That is the name I gave myself to start my new life.
A life without all the horrible things I've seen. Without all the horrible things I've done.
I'll never forgive people. I'll never forgive myself for being one of them.
That was something I told myself. That was something I upheld. Until that day.
...I was close to death. And underneath the cold eyes of that man, I saw a warmth I haven't felt for a long time.
So I decided to live on. Life might have been meaningless, but perhaps...just perhaps. If I were to follow this man, can I find meaning in life again?
* * *
That is the name I currently have.
It has been one that is vastly different from the life I've had up till now, and one that has definitely opened my eyes.
I used to be so naive, and so dumb, but after what happened, I knew I had to leave the old me behind.
She gave me a new life, and raised me. She taught me how to live.
...and She died for me.
After that, I decided to close myself off. To not be nice...because there is only pain in the end.
Until that day.
That girl, close to death, her cold eyes reminding me so much of my own. However, I've seen too much of that to feel anything.
That is, until her stare let up and she showed me a warm gaze that reminded me of Her.
Something in my mind clicked and I decided to take her in.
* * *
Breakfast is some simple chicken porridge along with 2 pieces of bread.
Well, it's not good to be too full for the hunt later, so I decided to let Lilla eat all the bread.
Or...well...Anne. I really should start thinking of her as Anne from now on, it's going to cost us a lot of trouble if I were to slip up in front of others.
Anne. Anne. Her name is Anne. Her name is Anne.
After finishing the porridge, I put on my armour and grabbed my equipment while Anne is still eating her bread. For some reason, when it came to bread, she nibbles instead of wolfing it down. Perhaps it has something to do with her background?
Either way, now is not the time to think about that. It's already bright and sunny outside and I've got hunting to do.
After Anne finished her food and dressed up a little, we got out of the room.
The innkeeper still looks terrified of us. Poor guy.
"Keep the room for us for today, mister. We're going to stay again for the night."
"O-Okay. Enjoy your day, sir!"
The dude looks more than happy to send us out. Pfft. I won't blame him.
It's time to head for the hunting grounds.
* * *
James is very energetic today.
That means he will be hunting again.
Why does he always do such dangerous things just to make money?
There are much easier ways to make money, you know...?
Why am I thinking of that again?
We are heading towards Muckfield Forest, right?
Why is it taking so long?
This walk is killing my legs...
And this stupid James won't even help me.
If only He was still with me...
We are finally here.
Why is it called Muckfield Forest if it's so far away from the town?
...the people who named the place must have been stupid.
* * *
Sigh. It's always such a bore watching James hunt.
Sure, the monsters are dangerous and rare, but...
Is it really worth it doing a living for this?
I've been with him for a while now, and yet all I've seen him do is hunt these monsters, sell them off for money, and repeat.
It's so boring.
This forest too. It's so dull. All I see is the thickets and...there's these strange sounds.
This is so idiotic. I shouldn't have tagged along. And this stump makes for the worst chair ever. My butt hurts...
James gets so silent when he does the fighting too. Why can't he make some noise to make this more entertaining?
* * *
Anne is just sitting on the stump, not saying anything again.
Even though the liger in front of me is more dangerous, that cold, analysing gaze I feel on my back gives me more goosebumps...
I should try to talk to her a little to get rid of this weird feeling.
"So uh...Did you come to this town beforeeeEEeeE-"
Phew, dodged that lunge. Take this, you stupid animal!
"No." The cold voice rang out from behind me.
As precise of an answer as ever, eh. As expected of Anne.
There we go, just gotta carefully skin this...
Hm? What's that sound?
It's coming from...behind me!
I can see the spots and stripes. It's also much smaller in size than the liger next to my feet.
And it's right behind Lilla!
"Lilla, get back!"
Startled, the girl just continued to sit there. Dammit!
You are not about to claim my companion's life today, you beast!
I dash forward.
"Pay attention to your surroundings next time, geez."
All I got was the same cold stare.
I might be mistaken, but she seems to be smiling a little.
Well then, back to skinning these. We are going to make a fortune!
* * *
With the beasts properly skinned and their bodies thoroughly looted, we headed towards back towards the town.
Of course, I can't have the princess carry all the heavy meat, so I let her carry the skins while I carried the rest.
