In the blink of an eye, one year has passed since the Spirit Festival.
Having become a sworn friend of the Seirei no Tami, Rio spent the remaining time deepening his relationship with them further than he ever had with anybody from the human race.
He held numerous cooking classes, sparred with Uzuma and other Seirei no Tami warriors, and provided assistance around the village, among a variety of other things.
One day, near the day of his departure for Yagumo, Rio received a summons from the elder council.
「Umu, sorry for calling you so abruptly.」
Upon entering the room, Arthura, Dominique, and Syldra warmly welcomed him.
「It’s not a problem. Was there something you’d like to discuss with me today?」
Despite the age gap, they treated each other as friends.
Rio also greeted them with a light smile.
Then Syldra quickly cut to the chase and spoke on the other two’s behalf.
「That’s not why we called for you today. As a sworn friend of the Seirei no Tami, we would like to offer our assistance for your journey. First, please accept this.」
A mithril bracelet embedded with a spirit gem and system contract was presented to Rio.
Rio was amazed at its elaborate design.
「This is a spirit tool called the Space-Time Repository. When the spirit gem absorbs the Odo of its registered owner, the dimension magic installed in it can create a spatially isolated domain.」
Upon completing registration, one would only need to inject Odo into the bracelet and chant『Storage』while touching it to stow away items. Similarly, to withdraw an item, they would need to supply the bracelet with Odo and chant 『Discharge』 while picturing the object they wanted to remove. The amount of item that could be stored in the ring was proportional to the owner’s magical power.
「…I do not believe I deserve to be given something this valuable.」
Rio was surprised to hear the effects of the Space-Time Repository and tried to decline the gift.
For the human race, it was a considerably precious artifact from the time of the Demon-God War.
Rio could not even begin to imagine its worth.
「Don’t worry. Think of this as a symbol of our friendship. Besides, while you have received much from us, Rio-dono has also taught us many things.」
However, Syldra did not retract the gift presented on his outstretched hands.
While being taught about the Seirei no Tami from Arthura, Rio also imparted knowledge from his previous life to the Seirei no Tami which he deemed beneficial to the development of the village.
He casually suggested everyday items such as glasses, nail clippers and scissors, cooking recipes and seasonings, farming tools, and even forms of entertainment like chess, shogi, and playing cards. He even went as far as to intervene in passing of laws and legislation.
As such, Syldra drew up the various achievements he accomplished to pressure him into accepting the gift.
Still, Rio did not feel that his achievements warranted such a valuable gift.
Unconvinced, he stubbornly continued to insist otherwise.
「It’s fine, just accept it already. It’s proof that you’re our sworn friend. Besides, it’s not the only gift.」
Domonique spoke in his usual characteristic fashion. [ED2: A laid back way of speaking; occasionally dragging out words.]
「My gift to you is a specially crafted set of dwarven-made armor. It was crafted a bit larger than your current size since you’re still growing. I’ll readjust it when you return to the village.」
He had noticed the suit of armor that was sitting in the back of the room earlier but never thought it would be presented as a gift for him.
「No way…」(ED3「Nai waa」)
He was bewildered because from just a glance, he knew that it was an unrivaled suit of armor.
「It’s alright, just take it already. It was crafted for your exclusive use. Nobody else will be able to wear it ‘cause they’ll be rejected.」
And so, Dominique began to explain the armor’s features.
A one-handed mithril sword, mithril fiber cloth armor, black dragon leather armor, gauntlets, boots, and long coat. Despite none of the items even coming close to rivalling the value of the Space-Time Repository, they were pieces of equipment that even the greatest human blacksmiths would be hard-pressed to match.
At just 14 years of age, Rio, who was in the midsts of his growth period, was rapidly approaching 170 cm in height. At his current growth rate, it would be no surprise if he reached 180 cm.
Either way, he made the most out of his growth period.
「This much armor is…」
Rio muttered in fascination of the armor’s many features.
