17-17. Pink-colored Calamities (2)
Satou here. I drank many cups of coffee every day when I was working as a programmer. It was partly because it was free thanks to my workplace's welfare programme, but I simply had to in order to keep my eyes open during all-nighters.
"Are you envoys affiliated with Echigoya Firm?"
Associate researcher of Royal Research Institute asked while looking at us dubiously.
Since I'm in disguise today and are accompanied by three little girls, we probably don't look like envoys to him.
"Yes, that's correct. We appreciate you giving us your time today."
We're here to ask him about tower-dropped coffee candy and cola candy in detail.
"Is there anything you want to ask me?"
"Yes, to associate--"
"Don't call me associate!"
His patronizing attitude disappeared instantly the moment he heard the word [Associate].
Oh right, this guy also acted disgruntled when he was called with his job position in the tower back then.
"Excuse me. We'd like to ask about addictive effect written in the documents you submitted to Echigoya Firm."
"Very well. Although we didn't observe a significant change in the test animals--"
Associate-shi took a candy out of his pocket and began munching on it before resuming his talk.
"Some of those people, regardless whether they're humans or demi-humans, have shown an attachment tendency toward the candies. Unlike banned drug, there is no extreme withdrawal symptoms or anything like that, however symptoms of losing concentrations or temper after not getting their fill of candy for an extended period of time depending on persons have been observed."
Looks like the symptoms could differ greatly depending on individuals.
"Is it like when you ban a drinker from getting any more booze?"
"It's certainly similar. According to a researcher native to Saga Empire, it closely resembled to what happened when he hadn't had coffee for a while."
According to Associate-shi, this Saga Empire-native researcher is a heavy coffee lover, he drinks about ten cups a day.
"Maybe it's like caffeine dependence syndrome?"
"The description does fit."
Arisa whispered in my ear.
"Does that apply to both candies?"
Though green tea and black tea contain caffeine, I recall cola doesn't have much, hence my question.
"What do you mean by that?"
Associate-shi's eyes glimmered.
"I'm wondering whether the addictive effect is exclusive to coffee candy or applies to cola candy as well."
"Good question. The addictive effect is only observed with coffee candy. However, we've observed those who consume both types of candies are more prone to display the symptoms."
"You mean they have a synergistic effect?"
"You sure know some difficult word. Exactly--is what I'd like to say, but I am unable to make a conclusion yet with too few samples."
Mr. Associate murmured, "If only I had more budget", while stealing glances at me.
His plain as day attitude invites a smile to my face.
"That's fine. Please submit an estimate of the necessary budget to Echigoya Firm."
I handed over 100 gold coins to him as a pre-payment while saying that.
Associate-shi's hands were shaking as he received it.
"We don't need exaggerated wordings, just please write it like it is in the report okay."
"U-umu. Leave it to me."
Associate-shi coolly replied to Arisa who gave him a reminder.
Looks like the effects of research funds are the same regardless of world, Associate-shi amicably sent us off to the gate like he was a different person.
"That person seemed to be addicted to candy himself."
Associate-shi kept on munching on candy while he was talking to us.
I'm not sure whether someone had pointed it out to him or he realized that himself, that must be what prompted him to write about the addictive effect in the report.
We caught sight of Princess Menea at Royal Academy Magic School Building next to the Royal Research Institute.
Tama is turning her glittering eyes at Princess Menea's pink-colored hair.
"She's so popular~"
She's being surrounded by handsome young men of Knighthood Academy.
--No wait, that's not it?
"Isn't she getting picked on?"
"Hoe? Now that you mention it, everyone has this stern look on them."
I took off my disguise mask, got off the wagon and called to her, "Menea-sama."
"We're planning to head to the Knights Headquarters now, would you like to come along?"
I called out to princess Menea as I got down the wagon, then I turned my line of sight at the Knighthood Academy's students as if I had just realized them.
"Oh were you having a talk?"
"No, they're merely rudely interrogating me."
Encircling and interrogating a princess of another nation, however small it is?
Though I can't say for sure due to the massive differences in information spread speed and distances between nations, normally this could turn into international problems.
"It's nothing like that!"
"We were just asking if her highness had a child relative with pink hair."
That reminds me, princess Menea's little sister princess is also attending the Royal Academy.
"Why would you ask something like that?"
As I can't just tell them that fact out of respect for personal privacy, I asked them the reason for their question.
"We were in the tower just a while ago."
That came out of nowhere.
"We had a run in with an Ogre on the fourth floor..."
I looked at Arisa who shook her head.
Looks like she's not aware of it either.
