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We were still on the beach in Muhle. Alice and Sophia stood opposite each other in front of me.
“You’ll never beat me, Alice onee-chan!”
“I won’t lose to you, Sophia-chan!”
They each struck dramatic poses and I thought I saw sparks fly. The atmosphere they gave off made it clear that no one else should interfere.
The next moment, Alice threw the beach ball she was holding high into the sky. Just as it reached its apex, she jumped after it and smashed it towards Sophia.
The ball flew forward and was inches from smashing into the white sand before Sophia slid beneath it and launched her own attack.
“Your thoughts are too easy to read, Alice onee-chan!”
She knocked the ball back into the air before quickly following it into the air and spiking it back towards Alice’s side of the court.
They’re playing beach volleyball, and normally, this would be considered a fault for a double touch. However, since this is supposed to be for fun and they’re playing one-on-one, this rule is ignored.
The ball was headed towards the opposite side of the court from Alice and was just going to land inbounds. Alice still hadn’t recovered from her previous attack. Even if it’s her, there’s no chance she’s getting there in time.
“ — I’m not giving up yet!”
Alice used her spirit magic to accelerate her body towards the ball. She reached the line with incredible speed and received the ball before it hit the sand.
She carried her momentum forward, spun around in the sand, and launched herself into the air after the ball.
The ball continued to rise into the sky, but Alice caught up to hit and said,
“This is the end — wha– !?”
She had just hit the ball when she saw something that made her gasp. Just beyond the beach ball, Sophia was level with Alice and also had her right hand raised.
“Didn’t I tell you –?”
Sophia hit the ball that was already flying at a tremendous speed. Instead of blocking the attack, she launched an immediate counterattack. She timed it perfectly as if she knew exactly what Alice was planning.
The ball launched forward and buried itself deep into the sand of Alice’s court.
Sophia slowly fell back down to earth. She brushed her fluffy blonde hair out of her face and showed an innocent smile.
“– Alice onee-chan, you’re thoughts were wide open.”
“It was impossible to win even using spirit magic…. Sophia-chan, you’re too amazing.”
Alice collapsed to her knees the moment she landed on the beach.
“You’re not going to join them, otouto-kun?”
The deck chair I was sitting on was lined up in a row of several other chairs. As I was watching this intense scene between them, Claire, who was sitting next to me, quietly muttered this.
“With those two? Do you want me to die?”
“Yeah, I guess I know what you mean. If you were to try to join those two when they’re exercising in their swimsuits, you’d be too distracted by their chests and you’d probably get nailed by the ball.”
“Yeah, exactly — that’s not what I meant! I’m purely talking about the difference in our skill level.”
Certainly, the sight of their chests bouncing in their skimpy swimsuits would be a hard thing to ignore, but, having witnessed their intense battle just now, I’d be more concerned about my own life.
“Otouto-kun, you can use spirit magic too, right?”
“I know I’ve improved significantly, but comparing me to Alice is like comparing heaven to earth.”
There’s no chance I’d be able to use air walls as platforms to climb into the air. Nor would I be capable of using such advanced magic so quickly. And even with Alice’s skill level, she was being pushed hard by Sophia’s ability.
I’d stand no chance against either of them.
“By the way…I wanted to thank you.”
These were the words I had wanted to say for a while now.
“For giving you the opportunity to see everyone in their swimsuits?”
“That’s not it. For giving Sophia something to take her mind off what’s happened.”
Alice may have created this lake by coincidence, but it wasn’t a coincidence that Claire invited us at this time.
“It’s not a big deal…. It’s only natural that I’d be worried about my cute younger sister.”
Claire showed a small smile as she watched Sophia; she genuinely looked like an older sister watching her younger sister.
“But….Sophia won’t truly be okay until she’s able to save Elyse. Otouto-kun, will you support her properly?”
“Of course, I’ll do whatever I can.”
I nodded and turned back to watch Sophia and Alice’s game. As I was watching them, I felt like I could hear a faint voice calling out to me.
“…Claire, did you just say my name?”
“It wasn’t me. It sounded like it came from behind us.”
I turned to look but didn’t see anyone. However, under the shade of a tree, there appeared to be the silhouette of a person.
“Is someone there?”
“…umm, Leon-sama, it’s me.”
Along with her modest voice, her face emerged from behind the tree.
“Tina? What are you doing over there?”
“This is, well, umm….”
Claire realized something and walked over to Tina with a mischievous smile.
She hooked her arm around Tina’s and pulled her out from behind the tree.
Tina was dragged out into the sunlight, exposing her one-piece swimsuit that had a floral pattern.
“Did you come to swim, Tina?”
“N-No, I received information about the location of the ingredients you’ve been looking for. I just came to give you that report.”
“Oh, well, thank you…but why are you in a swimsuit?”
