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GCR – Volume 2 Chapter 1

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Chapter One

The Festival

 

A city of the Rondéville Kingdom, Lunéville.

When this city was born anew as a grand inn town, the branch gained a new constructed annex in anticipation for even more customers. The branch’s functions put in place were to specialize in cuisine and information exchange.

When all was said and done, it was a diner. On the second floor of that annex, there was a certain gathering.

“So then, has everyone drawn their lots?”

Everyone, who were each grasping a piece of paper, nodded while looking on with very tense expressions.

The elf girl who worked as the branch’s staff, Ilya, removed the cloth covering a display board behind her.

As for what was posted on the display board, it was a rough sketch of the entire town with many figures on it. Various characters were written next to the figures, none of them were the same as another.

With their eyes looking at the display board as though to eat it, everyone looked this way and that as they searched for their numbers.

“… Booyah! The yakisoba’s mine!!” [1]

After he threw his hands up to the skies as though in great delight, voices trailed after him.

“Omelette franks!? Yay!” [2]

“Goldfish scooping…? Whyyy…” [3]

“O-okonomiyaki… I wonder if I can make them well?” [4]

“Ta~i~ya~ki~!” [5]

“I will now be handing you your manuals, so please line up over here.”

Watching everyone move over in succession, Frank, who had approached Ilya by himself as though relieved, let out a sigh.

“It looks like it somehow worked out, doesn’t it.”

“Yes.”

“… You won’t go together with me after all?”

Even though she was receiving the gaze of Frank, who was the head of the guild association’s Lunéville branch, Ilya shook her head. As this was his second proposal, even though he already understood how she would respond, Frank couldn’t hide his disappointment. Ilya smiled at him.

“Even if I went, I don’t think anything would change, you know?”

“Well, even though you could say that…”

Frank was somehow unable to articulate himself.

As for the topic the two people were talking about, it concerned a notification sent to the branch manager the other day.

The notification’s contents were: [As headquarters is holding a general meeting, all general managers as well as branch managers are to appear in the guild association’s headquarters.]

Although Frank had been to meetings at headquarters several times, this was the first time that the meeting’s purpose hadn’t been clearly described.

Therefore, he had proposed for clever and quick-witted Ilya to accompany him, but she curtly declined.

The headquarter’s general meetings concerned practically all branch managers and since it was given the authority to make decisions, it was at the point where there was no choice but to go. As long as the conversation’s topic didn’t escalate too much, it was common to end without saying even a single word.

However, his intuition seemed to tell him it would turn into something troublesome, with Ilya’s intuition telling her something similar as well. However—

(I don’t want to get involved in anything troublesome.)

That was her main motive as for why she refused to go along.

“Just in case, if the topic looks as though it’s going badly, please escape without overworking yourself alright?”

“Don’t say something so uneasy…”

Towards Frank who was smiling wryly with his head drooped down, Ilya gave him a smile that overflowed with spontaneity.

He’d probably realized that she was jesting.

Becoming more aware of his mood lightening, Frank let go of his wry smile as the mood calmed.

“… May I butt in?”

Timidly, even though she was smirking, Cynthia spoke to them.

“Certainly?”

However, Ilya responded calmly. Cynthia was taken aback with her response being done so easily, while Frank was standing to the side averting his line of sight, unable to say anything because of his embarrassment.

“… Ahem. Ummm, there’s a quick question from the people that have received their manuals. What kind of cooking utensils should they use?”

“Understood. I’ll explain.”

Accompanied by Cynthia, Ilya went to the crowd of people.

Left behind, Frank turned his gaze to the bulletin board. The first thing to attract his attention was the words ‘Construction Completion Festival’ written out in large letters.

Since the all of the construction had been completed, they decided to host a festival in commemoration of it.

It would be for a period of two days, the goal was for people coming from other towns to come and stay the night after the first day to try out the inns at special costs.

When one thinks about festivals, the first thing to come to mind are the stalls.

For the residents of Lunéville, even though they’d experienced things like harvest festivals, it was only to the scale of being done in the central plaza.

Because this festival’s main purpose was to debut the brand new inns’ construction completions, its scale had inevitably increased greatly, so it was expected that the atmosphere would feel a little shabby if there weren’t many booths set up.

Their problem was that they didn’t have enough stalls for a festival of this scale.

As for what was suggested as the solution, the branch would serve various kinds of dishes.

The privilege of serving the branch’s cooking as street vendors.

The lottery from a moment before was to decide the cuisines, as well as to explain things to everyone. That was the scene that had developed thus far.

“Weeell, I thought you’d refuse at first, Branch Manager-sama.”

Likely because he’d finished receiving his explanation, a man spoke complacently as he grinned towards Frank.

“We don’t particularly hide our recipes after all. They aren’t something that significant.”

“Again with the modesty! Gahaha!”

Towards the man who laughed cheerfully, Frank smiled wryly.

It was true that they didn’t hide their recipes, in fact the recipe book was being sold by the commerce guild.

As for who brought the information of their recipes to the commerce guild, it wasn’t Ilya who had designed and edited foods from her previous life’s world cuisine, but a fellow staff member who worked at the same branch named Clarice. Although she had received instruction while taking rudimentary lessons directly from Ilya, there weren’t any differences in the recipes themselves.

Even so, it hadn’t been that popular because when one considered the purchase of the cooking equipment required and all of the ingredients, it became something fairly expensive.

Adding on to that, because the flavor would change depending on who cooked it even with the same recipe, there wasn’t anyone that could make it the same as the cooking done by the Lunéville branch (particularly things made by Ilya).

For those reasons, Ilya permitted opening the recipes to the public, disregarding the potential disadvantages that came with revealing them.

“Well then, that’s all for today. We will practice the dishes another day. As it will be scheduled depending on the kind of cooking that will be done, please check the schedule posted on the bulletin board.”

With Ilya’s saying that the general explanations were complete, the stall lottery successfully came to a close.

“Next is us, huh?”

The staff members in the surroundings looked towards Ria who had said that while sorting documents.

“How about we return to the main building?”

Everyone returned a nod to Frank’s statement, those that had finished tidying up made their way out of the annex.

However, not everyone who returned had scattered. Cynthia and Ria walked back to the branch while matching each other’s paces.

“Come to think of it, what kind of stall are we doing?”

Ria, who had handed out the manuals, she… probably knew the contents of the stall assigned to the branch’s staff members with what was left over.

“I don’t know either you know? There weren’t any manuals left over.”

“Eeeh!? What!?”

Surely, the branch couldn’t not open a shop.

As Cynthia had expected to get free food under the pretense of sampling, or maybe some free sweets, she was attacked by a feeling of despair.

“Iiiilyyyaaa~”

“Nn? What’s wrong?”

Cynthia had ran over to Ilya, who was walking with Frank ahead of them. Ilya looked back towards her.

“What shop will the branch be doing!?”

“Hmm… I haven’t actually decided yet.”

“Eeeh~”

Ilya and them, who had reached the branch at last while having such a conversation, didn’t take the front entrance as it had a large amount of people walking in and out of it, instead entering the branch from the service door meant for staff members. Then, everyone other than Frank continued into the office.

“Ah, welcome back.”

“Welcome back~”

Those two in charge of office work, Claude and Desiree, welcomed them back. As Ilya and them sat on the sofa in the office, Claude held out a box.

Cynthia and Ria looked at with questioning gazes as they inclined their necks. Ilya, who’d accepted the box, put her hand into the hole of the top part. When she’d taken her hand back out, she was grasping on to a small ball.

There was nothing written on the ball, Ilya turned the box’s hole to the two who were growing increasingly bewildered.

“Take one? … Ah, there’s a one on it.”

“A two for me.”

“Then, Ria will look after the store on the first day, and Cynthia on the second day. Please?”

The two girls stopped in silence for a moment as they registered Ilya’s casual request. Then—

“” Eeeh!? “”

When they understood what she meant, they let out baffled voices that resembled shrieks.

 

 

The following night.

It was decided that Ria and Rachelle would be looking after the store for the first day of the Construction Completion Festival, with Cynthia and Clarice on the second day. They were gathered in the branch’s kitchen.

The purpose of this gathering was to decide on the kind of dish they would serve in the stall, as well as practice it.

It’s a little late to bring it up, but Ilya remembered her previous life.

She had had a childhood friend, a girl that aimed to work as a pastry artisan.

After they’d graduated high school—even after the schools they commuted to had changed—they continued to meet up with each other and mutually complain about job hunting.

Like that, Ilya recalled a particularly bad interview the girl had complained about as she watched the scene play out in front of her.

As for the question, it concerned what kind reason they had for liking their favorite cake. The other examinees seemed to have said fastidious things like its origins or its virtues.

And then, when it was finally her turn to say something, she’d answered like this:

—For me, I love chocolate. I love it because I feel happy when I eat it!

Well, it was probably a failure as for as interview questions are concerned.

(However…)

Ilya thought.

That was just the truth—

“Sweeeeet!”

Their fingers coated in the sweetness of the melted chocolate, the four girls grinned in satisfaction as they held their fingers in their mouths.

Although from Ilya’s position she could scold them by all rights, when she saw the four girls’ enchanted expressions, she didn’t seem to be able to blame them.

“I put in the milk powder and it changed so much~”

For the chocolate that was bitter and sour because it hadn’t had any sugar or powdered milk in it, it became something like medicine.

The bitterness would be suppressed by mixing in sugar and the taste would become smoother by mixing in powdered milk, attaining an even softer sweetness.

Because it would become expensive if they used sugar in abundance, even if it was spread through the commerce guild, it would be too luxurious of an item for ordinary families.

Although they’d been making things like crepes and parfaits in the branch so far, many people didn’t actually know how they were made.

Swordplay, magic, blacksmithing, medicine…

In general, there were many technologies that were hidden. In this world that where that became the norm, many people assumed that they wouldn’t be taught even if they’d asked.

The same went with Ilya’s cooking—and consequently the branch’s cooking—there were a lot of cases where it was simply ended with, ‘It’s something special.’ Chocolate was one of those things as well.

“What will we use at the shop? Though there are crepes and parfaits, crepes are taken by other people, and each parfait is pretty expensive… surely you wouldn’t say something like we’ll serve them as beverages?”

Even though many people would loosen their purse strings for the festival, there was still a limit on what the general person could afford.

Fully aware of the peoples’ monetary circumstances, Ilya smiled and took some trays out of the refrigerator.

As for what leapt into the girls’ line of sight, it was foodstuffs such as finely sliced fruits and the like.

When the girls looked towards Ilya as though to ask what they were going to do with those, she held out fork in front of the four girls and stabbed it through the fruits. Then—

“Pierce through them like this, then soak them in the chocolate…”

Chasing the movements of that fork with their eyes, the girls stared attentively as Ilya slowly brought the chocolate-covered fruits into her mouth, unknowingly swallowing as they did so.

“You all try it as well. For which ingredients you’ll sell from these, why don’t we all decide?”

With Ilya’s suggestion, the four joyfully took their forks.

They hummed in satisfaction as they sampled from the selection… and as a result, the five chose bananas, cheese, and cookies.

They could eat the slightly sweet sensation of the cheese’s refined taste all day, and though they hesitated about the fruit-type banana, Ilya recommended that they may as well go for it anyways. As for the cookies, they were the most popular among the confections that Ilya had prepared.

With their ingredients decided, they just needed to decide on the amount to order.

The other people setting up stalls also had to order supplies; the people with connections did it themselves while those without any sent the branch a voucher.

By all rights people would have apprehensions about unsold goods and carefully examine the weather forecast to choose flavorings based on the weather and temperature, but for the girls, since they would be borrowing cooking ingredients directly from the branch, they could protect themselves against going into the red.

Therefore, they stocked a somewhat large amount of goods, however—

 

 

“… Ueeeh~”

“Ria! Do your best at not tiring out~!”

As though the snow didn’t effect them at all, the people overflowing in Lunéville queued into a long line towards the guild branch’s stall.

While chocolate was generally thought of as being expensive, when it came to things that were both cheap and delicious, it naturally became popular in a flash.

With her eyes tearing up, a redheaded girl named Rachelle was scolding her partner, Ria, as she somehow handled the surging guests that filled her field of view.

At the same time Ria was slicing ingredients, skewering them, and submerging them into chocolate before setting them on the net that displayed their merchandise.

However, selling and selling, the guests were unrelenting. Even though she continued to make them over and over, they continued to disappear.

“Racheeelle~”

“Even if you say it like that, it’s no use! Even I’m just barely handling this!”

“Iiilyaaa~”

Backed into a corner, Ria called out the name of a girl that wasn’t there.

At that moment.

“You called?”

As for why Ilya quickly appeared in that manner, of course it wasn’t a coincidence.

When she opened the lid of the tray she was carrying, there were baked cookie sticks crammed together on it.

However, their fragrant smell spread out the instant the lid opened, stimulating people’s noses with a smell that didn’t lose to the chocolate’s sweetness. As a result, even more people were drawn over.

“Save me, Ilya!”

“Leave it to me!”

Catching Ria who had jumped at her as though to cling on to her, Ilya smiled with a smile that filled her entire face.

It wasn’t something like chivalrous spirit or sense of justice, there’s no mistaking that her prompt response was simply due to the pleasure of receiving Ria’s embrace… Although it looked like Ilya could go in to help at any time, it was just that she wasn’t shaken by her duties at the branch.

Above all, she was a woman who held cheat abilities.

To be accurate, she handled the customers—cheerful towards women customers, cold towards male customers—and cut the ingredients without any wasted movements, as well as mincing the chocolate.

“… There. Don’t slack off now.”

“” Oka~y. “”

While scolding Ria and Rachelle who had already started relaxing, she rotating in and gave them a bit of a break, resisting against the surging guests.

Then, around the time that the guests started to slow down.

A man showed up.

This human man had short green hair. His drowsy-looking eyes didn’t seem to suit his stocky build, but they held a sharpness lurking within that suggested a hint of wariness.

Just when it seemed the man didn’t know which item to choose, he looked around the stall restlessly, his gaze resting at a single point.

“… Rachelle.”

Despite speaking with a muttered volume, Rachelle, who was taking a break in the stall, turned to look at him as though jumping up. When she saw the man, her expression changed to one of astonishment.

“Blair!?”

Standing up, Rachelle ran over to the man named Blair, who had stepped out of the queue. Seeing her, Blair smiled softly.

“What about your work!?”

“I came out since I’m on break.”

“If you’d said that, we could’ve went around together…”

“… What’s wrong?”

Missing the later part of her whispered protest, even when Blair realized the girl’s change and asked what she meant, she merely pouted a little and responded with a short, “It’s nothing!”

The mood gushing from the two was, while not as much as the chocolate, somehow sweet.

 
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” (Ilya, Ilya, I wonder why!? Right now I reeeeally want to leave!) ”

” (Ria, that’s just envy.) ”

” (I know that, baka~!) ”

Not even going to stop Ria who was stretching her hand out towards their merchandise in attempts to deceive her bitter heart, Ria distracted the customers’ attentions. She was handling the customers rather pleasantly.

Rachelle had started to talk with Blair a little after that, but just as her feelings calmed down a bit, she started to feel gazes from the surroundings focused on them.

“” Jiii… “” [6]

(Uuu…!)

In particular, she felt a sense of guilt towards Ilya and Ria’s gazes.

“Ah, umm… this is the first time I’ve properly met you two isn’t it? Umm, I’m Blair.”

“… Blair works as Lord-sama’s subordinate guard. Ilya-san should have spoken to him a few times by now, but you probably wouldn’t recognize him since he always had his helmet on.”

Now that Rachelle mentioned it, she couldn’t actually recall the man. However, for Ilya who wasn’t interested in men to begin with, most of the men she committed to memory were people related to work.

For Rachelle’s sake, Ilya wondered if it might be a good idea to remember his face if only to be safe. Ria spoke in a shuddering voice dyed in surprise.

“Ilya-san, did you hear that!? That child, when did she thrust her foot into the winner’s bracket!?”

“I heard, Ria-san. Rachelle…”

“” Is a dreadful child…! “”

“That sounds scary when you say it together!!”

“” Yay! “”

“Don’t ignore me~!”

It wasn’t that they were angry, they were just teasing her. The guilt that they had felt from Rachelle had already disappeared without her noticing.

Seeing such a spectacle, Blair, who had succumbed to anxiety when he heard that his sweetheart was being exposed to a huge task for the branch at a festival stall, laughed at himself for his shallow thoughts.

“They are good children.”

“W-well yeah… wait, unfaithfulness is no good though okay!?”

There was that kind of an exchange as he parted from the girls, but as soon as something was whispered into her ear, Rachelle grew obedient like a meek cat and saw him off.

Although Ilya and Ria continued to tease her even after Blair had left, Rachelle’s smile never faded from her face.

With the sky slowly submerging into a jet black darkness, just as points of light with the name of stars—not planets—began to twinkle, instead of sweets, more people started coming with the intent of ordering dishes suitable for liquor and cooking that did well at the branch. Time passed on by with a somewhat solemn ambiance. Did their idea of showing off their brand new town at special special prices pay off? With their newly constructed inns packed to the brim with guests, this first day of the Construction Completion Festival could be said to be a major success.

 

 

And then it was the next day.

“Don’t you think this is a little cruel?”

“Right…”

As it had become the second day, the personnel attending the stall had alternated.

It was just barely the time between breakfast and lunch after they had started business for the day. Cynthia and Clarice, who had been placed into a situation of being busy from the start, had quickly requested help.

“I don’t particularly mind, but…”

The one who couldn’t help but answer as such was Ilya, who had just arrived, carrying additional foodstuffs.

As customers had surged over to them as soon as they opened the stall, they immediately needed to replenish their stock of ingredients.

They were anxious over it turning into a situation where they ran out of ingredients since so many were used on the first day, so they decided to bring extra ingredients that were particularly popular with customers on the first day.

Due to the second day’s main attraction being a theatrical troupe at the central plaza, the stalls’ clerks were all able to savor a little relaxation as the amount of customers abated. It was the same for Ilya and them’s stall as well.

Ilya finished bringing additional foodstuffs, with Clarice preparing the ingredients and Cynthia standing at the stall’s front as the salesclerk.

Clarice exchanged some gossip with Ilya while tidying up the area a little after preparing every possible ingredient, but their topic changed as she suddenly thought of something.

“By the way, Ilya-chan.”

“What is it?”

“That powdered milk thing, it’s amazing.”

“Is that so?”

Even though the subject was somewhat lacking, it was enough for the two to talk about.

Clarice faced Ilya at with an angle that customers wouldn’t be able to see, the corners of her mouth raising into a smile.

“Recently, there’s been some loudmouth exercising their authority, so I think it will be more quiet now. They seem to be getting a bit angry though since it seems too good to be true, what do you think?”

“I don’t know. I just want for technology to improve in general by the spread of knowledge. I don’t know about anything else and I have no intention to interfere either.”

“Really? Someone casually finding a technology that hadn’t been known so far, but then just casually giving it away for free by teaching it to everyone…”

“” Ufufufufu. “”

Special technologies.

Swordplay, magic, and even metallurgy, without fail, there were people that would appear to steal them.

Sometimes as disciples, sometimes as business rivals… and sometimes, as spies.

Clarice, who was a birdkin branch staff member, was a secret agent sent by the commerce guild to investigate the Lunéville branch’s cooking secrets that had become the talk of the town, a so-called spy.

Naturally, her true identity had immediately come to light through Ilya’s [God’s Eyes], but she tolerated it. As she’d just said, for her, technology wasn’t something meant to be kept to oneself. It wasn’t something to be monopolized, but to be shared with everyone. It was due to this thought that cultures could be urged forward.

