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KENS Chapter 60

Chapter 60 Start of the Journey (2)

The next morning. As I headed towards the north gate of the capital’s walls, about 5 carriages and 10-something people were gathered there, loading up stuff inside the carriages.

Among those, around one more luxurious looking carriage, 4 soldiers, dressed in full armour like knights were standing. I don’t know whether Melentia-san hired them or were they knights directly serving the Barton House but judging by the way they wore the armour and the cautious gaze they all had, they seemed to be quite skilled. That said I could only make a vague estimate of exactly how skilled they were.

While I was looking at one of such knights, Ms Francesca, who was standing between those 4 as if being protected by them, noticed me. And then, Melentia-san noticed me as well.

Since it’d be rude if I didn’t go and greet them, I walked towards them. I am bad at being formal with others, but I can’t avoid this either.

“Renji-sama, thank you very much for accompanying us today.”(mel)

“No, I should be the one to thank you for going as far so to prepare horses for me as well.”(renji)

“Oh, you don’t have to. That said, I was hoping that you’d also ride inside the carriage with us……..”

“That, I apologise, but I simply prefer riding on a horse.”

Saying that, I softly refused her offer. I don’t really mind riding inside carriages, or rather, I really would love to properly spend some time with a beauty like Melentia-san. But, then again, it’d be too much for me to continue talking such formally during the whole journey. It’s quite the regretful decision. I am not really hoping to get close to her personally but still, I want to make a good impression at least. All the more so, if she’s such a beauty.

I believe that should be normal for any man to think like that.

But still, her tone and gaze sure have a distinct sharpness. It was like that the other day as well so I think that this might be her natural expression. Since her younger sister has a overly warm atmosphere around her, maybe it makes her sharpness stand out even more. Well, that’s also charming in its own way.

“How unfortunate. I was very interested in having a chat with you.”(mel)

“It’s an honour for you to say that but I don’t really have many interesting things to talk about.”(renji)

“Oh, is that so? My sister’s always telling me what an incredible man you——”

“O, Onee-sama!?!”(fran)

Oh well, just what did Ms Francesca tell about me to her? I’m a bit curious but it’d be difficult to ask that right here. There are too many people here after all.

Well, if I get the chance, I’ll keep in mind to ask that.

“In fact, I even had difficulty coming to the capital alone. I was able to only thanks to your sister and my comrades.”(renji)

“You’re quite the modest man, aren’t you?”(mel)

“Not really. It’s true that I have been helped by your sister quite a lot. Enough that I could thank you for it.”

When I gave such praise, Ms Francesca’s face became more and more redder.

[Ahem.]

“Well then, please excuse me. My comrades are waiting for me that way as well. If something happens, please tell me unhesitatingly.”(renji)

“Of course. Please wait for a while, we’ll be done loading our baggage soon enough.”(mel)

“Very well.”

Yeah yeah, while wryly smiling to my partners cute interruption, I moved away from there. Ms Francesca’s wide smile was quite impressive. Melentia-san was smiling elegantly as well.

[You’re making a sloppy face.]

“I was born with this face.”

[………fuun.]

“I was just greeting her.”

Giving a bitter laugh towards Ermenhilde who got angry, I slight caressed the medal inside my pocket. I doubt her mood will get better from just that but at least she would complain/scold less.

While finding her reactions to be lovely, I looked around the surroundings. I did say that my comrades were waiting for me but there was no truth to it. In fact, since I came here just now myself, I hadn’t even checked to see if Feirona and others were here or not. Well, now that I said something like that, it’ll be awkward to be seen moving about looking for them as well. So I searched with just my gaze, but thankfully I found the blonde elf and the white wolf beastwoman soon enough. They stand out quite a lot after all. On a bench near them, Solnea was also sitting there. They had already noticed me as they were looking towards me. As I began to walk towards them, their gazes looked like they became softer as well.

“Sorry, am I late?”(renji)

“Un.”(mururu)

“…….I didn’t really see you guys when I came here though.”

“Just your imagination.”

Don’t lie so smoothly. Giving a smile at that cute lie, I felt a bit relaxed as well. AS expected, I feel more comfortable near my trusted comrades.

It’s not like I don’t trust the nearby other adventurers but I end up creating a wall, or rather, I maintain some distance with them unknowingly, maybe because I have been living as an adventurer for too long?

“Did something happen?”

“hm?”

