Chapter 23, Divine Revelation and Fried Rice (Part 3)
There are times when I feel anxious. Times when my chest would hurt uncontrollably.
The cause of that anxiousness… is Shuri-kun.
The reason…. is also very simple.
Shuri-kun never notices any of the approaches I make towards him, no matter what it was. Even worse, he would act all aloof, not even revealing a hint of his feelings. I have not a single clue who he likes, or even who he hates.
I mean honestly, even when we went on that date last time… In the end, he didn’t even realise that we were on a date.
…And so, I thought about it but looking back, my strategy was a little too obscure.
Princess Tebis is removing all the obstacles in her way to the point of putting her subordinates to keep an eye on him, and lately it feels like Riru is finally starting to realise her feelings having eaten so much of her favourite food. And then there’s me. It’s because I didn’t say it was a date from the get-go that Shuri-kun didn’t realise. I mean that is how he is, oblivious to everything. Geez, what a sinful man.
He has never thought, nor even considered the idea that this is love…
I think that even if someone asked him about it he would just answer with something heartless like, ‘Isn’t this just a form of diplomatic relations?’ Which is why I’ve worked out a plan to make use my trump card.
And that is, to introduce him to my parents!
I said all that with quite some spirit, but it’s quite different in reality.
The talk about introducing him to my parents is in reality, going to speak with my long-lost mother.
My mother, the concubine to the previous Lord was a smart, beautiful and patient.
Nevertheless, that is all in the past. Quite some time has already passed since I could meet her.
Even my memories of the past are now losing their vividness. The saying that, the memories you don’t want to forget the most are the ones you’re most likely to forget, is very much true.
However, even that is coming to an end.
Everything that had gone wrong is fixed, the former Lady Renha is gone, and thus the cage surrounding Sounity’s past has been opened.
I too, have been set free from the useless title of ‘Heir to the throne’, and though the authority of the land now belongs to Ganglabe, I’m not upset.
Even if I, or even Gingus, had taken rule, the land would have been filled with nothing but problems.
Thus, it is best that someone else is left in charge.
I’ve gotten off track.
Anyway, since I don’t have the courage to meet her alone, using the excuse that I want to introduce him to my mother, I decided to talk with Shuri-kun.
“Shuri-kun, Shuri-kun. I have something to ask you but…”
That day after work, I walked up to Shuri-kun who was in the middle of cleaning up.
It was after dinner, right when the plates in the dining hall had been collected to be cleaned and the tables were being wiped.
“What is it?”
Shuri-kun, who was wiping down the tables and benches, looked over at me curiously.
Wow, it really is rare for a man to look so at home wiping down tables, or rather, doing household chores and cooking.
“I have something important to ask of you so could you come to my room later?”
At that moment, with a crash, someone had dropped and broken a plate.
“Ahh, look what you did there, are you alright?”
“I’m, I’m, I’m alright. I’m completely fine.”
The one who broke it was Gann-niisan. Hearing the sound Shuri went over to him, and started to carefully pick up the broken pieces.
What’s wrong with Gann-niisan? For him to actually make such a careless mistake.
Just as I thought that, he started crying out of nowhere. A low groan, as if he was trying to hold something back started to sound…
“N-no, I’m, I’m alright. Ahh….”
Gann-niisan continued to sob slowly and then suddenly placed his hand onto Shuri’s shoulder.
That face, as if he was some sort of tragic hero, but also somewhat celebratory… The two opposing feelings were getting all jumbled up and he was mushy with snot and tears.
I have a feeling he’s got some sort of ridiculous misunderstanding.
“I… I… I leave, my sister to you! She’s not much, but to me… she’s what’s left of family I’ve got! I gotta go!”
Gann-niisan leaves the dining hall, tears running down his cheek.
Left behind, Shuri-kun looks stunned.
“Huh…? Just what on earth is going on with Gann-san I wonder?”
Shuri-kun shakes his head in confusion as he continues tidying up the broken pieces of the plate.
And I, having looked at that little skit myself, tried to understand it a little, but all that I can say is that, I have absolutely no idea what Gann-niisan was trying to do.
Oops, the story’s stopped progressing.
“Alright then Shuri-kun, see you later.”
“Okay got it… I wonder what happened to Gann-san though….?”
Shuri-kun mutters confusedly as he continues to work.
Now then, let us return to my room.
Arriving back at my room from the dining hall I change out of my normal clothes and into my pajamas.
I can wear this right, it’s already so late after all? Even if it looks so casual?
Anyway, from there I looked over at my desk where a certain letter was sitting and grasped at it.
“So, this… is where mother is, huh.”
This letter was something that I had received from Renha.
It was entrusted upon me before she had left far away.
Written inside was the location of my mother Envy, and Gann-niisan’s mother, Marille.
The location written inside is one that only the direct family to the Lord would know, a church. So… this was where they were confined huh… damn it, I should have realised earlier. If I did then I could’ve helped them in some way.
That place was a church in name only and in fact a place of exile.
Why did she tell me? Why did she finally give me their location I wonder? Maybe that steak, together with Princess Tebis’ words had softened her heart somewhat. Even Renha was…
“I don’t get it.”
After looking at the letter one more time, I put it back on the table and threw myself down into my bed.
Just what was Renha’s goal in the end? What did she want to accomplish?
As the lineage of Granend, what did she want to do in this territory?
I have so many questions.
“Ekress, you here?”
In that moment, the door opens and Gingus comes in.
“I heard a bad rumour… but…”
And freezes upon seeing my nightgown.
Huh, what’s going on? I have a bad feeling about this.
“Gingus, what’s wrong?”
“…I see, finally this moment has come Ekre-… no, big sis…”
Gingus looks up, covering his face in his two hands.
Flowing from through the crevices of his fingers, were tears.
He stood there as his tears trickled down.
It would be pretty awkward if someone saw this. Just what’s going on here?
“No, it’s fine. That damn Shuri guy is feeble and skinny, but he is an accomplished man. That’s why I should be happy to leave you to him. That’s what I should feel. Come on me! Just let it happen!”
“Is something wrong?”
“I know! I know, so you don’t have to say it sis.”
My back goes itchy just from Gingus calling me sis but endure it me! Being called sis is a good thing!
“You called for Shuri, right? In that outfit, it’s to do that, right?”
“I’m rooting for that damn Shuri… be happy you twoooo!!!”
Saying that, Gingus runs out, tears and everything.
…What a storm. Just what’s going on here? I never thought I would get sucked into some sort of strange situation just like Shuri.
Just what sort of misunderstanding do those guys have? …I just don’t know what they’re thinking.
“Ekress-san~ I’m here.”
Looking at my door that’s just been left wide open, Shuri walks in with a puzzled expression.
“What happened here?”
“No idea. Gingus came in and then that happened.”
“Ahh, so it was him. Gann-san seemed to have some sort of misunderstanding as well… Those two get along so well now that I would’ve never though they used to be on different teams. They’re so similar.”
“It’s not like they fought though… anyway, they are quite similar huh.”
I wouldn’t know about getting along.
It’s sound easier than it seems. After all, as a spy Gann-niisan had once betrayed Gingus.
Gingus doesn’t know yet, but once he finds out their relationship might turn for the worst. So, I have try my best to make sure he doesn’t find out.
It wouldn’t be good for our relations to sour after all this, thus this is one of those times where it’s better for him not never find out.
“So, did you want something from me?”
“Ahh, yes, I did.”
“Oh, I thought you were about to sleep since you’ve already changed you’re your pajamas.”
“Ahaha, not at all. I’m just wearing this cause it’s casual and light.”
The outfit I changed out of was one that I really liked, but I mean, it’s not really appropriate once the sun goes down.
