Chapter 2:

From Matsumoto with Love

The Songstress of Avalon

“Yo, Ayato.”

I looked up at the handsome face of Trajan Araya.

His soulful, mahogany eyes exuded nothing but affability at the sight of me, as though he were looking upon an old friend. Well, that was the reality of the situation wasn't it? Trajan and I were old friends, if nothing else.

I mentioned that I could count the number of people capable of fighting me seriously on one hand, and he was certainly on that list. A peerless warrior who once fought 50,000 demons by himself, and the fifth person to join my party, Trajan was one of our side's cornerstones in the battle against the demon lord.

Marissa was also deeply in love with him; everyone knew, of course, except possibly Trajan himself.

“W-what are you doing here?” I asked, when I managed to find my voice.

“For her,” he nodded towards the girl scrambling off of me.

With this human sized burden relieved, I stood up so that I could meet Trajan at eye level. He was no longer restraining the two members of del Fiore’s personal guard, who were standing flatfooted near the entrance to the embassy. Trajan stood just behind them, peering in.

"You work for Lorenzo del Fiore now?" I asked him, my voice peppered with surprise rather than contempt.

"I was del Fiore's man to begin with," he grinned in reply. "Since way before I met you, Ayato."

This was the kind of smart alec answer I'd come to expect from him.

I didn't have any response either, so I turned my attention to their quarry. A human, by the looks of her; and, if it turned out that she was a citizen of the Kingdom of Avispa then there was no way I was going to hand her over to the notoriously sleazy Lorenzo del Fiore.

I faced Trajan again.

"What does the prince want with her?"

"He wants her prosecuted. She slapped him pretty hard, you see."

I whistled softly, as though the magnitude of her actions were lost on me. They certainly seemed to be lost on her, now bowing repeatedly and sheepishly apologising for running into me. If she had any sense, then she'd know that it wasn't me she should be saying sorry to.

Although Amalfi valued the rule of law, the scales of justice had a habit of tipping one way or the other whenever the prince-electors happened to be involved. No, I knew that 'prosecute' in this instance meant already guilty and, if she was an Avispan citizen, then this was an unprecedented diplomatic crisis.

“The embassy will review the situation and get back to you,” I said, assuming the formal voice of an emissary. Behind me, an airy, feminine snickering could be heard, and I shot the culprit a quick, but menacing look.

Damn it, Marissa! I’m trying to be serious here!

“Oh? That’s a bit disappointing,” Trajan said.

“Let’s just go in and grab her, boss!” one of the grunts urged.

The other one slapped his comrade across the head.

“Don’t be an idiot, Marco,” he admonished. “A country’s embassy building is like a little piece of that country on foreign soil. If we just go in without permission it’d be an even bigger incident than that woman slapping the prince…”

The laws concerning the operation of embassies in this world was complex; at the very least it was no less complex than the laws back home regarding the same matter. Having said that, the grunt’s abbreviated explanation was more or less adequate.

Basically, Trajan and his subordinates couldn’t just come in here.

“Well, we’ll just get out of your hair then,” Trajan turned around to leave.

“Wait!” it was Marissa who shouted. “You’re going to go? Just like that?”

Trajan turned again, his eyebrows raised. “You were here too, Marissa? It’s almost like a small reunion, eh?” and with that, while flashing his trademark grin, ambled off with his two subordinates.

Her lower lip twitched, and it seemed to me that she was tempted to call Trajan back. He was soon out of earshot though, and besides, our esteemed healer was never one for making a scene.

“Did you know he was back working for del Fiore?” I asked her.

“No, because he never tells me anything,” she replied, directing her gaze towards the intruder, or perhaps the word ‘guest’ would be more appropriate?

“Who are you?”

“Iwasaki Arisa.”

You were about as likely to meet an Iwasaki in Avalon as you were to meet a wizard named Agron Potionsbane in the plains of my mother's native Gifu Prefecture. Essentially, it was probable that this girl standing in front of me, rubbing her bruised arms, was the only one in this word who had that name.

