Chapter 8: During the Journey: The Tale of Two Men Competing Over a Woman
It was the post-rain forest where flowers shone from the lights spilling from the trees. The beautiful girl mounted her broom and flew off in a straight path that stretched from there through the horizon.
A star-shaped brooch on her chest. One hand on her three-pointed hat to keep it from being blown away by the wind. A black robe wrapped around her body. No matter how you look at it, she's a Witch. Who is she?
That's right, it's me.
Leaving the country that was divided into the two cultures of west and east a few days ago, I aimed at the nearest country, and mounted on my broom. It was just an ordinary country with nothing strange in it, or so I had heard. The builds of its citizens were leaning towards muscle loving, but otherwise they were pretty normal. Just what part of that is normal I wonder.
Well, if it was that muscle head who I’d met once, he would gladly settle in that country──But as for me, I would only be staying there for a day before departing.
I thought of such things as I watched the scenery passing by.
In other words, I had nothing else to do for the moment. That's why even the faint gossip coming from the silent forest were clearly reaching my ears.
"Then, let's confirm the rules once more. We will do one lap on the forest road up ahead, and whoever returns first will become her lover. Are you with me so far?"
"Y-Yeah. No problem so far, yes."
"......There's nothing unfair."
"O-Of course. T-There's no way I would do something like that."
"......I wonder about that."
These were the voices of one cheerful and one emotional men. It appeared that they were having a competition. As I thought about it, this time came the voice of a girl.
"Eh? In other words, I have to wait here all alone? Eeeh, I don't wanna!"
Her sentimental voice was heard very clearly, so I got surprised.
Then as I shifted my consciousness from my mind to the outside, I was surprised yet again. Our eyes met. Mine and hers.
A girl with seemingly lovely looks and black hair, "Ah, lucky." She muttered so.
Since our eyes had met, passing by her just like that would be awkward, so I dropped my speed.
Regretfully, that was a clear miscalculation.
Because that black-haired girl who had rushed up to me, forcefully dragged me down from the broom.
"Kyaa! So cute! Ah, that brooch, it's something only Witches carry, right!? So amazing! That means Onee-san, you are a Witch."
"Amazing! You are this cute and a Witch, so amazing!"
"Are you perhaps planning to show some Magic? Wait, just now you were flying right! Amazing!"
"By the way, do you have some time now?"
"The two of you! I'll be waiting with this Onee-san here!"
Hey, listen to me for a bit.
In the end, while being called things like "Cute" and "Amazing", I was slowly dragged along and brought before the two men.
The two of them stared at me and spoke.
"Together with Witch-sama you say? In that case, you don't need to worry about getting attacked by a bear or something. Very good," the Man with good looks said in a refreshing voice.
"Y-Yes. It's a relief, whew," said the plump man with rough breath.
I whispered to the girl next to me.
"Wait, what kind of situation is this?"
"What do you mean?"
After making a wondering face, "I'm sorry, I haven't explained yet, huh. You see, those two are fighting over me." She explained.
No, that much I know. Because I heard it while flying.
What I wanted to ask wasn't something so trivial.
"Are these two fighting over you?"
I said in an extremely small voice so as they wouldn't hear it.
She replied as if wanting to say 'Isn't that natural?'.
While having complex, indescribable emotions in heart, I once again looked at the two guys.
The spirited man's white teeth shone as he smiled. So radiant.
And the plump man standing next to that tidy man wiped his sweat. Stinky. He was a dirty man.
Even though there was a hopeless gap between their appearances, is she making these two fight over her? What is this idiocy? I don't really get that train of thought.
But, maybe the plump man is hiding some sort of special ability? Or perhaps, the eloquent man's character is extremely bad?
Unfortunately, my interest grew a little.
"I see, I understand. Then, I will take on the task of protecting her."
In the end, I went along with the flow.
"Okay, ready, go!"
On my clap, the two of them broke out into a run at the same time.
"Uoooooooh! Her heart is mine!" The tidy man started running with passion.
"U-ugh...... Haah, Haah." The dirty man grew tired the moment he started to run.
Eh? Isn't this strange. I had expected that the dirty man would show some terrible physical power and overtake him, but...
After both of their figures were no longer visible, I asked her a question.
"Why are you making them compete?"
She who was happily drinking the water, muttered "hmm?" and pointed at the bottle of water.
"This water, who do you think was the one who provided it?"
"Wasn't it provided by you?"
She shook her head.
"You see, this was provided by chubby. His outward appearance is untidy, and yet he is attentive to the smaller details, that guy."
It was most probably the dirty man.
It's quite a direct nickname. No, I agree on it, totally do, but.
"Ah, by the way, there's your share too."
"......How come there's my share?"
I became perplexed.
After all, I passed by here by chance.
