(T/N: For those who forgot, Senjoumai means ‘boat-top dancing,’ and is one of the touristy things that Lelis is famous for. I will continue calling it Senjoumai, because I think proper nouns sound better in their original language. But for those who want to know, Senjoumai is not a real Japanese word. It is a made-up word for a made-up attraction in a made-up work, so don’t bother Googling it.)
While following behind the back of Claura, who is currently huffing peevishly, I survey the Lelis citizens that we pass.
There are markets with lines of shops that look like stalls, and shopkeepers negotiating with such zeal that I can see saliva flying. Craftsmen strictly admonishing their apprentices at their storefronts. Young people and children delightedly stuffing their cheeks with sweets and fruits and grilled meats. Of course, the plaintive cries of beggars crawling on the bare ground, as well as angry voices from ongoing fights can also be heard mixed into the din.
I didn’t really pay it much attention earlier, but there is indeed a canal running through the city, spanned by arch-like stone bridges. Ships of a huge variety of colors are going to and fro, carrying both goods and people.
Because the talks dragged on so long at the Magician’s Guild, it is now almost sunset.
“Could it be that that is the aforementioned Senjoumai?”
“Eh? Ahh, yes it is.”
While walking alongside the canal, which is so wide that it can almost be called the artery of the city, I notice several heavily ornamented boats slowly proceeding in a line, like a parade. There are large numbers of people crowding both banks and the bridges, staring transfixed at the dance stages set on top of the boats.
Lent an almost fantastical air by light sources similar to the Japanese andon, the stages are occupied by dancers veiled in red and white who are dancing serenely. Some of the ships also have musicians on board. Though calm, the tone color of their music somehow feels melancholic.
(T/N: Andon: fixed paper-enclosed lantern / paper-covered wooden stand housing a(n oil) lamp ~Akebi dictionary)
Because we are looking down at the boats from the bank of the canal, when all the dancers turn in unison, their dazzling costumes look like vividly brilliant fireworks all going off at the same time, leaving a deep impression within me.
“…… It really is beautiful, but isn’t it a bit subdued for a centerpiece of a festival?”
Claura sadly answers my thoughtless comment.
“Today’s programme is a requiem. For those sacrificed to the Shadow Demons……”
“…… I see.”
This is a thought that had also risen up when I was fully appreciating the splendor of Sedia’s nature while travelling on the Road of Law — this really isn’t a game world, but one with real people living inside.
“What are you doing?”
I naturally brought my palms together. This gesture might be incomprehensible for those in this world, but I don’t think it wrong to pay respects to those who have gone before us.
After crossing several stone bridges, we are back in a street close to the city gates.
It is a street with rows of merchant houses hanging out elaborately ornamented signboards. This is apparently Commerce Avenue.
“Irudo’s…… I mean, Mora’s house is that one over there. After coming this far, you won’t get lost anymore, right?”
Fumu. Does that mean that Claura intends to turn back here? Well, this city is her home, so there’s no particular reason to have her stay, I guess.
“Thank you, Claura.”
“What for? All I did was just show you the way.”
“No, it’s just that I’d forgotten to thank you properly for everything up to now. Really, thank you very much.”
“…… I, I was just fulfilling my duty, that’s all.”
“Even if so, I am thankful. You are my benefactor.”
“Benefactor of a ‘Great Wizard’? So, I can look forward to quite a few benefits in the future?”
So says Claura sarcastically while shrugging her shoulders.
“Uu, that’s a bit, um……”
I’ve begun to grow a bit more used to the mask of a Great Wizard, but I still find it very heavy.
“I’m just joking. I know full well that you are a kind person.”
If I had heard those words from a young woman while in the vicinity of the red district in modern Japan, my mind would automatically translate them into “I have no interest in you whatsoever.” I wonder whether, in this world, if I can consider them a compliment or not.
“However…… this is a world where Shadow Demons can appear at any moment and kill anybody and their family. If there really is a true hero who can change that reality, I……”
“I don’t know what choice you will pick, but I’m sure that it will be a good choice. But well…… whether or not I will be able to support it is a different matter altogether. Either way, fare you well.”
While I’m standing stunned, she gets up and walks off jauntily.
“Truly, your presence is such a huge honor!”
“Gio-san, please eat a lot more!”
After safely reaching Irudo’s house—mansion, more like—I was greeted with a grand welcome.
Irudo, Mora, and many of the servants continued lavishing thanks on me.
A huge feast was lined up on a splendid table, and after hearing that Mora had also gone into the kitchen and pitched in with the cooking, I felt like I would get punished if I didn’t eat it.
First order of business, I asked Irudo whether his cargo, which was stored in the storeroom at Jiiteias Castle last I heard, had been properly delivered by the Carbanera knights, and he confirmed that it had been done without any problems. Mora did get a bit huffy though, saying “But I was supposed to go retrieve it!”.
Next, Irudo offered to exchange the IOU that he’d given me for the remaining 3,000 gold coins that he was supposed to pay me—in Sedam and his party’s stead—for rescuing Mora from the bandits that had abducted her. I was thinking that I should just obediently accept the money, but then a brilliant idea occurred to me.
