Mandane held the Shine Stone in her hand and proceeded with me, lighting the way around us. Since it was nighttime, I had to be careful where I stepped or I might fall, so sometimes Mandane would grab my hem or I would prop her up when she seemed to trip.
We searched around for an hour, but we had no luck.
“Where did she go?…”
I managed to suppress my impatience and looked around, but all I could see was a field that had turned to mud.
That moment, Mandane suddenly opened his eyes and spoke up.
“Did you find her?”
“Y-Yes. …… there. ……”
Mandane said in a trembling tone of voice and then pointed her finger to a spot. There was a large pool of water and a large tree standing in the middle. Raquel was sitting on a branch of that tree, trembling with awe.
“Eric ni chan!”
Wait for me, I’ll help you soon!
“No! You can’t come here!”
“Because there are a lot of ernian alligators down there. ……”
Hearing Raquel’s words, I became calm and looked into the puddle. I saw dozens of huge crocodiles of about 3 to 5 meters in length, vigilantly watching for Raquel. I wondered if it was because of the crocodiles that Mandane became upset as soon as it spotted Raquel.
“Raquel-chan…… how did this happen……”
Mandane sat down on the ground as she was, her hips slumped, and stared sadly at Raquel.
“Mandane-sama,……, I’m sorry I lied to you.”
“Gaia-sama told me. He said that this land is desolate because the descendants of Elunia have been harvesting unreasonably for war. The land is crying out that God will bring judgment upon the sons of Ernia if they continue to overwork the harvest.”
“When I heard the word judgment, I was so afraid,……Mandane sama, you have been in a lot of thought lately,……and it was so hard for me to see you so sad,……Mandane sama, that I had to go and see you. I was so afraid when I heard the words of judgment,…… so I lied to Mandane sama that Gaia had said the same words as last year,……”
“So that’s what you meant…..”
“I must die……”
“I lied to Gaia-sama and to Mandane-sama. That is why Gaia sama sent the crocodiles here. To spread my flesh and blood here”.
Mandane puts on a heavy expression. The Gaia presides over the continent of the Orient. The authority this deity holds is immense, and if any human does anything to tarnish it, he must surely be killed. Kings, nobles, and commoners are no exception.
But something is different. Raquel should not have met her death here. That’s what I’m getting the feeling.
I wonder if Gaia really wants Raquel to die. Is it justice for such a weak girl to be eaten by a giant crocodile?
No, it is not.
It may just be my half-hearted sense of justice. I can’t deny the possibility that it is my selfishness.
I want to protect Raquel. At the same time, I want to make Mandane happy.
Before I knew it, my feet were moving.
“Eric!? What are you doing? Are you insane?”
Mandane, who had lost her nerve, stood up and grabbed my arm firmly to stop me. Mandane’s eyes widened and she was breathing hard. I gently patted her wet head and then opened my mouth.
“Mandane, you stay here and watch over me. I want you to see how serious I am.”
“Don’t look so sad. What a waste of a beautiful woman.”
“Take that shine stone and shine it on me.”
I finish stroking Mandane’s head, and now I place my hand on her soft cheek and trace it gently.
Mandane’s eyes moistened and she nodded slowly. After confirming this, I move my feet again.
But when I stepped into the puddle, I felt goosebumps all over my body. One of the crocodiles in the pool was big enough to swallow me whole.
My legs trembled and my eyes were shaking. I want to give up and run away. It’s good that I’m talking big, but I don’t know if I have the courage to do it.
My erratic breathing tells the story of my state of mind.
The crocodiles are staring at me so hard……
This voice is the truth san!?
[I will protect you, Seiji-kun. Fufu]
I felt somewhat calmed down. My body is lighter and I don’t think anything of it even though I see many giant crocodiles around me.
This might work.
I sped up and came to a big tree in the middle.
“Raquel chan, come down here!”
“Eric nii chan?!”
“Let’s get out of here! Let’s go to where Isaac and the kind people of the Kingdom of Ernia are!”
“But I’m ……”
“Do you think Gaia really wants you to die, Raquel chan?”
“Yes,…… because I lied”
“Then why am I in front of Raquel chan?”
“If Gaia really wanted to kill Raquel chan, he would have picked a place where we wouldn’t be able to find you.”
“Me and Mandane are here. And Raquel chan is still alive.”
“Come on down! If Gaia gets mad at me for this, I’ll take all the punishment.”
“Eric nii chan, ……”
Raquel bites her lip and thinks for a moment. Then, perhaps having made up her mind, she climbed down from the tree.
“That’s not fair. If I’m going to be punished, I’ll take it all. I won’t run anymore.”
“Fufu. Raquel chan, you’ve grown up. Come here.”
“Yeah. I love you, Eric onii chan. ……”
I took Raquel in my arms and moved to another giant crocodile-infested pool. The fear is already gone after hearing the voice of the truth san, so with light steps, I just keep going towards the place where Mandane is standing.
A giant crocodile gobbled up my leg.
“Eric ni chan?!”
The bite wasn’t very hard, but the crocodile’s teeth pierced my skin so hard that blood flowed.
“I can’t get away from him! Get away from Eric! Ei!”
Mandane tactfully threw the shine stone with such force that it hit the giant crocodile in the head. Thanks to her, I was able to escape safely.
“I was really worried about you!”
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
They hugged each other and cried.
“No I am so glad that Raquel chan survived! I’ve been thinking about the war so much, and I’ve made Raquel chan feel uncomfortable. I am at fault too.”
“Let’s have a lot of delicious meals together when we get back home!”
“Um, I’m sorry to interrupt you for a moment ……, but I have to get back to the cabin and treat this leg as soon as possible …….”
“Oh, yes! Yess! I’m sorry! Eric.”
“Eric nii chan……, I’ll help you this time.”
“Haha …… that’s reassuring.”
And with the two of them supporting me as I was unable to walk properly due to the blood, we walked on. We continued on our way in the dark because the Shine Stone was in a puddle. Then we saw a hut.
“Haa…… haa…… ouch…… it’s cold…….”
“Eric niichan…… wait for me to disinfect you with the medicinal herbs I picked on the way here!”
I entered the hut and as I lay down, Raquel began to heal me. She used a cloth with shreds of her own clothes to wipe the blood running down my leg, then crushed medicinal herbs and smeared them on the wound to stop the bleeding.
“It’ll leave a scar, but this should help it heal!”
“I-I’m cold …… and dizzy …….”
Because I bled quite a bit, my mind is fuzzy and my body is getting cold. It’s the same feeling I had when Sophia cut my side. Plus, these wet clothes are taking all the heat out of my body.
If I keep this up, I might be in trouble. ……
For a moment, I almost resented the truth-san, but when I saw the worried look on Raquel’s face next to me, those negative feelings disappeared without a trace.
“Eric onii chan..”
“Raquel-chan …… please move out of the way.”
Then, suddenly, Mandane came next to me.
She took off her clothes.
I called her name in surprise, but she did not reply at all.
What I see in her eyes is white soft flesh. And pink underwear.
I was dumbfounded and my mouth was gaping open, but Mandane didn’t care.
She took off her underwear,
She took off her underwear and gently hugged me as I lay there.
The two huge marshmallows warmed my cold body from the core.
Drunk with the supreme comfort of the marshmallows
I lost consciousness.
And the white world spreads out again.
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