“He~re, Hikaru, this is tasty too. Aaa~hn.” (Rifreya)
“Kuro, Kuro, this is quite the delicacy too. I will share some with you. He~re, he~re.” (Jeanne)
I arrived at the dining table and I was being fed by the two girls.
It has been 1 week since Rifreya has begun living with us. By the time I noticed, the two have been trying to feed me on the regular.
But for me who lived together with my two self-indulgent little sisters in their infancy, this is an everyday thing for me.
At these kinds of times, it is the ironclad rule to just obediently let them feed me.
Clear your mind.
“Yup, tasty.” (Hikaru)
“Yay. That’s the one I bought.” (Rifreya)
“The one I bought should be tasty too. A French gourmet doesn’t lie.” (Jeanne)
“Yeah, tasty.” (Hikaru)
Turn into nothing.
I must not think about the fact that this embarrassing situation is being watched by millions of people.
I am done for if I end up getting conscious of it.
Even so, I can’t escape. There’s no place to escape.
Also, they are doing this out of good will.
…No, it is more likely that they are finding this amusing… At any rate, there’s no ill-intent. That alone is certain.
That’s why I will obediently become their receptacle. That’s my code of conduct.
The next day after the duel ruckus with Rifreya and Jeanne.
Rifreya and her mother had come together early in the morning.
Maybe they entrusted it to the inn, or it was the same as the time when she went back a few days ago, they had a whole lot of luggage on them.
“Well then, Hikaru-san, I leave my daughter in your care. Rifreya too, devote yourself well to him.”
“Yes! I swear on the name of the Ashbird household!” (Rifreya)
“Good answer. Our family has Flora, so just think as if you don’t have a family anymore.”
“I understand. You be well too, Mother.” (Rifreya)
“No no no, wait a moment there.” (Hikaru)
The mother and daughter were beginning a lifetime farewell all of a sudden. I feel like the matter would just advance as it is if I were to leave it be. I have regained my calm to a certain degree after thinking about it for a whole night, but I still don’t understand it too well.
“Uhm, we are going to be keeping Rifreya in the house as a party member, okay? There will be breaks, and she is free to go back home.” (Hikaru)
“No, Hikaru-san. Conquering a dungeon is a grueling task that can’t be achieved with half-baked resolve. If you think you have a place to return to, it would instead put you in danger. I have challenged Meltia in my younger days, and the 4th Floor and lower are truly accursed lands… Rifreya requires resolve that has no retreats. If she is going to be a frontline warrior entrusted with the lives of her comrades, even more so.”
“I…I see…” (Hikaru)
It is true that I do feel it is a grueling task though… She does have a point.
There’s times when your strength of mind is the deciding factor in a close battle by a paper-thin difference.
Even so, the mother of Rifreya was an explorer too, huh. I heard their household brought up templars for generations, but there might unexpectedly be more variety.
“I have thoroughly told her not to be a bother to you, Hikaru-san, so please do leave her by your side.”
“There’s no way she would be a bother… Understood.” (Hikaru)
It is not my desire to begin some strange interrogation.
Whichever the case, now that it has come this far, there’s no option of not having Rifreya in my party again.
I do have complicated feelings about it, but…I will swallow them for now. At the very least, all of her problems have been resolved, and after she considered all that, she decided on this.
Also, it is in part also because Jeanne was the one who invited Rifreya, and I promised to conquer the dungeon with Jeanne, so I have no right to refuse.
“Now then, I will be returning. Flora is still recovering after all.”
“Yes. Please tell Flora to stay well too. That her older sister is not going to return until she conquers Meltia.” (Rifreya)
“Make sure you accomplish it, okay?”
In the end, it really did end up like a farewell of a lifetime, and Rifreya’s mother disappeared into the crowd.
She was one tremendous person…
“Once again, I will be under your care, Hikaru.” (Rifreya)
“…Hikaru…you have been making a weird face all the time since yesterday… Are you not happy? Was it a bother…that I returned?” (Rifreya)
Rifreya says this with an upward glance as if not too confident about it.
Looks like my complicated emotions showed.
She must actually be uneasy about this. She is somewhat forceful, so it may be easy to misunderstand, but even if she shines like light, it is not like she doesn’t have shadows.
“Sorry, it wasn’t my intention to make you feel like that. It is just that…honestly speaking…it is mostly because of the surprise. I really thought I wouldn’t be meeting you again after all.” (Hikaru)
“Eh…isn’t that cruel? I did tell you that I would be coming back, right?” (Rifreya)
“Yeah, but I thought that becoming a templar meant working there. I thought you were just being considerate of me when you said that. Even if that wasn’t the case, there was also your little sister.” (Hikaru)
“Hm…well…that’s true. I did think that it would be hard to return to you once I got back to my home after all.” (Rifreya)
“Right? But…that’s why…I am happy.” (Hikaru)
I was surprised, but it is true that I am also happy about it.
Even though I don’t want her to be seen, I personally wanted her to stay by my side.
I am attracted to her.
It is not an emotion that would disappear just from being apart from her for a bit.
“Me too… I am also happy to be with you again, Hikaru. There’s a part of me that feels like it has turned into something a bit weird, but I am fine with anything as long as I can be together with you again, Hikaru.” (Rifreya)
“But my problem hasn’t changed at all, you know. At least understand that much.” (Hikaru)
“Yeah, I heard from Jeanne-san yesterday. I will simply be joining the party as a frontline, so there’s no need for you to be on your guard for the time being, Hikaru. Jeanne did tell me too that love is prohibited in this house.” (Rifreya)
Love is prohibited, huh.
