The following day, the Spirit Festival drew to an end. Woken up from the sunlight streaming in from a crevice in the window, Rio was eating breakfast while basking under the warm morning sun in the unpopulated village square. Sitting opposite of him was Latifa.
Everyday Latifa would usually meet with Sara and the other girls to study the required teachings about the Seirei no Tami. However, because today was the day after the Spirit Festival, it was a holiday.
Therefore a long time had passed before they were able to chat like this again.
「It’s been almost a year since we came to this village, how do you find it? Are you finding life here enjoyable?」
While happily chatting with Latifa, Rio raised the question as if the thought suddenly occurred to him.
「Umu! It’s just as Onii-chan said, this village is truly wonderful and full of kind people!」
To the sudden question, Latifa answered with a broad smile like a sunflower in full bloom. Rio smiled gently at her response.
「I see, by the way Latifa, is it alright with you for us to discuss something?」
Fixating his eyes on Latifa with a renewed determination, Rio spoke.
「E~tto, about what?」
Noticing the change in Rio’s atmosphere, Latifa stiffened up in confusion.
「I’m planning on leaving the village in the not so distant future.」
Rio cut straight to point.
[ED: Rio; master of delicacy] [ED2: It’s better than tip-toeing around the issue][TL : Sometimes girl prefer more “heating-up” though]
Bikuri, Latifa’s body twitched.
「The preparations… or rather, once I’ve learned everything that I could from the village, I intend to immediately depart.」
Latifa muttered something in an inaudible voice as Rio calmly announced his intentions.
「That’s why, uhm——」
「…NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!」
Her voice quickly turned into a loud cry interrrupting Rio mid-sentence.
Rio displayed a troubled expression as Latifa clung onto him with the look of a lost child who just found her mother reflected in her eyes.
「Why must you go!? Are you returning to the place of the human race? Even after going through the troubles of befriending the Onee-chans? I don’t want you to leave this village!」
Latifa spoke in rapid succession, strongly pleading for him to stay.
「I will be crossing the mountains. There is something I must do out there.」
Rio muttered his reason.
「Why… are you leaving me behind…?」
Latifa looked up at Rio like an abandoned puppy.
Patiently, he gently caressed Latifa’s head until she regained her composure.
「Come to think of it, I never did tell Latifa the reason why I was travelling towards the east.」
Now that she had calmed down enough, Rio continued his story in a mutter.
Rio shifted his gaze away from Latifa for a moment and stared into the distance. His focus returned to Latifa again, looking into her eyes.
There, he found tears had accumulated in the corners of her eyes.
「I want to make a grave for my parents in their hometown, because they passed away in a foreign land void of any family or friends. Although they both passed away when I was only a child, I would like to show filial-piety to my parents. Not only that but…」
As Rio was about to say something, he immediately shut his mouth.
Having suddenly fallen silent, Latifa prompted Rio to continue what he was about to say.
「No, it’s nothing.」
Rio laughed in self derision.
「…I, really don’t know anything about Onii-chan do I?」
Latifa muttered in feeble voice after a brief silence elapsed between them.
「There are a lot of things I don’t know about Latifa too.」
Saying that, he turned towards Latifa with a bitter smile.
「That… That’s true, but…」
Latifa nodded even though she was not fully convinced.
Then she closed her eyes, falling into deep thought, and before long, displayed a determined look.
「You know, there are times when I want to tell Onii-chan things about myself. But at that moment… I’d become afraid that Onii-chan may regard what I say as crazy. I wasn’t sure if Onii-chan would believe me…」
Rio quickly sensed that Latifa’s atmosphere was different from the usual.
Latifa floated an uneasy expression because she was hesitant about prying into his secrets.
「You know, Onii-chan, do you believe in reincarnation?」
She asked in a quiet, clear voice.
Rio’s eyes dilated as he muttered her name.
「You know, I’ve already experienced death once. I was originally a human. And now, I’ve reborn as my current self… Uhm, I know this is difficult to believe but…」
Latifa spoke frantically, unsure of how to organize her words.