Although Clarice had chosen to live as a resident of Lunéville after many twists and turns, Ilya utilized Clarice’s position as a spy to just pour cooking technology into her.

This was both Ilya’s wish, as well as Clarice’s. They both yearned for Lunéville’s tranquility.

It was a give and take.

“” Fufufufu. “”

Laughing today as well, they were mutually using each other’s positions.

(T-those two’s smiles feel scary somehow…)

Cynthia, who felt as though it was somehow dangerous, looked between the two back and forth. She decided to concentrate on serving customers, as though she hadn’t seen anything.

“Excuse me, could I have two of each?”

“Ah, yes. I’ll give them to you right now.”

Putting six skewers into a paper cup, she handed them over to the young man in exchange for their cost. Quickly looking around with a wry smile on his face, the young man had short red hair that stood out.

“Isn’t it a little hard doing this alone?”

“Eh? No, I’m taking turns with two others.”

“… Is that so? If you say so, that must be how it is.”

The youth, having spoken with an attractive smile, disappeared back into the crowd as he left.

She didn’t really understand what he was trying to say at the end there, but when she looked back towards Ilya and Clarice that were talking about something while working as usual, the two probably looked like they weren’t focusing on their tasks.

(… Un, that’s probably it!)

After all, not knowing what the two were speaking about while she was handling her turn in the rotation, and moreover that there was even a conversation, she’d forgotten before she knew it because it was so busy.

She had forgotten, but it was to her benefit.

That she had forgotten so many little things might have been from her invoking her ignore skill.

At any rate, in this way, the Construction Completion Festival came to a successful completion along with the branch’s food stall.

Ria and the other clerks talked about events that they were and weren’t able to go see with each other.

“Oh…? I… wasn’t able to look around on either day of the festival…”

Everyone there averted their gaze when Ilya murmured those words.

“Pi?”

Feeling the change in the room’s mood, Haku’s innocent voice filled the silence.

 

 

That same time, east of Lunéville. A man set foot in a Harville inn, the inn itself filled with a somewhat melancholic atmosphere.

“Nn? Guest, have you lost your way on the road?”

“No. I’ll be staying here overnight.”

The inn storekeeper’s smile, returned to the man who seemed sincere, was weak and contained bitterness.

“You are curious as well, then? Even though our inn fees were reduced by Lord-sama’s order as well, there’s nothing we can do but to watch guests leave.”

Harville was an inn town that developed to connect the road between Pinéaville and the royal capital.

But now, due to the new threat named Lunéville that leapt into prominence, its vigor was being completely deprived.

(… It might already be completely deprived.)

Looking at the town’s atmosphere, thinking that wasn’t unreasonable.

Vigor, cuisine, public order, culture… as the number of people increases, it’s natural for civilization to advance.

When considering those things, it was easy to imagine that the thing to take the leading role in the country named Rondéville would be Lunéville.

(Therefore, I’m aiming for it.)

The man paid the storekeeper the inn fees, which were expensive compared to Lunéville, and went to his bed.

(Invading by taking advantage of the open event known as its festival. Sneaking in as part of the influx of new citizens. Or possibly, by other means…)

The man ridiculed himself over his conjecture before it even reached its conclusion, his actions would be obstructed even if he thought about it. He abandoned the idea.

With his consciousness drifting away into sleep, his optimism left a faintly bitter taste in his mouth.

 

 

The festival’s traces still lingering, branch manager Frank went to the country where the association’s headquarters was located, Gilderport.

He harbored worries about his entire trip, about the manager being absent and about the position of branch vice manager being filled by association headquarters. He felt somewhat restless due to his worry and expectations towards the person that assumed the position of the seat that had been left unfilled for so long.

By all rights, the person should have handled transference procedures and the like before the branch manager left, but he arrived three days after Frank departed.

The reason for it was probably due to the snowfall, so the staff didn’t harbor any dissatisfaction towards him for that. However…

“I truly despise being transferred to such a backwater place as this.”

With those words, practically unseen even then as the snow continued to fall, the staff members’ expressions stiffened.

But as though not seeing their expressions at all, the man’s mouth curved into a loose arc as he continued to speak.

“Even so. Due to me being such a dutiful staff member of the guild association, I will do my job without cutting any corners.”

Fiercely changing his conduct in a single breath, the man turned towards the branch’s staff members as though looking down on them, taking a glance at each one.

“Carelessness, abuse of authority, mixing work and private matters. These are all absolutely unacceptable. I will dismiss whoever does these without mercy, so you all would do well to pay careful attention.”

Then, as though it were not necessary to say anything further, the man turned around and left the office.

Unable to find anything to say to the man who left, the staff members could do nothing but see him off. [New Branch Vice Manager Arriving] was written on the schedule, but they felt as though they were just now sensing the gravity of those words.

By the time the branch staff were able to move again, at least ten seconds had passed since the man left.

“W-why, that guy…”

The one to say that was Bard, a black panther beastkin, bewildered into indignation.

Unable to explain despite agreeing with him, smiling bitterly, Claude attracted people’s attention towards himself with a loud clap.

“There is nothing in particular to report from the office, but is there anything from reception, dining hall, or kitchen?”

“No, nothing in particular.”

Nodding towards Ilya who had received his gaze and responded, Claude continued with the same bitter expression.

“Morning assembly adjourned! Do your best today as well!”

Being able to regain themselves and start their work could likely be called experience they’d built in the industry.

Just when the previous bewilderment began to settle, it happened.

“This branch, why do you wear these uniforms?”

“Fugyaaah!”

The entire dining hall’s gazes concentrated towards Ria’s slightly uncute shriek.

The branch vice manager showed up at the counter, and with a gaze that did not conceal his disdain in the least, gripped and raised her skirt.

It wasn’t that he was interested at what was inside her skirt, but opposing something like that was natural.

“W-what are you thinking!? Lecher! Are you a pervert!?”

“Wearing something that shows this much is more perverted.”

Protested against by Ria’s teary eyes, the branch vice manager responded in scorn.

“W-w-what!? Aren’t there a lot of people that wear more revealing clothes than this!?”

“Nn? Is that so? Surely, I had no idea that beastkin preferred being so close to nude. Kuku.”

“Whyaat…!”

Ignoring Ria’s anger, the branch vice manager took one last brief glance at her and left the counter with a sneer.

As for the thoughts of the people nearby, there were various.

“… Umm, Ria.”

“… … What.”

Towards her lowered voice that lacked emotion, Bard reflexively took a step back.

His past experience said that Ria was the type to immediately express her anger immediately, but since her attitude seemed to be the opposite of that, so he wasn’t able to respond.

“… Just, I think, it suits you… yeah?”

“Because the uniform shows a lot?”

“N-not tha—”

In the next moment.

“Ah, mou!”

Ria suddenly looked up away from the counter and raised her voice before making a small bow towards Bard.

“Sorry. I was venting at you.”

“N-no, it’s that branch vice manager that’s in the wrong.”

“He’s the worst! Ah, sorry, here please~”

Noticing the figure of a person waiting for a commission registration without getting close, Ria let out a cheerful voice.

It looked like her usual cheerful smile from the side, so Bard was partly relieved.

“… Thank you.”

He turned towards the whisper-like voice, but the girl had already started serving guests and wasn’t talking. Bard himself also followed suit in serving guests.

However, problems popped up one after another.

 

 

On the afternoon of a certain day.

Ilya, who had left for receptionist affairs, saw the branch vice manager with a vulgar smile on his face like a smirk.

“Oh hoh, hello there Elf-sama. Looking beautiful today as well.”

“Hah…”

(The branch vice manager is seaweed as usual, isn’t he.)

Ilya retaliated in her mind.

Likely due to snow falling on his wavy hair when he walked outside, the snow that melted from the room’s heat wet his hair and made his usual hairstyle look all the more like seaweed.

And because of that, it seemed that his maliciousness increased as well.

“Living amongst people that are below yourself must be comfortable.”

“That is how you see it?”

He simply smiled back at Ilya’s expression that neither denied nor affirmed anything.

Although there should not have been anything like intimidation-esque coercion being produced by her, the branch vice manager wasn’t able to respond. Moreover, every person in the dining hall was giving him dangerous glances, so he hesitated in his reaction.

Due to guild members that were newly appearing in the meanwhile, the branch vice manager, who had completely lost his chance at responding, clicked his tongue and left the dining hall.

“Ilya-chan, today’s been a disaster huh.”

Returning a smile to the man that knit his brows while sipping some warm sake bit by bit, Ilya assumed her usual work.

The dining hall returned to its tempestuousness after the branch vice manager left. As that year had been colder than normal because of the snowfall, so there were even more people gathering to warm themselves with the hearth, alcohol, and food than usual.

(… I don’t understand.)

Later, when she finished her work, Ilya inclined her head as she thought to herself while gently petting Haku that was fawning for attention.

As for what she was doubts about, it was the branch vice manager’s conduct.

If he used the office on the third floor as the branch manager’s substitute, even if he didn’t say it when he purposely came to the counter, he had plenty of chances to be sarcastic towards Ilya.

Nevertheless, be it the act of being so blunt with in the presence of everyone or concluding his statements as though they were merely on a whim, she couldn’t understand.

If there were a reason to purposely perform acts as though to make enemies, the possibility of his aim being to incite hostile emotions was high. As should could also see him physically strengthening himself by way of magic, that would adequately be explained by him being prepared for the one-in-one-thousand chance where a collision occurred.

It would be easy to come up with a reason to remove someone that performed some hostile action. Or perhaps he may be urging people to quit on their own accord.

(… Hmm.)

There wasn’t enough information, so she wasn’t able to pin it to something exactly. Looking at Haku, who was squinting from feeling good, she felt nothing could be done even if she thought about it so decided to put it aside for now.

“Antagonizing Ilya? That guy’s dumb.”

“Rather wasn’t it the same as that one? That guy that came before.”

“Ah, that human supremacist guy?”

“Yeah that one.”

That sort of a conversation had went on in the dining hall, lingering in Ilya’s ears.

And then she had a thought.

(Just what do they think of me…)

“Pi?”

“It’s nothing~”

Haku looked up towards Ilya, probably due to noticing that the strength in her hand had changed. She smiled and restarted petting him gently.

 

 

Several weeks had passed since the Construction Completion Festival.

Although the town was bustling more than it had beforehand, it was settling back down in some areas.

In particular, the guild branch was flourishing as ever, with even the terrace that should have been a temporary installation to allow for more seating had a proper roof set up over it before anyone realized. Due to the weather, it had come to the point that it was also filled left to right.

As a problem, groups of men were continuing to plow away the snowfall even now. Some were complaining that it might have been a little too soon to add a proper terrace.

However, compared to the dissatisfaction that was currently filling the branch, things like those were tiny problems.

“Welcome…”

At the reception desk, Rachelle had a formal and solid smile on.

It was the same with Elizah and the others moving about the dining hall as well, everyone had a somewhat gloomy feeling to them.

Sympathizing with them, Ilya looked outside the window and let out a small sigh.

“Ilya-chan, I’d like to accept this commission.”

The small birdkin that stood at the other side of the counter was Polo, a commerce guild delivery member.

He held a commission chart out across the counter. It wasn’t a subjugation or collection type one, but a letter delivery.

Letters and documents that aren’t sent to use the regular service would generally all have important contents, so naturally they also had the limitations of requiring a high rank of B or greater for the commission and for the guild member to have a high dependability.

For example, the A-Rank delivery member Polo had a high level [Flight] skill, as well as his personality being no problem at all.

“Understood. Then, please present your registration card.”

“Here you go.”

Accepting his registration card, she began to register the commission.

“Ilya-chan, how is Bakht Province doing recently?”

By how is it doing, she understood it as him asking about its magic source. The two people were acquaintances.

From Lunéville, where they were, to beyond the royal capital, Bakht Province was located to the north of the world tree, close to it and heavily influenced by its fluctuations. The fluctuations in magic source were incessant.

Because magic source fluctuations had a direct connection to the stimulation of monsters, it was natural for Polo, whose combat capability was low, to worry about them. He was probably able to make it to the peak of A-Rank because of his reliable personality. Thinking about those kinds of things, Ilya looked outside of the window as though she were unconcerned.

“I think they are alright. There haven’t been any rush orders coming in.”

The answer that came back from the girl that looked back towards him was very vague.

If a third party were to be listening in on their conversation, it definitely wouldn’t sound like things the two were talking about something related to life and death. Polo nodded in satisfaction.

“That’s good then.”

With his reaction of perfectly believing her, Ilya couldn’t help but have complex feelings.

In the case where there was an increased amount of magic source stimulating more monsters, causing an outbreak of monsters targeting civilized habitation, there would be a messenger sent to each branch, with the branches having the obligation to incite caution among the guild members.

Be that as it may, the warning may come too late. The possibility of the messenger leaving too late wasn’t zero.

Because she was able to check it out herself with [Clairvoyance], so although she could make conclusions about it, she would always add something like ‘perhaps’ when she said things like that to others.

When the words of a branch staff member weren’t absolute, they had to make sure the other person knew that.

“Please don’t be so trusting…”

“I understand. To begin with, I wouldn’t trust anyone but Ilya-chan.”

Polo shrugged his shoulders and smiled wryly, but Ilya’s worries weren’t dispelled.

Being her acquaintance for such a long time, Polo had put quite a lot of trust in her words, treating them as omens. When thinking about what to say to someone like that, she would also investigate deliberately.

And as a result, there were many excessive things she would discover.

“However, since I haven’t heard any good rumors around the world tree recently, I think it might be better to not get too close to it.”

“That so? Then maybe a little detour…”

Succeeding in guiding him, Ilya was secretly relieved.

When she had looked away a moment before, she saw a large male eagle that resided at the world tree. It had the characteristic of becoming aggressive during incubation periods. With that eagle’s large ogre-like build, the small Polo would likely be swallowed whole.

Though he was able to keep away from visible danger, her intuition told her it would be dangerous for him.

She waited for the registration to complete while retaining her composure, but the light’s color hadn’t changed.

(High rank commissions have a longer investigation time, don’t they?)

As she thought that while letting her mind wander, the light changed to blue.

“The registration has been completed. Here is the commission proprietor’s address. Since the letter will be delivered directly to the commission proprietor, please use it… I’ll be wishing for your safety.”

“Alright, thanks. See you later.”

“Take care.”

Facing Polo’s back as he headed toward the doorway, she bowed.

Confirming that no one else was continuing to bow, Ilya let out a small sigh.

(If only everyone was as polite as that guy…)

Guild members’ everyday lives were far away and removed from living in cleanliness, so it was no wonder that their nature would roughen as well.

Even though she understood that, Ilya couldn’t help but lament whenever she saw a person like Polo.

Ilya, who’d taken back control of herself by taking a breath, followed the feeling of someone watching her since a moment before. Her eyes fell on Rachelle, who was standing next to her at the counter.

“Ilya… if you advise them that much won’t that annoying guy come and…?”

She purposely gestured with her eyes. Seeing Rachelle’s appearance as she whispered in a fed-up voice, Ilya smiled bitterly.

“It’s alright. He isn’t in the branch right now.”

“… Really?”

“Un.”

Rachelle sighed deeply after Ilya’s affirmation.

“… Ahh mou, I really don’t like him! Why did a branch vice manager like him have to come here!?”

“Pii!?”

“Oh, Haku, I’m sorry.”

Haku was surprised by Rachelle’s sudden shout, so she pet him to soothe him.

Haku was friendly to everyone other than the dragon god, who was his parent, so he accepted the good feeling. It turned into something like animal therapy for Rachelle; she slowly began to smile.

“… Haku hates guys like that too, doesn’t he~”

“Pii?”

“Ilya, you’re very patient.”

“He makes me angry too, you know?”

Since he lost his temper when his first sarcastic remark wasn’t effective, it looked like she camouflaged it well. She guessed that she’d become his first opponent.

“Right~… I wish he’d just go and—”

“Rachelle.”

Interrupting the girl’s sentence, Ilya looked ahead of the reception area.

In understanding, Rachelle had a disgusted expression on her face.

As for who had came in from the front entrance in a extravagant manner, it was the man that in just a few short weeks became known for his firm use of trickery and maliciousness.

The branch vice manager.

When he stepped up to the counter with his usual vulgar smile, he looked between Ilya and Rachelle before turning towards Rachelle and opening his mouth.

“Rachelle, Lord-dono is calling you. Head to his mansion immediately.”

“Eh? Not Ilya, but me?”

“He certainly brought up Ilya’s name, but isn’t it the same so long as it’s a receptionist? Or does the meeting with the lord have to be with the elf?”

The people that heard his racist remark just barely contained themselves, and though the dining hall’s atmosphere tensed, the person himself seemed to not take any notice of it as usual.

Rather, his smile deepened. He continued to speak towards the perplexed Rachelle.

“What, you have a very womanly body. It will satisfy Lord-dono.”

As expected, since she wasn’t able to hold back her discomfort, Rachelle glared at the man who stood in front of her with a chilling gaze.

“… I am in the middle of receptionist duties.”

“It doesn’t matter. It won’t be a great loss to delay a few commission registrations. I will go there after returning to my house for a moment. I’ll leave first.”

Ordering her in a way that felt like he didn’t care about her glare at all, the branch vice manager turned around and left the branch.

Of course, it goes without saying that Rachelle lost her temper. She snapped at Ilya in vigor, thrusting her finger out to point at the entrance.

“That guy is abusing his authority!!”

“He is. He is the worst.”

“Really! Ahh mou, why isn’t Frank-san here at a time like thiiis!?”

“Pii!”

Even Haku shouted with her.

At such a time, Frank, who should have had the ability to act as a deterrent, was heading to the general meeting at headquarters. There were no signs that he’d be returning yet.

“Aww… it’s too much…”

“It’s alright. Hector-san probably knows about what’s going on, he’ll support you.”

“Un… that’s right…”

Ilya calmed Rachelle down and asked for Elizah and Cynthia who were in the dining hall to follow her just in case.

As for her, she wanted to tell him to not belittle the reception desk now that the amount of commissions was different from before.

For Lunéville that began to function as an inn town, with the commerce guild aiming for guild members that stayed there overnight as well as the industry guild people increasing, the amount of people in the town was gradually rising.

Therefore, the amount of monsters were increasing in proportion to the amount of people, so the amount of subjugation commissions were definitely increasing as well.

(… I miss the leisurely old days.)

Pushing her complaint to the corner of her mind, Ilya handled the reception desk.

 

 

Snow even now continued to fall on windows in Lunéville.

In an inn’s room, a man crossed his arms and knit his brows in thought.

His goal was to draw in and stand out in various ways, he had even been able to acquire various evidence.

However, all of the information were just minor things. None of the information was something that could become solid evidence, it was as if the closer her approached, the more it became like catching a cloud with his bare hands.

As for what the man desired, it was nothing but a solid fact.

For his entire life, if someone was innocent, that person must have some trace of corruption as well. If there was a person whose behavior could only be thought of as pure white, they must actually be pitch-black.

It would be easy if those people showed their true colors, but since they don’t, it could be said that’s the reason why this man was sent.

“… Haah.”

His unintentional sigh didn’t fog the air, so he felt thankful towards the room’s warmth as he recalled the prolonged cold outside.

In contrast, there were two young human and beastkin boys outside the window, chased after by a young beastkin girl while breathing out white breaths. Furthermore, a young human girl was running after the three people.

There were all smiling.

Seeing the scenery and events happen one after another, the man unknowingly smiled.

There was something he had to do.

The man recalled his decision and reaffirmed himself, striking the whip to his mind that had started to lose strength. He stood up and stretched his hand out to his jacket.

