ZAP – Chapter 23: Partner

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Double chapter. Make sure you didn’t miss the previous one~.

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◇Sumire’s POV◇

— “Victory of the challenger.” 

The moment I heard that voice, I jumped out from inside the tree and ran to where Eugene-kun is.

Eugene-kun fell on his knees and was spacing out. 

“Eugene-kun!” (Sumire)

I called his name in a loud voice and hugged him just like that.

“……Sumire, are you okay?” (Eugene)

“It shouldn’t be me getting asked this…but you, Eugene-kun…” (Sumire)

He is not heavily injured, but it seems like his breathing is terribly rough, and it is as if he is barely managing to talk. 

He is all worn-out…

I was on the verge of crying from vexation, seeing that figure of Eugene-kun.

I am…so powerless. Always crying, getting saved…

“Let’s head to the Dungeon Elevator. The dungeon staff might have come.” (Eugene)

“O-Okay.” (Sumire)

We walked slowly. 

““……””

We were silent the whole time in our walk.

Eugene-kun was a bit unsteady on his feet and his steps looked heavy. 

I walked slowly to match him. 

And then, when we arrived at a slightly open space, we stopped. 

Collapsed trees. 

Gouged out ground. 

Bright red pools of blood here and there. 

“……Eh?” 

I soon noticed that that voice came out from me. 

My head couldn’t accept the sight in front of me. 

*Drip Drip*

A ghostly sight of red objects spread before us.

This is where the Martial Arts Club was

Everyone had a part of their body bent or had missing parts at worst. There’s also some who had faces warped in fear, most likely having experienced something fearsome. 

It was a sight that was hard to take. 

“……Ah…Aaah……” (Sumire)

“……”

A sound, that couldn’t be considered words, leaked out from my mouth, and Eugene-kun frowned but remained silent. 

And then, I found it.

Inside a pool of blood…there was Leona-san lying there. 

“…No…way…” (Sumire)

I approached Leona-san with unsteady feet. 

The carefree smile she showed when she invited me to camping. 

Her serious face when she told me she would teach me martial arts. 

Her cheerful voice when she tried to recruit me to her club. 

Those memories from just half a day ago were vividly replaying in my head. 

I was reminded that I can’t return ever again to that time. 

“Uh…uuh…” (Sumire)

I collapsed right there and cried. 

Why…why did something like this happen? 

Or is it normal in this world…?

The girl that you spoke cheerfully with just a few moments ago…possibly dying the next instant…

“It is impossible… I…can’t live in a world…like this one…” (Sumire)

Eugene-kun is here.

Leona-san became my friend. 

Even though I had come to like this world a little bit.

This is just too much… 

“Take me back… Take me back to my world… God…please…uuh…” (Sumire)

Tears flowed out from my eyes and empty wishes leaked out from my mouth. 

My shoulders were pulled into a hug at that moment. 

I don’t even need to look back. It is Eugene-kun.

(What…?) (Sumire)

Right now, no words of comfort will reach me.

That’s what I thought. 

“Sumire, you want to go back to your world…?” (Eugene)

Those words of Eugene-kun hit me right in the head and I blew up.

“That’s right!!! I can’t live in a world like this!!!! A stupid world like this where your friends die in the blink of an eye is unbelievable! My world was more…more peaceful!” (Sumire)

I shouldn’t say something like this. 

Eugene-kun saved me. 

He even fought that monster with his life on the line just now. 

But my words didn’t stop.

I was venting here. 

I am simply having an unsightly panic attack. 

“I want to go back… Bring me back… Get me back to my original world…” (Sumire)

“Sumire…” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun called my name, but I couldn’t respond. 

I have to stop crying already… My rationale and my desire to continue crying were mixing. 

I don’t even know what it is I want to do.

At that moment…

“…I will return you to your world.” (Eugene)

Those words of Eugene-kun reached my ears. 

…Eh? 

What are you saying? 

“Isn’t that obviously impossible?!” (Sumire)

I lifted my head and reflexively objected. 

But the face of Eugene-kun was serious. 

“In the Last Dungeon, every 100 Floors, you can obtain the Sacred Treasure of Favor from the Holy God-sama.” (Eugene)

“? …What’s…that?” (Sumire)

I don’t get it. 

Why is he talking about that now? 

“The 500th Floor has the Sacred Treasure of Favor, World Gate. It is a sacred treasure that allows you to traverse to a parallel world…apparently.” (Eugene)

“……Eh?” (Sumire)

I couldn’t understand his words.

T-Traverse to a parallel world?

Y-You can do that?! 

I can return to my world once I go to the 500th Floor?! 

I desperately try to string words with my panicking brain. 

