Flame Kingdom – 22.2


“…”

“…”

“… Emm, I’m sorry, Erika-san.”

After a few moments, silence dominated the room.

“–Like I said!”

Kota broke the silence, and she responded due to the words he spoke…

“No, that is not what I mean… I apologize for robbing of you your responsibility…”

“…”

“… I might sound arrogant. But, in my world, in my country, there is a saying that says ‘politics is the work of men’… Not only that, seeing my ideas, my thought, blossomed in Terra, I feel happy…”

That was why, ‘I’m sorry,’ he said…

“Your work, your thought, your wishes, and above all else, your pride, I might have put them aside. Just like Erika-san said, I might have felt that I could do everything by myself. But…”

‘Please let me say this,’ he said…

“… That I swear to God, I never thought of you as unreliable and useless.”

“… Really?”

“Yes.”

“Then, why are you never asked for help!”

Kota then frowned and glanced at my face directly this time. What?

“I never consider my policy as secret, and not because I consider you as useless, I never thought of that… Ermm, I’m sorry… It was just, I’m bad at relying on other people…”

“… Yes?”

“I don’t know how to say it but, for example, if I asked you or Emily to do something, then I thought I might have disturbed your works or time…”

“…”

“… Ermm, that cold look, can you stop it? I know that this is my bad habit, you know? Many of my colleagues would say that to me in the previous world. ‘Kota, you’re trying to hold everything by yourself. Try to rely on people a little would you?’, That was what they said… Still, even if they said that I always felt embarrassed to ask for help…”

“… Are you idiot? This is not just your work alone… Did you think I would say ‘that is not my work’ if you asked for help?”

“… I’m ashamed…”

Saying so, Kota lowered his head once more…

“… So then what? If we put all of it together, you didn’t ask for help, it was not because you don’t want to ask, but it was more because you’re genuinely bad at asking for help… So that’s why you shouldered everything by yourself, never ask for help, and take responsibility for your self? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

“… Generally, yes…

“…”

“…”

“… How narcissistic of you.”

“That is not what I’m saying but…”

“I’m right, no? After all, you think of yourself that you could do anything by yourself. You think you don’t need anyone help, no?”

“…”

“… Well, it was not wrong to take all the work but…”

… But…

“… I don’t want that…”

… Furthermore…

“… I don’t want to hide behind you and let you bear all the brunt.”

“…”

“I’m not a ‘princess.’ I am the Duke of Rondo de Terra, Erika Orlenfeld von Flame. This is my territory, and I am the lord. Do you understand? You have to quit to do anything and everything by yourself. Please, I beg of you… Do a bit better and rely on me.”

“I will try…”

“Not ‘I will try,’ but ‘I promise,’ yes?”

“… Yes.”

He smiled wryly…

“…Let’s see. Excuse me, Erika-san. Just like you said, I should’ve consulted with you from the start…”

And still, have the same gentle smile on his face.

“… Let us make Terra better together. Not just me, not just Erika-san, but for us… Let us work together for Terra.”

That was what Kota said…

“… E-Erika-san?! W-Why? Why are you crying?!”

“N-No, I didn’t cry!”

From the bottom of my heart, it was overflown with happiness.

I’m not yet standing by this person’s side.

I’m not yet being recognized by him.

Not only that… I could not even see his shadow yet, I’m still the weak ‘princess’ being protected by him, looking at him from behind while he was walking far ahead.

“E-Erika-san?”

“S-Shut up!”

But, this person, Kota, he said, let us work ‘together.’

“P-Please don’t cry! D-Did I by any chance said something weird?”

“You didn’t, idiot!”

In fact.

… I felt very happy that it became unbearable.

“E-Err, T-Then…”

… Please wait for me, Kota.

“I’m telling you, I’m not crying!”

“Which part of you not crying?! Tears are spilling out like a river!”

Someday, I will make sure to overtake that back of yours.

“Y-You should pretend to not notice it, isn’t that what gentlemen kindness is all about?”

“No no no, rather than gentlemen kindness, I should go see a doctor if I don’t notice something so obvious like that!”

Not only Sorbania, but I will also protect your dream, your ideal, your wish from anyone in the world, I will become a great lord.

“… Idiot!”

“W-What did I do?!”

…That was why, just for today…

… Just for today.

“I-If you’re bothered seeing my crying face then, you just don’t have to see it!”

“Eh? Should I turned my back?”

“A-Are you by chance actually a real idiot? Why are you turned your back when seeing a girl crying in front of you?!”

“…Then what do you want me to do?”

“I-I mean… Geez!”

Only today, only now…

“E-Ey!”

“W-Wait, huh? E-Erika-san?!”

Just like a princess, would you let me be embraced by the knight arms that had led this Terra and me up until now?

“… When you see a girl cry, isn’t it a proper courtesy to offer up your chest?”

“… Is that how it is?”

“… It is.”

