Translator: Kurehashi Aiko
Episode 11: The Fox girl thinks of her brother
Rustle, rustle, rustle.
Amagi Mikoto went for a walk through the woods in order to clear her restless mind.
Stepping on the moist ground, the smell of grass was really intense and its juices were dirtying the hem of her skirt, but Mikoto didn’t care about that at all.
Having her own safety in mind, she only went as far as the nearby woods, from which she knew how to get back home.
Mikoto could feel the density of the magic particles here with all of her senses — a clear sign that powerful spirits were living here.
Her training as a Shrine Maiden taught her to always act cool and cautious, not letting her emotions to take the best of her.
Still, for now she wanted to be left alone, preferably as far from Senjiro as possible.
As soon as she could hear nothing more than the rustling of the trees, Mikoto stopped and looked for one that looked good enough.
Then she took out her wand, pointed it at her own feet and channelled her magic into them.
Enchanting her feet with a spell she learned back home, Mikoto began to climb up the tree, jumping from branch to branch with ease.
Once she reached the height from which the view was good enough, she stopped and sat at the base of the branch.
The trees in this forest were all impressive, even at this height the branches were strong and thick enough to support her weight, without putting too much strain on the trunk.
After embracing her own tail, Mikoto finally let out a sigh.
「…… I can’t believe this.」
She mumbled that all to herself, as if fearing that someone might hear her.
「She really is strong.」
It was simply overwhelming. So much, in fact, that she felt like crying.
The fact that her ears were hung down was a testimony to Mikoto’s current feelings.
It all began with the square portion of fenced land, an arena for Lava and Ligurila’s mock battles, which was now used by Ligurila and Senjiro to practice their skills in a few mock battles.
Mikoto simply couldn’t believe that Ligurila was demon who bested Senjiro each and every time the two of them fought, and by using normal weapons and without having to use any kind of magic.
That is because back in their home country, Senjiro became a guardian even earlier than Mikoto did, and she became the Shrine Maiden at the age of thirteen, the youngest Shrine Maiden in history.
He was a guardian who had it all: mind, body and skill, to surpass even those of his seniors who had natural talent as well. And he reached that level by nothing more than sheer willpower and training.
Together with Shrine Maidens, the Guardians were the protectors that defended the people from the dangers imposed by monsters and evil spirits.
Facing against the hordes of monsters and evil gods, they used their unique powers and unmatched skills to save the people from being eaten or their homes from being destroyed.
The common people knew that their everyday peace was brought only by the efforts of the Guardians, and so they were deeply respected and revered by them.
In fact, Senjiro was even known throughout the land for having rejected one of the gods so that he could still do his duty unobstructed.
So even when Senjiro said that he wanted to ‘Devote myself to honing my skills with the blade.’ it came as not that big of a surprise.
But the moment the two of them clashed in battle, she came to understand just how amazing he truly was.
Rumors were rumors, but seeing was believing.
At first glance, their strikes seemed to cut space itself.
Their movements were so fast that they were creating afterimages, and her ears couldn’t keep up with all the sounds.
The tides were changing rapidly, with the only sound that could be heard being steel clashing against steel.
Elvie, who was right beside her, was looking at all of that with a pale face, looking like he was about ready to pass out.
As a Shrine Maiden, Mikoto understood the importance that martial arts had on the battlefield.
The Aramitama called Ligurila…… She said she was a demon but her power was of something much higher than that.
And Senjiro was something else entirely, being able to keep up with her wild dance across the battlefield.
For them, this was a method of communicating their feelings to one another without using words.
Mikoto understood that.
Just how strong were Big Brother Sen’s feelings for that woman?
She also understood that there was just no way for her to compete with that woman.
The only reason Senjiro was so nice to her, was probably because he thought about her as a younger sister who was close to him.
By the time Mikoto began her work as a Shrine Maiden, Senjiro was already a part of the elite amongst the Guardians.
He would always play with her, would buy her sweets and was far stronger than anyone else in the entire village.
He was an older brother that she was proud of.
And because of that Mikoto wanted to become the Shrine Maiden, so that she could walk side by side together with him.
