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KENS Chapter 54

Chapter 54 Sword and Sword (4)

From the small palm holding my right hand, I felt warmth coming to me.

At the same time, the source of that warmth, light, also came out of that small palm.

A miracle of the Goddess. It is used by the followers of Goddess Astraera, a small miracle of sorts. It heals wounds, cures diseases, truly an act of god.

If your belief was weak and your class weak, the effects would be lesser as well but the girl holding my hand was—–Amagi Yayoi, a user of true miracles.

Possessing healing spells that seemed more like reversing time itself, she has saved us countless times.

Together with yayoi-chan, just like if we were in an infirmary, both us were currently behind a white curtain along with other priests.

Since there were women among the contestants as well, it’s a very obvious thing to do. Thanks to that, I was able to talk to Yayoi-chan at ease.

“As expected, it’s great that yayoi-chan’s here.”(renji)

“uu……..I’m happy that you say that but still…”

She had a somewhat unsatisfied expression on her face. Probably because she was here, in the sickbay of the Coliseum.

That said, it’s not like this place had any special facilities like an actual infirmary or clinic though. It was just a room with numerous beds with pure white sheets spread on them and some wooden chair sets like the ones we were currently sitting on.

And sitting on all of those chairs were other priests who were healing the contestants of the tournament.

It seems yayoi-chan was especially popular as the line after me was incredible.

…………..There were even some who were clearly not participants but they must be people who just want to have a chance to look at Yayoi-chan.

Right now, she had tied back her usually loose long black hair behind her neck and was also not in her uniform or civilian clothes but was wearing a pure white robe with golden embroidery. It resembled the robes worn by other worshippers of Goddess Astraera but it had more exquisite details.

Possessing the ability to directly perform the miracles of the goddess, yayoi-chan held a very high position among the priests. Or rather, she had been officially declared as [Saint] (holy woman).

As people summoned by the Goddess herself, we 13 are already considered as higher beings by the humans who worship the Goddess And even among us, Yayoi-chan who could heal all wounds, cure any disease was looked at as if she was a goddess herself.

At some point, she began to be referred to as the [Saint], in time she learnt to act and work as truly a [Saint] and by the time the journey ended, she had saved countless people.

From our point of view who knew only how to fight, what she did was truly admirable as well but for Yayoi-chan herself, there’s only one man whose wounds she wants to keep on always healing.

Her emotions showed clearly on her face and someone in front of her right now, I could only give a wry smile.

“I wanted to wear a pretty dress too……”(Yayoi)

“You can wear one as much as you want after the tournament is over.”

“…….I wanted to wear a pretty dress and cheer for Onii-chan.”

She actually corrected her statement, this brocon.

Yayoi-chan likes Souichi. As an outsider, I couldn’t tell whether it was as siblings or as a man.

There are times when I felt that she took it very far, yet at the same time there were moments where she maintains her distance like normal siblings as well.

There are times when she’d get so close to him that even Souichi will be bewildered yet she’d claim that it’s only because they’re brother and sister. It seems that side of her has become a bit more prominent after coming to this world and she has been often told about this by Souichi himself and Aya, who is her best friend.

Utano-san has also been quite attentive about it but even after this one year, there’s no change in her.

“A dress, eh?”(renji)

“Muu, Renji onii-san?”

“Nah, I was just wondering if Souichi even has the composure to be looking at dresses right now.”

“Muu..”

When I said that, she puffed her cheeks in dissatisfaction. I guess she’d still want to show her dressed up appearance to the person she likes. Yayoi-chan was much more mature than others her age but only in this respect, she was still very girlish.

But in truth, when Souichi concentrates on something there are times when he loses sight of everything else literally. It’s especially surprising to see the level of his concentration in tournaments like this where you have to fight in front of so many people.

I’m sure right now, his head is only filled with how he’d fight me or Masaki-chan.

