Tuesday, September 19, 2023 @

Volume 3 Chapter 5 Blissful Slumber

 As I gazed at the passing scenery and let myself sway with the gentle rocking of the train, the view outside the window gradually shifted from the urban landscape to a lush cityscape.

 I quite enjoy riding trains. Time flows leisurely, and as I watch the changing scenery, I often find myself feeling pleasantly drowsy. However, if I fall asleep, this time seems to pass in the blink of an eye. It's an indescribable dilemma.

 But there are two people on this train who seem to be enjoying it even more than I do, or maybe I should say two and a half people.

 "Wow, this is incredibly fast."

 "It's truly amazing. In a world where magic power isn't used properly, how did they achieve such development...?"

 The two girls were sitting face to face in a four-person box seat. Both had eye-catching hair colors and well-defined faces. Needless to say, they were Lisha and Kanami.

 Since boarding the train, the two of them had been continuously gazing out the window like this. While it wasn't their first time riding a train since arriving on Earth, they didn't seem to have gotten used to it easily.

 I could understand how they felt. In Asteris, long-distance travel usually involved using creatures like horse-drawn carriages or dragon-drawn carriages, or at most, extremely expensive magic vehicles. Lisha, who had rarely left the church, must have found this experience even more unusual.

 "It seems like both of them find Japanese scenery quite fascinating."

 "After all. They don't usually get a chance to travel far."

 Souji, who was sitting next to me, was looking at Lisha and Kanami with an unusually gentle expression. Yes, we were currently traveling as members of the Literary Club to our training camp.

 Kanami was able to join us as Lisha's guardian, and of course, the fact that there were plenty of male club members played a role in getting her approval. Honestly, I had wondered if it was even possible to go on a trip so casually during the God-Demon War, but when I casually mentioned it to Kagami-san, she actually suggested that we take a break from Tokyo for a while.

 Now that I thought about it, after all the consecutive battles, it made sense. Sorry for the trouble we've caused.

 So, we were on our way to our training camp without any worries. As I watched Lisha and Kanami engrossed in the departing scenery, a voice came from above.

 "Hey, are you guys not going to switch seats at some point?"

 I didn't even need to look up to know. Matsuda had probably leaned forward from the back seats.

 "We decided the seating arrangement with a lottery at the beginning, so there won't be any changes."

 "Huh, are we really going to stay in these seats until we arrive?"

 "There's no helping it. Hinata, give up already."

 That's right, we drew lots to decide who would sit where in the four-person box seats. As a result, Lisha and Kanami ended up sitting next to each other, with Souji and me facing them. Behind us were Matsuda and Hinata.

 Hinata looked pitiful, but it was the result of a fair lottery. Hang in there, I'm rooting for you.

 "Seriously, why do I have to sit next to Matsuda-san, especially during this camp?"

 "To be honest, I have mixed feelings about it when my junior says that."

 Phew, here we are...

 "Complex feeling? Care to elaborate?"

 "Humiliation, sadness, joy, and satisfaction."

 That's basically all rolled into one.

 "Ugh, this is the worst."

 "Hinata-san, you shouldn't talk to your senpai like that."

 As I was silently feeling sorry for Hinata, I heard a voice scolding her. In reality, it wasn't just the usual faces on the train.

 I also leaned my face out from the backrest and turned to the back.

 "Sorry about that, Kuroi-san. If Matsuda is bothering you, please let me know early, and we can change seats."

 "It's absolutely fine. Matsuda-san is quite entertaining."

 Saying that with a chuckle was a girl with long, vibrant black hair. Kuroi Hana-san was a first-year student in the Literary Club, just like Hinata. She spoke and behaved like an angel. She was probably the only one who could confidently say that Matsuda was enjoyable to be around. Even Lisha, the Saint, couldn't say that with certainty.

 Well, being a Saint is about abilities, so personality doesn't matter too much.

 That said, despite her personality, Kuroi-san's appearance was the exact opposite of an angel.

 After all, she was wearing a black long-sleeved dress with long boots. Despite the train being air-conditioned, it was scorching outside. Wearing such outfit in this season required quite a bit of determination. The fact that she carried it off so effortlessly indicated she was no ordinary person.

 By the way, she loved horror novels and was the only one who praised the vivid descriptions of monsters I wrote. She really is an angel, no doubt about it.

 "Hana, you're into gruesome stuff, so you can say that."

 "Calling it gruesome, no way!"

 "Hey, whose novel is considered gruesome, huh?"

 "No one said your novel is gruesome, senpai. Now, please sit down. And Matsuda-san, you're disgusting."

 Alright, sorry.

 I obediently sat down, feeling the knife-like glare aimed at me. It seems that her allergy against Matsuda is stronger than I thought. He was deep in thought, leaning against the backrest.

 I won't say anything more.