However, it was her elder sister that managed to steal his heart and the two of them became engaged soon after.
Her elder sister was a true prodigy from the early years of her life.
She was a gifted mage, a splendid Shrine Maiden, people respected her deeply and as a finishing touch she was breathtakingly beautiful.
So even when she was told that the two of them got engaged, she was happy to see both of them happy with one another. For what she could tell, they were made for each other.
However, their engagement was soon cancelled.
「Senjiro went on a journey to find his soul mate.」
It was her elder sister, Makoto, who told her that.
With her usual, gentle smile on her face.
Mikoto thought that she would never forgive him for doing something like that.
Up until now, she thought the anger was about Senjiro left her elder sister after playing her for a fool.
So when the idea of studying abroad was presented to the Shrine Maidens, Mikoto was the first one to raise her hand, and because of her flawless reputation it was decided that she would be sent to the Kingdom of Ballow.
「That’s not it……」
Mikoto squeezed her tail hard and pressed her face to her knees.
Her heart was filled with a mixture of shame, embarrassment and unimaginable pain.
When Ligurila pointed that out to her last night, Mikoto at first thought it was just stupid.
He was supposed to be nothing more than a brother to her.
Everyone would be worried if a member of your family suddenly got up and left God knows where.
Thinking like that, she made up her mind and steeled her resolve to stand tall against that Aramitama, Ligurila.
At that time, she was desperate and forgot all about it, but the truth was she was simply too scared to admit that that woman was right, and she hoped that by denying her and her words she would regain her inner peace.
But it was this kind of thinking that eventually drove her into a corner.
For the truth was that the way in which Mikoto felt about Senjiro was far from the feelings of a sister towards her brother.
That anger she was feeling was the anger at her Elder Sister, for stealing her beloved Senjiro from her and forcing her to give up.
She wasn’t chasing after Senjiro for her country’s sake. She wasn’t doing that for her Elder Sister’s sake. She was doing that for her own selfish reasons.
But now it’s too late.
Mikoto’s love was ripped apart the very moment she realized what it truly was.
It turned into nothing more than a one-sided crush.
And what made it even more irritating and unreasonable, was the fact that Senjiro was head over heels in love with Ligurila.
But above all else, she clearly saw that those mock battles were only an excuse to deepen their bonds even further.
His expression while exchanging blows with her was brighter than ever, unlike anything he showed while he was still back home.
Even though he may not realize it, Mikoto could understand that because she was chasing after him for so long.
Senjiro has finally found the one he was looking for.
There was no longer any room for Mikoto inside of his heart.
And she knew that no matter how hard she tried, she could never possibly hope to get between them.
Mikoto let out a long and deep sigh.
But that didn’t help to ease the pain that she was feeling inside of her chest.
Now that she was aware of her own feelings, there was no way that she could look at Senjiro and Ligurila and wish for them to be happy together.
So she ran away in hopes of calming herself down.
「Does your sister know about this?」
She even knew that.
Suddenly, for some reason the elder sister in Mikoto’s memories became strangely similar to Ligurila. The look in their eyes was exactly the same.
That idea was terrifying, especially since her elder sister was always really perceptive, just like Ligurila.
So if she recommended Mikoto to study abroad, it may be that she wasn’t aware of her feelings or wasn’t treating her like a potential threat.
「…… It’s so embarrassing.」
She could feel the warm tears welling in her eyes and going down her cheeks, dripping onto her feet one by one.
Mikoto raised her head, and once she could feel the cold touch of wind on her face she gradually began to calm down.
It may be short, but she felt an urge to meditate.
It was one of the practices employed by both Guardians and Shrine Maidens, but it was also an effective method of calming one’s thoughts.
Getting rid of that pain in her chest will take months, if not years.
That is why she wanted to calm herself down to the point where she would be able to look both Senjiro and Ligurila in the eyes, without feeling an urge to run away.
The woods were the perfect place for meditation.
If you listen to the natural sounds of the forest and let the dense magic-filled air overtake you, your consciousness would quickly drift away.
