Rockwall Lou – V9 Chapter 7

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟕

(7)

Three years later.

The devastated kingdom was gradually returning to its former state. However, this was limited to areas along the main roads. Numerous frontier villages were still under the threat of demon beasts.

In one such village, a single carriage casually stopped. One person in the driver’s seat and three in the back – four suspicious-looking men were on board.

They were once known as the Black Neck Squad, or the Hero Squad, and were wizards.

“Seems we’re late.”

Looking up at the unusually magnificent walls for such a small village, Paulun murmured from the driver’s seat.

“Those guys.”

The one who clicked his tongue loudly in the carriage was Battsu.

Tenku, also in the carriage, yawned broadly, while Fuuri didn’t react at all.

They decided to enter the village, but there was no gatekeeper. No one responded when they called out.

From what Tenku saw from the sky, the villagers seemed to be gathering in the central square and causing a commotion. They decided to enter through a side door next to the gate.

From the crowd around a large statue, a cheer erupted, and a faint light was emitted.

First, they sought out the village chief, and Paulun greeted him.

“We are the ‘Wizard Assistance Squad’. We travel to frontier villages, taking on tasks like eliminating demon beasts. I’m the leader, Paulun. The three behind me are――.”

The three turned their faces away, looking displeased. Apparently, they didn’t like the squad’s name.

“Recently, we’ve been quite active. Have you heard any rumors about us?”

The village chief forced a smile.

“Unfortunately, no.”

“We heard this village has been suffering from demon beast attacks, so we came.”

The village chief fell silent and looked around at the walls.

“Just a few days ago, a hero and a saintess visited us. They just left.”

The immediate problems of the village had been resolved.

The hero constructed the magnificent walls surrounding the village and even developed wells and waterways. The mysterious magic of the saintess healed the sick and injured and revitalized them.

“It was truly a miraculous deed.”

The reason why the “Wizard Assistance Squad,” which had been working diligently to improve the status of wizards, hadn’t become famous was because of this hero and saintess. In the face of their overwhelming achievements, the squad’s name didn’t just pale in comparison; it was completely overshadowed.

Moreover, these two didn’t need to travel by carriage. They would appear and disappear through a mysterious portal. They were an unfairly formidable rival.

To break the awkwardness, the village chief made a suggestion.

“However, you’ve come from far away and must be tired. Today is a festive day for our village. Would you like some food and drink? It’s leftovers from last night’s feast.”

“We’ll take it.”

In the center of the village, there was a massive statue of a goddess. In front of it stood three stone tablets, densely inscribed with tiny characters.

The titles read, “True History,” “Mistakes of Mankind,” and “The New Doctrine of Mail Religion.”

In every village the hero and saintess visited, these were always left behind. By the time the clerics from the Mail Cult would be dispatched in a few years, all villagers had to memorize the contents, making these notorious items.

Facing the out-of-place, magnificent statue of the goddess, the village chief respectfully bowed.

 ㅤ

“Management seems tough.”

“Huh. No, not really.”

The village chief was evasive in his response.

“What’s this?”

In the Prime Minister’s chamber within the royal palace, Norancho muttered with a frustrated look and tone. In his hand, he held a piece of paper.

A subordinate standing in front of the work desk explained.

“Uh, about that. We received it from the hero earlier. He said it’s ‘the usual’.”

The title reads, “Budget Request”. Detailed costs for the expansion of the Mail Cult’s organization and facilities were meticulously written in the details section.

“And the hero?”

“He said he had some business and went somewhere with the saintess.”

The hero and the saintess, who saved this country, are sacred to the church, and contact with them from the national side is prohibited by law. It was a measure to avoid displeasing the goddess, but now Norancho regretted that they should have prepared a loophole.

“Should we decline?”

“Deny the request of the goddess’s beloved daughter and her groom? Don’t be ridiculous.”

If such a fact became widely known, the nation would surely fall. Especially now, when dangerous notions like “the royal family is unnecessary” have started to circulate.

“I won’t let them hold any more leverage over us.”

 ㅤ

Three years ago, following a major event called the “Red Wave,” Norancho headed to the royal capital with the “Star Guardian.”

On the surface, he went to report the situation of the city of Arche to the king, but there were other reasons.