While I was in thought, Mururu looked up towards me puzzled………as usual her eyes looked sleepy, like she was in some kind of a daze.

“But yeah, I thought you’d be here much earlier than us as well.”(elf)

“Really?”

“I was sure you’d be here already and would have completed all preparations beforehand.”

“How serious do you think I am?”

[That’s right………haah.]

Really, I don’t have such a serious personality. Well, I do tend to get things done earlier though.

Also, Ermenhilde? If you give such a big sigh, even I’ll feel a bit bad you know?

“Well, some things happened last night.”(renji)

” ‘things’?”

“Yes, ‘things’.”

[You were just getting scolded that’s all.]

“Please shut up there, will you partner?”

[And, got drunk as well.]

“Seriously. Could you not resist at least the day before?”(elf)

“I got invited. And, I didn’t oversleep due to drinking too much.”

In the first place, I’m here before the time to leave, so you can’t even call this oversleeping.

But, I should just let go of that point. Rather than yielding, it’s more fun to talk about like this.

Feirona as well, while making an amazed face, was laughing.

[Seriously. It’s because you’re always acting like this, you get scolded.]

“you got scolded?”(mururu)

“Well Mururu, we adult men have to deal with a lot of things.”(renji)

When I said that in an exaggerated manner, her sleepy face became a bit sullen. While finding that slight change in her expression amusing, I turned towards Feirona.

“So, what were you guys up to?”(renji)

“Nothing at all, I guess.”(elf)

“Got bored.”(mururu)

From what they tell, when they offered to help with loading the luggage as well, they were politely refused. I guess as Ms Francesca’s friends, Melentia-san must be treating us as guests.

We wouldn’t really care much about it but from the point of view of a noble, they simply cannot be discourteous enough to make their guests do something like manual labour. It’s how their mannerisms are. Nobles really have a all sorts of troubles as compared to even me.

Mururu didn’t really care about anything at all, but I’m sure Feirona is also bored but he understands the situation and decided that it’d be better to just stand here doing nothing.

Since it was still early in the morning, there weren’t many people around other than us. Only the soldiers on guard duty around the area were patrolling the place. Since near the gates, there were no guilds or bars, there weren’t many adventurers to be seen either.

“What’s with the getup?”(elf)

“hm?”(renji)

“That equipment is different from what you wore earlier right?”

“Oh, yeah. I just took back my equipment I had left with the King for safekeeping.”

When I said that, Feirona made a slightly surprised face but Mururu simply made a fuun~ sound. What a waste to brag in front of her.

“Your reactions really are weak eh?”(renji)

“It’s because I don’t know what’s good or bad about such armour/equipments.”(mururu)

“Because you’re a beastwoman? I guess your own body is your weapon and armour, eh?”(elf)

“Yes.”

“But still, at least show some interest. Really, give me a reason to explain about it.”(renji)

She puffed her chest with pride making her look cute. But seeing that her tail was swaying around, she must be happy. Though I doubt Feirona said that as a compliment though.

And suddenly, as if she smelled something, she brought her face close towards me.

“It smells like the forest.”(mururu)

[So you can tell?]

“I have a strong nose.”

Saying that, Mururu made a short sound with her nose. I as well, imitating her, brought my sleeve near my nose. I am at an age where I still get worried whether I’m smelling of something weird after all.

“Smell of the forest?”

“Fruits and grass, like the smell of deep inside a forest…….and also, wind. The smell of Earth spirit Gnome and wind spirit Sylph.”(mururu)

“The protection of the spirits eh? As expected of the equipment used against the Demon God, I guess.”(elf)

At Mururu’s explanation, Feirona also reacted. Looks like he already figured what my equipment was like. As expected of an elf and beastwoman who live alongside the spirits. They are really sensitive to such protection on equipment, I realized that once more.

Equipment forged by humans is definitely strong. Whether it be made of iron, steel or silver. But all those, slowly deteriorate over time. And can even break if used relentlessly.

But, equipment like mithril ones made by dwarves or the ones imbued with the protection of spirits made by elves, as long the spirits do not remove their protection, their ability will not reduce no matter how much time passes. It’s effects reduce in dead places like the forest of rotting souls but in the Elfreim continent where we are headed, and in Abenelm, the protection is very strong. I know from my journey one year ago, they give more defence that it shows.

And it seems these two understand that as well.

………..Really, looks like I don’t have a reason to explain about it at all.

