[Vol.2] Chapter 31 – Before the Storm……

“Thank you for the meal. Sonia’s a good cook, isn’t she?”

 I, who finished eating dinner at Sonia’s house, clapped my hands together in front of the prepared tableware and exhaled.
 We had a lot of opportunities to eat Sonia’s cooking recently, but I have to say one can clearly see the attention to detail she puts in even in such a simple dish.
 Sonia said if one cooks every day like this one would naturally reach that degree of skill — but when noting that those cooking skills of mine, who had similar living circumstances, hadn’t reached that level yet I still think that Sonia’s cooking skills are a big deal.

 As evidence, Cheryl’s eyes also seemed to melt in satisfaction and Monica often praised the dish during the meal, too.
 However, now that dinner was over Monica’s and Sonia’s expression turned dark.

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you think that way……Slava-kun is good at composing himself, isn’t he……?”

 One can understand the reason without it being said out loud. It’s Tarisberg which is on their mind, it’s said to appear tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
 Tarisberg is the existence elves are most afraid of. For someone with Sonia’s power still being that afraid of the above-mentioned existence went beyond my wildest imaginations.

“You say that, but it’s rather difficult to be afraid of something one hasn’t seen before, isn’t it?”

 But what of it. I’m not looking down on it, but I was originally a human who didn’t experience the period of Tarisberg’s appearance, so their fear didn’t get transmitted to me.
 Although it’s said that magic and sorcery are ineffective against it, but I think it would be better to just strengthen one’s body and hit it then.
 In fact, it’s hard for me, who is the teacher of Alma who defeated Tarisberg without the use of magic, to develop a sense of danger.

“Hey, you really don’t have to push yourself, you know? Even though I can’t abandon my hometown, but Slava-kun still has a big dream, isn’t that right?”
“This is also part of my dream, you know? Whichever way this ends here my goal still is being the strongest beyond the unbelievable. If it’s a legendary demonic beast then it’s perfect for warrior training.”

 To Sonia’s question, said in a shaking voice, I expressed the lightness of my mood with a gesture I held my right hand out for.
 –I’m aiming to be the strongest, those two characters. So, if I don’t destroy those things blocking my way in front of me, that’s the same as giving up.
 Just because the other party isn’t a person one can’t use the excuse of it being a different kind. Even looking at people, there are four races as well, elves, humans, demons and beastmen.

 No matter how strong she is I can’t leave a girl frightened like that, can I?
 Good grief, for me to become such a busybody.

“Well, don’t worry. Nothing bad will happen”

 I gathered the tableware and stood up.
 If it’s simple water magic for daily life use, even I can use it.
 When receiving a free meal, washing the dishes is the least one can do.

“Ah……It’s okay, with just that much I–”
“No no, I’m not comfortable with being a freeloader, so let me at least do this much.”

 When I stood up with everyone’s dishes in both my hands, Cheryl lifted her body from the chair and floated to my side.
 Looks like she intends to come with me. When Cheryl turned the doorknob one step ahead of me my facial expression relaxed.

“Thank you, Cheryl”
“Cause, I want to talk……”

 When we stepped through the door Cheryl opened she grasped the knob with both her hands and shut it.
I wanted to pet her head for that cute gesture, but unfortunately, both my hands were occupied so I couldn’t.
 However, looks like she turned out well. Doesn’t look like that idiot grandpa spoiled her that badly. Watching her growth since we met reminds me of the days I spent with Alma.

“Certainly, around this area–”

 Since I’ve already cleaned the dishes many times in Sonia’s house, I knew where to find a brush and metal basin for that purpose. I put away the dishes and crouched down.
 Using the brush I invoked the water magic and saved the water in the metal basin. After that, while dunking the tableware into the water I removed the dirt by strongly scrubbing them. If the dirt collects in the water, I would exchange the water and repeat the same process again.
 Washing dishes is a monotonous work which feels troublesome to do every day but occasionally it’s also unexpectedly fun.

“Alright, well then–”

 After I finished cleaning all the dishes, I refilled the water in the basin. This time I put my hand into it and activated fire magic.
 The heat born from the fire changed the water into hot water.
  I’ve asked my master and it looks like it’s said that heat has the effect of killing the origin of diseases. It’s not a well-known method, but I heard there are places where this is commonly done. I can’t prove the effect, because I don’t understand the theory behind this, but I don’t think it’s wrong, as it’s something my master told me.

