Apparently, it takes almost a month to reach the mining town, El Valley.
So, of course, I had to tell Rille-nee about this.
But what should I say to her?
I can’t just lightly say, “I’m going to investigate a place where a plague is spreading.” I don’t want to worry her, but I also don’t want to lie to her. I would be angry if I were in her shoes.
Anyway, I decided to be honest. I nervously returned to the boarding house. Rille-nee also returned with a strange expression on her face. What happened?
Rille-nee was the first one to speak up when we returned to the room.
“Say Aime. I have to go away for a while on business.”
I have a bad feeling about this.
“There is a pandemic in a place called El Valley. They are short on pharmacists, so the medical department at the royal palace has decided to dispatch me there.”
Tell me it’s not true!!!
“You’re a military pharmacist, aren’t you Rille-nee?”
“I can treat people who aren’t soldiers too.”
I was flabbergasted.
But, right, I should have expected this.
A plague-ridden area needs doctors not mages.
“Jed-san is going, so I have to go too.”
“Stop being that person’s assistant.”
Rille-nee looked troubled, but she was smiling.
She’s prepared to go. Rille-nee was surprisingly strong and composed despite appearing careless.
Why did this happen!?
I only felt exhausted after being anxious and surprised, so I slumped my shoulders down.
“I’m going to El Valley too…”
It was Rille-nee’s turn to be surprised.
We were always together during tough times, but we didn’t have to be together this time.
Dammit, I really hate you this time, God.
I didn’t have the authority to stop Rille-nee from going to El Valley and I was still anxious on the day of our departure.
I heard that taking a boat for about half the journey, disembarking at a nearby port and travelling through land was the fastest way to get to El Valley.
I arrived at the palace with Rille-nee early in the morning.
But I was told to stay in the lab until they had finished loading up the ship, so I immediately parted with Rille-nee and waited while doing some simple tasks in the workshop.
Eventually, a soldier came to get me, and I was surprised by who it was, though not as surprised as when I found out that Rille-nee was going to El Valley too.
“I guess I’m pretty unlucky myself.”
I looked at the soldier’s face and muttered.
“You have pretty bad luck too.”
Giedt, a young soldier who I hadn’t seen for a little over a year, and whom I had met in a strange situation, replied with half-opened eyes.
He told me that his platoon is going to accompany us to El Valley.
So, he was asked to fetch me since he knew me well.
Master and Konrad-san looked at us in confusion since we were bantering as soon as we saw each other.
“What is this, Aime? You don’t have any b—bs but you have a man?”
“Do you want silicone implants, you old goat?”
Opps, I carelessly lashed out at him. I’m sure he didn’t understand what I meant.
You can have a boyfriend even if you don’t have b—bs. Well, he’s not my boyfriend though.
“――― Oh yeah, Giedt, we still have a little time, don’t we?”
Let’s move on from that nonsense. There’s something I want them to be aware of.
“We need to leave quickly.”
“I want Master Finn to see your prosthetic eye.”
Giedt was wearing his eyepatch again, probably because he was going outside the capital.
Master seemed interested when I told him about the magic eye.
I asked Giedt to sit on a chair and we all looked at his eye after he removed his eyepatch.
“Oooh, so you can make something like this~.”
Konrad-san was also leaning forward from behind Master, and he seemed curious for once.
Giedt looked very uncomfortable with having three gazes upon him. Please bear with it for a while.
“Magic stones have many practical uses.”
Konrad-san seemed a little convinced, and Master acted as if he hadn’t heard me and was just intently observing the magic stone.
“Say, do you know the name of the person who made this?”
“I don’t know his name since I was a kid. ――― Are we done? We have to set sail.”
Giedt quickly hid his eye with his eyepatch and stood up.
I wanted to know a lot of things like what kind of magic circle was carved on his eye, but I didn’t have time to find out all those things now. I’ll have him show me his eye again when we depart.
“Bye Master and Konrad-san, take care of things while I’m away.”
I said my goodbyes to the two men at work and held my budging shoulder bag.
“Come back soon~. I’m going to have a tough time here, you know?”
“I’ll do my job properly.”
“Don’t kick the bucket before this old man does.”
In contrast to the careful Konrad-san, Master said that with a sour expression.
Master looked somewhat worried ever since he heard about my trip. Perhaps because he had lost his wife to illness.
So, I answered him cheerfully.
I wish Master would be as easy-going as Konrad-san.
