Side Story 5 – A Certain Servant’s Return Home
“You want to go back to your old village?”
It was a little while after they had settled down in the Black Rose Mansion that Tena had told Anri as such.
“Yes. I had always been hesitant about it, but in the end I really do want to meet with my family once.”
When she had first begun living with Anri, they had discussed this matter as well, but at the time she hadn’t been able to settle her feelings yet, and they postponed the visit. It was natural that she held complex feelings about being sold as a slave, but with time, she was able to sort them out.
And being the case, Anri had only one possible reply.
“Got it. I’ll be fine here, so don’t worry and go.”
There were plenty of things that she’d be troubled with if Tena wasn’t here to do the housework, but if it was just for a short while, then she would manage somehow, which is why Anri easily gave her consent. After all, it wasn’t as though Anri herself couldn’t do housework, and Leonora was here too. Even the young Lili had recently begun to help out around the house, so Anri judged there was no problem.
And so, Anri tried to send Tena off, but Tena herself gave an unexpected reply.
“Umm… If possible, I would like to introduce you to my family, Anri-sama, but is that no good?”
Had anyone else been in the room, they would very probably have tried to stop this, but for better or for worse, it was only the two of them in the room.
It was a small village, a few days’ carriage from Riemel Town. Almost nobody visited the village, save the occasional merchants, or a pastor from the Church of Sacred Light, and in this village arrived a single luxurious horse-carriage.
Before the eyes of the villagers staring in curiosity, opened the door of the carriage, and from there alighted two girls.
The moment the villagers saw the face of one of the girls, they immediately formed a ring around her at a distance.
The reason was simple; an angular black mask covered her eyes. Together with her entirely black dress with its bewitching design, there was nothing that could be more suspicious, and it couldn’t be helped that the villagers were wary.
Because of how much impact the girl had, the gazes of the villagers completely ignored the girl who they normally would have been concentrating on.
“? …Tena? Aren’t you Tena!?”
Tena timidly raised her voice, and finally noticing her, the villagers let out cries of surprise.
It was a small village to begin with, and everybody knew each other. All of them remembered the girl who had been sold as a slave. Once one of them noticed her, villagers tried to draw near her, one after another.
But overwhelmed by the strange girl standing next to her, they couldn’t come near and instead stood around a little distance away.
“So you were fine, Tena…”
A man in the prime of his life called out to Tena, and with that as the impetus, all the other villagers began calling out to her as well.
“Thank goodness. Everybody was so worried for you.”
An old lady with a cane spoke to Tena in tears, and Tena’s eyes became watery as well.
“I’m sorry, Epina.”
A girl around Lili’s age ran up to Tena, hugging her, and Tena stroked her head with a gentle smile.
And then, silence fell.
All of the villagers were in joy at their reunion with Tena, but because the girl next to her was on their minds, they couldn’t concentrate.
All of them wanted to push the task onto somebody else, and nobody could say the words, but finally the man from before──Roi, timidly asked,
“By the way, who is that person?”
Once again, all the gazes fell onto the girl, but she simply stood there calmly, showing no signs of being overwhelmed.
“Ah, this personage is my master, Anri-sama.”
A commotion ran through the villagers.
After looking back and forth between the faces of the masked Anri, and Tena, complicated expressions appeared on their faces.
The villagers knew that Tena had been sold as a slave.
Being a beauty, even despite her age, had her master been a man, his intention would have been clear, and the villagers would likely have turned their hostility on him.
On this point, the master in question was a young-looking woman, and Tena seemed to be fond of her as well. Tena was somebody close to them, and she couldn’t have been sold to a better person. Normally, the villagers should have welcomed this.
──What on earth was that mask!?
So wondered every single villager there.
Whether her age, or her sex, she seemed to be the safest and most fortunate master possible for Tena, but just that suspicious mask on her face weighed on their minds.
They wanted to ask why she was wearing such a mask. They wanted to ask, but once they considered that it might be disrespectful, in the end they couldn’t bring it up.
To begin with, looking at the carriage she arrived in, and the dress that she was wearing, there was no mistaking that she was a powerful person with a considerable sum of assets. If they incurred her displeasure, it was possible that a small village like this would be very simply crushed… Having considered that, the villagers couldn’t give voice to their question.
The truth was that the girl──Anri, was simply an adventurer in Fortera, to which this village belonged to, and leaving aside her substantial connections to the Holy Anri Thearchy, she actually had no official authority at all. However, the villagers had no way of knowing this.