It’s not like its uncomfortable but wearing it too often would wear it out.
“This was what I wanted to talk about…”
I give the letter that I had just been looking at to Shuri-kun.
“The location to where my and Gann’s mothers are. The former Lady… it’s a letter I got from Renha.”
“Eh? So you mean… the two who had been exiled by that evil wife?”
“Does Gann-san know about this?”
“The same document had also been sent to Gann-niisan.”
At that time, Gann-niisan said that it wasn’t time to meet her yet and so refused to go.
I’m sure that if his life didn’t consist murder and lying, he would have consider going to meet them.
And even though I want to go meet them, I don’t have the courage to do so, and have just been moping around about it.
“Gann-niisan said that he wouldn’t go meet her yet”
“Is he really so stubborn? She’s his long-lost mother, right? Why isn’t he going to meet her now while he still can? “
“Gann-niisan seems rather determined about this. For now, let’s just leave him alone? Okay?”
“…Family isn’t something you should take for granted. Sometimes, you might not know when, but you just might not be able to meet them again.”
Shuri-kun’s face darkens and muttered.
Speaking of which, I’ve never heard anything about Shuri-kun’s family. I’ve never asked him anything regarding his past before he was taken in by Ganglabe’s Mercenary Corp.
“What about your family, Shuri-kun?”
“…They exist, but I can’t go and see them. I’ll probably… never see them again.”
“No, it’s not what you think Ekress-san. They aren’t dead, nor were they taken far away or anything. It’s just… that they’re so far away, so far that we will probably never meet again.”
I saw Shuri-kun’s upset face for the very first time.
Shuri-kun, our cook who was always so distant from the world, always so bright, and easy-going.
Looking at him, I felt like crying.
I can say all kinds of things, like how much I like him, but at the end of the day, I know nothing about him.
Why can’t he meet his family again? Why did they fall apart?
In the first place, where did Shuri-kun come from? What are his likes, dislikes?
What about his family members? His hobbies outside of cooking?
Or his type of woman? Future dreams?
I know nothing about Shuri-kun.
Despite knowing nothing about him, I dared to say I like him.
How embarrassing. How horrible. Throwing myself at him one-sidedly with nothing but the idea of love that I hold for him, and yet I didn’t even try to learn a single thing about him.
If I were to try and explain this as love, then I would for sure become a truly pathetic person.
Love that does not consider the other person’s feelings is nothing but forceful.
“No, it’s okay, I’m okay. I’m already over it. I had wanted to… be over it.”
Shuri-kun looks up at the ceiling and closed his eyes.
“That day, the day Ganglabe-san and the others all spoke about their dreams. I had decided on that day to watch their dreams manifest. To support them by their sides. Which is why I am with them, why I want to be with them. I want to be by their sides to see them shine.”
Ahh, I get it now. Hearing those words, I finally understand.
Shuri-kun is looking for a place he belongs. He’s creating a place for himself. He is, by himself, looking for a way to protect himself.
He’s doing all he can just to survive on this continent.
Although his parents are someplace far where he can’t see them, he has his friends at the Mercenary Corp to depend on.
Gambling with his life and showing his display of cooking skill.
The suffering that Shuri-kun has endured up till now cannot possibly be imagined.
Continuously winning this game of life and death where a single failure could mean the end.
He survived, suppressing the fear that stems from not knowing when you may fall on the battlefield.
That’s why I like Shuri-kun.
I know that I’m not qualified to say that. Besides, with only this slight bit of connection I share with him I can never tear him away from Ganglabe and the others.
Princess Tebis would try to trap him, get rid of all obstacles in her way, but that’s not going to pan out well either. Even if she did that, Shuri would look run from her like he was flying away. No matter how you much you wished to have him, you just wouldn’t be able to.
However, I will not give up. The feelings that are surging within this chest of mine are not false.
But how do I go about this… I asked myself rhetorically, but I don’t think I’ll get the answer anytime soon. It’s just as I had thought. Even if I could come up with answers in an instant when it comes to domestic affairs due to my experience as a man, I just couldn’t find the answer to such a complex problem.
Or perhaps, when my experience in love is measured on a scale, my experience is so lacking that I can’t come up with an answer for this problem.
“So, what was the thing you had to tell me? Why did you want me here?”
Suddenly, Shuri-kun came at me with a fast-straight ball.
Oh yeah, I called Shuri-kun over here because I had a favour to ask of him. The conversation went completely off path.
It seems there’s a need to put this conversation back in order.
“Ahh, yes. I do have something. Let’s get back on topic, sorry, the conversation went quite off track.”
“I don’t mind. In any case, the reason we went off track was all because of me.”
“Well… I’ll start again. I’m thinking of going to meet my mother.”
“And I would like you to come with me Shuri-kun.”
Hearing my words, Shuri-kun just looked at me blankly.
Well, of course he would… I had just said that I was going to meet with my missing mother. To then ask another person to come with me is quite strange. No, Shuri-kun can no longer be considered a stranger, let’s just explain this in a simple and easy to understand manner.
However, Shuri-kun immediately smiled and said.
“Sure. Are we leaving tomorrow morning?”
This time it was me who was given a big fright.
“You’ve decided? Just like that? So quickly?”
“Eh? Quickly? Not at all, I’ve thought a lot just now.”
“…Like, the stuff related to Gann-san and whose turn it is to cook.”
“You didn’t think about it at all did you?”
“You got me… it’s just… you look kind of troubled, so I just gave you an answer straight away…”
As a response I just laughed. Shuri-kun has this gentleness that just doesn’t fit times like these. Not to mention his unnatural and strong sense of justice.
No, perhaps that’s not the right way to say it.
Shuri-kun is a good-natured person. A kind-hearted person.
That’s probably why so many people are drawn to him. Although he does have a reckless side to him.
I smiled wryly. Geez, this Shuri-kun…
“Ahahaha. In that case I’ll take you up for it Shuri-kun”
“Understood, see ya.”
Shuri-kun says and then decided to leave.
Left behind, I read the letter one last time, reviewing the contents.
It was information that the ruler of this territory ought to know.
The church on the outskirts of the castle town. Originally it was made as an evacuation shelter in the instance that something was to happen to the clan.
Now it has become a place of arrest, no, a place of banishment.
I’ve only heard about it though. I think the most likely cause of this was that they had made arrangements, or rather guided me so that any curiousity regarding the location to where my mother was held captive was curbed.
A fading childhood memory that seemed like a fleeting dream.
A time when I had yet no need to pretend to be a man. A time when mother was still here.
However, at some point mother had disappeared, exiled and I had to live as a man.
I can meet with my mother.
“…I’m coming to see you, mother.”
I throw the letter back onto my table and lie down onto my bed.
Tomorrow… I can go see you tomorrow.
Excitement, worry, happiness… All other sorts of indescribable feelings kept spinning around in my head as I gradually grew tired from all the thinking and gradually fell asleep.
The next day.
After soothing Shuri-kun, who was reluctant to go by horse, we took off. Shuri-kun couldn’t handle horses and the horses didn’t seem to like Shuri-kun either, so he needed a little convincing before we could take off.
After passing through the town and leaving the district altogether, we headed towards the forest.
We left early in the morning so time-wise it was probably a still before lunch. Of course, it was also because we had been moving at a quick pace.
Just Shuri-kun and I. It was almost like we were going on a trip together. I’m having so much fun.
Although Shuri-kun was merely clinging onto me from behind in fear. Is he that bad with horses? It looked like he was a bit hesitant even back when we were about to leave.
However, there is one thing annoying me.
The existence… of this woman called Wutin…!
Wutin, a spy and the Princess’ guard. She is someone who gathers and steals information, as well as an agent in the Special unit.
