The Reason for his Fragility
14 pages, sheesh!
Anyway, this chapter was actually really nice, I liked all the emotions that Elma showed. Not to mention the twins, they were freaking adorable!
It had been exactly one day since they had met up with the black scaled land dragon〈Noel〉.
At first the demon lords couldn’t help feeling a slight fluffy feeling as they watched Noel running up ahead but eventually they started feeling glad that it turned out well.
Merea who was exclusively riding on top of Noel couldn’t help but have a hard time as Noel, who seemed to be extremely happy to have his benefactor on his back, kept jumping around in excitement. After around half a day passed in this manner, he finally managed to master riding on Noel’s back.
So, they reached the morning of the second day.
Everyone cooperated each time they stopped to sleep and would once again place all their luggage onto Noel’s back.
They would do it like they once did on the sacred mountain with the gravestones, like a conveyor belt.
The last point of that smooth system would be when the luggage would reach Merea who was on Noel’s back.
Merea would take the luggage and tie it onto Noel’s back with rope.
At that time, Salman looked towards the distance at Merea’s back and spoke up.
With the twins at his side being as boisterous as ever, he unconsciously took the luggage passed to him from the left and passed it to the right.
The one who was taking the luggage from him on his right was the〈Sword Emperor〉Elma.
She may have been pulled along by Lilium for a bath because her black hair was still a little moist.
There was a sweet fragrance wafting from her which favored her elegance, causing her beauty to have an added sex appeal to it.
「――Hm, did you manage to take a shower?」
「Yeah, thanks to the twins. Are you people okay like that?」
「It’s fine with it being appropriate right? I’ll anyway end up being showered with water as a prank anyway so I’m better off not bothering too much about it」
「To have the fact that you’ll be pranked as a premise…you have your own problems huh…」
That day, Elma had a considerably brighter expression than she had shown until that point.
The troubled expression that she had had since the Duchy of Neuce Gauss had settled down quite a bit and her expression had turned considerably gentler, to the point that you could even say that her troubles had been blown away.
「So, I’d like to know what you meant by, 『I wonder about this…』」
Elma took the opportunity when the luggage stopped coming for a moment and pushed her moist bangs behind her ear as she asked Salman about his earlier grumble.
Salman intentionally did not touch on her change in expression and decided instead to answer her question.
「――I’ve been feeling this strange 『discomfort』 coming from Merea for a while now. I’m not able to pinpoint the reason for that discomfort clearly though.
Vaguely…well…I’m not able to put it in words properly but, it’s like looking into a frosted glass.
Especially recently, everytime I look at Merea I feel like that. ――Do you know anything?」
「Who knows? In the first place, he looks normal to me though」
Elma replied to Salman with a puzzled expression.
As soon as she replied to him, she turned her gaze towards the distant Merea.
「Ahh, that’s nice, you seem quite insensitive too」
「Wh! Y, you making fun of me? I’m really sharp! I’ve even heard that a woman who’s perceptive of others emotions is well liked!
That’s why, well, you know, that! ――Hey! Since I’m sharp I can kill anyone! I’m sharp!」
「That way of getting flustered is pretty horrible…. And don’t just pull your demon sword out! ――Idi, don’t swing it around you idiot!」
Salman somehow managed to remonstrate Elma who suddenly turned red and started swinging her demon sword around. It seemed like he had somehow broached a topic that really shouldn’t have.
Next to him, the twins started yelling, 「Bull’s-eye」 「Elma bull’s-eye!」 striking the final blow to her.
「Oi, idiots, don’t keep talking about that. She seems to be the type who’s really bothered by the fact that she’s like a warrior and doesn’t have many womanly aspects! If you go too far she’ll cry you know. So just keep quiet for a while, okay? ――I’ll give you candy」
「Really?」 「How many?」
「Hmm…, 5 pieces for both of you」
「5 pieces…got it!」 「No objections!」
Salman took out 5 pieces of candy wrapped in paper from inside his bosom and handed it over to the twins.
They quickly took the candy one by one, opened the paper and stuffed the candy into their mouths.
With their gorgeous blue hair swinging around, the two ate the candy while saying things like, 「The candy of Neuce Gauss is tasty!」 or 「The money grubber said that there is even tastier candy in the south, onee-chan!」 and seemed to have stopped teasing Elma for the moment.
With a feeling like he just finished a job, Salman wiped his sweat and turned his sight back to Elma.
