Chapter 49: Towards Strahl Region
A few days had passed since Gouki and the others came to the village.
After finishing the general explanation, the technical officers were doing an investigation, aiming at the implementation of the technology by doing this and that.
In the meanwhile, Gouki was hunting along with Rio, taking along Komomo with them.
After that, it came to the almost daily lesson, accompanying Komomo’s training with Gouki.
「Rio-sama, you’re going to go toward the far west of the land, right ？」
One day, after their training, Komomo asked that question while peering at Rio’s face.
「Yeah, that’s right」
Hearing Rio’s answer, Komomo let out an innocent smile.
「Uhm！ I, also want to go along with Rio-sama 」
Komomo looked at Rio with a wide smile on her face. [TL : Stooop, Rio don’t you dare to break the heart of such innocent Loli!]
「Is it no good ？」
Though Komomo’s upturned eyes had a charm that might be capable of ensnaring anyone, regardless their gender, Rio somehow resisted it.
Rio flatly shook his head with a wry smile.
Komomo puffed her cheeks.
Rio was smiling when he looked at her still innocent figure.
「Gouki-dono, please stop luring me by using your daughter」
But, the instigator had to be tightly rebuked.
Rio looked at Gouki’s dumbfounded face, who should have been the one that instigated Komomo.
「Mu, seen through, huh?」
Even then, Gouki was still trying to get Rio to consent to accompanying his journey.
Though Rio was rejecting it every time, maybe he thought that it might be possible with Komomo’s cuteness, so he was using that method to trap him.
「That’s only natural. Even if it’s Komomo-chan, it’ll become an extremely harsh journey for her who’s still young. Please don’t say something unreasonable」
「Komomo also mastered the strengthening by using spirit arts. So the long journey will become a good training for her, right」
「No, even if you say it’s for training …….. 」
The journey from Yagumo region to the Strahl region was several months of harsh journeying, even for someone who was strengthening their body and physical abilities with spirit arts.
Though the results surely could be called good training, Rio sighed a little to the muscle-brained train of thought and tried to put an end to that kind of training.
And yet Komomo was incorrigible after cheering up, as if she got what she wanted.
「No matter what, I’m going to the Strahl region alone」
Rio would say his resolution, no matter how many times, thus far.
Though it was not that easy to make Gouki give up, even as he said it.
When saying that, Rio somehow gazed towards the sky.
「……. You’ve already accompanied and chatted till this place, won’t you just give up on it?」
But, the answer he heard was outside of his expectation —.
「Ah, okay then …… 」
Rio replied with a dumbfounded expression to Gouki, who easily gave up on it.
If it was the usual him, he would just throw out one promise after another but, he easily gave up today.
Moreover, he was saying as far as giving up on accompanying him.
What in the world just happened?.
Rio looked at Gouki with slightly dubious expression.
「Mu, I wonder how I’m to accomplish it ？」
Gouki asked that when he noticed Rio’s line of sight.
「Ah, that’s not it, if Gouki-dono’s okay with it ……….. *」
Even while feeling a little uncomfortable, Rio stopped probing too deeply regarding that matter, fearing that he would bring upon himself an unnecessary trouble.
After that, Gouki stopped his requests to travel together, so Rio felt relieved, as if a load of weight had lifted from his chest.
After that, time passed by quickly and in the blink of his eyes it was already fall.
The life in the village ended peacefully, Komomo often came and stayed incognito along with Hayate and Gouki.
The friendly Komomo was adored by the villagers, sticking like glue to Rio day and night and became closer to Ruri like a pair of sisters.
Rio also participated in the trading party that year. Aside from that, he often went alone to royal capital to have secret meetings with Shizuku and Homura.
During that time, as a reward for the agricultural reform, he was being taught of the recipe for the dishes and the specialities of the Karasuki kingdom.
And, he also strolled around the royal capital to buy presents for the people of the Seirei no Tami.
Time passed by, the day of the good harvest festival came again.
Rio decided to leave the village a few days after the good harvest festival.
The comparison of that year and previous year’s good harvest was obvious, the atmosphere within the village was very bright, and they were performing a grander banquet than last year as a means of welcoming and sending off Rio.
