…I’d been right on the money. She’d been dead tired, and now she’s fast asleep. My smile turns a bit wry as I lightly run my hand through Laladi’s hair. She’s clinging to me, and her breathing’s drawn out.
I wonder what she might be dreaming about. She drools a little, the expression on her face not entirely suitable for the public eye.
Both Laladi and I had walked some short ways from where Yuuto and the rest of his party had decided to lie down for the night, had sat down and stuck to keeping watch. Laladi had fallen asleep almost immediately after that, but since there doesn’t really seem to be anything happening around us, I let her have her rest.
The dry rustling of a nearby thicket snaps me out of my thoughts. But, since I already know that I wouldn’t be dealing with some monster or a bandit out for our blood, I don’t even bother to panic.
What’s wrong, Maho?
I address her directly, and the thicket begins rustling even more. It goes quiet for some time before Maho steps out of it, her expression one of resignation.
“…How did you know it was me?”
Oh, it’s just a hunch. Though I keep my answer vague, the truth of the matter is that I just sensed her presence.
My familiarity with these types of battle skills might not be as sharp or refined as it is with the girls’, but even I hadn’t had trouble sensing someone of Maho‘s caliber. But who knows, maybe I won’t be able to say that once she’s done some growing of her own.
Anyhow, what brings you here?
“I just wanted to talk for a bit.”
Maho nods at my new question.
Hm… Well, no point in just standing around, is there? Why don’t you come closer? I even have a fire going, though it isn’t much to brag about.
Maho approaches us, a little uneasy in her footing, and sits down in a place that makes for some distance between us. I realize that she’s practically in constant vigilance of me… but I suppose that there’d be much more of a risk if she were to completely drop her guard around someone she hadn’t even known for a day.
“Oh. Did Laladi fall asleep?”
She did. I knew she’d been tired.
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“Huh. You know, that girl gives off some pretty scary vibes. She looks like a regular child when she’s sleeping, though.”
Maho takes a good look at Laladi’s sleeping face, her lips forming an unintentional smile. Ohoh… I’d been right the first time around. Maho really is a sharp one.
If only she’d been the same kind of person that Longmann appears to be, namely a bit simple-minded, then this would’ve been so much easier for us. Laladi’s features suddenly turn crumpled and strained with seeming displeasure, though I’m not sure if she can actually feel the eyes locked on her.
Since I’m not too hot on the idea of her mindless sleeping movements being responsible for Maho’s potential death, I run my hand through her hair and try to get her into a better mood. It’s a rousing success on my part, and Laladi adopts that same carefree expression from before, her breaths turning long and deep.
Phew… Just talking to Maho’s making me gamble with lives. Maho’s life, specifically.
“Well… First of all, I’d like to thank you. For saving me, I mean.”
Maho quickly inclines her head in my direction.
Oh, there’s nothing you need to thank me for. You’ve already thanked me anyhow, so please, don’t worry about it.
After all, if you wanted to go into the base details, it’s Laladi and I who were being protected. Also, our opponents were just goblins, who I’ll remind you aren’t any trouble.
But despite all that, I still have to say that this girl’s integrity is uncanny.
When we’d first met, I’d just told myself that she was the unsociable type of girl, and really thick-headed to top it all off. If she is, that sure didn’t keep her from giving thanks where she thought thanks were due.
“Also, well… There’s something I need to ask you.”
“You’re a scholar aren’t you, Master? I’d think that you know much more than I do…”
O-Oh, right… I’d forgotten that that’s the story we’re going with. But hey, the ridiculous amount of years I’d put behind me isn’t just for show. I’d like to think that it made me a little wiser than most people. Don’t think I’ll have a good answer for the more technical questions, though.
“Do… Do you know if there’s a way for people… to travel to other worlds?”
I look on in surprise at Maho, and the way she so timidly gives me her question. Other Worlds? If there’s something I’d expected to come out of her mouth, it definitely hadn’t been this. I can’t help but be a little taken aback.
“Ah! You know what, it’s fine. It’s… just forget about it.”
Just as I open my mouth, ready to give her an answer, Maho stops me from doing so and waves her hands about.
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Oh? Are you sure you don’t want to know?
