In the Footsteps of His Parents
Over half a year had passed since Rio left the Seirei no Tami village.
Rio’s mobility had significantly improved thanks to being able to fly using Spirit Arts. He arrived in Yagumo in merely a week after departing from the Seirei no Tami village.
Yagumo was the general name for the Eastern regions of the Yufilia continent. It contained over 30 countries widely varying in size.
Unlike Strahl, where the Bertram and Galark Kingdoms are situated, organizations such as the Adventurer’s Guild and Merchant’s Guild did not exist in Yagumo. As such, the circulated currency was different1.
In addition, the common language used in Yagumo differed from the one used in Strahl.
Fortunately, the head elder of the Seirei no Tami, Arthura, had spent a considerable amount of time in Yagumo before and was able to teach Rio Yagumo’s native tongue.
Although his pronunciation was still slightly awkward, Rio had no trouble holding an everyday conversation.
Rio exhaustively investigated each country in Yagumo for any information pertaining to his parents, inquiring the locals if they were acquainted with his parents.
Unfortunately, Rio did not have any hints as to which country his parents were from. The only information he had were their names and that they came originally came from Yagumo. Thus, the effectiveness of his search was significantly hampered.
There were over 30 countries of varying sizes in Yagumo.
Trying to obtain information about two people from that many countries was like trying to find a needle in a haystack; in other words, it was incredibly difficult.
Roughly spending one to two months in each country, he was already on his fourth.
Countries in Yagumo characteristically consisted of a single large city surrounded by a number of smaller towns and villages.
Currently, Rio was heading towards Karasuki, the capital of the country he was in. Along the way, he came across a slightly large village near the capital.
According to information he gathered, Karasuki was by the far the largest and most populous city he would encounter thus far2.
There was a higher possibility of gaining hints about his parents than the other cities.
Even if he could not question every single person there, Rio considered staying a bit longer in Karasuki.
However, it was still necessary to gather information in the village he was coming up on.
Judging from the number of houses, Rio estimated the village to have a population of around 300.
A fence surrounded the village with shabby looking houses made of wood, limestone, and clay dotting the center.
Surrounding the residential area were open fields and pastures with barns scattered around. Here and there, Rio saw people working the land and feeding their livestock.
It was the scene of a typical rural village that could be found anywhere.
Rio proceeded towards the entrance to the village.
Although there were not any guards on watch so one could come and go freely, the nearby villagers recognized Rio as an outsider and watched him from a distance.
It was an atmosphere that would make an outsider hesitate to proceed further, but Rio could not simply just turn around and leave.
Rio pressed his way forward, towards the village to quickly finish what he came for.
Upon reaching the center of the village, Rio surveyed the surrounding buildings. Discovering a house larger than the rest, he assumed it to be the village chief’s residence and walked towards it.
「E~tto, a guest? You don’t seem like a peddler, nor do you look like a Samurai-sama or Warrior-sama… right? Are you a Ronin3…? Or possibly a traveller?」
A girl who appeared to be around Rio’s age called out to him with a curious look.
This is unusual.
Was Rio’s thoughts.
For the most part, villagers avoided speaking to him unless he initiated a conversation.
Even then, they would usually adopt a hostile or wary attitude.
The girl’s clothes were simple. The appearance of her skin was rough and dry, most likely due to farm work, and her hair was cut short, which suited her quite well. Overall, she was a girl with lovely features and a friendly demeanour.
Speaking of which, Samurai were the equivalent of Knights in the Bertram and Galark Kingdoms.
Warriors were distinguished soldiers who had ascended through the ranks and reported directly to Samurais.
Lastly, Ronins were comparable to Adventurers.
Although Rio was armed, his appearance was quite different from that of a typical Samurai or Warrior in the region.
Rather, his armaments were a far cry away from those used in the region.
From these facts, the girl speculated Rio was a traveller from some distant foreign land.
「Yes, it’s something like that. Actually, I’m looking for someone. I’d like to speak to the village chief. Is this by any chance the chief’s residence?」
「Ah, ye— yes. That’s right but…」
To Rio’s courteous conduct unthinkable for a Ronin or a traveller, the girl replied in a stiff voice.
「Thank god. Is the village chief currently home?」
「Uhm, yes. She, is?」
Tilting her head, the girl replied with a question for some reason. Perhaps she was not well versed in formal speech4.
「If you don’t mind, can I trouble you to guide me there? It would be quite disrespectful for me to suddenly barge into someone’s home.」
Rio spoke in a slightly troubled tone.
Even though the village chief acts as a mediator between the village and foreigners, if a complete outsider were to suddenly show up, suspicion would arise, as Rio had experienced many times before.
The girl’s presence would allow Rio to smoothly converse with the village chief.
「Ah, of course! Then, uhm, please follow me.」
The girl agreed to Rio’s request without a hint of irritation.
Guided by the girl, Rio arrived at the village chief’s house.
Maybe it was because she was nervous but she remained silent for the whole way. Occasionally, she would steal glances at Rio.