 

 

A few days later. When snow that had been piling up was being removed at a faster rate than it fell, the dissatisfaction that  was accumulating in the branch had finally reached the point of eruption.

“Ilya, it’s alright to kill that him right?”

“Please don’t say something so dangerous, Bard-san.”

Considering his background, she didn’t take it as a joke.

Likely still afraid of Ilya, Bard fell silent as though he were sulking. To make up for that, a voice came from across the counter.

“But ya know, no one who sees that guy thinks he’s any good.”

“No one supports that guy, shouldn’t everyone go on strike?”

Hearing that voice coming from a counter seat, people in the dining hall spoke their agreement and approval.

“… Everyone has been made to have an unpleasant time as well. I am sorry.”

“Ilya doesn’t have to apologize!”

“Yeah yeah! It’s that bastard’s fault!”

“… Well, the reason we can’t work in this weather is also because we’re here with our built up anger!”

Ilya doubted that.

They didn’t have that much persuasive power even if they said that; they were regular customers that spent all their time here beforehand since beforehand. Their galantness from during the ice dragon subjugation was nowhere to be seen, as though it were blown away by its breath.

Even so, it was only in the beginning that they were able to be in high spirits with the unfamiliar snow. The gradual build up of stress due to it limiting their actions was real.

(I wonder… is there anything we can do to relieve some stress…)

As she was thinking absentmindedly, men wearing two to three layers of clothing to act as protection against the cold could be seen entering the branch.

Although most of them drew close to the fire stone heater to warm themselves, Darren, a beastkin that was part of the branch’s staff, headed towards Ilya.

“Ilya, the roof snow’s shoveling has been completed. I confirmed it.”

“Alright, thank you for verifying the work.”

The roofs of Lunéville’s traditional housing were flat in order to make use of the little rainfall, not ones with snowfall in mind unlike slanted ones. [7]

Setting aside the more recently built buildings that were sturdy, the older ones’ roofs were aged and deteriorated, so the danger of collapsing from the snow’s weight was high.

Even though there was a pressing need to remove the snowfall, they couldn’t very well excessively waste their insufficient fire elements even at the best of times, and even magic wasn’t so versatile as to be fine-tuned enough for that. Therefore, guards had their hands full with plowing snow from the street and the lord couldn’t stand the situation any longer, so he sent out a commission for snow plowing to the guild.

(… Snow, huh?)

With a few memories connected to that word, Ilya greeted Darren, who was prudently shedding snow from himself.

“Darren-san, what was done with the unloaded snow?”

“The unloaded snow? Entrances and streets were avoided… why, were there any designated areas?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

The answer that came back to her was that nothing had been particularly done with it, but that was a convenient answer for her.

Finished with the procedure of completing the commission, Ilya went to Hector during her break.

Ilya headed down the street wearing a pea coat so as to not seem out of place in the town. Although the snow plowing was completed, people who weren’t accustomed to the snow still weren’t able to walk too easily due to the ankle-high snow cover. Holding Haku and heading to the lord’s mansion while paying attention to how much snow there was, she managed to make it there without being found by the branch vice manager. This wasn’t a coincidence of course, it was due to her using skills like [Presence Inference].

Accepted inside without any problems in particular despite it being such a sudden visit, she met Hector in the parlor.

“It feels like it’s been a long time since we last saw each other, Ilya.”

“Yes. It’s been a little troublesome.”

Recently they’d only been able to talk through documents, so the topic naturally flowed towards that.

When she cut straight to the point and showed him a certain opportunity because she couldn’t stay too long, Hector gave a puzzled look.

“Your plans seem to be well done, and I don’t mind lending my name either, but… will you be providing the reward?”

“Yes. I designed it after all.”

“You can take it from the budget to some extent you know. I’m not unrelated as the lord either, there’s even the possibility of a return if it goes well, right?”

Ilya agreed.

However, a paradoxical supplement came from her mouth.

“Even so, I can’t predict the reaction without actually attempting it. Moreover, this may be the final chance.”

“… That’s also true.”

However, although Hector admitted it, he immediately shook his head in denial.

“No, that’s no good. I’ll put out the reward.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not putting out the reward as the lord, but as myself as an individual.”

After though, although the two talked a little more, Hector would not withdraw his financial backing.

This was Hector’s obstinacy that Frank had spoken of.

Realizing just how correct those words were, Ilya could do nothing but smile wryly.

 

 

Drawing up the commission chart that same day, she stuck it to the bulletin board. Several people who saw it weren’t able to believe it, letting out perplexed voices. The crowds reacted as though they were caught on a hook.

“Ilya-chan, this commission from Lord-sama…. what is it?”

Hearing the question that everyone nearby was thinking, they also looked towards her.

Finally receiving that question, Ilya smiled and answered.

“By participating, you will be competing to make a monument using snow.”

The entry requirements were fully opened, men and women of all ages in Lunéville could join, regardless of guild. They could register in groups of ten or less and would be assigned an area to manufacture their monument at. There were no limits on what could be depicted, with sabotage coming with a fine. Rules such as coming and going between between branches would be set in the future. The three top participants would be given a prize.

To speak in Japanese terms—

“It’s a snow festival.”

Scenes of an event from another world passed through her mind.

Although people looks a little confused when she first said what it was, people put their name into it as soon as they understood. The following day saw the reception area packed full of people, turning into a situation where the reception area would temporarily be moved to the second floor’s private room.

However, even though it should have become peaceful after that, it was troublesome having to explain to the occasional people arrived late and inquired about it.

But there was also trouble on the service side as well.

“What is the meaning of this…!”

“What do you mean?”

In the parlor on the third floor, Ilya was being subjected to the branch vice manager’s questioning.

His eyebrows were knit together to the point that one would wonder if they weren’t connected. With his temple twitching, it was obvious that his level of resentment wasn’t normal.

“Don’t play dumb!”

The branch vice manager struck the window frame.

Beyond that window, citizens were frantic… but it was as though they were enjoying themselves. They were building snow figures.

“Staff members cannot prepare a commission that would paralyze the town’s functions and involve all citizens!”

“I understand, however, this commission was released under Lord-sama’s name. Participants were obliged to carry out and complete their personal duties beforehand as well, they had consented that there would be penalties and even the construction will be progressing as planned through overtime hours carried out ahead of time.”

While thinking that his rejection was a little surprising, Ilya spoke the words she had prepared beforehand.

She hadn’t intended to purposely increase the number of troublesome things, but it would have been unfortunate if she hadn’t thought that something to this degree would happen.

“Sophistry!”

“He will assume responsibility as well. Still, I would like you to wait to see if any problems occur.”

Anything she said would have likely been wasted. Judging that, Ilya decided to drive the situation to her concession.

However, if he still wasn’t pleased with that, he should be satisfied with the statement of taking responsibility.

Even if his true intention was about something from beforehand, since it had already begun and was under Hector’s name, Ilya felt that the branch vice manager could not help but to accept the proposal.

“Gunu…”

However, it looked as though he really didn’t want to accept what she said. He groaned, seeming as though he wouldn’t withdraw.

(Won’t he just hurry up and give in~)

It was at the time she thought something like that.

“I’m coming in!”

“G-guest, please—!”

As for who appeared through the door immediately after knocking—

“Long time no see, Ilya.”

It was a boy with horns coming from under his long red hair.

“Why are you lowering your head to a guy like that!”

There was a small person with butterfly-like wings sprouting from her back on his shoulder… a fairy.

 
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Unable to stop the two, Cynthia looked at Ilya on the verge of tears. For now, Ilya took over by nodding towards her.

Not paying attention to Cynthia who had cheerfully withdrawn with a bow, the boy and fairy walked into the parlor.

The moment that the fairy looked between Ilya and the branch vice manger, she sighed as though losing interested and turned back to Ilya. And, still standing on the boy’s shoulder, spoke with her finger pointed out.

“We have come to help with the ice dragon’s subjugation! Thank us, Ilya-ane!”

Not even realizing Ilya was unable to properly respond to her, she continued with a boastful coo.

The horned youth and the fairy were Ilya’s friends.

The fairy’s name was Partia.

She had so much power that were it not for the curse, she would become a fairiel, a superior species of fairy. Of course, since she was also fraught with worry about the possibility of it spontaneously discharging and going out of control if she didn’t become that superior species, it could be inferred that she held an abnormal power.

There was another person of note. Gabriel was part of the demon god’s family, which was one of the pillars of three gods that matched the dragon god.

“… Ilya, are these two your—!” [8]

Before he could finish his sentence, a silvery white sword thrust up from the floor, stopping just before his neck.

Unable to move, a small boy the size of a stuffed animal appeared in front of him, having slowly appeared from the floor along with the sword.

He was different from Partia in that he had no wings, but instead had a folded pointy hat on with a long beard.

[Your rudeness towards Miko-sama shall be compensated with your death.]  

“!?”

The child’s voice didn’t make it to the branch vice manager, it only reached his ears as natural vibrations in the air.

(Thank goodness—!!)

On the other hand, Ilya, who had properly heard his statement and didn’t change her expression, was shouting in relief in her mind.

He was a person who didn’t have the aptitude to hear the voice, proving fortunate right now.

Having finished making his threat, he couldn’t not continue. Ilya shook her head to Gabriel, indirectly saying that it was unnecessary.

“Gnome. It looks like Ilya doesn’t mind it, lower your sword.”

[But.]  

The boy quickly looked at Ilya, who nodded back at him. [9]

[… Understood. I apologize for acting presumptuously.]  

While speaking in embarrassment, the sword disappeared along with the small person as though melting into the floor.

His name was Gnome.

A great spirit, the highest ranked earth spirit.

Although his personality was usually open-minded, Ilya and gems were the two things he would never bend on. With him obediently returning, Ilya placed her hand on her chest in relief that it didn’t become the worst case scenario.

Being the lord of this great spirit was just another thing that made Gabriel worthy of special mention.

Along with being a demonically strong swordsman by removing the limits on his body’s physical abilities through his demon elements, Gabriel was also a contractor of a great spirit that could freely manipulate earth elements.

In addition, he always acted lackadaisically, innocently waiving his hand with loosened cheeks to Ilya when they met gazes.

If the contractor weren’t the owner of a personality like that, one or two countries might have already been ruined.

Securing these two’s cooperation, it was easy to imagine that they could forcibly subjugate the ice dragon even without a plan. However, that would be if they actually had a chance to use their power.

“You know, Partia.”

“?”

“The ice dragon was already subjugated.”

Being told that in an apologetic manner, Partia’s face froze.

Contrasting the frozen girl, Gabriel showed a carefree smile.

“Didn’t I say it? We heard the rumor when it was so old that it was probably already defeated.”

Attacking her companion, the cute fairy pulled Gabriel’s cheeks with a face that seemed like she wanted to cry.

“S-so it’s my fault!? Didn’t Gab-kun also say that he wanted to be helpful to Ilya Onee-chan!?”

“Yep. I said that! I’m definitely a little sad about it, but I’m happy that it’s finished with nothing dangerous happening to Partia.”

“Ah, u… un…”

Partia blushed due to Gabriel’s smile, filling the room’s air in swee~tness.

(Same as ever~…)

When she looked at the fairy and youth, which seemed as though their intimacy hadn’t changed, with a wry smile, she noticed the two had stopped talking.

Contrasting Gabriel’s always calm expression, Partia’s face reddened like a mini tomato, only able to open an close.

It would take a while for Partia to recover. Concluding that on past experience, Ilya decided to speak to Gabriel.

“I’m sorry, but right now I am having an important conversation with the branch vice manager, so could you please wait a little while longer?”

“Yep, got it.”

Obtaining his agreement, Ilya finished up business with them faster than otherwise and turned back towards the branch vice manager.

“… What is the aim.”

He spat out the words as though it strained him.

It was as though he feared something of a character he didn’t know, he wore a stiff expression.

“What is the aim this time.”

Ilya considered the meaning of his words. [10]

If someone who only knew of her reputation before they had come to Lunéville was related to an organization or someone else that was hostile towards her, then they would most likely think that she was plotting something.

(… But I haven’t met him before?)

Even though she tried remembering him, she hadn’t seen the branch vice manager’s face outside of Lunéville.

So Ilya decided to be businesslike.

“It seems as though Hector-san has three goals.”

Although the branch vice manager showed strong bewilderment, Ilya continued speaking without going back.

Purposely speaking as though guessing, she didn’t forget to emphasize that the event was proposed by Lord-sama.

“First, to use a commission to openly remove the snow. Next, to allow citizens to vent their stress that accumulated due to the snowfall. And finally… although this effect can’t go so far as to be expected, to attract visitors through adding snow sculptures.”

From the branch vice manager’s expression, it was obvious that it wasn’t the answer he expected.

However, he hadn’t intended to debate from the start.

“When you consider those three points, it should be clear that there are few advantages in withdrawing this commission… Of course, if there were an idea that could serve these three points better, I would recommend bringing it up with Lord-sama to replace it.”

“—…”

No response. He could neither rebut nor correct her. At this point, there was nothing left to discuss.

“Then, I apologize, but I must be going as there are guests waiting for me.”

When she bowed and headed to the door, Gabriel and Partia naturally looked towards her.

Nodding with a serious face before going back to smiling, Gabriel also turned towards the door and left through it.

However, Partia turned around, facing the branch vice manager.

“You.”

“!?”

Not thinking that he would be addressed, he was surprised.

Partia, gazing at him with a perfectly innocent smile—spoke.

“If this is hurting you, why don’t you stop?”

“Wha—…!?”

Satisfied at just that, Partia moved from Gabriel’s shoulder to Ilya’s.

“Ilya-ane, you’re rolled up in trouble as usual huh.”

And whispered that into her ear.

That shocking sentence was wholly unexpected, but it was vexing that she couldn’t deny it.

 

 

Fairies.

This race, originally called fairiel welvats, grew up to be around the size of someone’s palm at most.

Although they shared the same ancestors as the elves, also known as fairiel falverihi, the cause of their appearances were so different because of a kind of curse.

Only the elves, despite the diminishing amount of god elements in their long genetic history, by endeavoring to safeguard their knowledge concerning the crystal pillars’ protection and gods, were allowed to possess perpetual youth and longevity by the gods, maintaining their mystique.

Compared to them, the fairy ancestors were going around instigating people however they felt, blamed by that time’s people for disturbing the world’s peace.

They were deprived of all of their god elements, and so that their bodies would weaken and become unable to mate with other species, received a curse that shrank the size of their bodies.

The [Spirit] character in fairy was taken from [Deceased Spirit] as their dispositions were similar, but that was unrelated with fairies also having [Spirit Sight] which is compatible with the low rank [Mind Reading]. [Spirit Sight] was a skill that could read the mind and feelings of the person the owner was looking at. Partia, also holding the [Observation] skill, very likely understood what the branch vice manager was thinking. [11]

Although Ilya was thinking about that, so that she wouldn’t use those skills herself, she decided to hear the detailed account about it from her later.

“Ilya-ane’s hiding her claws again isn’t she.”

“Don’t say something so scandalous.”

Smiling wryly at Partia’s persiflage, Ilya held out a small cup of black tea she had prepared for her use.

Although they had planned to talk in Ilya’s private room, since it was time for her to head to the reception desk, she guided them to the counter’s guest seats.

“But really, I didn’t expect for the ice dragon to be defeated~”

Partia laid face-down on the table.

“Didn’t you think it was weird when you saw people in the town?”

“Nnn, I thought they went mad.”

She said something that extreme so easily, but Ilya didn’t think she was too wrong.

“But really.”

Partia sat up and looked around the room, abruptly shifting topics.

“Even though this branch is so huge, there’s no one here!”

“You’re right. Even though I heard rumors of it always being full…”

The only guests in the first floor’s dining hall were Partia and Gabriel, so Ilya couldn’t do anything but smile wryly.

As for Cynthia who should have also been together with her at the reception desk, after telling the branch vice manager she was returning home because she felt ill, she was diligently working hard at making snow sculptures in front of the branch.

Furthermore, all of the dining hall’s people were outside in the courtyard.

“My one’s tail is thinner than yours!”

“Bard-kun, it’d look so much cuter if you did it like this—”

While chattering and making noise this way and that, the staff were applying themselves in making their snow sculptures.

If someone were to see only this current situation, it would look exactly like a shop that was just about to collapse.

“Have you two eaten already?

Hearing her abrupt question, the two answered while inclining their heads in sync.

“No, not yet.”

“Come to think of it, I heard the cooking here was good… but my my… it doesn’t look like I can expect much…”

Partia let out a sigh.

While thinking that she looked so adorable like that, Ilya handed the two of them menus.

“Please let me know as soon as you find something you like.”

“Will do~”

“Yeah. Got it.”

Flipping the pages one by one, their expressions slowly started changing.

To say nothing of Gabriel who loved eating and tended to be very indecisive, even Partia who usually wouldn’t have trouble deciding was captivated by the sheer diversity of sweets available.

While the two were having trouble deciding, the doors to the branch were open and Cynthia could be seen walking inside.

“I’m back~. Uuu~, moving’s great but it’s really cold!”

“Pi~!”

“Right! Work, work!”

Haku, who was outside playing with Cynthia who had come in and was taking off her anti-cold clothing, flew straight towards Ilya. While Ilya was holding Haku and petting away the snow that covered him, Rachelle, Ria, and the others returned and opened the office’s door to prepare to serve guests.

Because they’d been out in the courtyard, the little snow remaining on their heads dropped onto the floor, slightly leaving tracks on the ground behind them.

“Welcome back everyone. Haku, did you have fun?”

“Pi!”

“Haku dashed about everywhere, he never stopped moving~”

While saying that, Cynthia’s face broke into a grin. Haku, who had grown large enough to need two hands to carry, had gotten to the point of being able to play on his own.

“Ilya-ane, that’s…”

“Pi?”

Haku, seeing Partia speak, was immensely curious about this tiny thing that could talk.

Its intent and straightforward stare caused her to falter.

(Why is the dragon god’s child at a place like this?!)

Partia, able to see through the fact that Haku was the dragon god’s hatchling with her strong ability, figured out exactly how much time it would take to escape back to Gabriel as Haku watched her like he wanted to pounce on her.

As though just to wash away this explosive situation(?), several men and women opened the door and walked in.

“Welcome~”

“Morning Rachelle, today’s cold too huh~”

Taking off their protection against the cold while sitting down in chairs and commenting on the cold, the customers placed their hands on some stones meant to warm hands that were provided on the tables.

“Good morning. Would you like a menu?”

“It’s alright. I’ll get the usual!”

“I want soy ramen with a side of fried rice!”

“I think I’ll have some carbonara pasta. Ah, lots of peppers please!”

“Certainly.”

Saying that, Rachelle left the table.

Then, the scene that Partia and Gabrielle was seeing suddenly amped up—

“You gotta eat spicy stuff when it’s cold ya’know!?”

“Ah, then, I’ll have the mapo tofu special!” [12]

“Margherita pizza! And some stew too!” [13]

“Guess I’ll go with some soup. Soup!”

“I want some saucy katsudon! With some garnished pork soup!” [14]

“I’ll go with some hot sake. Ah, and…”

“Some meat soba please!” [15]

“How ’bout a hot pot?”

“No way. I want penne all’arrabbiata.” [16]

Seeing the hall fill up in no time flat, the two of them looked around in surprise.

“T-the heck’s this.”

“There’s so many people.”

“It looks like everyone’s been doing their best at making snow sculptures, only coming back to eat. That’s why I said to let me know as soon as you could, you know?”

The two suddenly looked back down at the menu.

But it was already too late. Rachelle and them were making their rounds in the dining hall, the kitchen in its own version of hell. A sign saying the branch was at its capacity was hung in the window.

“Onee-chan’s a meanie!”

