After completing her work at the reception desk, they all went to the first branch dining room. Haku tagged along as well.
In its kitchen, there were employees bustling about even more restlessly than in the main building.
A delivery person carrying a meal service basket passed in front of the two rather overwhelmed children.
“Let’s follow him for a bit.”
“” … “”
Unable to understand what Ilya’s intention was, the blonde brothers just looked at her.
Still, she probably wanted something from them. They kept quiet and followed Ilya as she started walking.
The place they were heading to was an area with many hurriedly constructed cabins lined up in a row. This was the evacuee residential area.
Virtually breaking into a run on reflex, the children peeked into the cabin that the delivery member had went to.
Inside the cabin was an old man and woman sitting up from their blankets, exchanging some words with the man before accepting the food they were presented.
“… You wanted to show us this?”
Having turned back towards Ilya, the children were frowning out of confusion.
They didn’t know what she was hoping to happen, but they were sure that this is was Ilya wanted to show them.
“That’s right. That old couple is smiling happily, aren’t they?”
“… They’re happy-go-lucky. Even though they don’t know when they can go back home…”
“Now, without taking a pessimistic view, what do you think?”
Hearing her question, the children looked up towards Ilya.
The elder brother looked like he was about to say the same thing again, while the younger was thinking about what she meant.
“That’s just how it is, they’re happy-go-lucky.”
“… Is it because the people that defeated the Ice Dragon are here…?”
Ilya shook her head.
“It’s because here, they can make it through the winds and rain. Here, they have good blankets and don’t have to worry about the chill, despite the season. Moreover, here, they are given meals and don’t need to worry about going hungry.”
“Have you lost anything?”
To her words, the elder brother, Karel, could only close his mouth and look away.
Their parents were wealthy merchants. To say nothing of their food, clothing, and housing, they were probably even protected on their wagon on the way to Lunéville. It was the same with their status being even lower than Lunéville’s children. They hadn’t lived in an environment where they needed to help around the house, so they had never exercised or trained.
“It’s not something to be ashamed of. It isn’t possible for someone who’s just realized their powerlessness to take action immediately. You’re actually rather amazing.”
Glad at being praised and ashamed by the blessed life they were raised in, the brothers were conflicted and it showed on their faces.
“Where do you think the ingredients for their food or the blankets come from?”
Reno was at a loss for words when he tried to reply, but Karel, who’d been looking at the couple with a strange expression on his face, seemed to realize something.
Right. A portion of the materials were brought by their father’s caravan.
She didn’t spell the fact out directly for them. Ilya felt that just that much would be enough for these two.
Therefore, she only told them the conclusion.
“Protecting others… isn’t just about defeating enemies.”
Things with a good side had a bad side as well. If you only paid attention to one of the sides, you would lose yourself.
You’d be used even if you were incompetent, like how I’d been foolishly working at that exploitative company. Ridiculing herself, she recalled the time where she didn’t even know that it was exploitative and felt all the more idiotic.
She came back to her senses when Karel spoke.
“I… want to join the Mercenary Guild.”
Ilya asked with a gentle tone.
He looked down.
Hesitating… he slowly looked up, answering her.
“Because… it’s cool.”
Please return that gentleness you just wasted.
Ilya almost smiled dryly from hearing something so similar to what she would’ve said. Next to Karel, Reno was amazed at how honest his elder brother was.
“H-hey, Reno! You betraying me!?”
Although they seemed unfamiliar with the ways of the world compared to Lunéville’s children, it wasn’t as though they’d reincarnated, so she felt it was better to think of them more as childlike than how she’d been.
If you considered the threat of monsters and thieves sent by competitors… it wasn’t like having skill in fighting would be wasted for a merchant.
“How about we head back to the branch?”
As before, the brothers didn’t understand what her intention was. Even so, they realized she did have a reason for it, so they followed her obediently. Although they’d wound up holding her hands, she didn’t consider children as being ‘men’, so there wasn’t a problem.
Other than Haku being a little sullen, that is.
Having returned in a good mood, Ilya and the rest headed straight to the courtyard.
The brothers stood in front of her, staring at the wooden weapons while trying to figure out which one they wanted.
“You’ll be trying them all out, there’s no need to think about it too hard.”
The elder brother took a one-handed sword, the younger brother taking a spear.