That’s what I know for sure but looking at her recently I’ve been a little suspicious if that was all it was.
Certainly, having seen how she acts normally, I will admit that she does not seem like an ordinary person.
However, as soon as she comes into contact with Shuri, she would start acting very strange.
For example, when we would be in a meeting, I’ve seen Shuri go give her something to eat. The fact that she was suddenly standing there, in a place that I’ve never found the need to pay attention to,w was very shocking at the time but…
And then upon receiving the food, she immediately and wholeheartedly ate it. Even though she had been hiding her presence this entire time to act as a guard, she didn’t at this time.
She continued to eat, not realising that everyone in the room was staring at her. As a woman myself, I thought that, that… was not very good.
Having met my eye, Wutin suddenly gave me her reason despite me not asking. I could feel my cheeks twitching just hearing her response that seemed as to say, ‘I have nothing else to say’.
Yes, she was under the Princess’ orders to be with us.
I’m not really sure why she was with us though.
Most likely, that young Princess… is trying to stop Shuri-kun and I from being alone together…
Well, fine. Ignore her!
“Look Shuri-kun, it’s over here.”
Right now, the hands of a frightened Shuri-kun were stretched around my waist and were in the perfect place.
How do I say this? Imagine that the person you have a crush on was right next to you, so close that you could feel their warmth…
It’s a little vulgar, but I’m turned on.
Woah woah woah! Even if I’ve lived as a guy up until now, I am a girl.
I have to be proper and prim! A lady! I have to express myself through my subtle personality, not words!
“Are you okay?”
However, Shuri-kun’s looking stranger by the second… He’s been frowning since a while back.
“No… my butt hurts.”
Ahh, of course, it’s that.
Certainly, it’s quite a common problem for people who aren’t used to riding horses.
Firstly, since they aren’t used to it, they don’t know the proper method of dispersing the shocks and pain from the body.
This is something you learn only as you ride, so people who have never ridden horses wouldn’t be able to wrap their heads around it. Thus, I do understand his predicament.
However, at the same time, a question popped into my mind.
“Shuri-kun, have you never ridden a horse before?”
Hearing my question, Shuri-kun looked a little embarrassed and shook his head.
“Ahh, you’re not used to horses.”
“….Is that bad?”
“Well, it’s considered common knowledge for the people on this continent, so it doesn’t make you look very cool.”
Which is why you should practise more… was what I was about to say before I felt something.
I could feel from behind me that Shuri-kun was feeling extremely upset.
Ahh, I screwed up… Regret attacks me as I felt the urge to wrap my arms around my head.
Shuri-kun is a man after all. He would find it embarrassing that he can’t do something, even if he was pretty average all round. I was careless and said too much…
Thinking to apologize I turn around and see Shuri-kun look like he was about to cry. Damn, I need to say something quick.
“As a man, you shouldn’t be crying in front of people, you know?”
Huh? That doesn’t sound right? I don’t really understand why it feels that way but… it feels like I did something wrong?
However, Shuri-kun seemed to have manage to pick himself up.
Just that… that smile of his seems a bit hollow doesn’t it?
“Ekress-san. You’re just so cool.”
“Ehehe, I’m so happy you’ll say that.”
Although I have to say that telling a girl that she’s cool isn’t really a thing you would normally do.
I’ll let it slide though since I’ve lived longer as a man.
While I’m feeling great over here, I feel like Shuri-kun’s voice is getting worse and worse, but why?
“….So why is Wutin-san here?”
Just like he said, why are you here Wutin?
You’ve been completely silent up until now, and even if you claim to be our guard there’s nothing dangerous along this path, so I’m beginning to doubt the legitimacy of your presence.
As a response to this, Wutin answered shamelessly. Doing so expressionlessly, not moving a brow.
“The princess, said, just in case.”
“What? No, shouldn’t you be the one by the princess’ side just in case?”
Shuri-kun. Believe me, I think you’re right. That’s what I think as well.
Wutin, you’re supposed to be the Princess’s guard right…?
Both Shuri and I looked towards Wutin with a face full of doubt but, she replied in a manner quite befitting herself.
“….Just in case.”
“Alright, I get it. I can’t really complain if you’re here to protect me.”
Shuri-kun! You! Why are you conceding to her there?!
Look! Wutin’s actually doing a guts pose just as Shuri-kun wasn’t looking!
She even looked like she was breaking out in cold sweat! If you stuck it to her a little more she would’ve gotten caught! Keep pressing her! If you do that you might finally understand her true purpose! This girl is surprisingly easy, you know!?
My internal screams don’t reach the ears of Shuri-kun as he let it go with an attitude of, ‘Well, okay’.
Well, honestly, I understand why he would want to just let it go… Like, I get that it would be super annoying to deal with but… I mean, honestly, I’m a little reluctant to let it go like this but I’m not gonna let that show.
Nothing’s going to change even if I did after all.
“So, Ekress-san. We’re going to go meet you and Gann-san’s mothers, that’s the plan, right?”
Perhaps Shuri-kun had given up on questioning Wutin as he turned the conversation around to me.
However… thinking about it now…
“I’m also a little worried. I haven’t met my mother in a long time.”
Within my memories, the ones from before I was brought up as a man, was a shadowy figure that belonged to my mother who had been chased away from the territory by Renha.
I can still remember her now… I can, but these memories are slowly fading.
I had always thought that I would never be able to see my mother ever again and so I had thought, at the very least, to etch what I remember of her, into my heart.
However even that has a limit. Humans are like that. The painful memories stay with us, so we can prevent tragedies from happening again but the ones we wish to keep the most gradually fade from our minds.
What I did with my mother in the past is nothing but a faint silhouette now.
”I’m not really sure how to look at her, or what face to make.”
Which is why, I can’t help but ask myself, how and what am I to say to my mother after all this time?
What she’s been up to recently? What I’ve been up to? Or maybe about what’s happened in the time she was gone?
No, more precisely, what would mother wish to talk about?
In the first place, why am I trying to go meet her anyway?
The fact that I’m considering this to be a problem makes me believe that perhaps I don’t want this meeting as much as I had formerly hoped.
Even now, I’m just meaninglessly pondering on stuff like this, yet I still have no idea what to talk about with mother.
Exactly what am I trying to achieve here?
“I think you should just smile.”
Hearing my doubt, Shuri-kun said with a sudden and serious tone.
“Just say, I’m back, or welcome home, or it’s been a while… in any case, how about just smiling and say a little greeting first?”
Just smile and wave…. It’s because I can’t just do that that I’m consulting with you here…
“…It’s not… that easy, you know.”
“Well obviously it wouldn’t be. I’m saying that it will be hard. Not that it would be easy.”
Shuri-kun then said to me, this depressed and troubled me.
“However, I don’t think that you should give up just because it’s hard. How about you don’t think of it like you’re doing this for the sake of making up with her or fixing your relationship. Just think of it as a way to find a solution for yourself.”
“You have to find the answer from within your heart.”
To find an answer. That’s what Shuri-kun had said last night as well. I thought he meant for me to forget about it.
I wonder if that’s what Shuri-kun is feeling too? Having to choose between wanting to go home and sticking with Ganglabe and the rest, and then choosing the latter.
Perhaps it’s because he understands what I’m going through that his words are so powerful and sound so persuasive to me.
”First you have to find it in yourself to forget the past. I say forget, but as long as you don’t hate each other then, the gap between the two of you will naturally close.”
The distance… will naturally…
That’s true. If I’m not the one to take the first step to close our distance, then our relationship will never mend.
I do not hate my mother. And I don’t think my mother hates me either. It’s not like she was exiled because of me… but somewhere deep within me, seems to think that if it wasn’t for me, if I had never existed, then that would have never happened. It’s the part of me that contains a lot of self-loathing.
