After returning from the Divine Isles, we unloaded a treasure trove’s worth of Resonance Stones in front of Queen Katalina. Giddy with the prospect of her new inventions, she picked up one of the smaller ones and examined it before walking toward her lab.
Before she got too far, she paused and gave me a peck on the cheek before trotting away, much to my surprise. Koujiro leered at me with a cheeky grin before letting out a sigh.
“Well, looks like my vacation is up. If I don’t head back, the wives will set me up for a week-long diaper duty. That’s the last thing I need to happen after last time….” His eyes looked a bit hollow as he recalled that moment. For how tough the King of Macali usually acted, the trials of parenthood seemed to be breaking his soul.
Of course, that was the result of having 7 children all at once. I had only the slightest bit of pity as I imagined all 7 of them trying to hang onto him like some tree. Without his armor, it looked like he would snap like a twig from the weight.
‘Attack boosts don’t transfer to inherent strength, now do they?’ I tried to picture how the lanky man could handle them all. It would be even tougher when his kids got bigger. All the more reason for him to train those muscles, rather than rely on his Electi ability.
Then again, asking an otaku to hit the gym would require some ‘special’ convincing. Perhaps, some sexy training regime would help him lift those dumbbells. There was certainly enough feminine, athletic charm among his wives to get him pumping other things…
With Koujiro gone, Saki and I returned to our normal duties. It took a little while, but after Katalina finished her version of the communication device, she gave me one and sent others to Sanshiro and Macali. These were pre-programmed to sync between the three, allowing for swift communication between the allied countries.
Koujiro was thrilled to have a phone buddy to complain to, already creating excuses to find more time away from child-rearing. It got to the point where I requested Liruru to confiscate the device and take charge of international relations in his stead. I made sure to slip that Idea I had in.
As for Sanshiro, I had to wait for a merchant caravan to travel across the mountains, taking longer for Lady Kaguya’s device to be delivered. And when they figured out what the device was, Wen Lu and Wen Zhi were fortunately able to walk her through how to use it. Of course, Lady Kaguya couldn’t help but to use it for teasing me immediately after the initial surprise wore off.
When it came to relationships, she was surprisingly nosy. She questioned how things with Katalina and Eryn were going, somewhat disappointed that we were too busy to really get anywhere.
“Well, what about Wen Lu and Wen Zhi? I bet you haven’t returned the feelings they obviously hold for you!”
A silence hovered in the air slightly longer than I expected.
“No, no. We are getting along fine! I’m just taking my time deciding between who. They both have their positives.”
‘Uh-huh. That was exactly what I was telling myself as well.’ I smiled at her response and let it drop. There were more important things on my mind. Particularly, what I saw on that island.
“Hey, Lady Kaguya. A serious question from me….”
My shift in tone was enough to instantly change her back to ‘Ruler Mode’. I explained how we had ventured to the Divine Isles in search of Resonance Stones to power devices. Her comments were laced with amusement, hearing that swarms of mighty golems were not even a match for the collective strength of a few Electi. They, too, had sent people in the past to examine the isles but experienced first-hand the impenetrable defense. But her voice became hushed as I mentioned the boss-like guardian in the caverns, guarding a mysterious circle.
However, her words suddenly grew silent as I explained to her about the purple-haired woman I saw after our team had apparently released a seal. The song that came from her had a melody that Kaguya instantly recognized, despite my bad rendition of it.
“You are… completely sure?” she hesitantly asked afterward.
“Of course. Both Koujiro and Saki saw her too. It would be unlikely for all three of us to be hallucinating the same thing.”
After I said that, a bit of inaudible mumbling in the background could only be heard from the device. ‘Don’t tell me that she actually knows something?’
“Can you allow some time for us to investigate? You say that the golems have been vanquished, correct?”
“Didn’t see any more after we took down the big guy, so probably?”
“I see. I’ll send Wen Lu and Wen Zhi to examine it. Unfortunately, it would be best not to divulge my suspicions until after we have confirmed them.”
That was fair. I could entrust them with the task for now. They had their reasons for it, so I simply thanked her for the trouble. With that checked off for now in my never-ending list of worries, I turned to other troubles.
I had requested an addition to my residence that was greatly anticipated. And finally, it was complete!
After a full day of work, there was nothing better than a quick rinse, followed by the warmth of hot water enveloping my body. What I had requested was a ‘hot springs’ style bathing area, a luxury foreign to Sistina. I had grown quite attached to the baths at Lady Kaguya’s castle, so the urge to recreate the experience was too tempting to pass over.
Not that I had access to them in my home world, but the concept of a hot springs bath was romanticized from the various anime I watched. Feeling its regenerative effects in this world only made such a thing more appealing than ever.
Of course, there was not a natural mana source that happened to run under my residence, so the mana was being supplied by magic stones buried underneath, connected to the power grid. With a little help from Katalina, the artisans were able to develop an imitation that would hardly lose to Sanshiro’s.
‘What a thing to make the Queen of a kingdom do.’
As I crept into the water, a long sigh traveled up my back and escaped my mouth. I might as well have been jelly sliding into the shallow pool.
