Omake – High Elf
LEVEL 2: Everything is Precious, Nothing is Replaceable
The following is a bonus story included with Volume 2, on a separate sheet, for Overlap’s 1st anniversary.
Bonus Chapter: High Elf
Her name was Leelya. Leelya Sturm. She was a high elf from the noble house Sturm of the Seven Swords. Furthermore, she was the heir of the house, the inheritor of the line, though she never thought of her lineage as noble. At best, she acknowledged that the House of Sturm had once been great, but she now considered it a shadow of its former glory. It was not only the House of Sturm that was antiquated, elven society as a whole had stagnated in the distant past. They had become weak, ineffectual, and fallen into a state of decline.
Leelya was a prodigal child, hailed as the avatar of Varyag the Sacred Blade. Much had been expected of her future since her childhood days, yet she could not fathom what future there could possibly be. So though she knew the road would be full twists and turns and peril, she decided leaving Kagemori was the correct path.
She would experience the outside world for herself and broaden her knowledge. It was for this purpose, and no other, that she left her homeland behind.
When she called his name, the man paused in his manipulation of the eating utensil known as “chopsticks” and met her gaze. His countenance remained unchanged. His lack of expression made it difficult to presume his unvoiced thoughts, yet she knew it was not only that which made him difficult to read. She could also see that his mood was slightly dour.
Souma, for the most part a man of sophistication, had carved from a tree with his own hands the chopsticks he used now. Besides herself, Souma’s company consisted of the large, slightly dark-skinned Paladin, Kemuri; the Necromancer Pingo, who seemed a child upon first glance; Zenmai, the artificial construct given life by Pingo; and the former Thief turned Shaman, Shima, who did not remain in one place long and preferred to sleep under the stars.
Kemuri was the type who slept anywhere and for as long as he liked when the mood was upon him, while Pingo was his opposite, and hardly slept at all. Pingo’s constant companion Zenmai utterly lacked the need for sleep. Shima, though an elegant, well-kept woman, did not mind tossing and turning about a bed of grass as she slept.
Leelya, born and raised in the elven city of Arnott, hardly knew what to think of it in the beginning but was now entirely used to it. They were currently gathered under the starry sky, sitting around the campfire each in their own manner, eating or resting. Leelya delicately combed her silvery hair while Souma ate.
Whether dried meat or fruit, Souma would pick each up with his chopsticks and bring the piece to his mouth one at a time. It seemed to be a kind of preference for him, which was fine with her.
“You’re holding your chopsticks with your left hand.”
At her remark, Souma lowered his gaze and his eyes grew ever so slightly wider.
“You’re right. Maybe because the food is unappetizing,” he replied.
“Perhaps you’re correct,” Leelya agreed.
“I wonder why,” Souma said, tilting his head slightly to the side in puzzlement as he switched the chopsticks to his right hand.
He had not the slightest notion why he’d been using his left hand, as he was right-handed. And if he did not know, then how could Leelya have possibly known?
“Also,” Leelya added and indicated a spot just below her own lips. “You’ve something on your face.”
For an instant, Souma’s expression seemed to shout, That’s not possible! He brought his hand up to wipe the spot several times.
“No, I don’t…” he said.
“I know,” said Leelya, expression blank. “It was a joke.”
“Ha,” Shima laughed as she laid propped up on one elbow, covering a yawn.
Pingo, seated on Zenmai’s knees and gazing at the stars, chuckled covertly. Kemuri snored, fast asleep.
Souma lowered his gaze, the corners of his mouth curved down ever so slightly in what could have been a frown. Leelya’s expression softened. Souma hurriedly sat up straighter and schooled his expression into calm once more. One got the impression that he was a rather interesting man.
Three days ago Leelya and the others had entered the former Ishmael Kingdom, domain of the undead. It was a land of evil and atrocity, where the undead willingly gave themselves over to be unmade then remade to run rampant in stronger, yet more hideous forms. Even Souma’s company, famed as they were, could not afford carelessness here, though careless they had been just the day before.
Souma, as usual, was employing his Samurai Class’ katana skills on the enemies coming at them. The undead could not approach without being immediately cut down. His technique and agility were nothing less than breathtaking. However, Leelya, a proud master sword dancer who had also trained ceaselessly so as to not shame her reputation as a unparalleled prodigy, sensed something amiss.
Souma was not his normal self. His blade was less swift, his feet heavier, and his movements a touch slower. It seemed to Leelya almost as if he was fighting with a sprained ankle. Yet if he was injured, it would have been a simple matter to ask Kemuri to heal him.