Which is why meeting her is such a terrifying matter for me.
If I was told that, ‘It was all your fault’, then I don’t think I would ever have the courage to stand again.
And from there if she tells me, ‘I should never have given birth to you’, then I think I would just collapse on the spot.
However, if I never meet her then I would never know. Didn’t Shuri-kun say this last night as well? The fact that there’s a chance I might suddenly just never be able to see her ever again.
That is why I have to treasure this time, while I could still tell her. I gather my courage to look forward.
“…. Yes, thank you Shuri-kun. You’ve given me a bit of courage.”
Let’s find my answer.
I said my thanks to Shuri-kun. No matter if I get upset, or even if I start feeling like I want to die.
I believe that Shuri-kun will be there to save me.
Advancing deeper into the forest we arrive out into an open area. The dazzling sunlight that had been peeking through the leaves suddenly pierced into my unprotected eyes. Once I adjusted my eyes I saw a church standing in front of me.
A religion that had once reigned all through the Sabreu, the “church”.
They are all but abandoned now and only exist in very isolated and few places, however it does make one curious seeing how beautifully intact they remain.
“What do they worship at this church?”
From behind me Shuri-kun lifts his head up and asks me a question.
With a face as if saying, ‘What do you mean?’, I replied.
“No, what sort of god?”
“Hm? God is god. There aren’t other gods are there?”
Huh? I feel like we’re not understanding each other…
“Don’t they have a name or religious doctrines, or something?”
Oh, that’s what he means. Shuri-kun probably means to ask how God came to be so revered, right?
“In this day and age, some people just want to be able to praise a god. The source of these churches, the headquarters, was sure to have existed in the past, but they don’t exist anymore. The country in power at the time didn’t like that there were donations going towards the faith and so, attacked and abolished them. The churches had, at the very least, been preserved but, there are no donations or any believers anymore. Right now, only a handful of pious believers remain, keeping the church alive out of their own pocket. Nevertheless, the Father who is doing all that is loved by all and even raises orphans.”
In truth, their existence in itself helps the country in some ways. They contribute to society without asking for anything in return due to their pure and honourable hearts. Truly a group of wonderful people.
They labour day and night so that they can one day practice and spread their “teachings” across the continent again.
Their teachings too are simple and thus have already permeated into several territories.
Unfortunately, I know nothing about those teachings. There was a time when I had tried to learn more about it, but I had too much on my plate at the time and didn’t have the chance to research more. The fact that they had helped us is true however and being unable to compensate them had always been a source of embarrassment for me.
“However, the church we are going to now, is only fronting the name of a ‘church’ and is in fact more well known for being the hidden residence of the Feudal lords’ clan. Furthermore, it is also the place where my mother and Gann’s… brother’s mother is being held.”
Indeed, this church is just a cover. Right now, there were no priests nor priestesses, and it was nothing more than a building with unique architecture.
Once this is over with, it would be nice… at least I’m thinking it would be nice, if I called a Father over, provide him with support and that he take care of and educate our orphans.
But before that, there is a person that I have to meet. I have to meet my mother.
I feel so lethargic… even though I had, just now, hardened my resolve to finally meet her.
Shuri-kun got off the horse rather quickly, but I couldn’t find myself doing the same. The ground feels so far away. I get this ill-boding that once I get down from here I might just fall straight into hell on earth.
Shuri-kun asked, with a worried look on his face.
“…It truly is quite fearful… having to finally meet her.”
I really am such a pathetic person… a truly cowardly, and worthless individual.
Smiling in vain and laughing things off as if they didn’t matter… trying to trick Shuri-kun to be nice to me.
Someone like me could do naught but let such meek and worthless words out.
Taking advantage of someone else’s kindness, I play the act of the pitiful muse. I hate myself so much I want to die.
Still, Shuri-kun was as kind as ever, caring about me with that anxious look on his face.
However, something happened in that moment that completely changed the mood. Suddenly, a woman ran out from the church.
It was truly very sudden.
Perhaps she had been watching through a gap in the door, but the woman had quickly flung the door right open and ran towards me.
Arriving before me, that woman looked up, straight towards at me.
“Ekress?! You’re Ekress, right?!”
That woman inquired me with a frantic passion.
It was so sudden that I was unable to come up with a response. I was just so confused.
However, that woman, realising what I was feeling, suddenly smiled and said.
“It’s me, Ekress! Envy Sounity!”
That’s… eh? It can’t be…?
“Mo-, is that you mother?”
“Yes! Ekress, you’re Ekress, right…. I’m so happy… so happy to see you….”
My mother seemed to break down as she said those words, tears streaming down her face. She fell to her knees right beside the horse and covered her face with her hands as she cried. However, it was not for sadness, no, the teardrops that fell could not hide her happy smile.
“I had thought that they might have even… exiled you as well but….! That doesn’t seem to be it…! I’m just so glad you’re safe…!”
Sigh, just what had I been so worried about.
What, ‘She might hate me’? Was your mother such a person, Ekress?
She’s not, right? Just look at her.
She’s the kind of person who tears up just knowing that her own child was safe.
She’s the kind of person who cries with a smile on her face.
She’s the kind of person who cries because she’s so happy to see you.
She’s the kind of person who is relieved because you’re not in any harm.
Just what were you worried about?
My body that had turned stiff from all that inactivity finally went into gear as I got down from the horse.
And then I went to hug my mother.
She felt a lot smaller than the mother that was in my memories, but that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve grown up.
My mother’s hair, the same silver colour as mine, has started to dull after years of hardships.
However, we were finally able to meet. I was finally able to meet her and hug her.
My mother and I both started to laugh as we cried together.
We laugh and cry as we rejoiced over our reunion.
I was finally able to meet my mother again.
There’s so much I want to say to you now that I’ve finally met you.
After they had separated you from me, I had to go on to manage the territory.
I had tried my absolute best to stabilise the territory.
The former evil, Renha, isn’t here anymore either.
I’m not fighting with my little brother anymore either.
And my relationship with my big brother has come to the point where we could walk together in broad daylight.
It was like a dream, the day all our problems within the territory had been resolved has come.
I’ve come… with the person I like.
However, all that came out my mouth were my loud sobs.
Right now, it was as if my body was telling me to let out all the loneliness that I had held pent up inside of me.
I just continued to cry.
Even though there were a heap of things that I had wanted to say to her, nothing but sobs came out. In spite of that, I thought that this was just fine.
After all, we’ll have a heap of time from here on out.
Once both my mother and me mostly finished crying, she took Shuri-kun and I into the church.
“Why don’t we leave the crying to there and calm ourselves to talk for a bit?”
It was said in such a gentlemanly way but what wound up on my mind is that it didn’t really sound like Shuri-kun. Normally, I would think that he would just watch until the end. However, I’m thankful for him stepping in when he did, as well as the gentle approach he took. If all we did was cry, then our long-awaited reunion would be ruined.
Entering the church, the inside had been cleaned and tidied.
Just I had expected from a church, there were several long benches lined up behind one another and at the very front was a stand for the Father to stand behind to discuss his teachings.
On the sides of the church were several doors, which should lead to the study, bedrooms, and kitchen. I say should, as it’s only something I’ve heard about and cannot confirm.
In any case, we move further inwards when one of the doors open and a woman runs out.
…Ahh, it’s another familiar face. A woman that exists in my memories.
“Madam! Why did you suddenly run out-….!!”
That’s right, it’s me, Ekress.
“That’s right Marille!”
Indeed, she is Marille Rubber. The mother of Gann Rubber-niisan.
The maid who our father, the former feudal lord, had made a mistress of.
