Appearing in the area, Alice…… or rather, Hapti, without even saying her greetings, ignored the absentminded Lilia-san, and quickly set off with the three of us.
On the way to the Adventurer's Guild in the royal capital, Hapti-san cheerfully spoke while walking.
[……Well then, let me introduce myself again. My name is Hapti. I've been asked by Phantasmal King-sama to be your escort this time. Well, it might only be for a short time, but I look forward to working with you. That's about it, I guess If you want any more information about me, you'll have to pay for it from here on out.]
[H- Huhh…… Errr, I'm Miyama Kaito.]
[I'm Kusunoki Aoi. Errr, I'm in your care today.]
[I'm Yuzuki Hina. I'm in your care today.]
Upon Hapti-san's urging, we introduced ourselves while walking.
[Kaito, Aoi, and Hina, yeah Okay~~ I'll remember it. Well, let's take it easy and not be too formal with each other. You can call me whatever you want.]
[Y- Yes…… Errr, we just departed without explaining anything to Lilia-san…… Is that alright]
[Unnn No, it's not like I'm getting even a single bronze coin by explaining things to her anyway. Phantasmal King-sama commissioned me to escort you three, and explaining things to that noble isn't part of my contract.]
[I- I see……]
Responding to Aoi-chan, who was concerned about the fact that Lilia-san and the others were left without any care, Hapti-san told her in a very matter-of-fact manner. From the conversation so far, I could tell that Hapti-san was very particular about money.
I thought Neun-san was being too much when she described her as a money-monger but……
As I was walking along, thinking about this and lightly chatting with the others, I heard the sound of something falling. Turning my gaze in that direction……
[……Whaa…… Ahh…… H- Hapti]
It was a timing that was too perfect to be a coincidence, but as I turned around, I found Neun-san looking at us.
I also saw Dr. Vier next to her and a shopping bag at Neun-san's feet, which she may have dropped just now, so they must have been shopping together.
With a clearly shocked look that could be seen even through her armor, Neun-san ran up towards Hapti-san……
[Hapti! You're Hapti, right! For us to meet here……]
[Eh What's with this "perverted woman in armor" Why the heck are you suddenly talking to me I mean, for you to wear an outfit like that on the main street, ooze out incredible suspiciousness from your appearance, I'm doubting if this woman's even sane……]
The words Hapti-san said were so sharp that Neun-san fell to her knees from the mental damage. Neun-san's outfit certainly is a bit conspicuous in the city, but she had circumstances that prevented her from showing her face, and to a certain extent, I think that it couldn't be helped.
Neun-san seemed to have suffered a lot of mental damage, but she quickly got up and started talking to Hapti-san again.
[……It's me! Errr…… Ummm……. P- Please come with me for a moment!]
[Eh Geez, why are you suddenly……]
Neun-san tried to introduce herself as Kujou Hikari, but she realized that there were a lot of people here, so she pulled Hapti-san's hand and dragged her towards an alley.
It was quite forceful, but for Neun-san, it was the first time in a thousand years that she had seen her friend again, so I could understand why she was shaken.]
[How should I say this…… I'm sorry about Neun.]
[No, with the situation like that, it couldn't be helped.]
After we and Dr. Vier who had been left behind exchanged glanced and wryly smiled, we then followed Neun-san and Hapti-san into the alley.
As we entered the alley, Dr. Vier snapped her fingers and a magic circle appeared at our feet, which spread out before disappearing from sight.
[……Dr. Vier, that thing you did just now]
[Ahh, it's Barrier Magic. It's just a simple one to keep people out of a certain area.]
[Is that something I can also use]
[It's not that difficult to use…… Are you interested in Barrier Magic]
[I was thinking that it would be useful if I could use it.]
Having met each other at my birthday party, Aoi-chan and Hina-chan also knew about Dr. Vier. As I listened to Dr. Vier's voice as she explained all sorts of things upon hearing Aoi-chan's interest in Barrier Magic, I turned my gaze forward and saw Hapti-san and Neun-san without her armor.
[See, it's me! Hikari!]
