The next morning, I awoke in a house they had set up for us. It had been a while since I last slept in a warm place with a proper mattress, and so I slept very deeply.
Hell, Daniela was still asleep. Even she appreciated how comfortable it was. Looking at her made me want to go right back to bed. But I forced myself up with an iron will.
“Hey, Daniela… It’s morning.”
I hardened my heart and started to shake Daniela’s shoulders. She grumbled in irritation, but we had slept long enough.
After shaking her a few times, and being slapped in return, she finally got up.
Daniela groaned as she rubbed her still closed eyes and scratched her disheveled hair. It was not a sight anyone else could see…
She would likely fall back asleep if I went out to wash up first, and so I helped her to her feet and led her outside.
While we couldn’t see the sun yet, it was decently bright outside. It was morning. And under the open sky, the orcs were already working.
I took out a bucket from the hollow bag and filled it with water. It was cool and refreshing on my face.
She trudged over to the bucket and began to slowly wash her face.
I watched her while drying myself with the towel around my neck. Just then, Arthur visited us.
“Good morning, Asagi. Daniela.”
“Morning, Arthur. Thanks for setting this up for us.”
“Ah, don’t mention it. That’s the best thing about these structures. They can be built easily.”
Especially with the strength of orcs. It would take no time at all. It was nice being able to see them make it.
“Will you be staying here long?”
“I wish that we could, but there is a place that we have to go to.”
While Daniela was washing her face, I told Arthur about the reason for our journey. Ultimately, it was to deal with the Nova… And so we had to gather what we needed.
“…we need a key in order to reach the Nova. And for that, we have to cross the sea.”
“Hmm… Indeed. I was wondering what cause you could have had to come all of the way here. The Nova, huh…”
Arthur muttered as he stared at the ground.
What he had thought would be eternal rest had turned out to be anything but. Instead, he had been thrown into a bloody world as a monster.
Well, I didn’t really know what he was thinking. I remember having so many regrets when I had been stabbed. However, it had led to me meeting Daniela and many others.
But it wasn’t a matter of weighing everything on a scale. I was grateful in different ways, and felt bitter in others. And I never found an answer.
“Don’t worry about me. I already made up my mind. If we don’t do something, other people will be summoned here. And some will be monsters. I can’t ignore that, can I?”
“Indeed. I would go and help you two if I could…”
“I know. I’m just happy for the thought.”
Arthur had an important role here. Besides, I didn’t want him to fight any more. Yes, he would be reliable if he did, but still…
When I told him this, he laughed awkwardly, but happily.
“Aye, very well. I will stay here and pray for your success. And when you come back safely, we will drink and celebrate.”
“It’s a promise.”
I said while offering my pinky. It was something that only we knew. Arthur looked surprised at first but understood it quickly with a nostalgic expression.
“I’ve made many promises in the past. Some I kept, some I broke… But I will keep this one. I swear it.”
“Don’t die before we come back. Live so that we can meet again.”
“Aye, of course.”
Our fingers locked as we made the promise.
“A thousand needles if you break it.”
“Aye. Don’t think I won’t force you to swallow them.”
Even though I knew it was a joke, it was a little chilling hearing it from a huge orc. But I would keep the promise… No one wanted to swallow a thousand needles.
After that, we headed to the center square. It was here that all of the orcs ate together. They had all been so anxious and afraid when their journey first started. And so they had huddled together, shoulder to shoulder when eating. And it became a sort of tradition. They ate all of their meals together now. Arthur related this with a smile.
All of the orcs were already gathered there. So we were the last ones to arrive. Even Daniela was already sitting there, surrounded by children.
“You two are late.”
“Ah, I am sorry.”
“But you were late to get up.”
“And yet I still arrived before you.”
Daniela said with a smug expression. It was rich coming from someone who would still be asleep now if I hadn’t woken her up.
Some of the children moved away, and Arhur and I sat down next to Daniela. As I sat cross-legged, what looked like a giant cutting board was placed in front of us, and on it were an assortment of freshly picked fruits.
“Since coming here, we decided to only eat fruits in the morning. We don’t want to over hunt… Besides, these fruits are good for you.”