I have sparred with him as training during our journey a few times but we have rarely fought properly. Especially me and Souichi, we have fought only once like that.

That’s why, i have no doubt that he’s definitely thinking about ways to fight me or Masaki-chan right now.

And because she knew his personality as well, yayoi-chan gave a deep, deep sigh. A [Saint] shouldn’t be making such a face, really.

“But still, I’m sure such dresses would suit Yayoi-chan as well.” (renji)

” ‘as well’? what do you mean by that?”

“Ouch, ow!”

Could you not grip my hand so tightly?

Unlike her, I didn’t have any divine protection from Astraera so I am weaker than this girl in front of me even in terms of simple grip strength. Really, it’s such a sob story.

“Smile, smile!”(renji)

“There’s only one person worthy of my smile.”

“……………”

As if she was sulking, the [Saint]-sama said that without blushing even a bit. Looking at her pointed lips ( ^ this shape), I could only give a wry smile forgetting my strongly gripped hand.

Seriously. At least try to hide your true feelings a bit, will you?

But still, I myself am never able to tell her that directly. How should I treat her feelings? I have thought about it many times but in the end, I have not yet reached an answer.

This was a problem both Souichi and Yayoi-chan, only the [family] members could resolve by themselves. An outsider like me has no say I think.  Was I just running or was this my trust in them…..Can’t really call this as trust, now can I?

“What’s wrong?”(yayoi)

“Nothing. Just thinking about how both you and Souichi are on really good terms.”

“fufu, of course.”

Saying that, she puffed her chest proudly. She really is so happy that even I felt happy looking at her. I felt more energy fill in the palm healing my arm.

Even though we’re ten years apart in age, I still felt slightly embarrassed feeling her soft small hands. It made me realize how hard and stiff my hands were by swinging the sword all the time.

“How envious.”(renji)

“Really?”

“yeah.”

I didn’t have any siblings. I was a single child.

That’s why, maybe I consider Souichi, Yayoi-chan and others as adorable.

Hearing me, Yayoi-chan gave a laugh. It must be imagination that her smile seemed to be full of mischief as well.

“Renji-oniisan as well, aren’t you on very good terms with Aya-chan as well?”(yayoi)

“I wonder.”

When I turned my gaze trying to run away from her, she gave a smile.

“Saying that again……mouu.”(yayoi)

“I can’t help it. We’re ten years apart in age.”

“I don’t think it really matters though.”

“I feel it does though.”

Was I too old fashioned to think that an age gap of 10 years was too big?

It doesn’t seem like a problem in this world though.

After all, O’brien-san’s wife was still in her twenties making the age gap between them almost 20 years. Thinking like that, I guess 10 year gap really isn’t much.

While sighing at Yayoi-chan who was laughing, I shook my head.

“This isn’t something to talk about here, is it?”(renji)

“But I’m bored.”

“I’m sure you have a lot to do, don’t you?”

At least for today, she should be busy for the whole day.

The injured won’t end, and there should be many men who’d come just to get a chance to see Yayoi-chan as well.

“I know that healing the injured is important but still I want to talk like this once in a while as well.”(yayoi)

Well, I can’t deny her that. She doesn’t have a personality that she would start chatting with any random person easily. There might be people who might be trying to listen to our chat behind the curtain as well but for now, I didn’t sense any.

“So?”

“I’m lonely ~”(yayoi)

Wow, it’s amazing she can say that. I looked at her with a fed up gaze. You literally have one person who can rid you of loneliness. At least I’m sure that it’s not meant towards me. Depending on who the person is, that line would make the perfect line to seduce someone.

That said, I’m the same in wanting to talk to her though.

After all, even though we were both here in the capital, I didn’t have the chance to properly talk to her even once.

Especially since the tournament started everyone was really busy, so all the more so.

“Even if you say that…”(renji)

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any topic that could amuse Yayoi-chan. And most probably, the only thing she’d want to hear from me is about me and Aya, I’m sure.

