100: Ship and escort


The port town Doruas.
Sea birds are flying and chirping in the morning.

A dry dock was set a little apart from the wharf. It was a place were ships were built and repaired, and there was a giant pool of water for ships to go into. Something like big warehouses can also be seen.
The water is currently drained and work is underway.
There are people who are removing shellfish that stick to the ship's bottom and laborers who are applying paint.

A huge paddle wheel is hanging from a crane.
A tall man with black hair gives orders while he looks at the blueprints.
"Please make sure that the paddle wheel is in the center of the hull. Otherwise there's an eighty percent chance that it will effect the turning. Also take care that it is exactly half below the water line."
"*Fuu*". He combs his long, black hair upwards and takes a deep breath.
The one giving the instructions was Dark.
Tilt also helped with the remodeling work. He easily carried pillar-like timbers on his shoulders with his small body.


I gaze at that scene from the side. Celica and the others aren't with me because they went to run errands for Madam.

Nevertheless, the decision not to use screws seems to have been right. The actual crafting skills haven't yet reached that level and it would've taken time to construct a ship for it from scratch.
We were currently remodeling an old ship that I had received from the king.
The total length of the ship is about 30 meters. It's a type with two masts that can be operated by a few sailors.
Usually the masts aren't erected. They are only added to move the ship in the emergency that the paddle wheels would break.

It'll be finished once the paddle wheels' axis of revolution is connected to the ship's helm.
It looks like it can launch today or tomorrow.


While I gaze at the scene, an armor-wearing young man with blue hair comes to my side. He's completely covered by a robe and wears a mask that hides his eyes.
"Keika-san, it should be ready soon."
"Ah, Leo. I haven't seen you around. Did something happen?"
"I heard at a bar that a village that is slightly away from here was troubled by demons. I went to exterminate them. I properly used your name."
"...Thank you, at least that's what I want to say. But aren't you overdoing it?"
"What do you mean?"

"I received a very warm welcome by the villages I went through, and I often heard things like 'So you're the masked hero-sama'."
"*Fufu*. That was Dark's idea. I can switch to something else if you don't like it."
Leo's white teeth shone as he broadly smiled.
"Well, I guess it's fine. --But, you probably did something extraordinary at the fishing villages, didn't you?"

"I only exterminated some half-fishfolks who kidnapped girls from the villages to breed with them. I only told them your name and left after I rescued everyone."
"Oh... that was all? To receive such a welcome just by that..."
I recall the villages. The reception was almost crazy. Especially the women gave me hot gazes.

Leo is in thoughts as he turns his wisdom-gleaming eyes behind the mask to the ground.
"Let's see... I have some special methods. When women tell me that they want to know my name, I answer with 'Due to circumstances I can't show it openly', and when I leave, I only turn around once to say 'I'm Hero Keika. But you're better off to forget it by tomorrow', and then I vanish into the darkness."


"I-Isn't that just too cool!? They'll fall in love, won't they!?"
"Do you think so? According to Dark, there's a 99% percent chance that they'll completely forget the name when they can't associate it with a face if I don't do at least that much."
"I see. You simply play the part without any ill means, huh..."
--Moreover, he doesn't lose any vigor even when he's wearing a mask, so the effect should be outstanding.

I instinctively looked over to Dark, who was giving out instructions on the ship.
When he noticed my gaze, he pushed up his glasses and sneered.


Leo sounds worried.
"Is that bad? Should I do it more normal?"
"...no, it's fine. Please stay with that. But I'm glad that you've told me about it. I didn't think that you'd go that far."
"Very well then. I'll continue with that. Then, I should tell you also about the other patterns."
"Do you have more?"

According to Leo, he had a bunch of different patterns to deal with various situations, for example if he'd be pressed for marriage, if he'd be awarded with houses or plots of land, of if someone wanted to elope with him, saying things like "I don't care where I go as long as I'm with you".
All of the patterns were quite pompous, but if Leo does it, it doesn't feel conceited at all.

I pressed my finger against my forehead while I spoke.
"Understood. I'll deal with the situations accordingly from now on."
"Yes, please do so."
The blue eyes under the mask were smiling.


I forcibly changed the topic since the mood became somewhat strange.
"But, to think that the half-fishfolks are doing such things, it seems that the demons who live in the sea also have it quite hard."
"Yes, apparently each clan and race is in the state of struggling for power since the death of Evil Squid. They'll probably continue to kill each other until the next ruler over the sea is born."

