— 2 —
I thought back to the day when I was sent to this world.
While it felt like it had been an eternity, only six days had passed.
The reason I ended up in this world was because my cousin Maki had made a wish to some strange tools she found in the storage that I should “just go live in a game”.
While it hadn’t been on purpose, I admit I may have done some things that had hurt Maki’s feelings, but leaving that aside, I thought a bit more deeply about what happened during that time.
Maki didn’t find just a single strange object in the storage.
There were the seven balls that would grant any wish, the mummified monkey paw that would grant three wishes and a lamp that seemed like it might contain a genie, as well as the Lucky Mallet that sent me to this world.
And in addition to those, there was one more thing that Maki had found there.
Exactly, it was the long, thin strip of paper that seemed insignificant at first glance.
The Tanzaku used for Tanabata.
It would be quite dubious to call it something that can grant wishes, but if the Lucky Mallet were real, then it wasn’t impossible that the other things had the power to grant wishes as well.
On that day, Maki said she wrote on the Tanzaku wishing to be a princess.
Of course, nothing happened, and so until now I had thought that Tanzaku didn’t have any special powers after all. But, what if the timing just wasn’t right on that day?
What if on Tanabata, that is, today, her wish to become a princess were to be suddenly granted?
–Wouldn’t it be possible to imagine that Maki had become a princess in this world, Princess Maki El Licht, ousting the real princess, Shelmia, from that seat, causing her to show up in front of me?
Of course, this was just arbitrary speculation, leaving unanswered questions such as why Maki ended up being a princess in this world out of all of the possibilities, why becoming a princess meant that the original princess had to be replaced, and why, instead of just disappearing or taking on another role, Shelmia ended up in front of me in a bugged state.
But, even taking into account all of those peculiarities, it still didn’t seem like an unreasonable hypothesis.
It was a bit too much of a stretch to say that everything happening around midnight on July 7th was just a coincidence, and honestly, I couldn’t think of any other situation that would cause a bugged Princess Shelmia to suddenly appear where I was.
“You’ve been muttering to yourself for a while now, are you okay?”
The lady at the product stand called out to me, and that brought me back to my senses.
I turned my focus away from my thoughts and back to the real world.
“Y-Yeah, sorry. Actually, I just came to this country recently, so my memories are a bit jumbled right now. The princess of this country was Ma… Maki, right? Have you heard any rumors about her?”
Noticing that the lady was starting to look at me like she were looking at someone suspicious, I hurriedly composed myself. While it didn’t seem to have cleared up all her doubts, her love for talking prevailed.
As if having forgotten all about my strange behavior, she immediately started talking about the princess.
“You see, even someone like me hasn’t heard much about Princess Maki at all. I mean, those people in the royal family, they hide in the castle year after year and hardly even show their faces. Dear me, make sure not to tell anybody that I said these things.”
“Ahaha… Thank you.”
Letting the conversation flow past me, I thought.
If Maki did take over as the princess, then that must have happened this morning.
There’s no way that troublemaker would obediently stay in the castle for days on end, so if there haven’t been any rumors then it would be natural to think that she had only just come here.
I next turned my thoughts to what her position was in this world.
I was unsure if she had inherited all of the flags and abilities related to the princess, and how much effect game events would have on her. In my case, most of the system restrictions that existed when I was playing the game had no effect.
For example, I was able to dig through the ground where Thief Melipe’s Legacy was buried without having to clear the event flags, and even in the middle of cutscenes where the game puts you in spectator mode and doesn’t allow you to move, I was able to move freely in this world.
Since Maki was not an NPC from the game, it was possible that, like me, she would not be limited by most system restrictions. But on the other hand, the worst possibility where her personality and memories have been altered to be the same as the princess in the game was not outside the realm of possibility.
In either case, it seemed that everyone other than Maki would likely behave similarly to in the game, which would make it extremely difficult to approach Maki.
There really were very few opportunities to see a princess who doesn’t come out except for events.
But if this Princess Maki were really the Maki that I knew, then I definitely needed to meet her and have a talk with her. But it’s also true that, if everything just progressed as the game would, there would be a very small chance that Maki would be exposed to danger.
There shouldn’t be any situation outside of the Royal Capital Invasion event that could cause any harm to the princess.