“But it’s so much fun~”

Although some people were surprised at seeing the fairy, most people didn’t seem to particularly mind her. Everyone was talking about the progress on their snow sculptures and asking what other groups were doing, getting excited about the snow festival.

There weren’t any problems about the division of snow to use either, so seeing how well the event was reducing their stress, Ilya let out a small sigh of relief.

 

 

The people who had come to take a rest went back out to continue working on their snow sculptures, so the next people to come were those like peddlers and guards, as well as people who completed their commissions ahead of schedule.

When all of their completion registrations were finished, it was time for receptionists to switch out. Ilya decided to take a short rest before going into the kitchen, which was her next job.

Ilya, who had taken her break time, thought that she would spend that limited time together with Partia and Gabriel in her uncrowded private room, however—

“… You two are still eating?”

Partia was eating a whipped cream and chocolate parfait topped with sweet fruits, smacking her lips at the strawberry jelly’s sweetness.

Gabriel was being Gabriel, slurping down his third bowl of miso ramen. [17]

Partia decided to leave whatever she didn’t eat to Gabriel, as Gabriel had the defect known as ‘really bad gas mileage’. Ilya, having associated with them, also knew of it.

Even so, there was something she couldn’t overlook.

“Both of you… have money to pay with, right?”

Their hands stopped moving the instant Ilya asked the question. Realizing her hunch was right on the mark, Ilya let out a sigh.

Partia’s inquisitive nature and Gabriel’s inability to try and stop her. It seemed their eternal bad habit of running out of money hadn’t been cured.

Partia waved her hands buzzingly seeing Ilya spontaneously sending them an astonished look.

“That’s not it! We still had some when we were in Filéamis!”

“We passed the inspection, but I didn’t think it would cost so much money…”

Hearing their attempts at an explanation, Ilya felt her strength completely drain away.

“You are both members of the mercenary guild. You know that you could have passed free of charge if you had accepted a commission from Rondéville, right?”

“That’s, uhh…”

“We were in a hurry.”

Taking Partia’s place in answering because she couldn’t find a good way to respond, Gabriel answered as lackadaisically as ever.

As she’d guessed, they heard about the ice dragon appearing nearby. If they’d stopped by a branch somewhere, they likely would have noticed the ice dragon’s subjugation commission being taken down, but it didn’t seem like they did even that.

“Really… Come to think of it, what did you intend to do for lodging?”

“U-umm…”

“Ilya, can’t we crash at your place?”

Sighing a single time, Ilya smiled back at them.

“No good.”

Setting aside Partia, even Gabriel seemed disappointed by her response.

“We’re fine with the floo—”

“No good. Even if it’s you Gabriel, wouldn’t you start eating Haku’s tail, half asleep?”

“H-here then? A private room, one with a bed?”

“That’s even more no good. It is prohibited to use the branch for private reasons. I can’t make exceptions.”

“Well, alright.”

While Partia opened and shut her mouth, unable to speak, Gabriel merely shrugged.

“Onee-chan’s stingy!!”

“I don’t mind being stingy. Please obediently handle a commission.”

And so the two people had decided to lodge in Lunéville in order to earn travelling expenses.

Even so, Ilya believed there may be various problems if she allowed them to do as they pleased, so she suggested for the two of them to refrain from using Gnome. Although it was true that it would be troubling if they managed to somehow destroy the highway that had been constructed at great pains, she herself also had a task for that great spirit.

Not really having any reason to object, the two accepted her suggestion.

“Well, Gnome, I’d like you to house-sit for a little.”

[I hear and obey.]  

“Just the two of us… just the two of us…”

Despite hearing that sort of remark, Ilya hadn’t done this for Gabriel and Partia to be alone, but since she didn’t have the hobby of looking a gift horse in the mouth, she said nothing.

And so when those two had left for a commission, Ilya looked at the great earth spirit in a private room.

At first Haku was staring at it fixedly in curiosity, but since he roughly understood before long, he rolled into a ball on Ilya’s lap as usual.

[Then, Miko-sama. What did you wish to talk about?]  

[Gnomid. Have you not felt anything unusual?]  

Gnomid. Contrasting Gnome being for his male form, this great spirit’s name in its female form was Gnomid.

Similar to Undine, the great spirit changed into a feminine form that had no whiskers to speak of and that had a Japanese single-braid, matching Ilya’s preferences. Gnomid knit her brows and tilted her head to the side slightly from Ilya’s inquiry.

[Nothing worth mentioning… Same with the earth vein, sensing the world tree from here, there have been no phenomena in particular.]  

[Then from the time of our last meeting, in that meaning as well?]  

[Indeed. Miko-sama’s existence, each and every move brings about an influence on the world.]  

Although she nonchalantly laughed it off, it was nothing but a black history for Ilya.

It was similar to old ladies related to you teasing you time to time with things like, ‘You were a rascal back then weren’t you~’

At any rate, even if it just concerned the earth elements, getting the opinion from a spirit’s point of view was huge.

(Rather, it was because the great spirit is deeply connected with the earth elements.)

The thing most concerning Ilya was an evil god’s revival.

The one that had the highest probability was the existence called the eldest evil god, the one she had killed. That person was an existence that could influence the earth elements enough to match with a great earth spirit.

[I am relieved to hear that.]  

[If I was of some help to Miko-sama, that would be the most supreme honor. Please, tell me if you have any need.]  

With the great spirit’s innocent and entirely unselfish smile, a smile also inadvertently found its way onto Ilya’s face.

[In that case, could you please stop calling me ‘Miko’?]  

[That is impossible.]  

(Tch.)

It was as obstinate on that strange point as always.

While thinking about how it’d likely escape if she tried to push her point, Ilya turned her gaze towards the outside to distract her feelings about it. Around this time, those two would probably be running about complaining about the cold.

[Partia still hasn’t managed to complete the slab, has she?]  

The fairy monarch’s slate.

It was a treasured item with the method for fairies to become fairiel described on it. Generations of fairy monarchs personally established trials across the world for obtaining permission to read the slate.

After the current fairy monarch ascended to his position, the amount of fairies that completed the trial and reported to the fairy monarch to become fairiels weren’t few.

However, the majority drowned in greed from their desperation in the end, reaching a state where they moved away from the honest path. Then those who would point their fangs against the fairy monarch and collude with humans appeared, so the fairy monarch broke the slab into small pieces, scattering the broken pieces in all kinds of labyrinths and unexplored abysses to conceal it.

Moreover, they were impossible to reach with some kind of half-hearted power. By testing the bonds between several comrades by utilizing bewitching and the like through the use of installed devices, the end result was something closer to many numerous methods of torture that merely borrowed the name of a trial.

Despite most fairy’s motive for removing the curse being to take away the problem concerning love-making by removing the disparity in their body size, hers was to supersede her father’s decision to carefully choose her marriage partner, her stubborn father resembling the Moon Princess’. [18]

[After coming to move separately from Miko-sama, her collection speed slowed remarkably. One of her reasons for coming to the ice dragon’s subjugation was so that, if circumstances permitted, she could request for Miko-sama’s aid in collecting the slate.]  

The great spirit spoke nonchalantly, exposing the girl’s ulterior motive.

Similar to Undine, it took the stance of placing Ilya above its contractor.

Likely misunderstanding something about Ilya’s wry smile, Gnomid panicked.

[T-those two really did miss Miko-sama!]  

The child’s bearing faded away somewhere as it started panicking. Ilya smiled, fixing the position of Gnomid’s cap that had slipped.

[Those two will save people in need even if they don’t mean to, it’s fine for them to be a bit more selfish.]  

[… That isn’t so persuasive when Miko-sama says it.]  

[I’m properly living how I want to you know?]  

If she had to bring up what she could immediately think of, it would be the demons and the nine evil gods that should still exist left running loose.

Even though they were all lumped into being called evil gods, they had various characters. As for the oldest evil gods that she had killed, it was the evil god that stood out as the comparatively worst, regularly eating sacrificial women. Meanwhile, there was even an evil god that raised children to turn them into sacrifices.

Therefore, even if they were existences that would eventually cause damage, she didn’t want to be related to them until they showed their true characters.

She didn’t believe a person like her, thinking in that way, was something that moved to help others.

At any rate, she decided that those two were more important than worrying about how the evil god was connected to the ice dragon for now.

[Gnomid, I have one more question that I absolutely need to ask.]  

[Please say whatever you wish.]  

[Partia’s way of speaking, is it…]  

Thoughtfully cocking its head to the side at Ilya’s question, the great spirit suddenly guessed the question and smiled.

[It’s an imitation of Miko-sama.]  

(I thought that might be it, but still…)

Thinking that her previous guess couldn’t have been right, Ilya started worrying.

[She started a little while after separating from Miko-sama… Passionately shouting that she would, ‘Become like Onee-chan!’ This is the result.]  

[Haah…]  

It was shocking that she had seemed so domineering like that in those days, but now that she had caused adverse effects by it, she felt like running away and hiding.

She was the source of that somewhat excited and angry tone coming from her mouth, but in those days when they’d traveled together she remembered her being an innocent child with an adorable disposition.

For now, she had but one wish.

(Please don’t let this turn into her black history.)

Would that wish be fulfilled or not?

That was something only Partia would know.

 

 

The man looked at the snow sculptures lined up outside of the window.

They probably imitated a person’s shape. The snow figures had limbs, but while they all had bodies, none looked the same.

Like the people that lived in this world, the snow sculptures varied infinitely, accepting all kinds of life.

However, people couldn’t accept life.

Sometimes taking land, sometimes resources, sometimes worshiped gods… and sometimes, taking entire races.

The country where the man had lived in his childhood was like that.

Established through a coup d’etat, it had the policy of giving preferential treatment to humans, human supremacy. At one point, the orphanage the man grew up in was torn down.

The orphanage accepted both human children as well as those that weren’t human.

The man grieved.

Why was it a crime for him to be with his friends?

Why were humans thought of as a single group, divided away from the other races?

There were no clear responses to the adults that attempted to appeal for the crime. They were just given a unanimous, ‘Humans are the only ones to assume the form of God Rattle, the creator and father of all humans, so we are the dominant species.’

There wasn’t any definite evidence.

There was nothing that could prove those words.

Using that thought of being the dominant race, they were persistent in denying any naysayers, merely calling them those that have an inferiority complex.

What couldn’t be surpassed was bad. What was mediocre was bad.

The man’s friends had laughed.

Holding their hands out to him.

Facing him with smiles filled with delight, friends that had many varied forms.

“… Don’t go.”

As he reached out his own hand, the man’s heavy eyelids raised and he realized he had a lapse in awareness. He saw that the snow sculptures lined up out of the window hadn’t changed.

Seeing the snow sculptures lined up next to each other brought up an old memory; the man had a weak, but definite smile on his face.

 

 

Several days later.

The central plaza’s stone pavement was completely exposed.

With fire stones spaced apart evenly, the plaza was filled with people, practically overflowing.

There was one of the country’s taxation offices in the plaza, but since right now there was a stage set up, concealing its front entrance, it wasn’t like anyone was there for hostilities.

What was installed at the center of the stage was a metal pole with a wind stone fastened to it in order to enhance the voice of whoever spoke into it… it was a loud speaker.

Also, sitting on a table installed diagonally so that it could look over the plaza were four people: Lord Hector, the branch’s representative Branch Vice Manager Dennis, Annabelle as the judge representative, and the industry guild’s Euripides as the sculpture artisan representative.

The dog beastkin Katie standing on the platform, the plaza quieted down with her greeting.

“I will now begin the Lunéville Snow Festival’s competitive show.”

Having spoke fluently, she bowed and descended from the stage to Ilya and the other branch employees, her face in satisfaction from the cheers.

 
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Katie looked lively as though she were unconcerned with it, but Ria was shivering next to Ilya, clinging to a fire stone. Ilya was wearing a pea coat, with Katie in a mods coat. Among the three kinds of coats provided for use, she was wearing a duffle coat, but even with that she wasn’t able to bear it.

(Because she’s a cat?)

While Ilya looked at Ria and thought something bad about her, Elizah went onto the platform.

“Then first of all, I will explain the rules.”

While she read out from her cue card, Ilya and them went to the audience area.

“Everyone, after you go around the whole town to see the snow sculptures, please fill in the number of the sculptures that you rate the highest on the voting slip we will be distributing.”

Seeing the paper distributed along with the explanation, a man spoke up.

“There’re three places to write?”

“Of course, it’s so you can choose three. If there were just one, everyone would choose their own right?”

Laughter rose up from her response. Elizah’s [Art of Speaking] was an advantageous skill.

“The criteria to choose is free for everyone to decide on their own. What’s the most beautifully made, what’s the most dignified, what’s the most valorous… anything is fine. Ah, even though I said the most valorous, choosing the branch’s is no good, you know? That one isn’t included in the competition!”

Another bout of laughter spread through the crowd.

The one put in front of the branch was a snow sculpture made by Elizah and Cynthia. Its motif was Haku.

Although its appearance was far off from being able to be called valorous, with it being filled with a vitality that it would turn into their mascot both figuratively and literally, Ilya smiled wryly.

“Please note that your ballot will be invalid if there are not three written down on it. Ah, if you get embarrassed from seeing other people’s works, it’s also no good damaging our work, alright? Ilya worked on it, so that would be sacrilege.”

“Then what about the ones not touched by Kami-sama…?”

Hearing the man’s words, several people didn’t speak and nodded to each other in agreement.

(What did that mean?)

Ilya, still smiling, looked around for the owner of that voice.

Right now, if she cancelled the repair magic meant to prevent crime and degradation of the entries, some of them would lose their shape before long, ‘The snow sculpture in this spot just collapsed!’

Be it the manufacturers or residents of the town, that would be unbearable and might be plenty enough for retaliations.

“The time limit is until noon. There will be a new dish at the branch office to treat everyone, but since your examination ballot will turn into a voucher, please bring it with you alright?”

Cheers of joy that hadn’t been heard thus far broke out.

They were so delighted about it that someone might confuse that for the main event, but Ilya decided it was in her imagination.

“Then, Hector-san. Please declare the examination’s commencement!”

Elizah abruptly stepped aside, moving Hector in front of the microphone.

“Good luck to everyone today… well, today stiff formalities are unnecessary, aren’t they. I admire everyone’s effort and would like to see you all having fun. And so… begin the examination!”

With that, a cheerful atmosphere broke out and the spectators bustled about.

Ilya, who had watched it all, changed places with Elizah on the platform and went to the table of four.

“The ones selected by everyone as the best will each receive special prizes. There is the possibility of second or third place coming in with higher votes, but since they have all received public acknowledgement, please judge without feeling constrained.”

Three of them nodded obediently.

However, the last one snorted with an expression that seemed derisive.

“You’re an optimistic one. You don’t know that illegalities will be performed as soon as you can’t see them?”

“Illegalities?”

“These standard papers are no trouble to mass produce. People will also threaten others to vote for their sculptures. Well, they wouldn’t even need to threaten them if they paid money.”

The branch vice manager continue prattling on and on.

(Now then, what to do?)

As Ilya spoke to herself in thought, Annabelle, who was single-handily responsible for things like assessing the raw materials submitted to the branch, spoke up.

“The paper used is the same type as is used for the branch’s commission charts, so it’s not possible to reproduce. It would also be easy to figure out if someone has written over someone else’s answer just by checking it.”

Even though she said it would be easy, that was only feasible for people who held the high level skill [Appraisal]. There wasn’t even a person with both [Appraisal] and [Assessment] at each of the branches and headquarters.

When Ilya, knowing that, smiled wryly, Rachelle started to speak in order to follow up and stop the branch vice manager from responding.

“Whether or not someone’s bullied into something, a receptionist will know. If the person themselves doesn’t bring it they won’t be able to eat their dish, so that won’t happen, right? Ilya.”

Ilya responded to Rachelle’s question with a nod.

There were other things, like people sticking around just to get a free meal, but they didn’t think it was much of a problem since the entries were free.

“And I don’t think we need to stop things related to money. When you think about the number of people involved and the number of works there are, someone would need to use no less than 500 Gils per person for them to have made a profit, so I can’t think that someone would participate in that. Besides, even if they could take first place, there is no compensation other than the prize. If they wanted to boast about the exquisiteness of their sculpture, I think they would have rather gone to the industry guild instead.”

Even if that weren’t so, there were currently a lot of people in Lunéville that held loans.

The prize money would be a significant reward to earn without using any capital or expenses, but there’d likely be no meaning in spending any money on it.

The problem he’d raised should be settled with that.

Judging that, Ilya clapped once and inquired the branch vice manager.

“Are you satisfied?”

“… Hmph!”

With the branch vice manager rudely leaving, everyone’s expressions obviously calmed.

Everyone seemed to have eased up a little with that out of the way.

This was something meant to ease stress in the first place, there was no point in dragging anything like that out.

As though to tell everyone to end the subject there, Ilya spoke towards everyone.

“Alright then, let’s begin our preparations.”

“”” Yeah! “””

With everyone’s moods switched back to their usual ones, the branch staff members began their preparations for the tally and lunch.

 

 

The majority of the participants had returned to town once noon had passed.

Accepting voting slips from the people who had returned, the branch’s staff passed around food. After this, they would tally them all up while everyone eats, moving into the announcement of the results followed by the award ceremony… At least, that was the plan.

“Ilya, we’re done with this batch!”

“Understood. How many are there left to do?”

“Another ten batches!”

“About this much!”

Out of the three people, the ones to respond were Cynthia and Clarice, who were standing in front of the gathered voting slips.

From their half-smiling expressions, Ilya could see how hurried the two were. Their tones were close to ones of crying.

“Understood. I’ll be heading to the branch to get more, so please do your best to endure.”

“” Eh? “”

Simply giving a vague smile to the two who had now lost some of their momentum, Ilya started faced towards the branch.

Even while she was entrusting the tearful Haku to Ria as it tried to come along with her, the surging waves of people were incessant.

“Another! There’re more right!?”

“How many servings have you had!?”

“You…!”

“… They’re amazingly popular, aren’t they?”

When Cynthia looked up towards the voice, there was a youth with short red hair standing in front of her.

Thinking she’d seen the person somewhere because, she just barely recalled meeting the person from the Construction Completion Festival.

“Fortunately.”

“I’m glad. Can I have one?”

“Ye~s, please wait a moment, okay?”

The first thing piled onto the plates that were being held out was pure-white husked rice.

Then poured on top of that was a brown sauce. Its bitterness that didn’t differ from its stimulating fragrance at all with its fruits and other seasonings were a delicious combination…

This was completed after long years of study, a reproduction of homemade Japanese curry.

While although it wasn’t as though they hadn’t brought some out to test its reception at all beforehand and even though it had received a favorable impression, the current consumption speed that attacked it was more than Ilya expected.

When she returned to the branch, Bard and Darren, who were playing the role of house sitters, welcomed her with surprised expressions.

“Ilya, did something happen?”

“Oh, it’s alright. I just came replenish the curry.”

Having entered the kitchen, Ilya changed into an apron and washed her hands before blending spices together while looking at the recipe.

The most difficult part about making curry was the spice blend. Although she was able to immediately replicate the texture with wheat flower, curries from places like India that easily had ten different spices, with Japanese food companies using close to thirty spices in their blends for their curry roux. Thanks to the ridiculous amount of different spices, it was just the other day that Ilya had become able to reproduce the taste.

(I’ve been told I’m particular about these things, but I really did go this far for it, didn’t I?)

All she could say was that she was satisfied with the end result, so she was glad to see people’s smiles as they ate so much.

“—Ah, oops!”

Setting up a barrier to prevent unexpected intruders, she arranged the necessary materials and machinery on the table.

