Thankfully, Preparation is Still Overpowered. (5.1)
Beta'd by Nobody me, mjgh5000 , and SaltyWaffles
Though I was sure that the old saying "strike hard and fast" didn't take into account localized thunderstorms, I wasn't at all hesitant to place my hand on Leona's latest, most frightening creation.
Technically, it was just a giant staff, specialized to cast a singular spell. Many novice Mages in Familias with deep pockets utilized staffs that helped amplify their magic, which also allowed them to cast simple spells in an instant in emergencies, much like Magic Swords. The caveat was that the staff deteriorated much like a Magic Sword did when their integrated spell was used; therefore, overuse meant replacing both a Staff and a Magic Sword.
When compared to the types of staves used by those who specialized in magic and either relied on teammates to protect them or started to practice and use Concurrent Chanting, most called this type of staff a crutch and a waste of time.
However, as was the case with most things, a little imagination and a ton of money can make anything overpowered as hell.
And I liked being overpowered.
The tool used up Mind like nothing else as I activated it, but infinite Mind was an asset that dealt with that particular problem with ease. Cranel had had no need for a staff; he only wanted something that could cast a single spell once and break, so he hadn't needed to use much Mind for his localized thunderstorm.
However, I wanted to use my weapon to threaten Orario into not being assholes, so I added a few things in order to control, amplify, and concentrate the firepower. A regular thunderstorm was fine for a camp of people averaging around Level 3, but against Orario's pack of weirdos and freaks, I had figured that I would need the ability to concentrate my firepower on very fast, hardy, and singular humanoid targets.
Apparently, that little addition made it so that the only person who could ever turn thunderstorms into a continuous hyperbeam made of lightning would be me, since no one else would be able to power the enchantments necessary to control it.
Other people could never replicate this spell, even if they had all the money in the world.
"Sensei, they've noticed you!" Cranel cried out to make sure that I knew what was happening. I didn't want to waste any time talking, so I just nodded and gave them the signal to stay back. "Eh, but why—"
I let the situation speak for itself.
Dionysus, Filvis, all the cloaked and hooded Monstrous Adventurers, and everything else in the massive extension of the Dungeon noticed the sudden, massive increase in energy and were moving towards me. However, I didn't invest most of my fortune into a device that needed minutes of charging time. The way I fought relied on speed and preparation, so having something like that was out of the question.
So, the question was: why did they notice my power before I unleashed my attack?
The answer was simple: it was because I wanted them running at me before I let loose and fired.
Like a swarm of speeding insects, most of the enemies in the massive cavern ran at me. They were monsters and adventurers who came from the depths of the Dungeon; therefore, they were fast. The moment they noticed us, all our enemies became a swarm that moved amongst one another like a solid wave of bodies.
Their speed, their strength, and their coordination were impressive, but in the end, I was going to use it against them.
Their speed meant their momentum would carry them forward.
Their strength meant nothing in the face of my weapon.
Finally, and the best part, was that their coordination just gave me a bigger target.
Using my own plans against me? Taking what I know and using it for yourself? Doing your best to hurt the people I care about with my own techniques?
Yeah, those were all good ideas.
But consider the following: what if you're too fucking stupid to consider the fact that I know how to beat myself!?
With that thought in mind, I fired at the very nicely gathered mass of monsters scrambling towards us with my left hand, and with my free right hand I directed toward Dionysus, that traitorous bastard, a far more ancient, weaker spell.
Because fuck him for trying this shit and not even bothering to be original.
The spell inscribed upon the Monster Core was designed to summon a natural disaster in the form of a thunderstorm, which meant that I wasn't just controlling lightning, but hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, hurricane winds, and enough lightning to turn a forest into ash. Naturally, since I wanted to use it to threaten Orario, it wasn't going to come out all at once.
However, a hundredth of a hurricane that can knock over a city was still more than enough to carve through an army, especially when every ounce of it was under my direct control.
The water wasn't pressurized or anything like that, so there were no shenanigans that involved turning them into swords. Still, not only was water a handy conductor for electricity, it also happened to coat the ground in front of us and begin to flood the cavern. The living crystal that made up the Dungeon's walls were usually easy to walk on, but with enough water, any surface short of dirt became slippery as hell, and that was without the fact that the flow of water was continuous.
At first a few of the monsters were slipping and sliding in their mad charge, but soon enough they were tumbling, falling, and dragging each other down on rushing waters that were rapidly rising to their knees.
Then they had to contend with the winds.
Again, I could turn them into outright weapons, but sheer force on command couldn't be trifled with. The wind became a wall that pushed back, becoming a barrier that swatted aside projectiles and lunging monsters, and forced them back into the flooding cavern. Even the largest monster on the field— which was being ridden by a Monstrous Adventurer that Lyon was glaring daggers at— could barely stand against the winds. Some of the smaller monsters were being tossed around, as more and more wind filled the cavern, and I began to circulate it.
Slowly, surely, the defense I was using to block and push back the monsters was turning into a miniature tornado within the cavern.
A tornado that was keeping the entire army locked in with the building mass of lightning that I was feeding and containing.
The enemy noticed what I was doing and they were desperately trying to escape the waters and winds.
Who wouldn't try to escape a building, looping cyclone of lightning?
I ended up overestimating how much lightning my weapon was going to fire at once, but I made up for it by taking every arcing, crackling moment of power and forcing it to join all the others at the ceiling of the cavern. While I kept the enemy down— and as everyone started taking the opportunity to fire down with their Crozzo Swords— I collected, compressed, and harnessed every ounce of power I could upwards, until a solid disk of light covered the ceiling, burning not only the wind and water, but also melting the living crystal that composed the ceiling.
Molten crystal began to rain down— slowly at first, but as the disc grew larger and started to threaten my control, it began to rain molten crystal. The molten droplets that ignited even sodden clothing, or went right through monsters, were followed by sparks and tendrils that escaped my control as the weapon began to crack.
The wild tendrils carved through stone, leaving molten gashes behind, and anything that they touched disappeared in an instant. In their wake were explosions caused by the destruction of the monster's cores. They were like firecrackers compared to what caused them, but their explosions combined with instantly vaporized water, creating wakes of rushing, superheated steam filled with speeding, crackling magic.
I thought about keeping it up until the last moment, but I didn't want to risk the chance of my thoughts being dedicated solely to maintaining a spell.
So, I took a look at the battlefield, while gathering as much of the wind and water as possible to shield our little alcove.
The monsters noticed and tried their best to reach us.
All except for two.
Dionysus stood at the center of it all.
If he had been calm, or even smug, I would've hesitated to launch the attack.
Instead, Filvis— or whatever her real name was— was clutching at him, desperately trying to get him to safety as a concentrated storm was drowning, thrashing, and vaporizing years and years of effort.
Honestly, even if he was angry or filled with hate, I would've hesitated to attack too.
He was still a god, and I didn't want to risk getting me or anyone else caught up on whatever failsafe they had for getting killed.
But he wasn't calm, smug, angry, or filled with hate.
In fact, since the beginning of the attack, he'd been doing the same thing throughout the entire storm ravaging everything he had built.
He was laughing like an utter madman and screaming nonsense to the tumultuous winds.
