Arifureta - Chapter 196
Arifureta After - Aiko-sensei's Worry
AN: This time too, why did it become like this......
Bu, but, well, I think that it's fine if there is at least one of this kind of troublesome person isn't iiit, like that.
Sporadically growing weed, old stone wall, and blue sky that looked discolored were spreading out. Things other than those which entered the field of vision were only the laundry stand, rusty drum can with uncertain usefulness, and also the granny bike with punctured tire leaned listlessly on the stone wall.
(Nothing has changed other than Okaa-san's bicycle huuh~)
On the porch, with the cry of cicada and refreshing sound of wind chime as BGM, the one who was kicking around her legs back and forth while staring into nothing in a daze 'bohee~' was the eldest daughter of this household――Hatayama Aiko.
That day, Aiko who had managed to return from another world after that received interrogation not just from police and mass media, but also by school officials and government officials that spanned many days. After all she was the only adult among the group disappearance. Even if the students were talking about fantastical story they had experienced, the ratio of sympathy toward them was high, but for Aiko who was a working adult, she instead was seen with sterner gaze by the society.
Having said that, all of them had talked about it beforehand and the conclusion that they reached was to talk about the events in another world Tortus as it was without changing anything, also, Aiko herself didn't have the confidence that she could fabricate ’’a really convincing story’’ that could convince the surrounding, so in the end she could only give an explanation with content that was the same like what the students were talking, which made her felt really ashamed as a working adult.
Naturally, in regard to her inability to bring back some of her students and how the students became obsessed with ’’wild delusion’’, even though in reality those weren't Aiko's responsibility at all, but a flow which was pressing the responsibility to Aiko was starting to appear.
That flow was powerful, furthermore even idiotic opinion which said that perhaps the disappearance itself was actually the full responsibility of Aiko was also beginning to appear.
It was an incident with too much puzzle. The culprit was unknown. Some students didn't return. The returnee's wild delusion. Because all these affairs wouldn't settle down without someone taking responsibility, so to speak a scapegoat, it was Aiko who was chosen to hold that role.
Aiko who was completely exhausted with various things every day was carried away by the flow of the surrounding, she tried to respond to the demand of the surrounding and wore the stigma as the person responsible for the group disappearance incident. She accepted severe bashing and the end of her job as teacher――no, the end of her social life. Seeing this, the parents of Aiko who couldn't endure to witness the figure of their daughter that was reported everyday in news also came to persuade her to return home. That was also one of the primary factors that affected Aiko.
But, just when Aiko resolved to distance herself from her students' side, suddenly the topic was going toward its end surprisingly and unnaturally, however bizarrely no one was thinking that nothing was strange with this development.
The culprit of that was of course Hajime.
Using internet and media, he manufactured a super large scale awareness manipulation artifact, and the forcefully and powerfully, without letting anyone complained, he interfered with the consciousness of the people all over the world.
Aiko who knew that made a grandly convulsing expression and she leaked out「What have you done......」. After all, what Hajime did was a brainwashing at world scale. An evil deed that would make even an evil organization of a story went ghastly pale.
But, Hajime shrugged toward Aiko who was haggard in various senses.
「The world who put false accusation on you and made their own interpretation as they pleased is the bad one. Returning tit for tat at them is only the matter of course isn't it?」
In other words, the flow of society who laid their hand on Aiko was Hajime's enemy. He didn't kill them, so at least they could obediently got brainwashed, was his reasoning. They tormented his relatives with their curiosity, irresponsible remark, and so on, so it was a punishment they deserved.
As for Aiko, she couldn't say anything anymore having those things said her. It's unforgivable for you to leave my side because of the irresponsible flow of society. The person she fell in love with said that to her. Because of that he made the consciousness of the world into his own.
A demon king-sama to the extreme was here.
No matter what she said, it wouldn't stop Hajime anymore.
Aiko's shoulders dropped limply, even so inside her heart she felt flattered, she felt light as though she was floating, yet inside her chest she also felt so tiiiiight, that she writhed.
And so, in the end Aiko managed to get reinstated at the school where Hajime and others were attending. Furthermore there was also the plan of the administration that wanted the returnee to be lumped together, which even caused her to be employed as the homeroom teacher of the special class of Hajime and others the returnee. Thinking of how before the summoning she was just a teacher without a class in charge with, in a sense she could be said to climb up in life.
Now then, like this Aiko safely managed to get reinstated as teacher without getting separated from her students who were more important than important with whom they had entrusted their lives to each other at another world, but here, a dilemma was produced.
That dilemma was,
――I am, teacher. Hajime-kun is student......It's too late already but-
Yes, now she clearly remembered the relationship between her and Hajime. Of course, after the legendary decisive battle she had already spent many passionate nights together with Hajime, so that thinking was reaa~lly something too late already.
Still, however. Like this, now that they were here in earth at Japan, when she actually returned to her teaching job, when she stood on the teaching podium and from there she saw the figure of student Hajime on his seat......
――Me, what have you doneeeeeeee-. You laid your hand on a studenttttttt-
Like that, she rolled around in a floor when she was alone. Her personality that was too serious by nature, and her extraordinary sincerity toward teaching profession, when she had returned to the normal everyday life and she calmed down, those two aspects mercilessly pierced Aiko's mind all over *gussa gussa* with spike and gouged it *chiku chiku* with marking pin.