Then you just had to let your thoughts flow without concentrating on anything in particular.
Then, her ears picked up something.
She opened her eyes, and in that moment, a strong wind blew, similar to an incoming storm.
Then came the sense of hostility. It was approaching fast.
She then turned her head towards the source of hostility, seeing a weird winged creature coming straight at her from the sky above.
It was a bird, whose wings were strong-looking and were larger than Mikoto herself.
It also had a big beak and sharp-looking talons.
It was probably a monster, since Mikoto could feel magical energy from it.
Since it was so large from this distance, it could probably be able to lift Mikoto up and carry her away without problem.
She climbed the tree in order to avoid monsters on the ground, but was still attacked from the sky.
Mikoto held onto her wand, ready to fight the monster.
Even if she were to try to get to the ground, the monster would catch her on her way down.
If she tried to get down, she would be handing herself to the monster on a silver platter.
The Shrine Maiden’s wand was programmed in such a way that it would allow its owner to fly on demand.
The monster was closing the distance between them terrifyingly fast.
Mikoto put the wand under her feet and issued a command, and the wand began to fly in response to her call.
But judging by the monster’s size, it would be a formidable foe, even for someone like Mikoto.
Then, when the monster was close, it opened its mouth.
When the monster opened its mouth, a terrifying voice came out, resonating in Mikoto’s ears and sending shockwaves throughout her body, making her vision blurry and distorted.
Mikoto felt nauseous, she lost her sense of balance, and she felt disoriented until she finally realized this was the magic of this monster.
Although she was still on her wand, she somehow managed to lose altitude and plummet to the ground.
It must have been the magic of the illusion type.
It must have been a spell that attacked the senses of its prey, making it lose its sense of balance and thus rendering it easier to capture.
Even though it was a monster that clearly had an advantage here, Mikoto felt excited about facing the strong opponent.
No matter what, she couldn’t possibly hope to remain unscratched if she fell from that height, all the while being unable to utilize her sight and body properly.
Most importantly, the monstrous roars were getting ever so closer.
Feeling excruciating pain all over her body, she managed to hold on to her wand, but she wasn’t able to concentrate enough to stabilize herself and save herself from the incoming ground.
When she thought it would be all over.
She smelled a scent that was way too familiar.
The grey shadow covered her whole vision.
Before she could say anything, she heard his voice.
She said in her native tongue, before a tremendous impact shook her whole body.
At the same time, the roars of the monster…… She couldn’t hear them anymore.
Instead, she heard a light thud when he landed on the ground as well, his grey hair so different from her own fur in the dim light.
He had a worried expression written all over his face.
It was always like that.
「Are you okay, Mikoto?」
Sure enough, the fact that Senjiro was calling to her right now and that he saved her ravaged her heart, making her feel as though she was about to cry.
Mikoto only noticed now that she was being held in Senjiro’s arms, and that fact made her feel restless.
Now that she was aware of her own feelings, being held like that was extremely embarrassing.
As soon as she escaped from his arms, she felt all strength leaving her body all at once.
Nausea also returned.
「Oi, what’s wrong, Mikoto!?」
「It’s the magic of that monster.」
Having informed Senjiro and preventing him from touching her shoulder, Mikoto reaffirms her grasp on her wand, again feeling the surge of magic throughout the area.
Saying the incantation, the warm magic covered Mikoto’s body, effectively countering the effects of the monster’s magic.
Finally, all of her senses were freed from the monster’s influence, and looking at the side she could see Senjiro looking at her with surprise in her eyes.
「What was that?」
「I just couldn’t get rid of the curse with only a short incantation.」
She felt happy that Senjiro was worried about her, but it also made her feel ashamed in a really complex way.
「I was careless. I was training to become a Shrine Maiden from the earliest years of my life, but lately I haven’t been training as diligently. I must have lost my edge.」
「I guess you’re right.」
The nostalgic look in Senjiro’s eyes distracted Mikoto, and looking back to where he was looking, Mikoto saw the flying monster laying on the ground, its head severed several meters away from its body.
