Chapter 46: Back to the Village
Rio was meeting in secret with the royal couple, once again, the next day after the match with Gouki.
「I heard the story. You beat Gouki, huh. There’s nothing I can say except, magnificent」
The first sentence that came from Homura was praise and admiration of Rio.
Before the secret meeting, Homura had already heard about the results of their match from Gouki.
Gouki, who was a famous swordsman within the kingdom, was beaten by a youth who was still 14 years old.
Even though he thought that was a joke at first, Homura was the one who knew best that Gouki wasn’t the kind of person who would tell such jokes.
Though he needed a little time before he decided to accept that fact, just like that, he calmed himself during the time before the secret meeting with Rio.
「That’s wonderful, Rio. To the point that you can beat that Gouki」
Shizuku praised Rio with a sincere smile, without any ill-will behind it.
Different from Homura, whose praise was mixed with bewilderment, Shizuku was truly happy for Rio’s victory.
「Thank you very much」
Rio nodded his head awkwardly as he felt strangely uneasy, due to Shizuku’s wholehearted praise.
「Though I planned to have you to train under Gouki, it seems that you’ve no need for that ……..」
Homura said that with somehow a lonely smile.
As Homura’s intention was to have Rio learning under Gouki, in that case, it would be necessary for him to live in the royal capital, and with that, he secretly planned to increase their secret meetings with Rio.
Since they couldn’t disclose Rio’s parentage, due to various reasons, and excessive contact with Rio had to be refrained, even so, there was still a feeling of wanting to meet with Rio.
Though it was regrettable, it might be for the best, so Homura forcefully suppressed his own feelings.
「That’s not true, I also gained a precious experience. Since I had never had a chance to go against someone like Gouki-dono. I’m truly grateful for your consideration」
Maybe because he was aware of Homura’s sentiment, Rio said his gratitude and bowed his head to Homura.
Though those words could be mistaken as sarcasm in some cases, a deep sense of gratitude could be felt from his tone.
「That’s ……… That’s right」
Like groaning, Homura’s agreed to one part of Rio’s words.
Though in one part he blessed the match with someone at Gouki’s level, there was some kind of indescribable feeling hided in Homura’s words.
There was no samurai stronger than Gouki in the kingdom.
And probably not even one even if he looked in the neighbouring kingdom.
Despite that Rio, was said to be even stronger than that Gouki.
Though without that much ability he otherwise might not have been able to do a journey from the Strahl region to the Yagumo region alone, thus it couldn’t be helped that Homura felt in awe of Rio, who prepared himself with that level of skill at his age.
It might be that just showed how frighteningly talented he was, or how much bloody carnage he had experienced, to become that strong.
Though if there weren’t such complex circumstances surrounding Rio, it wouldn’t even strange if he was thinking of letting Rio take over the kingdom.
Realizing that he was unintentionally making the face of the king, Homura couldn’t help but smile wryly.
「By the way Rio, how long are you planning on staying in this kingdom？」
To stop his train of thought as a king, thought a little unnatural, Homura suddenly changed the subject.
Though he already heard Rio’s circumstances yesterday, due to various circumstances, the atmosphere prevented him to asking and their time was limited.
Though he wanted to switch his train of thought, the topic he asked had not changed.
「I think I’ll be staying in this kingdom till around autumn next year」
Rio replied smoothly to Homura’s question.
The agricultural reform that he proposed and was in the middle of developing hadn’t ended yet.
Rio was thinking of staying in the village till the next harvest, to make sure of the results.
「Ho~h. Your stay is longer than my predictions」
「Yes. Because I need to help around the village」
「Fu, I see ……….. You’re right ….. 」
The complicated expression instantly gone from Homura face when he imagining the figure of Rio working along the commoners.
It was a fact that Rio was an unofficial royalty, even if the current Rio was never treated as royalty in public and maybe in the future too, it was only natural that Rio was living without understanding the common sense of royalty.
Rio and Homura lived in different worlds.
Even Homura naturally understood that fact.
But, until he heard Rio lifestyle for himself, Homura was under the impression that Rio was living in the same world as him, deep inside his mind.
Even though he heard Rio’s cruel past, he never thought that Rio’s life wasn’t lively up until then.
That then become Homura’s secret wish for Rio; it was his shallow thoughts.