Tama who also shook her head fell down apparently due to the tigerkin costume's off-balance, she was having fun rolling on the ground.
I checked the Map since it bothered me a bit, but I couldn't find any on the first four floors of the tower near Royal Capital.
"I'm amazed you survived that."
"Yes, our luck... was good."
Something must have happened since luck wouldn't cut it in their situation, but I ignored it since it wasn't the problem here.
"So what's that got to do with you guys picking on Menea-sama?"
"Childlike sounding voices instigated the ogre."
"And this guy--"
The students pushed a boy wearing eyepatch forward.
"I saw it."
The boy pushed up his eyepatch, showing a golden pupil behind before resuming his speech.
"There were little girls who had the same beautiful pink hair as her highness slipping into shadow."
He appears to be a bearer of magic eye.
It seems to be different from Spirit Sight, but he ended up witnessing those invisible little girls thanks to his magic eye.
"Pink haired little girls huh..."
It's stimulating my memories.
"The one at Shadow Castle!"
Princess Menea reacted to that word and turned her line of sight toward Arisa.
Oh right, there was a painting of someone who looked like me together with a pink-haired little girl inside the Shadow Castle at Princess Menea's hometown.
I took a paper copy with picture part of the little girl from the painting from my Storage while pretending to take it out of my pocket.
"Does she look like this?"
I ask the magic eyed boy while showing him the paper.
"I-I don't really remember her face. But the hairstyle and hair ornament do match, I think."
It's a vague answer, but considering they must have been desperate trying to flee from the ogre, I suppose it's only natural.
"Then this has nothing to do with Princess Menea. This matter will be dealt with by Prime Minister. Keep what you say here a secret from anybody else."
"Um... We've reported about the ogre to the guild already..."
Guild must be about the Administrative Office deployed by Shiga Kingdom's Labyrinth Resource Ministry located in front of the tower.
"That one is fine."
I'm doing this to prevent Princess Menea and her little sister princess from getting needlessly ostracized.
Putting out prime minister name without permission will probably turn into a problem later, but I'll just report it to the prime minister and let him chew on me later.
I let them grip as many silver coins as their number as thanks for the information, and head to the tower in the capital's suburb along with Princess Menea on our wagon.
I was planning to let her off somewhere, but she ended up coming along with us since she had nothing else to do.
Due to the excessive skinships by Princess Menea who had taken the seat next to me, I was made to listen to barrage of [Guilty] on our way to the tower.
"Sell me candy please!"
When we got off our wagon in front of Administrative Association Office in front of the tower, we could hear voice of a middle-aged man trying to buy candy off those who just got out of the tower.
"Y-you can't do that nodesu. Candy has to be sold to the guild nodesuyo?"
"I know that already! That's why I'm telling you I'll buy at twice the price!"
I turned around to look at the owner of the peculiar tone and found Pochi who had been disguised as a spotted dogkin there.
She's with Mabudachi-kun and Shatei-kun.
"She said no already, didn't you hear?"
"Damn right! We ain't gonna keep quiet if ya bully nee-san!"
Mabudachi-kun and Shatei-kun tried their best to tear the candy old man off the teary eyed Pochi.
I walk forward to offer them my assistance.
"This scent, it's master nanodesu!"
Pochi noticed my scent and turned around faster than I could call her.
I receive Pochi who jumped to me with Twinkling Move, and pat her head as she rubbed it on me.
"Demon Lord Slayer?"
"Uwaa, it's Lord Pendragon!"
"Whoa, it's the real thing!"
The people around made a racket when they saw us.
Oh right, I've taken off my disguise from when I saved Princess Menea.
While answering back to people who were asking for handshakes, I headed to the Association Office with Pochi.
Also, the candy old man who made Pochi teary eyed got thrust away by the rush of crowd and disappeared beyond.
"Your excellency Pendragon! It is an honor for all of us here to have my lord personally come to inspect our humble office!"
All staff greeted us when we got in the office.
The room right after the entrance was the guild hall, or rather it looked like the teller windows in a city hall.
I said my thanks to the staff and went to another room together with the chief here and his secretary.
"I heard that an Ogre had shown up on fourth floor. Do you have any new info?"
"Unfortunately no, all we have is a report from students of knighthood academy. Two platoons of knights have been dispatched from a nearby garrison to investigate the matter. We're currently waiting for a new report--"
"Pochi has defeated that nodesu!"
Halfway through the chief's speech, Pochi sprung up and announced that with a raised hand.
"Since this ogre person came attacking like 'gaoo', Pochi went 'babyuun' and beat it nodesu!"
