Chapter 7: The Person Named Ariene
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that person come through the hallway doors from the orphanage. She was Ariene, looking young and childish. She had an enthralling white skin and her figure was so thin, she looks so fragile that if I touch her she might “collapse”. Her golden hair was shining brightly and it was carefully well groomed.
「Oh my, Lugis! It’s really you Lugis. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, but you look the same as always. Really, you haven’t changed one bit! 」
What? Something feels wrong.
I was thinking about what kind of face I would make when I met her, but my face gradually became apprehensive. I thought something felt wrong, and yes, Ariene was making a suppressed face from the very beginning.
「What’s with that nervous look? Have you been “poisoned” by something? You became an adventurer in the end, haven’t you? That’s great for you, yet, I still think that occupation is not that interesting. 」
Ariene stood below my sight and I observed her as she continues to talk. It is lovable but ironic at the same time.
However, there is one thing that has been bothering me for a while now.
「Ariene you…never mind, you are still you. 」
The girl standing in front of me, this girl Ariene, is looking at me with strange eyes. No matter how long I look at her, the color of her hair, her eyes, her appearance, she is definitely Ariene. Yet, what is this sensation of uneasiness. Ariene approached me with sarcastic words, or I interpreted them wrong? What does this all means?
「What are you talking about? It has only been months since the last time you two were together, how could you forget your childhood friend’s character? 」
Ms. Ninz started speaking to me with a cold voice. She put her food basket away and stared at me with strange eyes the same way Ariene was looking at me.
Now that I think about it. Ariene from the future who was with me on a journey with the Rescue Party was pure, peaceful, modest and loving; she had this image of a holy woman. Everyone looked up to her. Even if she was my childhood friend, that image was the one that was embodied on my mind for a long time.
That personality was the one that I kept remembering even after coming to the past; however, if I remember her as a child, she certainly had another vibe. Yes, that’s correct. When I was a kid, I recall that the Ariene in the orphanage was not that peaceful; she was full of vigor. Ariene was and is a woman more wildly than properly modest.
「If you forgot about me, then it can’t be helped, can it? I don’t care for your memory loss you seem to have now. Still, you need to stop looking at me as if I am a weird person. Besides, it seems you are doing better than I am. I wonder why you came here in the first place. 」
Ariene was staring at me as she raises her eyebrows. I was feeling quite uncomfortable with this situation, with the two of them gazing at me with distrustful eyes.
「 No need to say anything, if you forgot, then there’s nothing you can do about it. Do as you please. 」
The two of them were wary of me and went further away into the orphanage.
The inside of the orphanage was much more spacious than the outside. That’s natural of course, it needs to be large enough to take care and feed a large number of children; beside that, it needs to be roomy enough to have all of the amenities needed. The furniture looks the same, and there is this large wooden table in the center of the hallway where everyone sits and fraternizes with each other. There are old chairs surrounding the table; I still remember the cracking sounds from sitting on them. However, when I was a child, this house looked like a luxurious place to me.
It’s been a long while now since I sat in one of those chairs, so I grabbed one with my left hand.
「 What!? 」
On that moment, I felt an excruciating pain on my left shoulder, it seemed like a knife piercing the skin. Ariene came to help me and held my shoulder tight. It was an excruciating muscular pain; I could barely stand with this acute pain running through my body.
I was trying to endure as much as I could not to show my vulnerable side to her.
「 Look. Just look at your state. I told you many times not to overwork yourself. Ms. Ninz, please lend me some bandage. C’mon, Lugis, sit down. 」
I sat quietly on the chair as tears started overflowing from my eyes. I can hear the cracking sound coming from the chair; so nostalgic. Ms. Ninz passed the bandage to Ariene, and looked at me with a bitter smile.
I feel a little relieved now. I wonder if I should say that my heart is content right now. I do remember well now, that Ariene was quite a free spirit in the past. Ah, I can feel my stupidity. At that time, I did not visit the orphanage often, but that’s not a reason to forget the people I grew up with. I was selfish. What I had of them was just a distant memory. I pity myself.
Before I left the orphanage, I boasted confidently that I would become a great adventurer; I was so overconfident that I didn’t understand her miserable life. From time to time, I would read Ariene’s letters, and now it all makes sense, because her last letter to me actually had a connection to the recent situation. Besides that, I heard that Ariene was being relocated, and yet, I did not come to see her off, even once. It’s actually a terrible story. It’s so absurd.
There’s so much I want to change about my past. Even though, I wanted to with her so much, I can’t believe there was a time I behaved like that.
「 Hey, don’t force yourself. You hit something hard, didn’t you? You shoulder is turning “blue”. 」
Ariene looked angry at me while she was wrapping my shoulder with some bandages.
I took some chewing tobacco from the bag, and started chewing; Ariene’s anger worsened. She kept saying things like 「when did you get that bad habit」 or 「you don’t get to become an adult just because you started chewing that thing」. Even if Ariene tells me to abandon this habit, I can’t throw it away that easily. This is one of the only joys I had during my life as an adventurer.
She continued to pester me for a while; but she noticed that I was not listening to her words, so Ariene bit her lips as she carefully finished putting the bandage on my shoulder to help relieve my pain.
I felt such comfort being treated by people who were so close to me in the past; it feels so nostalgic yet I can’t tell them anything about what happened to me. I observed Ariene and Ms. Ninz smiling and talking about ordinary things. Ah, I see. So this is the happiness I lost in the future. I felt mad about myself.
However, I could sense the difference between both of them. Certainly, this was the true Ariene, a cheerful and energetic person. She always behaved like this in the past. Yet, her joyful character was gone in the future.
「 Listen, Ariene. 」
「 What? I don’t want to hear any complains about the way I am wrapping the bandages. Or, do you want to thank me for this? I wouldn’t mind to get some gratitude from you. 」
I felt the echo inside my head because of the chewing tobacco. I opened my mouth while holding my saliva.
「 I heard that they relocated you. I want to know where they will sent you.」
「 …Ms. Ninz? 」
Ariene looked at Ms. Ninz who was watching us both. She was looking at scenery outside a while ago, but from the window, I couldn’t see much as I was far away from the wall.
「You shouldn’t worry about that. You need to stay strong and you need to stay healthy. Oh my, Ariene and you Lugis, I don’t know which one of you are the worst. You both are so stubborn that you drive me crazy. 」
「Well, he sure gets a bit cheeky sometimes. That’s for sure. But he is still a smart guy. 」
Ariene’s voice started shaking as she finished wrapping the bandages.
I know I shouldn’t behave like this. I just want to feel this moment. Because, Ariene is looking vulnerable and miserable right now. This is one of her weaknesses that I fell in love with, and I don’t want to cover my eyes.
「So, where are you going? 」
Come to think of it, I never knew where she went. Therefore, I’m learning about her relocation for the first time.
「It is not a strange place. If it’s you, I don’t mind telling where I’ll go. 」
Despise saying that, Ariene hesitates for a moment and then she mutters.
「The location is the Cathedral. 」
My chewing tobacco fell from my mouth.
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Winter has come!