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「I’ve thought that you’re some amazing person, but I didn’t think that you were the one who solved the crimes in Mattroc Orphanage! 」
「Thanks to you, we’ve also had some kids here who found their freedom. 」
I was shocked at the word that was casually said. A wave of complicated emotions rushed up within me. It’s just like that day, a sense of helplessness.
The day when I thought that I couldn’t save more of them before they became victims. It’s a feeling that I felt when I grinded my teeth knowing fully well that I couldn’t do anything about the past.
As I clenched my fist because of the memories resurfacing completely――.
「……Getting drowned in pride thinking you’ve helped someone, aren’t you in a good mood?」
A cold voice resounded that completely turned the bright and noisy atmosphere around. The now silent girls turned around towards the voice. Veronica who stood with her hands on her hips. Not sparing a single glance to the others, she was staring at me and only me with a stern gaze.
Veronica takes unique actions sometimes. But it’s completely different this time. What resided in her eyes was hatred.
I understood just by looking at the eyes. Veronica was, in fact someone related to the Mattroc Orphanage.
Not just that, it might be that Veronica was…….
「Fu―n! You think you’ve become a kind person and famous? You’re really the worse hypocrite! 」
「Veronica, you’re just too……!」
「Ain’t that too much no matter what……!! Isn’t it thanks to him that you’ve been released from your debts!! 」
The others criticized her like that, but it seems like it didn’t reach Veronica at all. Her gaze was still focusing at me.
「I won’t ever say thanks to you. Having you think you saved me would be the worst! 」
I didn’t say that I wanted thanks in the first place. I didn’t even have the slightest idea that I saved her. But Veronica obviously isn’t looking for my denial.
But, then what should I say to her. What had caused her frustration to this degree. Because I didn’t understand her feelings, there wasn’t anything I could say. I was only able to stand still and looked at her back as she left.
The next day, I was requested for bodyguard duty for the evening. As I took Ravi and headed towards the brothel, I heard Ted’s voice. What was surprising was the Rose Princess was apparently waiting for me.
As I headed towards the place I was pointed to, the figure of the Rose Princess gazing at the flowers in the courtyard was visible. The spring flowers are blooming in the flower beds. I recalled the colorful flowers that danced last night. But I wasn’t feeling good at all.
The matter with Veronica was stuck in my mind ever since then. It wasn’t as if I was angry at myself who couldn’t do anything, it’s just that I felt my spirit had dried up.
「The matter yesterday, I heard about it. You were bitten really hard by that child right. 」
The Rose Princess stroked the tulips smilingly said.
「Daddy, you were bitten……?」
Ravi looked up at me worryingly.
「I wasn’t really bitten. Don’t worry. 」
I laughed while shaking my head sideways, before facing the Rose Princess.
「Sorry about that. It was something like a child having an outburst of anger, she’s like my little sister so, she had always complained to me」
「No, I don’t mind it……」
I couldn’t help but ask her about Veronica.
「Is Veronica one of the children that was sold from the Mattroc Orphanage?」
「.……What are you going to do knowing that? 」
「I’m sorry if it sounds like my arrogance. But I feel like I’m obliged to know that」
「Do you have to carry that much burden? Just forcing your way and getting involved in other people’s lives. Do you think you can save all of them with that? That is what you call thinking arrogantly. A human is not a god. No matter how outstanding you are, the people you can save is limited. 」
It’s exactly as she said.
I smiled wryly as I nodded.
「Exactly that……. I’ve my limits on what I can accomplish as an old man. ……But still, I can’t abandon the people in suffering. 」
It might be that I couldn’t do anything. No, it’s the truth that I can’t do anything. Even so, one in a hundred, one in a thousand, I would offer my hand if there’s a possibility to save them. I don’t mind being thought as arrogance and pretending to be a god. I don’t care about my reputation.
I became an adventurer because I wanted to live for others. I want to continue while believing in myself. I want to keep my conviction without distorting it.
