Ryouriban - Chapter 48
Up until now, I have always lived by obeying my commands. And up until now, I have never doubted that. I think that's how it'll be in the future too. It isn't a bad way to live, is what I believe. That person's commands are more important than my dignity.
In the first place, I was someone who was found. As someone who was found, it is only natural to live for the one who found me. I cannot harbor any doubts. Nor any hopes. If I was told to die then I must die. If it was for that person, I must die without hesitation, without regret. And I would happily accept that.
However, if possible, I want to die by Princess Tebis' command. That person had told me that I was cute like a dog. No wait, I think she actually said that I was just like a dog? In any case, the Princess has watched over me. After all, someone like me, who had lived like an animal all her life was told that she was cute, like a proper female.
If it was for that person, then I could die. That is me.
Special Movements Unit, Spy, Wutin.
Lately the days just pass by with me feeling ever so lost. And the cause of that is a man, the cook of the mercenary corps, Shuri Azuma. It is due to his existence that my heart has been caught up in a turmoil.
He is quite a mysterious individual. Whipping up dishes that had captured even the tongue of my most precious Princess. Truly, a very mysterious cook. His cooking had caused even me, to fall.
He is mysterious. And I'll say this just one last time, but he is truly a very mysterious individual. The camouflage technique that I practice daily was somehow seen through by him. I had hidden myself in the corner for the sake of guarding the Princess, yet there are times when he would somehow just come over and hand provisions over to me. Even though no one should have noticed me, he would end up finding me in an instant.
I was surprised... Even though no one should have known that I was here, only Shuri would unhesitatingly look at my eyes, and come directly towards me to give me a plate.
I had thought to say, 'Eating while on duty is...', but the dish he handed to me was simple and since it was easy to eat even for someone in the middle of work, I accepted it graciously. Honestly, it was something I should not have done, but I had been hungry at that very moment.
How do I describe that... So delicious.
What I had eaten at that moment, was a very simple dish, merely rice fried with some vegetables and meat.
However, it was really delicious. Light, filling to the stomach and above all, wasn't bitter to eat.
Someone who has taken on the role as a spy or a secret agent, have times when they have no choice in what eat, even eating literal garbage. Since we must deceive the target at all costs, perhaps even gather information in secret at times, we cannot hope for any sort of good food. Additionally, I am also acting as the Princess' guard.
That is why I never have a set time to seat. And why my food is never anything good. In the first place, the food that I eat cannot honestly be said to be always made of edible ingredients.
Being able to eat such a... delicious and warm meal, made me feel happy for some reason.
And that's how I came to like that dish known as Fried Rice.
It's a secret but even when I'm in the middle of work, I would look forward to Shuri giving me fried rice when he notices me.
So I was incredibly surprised today. It was the second greatest surprise of my entire life.
I mean, while I was doing my duties as the Princess' guard this morning, I was given an order.
’’Wutin! You shall be Shuri's guard for today! Active immediately, go!’’
It was for just a moment, but I thought maybe I had misinterpreted the Princess' order, or maybe I had gone deaf. Thinking that I should check whether or not my ears were working, I lightly hit the side of my head.
After all, I'm supposed to be the Princess' guard, right? What purpose does a guard serve, when they are to leave the one they protect alone and go protect someone else? What would happen if, while I was protecting someone else, something happens to the Princess?
Hearing my doubts, the Princess smiles and said to me.
’’Do not fret, you protecting Shuri is not dissimilar to protecting me, noja!’’
’’I... do not... understand.’’
My doubts are reasonable, are they not? Just how does me protecting Shuri end up the same as protecting the Princess? How troubling, my head cannot comprehend this.
However, the Princess suddenly made a serious face and said.
’’Well, We will tell you the reason once you return. Furthermore, you will also be protecting Ekress. You don't need me to spell this out for you, right?
This I do understand.
Ekress is a royalty of this land. If that person were to meet with her real mother, we may be able to get ahold of some sort of information.
What the Princess means to say is, to secretly investigate that. Understood.
’’I shall... do... my best.’’
’’Keep in mind. 20% on the information, 80% on guarding Shuri, alright?!’’
Being sent out without a spare second to air my doubts, I changed into the outfit I was to wear on this mission.
