It’s been five days since we left McFadden village. We’ve made it to Addinton after staying in the rural villages we came across overnight while heading towards south.
Addinton is built on a valley, the northern hill has a very old historic building. It is also one of the famous building in town, known as 『Mattroc Orphanage』.
When we were walking through the road, we were surprised as we saw the grand orphanage. There’s usually orphanage in every sizable city. But, every one of those are lacking funds, most of them are using run down mansions.
Then, how did Mattroc Orphanage can maintain their current building. I recalled the conversation I overheard in the bar last time.
(I think they said someone who succeeded in trading business started operating the orphanage. That person contributed his own private assets to raise the children there properly.)
There’re some good people in the world. It’s because he’s such a person that he’s trusted and liked by the town folks.
Even in a bar filled with drunkards, there wasn’t a single bad mouthing of the director of the orphanage.
(…… Well then, first)
I will always secure accommodation first in anywhere. Of course, it’s no different even in Addinton.
(Let’s settle for the inn I stayed in previously. The meal they serve are delicious, Ravi would be happy too)
As I recalled the location of the inn, I brought Ravi together towards the center of the city. The streets crowded with people and horses going back and forth is filled with liveliness.
She opened her small mouth as she looked around. It seems that she’s overwhelmed by the town’s lively atmosphere. It’s because we only stopped by small rural villages until now. She seemed especially interested in the carriages as she stared at them.
「Have you ever been in a carriage? 」
「There will be more carriages as we head south, let’s ride on one there.」
She looked at me with a brilliantly shining gaze. I could see her happiness even if she didn’t say anything.
(That’s also all thanks to the short bangs)
Just as I was thinking about that and returned a faint smile to Ravi. People were walking in and out from the opposite store, and it started to become noisy.
「I’m happy to buy so much delicious-looking candies!」
「Thank you so much, Director-sensei!」
「Look! These ginger cookies I bought look really cute! 」
「If it’s that, my candy won’t lose too.」
「Hahaha, don’t run around so much, it would be dangerous.」
The people who came out of the pastry shop, was a white-haired man with around ten children following him. His plump body resembles a lovable teddy bear. Above all, his gentle smile seems to be overflowing of kindness. Also, the children called him as Director-sensei.
(Could it be that he’s the orphanage’s director?)
Come to think of it, the children he brought with him seems to be very well. There’s a boy that’s wearing a shirt that seems to have good tailoring. And also a girl wearing a gorgeous one-piece dress. They totally look like some noble’s children.
I was surprised by the thought when I compared what I bought for Ravi with the children.
Although I had no choice when buying those, it was still a plain one-piece and wooden shoes. After I glanced at Ravi, I felt more ashamed. Ravi was looking at the children with admiration. It’s different when she observed the carriage seriously. It was a look of longing for something and an expression of wanted it badly.
(She’s probably jealous……)
She met with my eyes and averted her face like she’s embarrassed. As I was still looking for words to say, the children started to play catch with each other. One of the children wasn’t paying attention and crashed into Ravi.
I immediately moved to support Ravi from falling. But the white-haired man moved first.
「Sorry about it. Are you alright? 」
Ravi nodded her head.
「That’s relieving. I’ll give you this as apology. 」
What he stretched out to Ravi was a colorful candy. The shy Ravi’s eyes shone. I returned a nod as she looked up at me seemingly asking for permission. Ravi tried to take one, but the man smiled while giving her everything in his hands. I was surprised at his generosity, Ravi who received it thanked him stutteringly and hid behind my back.
「Sorry about that……she got to receive candies from you. 」
「Nope, it’s our fault, father-san. Quick you guys, apology to the child. 」
「Ye―s. We’re sorry」
The children apologized a little embarrassedly. I could see their good relationship with just their little exchange.
「My children here is too lively, so they often get in trouble like this. 」
He laughed gently as he compared them with Ravi. But just after that, an expression of surprise was shown on his face.
「Oops, pardon me. It was my fault for assuming you two are father and daughter. 」
I was surprised he saw through it so easily. It’s true that we have different hair color, and our appearance doesn’t look similar. But there are other people who’s like that too right. I asked him for the reason why he knew so that we wouldn’t get discovered, he laughed and answered.
「It’s the feel of distance. Even if she hid behind you, she hesitated to grab onto you. It’s impossible for parents and child, right? 」
「So what kind of relation do you two have? 」
He seemed to ask worryingly, I shook from the question. He’s probably worrying about a kidnapping case.
「S-she’s my step daughter. Just recently. 」
I tried my best to mask my shaking heart.
「Is that so. Then your life would have changed abruptly. Suddenly having a child at that age, many people would’ve gotten troubled after all. 」
I didn’t know how to answer him correctly. Sweat started forming on my forehead and my gaze swam around.