「Good craftsmanship right? I personally crafted various pieces of the armor.」
Dominique displayed a triumphant expression.
「Well then, Dominique isn’t the only one with a gift for you. I’ve prepared some common elven potions. I’ve included a memo with the various potions’ uses and instructions on how to use them.」
With that said, Syldra handed a piece of paper to Rio and notioned at a large wooden box sitting at the side of the room.
It seemed like the potions were stored inside.
The elven potions were concocted with the use of spirit arts making them extremely valuable. Their effects were far beyond anything humans could create.
Listed on the memo were various potions including elixirs and panaceas astonishing Rio as he read through its contents. [
「Is it really alright for you to give me elixirs and panaceas?」
「Hahaha, no need to feel reserved. Isn’t it possible for Rio-dono to make them as well as long as you have the ingredients?」
Glancing at Rio, Syldra spoke in carefree manner.
「Aren’t the ingredients quite valuable?」
Many of the ingredients used were incredibly difficult to grow in human territories.
Dryad’s sap was also included amongst them.
「Oh, they’re only difficult to find in human territory but that’s not the case around the village. Please don’t hesitate to take it.」
At a loss for words, Rio could only bow his head at their kindness.
「Now then, only I’m left. From me, I’ve prepared enough food to easily last you five years. I’ve only brought a portion of the food with me since all of it wouldn’t have fit in here. You can store the rest in your Space-Time Repository later.」
Arthura told him five years worth of food was prepared for him, as if hinting for him to return after five years. Even though it was an absurd amount of food, all of it could be preserved without spoiling in the Space-Time Repository. Never in his wildest imagination did he ever think he would receive a Space-Time Repository as well as support from the three elders.
「But… I still don’t see how I deserve your generosity. Why offer me so much…?」
Rio could only mutter in confusion at receiving so much support.
「For saving our brethren Latifa, letting bygones be bygones, your various contributions to improving the village’s quality of life, as well as becoming our sworn friend and contracting with a Quasi-High Spirit. With everything you’ve done for us, how can we not return the favour? 」
Syldra answered Rio’s doubts.
「This is something that we, the Elder Council, have decided upon. Having seen what you’ve contributed to the Seirei no Tami, this is the answer we’ve arrived upon after much deliberation. By all means, please accept our gifts.」
He spoke from the bottom of his heart in an unwavering tone.
Pressured by their gazes, Rio opened his mouth.
「…For all of your sincerity and generosity, I cannot thank you enough. If the time ever comes when the Seirei no Tami faces a crisis, as your sworn friend, I vow to come to your aid.」
Bowing deeply to display his gratitude, Rio simultaneously pledged his support.
A few days after attending Spirit Festival for the second time, the time finally came for Rio to depart.
「Everyone, for taking care of me during these past two years, I deeply thank all of you.」
Rio expressed his heartfelt gratitude to all those who came to see him off.
Regretful of his departure, Latifa persistently clung onto Rio.
「Latifa, don’t make it so difficult for Rio-san to part.」
Sara reprimanded Latifa who was stuck to Rio like super glue.
「Since we won’t be able to meet for a while, I need to replenish as much Onii-chan energy as I can right now! If you want, this is also Sara-onee-chan’s last chance to get some skinship with Onii-chan!」
Having said that, Latifa finally separated herself from Rio.
「Wha— I— it’s not like I want a hug!」[ED2: Tsundere kita!!!]
Sara vehemently denied Latifa’s suggestion with a flushed red face.
「Fu~nn. Even though Oufia-onee-chan and Alma-onee-chan are giving their proper farewells…」
Latifa sent a fleeting glance at where Rio was standing.
In the midsts of her hesitation, she noticed that Oufia and Alma had already approached Rio.
「Please take care of yourself Rio-san. Let’s cook together again when you return!」
Smiling sweetly, Oufia gave him her blessings and lightly embraced him.
