Chapter Nineteen: The Dragon Hourglass
The next day, we stopped by the weapon shop .
“Hey, there you are, little Shield Hero . ”
“So, did you finish the armor?”
“Right on, I sure did . Finished it a while ago . ”
He pulled out a piece of armor from behind the counter .
It looked aggressive and wild . I could see why they called it the Barbarian Armor .
The sleeve holes were lined with fluffy fur, no doubt from the Usapils, and the chest was formed from a heavy looking plate of metal . The parts that were not covered with metal plating were lined with Porcupine skin . I put my hand inside, and found that the interior was formed of two layers of skin, and was stuffed with PikyuPikyu feathers .
“…So I wear this thing?”
It looked like something… like something a pirate leader or a gang leader might wear .
The name seemed fitting, and I think it would make me look like a real apocalyptic headhunter .
“What’s wrong there, young-in?”
“Nothing… It just looks like… something only bad people would wear . ”
“Little late to complain about that, isn’t it?”
What was that supposed to mean? Did it mean that everyone already thought I was the lowest of criminals?
I guess I wasn’t in a position to choose my path to money, but this was a little ridiculous .
“I think it will look good on you, Mr . Naofumi . ”
“Raphtalia…shut up . ”
She sure was getting loquacious .
“Anyway, hurry up and try it on . ”
“Ugh… I’d really rather not, but I guess you made it for me and all… Oh well . ”
I went into the fitting room and slipped into it .
He had never taken my measurements or anything, but it fit perfectly . I was surprised . The guy really was a professional . He must have judged my size just from looking at me .
I left the fitting room, and stood before the two of them .
“Well, your face seems nice enough, but that armor makes the look in your eyes seem dangerous . ”
“What do you mean, ‘the look in my eyes’?”
“That sulky look you’ve got . ”
Geez, these people were starting to piss me off .
“I think you look really cool, Mr . Naofumi!”
Raphtalia was beaming .
I shot her a nasty look .
If she thought she could just do whatever she wanted, she was in for something else…
“What is it?”
She asked me, normal-like . Like she had no idea .
Was she raised in a barn?
Oh, right, she was a demi-human . She might have had a different aesthetic than I did .
I checked my status screen, and sure enough: The armor had the same defense rating as the chain mail had . It actually looked like it was a little better . I looked at the old guy, and he winked at me . I wonder if that meant that he had imbued it with a special effect for free .
“Oh… Um… Thank you . ”
To be honest, it really didn’t fit with my fashion sense, but if the waves were coming, I needed to have good equipment .
Or at least that’s what I told myself .
“So where are you two off to now?”
“Never mind . It seems like everyone is on edge in town . ”
“Probably because the waves are coming . But where, and when, will they arrive?”
“Huh? You mean you don’t know?”
If the weapon shop owner knew and I didn’t, that meant that the country really wasn’t very serious about staving off the disaster . I cursed them all under my breath . Then I turned to hear what the guy had to say .
“You know how the kingdom’s clock tower faces the general square?”
“I guess so . You mean that building on the edge of town?”
“Right . Inside that tower is the Dragon Hourglass . When the sands fall, the four Heroes, and those who fight with them, will be sent to the place of the destruction . ”
I’m sure that the other heroes and that woman already knew all this .
“I don’t know when it will be, but you can go look for yourself . ”
“I guess you’re right,”
If no one knew when, or where, we would be transported… that seemed like a crappy situation to be in .
Just to make sure, I had better go check it out .
“Later, old man . ”
“Sure . ”
“Bye . ”
We said our thanks, and made for the clock tower .
It was visible from most of town, but the closer we got, the higher and higher it seemed to grow .
There was a large building, something like a church with a domed roof, and the clock tower extended from the top of the dome . The doors to the building were open, and people came and went as they pleased .
There were women dressed like nuns, and they shot me dubious glances . They must have heard the rumors .
“You would be the Shield Hero, correct?”
“Yes . I heard that the time was coming up, so I came to see it myself . ”
“Well then, follow me . ”
She led me deeper into the church, and there in the center was a giant hourglass .
It looked to be around seven meters tall . It was covered in detailed decorations that lent the whole thing a holy, mystical feel .
It made me feel… on edge .
As I looked at it, I noticed this instinctual, powerful shock of emotion running through my body .
The sand was… red .
It was streaming down in silence .
I could tell that it was running out of time .
I heard a high-pitched beep, and a beam of light shot out from my shield to illuminate a jewel that was affixed to the center of the hourglass .
Then a small clock appeared in the corner of my field of vision .
I waited a moment and, sure enough, the 12 changed to an 11 .
So that’s how it worked . It was a way of precisely displaying the time . They wanted me to consider the time when I made my decisions .
And yet… if there were only twenty hours left, there was only so much I could do . If I went and picked herbs in the fields, I’d run out of time . But I would probably need some medicine .
“Woah, is that Naofumi?!”
There it was, from the back of the room, a voice I really didn’t want to hear . I turned to look, and there was the Spear Hero, Motoyasu, walking over to me, attended by a gaggle of women .
I didn’t like the guy . I wanted to kill him, then and there, but I held myself back .
“Are you getting ready for that wave?”
He sickened me . He sauntered over condescendingly .
“Oh hey, are you still fighting in rags like that?”
What the hell? Just whose fault did he think that was? It was HIS, and that woman and their plotting .