Homura showed a bitter expression, as if being ashamed at his shallow thoughts.
「Just sometimes is okay. Just like this one, won’t you come to the royal palace and chat with us? 」
He understood that they would become a nuisance to Rio’s everyday life by summoning him like that.
Even though they were unable to suppress their feelings of wanting to meet Rio again like that.
He wanted to converse with Rio just like then, even a little bit more, before he left the kingdom.
Even if it was for his own selfishness.
「That’s ……. alright. If you’re okay with me being in this place.」
Rio answered moderately, without even being aware of Homura’s inner feelings.
’Even if I can’t give a guarantee to that promise’, most of him thought that way.
「I see. Thank you very much」
Despite it being an unofficial place, and even more so, forgetting his status as king, Homura bowed his head to Rio.
Shizuku, who sat next to him, also bowed her head to Rio.
「Please lift your head」
Looking at them like that, Rio quickly asked them to lift their heads.
A royalty shouldn’t easily bow their heads, just like that.
Though there were some exceptions, Rio believed that it wasn’t the time for that.
「It’s nothing, since it won’t change the fact that we are taking your time just to meet us, for our own selfishness. We might only bring more and more trouble to you 」
「That’s not true」
Rio plainly denied Homura, who was speaking with an apologetic tone.
「If I really didn’t want to meet the both of you, I’d just plainly reject coming to this place」
Sure, it was hard to just refuse Gouki and the other’s atmosphere, who came to summon him to this place.
But, he truly never even thought of refusing to coming to that place since the very beginning.
Rio came to that place on his own volition.
「Despite that I can barely feel anything, since the feeling of meeting my family felt a little strange to me, I still came to this place」
Rio continued to talk, though he felt a little embarassed.
「Though I’ll leave this kingdom soon, I also feel the warm intimate feeling as family member, even after this」
There was no doubt that he loved his grandparents, whether it was Yuba, Shizuku, or Homura.
They were people who had a good relationship with him.
And then, he wanted to ask for stories of his parent, which were unknown to him.
That kind of thinking wasn’t that strange, right.
Shizuku called Rio’s name, as if being overcome by her emotions.
「Let’s deepen our intimacy even if it’s just a little ……. 」
Even Homura said that with a wide smile on his face.
A deadly silence descended into that room.
They couldn’t even find a way to break that unpleasant silence.
Opening the conversation bit by bit, somehow created a nice atmosphere between them and before long they were able to chat normally.
The subject of conversation centered around the happy episodes of Zen and Ayame and their common points for each other.
In that place and moment, it was forbidding of a boorish topic such as revenge.
By no means were they wanting to talk about such a gloomy topic.
Just like that, the three of them continued their conversation to their hearts’ content.
「Though there’s not that much time left, can I ask about something?」
That warmhearted time couldn’t last forever; in the blink of an eye, the time for their secret meeting had come to end.
After that conversation, Rio was planned to stay for one more night in Gouki’s house and departing back to the village the next day.
Later, though they exchanged a promise to meet again later, a concrete date hadn’t yet been decided, it would only be decided when Gouki came to the village as their messenger.
Without knowing whether they could meet again later, they had to say something that they wanted to say right then in that place.
「Currently I’m living with a girl who is the daughter of my uncle in the village. Is it okay to tell her about my identity? 」
Rio asked for permission to tell Ruri about his identity.
Though increasing the number of people who know about Rio’s identity wasn’t a desirable option, he wanted to tell Ruri about his relationship with Ruri.
Though he knew he had kinship with Ruri, Ruri wasn’t aware about that fact.
Despite that, Ruri still treated him as if he was her own family.
He felt guilty for deceiving her by always hiding the truth.
Though it was difficult to control how much information he could tell her, since it would only spark more of her curiosity by telling half-baked information, in that case it would be better to tell her the whole truth.
Of course, there was a little risk that would come along when he told her such information, it wouldn’t be a problem as long as Ruri keep silent with that information.
「Fumu. A cousin, huh. It’s okay as long as she can keep that secret. I place my trust in your judgement」
Despite showing a gesture of pondering about it for a while, Homura easily granted his permission.
It showed how much he trusted Rio.
「Thank you very much」
The next day, after accompanying Komomo with her training, and a simple match with Hayate, Rio departed from Gouki’s house and was seen off by the Saga family.
