We arrived at the capital of the Holy Kingdom of Milis.
I've finally come back to this city after such a long time.
Although I visited Milis when I installed the teleportation circle, I didn't visit the capital.
So, this is only the second time in my life.
Even now I remember the scene I saw when I was approaching the city from the north.
The river flowing from the Blue Dragon Mountain into the lake, the pure white palace floating in its center, the golden cathedral along the riverside, and the silver Adventurers' Guild.
The seven towers encircling the city, surrounded by a vast meadow.
"Dignity and harmony, It exemplifies the two; making it the most beautiful city in the world."
I think that was it.
Even though it was so long ago, I still remember that line.
How nostalgic, that book.
Ah yes, [Walking the World] by Adventurer Bloody Count.
It's an amazing name, I wonder what kind of person would have that kind of name.
While traveling, I never heard of an adventurer by that name.
He might be from a considerably long time ago.
I wonder why Paul had such a book.
Well it's fine.
Milishion is beautiful from the south as well.
You can't see anything unnecessary thanks to the high towers and walls.
Only a pure silver-like palace glistening in the light.
The beauty of that palace stands out, the walls conceal everything else.
Simplicity is best.
"Yeah, this city is the most beautiful in the world."
Cliff said with a sigh.
He seems to have overheard.
"But surely its contents are the dirtiest in the world."
In Cliff's eyes, only the white palace had been reflected.
Now, that beautiful palace might be intimidating.
From now on, this city is a battlefield. Thinking so would only be natural.
Actually, I think Asura kingdom is dirtier.
Ariel, and the other nobles, are pretty sleazy.
In Asura Kingdom, you could say, the dirty parts were on the outside.
I'm not trying to sugarcoat the Holy Kingdom of Milis.
In certain aspects, surely Milis is dirty as well.
"Still, I'm no longer a senpai?"
"Cliff... If something happens, please tell me."
This time, I'm in a casual position.
Even so, I want to help Cliff.
But it's only at the level of going to buy juice at a convenience store, which is all right.1
"Well then, for the time being... let's take a carriage to my family's estate."
"Ussu, by the future Archbishop's command."
On this day, Cliff returned to Milishion.
After about 10 years.
There are four entrances to Milishion.
Last time, we entered from the Adventurer's District.
That's because when an outsider uses any other entrance it becomes a troublesome thing.
Anyway, as we went around the wall, I remembered that lively entrance.
It's the same this time.
However, because Cliff is here, there's no need to wait at the entrance.
The entrance to the Adventurers' District on the south side was the closest.
Though in truth, it matters little when we're this close.2
Rather than passing through the center of town, it might be faster to avoid the traffic by following a side street. Cliff should want to hurry.3
However, Cliff spoke.
"I want to see the town again for the first time after such a long time."
After all, being away for so long, it's his first time back in 10 years.
Though he'll likely be here for many years to come, today is a special day.
The road home, remembering it from the old days, is soaked in nostalgia.
There won't be a lot of opportunities, now's his chance.
So, at Cliff's request, we rode in the front of the carriage.
"I've missed this..."
Cliff said that to himself as we passed under the gate, and looked back out at Milis.
Cliff was born in the Religious District, I've heard that he rarely visited the Adventurers' District.
Yet, looking out from the gate at the Adventurers' District, he smiled.
Hmm, I wonder what memories he'd have here.
When I last came here, I only stayed for around a week.
The only memory I have here is Paul.
If I remember it too deeply, tears start to come out, it's an unforgettable memory.
So, looking around, I can't help but think of the future.
From here on, I'll be working on opening a mercenary branch-office in this town.
Around us, adventurers are strolling about.
Compared to Asura Kingdom there are a lot of Beast Race and Elves.
Adventurers' ranks vary, but you can guess from their clothes.
15-16 year old boys and girls wearing second-hand equipment are obviously fledglings.
Wearing new equipment, beginners are around 18 years old.
Adventurers in their 20s wearing a mix of new and worn-out equipment are mid-level.
