After dinner was over (in the end, Senpai also ate. It was her second dinner. What kind of stomach does she have!), I decided to go see Ms. Ariane.
“…Hey, Maito. What did you talk about last time?”
While I was getting ready, Suzumoto asked me something.
“Hm? Things like Ms. Ariane officially becoming the High Priestess, the story of the Hero participating in the Underwater City Revolution, the conversation you had with Ms. Ariane alone, and related matters.”
I thought that was about it, then he held his head in his hands.
“What was said about the conversation with me?”
Uh-oh… You’re quite cunning, aren’t you?
“…You were asked what lies between you and me, and you answered ‘friendship and respect’.”
It was very hard to say. What’s this!
“And what do you mean by ‘related matters’?”
“I was asked what I think about you, so I answered ‘respect and friendship’. Basically, it turned out that you answered in a similar way.”
“I see. …And what about Ms. Ariane?”
“Eh? Something like… ‘terrible people’, then suddenly she asked, ‘Can we become friends?'”
“She offered a handshake.”
After a moment of thought, Suzumoto came to a conclusion.
“…Hmm. I’ll go too. Wait for me. I’ll get ready.”
It seems Suzumoto also decided to go. I don’t know what he’s thinking, though.
I carefully wrapped a pudding as a souvenir for Miss Ariane and changed into Demon Army attire with Suzumoto. Together, we used “Transfer” magic.
“Good evening from the terrace again today.”
When I knocked on the window, there was a rustling sound inside, and Miss Ariane came out.
“Oh, good evening.”
“Good evening. Sorry to disturb you.”
While handing over the pudding, I observed Ariane’s happy demeanor.
…She seems a bit too happy, which is cute. I think Ariane is definitely a bit older than us, but cute is cute, so it can’t be helped.
“What is this?”
She opened the pudding package, curious about the contents.
“It’s a foreign sweet, called ‘pudding.'”
“It looks like ‘petit-ing.’ …It’s so wobbly in foreign lands.”
Ariane is adorable as she holds the bowl and wobbles it, observing the pudding.
“I’ll make some tea.”
“No need to fuss.”
I say this, but I’m actually looking forward to the delicious tea Ariane makes.
Before going to make tea, Ariane added another chair to the table.
Seeing this, Suzumoto’s indescribable expression was somewhat amusing.
“…By the way, I brought three puddings.”
Of course, I had intended to do this from the start.
Since he seems to be talking a lot, and I’ve also talked a lot, we don’t need to pretend anymore about being the Demon Lord and his subordinate.
“…Then, I’ll take one without hesitation.”
Suzumoto cautiously takes a seat and waits.
After a short wait, Miss Ariane came with a pot and cups, and brewed some tea.
I thanked her lightly before taking a sip.
The tea had a slightly sweet, floral aroma. I wondered what it was.
“Today’s tea is from Kukurts.”
…Well, thinking about it, it’s probably the name of a town or country to the northeast.
“I like this tea a lot… So, what brings you here today? Something must have happened, right?”
…Hmm, judging by her mischievous expression, she must have heard about the underwater city. That should be addressed first.
“Well, just to report… We captured all the heroes who attacked the underwater city southwest of Eitzol. I guess this means we’re on the current queen’s side… As for the reason, I can’t say much, but it’s not against the heroes. We won’t harm them.”
I didn’t want to go into too much detail… Also, I think Ariane might have figured out that I’m from another world, but explaining that in detail would be a hassle, so I’ll leave it.
“I see. If it’s for the heroes’ good, I have nothing to say.”
Oh, she took that quite easily.
“I thought you might have something to say.”
“I did think something must be up since you didn’t mention anything about the heroes’ actions in advance.”
So that’s how it is. Well, if Ariane has nothing else to say, then I guess this report is finished.
“The Demon Lord has connections with the heroes, doesn’t he? And Suzumoto, you seem to be from another world too.”
She’s figured that out, huh.
“…Didn’t you find it odd that someone like me, from another world, is on the side of the Demon Lord?”
Now I’m curious about the situation with the temple. Suzumoto seems interested too and asks Ariane about it.
“I knew that the temple had summoned several people from another world… It’s not surprising that the temple is resented.”
“Do you think the Demon Lord would harm the heroes?”
