Chapter 36: Gifting this Ghost Loli with Adult Experiences!
"Geez, Kazuma, you almost had her! You had one job! I'm working hard every day to fortify the town's defenses, and you can't even do this one simple task?! And you too, kouhai! This isn't a game, you know? Stop roleplaying as a thief and take your job seriously for once!"
"I-I'm not roleplaying! I'm actually a thief! Mou…"
As Chris and I returned to town, Aqua started lecturing us for no reason.
"Hai, hai. Good job, Aqua. You're truly the savior of this town. Here, why don't you take the construction crew with you to the bar?"
I handed her a pouch full of coins. She quickly snatched it, her eyes glowing bright blue.
"Alright, boys! Let's hit the bar! It's on me!"
"Ohhh! That's Aqua for ya!"
I watched as Aqua and the others headed straight to the bar. Beside me, Chris sighed and looked at me accusingly.
"You did that just to get rid of senpai…"
"She was annoying me. It's better than resorting to physical violence."
"Is that what you normally do to her?! Um… It may not seem like it, but senpai is still a goddess and a girl. Please treat her with courtesy…"
Rain-san and the others took on the task of capturing the prisoners from the skirmish. Among the prisoners was the ogre-type demon I fought, Joog.
According to the high-level adventurers from the capital, Joog is apparently a pretty famous demon warrior under the employ of Wolbach. A formidable opponent, in fact, he was just a rank below one of Wolbach's top warriors named Hoost.
Hoost…? Come to think of it, didn't Aqua and I encounter a demon named Hoost that one time?
"It looks like the Demon King army has started engaging us in skirmishes. They might make a full-assault soon. Um, just in case, please remember that you still have that wish, Kazuma-kun."
"Wish? Oh, yeah, that."
"Eh?! Don't tell me… Kazuma-kun forgot?!"
Chris is so easy to rile up. It's not that she's gullible, she's just easy to tease.
"No, I haven't. If things get really bad, I'll use it. I don't want to make a careless wish like 'make Maouko and her army go away'. What if there's a stronger enemy that shows up in the future after I ended up wasting a wish on Maouko? We'll just have to try our best in this fight without thinking about the wish."
"That makes sense, I guess…"
After having a chat with me, Chris wanted to scout the area a bit more in the hopes of catching some stragglers.
"Hopefully, I can trail some of them back to their camp. Kazuma-kun looks exhausted. You can just go back home!"
Chris said, giving me a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. She headed off to join her scouting team. What a hard worker.
It was about time for an early dinner and all the fighting and running gave me an appetite. I followed Chris's advice and headed home.
When I arrived, I saw that we had a visitor. Fuwarin-san was in the living room with Megumin. They were looking through some papers. There's a tense, awkward mood between them.
"Hm? What's going on here? Some kind of weird Crimson Demon ritual? Let me play, too."
I said, while looking at their intent, focused faces and the papers spread out all over the table. Were they using talismans in an attempt to summon some evil entity?
Megumin scoffed at my teasing words. She hurriedly gathered the papers and gave them to Fuwarin-san.
"I was just discussing… family matters with Fuwarin o-oba-san here."
Oba-san? Come to think of it, Fuwarin-san mentioned something about visiting her great great great granddaughter, or something. Could she be talking about Megumin?!
Fuwarin-san smiled as she gathered the papers. She also had some leather-bound books by her side.
"Un, I found out about it after visiting Megumin-chan's home. Isn't this a happy coincidence? To think I have some descendants… Well, it's from my sister's side, but still. I'm very happy."
Fuwarin-san had a content smile on her face as she caressed Megumin's hair. Seeming very touched and moved by the gesture, Megumin looked at her recently discovered oba-san with teary eyes.
"Well, technically, isn't Fuwarin-san your great, great, great aunt? So instead of calling her…"
"Shut it. Go to the kitchen and play with Darkness."
I got kicked out.
I went over to the kitchen and saw Darkness peering through the curtain divider. She had a pot of tea in her hand. She probably went to the kitchen to brew some tea for the visitor but sensed the heavy mood as she was about to return, and now she's stuck like this.
I quietly took some tea cups and gestured for Darkness to pour me some tea. She seemed relieved to pour the tea she probably worked hard to brew. As expected of Darkness, the tea is good, even though the food she makes is pretty bland and commonplace.
"I want to relax in the living room, but it's hard to walk out there and join them…"
Darkness said, as she sipped her tea. We were sitting on stools around the kitchen counter and enjoying snacks with our tea.
"Darkness can relax just fine over here."
"That's true, but the console is in the living room. It's been a while since I played with Slime-kun. I also need to level up my character."
There were still interested in that slow grind of an RPG, and it seems like the ace of the party is still the slime mob they caught.
"We can play this game instead while those two talk things over."
I said, while taking out the board for that weird chess game the girls used to play before I got them the video game console from heaven.
"I thought that Kazuma doesn't really like this game?"
Darkness said, as I started taking out the pieces and setting up the board.
"Only because there's weird rules like how a player is allowed to flip the table over if they have an Arch-Wizard piece use explosion."
"That rule is only limited to one use a day."
"Still, it's stupid! And why is the loser the one who needs to pick up the fallen pieces even though the 'winner' is the one who ended the game by flipping the table over?! And why is flipping the table even necessary?! I bet Megumin just added this rule on a whim, right?! This isn't part of the official rulebook, right?!"
"Err… This game doesn't have an official set of rules. There only needs to be an agreement with the players involved and most of the rules are homebrewed..."
"Alright, then let's both agree to this rule. No explosion magic allowed! Explosion magic is banned!"
Darkness nodded in understanding as she sat down across from me and collected her pieces.
"That's fine with me. I favor the Crusader pieces and don't rely much on the Arch-Wizard pieces, so this rule suits me just fine, but please don't let Megumin hear you say that, or a flipped table isn't the only thing we'll have to worry about…"
While we were playing, I noticed that Darkness was paying attention to my every move. She even started asking questions.
"Kazuma, please tell me how you managed to capture my Crusader?"
She asked, while looking inquisitively at the formation of my pieces.
"I used the opening in my defense to lure Darkness in. I might have lost a lot of pieces on the way, but I can always resurrect them with the Arch-Priest later. But now that your pieces have advanced all the way to my territory, your Arch-Priests can't revive them even if they die. You overextended yourself. Your forces are thinned out and you lost your frontline. I can just use my long ranged pieces to snipe from afar and… I won."
