My second life began once again after various events. It was too hard, but I didn’t have time to complain.
Us sisters will have to find a way to survive from now on.
I hardly left that hut, so I didn’t know the city where I was born very well, and Rille-nee, who was with me every day, didn’t have a good plan.
The area around my former home was full of adults with bad looks, the streets were dirty, the houses were all shabby and small and there were women standing around like prostitutes. It didn’t seem like a good place for children, so we decided to move to a more normal place.
I held Rille-nee’s hand as we headed towards the heart of the city.
We followed the city walls as much as possible to avoid getting lost.
I guess this city was what they called a fortified city. The high stone walls went on forever and it was hard to tell how big the entire city was.
The area became dimmer and dimmer as we walked. The torches lit at the watchtowers on the city walls seemed to float in the eerie purplish-red sky.
Ugh, I want a place to rest before night falls. It’s summer now, so I can manage to sleep outside, but I can’t sleep outside all the time. I wonder if there are any orphanages or social workers in this world.
It was impossible for a child to survive alone. I want to be found by someone with a good heart, but how can I find someone like that?
I walked while worrying and we eventually came to a large street.
I saw a metal gate towering above me to my left. The gate was tightly shut with large torches burning on both sides and soldiers in armour standing before the gate.
“… We’ll be out of the city if we leave from here?”
I wonder what outside was like. I knew that Rille-nee wouldn’t know even if I asked her, but I couldn’t resist asking.
Rille-nee looked up at the gate.
“I want to see. Will it open in the morning?”
As we stood there for a while, a man who seemed to be the gatekeeper, noticed us and glared at us for some reason.
Rille-nee was startled by his threatening attitude. She pulled me and ran in the opposite direction. What an extremely unpleasant soldier.
The main street was well-maintained which was nice for my bare feet. I could see that stores were slowly closing on the side of the street.
This seemed to be a commercial city as well, judging from the number of shops. There were no farmlands in sight and the canal that ran under the bridge on the main street was wide enough for two gondolas to pass each other.
We looked around curiously when we were attracted by a delicious smell coming from a nearby shop.
The store was a bakery which had its front door wide open, and on the shelves behind the counter were hard, black bread that looked like human fists.
The delicious smell in the air didn’t mean that the bread was freshly baked. It was just that our starving noses were sensitive to even dry and hard bread that had been left in the open for a while.
It looked like a very precious treasure since we rarely ate bread and only had mice, weeds and occasionally beans at home. I really missed carbs.
I suddenly remembered the movie, ‘A Little Princess’.
The wealthy main character’s life took a 180 turn after the death of her father, and she became a servant at the school she attended. When she went on an errand to the bakery, the kind owner gave her an extra loaf of bread.
The main character gave the bread to an orphan in front of the bakery even though she was hungry herself.
Even though we weren’t little princesses, we tried to see if any of the customers coming out of the bakery would give us some bread, but they just walked past us. It was probably the wrong time of the day as well since there were hardly any customers.
Then, the owner of the bakery came out, probably to close the bakery.
Rille-nee quickly grabbed the man’s apron strings.
When the owner noticed us for the first time and was surprised, Rille-nee asked awkwardly.
“Umm, excuse me. Can you give us something?”
You can’t say ‘something’, Rille-nee. The owner was puzzled.
“Something to eath!”
I quickly added and bit my tongue.
When the owner realised that we were beggars, he didn’t… feel sorry for us to give us some of his unsold bread.
“Shhshh, I have nothing for you!”
It probably took him less than a split second to shake off Rille-nee’s hands. He didn’t even take the time to hesitate; it was like he was following a manual.
“Just a little is fine, even if it’s just for her, even if it’s rubbish!”
Wow, my brave Onee-chan, but I don’t want to eat rubbish if possible.
This isn’t the time to be thinking this. I have to cling to him too.
“Please! Please give us some of that unsold bread! You’re just going to throw it away, aren’t you?!”
“Shut up! I have nothing to throw away and nothing to give to you! I’ll hand you over to the soldiers if you keep on being annoying!”
How dare you threaten such young children! I’m sure the soldiers act like police, but why should we be handed to them just because we’re asking for something you don’t need?!
I was boiling with anger from his heartless words, so I stepped on his foot as hard as I could, but I was too light for him to notice.
Eventually, the owner raised his rolling pin, and we ran away in a panic.
We turned into one of the many roads that branched out from the main street, and ran for a while without looking behind us, but the owner wasn’t persistent in his pursuit. I guess getting rid of us from the front of his bakery was good enough for him.
“He’s… not… chasing us anymore.”
