“Ume! Get ahold of yourself! We’re dealing with nobility here!” I exclaim as I lock Ume’s arms and hold her back from unleashing unnecessary wrath on a noble. Her large lizard tail flails about and smacks on my side.
“No buts.” I then spin her around to where our backs are towards the others in the lounge and sidestep out of their view. I move close to her fin-like ear. “If we make a bad impression in front of Lady Krauss now, especially with how bad things have gotten, she may want to drop this quest altogether and we’d lose a chance to establish a connection for us to meet the Demon King. You want to help me with that, right?”
“We’re going to meet more people who’ll condescend us like that down the line, so it’s important that we be on our best behavior while not taking comments like that too personally. I’m happy you want to stand up for me but I’ve dealt with worse. I could handle that much, so please, can you try to restrain yourself? For me?”
Ume looks like she wants to retort something but couldn’t come up with a good one. So, she sighs in defeat. Her agitated lizard tail limps from the deflated energy. “You have done a lot for me, for the rest of us. I can at least do that much for you.”
“Thank you, Ume. Love ya.” To emphasize my feelings and loosen her up a little, I place a peck on her neck, right along the line where the skin and scale meet, one of her ‘Sweet Spots.’ I could feel the pleasant shiver run down her spine from that intimate contact.
“L-Love you, too …” And with that, the crisis was averted.
“Holy shit …” Tyvera mutters as she and Eugus look on at the sight from our side. She has watched us being physically affectionate a few times on our way over here, but this was the first time she’s seen me taking an initiative like that. I guess Tyvera wasn’t prepared to see that as her face flushed and quickly turned her head when she noticed my gaze. I don’t pay that in any mind, though.
“Our deepest apologies for our rudeness just now,” I start off as I lead the both of us back in view to the others of the living room. “We’ve been a little on edge due to some circumstances that arrived on our way over here.”
Eugus clears his throat. “Yes, indeed … we will go over those ‘circumstances’ after introductions. Will the two of thee please come this way?”
Ume and I nod and move to the spot where Eugus gestures us to.
“May I introduce to all of thee … the two adventurers I have personally chosen to be the main escorts of this quest: Umeiyon of the Lizardmen, and the leader of the Twilight Sky party, Jinma Kotori of the Humans.”
“It is an honor and pleasure for us to be in your presence today,” I greet while I lead the bow, Ume follows with a curtsey, or what she could make of one from whatever part of her ‘skirt’ from the apron/cheongsam that’s available to hold.
Only silence fills the room.
<“Oh, yeah, this is starting off really well.”>
<“Jin! Though I am not familiar with these procedures, even I can sense how tense the air is right now! Did I really mess up that badly?!”> Nyra and Ume make their points in the silence through Telepathy.
Don’t lose hope just yet. It’s up to the one with the highest social standing to say the word of when we make any further movements, just as Eugus taught us. Just keep up for a little longer.
<“… Hm? Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute! I thought something had been bugging me the moment we stepped in here! Is this seriously happening?!”>
What? What is it, Nyra?
<“My Psyche Magic! It’s sensing powerful feelings right now that I didn’t think would be possible on the first meeting! It’s coming from—”>
“Jinma … Kotori, and Umeiyon, yes? You may both stand and be at ease.”
Hearing the cue that was likely Lady Krauss’, despite interrupting Nyra’s take, the two of us stand back up and look to our client.
With how hectic it got with Ume’s outburst from the beginning, I had yet to get a good look at everyone’s profile yet, so Lady Krauss’ is the first I’d get to see since I came in this large, fancy cottage … and the moment I set my eyes on the lady’s before me, I think my breath got stolen away.
Large, dark amethyst eyes that pop with long eyelashes; a few hair strands that resemble a red string of fate, but dark as crimson; and smooth, clear skin of white marble. Those are the first things I see when I get a good look at Lady Krauss’ face, and I can’t seem to tear my eyes away to view anything else. She’s a tad taller than Ren, so neither of us need to tilt our heads any more than needed while sacrificing comfort to strain our necks, but her face and complexion shows the youthfulness of a high school girl. As one who has made a habit of checking every nook and cranny of the person before me with my eyes from experience in life and my previous job, this is one of the very few and rare occasions when I didn’t need to look anywhere else to know how beautiful she is from her face alone. Hell, even the fangs poking out of her luscious lips somehow give her a nice touch of cuteness that complements the youthfulness of her beauty.
