Chapter 74 – Triumphant Return!
“We’ve returned! Everyone is fine!”
Mette shouted and waved her arms at the demihumans who were stationed on the walls.
And then, as if to welcome us, cheers rose from the walls and the village.
And so we had made our triumphant return amidst this lively atmosphere.
Ecleshia had returned ahead of us, and she was now waiting at the gate in her human form.
“Joshua! The people of the village have made a feast, and are waiting for you!”
“Oh! Yes, I thought I smelled something good.”
As we entered the village and followed the delicious smell, we saw that there were many rows of tables set up.
And on these tables were great plates of grilled fish, and barbecue skewers of Armor Boar and Hell Alligator meat. Furthermore, there were wooden mugs of Mope milk being poured.
The villagers had prepared this so we would have something to eat on our return.
As everyone surrounded the tables, Mette raised her voice.
“Yes! First, a toast! Everyone, wait! …To our victor!”
And then everyone raised their mugs of Mope milk.
Even Celes was in her demon form, and was drinking it.
“While it is our own milk… It is rather delicious!”
“This is the taste of victory. Asuha, you should drink some too.”
After tasting it, Melk passed Asuha a cup.
Asuha looked a little surprised. It must have been her first time drinking it.
Of course, the Mope milk was always delicious…but after we had achieved something, like today’s victory, it tasted all the sweeter.
“Well done, Joshua. Drink up.”
Said Ecleshia as she handed me a cup.
“Thank you, Ecleshia… Huh, what is this?”
I noticed that it was filled with something that wasn’t milk.
It was a clear, green liquid.
“It-it is a tea made from our leaves. Just try it.”
Ecleshia sounded a little embarrassed as she said this.
So it was tea that was made from Ent leaves.
When I looked closely, I saw that other demihumans were drinking it too. It must have tasted good, as they were all smiling. Their expressions were almost silly-looking.
“I-I see. Well, I’ll drink it then… Oh.”
The moment that I drank it, the pleasant smell of flowers and grass spread through my mouth.
While it was refreshing, there was also a gentle sweetness to it.
Also, my body suddenly seemed to grow hotter… It’s no wonder that everyone was smiling.
Ecleshia looked quite red as she peered into my face.
“…How is it?”
“In-indeed. It’s delicious… I’ve never had tea that was this delicious.”
“I see! That’s good! I’ve never let anyone drink it before either!”
Ecleshia laughed happily.
However, from behind me, Iria said with a serious voice,
“Sir Joshua. Would you like to drink carvings from my sword?”
“Uh, no thank you.”
I answered, and then Celes began to sniff at my tea.
“Ah, I’ll take this! It will definitely go well with it!”
“Hey, Celes! That is Joshua’s!”
Celes took my cup and poured some milk into it before tasting it.
“…This is it! The refreshing element that it was missing! It’s baahhh-licious!”
“Your bleating sounds different, Celes. But it is indeed good.”
Melk had stolen the milk tea and drank it.
She then shared some with Asuha.
Then Ecleshia and Mette tasted it as well.
“It’s delicious! Princess, you try it.”
“Yes! Hmm…it’s good.”
Iria took the cup from Mette and drank it before offering it back to me.
My heart started to beat a little faster.
We had all drunk from the same cup now…
“Si-Sir Joshua? Your face is getting red. Are you unwell?”
“N-no… I am just a little tired. I think I will go and rest.”
I didn’t know why, but my body had started to heat up ever since I drank the tea. Was I getting a fever?
Iria looked worried.
“Oh… Then I will go with you.”
The others then tried to follow me as well.
“Thank you, but everyone is celebrating here. As the chiefs of your tribes, you must stay. Besides, things might get out of hand here.”
“In that case, I can go with you!”
“No, Mette. There is no guarantee that the Demon King Army won’t make a move. You must keep watch.”
Mette nodded with a disappointed expression.
But Iria continued to look anxious.
“Sir Joshua. Please get some rest then.”
“Aye, I will.”
I practically collapsed as soon as I reached my tent, and fell into a deep sleep.