Even if that distance usually took around half a day under normal circumstances, in case of Rio, he arrived in the village just by running for less than an hour.
When he returned to the village, the villagers greeted him with 「Okaeri [Welcome back]」 and he also returned their greeting.
「Welcome back, Rio」
When he entered the house that he was already getting used to, Yuba, who sat on the mat of the hallway, greeted him with a bright smile.
「Yeah, I’ve returned」
Even Rio unintentionally showed a happy smile, on seeing her smile, which was no different from before he went to the royal capital.
「It seems you already know the whole story」
「Should I change my tone when it’s just the two of us？」
「Anything but that, please」
Rio refused with a bitter smile when Yuba told such a joke.
The Yuba let out a dry laugh.
「Even if Rio is royalty, you and I are grandchild and grandmother. That’s what I always believed. You may keep this relationship for as long as you want to」
「…… Thank you very much」
After he nodded with a tender smile, he sat in front of Yuba.
「I received permission to tell my identity to Ruri-san. Is it alright to tell her that story ？ 」
When they conversed as a replacement for their greeting, Rio suddenly brought up that topic while looking at Yuba with an earnest expression.
Yuba took a small, deep breath as she heard that topic, while catching a glimpse of Rio’s sincerity in his eyes.
「She’s your blood relative. Seeing that you’re living under the same roof like this, she has the right to know. I’ll support your decision」
Yuba answered calmly after pausing for a few seconds.
Both of them looked into the other’s eyes.
「Where is Ruri-san right now？」
「She might be drinking tea with the other village girls. She might come back soon if she heard the news about your returning from the villagers」
It was after the harvest time finished, the villagers found that they had too much free time.
With basically almost nothing to do, aside from work in the village, there was nothing else to do, except for gossipping amongst the fellow villagers, when they lost that work.
Ruri, who had no work in the last few days, was chatting amongst the fellow village girls, in the same age group, since the time increased.
「I’m Home～！ Welcome home, Rio! 」
Speaking of the devil, true enough Ruri came back before long.
When she instantly confirmed that Rio had come back, she addressed Rio with a smile like a blooming flower.
It was a little amusing that she was welcoming Rio while she was the one who came back, so Rio chuckled when he heard that.
「Yes. I’ve returned, Ruri-san」
「uhm! I wa just surprised at how you just suddenly went to the royal capital. Obaachan wouldn’t tell me even when I asked her」
Ruri shrugged her shoulder, as if feeling dissatisfied at the fact that she’d been kept in the dark.
Though she didn’t straightly ask what happened, it still made her feel worried.
「As a matter of fact, I just wanted to tell you about that matter. But, I have to ask you to keep the contents of my story as a secret and never divulge it to anyone」
Rio told her about his requirement while showing a little apologetic face.
Ruri asked while tilting her neck, being confused by that vague explanation.
「The subject I’m about to tell you is the main reason why I’m staying in this house. And I can’t tell you any further without a promise from you to protect this secret」
Since he was unable to tell her about the recent events, he had no choice but to speak in a profound way.
He had to make sure of Ruri’s answer. Rio was looking at her face.
「…… Understood. I promise」
Ruri give her answer with a calm and profound tone.
After catching that sincere look on her, Rio decided to tell her the truth.
Rio narrated the circumstances that caused all the events in order, one by one.
「E? EH? Rio is my cousin, but his mother is a royalty …….., EH, EEEE~~~H! ？ 」
When he told her the fact that his mother was royalty, Ruri’s face was exactly like a pigeon who had been shot with peashooter.
「E~hm,it’s just a joke or something, right？」
As if she wanted to make sure of that, Ruri asked with a timid voice.
「It’s the truth. Rio’s father ………. your uncle was tied by marriage with the princess of this kingdom」
Yuba gave a testimony regarding the truth of Rio’s story with an earnest expression.
She could judge from Yuba’s expression that she didn’t lie.
Then looking back and forth from Rio to Yuba’s faces so many times.
「E-Eh~m, Ri-Rio ……… Sama, MY DEEPEST APOLOGY！ SORRY FOR MY MANY IMPOLITENESS TILL NOW! 」
Ruri prostrated before Rio as if being confused with the sudden change in events.
She was thinking back on how she was being overly familiar in her actions towards Rio; when she thought about that, she was extremely rude towards him.