I have yet to see Elves of both types to confirm they’re similar from what I had read in books and other ‘research’ of mythology from Earth, but Vampires … their description of their beauty being ethereal and out of this world isn’t too far off the mark from what I’m seeing now. Even recalling as much as I could of Obina’s looks from my first meeting with her, Lady Krauss’ would certainly be something that’s considered near the same level, if not on par.
It could be my Hyper Thought Processing and Hyper Perception skills that are allowing me to analyze and process things at faster speeds than normal but I feel like I’ve been staring at Lady Krauss’ face for hours and I have not yet gotten tired of it to check the rest of her form. I don’t think I even want to turn my eyes away to anything else, and somehow, I have a slight feeling that Lady Krauss feels the same way. It’s as if we’re in our own little world.
It was another girl’s voice that snaps both of us out of our trance, causing Lady Krauss to blink and cover her mouth, poorly hiding her ‘I forgot what we were doing for a moment’ shocked face. A hint of red grows on her white cheeks out of embarrassment, almost similar to roses in a marble background.
That somehow made her even more charming and cuter than she was moments ago, and that’s when it hit me.
I don’t think either of us is safe with each other by ourselves.
<“You got that right! My Psyche Magic’s sensing the lady’s fallen head over heels and even you are having a hard time containing yourself!”> Nyra exclaims.
“Please pardon me for my delayed greetings,” Lady Krauss says before pinching the sides of her flowing gothic lolita skirt and curtseys with a delighted smile, her blush still distinguishable. “Salutations. I am the eldest daughter of the Krauss family head, Noire Scarletine Krauss. I thank you for coming all this way to take part in my selfish request on what seems to be such short notice, and with impeccable timing for that matter.”
“No … prob—*ehen!*—I mean, it is no trouble at all, Lady Krauss. I am happy and honored to make your acquaintance.” I got stagnant and awkward for a bit there before I caught my composure.
Lady Krauss caught my fumble though and giggles to herself. The mere gesture tugs at my heartstrings. “No need to be so uptight, Jinma, especially with these circumstances. If I may ask, are yours and Umeiyon’s clothes made of enchanted Arachne silk?”
“… Yes, actually! Our Arachne tailoress friend made these to be self-repairable by applying mana into the fabric! From what she told us, anyway!” Ume exclaims, pleasantly surprised.
“You can tell that much at a glance, Lady Krauss?” I ask.
“You don’t need a skill to know a fine artisan was able to tailor amazing clothes with such a fabric. I especially like Umeiyon’s unique cheongsam design.”
“R-Really?” Ume asks, blushing from bashfulness while fluttering her outfit side to side. “I was honestly not sure about it when I first saw it, especially when I don’t usually wear clothes anyway, but then I remembered Jin collaborated with our tailoress to design this towards my own tastes and preferences. Isn’t my husband so kind and considerate to think about it this much?”
““HUSBAND?!”” the majority of people in the room exclaim.
“Wait, what do you mean you don’t ‘usually wear clothes?!’” Tyvera asks with flushed cheeks.
“Oh, my, oh my~,” some other guy in the room says, but what was discussed just moments ago made me realize something.
… Wait, hold on, how did she know Ume’s wearing a cheongsam? I thought that design isn’t widespread in this world yet? I think while my eyes glance at Noire, only to see she’s looking at me with a half-lidded gaze with a mischievous glint.
“Really~? You have a finer and more interesting taste in fashion than you appear, Jinma, let alone your preferences in the opposite sex.”
“It’s uh … not really a preference but more that things happened that lead us to be like this. Though I admit I don’t have as much luck with human women, I know I would come to love my wife no matter her race. To me, she’s too good and beautiful to not let anyone else snatch her away, even if they’re of the same race with better compatibility to her than she is with me. I’ll more than beat them down if they so much as to try anything with her.” I emphasize my point by interlocking my fingers with her lizard claw-like ones.
Out of my peripheral, I see Ume turning away with her face flushed red, but she tightens her grip on my hand while her tail wags ecstatically.
Ah, I was a little uneasy for a moment being taken in by Lady Krauss’ beauty, but this confirms it: Ume’s just too cute to ignore. Damn, now I want to spoil and dote on her more.
<“She’s definitely very happy from what I’m sensing … hm? This is peculiar.”>
What is it, Nyra?
<“The Vampire’s happiness just grew a little from your display of love, too … but there’s also some sadness and envy as well.”>
“How nice …” Lady Krauss’ mutter seems to have complemented Nyra’s evaluation further from what I could tell from her tone.