It was a custom of the Seirei no Tami to embrace the other party in such a fashion when expressing their affection to a person they were especially close with. However, it was definitely not something to be done casually with someone from the opposing sex of the same generation. To be able to unabashedly do so in front of others could be attributed to Oufia’s sincere nature. Her slightly airheaded personality and naturally sunny disposition always brought a smile to those around her.
「Of course. I’ll be on the lookout for new recipes and ingredients during my travels. And of course good tea leaves too.」
Oufia loved to cook as her hobby and with only the exception of during cooking classes, often cooked together with Rio.
Aside from that, she was considerably fond of tea and frequently discussed methods of preparing tea with Rio during their teatime.
Rio made a mental note to buy any good ingredients and tea leaves for her when he had the chance.
When Oufia released her embrace, it was Alma’s turn to bid him farewell.
「Ple— Please take care of yourself. I pray no harm befalls you on your journey.」
Having said her farewell, Alma lightly embraced Rio with a reddened face. Since their heights differed by nearly 40 cm, if one did not know, they would have thought the two were adult and child. An intelligent girl who would constantly try to exceed her limits, that was Rio’s impression of Alma. And yet there existed a discrepancy in her character. As a result of being pampered too much, she occasionally lowered her guard towards the other party.
「Thank you. If I find any notable liquor, I’ll be sure to bring some back for you.」
「Uh— …Yes. I’d be grateful if you can bring some.」
Whether it was due to her natural disposition as a dwarf or that she was born with the love for alcohol, Alma was quite a heavy drinker. Rio was able to grasp her preferences from exchanging drinks with her on many occasions. Rio wondered if liquor was an appropriate souvenir for her. With her reddened face, Alma was unable to deny her curiosity for exotic liquor and requested Rio to procure some for her.
「Look, Sara-onee-chan too!」
Seeing Oufia and Alma had finished up their farewells, Latifa pushed Sara towards Rio.
「Wah! Hey, Latifa. Ah— uhm, Rio-san!」
Sara was frozen stiff from embarrassment in front of Rio.
They often sparred against each other though it always ended up being Rio’s victory. Feeling mortified with each further loss, Sara gradually turned desperate and her attitude became that of a sore loser. Once she realised it, she panicked and became incredibly flustered; such an amusing girl. On the other hand, she was an earnest girl who was generally softhearted to everyone, though could become stern when the situation called for it. She trained in martial arts under Rio for a year and even referred to him as shishou.
「Yes, what is it Sara-san?」
Recalling the times when he was able to catch a glimpse of her embarassed face during their mock battle, Rio could not help but smile.
「Ple— Please allow me to train under you again when you return!」
Sara blurted out the first thing that came to her mind and hurriedly gave Rio a light embrace.
「Of course. I will also find some souvenirs for Sara-san so please look forward to it.」
「Yes. I’ll be waiting. Take care of yourself!」
Smiling brightly, Sara also prayed for Rio’s safety.
And then came Uzuma, who was patiently waiting for Sara to wrap up her farewell.
「Rio-dono. Take care of yourself. Like Sara-san, I’m also looking forward to our next match. I will continue refining the martial arts skills you have taught me.」
Uzuma was one of the few opponents who forced Rio to go all out during their mock combat. He respected her as a strong, polite, and proud individual. Not only that but their compatibility was quite high as well. Before he became aware of it, she had become a worthy rival for him. Moreover, she was also one of those who studied martial arts under Rio.
Unlike the human race, the Seirei no Tami never fought amongst themselves, only ever taking up arms for hunting or against demons. As a result they did not possess anti-personnel combat techniques. They fought solely based on instincts resulting in being able to perform at only half of their combat potential. Therefore despite their tremendous physical prowess, against an opponent well-versed in anti-personnel combat, their opponent could easily exploit their dull movements. That was the primary motivation behind why Rio decided to teach them martial arts for the year.