After Gann-niisan was born, she didn’t become a concubine, instead a person who was kept hidden to everyone else.
However, she was exiled by Renha who didn’t take her influence lightly.
She was beautiful, smart and gentle, someone who I had admired when I was younger.
“Ekress is alive! She’s dressed in male clothes for some reason, but she’s safe!”
“So, it appears… that’s great… so great…!”
Even Marille seemed to be moved to tears seeing that I was safe.
But mother, while it’s true that I like wearing male clothes… compared to before I’m a lot more ladylike, you know? For me to have to explain that to her… is going to be an exceedingly tough task though.
“Please take a seat over there. I’ll get some tea ready right away!”
Marille says and promptly heads inside.
Next to me, Shuri-kun was looking at the scene with a confused expression on his face.
Maybe he didn’t know who she was?
“Shuri-kun, that person is Gann-niisan’s mother.”
After saying that, Shuri-kun had a surprised look on his face. Wait a second, didn’t I already say that we might be able to meet Gann-niisan’s mother here as well?
But, I guess I understand. Gann-niisan’s mother, Marille looked so young and pure that you wouldn’t believe that she has already had a son. It can’t be helped that he didn’t realise it at first glance.
Come to think of it… it’s been such a long time, but I feel like she hasn’t changed one bit compared to the past… are my eyes weird for not been able to see her age one bit? What’s going on here?
We sat down as we thanked her for the table, chairs and black tea that she had prepared for us.
“Ekress, who is this?”
And then, now that we’ve calmed down, mother asked.
Speaking of which, I never told them…
“Mother. This person is my savior, Shuri Azuma. It was due to his efforts that the main wife… Renha-sama’s evil plots were exposed.”
Sitting beside me as I introduced him, Shuri-kun was drinking the tea nonstop.
This guy… he really does have nerves of steel sometimes, doesn’t he? Would you normally gulp down the tea in this situation? Are you really that thirsty?
“I see… that person has finally been overthrown…”
However, my mother didn’t seem to mind at all as she kept the conversation going. The way she expressed herself sure gave her the impression of someone with a broad heart.
“…I was, as you know… originally a concubine. I was never that interested in the war for power and authority. If I really had to put myself in those shoes, I was nothing more than an academic who liked domestic affairs. That was what caught the Lord’s eye, and how Ekress was born.”
That was something I had once heard from father.
That, mother was formerly a scholar, albeit a strange one as she loved to study despite being a woman. Female scholars were rare, and she had caught father’s eye while she had been working.
“As long as Ekress was alright, I could endure any sort of misfortune. Luckily, it seemed like Ekress was able to inherit my talents, so they weren’t able to simply throw her away, like I was.”
It was true. I had inherited my mother’s talents. Her brains, wits, memory… those were all things that I excelled in.
Guessing from the relieved expression on my mother’s face, I believe those words were not false.
After all, I had not been tossed aside by neither my father nor Renha, who didn’t like me very much.
“I do regret however, not being able to speak with that person one last time.”
Mother turned her gaze towards the floor.
“Just to ask her what the point was, to throw me and Marille away to try to gain control of Sounity for herself. Even if she didn’t do that, I would have had Ekress give up her right of heir for the next in line, and Gann never planned to even contend for the next in line in the first place.”
“That’s a little strange. Normally, if your child could be in contention for power, then wouldn’t you let them?”
Before I could continue, Shuri-kun interrupted with a question. That question was a very common one, or rather, you would think is very common.
Why would you let go of power and authority when it’s right there in front of you? That’s how a normal citizen would think.
It’s not wrong to think this way. There’s nothing wrong with Shuri-kun’s question at all.
“Yes. That’s how it normally is. However, both me and the madam are both afraid of obtaining too much power.”
It was Marille who answered his question.
They were afraid of holding too much power. In this time of war and turmoil, I don’t think that it’s a way of thought that could be understood.
“You are… afraid?”
“You’re Shuri-kun, right? This is just an example but, if you were suddenly told to run a store, would you be able to do it?”
“I think I can.”
“Heh… what would you sell?”
“My cooking. Even though I look like this, I have been a cook for some time.”
“I see. So, you have no problem with ‘Products’. In that case, there’s also ‘Administration’, ‘Finances’ and the ‘Supply’, can you do all that by yourself?”
Perhaps he understood the meaning behind my mother’s question as Shuri-kun shook his head and answered.
“That would be rather difficult.”
“You understand right, Shuri-kun? To operate just one store, you would have to either be an expert at everything, or you would require the help of staff members who excel in a particular area. Ekress, Gann, Gingus-sama… everyone, even if they all had their own talents that shine in their respective fields, they have weaknesses in other areas.”
Honestly speaking, it’s not an easy matter. What mother said makes sense. It hits the mark.
What I’m good at is domestic affairs.
What Gingus is good at is military affairs.
What Gann-niisan is good at is information gathering.
If there was only one person standing at the very top holding absolute control, then there would most definitely be problems, and these problems would most definitely manifest before that person could even take control. And with the fact that we were related by blood, things would become even more convoluted. As a result, the fight for authority would bring forth a danger to the stability of the territory.
Mother had understood all of this from her standing back in the day. The children of the lord all had differing talents and the differences between them were far too large.
Even if at the end of the day what Gann-niisan knew was from countless lessons and training, it wasn’t something that me nor Gingus could replicate.
Which is why we would have had to settle things before the territory was split into two, or even three.
“In spite of this, Gingus-sama had hope. In this war-torn world, a Lord who excelled at military affairs would be able to receive support from their citizens. Whereas Ekress and Gann could be working behind him in the shadows, covering up his shortcomings.”
Hearing my mother’s opinion on all this, I couldn’t bring myself to look up.
Should it be a warring world, like right now, then Gingus would have the answer. Should it be a peaceful world then the answer would likely lie with me.
Doesn’t that mean everything changes based on the time you’re born? Isn’t that a bit unreasonable? Is what I wound up thinking.
“Basically, what Mother means is… you had wanted Gingus to be the figurehead, standing at the top, while Gann and I would be in charge of supporting him?”
“Yes. That’s how I would have liked it to turn out.”
Understanding my mother’s train of thought, I was slightly relieved.
Understanding that it was something that she had carefully considered after taking Gingus, Gann-niisan and my talents into consideration.
At the same time, I could feel anger rushing out directed at Renha and father.
If we had done as mother just said, then at the very least that struggle probably wouldn’t have had to occur.
Although, since mother had been chased away before I had even started becoming aware of what was happening around me, I don’t really know what sort of conversation she had with father and the others.
If that had happened would I have been able to meet Shuri-kun?
That’s something I’ll never find out.
“So, who is in charge of the territory at the moment?”
Mother said as if to interrupt my thoughts.
Hearing those words, I could do naught but look anxious as my words choked on me.
Just how do I explain this? ‘Well, right now we’ve become the subordinates of a person named Ganglabe, who holds all the power’. I can’t say that.
Hearing everything that mother had said till now, I really want to say that the three siblings, we were ruling it.
“My commander is.”
Perhaps feeling that I was feeling slightly conflicted, Shuri-kun stepped up.
“After the wife, Renha-san lost her footing, there was some interference from Newbyst. Gingus-san is Renha-san’s son and so there may have been problems if he was to rule, Ekress-san wished to return to being female, Gann-san never wished to rule in the first place, and since a rebellion could occur due to his questionable birth, our commander has temporarily taken control.”
“I see…. So, you mean to say that the land of Sounity has been taken over by a band of mercenaries.”
After Shuri-kun said everything that I found difficult to say, mother’s shoulders dipped and replied.
I’m sorry, mother. It’s because we weren’t able to stabilise the territory properly that this has happened.
