Section 13: Repentance
As my feet touched ground outside of the church, they rooted in place for a moment without yet turning towards home.
The snow that had once blanketed Solretta Litta’s road had mostly melted, showing off the city’s magnificent cobblestone road. The sun shone bright enough to make someone think it was already the middle of spring as its rays bounced off the damp rock, causing the whole road to shimmer and sparkle. But looking on, it wasn’t as emotionally moving as it had been a few days ago.
No, it’s probably more accurate to say that I couldn’t be moved.
A feeling of loss is swirling inside me. I’m frustrated with myself, and my heart refuses to settle. Saluena seems to understand that and hasn’t said a word to me since we left the library. All she’s done since is quietly follow behind me.
Before returning home, I took my last shred of hope and headed back to the guild.
“I-Is that so……. Sorry to make you keep checking every day………”
But the answer I got was the same one I received two hours ago. The others haven’t gotten back yet, and no word has come through about their safety.
“H-Hold on you……”
I dragged my heavy feet and tried making my way back out of the guild, but somebody called out to me from a nearby table.
“Yes, what’s wrong Peachseed-san?”
“What’s wrong………that’s what I want to know. What happened? Right now……you look terrible.”
“No, this isn’t a ‘really?’ moment. Seriously……what happened? When you left here before, you were so…….”
I vaguely remember. Elzella-san came to get me, and we all headed for the church. It feels like it happened so long ago, but forget a day, it hasn’t even been a few hours since I was last here. I’m sure it must be a huge shock to see how much I’ve changed in such a short amount of time. I can understand that even without Peachseed-san saying anything.
“…….Sorry, I…….I can’t think about anything right now…… Thanks for your concern.”
Keeping my head down, I managed to at least mumble a response for Peachseed-san as I walked past her and made my way for the door. Saluena was there waiting and silently greeted me.
“It looks like they still aren’t back yet.”
Saluena spoke very matter-of-factly, not showing any sings of discouragement or impatience.
It was hard for me to even look at her, so I hurriedly walked past her as well and escaped out of the guild.
After leaving the guild, my feet carried me over to the marketplace. Several people I knew called out to me, but as I am now, a polite wave is the best I could give back to them.
I kept walking and eventually made my way outside of the market. Finding myself at the water fountain at the center of the city square, I could smell several delicious scents coming from the stalls scattered around. Whenever I ran out to play with Mycena, we always ate lunch together here. Right now though it’s a little too late for lunch and a little too early for dinner, so there aren’t many customers around at the moment.
“…….Saluena…….do you want something to eat?”
Saluena should still be right behind me, so without turning around, I asked her if she was hungry.
“No, I am fine. Please don’t worry about me.”
“Don’t worry, Saluena, I should be the one saying…….”
you don’t have to worry about me anymore. And you don’t need to follow me anymore either. I’m not somebody worth protecting………
I turned around, ready to say everything, but as I turned, I caught something out of the corner of my eye that caused me to lose track of my thought.
“…….is there something wrong with that building?”
My gaze had locked on to the city’s theater, one of the five largest buildings in the city. It doesn’t put on as many plays during the winter months, but they still put on a comedy and tragedy every day for the sake of the tourists and theater lovers.
“…..Rose-san, she was so excited……”
“When this job was done, you and her were going to go out together…… When I told her there was a theater in this city, she looked so incredibly, happy……..”
“Ah…….then this place is, is that so?”
I nodded. But, Rose-san hasn’t come back. Her and Saluena walking through that door together…….will probably never happen.
“Oh, isn’t that Iris-chan?”
Looking up, I saw Marcus-san calling to me from his position on top of the wall.
“What did you need coming to a place like this at this time of day?”
It takes ten minutes walking down a slope to get here from the city square. I had found myself at one of the city’s three gates.
“……W-Well…….um…….has a party of an elf, a werewolf, and a priestess come through here?”
The quickest way to get from the city to the ruins in St. Noglint is through this gate. So I was thinking that if they’ve returned, this is were they would be……not that I was holding any kind of expectations.
“Isn’t that the party who was escorting you when you came back?”
“Y-Yes. They got a job while they were here, and I was just thinking it was about time for them to get back……”
“Hmmm, I see. Sorry to say though I haven’t seen them. Have you checked with the guild yet?”
“……Y-Yes. But it doesn’t look like they’ve returned yet…….”
The last part of my sentence tapered off, so I’m not sure if he could here me. But Marcus-san still leaned off the edge of the wall and tried to console me.
“An adventurer’s job can bring a lot of trouble. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for work to drag on. Don’t worry about it and head home. It’s warm right now, but it’ll get chillier as night draws near.”
“…….right, I understand. I’m sorry to bother you at work like this.”
“Haha, I don’t mind if it’s Iris-chan. When your adventurer friends come back, I’ll be sure to let them know how worried you were.”
After thanking Marcus-san for his consideration, I once again started walking.
Having traveled across the city, we found ourselves back on main street where the white leaves of the solretta tree have already started to grow in.
“Hey, Hey Saluena…….”
“What is it my master?”
If we keep walking for just another five minutes, we’ll be home. The Calvafon Bookstore. The stage of my normal, unremarkable life for the past sixteen years.
“Aren’t you…….angry with me?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
My feet which had been moving on their own without me ever even having to think about where I needed to go until now suddenly came to a stop. It’s like, they’re refusing to go any further.
“Let’s go. You’ll catch a cold.”
Realizing I wasn’t going to move on my own, Saluena took my hand, stepping in front of me for the first time today. For five minutes we walked without saying anything, Saluena pulling me along, and me being dragged behind her.
“……I……was relieved, back then……..”
I made my confession as Saluena’s hand gripped the backdoor’s doorknob. My face twisted bitterly, like a criminal repenting their sins.