"Nn, good girl."
Tama and Mia praised Pochi who got heated up telling her stories.
I see, it wasn't on the Map since Pochi already took care of it huh.
"Ah hey, you're getting too close."
"My, isn't this about the same distance to Arisa?"
Looks like Arisa is busy competing with Princess Menea.
"Nothing less to expect from your excellency Pendragon's associate. Now we can lift the ban to enter the tower once the survey team returned."
Apparently they've prohibited explorers who mainly operate on lower floors from entering the tower to minimize damage.
It's not that they doubt Pochi, it's to make sure that there are no other ogres around, so they won't lift the entry ban until after the knights have returned from their investigation.
They leave me with good impressions for not treating explorers like disposable goods.
"I received report from Knighthood Academy students about hearing voices of little girls when they encountered an ogre, have you received other similar reports?"
"No we have received such a report only from those--"
"Pochi heard about it nodesu!"
Pochi who cut in while breathing roughly said that as she raised her hand.
"They were saying something like 『Unfair』 and 『Villains』 nodesu."
"I heard it too. The way they spoke was unpleasant, like they wer some sort of mean noble kids."
"I didn't hear nuthin'."
"Neither am I."
Looks like both Pochi and Mabudachi-kun heard little girls' voices too.
"Did you see how she looked?"
Pochi and Mabudachi-kun shook their heads.
For the time being, the only witness was a magic eye bearer huh.
"Smells like my turn~?"
Tama who was on my lap asked while striking the ninja pose.
I'll be asking for Cat Ninja Tama's help to investigate these little girls.
<TLN: If you're reading this novel at any other site than Sousetsuka .com you might be reading an unedited, uncorrected version of the novel.>
"Please share any new information you get to Bridal Knights' headquarters."
I handed over a bag of gold coins to the readily consenting chief as an expense for his cooperation and then we left the chief's room.
"Whaddya mean we can't get in the tower?!"
"How long you're gonna shut it off huuh!"
Some explorers are picking a fight with a receptionist at the counter.
Seems like they're complaining about how only high ranking adventurers are allowed inside the tower due to the commotion with low floor ogre.
"Again huh... Even though it's a mechanic intended to keep their safety, some just won't understand."
The chief who came out after us grumbled.
I turned around when I heard Arisa's voice.
Pochi and Tama have subdued the explorers, while the receptionist is holding her cheek while looking down.
Looks like those short-tempered explorers hit the receptionist while I was talking to the chief.
"Please put this on your cheek."
I pass over a handkerchief soaked in magic potion to the receptionist.
Pressing it on the wound should remove the swelling and pain on her cheek right away.
"Thank you very much."
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, this much is an everyday occurrence after all."
"Like what happened just now?"
Apparently, there have been an increase of violent and short tempered explorers lately.
"Your excellency, regarding the matter about [Voices] earlier."
The chief whispered in my ear.
After confirming with receptionists here, he found multiple reports about voices of little girls.
Most are merely treated as coming from talking weed or hallucinations.
The content of those voices didn't differ much from what Pochi and Mabudachi-kun testified earlier though.
The ones that slightly differed came from those who didn't encounter an ogre, hearing baffling words such as [No bad guys anywhere], or [Where's bad guys~].
Is this pink-haired little girl unrelated to the appearances of ogres, and they're just looking for bad guys?
On our way to our wagon while thinking that, we were met with a scene of a quarrel between explorers who just got out of the tower.
"What'd you say?! Are you questioning the depth of my faith?!"
"Then why did your holy magic fail only at crucial times."
"T-that's because I'm losing focus due to the unreasonable venture."
A priest of Heraruon Temple is quarrelling with some explorers.
"Are ya really telling the truth? Yer Force Bullets were pretty weak too, didja hear a rumor about priests with low devotion losing their holy magic strength?"
"Who spread that rumor?!"
"Everyone in the tavern was talking 'bout it."
Didn't know there was such a rumor.
But would those bunch of disorganized gods go out of their way to do such a bothersome fiddling?
Though they'd probably at least take away holy magic from priests who have lost their faith.
That piqued my interest, I should go ask Sera if there's a precedent to that later.
"I don't see any weird rifts in space."
"Pochi doesn't smell anything weird either nodesuyo."
Evening of that day, I went around all places where the [Voices] were heard according to the record together with the girls.
Nana is staying overnight at the orphanage, mass producing stuffed toys as Seven-sensei there, while Lulu are doing trials and errors to find the recipes for coffee and soda candy.
Silver members are currently conquering the upper floors of a tower located on a neighboring cliff.
