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KENS Chapter 44

Chapter 44 Fighting Tournament (3)

I wonder if I am the only one feels good to see food slowly decrease from the numerous dishes arranged on the table. l looked at Mururu eating the Udon with a fork having left the difficult to use chopsticks aside. After a while, Mururu, who had been focused at her food only, realized my gaze and looked at me.

“……..What?”(mururu)

“Nothing, I was just thinking that you really can eat a lot.”(renji)

“It’s tasty.”

“Well, I’m glad. It was made by my friend so hearing that makes me happy as well.”

“I see.”

She gave a wide smile at that confusing me a bit. But, it’d be weird to think of such things and not eat, so I also moved my chopsticks towards my dish. My order had been Soba. Solnea had ordered the same dish as well, and was currently trying her best to use the chopsticks and eat it. If it’s that difficult, you could just use a fork like Mururu, you know?  Well, I did actually tell her to use a fork but for some reason she seemed adamant to use the chopsticks only. I don’t why she became so obsessed with that but if she herself wants it that way, I think it’s fine. It’s a bit frustrating to watch though. The noodles will start to stretch so I hope she doesn’t take too long.

Ms Francesca and Feirona didn’t seem to be much of the adventurous type in trying food as they still ordered a spaghetti type dish already common in this world. They were both, of course, using forks and eating as gracefully as possible. Seriously, these two look good no matter what they’re doing. Solnea was…….well, seeing a beauty have trouble with eating food might have its own charm for being a bit surprising I guess?

Other than that, there were also deep fried and vegetable based dishes on the table as well. The first of them was, Sashimi? Fish type dishes were rare in this world, probably not more than river fishes being fried and eaten is all I can think of. The sea was the territory of monsters, so jobs like fishermen didn’t even exist. Even in the Commercial Sciences City which is located at a coast, saltwater fishes are very rarely sold. They’re not non-existent but the number and variety was simply too low. Thus, dishes based on fishes were sparse. In fact, there might be people inland that aren’t even aware that even seas and the ocean have fishes of their own. And, to such people, a dish where you have to eat a fish basically raw is probably not their idea of ‘fresh’. And true, only I, who ordered it, was eating the dish.

“But still, who would have thought that cuisine from another world would be so tasty.”(elf)

“The Sashimi is pretty as well, you know?”

“……..Is that supposed to be eaten raw?”

“Well, yeah. If we had wasabi to go with it, it would have been perfect though.”

“I don’t really get it but if you say so, whatever.”

Looks like he really has no intention of trying it. For Feirona who lived in the forest, marine eatables like this in itself would be rare. He didn’t even try out the fried ones made of minced fish meat either.

While giving a wry smile as I extended my chopsticks towards the sahsimi, Ms Francesca and SOlnea also extended theirs towards it.

“Oh.”

“What is it?”

“No, nothing.”

These two didn’t seem to show much disapproval towards the Sashimi. Maybe they’re just trying it out since I was eating it. Ms Francesca used her fork to cut it and Solnea clumsily, while shaking, used her chopstick to put some on her small plate.

“Where I lived, Sashimi is considered a high-class item you know?”(renji)

“Really?”(fran)

“Because eaten raw after all. Since the degree of freshness mattered greatly, various troublesome methods had to be used to keep it fresh apparently.”

“Various methods?”(fran)

“Yup, various methods.”

Saying that, I quickly took a bite to cut the topic. I know I was the one started the topic but I am completely unaware of everything else about it myself. And also, it’d be difficult for them to understand even if I talked about my world. I’d rather not confuse them too much. That was a failure at starting a conversation. And, to be honest, for a high class item, I could quite easily get it even with my poor lifestyle.

Since Solnea had not been told of my circumstances as of yet, I felt that it’d be troublesome to speak of that in front of her. But even that won’t last for that long. It’s not like I’m going to have to take care of her forever either.

“But still, you sure performed great Miss Francesca.”(renji)

“Yes?”

“The prelims. To be honest, I didn’t think you would be able to fight that well.”

“………he even said that you’d lose, at first.”(mururu)

Please shut up, Mururu.

And sure enough, Ms Francesca’s expression completely froze. I cleared my throat and took a sip from my tea.

“Congratulations. It could be that we’d end up fighting each other in the main tournament as well.”(renji)

“Eh?”

“No, well, I’m also taking part in the main battle so there’s a chance right?”

“Uu, ah……really?”

“Well, kind of.”

