Extra chapter thanks to my Patreons 🙂 My unending gratitude to all your support!
Also on a side note, argih has linked a simple nightmode for my page here. Thank you for making one 🙂 *Disclaimer* I had no part in making it. Use/install at your own discretion*
Chapter 66: Matters to decide on; Matters to worry about
The storms often affect the harbor district.
Flooded floors due to the rising river level was an annual occurrence and it wasn’t rare for buildings to collapse.
The residents of the harbor district had given up on conquering the storm and their construction technology developed in the direction of easily constructed buildings that do not have to last for very long such that it would be fine even if they were destroyed in the storm.
In a part of the harbor district which saw little pedestrian traffic, there lied a shop which was half destroyed by the storm three years ago. The old walls and new walls were joint together like patchwork and wind whistled through the gaps between the walls.
The shopkeeper was an old lady with a bent back who received her customers with an amicable smile.
“Here you go, white fish soup.”
I carried the two platters of soups with floating fish fillet that was served onto the counter to my table.
As it was currently still slightly early for lunch, we were the only customers in the shop.
Danan said with sparkling eyes.
“You always say that.”
I laughed as I looked at Danan.
That was Danan’s set phrase whenever food was placed in front of him. If the cooking was decent then Danan would say it with sparkling eyes.
I involuntarily felt a sense of nostalgia after watching my companion’s habit after such a long time.
“No way, the chance for me to say ‘looks delicious’ decreased after you left. The meals we had on the road became shitty unpalatable.”
“Don’t say shit at the meal table. Do you guys alternate the cooking duty?”
“Nah, Ares said he’ll do it so we let him do it.”
“Ah~, that would be impossible.”
I don’t believe Ares knew any inkling about cooking. He probably tried to do everything I did to keep up appearances for chasing me out of the party.
That’s called being unreasonable.
“Leaving it up to a person who can’t do it would probably cause dissatisfaction to accumulate. For such instances, the work should be alternated so everyone can share the belief that it is not easy. After doing that, all members can discuss the best course of action and you’ll be able to find the person best fitted for the task too.”
“We’re all battle-orientated experts after all.”
Danan scratched his head.
“In the first place, this is all because you selfishly left.”
Danan’s arm on his head blurred.
And the next instant, Danan’s finger was right next to my forehead.
I twisted my head and avoided Danan’s forehead flick by a hair’s breadth.
“Seems like your skills have not dulled.”
Danan grinned as he retracted his arm.
Give me a break.
The pain from a forehead flick by that thick finger would not subside even after three days.
I avoided it by luck but Danan’s movements were many multitudes sharper in the past. He was only playing around now but it would be terrifying how swift it would have been if he was serious.
“You know, I can count with just two hands the number of people in the world capable of avoiding my forehead flicks.”
“No no, I still feel the difference in strength after all. Danan is strong.”
He overtook me in the past but now, the difference between Danan and my ability was insurmountable.
While I was spending my time leisurely in Zoltan, Danan was placing his life on the line battling against the Demon Lord army on the front lines.
Once he overtook my level which was my only merit, there was no longer any aspect I could triumph over him.
“ … I don’t feel that way though. Gideon, you are a man I can respect.”
Danan said a little desolately after hearing my words.
Danan and I made slurping sounds as we drank the soup.
It was seasoned in a simple manner relying only on the flavor of the fish as well as salt and apart from the fish fillet, large chunks of potatoes and cabbages floated in the soup.
It was not an elaborate dish but it was still delicious. If your cooking skill is low, just utilize the flavors of the ingredients. That was a good dish that followed that principle.
The old lady who managed the shop used to be a singer who sang for sailors. After retiring, she switched to a completely different occupation to become the proprietress of an inn and continued running this shop for many years relying on her ingenuity and characteristic smile despite having no skills that matched her work.
“So why did you leave?”
Danan muttered just a few words.
“ … Didn’t you hear from Ares? I ran away.”
I requested Ares to coordinate an excuse with me so that I would not inconvenience the knight order but from what I heard from Tise, Ares quickly revealed that I ran away after they probed him further.
Danan most likely heard about it too.
“Because Ares said those things to you?”
“There was that too but … more importantly, I recognized it myself. I was made painfully aware of it during the battle with Desmond of the Sand. That I could no longer keep up in battle.”
Danan slammed the table.
The soups surged upward and spilled onto the table slightly.
“I realized it fully after you were gone. Gideon, you are strong. Not in terms of pure physical strength but your courage to make calm decisions even while fighting against foes stronger than yourself and your knowledge of the most effective actions to take in a battle even without possessing battle techniques and spells; you are a truly strong man. We need you for the journey.”
Danan’s eyes were serious.
However … I had already made my decision and I could not stay there indefinitely for a question and answer session.
“Sorry, but I have already found a place where I belong here. I will no longer journey with you guys.”
“But the Demon Lord must be defeated if you wish to protect this home of yours!”
“That is true.”
Danan dove directly into the issue.
I relived Albert’s words in my head.
『Those with power have the duty to use that power. 』
Is it a sin to not fight? Is it our duty to fight because the Divine Protection we are born with wishes for it?
I have pondered that question all this time as I looked at Ruti.
Young Ruti was mandated to save the world from birth. The people, the world and even the Divine Protection will not allow her to say that she does not want to fight.