If he had any plans to get away, or even take us out with him, he wasn't going to do it now since he'd utterly lost his mind.
With that out of that way, I didn't hesitate to shore up the defenses, building walls of water and wind as the weapon I held onto began to crack, creak, and break, as it reached its limits.
My plan was to send concentrated, block-sized discs of lightning, hot enough to melt stone and tear through anything it met, upward and downward. Downward towards the monsters, Dionysus, the Dungeon Core, and thousands of gallons of water. Upward, so that steam could go up and out... and bring down a section of Orario onto the cavern.
Was it overkill to collapse an abandoned district of Orario atop my enemies?
But given who and what I was facing, I figured that I couldn't spare anything.
I took a breath, considered making a one liner, and decided against it.
My attack could speak for itself just fine.
And so I cast an attack meant to sincerely, completely, and utterly tell a god to fuck off.
I didn't see much of the attack, since I was focused on defending the entrance to the tunnel. I "felt" my lightning collide, strike, and generally turn anything it collided with into molten paste or annihilate them completely, but besides that, I saw the same gray, rushing wall of wind at the entrance that everyone else did.
By the time I'd fully expended my weapon, I'd sent most of the lightning upward and let it disperse in the sky, and let everything else disappear by letting it go. The water ran into the rest of the sewers, while the winds rushed everywhere they could.
We were all able to look upon the fruits of my labor afterwards.
Instead of a cavern, I found a massive sinkhole that opened all the way to Orario's sky. The walls were steaming hot, sloughing, and dripping towards the ground. There was no sign of the Dungeon Core, or Dionysus, but neither was there any sign of the rubble that I wanted to bury everything with.
Riveria explained, while I watched a few monsters here and there begin to pop out of the ground, only to be hit by Crozzo swords courtesy of those with me.
"I feel it. Divine magics. Not from one…but from two deities." Riveria hesitated for a moment while speaking. She glanced at me for a second, as if asking me something, and when I said nothing, she slowly gave a respectful bow towards the results of my actions. I mean, they were jackasses who were out to fuck over the world for the lols, but I guess they were still gods. "Their return to paradise seems to have annihilated a massive amount of the surface."
They annihilated the surface.
I didn't destroy a chunk of a district to bury everything. Their exit vaporized the roof. Totally not my fault in the slightest. It wasn't falling down towards them or anything. Dionysus and the second Evilus god escaped to Heaven and did all that damage.
Totally not my fault.
"But there are survivors. How?" Lyon spoke up with a furrowed brow. Her gaze was directed towards a moving lump against the wall farthest from us. A scorched creature, more burnt meat than monster, was cradling something in its arms as it inched towards what used to be an exit before the walls melted and covered it up. Lyon seemed to enjoy watching the monster die, even though her eyes were locked onto the Tamer it had, who was probably having a hard time in the monster's grip since he no longer had a divine patron. "Hachiman-kun's attack should've destroyed it all."
"Ummm, ah… as they leave to return to heaven, gods can choose to use their divine power to strike at their foes, or protect their Familia," Viridis answered as she stepped forward and nearly leapt into the massive sinkhole. She was desperately searching for Filvis. They'd been friends, and I supposed that meant she'd try to rehabilitate her. Well, I didn't know if rehabilitation worked with Monstrous Adventurers, but it couldn't hurt to try. It wasn't like she'd be a problem. "Dionysus-sama could have… there!"
Huh, so the traitor was alive—
There were two of them.
There were two Filvises.
One clad entirely in black, with a broken mask, weeping, screaming, and yelling towards nothing as she desperately tried to claw a crystal out of her heart.
And another Filvis, standing and wearing nothing amidst the rubble from which monsters were coming out, as someone that looked at her raged, wished for death, and screamed in a way that agitated the remaining monsters.
A ninja, mage hybrid monster Elf with an evil side and a good side that could separate.
I would have been lying if I had said I saw that coming.
Thankfully, Preparation is Still Overpowered. (5.2)
A/N: Beta'd by Nobody me, mjgh5000 , and SaltyWaffles
Lyon loomed over the Tamer who cowered behind the dead monster that protected him through my attacks.
The Tamer was mostly burnt and crispy, but, courtesy of the massive crystal jutting out of his chest, he was steadily regaining power. His eyes were filled with fear as Lyon looked at him with her sword in hand, and it was easy enough to tell that their relationship was anything besides good.
I was about to ask who he was when he suddenly lunged at me and started grasping at my shoes.
What the fuck?
"Please, please, please! Help me! She's a crazed killer! A murderer!"
And, again, what the fuck?
I raised an eyebrow, and that was apparently enough to get the literal creature that abandoned humanity to become a monster to be convinced that I would listen to him.
"I didn't mean to do this! I didn't mean to… but I had to to protect myself from her! She massacred my whole Familia! She blamed her Familia's death on mine, even though they attacked mine first!" The red-haired man rambled and spoke, and sweat dripped off his brow as Lyon menaced behind him. Every word that he said kept increasing Lyon's urge to murder him, yet he kept running his mouth as though he wasn't waiting in a giant cavern with an army of monsters. "You must understand. Please! She forced me to do all of this! You can ask anyone in Orario about her and they'll tell you the truth!"
I had to blink at that particular piece of information, and the man whimpering and grasping at my feet couldn't even hide his smirk when I looked at Lyon.
Holy fuck, dude, just because you're missing an eye doesn't mean everyone else lost their peripheral vision.
Anyway, I got the gist of the dude's ramblings and whatever he had going for him.
"Let me guess: this guy's a filthy liar who lies, and was part of the reason why your Familia was wiped out." I considered choosing my words more carefully, but I doubted Lyon would hear anything besides the most direct manner of speech, given how she was barely holding back from killing the man grabbing at my ankle.
My words and phrasing was enough to shock her out of her murderous rage for a second, and I stomped the Monstrous Adventurer's skull into the ground when he tensed up to attack.
When he kept trying to get up and attack with his singular arm and monstrous strength, I repeated my action several times.
Lyon managed to regain something resembling sanity when he stopped squirming and was knocked out.
"His name is Jura Halmer, formerly of the Rudra Familia, and I destroyed him and his Familia after they destroyed mine." Lyon provided the Monstrous Adventurer's backstory quickly and concisely. "He ruined my reputation in Orario after I accomplished my goals, and is the reason why I was blacklisted."
As expected of someone in the hospitality industry, you do whatever it takes to interact as little as possible with people!
"Huh, and now he's a monster who wanted to use whatever that thing was to commit mass murder." I looked over the twitching, still-not-dead thing that Tiona was now approaching. The free trial it had to life was ended courtesy of the short-haired Amazon's single swing. The massive monster disappeared… and left behind nothing. "And, of course, the monster he was using doesn't even give drops. Seriously, the universe couldn't have given you a better excuse to kill this guy if it tried."
Lyon blinked for a second at my words.
She was probably remembering what I told her a while back.
Something, something, changing the rotten system.
Yadda, yadda, killing is a result of a shit situation.
Blah, blah, blah, that doesn't really apply when you have someone who has literally rejected their humanity.
If Jonathan-san was willing to kill Dio, then I'm sure this is fine.
Hm? Oh, yes, my moral compass's topmost point is Jonathan Joestar. Isn't everyone's?
