Chapter 9 – I Tried To Relax And Enjoy The Night
We headed in the opposite direction of the sea… to the southeast of the city.
We climbed up the slope, which was illuminated by a madder red light.
Then we saw a magnificent brick building.
“Is that the inn?”
I turned my eyes to the sign on the building while I was listening to Iris’s words.
No doubt about it. This is where we will be staying tonight.
The place was located on top of a small hill, and when we stopped in front of the building and looked behind us, we could see the cityscape of Fort Port spread out below us.
“Hey, Kou, there’s an observation deck over there.”
Iris pointed to a large wooden deck that extended out toward the ocean. It’s sunset now, and it would be a good time to take in the view.
Let’s take a little detour.
Looking out from the observation deck, the sun was setting over the horizon.
The ocean reflected the sunlight and sparkled.
“Wow! The ocean is so bright!”
Lily and Surara both exclaimed in admiration.
Incidentally, the wooden deck was surrounded by railings, so Surara couldn’t see anything from his line of sight.
Perhaps because of this, Lily placed Surara on top of her own head.
She held him firmly with both hands to prevent him from accidentally tumbling down.
“Lily-oneechan, are you sure I’m not too heavy?”
“It’s fine. The sea is beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes. It looks delicious, like tomato soup!”
When I tilted my head at the expression that was too unique, Leticia, who was right next to me, said with a wry smile.
“Perhaps Surara-sama is hungry.”
“Oh, I see.”
Surara is quite a glutton, and when he is hungry, it’s probably inevitable that all he can think of is food. Perhaps.
“By the way, what is Leticia doing?”
“I’ve been inspired, so I’ve been scribbling a little.”
I looked at Leticia’s hand and saw that she was running a pencil through her sketchbook at great speed. She was using only a graphite pencil, but she had managed to capture the colors of the sunset with just the right amount of shading.
“You’re very good at it.”
“Thank you very much. Please let me paint your portrait one day.”
“It would be boring for you to draw me.”
“No, of course not. You have a very attractive face.”
“I’m sorry, but your flattery will get you nothing.”
“Ara, I am only giving you my honest impression.”
Leticia gave a devilish smile and went back to her sketches.
Geez, you gotta stop teasing an adult. I shrugged my shoulders and left Leticia’s side to stand by Iris.
Iris was leaning against the railing of the wooden deck, quietly looking down on the city.
Her crimson hair and eyes sparkle like jewels in the evening sun.
…I admired her figure for a while.
“What’s wrong, Kou?”
“Oh, no… nothing.”
I came to my senses when Iris spoke to me.
“I was just a little hazy, that’s all.”
“Maybe you’re tired from defeating the pirates?”
“Kuo, you’ve been very active this time, haven’t you? Shall I rub your shoulders?”
“No need to go that far. I’ll just take it as a compliment.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
Iris said this in a joking tone of voice and turned her gaze toward the sea again.
“Beyond this sea is the royal capital, isn’t it?”
“It’s a five-day boat ride away, I think. It’s pretty far, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is. …I guess Kou’s hometown is probably even further away.”
I haven’t told anyone that I’m from a different world yet.
However, I have known Iris for a long time, and I think she would understand.
Maybe I’ll find an opportunity to explain it to her at some point.
I suddenly noticed that Leticia was looking at us with an unusually warm gaze.
What’s the matter?
For some reason, Leticia nodded deeply with a satisfied look on her face and raised her sketchbook above her head.
There were not drawings but words written on it.
Was it a message to me?
“I’m sorry to disturb you two, so we’ll go into the inn ahead of you.”
No, there is no need for you to be so concerned about it.
We’ve enjoyed the view, and it’s time to check-in.
When I entered the lobby of “Landscape Pavillion” through the main entrance, I saw many employees lined up in a row.
It looked like a department store just after opening.
“Welcome, Kou Kousaka-sama and his party. Welcome to Landscape Pavilion!”
“Thank you very much for defeating the pirates!”
“All of us here at Landscape Pavilion are truly honored that the famous “Dragon Slayer” has chosen to stay with us. Please come this way.”
