The frontlines against the demon lord army, the Black Barrel Fortress.
A solid fortress made at a slightly elevated mountain with dry moats at its surroundings and a number of barricades.
There isn’t much point against flying monsters, but it should show a certain degree of effectiveness against the monsters on land.
A boorish barricade that continues endlessly in this barren wasteland.
There’s what seems to be the bones of monsters lying around here and there.
We stood in front of the giant iron gate that’s slightly separated from the fortress.
The door was tightly shut.
While we were looking around restlessly wondering where to enter…
“You bunch, state your names.”
They ask shortly.
I can’t see them, but it seems like there’s guards hiding.
“Takatsuki Makoto. Also…” (Makoto)
“The Crimson Fangs.” (Lucy)
Lucy continues after my introduction.
…Crimson Fangs really does sound cool.
Maybe I should have them let me join too.
“We have been waiting for you. Over here please.”
Seems like there was a hidden room in order to keep watch in a part of the gate.
One soldier appeared in front of us, and guided us to the fortress.
“Be careful. If you separate too much from the places where I am walking, you will activate the traps for monsters.”
Seeing me walking without a care in the world, the soldier said this, and it made me quiver.
Scary… I can’t even walk thoughtlessly.
While I was walking carefully…
“Takatsuki Makoto-sama, I am glad to see you back. It is an honor to meet you again.”
The guide soldier spoke to me.
But I don’t remember having met him.
“…Have we met before?” (Makoto)
“I was together with you in the 1st Northern Expedition at the expedition in Laphroaig. I was stationed in the 1st Division at that time.”
“1st Division… The division of Captain Ortho.” (Makoto)
“Yeah. The sight of you freezing that army of monsters along with the sea was thrilling!”
At that time, I couldn’t call an Undine by myself, so I somehow managed by synchronizing with Furiae-san.
“There’s a lot of soldiers who admire you in the frontline base, Makoto-sama. Everyone will be happy if you show up. When we heard the news that you were gravely injured in the battle against the Beast King, we were all sad.”
“That’s…I am sorry for worrying you all.” (Makoto)
“Even so, we heard that you received an injury and a curse that you wouldn’t ever be able to recover from, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any issues with your body.”
“Yeah, well…I am okay now.” (Makoto)
I didn’t really get injured, so I just answered vaguely.
While we were talking, we arrived inside the fortress.
“From here on, this person will be guiding you.”
The soldier saluted and left.
The one waiting for us was an upright bespectacled woman.
“We have been waiting, Takatsuki Makoto-sama, and Lucy-sama and Aya-sama of the Crimson Fangs. First, let’s greet the commander of the Black Barrel Fortress. Follow me please.”
That tight military uniform makes her look like a teacher too.
We followed that woman.
The inside of the fortress was bigger than expected, and we passed by many soldiers.
“Lucy-san! So you came!”
“Aya-sama! It has been a while!”
The saint rank mage Lucy and the orichalcum rank adventurer Sa-san seem to be famous here as well.
“We will be under your care here for a while.” (Lucy)
“It has been a while~. Any injuries?” (Aya)
The two were answering familiarly.
It is nice being popular…is what I was thinking when…
“…Hey, who is the man by the side of the Crimson Fangs?”
“He is quite the seedy-looking guy.”
“Could it be the man of Lucy-san and Aya-san?”
“No no, you already know that those two have someone they love, right?”
“Yeah, the sturdiness in their guard is on a whole other level after all.”
“Who knows how many have had their hearts broken by Lucy-san and Aya-san.”
“Then, in the end, who is that guy?”
“However, the only one who can walk in front of the Crimson Fangs is the Hero-sama of Rozes…”
“Wait…that black hair and the weird mana dagger… Could it be…”
“Is that really the Rozes Hero, Takatsuki-sama…?”
“Oi oi oi…the rumors were that he was disabled to the point that he can’t move a single finger.”
“But I have seen his face once… He is most likely the person himself.”
“T-This is big… We have to tell everyone.”
I am gathering a whole lot of attention.
It grew noisy.
And a lot of people began gathering.
“You people! We are heading to the commander right now! Open the path!”
The woman guiding us shouted this, and the crowd opened up at once.
This woman is pretty, but scary.
And then, we were guided to the highest floor of the fortress, in front of a splendid door.
“Commander, permission to enter.”
“Yes sir! Go ahead, Takatsuki-sama.”
I slowly open the door and enter the room.
I have heard that voice before.
Deep in the room, there’s a big desk and chair in the middle, and a man with golden gilded armor was sitting there with his legs on the desk.
“General Commander Geralt, I have brought Takatsuki-sama.”