[Ahh~~ It's been a while. Bye then.]
[Eeehhh! W- Wait, we haven't seen each other in a thousand years, so why is your reaction so weak!]
[I'm in the middle of work right now……]
[I have a lot of questions I've been wanting to ask after meeting you!]
[Ehh~~ I have a feeling that it's going to be troublesome, so I'll pass~~]
While Neun-san looked desperate, Hapti-san seemed to be going at her own pace, trying to lightly brush away Neun-san's words as she made her way towards us…… but at that moment, Neun-san let out a deep sigh and taking out a copper coin, she handed it to Hapti-san.
Thereupon, after stuffing that copper coin into her pocket, Hapti-san turned to me and apologetically put her hands together.
[I'm sorry! Can you wait for a moment]
[Eh Ah, yes. It's alright.]
[Thanks…… Now then, well~~ It's been a while, Hikari! I've missed you so much!]
Just like that, after notifying us of this matter, Hapti-san approached Neun-san in a friendly manner that made me wonder where the cold reception she had earlier went.
Looking as if she's trying to endure snapping back at Hapti-san's obvious shamelessness, a vein popped out of Neun-san's forehead as she spoke.
[……Seriously, you're the same as usual. Good grief…… Well, alright. That aside, I have lots of things I wanted to ask you.]
[You did say that earlier. What is it]
[First of all, why did you disappear without attending the Commemoration Ceremony after the Treaty of Friendship was signed Laguna and Fors were worried about you.]
[Ehh~~ But attending ceremonies won't earn me a single R. I'm not interested.]
[……I guess that's just like you. Well, that's alright then. That aside, what's important here……]
As she said this, Neun-san firmly grasped both of Hapti-san's shoulders. What is this…… Neun-san had a smile on her face, but I kinda feel like she's insanely angry.
[……It seems that as the Commemoration Ceremony was being held, "about 10% of the money and goods" from "each country's treasuries" disappeared…… You're the culprit, right]
[Oh my Goddess. Isn't it too much for you to conclude that I'm the culprit without even verifying first Even though I'm your party member, whom you had gone through joys and sorrows together, you are suspecting me]
[Because we had been friends who had gone through joys and sorrows together for a long time, Laguna, me and Fors were in agreement…… that the culprit is definitely you.]
[Well, it really is me.]
[We knew it!!! What the heck are you doing! Did you know how awkward it was for the three of us when we were told about it Fortunately, the people of each country were magnanimous enough to put that matter as "thinking of it as a reward for defeating the Demon Lord", but in that situation, it wouldn't have been strange if they deemed you as a wanted person, you know!!!]
[……I think that was a justifiable reward. After all, you see, I did my best to smash that Demon Lord.]
[The problem is you stealing that reward out of their pockets!]
Just as I was thinking that an unexpected truth of the past was unfolding, it seems like Hapti-san did something really outrageous…… Neun-san would obviously get mad at her. I could clearly understand now why she's calling her a money-grubbing troublemaker.
Neun-san was trembling with anger, but after a little while, as if she knew Hapti-san's character well, she just let out another big sigh.
[……Haahhh…… Well, although there have been some problems, it's been forgiven already, and there's no point in talking about something that happened a thousand years ago.]
[……Is that what you wanted to ask me]
[No, I did want to ask you that but…… I'm just about to ask the real question.]
[Unnn You know, Hikari…… Your grip on my shoulders has been getting stronger and stronger since a while ago, and it really hurts……]
Somehow, I can feel more anger from Neun-san than before, and the strength of her grip on Hapti-san's shoulders actually seems to be increasing.
[……It's strange, isn't it I could still understand if it was just a letter I disposed of. There's a chance that I was planning on disposing of it, but completely forgot about it. However…… for it to be "my diary", don't you think it's strange Moreover, putting aside if it was my diary as a whole, isn't it strange that several pages of my diary are being auctioned out there]
Hearing those words, I remembered the auction at the Six Kings Festival. Indeed, now that she mentioned it, just for a few pages of a thousand-year-old diary to be coincidentally discovered…… Moreover, for that incident to occur not just once or twice, but several times in the past, it certainly is strange.