"Oi, stop staring at me and make your decision already, Lyon." I took my foot off the back of the Monstrous Adventurer's head. Given how weak he was now, it was likely he was just a Monstrous Human instead of an Adventurer. I wouldn't have been able to stomp his face repeatedly into the ground without Empower, if that had been the case. "Kill him, or keep him locked up so we can find out what he knows, and then kill him."
Lyon bit her lip for a second as she weighed both decisions, before looking at me after exhaling.
"As long as this man dies, then I consider my vengeance completed. Therefore, it would be better to have him imprisoned and interrogated before his demise." Lyon gave me a singular nod, and gave the half-buried Monstrous Human a glare, and then walked away while sheathing her sword with her cloak fluttering in the wind. "Deal with him as you wish, Hachiman. Just call upon me when you are ready to end it."
Man, my girlfriend is such a Chuuni.
Also, those lines would've been cooler if she were wearing actual shorts, and not green bloomers held up by belts.
She was making good progress in regards to not being a psycho-murderer, even when it would have been fine for her to kill, given the circumstances.
That's a win in my book.
Naturally, Filvis Challia was shaken, terrified, and untrusting about everything and everyone, but after a few minutes with Cranel, she seemed to calm down.
Viridis wanted to talk to her, but letting her loose upon a defenseless, aggrieved woman would've weighed heavily on my conscience. Even if I could sleep peacefully every night thanks to my artifacts, I couldn't let the world's lewdest, most opportunistic Elf be alone with someone who'd lost everything.
Anyway, I chaperoned Viridis's meeting with Filvis once Cranel managed to calm her down, and I listened to Cranel while making sure that Viridis didn't live up to her reputation.
They're already holding hands, so hurry up with your report, Cranel! We have five minutes max before lilies start blooming!
"Sensei, the last thing she remembers is being killed, and coming back next to the… monster that looks like her."
Well, that was one way to murder my jokes.
Cranel gave his coat to Filvis, so he stood beside me practically covered in iron knives and Crozzo swords, but he still managed to pull off the concerned-male-lead face well enough for me to take things seriously. I was on a bit of a high from winning the fight, and I was just waiting on the cleanup to finish before letting Orario take care of the rubble. His concern and apprehension were enough to smother my victory.
Stupid morally righteous protagonist… why can't you be happy unless everything is perfect?!
"They murdered her knowing that they could bring her back. Effective, but fucked up," I said, unwilling to lie about how Dionysus outsmarted me. I hadn't suspected him until I saw him in this cavern. His ruse was solid until I applied an entire lightning storm to him and his associates. Now, while he was gone, I was still here. "Hm, Dionysus probably kept her alive so that she could kill me, but him leaving fucked her up."
The Monstrous Elf that Filvis had come from was knocked out, and it was already healed from the wounds I had inflicted upon it, as well as the wounds it inflicted upon itself. It had more strength and power than the one Lyon was dealing with, and that was probably courtesy of the massive shard jutting out of its chest.
They'd both retained their Falna after they'd died, but I'd leave the question as to why the gifts of the gods could be sustained by the Dungeon for later.
Cranel took a moment to process my views on the situation before speaking again. "But… what happens to Filvis-chan? She was just being used by… by them." Cranel couldn't even mention Dionysus's name, and he practically growled out the "them" through his teeth. I sent a look his way, and he started the process of controlling himself. "None of this is her fault. She didn't know that she was being used as a spy!"
Given how I treated my enemies, Cranel was right to be worried about my decisions regarding Filvis.
So, I just shrugged and dealt with the issue as thoroughly as I could.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's not her fault, and she didn't do anything wrong." I pointed at the Monstrous Elf we had chained to a large rock. "The moment we can make sure this thing can't control her, she should be free to do whatever the hell she wants."
I had expected Cranel's usual praises, but instead I felt a tug on my coat, and when I turned I found myself looking down… and then up, as Cranel's coat was unbuttoned around Filvis's form.
I know that you're traumatized, woman, but it doesn't hurt to be considerate towards yourself!
"Do you believe that? Do you really think that?" Filvis's voice was weak and hoarse from all her crying, yet there was something else in her words that gave me pause. A desperation that made me feel more than the passive concern I felt for another living being. I shelved those dangerous thoughts away with some effort, but she took the opportunity to grasp at the lapels of my coat in that moment. "Do you… truly not blame me for revealing your secrets and causing the fall of Melen!?"
I supposed that things could be seen that way.
Dionysus was allied with us, but taking in Filvis, telling her our plans, and allowing her to observe us had let him know more about us than he could've managed alone. Through her, Dionysus's true Familia acquired knowledge, and they used that knowledge to try and cripple Orario. They set up distractions, sank its logistical area, and then created weapons which could inflict immense damage upon the city, and began creating the perfect moment to unleash them.
None of that could've been managed without Filvis.
Therefore, she was being an idiot and blaming herself, because she didn't even know she was passing on all that information in the first place.
"Don't be a moron, Filvis. You were sending back information without knowing, and your trust was being abused by Dionysus," I spoke, and Filvis winced at the mere mention of her former god's name. Her eyes were rapidly growing wet, and her grip on my lapel trembled. I took the opportunity to button up her borrowed coat as she did her best to calm down and listen. It took a while, but she was somewhat decent once she managed it. "They even had to kill you so that they could progress with their plans."
I expected that little, logical fact to be glossed over.
Instead, Viridis and Cranel cried out in surprise the moment I said it, and they both looked at Filvis with awe instead of pity, as the former Adventurer suddenly looked up at me with surprise and shock.
I didn't even hesitate to call all three of them out. "Wait… what the hell? The three of you didn't even think of that!? It's obvious! Even if that Monster over there is buffed, or has more Mind without Filvis around, she's an asset! They wouldn't have killed her if there was any chance she could've helped them!"
I looked at Cranel, and all he could offer was a half-hearted grin and an idle scratch on his chin.
Damn you, Cranel, stop trying to get out of learning by being cute!
I was about to glare at Viridis, but instead of feeling any shame from not considering the logic I shared, she shamelessly embraced Filvis as the black-haired, literal half-elf held onto the lapel of my coat in shock.
"See, Filvis! None of this is your fault! None of it all! You were… you were being used by Dionysus-sama! That's all there is too it!"
What an utterly shameless elf… using the man she's stealing moments of passion with as a wall to push her latest conquest against. I hope you know that it's wrong for caretakers to take advantage of their wards, Viridis.
Ah, who am I kidding.
For you, that's probably the best part.
While Filvis was being overwhelmed by Viridis, I spoke up, "So, there you have it: you're a victim of some fucked up circumstances. You need help; these people are willing to help you, whether that's to keep being an Adventurer or not." I looked over at Cranel for support, and thankfully he managed to get the drift.
"Filvis-chan, my Familia is willing to support you, if you want to keep being an Adventurer… and we have plenty of funds to spare, if you want to go somewhere else and live quietly!" Cranel spoke like a true manager by promising the funds of his corporation and work of his subordinates without hesitation. I really needed to step up his education before an Amazon uprising against his poor leadership skills turned him into the protagonist of a doujin series. "You were a good ally to us all this time, and I'm sure that everyone who's worked with you thinks the same way, and they'll help too!"