So time was still flexible, I thought.
No matter what Maki’s status was, I wanted to find some hint of a way to return to the real world before an event where I could talk to her happened.
If I were the only one to disappear, then, well, some people might be sad, but I feel like there wouldn’t be much of an impact, but if Maki even came to this world then everything was different.
Compared to me, who was just a loner, Maki probably had lots of things that were left behind in that world.
While she was a hopeless cousin who would stick to me and order me around at every opportunity, I wanted to be able to at least send her back to the real world.
Thinking this far, I hit upon an unpleasant thought.
If I wanted to prioritize returning, then the correct way to proceed would probably be to go meet “that person” again.
While I didn’t like the thought of that, if it had come to this then I might as well…
(No, wait a second)
There was no point even if I went now.
I mean, to travel together with “that person” with my current statuses would be way too dangerous.
“…Calm down, calm down.”
There were too many things I needed to do that I ended up confusing myself.
I had to focus on what needed to be done first and what I could do right now.
It was only when I started to calm down that I noticed the girl standing idly a short distance away, holding an apple core.
(What am I doing…)
Yes, figuring out what to do about Maki was definitely important. But my priorities right now shouldn’t be myself or Maki, they should probably be this girl right here, who had lost everything due to Maki’s wish.
“Um, Shel… Ringo.”
I started to say Shelmia, but quickly corrected myself.
At least until I taught her the truth, she was Ringo, not Shelmia.
“I’ve figured out who you are. And… do you want me to tell you?”
Wanting to be as forthright to Ringo, the girl who had been ejected from this world, as possible, I asked while looking her straight in the eyes.
For a short while, Ringo said nothing.
Even though the boisterous sounds from the surroundings continued to enter my ears, there was a silence between the two of us which overwhelmed all that. Somehow finding that silence hard to bear, I spoke some more.
“Well, I know who you are, but the situation is slightly complicated, and it might be quite difficult to return you to where you belong. But figuring out who you are might be something important to you, so…”
However, the words that I desperately tried to force out were powerless in the face of the silence.
Those superficial words were swallowed by the silence, leaving me with no choice but to close my mouth and wait for Ringo’s reply.
Time passed as we merely stared at each other.
Even the gradually increasing commotion in the background didn’t bother me. I just single-mindedly stared at the blue-colored girl in front of me, waiting for those lips to form a word.
Unexpectedly, Ringo averted her eyes as if she were starting to feel uncomfortable. She looked around with unrest, then looked back at me, and slowly murmured.
“…I can’t, be here?”
Those words, for some reason, stabbed deep into my heart.
It was the first time that Ringo had expressed any kind of unrest.
…Actually, thinking about it, it was possible that Ringo had always just been hiding her unrest. Losing all her memories and not knowing anything about herself. The person beside her wasn’t an acquaintance from before she lost her memories, but rather me, who ended up cooperating just from going with the flow. Anyone would feel anxious in a situation like this.
But, instead, I had used her apathy as an excuse, never bothering to even imagine what she might be thinking.
My chest burned with guilt. Feeling like I had to do something about it, I grasped Ringo firmly by the shoulders.
“What are you talking about! Ringo, it’s completely okay for you to be here!”
It was possible that she had thought I was trying to get rid of her by bringing up this topic. She might’ve imagined that, by telling her who she was, I would then leave her by herself.
Seriously, what I am doing. Getting over-excited about things like investigating the truth or finding an explanation for everything, and forgetting all about the girl trembling at her own helplessness beside me.
“I mean, I can’t promise that I’ll always be looking after you. But I would definitely never say that you can’t be here!”
I didn’t know how I could support her. But, with as much ardor as I could muster, I tried to express my desire to help placate her unease as much as I could.
Slightly, very slightly, Ringo’s eyes seemed like they had opened a little wider in surprise.
–It felt like my feelings had been conveyed.
Ringo looked up at me, as if she were smiling at me.
And she gave a nod that was a few microns in size.
It was a face that I had gotten completely familiar with in the last few hours. But, there seemed to be a tinge of happiness on that face, or perhaps that was just what I had wanted to imagine.
However, that illusion immediately vanished, and Ringo returned to her usual emotionlessness as she asked.
