And so, the plot thickens……kukukuku
Kiriko Epawsode 12: Devouring Demons
“Ohh, Kiriko! You’re finally awake!”
An energetic voice greeted me upon entering the Guild’s main hall. Turning towards it, I was assaulted by a storm of sparkles emerging from the bright-eyed receptionist’s smile.
“Y-Yeah……morning to you too, Darius.”
As I walked up to the human sun, I could feel my eyelids twitching in attempt to protect my eyes from the glaring scene. For some reason, it felt like I was taking some kind of damage from the sparkle beam. Psychological damage, that is.
“Did Conrad already receive his part of the reward from yesterday?”
Deciding not to waste any time, I went straight to the point. After spending so much time talking to Silvia when I woke up, I was starving. It felt like my stomach was about to eat its way out of my body.
“Yeah. Do you want to take care of that stuff now?”
Darius’s voice chimed out cheerfully as he spoke. Just hearing it sent shivers running down my back.
What’s he so happy about?
While I hadn’t known the blue-eyed man for long, seeing him so happy gave me a sense of foreboding.
“Yesterday, you and Conrad together defeated a total of 35 Black Demons and 1 Greater Black Demon. 10 Black Demons were brought back in perfect shape, while 25 of them were brought back in a significantly damaged state. The Greater Black Demon was also pretty badly damaged, so that will also decrease your reward.”
“That can’t really be helped, you know…”
Hearing the receptionist’s summary, I couldn’t help but give an unhappy murmur. After all, the 25 damaged Black Demons that he was talking about were likely the ones I had defeated coincidentally when trying to kill the Greater Black Demon. Conrad and I had only managed to retrieve 10 Black Demons before its appearance.
“Yes, yes. I know. Conrad actually refused to take any of the reward for the 25 Black Demons and the Greater Black Demon. He said it was only fair for him to take half of the reward for the first 10 Black Demons.”
“No ‘buts’. He already claimed his portion, so you’ll have to take the rest up with him.”
Pouting my lips sullenly, I nodded in acknowledgement. Like he said, there wasn’t much point in arguing with him. Looks like I’ll have to go searching for Conrad later.
“Anyhow, the Black Demon corpses in good condition were 20 Kin each. Since you split the reward with Conrad, that’ll be 100 Kin for you. As for the remaining ones, the Guild has decided to reward you 10 Kin per body.”
350 Kin so far, huh. Not bad…
My current earnings had, after all, at least tripled that of what I received from hunting slimes.
“Lastly, the Greater Black Demon. Normally, since it’s a Rank 4 monster, the Guild only allows Rank 3 adventurers and above to hunt it, but……well, I guess in this case it couldn’t really be helped. A fully intact Greater Black Demon would get you 120 Kin. However, the body that the Guild received was very burnt, and a good portion of it became completely unusable……which is why I can only give you 60 Kin for it.”
Though my heart hurt at the thought of all the money I had lost out on, it wasn’t like I was in dire need of cash now, so I didn’t bother fighting over it. He did have a point too. If the Guild couldn’t use any parts of the monster, then there wasn’t point in it paying for them.
“Well, all together, your reward comes to a total of 410 Kin.”
“Kay, just put it on my ca—”
All of a sudden, Darius raised his voice, cutting off my words as a mischievous glint appeared within his sky blue eyes. Falling silent, I waited for the receptionist to explain his unexpected change in demeanor.
“There are a few matters that require me to deduct a part of your reward for.”
Indeed, I could think of at least two matters off the top of my head. Even so, I had chosen not to mention them earlier in hopes that the young receptionist wouldn’t charge me.
“First would be the dagger that you broke during your fight. As you’re already aware, the destruction of it will cost you 20 Kin.”
Nodding glumly, I sighed internally as I saw a small portion of my reward prancing away.