Due to everyone in this country becoming aware of the existence of the goddess and the truth about the “covenant,” the royal family’s prestige and authority should have plummeted. With the already devastated nation potentially becoming even more chaotic, there was also the possibility of civil war. To prevent such an event, the only option was to accept the assistance of the Star Guardian, the surviving member of the Mail Cult, who continued to uphold the “covenant.” That was Norancho’s reasoning, and he advised the king accordingly.

His plan was successful.

King Ramon made the Mail Religion the state religion and agreed to revive the Mail Cult.

However, here, an oversight occurred.

For some reason, Norancho was appointed Prime Minister and found himself facing a series of challenges.

“Well, it’s fine,” Norancho thought.

“If asked to do it, I’ll do it.”

As an official, maintaining the stability of the country is an essential condition for living a carefree life.

Fortunately, Maasa, the representative of the “Star Guardian,” was a wise and capable individual. She was also a reflection of the clergy without greed or desire for power. If appealed to save many people, he probably wouldn’t be able to refuse their demands.

First, restore the honor of the Mail Cult and use the fame gained from sympathy to the fullest extent━━

Here, another oversight occurred.

Negotiations depend on the other party. If they are good-natured, appealing to their emotions might work. If they are timid, threats might be effective. But, if the opponent is an extremely cunning and greedy sage━━

Never show your weaknesses.

Norancho misjudged his opponent.

Within the Mail Cult, there existed a true power, even Maasa, the highest authority, couldn’t surpass.

The price the religious group demanded in exchange for their cooperation with the kingdom was massive, far exceeding Norancho’s expectations, encompassing people, goods, and money.

Moreover, if their demands weren’t met, they threatened to claim all the property unjustly seized from the religious group after the “Cult War” 40 years ago.

Envisioning the worst-case scenario, Norancho turned pale. The nation has already acknowledged its past sins against the Mail Cult. If they were to contest it in a grand court, defeat was inevitable.

Norancho tried his best to compromise, but when the demands exceeded limits, he resorted to emotional persuasion.

“Our citizens living on the frontier are exposed to danger, and the limited national budget exists to protect and save them. Even under the king’s command, we cannot comply with any further demands from a humanitarian standpoint. Please, we ask for your understanding.”

Then, without being asked, heroes and a saintess began saving frontier villages and subsequently submitted budget requests.

Since they performed the nation’s tasks, they demanded the respective budget.

The heroes and the saintess had no political motives. They simply wanted to help those in need.

They weren’t at fault.

The one to blame was the cunning individual who even used pure-hearted young boys and girls as tools for negotiation.

While holding the overly strict budget request, Norancho stood up.

“Contact Archbishop Maasa immediately.”

“W, Well, about that. . . . . .”

In a fearful manner, his subordinate reported.

“We received a notice from them. From now on, any requests or inquiries to the religious group must go through the ‘Supervisor.'”

 ㅤ

That cunning――

“You monster!”

Out loud this time, Norancho stamped his feet in frustration.

“What’s this about a year of life? Atonement to the goddess? Do you think if you tax the nation, money will just flow like water?”

“Now, Prime Minister.”

Though he hardly moved, Norancho, breathing heavily, ordered.

“Prepare the palanquin. I will negotiate directly!”

“Listen up, all of you, pay attention!”

Theresa’s loud voice echoed throughout the hall. She was said to be over a hundred years old, now a legendary figure, but her voice was strong and vibrant.

“Normally, you would spend years nurturing faith, deeply understanding doctrine, and mastering basic magic. Then, when ready, you’d be introduced to the world. But the reason you half-trained individuals are recognized as clergy of Mail Religion is just one. Understand?”

The thirty or so young clergy-in-training in the hall straightened up in surprise.

“It’s because we lack time and manpower.”

It was a brutally honest reason.

“Three years ago, when the last ‘Red Tide’ came, this nation abandoned many of its people. Many lost their emotional support and are suffering. We don’t have time to dawdle. Commit and dive in!”

Maasa watched Theresa’s passionate speech from the side of the podium.

Today marked a momentous day celebrating the beginning of the newly established Mail Cult. It was the graduation ceremony of the first batch from the newly founded theological school.

Welcoming young peers with the same ambition was joyful, but for Maasa, the joy was seeing Theresa still lively and energetic.

It was something unexpected three years ago.

After the “Red Tide,” Maasa received a request from Norancho to help in the nation’s reconstruction. The decision to not refuse was made considering the future lives of their aging companions.

Especially, Theresa was a concern.