「If Veronica is suffering, I just want to at least convey that I can become her power. 」
「You wouldn’t back down even if I said so much……. You are really quite the good person. 」
「I’m just being stubborn. 」
As I furrowed my brows, her expression became warm.
「It’s just as you guessed. She’s one of the orphans sold from Mattroc Orphanage. 」
I wasn’t wrong after all. As I nodded silently, the Rose Princess continued her story.
「Six years ago. When Veronica was still nine. 」
「Wha……. Wasn’t she just a little child……!? 」
Perhaps she was around Ravi’s age that time. I couldn’t believe it. No, I didn’t want to believe it, as I exclaimed so with a loud voice unconsciously. The Rose Princess who saw my response didn’t shake.
「Our madam now is a good person. That time, the one that managed the brothel is someone who could buy even young children like it’s nothing. 」
I looked at Ravi while I was pondering. Is it fine that she listened further?
「Ravi……. Can you go to the other side……? 」
I asked her, and her large pupils filled with confusion looked back at me.
「Am I being a bother……? 」
As I was being silent because I didn’t know how to reply…….
「If this child doesn’t mind it, then why not let her be. In the first place, you don’t have to be so cautious. Children will grow up after knowing the world. A parent should stay at a distance to answer the children’s call whenever they need it while watching over them. 」
「Yeah, I also have a child. I’ve had him1 when I was fifteen, now he’s four. He’s probably in the dining hall with the other children eating dinner right now. 」
「Is that so……」
If she said that she had given birth at fifteen, then she’s nineteen this year. Even though she’s acting as the guardian for Veronica, she’s plenty young too. But she had done it well enough to hide her age.
Or is it because it’s the words of someone who really has a child. Her advice had taken root in my heart. Maybe I’ve been always finding someone who would say that it’s alright. In the first place, I just became a father recently. Rather than getting worried about it alone, I should get more opinions from the surroundings.
I finally realized such a natural thing. This won’t do. Being a newcomer father should have more flexible thinking…….
「Ravi, want to listen together? 」
After confirming with her, I decided to respect Ravi’s intention.
「Sorry about cutting in the topic……. Want to hear the rest of it? Veronica who was sold off when she was nine was……」
「She started working the day she came. She tried to escape in the early period like the others. And every time, she would receive harsh punishment. Because of that, the one who was chosen as an instructor for her was me. I told her who was full of bruises that there isn’t any place to escape to, and she can only accept living here, 」
She paused for a while before standing up.
「――Somewhere along the line, Veronica’s expression had changed. Veronica had only focused on buying herself back. And that purpose had become a kind of support for her. Since she was obsessed with money because of that, she often got in a quarrel with the others and customers. 」
Six years of that.
「Then suddenly one day, a notice came from the military unit. 『You’re one of the children sold off right? You’re now free. 』. We were all happy for her and saw her off. But not even few days had passed before she returned, even though she had no debts anymore. Why do you think she came back? 」
I felt something bitter in my mouth while I shook my head.
「 『This body is already tainted, where does this one go……』, she said so smilingly while crying as if mocking herself. 」
Reaching a hand to the past and done is impossible. I bit my lips because of the sense of futileness.
I’m late by six years…….
Towards me who lost his words and could only stand still, the Rose Princess stared at me.
「……Sorry about that. I shouldn’t have told you this. The problems that she had carried isn’t something another person could do about. But having told you her story, it’s just like I’ve pushed a burden on you. 」
She apologized to me while having a smile full of sadness. Unable to save Veronica had probably hurt herself too. I faced towards her and lowered my head.
「I owe you one for telling me. ―― Where’s Veronica now? 」
「Are you offering your hand while knowing fully well that it’s futile?」
「No, offering my hand, I don’t think that I could accomplish something that great. I just felt that I should have a talk with her. 」
「……I see. 」
The Rose Princess’s expression had loosened up a little.
「Before starting her work, that child would always watching the sunset alone.」
「Alright. I will be there. 」
After saying my thanks to her, together with Ravi, I headed towards the back of the brothel.