“Good work. You can leave.” (Geralt)
The woman that guided us leaves the room.
The Hero chosen by the Sun Goddess, Althena-sama.
The owner of the Lightning Hero Skill just like Anna-san.
The captain of the Northern Sky Knight Division and an heir of the 4 Sacred Nobles.
He is also one of the highest in rank in the current Black Barrel Fortress.
He really has gone up the ranks.
He has some sharp eyes as always.
His ill-humoured face is the same.
(Aah…he is definitely going to cause trouble.) (Makoto)
Is what I was prepared for, but the words of Gera-san after several years were calmer than I ever expected.
“It has been a while, Takatsuki Makoto.” (Geralt)
“It has been a while…Commander Geralt.” (Makoto)
“Just Geralt is fine.” (Geralt)
“It has been a while, Gera-san.” (Makoto)
He didn’t retort.
“We will be under your care for a while here. Looking forward to working with you.” (Makoto)
“Looking forward to working with you~, General Geralt!” (Aya)
“Looking forward. By the way, where’s Olga-chan? Is she not here?” (Lucy)
Compared to me, the greetings of Lucy and Sa-san were light.
Must be because they have come here a number of times.
Gera-san lands powerfully in front of me.
How did he do that just now?
“I heard you are going to be facing the Ancient Dragon King, Astaroth.” (Geralt)
He must have grown taller since the last time I saw him, the pressure he gives is incredible.
Gera-san looks down at me with his sharp eyes.
“I promised him a rematch.” (Makoto)
“You should have already obtained enough fame and fortune to have fun for the rest of your life, but it looks like you still want more. That’s how you gotta be.” (Geralt)
No, that’s not my intention.
“I think you already know, but I am currently the one in charge here. If you are going to be heading off, leave me a message. I won’t bother you with the small details. Do as you please. Ah, but don’t destroy the fortress, okay?” (Geralt)
It is hard to believe this is the same tyrannic Geralt-san.
But well, I have passed an eye to the 3rd Northern Expedition plans that the staff officers of the Sun Knights took an all-nighter to make.
“I will properly follow the plan.” (Makoto)
When I said that, Gera-san made a bored expression.
“You…are going to obey those plans?” (Geralt)
“Yeah, since it seems like I will cause trouble if I use my Spirit Magic too much…” (Makoto)
When I said this, Gera-san sighed heavily.
“About that…it was something made by the high nobles and people of sacred professions so that a Legendary Hero doesn’t get even more achievements than they already have. You can ignore it, Takatsuki Makoto.” (Geralt)
I didn’t know.
“The ones from my own country told me: Don’t let the Water Country’s Legendary Hero achieve anything more. You are being feared by the nobles and the higher-ups of the church… You didn’t notice?” (Geralt)
“I didn’t.” (Makoto)
I was internally saddened by this.
“Makoto, you were being treated badly in the capital of Highland, you know?” (Lucy)
“Right? It should be fine to treat you a bit more politely.” (Aya)
Lucy and Sa-san retorted.
Looks like I am being hated by the high officials of the Sun Country.
“The top dogs of my country have all been numbed stupid by the peace. They are carefreely fighting for who gets the bigger bite of the cake. Even when the Great Demon Lord resurrected, it has been peaceful the whole time after all. They probably think the glaring will continue just like this.” (Geralt)
“But the Sea Monster King attacked, right?” (Makoto)
Sakurai-kun was the one who subjugated him.
“The Light Hero defeated it in one hit after all. They have completely lowered their guards.” (Geralt)
“I see.” (Makoto)
It is true that the people of Symphonia didn’t seem to doubt their peaceful days.
“…Also, the current Queen’s political measures are soft. She is showing a warm heart even to the ones against her ruling. As a result of this, the internal affairs of Highland are a constant fire… No, this doesn’t have anything to do with you, huh.” (Geralt)
“Queen Noel… Sounds like she is having it rough.” (Makoto)
“She does. She should just purge the opposing faction at once.” (Geralt)
Geralt-san is as radical as always.
“Anyways, this fortress doesn’t have much of anything, but you can relax here. If you don’t understand something, ask the person that guided you here just now. But well, the two girls at your back have come here a number of times already, so they should know their way around.” (Geralt)
“Right. Is the room the usual one?” (Lucy)
“Hey hey, where’s Olga-chan?” (Aya)
“Takatsuki Makoto’s room is separate. I can’t have the Legendary Hero of the Water Country use the same room used for adventurers. Look for Olga yourself. She must have gone dragon hunting or something, so she should be coming back by evening.” (Geralt)
“Hmm, got it.” (Lucy)
“Okay~, I will search myself~.” (Aya)
Lucy and Sa-san don’t change their attitude even when in front of a general, huh.
