I hated myself.
I hated how I made everyone hate me.
I was so big and had so much strength, but I couldn’t protect anything. No matter what I did, I would hurt someone. I would destroy everything around me.
I hated all of that.
And I thought about quitting.
No matter how hard I tried, I could never reach any kind of results.
But I found something even I could do.
I finally ran across it.
So I won’t lose. No matter who I’m up against.
I simply can’t lose.
Let us review the basic information.
The red armored Holy Swordswoman had long hair that started out silver at the base and grew red toward the end. Boo Boo was the Iberian Orc she knew. He was nearly 4 meters tall and fought with a beloved club-shaped Shining Weapon that resembled a thick steel beam.
And that Shining Weapon apparently contained the digitized souls of more Iberian Orcs.
It had all begun when the humans had attacked the Iberian Orc village, but one of the humans had apparently not approved of their orders. Her obligations had prevented her from fully rejecting those orders, but she had left behind a slight hope of rescue by sealing the killed Iberian Orcs’ souls in the Shining Weapon and leaving it with young Boo Boo, the sole survivor.
It was still unknown how to free those souls.
But some Magic that made it possible might exist at the far end of the Magic tree diagram.
As a Nonhuman, Boo Boo could not use Magic even with the Shining Weapon.
The human girls could learn Magic, but there was a limit to the Experience Points they could earn while exploring the Labyrinth.
But what if they joined forces?
What if they could choose to wash away that past resentment?
Only then could they possibly reach the world that someone had hoped for when leaving that thin, thin thread of possibility with Boo Boo. Only then could they possibly reach an age in which humans and Iberian Orcs could freely smile and live together.
In a Ground’s Nir forest, the 4 meter pig-faced Iberian Orc named Boo Boo sat on a giant mushroom called a Table Shroom. He had only just returned from the surface after 2 days exploring the Labyrinth.
The silver and red haired Holy Swordswoman named Beatrice who had been on his Party smiled bitterly as she rubbed his back.
She displayed a map using fire illusion Magic.
“Look, Boo Boo. If you’re going to rest, why not get back home first?”
“But I’m so tired...”
If he wanted to, he could defeat a 1000-meter Dragon by swinging around his Shining Weapon which looked like a log or steel beam, but the Labyrinth was different.
The fluffy blond-haired White Witch named Filinion (who wore glasses and had endlessly large breasts) and the short green-haired Fighter Priest named Armelina (who was known for being tall with a flat chest) came to a stop to see what was up.
“Well, there aren’t any living creatures in the Labyrinth. Only the Gimmick contraptions and the Traps. When he can’t hunt, Boo Boo’s ravenous appetite can be a bit of a problem.”
“That’s a real problem we need to address in the future. 80% of what he carried was food, but it didn’t even last halfway.”
In addition to the Treasure, the Labyrinth (completely inexplicably) had areas with herbs growing from the floor or wall and the occasional pizza or dried meat lying around. (Had some other human dropped it?) However, that was not enough to fill a 4 meter orc’s stomach.
“We were reliant on your Mixing toward the end there, Filinion. Boo Boo might really have passed out without your Magic Meat.”
“Heh. Heh heh. I used up all my Painful Alraune, Universal Water, Transformation Branches, and even the ultra rare Protective Mistletoe, but it only made one hunk of meat... That felt like it completely ignored the principle of equivalent exchange... Eh heh heh.”
The White Witch laughed softly and fell into melancholy.
It had apparently cost enough for her shoulders to tilt diagonally and her glasses to slip down
Beatrice used her fire illusion Magic to draw a few square frames and lines in the air. Boo Boo was undeniably powerful in battle, but no matter how many times she calculated it out, his rate of food consumption was abnormally high. Getting the cost effectiveness right would be a task for a later date.
Boo Boo sat on the dirt ground and swung his thick arms.
“And those passageways are too narrow. I don’t even remember how many times my stomach got caught.”
“But you also broke right through the walls to travel straight across the floor, so I think that one cancels out.”
“Yes, yes. There is a lot we still need to get used to, but if you add it all up, I think Boo Boo ends up being a major benefit.”
“Ah, wait!!” frantically shouted Beatrice.
After all, White Witch Filinion had recovered from her desperation and started rubbing up against seated Boo Boo’s chest.
His bestial scent had to be powerful, but the glasses girl did not seem to mind.
“Ahh, it’s a relief to have such a strong shield or tank or whatever. Beatrice and Armelina are supposed to be the vanguard, but they’re so obsessed with fighting that they never listen when I tell them to protect their rear guard healer. I’ve always been left alone as I try to Mix things. But now we finally have a solid wall who is enough of a gentleman to worry about the rear guard!!”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll protect you next time, so get away from Boo Boo!”
“Beatrice, if you get anywhere near me when you’re going all out, you’ll probably accidentally blow me to smithereens, so no thank you. Boo Boo is so much more reliable because he only uses physical attacks without any Magic at all.”
“You’re the type that latches onto anyone useful and gets as much out of them as you can, aren’t you? What a pain. You’re like a slot machine bonus round that can’t actually be won.”
They continued their lunchtime restroom talk while walking down the forest path. They were headed to Boo Boo’s house in the mountain instead of the inn town which had been built for short lodging or the exchange of information and materials.
Boo Boo’s house was not particularly close to the Labyrinth’s entrance, but they had a simple reason to go out of their way to visit.
“Under Lake 31 had a largescale exploration plan, so...yeah, they’ll definitely be there.”
“There’s an underground profession known as loot robbers who attack people who are exhausted after returning. They’ll be waiting at the entrance to the inn town or in front of the medical, lodging, or Mixing shops. Having you with us has honestly been a lot of help, Boo Boo.”
Boo Boo’s house acted as a second home for them and it had an ideal location near a river but far enough away to not get caught in any flooding. It was really more of a tent with a triangular silhouette made from large tropical leaves, but it was quite large since it had to contain all of 4m Boo Boo’s tossing and turning at night.
And before entering that tent-like house, Beatrice noticed something and came to a stop.
“Huh? There are a lot less vegetables in the garden.”
An area of ground was separated out with a simple fence alongside the house. It should have contained all sorts of colorful fruits only seen in Ground’s Nir, but it was clearly missing something. About half of it was gone.
White Witch Filinion, the guidebook obsessed Mixing expert, looked shocked.
“Oh, wow... You have everything from the all-purpose Molasses Grass and Nyandetta Fruit to the Joyful Belladonna, the Angry Digitalis, and the Sorrowful Sage!! None of this can be grown at the inn town, so you shouldn’t be able to get it without delving into the Flask Flower Garden which overlaps a Break News territory!!”
Hm? Is this stuff really that amazing? wondered Beatrice. She only knew that it included Flat Chest Eggplant, the nemesis of all teenage girls.
Boo Boo did not seem to understand either.
“I don’t really like vegetables much, so I don’t remember what kinds I have or how many.”
“Why do you even have a garden?”
Fighter Priest Armelina looked exasperated.
“It would be such a shame to eat these~ [omission] ~bla bla bla~ [omission] ~All of these herbs start with what we call the All-Purpose Seed and the environmental factors like the soil and water determine which of countless flowers those identical seeds grow into. But when people try to grow them, they end up no better than weeds~ [omission] ~bla bla bla~ [omission] ~So what I’m trying to say is, do you mind if I take these!? Pant, pant!!”
They decided to ignore Filinion as she got all worked up and her glasses fogged over.
“But, Boo Boo, you don’t want people stealing the vegetables you worked to grow, do you?”
“That is how nature works, so it can’t be helped. And the animals that eat the vegetables here will grow and eventually fill my stomach, so it all works out in the end.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure the circle is quite that perfect,” said Armelina.
That was when a new face appeared.
It looked like a girl of about 10 with long silver hair, but she was actually the girl-type Break News named Sutriona. Her only clothing was the black ribbons wrapped around her body, a miniskirt, and the large flower decorations on either side of her head and on her back, so the outfit could be called a ribbon dress. The ribbon dress had been sewn by palm-sized Fairies from the silk of the Ground Spider, so the skirt bloomed like a living flower and the cloth mysteriously moved just enough to keep anyone from seeing up her skirt no matter how vigorously she moved around.
“Oh, so you’re back, Boo Boo! Since you’re home, hurry up and make me some food. I’m so sick of the food my caretaker shrine maidens make. I’m in the mood for one of your super wild roasts!!”
The humans’ all gave her suspicious looks and Boo Boo alone remained puzzled, so the paradox with a soul flinched back.
“Wh-what? Why are you all looking at me like I’m a thief?”
“I can’t think of a better suspect for the one arrogantly swiping Boo Boo’s food while he was gone.”
It was kind Boo Boo who helped her out.
“Stop it, everyone. If she was hungry, then it can’t be helped. I don’t care about the vegetables in the garden. Even if Sutriona ate them, it was only a part of nature, so we can’t blame her for it.”
That was the finishing blow.
Sutriona was viewed as something like a god in how she was revered and longed after as the fairy queen, but she finally caught on when she saw the sad state of the garden.
“Wait! Wait just a second!! It wasn’t me. The only plants I’ll pick and eat are Crimson Heaven Flowers. I rarely eat vegetables, so I would have no reason to steal them!”
“I don’t really like vegetables either.” i𝙣𝐧r𝑒𝘢𝒅． 𝚌𝚘m
“You two, let’s find time later for some intense training to overcome that dislike.”