“How uninteresting……….you guys aren’t giving me the fun of explaining about it at all.”(renji)

“Renji’s long talks are, difficult to understand.”(mururu)

[At times, he does like to talk in an overly theatrical way after all.]

Mururu spoke that while averting her gaze. I don’t recall giving any such long explanation before though. What kind of character am I inside Mururu’s mind?

It’s really making me curious now. While thinking that I will have to properly talk with her once, I looked around. When, I saw Solnea sitting on a nearby bench. Since it was still slightly hazy outside as the sun hadn’t not risen properly, the black dressed beauty looked somewhat like a ghost sitting there. Having low presence, and with that dazed expression, and neither was there any will in her eyes. If a child saw her, they’d think of her more like a exquisitely crafted puppet rather than a human.

“If you really think that. I might have to teach yu a bit.”(renji)

“………I’m fine.”(mururu)

“But it’s fun you know, studying that is.”(renji)

You come to know so many things you didn’t know. That’s a one of a kind feeling as well I think.

I think that way probably because before I used to hate studying and did not enjoy my job at all. But after coming to this world, learning to read and write desperately, understanding the basics of travelling, ecology of monsters, usage of weapons, way of fighting; though neither of those were truly necessary to survive in this world, I still recall how happy I felt to find those skills of use to me. Even if it was something I vaguely knew, it was still  nice feeling to see others depend on me for once.

Knowledge is power. Having understood that very well, I was thinking of really teaching lots of things to Mururu once I get the chance.

“Not just me, even Feirona and Ms Francesca have studied a lot you know?”(renji)

“ugh.”(mururu)

“Right?”(renji)

“Fuh,……yeah, that’s true.”(elf)

When not just me but even Feirona nodded, Mururu averted her gaze trying to run away. Looks like she really bad at it. But the fact that she’s not openly rejecting the idea means she doesn’t hate it either.

Beastmen are a race that ‘run’ inside the forests. I guess, sitting in one place and reading a book, that is ‘not moving’, must be not liked by them.

“She did try to read a book alongside Francesca at the inn but she got bored of it pretty quickly.”(elf)

“Feirona, I told you to keep that secret!”

“Oh, so something like that happened as well.”(renji)

And Feirona gave an exaggerated shrug. Since he’s normally calm and cool, seeing him tease Mururu like this was really amusing.

Mururu being herself, shut up when talk about studying came up. Even her tail that had been swaying around had dropped down towards the ground. Even her wolf ears seemed to be slightly drooping a bit.

“Maybe you should ride the carriage with Ms Francesca and try spending the journey reading a book with her?”(renji)

“I refuse.”

Instant reply. The vigour behind her words made it even more amusing.

“Really? Riding the carriage, protected by the escort team, travel while reading a book. You might get to feel like a noble girl, you know?”(renji)

“I don’t like it.”

Looks like Mururu didn’t enjoy that kind of life like Ms Francesca as well. Though she probably wouldn’t mind the former part of that.

“Too bad. I was thinking of making fun of you about how it didn’t suit you at all.”(renji)

“Renji, as usual, you’re such a bully.”

“Well, I can’t help it. That’s just how I am.”

When I gave shrug while saying that, Mururu moved behind Feirona as if hiding from me.

[Looks like she hates you now.]

“I don’t think that’s it though.”

And, she started hitting Feirona’s back. It doesn’t seem like she’s putting power into it though. Even Feirona was smiling at it. It feels more like I just made my daughter sulk, that’s all.

“Now then, it looks like we still have some time so I’ll go take a look there okay?”(renji)

“Sure, I leave it to you.”(elf)

Saying that, I moved away from them and towards the bench on which Solnea was sitting on. Did she not move even a bit while we were talking, it looked like she was in the exact same posture as before. Does she not even get tired?

Sitting beside her, only then did some change finally appear on her. That said, all she did was look towards me.

“Good Morning.”(renji)

“Yes.”

“You greet others with a  ‘Good morning’ when you meet them during the day, Solnea”

“……..Good Morning.”

When I said that, she repeated my words like a parrot. I doubt she even understands the meaning behind it. Thinking about how I should explain it to her, I was a bit lost for words. Now that I think about it, why do we say ‘good morning’ to each other everyday? I recalled even my own childhood, but couldn’t find the answer. Before I knew it, I was saying that as if it was normal. Because my parents always said it every morning, I did too.

