Half a Year Later 5
The next day, they had an early breakfast and then it was finally time to sightsee.
“I had them send out a message yesterday, so they should be here soon.”
Boom. Boom. Little my little, the sounds that shook their bodies came closer and closer. It was the elephants. A group of them.
“I expected the sounds of their feet to be louder.”
“I never really thought about it, but you are right.”
There were already a mix of white and brown birdfolk flying in the sky. And so they were slightly worried. Eventually, five adult elephants and two child elephants stopped in front of Maki and Chiharu, who were waiting excitedly. Was it the same herd of elephants they had seen from the airship yesterday?
“They are so big…”
“Even the small ones are big…”
Up close, they were so big that you couldn’t see their whole body. But otherwise, they were the same shape as the elephants that Maki and Chiharu knew.
“Thank you for coming. Will you accompany us for a while as we sightsee?”
A low, muffled voice came from the back of the elephant’s throat, as if it was saying, ‘of course.’ And then it quietly raised its trunk.
“Alright, put the basket on top!”
Dios shouted, and from the temporary platform, a basket that was made to fit the shape of the elephant was strapped on. It really did look like a bird cage.
“Two can ride in each cage.”
Maki was about to get in with Chiharu, but then Edwy signaled to her with his eyes. Did he want to ride with Chiharu? But Edwy shook his head and looked to the side.
He was standing there restlessly and then coughed.
After an awkward silence, Aeris made his move.
“Um, Chiharu. Would you like to ride with me?”
“Uh, I don’t mind.”
Chiharu glanced at Maki. Maki gave her a thumbs up. Chiharu raised an eyebrow but then went in the basket with Aeris. It was kind of like a group date, and they were getting into a Ferris wheel. Maki thought with a chuckle.
“Edwy. Are you alright with that?”
“I am not. But Maki, you have other things to think about.”
As Edwy chuckled, he glanced to the side. Kaider was standing there.
“Woah! You surprised me.”
“Ah, Maki. Would you ride with me?”
“Uh, okay. Let’s go together.”
And so the two got onto the next elephant.
“It’s me and you, Edwy.”
“I am actually quite popular in Midland.”
Edwy sighed. Nyran shrugged.
“Alright, let’s go, Your Highness. We are the leftovers.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
And so the last pair were the two princes, which was, in a way, a luxurious combination.
“Zynis, what about you?”
“I don’t want to ride them. If anything, I would rather run through this field on my own feet.”
This time, Zynis was acting as a guide. He was just as busy as the king and Aeris, but he also did not want to get in the way of these youngsters. And so he took a step back. Well, Aeris wasn’t young.
As they talked, one of the elephants gently rubbed its trunk against Zynis. It was like it was saying, ‘are you sure you don’t want a ride?’
“Thank you. But we are fine. Could you follow after the Saintesses?”
Very well. And the remaining elephants started walking.
“It’s a strange feeling.”
“What is? Chiharu?”
Chiharu was busily looking at the elephant’s head, ears and trunk. As she flew with the birdfolk quite often, the view from atop the tall elephants was not special. However, the gentle rocking of the elephant and the admiration she felt for it was what made it enjoyable.
“While I like being in the castle, coming outside really makes you feel like you’ve been freed from everything. It’s a strange feeling.”
“Do you still feel too constrained?”
She could not get used to the life of being a revered saint.
Aeris had been acting a little odd during this trip. He was more restless than usual. And while he had used to embrace Chiharu all of the time, he seemed more distant now. Chiharu felt a little sad.
What about my hand? After a moment of hesitation, Aeris stretched out and gently lifted Chiharu’s right hand and placed it on top of his left hand. He didn’t squeeze it, but just placed it on top.
But for some reason, this made her heart beat even faster than the times that he had embraced her. It was like her heart was at her fingertips.
“Once everything is settled, I would like to take you to a place where there is no one else.”
“You’ve already done that. Like now, with the airship. It’s been so long since I left the castle.”
“Not like this.”
Chiharu tilted her head and looked up at Aeris. He was always worried about her and concerned with her needs. What more could he do?
“Just the two of us.”
“The two of us.”
Chiharu repeated the words. Just the two of them. And their joined hands.
Something welled up from the pit of her stomach, and floated up through her hair and then left from the top of her head.
“Aeris, do you mean…”
“Apparently, I love you, Chiharu.”
She had a feeling. But she also thought that there was no way that it was true. And she was scared that she could lose their current, sweet friendship.
Even if she would have liked him to wait, what if he could not, and his feelings ended up changing? If that was going to happen, then she would rather stay as friends.
As Chiharu looked down, she saw Aeris’s large hand and her own small palm on top. And then Aeris’s hand closed, gently enveloping hers.
“I’ve waited three hundred years, so waiting a few more years is nothing for me. However, if there is even a little hope, I want you to tell me.”
As friends. She had meant to say it. But why wouldn’t her mouth move? Why was her heart beating so quickly? She felt that Aeris had smiled, and just as he drew her hand closer, Aeris’s long hair flowed into her vision.
A great blast of air was blown from the elephant’s trunk and into the cage.
It blew at them once more, and then the trunk went back down. It was like it was telling them that since they were in the cage, they should be enjoying the view.
Now that they weren’t nervous, they started to laugh. After they had laughed for a while, Aeris embraced Chiharu firmly, like he used to do. Chiharu wasn’t nervous anymore.
“Take your time and think about it.”
He was a fussy, worrywart elf, but he could wait for Chiharu. On that day, something that had been frozen inside of Chiharu had started to move.
“Ah, how annoying. Ahh!”
In the meantime, Maki and Kaider were also being warned by their elephant. Really, didn’t you come to see the view?
And so the four of them behaved after that. They rode on the elephants and enjoyed their short vacation. And a few days later, they returned to Midland.
“So, two have changed, and four remain the same.”
“Father, don’t speak about that.”
Arthur had greeted them with smiles, but with a glance, he noticed that something had happened.
“How about it? You can continue to rest if you want, but I think you would like to start doing something, Chiharu?”
“I’ve regained my health, so I would like to continue to work with Maki.”
“There are still places where the miasma is strong. We would be grateful if you could go.”
Chiharu and Maki looked at one another and grinned.
“Then let’s go traveling again. Including the places that we promised our friends that we would visit.”
“And we won’t have to disguise ourselves this time.”
Would it be Lowland next? Or the elf lands? Or perhaps the dwarf lands. This time, they planned to actually have a relaxing, wandering journey.