65. The Winter Trial
The season is gradually getting colder. Likewise, we keep getting busier. The coming winter will open the year, bringing the date for everyone’s departure nearer.
Even though the enthusiasm for becoming an adventurer has dwindled a bit among my classmates, the number is still at least double the usual. From what I’ve heard, there are a lot who aspire to be adventurers even in different school districts. Apparently, the adventure’s guild has been flourishing in recent years due this rarely seen rise in membership.
Obviously, the source of this turmoil is Yuusha Ristia. The scope of his activities just keeps getting bigger. Back when we were on that errand for the temple, he seems to have subjugated a death knight that had appeared in a nearby village. Furthermore, various newspapers have recently been crowding their front pages with his successes in exterminating ghosts and mazoku.
His school attendance rate has decreased in proportion to that, but he’s the topic of everyone’s conversations every time he returns. Also, his swordsmanship grows a magnitude in strength each time. Seeing him from the side, it’s very clear.
I can feel it since I think I too have been improving, but, after all, Ristia is exceptional. Regardless of how much stronger I get, Ristia’s improvement is several times faster. Slatton, Cleisio, and Ristia’s brides are getting better together alongside him too. Whenever they go on an adventure, they come back with amazing growth.
I am training too. I want to someday catch up to them. Except, instead of closing the distance, we’re only getting further apart. In my uneasiness, I consulted with Old Sleigstar. Our differences in growth seems to come from our differences in combat experiences.
Well, even if I say training, I mostly just meditate and practice the Dragon Sword Dance. As for combat experience, I fought against those cursed swords at the historic ruins. There was also that incident during the errand. Also, although I often spar with Mistral, in the end, those are just simulation battles. There is no blood lust and I don’t feel as though my life is in danger. My progress is limited.
With all that said,
I haven’t met much with Mistral recently. Ever since we last met, she seems to have been quite busy with errands. Even though she seems to be coming to Old Sleigstar’s place everyday, I come in the afternoon, often times well past when she has returned home. As usual, she prepares firewood, and most recently, various seasonal berries, for me even though the days we’ve been able to meet face to face are few.
I also haven’t met with Priscilla-chan and Nymia much lately. Since Mistral is who always sees them off, whenever she isn’t here, it’s inevitable that neither Priscilla-chan nor Nymia will be here.
Everyday has been somewhat lonely as a result, making me feel down. Still, I’ve been able to focus on my training during this time.
I still have quite the distance to go to reach the levels of Risita and the others, but this is why daily training is important. Since my actual combat experience is lacking, I can only compensate with quality training and concentrating.
For those reasons, I still meditate in school like always. Lately, my nickname has risen from being a foolish child to being, “Delusional Ernea.” The heck do they mean delusional!? I’m meditating!
Although, for the me who has gotten closer to Ruiseine, I have no doubts it’s the boys imagining in their hearts that I am closing my eyes to wickness who are spreading the strange nickname.
I’m often together with Ruiseine in school. She is aggressive. Even when the people around us poke fun at her, she remains by my side with a calm attitude. Well, the ones poking fun at her, a shrine maiden, are also shrine maidens, Kiira and Inea. For the most part, she’s probably used to it.
Ruiseine, whenever she doesn’t have work, always accompanies me to the moss-covered plaza. She seems to have told the temple that she is gathering medical herbs. Truthfully, whenever she goes to the moss-covered plaza, Mistral will have already prepared medical herbs for her to take back. As such, the temple doesn’t seem to doubt her.
When she comes to the moss-covered plaza, she helps me with my training. She is a war shrine maiden. Unlike me, she has an abundance of actual combat experience. Also, her command over the naginata and law as she fights are quite new to me. While my matches against Mistral have decreased, I’ve been having some with Ruiseine. Furthermore, Ruiseine has dragon eyes.
Our bouts seem to serve as training for her too. By using her dragon eyes, she’s able to read my dragon ki. When I use my Dragon Sword Dance, she can see the flow of the dragon ki over my body. She’s recently become able to read that flow in order to anticipate my moves.
Yep, this is dangerous. I’m personally experiencing what Mistral meant when she called dragon eyes our natural enemy. Regardless of what I try, she can read the dragon ki, leaving me unable to do anything. If you know what’s coming next, dealing with it is easy. Ruiseine, with her sharpened dragon eyes, gives me a different sort of difficulty than when I’m against Mistral.
Incidentally, who would win in a match between Mistral and Ruiseine?
Apparently, regardless of how much Ruiseine uses her dragon eyes to read through Mistral’s moves, she is helpless against her overwhelming speed and destructive power.
What a terrifying Dragon Princess-sama…
Seems like my first objective is to land a strike on Ruiseine. Afterwards, I’ll absolutely catch up to Ristia. Then, finally, Mistral. I need to become strong enough to protect Mistral, Ruiseine, and everyone else important to me.
With that oath, I head to the moss-covered plaza like always. It’s gotten quite cold lately and although dead leaves can be seen scattered everywhere I look, the moss-covered plaza is covered with the same verdant carpet without changing. Within that plaza, like a small hill, lays Old Sleigstar, same as always.
The second Old Sleigstar spots me, he sneezes at me. In a fluster, I evade it with a space jump.
His mischief is the same as ever too!
