Toward Kingdom Capital
The day for the village’s trade group to leave for the capital had arrived.
It was still early in the morning when the villagers and those leaving for the capital gathered in the village square.
Around ten carriages with goods were idly standing by. Among the village’s own surplus was also the goods handed over from Gon’s village.
Including Rio, there was a rather large group of 15 people headed towards the capital.
Rarely was anybody armed with weapons and armour in the village. However, today, everybody, including Rio, was fully equipped.
After a final inspection of the cargo, Ruri called out to the bored Rio in a slightly strained voice.
Yuba stood up so as to watch her from the rear.
Rio directed an amiable smile towards them.
「Ruri-san, Yuba-san. I’ll be going.」
He bid farewell to the two of them in a calm voice.
「Yeah. Be careful.」
「Likewise, please be sure to take care of yourself.」
Both of them returned his smile and bid him farewell to which Rio responded firmly.
Seemingly wanting to say something, Ruri stuttered out a few words, troubled at how to formulate her words.
She floated a difficult expression which Rio quickly noticed.
「What’s the matter?」
「Yeah… Uhm… I’m sorry!」
At Rio’s question, Ruri vigorously bowed her head deeply.
Rio became evidently taken aback.
However, he immediately realised what she was apologizing for.
It was probably related to what Yuba spoke to him about a couple days ago.
「I’ve done something terrible to Rio, have I not? Even though Rio saved me, I still became afraid of you…」
Overcome with regret, Ruri apologized to Rio in a dispirited voice.
She kept her shoulders straight, displaying her resolve.
「There’s no need to apologize since it was the result of myself losing control over my emotions. It’s not Ruri-san’s fault.」
Rio responded to her with a slightly troubled smile.
Rio made an apologetic expression, seeing Ruri still wanting to apologise.
「Even then, Ruri-san was still worried about me. So, I’m the one at fault.」
Rio gave a slow, unadorned explanation.
Since he had made her afraid, Rio avoided unnecessary interactions with Ruri, fearing that he would only frighten her further if he actively tried to close the distance
Even so, Ruri worried for Rio’s emotional instability and regularly approached him despite being afraid.
In other words, they were both concerned about the other’s well being and ended up only making the situation worse.
Rio reflected on the choices he made.
He made somebody else worry about him. To prevent something like that from happening, he should have communicated more since the beginning.
Human relationships are complicated; doing what one thinks would be best might actually produce the opposite results.
Rio sighed inwardly, acknowledging that he was still inexperienced when it came to social issues.
「That’s wrong! Rio isn’t the one in the wrong here! This is situation where I should be thanking you. I was wrong in getting scared of Rio, so please, allow me to apologize. I am truly sorry!」
Rio denied that she had done anything wrong but Ruri relentlessly apologized.
「No, it’s the result of my own lack of consideration. Even if I saved you, I went about it wrongly.」
「Th— That’s not it! I’m the one at fault.」 [TL : Honestly, when will they end this infinite loop of apologizing]
「No, it’s only natural that Ruri-san became afraid and I was the cause.」
「Like I said! Rio isn’t in the wrong! I am!」
Stuck in an apology deadlock, Ruri’s voice became heated.
「It’s alright! I’m the wrong one here!」
Ruri flatly cut Rio off before he could deny her fault and asserted that she was to blame.
Understanding that she would not back down, RIo blinks for a moment.
「I understand… Then we’re both at fault. How about that?」
Watching the obstinate Ruri, Rio made a proposed as such with a bitter smile.
Rio believed that he was the one to blame since he let his emotions overtake him, rampaging and frightening Ruri.
Ruri believed that although Rio saved her, rather than being thankful, she became afraid of her saviour.
They were both worried about each other but neither took the initiative to discuss their feelings.
It was rather unfortunate.
If that was the case, a compromise would be favourable.
「No— …yeah. That’s right… isn’t it?」
For a moment, Ruri was about to refute Rio’s suggestion, but perhaps having understood his intentions, she finally backed down.
Although there were still traces of dissatisfaction in her eyes, her mouth formed a gentle smile.
Rio also softly smiled back at her.
It warmed Rio’s heart for him to get a glimpse of her sincerity through her reaction.
While conceding to Ruri inwardly, Rio syly presented his hand.
「Shall we shake hands as a sign of reconciliation?」
For an instant, Ruri stood there absentmindedly, but when she noticed at his outstretched hand, she grasped it with a slightly surprised expression.
「Yeah! Sorry, I’m sorry, Rio…」
With tears flowing down her cheeks, Ruri firmly grasped Rio’s hand.
「Me, as well… Let’s speak again when I return. I’ll be off then.」
「Yeah, it’s a promise!」
Ruri showed a bright smile as she eagerly affirmed Rio’s proposal.
Seeing the state of the two of them, Yuba directed a warm smile at them from the back.
「Yuba-san, I’ll be off. I’ll be sure to protect the goods during transit, so no need to be worried.」
Feeling Yuba’s gaze upon him, Rio became slightly embarrassed. He quickly pushed the feeling aside however and spoke in a serious demeanour.