Although her words were missing the point, Rio clearly understood what she was trying to convey to him.
To Latifa who was at a loss for words——
「…I knew that long time ago you know.」
Rio broke the silence.
Not understanding what Rio meant by his words, Latifa gave out such a voice.
「Latifa originally lived in Japan, right?」
However, Rio struck directly at the secret carried in her heart.
Although greatly shaken and at a loss for words, Latifa managed to barely voice her doubts.
「That’s because I’m also Japanese.」
Latifa’s face was dyed in astonishment.
「Japanese… language… Japanese… person… Onii-chan is Japanese?」
Undoubtly, it was an expression where one had witnessed something they never would have expected.
「That is so. Originally I was, but…」
Rio spoke in an overly calm tone.
「You knew, you knew about it, yet you kept silent…?」
Dumbfounded, she questioned Rio. It was evident from the emotions on her face that she was beyond surprised.
「Yeah. The first time I cooked pasta was when I realised Latifa was a reincarnated Japanese person. At that time you said 『Spaghetti』right? Pasta isn’t a dish that originally existed in this world. Not only that but you also say “Itadakimasu” before every meal.」
To the Latifa who was at a lost for words, he switched back to the present world’s native language and explained how he concluded that she was formerly Japanese.
「W— Why!? Why didn’t you say anything!?」
At Rio’s explanation, Latifa unintentionally became emotional and fired off questions at him.
「Why? Why were we reincarnated? Why did we regain our memories? I had lots of time and mulled over the possible reasons. But you know, I’ve always wondered why we retained memories from our previous life, but what of it? We’ve already become inhabitants of this world. Even if we were able to return, we’ve already lost our place in that world.」
Rio chuckled gloomily as he said those words.
Although he had not conveyed all the thoughts he accumulated over the years to Latifa, she was still able to pick up a portion of what he wanted to say from the small snippet of his thoughts.
However, from her befuddled expression, it could be seen that she had only just realized the many things pointed out by Rio.
「However I told you these things so I won’t be leaving you you with any regrets. That’s what I thought.」
Rio spoke with a deep sigh.
「Then, why now…」
「That is because Latifa told me about her previous life. Honestly, I was planning on telling you about my previous life if you ever decided to speak about yourself.」
Latifa listened in silence as Rio spoke.
「Besides, I provided hints about the possibility that I was Japanese, like the dishes I made and their names. Their names were from our previous world right? Yet Latifa just accepted them without question.」
It seemed she never gave it a second thought since it was presented so casually. Latifa’s expression looked like she had finally realized something.
「And I would like to tell you another thing. I already told you when we first started our journey that we’d only travel together up until the Seirei no Tami region. That was my intention at first. It was for my own selfish reasons that I helped Latifa since if possible, I did not want you to become a murderer.」
Rio spoke to Latifa, full of determination.
However at Rio’s words, Latifa could only absentmindedly stare at him without a word.
「However, when I discovered that you were a former Japanese [person], I became truly sympathetic with your circumstances. Soon after, you came to look up at me like your own brother.」
At that time, Latifa came to understand the affection Rio was trying to convey despite his indifferent tone.
「I was worried. What was I to do with you? Initially, I only saved you because of my half-hearted reason and selfish pride, but before I realised it, you became an irreplaceable existence to me.」
With an expression akin to distress or something, Rio briefly glanced at Latifa.
「Thus I decided to accompany you here and have the village take you under their care. In no way did I expect for us to stick together for so long.」
Rio briefly paused his story and stared at Latifa with a serious expression.
Under his piercing gaze, Latifa slightly flinched.
「Latifa, I’m just a hypocrite who sympathized with you, masquerading as your guardian to satisfy my own self-righteous sense of duty. Truthfully, I probably don’t deserve being called “Onii-chan” by you. No, I certainly don’t. So it’s fine if you no longer think of me as your Onii-chan.」
Revealing everything he had to say, Rio silently waited for Latifa’s reply.
Thus, it was nothing more than complacency now that he had told Latifa everything.
So, it was fair if she resented him for it.
He had already resolved himself when he told her the truth.