But I knew quite a few people with the same name.

Memories of my junior high school music teacher, Iwasaki Kosei, and the Iwasaki family who ran a bakery in the neighbourhood drifted through my mind. Others too – the dowdy Kodera Arisa, who liked drawing more than schoolwork, and the perpetually sick Akiyama Arisa whom you might see once in a blue moon.

I grasped the stranger by the hand.

“Where are you from?”

“E-eh? W-what?” her face flushed.

“Where are you from?” I repeated. “I’ll believe you no matter what you say, so please tell me the truth.”

I remember the confused looks people used to give when I told them of my origins; you hear “what’s Japan?”, “Wa-Waaa-Wakaba?” or just a blank "where?" enough times, and you’d stop telling people where you were from too.


“Nagano Prefecture?”

A nod.

Then just like me, this girl wasn’t from this world. But how did she end up here? As far as I was aware, the Hero Ritual was the only one way to open the gateway between this world and my – well, our – world. I decided to be on the level with her.

“I’m from Wakaba City,” I said.

“Where?” her response was like a mallet whacking me over the head, an arrow dipped in poison striking me through the chest.

“It’s in Hyōgo Prefecture…”

“Hyōgo!” she clapped her hands together as though realising something important. “You’re from Japan too?”

“Yeah, that’s what I was trying to get at...”

Arisa leaned in closer and whispered: “What country are we in?”

“The Kingdom of Amalfi,” I replied, mimicking the way she used her hands to hide her mouth when she spoke, as if we were trading secrets.

“Is that in Italy?”

“It does seem a little bit like Italy, doesn’t it? But no, we’re not even on Earth anymore, Urashima.”

“Who’s Urashima?”

“What, you don’t get it?”

“What’s there to get?”

"Like Urashima Taro. Our situations are very similar..."

Arisa and I had huddled into our own inner circle and were exchanging words out of earshot; this might have gone on for much longer if we had been alone but Marissa, who seemed unsociable but in reality actually hated being left out, showed her displeasure by hitting me in the back of the head.

“The hell do you think you’re doing?!” I cried out, exasperated.

“Hmm?” Marissa blew on her fist, and then hummed innocently. “What are you talking about?”

“You hit me.”

“Are you sure you’re not just imagining things, ambassador?”

“Like hell I am!” I pointed at my throbbing head. “Don’t you know how to hold back?”

Although she was of a slight build, and a healer to boot, her strength was still far greater than that of an average person. I was convinced that by this time tomorrow I would be nursing a bump on my head the size of an egg.

But then again, this kind of banter was the norm for us. Of course, the comically relaxed Trajan was also often on the receiving end of Marissa’s fits of violence.

Arisa began to laugh.

“What are you laughing at? Are you some sort of sadist?”

“Oh no, not at all,” she waved her hand in front of her face, still stifling her laughter. “I was just thinking about how much you two get along.”

“Who's getting along? Anyone could see I’m being victimized,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“But aren’t you having fun?” Arisa countered, just as matter-of-factly.

“Fun?” I tilted my head and scrutinised my healer-turned-secretary.

Have I been spending too much time with this woman? Had it turned me into some kind of masochist? After all, there were only three of us working here at the embassy.

“I feel like you’re thinking something incredibly rude," Marissa muttered.

“Anyway!” I cleared my throat suddenly, and once again assumed the mien of a dignified diplomat. “But it seems like my secretary is not the only one prone to bouts of violence. What’s this about assaulting a prince?”

“Tch,” Arisa turned away, her expression suddenly sour. “He had it coming.”

“I don't doubt it, but we still have to handle this diplomatically. I think I'll have a talk with him.”

“Before that, if you could show me some documentation...” Marissa began to speak.

“Forget about all that,” I interrupted; I wasn't a fan of red tape to begin but also, if Arisa actually managed to produce something that showed she was a Japanese citizen then that could only serve to make the situation all the more confusing. It was much better for me to see Prince Lorenzo del Fiore in person.

Besides, I had been wanting to meet him for a while.