“Huff… Huff… Huff…”
“Haa… Haa… Haa…”
It was curious for how long they continued that childish fight, but before they knew it, they were on the ground in front of Takeshi’s mom’s grave, breathing heavily.
They naturally found themselves looking up at the sky, and it was just as cloudy as the expression they wore.
“…So, who actually are you pining for? Or do you still have someone else?”
After fixing his breathing, Takeshi asked that question calmly.
This time there weren’t any hints of teasing or jealousy in his voice.
He just honestly wanted to know what this childhood friend of his thought.
There was even a warm tone behind that question that suggested he was willing to help.
But Shinichi just shook his head after seemingly thinking about it.
“It’s frustrating, but I can’t choose. If it’s someone that’s going to be following me around, then I can’t choose just on feelings alone.”
“Oho? So you like this person that much?”
The first half conveyed sadness, while the latter half conveyed happiness.
But of course, the true meaning of those words only made sense to the people in question.
But of course, they were referring to completely different things.
“Ha ha, how about making a harem in this world for real?”
When Takeshi continued to pester him about his harem, Shinichi’s temples shook, and he said.
“If you’re going to drag that subject, then I’m going to make a fake picture of you and your servant as a couple and distribute it to some fujoshis.”
“!?!? A-Anything but that!! I-i’m serious, okay! Don’t do it! It’s true I hate people, but I still like women, you know! My relationship with Ein is already under suspicion as is!”
The result of Takeshi’s incessant poking was a terrifying threat. He knew Shinichi quite well since they’ve been best friends since young, so he knew that this boy was definitely the sort to do it.
However, what really caught Shinichi’s attention was the name that slipped out of Takeshi’s mouth.
“Hmm… Ein, huh. That’s one in German, right? Heh, number one (ichi), huh.”
“W-What is it, Shinichi? What are you smiling like that for? You know you’re really scary when you smile, right?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just… I wanted to thank you.”
“Huh? For what?”
“You went into Garesto’s nature reserve to look for me, right?”
For a moment, Takeshi had gone speechless. But that in itself was an answer.
Then as if not willing to allow him to acknowledge or deny that guess, Shinichi continued.
“If not for that, there’s no way you would have happened into an amaryllis. I don’t know how many times you went, but at one point, you must have met Ein, and he took a liking to you, right? Then he asked you for a name and you thought of me. Am I wrong?”
It would have been weird to just call him Shinichi, so he took only the ichi, which meant one, and used the German word for it, Ein.
“…Yeah, that’s right! There was no way someone like you would’ve died just because you drifted off into another world! If they couldn’t find you, then you must’ve been at the Reserve! I was convinced that it was impossible for you to die, so I entered the reserve over and over to look for you!”
But he couldn’t find him. Even with that brain of his that was hailed as a genius, there was no finding Shinichi.
He used every method he could think of, but all attempts turned null. He failed to turn up even the slightest trace.
It was when he had abandoned all hope and was going to search one last time just for the sake of it that he met Ein.
That’s why he used Shinichi as his namesake, because it was thanks to him that they were able to meet.
“Laugh if you want!”
Takeshi was breathing through his nose by this point, and unable to handle the embarrassment any further, he turned his face the other way, beet red.
But it was impossible for his childhood friend to laugh at him for that.
“As if I could. I mean I straight-up named her Youko.”
“I haven’t been able to say their names for awhile, so it just kind of slipped out of me.”
Shinichi found himself glancing at Youko without getting up, and she just nodded at him quietly.
Takeshi couldn’t find it in himself to laugh at him either, and he just shook his head.
“So that makes two of us who did something creepy, huh…’
Out of loneliness, they’d each given their best friend’ and their younger sister’s name to a completely unrelated person.
From that came embarrassment, shame, and disgust for themselves, and the two boys collectively sighed.
It was curious who first suggested it, but regardless, they agreed to drop the subject.
Takeshi didn’t want to talk about all the reckless stuff he pulled just to look for Shinichi, while Shinichi understood that, and at the same time, realized that he would lose out ‘as is’.
So really, on his part, it was a strategic retreat, though Takeshi actually noticed that.
That’s why the conversation naturally turned that direction.
“────So, in the end, where were you? You weren’t at Garesto at all yet you still happened to meet an Amaryllis? How does any of that make sense?”
At that, Shinichi went quiet. He didn’t know if he should say it or lie, but after gazing at the cloudy sky up above, he found his answer. There was no point in hiding it.
To be more precise, Takeshi probably understood already.
“A world of sword and magic.”
“Ah… That one, huh…”
It was curious what else Takeshi had considered, but regardless, he accepted Shinichi’s explanation without question.
Were it someone else, even if it was this kind of modern world where another world like Garesto had become commonplace, they might have still dismissed Shinichi’s answer as mere nonsense. However, for Takeshi, there was no need for that. Be it emotionally or logically, there was no need for it.
“So you followed the stereotypical plot, huh. I guess you became one of those magic warriors from those fantasy stories then? That’s pretty darn cool.”
For some reason, Takeshi was smiling proudly for his friend, but Shinichi just shook his head.
Takeshi’s eyes opened wide, and he looked at Shinichi with shock.
All sorts of unsettling possibilities flashed through Takeshi’s minds when Shinichi said that.
The way he saw it, Shinichi had performed countless feats that defied explanation. Feats so absurd that magic should have been the only explanation for them, yet the person himself was saying that he couldn’t use magic.
If so, then whatever this device that Shinichi referred to couldn’t possibly have been anything decent.
After all, bridging the gap between what one’s inherent traits, talents, and training allowed and performing extraordinary feats was no simple matter. If it were true that such a device existed and allowed Shinichi to perform world-altering actions, it could only imply that highly unethical and inhumane procedures had taken place.