They faced off against Ilya, who also held a wooden sword.
Although the two were looking towards Ilya intently, she didn’t appear to be reserved at all. Although the brothers were hesitant at it being a two-on-one at first, she said that she would give them a recommendation if they could hit her even one time, so they agreed.
It wouldn’t serve its purpose if she did it in a roundabout way, so she had to do it seriously.
“Treat me well.”
“” U-us too! “”
Matching his personality, the first one to charge in was Karel.
After his rush, he went for a large swing of his sword.
Shifting the trajectory of the sword coming at her abdomen, she pushed the blow upward.
Having deflected the red-face Karel, Ilya looked to Reno.
—There’s no meaning in this two-on-one if you don’t work together, you know?
Understanding what her eyes were telling him, Reno joined in. He fended off attacks so that they wouldn’t hit Karel.
Once the two had just started getting accustomed to their weapons, she had them switch to something different.
There were weapons that were used similarly to others, so she had them use six kinds of weapons: a longsword, a whip, a one-handed sword, a spear, a one-handed axe, and fist wrappings.
And finally, she had them try out the bow. She had them start with trying to hit something stationary, then something Ilya threw in the air.
They never hit the moving target, of course. However, it was a good excuse for Ilya to see their aptitude in it.
“Good work, you two.”
The elder brother was on the ground with his arms and legs stretched out. The younger brother sat on the ground using the bow he had to prop himself up.
Haku licked Karel’s cheek, causing the unmoving elder brother to stir.
The brothers had done their best in trying to hit Ilya, but were still trying to figure out the reason why Ilya was having them do this. However, as dissatisfaction wasn’t her objective, she decided to reveal her reason to the brothers once they’d caught their breath somewhat.
“I only saw the gist of it, but Karel-kun is good with the spear and Reno-kun with the bow.
The brothers’ smiles bloomed.
Ilya nodded, but she’d long since judged their suitability for the weapons through [God’s Eyes]. As long as someone didn’t have an A-Rank or higher [Genius] skill, their proficiency wouldn’t be determined with just a few minutes of practice. What they’d been doing over the past while was just to give her statement some credibility.
She didn’t forget to give the delighted brothers a warning so that they wouldn’t misunderstand her, though.
“Although I say that, you won’t become strong without making sure to practice with the weapon, so you need to be diligent.”
“I-I know that!”
Did they really understand?
Their smiles had even overtaken their cheeks. Looking at them and their honest smiles, her intention of giving them a blow withered.
“Also, it’s not as though you two need to be talented in martial arts, right? You might be even better than your father in business, so it might be better for you to go down the route of making weapons.”
“” Kaaay~ “”
Rather than not understanding, their faces screamed that they didn’t want to understand.
Even if they had talent, they might still not want to go through with the work. In the end, it was their own lives to decide. She wouldn’t do any more than give advice.
After that, Ilya gave the brothers their own spear and bow and saw them off at the entrance as their father came to pick them up.
Their father might be their greatest obstacle in joining the Mercenary Guild. She saw their backs fade in the distance as she thought about that.
“Looks like you helped them a lot.”
It was a voice she didn’t think would call out to her, but she wasn’t particularly surprised by it either.
“I wanted them to know that there are both good and bad aspects to any job… Do you not think so? Branch Vice Manager.”
When she turned around, he smiled thinly.
“Correct. It’s as you say.”
“… Is that all?”
“Yes. It appears that there would be no effect on you even if I went further.”
The Branch Vice Manager nodded, speaking rather indifferently.
Not to mention his tone, even his bearing seemed vastly different from what it used to be.
He looked more natural this way. Guessing his intentions, she hopped on his verbal slip.
“You said quite a lot there.”
“You’ve already noticed though, right?”
Seeing Ilya only respond by smiling wryly, the Branch Vice Manager also smiled wryly.
“When I was shaken by seeing that Great Spirit-sama, you covered for me, right? According to the information I’d received, you should have been driven a little further into a corner there, but your reaction was as candid as ever… that covering convinced me. That I’d been noticed.” 
—What were her intentions?
The words he ended up speaking weren’t concerning her intentions behind the Snow Festival, what she thought he would talk about.
- Ilya stopped Gnome from killing him. Please refer to this piece of Volume 2 Chapter 1 for refreshing your memory. Return