TWEM Vol. 5 Chapter 16 Part 1
Chapter 16 – A Date with the Saintess
The next morning, after finishing breakfast at the inn where I had originally been staying at, I prepared myself and headed to the cathedral, and waited in front of Ilmina’s room. Finne and the others were helping Ilmina get ready. I had been waiting for quite some time and wondered if I should have stayed in my own room, but it seemed like that wasn’t the case. After a while, the door to the room opened, and Finne and the others emerged with beaming smiles. Ilmina, however, was hiding behind them.
“Don’t be too surprised, Ilmina looks incredibly cute!” Suzuno boasted.
“With my touch, this is what you get!” Iris said, puffing out her chest with pride.
“She really does look lovely,” Finne agreed, nodding.
“Even as a woman, I can’t help but admire her beauty…” Ephyr said, blushing slightly, with Asha nodding in agreement.
“Come on, Ilmina, don’t be shy. Step forward.” Iris urged her.
“I-I’m so embarrassed…”
Ilmina poked out her head hesitantly, glancing at me before quickly averting her gaze. Even that was cute enough, but…
“Come on, get out here!”
“Ah, wait, I’m not ready yet! Finne and the others, don’t pull me out!”
Ilmina’s arms were grabbed by Iris and the others, and she was dragged out in front of me. To be honest, she was incredibly adorable. Instead of her usual saintess-like attire, she was wearing a simple white dress. Her skin wasn’t exposed as much as usual, but that only added to her pure and innocent appearance. She looked simply lovely. Clearly very embarrassed, Ilmina’s cheeks flushed as she tried to hide again, but Iris and the others wouldn’t let her.
“Don’t be shy, show yourself properly!”
“But I don’t usually wear something like this…”
“What’s there to be embarrassed about, Ilmina?”
“I think I’ll change back into my usual clothes!”
“No, Ilmina, you look adorable. Be confident!”
With Suzuno, Iris, and Finne all telling her such things, Ilmina had nowhere left to run. She tearfully turned to me.
“Um, Haruto, does it… not look strange?”
Ilmina’s face was flushed, and she had an uneasy expression. I clearly expressed what I thought,”You look great. And since everyone says you look great, you can be more confident.”
Just as Ilmina started to look down, Iris gave her a small shove.
Ilmina stumbled and ended up in my embrace. Her chest pressed against mine, the soft sensation transmitting through.
She quickly moved away from me, but her face remained flushed. I told her not to worry, but she kept mumbling, “I can’t believe I jumped into Haruto’s chest…” I doubt she even heard me. I glanced at Iris, who was making a smug face, her thumb up as if to say, “Aren’t I clever?”
Wasn’t that more counterproductive?
Regardless, Iris and Finne pushed us along.
“Anyway, get going. You won’t see each other for a while.”
“Yes, Haruto, please take good care of Ilmina.”
With that said, I replied, “I leave the house-sitting to you,” and turned back to Ilmina.
“Ilmina, shall we go…? Ilmina…?”
It took a second call to snap her out of her daze, as she hurriedly responded.
We walked out of the cathedral and strolled for a while, but Ilmina seemed fidgety and restless.
“Is something wrong? You seem uneasy…”
“Don’t worry about it!”
“Why don’t you try to relax?”
“I’m trying to, but I don’t know what to talk about…”
I see. That’s the issue. I should bring up a topic myself, but we’ve already talked about various things yesterday, and I couldn’t think of a specific topic.
“Even if you don’t have a topic, you can talk about recent events. Don’t force yourself to talk; conversations will happen naturally.”
“Is that so?”
“That’s how it is.”
As I brushed off the fact that I also couldn’t think of a topic, Ilmina seemed to accept my words. However, she soon got lost in thought again, so I suddenly mentioned something that came to mind.
“Ah, I didn’t have a chance to apologize to Iris and Finne for this sudden development.”
“Oh, please don’t worry about it. Iris has always been like this, so I’m actually glad she hasn’t changed.”
Ilmina smiled wryly. Huh, so that was Iris in the past.
“What was Iris like back then?”
“In the past?”
“Yeah, I only know the current Iris. I’d like you to tell me something I don’t know.”
As we walked through the capital city, Ilmina shared amusing stories about Iris’ past. I’m glad her tension seems to have eased. Then, in the middle of our conversation, Ilmina mentioned something unbelievable.
“That time when I tried Iris’s homemade cooking…”
I had heard stories of Iris’s cooking being the cause of a terrible experience for her father, Dillan. I couldn’t believe Ilmina was also a victim…
“S-So, how was it?” I cautiously asked, and Ilmina answered with a pale face.
“It was dreadful… even my father and Gawain fell victim to it…”
“Ah… my condolences.”
Sympathizing with me, Ilmina asked how it was for me.
“Haruto, have you ever tried her cooking?”
“Well, I did have her make pancakes for me when I was with Asha… the appearance aside, they were actually delicious.”
“Wait, they were delicious!?”
Ilmina looked surprised. It was understandable, for those who have tasted Iris’s cooking, that would be the natural reaction.
“Haha, I guess so. I’ll tell Iris that ‘Ilmina is dying to taste her cooking.'”
“Please don’t do that!” Ilmina panicked.
“You’ll be fine if you’re prepared for it. Of course, we’ll have someone supervising her… probably.”
“Don’t make me even more worried!”
After a little while, Ilmina and I burst into laughter. The initial stiffness had disappeared.
“How about now? Feeling more relaxed?”
