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・ ・ Chapter 402: Their First Date

“L-Lily-san, you better be sure about this…” I muttered to myself. It has been 30 minutes since Kurono-san started his date with the receptionist, and my heart was already tearing at the seams.

“Look at this one, Kurono-kun, what do you think?”

“Mm, I think it’s――”

Too close, you’re face is too close, wench! Kurono-kun’s eyesight is beyond perfect so he can see you just fine from where you’re standing―― wai-, hey, stop right there, you sly receptionist! Do not press up against him as if you’re not aware. I will end you. I have a wide range of spells that can, and will end you!

“Is it really? Is this really necessary…” I writhed, but with astounding mental fortitude, I managed to withhold from using Spitfire to blow everything to smithereens. Instead of brandishing the high capacity wand, I ate more desserts. I would sate my appetite to appease this angst.

The Anpan I am having is a positively scrumptious roll cake with a creamy black filling from the country of Rune. Enjoying this foreign delicacy with a glass of fresh milk is, it’s s-so delicious… The distinctive sweetness of the anpan goes perfectly with the richness of the milk, like a perfectly flowing set of combo attacks. Even my veteran rank 5 taste buds cheered in glee at having the chance to sample such a heavenly fusion of flavor. Mouth watering.

Having calmed my fury with food, I return to observing my targets.

Those targets, Kurono-san and the receptionist, were currently shopping. A tasteless, gaudy accessory store, a place that only the most trite and superficial women would want to visit―― was next to the aged, classy stationary and office supplies shop they were currently inside.

As for myself, I was sitting at a sweets stall conveniently located on the other side street, where I followed their movements while enjoying anpans and other Runish desserts. A perfect position for a stakeout complete with a steady supply of rations, if I do say so myself.

“2 more anpans, here.” I ordered from the old man running the stall.

“You can sure eat, lassy! That’ll be 420 klan. And here’s another glass of milk, on the house!”

“Thank you.” I thank the Spadaman boldly running his stall even amidst the snowy mid-winter. Upon receiving my resupply of provisions, I again return my attention to the surveillance mission.

It may seem like I would be found out as I was not in the shadows but sitting in plain sight, but rest assured, as my disguise is perfect. I am using the same items as I’d done in Avalon when I went around collecting sacrif―― I mean, when I was doing my special training. In other words, I was using the spectacles and katyusha band to disguise the color of my eyes and hair respectively. I had even changed into my academy uniform, as you would commonly find students roaming around this area.

Not only that, I even changed how I usually wore the uniform. My skirt, for example, was longer. I would usually decrease its length slightly by folding it at the waist to do a bit of sexy legs appeal towards Kurono-san. That being said, it’s not like I saw much result from this piece of advice from the lady at the uniform exclusive tailor shop.

Suffice it to say that as I appear now, an average Jane student behind thick, black rimmed glasses, and a conservative skirt, Kurono-san is very unlikely to recognize me. The tall, brown cape I have on to protect from the cold was also purchased at a random store along the way, making my appearance one that Kurono-san would have zero recollection of. Like I said, a perfect disguise.

“―― How about this one then? I think it’s better.” Kurono-san suggested.

“Ugh, well, yes, it is better, but I don’t think it’s quite within my price range…” Wryly smiled the receptionist.

They were looking at fountain pens. Perhaps it’s inefficient to be still using a quill at the main guild branch. A fountain pen, an item with which it’s said that you can complete a thousand pages with a single ink cartridge, is certainly not something any commoner can afford. Not that most commonfolk would need such a dedicated writing implement in the first place.

While fountain pens were not such luxury items that one needed to have them order made (they were readily available at the shop), a novice receptionist, one who has only been on the job a couple of years, would definitely find her purse crying at the pricetag. The item that Kurono-san had just now recommended was a sleek black pen with golden rimming made in an orthodox design. Its price: 80,000 klan.

My own pen, by the way, has a value of 530,000 klan. I use it for my witchly needs such as drawing magic circles or writing up scrolls, so my pen needs to be a quality item that features several enchantments that aid in magic, and is therefore sold at a price fit for a first rate weapon. Though the only time I had a use for it recently was when I drew the circle on the Church of White Light walls so I could invoke a wide area inferno and offer the building in its entirety as sacrifice.

“It’s fine, I’m buying it for you.” Kurono-san reassured her. “Think of it as a present.”

“Wait, really!? You will!?” Exclaimed the receptionist. She then instantly regretted the distasteful display of greed, following up with a, “no, I can’t possibly…” and other such excuses. How unsightly.

“That’s an awful look on your face, lassy. What, you didn’t like the taste?” inquired the worried dessert maker.

“... No, it’s very good.” It appears that my darker emotions had surfaced on my face. But that is certainly not because I am jealous of another girl receiving a present from Kurono-san.

