“I’m off, then.”
On the same day Stella left for her journey, I too had packed my things and finished preparing to set out.
Today, it’s not just Stella who’s leaving this village.
I’m going on a journey for training as well.
What’s indispensable for honing one’s skills is a training partner, a rival by another name.
Or you could call it a stepping stone.
Now that I’m separated from Stella, the best stepping stone, I have to find a replacement.
There’s no way such a formidable opponent exists in this rural village, so naturally, I have to go on a journey.
Besides, I couldn’t experience life-or-death combat while training with Stella.
This is a good opportunity to gain the real combat experience that I lacked.
Life-or-death battles are what make a person grow the most.
In fact, the version of me in my dreams also significantly improved through that.
So for now, I plan to follow the path that the me in my dreams took, especially the parts that seem particularly important.
The initial goal is to catch up to the peak condition I was in within those dreams.
I also want to retrieve the equipment I was using in those dreams as soon as possible.
Following that path should let me recover the equipment, so it’s killing two birds with one stone.
“Take care and look after yourself.”
I responded to Mom, who came to see me off.
Don’t worry; I plan to properly assess my own limits.
The secret to growth is pushing oneself to the brink without dying, but dying would ruin everything.
I may be heading towards the River Styx, but I’ll make sure never to cross it completely.
“Hmm, you don’t seem to fully understand, which makes me worried.”
I had a feeling Mom was about to launch into a sermon.
But contrary to my expectations, Dad stepped in front of me before Mom could lay into me.
“What is it, Dad?”
My bear-like, huge-bodied father was crossing his arms, looking down at his son in front of him.
Normally, despite his size, Dad has a gentle atmosphere, but his seriously stern face now is pretty intimidating.
The intimidation might even rival that of an old knight.
Is this what they call the dignity of a father?
“There’s only one thing I can say to you, who has made up his mind. . . . . .I’m proud to be the father of a son who’s willing to risk his life for the woman he loves. Make sure you protect Stella-chan, the woman you love, and come back. Understand?”
“Dad. . . . . .”
My dad finally acknowledged me.
That’s great, but. . . . . .
“It’s not like that with Stella, okay?”
“When you come back, make sure to bring Stella-chan as your wife. Oh, and you can bring a grandchild too!”
Seriously, these parents of mine!
They don’t listen to what their son has to say!
“. . . . . .Uncle.”
Finally, Stella’s father, Uncle, spoke to me.
He looked incredibly sorry.
“I apologize. . . . . .It should have been my duty as her father to protect my daughter. . . . . .”
“Uncle. . . . . .”
I know because I heard it from Stella.
How much this person suffered sending their daughter away.
It seems that Uncle and Stella had a thorough discussion in the few days leading up to Stella’s departure.
Uncle desperately tried to convince and even said he would fight if it was necessary, but in the end, that stubborn girl made him promise to stay in the village and protect their place until they returned.
Being in the same role as me in the dream is quite tragic.
I do believe it’s a necessary role, but I wonder what kind of persuasion led to that.
When I heard that, for some reason, Stella blushed and evaded the topic, and it still bothers me a bit even now.
“She told me, ‘I’ll be fine because Allan will help me. So, Dad, please protect the place we will return to.’ She looked so happy saying that.”
. . . . . .I see.
Stella really said some embarrassing things on a whim.
I mean, saying that to your real dad in a serious conversation.
No wonder she blushed.
“That’s why I believe in you. In my daughter and in you, who made her look so happy. . . . . . Allan-kun, please take good care of Stella.”
Uncle, dealing with a kid like me, deeply bowed his head in request.
So, my answer is decided.
If I can’t respond to this, I’m not a man.
“Understood. I’ll protect her with all my responsibility.”
I declared this, pounding my chest.
I’ve certainly received your feelings, Uncle.
Leave her to me.
“Thank you. . . . . . And I’m also looking forward to seeing my grandchild’s face.”
“No, like I said, it’s not like that.”
“Ah, the not-so-honest phase of adolescence. Don’t worry, even Uncle had such a period.”
“That’s not what I mean!”
Indeed, if you asked whether I liked or disliked Stella, I’d say I like her.
In the first place, I couldn’t risk my life for someone I didn’t like.
But that doesn’t mean Stella and I will end up together.
At least, not until I become a man worthy of her.
“Alright, I’m heading out now.”
“Yeah, become a fine man and come back.”
“Even in a sexual sense~.”
“When it comes to physical intimacy, it should be with mutual consent. . . . . .”
And so, I parted ways with the meddling parents, who were nothing but unnecessary busybodies, and embarked on a journey.
It’s not a journey of revenge like that nightmarish one; it’s a journey to catch up with the one I must protect.
At the end of this journey, I won’t let it end in that nightmarish conclusion.
This time, I will make sure it ends with a happy ending.
With such determination, today at this moment, I bid farewell to my hometown.
When I return, I swear I will definitely bring Stella along with me.