“Did you do that on purpose?”
Ilmina stared intently at my face, then broke into a smile and said, “Let’s just say that’s the case.”
As we walked for a while, a delicious smell wafted our way from somewhere.
“It’s coming from over there.”
When I checked the direction Ilmina indicated, there was a street stall grilling skewers of some kind of meat. I thought that there weren’t many stalls when we walked past earlier, but it seems some places did have them. The stall owner noticed us looking and called out to us.
“Hey, you two! How about a skewer?”
“What kind of meat is this?”
“It’s Whitebird meat.”
Whitebird? I remember… Oh, that’s the meat I had before! I had it at the city of Waxe, the first place we arrived at after being kicked out of Glicente. It was pretty tasty.
“You are… could it be the Saintess and the Hero who saved our country?”
“It’s true, Ilmina is the Saintess, and I am the so-called Hero. But let me correct you: I’m not really a hero, just an adventurer.”
“Is that so? Well, never mind. I’ll give you two extra skewers… and I’ll return your payment.”
As he said that, he handed me new skewers and the money, but I shook my head.
“No, keep the money. I bought them because I wanted to eat them.”
Realizing that I wouldn’t take the money back, the stall owner backed off.
“…If that’s the case, I understand. But these two skewers are my way of expressing gratitude. You’ll accept them, right?”
I nodded at the stall owner’s words and gratefully accepted. I found a nearby bench to sit on and handed Ilmina a skewer.
“Here. This Whitebird meat is really delicious. Especially when it’s grilled like this.”
“Is that so?”
As I nodded, I asked Ilmina, “Don’t you usually eat things like this?”
“No, I usually eat more vegetables… and I haven’t had many chances to eat street food like this.”
“Then today, we have to eat a lot of things you’ve never tried before.”
With a smile, Ilmina accepted the skewer and took a bite after watching me eat.
Apparently being more tastier than she expected, Ilmina’s eyes sparkled as she continued to eat. The two of us finished our skewers quickly, and I returned the metal skewers to the stall owner. The taste was just like what I had in Waxe.
“It was delicious, thank you. By the way, is there anyone in the city of Waxe in Glicente who makes the same grilled skewers?”
“Do you know my master?”
It seemed they had a teacher-student relationship.
“Yeah, I ate at his place before. The taste reminded me of that, so I got curious.”
“I’m still far from reaching my master’s level, but it’s good to know that I’m starting to capture his flavor.”
“Yeah. Your skewers are just as good, if not better.”
“Knowing that you think so makes me feel like my hard work is paying off. Come and eat here again. I’ll give you a special service.”
“Sure, I’ll stop by again.”
I replied to the stall owner and left the place. I met up with Ilmina, who was waiting on the bench, and we resumed walking through the city, buying and eating various foods from every stall we spotted.
“Haruto, I’ve never eaten this before.”
“Then let’s try it next.”
Before we knew it, we had conquered most of the food stalls.
“Phew, I feel like we ate a lot.”
“Yeah. Even though each dish wasn’t that big, it was surprisingly filling.”
Ilmina agreed as she sat on the chair and rubbed her stomach. As we chatted on the bench, I sensed a familiar presence. Four of them, in fact. I couldn’t help but let out a sigh.
“Haruto, what’s wrong?”
Ilmina tilted her head, looking at me curiously.
“No, it’s nothing,” I replied.
If I were to tell Ilmina about the people following us, she’d become embarrassed, and it would be back to square one. So, I kept quiet. However, it’s interesting that they decided to tail us even after sending us off to have fun. It’s time to shake them off.
“Shall we move on?”
“What should we do next?”
“We might find something interesting just by walking around, right?”
With Ilmina’s agreement, we resumed our walk. Of course, I always kept an eye on the presence behind us. Now, how should we lose them? Then I spotted the entrance to an alley. Checking the map, it seemed to connect to another street.
“Ilmina, shall we go this way?”
“Into the alley?”
Ilmina wore a questioning expression, but her face quickly turned red. What was she thinking?
“Could it be that in a deserted street, you want to do… something indecent…”
She totally misunderstood the situation.
“That’s not it at all! Why would you think that!?”
“Is that not it? I thought you wanted to do something improper, so I was mentally preparing myself!”
I couldn’t decide whether to tell her the truth or not while holding my head in my hands. In the end, I decided to deceive her.
“No, I just mentioned it because it connects to another main street. Sorry for making you misunderstand. We can take a different route if you prefer…”
“No, it’s my fault for not understanding your intentions, Haruto! I’m sorry!”
“I’m not bothered by it, but what do you want to do?”
“Let’s go through the alley if it’s a shortcut.”
Ilmina’s face was still slightly red as we went through the alley together. Despite being an alley, it wasn’t dirty, just a bit narrow. Once we emerged, we found ourselves on a completely different-looking main street, lined with neat shops selling clothes and accessories.
“Every time we change locations, the scenery changes too.”
“It really does.”
“Is there anything you want?”
“No, not particularly… Oh, I just remembered! Didn’t everyone have something around their necks?”
“Yeah, those are the accessories I bought and gave them on our first day here.”
“Is that so?”
I thought I saw a shadow fall over Ilmina’s expression.
“I was planning to buy something for you too, Ilmina. Want to go inside a shop?”
“Are you sure!?”
“Of course. Let’s go.”
Ilmina looked happy. Relieved, I took a breath and checked whether the familiar group of four were still following us. They were. Since they hadn’t left the alley yet, we quickly entered a shop.