From the time Maasa became the “Star Guardian” representative and sent the “Star Princess” to the “wilderness”, Theresa lost her vigor and frequently fell ill. She smiled, shed tears, and often spoke words of gratitude and apology, as if sensing her end.

Maasa didn’t want to hear such words.

But after returning from the world above the clouds, she became silent, lost in deep thought.

The meeting with King Ramon, their old adversary, was unexpectedly peaceful. On Norancho’s advice, Mail Religion was established as the state religion, and the Mail Cult was to be revived.

Then, Theresa spoke.

[It’s been a long time, Your Majesty. Forty years ago, I was the head of ceremonies at the religious group. I am Theresa.]

Surprisingly, King Ramon remembered Theresa.

[Ah, yes. The lady with the loud voice, right?]

With a nostalgic tear, King Ramon apologized for past mistakes and then asked anxiously.

[Do you hold a grudge against me? I suppose you do.]

Theresa denied it.

[My time is short. My health has been declining, and I probably won’t live for another year. I don’t have the time to hold grudges.]

[I see. I’ll provide a doctor for you. Take care.]

Theresa declined the offer.

 ㅤ

[While I cannot move my body freely, fortunately, my mind is still sharp. I wish to dedicate my remaining life to atoning for the Goddess Mail and saving the citizens of this country.]

The mention of the Goddess’s name disturbed King Ramon.

[Redemption, you say? The Goddess has no interest in human affairs.]

[Is that truly the case?]

Theresa spoke in a low and eerie voice.

[No one can fathom the will of God. Besides, it’s better to act than to refrain. Don’t you agree?]

King Ramon gave his final order.

[Well then, proceed as Lady Theresa suggests. I am retiring.]

With a newfound purpose, Theresa regained her vigor all at once. Through some aggressive negotiations, she secured funds, personnel, and the grand temple as a base. She then established a theological school and quickly nurtured young clergymen.

Start with the capital and major cities. Initially, empty your mind and speak as instructed. Focus on the “true history,” “mistakes made by humans,” and “doctrines of the new Mail Religion.” “Understand?!”

“Yes!”

Additionally, there was an emotional reunion.

One of the special positions in the former Mail Cult, the “Star Singer” of the “Three Star Commanders”, was found protected within the royal palace. It was a blind old woman, who had an old acquaintance with Theresa. The two hugged and shed tears, rejoicing in each other’s safety.

After receiving teachings from the “Star Singer”, Maasa reconstructed myths, history, and doctrines.

These were installed as stone monuments in the frontier villages saved by the hero and the saintess, along with a statue of the goddess.

“In a few years, you guys might be traveling the frontiers with the Star Knights. Don’t worry, seeds have been sown everywhere. You’ll be welcomed wherever you go.”

Suddenly, a strange movement caught their eye.

Across the podium, the old women who once handled demon beast organs- now faculty of a theological school – Sumi, Nura, and Morin, were waving towards the back of the hall.

Looking in that direction, there were figures of a boy and a girl near the corridor of the second-floor gallery, silhouetted by the light from the windows. The boy waved, and the girl bowed slightly.

The two then hurried away hand in hand.

They are probably heading to the knights’ office.

They are still very close.

Maasa was reminded of her daughter in a distant frontier and her newborn grandchild.

Gangi might be feeling lonely, but he never truly acknowledged Crozet as his daughter, so he brought it upon himself. As for Maasa, she feels she has done enough for her daughter as a mother.

All she can do now is wish for their happiness.

However, she does want to see her grandchild’s face.

“Excuse me, Supervisor.”

The one who interrupted Theresa’s solo performance that began before the graduation ceremony was the finance manager, Hamaji. He approached leisurely, leaning on a cane. By the way, the “Supervisor” is a temporary position created by Theresa, who can intervene in any department.

“Prime Minister has arrived.”

“Hmm, so he has.”

Theresa smiled slyly and ordered to guide the guest to the shabbiest reception room. The room used for financial negotiations. Even without such tactics, they should be well aware of the financial situation, but Theresa is uncompromising.

 ㅤ

“Maasa, is that you?”

“Y, Yes!”

Without thinking, she responded, causing the graduates to be taken aback.

Perhaps realizing the situation was a bit awkward, Theresa suddenly spoke in a soothing tone.

“My apologies, it’s the Archbishop. I must attend to an important guest. Can I leave the rest to you?”

“Of course.”

“Then.”

Watching Theresa, who ran away with surprising agility for her age, Maasa turned towards the podium.