In order to not lack time to refrigerate and marinate the ingredients, she used a single ancient magic.

“—Mine wish, beyond paradise. Surround the stars and unshackle the serpent’s fetters, bring thine world of supremacy here.”

It was a space-time magic that severed an arbitrary volume of space, accelerating its flow of time.

“—Rydefall.”

Concluding the incantation, she successfully invoked the magic.

It was a technique that interfered with space, advancing time at one thousand times the usual rate.

It consumed magical power continuously during the acceleration, as well as coming with the disadvantage of consuming the same amount of lifespan from those spending time inside it when they returned to the normal flow of time.

But in her case, as she was a long-lived elf, as well as being the possessor of god elements that held the effect of granting eternal youth, she didn’t have to worry about those points.

And now that she’d removed her time limitations, Ilya resumed cooking.

(Cut the meat and vegetables into bite-sized portions, then—(omitted)—and now it just needs to ferment!)

Releasing the technique, she reapplied Rydefall only on the pots. Counting down the one thousand-times increased speed, she would release it after forty seconds.

During that small amount of time that passed outside of the kitchen, three pots of curry were completed.

“Ah—…!

Realizing that she’d forgotten to also cook the extra rice, she froze for a moment in misery due to her total blunder.

 

 

After that, Ilya recovered from her languidness and took a moment to cook the rice before immediately returning to the venue.

“Sorry to keep you all waiting.”

When she had brought a single one of the pots on a trolley, she saw a long line waiting.

The incredible magic power of curry. Something that probably played a part was that even though the snow had diminished a bit, the cold temperature hadn’t changed.

“We were waiting, Ilya!”

“It needed to be warmed back up so I took a little longer in bringing it back. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it!”

While the staff continued with their tasks, Ilya looked for a certain person inside the crowd of people.

“Gabriel.”

Gabriel, who was quietly eating curry in silence, noticed and went towards her, still chewing.

Partia was on his shoulder as usual, but it looked like she had eaten some curry as well as there were some traces of it on her mouth. She didn’t like hot or bitter things, so she probably ate the sweet one from another pot with things like yogurt mixed in.

While Ilya wiped Partia’s mouth with the handkerchief kept in her pocket, she spoke to Gabriel again.

“Gabriel. I’m sorry, but could you please help me with the curry?”

“Sure.”

Ilya bowed in appreciation of his immediate response.

Although the person himself didn’t think about the pros and cons of things, even so, he was reliable.

When she shifted her attention to the unexpected pitter-patter sound she heard behind her, it was Haku jumping towards her. Even though Haku was able to move around alone, it probably still wanted to be pampered. Rushing to be embraced, Haku seemed to be happy rubbing up against Ilya’s cheeks.

“What are you two be doing after this?”

Although she’d heard about their objectives concerning the slates from Gnomid, she wanted to ask the two directly.

From their reunion to this day, she had talked with them many times.

What they talked about were things like settling a dispute between various non-member nations near the Archipelago Countries Alliance, getting wrapped up in a dreadful duel against a beastkin companion during their estrus, or how they had taken a ride on a giant snake in the Ford Sea.

However, Ilya felt a sense of incongruity from it all. They hadn’t attempted to speak of anything related to the slabs at all.

Even though there was a decent chance that they wanted to ask for hints about the slabs from Ilya.

Towards Ilya’s question that held such expectations, Gabriel smiled.

“What? As you can see, what we love, right?”

Not that!

Ilya held back that response, choosing her next words carefully.

“I can see. You two, are you going to the fairy kingdom?”

“That’s…”

Partia hesitated to speak.

If she paraphrased her question, it was as though Ilya asked, “Did you give up becoming a fairiel?”

In Ilya’s eyes, the two had… rather, Gabriel had reflected that he wasn’t dissatisfied with their current situation, it appeared as though he’d reached the idea she didn’t need to become a different species like what’s often found in fairy tales for them to be in love.

Many fairies desired to become fairiel for reasons that had to do with love and passion, graphic things included, it sweeping away most of their uneasiness in the end.

However, these two were a special case that fell under a few exceptions.

The two had met during the time Gabriel trained while going along with Ilya on the demon god commission. It began when they saved Partia from the ship of a pirate captain that was being manipulated by a demon.

Partia, who had decided to tag along with Ilya and Gabriel after being rescued, was taken over by the demon. Gabriel then presented his own body to save her. Although both of them had become possessed by it in the end, the two of them started to be aware of each other thanks to them both sharing the experience.

Even though Gabriel and Partia disagreed with each other a lot at the start, when they once again reunited with Ilya after she’d separated from them temporarily, the fairy monarch’s trial bound the two even closer together.

To the extent that the trial started by the fairy monarch, the thing that should have produced suspicion and insecurity, didn’t agitate them at all.

Because the two were like that, they might not persist to the slab’s completion.

Although Ilya felt something was off since they hadn’t asked for a hint, her expectations were off the mark.

“A bit more… just a bit more. A bit more and the slate will be done…”

Partia whispered in a small voice.

However, this wasn’t something coming from a weak will or broken determination, it was a voice that felt as though it was holding back its emotions.

“That’s… that’s why, Ilya-ane.”

After a moment’s silence, Partia—

“We’ll… do our best!”

—declared so.

“We really did want to help with the ice dragon’s subjugation, we thought we could get a hint as a reward… though…”

Combining that with the story she’d heard from the great spirit, Ilya amended her conjecture.

“… So you would work hard, then ask for a hint?”

“I-I mean, if you just told us, the fairy monarch… might not acknowledge it…”

Her expression looked somewhat downcast.

(So that’s what it was.)

Ilya understood. Anyone would try go for the shortcut if one existed.

There was a reason why they hadn’t chosen to take it.

In her case, it would be like having a strategy website right in front of her eyes but since her browsing history might get leaked, she would be unable to open it. It was that kind of internal conflict.

Looking at it another way, it was also proof that they were in a situation where they were at their wit’s end and needed Ilya’s help.

“Understood. Then please, do your best.”

“—! Thank you, Onee-chan!!”

Genuine smiles spread across the two’s faces.

Their dazzling smiles seemed to pierce Ilya’s heart that had chosen to not give into the temptations that came with being a cheat.

 

 

Collecting everyone’s dishes after tallying everything up while treating them to curry, things started progressing again.

“We will now announce the results to the tally!”

When Ria, who was holding the high body-temperatured Haku close to warm herself, announced that, the energy among the spectators surged.

“Third place, coming in at 1588 Points! Registration number—52! Team [Arno]’s Snow White Mithledge Castle!”

The audience whooped in loud voices. The loudest of them all were, as expected, the Arno family.

The Mithledge Kingdom’s royal castle was a castle that was headquarters to the magic guild. Other countries’ were no match to its mystique. Voices of admiration and agreement arose from various places amongst the crowd towards the elaborately fine-detailed sculpture.

Then, making use of the timing so as to not break the venue’s tension, Ria raised her voice:

“Continuing on, second place!”

Everyone’s applause gradually ceased.

All that could be heard were the whispers of various people in mute excitement.

As though to build suspense, Ria swept her eyes across the audience before continuing to read aloud.

“This one acquired 1590 Points!”

Everyone let out sounds of astonishment and surprise at the narrow 2 Point margin.

“No way!?”

The Arno family’s head even crumpled down and raised his voice, almost in a screech. The prize for third place was ten thousand, but since second place would receive fifty thousand, his response was understandable. Those around him looked sympathetic.

“Registration number—8! Team [Ash Bridge]’s Lottévester Three Goddesses!”

“”” Oooh! “””

Applause erupted throughout the the plaza, shouts of joy loud enough to send tremors through the ground breaking out. The owner of the inn [Ash Bridge] was being jostled by his mistress, who was jumping up and down in delight.

Lottévester’s three goddesses were anthropomorphizations of the three world trees that the Lottévester faith revered. These weren’t depicted according to moe culture of course, they were all anthromorphized as according to the mythology, like volcanoes and fate personified.

“And now, first place…!”

Hearing Ria’s voice, the plaza quickly quieted down.

Using that absolute silence—

“—Before that, let me present the special prize winners to everyone~!”

Some of the spectators fell over like it was a comedy skit.

It didn’t look like anyone was actually upset, rather, it appeared everyone was excited at the announcer’s skilled control of the event. Calm smiles spread through the plaza.

The only people that knew what the special prizes were were the people on the platform and those backstage.

The only reason people were able to be this calm was probably because they had only been told that it wasn’t money.

“First, the modeling division! Euripedes-san, please come forward!”

“U-umu.”

Euripedes, a stern-looking dwarf with a stocky build and a beard, stood up and accepted the microphone from Rachelle.

He backed away as though flinching from everyone’s stares, but managed to endure it with his pride as a man. Was this the fate of a true artisan that didn’t tend to stand up in front of people?

“My choice is the work tha’ showed the most attention to shaping it…”

He glanced down at the cheat sheet held in his hand, reading out loud—

“Registration number 102. Title, Beloved Horse.”

Hearing that, a stir spread through the audience. The entry he had read out didn’t particularly shine, but it wasn’t like it didn’t hold a certain charm to those that looked at it either.

The youth that had made it didn’t understand why his entry was picked either, simply looking around as though stunned.

“Euripedes-san, please comment on your choice.”

“U-umu.”

Receiving Ilya’s glance, Ria nodded and urged Euripedes to continue.

“There are many diverse kinds of craftsmen… Among the various methods used, I feel that they all share one thing in common, and that is that a great willpower endows the things that are made. For swords, that willpower is used to make them sharp and unyielding… For buildings, it is painstakingly used to ensure the safety of the people that reside in them. For statues, it is to bestow them life.”

Euripede’s voice was quiet, yet it still seemed to reach every last person in the plaza.

“… True, this work is not as elaborate as the two before it. However, it holds a love that wouldn’t lose to any other work and I could feel a breath of life stronger than all of the rest coming from it. That is why I, as a sculptor, chose this as the best entry… That’s all.”

Euripedes, who had realized that he was being uncharacteristically talkative for himself, ended his explanation and placed the mic onto the table in embarrassment.

“Euripedes-san, thank you for your words! As the grand prize from the modeling division, the sculptor of Beloved Horse, Belmadi-san, will receive…! Lunéville’s symbol—”

Saying that, Ria held Haku up in the air.

“Haku-chan’s statue!”

“Pi?”

There was gentle laughter and applause. An indescribably warm atmosphere wrapped the plaza.

Lunéville’s symbol wasn’t Haku, of course. It was simply a story of Ria getting carried away and asking Euripedes to sculpt something, who had then chose Haku.

Still, since the dragon god was actually something worshiped here and there, the sculpture of Haku, who may become the future family head, might carry some divine favor.

While thinking about trivial worries like that, Ilya went to Belmadi, who was holding Haku’s statue.

“Please value it.”

“I-I will!!”

Blushing, the young man bent his waist at a ninety degree angle.

Ilya was relieved that he wasn’t someone that would do something like viewing it as trash and throwing it away.

“Continuing on, the appraiser division! Amabell-san, please step up!”

“… Understood.”

Amabell’s answer didn’t seem that enthused. All of the staff understood that she wasn’t the type of person to stand in front of others. It was mostly due to being forced to stand in front of everyone because she held sway in her division that her mood was like this.

There was another cause for her tenseness, but we’ll leave that out.

“… The work that felt the most excellent to me as an appraiser was registration number 81’s… Yeti’s Shield.”

“”” ? “””

Not entirely able to understand the meaning of her words, everyone tilted their heads to the side.

The entry for registration number 81, Yeti, was made by team [Blue Sword]. It was a snow sculpture that looked (somewhat) like a warrior that held a sword in one hand an a shield in the other, clad in armor. Although the armor and arms came out good because they were familiar with maintenance and repairs and the like, the person came out like a haniwa. [19]

Her announcement made it feel like she was targeting the assessment of the shield rather than the whole thing as a sculpture.

“A-Amabell-san, please explain?”

“… To be frank, I do not understand snow sculptures well enough to evaluate it as an appraiser. Therefore, I chose it based on its value. That is all.”

Not just Ria, but several people turned towards Ilya for rescue. Ilya encouraged Amabell to explain a little further.

“Amabell-san, please teach us your basis of evaluation.”

“Basis…? My basis of evaluation was how much it contained the nature of fine snow. That shield isn’t just fine snow, but also more at equilibrium with itself than any of the others.”

Probably, the only people who could agree to her words were those that held the [Appraisal] skill like Ilya and could confirm it themselves.

Even among those that had the skill, because it was strengthened by symbolization—the shield took the same shape as a hexagonal snow crystal—almost no one knew that that shape was more deeply related to snow than the elements that symbolized it, water and wind.

She hadn’t made the evaluation based on the snow sculpture’s commercial value, but as something that paid attention to the snow that composed it as a snow sculpture. It appeared that it could be said that Amabell was always paying attention to raw materials as an appraiser.

Having decided to think of it as that, Ilya looked back at Ria and prompted her to move forward.

“Ah, umm… well, as the appraisal division’s grand prize, team [Blue Sword] will receive a rare metal ingot, as well as a set of materials for high-grade restorative medicine!”

When Ilya went to Fidel with two bags in her hands, he took a look at them and smiled wryly.

“I never thought he’d receive something like this… at any rate, it will be great as long as we process them.”

“Appraisers are people focused on materials after all.”

She handed the prize to him with a carefree smile. Not worrying about the small things seemed to be part of the town’s festival.

At any rate, there were still two special prizes to go.

However—

“Next on the list, the branch vice manager for the branch division…”

Ria’s enthusiasm had obviously tanked.

“(Ria, mixing personal and work matters is no good.)”

“Boo~”

Ria’s puffed out cheeks looked adorable. It was adorable, but Ilya had to harden her heart here.

“(You shouldn’t give him an opportunity to take advantage of. If you do, make sure he doesn’t notice, alright?)”

“(Got it!)”

Ria nodded proudly. The black cat beastkin looked like she was on a hunt.

Ilya decided to think of it like that, at least.

“Branch vice manager, please make your announcement.”

She bowed exaggeratedly, her head hanging in her heart.

“Hmph… Then, I’ll give my pick. The work that I chose is registration number 90’s God Rattle—”

“Congratulations, registration number 90! The team that made God Rattle, [Quiver’s Branches], will be awarded with a one month’s supply of meal tickets from the branch division!”

 

 

The branch sub manager wanted to object after being interrupted, but was drowned out by the crowd’s voices.

However, there was a problem within those voices. They weren’t shouts of joy, it was closer to anger.

“One month of meal tickets!? I didn’t hear about that!”

“If that bastard chose for that, I want a redo!”

“Curry… I want to eat more…”

It was easy to set up measures if you could understand the trend of the voices that were coming from everyone.

God Rattle was an existence equal to this world’s creation god.

However, as ages passed, the human god was confused with being called the founder of all gods, with the human god supplanting the place of God Rattle in the end.

God Rattle, who didn’t possess a distinct figure, was also often drawn in with the appearance of the human god’s elf and human appearance, becoming the ideal target of faith for human supremacists.

If you were to consider that there were three meals a day, that was about 100,000 Gils. Taking that into account, with a reward even greater than third place’s 10,000 Gils and the suspicion towards the branch vice manager being a human supremacist being practically palpable, it might have been someone attempting to pander to his preferences.

While thinking about that sort of thing, she looked towards the pharmacy [Quiver’s Branches].

“I-Ilya-chan… is it alright?”

Looking around, she felt everyone’s intense gazes.

“It’s alright… Sure.”

“”” Ilya-chan!? “””

Ilya could only come back with a troubled smile.

However, it was widely known that people that did strange things wouldn’t be allowed to enter the branch, so she judged that it probably wouldn’t be a problem even if she didn’t do too much about this.

But even so, it was still a fact that the venue’s atmosphere took a sour turn. Ria raised her voice as though to forcibly cut away the stale air.

“And for the final special prize, Lord-sama’s choice! If you would, Lord-sama!”

“Un. I’ll announce it now. My choice is the thing that expressed everyone’s joy in Lunéville, the guild association branch’s entry.”

“Eh?”

Similar to Ria’s voice, all of the staff members were dumbfounded like they had just been attacked.

There was a different number written in first place on the voting sheet he had received just after the tallying, the snow sculpture of Haku that was outside the branch, but for Hector’s impression, that didn’t fit right.

Sensing thoughts like those being harbored by the staff members, Hector continued speaking.

“Of course, I also like the Haku statue. I love the work that everyone did together, in that courtyard.”

All of the staff was at a loss for words due to their embarrassment.

In the branch’s courtyard were snow sculptures everyone jokingly made to poke fun at each other’s appearance.

However, it was placed in such a way that it absolutely couldn’t be seen from outside and the first and second floors’ dining halls. The only people who could see it and know about its existence were the staff and those who came to the reception room.

However, nobody objected to Hector’s decision. This also showed that there were many people that knew of the sculptures.

“I would like for you all to receive the 100,000 Gils reward… How about it?”

When Hector turned towards the plaza, applause and voices of praise rose up from here and there in the audience.

It didn’t take long for it to spread amongst the whole crowd.

“U-umm… thank you so much!”

Matching Ria’s bow, Ilya and the rest of the staff bowed as well.

“W-well, let’s get back to it! I think it’s time to announce first place!”

The applause stopped, everyone quieting down.

“Obtaining the most points of them all at 3030, registration number—”

Everyone held their breath, waiting for Ria’s next words.

Even under that wintry sky, everyone’s tension and enthusiasm caused sweat to run down their cheeks.

Meanwhile, Ilya quietly left the plaza.

“35! Team [Goddess of Life]’s… The Goddess and Her White Dragon!!”

At that moment, ground-shaking bellows resounded from the crowd.

The emotion swirling through the crowd now was opposite the negative one from before.

Everyone’s faces were filled with joy and excitement as they praised the team that made it along with their congratulations.

“And now, representatives from the three top teams, please come up onto the stage! The one to present you your prize money is our very own goddess—huh? Ilya? Ilyaaa?”

She heard Ria call her from quite a distance away.

(Sorry… someone else do it!)

It went without saying that there were people who went to find Ilya, who was running away with all her might.

It also went without saying that no one found her.

After that, Ilya, who had no choice but to return to the branch, was scolded by all of the staff who’d been waiting for her.

Who would have been better to close than Ilya?

Towards that sort of argument, Ilya could only pout, mumbling that it was impossible in her mind.

They wanted her to praise it fairly and use fixation magic on it, without breaking it. Even if it was a snow sculpture that appeared to be a copy of her.

Moreover, she was told to join in on praising the person who made it.

(What kind of torture was that?)

Even now, several weeks after the festival had ended, she felt disgruntled when she occasionally recalled it.

“Are you listening, you…!!”

Brought back to her senses due to the branch vice manager’s angry voice, Ilya’s reviving disgruntlement was subdued.

“Yes. Concerning the aim of this event—”

Ilya took a fleeting glance over the crowd of people in the dining hall.

A few cheers arose.

As well as groans.

And bitter grumbles.

The sound of the rain falling outside didn’t reach the ears of those who had gathered.

 

 

A few days prior to this.

The snow festival that was held concluded, a great success for entertainment.

The snow was cleared away, the citizens’ pent-up anger cleared, and furthermore, a lot of people came to visit to see the snow monuments lined up in front of the buildings.

The costs had been completely recouped.

However, there was an unexpected ambush.

“The rain’s still going huh…”

Hearing Ria’s mutter, the staff and guests shared her sentiments. Stopping the flow of customers, depriving people of their morale, confining everyone to their houses—strong winds and heavy rain.

The rain that everyone expected would only last a few hours continued on to the following day, the clouds increasing in volume before long.