It was like an evolutionary cycle that has started.
Just like the rats in the Dragon Dungeon that devoured each other until the King Rat has been born. And this happens throughout the ocean.
By the way, it seems that Evil Squid had emerged from the chaos that sprung forth after Hero Lazan defeated Meteor Whale.
Strength and wisdom should be necessary to struggle to the bitter end. He was certainly different when compared to the other Four Heavenly Kings.


"I heard that thanks to that, the rate at which ships are attacked has sharply decreased and the people are thankful for that."
"You're right. And even if a new ruler is born, it'll still take several years, so it should be calm for a while."

"Ah, that's right! Why don't you come with us to the frontier continents?"
"Hmm, is that a good idea? I heard that there are only demons at the remote continents. And since you go there it might be better for me to continue to go around and help the villages."
"So you think so? By the way, do you have enough funds to finance your activities?"

"Yes, not only do I take the requests for work but there are also plenty of materials from the killed monsters as well."
"Is that so? Please tell me if you haven't enough. ...I also don't have much though."
I don't know the detailed financial situation since I left the management of the money to Celica.
Leo's hair swayed as he bowed his head.
"Yes, Keika-san. Thank you for your concern."


--Then.
From the sea side of the dock, from above the flood gate that faced the sea, someone was peeking inside.
Beautiful silver hair and red eyes. It was Ieturia with her white, transparent-like skin. Since she had only put her hands on top of the flood gate, the lower part of her serpent-body couldn't be seen.

The workers were surprised for a moment when they noticed her sudden appearance, but soon returned to their respective work.
It seems that they got used to the Naga.
Among them is a young man who waves at Ieturia with his hand and invites her with "Ii-chan, how about going for a drink tonight?". He was quickly rejected.
From what I've seen thus far, it seems that the relationship between the Naga and the humans has improved.
They are on a good way.


Leo and I walked to the flood gate.
Ieturia was intently looking at the ship with keen interest as it was remodeled.
"What's wrong, Ieturia? Did something happen?"
"Ah no, Keika-sama. You're going to the neighboring continent next, right?"
"That's right."
"Won't it be better to take some Naga with you as an escort?"
"I see. But won't it cause problems when the high speed ships increase?"
"Not at all. There are still 15 Naga remaining."

I'm in thoughts while having my arms folded.
"Hmm. At first glance it seems to be a good plan... but, I don't plan on taking any rests this time. Moreover, it's too far. I should refrain from it."
"Is that so. We are still okay without any sleep for about a week though. But if you say so we'll accept it."
"Isn't there any work as escorts for other ocean-going ships? Maybe you can do that when the Naga increase further."


Then Ieturia spoke.
"Actually, I brought up the topic because we received a request for an escort. But we had a discussion with everyone and thought that we should first offer our help to you rather than working for someone else, since we're indebted to you."
"Oh-, isn't that fine? It's a new field of work for you. By any chance, can you give me some details?"
"It's an escort to the Sugar Archipelago."

Leo adds from the side.
"It's about five days to the southwest from Doruas. White sugar is produced there."
"Yes. It seems that grain is brought there from here. It seems that only an insufficient amount of food has arrived there since there were so many demons until now."

"I see. Then you should give that precedence to make sure that the food gets delivered. And don't forget to spread my name... That's it! Leo, why don't you go with them?"
"It doesn't sound like a bad idea. There are most likely problems at the Sugar Archipelago as well."

"But, is it really alright for a Naga not to sleep for a week? In that case I'd like to have someone to keep watch, Ieturia."
"Alright. I'll relay it to Driad. --You also take care, Keika-sama."
Ieturia turns her white limb around and jumps into the sea. Her silver hair glittered as it received the sunlight.


At that time, a loud *gakonn!*-sound echoed from the direction of the ship.
When I looked, the paddle wheel was about to be connected to the axis that came out from the ship's center.

Leo mutters.
"I've never seen anything like that, the ship looks quite cool, doesn't it."
"Yeah, its fate is to be quickly superseded by other technologies though, but it's cool nonetheless."
"Is that so... I'm glad to see it with my own eyes."
"I guess so."

After looking at the ship for a while I left this place to Leo's party and went back to the inn.