"Oi, brat, don't make promises for other people." I gave Cranel a swift bonk on the head, which earned me a single "eh-heh-heh." This brat really couldn't step on the brakes in regards to being cute when a girl needed help, huh? Well, at the very least, he was setting up flags instead of waiting for them to happen, unlike NEETs and otaku who think life will just come handed to them on a silver platter. "Don't ruin our alliances by flirting. Think with the head between your shoulders."
I expected a shout of embarrassment from Cranel, and maybe a bit of giggling from both of the Elves.
But once again, for the umpteenth time today, I was bamboozled.
Filvis's grip on my lapel suddenly tightened, and I was pulled forward and then back.
Thus, I began to fall backward with a black-haired Elf atop me.
I didn't manage to catch my balance, because when I tried to grab for Cranel's shoulder, he stepped out of the way and let me fall while shaking his head.
Over Filvis's shoulder, I spied Viridis, one of the Elves pursuing me with all her might for reasons I didn't exactly understand, and instead of doing ANYTHING to stop what was going to happen… she was looking upon it all with joy, as though witnessing the completion of a long-term project between friends.
Before my back even hit the ground, the Elf known as Filvis Challia was upon me, smothering me with kisses, latching onto me in a needy embrace, and clambering atop me with single-minded precision, determination, and will in order to convey to me her desires as unambiguously as possible after I insinuated that Cranel was interested in her.
Just as I began to regain control over myself, suppressing instinctual calls, surprise, and all the sensations involved in being pushed down by an elf, Filvis suddenly ceased her attacks in order to whisper into my ear.
"Hikigaya Hachiman… you are my hero…" Her voice was breathless. I barely registered the sound as more than a warm breeze in my ear, yet for some reason my senses refused to let me suppress it. "…would you not give me the chance to make you fall for me?"
I wanted to answer, yet no words left my mouth, even as Filvis stood up from me, recovering some of her grace, and finally allowed Viridis to help her and lead her to a safer location.
I glanced over at Filvis's other half, and found Cranel glaring at it with arms crossed… but obviously worried about it.
I thought putting Filvis in the Hestia Familia would throw both halves at Cranel to deal with… but apparently only the evil side he could personally help heal and make better was his type.
Why can't elves be normal and give gifts like money, armor, or weapons to people in return for saving their lives?
Instead of, y'know, forming a pack and dogpiling on 'em!?
Thankfully, Preparation is Still Overpowered. (5.3)
Beta'd by Nobody me, mjgh5000 , and SaltyWaffles
I didn't expect much of a reward after shattering Evilus, but even with my expectations set to low, I still found myself disappointed.
My attack and the ascension of two gods left me fucked over in terms of loot, so I couldn't replace my anti-Orario staff any time soon. The bits, bobs, and pieces we got from the monsters and former humans barely paid for the Mind and Health potions that were used in the fight. Therefore, the whole trip left me broke, and looking for ways to get money.
With my usual hunting grounds being exploited by the new Adventurers I trained, I had to start looking at spots past Rivira, and getting there alone was a chore.
Any expedition that I mounted now would have to have supplies prepared for at least three weeks of grinding, so that I can make the insane amounts of profit necessary in order to pay the material costs to Leona, and then I'll need to go in again so I can pay for her labor when everything is said and done with ANOTHER expedition.
On one hand, it was great to know it'd take only two months to accrue the money necessary to buy that thing again/get all my savings again.
On the other hand, it would be a lot more complicated than herding goblins and zapping them to death, then going back to Orario for a break.
On the last tentacle, I was a lazy piece of shit, so I didn't want to actually do it.
Maybe if I was facetious, narcissistic bastard, I'd have thought that the glory and honor involved in fucking over so many monsters, former humans, and two gods was enough. Being the first person in the world to live after fucking over a literal doomsday army led by two evil gods was something that a lot of people would cherish.
However, in my personal opinion, fame could go fuck itself, because it couldn't hold a candle to actual money and power that I could hold, spend, and use against my enemies.
First to do "x"?
Saving the world?
Defeating evil gods?
Annihilating armies of monsters?
Sudden romantic developments that I didn't know a single thing about?
Money and power?
Now that's what I'm talking about! Give it to me!
I want orange, legendary weapons that are special and glow, which I can sell or give to my allies so they can do more work, while I do less.
I want mountains of gold from the entire planet, because I just saved all your asses, and I expect to be rewarded and come out of this with a profit.
As for romantic developments, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't want to deal with half-assed, superficial relationships, so if you're coming after me, you better be able to explain yourself past a confession and a crush!
Anyway, after experiencing all those disappointments, we all returned to Hestia to rest.
When I went into the fight and finished it, I went in believing that I could have SOME time off after everything that I did.
The least I was owed by the world, if they weren't giving me fantastic equipment, money, and explicable relationships, was a day off.
But that wasn't the case.
It wasn't the case in the slightest.
"I blame Filvis."
"I needed to rest and reset my mind after you dropped a bombshell on me, so I couldn't help with this."
Filvis, the first woman I'd ever rejected in my life, blushed crimson while I stared at Orario's massive, central square.
The gathering at the very center of Orario, in the shadow of Babel, was immense. Every single Familia was present, and they stood beside representatives of the kingdoms that pushed back the outbreak on Melen. Every single Adventurer in Orario was present, with plenty taking to the roofs, around the stage that was set by the Freya Familia overnight.
Because while my team rested, while I relied on my allies to look for the monster being smuggled around by the Ikelos Familia, the Freya Familia had been two steps ahead.
Three gods left Orario yesterday.
Hermes and his people found the Ikelos Familia dead to the last, the cargo they were carrying in their caravan to escape Orario missing, leaving nothing but burned ledgers and notes. All the Adventurers of the Ikelos Familia were in pieces, past any point where healing could be done, courtesy of enchanted halberds, powerful magic, and two greatswords that could tear through Level 3s like paper.
They had three separate tunnels out of Orario into three different locations.
The Hermes and Hecate Familias found all three tunnels scoured, traps and defenses broken, and by the time they reached the ending of the one chosen by Ikelos… they were already too late.
The Freya Familia didn't just have one Humanoid Monster… but two.
A screech resounded the square for a second, courtesy of the magical voice amplifier being used by the leader of the Guild, while Ottar stood behind him with Freya at his side.
The old man muttered some greetings, sweated a lot, and bumbled through his lines until the platitudes were dealt with and the true speaker stepped forward.
Naturally, it was Freya.
"Welcome, brave and wonderful Adventurers of Orario, to a day which will be remembered for all of time," Freya spoke, and just about every man and woman listening nearly creamed their pants. She wasn't using any power, yet every single gaze was upon her in her conservative white dress like she was whispering about every fetish they had right at them. "For the first time in a thousand years, since Orario was built, we now know that the Dungeon is changing to destroy us."
So her stance was "this is proof our enemies are getting stronger, and we need to get stronger too".
And, she had "evidence" right behind her.
"It looks like the Freya Familia is using this as an opportunity to take Orario," I talked over Freya, and surprisingly attracted the attention of everyone at the rooftop. My students looked at me with furrowed brows, and the Amazons stayed silent as Belka stared at me. Viridis fretted next to Challia, while Mikoto and Wallenstein had Cranel between them. I dealt with the anxiety of being looked at by multiple people by pretending they didn't matter to me, before explaining. "What? Isn't it obvious?"