Naturally, she was growing to avoid Hajime, however, looking at him flirting with Yue and others exacerbated her heartrending, but as expected her guilty feeling and whatever else became an obstacle that made her avoided Hajime completely......like that, a really troublesome person had resulted here.
These few months, far from spending time with Hajime, she didn't even have proper talk with him. Hajime being Hajime, he was running around fighting the government officials of the world, manufacturing artifact to make it easier to open the gate to another world Tortus, opening business in order to provide for Yue and others with his own hands, and so on, spending busy days like that, he didn't even go to meet Aiko.
That was the true feeling of Aiko without any falsehood in it.
――But, a teacher and a student, it's just......as expected......
That too was the true feeling of a troublesome person.
――As expected, I and Hajime-kun are......uu, there is also the difference in age......there is also my social standing......
That was the true feeling of a very troublesome person.
While worrying endlessly like that, 'There are thoroughly charming girls already around Hajime, perhaps a middle-aged woman like me should withdraw away......' she was getting closer to such conclusion while using the summer holiday to return home, and she became a no-good human like this on the porch.
「Hey, Aiko. You are making a very stupid face there. Isn't your soul leaking out from your mouth?」
「Even if it leak out, it can be returned back to its place you know, Okaa-san.」
Indeed, something like that wasn't any problem if age of god magic was used. Though it was a different story whether the mother could comprehend that or not.
While making an exasperated expression at her daughter's dazed reply, Aiko's mother――Akiko asked「You want watermelon?」. Aiko rolled over lazily and without stopping she kept rolling until the table. It was a wordless answer of「I want」.
Aiko waited for a bit while bathing in the wind of the electric fan. Akiko arrived carrying watermelon that had been cut into beautiful triangle shape. It was chilly cold, juicy, looking delicious just from a glance. Aiko was messing with the watermelon seeds with the provided toothpick before she bit into the edge.
The gentle sweetness spreading inside her mouth slackened the expression of Aiko loosely. Her appearance was completely an elementary student......an extreme of being child faced. She really couldn't be seen as adult woman at the age of 26. Her awakening to magic power also for some reason put her skin condition in an extremely excellent condition, surely that was also a factor that showed childish look in Aiko.
「......When you are like this, I cannot see at all that child whose face was shown a lot in TV, who was resolving herself with various tragic resolves 」
「Mass media is scary. Government official is scary. Board of Education is scary......fighting god's apostle was still better.」
「Indeed, perhaps rather than magic, the flow of the society that cannot be seen by eyes is more frightening isn't it. But, isn't that fine. You have the strongest prince aren't you?」
「......Not prince Okaa-san. He is the devil. Rather, he is the demon king-sama.」
「Anything is fine, but stop delaying already, let Okaa-san meet with my daughter's benefactor soon. Otou-san, and Ojii-chan and others too, they are totally curious you know?」
「U, uu~m......well, I'll think about it.」
Aiko halfhearted attitude caused Akiko to sigh exaggeratedly.
The composition of Aiko's family was her two parents and the grandparents from the mother side. Her family was fruit farmer, with her father marrying into the family. Even now that father was telling his daughter who came home for summer holiday 'if you are free then help out here~', going out to work hard in the farm energetically.
Currently, or rather recently, such Hatayama family had a matter that that they was really concerned about.
That was regarding Aiko's ’’lover’’.
That day, the day their daughter who disappeared together with students unexpectedly came home. Naturally, the members of Hatayama family who received the explanation of the situation didn't believe Aiko at first, but when Aiko's magic extremely improved the farm land of Hatayama family, and their crops also became highest class product, they believed in Aiko while saying 'well whatever!' to the trivial matter.
In the middle of their talk, although Aiko didn't make any declaration, but they understood that somehow their daughter seemed to have made a lover. She was able to return back to Japan was also thanks to that ’’he’’, and the unthinkable pacification of the kangaroo court which tried to denounce Aiko previously was also ’’his’’ doing.
If this person was their daughter's benefactor and the person whose heart had decided on, then they wished to be introduced to him by all means, but, for some reason Aiko was evasively avoiding that and didn't listen to them.
They were suspicious that this person could possibly be a horrible person, but seeing the figure of their disappointing daughter who grinned from seeing the ring that was always dangling on her neck, smiling cheerfully when she looked at her smartphone, talking to someone in the phone with her feet kicking back and forth and her face lovestruck, holding her red face between her hands while shaking her head when she suddenly recalled something while doing nothing, they could understand that she was thinking of the other party from the bottom of her heart.
The family of Aiko was worried in their own way about the future of their daughter whose growth stopped completely when she was in middle school for some reason and had no romantic story at all, because of that they were even more looking forward to be introduced to the person who was chosen by their daughter.
But, as expected, no matter how long Aiko kept acting elusive......
「Good grief, if you are like this, then ’’he’’ will get away from you eventually you know?」
Hearing the terrifying warning that was given by her mother regarding her relation with him that she was currently worrying about, caused Aiko to spontaneously press her hand on her chest while a moan slipped out from her mouth.