Does Lady Krauss also long for a relationship like Ume and I have?
<“It’s possible. Considering what has happened with her fiancé interfering with these affairs, I’m not sure how long she had these feelings, but it seems she certainly wasn’t into the arrangements of her engagement for a while.”>
Eugus clears his throat. “I hate to interrupt this conversation but Jinma’s other party members and a fan of his art still waiting outside.”
“A fan?” Lady Krauss asks.
“Ah, yeah. She caught us before we left Dondegarm and wanted to travel with us. She’s not part of the party, more like a guest of ours. She’s aware of the circumstances in this quest, too,” I explain.
“Hmm … have her and the rest of Jinma’s party be let inside as well and we will introduce ourselves with everybody in the room,” Lady Krauss orders one of the nearby maids.
Soon enough, the others have gathered inside the cottage’s living room as well. They’re in awe by the scenery and decoration of a noble’s residence. Strangely, Sue’s the only one who’s totally unfazed of the luxurious household. She’s still attentive of her surroundings but isn’t as interested in the details. The look she has is like mine when I went to a museum with Hyo-chan once back in my primary school days: totally bored and ready to go back home to find something better to do. That’s the kind of air Sue has on her right now. Actually, Kenaka and Mametama don’t seem as enthused, either. They were the king and queen of their respective factions in their realms, though, so maybe they lived in a similarly luxurious lifestyle.
Lady Krauss was immediately taken in by Mametama’s cougar cub cuteness after I introduced her along with everyone else in my party, and so with Mametama’s okay and my permission, she cradled her by the arms and played with the soft pads on her paws. The image of her in such a scene drew me into her charms further.
“What an interesting line of adventurers we have here. It is a pleasure to meet all of you. I will let you all introduce yourselves to them now,” Lady Krauss says to the other people in the living room.
And the first one that comes into my sight instantly at point-blank is a flashy human gentleman in pink as he eagerly shakes my hand. “Jinma Kotori! I have heard great things about you! I’ve been wanting to meet you since I first caught word and you are more charming and handsome than I imagined! I am Julius, the guild master in Bomira’s adventurer’s guild that resides in the Human-Kin’s Territory. It is a pleasure to finally meet you!”
“Um … wait, you came all the way from the Human-Kin’s Territory to here … for me?” I’m so surprised by this treatment I had never received from another guy before that I had difficulty in making a coherent response.
“Of course! Some other guild masters shared their own interest in you when Eugy reported to us of your prowess.”
“… Please, do not call me ‘Eugy.’”
He must be talking about after Eugus took my Innate Stats Ranking card from Dondegarm’s church the day before. I see, so when someone registers the adventurer’s guild the first time as a black rank, then all of the other guild masters in Padimon are informed as well. Is it just circumstances like this or does everyone who’s close to becoming a black rank go through the same thing?
“W-Wait, hold on, if Guild Master Julius knows of him like that, then … Mr. Jinma, are you a black rank?” Tyvera asks from behind me, confirming my suspicions.
“Ah, now that I think about it, I haven’t told you that, have I? I just registered as an adventurer the day before with my Innate Stats ranked and am starting out at the bottom-most barrel of other black ranks, at least until after my performance in my first quest here is evaluated.”
“And I started out around the same time as a red rank from my ‘Battle Rank Test’ or something,” Ume follows before the both of us take out our respective adventurer cards.
“Yes, the two of us were just as surprised as the others when we had our meeting. Isn’t that right, Konjiro?” Julius asks, turning his head to the direction of the next person.
“… Yes, quite. I am Konjiro, the guild master for Palocaesy’s adventurer’s guild. I will be playing mediator to these events. A pleasure,” he introduces while bowing his head.
“Uh, yeah … pleasure.”
<“What’s wrong with you? You seem a bit tense?”> Nyra asks.
Nyra … it’s a walking and talking fox wearing a shinshoku’s robe. How can I not be tense?
<“What’s wrong with that? It’s the same for Ren and other Werebeast subraces of the Demon-Kin.”>
No, it isn’t! He’s got a fox’s head! Ren has cute wolf ears, tail, and paws—wait, are you telling me the males are actually more animal-like than females in appearance?
