Campione!:Volume 3 Chapter3
Chapter 3 – Witch of Sardinia
"So you only met that boy by chance, and have no relation to him. That stone tablet also came into your possession by chance, and you specifically came here to return it to its original owner..."
Sitting on the same bench was Erica, listing these facts out with a melodic voice.
By the way, Godou was sitting on the left side while Erica sat on the right, separated by a fairly large distance.
"You really think I will believe such lies? Be a little more realistic if you're going to lie."
"I am not lying and everything is the truth. Everything happened by chance. I don't care if you believe it or not!"
Faced with this girl who has been mocking him all this time, Godou responded with a very annoyed expression.
Travelling with a woman like this, you've got to be kidding! No matter what, he must find a way to get rid of her.
"By the way, what are you, both a mage and a knight? Either one of these alone is already very unusual. For you to have both titles at the same time, it's idiotic! Even online games don't offer such ridiculous settings like yours."
Occasionally dabbling in chess and go, Godou did not actually play online games. Even so, he knew a little about the content of online role-playing games.
Which is why he naturally recalled strange terms like mage, knight, god, etc...
"To compare me, a descendant of the Templar Knights, with those fabricated games? I can see that you not only fail as a gentleman, you don't even have basic manners. How pitiful!"
"I don't even want those kinds of manners!"
As he talked shop with Erica, Godou unhappily looked upwards at the timetable written in Italian.
--The two of them were in the waiting room of the Cagliari train station.
Godou's destination Oliena was located in the province of Nuoro on the eastern part of the island, and was about two or three hours away by rail or by car, so Godou picked the train.
But they have been waiting for close to an hour in that waiting room with no signs of the train.
Italian trains will definitely be late, it was exactly as rumored.
"Look! Did I not warn you, trains do not operate according to schedule? Do as I say, going there by car will be a lot easier."
"You're so annoying! If you don't like being with me, then hurry up and go home!"
Since Godou and Erica were the only two people in the waiting room, they could argue and make a scene as much as they wanted.
As a side note, the Cagliari train station was small yet well-equipped, and was very similar to Japanese stations. This made Godou naturally feel a sense of déjà vu.
"Actually... As you suggested, we could take a long distance bus."
Even though they weren't getting along, but if the other person was being logical, Godou didn't mind going along with her suggestion.
Perhaps because Godou was too honest and straightforward, Erica easily declined his act of concession.
"What are you talking about?! How can I possibly take public buses or trains?"
"What do you mean?"
Erica proudly puffed her chest at Godou and said:
"Listen well! I, Erica Blandelli, has never taken a train or a bus since birth. Isn't that too troublesome? And you have to specifically wait here."
"I have my own car and driver. Ignoring planes for now, as far as land travel goes, there is completely no reason to do something as troublesome as what we are doing now."
"Ah... However I do enjoy horse riding a lot, especially that feeling of the breeze, you can't experience that from other places. If only you were as cute as a horse."
"Shut up. Anyway, I understand now."
Godou looked as if he had been enlightened by some truth.
"My greatness? If that's the case, you are too slow, your observation skills need work."
"You're very annoying, that's not what I meant! You are truly a sheltered little high class lady through and through, completely beyond my imagination. And it looks like we have an unbridgeable gap between us!"
This woman existed in a completely different culture. Calling herself a mage, a high class lady who was impossible to placate.
Even without a language barrier, it was likely impossible to understand each other.
"Ah, I didn't grow up that sheltered, though I did receive a noblewoman's education, but the results were less than satisfactory, at most average."
"An ordinary commoner would have nothing to do with the word 'noblewoman'!"
Godou remarked without consideration.
"Then you understand now? There is a serious cultural divide between you and me, and we cannot travel together. Realizing that before we get on the train is really too fortunate -- then goodbye to you, though we didn't spend much time together."
"You lack comprehension skills. Traveling with you is completely my decision. No matter what you say, I will not give up."
Erica declared in a very straightforward manner.
"Besides, as a knight, one must endure all odds to complete the mission, overcoming trials and tribulations. This has been the way since ancient times. You don't have to worry about this principle."
"I care about myself, your hardship has nothing to do with me..."
Godou resisted Erica's company from the bottom of his heart.
It was this morning when they met again.
After Godou explained his destination, Erica had made a declaration.
"Then I shall accompany you to Lucretia Zola. I am interested to know what you intend to do after meeting the famed Witch of Sardinia, as well as the power dormant in this stone tablet. Furthermore, that boy could very well contact you, so this is the best course of action."
A very clear expression on her face.
Though Godou vehemently refused, she immediately responded:
"Ah, but if I used my sword, I could instantly rob you of this stone tablet, eh? I didn't do that because I am very gentle and chivalrous. You do understand that, no?"
Thinly veiled threats. Godou couldn't help but acquiesce to Erica tagging along.
And so the two continued to argue as they reached the Cagliari train station.
"You, why do you have to chase that guy? Yes he was quite strange, but not a bad person. Didn't he rescue the people at the harbor yesterday?"
This morning, when Godou conversed with her--
Erica had finished investigating the incident that happened yesterday.
After shaking her off their trail, at the place Godou and the youth went, the group of young men surrounded by fire and debris in the alley of despair were saved by the youth who appeared somehow.
After that, the youth disappeared without trace like the wind.