Boo Boo and Sutriona trembled at Beatrice’s frightening announcement, but they had not forgotten the main point at hand.
“Look! There are footprints in the garden dirt. Do you see that kind of paw pads on my feet!? See, it wasn’t me!”
“Hmm, they look like cat prints.”
Filinion was relaxed and Armelina cut in from the side.
“No, wait. The vegetable stalks here were clearly cut with some kind of blade. Would a cat or dog use that kind of tool? And do pure cats even exist in Ground’s Nir???”
“Sutriona says she likes to go around the inn town pretending to be human, so she probably heard someone talking about cats and faked it.”
Everyone but Boo Boo gave the fairy queen suspicious looks.
Generally, the circumstances were not taken into account when it came to clever intellectual crimes.
Sutriona lowered her head and trembled as her voice spilled from her lips.
When she raised her head, that voice grew in volume like a volcanic eruption.
“It wasn’t me!! I really didn’t steal it! I didn’t, I didn’t! But you’re all acting like I did!! Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!”
Something pierced Beatrice and the others’ chests.
Given how she looked (even if she was actually untold centuries or millennia old), these things could do more damage than made any logical sense.
“Boo. Beatrice, Sutriona, and everyone else needs to calm down.”
“But!! Hic, but those three are being mean!!”
“I don’t mind that I don’t have as many vegetables.”
“That kind look means you don’t believe me, doesn’t it!? Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
She may have been the type who was willing to take on all the world’s hatred and malice but then felt horribly betrayed if someone she had decided to trust began suspecting her.
That said, the tears streaming down the childlike face had not actually cleared their suspicions. On the other hand, proving that Sutriona had not stolen any of the vegetables could easily turn into the devil’s proof.
There was only one expedient way of settling this.
“It would be fastest to catch the real culprit ourselves.”
“Sob, hic. V-very well!! As the Queen of the Harlots and the summoner of the Sandstorm of Red Madness that burns through people’s sanity, I will do everything I can to make them pay for framing me!!”
“Wait, wait, you damn paradox. Are you trying to turn Boo Boo’s garden into a toxic bog?”
It was clear that they could not let Sutriona handle this task and Boo Boo was too large to easily keep watch in secret. But this would probably take a while, so Beatrice and the others were also a poor choice since they could only stay in Ground’s Nir for a few days.
The red Holy Swordswoman crossed her arms, thought, and used lines of fire illusion Magic to connect the frames for Boo Boo’s garden, Sutriona, and the culprit.
“Let’s set a trap.”
“I’m no good with detailed work,” said Boo Boo. “Whenever I try to make a pitfall to catch an animal, I fall in it myself.”
“This won’t be that difficult. ...Cow, as a Mixing specialist, you must’ve brought ‘that’ with you. Take it all out.”
“Eh? By ‘that’, you, um, don’t mean that, do you?”
Beatrice added Filinion to her diagram and made a coldhearted announcement.
“I’m talking about the Mandragora seedlings. The ones that scream when you pull them from the dirt and remove the souls of everything around them. Add some of those into the garden and it’ll knock out the culprit.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait! Those are rare, you know? Ultra miracle rare! They’re a miracle!! A miracle with ultra added to it! Since you don’t seem to get it, I’ll put it so even an idiot can understand: Most of the medicinal plants used for Mixing come from this really pain-in-the-ass thing called the All-Purpose Seed, and growing them like normal leaves you with nothing but weeds! But when you have them as seedlings like this, it means you know they’ll grow into Mandragoras no matter what, so they’re exorbitantly expensive and I can’t possibly waste them on something like this! I don’t care if you have to bury everything but my head in the dirt, but isn’t there any other way!?”
“Ah, I know where this is going... You’re going to use Miss Sutriona’s strength to force me to do it, aren’t you? But that’s not going to work this time! Deeeeeefense!! Deeeeeefenvarlmgchah!!!???”
A feminine scream echoed across the mountain.
Just to be safe, Beatrice had wadding in her ears instead of earplugs, so she only knew something had happened because of the unnatural ripples formed by the vibration of the water in the water jug.
“That was fast.”
Beatrice pulled the wadding from her ears and stuck her head out of the leaf house.
“Yes, they hit them right away.”
Several small figures were collapsed on their backs in the garden. They all held what looked like lewd carrots with the end split into two. However, these were clearly not humans. They were about half Beatrice’s height, they were covered in soft-looking fur, and they had cat faces.
It may have been a trait of their species, but they were all wearing tiny maid uniforms for some reason.
“Those are Cat Sith. They’re called cat fairies and you don’t see them very often.”
The Fighter Priest who was surprisingly fond of cute things spoke up wildly.
“But that’s odd... They’re supposed to live in the trees in the southern forest, which is a mangrove-like place, so you don’t often see them in this area...”
They were more or less cats that walked on their hind legs like humans. They used tools like normal and they were carrying primitive spears made by attaching a sharp shard of pottery to the end of a stick.
Armelina introduced them.
“It’s salt. The southern forest has a very high salt content due to a few geysers that spray out Diamond Salt. That salt is actually stronger than your average stone, so they make all their houses and ships out of it. ...And I hear all their signature dishes are things like vegetables pickled in salt or meat cooked in salt.”
Then Sutriona grew angry with them.
She clung to Boo Boo’s giant body like she was riding on his shoulders and she wrapped her arms and legs around his head like it was a giant round cushion. She supposedly did not wear any underwear, but that did not seem to matter to her.
“See? It wasn’t me! Boo Boo, what are you going to do about this failure!?”
“Boo. I’ll give you some Dew Tea later, so can you cheer up?”
“Do I look that much like a shameless starving character!? Bite, bite!!”
“Ow, ow! I’ll apologize, so stop eating my head!!”
Meanwhile, the glasses girl who had lost all of her Mandragora seedlings had grown all gray and dried out.
“Heh, heh hee hee hee. By the way, what are we going to do about these Cat Sith?”
“I don’t really want to eat them,” said Boo Boo. “They don’t have much meat and don’t look tasty.”
At that very moment, the Cat Sith unsteadily but frantically got up, perhaps due to the mention of eating them. But the damage had left the stuffed animal maids too weak to flee.
“Oh, no! We’re going to be eaten!? There’s nothing we can do against a terribly cruel Iberian Orc!!”
“That’s why I said this was a bad idea! This is the Dragon Eater who can make a meal of a Dragon. We’ll just be a tiny snack if he catches us!! Like a guy’s home cooking!!”
The thieves grew fierce, but Beatrice smiled at them.
Yes, when she saw a puppy, a kitten, or anything else that acted like they deserved love because of how cute they were, she only found them impudent!
So the girl made a smiling suggestion.
“Don’t worry, Boo Boo. Even if they don’t have much meat, you can increase the volume and sumptuousness by cutting open their bellies and filling them with mushrooms and herbs before cooking them. Fire is my specialty, so you can leave that to me.”
The cat fairies collapsed and just about wet themselves, so they began earnestly begging for their lives while shaking with fear. They suddenly grew much more polite.
“B-but we had no choice. We never would have visited the Dragon Eater’s forest otherwise. This was the only way we could survive!”
“I haven’t heard anything about a lack of food around here. Is the southern forest having trouble?”
“I-if we only had to eat and sleep like normal, we would be just fine,” said one of the Cat Sith. “But the offering to the Break News has put such a great burden on us that we had to start fighting those vile dog fairies, the Cu Sith!!”
Now, then. Things had gotten complicated.
It sounded like a long story, so they all returned to the leaf house where, for some reason, they found a dish cooked from a Bucket Ostrich Egg larger than Beatrice’s head. The entire egg had simply been wrapped in a large leaf and then cooked over a fire.
They were probably meant to all grab off pieces as they spoke. Beatrice recalled that Sutriona had asked for something “super wild” after growing tired of her shrine maidens’ food.
The dense egg had a naturally sweet aroma reminiscent of vanilla, but its umami could be increased by adding a little rock salt. If it was steamed, it would likely become a pudding-like dessert. It was quite good, but a girl would have to work up some courage to eat something that large on her own. That was why Beatrice and the others were so excited to have a chance to eat it together.
But there was a reason they could do that.
“Oh! If I’d asked that Fairy that hangs around this house, I could have cleared all suspicion against me right away!! Curse Meridiana. She had to have been somewhere nearby!!”
“That palm-sized girl isn’t going to show up in front of people. We dealt with her a bit during the Thousand Dragon stuff, but it’s not like she actually got over her shyness.”
As Sutriona had said, a palm-sized Fairy had moved into Boo Boo’s house and she had been saved by Boo Boo when she had tried to sacrifice herself to the 1000 meter Thousand Dragon. Fairy blood could apparently intoxicate a giant Dragon, so it had a habit of eating them.
But that aside, Beatrice split up the dessert egg, placed the portions on large leaves, and stopped talking. Then everyone focused on a single point: the Cat Sith maids that were trying to be as small as possible.
“I have no interest in your dispute, but I must know why you have entered my territory and caused trouble here. Answer me, you damn cats. Refuse and this Break News will show you hell.”
Sutriona sounded especially displeased (and her eyes and nose were still red). She continued to cling to Boo Boo’s giant head while sitting on his shoulders and the cat fairies trembled as they responded.
The issue was between the Cat Sith and the Cu Sith.
“The cat fairies and the dog fairies were originally very close because there are so many similarities between our habits and lifestyles.”
“Hm? Is that why you ended up fighting over territory and feeding grounds?” asked the Fighter Priest while rudely sitting cross-legged.