Gera-san doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered by it either.
“Then, I will be taking my le—” (Makoto)
“Takatsuki Makoto.” (Geralt)
Just as I was going out, Gera-san called my name.
“There’s a lot of soldiers here in this fortress that were saved by you. Please show your face to them later.” (Geralt)
“Got it.” (Makoto)
The guard of before told me the same thing.
After responding, I left the office of the general.
“Takatsuki-sama, this is the room that has been prepared for you. Feel free to use it as you please. Here’s the key.”
Seeing the room I was guided to, it is a normal room that’s not big or small.
I would say it is around the same level as a decently priced hotel room in Makkaren.
“Uwa, big!” (Lucy)
“Eeh, why are there two beds for a room that’s for one person~?” (Aya)
“This place is big?” (Makoto)
The reaction of Lucy and Sa-san differed greatly from mine.
Looks like the Black Barrel Fortress has really cramped dwelling spaces.
Most of them are practically like capsule hotels where there’s only a bed placed in them.
If I take that into account, I am indeed being treated extraordinarily well here.
“Well then, I will be taking my leave now! If you need anything, I will be in the reception room on the 1st floor.”
The woman that guided us bowed elegantly.
She offered to guide us through the facilities, but it looks like Lucy and Sa-san know their way, so I declined the offer.
She made a slightly disappointed face.
Did she want to guide us?
I left the luggage I brought in my room.
Free time now.
“Then, where shall we go?” (Makoto)
I ask Lucy and Sa-san.
“You are fine with a place where everyone is gathered, right? Where is that, Aya? The training grounds?” (Lucy)
“Wouldn’t the cafeteria be better, Lu-chan?” (Aya)
“Right. We will be using that place anyway.” (Lucy)
“The food isn’t tasty though~. Don’t be disillusioned, Takatsuki-kun.” (Aya)
While we were having that chat, they guided me through the inside of the fortress.
They were walking at their own convenience.
Lucy and Sa-san have apparently received requests to defend the fortress countless times as the representative adventurers of the Water Country.
Sa-san and the Scorching Hero Olga-san are apparently at the top in the amount of dragons slayed.
“What about you, Lucy?” (Makoto)
“Me? Hmm, about that…” (Lucy)
It seems like the magic of Lucy blows up everything, so her subjugation counts are invalidated.
“I would say Lu-chan is the one who actually has the highest count.” (Aya)
“Aya says so, but there’s no proof, you see. But Makoto can become 1st place in an instant!” (Lucy)
“Right! Takatsuki-kun can freeze everything with his magic after all.” (Aya)
“Would it really go that smoothly…?” (Makoto)
Even if the two who have been working as first class adventurers were to tell me that, I don’t have the confidence.
1,000 years ago, I was working with the notion of life at foremost after all.
(Makoto, I heard from Ira that you were pretty reckless in the past, you know?) (Noah)
I hear the voice of Noah-sama.
Ira-sama just likes to exaggerate.
…Now that I think about it, I haven’t heard the voice of Ira-sama at all lately.
Wonder what happened?
“We are here, Makoto.” (Lucy)
I snap back to reality with the voice of Lucy.
It was a very spacious space underground.
Long desks and round chairs were lined up orderly there.
Looks like the meal time is almost over. There weren’t many soldiers in the middle of their meal.
“Takatsuki-kun, are you hungry? It seems like there’s still food left, you know?” (Aya)
At the direction where Sa-san is pointing at, there’s a person distributing bread and soup.
We lined up in a line of a few people, and got our meal.
And then, we sat at a random place with open seats.
“This bread is hard… Because of that, you can get as many as you like though.” (Lucy)
“This soup’s taste is so crude, isn’t that right, Lu-chan? It lacks a lot of flavor.” (Aya)
When I mutter this, Lucy and Sa-san made surprised looks.
No, it really is tasty.
Is my tongue weird?
“Makoto…what were you eating 1,000 years ago?” (Lucy)
“Takatsuki-kun…you must have had it hard…” (Aya)
Lucy and Sa-san pitied me greatly.
We only had salt as seasoning 1,000 years ago after all.
I see, so my tongue has evolved into a tongue that can eat anything and have it taste delicious!
(It hasn’t.) (Noah)
At the time when I got that retort from Noah-sama…
“…Could you be the Water Country’s Hero-sama?”
Someone saw my face and stopped in place.
“…No, there’s no way. He should have been afflicted by a half-body paralysis curse in the battle against a Demon Lord.”
“But…that face is…”
Soldiers were gathering one after the other.