In order to prevent Godou from wasting time on the group of young men, Erica told him everything she knew. This morning when she was investigating at the harbor, she had made inquiries with the group of young men about the youth before finally coming over to Godou.
To avoid further delays, Erica hastened Godou to start making his way to his destination.
"You saw the divine beasts yesterday, right? That boy is the prime suspect for summoning them. If it really is the case, then he was simply cleaning up his own messes, and there is nothing to be praised."
"Whether divine beasts or gods or whatever, no matter how matter-of-fact you mention them, I cannot..."
He witnessed everything with his own eyes, but Godou still could not accept them as reality.
"The one appearing at Cagliari was the [Boar], and over the past three days there were three others appearing on the island of Sardinia. The [Camel] at Bosa, the [Ram] at Orgosolo, and the [Bull] at Barumini."
"...Then with the one yesterday it adds up to four."
"Yes. Luckily whenever the divine beasts appeared, a [Wind] deity immediately appears to defeat them, so serious damage was avoided. Great fortune amidst misfortune."
Thinking back to the commotion yesterday, Godou couldn't help but break out in cold sweat.
To have monsters causing destruction everywhere and summing it up as 'serious damage was avoided,' what a terrifying topic of conversation.
"At all these scenes and next to the divine beasts, the boy was sighted on all occasions. Even if he is not the one responsible, he is definitely an important witness. Say, do you still have any objections?"
Watching the self-assured Erica, Godou could only surrender.
There was far too little evidence to defend the youth. With great reluctance, Godou could only agree.
"Let's change the subject, what are gods? I still cannot imagine."
Let's put the youth aside and switch to another topic.
"Well... To be frank, whether or not these are [Gods] in the religious sense, we still cannot say for sure."
Erica watched the sky and Godou also looked up.
Sardinia's sky was blue, deep, and very clear.
On the other end of the sky, was there really a heaven where the gods resided?
"Due to the [Myths] humans have passed along from ancient times, they were born. The essence of the earth, sky and stars, natural elements like the system of earth, air, water and fire or the system of metal, wood, water, fire and earth, these are what comprise the supernatural core of [Myths], thus lending form to these existence, the [Gods]. That is the hypothesis that we magi have established."
Godou could only understand about half of what Erica said, but felt compelled to nod and agree with the mention of the word 'supernatural.'
Without a doubt, these existences transcended laws of nature.
"However, for [Gods] that make an appearance, a portion of them rebel against the [Myths] that form their core. We have named them [Heretic Gods], gods who resist the myths. They appear in places unrelated to their myths and bring great disaster. Simply by being present, a god's power will cause great detriment to the human world around it."
"...Gods of disaster. I really agree after seeing that black boar."
"Who knows, that could actually be the incarnation of a gentle god. When originally benevolent gods become [Heretic Gods], they also become the source of chaos."
"Then what about the tornado? Was that a god too?"
"Probably, there are many gods possessing the divine qualities of wind, so its identity still hasn't been discerned, probably a god that opposes the [Boar]. But no matter what their attributes, humans are the ultimate victims."
"That's depressing. When gods appear, what can humans do?"
"First of all, option one is to treat it as a natural disaster like storms or earthquakes, and endure it. Do not cause any commotions, but pray for the gods' mercy or willful departure."
"Offering sacrifices, praying to the heavens, that's entirely reliant on the gods."
"Compared to meaningless struggle, it's far more effective. See, the people of Cagliari have not been in uproar over yesterday's incident? That is the current way."
"Yes, I see. So everyone knows about gods appearing?"
Godou thought about this morning's newspaper as well as the reactions at the inn.
Everyone was acting apologetic and seemed very unnatural. So that's the reason.
"Of course, humans who explicitly know about gods are not numerous, but the ancient streets of Europe are pretty much the secluded residences of magi, so people have been taught how to handle these situations. Also, there is tradition, ways of dealing with minor divine appearances have been passed down the ages from ancestors."
"I get it now. Then back to what you were saying, if that's the first option, what's the second?"
"Yes, option two is the simplest. Defeat the god."
Godou got quite a shock from Erica's unexpected answer.
"Can such a thing be done?"
"Of course not!"
Still recovering from the shock, and then to receive such an unreasonable answer. What is this! Playing me for a fool?
"Impossible for ordinary people, and even the best high ranked magi. But on extremely, extremely rare occasions -- if one were to receive the grace and good fortune of something like three or four miracles, then it's possible. However, this is not an option worth considering."
"In other words, a lucky coincidence."
"That's not enough, it's completely impossible without a miracle on the level of a carpenter's son born in a manger, and finally becoming the savior of the world. Hence, option three is the most practical. If it's a comparatively weaker deity, just seal it."
Sealing a god, this reminded Godou of his grandfather's words.
Offering the stone tablet at the village where divine retribution was occurring, was how the incident of strange deaths was resolved.
"That is probably a grimoire from mythical times, though it's unknown what power lies dormant within it."
Erica glanced at Godou's backpack which contained the stone tablet.
"You called it a grimoire, but it's clearly not a book?"
"As an ancient product of a time without paper -- the mythical age, that was the time when gods could freely walk the earth. During those days, the grimoires created by gods to preserve their wisdom and power all take this form."
Suddenly, an ongoing noise of clackety-clack completely overcame Erica's voice.
With the ear splitting sound of the brakes, the train slowly entered the station.
Godou stood up, having sat in the seat for dozens of minutes, and said:
"Yes, anyway this is a topic an ordinary person like me cannot understand... By the way, my name is Kusanagi Godou."