I had even warned him about this on our first Element Masters Emergency Meeting. I had said that a girl might take advantage of his kindness, and that very thing was happening right before my eyes. This frustrated me to no end, that that animal (woman) was taking advantage of my Kurono-san like that.

“―― Thank you so much, Kurono-kun! I’ll treasure it forever!” The receptionist shrieked.

“Maybe you can write with it too?” Kurono-san joked.

“Of course, that too!”

Her words make me sick to my stomach. Thanks so much? You’ll treasure it forever? Only the most base of wenches speak in such frivolous lines, and it looks like this receptionist is an example. Women like that take the tributes (presents) offered by men, and throw them in with the garbage once it has carried out its use..

Surely this present from Kurono-san would also suffer a similar fate. And if that is so, I would rather it be destroyed now. Perhaps even tomorrow morning, when she uses it to sign the first form of the day, it will break―― but even I don’t know a curse that can affect a fountain pen so precisely. So I can only pray, I pray to you my patron Goddess, the Dark Witch, Lady Endymion. I pray that her pen may break.

“―― Alright, how about we grab some lunch?”

Oh? It appears that Kurono-san has already finished settling the bill and are now leaving the shop. I wouldn’t want him to somehow recognize me even under my many disguises, so I quickly moved to a spot which would become a blind spot as they exit. I may not be able to see Kurono-san now, but I can still hear Kurono-san’s charming voice and the receptionist’s irritating squeals. The ability to draw in sounds using wind, otherwise known as interception magic, is a popular addition to the skillset of a solo adventurer even if they aren’t a thief class. One can never be too careful when going into a dungeon alone.

“There’s actually a place I’ve been wanting to go for some time, can we go there?” The receptionist timidly asked Kurono-san.

“Sure, anywhere you like.”

I mean, I also have a lot of restaurants I want to go to, so he’ll go with me too right? Anywhere? Will he go with me to all the places?

“Thank you. See, that place is quite famous in Spada, but it’s very awkward to go without a date.”

“Oh… I uh, guess Spada has places like that too.”

“Hmm,” the receptionist mused, “so you have cafes in your home country too, Kurono-kun? Wait, I thought you’re from Daedalus?”

“Er, um, yeah…” Kurono-san deflected awkwardly.

I wish this wench wouldn’t ask too many questions. There’s a limit to how inconsiderate you could be. But I somehow felt to superior to her while harboring scorn.

The fact that Kurono-san lied, albeit awkwardly, about his origins means that he sees no reason to tell her.

You don’t know. Yet I do. Kurono-san told me. Kurono-san trusts me. Kurono-san sees me as a companion. Not you. Me.

“I’m better than you.” Now this is a satisfying dark emotion.

My eyes felt hot as I followed Kurono-san’s back while mixing in with the crowd, not getting too close or too far. I need to calm down. If I stare too earnestly, he might notice, what with his extremely sharp instincts.

Even if he’s dense to my looks filled with love, he can easily tell if someone looks at him with malice or hate. It’s only a guess, but he may be able to sense salacious gazes as well.

Ahh, I’m so sorry, Kurono-san. I still can’t forget my experiences in the Lust Rose’s dream. Every time I see you, I feel…

“Woah. it’s only couples here.” Kurono-san said with a hint of shock.

“I know right? You don’t want to come here with just the girls either.”

It appears that they’ve arrived at the cafe the receptionist was begging to go to. At a glance it looked like any of the other posh eateries in the upper sector, but the specialty of this cafe lies in the unspoken rule that only people who’ve entered relationships can enter. Even while it’s a snowy winter outside, inside this cafe, the customers were all in the middle of spring. The sweet, rose-colored air of blooming love drifted inside this space.

The reason behind such a particular kind of popularity lay with jynx that said that if lovers have their lunch at this cafe, then their love will be true and everlasting. At least, that’s what the people outside the place have been whispering about.

So miss receptionist is going for a fait accompli, I see.

And to be so shrewd as to come to a place this obvious. She was clearly wearing her heart on her sleeve. Surely Kurono-san would be appalled by such indecency――

“Uhm,” the receptionist hesitated, “do you perhaps, not like places like this?”

“No, I’m fine, really. I said I’d go anywhere with you, after all.”

Lily-san, is he testing me? Is Kurono-san testing my love, my resolve?

Is he telling me to watch him do this with her, and not rightfully lash out? ―― fine, I accept the challenge. I will emerge better, stronger than ever before.

I have to think like that or I’m liable to burn down anything and everything.

Please let me not have to end this horrid date with Ainzbloom or Spitfire...

It was already dusk.

It’s winter so daylight hours were shorter than usual, but even if that’s the case, I felt like time was flying by. Basically, I want to say that my date with Erina was just that fun.

