Chapter 41 – Hikari

“…Are you awake?”

I’m cooking in front of a fire, when the girl that has been sleeping all this time starts to squirm and wake up.

She gets up, and suddenly stops.
Her eyes are on her hands.

“Sorry, but I had to bind them.
Do you understand why?”

She tilts her head with sleepy eyes.
I don’t think she does.

“Do you know who you are?”

“…I’m Number Thirteen.
And you…”

She seems shaken and bewildered.
I’m sure her head’s in a state of confusion.

Just tell me what you remember.”

“…I received orders.
Yes, to watch you.
And take you with me if necessary.”

“Do you still want to follow those orders?”

“…I don’t know.
I don’t know what to do.”

She says while meekly hanging her head.
She really looks troubled.

If this is acting, she’d be a great actress.

“Do you know anything about yourself?”

“…I was picked up.
Received training there.
That’s it.”

Then, I hear a cute noise.
The nice smell coming from the pot in front of her must be working her appetite.

Yes, this soup turned out pretty good, although that’s thanks to orc meat.

“I’ll unbind you, so do you promise not to attack?”

She looks at her arms, at the soup, at her arms, at the soup, and then nods.

I pour some soup into a bowl, and remove the binding item with alchemy, before handing the bowl to her.

“Eat slowly.”

She nods, and tastes the soup.

Her face is still expressionless, but she doesn’t stop eating once she starts.
The bowl soon becomes empty, and she looks at me like she wants more.
And so, I pour more.

After eating almost everything in the pot, I’m guessing her stomach is full, and she starts to doze off.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to talk to her more for now, so I decide to rest for today.

I’m tired too, after walking for two days.
Not physically, mentally.

I wanted to get away from there as quickly as possible, but I know I pushed myself too much.
I rested on the way, but didn’t sleep well.
Crossing through the forest when I’m not used to walking there didn’t help.

I check the area around us with Map, lie down, and soon after fall asleep.

 ◇ ◇ ◇

I hear a quiet sound, and my sunken consciousness is called back.

My eyes get used to the darkness, and I can more or less see what’s around me.

As I try to focus on the sound, I quickly pick up that it’s coming from Number Thirteen.

She’s writhing with a pained expression on her face.

This didn’t happen in the last two days.
Did waking up and talking cause some sort of change?

I’ve seen scenes on TV where someone is ill and someone else makes them feel better by grabbing their hand.
I grab Number Thirteen’s hand, while wondering if it will actually do anything.

I’m guessing that calmed her down, because she soon starts sleeping quietly again.

So it’s actually true? I’m kind of impressed, when suddenly I’m hugged.

She’s not holding me too strongly, and as I look at her peaceful expression, I hesitate to push her away.

Although I’d probably be arrested if a police officer happened to see this.

After some internal conflict, I decide to just let her be and rest.
I just pray that I don’t wake up and find out I’ve been stabbed.

 ◇ ◇ ◇

After waking up, I see the same expressionless girl.

Our eyes meet when I open mine.
That’s right, she was holding me.
And I’m definitely not hugging her back with my arm around her.

I feel kind of awkward, and I decide to make breakfast.
Today’s is wild herb and wolf meat soup.

I give her some soup too, and she eats without saying anything.
Is she just hungry?

“Do you know your name?”

“I’m Number Thirteen.”

“No, your real name.”

She tilts her head.

I guess she doesn’t remember it.
But I can’t call her Number Thirteen in front of other people.

Should I call her by the name I see when I use Appraisal? It didn’t work when she had the mask on, but it’s a different story now that the mask is gone.

“Your name is Hikari.
Do you remember being called that?”

She tilts her head again.

“…Hikari… Hikari… Number Thirteen… Hikari…”

She whispers it several times, but apparently it doesn’t sit well with her.

She was probably called Number Thirteen for a long time.
I don’t think she has the skills of someone who has only been training for one or two years.
I ask her how long she’s been doing this, and she says she doesn’t remember.

“Do you have any objections to being called Hikari?”

“…Not really.
If that is an order, I will follow it.”

So she would probably still follow it if ordered to respond to another name.

My naming sense is about average… At least I want to think so, but I’d rather call her by her original name instead of risk giving her a bad one.

“All right.
From now on, you’re called Hikari.
And call me Sora.”

“Hikari… Sora…”

Her reaction is kind of worrying.
I can’t tell if this is because of the mask, or if her personality was always like this.
Maybe it was the environment around her that made her this way.

“I figure you know my circumstances to some extent.
Do you remember?”

Sora came from another world.
I’ve been watching.”

“And you wanted to take me back?”

I was told to bring you back if I decided you were strong.”

“I have no intention of going back.
Do you still want to take me back, Hikari?”

“…Don’t know.”

“That’s no good.
You need to think for yourself.”

I complain while looking directly at her.

It might feel like it’s easier to just follow orders, but from now on, she can’t just drift along and not think.
It’s for her sake too.

“…Hikari doesn’t want to go back.
Sora gave Hikari warm meals.”

She whispers after pondering it for a bit.

I won her over with food?

I smile awkwardly, but then I’m startled when I look at her.

Tears are streaming down her face.
It doesn’t look like she realizes she’s doing it.

I unconsciously start patting her head.

It looks like she’s a bit confused by it, but she closes her eyes a little, and doesn’t seem to object to me doing this.
The corners of her mouth look like they’re twitching.

Do I have one more thing to do now? I guess they say no road is long with good company.

And so, now I have a small traveling companion.


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