“I love you all, good luck.”
I had just finished explaining my plans to Lydia and her party and was now setting them on their way. I said my farewell to Lydia, Celeste, and Terra, including a long night with Pervert equipped. It had gone up another level, and so had Harem Master. I didn’t know what I did to get Harem Master to increase, but it seemed to have been leveling normally. I equipped it just for kicks. I was now at level 3, and it had given me three skills.
The first skill was another Status Bonus that seemed to only affect girls in my harem and also in my party. The second level gave me Harem Boost. I didn’t know what it did, but I presumed it was a status boost as well. It didn’t appear to be an active skill, whatever it was. The third ability was called Harmony, and I could guess what that meant. It helped the girls get along a bit easier. It had to be working, because Astria and Elaya seemed to be getting along better with the others recently. They even agreed to help protect the city while we were gone.
Well, if it was anything major, I could use Return and be home in a second, so I made sure that the mayor knew not to depend on them too much. I had a bit more trust for Astria than I did Elaya. She was still a wild card. I hadn’t made her my slave. She was just a tamed monster. However, a tamed monster was just that, someone who was tamed. Dogs were tamed, but that didn’t mean they didn’t bite their Masters. Monsters couldn’t be controlled fully, where slaves could, at least in this world. Slavery was a removal of freedom, where taming was a form of reliance.
As for Miki, Raissa, Carmine, and Salicia, we would be gone from Chalm for a while. We’d be out in east Aberis, hunting bandits and forging alliances. Then, when Carmine needed to do her gladiatorial fights, we’d get involved in those as well. With Portal, it was rather easy to move around, so just like how I slowly descended in the dungeons while sleeping at the mansion every night, things wouldn’t be much different here. We’d progress along the countryside and then return to Alerith every night.
Why was I staying in Alerith? I wanted to give Chalm some time to grow without me. I didn’t want the city to be too reliant. I had a feeling that I would be outgrowing Chalm in time. After sending that Miner’s town to the grave, I realized the importance of having more support. I needed other cities. That’s why my girls were trying to survey the wilderness. If we could reclaim it and build another city, that would be best. With Terra’s increasing skills, a second city, maybe a few forts, would all be possible.
I even had such fanciful dreams as taming a dungeon. It wasn’t a monster, but it might be possible to control it like one of the Great dungeons. Then I could have a city like Dirage that attracts people. Furthermore, I could always pilfer mana for my own dungeon, if needed. I had many plans, but they needed to be fulfilled little by little.
The old me who first came to this place wouldn’t even be able to recognize the current me. I didn’t know at what point I had started having this kind of ambition. I had always been someone who just went with the flow. However, after being in the company of so many people who depended on me, I had started to want to become a man they could depend on. I wanted to grow, and I wanted those around me to grow as well. As a result, it was necessary to part for a time.
I gave them each a final hug and a kiss, and the girls walked off into the wilderness. I marked them on my Map. They might have left, but they’d never be farther than a step from me. I would build a future for all of us.
“I’m a powerful asset, you know. You shouldn’t just leave me behind.” Elaya appeared in my room as I was packing for my journey.
“Elaya?” I couldn’t help but sigh. “What do you want?”
Rather than look upset, Elaya chuckled softly, “You always play so hard to get. Far more interesting than my husband. You remind me a bit of the Harem Hero.”
“You knew him?” The only time I recalled him, he was mentioned briefly by Karr.
She nodded. “Oh yes, he fought in our army. He was a rising hero around the time I… well… stepped out of history.”
So, it was about thirty years ago he was a rising hero. Karr somehow took influence in the Harem Hero around twenty years ago when he was killed under mysterious circumstances. I had thought at one point it was all the church, but it turned out the church in the capitol was rather harmless. Then again, that was only a part of a fractured church that had once been much larger. Presumably, that church had shattered a hundred years ago before the Demon Lord Aberis attacked the former country of Osteria and fractured it into the Ost Republic and Aberis.
“What was he like?”
“Fufu… wondering if I took any interest in him?” Elaya asked slyly.
“Even if you did, he’s dead and you’re mine. Furthermore, you’re not even the same woman anymore.”
“I don’t hate such a Master.” She chuckled. “As for what I thought of him, he was a bit of a party boy. He preferred flirting and leading women on.”
“Oh? So, he was that kind of guy? One that can’t commit?”
She raised an eyebrow. “You know the type? Well, you’re not wrong. The Slave Hero never really loved the women he controlled. The Love Hero was a shallow person who loved all women. The Harem Hero didn’t have the balls to make women his. They were all lacking. Even my ex-husband, the Hero King of Aberis, was a man dragged down by his own prejudices. You are different though. It is why I gave you my allegiance. When I saw you take Astria into your heart, I knew you were destined for greatness.”
“Plus, if you didn’t, I might have had no choice but to kill you.”
Once again, she laughed giddily. “Perhaps you could have… I know that I don’t have a place in your heart yet. That’s something unique about you. You make the women with you want to be better. So, despite my hidden natures, I will become a woman you can be proud of. I will earn your trust one day.”