Although it appeared to be a simple maid outfit, it was actually heavily equipped within.
Carrying my chain mail, hidden weapons, short swords, throwing needles, etc, I headed towards the stables.
This is because, if I recall, they were going to go on horseback. And recalling the distance they were travelling, horseback would certainly be the most effective method of transportation. Whether it be the effort, speed or time.
In spite of that I saw a strange sight when I arrived at the stables.
I understand why Ekress was on a horse. I understand that, but Shuri didn't even look like he wanted to get on the horse.
’’Come on Shuri, hurry up and get on.’’
For some reason, Shuri was scared just by the sight of a horse.
I couldn't imagine this for a normal man, but somehow, since it was Shuri, I could understand.
’’I... I can't ride a horse.’’
Yes, Shuri can't ride a horse. Or rather, he doesn't get along with horses.
He would fall off if he gets on, waist would hurt if he tried riding it, and the biggest problem of all seemed to stem from the fact that he just couldn't communicate with the horses.
Suddenly, I felt like burying my head into my hands. I mean, I just couldn't believe that a person so hated by horses, standing in front of me right now. I didn't relish the fact that we were wasting so much time here though. I just want to come back quickly and return to being the Princess' guard.
To begin with, knowing how to ride a horse is an honour and serves as the absolute minimum for life on a battlefield. Even peasants who may not know how to ride a horse would be used to raising horses for the sake of lugging their luggage around. It acted as a great obstacle for one's daily life should one not be compatible with horses whatsoever. It was quite inconvenient. At least it should be. Perhaps in his case, his tremendous cooking ability may have been serving as the balance to this weakness of his, but I just couldn't believe it after seeing him so frightened at the mere sight of a horse.
Shuri was looking very troubled.
’’First of all, where I'm from, there isn't a custom of riding horses and it was actually rather rare to be able to ride horse.’’
Hm? Rare? To ride a horse? How strange. He spoke in a particular manner as if suggesting there were modes of transport other than riding horses.
From time to time, Shuri would say things that didn't seem quite from this world. It was possible for him to be clueless about the physics in this world and it wouldn't alert too many, but even if he didn't know things that were common sense, he was very clever in very strange areas. The mystery continues.
’’Come on, let's go.’’
Ekress lends her hand out to Shuri. Shuri then takes that hand.
What? Is it weird that I can suddenly picture a scene straight of a play? A story that came straight out of a fairytale, a female knight and her prince.
Hmm... Ekress is a little too masculine. And because of that, Shuri's seems rather inadequate in comparison. It would usually be the other way around.
Shuri... once you've taken that hand, I feel like you'll be on the path of no return...
And then we left.
Our destination this time around is to go to meet Ekress' birth mother. According to our intel, Ekress' mother, who had been off the map until now, was a woman by the name of Envy Sounity. No matter what they did, the two who had been given the punishment of exile were not even allowed to cross to another country, having said that though, neither could they interact with anyone from within the country, and were thus locked in a place where they could interfere with anything.
The reason likely to be the following: Trouble could potentially brew should they accidentally meet someone and be plotted against. In addition to that, it would also be troublesome were they to collude with foreign lords and royalty, and started a rebellion. That's why they did it in such a way. It can be said to be the correct method.
Our route first begins when we leave the standard highways and enter a forest, it seems that deep within was where an abandoned church was. It was a distance that would take some time.
Shuri and Ekress rode one horse together while I walked.
Disregarding Shuri, although Ekress wasn't weak on her feet and the forest already had somewhat of a path cleared out, it's still a bit far so a horse was necessary.
However, I train my body daily, practice martial arts, combat techniques and spy techniques for the Princess thus a distance like this was no problem.
I have more confidence in my endurance than ordinary soldiers. In fact, if I were to clash with the weaker soldiers I would clearly win.
’’Look Shuri-kun, it's this way.’’
Yes, I can say for sure that I am stronger than that cook over there. I mean, honestly, apart from Cougar I could probably deal with ordinary day soldiers one way or another. It may be a tough fight however if I was to fight Ahrius or Riru who used Magic and Magic Engineering. That's how much trust I have towards my abilities.