They say children imitate their parents but do they also imitate every habit or greetings as well? Somehow, my own sea of thoughts seemed to have been affected a bit.

“Is something wrong, Renji?”(sol)

“Nah, nothing. That aside, we’re about to go on a journey but did you feel something different?”

“Not really.”

Thought so.

The biggest enjoyment of journeys is to get to see new places, meet new people, and sometimes earn money. It differs for everyone. But as far as I could think, Solnea had no such reason at all. It’s because this woman simply holds no interest in anything at all.

Even though she’s technically living, except some information, this woman has nothing at all.

She doesn’t have the feeling you get when you see something beautiful or amazing, and neither does she hold any kind of greed for something. Those [emotions] that humans have before they even fully understand it, she doesn’t have any yet. They are attained through growth as a child, and matures as your own body matures along with it. What one could call as your [spirit/mind], she doesn’t have it. At least, I don’t sense it in her.

“I see.”

Was I supposed to say something more, or is this fine for now? I really am not good at thinking up topics to converse about. I haven’t racked my brains so much even when dealing with a merchant.

As if she felt something from me, Solnea continued to stare at me.

“What is it?”(renji)

“No. Did I do/say something wrong?”(sol)

“………What?”

“It feels, different than before.”

“Different? What exactly?”

“I don’t know.”

It felt like a proper conversation, yet not actually a proper one. What a weird exchange of words. Maybe she realized that I was thinking too much before to her talking?

But, after that, her gaze soon diverted away from me. She, once again, stared towards the mercenaries doing labour. I had no way to put my question/doubt into words properly.

“Are you curious?”(renji)

“Of what?”

“Why I felt different than usual to you?”

“Yes.”

Once more, her gaze turned towards me. Her emotionless black eyes, looked really deep and cold. It looked like a bottomless pit. I was being looked at by such eyes, but I looked straight at her and didn’t look away.

“Then, ask. If you are curious about something, ask me, ask me anything you want.”(renji)

“Okay.”

But that voice was as well, completely flat, empty.

She resembles her, I could say, she resembles the weapon Ermenhilde, when I first met her. Not Eru, back when I still called her Ermenhilde. Her, that was nothing more than a weapon, and Solnea, who’s not even that much.

Thinking that, I shook my head. Eru was Eru. Solnea is Solnea. I may not be able to help associating the two but it’s rude to compare them with each other. To both of them.

(Part 2 )

“So, did you find something interesting?”

“No, I was just wondering about what they were doing.”(sol)

As expected, neither her gaze nor her voice held any kind of emotion in it. Just like the time we met, she’s just saying what she thought of.

“What do you think of it?”(renji)

I latched on to her words, and questioned her further. I don’t know if this is the right way but I have no other way to start a conversation with Solnea except by using this tactic or by bringing up a topic that might get her curiosity.

Normally, I can sense things from the tone and gestures of the person but with Solnea, that’s also very difficult. There are very faint fluctuations in her at times but it’s not enough to tell whether she’s actually showing interest in something or not. She just doubts things slightly, that’s all.

“Wearing extravagant clothes, they work hard for others to gain money. Just what kind of merit is there behind all that?(sol)

“Well that’s quite the philosophical question, or should I say, a difficult to answer question.”(renji)

“Philosophy?”

“It refers to the study of the root and meaning behind everything.”

When I said that, she continued to stare at me as she probably didn’t understand. Well, I doubt the concept of philosophy in and itself exists in this world right now, so that’s the proper reaction.

In the first place, I myself don’t know much about it except the meaning of the word itself. No, maybe I don’t even the meaning of the word itself properly either. Maybe that’s also a part of philosophy as well.

“Humans, can live as long as they have something to eat, water to drink and a place to live. They don’t even need money or even clothes for that matter. Is that what you think?”(renji)

“No, I don’t. Wearing clothes gives a sense of relief and to get clothes, you need money. And the more money you have, the more decorated clothes you can buy to dress yourself up. You can hire people to protect you. By doing that you attain a sense of security and peace. Thus, money and clothes are also vital to a person’s life.”(sol)

“……..You’re pretty smart, aren’t you?”

Looks like Solnea has been looking at the beings called as humans more closely than I thought. Since her words were stiff and formal, it felt even more philosophical than it should have.

But still, I haven’t been spending time with her recently so who did she hear that from I wonder? The ones who could tell something like that were……….either Feirona or Ms Francesca, I guess. Mururu, doesn’t seem the type to think of such stuff in the first place………maybe it’s a bit rude to say that though.