"I hate to admit it, but Kazuma is better than me at strategy. How did you get this good?"
"Back in my homeland, they used to call me 'Kazuma-san who forces patch updates'. Let's just leave it at that."
I said, while I reminisced about my days as a ranker.
"Kazuma's eyes tell me that he's remembering the battles he fought long ago… Kazuma has quite the mysterious past, now that I think about it. I wish you'd tell us more about your past and your homeland."
I still haven't told Megumin and Darkness about how I wasn't a native of this world.
It's not like I wanted to keep it a secret, but I couldn't find the right time to tell them.
"I have much to learn. In the upcoming battle, it seems I will be relied on to lead part of the troops. I hope to learn from Kazuma."
I didn't think I was doing anything all that special, but Darkness looks like she's relying on me.
"Well, let's keep playing I guess. Ask me as many questions as you want."
We kept playing long after Megumin and Fuwarin-san finished their talk.
Darkness and I played late into the night. After taking a quick bath, I went to bed and laid my tired body down. However, before I passed out, I wanted to take care of my nightly ritual.
"Let's see… What should I use as the scenario today? Megumin bent over the living room table while Fuwarin-san is watching sounds nice. A bit of family play? Yeah, I'll use that tonight."
But before I could start my important night ritual…
I noticed that a blonde loli is floating above my bed, watching over me.
What is it? A ghost?
Why am I able to see it, then?
Ah, that's right. I learned the Spectral Vision skill because I wanted to perceive the Phantoms in my dungeon.
This was a previously haunted mansion, and Aqua often hinted that there was at least one ghost remaining.
...Even so, why is she just staring at me like that?
And her eyes are looking at a very specific area of my body.
"Um… Ghost-san? Can I ask what you're doing here?"
The blonde loli ghost tilted her head as I started speaking to her.
"Eh? You can see me?"
I nodded my head. She pouted after I covered myself from her gaze.
"I'm just partaking in my nightly ritual. Please don't mind me."
I threw a pillow at this suspicious ghost, but it went through her immaterial body. She pouted again at my reaction, crossing her arms together.
"That's not very nice, Kazuma-san. I thought you were a nice guy since you clean my grave every so often, but you're quite rude!"
Cleaning her grave? Could that mean…
"Then… Er… What did Aqua say your name was?"
I struggled to recall. The grave I was taking care of was unmarked and didn't provide any clues about this ghost loli's identity. The only thing I know about this ghost loli is that she has quite the adult taste and sometimes drinks Aqua's rare liquor collection.
"To not even know my name… I thought we had something special, Kazuma-san. My name is Anna Filante Esteroid. I used to live in this place before Kazuma-san and his comrades moved in. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
She bowed in a curtsy. While her form is clear and defined in my eyes thanks to Spectral Vision, her clothes had a faint, ethereal quality to them. They seemed almost gaseous.
"Nice to meet you. Err… I hope you don't take it the wrong way, but the way you're floating is a bit unnerving. Do you want to take a seat?"
I made room for her on the bed and patted the spot. She smiled and floated down, sitting beside me. Since she didn't have a physical body, her rear end slipped into the mattress. Somehow, this is even more unnerving than having her floating around.
"Oops. I guess I still need to float a little."
She floated up from the mattress, letting her body hover an inch above the sheets.
"So… Um… Anna-chan, what were you doing back there?"
I didn't really want to know the answer, but I figured it was better to know what this ghost loli has been doing all this time, while she had been invisible to me.
"Like I said, I was merely partaking in my nighttime ritual."
"And what is this nighttime ritual of yours?"
"To watch Kazuma-san ma****bate."
It's worse than I imagined!
"Um… A-Anna-chan? Why on earth would you do that? I heard that you have 'adult tastes' but isn't that a bit too much?!"
She shrugged, not even seeming the least bit regretful about her peeping tom habits.
"Isn't it quite obvious? I'm a ghost with nothing else better to do. I have to find some way to entertain myself. I have the mind of an adult even if I appear like this. Of course I'm curious about such things, and I don't even have a body to satisfy my curiosities…"
She hung her head and showed a sad smile. I didn't think about it before, but ghosts sure have it tough.
"And so, in order to satisfy my curiosity, I visited the lone male in this household and sure enough, I was not disappointed. Night after night, without fail, Kazuma-san provides a show for me. Using his hand or grinding against a pillow, I was impressed by your vigorous energy, doing such movements late into the night. Sure, the crusader lady in the next room surpasses Kazuma-san in the amount of time spent doing such activities, as she indulges in her own body several hours after Kazuma-san has finished with his routine, but I will not be satisfied by watching the wriggling, spasmic, worm-like movements of a woman. No, no, no. It must be a man, after all. The stroking, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down movement is mesmerizing, the low, baritone grunting that follows after release… Ah, the release. Rather than the measly squirt of a woman, a man's release is more striking and evident. Although Kazuma-san has little to work with, he sure can release a lot and can shoot it at quite a distance. Even when I'm hovering above you, the ej*****te can reach all the way up and go through my ghostly body, then fall back down again. Truly impressive. All this time, I wanted to help Kazuma-san who was struggling all by himself, but sadly, even if I attempt to touch you or use my mouth, I will only go through you. Sometimes I still do it for the sake of doing it, but alas, it's not the same without a real body. What a shame."
After that long, very revealing, rant, Anna-chan finally decided to stop. There was a lot for me to take in. A ghost loli has been watching me this whole time while floating above me, watching me go at it, and sometimes she even tries to 'help' me?
"Eh? Why is Kazuma-san shrinking into himself and covering himself up?"
"...I feel violated. I'll tell! I'll surely tell someone about your crimes!"
"Ehh?! E-Even if you tell someone, they won't believe you! Hey, don't cause a fuss about this! The law doesn't apply to dead people, anyway! Even if I do this and that to you, the law won't have any problems with it! Just let it happen! Don't be such a prude!"
"Noooo! Stop toouuuchiiing meee!"
Even if I don't feel anything when she touches me, the image still looks pretty convincing!
Just like this, I was tormented all night by this ghost loli who is haunting my home.
The next morning, after a sleepless night, the girls looked at me who had dark rings under my eyes.
"Ne, Kazuma, you seem even more haggard than usual."
