Chapter 2 : Shia’s Feelings and Haltina, Sea of Trees
One of 7 Great Dungeons, the [Haltina Sea of Trees], was located within the country of demi-humans, Faea Belgaen. Thanks to the Magic Powered 2-Wheeled Drive pulling the two large carriages along with dozens of horses, Hajime and his party were now able to advance at a rather fast pace.
On the bike, Yue sat in Hajime’s lap while Shia sat behind him. At first, Shia was told to ride on one of the carriages, but she insisted on riding on the bike. Even though Yue kept harassing her, Shia kept clinging onto the bike like a zombie, so Yue finally gave up. Shia had finally met two people that were the “same” as her, so she wanted to talk about various things. However, much to Yue’s displeasure, Shia was hugging Hajime. Yue believed Shia had intentions of getting her hands on Hajime by using her shameful, lethal weapons.
Hajime, who was sandwiched between the ill-humored Yue and good-humored Shia, absentmindedly drove on.
In that state, Hajime heard Yue’s voice.
“… Hajime, why did you fight them by yourself?” (Yue)
Yue was talking about the fight with the empire’s soldiers. At that time, Hajime fought them alone after stopping Yue from utilizing magic. Even though there would’ve been almost no difference if Hajime had just let Yue “insta-kill” the soldiers, Hajime had fought alone, and that made Yue anxious.
“Well, I just wanted to confirm…” (Hajime)
“… Confirm?” (Yue)
Yue asked him with a doubtful face. Shia, intrigued, rested her head on his shoulder.
In summary, Hajime had two reasons for fighting solo. One, Hajime had stopped Yue because he wanted to use this fight as an experiment. Even though it looked like he head-shot all of the soldiers, he had also shot at their armor. He thought that it’d be overkill to use rail guns all the time. It’d be too dangerous for him to use them in town because of their penetrating power. Though he had no problem turning thugs into dust, the bullets would also penetrate any nearby residential housing and possibly kill whoever was inside! Hajime didn’t want to become someone who indiscriminately killed unrelated people. Thus, it was necessary to understand how to control his power output, which he fine-tuned throughout this fight.
The other reason was to confirm whether he’d hesitate to kill humans. Even though he had been reborn in that hell, he had yet to experience killing a human. Therefore, he wanted to see how he would react after killing humans. The result was that he felt nothing. As expected, he had no qualms with removing anyone that obstructed his path.
“Even though I felt nothing when I killed those soldiers, when I think about how drastically I’ve changed, it makes me feel somewhat sentimental…” (Hajime)
“… Are you okay?” (Yue)
“Ah, there’s no problem now. This is the current me. I’m just glad that I’ll be able to fight properly from now on.” (Hajime)
Having heard Hajime’s story, Shia was surprised that this was the first time he had killed a human. At the same time, she admired Yue who was able to notice the slight change in Hajime’s mood. Once again, she felt lonely due to her lack of familiarity with Hajime and Yue.
“Un, about that! Can I hear more about Hajime-san and Yue-san?” (Shia)
“… Aren’t we talking about that right now?” (Hajime)
“I don’t want to know about what abilities you two have, but like why were you inside the Abyss? What are your objectives? What have you done until now? I want to know more about you two, you know?” (Shia)
“…. After you hear that, what then?” (Yue)
“Even if you ask me that, I just want to know… I, because of my circumstances, have brought a lot of trouble to my family. I hated myself so much when I was a child, but of course, everyone told me to cheer up and now I don’t mind it as much. Even so, I still feel like an oddball in this world. That’s why I was so happy when I met the two of you. To find people who were similar to me, it was an overwhelming feeling. Although it is selfish of me, I wa- want to become your companion… so can’t you tell me more about the two of you…?” (Shia)
It seemed Shia was embarrassed by her own words, as her voice became smaller and smaller, hiding her face behind Hajime’s back. When Hajime and Yue thought back to when they met Shia, they remembered how incredibly happy she was. When they left to save the Haulia tribe from the Hyverias, Shia had found out that they were capable of using magic manipulation. Shia must have been feeling anxious since then.
In this world, those who were capable of magic manipulation like demonic beasts would never be accepted. As such, it’s only natural to think that those who have been rejected and isolated from society would bond together. Despite that being said, for Hajime and Yue, they felt no sense of camaraderie with Shia. But, because it would help pass the time, Hajime and Yue started to tell their story.
The result is….
