The Derufoi city was a city overflowing with liveliness.
Despite the cold weather that seemed it would start snowing, the main street was crowded with people. And what´s more, each person walking there was showing a smile. Whether it was the street stalls or shop windows, all was brilliantly decorated. The merchants using varied colorful masks and mantles would raise their voices, full of energy. As Riku looked at her surroundings with deep emotions, the little girl walking beside her let out a smile.
“It´s your first time being to this kind of place, isn´t it?”
With her face buried in her muffler, the girl whispered to Riku.
In reaction to the girl´s question, Riku showed a wry smile. In these ten years, whether it was training or going to war, all she had been doing was only either of those things. Even before that, she wouldn´t really leave the Barusak residence. She remembered participating in the festival promoted by the royal capital, although to Riku, it was a memory she didn´t like.
“That is true… I´ve never been to places of this kind too much.”
“What, captain, you are wasting your life. Listen, from now on, I will teach you how to have fun.”
Saying that, the girl pulled Riku´s hand. The girl advanced through the crowd of people as if she was already used to doing that. As the girl was walking, her blonde hair that was tied in twin-tails would be moving left and right at her back. At one glance, it felt she was a bit like an ojou-sama from some rich family, but the girl wasn´t just an ordinary ojou-sama. While holding her hat that felt like it was falling off her head, Riku whispered next to the girl´s ears.
“Um…Is it fine for Charlotte-sama to not use a hat?”
Her two magnificent horns located a bit above her ears were like they were a hair ornament, but they were clearly real horns and could be argued they were inhuman. After Riku asked her that, Charlotte gave a mischievous smile.
“Look your surroundings with more attention, captain. At this town, there is nobody worrying about my horns. After all, the day after tomorrow is the festival.”
“Festival, you say?”
“That´s right. It´s a costume festival! Look, there are also other people already hasty for the festival.”
Charlotte´s thin finger pointed straight to a crowd of people. Looking where the finger was pointing at, it was possible to see there was a boy wearing a headdress of a cow and a girl wearing fox gloves playing with each other. It was possible to see other people also wearing costumes now and then. Most likely, Charlotte´s horns were being mistook for it being only a costume.
“I see… That´s why you chose to come to this town?”
“Although there are other reasons as well. Hey, let´s go.”
Charlotte went running full of energy straight to a shop stall. No matter how one would think, her appearance was only of a normal girl. While wondering if she was really born more than two hundred years ago, Riku followed after her. Looking behind, it was possible to immediately see that there was a group that was following them and was checking their situation at the back-alley. All of them were wearing the same long hood and were armed with swords. It was most likely Charlotte´s personal escorts Gortoberuk previously talked about. They looked almost like a group of kidnappers. Thinking about that, a memory she didn´t really want to remember surfaced in her mind. Trying to take those memories out of her mind , Riku averted her eyes from them.
“Captain, what are you taking so long for? Come quickly!”
One by one, Charlotte was checking the stalls; she was happily looking around at the festival.
While chewing a bird skewer that had Tare sauce*1 on it, she picked up a pendant she got interested in, which was made of gems that were visibly cheap and had parts coated in gold. Naturally, to her, who would actually use real ones,*2 there was no way she would buy it, and actually went there only to make fun of the shop.
“It´s fine for you to buy what you want. However, I will subtract the payment from your wages.”
So said Charlotte, but there was nothing she particularly wanted to buy. She thought of buying a souvenir to Leivein, but she didn´t think there would be anything he would be happy to receive from those shops.
“That´s right. If there are weapons or the sort, it might be good to check it out…”
“Haa… Captain, you should forget about things related to war for the moment. Otherwise, there would be no meaning for you to not have brought your weapon here.”
With Charlotte´s response that was accompanied with a sigh, Riku showed a wry smile.
The halberd she had been long using was left at an inn far from the city. Even if the city was crowded with people using costumes, a girl wielding a halberd would be too much suspicious. Therefore, right now, Riku was only wearing clothes a normal girl at a town would. If danger came towards Charlotte, all she needed to do was to defend her with her bare hands. The demon banning arts didn´t have effect on Riku, and if she were to buy enough time, the escorts that are tailing after them would do something.
Sounds of different timbres were resounding throughout the town. Before the festival, the town was this much lively already, but when the actual festival starts, it should liven up even more. Putting her hands that seemed to be becoming numb by the cold in her pocket, she walked next to Charlotte, somewhat behind. And then, putting off finding something suitable to Leivein to tomorrow, she started to consider buying souvenirs for Vrusto and her other subordinates.
“Hm! Captain, look at that!!”( むっ)
Charlotte stopped in front of one of the stalls.
It was a shoot the target game. There were many prizes being laid there, and in front of them, at the counter, there was a short bow. *3Charlotte had her eyes glued at a cute teddy bear, which was one of the prices. Absentmindedly gazing at the teddy bear, she looked like a girl in love. Riku became stunned. She was wondering if person that was now that restless over the stuffed toy was really the one leading the Demon Lord army.
“Oh, ojou-chans! Won´t you come play shooting the target?*4 It´s three copper coins each try.”
As the stallholder looked at Charlotte, his eyebrows loosened.
After thinking for a few seconds, she firmly pulled Riku´s sleeve.
“Captain, It´s an order. Shoot down that target.”
“…Isn´t it fine to just buy a teddy bear similar to that one?”