But the cats shook a hand (or front paw?) in front of their faces.
“No, that isn’t it. In a way, this is a much more serious problem.”
“The moon...or rather, its waxing and waning are incredibly important to us. It relates to the creation of salt and is also directly linked to our vitality and energy, so we use the moon to schedule when to hunt and when to stockpile.”
It had nothing to do with the issue at hand, but Beatrice was fascinated that they called that light in the night sky “the moon”. Since they used the same name, it was likely the humans who had named it.
Meanwhile, Sutriona raised an eyebrow.
“And then the problem occurred.”
Boo Boo and the humans still did not understand, so one of the Cat Sith continued.
“One of the Break News is a Vampire that freely controls lunar eclipses. Her name is Kallikantzaros.”
It was guidebook obsessed White Witch Filinion who reacted.
“Um, that’s a Break News that was only recently confirmed to be active, right? The scale is unknown, but she supposedly used a lunar eclipse and the moon’s gravitational pull to bring a high tide to the coast and produce swarms of bugs and crabs...”
“Technically, she was napping in a musty old coffin and only resumed activity recently.” Sutriona sighed. “It’s the same as a swarm of bugs. Any plant or animal affected by the moon’s gravitational pull is influenced by Kallikantzaros. Including the instincts at the foundation of their minds. The Cat Sith and Cu Sith are no exception.”
“What does that mean?” asked Boo Boo. “I don’t really get it.”
“It means whether they feel happy or sad can be manipulated by someone else, Boo Boo.”
They could see the problem now.
But that would mean the Cat Sith and Cu Sith should join together to challenge the Break News, so why would the cat fairies and dog fairies be fighting each other?
“We are no match for the Break News.”
“So the Cat Sith and Cu Sith worked toward our common interest by creating a salt altar in the southern forest. We made lots of offerings to Kallikantzaros so she would not cause a lunar eclipse.”
The situation had changed.
Beatrice’s face clouded over as she managed the information in her midair collection of frames and lines.
“But the lazy Cu Sith failed to make their offerings. And yet we promised to alternate which one of us left salted meat and salt pickled fruits on the altar to avoid placing too great a burden on any one of us!”
“So Kallikantzaros has continued her lunar eclipse control and we have received no rest. If the Cu Sith do not change their ways, we will be stuck like this forever! We don’t want to steal crops, but they’re forcing our hand!!”
The maid cat fairies were angry, but they were unlikely to target Boo Boo’s garden again anytime soon. Once Beatrice told them they were free to go, they bowed and left the leaf house.
They carried their spears with them.
They were intent on settling things with the similar Cu Sith dog fairies.
The first one to speak was Fairy Queen Sutriona.
“Now, what do you think?”
“This is too complicated for me,” said Boo Boo.
“I think there has been some damage caused by this lunar eclipse controlling vampire named Kallikantzaros.” Beatrice rubbed her slender chin. “But would a Break News really care about the people below them? I know the Thousand Dragon had an altar, but wasn’t that 1000 meter dragon king impossible to speak with and weren’t the self-proclaimed priests beaten to a pulp?”
That was how it was supposed to work with the Break News. It was rare to be able to speak with them like with Sutriona. Both on the language front and the shared values front.
“For me, it depends on my territory. If Kallikantzaros causes trouble in my territory now that she’s woken up, I’ll put her back to sleep forever, but otherwise I won’t touch this. What about you, humans?”
Beatrice, Filinion, and Armelina exchanged a glance.
“Well, the thing about that is...”
“We can’t watch those stuffed animal things spill each other’s blood and we’d love to stop it, but...”
It was simple enough to say, but this would mean facing one of the Break News, the paradoxes with souls who were said to have been born of a certain environment while also producing that environment. It was like an individual saying they would stop a typhoon or sandstorm.
With his extraordinary body, Boo Boo had once defeated the Thousand Dragon to save a palm-sized Fairy from being made a living sacrifice, but not even he could defeat Sutriona who also reigned as a Break News. It was unknown where in the hierarchy Kallikantzaros fell, but it would be suicide for even those level cap adventurers to rush in without a plan.
“Fighting is bad.”
Boo Boo was the only one with even a slight chance of success.
“But the same is true with Kallikantzaros. I don’t see why we should be allowed to make her cry just because she has a lot of power.”
That was another form of justice.
He would not give into his emotions and justify violence. Other than to live and to eat, he would not allow himself to wield violence. Whether he would continue to follow his personal rule or bend that rule held great meaning and a great price.
Holy Swordswoman Beatrice slowly sighed.
“If her category is Vampire, she probably understands human language. Whether we’re going to fight or not, why don’t we start by speaking with her, Boo Boo? We might be able to get her to stop the lunar eclipse without crossing blades.”
“Right. I’m fine with that, so I’ll go with you, Beatrice.”
“Really? I feel like a Vampire would actively try to attack humans.”
Armelina sounded annoyed, but White Witch Filinion spread out her guidebook written on parchment.
“But how exactly are we supposed to contact Kallikantzaros? She’s only just resumed activity, so I’m not sure what the range of that activity is.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem.”
This may have been an old acquaintance because Sutriona readily took over.
“She’s always been stubborn about the weirdest things. Or you could say she has strange habits, so meeting her will probably be a real pain in the ass.”
She concluded with a rather ominous comment.
“...I have a question.”
Beatrice sounded like she was cursing the world while walking on one of the roads away from the inn town.
It was early evening and some people were eating an early dinner, but this group was walking through a dark mangrove.
It was a different sort of fantastical than the forest around Boo Boo’s leaf house.
There was seawater below them and tropical-looking trees up above. Beatrice and the others were walking on a narrow bridge made of whitish stone that seemed to continue forever at about a meter above the water. Countless bridges connected together like a spider web and their path sparkled as it reflected the moonlight.
The pale light came from both the bridges and the branches overhead. In addition to the white bridges crossing over at a higher level, there were a lot of beautiful white cubes measuring at a meter or two across.
Those were the Cat Sith and Cu Sith’s homes. Those creatures were salt craftsmen who cut out the Diamond Salt hardened around the geysers to make houses, boats, or whatever else. The bridges Beatrice and the others walked on had been built up over a long period of time.
Along with the sound of small waves, a few white lights were moving within the darkness, but this was not a paranormal phenomenon. In Ground’s Nir, it was common for people to pick large white flowers known as Lantern Plants, twist their stamen to make them glow, and carry them around like lanterns at night. The light had apparently originally been a way of gathering bugs to carry their pollen.
Despite the fantastical nightscape, Armelina was rubbing her temple while looking like she had woken up in the morning with menstrual cramps and she replied to Beatrice’s question.
“Don’t say it. We all think it’s ridiculous.”
“Why are we wearing swimsuits!? Why is this the requirement for meeting Kallikantzaros!?”
“I said not to say it! How can she call this disarmament!? There has got to be a better way of sealing the Percentage-type Magic that takes the form of our clothes!!”
While they yelled atop the Diamond Salt bridge, the two of them were equipped with the Girl’s Swimsuit, an item entirely unnecessary for exploring the Labyrinth. Specifically, Beatrice wore a red bikini with translucent lace over it and Armelina wore a modified white one piece swimsuit. ...However, this was an alternate world with no means of creating petrochemical products, so it was doubtful these had any defenses against growing see-through when wet.
Armelina made a gesture like she was messing with the temple of an imaginary pair of glasses.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the swordswoman went with a bikini. And boob armor when you have no boobs? Have you no shame?”
“And I bet you added that fluffy lace over the bikini itself to give the illusion of greater volume.”
“I have more than average!! And Armelina, don’t you feel like you’ve lost something important as a human being now that you can’t hide your flaaat chest? Oh ho ho ho ho.”
“Ahh!? You wanna fight!?”
“You’re the one that picked a fight with me!!!!!”
Meanwhile, Filinion (the biggest one of all) remained calm.
The 4 meter Orc tilted his head, so the glasses girl quietly began her commentary.
“In human society, your rank is determined by your chest size. How boring.”
“Really? Then I’m the biggest one!”
“Yes, you are. Eh heh heh.”
As Filinion spoke with Boo Boo, she also observed the other plants and the things that looked like hermit crab ghosts growing from the surface of the mangrove trees.
“The Nun who made the swimsuits for us is apparently an expert at Appraisal rather than Mixing. A lot of craftsmen know her, so she introduces a lot of jobs to people and even I have used that to make a little money.”
“Ridiculous! Curse that Nun for selling entertainment Mixing items. The only upside is that she promises to use the Experience Point filled Gimmick gears for an emergency reserve!!”
Armelina had steam rising from her head (and had her back mostly bared), but the glasses girl had recovered quite quickly from losing her Mandragora seedlings. There was a simple reason for that:
“Boo. I can’t eat all of the vegetables in my garden, so you all can take any you want.”
That announcement had been a joyous reward for a Mixing expert. Beatrice and Armelina had not really seen the value in it, but it had been a treasure trove to Filinion.
“Um, one other thing. This southern forest is a hotbed for blood-sucking animals like giant ticks, fleas, leeches, eels, and bats. They react to human Magic and attack as a group. One theory for why the Cat Sith houses are made from Diamond Salt is because it keeps the blood-sucking animals out. Of course, this might be a defense mechanism set up by a human-hating Vampire who can control the moon’s gravitational pull and thus manipulate the surrounding animals.”
“Wait, glasses girl who isn’t actually all that smart.”