「Even though you finally came home, you are just in a daze the whole day without even helping in home. After all you are worrying endlessly about ’’him’’ and ran away using going home as excuse right? Ah, or else, perhaps ’’he’’ actually already got away from you and you returned here because of heartbreak......」
「What are you saying, Okaa-san. That, I, don't really have, lo, lover or anything......」
Aiko averted her gaze, her volume turned smaller, and she toyed with the watermelon seed in high speed.
For Aiko, she understood her family's wishes for her to introduce ’’him’’ ――Hajime. But, as expected, their relationship of teacher and student made it difficult to speak even toward her family, no, it was extremely difficult exactly because they were family......
Inside her heart she was whispering「He is not my lover, I'm already treated as wife, so I'm not lying......」which sounded like excuse, making her to have a vivid resemblance with someone somewhere.
「......Well, that's fine. I guess you also have various things in your mind, and you are not a kid anymore. But, just remember that no matter what kind of person ’’he’’ is, we will welcome him warmly any time.」
In the end Akiko backed down and the hand of Aiko that was playing with the seed slackened a bit. Akiko was smiling wryly at her daughter who was oozing out a relieved air while changing the topic.
「Speaking of, there is a festival this year too. It's a good timing, how about you even try to change into yukata? You haven't go there anymore for these few years right? You loved Yamashiro-ojiisan's cotton candy weren't you?」
「Yeah, now that Okaa-san mentioned it, it's this time......wait, Yamashiro-ojiichan, he is still alive......」
「You are really rude.」
「Because, when I was at high school, if I remember correctly he was already past 90 years old right?」
「Yes, this year he is 102 years old you know.」
「In, in that age, he is still opening festival stand? Is he okay? He won't ascend to heaven while making cotton candy?」
「You are really rude. Even now he is still lively. Even the person himself said that he will live for thirty more years.」
「He is planning to challenge even the Guinness record?」
Despite the silly talk, in the end Aiko decided to participate at the nostalgic local festival, also for relaxing the gloominess inside her chest.
At evening, when the beautiful sunset was about to disappear at among the mountains at the other side of the river, Aiko was at the front door with her body wrapped in pink yukata. In her hand was small and cute pouch, with her feet wearing refreshing Japanese sandals. When she was wearing yukata, to some extent charm could be felt from her usual childish figure, perhaps that was because she was a Japanese.
「You are really going alone?」
Akiko asked while tilting her head.
「Yep. I'll just aimlessly wander there. Otou-san and others are also helping there, I'll show my face at their place for a bit.」
「I see......even if this place is at the sticks, but that doesn't mean that there is no idiot so be careful. Especially because at the day of festival there are also people who cut loose too much.」
「I understand. Rather, after everything that happened the likes of hoodlum really won't matter much.」
「Don't be conceited. If you like, should I call Taichi-kun too to go with you?」
「Geez-, I'm really fine. Besides, Taichi-kun too will be angry if he is called for something like this you know?」
The one called Furukawa Taichi was a young man who as it were was Aiko's childhood friend. In the past the houses of Furukawa family and Hatayama family were close to each other, their farm was also next to each other that the two families were associated. Taichi and Aiko also went to the same school all the time from kindergarten until high school, so he was her trusted friend.
There was also time when they temporarily took distance from each other because of this and that at the puberty period, when they grew into adult they also never become a couple, their relationship after that was friend that met when they both came back here in an extended vacation where they would have friendly chat.
Taichi was graduated from a university at another prefecture and he immediately got a job at a company, but his father once was hospitalized for a time and he resigned from his job where he succeeded his family's farm about a year and a half ago. And so in the festival this time he was recruited as one of the young people group to help around......
「Is that so? I think that if it's Taichi-kun he will rush here happily though. Well, asking him to do that is too harsh perhaps.」
「That's right. Taichi-kun is good natured, but as expected he will get angry if he is taken advantage of too much.」
「That's not what I mean though......well, that's not where a parent should stick her nose to.」
Aiko tilted her head at her mother's suggestive words, but Akiko didn't look like she planned to talk more than that, so Aiko turned around and departed toward the festival.
She walked calmly at the familiar country road. Compared to the city, this place was accompanied with colors like the stars of the night sky which was exceptionally visible, illuminating the path at night, the frogs staying on the fields, and the chorus of the cicadas burning their life on the trees.
(Although, as expected the clearness of the air cannot compare with Tortus......)
What was revolving at the back of her mind while she was muttering to herself was her days at another world. Even amidst those memories, the one that she recalled vividly due to how dramatic it was, was......that reunion, that undesired result, and then the kiss that saved her life.
There was also when she was imprisoned by god's apostle Nointo. For her to be captured at the top of a tall tower, it was as though she was a princess in a tale. And then, he came for her who was in depression from anxiety and impatience, and that battle at the altitude of 8 kilometer.
She exposed her unsightly appearance after the result that she caused, and not only that shameful figure of her was seen, she was even looked after by him.
After that, the words that he conferred at her beside the cenotaph was something that Aiko surely wouldn't forget for her whole life. If the rescue drama before that was a salvation for her physical body, then the event in front of the cenotaph at that evening was unmistakably the salvation for her heart. Thinking back, she was captured by an ardor that she couldn't deceive herself from anymore since that time.
