Section 2: Quiet Conversation in the Sunset Part 2
My own body’s shivering caused me to wake up.
“……it’s too cold……”
According to Iris, it’s been getting a bit warmer outside as each day passes. But I haven’t been able to get that feeling. I still need Carol’s warmth.
After combing my hair and getting dressed, I walked down to the dining room on the first floor. Iris’s father introduced us to this inn the first night I stayed in Solretta Litta. It’s a lovely and spacious inn for as low as the rate is.
There aren’t any loud guests here causing a racket at night, nor are there any bothersome guys who feel the need to constantly call out to me. The only thing I would have to complain about is how the stove inside the rooms are a little weak.
“So then, we’re all set for tomorrow’s departure?”
“Yeah but, are you really okay Kutuna? It was a pretty deep wound.”
“T-That’s right. You don’t need to push yourself. Osnell isn’t going anywhere.”
Most mornings I’ve found a group of three adventurers who look like they’ve been staying here a lot longer than I have gathered together in the dining room talking amongst themselves.
There aren’t many dark-skinned adventurers in this city, and when I see these two almost every morning, it’s only natural that I would come to recognize their faces.
But it sounds like they’ll be heading off to Osnell soon. This inn is about to get even quieter.
“……ah, g-good morning.”
After ordering my breakfast, I glanced over towards the trio and met the gaze of the one wearing a robe. She greeted me with a small bow, so I replied in turn.
But, that’s where my relationship with them ends. We don’t know each other’s names, where we come from, or even how old each of us is.
After a while my order came in, and I focused on my breakfast.
I finished my food by myself in silence, and when I finally finished, I looked up to find there was nobody else in the dining room other than me.
I know today is the day they’re discharged from the hospital, but I don’t know what time they’re supposed to leave.
So after finishing my breakfast, I headed straight for the hospital.
I ended up arriving too early though, and when I got to the room, I saw that Iris and Saluena hadn’t stopped by yet.
“I am going ahead to handle the discharge process.”
Already ready to depart, Rose said so and left the room.
Which inevitably means that it was just me……
and Carol left.
“Yeah, did you sleep all right last night?”
“Mm~, not too well. The beds here are way too soft. What about you?”
“I was shivering all night from how cold it was.”
“Oh, so it’s still that cold out.”
Carol was sitting at the edge of her bed, kicking her legs back and forth. It feels like forever since I’ve seen her wear her adventurer gear instead of some hospital loungewear. Although, I guess it’s only been a couple of days.
“……I suppose I should give it now?”
Once we leave the hospital, I have no idea when we’ll get a chance to be alone again. So with that thought in mind, I pulled out a small box from the pouch hanging at my waist.
There are two pendants inside said small box. The both of them use silver chains with a small ruby affixed in the setting.
I picked out one of them and tried hanging it around Carol’s neck. But……
“I-I don’t need it!”
Carol drew back her body and refused it.
“I know. But I want to give it to you.”
“W-Why!? We don’t need to celebrate my discharge as…….”
“That’s not it. I was only using your discharge as an excuse. I could’ve used any number of reasons to justify this.”
She always turns it down at first. It was the same way with that comb. Actually, you could say I’m doing better this time around since she hasn’t knocked it out of my hand yet.
“W-Why? Why……do you want to give me that?”
“Let me ask you, why do you hate it so much? Is it that annoying to get a present from me?”
“N-No you’re wrong!! It’s just……no……but……”
Carol gave me that same teary-eyed look she had yesterday. I didn’t ask what was wrong back then, but things are different now. This is the only thing I need her to accept.
“Why then? Why are you so against it?”
I never expected to hear those words come from Carol’s mouth.
“Scary? What do you mean?”
Carol’s gaze fell to her feet when I asked. Her always perked up ears were now drooping down.
“When you accept something from someone……then it becomes……a memento of that person……”
Carol’s words were broken and faint, making it hard to understand her. I wasn’t able to pick out everything, but I could figure out what she was trying to say from the bits I could make out.
“B-But!! But I’m right!! It could happen!! We have no idea when we’re going to be separated from each other!!”
“When we were fighting the dragon, I thought……I thought Toslin was dead…… And just before this, you……thought I was dead……right? Isn’t that so?”