“And then, Dad goes like, “If any of you want to court my daughter, you have to beat me in a duel first,” can you believe it! All the boys in my class were so terrified――” She’s been telling me all sorts of stories today. The one right now is from when she was 15 years old, at the academy's graduation party.

“And I only heard this from a friend later on. Apparently, there were a lot of boys who wanted to confess to me that day, but every single one of them gave up on it.”

Well, I can imagine the feeling. Erina’s dad, an elite knight of Spada’s first and strongest regiment, Braveheart, was telling fresh faced 15 year old boys to win a duel against him.

“That, uh,” I struggled to answer, “sounds unfortunate?”

“No no, I didn’t mind it actually. I mean, my dad is pretty strong, and he can get scary when he’s angry, but if they were scared from just that, I wouldn’t be interested in dating them anyway.”

Erina’s preferences in men seems to be greatly influenced by her father.

Basically, I’ve heard so much about her today that I’ve come to understand things like this. Erina was such a good talker that I ended up training my skill in listening quite a lot. I felt sort of guilty for not wanting to return the favor and tell her about myself too. Erina doesn’t know where I’m really from, about Japan.

“... Harsh.”

“Us Spadan girls have high standards.” She said with a hint of pride.

That’s Spada for you. Strength is everything. And Erina, who recognizes my strength, treats me well because of it.

… No. I shouldn’t kid myself. Even I can notice these things once in a while――

“Kurono-kun,” she spoke slowly, “do you, remember this place?”

It was an avenue lined with not verdant trees but leafless branches that were piled up in snow. This somewhat lonely walkway had not a soul except for the two of us. I could make out one or two people in the distance, but nothing more.

“Yeah. I remember.”

The place looks nothing like how I remember it. That day, at the height of summer, in the month called Prominence, this avenue had vivid blue cherry blossom like flowers in full bloom on all its trees.

But it was not the scenic beauty that I recall when I come here, no, this is the place where I reunited with a friend who had degenerated due to a curse. This is the place where I witnessed a certain witch lose it for the first time since I’d met her.

This is the place where Fiona and I fought and killed the serial killer who had become mad by the Evil Eater’s curse.

“I’m so glad we could rescue you back there.”

It was mere coincidence that the killer was looming this particular street when Erina just happened to be passing by. It was also mere coincidence that Fiona and I ended up being here at the same time.

But what matters is that I was able to save her life. I could only give my thanks to the God watching over me, to have granted me that coincidence. Even if Michan tells me he can’t control fate, I’d give my thanks regardless.

“Yeah. You know, Kurono-kun, even now I…” She paused for a breath and also stopped her legs. I also stopped and stood alongside her. “I’m scared, I’m scared of this place. I’m scared whether something might leap out from the shadows and attack me.”

“You don’t have to―― ” force yourself, I tried to say.

“No, it’s fine now. I’m not scared anymore. Because you’re here with me.” Erina turned to me and smiled. Her smile was so dazzling, so beautiful, it made me appreciate the fact that Erina was an elf, a race well known for their beauty.

Her sky blue eyes stared into my own, as if to say that her trust in me was absolute. I couldn’t possibly be imagining it.

“... Oh.” I said.

“Yeah.” She said.

Silence followed.

The sun was almost gone, and the sky had turned a vibrant red. I stood there, gazing at my white breath.

I won’t rush this. I will wait, wait for Erina to be ready to continue.

“... You know, it was the first time I felt like that, I felt it from the heart. I thought that, he was the one, that he would always protect me.”

“I… just did what I could.”

I wasn’t trying to be a hero. If I’d been the me from Japan, before all this, I couldn’t have saved her. I could only do it because I’d become strong.

“It might not be anything big for you, but for me, that was…” Erina slightly averted her gaze, perhaps feeling embarrassed, “truly the first time, that my heart beat so fast.”

Not even a second later, her eyes were back on me.

“It’s so cliche, right? Having someone rescue you in the nick of time like that. But you know, every little girl sort of has that little hope...” Her smile turned into one of awkwardness, “I guess I’m no exception.”

Maybe she thought I’d think of her as childish for having a dream like that. Well I don’t. I actually think that’s very cute of her.

“I’d dismissed it as impossible, fairytale events like that never happen in reality. But it did, right in front of my eyes… my own knight in shining armor had finally appeared.”

I kind of wanted to ask how she could possibly see that from me who uses cursed weapons and is always covered in blood and gore, but I refrained from ruining the mood. Her eyes were too serious for me to be messing around.

I had decided to listen to her without making any excuses. And once I did, I would reply honestly to her words, to her feelings.

“Kurono-kun, I――”

Sponsored by Gonzalo V. Raphael G. Fryr M. and Marc L.
Mark L. has also sponsored the next 2 chapters!
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