Chapter 56 Meaning of Happiness
While putting on the heavy armour once more, I gave a sigh.
The room prepared for me to change was the same as before but with just me alone being here, it felt really quiet. Maybe because I was in the middle of the arena just a while ago, it felt even more quieter here.
Well, both Toudou and Kuuki are busy, and neither do I require help to put on armour so I don’t have a reason to call someone else either. After being in the midst of so much noise and cheering, it felt, how should I say this, quite weird putting on armour all alone.
Though there’s a part of me that feels that being alone like this makes me feel at ease, and I am truly free but, still, it feels lonely.
Or rather, it must be my imagination that I alone feel a bit left out.
Finally finishing putting on the mithril armour, I attached the mithril sword to my waist. Now if only I have Ermenhilde with me, I’ll be set. But she’s with Ms Francesca right now.
I thought of looking for her as soon as my battle ended but there are thousands of people inside the Coliseum. To look for Feirona and the others would take a bit too much effort.
If I”m lucky, I’ll find Ms Francesca during the banquet, which is basically the after party, that’ll be conducted after the tournament ends. And even in the worst case, tomorrow I’ll just have to go and meet up with Feirona and the others.
It might be not to bad to spend some time alone like this either. For the past 3 years, we have been together all the time after all. It’s necessary for her as well to spend some time with others.
………thinking like that, I sighed again. Because we’ve been together for so long, it feels a bit empty, or rather, lonely to be like this.
I’m sure I’m get lonely far more easily than even Ermenhilde I think. While thinking of such foolish things, I left the room.
When, she was probably waiting in front of the room, Aya was looking out the window before turning to look towards me.
The dress she was wearing was the deep blue dress, the same one she wore on the dinner with me.
It was dark hue dress but it matched well with Aya’s white skin. Though I’m not really knowledgeable on the what dress is considered to suit you or not, I just felt that it really suited Aya.
But unlike that time, her hair weren’t let down openly. He had tied them to the side, the same as always, and was currently playing with it with her fingers.
“Is something the matter?”(renji)
Saying that, Aya came beside with light footsteps.
Maybe because she was wearing heels, she felt slightly taller than usual. She had also put on some slight make up as well.
“Just felt like talking with you, for a bit.”(aya)
Her face, at a height slightly above my shoulder, was giving a bright smile. She really must be in a good mood. Her emotions transferred to even me as I gave a smile as well.
“Well, that was unfortunate, eh?”(aya)
“The fact that you lost.”
She knew that I didn’t really mind it much as she spoke that in a light tone and with a smile.
At times, the other contestants and people here in the arena would look at us with curious gazes as we walked by them but I didn’t pay them much mind. Call it the price of fame, but both mine and Aya’s faces were well known in the capital. Especially mine, since I was in the matches just a while ago.
“But still, it’s a pity.”(renji)
“Well, it’s a rare festival after all, yet we haven’t had the chance to go check out the various stalls and stands.”
“I don’t really mind that. I just……”
Saying till that, she shut her mouth and didn’t continue. As she started to fiddle with her hair again, she looked a bit embarrassed.
I don’t know why but since her mood didn’t seem to be getting bad, I just continued to walk beside her while my armour made a clanking sound.
Even after walking a bit, Aya remained silent. AT the same time, I didn’t have much to talk either.
But still, to not be bothered by even such a silence, is probably because I’ve gotten used to spending time with Aya. As we continued to walk leisurely, I felt Aya’s elbow touch my waist portion of the armour.
She must have taken half a step closer to me. The distance between us was a bit closer.
I’m sure it’ll be too boorish to point that out so I continued walking, acting like I hadn’t noticed.
Giving another glance at her, her smile seemed to have gotten even greater. Or was it just my imagination?
“Did you have lunch yet?”(renji)
“It’s almost lunch time right? Have you had your lunch yet?”
“Eh, ah, yes. Or rather, there was a lot of things to eat back at our spectator seats.”
“So basically, you held back and ate less so are still hungry?”