"My name. You don't care about my name at all? You haven't even asked once, so I will tell you, I'm not going to repeat myself."
Even though he disliked her, if they were to travel together they should know each other's names.
Hence Godou decided to name himself coldly, but Erica's reaction was even more impolite than he expected.
"Hoho, you're called Godot, a name that sounds like someone who fails to show up as agreed, what a strange name."
Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot."
A story about two vagabonds waiting for a character named Godot who never showed up. Since Godou did not know the content of this play, he had no idea why Erica spoke as she did.
However, he was certain it was nothing good.
The outside view seen from the train, was essentially a boundless plain of grassland.
As well as the endless wilderness, flocks of sheep could often be seen on the vast lands along with shepherds. Raising sheep was one of Sardinia's main industries.
Amidst this scenery, one could spot the ancient walled cities -- nuraghes. These were the remains of cities built by locals before the arrival of the Phoenicians, and have now become important tourist attractions.
On the way, they made a switch to the train to Nuoro city.
This was the provincial capital of Nuoro, and Oliena was a little town nearby.
They had set off from Cagliari shortly after noon, and arrived at Nuoro city three hours later. After a rough and bumpy bus ride for another few tens of minutes, they finally reached Oliena.
At around six in the evening, it was already dusk.
Godou decided to visit Lucretia Zola's home the next day, because it might not be possible to find her house immediately, and he wanted to find a hotel before it became dark.
"...Hopefully there will be a hotel with vacancies."
Surveying the surroundings, Godou muttered to himself.
Without any outstanding tourist attractions, it was a very ordinary town in the countryside.
Due to the proximity of hills and mountains, it was full of natural scenery, but there was nothing remarkable about the town. Judging from the scenery witnessed along the train ride, this was a typical little Sardinian town.
"It's probably more convenient to get around this island by car. Anyway, I'm so hungry..."
Godou only ate some bread for lunch, so he was now especially hungry.
Hearing Godou utter such words of defeat, Erica couldn't help laughing beside him.
"What a useless person. Look at me, the first time traveling by rail, and the first time suffering the motion of a bus. Yet I am just as resolute as always? This is the difference in experience between us."
Watching the braggart before him, Godou had nothing to say.
True, the very slender looking Erica had great fortitude. Her beauty and glamor were unaffected, but the cause of this difference had other reasons.
"Of course you're not hungry. While I was tired of the scenery, and enduring boredom and hunger. You went ahead by yourself to chat with others and didn't share any food with me."
Godou recalled the arduous long distance journey today.
While he sat in the box seats, Erica very naturally walked amongst the others.
Originally Godou thought that it would be annoying to carry out a face to face conversation with her, so he didn't pay much attention.
...Watching the window scenery was only interesting for the first hour. As he looked around with nothing to do, he found Erica happily chatting and laughing with a woman in a very nearby seat.
Since it was all in Italian, Godou didn't understand a single word of it.
However, Erica was using a friendly tone of voice completely opposite to how she treated Godou. Even though the content was unknown, one could guess roughly what she was talking about through her fluent tones.
And then soon after, the woman whom Erica was conversing with, opened a basket near her hand, and took out all sorts of food as if by magic -- sandwiches, olives, as well as cheese and fruit... Of course, she shared all of them with Erica.
Feeling a little hungry, Godou felt slightly jealous.
All that food, and Erica kept them all to herself.
"As a knight, I have the obligation to maintain my body at its peak condition. The intake of nutrients from food cannot be overlooked. Anyway, it's not my duty to share food with you."
Erica's words were as self-centered as always.
Godou decided to retort in kind, after all, grudges over food can be very horrific.
"Although that's true, despite a knight-like high class lady's pride, you are surprisingly stingy. Yes, you are also very good at currying favor and flattery. To act all friendly just for the sake of food, how should I put it, conniving? I am impressed."
"You... Calling me stingy and conniving? How insulting!"
The malicious retort made Erica's face filled with anger.
Seeing her furious, Godou silently thought to himself, since this works at riling up her anger, perhaps it could come in handy, let me take note of it.
This was a habit Godou developed during his time in baseball.
As the catcher and the fourth hitter, in order to defeat the opponent trump cards, he needed to analyze the personality and preferences in advance to prepare for matches.
For someone without outstanding natural talent, this sort of effort was necessary.
"Listen well, I will greet the vast majority of people with a smile. Who wants to create enemies unnecessarily? Perhaps one day you might require their assistance!"
"What a calculating fellow you are. I guess you don't really have any close friends you can be open with."
"Please call it elegant diplomacy. It is required to build amicable relations. If you can't even understand that, it means you're just a child."
"I have no wish to understand that kind of thing."
"Hmph, that is why I say you are just a child, unable to understand these things. To dare call me stingy and conniving, unforgivable!"
Erica declared furiously.
She was staring straight at Godou, pointing her finger at him.
"Fine! In order to prove that I, Erica Blandelli, am not a stingy person, even though I have no obligation to share a meal with you, but tonight this lady will grace your dinner with her presence, think of it as compensation for not treating you for lunch!"
And so Godou and Erica entered the doors of a ristorante.
In Italy, there existed common eateries like trattoria as well as high class ristorantes.
Godou knew the distinction, at least.
The one that Erica selected, was without a doubt, in the latter category.