The same with the day after that, the next few days, the next week…

The majority of Rondéville had fallen into a gloom with the rain whose end was nowhere in sight. As a small mercy, it already turned into a leisure season for agriculture.

The sight of snow sculptures standing in the rain was very surreal. They weren’t affected by it thanks to Ilya’s fixation magic, but it was obvious that there would be people who would think that the snow would have long since melted due to the extended rain, so the effect of them drawing customers to visit and see them couldn’t be counted on much longer.

Looking at the snow sculptures lined up outside, Cathy suddenly opened her eyes wide as though she had suddenly come up with something and ran over to Ilya, who was standing at the counter.

“Ilya, do you have any good ideas?”

It was as though she had suddenly come up with something, but she was actually just leaving it to her.

However, as Katie implied, the situation now was similar to when the snow was continuing to fall.

“… Right. I think I’ll go visit Lord-sama when my shift is over.”

That was if he was there, at least.

She couldn’t say that to Katie, who was wagging her tail, though.

 

 

When she finished her shift at reception and went to the lord’s manor, fortunately or not, Hector was there.

Hector, who had met her in the parlor with a warm welcome, smiled at Ilya’s proposal.

“It looks like you’ve planned something fun again.”

When he placed the proposal back onto the table and took a sip of tea, Hector resumed speaking.

“Could I also participate in this one?”

He spoke as though he said something preposterous.

Although Ilya hesitated for a moment from the unexpected question, she came to a conclusion at once and gave her consent.

“Yes. As long as it doesn’t hinder your official obligations.”

“Of course! Ah, I’ll be financing this one too.”

“… Yes. Thank you very much.”

There was the precedent of the snow festival, so Ilya promptly gave up the thought of persuading him otherwise. This caused Hector to feel rather surprised at how at how fast she agreed.

Setting aside talks concerning the project, they moved onto another matter.

“An expected disaster huh… should I place watchmen in that area?”

“How about how reinforcing this first?”

“Reinforce? Then this one’s is the priority?”

“Yes. First of all, this one is the most dangerous—”

Unfurling a map, they spent several hours on working out countermeasures.

After finishing their discussion, Ilya looked up at the cloud-covered sky while walking down the rainy main street with Haku.

At first glance, the thick clouds drifting through the sky looked as though they were moving normally.

However, her [Clairvoyance] told her that the wind flowed in an arc from a certain point in all directions… a typhoon-like phenomenon.

This world’s weather, be it rain or fog, was dictated by the elements.

However, when it came to natural phenomenons like typhoons, the crystal pillars of wind that produce the wind elements that exist in this world was very often the cause.

It was no exception this time either, the crystal pillar of wind hung in the far-away center of the typhoon.

Even so, the scale of this was too large for a typhoon produced by a single crystal pillar of wind.

Ilya’s eyes and knowledge perceived the existence frolicking about the surroundings of the crystal pillar of wind, magnifying its scale.

That existence was the great spirit of wind, Sylph.

Disliking being bound by anything, not making a contract with anyone since its birth, it was a troublesome child that couldn’t stand being alone so it would do what it pleases to involve other people. That was the Sylph that Ilya knew.

It was good until it started to play rough, but because its actions had started gradually damaging its surroundings enough to catch Ilya’s attention, she had spanked and scolded it.

It had behaved itself for a while after that, but it appears to have found a new playmate.

Ilya silently prayed for the birdkin youth that it looked pleased with.

(Let’s make a guess.)

Happening upon the crystal pillar of air while playing with him, Sylph started a resonance phenomena by approaching it. As a result, the giant typhoon began, making Sylph all the more excited.

Ilya’s guess of something like that happening was remarkably on point.

Even so, she didn’t intend to move and resolve the cause. Judging it as so, the girl tried to stop thinking about the typhoon, but she suddenly felt like she recognized that birdkin.

Was that person someone that had used the Lunéville branch?

While Ilya, who generally didn’t even try to remember males, attempted to recall him, her thoughts were interrupted by raindrops moving about in unnatural movements.

“Pi~”

The real nature of the raindrops was magic from Haku manipulating the water.

The dragon god responded to rain-making rituals, moving the heavenly palace to bring more rain. Haku would also be able to call upon a storm sooner or later, gaining the power to rouse thunderbolts. Therefore, she couldn’t treat the damage caused by the typhoon as someone else’s affairs.

There were people saying that the dragon god was the source of the long rain recently, but that was the dragon god paying for his previous offense of causing mayhem for everyone by getting involved with children that just liked to pray for rain.

Like that, people could invite ill-placed suspicious through their own actions.

“Haku, don’t become like Jean alright?”

“Pi!”

It was an unexpectedly good response.

 

 

As usual, the rain hadn’t let up by the following day.

To hold the event, she had everyone gather in the dining hall to have them memorize the rules first.

“Ilya, what’s this?”

The thing the man held up was a round, flat white stone.

On the tables were four-cornered boards with nineteen horizontal and vertical lines on them.

On either sides of them all were two containers, each filled with identically shaped white and black stones. They were for a board game that people would exchange blows through the use of black and white stones, struggling for position—

“They are called Go Stones, used in a game called Go.”

After giving a simple explanation of the basic rules to the game such as Hama, the captured stones, or Kou, the arrangement that allows for constant capture and recapture, she performed an example with Gabriel, who she had taught the rules to before. She explained how victory and defeat worked through the counting system, handing over her chair.”

“You will grow accustomed to it the more you play. Someone, please give it a try.”

Contradicting Ilya’s prediction that there wouldn’t be many people willing, she was relieved to see that people were scrambling to sit in the chairs.

It wasn’t her intention to open a Go school, so when it came to methods and techniques for placing opening moves, everyone started from zero.

“Ilya, what about this one?”

Facing the table Fidel called to her from, it was a board game that used pieces with letters written on them to take away the opponent’s king.

“This one is Shogi, a game where players take turns moving to take the others’ king.”

“It’s different from that Chess you introduced at the start, isn’t it?” [20]

“Yes.”

When she lined up both sides, there were already people here and there getting into it and snapping pieces down.

There were already a few eager people emerging from them as she explained rules like how knights move and their range of action. Once she had explained the limitations of each of the pieces, she had the beginners actually try it out.

They were progressing fairly well at first, but their moves gradually slowed.

Seeing that, Ilya realized that she had forgotten something important.

“There is a time limit established ahead of time for official occasions, so please take note of that.”

“” Eh— “”

It was a step taken so that people wouldn’t do things out of the game like starvation tactics.

While writing down a list of things to bring and distribute, she added a clock to the list. Just this much already made having this briefing worthwhile.

When she left that table to see how the others were doing—

“Check!”

“Eh, no way!? Ugaah!”

—she found staff members crying out.

What they were playing was one of the three items she had prepared for the adults, the board game called Chess that she had explained first. It looked like Shogi but its rules were different, so she attempted to avoid having them confusing the rules by introducing Go between the two.

That aside, the only problem was that staff members were playing.

“Elizah, Bard-san. Please return to your duties.”

“Ka~y”

“… Meh.”

Hating to lose, Bard was sulking hard. It was decided that there would be a strict prohibition to real fights added to the rules.

When she went to the second floor after giving the two a strict talking to, the situation was fairly chaotic.

As for what was gathered on the second floor… children and people, where pondering deeply about something wasn’t among their strong points.

The latter was a personal statement from them of course.

They were gathered to learn things that would be easy for people like them to play as well.

On the tables were: Reversi, Jenga, as well as three varieties of playing cards.

Reversi and Jenga aside, there were an excess of cards to use because two of the varieties were for War and Concentration.

Poker and Blackjack were also candidates, but because of its strong gambling nature and there being a definite possibility of them gaining the [Deception] skill, she excluded them. Unlike the [Strategy] skill that could be brought about by the board games on the first floor, she judged that it wouldn’t be good for their intellectual development.

“Ilya Onee-chan, Haku-chan’s eating cards.”

“Eh? Ah, hey, Haku!”

“Pi—, Pi~…”

When she confiscated the card, Haku ducked its head down as though frightened.

The card it was holding in its mouth was the queen of hearts. It was filled with magical power because Ilya was the one to draw the designs, so it probably looked delicious to it.

“Even if it has my magical power, eating them without permission is no good. Understand?”

“Pi.”

While petting Haku’s meekly nodding head, she saw cards spread out to her again.

“Are these some new magic charms?”

Katie asking that question was probably due to her intuition and knowledge as a mage.

True, although they didn’t have the form of a skill because she made them inside the [God King Barrier], they did leak magical power due to them being made through the [Wildlife Caricature] skill that was a derivation of the [Summon] skill. They were by all means dormant, but there was an actual possibility of knights or queens appearing from them.

Even if it could be said that there was a possibility, they would be impossible to invoke without Ilya herself converting them into the skill, so she shook her head in denial as though to rid herself of the anxiety.

“They are called playing cards, something similar to Tarot.”

There was a similar form of Tarot in this world, so several people that knew it nodded their heads in understanding.

“Then first of all, I will introduce a game called Concentration that uses these cards.”

After demonstrating the rules with a visual aid, she started the explanation for War. However, because it would be imprudent to use that word in particular for a game, she decided to name it Luck Battle, as it was a match decided entirely by fate.

Once she had given the explanations for Reversi and Jenga as well as actually demonstrating them, the card games appeared to be the most popular among the children. This was likely due to the beautiful designs on the cards’ faces.

There was also the possibility that their preferences were different due to the different cultures, so Ilya was slightly relieved that they were well-received.

After that was just to have the town’s industry guild workshop reprint them. When she went down the stairs while thinking about that, she found the branch vice manager scolding Elizah.

“If you want to play, then you can just go and quit!”

“…”

For Elizah, there wasn’t any persuasive strength in being told that by the branch vice manager.

She just kept with her expression of pretending to not know what was happening in response to the branch vice manager’s threatening attitude.

As for Ilya, she didn’t intend to defend her since she had already told her about playing once. She had decided to use her off time to head to the workshop and commission for the games to be reproduced immediately.

But.

To Ilya, who was trying to pass by with a bow—

“Wai—”

“Wait, Ilya!”

The two raised their voice.

“… Is there something I can help with?”

When she turned around, the branch vice manager, with a sour expression, and Elizah, with a sulky-looking gaze, had turned straight towards Ilya.

“Obviously! This girl was abandoning her duties with those games you brought!”

“I did not abandon them. I just interrupted a conversation.”

(Hmmm…)

Having not seen it in actuality, Ilya couldn’t make a judgement.

Accordingly, she decided to ask a third party.

“I am sorry, but as I did not see it happen—”

“You… what did you just…!”

“Ilya, you don’t believe me?”

Seeing the branch vice manager grow increasingly upset, Elizah looked away, dejected.

However, what was essential in remonstrations and warnings was understanding what should be improved upon rather than relying on trust.

“Whether I believe you or not, it is not possible to make a judgement on the concerned party’s statements alone. It isn’t a position to take with opinions and personal views.”

Did they understand her intention?

They both stopped talking.

When she looked away to those who heard what was going on, several people volunteered to explain. Luckily, it appeared that one of them was a newcomer from the commerce guild.

With people that came to the branch often, there was a possibility that they would hold ill intent towards the branch vice manager and therefore lack objectivity.

“… I see. So it appears that it was simply multiple coincidences.”

The truth wasn’t a particularly complex story either. Someone asked for advice from Elizah, who was delivering a beverage to them, and the branch vice manager only saw her answering them.

“You intend to close the matter as a mere coincidence?”

“Yes. As for what Elizah did, it was the same as teaching a customer that doesn’t understand how to eat their dish how to do so. If I condemned that as playing, it would be me that needed the scolding.”

The instant that the branch vice manager attempted to say something to rebuke her, voices popped up from the onlookers in Ilya’s defense.

With a bitter smile, the branch vice manager once again stopped talking and turned away.

Someone would normally be overawed by the ‘away feeling’, but as expected, he simply put on a vulgar smile.

“Hmph. As expected of our branch’s goddess. You seem to win the masses over easily.”

His voice filled with cynicism and malice, the dining hall’s atmosphere was filled with a dangerous feeling—not.

If anything, there were a lot of people that couldn’t help themselves but laugh at the situation, going, “What’s it this time?”

A lot of people even went back to their games.

Elizah smiled with a look as though to say she was sorry in a place that the branch vice manager couldn’t see, but in truth, the damage that Ilya received was large.

Of course, the damage wasn’t the branch vice manager’s words themselves, but more so from the fact that people accepted his words as natural things.

“—What was his aim this time?”

She never felt like she wanted to be worshiped or revered. Being treated as a goddess was unreasonable.

She’d thought about destroying this world about the same amount. That is to say, not at all.

(At any rate—)

“Are you listening, you…!!”

 

 

(Alright alright, forget it.)

She forcibly changed her train of thought.

He went out of his way to ask the same question again, so she should probably answer it.

However, remembering that this time’s commission and project design is from the lord with the contents entrusted to her, Ilya amended the words she had planned to say.

“Yes. Concerning the aim of this event—”

When she looked around the dining hall, she saw a lot of people enjoying games and felt the gazes of a not so small number of people.

Although she wasn’t exactly in a tough spot, she might buy futile animosity by saying something imprudently.

Thinking about that, Ilya further amended her words.

“It will be the same as the snow festival’s. Not letting out stress is bad for the body, after all.”

The branch vice manager, who started to say something, shut up and left the branch. That should have been it, but it felt as though the dining hall’s atmosphere softened somewhat.

For some reason, it felt like she was bullying the weak recently.

(I just answered what I’m doing, though…)

 

 

Several days later, it was still raining.

Once the mass production of the Shogi pieces and boards were put in place, notices of a competition were put up.

Because of the argument with the branch vice manager, there were a lot of people anticipating it before the notices went up. Rather than causing it to be an event with a small number of participants, it instead started a war of information of people trying to participate in an event that didn’t focus on those who were strong.

Right now, Ilya felt eyes on her much the same way as when she was having that exchange with the branch vice manager. She believed this was probably due to people trying to pick up any and all information relating to the event.

Additionally, there was another thing that attracted everyone’s attention.

“Ilya-ane, what’s this buffet thing?”

Due to what Partia asked from Ilya’s shoulder, the gazes of people filled with questions all gathered on her.

“A buffet is an all-you-can-eat meal.”

All-you-can-eat. Hearing those words, everyone who heard her grew excited.

She started thinking about adding a buffet to the event after being troubled over how they should use the prize money they received from the snow festival. The amount they would receive per person would drop drastically if they distributed it to all of the branch’s staff, a few people had recommended something along the lines of a company outing.

In the end, after everyone discussed the topic amongst each other, they decided on returning it to the citizens.

They couldn’t provide all kinds of dishes so it would probably only be sweets, but as long as they could see everyone’s reactions to it, that would be enough.

“Even if I say that, it’s only for people who order meals though.”

“So only desserts huh~? No no, that’s good enough!” [21]

“All-you-can-eat… all-you-can-eat…”

Partia’s mutters on her shoulder was scary.

If there was no background music coming from the band performing right then and just had the sounds of Shogi pieces and stones clanking against their boards as well as the sounds of rain outside, it would have been even scarier.

Around the moment she thought of that sort of thing, the branch’s door was thrown open.

“… …—”

The person to appear from it was a girl with jet black hair and dark brown eyes. Her originally black boots were so muddy that you almost couldn’t tell they were black.

“… Ilya!”

The moment the girl saw Ilya, she tried walking towards her—and fell.

Although Ria was nearby and managed to catch her, the girl’s face was beyond pale.

“Ilya, this girl…”

“Un. A friend.”

It was a face she had seen before. However, the fatigue was so visible on her face that it made it almost impossible to tell at a glance.

“Sorry, Ria. I need to treat her immediately, could you please take over the desk?”

“Got it!”

When she went to carry the girl to a private room, she was interrupted by a hand stretching out from beside her.

It wasn’t obstructing her. When Ilya looked upwards towards the person, she saw a soft smile.

“I’ll carry her.”

The person to hold out his hand and carry the girl was Gabriel.

That’s why Ilya was not being obstructed, it was just Gabriel’s goodwill. She noticed that her nerves must have been eaten away a fair amount for her to not have realized that sooner.

(… Let’s calm down a little.)

Letting out a single breath, she calmed her mind.

“Sorry. Thanks.”

“Don’t worry.”

Gabriel carried the girl to the second floor with his usual nonchalance.

Ilya followed after him once she entrusted her duties to Ria.

Because Gabriel and Parta knew of Ilya’s cheat abilities, she didn’t hesitate to begin healing her. She used the sacred-type mental recovery magic, Recover Fatigue.

Once her fatigue and endurance was recovered, the girl stirred slightly as though to look away from the dazzling radiance of the magic.

“Nn… h-huh…. this is…”

“Nina.”

When Ilya called out the girl’s—Nina’s—name, she blinked twice and—

“Ilya!”

—cried out and embraced Ilya.

However, she wasn’t able to support her own body, so Ilya supported the girl just before she started falling.

Once she had made her sit back down on the bed, the girl was blushing from embarrassment.

“Nina, calm down.”

“U-un. Ilya, I—” [22]

Groooowl.

A loud sound filled the silent, tension-filled room.

Those in the room were Nina and Ilya, as well as Gabriel and Partia. Seeing the girl blushing while holding her stomach, it was obvious where the sound came from.

Rather, because the sound’s origin was more than obvious, it was impossible to endure that awkward silence.

“Ilya, I’m hungry.”

Perhaps due to reading the mood or perhaps because he couldn’t—Ilya and Partia felt that it was probably due to the latter—Gabriel proposed that they all have some lunch.

The human girl that focused on eating her meal even more so than Gabriel, Nina Amal.

Her real name was Amano Natsuka, a Japanese person who lost their way into this world.

As for the ‘I (Boku)’ the girl used, she—not understanding this world’s language—learned it, intending to use ‘I (Watashi)’, but it wound up like that, leading to the healthy young girl having strange charm to her.

As a talented mage that specialized in wind magic and spirit magic, she was a delivery person residing in the Archipelago Countries Alliance. Although she was a delivery person, she shouldn’t have received a commission that brought her from the far-away alliance all the way to Rondéville.

The reason for that is because of her magic teacher, the person that was her beloved birdkin.

(… Birdkin?)

Ilya felt like a memory suddenly hooked on to that word. When she thought on it… she realized what it was.

“… Haah.”

Hearing her unintentional sigh, everyone looked at her.

“Nina.”

“Mogu? Mogo, momu.”

“Swallow first, please.”

With a gulp, the girl downed what was in her mouth. After waiting for her to finish that, Ilya asked.

“Are you searching for Elias-san?”

“Amazing! How’d you know!? I still haven’t said anything!”

Nina waved her hands buzzingly, her eyes sparkling. If she were a beastkin, her tail probably would’ve been wagging too.

Meanwhile, Ilya’s tension fell. She wasn’t wrong in thinking that she had seen that person somewhere before, and she was seized with a sense of guilt for not realizing that the person was a friend’s important person.

“Elias-san has turned into Sylph’s playmate.”

“Eh, really!? Then I can just go to where this Sylph-san person is!? … Wait, Sylph!?”

“Hey you, don’t go yelling so suddenly.”

“Ah, s-sorry… A fairy!?”

Finally realizing that Partia was there, Nina jerked. There was a thief guild that over hunted fairies in the Archipelago Countries Alliance in the past, and since it was rare that fairies would approach people, it was no wonder.

Even so, her tension was high.

(That part of her hasn’t changed…)

Although Ilya was worried from seeing her former exhaustion, she was relieved to see that that part of her friend was the same as usual.

“Sylph…”

She was overwhelmed by the thought of it.