Nevertheless... how do I say this, that really is kind of embarrassing...
Being a man, I believe that it is a duty to be skilled in horse riding and martial arts. Rather, in these times of turmoil, it was wholly due to being skilled in those skills that allow you to survive. Because you don't know exactly where something or someone may appear to harm you, it should be a given that you would have a method of protecting yourself.
However, Shuri's skill set does not contain combat. All he has are cooking skills.
As well as the luck to put those skills into use.
He has taught me that that is another form of strength. After all, despite these times of strife, he is displaying a tremendous ability to survive. He doesn't have the ability to harm his foes, but the ability to support his allies. That is what he possesses.
’’Are you alright?’’
’’No, my butt hurts.’’
’’Shuri-kun, have you never ridden a horse before?’’
Shuri shakes his head in agreement.
’’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.’’
Ekress, you can't say that to a man... Shuri's tearing up. He's so pitiful. It's as if his confidence as a man was crumbling into pieces at this very moment.
’’As a man, you shouldn't be crying in front of people, you know?’’
...these two, why weren't they born into the opposite gender.
I think that if Ekress was a man and Shuri was a woman then they would look perfect, like a wonderful painting.
...What if they were both men?
Hah! I feel like I can see the gateway into a brand new world! However, I feel like I would never be able to return should it open, thus I'll lock it up and throw the key away.
’’Ekress-san. You're just so cool.’’
Some semblance of irony and what remained of Shuri's dignity seemed to have been squeezed dry from those words. It was probably the best he could hit back at her at any rate.
Let's stop it there, Shuri. That smile of yours mixed with all the sufferings of the world, guilt and pain is really starting to scare me.
’’Ehehe, I'm so happy you'll say that.’’
However! Shuri's attack fails, and hearing that fierce comeback Shuri's self-respect shatters into smithereens! Ahh, I can't bear to watch...! Shuri's eyes no longer contain any light, becoming a pitch black cavity, completely empty!
I've seen that exact look before...! It's the same face made by a despairing soldier right before their death!
’’....So why is Wutin-san here?’’
What! In order to protect his dignity which teetered on the edge of shattering, he shifted the conversation topic to me!
’’The princess, said, just in case.’’
However, I'm safe as long as I have this card.
The Princess too said this, ’’Shuri is quite the simple man, ja! You can trick him with this!’’
By getting past this question, I shall achieve my goal and act out the role that has been given to me.
’’What? No, shouldn't you be the one by the princess' side just in case?’’
.... It's quite troubling... that you would say that.
’’....Just in case.’’
’’Alright, I get it. I can't really complain if you're here to protect me.’’
Phew, seems like I tricked him somehow. A little bit of cold sweat ran down my back.
Shuri turned back to the front and asked Ekress.
’’So, Ekress-san. We're going to go meet you and Gann-san's mothers, that's the plan, right?’’
Shuri's asked as a confirmation. If I was the Princess then I think I would say, ’’At this rate, aren't you just meeting her parents? Do you think you're going there to ask for her hand in marriage, and did you think We would allow for that?’’
We would worry if she went by herself.... It's because Shuri understands this, which is why I think the Princess allowed him to go with her.
Parents... huh. It's not something I've ever known.
No, in a way, the Princess and the commanders who picked me up can be considered family to me. That is undeniable.
However I have no idea when it comes to blood relatives, actual parents. Does one have to be connected by blood? Or is it that, if you're not registered under a family tree then you're not a part of a family?
Damn it, if I have the time to think about things like this, I should focus it towards my job.
’’Hmm... I'm also a little worried. I haven't met my mother in a long time. I'm not really sure what face to make when I see her.’’
’’I think you should just smile.’’
...Smile? Shuri said as he counted his fingers.
’’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?’’
To start with a greeting.
What is this? What exactly is Shuri talking about? Isn't it clear that it isn't such a simple matter.
If everything would be okay with just a greeting, then she wouldn't be so troubled.
’’...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.’’
’’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.’’
Not for them, but for yourself...
Before I knew it, I too got intrigued by what Shuri was saying. Shuri's words have a certain appeal to them that can charm people.
’’You have to find the answer from within your heart. 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.’’