Before long, Latifa closed her eyes in contemplation. Biting her lips, she looked up at Rio having found her resolve.
「Finally… Finally, am I able to understand your heart. Why this person saved me. Why this person treated me so kindly. Even though these questions continued to linger in the corner of my mind, I didn’t dwell upon it and told myself that it was because this person was my Onii-chan. Even so, the kindness I received from you was genuine.」
Suddenly, Latifa began to speak in Japanese.
「…That kindness was fake, you know.」
Rio replied curtly with slightly widened eyes.
「No. It was definitely real. Because, I am very sensitive to human malice. The humans treated me like a pet, directing their malice and beating me everyday.」
Latifa revealed a smile containng hints of self-derision.
「I am extremely sensitive to human malice. Despite that, I reached the point where I no longer knew of any other way to live other than to submit to my human masters. Therefore, I wondered, how much of my selfishness would this person tolerate and when would he scold me? You appeared to be kind so I said I wanted to follow you, but from the onset, I was observing you to see what kinds of malicious intent you had.」
Latifa spoke with an evidently sad expression.
「However, after talking to you, such thoughts immediately disappeared. Because the affection I received from you felt the same as the affection I received from my mother in this world.」
Latifa turned and, with a seemingly passionate gaze, looked at Rio. [TL : lovely gaze of a loli]
「When I first met you, I was a broken, hollow individual, not the cheerful one you see now. To me such a thing, you… you, granted me this world, everything. Affection, freedom, peace, happiness, joy, family, friends. That’s why——」
[TL : She’s braver than 20 years old me]
After a brief pause, Latifa opened here mouth with renewed determination.
「That’s why… Even so, may I continue calling you Onii-chan?」
It was then that Rio noticed that Latifa, as well as himself, from the very beginning were both anxious.
「…Yeah, even if I leave the Seirei no Tami village, Latifa will always be my beloved little sister.」
Rio deeply nodded, floating a tranquil smile on his face.
At that point, overcome with emotion, Latifa threw her arms around Rio, embracing him in tears.
Rio firmly caught her.
It was unknown how long the two remained like that.
Rio continued to soothe the crying Latifa.
Without know why, Latifa’s crying comforted him.
Eventually when she finished crying, Latifa, whose face was buried in Rio’s chest, looked up at him.
「…You know, I’m still immature so Onii-chan doesn’t have to go along with my selfishness. But, I want to know more about Onii-chan. So that when Onii-chan leaves the village, I won’t feel lonely. That’s why, will you tell me about your previous life, Onii-chan?」
With that, Latifa broke the silence between them.
Rio slightly nodded with a glimpse of a lonely smile.
「That’s right… though I don’t think it’s really interesting, if that’s alright with you.」
He told her so while gently stroking Latifa’s head, who was smiling bashfully.
And then, Rio spoke about his past life.
How he was formerly a University student, the girl who was his childhood friend, how he developed a lifelong love for her, and how his feelings were never rewarded because she disappeared.
Similiarly, Latifa told Rio about her previous life.
How she was formerly an elementary school student, the many friends she had, how both her parents were occupied with work and she often found herself alone at home, and how despite that, her family still shared a good relationship.
Mostly surprisingly was perhaps how both of them passed away in the same traffic accidents.
The two kept sharing stories of their previous lives until they noticed dusk had fallen.
It was on that day that the two became siblings in the truest sense of the word.
「Oya oya. This is… The two of you seem closer than usual. I take it that everything went well?」
Upon returning home, Arthura questioned them while staring in awe at Latifa who was clinging onto Rio.
「Yeah… I told Latifa about how I’ll be leaving the village soon.」
Reacting to Arthura’s gaze, Rio reported the results of their discussion.
「Yah! You know, I’ve decided to earnestly wait for for Onii-chan’s return after he’s left the village.」
Seeing Latifa’s carefree smile, tears trickled from Arthura’s eyes.
「Hoho… I’ve become easier to be moved to tears with each passing year… Rio-dono, I truly thank you for saving this child.」
Arthura clasped Rio’s hands in honour to him.