Section 9: Coming Across Something Strange
“Um……..say that again. What are you doing?”
I understand the individual words she’s saying, but I’m ending up lost when they’re all put together to make a complete sentence. Toslin, Carol, and I were all sharing the same, blank look. Rose-san was the only one of us different. With her hands covering her mouth, she kept looking between Quinn-san and Lovas-san as her cheeks blushed a little.
“We are on a journey, traveling to find the ideal man.”
“No, I’m different……..”
“I called us bandits earlier because we really are thieves. Thieves who specialize in stealing the hearts of men!”
“No, that’s not really what my life is about…………”
“Although we’ve yet to make it off with our prize, we shan’t lose hope! Right Lutey?”
“Ah, yeah……..we just keep going………”
“A bolt went through my heart the moment I saw Quinn-chan. Ah, this man was to be my soulmate. But fate is cruel. Not only was he already married, he already had a child as well.”
Lovas-san received a handkerchief from Lutehorn to wipe away her tears.
“We were originally on our way to try out the nearby hot springs, but along the way we came across Quinn-san as he was getting attacked by goblins.”
“I fought with everything I had, but I was vastly outnumbered. I couldn’t protect Quinn-chan. So while doing our best to cover him, we brought the injured Quinn-chan here. It was only thanks to our luck that this was a fairy village and we were able to escape the goblins……..”
“We couldn’t move Quinn-san with how injured he was, and we couldn’t ask the village for any help because we saw a golem wandering around with the goblins. Honestly we were at a loss for what we should do.”
Apparently Lutehorn never noticed any dark elf either. Perhaps they really had already left………..as I was thinking that, Rose-san suddenly gave Lovas-san a very deep bow.
“So that is how it is………. Ah, I have fallen to a grave misunderstanding………. Please accept my humblest apologies.”
“Oh my it’s fine. It’s fine. It’s by your benevolence Quinn-chan could be saved in the first place. Rather I should be giving you my thanks.”
“That, what I’ve done is nothing compared to your selfless actions. It would be clear to anyone you are the one who saved his life. Ohh, Goddess, please bestow your blessings to these two. Shine your light to illuminate their path.”
Rose-san and Lovas-san were holding each others hands while handing out praise.
“Hold on Rose. I thought you weren’t allowed to talk to men?”
Toslin asked the very question I was wondering.
“Of course. That is certainly the case, but as Lovas-san is not a man, there is no issue.”
“Huh? Um, no………she certainly says she’s a woman, but no matter how I look at her……..”
“You cannot choose how your body changes any more than we can choose the environment we were born into. Being so, how can I criticize anyone who wishes to change something they never had any control over?”
Rose-san struck an awe-inspiring figure as Lovas-san looked up to her as if she were looking at a goddess made flesh.
“Rose-chan……… Do-Do you really think so?”
“Of course. Loving another and pain go hand in hand together, but it is the greatest experience we can ever have. I may be still young, but I do not believe you are wrong for following your heart and seeking love.”
Tears started to pool in the corner of Lovas-san’s eyes as Rose-san smiled.
“To tell you the truth, I was starting to lose confidence. No matter who I fell in love with, no matter how hard I tried, I could never find my soulmate. But Rose-chan’s words have given me new hope. You’ve reassured me.”
Lovas-san wiped away her tears with a handkerchief and nodded her head.
“Let’s go Lutey. Let’s look for new encounters. And this time, we’ll definitely find a love we deserve.”
“Ah, um………..okay, let’s do our best.”
“Rose-chan. Thank you once again for your words. And if you’d like, please take this.”
Lovas-san removed a shiny silver ring from her finger and slid it on Rose-san’s index finger. Unfortunately the ring was a bit too big, so it had to go on her thumb instead.
“It’s a ring that connects us sisters and Rose-chan. If you ever find yourself in any trouble, don’t hesitate to write a letter with the seal on that ring attached. It will surely help you.”
Rose-san took a second to observe the ring on her finger, but before long she nodded with a beaming smile.
“Yes. Thank you very much. I will keep it with the utmost care.”
Lovas-san nodded happily hearing Rose-san’s reply before turning to Quinn-san with a determined expression.
“Well, we’re off. Be sure to live a happy life from now on.”
Quinn-san wrestled himself from his moss bed and bowed.
“Thank you. I will never forget what you’ve done for me.”
“Stop, feel free to forget. Rather than wasting your time thinking about somebody like me, give that precious time to your wife and child instead.”
Lovas-san put her things away into her leather bag and slung it on her back before moving to leave. Lutehorn chased after her but stopped for a second and turned around.
“Iris. I’ll write you a letter.”
Lutehorn’s orange pigtails shook as she turned her head and waved.
“Mm. I’ll write too. Let’s meet again.”