“The ones by his side are Lucy-san and Aya-san, right?”
“Those two are bringing along a man…?”
“The Crimson Fangs that had nothing to do with men are bringing a man?!”
“Aah! There’s no doubt about it! It is the Rozes Hero-sama!”
The ruckus gradually got bigger.
Different from the time at the hallways, there’s no one to stop this ruckus.
This…would it be better to speak my name here?
“Aya-san! Who is the man by your side?!”
One soldier resolved themself and asked this.
“My hubby, Takatsuki Makoto-kun~!” (Aya)
Sa-san wrapped her arms around mine and announced this with a smile?!
“Hey, Aya~, it is ‘our’, right?” (Lucy)
Is that introduction appropriate? -is the retort I made, but my voice was erased by the voices of Lucy and the soldiers.
“I knew it!”
“So you have come back, Takatsuki-sama!”
“You saved me in the Moon Country!”
“You saved my life in the 1st Northern Expedition war!”
“I haven’t forgotten your gallant figure in the face of the monster stampede in Symphonia!”
“Is the Demon Lord’s curse already okay?!”
“We can finally fight together, right?!”
“To think I will be able to see the Spirit Magic of Takatsuki-sama again…”
I was surrounded in an instant.
“Uhm…wait a moment…” (Makoto)
While I was getting flustered by this…
“Now, you gotta act the part, Makoto.” (Lucy)
“Everyone wanted to see you, Takatsuki-kun~.” (Aya)
Lucy and Sa-san smack my back.
“…Got it.” (Makoto)
Being told that by the two, I fix my posture.
Looks like the soldiers here were worried about me.
Then, I should properly show them I am doing fine.
After that, I was barraged by questions.
But well, they must have caught on that ‘I was on some sort of secret mission’, they didn’t ask too deeply about the time I was missing.
Instead, they asked me a whole ton about Spirit Magic.
Seems like there’s a lot of soldiers in the Black Barrel Fortress that saw me using Spirit Magic in the battle against the Beast King on the Moon Country.
They are all showing interest in whether my skills in Spirit Magic have dulled since then.
“Oi! Call everyone that’s off-duty! The Water Country’s Legendary Hero-sama has come!”
“Yeah! You can hear the story about the time when the Light Hero-sama was trapped in the barrier of the Beast King directly from a person on-site!”
“Is there no booze?! There’s no better moment than this for some drinks!”
“There should be in the storage, right?! Bring it all!”
“…Won’t General Geralt get angry?”
“As long as we keep order, it should be okay. Geralt-sama has gotten softer as of late.”
It turned into a drinking party.
There’s at least a barrier around the whole fortress, so it doesn’t let sounds escape to the outside.
I don’t think that’s the problem here though…
Is doing something like this at the frontlines okay…?
“You bunch! What are you doing?!”
While we were making quite the ruckus, the woman that guided us before came in shouting.
But Lucy and Sa-san calmed her down.
Looks like she actually wanted to make noise together with us.
The guide woman was also in the frontlines at the 1st Northern Expedition.
It seems she wanted to hear my stories.
She could have just asked directly.
…In the end, we made noise till late in the night.
However, as expected of soldiers, there wasn’t a single one who drank till collapsing.
When the party ended, they all went back to their posts or returned to their quarters to prepare for tomorrow.
The only ones drunk were on our side.
“Munya munya…” (Aya)
Lucy and Sa-san were sleeping really comfortably in the neighboring bed.
The two are popular among the soldiers in the fortress, so they were made to drink a whole lot.
(…That was fun.) (Makoto)
I managed to speak to a lot of soldiers too.
It didn’t feel bad that what I did on the battlefield before has remained in the memories of everyone.
Also, all soldiers in this fortress fear the Ancient Dragon King.
That must be why there’s a lot of expectation for me who is a Spirit User.
(Looks like I can’t afford to lose here.) (Makoto)
With that feeling reinforced, I went to sleep.
(…This is…?) (Makoto)
The moment I thought I had fallen asleep, I was standing in a pure white unreal space.
It is…the space of Noah-sama, but…
The atmosphere is a bit different from usual.
The one with glittery silver hair and a dazzling white dress, Noah-sama.
The one with shining blond hair and a lovely blue dress, Eir-sama.
And…one more person.
A tall and gallant Goddess was talking with Noah-sama and Eir-sama.
—The Sun Goddess, Althena-sama.
The center of the Goddess Church.
The ruler of the whole universe is here.
There were a lot of complaints from the people that hate yuri.
There was a lot of praise from the people that like yuri.
…I will tone down the messing around, okay?
This time was a somewhat serious one (I think).