The internal decor was very classic and elegant. With dim lighting and such a high class atmosphere, Godou felt that it would be troubling the ristorante for two minors to enter.
The two were taken to their table, and Erica began to order.
Of course Godou didn't understand a word of Italian and had no idea what they were saying.
"Wait a minute, you're ordering wine!"
Seeing the bottle brought over, Godou was speechless.
Smelling the aroma of the alcohol, it was clearly an appetizer wine -- the sparkling kind.
"Isn't that obvious? Eh? Or perhaps you don't know how to drink?"
"How could this be possible?! The restaurant accepted your order."
Godou responded to Erica's provocative smile.
"By the way, the drinking age in Italy and Spain is sixteen."
"Yes, right, I will be sixteen next month, of course there's no problem... Really, getting frantic over such trivial things, you have surprisingly little tolerance."
"Wait a minute, if you're born in April, then you're only fifteen, the same as me. That's illegal!"
"It's fine as long as you're not discovered. Do you really think I'll get caught?"
As the two argued, the food was brought to the table.
For appetizers, there was prosciutto ham as well as a wide selection of fresh seasonal vegetables. With fried lamb brains(!) which Godou had for the first time, handmade sausage, and baked Sardinian flatbread, the choice of food was quite rich and sumptuous.
There were two meat entrées, a local specialty of roasted suckling pig served in slices, as well as horse ribs that still retained some blood.
Everything tasted delicious. Having endured such a long journey, it was well worth it.
However, the problem was the bottle of red wine Erica had ordered.
Due to the dim lighting, the red liquid seemed as if it was giving off a seductive light. When he saw the champagne before the meal, as well as the meat entrées, Godou should have expected it.
"Don't force yourself if you can't drink. For such a trifle bit of wine, I can finish it alone."
Erica's nonchalant tone made Godou feel like he was being mocked as stupid.
If he didn't resist, then he would be an idiot. Understanding that, Godou raised his wine glass. Despite everything, his nature was quite competitive.
He slowly kept the wine in his palate, savoring its flavor.
A complicated taste unique to high quality red wine, with a mixture of bitterness, sweetness as well as a hint of sourness. The fragrance of grape and fruitiness assailed the sense of smell.
"Very good, though I don't particularly like western wine, but this is really good."
"Ah, I didn't think you'd know a little about wine, then you cannot complain. Drink obediently."
Hearing Erica's remark, Godou smiled fearlessly in return.
Despite appearances, I've often been forced to spend nights drinking with my grandfather. At the age of fifteen I already have substantial knowledge about alcohol... No, the one who taught his middle school grandson the difference between cheap wine and exceptionally good wine, what on earth could he be thinking?
Mother as well, asking her son to mix cocktails for her, sometimes preparing mixtures like whiskey and water, and even making her son taste them.
In order to cater to her own tastes and forcing it upon her son, in some ways, Godou had been receiving an elite education every day of his life.
"Actually, even when drinking with adults, I have never lost in alcohol capacity. How regrettable."
"Ah, what a coincidence, me too. Till now, I have never lost against anyone in drinking."
And then the two of them began to eat and drink heartily.
Whenever anyone's wine glass emptied, the waiter immediately filled the glass quietly.
The one who drank the last glass was Godou.
Since he was not accustomed to red wine, Godou felt relieved after one bottle. He won't have to worry about getting drunk now.
However, watching this take place. Erica frowned.
"Godou... To think you drank one glass more than me, like a sneaky thief."
"You even bothered to count? That's so stingy, please don't do that anymore."
"You... You have insulted me again. Please do not misunderstand. I shall repeat myself once more. I am not stingy at all. The problem is currently the fact that you have imbibed more alcohol than me."
By the way, it's you yourself who wanted to compete.
Though not stingy, but surprisingly childish, Erica's next words shocked Godou:
"Apparently, a second round of competition is necessary. A victor needs to be decided."
There were birds chirping outside the room.
Waking up on the bed, Godou vaguely recalled the events yesterday.
After dinner at the ristorante, without any reservations, they were fortunate enough to find a room at a bed and breakfast (B&B) on the roadside.
And then he went with Erica as they bought a large amount of alcohol and snacks to go along.
It would be too unsightly for two youngsters to drink at a bar, so that's what they decided.
Battling on the verge of collapse, spurred by their sense of competitiveness, the two of them downed glass after glass in order to prove their superiority to the other.
And then what happened?
That part of memory was completely blank. Oh well, best not to think about it.
And then, amidst a feeling of something not being right, Godou could also feel a slight sense of warmth and softness, what could it be? With a very appropriate suppleness, a warm object very comfortable to the touch was lying beside him.
As Godou battled his urge to sleep, he struggled to open his eyes and laid them beside him.
...In that instant, his mind went blank.
Erica Blandelli was sound asleep beside him.
Why on earth was this fellow here?
Could he have committed the same mistake that all men are liable?
No, impossible. I think not, probably not. Let's hope for the best from my rationality and Erica's caution, but if something did happen...
As he struggled to calm his panicking heart, Godou took a serious look at Erica at the same time.
Peerless beauty that still caused his heart to race, she now had a calmly sleeping face. Currently she was a beautiful girl who looked just like an angel. Wearing only lingerie, the color was blue, and a two-piece set with a high class design. Other than that, she was wearing nothing else.
Truly a great figure, no, that kind of description was not enough.
