「Sharu-chan, let’s finish up for today. 」
One of the small workplace huts in the village. Sharu responded shortly to a woman in her forties.
Patting the pants that had a hole that was patched simply, she put away the sewing needle.
「Sharu-chan has become so proficient already, I see. 」
Two years ago, Sharu had come to this village following Ardis. As she was living in the village, she was required to find a job.
Leaving aside children, there’s no place for freeloaders in the village. As the result of Sharu trying out various odd jobs, the one she found most suitable for herself in the end is sewing.
At the very least, she still considered it 『Better』 than farming or rearing livestock. To live as one of the villagers, at first, she was doing it hesitantly, but eventually, she had become not too disagreeing of it.
Patching up holes or tears at the sleeves, seeing the clothing regain their original form, she felt a sense of accomplishment as she finishes her work.
It was a feeling that she never felt when she completed orders from the organization. A new sensation was discovered by Sharu within the peaceful days.
「Mhmm, her work is really pretty now. Though at first, it seemed a little dangerous. 」
Another woman at her thirties agreed while folding her arms. There’re three females in the small hut including Sharu.
Originally, all clothing that needed patchwork were left to the two woman. But later on, Sharu had become an apprentice here.
Although she had only been doing patchwork occasionally along with the two woman two years ago, now that the village has more than five hundred people, their workload increased as well. In the end, Sharu’s presence here had helped a lot.
「Aren’t you terrible at first too? I think Sharu-chan is better in that regard really――. 」
「I can’t recall something as old as that. 」
「Isn’t it quite recent? 」
「Recent, you mean twenty years ago? 」
「My, is it really been that long? I’ve gained some age then. 」
「You’re not aware? It’s still too early to be senile now. 」
「You really say it. Who is it that raised you well? 」
「Yes yes, I’m grateful, I’m grateful. 」
「Seriously, this child……, never growing up at this part. 」
While cleaning up the tools, Sharu overheard the two’s conversation. Unlike the two that would start chatting to the point that it’s unknown whether they came to work or to chat, Sharu who is used to talking the bare minimum found it quite strange initially.
However, it’s now familiar to be working between the two that would bicker here and there like that. Without feeling uncomfortable, it began to change into a daily occurrence to Sharu.
「Ah, Sharu-chan. Done cleaning already? Then today’s work is finished――, oh right. 」
As Sharu finished cleaning up, the older woman took out a bag from the basket sitting on the table. Sharu’s nose detected some baked confectioneries.
「Here, eat this later. 」
「Nn, thank you. 」
As exchange for necessities in the village, Sharu had been working like this. And of course, there was no such thing as wage.
The confectioneries that the women gave out occasionally is the only reward that she has.
Receiving the small bag of compensation and leaving the small work hut, there was a young man with purple robe waiting.
The surveillance target of the order that Sharu received from the organization, he’s also the reason why she came to the village.
It’s the monster that’s widely known as the second name 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』.
His name is Ardis.
「Yo, Sharu. You’re done? 」
He probably expected the answer. Ardis walked beside Sharu adjusting to her stride.
「I see. Then as we walk, let’s talk for a bit. 」
「What is it? 」
It’s unusual, as Sharu nodded while thinking.
「Did you hear about the movements in the Empire? 」
「I heard. 」
Because of Michelle, a peddler, the information is spread within the village. Or rather, there was no practice of hiding information in this village.
While hearing the two woman chatting while working on patchwork in the small work hut, it’s natural for Sharu to overhear it.
However, the topic is already almost more than a month old. Although it was already not a fresh topic, Ardis’s words made Sharu look over at him.
「The Imperial army has finally taken formation at the border. 」
「Eight days ago, information about the Kingdom army heading out came at the same time. 」
The distance of the border to the Kingdom, and also considering the distance from the Kingdom to the village, the spread of information is already very quick.
「The war? 」
「Don’t know. It might already started now. 」
「Isn’t the outcome already decided? 」
「That might be so. That’s why I want to go to the capital to verify it. If the Kingdom is defeated, then so be it, but there’s a need to discuss the future with the village chief. 」
After hearing that much, Sharu has some insight to what his business was.