Receiving an enthusiastic welcome from the employees, we headed to the reception area at the back of the lobby.
We asked about Leticia’s accommodation, and fortunately, a room of the same grade as ours was available.
“How about this room?”
“Yes, that will be fine. Thank you.”
“Very well, then. I will show you to your room.”
Our rooms were all on the top floor of the inn.
The room assignment was one for me and Surara, one for Iris and Lily, and one for Leticia, making a total of three rooms.
“After a short rest in the room, we would gather in the lobby for dinner.”
“I understand. I have to get ready, so how about thirty minutes later?”
“That’s fine with me. How about Lily and Leticia?”
“I’m fine, too. What about Surara-sama?”
“I’m full of energy 24 hours a day! Full Power Slime!”
“Well then, I’ll see you in the lobby in thirty minutes.”
I said that, wrapped up the conversation, and went into the room with Surara.
It was a suite of rooms.
It has not only a bedroom but also a kitchen, a parlor, and even a shower room.
Incidentally, the inn’s open-air bath is on the roof and seems to offer a panoramic view of the entire city.
I’m curious to see what kind of view it has, and I’ll have to check it out.
With this in mind, I lay down on the bed in the bedroom.
As I lay on my back, resting, Surara jumped on my back with a plop.
“Master-san, I’m going to give you a massage!”
“Can I ask you to do it?”
“Yes, I’ll take care of it! I’ll do it!”
Surara’s voice sounded full of enthusiasm, and he began to rub my shoulders.
Crack! Crack crack!
A cracking sound, no longer human in level, rings out from my shoulder joints.
I had been massaged by Surara in Toue before, but the sound was more intense than that time.
Perhaps the intense battle after the intense battle had exacerbated the stiffness in my shoulders.
“Master-san! You should have this done not only on your shoulders but also on your lower back and your whole back!”
“Can I have you do that as well?”
“Of course! Helper energy, at full throttle!”
My back, no, my whole body is about to fall apart…
But strangely enough, it didn’t hurt. Rather, it felt good.
The blood circulation improved as the stiff muscles relaxed, and the body felt warm and fluffy.
It felt as if I was under a blanket, even though I was not covered with a futon.
A yawn leaked out involuntarily.
“Thank you, Surara. I’m feeling much better now.”
“Wow! I’m so happy!”
Surara was innocently pleased and continued to speak.
“Master-san took me out of the underground city! I’m just returning the favor!”
Surara is a magical creature created by the technology of an ancient civilization and was originally not allowed to go outside the underground city.
But after I rewrote the system, the restriction was lifted, and we are now traveling together.
“Master-san. I have a lot of fun every day! Today I saw the ocean for the first time in my life, and it’s not just water! It was so beautiful, glistening in the sunlight!”
“That’s the ocean in the daytime. At night, it’s a different scene.”
“Wow, that’s amazing! I want to go see it!”
“Well, shall we go to the harbor for dinner?”
“Yes! I’m so excited!”
Surara seemed to be excited and began to rub my body even more enthusiastically.
I felt as if my whole body was melting away, and before I knew it, I was asleep.
“It’s time to go. If you don’t wake up, you’ll be late.”
Surara shook me awake.
The time to meet up with Iris and the others were approaching, according to the clock.
“You slept so well…”
I had only been asleep for a short time, but the feeling of fatigue had completely disappeared.
My body felt light. I feel ten years younger.
“Thanks to Surara’s massage. I feel much better.”
I patted him with gratitude.
“Hehehe! Master-san praised me!”
I left the room with Surara, who was in a good mood.
I went downstairs to the lobby on the first floor and found Iris, Lily, and Leticia in the lounge area.
All three were sitting on the sofa, chatting happily.
What a gorgeous scene.
“Oh, Kou. Over here, over here.”
Iris noticed me and raised her right hand lightly.
“Sorry, did I keep you waiting?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Iris shook her head, and in her hand was Leticia’s sketchbook.
“I was just looking at Leticia’s drawings with Lily.”
“That looks interesting. Can I take a look at it too?”
“How about it, Leticia?”
“Of course, you can. I would be happy to show you.”