I think at her age, they really like that kind of talk. But unfortunately, I have nothing worth talking about it. I haven’t even talked to Aya much these days. In fact, she should be more aware of Aya right now.

“Well, I heard that you were carried to the capital very injured or something?”(yayoi)

“Ah?”

That’s quite the old story now.

I recalled the [Forest of Rotting Souls] and that shitty Skeleton monster.

“Ahh, I really came close to dying that time…….”

I leaked a really heavy sigh. Honestly speaking, it really wouldn’t have been weird if I really had died that day against that kind of an opponent. But that’s not what yayoi-chan what’s to hear about I think. Her eyes were full of curiosity.

“At that time, something happened right?”(yayoi)

“……..something?”

I tried thinking.

“About how Yui-chan saved me?”(renji)

“No, after that! Mou..”

Why is she talking like those old aunties you meet while walking down the road? I don’t know what she’d do to me if I said that to her but it probably won’t be pretty for me, I’m sure.

I thought of talking like she did by hiding her mouth with her hand, so I tried to pull out my right hand from her grip but, failed.

…….as usual, she’s stronger than me in pure physical strength. Goddamnit! As if implying that she won’t let me run away, her grip even became tighter. I didn’t feel pain, probably because she was still healing me as well. If you’re done healing could you please let go of my hand already?

“Didn’t Aya-chan stay by your side and nursed you all the time till you woke up?”(yayoi)

“You sure know a lot.”

Or rather, she was sleeping flat on the table of my room though. Recalling that, I felt myself smile, or rather, it was a difficult to describe feeling.

“It’s known to everyone you know? This world doesn’t have much ways for amusement after all.”(yayoi)

“I’ll be quite troubled if now we start to be used for amusement as well though.”

“Tell that to Aya-chan. She was the one who stayed overnight in your room.”

“…………”

I didn’t really pay it much attention before but I guess it’s like that? Hearing her say that, I guess it’s not strange for it to become a gossip topic. In fact it’s amazing I didn’t hear about it till now.

I’m sure the origin of the rumours are the maids of the castle. They should be the most knowledgeable in such gossips seeing they are in great number and are of the same gender as well.

Uumu. I can’t really silence them now but for it to become a strange widespread rumour is…….uumu.

“Renji-oniisan, if you don’t treat Aya-chan more kindly, you’ll incur divine punishment you know?”(yayoi)

“….nmuu.”

“Well, it was nice of you to invite her to dinner a while ago though.”

“I see.”

“But still, wouldn’t it have been fine if you took her back to her room as well after that?”

“……….yayoi-chan, you’re supposed to be younger than Aya right?”

“Yes, obviously.”

Is it okay for her to tella  man to take her best friend back to his room so easily like that? That too, at night. I’m pretty sure she knew what she was implying as well which made it even more difficult for me to say anything else.

Are my sense for such things really that bad?

While feeling a bit scared of this girl in front of me, I turned my gaze away, from this whole topic if possible.

“Renji-oniisan, you need to be more aggressive.”

“Yes.”

“Aya-chan, she was satisfied with just getting invited to dinner you know? As her childhood friend, and best friend, it’s really pathetic.”

“I see.”

It seems she really is dissatisfied with our current relationship.

That Aya, what did she tell to Yayoi-chan? While thinking of that, I shook my head. It’s better not to think much about it, I think.

“If it goes on like this, you’ll forever be dominated by Yuuko-san, you know?”(yayoi)

“……………”

What is this? Did I ever do something bad to Yayoi-chan?

I thought a lot but I couldn’t come up with anything. If I had to say, Yayoi-chan is basically implying that my relationship with Aya is too vague. Am I treating Aya as a proper woman, or am I looking at her as a sister or a daughter. Does Aya want to me as a man or does she want to me as family or a good friend.

I guess as her best friend, she really must be worried about our such a vague relationship.