I reported to Rille-nee who was pulling my hand as hard as she could, and Rille-nee finally stopped after confirming that the owner wasn’t chasing us anymore.
Then, she suddenly sat down on the ground.
I thought she might have hurt her leg while running, but that wasn’t the case.
Tears slowly appeared in her big eyes, then she finally covered her face with her hands and cried.
We had lost our parents, been kicked out of our house, and were treated poorly when we were hungry. The horror must have triggered the emotions she had been holding back to flow out.
I was beyond angry when I saw her like this and started to feel hopelessly sad. I clenched my teeth with what little reason I had and tried not to cry.
I would make Rille-nee even more anxious if I cry.
I wiped my blurry vision and regained my composure.
It was already night.
We should give up on trying to get food and find a safe place to sleep.
“Rille-nee, let’s go? Let’s find a place to sleep?”
I rubbed her back and she lifted her teary face.
“Let’s find food to eat tomorrow?”
This time, I walked in front of her.
The sky was turning dark blue, and it was already getting quite dark. The people walking along the street looked like black shadows and they looked strangely scary. I want a place where we can sleep in peace.
However, we wandered behind stores, warehouses, under bridges and near roadside trees, but I couldn’t find a good place to sleep, because there was always a small group of people in places that looked good to sleep.
There were skinny children who were similar to our age everywhere; their eyes were big, and they were hugging their knees.
Now I knew why the bakery owner had chased us away.
There were many orphans in this city.
Other children will hear the rumours and gather around once you give them something. There was no use appealing to the sympathy of someone who has been running a shop here for a long time.
Judging from the present situation, there aren’t any orphanages here either.
If anything, it was unlikely that anyone would be willing to take us in. I could surmise this from the number of children on the streets.
Eventually, we found a place to sleep behind a building and I could finally breathe.
Rille-nee fell asleep with me in her arms like always, probably because of her anxiety.
As I put my arms around her small back and gently patted it, I secretly shuddered at the fact that the situation was more serious than I had imagined.
I was hungry, extremely hungry.
We sat down on the street, which had become more crowded in the morning, and waited for charity, but everyone passed us.
It seemed like it wasn’t good enough to just wait in silence, but they ran away for some reason when we approached them.
We were at a cute age, and I didn’t think we looked suspicious, but apparently, they were wary of children like us in general.
Rille-nee said weakly as we walked. The delicious smell wafting from the stores on the street tormented us. I was so hungry my stomach felt like it was twisting itself.
Ugh, should I just scavenge in the rubbish behind the stores? I actually saw a lot of children doing this.
But I didn’t want to do that because it made me strongly feel that I have degenerated, though I can’t be stubborn forever.
“Would chu like a flowa?”
I also saw a girl selling small bouquets of flowers while yelling like this.
She was also barefooted and covered in rags similar to us, so she must be an orphan. Her speech was a bit strange because of her lack of front teeth.
The small yellow and white flowers that she was trying so hard to sell were weeds that you often see downtown.
I wonder if those things sell.
Maybe we should do something like that if no one is going to give us anything.
The sun was setting again as we walked.
We went to a few stores and tried to detain people by their sleeves, but it was useless. Most of them cruelly brushed us off.
Us sisters were exhausted from walking all day.
Then, when we were passing by a store during sunset, a rough voice called out to us.
“Hey, you two over there!”
At a table outside of a liquor store, a man, who seemed to have finished his work early, gestured to us with his hand as he called out to us. The owner of the voice had a few coins in the palm of his hand.
He stretched the hand with the coin out in front of him as if he was calling pigeons with food. The two other men who were sitting at the same table as him, also had unpleasant smiles on their faces.
Yup, they clearly have bad auras.
Rille-nee looked as if she was going to walk over to the men, and I stopped her with all my might. Then, I pulled her hand and rushed away from the store.
“Wait, Aime. They look like they want to give us money.”
“They’re not good.”
They’re like carnivorous plants. They’ll torment us if we take the money. We have to make the right decisions even if we’re hungry.
“It’s usually bad people who give us stuff when we haven’t said anything.”
“Yes. Be careful. The ones who seem nice are the scariest.”
As usual, there was no tension in my voice since my tongue didn’t move very well, but I wanted to tell her that it was important to know who to rely on. You never know what kind of interests and preferences people have in this world. I have to properly teach Rille-nee about this.
But we might end up being taken care of by those bad people if we don’t get something into our stomachs soon.
As we turned into a road in search of a place to rest, we saw a group of barefooted children passing us from behind and entering a hut.
Rille-nee and I looked at each other and peeked at the entrance of the hut.
