Chapter 161: Gazing upon the Unlucky Portal*
I sat down on the sofa in the living room and stayed there for a long time. Uno’s house was probably the only calm place in the Underworld, but I couldn’t wipe away the strange anxiety that filled my heart.
「Ex…Excuse me…Why were you both at Hade’s place today?」
I felt nervous, so I questioned Uno and Due. However, the two of them smiled upon hearing my question. Uno’s cheeks blushed and she responded with a bright voice.
「We delivered some curry. 」
「Eh!! Curry!? Why!? 」
「Uno recently cooked the food that Miss Lista taught her. 」
I’ve made curry for Seiya once by using the ingredients from the Underworld. During that time, I also taught Uno how to make it.
「I was able to do it well, so I decided to share it with Lord Hades.」
「Ah, I see…So that’s the reason why. 」
In contrast to my uneasy feelings, I felt warm air surrounding these two. It seemed that there was no malice after I saw the brother and sister smiling so innocently.
…Hmm. Maybe I thought too much.
「Lord Hades was greatly pleased with it! Ah, ah, ah, ah…Atchi!」
「Yeah, he was. Oh, oh, oh, oh…Burpp!」
Fresh blood spilled from their mouths and scattered on the table. Celseus trembled violently upon seeing this now-usual sight. Uno and her brother’s habit…Vomiting blood.
…!? I knew it, something was not right after all!!
Even though I did my best to believe them, the excessive bleeding made me suspicious once again.
「I…I am going to catch some air… 」
「I…I’m going too! 」
Uno was trying to brew some tea for me, but Celseus and I excused ourselves, and we left the living room.
Celseus whispered to me while we walked down the hallway.
「Lista. What do you think of Uno and her brother? 」
「I don’t know. They’ve been good to us so far. I want to believe there’s nothing else except their kindness.」
After we saved Twisted Geabrande, I sensed that a different and disturbing air began to drift throughout the Underworld. I told Celseus while opening the front door.
「Anyway, let’s ask Seiya’s opinion when he returns…Eh, you’re here, Seiya!!」
I was surprised and shouted high. Seiya was standing alone in the garden of Uno’s house.
「It ended pretty quickly! How did it go your “ask Hades 100 questions” session?」
「Bad. When I asked him 30 questions, the gatekeeper expelled me because the audience time had run out. I will go again another time.」
「You…You were expelled from there, and yet, you want to go again…! By the way, Seiya, what are you doing?」
While talking with me, Seiya held a map in his hand and looked around.
「Something happened here like it did with the Shrine of the Six-Realms of Existence. The scenery around Uno’s house is also different from before.」
「Isn’t that because we didn’t return to the Underworld for a while?」
「Wrong. The change isn’t exactly about the increase of buildings or their disappearance. To put it simply, the distance between the shrine and Uno’s house has shortened.」
「Ehhh!? Is that even possible!?」
Celseus nodded with me.
「There’s a lot a fog in the Underworld. Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?」
「When I created this map, I measured the distance of every single place by using a number of steps. This time, I arrived at Uno’s house from the shrine 24 steps faster than before.」
「To make a miscalculation after performing such rigorous measure…Of course not! Seiya wouldn’t make such a mistake!」
However, Celseus tried to disagree with me, but after noticing Seiya’s sharp gaze, he immediately changed his mind. Weak! He was such a weakling as usual!
「Have you noticed some irregularity in the Underworld? I want you to tell me everything, even trivial things.」
When Seiya wanted me to tell him everything I knew, I told him about the uproar caused by an Underworld inhabitant named Li Tesfu. Seiya was listening to the story with his arms crossed, but eventually, with a mysterious look, he repeated the words that Hades said earlier.
「“The distortion corrupting the Three Thousand Worlds has lessened”…Huh. It seems that I’ll have to change some of my plans for the future.」
After saying that, Seiya handed the map to Celseus.
「Eh? Seiya? Why? 」
「I think I won’t need it anymore. Put it in the back of the luggage bag.」
If what Seiya said was true, then it meant that the topography of the Underworld was changing. Then, having a map wouldn’t make sense.
Wha…What on earth was happening in the Underworld…?
「Listen, Seiya. Do you think that Hades planned something we don’t know about…?」
「Of course, that’s one of the possibilities. And if you think deeply about it, he has been cooperating with us even without any sort of payment. That’s suspicious. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if he forsakes the rules, and stabbed us in the back at the end.」
「Do…Does that mean that Hades is a traitor!?」
「Hey!! Do you think that Uno and Due are traitors as well!?」
「No. I think it is unlikely that they’re deceiving us for the same reason.」
「Eh…Is that so…! 」
Seiya was always suspicious of everything, but surprisingly, he seemed to have no doubts about Uno and her brother. I felt a little relieved by Seiya’s words. Still, the anxiety didn’t go away.