“With that said, “(Yayoi)

“Hm?”

Suddenly, she gave a smile.

I instantly went on guard, probably because this body fully knows the fearsomeness of the creatures called women, I think.

“After the tournament is over, be sure to properly patch thing up okay?”(yayoi)

“ugh…….well, haah.”

I don’t even want to think what she wants me to do exactly so I just gave a vague response.

Maybe she didn’t like my answer much, I felt strength gather in her grip holding my hand once more. With *bikuri* my shoulder shivered due to slight pain.

“There, I’m done.”(yayoI)

“Aah, thanks, Yayoi-chan.”

All said and doen, she did properly heal my arm and hand that was hurt by O’brien-san’s sword so she probably isn’t really that angry at me, I think.

Rather than saying she was angry, it’s more like she was simply trying to instigate my indecisive personality though.

What is this, really. Rather than me, Yayoi-chan seems more mature and adult-like. How sad, or should I say pathetic………or should I be happy to see her grow like this?

“What’s wrong? Why are you staring at my face?”(yayoi)

“Nah, I’ll come back again after the second round.”

“Please fight without getting injured. Seriously”

“That’s a bit too difficult for me, but I’ll try.”

Saying that, I opened the white curtain. When, my eyes met with the few people standing after me in line. Only a few were injured ones and most were fanboys here just to look at Yayoi-chan.

“C’mon, move move. The injured ones come first.”(renji)

While making them scatter, I guided the next injured contestant first inside the curtain.

“Well then, good luck. Be sure to win, Renji-oniisan.”

Just before I closed the curtain, saying that Yayoi-chan gave a small wave towards me.

It felt a bit ticklish, seriously.

Since Yayoi-chan was hidden behind the curtain, the surrounding gazes all gathered at me but ignoring them all, I exited the sickbay.

Some time had passed since my battle with O’brien-san so Ms Francesca’s should already be over.

I wonder if she won.

While I was thinking of that, a familiar figure entered my vision.

“Kudou.”(renji)

“Ara, you’re finally out.”

While sighing, Kudou was in dress, different than the one yesterday.

Since everyone else around were dressed in armour, she stood out even more.

Though she didn’t seem to mind it at all and was the same as always—–with a tired expression on her face. If only she could smile along with those looks, she’d give off such a good impression to others. Well, that’s what makes her Kudou though.

“What happened, why are you here?”(renji)

“Well, it might be interesting so I thought I should inform you.”

“Hm?”

“Yamada-san, your disciple lost you know?”

My disciple, means Ms Francesca.

“I see.”(renji)

“Ara, you’re not surprised?”

I don’t know why Kudou came to tell me about her loss but I felt like her tone was slightly mixed with an intention to tease as well.

Even though Ms Francesca lost, all she cares about is teasing me I guess.

Sighing while looking at her, I thought of what to do.

Should I look for Ms Francesca, or should I let her be alone for a while? Unfortunately, I am a famous so if I were to go and talk to my ‘disciple’ it’ll gather a lot of attention so it’s kind of a pain.

It’s amazing how Kudou doesn’t care at all about any of that. Is her heart made of Mithril or steel or something?

“Nah, I’m a bit surprised.”

“Really?”

When I said that, she grinned as she looked at me.

Her expression changed from a tied one to a her teasing one. She looks like a cat, almost.

“What?”

“fufu, as usual, it shows on your face, Yamada-san.”

“As usual, you really love teasing don’t you, Kudou.”

While scratching the back of my head, I looked upwards to avoid her gaze.

It seems our conversation attracted attention as a lot of nearby contestants were looking at us. Even though the 2nd round hasn’t even started, that’s quite the number that has gathered already.

“that aside, is it fine for you to not show up at your spectator seat?”(renji)

“Don’t wanna. It’s a pain.”

“……..you’re really honest, aren’t you?”

At least be a bit considerate towards Utano-san.

