— 1 —
“Ringo, you know what we need to do, right?”
I asked in a tense voice, and she nodded silently.
Her nod seemed to be slightly more substantial than usual, perhaps because she also clearly understood the situation we were currently in.
In the end, her name was left as Ringo.
In the first place, including herself, nobody knew the name Shelmia anyways, so there was no real meaning in using that name. Since she seemed to have taken a liking to the name Ringo, it was probably better to just go with that.
And, more importantly.
We no longer had the leisure to worry about trivial things like that.
“It might be time for us to say goodbye…”
Before stepping out, I looked over the room I had lived in with Ringo one last time.
The simple bed, Ringo’s favorite chair that she always sat in, and the ample space that didn’t feel restricting even with two people.
Even though we hadn’t even spent a day together, to think that this was it made me feel a bit lonely.
“Even though I should’ve totally seen this coming, how could I…”
I sighed to myself, but it wasn’t like doing so would help with the situation.
That’s right, everything was turned upside down just a few minutes ago.
After having found out Ringo’s true identity by chance, we talked at length in the inn. With this new piece of information, we needed to sit down and properly discuss our next steps.
But, due to the words of an impolite intruder in the middle of our discussion, I received a shock as if a knife had been stabbed into my heart.
Even though I had been diving headfirst into shocking situations the past two days, these words had been on a different level.
“Ah, right. Well, I’ll give you last night on the house. But if you’re going to stay in this room then it’ll be 1500E per night for two.”
The inn owner’s announcement of a price increase!
Even if I were a hopeless impulse buyer, I stuck to my limits.
Since I wanted to save enough for tonight’s inn fare, I made sure that I had a full 1360E left even after I finished buying from the Lucky Jackpot at the weapon shop.
…That’s right, 1360E.
After buying an apple from the produce stand, I currently possessed 1310E.
–In other words, right now, I couldn’t afford the night’s lodging.
Of course, if I ditched Ringo I would have enough, but that would weigh on my conscience.
Even though I was, in a sense, the victim of this whole thing, it was caused by the carelessness of one of my relatives, and, unlike Train Girl or Hisame, she probably couldn’t survive by herself.
In which case…
“In the worst case, whoever loses in rock-paper-scissors will have to… sleep in the stable.”
Reaffirming the situation, I felt myself starting to become somewhat depressed.
I never thought there would ever be a possibility I would have to experience something like that.
In a game world, smell and sense of touch generally did not exist, but in this world that was half real, sleeping in a space that was cramped and smelly and with zero security would be a bit too much for a city boy.
Even though I had generally slept in stables in the capital when I was still travelling with party members, especially during my first playthrough, we had properly stayed in inns. While I didn’t remember what the prices were like anymore, I fully understood how the system for inn pricing worked. I just hadn’t thought that far.
Actually, since I had already fallen below 1500E when leaving the weapon store, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyways.
(Damn it! If I had just endured instead of buying the Fingerless Glove…)
The scene of me in the weapon store, overjoyed at finding it and celebrating after putting it on, replayed itself in my mind, making me want to just slug my past self.
“But, this is not the time for regrets. I should do whatever I can right now!”
Composing my thoughts, I grasped my fist tightly in front of my chest.
As I did so…
People are said to grow the most when forced into extraordinary situations.
Perhaps she had been inspired by something I said, as, in an unusual turn of events, she slowly approached me and, holding out her hand, brought her palm towards my closed fist.
As if trying to show me her open palm, she flashed me a pure smile, like the smile of a princess…
“…You’re in the stable?”
That’s just foul, Ringo!
In such a short time, she grew a ton in the negative direction!
Not to mention, for someone who didn’t even know how to put clothes on, I’m impressed she knew what rock-paper-scissors was!
“A-Anyways! We desperately need money right now! No matter what, we need to make sure to earn at least 200E by the end of today!”
I shouted, trying to divert her attention away from rock-paper-scissors as I once again hardened my determination to avoid the stables, leaving the inn to make my last stand.
“…What, do we do?”
…Now then, what should we do?
While I had made it outside the inn, I hadn’t even taken a few steps before stopping dead in my tracks. Ringo called out to me, but I couldn’t find the words to respond to her with.
After staring at me like that for a bit, Ringo suddenly moved her hands to her clothes.
“Like I said, eros is prohibited!”
Just how long was she going to be influenced by the ero-raincoat?
I hastily tried to stop her, but she was the one who halted me instead.
“…That’s not it.”
Using a minimal number of words, she denied it, and after squirming for a bit, she clumsily, but with her own abilities, took off the raincoat.
She held it out towards me.
“…Sell, make money.”
Together with those touching words. But, of course, I couldn’t accept that.
“It’s okay. That’s your gift, Ringo. So, you should use it as you wish.”
“…Then, I’ll give it to you.”
It seemed like she was someone who didn’t like backing down. This unexpected stubbornness from Ringo was quite troublesome.
From my standpoint, I didn’t want to do something as uneconomic as selling something I bought from the store right back, and as a gamer my pride wouldn’t let me give up on a rare item that I had somehow managed to get my hands on.
But, if I said it like that, Ringo probably wouldn’t understand. While trying to come up with something on the spot, I tried to convince her.
“If you’re trying to be considerate to me, then I’d like you to wear that raincoat.”
“It makes me happier when I see you wearing it. Or, maybe, do you not like it?”
I asked, slightly nervously, but Ringo shook her head again and again.
Her expressions were unchanged. But, even without reading into her expressions, the fact that she had taken a liking to that raincoat was more than conveyed just by looking at her behavior.
Looking at me with firm eyes, Ringo affectionately embraced the raincoat, and said.
“The first… ero-raincoat, you gave me.”
…Mm. I wonder why. It seemed like a really nice line, but I kinda felt like the proper noun in there had spoiled it. Well, if she was happy then I was happy.
“I have to apologize too. Giving you something like that as your first present.”
I had started to feel bad and apologized instead, but Ringo shook her head.
“…I, like it.”
Hearing her saying it clearly like that and tightly clutch the ero-raincoat, there was nothing more I could say.
For some reason, I was assaulted with even more guilt.
“…And, I already received something even better.”
“Something even better?”
In the moment after I had asked back, I thought I had seen, for just an instant, some kind of emotion appear on Ringo’s face.
But, the moment I heard her reply, those thoughts were blown completely out of my mind.
It was because what she had said was so far outside my expectations.
But, after thinking about it slightly, I realized she was talking about my last name, Sagara. Maybe Ringo had been, in her own way, worried about her lack of a concrete identity.
“Don’t worry too much about anything. C’mon, let’s go make some money.”
Starting to feel slightly embarrassed, I cut off the conversation and started walking forward.
But I immediately felt worried and looked back to see the blue haired girl toddling towards me, sometimes bumping into people in the process.
“Jeez, I guess there’s no choice.”
I was supposed to have gotten back my marvelous life as a loner, so how did it come to this.
While mulling over that in a corner of my heart, I grabbed Ringo’s hand as if it were only natural, and, leading her along, stepped off into the distance.