Is that really how it is, I wonder as I walk next to Shuri.
Naturally, it's not a simple matter. It's because its a reunion between an estranged parent and child. After such a long time they would have no idea what to expect. It's a scene that even someone without parents like me can picture in my head.
However the ones who don't understand each other the most would be the parent and the child, right?
Perhaps he said it knowing that Ekress and her mother don't hate each other? I wonder what will happen? Who knows what sort of feelings Ekress' mother might be harboring for her.
No, Shuri knows. Surely, both of them wish to meet each other. Which is why he said that.
As long as you don't hate each other why not be happy when you can meet once again?
....Sometimes Shuri really does surprise you.
Just when you would think that he was spacing out as usual, he would suddenly say a string of thought provoking words, just like now.
Perhaps how how he acts normally is merely a disguise to hide the cleverness that he truly possesses. Although you would never be able to guess that looking at how he normally acts.
’’.... Yes, thank you Shuri-kun. You've given me a bit of courage.’’
Ekress' face had some colour returned to it.
I guess her mood's improved a little. In which case, Shuri is truly an impressive person.
Shuri's dignity as a man seemed to have taken another hit seeing Ekress turn around and thank him, but let's just say I didn't see that. Geez, you two might as well just swap genders.
’’What do they worship at this church?’’
’’No, what sort of god?’’
’’Hm? God is god. There aren't other gods are there?’’
’’Don't they have a name or religious doctrines, or something?’’
’’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.’’
Shuri and Ekress were talking about something but I wasn't listening at all. Looking at the destination that I had finally arrived at after such a long walk made me quite emotional. Naturally, it was not this particular place that evoked these feelings, just that it reminded me of a familiar scene.
I've seen a church like this before, a long time ago.
Back then, I too had been raised as an orphan in a church. I didn't even know the faces of my parents, but I had, at the very least, a person who raised me.
However, the church which raised me was nothing more than a prison for children. We were not adequately given, nor offered an education or food, and kept alive, right on the brink of death.
And then, once they've raised us to a certain extent, some sort of adult from some place would come and take us away.
I only found out about this later but those who are taken away seemed to have been used as meat shields for some terrible mercenary groups. Working together with the people of the church, they had received money to gather up a whole group of children. At the time, I didn't know any better and ran away from the church just on the fact that I hated the thought of being taken away by these scary adults, and did whatever I could to survive. In order to live, other than selling my body, I would kill, steal, anything. And in the end I was captured by the captain and met the Princess, thus I am here.
I have not a clue what has happened to that church now. I have no relation to that place, and I have never met any of the other children that had been there ever since. We were all in the same group however we never considered each other friends, or even held the slightest thought of care towards one another. Ever since then, I had never went any where near that church ever again.
After all, back then we might have had to steal what little everyone else had, just to be able to eat. It was hell there. It was a place where just in order to live you would have to assault the child next to you.
Which is why I have no good thoughts when it comes to the place called a church. On the contrary, it was a place I would avoid at all costs.
’’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.
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.’’
If that sort of church had actually existed then my entire life up to this point could have changed. Thus I felt an urge to snort from the shadows upon just hearing that.
Maybe it's because reality just wasn't so sweet. Perhaps I just had a bad fate.
It just makes me laugh. Those sort of churches do exist but in reality there are also churches that sell children. There are also churches that plunder under the guise of faith, and even churches that are indistinguishable from armies.
The thing that Ekress doesn't understand, in order words neither the Lord or country understand, is that a church is nothing but a name for a facility that imprisons children and exploit monetary offerings.
...I have to stop. These dark feelings within have no meaning any longer.
It's already a thing of the past. I am no longer a person associated with them.
’’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, in the end churches were left behind for such purposes.
It's very likely that there's not even a single trace of a priest in there. Nothing but the bare minimums for living. Truly, a church indeed.
We arrive before the church as my thoughts continue to run, and Shuri gets down from his horse before looking around curiously.
It really isn't that rare a sight though. Nevertheless, he looked over every detail.
However, Ekress remained seated on top of the horse.
’’...It truly is quite fearful... having to finally meet her.’’
As I thought, Ekress is afraid, no, perhaps hesitant, would be the better word.