“You’re such a bully, you know?”(elf)

I simply shrugged my shoulders at Feirona’s words. My opponent has been decided as Souichi already though. But I’m the only one who knows that. So I’m allowed to tease her a little, right? Maybe I’m just a bit sad that she grew up so much without me knowing.

And by the way, I truly am happy for her victory. As someone who knew what Ms Francesca was like back then, I’m really happy to see so much growth in her in the matter of few months.

“Even though when we first met, you were about to get killed by a few goblins..”(renji)

“You still remember that……”

“I doubt I could forget that.”

As I laughed saying that, she hung her head in embarrassment. That gesture of hers alone hasn’t changed at all since we first met.

Trying to subjugate goblins even though she had no experience, got close to dying and then wailing and crying afterwards. And that girl was now able enough to take part in the main rounds of the tournament. I don’t know how far she’d be able to get but I hope she gives her most satisfactory performance.

“How was she back then?” (mururu)

“Well even though I say it like that, it was not that long ago. I know her since after I saved her from goblins that had attacked her.”(renji)

“Oh.”(elf)

“That was really dangerous, if I had not saved her in time, she really would have died right there.”(renji)

“Yes……..for that time, once again, thank you very much. If Renji-sama had not saved me who knows what would have happened……”(fran)

“No, you don’t have to so seriously thank me again now, you know…”

“No, if not for Renji-sama I would have never even fulfilled my dream of appearing the Fighting tournament’s main round.”

I was just joking around when I spoke of that time you know? But it seems the fear she felt back then is still strongly rooted in Ms Francesca. Well, it’s thanks to that she is able to give her best now without being reckless and putting herself in danger now though. Even after becoming able to fight monsters near the capital and even after entering the main round of the fighting tournament, she has not gotten conceited yet. You could say that she’s maturing in a very good way.

“Also, you should be thanking Feirona for helping you win rather than me.”(renji)

It feels weird to say this myself but, I did absolutely nothing that would have helped her win to be honest. At most, the only thing I’ve ever taught her is to use that pitfall magic back when we were facing those orcs. And a bit of common knowledge about being an adventurer and basic monsters, that’s all.

I never even taught her how to swing a sword, let alone how to fight. That’s why I think that saying something like ‘if not for me’ doesn’t suit the situation.

“Both me and Mururu as well, only taught her how to always be cautious during battle. As for her sword use, she learnt simply by watching.”(elf)

“Sword………you mean me?(renji)

“Umm, yes.”(fran)

Feirona uses his bow more than his sword, and Mururu uses her own body as a weapon. Thus, if Ms Francesca had learned sword fighting by just watching, it’d have to be me. Now I feel a bit embarrassed.

But still…..I recalled Ms Francesca’s fight in the colloseum. How should I say this, I actually have zero confidence that I’d be able to fight with as much splendour as she was. Even during her sword fight, she was able to use magic even during close combat. Though there was still roughness in her form, she still fought looking like a pretty good adventurer. With her appearance, I’m guessing she’d get really popular one day. As someone who’s supposedly her model for sword fighting, I feel a bit sad or rather, pathetic instead.

I was, in fact, taught by O’brien-san as well but I don’t use his sword style at all. His is an incredible one hit sure kill attack type whereas mine involves dealing fast, multiple weak attacks to deal damage. And Ms Francesca was an incredible sword that combined both sword skill and magic. None of us actually resemble each other’s style at all.

“Did her style actually resemble mine?”(renji)

“Not at all.”(mururu)

To make sure I asked Mururu and she gave an instant reply. I agree as well.

“That’s what I thought as well. My sword is—–“(renji)

“Renji’s sword is far more skilful.”(mururu)

—Not that splendorous. Before I could say that, Mururu cut my words.

“It’s as Mururu-chan says……”(fran)

“You do get a passing mark in my opinion. What do you think, O great master?”(elf)

“Who the hell are you calling aster? I don’t remember teaching the sword to anyone.”(renji)

“……Uuu.”

As Ms Francesca gave a groan, Mururu glared at me. You both sure are on good terms.While feeling a bit envious, I thought about how to answer that.

Or rather, I felt that she was already pretty amazing. At least, compared to my own sword skill in the first three months of learning, I didn’t even know what a sword stance truly was, I just swung the sword around in desperation. And no matter how much I learnt to swing it, in an actual battle, I could barely put it to use. As someone who knows that, I can tell how much effort Ms Francesca must have put in her training. What passing mark, I can only think of complimenting her greatly.

