18-10. Tales of Hero Hayato 
"You're scouting me? --Are you being serious?"
Sweeping her straight silver hair fluttering in the wind, she--Duke Daughter Ringrande's face warped as she asked.
We're at a veranda of Duke Oyugock Mansion at Shiga Kingdom's capital.
"Yeah, I've heard all about your exploits this past year."
This girl has triumphed over the [Floor Master] of Selbira dungeon in just a year and even mastered explosion magic to a practical level.
"So have I. On rumors about you."
Her thorny words stung my heart with regret and a sense of unworthiness.
"You came across a greater demon and got almost wiped out, didn't you. And you bring along a different group of people with you besides the princess and priest-dono now? I'm not just going to let you use me up like a disposable."
Ringrande went into the room from the veranda as she said that.
Behind me Seina insisted, "Me too, I'm still here!", but Ringrande ignored her after taking a glance. Her personality is as bad as ever.
"This great me will never treat my friends as disposable."
I got in front of Ringrande with Ground Shrink.
Ground Shrink which I couldn't get at first because it required way too many skill points ended up being useful here.
"Never has been. --And never will."
I stare at Ringrande's eyes with my sincerest feelings.
"Then, I'll give you a test. Bring me a dragon scale by tomorrow. If you manage that, I don't mind making a temporary contract as your attendant. Leave this place at once if you have any objection. I can go beat up some demon lord on my own even without your help."
She's quite a strong-willed woman.
"Hold on a minute. How do you expect us to get a dragon scale by tomorrow!"
"Please don't worry, I'll tell you where to find a dragon. At the summit of Fuji Mountain Range splitting the center of Shiga Kingdom lies Guardian Holy Dragon and its dependents, or you can find adult dragons at the Black Dragon Mountains to the south. The Evil Dragons dwelling on lower layer of the dungeon and lesser dragons loitering around Central Country Group are pretty famous as well. Oh, and there is that mountain where lesser dragons live at Silga Kingdoms."
As if provoking the protesting Maryest, Ringrande listed places near Shiga Kingdom that have dragons.
That's some knowledge. Her wisdom on top of her swordsmanship and magic are truly fascinating.
"By tomorrow huh. You fine at sunset?"
"Yes, that's all right."
I said "Hold on tight" to Ringrande who gave her OK, jumped to Jules Verne I summoned and went to Fuji Mountains.
The holy dragon at Fuji Mountains is supposed to be Hero King Yamato's sworn friend, so I thought they'd listen to me.
Though in the end, I didn't meet the holy dragon.
Cause we caught sight of two lesser dragons quarreling along the way.
"Uhhyaa, lotsa treasure~"
"Aaah, so many dragon scales!"
Seina the scout aside, this might be the first time Maryest ever forgot to act like an imperial princess and grinned broadly.
"Doesn't seem like there's a legendary Dragon Liquor Fountain around."
Loreiya murmured dejectedly while sniffing the wind.
Apparently she's looking for something. I consoled Loreiya who dropped her shoulders before we all picked up the dragon scales lying around the spot.
"That was a cinch. I can't wait to have a good look at that haughty's woman popping her eyes out."
"...Seina. Yeah, don't think she'd do that?"
Rusus said that looking amazed.
"--Oh crap. Everyone, get away!"
Fifi shouted out loud.
A moment later, a gigantic mass fell down the sky.
Looks like the dragons are still fighting.
I got away with Flickering Steps, carrying Maryest with me.
Loreiya had jumped away with Rusus and Fifi on her.
The girls let me know they were alright when I asked.
No, we're missing one.
"I am fine. But things have gotten a bit out of hand."
Wiyaryi is looking at Jules Verne raising a dark smoke beyond some fallen trees.
"Can we run to the capital from here?"
"That would be a no. Even if Hayato sprints at full speed, there is no way you could reach there by sunset."
Seina responded to Maryest while unfolding a map.
"It might be doable if he goes in a straight line. There's lots of deep forests and low altitude mountains along the way. Even Hayato can't manage that."
"So you're saying a straight line would do?"
--That's just swell.
I'm fine with going a bit wild to make that girl join us.
I put on Flying Shoes I had in my Inventory.
"Mary, help me accelerate. Blow this great me away with advanced class wind magic once I'm up in the air."
"N-no way! That's just reckless!"
"Reckless is fine, I'll do it. Believe in my Unique Skill!"
Maryest nodded after hesitating a bit.
I floated up into the sky, activated [Invincible Shield] Unique Skill and signaled at Maryest.
The next moment, a tremendous gust blew me away spinning.
That impact felt like it turned my body asunder even with Unique Skill on.
However, I got the kind of speed I wanted, no even more.
I kept kicking the air with Flying Shoes while using my holy shield as a glider.
My body aches all over from that impact, but I won't use [Endless Regeneration] just yet. Gonna save that for the second part of this air marathon.
I gulped down the magic potion I had in my pouch and ran full speed ahead toward Shiga Kingdom's capital.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"--I can't believe you really went and grabbed one."
