth. Keeping her gaze on Hiro―she put her hand on the wolf’s head and began to stroke it.
She tilted her head curiously at Hiro, who had been watching the series of actions in silence.
“Hey … I’m asking, you know?”
“Eh, ah, aah, you mean you were asking me?”
“Who else is in here other than you…?”
I was just fascinated by her―there was no way he could say that.
Her red hair reminds him of a flame with a silken thread-like sheen. Her well-formed face is young but more beautiful than a ruby, and her blazing crimson eyes give off a strong will. Underneath her porcelain-white skin, her veins were blue and translucent. It is often said that the heavens do not give you two gifts, so, unfortunately, her breasts are small―but her charm will not be reduced by half, and she will surely become a woman full of charm in the future.
“Ahaha… I’m Ouguro Hiro.”
Since he couldn’t stay silent all the time, when Hiro mentioned his name, the girl tilted her head slightly and wandered her gaze.
“Ouguro Hiro?” [T/n: the Author wrote this in English/Katakana, so that’s why I will just put the name in Japanese order.]
“Yeah… but if it’s difficult to call, just call me Hiro.”
“All right. Then, I’ll call you Hiro, but―what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been looking for a way out, but…”
With a small frown, the girl’s gaze clings to Hiro’s body, as if she is observing him.
It was only for a moment――.
“Well, fine. You don’t seem to be a suspicious person. You’re looking for a way out, right?”
This way, the girl said and began to walk away. Hiro hurriedly followed her back. As if to protect the girl, the wolf stepped in between. As he walked, watching the wolf’s tail sway from side to side, he eventually recognized a massive mass of light at the end of the forest.
That’s the exit that he couldn’t find even after walking around so long. Yet, it was so easy to find, and Hiro felt as if he had been pinched by a fox. [T/n: Being pinched by a fox’ (kitsune ni tsumareru) means being disbelieving one’s eyes because the situation feels surreal like a fox had put a spell on you.]
(I never thought of finding the exit so easily…)
Although confused, he walked through the trees that were becoming speckled, and as he passed through the light――.
Hiro blinked his eyes as he looked at the scene spread out in front of him. When he looked up, the sun was shining on the cloudless azure sky arrogantly looking down on the ground. The sunshine was pouring down on the land in its fullness, and the ears of grass were swaying comfortably in the wind.
While his eyes were drawn to the endless grasslands, Hiro caught a strange group of people at the edge of his vision. A group riding on war horses spread out in a horizontal line―heavy armor, well-kept spears, and swords at their waists. The rude looks directed at him by those on horseback are not very friendly.
As Hiro becomes hesitant, a horse comes out of the group. The man on the horse has a large scar on his cheek. The fact that he is wearing armor gives him a warrior-like appearance. The man took a glance at Hiro with his sharp, beast-like eyes and then turned his gaze to the girl.
“Milady… are you bathing again?”
“It was so hot after the training, you know?”
“Can you at least bring a bodyguard with you?”
“Ara, I brought a bodyguard, you know? Isn’t that right, Cerberus?”
When the girl called the white wolf’s name and patted its head――.
Cerberus barked happily. After one breath, the man shook his head in dismay. To a third-person view, he looks like an older brother struggling with his tomboyish sister, but――.
“So, who is this guy?”
Suddenly, the man pointed at Hiro with his thumb.
“Um, I’m just a lost child… so can I go now?”
He said that and then gave an amiable smile.
“…Are you trying to fool me?”
No doubt, it failed because of the vein floating on the man’s forehead.
The girl put her hand on Hiro’s shoulder.
“We met there earlier. We’re already like friends, Right?”
The girl walked around in front of Hiro and looked into his face. Hiro’s face instantly turned red. It may be that he is not used to talking to a girl at such a close distance―but it is even more so when it is a beautiful girl.
“M-maybe it’s like a friend, I wonder? I don’t know if we can be considered as friends, though.”
Hiro said that very quickly so that he didn’t realize how shaken he was.