As Rio wondered if outsiders other than peddlers who came to the village were that rare, the two arrive at the village chief’s house.
「Obaa-chan! There’s a guest~! He said he’s looking for someone~」
When they entered the house, the girl loudly called for the village chief.
A spacious room with a fireplace positioned in the center greeted them.
「You don’t have to speak so loudly, I can hear you just fine. A guest, is it? Not a peddler? …Oya, you… I haven’t seen your face before.」
An elderly woman appeared from within the house. She directed a dubious glance at Rio’s exotic appearance.
「Greetings, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I am called Rio. Pleased to make your acquaintance.」
Rio politely introduced himself in an accustomed manner.
「Rio… the same name as the old King. Sorry, I’m Yuba. Setting aside whether or not we’ll become acquainted after this, what sort of business do you have in such a rural village?」
Although polite, the elderly woman introducing herself as Yuba spoke in a doubtful tone.
Rio laughed bitterly in his mind as he was already expecting to be doubted. Rio decided to ask his usual question in order to quickly wrap up his business.
「Well, I’ll get straight to the point. Do you happen to know of a man and woman called Zen and Ayame? They should have lived in Yagumo up until 15 years or so ago.」
Rio inquired about the names of the two people he was looking for.
Zen and Ayame.
They were the names of Rio’s father and mother.
How many times had he asked that same question already?
He had yet to receive a favourable answer.
Even though it was highly likely that he would receive the same, unfavourable answer, Rio could not help but hold onto a sliver of hope that this time, this time he would hear the words he had been waiting for.
If the answer was negative, he would leave the village immediately.
However, this time his expectations did not betray him.
「…Zen? Did you just say Zen? And Ayame-sama too…」
Yuba’s reaction was vastly different from those Rio had seen up until now.
This elderly woman obviously knew something.
Indeed, it was the reaction he had been looking for.
「Are you acquainted with them!?」
For the Rio who was rarely agitated, he unconsciously asked in rather loud voice.
「…You, who are you?」
Yuba stared directly at Rio as if to confirm something.
「…I am their son.」
Rio was slightly worried whether he should reveal the truth so easily but since he was asked, he decided it was best to answer honestly.
Thinking so, Rio answered her question.
「Their son… You are…」
Yuba’s expression darkened as she stared intently at Rio, as if trying to find something.
「…Ruri, leave us for a moment.」
Yuba dismissed the girl called Ruri who was attentively listening on their conversation on the side.
Ruri voiced her complaint while puffing her cheeks in annoyance.
「Just go already. I have something important to discuss with this child. And don’t say a word to anybody in the village about what you just heard.」
「Eh~? I understand but… che. Just when it starts to become interesting.」
Ruri left the house while grumbling her complaints.
「Finally. You, you said your name was Rio right? Was what you said just now the truth?」
Having confirmed that Ruri left the house, Yuba turned a sharp gaze at Rio.
「About what I said before, do you mean about me being the son of Zen and Ayame?」
Yuba gave a brief affirmation.
「It is true. Though, I don’t have anything to prove that. Since I don’t have any memories of father, the best I can do is describe my mother’s features and recall stories I heard of my father when he was still alive. Is that alright?」
「I’m sorry but please, tell me. I’m not yet convinced that you’re their son.」
Rio perceived signs of doubt lingering in Yuba’s eyes.
「I see. I can certainly do that. Then, I will tell you all I know.」
Rio began to describe his mother’s characteristics as well as talk about his recollections of his father.
Yuba kept silent throughout Rio’s entire story.
By the middle of Rio’s reminiscence, Yuba quietly watched Rio with traces of nostalgia on her face.
「…I’m sorry for doubting you. I do believe you are their son.」
After talking for some time, an expression of understanding finally surfaced on Yuba’s face and she acknowledged Rio as the son of Zen and Ayame.
「No, don’t be. Even I’d find it difficult to believe if a person suddenly appeared out of nowhere and proclaimed they’re the son of acquaintances of mine who left over 20 years ago.」
Rio nodded slightly, agreeing with Yuba’s previous doubts.
「I’m thankful for that. You resemble Ayame-sama. A part of me was ready to believe you but I wanted more evidence. So, how are Zen and Ayame-sama fairing?」
Yuba asked in a slightly quickened tone.
She could not help but worry about the two’s well-being.
This person was not only acquainted with Zena and Ayame, she was also worried about them and yet, she had not received news of their passing yet.
「Father died shortly after I was born. Mother passed away during my childhood…」
While answering her question, Rio saw that Yuba could not conceal her curiosity and wondered what kind of relationship she had with his parents.
「…I see. That child has already passed away, huh? Sheesh…」
An air of loneliness could be felt from her.
「About that… May I know the relationship between you and my father?」
Rio posed the question to Yuba.
「I’m that child’s mother.」
Having already expected such a response, Rio felt neither confusion nor surprise.
「I, see… Then would that make you my grandmother?」
Rio smiled wryly whilst feeling slightly nervous to have met a blood relative other than his parents for the first time.