She scanned over the graduates.

Only females can use magic. Moreover, fostering faith and absorbing knowledge is better done at a younger age. Therefore, all of them are young women.

They, too, will one day bestow “blessings” upon the star knights and travel with them.

Among them might be heroes and saints.

Suddenly, Maasa had an idea.

Along with the myths and doctrines of the Mail Religion, Maasa had also revised the religious laws. Love and marriage, which were once forbidden, are now allowed.

However, for the serious clergy, the phrase “once was” might still weigh heavily on them.

So she thought, why not initiate by holding a wedding ceremony for herself and Gangi? Although they have a child, they haven’t had a formal ceremony.

According to the princess, who is in the “miniature garden”, only the hero and the saintess can use the “Gate of Transference” freely. But if there’s a pure reason related to the two, and the goddess agrees, exceptions might be made for others to use it.

She’d like to invite the hero and the saintess to the wedding, along with the couple who are their guardians in the earthly realm, and their child. With this reason, there might be a possibility.

The only problem is the shy Gangi. However, if he can meet their daughter and grandchild, he won’t refuse.

Yes, let’s do that.

“Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on this day.”

With a graceful smile, Maasa began to speak.

If it had been her daughter, Crozet, she might have sensed some resolve from her mother’s expression and become wary. However, the unsuspecting graduates would later gossip about how her smile seemed as merciful as that of a goddess.

 ㅤ

      ◇

 ㅤ

“Hmm.”

Adjacent to the Grand Temple, there’s the training ground for the Star Knights. Within the drab space surrounded by walls, Bon, who used to be part of the transport team and now a Star Knight, stood alone.

He’s a stubborn and inflexible old man.

Even though it’s training time, neither his colleagues nor the apprentices have gathered.

“What on earth is happening?”

He was sure about the date and time.

“Could they be at the temple?”

Today, those graduating from the theological school are all young women. On the other hand, the apprentice knights are all young men. It would be a lie to say one wouldn’t be curious.

However, the Star Knights are protectors of the clergy. To receive the “blessing” and enhance its power, not only strength and technique but also a noble spirit is essential.

“To be distracted by women even as apprentices, it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

As he was getting irritated by his own assumptions, noisy voices could be heard from behind. Young and old voices were mixed. They seemed to come not from the Grand Temple but from the Star Knights’ office.

Without looking back, Bon thought.

Not here for the graduation ceremony? So, they’re just late. Either way, they deserve a scolding. His peers, who should be the role models, are equally guilty. They have been lax lately since Theresa-sama has been busy and hasn’t shown up. He needs to be strict this time.

“Hahaha, was that the case?”

“Yes. We were moved seeing the engagement ritual in the clouds. We hope to. . . . . .someday. . . . . .”

“Hmm. It seems even the female students of the theological school admire it. Maybe there’s a chance?”

“Really?”

“Indeed. Back in our day, the temple guards were annoying.”

“Right, we couldn’t even get a glimpse of the girls.”

“That’s too harsh.”

“We had to be creative. We would throw letters over the walls.”

“Would that even work?”

“The one who picked it up was the head of the temple.”

“A strict woman obsessed with cleanliness and discipline.”

“Haha. All of us, including the instructor, got a scolding!”

Laughter echoed pleasantly.

Bon gritted his teeth.

Where did the noble spirit go?!

Enjoying themselves with the youngsters. What cheek! But I too. . . . . .No, no.

In his mind, Bon shook his head.

Disciples and family are different. The only ones he should unconditionally spoil are those like his grandchildren.

“But it was amazing. Never thought we’d meet the hero and the saintess!”

“Those two are like our grandchildren. They’re always thoughtful towards us.”

“Wow, really?”

“We were companions on a journey once.”

“The journey of trials! Tell us more.”

“Hey, what’s wrong? You’ve been spacing out.”

“He’s smitten by the saintess’ beauty.”

“No, I was━━”

Bon finally turned around, looking fierce, making Bekios flinch.

“B, Bon. Where have you been?”

Chara feigned ignorance.

“I felt someone was missing. So it was you.”

Totom remarked slyly.

“I was looking for you.”

With a voice like the calm before a storm, Bon confirmed.

“Are Luo-boy and Star Princess here?”

“Uh, yes. They were here.”

 ㅤ

Bekios explained with a hint of an excuse.

“On my way out, they came to greet me. I took this opportunity to introduce them to the apprentices.”