I nodded at Carol’s desperate questioning.
“Yes, but this and that have nothing to do with each other.”
“You, You don’t get it…… We’ve been lucky until now, but next time…….Toslin might die…….”
“Hey hey, don’t go killing me off all of the sudden.”
Carol’s tear-stained face looked just like that of a child’s. No……she really is still a child.
Whenever we’re around Iris and the others, she always does her best to look as big as she can while avoiding needing to cry as much as possible. It’s only when she’s with me, when we’re alone together, that she starts acting her age.
“Then think about it this way. You already accepted the comb I gave you, yet we’re still together like this. Saluena said it before. The red thread of fate ties our pinkies together. So couldn’t accepting this gift just make that thread grow stronger?”
“But nothing. Where did you hear about this kind of jinx in the first place?”
“……I don’t know. I don’t know who they were. I overheard someone talking about it in a dining area…..”
“So you’re willing to believe the words of some guy you don’t know over what I’m telling you now?”
People who live while relying on their senses have a bad habit of putting too much faith in luck and superstitions. And once they’ve become ingrained, it’s difficult to change those habits.
So then what should I do? How do I get her to accept this?
“These pendants are adorned with a rubies, and rubies are said to give their owners eternal life. That’s what Iris said……I’m pretty sure. Probably.”
After thinking for a bit, I decided the only way to go is to give Carol a new superstition to believe in.
“Don’t you think we’ll be sure to see good luck come our way if we believe the same?”
Carol clammed up for a moment.
“Why….are you giving me one though? You said the discharge was just an excuse. Then…..why is it so important to you that I accept this?”
Carol looked up, her gaze probing my expression, begging for an answer.
I took that gaze head on.
“Because there’s something I had to tell you.”
And I gave her the answer I found within myself.
“These stones apparently have another meaning. One that I believe in. And one I want you to believe in as well.”
I reached out once again, sliding the pendant around Carol’s neck.
“I love you”
Something, completely unbelievable just came from Toslin’s mouth.
At that moment, every thought running through my head was whisked away, leaving behind nothing but an empty white space.
A pendant appeared around my neck before I knew it. My eyes kept jumping back and forth between its beautiful red stone and Toslin’s face.
“I know you’re usually supposed to give a ring at times like these. And it sounds like that’s what you wanted in your dream. But if we were to wear matching rings……I thought they might get in the way?”
Toslin’s face is redder than the apple I ate yesterday. But right now, I think my face is probably the same color.
“Ah…….huh? Um, just now…….”
I blinked over and over again. I thought I might be dreaming again, but the moment kept going on as my heart beat like an alarm bell.
“Would you give me mine?”
Toslin held out the other pendant.
And I……took it.
“H-Hey……what did you just say……..?”
“……I’m not saying it again.”
Toslin was obviously extremely embarrassed, but not once did she ever turn her eyes away from mine.
And so I made sure to stare right back at her. And then I said
“I want to hear it. One more time.”
Toslin scratched her cheek. And then she took a deep breath. My breath caught in my throat as she did.
“……I love you. That, is what this stone is supposed to represent. That……is what I wanted to tell you. I knew I would always regret it if you were to die without me ever getting to tell you that. And you Carol?”
My voice trembled. These hands that had once permanently scarred Toslin’s neck…….were now slipping a pendant around it.
The red glow of the ruby looked wonderful against Toslin’s beautiful white skin.
“Me too……I like you too! I-I love you!!”
I love you. It’s a phrase that doesn’t suit me. It’s something I’ve only ever said as a joke until now and seemed like the words furthest away from me.
I’ve lived on my own, thinking that everyone, everyone will someday die. Ever since my parents were killed. That’s why I never thought the day would come where these kinds of thoughts would become buried in my heart. And because of that, I felt like my words wouldn’t be enough to get Toslin to believe me.
So I kissed her.
I jumped up, threw my arms around her neck, and lost myself in a kiss.
I pulled away from her after my head had cooled down a bit. I might have bothered her just now. Thinking about it, Toslin’s “I love you” might have meant something different from mine.
When that thought crossed my mind, I got scared again.
“Why are you apologizing?”
“B-Because……I’ve caused all sorts of problems for Toslin before……. Even now, all on my own I……I get annoying…….”