<“… Ah, wait, seeing a glimpse of your memories, I am seeing werewolves with beastly physiques among some illustrations you’ve seen in the past on your homeworld. Okay, I can see how you’re a little off-put by this. So, in this world, yes, the males among Werebeasts are more ‘animal-like’ or ‘furry’ in appearance while females have the more ‘nekomimi’ look in your terms.”>
Aren’t there ‘Beastmen’ in the Demi-Kin as well? What are they like?
<“From what I’ve seen in memories of the previously possessed, both females and males are more ‘nekomimi’ in appearance with human-like limbs.”>
That doesn’t make any sense!
<“What’s the problem?”>
I just think these races should have more distinguishable appearances from each other to tell apart. Kitsunes are part of the Werebeasts, right? Since Ren is part of that as well as a Werewolf, I would think her image would be more like Konjiro’s, being a ‘furry’s,’ you know? Actually, aren’t Lizardmen also part of the Werebeasts as well? Shouldn’t Ume’s disguised appearance look more like a lizard’s, too?
<“Wait, so, you’d rather Ren and Ume look more like a wolf and a lizard to satisfy your bestiality fetish or something?”>
NO! I just think that if you’re going for something, it should be all-or-nothing or it won’t be consistent! Like weapons! A sword is a sword because there’s at least one bladed edge that cuts into things, right? Would you be confused if someone suddenly called a sword a ‘stick’ or vice versa instead?
<“Hey, don’t ask me, talk to the Immortals. They’re the ones who decided to make everybody the way they are today.”>
I will go do that, but in the meantime, gods, whatever your reasons, I thank you for making Ume and Ren as cute as they are today and not making our relationships any weirder than they are in this world’s standards.
[AN: You are quite welcome, Jinma.]
“I suppose it is my turn now!” another girl exclaims, the voice familiar from what I heard when I came in. While she’s the same height as Sue, her chest is very normal and small that goes with the petite figure, but what really stands out are the large fly-like wings that buzz in eagerness, insect claws and legs, and the antennas that jot out of her short green hair. If it weren’t for those, the bikini-like attire she currently has on her tanned physique makes her like a younger girl trying too hard to look like an adult. In fact, the lone fang that jots out of her lips actually makes her somewhat cuter.
She then makes a ridiculous pose that’s supposed to look cool, yet intimidating. “Hailing from the royal bloodline of the Flyran race, I stand before you as the Lord of Flies, the Empress of Insatiable Gluttony, the Minister of Agriculture, and acquaintance of Lady Noire Scarletine Krauss. Kneel and tremble before the Fearsome, Almighty, and Great Beelzebub!” she introduces before cackling evilly.
“Stunned silent, are we? Well, that is no surprise. You are standing before the most powerful of the Flyrans, the one worthy to be dubbed ‘Beelzebub’ after standing above the twelve other brothers and sisters of the royal bloodline in victory of a great battle for the throne. Yes, with my great magic, sorcery of darkness, and cunning, even as the youngest of all of us thirteen siblings, I stand at the top as the strongest of all Flyrans.
“Now that I recall, you were the one who yelped at the mention of my name, yes? Even now, as I see you hiding your face, averting your eyes from me, you are well aware of how fearsome I really am! Even your wife has realized the extent of my power from how she hides behind your back! Yes, tremble! Feast your eyes on the greatness that is Beelzebub, as it will be the last thing you’ll ever see!”
I admit that I was surprised when I heard Beelzebub’s name. I didn’t think I’d hear such a familiar name from Earth be brought up here in Raiza. I honestly thought we’d be in big trouble if such a big shot of demons was among us and we mess with her bad sides.
That was before I laid eyes on the little girl doing chuunibyou poses trying to look almighty and cool … and definitely before I used the Size Up skill on her stats and caught a glimpse of her name.
[Margaret (Beelzebub the 113th) Maggy Buzzington]
I was ‘trembling,’ all right. Trembling from how cringy her performance was and how much I tried to hold myself back from busting a gut in front of everyone.
<“Margaret. Maggy. Buzzington! Hahahahahaha! BUZZington! Maggy! As in short for ‘maggot’! I can’t! I just can’t—hahahahahaha~!”>
It didn’t help that Nyra was laughing her head off in my own head. Not only that, my Telepathy was still on between Ume and me, which means she is also having difficulty containing herself after hearing Nyra’s outburst. It’s amazing how contagious laughter can be as we hold each other, trying our best to keep ourselves from getting out of composure, but with little success from how everyone is giving us weird looks.