Most were silent, and I was surprised to find Haruhime speaking up.
"W-What do you mean, Hikigaya-san?"
Thank you for stuttering, Kitsune-san, because you've eased my nerves significantly.
Freya was still speaking, but I gestured towards the square, the massive crowd, and the audience… most of whom were eating up Freya's words.
Most of the Loki Familia were in the square, whoever could be spared from the fight at Melen at least, and they were with Loki. She had Hestia with her, and was guarded by Alf, while all three were close to Ganesha with Shakti. Hephaestus was with them, but most of her Familia was supplying weapons to several nations, so she was alone. A few other gods with relatively large Familias, but that couldn't compare to Apollo or Ishtar, were present too. However, their strength didn't matter, because together the nobodies had the majority of Orario's hundreds of Adventurers beneath them.
They were the masses of Orario who backed Freya's strategy to stay put and gather strength in Orario while Melen fell.
They were doing the same now.
They were eating Freya's statements up.
"Take a look at everyone here. All the representatives of the world, the gods, and all the Adventurers of Orario. Freya has them all listening to her. Even if someone fucks her over now, everyone will still remember her from now on." Just being up there, being the one presenting the new, thinking, and humanoid monsters was giving Freya a massive increase in reputation. This speech was going to reach the ears of everyone paying attention in the world today. At the very least, the Freya Familia would become Orario's face. "She's using these humanoid monsters as a threat to rally everyone beneath her. It's a power play."
There was silence for a second, before Cranel pointed out the obvious.
"They're crying," Cranel whispered, and suddenly everyone atop the roof felt what they needed to feel. Everyone saw the Siren and Vouivre, but as expected of people who were raised all their lives to hate and fear monsters, that was all they saw. The kid who I decided was the protagonist, who was making it very difficult for me to not think that I was part of a shitty Light Novel, was completely different for no explicable reason whatsoever. "How… how could people just ignore that they're crying and keep looking at them like they're monsters?!"
Cranel almost stood up, but between Mikoto and Wallenstein, he found himself held fast while Freya kept talking.
"Friends, both from faraway lands and here in Orario, we all face a time of great uncertainty. A time where the Dungeon is spreading throughout Orario's lands." Freya was linking Melen to the humanoid monsters, even though they were being used by one of the factions working to destroy Orario. Everyone with a pair of eyes could see that both were scarred from their chains and manacles. The Vouvire had scars around the gem in her forehead, as though people tried to find out if it could be taken without killing her. The Siren had bruises around her neck and waist. They were obviously victims. "I ask of you all to consider joining and supporting my Familia, as we launch expeditions to uncover the Dungeon's secrets and plans."
So the play was "support me and be part of my plan as an ally."
No subordination. No risk for rulers to lose face. No gods losing their toys.
Only "support" and "coordination".
However, if she got even one nation to support her Familia, that would be a massive advantage over the rest of the Familias in Orario.
Hell, given the size and power of her Familia, even getting a single Familia to become her subordinates would tip the balance of power entirely in her favor.
It was an option that appealed to everyone, especially when she could've easily pressed forward and demanded something more ludicrous with all her influence.
But that was the point.
By choosing this path, by being cautious and not taking all that she could, she nullified any chance she could fail.
What an absolutely terrifying bitch.
No wonder she was able to hold Orario back for so long. If she could take advantage of a situation like this so quickly, she probably had more plans going on than I could—
My thoughts were interrupted by Cranel, as he escaped both Wallenstein and Mikoto and stood before me. His teeth were grit, and his eyes were wide with anger, while the leather of his gloves creaked from the strain of his closed grip.
He also yelled loud enough to stop Freya's speech for a second and divert a few looks our way.
Naturally, the goddess managed to enrapture everyone after a moment, but Hestia's eyes were definitely locked onto Cranel along with a few of Freya's retinue.
He definitely painted a target on his back.
But back to him being righteously pissed of, and having modern standards, without any explanation whatsoever.
"Are we just going to let this happen?!" A tirade was on the tip of his tongue. He was struggling to not go down there and do something crazy, like declare the humanoid monsters under his protection. "Please, Sensei, tell me what we're going to do!"
Props to his teacher for teaching him to not do anything stupid and listen to the right people (read: me).
His teacher is also me.
Man, I'm the best.
"Calm down, brat. The fight's already finished. I'm just letting Freya climb higher before I break her ladder," I explained, and for some reason, Freya shuddered on stage at the same time. The possibility that she heard me existed, but it was more likely that her thin dress wasn't doing her any favors with the winter chill. It was helping her keep male attention for sure, but human bodies tended to be weaker to the elements than a divine one. "But… fine… I guess I can make do with the height she's at now."
Everyone looked at me in confusion, and I enjoyed their surprise for a second, before standing and holding my hand high in the sky.
For a brief second, nothing happened and I felt embarrassed, before a bracelet slapped itself around my arm.
I stumbled and almost fell over at the sudden demand on my Mind, as my Skill's output reached its limit.
I felt weak, frail, and just standing brought sweat to my brow.
However, Fels came through, even though the bracelet he slapped on my wrist was already beginning to shatter and break.
Before anyone on the rooftop could ask any questions, and even before anyone below could react to the absurd amount of magic I was channeling, the entire world came to a grinding halt.
Because the only god allowed to actually use his divinity in this world had five minutes to lay down the law, and he took the stage by appearing as a titan that loomed over Orario and eclipsed Babel.
That's right, bitch.
I might not be able to beat you, but I can make us both lose by calling on Ouranos to decide everything for everyone.
Thankfully, Preparation is Still Overpowered. (5.4)
Beta'd by Nobody me, mjgh5000 , and SaltyWaffles
The reason why I called on Ouranos, instead of just going to the Guild, was simple: the Guild couldn't do jack shit against the Freya Familia.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Guild was Ouranos's creation, and he intended it to be a service that trained Adventurers, shuffled money from the outside into Orario, and generally coordinated the city. It worked for a long, long time, even surviving a literal war between two Familias who reached the depths of the dungeon, and kept chugging along while more Familias rose up from the ashes.
However, the Guild can only function and enforce rules without competition, which I created.
The schools, the insurance policies, and the increase in small businesses all led towards the Guild losing power, while the Familias gained power. Everyone took notes while I was off just throwing knowledge from Earth around, and I was sure that the larger Familias were stronger than they let on.
They were focusing on recruiting from the best of the schools I made, expanding their information networks, and performing more expeditions to map out territories in the Dungeon for themselves. Naturally, they'd also try to get quests before they reached the Guild, because even if the Guild was an assured buyer of reagents and magic crystals, with the money flowing around nowadays, people were willing to pay premiums more than ever.
Thus, most likely, the Guild had to adapt to the changing landscape by supporting the Freya Familia
According to Tulle, who was still pining after Cranel something fierce, while the Guild was receiving more common monster drops thanks to the increased efficiency and survival of rookies, the same couldn't be said for higher quality drops. They were being cut out of the market since everyone was finding requests before they reached the Guild, or selling more expensive things straight to the buyers.
Thus, when the Freya Familia offered to prop them up by selling and working in accordance with tradition, the head of the Guild had no choice besides to agree.
