Chapter 38: The Gradual Return of Daily Life
It was the evening of the day the discussion about the incident caused by Gon and his group was held.
「Rio, I’d like to speak to you for a minute. Do you have any time to spare?」
During dinner, after Rio returned from his parents’ grave, Yuba spoke to Rio with an air of seriousness.
「Of course, I don’t mind…」
Having guessed her intention, Rio agreed to her invitation.
「Come with me for a minute.」
After having put away the dishes, they left Ruri behind and went to Yuba’s room where she closed the door.
Judging from her actions, it seemed like it was a talk she did not want Ruri to overhear.
「Sorry for asking you so suddenly. That fool caused an uproar and things have been hectic over the last couple of days. I couldn’t find time to speak with you in private.」
「It’s not a problem, I’m grateful for what you’ve done.」
When they entered Yuba’s room and settled down, Yuba started the conversation with an apology.
Rio responded with a line of gratitude.
The days after the incident involving Gon were quite turbulent.
In the first place, it was the busiest time of the year for the village and that was compounded with arranging the reparation payment settled with Gon’s father.
With every day being so busy, she could not find time for a calm conversation with Rio.
「What I want to say is, Rio, thank you, and I’m sorry.」
「Thank you and sorry?」
At Yuba’s unexpected words, Rio responded in confusion.
He could not figure out why he was being thanked or what was done to require an apology.
（It seems this child is not aware why I’m thanking and apologizing to him.）
A tender smile formed on Yuba’s face.
Staring at Rio, she could see that he carried a strong resemblance with her daughter-in-law, Ayame.
Even his uncanny sensitivity for the emotions of others strongly resembled Ayame.
（Zen was a very clumsy child, but, well, I guess there are similarities in that regard as well.）
Zen was taciturn, hard-working, and a man more known for his actions than words.
That led to him being easily misunderstood, but there were many who admired his honesty.
Yuba felt Rio inherited Zen’s temperament since he was not one to talk a lot either.
（Like parent, like child after all…）
Rio was an excellent child who inherited both his parents’ positive traits.
He was composed to the point where it was difficult to believe he was a boy at a marriageable age.
He truly was not a child who would take advantage of others.
She had heard that Rio became an orphan at the tender age of five.
How was such a child brought up and how was he able to travel across the continent?
Those were details Yuba remained in the dark about.
She had only received a vague description of his past.
There were several occasions where she wanted to inquire him about it.
However, she did not want to ask him about it so brazenly.
Rio had only given vague information about his past most likely because he was not comfortable with sharing it.
Having realised that, Yuba refrained from asking for details about his past.
That was also the case for Ayame’s death.
Rio had told her that his mother had passed away.
However, he became evasive when asked about the cause.
In any case, Rio was raised in less than ideal conditions and wandered the world all by his lonesome.
It was easy to conclude that his life had been filled with hardships until now.
And yet, she could not help but admire how he was able to grow up without becoming twisted.
（Towards such a child, my behaviour is no better than an infant’s. Age has nothing to do with this. Wherever I could cut corners, I did so.）
Rio’s behaviour that night was clearly abnormal.
On that evening, Yuba was able to catch a glimpse of Rio’s fury that would otherwise be unthinkable of him to display.
However, by next morning, that passion was gone, as if it was nothing but a lie.
No trace of malice remained and at least on the outside, Rio displayed his regular behaviour.
Yuba was able to witness incredible mental fortitude unsuited for a boy so young.
That was why during the days after the incident, Yuba extensively depended on Rio whilst citing her lack of free time as an excuse.
Indeed, Yuba gave priority to Ruri who seemed much more unstable than Rio.
Ruri was just an ordinary village girl that could found anywhere.
Although she lost both her parents and younger brother at an early age, such a degree of misfortune was not uncommon in the world.
Even within the village, she was but an ordinary girl.
Such a child living in a peaceful village suddenly came face to face with malice for the first time and was nearly raped.
It was without a doubt, a big shock for her and Yuba knew it would carve a deep wound in her heart.
Actually, for the past several days, Ruri had been desperately trying to put a strong front. Still, it was evident that she was pushing herself.
While it varies from person to person, psychological wounds take a long time to heal for those who have never been exposed to such things before.
As a result, Yuba paid special attention to Ruri’s condition.
Rio and Ruri.
Both were Yuba’s cherished grandchildren.
Even if they were raised differently, she equally cared for both of them.
Unfortunately, the reality was that she was one person and therefore could only focus on one at a time.
Other than her daily responsibilities as village chief, she also had to take care of Gon’s incident on top of caring for Ruri and Rio. It was not something she could handle alone.
That was why Yuba had to prioritize one over the other.
Realising Rio’s strong mental fortitude, Yuba left him unattended for the past several days.
When Rio apologized the morning after the incident, Yuba judged that he would be all right for the time being.
During that morning’s breakfast, she could not pry into Rio’s past due to the guests they were hosting at the time.
However, even if it was just for a brief moment, she witnessed the eruption of his emotions.
Yuba did not know what kind of past Rio experienced but it was surely a difficult one.
Even if his mental fortitude was strong, the burden on his heart must at least be equal, if not heavier.