I was about to say that’d ‘you’ll get fat’ but I quickly stopped myself. It would be just as a joke but what would happen to me even if it’s as a joke is——well, as clear as day.
“Then, accompany me for a bit.”(renji)
“Now that my fight is over, I suddenly feel really hungry……..will you stay with me for a while?”
Giving a wry smile at her enthusiastic response, I changed our direction from going towards our seats to the Coliseum’s exit. The coliseum itself didn’t have a dinner hall/cafeteria so I just have to go to the various stalls set up just outside the gate to fill up my stomach. Recalling the various snack stalls I saw yesterday, I felt my mouth water up. I was really hungry but I must not have felt it because I was even more nervous about the matches.
As I walked at a bit fast pace, Aya beside me gave a small laugh.
Feeling a bit embarrassed at that, I slowed my pace to normal again. But then, I realized I messed up.
I’ll really stand out, in the bad sense, in this armour. Normal people can’t tell the difference between normal steel and Mithril but being in full armour alone will make others feel nervous around me. If I was to go out to stalls in such an outfit, I’ll definitely stand out.
Well, speaking of that, Aya will be the same. Though its not extravagant, she’s still wearing a first-class dress made of good fabric. Wearing heels and with makeup on, she looked like a woman rather than a girl, beautiful rather than cute.
I might be partial to the people I know well but I still feel that Aya will definitely stand out in public right now. Though unlike me, she’d stand out in a good way.
“Should we hurry a bit?”
Maybe she was a bit concerned seeing me walk fast paced just before, she spoke that.
Her voice was more energetic than usual probably because she was having fun teasing me for once instead of being the one getting teased.
“Nah, I can tolerate just this much easily.”(renji)
“Mouu……..that part of you is so childish, really.”
Was it really?
Being called a child by a girl 10 years younger than me left a really difficult to explain feelings.
To not let her realize my feelings, I scratched my cheek only to feel the cold touch of mithril. Oh right, I was in full armour right now.
“This might make it a bit difficult to eat in.”(renji)
As I spoke that while looking at the gauntlets I was wearing, Aya burst ut in laughter.
As she laughed while shaking her shoulders, she really looked like a girl of her age making me feel happy just looking at her as well. In the 3 years after coming to this world, she had started to gain that adult-like atmosphere around her but in my opinion, she looks better acting more like a child her age would. As we began to walk again, I felt Aya’s elbow touch my armour covered waist again.
“Does it not feel cold?”(renji)
When I said that, she quickly moved slightly away understanding what I meant.
Thinking of her actions as cute, I also felt a bit like a lonely parent. It must be what parents feel when their daughters move away from them, or maybe, I felt lonely as a man to have woman move away from me?
As I smiled bitterly at feelings I myself didn’t understand, Aya looked up towards me puzzled.
“Nah, just felt a bit lonely.”(renji)
When I said that, she blushed madly and looked away.
“Mou, don’t tease me like that!”(aya)
“That wasn’t really my intention in the first place though.”
She scolded me to hide her embarrassment but still, I didn’t sense her mood go bad.
Though not as much as Souichi or Yayoi-chan, I do know what kind of personality Aya has. She’s the type to say ‘No’ clearly when she wants to and when she can’t speak up, she’ll silently create distance between herself and the other person. And if she doesn’t do that means that she truly trusts them. I’ve seen her hide her embarrassment like that so many times already as well. Rather than saying that I got used to it, it’s better to say that I began to enjoy it so much that I started liking spending time with her. That’s why, even though it had become silent again, it didn’t feel awkward at all.
When we came to this world, she was unsociable, always tried hard as if implying that I should just stay back and leave the rest to her, but seeing her personality now, the gap in between tjose two personalities was really amusing.
While I was spending time reminiscing, I felt her elbow on my waist again.
When I looked towards her, she quickly averted her gaze to the other side.
“So, it’s not cold?”(renji)
“Well, you looked pretty lonely so..”
When I asked the same thing again, a different reply came.