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 When the hot water reached a temperature that would injure the skin without magic protection, I finally stopped boiling the water and pulled out my hand.
 After boiling it for a while, it’s fine to leave it like that for some time.
 ……Suddenly, when I looked up at the sky, it was completely dark.

“It’s, beautiful, right?”

 Cheryl who sat down and hugged her legs put some ripples in this silence.
If one looked up, one would see a sky filled with countless stars.
 It had the innocence and disorder of a black canvas studded with one’s favourite colour and yet its magnificent brilliance was breath-taking.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful”

 I don’t have a profound knowledge of art, so the words I can use are limited, but that doesn’t mean it would spoil this beauty.
 –I looked at the sky together with Cheryl for a while.
 Now that I think about it, it has been a long time since it was just me and Cheryl. Recently there were always Sonia or Monica close by.
 As I separated my eyes from the sky, I saw Cheryl looking up at it with a loving gaze.
 When Cheryl noticed my eyes she looked directly into them and her gentle smile became stronger.

“What is it?”

 Entwining her elegant, thin fingers with mine, our hands connected.
 I widened my eyes in surprise when I felt the cool and girlish softness from Cheryl’s fingers entwined with mine.

 I don’t feel the usual grip strength from Cheryl’s hand gently holding mine.
 Compared to the force a normal girl of marriageable age can gather, this degree of grip strength was enough to let someone feel a lot of pain if one didn’t train oneself, you know?

“Thank you, Slava-kun”

 A gentle smile reflected in my wide open eyes.
 Cheryl, who tilted her head to look into my eyes which looked like circles, slowly let out a voice as if trying to persuade me in the darkness of the night.

“I, was able to become a little gentle, right……?
 ……It’s all, thanks to Slava-kun”
“……Not at all. It’s been thanks to Cheryl’s hard work”
“No, that’s not it……If you didn’t give me a chance and didn’t practice together, with me I wouldn’t have made it, so it’s thanks to Slava-kun……That’s why, see?”

 She put a little power in the hand that held mine.
However, it wasn’t enough to hurt me– Well, this is how that child turned out.

“……Lets look, at lots of the world– foreeever together……?”

 She turned her strong-willed eyes towards me while I felt her soft hands quivering slightly.
 ……I see, that child is probably worried.
 The girl, which ran rampant when she threw a tantrum, grew up a little.
 As I thought, it’s good witnessing someone’s growth. Especially if it’s a childhood friend.

 If that’s the case, then I want to forever be able to watch that child’s future.

“Rest at ease, that’s what I intended to do all along.”

 The hand I wiped is already dry.
 When I gently stroked Cheryl’s hair, which was as light as a feather, with my empty right hand, her sharp eyes sleepily narrowed.

“I’m not going to lose. This journey of training still has to continue. Let’s explore the world together”

 Yes, this journey isn’t just about training.
 Its purpose is to let this girl see a lot of different things as well.
 For that reason–I didn’t intend to let some demon delay us, but doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t take any chances?
 It has been such a long time that I truly wanted to do something for someone like this.

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 Martial arts used not just for oneself.
 I think that those called martial artists are selfish beings, until the end.
 To gain something, to protect something — Whatever the purpose, it’s impossible to avoid hurting anyone in order to reach one’s goal. No matter how important or righteous that purpose might be this fact will never change.
 However, it strongly shook my heart to use my fists for somebody else.
“Well then, let’s go to bed for today. We have to get up early tomorrow, Cheryl.”

 I threw away the hot water which was in the basin and wiped the dishes with a dishcloth.
 I piled up the cleaned dishes which were still hot and returned to Sonia’s house.
 As Cheryl’s expression relaxed and followed me with a springy gait, I incidentally looked up, my expression pregnant with thoughts.

“(The meaning of wielding a fist, is it?)”

 The fist I just kept swinging in pursuit of becoming the strongest.
 That purpose hasn’t changed. It doesn’t change the fact that being the strongest is supreme to me.
 However, if it’s within the reach of those hands can’t I reach them out to protect those around me as well — I wonder if I can be that greedy?

“I won’t lose anymore, absolutely”

 Those words, I don’t know how many times I swore them, melted into the sky.
 Those words which should have felt worn out strangely heated up my body.

 ──With that heat dawn came, the time of the decisive battle arrived.


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