ALL CREDIT TO WINTRYONE FOR TRANSLATION
Garfiel and Ram’s Very Very Complicated Love Circumstances, Part 1
- Includes characters appearing for the first time in print. Please read this after Volume 10 of the main story.
Ram’s only master, Magrave Roswaal L. Mathers, had a place at the north edge of his territory called The Lost Forest of Kremaldy.
It wasn’t a particularly large area, but the forest made people lose their sense of time and direction, and it was well known for this odd characteristic that made it difficult to pass through. Hence, what might be found in the deeper parts of the forest was unknown, and it was given the nickname ‘The Lost Forest’.
In truth, though it was known as ‘The Lost Forest’, it’s characteristic was no hindrance to those who knew how to deal with it. Such individuals included Roswaal, who was responsible for the territory, Ram, who served Roswaal – and those who had an interest in the ‘Sanctuary’ hidden in the very center of the forest.
“Heya, Ram. Looks like you’ve come to take care of that jerk again today.”
Hailed from behind by a rough voice, Ram stopped walking and let out a small sigh.
She had gotten used to the sound of that voice. It was a distinctive way of speaking with a rather sharp accent, and it tended to drag out the end of words. It lingered in the ear, but not in the heart. Even when one understood the affection, and more, that was carried in it.
“My, what a greeting. To be mocking Roswaal-sama, you must have become quite distinguished.”
“Ha! It’s ain’t nothin’ so big as mockin’. S’just normal for me ta poke fun at the jerk, always has been. ‘Ketrek doesn’t get along’, they say.”
Ram’s words carried a hint of rebuke, but the response was unruffled. And, before Ram could turn around, he moved in front of her of her halted feet, showing his face. His short, blond hair stood upright, and the white scar on his bare forehead made him a person that drew the eye. His jade eyes were sharp like a beasts, and his mouthful of blade-like fangs only furthered that impression.
Ferociousness was evident in his clothing as well. Favoring ease of movement, his light clothing showed off his well-honed body, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call him the complete opposite of the one Ram was fond of.
Confronted with a face she knew all too well, Ram let out a deep sigh.
“Looking at a person’s face and sighin’ like tha’, don’tcha think that’sa little rude, huh?”
“You intend to lecture Ram about her attitude? Try again after taking a careful look in a mirror. If, after meeting you again after a long time, the first thing someone does upon looking at you is sighing, then perhaps the problem is yours.”
“Yer sure not afraid to say whatcha want. Whatta woman… I kinda like that, though.”
At the unhidden poison in Ram’s sharp tongue, he rang his fangs gleefully, and threw in a friendly word at the very end. At this, Ram sighed even more deeply.
How many years, how many times had she been telling him that it was pointless no matter how long he kept trying.
“Ram’s feelings have already been devoted to another You need to understand it’s impossible, Garf.”
“A losin’ battle’s just fine with me. Tha’s how ya know it’s worth takin’ on.”
This exchange, too, had been repeated many times.
In the face of Ram’s firm pronouncement, he – Garfiel Tinsel – show not the least sign of wavering; indeed, he proudly declared his determination to keep up the fight.
At Garfiel’s declaration of his intention, Ram shook her head resignedly and whispered.
“Even Ram has to admit surprise at the extent of her sinful attractiveness.”
“The way ya say that without hesitatin’, that’s so you, Ram.”
In their way of following their own feelings without hesitation, the two of them were very much alike.
‘Sanctuary’ was a sort of hidden village, existing in the very center of ‘The Lost Forest of Kremaldy’.
While it should probably have been called something like ‘The Sanctuary of Kremaldy’, the very existence of ‘Sanctuary’ was concealed, and it was often simply referred to as ‘Sanctuary’.
Because of it’s residents – mostly human and demihuman halves – it was an area burdened with ‘mixture’, and it could be called a place that kept its interactions with the outside world to an absolute minimum.
In this place where the majority of the population was ‘mixed’, pure-blooded beings were not welcomed. Even as one of the surviving oni, this applied to Ram as well, and there wasn’t anyone who would speak with her on positive terms.
Of course, that was setting aside a few exceptions – Garfiel, for example.
“Still, Garf, why are you at a place like this buying oil? Right now, you should be discussing matters with Roswaal-sama and Lewes-sama. Even such as you are, you’re still one of the influential people in ‘Sanctuary’. Ignoring your responsibilities is shameful.”
“Don’tcha go makin’ things up when I haven’t even said anythin’! But yeah, yer exactly right I did run away cause talkin’ with them’s so borin’…”
While treading on the deep green moss-covered ground, Garfiel stayed by Ram’s side as she walked in ‘Sanctuary’. As the young man beside her looked up at the sky and mourned, Ram narrowed her light red eyes at him.