“Next is the issue of the fields that you incinerated yesterday during your fight. While the Guild does understand that it couldn’t really be helped, it doesn’t change the fact that many valuable crops were destroyed. However, taking the circumstances into consideration, we’ve decided to lessen your punishment by having the Guild pay a portion of the reparations. As such, we’ll only be taking half of the remaining reward!”
Unable to control myself, I let out a small roar after doing a brief spit take. Thankfully I hadn’t been drinking anything, else the handsome face of the devil before me would’ve been covered in more than just spittle.
“………ah, I almost forgot, but there’s also the small matter of the healing fee…”
Iya iya iya, you definitely made that up just now, didn’t you?!
Clearly, the honey-haired youth wasn’t nearly as grateful for the fact that I didn’t have anything in my mouth as he began to wipe his face with a handkerchief. An ominous expression appeared on his usually amiable visage as he looked at me with narrowed eyes.
*giku* (TL: *startled twitch*)
“For that…hmm…50 Kin should do.”
Saying that, the devious con-artist smiled brightly, sending a streaming of sparkles flooding in my direction.
My heart bleeding at the amount of money that had instantly flown out of my pocket, I wailed pitifully in my mind. Outwardly, only a faint glimmer of tears welled up in the corner of my eyes, betraying my inner thoughts.
It really, really, realllllly couldn’t be helped! My original 410 Kin reward was cut down to a mere 135 Kin! That was only slightly more than what I got from killing slimes! Actually, it was exactly one giant cockroach more!!!
Seeing my distraught appearance, Darius gave a rather despicable smile.
“Please don’t worry. Seeing as you’ve paid off all your dues from your reward, the Guild will not pursue you in the future regarding the repayment. So in truth, it’s a blessing in disguise!”
Blessing my ASS!!!
Retorting with an angry mental holler, I quickly retrieved my Guild card while whirling around in a huff. Somehow, seeing his smug face was making me lose my appetite.
“Ah, will you be needing another dagger? This time, the rental fee will be—”
Leaving behind nothing except an infuriated shout, I stormed out of the building.
Upon exiting the Guild, an excited voice called out to me, stopping me in my tracks.
Turning towards its source, I found the familiar figure of the pale blonde-haired youth approaching. Slightly surprised at his sudden appearance, I soon forgot the anger which had caused me to leave the Guild’s halls.
“Good morning! I see that you’re doing much better now!”
“Maa……I suppose so?”
Receiving Conrad’s almost excessively energetic greeting, I smiled wryly while responding half-heartedly. It seemed that the shock of my earlier loss of funds had still yet to wear off.
“? Is everything okay, Kiriko?”
Concerned due to my rather listless response, the golden-eyed youth gazed at me while inquiring about my well-being.
“Ah, un…yeah, I’m fine. Just a little hungry.”
Waving a hand about carelessly, I pushed the blame for my lackluster manner on my hunger. It wasn’t a complete lie anyhow. My stomach was roaring for sustenance, as it angrily clawed at the insides of my abdomen.
“Oh? If that’s the case……would you like to go eat with me? My treat.”
Conrad’s face beamed with a friendly smile, sparkles shimmer out from his person. His destructive power probably wasn’t any less compared to the fierce attack Darius had used against me only minutes earlier.
I wonder if all good-looking guys in 【Paletia】 are capable of using this kind of sparkle attack……
Thinking such frivolous thoughts, it took me several moments before I realized the meaning behind the blonde-haired man’s question. That is, the fact that he had just invited me out for a meal. A free meal.
Considering the ‘dire’ state of my wallet, I wasn’t about to pass up a meal that had been so graciously presented to my doorstep.
Rather, after finding out that one of the main ingredients in the meals I had been eating from the Guild was……that, I wasn’t too keen on eating there anymore. Seeing as I’d have to find someplace to eat anyhow, it was probably smarter to have a local like Conrad come with me.
It’s just eating a single meal with a friend, nothing more, nothing less. Well, a meal with all-expenses paid, but he offered!