“Why didn’t you call me?!”

There was an atmosphere where he couldn’t admit he had forgotten.

Chara consoled by patting Bon’s shoulder.

“They show up a few times a month. We should meet next time.”

“Why meet every time!”

“Well, that’s true.”

Bon, who had been shaking with clenched fists, suddenly looked up as if realizing something.

“The new product from “Ichimei-do”!”

In the royal capital, there’s a popular confectionery shop, and their seasonal new baked sweets sell out in no time.

Without telling his friends, Bon even lined up to get these sweets.

Not for himself to eat, but to give to the two who were like his grandchildren. To differentiate himself from his friends.

“So, what’s the matter?”

Bon approached Bekios.

“Where are the two?”

“Gangi said he had a favor to ask and took them to the commander’s room. They probably have returned by now.”

“Woahhh!”

Bon started to run.

“Wait for me, Luo~ boy!”

After the storm had passed without wreaking havoc, a deflated atmosphere lingered.

“Now then.”

Instructor Bekios, trying to put on a facade, cleared his throat and addressed the apprentice knights.

“Listen well. To become a full-fledged Star Knight, power and skill alone are not enough. A steadfast spirit that remains unfazed no matter the circumstances is crucial. Now, let’s begin the training.”

In the center of the “Great Hole” where the evil god’s castle once stood.

A huge red crystal stands pierced, forming a bowl-shaped depression. It appears to have struck a water vein after breaking the bedrock, surrounding the crystal with a clear spring.

In a place where everything had been blown away, grass and moss grew, shrubs thrived, and nameless flowers swayed near the spring.

[Sorcier-oneesama〜! It’s urgent!]

Amid the calm scenery, a somewhat frantic voice echoed.

Sorcier, who was observing with concentration, sighed.

Her younger sister landed next to her, placing a finger to her lips, signaling for silence.

[Vengeous. Look over there.]

Where Sorcier pointed, a small creature sat on a round leaf floating in the spring.

[What is it?]

[It’s a Roaring Can.]

This is a relatively famous demon beast, and wizards who eat its egg and survive can produce an incredibly loud voice. It’s a handy ability when making proclamations to citizens.

A full-grown Roaring Can is about three times the size of a person. It stuns other demon beasts with its loud voice and then swallows them whole. It shouldn’t look this cute.

[Is it a child?]

[No, it’s an adult. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary frog, but upon close observation, you can see features typical of the Roaring Can, like its horns and forelegs.]

In other words, from the Roaring Can’s egg, an ordinary frog was born, explained Sorcier.

[This used to be the place with the densest miasma, but it all got blown away. Now, it’s the purest spring in the “Great Hole”.]

 ㅤ

The malevolent god that produced malevolent energy has vanished. While it might take decades, even centuries, the malevolent energy that once covered the world will eventually be purified, and no more demon beasts will be born.

[We have now confirmed the basis for this with our own eyes.]

[Is that so?]

A frog on a leaf jumps into a spring. Watching it swim away swiftly, Sorcier asked.

[By the way, Vengeous. What seems to be the problem?]

[Ah, that’s right.]

If she’s distracted by a frog, it can’t be too serious.

[Seto is angry.]

Sorcier’s assumption was wrong.

[Is that even possible?]

Seto is the third “Star Princess” who excels in cooking and baking. With her cheerful disposition, it’s hard to imagine her angry.

After Luo and Tweney finished “rectifying” the world and returned to the “miniature garden”, that’s when it happened. Or rather, that’s when the situation came to light.

“Rectification” refers to the task of saving remote settlements that are isolated without support from the nation.

Among the divine gifts given as a wedding present from the goddess were several artifacts. Among them were the “Gate of Transference” located in the deepest part of the “miniature garden” connecting to the malevolent god’s castle, and the “Crystal Ball of Foresight” that could determine transfer coordinates.

Through the “Gate of Transference”, one could travel anywhere in the mortal realm. The goddess probably intended it to maintain the connection between the six princesses and their youngest sister, Tweney.

The one who proposed using this system to save those suffering in the mortal realm was Ophelia.

However, the six princesses without a physical body in the mortal realm could only connect through the “Gate of Transference”. Luo and Tweney happily took on the role instead.

After saving a border village and reporting the results to the royal capital, they returned to the “miniature garden”. Everyone except Sorcier congratulated them. But then, Mildy exhibited strange behavior.