A great spirit of wind and a wind mage. Focusing on being able to manipulate wind elements, it would be like the difference between a Queen and a Pawn in Chess. Her depression was no wonder either.

“How could I defeat that…”

“Wait.”

Ilya’s hand was on her temple.

Don’t try to keep a girl in love from showing her strength.

Nina leaned forward and retorted to Ilya, who had stopped her.

“But—!”

“Even Sylph isn’t an idiot, it wouldn’t end its playmate’s life.”

“But—… mou, he hasn’t been home in three months…!? I didn’t understand why, but those Spirit-sans that always help me wouldn’t tell me where he went either…”

Nina was clenching her fists tightly in vexation.

Partia and Gabriel looked as though they sympathized with her, imagining if their positions had been switched.

Ilya didn’t intend on stopping her for no reason either, she just needed to confirm one thing.

“Hey, Nina. How long have you been looking for Elias-san?”

“For three months! It was strange that darling hadn’t returned after a day!”

(She used another strange word as usual huh…)

While escaping from reality, Ilya slowly looked down due to the room somehow being filled with a weird mood.

(… Un. Let’s just think of it as lovey-dovey love! Getting in the way of a person’s romance is no good!)

Summing it up like that, she made her decision.

Ilya stood up, smiling as though to put Nina to ease.

“At any rate, please rest for now.”

“Uuu…”

“Do you think that Elias-san would like to be saved by you injuring yourself?”

Nina cast her eyes downward, not being able to respond.

Ilya knew that using his name was foul play against her. Even so, she prioritized that calming her down took priority.

Even if it was to save him, there was no reason for her to thrust herself into danger alone.

“You need to rest. You haven’t slept much right?”

“U—… un.”

She had probably stayed up for many days straight, flying everywhere.

Even if she had her fatigue and endurance recovered, her magical power should still be practically exhausted.

If she kept overworking herself as she had been, there was a danger of her mummifying herself.

“Don’t worry. I’ll think of a proper method.”

“… Got it.”

Nina nodded meekly, finishing her meal and slipping back into the bed.

Ilya was worried that she might try to sneak away, but saw the girl fall asleep immediately after she laid down, telling her that it was nothing to worry about.

 

 

The second day since Nina arrived.

Using the morning to suggest countermeasures to her, she asked her to sign the commission document if she approved.

Once noon passed, she had receptionist duties.

When she was standing behind the counter while gazing at the ever unchanging rain, the branch’s door was opened vigorously.

What was it this time?

Looking towards the door, she saw a group of people standing with their faces covered by hoods.

“Geh.”

Ilya, who’d seen who they were despite their attempts to hide it through her [God’s Eyes], unintentionally let out her voice.

When the group lowered their hoods, their blonde hair and blue eyes were exposed. With snowy doll-like skin, their graceful appearances left a strong impression.

The dozen or so good looking men and women who’d appeared had long ears at the sides of their heads.

The people that marched in were a group of elves.

What had caused Ilya to react like that wasn’t that they were all elves as anyone could see.

The cause was a man in the center of the group.

Clad in extravagant clothing that just barely avoided being pompous, the man surrounded by his robust escorts fixed his gaze on Ilya. He was practically glaring. To the point that you’d feel his gaze even after looking away.

(… Maybe he’ll leave?)

While Ilya was praying for that, Ria crept closer to Ilya and pulled on her sleeve.

“(Ilya, those people look important!)”

(I know, I know… haah…)

Not able to ignore Ria, Ilya opened her mouth to speak, hiding her reluctance.

“… Welcome…”

Hearing her speak as though to usher them in, the group used that moment to draw closer to her.

Everyone in the branch looking at her was painful.

“… What business do you have?”

“I came to pick you up. Return with me.”

Hearing the man’s words, the dining hall grew even more noisy than it already was. A strange mood filled the room due to the music stopping because of the bustle.

Likely impatient from Ilya attempting to come up with some plan, the man straightforwardly walked up to the counter.

When he drew close to her, the man whispered towards her with a graceful smile.

“You said that you would return if I came, so I came.”

Ilya realized what he was talking about.

(Oh, I did say that, didn’t I… But you actually came!? I meant don’t ever come here!!)

Her grief never made its way to him.

“Who are you all!?”

Who was that? The one to appear and make the situation even more complicated was none other than the branch vice manager.

As somewhat of a silver lining, him showing up caused the man to move a bit away from Ilya. Although Ilya didn’t expect him to even come close to what she wanted—that is, him driving them away altogether—the branch vice manager pressed on the group.

Even so, her expectations were unfulfilled.

“Stop there. Do not come any closer to Eldest-sama.”

He was stopped by elves that drew their swords.

(So it was no good after all, huh.)

Hanging her head in her mind, Ilya resolutely changed gears and stared at the group of elves.

“Stop, now.”

“… But Ilya-sama.”

“Don’t act with the same rules as in the village. You all are the ones in the wrong here.”

A few seconds passed with Ilya staring down the elves, their swords still drawn.

“… Understood.”

The elves ceded to Ilya.

Some of the elves’ faces paled from her bone-chilling gaze, but Ilya didn’t appear to pay it any mind and, after seeing that they had all sheathed their weapons, once again faced the man before her.

The man was the one with the right to command them, but didn’t appear to be particularly upset about his subordinates obeying Ilya’s command.

“Let’s do this again. It’s been a while, Fountain Eldest-sama.”

“Yeah. Since the time you brought York back.”

The man, speaking almost as though he missed her, was named Reginald Fritz.

He looked like a graceful man in his twenties, but he was an elder that governed Fountain Village and lived more than ten times that.

If York were to be considered a genius when it comes to ice-type magic, it could be said that he was a genius in water, fire, and wind attribute magic.

“Your readiness in wanting to trouble me is endearing. Because of that, it will be enough for you to return home for now. We will continue after reaching the village.”

And then each of the elders as well as the higher-ranked patriarchs would gather to decide Ilya’s fiance.

However, Ilya disregarded that as something too ridiculous.

“I refuse.”

One of the man’s eyebrows twitched in response.

“Why—”

“Why? I said that I would come after you came here, but just how long do you think it’s been since I told that to York? You panicked hearing that I was taking care of this child, didn’t you?”

Seeing Haku, Reginald’s eyebrows stirred even more, his guards’ gazes all focusing on him. Judging from the course of events, Ilya had guessed dead-on.

Because the Elf Village and the Heavenly Palace, within which dwelled the Dragon God, were both trade partners and mutual shut-ins, he could only think of it as them trying to gain information.

Because she was keeping the Dragon God’s child, it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that her relationship with the Dragon God had strengthened.

Reginald expected that she would eventually return after being unable to bear the loneliness, but if the person she was with was the Dragon God, it would be the same as losing a massive advantage they had over the other long-lived races. Flustered, he hurriedly tried to bring her back.

(So it was like that, was it?)

At any rate, Ilya was happy that her conjecture hit the mark.

Anyhow, she would use that to press on him.

“I dislike people who are so petty. Please, withdraw.”

His fault, his pettiness, could in a certain meaning be called the pride of an elf.

Undine’s not choosing him, someone that held a cheat-like ability for magic, was because she didn’t like that aspect of him.

On the other hand, York, who held an arrogance in that he looked down on others, was flexible in his dealings with humans that he tentatively acknowledged and people he was interested in.

She’d heard that Undine was pleased with his very un-elf-like purity and tolerance (?).

Even while she’d taken the time to think about things like that, none of them reacted.

(Is it around time to have them understand the situation?)

Just as Ilya was about to begin speaking—

“E-emergency, Ilya!”

—a rain-soaked man burst into the branch.

“What happened?”

“Midee River’s water rose more than we thought! It’s not gonna hold!”

Its reinforcement wasn’t enough.

The elder smiled eerily.

 

 

“Ilya. You called me petty, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Then I will have to correct your evaluation. Everyone.”

Hearing Reginald’s dignified voice, the surrounding elves all simultaneously straightened themselves.

“We will be going to reinforce the river.”

“”” Sir! “””

“How’s that, Ilya. This will be free, of course—”

“No need.”

The elves all stopped moving.

So that they would know they didn’t mishear her, she spoke once again.

“There is no need.”

Then, as though to ridicule the elves who’d completely stiffened at this point, a joyful voice echoed through the hall. Everyone’s gazes focused on a boy with a fairy on his shoulder.

“Yeah! It’s our turn from now on you guys can all go and leave!”

“If we ask Gnome, it’ll get done in one shot.”

“No need.”

He either didn’t understand or wasn’t interested in thinking about it, but either way, Gabriel just stood there. Partia was confused enough to make up for Gabriel’s share.

“But why!?”

“Because I believed that the river would flood beforehand and consulted with Lord-sama in advance. We have already put countermeasures in place.”

When looking at the dining hall, several people waved their hands in response.

Those on alert at the branch were only the closest reinforcement group, there were other groups on standby in various places as well.

Even so, Partia wasn’t satisfied by that and hopped over to Ilya’s shoulder, continuing to speak.

“B-but wouldn’t it be better for us to go!?”

“That may be the case.”

“Then—!”

Before explaining, she exchanged looks with Rachelle and had her act as planned. It wouldn’t be a laughing matter if they were too late due to her explanation.

Confirming that they began, Ilya looked back to Partia.

“Partia. Do you know how society works?”

“I don’t know!”

It was obvious that she didn’t think about it at all from her immediate response, but it wasn’t as though Ilya would stop with that.

Although her purpose was for Partia to understand it herself, it was also for Partia’s sake.

“… Right. This place has your favorite pudding, right?”

“Un!”

Partia’s vigorous assent caused Ilya to smile wryly.

Ilya knew all too well that the girl was a child who was fundamentally honest and would give it her all when it came to her goals.

“You pay money to the shop for the pudding you eat, but that money is then indirectly distributed to the traders who transported the materials here, as well as the farming families who were paid to produce the ingredients.”

It worked a little differently than that in truth, but well, it was close enough.

She had spoken with conviction in order to fill her words with a persuasive strength.

“However, if you produced all of the ingredients and made it yourself, what would you not do?”

“… Buy it from the shop?”

“Correct. Because of that, the shop wouldn’t be able to sell pudding. Because the shop wouldn’t be able to sell it, it wouldn’t buy the ingredients for them from traders. With that, the traders would no longer stock those ingredients and wouldn’t purchase from the farming families. What would happen then?”

“The farmers would be in trouble?”

Ilya nodded.

“The farmers wouldn’t be able to make money and would have to stop being farmers. As a result, pudding would disappear from the shop. Although this is an extreme example, of course… a single action can influence many different groups of people. This situation now is the same.”

Partia’s pouting was fading, so she probably understood at least some of what Ilya was trying to tell her.

“Sure, it would be settled quickly if you asked for Gnome to solve it, but that would cause the people who earn their money from the same type of work to lose their income. If that happened, they may leave Rondéville to find a place they could make a living. With the people who could reinforce levees gone, what would we do if the river flooded over again? Would you be in Rondéville at that time?”

Her way of speaking had accidentally become a little harsh.

Conscious of that, Ilya patted Partia, who was hanging her head in shame.

“I said it just a moment ago, but that is just an extreme example.”

“Pi.”

“Wai—, hey!”

Even though Partia felt gloomy, she didn’t seriously reject Haku, who was trying to comfort her together with Ilya. Thanks to Haku, she was able to regain her former vigor.

“People with power must think about how their power influences those around them… It’ll be even more important after you turn into a fairiel, so make sure to remember it, alright?”

“U-un…!”

Now that persuading Partia was finished, Ilya switched gears.

When she turned back towards the elves, they reacted with a start.

(Now to make sure they understand.)

“Ilya. That thing we talked about earlier, about recei—there’s lots of Ilya-like people!?”

Immediately after she thought that, Nina, who was coming down from the second floor, raised her voice in confusion.

There was a commission preparation document in her hands, it looked as though she’d come down to bring it to her.

Ilya thought of an idea.

“Eldest-sama, do you seriously love me?”

The entire hall exploded because of the words that Ilya herself spoke while having to endure the chills going down her body.

(Wait a moment… That might’ve been a bit much.)

As expected, Reginald misunderstood Ilya as being embarrassed and responded in confidence.

“Naturally. Nobody could love you more than me.”

(Ewwww! Gross, gross, gross!!)

Ilya’s body was covered in goosebumps.

It didn’t show because she was wearing the [Miko’s Restraint], but it was all she could do to keep her face looking calm.

However, he misunderstood Ilya yet again due to her unintentionally looking away from him. Reginald grasped her shoulders and brought his face close to hers.

“With you by my side, be it the Dragon God or Demon God… I would lose to no one.”

(Gyaaaaah! Stooooop! Ueeeh… I feel sick…)

Despite anguishing and reflecting on her actions, she was deeply aware that this was her chance.

He’d dug his own grave.

“If so, prove yourself.”

“…?”

Ilya mobilized all of her willpower to appear calm, smiling as big of a smile she could possibly muster.

Then, keeping her voice low enough so that only he could hear—

“If you can make Sylph surrender, I’ll be able to depend on and live with you in peace of mind.”

—she whispered.

 

 

Changing location, the second floor’s private room.

Excluding Ilya, the people who had gathered were Gabriel, Partia, Reginald, and Nina. Nina was confused by the others that had strange presences in the lineup.

“Well then, I will explain this commission.”

“Commission?”

She nodded in response to the elder’s question.

“Yes. The commission proprietor is our Amal-san. The content of the commission is to rescue a birdkin that has been seized by Sylph.”

“That will be solved by us, ourselves.”

“No, it will not.”

Ilya’s curt response caused the elder’s face to freeze.

“This is a commission that has been formally issued by the guild, so the participation of individuals that do not belong to a guild will not be permitted. As Eldest-sama has already acknowledged the existence of this commission, in the case that it is impossible to accept, it will therefore be deemed as intentional opposition to the Country-Guild Agreement, and you will become subject to purging. Due to that, please allow Amal-san to accompany you.”

Because this elder, who despite having stayed within the borders of his village, knew of the fame that belonged to the guild by way of the Windia Patriarch Federation where the patriarchs lived, he could not disregard the purging measures that would make them all into enemies. [23]

When Reginald glared at Nina in what appeared to perhaps be frustration, the girl withered.

—Don’t glare at a child, you lolicon!

Giving him a glare with those words in her eyes, Reginald looked openly dismayed from her absolutely scornful look.

“… H-hmph. It’s your lucky day, girl. We will stop that great spirit for certain.”

“It is fine to be enthusiastic, but please follow the strategy.”

“Understood.”

Obedience is good, but that much is just gross.

Nonetheless, as the risk to Nina’s life would decrease considerably with the elves’ help, in all honestly, it was a big help to her.

“Although it is a rough strategy, you will first induce the birdkin through Amal-san’s persuasion, separation Sylph from the Crystal Pillar of Wind. Following that, as soon as there is enough distance between them, weaken Sylph with its opposing element through Gnome. Gabriel will focus on defense.”

“Understood.”

[I hear and obey.]  

Gnome accepted it as well. From the speed of its answer, you could tell just how disgusted he was at Sylph’s wild nature.

“Guard Amal-san and the birdkin while the elves consume the nearby wind elements. Eldest-sama will capture Sylph along with Nina.”

“… Are you sure?”

Saying that was Elder Reginald.

When Ilya figured out the meaning behind his question, she simply smiled at him.

“For you to desire cooperation with Great Earth Spirit-sama… You aren’t that honest, either.”

She wanted to punch him with her smile.

From his reaction, she guessed that he misunderstood her smile as, “I’m trying to make an excuse for us to marry.” The misunderstanding was convenient for her in a certain meaning, so she didn’t correct him.

“When do we leave?”

“We are planning for it to be tomorrow.”

“Understood. The others will use the time to recharge themselves.. Now then, for my bed…”

“Please, do not worry. We have prepared an inn for you and the others to use and relax in.”

“Gu, mu…”

The lolicon, defeated by Ilya’s smile, meekly left the room.

What happened next would be the crucial part. When she focused on Nina, the girl blushed and looked down.

Parta spoke as though in proxy for the young girl.

“I-Ilya-ane, will you seriously marry…?”

“I won’t. I hate elves.”

“Eh?”

She once again spoke to Nina who, like Partia, was staring in wonder.

“So please, you must also cooperate.”

“Eh? U-un! I’ll force myself even if I REALLY don’t want to!”

“… As you say. I’ll hand this over to you, Nina.”

“Eh? This is…?”

Seeing its contents, Nina wasn’t able to understand what it was and tilted her head.

Ilya held up her index finger and smiled back at her.

“A love charm!”

 

 

It had been two days since she said something so embarrassing that it made her want to roll in her bed at the mere thought of it.

Ria was standing up on the platform that was specially prepared in front of the branch’s counter.

“And now we’ll begin the opening ceremony for the first (temporarily named) game competition!”

Applause and cheers sprung up. Taking that as the right time, Ria left the platform, allowing for Cynthia, the host, to step up.

With a simple review of the rules and other things such as prizes, everything moved forward without any problems in particular. By the way, there were prizes for Shogi, Go, and Chess, with other prizes that would be awarded like how they were in the Snow Festival after the games.

Naturally, the end of the opening ceremony was left to Hector.

“Although I will be joining in for the chess games this time, I won’t forgive anyone if you go easy on me. The main purpose of this competition is to enjoy it. Don’t forget that. I want you all to compete to the best of your abilities.”

And thus the opening ceremony was concluded.

Going up onto the platform again, Cynthia began to read out the venue’s locations.

“The Shogi, Go, and Chess meeting location is in the branch’s dining hall on the first floor. The location for Reversi and Jenga is the first floor of the main building, with card games on the second floor. The tournaments’ seating and tables are assigned in their corresponding halls, so please make sure to find yours upon arrival.”

Once Cynthia finished speaking, a strained tension ran through the room.

“Now then, please make your way there!”

The participants started bustling away as though to use some of their building excitement.

Waiting tables, keeping track of the progress schedule, and keeping an eye out for cheating. For all staff members that weren’t left to stay on reception work, the real thing started now.

“Does everyone have a wind magic stone?”

The staff nodded at Ilya’s question. The fist-sized stones that everyone was carrying were sort of like simplified versions of the Dragon God’s Earrings.

They contained a sliver of Ilya’s mana in them, and although they were only effective within the range of her mana, the stones would resonate with the other magic stones and turn into transceivers and serve as speakers.

“Please use them as we practiced. I believe that you are all well-enough acquainted with the method, but please note that if you do not make sure to cut off your mana to it, anything you might say to yourself will be leaked across to others.”

“”” … … … “””

“Geh…”

During their practice the previous day, Bard embarrassed himself by saying what was on his mind when he looked at Ria, “She really is suited for it…” His face turned red when he felt everyone start looking his way.

It was the duty of the person in charge to make note of it, so there was no use even if he scowled at Ilya.

“Well then, please make contact once you arrive at your stations.”

“”” Roger! “””

“”” Roger~! “””

“Pii!”

The personnel all responded properly.

Ilya was in charge supporting each venue and the kitchen while also working at the reception desk.

“Haku, let’s stay together today, how about it?”

“Pii~♪”

Sitting on the chair that was specially placed behind the counter, she gently pet Haku who had jumped up on her apron.

If everything advanced as planned, no one would need to visit her.

Ilya looked towards the window once more.

A very, very far distance away from the view of the cityscape coming through the window.

A great chase was unfolding above the Note Sea between Sylph and Nina, who had taken the birdkin.

[Ahaha! Amazing! You can do it too!]  

“H-he suddenly turned energetic.”

Sylph was resentful at first, thinking that they disturbed his enjoyment, but his mood did a one-eighty once it saw Nina’s uncommon flight magic. Ever since then, he’d been chasing after Nina with a smile on his face.

