Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
Ever since Lyla had learned how to cook properly, the dishes she cooked for each meal were essentially identical.
「H-How is it…?」
「It’s good… as always.」
Instead of ‘good’… it’s more fitting to say that it’s ‘better’. I’m not picky when it comes to food, so I’m good either way, but… I suppose there is one thing that I don’t particularly like.
Without fail, I would taste the same food every time, compliment the chef in the same way and watch her beam with satisfaction. It’s not something I can say to her face, but eating the same dishes again and again won’t allow you to have a balanced diet.
I’ll consult Milia on how to approach the subject.
As I got up, Lyla looked at me sideways.
「Isn’t today a rest day?」
「I’m going to visit Rina’s orphanage, since I’ve never been there before.」
「Mm. Have fun with your little inspection.」
Accompanying me to the porch, the Demon King fidgeted as she walked, then glanced at me shyly. She came over for a hug and kissed me.
「Hm? Is there something I forgot to tell you…?」
「If you forgot, then it probably wasn’t important.」
She was still puzzled, but nevertheless bade me goodbye. Recalling the location of the orphanage as told by the others, I opened up a ‘Gate’ and blinked away.
The orphanage was located on the outskirts of a city a short distance away from Imir. It had apparently been a church before it was converted into its current form. I passed by a few scattered houses on the way, and the closer I got, the louder the sounds of children became.
Being the first to notice me, Rina bounded out of the orphanage and into my arms.
「Aru-chan… she said she had something to do back at the castle…」
Even the unusually free princess still has some royal duties, huh?
Gasping for breath, Rina showed me inside. About twenty children were living under the same roof, with a recently freed fifteen-year-old girl as their leader. With some frolicking about in the modestly-sized garden and others playing inside, the entire orphanage was bustling with activity.
「What does Almeria usually do here?」
「She plays with us!」
「She plays with you… I see.」
Twenty is quite a large number for one person to handle. Most of the budgeting is probably done by those working behind the scenes, I thought.
「Anything wrong so far?」
「Nope, not for now!」
As long as the children are fed and clothed, and their basic needs met, this orphanage should be able to continue running. Halfway through Rina’s tour of her home, I spotted an elf lurking outside the window.
What’s she doing here?
A familiar voice rang out from the foyer.
「We have a guest…!」, exclaimed Rina, dragging me along by the hand. 「Afternoon…」, she muttered shyly when she saw a noblewoman hand-in-hand with a girl wearing an elegant dress.
Meiri Vadenhaag had grown a little taller since we last met.
「Roland! It’s been a while!」
「It has indeed.」
The noblewoman… no, Meiri’s mother, Leyte, explained the purpose of their visit.
「We visited your residence earlier today, but you weren’t home. That elf over there kindly brought us all the way here.」
So that’s what Lyla had forgotten to tell me.
The elf who had accompanied them here was standing near the door with her arms folded, her back against the wall. She’s a good escort, despite her faults.
「Roland, we came to visit!」
「We apologise for the sudden intrusion.」
「No, don’t mention it.」
Still holding my hand, Rina hid behind me.
「I’m playing with Roland right now… so we’re not accepting visitors…!」
「But we can play together, can’t we?」
「Roland’s my onii-chan… you can’t take him away…」
「I’m not taking him away. Roland will just be marrying me in the future, so all’s good!」
「Okay then… all’s good…」
Smiling, Madam Leyte watched the two children reach a compromise.
「Alias doesn’t really have friends around her age, so she’ll be glad to have her.」
「It’ll be good if they do become friends.」
Meiri is cheerful and outgoing while Rina is shy and hesitant. While they’re nothing like each other, there’s always a chance that opposites attract.
Rina welcomed her new playmate into the group. As we watched the children play, Madam Leyte and I took the chance to catch up. She told me that while the old Kingdom of Vadenhaag had been annihilated in the Human-Demon War, they reclaimed their rightful territory afterwards and have been steadily rebuilding ever since. Seeing that many people lost their lives in the war, they had taken the chance to abolish the monarchy and push for democracy instead, with each region electing a representative for themselves.
「Alias is ten now, so she’ll be of age in five years. She might come to claim you when the time comes」, laughed Madam Leyte elegantly, although I couldn’t really tell whether she was joking or not.
「She’s still at an impressionable age, so she’ll likely have found someone else by then.」
「Hmm. If it’s a handsome man like you, I don’t mind you coming for me either, you know?」
I was lost for words. Although she’s Meiri’s birth mother, her husband, King Vadenhaag, no longer walks this earth. She had probably given birth to Meiri at an unusually young age, given that she’s only about as old as Iris — thirty years old, give or take a few. Not much older than me, either.
She’s a great beauty, and her skin is flawless, too.
She gently stroked my thigh.
「I’m honoured that you think of me that way. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.」
「Fufufu. Alias has told me a lot about you. We have plenty of whatever you need, so do come over whenever you want to.」
Rodje was staring at me from outside the window.
「Kukuku… that damn human, he’s being lured in by the charm of that mature woman. I have to let Lylael-sama know of this… she might actually think less highly of him now.」
How rude. Seriously, Rodje, what are you even here for?
