Section 3: Prayer to a Unicorn
“Ah, Onee-chan. Where have you been?”
The store is closed this time of night, so I had to come in through the back door. That was when I ran into Sarah who had steam rising off her body after having just gotten out of the bath.
“I was just seeing off Toslin and the others.”
“Toslin-san, you mean that elf knight!?”
I nodded while taking off my coat, and Sarah let out a small whine right on the spot.
“I wanted to see them off too…..”
“Even if you did, they’re just going to complete a job. It’s not like they’re leaving for another city. They’ll be back tomorrow morning.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is. It must be hard for adventurers to have to work at night.”
“Sarah. If you keep standing around like that forever, you’re going to catch a cold.”
Sarah jumped when the other knight in our lives, Saluena, spoke up.
“Oh, you’re probably right. I’ll go up to my room then. Saluena-sama, thanks for taking care of Onee-chan for me.”
“That is my job after all.”
Sarah gave a quick bow before skittering off.
“She’s quite levelheaded for her age.”
“Yep, my pride and joy little sister.”
Just as I was singing her praises, Sarah poked her head back from around the corner of the hallway.
“Oh, I almost forgot Onee-chan, I finished those wool panties you wanted me to make for you and left them on your bed!!”
After she finished saying what she had to say, Sarah’s footsteps echoed loudly as she once again ran off.
“Hoh……so Sarah made those wool undergarments herself. For someone of her age to be that adept with her hands, I’m becoming more and more impressed.”
I know Sarah didn’t mean any harm here. And Saluena just happened to be standing next to me.
“……r-right……? She’s even capable of knitting sweaters too. My sister really is amazing.”
But I still really wish she had told me that in secret if it were at all possible. These panties are vital for keeping me warm, but for other people to hear about it……is still embarrassing.
After having dinner and taking a bath, I slipped into bed and opened up a book. But even with the light of the candle fully illuminating the words scrawled across its pages, I couldn’t find it in me to read any of them.
Right now Toslin, Carol, and Rose-san are all probably still walking through the cold night air. Maybe they ran into some monsters sooner than expected and are already fighting.
When you think about it normally, they’ve all grown to at least level 15 to become orange rank adventurers, so they should have enough strength to crush even that ice golem if they had to.
It’s hard to imagine somebody gaining that much strength in such a short amount of time, but adventurers are the type of people who can make that a reality.
There is a running theory that strong monsters have an ancient power dwelling within them, a vestige of the Primordial World, and when an adventurer slays those monsters, they absorb that power into themselves. Consequently, adventurers are obligated to undertake baptismal rites as a way to have them monitored. That way a second Dark Violet Knight will never manifest as it were.
It’s a dubious theory at best, but if it were true, that would explain how Toslin and the others got such a dramatic increase in power.
“Which is all the more reason…….why they’ll all be fine.”
Those people are strong. They can keep their cool, and Rose-san has her miracles should anything happen. The only fly in the ointment would be the fact that Carol and Toslin have no sense of direction……..huh? Those ruins were originally an old mine system. Don’t they say the tunnels of a mine are like a road that never ends? If so…….are they really going to be all right? Do they have a map? Would they be able to read it even if they did?
“Now I’m really worried.”
I know there’s no use in me worrying at this point, but I don’t feel like reading my book anymore.
I set my book aside and instead picked up my stuffed animal.
“Goddess…… I’m sorry to call you so late at night, but please, protect Toslin, Carol, and Rose-san……”
Setting my stuffed animal on my lap, I clasped my hands in front of me and began to pray. It’s a windless, cloudless, moonlit night tonight. Perhaps on a night like this, my prayer might just reach the quiet castle where the Goddess sits.
“Praying to the Goddess? When did you become so religious?”
My bedroom door rattled halfway through my prayer as Saluena returned after finishing her own bath. But she waited until I was finished praying before saying anything.
“Hey, have Toslin and the others really gotten stronger?”
Saluena nodded her head slightly while checking to see how comfortable her new pajamas really were.
“It’s hard for me to say since I don’t know how strong they used to be. But if I had to say whether they’re strong or weak, I’d definitely say they are strong. I’m more worried about these pajamas. The cloth is too thin, and I can’t calm down. Like this, I won’t be able to throw on my armor or strap on my sword if there’s an emergency.”
“That’s because they’re pajamas. You wouldn’t be able to sleep if they were too stiff. They’re fine, and they suit you too.”
“No, I’m not asking whether or not they suit me.”
Saluena is currently wearing the same pink pajamas I am. I bought them at the same time I bought my own when we were shopping for everyday Saluena’s day-to-day clothing a couple days ago. Personally I think the white flower embroidered on the chest looks really cute. For the record, Rose-san picked them out.