As a European female, though she was slender and not very tall, but what was with that extreme voluptuousness? Long slender limbs, tiny face, a figure with proportions like a model, but in spite of all that, a bountiful bosom that looked as if it would overflow from the brassiere, just like ripened fruit such as apples or peaches.
The curve from the waist to the buttocks was also very perfect.
Such artistic beauty, if viewed directly, would seem especially erotic.
Even in swimsuit photo collections, one was hard pressed to find a girl with such a great figure. Right now she was sleeping holding onto Godou's side, and unwittingly resting her spectacular bust against his body.
Godou felt extremely unsettled.
The first experience of pleasures of a lifetime lay before him in close proximity, this was bad, totally bad, absolutely bad.
A sense of fullness that made the brain go numb, was rapidly increasing the feeling of criminal immorality.
He had to escape fast! As he made his decision, Erica suddenly woke up.
"...Who is it? Arianna? Come on, how did I get the bed wrong..."
"...Ummm, actually... it's me."
The two of them stared at each other, speechless.
Erica's eyes were originally unfocused but quickly restored the brightness of rationality.
Rubbing her eyes, she got up from the bed, grabbed a shirt and covered her underwear-clad body. Extending her hand, the sword from two days ago appeared in her hand once more.
Without hesitation, Erica's sword pointed straight at Godou's head.
"To dare taint my purity, surely you must die right here!"
"Wah, wait! I haven't done anything strange! Probably..."
As the sword was thrust forward, Godou panicked.
Simply facing her, he felt his spirit suppressed. A sense of despairing oppression came from her body, and her eyes were filled with icy coolness. Was this what they called murderous intent...?
"Right, you probably didn't do anything shameful to me, because you are just as harmless as a castrated dog. Wonderful."
"Yes, that's exactly right. Haha, it really was just a misunderstanding..."
"Yes, to you. If you really had the nerve to do anything funny, even completely asleep, I would have decapitated you. It's your lucky day."
"...Yes that's right."
Erica's cold response, was likely not a lie, and Godou felt relieved in his heart.
"But you have engraved upon your mind the image of my, Erica Blandelli’s, body—one that no one is allowed to see. And to have even touched my skin—you still deserve death."
Deserving death for that! Though Godou felt he should be loudly protesting, but he was so afraid that he couldn't even make a single sound of protest.
Intimate contact with her skin was undeniable, there was no way to refute that.
"Anyway, why don't you calm down first? We can discuss this once you calm down."
"Ah, your sense of recognition is too superficial. I am currently calmly considering whether I should first gouge your eyes out, or decapitate you and parade it on the streets first? Can you not treat me like a fool?"
"How can you call that calm?! Anyway, we should both settle down and discuss peacefully."
After a short ten minutes.
Godou was taxed to his wits persuading Erica to pause her actions, while Erica with her merciless glare, her body wrapped by a single piece of clothing, the two of them stared face to face once again.
"First of all, let us confirm how this situation arose and where responsibility lies. No matter what, it is our fault that we drank too much last night. For that we have to reflect."
Not only was the stomach feeling unpleasant, the throat was also very parched.
These were common symptoms the next day after heavy drinking, and Godou was now feeling uncomfortable.
Even so, he felt impressed that he wasn't hungover. Like his grandfather and mother, perhaps this was the Kusanagi pedigree, a bunch of people with extremely strong liver functions, all grand drinkers.
Looking closely, Erica was not hungover either.
It made sense, if either of them couldn't hold their liquor, then they wouldn't have binged so much.
Compared to drinking alone, or a large group gathered together for a banquet, drinking only goes completely out of hand when it was two people. Godou understood the nuances of that.
If another activity required him to drink like a bull again, Godou would not want to repeat this experience again.
"To think that someone of the same generation could match me in alcohol intake. If it was Lily, she'd get drunk in a short while, and then I'd have some good fun with her..."
Probably extremely confident in her alcohol capacity, Erica murmured to herself softly.
"Anyway, drinking too much is both our fault, not sending you off earlier is my fault, but spare me the eye-gouging and decapitation. Is there a more peaceful way to appease your anger?"
Godou apologized in a Japanese way, bowing his head in penance.
An option existed before it became late at night, to send Erica away since this room was rented by Godou. Which is why he was reflecting, why he didn't do that?
"Do you think such an apology can let you off for my humiliation?"
Erica stared with icy cold eyes.
There was a merciless murderous intent, making Godou break out in cold sweat. However, some words still had to be said. Taking a deep breath, he tried to argue:
"Say, can you just treat this as having slept with a pet? Do you have to be so concerned?"
"Of course! To have shared a bed with a male other than a marriage partner, this is an embarrassment that can never be wiped away!"
A completely different upbringing compared to his own, Godou was deeply reminded once again.
Towards Erica's complaints, Godou thought once more.
However, he couldn't think of anything -- no solution. At this time, there was nothing to be done but push the problem aside for now.
"OK, I get it. Bickering here over this incident won't get anywhere, so why don't we leave first, since we must find Lucretia-san's house. That is our goal, right?"
Godou didn't dare say any more as he waited for Erica's response.
Though extremely furious, she had quick wits and should instantly recall the original goal—that was what Godou hoped in his heart.
"...Correct. As a knight, the current priority is to finish my mission first."
Erica spoke softly.
Appearing calm once more, she nodded expressionless like a Japanese mask, though this actually looked even more horrifying, compared to her loud tantrum. Her current state of resolution was actually more terrifying.