Looking at how Meiri and Rina were getting along, I felt assured. Not wanting to get in the way, I left the orphanage. Rodje called after me when she saw me leave.
「Oi, where are you going?」
「Someone invited me for lunch. I’ll leave the two ladies to you. See that they get home safely.」
「I don’t need you to tell me that, for I have already received such orders from Lylael-sama.」
「That’s a relief, then.」
Borrowing Rodje’s ‘Gate’, I blinked to mine at the royal capital. All I had been told was to meet them at the ‘dining hall’, so I had to run around the castle trying to find the right one. When I peeked into the fifth one, I found three old men seated at the table inside.
「Oh, you’re late, Roland!」
King Randolph laughed.
「I would’ve been on time if you’d specified which dining hall.」
Seated beside the king was the Guild Master, Ta’uro Paro. His bearded countenance was as angular as ever.
「Yoo-hoo, Roland! Splendid work as always!」
「And you’re as loud as always.」
「That’s a positive trait of mine, okay?」
「Of course. You’re a good-for-nothing who ran away from our master’s place after all.」
He laughed in the face of my biting sarcasm.
「Just as I was wondering who we were waiting for.」
The third man was the Imperial Knights’ Captain, Frank Slade. Born into poverty, he had clambered up to his current position with the help of nothing but his spear. All of my spear-wielding knowledge that hadn’t been taught by my master, I had learnt from him.
His goatee did not fit his slender face. All he had taught me was how to use a spear. Yet, if I had to go head-on at him wielding only a spear, I’d probably still lose. If such circumstances ever arise, well, there’s no way I’ll be attacking him from the front.
「It’s been a long time, Roland. Your disappearance made me think that you had died. Ta’uro here told me that you were alive and well, though.」
We shook hands.
「A lot has happened since then.」
I sat down for lunch with the three familiar faces. Most of the discussion was governmental or political in nature and largely unrelated to me, but they would ask my opinion on matters from time to time.
「Roland recommended building an orphanage, right?」, said Frank, stroking his goatee.
「Yes」, I replied. 「We’ve gone through the reasons before.」
「You’re asking his Majesty to do it?」
He was stunned.
「Well, Roland is the kind of person who finds you a hunting ground and then lets you do whatever you please」, said Ta’uro, shovelling food into his mouth.
「What do you expect of an ordinary guild employee?」
「Ordinary guild employees don’t rack up such achievements!」, replied the other two in unison.
「We’ll use state funds to operate that orphanage on the outskirts of Imir. If they can prove that their model works, we can replicate that across the kingdom. Those children will grow up to become many different things — bakers, adventurers, cobblers, farmers, et cetera.」
From the king’s explanation, I could tell that he recognised the significance of it all.
「Why can’t I be there too?」
「You may not, Almeria-sama. Only four people should be at that table.」
「Four, five, what’s the difference? That Roland will pack up and go without even so much as a goodbye, so just let me say hi –」
Almeria’s attendants were trying to stop the princess outside.
「Oho. Here comes the noisy one」, quipped Frank.
「Roland and her Highness are like a father bird and its chick. They stuck together like glue during the war, didn’t they?」, laughed Ta’uro.
King Randolph sighed.
「It was rather cosy, just the four of us.」
I took it upon myself to deal with the disturbance.
Unfortunately, both Almeria and I decided to open the door at the same time. After a brief moment of tugging, I pulled the door towards me and the princess along with it.
Seeing that she was about to fall, I caught her by her shoulders.
Her face was close to mine, and she quickly turned beet red.
「I’ll have a cup of tea in your room later. Go and wait there.」
I tried helping her to stand, but it seemed like she didn’t need my help because she instantly sprang to her feet and stood as straight as an arrow.
「Why is there this… bittersweet… feeling in my chest?」
「That’s known as falling in love, Almeria-sama.」
「What on earth is that…?」
「That I cannot say.」
I shut the door and returned to the table, where Frank and Ta’uro still had their jaws on the ground.
「You don’t have to create more work for yourself, Roland」, said the king apologetically.
「I don’t mind, really. It’s a rest day.」
We continued making idle chatter for the rest of the luncheon. Once it ended, true to my word, I visited Almeria and we had a chat over a cup of tea. I was surprised to find that Almeria was much less talkative than usual.
She was muttering incoherently about some ‘bittersweet feeling’, I think.
「Take good care of the orphanage, Almeria.」
With that, I left the castle and blinked home.
Meiri and company seemed to have returned, for it was unusually lively inside. Noticing the squeals of laughter coming from within, I figured that Rina was there too.
What’s this feeling, now? It feels like ‘warmth’, but not quite.
The door opened and Lyla came out to greet me.
「Hey. You forgot to tell me about Meiri’s visit, didn’t you?」
「Erm… that was supposed to be a s-surprise!」
Never mind, I laughed.
「Hmph. Fine, I forgot.」
Beaming from ear to ear, she kissed me on the cheek.
「Tonight’s dinner will be fun!」
「Seems like it.」
And thus continued my busy rest day.