Aqua said, as she watched me gulp down my third mug of coffee. I don't usually drink this stuff, but I won't be able to get through my tasks for today if I don't do this.
"Kazuma is trying very hard these days. Don't tease him too much, Aqua."
"I'm also trying very hard, but I always get my beauty rest."
I'm jealous of this girl's stress-free life.
The only reason why I'm sleep-deprived, the ghost loli who harassed me all night, is now hovering behind me.
"As always, the food looks so good. I'm jealous~!"
She looked over at the breakfast spread and drooled. I didn't respond, not wanting to appear as if I'm talking to myself.
"Kazuma, I'm heading to the dungeon again today. I want you to see my progress!"
Darkness said, while practicing sword movements by swinging her empty hands around in the air. Her form still looked sloppy to me.
"Fine. I'm planning to head down there anyway to see how everyone is doing. What is Aqua and Megumin gonna do today?"
"I'm going to work hard maintaining the town's defenses, of course! Praise me, praise me!"
"There's a chance that person will show up again. I'll be waiting for her to come and then challenge her to an explosion duel!"
"Megumin, whatever you do, please don't do something that dangerous near the town…"
Darkness implored of Megumin, who has a faraway, dreamy look in her eyes.
That talk with Fuwarin-san seemed to have lifted her spirits. She's been kind of down ever since she learned about Wolbach.
An ending where everyone is happy, huh?
If possible, I don't want to see those two fighting, but the only one who can match Wolbach's firepower is Megumin.
Still, if there's some way...
Aqua and Megumin went off to do their own thing, while Darkness and I prepared to leave for the dungeon. Once Darkness put on her battle gear, we went out.
For some reason, a certain ghost loli is following us.
I leaned over and whispered to her,
"...Oi. I thought you were bound to that house? How are you able to stalk… I mean, follow me out like this?"
I still didn't know what to do with Anna-chan. I considered asking Aqua to exorcise her, and that option is starting to become more and more appealing when she's doing creepy things like stalking me wherever I go.
"Ghosts are bound to places, people or objects they feel attachment to. I guess I feel more attached to Kazuma-san than that place~!"
She winked at me.
"Hm? Kazuma, did you say something?"
I'll just have Aqua exorcise this stalker later.
The dungeon is lively again today.
Along with the same people from yesterday, there is a newcomer.
"Oh, Kazuma-san! How are you today? I must say, opening this dungeon was a splendid idea! Rather than going all the way to Blazing Core dungeon, I can gather materials here!"
Wiz said, while carrying a large bag full of monster drops and loot over her shoulder.
"Wiz… This dungeon is for low-level adventurers who want to gain levels for the upcoming fight. Wiz doesn't really need to gain levels, so…"
"B-B-But! If I don't gather enough materials to sell, the landlord will…!"
I don't have the heart to kick the pleading Wiz out. I left it at that.
"If Wiz is here, then who's taking care of the store? Vanir should be playing around in the boss room right now."
"Ah, I have Serena-san taking over today. She's been a great help!"
They might has well hire her permanently at this point.
Rather than have Wiz hogging all of the monsters from the newbies, I had Darkness pair up with her. With Wiz's ice magic that excels in crowd control, Darkness should have an easier time training if they work together.
In exchange, I promised to cover this month's rent. Wiz immediately accepted the offer.
"Please take care of me, Wiz-san."
"Let's work hard together to get some rare monster drops, Darkness-san!"
Their priorities weren't completely aligned, but it should work fine. I hope.
"Oh, by the way, there's this ghost child that's been hovering around Kazuma-san all this time. Is she one of the Phantoms Kazuma-san acquired for the dungeon? There were a whole bunch of them in the floor below Vanir-san's boss room…"
I forgot that Wiz is a Lich, the undead king!
Surely, she can see other undead beings, even ghosts.
"Ah, yeah! Something like that! Oh, look! It's a rare rainbow horned frog! I heard its rainbow horn sells for quite a high price!"
"Where?! Where is it?! If I get its horn, I can cover the store's rent for the next three years!"
"Wiz-san! Wait up!"
I snuck away as those two ran off.
"Uwaa… Kazuma-san is quite mean, sending those two off like that. So that's the Wiz-san that Kazuma-san sometimes mentions during his nightly ritual. It's nice to finally put a face to the name. I guess she really does have 'big, beautiful breasts', like Kazuma moaned to himself that one time."
I just ignored Anna-chan's recounting of my private matters.
"Ara? Hero-kun came to visit me again?"
After I finished checking up on the trainees, I headed over to the golem factory.
"Fuwarin-san has been busy…"
I said, while looking at the golems that were now filling the area.
"Yep! I was really inspired after finally talking to Megumin-chan!"
"How did that go, by the way?"
"It was great! It was a bit awkward at first, but we had a really fun talk! We even talked a lot about you, hehe. Who would have thought I'd be having that kind of girls talk with my great, great, great granddaughter… Wow, I'm totally a granny now, huh? Even though I'm not even in my twenties yet…"
She hung her head, looking depressed.
"C-Cheer up! It's still not too late for Fuwarin-san! Ah, Fuwarin-san did really good work on these golems! Such fine craftsmanship…"
I tried to distract her from her own gloomy thoughts by changing the subject.
"Ah, yes. I designed them just like Hero-kun asked."
"Very impressive. Oh, it looks like Fuwarin-san even finished that other task, too."
I said, while watching a group of golems carry heaps of crystals into the room.
"Yes, I'm quite diligent with my work! Please feel free to look around. I'm gonna take a break."
My efforts to cheer her up had no effect. She slumped her shoulders and shuffled her feet to the break area.
In the meantime, I browsed through the golems. I wasn't paying lip service when I said that the golems were finely made.
"These golems are quite the work of art."
Even my ghost stalker agrees. She held a hand out to touch one of them. I don't know why she feels the need to touch things when she already knows what the end result will be.
"Hm? Something's strange."
However, this time, as her hands sunk in, she tilted her head in confusion.
"What's wrong, Anna-chan?"
"My hand is sinking in, but it feels heavier than usual… Like I'm pushing my hand through sand. If it's like this… Eii!"
Anna dove right into the golem. Her whole body was absorbed by the golem.
"A-Are you alright, Anna-chan?"
I knocked on the golem's head, looking into its mono-eye to see if I could find Anna anywhere.