However, I was later awoken by some loud voices. By then, there was already a beautiful moon hanging in the sky.
Wiz greeted me.
As always, Wiz had stretched its body and become a pillow for me to sleep on.
“Thank you, Wiz. Still, it’s already night, huh? Ah…my body still feels quite warm.”
Perhaps I should go back to sleep… No, I wanted to wash my body. In fact, maybe I would feel better if I went to the hot spring.
“The others…are not here.”
There was no one inside of the tent. And there was still a lot of noise coming from outside. So they must still be enjoying the feast.
“In any case, I’ll go to the hot spring…”
And so I went outside and headed to the hot spring that was in the center of the village.
The feast seemed to be getting even more lively.
Perhaps a little too lively.
It had been so loud, even when I was in the tent. And I could see that Kijins and werewolves had taken off their clothes and were dancing.
I even saw a Kijin man and woman holding onto each other.
And then they kissed.
…Well, they had just been through a battle where they could have died.
And so perhaps they were filled with much emotion after surviving it.
However, there was an elderly Kijin couple up ahead.
And they had definitely not participated in the battle.
“Ah, my dear…”
They were kissing just as boldly as the other couple.
But everyone seemed a little too oblivious?
When I looked around, there were other couples doing similar things.
I had hoped that things wouldn’t get too wild… Oh, well. It could not be helped.
And so I went to the changing room alone. While this place separated men and women, there were a few male couples getting visibly affectionate.
Really, did they not know the meaning of restraint…
I quickly got undressed and went out to the showers.
“Hey, your’re the leader of the alliance, aren’t you?”
“Would you like me to wash your back?”
“Do you want to play with us?”
Some young Kijin and werewolf men called to me, but I told them I was not feeling well, and moved away.
Besides, Wiz stood protectively between us, and so they left me alone after that.
Still, the demihumans were being rather odd.
“…What has happened to everyone?”
I quickly scrubbed my body and rinsed off, and then fled to the human hot spring area.
There was no one here.
The only thing in front of me was some steaming water…
“Finally, finally… I can rest…!”
I felt myself smirking.
I held back the urge to jump in immediately. First, I scooped up some of the hot water with my hand.
“Ahh…this is the right temperature…”
And so I slowly dipped my feet inside, and then lowered the rest of my body in.
A sigh escaped my lips.
How long I had waited for this very day.
And many things had finally been dealt with.
The matter of Royg and the slave hunters. The Grank mercenaries had sided with the humans, and so we didn’t have to worry about the Demon King army coming here for some time.
“There is no need to rush with anything now…”
Surely our days would be peaceful for a while.
When things are settled, I should make a house for myself… No, I should make furniture for everyone first. Well, it didn’t matter which I did first. Compared to our problems up until now, the order was not a big deal at all.
As I thought about such things, I closed my eyes.
And then after a short while, a voice echoed in the silence.
“…Huh? I-Iria… Ah!?”
The moment I opened my eyes, I raised my voice without thinking.
There in front of me, was a woman with pale skin and long silvery hair.
She had slender limbs and curves like a crescent moon… Unmatched beauty. Unclothed and in front of me.
Iria blushed a little and said,
“Si-Sir Joshua… Why did you go off alone?”
“Huh? B-but, no one was in the tent?”
“I was only outside so that you wouldn’t wake up! Because we were arguing over who would sleep next to you!”
“Is-is that right? Yes, it was quite loud… And you were fighting?”
“Don’t worry. No one died.”
“Yes, that would be a problem! But no, I don’t think you should fight…”
“You do not need to worry. After much deliberation, I have come here alone. I talked to each one of them, face to face. And they all nodded silently.”
Face to face… Perhaps Iria had shown that face she makes when killing someone on the battlefield. Every one of those people had shuddered with horror before dying.
Of course, I did not sense any of that from Iria now. If anything, she had an almost doleful expression that made you want to comfort her.
Iria’s voice quivered.
“…And so, it means…that you are mine, Sir Joshua!”
Iria had gone mad as well.