"So, let's hurry to the Witch of Sardinia -- after that, I will make you truly regret your crimes. I will find a suitably harsh punishment for a sex maniac like you."
To be called a sex maniac! Godou wanted to sigh at the heavens.
And so the turbulent journey of the two, continued on its second day.
Beneath the cloudless sky, Oliena was a beautiful and scenic little town.
Nearby were refreshing green woods as well as beautiful springs. For a town with less than ten thousand population, its facilities were very well equipped.
"If it's such a small town, then Lucretia-san's home shouldn't be that tough to find... It's only the fact that I haven't contacted her beforehand, that worries me--"
Godou spread out the map of the small town, and began searching near the home his grandfather had described.
They were currently at a cafe near the place they spent the night.
Godou muttered to himself as he ate breakfast. Though Erica was beside him, they haven't exchanged a single word after the incident that morning. Having finished breakfast, it was finally the time to search for their destination.
Godou asked for directions from passersby.
Using clumsy English to tell them where he was going, and then taking out the map to inquire how to get there.
Due to the language barrier, there was no way to convey small details.
Even so, the approximate direction could be gleaned, and then they set off. If they got lost, the same method was repeated with other passersby.
Having repeated it four times, it was now the fifth --
"Ah, come on, this is exasperating! Give me the map, I'll show you the way."
Silent until now, Erica finally erupted.
"What, took you long enough. It's not like I have to accept your help."
Godou replied coldly.
Yes, it was partially his fault for making Erica angrily silent from this morning till now, but was it really necessary to be so offended!
"I am not helping you, I just want to meet Lucretia Zola faster! What on earth are you doing, the passersby already explained in so much detail, yet you are still clueless!"
"I can't help it! I don't know any Italian!"
The people who Godou asked had explained in particular detail.
However, Godou completely didn't understand Italian. Even when he wanted to communicate seriously in English, his verbal ability was rather lacking, so he was unable to understand the details. This was why they were progressing in such an inefficient manner.
Erica grabbed the map and first led them forward.
Apparently, she remembered all the routes explained so far, and was able to walk towards their destination with no hesitation at all. Even though very angry, Godou could only follow her.
From then on, everything went smoothly and they arrived at their destination twenty minutes later.
Lucretia Zola's home was located near a forest on the edges of town.
A stone house in the middle of the garden gave off a very ancient atmosphere. From the overall feeling of the house, combined with the absence of nearby houses, it felt very solitary.
The witch's residence. Though it was a small house, its appearance matched this name particularly well.
Glancing over the garden, it was full of weeds everywhere. The owner either had no interest in gardening, or was too lazy to care.
Anyway, the whole point of coming all the way to Sardinia was to reach this place.
Godou stepped in front of Erica, walking over to the entrance and pressed the button to the doorbell.
--After waiting for a while, there was still no response.
"Not here... If that's the case, let's wait until she returns -- hmm?"
Godou suddenly stared with his eyes wide open.
With a scratching heavy sound, the door opened automatically.
Carefully scrutinizing the surroundings, there was no one before or behind the door, and the old wooden door did not seem like it was automated. What happened?
"Probably this means please enter. You've already arrived at a witch's home, don't be taken aback from this kind of simple trick."
"Damn it, this is magic too. What a suspicious house..."
Lectured by Erica from behind, Godou muttered to himself.
Stepping into the house with apprehension, Godou found a black cat waiting for him at the entrance.
Meow~~ It was calling out with indifferent tones.
For such a slender and elegant body with soft sleek fur, the cat didn't look cute at all.
The black cat suddenly walked into the depths of the house. On the way it stopped and waved its paw, going 'meow' as if calling someone, then continued on its way.
"It's really telling us to follow?"
"Of course, this is a cat familiar -- even for you, something so classic can be understood, right?"
Of course Godou realized it already, but he just didn't want to accept it.
Godou shook his head, casting the cultural shock aside. To falter at this point would be a waste of time, so it's best to catch up to the cat.
They were taken to what appeared to be a bedroom.
It was medicine -- no, full of the aroma of herbs. The room was very disorganized, and reclining on the bed was a woman who only half sat up.
The cat just now was huddled in a corner, yawning in a bored manner.
"Welcome to my home, my old friend's relative. Whose relative are you? I can see from one glance, you must be Kusanagi Ichirou's grandson. I am Lucretia Zola."
Suddenly, the woman on the bed was speaking in perfect Japanese.
Godou was so surprised he jumped backwards.
Before his eyes was a beautiful woman in her underwear, greeting her guests while reclined on her bed. Her glazed over eyes gave off an incredible sense of charm, while her flaxen colored hair was also extremely beautiful.
A beautiful woman at her prime, her apparent age was in the latter half of the twenties.
Even if she dressed young on purpose, she was thirty at most, which completely didn't fit calculations. If so much happened between her and grandfather, she should now be an old lady, advanced in age.
"Ah young man, have you been entranced by me? Is there a problem? Hohoho, perhaps this appearance might be too stimulating for the young ones. Something troublesome happened lately, so I've been unable to get up from bed... Besides, you must be very happy inside? Men are always like that."
"Sorry to interrupt. You are Lucretia Zola-san?"
She nodded to confirm Godou's question.
"Ah, yes. You are Kusanagi Godou, right? Ichirou already sent me a letter explaining everything and letting his grandson to come in his place, so I've been waiting for you."