“Beatrice, I feel like you haven’t been treating me with much respect lately!”
The fluffy-haired glasses girl shed some tears saltier than the seawater, but the Holy Swordswoman only glared at her with dead eyes.
“You claim you didn’t get those giant boobs on purpose, but you’re definitely posing right now. And why would you choose a cow-print bikini, you Holstein breed!? Even the knee socks are cow print!!”
“Th-this was the only one in my size, so I had no choice! Curse that Nun... I would have loved to have your range of selection! I’m so jealous!!”
“Oh!? Then let’s chop those things off and cook them as yakiniku!!”
“Oh!? Then let’s chop those things off and cook them as yakiniku!!”
Due to that, the Holy Swordswoman could not call up her map like usual. This must have made her uncomfortable because she would occasionally fidget and either mess with the bikini’s knots or adjust the bottom.
Boo Boo alone gave them a puzzled look as the salt bridge creaked (a concerning amount) below him.
“Boo... I don’t really get what a swimsuit is. Why am I fine like this?”
“W-well, you can’t use Magic, so you don’t need a swimsuit to prove you’re disarmed.”
Not to mention that he always wore a loincloth and nothing else, so the Holy Swordswoman gave him a mature smile. She did not want to imagine that 4 meter body wearing a bikini or one piece swimsuit.
(Although he’s really cute on the inside.)
Even now, Boo Boo was holding up the glowing flower of a Lantern Plant to illuminate the dark mangrove. A closer look showed his large round shoulders were trembling.
“Boo Boo, are you still scared of ghosts?”
“All ghosts are really angry, so they scare me. I wish everyone could smile more.”
“I think all those ghosts are weeded out because they can rest in peace.”
With a mechanical beep, a red light appeared beyond the trees and ocean surface.
Boo Boo jumped straight up (and nearly broke the bridge when he landed).
“Squeal!? Something just glowed!”
“Someone on earth failed their Sign In. We got a warning. That’s what happens when your smartphone signal is interrupted when you’re waiting for approval. The detailed error log will fill up all the empty space, so it’s a huge pain.”
“Since it’s getting dark, it might be best to get to sleep.”
While they discussed that, Fighter Priest Armelina rested her metal staff Shining Weapon on her shoulder.
“But if she wants to disarm us, wouldn’t it be faster to take these from us?”
“The Shining Weapons are like our lifelines, so no one would agree to that. Negotiations are about finding a compromise. Either way, we can’t use our Command-style Magic without the Parameter-style to go with it. We’re unarmed and about the same as normal humans, so we need to be careful.”
“That’s why I’m glad we have this mass of pure physical strength so close by. We’re up against a Break News and we might not actually be able to defeat her, but we might get enough of an opening to escape.”
And as they said that, the White Witch in the insane cow print bikini shook the cowbell around her neck while rubbing up against Boo Boo’s giant body.
“Yes, we need Boo Boo to protect us right now. Yes! We finally have a realistic shot at the ideal situation for a healer, which is how it should have been in the first place!!”
“Ah! Wait, cow!! Don’t cling to Boo Boo dressed like that!!”
Meanwhile, Boo Boo tilted his head on the bridge as if he did not understand his situation here.
“A perfect meat shield. A one-man vanguard. And I remain unharmed even if I’m only a burden. Everything about it is perfect! It’s like a dream! I will leave everything to you, Boo Boo!!”
“I said get away from Boo Boo!!”
In her fancy dress-like white swimsuit, Armelina listened to the cowbell and calmly observed the situation.
The White Witch was clinging to the Iberian Orc and shaking her head back and forth, but Armelina figured she was tripping a bit after experiencing the intense bestial from so close.
“I don’t like fighting, but I’ll do what I can to protect all of you from fights. Humans don’t have fur and your skin is soft, so be careful.”
“That’s right, that’s right! You don’t need a berserker that only thinks about attacking for your vanguard! I wanted someone who would focus on defense!! Kyah! Boo Boo, you’re just perfect☆”
“And you can keep giving me more of the rare Mixing materials that all the supposedly intellectual old men in the inn town said were impossible to cultivate. I just...I have no words! I just have to stay by your side and I don’t have to worry about battles or procuring materials! It’s a dream come true!!”
She’s definitely going to make yakiniku, mincemeat, or a roast out of those things, thought Armelina with a distant look in her eyes. If the bridge breaks, I can jump to a nearby tree, but what happens if the entire mangrove is set on fire?
Half worried and half excited, she once more turned toward Beatrice.
Holy Swordswoman Beatrice was biting her lip and trembling.
But what happened next was truly unexpected.
It was Armelina in the audience who noticed first.
“She’s crying!? She wilted instead of exploding!?”
“Boo? What is it, Beatrice? Does your stomach hurt?”
She must not have wanted the 4 meter Orc to see her cry because Beatrice covered her face with her hands and curled up. But instead of reducing the confusion, she shouted back an incomplete answer.
“It’s your fault, Boo Boo!!”
“Squeal!? Beatrice, I don’t want to see you cry. If I did anything wrong, I’ll fix it, so tell me what it is!”
“It’s because...! It’s because you...!!”
She was trying to say that he had Cow Bikini Filinion clinging to him in ecstasy (over finding the kind of position she had always wanted), but since that would mean she had lost control of her emotions, her pride would not allow her to say so. If she had used her frames and lines to put the information in order, it might have destroyed her mentally.
Armelina commented in a daze.
“Y’know, I could have sworn we were on an almost certainly deadly mission to visit a Break News while unarmed...”
The image around her was mostly chaos.
After pointing back and forth between Boo Boo and Filinion’s faces, hitting dense Boo Boo’s calf with a low kick, and sobbing, the representative member of the level cap adventurers ultimately found herself on Boo Boo’s back.
No, instead of riding on his back, she rode on his shoulders while using his giant pig head as a cushion. After all, his back was too big to wrap her legs around!
Her level of intelligence was the same as Sutriona’s.
After calming down a fair bit, Filinion asked another question.
“Um, is there some kind of rule saying any crying girl in Ground’s Nir is sucked in toward Boo Boo’s head? So is that eventually going to happen to us too?”
Beatrice was in a fairly dangerous position (and she realized using his head like a round cushion pressed various parts of her body against him and rested her breasts on top of his head), but she ignored how her own head nearly hit the occasional tunnel of trees as she pointed down at Filinion and Armelina on the ground.
“New rule! No clinging to Boo Boo when you have more than 50% of your skin exposed. Got that!?”
“Eh!? Why am I part of this too!?”
“Boo Boo, no cheating on me! And I mean that in every way!!”
“I don’t even know what cheating on you means, so what am I supposed to do?”
“You don’t need to know that!! Wahhhh!!”
“Beatrice, I feel like you were more mature before. You weren’t such a crybaby.”
Boo Boo walked onward while tilting his head.
As Filinion and Armelina followed in their swimsuits, they finally spoke up.
“I feel like I’m getting worn out faster than usual.”
“Oh, your physical strength has probably dropped without the Percentage-type reinforcing it. Think about it. You wouldn’t normally go on a trip in sandals or mules, would you?”
“I’m still not letting you ride on Boo Boo! I’ll never allow it!!”
No one was hoping for that, but she still drove the point home.
The tunnel of trees overhead began to shake up ahead.
Some small figures were dropping down. They were half as tall as a human, looked like bipedal dogs and cats, and could clearly speak.
It was the Cat Sith cat fairies and the Cu Sith dog fairies.
The kitties were dressed as maids and the puppies were dressed as butlers.
They were barking and meowing while skillfully rolling across the white bridge, but they were clearly grappling with each other. Plus, they were not unarmed. The blades were only sharp shards of Diamond Salt attached to sticks, but the Cat Sith had spears and the Cu Sith had axes.
They had not been refined, but that would only make the wound and pain last longer.
“We must settle this! You underhanded cowards held off on your donations to give yourselves a better future. Did you think you immoral lot had any hope of victory here!?”
“Nonsense. The burden of our offerings to the Break News was 50/50? You forced that onto us without even thinking about our comparative situations, but when we ignore that, you think you have the right to attack us? Don’t make me laugh. We have no reason to compromise and we will teach you first-hand what it is you properly deserve!”
Boo Boo and the others did not have time to call out to them.
As the small and round group jumped to the trees and scrambled up to the higher bridges, the sounds of the struggle faded into the distance.
But something did remain.
There were red drips visible here and there on the white bridge over the ocean.
“This has gone beyond a joke. The Cat Sith and Cu Sith have slowly lost control and gone beyond a simple skirmish.”
“Boo. Should we chase after them to stop them?”
“If we tried to stop every little fight, we would never see the end of it. And if we climbed up into the branches, they would probably break. Not to mention that they’d start up again when we weren’t looking even if we did stop them. If we’re really going to stop this, we need to cut off the source of their fear and confusion.”
Boo Boo looked worriedly into the forest and then started walking toward their destination once more.
They were on their way to Kallikantzaros, the Vampire who controlled lunar eclipses.
The moon shined brightly on the beach.
They were on a point of land that stuck out of Ground’s Nir’s southern forest. The seawater covering the mangrove seemed to avoid this beach in a Y-shape. Fine white sand covered the coast and a giant wooden ship had run aground like a beached whale. The ghost ship had been abandoned for so long that it was damaged and falling apart. The words Next Voyager had just about faded from the side of the ship.
“I hear that’s the last remnant of a project meant to find other land beyond the ocean,” said Cow Print Bikini White Witch Filinion as she looked up at the ship.