“Huuuuu~! Cruel, how cruel~! Hajime-san and Yue-san had it hard~! Compared to that, I was blessed… Uu~, I didn’t lack anything at all~…” (Shia)
She cried. As she continued sobbing about her misconceptions, she continued to wipe her face using the overcoat Hajime had lent her. She had thought her that her circumstances were worse compared to Hajime and Yue’s circumstances, which led to self-admonishment in her shame.
After crying for a while, Shia suddenly clasped her hand into a fist and declared with a resolute expression—
“Hajime-san! Yue-san! I have decided! I will join you in your travels! From now on, under this sun, Shia Haulia has promised to help the two of you! There is no need to be reserved. The three of us are now comrades. Let us overcome our hardship and find hope together!”
Hajime and Yue could only give her a cold look as she made her declaration.
“What did this weak and pathetic rabbit just say? You’d only be a hindrance.” (Hajime)
“…. Casually changing ‘I want to be a comrade’ into ‘I am a comrade’, what a shameless rabbit.” (Yue)
“Wh-why the cold look? Aren’t you moved? … And please call me properly by name!” (Shia)
The mood froze as Shia trembled in their cold gaze. Hajime continued—
“You, don’t you simply want someone to be your travel companion?” (Hajime)
Shia was stunned.
“Once your tribe is in safe hands, you wanted to leave them, right? And along we came, people who were the ‘same’ as you, so you decided to go with us? A Rabbitman with such an unusual hair color would surely find it difficult if they traveled alone, after all.” (Hajime)
“… even if you say that… I, I only wanted to…” (Shia)
Maybe because he had hit the bullseye, Shia sputtered out a few words in denial. The truth was that she was determined to leave her tribe once gaining Hajime’s agreement. As long as she remained with her tribe, they would never truly be out of harm’s way. Their current trip was an exemplary example. Who knew what trouble would find them next if Shia stayed. She felt that she should no longer endanger her tribe, despite if her tribe judged this as an act of betrayal.
At worst, she had resolved to go alone, but she knew that would make her tribe even more worried. On the other hand, if she said it was to repay Hajime and Yue for their services, it would be easier to convince her tribe to let her leave as she would be in safe hands. Shia despaired that her intentions were so easily read.
Of course, Shia was still interested in Hajime and Yue. Despite what Hajime and Yue felt about her, she felt a strong sense of camaraderie with them. In fact, Shia believed her encounter with Hajime and Yue was due to fate.
“But it’s not like I can blame you for thinking so. However, our objectives are the [Seven Great Dungeons]. The dungeon’s interior will be infested with monsters similar to those in the Abyss. You would probably die the instant you stepped foot into the dungeon. It is for that very reason I can’t allow you to go with us.” (Hajime)
Hajime’s relentless remarks made Shia fall silent. Hajime and Yue, unconcerned about Shia’s feelings, continued to berate her with the reality of her situation.
From then on, Shia quietly sat on the bike with an unreadable expression.
After several hours, their party finally arrived at the border of the [Haltina Sea of Trees]. From the outside, not only could they see a dense forest, they could see a ghostly fog coming from the woods, seemingly ready to devour them.
“Well then, Hajime-dono, Yue-dono. Please do not leave our side from here on out. Even though it may be possible for you to advance by yourself, it would be a problem if you get lost in there. Our destination is within the depth of this forest, under the [Great Tree], is that correct?” (Kam)
“I have only read about it. The entrance to a real dungeon seems to be located there.” (Hajime)
Kam wanted to confirm their destination for the last time before they departed into the [Haltina Sea of Trees]. What Kam called the [Great Tree] was located within the depths of the [Haltina Sea of Trees]. Also known as the [Great Tree Ua Alt] by demi-humans, the area had become a sacred place that no one dared to approach. Kam had explained the significance of the [Great Tree Ua Alt] to them when they had been traveling in the [Raisen Great Canyon].
At first, Hajime had thought that the [Haltina Sea of Trees] was one enormous dungeon. However, if that were true, then the wandering demonic beasts they had seen should have been as strong as the ones inside the Abyss, making it impossible for demi-humans to live there. The [Seven Great Dungeons] all had unclear entrances, including the [Orcus Great Dungeon]. So when he heard about the [Great Tree] from Kam, Hajime had a new suspicion.
Kam nodded at Hajime’s response, then signaled to the other tribe members to build a formation with Hajime at the center.