「So I will follow you? 」
「That’s right. I will hit the information broker on my own but, I want Sharu to collect information from another perspective. How about it? 」
「I will take some compensation. 」
「Of course. I will get you any food or candy you want. 」
Hearing that, Sharu’s expression loosened at the work that she got since a while.
Let’s get enough candy to be carried back. Might as well get a portion for the two other woman in the small work hut.
If she gave out candies despite always receiving from them, how will the two respond.
While thinking like that, Sharu naturally came to a smile.
The next morning, Sharu notified the two in the small work hut that she would be away for a while, before leaving the village together with Ardis.
One of the twins accompanied as well, her name is Riana.
「Is Rona not going today? 」
「Yeah, he’s working to transport the supplies. Either way, our aim today is to collect information, there’s no part for Rona. 」
Answering Riana’s question, Ardis put his hands out and crouched down with a 「Here. 」.
「I’m not a child already, getting carried is……」
「Fillia said the same thing too. As expected of twins. 」
「It’s not about being a twin. Please think about our age too. 」
「Is that so, then forgive me. 」
Apologizing to Riana while smiling bitterly, Ardis stood back up, and Riana then hugged him.
「Here, Sharu too. 」
Similarly, Sharu too circled her arms around Ardis. Despite she didn’t really like it, it will take many days of walking by foot to reach the capital.
Since Ardis will carry them there through the sky, it can’t be helped that they will be stuck close together for a while. Thinking that it’s at least better than being treated like a child for a piggy back, Sharu’s thoughts wandered off.
「Make sure you hold on tight. 」
Ardis’s arm circled over Sharu over her waist as well. Then the next moment, with an unnatural movement, they started floating up into the sky.
The three that floated up in the forest with no one watching raised their altitude like that and flew towards the capital.
It’s the usual incomprehensible reality. Sharu felt like laughing drily seeing the ocean far away.
With several breaks in between, they arrived in the capital after four hours, and the three then started collecting information splitting into two party.
Since Ardis that is going to an information broker will be moving on his own, Sharu is supposed to go together with Riana.
「There’s no need to gather them with shady means. It’s fine just to get them from people that looks like mercenaries or shop workers. 」
Although she didn’t intend to express her thoughts of Riana being a baggage here, Ardis seemed to see through that.
With no choice, together with Riana, she went to gather information from the mercenaries on the streets.
「Umm――. Gathering information, how should we do that? 」
「……Since he said he will be asking from an information broker, we will just need to collect information by talking to people in the town. Do you have some money, Riana? 」
「I got the money that Ardis gave but, does gathering information requires money? 」
Hearing Riana’s question, Sharu unintentionally cringed her face.
I see, this girl cannot collect information on her own, as Sharu felt she got the short end of the straw and judged Riana was lacking knowledge of the society.
「Since merchants are more or less caring for their customers, asking them when buying something is the basic of basics. And if we have to gather information in crowded places like a dining hall or tavern, we will also need money to start the conversation. 」
「Aaah, I see. 」
Not knowing something as simple as this, Sharu sighed a little. Of course, there’re methods to collect information without using money, but they were tight on time, and it’s also difficult without shady means.
「For the time being, let’s ask about it when buying some food from the street stalls. And listen in while eating at some crowded place. 」
「Is it not good to listen to the people walking around? 」
「Nope. It might be fine for a while but, it will spark suspicions if done for long. 」
「Is that so? 」
「Yes. That’s why, let’s go to that skewers stall first. Then the next, steamed bun there, then the sandwich stall there. 」
Thinking that it’s a good chance for her, Sharu pointed one after another of her desires. Hearing that, Riana casted a suspecting gaze at Sharu.
「That’s……, what kind of criteria are the choosing based on? 」
「There’re many customers there. But actually――no, it’s only because there’re many customers there, it’s more likely to get information. 」
Sharu who almost leaked her true intentions corrected her words and put up a convincing excuse.