Godou suddenly let out a horrific scream.
Gods, magi, the occurrences these three days have brought Godou's common sense to the brink of collapse. Struck with the final blow, his mind finally halted.
"You've already gotten this far, what is there to be surprised? Maintaining a youthful body, is a privilege unique to witches whose magic has reached the highest levels. Compared to that, I consider [Heretic Gods] far more shocking."
"Oh, to have met the gods appearing on this island, what an unfortunate youth. By the way, girl, who are you? You don't look Japanese."
"Erica Blandelli. Great Knight of the Copper Black Cross. Due to various reasons, travelling with him."
"Sir Paolo's niece eh, I've heard rumors. So it looks like you've come to this countryside because of that [Heretic God], what strong initiative."
By the time he noticed, Erica and Lucretia had begun a conversation between women.
Finally calm, Godou took out the stone tablet from his bag.
"Anyway, this thing... was originally what my grandfather intended to bring over -- the object that Lucretia-san left in Japan. Please accept it."
The stone tablet depicting the childishly drawn chained man.
Giving it a glance, Lucretia said:
"...[Secret Tome of Prometheus], as expected. A long time ago, I found it in the depths of the Caucasus mountains, how nostalgic."
"Signora, may I ask a few questions?"
In Italian, 'Signora' was equivalent to addressing someone as 'Madam.'
Lucretia smiled at Erica who was trying to explain her intentions in a cautious manner.
"It's fine even if you call me by name. As you can see, it won't be appropriate to treat a young beauty like me as an old lady. So, Sir Erica, why are you following this youth from Japan?"
The two witches gazed at each other.
Beside them, Godou felt uncomfortable as an ordinary person.
"Then Lucretia, you can just call me Erica. Actually someone related to the [Heretic God] appearing this time has been in contact with Godou. Furthermore, he was even carrying a grimoire from the mythical age, so he might be involved in this incident. I was suspicious whether he had ill intentions in coming to see you."
Erica threw Godou a glance as if she had seen something insignificant.
"After spending some time with him, he was clearly a guy who knew nothing, lacked manners, failed in comprehension, and is very shameless."
"Is that so, I can't really see that, from appearance he just looks like a harmless youth."
Lucretia gave her own opinion which ran contrary to Erica's malicious commentary.
Godou objected by saying 'Do not make such baseless judgments!' from the side, but Erica ignored him completely, continuing:
"So it's true that he is the grandson of your friend -- which means that Godou really came to Sardinia by chance, and came to possess the grimoire by chance as well?"
"Basically, his grandfather is a scholar, an ordinary person completely removed from the world of magic and gods."
Hearing Lucretia's words, Erica's shoulders sank in disappointment.
"How could this be, to have wasted so much precious time on an insignificant commoner, how embarrassing. For me to have done such a thing!"
"...Let me clarify beforehand, I did not tell you a single lie!"
Before he gets blamed, Godou wanted to emphasize the fact to Erica.
And then, Lucretia smiled as she spoke.
"You don't have to be that dispirited, Miss Erica, if you wanted information about the [Heretic God], then coming here was the right place. As a reward for your efforts getting here, I will tell you."
"--Lucretia, could it be that you know which god it is this time?"
"To be precise, I am not sure. My information has only confirmed that it is some war god. Originally I thought it was a deity like Melqart, but then it turns out to be a little more than that."
Lucretia smiled faintly on the bed.
Melqart. Hearing the name of that god for the first time, Godou's mind was full of questions.
"Oh, you don't know, young man? It can't be helped, though a deity with historical significance, he is no longer famous in modern times. No, to be precise, that should be the true name."
Lucretia continued her explanation smoothly:
"The divine king worshiped by Semitic tribes such as the Canaanites and Phoenicians... Baal. Originally the god of storms, lightning and the sky, his power continued to grow until he finally possessed many authorities. Amongst the Indo-European languages, Zeus and Odin are the most similar. You've heard of those two, right?"
"Yes, that I know."
The Greek chief deity Zeus, as well as the Norse chief deity Odin who often appeared in operas.
Even for Japanese people like Godou, there were few who haven't heard of their names.
"These kinds of sky gods, basically all possess many different characteristics. Top god, king, god of wisdom, god of life, god of war, god of the underworld, etc. Baal is also one of these archetypes. With many faces comes aliases. This is very natural, right? ...Melqart was the title honored by the people when he protected the city of Tyre."
It sounded like a name he had heard before.
Godou prided himself on studying history seriously. Lucretia smiled faintly.
"Tyre was the city built by the Phoenicians. Its defenses were so great that it took Alexander the Great a year to conquer it. It was also the naval headquarters of the Phoenicians, masters of the ancient seas. Reaching Sardinia, they became the rulers of this island."
Thus, Melqart was a god with deep ties to the island of Sardinia.
Having said that, Lucretia made further additions.
"Around Greece, Melqart was depicted as a giant man wielding clubs -- a few days ago, I witnessed the god Melqart appearing as such a figure."
"But Lucretia, didn't you begin by saying this was unrelated to Melqart?"
The elderly witch responded to Erica's interruption, unaffected.
"Yes, aren't there column-like stone formations in Sicily? Five days ago, my spirit vision indicated an anomalous gathering of divine power there. To observe the situation, I personally went there."
Spirit vision -- was it something like clairvoyance?
Hearing these words, Godou could no longer deny she was a witch.
