Still Far From Home
“Ahh~! Finally on the way home,” Aiseia said cheerfully as they drew closer to the harbor area. “Once I get home, I’m gonna sleep like a real man!”
No one had the energy to comment on Aiseia’s sudden gender swap. All lined up side by side, they simply continued to walk in silence. While no one had actually pointed it out, they tacitly understood that every one of them was dead exhausted. For Kutori, Aiseia, and Nephren, who hadn’t yet taken a proper rest after coming back from their two week long battle, it was pretty obvious. However, Tiat must have been almost as tired as those three after such a long period of excitement at leaving the island for the first time (and also receiving treatment to become a soldier).
There’s a lot to do once we get home. Igniting Venom inevitably places a burden on the blood flowing throughout one’s body. Continually using it for a long period of time could cause disruptions or stagnations to occur in the blood, harming the entire body’s condition. Muscle exhaustion can be fixed with a little sleep, but the same cannot be said for Venom poisoning. It will heal eventually if you just go about your daily life, but repeatedly overexerting yourself in a short period of time can cause chronic symptoms.
It looks like the stagnation isn’t so bad that it’s causing a fever, but maybe I should treat all of them anyways just in case. Willem looked down at his palm and lightly cracked his knuckles. He had lost countless things important to him since that time long ago, but luckily he still had some of the skills that he once learned, countermeasures to Venom poisoning being an example. The massage technique might not receive a very warm welcome from the girls, being the age that they are, but they probably wouldn’t refuse if he told them that the poisoning could shorten their life spans — or if you wanted to put it that way, their durability as weapons.
“I wanted to look around just a little longer…” Tiat turned around to gaze at the city once last time, a look of reluctance in her eyes.
“I’m sure you’ll get another chance soon enough.” Willem gently patted her on the head.
“I told you to stop treating me like a little kid!” Tiat swatted his hand away.
“Willem Kumesh, Second Enchanted Weapons Technician.”
As Willem chuckled and pulled his hand back, a cold voice called his name. Turning around, he spotted an unfamiliar man standing there. He had a thin body and wore sunglasses over unusually Emnetwyte-like facial features. However, his white hair and long, narrow ears of the same color clearly distinguished him as a Haresantrobos. A race of beast people resembling rabbits, they are extremely few in number, unlike the Lucantrobos. Willem knew of their existence before, but this was the first time he had seen one in person.
“… who are you?”
Willem took a closer look at the man’s clothes. On the shoulder of his army uniform, an insignia identified his rank as a First Officer. The shield and scythe design revealed the branch of the military he belonged to as the Military Police.
“As you can see, I am a First Officer in the Military Police.” As the Haresantrobos spoke, a high pitched voice cried ‘please hurry!’. The airship was already beginning preparations to take off. If they missed this one, they would have to wait until the next day. “I have heard about you from First Officer Limeskin’s report.”
“I see. I don’t know what he wrote about me, but I don’t believe I have done anything worthy of attention from the Military Police.” Well, at least nothing that the big lizard would know about, Willem added on in his head.
“Correct. It is true that ‘may be into little girls’ was written in the report, but that by itself is no threat. Crime only comes from actions, not thoughts or preferences.”
Willem made a mental note to do a Demolishing Nightingale Dash into a full strength kick next time he met that lizard.
“Even if there is some favoritism going on between the manager and his subjects, as long as there is no hindrance to their effectiveness on the battlefield, it is not our business to interfere.”
Willem made a mental note to punch the rabbit in the face when he got the chance.
“It’s false. If he were into little girls I wouldn’t be having so much trouble,” Kutori muttered off to the side loud enough for Willem to hear.
Ah… well, anyways. “So what do you want then? If it’s going to take awhile, come back another day. We’re in a bit of a hurry, if you haven’t noticed.”
“There is someone you need to meet. You will come with me.”
“No.” Willem refused sharply. “Don’t make me repeat myself. We’re in a hurry. If you’ve read the report or whatever, you should know, right? I’m in charge of these guys, and it’s my responsibility to bring them home to the warehouse. I can’t have you interfere, even if you are a First Officer.”
“I cannot let you refuse. My responsibility is serious as well.”
“I see. Then why don’t we part ways here and each carry out our own duties?” As he responded, Willem tried to simply walk past the man.
“The Great Sage, Suwon Candel.” Upon hearing the Haresantrobos say that name, Willem froze. “According to the First Officer’s report, you can perform maintenance on the Dug Weapons. On top of that, you currently work as the Second Enchanted Weapons Technician. What was lost has risen again. In this world, having lost the great land below, where everyone lives clinging onto these tiny rocks, the significance of those two facts is large indeed. Accordingly, I cannot simply let you go. We must consult the wise Great Sage regarding that skill of yours. If you insist on refusing, I’m afraid I will have to take you by force.”
The man raised his hand, and, along with many pairs of footsteps, soldiers suddenly appeared around them. Each of them carried a long, curved sword on their backs, which were probably not just for ceremonial use.
“Woah there, looks like things are about to get heated…”
“Stop, Aiseia. Don’t conjure Venom. This is different from earlier. If we cause a ruckus, it’ll only harm us. Also, these guys are ready for us.”
