It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (111/120), enjoy~
Chapter 8 – Sanctuary
Sunlight streaming through the curtains stimulated Ain’s eyelids. He raised himself on the bed and rubbed his eyelids slowly before stretching out his arms.
Where am I?
For a moment, his eyebrows furrowed at the unfamiliarity of the bedroom, but then he quickly remembered. He realized that he was in Sith Mill and that he was in Chris’s house. Then he thought back to last night.
After the chief had told him about Wernstein, due to the chief’s health condition, he left the mansion and returned to Chris’s house before asking the other questions he wanted to ask.
After returning to Chris’s house, he immediately fell asleep.
He borrowed the room that Chris’ sister, Celes, used to use, and his recollection of what happened after he lay down is hazy.
“What’s going on?”
He had been somewhat confused about how to treat Chris since the chief had told him about Wernstein last night. However, Ain had to hide this confusion from her, who knew nothing about it.
──At any rate, I’m already awake. He said.
When Ain left the room and went to the living room, he found that Chris was already there, having finished preparing breakfast.
“Good morning, Ain-sama.”
“Oh… good morning.”
“Did you, by any chance, fall asleep as soon as you entered the room?”
“I think so. I don’t remember anything after I laid down on the bed.”
“Haha, you walked a lot yesterday, after all…”
Ain is the same as usual on the outside. And Chris doesn’t seem to have noticed his emotional turmoil.
“Let’s eat now that breakfast is ready.”
Was it due to his own eating habits that he could afford to enjoy the food that Martha had prepared?
(Maybe I had a hunch in my mind.)
He did not expect her to be the great-grandchild of the first king, but he felt he had subconsciously guessed that they were deeply related.
So let this confusion be just for now.
Ain wished so strongly and pondered what he would do after this.
Considering the purpose of his visit to Sith Mil, he should meet with the chief, but he could not do so now.
The reason was because of the chief’s health condition, which Sierra had told him about before. She must have been tired after a long talk last night. Ain recalled the chief’s face when they parted and how exhausted she looked.
Therefore, Ain had decided to refrain from meeting her today.
──If so, what shall we do today? He thought.
Then he decided to go for a walk, and when Ain went outside alone, Sierra, who was walking outside, was near Chris’s house.
As soon as she saw Ain coming outside, she walked towards him.
“Did you have a good night’s rest?”
“I think I slept so deeply that I myself was surprised.”
That’s good to hear, Sierra laughed.
“How is the chief feeling?”
“Don’t worry. She had breakfast soon after sunrise and is now resting. This is not anyone’s fault, but because the chief is already old, so please do not worry about her. The chief also said so.”
“But that’s only because she made time to talk to me.”
“N-no, no! She really didn’t mind that──”
Unsure of how best to respond to Ain’s humble attitude, a thought occurred to her.
“Yes, right. If you have time, why don’t you and Chris go to the sanctuary?”
“Oh, was I allowed to go?”
“Yes, as I told you in the royal capital.”
──Ain thought he might go.
He didn’t have much to do anyway, and he was interested in the sanctuary.
Although he hasn’t been able to get a description of the sanctuary from the chief yet, he can go ahead and try.
The rest would be up to Chris, but he didn’t think she would be opposed to it.
◇ ◇ ◇
The road to the sanctuary is at the far end of Sith Mill. It is located behind the chief’s mansion.
Although there were warriors on guard, as Sierra had mentioned before, when Ain and Chris came, they were not even approached, just quietly bowing their heads.
──Ain looked at the road leading to the sanctuary.
The road continues gently uphill for a long time, and the end of the road is covered by a deep fog, so it is hard to see. Both sides of the road were surrounded by deep forest, and it seemed as if you would get lost if you entered the sanctuary without a guide.
Still, this area was much easier to walk through than the forest.
The ground was not muddy, and the hardness of the soil was pleasant to the touch. The paths were not maintained by human hands, but rather, they seemed to have been left in their natural state.
(Is it really that strange?).
The strong barriers in Sith Mil are due to the sanctuary.
Therefore, the road to the sanctuary may be mysterious, but it is not strange.
Ain calls out to Chris, who is walking in front of him.
She was humming along with her arms crossed behind her back but turned around as soon as she heard Ain’s voice.
“I hadn’t heard, but what were you, Chris and Celes-san, doing on your way to the sanctuary?”
“D-do I have to tell you that?”
“Since you’re surprised, I thought it might bother you.”
Chris then looks forward and walks next to Ain.
“It was my sister who initiated the idea. It was when my sister and I were both very young… Oh, you see! Sith Mill doesn’t have many places to play compared to the royal capital, so that’s why──”
“Oh, you decided to explore?”
It’s the same as an affirmation if she blushes and turns away. But there’s no need to be so shy.
For a man like Ain, it was just like that, but for a woman, it was embarrassing to be asked that question, especially by someone you have feelings for.
“I guess it’s because I was allowed by the chief to go there frequently to explore.”
Now he could understand why only these two had been given permission to go to the sanctuary. The chief knew that they were royalty.
“…Ain-sama is mean.”
“Just to confirm. But I don’t know if this is the right thing to say to the sanctuary, but didn’t you get tired of it?”
It’s not boredom; it’s habituation.
Even Ain didn’t feel comfortable living in a castle at first. In the early days after crossing the sea, he was surprised at everything around him, and there was even a time when he couldn’t really relax, even in his room.
Of course, things are different now. It’s just a matter of getting used to it, and even if the sanctuary is amazing, he should be able to get used to it.
“But there was something that really bothered me. That’s why I never got tired of it.”
There was a mystery in the sanctuary that Chris and Celes were really curious about.
And that is to say.