[Hey hey, I’m catching up ya know~!?]  

“H-here I am…! See, Elias too!”

“Y-Yeah.”

As something that was obsessed with playing tag, Sylph didn’t notice that he was being lured onto land.

Of course—

“Come, Gnome.”

[Acknowledged.]  

—that included not noticing the existence of the great earth spirit.

Drawing closer, ever closer, Gnome released its existence.

[Wha—….! What’re you doing here!]  

[You noticed too late!]  

Due to their conflicting element attributes, Sylph of the Wind and Gnome of the Earth weakened each other.

Sylph, annoyed at the unexpected hindrance, bolted straight down towards Gnome while rapidly using wind magic.

He made use of many techniques—blades of wind and bullets of compressed air, as well as other things such as helical vortexes.

“—Sword Draw.”

However, they all had their elements severed, disappearing.

His hair drawn into a ponytail and waving due to the wind elements that had become a breeze, the one who swung the long sword in his hands was the Demon God youth.

[Why, why, why!]  

“… It’s useless.”

Gabriel swung his sword as though to defend Gnome. It was a speed that couldn’t be followed with the eyes of an ordinary person. The red light coming off of the blade seemed to be sucked in by the sheath, giving it the alias of Soul Blood Devourer.

[Why can you use that!? That’s—]  

“Yeah. I learned it from Ilya.”

[—!]  

[Sword Draw] was derived from the skill [Swordplay], it was able to sever the connection between elements without having to itself use elements as a medium, this was also part of the swordplay he had learned from Ilya.

Due to his anger and bewilderment intensified by paranoia and envy, Sylph had started focusing on them, sacrificing his greatest advantage.

[Then I’ll just blow everything away—!]  

[I won’t let you!]  

The gathering wind elements were blocked by a suddenly appearing earthen wall.

And that wasn’t Sylph’s only mistake.

“I will capture you!”

[Nee-chan!? Wait, you’re so not her!]  

Sylph’s eyes widened upon seeing the shape of an elf make its way through a crack that appeared in the wall, however, he was disappointed as it wasn’t the person he thought it was.

He didn’t have the chance to say such a deliberate thing as that, though.

“Signal Ray!”

[Woah! What’re you doing now!]  

“Kuh…!”

Having drawn close to the enemy, the elder attacked. He wasn’t able to catch the soaring Sylph, but he was able to suceed in hitting with his magic as planned.

However, he was in return blown back by his own magic as it made contact with Sylph, flying backwards.

Sylph, finally able to settle down for a moment, calmed down somewhat.

[Nn?]  

And what it saw was magic shot by the group of elves.

(Hmph, there’s no way those’ll hit m—)

With Sylph’s flight speed, them hitting him was very unlikely.

However, his expectations were betrayed as the magic Sylph should have just avoided amended their trajectory back towards him.

[Uwaah, the heck!?]  

Sylph was taken by surprise at the phenomenon of the trajectory being revised. After all, there had been no corrections like these sharp turns and sudden elevation changes until now.

The magic that the elder shot at Sylph had the effect of being a pointer to act as a beacon for elements.

[Uwaah, uwawah! Dangit—!]  

He was invoking magic while avoiding the elves’, but any great magics were obstructed by Gnome and Gabriel would sever anything aimed their way.

Even so, as Sylph’s speed was definitely out of the ordinary, time dragged on as both sides were worn down.

Did Sylph slow down a little?

—Now was his chance.

The elder chuckled. However, a person moving at twice his speed bolted past him.

“Wha—… the girl!?”

Even if she could fly quickly, it wasn’t as though she could use a decent magical attack. She was a burden.

As such, he didn’t take the time to stop her.

Nina approached Sylph.

“Sylph-sama! Hear me!”

[!?]  

“—This one speaks in words older than time!”

[W-wah! Waaah—!]  

Noticing the mana flowing from the young girl, Sylph tried escaping while holding its ears closed and shouting.

However, what had been altered into her love charm was a binding magic spell composed of nine verses and three declarations that were split into introduction, body, and conclusion which penetrated into the spirit.

“—By the order of Humans, Dragons, Demons, The Three Lords, and God. Thou, spirit, obey!”

[Uwaaah!]  

“Kya—!?”

Mana flowed out between the two. At the start, Sylph was trying to run away, but they were gradually attracted towards each other.

The two were enveloped in glowing green light, eventually turning into one large green orb as the two drew closer.

[… Awww, I got caught.]  

“Sorry about that.”

[Pfft, no need to apologize~. I mean, you’re on pretty good terms with those wind spirits right?]  

“You know? Yeah! All of these good kids helped me!”

[Hmph.]  

Just as Sylph turned his head away, he took a peek back at Nina.

[I don’t really mind helping you, but you know~… If you plan on using me, you can’t keep associating with other spirits.]  

“Eh, no. Pass.”

Sylph was surprised by Nina’s quick response. Sylph opened his eyes at first, followed by his mouth, eventually turning to stare at the girl.

[Why? I’m something like these guys’ boss you know?]  

“… Even so, I don’t want to leave these kids that have helped me.”

Filled with vigor, her eyes looked straight at Sylph.

Their mana bound though the binding magic spell, she realized that Sylph’s strength exceeded human capability.

Sweat ran down Nina’s cheeks as she stared at him.

However, their deadlock was quickly broken.

[Ahahaha! Good~! I acknowledge you! But you deeeefinitely have to play with me!]  

“Eh? Ah, un. If that’s all…”

Like that, their contract concluded successfully.

There were three methods to form a contract with a great spirit.

The first, contract through mutual consent.

The second, completion of contractual terms presented by the great spirit.

Finally, a contract coming from the human, as it was this time.

It was possible to force the great spirit into complying by weakening it, as the contract was done through this binding magic spell.

Although it is possible to do so, as it required having the ability to cause a great spirit to surrender and have a personality that worked with the great spirit’s, this method was even more difficult than the other two.

It was more accurate to say that this third contracting method was a method that caused the great spirits that would only do troublesome things to be more docile.

Even the super uninhibited Great Spirit Sylph, who would refuse to conform his personality while saying something or another, had a good compatibility with Nina to begin with. As this girl had gotten the generally capricious wind spirits to lend her their help even in Ilya’s memory, this could be said to be a natural result.

Meanwhile, there was a person standing nearby in stupefaction, just now understanding the situation.

“… It’s… over…”

Far from him having Sylph surrender, the girl had managed to snatch the fruits of his labor. The hope that his wishes would be granted severed, Fountain Elder Reginald Fritz earned the sympathy of the surrounding elves.

Even so, this was also Ilya’s intention.

[Ilya, we have a problem.]  

Ilya canceled her [Clairvoyance] upon hearing a voice coming from the stone.

The owner of the voice coming from the stone was Katie, who was located on the first floor of the main building… just next to where she was.

“What happened?”

[The cakes are quickly running out. If this continues, they won’t even last until noon.]  

When she turned her gaze towards the dining hall, Katie was anxiously looking over all of the tables that had sweets on them. Ilya let out a sigh with a hint of exhaustion, talking into the stone again.

“Roger. I will start cooking more now.”

[… Roger.]  

“I will be cooking servings for the staff as well, so—”

—Please concentrate wholeheartedly on your duties.

Her voice tried saying that, but…

[[[ YAY~~~~~!! ]]]  

It was drowned up by a loud chorus of voices.

It might have been a mistake to make the variety of one-bite cakes that never appeared in their shops.

Even if she was reflecting on it, Ilya was unable to feel regretful after seeing so many people eating them with smiles on their face.

 

 

The game tournaments ended up being very popular.

“Rain? Is that tasty?”

The participants saying stuff like that, rain and the like didn’t matter to them at all. There were lots of people asking for another tournament to belt held so that those who won could taste the flavor of victory yet again and so that even those who lost could try and win the next time, regardless of the weather.

As blunder for it as a tournament, Hector won the Chess portion, much to everyone’s displeasure.

There was another possible point of dissatisfaction.

“… Hooot…”

“… So hot.”

“Cynthia, Katie, don’t be lazy, now.”

Since Sylph had expended so much water and wind elements, Rondéville and the surrounding countries were undergoing an out-of-season heatwave.

“Pi~…”

Even Haku felt worn out because of the blistering heat.

—This beer is delicious!

Even the guests that enjoyed their service were slumped forward over their tables.

“… Haah…”

“… See, isn’t this heat too much for Ilya, too~?”

Cynthia looked happy from seeing Ilya like that for some reason, but the girl’s mood being dampened was due to something else.

It was because of the people in front of her.

“… Ilya, to the village…”

Despite him being worn out from the heat as well, the elder hadn’t gone back.

“Elder. Please return home.”

“… I can’t assent.”

“Don’t throw a tantrum, now, please go and return to the village.”

“… Don’t wanna.”

He really was acting like a spoiled child.

Ilya’s decision of forcibly sending the elves that came with him as escorts back to the inn was the correct choice. If they saw the elder doing something like that, it wouldn’t be weird even if a revolution happened in Fountain Village.

“Stop that. You weren’t able to subdue Sylph. Am I wrong?”

“… No.”

“Then—”

“… I need you.”

Ilya wanted to move herself away from the bottom of her heart after hearing that come from a grown man’s mouth.

The only feelings gushing forth from having a man who was born more than two hundred years ago depend on her were those of disgust.

Even if she she’d prepared an excuse to get him to give up, it was no good. Giving the impression of being a woman that made use of people’s goodwill was no good.

She didn’t know what those patriarchs would do in the case that he starting being hostile and ended up dying by needing to be physically removed.

She let out a sigh at how cornered she was in this situation.

“Please, just dislike me…”

“… I’ll decide my own will.”

He said something pretty cool, but everything else was messed up.

 

 

The person who came over to Ilya thinking, “Isn’t it fine leaving well enough alone?”, was Katie, who should have been serving tables.

“Ilya… can you think of anything…?”

Katie, looking like she couldn’t so much as stand anymore due to the heat, begged Ilya.

Even though it was something easy to ask for, it wasn’t so easy to come up with a way to deal with the heat.

(Warm baths… hotpot… vegetables that lower body temperature aren’t in season right now…)

It was just as she started looking around trying to think of some idea that it happened.

Sitting outside of the window was a snow sculpture that was able to keep its shape even in this heat wave because of her magic.

You’d need to unravel the magic in order to cool down with the snow’s coolness.

However, the moment the magic was unfastened, they would melt.

“… In that case, let’s melt them.”

Puzzled, Katie tilted her head to the side.

When there’s someone feeling listless in front of another, it causes a vicious cycle of causing that person to feel listless as well.

So, she decided to do it now rather than later.

 

 

Lunéville sat in darkness, only the lights of streetlamps casting light.

When the man sensed the presence of someone in a back alley, he nonchalantly entered it as though disappearing from the street.

“… Who is it?”

The woman that should have been in the man’s office simply smiled at him.

But even so, after that brief moment of time, the woman returned to being her usual expressionless self and took out an envelope from within her clothes.

“A mission. Here are your orders.”

“… That so. I’d like to ask a question then.”

Looking at the subject matter contained in the letter, the man immediately adjusted his plans.

The woman listened to his request and nodded, melting back into the darkness.

They could reinforce their observations on worrisome things with this.

So he felt relieved for a brief moment.

“… It’s hot.”

Seeing the woman off, the man complained with a whisper and, together with sighing, switched gears as he walked back out from the back alley.

Although it wasn’t as dark on the street because of the lamps, it was still dark.

The man didn’t lose sight of the road even in the darkness, walking forward in silence.

 

 

Water droplets splashed. Bodies were getting wet.

Smiles and joyful shouts were abundant in a certain plot of land that was being used as a material depository until just a few days before.

However, it was no longer that vacant area. There was a huge circular tank filled to the brim with water.

“This pool… feels so nice…”

Floating at the edge of it, Katie muttered with an expression that looked like she was in a trance.

Holding onto a circular swimming ring next to her, Ria was also floating in the water with a slackened face.

What they were wearing were swimsuits of course. They were mass produced by Ilya for different sizes, types, and genders through alchemy, rented out by the guild.

Ilya’s use of the skill that could even be called reckless was simply because she wanted to see so many women in swimsuits.

However, to these people that weren’t so used to playing in water parks, the swimsuits evoked a sense of shame similar to underwear.

Even so, Ilya didn’t give up.

“Pools are such a luxury though, right~?”

“You’ll feel like you’ve turned into an Ojou-sama after renting one of these swimsuits!”

“Don’t you want to enjoy yourself in a pool and feel great too?”

Emotions overruling reason, she skillfully played at people wanting to feel like part of the upper elite.

Her actions were shameless, but she didn’t regret them, nor would she repent.

“Kya~! Stop it~”

“Aha, being unprepared is one’s greatest enemy!”

Because what she was now able to see unfold before her was the sight of many girls giggling and playing around.

“Ilya should come in too~”

“See~, Haku thinks so too, right~?”

“Pi!”

Anyhow, adults like Ria and Katie were cooling themselves off near the edge. The farther in you went the more children there were because there was a water fountain spraying water around in the center.

The water was sucked in from the ducts on the outside edges of the pool. The water flowing into the underground water tank was cooled through the use of a water stone meant for refrigerators and then filtered by a water stone that had filtration properties, improving the water’s sanitation.

That clean water was then drawn up to the middle with water stones that could funnel water.

“Really, I never thought that you could use the water stones meant for pumping wells like this.”

The one who made that remark next to Ilya was the birdkin, Elias, who was rescued from Sylph.

He was following Nina as she swam about energetically with his eyes, but he could only watch as he was still recovering.

Ilya was told that she had to supervise it all since she was the ’cause’ of it by the vice branch manager, so she was looking at the pool from the shade with Elias. [24]

Waving back at Nina who waved towards him super fast, he turned towards Ilya and bowed his head.

“Again, thank you. It’s thanks to you that I can be here, like this.”

“Please raise your head.”

Ilya shook her head to Elias, who looked up after being told to.

“The one who saved you is Nina. Not me, Partia, nor the elders. We only helped her do it.”

“… Even so—”

“In particular, I’m not the one you should be saying that to.”

She almost hadn’t realized it was Elias at first. Even though she had no more interest in men back when she was involved with Nina and the others than she does now, even apathy has a limit.

At any rate, what Ilya did was just her doing her job.

“I’ve received my reward, after all.”

When she first proposed to have a commission put out, Nina broke down in tears because she had no money.

As for what Ilya proposed to the crying girl, she proposed changing it from a monetary reward to an item reward.

An item reward allowed them to take the items obtained as an outcome of the commission as payment or give the items to the branch, the branch paying them money for the items. However, this method isn’t applicable in the cases where countries or lords are the commission proprietor. There is also the restriction that it is limited to guild members only.

They went with the latter in this case, so the Crystal Pillar of Wind, which had been shifted out of where it belonged due to Sylph having used it however he pleased, was retrieved and transferred to the guild.

“… That so. It would be rude to impose further then, wouldn’t it.”

“Yes.”

Ilya gave Elias, who was smiling with a bitter smile, a smile with no ulterior motives behind it.

“W-why do you two have such a nice atmosphere going oooon!?”

Soaking in the water far away, Nina shouted. Seeing her like that, Sylph just laughed.

When he told Nina that Elias just denied her for Ilya, she started chasing him for teasing her. Partia somehow got involved, eventually turning into a clamor that dragged Gabriel in.

“… In truth, I was worried.”

“Worried?”

Looking at Nina, Elias nodded.

“When I kept Sylph company so that he wouldn’t hurt her… I was worried that she might end up getting taken by some other guy…”

“… Haah.”

No way.

Did he sense Ilya’s shock?

Elias turned to her with an ashamed smile.

“In the Association, there’s a saying that goes: a woman’s heart and winter wind change oft. You felt worried because of that, right?”

The wording was probably different from the original since she’d translated it through a skill, but the Japanese saying went like: a woman’s heart and autumn weather. [25]

(Was ‘winter wind’ how it went in the English version?)

Either way, both proverbs said that a woman’s love for a man was something easy to change, that the ups and downs of emotion were violent.

“If that’s the case, it’s alright. Haven’t you two overcome the winds of winter?”

“… We have, haven’t we.”

His side profile showed no uneasiness or insecurity, as though to show how their bond had deepened from this recent incident.

Ilya wondered if that was really true, though.

Even though they understood that their love for each other was mutual, both man and woman of different races sought out a way to become the same.

The girl who couldn’t suppress her love and went on a perilous journey to save her lover, going so far as to pick a fight with a great spirit.

And the man, who was unable to accept her sincerity despite being shown just how far she was willing to go after she shirked her duties and traveled so far to court him, was even so unable to give up on his love for her.

As long as it’s not a calamity, good weather is something that can be enjoyed with a bit of work.

“… Love… it’s harder to predict than the weather, isn’t it.”

“Eh—”

Did Elias take that as a prediction that Nina would be taken by some other man? His face cramped up.

“Please, make sure to take care of Nina, alright?”

(I won’t forgive you if you make her sad you know?)

When she told him that with a smile on her face, he nodded with a serious look.

In the end, Elias headed to the pool to stop Nina and everyone else. The trouble was dealt with immediately after they looked in Ilya’s direction.

“You know that Ilya will get mad if you keep on going right?”

Those words were even more effective than he thought they’d be.

And so everyone resumed playing around in obedience.

Satisfied at seeing Nina and the others wave at her with smiles on their faces, Ilya devoted herself to resting in the shade, alone.

Watching over them all playing and free from any worries, she prayed that this moment would last forever.

 

Footnotes:
  1. Yakisoba is so good. Return
  2. Omelette Franks are so good. Return
  3. Okonomiyaki is so good. Return
  4. Goldfish Scooping is a very common stall found in Japanese festivals. Return
  5. Taiyaki might be so good? Return
  6. ‘Jiii’ is the audible ‘I’m staring at you intently’ onomatopoeia. Return
  7. I don’t really understand how flat roofs are better for small rainfall either. Maybe because it’s cheaper and can stand small amounts of rainfall just fine? Return
  8. He uses ‘omae no’ for ‘your’ here. Generally derogatory towards a colleague, moreover a female colleague. Return
  9. Looks like he’s a boy… with a long beard? Kay. Return
  10. Note that the previous sentence could be talking about Ilya’s aim OR Hector’s aim. Return
  11. The second kanji for fairy is spirit. Return
  12. A tofu cooked in a spicy chili + bean based sauce. Usually cooked with fermented black beans and minced meat.  Return
  13. A pizza that literally made my mouth water when I googled it.  Return
  14. Katsudon is some seriously delicious breaded pork. The sauce has a really deep flavor…—!? Mouth, why are you watering so much!?  Return
  15. Also ridiculously good.  Return
  16. I give up. My mouth is sea, the oncoming flood of worlds.  Return
  17. Miso ramen is pretty good, though I definitely don’t like the eggs in it…  Return
  18. Japanese reference, there’s an English page for it, but doesn’t seem to talk about the thing matter in question…? Well, in the end, there’s a stubbornness that doesn’t allow the girl to do what she wants.  Return
  19. Look here for more information on what haniwa are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haniwa Return
  20. It appears that she explained it before this scene began. Return
  21. Random person in the room talking here. Return
  22. She uses the masculine ‘Boku’ to address herself. Return
  23. Note that, mentioned in Volume 1 Chapter 3, someone named Katia is a noble daughter of this ‘Windia Patriarch Federation’. Return
  24. This line also notes that she’s ‘sports sitting’ (sitting like one would in gym class, grasping their knees), but I’m not too sure on how to fit that into the sentence. Return
  25. Implied end to the proverb included: A woman’s heart and autumn weather are ever changing. Return

 


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