*Abel’s POV* (New Character!)
My thoughts kept going back to that meeting this morning.
Holding a bow larger than the norm, and carrying a pair of small game on my back, it was supposed to be a regular trip to the mountains.
You see, every spring in the mountains nearby the village, many bears appear after coming out of hibernation.
Had they come out yet? I didn’t know, I hadn’t seen any yet.
Selling the materials from bears nets a good profit.
It’s fun hunting, and I get gold out of it too, so it’s the perfect pastime for me.
From the moment I woke up this morning, my body was aflame with energy.
Today was going to be a good day, I could feel it.
Funny enough, almost immediately after I entered the mountainous area, I found a bear bigger than any I had ever seen.
It hadn’t seem to have noticed me yet.
More precisely it couldn’t have noticed me, it was busy glowering at some girl carrying a bunch of mountain-plants.
Why would you come to the mountains now of all times?! What a stupid girl.
She didn’t even have any weapons on her.
The bear fixed the girl’s figure in its gaze, and swooped down on her with the full momentum of its size.
I drew my bow.
This was a mighty bow, so mighty in fact, that it took me two years of training before I was able to use it properly.
In the village, there is nobody strong enough to use this bow other than me.
…or so I say, but right now my arm was screaming in protest to the bow’s tension.
The arrow I took out was drawn to the bow’s limit.
Along with the fact that the arrows are considerably heavier than normal ones, this would definitely be a deadly shot.
Focusing on the moment that the bear moved, I released the arrow.
Slicing through the air, the arrow let out a sharp ring as the beast was struck.
Right in-between the eyes.
It’s a simple thing if you focus enough.
That’s good, we’ll get to have some good bear this year.
As a bonus, I even got to save a damsel in distress.
‘Thank you for saving my life, as thanks take whatever you want’. ‘Then don’t mind me as I help myself!’ Something like that maybe? Well, I’m fine with anything though.
“Hey girly! You okay?!”
“Yeah, you saved me there, thank you.”
After approaching and getting a good look at her, it actually looks like she’s my age.
…and she’s really cute.
I was so focused on taking down the bear that I didn’t notice.
If I had known she was this cute I would’ve been a bit more friendly when I called out to her.
“What are you doing in the mountains during this season? Didn’t your father ever teach you common sense?”
“…no, umm… my father’s not here anymore.”
I didn’t mean to bring up a touchy subject like that, hopefully she hasn’t started grown unpleasant feelings towards me.
Argh whatever! A cute girl is trying to thank me so why am I driving her away?!
“Well around this time, all the bears sleeping in the mountains wake up from hibernation, haven’t you heard?”
“Unfortunately no, I just arrived in this area recently.”
So that’s how it is…
“Does that mean, you’re one of Elenoire Academy’s new students?”
“Yeah, my name is Iris Parala.”
Well what do you know? Turns out she’s one of the young mistresses going to that noble school.
It’s a good thing I saved her when I did.
Though now that I’ve helped her, what’s she gonna do to return the favour?
Around five years ago I helped another Elenoire student out of a pinch, and they ended up giving me five gold.
This girl’s not only cute, but she’s rich and I just saved her life. I should definitely get something at least worth ten gold this time.
“Love, for a saving a beauty like you, I’ll only charge you ten gold coins.”
“Eh?! There’s no way I can pay off that exorbitant amount of money!”
“Really? Well, if you can’t pay cash, I’m fine with taking something of equal value. Don’t you have any jewelry on you? Hurry up and take it out.”
“Sorry, I’m not wearing any jewels like that.”
“It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s gold I don’t care.”
Her face scrunched up in confusion towards my statement, and instead of gold, she offered me some of the wild plants she had picked.
“…don’t you have like a gold necklace or something?”
“The only thing I have are these edible wild plants.”
Taking another look at the girl, her dress wasn’t any different from us commoner folk, there wasn’t a single expensive thing on her.