Being told that with such a bothered looking face, I ended up feeling amazed her honesty instead.

“Thanks.”(kudou)

“That wasn’t a compliment.”

“Oh, I see.”

Don’t laugh so delightfully. Can’t really blame her though.

“That aside, your disciple, aren’t you going to look for her?”(kudou)

“Ahn?”

“She seemed pretty depressed, you know?”

“Did you see her ?”

“I don’t know where she is right now but she seemed to be in quite the daze even in the arena ring.”

Well, looks like she took it pretty hard then.

I recalled that red-haired mercenary.

In terms of ability, experience and physique,…… he surpasses Ms Francesca in every way.

Honestly speaking, the chance for Ms Francesca to win was very low from the very start. Against students of her own age, she had the advantage of having more experience but against a professional—-an adventurer, her skills were still far lower as compared to someone who does it for a living.

But still, before the match, ……our conversation. Umu, a little strength gathered in my arm scratching my head.

“Did you come here just to tell me that?”

“Yuuko and Aya sure are so serious always.”(kudou)

Again, she changed the topic so suddenly.

Seeing her usual habit that would normally confuse anyone who wasn’t used to it, I leaked out a sigh.

And without even minding my sigh, Kudou continued talking. If it wasn’t for her personality, she really would have easily had a few boyfriends already.

Even though she’s got such a good face, what a waste. Well, I wish she’d stop bothering me as well though.

Even though she’d do nothing and have a tired face always, only at times like these, when teasing someone, her nasty side comes out and she becomes energetic.

“They should live more the way they want.”(kudou)

“Well, everyone has their own social tendencies okay?”

And they also have various bonds and obligations.

Utano-san is working hard to reorganise the country, Aya is making effort to learn how to properly control her own immense power.

Toudou, Kuuki, Yui-chan…….i’m sure everyone else as well, are working hard in their own way.

Thinking of that, I looked towards Kudou.

“The only ones playing around are just you and me.”(renji)

“How rude. Even like this, I am working hard to spread more ways of amusement throughout the world you know?”

“I’m sure at least 50% of your motive is just money though, isn’t it?”

“About 70% to be exact.”

“That doesn’t make it better.”

It’s not something to say so proudly. Seeing her say that so proudly, I felt like lightly hitting her head like back then, but I restrained myself.

My gaze turned towards her long hair——beautifully combed silky hair.

She is, in the end, a woman after all.

Well, she’d probably dodge it easily even if I tried. Maybe she’d even hit back playfully as usual. In any case, I don’t want to disturb her well combed hair, a rare thing to happen, right now.

Kudou’s personality is like that but her hair have done no sin.

“Oh?”

“What?”

“I was sure you’d hit me.”

And , she made the action of defending her head with her hands.

She really goes at her own pace. Because I knew how much she didn’t care about surroundings, her actions looked really childish.

“You won’t?”(kudou)

“Don’t wanna.”

“Tche.”

Are you really a kid?

I feel like sighing, seriously.

“I really like Yamada-san’s tsukkomis though.”

“What kind of compliment even is that?”

Please don’t praise me in ways that make it difficult or me to react.

I’m sure she teases Souichi and others like this as well, as they must be quite troubled with her. Especially Souichi, since he has a  lot of women surrounding her after all.

“Go say that to Souichi or something.”(renji)

“These days, Toudou-san has been pretty fun as well though.”

“……….Angela-san, eh?”

“Ah, so you knew!”

Before I knew it, our talk had lost its topic again.

“Did Ms Francesca leave the Coliseum already?”(renji)

“Not yet I think. Maybe she’s at the rear entrance, or maybe the toilet?”

I could only think of those two options as well.

There are quite a lot of people in the Coliseum now that the tournament has started.

If she was looking for a place to be alone, feeling depressed, she’d go to a less populated area. I can’t meet her if she’s in the toilet but I can if she’s at the rear entrance.

