“Anyway, we have to find the culprit of this incident and deal with them.”
Lapis went deeper into the forest with Loren accompanying her.
She actually also wanted to bring Klaus along to increase fighting power, as he was still able to behave normally under this circumstance. But if she did, the three girls who were affected by this phenomenon would become a problem. Of course, they couldn’t leave them and carrying three unconscious people would seriously affect their mobility. If something were to happen, it would become troublesome. As a last resort, Lapis had ordered Klaus to watch over the girls and gone into the forest with Loren, or rather Shayna.
As Loren’s physical strength and stamina were pretty much retained, Shayna was able to move fast enough to keep up with Lapis, who was leading the way.
“Onee-san, I’m sorry but-“
“Would you stop with that ‘onee-san’?”
Interrupting Shayna’s attempt to talk to her, Lapis stopped and turned around. The expression on her face somehow looked like both anger and perplexity.
“Onee-san, I can’t call you that?”
“Ah no, it’s alright if Shayna-chan calls me that, but your appearance is now Loren-san’s, isn’t it? To be called ‘onee-san’ by a well-trained swordsman bigger than me is in no way comfortable…”
The tone of her voice had returned to normal. Lapis told Shayna in an embarrassing voice, as she didn’t seem to notice it.
“But onee-san, I can’t speak like onii-san.”
“I won’t tell you to imitate him, but… Can you manage somehow?”
Not sure if it was discouraging or motivation-dampening but to Lapis, Shayna’s way of speaking was a more serious problem than the strange phenomenon happening in the forest right now. Unless she managed to do something about it, she didn’t think she would be able to muster up the energy to face the culprit of all this.
“Please do. It directly affects my spirit.”
“So, uhm, Lapis-sa…san? There’s something I think we have to do before we deal with the culprit.”
Even though she still stuttered, Shayna seemed to have really considered her words. Lapis could accept it more or less, and prompted her to continue.
To be honest, Lapis didn’t really enjoy being called ‘san’ by something with Loren’s face, but when she thought about it, she didn’t really want Shayna to address her without any honorifics either, so she couldn’t say anything.
“The villages and soldiers, if we don’t find them first then with their number, they will be a hindrance later when we face the culprit, won’t they?”
“I don’t think so.”
Lapis immediately rejected Shayna’s suggestion. It was so decisive and immediate that Shayna tilted her head and wondered if there was any reason behind. Lapis explained to her:
“This strange phenomenon doesn’t seem to be caused by people being manipulated. I think we won’t be able to make the villagers and soldiers move at will under the current circumstances.”
“This is like a hive mind behavior. So they’re not being controlled?”
Shayna examined the current happening in her own way. After all, this was something that could easily incapacitate her host Loren. For her own safety as well as for her host to be able to return, she had to figure out what exactly had attacked the villagers and soldiers by affecting their minds. She was wondering if those affected were being controlled, but Lapis seemed to disagree.
“This is not a systematic mind control, I think.”
Lapis had started walking again; she told Shayna, who was walking behind her, in a preaching tone.
“When controlling others, if the ones under control are not in a stable state by themselves, it’ll become a laughable situation even if the control is good.”
It was impossible to control someone who was acting wildly. If one could be controlled, they wouldn’t act wildly, and it would be strange if they didn’t move in some sort of order. From Lapis’ point of view, Loren had seemed to be trying to endure something out of control before switching with Shayna; it was difficult to imagine controlling him in such a state.
“So it’s some factor that makes everyone act wildly?”
“That information doesn’t remain inside Loren-san, does it?”
Lapis tried asking with some anticipation, and Shayna shook her head.
“I rarely synchronize with onii-san’s senses. I could feel that onii-san was very flustered before we switched, but I don’t know anything about his state of mind.”
“I see. I’ve anticipated this… It’s just like my guess.”
“So you guessed it.”
Hearing that, Lapis puffed up with just a tiny bit of pride. Loren would have said something about this, but unfortunately it was Shayna in Loren’s body now, and Shayna just intently waited for her next words. After keeping her proud expression for a while, Lapis just gave up and quietly sighed.
“This is so difficult…”
“Eh? Eh? Did I make a wrong reaction just now?”
“If I make such an expression, Loren-san would interrupt and say something like ‘I know’, or ‘don’t do useless things’.”
