Aristel went to the castle just as she was told.
Myuhi only had an inkling that Shinichi would be here, so Aristel didn’t actually know how to find him, but as it turns out, a turn of her head was more than enough, for he was there, just some ways away from the crowded front of the castle.
“…Pu, fu fu fu.”
When she saw him, laughter naturally found its way out of her lips.
That was not because she found the person she adored, no, and neither was it because he was doing something funny or dressed in a funny outfit.
He was just helping others, that’s all. Sometimes people would ask him to take a picture, sometimes they would ask him for directions, and at other times, children would grab his clothes.
A chain of events that just happened to occur when she found him.
Once, a mother was relieved to find her lost child, but in that moment, the child let go of the balloon.
So he immediately caught it and handed it to the child, and Aristel smiled at that.
She hadn’t been watching him for long, but for some reason, she felt as though he’s been doing this this whole time.
After all, another person asked him to take their picture.
Apparently, due to his homely, good-natured face, people found him easy to talk to when he was by himself.
But he didn’t turn them away and instead responded to them sincerely, and that painted a smile on Aristel’s face.
Who would possibly believe that this was that same boy infamous in the academy for ignoring people and acting however he pleased?
As the person himself claimed, he might not be able to keep this act for long, but he certainly could fake it for a time, and what a convincing act it was.
However, Aristel did not believe that that gentleness of his was merely an act; especially, when he looked at children.
Even just the way he engendered an atmosphere that made it easy for others to rely on him could be considered one of his good points.
Especially, since he didn’t discriminate between Earthlings and Garestonians.
Surely the face he was making now would be hard to come by back in the academy.
There, he always carried himself with wariness and tension, but right now, that wasn’t the case, or at least, not as much.
That’s why Aristel was sure that that expression was close to his true nature, and that made her eyes sparkle.
Meanwhile, just as she suspected, Shinichi continued to help the people for awhile, but before long, he got tired and sat at a nearby bench. It was then that a small boy tripped in front of him.
He rushed over to the boy, but he didn’t help him and just spoke to him.
When a couple that seemed to be the boy’s parents noticed and approached, he raised a hand to stop them, then he spoke to the boy again, and this time, the boy stood up on his own despite looking like he was about to cry.
At that, he smiled and patted the boy while praising him, then healed the wound on his knee with his other hand.
Attack skills outside of Kutoria were forbidden, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for other skills.
The family was surprised by his actions, but they bowed their heads to thank him nonetheless, then bid him goodbye as they waved their hands.
“Oh, Shinichi-san~ just how deeply must you hold me captive!”
Aristel loved the way he treated people, so much so that she couldn’t help but say that in an enchanted and fall in love all over again.
Though she’d completely missed the timing to call out to him, she writhed all alone somewhere away from view.
He didn’t help the child up easily, but instead waited for him to get up on his own.
When he spoke to the child, he was probably asking him what he wanted to do.
And when the little boy chose to stand up, he praised him with a proud look.
Aristel too had similar experiences, some of the few memories she had of her late parents, in fact.
They would watch over her until she could find success, and when she did, they would praise her.
The happiness she felt from those remain in her heart to this day, and they have even become a motivation for her to keep challenging herself.
“I’m sure he’d treat his own children just like that. Preferably with me, of course… Perhaps, three would be fine? Oh, no, we can have as many as he wants. Yes, I’m sure they’ll all be adorable, and… Oh, goodness, I’m going to spoil them, won’t I? …Ehehe…”
For a moment, yes, for just a moment, the scenery of her marrying the man she loved and raising their children together flashed through her mind.
But such kittenish behavior was all too conspicuous for someone trying to hide, though given her hardships, perhaps a moment of delusion could be forgiven.
But of course, that would only be the case for those that knew her circumstances; hence, most of the people that saw her had just one thing in mind that they carried out with all of their strength: ‘Must not look.’
Yet despite all that, Aristel’s gaze never once left Shinichi. Truly, what frightening concentration she possessed.
Though perhaps it was simply because it was him that she couldn’t see anything else, but regardless, it was thanks to that that she was the only one to pick up on the abrupt change of his mood.
Color left his smiling face and his aura grew faint, such that Aristel felt as though she would lose sight of him if she didn’t focus.
In fact, the people around already couldn’t see him. As though everything that had happened until now was just a lie, no one called out to him anymore.
And then quietly, he turned heel and headed for the castle.
As Aristel sensed an unusual presence, she carefully followed him from behind.
“Oh, man, I’m seriously beat…”
At a corner of one of the cafes of Nyazdaland was Ryou sincerely voicing out his exhaustion.
He slumped down onto the back of his chair and moistened his throat with a cola.
Yousuke sat opposite him and shared his sentiments with a nod; the two of them looked outside of the store.
Beyond the glass wall could be seen two girls enthusiastically shopping at another store.
“She kept droning on and on about my Stamina rank, but in the end, the two of them are the liveliest.”
They had such an intense run, and yet they still had the energy to spare for that. Ryou couldn’t help but be doubtful of their Stamina rank.
“ha ha, just like how deserts go into a different stomach for them, it seems they have another stamina bar just for shopping. Well, that’s just how girls are. You gotta accept it now, or you’ll have a hard time in the future, you know.”
“…Sounds like you’re used to your older sister. Honestly, I’m impressed.”
“Ha ha, I didn’t think I’d ever hear that from you, Shinguuji. But she is still a girl, so there are a lot to her that’s just like the other girls.”
She loved sweets and adorable things. As for fashion, she was just normal, but the way she held stuffed toys with sparkling eyes was without a doubt that of a girl.
“…Is the part about her asking the losers to pay for everything because she won ‘girl-like’ too?”
In the end, Youko’s team won the race by a narrow margin, and the prize she asked upon winning was that.
Ryou argued that they didn’t make such a promise, but he was in the minority.
“Huh, isn’t that how girls are?”
“…Don’t ask me.”
The other guy, Yousuke, didn’t mind such a request, making it 3 to 1 in favor of Youko’s request. As for knowing about girls, Ryou naturally didn’t know much.
The only girls he knew were his own mother, his childhood friend, and her mother. Other than those three, he didn’t have any deep relationships with women, so he couldn’t really refute Yousuke’s claims.
Although there were indeed people that approached him when he entered the school through his High Status, his high school debut unfortunately ended in failure.
In the end, the only friends he made were the twins and his childhood friend.
And even then, it wasn’t until recently that they could talk so familiarly like this.
“You’re so lonely.”
“I’m not lonely!”
He snapped back by reflex, but that just made it sound as if it was something he really minded.
As a seemingly familiar smile surfaced on Yousuke, Ryou sighed.
“Why am I always surrounded by tomboys?”
It was curious if he was trying to change the topic or merely complaining about the reason they ended up talking about this in the first place, but regardless, Ryou grumbled as he watched the two girls that still weren’t done shopping.
“Come to think of it, weren’t you going for Padyuel-senpai? You were making quite a lot of advances on her,” Yousuke said.