Chapter 1: Neversweet on the Fifth Ring
Even as night fell, the fortress was alight with magic lights.
Monsters could attack at any time. Even though adventurers could use a portal to return to the elven town of Kunelka and spend the night in an inn, the majority did not, opting instead to stay at a lodge connected to the fortress.
This, though, wasn’t because of their chilvalry or because they had the safety of the elves and the fortress in mind. Intercepting night attacks was a great way to earn gold and items. Just like how moths swarm around streetlights, the prospects of winning big naturally attracted skillful players.
Jun’s party too, of course, made use of the lodge. Having spent a week there, it was just like their own little castle. Outside the restricted area, soldiers were rambling loud all around.
It was midnight. At a corner of the south side of the once-again quiet fortress, Jun looked out of a balcony, where far off in the distance stood the forest that the elves called their home.
There were two moons in the starry sky. He didn’t recognize the constellations that had changed completely from the sky he had been used to seeing half a year ago..
This was a different world, Sky World, where the skies extended infinitely. His voyage was only half over.
Beyond this sky and far on the fourth ring was Kai/Sakuya, Jun and Kasumi’s good friend. Her small mischievous smiling face was awaiting Jun’s arrival.
But then, the barrier between the fourth and fifth rings was strong and large. Without completing the long-winded Fuelfai Campaign, one could not enter the fourth ring, even with the use of a personal airship.
The Fuelfai Campaign was a long series of quests that took place across many islands on the eighth through the fifth rings. If any objective was not completed within the allotted time, a player would be penalized by not being able to reattempt the same quest for quite a while. Thus, before starting one of these quests, players needed to make ample preparations so that success would be guaranteed. Furthermore, they would need the help of many others.
Currently, the only people who were able to complete the Fuelfai Campaign, with some exceptions, were large-scale guilds, each with a thousand or so players. These guilds, in large part, owed their advance to the raid content. Just thanks to size, these raid guilds were able to cut through these long questlines.
But Kai, your party completed the Fuelfai Campaign.
Of course, one could only wonder about how many friends she had. Earlier when he asked Kasumi, she said, “I only know about ten people personally. I got separated from Sakuya-chan at around the time they started the Fuelfai Campaign. People had split up and went to different islands in small groups to collect items. So I wasn’t able to meet everybody… but Sakuya-chan seemed to be in contact with people from all over.”
Twenty or more, probably.
Whatever the number is, she couldn’t have had a raid guild worth of people.
She probably couldn’t have assembled hundreds of people. If she were able to coordinate such a large event, she would’ve been famous in Sky World.
The player known as Sakuya was currently still just a no-name.
Jun thought it must’ve been magic that groups of lower-class players had been able to complete such arduous quests without assistance from a guild. Her charisma had to have rivaled that of great leaders.
Despite this, how come she kept so out of sight?
It’s just like her to do this.
So he thought, but.
We’re doing this pretty half-heartedly, trying to avoid the inevitable fact that we have to take on the Fuelfai Campaign. That’s why we came here in the first place.
Right. They weren’t just here at the wall Never working as mercenaries just for gold. They also came here to pick out other guildless adventurers to serve as comrades for the Fuelfai Campaign…
“Jun-san, you came here?” He turned around to face the voice that just called his name. It was Kasumi. She had probably just gotten out of the shower, and her face was a little red. Under the fortress, there was a natural hot-spring. This island really was hospitable, they agreed. “Are you coming to the hot-spring?”
“The mens section section is full of people, so I’ll go early in the morning. But I’ll wipe myself clean before going to bed.”
“You’ve been waking up early recently, huh.”
“But not as early as you.”
Jun smiled. Kasumi borrowed the fortress’ kitchen for cooking. She had said that she was competing with the elven chefs to create new dishes, using their new special seasoning . The pastries that Princess Kissandra brought earlier were just some of the fruits of their labor.
Indeed, those pastries were very popular among the Japanese adventurers.
“Is living like this fun?”
“Er, yes! I might’ve been some trouble for the nice elves, but I’m really enjoying it at the same time. They sing really well, too . In their kitchens, everyone’s always singing. And that’s not all. Their clothes and their accessories are all sooo wonderful.”
“Neversweet’s culture is definitely top notch. Lots of fashion trends were born here, and then spread to the rest of Sky World. If I had to make a comparison, it would be like France in our world.”
The name was obviously German, but Jun laughed.
No need to nitpick. I got this feeling with the fake-Chinese Lao Thai too.
“Let’s try going to the town for once.” Jun suddenly said. When their airship reached Neversweet’s port, they used Running and went non-stop towards the wall. “Even though we still have some debt, we can go buy some clothes. Let’s loosen up together.”
“But… is that okay?”
“We’ve been working hard for so long, I’m about to blow up. When we start the Fuelfai Campaign, we won’t have any spare time. We should really rest while we can,” he said, lively. This was a necessary part of managing a guild. He grinned, reminiscing about the old days. Kai was always moving forward, thrusting himself ahead. All of their guild members were forced to move as fast as possible to catch up. It was Jun’s job to stop him when it became problematic for the people around them. “I’m don’t want to be an oppressive leader. I want you to think more about yourselves too. I want you guys to know that there’s no need to be too hard on yourselves… Kasumi-san, don’t you have any wishes?”
“Wishes… huh?” Kasumi tilted her head for a bit… Then, as if thinking about something , her face turned red. It seemed like steam was rising from her head. “… Uh, well.”
There was some tension in the air. Jun subconsciously tensed his posture. Seeing him like that, Kasumi froze up .
“N-no! I’m fine!” Kasumi shouted, shaking her head back and forth. Somehow, Jun guessed her thoughts.
“… Ahh. Well, when we get into the town, do you want to go shopping together?”
“Is… that fine with you?”
Jun smiled. Kasumi’s eyes were large in surprise.
“Even though you were that surprised about it, don’t think too much of it. Is it weird that I want to go around town with the rest of my friends during our hard-earned time off?”
“N-no! It’s not weird at all! … That’s right! With friends.” Kasumi made a fist with her small hand.
I think I gave her the wrong impression…
Turning away from her, he frowned. He understood. He’d known of her feelings for a while now. But yet he couldn’t decide and pretended not to notice…
Is it really good for her to follow me around?
He wondered whether he had only caused problems for her, for the girl named Kasumi Yukasaki. He had spent time thinking about that.
The guilt crept up to him. During the affair with the pyramid, he had pushed her so close to dying her third death.
At the time, Jun had firmly told her with a smile on his face, “Everything’s fine. I’ll definitely protect you.” However, he himself was full of anxiety. He realized that up until now, and for the future to come, that he was far off from the leader that he aspired to be.
If Kai were here to help, how would he-
Reflexively, he grounded himself back in reality and turned back to face Kasumi.
No, that’s wrong! I’m gonna bring Kasumi-san to Kai.
“Let’s… let’s go shopping together. It’s a promise.”
“Y-yes.If tomorrow won’t work out, we will definitely go the day after.”
Jun wished for some time in the future to sort out his thoughts.
I’m sure Eri and Yukaria are going to give me a lot of flak for this.