Rio was cooking the dishes along with the women of the village, with Komomo and Ruri near him.
Sayo, who was a little separated from them, looked on with an envious face.
But, inside her eyes dwelt something, as if she decided something.
They were then going to the village plaza, after the dishes were done.
Shortly after that, the three of them came, they were heading to where Hayate was and had a friendly chat with the four of them.
Naturally Rio was to accompany Komomo, Ruri, who was finished serving the dishes, had nothing to do and accompanied Hayate.
Komomo asking many questions to Rio, and the conversation unfolding while Rio answered her questions.
When they came there, the day already changed to night; Komomo asked many questions related to the Strahl region.
Though he didn’t know why she was happy while he told various stories to her, she listened to them with a wide smile on her face.
And then, after that, they were chatting for almost a hour —-
「U-Uhm！Rio-sama! Can I borrow a little of your time? 」
Sayo greeted Rio with a somehow extremely tense face.
「Yes. What’s matter, Sayo-san? 」
Rio looked a little shocked towards Sayo.
Ever since Shin prostrated as if trying to hold Rio, for some reason Sayo frequently came to Yuba’s house.
But, it was not to meet Rio, her purpose was to meet Yuba.
Though he didn’t know what she did with Yuba, right then, the flower shaped hairpin she got from Rio one year ago was adorned in her hair.
Looking at that, Rio had a hard to describe feeling that she treated that hairpin as something important, even to that day.
「I’ve wanted to talk about something for a while ……」
Even though her gesture seemed timid, Sayo looked at Rio with eyes that were somehow filled with affection.
「Yes. Though I have no problem with it, it’s better if it’s not in this place, right? 」
Rio asked her, as he vaguely felt it would be bad if there were other people.
「Ye-Yeah. Please, do that, if possible」
「Understood. Well then, let’s change the place. Komomo-chan. Sorry but. I’ll leave you for a while」
「Y-Yes ……….. 」
Komomo answered as if dumbfounded by Rio’s words, who left in the circumference.
Just like that, Rio and Sayo moved to a place where there were no people.
Even though every villager gathered in the plaza, they were moving to a place only a little separated from the plaza.
「Well then, what is the talk about ？」
Rio asked that question after he confirmed that no one was in their surroundings.
「Ah, Yes ……….. Uhm ……… About that ……… 」
Her cheeks flushed, though her words seems faltered, she then took a deep breath and opened her mouth, as if gathering her courage.
「Uhm, though it might be troubling by saying it in this way, I ……….. About Rio-sama …….. I love you！
Sayo confessed her love to Rio while bowing deeply.
「Sayo-san …….. 」
Rio muttered with troubled voice.
Sayo’s body trembled when Rio’s voice reached her ears.
Sayo still bowed, as she was somehow unable to brace herself to look at Rio’s eyes.
(I wonder how I should I answer her).
(No, the words that should come out have been decided)
But, when he noticed that he was hesitant to say those words, even just a little, Rio’s expression soured for an instant.
「I’m sorry. I’m unable to respond to your feelings」
With fists tightly clenched and suppressing the pain in his chest, Rio gave a clear answer with a clear voice to Sayo’s confession.
He rejected her confession.
「………… Is that because Rio-sama will leave the village ? 」
Sayo asked that question as she somehow already expected that answer beforehand.
Rio calmly answering Sayo, who was asking with a trembling voice.
「T-Then！ Please take me along with you! 」
Said Sayo with a firm tone.
(My heart must be beating loudly as if it’s about to jump out of my chest.)
(My face is also flushing as red as tomato.)
That was what she thought.
In that moment, Rio didn’t know what he should say to Sayo.
After pausing for few seconds, though he knew what she meant, the answer had been decided.
Rio answered with a somehow troubled expression.
「It’s alright！ I received the teachings on using spirit arts from Yuba-sama, and I can use the simplest spirit arts just recently! 」
After saying that, Sayo approached Rio as if she was about to fall.
It seemed that was the reason Sayo visited Yuba frequently during that half-year.
Rio noticed that he was looking at Sayo with a dumbfounded face.
But, Rio completely didn’t know at all.
For what reason Sayo was going as far as that.
It wasn’t even one year since they first met.