It wasn't favoritism.
It wasn't the pudgy, old elf chairman lusting after Freya's tits.
It wasn't even the Freya Familia threatening the Guild.
It was just the Guild trying to retain its power, influence, and services in a world that was moving past them.
A short-sighted, panicked move in the face of losing control, especially when every generation of new Adventurers coming into Orario was pushing farther and farther into the Dungeon and harvesting their way to the bottom. Even if they were in for a few rough seasons, they were still going to eventually get back everything they lost and more with the average Level going up, and the average floor everyone reaches being twenty instead of fifteen.
So, I understood why the Guild was supporting Freya.
But that didn't mean I felt bad about going straight to Ouranos and taking advantage of the situation.
The entirety of Orario looked upon Ouranos, as I struggled to even stand to make sure he could do his job.
Everything I had was dedicated to holding down the apocalypse. The bracelet was breaking and turning to dust around my wrist, even with Fels doing everything he could to keep it intact. I was feeding it everything I had, and probably a lot that I didn't, but it was obvious that we weren't getting very far.
The ground was shaking, and dust was rolling off of Babel, while the two of us fought a losing battle to give Ouranos a handful of minutes.
However, even with the strain and pain involved, I couldn't help but look towards a singular person in the crowd.
Oi, Freya, I know that you're currently busy with a literal god looming over you about to lay down the law, but I'd like to ask you a question:
How does it feel to get completely and utterly fucked?
"I have watched, I have listened, and I have prayed for Orario since its inception. I am Ouranos and you will all heed my words." Every single individual knelt at those words. The old, decent manager that I'd spoken to through Fels was nowhere to be seen. Here and now, in order to make the most of his time and presence, he had to present himself perfectly. "Listen well, for my time is short, and even with aid from new allies, the Dungeon rumbles without my power."
There were a lot of gazes towards me from the crowd.
I was slightly worried about the wide-eyed, nearly-mad look Freya sent me as Fels stood beside me.
And, of course, besides her there were more than a few gods present who could put two and two together.
I was barely able to lay low after I was brought back to sanity, but I had no doubt that I couldn't even try to go incognito after this.
Overall, Orario was going to look to take me down so that I couldn't do this again and ruin all their plans.
However, honestly, I was more worried about the flustered blush on Riveria's face as she looked at me casting magic.
Calm the fuck down, elf; it's a half-assed, slapdash job that's barely working. Stop looking at me and attributing divine qualities to me, dammit! Where's your father!? I need to talk to him about your unhealthy mindset towards incredibly powerful people!
"The Dungeon is being pressed by Orario. It is doing its utmost to awaken, rise, and rage against the world once again. It now accepts even the help of those who simply wish to use it for vengeance and chaos, such as Enyo." Ouranos grew a little smaller, but changed from standing in front of Babel to floating in front of the massive tower. It was a good power move. Flying in front of a massive tower and speaking to everyone at once with magic tended to keep everyone's attention. "It is reaching, searching, and attempting to escape even as it sleeps. Its desire to be free is greater than even my power… and so Orario and the entire world must grow in strength to venture into its deepest depths!"
Ouranos clenched his hand into a fist and held it close to his chest.
"After centuries of work, of sacrifice, and battle against that which threatens the entire world… the Dungeon feels fear! It struggles against our strength united, so we must grow stronger together!" Ouranos definitely had a lot of practice at riling up crowds of people in a jiffy, especially crowds filled with murderous bastards who came looking for profit and glory born out of killing things. Every word that came out of his mouth would have him called a lunatic in modern times, but here and now? In Orario? Yeah, even Cranel was getting incensed and excited. "Today, with Evilus broken, and the Dungeon's hold over its own creations breaking… begins a new age of myth and legend!"
Three minutes of talking and some showy effects.
With that, Ouranos transformed the situation from the Freya Familia taking hold of Orario into a rallying cry.
A rallying cry to every single hero who wanted to be remembered forever, for every single nation that wanted to be part of legend, and for every greasy, gremlin god that wanted to fuck around and have fun.
In short, he took hold of the table, broke it, and replaced it completely with a brand-new game for everyone to play with their current pieces and assets.
Freya-san, you might be a hot bitch willing to put out, with tons of money and power besides… but you really can't compete with an expansion pack for an IRL MMORPG.
Relationships are temporary.
Meaningless achievements remembered forever by strangers are eternal.
While my Mind refilled as soon as the bracelet broke, the prolonged effects of having held back the source of all evils in the world fucked with the rest of my body. It wasn't anything terrible, let alone permanent. There was an ache in my bones, and moving too fast made my vision swim, while a weakness crept all across my body.
Cranel and every single not-Elf in the group had to help me back to the Hestia Familia home, and take care of lunch themselves, while I managed them from the kitchen table.
Naturally, it was a mess.
"Wallenstein, ask Cranel how to use a knife before you cut through the counter. Viridis, just let that horrible thing die peacefully." Most of the Loki Familia were not used to cooking since they had a dedicated cafeteria with a full staff handling things. Both Hiryutes and Riveria knew how to cook, but the former knew mostly how to tend to meat, and the latter didn't know how to cook for large groups. "Just follow directions from the people who know how to cook, and don't do anything stupid, so that you stop fucking up."
Riveria sent a glare my way, and Viridis sent a watery, betrayed look my way… that made me wonder if I should get a chastity belt.
Hiryute gave a salute, which calmed me down a bit, until I noticed Viridis start talking to Filvis.
Then the worried feelings returned, even when Lyon took a seat next to me with a large hunk of meat next to a bowl of steaming mashed potatoes laden with butter.
The Elf maid didn't waste time, cutting a hunk off, and shoving it into my mouth before speaking. "That man you were interrogating… he caused many of the deaths of my Familia." I didn't know what she was talking about for a second, but then I recalled the existence of the guy whose face I stomped into the ground. Right. He existed and maybe had important information. "I do not know what I will do once he has revealed all he could. I wish to kill him, but I feel that I shouldn't."
It took me a while to finish chewing through the hunk of grilled meat stuffed into my mouth, but I managed to answer. "I'll probably give him to Fels, if you let him live, so he'll probably die no matter what." Fels and Ouranos were very interested in both the former Adventurers we kept. Since Filvis's life was tied to "Ein", who Cranel was wearing down at breakneck pace, she was out of the question for possible vivisection and study. Mr. Tamer, meanwhile, didn't really have any reason to be kept alive. He chose to become a monster, wanted to unleash the Dungeon, and killed a lot of people. "Just do what you want."
A mouthful of potato flew into my mouth the moment I finished speaking, and Lyon ignored my glare in favor of asking another question.
"Fels and Ouranos… how did you contact them, and how long in advance did you have this planned?" That question garnered the interest of everyone else in the kitchen. Even Sanjouno, who was the only being trusted by both of the intelligent monsters under our care, took a moment from gently spoon-feeding both the manacled creatures. "Did you know this was going to happen? That the Freya Familia was going to attempt to represent Orario in the eyes of the entire world?"
She must've wanted a fast answer to that question, since she gave me mashed potatoes instead of a mouthful of steak.
I guess she didn't want me to think about it as much as I did about her.
How instinctively lewd.
