Chapter 51 Sword and Sword (1)
It was still early for the sun to set but maybe because the clouds were thicker than even yesterday, it felt like it was getting dark earlier than usual.
As I continued to stare at the sky, the golden haired woman who was drawing water from the nearby river, looked at me with a fed up gaze. In both her hands were wooden buckets filled to the brim with water.
“Renji-san, thinking about something?”
Another girl, with semi-long black hair came to me to talk as well. It must be imagination that I felt some worry mixed in her voice.
Since I was just dazing around, she might just have found it strange though.
“aah, no……….seems like the weather is going to get worse, that’s all.”
When I said that, the woman looked at the sky as if she realized that just now. The black haired girl as well, turned to look at the sky after her.
The wind grew stronger and I felt chilly. The winter, as per the calendar, was still a bit far away but it was already fall/autumn here.
Both me and the girl were wearing thick clothes but the blonde woman was lightly dressed in clothes that looked like the ones you wear to balls/dance parties. But even so, her expression showed no change and it didn’t look like she felt cold at all.
Apparently, she uses magic to neutralise both hotness and cold or something like that. I don’t really understand well but, sounds pretty convenient.
“Rainy nights get really humid, I don’t like it at all.”(girl)
“I’m pretty sure it’s like that for everyone.”
The bonfire goes out due to the rain, sometimes rainwater even seems inside the tent as well. In summers, it gets humid and in winters, it gets cold enough that you could freeze to death. And above all, the rain hides the sound of footsteps of monsters and beats and removes their tracks so it gets really troublesome. In a sense, to adventurers, rain was their natural enemy.
“Do you hate rain?”
Looking at me as I thought of such things, the blonde woman asked me that.
Seeing her clear jade coloured eyes and beautiful looks, and her defenceless expression that no one would even think of being suspicious of, I gave a sigh.
But when I did, getting worried of why I sighed, she only brought her face even closer.
The only reason that my gaze always goes towards her soft-looking lips must be because we have been travelling for a long time now.
When I muttered that, the blonde woman’s eyes slightly narrowed.
“It’s not something you should worry about after all this time, is it?”
Being told that with an almost tired sounding voice, somehow I was the one who felt bad suddenly.
If I had to say, it’s this woman’s fault for having such a defenceless expression, right?
“So, what were you thinking about?”(woman)
Behind the blonde woman, the black haired girl puffed her cheeks……..well she didn’t look as cute as it sounds as she sent a sharp glare towards me. She’s like a bed of thorns, seriously.
“Nothing, was just thinking about how rain makes it feel so gloomy. Not to mention, all the troubles we have to go through for setting the camp. What about you, Aya?”
“………I, as well, don’t like it much.”
While taking one of the water buckets from the woman, I looked towards the girl.
Was she not expecting me to turn the conversation towards her; she seemed to get stuck for words a bit and replied somewhat timidly.
Did she find the girl’s reaction to be suspicious? As the blonde woman’s attention shifted from me towards the girl.
Thank god for that. While thinking that, I started to walk as the wind blew once again.
The girl’s black hair, as she walked along with the blonde woman, swayed in the air. It’s been about one year since we have come to this world.
Compared to when we had come here, the girl’s hair seem to have grown quite a lot. Her hair, still a bit short to need tying up, along with her looks increasingly emphasized her growing from a girl but not yet a full woman.
“What is it?”
I must have been in a daze again when that woman-like yet man-like voice resounded in my head.
Looking towards her, surprisingly, she was looking at me as well. The girl beside her was blushing slightly.
“umm, did something happen?”(aya)
“You were staring at Aya, what’s wrong?”
Apparently, I had been unknowingly staring directly at the girl.
No, I shook my head.
“Just thinking that your hair really has grown quite a bit, that’s all.”(renji)
When I said that, the girl held her own hair and brought it in front of her own eyes to see. Thinking how cute she looked as she did that, I once again fixed my grip on the water bucket.
“Do you prefer smaller…….”(aya)
Unable to hear the last bit, I asked her to repeat but she simply continued to look down. But just when I decided to walk back to the campsite……..
“Renji, do you prefer women with shorter hair?”