Cerberus barked at him. Maybe he agrees with him. Obviously, the man with the cheek scars frowned in disgust.
“He’s your friend…? That would be too suspicious.”
The man didn’t even try to hide his grumpiness as he glared at Hiro.
“And what’s with that unfamiliar outfit? You don’t belong to the Empire, do you?”
Indeed, Hiro is the only person here who wears school uniforms. To begin with, Hiro isn’t used to seeing people wearing armor and holding swords at their waists, but――.
“More importantly, your face and hair color is not like that of the Empire’s citizens. What country are you from?”
After being told by the man who has the cheek wounds, he now realizes that everyone has an unJapanese face. They all have blond or brown hair, but none of them have black hair like Hiro’s. And on closer look, their features are uniformly chiseled, with high noses and broad shoulders. Compared to Hiro’s body, they are two sizes different.
When Hiro revealed his confusion, the girl who had moved next to him lightly tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned his head in that direction, the beautiful beauty came close to the tip of his nose.
“He has such a gentle face; even his eyes are so bright, he looks like a little Cerberus.”
It’s so close that if he pushed his back just a little, their lips would touch. The faintly sweet scent stimulates Hiro’s nostrils. In spite of the fact that Hiro was flustered, the girl put on a carefree smile.
“I like it, you know?”
“Eh, aah… T-thanks.”
What did she say all of a sudden… my mind is violently disturbed.
“What are you blushing about? This is even more suspicious. Do you know where you are?”
“Dios. Don’t be so intimidating with this child. You’re frightening him!”
“…Milady. Even if he’s a child, isn’t he still suspicious?”
The words sounded unheard of to Hiro. It was fine for the man called Dios to call himself a child. However, it was strange for a girl―who was younger than him―to say that he is a child.
“Why? He’s so cute…”
“He’s not cute at all――.”
Hiro raises his hand, interrupting Dios’ words that make him twitch his mouth.
“What is it?”
The girl gave him a compassionate look. It is deplorable to find out that it was actually directed toward a child.
“Even if I am like this; I’m still sixteen. Seventeen this year.”
“…That’s a lie, right? You’re older than me?”
Why did she have to look at me like she had been scammed? When she looked at Dios on the horse, he seemed as surprised as the girl, and his mouth was half-open.
“Aren’t you actually about ten years old?”
The girl comes up to him in disbelief.
“I’m really sixteen. I’m definitely not ten.”
Indeed, Japanese people are often seen as being younger than their actual age. Above all, Hiro was 165 cm. He’s small for a sophomore in high school, not much different from a girl. On top of that, he has a childish face, which, combined with his good looks, made him sound less than truthful.
When Hiro was wondering what to do to make them believe him――.
“Are you some kind of spirit?”
Dios gave him a serious look.
“Oh, I see! So that’s why you were in the forest. But I wonder if a spirit could get lost…”
As soon as the girl is convinced, she tilts her head and grumbles, “Hmm.”
She’s a girl whose expression changes all the time. It’s fun to watch, but when Dios pulled his horse over, Hiro was once again filled with tension.
“For now, let’s take this guy with us.”
“Eh? We can’t. His parents might be looking for him. We’ve got to make sure he gets home.”
“Milady, this guy is sixteen, isn’t he? A child might have been forgiven, but he’s a respectable adult. He entered the royal family’s private property without permission. I’ll have to interrogate him, just in case.”
“Eh, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Let’s get him home.”
“He could be an enemy spy.”
“I don’t think he’s anything like that, but…”
“Then, I’ll have him ride in my carriage. Is that okay?”
Dios opens his mouth, loosening the wrinkles between his eyebrows at the girl who refuses to give up.
“…Sigh, fine. Then we’ll return to the fort.”
Dios, who had turned his horse, walked back to his subordinates. As if to replace him, a luxurious carriage came in front of Hiro.
“Come, get in. It’s spacious inside, so you won’t feel cramped.”