Or, should I say: how instinctively elven?
Hmmm, there's no difference, so I'll go with the word with fewer letters.
I'll just call all lewds lewd now.
"Yeah, yeah. I needed to think a bit. I'm tired, dammit," I complained, and when Lyon hesitated, I took the opportunity to start feeding myself by taking the bite she had prepared for me. I spoke while chewing, but I was too tired to care about my manners. "I had a lot of businesses, remember? I gave those all over to them so that Orario didn't spiral out of control. They kept in contact with me so they didn't fuck up."
I rifled through my pockets until I found what I was looking for. It was an enchanted two-way mirror. It couldn't be used to make calls, but it was easy enough to write things down and show it through the mirror, especially when the person on the other side didn't need to sleep or rest.
"I contacted Fels a few weeks ago, just in case Freya planned to do something with all the power she had amassed." I put the mirror back in my vest pocket. Lyon's gaze traced the mark left by the bracelet on my arm when it came apart explosively, despite Fels' best efforts. It took a bit of time to pry the pieces of the magical artifact out, along with my melted glove, but I was fully healed now. A fucked-up wrist was nothing compared to losing an arm. "My first plan was to hit Orario with a lightning storm to get them to stop being idiots, but I contacted Ouranos in case it didn't work."
Lyon blinked several times at my statement, and Riveria took a moment to stop glaring at her to glare at me.
"Hachiman, diplomacy should've been your first option. Ouranos-sama could have quelled this issue immediately."
Riveria had a good point.
"You have a good point. That would've been the easier way to do things… but I wanted to fuck over Orario for fucking me over, so that became my first plan." A few groans came from the kitchen. Groans to which I had the ultimate answer: a shrug, because I do what I want. "Besides, why would I rely on a god if I could do something myself first?"
Riveria tried to find an argument to that particular statement, which was something she'd say, and came up blank.
I enjoyed the moment of silence for a second, before taking the opportunity to teach my students a valuable lesson.
"Cranel, Arde, and everyone else… you should all remember to never let anyone walk all over you and fuck you over." All four Elves present palmed their faces at my words, while my students all aptly listened to my advice. Hiryute grinned at my words while her sister told her to focus on cooking. "Let me say it again: never let anyone get away with fucking with you. Mess them up. Don't let them get away with jack shit. Make them regret literally everything they did."
My students might've all rolled their eyes at my statement, as they all agreed, but I could tell that they listened to my words.
Freya endangered me and those I cared for with her attempt at a power grab, so I prepared to confront and threaten her and everything she stood for.
In doing so, I prepared well enough to destroy a terrorist organization on my way to mess her up, saved Orario, and put the entire world on my side towards discovering the Dungeon's end.
Without a doubt, with enough spite, anything's possible!
Thankfully, Preparation is Still Overpowered. (5.5)
After a literal god came forward to tell them to stop fucking up, Orario decided that it was time to get its shit together.
Melen received the support it needed after weeks of mortals holding the line. Monsters that were supposed to be handled by Level 2s and 3s were cut down to size by 4s and 5s, giving the armies there a proper break. Kali played her hand when Orario's adventurers came, pushing her Amazons further into the spotlight, even beginning reconstruction with construction crews from her country. The competition between her and Orario went off as intended, and before long Melen became a battleground of a different sort, with Familias working together to rebuild it and get more glory.
Most of the rulers left only a token force behind to see their work crews protected and went back to their countries with wagons full of drops, as well as many, many bards ready to proclaim to the world what they did in order to save it. They spent a lot in order to keep the world safe, but their casualties were minimal, and the fame and prizes they received at least kept them out of the red.
If they claimed dominion over the districts in Melen that they were rebuilding, which they probably were going to do, they were going to come out on top. They'd have outposts for trade right next to Orario, as well as places to keep their soldiers, who could hold the line when Orario fucked up again.
I was sure a lot of the other countries in the world would whine and complain. Melen was still the port from which Orario would send its products out, so having countries own portions of it, instead of it being independent like Orario, would give those countries an advantage in procuring drops.
Those complaints were probably all going to get fucked, because the ones doing the complaining were going to be those who didn't march to save the entire world.
In short, everyone who actually fought would tell them to get fucked.
As for Orario, things were blowing up as expected, and not in the way that I liked.
Droves of people were arriving from everywhere, and a lot of them weren't from backwards, barbaric countries without anything to their name. Veterans from armies, accomplished mages, and even explorers from the far reaches of the world were heading to Orario. They were followed by trains of money-seeking businessmen who knew that there were many abandoned districts in Orario that they could get for cheap, so that they could offer their services to the tide of labor that wanted to be part of history.
Instead of morons and idiots blowing up due to their own stupidity, Orario was booming in a "good" way. More people, more money, and more attention was being paid to it from all over the world. The Familias were scooping up recruits, who were filling up the schools I'd made and climbing up in Levels while pushing through the Dungeon. Money was being spent, materials were being bought, and alliances were being born that would shape history forever.
What was I doing while all this was happening?
I was grilling and on vacation.
I saved the world at least three times in the last couple weeks from Melen, from Evilus, and from whatever half-assed plan Freya had.
I earned it.
The sun was shining, the seagulls were crying out, and the ocean waves gently roared. A cool, soft breeze flowed over me and the grill I was looking after. It blew away the smoke from the coals, thus it allowed me to enjoy only the wonderful scent of meat sizzling upon seasoned, flattened iron.
Thin slices of fatty beef charred and sizzled before having a chance to stick, cooking in seconds upon the rendered fat of the meat portions previously cooked. Strips of beef belly turned into beef bacon in moments. Slices of ribeye crisped up while their juices were sealed within. Chewier, long strips of meat crowded the cold spot of the grill, basting and cooking in indirect heat in pools of delicious fat.
It was a wonderful way to cook on the beach… and it'd be better if I weren't feeding a bunch of black holes.
"Sensei, Sensei, it's ready now, right!?" Cranel was drooling. I would've made a joke about him needing to get his act together, but both Yamato and Wallenstein were right next to him drooling too. All three were in swimwear, and they should have been up to some hijinks elsewhere on the beach while Tulle and the Amazons staked the three of them out, but instead they were all right in front of me, gripping their plates. Tulle and the Amazons were at the other, larger grill that Crozzo hammered together after seeing what I made. "It looks so delicious already!"
"Oi, don't harass Sensei. He's focusing." Even Arde was caught up in the situation. Even though she elected to mimic my flower shirt, shorts, and frond hat instead of swimwear, she was eagerly waiting for cooked food like the rest of them. My pupil was just another individual out to take advantage of me. "Sensei… that beef belly looks absolutely delicious now, no?"
Why don't you pick up a pair of tongs and start cooking, huh? Nelly's over there showing the Hermes Familia how it's done! Be more like her and help me cook, dammit!
Well, at the very least, Erisuis was cooking for Miach over an open fire instead of bothering me like these guys. Thanks for taking up all her attention and affection, Miach. Not that you need thanks for it. I can see that you enjoy being taken care of.