Inside were the two children who we had just seen and a man with a bandana on his head. Both children were girls, and their brown hair, which had grown to just below their shoulders, were being roughly cut with a knife by the man sitting on the chair, making them have awkward haircuts.
When the man finished cutting the girls’ hair, he dropped three or four copper coins into their small hands, and the girls ran out squealing.
“Rille-nee, I think this place is for selling your hair.”
“You can sell hair?”
“Looks like it.”
I guess they make it into wigs. I wonder if this kind of business really exists.
“Come in if you want.”
We were whispering to each other as we hid behind the open door and the man inside noticed us.
His tone was a little intimidating. He was a little scary but…
“Say, Rille-nee, do you think it’s alright for us to sell our hair?”
Both Rille-nee and I had hair that reached our shoulders. I wasn’t particularly attached to my hair since it was just a bunch of dead cells anyway, but I wonder if Rille-nee was attached to her hair.
It wasn’t the time to be worrying about our hair styles, but well she is a girl.
“Y-yeah, if we can sell it then of course we’re going to sell it.”
Rille-nee nodded her head a few times even though she was a little scared. I guess you can’t win against hunger.
We boldly stepped inside.
The man was gathering the hair that was scattered on the floor and binding it together with a string. He threw the tuft into a wooden box in the corner. There were tufts in brown, black, grey and mixed colours in the box and they were sorted to a certain extent.
“You two must be new.”
The man smiled slightly when he saw us. The young man had a large burn mark on his right cheek and looked a little creepy.
By new, do you mean on the streets?
He could tell at a glance that we hadn’t been orphans for very long. Maybe he has been working with children for a long time.
I asked, stopping out of the reach of the knife’s edge.
The man, perhaps sensing our caution, lowered his knife.
“I’ll buy it. Red hair isn’t bad.”
“Let me borrow that. I’ll cut it myself.”
I had Rille-nee stand by the entrance and demanded that the man give me his knife. I didn’t want to turn my back on a stranger with a knife.
“Hah, you seem mature.”
The man said as if he was making fun of me, but surprisingly, he handed me his knife.
The first thing I did was cut my hair near the root. The knife wasn’t sharp enough and it hurt.
Then, I cut Rille-nee’s hair. I tried not to make her haircut awkward. It was difficult but I did my best not to make it zig-zaggy.
I handed the man the bunches of hair and knife and in return, he dropped nine copper coins into my palm for the two of us.
They were completely rusted 100 Bele coins. Bele is the currency in this nation. My shitty parents used to use me as a gofer, so I knew a thing or two about money.
It’s not a lot of money, but it should be enough to buy a meal.
This will get us through today!
Rille-nee and I looked at the money in our hands and trembled with joy.
“If you’d like, I’ll buy your teeth too?”
The man suddenly pulled out a plier from his pants pocket.
“I can’t buy the little sister’s, but I’ll buy the older sister’s teeth.”
Stop joking, you want to pull out her permanent teeth, Idiot?
Rille-nee looked up at the man with hopeful eyes. Oh no, she wants to do it now that she has some money.
“No! Teeth are more important than money!”
I quickly stopped Rille-nee.
You won’t be able to talk, and you won’t be able to eat! We want money to eat!
Wild animals have no choice but to die if they lose their teeth. Why do you think you’ve been chewing on tree branches in place of a toothbrush for all these years?
“You won’t be troubled just because you lose one or two teeth.”
The man got up from the chair and I had a feeling he might forcefully pull them out, so I quickly grabbed Rille-nee and ran out.
Maybe we shouldn’t go there anymore.
“Aime! Why did you run away again?!”
Rille-nee complained when the hut was out of sight.
I replied without stopping or letting go of her hand.
“There are things more important than money. Rille-nee, you have to take care of yourself, ok? You have to take care of yourself like you take care of Aime.”
“It hurts to get your teeth pulled out. It’s really painful. And I’m sure you won’t get much for it.”
At least, I don’t think that man can afford to pay equivalent compensation for losing a tooth.
I explained this to Rille-nee in poor language.
“… How do you know so much?”
She asked me a simple question.
“How do you know about selling hair, and who you can talk to and who you can’t?”
She wouldn’t understand me if I said my mental age is over 30 and that I was good at crisis management to a certain degree. I’ll just tell her a suitable lie.
“God gave Aime wisdom to save Rille-nee.”
Sure enough, Rille-nee was puzzled.
I’ll tell you the truth if I get the chance.
We got money for now, and after a day of observation, I’ve learnt how the orphans live in this city. I’ll put it into practice tomorrow.
I’ll try to survive for now. Our situation is hopeless, but it’ll work out somehow if we stay alive.
I’m sure the future will become clearer in time.