The reason behind her current visit to ‘Sanctuary’ was to be an attendant to Roswaal, her master.
This place was unique even within Roswaal’s domain, and it was handled differently from the normal areas. Not only were they free from taxes, but generous support was given for their needs, and it was an environment probably best called not so much a domain as a protected area. Roswaal’s policy was very friendly towards demihumans and ‘mixes’, to the extent that gossip called him ‘Demihuman Lover’. However, that wasn’t simply good will…
“It means something that the residents are living here. It’s that sort of place, indeed.”
“Huh? Didja say somethin’?”
“I said, walking beside you is unpleasant. Walk a half-step behind me.”
“Ain’t that a custom from a real old era in Kararagi?”
Exposing an unexpected depth of knowledge, Garfiel craned his neck and looked proud of himself. At his happy attitude in spite of the entirely unfriendly exchange, Ram could only close her eyes.
A breath escaped that was neither amazement nor exhaustion at his dogged pursuit of a hope with little chance of reward.
“Anyhow, y’ain’t here at ‘Sanctuary’ on yer regular visit today. Is there somethin’ special goin’ on?”
Garfiel’s casual whisper drew Ram’s awareness back to the current situation. He was arching his not-terribly-tall back, and stooping; she’d lost track of the number of times she’d sighed at him, but she added one more.
“The details of that are exactly what Roswaal-sama is talking about right now. If you’re interested, you should have participated in the discussion from the start, you know.”
“I don’ wanna hear it from him. I wanna hear it from you.”
“…Roswaal-sama brought a half-elf to the mansion. It’s someone that is very important to his goals. Even this ‘Sanctuary’ cannot remain uninvolved in the matter.”
Garfiel had hid neither his animosity towards Roswaal nor his goodwill towards Ram, but after her reply, his expression went blank for the first time. For someone who was fiercely expressive, and who easily showed his emotions, his expressionless face made it clear how greatly unsettled he was.
“This place can’t stay uninvolved… ya mean ta say…?”
“A half-elf, as I said. ‘Mixes’ come under the influence of the barrier, without exception. The condition is the same as for the residents of ‘Sanctuary’, and the Lewes-samas. You understand, I think?”
“The ‘Trials’ of the tomb, then.”
With Garfiel’s short whisper, his hand covered his mouth. The young man normally showed off his sharp fangs, but when in deep thought, he adopted a posture that strongly resembled another certain someone.
Thinking of the one who should, even now, be at the mansion with her beloved younger sister, waiting for Ram’s group’s return, she remembered that you can’t fight against what’s in your blood.
“So th’ half-devil, she’s supposed ta be the key ta opening the barrier?”
“At the very least, Roswaal-sama is speaking with that intention. Garfiel, too, will most likely hear the same thing from Lewes-sama.”
“Ram’s already spoken ta the half-devil, then. What kinda person is she?”
In a low voice, Garfiel asked this earnestly.
On receiving that inquiry, Ram thought about the half-elf – the girl who introduced herself as Emilia – looked back over their short time together, and answered.
“Speaking honestly, there’s little hope. I don’t think you can expect anything of her.”
“There ya go again, speaking all too honestly.”
Garfiel wrinkled his nose, thinking it was a severe opinion. Ram continued to add more, speaking further of her impression of Emilia.
“She has no knowledge. Her understanding is limited. Her resolve is soft. Her determination is weak. Her self-awareness is lacking. In short, she’s lacking in everything, and saying she’s insufficient everywhere would be generous. Having heard about the environment she was placed in, there’s room for sympathy… but in the current conditions, you can’t place any hope in her.”
“Well, ain’t that a ragged assessment!? That jerk… he’s really lost his marbles this time…Ow!!”
“I will not tolerate disrespect towards Roswaal-sama. I’ll smack you flat.”
“Don’t say that after ya smack me! Augh, my poor back…!”
Rubbing his back where Ram’s slap had landed, Garfiel bared his fangs and howled.
Looking askance at him, Ram had left him with her current impressions of Emilia as a tentative conclusion. In truth, she wasn’t being overly disparaging; that was her honest impression.
…That half-elf girl was lacking in everything. Fatally so.
“But, that’s merely speaking of ‘now’.”
Until now, she’d had no opportunity. So now, she would be given one.
An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to know. An opportunity to harden her resolve. An opportunity to show her determination. She’d be given an opportunity to be self-aware.
Upon being given those opportunities, if she still wallowed in deficiency, then truly that would be the time to be done with her.
But until then, Ram judged it was too early to give a final impression of the girl.
Roswaal had stated clearly that Emilia was necessary to his own goals, after all.