We continued to stare at each other but Danan was the first to avert his eyes.
“ … Fuuu, well, I see, you quit the journey on your own will.”
“The trigger might have been Ares but I decided to quit the journey myself.”
We kept silent for a short while.
Both our gazes crossed, filled with complex emotions.
“I don’t understand but anyway, I got it. Let me see what you do in Zoltan for a bit. I’ll think of what to do after that.”
“I don’t mind but … there’s one problem.”
“What is it?”
“Ruti is here too.”
Danan froze from the shock.
“Why would Hero-sama?”
“ … You might be upset with Ruti if you hear what I have to say.”
“I will? Toward Hero-sama? That’s impossible.”
Should I tell Danan the truth? In order to avoid trouble, I could certainly deceive Danan and steer him away from Ruti’s problem.
“However Danan. I want to tell you everything I know. What Ruti is thinking, what she is suffering from. Because you are Ruti’s companion.”
Why did the hero companions become all disjointed just because I left? I failed to understand when I first heard about it.
All I did were chores that did not require any skills. To put it bluntly, they were tasks that anybody could do with just a little hard work.
I imagined that they would probably struggle once I was gone but those were tasks which could be resolved just by sharing the burden among companions.
But in reality, Ares tried to do everything himself and failed miserably. The party members became disgruntled and the party fell apart.
Was Ares the cause?
He was certainly a factor. If Ares just admitted that it was too much for one person to handle, it would not have reached this stage.
But that was not the only reason. Even if Ares did not voice out, it would have been all right if they just helped out when they realized that Ares could not cope with it on his own.
The other reason could be attributed to distrust toward Ares for chasing me out. After all, Yarandorara and Danan left the party because they could not trust Ares.
“True companion huh?”
It might have been words spoken by Ares but ironically, that was the reason for the collapse of the party.
“I considered you to be a true companion.”
Danan reacted to my words and replied.
I was happy, happy that he said that but … it’s different.
I started telling Danan about Ruti.
About how she has been suffering all along because of how the Hero Divine Protection manipulated her.
About how she lost most of her humanity in exchange for complete immunity.
And about how she was suppressing her Divine Protection impulses by using the Devil’s Divine Protection … and that she might quit being the Hero.
The companions who accompanied Ruti all that time failed to understand Ruti’s anguish.
Ruti was the Hero with the role to carry the party forward. Because that was determined by her Divine Protection.
If all the members performed their roles properly according to their Divine Protection, the party would do well. That was probably Ares’ definition of a true companion.
However, it did not go well. Because I was not a slave to my Divine Protection.
“Troubled because of her Divine Protection? I never imagined it.”
Danan was shocked by my words.
“The Martial Artist Divine Protection complements me well. I enjoy training my body and fighting strong foes excite me. Nothing makes me happier than to see myself get stronger. For that sake, I will endure whatever hardship that may come … I am that kind of person.”
” … I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all.”
Danan was basically on the side of humans who can’t comprehend the feeling of suffering due to their Divine Protection impulses. Among all the people I’ve met, Danan was the person who loved his own Divine Protection the most.
The fact that he possessed even greater strength with his 『Martial Artist』 Divine Protection that can’t be considered as a superior Divine Protection than his companions with the superior Divine Protections of 『Crusader』 and 『Sage』 was proof of that.
“I don’t get it. But I get that I don’t understand anything! The only thing I can do is fight!”
“You muscle head.”
“That’s why, for the time being, I will fight for the sake of whatever Hero-sama is trying to do! If Hero-sama quits being Hero-sama, I will think about it when that time comes!”
Ahh sheesh. Danan is really Danan.
“If we’ve decided on that, we don’t have the time to be lazing around here! Let’s go Gideon, it is our role to help Hero-sama if she is having trouble!”
“Wait wait, my story is done but what about yours?”
“We can talk about it on the move, what happened to me is no big deal!”
I feel that losing your right hand is quite a big deal though.
Danan’s expression clearly showed that he could not sit still.
It’s been a long time since I saw that aspect of Danan.
This loveable muscle brain has always practiced actions over thoughts. No matter what situation he found himself in, he was the kind of man who would never stop moving forward because of worry.
I occasionally found myself dazzled by Danan’s simplicity.
The door opened and Red and Danan left the shop energetically.
“Are you sure we don’t need to chase after them?”
Said the man with a bandage wrapped around his head seated a couple of seats away from where Danan and Red were seated … Albert.
Theodora who had her spear on her back answered with silence as she looked at her own hands placed on the table.
Theodora stood at the very peak of humanity in terms of magical arts. If Theodora seriously used presence elimination magic, even with a combination of Danan and Red, it would be hard for Danan and Red to detect them when they didn’t hold any hostility. (TLN: Previously translated Theodora as the master of technique but this paragraph finally showed that she was a master in magical arts instead.)
(Hero-sama has given up on subjugating the Demon Lord?)
Theodora did not have Danan’s simplistic way of thinking.
Theodora failed to register Albert’s worried query about her condition as she continued to worry about what she should do.
Emotionally she wished to cooperate with Ruti and Gideon. If Ruti was suffering then she wants to help her!
Theodora never imagined that she would hate herself as much as she hated herself today for not having Danan’s straightforwardness.