A full-scale winter approaches the academy city of Rotsgard.
Several months have passed since the mutant incident that occurred during the annual school festival.
It was a tragedy in which there were a considerable number of casualties as well as significant damage to the city, but it already feels like the city has recovered.
There are still places with empty plots of land, but even those are already being worked on. The city has caught its breath and begun to move forward.
The town’s structure is different from that of earth, of Japan.
The biggest cause of that difference is probably magic, though.
Removing rubble, recycling materials, constructing buildings and making roads.
It was proceeding at a rate that makes Earth’s modern construction techniques pale in comparison.
Freely using the mages of the academy and seeing their work with my own eyes, it was truly amazing.
It’s so fast that I can’t even be surprised with the speed at which the city in Asora was built anymore.
In fact, considering that the Eldwas were leading the craftsmen, now I can see that they weren’t just being humble when they said they worked slowly because they were being thorough.
「Sorry for keeping you waiting, here’s your large-portion lunch.」
For a “large portion”, it’s not very much, huh.
As I try to form an impression of the meal that I ordered, I look out the window.
This is a new store within five minutes’ walk from the Kuzunoha company’s store.
It was a first for me, but the Kuzunoha company decided to try expanding to the suburbs with a new store.
In the place where we wanted to set up a temporary store, the people from the neighborhood who originally owned shops here closed them and moved somewhere else, so their land became available to purchase.
After I discussed it with Shiki, I bought all of the land.
In the end, the company’s location moved only a very small distance, dubiously close to the academy.
The store is wider than before, and by hiring part-time workers, we’re proceeding smoothly with the new store’s opening.
At midday, on days when the special lecturers of the academy aren’t needed, I can come here and eat lunch like this without having to go far.
Just because Ruria isn’t here anymore doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our nabe*, so as usual, Shiki goes to Gotetsu often.
TLN*: Hot pot (food dish)
「I guess this is something like a café. It’s not really suitable to eat at, even if it’s good for having conversations with people.」(Makoto)
They don’t even give you a lot of food.
Mio definitely wouldn’t be satisfied with this place.
She’s not the type who likes stores that only have a nice atmosphere.
As expected, a lot of the customers are young people who have just started as students.
There are quite a lot of people like this at our own store, too, huh.
I guess it’s because we stock up on rare fruits.
And for the students of Rotsgard academy, where it’s not uncommon to be injured while training their practical skills, it’s good to always have all kinds of medicine and ointments ready when needed.
There are also quite a few who come to our store with their eyes set on our part-time workers, Jin and Amelia.
「Either way. The store does fine without me there.」(Makoto)
I’m a little lonely.
Aqua and Eris have been becoming reliable lately. They’ve set up a system where there are no problems, even if I’m not there.
Though that’s what I was aiming for.
Ever since the school festival, I’ve been receiving requests from all over the place and have been busy going here and there.
At this rate, I’m going to have my hands full with with the visits to Limia and Gritonia that I’m being urged to go on and my interview with the Demon Lord. Root said something about wanting me to do something if I’m planning to go somewhere far away as well.
「Haah, I wasn’t able to buy the Kuzunoha Fruits Set today, either.」(Male 1)
「Trying to get those is like a lottery that’s drawn before the store even opens. It’s just a matter of luck.」(Male 2)
「I wish we knew someone who has connections there.」(Male 1)
「I heard the normal employees don’t even give special treatment, you know? If you got a part-time job there you might be able to secure some for yourself to eat, but they’re not recruiting right now. The higher-up person is called Shiki and the store owner is called Raidou, I think? You might have a chance if you know those people.」(Male 2)
「I don’t have any contacts, and it’s not like I want to eat it myself, I’ve been asked to get it by my girlfriend. If you really want to eat it that bad, you should go line up for it yourself, jeez.」(Male 1)
「... Could it be that you’ve never eaten it before?」(Male 2)
「No. It’s just fruit, right? I’d rather have one of those weapons they sell.」(Male 1)
「Eh, it’s amazing, you know? I definitely recommend that you try it at least once.」(Male 2)
They’re talking about our store.
I look at the two who are discussing the Kuzunoha company, being careful not to be noticed.
They’re in plain clothes, so I can’t tell.
They’re two young people, around my age.
As usual, our quantity-limited cut fruits are being treated as rare items.
When I get back, I’ll ask about increasing our stocks on those.
「What, you’ve eaten it before? There are a lot of people who say that it’s not worth the price, you know?」(Male 1)
「Those are either people who’ve never tried it, or those who have no interest in food at all. It’s so good that if I could eat it once a week, I wouldn’t need any other sweet food for the rest of the week.」(Male 2)
「To think that you’d say that when you eat the desserts at a café once every two days. Are those yellow ring things cookies or something?」(Male 1)
He’s talking about pineapples.
It’s fun to gouge out their centers, so I’ve gone to help them with it a few times.
The ones from Asora don’t sting the tongue even if you have a lot of them, so they’re easy to eat.
「Whether it’s medicine, food or weapons, the Kuzunoha company does something different from the rest. Whether it’s the level or the quality of the items themselves.」(Male 2)
「I’ll agree with you there. And, most of all.」(Male 1)
「「Their employees are nice.」」(Both males)
When the way we treat our customers is praised, I feel happy, as if I’ve been praised myself.
When they begged me to let them work for me, I made sure to teach both Jin and Amelia how to treat customers properly.
It seems they’re putting that into practice properly.