Cerberus got in first, and when Hiro looked inside, there was enough room for six people to sit. After avoiding Cerberus, who was lying on the floor, Hiro sat down on the seat provided. The girl who boarded later sat down face to face.
“I’m sorry for startling you in so many ways.”
“No, it’s just a dream, so I don’t blame you.”
Even at this point in time, Hiro was still not admitting that this was not real. The girl tilted her head in wonder.
“Yeah. There’s a lot of things that can’t be explained otherwise.”
“Can’t explain what?”
“I was on my way to school a while ago, and then I found myself here. You know how in a dream, the scene suddenly changes, and someone you’ve never seen before appears?”
“…Well, yeah. But you’re here. I think it’s real.”
Suddenly, the girl floated her hips and approached Hiro. Just as he was wondering, a warm hand was placed on his cheek―he felt it was soft―and then he was struck with intense pain.
The girl pinched Hiro’s cheeks as hard as she could.
“How is it? Does it hurt?”
When he shouted an incomprehensible word, the girl’s hand moved away, and she sat back down in her original position. Surprised by Hiro’s scream, Cerberus, who was at their feet, rolled his eyes.
“See. It’s not a dream, right?
“But you don’t have to pinch me.”
“I’m sorry. But I figured it would be the quickest way to find out.”
There’s nothing I can say when she smiles at me that prettily. What will happen if I wake up with a strange sexual habit? As Hiro silently stroked his throbbing cheeks, the window provided on the carriage was tapped on.
“Is something wrong?”
Dios looked at her suspiciously, but the girl replied nonchalantly.
“It’s nothing. Hiro told me this was a dream, so I just pinched his cheek.”
“Hmm, it’s an escape from reality, huh… As I thought, he’s a spy.”
With that, Dios moved away from the window. Hiro sighed as he held his aching cheeks. Although he admitted it in the corner of his head, somewhere in the back of his mind, he couldn’t give up the hope that it was a dream.
“What should I do now…”
Hiro looked down at his feet and put his hand on his head. He feels shallow for understanding that it’s a different world because of the pain in his cheeks, but… Can he return to his former world, or can he get out of this situation? The anxiety of what to do from now on is flooding in one after another.
“Hey… are you okay?”
The girl who sat across from him worriedly patted Hiro’s head, who was at a loss.
”Don’t be so depressed. It’s okay; It’s not like you’re disrespectful.”
“No, that’s not what I’m depressed about, but… what do you mean by disrespect?”
“Oh, by the way, I haven’t introduced myself yet.”
Hiro’s voice, which was uttered weakly, seemed to have failed to reach her ears.
“I’m Celia Estreya Elizabeth von Grantz, the sixth princess of the Great Grantz Empire, and I’ve just turned fifteen. Everyone calls me Liz. Hiro can call me that, too.”
She placed one hand on her chest and smiled gracefully.
It would certainly be disrespectful if I called a princess by her nickname, wouldn’t it? Maybe I should change my speaking manner as well. I don’t want to be beheaded under such an incomprehensible situation.
“Would it be so disrespectful to call you, Liz?”
“It’s okay. I said it was okay. You see, even Dios can say and do things like that without being disrespectful.”
“Oh, come to think of it, you’re right… I guess I’ll call you Liz, then.”
She was friendly from the moment we met, so maybe she’s a friendly princess.
“Yes, it’s good to be honest. But as expected, even Dios wouldn’t call me by my nickname, though.”
“Uwooooooooo, I’ve been tricked! I knew it was disrespectful!”
Seeing the flustered Hiro, Liz laughed with tears in the corners of her eyes.
“Hahaha, don’t worry about it. But I guess you shouldn’t call me by my nickname in public. Aside from Dios, the people in the fort might get mad if they know about it.”
――What is it like to be played by someone younger than you? She’s having fun and laughing and holding her belly, but please don’t play with life and death. But why does she let me call her by her nickname and be nice to me in so many ways?
“I have a few questions for you…”
“What is it?”