"Keep your promise."
"I know I know. I don't lie. I'll join you for a bit."
Ringrande spoke condescendingly.
"By the way, you look quite worn out, where's the other girls?"
"Oh they'll get back once they're done repairing Jules Verne."
I told her what happened during our quest for dragon scales.
"You really went and grabbed one yourself? And here I was sure you bought one from a merchant in the capital or the neighboring cities."
Wait, you could do that?!
"Wait, don't tell me that never crossed your mind?"
"No uh, that doesn't sound fair, no?"
Ringrande groaned with her hand on his head.
"--Just what is that sagacious princess even doing. You guys really are a lot of trouble."
I followed after Ringrande who rushed out of the room.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm asking grandfather to go fetch them with a ship. I may not be well versed in Jules Verne's internal, but airships are not something you can repair without a mechanic or a hangar you know."
Guess in earth, it'd be like trying to repair an airplane that crash landed on an uninhabited island?
Even though Ringrande sounded irritated, I strangely didn't feel any animosity from her, if I had to say she felt more like a nosy neighboring auntie.
There were many trouble along the way, but in the end we managed to get Ringrande join us, and restarted our special training at [Dungeon of Heroes] once Subdimensional Ship Jules Verne had been repaired.
"Missy! Don't get ahead on your own!"
"You're just too slow with your provocation! Do better if you want to keep up with me!"
"You boar woman!"
At first we kept verbally abusing each other, but it settled down a bit by the third floor conquered.
"Rin! Get the left one!"
"Count on me! Shall I take care of the middle one too?"
"That guy's mine. Rusus and Fifi will chomp 'em if you keep talking."
"Ahahaha, I'm gonna chomp 'em!"
"Completed annihilating the left side. Which one needs help."
"The middle one is this great me's!"
Since the name Ringrande was too mouthful, I quickly switched to calling her Rin, and then Maryest sulked cause a junior got the nickname treatment, so I changed her to Mary. As for others, Wiyaryi gets to be Wii and stuff.
The other girls also call me Hayato, Loreiya is the only one who keeps calling me Hayato-sama formally.
Seina told me that our group gets ridiculed as [Harem Party] by the public, because there's only women besides me.
Well, forget harem, I don't even plan to make a move on anyone, so I paid it no heed and focused on leveling up.
"Hero-sama, we've got another letter."
"Ooh! From honey huh!"
I got my spirit back whenever a letter from princess Arisa arrived as we got back above ground.
Most of them was talks regarding administrative cheat or how awesomely beautiful her elder sister by different mother was, but simply reading her graceful intellectual sounding letters made me feel like I'm managing a country together with her.
However, there was no letter after a three month excursion in the dungeon.
It was a bit worrying, but since the last letter talked about how she reconciled with her parents and elder brother the prince, and how she would get serious with developing the kingdom, she might just not have any time to write a letter.
Thinking that was a big mistake.
Disaster struck when we had an eight month long expedition aiming for the deepest floor of the dungeon.
A few months before the last missing letter, Kubooku Kingdom got absorbed into Yowolk Kingdom, and all the royalty including the king and crown prince were executed.
My relief when Mary, through Foreign Ministry, found out princess Arisa managed to escape execution was short lived. I blacked out when they told me how a few days before we got out of the dungeon, a demon raided the castle of Kubooku Kingdom and burned down the royal villa where princess Arisa was held.
The royal villa has been burned down with no survivor.
I couldn't eat or drink for three days, only looking at the floor like a dead man, but I got back on my feet without Seina's help this time.
"We need a civil official."
Someone who works behind the scenes to gather information outside battle.
By Mary's recommendation, official Nono and her twin sister, Riro were added as members.
Apparently one specializes in negotiations, another in managerial. Both are very talented.
The now solid hero party went on a pilgrimage to many countries, eliminating monsters and demons troubling people and also accumulating experience outside battle.
"Hayato! There's a new oracle divined!"
And then that day came.
Just before this great me reached level 70, a demon lord's revival was finally prophesied.
And in seven parts of the world to boot. Something like that hasn't occurred in the past several hundred years.
It's only been written down twice in history. Dating back to the founding of Saga Kingdom by the first hero, and the era where Hero King Yamato founded Shiga Kingdom.
Both saw the emergence of a whole different class of demon lord called Great Demon Lords.
That's what may be going on now.
"Getting the cold feet now?"
"Of course not. I'm trembling with excitement."
I responded the provocative Rin by smiling fearlessly.
Jerid, Subac, Zayan, Shiaryi, Rokos, all my friends who fell in the line of duty against a greater demon.
Princess Arisa who fell victim to demons, despite being so young.
To prevent any more victim.
"I will defeat demon lords."
I look a the girls after declaring thus.
Every one of them has a resolute look on their face.
"Because I am a hero. Little Goddess's Hero, Hayato."
I flipped over my mantle and jumped onto Subdimensional Ship Jules Verne.
Toward the ground zero of Demon Lord's advent.
※ Please refer to chapter 8 and chapter 15 for the continuation.