“…Is it, really okay?”
Does she have such little trust in me?
Feeling like I should say it more clearly, I was about to open my mouth…
“…The line is, very long.”
I finally noticed the snaking line that formed behind us.
“H-Huh? Could it be…”
A line of customers who couldn’t finish their shopping because we were standing here?
Which meant that, could Ringo have been asking about whether it was okay to be here since there was a huge line forming…?
I whipped myself back around and looked at the lady at the produce stand again, and she was looking at me with a toothy smile like that of a carnivorous beast.
“I didn’t want to interrupt, but could you take your youthful drama somewhere where you won’t bother the store?”
…It looked like that was the case.
I yanked on Ringo’s arm with a force that seemed like it might pull her arm out of its socket and escaped at full speed.
My reply had been cut short by the strange misunderstanding, but it wasn’t a topic that I could just go back to after a break.
I decided to return to the inn and have lunch with Ringo first, then go up to the room and explain everything to her.
“The sun’s still so high and they’re already…”
As we were about to enter the room, I saw Alice trembling from shock for some reason, but I decided to pretend that I didn’t notice it.
“So, to start with, let’s talk about why you’re missing your memories…”
Talking about how this world was a game or how I had come from a different world would probably just make everything too complicated.
It would probably be simpler if I kept the wish-granting items as being things in this fantasy world.
I explained to her that my cousin had used an item that supposedly granted wishes and wished to become a princess, and that because of that there was a possibility that Shelmia, who was originally the princess, had become dislodged and sent to where I was.
Focusing on only the important points, there wasn’t actually that much to talk about.
Regarding her former self, I tried to describe everything that I remembered, but she had surprisingly little reaction.
Finally starting to become anxious about her lack of reactions, I tried to turn the conversation over to her.
“So, that’s basically what I know. Is there anything you don’t understand or anything you want to ask?”
It wasn’t clear even if she had heard my question or not, as she continued to stare into nothingness without any signs of a response, until…
Still not moving even slightly, finally, she muttered a single word.
I unconsciously asked back, and she gave a subdued nod.
“…You still, haven’t told me.”
They were her first words in a while, but I couldn’t figure out what the contents meant.
I had already told her many times that her real name was Shelmia…
“Ah, did you mean, my name?”
When I said that thought out loud, she gave a small nod.
Thinking about it, I might not have properly introduced myself to her yet.
It’s true that I had been caught up in thinking about the unexpected situation, but this was just a straight blunder.
“Sorry, my name is Souma Sagara.”
However, even as I announced my name, she still didn’t show any kind of a reaction.
Even though she asked about it, it didn’t seem to mean anything.
(Ah, talking about names…)
Her former name was Shelmia El Licht.
What showed up on the Status Sticker was “＊ェ♯＊♯※＆・＊♭・%※＊ェ@”, so the number of letters fit.
(I wonder if the result will be different if I use the Status Sticker on her now.)
From a game’s perspective, from a computer program’s perspective, having the data for a name change based on the person’s own perceptions was something that seemed unthinkable.
But in this world that was a strange mix of digital and non-digital, I felt like there was a possibility that the bugged data could be overwritten by her acknowledging something as her own name.
“Can I check your name one more time?”
With high expectations, I asked for her permission and placed the Status Sticker on her arm.
The results were…
【Ringo Sagara : LV 1 】
What I saw completely betrayed my expectations.
“This is strange, isn’t it!”
It was like we had suddenly entered a setting where we were siblings or something, as this name that Ringo no doubt picked arbitrarily had become something that seemed official.
“R-Right? Are you okay with this?”
I showed her the sticker, and she nodded again with a motion so small that I would have missed it if I weren’t focusing.
However, I couldn’t understand it.
“You know, you have a real name: Shelmia. Why do you want to keep using…”
But, even at those words, she just ever so slowly shook her head.
“…This name is, special.”
Was that because it was the first name she heard after losing her memories?
Before I had time to think, she continued.
With firm determination filling the depth of those blue eyes…
She looked up straight at me, and, unlike her, said in a clear voice.
“…Compared to Shelmia, Ringo sounds more delicious.”
Sometimes, a person’s name can be decided based on deliciousness.
Having learned something new about life, the day came to a close.