“In exchange for that 3,000, I want to entrust you with a job.”
“A job worth 3,000 gold coins? What is it you would have me do, what manner of job is it?”
“The Order has given me ownership over that fort. But well, it’s quite inconvenient if I’m the only person there. I want you to find me trustworthy servants, as well as someone who can oversee them.”
Irudo slapped his knee and responded immediately.
“I see. Duly acknowledged. Am I correct in assuming that their deposits and preparatory costs are all to be covered with this 3,000?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Do you have any particular preferences?”
“Let me see…… well, generally speaking, if it is someone that you can trust, then I won’t have any complaints. But there is a one in a million chance that they might get caught up in my circumstances, so I would be grateful if they can protect at least themselves and are able to move quickly.”
“Understood. I shall find you the finest personnel there is.”
“Dat’sh why I ‘old ‘em, Wishard-shama!”
One hour later, the earnest, intelligent merchant and father has already left us.
Right now, the person who is leaning on me and exhaling alcoholic fumes into my face is a completely different person who just happens to also have the name Irudo.
“Being frugal on the Senjoumai is—Idiots!—but den dat bashtard Dishlict Chief ……”
Apparently, the boats and dancers and musicians for Senjoumai are procured as a joint effort by all districts of the city. Irudo wanted to gather more donations for the cooperative, but was stopped by the person in charge of this district. Which I am hearing for the 10th time now.
After hearing the heavy story of how he had personally raised Mora by himself after the death of his wife to Shadow Demons ten years ago, I accidentally poured him too much to drink, so I suppose this state of affairs is partly my responsibility.
“I-, I’m so sorry, Gio-san. Father is weak to alcohol…… He usually isn’t like this though……”
Mora, who had been really high-strung during the banquet, has calmed down and is the one now looking mortified.
“Oh, don’t mind it. All men have moments when they want to get drunk and just grumble over their cup.”
“Is that how it is?”
“You over dere! No flirting in front of the farder! Mora ish only fourteen yearsh old y’knaw~”
“Hah. Hah. Hah. Irudo, it seems that you haven’t had enough yet!”
“Ohh, donchu know it! Ash eshpected of Wishard-shama!”
Irudo begins drinking straight from the bottle. In these situations, getting the drunkard to drink himself to unconsciousness is the fastest way. Of course, I carefully pace him so that he doesn’t get acute alcohol poisoning.
True enough, Irudo blacks out several minutes later. The servants, who still look afraid that I’d call down a meteor at any moment, fearfully carry their master off to his bedroom.
I, too, have apparently had slightly too much to drink, what with so many worries tumbling around in my head.
“I’m really so very sorry, Gio-san. Father was so eager to meet and repay you, he got a bit carried away……”
So says Mora while pouring water for me.
“Ahh, thank you. And I keep saying this, but there’s really no need to be that thankful……”
“Why wouldn’t I be!”
Mora now sounds slightly angry.
“Saving me from the bandits, doing in such a huge number of Shadow Demons, destroying a nest…… you’ve done so many amazing things for us!!”
“Well, that’s…… true, but……”
In comparison to me, who had been merely living casually as a single guy in Japan, Irudo had been working his butt off as an entrepreneur all while raising a daughter all by himself. Isn’t he even more awesome?
“Because Gio-san was there, I, and everyone else, was saved!”
I suppose from an objective point of view, that’s true.
In the end, the power of wizardry is something that was only lent to me. It is the height of folly to think myself awesome or strong just because of it. However, on the other hand, not doing something that can be done with my power also cannot be called right.
“Is the reason why Gio-san is so stiff because you’re actually just a normal person?”
…… Now that I come to think of it, I had been 100% my bare self when the two of us first met. There’s no way this intelligent girl didn’t already figure it out.
“Um, that’s, I don’t really understand all the complicated stuff. All I know is that even if Gio-san is a normal person, you’re amazing, and amazing, but also really kind. And I’m sure you’ll help a lot more people from now on!”
With her cheeks dyed crimson after that declaration, Mora bows with great force, then turns to leave.
“To tell me to change my life at this age……”
I take a sip of the water that Mora had poured me. Someone must have also squeezed some fruit juice into the jug, as it has a refreshingly sour tang.
Protecting the world, huh. Saving children that I’ve never even personally met, huh.
Such a heavy burden for a salaryman who had already fallen off his career track and had no more hope of promotion.
“If I’m really to do this, then I’m going to have to form an organization actually capable of subjugating Shadow Demons. And if possible, I would also need to identify the reason behind the outbreaks, and sever it at the source.”
Both are things that the people of this world spent centuries trying to accomplish, all to no avail.
But what would happen if a salaryman with the power of a Great Wizard joins hands with them?
“Let’s take up the challenge, why don’t we.”
Guess laid-back retirement life has now officially been relegated to the back burner.
It’s time to start taking this Great Wizard thing seriously.