"Let me guess. It's a Veiled Epiphany, right?" Bea-Bea tried to force her smile on me from but a hand's width away.

"Uh, yeah." I couldn't meet her gaze, so I just studied the teacup held in my lap. I tried to let myself sink into the swaying green liquid as we made our way to the next holy place.

She flopped onto the smaller bed beside me. "That's no fair. You get all the mysterious stuff. Veiled Overpower, now Veiled Epiphany. And from a second God, too!"

Absently, I nodded.

"Wait. Did Ahnasti actually say it was Veiled?"

"No, why?"

"Then you can tell me. It's only Veiled if the God tells you it's Veiled."

"Oh, all right. It doesn't make any sense. He told me to Commune when I was on my own land."

I left out the part where he said when I was on my own defiled land.

"Maybe you're allowed to Commune with him when you're at home? No, that doesn't make any sense. You're Mahsea's Hero."

I dug myself deeper into the lie. "Yeah. I'm already on a quest for her"


"Yeah. I'm helping Jesiham and his group."


"The other group of NPCs."

"Doing what?"

I shrugged. "Setting up camp. Foraging for food. Playing with the children."

She grimaced. "That's a lousy quest. It's almost as if you were being punished. 'Hey, you! Go live like an NPC for a while.' How long is it for?"

"She didn't say. I guess until we've resettled them?"

"Oh, that's right. I forgot to ask Mahsea if taking them in was her quest. How about you?"

I gave a swallow. "No. I was just so overjoyed finding my Patron that I…"

She punched her palm. "Lugnuts. I forgot to ask Ahnasti about them, too."

"They've sworn themselves to you, Bea-Bea. Maybe you're supposed to—"

"No way. My servants won't have anything to do with them. Something about hair color. Speaking of, when will your hair look normal again?"

I ran my hand through my short, mousy-brown hair. Eleni didn't say how long these trickcharms lasted. "I don't know. Probably long enough to finish the Transit?"

"That could be a while. We still have two Goddesses of Peace and Kindness to visit to find out how to get rid of those extras before we even start my itinerary."

That twinged my heart. "I've been spending time with them. They seem like they're good people. Could your estate—"

"Nope. Mella made it clear that none of my servants will work with them. My one command to them will be to stay there once we get to wherever this quest is supposed to put them."

Maybe I should stay with them when that happens?


Neither Garashu nor Chahratae commissioned the side-quest, so Bea-Bea, Bristan and I again met in her wagon. This time, he sat on her bed, saying that he felt wrong sitting on mine because it was so small. However, even though Bea-Bea's was indeed larger, he sat next to her.

Which was what she requested.

"Maybe this wasn't a side-quest after all?" Bea-Bea asked aloud what we all thought.

"Then, we should just leave them here. They're just slowing us down. Doesn't Dreston think so, Sci?"

"Leave him out of it, Bristan." I knew he didn't mind the slower pace, but I also knew Bristan would think of other ways to rid themselves of this second group of NPCs had I said so. "Remember, they're my side-quest, and I got that straight from Mahsea."

"Hey, calm down. I just want Bea-Bea to find her Patron faster, you know. It's not fair that you found yours and they're delaying us from finishing her Transit."

I nodded. "I get that, but it just feels wrong, them pledging themselves to you and then you suddenly kicking them out of the caravan."

Bea-Bea waved a lazy hand, as if fanning away a fly. "They're my NPCs. What's wrong with telling them to mine some random square of land for a bit?"

"Wait, you're planning to have them mine for ore? They're farmers and hunters."

"I'll just repurpose them."

I shook my head. "They'll starve. That's why they've been—"

"I'm not going to dump them in the wild. They're going to be close enough to a town so that—"

"They can't go into town! They're not regular NPCs! That's why they've been farming and fishing and hunting! If you order them to mine, they're gonna starve."

Bristan stood in front of Bea-Bea. "Hey, calm down. They're her NPCs, Sci. She can march them off a cliff if she wants to."

She patted his arm. "It's all right, Bristan. Look, Sci. It's not like I'm gonna make them go lemming. If they farm, the most they can net me is a few silvers. If I make them dig, they can strike gold, or magic crystals. Look, the rest of my servants won't even talk with them, so I can't take them back to my lands. For two weeks, they've been slowing us down, and they've been draining our food."

I knew this tone, this expression. There was no use pointing out that they've been gathering their own food all this time, and even sharing it with the rest of her people.

"I don't know what's gotten into you, Sci. I mean, I knew your father was strange about NPCs and all that, but I figured that was just his thing." Bristan sat down again, this time right next to Bea-Bea.

"He wasn't 'strange about NPCs,' Bristan. He just thought of them as people, people we needed to care about. We're Heroes, remember? We're supposed to look out for NPCs."

Bea-Bea's voice took on that spooky-calm tone, that measured cadence. "We're Heroes, which means we are supposed to support and advance the Kingdom of Isekai. That's why the Goddesses and Gods chose us. The Tankōbons never said anything about looking out for NPCs."

"That you've read."

"No, that's what the Church of Truck-kun's Archbishop told me."

That stunned me to silence. I knew the Benshras were well-off, but I didn't think they…

"Archbishop Junderath? He's been a family friend since he was a Cleric. He was at my Coming Out, remember?"

Remember? No, what I remembered was my parents telling me the Benshras requested I not attend her Coming Out, not after my own disaster. She was the one who didn't remember. My best friend…

Bea-Bea moved over and sat next to me. "Sci? They're just a side-quest."

"Huh?" I was more shocked at her sudden change in tone. She suddenly sounded almost motherly.

"Those other NPCs. They're just a side-quest. You said it yourself, once we settle them somewhere, your escort side-quest is done. I'm also doing this for you, too. The sooner you finish it, the sooner you get your experience points." She placed one arm around my shoulder.

I nodded. It was pointless. Now recovered from my surprise and, honestly, embarrassment at how little social power my family had, even before my father's disappearance, I turned to embrace her.

And realized her eyes were ice-cold.