「Well, with that done with」
「…I’ll be protesting later about how you naturally considered me to be insensitive」
「Got it, got it, I’ll listen to it properly later」
Giving a fed up look, he brought the conversation back to the original topic.
「――So, as I thought, Merea seems somewhat…how should I put it…fragile?」
「Yeah, his presence. ――No, he’s quite brilliant. He’s got a strength like a demon god and his presence is also extraordinary――」
After those words there was a slight pause.
Immediately after, Salman looked like he himself realised something and spoke up.
「――『On the battlefield』」
「That’s true huh. No matter who sees it, he’d definitely be seen as brilliant. It was like looking at one of the heroes from legends up close. They’d be dramatized, they’d be exaggerated and have a strange sort of persuasion, the people who come out in those legends.
The stories of heroes that we can enjoy on the streets are generally just success stories and seem to give a strange sort of relief but――embracing that sort of a relief is rather dangerous huh」
Elma obediently nodded to Salman’s words.
Even Elma had the extraordinary presence of Merea on the battlefield burned into her mind.
Against Mūzeg’s group technique, he managed to pull it off all on his own and after that he went on to use various other techniques and not to mention even his combat skills displayed a lot of strength.
Even if someone was like was called the demon god, no one would disagree.
「Even then, the moment we step away from the battlefield, the air around Merea became rather dull. The air around him seemed to get the same coloured blur as his hair, it’s rather hard to keep watching him like that」
「That’s why you said, it’s like looking into a frosted glass huh. …Still, that expression is like something you’d hear from a poet huh. You a bachelor, Salman? This level of delicacy isn’t something I’d have expected from someone with the title of Fist Emperor though」
「Don’t just assume that I’m muscle brained! You might be like that though. ――Ahh, I’ll take that back, so let’s put that demon sword back okay?」
Noticing that Elma had gone red again and was reaching for here sword again, Salman quickly tried to calm her down.
「You on the other hand seem to have more of a presence when you’re not on the battlefield huh…. You seem more human I suppose. Well, you’ve been making a scary face for a while now but that in it’s own way made it seem like, 『that’s just her huh』」
「Are you insulting me?」
「No i’m not. On the contrary, I’m complimenting you」
Salman once again took the luggage from the left and passed it onto the right.
「You’re complimenting me huh. It’s really hard to tell」
With a 「Hmmm」 Elma looked at Salman doubtfully while she, similarly took the luggage and passed it along.
「――Ah, is it 『that』?」
「What is it? Did you understand something?」
While looking at Elma, as if he had realised something, he spoke up.
「――You, you’re quite cute huh」
「!! Wha, what’re you saying?!」
Looking straight at Elma’s face, Salman said that with a straight face.
In the next instant, for the third time, Elma blushed and started waving her hands in front while facing Salman.
It was like she was an embarrassed girl saying, 「Don’t come any closer to me!」
Although she was that peerless on the battlefield but, the moment she steps away from the battlefield, she turns into a rather innocent young girl.
――That’s what her reaction was like.
Though it might be the rather normal reaction but considering that none of them actually lived in a normal environment, Elma’s normal reaction instead started looking a little lovely.
There was also a gap when compared to her usual cold beauty appearance but over and above everything, Elma’s 『humanity』 could be seen there.
「Ahh, I was joking」
「I’m going to cut you. I’m seriously going to cut you」
「Y, you! You let it slide! You’re a horrible man…!」
While waving Elma’s reproach away with one hand, Salman had an expression like he was in deep thought.
「Hmm」, he raised a dull voice and looked up at the sky and watched the clouds float by.
「That’s normal. You have your awareness on yourself. If I take it further then you’re 『grounded』 as well」
「I have my awareness on myself?」
Salman’s gaze fell from the clouds and he looked directly at Elma with his sand coloured eyes.
「You were happy enough at being called cute to the point your face became red right?」
「She fumbled!」 「She fumbled~」, just at that moment the twins jumped into the situation. Though without even a moment passing, Salman flicked their foreheads.
「Auuuu」 「Even though you’re just a Saru!」 While holding down their bumps, the twins look up at Salman with tears in the corner of their eyes.
They used their small hands and kept hitting Salman on his stomach but he didn’t really pay much mind to them and just noncommittally placed his hands on their heads and stroked them.
More than anything, he seemed to be concentrated on Elma.
「That’s just proof that you’re aware of yourself」
「Is there even anyone who’s not aware of themselves?」
With her face still slightly red, she asked Salman.