The blonde woman spoke that, helping the girl.
I see, so that’s what she had asked.
“Well, let’s see, I can’t really say.”
When I gave a shrug, the black haired girl moved around her gaze trying to hide her embarrassment. Was it really that embarrassing to say?
I thought that but I guess, women and men both must find different things to be important.
But still, the blonde woman, who is supposedly the same gender as the girl, seemed to be confused seeing the girl’s reaction.
“I don’t really understand. Is the length of your hair supposed to be something important?”
Saying that she held her own hair.
Though her hair is mostly tied behind her back so you can’t really tell its full length but the hair on the side of her head weren’t tied and going by that, it should be very long.
“So, what is it?”(eru)
“Hair. Do you prefer short hair?”
“You’re really talkative today aren’t you?”
Even though normally she wouldn’t even pay attention to things like these.
Was the length of hair really that important to her now?
“Renji, I am your possession. There is a need to look the way you find the most pleasing.”
“No, there no such need.”
I instantly rejected her words.
I really did not like how this woman would prioritize me over herself. You should learn to treat yourself more preciously.
Well, even like this, this is much better than how she was back when we met. But still, I really hope she learns to give preference to her own opinions rather than mine. Well, we’ll change it slowly and steadily as we travel, I guess.
While I was thinking of that, the black haired girl who had not taken part in the conversation continued to stare at me.
“What is it?”(renji)
And after a while, she gave a pout and averted her gaze. Maybe I worsened her mood by talking only to the blonde woman. Even though she looks more like an adult, as expected her thinking is still, suitable to her age, like that of a child’s.
“So, Renji, what do you prefer, long hair or short hair?”
“I like both. Basically, it depends on the whether it suits the person or not.”
If I had to choose, I do prefer long hair. But it was a bit embarrassing to say it out loud.
When I said that while pretending that I didn’t care much about it, the woman put her finger to her lips. Whenever she is thinking of something, this woman has a habit of doing that.
And, the black haired girl, I don’t know what she was thinking, continued to give small glances towards me. Aah, even understanding what she wanted to say seemed a bit troublesome in such a situation.
“Then, Renji, does my hair suit me?”(eru)
I’m sure she didn’t think much on it. The moment she came to this conclusion, she spoke up. I’m sure that’s all it was.
But still, it feels a bit wrong to speak like that while covering what the girl was about to say. Though the girl’s expression as she panicked having become unable to say anything seemed cute as well, she also looked a bit pitiful.
But oh well, I couldn’t really help her here and could only give a wry smile for now.
“I think it suits you.”(renji)
See, I told you.
She didn’t think any further than that. There was no change in her even after I said that. She simply continued to twirl and play with her hair, that’s all. Since she started walking away as well, I couldn’t see her expression either.
“C’mon, let’s go back as well.”(renji)
The girl kept a slightly discontent yet wanting to say something-like expression and stood there for a while.
But the girl as well, quickly matched pace with the woman and started walking. As usual, I ended up having to follow them, walking slightly behind those two as always. I wonder why I felt a bit lonely at that.
After walking a bit, the wind blew again.
Aah, it’s really cold, seriously.
Thinking back now, this might be the first time she asked something related to herself, something unrelated to her mission, I think.
[What happened, Renji?]
Somehow, I felt neither sleepy nor tired.
In fact, after quite a while, I felt well awake and conscious even though I just woke up.
……….Enough to even recall the dream I just saw.
“No, just, saw a dream, that’s all.”
Unable to even speak of what I saw, I shook my head.
Getting up from the bed, I looked towards the window. It must be clear weather outside as the sunlight seemed to pass through even the curtains. It felt quite warm even though it was winter. Today, we’ll have a pretty good weather as well it seems.
It seems like I continued to be in a slight daze like that, as Ermenhilde asked that in a worried voice.
“Yeah. I think I just didn’t get enough sleep maybe.”
[Seriously. Did you drink too much last night? How pathetic………]
“Don’t say that. Drinking is one of my only few enjoyments in life, you know?”
[I’m saying don’t drink too much. I’m not telling you to not drink at all.]
So harsh, seriously.