“I just wish I knew who you are.” I admitted. “With Astria, that was her original form. With the Giantess and the Siren, they are merely monsters I tamed. You, on the other hand, are neither the queen, nor a monster.”
“Aren’t I Queen Elaya? You resurrected me, after all! I’m not a spirit anymore.”
“That’s true…” I responded uncertainly. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Even Karr could be resurrected…”
Actually, it was difficult to say whether the Karr I met in Karr’s dungeon was the true Karr. He was an existence that had been corrupted and twisted by Miasma for twenty years. He was a ghost that was ultimately resurrected into a human. Except, his spirit had been captured by the dungeon shortly after his death. It wasn’t clear if any of Elaya’s spirit existed within this Elaya, or if she was closer to a memory of Elaya. Then again, did it matter? Elaya was Elaya now, and Astria was Astria. Both were women twisted by a dungeon for many years. The only ones I knew who had been spared that fate were Celeste and Terra.
Although, that was a curious thought too. How had Celeste and Terra been spared the damage of the dungeon? Both had been trapped in the dungeon for equal amounts of time and had seemingly come out of it with their mind’s intact. It wasn’t like Celeste and Terra were waging battles or fighting to the death in boss rooms or anything.
“I will let you continue on.” Elaya chuckled. “I just stopped by so I wouldn’t leave your mind. In time, I’ll have your heart…”
She turned around and walked away. At that moment, an intense desire came over me, and I pulled out just a bit of fairy dust and used God’s Eye, examining Elaya’s status in front of my eye. My face turned white. Some things were better off not being known.
As she disappeared out of sight, I shook my head. “What the hell is a Great Lich Queen, anyway?”
I finished packing my supplies and then headed out. I met with Shao, Raissa, Miki, and Ruby, and then the group of us portaled to Alerith. Ruby, in particular, seemed extremely amazed as she stepped through the white portal. The other girls had grown used to it after traveling through it so many times, but I didn’t exactly use it out in public. She had to be aware I had the ability, but it was probably the best thing I was known for after being the Lord of Chalm. Even after passing through, she looked at the thing in wonder until I allowed it to shut.
Salicia and Carmine were thankfully waiting for us, but as expected, Carmine had packed considerably too much. Why did she even own that much stuff? I made her go and repack. While we were waiting, I went over everything with the group one more time. When it came to Deek’s Party, the girls would follow without questions. However, Ruby wasn’t one of my girls, and Raissa was a girl who was used to going in with a plan. It was too dangerous to take on a dungeon without every person knowing their place. Well, you could say that my old Party were so comfortable with each other, that our places were self-evident. Now, with a new group, especially with several women used to working alone, it’d be rockier.
That included Shao. She typically worked and fought alone. Lydia had taken her under her wing, and she was willing to follow Lydia’s lead, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some issues there. This was a bit of a test for everyone. Well, except for Miki. I had already told her what her job was ahead of time. She could affect people’s spirit and mind. That meant that she was a mood setter. She was there to make sure the other four girls worked together properly. She’d keep them calm, focused, and steady. Naturally, I wouldn’t tell them that. If it didn’t work, I could try equipping Harem Master. Although, I didn’t know what the conditions were for being in my Harem. Were Carmine and Salicia considered Harem members? How about even Raissa?
In my mind, there were only seven women whom I was truly close to emotionally. Shao, Miki, Celeste, Lydia, Terra, Astria, and Eliana. Another part of the reason I was making this journey was to get closer to Raissa, Carmine, and Salicia. Elaya probably had picked up on this, which is why she had made her visit earlier as the odd girl out. I had wanted to grow closer to Raissa anyway, especially if I was going to tell her she was pregnant. The girls had begged me to spend more time with Carmine, and Salicia came with Carmine, so that’s how it turned out.
“Salicia, is this going to be okay with you?” I asked.
“What? Oh? About betraying and killing men and women who used to work under me? Sounds fun!”
Salicia put her hands on her hips and let out a laugh. “You can’t be saying you think there should be honor amongst thieves or something? We worked together for mutual gain. I used the bandits because they could help me obtain rapid wealth and power. They used me because I provided safety thanks to my great strength.”
“That definitely is something I’m curious about.”
“Carmine had the support of the church. She became a Paladin with their support. However, how did you become a Bandit King? From a girl who lost everything, even her sister, you managed to become a third tier that ruled southwest Aberis for a time.”
“Isn’t it because I’m really amazing?”
“Forget it, I’m sorry I asked.”
She let out another laugh and then spoke mysteriously. “Perhaps, if our path heads that direction, you may find out about my past, but until then, you’ll just have to admire me from afar.”
“I finished packing.” A muffled voice came from the stairway.
I looked over to see a mass of bags and boxes strapped all around what might have been a body. “I said take what you can carry!”
“I-I’m carrying it all!” Carmine cried.
“You should be able to fight… and see for that matter!”
“Master! You let all the others carry so much stuff in their storage rings, but you haven’t afforded me even one!”
“She’s got a point, you know.” Miki smirked.
“Whose side are you on!”
“They all get storage rings? D-Deek… did I mention how manly you are!”
“Don’t you start flirting now, Ruby!”
This was going to be a long journey.