Motoyasu looked like a completely different person from how he had appeared only one month prior . He was clearly at a higher level, and with much nicer equipment . It wasn’t iron, it was shinny, like it was made from silver, and beneath it he was wearing a beautiful crimson set of clothing . It was probably imbued with all sorts of great skills .
Through the breaks in his armor, I could see the chainmail . He was obviously thinking seriously about his defense .
The Legendary Spear had changed as well . No longer some flimsy thing, the new spear looked vicious and powerful, and I had to admit the design was pretty cool . And the tip was… well, it looked sharp .
It wasn’t worth wasting my breath on him . I turned my back on him and the hourglass .
“Hey! Mr . Motoyasu is speaking to you! You should listen . ”
There it was, the source of all my anger and bloodlust . That woman was speaking out from behind him, sticking her tongue out, mocking me .
I would make her regret it . I had to .
“Mr . Naofumi? Who might this be?”
Raphtalia pointed at Motoyasu .
Instead of answering her question, I opted to leave . I started to walk off .
But as I did, I saw Itsuki and Ren appear in the doorway .
“Geez . ”
“Ah, Motoyasu and… Naofumi . ”
Itsuki look instantly annoyed to see us, but quickly recovered his bearings and spoke softly and respectfully .
Ren said nothing, just stayed cool and kept walking in my direction . He too, looked much stronger than he had the last time I saw him .
They all had a crowd of party members following them around .
Suddenly, I noticed that the room containing the hourglass had gotten very crowded .
There 4 of us, the summoned heroes . Then the kingdom had supplied 12 adventurers . And then there was Raphtalia .
With 17 people in it, the room felt packed and uncomfortable .
“Hey, who’s the girl? She’s so cute!”
Motoyasu was pointing at Raphtalia . He really had a hankering for the girls, didn’t he?
If the heroes themselves were after young girls here, was there any hope for the country at all?
He stuck his nose in the air, sauntered over to Raphtalia, and began to introduce himself .
“Very pleased to meet you, my dear . I am one of the four Heroes summoned to this realm, and my name is Motoyasu . I thought it would be best to make your acquaintance . ”
“Oh… So you are one of the Heroes?”
He looked deep into Raphtalia’s eyes as he nodded .
“And what was your name, little one?”
She looked confused, lost . She turned to catch my eye, then she looked back to Motoyasu .
“Ra…Raphtalia . Please to make your acquaintance . ”
She was trying to figure out my relationship to them, I could tell . She was sweating .
She was probably thinking of abandoning me and running to Motoyasu’s side .
I swear, all I wanted to do was get out of there . How long did I have to stand around and be insulted by these people?
“May I ask for what purpose you have visited this place today? You are wearing rather nice armor, and are gripping a nice sword . ”
“I need them to fight alongside Mr . Naofumi . ”
“Oh yeah? With Naofumi?”
Motoyasu shot me a suspicious look .
“Where did you steal this cutie?”
He was so condescending .
“I can’t think of a reason I need to tell YOU anything . ”
“And here I thought you’d be coming alone . Raphtalia, the nice girl, must be spoiling you . ”
“Imagine whatever you want . ”
Just seeing these people, these stupid heroes and that woman, made me sick . It made me hate the whole world .
I started walking toward the entrance that Ren and Itsuki were blocking . They parted and made room for me to pass .
“We’ll see you when the wave comes . ”
“Try not to hold us back . ”
Itsuki’s cold, business-like response, and Ren’s obnoxious, over-the-top confidence wore on my nerves . I turned my back on them . I turned to see Raphtalia following me out, her gaze wandering over the crowd as she walked .
“Let’s go . ”
“Oh . Yes, Mr . Naofumi!”
When she heard my voice, she snapped back to reality, and was her old, energetic self again .
God, they had made me so miserable .
We finally left the room, then the town, and made our way out into the surrounding fields .
“Mr . N…Naofumi? What happened?”
She could tell I was upset, but she kept her eyes on the ground and followed me in silence .
… A balloon came rushing at us .
Raphtalia unsheathed her sword .
“Let me do it this time . ”
Raphtalia jumped back at my angry shout .
The balloon was right in front of me .
“Take THAT! And THAT!”
I kept hitting the thing to blow off my steam, and slowly started to come back to myself .
In the corner of my field of view, the clock kept ticking .
There were eighteen hours left .
What could I do in only eighteen hours?
There was nothing I could do… but walk around the fields, gathering medicinal herbs and fighting balloons .
I turned the herbs into medicine, and tried to prepare for the coming wave .
Later on that day, when we were back at the inn, Raphtalia came over to me and spoke, hesitantly .
“Mr . Naofumi?”
“Those people we met at the hourglass today… They were Heroes just like you, right?”
“… Yeah . ”
I didn’t want to think about it . Why remind me, after all the effort I’d put into forgetting it?
“Can you tell me? Just what happened between you all?”
“I don’t want to talk about it . If you want to know, just go ask down at the bar . ”
Even if I told the truth, it’s not like anyone would believe me . She wouldn’t either . But the biggest difference between them all was that Raphtalia was my slave . If she disobeyed my orders, or tried to run, or to fight me off, then the slave curse would hurt her .
When she realized that I wasn’t going to talk about it, Raphtalia stopped asking .
For the rest of the night, until we fell asleep, I kept on making medicines . The wave would be here soon .