「Really? Is it not just Sharu wanting to eat them? 」
「…………Very much no. 」
「Is it my imagination that your eyes are swimming? 」
「……It is. 」
In this two years, having lived as a normal villager without touching any shady business, it seems like Sharu had become worse in lying.
Where did her calmness that she had trained under the execution of the organization’s orders go.
Sharu recalled the past. Crafting her expression, controlling her pulse, adjusting her pitch, she received Riana’s gaze from the front.
「I’m more proficient in the regard of collecting information. If you don’t trust me, then you can move on your own. 」
「……It’s alright. I’m hungry as well, let’s ask the shop owner while getting lunch too. 」
Getting relieved that Riana stopped pursuing, Sharu then made a decision and marched straight to the skewers stall.
Then, while Sharu and Riana bought food from the street stalls, they collected information.
Information officially made by the country or rumors, prices of goods and the states of daily necessities, movements of various organizations such as the church.
The people in the capital knew about the war that the Empire waged again.
The war is going to be at the same border four years ago and it seems like the memories of the devastating war four years ago is still fresh.
They were saved by the Empire’s sudden actions of retreating four years ago, originally, if the Empire chose to invade the capital, the Kingdom itself might’ve collapsed in the worst case scenario.
There are only a minority that thought positively, despite the result of the first clash with the Imperial army is not known yet, there was already a gloomy air in the capital.
Three hours after they started gathering information. Sharu and Riana took a break and brought themselves to a park near the west gate.
A giant water fountain in the center of the park. Sitting on a bench nearby, Sharu suddenly froze.
「What’s the matter? 」
Not replying to Riana’s question, Sharu took out a small eclipse shaped charm from the pouch on her waist.
『I will take you out of that cage. 』
Leaving those words at the end, her past comrade who was finished off by the organization.
At that time, there was a man that invited Sharu, who was still Crimson Osprey to 『Let’s leave the organization』.
His codename was Dive Swallow. His real name is unknown. Refusing his invitation without any thoughts, despite so, he was a foolish man that waited for Sharu and failed to escape in the end.
That man’s body was then found in this fountain, and the charm in Sharu’s hand now is the one that Dive Swallow always had.
『Think. Don’t look away from your doubts. 』
Dive Swallow said that. Sharu at that time had no doubts at all, so she didn’t understand what he was saying. However, now she’s different.
「Was it…… really a cage……? 」
Sharu at that time had no doubts about her work in the organization, she had only spent her days doing as her orders wanted.
That organization already ceased to exist. There was only the last order that the organization left.
It was not a chain that restrained herself, but the light that proved her existence.
However, in this two years, Sharu had experienced life that she haven’t had. A lifestyle that isn’t exposed to any danger, and a job that doesn’t hurt anyone else.
Being thanked by people, even having someone else who would notice if she got sick, something that was unimaginable in the past.
Every one of that had changed Sharu as a human. For the current Sharu, the organization’s orders are not the only light left for her.
Among the countless light and darkness that formed Sharu, it is now only one of them.
「If it’s now――」
If she met with Dive Swallow now, would she have taken his hand. Sharu asked herself.
Was the organization a cage for herself in the past, Sharu still couldn’t say for sure.
However, Sharu didn’t hate her current self. Even if she’s given a chance to return to her former life, she would probably not make a decision without thinking twice.
She had already changed a lot from her past, Sharu was conscious about it. Whether it is something good or bad, Sharu couldn’t tell.
Just that, she felt like she wanted to meet her old companion.
The strange easygoing man that would always say unnecessary things and be stared like a fool from the others.
However, unless she went to the afterlife, there’s not a chance to meet with Dive Swallow again.
It was already too late, as Sharu’s heart fell.
「Sharu, are you okay? 」
「Nn. ……No, it’s nothing. 」
Brushing it off Riana who seemed worried, Sharu held the small charm in her hands.
Was it towards Riana, or the person that she wouldn’t ever meet again, Sharu muttered not clear about it herself.