Leticia nodded with an elegant gesture.
Her dignified attitude showed her strong confidence in her own work.
I took the sketchbook and turned to the cover.
Most of Leticia’s drawings were of people living in the city.
Street vendors hawking their wares in the market, adventurers singing and dancing in a tavern, housewives chatting on the side of the road…
All were painted with a warm touch and exuded Leticia’s gentle personality.
On the last page was a mysterious picture.
In the gentle sunlight, a dragon is sleeping with its body curled up.
The dragon’s expression was happy.
On the dragon’s back, small birds are singing in a line, and near its face, several cats are gathered in a conference.
Furthermore, there are many people as well as animals.
A woman meticulously polishing the dragon’s scales, an old man reading a book while reclining on its tail, children running around.
It was a very peaceful scene.
Just looking at them gave me a warm feeling.
“Leticia. This dragon…”
Could it be a calamity?
I was about to say so.
But just before I did, a flash of inspiration struck me, and I said something else.
“Could it be your brother, the Greed Dragon?”
I couldn’t quite put into words why I thought that.
Maybe it was because of the deep affection I felt for the dragon from the landscape of the painting.
Leticia stared at me for a while, her deep blue eyes fluttering and blinking repeatedly, and then she slowly opened her mouth.
“Yes, you are right. You understand very well.”
“It’s just a hunch.”
For once, it was really just a hunch.
I am surprised that I was right.
“Kou-sama, do you recognize this dragon?”
Leticia was probably asking for a clue from her brother.
“No… I don’t think I remember anything about it.”
Unfortunately, I have never seen this dragon.
I’m sure I’ve never seen it…
For some reason, the scene depicted in the painting seemed awfully familiar to me.
* * *
After that, we decided to leave the inn and look for a restaurant for dinner.
Since we were traveling, we wanted to try a menu unique to Fort Port.
“What are the specialties of this city?”
Iris answered my question as she opened a gourmet guide.
“The book says ‘sea boat paella.’ Not seafood, but sea boat.”
“It is a local dish of rice cooked in a broth with saffron. The yellow color of the saffron is its characteristic.”
Ah, I see.
In my original world, it would be the equivalent of Spanish paella.
Yellow rice looks so delicious, doesn’t it?
Just imagining it makes me hungry.
The reason why it is called “sea boat” instead of “seafood” is because paella is served in a vessel that resembles a boat. In short, it is a seafood paella served on a boat.
Hearing this, Lily and Surara’s eyes lit up.
“I’m interested in it…!”
“I want to try it too! Shrimp! Octopus! Squid!”
…So, dinner today turned out to be sea boat paella.
There are several restaurants in the city of Fort Port that serve sea boat paella.
The one we went to was called “Orchid Fragrant Restaurant” located near the harbor. The restaurant is highly recommended by gourmet guides, and there is a stage in the center of the restaurant.
On the stage, a chef was cooking in front of a huge frying pan.
The pan was over five meters in diameter.
The chef is said to be a [Strong Man] skill holder and is stirring the paella with his stiff arms.
“What an impressive power…”
We were shown to our seats on the second floor, from where we could look down at the stage on the first floor.
This would keep us occupied until our food arrived.
While we were looking at the stage, the sea boat paella for five people was soon brought to us.
Yellow rice was served in a bowl filled to the brim in the shape of a ship, and seafood was used in abundance, including shrimp, squid, octopus, and even shellfish.
The fresh aroma of saffron wafted through the air, whetting my appetite.
My stomach is rumbling, so I decide to eat.
Itadakimasu. (Thanks for the food.)
This is delicious.
I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of admiration.
Unlike Japanese rice, the rice is not as sticky, but this is what makes it so pleasant to the palate. The seafood broth soaks into the rice well, and combined with the saffron flavor; it seems as if one could eat an endless supply of rice alone.
The seafood, especially the shrimp and octopus, were very chewy, which added a nice touch.
The shrimp came with shells, but thanks to the [Dexterity], I was able to peel them quickly and easily.
I looked at Lily, who was struggling to peel the shrimp shells.
“I can peel them for you if you want.”
