Chapter 87 – Things That Stay the Same

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Author: Tsunose Bun Original Source: Syosetu Word Count: 3024 characters
Translator: Jiro English Source: Re:Library Word Count: 1842 words
Editor(s): Robinxen

Kena hesitated before speaking in response to Merc’s threats, or rather persuasion.

“I-I’m originally from the Kingdom of Sphinia.”
“The Kingdom of Sphinia… That’s where Astard comes from.”

That’s also where Estert and Foldia met Astard for the first time and invited him to join their group.

“So you were aware…”
“Did you say something?”
“No, it’s nothing. When I was younger, I lived with my parents in the Kingdom of Sphinia, where they ran an inn. The Great Sage, who was almost penniless at the time, wasn’t even an adventurer and didn’t even have a name, began freeloading at our inn at that time.”
“Freeloading you say?”

When Estert and Foldia met Astard, he had indeed been freeloading at an inn. The innkeeper had relied on his abilities because he was already skilled in magic at the time. Which is also why Estert and Foldia had invited him to their party.

Merc also recalled a child with gray hair staying at that inn. She couldn’t recall the child’s name, but she remembered him being a big fan of Astard and following him around everywhere. She also remembered the child clinging to Astard and crying when Estert took Astard away from the inn.

“I see… So you were a girl.”
“What?”
“It’s nothing.”

Kena tilted her head with an intrigued look as Merc muttered to herself.

Merc had said what she did involuntarily because the connection was so unexpected. She found it difficult to believe that the child she had paid no heed to all those years ago would suddenly appear by Astard’s side.

Naturally, the situation had changed, but the reality that they were once again living under the same roof, as they had been before, was undeniable. Even Merc couldn’t conceal her surprise.

I assumed she was a boy because of her short hair, but it appears that I was mistaken. No wonder I didn’t remember her.

Merc had been convinced since their first meeting that she knew Kena from somewhere. There was no way Merc, who had an incredible memory for women with large breasts, could forget someone like Kena. That’s why, in the end, Merc had concluded that she’d never met Kena. However, given that Merc had initially misidentified Kena as a boy, everything made sense.

There was no way she could have remembered her.

“I’ve always admired Mr. Astard, and even after he became known as the Great Sage, I yearned to see him again.”
“And so you came here?”
“Yes. After coming of age, I studied self-defense and dabbled in magic. After that, I persuaded my parents to let me leave the house. All in the hopes of tracking down Mr. Astard and becoming his student.”
“You’ve sure had it rough…”

As far as Merc knew, Astard had moved around a lot. He’d only recently settled down in Logholt. He’d apparently been traveling all over the place before that.

Merc empathized with Kena, who had apparently left home at the age of 14, shortly after becoming an adult, and had only recently discovered Astard, when she was in her mid-20s.

“Fufu. It wasn’t that bad. I was honing my skills as I traveled. In fact, I could have found him sooner if I had wanted to. However, I wanted to meet him only after I’d gained some expertise, which is why I focused on training. If I hadn’t done so, I was certain Mr. Astard would have sent me away.”
“And you were right in thinking that. He’s not the type of guy who would train an apprentice from the ground up.”

Merc was convinced that Kena understood a little about Astard’s personality from their time together in the inn. She wouldn’t have chosen to suppress her desire to see him just to train if she hadn’t.

“While passing through the Lezau Duchy, I overheard a rumor that someone resembling Mr. Astard was in Logholt. To be honest, I had intended to meet Mr. Astard after some more training, but after hearing that rumor, I couldn’t stop myself, and before I knew it, I’d arrived in Logholt…”
“I see. As such you passed out in front of his house because you were exhausted from your frantic march? It’s all starting to make sense now.”

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Kena’s face dropped when Merc said that, and she shifted her body for some reason.

“Is something wrong?”
“N-No… It’s just that… You’re probably going to hate me for saying this, but I wasn’t actually exhausted…”
“What?”
“I made it to Mr. Astard’s house, but as you know, the warding spell made it impossible for me to get there. Furthermore, it had been a long time since we parted in the Kingdom of Sphinia. I convinced myself that Mr. Astard had completely forgotten about me, and I was worried that the moment I knocked on his door, he’d send me out. That’s why, as soon as I saw him show up, I pretended to be unconscious…”
“So that’s what happened.”

While her body shook slightly and she averted her gaze, Kena confided in Merc. She probably didn’t mean to admit it, but after telling Merc everything, she couldn’t keep quiet any longer. For better or worse, Kena was an honest child, whether it was the glance she’d originally sent Merc or anything else.