Before I could begin to hate myself again, mother continued.
“Well, this may just have been what was meant to be. If possible, I would have wanted my daughter and the others to have weathered through this war. Shuri-kun, is that commander of yours trustworthy?”
Without hesitation. Looking straight into my mother’s eyes, telling it as it is.
“I trust in Ganglabe-san. If it wasn’t for that person, I would not be here right now. This is just a temporary occupation, but it is a necessary step for the sake of realising Ganglabe-san’s future, and to return peace back to this continent.”
Shuri-kun didn’t hesitate, not even a pause to think about how to phrase himself.
Perhaps it might be better to say that there was no shaking his beliefs.
Shuri-kun puts all his trust into Ganglabe as he continues to practice his cooking.
Ganglabe too, recognises Shuri-kun as an important comrade and allows him to watch his back.
It was a level of trust that had no room for any doubt. Which is probably why Shuri-kun can pour his entire heart into what he does.
How enviable. How enviable of Ganglabe to have such comrades he can wholeheartedly trust. How enviable of Shuri-kun to have a leader he can wholeheartedly trust.
However, as a response to that, mother narrowed he eyes, staring right at him and asked.
“Do you know the details behind his plans?”
Replying to that, Shuri-kun says,
“Not the nit and grit. I am nothing more than a cook after all.”
And another immediate response.
“Are you merely not letting yourself find out?”
Even against such a cross-examination,
“I will give it my all.”
he answers without a doubt.
Shuri-kun really does have a heart of steel… Despite all the pressure put onto him he’s still able to answer so easily.
The two of them were staring straight at each other’s face for a few seconds but soon my mother relaxed her furrowed brows.
“….Fufu, sorry. For saying such horrible things, I mean.”
“I’m talking about just now. But, it might be better this way,”
Mother’s looks up at the ceiling and whispers.
“After all, even if one of our children had been the one to take command, who knows where and when things may start to crumble. It may be better to have someone else, someone different, take the lead, and support them instead.
Just like how you say you are good at cooking and decide to support others through that method.”
Then she smiles.
“Nevertheless, you have heart. Just doing what you can. To wholeheartedly let others do the work that you cannot. Do you know how difficult that truly is?”
“Is it really….?”
Shuri-kun looked rather puzzled, but it really is a rather difficult task.
Those around the person in power would always misuse the power appointed to them, and there will always be idiots who go crazy trying to fulfill their own selfish desires. If they were someone with no talent, then you could just toss them out and be over with it. However, if they were someone with even a slight bit of talent then prepare for the worst.
Should you carelessly leave them in charge of anything, there will then exist the possibility of the organisation being brought down by them. At any rate, if they want nothing but money, authority and advantages then they will do nothing but harm. They might abandon the work that they were assigned to, and you might not even know what a mess they caused, leading to your eventual reputation dropping.
Or maybe you could try to do everything yourself, then you might become a lord who couldn’t build up the trust of those around you. At the end of the power struggle, you might stubbornly cling onto the seat of the lord, eventually getting crushed by all the things that you will have to do all by yourself.
Which is why the act of gaining a subordinate who is hardworking, understands how the territory works, and loyal is the dream of anyone in a position of power.
“It is. After all, most people, once they get into a position of power think that everything, one or another, is now theirs. It becomes a difficult task to find subordinates one can trust, subordinates who one can count on for the tough business, and simple paper work.”
Just as mother has said, neither me nor Gingus were able to gain a single subordinate who we could trust completely. Gann-niisan wasn’t really a subordinate but a partner and was even spying on Gingus.
“Thank you, Shuri-kun. For listening to this old lady ramble on for so long.”
Perhaps mother had said everything that she had wanted to, as she revealed a refreshed expression.
Was she… venting? Mother really has had it tough.
“Marille, don’t just sit there, say something.”
“Yes. However, it is about time for dinner, so I should start to prepare dinner.”
Oh? It’s already that time?
Looking outside, the sun really has come down… The day comes to a close, and I go to close the curtains.
“Please take a seat. Let me cook today.”
Shuri-kun steps forth triumphantly.
“I cannot, to make a guest do such a thing is-”
“Let him be, Marille. Since he’s trying to be considerate, it would, in contrary, be rude to not let him cook.”
Nice one, mother! I sort of feel like eating Marille’s cooking since it’s been such a long time, but here’s a chance for me to eat Shuri’s cooking again!
Shuri-kun immediately retreats into the kitchen and quickly begins cooking.
Right now, for the first time in a long while, my mother, Marille and I are together in peace.
If possible, I would have liked Gann-niisan to also be here, but… next time I guess.
“Madam. I just have one question for Ekress-sama, would you allow me to ask?”
“Then… Ekress-sama. Is Gann… alright?”
Marille asks hesitantly.
“I wasn’t able to shower that child with the love he deserved. No, I didn’t even have the opportunity to do so. Which is why I just want to ask… whether that child is smiling, how he’s doing or just what he’s been up to…”
“Gann-niisan is currently happily training to be a chef.”
“A chef… you say?”
I briefly explained everything that had happened till now.
What happened after the incident in our territory, how Gann-niisan put a stop to his days as a spy.
How, when he was thinking about what he wanted to do from then on, he began to follow under Shuri-kun’s tutelage.
How, to Gann-niisan it was “a promise from long ago.”
I told them all about everything that I had found out.
After which, Marille started to cry.
“So, that’s what happened. That child was able to come out under the light from within the darkness…”
Gann-niisan had not been not given the right to be heir and was forced to train as a spy, always gathering information from behind the scenes, doing all of the dirty work.
Which is why, Marille was so happy hearing that he was working to become a chef, a job he could proudly announce to the world.
“Is that so? That’s great.”
“However, that man called Shuri is no mere individual, is he?”
Mother crosses her arms and said.
“Not flinching in front of me, and cleanly knowing the line between what he could and couldn’t do. Furthermore, he was very sensible.
Talking to him, you would think that he has a very aloof attitude, as if he didn’t care about the world, but I believe that under all of that lies a very high degree of education.”
“Education… you say?”
“In this case, it isn’t as if he was brainwashed or trained. Hmm, let’s see, the word education isn’t the best explanation… perhaps saying that he has studied many disciplines, has a deep foundation in knowledge, and that his brain has been trained to think critically is a better explanation.”
I find myself agreeing to what my mother has to say. I’m convinced.
It’s true that Shuri-kun was a carefree and happy person, but I think that under all of that he has a vast library of knowledge.
It goes without saying that he is knowledgeable when it comes to cooking, however from what I’ve heard he is capable to the point of even providing wise and practical advice to the fields of magic engineering and magic. It is due to that, that Riru and Ahrius were able to advance in their skills, I believe.
To think that his knowledge isn’t limited to just cooking but even magic engineering and magic… it’s something I had doubted but every now and then when you talk to him he would keep saying the same strange words, and yet there are other times when he would communicate just fine.
When I think about these things, I truly find myself wondering where exactly Shuri-kun came from.
What did he learn, and where did he learn these things? The questions never end.
“And that man came here together with you, Ekress… what’s the relationship between you two?”
Suddenly, my mother said to me with a sly giggle.
“Come now. We can talk like this now, but did you know how worried I was before you came here? Like about what we should talk about, or how I should speak to you? I was so worried.
I think you felt the same way as well. And yet, you came and brought a man over. And the two of you look so intimate.”
“What’s going on? That man, no matter what angle I’m looking at him from, he doesn’t seem too bad. What do you think about him?”
“…Umm, I, um… that is, I like… Shuri-kun.”
Speaking honestly from my heart, I could see both mother and Marille’s face erupt into wide smiles.
“Did you hear that, Marille?”
