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Kuro no Maou

Chapter 535
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Chapter 535

535 The Third Emergency Quest

The incident took place on the night of the 7th of Pristine Water month, after we returned from a fruitless outing.

“Sariel, t-this is…?”

A dish could be seen on top of the dining table. Freshly-cooked white rice, topped with a dark brown roux neatly sprinkled over half of it. The fragrance didn’t only make my mouth water, but also filled me with nostalgia.

“It’s curry.”

Yes, it’s definitely curry.

“What is curry? From the looks of it, I assume that the dish originated from Rune? After all, it uses rice…”

“No, curry is our hometown dish.”

Curry and rice were Japanese dishes, but it didn’t matter.

While I wasn’t a certain yellow, gluttonous character who was a curry aficionado, I still enjoyed it like most Japanese people. I’d never seen curry in Spada before. Not to mention, even the great Earl of Redwing failed to reproduce it, so I had almost given up… But who’d have thought that this country had enough ingredients to make curry?

“Let’s finish it quickly.”

With that single line from me, Fiona seemed to have guessed my intentions. She quickly sat down without further questioning.

“Thank you for the meal.”

A quiet dinner began. Occasionally, the sound of silverware scraping the bottom of the plate would resound. Still, wordlessly, I savored my curry.

“…Thank you for the meal.”

It’s delicious. In fact, it’s the perfect curry.

Potatoes, carrots, onions, and pork. It was a standard recipe for a Japanese curry, and had no originality—but that’s why it’s good. Just like how I’d stressed to the princess of Avalon, being faithful to the basics was important.

The taste of my hometown, which was reproduced so avidly, was so enthralling that I was blown away the whole time.

“Thank you, Sariel. It was delicious.”

“As long as it suits your palate.”

A simple reply, almost akin to the one I heard this morning. Even though she was as expressionless as ever, I wondered why she decided to make curry. Was it out of consideration? Or did she want to get in our good books?

Even if she had ulterior motives, I’d still cave because that was how tasty it was.

“Can you make something other than curry?”

“When it comes to culinary expertise, Shirasaki Yuriko has a wide knowledge. As long as the ingredients are available, reproducing the recipe shouldn’t be difficult.”

Apparently, Shirasaki Yuriko was unrivaled when it came to cooking. I really wanted to try homemade food, but… Would the food Sariel prepared taste exactly the same as Yuriko’s?

“Is that so? I’ll prepare the ingredients, so I entrust the cooking to you.”

“Understood, Master. Thank you.”

My impression of Sariel skyrocketed—and I was sure that I wasn’t the only one.

“…A second, please.”

As expected, Fiona also gave in to the perfect curry. Even if her heart refused, her body was honest.

***

A week went by, and the 13th of Pristine Water month was upon us. As expected, Lily hadn’t returned, and no sightings of her were ever reported. It was as if she’d vanished into thin air, right after she left the lounge. However, considering that she could use [Predator Coat], her disappearance must’ve been purely intentional, as in she didn’t want to be found.

In the end, all I could do was wait for her to come back.

I spent my days relatively peacefully in Spada; helpless anxiety settling in the bottom of my heart.

Above all, I’d formally been given the bounty for the Galahad War, which was reassuring. After all, I fully thought it’d be offset by Sariel’s case, but to Will’s delight, I received the full amount.

Starting with the basic rewards for participating in emergency quests, defeating a bunch of soldiers, the ancient weapon Taurus, and the enemy general, Linfeld, along with the true mastermind, Sariel, with various additional and special rewards—the total was a staggering billion Clans.

Up until now, I had many opportunities to earn large sums of money, such as prize money from the “Curse Carnival”, the Battle of Ischia, and quest rewards for subjugating The Last Rose. However, the digits were different this time around. I received a ton of the Sparda large gold coins, which boasted the highest price.

Unlike usual, I felt somewhat conflicted stashing them inside the [Shadow Gate], even more so after it’d once been destroyed by Sariel. As expected, I couldn’t trust its safety.