Although their equipment can look worn out at first glance, veterans can be seen wearing various magic items, which are some of the highest-grade gear.
Though their professions vary, in the capital of Milis' religious community, there are many magicians who specialize in healing but few in offense.
In the Magic City Sharia, you'd see veteran warriors and swordsmen, and lots of fledgling magicians.
The dream of being an adventurer sprouts for magicians at the Magic University, and veterans come to scout them.
There were mostly humans and Beast Race.
Well regarding the Beast Race, they may have just followed Rinia and Pursena then ended up staying.
In Asura's capital Ars, you would only see fledglings.
Because there's so much schooling, there's a bit of a professional bias.
Also, there were only humans.
Other races, and most experienced or veteran adventurers, don't linger in the capital.
There are probably so many different races and skilled adventurers in Milis because the Great Forest is so close.
The Beast, Elf, and Hobbit races come from the Great Forest, and Dwarves from the south.
After piling up experience in central Milis, adventurers head north to fight stronger demons in the Great Forest.
But, because there's no Adventurers' Guild in the Great Forest, they use Milishion as a base.
Some adventurers familiar with Milis will spend the year traveling between Milishion and Saint Port.
As a result, in this city, which headquarters the Adventurers' Guild, adventurers are treated without bias.
Well, in this situation, I wonder how it would be best to launch the mercenary branch.
In Asura Kingdom, I had Ariel's connections, so things advanced easily.
There were disenfranchised swordsmen, merchants, and nobles who all welcomed the work in Asura.
Swordsmen who were raised in dojos without the dream of becoming an adventurer, or the connections to become a tutor.
Merchants' sons, who studied all their lives to be merchants, only to have the family shop taken over by the eldest son and forced into independence.
And, although they were all educated, there were also the third and fourth sons of the lower nobility who wouldn't receive any inheritance and couldn't be married off.
We attracted talent, and presto, we gained influence in every district, and started taking on the work that the country's soldiers couldn't.
Ultimately, Ariel introduced the fifth son of a senior aristocrat to become the branch chief.
Iya, I had a long interview with that guy before I acknowledged him, but I was happy with his results.
While wearing sunglasses Aisha asked something like, [You, for those two years after you left home, what were you doing?]
He replied [I hid my identity and interacted with the commoners. By doing so, and at the same time learning the differences in culture, I was able to learn the importance of knowing each fellow worker well.]
His reply was articulate and thoughtful, [Oh, this guy] is what I thought.
In fact, he was good at bringing people together.
He was familiar with the differences between the social classes, so when disputes occurred, he was a guy who could easily understand and resolve it.
He didn't have charisma, but he wasn't dislikable.
Well that settled it.
He's better suited to this than me.
Well, that's just an aside.
Now, I want to launch a good mercenary branch in this country.
I need human resources and a branch manager.
And directionality for the mercenaries.
Aisha seems to have written something like a memo, but we can only start making decisions after seeing what we have to work with.
Therefore she's looking around restlessly like me.
But, it's still too premature to decide everything now.
Though there are a lot of adventurers in the adventurers' district, there's also the religious district, the shopping district, and the residential district.
Not just adventurers, we should try to include the other locals as well.
After seeing the religious district and the residential district we should be able to draft a plan.
"I didn't notice last time... but there are a lot of different races here."
"Because the Great Forest is nearby."
I keep looking around while I answer.
Really, there are a lot of races.
A group of dwarves that must be around 10 years old, a group of elves with thin limbs that look almost like dead trees.
There are also a lot of different beast races. Dog, cat, rabbit, deer, rat, tiger, wolf, sheep, bear...
Incidentally I thought, when looking at livestock like pigs and cattle, do these guys think nothing of it?...
No, even if I see a monkey kept at a zoo, I don't particularly feel a sense of camaraderie.
They're different creatures.
"Ah, it's dangerous if you stand...!"
Looking back, I suddenly saw Zenith standing up on the horse-drawn carriage.