“I-I can’t… I am currently an Ifrit, so even if I return to my world, I wouldn’t be a human…” (Sumire)

“The sacred treasure in the 300th Floor is the Body Changing Lake that lets you take any form. You can just wish yourself to return to a human just like before you reincarnated.” (Eugene)

“Wa?! Eeeeeeeeeh?!!!” (Sumire)

T-There’s such a convenient sacred treasure?! 

“T-Then…I can really…return to my world?” (Sumire)

“Well, there has only been one person who has been able to arrive at the 500th Floor in 500 years. There’s no one who has confirmed whether there’s actually a World Gate there. It is currently close to being a rumor. It can’t be said for sure.” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun said with an apologetic look.

“B-But…there’s a possibility, right?” (Sumire)

“Yeah, the Number 1 Record Holder of the Zenith Tower, Cristo, left some words. That there’s a World Gate in the 500th Floor and you can freely traverse parallel worlds.” (Eugene)

“W-Wow…” (Sumire)

“I may be repeating myself here, but there’s no adventurers who have confirmed this. This is purely the words of one adventurer.” (Eugene)

But learning that there’s the chance to return to my world lightened my heart. 

I felt as if the will to live had been born in me. 

Cause you know, Eugene-kun even defeated the Divine Beast that is supposed to be really strong! 

If Eugene-kun is going to help out, this is a dream come true, right? 

…But there’s still a question in me. 

“Eugene-kun…why do you go this far for me?” (Sumire)

That question came out of my mouth.

What am I expecting him to say here? 

Eugene-kun is my guardian.

That’s why he listens to my selfishness. 

Even if I ask him this, he would only say ‘because it is my job’.

“Hm?” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun made a dumbfounded face. 

“Right…” (Eugene)

He looked up and made a gesture as if he were thinking. 

And then, he begins speaking. 

“…My home, the Santafield family, is a family that has served a lord for generations in a small country of the East Continent.” (Eugene)

What Eugene-kun was telling me here was something that he had told me a bit of in the tent before.

A lord, he says?

It reminds me a bit…of the samurais in my world.

“That’s why, I had lost my objective in life when the person I wanted to serve, my childhood friend Airi who was aiming to become the Emperor, had thrown me away.” (Eugene)

“Y-Yeah…” (Sumire)

I nodded awkwardly. 

Eugene-kun is talking about the past. 

He looked straight at me. 

“My pops…no, my family has a family precept carried on for generations: the Santafield household won’t brandish their swords for themselves. They will do so for the sake of others.” (Eugene)

“I…see.” (Sumire)

“That’s why I thought just now, I may have lost my lord, but…then, I shall brandish my sword for the sake of a crying girl.” (Eugene)

“…”

A crying girl?

The gaze of Eugene-kun was directed at my face. 

My face that has turned into a mess from tears. 

This unsightly face that’s as if a child was throwing a tantrum. 

I hurriedly wiped my eyes. 

“That’s why I will take you to the 500th Floor. That way, you could return to your world…right?” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun smiles.

There isn’t a trace of gloom in his face, and I could tell he was saying this from the bottom of his heart. 

“Th…” (Sumire)

I was going to say thank you, but I decided against it. 

Eugene-kun is kind. 

That’s why I end up getting spoiled by him. 

But is this really okay? 

Is it okay for me to hide myself like just now and leave Eugene-kun to do the fighting? 

Letting Eugene-kun end up in tatters like this…

I will just tremble in a corner? 

No.

I must not do that. 

“Eugene-kun, let’s go to the 500th Floor together! I will help out too!” (Sumire)

“Sumire?” (Eugene)

I grabbed his hand tightly and said this powerfully. 

“I will become strong too! According to the Principal, an Ifrit is supposed to be really strong! I will train and become stronger too! I am sure we will be able to do this together! I will bring you to the 500th Floor and make a new record on that stone monument!” (Sumire)

I said that in one breath. 

After Eugene-kun made a really shocked face, he laughed. 

“Right. I am a swordsman with zero attack power that only has White Mana, so the 500th Floor would be a dream within a dream without your Red Mana, Sumire.” (Eugene)

“T-That’s not what I meant!” (Sumire)

I hurriedly shake my head. 

Eugene-kun slowly offered me his right hand. 

“Sumire, become my partner. And then, let’s aim for the 500th Floor.” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun said that. 

Partner…that’s nice. 

A partner that you can rely on, one that you can join strengths with and face trials and tribulations. 

“Yeah, let’s go together!” (Sumire)

Eugene-kun and I shook hands with smiles on our faces.

—In this way, we became the adventurer duo that aimed to break the number one record that has been immovable for 500 years. 

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