“Yes. I did hear it, madam.”
“I had never thought that there would finally come a day we could talk about things like this.”
“Me neither. I feel so happy that Ekress-sama would open her heart to us.”
“Hmmm, this child and that Shuri-kun, I see”
Mother is grinning so happily… maybe I shouldn’t have told her….!?
“He’s fine, isn’t he?”
“I said, isn’t he fine? Love is a fabulous thing. I’m praying that your love blossoms.”
Looking at my smiling mother, I too started to smile.
I’m so happy… my mother doesn’t seem to dislike Shuri-kun.
“Of course. There are still two others who like Shuri-kun, but I won’t lose.”
“Eh? He’s that popular? That guy?”
“I don’t see it but…”
Don’t criticize the guy your daughter likes please.
“How rude. That princess Tebis from Newbyst has her eyes set on Shuri-kun too, and his cooking; you’ll be surprised at the first bite, and then learn of its deliciousness by the second bite.”
“Is that so, then I’ll look forward to it.”
“Ah, mother. You don’t believe me, do you? Shuri-kun’s cooking really is amazing. You’ll see.”
From there we went on to chat about some silly things. Mother, Marille and I, finally reunited as an open family.
What did you eat, what did you do, what was fun, what was tough, what was sad, what was happy?
We kept our conversation flowing in order to shorten the distance between us mother and daughter.
“Everyone, I brought the food.”
As our conversation was hitting its peak, Shuri-kun came out, bringing out the dish and a spoon.
“It’s Fried Rice.”
The dish brought in front of us is a rice dish.
It’s something I’ve tried in the past and the dish that Wutin was infatuated with lately.
The dish known as Fried rice.
“…You cooked a dish, using rice, in such a short time?”
This dish known as Fried rice has a special quirk to it and was originally something that Shuri-kun made for the other cooks.
I too was surprised initially when I found out how quickly it could be made. I don’t really know the details, but according to Gann-niisan, “You finish it as soon as you begin.”
Furthermore, it’s really delicious despite its quick cooking time, and you can add whatever ingredients and seasonings you like which really surprised me.
It can’t be helped that Marille is so surprised. We had certainly talked for quite a while, but normally it should still be quite a way off before an ordinary dish would be completed.
In spite of that, Shuri-kun was able to make a dish in this short a time, and even present it in front of us.
“Furthermore, it has such a nice smell… how did you make this?”
“I stir-fried it. The secret is to use a strong flame.”
Marille tried to get the trick to his cooking, but it’s best you stop you know? Sometimes the tricks to his cooking aren’t something that an ordinary person would understand after all.
“Do try some.”
“You’re right, it is rather rude to throw all these opinions and questions at you with the food right in front of us. Let us eat.”
Mother says and quickly eats a mouthful of fried rice.
And then went quiet.
I get it. Mother was trying her best to look as calm as she could, but she was absolutely shocked inside.
“I told you right, mother? I told you that with Shuri’s cooking, you’ll be shocked at the first bite, and by the second bite, you’ll learn just how delicious it is.”
I puff my chest out and say, and then immediately went for a bite of Shuri’s cooking.
The golden pellets of rice look great alongside the green of the spring onions. Stuffing my cheeks, I could taste and understand its deliciousness.
The pepper brings the flavours together, the flavour of the chicken can be tasted from the rice, and its smell removed by the onion.
The umami of the rice is increased by the egg, and the texture of the spring onions add another layer to the dish.
It’s simple, and when I asked him about it, the recipe was so simple that even I seemed to be able make it.
However, there’s no doubt that only Shuri-kun could replicate this flavour.
After all, Shuri-kun had once said to Gann-niisan, pointing to the Fried rice, “This dish can bring out the personality of the chef.”
Finally, perhaps having felt for herself the techniques involved in this dish, mother looked convinced.
“…Indeed. It is just as Ekress said. Marille, you should try some as well.”
Mother pointed to the dish in front of Marille and said. With an overtly serious expression.
“Ma-madam. As a maid, I am just the waitress- “
It’s true that Marille was the maid so she had to bring out the food.
However, mother interrupted and told her.
“No, Marille. You should eat some too. This is the future, what will shape the future of this continent.”
Mother points to the Fried rice, and Marille accepted it.
…Why exactly did mother say that this is what will shape the future?
I can’t imagine my mother to be the person who would casually use the words, “Shape the future of this continent”.
To begin with, it seemed as if she said it to hurry Marille to start eating, but that’s a rather strange reason to use.
“…Is that so. This dish is…”
My doubts in my mind remain unanswered, as Marille gave her opinion.
“It’s very simple, isn’t it? Yet it is also very delicious. Egg, and salt and pepper, right? An extraordinarily simple taste. Furthermore, to highlight the flavours, you add in the spring onion, nice and crisp, going very well with the hard rice.
Finally, the chicken. Even as the rice is filled to the brim with the flavour of the chicken, the meat itself still retains its flavours.
I see, it is a very simple dish, but all the minute details have been accounted for.”
It’s the same opinion as mine. I’m relieved.
“I hear that this dish was originally developed as a dish specially for the staff. In a certain country of my hometown, that is.”
“Using what you have, getting creative with the rice and ingredients that have been leftover. I see. Shuri-kun, your cooking always originates from something close to the heart, right?”
I crush all of my own doubts and misgivings and gave my opinion.
This should be fine. This is fine.
You’re saying that this is the future of this continent’s cooking?
After I finished eating, I had to ask.
“Mother, can I ask you something?”
“You said that that dish is the future of this continent, right?”
Mother made a rather difficult expression.
“What did you mean by that?”
However, she didn’t answer. It looked like she was considering how she should answer the question.
Marille couldn’t answer either. She was a maid. It was not her place to answer a question directed at her master.
I do think of her as family, however since she was a person that took great importance in positions and roles, I don’t think she’ll answer so long as mother doesn’t.
Just as I was waiting for her to answer, the doors to the church suddenly opened.
“Woah woah, I finally made it.”
Standing there was Cougar.
Did he run all the way out here, through the forest, in the middle of the night? There were leaves falling from his head and shoulders.
Eh? Did he actually?
“Is that Ekress’ mother, Shuri?”
Approaching Shuri who had collected the dishes and was heading to the kitchen, Cougar looks over in my direction and asks.
“Yes. More than that, what did you come here for Cougar-san?”
“Hm? Well ya’ll see, before that.”
Cougar comes closer over this direction as he says.
And then lowers his head in front of my mother.
“Greetings m’am, my name is Cougar. I am one of the leaders running Sounity.”
“That dialect… the accent of your name… the east?”
“Indeed. I have little memory of it however. Now, I just like speaking this way for some reason.”
Mother smiles at me as she asked.
Ah, that’s a forced smile.
“Ekress, this person is…?”
She secretly asks me.
“This is the Infantry commander under Ganglabe, Cougar. His swordsmanship is the greatest within the continent and the situation on the battlefield can change by his presence alone.”
Hearing my explanation mother seemed to give a slight nod.
“I’m gonna have to apologise to you M’am.”
“What could this be in reference to?”
“Originally, the plan was to welcome you back and seat you in a position of power. You gotta forgive us for being unable to accomplish that.”
Hearing Cougar’s brash words gave me a surprise.
With those words you wouldn’t think that he was talking to someone who was originally a concubine to the lord!
“Could I ask if those are the words of the person named Ganglabe?”
“It is the consensus that Ganglabe and our commanders arrived at. In other words, you can treat the words that I had just said as Ganglabe’s.”
It looked as if there was an invisible war going on between Cougar and my mother.
However, that disappeared all of a sudden.
“Is that so? Then I guess I’ll just have to accept it.”