“In the first place, I don’t feel that my sword is that skilful.”(renji)

“Really?”

“My sword is still very clumsy and awkward. I just learnt it by desperately swinging the sword while fighting much stronger monsters. Though I have been taught the basics, it was only for one month.”

Other than that, there were goblins, orcs, lizardmen, zombies, hawkmen, vampires and other humanoid enemies and also treants, Garm, golems, chimaeras, dragons and other much crazy existences. And after fighting those, trying to keep myself alive, I kept on swinging my sword and finally turned into what I am right now. It can’t be called skilful, it’s still very clumsy. At least, I think so.

But apparently my comrades consider it to be skilled. Certainly, I have cut through countless enemies of various types with it but still, it feels a bit embarrassing to be told that.

[fufufu.]

“I don’t think the word ‘skilled’ suits me much.”

As I said that while scratching my head, Ms Francesca and Mururu looked at me with a blank gaze. Feirona, seeing me troubled at their gazes, simply gave a smile. Only Solnea, looked at me with her usual expressionless face.

[You’re being trusted a lot, eh?]

“Seriously.”

I lacked confidence even in the words I replied to Ermenhilde. True, I experienced an extremely dangerous journey of going and killing the Demon God and lived. I grew more than any adventurer possibly could I think. It’s not a game or manga but fighting stronger people, experience from the journey, they’re all one of my few strengths.

And it was the same as Ms Francesca. She experienced dangers and journeys, normal newbie adventurers would never get to take. A descendant of the Demon God, ambush from a Demon, the encounter in the forest of rotting souls. It was enough experience to completely change someone.

“Well, I’m happy that you watched my sword.”(renji)

“Eh?”(fran)

“Really. You’ve grown so much from the time we met.”

“Mouu, please enough of that!”

Hahahaha. I didn’t want myself to be the only one getting all embarrassed so I decided to involve Ms Francesca as well. Recalling the Ms Francesca back then, and her crying face after almost dying to goblins, my heart felt lighter. Aah, this calms me.

[You’re really such a bully/mean guy.]

Isn’t that normal for me?

As I teased Ms Francesca while eating the Surimi (T/N: minced fish.) , Feirona and Mururu gave small laughs. Probably, they have already noticed my embarrassment as well. Am I that easy to understand?

“So, is the Surimi tasty?”(renji)

“It’s weird. It does get tasty as I continue to bite.”(mururu)

“haha, that’s certainly weird.”

It must be a new texture of food for her, as Mururu made a complex face while eating. When I laughed looking at her face, I got kicked beneath the table. The kick didn’t have any strength to it so it doesn’t hurt at all though.

[What the hell are you guys doing?]

“…….messing around?”(renji)

“What is it?”(mururu)

“It’s nothing.”

As I gave an answer to Erenhilde, Mururu reacted to it so I just gave a vague reply to it. Ms francesca happily looked at us, having this usual kind of conversation. Mururu must have realized that I was talking to Ermenhilde. Recently, her senses about it have gotten even sharper.

And in the end, the atmosphere remained as usual as we talked and laughed, rather than making it feel like an actual victory celebration, as we finished eating. Well, it was mostly Mururu who was eating though. Solnea seemed to be quite the big eater as well but was still no match for Mururu. That said, Solnea still ate many times more than Ms Francesca.

As we paid the bill and left the building, I shivered from the cold air in the empty alley. I should probably go and greet Toudou as well but I’d feel bad making others wait for me so I decided not to. Well, I can meet anytime I want later after all, so it’s fine.

“The main round of the tournament will start soon. Think you can win?”(elf)

“No way. That said, I do intend to actually make an effort this time.”(renji)

“Oh?

“Well, I’m not gonna win with just that though.”

The women had already started walking as me and Feirona walked behind them when he asked me that.

I have zero confidence for winning. I doubt I’d actually win against Souichi. But I am hoping to at least give him a bit of challenge.

If, my opponent in the first round wasn’t Souichi, I wonder how far I could go in the tournament. I wonder how close I could come to winning. I quickly shook my head. There’s no use thinking about that. The world wasn’t easy enough where you could win just by putting a little bit of effort. In the first place, that would be rude to those who genuinely are working hard for the tournament.

“Your face looks better.”(elf)

“It’s the same normal face as I always had though?”(renji)

“Don’t you think so as well?”(elf)

[That’s true. Not bad——it’s the face I like.]