“There’s no use in arguing because you’re the one being odd here Saluena. This is how pajamas are. More importantly, stop standing there and get over here already. Or do you want to catch a cold?”
Saluena still didn’t seem convinced, but she inevitably gave up, setting her sword next to the bed and getting in next to me. Her body was pleasantly warm from her bath, but her hair was still a little cold and damp.
“What is that?”
Saluena took an interest in the stuffed animal I was fiddling with in my hands, poking it while leaning in for a better look.
“Hm? It’s a stuffed animal.”
Did they not have plush toys a thousand years ago?
“I know what a stuffed animal is. But I don’t recognize the animal it’s supposed to be.”
Saluena read my mind and instantly shot me down. I keep my stuffed animal close to my window during the day, so tightening my arms around it, it gives off a smell similar to an air-dried comforter.
“Huh? You don’t know? It’s called a unicorn. It’s a famous spirit that sided with the Goddess during the Illyarian War.”
“I never saw something like this. Why is there a horn growing out of its head? Wouldn’t that get in the way when it eats grass?”
“Unicorns are supposed to be spirits, so maybe they don’t need to eat grass?”
“I see. But a spirit huh. Most spirits back in the olden days refused to follow the Goddess and had to be cut down because of how violent they were.”
“R-Really? But unicorns are supposed to be good spirits. So if you ever see one, please don’t kill it. Okay? By the way, they say unicorns are supposed to be the guardian spirits of virgin girls.”
“Hoh, a cute guardian spirit like this is going to make me laugh.”
Despite what she was saying, Saluena’s expression relaxed a little as she continued poking the stuffed animal. Maybe she’s the type of person who adores dogs and cats. Uwa, the impression she gives off just keeps getting further from the truth.
“Sarah made this for me as well. It’s supposed to keep me from having any nightmares.”
“She really is dexterous.”
For a moment, both of us sat there, stroking the stuffed animal. There was no conversation nor howling of the wind. A moment of complete silence. But there wasn’t any awkwardness or discomfort. It was a comfortable moment, like all of this was natural.
“Did you want to follow them?”
And Saluena’s question shattered it all.
“……..I couldn’t follow them. I’ve worried my family for the past six months already, so to leave again…….I just can’t.”
“Sarah especially, she’s a kid who gets worried so easily.”
Sarah’s face as she clung to me, crying her eyes out popped back into my head. Just thinking about that face causes my chest to tighten in guilt so much that it hurts.
“It’s natural for her to worry. For Sarah, you’re her one and only sister.”
“…..yeah, that’s right.”
Saluena seemed convinced. But, I can’t understand how she could be.
“What is it?”
“Why did you become a knight?”
What do I want? What do I want to do? Right now I’ve come to a complete stop, unable to answer either of those questions.
“Do you really want to know?”
Saluena focused a gentle gaze on me and nodded. With the light of the burning candle reflecting off of them, her dark blue eyes glittered like a couple of jewels.
“I’m glad, but hearing another person’s answer isn’t going to help you. If you’re looking for an answer, you’ll have to think of it yourself.”
“But, I don’t know……..”
Saluena put a finger over my mouth just as I was about to ask again for an answer.
“Don’t be impatient maiden. You’re smart. I’m sure you’ll find your answer in time.”
I sat there with my mouth closed, unable to look away from Saluena’s beautiful eyes. Her sweet-sounding voice soothed my heart with a mysterious persuasive power.
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes, I really do. In your eyes I might be ahead of you, but the path you’ll walk is so far beyond me, the day will come where I will be the one following after you.”
“…….I see, then…….I’ll do as you say.”
“That would be for the best. The troubled look doesn’t suit your face. I much prefer the bright smile you usually make.”
“Do you say that same thing to Rose-san too?”
“Of course. Rosa is the maiden with the greatest smile in the world.”
I got back a prideful boast as an answer. I didn’t even need to ask. I didn’t even need to ask.
“Yes yes, of course. Then it’s about time we get to sleep, so good night.”
Setting my head down on my pillow, I felt a hand gently brush against my hair. Opening my eyes slightly back up again and glancing next to me, I saw Saluena, praying with the stuffed unicorn sitting on her lap.
“I thought you didn’t pray to the Goddess?”
I whispered softly…….
“Which is why I’m praying to this one here.”
Indeed, a unicorn is the ideal choice to wish for Rose-san’s safety.
Chuckling under my breath, I closed my eyes and kept them closed this time.
I’m going to have a good dream tonight.