Did she just take one look at my bemused expression and decide that I don’t know? I do have some wisdom to share on the subject, so that’s a shame…
“Say, do you know why I’d ask you something like that? It’s because I’m not from this world.”
You don’t say.
“Heh, surprised? Well, I can’t blame you. So was I. At the time, I never even imagined that there could be two worlds.”
Maho’s smile looks crooked, and her gaze is distant.
Wait… Are you saying that you didn’t come to this world by choice?
“Of course I didn’t! Why would I?!”
Not a moment passes after hearing my response before she stands up like lighting and raises her voice in anger.
I panic and press my hands against Laladi’s ears, trying to make sure that she doesn’t wake up. She scowls a little and groans in her sleep, but she doesn’t show any sign of opening her eyes.
Phew… That had been too close for comfort. We’d been this close to getting a generous helping of dead Maho…
“Oh, I’m sorry…”
I put a finger to my lips, signaling her to be quiet, and she sits back down.
You’re not the only one at fault here. I shouldn’t have asked you something so personal. Well, at least we’re even now.
“I… I never wanted to come to this world. I was just dragged into this dangerous world, completely out of the blue, and told that I had to fight against the Demon Lord’s armies just because I could use a little magic. Who does that? It’s ridiculous…!”
Even though she keeps her volume low, it doesn’t do anything to hide the vast well of rage pent up inside her. And yes, I can see where she’s coming from.
After all, if her story holds water, the implication is that she was essentially abducted from her home and told to risk her life fighting for people she didn’t even know. And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it turns out that she had to face off against the Demon Lord armies.
It’s good and all to think that Maho’d had the power to hold her own, but what if a child without any experience to speak of was called on to join the hero party? Would they even last more than three days before they kicked the bucket?
And I have to say that, while I’m more than willing to offer up my own life if it means saving the other members of Yelquchira, I’d still be at least a little hesitant if I had to do the same for complete strangers.
“They told us to go and fight, and the only support they send with us is Mary, can you believe it? And I’m not saying that she’s not a big help, she is, but isn’t it just weird that only one person’s willing to lend us a hand…?!”
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So if Maho’s story is anything to go by, then Mary’s the only one out of the party who’s an actual resident of this world. Which, in turn, means that Maho, Yuuto, and Longmann are from another one.
Interesting. I can see that being the case for Maho and Yuuto, but Longmann hadn’t struck me as anything but someone from this side of the fence.
But this kingdom, the one that summoned them and Maho seems awfully cruel. Do they really think this’ll help them get one up on the Demon Lord’s men…?
“And don’t get me started on the others, they’re all weird in the head. Longmann’s practically dead set on living here, and Yuuto has too much of a soft spot for other people. Don’t they want to go back home? Am I the only one who does…?”
Finally, large tears pour out of Maho’s wide eyes.
Well then… what am I supposed to do in this situation? Can I just do what I do to the Yelquchira girls when they’re down in the dumps? I really just can’t sit by and watch Maho cry forever, after all.
That said, while I can’t really presume to fully understand what she’s feeling right now, all I can do is pretend that I do and offer her my sympathies. So, I reach out and softly pat Maho’s head, never dropping my smile.
It’s all based on smoke and mirrors at this point.
Maho looks up at me with a glazed expression, her eyes blinking in surprise.
Well, uh… cheer up, alright?
She continues to stare for a good while before her cheeks suddenly swell up with air and a burst of laughter escapes from her.
What… wait, what’s so funny?
“I came here to thank you. But look at me now, just going on and on about my own problems. Still, thank you for listening. I feel much better now.”
Maho clasps my hand with hers and gently removes it from her head.
That’s good to hear. I’m happy I could lift your spirits. Also… how long are you planning to hold my hand for?
“I-I didn’t mean to, I swear!”
My question completely flusters Maho, and she lets go of my hand. She covers the hand she’d touched mine with her other one and brings them both close to her chest.
“W-Well then… I’m going to go to bed. You don’t have to keep watch for much longer, by the way, so just hang in there.”
I’ll keep that in mind. Good night.
Maho scurries away from me and heads straight back to where the others are fast asleep.