They had thrown out the Lantern Plant after arriving at the beach. No matter what happened, giving away their position by carrying a light was not the best plan.
“That was before it had been medically proven that the slight differences in Ground’s Nir’s rotation, gravity, and atmosphere cause definite changes to the mind and body of anyone who stays here for long periods. The 2000 people who recklessly built the ship and set sail vanished, but the empty ship returned to the beach.”
“I see. That’s the perfect history for a Vampire’s base.”
Armelina forced a challenging tone into her voice while wearing her fancy dress swimsuit.
Boo Boo looked worried as he stared up at the rotted black shape. Was that due to the Break News there, or due to the ghost story?
It was supposedly a sea research vessel, but it looked like a clipper with a giant sail. Or perhaps like a cruise ship from an older age. That was because it had been loaded with plenty of entertainment facilities to maintain the mental health of the 2000 people living on it long term. From their outside perspective, they could see what looked like parasols sticking up from the deck. The rotted ship could no longer sail out to sea, so it had become a haunted mansion large enough to easily host a dance party.
After finally calming down, Beatrice descended from Boo Boo in her red bikini with fluffy lace. She rubbed her still-red nose and opened her mouth.
“Where do we go in? Well, if we have to climb the wall, I guess we can do that.”
“You can make freakish muscleman comments if you want, but don’t forget that we have no equipment and thus no Parameter support. You don’t want to act all smug and then fall on your ass, do you?”
After checking around, they found a boarding gangway lowered on one side. The ship’s master had not prepared it specifically for them because it seemed to have been abandoned there with the ship. It was rotting away and it seemed to have trouble under Boo Boo’s weight, but he fortunately did not break through.
They found a large pool on the deck. It even had water in it. Any smaller filth likely did not stand out in the moonlight, but it was much cleaner than Beatrice and the others had expected.
“Where is Kallikantzaros herself?”
“Ugh. 2000 people is more than a high-rise resort hotel, right? How many days would it take to check through every last one of those rooms? And we might find a Break News around any corner. Isn’t this more deadly than your average Labyrinth visit?”
But as they discussed that, the ground suddenly shook. No, the ship did.
“Wha-? Wah! Wait!?”
“Kyah!! Th-there’s nothing to hold onto!!”
The pool water tilted and flowed out like a flood. Holy Swordswoman Beatrice, White Witch Filinion, and Fighter Priest Armelina rolled down the sharply sloped deck and were dumped right into the pool. Only Boo Boo remained standing thanks to his powerful legs.
Beatrice frantically got her head above water only to have another large wave hit her in the face.
The giant ship shook again and tilted back to its original angle.
“Was that supposed to throw us into the pool?”
“Not good. This is grabbing at our legs to slow us down!!”
Beatrice and the other two had changed into swimsuits, so they had none of the Parameter support of their clothes-shaped Magic. They were no different from the normal people walking between the gray buildings back on earth. And now they were caught in the water. They would be in real trouble if Kallikantzaros specialized in projectiles like arrows or javelins. Even if they tried to dodge, they could not escape being hit.
They naturally looked up toward the mast and lookout stand near the top, but...
“Do not fear, children of man. Your blood is not to my liking.”
They were frozen in place by a girl’s voice that rang like a small bell.
It came from right next to Boo Boo.
Boo Boo seemed unable to move.
Even he could not move a finger and that told Beatrice just how abnormal this was.
The ship’s master had appeared at some point.
She was indeed one of the Break News. The previous atmosphere was entirely uprooted by her appearance and all of the rules were rewritten with her in the center. It felt like they could no longer trust what had worked just fine in the past. It was like the most basic definitions had been rewritten by this overwhelming presence.
The girl appeared crimson in the darkness. Despite being on a beachside cruise ship, she wore what amounted to a thin red negligee. A black bikini showed through below that. Green and white fluffs were attached at points and she wore a pointed night cap, so it looked a lot like a Santa Claus outfit with a skirt. She had long reddish-blonde hair and the ends curled inwards, so its great volume looked like a wide spread triangle. The bangs were cut in a perfectly straight line and she looked to be more than a head shorter than Beatrice.
But after meeting Fairy Queen Sutriona, they knew they could not rely on her appearance.
(She reminds me a lot of Sutriona. Is there some kind of connection between them???)
But there was one major difference with this girl whose gloved fingertips toyed with a stuffed piglet doll.
Her breasts alone were quite large.
“(Uuh!? I lose to her...?)”
“(Not that winning would make me exactly happy.)”
“(I wasn’t even looking for a competition! Dammit!!)”
The girls in the water each had their own reaction.
Meanwhile, the 4 meter Orc spoke even though he still could not turn around.
“Squeal... We are here to speak with you.”
“I do not mind. It would seem the humans actually followed the dress code and I am not so short-tempered that I would throw out guests who made a point of being respectful and polite. Besides, I would never have allowed you onboard otherwise. As the Vampire who controls lunar eclipses, I could use the moon’s gravitational pull to bring an extraordinarily large wave to cover all of Ground’s Nir or I could cover the land with a giant swarm of crabs or insects.”
That may have been why Kallikantzaros used the rotted ship as her fortress. If she went all out, the entire island would be wiped off the map. Everything but the buoyant ship would be washed away and sink to the bottom of the ocean, so she had chosen to remain on the inconvenient-looking grounded ship.
That was the scale at which the Break News thought.
The gorgeous Vampire laughed and whispered to them.
“But it has been awhile since I saw such a powerful life force. It almost feels nostalgic.”
“I said human blood is not to my liking, did I not? I felt faint when I heard the entire Iberian Orc village had been wiped out. You see, I am a Vampire that can only create subordinates from them. It might not be much, but I am very fortunate to find this proper bloodline.”
“!!!!!! Boo Boo, run away!!”
Red Bikini Beatrice frantically yelled up at him, but she could not use a single Command-style Magic right now. The pool water seemed to grab at her, so she could not even climb up onto the deck.
But surprisingly, Kallikantzaros did not do anything more.
She did not sink her fangs into or even lay a finger on Boo Boo. Instead, she simply gave them a bewitching smile.
“Do not worry. I will not devour him right away. This might be the very last one and I do not want to be the one that drives them extinct. My lifespan is long, so the wise choice would be to wait a century or two and resume hunting once their numbers have recovered.”
No matter what happened, she was not friendly and this place was not safe.
This was a much purer threat than the Thousand Dragon or Sutriona.
“There is no need to be so tense, humans.” The Vampire’s voice was calm. “In fact, the current situation is on your side. You are essentially hiding behind the most effective hostage you could hope for. So relax and tell me what it is you want.”
She was treating Boo Boo like a frail hostage.
That alone was enough for Beatrice to feel faint.
Meanwhile, Kallikantzaros was arrogance itself. She ignored the specimen of a nearly extinct species and walked to one of the parasols on the deck.
She threw herself onto a beach chair, placed the piglet doll on her stomach, and crossed her legs.
“But, humans, you must remain in the pool as you relax. If you climb onto the deck before I leave, I will see it as a hostile act and launch a merciless attack.”
Holy Swordswoman Beatrice could not see the logic of that request, so she gave voice to her confusion.
“Because your specialty fields are gravitational manipulation and water?”
“It is simpler than that.”
Kallikantzaros narrowed her eyes a little as she lay in the beach chair while wearing nightwear.
Her eyes alone were not smiling.
“I will not underestimate humans. I am aware you have a long history of thinking up means of killing and destroying ‘beings much like us’. Most of it is nonsense, but there are some truly troublesome methods mixed in. So the best way to handle humans is to keep them from moving and remove every card in their hand.”
Was she referring to vampire hunters?
It was unclear how much truth there was to any of that, but it had yet to be proven that the vampires spoken of by those supposed hunters were the same as this race in Ground’s Nir. Beatrice would not expect to see any change to Kallikantzaros if someone held garlic up to her.
Then Boo Boo spoke while looking at his natural predator.
“I don’t get all this complicated stuff, but are you saying you’ll hear us out?”
“I will allow you to speak. So out with it.”
Boo Boo nodded once and began his explanation.
He explained how her power to control lunar eclipses was messing with the emotions of the Cat Sith and Cu Sith and how that was causing them problems.
He explained how they had created an altar to her and that they had tried to calm her by taking turns making offerings, but the burden of those offerings had led to conflict.
He explained how the conflict had gone beyond mere fights and there was a fear it would pass the point of no return before long.
After listening to it all, Kallikantzaros tilted her head like it was none of her concern.
Boo Boo shook his hands.
“If you reduce the amount of meat and vegetables, the Cat Sith and Cu Sith won’t have so much trouble preparing it all and they shouldn’t be quite so on edge. Can’t you do something?”
“Or you could just stop manipulating the moon’s gravitational pull so much...” added Beatrice from the center of the full moon’s reflection in the water.
“I don’t know anything about that.”
“I have never heard of this altar the Cat Sith and Cu Sith have supposedly constructed.”
“What!? W-wait a second. Then why are the puppies and kitties fighting!?”
Fighter Priest Armelina could not restrain herself, but the red Vampire waved a hand in annoyance.
“I understand why they might want to make requests to a paradox with a soul, but isn’t it terribly conceited to think you can have 100% control over me, humans?”
“I have no idea how many shrines and altars there are to worship or request things of me. I have no interest in it and I am not obligated to listen. I reject all offerings and prayers on general principle. So I am not involved in this conflict between the Cat Sith and Cu Sith.”