「Then, what is your opinion on this matter? 」
「There’s various possibilities. But everything is speculative. 」
「Can you please tell me? I want to know Seiya’s speculations. 」
「Are you sure, you want to hear my 300 different possibilities? 」
「Yes, I want…wait, that’s too much!! It would take until the sun set!! 」
「Either way, there’s nothing we can do about the anomaly existing in the Underworld. So, I’ll put that on hold for now and start preparing for the Twisted Exfolia.」
「I…I see. You’re right… 」
Celseus sighed deeply upon hearing Seiya’s declaration to prepare for Twisted Exfolia. Seiya was probably eager to start his training again. It was a well-known fact that if Seiya practiced with the devil Celseus, so that he would level up at a surprising speed.
「Hey, Celseus. It’s time for you to become a devil. Be prepared to be beaten up by Seiya.」
「Don’t say that so easily, you! Ah…I don’t want to. I refuse. I really dislike it. I understand why he wants to level up, but let’s stop practicing with the devil me…」
Celseus was clearly upset about his fate. However, Seiya spoke with a cool-looking face.
「My level is currently at max. However, like the time when I tried to save Exfolia, my flight skills as well as my magic power such as Meteor Strike were unusable.」
That’s right. Exfolia was a world where the magic system was fragmented rather than Geabrande. Perhaps, Seiya wanted his stats to match the system of the Twisted Exfolia…Eh, wait a second!! Did he just say something significant!?
「Seiya!! Did you keep your level score!? 」
「I just confirmed it by talking with Hades. After saving a twisted world, I can return to the Underworld without having my status reset.」
Until now, Seiya’s level returned to 1 each time he saved a world. I thought it was probably due to the power of Nemesil, the God of Reason from the innermost world of gods. But, the Gods’ realm ceased to exist. Therefore, last time, when I called Seiya from the summoning list, Nemesil’s power had already lost its effect.
「In other words, can you use the destructive techniques and the skills of the Underworld you’ve learned so far?」
「Correct, I can make myself transparent, and I haven’t lost the knowledge of both the Mimicry skill and Dark Magic. In addition to that, I can invoke my Crazy Warrior state.」
「That’s amazing! 」
「Yeah. It is great because I can skip training. 」
I felt as if his emotionless face was slightly red. He seemed unusually happy.
「Then, that means that we can finish our quest without breaks!!」
I was cheerful and professed those words. However, Seiya looked at me with a difficult face and shook his head.
「No. I still need to prepare.」
「Ehh! But you’ve kept your Level Max and the techniques you’ve learned from the Underworld, am I right? If so, then…」
「I just saved the Twisted Geabrande, which had an S+ difficulty rank. It was a world less difficult than the original Exfolia. Therefore, I was able to afford saving it. But, SS+ is an unknown territory for me. I have to be on the highest alert level ever.」
「Se…Seiya…! You just said you were able to afford saving it…I didn’t know you were that cautious even though you saved it without any issues…!」
Celseus looked astonished. That was natural. Seiya behaved very cautiously even in Twisted Geabrande. However, I was surprised to hear that he was “able to afford” it.
Hmm. Yes, Seiya did some crazy things during the Twisted Geabrande saving quest. Treating people’s lives as if they were objects and mere phantoms. Well, he deeply apologized to Mash and Elle. Maybe he’ll behave properly from now on…Let me check it again.
「Listen, Seiya. You won’t kill nor sacrifice innocent people anymore just because they are from a twisted world, right?」
「Of course. I am deeply reflecting on that matter.」
I felt relieved to hear his answer. Nonetheless, Seiya clasped his fist with a tough-looking face.
「I had no idea of the possibility that the memories of souls could be shared beyond the original and twisted Three Thousand Worlds. I couldn’t think of that idea even when the foolish Lista thought about it first. It’s excruciatingly pathetic and shameful. I can’t forgive myself.」
「I feel like you are offending me!! Is that your way of reflecting about your actions!?」
「I got it now. From now on, the lives of those who live in the twisted worlds will be valued as much as possible. I will try not to cause any harm, and try not to hurt their souls.」
「Is…Is that so? Then, I’m glad to hear it.」
「Hey, Seiya, you sound like a true hero now!」
Seiya snorted, and headed towards Uno’s house from the garden.
「I want to be ready for that too. I still have some questions to ask Hades. Therefore, we are leaving tomorrow at lunchtime.」
After saying that, he immediately headed to his room.