Suddenly, the golem started moving even without being told to.
"Yahoo! My suspicions were correct! I can possess these golems!"
The Anna who was possessing the golem said, as she made the golem's body move into a victory pose.
She started hopping around like an excited child, but since she's in a hulking golem's body, the movements appeared very creepy.
She finally stopped hopping around, then looked right at me. The golem's mono-eye wandering down from my face to…
"Oi, don't even think about it."
This ghost loli is seriously dangerous.
"Hero-kun? I heard some very loud noises. Megumin-chan warned me that the 'over-sexed' Hero-kun might try to do something with one of the more curvaceous golems if I left him alone, but I didn't really believe her until…"
"Don't finish that sentence! Don't believe everything that girl or any of the girls in that household tells you about me!"
I told Fuwarin-san about Anna-chan, who was now moving around non-stop, enjoying the feeling of having a material body for the first time in a long time.
"There is a practice for having common spirits inhabit suits of armor in order to weaponize them. These are called Living Armor, and they are classified as undead types."
Fuwarin-san said, as she studied the Anna possessed golem carefully.
"Living Armor… You mean like the Dullahan, Beldia?"
"Oh, no. Living Armor and Dullahan are very different! Well, I'm not an expert by all means. I did consider putting a spirit inside my golems to make them more intelligent, but as a mage, I don't have the ability to perceive spirits like priests do, and even then, it's not certain that the spirit will obey my command and not just act on its own. Spirits have unpredictable personalities, after all."
"Kazuma-san, this lady is saying something rude about us spirits. Maybe I should punish this granny? She may look like a young girl from the outside, but a spirit like me can smell the oldness from her!"
"H-Hey! I'm sorry about this girl, Fuwarin-san! She's just excited to be moving around again and is getting carried away! I swear, she's normally a polite girl!"
Well, that last part was a lie.
"Eh? Did Anna-chan say something? Sorry, I can't really speak with ghosts, so…"
"If you say so…"
That's right. Even though Anna-chan has a physical body now, the golem she's inhabiting doesn't have vocal chords or even a mouth to speak with. I can only hear her 'voice' now because I have the ability to communicate with spirits.
"Hero-kun, I just thought of something. If Hero-kun can convince other spirits to inhabit the golems, wouldn't be able to raise quite a formidable army?"
Fuwarin-san said, after watching Anna frolic around for a while.
"It's just like Fuwarin-san said, I don't think I can trust some weirdo spirits with golem bodies."
"But Hero-kun has those Phantoms in his employ, right? That's why you learned skills to communicate with ghosts in the first place."
The Phantoms who dwell the floors of this dungeon, Fuwarin-san is referring to them.
To be frank, those things scare me and I only tolerate being around them because they're useful.
"I don't think they'll obey me outside of the dungeon."
"If they have a boss ghost controlling them, I believe that even Phantoms can be tamed."
"A boss ghost, huh… Surely, you're not referring to that."
I pointed to Anna, who was now using her golem body to thrust her hips at another golem.
"I'm imitating what Kazuma-san does to his body pillows at night. Well? Am I doing it right?"
Thank god Fuwarin-san can't hear the voices of spirits.
My expectations weren't that high when I finally agreed to Fuwarin-san's plan.
As we headed to the floor where the phantoms were, we came across Darkness and Wiz.
"Cursed Crystal Prison! Now, Darkness-san!"
Wiz completely froze the minotaur that had been swinging its axe at Darkness.
Darkness, who had been ecstatically receiving the blows from the minotaur, snapped out of her pleasured daze as Wiz called out to her.
"Ah! I-I'll attack it now! Intermediate Sword Skill! Hiyaahhh!"
It's a passive skill, you don't need to yell it out.
Still, it was good to hear that Darkness is learning proper sword skills now.
But even with a skill…
Darkness tripped on herself halfway before she could reach the minotaur.
She stayed face planted like that, her ears burning red.
Even with sword skills, you simply can't get rid of your clumsiness, huh, Darkness-san?
"D-Don't fret! No one else saw Darkness-san tripping all over herself even if there weren't any obstacles in the way! Please don't be embarrassed!"
"...Y-Yeah, that's right, no one else saw…"
To save Darkness the embarrassment, I used Lurk on us and went on a seperate route.
The Phantom floor is placed just below Vanir's floor. He requested that I make a challenging floor, just before the final boss room, to give adventurers a taste for the torment that's awaiting them.
It shouldn't be a surprise, but that guy is one nasty devil.
Phantoms are spirits with a strong sense of presence. Even without a physical form, an ordinary human can perceive their forms as faint shadows. With my Spectral Sight, I can perceive them as animated shadows that take on nightmarish forms.
They are not at all strong in physical attacks, but Phantoms can use debuff skills to weaken and discombobulate the enemy. If we were to give them physical bodies, they will be able to retain this ability while having means to deal physical damage as well.
They will become a formidable weapon.
At least, that's what Fuwarin-san speculates.
"Even though it's my idea… How do we get Anna-chan to become their leader?"
Fuwarin-san said, as she looked warily at the stalking shadows seemingly peering at us, despite their lack of eyes.
"I'm the Dungeon Master, so maybe they'll listen to me? Oi, you guys."
While they didn't respond right away, the shadows slowly crept towards us. It was a surreal sight. Fuwarin-san was shivering as she held onto my arm.
"...I guess they can understand me a bit? So, um… From now on, this girl over here is your boss. I'm still your boss, but she's also your boss. Does that make sense?"
"Hero-kun, those instructions would confuse any human, I don't think the Phantoms will completely understand! Hiieee! One of them is getting close to me!"
"It's Fuwarin-san's idea to do this. Please stop panicking so much."
"Hm? Oh, is that so? Okie~!. Kazuma-san, it looks like they understood you."
Anna-chan approached one of the shadows and seemed to be conversing with it.
"Eh? They talked just now?"
"How come I can understand what Anna is saying but I can't understand what these Phantoms are saying?"
I don't think I even heard them talk.
"I have a convenient form with a mouth that lets me speak with you even while I'm in spirit form. These guys don't have the means to communicate with humans because, well, they're weird, shadowy things. They can understand your instructions, but you can't understand them."
It's a bit inconvenient, but I guess I can make this work.
"OK, good job, Anna-chan! Now tell these guys to possess the golems in the factory floor and await further instructions."