「Well, there probably aren’t many. Anyone would first think about themselves. I think that is fine in itself. Someone who thinks first about others sounds somewhat suspicious after all.
――Of course, saving someone is a great thing but even then, thinking about yourself first and then being able to think about someone else…that would probably be the best, I think」
「You’re putting up complicated logic once again huh」
「Hmm, don’t you get this strange feeling? Well, It does feel like there’s no clear answer there though. …The difference between the facade and real feelings are thin after all, at least for this talk. There might even be people who place their lives on the line with just the facade」
「Hmm… No, I get it. Leaving oneself be and giving priority to others, I somewhat get that people like that are kind of suspicious」
Elma nodded with a serious expression.
「Even mercenaries, if they end up taking jobs for free then they’d end up being suspected instead. It’s an extreme example but, isn’t that how giving priority to others is like?
At the very least, if it were a mercenary who would take up a job that would put their very lives on the line for free then it would really be a rather suspicious situation. Since they didn’t take money so the responsibility would be a little vague and they would keep thinking about when the mercenary would leave them and run away――not to mention, if I were the one hiring then I would definitely not want to take someone for free」
「That’s right! There’s nothing more expensive than free!」
There was one eccentric who immediately reacted to the word 『free』 and started shouting from far away.
Both Salman and Elma ignored him and continued with their conversation.
「Your logic is strange as well but well, something like that. At any rate, that’s what I’m talking about. Merea seems to be 『close』 to that. Ah, I’ll just say this to be clear but I’m not suspicious of Merea, okay?」
「I get it. ――But what do you mean? You’ve been talking in a roundabout way for a while now」
Elma tilted her head in confusion.
At Elma’s indication, Salman said 「Got it, got it」 and while shrugging his shoulders, he resolved himself to speak.
「Merea stood on the battlefield in order to try and save us. And then, this is just my supposition but…」
Salman looked up and over at Merea who was sitting on top of Noel with a smile as if he were trying to cheer everyone up.
「That thought is preceding everything else. That’s why, other than that, I can’t seem to see his own 『ambition』 or 『desire』 in him」
「Although I can make an excuse like, we’ve just met but even then I’ve been watching everyone in the surroundings and I’ve gotten a decent grasp on the other demon lord’s thoughts but even though I’ve spoken quite a lot with Merea, I still can’t see anything from him.
The only thing I can see is his strong determination to somehow save the demon lords. But that is somehow…wrong」
After passing a fleeting gaze over the other demon lords, Salman returned his gaze to Elma.
「If he didn’t have that 『kind of a starting』 then maybe even Merea may have had his own wishes or dreams, is what I can’t help but think. That too, a dream or wish that has nothing to do with a battlefield. If I say it in more worldly words, then a more 『honest』 and clean dream.
Merea sometimes shows a sparkling expression like a curious child doesn’t he? Also, he says funny things and makes people laugh. And then he also looks out for everyone. ――That part, really doesn’t feel like he’s the same age, that’s how weird his balance is. …Or at least he should have」
「There is a haze around that honest side of his. Though I’ve only seen that honest side of his a few times so, I’m honestly unsure of what to decide on that. That’s why I’m having this talk with you after all」
Salman laughed in a self-deprecating way but Elma didn’t laugh at Salman.
In the current situation, where everyone had their hands full with their own matters, she instead held a certain kind of reverence for him for actually being able to think about other people.
She had no desire to make fun of him.
「――It’s possible that, that 『haze』 might be a side effect of having been stuck in Lindholm Sacred Mountain till now, not coming out at all. A side effect of having come out into the world for the first time」
「Yeah. ――He’s too innocent about the world. Since his container had nothing in it, when something did start to enter it, the container started to fill in. And so, the first things that filled it in was the strong desire or impulse to 『save the other demon lords』.
An unnecessarily heavy and large, while still being a bright wish.
Even though it’s heavy and large but since it shines so brightly, even if he wanted to throw it away he’s not able to.
If seen by a third person then it’s a humongous 『luggage』. Merea himself probably doesn’t think of it as luggage though」
「If he thought that, he’d probably throw it away right?」, Salman smiled bitterly and made a gesture like throwing something away.
「I see, shining…huh?」
「I’ll just say this but this is just my guess」
「I got that」
When Salman cautioned her, Elma couldn’t help smiling bitterly and nod.