“It’s estimated that within a year, the real battle for the throne of the kingdom will begin. Before that, we need to have Emilia-sama learn what she needs to know.”
“Ah, the royal selection, huh. I’d heard the king had died…hey, wait.”
Tying together distant situations, Garfiel’s speech suddenly halted. Wide-eyed, he gnashed his fangs to control his agitation, mumbling “no way”.
“Tha’ Roswaal jerk, he intends ta back the half-devil in the Royal Selection? Is he crazy?”
“Disrespect towards Roswaal-sama is…”
“This ain’t about disrespect! It’sa legitimate opinion, ya know! What kinda idiot would try ta put a half-devil, just like the ‘Witch o’ Envy’, at the head of the country!? This is the ‘Tomb of the Witch of Greed’! What kind of trouble is that jerk planning to bring in here!?”
Stomping the ground in anger, Garfiel’s presence seemed to swell as he ground his teeth together. A vast anger that couldn’t be suppressed rose up all at once, and the forest murmured as though frightened; insects and animals alike fled. The fierce anger was so strong, it gave the illusion that Garfiel’s form had grown a step larger – no, it was no illusion, but an actual event in progress.
Hair all over the young man’s body stood up, and the sound of bones creaking was heard as he changed – just before that,
“…Calm yourself, Garf.”
Wrapped in a ferocious, threatening air, Garfiel was showing signs of the beast-change. Touching a hand to his cheek, Ram’s light red eyes stared into his jade eyes as she spoke softly. Their lines of sight entangled, and eyes that were on the verge of losing all reason gently regained their previous light.
Then, after blinking several times, Garfiel looked himself over with distaste.
“S..Sorry. Even fer me, that was goin’ a lil too far…”
“Don’t waste my time with this nonsense. I’m forgiving you because we’ve known each other a long time, but really, I should have left you to be roasted by Roswaal-sama’s wrath.”
“Ow ow ow owww!”
Switching to pinching the cheek she had been touching, Ram used pain to prompt Garfiel to reflect on his decisions. When she pushed him while letting go, Garfiel held a hand to his reddened cheek, and glared at her with an angry face.
“Ram, you little…”
“That felt nice… isn’t what I meant to say. Are you alright?”
“That’sa lie as big as ‘The Lupgana Palace was destroyed’!”
Attempting to reconcile with the one making a loud fuss, Ram tried to put a stop to the foolishness in front of her. That consideration seemed to reach him, and Garfiel scratched roughly at his own head.
Then, after a little hesitation, he slowly opened his mouth,
“Ah, you know how it is, Ram. I just… that part of you…”
“Ohoooo~, Ram and Garfiel. Both of you were out here, the~~n.”
Turning his gaze away, Garfiel had been trying to continue, but he froze as the voice of a third party intruded; Ram, on the other hand, turned towards the owner of that voice.
“…Roswaal-sama. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Ram had remained expressionless up to this point, but now her mouth wore a lovely smile. Warmth crept into her voice, and perhaps it was just imagination, but it seemed the light in her eyes brightened as well.
That change was something that didn’t occur during her conversation with Garfiel. However, the crucial person that Ram was directing that smile towards simply nodded with a carefree attitude.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. I thi~~nk we’ve taken care of everything I wanted to talk about. Ram, you haven’t seen Garfiel for quite a while; were you able to renew your old friendship?”
“Yes, well enough.”
In response to the query from the clownish man – Roswaal, Ram nodded without hesitation. Garfiel ground his teeth at the reply that was so straightforward it was cruel, and Roswaal gazed at him.
“I’ve spoken of all that needed to be said with the elderly one. Make sure to ask her about it afterwards. We can’t stay ve~~ry long this time, you see~~. So~~rry if that makes you lonely.”
“Ain’t no way I’d be lonely! G’wan, get outta here! Leave Ram here and go already…. Ow!!”
“There’s no reason for Ram to stay, of course. I’ll smack you flat.”
“Don’t say that after you smack me! Aw, dammit!”
Having received an instant reward for his outburst, Ram sighed at Garfiel as he went teary-eyed. At the pair’s antics, Roswaal narrowed his differently-colored eyes and smiled thinly.
“Goo~~dness, goodness, you’re such good friends. So much that it hurts my heart, too.”
In a voice too soft to hear, that whisper slipped out.
Roswaal’s words would hold their true meaning half a year from this time.
The Royal Selection would begin, and a black-haired boy would come tumbling into the Roswaal estate as it supported Emilia, a variety of destinies would begin to move – and the story would arrive at ‘Sanctuary’.
And at that time, the clownish-looking man’s long-held dearest wish would begin to be fulfilled.