“I see. Then I’m off.”(renji)

“Ara. Is your disciple more important than chatting with me?”

“She’s not really my disciple since I haven’t taught her anything much though. Well, but yes, Ms Francesca is more important than you.”

“So rude ~”

Saying that, she cackled with laughter.

Since I can joke like this, it’s pretty fun to talk with her. I’m sure she enjoys it as well, in her own way.

” ‘Ms’, eh?”(kudou)

As I began to walk away, she said that.

“What?”(renji)

“Nope, nothing.”

And, she giggled.

Maybe due to the dress, she looked more classy, or rather, she looked good like that.

If it as anyone else, laughing like that would make for a pleasant view but when it’s Kudou, it only makes it look all the more shady.

“Well then, thanks for informing me about it.”(renji)

“You’re welcome.”

And this time, I walked away.

.

.

.

Ms Francesca was at the rear entrance——-that is, the exit made for nobles or in case of emergencies.

It wasn’t any different from the other entrances but it had flowers or pictures painted on it, giving it a more elegant look.

I always seem to forget it but she was also a member of a noble family and it must be no problem for her to be here at all. Did she say that she wanted to be alone or something as even the soldiers had left the place for now.

And even in this empty place, as if to not stand out much, she was sitting at a bench placed in the very corner. She seemed pretty depressed as her trembling shoulders made it seem that she might start crying any moment.

Suddenly, while I was looking at Ms Francesca, my hand was pulled.

“What, so you found her already?” (renji)

“We were waiting.”

The one who pulled me was Mururu.

WE haven’t had the chance to meet much recently but she didn’t seemed to have changed much anyway. Only, on her pure white hair, a golden ribbon was tied around it.

“That ribbon, it suits you.”(renji)

“Thanks……….So, about Fran.”(mururu)

“Yeah, I heard.”

She lost her match. But I didn’t have to say it out loud.

Even though she was so eager, she lost without winning even a single round in the main tournament. I can understand how painful that could be. After meeting her, I have seen her train hard for this tournament for so long. Even though she came close to getting killed by goblins, her will didn’t break.

That’s why we could only look at her from far away like this. Mururu must be feeling the same as me. Even though she found Ms Francesca much earlier than me, she still decided to just look at her from far off.

“Where’s Feirona?”

“Together with Solnea, watching the tournament.”

“And, you came here to look for her.”

“……..Fran, looked really sad.”

Well, it made even Kudou come to me just to tell me that after all. It really must have shown on her face when she lost.

I guess, even that trouble hating Item Creator must have felt worried in her own way for her. I still can’t understand how her mind works but that’s not really important right now.

“Normally, it’s best to let them be alone for a while in my opinion but..”(renji)

“…………No.”

“I know.”

Slight anger appeared in Mururu’s eyes. Her gold eyes really looked sharp like a wild beast’s for a second. But soon they changed back to a worried, and sad gaze.

“You’re really a nice girl.”(renji)

“What, so suddenly?”

“Anybody who gets sad for their friends is a nice person.”

In front of me, Ms Francesca remained seated, unmoving.

Considering the time I took getting treated by Yayoi-chan, the next match should be pretty soon.

My next match was with——–that red haired merc, who defeated Ms Francesca.

“Renji, isn’t sad?”

“I am still in the tournament after all, I don’t have time to be sad.”

“……..then Renji is, a bad person?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

Saying that, I walked towards Ms Francesca. I wasn’t even trying to be quiet about it yet she didn’t notice me come at all.

She must be still thinking about the match she lost and nothing else.

I can understand. I as well, back then—–when I was still a burden for everyone else, was always being worried about it. The more you worry though, the more you make your comrades worry for you as well, I realized that.

“Yo.”

“———!!”

Her delicate shoulders shook greatly.

And her head turned to look towards me.

“Can I sit, beside you?”(renji)

“…….ye, yes of course.”