Though it was not like they never talked, the frequency was just hard to say if it was a conversation.
And despite that, why …….
Rio was perplexed.
Even though, just a little, Sayo could use spirit arts.
It seemed she was putting a great effort to the degree that she used every single moment to train it everyday.
She was going back and forth to Yuba during that half year.
No human race could use spirit arts with just half year of training.
Even if they were putting a great effort, to the degree of vomiting blood, there was a saying that “The average Human race need more than one year of training before they can use the simplest spirit art”.
And it would take several years before it was usable in combat.
Probably her innate talent was just that great.
That was simply terrifying.
But, just using simple spirit arts was nothing but a hindrance to Rio.
Though that action was something she found as a way forward, her great efforts had come to nothing but a futile effort.
But, he was hesitant to tell that truth to Sayo.
「That’s why, I won’t become a —- 」
「I’m sorry. There’s already someone that I love」
Rio said that with a firm tone, interrupting Sayo’s speech.
He felt sick when he said that.
A girl already occupied that place in his heart.
She was the one loved by Amakawa Haruto.
She, who didn’t exist in that world.
But whenever he was thinking of her, he couldn’t bring himself to get closer to other women.
He was caught in that eternal prison of an impossible love.
The person himself knew that he was nothing more than a clown —.
Even if he continued living like that in that world without her ——.
Rio and Amakawa Haruto, were loving that girl.
He was unable to lie about that feeling.
Because Amakawa Haruto was the prisoner of his love, his childhood friend, who couldn’t move on after his death.
「I-I know about it！ I knew all along. Even so! 」
Sayo was crying with tears overflowing from her lovely eyes.
「Even so, I-I want to go with you！ I want to be always by your side! 」
Sayo was desperate.
She gave all of herself for her first love.
She could not help but madly fall in love with Rio.
That was why, she was single mindedly thinking only about Rio, and single mindedly putting a great effort for the same reason.
「I-I’ll go, no matter how far it is！ I’ll walk no matter what kind of road it is! That’s why, please don’t leave me alone! 」
Rio made a sorrowful face, as he completely understands Sayo’s feelings.
It was the first time he was faced with such a straight forward feeling.
「I can’t respond to your feelings」
「I-It’s okay！ I’m okay even if you didn’t turn your eyes to me! It’s fine even if you never feel anything either！ But, at least, please let me stay by your side！ 」
Sayo grasped tightly to Rio’s hand and never let it go, fearing that she wouldn’t be able to see him tomorrow.
「Sayo-san …….. 」
Rio was averting his face, as if avoiding the pleading glances of Sayo.
Even so, something impossible would remain impossible.
Rio couldn’t take her along with him.
Because he knew that future wasn’t a blessed one for her.
Because he was unable to respond to her feelings, forever.
But, how could she be alright just by his side.
Did she understand what would happen if she did that?
Rio thought very carefully about it, in the end, those words were all he could say.
He regretted his foolish self, which was unable to say more than those words.
Maybe because he felt guilty towards Sayo, or sympathy, or simply because he feels disgusted towards himself.
He didn’t know which one it was.
「Fuee ……… Uu ……….. Gu ……….. Gusu~」
Sayo was starting to cry with, tears rolled down from her eyes as she was unable to bear her first unrequited love.
Sayo knew all along.
It was something she expected.
Somehow or another that first love wouldn’t bear any fruit.
But, she couldn’t just bear to shut all of the possibilities, even more to deem it as futile or just give up.
She would find a way to reach him.
She also didn’t want to restrain Rio.
She talked with Yuba regarding Shin, that prostrated to Rio, because she also knew that nothing would change his mind from leaving the village.
In that case, wasn’t it just alright if she accompanied Rio.
With that intention, Sayo decided to learn spirit arts from Yuba.
She must not become a hindrance to him.
She couldn’t walk by his side as that current her.
With that kind of goal, Sayo continued to put her greatest effort to the point that she was forgetting about her surroundings.
Recklessly putting her best effort, then he had no choice but to notice her dedication.
That way she continued to do her best in case she was noticed, that way she might have some chance.
Was what she thought.
But, even that was not enough.
Suddenly she was assailed by sense of loss, as if there was a hole in her chest.