She meticulously interviewed the two about their job and their feelings at the time and noted everything down.

[She was writing a story with Luo-san and Tweney as the main characters, about their “journey of trials” and “rectifications”.]

[. . . . . .Well, writing as a hobby isn’t bad.]

[It’s become quite popular in the heavenly realm.]

Sorcier was taken aback by this.

The princesses secluded in the “miniature garden” are unaware of the happenings in the heavenly realm. They never imagined such a situation.

The one who apologized to Luo and Tweney after hearing the circumstances was Seto. However, both didn’t seem to mind.

Afterwards, after sending off Luo and Tweney with smiles, everyone gathered in the living room, and Seto’s lecture began.

Mildy claimed she had the individuals’ consent beforehand, but she was left speechless at Seto’s remark, “So, you have the consent of their two guardians too, right?”

Luo and Tweney, who are now known as the hero and the saintess, have achieved a fame incomparable to the royal family for their rectifications. Assisting and protecting the two has become the new mission for the six princesses. It seems Seto couldn’t forgive Mildy’s actions, which threatened the very foundation of that mission.

[Well, it’s only logical.]

Sorcier agreed.

Attracting unnecessary attention could bring undesirables closer.

 ㅤ

[However, in the earthly realm, it seems that it’s prohibited by law to contact the two of them, and in the heavenly realm, Mother is watching. Isn’t there really that much to worry about?]

[Aroma also defended Mildy by saying so.]

[So?]

[It’s not about that. Currently, the two of them are being lectured.]

If Sorcier had been there, she might have been in danger too, she realized with a cold sweat.

Aroma, who usually dresses like a man with determination, is one rank below Seto, the fourth “Star Princess”. She can’t go against her older sister who has taken direct care of her.

[Even so, if you and Ophelia calm things down.]

[There were, additional crimes.]

Unbelievably, Mildy had written a love story about Ophelia and Marteus.

This made Ophelia very angry, and Vengeous, the only neutral party, had to leave the “miniature garden” to call for Sorcier.

[Good grief.]

Sorcier gave a bitter smile.

It’s rare to see sisters fight, but they are bonded by the strongest ties. A falling out is unthinkable.

[As for the penalty, maybe a few days without snacks. It’s sad, but it can’t be helped.]

[Do you think that gentle child would let it end with just that?]

Sorcier blinked as if he heard something unexpected.

[I understand. She wouldn’t only make Mildy suffer. We will all be denied snacks as well.]

In other words, Vengeous was concerned about the harm reaching herself and came asking for help.

[Come on, Sorcier-oneesama, let’s hurry. We have to persuade Seto together!]

Heading in the direction of the “miniature garden” entrance, the divine tree, Vengeous flew off.

A bit behind, Sorcier contemplated how to navigate this complex situation with a hint of resignation.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀◇

The village’s only general store, which has been closed for a long time due to shortages, is a regular residence apart from the counter and shelves.

In its kitchen, Crozet was doing the dishes.

She’s been a wife for two years and a mother for one. There’s still much to learn.

Fortunately, her husband is helpful with chores and childcare, and they have those kids. Her busy days probably pass without much thought, which is likely a good thing.

She felt a slight vibration.

It seemed to be a sign that the “Gate of Transference” had been opened.

Crozet filled a pot with water and placed it on the stove. She then spoke to the blue-furred kitten-like Sacred beast lounging on the living room sofa.

“Pippi-chan.”

“What nya?”

“The kids are back. Can you heat the water?”

“Any souvenirs nya?”

“Probably.”

Funyapippi trotted over, tried to jump onto the stove, but failed.

“Hurry and help nya.”

Crozet picked up Funyapippi, who was commanding while still flipped over.

“You’ve gained weight again.”

“Just grew bigger nya!”

 ㅤ

This Sacred beast seems to be here to recover its lost power. Watching its figure, which doesn’t grow at all and only has a slightly bulging belly, one might think of it as a lazy pet. Lately, it has been eating only the high-grade sweets sold in the royal capital, so its palate seems to have become more refined.

“I’m back.”

“Excuse me for intruding.”

The anticipated voices came from the entrance. With the familiarity of someone else’s home, Luo and Tweney enter the living room. Both are thirteen years old. Compared to when they first met, the once small and thin Luo has grown into a body appropriate for his age, while Tweney has become even more beautiful and expressive.

“Both of you, good job. No injuries?”

“Yep.”