[Finally, you’re here huh?]

Apologetic or rather, in a very sad voice, Ms Francesca replied. Along with Ermenhilde’s voice resounding in my head. I sat down a little space away from her on the same bench.

“Seriously, you’re not blessed at all are you?”(renji)

[….muu. Well, I do apologise deeply for that.]

“Are you a politician?”

As if we were talking in some different language, there was almost no reaction from Ms Francesca.

Looks like she really did take the loss hard.

“Say, Ms Francesca..”(renji)

“ye, yes?”

“……….”

She rubbed her nose and her replied with a stammer. I’m sure she is……..

You did your best. It was regrettable result. Let’s work hard next time as well. Just take part next year. You’ll definitely win next time.

I came up with all sorts of words to say but I hesitated to say all of those. I am different from Ms Francesca. The troubles and suffering I went through are also different from what she’s feeling right now.

But, just like when I wanted to be alone, and didn’t want to talk to anyone. If someone stood silently by you till your feelings calmed down, it is really helpful, I know that. At least for me, that is.

That’s why, in the end, without being able to say anything next, I just sat that there on the bench looking forward. Giving a glance, I saw Mururu worriedly looking towards us, or rather, at Ms Francesca.

I wonder how much time passed after that.

I felt a few glances here and there and on looking I saw a few nobles chatting while looking at us. When I looked back at them, they panicked and averted their gazes.

It was the same for Mururu as well, though she looked like an adventurer……..judging by her ears and tail that stood out, she must not be thinking of them very highly. But still the fact that she didn’t go away showed how much worried she was for Ms Francesca.

At first I thought she was a girl of few words but deep inside she’s a pretty nice girl.

“Did you calm down a bit?”(renji)

“——-yes.”

[I see. I’ll say this once more but, you did fight well Francesca.]

“yes.”

She replied back to Ermenhilde, but her voice still seemed to be dissatisfied.

I didn’t watch the battle but she must not have been able to perform well due to nervousness. She must  have been unable to truly use everything she had. That must be her biggest regret right now.

“Now then, it’s time for my next match soon.”(renji)

“Ah.”

As if she just realized something, Ms Francesca made a loud noise.

Wondering what’s wrong, I looked back at her only to see her bowing again.

“What’s wrong?”(renji)

“Ah, no, even though Renji-sama has the next match, you were still by my side here………”

“Don’t worry about it. I was more worried about you rather than my next match.”

[……..You, really can hit on girls as smoothly as breathing, can’t you?]

“That’s not it. What did you hear that as, you idiot.”

[idiot? Who did you just call an idiot!]

Seeing our usual banter, Ms Francesca, though only a small one, she gave a laugh.

As expected, beauties look better smiling rather than sad. It’s charming.

“I’m very sorry, Renji-sama.”(fran)

“hm?”

“I, wasn’t able to get to the second round.”

“—–yeah..”

“Even though I even promised to fight you in the second round…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

I rested my back to the back of the chair again.

“Don’t look down, look ahead. If you keep looking downwards, you won’t be able to see others’ faces.”

“………..”

“Even when you’re down, when you’re sad, when you’re in pain, look ahead, and look around you.”

When I said that, her face rose up a bit.

Not ahead, she looked at me.

“So, who do you see?”(renji)

“……..Renji-sama..”

“No, not me.”

Smiling wryly, I gestured her to look around her a bit.

And getting the hint, when she looked towards Mururu, she made a small noise.

“Mururu-chan……..

“When you worry all alone, you only keep on feeling down more and more. Look around you more, you’ll definitely find a sign of some sorts.”

That can be a friend, a comrade or some kind of small motive even.

But still, that will definitely be your first step forward.

When you’re stumped, panicking, just remember these words at that time.

“O’brien-san——these are the words of the strongest knight of this country.”(renji)

“——–”

“At least for now, Ms Francesca, you’re not alone. You have friends who are worried for you.”