And then, with the battle at devil king castle, and going through the legendary decisive battle......the gifted object. As the result of her attack after she let loose all restraint, he let out a smile that looked as though he gave up, or possibly it was a troubled smile, and then to prove that Aiko was his――that she belonged to the demon king, he gifted her with a ring.
Aiko crawled her fingers at the thing behind her yukata, at the ring that was connected with a chain dangling behind the chest part of the yukata.
And then what she remembered was, the this and that of the night, that she thought might be staying unrelated with herself for her whole life, with how herself was a shorty. Just by remembering it she was still getting bright red. That was, that was......done too much.
On the night path, Aiko fidgeted around while getting red faced by herself. Seen from the side, she looked just like a suspicious person.
Even though she was being like this so much, with her head suddenly getting full with Hajime even without anything particular happening, but the person herself was still harboring conflict (lol) inside her heart, worrying whether it was okay to continue this relationship, that was why if the wives group heard this they would undoubtedly get exasperated.
At the other world, she who was titled as goddess and splendidly incited the people, this female teacher who stood up against even the kingdom and the pope of the biggest religion for the sake of her students, was in fact a troublesome person that was super awkward at love.
「Ai? What are you doing?」
Suddenly a voice called at her which caused Aiko to hop up *pyon* for real. Complete with strange voice. Her face turned bright red in different meaning this time while she turned her gaze at the direction of the voice. There, she found a tall and sturdy young man, wearing a T-shirt with short sleeves where the sleeves were further rolled up until his shoulder.
「Ta, Taichi-kun......don't shock me like that.」
「No, Ai who was making hundred comical faces alone in the road at night was the one who shocked me there......」
This young man who was scratching on his cheek while calling Aiko with pet name ’’Ai’’ was just as Aiko called him, the person named Furukawa Taichi.
「Forget that......rather than that, Taichi-kun yourself, what are you doing in this kind of place? Aren't you helping with the festival?」
「Aa~, no, I was but......because Ai said that you are coming. See, stupid bunches are also coming out in this kind of day yeah.」
「By any chance, you are intentionally coming her to pick me up?」
「We, well yeah.」
「Is that so, fufu, thank you.」
Aiko felt somewhat warm with Taichi's nonchalant ’’good person act’’ that she knew from the past, and she smiled while expressing her thanks. Seeing that, for some reason the young man Taichi quickly turned aside his face while his hand covered his mouth. When Aiko got curious「Oh? What's the matter?」and circled around to look at his face, Taichi turned around hastily and he walked toward the festival while urging Aiko ahead.
「Co, come to think of it, yukata. You are wearing it huh.」
It was a somewhat sudden change of topic, but Aiko responded to the talk without particularly bothered by it.
「Yep. Atmosphere is important in this kind of event. This is also a festival after so long that I rarely attended.」
「I see, you are right. ............That, what to say, it suit you.」
「Is that so? Thank you.」
Aiko responded to Taichi's praise frankly, a little bit too frankly by saying normal thanks. She wasn't at the age where she would be greatly concerned with words like that. ......Although that also depended on who was the one saying it.
Taichi felt a bit down, even so he continued making trifling talk with his trusted friend including reminiscent talk. Those two finally entered into the busy festival and crown of people.
There, the neighborhood uncle and aunt that knew the two of them since the past bantered with them. Aiko clearly declared that the two of them were not in that kind of relationship even while responding calmly. Seeing such Aiko caused Taichi's cheeks to cramp. Seeing that situation, his comrades from the young persons' association sent him a gaze that was mixed with sympathy......
Old man Yamashiro displayed his artistic skill that was pointlessly polished by making a Michaelangelo statue using cotton candy, then the two of them encountered female classmate of Aiko, that former classmate was bringing a child, seeing that cause Aiko to hold a really complicated feeling, when that classmate told Aiko that if she also married then~ half teasingly, the matter of Hajime floated inside her head which caused Aiko to turn a bit red though she didn't speak any denial, which in turn caused Taichi to get pointlessly fired up......
And, with various things like that Aiko enjoyed a lot the festival that she hadn't attended for a while.
With the festival that was still lively on the background, Aiko sat down on the porch of shrine ground to rest while she was at it. Beside her there was Taichi who even though he was supposed to be a member of young persons' association, but he had been following Aiko all the time while she was walking around the festival, even now he showed no sign of going to help at the festival.
In the silent atmosphere, Aiko was dangling her legs back and forth while listening to the bustling of the festival and looking up to the night sky. It was in the height of summer, but the shrine ground had nice open space for wind, that the night breeze felt pleasant on her skin which was damp from sweat.
Taichi was looking at Aiko who narrowed her eyes feeling good from the nature, with a dazed gaze......a beat later, he returned to his senses suddenly and he slapped his own cheek. *pan-* That nice dry sound made Aiko startled and she turned her gaze there.
Taichi opened his mouth, looking somewhat nervous toward such Aiko.
「Hey, Ai. Recently, are you okay? See, just a bit before there were various things happened right?」
「Yep, I'm fine. It's over already. Right now I'm being a teacher normally.」
「I see. But, the class that Ai is in charge of, it's that class isn't it? Then, won't there still be time when Ai would have to take the full brunt of the trouble?」
「......What do you want to say?」
Taichi's gaze wandered from the dubious Aiko, however, right after that, he looked at Aiko with firm eyes and spoke.