“…Is that okay?”
“Yeah. I’ll take care of it.”
I stripped every single shrimp on Lily’s boatload.
Leticia giggled at the sight of it.
“Fufu, you are just like brother and sister, aren’t you?”
“Although the ages are a little too far apart.”
“Ara, how old are you, Kou-sama?”
“I am twenty-nine years old. I’m almost 30.”
“…You must be joking, right?”
Leticia looked surprised and rolled her eyes, blinking repeatedly.
“I thought you were twenty-three or twenty-four years old.”
“I know, right? I was also surprised when I heard his age.”
Iris nodded in agreement.
“Kou must look young because he doesn’t look tired at all.”
That being said, my shoulders and back tend to be quite stiff.
When Surara massaged me a while ago, there was a tremendous crackling sound coming from my joints.
Maybe age creeps up on us in ways we can’t see.
* * *
“Paella was soooooo good! Thank you, Master-san”
Surara said with a look of satisfaction on her face after the meal.
“Serving it on a boat was an interesting idea.”
“I can’t wait to try it again…!”
We sat back and relaxed, chatting in the aftermath of our meal.
Personally, I’m in the mood for a change of location and a drink. As I was thinking about this, my eyes suddenly met Iris’s. She was looking at me.
Iris looked at me as if she was watching me and made a gesture with her right hand as if she were lifting a wine glass.
She seemed to be in the mood for a drink, just like me.
I wondered how the other three were feeling… and Leticia said as she got up from her seat.
“Well, I’m going to go back to the inn first. I’m looking forward to the outdoor bath on the roof. Would you like to join me, Lily-sama?”
Lily looked at me and Iris alternately then turned to Leticia and nodded.
“Yes. I’d like to go there, too.”
“I’m going back to the inn too! I’m starting to feel sleepy.”
“Then, we’ll be going…”
Iris was just about to say this when Leticia opened her mouth.
“Fufu, you don’t have to force yourself to go along with us. Since you’re here, why don’t you drop by a bar with a view of the ocean? You both look like you could do with a drink. Right, Kou-sama?”
“Well, yeah. …May I take you up on your offer then?”
“Of course. Please rest assured that I will take Lily-sama and Surara-sama back to the inn properly. If there is anyone suspicious, I will turn them into a meteor in the night sky with my iron fist of justice.”
That’s dependable… or rather, too dependable, and conversely, worrisome.
If Leticia hit them with all her might, the bad guys would definitely be turned into stars in the night sky.
Anyway, this was where we split up.
After seeing Leticia and the others off to the inn, Iris and I headed for a nearby bar.
The name of the bar was “Gull’s Hideout.” As the name suggests, it is located quietly near the sea.
As I entered the bar, the bell attached to the door rang.
The owner of the bar was a large man with few words. The muscles in his arms were muscular, and his skin was darkly tanned.
He looked like… a former sailor.
“Please come this way.”
He led us to a seat in the back.
A part of the wall was made of glass, and we had a panoramic view of the sea at Fort Port.
“It’s a nice view.”
“Thank you very much. You must be tired today. Please take your time.”
The owner seemed to be aware that I was the Dragon Slayer, but he didn’t mention it and went back to the counter.
He may have been mindful so that I could drink leisurely.
I was grateful for that.
“Hey, Kou. That’s the Orichalcum Rox, isn’t it?”
Iris pointed out the window.
At the edge of the harbor in Fort Port, there was a battleship docked.
The Orichalcum Rox.
It is a large battleship built with the technology of an ancient civilization. It was originally commandeered by pirates but now belongs to me.
It was too huge to fit in my [Item Box], so I was allowed to place it rent-free in the corner of the harbor.
Orichalcum Rox was floating quietly in the sea at night, illuminated orange by the city’s lights.
It would be a perfect place to sip a drink while reflecting on the day’s events.
Thinking of this, I called the owner and placed my order.
He brought me a bottle of red wine, which he recommended.
We raised our glasses lightly and tasted the wine.
“It smells like the ocean.”
“It’s sweet and easy to drink. It tastes interesting.”