“It´s not! This is a fated encounter!! If it´s not that one, then it´s not the same!!”
Too much surprised, Riku became unable to say anything.
She once again wondered whether that selfish girl really was the one leading the whole Demon Lord army. Flustered by such doubts, she held herself from putting them into words. If she were to pick ill intent now, Gortoberuk, who had recommended her… Didn´t really matter. But Leivein, who had recommended her to Gortoberuk, would get part of the bad reputation. She mustn´t let Leivein´s evaluation go down because of her.
“Hey, captain! Quickly, shoot it down!”
The target was small and seemed to be a bit hard to hit. Even with that said, it wasn´t that she didn´t have experience using a bow. By using three shots, she should be able to hit it. Riku leaned down and was about to get the bow.
“The ojou-san there, could I go in your place?”
The bow her hand was about to hold was taken by someone beside her.
“Eh? Bu-but even if you get it, I won´t give it up to someone like you! That bear is mine!!”
“Yes, of course. I just wanted to give you a hand. Besides…”
The boy shot the arrow. Flying through the air, it hit the target right at the center.
“Oh, a great hit! It was very amazing, onii-chan. Here, take it.”
The stallholder gave the teddy bear to the silver haired boy. Receiving the teddy bear, the boy gently gave it to Charlotte.
“Yes, it´s this one, right? The special teddy bear you wanted.”
“U, umu. I-I won´t say any thanks.”*5
Charlotte´s cheeks blushed.
Hugging the teddy bear, this time she had her eyes glued at the silver haired boy.
“Hm? Is there something in my face?”
“There is no such thing! Mo-more importantly, where did you learn how to use the bow like that? I saw you did it very skillfully.”
As she asked that, the silver haired boy hung his head down. From Riku´s angle, she couldn´t see the boy´s face, but she felt an unpleasant feeling spreading in her heart. Riku immediately took Charlotte´s hand and intended to leave this place, but Riku couldn´t move. As if the world had stopped, she couldn´t move from that place.
“Yes, I learned it from my childhood friend… She used to be much better than me.”
“Used to be, you say?”
Noticing his use of past tense, she inquired about this point within the reasonable limit. As if he was feeling hatred about something, the silver haired boy raised his face.
“Yes, she is… Already dead. At the Myuuz castle battle, she…”
A single tear fell from the boy´s eyes. Charlotte glanced at Riku for an instant. She was showing a face of someone that seemed to want to say something.
The possibilities were very limited on that crossbow girl being his childhood friend. There were very high chances of Riku being the killer. Although there was somebody that had a connection to someone she had killed right in front of her eyes, she didn´t feel anything in particular.
More than that, there were no doubts that this childhood friend of that archery expert who participated at the Myuuz battle had connections with the spiritualists. As Riku was winking, trying to make an eye signal, Charlotte opened her mouth.
“…Do you have resentments for that?”
“…I don´t know. But I think it would be better for this miserable thing to end already.”
As if the message of Riku´s winking did not reach her, Charlotte kept talking. Riku was preparing herself to kill that person who had connections with the spiritualists at any moment. She was only waiting for the order.
But Charlotte didn´t show any signs she would be giving any orders.
“Yes. I think it´s miserable how the spiritualists and demons fight, washing blood with blood.”
The boy was muttering his conviction. As if Charlotte had been captivated by it, she was attentively listening to his conversation. Riku suddenly got the feeling they should get away from here as soon as possible. Thinking this decision must be the correct one, she patted Charlotte´s little shoulder.
“Charlotte-sama, soon we should…”
“Captain, I want to talk to this guy. Sorry, but can´t you step aside?”
Riku was amazed by Charlotte´s declaration. She wanted to be together with that suspicious spiritualist alone. She didn´t know what was going to happen to Charlotte from now on, but she had the responsibility of dealing with any unexpected incidents, and so, in turn, it would be Leivein´s responsibility. From anything that could happen, only that she needed to avoid at any costs. Riku was desperately persisting.
“How insistent! This is an order! If not, then what, captain..? What would you be scheming by defying my command?”
Charlotte was glaring at Riku. During that moment, the escorts that should have been following both of them from behind tried to held her down. It was a great amount of strength being used at her, but it was still to the point of her to be able to easily shook it off.
“Let me go!”
Riku put strength into her arms. Shaking them off was easier than twisting the arm of a baby. However, when she was able to get free again, Charlotte´s figure was already nowhere to be seen.
…She had already gone together with the silver haired boy she was talking to before.
1.I don´t really know if it would be that, but I didn´t find anything better that made sense.
2.I think here, instead of ->見に付けている<-, it was supposed to be ->身に付けている<-
3.It didn´t say whether the bow truly was at a counter, but by the context looking at it in a japanese perspective, it kind of gives an idea that it is on a counter. In english, you don´t have as much freedom to go imagine stuff, so when you do stuff like that without putting the exact description, it just feels weird although it is possible to have an idea what it is talking about. In japanese, only by saying that the bow was in front of the prizes, it is still possible to imagine the counter.
4.What is the plural form of ojou-chan supposed to be…? Besides, how is that game supposed to be called? That->射的<-
5.I request the help of a sage of the highest caliber to solve this mystery; this grammar monster that shouldn´t ever be seen. I say, master google is unwell and once again unable to respond to my call. As one of his many disciples, I can´t do without his guidance, as you can see in this exceptional case. So, wtf is that?->礼を言ってやっても良いぞ<-