Though Shima, who had changed her class from Thief to Shaman, hardly looked it, she was a highly industrious woman. Natural talent played a part, but she trained even while she slept and, in a short amount of time, had mastered the hidden techniques of the elves and was exonerated by the head of the Six Spells. She was not the first human to become a Shaman, but she was the only one to receive the acclimation of the haughty Six Spells. And she was capable of healing any wound instantly.
When the fight was over, Leelya approached Souma directly. “Your clumsiness and lack of grace was rather unseemly. If you are injured or feeling unwell, perhaps it would be wise to have Shima take a look.”
Souma thought it over for a moment before replying, “I thought something was off too…”
He pulled off his greaves then and there, and the problem became immediately apparent. His boots were on the wrong foot. Simply put, he had his left boot on his right foot and his right boot on his left foot.
“So that’s why,” Souma said.
Of course that was why. But what possessed him to make such a blunder? When Leelya asked, Souma tilted his head slightly to the side and murmured, “No idea,” and Leelya wondered if she should simply dismiss it as a rare lapse. Yet Souma frequently tended to blunder in such ways.
Souma was a rather strange man, thought Leelya. He was sophisticated and smart and it would not be hyperbole to say that his swordsmanship was at the summit of the craft. He was neither careless nor disorganized. Leelya would normally say that he was very reliable, not that she needed to, or ever would need to rely on others. Souma’s leadership could not be flawed; he had excellent judgment and a sense of responsibility as if he’d been born with it.
He was one that, if thrown into the wild naked and alone, could still find a way to survive. Yet something was also lacking. Leelya had been with his company a while now, but she did not know what it could be. From time to time, he would do something unexpected that would take her completely by surprise. He was like no elf ever was, hence her minor interest in him. Indeed, it was a minor interest—nothing more, nothing less.
Souma had soon laid down on the ground. Kemuri was still fast asleep and Shima prepared to follow. Pingo and Zenmai would stay on guard through the night though no one asked it of them. Leelya too felt herself falling asleep. No preparation was needed; her pack served as a pillow, her cloak a blanket. Yet she did not sleep right away.
Lying still with her eyes closed, much began to float into her thoughts. She both ignored and allowed them to take hold, waiting for her consciousness to grow distant. From time to time she would peek from under half-closed eyelids at Souma’s form beyond the campfire. He was lying face up, arms tucked under his head for a pillow, one knee propped up. Had he fallen asleep?
She could not tell. If something happened, Pingo would give the alarm and there was no doubt he would immediately be on his feet. He was most likely a light sleeper. Souma turned over, mumbling “Nn…” with a low groan and was now facing her. Slightly startled, she immediately shut her eyes again.
Leelya was not watching him with a purpose and it would hardly do for him to mistakenly believe otherwise. But Souma was still after that, perhaps having fallen asleep. Leelya sighed softly and opened her eyes slightly again.
She was met with Souma’s gaze. He was looking directly at her. Leelya felt herself stiffen. Should she explain herself? No, she had not done anything wrong. Souma was the one looking at her and they just happened to meet the other’s gazes. She did not owe him any sort of explanation. There was no need for even the slightest semblance of one. Souma was the one at fault… or perhaps not fault, but… part of the responsibility was his, too.
And he should take responsibility for it. It would be troublesome for her if he failed to. But before that, eye contact. She needed to break eye contact with him. She could bear no more of that gaze. It was quite… embarrassing to be looking into each other’s eyes in this way. Yet why was she unable to look away?
Before she could find an answer Souma closed his eyes and turned away so that he was lying face up again. Leelya realized only then. Souma had not been looking at her. He had not even been awake. He had not been staring at her half asleep, either; he merely had his eyes open while asleep and coincidentally turned to face her. It was nothing more than that.
Nothing more, yet, again he began to mumble something. “N… Nnn…”
Leelya thought it sounded as if he was calling someone’s name. Perhaps it was just her imagination. Unable to take it anymore, she curled up into herself as she felt a sharp pain stab at her chest. What was this feeling in her heart? What was causing it? She did not know. She had not the slightest notion.
“I do not know,” she whispered to herself.
Leelya had hoped to come to know the outside world; to gain knowledge, insight, and the emotional strength to remain unperturbed, impassionate. She had not told this to anyone as of yet, but Leelya was convinced that the elven race that was now walking the path of decline must be returned to its former state of glory.
She was here for that purpose alone. Indeed, she admitted that she had an interest in Souma. However, it was merely a minor interest.
And certainly nothing more.