“This is a rare opportunity for me to visit a mining site. I’m going to look around and see if I can find anything we can use. I won’t just stay down even if I stumble.”
“A wise person would be cautious and not stumble… Just come back safely. That’s all that matters.”
I promised that I would work in place of him until his ideals were realised.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you alone again.
Giedt suddenly held out a hand as I closed the door and stepped out into the corridor.
“Your bag. Give it to me.”
“You’re going to carry it for me?”
His behaviour wasn’t unusual, but I was surprised because he was the one who had offered.
That cheeky boy has learnt how to be considerate towards women! I was a little impressed. Well, I didn’t need his kindness though.
“Thanks, but I’ll carry my own bag.”
I don’t like other people helping me with things I can do myself.
Giedt frowned a little.
“I said I’ll hold it for you. Give it to me.”
I avoided the hand in front of me and continued walking.
“You’re a soldier. We’ll be in a pinch if you can’t move fast when you have to.”
Besides, he was also my benefactor, so I won’t let him do something a maid would do.
Giedt gave up despite calling me stubborn.
I felt bad for turning down his kindness, so I said, “You’ve matured. You’ve gotten taller, your voice has gotten lower, and you seem calmer.”
I’m not just flattering you. Your teenage years have a significant impact on your life.
When I stood next to him and compared our heights, I found that the gap between us was even wider than before and now we were a head or two apart. Soldiers must train a lot and eat a lot every day, so he’ll probably continue to grow. How nice.
I was impressed but Giedt looked down at me with a bored look.
“You haven’t changed much.”
I know which part of me you’re talking about.
Look people in the eye when you’re talking to them. Everyone’s so rude.
“That tiny girl grew up so well!”
The big bear-like man laughed heartily and slapped me on my back with the palm of his hand. That hurts a lot.
I met Giedt’s superior again after a long time, Platoon Commander Gwen. He was still the same energetic and strong old man.
“Thanks to you.”
I coughed lightly and moved away from him a little, so he can’t pat me on my back again. I might be knocked into the sea if I’m not careful.
A large wooden sailing ship was anchored on the harbour. I looked up at the bow of the ship and greeted the person responsible for everyone on the ship.
“I look forward to working with you this time.”
“I’ve assigned him to look after you, Jou-chan. It’s better to have someone you know look after you right?”
Gwen-san said as he put his hand on Giedt’s head. So, he’s not my bodyguard, but a caretaker?
“Yes, thank you.”
Their job is mainly to guard the supplies, provide security in places where there isn’t enough manpower, and help carry patients and luggage. Being my guard comes second to all that.
Mages are sometimes sent out to act as guards, so they don’t need protection 24/7. It’s not like I’m being targeted by anyone.
If possible, I want them to protect Rille-nee instead. Though, it would be unreasonable for me to ask them to protect her from the disease.
“Hmm, actually my sister is coming too. So, if possible, I would like everyone to watch out for her too. I would appreciate it if you could inform me immediately if something happens to her.”
I’ve been ordered to stay away from the sick people. I have to investigate the magic stones and I probably won’t be able to be around Rille-nee most of the time.
“Oh, I know, I know. Ridill, right? I found out the other day that she was going too. Our General caused a big fuss because of that.”
Gwen-san stifled his laugh.
“Oh, you know him too Aime-jouchan? Yup, him. He kept asking me to look after her. I mean, she is a beauty, but he’s fallen in love with her even though it’ll be a pain.”
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Rille-nee is probably the only one who hasn’t noticed.
If you’re worried about her General, then I wish you would have used your influence and stopped her from going.
But Rille-nee probably wouldn’t like that. Or perhaps the ‘fuss’ that Gwen-san was talking about was related to this.
“Please look after her for me too.”
“Leave it to me. You can work this guy to the bone. Don’t hold back. He’s been trained well.”
“Thank you very much. I look forward to working with you, Giedt.”
“Don’t cause any trouble.”
He didn’t have to say that. He doesn’t trust me at all. He must have been really angry about the time when I dragged him around with Princess Philia, but I wasn’t the one who caused trouble back then…
I suddenly heard a noise that sounded different from the bustle.
“What is it?”
I looked in the direction that Gwen-san was looking in and saw the blonde General on his horse.
“He really came all the way here.”
“He’s a hopeless General.”
Giedt was surprised, Gwen-san laughed in exasperation while rushing to General Owen’s side and I followed after him.