「Isn't it, enough already? You have, already, worked hard enough for your students' sake don't you think so?」
「That's why, just like Obaa-san and others were saying before......come back home here already.」
Aiko didn't answer, as though she didn't want to respond to that topic, Aiko stood up and started to walk toward the festival. Toward such Aiko, Taichi added on his words looking impatient.
「It's not like, you need to be at that place if you want to be a teacher right? You can also try to find for a job here.」
「That's not why. I also have responsibility, and above all, I myself, want to be at the side of those children.」
「Then, when those children graduate what then?」
「That's......but, even though that kind of incident happened, the school still trusted me to take charge of the class, I'm indebted to them.」
「That only because they want to gather the returnees in one place right? Rather, if the current children graduate, you won't know whether you can continue to stay there aren't you? If it's Ai, your face is widely known here, it's convenient if you live here and you also have connection to a certain degree that can help you.」
「Perhaps that is so but......that's, still in the future.」
Aiko's complicated attitude finally made Taichi got irritated that he stood up vigorously.
「......What Ai is concerned, is actually not something like your duty to the school, or your responsibility to your students, am I right?」
「What Ai is concerned about......is actually the matter of your lover isn't it?」
「Wai-, what are you saying......I, something like a lover is......」
「The one who think that it's a secret is just Ai. Obaa-san and others, me, we all know. That in the middle of your disappearance Ai made a lover. And also, how that lover is......your student.」
Aiko went「How do you!?」, an action that was really easy to understand. Seeing that act of Aiko which was too honest in a sense, Taichi continued his words while his expression turned complicated.
「There is no way we won't know. Since the past Ai is just too poor at hiding a secret. It immediately come out in your behavior. Besides, even after you returned back you frequently contacted someone, you made a lover while you disappeared, yet it wasn't a relationship that you can introduce to your parent, it must be a relationship that stimulate your guilt or morality by continuing it......when you searched for the answer that satisfy all those requirements, then it can be nothing but a student.」
「......Taichi-kun. Since where you became a detective?」
Taichi said「I told you, it's not just me, Obaa-san and others also know that」toward Aiko who was stunned. When Aiko realized that the secret was actually exposed to her mother too, she was finally at her wits end with her hands holding her head.
Seeing such Aiko, Taichi resolved himself and spoke.
「A relationship of student and teacher......you understand aren't you, Ai.」
「Ai yourself, you are feeling tortured like that. I don't know what happened in the middle of your disappearance, but surely that was just how much of an abnormal situation it was, right? Then, that was just your momentary loss of judgment. I don't care of that.」
Taichi approached Aiko and he stared at her fixedly with a serious gaze. Aiko took a step back from being overwhelmed, but when Aiko drew away, then Taichi would also close the distance accordingly.
「Ai, let's stop that kind of impure relationship already. And then, come back here and start from zero. At first it might feel lonely but......I will be at your side from here on.」
「Taichi-kun, what are you saying......」
「I told you that I returned here because of my father's sickness, but actually that wasn't it. My father's sickness was healed in one week......the truth is, when Ai disappeared, I felt uneasy, I couldn't even focus on my work, and so, I resigned from my work to search for you full time.」
「Was, was that why?」
Aiko's eyes turned round from this truth she didn't know. And then, now that Taichi had spoken that far, then even the dull Aiko could guess just with what kind of feeling Taichi had been speaking until now. That fact made Aiko got astonished precisely because she had never thought of that possibility for even a bit until now.
「When I heard that Ai was gone, I thought that my heart got crushed. At that time, I noticed it. For me, Ai is, an existence that is that important to me.」
「Ta, Taichi-kun, fo, for now, let's calm down a bit?」
「I am calm. Ai, come home. And then, marry me. I will treasure you, so be together with me forever!」
「No no, wait a bit! That's too sudden! I, am not thinking of Taichi-kun like――」
「You relationship with your lover, it's not going well right?」
「There is no way it's going well. The other party is just a student. There is no way he can make Ai happy. If it's me, I have succeeded my house and also have resourcefulness, even my age match you. It will absolutely go well between us.」
Aiko's back was already glued closely to a pillar of the shrine ground. And then, the approaching Taichi grasped tightly the shoulders of Aiko. Taichi's eyes had seriousness that Aiko had never seen until now, they were overflowing with sincerity, including passion so hot it was scalding.
If Aiko didn't have a lover, yes, if this was before she was summoned to other world, depending on the situation her heart might be stolen even if she thought nothing of him until now except of someone like brother. That was just how much a ’’man’’ her childhood friend who she thought she knew him well. As for his speech, she couldn't help but felt that it was somewhat hurting but......or rather, now that she thought calmly, it was a bit but it felt like a somewhat dangerous pick-up line......
But, even now when that much feeling was expressed to her, what floated at the back of Aiko's mind was, the matter of him......
The name that unintentionally leaked out in a small murmur, it caused Taichi to frown, but at the next moment he tried to close his distance with Aiko in one go. Perhaps he intended to return her beloved woman to her sanity from the impure relationship she was imprisoned in, even if he had to take a little forceful method......or perhaps, it might be a simple jealousy......