「Please stop with that. Please interact with me like usual! 」
Rio said that with a flustered tone, as if trying to stop Ruri who was acting that way.
「B-But ……….. Rio-sama is a royalty, right ？」
「My circumstances can’t be known by the public. Something like royalty is nothing more than an unofficial fact, I’ve never even considered myself as royalty」
Rio said that while smiling wryly to Ruri, who acted timidly in front of Rio.
「That’s why, please. Please just treat me like usual」
Rio face, that reflected into her eyes, was smiling wryly, as if feeling extreme discomfort. When Ruri said her true feelings to Rio, it was decided from the way she associated with him until then.
Rio was someone who could handle everything flawlessly, but he never acted haughty due to his talent.
Even if now he suddenly said that he was royalty, Ruri knew very well that he was not the kind of stinky man who would change just because of that.
「U-Understood ……….. 」
With that, Ruri gave her consent.
Though her voice was still strained.
In the depths of her mind, she was still nervous.
「Your tone is stiff, you know?」
Rio pointed that fact, as if to make fun of her.
「AH, HA, ………… Uhm」
Though she almost unintentionally answered with stiff tone, she somehow gave up and nodded her head while showing an awkward smile.
「Though it’s caused a big change when I just suddenly became your cousin, please treat me well, from now on」
Rio bowed his head as if to renew their relationship as cousins.
But, his face was smiling ear to ear.
「AH, U~hn. I see ……… Me and Rio are cousins」
Ruri bowed her head and blinked her eyes in puzzlement once she raised her head.
The overwhelmingly shocking truth, about the fact that Rio was a royalty all along, made Ruri completely forget the fact that he was her cousin.
In the first place, Rio just wanted to convey his circumstances to tell her the fact that he was actually her cousin.
Though he already expected it, Ruri’s reaction to that truth was completely reversed.
「I see, a family other than Obaachan ………… AH, since I’m the older one, then I’m the onee-chan, right ……..」
After she gradually understood what that fact meant, Ruri smiled happily as if being delighted.
「AH, sorry！ Eh~m, in this case I should say please treat me well, too! 」
Maybe because she was thinking too many things at once, she showed a little loose smile, Ruri noticed the comical glance that came from Rio.
When she regained her calmness, Ruri bowed to Rio in panic with a little flustered voice.
「……. Ah, even so, I want Rio to call me “Onee-chan” even just once. Is that okay? 」
Maybe because something was struck her head, when she raised her head, she looked at Rio with an earnest expression.
「Yes. If you’re okay with it? 」
Rio also looked at Ruri with an earnest expression.
Catching that line of sight and for some reason making a little theatrical-like cough, then she opened her mouth as if make up her mind.
「I’m not happy with that tone. Though I was being cautious when we first met, there was no need to speak using polite tone that you’ve been using up until now. Though I want you to be more intimate, since we’re cousins」
With a somehow dissatisfied tone, Ruri told him that while pouting a little.
「Ehm, that’s already my habit, even before I came here. For once, there’s no big reason for using such manners when speaking to someone, or speaking that way is ……」
Rio explained his reason with bitter smile, as if being embarassed by it.
Though it didn’t mean that he was a poor speaker, the way he spoke using polite language had already become Rio’s habit.
As long as the other party wasn’t an arrogant person or a kid, Rio would experience difficulties if he was talking to them in overly familiar manner.
Though if he was speaking in informal way, he would often stumble with his words, in any case he would only feel unstoppable awkwardness. He kept it in his mind that it would be hard to get the momentum by doing that.
「Isn’t that even a bigger reason for us, I mean, you’re my younger male cousin？」
Ruri was staring with a scorning look at Rio, as she was unable to agree with Rio’s reasoning.
The time she passed and the kindness received from Rio wasn’t small, she even received a lot of favours.
In addition, wasn’t he also her own male younger cousin.
And yet, Ruri felt lonely, as Rio was talking with such stiff tone.
When he caught Ruri’s sullen look, Rio immediately felt ashamed, seeing her expression as if she become a little senile.
「…….. Sorry. You’re right. I’ll talk without formal tones to Ruri starting from now. Is it okay that way? 」
Rio said that while blushing shyly.
Though he felt somehow itchy speaking that way, Ruri was happy with that.
Ruri looked delighted while nodding vigorously.