Rio looked at the crying Sayo with a indescribable expression.
He unintentionally almost put his hand on her shoulder, but he clenched his fists tightly and resisted that urge.
Rio couldn’t say anything to that Sayo.
Even if he was saying something nice, it wouldn’t do anything to her.
Because he couldn’t respond to Sayo’s affection, half-baked kindness would only hurt her feelings.
Frowning from the pain in his chest, he turned his heels, and left that place.
「R-Rio-sama, wait …….. 」
He didn’t reply to Sayo’s weak muttering.
Rio walked with firm steps and fading away from Sayo’s line of sight.
That distance was so close, and yet hopelessly far.
Sayo, who was at her wit’s end, continuously cried in that place.
Quietly, without showing any sign, one shadow was looking at that spectacle from outside of Rio’s range of perception, that shadow approached Sayo with firm steps.
Several days later, after finishing saying his farewells to the Saga family, Homura and Shizuku, the day Rio departed from the village had come.
Though the villagers were coming to see him off, there was no figure of Sayo and Shin among them.
The truth was, even the villagers somehow guessing that Sayo’s confession was rejected by Rio.
Though some part of him felt lonely with that separation, he knew since a long time ago that he would eventually leave the village.
The villagers somehow were already prepared for it and decided to send him of with smile on their faces.
「See you later, Rio, take care of yourself」
After he finished saying his farewells to the villagers, Ruri approached him last as if bringing an end to his farewell.
There was the figure of Yuba by her back.
Though he already said farewell greetings so many times the previous day, Ruri still let out a lonely smile.
「I’ll be happy if I see the figure of my niece or nephew the next time I come to this village」
Rio whispered in small voice as if trying to break this gloomy atmosphere.
Ruri yelling loudly at him with flushing red face.
He smiled at her reaction then, looking at Yuba’s direction.
「Yuba-san, thank you for your kindness up till now」
「I’m the one who’s indebted to you, you know. Thank you, Rio. You can always come back to this place, any time」
「Yes. Thank you very much」
When they were looking at each other’s face, Rio smiled widely with a awkward expression.
Nodding at each other, then the two of them embraced each other.
「Ruri too, thank you very much. I’m really happy that you treated me like your own family, both in name and reality. I’ll tell a lot of stories when I come back」
「Of course it is. Because we’re cousins, even if no one knows about it」
「Uhn, thank you very much」
They exchanged lines of sight, and let out a small laugh, then embraced each other.
It was only few seconds but, they were embracing tightly.
Even though he felt a little lonely, soon, he would separate from that girl.
「See you later！ Thank you very much for taking care of me, everyone! 」
After saying his farewell for the last time, while bowing deeply to the villagers, Rio turned on his heels.
And just like that, he walked towards the exit of the village.
Rio turned back and waving his hand so many times towards the villagers who sent him off.
And then, looking at the figure of Ruri and the other villagers, he waved his hand for the last time from a far away place with smile on his face.
Year 999 of the Sacred Calendar, Late autumn.
That marked the end of every day life of Rio with Ruri and the others in the village.
Thereupon, they would live separately from then on.
Even so, it didn’t mean that they were also separated in their feelings.
Swearing in his heart that they would meet again someday, Rio walked towards the Strahl region.
One day, one month and few days after Rio departed from the Yagumo region.
Red, Blue, Brown, White, and Yellow colored pillars of light pierced the sky of the Strahl region in Year 1000 of the Sacred Calendar.
（Is someone making holes in the world? I’ve no doubt, it was that light）
The recollection of that six pillars seen more than a thousand years ago were still clearly in the memory of the observer who still existed even until that current era.
The military forces of the demons that polluted the lands, the ancient heroes[Eiyuu] and the ancient soldiers were the ones who opposed them.
（That fate has been decided a thousand years ago. There’s no need to doubt it）
The observer still looked at it.
The six pillar of light that caused an abnormal torrent of mana and odo even caused a quake to the far away lands.
The history repeated itself not so far in the distant future.
Because the history started to move.
Because they’re not the one that moved at that time.
There’s nothing they can do.
They can do nothing but observe.