She even looked a bit skinny.
“Just what are you?”
“My name is Iris Parala.”
“You already told me that.”
“Then what am I supposed to tell you? All I have are these wild plants I’ve picked, so what else can I give?”
“Nonono, I mean, why are you picking wild plants in the first place? Noble kids don’t eat stuff like that.”
“I never said I was part of the aristocracy, I missed eating wild plants like I did back home, so I came to pick some.”
“But you just said that you’re one of Elenoire Academy’s students.”
“You can enroll there even if you’re a commoner you know?”
I didn’t know that.
The moment she said she was actually a commoner, for some reason the unpleasant feeling I had disappeared.
I took another look at her face.
Yup, it’s still really cute.
“A commoner at a school for nobles… That must be tough.”
“Really? I don’t think it’s that bad though?”
“Are you sure? I can feel my nausea coming up just by thinking about it.”
“Hmm… I guess everyone has there own opinions, no?”
As our conversation started to come to an end, my stomach started rumbling.
That reminds me, I still had the two birds I shot down this morning while riding my horse.
It’ll be ready to eat if I just grill it.
“I’m going to cook some game I caught earlier, you want one?”
I heard that in that noble school, they’re given lavish meals to eat every day.
We get to eat a fair share ourselves, but I don’t think they serve wild birds there.
I’ve never heard of them eating something like that.
“N-no thank you…”
Told you so.
I tried to leave the way I came, but then I saw it.
…That person’s face, its the face of someone who wants to eat messily!
That’s what I could tell from her face, but I could also tell that she had experienced the taste of grilled wild birds before!
“Are you sure?”
“The birds I caught this time have a good amount of fat on them you know?”
She didn’t reply, but I definitely heard her gulp!
“Despite what you say, you definitely have the face of someone who wants to eat some.”
“Who are you talking about?! Are you talking about me?!”
“Oh yeah? Well I don’t mind, I can finish one bird no problem, finishing two grilled birds instead won’t be that big a deal.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Well, if you were nobility I would’ve never offered, but since you aren’t, along with the fact that you’re a bit skinny, I think I’ll let you have some. Come on, I’ll start the fire.”
With a hearty fire created by the two of us, I grilled the birds.
A fragrant smell started drafting about.
My only regret is that I didn’t have any salt or anything on me, but that couldn’t be helped.
“The school meals are a bit too fancy for my tastes, I just can’t get used to them.”
“That’s a problem of luxury I guess.”
“Hehe, yeah. At first, I was thrilled that I could eat food like that, but eventually I started missing the frugal meals of back home.”
“Like wild plants?”
“Yeah, foods that I used to eat with my dad and the rest of my family. Plants like these… and small wild birds.”
Ugh, we should probably avoid topics that relate to her dad.
“Come to think of it, I still haven’t heard your name yet.”
“Abel. I don’t have a family name, no parents either, I was picked up by the people in my village when I was young.”
“That’s a nice name, Abel.”
Iris made a somewhat sorry face.
I don’t want her to make a sad face like that.
Once the birds finished cooking, I passed the first one to her.
We both bit into our birds at the same time.
Just as I expected, delicious!
Iris clenched her fist and raised it up.
“I can’t stop my mouth.”
“Yeah, it’s a taste you’ll never forget.”
…and before we knew it, the birds were gone.
“What about the bear?”
Iris looked towards the fallen bear behind me.
“Later I’ll carry it to my village and share it with everyone. I can’t just keep it to myself.”
“Wow, you must be really strong.”
“Right? I’m a free man that can’t be reined in. That’s the kind of guy I am.”
“Yeah, I think I could see that.”
Oh, I was confused for a bit but I got praised.
I rarely get to talk with beauties like this so it can’t be helped.
“Hey Iris, are you happy attending a school built for those nobles?”
“Yeah, I have to work hard and think about my future though.”
“That’s what I mean, I can’t imagine happy future from a place like that.”