「Hahaha. There are many people like you that aren’t clear about raising children. So, you don’t have to look so pale. 」
「Your wife would support you too. 」
「That, I-I don’t have a wife……」
「Eh? Then are you taking care of a girl that has no blood relation with you by yourself? 」
Crap. Looks like I said one too many. It was already too late after I realized it.
The man seemed to hold sympathy for me as he saw I was panicking,
「……I might be impudent but, it seems that you have some situation going on. I’m running an orphanage in the city called Mattroc, you can come to consult me if you’re fine with it. 」
「It’s difficult for you to take care of a young child right? And your travelling would be limited when you have a child with you. You can’t possibly leave the child and sleep alone too and have to keep guard during the night. Also, travelling fees would be much expensive than when you’re travelling by yourself. 」
The man smiled kindly like a saint while nodding. It’s a smile that makes me want to rely on him.
「There’s also many children I’m taking custody of because of various situations. 」
(He’s meaning for Ravi to enter the orphanage right……? No no no, why did the talk went that way)
The children behind Director Mattroc was listening to the conversation interestingly and was whispering among themselves 「Is she going to be one of us too? 」. I felt a sense of crisis as I saw the children expression because the talk will progress more towards me leaving Ravi there.
「Thanks for your concern but there’s currently no problem……! W-well. Ravi let’s go. 」
I left with Ravi as if escaping after giving a farewell vaguely.
When we arrived at the inn, Ravi looked weird. There’re too few words. She’s also getting nowhere with her food. She shook her head even if I asked if she was sick.
(It’s true that she doesn’t look sick……)
I thought about it and finally realized. She grabbed the edge of her one-piece and stretched it or gazed at it every so often. The plain and old one-piece.
Ravi asked with a fleeting voice.
My mouth was petrified wide open and I couldn’t get the words out immediately.
「……N-no. It’s cheap, sorry……」
As I squeezed out my apology, Ravi said something unexpected.
Why she’s glad that it’s cheap. My head tilted as I was in a confusion. It’s just that the appearances of the children I saw today with their expensive-looking clothes kept floating to my mind.
(……The reason that Ravi’s depressing is probably because of that)
I felt a pain deep in my chest. Wasn’t Ravi looking at them enviously too.
(I rejected the director’s helping hand, but maybe Ravi had wanted it……)
There were kids around her age, above all they didn’t seem to be living poorly. Originally, I also wanted to entrust her to someone I trusted. I don’t know which would’ve given a better living quality to her.
「Was it better that I leave Ravi to the director? 」
As I asked about Ravi’s opinion, her shoulder shook.
「It’s my bad to refuse on my own. 」
Ravi shake her heads sideway listlessly.
「How about tomorrow, I’ll go and ask for their favor……」
Ravi froze while looking at the bed, without giving off any response. Not knowing what to do, I sighed heavily.
「Is it really fine that I don’t rely on the orphanage? 」
It was really a small nod. I see……
(……Then at the very least, I want to let her wear something better like the kids in the orphanage)
If it continues like this, it will just make her look miserable.
(That’s right, I should choose some gift that would make her happy……!)
With that, I might be able to break this awkward atmosphere.
「Ravi, I will be going out for a bit. Wait for me in the inn please 」
Ravi looked at me like she wants to say something to me. She would be too reserved if I were to bring her along, so I must go by myself no matter what. I nodded back towards the anxious-looking Ravi and said, 「I’ll be back」.
I left the inn and proceeded to the commercial area alone.
(I shouldn’t go those general stores like I always been……)
I looked at the shops facing towards the big street. As I approached the busiest area in the city, I finally found a suitable shop. The shop that had a laced dress on its show window was 『Ladies’ Wear・Tailor Allman’s Shop』. I braced myself and walked closer courageously.
There were a few customers already inside when I looked through the window. It seems there’s many customers that are young ladies. The shop seems to be doing well. I went through the door while my heart’s pounding. Naturally, my life had always had no fate with such fashion shops. I made it here even with cold sweat, I can’t possibly retreat now for the sake of Ravi.
There were various colorful dresses lined up in the shop.
(This is amazing……)
The fine embroidery, and the sparkling beads. I wonder how much they are. I was shocked because the customers were wearing such clothes like nothing. Compared to the general store that I frequented, the atmosphere and customers are totally different here. It was only me who was the odd one here.
(……Why does it smell nice even though it’s just a clothing shop)
I hesitatingly checked the pricing tag of the dress.
I couldn’t even pay half of it with all my money I have now. It was quite disappointing I couldn’t buy it. The clothes will have to wait until I get more money from jobs huh, I should ask her to endure for a bit.