“I am very thankful.”
“Even if I was to resist, it’s not like I’ll be able to become a person of authority.
“That is indeed correct.”
“Rather than that, it would probably be more useful for me to remain protected within this forest.”
“Have you figured it out?”
“No matter how long a time has passed, my head still functions, you see?”
Having said just that, Cougar moved back towards Shuri.
“Come on, let’s go Shuri.”
“Eh? Right now?”
“Yes, right now.”
The Cougar who was talking with Shuri had a bright smile on his face, so much you wouldn’t believe them to be the same person as the one just now.
At the same time, I don’t understand why mother said those words.
Well, there’s no doubt that if the subordinate of a group that stole away your territory was to suddenly say, ‘Sorry for stealing away your land,’ you would be really annoyed.
However, mother should’ve just expressed her annoyance in a time like this.
Just what did that conversation just now entail? No, more like, what was the point of that conversation?
“If Ekress is done then she can come with us too.”
Cougar says, and I begin to hesitate a little. What do I do…
“Ekress will stay. I want the two of us to speak, just mother and daughter, for just a bit longer. Can’t I?”
Hearing those words, Cougar seemed to think for a bit before replying.
“…Alright. If that’s the case, then what should we do?”
“In the first place, isn’t it fine if I just don’t go back?”
“Without you ‘round, our food ain’t tasting great.”
“Aren’t Gann-san and the others around?”
“Ahh, well…. It wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. Much better than what we used to have. But, I mean, it just can’t compare to what you make Shuri.”
“Is that right… then, I guess I’ll leave the rest to Wutin-san and return first.”
The one most surprised with those words was the one who had disappeared all of a sudden, and now appeared all of a sudden, Wutin.
Just what have you been up to?
“No. I am, Shuri’s, guard.”
“Isn’t there a person more important to protect than me. I have to go back now, so I’m leaving this place to you.”
A logic so solid she couldn’t even make a sound…?!
“Well then, Envy-san. Please allow me to leave at this moment in time.”
“Alright. Thank you, Shuri. Your cooking was very delicious.”
“I’m very thankful you would say that. I will continue to dedicate myself to the craft.”
“Ahaha, such modesty.”
“That’s how I would like it to be. Now then, please excuse me.”
Shuri-kun bows with all the correct mannerisms, finishes tidying up in a blink of an eye and left.
I, who was left behind, was left stunned unable to comprehend exactly what had just happened.
It was then, that Wutin came to talk to me.
“Shuri, asked me to, so I, protect, you. But, I won’t, take orders.
I go, understand, geography, and building. Do, whatever, you want here.”
She said expressionlessly, but her displeasure was quite obvious.
Wutin quickly exited the building, and in the end only the three of us remained.
“Madam. I shall keep an eye on that girl-”
“It’s fine. Leave her be. If that girl wants to map out a strategy, and protect this place, then leave her be and let us save time from having to order her around.”
“That girl is clearly working under the orders of Princess Tebis. And yet, she listened to Shuri’s request. That shouldn’t be a part of Princess Tebis’ plan.”
“…What do you mean? Please explain, mother.”
I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and asked her.
“My? Where should I begin to explain it, I wonder?”
“Everything. The reasons behind Wutin’s actions, as well as Princess Tebis’ plan, everything.”
“I don’t know everything. I merely have a speculation.”
“Please tell me.”
“…Where to start… You really haven’t noticed the reason behind Wutin’s actions?”
Hearing my question, it was mother’s turn to be surprised and ask me.
Eh? Was there something I was supposed to notice?
“I have no idea…”
“That girl, probably likes Shuri.”
No way, right…? That expressionless spy who looked like she has sworn absolute loyalty to Princess Tebis, likes Shuri?
I can’t see it at all… What do you mean? I don’t see it.
“That’s… well, she’s the type that had her stomach stolen by him.”
I’m sorry mother. That can be said for all of the girls that like Shuri-kun.
Princess Tebis with Mapo Tofu, Riru with Hamburg… and me with… Fried chicken?
Nonono, wait, I liked him before that, it definitely wasn’t because of his cooking.
Ah, although it’s true that if I can’t eat Shuri-kun’s food anymore then I would be rather annoyed.
Wait! This is a trap!
“I mean, to ignore her own master’s orders just to listen to another man’s, that’s the only reason I can think of for her to do that. Besides, look at how she talks to Shuri and how she talks to us. Just look at the difference there.
You can tell that she acts all clumsy around Shuri, and her emotions would fluctuate unlike that of a spy. Yet towards us she would act in a business-like manner, putting on a steel front just like a spy would.”
“That’s why you’re saying that Wutin likes Shuri-kun?”
“She probably doesn’t even realise it herself though. Besides, when she talks with Shuri she looks just like you do.”
Mother laughs pleasantly but… eh? Did I really smile so ridiculously passionately? And obviously?
Uwah! Just thinking about it is embarrassing! My face feels warm! Is my face… turning red!?
“E-enough, about that! Next! The next question!”
“Ahh, about Princess Tebis’ plans, right? It’s simple. Princess Tebis is interested in Shuri right?”
“Then, do you think she would just watch on silently as her rival in love introduces Shuri to their parents?”
…Eh?! That can’t be…!
“It probably looked like you were introducing him to your family before proposing to him~ At least, that’s what I would think.”
“Indeed, madam. To say that you like him, and then bring him all the way here. I too, would think that.”
Y-you too, Marille?!
Uwaaah! So that’s what it looks like!? That’s why Wutin came along with us?!
Ah, speaking of which, maybe that’s why Gingus and Gann-niisan were so flustered.
I called a man to my room, greeted him in my lingerie, and then introduced him to my mother afterwards.
Even I would wonder what the hell was going on!
My face is burning up now that I’ve noticed all my careless actions!
So… so embarrassing…!
“Well, there’s also no doubt that she probably sniffed around the insides of this church though.”
Mother muttered offhandedly.
“It’s not that hard to understand. Using Wutin, she would have also investigated just what this facility, that housed the two of us, was.
Naturally, this place holds nothing. Even if it “did”, it would’ve been from a long time ago.”
“‘Did’, you say…?”
“Shall we stop here for tonight? We’ve already had dinner so why don’t we go take a bath?”
“Eh? A bath?”
“Yes. There’s a rich underground waterway running below this church thus we have as much water as we could possibly need, and there’s plenty of trees around here too so heating is no problem.”
“Yes. I will go heat up the water now. I will inform you once the preparations are complete. Please excuse me.”
Marille says that and then disappears into the building.
To think that there’ll actually be a bath here, how unexpected.
“So mother, what did you mean by, ‘did’?”
“Ahh… you’re going to bring that up again?”
“Well, I’m curious now.”
“To be correct, the term should be ‘lived’. The facility was originally made as an isolation facility, as a place to contain a certain someone. After that person left, they refurbished the facility to at least look like a church.”
“Left… you mean that person died?”
“No, they didn’t die. They ‘vanished’. Out of nowhere.”
Wha… how can that be?
“I came across an old document coincidentally and learnt of this. However, I have no idea who that “person” was, nor where he came from. Perhaps it was only a legend.”
“So, what sort of person were they?”
“Let’s see… if I remember, their name was…”
Mother seemed to recall and then said.
“I think it was, ‘Soujirou’?”
After that we continued to talk, and then went to bed after the bath.
Even after the bath mother and Marille continued to talk.
Feeling tired, I went to sleep and then headed home with Wutin once I woke up the next day.
Soujirou… I couldn’t seem to rid that name from ringing inside me.
TLN: Btw the long spaces between each line is the default setting for wordpress for enters. I should replace my default enter with alt+enter. seems to fix things.
Longest chapter? (13k words lol)