Although our time together was short, Lutehorn and I had talked quite a bit together. We had spoken about all kinds of things, and I’d like to know more about her. She looked as if she truly cherished the note with my home address on it in her breast pocket, and I burned the sight of her smiling face into my brain before she left.
Goodbyes are lonely. But, it would be even lonelier if we had never met to begin with. If I had spent my whole life as a shopkeeper behind a counter in a book store, I’d have never met Lutehorn like this. As I thought, adventures are amazing.
“Well, should he head back too?”
Toslin placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Mm. Let’s go. I’m sure the mayor is worried.”
“But there really weren’t any more goblins. It looks like we killed them all back then. There goes our chance to earn an extra reward.”
“So greedy. How about being happy that we’re escorts with nobody to fight? So then Quinn-san, can you walk? I could lend you a shoulder if you need it.”
Quinn-san shook his head at Toslin’s offer.
“It’s all right. I’m sorry you had to come out all this way to help me, and as a man it would be too pitiful of me if I needed any more help from you young ladies.”
“Okay, I get it. Then let’s go. If we leave now, we should be able to make it back to the village by sunset. Rose, we’re heading out.”
Rose-san nodded while checking how her new ring felt on her finger. So just like that, we were able to safely rescue Quinn-san and could now return back to the village triumphant.
I couldn’t know that the short time after this moment was actually the calm before the storm.
We walked through the snow-covered road with a much lighter step than we had coming through before. I wanted to reassure the mayor and the people of the village as quickly as I could. My feet complain about the pain as they plod through the snow, but right now I hardly even notice it.
“Hey hey, what’s for dinner tonight?”
Carol had once again taken the lead, and even she was about twenty percent brighter than she had been before we entered the cave. That’s probably why she hasn’t stopped talking over the last hour.
“Dunno. How about you keep walking without worrying about it. There might still be some goblins lurking around here.”
Toslin was grumbling as if Carol’s liveliness was wearing her down. And yet her pace was steady; at least compared to somebody with an abysmal sense of balance like me.
“Boo. I know that. But I’m so bored. All we’ve done all this time is walk. Hey, doesn’t Iris think so too?”
Carol turned around and asked for my agreement from the back.
“Eh? Ah, not at all. Look, how could I be bored when the scenery is so beautiful?”
We’re back on a road, but there’s a gentle slope we have to walk up. When I turn around, I can see the path we’ve walked up is sewn through with winding, twisting trees. Light spills from the green canopy here and there, reflecting off the snowflakes being carried off by the wind to produce a brilliantly sparkling scene.
“She’s been charmed. Did you hear? Iris is starting to sound more and more like an adventurer.”
Toslin started to laugh, and Carol squinted at her.
“So Toslin isn’t bored then? You’re satisfied killing time by watching the scenery pass us by?”
“No, that’s impossible.”
She’s saying two completely different things here.
“So? Then it’s fine to hurry it up for the supper we haven’t seen yet.”
“I never said we couldn’t pick up the pace. We just need to be careful not to be taken by any surprises now that we have Quinn-san with us.”
“Right right. So, what does Toslin think it’s going to be?”
“Hmm, let me think…….. We had that stew earlier………..it’d be nice to have that again. Honestly anything would be fine as long as it’s hot.”
“In that case, how about some honey glazed barbato? The person who runs the inn is also a beekeeper, so the taste is guaranteed.”
Quinn-san jumped in on the conversation, and all three of them started getting noisy as we walked up the valley.
“Uwa, tasty! So good, so good, I wish I could eat it already.”
Carol was about ready to start drooling as Toslin smiled evilly.
“Well anything’s delicious in your opinion so long as it’s meat.”
Rose-san and I walked together while listening to the three of them talk. Rose-san kept her mouth closed because Quinn-san was with us. Although part of her quiet might also be because she kept stealing a glance at the ring she now wore with a gentle smile.
“I was scared at first, but they were really good people.”
When I brought it up, Rose-san looked out somewhere in the distance.
“This incident has made me realize just how immature I am.”
Rose-san whispered quietly so that Quinn-san couldn’t hear.
“But even as I am, I can still help other people. I learned that today as well. So…………I’m happy.”
I kept walking while watching Rose-san who looked truly overjoyed. As we got closer to the village, more gaps appeared in the green canopy making the area around us brighter. The amount of snow at our feet increased as well, and a fresh crunch could be heard with every step we took.
“Hm? Hold on a minute.”
Carol held up her hand and stopped our march just like how she had done when we first found the toppled carriage. She was looking at something far off from us and pointed towards the end of the road.
But this time I noticed what was wrong right away without having to ask Carol any questions. It was the same for Toslin, Rose-san, and Quinn-san as we all blinked and stared off together.
Toslin’s murmurings turned into a groan halfway through. Carol ran forward, and we all followed after her. Straight towards our destination. We rushed down the hardened snow on our snowy path, weaving around the toppled trees blocking our way.