It is a stoic rule fitting of Jeanne. She must have been considerate with my circumstances.
Just like what Rifreya’s mother said, dungeon exploration…moreover, conquering the lowest floor, requires at least that much resolve.
“Even so, I was really surprised, you know? Even though I came back right away, you were with a cute girl I don’t know. In the end, just what kind of relationship do you two have?” (Rifreya)
“You already heard that she comes from the same place as me, right? She came to me not that long ago, and she gave me the prize of the Viewer Count Race that I wanted. The price for that was for me to help her in her dungeon exploration… Of course, the dungeon exploration itself is in part for my own livelihood too though.” (Hikaru)
“…So that’s how it was. What you wanted was the gem that revived dead people…right? Then, does that mean that the childhood friend that you spoke of before has come back to life?” (Rifreya)
“That’s right. That’s why I feel a debt of gratitude that I truly can’t do enough to pay back. It certainly might look weird from your perspective, but I want you to understand.” (Hikaru)
“Well, I got it. You are an earnest person, Hikaru. I forgive it, I forgive it. Jeanne-san doesn’t look like a bad person after all.” (Rifreya)
After saying this, Rifreya laughed.
It feels like it has been quite a while since I have had a conversation with her.
It actually hasn’t even been 1 month since then, but every single day has been a packed one since coming to this world.
“By the way, where’s Jeanne?” (Rifreya)
“Still sleeping.” (Hikaru)
“E-Eeeh? It is already 8 though.” (Rifreya)
“She is the type that’s weak in the mornings.” (Hikaru)
It seems like her habits of her previous world still aren’t leaving her. Even when it is morning, she is not showing any signs of waking up.
In this world where it is the default to begin activities as soon as the sun rises, this must be considered quite the oversleeping.
By the way, I make sure to wake up by 5 o’clock.
“Hikaru, this.” (Rifreya)
Rifreya rummages her luggage, takes something out, and gives it to me.
A small leather pouch. It is heavy.
“What is this…? Money?” (Hikaru)
“Yes, support funds. I was told to give it to you later.” (Rifreya)
“What’s that about support funds…” (Hikaru)
Just from the slight opening, I can tell that there’s more than a few gold coins in here.
“I can’t accept this. Or more like, why?” (Hikaru)
“Please accept it. That flower not only cured the disease of Flora, but can also cure several more people, so I was asked to please sell it to them… Thinking that you would allow it if people were to be saved by this, I sold it. That’s the pay of it. It is yours, Hikaru.” (Rifreya)
“I see… But…” (Hikaru)
Even if she sold it, that flower is something I gave her.
I can’t just accept the money from that.
Regardless, even if I were to refuse it, I can easily imagine that they wouldn’t accept it.
“Then, let’s buy furniture for your room with that coin, Rifreya. You must also have to renew your equipment.” (Hikaru)
“Is that okay? With that, it would be the same as me using it…” (Rifreya)
“Buying equipment for a party member is technically like buying it for my sake. Also, you could just think of it as putting it into the party’s shared funds and having used it from there.” (Hikaru)
Her mother most likely gave it away with that intention.
Being an explorer is costly.
That goes for the equipment, but also for the potions, spirit tools, and if it even comes to buying magic tools, no matter how much money we had, it wouldn’t be enough.
I have heard that parties that aim for more also buy Divine Beast Presents that others are selling.
The Divine Beast Present cannot be passed on when you have just found it -in other words, when it is still in its gem state- but if it is after you have ‘opened’ it outside, it is possible.
The Divine Beast Present is something given to one person in specific, but if the size fits and you can equip it, it has quite the high performance.
The Dark Night Gauntlet has received the attacks of monsters a good number of times, yet it only has small scratches, and there’s almost no deterioration. I most likely can use this for the rest of my life.
“If that’s okay with you, Hikaru…I am fine with that too… Thanks.” (Rifreya)
Rifreya places her head on my chest.
A nice scent tickled me, and I almost hugged her by reflex.
“You there! Love is prohibited!”
Rifreya separates at astounding speed at the sudden voice.
When I looked back, there was Jeanne still in her pajamas, pointing straight at us.
That startled me. I thought my heart would jump out there…
“Fufu, I am just kidding. If it is that much, there’s no problem. Good morning, and welcome, Rifreya.” (Jeanne)
“Ah, yes! Rifreya Ashbird! From here on, I will be under your care!” (Rifreya)
“We are bronze newbies here. We are the ones who will be under your care. Looking forward to it.” (Jeanne)
After laughing lightly there, Jeanne walks off to wash up.
“Ah, right.” (Jeanne)
Is what I thought, but she stopped her feet.
“Rifreya is a bit long and hard to say. Don’t you have a pet name or something?” (Jeanne)
“Pet name… When I was a child, I was called Reya.” (Rifreya)
“Hoh, that’s nice. Then, from here on, I will call you Reya.” (Jeanne)
After saying that, Jeanne walked off to wash her face.
“…Is my name…long?” (Rifreya)
“No, it is most likely because a shorter name would be easier to call you when it is in the middle of battle. She does call me Kuro after all.” (Hikaru)
“I see… That’s impressive. Was she a battle pro or something in that other world?” (Rifreya)
“I don’t know the details, but I think her battle simulations were perfect.” (Hikaru)
That world didn’t have any lack of fighting games after all.
Later, there was a dispute about the room assignment of Rifreya, but after that was decided, we went off to register her in the party at the guild, and then went to buy the furniture and groceries, and the day ended with that.
We will be diving into the dungeon with this party from tomorrow on.