Cow Print Bikini White Witch Filinion and Fancy White Dress Swimsuit Fighter Priest Armelina exchanged a glance in the moonlit pool.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying? The Cat Sith and Cu Sith only think they’re offering these things to a Break News?”
“This could be bad if that altar is inside the forest. Birds and wild animals might be stealing all of the offerings.”
In her beach chair, Kallikantzaros did not seem moved to positive or negative emotion.
She was truly not interested.
“But if you speak to them, I think those cats and dogs will stop fighting.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you’re causing all of this in the first place!”
Red Bikini Beatrice looked like she had a light headache, but the Vampire was entirely unfazed.
“Then you tell them I will not change to suit their needs. Tell them they must change to suit my needs. I am a paradox, so I have no room for logical arguments. Besides, I expect they are only blaming the moon for all of their negative emotions.”
They were at an impasse.
Kallikantzaros had no interest in some creatures she had never met. And to a Break News who lived alone on a ghost ship, the category of strangers was a large one. Even when she had discussed the destruction of Boo Boo’s village, she had not shown any actual emotion.
But as Beatrice thought about that, things took an unexpected turn.
“And I am making this choice for your sakes.”
“Look to the sky and you will understand. The winds have changed. A Break News besides me has been wandering around lately, but perhaps that is due to the battle between the Cat Sith and Cu Sith. If so, one of them other than me will likely intervene soon. If I join in now, we will have a fight between paradoxes on our hands. Does an endless desert or an ice age frighten you more? Those would be the choices in that battle, human.”
Even in the pool, Holy Swordswoman Beatrice definitely felt her pores opening and sweat seeping out.
This was bad. Every single one of the Break News was extraordinary and unmatched, but a clash between more than one would go beyond unpredictable. The inn town could be destroyed and the exploration of the Labyrinth could be severely delayed. In fact, Ground’s Nir itself could sink to the bottom of the ocean.
Then the cow print bikini White Witch hesitantly spoke up with a more optimistic opinion.
“Which Break News is it? Oh, could it be Miss Sutriona?”
But that hope was dashed.
A paradox with a soul would never be on their side.
“No, it is another. Didn’t I say you would understand if you looked to the sky?”
Meanwhile, Fairy Queen Sutriona stood in a position more than 2000 meters removed from the Next Voyager washed up on the dark beach.
However, this distance was not one that could be measured on the map.
She was in the moonlit sky.
“Hmm, it would seem I won’t be needed.”
The girl with long silver hair and a black ribbon dress held a collapsible telescope. She used it like a pirate from an older era, but she had of course bought it while pretending to be human in the inn town.
The palm-sized Fairy named Meridiana was flying nearby.
“What happened to Boo Boo and the others? Are they really all right?”
“I said I won’t be needed.”
There were a few different reasons she had not gone with Boo Boo’s group. For example, if they were all in one place, no one would be left to rescue them if Kallikantzaros made a surprise attack, so they could be wiped out all at once.
“But why are you sneaking around? Did you actually want to go with them, Lady Sutriona?”
“Hmph. I don’t mind helping them out, but I can’t have them assuming I will. Human souls are easily corrupted, so they would quickly grow dependent on me and stop making an effort. Only helping when they truly need it is best.”
“Fwehh. You really do care about Boo Boo, don’t you? You’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“Try not to say anything unnecessary.”
That was another of her reasons.
“...But the more fundamental reason is that I just don’t want to see her.”
“You mean Kallikantzaros? You do look a lot like.”
“I hate how everyone makes assumptions based on that. She’s nothing more than a neighborhood childhood friend, but she insists on acting all full of herself. And don’t let those giant breasts fool you; I am the older one.”
As they discussed that, a shadow appeared in the moonlight.
The two of them looked even further into the heavens to see a giant cloud covering the full moon. But this was no normal meteorological condition. It should have been a perfectly cloudless night, so there was a reason these thick clouds were ignoring that assumption. Now, what being in Ground’s Nir could call in rainclouds?
Meridiana the Fairy grew pale and her voice trembled.
She felt fear and agitation with a distinct spice of hatred and disgust.
That was hardly surprising when she had once had her life directly targeted by this Break News.
But Sutriona was unfazed.
She put her hands on her skinny hips and snorted from her nose.
“I see. So that’s what’s going on.”
The silver-haired girl looked a little perplexed as she looked up at the thick clouds.
“This is a path we all must travel, but it is an exceedingly meaningless one, my weakest fellow paradox.”
Kallikantzaros had said the clouds were changing.
Boo Boo and the others disembarked from the grounded ship. Holy Swordswoman Beatrice, White Witch Filinion, and Fighter Priest Armelina all grabbed their Shining Weapons and regained their Percentage-type Magic which formed their clothes. Those level cap adventurers had regained their level cap strength.
That was the human power that even an overwhelming paradox had made sure not to underestimate.
They too were beginning to notice the change. It was obvious once they looked up into the night sky.
“The Thousand Dragon!?” shouted the Holy Swordswoman.
That ruler of flying dragons measured more than 1000 meters long. When that Break News simply cut through the air, it would create enough of an air pressure difference to produce immense rain clouds.
Flying at low altitude was enough to bring disaster.
An incredible wind swept across the entire area with enough force to knock over the mangrove trees.
On the dark beach, the unathletic glasses girl held her hat on with one hand and asked a question while already out of breath.
“Hyah!! B-but why is it back now? I don’t understand why it would interfere in the Cat Sith and Cu Sith’s problem!!”
They moved from the beach to the forest. As they ran along the white bridges that branched out all over, the mangrove was buzzing with energy like a shaken beehive. The tiny residents had their hands full dodging the thick branches that broke off and fell. Small pots and lamps were falling from overhead, but that may have been them quickly gathering their possessions from their white cube houses. On the upper level bridges, bipedal dogs and cats were also going around dropping down handmade weapons, hitting their heads on nearby branches, and either falling onto the white salt bridges or doggy paddling across the ocean surface.
When Beatrice picked up a Cat Sith in a maid uniform that was sitting dizzily on the bridge and asked what was going on, the cat fairy shook its head and answered.
“You have to ask!? It’s back. The Thousand Dragon is back. It said it didn’t like that we had built an altar to someone else while it was away. And it won’t be satisfied until we make an even nicer altar as an offering!”
The three adventurers looked puzzled and a passing Cu Sith in a butler uniform called out to them.
“What are you doing!? You need to get out of here!”
An earthquake-like tremor passed through the ground and pillars of water made them all tremble.
The Break News had apparently made a lazy U-turn and then landed on the coast instead of in the forest.
“We’ve heard all about the Thousand Dragon. And if it’s landed, it must need something on the surface. And that means a feast! This monstrous paradox enjoys the intoxication of devouring the Fairies which are so much like us...!!”
Frantic barking and mewing filled the forest.
It was absolute pandemonium, but Boo Boo and Beatrice had trouble understanding this. The Holy Swordswoman reached toward one of the bright red hibiscus-like flowers growing directly from the trunks of the nearby trees.
“Crimson Heaven Flowers. They’ve been starving due to the offerings, but they don’t seem to be eating these.”
“Boo. They make my tongue tingle, so I normally avoid them.”
“But the Thousand Dragon’s intoxication came from the dramatic change produced when the Crimson Heaven Flower’s weak toxin is mixed with Fairy blood.”
“Yes, but.” Guidebook obsessed Filinion hesitantly spoke up. “There are Fairies, cat fairies, and dog fairies. It’s easy to view them all the same, but they’re actually completely different. Even if the Cat Sith and Cu Sith ate the Crimson Heaven Flowers, it wouldn’t cause any kind of change inside them. In fact, since they can’t break it down and accumulate it, I think they would end up as woozy as anyone else.”
“You mean the Thousand Dragon has no direct reason to attack the Cat Sith and Cu Sith?”
“Boo,” groaned the 4-meter Iberian Orc. “Regardless, I made a promise with the Thousand Dragon. I said I would be keeping an eye on it and that I wouldn’t let it kill except to live or to eat. I doubt it would be doing the same thing again.”
Then what was happening?
They found a hint in the fleeing cat fairies and dog fairies.
“This changes everything! We can’t worry about Kallikantzaros now!!”
“Oh,” said Beatrice without thinking.
She looked up at the thick clouds covering the heavens.
“Don’t tell me...!!”
“Is it trying to reset the problem by giving them something to fear even more than the Vampire? Is it using an even greater fear to end the conflict between the Cat Sith and Cu Sith?”
“Well, I suppose all war on earth would end if an army of aliens attacked while riding a giant meteorite, but why would the Thousand Dragon do that? I don’t see why it would want to play the bad guy like this!”
If the Thousand Dragon had enough of a connection to them for this, the cat fairies and dog fairies would not be panicking. If they knew each other, the Break News would try to contact them instead.
But that had not happened.
The Thousand Dragon was trying to solve this problem despite having no connection to them.
And it was putting itself at risk to do so.
Boo Boo alone fell silent.
He stared silently up at the dark and heavy night sky.
At the dark clouds.
At the rainclouds that a certain being had intentionally created.
“Have you ever heard of someone wishing they could be a hero or protect someone?”
Sutriona sounded exasperated as she floated in the night sky. Palm-sized Fairy Meridiana seemed to have trouble picturing what she meant.
“This isn’t about what that dragon gains or if I knows them. It wants to save someone and it doesn’t care who. It wants to be that sort of person. No desire could be more juvenile.”