The shocking situations that happened in succession, and her mind that was split with her feeling toward him caused Aiko to react late, she immediately tried to twist her body but.....behind her was a pillar, both her shoulders were pinned down, it wasn't that she couldn't shook herself free but, it was unclear whether she would be able to avoid from injuring Taichi!
Therefore, even while she was putting on strength in the level that was a bit dangerous for normal people, spontaneously, inside her heart she yelled asking for help.
「What is it Aiko?」
Taichi and Aiko leaked out similar voice. And then, before Taichi's approach could reach Aiko, or rather before he could get blown away by Aiko, he stopped. No, he was stopped. His neck was grabbed tightly from behind.
*meri-* Unpleasant sound could be heard.
「-, who, who are you-. What are you doing-」
「Oi oi, that's my line you know? Just what are you doing to my woman?」
Right after that, Taichi's figure vanished. No, he was sent flying backward with a force to the degree that it looked like he vanished. It seemed that his neck didn't bend to strange direction or anything due to superb moderation of power. But, he was fiercely sent flying on the ground where he rolled many times there, the impact made him cough fiercely.
With a sidelong glance at such Taichi, Aiko was flustered while she stared at the person before her eyes feeling dumbfounded.
「Yeah, it's me.」
「Wh, why, are you here?」
「Because, Aiko is here?」
「No, even if you are saying something like a mountain climber somewhere with question mark like that......」
Hajime smiled wryly seeing Aiko at a loss.
「Recently, you looked like you are thinking too much about various things. We also didn't really have time to talk, on top of that you came home here. I thought it will be troublesome if you are persuaded by your parents and then make annoying decision because of that so I planned to visit here. And, when I used the compass to move here, you are in the middle of some kind of festival right? I thought that by any chance, you are going around the festival feeling lonely by yourself that I flew here but......the result turned out all right in the end.」
Hajime's eyes narrowed dangerously toward Taichi who was standing up and glaring at Hajime even while coughing. Seeing that, even while feeling happiness welling up inside from understanding that Hajime was worried for her and he rushed here to spend festival time with her, she also felt intense shame and fretfulness because her figure that was approached by someone else just now was seen by Hajime.
「U, um, that's not what you think! There is, nothing like that going on between me and Taichi-kun! I don't, have any intention like that at all!」
「Aa~, yeah, I see......」
Taichi who was walking toward them went「Gahah」with his hand pressing on his chest, seeing that figure caused Hajime to make an expression where he was unsure of what to say. The woman he liked denied him with all her strength――indeed, hearing that would make anyone pressed on their chest spontaneously.
「But, recently you are worried a lot about your relationship with me right? Perhaps you are worrying endlessly when we became student and teacher once more......it's already really too late thinking that.」
This time Aiko was the one who pressed her chest. Her gesture really resembled her childhood friend. That fact made Hajime's wry smile deepened while he suddenly circled behind Aiko and embraced her. 「Ha, Hajime-kun!?」or「You-」could be heard, but Hajime ignored it.
Hajime kept embracing Aiko while he talked with a voice that was oozing a bit of exasperation into her ear.
「Even this relationship that Aiko is worried about will resolve itself not even two years later. Even so, if you are bothered with that two years, then both of us just need to hold back until that time arrive isn't it? If Aiko wish for it, then I won't mind something that small.」
「A, u, that's......bu, but, I, am far older than you......」
「......Aiko, I'm telling you this for your own good. Just absolutely don't say those words in front of Yue. You don't want to have air travel ten kilometer high with your flesh body do you?」
Thinking really really carefully, something like difference of age......above the sky there was still sky. It was something that she must not speak no matter what.
「Good grief. Human is a living thing that will think of various stupid things the moment they calmed down, and Aiko is the very model of that kind of human huh. On top of it's already too late for that, it's a problem that can be resolved easily, for you to become irresolute due to that......if you are that much fixated to ’’being teacher’’, then you at least has to be like how you once before, where you remonstrate even me.」
「Uu, I have nothing I can say......」
「Or rather......just who do you think I am huh? When I accepted Aiko, I should have declared it already.」
Aiko recalled. One month after the legendary decisive battle, when she wished that she also wanted to be loved by Hajime. There, she was accepted, on top of that it was presented――the term of demon king-sama.
――When I decide to accept you, there won't be getting away.
There was no concept of ’’parting’’ for the woman of the demon king. Even if Aiko herself hated it, but Hajime wouldn't let her get away, no matter what kind of situation there was. It was impossible for him to accept any woman other than his beloved while there was any possibility of parting. That was the minimum distinction of Hajime who was someone preposterous and the worst from keeping relationship with multiple women.
The only one he could accept was only partner who could offer her whole life to him and vice versa.
Therefore, it was meaningless for Aiko to worry about ethic, common sense, or whatever. Because Aiko had already offered that body and heart of hers to the demon king.
And the consequence was, that she couldn't get away from demon king-sama.
Just with a sentence, when Hajime questioned her, Aiko easily surrendered. She nodded up and down repeatedly with her face bright red.
There, Taichi directed a severe gaze at Hajime who was still embracing Aiko from behind and opened his mouth.