…He wanted to get ready although he retained the techniques of the Underworld along with Level Max…What on earth was he preparing for?
After all, it’s Seiya we’re talking about here. He wouldn’t start a new quest without being fully prepared. Anyway, I decided to teach Uno a new dish as an apology for doubting her.
Next day at noon.
When I headed to the living room, I noticed that Seiya and Celseus were already there. Uno and her brother were standing by to see us off.
「Hey, Celseus. Have you prepared it? 」
「Yes, I prepared it perfectly! 」
When Celseus showed his thumb on Seiya, he unfolded the parcel that he brought to the table. Inside were Celseus’ devil horns.
「So many…!! Hey you!! Did you break them yourself!?」
「I’ve got used to it, so I don’t feel pain anymore. I took them off as if I was doing my nails with a nail clipper.」
It seemed that the only advantage of Celseus’ devil form was his horns. The devil’s horns were often traded at high prices in most worlds. With this, we didn’t have to worry about money.
Seiya started to pack the devil’s horns in the luggage bag without saying thank you. Suddenly, I realized that Seiya’s armor was shiny. Perhaps, when he went to ask Hades more questions, he stopped by the weaponry shop to change his armory. I wondered if he bought other things.
「You are fully prepared as usual. Well then, Seiya. Can I summon the portal to the Twisted Exfolia?」
「Yeah. Perfectly… 」
Seiya stopped his usual dialogue and remained silent with a firm expression on his face.
「Wha…What’s wrong? 」
「I’ve made various assumptions about the Twisted Exfolia. But, there’s a high possibility that it will be a very different world than expected.」
「Ehh!! Does that mean that you are not Perfectly Ready yet!?」
「It means you won’t go now!? Are you kidding me!? I even broke countless of horns!!」
「I’m going now. However, I’m going to inspect the world, in order to make my preparation more complete. I will stay there for three minutes. Then, I will immediately return to the Underworld and practice accordingly.」
「On…Only three minutes…!! That’s not even enough time to make cup noodles…!」
We were surprised by his decision, but Uno and Due nodded positively at Seiya’s words.
「I heard that this world is even more difficult than the Twisted Geabrande. I think it is great to make every effort and preparation beforehand.」
「Yeah. Mister Seiya’s approach is the right judgement. You must take things slowly and carefully.」
「But, even if you say it like that…Ah, what!? 」
I stopped middle way. It was because Seiya disappeared abruptly. Seiya’s voice came from an empty space.
「I made myself transparent. You guys do it too.」
「Hey, Seiya!! How can we start the next quest if we make ourselves transparent!?」
「We won’t be able to speak with the people if we are transparent!! The people would freak out!! We can’t collect information that way…」
「This time, I will only look at the surroundings from afar. I got a rough idea of the situation going on in the Twisted Exfolia after hearing a story from Hades. I need to confirm it. So, we’re not going to talk with anyone yet.」
He used the Transparency skill from the Underworld even though he was at Level Max. After making himself transparent, however, Seiya seemed to want to go back to the Underworld and practice immediately after investigating the Twisted Exfolia for only 3 minutes.
…Re…Really, just how far did he have to go to complete his preparation…!
There was no doubt that Seiya’s cautiousness had increased. However, this time, he seemed more cowardly than cautious.
「What’s wrong, Lista. Make yourself transparent now.」
There were some things that didn’t make sense, but Celseus and I still became transparent as we were told to.
「Summon the portal now. 」
When I cast the spell, the portal to the Twisted Exfolia finally appeared. As Hades said previously, by saving the Twisted Geabrande of S+ difficulty rank, the door to the next twisted world would be opened.
…We would probably start in the town that was once occupied by the beast men. That town’s name was…If I remember correctly, “Galvano”.
「I will open the portal’s door. You guys stand by.」
I heard the transparent Seiya’s voice. I felt nervous, held my breath and waited for the portal to open its door.
「What, Seiya? 」
「…I wonder if it’s filled with poisonous gas? 」
「There’s no way that even demons would live in a world full of poisonous gas!! Just open the damn door!!」
I was so frustrated at Seiya. Eventually, Seiya opened the portal’s door.
「Well then, everyone. Be careful on your journey.」
Looking back, Uno and Due were bowing deeply at us. They couldn’t see us because we were transparent, but I waved at Uno and Due regardless. Thus, we finally dived through the portal to the Twisted Exfolia.
*Meaning 鬼門/Kimon. Literally, ogre’s gate, northeast in direction. In ancient Taoism, northeast was thought to be a bad direction since people thought that the netherworld lay in that direction.
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