She still felt some hesitation in her after all.
Even if she receives the motivation, everything from the first step still stems from the person herself. Let's not talk about me, even Shuri can't do anything about this.
’’Ekress-san, you have no reason to feel so scared-’’
Shuri approaches Ekress out of worry, but I turned around immediately detecting a presence from behind.
The doors open, and a female figure stares over in this direction.
Her silver hair reached down to her waist, and she had this air around her that was somewhat similar to Ekress'.
Despite her clothing not being much different to any other commoner, they were clean and wrinkle free.
Ahh, I see. I understand it all now.
I take my hand away from my waist, and decided to watch how it plays out.
After all, it was none of my business from here on.
The woman rushed over to me and Shuri's side, approaching Ekress who was on the horse.
’’Ekress?! You're Ekress, right?!’’
’’It's me, Ekress! Envy Sounity!
Just as I thought.
I kept quiet and watched on. Shuri seems to be frozen in shock though.
’’Mo-, is that you mother?’’
’’Yes! Ekress, you're Ekress, right.... I'm so happy... so happy to see you....’’
Yes, this woman is Envy Sounity.
Ekress' mother. And the target of this mission.
’’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...!’’
Jumping down from her horse, Ekress hugs Envy.
Hugging her tightly, and cried.
She looked completely different from everything up until now, there was no worry nor fear.
She was just crying happily.
Shuri, what you said was correct. As long as they could smile happily at each other when they meet, everything would be alright.
That's what I thought, seeing the two of them come together as if to fill up all the time they had lost together.
As well as the thought that this might be what a family is.
The two of them calm down, and we were lead inside.
Inside was no different to the church that I had once lived in. Several long benches were lined up, and at the front was an altar and table.
Before, during the golden age of churches, places like this was where the churches dogmas would be taught, as well as where people would make their prayers.
However, I have no memory of this. The place I had lived in, not only do I not recall such things, it wasn't even all that difficult to imagine what I would have been subjected to if I had not run away. Maybe I would've been sold, or become a human shield, and even taken advantage of. That's the kind of place it was.
Well, it's already a thing of the past so it's not like I recall it all that often in any case.
It's not like I tried to forget it because it's painful to recall. I forgot because I just don't care.
However, looking at the interior decoration today, it today, it was faint, but the memories still managed to make themselves up to the surface.
A dark room, children dressed in crude, worn out clothes, the glare in their eyes as they attacked the food within the darkness... Me, who had struggled to survive amongst them.
I have to stop. Thinking about these things won't change anything.
’’Madam! Why did you suddenly run out-....!!’’
As I was engrossed in my own thoughts, a maid came running out from the antechamber.
A woman wearing a worn out maid outfit. However, that person too, had the features of another.
She looked similar to Gann Rubber.
’’It can't be... Ekress-sama... is that you?’’
’’That's right Marille! Ekress is alive! She's dressed in male clothes for some reason, but she's safe!’’
So she's Gann Rubber's mother, Marille Rubber. No wonder I thought she looked like Gann. However, that means that these two had been exiled to the exact same place. No, she originally shared a deep bond with Envy. Perhaps, they were put together since they both had nice figures?
Even so... taking a quick glance at Ekress, I smile wryly.
I couldn't possibly tell them that after wearing male clothing for countless years on end, she wound up being a woman who only looked good dressed in male clothing. The person in question seems to have noticed it too, yet couldn't bring it in herself to say it.
’’So, it seems... that's great... so great...! Please take a seat over there. I'll get some tea ready right away!’’
After saying so, Marille brings out some chairs and a table from the antechamber.
I mean, we can't really form a conversation of any sort with these long benches and altars, so it makes sense.
Shuri and Ekress were whispering quietly to each other, but I had something else to do in this period.
I must survey and investigate this facility.
It's quite strange from the get-go. The fact that the Lord's concubine and mistress were confined here.
It's true that this facility, having the appearance of a church, should be able to function as a refuge for the Lord's family. In that case, it wasn't strange to think that there would also exist reserve rations and a hidden exit to escape from. If these had been utilised then, it would be strange to think that they didn't escape.
Perhaps it was because it was just the two of them so there were some difficulties involved.