“Is Horan doing well?”

With sparkling eyes, Tweney inquired.

“Of course. Just now, Saji-san was putting him to sleep.”

“Hey, welcome back.”

Right on cue, Saji entered the living room. In his arms, a baby writhed, arching its back. It seemed he failed in putting the baby to sleep.

The souvenir this time is baked sweets, handed over by Bon just before their departure. They make tea and chat at the living room table.

Funyapippi has a big mouth, so Crozet breaks the sweets into pieces and places them on a plate, but they vanish in a blink of an eye. Tweney, not even glancing at the sweets, is soothing Horan on her lap.

“Here. From the commander to Aniki.”

Saying so, Luo handed a letter to Saji.

“Eh? From Gangi-san to me?”

Gangi, the father of Crozet, serves as the commander of the Star Knights in the royal capital.

“. . . . . .What?”

 ㅤ

Crozet glanced amusingly at her husband, who held the letter firmly in his hand.

Saji had a hard time dealing with his father-in-law, Gangi.

Because he had somewhat “forcefully” taken his daughter away.

Three years ago, after the wedding ceremony above those clouds, a discussion was held involving the princesses, and they received advice from the first “Star Princess”, Sorcier.

Given the magnitude of the commotion, it would be best for Luo and Tweney to live somewhere secluded for a while. They could be taken in at the “miniature garden” where they live, but it’s a place lacking in change, not suitable for raising a sensitive child. A small community on the surface world, preferably with responsible adults, would be ideal.

Thus, Saji suggested his village, which was Luo’s birthplace. Luo consulted Tweney, and given that it was Luo’s hometown, they decided on it.

The “Star Guardian” has the responsibility to clean up after the “Red Great Wave” and must return to the city of Arche.

After the discussion ended, Saji pleaded softly to Crozet, who was engulfed in a feeling of unease and loneliness, difficult to describe.

The villagers will be persuaded by him, and Luo will manage somehow. But honestly, taking care of the princess, being a girl, is a hefty responsibility.

So, if possible. . . . . .

Would you help us?

Upon hearing this, Crozet eagerly agreed. Declaring to all the “Star Guardians” that “I’m coming too!”, she, along with Luo, Tweney, and Saji, passed through the “Gate of Transference” and arrived in the village.

The first year, she lived with Luo and Tweney. There were anxieties about life in the unfamiliar land, but as Saji showed up every day, she naturally grew fond of him and ultimately lost to his passion, leading to their marriage.

She couldn’t meet Gangi and Maasa in the royal capital. Reports of her marriage and childbirth were entrusted to Luo and Tweney.

Saji was aware that he hadn’t acted properly, and probably felt guilty.

“Excuse me, I’ll read this in my room.”

After Saji left the living room with heavy footsteps, Luo showcased the next souvenir.

“This is for Horan.”

To one’s surprise, instead of underwear or a toy, Luo took out a rock about the size of an embrace from his backpack and placed it on the table. It had various colors in a striped pattern.

Luo used magic.

The stone shone in rainbow colors, and its shape and color were reconstructed.

What emerged was a bust of a man.

A bearded man with a rough, forcibly cheerful face.

It was Gangi.

“. . . . . .is this?”

“The commander said he wanted Horan to see it. He felt lonely thinking his grandson would grow up without knowing his face.”

He, who was once so adamant about denying the concept of family, has completely changed.

“Um, did Okaa-san say anything?”

“I couldn’t talk to teacher Maasa. She seemed busy with the school’s graduation ceremony.”

“I see.”

 ㅤ

If her mother had been there, she would have surely stopped it.

However, the design and color scheme are too realistic. Crozet thought it would be unpleasant to display it or throw it away.

After that, when Saji returned to the living room, he was startled by the bust of his stepfather.

The village in the frontier they saved this time, the graduation ceremony at the Grand Temple, and the apprentice knights introduced in the Holy Knights Order. The stories Luo and Tweney tell seem like tales from another world.

Saji explained the situation of the moss collector guild.

The previous guild leader, Gordu, who fled from the village during the “Red Wave”, is still missing.

As a result of discussions and votes, Saji was elected as the next guild leader. Surprisingly, he seems to be popular among the younger moss collectors.

However, the moss collector guild faces many challenges.

In the city, the blue moss is traded at high prices as a luxury spice, but transportation has been halted due to the effects of the “Red Wave”. They’re barely getting by with bartering with nearby settlements. The livelihood of the moss collectors has become quite tough.