"Over there, what I saw was the sight of two gods fighting. One was Melqart, the other took the form of a warrior, wielding a golden sword. The result of the fierce battle between two gods was mutual injury and defeat."
As if very tired, Godou worried about her condition and came closer to her bed.
"Don't worry, young man. The conversation is about to end -- Melqart with his club and the other god with the golden sword, they struck each other on the final blow, causing heavy injuries to both sides. Melqart transformed into lightning and flew away, while the god of the golden sword was shattered."
"Shattered? So he lost form?"
"No, the body of the sword god was divided into pieces, and each piece took on a new form. One was a boar, the other a hawk, as well as creatures such as a horse or a goat. These avatars immediately flew across the ocean or into the sky."
In other words, the massive beasts appearing all over the island, were born from the fragments of the god with the golden sword.
Godou felt things were getting more and more ridiculous.
"Then the [Wind] god that defeated the wild beast, was that Melqart's incarnation?"
"Who knows, whether Melqart or the sword god, neither could have recovered in such short time. If they recovered, my spirit vision should have received premonitions, but so far there has been none. It is also possible that they have left Sardinia."
Towards Erica's question, Lucretia only answered "who knows?" and shrugged.
Though Godou didn't know anything, he could tell that the situation was very unusual.
"Does that mean you were caught in the battle between gods, and exhausted your magical power?"
"Yes. In order to protect myself on that battlefield, it was necessary to use magic that exceeded my limits. Thanks to that, my magic has been completely exhausted, and would probably take three months to recover. No major spells for the meantime, or even moving my body. How troublesome."
Though she clearly said troublesome, her tone of voice was rather leisurely.
Godou suddenly thought of the stone tablet held in his hand all this time.
"Then once again, I hand this over to you. Please accept it. Didn't Lucretia-san use this to suppress a god before? Perhaps it might be useful this time."
"...Wait a minute, Godou. How could you have withheld such an important detail from me?"
"This is something belonging to Lucretia-san, what reason do I have to reveal everything to you?"
Ignoring the frowning Erica, Godou extended the stone tablet forward.
"Hmm..." Deep in thought, Lucretia looked at the young man and woman. What was she thinking?
"Young man, what I did with the [Secret Tome of Prometheus], you have already heard from Ichirou?"
"Yes, though... I still don't quite believe it."
"Miss Erica, did you come here for the purpose of sealing the [Heretic God]?"
"That's right, I have to overcome this challenge, in order to prove that I can become the foremost talent of the Copper Black Cross. For that, I have accepted this difficult mission."
"Which is why you are interested in the whereabouts of gods, how troublesome!"
Lucretia was complaining in a frivolous tone of voice, furthermore --
"I know. Young man, I entrust this to you, use it carefully."
She spoke to Godou.
"Ah!" Godou was greatly shocked, and Erica likewise.
"Lucretia Zola! What are you thinking! To give a precious grimoire from the mythical age to this clueless idiot, there must be limits to stupid decisions!"
"Having that said, it is actually quite troublesome for this thing to be brought here now -- or rather, it is useless in my current state. You can see how my body is now. Who could have expected it to return to my side at such a time, sometimes the will of fate is rather ironic."
"Then you should give the grimoire to me instead! That's called using the right person for the right job!"
"But that's too reasonable, totally uninteresting. I prefer the fun choice."
"Please don't joke around in such depressing tones!"
Though this unexpected development shocked Godou, he decided to interrupt.
Taking a casual glance at the bed she was lying on -- he noticed, beside the pillow was an old video game console with a game cartridge inserted on top.
_____ Quest? Was it that RPG? Must have been a very old fantasy RPG?
"Wait a minute, you want to refuse? Let me first state that I am not influenced by that game I've been playing, to have made that proposal. Still, for a Level One young man to set off for adventure to complete the mission, it really is a staple of the adventure genre. Doesn't that make your blood hot and boiling?"
"Not hot blooded at all, I am completely unmotivated!"
Ignoring Godou's objection, Lucretia continued:
"By the way, of course as a Great Knight of the Copper Black Cross -- Paolo Blandelli's niece and apprentice, you won't attempt to rob this ordinary youth of this grimoire by force, right?"
"How could I do such a thing?! Don't look down on me!"
"Good. Miss Erica, only those who overcome great hardship can be called knights. If you want others to witness your magnanimity, do not complain about this level of hindrance -- as for you, young man!"
"Just as you heard, I look forward to your performance. How this grimoire should be used, everything will be left to your hands. Help the girl, run away, use it in a way I cannot imagine. Show me some fun."
Lucretia finished, and added one more sentence.
"Also, I entrust you with this girl, please take good care of her."
"Take care of me? What a joke! For someone like that to take care of me, please don't treat me like a fool!"
Angrily finishing these words, Erica made her way to the entrance with elegant yet crude footsteps.
Looking extremely furious, she walked out directly.
What should he do?
As Godou puzzled, Lucretia waved her hand as if ushering him out.
Looks like the meeting was over. Troubled, Godou shook his head and walked outside to catch up with the blonde beauty.
Translator's Notes and References
- Four Elements: (earth, air, water and fire) the classical elements proposed by Greek philosophers. Aristotle later added a fifth element: aether.
- Five Elements: (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) the five elemental substances used as a conceptual device in many fields of early Chinese thought such as Feng Shui, astrology, Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts.
- trattoria: an Italian-style eating establishment, less formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria.
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