Since I wasn’t born yesterday, I knew the bank existed, but since all the members could use space dimension magic, the former became redundant. Besides, we didn’t need a bank for the majority of our purchases and transactions, so I really had no clue. At most, I was impressed that the concept of a bank existed in this fantasy world.

In any case, I was able to make payment for the Tyrant’s Armor through the national bank without any trouble. It should be easier to purchase a house using the same means.

Thus, the [Element Master] had practically become wealthy. Although, my life didn’t change much.

Because we were still in the process of looking for a house, we still lived in that crappy dormitory. For the time being, it worked, and I thought that it was fine to stay this way until we graduated.

As Fiona said before, there was no real need to attend the seminary, but I still wanted to formally graduate. As a Japanese person, I was uncomfortable with the title of dropout.

Since there was nothing urgent at the moment, I continued to earn the necessary credits with Fiona. For me, who longed for a date with a classmate, my school life had become somewhat more radiant than before. Fiona, on the other hand, didn’t seem that thrilled.

Come to think of it, when I met Kai at school while I was in class, we had a mock battle. Since it wasn’t a special appointment, we only did it from time to time.

Fortunately, I hadn’t met Saphir, who was still attending the seminary like Kai. The school itself was peaceful, without unnecessary dramas.

Of course, apart from classes, my main activity at present was to devote myself to improve my proficiency in black magic and divine protection. In order to further increase my power, I trained day in and day out.

As of the present, I didn’t think my 1st to 4th blessings had reached their maximum potential. At the same time, I’d like to practice the 5th Divine Protection until I could incorporate it in actual battles before the next trial.

Like me, Fiona seemed to be trying to master Endyminion’s divine protection. Once her witch’s workshop was completed, would her research on divine protection deepened?

On the other hand, Sariel’s obligations didn’t just consist of recreating Japanese cuisine.

Just the other day, Sariel finally made her debut as an adventurer. As per Fiona’s orders, she started working as a soloist in order to improve her rank.

The day after, she advanced to rank 2.

Sariel was careful to choose only the subjugation quests in the vicinity, before making use of her transcendent stamina as a remodeled and enhanced android homunculus to hunt monsters 24 hours a day without any rest.

I could do the same if I wanted, but I never even considered it because it was mentally taxing. In that sense, she was truly something else for sticking through it…

However, what was truly terrifying about Sariel was that as soon as she returned to the dormitory with a bronze-plated guild card showing Rank 2, she started preparing dinner with the available ingredients.

“Hey, Sariel, you don’t have to push yourself so much. You just came back from a quest, right?”

“Currently, I have enough stamina for an extensive battle that may last for another three days. I have no trouble doing household chores.”

“No, it’s not about that…”

“As long as I can carry out the mission, there’s no reason for me to rest.”

I decided to leave Sariel be. Although, I was somewhat dejected by her reply, which dismissed my concerns entirely.

That day, she made Omurice.

The chicken rice was enveloped in a fluffy omelet. The taste was just as I had expected. I couldn’t help but shiver with excitement, just like the day when I was served curry, because the food was as delicious as the one from a Western restaurant.

“…Please give me a second.”

“Of course, Madam Fiona.”

For me, the dish carried the nostalgic taste of my hometown, but for Fiona, it was an exquisite dish that she’d never had before. If Sariel went on to reproduce Japanese national cuisine, Fiona’s stomach and body would succumb completely in the not-too-distant future. The entire time, she seemed so frustrated, yet she couldn’t drop the spoon.

In any case, even if the two didn’t get along, it’d be nice if Fiona would acknowledge Sariel as one of her companions. Somehow, this scene was akin to a light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, this time, there was a new movement somewhere away from us.

***

“Hey, Fiona, isn’t the town a bit noisy lately?”

“Rather than a town, it’s a seminary… Anyway, it’s because of the adventurers.”

At lunch break after classes on the 13th, while walking around the seminary grounds full of students, I chatted with Fiona.

“How do I put this, it’s similar to the atmosphere just before the Galahad War.”

“The adventurers who come and go through the city of Sparda all seem to be busy and hurrying to prepare for their quests. It’s as if there’s a get-rich-quick quest.”

“Perhaps there is.”

“Perhaps.”