[I mean, there was no way I could have just thrown my diary out there, and I'm sure I had properly stored it, but when I checked it…… A few of the diaries I used to write in back then have been replaced with blank ones!]
[Hyiiiiiihhh, l- let's calm down…… We can talk things out. Let's peacefully resolve matters……]
[Yes, you're right. Let's peacefully talk…… but the next time I hear that my diary is being sold at an auction, I'll chop your head off.]
Apparently, Hapti-san was the one who stole Neun-san's diary and sold it at the auction. No wonder Neun-san was so angry. Well, it seems like she was rational enough not to immediately draw her sword.
Neun-san then lectured Hapti-san for a while, but I guess being her former comrade made Neun-san treat her sweetly…… for as if she knew there was nothing more she could say, she let out three big sighs and ended the discussion.
[……The scolding ended Then, let's go with the next topic. Here.]
Just like that, letting out a relieved sigh…… Looking like she didn't seem to have learned her lesson at all, Hapti-san smiled and taking out a huge burlap bag, she handed it to Neun-san.
[……What is this]
[I hope you don't look down on me. I'm fully aware of moral obligations and humane feelings, so I'm equally splitting the proceeds!]
[No, why the heck are you acting like you're helping me earn I'm the victim of your theft, and you just sold my property without my permission…… Well, putting that aside…… Doesn't this look a bit much It's hard to believe that selling close to a dozen pages would amount to this much……]
[Ahh, that's because half of the profits from "Hikari Manjuu" are in there too.]
[So that was also you're doing!!!]
……I thought that they had already resolved the problem, but there are apparently more to it. How much mess did you make, Hapti-san
[I've always thought it was strange! There are a few other products on the market, but most of them are called "Heroic ●●" and perhaps out of consideration to me, doesn't use my name, so I was thinking how strange it is that that item is directly using my name……]
[Now, now, it's not like an item's name is anything to fret about.]
[That's not the point! I had always been thinking of complaining to the developer of that product when I saw them!!! Listen here, okay! That is not "manjuu", that's a "daifuku"! I will never acknowledge that thing that doesn't use wheat flour as manjuu!!!]
[Eeehhhh, that's what you're angry at Besides, I was just the one who designed it, so it couldn't really be said that I was its developer…… However, was it not delicious]
[……The taste itself was wonderfully perfected. However, if I had to pick a personal preference, I would say that it would be better if it was a little less sweet……]
[Are you talking about wagashi You're as particular as ever, Hikari~~]
Hmmm, I wonder what this is…… Before I knew it, the conversation had shifted to a normal one. Although the expression on Neun-san's face was laced with dismay, it seems like she enjoys talking with Hapti-san.
Looking at them like that, I could somehow feel that they really are good friends, comrades who have traveled through joys and sorrows together.
One of the Hero Party who once defeated the Demon Lord. She calls herself a "Chivalrous Thief", but the public only sees her as a thief…… However, considering what she actually does, she's more like a treasure hunter.
In fact, she was the first comrade of the Hero Party, and their journey started with just Neun and Hapti.
After the Treaty of Friendship was signed, her whereabouts became unknown to the public…… but in fact, once a year, on Neun's birthday, she receives a letter and birthday presents consisting of some strange earthenware and mysterious fossils. Thus, Neun is the only one who knows that Hapti is alive and that she is a subordinate of the Phantasmal King. (She didn't tell Laguna or Fors because she was asked not to.)
For a long time, she just received items but didn't send a reply because the address of the sender was unknown, but by using a box that Hapti got on her travels about a hundred years ago, that when activated, teleports the items inside it to the owner, it allowed Neun to send letters to Hapti as well.
She's a good friend to Neun, as even when she said "I won't forgive you if you sell it again", she didn't ask for it back and didn't mind if Hapti kept it.
The circular pouch that Hapti wears on her waist was made by Neun to match Hapti's weapon and given to her in return for a birthday present.
As a side note, in the setting Alice-chan established, the true identity of the World Rank-1 Quoits Elite Nightmare is Hapti.-