Hearing her blunt response, I ended up laughing a bit. I felt bad but her reaction was simply too amusing. And above all,—– I felt happy.
“Oh, don’t start sulking again.”(renji)
“It’s because you always tease—–”
When I said that cutting Aya’s words off, she didn’t continue further.
Her blank expression was so fascinating that I wanted to just keep on looking at her but, maybe she realized my gaze, she quickly hung down her head hiding her face. She also stopped walking, so I also stopped.
The people around us looked at us with weird gazes.
“What will you do? Want to go back to your seats before me?”(renji)
Implicitly, I asked if this was too much trouble for her.
I’m sure Aya understood what I was asking as well.
But, she quickly shook her head a few times and quickly walked up beside me once again. Her face was smiling, or should I say, grinning, but I shouldn’t tell her that.
Now that she had raised her head back again, I suppressed my urge to tease her more and we continued walking.
Once more, I felt Aya’s elbow touch my waist.
This time, she didn’t move away, and neither did I say anything else either.
After a while, we finally left the Coliseum and while feeling the cold wind outside, I squinted at the strong sunlight.
The weather is really nice. To have not realized that even after going out on the arena multiple times, I realized exactly how nervous I had been.
“Now then, what should we eat?”(renji)
“I’m fine. I’m not feeling very hungry right now.”
“You don’t have to be so mindful you know? I have some change on me so I’ll treat you.”
“No, it’s fine.”
As we talked while walking, as expected, we drew a lot of inquisitive gazes onto us.
Both of us are used to gathering such attention but it’s still weird to eat food like this. As a man, I don’t really mind it much, but for Aya it might not feel very comfortable to eat while under the gaze of countless strangers I guess.
Though I still doubted any reason to hold back now, for the time being we headed towards a nearby stall and bought one skewered Orc meat. It cost 2 copper coins………. You could buy 4 breads in that amount in a village but I guess it’s not the same in cities. Or maybe this was because a festival was going on currently. It’s really not fair how the cost of normal things get almost doubled during such times. And even while knowing that, we still buy it anyway.
Do we get lax due to feeling joyous during festivals or does everything just feel more tasty at times like these? In either case, I guess the atmosphere and mood is really important.
“nah, just thought that this was really tasty.”
While dexterously holding the stick with my gauntlet wearing hands, I took a bite.
This world didn’t have anything called as sauces, thus the only things put on as seasoning was some salt and spices. But that, in turn, enhanced the original taste of the meat even more.
With my little knowledge of cooking, I commented on the taste of the Orc meat.
“Hm, it’s really tasty.”(renji)
Aya gave a small giggle as she looked at me eating from the side.
I wonder how the surrounding people are thinking of us right now.
“Want to take a bite as well?”(reji)
Well, thought so.
Even if we are close comrades, it’s still not normal to eat something the other has already taken a bite off. After a while, I finally finished eating the thing. But it only seemed to have increased my appetite; I really must have been hungry.
“But still, the capital sure is crowded.”(renji)
“yeah, it feels like it’d be easy to get lost in here.”
When I said that, Aya hid her mouth as she gave an refined looking laugh.
Now then, what should I eat next? When I looked around thinking that, my eyes met with few people. Maybe they knew who we were, or were they simply curious about a man in full armour, and woman in a fine dress? Without paying them much mind, I walked off. Aya seemed to be the same.
“Don’t get lost okay?”(aya)
“I’ll be careful. If I got lost, let’s meet up at the entrance to the Arena okay?”
“Mouu, Renji-san’s supposed to be the older one here, right?”
As I walked alongside Aya while she listened to my jokes, another stall caught my attention.
This one wasn’t selling orc meat, it was lizardman meat instead. It had less fat than orc meat and had more consistency. If it was our original world, it’d be considered a healthy kind of meat.
In this world, healthy food wasn’t really a thing so Orc meat was more popular. Even though Lizardmen are more stronger than ORcs, it’s a bit weird how their meat is considered of less value.