“I don’t think so. The Demon Lord isn’t an enemy of the temple or the heroes, right? Given how concerned he has been about the heroes, warning me about them, there’s no way he would do something terrible to them.”
“It seems you trust him quite a bit, is that alright?”
I wonder if that’s problematic from the temple’s top perspective.
“The current doctrine of the temple may differ, but as far as I can tell from old texts and forbidden books, the Demon Lord was never in opposition to the goddess or the temple. Right? If that’s true, then that’s how the temple should originally be.”
Miss Ariane said this and then scooped up a spoonful of pudding to eat.
…Judging by her expression, it seems delicious. I’m glad she likes it.
Well, it’s time to get to the main topic.
“Do you know about the ‘Ashes of the Abyss’?”
“‘Ashes of the Abyss’? Yes, I’ve read about it in the forbidden books. It’s one of the items brought back from the abyss by a High Priest from many generations ago, right?”
…The abyss, where is that?
“Actually, I want to know more about it. Could you tell me what you know?”
I decided to ask frankly, as pretending to know might not get me anywhere. However, Ariane’s expression wasn’t very encouraging.
“I’m sorry, but all I know from the temple’s forbidden books is what I just told you. It’s said that a High Priest went to the abyss and brought back the ‘Ashes of the Abyss’ and the ‘Azure Seed.'”
The ‘Azure Seed’ too? Is that the transparent, blue, thumb-nail-sized, flattened droplet-shaped thing?
That was also an ingredient in the spirit medicine, so maybe there’s a connection.
“The ‘Azure Seed’ is still used in the temple, but the ‘Ashes of the Abyss’… it’s not even certain if it still exists.”
So, what is the ‘Azure Seed’ used for? I guess I can ask George-san or President later.
“What is the abyss?”
“It’s said to be a world beneath this one. It’s almost a mythical place… I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.”
“No, that’s enough. It’s helpful. Knowing just that gives us something to work with.”
…The uncertain existence isn’t ideal, but at least now we have a direction – to head underground.
It’s valuable enough knowing our next destination.
After chatting a bit more with Miss Ariane, it was time to take my leave.
Then, Suzumoto asked, “May I speak with Ariane for a moment?”
I agreed and waited on the terrace after giving my consent.
“Sorry for making you wait,” Suzumoto said, joining me after a while.
I was curious about what they discussed, but it felt awkward to ask.
…However, he looked noticeably more at ease. Well, if he’s feeling better, that’s good.
When we “Transferred” back to the back of the throne room, it was unusually quiet.
I was ready to discuss the new information we gathered, but no one was there.
…Wait, has everyone already gone to bed?!
Well, I guess it can’t be helped. Everyone must be tired… even though some had been napping during the day.
“Maito,” called Suzumoto, breaking my train of thought.
I was wondering if we should postpone the meeting to the next day when Suzumoto spoke again.
After hesitating a bit as if searching for the right words, he smiled and said, “Good night,” then headed towards the men’s sleeping quarters.
“Good night,” I replied, raising my hand in a casual wave as he disappeared beyond the door.
…Well, I guess it’s time for me to sleep too.
So, it’s morning now. Good morning.
This morning’s breakfast is bread, and while eating, we have a meeting about yesterday’s information.
“The abyss, huh… Was there a basement in the school?”
“Yes, there is. The oil storage is partly underground, if I recall correctly.”
Indeed, there’s an oil storage accessible from the courtyard, which was partially dug into the ground, making it partly underground. Right, that’s correct.
“So, maybe we should start our search there?”
Other underground areas… Oh no, I have a clear idea about the attic, but when it comes to underground, I’m clueless!
…Maybe we’ll start with the oil storage and then search behind the stairs or something like that.
…Underground, underground… Hmm… I wonder if it’s okay to just dig into the ground. Probably not a good idea, though…
“So, I’ll contact you once I’ve sorted out a bit more of this mess.”
“Yes. Please take care of yourself, senpai.”
With that, it was time to part ways with our senpai for a while.
Senpai couldn’t leave the country until the royal authority was securely transferred to someone trustworthy.
Once that’s sorted, we plan to get in touch via a maid doll.
While feeling a bit sad about parting with our senpai, we collected Ketorami and then “Transferred” to a hill near the center of the first floor, from where the temple was visible.
“The oil storage should be east from here.”
“What, you got a problem with that?”
And so, it was time for another ride on Ketorami.
…Hang in there!