“That’s not true.”
She immediately denied it as if I had lied.
It’s a school built for the aristocracy after all, how could commoners like us commute to a place like that?
“You’re probably one commoner surrounded by the ‘noble’ majority. You’re probably going to become the subject of discrimination you know?”
“What, did I say something wrong?”
If you don’t want to speak, I won’t force you, but I think it would be better to talk than to not.
I want to know if there’s anything wrong.
“There was a girl that lived next to me in the dormitory, and at first we got along… but after she found out that I was a commoner, she decided to cut all ties with me. Everyone else started avoiding me too soon after.”
Iris’s words left a clogging feeling in me.
I wished that she wouldn’t have anything to say to me, but I also think it’s good that she got that off her chest.
You really can’t put a lot of faith in nobles.
Damn, for some reason I’m feeling angry.
“Shouldn’t you just resign and leave such a place?”
“I can’t afford to do so. I have a family waiting at home, and they’re placing their hopes on me making it through there.”
I myself have never tasted discrimination.
Iris probably hadn’t until recently as well.
It must’ve substantially hurt her when it all happened.
Towards the aristocracy I can only feel more and more hate.
“…but you know, not everyone there is like that.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are also some strange people there, and I don’t mean they’re bad people when I say they’re strange.”
“There are also people who call me a friend, though that doesn’t really change my situation much.”
“What kind of people are they?”
“One of them is the heir to the Helan territory nearby, the one to become its next lord. The atmosphere he gives off is different from the rest of the academy students.”
“Don’t you think he might have some ulterior motives?”
Iris is a beautiful girl.
There would probably be many a man that would approach her with bad things in mind.
“There might be people like that, but I don’t think Kururi is one of them. The people who give off an air similar to Kururi seem to just naturally gather around him, it’s a little funny how he can act that way yet still be a noble.”
“Was that a compliment?”
Iris was a bit sad at the beginning, but it looks like things will be fine for now.
But strange nobles huh…
“Come to think of it, the whole village was in a uproar not too long ago about some strange noble who visited. He was a giant of man, who bought a whole sheep and then just left.”
“Oh that’s probably Vaine! Kururi wasn’t with him?”
“No, there was only one person there.”
“I was told that the two of them happily ate a sheep together, I guess it was a sign of friendship or something.”
“Is that so? If you want to eat sheep, come to my village sometime, we can eat one whenever you want.”
“Sorry, but if I come, I’d prefer to eat wild birds instead.”
“Okay, they’re my favorite too, I’ll teach you how to cook them so they’re good as well.”
As my spare, I lent Iris the small bow I had brought with me.
Initially I had a hard time pulling the bowstring, but my progress since then has been amazing.
“What an amazing talent. Aren’t you a genius?”
In response to her praise, I laughed brightly.
“That also looks like a good bow.”
“No, this is a bad one.”
“Well if you know the good from the bad, can you show me how to make one?”
“Sure, in that case…”
Whittling down a branch of wood with a knife, it slowly changed into the form of a bow.
I didn’t just teach Iris the procedure in making one, so in the end my hand was really sore.
Humans are really talented beings.
Just the figure of them working hard naturally attracts others.
If I don’t take care my heart is going to be stolen.
By evening, we were able to create a fine bow.
Now all it needs is the string.
I’ll finish it when I return to the village.
We made a promise to meet again so I can give it to her.
She looked really happy when I said that.
“Well then, I need to return soon.”
“You’ll be alright going home alone?”
“Yup, don’t worry.”
With her wild plants in hand, she started walking down the path.
Since the morning when I woke up, I knew it was going to be a good day.
Feeling just a little bit lonely, I called out to Iris’s back.
“Iris!! Whenever you get sick of the academy, come visit!!”
“Yeah! I’ll come!!”
Iris’ smile was burned into my head at that moment.
… and the sunset behind her just made it even more beautiful.