「Ah, that is indeed correct. It’s an odd feeling. But, I’m glad you’re alive and well. It must’ve been hard for you up until now.」
Released from her earlier tension, Yuba looked at Rio with a gentle expression.
「Well, it was difficult in its own ways. But thanks to that, I managed to survive until now.」
Reacting to Yuba’s gaze, Rio expressed a vague smile.
What was Rio’s life like until now? What were his circumstances? His feelings? Yuba was unable to understand any of those from his expression alone.
「I see… Then, did the two manage to reach the Western end?」
The Western end likely referred to Strahl.
「They did. I was born in a country there.」
「I see. I’m glad to hear that. To have given birth to you, the two must’ve been happy.」
「That is… yes. I also think so.」
His father died during a quest while his mother was murdered after being raped. Memories of the past flashed through his head for an instant causing Rio to hesitate in the middle of his words.
「…I see. I’m, glad. …So, you’ve journeyed here all the way from the west, right? Why did you undertake such a perilous journey?」
Despite noticing the subtle change in Rio’s expression from her long years of experience, Yuba did not want to pry too deeply and instead asked for his reason in coming to such a distant land.
「I want to erect a grave for my parents here…」
Although Rio did not have any mementos belonging to his parents, he thought they would be happier to have their grave in their hometown rather than in a foreign land where they met their end.
「…Actually, a grave for them has already been made.」
Words Rio never expected to hear came from Yuba’s mouth.
「Their graves… have already been made?」
Rio could not understand her words.
It was not impossible to erect a grave for someone while they are still alive.
However, a grave would only be made on the assumption that they would die there.
Zen and Ayame, Rio’s parents, spent years on a dangerous journey and eventually reached the other side of the continent.
Despite existing on the same continent, inhabitants of Strahl and Yagumo hardly knew anything about the other region besides its name.
Were the two intending on returning to their hometown?
As far back as he could remember, Rio did not recall his mother showing any signs of wanting to return to Yagumo.
In the first place, why did Zen and Ayame leave? If Rio knew the reason for their departure, he would have a much better picture of the situation.
He could not think of a plausible reason even if he tried but there was somebody who possibly knew right before him.
Rio voiced the question that was currently bothering him.
「Why did father and mother leave Yagumo?」
「You weren’t told…?」
Yuba muttered with a troubled expression.
Rio thought that if it was her, she would at least know something about his parents’ circumstances. At his question, Yuba slowly opened her mouth.
「…I’m sorry but, I, myself, am unable to tell you.」
Yuba regretfully apologized to him.
「The only thing I can say is, the two were notable fugitives and are considered dead by this country. A small grave was built for them on the outskirts of the village.」
Rio was only able to glean a couple scraps of information about his parents.
「They were… fugitives?」
Rio’s tone was one of bewilderment.
What in the world did they do?
Rio was curious but he did not feel like Yuba would answer him even if he begged, nor would forcibly extracting the information be a good idea.
There was nothing he could do but give up for now.
「I will guide you to Zen and Ayame-sama’s grave for the time being. Will you be holding a memorial service for them?」
When Rio kept silent, Yuba offered to guide him to their grave.
「By all means, please. I came all the way here for that reason after all…」
Straightening his back, Rio responded with a smile.
When they left the village chief’s house, they came upon a small hill on the outskirts of the village.
It was a peaceful area overlooking the whole village and the land around it.
Two simple stone pillars stood there all by their lonesome. It was clear that they were routinely maintained as not a speck of dirt could be seen on either pillar nor were there any signs of weathering.
「Here are Zen’s and Ayama-sama’s grave. Although their bones aren’t buried here, their mementos are.」
Yuba looked down at the stone pillars with a gentle expression.
「I’m the only one in the village who knows that these graves belong to Zen and Ayame-sama. To begin with, the other villagers don’t even know that these are graves. Please keep this a secret from the villagers as well as Ruri.」
Despite being unable to fully grasp the situation, Rio acknowledged her request with a slight nod.
「Perhaps one day, I will be able to tell you what happened.」
Rio could understand what Yuba meant as she muttered such a thing.
For an instant, Rio redirected his gaze from the stone pillars to Yuba.
「That’s why, until that day arrives, would you like to live in this village?」
It was an expression overflowing with affection, setting Rio’s mind at ease.
「Is it alright for me to live here?」
Rio blinked at her offer.
「You’re my grandson you know. A grandchild shouldn’t act so reserved before his grandparent.」
Her lips curved into a bright smile as she spoke.
「There are plenty of vacant rooms in my house. Ruri’s father died in war while her mother passed away from an epidemic. Only that child and I live in there now.」
Yuba spoke with a hint of loneliness.
「Ruri-san? She is…」
Predicting the type of relation he had with her, Rio raised a question.
「Your cousin. She’ll be turning 15 this year.」
Yuba finished the sentence for him.
「Is that so…? And I’m to keep this a secret from her as well right?」
「Indeed. That child doesn’t know that she has a cousin.」
Receiving the response he expected, Rio nodded at Yuba’s words.
「Understood. Then, I will be in your care during my stay here. Please take care of me.」