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When we got to the inn, we were each assigned a room. Only I, a man, and Eculate, an elf, had private rooms. Sicily and Chloe shared a room.
The girls, tired from their journey, immediately went to their rooms and began to rest.
Once the girls are in their own rooms, I switch my thoughts.
I concentrate on how to negotiate with the Doll tribe.
(Even if we’re going to negotiate straightforwardly, we need to offer them something, right?)
It is a standard practice to trade something for “defeating the Ogres that have recently appeared in the forest” for an honest negotiation, but the Doll tribe is a race with very high pride. If immediately went there, I might stab myself.
(…But if I don’t say anything, I’ll never be able to say it.)
In other words, it’s hell to say and hell to wait.
It’s a pain in the ass, but I can’t give up thinking about it.
As I was considering all the possibilities, I noticed a noise in the middle of the night.
I heard a cracking sound.
It was as if someone had opened the door of the inn.
I reached for my cane on my bedside table, but after a few minutes, nothing happened.
(…which means that someone didn’t break-in, but left.)
So who went out?
The inn is basically separate for men and women.
So I don’t know what happened to my companions.
I felt it was impolite and a mortal sin to go peeping into the princess’s bedroom late at night, but if something happened, that would be a problem, so I left the room and went to check.
――Then, a figure comes out from the women’s room at the exact moment.
For a moment, I thought it was Sicily, but it wasn’t.
The woman who came out was crass.
She was walking around with her mouth wide open, yawning, “Haa!” She was also in her underwear.
My beloved princess would never behave like that.
For a while, I observed her behavior.
The Elf girl, Eculate, was going into the bathroom to do her business.
Apparently, she had just woken up to urinate.
I thought it would be tactless to observe a woman doing her business, so I left and walked over to the room where Sicily and Chloe were probably sleeping.
Instead of opening the door, I used the [Hearing Enhancement] spell.
From inside the door, I can hear only one person’s gentle breathing, “suuu…”. In other words, there is only one person in the room.
It’s unlikely that she left her seat to go to the bathroom.
Because the only person in the bathroom right now is Eculate.
“…if that is the case, then Chloe is the one who got out?”
It’s a process of elimination, and I’m pretty sure I’m right.
Where did she go out so late at night?
Curious, I opened the door to the inn and walked out.
Night comes to Bana Forest as well.
Just like in the city, midnight comes.
The only difference is that it’s completely dark in Bana Forest.
In the city, there are streetlights and light bulbs, but not here.
The only light we had was from the starry sky.
But that didn’t matter much to a magician.
As long as the magician had starlight, he could amplify it and get the same kind of vision as in the daytime.
I walked through the village of the Doll tribe, making full use of my [Night Vision], which was one of the top beginner magic skills I was glad to have learned.
For the time being, Chloe seems to be in the center of the village, although I relied on the footprints and the remnants of magical power that seemed to have been left just before.
She is moving her body in what looks like a plaza.
She stretched and danced as if she was performing her martial arts.
She was wielding her own weapon, a pocket watch, and swaying her body as if she were melting into the darkness.
The sight was so mysterious and beautiful that I couldn’t help but admire it for a while, but I couldn’t stay there forever. When I stepped forward to call out to her, she called out to me.
“…Leon-sama, what are you doing in the middle of the night?” (Chloe)
“That’s my line, I guess. It’s not nice for a young lady to be out late at night.”
“This is my birthplace. I can walk with my eyes closed.” (Chloe)
“So you’re claiming that you’re just sleepwalking now.”
“That’s right. I’m just walking with my eyes closed.” (Chloe)
She continues her performance with her eyes closed.
“…I’ve been feeling sick since I returned to this village.” (Chloe)
“Because you met your ex-fiancé again?”
Chloe shook her head.
“No, I don’t really think of her from the beginning.” (Chloe)
She replies with a real lack of interest rather than coldness.
“I guess what’s bothering me is the guilt I feel for abandoning this village. Children my age are already having children and raising them. I feel guilty for abandoning my family’s duties and living a free and easy life…” (Chloe)
“Well, that might be true. The women of this village seem to put their lives on the line to give birth to strong children.”
During the day, I saw a young mother delivering lunch to her child who was undergoing training and discipline.
I saw a mother smiling at her son, wishing him good luck, and a boy trying to reciprocate.
I am sure that for them, becoming a strong warrior is the greatest honor of all.
In such a situation, they seem to despise themselves for abandoning it. But that’s not true, I told her.
“Chloe did leave the forest. She didn’t have a child, and she didn’t raise one. But she raised a much bigger child instead.”
“A bigger child?” (Chloe)
Chloe tilted her head.
She asks me what I mean.
I answer honestly.
“I mean what I say. You raised a bigger child.”
“Do you mean Her Highness?” (Chloe)
“Yes. She may be offended if I call her a big child, but she is the kind of child you raised, isn’t she? I’ve heard that since she was a little girl when she first came to court, you have protected her and served her as her maid.”
“Yes, I have been by her side every single day without exception.” (Chloe)
“Sicily said about how grateful she was for your presence in the court, especially with no one on her side. How reassuring your presence was. For her, you were your sister, mother, and friend.”
“I heard she was too embarrassed to tell you herself.”
“But from the bottom of her heart, she is grateful. You can tell that just by being around her, can’t you?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“You have raised a great princess, Her Highness. That princess will eventually become a light that will illuminate this world. Then you will be the woman who raised the princess who gave birth to that light.”
“…The woman who raised the light.” (Chloe)
“I think it’s more admirable than giving birth to a child and raising it. I don’t think it’s something that everyone can do.”
I said, “Well, that’s something,” I continued.
“So don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t feel guilty. It makes me sad when you look so melancholy.”
As I say that, I scratch the tip of my nose.
I know it’s embarrassing to say, but Chloe giggles when she sees me.
“Leon-sama is a real lady-killer. With his compassionate heart, he falls one woman after another.” (Chloe)
“You’re the exception, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am. As Her Highness’s mother and sister, I can’t take her husband away from her.” (Chloe)
“Well, I don’t think Her Highness and I will ever be together.”
“Fufufu, is that so?” (Chloe)
Chloe smiles meaningfully, but then she says as if remembering something.
“Oh, Leon-sama, as a sister and mother I can never betray my Princess, but as a friend, I might be able to.” (Chloe)
“What do you mean…?”
When I was confused, Chloe said as if it were obvious.
“Please hug me for a lifetime’s memory.” (Chloe)
The suggestion was so outrageous that I had to remain silent.
What an outrageous and daunting task she’s posing to me.
I thought so, but Chloe said with an expression and tone of voice that held no ill will.
“Leon-sama, you made a girl feel this incredibly loved. I thought you should take responsibility?” (Chloe)
I was attacked with that kind of argument from beginning to end.
I looked up at the starry sky with a troubled look on my face.
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