“You mean the Thousand Dragon feels that way? To be honest, I don’t really understand. That doesn’t change the fact that that evil dragon ate us Fairies for fun and pleasure.”
“You’re right about that.”
But Sutriona’s mood remained unchanged.
“In fact, that’s exactly what makes it so easy to fall into that heroic desire.”
“That kind of heroic desire doesn’t put much focus on whether you actually end up saving whoever it is or not. I mean, it’s hard to feel the weight of a stranger’s life. So when your heart is yearning to protect someone, there has to be some other reason, right?”
The exasperated Fairy Queen saw through it all.
Almost like she was bitterly recalling when she had gone down the same path.
“It’s just like habitual wrist cutting. You feel a weight, you feel guilty, you feel inferior, and you want to rid yourself of that suffering, but you’re afraid of having others mercilessly criticize you. So you harm yourself. You harm yourself to feel relief. You tell yourself that you’ve clearly been punished enough if you’re suffering so much.”
“But...” Meridiana’s face clouded over. “That’s completely selfish. It doesn’t give any thought to how we feel. That dragon only wants to free itself, so it’s just showing off some misguided self-punishment. In fact, it sounds like it’s building up an invisible wall to rob us of the right to criticize it.”
“Exactly. No matter how much it hurts itself, this won’t lead to absolving it of its crimes. And it’s laughable that it thinks it can make itself the victim. How misguided can you get?”
Even after saying all that, the silver-haired girl laughed.
“You understand all that, don’t you? You understand, but you still do it. Weakest, that’s what this is, isn’t it?”
It was something Sutriona herself had done.
To protect Beatrice from the Guild named Elkiad, Boo Boo had made an enemy of every last human in the inn town. And to erase the negative emotions focused on him, she had sent in an even greater threat.
But Sutriona had the Fairies.
Her situation had not been the same as the Thousand Dragon’s current self-destructive thought process.
For one thing, the Thousand Dragon was not in a normal state of mind.
It had periodically attacked the Fairies for the powerful toxin in their blood, so the sudden end to that had to have caused a psychological change. This was like dangerous withdrawal symptoms. As the dragon suffered from various pains and hallucinations, it had clenched its teeth and stuck to its decision to not devour the Fairies any longer. And as the internal pressure had grown and grown, it had finally erupted out in a different form. That had likely led to this heroic desire to protect. And it was all a product of the dragon’s decision to not lay a claw on the Fairies even if it meant tearing itself to shreds.
The dragon was not asking for understanding.
It was not showing off to strangers.
So as long as even one person understood this secret struggle, that was enough.
“And that is why it will not stop. This isn’t about how many people it must save. It probably isn’t even aware of it, but the real focus is on how much it itself has been harmed. It can never rid itself of its guilt, so each time that guilt rises back to the surface, it will wear its body down to save everything around it. This is a lonely battle that no one asked for and will not even quench its own desire.”
I hated myself.
I hated how I made everyone hate me.
I was so big and had so much strength, but I couldn’t protect anything. No matter what I did, I would hurt someone. I would destroy everything around me.
I hated all of that.
And I thought about quitting.
No matter how hard I tried, I could never reach any kind of results.
I ate the tiny Fairies and indulged in the temporary intoxication and pleasure that followed. After it was over, the disgust and despair would be so great I just wanted to die. But the next thing I knew, my life would feel empty and I would find myself searching out Fairies once more.
I did awful things. I wanted to apologize. But I didn’t have the right.
So I was honestly happy when that Iberian Orc stopped me. I’m called a Break News and everyone fears me, but he tackled me and stopped me. I really did shed tears when I learned there was someone like that in Ground’s Nir. I just wish that Iberian Orc had not been so perfect. If he had given into his anger and finished me off, nothing would have remained. That would have been the happiest ending of all.
Instead, I’m left with this guilt filling my stomach like lead.
While I writhed in agony from a sensation like all of my blood vessels and nerves were swelling from my body, I had to find something I could do.
There isn’t much I can do.
Even as big and strong as I am, I can’t bring those Fairies back to life.
So after devouring so many of them, I at least want to save as many of those Fairies as I can. It can be 5 times as many or 10 times as many, but it has to be a lot. That won’t cool anyone’s anger and it won’t bring back the lives lost, but I can’t see any reason for me to be here if I don’t do that. It’s the only way I can excuse the fact that I survived. They might call this misguided, tell me it’s useless, and throw stones, but I will not back down on this.
I will wear down my body.
And in so doing, I will save them.
It was my inability to shake off my weakness and softness that led to so many Fairies being sacrificed. It was because I showed no pity or mercy. So my path of atonement must be the same. It must be brutal through and through. I must be bloodily worn down by every step and yet know I will never find forgiveness. That is the only correct way to spend the remainder of this life I was left with by mistake.
That was what I thought.
I truly believed that.
A figure stood in the wicked dragon’s way.
Just like that time, the Iberian Orc raised a Shining Weapon that resembled a log or a steel beam.
Without thinking, I spoke in a voice outside a human’s audible range.
That daring Iberian Orc did not take a single step back. The way we faced each other from the ocean and the beach was like a repeat of before. It was like he was going to correct some absolute mistake once more.
“I told you.”
Just hearing his low voice felt like being sliced in two by a blade.
“I told you I would be keeping an eye on you. I said there was no avoiding it when it comes to living and eating. But I also told you not to take lives for any other reason.”
“So I’m here to keep my promise. If you aren’t treating someone’s life with the proper care – even if it’s your own life – I won’t forgive you.”
I tried to argue back, but I couldn’t find the words.
I only felt a stinging sensation.
It filled my chest.
In the face of his overwhelming righteousness, my pretend self-sacrifice was entirely meaningless. I wouldn’t be able to truly save the Cat Sith and Cu Sith. I felt like he had just revealed the pathetic side of myself I had hidden in the mud.
But I couldn’t let it get to me.
I couldn’t just accept Boo Boo’s righteousness and kindness.
I mean, how could I live a proper life? How could I possibly make up for everything I had done and then live in the light of the sun? So I needed to be punished. Thoroughly punished. That was the hesitant and lowly sort of heart I had.
But I found something even I could do.
I finally ran across it.
So I won’t lose. No matter who I’m up against.
I simply can’t lose.
There was no starting signal.
It happened in an instant.
A truly deafening roar silenced even the Cat Sith maids and Cu Sith butlers as they ran around mewing and barking.
Boo Boo wielded his thick Shining Weapon that resembled a log or a steel beam and the Thousand Dragon was a giant dragon measuring over 1000 meters long. The two of them clashed head-on.
The trees of the forest were knocked over as Boo Boo and the ruler of flying dragons rolled along and moved the battlefield. They seemed to move in a giant ring, first from the beach to the southern forest and then from the mangrove to the beach and into the ocean. Even the giant leeches, bats, and other blood-sucking animals fled.
“H-hey. Is that gonna be okay?”
Fighter Priest Armelina was taken aback. Boo Boo was singlehandedly fighting the colossal dragon that was the most obvious example of a Break News. The situation could hardly have been more dangerous, but the thought of helping made her legs tremble. She may have been at the level cap and thus one of the strongest humans, but that fierce attack was like an environmental change.
She had heard stories, but seeing it for herself was something else entirely.
White Witch Filinion also had a faint tremor in her voice.
“B-but he defeated the Thousand Dragon once before to save Meridiana, right? I-if we already know which one is more powerful...”
“...I’m not so sure.”
Because she cared so much about Boo Boo, Beatrice did not let herself cling to that optimistic view. And she had an actual reason for her answer.
“The Thousand Dragon learned the bitter taste of defeat in that battle. Before, it thought it could always force its way to victory with brute strength alone, but now it’s learned there are some battles it can’t win without being a little cleverer. And now it is standing before Boo Boo again. Instead of running away, it wants to overcome this obstacle...or break through it.”
“Wait, you mean...?”
“The Thousand Dragon’s most important trait is its giant body and the extraordinary strength that allows it to move that great mass around. But to be honest, it’s hard to say Boo Boo gained full supremacy over that giant dragon. It’s 1000 meters long. If it puts its mind to it, it can use that for some frightening strategies instead of just brute strength.”
Fairy Queen Sutriona and Meridiana observed from the night sky.
The palm-sized Fairy was clearly worried as she watched Boo Boo and the Thousand Dragon produce great blasts of sand while just barely far enough away to not interfere with the grounded ship used by the lunar eclipse controlling Vampire.
“L-Lady Sutriona! Can’t you help Boo Boo with your power!?”
“Are you sure you want two Break News colliding head-on? And if I was going to do that, this is a bad location. If I didn’t guide it further out to sea, we could easily blow away half the island. And I doubt that dragon will be so easily lured at the moment.”
Meanwhile, there was movement on the surface.
In a straight fight, Boo Boo had the advantage despite being so much smaller. Unlike a venomous insect attacking a human, he would win through pure physical strength. It was just like a bullet a few millimeters across opening a hole in a human’s forehead. Boo Boo’s athleticism had arrived at a level beyond even extraordinary, but the Thousand Dragon was well aware of that after its previous loss. And yet it was challenging the Iberian Orc. That meant it knew some way of overturning that assumption.
The colossal dragon roared.
Jaws large enough to break through a small reef approached Boo Boo from the heavens. The beach seemed to be under attack by a plesiosaur. But it did not reach the Iberian Orc. He jumped up with frightening leg strength and planted his feet on the Thousand Dragon’s approaching head.