“I’ve heard that fruits are especially good in the morning.”
Since everyone was now present, they all started grabbing the fruits and eating them.
Following their lead, Daniela and I picked the fruits that were on the top. They were red and thorny. Since the peel seemed pretty thick, I made a groove in it with the Ashikirimaru before tearing it away. Inside, the fruit was a slightly lighter red. And so I took a bite.
There was a frightening explosion of sourness in my mouth. Daniela saw me and her hand froze before she took a bite.
Arthur and the orcs, old and young, all started to laugh boisterously. Perhaps it had been an amusing reaction, but I was in a sorry state. I quickly tried to create a cup of ice and fill it with water, but it was so sour that I couldn’t concentrate.
Arthur handed me a cup, and so I snatched it from him. If this was also sour, I would throw him down from the sky.
“You must have been very thirsty, Asagi.”
I shoved the cup back into Arthur’s hands as he gave me a thumbs up. Then I wiped my mouth with my sleeve. Thankfully, this water was a little sweet, and it helped neutralize the taste in my mouth. Peace at last. Had they known? I looked around and saw that none of the other plates had the same fruits that Daniela and I had. So…we were tricked.
“It’s only what you deserve for saying you’re going to leave us so soon.”
“Though, I do understand. But we’ll miss you.”
“…I know. Still, that was really sour!”
Arthur could be surprisingly immature… Damn it. But I couldn’t be angry at him now.
“…Hm? You’re not going to eat yours, Daniela?”
“As if I could!”
They erupted into laughter once again.
□ □ □ □
Once we finished breakfast, it was time for us to leave. While this was a short stay, we had accomplished our goal. I was able to return the Excalibur and renew our friendship. And I learned about not just his journey, but his past. I felt that we were much closer for it.
And the people of Camelot had been so welcoming. They had changed the way they lived, learned to speak, and started to create their own culture. They were much different from other orcs that did nothing but attack humans. I was glad to have been able to see it.
“We should be going then.”
“Aye, be careful. …Deal with the Nova for everyone on the other side.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.”
I promised as we shook hands.
“If you see Pochi, tell him I said goodbye.”
“Now that I think about it, he hasn’t been around… Alright, I’ll tell him for you.”
Good. Now I could leave without regrets.
“Well, see ya!”
“We will be waiting for your return! Good luck!”
“Aye, see you again!”
Arthur and the other orcs waved as we walked away. We were headed to the cave that Arthur had used to come here. Then we would go around the mountain and go out to sea. Surely the boat we bought from Lontos would take us across safely.
We left Camelot and walked through the prairie for some time. As this was a different route compared to when we came, there was no forest. The cool wind rushed through the grass and brushed against us.
“It looks like there are a lot of wind spirits here.”
“Do you think it’s related to the ancient elves after all?”
“I do not know. But this place was definitely not created by accident…”
It was my opinion that this garden was created by them. It was too perfect to be natural. It didn’t feel right. As beautiful as it all was… But I didn’t feel the need to go poking around too much. We might end up ruining it for Arthur and Pochi…
Still, where was Pochi? He hadn’t been anywhere in the village. He had called the orcs his friends and neighbors, but perhaps he still spent most of his time away from them…
“…Asagi. Pochi seems to be headed towards us.”
Daniela said as she turned back to Camelot. I tried using Presence Detection. Yes, something strong was headed towards us. After a few minutes, I could see the three-headed beast approaching.
“He’s carrying something…”
Daniela said as she squinted. I looked with Eyes of the God Wolf. Yes, the outer heads were holding something. What was it…fur?
“Haahh…hahh… There you are.”
“Sorry. We tried to look for you, but you were nowhere to be found…”
“I had to go back in order to bring this. I thought that I could see you if I went to Arthur, but you had already gone.”
Apparently, he had talked to Arthur and come running towards us. Was it a parting gift?
“Asagi. There is something that I want to give you.”
“Is that fur?”
“Aye. I want you to wear this.”
I already had dragon armor. Was this better than that?
“I know that you are in a hurry. But I want you to listen to me.”
“A change is occurring inside of you.”
A chill ran down my spine.
But his next words left me speechless.
“You are turning into a monster.”