My career as an adventurer was short, but I seemed to have had more fulfilling adventures than those around me. Fiona and I didn’t say anything, and went to the Adventurer’s Guild.

As if to affirm our expectations, the guild HQ was swarmed by a mob of adventurers. By that point, I had already gotten accustomed to the size and bustle of the headquarters. While thinking about it, I quickly headed for the counter.

However, just before I was about to line up in the shortest queue, I abruptly stopped. Target change. Let’s just move to this line. After a bit of hesitation, I made a decision.

“Kurono.”

“I’m sorry, Fiona. At the very least, I want to tell her that I returned safely.”

“Please don’t underestimate me? I’m not that petty?”

“Yes, right, thanks…”

There was only a single person in Sparda who’d go out of his way to say such a thing to Fiona.

Anyway, it’s about time.

“It’s been a while, Erina.”

“Yes, it truly has been a while… Welcome back, Kurono.”

She responded with a meek smile.

Come to think of it, we parted ways after she confessed, and that was about it. The event itself took place around the beginning of the Dark Moon.

“How have you been?”

“Pretty much the usual. Every day, I adhered to the same routine. Kurono, on the other hand, seems to have quite a hard time. I’ve heard a lot of baseless rumors, too.”

“That’s… Well, I’ll spare you from the detailed explanation because it’ll ruin the mood.”

“If you want to tell me, I’m willing to listen. But I won’t force you. Just the fact that you returned safely would suffice for me.”

Despite the way we parted, I was fortunate to have someone who’d say that to me. As expected, after four months had passed, did Erina manage to sort her mind? Now, it was as if her confession from before was nothing but a dream.

“By the way, you didn’t come all the way here to see me, did you? What’s your business here today?”

Moreover, we were in the guild’s reception, so a long chat was out of the question. I saw no reason to prolong this.

“Is there some kind of an emergency?”

“It’s obvious from the atmosphere, isn’t it?”

The fact that all the adventurers were rushing to prepare indicated that the job mobilized a large number of them. How could it be anything but an emergency quest?

“But I haven’t heard the details yet. For the time being, it doesn’t seem that the Crusaders are involved.”

“I see, so this emergency quest is completely different from the Galahad War.”

Besides, there have been no natural disasters such as earthquakes or major storms recently. Therefore, the opponent was probably a monster.

“What’s the opponent?”

“Pride Gem.”

No way, I was right? It was rare for me to hit the mark.

“Even if I say that, I doubt anything will come to mind. It’s a rare monster, after all. I never heard about it before.”

“I’ve seen some records in the guild’s reference room, it’s supposed to be a strong and gigantic slime, isn’t it?”

“You seem to be quite knowledgeable. Is Kurono surprisingly a studious person? Or a monster aficionado?”

“I just happened to remember what I read.”

—I couldn’t say that it’s because of the Demon King’s trial.

“By the way, where did this guy come from?”

“The location is the Great Forest of Latifundia.”

No way, that’s very close to Sparda! Isn’t it a nearby dungeon that even rookie adventurers use?

“It’s so close, yet no one noticed?”

The Great Forest of Latifundia had a danger rank of 2 in the shallow part, and 4 in the deeper part. The Pride Gem a Rank 5 monster with a disaster-class danger. If a monster that’d warrant an emergency quest appeared in such a place, the commotion should’ve occurred a lot sooner.

At the very least, during Greed Gore, the information that it was moving in the direction of Sparda was properly conveyed.

“Actually, the signs of its appearance have been there since last year. It was around the time Kurono came to accept the Rank 1 subjugation quest.”

“…Was it the time when there was a horde of slimes?”

Seeing Erina nodded, it finally made sense to me.

When we first arrived in Sparda, we took on subjugation quests to increase our rank. I was in charge of goblins and punpun, while Lily was in charge of slime. At that time, Lily subjugated around 300 of them.

The Great Forest of Latifundia, commonly known as Lati Forest, was inhabited by a decent amount of slimes. Still, it was a Rank 1 monster, and the opponent was, well, Lily. Even when I saw that number, I thought it was only natural for Lily.

