I've had various things on my mind, but no matter how much I think about them, it doesn't seem like I'll come up with any answers.
As if to change my pace of thinking, I focus on how I'm going to distribute my experience from now on.
Even after we left the royal capital, I've been turning the monsters appearing on the highway into experience and distributing the gathered experience.
For now, I've paid back my experience debt, just enough so that I won't level up. With that, I'll be able to increase my level immediately whenever I need to.
I have to think carefully about the timing of when I'm going to level up, because unlocking Soul Swords alone is causing my stats to increase.
There's a Soul Sword that temporarily decreases my stats and increases the experience I gain, but that reduces the attack power of all my other Soul Swords to zero when equipped.
Therefore, I would have to defeat monsters using only my own strength and if I used it now, I'd simply become unable to defeat anything due to a lack of offensive abilities.
And now I have about 25,000 experience points left.
「Hmm, what to do...」(Kaito)
The monsters around here are quite strong so the experience I'm earning from them isn't bad, but unfortunately we don't encounter them very often.
We're planning to stay in Ermia for a while, so spare experience will be hard to come across.
Considering that, I'm finding it difficult to come to a decision even after narrowing down the possible candidates for where I should spend my experience, and Minnalis even asked me in a cold voice,[Are you incompetent, Goshujin-sama?]
I almost cried. I'm not being stingy.
「Actually, Minnalis has been pretty strict lately, hasn't she?」(Kaito)
She's acting humble as usual despite the positions of slave and master having been abolished, but she's overwhelming. Actually, from time to time, I feel an aura coming from her that tells me that I absolutely can't disobey her.
I have no intention of making her obey my every command, but I don't know how I feel about this.
With a small sigh, I light the campfire.
During my first time through this world, my eyes hadn't been open to the things around me until the last part of my journey to defeat the Demon Lord.
I didn't care about what I ate as long as it was edible, and I didn't have the time to be looking around at the scenery.
Whenever I tried to buy mysterious toys being sold in shops whose functions I didn't really know or get tempted to buy some clearly overpriced food being sold at a stall, Minnalis would get angry and give me a cold smile, as if to say,[Are you an idiot, Goshujin-sama?]Maybe because of the values she had from having lived in a poor village, even though we have money, she won't allow any wasteful use of it.
The only times she shows a nice smile lately was is we're coming up with ideas for our revenge, testing out torture methods that we could carry out on Goblins and other monsters that we come across or on days where she is simply in a good mood or when her head is spinning from mana intoxication.
Leaving that aside, it seems that if I don't come to a decision soon, this will drag on for too long.
So after all this time deliberating, among the three Soul Swords that I've been considering, I unlock the[Adversary's Kidnapping Blade.]
It's likely that my stats will be lower than those of my enemies for a while, so there will be a lot of opportunities to use it.
I can simply use other Soul Swords against opponents that have lower stats than me, so the fact that there are no disadvantageous side-effects is a huge thing.
I spent 15,000 experience, so I have 10,000 left.
I consider unlocking a fast sword that enhances my MP, but I decide against it.
I could use the 10,000 experience I have now to increase my level into the lower twenties.
It's best to keep some in case something happens so that I have it available to use freely if I'm forced to.
「I guess this is fine.」(Kaito)
I look down at my hand to see that the sand in the hourglass has fallen.
It seems that more time has passed than I'd thought.
「Goshujin-sama, it is time to change places.」(Minnalis)
I go to wake Minnalis to tell her that it's time to switch, but she's already awake.
「Oh, you were awake?」(Kaito)
「Yes... Goshujin-sama, you seem to talk to yourself a lot.」(Minnalis)
No, well, I can't help it, right? If you're on a long journey and you're alone, you talk to yourself a lot.
It's just like talking to yourself when you're living alone.
「It is fine during the day, but if you do not take care at night, it bothers me and I cannot sleep.」(Minnalis)
Is she using some kind of skill to make this blank poker face? Is this her way of showing that she's irritated?
「I-I'm very sorry...」(Kaito)
「No, it is not a problem if you will take care from now on.」(Minnalis)
Being subject to this cold treatment, I dejectedly pull the blanket over my head and close my eyes.
I kind of get the feeling that our relationship is starting to reverse.
She obeys the general rules that I set and big decisions that I make as long as nothing unexpected happens, but the everyday things apart from those... No, it's not that she's disrespecting me or anything like that. It's not like that; in fact, I know that the things she says in a cold tone are things she says out of concern and she's just being overly cautious, but still...
As such thoughts run through my mind, my consciousness slowly submerges into the depths of sleep.
「It seems that Goshujin-sama is asleep now.」(Minnalis)
Confirming that Goshujin-sama is asleep, I run my fingers through his hair gently as usual while I undo my Audacity skill.
「Aaaah, jeez, why does Goshujin-sama's voice sound so comforting to my ears? Perhaps he has Siren blood in his veins.」(Minnalis)
I whisper to myself quietly so that I definitely won't wake Goshujin-sama up.
I know that my face has become relaxed after undoing my skill.