According to the owner, this wine is made from grapes grown on the dunes near the sea. The dunes have a large temperature difference between morning and evening, which makes it easy to grow sweet grapes and has become a hidden specialty of Fort Port.
While we were leisurely enjoying the wine, Iris murmured in a quiet tone.
“This is the first time Kou and I have had a drink together since we started our trip.”
That’s right if you ask me.
In Toue and Surier, I was always accompanied by Lily and Surara, so the situation of being alone with Iris seemed fresh.
Or should I say that I missed it?
When we were in Aunen, we used to go on quests and have meals and such together every day.
It was like going back to those days.
“Compared to when we started this trip, there are a lot more of us now, aren’t there?”
“Dest, Surara-chan, Lily-chan, Leticia…”
Iris narrowed her eyes as she muttered Leticia’s name.
She turned her gaze toward the sea and sighed a little.
There was a hint of melancholy in her expression. She seems to be trying to hide it, but I can tell.
“Is something bothering you?”
“No. It’s nothing serious.”
Iris shook her head and drank the rest of the wine in her glass. The amount was quite large, but I wonder if it is okay.
The alcohol seemed to have started to turn, and her cheeks had a faint vermilion color.
“Well, you see…”
After saying that, Iris fell silent for a while. Her crimson eyes were looking back and forth between me and the view beyond the window.
It was as if she was searching for the next words to say.
“If it’s something you don’t feel comfortable talking about, you don’t have to.”
Iris’s mouth relaxed as I told her this.
“Kou is very kind.”
“I don’t know. I’m just trying to be nice to Iris.”
“Fufu, thank you.”
Iris slowly turned her gaze to me and said.
“I was a little envious of Leticia after today’s pirate subjugation.”
“She and Kou went on that ship together, didn’t you?”
Iris pointed out the window with her right index finger.
There, the Orichalcum Rox floated silently.
“Smashing the turrets, taking command of the pirates with [Domination]… She’s been very active, hasn’t she?”
“Yeah. She was pretty determined.”
“Compared to that, I wasn’t much help to Kou this time.”
“Help to me…?”
I didn’t expect my name to be mentioned here, so I was a bit confused.
Iris blinked a few times, swayed her long eyelashes, and continued to speak.
“I owe a lot to Kou. I told you before; I was so happy that you came to my rescue when the Black Spider tried to kill me. Before that, I thought there was no one in this world on my side.”
“How do you feel now?”
“I’m not as hopeless as I used to be. Because there is someone here who is like the hero of the story.”
Iris glanced at me sideways.
A hero, huh?
It’s a little embarrassing to hear her say that face-to-face.
I picked up my glass and downed the rest of the wine, trying to hide my embarrassment.
The back of my throat was burning.
I sighed unintentionally.
Iris said as she watched me.
“It wasn’t just during the Black Spider. Kou helped me many times and gave me many things after that. I’m also very grateful to you for being with me and giving me a place to stay. So I’d like to return the favor in some small way, but… Kou can do everything on his own, and that’s kind of difficult to do.”
Iris lowered her eyes and gave a small slump of her shoulders.
This may be the first time she’s shown me her weakness like this. In a way, it may be a sign that she is opening up to me.
How should I respond?
I am sure Iris is not looking for superficial words of comfort.
Rather, it would be better to express my honest feelings.
After thinking for a while, I slowly opened my mouth.
“Iris is very helpful. This time, too, you were a great help.”
“…Is, that so?”
Iris asked me as if she couldn’t believe it.
I looked her straight in the eye and told her.
“If Dox and his men start to attack the city, the barrier will prevent them from doing so. Knowing that, I was able to attack them aggressively.”
“You mean you were relying on me?”
“Yes. Not only this time. Even at the time of the Black Dragon and the Gluttonous Dragon, it was Iris’s presence that allowed me to survive and protect the city. I am grateful to you for everything. I appreciate it.”
Iris’s mouth relaxed as she sighed.
“Am I really helping you?”
“Of course you are.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Muttering reassuringly, Iris raised her empty wine glass.
“Can I have another glass?”
I took the wine bottle with my right hand and poured it into Iris’s glass.