Her usually calm expression was nowhere to be seen. And she threw her arms around me.
Her soft skin pressed against mine.
And the mounds of her chest pressed into my arm.
“I shall not let you go anywhere, Sir Joshua! After all, you are now mine!”
“I told you, I’m not going anywhere!”
“…Do you mean that?”
Iria moved away and looked at me doubtfully.
“Aye. In fact, I was just thinking about building a house for myself… I wouldn’t do that if I was planning on leaving, would I?”
“So…you really mean it?”
“I promise. I will become a resident of this village. I want to live here with everyone else.”
I said, and Iria’s face lit up with a great smile.
“Forever…we will live together forever, Sir Joshua! I love you! I love you!!”
Iria pressed her mouth against my cheek.
Things were definitely strange.
While I had known for a while that Iria was fond of me, she was never so senseless as this.
At the same time, I felt strange as well.
I was getting carried away by emotion, as she held onto me. But then again, perhaps it would have been more odd to want to pull away…
However, I had survived under harsh conditions at the Knights Order for so long, and my patience was stronger than most. And that stopped any notions of releasing my desire.
I could do this… For ten years, in the name of the noble cause that was to battle the Demon King Army, I had endured much. I could do this!
Then it happened. The demihumans entered what was supposed to be a hot spring for humans.
Mette, Melk, Ecleshia, Asuha and Celes. But for some reason, Ymir was with them.
“Everyone? And what are you doing here, Ymir?”
“I came to deliver the ore! And then I realized that everyone was acting strangely, and I tried to stop them…”
“I drank the tea too, and felt a little crazy! Hahaha!”
“The tea? Ah, the tea!”
The tea that was made of Ecleshia’s leaves. I had also started to feel strange after drinking it.
So that’s why everyone was acting so odd.
Iria moved away from me and glared at the others.
“You promised…did you not? That only I would come here?”
“That is not fair, princess. As if we could defy you when your face is that close to us.”
Everyone nodded at Mette’s words.
And then Mette turned to me with a sleepy expression.
“…Besides, Joshua is my husband… He is my… Ah, I cannot take it any longer!!”
Mette said as she jumped towards me. My face was enveloped by something soft as she declared over and over that I was hers.
“Joshua is Melk’s husband.”
“No, Ms. Melk… Joshua belongs to Asuha.”
“What are you going on about? He is clearly mine!”
All I could hear was them arguing again.
Just then, Iria spoke.
“Aye! Sir Joshua is mine! Now look me in the face!! And do as I say!”
Iria’s voice thundered, and I could suddenly see again.
Everyone was turning their faces away.
However, I saw it. Something that I was not supposed to see. What was in front of me, was the most horrible face I had ever seen. Something that could not be from this world.
The wide eyes, the unnaturally upturned corners of the mouth. The face that seemed to tell you that your time had come. It made your hair stand on end…
The mythical creature… An ‘Oni’…
“Si-Sir Joshua? You should not have seen…!”
Said the ‘Oni.’ But it was actually Iria.
All of a sudden, the Oni in front of me had transformed into Iria.
I was relieved that it was gone.
But then again, it was too late.
Bubbles rose to the top, as I sank into the darkness.
“…Mmm. Ah, it is morning.”
When I woke up, a blinding sun was shining outside.
Next to me, Iria and Mette…and the others were there.
Iria’s eyes opened and she turned to me.
“Good morning…Sir Joshua.”
“Uh, good morning. I can’t really remember what happened last night… Was everything alright with the feast?”
“Yes! Everyone enjoyed it immensely! In spite of everything, we all enjoyed it too. I was glad to see you have a good time, Sir Joshua!”
“I-I did, did I? …Well, that’s good. But from today, we’ll have to gather more food again.”
“Yes! We can do it together! Hehe!”
Iria chuckled and grabbed my hand.
That…was a dream, right? How could Iria, who looked like this, turn into an Oni?
“We will always be together, won’t we, Sir Joshua!”
“Aye. Thank you, Iria.”
As she smiled, I laughed and nodded.