Authors: Fujino Omori
Across from them stood Takemikazuchi, his long hair tied regally up in three places: on the sides of his head and at the back. The rest of his
was standing behind him, including Mikoto.
“My apologies, Hestia. It is very possible that my children are part of the reason that yours has not come back.”
Hestia crossed her arms, shut her eyes, and looked away. Mikoto
and the others stood behind him, silently staring at the floor as if repenting.
’s pass-parade maneuver on the thirteenth floor.
Mikoto and the other adventurers had safely returned to their home by the time Hestia came looking for information about Bell. They heard everything—how Bell and his allies were dressed, their features, their formation—and realized what had happened. They hid nothing from their god and told him everything, their faces pale.
Takemikazuchi understood that they had been in a desperate situation, but he had no choice but to apologize for what his followers had done. Hestia’s silence was deafening as she realized that they were more than likely the cause of Bell’s disappearance.
At long last, Hestia opened her blue eyes and made eye contact with the children on the other side of the room. Miach and Hephaistos stood at her side.
“If Bell never makes it back, I’ll hold a grudge against all of you like you’d never believe. But I will not hate you. I promise.”
Mikoto gawked at Hestia’s words.
’s hearts were moved by this goddess who, despite her anguish, was able to look at them with resolute eyes and show tolerance. This was the first time anyone other than their own god had had such an impact on them.
Hestia forgave them and made a request.
“As for right now, would you be willing to help me?”
““—On our honor.””
All six of
’s members took a knee in one swift motion before lowering their heads toward her.
Takemikazuchi and Miach were taken aback by this group of children’s resolve, led by their leader, Ouka, to repay the kindness that Hestia had shown them.
Meanwhile, Hephaistos smiled as her friend gave these children an opportunity to make amends for their mistake.
“Shall we proceed? Time is of the essence.”
Miach took a step forward as he spoke. Hestia nodded in response.
“This is a search party, yes? And we know that Hestia’s boy’s still alive?”
“Yes, he is. Hephaistos, what about yours, Welf?”
This time it was Takemikazuchi who asked the question. Hestia responded and then turned to Hephaistos. The goddess closed her non-bandaged eye and scratched her chin for a moment before answering. Since using her divine power, Arcanum, wasn’t an option, she chose to look at the total number of “contracts” that were active, rather than find a specific one, to save time.
“Wait just a moment. Many children have my Blessing, so sensing a single one is rather difficult…Yes, he’s probably alive. The number of bonds I have with my children hasn’t decreased.”
Now Miach had a question for her.
“Can any of your children help us, Hephaistos?”
“Most of mine are currently helping
’s expedition…Everyone who could make it that far down is there right now. The ones who are available at the moment wouldn’t last long in the middle levels, I’m afraid.”
Hephaistos turned to Hestia and apologized, but Hestia shook her head to tell her it was okay.
“Looks like we’ll have to count on Také’s group after all.”
“That’s fine with me…Ouka and Mikoto will go for sure…Chigusa, can you accompany them as a supporter?”
“Y-yes.” A girl whose eyes were covered by her bangs nodded at her god’s request.
Ouka and Mikoto were
’s only upper-class adventurers—the only ones who’d reached Level 2. The girl named Chigusa was still Level 1, so she would be deployed as a supporter to supply the others with weapons and potions.
They were the best that the
had to offer, so they were selected to form the search party.
“Ouka is the only one I’ve got who can hold his own against anything in the middle levels. The others would just fall behind.”
“I think the most important thing for a search party is speed…”
“I agree with Nahza. If we sacrifice speed and maneuverability by increasing numbers for strength, it’ll be too late.”
“So that means we’re depending on these three…?”
Nahza, who had nearly died in the middle levels herself, added her opinion and was supported by Hephaistos. Words spilled out of Hestia’s mouth as she again crossed her arms in front of her bulging chest.
That’s when they arrived.