“… got it.” With a sigh, Aiseia suppressed her magic. “But what do you plan on doing? Wait any longer and we won’t be able to go home, ya know?”
“I know, I know.” As Willem answered, he pondered over that name in his mind. The Great Sage, Suwon Candel. He knew that name. It was a name that he would never forget. “I guess I really do need to meet this guy.”
“Willem?” Nephren peered into his eyes with a worried face. She rarely made such easy to read expressions, which meant Willem must have looked especially perturbed.
“If I go with you, can you guarantee that these guys get to the 68th Island safely?”
The fairies, all four of them, were visibly upset at hearing Willem’s question.
“I swear on this insignia that I will get them home.” The Haresantrobos nodded.
“Wait.” Someone tugged on Willem’s sleeve. “What do you mean you’re going with him? When are you coming back?”
“Well… I can’t really say much, other than that it depends on what business they have with me.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Don’t go.” A hint of anger began to show in Kutori’s eyes.
“Like I said, I need to meet this guy…”
“If you go I’ll get mad.”
“Don’t act so selfish.”
“Shut up. You’ve always treated me like a little kid, so at least listen to this one selfish request. Or are you only going to treat me like an adult when it’s convenient for you?”
Her words stung. Willem was used to handling kids, but he had never been good with girls that were too old to fit into that category. He never knew what they were thinking. Which of their words to believe. What to say to cheer them up. And most of all, what to do to make them stop crying.
“Don’t cry.” He reached out and wiped Kutori’s eyes with his finger, only to have his hand violently slapped away.
“You’re the worst, only deciding to act nice to me now.”
I know, Willem thought. I think that about myself too. But he didn’t know what else to do. It was the same back then, the same now, and would surely be the same forever more.
“I’m sorry,” he said, then pulled his arm back. Kutori’s hand fell away from his sleeve, clawed at the empty air, then, unable to find anything to grasp, curled up into a fist.
“… idiot,” she muttered.
He couldn’t face her any longer. “Airships get cold at night, so wrap yourself in a blanket and sleep early, okay? If your body gets cold the Venom poisoning will only get worse.”
“Ah… alright, got it,” Aiseia replied.
“…” Nephren failed to return a response as usual.
“Um, uh, okay.” Tiat, who was busy looking nervously at Willem and Kutori, seemed to barely register his words.
“Well, see you,” he said, then gently gave Kutori a push on the back. Even though he didn’t put any power into it, Kutori lost balance and stumbled for a few steps before standing upright again.
“Idiot!!” she screamed, then ran off ahead, shaking with anger.
As she reached the door, Kutori shoved her ticket into the official’s hand and dashed into the airship. Alerted by her wild behavior, the ticket collector turned around and yelled ‘please don’t run on the ramp!’.
“What can I say…” Willem could feel that word sink into his body. “Come on, you guys hurry up and go too.”
“Well, if you insist.” As Aiseia glared at him with a somewhat unsatisfied look on her face, a wagon with a load of jute bags piled onto it flew by.
“Oh, watch out young lady, coming through!” the driver said, a bit too late.
The harbor district, with people and goods constantly coming and going every which way, was no place to be standing around and talking idly.
“Is this really okay with you?” Nephren asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“You still haven’t said something important. If you keep playing dumb, I’ll get mad too.”
To have even Nephren, who never got mad, angry at him would not be very pleasant. He couldn’t detect any irritation in her voice. It may have even been more indifferent sounding than usual. But that only showed how serious she was.
“I don’t want to make any more promises I can’t keep.”
“Do you not intend on keeping it?”
“I do, but… there are some things you just can’t do.”
“You’re the one who made Kutori make the promise.”
He could say nothing in return. You better survive and come home. He had ordered something originally unforgivable: the return of a disposable soldier. Moreover, he did it for a stupid, selfish reason, and even ignored the wishes of the soldier herself.
“You don’t get to say whether you can or can’t do it.”
“Alright alright, I get it.” Willem scratched his head roughly and looked away from the fairies. He honestly had no idea what his expression looked like at the moment. Was he smiling? Crying? Angry? Not even able to discern his own emotions, he didn’t want to show his face to anyone. “I’ll get this over with quickly and go home, okay? So you guys go first.”
Somewhere out of his field of view, Nephren probably nodded.
“Roger that.” He heard Aiseia answer affirmatively behind his back. “I don’t like it, but I guess we have no choice. Come on little one, let’s go.”
“Ah, okay… but…”
“No buts, we gotta hurry.”
“Ah! A-Alright I got it let go of me!”
The three of them ran off, the sound of their small footsteps moving farther and farther away. A steam whistle cried loudly, piercing Willem’s ears. The official desperately warned the misbehaved passengers to not run on the ramp.
“We could have prepared a private ship,” the Haresantrobos said as he watched.
“They probably just don’t want to be in your care.”
“Well it looks like I’m hated… oi, some of you go with them. See them safely to the 68th island.”
At his orders, three soldiers ran into the airship after the fairies. The ticket collector was starting to lose it.
The ramp was drawn up.
The propellers blared loudly.
The anchor detached.
And finally, the airship departed from the 11th Floating Island, along with the four fairies riding on it, leaving Willem behind.
“You know your face looks really peculiar when you cry.”
Willem remembered that he was supposed to punch that rude little rabbit.