“…”

“…”

“…..”

“……”

“… Ermm.”

“… What?”

“It would be bad if I said let me turn my back here, isn’t it?”

“… Idiot.”

“… I guess so.”

… That was not it.

“… You’re an idiot for thinking like that. You should just be silent… And hug me tight.”

At the same time as I said those words.

“… Ah.”

Gyuuto

Kota hugged me firmly to the point I thought I might break. I could smell Kota’s fragrance, causing my heart to ring.

“… I’m sorry, but I’m not used with this kind of thing…”

“… Geez…”

From my nose, my mouth, in my chest.

I tried to remember Kota’s scent while rubbing my face on his chest.

‘This is mine,’ I vehemently claimed it, inside my mind.

“… You’re really small, aren’t you, Erika-san.”

……

……… What did he say?

“… You, you’re not talking about my chest, yes? Or what? Are you trying to sell a fight here? If so, then I would gladly buy it at a high price!”

“That’s not it…”

I raised my face with dissatisfied expression, looking at him, he had a wry smile on his face. He then pulled up his right hand and softly brushed my head.

“You’ve been protecting Terra with such a small body.”

“… What do you mean by that?”

“I just wondering, what did I do when I was at your age, see?”

“… What did you do?”

“Well… At your age, I’ve been studying. As a university student.”

“… There’s nothing weird, no? A university is a place for study after all…”

“That is true, but… Well, some people also called it the longest summer vacation in one’s life. I think I should’ve played a little bit more back then…”

“Is that how it is?”

“It is…”

“…”

“……”

“…… Hei.”

“What?”

“… Emm, you see, are you actually used doing this kind of thing?

“… Why do you think so?”

“It’s a bit painful at first… But now, it feels good, a-and the way your hand patted my head…”

‘O-Or rather… C-Can’t you, please stop using your finger to comb my hair?’, That was what inside her mind.

“You don’t like it?”

“N-No, that’s not it! I-It feels nice, a-andー Wait, what are you trying to make me say?!”

“Erika-san is the one who started isn’t it?”

“… Th-That calm face of yours, I’m started to get annoyed.”

It was weird, I wonder why…

“… Well, you know, I’m five years older than Erika-san.”

Something was weird.

Somehow, that smile on Kota’s face, though just a little bit, I feel pride in it…

“… What relation does it have with you being good at this?”

“Well, at least, even if it is just for appearance sake, I want to act like an ‘older man.'”

‘I wonder if this was Kota’s true figure?’, was what inside her mind.

“… Hmph! After all, I have no experience~…”

“Isn’t that good? You’re still young, after all.”

“… What’s with that smug face of yours? You, old minded young man.”

“Isn’t that a bit too mean?”

…Ah. No more…

“I’m not.”

“I’m still twenty-six years old, you know? Isn’t it too cruel to call me that?”

…Ah, I give up.

“From now on, I will call you ‘old minded young man’.”

“Please give me a break.”

Even with such a foolish conversation…

“If you don’t want that, then do your best.”

“… In what?”

“I-I… Err, In a lot of things! That’s right, a lot of things!”

“How sloppy…”

… I felt unbearable happiness.

“… Ne~…”

“Yes?”

“… I’m going to become strong.”

“…”

“I want you to rely on me more… And I will show you that I will become the person that you needed…”

Even if you didn’t mind it.

Even if you want to shoulder everything alone.

Like today, I will just make stupid conversation, make you smile… Just to appreciate what you’ve done.

“I won’t say you have to wait. I won’t ask you to adjust your speed to match with mine. You just have to do what you think you wanted to do. I will chase your back, and one day, I will overtake you… And I will show you I’m able to protect you…”

One day, by all means.

I would make you say ‘I’m glad I’ve come to Terra’…

“… It’s not in my nature to be protected though?”

“Oh my? I didn’t say ‘you don’t have to protect me,’ no?”

I will protect you.

“Of course, my pride won’t allow me to be protected, I hated that(being protected)… But…”

No need to be all the time…

“If, If I’m tired of fighting, I want you to support me.”

At that time… I want you to protect me.

“… What’s with that smile?”

“No, you see… Such thought… It is indeed very ‘Erika-san.'”

“… Am I supposed to take that as a praise?”

“It is a praise…”

… Can you stop smiling like that?

“… Idiot. It makes me want to see that face more…”

“Huh?”

“It’s nothing. Just pat my head more~…”

“… Yes yes, o selfish princess…”

“Oh my? Did you say something?”

“Now we’re playing the deaf ears huh?”

While saying so, Kota continues to pat my head just like before…

“… Just you wait. Someday, I will make you unable to get away from me.”

“Did you say something?”

“We’re playing deaf ears right, no? Old minded young man.”

“Can we stop playing that already?”

One day… I will become the person Kota relied upon and trusted.

But for now, let me enjoy being a ‘princess’ and be embraced by Kota just for today.