“Sure enough Mr. Astard didn’t seem to recognize me, and the longer I kept quiet, the more difficult it became to tell him that I was the girl of the inn where he was staying and that I wanted to be his apprentice…”
“I see. And so, in a last futile attempt, you offered yourself as a housekeeper. Quite bold.”

Merc had no idea what it was about Astard that managed to draw Kena in so strongly, but objectively speaking, Kena’s feelings seemed to go beyond the realm of admiration.
 
By this point, she was clearly head over heels for him.

“Kena, do you like Astard?”
“W-What?! T-That’s…”

Merc addressed her as simply Kena at this point, though she did so unconsciously because she realized she’d known Kena since she was a child. And the fact that Kena didn’t react at all was most likely due to the shock she was feeling as a result of the unexpected question.

Kena’s face flushed, her lips trembled, and she flailed her arms frantically.

“I-I-I… It is true that I idolize Mr. Astard, but to call those emotions love is…”
“I advise you to leave this house if you don’t see Astard as a man and a love interest. I don’t believe he would ever compromise a woman, but he is still a man. Everything is possible. And you’ll be the one who suffers in the end.”

Merc said in response to Kena’s evasive answer.

“……”
“However, if you do happen to like him, then I won’t say anything. If you’re not bothered by him laying his hands on you, I won’t butt in.”
“I-I like Mr. Astard. I won’t be bothered even if he l-la-lays his hands on me…”

Kenna covered her face, which had never been redder, with both hands, as if forced to confess to Merc’s serious question. Merc, in turn, simply nodded with a serious expression hung over her face.

That damn sage! Drop-dead, you b̲a̲s̲t̲a̲r̲d̲!

Were the curses that ran through her mind.

“Ahem. In that case, I’ll respect your wishes. I won’t tell Astard about you and I won’t say anything about you staying here.”
“Thank you.”
“However, and this may just be my senseless concern, Astard already has someone he loves. His feelings are the real thing. It’s possible that your love will go unrequited.”

Merc decided that, even though it was none of her business, she should tell Kena because she had been harboring feelings for Astard for more than ten years. Because Kena had met Astard long before she or Foldia had, Merc felt it was appropriate to tell her.

“I am aware.”

Kena replied with a nod.

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Kena’s cheeks were still flushed, but she didn’t hesitate when she looked at Merc.

“Despite the fact that Mr. Astard isn’t home very often, I’ve managed to interact with him on several occasions. It was then that I found out that he has someone that’s close to his heart. However, that does not bother me. That girl may be Mr. Astard’s number one right now, but I swear that one day I will become his number one. I’ve already decided that. That is why… That is why it doesn’t bother me!”

Even Merc, who was a complete moron when it came to love, could tell this was Kena’s declaration of war. Merc finally understood why Kena had glared at her when she first saw her, why she’d make an upset face now and then, and why she always smiled at Astard.

It was all due to her inextinguishable affection for Astard, which she had felt since she was a child.

I guess it was pointless for me to say that.

Kena was clearly head over heels for Astard. There wasn’t anyone who could change that. Kena’s feelings could not be shaken by words or adversity.

“I am unable to support your feelings Kena, however, given that Astard allowed you to stay in his home, I believe you have a good chance. He’s not the type to take in strangers.”
“I know.”

Kena nodded happily as Merc consoled her, then slowly tilted her head to the side and spoke.

“I knew it. Miss Merc, I knew you weren’t Mr. Astard’s lover.”
“Wut?!”

Merc made a slightly jumbled sound in response to the surprise comment. If words had the power to cut, Merc’s body would have been left a bloody mess.

“Me?! That fool’s lover? No shot. He’s just an old friend. I’ve already said that.”
“Fufu. I know. I had my doubts when I first met you, but now I believe you. After all, when you speak with Mr. Astard you really remind me of that person.”
“What? That person?”
“That’s right. When I was younger, he would frequently visit the inn to persuade Mr. Astard. He is also the one who stole Mr. Astard from right under my nose.”
“You don’t mean…”

There was no way Merc could have missed who Kena was talking about after hearing so much. Of course, Kena wasn’t entirely incorrect in comparing Merc to him.

“Sword Saint Estert. One of the four heroes, just like Mr. Astard. I know it’s impolite to compare a beautiful woman, such as yourself, to a man, but I really can’t help but feel this way. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize.”

Merc smiled and shook her head as Kena bowed lightly as if apologizing for her rudeness. Her chest was filled with a strange sensation. Merc didn’t quite understand what she was feeling, but she can kind of see why a smile was creeping up her face.

Just like Kena’s feelings, no matter how much time passed or how much Merc’s appearance changed, there were some things that just stayed the same.



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