Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all enjoy the start to a new decade.
Section 8: An Unexpected Encounter
We all rubbed our eyes and took another look at the scene playing out in front of us. Rose-san had frozen in place, still holding her mace over her head with an uneasy look on her face. Seeing us like that, Quinn-san let out a small, “Umm,” before saying anything else.
“This here is Lovas-san. They’re the one who carried me here after I was injured.”
“It’s no good, you shouldn’t be moving. Didn’t I tell you to stay quiet until I came back?”
The man…….Lovas-san picked up Quinn-san and sat him back down on the moss bed. I was somewhat overwhelmed by his presence and hurriedly got out of his way.
“So then? Who are these people here? As far as I can tell, they certainly don’t look like a bunch of village girls who’ve come looking for you.”
The man stood in front of Quinn-san as if he were protecting him and turned a questioning gaze towards us.
“Ah, right. They’re members of the Warrior Guild who were hired to come looking for me. They healed my wounds, and I already feel a lot better.”
“Greetings. I’m Tosrillon from the Warrior Guild. This here is Carotayle, over here is Iris, and over there is Rosalith.”
After a brief greeting from Toslin, Lovas-san made a large grin showing off his shiny white teeth.
“Oh my so that’s how it is. What a bunch of cuties. That priestess nee-chan looked especially brave and cool. Honestly you had me quaking in my boots.”
I’m not sure if ‘quaking in my boots’ would be how I’d describe how he responded to Rose-san attacking him, but I do feel like I know what this man is.
“Are you an okama?”
Toslin started panicking a little when Carol came out and straightforwardly asked.
“Oh my no. Not a transvestite; I’m a woman born and raised. Although I do suppose my body is a little man-like.”
“How is this a little………”
Toslin stared at Lovas-san looking exhausted.
“Eh? But I always go through the proper care? Twice a day every day I deal with any unwanted hair. Well, I do forget every once in a while and can end up covered in dirt like I am right now, but isn’t it fine if I’m just a slightly hairy woman?”
No, even if you ask me that………. I mean, there’s all that chest hair……….how can anyone grow that much when they shave twice a day every day…………. I told myself to drop it thinking there were some things in this world we were better off not knowing.
“Ah, umm……..I’m back.”
Thereupon another voice reached my exhausted ear. A short girl was peeking her head out from behind the doorway where Lovas-san had come in from. The girl had a baby face with big, impressively round eyes and orange, braided hair that cutely swayed down her back.
She was wearing a dress that seemed a little out of place in a cave like this along with a warm-looking fur coat. I felt a certain affinity with her, but that was because her role was probably the same as mine. After we had shared a bow to welcome each other, Lovas-san walked over.
“You’re late. Allow me to introduce all of you. This girl is my companion Lutehorn. I’ve taken to calling her Lutey though.”
Lovas-san grabbed a basket of snow Lutehorn-san was carrying and brought it over to Quinn-san.
From beginning to end, the conversation had worn Toslin out, and behalf of all the rest of us, let out a long sigh.
“Hoh, you live in a bookstore? That’s so cool~. I love books. After all if you live in a bookstore, you can read as much as you want right?”
When she found out I was the daughter of a bookstore owner, Lutehorn-san’s eyes started sparkling.
“Eh, um well…….. More or less.”
“Ohh, I’m so jealous. Even though I love books, with the business I’m in, I never have any chances to read.”
“Hey Lutey. What are you doing? It’s almost time for lunch.”
Lovas-san shook the basket while calling over Lutehorn-san.
“Y-Yes. Right away.”
Apparently Lutehorn-san is in charge of the meals.
“Ah, let me help out too.”
I was starting to feel more and more similar to this girl as I rushed ahead of Toslin.
Lutehorn-san is sixteen just like me, but apparently monsters killed her parents two years ago. Without a single other relative, it seems that Lovas-san picked her up and saved her from having to struggle through life with nothing.
“Is that so…….”
Lutehorn-san laughed brightly while we ate. Even though we’re the same age, her strength is overwhelming for me.
“No no, stop with the honorifics. We’re the same age after all.”
Lutehorn-san laughed some more while patting me on the back.