“—I’ll join you, Hestia!”
The front door was flung open to reveal a charming god standing in the doorway.
“Hermes?! What are you doing here?!”
“Quite the greeting, Takemikazuchi. Of course, I’m here to help my friend out of a pinch.”
Hermes glided his way to the middle of the room under the watchful eyes of Miach and Nahza, and smiled at Takemikazuchi. His follower Asfi quietly walked in behind him.
“Hey there, Hestia. Nice to see you!”
“Hermes…Why are you here?”
Hestia wore the same expression of confusion as everyone around her. Hermes walked right up to her with that same dandy smile on his face.
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper—a quest form from the Guild.
“You’re in trouble, aren’t you?”
Hermes softly waved the sheet in front of her. The words F
flashed before her eyes.
Hestia tried to respond, but no words would come out.
“Why would you want to help Bell Cranell, Hermes? Out with it.”
“Hey, hey, Takemikazuchi. I’m the one and only Hermes, you know? When one of my buddies is in need, I’ll pull out all the stops to help them out.”
“Hermes, this is the first time you’ve seen Hestia since she came to this world, is it not?”
“Some friend you’ve been.”
“Ha-ha, Hephaistos, Miach, aren’t you two being a little harsh?”
In addition to Takemikazuchi’s watchful eyes, Hermes was now acknowledged by the other two deities in the room. They weren’t fooled by his charm. Nahza, Mikoto, and the other humans were completely ignored as the drama unfolded in front of them.
Hermes dropped his jolly bluster for a moment and spoke in a serious voice for the first time since he arrived.
“But my desire to help Hestia is real. I want to save Bell.”
He opened his arms and smiled earnestly at each of them in turn.
“How about it, Hestia?”
Hermes turned to face Hestia last. Smiling with his narrow eyes, the charming deity met her gaze straight-on.
She stared at his orange eyes for a few moments before letting a small “hmph” out of her nose.
“Fine…I’ll accept your help, Hermes.”
“Great! You can count on me!”
Hermes’s charming smile returned after Hestia accepted his offer.
Back to his usual self, he walked over to Miach, who was glaring at him out of one eye, and patted him a few times on the shoulder.
“Are you sure, Hestia?”
“Rescuing Bell and his party is our first priority. The fact is, we need more people.”
“…Okay, if you say so.”
Takemikazuchi, keeping his eyes locked on Hermes, leaned close to Hestia and whispered into her ear. She responded as quietly as possible.
He decided to keep his mouth shut for the time being, and to do his best to work with Hermes.
“This means that Hermes’s followers can join us…Will that be enough?”
“Aren’t most of the children in your
at Level Two, Hermes?”
“Yeah, what about it, Hermes.”
“It’s just like you said, Hephaistos. Unfortunately most of them
are out of town on business—that’s why I’m bringing Asfi with me! She’s my ace; there’s nothing to fear!”
was registered as a Dungeon-type
. At the same time, many of its members were involved in other types of business as well. They were famous as a jack-of-all-trades
. The Guild assigned them an F ranking.
Choosing to believe Hermes’s assertion that Asfi’s Dungeon range included the nineteenth floor, Miach and the other gods decided to let her join the search party.
The girl breathed a heavy sigh, realizing that her god had just signed her up for the group.
“We’ll leave as soon as preparations are complete. Sometime later tonight?”
“Indeed, that will be best.”
“Ouka, Mikoto, Chigusa. Make sure you’re ready.”
“““Yes, my lord!”””
Something occurred to Asfi while Hephaistos and the other gods were speaking.
She made her way to Hermes’s side and said in a low voice:
“Lord Hermes…Just now you said you were taking me along. Don’t tell me you’re planning to…”
“Of course. I’m coming with you.”
Asfi’s silver glasses slid to the end of her nose. She quickly pushed them back up with her finger.
“Isn’t it forbidden for gods to enter the Dungeon?”