In the end, the villagers didn’t bring up Anri’s mask, and the two of them headed towards Tena’s house.
After parting from the villagers, Tena and Anri came to a stop in front of a house. Even now the villagers were worrying about them at a distance, but the two girls hadn’t noticed.
The house was a cosy one built from wood, and it seemed as though quite some time had passed since its construction, because it was damaged here and there.
“Yes, this is my… this is the house that my family lives in.”
Tena couldn’t bring herself to say 『my house』. Her brows were curved in a difficult expression.
She stood there in front of the door, and stared at the doorknob.
“Not going to go in?”
“…I’ll, be opening it now.”
Anri gently prompted her, and as though finding her courage, Tena tightly clenched her hand before reaching out to open the door.
However, before she could do so, a voice called out to her from the side.
Standing there was a blonde woman in the latter half of her thirties, clad in simple clothes. Her expression seemed to say that she simply couldn’t believe it, and she stared at Tena.
Tena had hesitated at opening the door, but it seemed that her desire to meet with her family was stronger after all. Tena ran in tears to the woman, and tightly embraced her.
Tena’s mother was dumbfounded for a while, but eventually realising that this was real, she wept and hugged Tena back.
Noticing voices in front of the door, the rest of the family went out to investigate as well, and after hugging each other in tears at the miraculous reunion, they invited Anri and Tena into the house.
Sitting at the table, Tena recounted her experiences thus far. About being sold to the slave merchants, and almost losing her life to a fatal disease, and upon hearing her treatment until she was sold to Anri as a slave, Tena’s family burst into tears.
“Tena… Tena, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
Tena’s father lowered his head to the table and apologised, but Tena calmly shook her head.
“It’s fine, Dad. I know that if I wasn’t sold that day, I would have just starved to death anyway. And thanks to that, I was able to meet with Anri-sama and the others, so… it’s fine already.”
When Tena said so, her father tightly held her hands from across the table, and holding his head against them, he cried.
After crying for a while, this time her father lowered his head to Anri.
“You saved Tena, didn’t you. Thank you very much! Thank you very much!”
“Thank you very much!”
“Thank you very much!”
“Thank you, Oneechan!”
Her father, her mother, her older brother and then younger brother all began thanking Anri in a bow.
Anri had been spaced out, and sipping tea while watching the family’s reunion without much involvement, but now that they all began focusing on her she fell into confusion and panic.
Raising her hands towards them, she spoke.
“It wasn’t really… anything special.”
Anri said that and tried to downplay herself, but the family’s looks of gratitude were unchanging.
While the back and forth between thanks and modesty continued for a while, eventually somebody asked a certain question.
“Hey, hey, why are you wearing a mask?”
“H-, Hey now!”
Because Tena’s little brother was still young, he innocently voiced the question that the villagers couldn’t.
His mother tried to stop him in a panic, but it was too late.
“Why, you ask? Well…”
There were two reasons that Anri was wearing a mask; the first was to prevent the effect of her mystic eyes from invoking, while the second was out of fear of the consequences of having the same face as a god.
However, if she was to explain these things, then it would require her to touch upon her skills, as well as her relationship with the Evil God.
Just a while ago when Tena recounted her experiences to her family, she introduced Anri as a daughter of a mage family who was presently conducting research in Riemel.
By now it was too difficult to explain the truth.
Anri cut her words short as though in teasing. In reality she was simply troubled on how to answer, but from an outsider’s point of view, it plainly looked like she was building up the suspense.
Everybody in the room waited on Anri’s words.
Even the mother that had tried to stop her son’s rudeness a while ago seemed to be curious as well, because like the rest of her family, she was watching Anri’s every action.
Because Anri was being so suggestive with her words, even Tena who supposedly knew the truth found herself leaning forward in anticipation.
With no way to take back her words, Anri declared the only reason she could come up with.
“Because it’s, cool?”
Hearing that reply after all the suspense, everyone besides the youngest boy fell over with astonishment.
“Are you sure? Wouldn’t it have been good if you stayed there longer?”
“No, it is fine. Staying there any longer would have made the farewell difficult, so…”
After saying farewell to Tena’s family who kept inviting them to stay in their reluctance to part, Anri asked Tena that question.
“And also, right now my house… is the Black Rose Mansion.”
“…I see. Alright then.”
After those last words, a gentle silence filled the returning carriage.
“U-, Um! I also think that your mask is cool, Anri-sama!”
Even though it was supposed to be a moving reunion scene, because everybody was focused on Masked Anri, they couldn’t concentrate.