“Otouto-kun, you should be able to figure that out without asking. She obviously came to show it off to you.”
Claire replied for Tina. The moment she said this, Tina’s face turned a deep red.
“I see…. Tina?”
“Your swimsuit is really cute. It gives off a mature image and really suits you, Tina.”
“T-Thank you very much.”
I tried to act as calm as possible as I gave my answer.
With Claire here, if I showed any embarrassment, she’d never stop teasing me about it.
Thinking about this, I looked at Claire to see her giving me a thumbs up and mouthing the words ‘good job’….eh? Is that what Claire wanted?
“Anyway…you said you had a report?”
“Yes. First off, the nail of an Earth Dragon. It seems that the Marquis of Gramp actually possesses one. I considered opening up negotiations with him but have yet to do so, but without a doubt he has one.”
It might be part of a collection of his. If we pay him an appropriate compensation, we should be able to obtain it, but…if it’s him, there’s a chance he’ll refuse.
“And what about the Lyk Skull Bear?”
“It seems that it is a rare species born from a mutation of the Garu Bear. For every one Lyk Skull Bear, there are several hundred Garu Bears.”
“A rare species…. Where are they located?”
“Their primary habitat seems to be dense forests and the nearest forest matching that description is in the Marquis of Gramp’s territory.”
Conveniently, I can obtain both ingredients in the Marquis’ territory. I needed to visit him anyway, so this is the perfect opportunity to tackle several issues at once.
— She gave a serious report…while wearing a swimsuit.
To be honest, I was unsure of where to look while she was speaking. Well, I got through it somehow.
And so, it was decided that I along with four others would travel to the Marquis’ territory. Sophia and Alice came along with Milli as our caretaker and Elsa as our escort.
Claire still needed to manage our territory and was too busy to take time off to come with us.
I felt sorry but it couldn’t be helped.
It was now the next day.
Several citizens of the Grances territory and a few of our friends came to see us off before we left the city in a horse-drawn carriage.
Before our highway and carriage upgrades, it would’ve taken one week to get to his territory, but now it should only take three days. It seems a little much for there to be so many people gathered here to see us off.
Well, it’s actually nice that so many people came. Several of the citizens said farewell to everyone travelling with me.
In the meantime, I spoke with Liz.
“I’m sorry that you have to stay here, Liz.”
“It gets lonely staying here by myself, but I expected this when I took on this role, so I’ll just have to try my best. Leon onii-sama, please be careful on your trip.”
“Thank you. I’ll be careful.”
I gently stroked Liz’s head as we said our goodbyes. Then, I turned to Akane.
“Akane, I trust that things are progressing well?”
“You don’t need to worry. You’ve entrusted me with it and I’ve already started working towards transitioning away from our original method.”
“That’s what’s most important.”
Akane and I are working on a plan to have the mages at the relay points refreeze the perishables in place of Liz.
We spoke vaguely because Liz still doesn’t know we’re working on this.
As Liz herself has said, she feels that the work she does is rewarding but lonesome. I wanted to come up with a plan to give her some free time without making her think that we didn’t need her anymore.
“Also, here you go. Here are the items you asked me to get.”
Akane handed me a small wrapped package. Inside, were Alice Brand hair ornaments. I was too embarrassed and worried about being found out to go buy them myself, so I asked Akane to get them for me.
“By the way, who are you going to give that too?”
“It’s a secret.”
I smiled and pocketed the small package.
After that, I spoke with Akane for a few more minutes before we finished our conversation.
I looked around the area and saw Claire with Tina and Michelle. I also saw that Lyanna and Aisha were with them.
“Claire, actually…I don’t have anything special to say.”
“Wait a minute, otouto-kun? Isn’t that a terrible thing to say to your sister? You don’t have anything to say about managing the territory while you’re gone — or really anything at all!?”
“You’re usually the one handling most things concerning our territory. Even if I’m not here, you know what you’re doing.”
“It’s nice that you believe in me so much, but would it kill you to say something nice to me before leaving?”
I know I should, but I’m embarrassed — fine, I don’t have to say anything. Instead, I embraced her.
“I’ll get the Lyk Skull Bear’s liver and be back as soon as I can. Until then, the Grances territory is in your care.”
“…of course, leave it to me. So don’t worry about our territory and be safe on your journey.”
We patted each other on the back and pulled away. Finally, I turned my eyes to the other four people.
“During my absence, please assist Claire with anything regarding the school or its students.”
“You can count on me. After all, I’m Claire-sama’s assistant.”
Tina gave a nice response and Michelle, Aisha, and Lyanna all nodded.
After we all said our goodbyes, we departed to the Marquis of Gramp’s territory.
Our goal was to save Elyse. To do that, we must collect the ingredients needed for her medicine. I personally don’t care about Elyse, but I don’t want Sophia to grieve.
And that’s why I pledged to save Elyse for Sophia.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.