Sure enough, I saw Rille-nee in front of General Owen as he dismounted his horse.
I’m amazed I was able to find her. A little behind them are Jed-san and the other medical staff.
General Owen held both of Rille-nee’s hands and said something.
He’s not afraid of what other people think, is he? Hey, don’t touch her!
I didn’t hesitate to step in between them with the resilience that I have developed through my life experiences.
I twisted my body and slipped in between the gap where their hands had separated.
“I, I’m here to help you.”
I said quietly so that only Rille-nee could hear and pushed her a little backwards to separate the two of them.
“What did he do to you, Rille-nee?”
“Hmm, General Owen was just giving me a protection charm…”
A slender golden chain hung from between Rille-nee’s fingers which were clasped in front of her chest.
She gently unfolded her clasped hands and showed me a small blue stone.
The colour looked lighter and whiter than sapphire. What is this celestine stone?
It was a simple and beautiful necklace with a round stone attached to it but seemed very expensive.
“I don’t know what to do…”
Rille-nee was puzzled.
“Long time no see, Aime.”
General Owen, who had been talking with Gwen-san, spoke to me while I was talking to Rille-nee.
Oh yeah, I haven’t said hi to him yet.
I turned towards him, determined not to move from my spot in front of Rille-nee.
“It’s been a while, General. Did you come all this way to see Rille-nee off?”
“Yeah. I would have stopped her from leaving if I could…”
The General grumbled his regret. I’m also disappointed.
Rille-nee quickly said, “This is my job, so please don’t worry about it, General. And I can’t take this, it’s too expensive.”
Rille-nee stretched out her arm and tried to give the necklace back to General Owen, but he gently wrapped his hands around hers and slowly pushed it back.
“This is a protective stone that I put on my sword and is of no great value, but it has saved my life many times since my first battle. I’m sure it’ll protect you as well.”
Heavy, isn’t it? Who would accept the necklace after they heard something like that?
Sure enough, Rille-nee quickly tried to give it back to him again.
“I can’t accept such a precious thing.”
“I quickly had this necklace made for you. Don’t say that and just accept it.”
“No, I can’t! I really can’t.”
Can’t you tell the General that he’s not good enough for you too while you’re at it Rille-nee?
But the tenacious General had another idea.
“Then, I’ll lend it to you. You can return it to me when you come back safely.”
“But I could lose it.”
“You won’t lose it if you wear it on you all the time. Here, I’ll put it on for you.”
You have the nerve to completely forget about the other people around you.
It’s very sly to make the person you love wear something of yours on them at all times.
I couldn’t bear to have him make a spectacle of Rille-nee any longer, so I intervened again before his hand could touch her neck.
“General, I’m grateful for your concern towards my sister. I will return the necklace to you.”
“This conversation is going around in circles, so let’s just borrow it. I’ll take care of it if you lose it.”
I whispered to Rille-nee, and she reluctantly backed down.
He wouldn’t be mad if you lost it anyway since he was going to give it to you.
“Aime. Take good care of Ridill.”
“Of course, I will.”
I don’t need you to tell me to take care of my sister.
We were running out of time. Jed-san and the others were gone too. Being an outsider is nice, isn’t it?
“He’ll be coming with us to El Valley at this rate.”
I managed to pry Rille-nee out of General Owen’s grip, and Giedt muttered that on our way back to the ship.
“Woah, seems like something he would do.”
Rille-nee said, but there’s something about him that tells me he would do it.
“Aime, can you put this on for me?”
Rille-nee handed me the necklace when we got to the deck.
“Are you sure you want to put it on?”
“I don’t want to lose it.”
“You don’t have to be so upright. Why don’t you just stuff it into your pockets?”
“It’s useless as a protection charm if you don’t wear it, ah, but maybe you should wear it Aime.”
“Why? I don’t need it.”
I moved Rille-nee’s hair out of the way and put the necklace on her because she was right, but it was hidden under the collar of her shirt in the end, so no one could see it anyway.
Even so, Rille-nee looked happy as she ran her fingertips over the area where the stone was.
“I’ve never worn anything so beautiful before.”
Well, it was a little annoying, but it’s okay since it made Rille-nee happy.
Before long, the white sails were unfurled, and the ship set sail. The waves were calm, and the weather was fine.
A lot of things happened before we left. I wonder what lies ahead.
I prayed to the blue sky for God’s blessing on our journey.