However, I have this unsettling feeling.
In the first place, the fact that there was a church hidden in the depths of a forest was strange.
In such a location, you wouldn't be able to gain any believers, and travel would also be difficult.
The act of earning donations through faith. And then using those donations for acts of goodness. In such a location where you could not even imagine such fundamental church activities to be performed or function.
It just didn't make any sense.
Seeing that the ladies were busy talking, I departed from the scene.
They seem like they would be talking for a while. I have time.
The Antechamber, the confessional booth, the office, the bedrooms.... I searched every corner of the place.
However, it was here I noticed something.
The functions necessary for one to operate as a church was far too lacking.
There was no insignia that represented their dogma, and there was not even a single book regarding their studies in the office.
It was just like I had thought. This was a church in name only.
Furthermore, this place was not the refuge for the Lord.
It was a facility specifically for the exiled family members of the Lord. In other words, this was an isolation facility.
How had I reached this conclusion, you may ask. It was something I realised only after taking a look around, but there was no hidden safety escape path of any sort here, nor was there any warehouse of any kind to store adequate quantities of reserve rations. There were rooms that were kind of big, but it was far too unreliable to serve as a welcome for the Feudal Lord's clan's final frontier.
Coming to the end of my investigations, I proceeded to record the details in a hidden notebook.
It wasn't that they didn't run away, it's more-so that they couldn't run away. There were no evacuation escape paths, and it was quite far from human civilisation. They couldn't possibly enter the city, and having said that, even if they had went to another country, they wouldn't be able to prepare for such a thing having been in this sort of place. Finally, should they consider their children who were still within the city then escape wouldn't even be an option for them.
...Still, it's weird.
While this is most definitely an isolation facility, there has to be a reason as to why they made such a facility to look and function almost exactly like a church.
Perhaps, in the past, there was ’’A blood relative who had to be subjected to this’’ or perhaps they needed a place for ’’Certain personnel who they had to seal away’’. These are merely my own conjectures, but let's try to think of a hypothesis for this.
Just what crime had that ’’personnel’’ committed? Did they murder someone from the clan or could it be that... they knew something that they shouldn't have? Or maybe they had simply lost in a power struggle?
...Neither the bookshelf in the office, nor any other rooms have any records or traces that suggest that. Not a diary, not a record.
Just in case, I had searched the place one more time to look for evidence that this place was not an isolation facility, and tried to look for a hidden escape, hidden storage, hidden assets, but nothing.
Just what happened here? Or could it be that this place was created because something had happened?
...This isn't good, I don't have sufficient information. I can only report to the Princess about what I've seen, and investigated.
Luckily, I am here as Shuri's guard. If Shuri was to go back, then I would also be able to go back.
Also, I don't think Shuri would want to intrude on their happy family reunion. He'll probably decide to go back soon.
It's already been quite a while since I've separated from them. Let's return.
I thoroughly tidy up all traces of my disturbances, and returned to where they were.
It's all so strange... And since I understand that much, it's fine.
If I could report this to the Princess then, she should be able to fill me in with the happenings.
That's what I believe.
Just as I arrive back to where Shuri and the others were, he seemed as if he was now heading to another room.
This, could it be... cooking?!
Full of anticipation, I quietly followed behind Shuri.
Luckily I was not discovered.... For some reason, Shuri has the power to sense my presence, but it seems I'm safe this time.
Following behind Shuri, we arrive at the kitchen and he began selecting the ingredients.
’’Guess I'll make some fried rice.’’
I can't believe it, it's Fried rice. FRIED RICE!
I wait expectantly from behind Shuri, my eyes sparkling. Please let me have a taste or something!
It seems as if Shuri finally noticed that I was behind him, and turned around to say.
’’Hey! Is it really alright for you to not be guarding Ekress-san and the others?’’
What! Shuri's looking at me quite unamusedly! It's okay, I have a proper reason.
’’I was requested, to protect, Shuri.’’
However I have absolute protection as my excu... I mean reason!
’’Nonononono! Rather than protecting me, you should be protecting Ekress-san, right?!’’
Shuri says with a desperate sort of elegance.
However, Shuri. What you said was incorrect.