Buying one of those, I held it with my gauntlet hands once more.
“Well then, since it’ll be troublesome to get lost as well, how about we go sit down somewhere?”(renji)
“Yes, let’s. Should we buy something to drink?”
Oh right, I forgot to buy anything like that.
“I’ll go buy something right now.”(renji)
“It’s fine. Look for a place to sit first, I’ll go buy the drinks.”
Before I could say anything, she spoke that and walked away.
Looking at her back as she went away, I gave a sigh.
Isn’t the man supposed to go do such stuff———or am I too old fashioned for thinking like that. I happy to see Aya being so considerate but at the same time being treated like this by a girl so younger than me feels a bit embarrassing as well.
For the time being, I began looking for a place to sit as told only to find one fairly easily.
There were a lot of people around but, there were very few of them who were actually sitting there and chatting. Everyone else seemed to be moving around enjoying the festival. With smiles, with friends, family, lovers; chatting, holding hands, linking arms with each other; a lot of people, of various different races, were enjoying this festival.
It was peaceful, and calm…….and when I think that we were the ones who protected this, I feel more proud than happy inside my chest. Suddenly, I recalled what Koutarou had told me yesterday night.
[If you’re curious, go meet Astraera.]
He said so. That one of my party members was trouble.
Was it Ms Francesca, Feirona or Mururu?
No matter who it is——if he said that it was trouble, and to go as far as to take Astraera’s name……then it must be really serious.
Astraera. The goddess who made unreasonable demands to us so many times. Starting from subjugating the Demon God, even though we didn’t even have a ship, to cross the seas to the Abenelm continent, to somehow gain the trust of Spirit God, to go kill mountain-like big descendants of the Demon God, etc.
……..thinking back on it now, it’s amazing how we actually fulfilled all of those unreasonable demands. It’s just a matter of laughing now but back then, we had to seriously, desperately, put our lives on the line to do those tasks.
For this world———the world Eru loved, the world we came to like so much, where so many people lived, and to protect it all.
Aah, I thought.
I guess my holiday is finally coming to an end.
As I stood there thinking in a daze while still holding the lizard meat, Aya came back up to me. In her hands were 2 wooden cups, and judging by the smell, it must fruit juice.
“Ah, Aya, eh?”(renji)
“……are you okay?”
“Ah, um, wouldn’t it better to sit down while eating?”
“Hahaha, yeah, I guess.”
She made a face that seemed like she wanted to ask me something but in the end she never asked it.
While looking at her gently, I sat down on a nearby bench. Aah, really, this armour is inconvenient. It’s hard to even sit.
Taking the juice cup from her, I took a sip and washed it down my throat. I don’t really drink much juice usually but it’ll taste good with some alcohol in it.
“The weather really is nice today, right?”(aya)
“Yeah. Even though its winter, it’s pretty warm today.”
“And, everyone seems to be having so much fun as well.”
She spoke that while looking at the smiles of the various people passing by us.
When I ended up laughing hearing her say something I myself had been thinking, she looked up towards me confused.
“Nah, I was just thinking the same thing that’s all.”(renji)
“Yeah, that everyone is so full of smiles and we are the ones who protected it.”
So many humans had died. Even demihumans and beastmen as well.
And we killed a lot of monsters and demons as well. And in the end,—-I even killed a God.
And the peace we earned was a place where so many were laughing like this. They live a life with smiles on their faces.
As we continued to look at that scene silently, a different sweet smell, other than the food we had, came to me. Glancing beside me, Aya’s face was right next to me.
Realizing my gaze, she looked away……but she didn’t move away and stayed where she was, close to me. The slight reddening of her cheeks and ears must be imagination, I’m sure.
“Are you feeling cold?”(renji)
“Your face is all red.”
“…..Mou, even if you realize that, please act like you didn’t!”
Ahh, I’m sure. This is what it means to be happy.
It felt warm inside my chest and I felt so calm. I heard the laughing voices of men and women and the energetic voices of the merchants trying to sell their stuff. Under the warm sun, a slightly cold air blew.
