The girl who had crimson pupils and a horn on her forehead squinted at me.
「Who on earth are you, and what on earth are you doing here?」, she yelled.
Each time she spoke, her braided silver hair danced around, causing the jewels embedded at the tips to clink together with a nice sound.
「How about you answer me instead of keeping silent?」
Though her voice was shrill, the fact that she hadn’t drawn the sword hanging by her waist signalled that she probably meant no harm. If she’s friendly, I thought, then I guess I should answer her at least.
「Ah…」, I muttered after a moment’s hesitation. 「I’m Dias. As for what I’m doing here… I was sleeping, as you can see.」
「In a place like this?」
「I had nowhere else to sleep」, I replied. 「I was resting after drinking water from that river over there, and I felt sleepy, so I slept.」
「Are you an idiot…? Or are you ill? Is that why your eyes are blue?」
「Ill? No… I don’t think so. I can’t deny that I’m an idiot though, I haven’t studied a day in my life.」
「So…」, she said. 「Why did you come to this grassland, and what do you plan to do?」
「Why? I was brought here and told to live here… I guess? As for what I plan to do, I need to find a place to stay, get some food and essentially not die like a stray dog.」
「Just what are you trying to do?」, she asked again.
「What am I trying to do…?」, I echoed. 「First and foremost, I’m trying not to die! I want to live… wait, no, don’t draw your sword! What’s that? Answer truthfully if I don’t want to be cut in half? I am answering truthfully! Well… I want to fulfil my parents’ dying wishes — be of use to others, and protect the weak! Yeah, that’s what I want to do!」
「Why are you not lying to me?」
「Eh? Hm? What kind of question is that? I have no reason to lie to you, do I…?」
「Are you my enemy or my friend?」
What gives? No matter how many mysterious questions she asked, I could not tell what she wanted. How her horn sparkled with blue light every time she asked a question and how her face turned sterner with each answer she received only added to my confusion.
All that aside, that last question isn’t something to ask a person the first time you meet them, right? How was I supposed to answer that? I was in no sense an enemy, but to call myself a friend was a bit of a stretch too…
「Enemy or friend, huh…」, I said. 「I have no intention to be hostile towards you, so I can safely say that I’m not an enemy. But I don’t even know your name, so how can I say that I’m your friend? Can’t I say that I’m neither?」
「No, you can’t! Friend, or enemy? Answer quickly!」, she shouted while rolling her eyes.
She brought her hand to the hilt of her sword and continued staring at me. Though I couldn’t tell why she was dissatisfied with my answer, I could feel that she was growing less friendly by the minute, and that made me feel uneasy. I considered playing along and declaring myself as a friend, but doubted that she would be happy with such a superficial reply.
Yeah, I thought. Bad idea. It might even make her draw her sword for real.
Not wanting to irritate her further, I racked my rather limited brain for ideas on what to do. Friend, or enemy… think, Dias, think…
This was my land, and this girl in front of me was thus standing on my land. One of the important men had told me that my job as a lord was to protect my people. But was she one of my people? I had no way to tell…
Ah, I see.
That’s why she had rolled her eyes and drawn her sword — anyone would get mad at a lord that couldn’t even say for sure whether he was a friend or not!
Regarding the horn on her forehead and the fact that it’s glowing… that’s not so important, and I’ll leave it for now, I thought. I looked into her eyes, promising myself that I would try my best to be a good lord.
「I’m your friend!」, I declared at last. 「And I’ll protect you from any enemies that come your way!」
The girl’s eyes grew as wide as plates. Her horn glowed even more brightly than before. As I instinctively blinked in response to the dazzling display, the girl, its source, cried out in surprise.
「What? Why is it glowing so brightly?」
There’s no way, she said over and over again. Her cheeks reddening, she squinted at me again. Though I was still none the wiser as to what any of her words meant, she suddenly grabbed me by the wrist and started dragging me somewhere.
「Hey, hey — wait a minute! What’s wrong? Where are you taking me to?」
「My village! Shut up and follow me!」, she replied without so much as looking at me.
She continued trudging her way through the grass, keeping a tight grip on my wrist as she did so.
A village? There’s a village? In my fiefdom? If I had missed a village despite all that walking yesterday…
I felt dejected upon realising my own idiocy, but also immensely grateful that I had come across this girl. Accompanied by those thoughts, I followed her across the grassland. And lo and behold, there really was a village — featuring a bunch of teepees lined up side by side — at the end of our trek.