’’...You don't get it’’
Exactly, Shuri hasn't realised it.
The value of Shuri. The importance of Shuri.
Shuri himself, does not comprehend it.
Seeing Shuri look so surprised, I said to him seriously.
’’I... only, take action, by the Princess', command. The Princess' command, was to guard you, to protect Shuri. Anything, the Princess does not, mean, I do not act.
The Princess has, at this moment, judged that Shuri has more value, than Ekress.’’
Simply said, the Princess had informed me that what this era needs is none other than Shuri himself.
It's precisely due to these times of war and chaos that we need some sort of trigger, or poison. Or perhaps even, remedy.
Besides, to the people of Ganglabe's Mercenary Corp, Shuri is an existence that they would protect at any means.
If Shuri was not here then they would be the ones most troubled.
He was needed, both for his cooking skill and as a person.
His aloofness, naivete, and spontaneity.
Such a person could dig a place deep into Ganglabe and others' heart, making them feel safe.
Which is why, if Shuri was not here then they would not be happy.
The warring chaos would be resolved, or at least halted, using Ganglabe and the others.
Which is why nothing is going as the Princess is planning.
Well, it doesn't look like the person in question realises any of this though.
The person in question, after in question, after looking at me with a face full of disbelief, made a suspicious look.
’’But I'm going to be cooking now so don't get in my...’’
’’I will not. Definitely will not. I have absolutely, no intention, of that.’’
’’Is that right...’’
Shuri didn't seem all that convinced so I added.
’’As long as I can eat Fried rice’’
In that instant, a hint of fear surfaced on Shuri's face. Why? Why did it seem like he had seen the root of all fears when he looked at me? Maybe it's just my imagination.
’’...Well, alright then’’
The words that Shuri let out sure sounded halfhearted.
As if the words had just been barely squeezed out, as if it caused a great deal of internal conflict, as if he had given up... In any case, they felt like words that he had arrived at after some scope of abnormal internal conflict, realising that nothing would change whether he wanted it to or not. However, no matter what he says or does, it doesn't change the fact thathis cooking abilities are truly exceptional.
He has not stopped moving ever since he started cooking. It was as if every step he takes is composed of another three or four steps. There was not a single wasted effort.
He checks for any remaining rice, the ingredients, and then in his head seems to formulate the steps necessary to cook the dish.
He started to stir-fry the rice and egg... looks like he really is making Fried rice.
It wasn't straight-up frying, nor was it steaming.
He would stir the ingredients on top of a hot fry-pan.
I had once asked the Princess whether or not this technique has any significance.
She then replied with a great emphasis.
’’What did you say! That technique you see...’’
After that, I was taken in for a quite lengthy explanation which ended tiring me out.
To make a long story short, there is a difference, which is the most important thing.
Furthermore, another thing I took from it was that Shuri's technique was absolutely incredible.
In any case, he was once again using that so called stir-fry cooking technique, skillfully mixingall the ingredients together. It is quite a shocking view to behold when he would make the ingredients fly out of the pan with an arc.
Honestly speaking, it doesn't matter to me no matter what cooking technique he uses, however even a layman like me finds it amazing.
That is what makes the person Shuri Azuma.
While I was gawking at him like that, the dish looks like it was already finished.
Ahh, such beautiful golden fried rice.
The longer I look the more delicious it looks.
I want to eat it... just a bite...
’’Alright, you'll get some too Wutin-san, so stay qui-’’
Before that sentence had even finished I had already snatched myself a plate. I just couldn't wait anymore.
Ahh, it looks delicious. So... delicious.
I immediately scoop out a spoon of rice and stuff it into my mouth.
First of all, the fact that he added in chicken was wonderful.
In times like this, meat was rare and for the luxurious.
However, even amongst the different kinds of meats there was a difference in value.
Well, anyway things like chicken and bird meat were among the cheaper ones.
Apart from duck, I don't really like the other bird meats. If I had to give a reason, I find the fattier meats in duck rather delicious, but the chickens that usually circulate the markets are usually the old ones that can't lay eggs anymore. So those usually don't taste that good.
I don't really understand it but Ekress is infatuated with that Fried chicken dish.