“Ah!” shouted Meridiana.
In the last battle, Boo Boo had climbed onto the dragon’s head and jabbed his Shining Weapon into its skull to declare victory.
But the palm-sized Fairy had not raised her voice because she was certain of Boo Boo’s victory.
It happened a moment later.
The Thousand Dragon immediately leaped backwards as if performing a backflip.
To reiterate, this dragon was over 1000 meters long.
So by placing someone in its mouth and extending its body vertically, it could lift them 1000 meters into the air. It would take less than a second and the pressure difference was not addressed. It had failed to hold Boo Boo in its mouth, but having him on its head was similar.
Just like swinging a bucket of water around in a circle, centrifugal force kept him from falling off.
The movement of such an overwhelming mass stirred up the night air.
“Tch. It’s always something!!”
Sutriona used both hands to hold the palm-sized Fairy that was nearly blown away by the wind.
But it did not end there.
This was a backflip.
While upside down, the Thousand Dragon plunged headfirst into the seawater.
“This isn’t good... Does it plan to drag Boo Boo 1000 meters below the ocean!?”
An explosive roar answered her.
At a kilometer out at sea, an incredible crater of water spread out in every direction like an asteroid had hit.
Rotating down from an altitude of 1000 meters would bring them 1000 meters below the ocean. It was nothing more than a backflip for the Thousand Dragon, but it was very different for Boo Boo. Just under 4 meters seemed gigantic from a human perspective, but he was not as solid as a metal diving suit that pushed back all the effects of the water pressure.
And even if he could withstand the pressure, he was still 1000 meters underwater. If the Thousand Dragon let go of Boo Boo, he could not return to the surface on his own. His breath would not last. And even if his fierce muscular strength allowed him to clear that 1 kilometer depth in a short period of time, then the risk of decompression sickness became a problem. The blood flowing through his veins could easily break apart.
He was truly cornered.
This was the master of floods who freely produced rainclouds and brought both the destruction and blessings of water to Ground’s Nir.
And the watery cell that dragon had created had surrounded and swallowed up Boo Boo.
“Boo Boo!!” screamed Meridiana. “Nooooooooooooooo!?”
It looked like an unimaginable quantity of seawater exploding upwards. The massive pillar of water parted to reveal the 1000-meter dragon, but there was no pig-faced Iberian Orc on its head.
The victor was alone.
There was no sign of Boo Boo who had been dragged into the dark depths.
“No,” said the girl who had observed Boo Boo from closer than anyone. “It isn’t over yet.”
A change occurred.
It came from the Thousand Dragon who had supposedly won.
Its far too giant head shook. And then its powerful jaws opened with a creaking noise. The dragon had not done this. A great power was prying its jaws open from within.
Who could do that?
The answer was obvious.
In a beach chair next to the kind of pool one would expect on a luxury cruise liner, the Vampire spoke lazily while petting the piglet doll lying on her stomach.
She was Kallikantzaros, the being who freely controlled lunar eclipses and ruled over the gravity of that entire satellite.
Instead of a tropical drink on the side table, she had a leaf container swollen out to the size of a conch. The container was made by gathering several herbs like a bagworm, so if it was hung from the eaves at night, the morning dew would collect inside, mix with the herbs, and produce a cold drink. That was a Ground’s Nir specialty generally known as Dew Tea, but she preferred the sea breeze more than the morning dew.
“Due to the massive pressure differences created by the elevation and depth and due to the insufficient amount of oxygen in your lungs, you should not have had any way to escape, Boo Boo, but an excellent idea occurred to you.”
The arrangement of herbs she chose provided a flavor much like thick blood.
It was a necessary luxury for her since she could not sink her fangs into an Iberian Orc’s neck.
And there was only one thing that Vampire would be worried about.
“Inside the Thousand Dragon’s stomach. The one using the ocean’s pressure as a weapon will not be crushed by it. The internal pressure will remain unchanged and a stomach that large will retain enough oxygen for you to continue breathing. After all, your opponent is a 1000-meter dragon blessed with bones and muscles powerful enough to keep it from crushing itself under its own weight.”
This was an opportunity only afforded to those who continued forward without fear.
But could you really do that?
Could you really escape danger by choosing to jump down the dragon’s gullet? Even if it made logical sense, could you restrain your emotions...no, restrain your terrified soul enough to actually do it?
“And no matter how solid the dragon’s body is, it will be fragile to an attack from within. Boo Boo was powerful enough to push through from the outside. That impact was capable of ignoring those hard scales and muscles, so when it directly rattles the dragon’s organs, it must feel heavy indeed.”
As she watched, the Thousand Dragon wobbled to the side.
As soon as Boo Boo jumped down from that cave of a mouth, the colossal dragon’s consciousness slipped away and it collapsed onto its side in the ocean.
Beatrice and the others could only watch it play out.
Even at the level cap, this was well beyond what they could intervene in.
“Does that...end it?”
“Not at all. The Thousand Dragon was only butting in. The Cat Sith and Cu Sith’s fight had to do with that Vampire named Kallikantzaros. She prefers to stay uninvolved and doesn’t seem interested in resolving this, so won’t the fight resume once this storm passes?”
Those were Filinion and Armelina’s arguments, but Beatrice saw things differently.
“I’m not so sure.”
The other two looked confused at first, but then they seemed to catch on.
The dark mangrove had been badly damaged, with trees knocked over and the white Diamond Salt bridges broken, but the cat fairies and dog fairies were stirring here and there. However, what they were speaking about had changed.
“...Looks like it’s finally over.”
“Nine lives aren’t nearly enough. That was way too close...”
“...Battles sure are scary.”
“I thought being strong was cool, but I didn’t realize how scary it makes you look...”
“...Who cares about the whole offerings thing. If the alternative is fighting, I’d rather be a little patient, compromise, and continue placing offerings on the altar with them.”
And to top it all off...
“...Let’s end this. We’re done for if we turn into monsters like that...”
“...Let’s end this. We’re done for if we turn into monsters like that...”
Beatrice bit her lip like she was truly, truly struggling to hold something back.
She wanted to say that wasn’t it. She wanted to say that wasn’t it at all. Something might have been wrong and they may have chosen violence as their method, but both Boo Boo and the Thousand Dragon had been trying to help the Cat Sith and Cu Sith. But she could not say that. If their fear of strength faded, they would clearly reach for their weapons once more.
So that was all she said.
To make sure no one knew what she really meant, she could only force out that tiny fragment of a thought.
Everyone hated him.
Everyone feared him.
That last survivor of the Iberian Orcs spoke quietly in the dark forest.
He and one other person were walking back to his home.
“I think I somewhat understand how the Thousand Dragon felt.”
Beatrice gave him a puzzled look as she walked alongside him, so he continued.
“If I’m useful, people might rely on me. If I get them to say ‘thank you’, I might be able to stay here. Sometimes that’s how I feel. Even though I know the more I try, the more I’ll fail and just make everyone fear me.”
“That isn’t true...”
“But you can’t try to force those words out of people. You can’t think you’re entitled to hear those words. You can’t force your feelings onto people. I understand that, so I don’t do it. I don’t just keep fighting on and on because I’m dying to hear someone say ‘thank you’.”
She could not say anything.
It would be easy to repeat again and again that he was wrong. But what Boo Boo carried inside was different. Beatrice herself had once been treated like a nuisance because she was too powerful and created an imbalance, but she was a target of awe and respect. Everyone listened to whatever she said and watched what she did. Her position was different from Boo Boo and the Thousand Dragon’s who had hatred and fear forced onto them over and over and were driven away without being given a chance to say anything. They had a strength that did not allow for argument. They had a power that pushed people away the more they used it. Beatrice had been “blessed with strength”, so she could not say she understood so easily.
“That’s why I stopped that dragon.”
He did not realize what he was saying.
Boo Boo was assuming that he would live a thankless life.
And he did not realize how sad that really was.
“The Thousand Dragon failed again, but this isn’t the end for it. It’ll stand back up eventually. And this time, I think it really will do what it can for everyone. So I’ll wait. I’ll wait and search for the part inside it that is saying ‘thank you’.”
“Right,” said Beatrice with a nod.
There was not much she could do.
At the moment, she could only think of one thing for her to say.
“Thank you, Boo Boo.”
Warm Bucket Ostrich Egg Dessert
- Bucket Ostrich Egg: 1 egg
- Large Wrapper Leaves: 3 or 4 fresh and damp ones
- Water: Enough (Make sure you have plenty for putting out the fire!)
- Rock Salt: 1 Pinch
- Dried Grass, Kindling, Etc.: Enough
1. Wrap the Bucket Ostrich Egg in the large wrapper leaves.
2. Find a patch of soft and moist dirt and dig a hole. After putting the egg from Step 1 inside, cover it with about a Fairy’s arm length of dirt. Grind up some rock salt, dissolve it in water, and dampen the dirt with the water.
3. Place the dried grass, kindling, etc. on top and start a fire.
4. Dance the delicious egg dance around the fire. (Note: Converted into human terms, this is 5-6 minutes.)
5. Put out the fire, pull the egg out from the dirt, and you’re done!
To my little sister!
You can add a distinctive flavor by soaking various herbs in the water instead of using rock salt. Fairies tend to use the Crimson Heaven Flower for a nice tingly flavor, but avoid serving this variant to other species.
Also, you can use the leftover shell for a bath. Pour water into half the shell, add in some Milk Coconut or Molasses Plant, and it’ll pretty up your skin!
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