「I shall do my best to acquire a magic tool that can record his voice.」(Minnalis)
It's alright; this is not a wasteful use of money. This will be a very valuable purchase.
... Though this is not related in the slightest, next time Goshujin-sama shows interest in some piece of junk that seems useless, I shall stay quiet and let him do as he wishes.
I decide to placate Goshujin-sama for when the chance to acquire a voice-recording magic tool comes.
But I must show my disapproval for food being sold at stalls. It is my job to make food for Goshujin-sama; I will not relinquish that role to anyone else.
As well as being able to make food for cheaper than buying it, I can thoroughly check the quality of the ingredients, but to think that he would make such a careless remark as,[I can just buy food from a stall, so it's fine]...
No, this just means that my skill in cooking is still lacking. I have no choice but to continue improving my skill and work hard so that I can conquer his stomach as I once heard about, so that he is infatuated with my cooking only.
「... But the disposable containers that Goshujin-sama uses are precious, and it is necessary to visit other places in order to increase my repertoire of dishes, even if I do not like it... I could accept normal bars and restaurants, but I am anxious about the ingredients and methods used to make food that is sold at stalls...」(Minnalis)
Whispering to myself in a voice so small that Goshujin-sama wouldn't be able to hear it even if he woke up right now, I feel happy to realize that, like Goshujin-sama, I am talking to myself a lot.
But when Goshujin-sama continues talking to himself at night, I often can't sleep properly because I become curious about it.
I scolded Goshujin-sama for talking to himself for such a selfish reason, so I must take care with my own words to myself.
With such pointless thoughts running circles around my head, I add wood to the fire and break pieces of wood that are already burning to take maintain the fire as dawn slowly approaches.
「Goshujin-sama, wake up, please.」(Minnalis)
「Mmh... Are we being attacked?」(Kaito)
It's a little before dawn. The sky has just started to grow lighter and the sun's outline isn't even visible on the horizon yet.
I'm woken up, stimulated by the fighting spirit that Minnalis seems to be full of.
「I do not believe so. But I can hear the sounds of battle a short distance ahead. They might continue in this direction as they fight; we should at least observe what is happening.」(Minnalis)
I'm sure she's used her[Hearing Enhancement]skill to direct her mana into her ears. Minnalis's rabbit ears are twitching.
As a human, I don't have the[Hearing Enhancement]skill to apply to my ears so I find it difficult to distinguish among the sounds of insects chirping and leaves rustling, but I can still faintly hear the sound of metal clashing against metal.
「It's coming from ahead... We'd normally ignore it otherwise.」(Kaito)
I let out a sigh.
I'd like to avoid being touched by some unknown god and receive a curse in this random place, but unfortunately, it's coming from a direction that doesn't allow me to ignore this.
I can't tell how far away it is with these ears, but the sounds are coming from the direction of Ermia, the college town.
Whether we choose to ignore it or get involved in some way, if we don't at least see what's going on and gain some information, we might be put on the back foot.
I learned the hard way during my first time through this world that ignorance can become a fatal weakness.
We toss the belongings that we took out for camping here into our bags and I prepare myself to produce any of my Soul Swords to match whatever situation we run into as we begin making our way cautiously towards the direction of the sound.
As the sound grows louder and louder, Minnalis draws her own sword and recasts her illusionary spell on herself.
Incidentally, the weapon in her hands is the eighth of the items we purchased in the royal capital. The seventh, which was showing signs of wear, perished near some monsters that it had killed.
「... Adventurers, and are those bandits?」(Kaito)
It seems that it's a battle between humans.
Some rather unattractive men have surrounded a carriage. And there are some people fighting against them who look like adventurers.
Adventurers who have been hired as escorts fighting against bandits. It's not a particularly surprising scene.
「Hmm, at this rate, the adventurers are going to be crushed.」(Kaito)
The adventurers seemed quite skilled; they were holding out against the bandits who outnumbered them almost two to one, but they're going to reach their limits soon.
「It's decided, then.」(Kaito)
「Yes, it is.」(Minnalis)
Minnalis and I give each other light nods and then step into the forest to our right while we still haven't been noticed.
We could simply ignore the entire thing and pass them by along the side, but there's a chance that this decision will become a burden to us in the distant future. But supporting either side is even more out of the question.
I don't care whether the bandits or adventurers win. Honestly, in either case, there's no benefit to becoming involved.
There will be no problem if we go around through the forest. As I feel irritated that my sleep was cut short, we continue through the gaps in between the trees.
And it is at this moment that I wish that we went left instead of right.
「W-what terrible luck...」(Kaito)
「Well, if we were lucky, we would not be living lives like this.」(Minnalis)
An enormous monster with the face and body of a pig has appeared.
Unlike small Goblins, monsters such as these that are known as Orcs are the same size as a human while possessing superior physical strength.
However, though this monster appears to be what is called an Orc, it is also definitely different. It is a mutant Orc whose overall size is almost twice that of a normal Orc, and it has a black-iron hide with exceptional physical damage resistance.
... Standing before us is a[Black Orc], also known as a Big Orc.
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