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The corpse hidden under the moonlight
The boy answered helplessly after being troubled for a while. Well, even if we had been together for half of the day, we were still people that he had only just met earlier. It was understandable that he would feel disheartened. However, he could not simply remain alone in a place like this. If he did, he might meet someone as nasty as that horrible guy from before.
Even though the boy had responded, he made no move to stand up from the fountain so we decided to wait patiently. Good intentions could not be forced upon people. Raising his head towards the sky with closed eyes, the boy called out to his mother one last time. We had spent so much time searching that I did not think it would reach her. Yet―.
We heard a woman’s voice behind us, calling out over and over again.
Opening his eyes, the boy started running towards her. I really had not expected her to appear! I could not help thinking this as I saw the parent and son hugging each other. Roxy-sama and I both felt overjoyed.
“Yes, I wondered what would happen for a moment, but I guess this is it.”
We watched their reunion. Roxy-sama’s hand brushed against my left one. Although she had not said anything, her emotions flowed in through the <Mind-reading> skill. Those feelings aimed towards me were warm and tender, despite the fact that I was unworthy.
After embracing for a while, it seemed like they finally calmed down. Then, the boy began to talk to his mother. He was pointing at us, so I could roughly guess what he was saying. As soon as she heard this, the mother walked over.
“For taking care of my child… Thank you. You really saved us when he got lost.”
“Big brother, big sister, thanks!”
“Don’t get lost again, yeah?”
“Stay close to your mother, okay?”
The mother explained to us that while she was delivering goods to a store, he had disappeared as she took her eyes off him for a moment. When she noticed that her son was gone, she searched frantically. At first, she had combed through the main avenue before it occurred to her that he might have wandered into a back street. Thinking this, it seemed that the mother had been looking through a different route than ours. In that case, they would never have met no matter how hard they searched… This was certain.
In the end, she was exhausted from not being able to find her son, so she had come here to drink from the fountain. They had met up again purely by coincidence because we happened to take a break here. Despite this, I wanted to believe that their reunion was the result of their feelings.
While the mother thanked us, the tiredness caught up to the boy… and he fell asleep in her arms. As we parted from the mother and son on the way home, we felt a weight lift from our shoulders. Telling a lost child that their guardian could not be found really did leave behind a bitter feeling. It was the same when I said earlier that we would continue looking tomorrow.
I should not do things that I was inexperienced in. With the orphan girl previously, I had most likely been spirited because I had grown a little stronger. Maybe I had become too confident.
Roxy-sama was still looking towards the path where the parent and child had gone, even though they had already disappeared. Eyes shining with tears, this image of her was very precious. A single tear ran down her cheek, reflecting the light from the setting sun. Suddenly, Roxy-sama noticed my stare and turned to me with a smile.
“It’s great, isn’t it?”
I could not reply. Her appearance was too much and I felt my chest tighten. I was captivated by her and in my embarrassment, I forgot the breathe. My face was probably flushed red. I just hoped that the colours of the sunset made it less noticeable. A servant like me should not show such an expression to his master.
“What’s wrong, Fay?”
“No, it’s nothing. If you don’t return home soon, the superior will scold you.”
“When that time comes, let’s be scolded together.”
I wanted to say that I did not want to, yet one look at her face and I did not care anymore. Well, I involved Roxy-sama in the lost child situation after all. It was half my fault that she would be reprimanded by that scary superior.
“Yes, I will accompany you.”
“Good. Then, let’s go home.”
She walked as imposingly as ever. Despite her disguise as a town girl, she was still a Holy Knight inside. I headed back to the Heart Family’s residence with Roxy-sama ― an affectionate and respectul master.
Many things happened today, although it was unforgettable for me. She was a wonderful person. I felt blissful from the bottom of my heart to have become Roxy-sama’s servant.
“Fay, what’s making you look that happy?”
“It’s a secret.”
“Eh, it’s fine isn’t it… Please tell me.”
“That’s one thing I can’t do.”
Roxy-sama tried to make me confess by puffing out her cheeks. I would end up succumbing to her soon. It would be wonderful for this kind of daily life to continue.
It was time for my usual night hunt. I had purposely appeared in front of a few warrior parties several times. From these accumulated sightings, I gathered that they saw me as a fiendish apparition and had nicknamed me Lich. A monster with a ragged black hood and a fleshless body. Exactly the disguise I had aimed for.
The sky was cloudless yet again tonight, perfect for night hunting. Warriors with notable weapons were heading out to the Goblin Meadow and Hobgob Forest. In the midst of this, I ran freely through the moonlit Goblin Meadow as Lich. When I saw a goblin, I would slice off its head and if I came across a warrior, I would deliberately let them catch a glimpse. As I repeated these actions, the number of warriors who saw my existence as a problem gradually increased.