While listening to Ermenhilde, I ended up giving a wry smile. I didn’t really intend to drink too much but I’m sure anyone else would have said the same thing.
Just then, my door was knocked. When I rose up from my bed and gave an answer, the door was opened and Aya peeked in from behind the door and, confirming that I was awake, came in. Unlike inside my dream, her long hair had been tied to the side and her face looked more mature than that time as well. Comparing the Aya back then to the one now, I became unable to say anything. I felt that it’d be rude.
Without realizing what I was thinking, Aya came to me with a bright expression. Behind her, Souichi and Yayoi-chan also came. It looks like the childhood friends trio was having fun together today as usual.
Aya and yayoi-chan won’t be taking part in the individual battles so they were in their school academy uniforms. But Souichi was in his travelling/fighting clothes that I was used to seeing.
Wearing thick and solid looking clothes, he had a undecorated sword on his waist.
“We heard your voice inside so thought of inviting you for breakfast.”
Was it time for breakfast already?
Thinking that, I was about to get up but realized that I was still in my pajamas.
“Sorry, I just woke up.”(renji)
“As usual, you’re weak in the mornings when you sleep on beds, eh?”
“For some reason, yeah. Even though I’d be fine not even sleeping at all when we’re outside camping.”(renji)
Especially the beds in the castle are so soft that its actually troublesome. Maybe because the maids dry them everyday, they always smell nice as well.
The three of them didn’t really mind the way I looked right now but Aya alone slightly averted her gaze with red cheeks.
“What is it, Aya-chan?”
Realizing Aya’s reaction, yayoi-chan said that to her to tease her.
But still Aya, what was that sound you just made?
I didn’t say it but realizing my gaze, she blushed even more. And Yayoi-chan teased her even more.
“As usual, you guys get along well.”(renji)
“Not really though.”
Souichi said that in a tired voice as he continued to move around his arm and shoulder as if his joints were aching.
It looked stupid but I guess he must be trying to appeal to how tired he was. Seeing Souichi’s actions, Aya turned to him hoping to save herself from teasing.
“What, want to say something to me?(aya)
“Oh no, nothing at all..”
[……….the way you’re talking is a bit weird Souichi.]
I’m guessing something must have happened after he lost to Masaki-chan yesterday. I could easily imagine what had happened making me realize that I, as well, have been with these three for quite a while now.
“Don’t bully onii-chan too much, Aya-chan.”(yayoi)
“I’m not bullying him. In the first place, it’s Souichi’s fault. Why did he have to use Zwenelia’s power there?”(aya)
“I, I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happened. I couldn’t help it!”(souichi)
“Learn to control yourself then. Even Masaki-san didn’t use her demonic swords, did she?”
I don’t really care but don’t come to my room in the morning only to fight. Well, it’s lively so I don’t really hate it though. Seeing them quarrel like that only makes me smile anyway. Normally, with childhood friends and brothers and sisters, they grow more and more apart as they get older after all.
At least in my case, only few of my friends from my childhood were in touch with me after we were in our twenties.
That’s why, seeing these three get along so well only made me feel warm inside.
“Well, Aya-chan seemed to be working hard for an impure motive though.”(yayoi)
“Wha, what are you saying, yayoi!?”9aya)
Aya was continuing to scold Souichi but with just one word from Yayoi-chan, the tables instantly turned.
Ermenhilde had been silent with me till now but she spoke there.
When she did, as if she had been waiting for someone to ask, Yayoi-chan looked towards me and Ermenhilde with a wide smile. Even though normally she acts like sheltered noble girl, when its just these three……..Actually, both Aya and Yayoi-chan instantly show their true faces when they are alone with people they are comfortable with.
“Right, right. You know Aya-chan was………..”(Yayoi)
Yayoi-chan was about to say something but Aya quickly moved to block her mouth and Yayoi-chan ran around trying to avoid her.
My room that had been quiet just a while ago had become so lively all of a sudden. At least don’t jump around like that will you? Your uniform skirts are really short.
I wonder what he thought of this as Souichi bowed his head in apology to me.
“Well, for being so noisy…….”
