Side Story: ???
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
My chest heaved up and down as my lungs fought to keep up with my body’s demand for oxygen. Most of the life-sustaining element was routed to my legs in order to allow me to continue pedalling my bike at full speed.
“It would be best for you to accelerate, Yuki, for we are sure to be late for school should you continue at such a leisurely pace,” Lefi spoke in a laid-back tone as she continued to do nothing to help. If anything, the lazy slob was actively making the task at hand more difficult by remaining seated atop the man-powered vehicle’s rear cargo rack.
“Oh, shut up! Whose fault do you think that is in the first place!?”
“Hmph.” She snorted as if to offhandedly dismiss my reproachful flare-up. “I see no reason for you to pin the blame on any other but yourself.”
“Are you serious!? You’re telling me that!? You were the one that overslept and took your sweet ass time eating breakfast! You even refused to budge until you were done, even though you could’ve totally just taken part of it with you! This is literally all your fault!”
The girl, who was clad in a traditional Japanese outfit not unlike the type one would see on a samurai, averted her gaze. She was fully aware of the fact that she was ultimately the reason why I’d been forced into pedalling as hard as I was. There was no way she wasn’t. She had quite literally ignored the many time-related protests I’d voiced while she worked through her breakfast at a snail’s pace.
What angered me most about this situation wasn’t that she had failed to verbally acknowledge that it was her fault, but rather that she relaxed even while I was stuck putting every last bit of effort I had into maintaining my top speed in spite of it being her fault.
“Weren’t you supposed to be one of the Sanctified? How about you do something about this then? Speed up the bike or something.”
“I cannot,” she said. “And I see no reason for you to expect me to possess a power so convenient for the situation at hand.”
“Goddamn useless piece of junk.” I clicked my tongue as I made the remark.
“How dare you!?” She continued on with a variety of phrases, including, “Take that back immediately!” and “I am most certainly not useless!” but I ignored them in favour of focusing on pedalling and pedalling alone.
“Holy shit… I can’t believe… we.. actually made… it…” I barely panted out a sentence as I dragged my way over to my desk and collapsed in my seat.
“Good morning, Yuki,” said the person seated beside me. “It looks like you’re right on time.”
She was a familiar face, one decorated with a head of short, chocolatey brown hair. The tomboy was one that somehow retained an aura of sportiness despite wearing the exact same uniform as everyone else. At her feet lay a wolf with a pretty silver coat. You could tell from the manner in which he carried himself that he was much more intelligent than your everyday canine companion.
“Morning Nell, and you too Rir,” I greeted the pair as soon as I managed to catch my breath. “And yeah, you can blame that on Lefi. She overslept. Again.” I sighed. “That damned familiar of mine is just about everything an early riser isn’t.”
Fluffrir raised his head and greeted me with a bit of a nod. See what I mean? He’s smart AND adorable. Meanwhile, Lefi’s basically just a hunk of garbage. If only we could trade…
“Is she in the library again?” said Nell, after stifling a giggle.
“Yup. She started complaining about class being boring and whatnot, so she went off to do whatever,” I grumbled. “Why the hell is she able to be off doing whatever the hell she wants anyway? Isn’t she supposed to be my familiar?”
Familiars were, under normal circumstances, unable to stray too far from their summoners. Lefi’s ability to wander wherever her heart desired was one that defied common sense. Man, I’m jealous. Why the hell is she the only one that gets to skip and do whatever? I want to ditch class and laze around like a degenerate too.
Unfortunately, my desire was one that was off the menu. My homeroom teacher was so keen on ensuring that his students’ remained in line that he developed a tendency to administer punishments that bordered on being demonic. If I were to skip, then he was sure to use “guidance counselling” as an excuse to make me do an inhuman number of laps around the school’s campus. I knew that the experience would leave me mentally crippled and that I’d never want to move again once he was done with me, so I bore with my frustrations for the time being. That wasn’t to say that I wouldn’t get my revenge, or that Lefi wouldn’t suffer. I just needed time. Heh. Just you wait, Lefi. When we get home, I’ll crush you so hard in Smash you’ll start crying.
“It must be nice to have a familiar that can play games with you.” Explaining my revenge plot to Nell prompted her to respond in an envious tone. “I’d love to do that with Rir, but that doesn’t really seem like it’d work.”
The wolf whined, in part to apologize, and in part to ask its master not to request the impossible. Random tangent, but Nell seems to think I’ve got the aura of an older brother even though we’re literally the same age. I don’t really get it, but whatever.
“You sure? Rir seems pretty smart, so I’m sure you could probably teach him to use a joystick by scrunching up his paws.”
“Oh, good idea! I think that might work. Do you mind if we try it when we get home, Rir?”
The wolf whined again, seemingly because he was startled by the suggestion.
As much as I wanted to keep talking, I couldn’t. The conversation was put to a swift end by the morning bell.