「Yeah, please. But, please remember that your life is much more important.」
「That’s right. Rio, be careful, okay?」
To have a family truly worrying about him, happiness bloomed within him as he answered with a peaceful smile.
With the three having finished their conversation which erected a difficult to impede barrier around them—
「Uh— Uhm! Best regards, Rio-sama!」
Sayo, who was timidly watching them from afar, finally gathered her courage to speak up to Rio.
Although she usually wore typical village attire, she was dressed for the road today.
As one could have guessed, she was amongst one those who would be heading towards the capital as well.
Originally, Ruri was to go, but the incident from a few days ago resulted in a change of plans.
Yuba forbid Ruri from participating, resulting in Sayo, who had never been to the capital before, to participate as a substitute.
「Of course. My best regards to you as well.」
Rio returned her greeting in a calm manner.
Yuba and Ruri watched the tensed Sayo with heartwarming eyes.
「Y— Yes! Although it may be a hassle to Rio-sama, please take care of Onii-chan as well.」
「Yes, I’ll try my best to keep everybody safe during our journey, but please follow my orders during an emergency.」
「Sayo-chan, be careful, okay?」
In preparation for the worst case scenario, Sayo was told to obey every order without question.
At his words, Sayo responded firmly.
「Oi, Sayo. What an unnecessary thing to say. I can protect myself, you know.」
Perhaps having overheard their exchange, Shin forced his way into the conversation with a displeased look.
Rio widened his eyes slightly.
Although he was a bit annoyed, it was rare for Shin to ever approach Rio.
What could have possibly changed his attitude?
「Onii-chan, it’s no good to pick a fight with Rio-sama, you know.」
As if chiding a rowdy child, Sayo reprimanded Shin in a slightly strict tone.
Shin was Sayo’s elder brother.
The naughty Shin and the modest Sayo. Despite their contrasting personalities, Sayo still spoke her mind to Shin.
「Wh— Why would I be picking a fight with that guy?」
Despite trying to put on an air, his voice sounded hollow.
「Geez, Onii-chan, didn’t you just say that other day that you recognize Rio-sama because he saved Ruri-san? You can’t act like an irritable child forever.」
「I— Idiot! Don’t say something like that!」
Shin reacted in a fluster at Sayo who exposed his inner thoughts.
Rio and Ruri watched the two in mild surprise.
「Hm— Hmph, I’m grateful that you protected Ruri. You did well.」
Glaring at Rio with a slightly flushed face, Shin kept on talking.
Rio and Ruri smiled in amusement at his childish behaviour.
「Thank you very much.」
「I wish you’ve been this obedient since the beginning. Truly, such a child.」
Despite still possessing a sharp tongue, he seemed to have accepted Rio one way or another.
Having been teased by Ruri, Shin turned the other way.
「Th— That’s not it. I can take care of myself so if something happens, please protect Sayo.」
With those curt words, Shin turned around and left them.
When judged by a third party, it was obvious that he was trying to hide his embarrassment.
「I’m sorry. My brother isn’t honest about his feelings.」
Sayo apologized to Rio. At a glance, it would seem that Sayo was the elder sister and Shin was the younger brother.
「There are a lot of men who share his social awkwardness. Although he might act like that, it isn’t an accurate reflection of his feelings. Having that sort of attitude doesn’t mean he’s a bad person」
「Yeah… Th— Thank you.」
Exhibiting slight surprise at Rio’s words, Sayo awkwardly thanked him.
There were many cases in which Shin’s behaviour made him easily misunderstood.
It was a childish side of him.
Therefore, although he frequently quarrels with other villagers, Shin was still the looked up to by many young men in the village.
Still, Sayo grieved over the fact that he could not get along with Rio despite being close with the village’s young men.
Continuously thinking of ways to improve the situation, she kept talking about Rio with Shin, though it never brought a favourable reaction. [TL : OF COURSE IT IS]
However, when Rio saved Ruri the other day, Shin finally made a remark of acceptance.
Perhaps the two would finally be on good terms after this.
She had planned on trying to have Rio understand Shin’s clumsy personality, but Rio easily saw through Shin’s outer behaviour before she had the chance.
She felt both surprised and glad, envying the mutual understanding between men.
「Yosh, we’ll be departing soon~」
Acting as the trade group’s leader, Dora’s voice resounded throughout the area.
It seemed the time for departure was nearing.
「It’s about time, isn’t it? Let’s get on the carriage. I’ll be going, Ruri-san, Yuba-san.」
「Yeah, take care!」
Bidding farewell once more, Rio approached one of the wagons and took the coachman’s seat.
「I’ll be in your care, Dora-san.」
Rio greeted Dora who was sitting beside him on the wagon.
Dora returned his greeting with his usual good-natured smile.
Rio’s role in the trade group was to protect the villagers and their goods.
Rio looked back into the canopy of the wagon.