“Ha. Don’t worry about it. I don’t hate it when it’s lively like this.”
When I grinned while saying that, Souichi laughed as well.
“If you guys are having fun, I’m fine with it.”
“…….I still feel sorry for you though.”
“I said don’t worry, didn’t I?”
[That’s right, Souichi. Adults are supposed to spoil children like this.]
“No, but I’m not a child anymore, Eru-san.”
“If you were a bit more taller then maybe.”(renji)
“guhh……….You hit right where it hurts the most.”(souichi)
After talking like that for a while, the door was knocked on again.
This time, without even waiting for my reply, the door was opened up.
“As usual, this place is always so lively.”
“Well, I don’t feel like it has been like that way for quite some while now for you to say ‘as usual’ though?”(renji)
The one who had peeked while saying that was Masaki-chan.
It seems she was filled with energy from morning as usual as she was wearing not her uniform but her lightweight equipment she uses.
“Good morning, everyone.”(masaki)
“Ah, morning, Masaki-san.”
“Good morning, Masaki-san.”
All four had their own way of greeting. Masaki-chan and Souichi were frank as usual. Aya who politely bowed as she greeted and Yayoi-chan who was at least smiling on the surface. For a second, I felt like sparks flew between Masaki-chan and Yayoi-chan but………even if this world is a fanatsy world, this must have been my imagination.
Well, it’s not like these two are on bad terms or anything either……As long as it doesn’t concern Souichi, that is.
In fact if Souichi is not involved, I feel Yayoi-chan and Masaki-chan are on as good terms as the childhood friends trio themselves.
It’s that. They want the person they like to notice only them, or something like that.
“Good morning, Yamada-san.”
She greeted me with pleasant smile as well.
I wonder if this was a man’s instinct that I automatically went slightly on guard just by seeing the slight sparks between Masaki-chan and Yayoi-chan.
Souichi beside me as well, looked like his face was cramping a bit.
“I’ll be in your care today.”(masaki)
“That’s my line. Please go easy on me okay?”(renji)
It’s actually more scarier if you laugh there you know. Recalling Souichi and Masaki-chan’s fight yesterday, I could already feel my face stiffening up.
I could barely even follow what was happening. It’d be really difficult for me to even be able to receive this girl’s attacks.
As if she knew my thoughts, she looked at me with an innocent, harmless smile. This damn sadist.
“But still, aren’t you a bit late to wake up now?”
“Can’t help it. I had a guest yesterday.”
“A guest? In this empty room?”
“I had alcohol.”
Saying that, I looked towards the table set in the room and the empty bottle lying on it.
Seeing that, both Souichi and Masaki-chan gave a sigh together.
“Is alcohol really that tasty?”
“More like, it calms me down?”(renji)
“Isn’t that being over dependant on it……..”
“It’s not that bad.”(renji)
Probably. Their gazes actually hurt.
[See. That’s how people look at you.]
I looked at the medal lying near my pillow but the voice inside my head sounded like it had won already.
[I am not saying that stop drinking but at least reduce the amount, will you?]
“But it’s one of my only enjoyments.”(renji)
[Swing your sword like you did long ago. If you started moving your body and work hard, you’d get more sound sleep than by drinking.]
Aah, my ears hurt.
“Well, Eru-san is……..correct, I guess.”
“I have no allies here.”(renji)
While I was thinking of complaining about this to Toudou or Utano-san, Aya who had been playing around with Yayoi-chan looked towards me.
She stopped following yayoi-chan around, and stood beside Masaki-chan.
“Who was the guest?”(aya)
“Oh, does that worry you Aya-chan?”(yayoi)
Behind Aya, Yayoi-chan spoke to her close neough that it looked like she was whispering in her ears.
“Ah, mouu, Yayoi stay quiet for a while!”(aya)
“fufu, okaay ~”(yayoi)
They really are on such good terms.
While thinking that, I looked at Aya.
“It was Koutarou.”(renji)
Her, though angry yet having fun expression instantly changed to a cold one resembling that of a lake’s surface.
Souichi beside me, silently, but definitely shivered once.
“What did he say?”(aya)
“Nothing much. It was about work.”(renji)
So Aya’s hate for Koutarou has already come to this stage.
