Chapter 277, The Anxious Day Before
Late into the night, at the lodgings of the Royal Capital Magic Guardians base, a certain person went out for a walk.
Going out to the corridor that led to the training ground, she rubbed her hands on her shoulders, feeling the typical cold of this time of the year.
Then she took a deep breath, basking in the crisp spring air.
Although she was a soldier, her build was delicate — almost frail-looking, even — but that did not change her powerful aura.
The moonlight through the clouds illuminated the corridor, eventually revealing her face as she walked by.
She was none other than Lina, also well-known by her nickname, the Silent Witch.
The perfectly-rounded full moon hung on the sky, not at all in clear view, but not necessarily obscured.
Lina spent a few moments gazing at its hazy light.
She looked to be worried about something, her hands gripping the key-shaped pendant and holding it up to her lips.
“Having trouble sleeping”
A certain man appeared behind her.
He was of short stature — shorter than even Lina, in fact.
His voice was deep and hoarse, but it had the power to bring calm to Lina’s expression.
He had popped up seemingly out of nowhere, but that did not spook Lina one bit — because it had long been rumored among the Guardians that Gaston would often walk around the base in the middle of the night.
Normally, Gaston would be angry at anyone he found during this time for their slack discipline, but Gaston understood that Lina would never do this without a good reason.
“Well… I’m somewhat worried about tomorrow…”
“Right… the Rank SS monster hunt.”
They were set to head out at dawn, and for Lina, it would be her first target of this high level.
It went without saying that not many among the newer recruits were able to sleep well tonight.
“Ish– I mean, LADY Ishtar may be the one calling the shots, but you all are still under my command.
There’s no need to worry… or are you worried about something else Something about the young man not being here, perhaps”
“N-no, of course not…”
Seeing Lina’s reaction, Gaston grinned and stepped forward to stand next to her.
Then, after spending a moment looking at the moon, he patted Lina on her shoulder.
“Remember, it’s the elites that are going with me this time.
You should know that.
Viola, Hornel, Fuyu, Jeanne..
and you, Lina.
If you let yourself fall behind, you won’t have what it takes to defend the Royal Capital.”
“Yes, I know that very well… But…”
Seeing Lina unusually faint-hearted, Gaston tilted his head.
“It’s just… I have a bad feeling about this.”
Lina cast her eyes down and fell silent, refusing to elaborate further.
“Is that so”
Gaston rubbed his chin, somewhat hesitant on what to say next.
“Hmm… how about I take you to one of my favorite eating establishments later, then”
“A sweets shop I have frequented for many years.
Every chance I get — until Fuyu started going there, meaning we would bump into each other from time to time, which is… awkward.
That ruined it a little.”
“Ah, I see…”
“Oh, I know — how about we all go together Having a close friend with you is sure to ease your mind.”
With Gaston’s odd invitation, Lina could do nothing but stare blankly at the old man… and then, once she realized the message he intended to get across, she immediately felt somewhat grumpy.
“Wait… isn’t that how you’d try to make children behave.
I’ll give you some sweets tomorrow, so you better go to bed early! — or something.
I’m not THAT easily persuaded with food, you know”
“Hehehehe… It seems that subtlety isn’t my strong suit.”
“Besides, what I’m worried about is tomorrow! Why talk about what comes after that If you’re going to give me something, I have to have it now, I say.
Come on, Sir Gaston, is there anything”
Now it was Gaston’s turn to give Lina a blank stare, surprised by the rarely seen demanding side of her.
“Right now Hmm… Oh”
Gaston reached into the pockets of his robe, searching for something.
Then he took out something.
“Why don’t you take this, this”
“…What is it, sir”
“A golden ring I received from the previous head of the Nation, War Demon Emperor Sagan.
I don’t have any use for it at this old age — All I do with it these days is carry it around.”
“W-w-wait, sir! I can’t accept this! Why would you even give me something so important!”
Upon hearing ‘War Demon Emperor,’ Lina’s perfectly calm expression immediately turned into one of utter shock.
Gaston chuckled again.
“It’s precisely because it’s important that I’m passing such things over to the best of the new generation — one of which is you.
Don’t you think so”
Lina, seeing Gaston’s grin, found herself briefly at a loss for words.
“T-that’s so reasonable, it’s almost unfair, sir…”
“Unfair Says the one who just demanded something from an old man.”
“Ah… Fair enough, then.”
Lina said and clapped her hands together, then proceeded to chuckle just as Gaston had just done.
“So… You’re not testing me, are you Can I really take it”
“It won’t fit on your fingers, so see if you can hang it together with that pendant instead.”
“Thank you, sir.
“Is it that big of a deal”
“Of course it is.
It’s a token from one of the Nation’s rulers, after all… Actually, no…”
Gaston tilted his head, wondering why Lina had suddenly stopped.
“Hmm… on second thought, I’d rather not say it.
It’s sure to make you angry, after all.”
“What if I go ahead and get offended because you won’t say it, hmm Besides, I’ve never been angry at you — because there has been no reason to be.
And I’d prefer to keep it that way.”
As Gaston said so, he looked back on the things that had happened among them and other acquaintances in the past.
And Lina, being pointed out as such, seemed hesitant on what to reply with.
Eventually, she clapped her hands together as if she had thought of something, and then–
“What in the–!”
She whispered something to Gaston and proceeded to run to the end of the corridor.
Then she turned around, whispered “Good night” just loud enough for him to hear, and went around the corner.
Gaston, standing in place, then noticed a rodent approach from behind him, humming a tune.
“Hmm hmm hmm♪ …Oh What are you standing around here for, Master”
It was none other than Konoha, Gaston’s mouse Familiar.
In response to its question, Gaston only remained silent.
Konoha tilted its head, then proceeded to walk around to stand in front of Gaston.
“Your face is looking a little red, Master.
Did you catch a cold”
“Ngh… Ah, Konoha.
Ahem… no, I’m fine.”
“Are you really, though Just in case, the monster hunt tomorrow can still be postponed–“
“–No, don’t worry about me.
Also, Konoha… I’d like to ask you one thing.”
Hearing Gaston’s words as quite sincere, Konoha answered with a fully serious look.
“A-anything you want to know, I’ll try to answer, Master.”
Konoha held its breath, waiting for Gaston to continue.
“…Do I give off a… father-like impression”
Despite Konoha being petrified and dumbfounded, Gaston continued,
“Not to just Lina, but the rest of the people here, too — because of just… how much older I am.
Sometimes I wonder if that is the case.
I know they know me as a strict leader… but maybe, just maybe, some of them also see me in that kind of different light.
Something like that.
I’m not asking because someone’s told me that, mind you.
It’s purely something I wonder about.”
Konoha seemed to be lagging behind in processing everything, perhaps because of how fast Gaston had delivered them.
“Ugh… It really is hot tonight.
Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the heated water.”
Even Gaston himself seemed confused as to why his body heat was rising, as it had almost never happened to him before.
And then Konoha, seeming to have caught up now, clapped its front feet together, not unlike what Lina had just done.
“I think I understand what’s on your mind now, Master.
Rest assured, I know quite well what everyone thinks of you.”
“Oh-ho… mind elaborating on that”
Gaston moved his face closer to Konoha, quite interested to hear an explanation.
Konoha raised one finger, and proceeded to say without missing a beat,
“You’re a silly old fool.”
Such was how an argument broke out between Gaston and Konoha for the 3890th time, under the hazy moonlit spring night.