Chapter 71. Fairy Garden (4)
[You will be moved.]
The same phenomenon as when I arrived at the Residential Area happened. When I closed my eyes and opened them, there was a two-story house in front of me. It was an ordinary house with a red brick roof. On it, there was a sign that read Second-grade House. When I looked around, I saw lines of houses that looked exactly the same as this one. When I tried to walk towards one of them, I found myself in the same place I started out. It seemed I couldn't go to the other houses.
I opened the front door and walked in. The house, which was built using bricks, was exceedingly ordinary, and its inside was incredibly clean. In truth, it wasn't a place where a girl could live by herself.
Palludia wasn't wearing her usual priestess uniform, but a light blue dress. It perfectly suited her slender arms and legs. For a moment, I was stunned by her beauty. Plus... Hm? Something felt different about her face. What was it? Ah, I could smell perfume!
"Uh, yeah, thanks for having me."
Though, I didn't really know why she called me.
"Do you want something to drink? R-Right! Tea."
On top of her clothes and perfume, she was noticeably acting strange. Her clumsy movements were... cute, but that wasn't important.
"Can I sit?"
"Yeah! On the table!"
She probably meant on the chair by the table. With that, I went and sat down on the chair by the teahouse table. Then, I watched Palludia prepare tea. Even though she was in her own house, she made very awkward movements, like her arms and legs moving in the same direction, or spilling water because her hands were shaking uncontrollably.
From then, it took 20 minutes for Palludia to calm down and finish brewing her tea. It took another 10 minutes for her to sit down at the table and drink tea while facing me. Drinking the lukewarm red tea, I asked Palludia.
"So, what's the reason you invited me over?"
"... A-Amazing, right? I already have a Second-grade House!"
"Ah, that actually is amazing."
'This girl, she changed the subject!'
"Of course, it wasn't by my strength alone. Many people supported me with their gold. You might not know, but I'm equivalent to the representative of my continent. A mere Second-grade House, it's nothing against this Palludia Gren Ehuir-nim!"
"Ah, yeah. Congratulations, Palludia."
For her mental health, I decided not to tell her about my Special Mansion.
"Call me Ludia! T-That's what everyone calls me."
"Is it...? Okay, Ludia."
Shuna did call her Ludia. I thought it was a nickname between close friends. When did Palludia start considering me her friend? Because I didn't think we'd had a chance to become such close friends, I was quite bewildered.
However, the real bewilderment had yet to happen.
"S-So you see... the... the reason I called you."
Palludia, no, Ludia's face was incredibly red. After taking a sip of red tea, she barely managed to continue her words.
"There's... something I need to explain to you..."
"M-My family. I-It's a r-royal family."
I would never forget her words that followed for the rest of my life.
"We... We're born with eyes that can discern our fated partners. I, I mean, if I marry this person and have children, the royal family would be destined to prosper."
A chill suddenly ran down my back.
"Apparently it's because of my bloodline... my ancestor's blood has a Divine race's blood mixed in... or so they say."
"W-When we first met."
For some reason, I didn't want to hear what she had to say.
"Remember when I was... mean... to you?"
I hoped it wasn't true.
"I knew it the moment I saw you."
... Really? A girl this pretty, with me? Although I wanted to tell her not to joke around and laugh it off, Ludia's expression was too serious.
"In truth, I didn't like it. Why did I have to marry a man I didn't even know, who even came from another world? That's why I was so mean to you... I didn't even think you were an orc! I thought you had an admirable body of a martial artist. I didn't hate you."
As she spoke, her voice was getting calmer. She was getting more and more collected.
"I hated my eyes. I hated my royal bloodline. I hated that I had to marry someone that was chosen without my knowledge. I hated that I was connected to someone that couldn't even live with me in my world! That's why I stayed silent. But I didn't hate you! You saved me twice! You helped me, even when I wasn't kind to you. In fact, I treated you harshly! When I said I didn't like you as a person, that was a lie!"
"I, I see. Is that why you added me to your friend list?"
"... Yeah. I didn't think about marriage, but I didn't want the connection between us to be severed. Maybe, back then, I was already... N-No. I'll continue."
She caught her breath, then asked with a quiet voice.
"... Shina Gren Ehuir. Do you know her?"
"I know Shina. Ah, Shina Gren Ehuir. I see, she's your younger sister."
"Yeah, she's the second royal princess. Even as a princess, she bravely fights on the frontlines as a knight."
"But it's the same for you."
"M-Me!? I'm a priestess! So it's not as dangerous."
I can't, this girl. I had to do something. Although she looked calm, she wasn't calm at all. She got startled whenever I said something, and the tone of her voice randomly changed as she spoke. It was clear she was incredibly nervous. I understood. I was incredibly nervous too!
"She... She said she'd marry you, so I got scared."
This was the first time I heard about it. Today, there were many things I was hearing for the first time.
"She also said her fated partner was you! She kept bragging about how close she was with you, almost as if to taunt me!"
My eyebrows trembled. Scary! Even though we exchanged greetings from time to time, I never even imagined Shina was thinking like that!
"Even if I die, I won't let Shina have... I mean! I thought I should meet you because of this problem. I didn't have any ulterior motives! I just thought it was weird that both sisters picked the same person as their fated partner. I just wanted to confirm, but Mom found out and..."
"S-She found out you were another world's Hero..."
Her face reddened as she drooped her head and waved her hand in the air. Although she looked extremely adorable, I understood what she meant in an instant.
