Section 1: Returning Home, And Then
Thanks to Phoenix’s light, Carol and Rose-san had managed to regain their energy, but the fact is that neither of them have had anything to eat or drink in the last four days. So with the adrenaline that drove us to this point slowly ebbing away, a chorus of grumblings sang from their stomachs.
So we hurried and lit a fire at the base of the gigantic solretta tree before sharing all the preserved food we were carrying with everyone.
Making sure everyone was full and rested took a while because of that, so by the time we made our way down St. Noglint and arrived back at Solretta Litta, the sun had already begun to rise over the horizon.
After the ents’ invasion, parts of the wall were crumbling here and there while the iron gate had been completely blown away. (That last one was kind of my and Unicorn’s fault.)
As a stopgap measure, carpenters were using a large amount of lumber to fasten together a temporary gate. Among those carpenters working is Mycena who upon seeing that I returned, ran right over to me while carrying a thick piece of lumber over her shoulder.
“Welcome back Iris!!”
“I’m back. Or rather, it’s dangerous running around while carrying that kind of thing.”
I was welcomed home by a friend while riding on Unicorn. And despite Saluena sitting behind me with Carol seated in front, Unicorn looked as if even our combined weight together was no problem for her.
But then, Goldmund was walking right behind us carrying Rose-san and Toslin.
That load looked incredibly heavy with the inclusion of their armor and shields. But since saying something like that out loud would be an insult to a maiden’s dignity, none of us were going to touch the topic.
“I was shocked. While we were in the middle of repairing the gate, a ginormous tree sprouted up from the mountain.”
“Oh, that is….”
I was troubled thinking about how I was going to explain that, but Mycena waved her hands a bit to stop me.
“Ah, I already know. Everyone gathered around to hear about what you did.”
“Huh, what do you mean?”
I was confused for a moment, but then Sarah, Aronda-san, and all the other sisters came running from behind the gate together. And then trailing behind them were both my parents.
As soon as she yelled my name, Sarah tripped, rolling forward in front of me as if we were meeting for the first time in half a year all over again.
“Sarah. What are you doing so early in the morning? Have you gotten any sleep?”
Saluena lifted me off Unicorn and set me down on the ground while I wondered what everyone was doing here. They should still be taking refuge in the church, and it’s much too far for them to have heard I returned and then rushed back here. Ah, and for the sake of my honor I should say that even if I’m not very athletic, I am still more than capable of dismounting a horse by myself. Saluena is just a little overprotective.
“Onee-chan, you were absolutely wonderful!!”
Sarah jumped into my chest and started to praise me while looking up into my face. I wasn’t all together sure what she was talking about though, so I looked over to Aronda-san for an explanation.
And so apparently Sarah and Unicorn can share their senses with each other…….
“Huh? Eh, really?”
“Yes. Sarah-chan knew several details about the carbuncle which she couldn’t have known normally, was able to tell us about the growing solretta tree before it exploded out the side of the mountain, and even accurately guessed the time you all would be returning.”
“When I closed my eyes and thought of you Onee-chan, I was able to see things through Unicorn’s eyes and hear things through her ears.”
Impossible……or probably not.
Unicorn grew from the stuffed animal Sarah had stitched together. She figuratively put her heart and soul into making it, so it’s not too hard to imagine that the miracle which turned that stuffed unicorn into the genuine article would also create a link between the two of them.
“Surely it was the Goddess granting me my wish. I asked her if I could please stay with Onee-chan always……”
So with that being the case……does that mean she saw everything right from the beginning? Defeating the ents, defeating the shadow spirits, defeating the carbuncle and turning it into a phoenix before accidentally causing a tree to grow so huge it burst through the side of a mountain…….everything?
“And so, I’ve decided. I will serve the Goddess as well. She granted me my wish, and I need to show her my thanks.”
“I-Is that so……”
The way my little sister is looking at me…….is a little embarrassing. I’m pretty sure she’s saying some pretty embarrassing things too.
“I am sure the Goddess will be delighted to welcome an adorable believer like Sarah-san.”
Rose-san praised her with a warm smile.
“That’s right. She’s always put a lot of stock in physical beauty.”
Not really sure if what Saluena was saying was meant as a joke or not, her words mostly went through one ear and out the other, but it did help me snap out of my daze.
(Yeah, what she said was lovely. Nothing out of the ordinary.)
By the way, Carol and Toslin haven’t said anything for a while now.
You can tell at a glance the both of them are still beet red.
Well, the two of them had an extra large bomb drop right on top of their heads, so this is about right.
I’m honestly happy for the both of them though, and while I am a little envious too, I pull on Sarah’s hand and rush over to my parents.
And then giving them the absolute brightest smile I can muster,
I sat in my room, dazedly watching the branches of the solretta tree swaying in the wind.
It’s already been three days since the carbuncle’s defeat. Both Rose-san and Carol are being discharged from the hospital today, so I’m supposed to be getting ready to go pick them up.
“Let’s at least change my clothes for now.”
It’s probably around seven o’clock. That time of the morning when Saluena has already gotten up, but Sarah hasn’t called to let me know breakfast is done.
I slipped my arms through the robe Saluena had given me. It’s been getting warmer outside, but we’re still a far ways away from saying it isn’t cold outside which makes this thick fabric a reliable partner for me.
“Let’s go downstairs Unicorn.”
After I finished changing my clothes, I glanced over towards the still warm, comfortable-looking bed, and the plushy Unicorn was soon following after me while making the most of its short, cotton-filled legs.
“Oh, good morning Onee-chan.”
When I walked into the living room, I found Saluena and Sarah setting the table. They were wearing matching aprons, and if I didn’t know any better, I would swear that……they don’t look like sisters at all?
Yeah, I really can’t see it. The general shape of us Calvafon girls’ heads are nothing like Saluena’s.
“Morning. Anything I can help with?”
I asked even though I know there isn’t. Sarah is a hard-working younger sister who always picks up the slack for her fundamentally lazy older sister.
“No there’s nothing in particular, so Onee-chan can just take a seat.”
You see? A really hard working little sister. I can understand why Mycena wants her as a bride.
“Thinking about it, Sarah will be heading over to the church starting today right?”
“Yes. Even though I say that, it’ll only be around once a week for a while. I still have to watch over the store.”
“You sure have it hard.”
“That’s something you shouldn’t be saying.”
“It’s like I’m listening to an old married couple.”
Even though we’ve talked like this ever since we were small children, Saluena thought there was something funny about it.
Meanwhile Unicorn had climbed up into my lap, so, “Do you want something to eat too?” I made a little joke with her.
This kind of atmosphere has hung around the house for the past three days. Occasionally I would go for a walk to see how Mycena is doing with trying to fix up the wall, or I would visit Rose-san and Carol to see how they are doing in the hospital. For the most part however, I’ve been relaxing at home while feeling like I had just returned home after another long journey.
It’s really helped clear up my feelings.
This is the place where my heart can feel most at ease.
“Hey, Saluena. Let’s go meet up with Rose-san and Carol after we’re done eating.”
And yet, I’ve decided to leave this place behind.
I’ve hardened my resolve and am ready to talk with Rose-san, Carol, and Toslin about it.