「So, if that kind of a wish is poured into his container, what would happen?」
「He won’t have the leeway to pay attention to anything else. For example, any 『extremely personal urge』 he himself would have after coming out into the world is something that may come up in his mind but it’ll end up being ignored」
「Thanks to that, his current wishes are all centered around others. Having himself as the center, in other words, self-centered selfishness is something that he doesn’t have any of.
That kind of selfishness tends to bring out 『their character』 which is why, since I can’t seem to see much of that sort of a selfishness in him, Merea seems to be covered in a haze」
「That’s why he seems fragile and insecure…huh?」
「Yeah, that’s the source of the discomfort I feel from Merea.
――Strong. Exceptionally strong. Even then, a sense of fragility and insecurity that makes it feel like he’ll disappear if I touch him.
Also, most probably――」
――It’s our fault.
Salman had a pale blue light in his eyes. Blue――it was the colour of sadness.
「We’ve ended up putting such a heavy load onto someone who’s just stepped out into the world so he doesn’t seem to see anything but that. When we were riding on horses, his back felt like it was giving out an amazing amount of bloodthirst so, it could be that he was mentally preparing himself for the next battlefield」
「…you’re a dutiful man huh」
「You can’t say much about others you know」
Salman finally touched on the change in Elma’s expression.
「――It seems like it took quite a lot of time to organize your thoughts」
While simply implying, 「I noticed how you were worried all this time」, Salman floated a slightly sarcastic smile.
Elma on the other hand hung her head in shame but in the next moment, she had a serious expression as she replied.
「…It’s not like I managed to figure everything out. However, I’m not exactly on the bright side so even though I worried so much about it, but when I hit a point where there was nothing that could be done about it, I decided to give up on it.
――Now I’ll just leave it to my own instincts. In the event that it’s needed, I’ll be able to take actions that would be 『like me』, that’s the kind of thinking and life I’ve led so far.
Personality is something that comes out even without thinking about it, it’s also not something that we ourselves can decide upon after all」
「Haha, you look much more refreshed now, so I think that’s a good way to go about things」
Salman laughed joyfully.
At the same time, in his mind he whispered, 「She’s fine now huh」.
He had expected to some extent as to how her personality would come out, which is why even though he knew there was nothing he could do to help her out,
――Following up with that is the job of the people around them huh.
He nodded slightly thinking that.
He once again moved his gaze towards Merea.
The last piece of luggage had finally reached him at that moment.
「――However, it seems like since Merea has a rather touch spirit, he’s thinking about nothing but that. Since he’s able to take it all, he’s not able to throw it out.
After thinking about all the possibilities, he keeps thinking about how to protect us――he’s always thinking that」
Salman gave out a conclusion in the end.
「…I see. There is an excuse that he didn’t bother even though he was in that extreme situation but the responsibility of having put him there is with us. ――We can’t forget that」
Elma as well looked over at Merea who was sitting on top of Noel, placing the luggage onto his back.
He happily caught the luggage which was thrown from below and placed it on Noel’s back.
He had a smiling face.
He had a smiling face but,
――Is he actually laughing or not?
Elma suddenly thought that when she saw Merea.
「But, we can’t really do anything about it anymore. That’s what I think. Most probably, that’s a role is something that Merea alone can play.
The other demon lords might just end up getting crushed」
「That might be true」
「If we think of it that way, Merea who’s able to bear with everything in that position can, in one way be said to be like him but――even that is desire of the 『battlefield』 huh. …It’s rather difficult huh. I don’t know what we should do」
Elma spoke those words subconsciously.
Even though Elma herself hadn’t noticed but because she obediently thought that she wanted to do something for him was probably why she said those words.
Having figured out to a certain extent about herself, Elma’s first worry was about Merea.
As if he had been waiting for those words of hers, Salman spoke,
「Then, you go tell him」
He had a grin plastered on his face.
With that grin on his face, he pointed towards Merea with his chin with gesture like, 「Go on now」.
「Hm? What do you mean go?」
Elma on the other hand had a confused look on her face.
Salman quickly spoke up again.
「You go and plant some 『ambition』 or 『desires』 in Merea. Or if that’s not possible then pull them out」
「Eh? M, me? ――You’re the one who’s been paying attention to everyone right? It doesn’t have to be me――」
「After all, it’s a pain. Well, I’ve been bothered for so long so my shoulders are all stiff.
――It’s your job from now on okay? I’m rather delicate after all, so I might just think too much about it and get troubled over it after all~」
「Su, suspicious… But, I’m not very good at talking so I’m not really that capable in such situations though…」
While looking at Salman, who had started to intentionally roll his shoulders, with reproachful eyes, Elma put her fingers together and started looking rather perplexed.