At just that, my heartbeat rose instantly. To Ermenhilde it was just a trivial thing to say but that voice, and those words, it’s not fair.

I don’t think I let it show in my expression but my gaze swam away for a second. The sharp sighted elf walking beside me wasn’t going to miss that. He didn’t say anything but I could see his shoulders very slightly shake from stifled laughter. I gave a sideway glare at him but only got ignored. Goddamnit!

[What happened?]

“Nothing at all.”

[??]

I answered in a rude way but I can’t help it that I got embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to see me like this.

“You’re truly unusual, Renji.”(elf)

“……..in what way?”

Due to that, I replied to Feirona in a somewhat strong voice as well. But without paying any attention to that, Feirona continued.

“You’re not like a hero at all.”(elf)

“Well, I’m not suited to be one after all.”

I gave a standard reply to him.

Hero.

I’m not suited to be one. I know that better than anyone else.

“To you, what is a true Hero like?”(elf)

“Well……..A hero is hope for everyone. They answer to the wishes and prayers of the people. Even in despair they look forward and for the world, for the people, for anyone, for the greater good, they give their best. And above all, you don’t call yourself a hero, you’re named one by others.”

“fumu. That is certainly one form of a hero.”

His reply was very light. He wasn’t disregarding my opinion but wasn’t accepting it either. That’s how it felt.

“Then, in your opinion what’s a hero like?”(renji)

“Someone who is trusted by all, and someone who can accept that trust.”

His straight gaze was so strong that I averted my eyes as if running away.

Trust.

Those were words far too heavy for me. Aya and the others put their trust on me. We travelled together, trusted each other, and thought well of me. Even I know that. And even now they trust me like before. And even though I find it heavy, I still get spoiled by them.

But still. But still I——above those people that came from my own world and were like family to me, I chose Eru above them all. I ended up choosing to protect my promise to her.

.

Even though Eru was no more.

.

“Feirona……”

“You’re making a good face right now, Renji.”

“…………”

I shut my mouth at those words. I wanted to ask, how? But I didn’t.

Even though I chose Eru, I am trying to answer to Aya and everyone else’s feelings.

It’s all so confusing I feel like I’ll go crazy.

“When we first met, I thought of you as a guy with no willpower and someone who hated trouble above all. But right now, you’re looking ahead.”(elf)

“If I don’t, I’ll fall over and injure myself after all.”

I answered to him with light talk but he didn’t seem to get angry.

“That’s right, if you don’t look ahead, you’ll stumble and hurt yourself one day.”(elf)

He simply said that back to me. In a very light and calm voice. It entered directly inside my chest.

Was choosing Eru an ‘injury’?

Was my wish to Astraera a ‘stumble’?

No. It wasn’t. I shouted that inside my heart but couldn’t say it out loud.

Aah, I don’t know anymore.

“I said this in the afternoon as well. To see hard work not bear fruit is an extremely painful thing.”(elf)

“Yeah, you did.”

“Don’t let Francesca’s hard work/perseverance go to waste. It’s fine if you are not a Hero. It’s true that maybe you really aren’t suited to be a hero.”

Looking in front, I saw Miss Francesca and the others standing and waiting for us.

“But right now, you are that girl’s objective/goal. Not the world or anyone else’s, but at least answer her trust in you. I think you can bear at least one, right?”(elf)

This was, just like then——–it’s similar to my choice when I killed the Demon God.

I chose only one.

Not the world, not my comrades, not everyone……..I chose Eru.

It wasn’t a mistake. True, I am still enjoying my life.

“………Well, I…”(renji)

Looking ahead, I saw my current comrades.

I looked beside me, I saw a meddlesome comrade of mine.

I put my hand in my pocket. There was my partner who had now changed from back then.

“I’ll try my best.”(renji)

“And that’s fine.”(elf)

My answer was short, so was his reply.

That much is fine, right? Maybe I tend to overthink things too much. I’m not sure though.

“Say, Feirona.”(renji)

“What?”

“How old are you?”

“By human calculation……around 150 maybe?”

“I see.”

I guess from his point of view, I’m nothing more than a child. Just those words alone made my heart feel lighter.

“Say, Renji.”(elf)

“What?”

“We don’t expect you to act like a hero in front of us, okay?”

“……I see.”

This guy actually might be an Esper as well.

I could only think of something like that to change my mood.

[………….]

Inside my pocket, I gently caressed Ermenhilde. But I received no reply.

 

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