However the chicken that was used in this fried rice was properly prepared;it was soft, and gave me a flavour of chicken I've never tasted before.
The umami of this bird diffuses through the rice and other ingredients, showcasing the faint sweetness of its fat and taste.
I had never thought that such flavour combinations could ever be born.
Besides all meats naturally have some sort of stink to them.
However the salt and pepper completely erases that smell resulting in only the taste of the chicken remaining.
And the egg. This was a must. Undoubtedly a must.
Fat is something that's really heavy in flavour. However, the egg covers every single grain of rice like a membrane, lightening that heaviness by quite a bit.
In addition to that, the rice grains came together very well with the salt and pepper.
Yes, the salt and pepper.
The salt and pepper that you would usually use a lot of, is in this instance used in moderation in order to tighten the flavours.
The amount is just right, bringing forth the flavour of the other ingredients.
That is Fried rice.
That is, justice.
[Yes, that is justice]
Hm? I felt like I heard Riru's voice for a second there... or was it just my imagination?
I tried my best to ignore the weird voices ringing in my head and demolished the Fried rice.
Mmm, it's delicious, every bit like I had imagined.
After I finished the meal I was hit by a sense of intoxication caused by my fullness and satisfaction.
It wasn't something I disliked by any means, so I let myself indulge a little.
’’I knew it, delicious’’
I whisper as such, and quietly placed the dish and spoon onto the kitchen table.
’’Thank you, for the, meal.’’
I put my hands together and said.
This was something that Shuri taught me. I don't really know the details but I think it's basically something you do to express thanks to the ingredients and the cook.
In which case, it was something I needed to do.
After all, it was something that Shuri made, and my new favourite dish. I'm very satisfied.
After putting my emptied plate and the spoon into the sink, I take a peek at Ekress and the others from the kitchen, Envy and Marille looked very satisfied as well. A clear sign that it was tasty.
Looking at that, my evaluation of Shuri went up even further.
His cooking is something that even royalty would enjoy.
Given that it even satisfied the Princess, there's no way that the other royal clans would not be satisfied.
’’Well then, I'll go clean up.’’
’’Ahh, Shuri-san. Please allow me.’’
’’Please hold on a second Marille-san. The cleaning up should be left to the person who cooked.’’
Smiling brightly, Shuri stepped forth to stop Marille-san, gathered the dishes and then broughtthe dishes from the table towards my direction.
Oh no, if he sees me being all unnatural here then he might be suspicious that I was sneaking around!
Now that its come to this, I'll substitute with Shuri... just as I was thinking that, the doors to the church opened.
The one who opened the doors with such force, was Cougar.
’’Woah woah, I finally made it.’’
Cougar barges in and approaches Shuri... staring at Envy and Marille.
’’Is that Ekress' mother, Shuri?’’
’’Yes. More than that, what did you come here for Cougar-san?’’
’’Hm? Well ya see, before that.’’
Cougar walks past Shuri, stands in front of Ekress, then bowed.
This is a surprise. The fact that one of the current leaders of Sounity would lower their head to the concubine of the previous Lord...
’’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.’’
Cougar raises his head and said
’’I must sincerely apologise to M'am Concubine on this occasion.’’
’’What could this be in reference to?’’
’’Originally, the plan was to welcome your great self back and elevate you to a position of power. Please forgive us for being unable to accomplish that.’’
’’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.’’
Crackle. Crackle. It was as if there were fireworks going off between the two.
Depending on the steps, keeping someone in captivity can be extremely rude.
However Envy smiles bitterly and said.
’’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?’’
After a simple exchange, Cougar went to meet up with Shuri.
’’Come on, let's go Shuri.’’
’’Eh? Right now?’’
’’Yes, right now. If Ekress is done then she can come with us too.’’
’’Ekress will stay.’’
’’I want the two of us to speak, just mother and daughter, for just a bit longer. Can't I?’’
Hearing that, Cougar thought for a little bit.
’’...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.’’
I couldn't just keep standing there, so I came out from the kitchen.
I have confidence that I can always remain calm no matter what happens.
However, that's just how strong an attack Shuri's words were.
’’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.’’
In the end, Shuri left me to protect Ekress and went back....
I'm really gonna get it from the Princess when I get back...