「......You. Get away from Ai. You are, if I'm right you are Ai's student aren't you? I guess you don't understand because you are still a student, but your existence is hurting Ai. This world is not so sweet that you can make it somehow with just feeling――」
「Thanks for the warning. But, You mistaken the process too much to put on air as an adult with good sense. Your persuasiveness is nonexistent at the point of time you are reaching out your hand toward someone else's woman. If you aren't Aiko's childhood friend then I'll do Inugami family to you but......well, this time I'll magnanimously overlook it. Give up on Aiko and search for other suitable wife.」(TN: About Inugami family. I tried to google it but the only thing I can find is a mystery novel about serial killing.)
Having a man that was younger, furthermore someone that was still a student talking back at him so frankly caused Taichi's mouth to open and close wordlessly. And then, with a complexion that was busily turning blue and red intermittently, he was about to yell angrily at Hajime,
Yet he turned speechless due to the coquettish voice that Aiko raised and the spectacle happening in front of his eyes. Of all thing, Hajime was thrusting his hand behind the chest part of Aiko's yukata before his hand starting to grope around! What an act! It was truly like a demon!
Then Hajime casually took out a ring that had been turned into a necklace from Aiko's chest. Aiko who had something embarrassing done to her in front of her childhood friend that was already like family to her, glared at Hajime with teary eyes + upward glance, but Hajime warded off something like that like a willow swaying in the wind.
「Understand that we are already at a stage where words won't do anything. Just as you see, rather than my lover, Aiko is already my wife. Her body, her heart, I had received them all.」
Hajime's speech was completely like the villain. No matter how anyone looked, this was a composition of a gentle and sincere young man having his childhood friend snatched away by a bad man. The speech that Aiko could say in this kind of time should be「Stop-, don't fight each other because of meee!」as expected. Although, the moment Aiko said such thing, she would surely receive Hajime's iron claw of love.
Taichi was about to condemn Hajime along with his emotion that felt like erupting, but before that could happen Hajime threw his words to him with a cold expression.
「You reap what you sow.」
「You should have a powerful weapon that I don't have. You have time and the same living environment that you spent together with Aiko since childhood, and even after you two became adult you must have met her many times too since then, isn't that right? You should have so many chances to exchange your feeling with Aiko. But, you passed up all those chances. Don't make any excuse now. You couldn't even become a ’’reason to go home’’ for Aiko to give no place in her heart to go toward me. You didn't try. The result of that is this. That's all there is to it.」
That was a sound argument. Snatched away――such thing was a serious case of barking up the wrong tree. While Taichi was in a position that was closer to Aiko than anyone, he didn't fight so that he could walk together with her. That was why, before he realized it, Aiko had been at a place so far that his hand couldn't reach. That was all there was to it.
Talking like this was strangely remonstrating considering it was Hajime. He crushed his enemy mercilessly, and it was someone who he couldn't stomach then he would ignore that person without speaking too much, and when that person couldn't be ignored then as expected he would crush them. That was Hajime. It was unusual for him to speak like this to someone who had tried to reach their hand on Aiko.
Looking carefully, even though Taichi got thrown away that showily just now, but there was no wound on him which looked that serious.
(Because he is my childhood friend......)
That must be the reason.
Aiko changed her embarrassed expression and raised a tightly stiffened face. And then, she softly untangled from Hajime's hand that was hugging her tightly. Hajime didn't oppose her.
Aiko took a step forward and calmly opened her mouth.
「Taichi-kun, thank you for worrying about me a lot. Thank you, that you think of me so strongly.」
「But, I cannot answer Taichi-kun's feeling. I, cannot look at Taichi-kun like that.」
「......Because of that, you are with that guy――」
「Yes. Because, the one I have feeling for is Hajime-kun. I was worried about a lot of things but......yes, it's really too late already for that. I even think to myself just what in the world I am doing worrying like that.」
「......Society won't tolerate it. That's something that must not be done.」
「Yes, I know. But, I cannot help it. Because the person I fell in love with, is hopelessly like a demon, let alone the society, even the world or the god are no match of him. I too am a wicked woman huh.」
「......Wicked woman. Those words doesn't suit Ai the most.」
「But, I think that's not bad.」
「Haa, is that so. So it's just like that guy said, from the beginning, it's ’’too late’’ already for me.」
Aiko smiled wryly. As though to say her agreement.
Taichi glared fiercely at Hajime. Hajime accepted it with an unruffled face. Understanding that something like his glare wouldn't shake this guy even for a little, and then, having the painful sound argument thrown at him just now, and on top of that with how his body was thrown before this showed him that he couldn't even possibly match this guy in physical strength, strength abruptly left his shoulders after he was glaring at Hajime for a while.
And then, he wordlessly turned around and left the shrine ground.
「My bad. Perhaps your relationship with your childhood friend will be bad after this......」
「No, it's fine. Perhaps, it will take a bit of time, but we will be able to return back to our brother-sister relationship again.」
「Then that's fine......but as expected, if he reach his hand at Aiko one more time, then I won't have the confidence to not do Inugami family to him.」
「......Why, are you that obsessed with Inugami family?」
Aiko smiled wryly at Hajime's manner of speaking, then a beat later, she faced straight at Hajime once again. And then, she bowed down her head.