In any case, seeing that she had become able to think this much even when I wasn’t around made me feel a bit shameful. Maybe, I am not needed as much as I thought I was.

“No.”(sol)

While I was beginning to feel slightly uneasy for the journey we were about to leave on, Solnea spoke up as we she was trying to refute me. I looked towards her trying to question why she said that but she was still looking in front…….towards them mercenaries doing labour.

“I don’t understand. A person should be able to live on by just thinking about themselves.”(sol)

“……….”

“Why do they then, try to help others? I simply cannot comprehend.”

“Hmmm.”

A person can live if he just cares about himself. It’s a definite fact but……I wonder. I think there will be no perfect answer to this till the end of time.

Building a house, cultivating crops, rearing cattle, gathering water to drink. Certainly, all of this can be done by a persona alone.

“But, it’s not possible.”(renji)

“Why?”(sol)

“Because somehow, people are just made in a way that cannot bear to live on alone.”

For example, a conversation. It can’t be done alone. I doubt any person can bear to never ever talk to anyone else, it’s far too lonely——I know that very well. And so only other humans can remedy that.

That’s why, I think no one can live alone forever.

But Solnea must realize and understand, feel that by herself.

“Well, all of that, you will understand slowly, one-by-one as we go on here onwards.”(renji)

“And is that fine?”

“Yes it is. That’s what we all call as ‘life’ after all. I think.”

I’m not certain either. Even though I’ve reached the middle portion of my own life, I still don’t have the qualification to talk about the meaning of life I think. That’s the job of priests and monks, and of Gods, I believe.

“Say, Solnea.”(renji)

“Yes?”

“Did something really fun happen to you yet?”

When I asked that, I felt like I sensed slight ripples in her emotionless eyes.

“No.”(sol)

But her answer was the same. In the same voice, without any change.

“Even when you laugh, and Francesca and others laugh, I don’t.”(sol)

It seemed like she truly mourned and regretted that fact. It really felt that way.

“Is that so?”(renji)

“Yes.”

“…….Do you want to laugh?”

“I don’t know.”

I guess, this much is fine for now. Just a little, very slightly——-feeling the baby steps, a very small one step, in her voice, I stood up from the bench.

“Then, I’ll talk to you later.”(renji)

“Yes.”

Should I have told her, that maybe one day you will become able to laugh. Thinking of that, I left the place.

That conversation really made me feel only more uneasy about the upcoming journey. The Demon God that hated humans.

Now then, I caused lots of troubles for both Utano-san and Ermenhilde yesterday but what should I do?

“But still, it’s quite rare to see you stay silent all of the time.”(renji)

[Hmph. I just sensed the mood wasn’t right for it.]

To think that one day I’ll hear something like that from your mouth. I, am deeply moved, so much that I might cry.

Giving a wry smile thinking about how she would be puffing her chest if she ahd an actual body, I saw another figure stand nearby Feirona and Mururu. As I walked towards them, the figure turned towards me.

“……….Oi.”(renji)

“Ah, good morning.”

I glared at Aya who gave a greeting as if it was all normal, but she simply ignored it like it was nothing. Seriously, this is why I hate people who have gone through life-or-death battles. Threats become completely useless.

“Why are you here?”(renji)

“Well, when I woke up I saw Renji-san leave for some place so…”

“You followed me?”

“How rude. I was worried that’s all.”

“Hou?”

Wearing her original equipment like me, Aya played with her hair as she spoke that with a smile. Beside her were two bags, probably necessities for travelling.

Sensing the atmosphere, both Feirona and Mururu were quiet and were looking around.

“I think I clearly told you ‘no’ about this?”(renji)

“Yes, you did. But Renji-san, you see, I have been invited to Ms Francesca senpai’s house as well.”

“……….What?”

This is the first I’m hearing anything about this. When I looked towards Mururu, she simply gave a nod.

“Last night, we decided that at the inn.”

“After I had decided about journey eh?”(renji)

“Well, I wonder. I wouldn’t know anything about that.”(aya)

How shameless.

The next day after I was told about Solnea by Astraera, I talked about this journey and its objective with King Joshua, O’brien-san and my former comrades. There, both Yui-chan and Anastasia made a strong request to come as well but I rejected them.  Solely for of my own satisfaction of not wanting to let children take part in another such dangerous journey. And of course, Aya  wasn’t an exception to this so I refused her as well. In the first place, as an adult I made an excuse asking what she’d do about her school.