“Yes, yes, we are all aware of how ‘great’ you are, Lady Beelzebub, so you may sit back in your seat,” Lady Krauss says to her acquaintance. The baffled loli fly shrugs and obliges. Ume and I hit each other by the back to snap ourselves out of it and clear our throats before turning back to our client.
“The last one, as much as I would rather not do it, I will have to due to these circumstances,” Lady Krauss continues as she gestures to the object being carried in a maid’s arms.
That object is a disembodied head with pale light gray skin, brunette hair with silver-white highlights, and dead gray irises surrounded by black scleras to make up the eyes that are currently trying to kill me with her glare. The washrag gagging her mouth really dampens the intimidation factor of her expression.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many elephants in the room that I couldn’t notice the small yet so outlandish scene before me when I first came in, let alone jump in fright at the sight of a disembodied head. Then again, I’ve seen my fair share of dead bodies both on Raiza and on Earth, so I’m not sure how concerning it is that I’m unresponsive to the sight.
“This is the head of my supposed ‘bodyguard,’ Gabriella Carlamat, who represents and is in cahoots with her superior alongside Tyvera, the other half of us who requested the adventurer guild’s services, Perseus Shallowreed Rowling,” Lady Krauss introduces.
“So, you are the one I spoke to on the Messaging Crystal on our way over here,” I say while bending over to meet her level.
Muffled by the gag, she could only growl with resentment in response.
“Ah, so you two have spoken?” Lady Krauss asks.
“Yes, after I caught Tyvera spying on us on the way over here. It seems as soon as Gabriella figured out what kind of person your assigned escort was, your truly, she attempted to abort the quest by handing you a forged letter by your little sister as an excuse,” I explain.
“Is that right …”
“Milady, we have found the message Master Kotori spoke of,” one of the maids confirms as she passes over an envelope with a wax seal keeping it closed.
Lady Krauss takes the envelope and takes her time in examining the envelope as well as its contents. “… When something is urgent, my sister always takes the time to write me the letters herself. This is not even her handwriting, and the stamp, as well as the wax seal, has signs of it being forged compared to what the Krauss family bears. I am insulted that you all underestimated me enough to be a fool that can be manipulated under your whims.” She rolls up the message and bops Gabriella’s head with it, flinching her.
“If it means anything, I was unaware of the quest aborting countermeasures. That was something Lord Rowling and Gabriella came up with themselves before the latter filled me in with everybody in Mr. Jinma’s party present.” Tyvera defends.
“But you were still following his orders with Gabriella from the very beginning, were you not? What role were you playing in all of this?” Lady Krauss asks with a furrowed brow.
“I was tasked to observe and seek out the assigned adventurer escorts while keeping an eye out for any danger approaching the cottage from the outside. Initially, if the assigned adventurers weren’t suitable to Lord Rowling’s and your standards, then I would stand in as an ‘emergency escort’ for substitution, but as Mr. Jinma caught me without being even remotely aware of his presence, I think that already speaks levels of how qualified he is to be your escort, Lady Krauss, but that isn’t all.
“Two mornings ago, I spotted a violet geyser of magic from the distance with my Deadeye skill. That came from a clearing of Eeriegreen Forest that’s some distance away from Dondegarm before a large swarm of monsters surrounded and attacked the cause that seemed to have drawn them in. At the time, I thought it was a foolish human who had no idea what he was doing, and as much as I wanted to fly over and help him myself, I was ordered not to leave my post.”
“Wait, you do not mean …” Lady Krauss trails off, looking surprised as her eyes lock on me. Even Gabriella and I are shocked that Tyvera’s even releasing that info.
Tyvera nodded. “Yes, that came from Mr. Jinma himself, here, who has not only survived the monster swarm but also dealt with all of the monsters that went there. I checked the scene myself late that same night with no sign of blood and body nearby that I could report to Dondegarm’s adventurer’s guild, but it seems not only were my worries unfounded, but Mr. Jinma just proved to be a far more capable human than I initially thought.”
Tyvera then turns to me and bows deeply. “I know it’s late to say this, but I do apologize for not helping you out back there like I should’ve, as well as being part of this whole mess that I didn’t really want to be in from the beginning. I will accept whatever punishment is doable for me, but I have one request that I would like to have filled after I atone.”
“And … what would that be?” I ask.
Then, much to everyone’s surprise, despite being bound behind her back, Tyvera collapses on her knees before hitting her head on the floor, ass in the air, to perform a compromised dogeza.
“Please! Let me join your party and become one of your mates!”
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