Yuba decided that as his grandmother, she would not allow herself to neglect him.
In spite of that, she saw how reliable Rio was and ended up delaying her interactions with him.
「Firstly, let me thank you for what you’ve done. Thanking for saving Ruri from Gon. And, for these past few days, thank you for assisting me with the negotiations with Gon’s father. I am truly grateful for your help.」
Yuba deeply lowered her head while thanking Rio.
「In addition to that, I became too absorbed in my duties that I neglected on checking up on you. I am deeply sorry. It must’ve been painful for you as well.」
When Yuba raised her head slightly, a bitter expression could be seen on her face.
Seeing Yuba like that, Rio slowly shook his head with a warm smile.
「Please, it is not something to thank me for. We are family. I only did what was natural. That was all. That is why, please do not apologize since it is painful for me as well.」
With his eyes fixed on Yuba, Rio spoke in a clear voice.
Rio said that with clear voice while looking straight into Yuba’s eye.
Even though his personalities were clashing internally, Rio felt surprisingly refreshed.
The few days after the incident were painful but now, it was not the case.
His revenge was something he had to take care of by himself.
No matter the pain, it was his burden to carry.
He had no intentions on talking about it with anybody else either.
That was why he would not show any frustration so Yuba would not worry about him.
Ruri’s state was much more pressing than his own.
Since that was the case, it was obvious that she should take precedence over him.
That was Rio’s rationale.
To not be unsatisfied about that was unthinkable.
Yuba matched Rio’s gaze.
A smile floated on his face.
It was a smile of deep understanding, completely like one of a saint.
Like a wide river, it was quiet but contained a powerful might. Yuba found herself unintentionally holding her breath.
「No, but you know…」
For an instant, the figure of Rio from that night flickered into Yuba’s mind.
The fury he displayed was abnormal, to say the least.
It was as if he was completely possessed by Asura; just by being in his vicinity, one could sense the dreadful fury.
Regardless, Rio was able to completely regain his composure in a single night.
However, even if he behaved normally in front of everybody like nothing ever happened, it was obvious he was trying to keep up a facade.
That was why Yuba was able to predict his state of mind.
The other night’s frenzy was probably still weighing on his mind.
Yet, the Rio before her at the moment did not have a trace of worry.
His eyes did not carry a hint of fear or hesitation.
Perhaps he came to an inner peace or understanding.
It was not something that Yuba could discern.
What was it?
There were a lot of things she wanted to hear from him.
However, was it something she was entitled to knowing?
Even she had not brought the topic up with Rio.
It was the issue pertaining to his parents.
Although there was reason Yuba could not bring up the topic, it felt unfair to ask about his past without sharing her own knowledge.
Should I just tell him?
Was what Yuba thought.
Still, just the other day, the letter she sent out was to inquire about the matter.
It would be best to wait for a response first.
Permission to reveal the truth will surely be given.
Acting rashly would be unwise.
「I understand… However, it’s true that I’ve placed a lot of burden on you. That’s why, please at least let me say this, I am sorry.」
After deliberating for all that time, those were the only words that came out.
However, those words carried no lies.
Suppressing her wavering heart, Yuba deeply lowered her head to Rio.
Sensing Yuba’s determination, Rio accepted her apology with a wry smile.
「Ruri should have calmed down by now and I think that child wants to apologize to you as well. Will you forgive her?」
「There’s nothing for her to apologize for though…」
Perplexed by what Yuba said, Rio could only offer a wry smile.
「It’s about her behaviour you know.」
When Rio asked about it, Yuba looked at him in the eyes with a slight smile.
「You saved that child so I’m sure she’s not truly afraid of you. It’s just that she’s been through a lot and hasn’t been able to calm down yet.」
For the past few days, Ruri had been timid in her interactions with Rio.
Although she acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary, one could perceive that her behaviour was slightly off.
It was something that Rio was able to notice as well.
However, on that night, Rio had unleashed his bloodthirst without holding back and pummeled Gon towards an inch of his life.
As a person unaccustomed to such violence, it was no surprise that she became afraid of Rio.
Without building up a tolerance against violence, it was difficult to not be afraid.
This was something Rio understood, therefore he took the initiative to apologize.
To become estranged with her who was his cousin was not something Rio wished for.
She was not in the wrong for feeling that way.
Despite being frightened by Rio, Ruri still worried about him.
Although it was a shame, there was no use crying over spilt milk. Working to restore their relationship was the only way forward.
Those were Rio’s thoughts.
「It’s not her fault you know.」
That was why Rio had no intention on criticizing her behaviour.
「…I thought you’d say so.」
Perhaps having already anticipated his words, Yuba responded with a wry smile.
It was an expression of relief but at the same time, tinged with a hint of loneliness.
It was the look of a parent witnessing their child becoming independent.
Suddenly, Yuba was overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to act like a proper grandmother in front of her overly benevolent grandchild.
It was a perplexing feeling.
Whether the solution to her earlier worries was solved was unknown.
Far from offering any support, all she was able to say were a few trivial words to Rio.
（I’m such a useless grandmother, aren’t I…?）
Yuba now felt confident about disclosing the truth to her reliable grandchild. However, at the same time, she felt ashamed and sighed deeply in her heart.