“I’m sorry, Lapis-sa…san… I-I will try harder.”
Shayna clenched her fists in a motivational pose; but as it was Loren’s body, it looked somehow eerie.
“Well, it’s alright. Talking about guessing, judging from the girls’ reaction, I guess this is something related to libido getting out of control.”
“Think of it like a man pushing a pretty woman down and keeping at it all night, or a woman being pushed down by a handsome man and pushed back, and they grappled with each other in a mess.”
Lapis just wanted to give a super simple explanation to Shayna, who looked like she didn’t really understand. But the question Shayna threw back at her made her face froze:
“Lapis-sa…san also wants to do that?”
“This is not the time to talk about what someone wants to do or not.”
Lapis couldn’t answer that frank and pure question, so she changed the subject. She was furious at herself for being unable to answer it immediately and decently, but her cheeks also became hot due to the feeling of being made fun of by that question of Shayna, who was certainly younger than her in age, not to mention in race.
“W-well, this somehow seems to be more about lust than libido. And with the idleness and gluttony, I can kind of guess the culprit of this incident.”
“Lapis-san, are you alright? Your face is a bit red.”
“A-Anyway! I don’t expect the villagers and soldiers to be manipulated to attack us, so let’s leave this for now.”
With that decisive declaration and a glare from Lapis, Shayna lost the will to delve deeper into that subject and just nodded.
“So, let’s make finding the culprit our top priority.”
“Haa… But Lapis-san, this is so difficult to say…”
“What is it? Even if it’s difficult to say, it might be something important. Please just speak clearly!”
As Lapis said it would be a problem if she didn’t tell her something because it was difficult to, Shayna pointed to the trees and said:
“I think we’re surrounded.”
“Eh? You don’t say…”
Lapis looked around in panic. She had thought that she didn’t see or hear anyone, but now she realized for the first time that the gaps between the trees were full of human figures who looked to have completely lost their senses. They were surrounding her and Shayna.
“I, of all people…”
“Sis… no, Lapis-san, please hold on! Everyone makes mistakes once or twice.”
“That tone, with that face makes me feel so exhausted… No, it’s alright now. Let’s vent my anger on them.”
Lapis said, half desperate, and raised her left hand.
Thinking that it was becoming more an annihilation before going forward rather than a retreat, Shayna reached for the greatsword on her back and lifted it up. Regardless of who was inside the body, Loren’s well-trained arm easily raised the sword; even though she knew nothing about the techniques, Shayna thought she would be able to at least swing the sword around to defend herself against anyone coming near.
“Until onii-san comes back, I won’t let anyone touch Lapis-san, even just a finger!”
With a slashing sound, Shayna unsheathed the sword in one take. She was in a ready-to-fight stance when she saw the figures coming out from the trees and involuntarily gulped. Lapis was also in a fighting stance with fists clenched, and she could also sense her gulping.
Human figures were coming out from the trees’ shadows. There were only twenty of them, but the problem was how they dressed.
Lapis couldn’t continue after the interrogative word.
That was not unreasonable: Of all things, the ones who came out were all men and looked to be a mixed group of soldiers and villagers based on their attire, and while there were no problems about their upper bodies, they didn’t wear even just a single piece of clothes on their lower bodies. In short, the things that shouldn’t be seen were swinging and danging in plain sight.
Even Lapis was at a loss for words due to the surprise of it, and Shayna switched to holding the greatsword with one hand while covering her eyes with the other.
“Lapis-san?! What on earth is happening?!”
“Even if you ask me… As they’re under the influence of lust, maybe to be able to go at it right away? Or maybe they come here right after doing it and don’t have time to put anything on?”
“Wha-wha-wha-what should we do?! I can’t fight while looking at those things!”
Aside from being very young, Shayna had originally come from a good family; asking her to fight while seeing men’s bare lower bodies was impossible.
As for Lapis, her mind had already been not-calm due to the thing with Loren; now that she was suddenly presented with such a sight, she had absolutely no confidence that she could keep her composure.
“Let’s draw back! Let’s go refresh our mind and body somewhere.”
“Roger. We’ll do a strategic withdrawal!”
It was more running away than withdrawing, but once a plan had been made, Lapis was quick to execute it. She immediately used <<Force>> to clear a corner, then grabbed Shayna’s hand and ran off through that opening.