「Not to mention, having such a talk between men is still a little embarrassing」
「What’s with that? It’s fine if it’s a woman? More like, saying something like go plant some desire in him sounds a little like 『that』」
「Isn’t that fine? In the first place, as long as it’s a desire that’s based on himself then anything is fine, so you go use that body of yours and seduce him. If we don’t establish some form of desire or wish that has nothing to do with the battlefield in him then when it comes to the point where his life is in danger then he may not even have the desperate thought of, 『I need to live on no matter what』.
That’s why, first of all――let’s see…, 『if you come back alive from the battlefield then I’ll let you embrace me』 or something like that is fine」
「You two, stop reacting to the weirdest points!」
The twins had grins on their faces as they looked up at Elma.
Elma herself was,
She had her face turn even further red than it had so far and with her lips heaving, she glared at Salman.
「Huh? Are you in fact quite innocent when it comes to these things? ――Crap, seriously?
Since you’re that much of a beauty I thought you’d have quite a bit of experience though…」
Of course Salman’s idea had been a 『joke』.
Since she had become that flustered from just being called 「cute」 so he figured that she was quite innocent.
Which was why most of his words were just mischief on his part.
Since he already knew, he acted as if he was surprised.
Elma on the other hand,
「….I can do it! I can definitely do it! I’ll be back!!」
「Oka~y, see you~」
「See you~」 「Embrace~」
With her shoulders heaving in anger, she quickly walked towards where Merea was.
Salman, who was left behind, opened his mouth,
「She’s quite easy to handle huh…?」
「Easier to handle than when you use candy?」 「Easier?」
「Ahh, she might be easier than you guys…, actually, you guys are aware that you’re easy to handle…?」
When Salman alternated looking between the twins faces, they looked at each other once and then spoke.
「It’s the candy’s fault!」 「A magical weapon…!」
After heaving a sigh looking at the realistic facial expressions of the twins, Salman once again looked at Elma’s retreating figure.
Elma, who was walking towards Merea, didn’t have any of insecurity that she had showing a little while back.
「――Seriously, women are much stronger when it comes to situations like this huh. Men strangely care about appearances after all. I wonder if I should call it cowardly or what…」
Salman smiled bitterly and with a little self-mockery mixed in, he whispered that to himself.
In the end, he didn’t speak out loud but in his mind he apologized to someone.
He couldn’t put that out into words.
If he ended up saying it then, it would end up decisively denying the 『current feelings』 of the person who reached the very edge just to save them.
――I…can’t say it.
Even though he said that, he understood.
The foolishness of the man who could easily put his life on the line for others and would consider himself as secondary.
Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, he couldn’t come out with a clear answer to that.
From perspective of Elma or others who stand on the battlefield, they may say something like, 「That’s just prejudice, something like the difference between men and women doesn’t matter」, but Salman himself was rather sensitive to the differences between men and women.
At a time like this, men are strangely liable to be swayed by beliefs and appearances.
If a woman makes a breakthrough then just a line can pass through.
That was Salman’s rule of thumb.
For a moment, Salman had the image of his mother cross his mind.
「Oi, give me one of the candy I gave you earlier. I want to have one too」
「Ehhh, Saru has many more~」 「Monopoly~」
「No, the ones I gave you earlier are the only ones I had of that kind. The light blue ones. Light blue. ――More like, you guys’ taste is too biased. No to mention you keep demanding just that. You’re oddly stubborn, even though you’re little girls!」
「You called us little girls again!」 「Start calling us young girls already! Or more like use our names!」
「Ahh, after a little while maybe」
Saying so, Salman took the light blue candy that the twins handed him reluctantly and put it in his mouth.
A sweet and sour flavor spread in his mouth. With the feeling of elegant fragrant herbs being released, a cool fragrance drifted from his nose. The specialty candy of the Duchy of Neuce Gauss had a somewhat similar feeling to the town itself.
The hazy feeling that he had felt like it was wrapped up in the sweet and refreshing fragrance and flavor and was washed away somewhere.
「Ahh, the last one…」 「I suggest that, since there is no more light blue ones left, the next time you give us candy it should be double the quantity!」
「Oh shut up. Candy is not discriminated by the colour they were born with. They all have their own flavor」
While laughing, his sand coloured eyes looked into the distance at the white hair that was waving in the wind and just watched it for a while.