When his eyes met with the person sitting in there, he received a scowl and a glare of unrivalled hatred.
Indeed, the on sitting there was Gon, who would soon be convicted as a crime slave.
「Ha. Just seeing your face makes me pissed off! If only I could kill you right now!」
Catching sight of Rio’s face, Gon hurled out insults and threats.
He continued glaring daggers at Rio.
With his entire body bounded by ropes, even with his huge build, he could not break free. The only unchanging thing was his brashness.
Rio let out a small sigh.
It seemed like he was still lively enough/
「Oh shut up. Yosh, I guess it’s time to depart. Let’s go!」
Barking back at Gon inside the wagon, Dora signalled the group’s departure.
The sky was still dim as the sun began creeping over the horizon.
Even though it was still fall, the whiteness of their breath could be seen as the group endured the biting morning chill.
Being seen off by the villagers, the trade group started their journey towards the capital.
The voices of the villagers could be heard in the distance.
The ones on the rear wagons were still waving their hands.
Rio rode on the lead wagon.
The highway towards the capital connected the villages to one another. It was regularly serviced to support carriage traffic and was wide enough for two carriages to travel side-by-side.
However, without a high quality carriage, the riding experience was uncomfortable at best due to the unpaved roads.
The time it would take for a carriage, travelling from the village to the capital, would take exactly one day.
Although it is not too far, it is not close either.
So that he would not suffer from a sore backside, Rio spread a blanket to sit on.
「You pride yourself as a man, yet you hate so much as to thoroughly trash me. You’re no different than a tyrant.」
Hateful words came from the back of the wagon.
Gon continuously hurled abuse at Rio.
The contents contained only mockery and ridicule.
Despite trying to get a reaction from Rio, he was only met with silence.
He would achieve his goal if Rio hits him again but his provocations simply went through one ear and out the other.
Even if Rio felt that Gon’s tantrum was pitiful, he did not feel any anger.
「Oi, listen to me! I lived, doing whatever I pleased but you’re also the same as me! We’re no different from each other!」
Seeing Rio ignore every single he said, anger welled up within Gon.
His voice started to gradually become louder.
It was good that Gon was this lively.
At least, it would be good if he kept it up until they could sell him as a crime slave.
They needed him alive, otherwise they would be unable to receive the reparation payment for Ruri.
Even if he does not last long as crime slave, Rio was not interested about his fate.
「You know what my great self* hates the most? People like you, who put on a good face but are full of filthy desires.」 [ED*: He refers to himself as “ore-sama”][TL : Typical of puny villain right?]
Rio felt an odd admiration for Gon who was able to keep spouting insults ever since the journey started.
He can shout and scream as much as he wants but his voice was becoming a bit too loud.
It would be bothersome if he kept shouting for the entire journey as well.
With that thought, Rio approached Gon.
Seeing Rio slowly approaching with his hand raised, Gon floated a dubious expression.
Carrying an annoyed expression, Rio could only see Gon as a noisy dog who would not stop barking.
Gon had complained loudly in order to get Rio riled up, but he only served to be a minor annoyance.
（What a joke!）
Rio was the first person to ever make a fool out of Gon.
Up until the incident, Gon had been constantly surrounded by his followers or those he feared him.
There were the rare few who were openly hostile to him, but he quickly made them yield through sheer force.
However, Rio was indifferent towards Gon.
He detested that.
He could not help but detest him.
Rio crushed his pride and beat the living hell out of him. Although Gon intended on ridiculing Rio as also harbouring filth, he felt like he was already seen through.
「Sleep for a bit.」
Saying that, Rio invoked Spirit Arts and put Gon to sleep.
Resistance was possible if one excelled at Odo control but for Gon, it was impossible since he could not wield Spirit Arts.
Gon fell asleep in an instant.
「Ooh that’s amazing. So that’s Spirit Arts, huh?」
Dora spoke in admiration at the scene of Gon falling asleep in a blink of an eye.
「Yeah. He’ll be quiet with this.」
Finally regaining their peace and quiet, Rio gave a wry smile as he spoke.
He put quite a bit of power into his Spirit Arts so Gon should stay asleep until they reach the capital.
Afterwards, chatter flowed from every wagon and a peaceful atmosphere hung in the air.
Despite the possibility of an attack by wild beasts or monsters, with the amount of people present in the trade group, as long as there were not a very large number of aggressors, the risk was very low.
Furthermore, the villagers were armed with short swords and lances in case an attack occurred.
Even most bandits would be discouraged to attack such a large number of people.
Still, Rio would casually scan their surroundings for any suspicious activity.
If by any chance there was an ambush, he would notice and be able to cope with it immediately.
Several hours have passed since the trade group left the village and the sun shone overhead as the wagons continued rolling down the highway.
Under the clear blue sky, warm sunlight radiated over them.
Vast fields of green spread around them with mountains and forests visible in the distance.
Wrapped in the cool autumn breeze while surrounded by a picturesque landscape, Rio enjoyed the scenery as they moved along slowly.