“That just means we can’t make our presence known, right? What’s the big deal? Go in and get out before the Guild even knows I’m there. I said it before, didn’t I? I want to save Bell.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve been planning this all along…!”
“Ha-ha-ha! I’m going to need your protection, Asfi.”
Asfi’s eyebrows arched, and she sucked in her cheeks in frustration as Hermes turned on the charm again with a toothy grin. Suddenly—
Hestia just happened to be in earshot of their conversation. Her head whipped around so fast that everyone in the room could hear it.
Her twin ponytails came to life as if guided by their master and wrapped themselves around Hermes’s neck.
“—Bring me with you, Hermes.”
The deity bent over backward as Hestia’s hair pulled at him from behind. Asfi jumped back in surprise.
Hestia stepped up to his face, her hair not letting him say a thing.
“I’m going to save Bell. I can’t just sit here and do nothing while others are out there looking for him.”
“W-wait just a moment, Hestia! Calm down!”
Hermes had managed to free himself from enough of the hair to get words out. He flipped his body around to face her.
He made eye contact with her once again and tried to convince her to stay behind.
“The Dungeon is very dangerous. Without our power, one hit from the monster and we’re done. But most of all—what would happen if
you’re found out
“You think I don’t know that?” responded Hestia curtly.
“You’re going in after saying all that, aren’t you? Another god or two isn’t going to make that much difference.”
“I’m going, got that?”
Hestia’s strong tone left Hermes speechless.
A defeated look emerged on Hermes’s face as he came to grips with the fact she wouldn’t be swayed.
“Somehow I’m not surprised…”
“Don’t do anything reckless, okay?”
Just like Hermes, Hephaistos and Takemikazuchi were shocked by Hestia’s declaration and could only grimace. “I’m fine!” she said, completely ignoring her friends’ concern. The goddess was on fire from within; she was going to save Bell herself.
Miach was about to voice his opinion as well, but it was Nahza who stepped forward.
“What is it, Nahza?”
“Lady Hestia, here…”
She handed her a pouch full of vials, a large amount of potions.
Hestia’s expression softened as she looked at the tubes of the red, blue, and green liquids.
“This is all I can do…Sorry I can’t join you…”
“This is more than enough. Thank you, Nahza.”
Acknowledging the trauma that the chienthrope girl had regarding monsters, Hestia accepted the pouch. Nahza’s gaze fell as she apologized, but Hestia just smiled back at her.
“I, too, have something for you.”
Hephaistos held out a long, thin package wrapped in white cloth. It had a surprising amount of heft to it—so much so that Hestia almost lost her balance when she held out her hands to take it.
Part of the cloth fell away as Hestia shuffled her feet to stay upright. A piece of a dark red blade came into view. Although the blade itself was thick, it didn’t look sharp enough to cut anything.
“Hephaistos, what is this…?”
“That boy, Welf, made it. I’ve been holding on to it for him.”
The crimson-haired Goddess of the Forge watched as Hestia took a closer look at the weapon.
“You can use it if you need to…Please give it to Welf once you find him. Also, tell him to stop compromising his allies for his pride’s sake.”
Hestia slowly nodded at Hephaistos’s meaningful words.
In any case, Hestia was grateful for the support from her friends. The other gods in the room smiled and nodded at her.
“Well, this complicates things…” Hermes muttered to himself on the outside of Hestia’s support circle.
Watching all the good feelings going around, Hermes leaned toward his follower standing next to him and asked a question.
“Asfi, do you think you can protect both of us?”
“Takemikazuchi’s battle party will be there as well, but…I can’t make any guarantees if they can’t keep up.”
Asfi told him with the utmost sincerity that she would be able to
protect him but couldn’t be held responsible for Hestia’s well-being. The search party wasn’t strong enough.
Hermes mulled over her words for a moment before exhaling out of his nose for much longer than necessary.
“Maybe I should find some more help.”