(Are there some other products here that have a more reasonable price……)
As I went around the shop while feeling out of place, I found a corner that had hats and ribbons on the right.
(I think the girls I saw earlier also had ribbons like these as hair accessory.)
I’m sure it will suit Ravi, absolutely.
(The pricing is…… 30 Copper huh)
It’s not cheap. But, it’s somehow manageable. I was thinking of finding daily jobs to do, so it wasn’t so painful to spend that much.
I wanted to pick it up, but I hesitated with my old man hands. I felt down as I looked at the delicate and lovely ribbon. I was correct to thoroughly wash myself before coming. As I thought about it and hesitated……
「What’s that person……」
「……He’s pondering while looking at the ribbon」
「He’s probably choosing a present for someone? 」
「Ara, such a blockhead? 」
The ladies grouped up and started to giggle.
I ran deeper in the shop because of the embarrassment.
(What am I even doing. What would running do)
I criticized myself, but I couldn’t move. In the end, I stood at a corner until the ladies left the shop.
I finally made it back to the ribbon corner but, I’m hesitating which to choose now. In the end, the clerk spotted me and called out to me. It’s been awkward, but I should lend her hand now. When I asked what would suit a quiet girl around ten, she recommended me one yellow ribbon that resembles summer flowers and another watery blue ribbon that looked soft to the touch.
(The one that will suit Ravi most is……)
I told the clerk that I would be getting the watery blue ribbon.
「Would you like to wrap it? 」
The clerk asked after I paid for it, and I hesitated again.
(Why do something like that just for a ribbon……?)
Isn’t that going overboard. It’s troubling since I never had much experience gifting people.
I imagine me gifting Ravi the ribbon that was wrapped up nicely. No good, it doesn’t come up in my mind.
(……It’ll be easier to give it casually)
I received the ribbon after the payment is done. I secured it in my coat’s pocket since I didn’t want it dirtied with my sweat.
The way back to the inn, somehow felt lighter for me.
(I’ll be glad if she likes it……)
I hastened my pace while thinking of Ravi’s happy face when she receives this.
What should I say when I give it? Like「I found it coincidentally」? No, that would be too blunt.
How about 「It’s a present for Ravi」
It isn’t something so great to be a present though……
Or is it better with 「Use it if you’re fine with it」?
Isn’t that just how I’m like usually. Let’s go with that.
I started getting nervous as the inn came into view.
(It’ll be upsetting if she said that she didn’t want it……)
My feet stopped because of the bad imagination. When I bought it, I thought it was a lovely ribbon, but I’ve lost my confidence now.
Really pathetic. The pedestrians looked at me strangely. Since standing here would achieve nothing, I cheered myself and opened the door to the inn. The dining hall on the ground floor is starting to be filled with customers. I passed through the crowd and climbed up the stairs on the left.
(Do your best, me. I will defeat the awkward atmosphere no matter what)
On top of that, Ravi’s a kind child. If I apologize sincerely, surely it will be back to normal. I believed so as I took out the ribbon from the pocket.
I breathed in deeply and opened the door.
The room was empty, and Ravi was nowhere to be seen.
(Did she go to the washroom?)
I wondered as I entered the room. When I looked around the empty room……
There was a paper on the writing desk. It wasn’t there when I left. As I picked up the paper, the words written on it made my eyes widen.
『Thank you for everything until now.
It was fun being together.
I will go to the orphanage.
The letter was written in a small handwriting.
It was written on the back of an order paper. She probably gotten it from the dining hall downstairs. I sat on the edge of the bed while thinking of something that totally didn’t matter. The ribbon that had lost the someone to be given to fell on the ground lightly.
(I see……. The orphanage……)
Certainly, the children I saw today looked really happy. They’re wearing clothes that I couldn’t afford with the current me.
I’m glad she can live without any inconvenience. It didn’t matter where she went with my acquaintance or the orphanage if she’s happy.
Even though I understood that in my head. It’s strange I felt so discouraged.
I never thought goodbye would come so suddenly, to become alone again. I tried to tell myself that. But is it fine that we separated like this. It’s a wide world. It’s normal occurrence that you never met again with someone after saying goodbye. Shouldn’t I at least say my parting words directly? I tried to stand up while thinking that but……
(……Maybe I shouldn’t)
She purposely wrote the note and left on her own. I could tell even that much that she didn’t want to talk to me.
My deep sigh resounded in the now quiet room. She was always quiet even when we’re together. And I was always talking to myself because of that. But it’s different than now. There wasn’t an ounce of a happy atmosphere now.
A girl that I only spent with a few days. Still, she had healed my loneliness at that time. After she’s gone, I realized that fact for the first time.