"Oh right, have you handed over your painting Tama?"
Tama nodded to affirm Arisa's question.
Tama's new work, [Candy Raining Season], has been passed over to Echigoya Firm.
It's just, the instant Nell put it up in Candy Corner, everyone rushed in to ask about candy despite knowing that it had been sold out. As such, it's currently taken off exhibition.
We should have known better considering one would end up wanting to eat candy looking at that painting.
I feel like Tama's painting is more dangerous than the candy's addictive effect in a way.
"Yeah, this was the last sighting point."
I affirmed Mia's question.
"Have you told the silver members?"
"Oh right. Though we've only got reports of out of place enemies appearing on lower floors, there's a possibility of it happening on higher floors as well, I should inform them."
Checking the status of Silver Members, I found no problem in particular. When I saw that they were taking a break on Marker list, I called them with Tactical Talk.
『--And since you might encounter similar phenomena on higher floors, I thought of giving you girls heads-up.』
I also shared easily digestible info with the silver members.
『I'll face my enemy, no matter how strong it is desuwa!』
『As expected of Karina nanodesu!』
Tama and Pochi gave rave reviews to Lady Karina's brawn-for-brain remark.
『I'll be sure to check information regarding the enemy before we go and lure in one.』
Zena-san is fit for it since she's just learned Personage Appraisal by way of a Dungeon Orb.
『We have Tower Escape spheres with us anyway, there is no need to worry.』
『No, your highness. These are towers created by demon god, you must not put too much trust in items found in one.』
Sera gave a warning to Princess Sistina.
『Am I right, Satou-san.』
『Yes, I agree.』
Sera's words most likely come from her distrust toward demon god, but she's not wrong.
Space where escape items are annulled is pretty common in a game.
『Oh we'll be fine. I mean we have simple warp gate Satou-san gave us and portable [Fairy's Circle] given to us by Aialize-sama as well.』
Zena-san reconfirmed the measures they had in case of emergency.
Though it's unknown whether they'd work in a space that prohibits usage of escape items, I've prepared and distributed those to the girls as other means to escape.
『Even if you find yourself in an unforeseen situation, I will definitely go save you girls, so never lose hope and concentrate on surviving.』
The silver members replied back with trustful sounding voices.
『Sera-san, there's something I'd like to confirm with you--』
Since the quarrel between explorers and a priest I saw in daytime intrigued me, I asked her whether the priest's faith could have any effect on the power of his holy magic.
『I believe that possibility exists. The strength of holy magic can differ between priests with the same level, it's also not rare for an individual priest to have the strength of their holy magic fluctuate.』
『But that applies to magicians too right, not just priests?』
『Even wind magic can differ depending on the user you know. It even changes with your physical condition.』
Arisa, Mia and Zena-san raised opinions that differed from Sera's answer.
I didn't know since stuff like physical condition never affected my magic, but apparently it's common sense for magicians.
『But the scriptures depict that priests who have lost their faith to gods will lose their holy magic.』
Apparently the person will lose the ability to cast holy magic even if someone with Persona Appraisal confirms that holy magic skill still exists in that person.
『I see~, that's one phenomenon not applicable to magicians.』
『It doesn't have anything to do with faith. Perhaps they lost the ability to cast magic because they harbored suspicions toward magic itself?』
Arisa got it, while Princess Sistina said something intriguing.
Ordinary magic is one thing, but you probably can't cast Primeval Magic if you harbor suspicions toward magic.
Since it wouldn't be much of a rest if we kept talking, I said my thanks to Sera before calling off.
"Master, are you suspecting that maybe the weakening of holy magic is demon god's doing too?"
As expected of Arisa. It's like she sees through everything.
"I'm just considering it as one possible explanation."
Demon god would have his already bad standing turn even worse in the eyes of gods if he really went and did it, so normally you wouldn't think he would.
"I'm thinking that maybe this [Tower] system that's supposed to be a convenient system to gods is actually a trap set up by demon gods for the sake of snatching away all the piety gathered toward gods instead."
"Things would turn super ugly if that hypothesis is proven correct."
Arisa shrugged her shoulders half-jokingly.
"Pochi and her comrades will beat them up when that happens nodesuyo!"
"Ahaha, Master you gotta prepare equipment strong enough to go against demon god's troops then."
Since my hypotheses have never hit the mark, it's probably not happening.
Despite mumbling that in my mind, I was coming up with all kinds of weapons in my head for when we really went up against [Demon God's Troops] as we made our way back to the Solitary Island Palace.
※Next update is planned for 6/2