“Ah, yeah. That’s right. But…….it’s difficult…….. Because Lutehorn-san is so much more put together than I am……..”
“Eeeeh~. What’s with that? You’re talking like I’m some old granny.”
“Ahahaha, that too. You’re really good at cooking though.”
“Iris-san is too.”
We started laughing together when our eyes met. Using some water we boiled after melting the snow, the two of us combined the ingredients and seasonings we had to make a tasty stew. The warmth gradually spread through our cold bodies.
“Well then……..is it okay if I call you Iris?”
“Mm, it’s fine. Well, I…….oh yeah, Lutey is pretty good.”
“Ehh, that name’s a little different. There are other names you can call me.”
After finishing our food and lying back, satisfied with how stuffed our tummies had gotten, we both laughed together a surprising amount.
“Indeed. The only person who can call Lutey Lutey is me because we made a sisterly vow together. Sorry about that. But if Iris-chan wants to call her Lutey by any means, I certainly wouldn’t mind becoming your sister as well.”
When I carelessly matched my gaze with hers, Lovas-san mercilessly let fly a thick wink. Oh no, at this rate I really will be made her sister. My brain started chaotically turning around trying to churn out the safest name it could come up with.
“T-Then it can’t be helped. Just Lutehorn……….that’ll be okay.”
The words leap out of my dry, quivering lips the instant they hopped into my head.
“R-right……..that’s fine. Sorry, she’s not a bad person……..”
Lutehorn murmured in a small voice.
“Booooooooo. You two have been getting friendly over here for a while. Iris belongs to me. Stealing is banned.”
Carol broke in between us and started clinging to my arm.
“Ahaha, sorry Carol-chan. I see. Iris has already been taken by somebody else.”
While I started wiping off some of the crumbs that had gotten stuck on Carol’s cheeks, Toslin suddenly lifted her head like she just remembered something.
“Oh yeah. We forgot to ask the most important question. What was Lovas-san doing here in the first place?”
“Speaking of which…….you mentioned earlier you brought Quinn-san here, so does that mean you were providing an escort for the delivery or something?”
I listened in, desperately trying to keep my eyes from unintentionally wandering to her chest.
“Ah no, it’s something else. Really, your guess is completely off the mark.”
Lovas-san wagged her finger in front of her face.
“Eh, what were you doing then?”
When Carol asked, Lovas-san flexed her muscles, puffed out her chest, and gave a proud response.
“We’re bandits. Thievery is our job werewolf-ojouchan.”
I instinctively took a step back as Rose-san jumped to her feet and moved in front of me. She then once again pointed her mace at Lovas-san.
“So it really was you who attacked Quinn-san and caused the delivery to be delayed?”
“Oh my scary. But yes. It’s true. To be certain, I did attack Quinn-san.”
“…….in that case, I still must defeat you………”
As Rose-san’s grip tightened on her spiked mace, Quinn-san yelled out again.
“H-Hold on a bit! It’s different. Please, listen for a moment!”
“Tch, calm down Rose! Okay? Your opponent isn’t putting up a fight!”
While Rose-san quietly glared down at Lovas-san, Toslin hurriedly grabbed her arm to stop her.
As expected, not even Rose-san could easily shake off Toslin’s powerful grip. So as the deeply pious Rose-san glared down at her, the unarmed Lovas-san solemnly spoke.
“Ah, such a gallant figure is wonderful as well. If only you weren’t a woman, I would’ve fallen hard for you already. You’re like a malicious goddess. Not giving me anything I desire.”
“I never asked for your complaints.”
“Oh my, I apologize. But I just had to mention it. When you think you’ve met your soulmate…….”
Lovas-san gazed over at Quinn-san’s rugged, masculine face and let out a deep, hot sigh.
“Sorry…….I already have a wife and child…………”
“It’s fine. Because, I’ve already gotten used to such things……….but I won’t lose hope. I’ll keep trying my best! Until the day I’ve captured my wonderful prince!”
It’s capture rather than meet……… Right, well, it’s fine. Other than that………
“U-Umm………..I don’t really understand what’s going on Lutehorn.”
Lutehorn gave me a bitter smile. She then went on to tell the story. We found out the reason why the tanned Lovas-san’s cheeks were turning such a deep crimson.