Still feeling a little skeptical despite my affirmation, I absentmindedly followed Conrad down the streets as I pondered upon his intentions.
Hearing Conrad’s words, I woke up from my stupor.
In front of us stood a wooden building, its walls humbly exhibiting signs of wear and tear, while giving off a rather clean look. A pair of windows were built on the sides of its entrance, with another row of windows above them, indicating that it was about two storeys high.
Though it doesn’t look that bad, this doesn’t seem to be a restaurant at all……
Indeed. After all, the establishment didn’t have any signs that would indicate that it was a business whatsoever. If I had to say, it looked more like someone’s house.
“Conrad, this is……?”
“Yeah, it’s my house.”
So it is a house! Wait. Why are we at his house?!
Blanking out completely, I stared at the golden-eyed man as my mouth hung open dumbly. It was only natural. Though I did consider him to be a friend, having only known each other for a few days, we clearly weren’t at the stage where I could go over to his house to eat so casually.
“? I said I’d treat you to a meal, right? Just wait a bit, I’ll fix something up for the both of us.”
“Eh? Wait a—”
Speaking briefly, Conrad waltzed forward, opening the door and walking into the house before I could express a single word of dissent.
……well, it should be fine, I suppose.
While I was a little wary about how he hadn’t even thought of telling me that we’d be going to his place to eat, seeing as we were already here, I decided not to make a big fuss about it. It wasn’t like he’d do anything bad to me.
Besides, if he wanted to abduct me for ‘nefarious purposes’, he’d have done it last night, when I was knocked out from the battle.
Snorting inwardly to myself, I walked after the blonde-haired man, closing the door in the process.
The fragrant scent of freshly baked bread, together with the sizzling of a frying pan enveloped my senses as I entered the room.
Before my eyes sat a modest-looking wooden table, with just enough room to seat a family of 4.
Next to the table was a hallway, from which a set of stairs peeked out, apparently leading to the second floor of the household.
Farther into the room was a stoney area, within which a large fireplace sat.
It was from this region of the room that the appetite-inducing stimuli originated, likely produced by the slender male cooking within it.
Having spent several minutes basking in the savoury aroma, my stomach finally decided to remind me that it was about time I delivered it some sustenance. Holding it down stealthily, I glanced back at Conrad, hoping that he hadn’t heard its pitiful cries.
“It’ll be ready soon! Sit down for a bit and feel free to make yourself at home.”
Gahhh, how embarrassing!!!!
Reeling in chagrin, I staggered onto one of the chairs seated next to the table.
Conrad expertly weaved around the kitchen as he tended to the numerous dishes cooking on the counter. His movements were smooth and unhindered, like a dancer performing on-stage.
His graceful appearance captured my conscious, as I fell into a daze, silently watching his figure.
“Alright, it’s done!!”
Before I knew it, his culinary dance had finished, and a plate of steaming hot food was placed in front of me. Snapping back to reality, I nodded gratefully while giving a quiet, “Thanks”.
Nodding back in response, Conrad seated himself across from me, placing a second plate on the table.
“Let’s eat then!”
Smiling brightly, the golden-eyed man gestured to the meal, indicating that I could start eating. Unable to hold back my hunger any longer, I immediately dove into the feast, determined to finally satiate the starving monster within me.
“Mmm! Delicious! You’re really good at cooking, Conrad!”
Though I energetically praised his cooking, Conrad unexpectedly gave a rather dull response.
Looking up, I noticed that he had yet to start eating, and was simply watching me with a grim expression.
? Should I not have started eating so quickly…?
Worried that I was being rude for starting before my host, I slowed my eating speed. Upon seeing that, however, the silent man gave a helpless smile and shook his head.
“It’s alright, don’t mind me. You can keep eating. It’s just that you looked so happy, I couldn’t help but get caught up in watching you.”
I could feel my cheeks growing hot as my mind was thrown into disarray at Conrad’s words. He really could say some pretty embarrassing things without blinking a bit. As expected of an ikemen.