"...Wait, Kazuma-san, they're saying something. Eh?"
Anna placed a hand behind her ear, as if she were straining to hear what the phantoms were saying.
"Um… They're saying 'Hey, boss-man, we don't mind helping out, but this isn't part of our original contract. We are being paid to guard this floor, not to become your personal army. If you want us to do this, then you better compensate us properly.' That's what they're saying."
Why are these Phantoms speaking as if they're disgruntled blue-collar workers?
I paid Eris for these phantoms, but Hell must have compensated them for their services with some other method that would be beneficial to ghosts. The question is, what should I even pay these guys with?
When I asked Anna to relay my message, her eyebrows shot up and she blushed.
"Ehe~ Is that so~?"
I don't like the look on her face.
"Kazuma-san, this is what they said, 'Bwehehehe! So boss-man doesn't know? We asked Hell to have their finest demon courtesans give us a little peeky-peeky show, bwehehehe! Just because we don't have bodies anymore, doesn't mean we can't enjoy the naked bodies of beautiful women! Bwehehe!', that's what they said."
It's pretty unsettling to have the child-like Anna recite these dirty lines. Furthermore, she's even making lewd motions with her hands.
"Hey, Hero-kun? What are they saying? Come on, tell me."
Since Fuwarin-san kept insisting, I relayed what the Phantoms told Anna-chan to her.
"So this is what separates normal ghosts from Phantoms. They all have dark hearts! Hero-kun, make sure to be a good boy from now on with a pure heart, or else this will be your fate in the after-life!"
I'd rather you warn the ghost loli who has no problems repeating such dirty lines.
"In short, the phantoms want to be compensated similarly to how Hell compensated them."
I guess since they can't use any normal form of currency, they have to compromise and accept all sorts of weird forms of compensation. No, even if they could still use real money, they'd probably spend it on something like this.
Whatever the reason may be, if I want to use these guys as my army, I should think of something.
"Oho. I thought of something."
I smacked my hands together.
"It seems like Kazuma-san has an idea! Please share it, my sensei in all things lewd!"
Anna-chan looked at me excitedly, while Fuwarin-san sighed and shook her head.
"I don't even want to know. I'll be in my factory. I think I can feel these pervy Phantoms looking at me like I'm a piece of meat. I can't believe I'm letting these guys possess my cute little golems… Sniff…"
Once Fuwarin-san left, I shared my idea to Anna-chan and the Phantoms.
They were quick to come on board.
"Uwaa… To think Kazuma-san was kind enough to install a hot spring for us…"
Dust's comrade, Lynn, after a hard day's work training in the dungeon, dipped into the recently installed hot spring bath.
"I'm surprised he was able to install it so soon."
Darkness, who was already soaking in the bath, answered Lynn with a hint of pride,
"Since Aqua was the one to install it, the construction only took half a day."
"Darkness-san is lucky to have such reliable teammates!"
Receiving the response Darkness wanted, she beamed with pride at hearing someone else compliment her important comrades.
"Should someone like me enjoy such luxuries? I'm beginning to fall in love with baths ever since the trip to Alcarentia with everyone. Although, I don't understand why I have to wear these special goggles?"
Wiz, who had been training Darkness, was also enjoying the bath.
As for the goggles, it's to prevent Wiz, or anyone else with the ability to see ghosts, from seeing the Phantoms, who are currently gawking at them.
Vanir is the one who provided me with these products. If Wiz wants to blame someone, she should blame her colleague.
"Kazuma-san said these goggles protect your eyes from the steam. Apparently, hot steam causes eye wrinkles to develop."
"Ah, that's horrible!"
This is the excuse I came up with.
Although the men on the other side of the hot springs don't really care about such things, the women took this kind of shady skincare advice seriously.
I, Satou Kazuma, the one who was responsible for this arrangement, watched through my personal peeping hole. No, I am not peeping on the girls. I am just looking to see if the Phantoms were satisfied with our arrangement.
Based on how those shadows were hovering around the women and gyrating suspiciously, I suspect that they are.
"Kazuma-san, the plan is a success. The Phantoms are completely under our control now."
Anna-chan said, as she slipped through the walls of my hidden peeping base.
"That's good to hear, but please don't make it sound as if we enslaved them."
Even though most of the women in the dungeon were enjoying the bath, Fuwarin-san was notably not in attendance. She must have caught on that this new hot spring bath was a result of my negotiations with the Phantoms.
"I bet Kazuma-san is thinking, 'Ah, it sucks to be in a relationship. Even though I have a clear view of all these naked women, I can't do anything about it'."
"T-That's not true…"
I hurriedly closed the peeping hole just to prove a point.
"Ah, one of the Phantoms just spoke to me. They will work in intervals. Half of the Phantoms will start possessing the golems, while the other half will stay here and continue to admire the ladies for a bit longer."
"I'm glad that they're organized enough to take shifts, but are they really going to be hanging around in the bath house all day?"
"They also requested that Kazuma-san make these hot springs open to the public, because the female adventurers will soon be busy with the war. They would like to have a constant stream of women to gawk at even while the female adventurers are fighting."
"These Phantoms are really something!"
Perhaps I made a huge mistake.
I stood up from my seat and made my way out of my hiding spot. Anna-chan followed, cheerily floating behind me.
"Where are you going now, Kazuma-san?"
"The enemy could be attacking at any moment. I'll take some of the golems with me and join the defense."
"Ohh~ How diligent. I thought Kazuma-san will do what the Phantoms suggested and open the dungeon's bath house to the public."
This girl is really starting to develop a knack for picking on me. Could she be an 'S' type?
When I stepped out into the normal dungeon area, I heard quite a commotion.
"Bath house, bath house, bath house! I heard there's a bath house! A bath house where the naked Wiz is bathing in! Let me in…. LET ME INNNN!"
There is now a certain Dullahan who is rampaging outside the bathhouse.
One of the adventurers stopping him from entering the women's bath is Katsuragi… Or was it Matsuragi? Whatever his name is.
"So this is the Dullahan who attacked the town in the past. I wasn't present at the time due to, uh, certain circumstances, but let's see which one of us is the superior warrior… Ack!"
Beldia whacked Katsuragi on the head with the flat end of his sword. He's down for the count.
"Ne, Beldia, be a good little Dullahan and go back to your room."