Did she realize our gazes, Mururu hid a bit in embarrassment.

But, the fact that her tail was still visible really made it look cute.

………….It’s very hard to protect your promises.

I know that very well.

No matter how much effort you put, no matter how much you struggle, there will be times when you simply will not be able to protect it.

But still, people make promises.

Promises connect people to people. It’s one of the most precious kind of bond. And because you know how strong those bonds can be, we still make promises. Because we want to be connected with someone else. Because we cannot live all alone.

[So Renji, it’s about time for your next match I think.]

“Ah.”

“Is it already that time?”(renji)

Answering Ermenhilde, I stood up from my bench.

So next is that red haired mercenary eh? Honestly speaking, just seeing his muscles makes me wish that I didn’t have to fight him.

“We really couldn’t talk much.”(renji)

“No, thank you very much.”(fran)

It seems, talking with her has diverted her thoughts a bit.

Her expression was the usual smile she made. My chest also felt lighter seeing that as I swung around my right arm a few times.

“My next match, watch carefully.”(renji)

“Eh?”

[Oh that’s rare. For Renji to say something like that.]

I know that as well.

I shrugged at her words

“Well, for once, I am being called her master so might as well act the part a bit, I guess.”(renji)

“Eh, umm.”(fran)

“You seem to be bad against enemies with big weapons. I’ll show you how to deal with large sword users.”

Be sure to watch carefully. Saying that lightly, I started walking.

Somehow, I really am bad at making such declarations.

When, Mururu came out from her hiding.

“Thanks.”(mururu)

“Your tail wasn’t hidden you know?”

When I said that, Mururu quickly held down her tail. Seeing her rare slightly embarassed expression, I smiled.

At first she was completely expressionless………well not that much but still she wasn’t very expressive either. She has grown, or rather, changed.

“I’ll leave Ms Francesca to you now.”(renji)

“Renji is?”

“I have my next match.”

I’m not really enthusiastic about it though.

When I shrugged saying that, Mururu simply said ‘I see’, and went back to looking at Ms Francesca.

I guess she’s clearly more worried about her than me it seems. How lonely, and sad. Seriously.

“You okay?”(mururu)

“Hm?”

While continuing to look towards her, she asked that to me.

“Can you win against the next one?”(mururu)

“Well, who knows.”

I guess she was slightly worried.

What do I do, I feel happy just from that much……….what is this really?

“Win.”(mururu)

And saying that, she looked at me.

Unusual for Mururu, her gaze held what you’d call a strong will in it.

……….I guess it must be because my opponent is the guy who beat Ms Francesca.

“I’ll try my best.”(renji)

“Promise?”(mururu)

“………..”

“Promise me.”

She really likes her friends huh.

Looking at such wonderful friendship, I felt like working harder. Was it because I was starting to grow old?

“Yeah, sure. It’s a promise.”

“hm.”

It seems she was quite satisfied by my answer as she walked away towards Ms Francesca.

………Really, I’m so lonely.

I’ve been told to win but she isn’t really worried for me. What is this? Renji-san is so lonely Mururu. Couldn’t you have, you know, said it in a more gentler way?

As I walked away feeling my legs get a bit heavy, I suddenly felt another gaze.

It wasn’t the same as the ones I had felt all this time, it was more—–

“———-”

Looking towards the source of the gaze, it was a single woman.

With honey coloured hair and a passionate-looking red dress. And the strength of her sharp gaze truly suited her dress.

Who was it? Just when I was thinking of that, seeing I had realized her gaze, she turned and walked away. The direction was towards the spectator stands for nobles.

…….So she’s a noble, eh?

Well, considering the luxurious dress she was wearing, she had to be a noble.

“Well, whatever.”

She was a pretty woman , while thinking of that, I walked away.

Normally, this would be the time where Ermenhilde would make a tsukkomi about it but……….aah, I’m really lonely.

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