Aisha panicked and tried to sit Zenith back down in a hurry while she staggered and pointed at something from the shaking carriage.
Beyond her finger, it's a monkey.
Iya that's rude.
It's a man with a face like a monkey.
That reminds me, there isn't a monkey-like tribe in the beast race.
Well, I wonder if monkeys are rare in this world.
Zenith is happily pointing at him.
Nuu, that monkey, I've seen him somewhere before.
That said, it's not someone from the beast race...
"Ooh!? Hey Zenith-senpai! What are you doing in a place like this!"
It's a demon race (Gisu).
"Geez, I never expected to see you in a place like this."
Gisu spotted us and immediately jumped onto the carriage.
There was no hesitation at all.
But I'm not about to cast an acquaintance aside.4
"What amazing luck! How should I put it, this is once in a lifetime luck!"
Gisu seems exceptionally happy to meet us.
He's got a full-face smile.
Seeing that puts me in a good mood too.
"Half the work, half the house."5
"Yeah yeah, by the way, I haven't seen any tears of joy--"
Gisu wasn't listening, and began telling us about what happened after we parted in Sharia.
Gisu, Talhand, Vera, and Shera arrived on schedule in Asura Kingdom.
There, they sold the magic stones for a fortune.
Vera and Shera retired from being adventurers with their share.
They returned to their hometown.
Sometime after, because they had so much money, Gisu thought it would be smart to start doing some kind of business.
Well, about Gisu, how should I put it, he's addicted to gambling.
I don't know much about it, but in Asura Kingdom there's a so-called gambling town.
Gisu can normally handle himself gambling, but with that much money he couldn't help but lose control.
After just a few months Gisu had lost everything and then some.
"Well, everything fell apart, all I had left were the clothes on my person, so I put that life behind me and ended up here."
Surely, if you'd kept going like that, you would have ended up at the bottom of the ocean with concrete boots.
Talhand prevented that.
As he was about to leave on his next adventure, he stopped by to greet Gisu, and saw him in that state.
Although Talhand was disgusted, he sold off a pair of gauntlets he had made to help Gisu out.
Those gauntlets were made with the magic absorbing stone, apparently Talhand spent his entire fortune on development costs.
Thanks to Gisu two people were broke.
Those two couldn't afford Asura Kingdom's high prices, so they journeyed south.
If it were me, I'd still help a friend in a rough spot, but to that extent and then starting a journey together, I wonder if it's because they've known each other for so long that this kind of thing is just a mutual understanding.
Talhand helped Gisu, so Gisu helped Talhand.
Well, that's friendship.
Just like that, those two left behind Shirone with its bloody civil war, ignored the Kingdom of the Dragon King rumored to be complicit, and returned to Milis.6
They came back to their old home.
Afterwards, Talhand returned to his hometown, and Gisu became a party of one.
"That bastard, doing something like going back to his hometown, what's with that."
Gisu was complaining, but somehow I understood.
After such a long journey, it's normal to start missing your family and want to meet them.
It's Nanahoshi's chronic disease.
"Gisu didn't want to go home?"
"Me? That's stupid. There's nothing interesting at all about returning to such a remote place."
Is that so.
I always miss my home.
Just touching Sylphy's chest restores my strength, even Roxy's chest will rise to the occasion, and it feels like hours fly by with Eris. All under one roof.
"That bastard, even though there were so many unpleasant memories."
"Well then, maybe he wanted to go fix some of those unpleasant memories."
No matter what happened, if time passes, things change.
Even if something is unforgivable as a teenager, in the 20s it becomes something understandable, and in the 50s it doesn't even matter anymore.
Talhand too, in his heart, might want to reconsider things.
"Maa, Talhand aside, I'm resuming my career as an adventurer here."
After Gisu separated with Talhand he seems to have resumed adventuring.
However, he doesn't seem to be able to find any work.
Well he's a demon race and has no combat ability.
"So what is Senpai doing here?"