 I relaxed my body and closed my eyes. Lately, there had been so much commotion, and I hadn't had a chance to relax like this. While listening to the cheerful voices of Lisha and others, I couldn't help but hope that this training camp would be a bright memory for her.

* * *




 I felt like I heard a familiar voice. A voice that made me want to cry just by listening, a voice that made me want to shout for no reason.

 When I opened my eyes, a dazzling light filled my vision. Why is there so much light coming into the train? Even if I were to open the window, the light would still be intense. Suppressing my desire to go back to sleep, I slowly opened my eyes. While my mind was still confused, a voice came from above.

 "Oh, you finally woke up. Were you having a fun dream?"

 "Uh, um, huh?"

 "What's wrong? You made a weird noise just from looking at someone's face. Stop being groggy and go wash your face."

 "Uh... okay."

 What's going on?

 My head was in chaos. I had definitely been on the train with Lisha and the others just a moment ago...

 I sluggishly stood up, and what spread out before me was an endless plain. Rich, green vegetation covered the distant hills, and a radiant sun with a halo of light shone in the sky. It was a magnificent sight filled with vitality and power.

 There's no mistake.

 This is not Japan, let alone Earth; it's the otherworld I traveled to as a Hero—Asteris.

 "What's wrong? You're making a strange face. Are you feeling unwell?"

 And the flaming scarlet girl looks into my face.

 "Uh, no. Sorry, I was just groggy."

 Eris Philin Centraris. She was the second princess of the Centraris Kingdom and a magic genius who had participated in the journey to defeat the Demon Lord.

 She was the woman I could never meet again.

 Her sudden appearance left me feeling bewildered. Numerous painful memories and bright moments burst like firecrackers in my mind, and my processing speed couldn't keep up. Despite that, I managed to squeeze out a response.

 "...I'm fine. Sorry for being groggy."

 "You better pull yourself together. Even here, it's not as safe as it looks."

 "Yeah, thanks."

 I opened the water canteen that Eris handed me and took a sip. It was warm water, but it felt very refreshing on my dry throat after waking up.

 And then, I looked at Eris again.

 "What's wrong? Hand me the water canteen when you're done drinking."

 Seeing her again after such a long time, I couldn't help but think she was still beautiful. Tsukiko and Lisha were beautiful in their own right, but Eris had a different charm.

 Despite her simple travel outfit, a dazzling aura radiated from her from within. She may seem haughty, but her expressions changed over trivial matters, like flickering flames.

 As I continued to stare at Eris, lost in thought, someone spoke to me from the side.

 "Oh, why are you gazing at the princess first thing in the morning?"

 "Relax, Yuusuke. With you slacking off like this, the dream of defeating the Demon Lord is still a distant one."

 "...Rist, Glaive."

 When I turned around, there stood a slender young man and a large man in stark contrast to each other.

 The youngest member of the Royal Magic Knights, Rist Serai. Glaive Olu Warvis, who had served as a royal knight since Eris was a child. Both of them were exceptional knights proudly representing the Centraris Kingdom.

 Looking at their faces, I realized once again.

 This is a dream.

 A soft sunlight cast a faint illusion over my drowsiness.

 "I'm awake at last."

 I stood up and stretched my body.

 I took a deep breath of the Asteris air, circulating magic power throughout my entire body.

 My body felt light, and I realized that it had been finely tuned. That's right, it was after rigorous training in the kingdom during this season.

 I wasn't like the sluggish me who returned to Japan. My understanding of magic was now higher, but there was no comparison in physical conditioning.

 "Yuusuke, we're heading to the forest beyond the plains today. If you're feeling sluggish, we'll leave you behind."

 "Absolutely, should I put some spirit into you?"

 "Please don't. If he gets hit by Grave, he'll lose consciousness instead of getting motivated."

 "Hahaha, he really need more rigorous training."

 "You guys are getting along well from the morning, aren't you?"

 Sarcastic Rist and straightforward Glaive. I had learned many things from our journey together. Rist supported me in various situations, not just in combat, and Glaive's cheerful personality dispelled the gloomy atmosphere.

 "But what they're saying makes sense. Buck up, Yuusuke."

 Eris looked at me directly from the front.

 In an instant, her face blurred into two.

 Her carefree face and the face she had when she sent me back to Earth.

 Even in such a nostalgic dream, old wounds that should have healed began to ache.

 It wasn't just one wound; it was a bunch of pain and regrets that had piled up.

 If I could redo things from this moment, would the outcome have been different?

 No, such hypotheticals were meaningless. The answer was already clear.

 She had chosen a path that didn't require me. To fulfill her pride as a princess.

 Rist and Glaive had also chosen their own futures. Trying to change that would be presumptuous.


 When I looked at Eris again, her face wavered like ripples spreading across a lake.

 It was nothing more than the surface of a fleeting memory.

 With conflicting feelings of still wanting to see and wanting to move on, I bid a faint farewell as the three of them disappeared.

 The faint illusion disappeared from my sight as my consciousness fully awakened.

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