I said, casting Heal on the fallen Katsuragi.
"Noooes! I don't wanna go back to that dark, lonely place! If you're not gonna let me see the naked Wiz who is washing her sweaty body in the bath right now, then at least take me out of this cold, dank dungeon! Let me out… LET ME OUUUUTT!"
"In or out, make up your mind!"
This will be a good test to see if I can mobilize the Phantom possessed golems or not. It's not clear if dungeon monsters can leave the dungeon, even after I, the DM, has permitted them. After making Beldia promise that he'll behave, I took him outside for a walk.
"Treating me, a proud Dullahan, like a dog… Don't think that I'll tolerate such treatment forever… Oooh, sunshine!"
The excited Beldia sprinted outside and basked in the sunshine.
"OK, now do you feel any adverse side-effects for being outside the dungeon?"
"Um, no? Wait, are you using me as some kind of experiment?! Wait… I feel kind of… Gacckkkk!"
Beldia flopped to the ground and started writhing in pain.
As I suspected, there's this kind of effect.
But the Phantoms are possessing the golems. They are a different type of creature now, technically. Perhaps I can take them out of the dungeon?
"Oi, Anna, you can tell Fuwarin-san to send one golem out for now."
"Okie! I'll be right back!"
"Gahhh! I have to go back! Please let me go back to the dungeon!"
I ignored Beldia's screams as he ran back to the dungeon.
I waited for a few moments. One golem walked out of the dungeon. We waited for a few moments.
"This golem-kun says that he's OK!"
"Good. Send the all of the others out now."
At my command, a coordinated march of golems soon poured out of the dungeon entrance.
"What do you think about my army, Beldia? I've come pretty far since we last fought, huh?"
I couldn't help but show off a little to our first major enemy. I joined him inside the dungeon and considered casting Heal on him, but I remembered that would just hurt him even more.
"Hm… It's not as impressive as my army of undead, but I guess it's alright."
I received this tsun response. I guess he's still mad about me using him as a guinea pig.
"Sniff… My children have grown so fast…"
Fuwarin-san wiped a tear from her eye as she watched the golems marching on, into the sunset.
"Hm? What's that red golem over there, at the front?"
"Since Anna-chan will be the boss, I gave her a different golem, so we can tell her apart from the others."
With the way she's hopping around and waving at us, I think it's pretty easy to tell even without the different color.
We continued our march to the walls.
As the townsfolk saw the army of golems, with me leading the charge, they cheered us on.
"Wohh! The enemy doesn't stand a chance!"
"We believe in you, Kazuma-san! Finish this war quickly!"
I guess the image of an army of golems was more inspiring than I thought. The people's morale were raised just from them looking at it.
But the ones who were the most impressed were…
"So cool! Kazuma, where did you get these golems?! Did you make them for me?!"
"There's so many Dendromaidens marching around! It's not as impressive as my craftsmanship, but I'm quite impressed!"
Megumin and Aqua, who were stationed at the walls, were gushing about the march of golems.
"They're not Dendromaidens, and no, I didn't make them for Megumin to play with. These guys will help us in the war."
"Ohh~" x 2.
I had the Phantom Golems, led by Anna-chan, patrol the perimeter. In the meantime, I joined Aqua and Megumin in their oh-so important task of loitering around outside the town walls.
"That person will show up soon, I can feel it."
Megumin said, even though Wolbach hasn't shown up around the time she usually does.
"I tried extra hard with today's fortifications. I can't wait for that hag to show up and try to take down my walls! I'd like to see her try!"
"I'd rather have the enemy not show up at all. Stop raising all sorts of flags, already!"
As soon as I said this, the ground started shaking.
"Crap! What is it now?!"
Something big is obviously coming.
An alarm sounded throughout the town, but it was different from the alarm the guild designated for the enemy forces. I don't recognize this alarm.
"Treasure Island incoming! I repeat, Treasure Island incoming!"
What the hell is a treasure island?
As the shaking drew nearer, I could see a massive, shining figure. It was like a big block of gold heading our way.
Wait, why is this so-called island moving?!
The adventurers and guards immediately abandoned their posts. They cheered and hollered as they confirmed the sight of this 'Treasure Island'.
"Oiii! Why are you all abandoning your posts?! What if this is a trick by the enemy?!"
Maouko is a Bard who is a master of illusion magic. She could be using this as a trap to lure us out.
"The Kazuma who is already rich beyond compare can't understand our struggle! Even if it's a trap, we have to take the risk!"
This isn't good. Just the sight of gold is making these guys hysterical.
"Aqua, Megumin, let's try to calm everyone down… Eh?"
Those girls joined the stampede of adventurers.
"What the hell are you doing?! I understand the others, but why are you guys ditching your posts, too?!"
I caught up to them, grabbing Aqua by her hair and Megumin by her cloak.
"Owww! Why are you so rough only with me?! The appearance of a Treasure Island is a very rare event! It usually never comes out of its sleep underground! I don't care how loaded we are, we can't let this opportunity pass! Oiii! You guys! Get out your pickaxes and shovels!"
She freed herself from my grip and ran towards her construction team, who were already equipped for this event.
"...And what's your story, Megumin?"
"As someone who's lived in poverty all her life, I can't pass up the opportunity to make more money when it's presented to me."
"How much more money do you girls want?! Do you want me to show you my bank account?! The insane amount of money I have will make you faint and have trouble sleeping at night! Give up on this treasure hunt already!"
"L-Let go of me! I just want to see what the mythical Treasure Island looks like up close, that's all! How can I pass this up?!"
"So that's your true intent! Stop being so childish and stay here!"
I managed to get Megumin to stay but the others were already long gone, having run off to town to get equipment for the excavation.
If this really is Maouko's trap then we're falling right for it!
"Hey, Kazuma doesn't need to worry so much. As an Arch-Wizard, I can sense that this Treasure Island is the real deal. It's not an illusion. And you can see Rain-san and the other mages haven't sensed anything strange, either."
I looked to Rain and the other mages who, thankfully, maintained their positions. They were trembling, though, and seemed to be in great pain, as if already regretting their decision, but they still resisted the temptation. They are true professionals.
"Damn it! I wanna go to, too! I'm sorry, Rain-sama!"
"Ah, wait, please don't leave!"
The Treasure Island, as it turns out, was one giant turtle covered in gold and other precious ores and minerals.