"Yeah, yeah. It's ready. Get your plates ready… with the rice." Beside my grill, I had a tub of rice in the same vessel used by sushi restaurants back home. Bamboo retained heat, and a splash of rice wine vinegar gave it a little oomph, so my audience was momentarily distracted enough for me to purloin some meat for myself in a bowl of rice before I had to ladle meat on their plates of rice. "Remember to get some vegetables… or don't, I guess. It's a celebration, so just eat whatever you want."
I usually espoused eating well-balanced diets, since I wanted my students growing sturdy and steadily, but I understood that some occasions warranted a little relaxation in regards to the rules.
Besides, if they got fat, I could poke fun at them AND force them to train harder.
It was a win-win for me.
"Thank you, Sensei!" Cranel gave me a beaming smile, while clad in swimming shorts, a loose flowing shirt, and his lengthened hair flowing around his shoulders. "I'll be sure to enjoy this properly! Thank you for your hard work!"
The Totsuka factor was getting too high. No. Stay yourself, Hachiman. He has… two girlfriends, at least! Totsuka is the true path, but NTR is still absolute garbage!
I had to take a few breaths while that trio walked away with their plates… and when I looked up again, I found Arde gone along with half of what was left after I served three black holes.
I barely had anything left for myself on the grill, and my student was nowhere to be found.
Man, I taught her really, really, well didn't I?
I ladled the rest of the meat left on the grill onto my bowl of rice and got ready to enjoy it, when a chill travelled down my spine, and five shadows fell over me.
There was no chance to react.
One second, I was about to sit down and enjoy my third serving of beef and rice, and the next thing I knew, there was a table in front of me, laden with dishes and five women who wanted answers.
Thankfully, they had a semblance of mercy in their hearts, and let Hiryute soften the blow before coming after me like a pack of demented sharks.
"Here ya go, Hat-kun! A traditional Amazonian dish!" It was grilled fantasy meat. A hunk of bone with a chunk of meat roasted over an open fire. It was the size of my head, basted and cooked in its own juices, and it sat atop unleavened bread growing more and more soggy from its dripping by the second. "It's very simple, but I hope you like it lots, Hachiman!"
I was barely finished biting through the hunk that Hiryute drove into my mouth when Lyon stepped forward with her winning dish.
It was a pitcher of lemonade on a tray with several glasses filled with ice.
In a medieval setting.
On a beach.
With no civilization for kilometers around.
With Melen still struggling to receive ships from abroad.
What a scary dish to present… in a surprisingly conservative, frilled, emerald bikini.
"Here you go, Hachiman. Something to enjoy with all the other dishes." Lyon smiled as she served the lemonade. She didn't need to do anything beside that, since everyone present knew exactly how far she went with her offering. I'd only given everyone a few days to prepare for this trip, yet she had everything she needed to make this statement within those few days. It was terrifying. "I have plenty more, so don't hesitate to have your fill."
Translation: after eating everyone else's dishes come back to this, or I'll kill you.
I was already taking a sip while moving onto the next dish.
Riveria had a glare levelled at Lyon. I was sure that the Elven Princess had a lot of thoughts to share in regards to what she thought about the waitress/rogue, but she held her tongue, and cleared her throat while pushing forward what she wanted me to have.
It was a box full of potions.
What the hell?
"I've been doing research in regards to your Skill and how it affects your mind. While you have your amulet, I believe it would be for the best to try alternatives which have better reputations." Riveria spoke and crossed her arms. She wore a white sundress and a wide, white hat that shielded her from the sun. Her hair was also down. "These potions are undiluted versions of those. One bottle, diluted into a cup of water, can provide restorative, healing sleep for an entire night. It can also be weaponized to knock out foes."
I thought I was just getting a thoughtful gift, but I've been given a knockout potion that was medicinal in lower quantities.
So, Riveria, you want me to keep this in my room, so that I can sleep with it nearby? Should I keep a few dish towels close by to wipe up any drops? What? No. I'm not implying that I'm going to wake up surrounded by Elves with a cloth soaked in knockout potion descending on my face.
That's totally unbelievable.
"Right. Thanks. I'll take them." I took the offered boxful of potions and made plans to buy a safe to store them in. Sleeping with the Amulet didn't feel as fulfilling as regular sleep. It was more like getting knocked out… but it was better than not sleeping, staying awake for years, and going mad. "I'll use one… when I feel like it."
Man, I almost told these people when I'm going to take medicine to knock myself out.
Hiryute, the Amazon from Telskyura, would never do anything untoward with that information.
The Elves though?
Anyway, Riveria seemed quite proud at my acceptance of her offering, and both she and Lyon were glaring at each other. They both prepared elaborate, fearsome gifts today that both of them made themselves through a serious investment of time and effort. I thought that they both gave pretty good gifts, and that it was great to get gifts in the first place, but they were going to compete no matter what… so I just turned to Viridis.
Because, of course, Filvis was still around, part of the Hestia Familia, and after me for reasons that I still didn't understand.
Do you know how many lives I've saved, woman? A lot. I've saved a lot of people, and most of them don't chase after me, let alone have feelings for me.
Maybe, just maybe, you should reconsider your current decisions before you make a huge mistake?
"Ummm, ah, Challia-chan and I made this for you! I hope that you like it!" Unlike Lyon and Riveria, both the younger Elves actually made food. It was a fish stew brimming with spices, and given how they went out swimming in their bathing suits, frilled one-pieces, I guessed that they caught the fish themselves. "Wereallyhopethatyoulikeit!"
Naturally, upon doing something thoughtful and sweet instead of being lewd, the creature known as Lefiya Viridis began blushing. Since she had an Elf's sensibilities, while stealing kisses and encouraging her best friend to go after the same man as her was fine, cooking a meal for one person was absolutely depraved.
Absolute degeneracy? Lefiya Viridis was completely calm.
Something mildly wholesome? Lefiya Viridis turned into a tomato.
"Please tell us if it's too spicy, or if the flavor is not to your liking. We would like to know your preferences." Filvis had a light blush on her face, but she stood proud even while Viridis decided that she wanted to hide behind her. Despite having to face the embarrassing situation alone, she didn't flinch, hesitate, or decide to fall back on lewdness in order to take control over the situation. "We'll leave you to enjoy the meal, Hachiman-san, and we will start cooking the rest of the meat you've prepared so that you can rest."
Filvis moved to start dealing with the onlookers who were craving more freshly cooked meat, and the other Elves followed her. Viridis because she was wasting away every second that she was being wholesome instead of Lewd, and Riveria and Lyon because they wanted to compete some more by being more helpful than the other.
Maybe, just maybe, there was some hope for Elves after all.
I was about to dig into my meal when the universe decided that things couldn't ever be simple, and that if Elves were going to be wholesome, then their lewdness had to affect someone else.
Hiryute had a grin on her face as she took a sideways seat upon my lap and took my bowl… and motioned for me to accept the spoonful of food heading my way.
"I can eat on my own, Hiryute," I protested, but Hiryute's grin simply widened at my words.
"I know, but I want to pamper you, Hachiman-kun! Now… say 'ah'!"
Looked after by Elves, handfed by an Amazon, and surrounded by allies on a private beach.
As much as I wanted to turn Orario into a burning cesspit for the newest Title they gave me, I couldn't deny the truth any longer.
They had a point.
I am a Riajuu now, aren't I?
Ria-juu = normie.
Rai-juu = Thunder Beast
Silly gods "misspelled."