Therefore, guild leader Saji himself decided to go to the city of Arche, knowing the risks.

Crozet thought there was no need to go that far. But Saji said that to protect Luo and the others, not only the cooperation of the village chief but also the need to gain achievements and influence as a guild leader was important. Something must have happened in the past.

“So, Luo. Would you come with me? The danger will be great at first. Please, I’m begging you like this.”

Luo’s answer was swift.

“If with Tie, then I will.”

“Going to and from Arche city will take over a month. Our wagon is also uncomfortable. Tweney-chan, are you sure?”

“If with Luo, then I will.”

The two exchanged glances and smiled at each other.

“I’m sorry.”

“Luo-kun, Tweney-chan, thank you.”

Following Saji, Crozet also expressed her gratitude.

“Ah.”

Right on cue, the baby made a noise. Luo looked at Horan, whom Tweney was holding, and gently stroked his chubby cheek with his fingertips.

“It’ll be okay. I’ll come back to see Horan every day.”

“Ah, the ‘Gate of Transference’, right?”

Realizing he was the only one unable to see his wife and child, Saji seemed shocked.

“Aniki, is it just this time that you’re going to Arche city?”

“No. If we find a wholesale destination for the blue moss, we’ll probably have to go regularly. I’d like to hire people, but the danger pay is too high.”

“Then, let’s build the ‘Bridge of Aqueducts’.”

As part of the “world reforming”, Luo seems to be building roads resembling the aqueducts in Arche city, especially in places infested with demon beasts. They’re aerial roads supported by continuous arch-shaped pillars.

“Aqueducts? I don’t really understand, but if it makes things safer, I appreciate it.”

Saji doesn’t seem to realize it will become a huge structure that would be mapped.

“The city of Arche recovered quickly, it seems. The demand for luxury goods should also be back. If we could find that bearded spice shop owner, it would make things easier.”

 ㅤ

Crozet reminisced about the place where she was born and raised. Although there was a sense of nostalgia, perhaps the lack of longing was because there was no precious “family” there.

The royal capital is even further away than the city of Arche.

Only Luo and Tweney can use the “Gate of Transference”. It’s said that others can only use it if they meet certain conditions, but Crozet has no idea about them.

So someday, when Horan grows big enough to go on a long journey by carriage, and there’s a surplus in life, if the “family” in the royal capital is still in good health. . . . . .

What about the father and mother? It might be a bit tough for the transport team and the dissection in-charge. It’s probably impossible for Theresa-sama.

As Crozet contemplated this, she would unexpectedly reunite with her entire “family” in the royal capital much sooner, and for a reason she never anticipated. But that’s another story.

“So, what are the two of you doing today?”

“We’re going to the village chief’s place to share souvenirs, then going home to clean.”

“What about dinner? You’re eating at my place, right?”

“Ah, I’ll cook.”

On this “world correction” visit to the village, Tweney learned local dishes from the villagers and even received ingredients and seasonings.

“What did you say?”

Funyapippi, who had finished eating the high-grade pastries, responded.

“A unique dish, perhaps?”

“Yes, it’s packed with meat.”

“Make it quick!”

Urged on by the gluttonous Sacred Beast, Luo and Tweney left the general store.

The two headed to the village chief’s residence. The easy-going village chief was talkative and wanted to know about the “world correction” and the royal capital.

“We don’t have that kind of time!”

They promptly left the village chief’s residence.

On the way, they stopped by their parents’ graves to report their safe return, and then the boy and girl returned to their home.

The arrangement of furnishings and furniture remains as it was, but the girl-made lace and cushions are gradually increasing.

They line up in front of the living room cabinet. There sat a small stone statue, the home’s guardian deity, “Ishigami-sama”. The glove that once adorned next to the statue, a keepsake from their father, was now in the boy’s possession. The jade pendant, a memento from their mother, rested on the girl’s chest.

“Ishigami-sama, we’re home.”

As the boy touched it, the stone statue glowed with a rainbow hue.

“Tie, are you a bit tired?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“But we ran a lot today, so let’s take a little break. Then we’ll clean.”

“What are you talking about? Hurry up and make that unique dish! Cleaning is easy with my wind power――.”

“Ah.”

“No.”

In the midst of the chaotic living room, as if enjoying the strong gust of wind, the “Ishigami-sama” on the shelf swayed back and forth.

━━𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝━━


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