“Hajime-dono, if it is possible, please erase your presence. The [Great Tree] is a sacred place, so I believe it unlikely to happen upon anyone. However, if we happen to encounter someone from Faea Belgaen, a large problem would arise.” (Kam)
“I see. I’ll do that then. Yue and I can do that to some degree.” (Hajime)
Hajime used the skill [Hide Presence] while Yue thinned her presence using the method she developed in the Abyss.
“!? That is… Hajime-dono, if possible, could you adjust your presence to match that of Yue-dono?” (Kam)
“Hm? … Is this alright?” (Hajime)
“Yes, that is enough. If you hid as much as you had, even we would have lost sight of you! As expected of such a capable man!” (Kam)
Although their specs were low on many fronts, the Rabbitman tribe prided themselves in their stealth ability and eyesight. However, Yue’s method for hiding her presence rivaled their own. Hajime’s skill, [Hide Presence], had even exceeded their capabilities. If it were anywhere else, they might have been able to maintain sight of him. But inside the ominous fog that always filled the [Haltina Sea of Trees], they would surely lose him, even with their Rabbitman tribe’s prided ability.
Having his tribe’s prized ability surpassed by a human, Kam could only smile wryly. Yue puffed out her chest, priding herself in Hajime’s ability. Shia was in turmoil.
“Shall we head out?” (Kam)
Under Kam’s command, their party advanced. Kam and Shia headed into the fog towards the heart of the [Haltina Sea of Trees], complex feelings arising in their hearts.
After a while, the road forward vanished, the fog thickening as they continued. However, Kam maintained his pace. It was as though he knew their precise location in this fog, clear on which way was the path forward. For whatever reason, only demi-humans were capable of navigating the path through the [Haltina Sea of Trees].
Suddenly, Kam gave the order to stop. They carefully observed their surroundings. Demonic beasts had enclosed on them. Naturally, Hajime and Yue also noticed them. The Haulia tribe drew their knives that Hajime had given them when they entered. Normally, during such encounters, they would just escape. But how could acting as Hajime and Yue’s guide through the [Haltina Sea of Trees] be considered a normal situation? Tension filled the air.
Hajime nonchalantly waved his left hand across his body. The faint sound of objects flying rang out.
DOSAa! DOSAa! DOSAa!
” ” ” KIiiii!?” ” ” (Monsters)
Screams rang as three bodies hit the ground. Three panicked monkey-like creatures around 60 cm tall with four arms, each with sharp claws, agilely rose from the ground and charged at them.
Yue held up her hand, aiming at the one furthest forward, muttered-
“[Wind Blade].” (Yue)
A blade of wind appeared and rushed forward, slicing the creature in two without resistance. Quietly, the creature fell to the ground.
The other two split up. One of them approached a child while the other aimed its four claws at Shia. Shia and the child froze in place. The nearby adults cried out in fear, but their worries were for naught.
Hajime once again aimed his left arm and flickering whispers sounded as the creatures collapsed with countless numbers of 10 cm long needles extending from their heads.
What Hajime just used was a Needle Gun equipped on his artificial left arm. He felt inspired by the scorpion-esque creature he had fought in that hell, and so created the Needle Gun. To fire, it required [Lightning Clad]. Though it was not on the level of Donner and Schlagen in terms of firepower, it was still lethal, as the needles carried poison. It only had an effective range of 10 m, but the Needle Gun was silent and hidden: a secret weapon. Because they were inside the [Haltina Sea of Trees], Hajime decided they couldn’t afford the attention Donner and Schlagen would have brought.
“Th-thank you, Hajime-san.” (Shia)
“Onii-chan, thank you!” (Child)
Shia and the child thanked him. Hajime gestured them not to worry about it. The boy looked at him with sparkling eyes, but Shia suddenly dropped her shoulders when she recalled how pathetic she had acted.
Kam wryly smiled at her. They continued on after being urged by Hajime.
Afterward, all the demonic beasts were quietly handled by Hajime and Yue. The troublesome demonic beasts of the [Haltina Sea of Trees] proved no problem for them.
However, after several hours had passed since they entered the [Haltina Sea of Trees], their travel was interrupted by an innumerable number of presences that quickly surrounded them. The killing intent they felt was incomparable to that of demonic beasts, leading Kam to restlessly confirm their location.
“You are… why have you brought in humans?! Tell us what tribe you’re from!” (???)
The Haulia tribe appeared to have lost all hope as that voice resounded. Shia’s face paled.
When Hajime and Yue discovered who it was, they immediately felt that their situation had become troublesome.
A muscular demi-human with tiger ears and tail had appeared.