“Shit. Looks like the teacher’s here. I’m going to shut up for a bit.”
“Mhm, good idea. He does seem to be keeping a close eye on you, after all.”
Familiars were considered a common sight. They were quite literally all over the place, and one could expect to see them wherever humans made their mark. They were multifaceted in their purposes, and all in all, served as an integral part of both society and the world at large. Those who possessed familiars were known as summoners, and they too had become not only accepted but also relied upon. Even the military found itself dependent on summoners. One of its most elite branches, one specialized in the capture of fugitives, was composed entirely of summoner-familiar pairs.
Though the term familiar often brought to mind the image of a servant. And the otherworldly creatures certainly did find themselves bound to their summoners by contract, they were by no means mere tools. Their contracts were not set in stone. They were free to dissolve their agreements at any point in time and return to The Other Realm, the world from which they came. Termination was not the only choice they had either. Familiars could easily ignore or overturn any undesired orders by making use of their powers, powers known as Hallow Authorities.
Naturally, this was not the norm, but rather the exception, and only had the tendency to occur in the case that the summoner decided to act in a manner that resembled a bona fide piece of shit. Generally speaking, familiars trusted their contractors and would heed their orders or make their own intelligent judgements if necessary. Keyword: intelligent. Familiars were typically considered incredibly wise. Typically.
“So why, exactly, am I stuck with someone like this…?” I sighed as I eyed the girl beside me.
“Curses!” Lefi shouted in a vehement display of frustration as she attempted to manipulate an on-screen character with the controller she had in hand.
I couldn’t see her as a familiar. She lacked all of the necessary wisdom and intelligence that her kind was known to display. Interacting with her felt more like interacting with a spoiled brat than it did some sort of sagacious otherworldly being. And despite being bound to me by contract, she effectively never listened to anything I said.
Speaking of her contract, the terms of it were grounds for suspicion. They stated that she would be given three warm meals a day and a soft, comfortable bed. These terms, while seemingly harmless, were in part a manifestation of her sloth. Lefi had stated that she was considered amongst The Other Realm’s more powerful entities and that she had chosen the terms she had because she wished to grant me even greater power. The reasoning behind that statement was that she felt I had potential because I had apparently proven myself “powerful enough to summon her.”
In truth, however, she had simply been desperate for a way to secure herself an infinite number of free lunches. And breakfasts. And dinners. I was told by the other familiars that, while she certainly was considered a being of great power, she had been kicked out of her old home for being a lazy slob. After this incident, she concocted a plan to secure herself a new source of sustenance and put it into action when I conducted the summoning ritual as a part of the standard school curriculum.
“Annnnd… see ya.”
“C-curse you, Yuki! You are not playing fair! Did I not just declare that you were no longer allowed to spike me off the stage!?”
We were in the middle of a game of Super Smash Sisters. Lefi had attempted to make her way back onto the stage, but I had denied her the opportunity by sinking her like the titanic right as she was about to grab the ledge. The sequence of events had caused her to fly into a fit of rage.
“Say what you want, but that’s literally how the game was meant to be played. Git gud,” I said. “But I mean, we can turn up the handicap settings if you’re really feeling desperate.”
She groaned in frustration and indignance before starting to speak. “There is little reason for you to act with such conceit, for you have only taken one of my lives. Just you wait, Yuki, I shall immediately proceed to drag your face through the mud!”
“Hah!” I scoffed. “You wish! It’ll take you more than a lifetime to get good enough to beat me. Now get over here, I’ll show you why they call me a Zeldia main—and the Dunkmaster!”
I took my eyes off the screen to flash her a grin, which only led to even more frustrated grumbling. But then she almost seemed to realize something. Her frown turned a full 180 degrees as she chanted a few select words under her breath.
“…I seek for all that stands to reason to be cast in shadow.”
“W-what!? The fuck is going on!?” Everything went dark. My vision had been replaced with nothingness.
I could feel the controller vibrating as my character was punished over and over. And I could hear Zeldia scream as she was sent flying out of the arena. But without my ability to see, there was nothing I could do but mash.
“Son of a bitch! Did you just use your fucking Hallow Authority!?”
“Hahahahahah!” She laughed triumphantly. “What is the matter, Yuki? You appear to be struggling with the game’s controls.”
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!” I screamed, infuriated. “You refused to do this shit when I was about to be late for school, but then you decide to use it just because you’re getting your ass beat in a video game!? For fucks sake! Just how petty are you!?”
“I fail to see the point you have attempted to make. This game is competitive. It involves making full use of one’s might to stand atop one’s foe as the victor. My Hallow Authority is merely an extension of my inherent ability!” She mashed her controller’s buttons furiously as she continued to rant. “And now, you are finished! This will be the final blow!”