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Because you’re alive.”
I tilted my head, not understanding the meaning of her words.
“Could you tell me a bit more clearly?”
With those words, Liz wandered her gaze with a clean finger to her chin, saying, “Hmm.”
“Hmm. Cerberus wasn’t biting you, and besides, the spirits weren’t making any noise either.”
“Um… what happens if Cerberus was biting me or the spirits were making noise?”
“You have to be dead.”
Liz shrugged her shoulders and continued.
“The forest from earlier―Anfang Forest is inhabited by many spirits. His Majesty, the first emperor, made a contract with them to protect the forest in return for letting the spirits dwell there, and even now, more than a thousand years later, they continue to protect it with the utmost discipline. That’s why no one other than the royalty is allowed to enter the forest, and they won’t be able to leave alive either.”
“I didn’t know I was in such a dangerous place…”
There was no way to find a way out of there. If I stayed there, I might have actually died. A chill ran down Hiro’s spine as he listened to the horrible story.
“That’s why I saved you. Are you convinced?”
“Yes. I understand that I was in a very dangerous situation. But why am I alive? I’m not even royalty, you know?”
“I know it’s weird. So Dios suspected that you were some kind of spirit.”
“Aah, so that’s why… he reacted like that, huh?”
“That is the way it is. So now that I’ve convinced you, can you tell me your story? What were you doing there? Or are you really a spirit?”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be in so much trouble…”
“It’s not like that. I’m just a commoner, a sixteen-year-old high school student.”
“What’s a high school student?”
“…Hmm? The students who attend the school.”
“Oh… you mean the students at the training school?”
As expected, he couldn’t make her understand the story. There is no way there are high school students in this other world. The language seems to be Japanese, but that doesn’t mean that the words of the world where Hiro was from can be understood…
(No―this is different.)
Hiro finally realizes.
“…I’m speaking Japanese, aren’t I?”
“Japanese? I don’t know if there is such a language.”
Liz tilted her head and snorted.
“Um, just to make sure, what language am I speaking right now?”
“…What’s the meaning of this?”
“No, I’m just wondering how I’m able to speak in Grantzian.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that. More importantly, just tell me, what is that high school student?”
Liz leaned in and brought her face close to him. This is the second time today, but he still doesn’t get used to it, and Hiro exposed his agitation to the point that his heart almost jumped out of his mouth.
“So close! You’re too close!”
“Y-yes? You don’t have to yell at me…”
When Liz moved away with a dejected look on her face, he felt a chill in his chest and wanted to apologize. But it would be heartbreaking to have her approach him again. In the end, he couldn’t utter an apology, and he had a lot of things he wanted to think about, but Hiro decided to answer her question as if to escape the guilt.
“Back to the topic… high school students are like students in a training school like you said.”
“Heh! So in the spirit world, it’s called a high school student!”
She clasps her hands together like a maiden praying, and Liz turns to him with sparkling eyes. Hiro gave a wry smile, then opened his mouth.
“No, I’m not a spirit. I’m a human like you.”
“As I said before, you have a very young face. Besides, you seem to have a bit higher voice as an adult.”
“In my world, a sixteen-year-old is a minor, though. Anyway, are the spirits you’re talking about also like me?”
“Not at all. Spirits do not have a figure or a voice. But His Majesty, the First Emperor, seemed to be able to communicate with them.”
“So, how do you think I’m a spirit?”
At Hiro’s question, Liz tilted her head slightly with a finger on her thin chin.
“Umm… It just feels like it somehow? Besides, it makes a lot more sense for you to be a spirit.”
When he was impressed that she really is a girl who can make any gesture look spectacular, Liz suddenly threw a glance across the window.
“We should be arriving at the fort soon. I’m a bit fussy, but I’ll treat you as a proper guest, so please take your time.”
Hiro turned his gaze in the same direction, and the setting sun was about to sink beyond the horizon, leaving a reddish-red color like an afterglow on the ground.