"With mother in such a state, I received a summons from her parents' house. I took the opportunity to travel here with a friend, and make an appearance."
"Huh... Zenith's parents' place..."
Gisu saw Zenith's sorry state.
Although Zenith normally has a blank look, she seems to be in a good mood.
I wonder if it's because of Gisu.
"Well, I've heard about Zenith's home somehow, too... that seems, pleasant...?"
"... What have you heard?"
"I don't know the details, but they say it's a stubborn house."
Information like that, I heard it before coming.
But, there's no choice but to go.
"We're almost at the district's boundary. It's too bad, but I should get off here. If a demon race enters the religious district it'll cause trouble."
At Gisu's word, I stopped the carriage.
Gisu immediately jumped down.
"Well, it was short, but we should meet again sometime. Stay strong, Senpai!"
Gisu waved and walked into an alley...
As he was leaving, he looked back.
"Senpai! Would you listen to a request!?"
"What is it?"
"What Paul said in the labyrinth, do you remember?"
What he said in the labyrinth.
Even though a lot has happened, I still remember those words.
Probably, it's that.
At that, Gisu nodded with satisfaction, and turned to leave.
A sudden meeting, and an abrupt departure.
It really was a chance reunion.
Even so, although it was by chance, it was nice to see a familiar face in such a tense atmosphere.
While thinking that, we entered the religious district.
By the time we got to Cliff's house, the sun was already setting.
Cliff's house was more ordinary than I expected.
An ordinary single family home, it looks like it could fit a family of three or four, it's snug.
It looks just like the neighboring house.
How should I put it, in the religious district, the houses are all uniform.
Because it's the Pope's house I expected something similar to Ariel's estate, it's kind of anticlimactic.
"It's unexpectedly small."
"Housing for the clergy is provided by the religious headquarters. However, because grandfather has a room at the headquarters, this house isn't used."
Cliff explained to me, without getting angry at my rude comment.
To put it simply, it's like corporate housing.
"Since we're already here... It's late, please stay."
At Cliff's suggestion, I suddenly had a thought.
Zenith's family home, it's in the residential area.
That's right, it wouldn't take long...
Although I have a hunch they wouldn't want us visiting so late.
Visiting in travel wear, that might not be a good idea.
We could set up an appointment to visit them, but we'll be staying in the adventurers' district... so we'd have to come all the way back here.
"Well, thank you."
I decided to accept Cliff's offer.
We unloaded the luggage, stabled the horses, stored the carriage, and brought everything inside.
But, while I was dealing with the carriage, I noticed a white cloud of dust.
The dust had an acrid smell, Aisha let out a cute sneeze.
"Keho... terrible... Jiisan, doesn't seem to have cleaned..."
Cliff held a cloth over his nose, swearing.
He probably didn't expect Cliff to be back yet and left the house unattended.
In any case, the house is really dusty.
"To thank you for letting us stay here, we'll help you out with the cleaning... Aisha."
Aisha said in disarray, and Zenith gave a reproachful look.
No, Zenith is expressionless.
However I can feel it from her eyes.
Aisha also gave me that kind of look.
Wasn't I supposed to entrust the cleaning to you?
Wasn't that it. Every time. Something like, [Leave it to me!]
We have to express our gratitude...
"Of course it's a joke? I'll help too?"
And so we began a night of housecleaning.
We fully opened all the windows, even with wind magic it was rough, so we finished up by sweeping.
After that, we wiped everything down.
Since nothing had been used in several years, I used hot air to clear any bugs out of the beds and blankets.
The kitchen was also considerably dirty, but Aisha somehow managed it.
Meanwhile, Cliff and I gave the living room a rough cleaning.
We finished in three times the normal speed.
The Red Comet Aisha.7
Then, using the food leftover from the journey, we had a light dinner.
"Cliff-senpai. Congratulations on your return."
"It's still too early. I have to meet with Grandfather."
While toasting with cups of water, we enjoyed a meal of dried meat and soup.
As food goes, it's a little bland, but it's fine.