Taking a breath after killing ten goblins, I heard screams erupt from the grass.
“It’s Lich! Mukuro is here, everyone run!”
As soon as he saw me with my skull mask, the warrior’s serious face turned pale and fled. Recently, they had been calling me Mukuro. The reason for this is that I was often seen standing atop a pile of dead goblin bodies (corpses). It was rumoured among the warriors that the goblin-loving Lich ― Mukuro would start to attack people soon. (TN: Fate’s nickname, Mukuro (マスク), was written in kanji inside the brackets as 骸 which means corpses. Since the author used katakana for his nickname, I’ve kept it as a direct translation of the pronunciation.)
This was because monsters naturally preferred humans. Although this was an unusual monster, it would definitely aim for people sooner or later… Even the warriors at the bar I frequented said this as they drank sake, anxiety on their faces. The bar owner had also said that while Mukuro’s appearances were currently limited to midnight, there had not yet been any noticeable impact on the trade economy. However, if the rumours were to spread outside of the capital, it would be a different story. If the logistics became stagnant, the price of goods would rise which would put pressure on the management of the bar.
I had apologised to the shopkeeper in my heart, yet still waited for the Holy Knight to appear. However, there was an unavoidable matter I had to attend to the next day. A while ago, I had been invited by Roxy-sama to accompany her to the Heart Family territory. Having spent so much effort to lure out the second son of the Breric Family, Hado… It was truly a pity.
“You seem depressed. Does Fay dislike coming to the territory…?”
Inside the horse-drawn carriage, Roxy-sama pouted at me. There was no one else with us. Yet, my mind was lingering on other thoughts like being unable to resume the operation of drawing out Hado from the Breric Family. Not good, not good. I would ruin Roxy-sama’s happy return like this.
“Not at all. I’m looking forward to it very much!”
She looked at me very doubtfully. Did I really have such a bored expression earlier?
“It’s true! It’s grape harvesting season right now, right? It would definitely be fun to pick grapes together!”
“Well, at least you remembered.”
Every year during this time, she would return to the territory and harvest grapes with her people. It appeared to be one of the few events where Roxy-sama could interact with them. She had been in an exuberant mood ever since climbing into the carriage, so I could see that it was very important. Roxy-sama’s territory was located in the mountains north of the capital. It was currently autumn, however, it became a bleak and snowy landscape during winter.
Despite this, the lands were fertile as a result of the residents uniting together to constantly improve the soil over many generations. More than just harvesting produce for storage during the severe winters, they now shipped large quantities to the Royal Capital. Apart from their wine, it was the Heart Family’s pride to be able to supply all manner of crops to the kingdom.
“Just by listening to Roxy-sama, I can tell it’s a wonderful place. The food seems so delicious!”
“Fufufu, Fay always talks about food first. Certainly, it’s good to have an abundance, however… This time, there is a monster aiming for those crops. I’m returning to the territory to subdue it.”
“A monster? …They really do appear everywhere.”
I said this with raised brows which made Roxy-sama put her hand over her mouth, laughing.
“It’s troublesome. Although if they are defeated this time, then they won’t come out until next year. After all, I’m a Holy Knight so something like this isn’t a problem.”
“Just as expected. Uh… What monster is it?”
Kobolt… If I remembered correctly, it was a monster that looked like a dog walking on two legs. It should be larger than me. Ranked higher than a goblin, I heard that vanquishing it was impossible unless the warrior was powerful.
Besides, they had a strong consciousness as a horde. When a companion was attacked, they called for reinforcements in a chain of howls. Moreover, they had a sharp sense of smell and could immediately find anyone hiding in the bushes. On top of this, they had a tenacious personality. For an opponent, they were a pretty troublesome monster.
As I pondered this, my stomach grumbled. Guuu…
“Fay, what’s wrong? Are you hungry? Although we just had just eaten.”
Lately, my stomach had been growling in front of Roxy-sama a lot… I felt embarrassed. This was definitely due to the Gluttony skill. Either way, I had only consumed goblin souls all this time. It was about time that an urge to devour a different soul would appear. Smiling bitterly, I tried to cover it up.
“Sorry. Even though I ate that much… I’m hungry again.”
“Fay really does eat well. I think that’s a good thing. We’ll arrive at the territory soon, so just endure it for a little longer.”
Saying this, Roxy-sama looked out the carriage window. A vineyard extended all the way up to the mountain. Purple fruits hung from every tree. As the carriage continued on its way, a large mansion came into view, one that was not at all inferior to the size of the Heart Family’s residence back at the Royal Capital.