No one knows how long it's been around, but it's undoubtedly ancient. A divine creature, it could be said that this majestic creature is a god, one that brings great fortune to the people in the rare moments it wakes from its slumber.
It's a docile creature who will let people climb on its shell and excavate the treasures on its back. Then, after a certain time, it will depart and return to its next underground nest, entering another deep and long slumber.
As Megumin explained this to me, true to her words, the Treasure Island, this great kami turtle, parked itself just outside of the town's walls, in the open space between the town and the woods. It's a shame the Treasure Island didn't trample all over the woods. Maybe it could have inadvertently stomped on Maouko's camp.
"Kazuma, Kazuma~ Let's go~!"
Megumin squirmed around anxiously as she stared at the impressive sight of the Treasure Island. I didn't know what the guild's stance on this situation was, but it didn't look like they were trying to actively stop adventurers from going to the island.
It wouldn't be good for morale if they ordered everyone to stay away from a giant, moving island of gold and precious stones. Even Luna doesn't seem to be scolding the people who choose to go.
"Alright, Megumin, let's go. But we're only going to make sure everyone is safe."
"Got it! Let's go, Kazuma!"
She grabbed my hand and dragged me off. Before she could snatch me away, I turned to Anna-chan and the golems.
"Stay here for now and protect the town in case something goes wrong!"
"But Kazuma-san, I wanna go, too!"
What a willful ghost.
Fortunately for me, Anna-chan didn't act out against my orders and stayed in her position, having the golems guard the town. With Vanir and the golems in the town, I guess I don't have anything to be worried about.
The Treasure Island was stationed in a resting position. Its eyes were half-open and didn't even look at all the humans digging and picking their way through it's gold encrusted shell. There were even golden crusts stuck in its eyelids. I guess, for a mythical creature, this is the equivalent of morning Rheum.
Although the Treasure Island was in a stationary position, crouching down on its stubby turtle legs, the adventurers still needed to scale up with grappling hooks. Megumin and I rented a pair from a civilian who rushed over to sell adventurers his mining and mountain climbing equipment.
While it would be profitable for civilians to scale up the Treasure Island, there are still many perils up there such as monsters and creatures that had taken residence, like ticks, on the Treasure Island's back. Only adventurers, and those who are confident in their ability to survive, are willing to risk their lives to climb up the Treasure Island.
"Let's do this, Kazuma!"
Megumin said, while excitedly swinging her grappling hook around
Just as we were about to throw our grappling hooks...
"...! Enemy! It's a trap! There's Demons on the Treasure Island!"
An adventurers yelled from on top of the Treasure Island.
I used Farsight to see what's happening. As the adventurer said, fully-armed demons were coming out from hiding and attacking the adventurers who had been mining the treasure.
"Wahhh! Kazuma! Save meee!"
Aqua was swinging a pickaxe around, trying to hold off a group of demons. I ignored her.
"N-Ne, isn't this bad, Kazuma?! Half of our troops are on the Treasure Island! Who could have seen this coming?!"
"Oi, didn't I warn everyone?! I really don't get how you guys can never predict these kinds of developments happening!"
"Now is not the time to say 'I told you so!' What should we do, Kazuma?!"
I held Megumin, who is quick to panic, by the shoulders, trying to get her to calm down.
"Megumin should go back to town and regroup with everyone that stayed. Those in the dungeon probably didn't hear the commotion in time. Get them to come out and defend the town."
"O-Okay! What will Kazuma be doing?"
"...I don't really have much choice, do I? I have to go up there and save those greedy idiots."
I gave the most charming smile I could.
"Good luck, Kazuma."
Megumin smiled, holding my hand and giving it a squeeze.
"Un. I'll be right back."
I gave a cool salute and threw my grappling hook.
It bounced off the lump of gold I was trying to hook it around.
"..." x 2.
I tried again. It worked this time.
"...Y-Yeah, good luck, Kazuma."
The mood was ruined by my failed attempt to look cool.
While Megumin ran back to town, I scaled the Treasure Island.
I enhanced myself with strengthening buffs but it was still quite a workout.
When I made it on top of the Treasure Island's shell…
"Wahhh! Saaaveee meeee!"
As if instantly sensing my arrival, Aqua brought a horde of demons to me.
"This useless goddess! You're an Arch-Priest but instead of saving others, you're the one who always needs to be saved! Chasmic Mud Trap!"
I made trench of mud between Aqua and the first row of demons who were chasing after her. The first demons fell into the trap, and the others tripped over them.
In their vulnerable state, I was able to eliminate all of them with a rain of arrows.
"T-That was dangerous! What if you hit me?!"
Aqua said, rubbing the tears and snot from her face.
"I used Snipe, didn't I?! Nevermind that! You idiot! I told you not to climb on top of this thing!"
I gave her a good smack on the head.
"You better not heal that. You'll need to reserve your mana for later."
I swiped away Aqua's hands, which had started to glow as she reached out to her swollen head.
I looked out at the surroundings, using Farsight to observe the skirmishes going on.
"Aqua, that group over there needs healing. After you're done with them, support the group over there."
"How can you make me go into battle with a swollen head?! You're so cruel!"
"Just get moving already!"
I gave her a kick on the rump, which spurred her to start running to the group that needs healing.
Maouko will probably make her next move soon. I have to get these guys out of here fast.
I hid in the shadows, making sure my position can't be discovered.
"Snipe! Snipe! Snipe!"
From my hiding place, I sniped enemies from afar, taking out the most powerful looking enemies and letting the adventurers take care of the mooks that were left over.
Detect Enemy warned me everytime the demons were starting to become aware of my presence. I'd change to another location and use Lurk again.
With my Snipe and Sneak Attack, which doubled the damage since I'm hidden, it didn't take long to dwindle down the enemy's forces. However, that meant that I soon exhausted my supply of arrows. If I used flashy, long range spells, they'll spot me instantly.
I used the last of my arrows. After I ran out, I tried out a spell combo I've been experimenting with lately but haven't tried out in an actual battle yet.
"Create Water, Freeze, Craft!"
It was an odd combination, using magic and a crafting skill at once, but the result was perfect.
I successfully made an ice arrow.
I might as well try out another combination.
"Power-Up! Surpass Limits! Blessing! Snipe! ...Ah, crap!"
My bow shattered, unable to handle the force of the enhanced Snipe.