“What’s this? Dost thou have no misgivings for the sneeze of an elder?”
“Yep, if it weren’t ojii-chan, I’d be worrying, ‘Did he catch a cold?’”
“Lately, hasn’t thou been cold towards this one?”
“I’ve learned how to interact with ojii-chan from Mistral.”
“Mumumu, that young lass has done something unnecessary.”
With a, “Che,” Old Sleigstar looks away from me.
He isn’t a child. What’s he pouting like that for?
A wry smile crosses my face at Old Sleigstar’s action.
“Thou should respect this one, thine teacher, more.”
“I do respect ojii-chan and I also give my gratitude. However, that and getting covered in nasal fluid are different things.”
“This one’s nasal fluid is omnipotent. Receive it gratefully.”
“No way, I am currently healthy. There’s no meaning in welcoming a shower of nasal fluid.”
I don’t want to be showered in nasal fluid just when I arrive!
“It cannot be helped. To thou who makes light of me, a trial shall be bestowed.”
But this isn’t making light of you. I’m just avoiding the prank of being covered in nasal fluid. Yet despite all that, Old Sleigstar mercilessly gives me a trial to get back at me.
“Fuhahaha, this one occasionally uses the heart of a demon to forge his favorite disciple.”
Old Sleigstar spreads his maw wide to make a smile. One of his fangs is missing.
A missing tooth. It’s foolish. There’s no dignity whatsoever.
“Pay this one’s missing fang no mind. It shall grow back before long.”
“Right, so long as you don’t mind having it smashed off by Mistral.”
“Gununu, thou recently truly hast been quite cold.”
Old Sleigstar’s smile strains, causing me to give a bright one.
Going back and forth like this every now and then isn’t too bad of a feeling. I usually never get to mess around like this.
“So, what is my trial?”
Will it be one of his usual fickle requests?
“What will you be having me do today?”
Lately, Old Sleigstar has been whimsically requesting me to do various tasks. I’ve gone from gathering berries to washing the nasal fluid jars in the swamp. Originally, these seem to have been Mistral’s daily tasks, but since she seems busy, I too have been helping out with some of them.
“This time, thou is to deliver a letter.”
Dragons write letters, too?
Within Old Sleigstar’s line of sight, upon the pieces of firewood and nuts that have been gathered over time, is a single letter.
“Indeed, tis a letter. However, this one did not write it. Even if we do not write letters, tis a simple matter to communicate with someone far away.”
So, a heart communication technique. Incredible.
“Then, whose letter is it and who is it for?”
“This letter, is a letter of introduction. The writer is Mistral. Deliver it to a man known as Gild living in the northern area of the Royal Capital.”
Mumumu, Mistral’s letter? Her letter of introduction?
“Deliver it to Gild. Then thou shall receive something from him.
“What is the, ‘something’?”
“Such this one cannot say. Just know that receiving it will not be simple.”
“This letter, is it possibly meant to introduce me to Gild-san?”
“Indeed. You must have it, otherwise Gild would have nothing to do with thee.”
If Mistral needs to expressly write a letter of introduction, is he a difficult person? Even then, Mistral wrote this letter. Could Gild-san be a Dragon Tribesman? But, I haven’t heard of a Dragon Tribesmen living in the Royal Capital.
“Thou shall understand once thou goes. Regardless, thou is to deliver that letter to Gild-san.”
What I’ll be getting must be good, then. Whether this trial will be simple or difficult, I absolutely can’t tell.
“This is an extraordinary severe trial.” Only for Old Sleigstar to read my very unfocused thoughts and speak in a strict tone. “Should thou not receive anything from Gild, thou and Mistral’s engagement shall be no more.”
My eyes pop open in surprise at the sudden verdict.
Old Sleigstar isn’t trying to worry me or play any pranks either. He is serious. If I don’t overcome this trial, it really feels like my marriage with Mistral will be cancelled.
How did a discussion like this suddenly happen? Could it have something to do with Mistral being busy?
I had thought she was only busy with the enormous task of searching the various Dragon Tribesmen clans for the one colluding with the mazoku. Could she maybe be busy with something else?
“The time limit is until the new year. You are to receive something from Gild and return here. Until then, there is no need to come here either.”
There are still many days left between now and the new year. However, I need to get something in between that time period? In that case, that time period is no doubt immensely short.
I breakout in sweat all over my body.
If I mess up, I’ll lose Mistral. I refuse such an outcome. I absolutely don’t want to be separated from Mistral. No matter what, I will overcome this trial.
“Thou hast the spirit. This one too expects thine success.”
I think Old Sleigstar is imposing this trial because the circumstances are even outside of his control. In that case, I’ll use all my power to succeed.
I take the letter and place it within my chest pocket.
“By the way, does Mistral know that if I mess up our engagement will be cancelled.”
“Naturally. Mistral too was given a clear explanation. If thou wishes to marry her, then thy much unequivocally realize this trial.”
Mistral also accept this? Why did Old Sleigstar suddenly propose a trial like this? And then, why did Mistral accept these terms?
The mysterious trial awaiting me leaves me filled with anxiety.
T/N: Good luck Ernea, you’ll probably need it. That said, I wonder what happens to Old Sleigstar’s teeth after Mistral bashes them out?? Does he have a collection of teeth laying around somewhere in the roots of the great spirit tree??