“Honestly, of course you get extremely annoying once in a while.”
Toslin let out a sigh before suddenly starting to laugh. She then grabbed the scared me, and this time…….
…….she kissed me.
“……do you get it yet? We’ve been together for half our lives already, so of course there are times where we’re going to annoy each other.”
The feel of Toslin’s lips on my own lingered as tears ran down my cheek from the uncontrollable surge of emotions rising in my chest.
“So don’t apologize anymore okay? And just like we promised back then, we’ll keep on laughing. Do you still have any doubts?”
Toslin looked right into my eyes and asked.
I swallowed my words before I could apologize again. I wracked my brain for something else to say, but I didn’t have to look that hard. They were right there waiting for me.
“T-Thank you……for finding me…… I’m, really, happy……happy that I got to meet Toslin……and happy I got to tell you I love you……”
…….we didn’t need to say anything after that.
Just like in that dream, I was overcome with the happiness of Toslin’s tight embrace.
I asked Toslin to brush my hair with my comb after that, but just as I was about to doze off, I noticed how long it had been since Rose had left and quickly ran to the door where I was sure she was waiting.
From there we went on to celebrate our discharge from the hospital while also hosting a welcome party for Iris and Saluena since they had now formally joined us. I got to eat a lot of food.
Just as my tummy was getting full, Lapris showed up and told Iris she had a guest at the church, so we had to head over there right away. But honestly, Lapris really does stand out.
So Toslin and I hung back and followed from behind, holding hands as we walked there together.
I was really happy because it looked like we were a pair of lovers.
Ah, that’s wrong…… It’s not that we look like a pair of lovers. We already are…….
……..and now, my mouth is being blocked up.
Just as I was thinking that some self-important looking people had shown up at the church, this is how it ended up.
Does Toslin have this little faith in me?
Or maybe it’s the opposite, and this goes to show just how much confidence she has in me? Maybe this is something to be happy about?
Thinking that way, my tail naturally started wagging behind me.
For some reason though, Toslin started making a strange face when she thought I enjoyed having my mouth blocked up.
“Rosa, you can stay with us tonight. Are you okay with that Iris?”
Saluena came up with the idea when she saw that Rose was looking down after we met one of her relatives.
Saluena is the oldest person of our group, so she’s usually looking out for the rest of us.
I thought she was a nasty person at first, but she’s been kind to me and even lets me ride on her shoulders, so I like her now.
“Eh—? Then I’m going to be all alone with Toslin tonight?”
“Buh! Quit saying those kind of strange things!”
While I was getting excited, I received those words back as an answer. Eh, does she hate it?
“Eh? Strange how? What is? Aren’t I just stating the facts? Hey hey, what’s so strange about it? C’mon, hey. Hey”
Is there something about being alone with me that she doesn’t like? I’m feeling anxious. I’m still not confident on whether or not I’m loved. It’s scary.
That’s why I joke around. I don’t have the courage to meet my problems head on like Toslin does.
“What the hell……. If you really have a problem being alone with me, you can go ahead and stay somewhere else tonight…….”
But after hearing Toslin’s response, I realized I needed to repent. Even if I am an idiot, I should already understand.
I don’t have any reason to feel anxious.
“When did I ever say I had a problem with it!? Sorry everyone!! We’re done for today!! Thanks for everything!!”
I grabbed Toslin’s hand and started to run.
It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way, but I really want to cause a ruckus like we always did when it was just the two of us. We’re going to eat, drink, and be merry in a place where nobody can stop us. Where nobody can bother us.
“Ah, wai-, oi, quit pulling my hand!! Even if we don’t stick so close together, I’d……”
I could see a small yet radiant ruby sitting on Toslin’s chest.
That same radiance is hanging around my neck right now.
It’s my first time wearing something that matches like this. And it’s my first time ever knowing I could be this happy.
“We made a ton of money, so we’re going off to have a bunch of fun todaaaaaaaaaaay!!”
Mom. Dad. I can’t remember what you look like, but thank you for giving birth to me.
I will do everything I can to live as long as I can. Because I have my friends and my beloved Toslin here in this world.
So if you can, please watch over me.
And if you could help during the difficult times of my life, just a little, I’d appreciate it.