The ice arrow cleanly pierced through a demon's head. Bloody, icy particles from the broken arrow drifted out from the exit wound. The demon's corpse fell to the ground.
That caused a commotion from the Demons corps.
"T-There's a really dangerous Archer! Wait… Ice? It's a mage?"
I used this confusion to bring myself closer to the skirmishes, still hiding myself.
I found a group of fallen Demon archers from about ten feet away. Their expensive looking bows laying beside their corpses.
A floating, mana-construct hand materialized near one of the bows. I chose a long bow this time, hoping it will withstand the force of my enhanced archery. The Mage Hand brought the bow straight to my real hand.
I took out a manatite crystal, refuelling my mana reserves. I made another ice arrow, notched it, took aim.
Another enhanced Snipe pierced through the thick helmet of a giant Demon.
While my new bow withstood the blow, my arm suffered the recoil.
I healed the torn muscle, then notched another arrow.
I fired one enhanced Snipe after another, healing my torn muscles after every three shots.
I can speed this up.
"Quick Draw! Rapid Shot!"
"Over there! I found him! He's over there… Gack!"
The Demons spotted me, but as I got into a rhythm, it was too late for them to do anything about it.
"Escape. Fleet-Foot. Auto-Dodge…!"
Let's call this combination 'Kiting'.
With Detect Enemy, ambushes don't work on me. I felt the presence of Demons in my blind spot, trying to flank me
I tumbled away from the thrust of a dagger, using my Acrobat skill.
"...! He rolled away?!"
I eliminated all the assassins trying to flank me. Taking advantage of the perceived opening, the warrior type demons charged at me from the point.
"Wind Wall, Create Earth."
"Ehhh?! Hacck! Gacck! What is this…?!"
I used Wind Wall to momentarily halt their advance, then sprayed fine dust into the gust of wind, pepper spraying all of them.
Since they were at close range, I tucked the new bow into my quiver and drew my katana.
"Intermediate Sword Skill!"
Taking a page from Darkness's book, I yelled out the name of a passive sword skill.
I swiftly dispatched the blinded demons.
I focused my Detect Enemy skill. There were still enemies around, but the area was clear enough that we could make a retreat.
"Oiii! You guys! Let's head out! Retreat!"
Aqua already healed all of the wounded. Everyone is able to make a safe retreat.
They took their grappling hooks and scaled down the Treasure Island's shell.
"Kazuma! They're chasing after us!"
Aqua said, as she took her grappling hook and started to scale down.
"Don't worry about that! Just keep the others safe!"
I said, as I watched the enemy give chase.
"Not so fast! Don't let them get away! Flying Demons, after them!"
A horde of winged demons flew after us.
I need my hands free if I want to hold them off. I threw my grappling hook away and jumped down after Aqua and the others.
"Kazuma?! I know the enemy is tough, but don't give up on your life so easily!"
What the hell is this useless goddess saying?
I stopped my descent and floated in the air. I drew my bow again and materialized an ice arrow.
"We're prepared for that now! Mages, use Protection from Arrows!"
As if I'm limited to shooting arrows.
I summoned a jolt of lightning to fry them.
Thanks to my cover fire, we landed safely. The demons stopped their pursuit, opting to save their man power instead of chasing targets that have successfully retreated.
"Are you guys unharmed? I have some manatite crystals if you guys need it."
They were staring at me blankly for some reason.
"I know that Kazuma is a big shot hero now, but to be honest, a part of myself couldn't really believe it. So he's actually that powerful, huh…?"
"I thought that the girls in his party did all the work and Kazuma was just taking credit. I guess there's no doubt, now that we've seen him in action."
"S-Sorry for thinking that you're just a braggart who makes up unbelievable stories, Kazuma-san!"
They started applauding me, smiling and clapping.
"Oiiii! I just saved your asses so what's with insulting me, hah?! You should be saying 'Kazuma, you're great!', 'Kazuma, you're cool!' The girls should be offering to do all sorts of lewd and whorish things with the cool me, while I reject them and say 'Sorry, ladies, I'm already taken'. That's how it's supposed to play out, you ungrateful jerks! Read the mood!"
"Who the hell is gonna do 'whorish' things with you, hah?!"
"Just because you saved us, doesn't mean we'll forgive you for saying all that!"
It looks like another fight is about to start.
However, before we could start brawling…
"Hey, Kazuma, isn't that the Maouko chick we're supposed to be fighting?"
Aqua said, as she squinted up into the sky. I followed her gaze and like she said, Maouko was flying above us, looking smug as always.
"Kekeke! To think you'd actually pull off that stunt back in Hell, Satou Kazuma! And you even foiled my ambush plan! I guess I'm a little impressed!"
Normally, Maouko is the type to sulk whenever her plans are foiled. The fact that she's still confident right now makes me worried.
"Kekeke! You've made an enemy of Hell, Satou Kazuma! I won't have to worry about you for the rest of this war now that the Hound Dog of Hell, Aesir, is coming for you! Now, on to the next stage of my plan!"
Maouko, with a flap of her wings, flew close to the Treasure Island's head. It regarded her with lazy, but curious eye.
"It was really fortunate that this thing chose to migrate here! Fufu! Now… Let's have you fight for me, you big, stupid lump of gold."
She placed her hand on the Treasure Island's head.
The Treasure Island's placid eyes slowly darkened, turning red.
With a growl, it began rising. Dirt and debris fell from its titanic body and showered all around us.
"Hack! Gack! Eww! Ne, Kazuma, why is that thing moving all of a sudden?!"
Aqua asked, spitting out the dirt that got into her mouth. The answer should be obvious.
"Kekeke! The war has just begun! Now, my servant, I command you! Lay waste on Axel!"
With a thunderous, enraged roar, the Treasure Island began its siege.
A/N: It took longer than I expected to publish this because there was a lot of content to cover in this chapter. I felt that there were some pacing problems, too, and had to rework some scenes. In the next chapters, I might have to experiment with POV switches. I realize that the Light Novel doesn't necessarily rely on this technique that much, except on special occasions, but it will be very difficult to tell the kind of story I want to tell, and to cover all aspects of the war, if I'm limited to Kazuma's POV. I will try to keep it to the first person POV, though, as I'd like to keep the narration consistent. As always, thanks for reading, and I'll try to get the next chapter out as soon as I can.