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“I see…I’ll miss you.”
“We owe a lot to you. I think our stay in this city was much-improved thanks to you.”
“Haha. I don’t know how anyone could not help you two after seeing you like that. Well, be safe. And here, take this. It’s on the house!”
Veikin said as he handed some extra meat to me and Daniela. He really did like to take care of people. And I had no complaints in this case.
“Thank you. We will take it gladly.”
“Aye! See you again!”
Veikin waved his hand. Daniela and I waved back and then we left. This city was full of friendly people.
I stared at the meat skewer in my hand.
“There’s one last place I want to visit.”
“What a coincident. So do I.”
“I see…then let’s go.”
We chewed on our meat as we walked towards the market district. If I could say goodbye to the person who should be there, I would be able to set out on this journey without any regrets. I had been thinking about it since yesterday. I hoped she was doing well…
I was somewhat afraid of meeting her. There was a part of me that wondered if somewhere, deep inside, she hated me for not being able to save her father. I recalled the smile and tears she showed the last time we met. My legs felt a little shaky.
It was a small general goods store called the ‘Little Bird.’ It was her father’s store. We pushed open the wooden door and a bell rang.
The voice of a little girl echoed from the far back.
“Can I help with…oh.”
“Hey, Marie Elle…it’s been a while.”
Marie Elle ran up to me and wrapped her arms tightly around my waist. Almost cautiously, I brought my hand up and patted her on the head. Then she looked up at me and smiled.
“I’m sorry we didn’t come sooner.”
“No, I’m just happy that you came. Where is Miss Daniela?”
“She’s waiting outside. I’ll call her now.”
I opened the door and called Daniela. She entered the store as I held the door open. Her eyes were a little teary.
“I’m glad to see you, Miss Daniela.”
Daniela smiled gently and placed her hand over Marie Elle’s head. The girl closed her eyes with a blissful expression.
“Marie Elle. We are going to leave the city today.”
“Aye, and so we have been saying our goodbyes. Your store is our last stop.”
“Then I will go call mother. I’m sure she will want to talk to you…”
“Oh…yes. Thank you.”
We followed her to the back. We passed a shelf of beautiful glass sculptures and went around the counter. Everything passed there was their house. We then entered one of the doors.
“Mother, we have guests.”
“Oh, who are they?”
There was a beautiful woman there. Seeing her made me feel like I was looking at what Marie Elle would look like when she became an adult. I took a step forward and introduced myself.
“It’s nice to meet you. I am called Asagi. We…happened to meet Marie Elle outside of the city.”
“You… I see. My name is Yufy. Please, stay and have some tea.”
“Yes, thank you.”
For a moment, there was a sadness in her eyes. The four of us sat down at the table and talked. About the day we met Marie Elle. What happened. During this time, I could not touch the tea that was set before me. I was overcome with a fear that taking even that would be wrong.
“…and so the three of us arrived in this city.”
“I see… I had heard it from Marie Elle…but it must have been very hard for you.”
No, it was Marie Elle and Yufy who had suffered. I didn’t do anything.
“I heard that you killed a man for the first time in order to save her? It could not have been easy.”
“No, I… It’s nothing. It’s Marie Elle who…”
“Yes, she lost her father and we grieved. But it wasn’t just us. It couldn’t have been easy for you. Could it?”
Something was welling up inside of me. But I would not let it show. I pushed it down and looked at her.
“Perhaps you are right… But anything I may have felt was nothing compared to what you have had to go through.”
“Asagi, there’s no need to discuss the weight of our emotions. That does not matter. You do not need to endure it on our behalf.”
She said, then she wrapped her arms around my head. I wanted to pull away, but I couldn’t. Silently, tears began to fill my eyes.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry. I couldn’t…”
“It’s fine. My child is alive. That is enough to make me happy.”
What did these tears mean?
Sadness over my failure? The joy of forgiveness? Or…
Her gentle hand caused me to well up with emotion. I felt pathetic, and could not raise my head.
“I’m sorry… Sorry that you had to see this.”
“Don’t be. I cried a lot as well. I cried and washed away those feelings. And I look forward. That’s the right way to live.”
My eyes felt hot as I wiped them. Just then, Marie Elle and Daniela came in from the next room.
Daniela must have sensed something because they had left us alone for a while. Though, I could see that Daniela was teary-eyed as well. I suppose they had also been saying their goodbyes.
“Sorry about that.”
“It is fine. That is why I like you, Asagi.”
“Mister Asagi, do you feel better now?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now.”
Marie Elle looked into my eyes as I touched her cheek. She laughed happily. She looked just like her mother.
I drank down the cup of tea I hadn’t yet touched, and then stood up.
“We should be going now.”
“You will stop by when you visit next time?”
“Yes, of course.”
We had to.
“Goodbye, Marie Elle. Take care of your mother.”
“Yes. Be safe, Miss Daniela!”
Daniela said and stood up as well. Marie Elle went ahead of us to open the door, and so I followed her while pulling on my backpack. It reminded me of the time we walked out in the city together. We had a carriage then. It was one of the brief moments we spent together.
The four of us stood outside of the store. The sun was dimmer now as it was afternoon. I crouched and hugged Marie Elle.
“We’ll come again.”
We would. It did not have to be a long separation.
“Well, Marie Elle, Yufy. Take care.”
“You too, Asagi and Daniela. You do not need to worry about us.”
We waved and started to walk towards the south gate. Even if I knew it wasn’t the last time we would see them, it was still sad. They say that every meeting leads to a parting. I hated those words. I don’t know why, but I just did.
I looked back several times and waved. There was nothing wrong with finding this hard, I thought, as I waved almost excessively.
I continued until I could no longer see them.
Now, we were finished saying our goodbyes. I felt better about it all now. From here, it would be a new journey with new encounters. I had already met my soul mate, but surely it was still a good thing to meet as many people as you could. I would continue to meet all kinds of people from here on out.
It seemed as if finally, my life was ready to take a new step in this world again.