Just as I was told, Veronica was leaning against the wall and watching the sky while the sun sets while spacing out. Her expression was as if she is a lost child.
As I called her name, her expression suddenly changed. Her eyes staring at me was filled with a sense of caution.
「Fu-n. What is it? If it’s about yesterday, I have no intention to apologize. 」
「Yeah, I won’t ask you to do that」
「Then what of you doing here. Looking at your face would get on my nerves. Go find somewhere else to be. 」
As she saw that I wasn’t moving even though she said that, Veronica’s brows raised up.
「Do you really want my words of gratitude so much! Absolutely, I will never say it! You never saved any of us victims in the end after all! Not just you. The children that had been cast away by the adults as a prey, no one had come and helped! 」
Veronica’s yelling was painful. The words of blaming were hiding the thoughts of 「I wished for help」. I could only accept that straightly even if my heart is painful. I don’t want to say that her sufferings are just another person’s and ignore it.
I lowered my head silently.
「I’m sorry. 」
What came back from Veronica is a bewildering silence.
「……Ha. W-What are you planning to accomplish……」
「It’s as you said. Six years ago, we adults didn’t save you. Not only you, there were probably a lot more children. We couldn’t save even one of them」
「Why are you lowering your head to me. There’s no need for you to apologize to me……! 」
Her voice that sounded like she had forced out raised a question towards me. I clenched my fist.
There was an accident where children were hurt. If I were there, I might’ve been able to save them. The regret is never ending as I thought about that. Six years ago, if I was in Addinton.
If I were able to save her and them. Then I could’ve done the correct thing that I wanted to do, but couldn’t, and suffered because of that. I’m sorry that I couldn’t help. I’m regretful that I couldn’t save them. These feelings have not a sliver of lie and fakery. I don’t have the obligation to apologize, it’s not something like that.
「What……. Apologizing like that……. It’s too late in the first place, I’m already a tainted prostitute, my life is already ruined……! 」
As if her emotions exploded, tears fell from her eyes.
「There’s no way that’s true. An old man like me, is currently living my second life. A youngster like you would have more freedom. The world is wide. If you wish for it, you can be anywhere, you can become anything you want. Don’t throw away your potential. 」
「This time you’re giving a lecture……? Saying about my potential……」
Veronica muttered while her lips were trembling. If that’s because of her anger, or something else, is something I wouldn’t know.
But, this girl who was the scapegoat for the desire of the adults six year ago, is still suffering now. I want to do something that can pull her out of her sufferings. It’s exactly because I couldn’t save her, six years ago.
「Is there anything I can do? 」
「……Of course there isn’t anything. You’re just another person. Coincidentally, you are an adventurer come to this city. Coincidentally, you’ve saved the Orphanage in Addinton. Coincidentally, you’ve been my target of anger. There’s no need for you to apologize! ――Aah, shit. These tears won’t stop……」
She rubbed her eyes violently. The pretty make-up was washed away, and the surroundings of her eyes became stained in black. After her make-up came off, is it because she cried, the matureness of her expression vanished. She’s still fifteen. Putting up an adult face and pretending strong. In front of me, she is still a child.
My body naturally moved as I thought so. Just like Ravi, I stroked her head.
「Wai!? W-What are you doing……!? 」
She was surprised and raised her face wet with tears.
「I think I’m trying to console you since you’re crying but……」
「Onee-chan, don’t cry……」
Ravi raised her voice from behind me as she had been watching Veronica while looking afraid.
「Hey!!! Don’t treat me like a child!! The chibi is noisy too! 」
「? You’re a child though」
「I’m a mature adult!!!」
「I don’t think you can find a mature adult that has snot dripping while crying anywhere」
「S-Shut up……! Give me your coat for a while……But what are you, Ossan……you’re a weirdo……. Normally, someone who get taken out on anger wouldn’t be like this……Are you stupid……」
As I offered my coat, she buried her face in it.
Her crying voice became louder. Veronica let out her wails as I embraced her. I thought that my old clothes were a little dirty but, I kept cuddling her until she had stopped crying.