Well, his personality is definitely one that will never be found tolerable by some kinds of people. But still, I could clearly see her face hold definite displeasure.
[What’s wrong, Aya.]
“No, nothing. As usual, he’s doing something weird, eh?”(aya)
[Him being weird is nothing new. That aside, why did you become so sullen just now?]
“I am not being sullen Eru.”(aya)
That’s obviously because Koutarou and Aya are like oil and water. Well, if I point that out the sparks would reach even me so I’ll stay quiet though.
And as usual unable to understand that, I pitied my partner who could still not learn how to read the mood. Or maybe should I pity Koutarou for being treated as a weirdo by even Ermenhilde.
Well, let’s pity them both. That’s not going to change anything though.
“But, that’s rare. For Koutarou-san to come here.”
“Un. He shows up at Yuuko-san’s place once in a while but even I haven’t met him in quite a while.”
When Souichi said that, I looked towards Masaki-chan next.
“Same here. In the end that man doesn’t meet anyone other than those who play along with him or those who he needs to meet no matter what.”(masaki)
“Yeah, that sounds true.”(yayoi)
It seems he hasn’t shown himself to Masaki-chan either.
Going by Yayoi-chan’s words, he hasn’t met her either. And I didn’t even need to ask Aya.
“Well, in any case. That was that. Also, I want to change now so could you guys leave now?”(renji)
When I said that, Souichi apologised as everyone’s representative.
“Well then, we’ll save a seat for you at dining hall.”
“Oh, please do. You don’t have to wait for me to eat though.”(renji)
“It’s fine. We’ll wait.”
Like I said, you don’t have to.
As I waved towards Souichi and the others as they left……..I called Aya before she left.
What did I want to say?
——–I recalled the dream I saw this morning.
It seems she didn’t understand what I said as she left while tilting her head in confusion.
Well, that was way too out of context I guess.
[Just when I thought what you were going to say, what was that?]
I also felt an unexplainable atmosphere leaking from Ermenhilde as well.
If she had a body, I’m sure she’d be looking at me with a cold gaze that’d make me torment with guilt.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s the usual.”
[Yeah, I guess so.]
It’s painful to actually not be refuted when I said that.
AS I sighed while changing my clothes, Ermenhilde gave a sigh at me as well. I’ll cry, damnit.
“…….She was taller than the Aya I saw in my dreams, that’s all.”
When I said that, this time she made an amused voice that resounded in my head.
[So you saw Aya in your dreams?]
“..……something like that.”
Not just her alone.
But I don’t have to say that, do I?
Really, that’s all.
The Aya in my dreams was slightly shorter than now. Her hair was shorter as well, and the way she talked, her expressions, all were slightly different than the present Aya.
[fufu. I’ll tell this to Aya later.]
“wah…….sounds amusing, I guess.”
[Well Renji will be at the centre of it after all.]
What kind of face would Eru inside my dreams make?
I, before I realized, had started to forget how she looked.
[What is it?]
Her voice sounded like she was really enjoying this.
Hearing her, I felt a bit more pleasant as well.
“Whether Utano-san or Aya, if I——-”
Saying till that, I shut up once again.
Recently, I feel like the things I couldn’t say to Ermenhilde till the end seems to have increased.
Was it because I had not told everything to my partner, to Ermenhilde, like before?
[What was that about Yuuko and Aya?]
I finished changing my clothes.
They weren’t some high class clothes that nobles would wear. It as thick shirt and trousers that I wear while travelling. Putting the mithril sword on my waist, I fixed the iron knife on the back of my belt.
Her voice, was still pleasant and cheerful.
She, even when I don’t speak everything, won’t say anything.
Even if I chose Utano-san or Aya——-I’m sure, she’d give me her blessing.
“” You will soon have to face Astraera.””
That bastard, saying that to me so easily.
Not showing my emotions on my face, I picked up Ermenhilde lying near my pillow, and flicked the medal with my thumb.
With a dry sound, it twirled in the air and fell into my palm.
[Looks like luck will be on your side today.]
Her bright, cheerful voice made my heart feel lighter.