"Ludia, t-this house...?"
"... Yeah. Mom and Dad arranged it."
The Emperor and Empress did!
...As a wedding gift!
"T-Thanks for the tea."
When I tried to get up from my seat, Ludia hastily grabbed my arm.
"I, I'm just saying! Don't jump to conclusions. What, were you worried that I was going to propose to you? You're not that narcissistic, are you?"
"I understand, so calm down, Palludia."
"I said call me Ludia!"
"Okay, Ludia. Breathe in. Breathe out."
She obediently followed my words and inhaled in and out. Even as she was being feisty, doing what I told her made her look extremely lova... Huk! I needed to calm down too!
After recomposing herself, she glared at me with teary eyes and spoke.
"I calmed down. S-So! I'm just letting you know. Got it?"
"Yeah, I got it. Well, here's my thought. Marriage should be done between two people that love each other, right? Being able to tell one's fated partner, there's no guarantee it's 100 percent right. So you don't have to worry, Ludia."
"... Stupid. You're so dense."
I wondered why. She seemed calmer, but she also looked angrier. Unable to figure out why, I panicked. Ah, I was also feeling fluttery. In truth, Ludia was the most beautiful of all the girls I'd met. Although I was doing my best to lower my evaluation of her looks by thinking about her younger self, I couldn't deny that she was beautiful.
But to think her fated partner was me. My heart had no other choice but to pound! Of course, Ludia didn't like me at all and was angry about that. Even so, I couldn't help myself from thinking 'what if?'
But this wasn't right.
Something like fate, there was no need to consider it. Anyone that would try to do something with Ludia because of it would be the lowest scum. Ludia trusted me and told me about it honestly. Even if I couldn't act dignified, I had to at least lessen her burden.
"I'd like you to meet the person you like and be happy with him. You don't have to worry about something like a fated partner."
"... How about you? You don't care at all? Not even a little?"
Ludia, who was listening to me, returned with a question. Her eyes were teary like she was about to burst into tears. I felt like I couldn't lie in front of such eyes and said with a bitter smile.
"Sorry. I shouldn't mind, but I actually do. A lot. You're incredibly beautiful, and even if you don't act like it, I know you're kind. If a girl like that tells me that I'm her fated partner... of course my heart would race. Sorry, I know I shouldn't, but..."
"Like I said, it's nothing!"
Ludia hastily flapped her hands, but for some reason, her mood seemed to have become much brighter. With a face that was barely holding in a smile, she seemed to be pulling back the corners of her mouth. I didn't know why, but I felt it was a good thing.
"So, mm. Don't listen to Shina no matter what she says, okay? Engrave it in your mind!"
It seemed that was all she planned to say for today. While sipping on the red tea that went cold, I answered.
"Even if Shina says you have to marry her because you're her fated partner, don't listen to her! That girl only likes you because you're strong, so don't think she really likes you. Got it, Kang Shin!?"
"Yeah, I got it."
When I answered her with an exhausted voice, she doodled on the table using the tea water, and continued with a quiet murmuring voice.
"Contact me more often... I'll forget your voice."
"You can come by again whenever, too. I'm usually bored."
"You can go now. I'm going to rest."
"Alright, it was fun today."
After saying goodbye to Ludia, I left her house. Although I heard Ludia letting out a weird sound and falling, I decided to ignore it. After all, she must have had a lot in her mind before telling me.
I was happy that several questions I had regarding Ludia were solved. Thinking that I could continue being good friends with her, the corners of my mouth went up.
'Alright, now let's go look at my own house!'
When I touched the key in my inventory, a message rang out in my ear.
[Would you like to move to Marianne's Garden?]
When I closed my eyes and opened them, I was in front of a huge mansion.
"It's too big..."
The garden spread out past the front gate was filled with colorful flowers, and further back were several trees forming a beautiful scenery. I stepped past the iron gate opening slowly in response to my key, and leisurely walked through the stone path while looking around the mansion's land.
It really was incredibly large. Plus, there were so many fruit trees that I could smell their sweet, subtle fragrance. When I plucked one off and took a bite, an overwhelming sweetness and coolness danced in my mouth. A bit away from the stone path, amongst the trees, I saw what seemed like a spring, but I ignored it for now.
"The mansion... Ah, I see it now."
The mansion was also enormous. It had a blue roof and was made of ivory-colored bricks. Without exaggeration, it was as big as a few Giant Iron Boars. Its sheer size almost felt exhausting. Right in front of the mansion was a fountain, and a wide, open space around it.
Right! I could leave the Giant Iron Boar here! In the future when I needed to dismantle the Giant Iron Boar, I could do it by the fountain. Not to mention, the water would be close by for me to drink!
After looking around the fountain and the open area, I turned my attention to the inside of the mansion. I climbed the stairs, and another door appeared, which reacted to the key I had and opened.
[You entered Marianne's Garden.]
[The Mana Stone required for authorization has been confirmed. Would you like to be authorized as the mansion's owner?]
While I was overwhelmed by the sight of the wide hall that appeared past the door, the messages rang out. I couldn't help but be confused. Mana Stone? When did I get a Mana Stone?
But since it said it would authorize me, there was no reason for me to decline. When I accepted the message's offer, my inventory suddenly opened in mid-air.
When did I open my inventory? While I was confused, something was falling out of my inventory.
It was the Giant Iron Boar's nose.