By the way, my glass was empty too.
“Shall I pour?”
Iris poured out about half of the wine in my glass.
“Is this about the right amount?”
“Yeah, that’s about right. …Well then, let’s have another toast.”
We raised our glasses to each other.
We were both in a good mood, probably due to the fact that we were now intoxicated.
“This is a story about my hometown.”
I suddenly realized that I had said something like that.
Perhaps it was the alcohol that made me light-mouthed.
Normally, I wouldn’t tell anyone about the past. But tonight, I was in the mood to talk a little.
“I was working on some kind of archaeological site system where I lived, where ancient civilization-like technology was commonplace.”
The company I worked for was focused on IT-related business, so that shouldn’t be so wrong as an explanation. Ancient civilizations are a lot like modern Japan.
I looked at Iris, who was listening to my words with interest.
Apparently, she was not bored.
With a small sigh of relief, I continued my story.
“It was a year ago, I think. The people who were supposed to deal with errors in the system were all fired. The upper management thought that since there were no errors, it would be fine if they were gone.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“You’re right about that.”
I nodded to Iris.
“Then, a while later, the system made an error, and the member who was supposed to deal with it was fired, so it took quite a while for things to get back on track. It was a tough time.”
“So it’s important to be prepared for emergencies.”
I nodded my head.
There are many tragedies in the world that occur because the people in charge don’t understand the situation, and this story is a typical example.
In this case, Iris is the ‘contingency plan.’ It’s an important role that can only be entrusted to someone you trust.
“…Fufu, thank you.”
Iris let out a smile.
“I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Not at all.”
I shook my head and looked out the window.
Iris said as she gazed out the window at the gently shimmering nighttime sea.
“It’s quite unusual for Kou to talk about himself, isn’t it?”
Iris gave a small nod and turned to me.
Her red eyes sparkled like jewels.
“Where was Kou born, how did you grow up, and what did you do? You’ve told me very little about yourself until now, haven’t you?”
“My life story isn’t very interesting, you know.”
Iris shook her head.
“That’s not the case. I want to know about Kou.”
“…That would be an honor.”
I answered shortly and tipped my glass of wine.
The mellow aroma tickled my nostrils.
I wondered if it would be all right if I talked a little more about it.
“My hometown is very far away.”
“You said that before, didn’t you?”
Iris said with a nostalgic tone.
“Maybe across the sea?”
“No, it’s much further away.”
I sipped a little wine to moisten my mouth before answering.
“Beyond the sea, or rather, out of this world.”
“Think of it as a completely different world. There are no monsters, no calamities, no skill or magic. It’s a place like that. …One day, without any warning, I was suddenly transported to this world. I had the skills before I even knew it. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?”
“Right. …But, I believe it.”
Iris turned to me and nodded deeply.
Her red eyes were staring straight at me.
Without averting her gaze, she told me.
“Even if everything you just said is a lie, I don’t care.”
It was like a once-in-a-lifetime confession or a declaration of commitment to life. Iris said this in a tone of voice that had absolutely no hesitation at all.
“I am willing to be deceived by Kou.”
* * *
I paid the bill and left the bar with Iris. The smell of the sea was wafting in the air.
“Iris, thank you for believing me when I told you earlier. …I was talking too much because of the alcohol.”
“That’s not true. I am very happy that Kou is telling me about himself.”
Iris replied with a smile that seemed to burst into flames. Iris smiled and looked up at me, which tickled me strangely.
“Is Kou planning to return to your own world someday?”
I answered immediately with a shrug of my shoulders.
“My place is here. I’m not going to go back, even if I’m asked to.”
Iris breathed a sigh of relief.
“It makes me sad just to imagine what it would be like… if Kou were gone.”
“It’s okay. I’ll be with everyone.”
We walk together through the harbor under the stars.
I am on the right, and Iris is on the left.
In a moment, the back of my left hand and the back of Iris’s right hand touched each other.
It was already late at night, and there were no other people around.
It’s just the two of us.
I looked at Iris, and she looked at me.
Our gazes collided in the center.
Iris’s pale pink lips call my name.
Suddenly, there was an earthquake.