“There is a big shrine in the sanctuary. The entrance to it just wouldn’t open, so my sister and I were exploring, trying to figure out how to get inside.”
“So you’re saying you never got bored because of that.”
“That’s right. In the end, we could not open the entrance. ──But.”
They were able to find one clue.
“There are two pillars by the entrance, and we discovered that they glow. I’m thinking it might have something to do with it.”
“Oh… that’s suspicious.”
“But only one of the pillars glowed no matter what we did. Maybe if both of them glowed, it would have opened the entrance… but we couldn’t figure out how to do that.”
If so, something is missing.
(Sanctuary and shrine, and then a closed door)
He couldn’t believe that he could solve the trick in just a few days, but he couldn’t wait to see it.
That was when Ain’s heart began to race.
“Oh, there it is! There it is!”
A gust of wind blew between Ain and Chris, and girls’ voices could be heard in the wind.
Their feet naturally stopped, and they turned their heads in the direction of the voices. They thought they heard voices coming from the left, but now the voices were coming from the right. Then, this time, it came from behind them and then from above their heads.
──What was that voice? To Ain’s surprise, Chris quickly said, “It’s a tree spirit.”
There was no sign of the owner of the voice echoing around them, but instead, the wind caressed their cheeks. The wind instead stroked their cheeks repeatedly, not to say mockingly, but with the casualness of a small child playing with it.
Just as Ain was feeling ticklish, two shiny balls appeared in front of him and began to spin around him. They were about the size of a fist and flew around as fast as dragonflies.
“Wow, wow, wow!”
“That’s great! Amazing!”
Two balls of light approached Ain’s right arm.
The light subsided little by little, and a small figure was clearly visible. They were dainty little girls. What made them different from ordinary humans was their size and the fact that they had translucent, glowing wings.
One of them appeared and began to play with Ain’s finger. They swayed their bodies back and forth and laughed happily.
“I’m an onee-chan!”
When approached, Ain answered matter-of-factly, surprising Chris, who was walking next to him.
“Yes! I’m this girl’s Onee-chan!”
Ain abandoned deep thought.
“You two are called tree spirits, aren’t you?”
“No! We’re fairies!”
Ain laughed bitterly at their words. Anyway, Chris said that they are like fairies, and it may not be a mistake…
The two of them did not miss the expression that Ain showed for just a moment.
“Ah! He doubts! He’s making doubtful eyes at us!”
“We really are fairies! Amazing, right!”
“…That’s amazing. But what’s so amazing about that?”
When he asks as if he were trying to soothe a child, the older sister responds confidently.
“Okay, then! Let me check on you!”
She looked at Ain and said with difficulty, “Mumumu…”
Seeing this, the younger sister makes a similar gesture, but in her case, she gets bored halfway through and gets on Ain’s shoulder. She is too free and reminds Ain of a spoiled cat in the royal capital.
“An unusual creature!”
“Yay! What an unusual creature!”
The younger sister also jumped on the bandwagon and mentioned unusual creatures, easily confusing Ain.
“Why? Your father and mother. Why are they weird creatures just like you?”
“Only my father is a strange creature. Mother is the most beautiful dryad of all, you know? Remember that, okay?”
“Um, Ain-sama? Don’t get me wrong, but please don’t make them feel terrible, okay?”
Ain responded with a smile, but the older sister tilted her head from side to side repeatedly, as if she disagreed.
“No, it’s not!”
No, she didn’t get it at all.
What is this guy talking about? The older sister stares at him with such eyes.
Without a doubt, Olivia is his mother, and although he was born in a particular way, he must definitely have dryad blood in his veins.
“The one who gave birth to you in the first place was not a dryad! Liar!”
“Yay! Lie, lie, lie!”
He didn’t know what or how to find out, but when he was told the first birth, Ain remembers one thing about him. It was his previous life, and the older sister may have been probing something that even Ain did not remember.
“I hate it when you lie! Oh, but I’ll give you this!”
“I hate it! Bye-bye! Play with me again!”
They appeared out of nowhere and then suddenly flew away somewhere else.
After being called strange creatures so many times, Ain was not happy to find out what was inside him.
The small figure of the fairy was getting even smaller and harder to see as they flew away. In the blink of an eye, they flew off in the direction of the forest.
“…What’s that? I don’t understand this sense of defeat.”
Then Ain looked at the palm of his hand. He held a strangely large nut that the older sister had left behind before she flew away.
To sum up, what had just happened, the fairy was amazing.
“They say they’ll be back. By the way, this nut is…”
“I think it’s a sign of affection. I heard a long time ago from the chief that tree spirits have that quality.”
“Oh, by the way, did Chris ever get one?”
“Unfortunately, this is the first time I have seen a tree spirit.”
Chris shrugged in reply. Eventually, the wind stopped blowing, and the presence of the tree spirit disappeared.
“I don’t think there was any affection in that exchange earlier.”
“Maybe it’s their way of showing affection?”
“Ahh… it’s a subtle outcome either way.”
Ain smiled wryly. Then, even as he burned the scene so far behind his eyelids, he took a breath and said what he wondered.
“You told me yesterday, but what kind of being is a tree spirit, after all?”
“Let’s see, they are spirits who are believed to have lived in Sith Mil for a long time.”
While not much more information was available, Ain’s perception of tree spirits was becoming “a naughty little girl” in his mind.
(Maybe it’s more like Katima-san.)
Although he could never say to the person in question, there was an atmosphere of resemblance.
Thinking about this, he resumed walking up the slope leading to the sanctuary, and it felt more like a hiking trip than he expected.
After putting the earlier strange encounter in the corner of his mind, he turned his attention to the end of the slope.