Even If That Battle Ends
On top of their army uniforms, they wore a covering of light armor. And on their backs, they carried swords so large it almost looked ridiculous. The three girls each finished their preparations for battle.
“Well, I’m off. See ya!” Aiseia waved her hand energetically with her usual smile.
“… hm.” Nephren nodded slightly.
Kutori alone neglected to turn around or leave any words of goodbye behind. The silver brooch attached to her army uniform near the chest simply emitted a faint glow of light, as if trying to say something.
And just like that, the three fairies leaped into the sky, their figures gradually melting into the sunset.
“… are you stupid?!” Those were the first words out of Grick’s mouth after listening to the story. “Why are you here eating with me!?”
“What do you mean why? I just told you. To report on the current situation and to say thanks.”
“You can do that anytime! Now is called now because it’s now or never, you understand!?”
“… well, I’m not sure if you even understand what you just said.”
“Who cares about me!? This is you we’re talking about! You!”
Well, that’s true, but…
Confused at his Borgle friend’s unexpected exasperation, Willem took a sip of his salty coffee.
“Anyway, my head’s full just from knowing that behind the facade of peace in Regul Aire lies so much unseen drama and sacrifice. Well, I guess spilling blood in unseen places is the job of a soldier. If you think about it, it’s natural, but just thinking about it and actually hearing you tell me about it happening in real life are pretty different. How to put it… the guilt of not knowing about this before might crush me… or more like I want to go hug those girls right now… what’s with that scary face?”
“Nothing,” Willem muttered as he drained his coffee cup with a face that would definitely make a little kid cry.
Grick let out a deep sigh. “I thought it would be a more light and easy job, so I gave it to you, but…. Well, it worked out alright in the end, but it’s scary to think what would have happened if I didn’t put much thought into it and gave the job to some random chump.” He paused to gulp some coffee down. “So… why the hell are you here?”
“Well, their battle on the 15th Island starts tomorrow, and it’ll go on for days, and any contact about the outcome won’t be until long after that, you know? There isn’t exactly much I can do right now.”
“No, no, no! Usually in times like those, you’re so worried you can’t eat properly or can’t fall asleep or something like that! So why are you here living your everyday life like nothing’s happening at all!?”
“Me getting anxious about it won’t change their chances of winning. Up until yesterday, I taught them everything I could and fine tuned their swords as much as possible. But, their chances of coming home safely are probably still just a little above five percent. No use in starting to worry now.”
“Oh, come on! You of all people can’t doubt their victory!”
“I’m not the type to avert my eyes from reality.”
“But don’t avert your eyes from your hopes and dreams either! You just gotta believe!”
“Everyone struggles because life doesn’t work like that…. Anyway, being so convinced about something just makes it harder to get back to reality when something unexpected happens. If I’m going to believe in them, then that means I should be ready to accept whatever outcome they bring about.”
“So cold, man! I don’t feel the heat of romance in your words!”
“Well, I am from a race not suited to be salvagers.”
Grick gave a cackling kekeke laugh, which Willem interrupted by standing up.
“What, you got somewhere to be?”
“Yeah, I got a little food shopping to do.”
“Willem… you really are just going about your everyday life, huh?”
“Of course. There are people fighting to protect this lifestyle for me.”
Grick fell silent.
Right as Willem gave a quick ‘see ya’ and started to walk away, “… ah, that’s right.” He paused, remembering that he had something to ask. “Do you know any shops around here with cheap butter and flour?”
And so, he returned to the Orlandri Trading Company’s fourth warehouse.
The girls chasing around a ball on the grounds recognized him and came running up.
“Where did you go? We looked everywhere!”
“Um, it’s been a while, so, would you like to play with us?”
“Lately you haven’t been talking to us, with all your fainting and stuff, so it wouldn’t hurt to hang out with us at least today.”
Little hands tugged at his sleeves from all directions, but…
“Sorry, today I have something I need to do.”
Ehhh? Their voices of protest bordered on screams.
“I’ll play with you guys later.”
He headed straight for the kitchen, paying no attention to the mopey voices targeted at his back. In his mind, he flipped through his ‘Desserts Popular with Small Children’ recipe book and found the page for butter cake. He only dimly remembered most of the small details, since the recipe never once led to a success at the orphanage (it always got compared to the ‘Daughter’s’), but he told himself that it would work out somehow. There was still plenty of time to practice, and, on top of that, a spoonful of love or something to that effect surely has a big impact on the taste. Probably.
Suddenly, he felt like he heard a voice calling out to him from somewhere.
He turned around, he looked up at the sky, but of course no one was to be found. All he saw were clouds shaped like thin silk, spreading out endlessly beyond the gradations of red and scarlet above.
In the first place, the owner of that voice no longer existed in this world. She left long ago, unable to welcome home the person she had been waiting for all that time, the person who she continued to bake butter cake for so that their promise could be fulfilled.
He felt like he was doing something horrible. Not just to her, but also to the comrades that had fought beside him. To the nobles who had seen them off with high expectations of their victory. Why couldn’t he have died with them? Or rather, why didn’t he end his life as soon as he awoke in this world? Does living this life like I’m doing now not break all those promises from long ago?
He understood, but still…
“I’m sorry. I really am.” Facing the heavens, he bowed his head in apology.
He had no place in this world. But, if someone were to make him a part of her place, then, in order to be able to say ‘welcome home’, he needed to stay here. Willem decided that in his mind as he took out his apron.