“Slime outbreaks aren’t that uncommon, but it’s suspicious because it’s been happening intermittently since last year.”

Nevertheless, investigations were conducted several times. However, judging from the current situation, it seemed that the results of the investigation were far from ideal.

“I read that the Pride Gem was as colossal as a mountain, so how did you miss it?”

“The reason is because of its mimicking ability.”

As in, the slime took advantage of its unique translucent body to blend in with the surroundings? Like [Predator Coat]? No, it probably didn’t. Since the guy had a water attribute, he shouldn’t be able to cast illusion, which was a light attribute spell.

“It disguised itself as a small, unnamed pond in the woods.”

“I see, you wouldn’t notice that.”

“I heard that now that it’s stopped mimicking, it’s the size of a lake.”

After Gluttony Octo, another battle involving a gigantic monster awaited me.

Looking back at the guild documents, the ecology of Gluttony Octo and Pride Gem had a lot in common. First, the gigantic body, next was the tremendous number of herds.

For the time being, all of the Gluttony Octo’s swarms were its offspring, but with Pride Gem, it was slightly different considering its lifeform.

Fortunately, unlike Gluttony Octo, Pride Gem couldn’t fly. It wouldn’t move from its spawn point, and would continue to expand in size according to a concentric circle. In other words, the one that appeared in Lati Forest never moved. Instead, it continued to expand by absorbing the surrounding flora and fauna.

“Is it in the deeper part of the forest?”

“No, it’s in the shallow part of the forest. It’s a place where even a Rank 2 adventurer can enter.”

“Then it’ll soon overflow from the forest.”

“Yes, an evacuation order has already been issued to the nearest village, Raquel. By now the Sparda army should be preparing to enter the area and launch an attack.”

“Wait, the Sparda army is already moving?”

Then what about us adventurers?

“Even though it’s an emergency quest, there’ll also be some side quests for adventurers.”

“Are they giving us adventurers a chance to get credit first?”

“Yes, until the Sparda army completes their preparations and launches an all-out attack, the adventurers may do as they see fit.”

The Pride Gem was a dangerous opponent, but the reward should be worthwhile. Besides, even if it was a Rank 3 adventurer or so, depending on their tactic, they should be able to intercept our target.

Gluttony Octo was a harsh life-or-death battle, but this time it seemed to be a battle between rivals aiming for the same target.

Well, it’d be nice if the Pride gem was weak enough to the point we could compete on who slayed it first… However, it was a monster that Mia chose for the trial. I didn’t know what kind of terrifying special power it had. It’d be dangerous if we focused too much on the competition.

“Has the deadline already been decided?”

“Four days from now on, on the 17th, the Sparda army will launch an all-out attack early in the morning. It’s three days from now.”

It was quite brief, but I didn’t think the Sparda army had any obligation to wait too long. They were just letting us do as we pleased until their preparations were completed. Even if the emergency quest ended in failure, there wouldn’t be any problem for the Sparda army.

As for me, if the army could back me up, I could take on the challenge with confidence. During my time with the Gluttony Octo, if I failed to kill it, we’d all be annihilated. No, I should’ve failed. If not for Sariel’s awakening, and because Lily and Fiona rushed to my aid, I wouldn’t be able to finish it off.

This time, I had to seize victory using my own power.

“So, what are you going to do, Kurono? The emergency quest [Pride Gem Subjugation] had just been officially issued.”

“Right now, I’ll ask you to complete the registration process.”

I decided to register myself with Erina, who smiled as if my request went without saying.

“Also, I want to add one more member to [Element Master].”

Emergency Quest Pride Gem Subjugation

Reward: Pride Gem body parts ?300 million Clans?Other additional rewards would depend on the size of the nucleus.

Deadline: 17th of the Pristine Water month

Client: 52nd King of Sparda, Leonhardt Tristan Sparda

Quest details: Quickly subjugate the Rank 5 monster [Pride Gem] that appeared in the Great Forest of Latifundia. The monster boasted a gigantic body that surpassed the average size of a slime, and could also split itself into numerous parts. In addition, there were many special slimes that were intelligent enough to understand human language…—

—Thus, the Sixth Trial began.