With only a year of training, they still had a long way to go but they all displayed great potential. Uzuma did not embrace Rio like the others had but instead the two promised a rematch with a firm handshake.
「Likewise. Please look forward to a souvenir from me too, Uzuma-dono.」
「Thank you very much. May the fortune of war watch over you. Take care.」
Floating a refreshing smile, Uzuma bowed and retreated back to the others.
「Haha. Well then, since I’ll feel bad if you’re held back for too long, I will bid you farewell on behalf of the other elders. Remember that you are always welcome in the Seirei no Tami village. This is your home as much as it is ours. 」
The three eldest of the Elder Council came to see him off on behalf of the others.
「That’s right, come back anytime!」
With a hearty laugh, Dominique firmly grasped Rio’s arm with his small but solid body.
「Indeed, all of us will be waiting for your return. May the spirits guide you on your journey.」
With a serene smile, Syldra recited a short prayer for Rio’s safety.
「I am greatly indebted to everyone here. Allow me to say it once more. Thank you very much.」
Rio bowed deeply causing the three elders to become slightly embarassed.
「Well then, I guess I should depart soon. Prolonging this any longer would make it increasingly difficult for me.」
「You’re right. Then, before that…」
Arthura glanced behind her.
「See you later! Onii-chan!」
As if to proclaim it was the final farewell, Latifa came over once more and strongly hugged Rio.
「Yeah, I’m off. See you later, Latifa.」
He gently caressed Latifa’s head and before long with great reluctance, turned on his heel.
「Everybody! It is my greatest honour to be able to spend time with the Seirei no Tami. Despite my unworthy self, you have allowed me to become your sworn friend. For this and everything you have done for me, I would like to express my most sincere and heartfelt thanks.」
Saying so in a loud voice, Rio invoked spirit arts to manipulate the wind and slowly ascended his body into the air.
「Well then! I look forward to the day we meet again!」
Bidding his final farewell, Rio lightly waved his hand and soared towards the horizon, vanishing into the distance.
The Seirei no Tami people continued waving until they could no longer see his figure.
「He’s gone isn’t he?」
No longer being able to see Rio, Alma murmered in a daze.
「Sara-onee-chan, Oufia-onee-chan, Alma-onee-chan, I definitely won’t lose.」
Latifa spoke up while still gazing off into the sky.
「…E~tto, you won’t lose?」
Sara responded in bewilderment to Latifa’s abrupt claim.
「There exists a person who has already occupied Onii-chan’s heart. That person isn’t me or anyone of us. Nevertheless, someday I will have senpai Onii-chan notice me. So I wanted to let Onee-chans know that I won’t back down even if any of you are also aiming for Onii-chan. Well, I don’t think I have to watch out for Sara-onee-chan since she only sees Rio-onii-chan as an elder brother.」
Latifa sent Sara a fearless grin.
「Wha— I— It’s not like I particularly care!」
With her face redder than a tomato, Sara said some vague words that could not be clearly interpreted.
「Fufu, you’re not being honest Sara-san.」
Oufia poked some fun at Sara while smiling mischeviously.
「Honestly. It’s no good for you to be shy to the point of dishonesty.」
Alma only shook her head in disappointment as if to say “it can’t be helped”.
「I— Isn’t it the same for you!?」
「I properly displayed my appeal back then though.」
Alma spoke quickly, turning her head to the side.
Thanks to the many years they had spent together, Sara undersood that Alma’s attitude was one where she was trying to conceal her own embarassment.
「See, I was right! Aren’t you also shy and not being honest with yourself?」
「Now isn’t the time to argue about something like that.」
With that, the rivalry between the four girls began to heat up.
If Rio was present, he would have amusingly watched them from the side with a smile.
The surrounding Seirei no Tami also sent the four noisy girls heartwarming gazes.
998th year of the Sacred calendar.
Seven years had passed since Rio had regained his memories.
The historical moment that changed the world was drawing near.