And in this relaxed and comfortable time, we ate our lunch. Just this alone, was able to make a person feel happy. It can make one laugh.
And inside this happy time, I saw another familiar face.
With honey coloured hair shining from the sunlight, her usual smiling expression was currently one of surprise.
Oh? Did something happen to make her feel surprised? I tilted my head in confusion but I couldn’t think of anything. And behind her Feirona and Mururu were the same, Solnea was as usual though.
“What happened, Renji-san?”(aya)
“No, Ms Francesca and others are looking towards us.”(renji)
When I said that, Aya who saw them just now, jumped up from the bench suddenly.
By the time I even thought of that, Aya had already walked fast towards Ms Francesca. She didn’t run probably because she was wearing heels. I can’t tell properly from behind but she seemed to be red to the ears.
Was it that embarrassing for her to be seen with me? That kind of hurts. I was thinking of that when Feirona and Solnea walked towards me. Ms Francesca and Mururu were talking to Aya there. I can’t tell what they were talking about but, oh well, they look like they’re having fun. Can’t be sure about Mururu but Ms Francesca was making a wide smile.
“So you were here, eh?”(elf)
“yeah. After the match ended, I got hungry.”(renji)
“Fu, you must been pretty nervous, eh?”
“Exactly. Where’s Ermenhilde?”
As I asked that while giving a shrug, he answered me quickly.
Well, they seem to be get along quite well. As they’re both girls.
If there was a problem, it’d be this black haired girl standing beside Feirona who was looking at me silently.
“What about you Solnea?”(renji)
“You won’t talk with the other girls?”
“……..Should I have?”
Why are you asking me that?
When I looked back at Feirona while smiling wryly, he just gave a shrug. Looks like she’s been like that as usual all the time.
“If you’re not interested then it’s fine.”(renji)
How straightforward, should I say? I was unable to reply any more to Solnea’s unique personality. It seems it was the same for Feirona as he didn’t even pay this much mind.
“It suits you quite well.”(elf)
“Thanks for the compliment.”
Finishing eating the lizard meat, I gulped down all of the juice in a single breath.
“You did well today.”(sol)
In a rare moment, as Solnea talked first to me, I asked that back again in surprise.
Feirona must have found it unusual as well as his normal calm expression showed some surprise.
“No, I was just thinking that as I thought, you are very strong, that’s all.”(sol)
“Oh please. There are literally a shit ton of people who are more stronger than me. In fact one’s right in front of me.”
Saying that I looked towards Feirona but he just gave a laugh and didn’t say anything.
“Is that so?”(sol)
“Yes, it is.”(renji)
Putting the stick/skewer inside the empty cup, I stood up.
“What are you going to do next?”(renji)
“What about you?”(elf)
“I, have to go give some company to the King. And at night, there’s a ball inviting all the participants so I’ll be free only tomorrow.”
And tomorrow, I’ll probably sleep like a dead man.
And I also have to go meet Astraera.
“I see. Then we’ll talk then.”(elf)
That talk, is for what we’ll do next.
We came to the capital on Mururu’s request but originally, Feirona is an elf, resident of the Forest of magical energy. Aya and Miss Francesca are students and Mururu lives in Elfreim.
I’m not sure what to do of Solnea but I——will probably leave on a journey again. It’s my intuition telling me as if it was almost a fact.
Koutarou even said that he’d be waiting at the Elfreim continent. After meeting Astraera, I’m sure she’ll have me go to the Elfreim continent,. I’m sure. I should be able to go along the way with Mururu but as expected, I can’t ask of others to travel to another continent with me now, an I?
Thinking of that, I realized that my journey with these comrades might be coming to an end as well.
As if she could sense my thoughts, Solnea asked that.
As expected, even in those words, I could not sense anything like emotion inside it. She must have simply become curious of me who had gone silent.
I wonder what he was thinking as Feirona gave a wry smile as he looked at me.