「I'm sorry that I made you worry because of me worrying irresolutely about strange things. Thank you that you come today to meet me.」
「Yeah, I definitely had received both your gratitude and apology. But, don't mind it too much. I said it before too but, I really like that part of Aiko.」
「Hee? Tha, that part?」
The unexpected word of ’’like’’ made Aiko became red once more. Toward such Aiko, Hajime said that, before in front of the cenotaph of Hairihi Kingdom, he thought that Aiko who was worrying there looked dazzling to him, and then he asked her whether she remembered what they talked about there. That was what Aiko was remembering just not long ago. It was clearly etched in her memory, surely it was an important memory when her feeling toward Hajime became definite.
「You who was running forward swiftly with all your might, and then you who was holding your head when you failed or when you noticed your contradiction, but even so you endured it and found a conclusion in your own way which you tried to carry through, I found those parts of Aiko are dazzling, those parts looks really lovely to me. That's why Aiko, you can stay just as you are.」
「......I think it's foul play for you to say something like that.」
Aiko turned around with her back toward him, her face looking down so Hajime couldn't see it. But even without seeing that face, it was easily imaginable that her face was becoming complicated with shame and delight.
Perhaps because he understood that, Hajime made an expression that was delicately holding back his laugh. Really what a bad guy.
「Now then, let's go to Aiko's house. I have to give my greeting to your parents.」
Those sudden words that were said out so suddenly with light tone as though asking her to go to some convenience store for a bit, it caused Aiko to go 'hah' and she turned around toward Hajime.
「It looks like your worry is resolved already, so there is no more reason that you cannot introduce me right? If I have to greet them sooner or later, then I'll just at least show my face to them while also sending you home. Today is late already, so I'll do the formal greeting once more tomorrow.」
「A, as always, what proactiveness......n, no, you know, greeting can be done next time......I too need to prepare my heart......」
「Hmm, Aiko's house is over there......oh? So your father and others are going out to the festival. They are right nearby. Yosh, let's spend money while greeting them at the same time.」
「Ah, wait, don't use something like the compass for this! Wait, please don't ignore me and go off like that! Just what in the world are you planning to say to Otou-san and others!?」
「Of course, I'll say ’’Otou-san, I accept your daughter. I won't accept any objection or refusal’’. That's the standard speech right?」
「The standard where-!?」
「Or rather, Aiko. I'm bothered, just why are you speaking using polite language to me while you spoke casually to that bastard? Isn't that cruel?」(TN: Aiko has been using polite language all this time with Hajime while using peer language with when she talked to Taichi)
「Eh? That's, it's about the atmosphere or something......wait, don't change the subject! There is a lot of my acquaintances here from the paaast! If you are saying something like that to Otou-san in this kind of place......tomorrow all the neighbors will know it!」
「If you properly talk casually with me too then I'll think about it. ......Well, the time extension won't even be one minute for you to decide though. Oh, that's your father isn't it. The first impression is important. First of all, let's binge shopping the stall's goods.」
「Please wait! Wait, wait......I get it! I get it already! I'll properly talk to you without polite language so don't keep walking rapidlyyy!」(TN: Here finally Aiko didn't use polite language.)
Aiko who was making racket 'gyaa gyaa', and Hajime who was handling her unseriously while charging toward the direction of her family with a fearless smile on his face. Naturally Aiko was clinging on Hajime's arm, Hajime was advancing while carrying such Aiko in his arm, coupled with their noisiness the degree of attention to them was at MAX!
The madams of the neighborhood, and the old people who were affectionate to Aiko, they all went「Oh my!」seeing the two's situation.
And then, finally, the father of Aiko who noticed Hajime walking toward him with his daughter in Hajime's arm opened his eyes widely, expressing his shock, then he smiled wryly as though he had comprehended something.
After that, Hajime who loudly proclaimed that he was Aiko's boyfriend right in the middle of the festival that was overflowing with Aiko's acquaintance, was awarded clapping and cheering of hooray. Hajime who kept restraining Aiko who was trying to run away from shame with princess carry was causing cheers to be raised as expected.
Furthermore, it was supposed to be only Hajime showing his face, but with Aiko's father and grandfather invitation for him to come to their house no matter what, like that Hajime who visited Hatayama house also met with Akiko and the grandmother. Then he talked to them about his wives other than Aiko and his intention.
With everything that happened at Shirasaki family and Yaegashi family, Hajime had resolved himself to be slapped with rejection and rage for sure, but unexpectedly both Aiko's parents and even her grandparents, all the people of Hatayama family accepted Hajime. Of course, it wasn't like they weren't frowning, but with the feeling of wanting to respect the will of their daughter who was already an adult, and above all their debt of gratitude to Hajime because he had saved their daughter from danger many times, it seemed that it led to their trust for Hajime.
In the end, due to the kindness of Hatayama family, it became a course of event where Hajime stayed for the night, the next day using gate, the people of Nagumo family also visited Hatayama family, where the words of Yue and others which said ’’together with Aiko’’ promoted the trust to grow even deeper.
After that, it was as though Hatayama family and Nagumo family became like a family group but......
As the result, Aiko's home town became well-known as ’’Land of Miracle’’ where every kind of crops could bear fruit regardless of the soil quality or the season. Surely that was due to the mixing of the family of ’’Goddess of Harvest’’ and the family of ’’Demon King of Another World’’......