Next morning. As I was changing my clothes after I woken up, I realized I haven’t returned the necklace to Ravi.
(Crap. I shouldn’t take this with me)
Even if she avoided me and left, this is something I must give back.
There was the promise to visit Theo-jiisan’s store today morning. I should show my face there first to tell that I’m not selling the necklace anymore, then head to the orphanage. It doesn’t matter what I feel now. Still, I felt a little better when I thought I’m meeting Ravi once more.
I went towards the western district of the commercial area as I was taught, the signboard of 『Theo’s General Store』 came into view almost immediately. It’s quite big considering it’s a general store. As expected that old man seems to be some expert.
As I greeted and entered the store, Theo-jiisan and someone younger than him but resembled him was arguing about something.
「Like I said, just leave the inventory taking to me. Aren’t you quite the age already, I don’t want you to get back pain because of that. 」
「Han―. I’m still far stronger than someone flimsy like you! 」
Apparently, they’re in the middle of a quarrel. When I was getting troubled becoming a lamp post, the two in question finally faced towards me.
Even though they were just quarrelling, their reception is still perfect.
(I can’t tell if they have good or bad relations)
I had a bitter smile while returning the greeting lightly.
「Nn? You’re not with the kid today? 」
As I drooped my shoulders and explained the situation, the parent child duo responses were totally different.
「Well, good for that child. I’m sure she will be happy! 」
「I’m still skeptical about that old man. I never heard of a merchant that doesn’t treasure his earnings. 」
「You’re saying that again. The director had already washed his hands from business. Please don’t mind us. Badmouthing the director is something only my father would do in this city. 」
The son smiled bitterly at me.
「If you left her with Director Mattroc then there’s no problem at all. Even if you looked around for someone to foster her, only nobles would do that. The orphanage teaches the children there to adapt to the town so that they can be independent one day. There had been a few children already went on their ways from here under the guidance of the director. 」
(Why did they headed out even though this is a big and comfortable city to live in?)
People in the north don’t want to leave home very much. That’s because the transportation network around there is not well developed……
As I voiced out my question, the son replied me.
「Do you know there’s the sea if you head out south-east from here? 」
「Do you mean the Port Town Shipton. Nn? But Shipton are only usable for the near shore fishing boats and commercial boats. The guild has already given up on it, and the passenger boats had already terminated service for many years, right? 」
I remembered clearly because I had to give up on crossing the sea because of that. It’s a story few years ago. When I was still in the Hero’s party――.
The Eastern continent had been under heavy invasion from the Demon King, and the atrocities of the Demonkin had been repeating over there. It’s to subjugate that matter that we tried to head east from Shipton, but……
(Well, now is not the time to think more about how it ended)
「Did Shipton started receiving requests for passenger ships again? 」
「Nope. But the Director knew some people when he was still in the commercial business. So, there were boats going out often. Well, here is quite the big city, but they say there’s bigger cities after you cross the continent, right? I’m also a little envious at that. Surely the director also think that a bigger city would suit the children better. 」
I swallowed my breath as my eyes widened. It’s impossible. Certainly, the eastern continent had become safe again because of Hero Alan. But, the eastern continent is still suffering because of the Four Heavenly Kings. There’s no way you can be happy in such place.
(Did the director send the children out knowing nothing!?)
The merchant in front of me seems to have no idea about the invasion of the demon king. Since the people in the north cities doesn’t travel around, the blockage of information happens a lot.
(……Even so, it’s still strange)
The person who would send the children will enter the eastern continent port. The information definitely would’ve spread. If the director didn’t know, that means that person is the one hiding it.
(But what’s it for?)
I felt something uneasy that can’t be described.
(In any case, I can’t leave Ravi in somewhere like that!)
Even if it would mean troubling her or being hated by her. I can’t acknowledge anything else other than a safe haven for her. The duo was surprised as they saw me swung my head suddenly.
「I’m sorry but I’m leaving now!」
「Eh!? What is it suddenly? 」
「I’m going to retrieve Ravi. 」
As I told them that, Theo-jiisan replied with a smile.
「Umu. Go well. 」
「I will be visiting soon again! 」
After I told that, I leaped out of the store.
「Oi, young one! Use the horse if you’re hurrying! 」
Theo-jiisan yelled at me behind me.
(Young one……!? I guess I’m younger than him but……!)
「It’s fine! I’m faster than horse!! 」
I yelled that without looking back.
《Boil up the expanding power ―― Acceleration !!! 》
I ran as I chanted, applying the haste buff on myself.
(Not yet! Even faster! Accelerate――!!!) 1
The body buffed by multiple folds swept through the city like a wind. Faster for even a moment.
To where Ravi is――……!