「Well, maybe not Haruna, but wouldn’t Tatsuya be a good brake for Hiroshi if they go together？」
「I’m not confident I can totally stop him, but hey, I can try. If Hiro gets caught up on something then I feel it might have something to do with us.」
「Although I don’t think we’ll have enough time to take another detour.」
「Haruna, c’mon. You wouldn’t stop him even if you knew that.」
「Depending on the circumstances.」
Makoto interjected as she stopped the car for the inspection, and Haruna replied with a seriously unreliable answer. Hearing her say that, Tatsuya and Makoto were beginning to give up on preventing detours.
「But the more I look at this place, the more I realize how huge it is.」
「Definitely bigger than Lake Biwa.」
「So what are we looking for？」
Taking permission from one of the people involved, Hiroshi, Tatsuya, and Haruna had come to look around the oasis near the temple. No one was in the area where they arrived, but since bathing was allowed in the bay-like area on either side of the temple, there were many people in the area once the sun set.
「Well first we gotta check water quality, but when it’s this big……」
「Don’t get any ideas about diving underwater and looking for ruins？」
「Nah, we don’t got no permission, plus I ain’t got the guts to do that.」
Hiroshi immediately responded to Tatsuya’s comment. To turn his reply inside out, Hiroshi meant that if he had the permission then he would have no problem diving right in to search for ruins.
「But it’s true that I’m super interested in this here oasis. How should I put it, it’s like the mana or air is extremely different, mate.」
「Maybe that’s because there’s a temple here?」
「Maybe so, but this is a temple of a fire god and there’s water near it with a special aura. Why’d that be?」
As soon as they heard the water had a special aura, Haruna and Tatsuya found themselves exchanging glances.
「I dunno how the oasis is here without evaporating, but if we look at the feng shui or geological features around us, it just ain’t sit right with me that a lake of this size exists. Plus……」
「The town’s gotta be bigger if they got this much of a water resource. Instead, this town ain’t even as big as Ortem. Even if their surroundings’re all desert not suitable for farmin’, the town should still easily have enough water ‘n food to grow larger than Ortem.」
Attentively listing the things he found suspicious from pure observation, Hiroshi scooped up a cup of water for the water quality inspection. After checking it in many ways, he concluded
「It’s drinkable without any modifications. Also, maybe cuz it’s next to a temple, it seems to be in a holy water-like state.」
「Well, it’s only a little bit, so it ain’t gonna have the same effect that the special holy water Elle made us did.」
They should probably expect it at this point, but wow, what a crazy discovery.
「Hey, can I ask you something？」
「If we were to knock Barold into the water, would it damage him？」
「It ain’t that strong. His skin would sting but that’s about it.」
What a half-baked conclusion.
「Anything else you’re looking for？」
「Ton of things I wanna find out, but with the permission we got, all I can really do is……」
He dug up the roots of the grass at his feet, studying it before burying it back in the ground.
「Examine the plant life in this area.」
「So did you find anything different？」
「Can’t say with full confidence if there is, so no comment, mate.」
After seeing various strange differences, Hiroshi had decided to remain silent. The one thing he could say was that there was some strange power at work. The kind of grass growing near the summit of Spirit Spire Mountain was mixed in with the grass over here. Then again, he couldn’t just say with full confidence that this sort of grass only grew near the peak of Spirit Spire Mountain, so he had no choice but to not comment this time around.
「Honestly, I’d like to test things out at an inn or somethin’, but we’re technically in a holy area and probably shouldn’t go takin’ things away. I think it’s about time we head back.」
「If it’s only a bit of grass then I doubt the temple would mind all that much, but okay.」
Re-burying all the weeds he had finished checking, Hiroshi had figured it was time to return to the inn when a refreshing-sounding voice of an unknown gender replied to him. A person of average height of around twenty years old (similar to Hiroshi) had come closer, about several meters away.
「Don’tcha think it’s a bit childish to sneak up on people for no reason？」
「Ah, how rude of me. You appeared to be scrutinizing something with keen interest, so I wasn’t sure whether to get in your way or not.」
「Nah, ya can just talk to me like a normal person.」
Hiroshi commented while still not throwing caution to the winds but not showing his surprise as he looked at this beautiful person (whose gender could go either way).
「So I assume yer related to Elle or Artiem. Whatcha come here for？」
「You could actually tell?」
「Lately I’ve just been able to tell.」
Hiroshi continued as he began moving slowly away to keep his distance. At that point, Haruna got over her stiffness and asked him.
「You said she’s related to Elle-chan and Artiem, so does that mean……」
「Prolly Igreos-sama’s priestess, and a woman of course.」
「Unfortunately, I don’t have quite the chest that you do. People get my gender wrong a lot when they meet me for the first time.」
Tatsuya felt like interjecting that her chest wasn’t the only issue here, but hurriedly stopped himself. That was clearly sexual harassment.
「So imma ask ya again, why does a priestess like yerself come all the way here？」
「I don’t personally have a reason, but I was just interested in the person who the queen has taken a liking to and who two priestesses hold in such high regard. I didn’t want to see you in some official, constricted space, but rather I wanted to see you doing what you usually do.」
「Ya really got an issue there.」
「Oh, that’s nothing. I hear that the priestess of the ocean goddess Lefia is the queen of bad taste. I’m just a normal human and the difficulty is pretty low.」
「What kind of difficulty are ya talkin’ bout……」
Hiroshi immediately interjected when he heard what the priestess had to say. And before that issue, he wanted to question her for an hour to figure out what she meant by a non-human priestess.
「Okay, I see ya got an interest. So whaddya think about us now？」
「Truly interesting. It seems that you were having a highly intriguing conversation. Nothing about authority or profit, I just want to get to know you.」
「Well thank ya much.」
「So is it alright if I ask you a bit more about when you said “no comment”?」
「Can’t tell ya much.」
Then Hiroshi organized his thoughts.
「Kay. Honestly, I can’t say for sure, so take it with a grain of salt……」
「I’ll see if I believe after I hear.」
「That there grass I dug up earlier can also be harvested from the top of Spirit Spire Mountain.」
「……From Spirit Spire Mountain？」
「Yup. When I say I can’t say for sure, I mean I dunno if it grows in other places.」
The priestess was now at a loss for words.
「Is that really the same grass you can get from Spirit Spire Mountain？」