Though this particular bath – with how lavish and detailed it was – cost a pretty silver, I imagined that those of smaller scale and simpler design would catch on like wildfire if mass-produced. Yes, people could take hot baths heated by magic, but that usually required a capable servant to draw it. Magic tools would make that obsolete.
I grinned as the scent of business opportunities could be smelled. ‘Maybe, Eryn was rubbing off on me…’
The sound of a door sliding open and shutting echoed in the distance. The form of a person slowly walked toward the baths, obscured by the steamy environment. I started closing my eyes until I realized that the person had come in from the women’s entrance!
‘Oh shit! I forgot that they haven’t put up the partition yet separating the two!’
“Um, male alert! Male alert! Danger, danger! About face!” I called out to the girl in the distance. I had seen too much anime to know where this was heading towards. It was better to announce myself, rather than face the consequences of supposedly ‘hiding and peeking,’ despite this being my house.
But rather than scurry away, the girl started walking towards me.
‘Dang it! Don’t tell me that it’s Corny boy-‘
Given the decision to proceed, I fully expected it to be Cornelius, who could disguise herself if needed. She didn’t hesitate to ‘join’ me in the baths last time for a heart-to-heart talk. However, I stared blankly as long tresses of black hair dangling from the sides came into view.
A towel hung flatly around her petite torso, like she was perfectly used to the very concept of this bath. Staring at me with a blank expression, Saki didn’t even care to look away from my submerged self. Brushing off my trembling look of surprise, she grabbed a bucket of water and doused herself, before nimbly slipping herself into the pool of hot water.
“I trust that you have enough sense that you won’t try anything, right?” Saki gave me a brief glance.
“O-Of course! Still! Even if you don’t mind, you could have at least warned me!”
To her, I was probably as attractive as a poster on the wall. Probably, she thought that there was nothing to get worked up over. As long as we remained adults about it, things were no different than our casual talks anywhere else in the mansion.
“So, have you heard about it from Duk-, Duchess Reichenstein?” Apparently, even Saki had to correct herself on this point. Corny really needed to go ahead and reveal her true gender in a bombastic manner. Personally, it seemed like her normal flamboyancy would dull the shock anyway.
“No, I haven’t. What has that loon planned now?” I directed my eyes away from Saki, to something, anything that would hold my gaze. Her disinterest in me didn’t deter my eyes that subconsciously darted to her body. I mean, any guy attracted to a girl would find themselves unable to resist her cuteness when her armor was off. Though, that was probably why she wore her armor nearly everywhere in public – to ward off the men.
“Seems that she is reviving those tournaments. You know, the ones that your Master and I won.”
“Huh… I guess they weren’t held at all during King Oswald’s reign. Which one are we having first?” I rubbed my chin wondering if the two of them would participate again, since they were the champions.
“Both?” My right eyebrow arched at her single word response. “Like some kind of double-feature? Back-to-back competitions?”
“Nooo, not exactly…,” a new voice appeared suddenly.
I nearly jumped out of the water. If I hadn’t already recognized the sound of that voice, the slowly chilling water that rippled into my side was another clue.
“Dammit, Cornelius! That’s the second time you’ve done such a thing! Wasn’t once enough already?!”
Cornelius stood in the bath, with her upper half above the water. The flat masculine chest that belied her true body was part of her disguise. However, since it was molded from frozen ice, she was like a large ice cube dropped into a hot drink. Already, I could feel chill bumps on my arms.
With barely a thought, I heaved a wave of water at her, putting my all into it. That, of course, also involved expanding my reach with mana, allowing me to create a giant wall to deluge the retreating trickster. Lau had taught me how to use mana as an extension of the body, but obviously not for this purpose.
As the tidal wave crashed onto Cornelius, I didn’t expect another, separate cry to sound out nearby and off to one side. My splash had fanned out to encompass nearly the entire pool of water in the room.
While I couldn’t make out the mumbled shout clearly, there was water bubbling around a rock at the far end.
“Wait… is the water getting hotter?” I asked the others.
Before they could answer, a plume of platinum hair waded from the rock towards us. The water bubbled around it, sending hot steam into the air. The hair flipped up, revealing a mildly ticked-off girl.
“That water was cold, you know!”
Apparently, Eryn and Cornelius had dropped by to try out the baths since before I arrived. Keeping to themselves in the far corner, Eryn had apparently dozed off in the bath, only to be rudely awakened by a splash of chilly water to the head.
“Umm, Eri. You forget yourself….” Cornelius, who had cancelled her disguise and submerged herself into the water instead, pointed at her friend’s state of undress. In her anger, Eryn forgot to bring a towel as she stood up for everyone to see.
I just stared blankly at the lovely sight-
I mean, I turned away as quickly as my mind registered. It was an accident. A fortunate accident.
Eryn was about to run out of the baths but stopped as a reddish hue started spreading through the pool of water. It was coming from the direction of-
“Saki!” We all yelled as we saw her body sprawled along the edge of the pool, her eyes swimming around her head. From her nose, blood gushed and dribbled into the bath, dyeing it red. I doubted this was from passing out due to the heat, given her known preferences. Apparently, Saki was the one most affected by it all.
“I leave her to you!” I jumped out and dashed toward the changing area, towel around my waist. I had enough skinship for the evening.