Since I knew that she wouldn’t accept it, I lied telling that I’d be leaving tomorrow and only told the truth to King Joshua and Utano-san. But it looks like Aya saw through it and was one step ahead than me……….even though I actually tried to use my brain for once to come up with this.

I recalled how Utano-san seemed to be acting strange this morning, it must be because she must have realized Aya’s actions as well. Well, she is much better at this than me. But then, that means that even Utano-san has allowed her to go through with this? Even though she was also on my side in not letting children take part in such dangerous things.

Or maybe——am I the only one who still thinks of Aya as a child?

“Ah, Toudou-san packed a bentou(lunch) for us as well.”(aya)

“Yay!”

Just those words alone made Mururu speak up with joy. Her tail was also moving around more energetically than before. Feirona was silent, he was basically leaving the decision to me.

“Say, Aya.”(renji)

“Eh, um……yes, what is it?”

When I asked again, she looked up towards me with a slightly more scared expression.

“Did you talk about this with Utano-san?”(renji)

“…….N, no but I was thinking of sending a letter when we reach Merdiore.”

That, is basically meaning that I’ll be the one getting scolded by her. That woman, all said and done, is pretty lenient towards children after all. And in the end, I am the one who has to deal with the repercussions. That’s become basically an accepted fact now.

Having said that, Aya’s gaze didn’t seem to calm down as she was thinking that I’ll be scolding her.

When I pressed on my temples with my hand, Aya’s expression clouded further. Well, at least it looks like she understands that what she did was wrong. Although, it’s not that bad to be honest. Getting in danger, making others worry………I don’t really have the right to lecture others about it do I? That’s why I had instead decided to tell Souichi and Aya the wrong date instead.

An adult that doesn’t mind children putting themselves in danger………might exist but that’s not what me, Utano-san or anyone else wants.

Thinking of how I could persuade her, I also wondered whether it was right to always treat her like a kid. Now, which is the right answer?

“Mururu. Let’s have our lunch over there.”(elf)

“Sure. Renji, later.”(mururu)

Saying that, Feirona took Mururu away with him. Really, that guy sure knows how to read the atmosphere well. Eremenhilde, I hope you learn something from him. Mururu was waving towards Aya as well. Really, these girls get along really well.

“So,”(renji)

“Yes.”(aya)

At my voice, Aya almost curled up her body stiffening up. What happened to all that confidence you had before?

“………..Are you really coming just because Ms francesca invited you?”(renji)

“That’s——-”

“I won’t get angry so tell the truth.”

“…….No…….”

I see.

I took a deep, long breath. Oh well.

“Fine.”(renji)

“Eh?”

“I said it’s fine. I’ll write the letter to Utano-san”

Or rather, since we haven’t departed yet, she could just run back to the castle and…….I guess that’d be impossible. And considering it’s that woman we’re talking about, she probably already knows that this would happen. Can this be also called trust I wonder?

Well, I’ll just have to send a letter through a peddler from Merdiore. There were no proper mail delivery service in this world yet so it was normal to hand over letters to travelling merchants and peddlers. There’s not much secrecy and if that peddler got attacked by a monster and died, you will have no idea where that letter even went though. There’s that, or using magic familiars as carrier pigeons but……….oh right, Ms Francesca is a magician as well. Though I never asked her, I doubt she has one. I’ll try asking Melentia-san later.

Anyway,

“You decided this yourself right? Then I don’t really have a right to say anything.”(renji)

She’s 18 already. This is third year after coming to this world. She understands the harshness of journey’s very well. The danger of battles, the pain from injuries, she knows that all yet if she chose to come, I don’t have a reason to stop her anymore.

I’m not Utano-san but maybe I’m pretty lenient as well. Yeah, I am. She’s just 18. Rather than going on a long journey again, she should be at the academy, making friends. Even though I know that……..I end up also feeling reassured to see her travel with us as well.

Yes, it’s reassuring. Do not mistake it as ‘happiness’. That would be pretty troublesome in all sorts of ways as an adult after all.

I wonder what she was thinking as Aya’s expression was still a bit gloomy. I guess she’s thinking that I’m still angry with her. And I was quite angry when I saw her here…….I think.