In order to hide my reddening cheeks, I threw myself at the plate of food with even more vigor. Within moments, the platter was swept clean, and my stomach beast was finally satisfied.
“Fuu~ so yummy~”
My hunger satiated, I leaned back in my chair while patting my belly. The food really was good.
“I’m glad it met your tastes.”
A wry grin spread across the golden-eyed cook’s face. He still hadn’t touched his plate at all……was my eating style that outrageous?
“You’re not gonna eat?”
Tilting my head inquisitively, I stared at the ikemen’s face.
“I’m……fine. I’m just not that hungry right now…”
You mean that seeing me eat made you lose your appetite?!!
My face twitched as I tsukkomied the man’s words internally.
“Well, don’t mind it too much.”
Slightly exasperated, I leaned back and relaxed, deciding not to pay it anymore heed. As I did so, I began to feel as though chains were binding my body, dragging it down with its great mass.
Maybe I ate a little too much……I’m starting to go into a food coma……
Thinking that, I started to get up from my chair. After all, if I kept on sitting there’s no doubt that I’d fall asleep. I still had things to do, and it wasn’t exactly proper to just sleep at someone else’s house after being treated to a meal.
However, as I stood, I felt my legs collapse under my weight. No longer able to support my torso, I wobbled like some sort of newborn fawn.
And yet, despite my lack of balance, I did not fall.
After all, my blonde-haired host had swiftly vaulted the table as he caught my jelly-like body.
“Ahh…thanks Conrad. I must be a little tired from all the food……”
Saying that, I could feel my eyelids drooping, exhaustion flooding my limbs.
I wanted to sleep. I was just so tired. But I knew that I shouldn’t. Yet……my mind seemed to have become detached from my body.
Wait a moment……
A sudden epiphany hit me.
To begin with, it was extremely strange for me to be this tired after eating. This sleepiness was hardly at the level of a mere food coma anymore.
This is weird.
A sense of unease began to creep into my mind.
It couldn’t be. It was impossible. To begin with, he had no reason to—
But did he?
It was possible that there were things I didn’t know about. Benefits that he could reap from doing this.
I just didn’t want to believe it.
The fact that Conrad had sold me out.
Trembling, I weakly tried to push the thought away as I gripped his arm, seeking his warmth.
But it was nowhere to be found.
The arms that held me were frozen, foreign objects.
I didn’t know this embrace. Who was this? It couldn’t be the Conrad I knew. He had to be a stranger, an impersonator!
Please……don’t be the Conrad I know.
My heart pleaded.
Because if this man was the real Conrad……
It meant that I never had a friend in this world to begin with.
My mind spiralling into a whirlpool of darkness, I timidly looked up at his face, grasping at the last breath of hope I had.
Though his eyes were as cold as his arms, somewhere within me, I knew.
I was wrong about him.
He wasn’t the simple ‘nice guy’ that I thought he was.
The man that I had come to know and trust didn’t exist to begin with.
Really, why had I trusted someone I only knew for 2 days so easily?
I was a fool. A naive idiot.
And now, I was about to suffer for my stupidity.
In my moment of despair, the figures of my friends from the Chaos flashed through my mind.
I wanted to see them.
Yet now, I probably wouldn’t be able to.
As the chill of the arms embracing me sank into my soul, the grudging darkness continued to creep closer and closer.
No. I can’t…
In a last ditch attempt to outrun the encroaching shadows, my mind furiously began to retaliate, stabbing at the endless sea.
I had to run. Now.
However, sleepiness clung to my conscious, dragging it deeper and deeper into the suffocating bog.
No matter how much I struggled and screamed inside, my body refused all commands, stubbornly remaining paralyzed.
No! No……stay awa—……
The swamp cut off my breathing, plunging me into darkness.
However, within that gloom, a faint whisper brushed past my fading conscious.