The person who was observing the world since the beginning of time was letting out a nostalgic smile and then closed it’s eyes.
The location switched to the mansion of the feudal lord of the Commercial City in the western part of the Galwark kingdom, Almond.
「That fake legend turned out to be true huh …… 」
The daughter of the duke household Cretia, Liselotte, was muttering dumbfound while looking at the pillars of light that pierced through the heavens.
That fairy-tale was passed down in the noble families and the royalty.
The six wise gods said to leave behind six holy stones called Brave Stones, along with a certain prophecy in the beginning of the Sacred Calendar, several decades after the end of demon-god war.
「When six pillars of light piercing the heavens of Strahl a thousand years later, the six heroes will come back at the place of the holy stones and bring along an eternal peace」
The six wise gods that left behind that last prophecy then disappeared from human race.
The heroes were the apostles of gods and the hope of humanity.
The number of demonic beings that they slaughtered during the demon-god war was uncountable.
The six wise gods would signal the holy stones, the Brave Stones, to once again summon those heroes.
The endless dispute unfolded regarding which was the most fitting to house the heroes.
And before long, the Brave Stones became the object to show their power.
And now, there was no official record regarding the whereabouts of the six holy stones.
And now the two were in the Bertram kingdom, one in the Galwark kingdom, while another one was in the Saint Stellar kingdom.
Regarding the positions that were known by Liselotte, though the pillars of light rising on the whereabouts of those stones, the two pillars of light rising in Bertram kingdom were a little separated from each other.
「It seemed the holy stones whose whereabouts was unknown rose their pillars at the place, that was considerably far from the Galwark kingdom. Though I think that one unattended follower of the hero was close by.」
Despite there still being some traces of innocence in her features, Liselotte, who was saying that and letting out a “fufufu” laugh, was the owner of light blue coloured hair, along with unworldly beauty comparable to a goddess.
Something like unyielding will was transparent in those light blue pupils, that were gazing at the pillar of light.
「I wonder if there’s some meaning to the return of the heroes, during such a suspicious time. It seems the monster activity has been increasing lately and a coup d’etat occurred in the Bertram kingdom a few days ago. But I don’t think that they’ll just simply bring world peace. What do you think about it, Aria? 」
Thus, Liselotte asked to her trusted retainer that was in that place.
「Even if I knew, that’s the act of the gods. I smell something suspicious in there」
The young woman who was endowed with a beauty equal to Liselotte, Aria Gavaness replied with deadpan face.
「Right. It’s not my style to leave matters to chance but, it seems the society won’t be easily tricked by that」
A little dejected, Liselotte then said.
「Then, do you have the confidence to win against a legendary hero？」
「If they have the combat ability like the ones depicted in legend, starting a long distance combat is a little foolish, right? Though I wouldn’t know how the result would come out if I bring it to close combat, when the push comes to shove, it’s better to not make any moves if there’s no chance for victory, right? 」
Aria answered with somewhat a shocked tone, without showing any emotion on her face, to answer the question thrown by Liselotte.
Sometimes, when Aria’s master would ask that kind of playful question, it would be when she already anticipating the result, in accordance with the question.
「Yeah, after all there’s no guarantee for the personalities of the heroes. If the heroes appear in the battlefield, there’s a high chance that it would cause a war. Basically I have no intention of taking the central stage with you but, we have no choice but to move behind the scenes in case the situation is inclined to one kingdom 」
When her trusted retainer gave a satisfying answer, Liselotte added her words.
「Well, even if the war doesn’t happen, it’ll be hectic days from now on. Because a hero has descended in our kingdom about this time, right」
If the brave stone in the possession of the Galwark kingdom was real, a hero was supposed to be appear in that kingdom too.
Currently there was only one pillar of light rising in the direction of the Galwark kingdom’s royal capital.
It seemed the meeting between Liselotte and that hero wouldn’t take a long time.
「Regarding the place where the pillar of light rose in the Bertram kingdom, it seems one person ended in the Anti-Revolution camp, right. Because it looks like that the king’s government will accept the Anti-Revolution camp, please make preparations to dispatch a messenger and spy. Because they’ll surely make a visit to this city if they want to go to the royal capital」
Aria quietly disappeared from that place after answering her master.