My vision was restored as suddenly as it was removed. I was finally able to see again. But it was too late. The last I saw of my character was a light pink streak as she flew off the screen and into the abyss. I had started with three stocks when Lefi first threw the concept of fairness out the window, but now, I had none.
“Are you serious!? You literally stole all my lives with that bullshit!? Fine, you know what, if you wanna play like that, we can fucking play like that! I was holding back since I felt bad for you, but if you’re just going to cheat, then the gloves are coming right the hell off!”
“There is no use in acting tough, Yuki.” She laughed slowly, deliberately, before continuing. “But now that I have begun to unleash the full extent of my power, I can no longer know defeat!”
“You wish! If you think that’s power, then I’ll just have to show you what true power looks like!”
With our intentions declared, we selected our characters and moved on to the next round.
Lefi began to chant the moment the game said: “Go.”
But I cut her off before she could finish it. “I’m going to take away a part of your dinner each time you try to use your Hallow Authority.”
The threat, though whispered in a quiet tone, had proven effective. It prompted my familiar to immediately turn towards me with an expression that bordered on horror.
“W-what!? T-that is far from fair, Yuki! You could not possibly be so cruel!”
“Weren’t you the one that just said games are about using everything at your disposal?” I said. “You see, it just so happens that I’m in charge of making your dinner, which means I have a very, very clear weakness to exploit, don’t it?”
She clenched her teeth and glared at me, but my triumphant smile failed to waver, let alone fade.
“So, how about we get back to round two?”
“Mmmnnngh…” I groaned as I slowly opened my eyes. I found myself greeted not by a console and a TV, but rather, an environment I’d grown far more used to over the course of the past few months.
It was the dungeon.
Each of the adults seemed to be doing their own thing, as usual. Lyuu was off playing house with the kids in one corner of the true throne room. Leila was folding the laundry, and Lefi was seated in front of a shogi board. Based on how the pieces were positioned, it seemed as if she was playing a one dragon game.
“Have you finally awoken, Yuki?” She noticed me stir, so she raised her head from its previous position and turned her eyes towards me.
“Yeah… Looks like I must’ve passed out or something.”
I realized, after a bit of blinking, that I had fallen asleep atop the throne. So does that mean that was all just a dream…?
“What is the matter?” asked the dragon. “You appear to be bearing quite the silly expression.”
“Bit of a random thought, but do you think it’s possible you’d ever end up as my familiar?”
“I am not sure exactly what it is you are trying to say, or where any of this is coming from,” she said as she raised an eyebrow in suspicion.
“Yeah, nevermind, don’t worry about it.” I dismissed the idea with a bit of a dry smile.
“…You certainly can be quite the oddball.”
She gave me another confused look, but I shrugged it off as I delved back into my thoughts.
Lefi wasn’t my familiar. Or anything even remotely like it. She, Leficios, was the Supreme Dragon, the legendary almighty being of which this world’s legends were sung. She was, at one point, one of this dungeon’s freeloaders, but she had since then undergone a change in her status. She had become a member of my family in the truest sense. My wife.
But, instinctively, I knew. I knew that, even in some far off parallel world, the relationship she and I shared wouldn’t truly change, that we would continue to fight over the silliest of things as we dicked around and spent our days together, the same way we had in my dream. Though I hadn’t seen them in the dream world, I suspected that the rest of the dungeon’s residents must have inhabited it as well. And that they were also in my immediate vicinity. Chances were, they probably live next door and come over for games and stuff on the weekends. I mean, all that’s just speculation, but my gut’s saying that that’s probably exactly how it would’ve all played out. Man, that parallel universe sure sounds like a fun one.
I caught myself breaking into laughter after a few moments of contemplation. Yeah, that sounds about right. Lefi and I would still be together. Even in another world.
“What is it, Yuki? Why are you regarding me with such interest?”
“Nah, it’s nothing,” I said. “Anyway, looks like you’re playing by yourself? How about I step up to the plate and join you?”
“Very well, let us engage each other in a duel of wits, for today marks the day that I shall finally bring you to tears.”
“Bring me to tears, eh?” I chuckled.
As opposed to dragging my face through the mud like other Lefi, huh?
“Why is it that you are laughing?”
“No reason. Just, you know, doubting that you’d be able to pull it off.”
“How insolent!” she humphed. “I have not put in so much practice for nothing! But very well, let us see which of us arises as the winner. You will regret underestimating me!”
“You literally say that every time,” I sighed in an over-exaggerated manner as I got off the throne and sat down across from her. “But nothing ever changes.”
And then, just like the other me, I spent another day by Lefi’s side.
(APRIL FOOL’S 2020) TL Note: As Cardboard Translations is not an essential service, we will be temporarily shutting down for the duration of the government lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no more updates until the lockdown ends in May. We hope to be back up and running by early June at the latest. Thank you for your understanding. This announcement has also been echoed in chapter 229, which has been uploaded at the same time as this post.