The cut was clean and sure, only confirming the skill of the swordsman who cut it down, saving Mikoto from a certain crisis.
Senjiro was amazing. She needed to admit that much no matter how much she didn’t want to admit that.
Seeing the proof of that fact right in front of her very eyes, Mikoto felt slightly humiliated, but also guilty. She spoke quietly.
While she was holding her wand with her hand, she could feel his huge hand being placed on top of her head.
He patted her head lightly.
His hand was truly nostalgic, the kind that was not too fierce but not too weak at the same time.
「It’s all good as long as you learn from your mistakes.」
It’s not that she wanted him to tell her that. She didn’t want to hear any sweet words from him. But what almost made her cry was the fact that his kind voice seemed to be recognizing the fact that she’s grown so much.
That’s why she loves him so much.
Ahh, but right now it should be “loved” not “loves”.
While Mikoto was tormented by thoughts like that, Senjiro spoke up to her.
「You know, Rock Birds are essentially carnivores, but they taste great if you cook their meat properly. If we bring it back with us, Nectar can probably cook it. What do you say? Want to eat it together?」
She knew that this was his awkward effort on trying to patch things up, but even though she knew it, it was still oh so awkward.
「Big Brother Sen.」
「What is it?」
「For now, let’s remove that bird’s blood and organs.」
However, Mikoto didn’t want to let all of that delicious meat go to waste.
Although the bird was almost as tall as Senjiro, he still carried it on his back without any problems.
In turn, Mikoto stayed ever vigilant for if more monsters came to attack them.
If she plays this right, Mikoto could force some answers right out of Senjiro without the risk of him dodging the questions.
For a while, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of rustling grass.
The bird was already devoid of most of its blood odor.
That’s because Mikoto used a certain spell to drain all of the blood from its body.
It was a simple spell, but at the same time it was well-known throughout the Eastern countries and their women as the perfect means of cleaning the unwanted dirt.
It was an effective spell if one really wanted to remove stains from laundry.
Of course it wasn’t wise to use it like that, but it was convenient when hunting outdoors for a prolonged period of time.
Mikoto held onto her wand and she could feel Senjiro walking slowly behind her.
Mikoto, who realized that she was in love and let him see her pathetic side, was at a loss for what to say.
But Senjiro wasn’t going to speak up unless she does it first.
She had that feeling.
Besides, there was something that Mikoto absolutely wanted to hear.
Now was the best time for that. Senjiro wouldn’t be willing to answer her if others were with them.
「Big Brother Sen.」
She said that while looking forward, fighting off the embarrassment and forcing the words to come out of her mouth.
This was also necessary for Mikoto to be able to move on.
The distance between them was also convenient for her, since she didn’t want for him to see her face.
「Is that Aramitama really that important to you?」
Was she so important that it was worth leaving his homeland and peaceful life he had together with her and her sister?
She could guess what his answer would be.
Even then, she couldn’t make her decision unless she was to hear it clearly from him.
She went on without stopping while waiting for Senjiro’s reply.
「She’s a troublesome woman.」
Hearing such an answer, Mikoto came to a sudden stop.
「She’s so troublesome. But still, I want to be with her.」
She had a hard time squeezing her voice out of her throat.
It seems that he managed to see through her pain.
So in the end it was his soul mate over his family, even though she went to such lengths to come here and search for him.
That was more than enough to make her feel distressed.
「Stop, making, excuses.」
There was no longer any need for him to try to explain.
Because she knew.
Senjiro wasn’t the kind of man who would make excuses or go back on his word.
「I realize that you were lonely.」
「Yes, I’m sorry.」
Then, to end it all.
Mikoto didn’t look back and resumed.
Hot tears began to flow down her cheeks.
Senjiro was speechless.
「It’s alright, Big Brother Sen. But I won’t forgive you if you let all of that meat go to waste…」
Mikoto said with a cracking voice, to which Senjiro set out a slight sigh.
More than anything, she didn’t want him to see her in such a state.
If he did, her heart wouldn’t make it.
But this pain would not disappear anytime soon.
Still, she felt that it had become easier for her to breathe for some reason.