The inn canteen seems more full than last night, and we definitely got more stares since we are holding such big bags.
Well, I say we, but of course I'm the one carrying all the big ones.
The poor innkeeper looks even more terrified than before. Did I not clean my sword properly?
"W-W-Welcome back, sir...w-w-what would you like...?"
"Get us some food. We'll be at the eatery."
The eatery is slightly less full than the front hall. We still got a couple of stares from the people enjoying their food, but it was less than before.
Well, let's just sit down at the table in the corner.
"Heya, you folks!" A voice came from the table next to us. It's a young man seemingly in his twenties.
"Hello. What do you want with us?"
"Well, I noticed your attire. You a hunter it seems?"
"That is right. What of it?"
"Well, if I were to give you a ride to the capital and introduce you to a buyer, how much commission are you gonna give me?"
"12, no more and no less."
"Deal! From the looks of it, you both are staying at this inn. I will come pick you up tomorrow morning, so get ready then."
"You got it."
Alright, so that resolves our transportation to the capital as well as the buyer. The merchants never fail to notice a business opportunity, huh.
Hm? The guy leaned in again. What does he want now?
"Oh, and by the way, the name's Edmund. Edmund Smiths."
"James Dilwyn. And that's Anne."
"Ah, I see. I would have fallen in love with her if I wasn't already in love in someone else. And between you and me, James, why exactly are you with her? Are you dating her or something?"
"Ah...I see...so it's that then....good luck to you then!"
I can feel a cold wave sending shivers down my spine.
Good thing Edmund stopped leaning in.
Turning to face Anne, I saw the expected cold stare.
Well, lunch couldn't have come sooner...
* * *
The stares are a little weird today. It feels as if we are getting stared at more intently, as if someone was checking us out.
...in the end, it was probably that creepy man that came to talk with us.
I could only hear parts of their conversation, but I can see the man's eyes on me.
Good, James stopped him. Hmph.
I'm not going to forgive him for this betra-Ah, food is here.
Food first. Other things later.
Ah...the tasty food always fills my stomach ~
* * *
The food seems to have made her extremely happy.
For some reason, she's poking the chicken with her fork more than usual, but she has this happy face on...
I don't feel so good...
Well, let's just finish up the food real quick and go before anything else goes wrong. The stares from other people is really burning into my back now.
For some reason, Anne wanted me to buy her something after lunch was over.
So here we are now, at the market area. There's all kinds of shops here, but she went straight for the doll shop.
I wonder if it's a habit.
But aren't dolls for children? Well, only she knows what she's thinking at all times...
I bought what she asked for and although she gave me the cold stare as per usual, I can sense warmth in her gaze.
At least she still knows gratefulness.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly as we just sort of walked around checking out the different things. It seems that the locals are selling this thing called a "candy apple". We tried a few, but well, it tasted too sweet for me, so I gave mine to Anne.
Back at the inn, we enjoyed quite the dinner, this time back in our room again.
And...well...I shouldn't be bothered by this, but that doll on the table really creeps me out. Whoever the creator was, they made this doll too real.
But come to think of it, I guess all the dolls in that shop felt real...so much that it felt as if I was being watched. But of course, the dolls are not alive, so it's just my imagination.
Or are they alive?
I'm definitely not going to have nice dreams tonight...
* * *
What is this place?
Why is there shelves just filled with dolls here?
I know that voice...! It's...!
Did one of the dolls just blink at me?
Wait a second, they are all shifting towards me, aren't they??
AHH! WHAT JUST GRABBED ME FROM BEHIND?!
OW! The back of my head just hit somethi-wait a minute. I'm back on my bed again!
...then that means the arms around my waist belongs to...
And the thing that I hit was...
Azmiel, save me from the impending doom!
* * *
"Are you sure it's him?"
"No doubt, Cee! It has to be him!"
"Are you absolutely certain? The last time you said you were sure, it turns out you just had a few too many drinks!"
"Hey now Cee, that's not nice! And I'm certain it's them, you know? I followed them around the entire day just to make sure!"
"This better not be another mistake, Luke. Alright. Let's head back and report."
"We are going to get so much from this! You could even go off and find the perfect husband you dreamed of, Cee!"
Still the same dumbass as always. I guess meeting the girl of his dreams didn't change him much.