There existed two goddesses in this world. However, they belonged to opposing sides.
Goddess Claria. The great goddess all of us humankind worship. Lauded to be a beauty tempered through many centuries of refinement, it’s said that she was a wonderful woman of bountiful love.
Then there was the goddess who opposed that goddess.
Her name: Messiah. The very incarnation of evil, she controlled demons. Causing all sorts of brutalities, she invaded our towns and took them for her own. It’s said she left no survivors.
These two warring goddesses involved the entire world in their conflict.
Claria, to defend the people. Messiah, to seize the world.
Their strengths virtually even, the careful balance tilted all at once due to a certain existence.
That existence was Hero Terias.
Having received Claria’s divine blessing, he held a powerful ability and used it to defeat each and every one of the demons Messiah sent at him.
Then, finally, Claria and the Hero succeeded in sealing Messiah away.
Rostalgia knew peace once more—
◆ ◆ ◆
I closed the book I was reading.
I gained the knowledge I wanted with this world’s history books.
I was currently at the fourth floor of the royal library, a part of the history area.
There was something that I wanted to do before we set out for the next dungeon, so I was still in Wrystonia.
For lodging, we had a three-person room at an inn. To get the money for it, I pawned off a gem Leadred had.
A Guardian’s finances really are different, huh.
The royal library required an entrance fee as well, so I got that from Leadred as well.
A slave’s things are their master’s things. I shouldn’t care about it. I shouldn’t care… at all…
As I was reading and struggling with a conflict to my pride as a man, someone came up behind me and spoke.
“Daichi. Everything’s ready.”
The girl’s name was Hamakaze Shuri. My very first slave.
Apparently, it looked like she cleared the mission she imposed on herself.
I put my book down onto the mountain of them next to me and took her hand.
“Alright then, show me the way.”
“Certainly! I’d be delighted to.”
Hamakaze snuggled up close to me.
… It felt nice so I didn’t say anything… It went without saying that the looks we got from everyone else hurt, though.
What Hamakaze meant by everything earlier was the reward I’d promised her.
She wasn’t wearing her usual adventurer clothing. Recently, she’d been wearing a maid outfit. Same with Leadred.
When I asked why they were wearing that, Hamakaze just answered by saying she heard that boys liked that kind of thing.
It wasn’t much different from attitude change she had down in the dungeon, though.
“You have some strange tastes, don’t you. For you to want to be with a guy like me…”
The reward Hamakaze decided to ask for was for us to be together for the day. In other words, she wanted to be with me.
“You should know how I feel.”
“… I have no clue.”
Recently, Hamakaze started to take a more proactive attitude. I knew why. I knew what she felt, too.
She’s in a position where she could be abandoned whenever.
That thought was definitely pervading her mind. Even I’d been like that in the past.
Playing the jester so that you won’t be hated. Wearing however many masks you need.
Her skinship here is just another part of that. That’s why I’m not hoping for anything weird. Right now, the one who’s hurting the most is Hamakaze herself.
While that is true, the dilemma here is that I can’t release her from her chains—from me.
There’s nothing else I can do but to accompany her like this every so often.
“So, what’re we going to do? Don’t hold back now, you’ve got me all day today.”
She stopped for a moment. However, she then continued to talk, glancing to and from me all the while.
“Honestly, I just want to go to one place. I’ve wanted to go there with you this whole time.”
“Couldn’t you have asked to go there for your reward then?”
“No, it would’ve been my loss that way.”
“You’re pretty shameless, aren’t you?”
“I guess you’re just rubbing off on me then, Daichi.”
I might be, so I couldn’t exactly say anything in response.
“Well, alright. Where did you want to go then? Give it a go.”
“… Please don’t say no, okay?”
“I won’t break my promise, just say it.”
“Alright. The place I want to go to is…”
After pausing a moment, Hamakaze smiled in looked almost like loneliness before telling me where.
“—The royal palace.”
Since coming here, all I was met with were weird looks. Struggling by myself, suffering, being abandoned, being eaten.
The place it all started.
Wrystonia’s royal palace.
“Man, it still looks huge, doesn’t it?”
Likely due to being fortified against incoming assaults, the gate was pretty big.
I didn’t hear any response. There was no one else around us. It was silent.
She just kept staring at one spot.
I didn’t know what what so special about that spot, but I didn’t think it was something I needed to know either.
She just kept standing there in silence, staring at it.
Like a doll. Like she’d lost her soul.
Tears trickled down her cheeks.
I wonder what she’s thinking about?
It wouldn’t be weird for her to be here, normally. From what I understand, she only allied with me in the dungeon out of her fear of death.
Same for her revenge and her goodwill for me, she might only be doing that because she thinks she has to to keep staying alive.
So when she said she wanted to come here, all I could feel was a cold oh feeling.
My chest hurt.
It was only a short moment, but it felt like it took ages as she turned back to me.
“… I’m happy I could come back here.”
——Because I can see everyone again.
That’s all I could figure she’d say next.
But my prediction turned out to be off.
“—Because I figured out my feelings are the real deal.”
Hamakaze was smiling.
She ran up to me, who was stuck there in blank surprise, and hugged me.
My mind finally thawed and started to work again.
“I saw Samejima from here.”
“… So you’re saying that your feelings for him are real, then?””
When I said that, Hamakaze looked like she was taken aback.
“That’s not what I meant… Wait, are you jealous?”
She immediately went back to smiling though. Smiling as though in tease.
No, it’s just, well, that. I was just confirming so that I didn’t assume wrong that she meant her feelings for me and go on the offense, making it some horrible misunderstanding like I did in the past. I was just confirming!
“Anyway, if not that, then feelings for who?”
“With all due respect, you’re being pretty roundabout here, Daichi.”
“You knew that already though, yeah?”
“Yeah. But, Katsuragi… that’s what I like about you.”
A surprise confession.
My mind stopped working yet again.
“I know that I’m being selfish, but please hear me out.”
She gazed into my eyes.
“Katsuragi, I like that no matter how much I complain or say bad things, you’re still kind to me.”
“You’re just imagining it. You can still take that back.”
“Katsuragi, I like that you did your best to become stronger so that I wouldn’t die.”
“I-I just wanted to have a strong tool. I wasn’t thinking about you at all.”
“For that, you even went through a horrible role back there. Katsuragi, I like that you gave me a reason to live.”
“N-No… I just…”
She held my mouth shut with her finger.
“Katsuragi, no matter what you say or think, it doesn’t matter. My feelings for you won’t change.”
She brought her face close to mine.
… No matter how many times I look at her, she’s so beautiful.
Her cheeks were dyed a slight pink, her eyes moistened by tears. Flowing black hair, tender pink lips.
Her gaze grew warm. At a distance where I could hear her breathing, her nose touched mine.
Our lips met.
“I love you, Katsuragi.”
My second kiss from her tasted sweet.
Should I believe her?
No, that’s not it. Thinking about stuff like that’s bad.
What am I doing here doubting someone who’s shown me so much goodwill?
“… Will you accept me?”
It was the same question she asked me before.
I can’t answer her halfassedly this time.
I’m being desired by her. This is the first time I’ve been desired by anyone.
—No, that’s not it. Stop trying to find a reason. I already know, don’t I?
Right here… right here is the girl who’ll probably become my special person.
I pat her head. From there, I moved my hands down through her hair and onto her shoulders.
I could feel her trembling with my fingers. She was nervous. Or maybe it was me doing the trembling?
Hamakaze closed her eyes. I know what that meant as well.
She was waiting.
“… … Nn.”
This time, I’ll be the one to kiss her. I brought my face closer—