I was troubled over how many ingredients we had left, so I had an underlying motive to finish them.
"Rudeus, what are your plans for tomorrow?"
"For the time being, I will visit the Latreia house."
"I see, do you plan to stay there?"
"I think that will probably happen."
Even if they have a bad reputation, they're Zenith's family.
Even if we stay for awhile, it shouldn't be a problem.
For establishing the mercenary branch and assisting Cliff when the time comes, staying in the Latreia house may limit my freedom to act... but I won't know until I try.
Well, after the greetings, I could always stay somewhere else.
"So, I'll need to hire someone to do the housework..."
"If you'd like, every couple of days I could send Aisha over?"
"No, that's fine. You guys are going to be busy too, it's just something to think about."
Cliff said with a shrug.
We slept in the guest room.
Three people in a small room. The family, sleeping shoulder to shoulder like the 川 character.
... And, Aisha's body is already that of an adult.
The bed is small, it can't fit three adults side by side.
So we left the bed to Zenith, Aisha and I slept on the floor.
We made a makeshift bed out of blankets and cushions we borrowed from Cliff.
Because there's carpet on the floor, it isn't exactly camping out.
It's time to go to sleep.
Then, I noticed Aisha looking at me.
"Ehehe, Oniichan, I wonder if Sylphy-ane would be jealous..."
"Well, during this journey, it was fine right."
"Yeah, but somehow, ehehe..."
Aisha laughed and huddled next to me.
She has a cute smile.
If it were Sylphy, I would already be past my limit.
Sylphy, too, would have...
But I don't feel that way about Aisha, and she doesn't particularly draw close to me too.
I like Aisha, but it's a familial love.
But, it's fine without physical contact.
It's a strange feeling.
She's still cute...
"I have an abrupt question, you, about what Lilia said, what do you think now?"
"Okaasan has said a lot of things?"
"To be a maid, and work for me, stuff like that."
When I asked that, Aisha had a blank look.
Then, she put her hand on her chin and had a look like she was thinking intently.
"Hmm, it's not disagreeable... but, perhaps, for Sylphy-ane, it's different. Something like this... I wonder if it's selfish..."
"No, I understand. It's different."
It was a fuzzy conversation, but something clicked.
It felt alright.
"Nfufu, well it's a given, that Oniichan is loved."
While saying that, Aisha curled next to me and pressed against my body.
Warm and soft.
A good holding pillow.
"... Someday, when you find someone you love, you can start a family of your own."
As I said that while enjoying my new pillow, Aisha suddenly sat up.
She seems to have taken my comment seriously.
"So. Have you given it any thought?"
"What kind of person would that be I wonder..."
It's hard to imagine.
An excellent-type, or an unreliable-type.
Aisha can choose who she wants,but I don't like the idea of arranging a match.
Aisha normally hangs out with a certain crowd.
The mercenaries... there are a lot from the Beast race.
Would one of those guys fall for Aisha?
My little sister isn't a bone for some dog to chase after!
If I ask Orsted, he should be able to tell me about the type of guy that Aisha marries...
Now now, let's just forget about that.
If I heard something like she's single for the rest of her life, it would be pitiable.
Oh, that's right.
I need to confirm something before going to sleep.
"Aisha, tomorrow, when I bring Zenith to her parents' house... what do you want to do?"
Aisha inched away from my arm.
"I will go. Okaasan, because she asked me to earnestly."
Hearing Aisha's reassuring reply, I was also relieved.
Tomorrow we visit Zenith's house.
That's the plan, but I don't know how it will go...
Going alone to a house with such a high status, I'm a bit uneasy.
Afterwards, I'll work on installing a mercenary branch.
If I can establish a good connection with the Latreia house, things should go smoothly.
We need to adapt to the environment.
"Well, I'll be in your care."
"I understand. Leave it to me."
"Really, I appreciate it. Cleaning today too, thanks... Well, goodnight."
"Don't mention it... good night..."
While listening to Aisha's sleepy voice, I fell asleep.