The forest ogres and dwarves are treating the customers nicely, too.
Though when it comes to people they know or regular customers, I’m worried about Eris.
「You know her?! Hey, when it comes to Kuzunoha’s welcoming girls, there’s only that person, right?!」(Male 1)
「Yeah, I was confused at first. But I’d love to make that person my lover.」(Male 2)
「She’s reliable and thorough when it comes to her work, so she’s got herself together.」(Male 1)
「She’s cute, gentle and kind. Other girls should learn a thing or two from her, seriously.」(Male 2)
Even so, they’re talking about lovers?
Thinking such rude things about our employees.
They’re talking about girls, so... Probably Amelia.
That girl, she seems to look only at Shiki, but she’s still popular among the customers, huh.
Wait, “reliable and thorough when it comes to her work”?
On top of that, “cute, gentle and kind”?
Is she a girl who would deserve this level of praise?
「She’s just like a princess, huh.」(Male 1)
「She’s a princess.」(Male 2)
「Aqua-san is the best.」(Male 1)
「Eris-san is the best.」(Male 2)
Guah, my sour juice went down the wrong way!
It hurts, it really hurts!
What a surprise attack this is!
As I unconsciously spit out my drink, I get some strange, pitiful looks.
I can only keep my head down in shame.
Do these guys have rotten brains or something?!
They’re not talking to me.
They’re questioning each other, because they both said different names.
I want to put in a word of my own, but I need to recover from my unfortunate incident first and regain my composure.
Aqua might be reliable and thorough when it comes to her work, but she’s rather businesslike towards the customers.
Eris is small so she might appear cute, but no matter how you look at it, she’s definitely not gentle or kind.
Or so I think.
No, the thing is, they’re hyumans and they want to make a demi-human their lover?
Either the Kuzunoha company has really founds its place in the city among the students, or young people are more flexible in their way of thinking.
Could it be that they were brainwashed when they were rescued by Aqua and Eris during the mutant rebellion?
「Hey hey, if we’re talking about the welcoming girls*, then it’s got to be Aqua-san. Eris-san is not bad either, but her charm only exists because of Aqua-san, you know?」(Male 1)
TLN*: The term here is “看板娘/kanban-musume”. The dictionary definition of this term is “pretty girl who attracts customers to come inside a shop”
「What are you saying, the way that Eris-san accurately judges our moods and what we want makes her the ultimate welcoming girl, right? Use some common sense. It’s a little hard for Aqua-san to compare to someone like that, don’t you think?」(Male 2)
They’ve started acting like JK’s.
JK’s that aren’t female high-school students.
TLN: “JK” is a slang-term that stands for “女子高生/joshi-kousei”, which means “female high-school student”
Things have clearly heated up compared to when they were discussing our products.
Wow, they’re standing up now.
Surely they’re not planning to have a fistfight over this stupid argument, are they?!
Should I stop them?
No, I get the feeling that things wouldn’t be settled even if I stepped in, so I don’t want to get involved... It would be more adult-like to leave them be. Yes.
Oh, someone’s come in to stop them.
What a hero.
I will secretly support you, girls.
「W-what do you want?」(Male 1)
「The best welcoming girl of the Kuzunoha company is definitely Shiki-san, isn’t it?!」(Girl 1)
「Wait, you! Isn’t it Lime-san?!」(Girl 2)
I’ll add this store to the list of places I should never visit.
「Huh?! We’re talking about welcoming girls! Who the hell wants to talk about freaking guys?!」(Male 2)
「If you just think about it, there’s no difference between guys and girls! The male employees there are really handsome, gentle and kind! They’re the best!」(Girl 1)
I guess I’ll go back.
I stand up, quickly pay and head for the exit.
I can’t say that I have any interest in the outcome of this debate among these people who seem to be our core fans.
In fact, I’m slightly regretting that I even began to listen to this conversation in the first place.
What are they doing at the window seats?
It seems that even the employee, who has been carefully observing with a smile, has decided that something needs to be done. In the corner of my eye, I see him moving towards the windows.
This kind of fame might be problematic for us.
The bright light of the sunny street is dazzling.
「You there.」(Mystery person)
Someone has called out to me, so I stop.
「Excuse me, but I heard that there’s a store called the Kuzunoha company near here...」 (Mystery person)
Oh, it’s a customer looking for our store.
「In that case, if you go along this street –」(Makoto)
As I turn towards the person who called out to me to give them directions, I freeze.
「... You, it can’t be.」(Mystery person)
That’s my line.
What are the chances of this.
I’ve been hypothesizing many different ways this could happen, but I never imagined we’d meet like this; words won’t even come out.
Either this is the result of the star that I was born under, or I’ve somehow been drawn to Senpai.
「If I recall, your name was Misumi-kun?」(Mystery person)
She knows my name?
Even though our relationship was that of mere acquaintances who only exchanged words a few times.
No, for Otonashi-senpai, it’s possible.
She’s a person with no visible flaws, inside or outside.
To the point you’d wonder, “humans like this exist?”
Really, why is Senpai in this world?
The hero’s party left Limia heading for the Lorel Union with a strict transfer schedule to follow. They didn’t have any plans to come to academy city.
But now, the hero of Limia is right in front of my eyes, asking for the location of the Kuzunoha company.
I get the impression that she’s a little sharper than she was when I met her while she was the student council president.
Seeing Senpai here, whispering her name is the only reaction I’m capable of.