I don’t want her to be reckless, I don’t want her to be in danger. I want them to go to school and study like every child does. I think that way as an adult, as her guardian but in the end, it’s just being self righteous. Ignoring Aya’s will, that would be my will instead. I know that—–is not right. I have been told that quite a lot of times back then as well, but still somewhere deep inside me that feeling still remains. She’s just 18 yrs old, I can’t just ignore that.

………no, no matter how hold Aya and the others get, how big they get, I’ll remain the adult and they’ll remain as children………I’ll end up thinking that way I’m sure.

I turned to look towards this child. She has gotten taller in the past one year. And she has gotten prettier as well. I’m sure in the future she’ll become a beautiful woman. I wonder what kind of face she’d make if I said that. But that would be contrary to my principles of [teasing]. In my opinion, teasing should always be to enjoy the other person’s reactions. You should never mix real emotions in it.

“You’ve grown.”(renji)

[What, that came out of nowhere.]

“I was just thinking that she’s grown up as well. See, she’s slightly taller right?”(renji)

Back then, she barely reached my chest but she’s taller than that now. When I said that, Aya’s expression became slightly relieved.

“But,”(renji)

“Yes!?”(aya)

“Do not be reckless, okay? I promised to protect you so when you get reckless, I have to put my life on the line to protect you.”

“That’s…….”

“I don’t intend to die. And neither do I plan on letting you die ……..It’ll be a dangerous journey but let’s come back alive, with everyone.”

With everyone. Once we lost lots of lives in that journey. But this time, I don’t plan on letting anyone die. Will that be so difficult? Am I being too naïve to think that way?

I think I am.

But even then, I end up saying that anyway. Because if I don’t, I can’t move ahead. I must get rid of all ill thoughts. That’s why, I make promises. No matter how difficult, painful,…..or sad, it may be. To protect a promise, I can move forward. That’s how weak of a human I am.

“Thanks, Aya.”

Taking another breath, I said that.

Because I’m weak, that’s why………I’m happy to get to travel with Aya like this. I won’t say it out loud though.

“Eh?”(aya)

[How rare. You’re such a contrarian though.]

“……….that, Utano-san called me that yesterday didn’t she?”

Don’t use words you don’t even properly understand. I laughed.

“Even like this, I get lonely pretty easily. The more comrades the better.”(renji)

“Oh so that’s the reason……….”(aya)

When I said that, Aya seemed visibly depressed. Even her shoulders seemed to have dropped a bit. Since I thanked her I guess she must have been expecting something more from what I’d say next but do you really think I would say something like that so easily?

When I laughed, Aya looked up towards me bitterly. That reaction is definitely amusing.

——I guess, I have been feeling a bit too uneasy for this journey.

Saving the world, reviving the Demon God, request from the Goddess………at the end of this journey, sacrifices will be made definitely. I can’t change that.

Solnea was worried about the fact that she couldn’t laugh. Right now it’s nothing more than just a vague doubt but slowly, she has been starting to question a lot of things. I feel like that’s something to be happy about. Right now Solnea doesn’t have anything like emotions but after seeing a lot of this world, and learning more………I can expect more from her.

But,

In the end, she has to live as a Demon God. As not Solnea but as the Demon God, a life not of a human is waiting for her. I wonder what would she say when I tell her that?…….Well, I did take Astraera around to stalls though. Thinking that, I realized how absurd my own thoughts were. As expected, alone, my thoughts will go in the wrong direction. That’s why, having Aya in front of me is reassuring……..she looked really lovely as she tilted her head as I looked at her though.

Looking towards Solnea, she was simply looking here with a dazed expression.

If she laughed, she’d really be such a beauty.

“What’s wrong, Renji-san?”(aya)

“Nah, about Solnea…….”

“What about Solnea-san?”

“She’d look really beautiful if she smiled right?”

“………..”

[……..What?]

Instantly, my side was hit by an elbow……….I thought I’d break a bone, seriously.

Even though that was just a joke to get rid of the heavy atmosphere. Since she hit me pretty well, I actually felt a bit out of breath. As I slouched forward slightly, Aya walked away leaving me. And after walking a bit, she turned back to look over her shoulder towards me.

“Renji-san, no breakfast for you today.”(aya)

Saying that, with a smile, Aya walked away towards Feirona and the others. Why did she look so scary even when she was smiling?

“So harsh. It was just a joke.”

[You get what you deserve.]

I guess.

Well, it’s better than starting the journey with a heavy atmosphere. I truly think so.

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