"Some time ago, before the competition began, I secretly conveyed it to him. It seems he brought a spare one. So, here."
She pushed the bottle to me. It's not that I'm particularly thirsty, but, well, let's accept it.
The water inside the bottle reflected the sunlight and shone.
But, I get it. He is certainly attentive. To think he even prepared my share.
"So in other words, you are saying that you fell in love with both inner self of fat guy and outer appearance of the spirited guy. What luxurious troubles."
Not that I'm jealous.
In that moment, she showed a dry smile,
"It's not like I particularly like Chubby, you know?"
And spoke those words.
"What does that mean?"
I most certainly thought that she made them compete because she was unable to choose from the two.
As she drank all of the water from the bottle, and made an ecstatic expression with a "Puhaa",
"I had some free time so I just played with Chubby."
"But, he's useless, that Chubby. There's no way this much water could quench my thirst." She threw away the emptied bottle towards the forest.
After going on monologues about how dirty he was and stuff, saying something like this was totally the opposite thing to do so I didn't like it much, however, at that moment, I thought from the bottom of my heart. I hoped.
God, bring the judgment upon this woman.
The judgment, it came.
It happened a few minutes after she threw the bottle away. All of a sudden, just as I thought that she was making a big yawn, she fell towards towards her back in that position.
With a bang.
Luckily, because the thickets acted as a good cushions, her head didn't take the blow.
Let's leave the fact that I smacked my lips within my mind a secret.
Since she fell senseless all of a sudden, I panicked, thinking whether she was dead, however there was nothing like that, and as I rushed to her, her sleeping breaths reached my ears.
Just like that, I was now taking a rest under the shade of a tree with her head on my lap.
"Uehehehe...... Muscles, so many muscles......"
She was not only a person with bad ideology, her sleep-talking was also bad. Just muscles, what kind of scene from hell is that?
Ten odd minutes had passed while I looked at her drool-smeared face and listened to her sleep-talking. The shadow of a person appeared to be approaching from far away.
Who in the world was that? No, there's no need to even think about that, the one who had returned was──
I looked at the running silhouette as I blinked my eyes. However, no matter how many times I confirmed it, the one approaching was him.
The dirty man.
Fuaah, haaah, He who had finally arrived after a long struggle covered in sweat had a face overflowing with a sense of accomplishment.
"H-Haah......, I did it, I-I won....ha hah......"
Yeah, my foolish self who had sympathized with him some time ago. His expression as he looked around, confirming that virtuous guy hasn't returned, was nothing but disgusting.
Physically impossible. Such words traveled inside my head. Yes, physically impossible.
But, where is the the guy who had overtook this dirty man now?
The answer to that, I discovered as I followed the sweat of the dirty man with my eyes. I saw the shape running here with unbelievable speed.
It was the tidy Man.
Seeing the dirty man smiling broadly, the Tidy Man burst into tears. The gentleman ran while crying. It would have made a good picture if he was alone or if a beautiful girl was waiting for him at the destination, however the fat guy was ahead of him, so that earnest scenery took the surrealism to the extremes.
And the finish line.
With lamentation following it.
"D-Damnit...... Why, why......! Why did I fall asleep while I was running!?"
Fall asleep you say?
Are you an idiot?
The tale about a dunce turtle and quick-legged rabbit having a competition passed through my mind. If I'm not mistaken, the conclusion of that tale was, 'The careless rabbit ended up sleeping, and the turtle who kept steadily going took hold of victory, and left unpleasant emotions like 'Uwaah, the turtle is suspicious!'.
Maybe, it's same for him?
"Was it carelessness?"
Thereupon, the tidy man wiped the sweat and tears,
"No...... On the way, I became sleepy and when I came to, I had been sleeping there."
He dropped his shoulders.
Could it be, I thought.
Following the same trains of thought as me, the tidy man pointed sternly at the dirty man and raised his voice.
"You, you mixed the sleeping drugs in that water didn't you!?"
That's right, that's right.
Indeed, the other person who had drunk the water provided by him is now releasing sleeping sounds on my lap.
The dirty man exaggeratedly shrugged his shoulders as if treating the tidy man with contempt.
"Fu, Fuhe...... Do you have some evidence?" For some reason, the fact that only second part was excessively fluently spoken was endlessly irritating.
But it seems he had brought calamity upon himself.
In order to not wake the girl sleeping on my lap, I slowly moved her head from my knees and stood up.
"If it's proof you want, here it──"
I came to my senses in the middle of saying it.
What I had thrust out was an already empty bottle. ......Naturally, the proof was no more.
Speaking of which, its contents made me feel unpleasant, so I discarded it.
Seeing such a miserable appearance, the dirty man's mood improved more and more. "See! There's no evidence anywhere! I did it, she became mine! Hihii."
Unfortunately, there was no strong evidence that he had cheated──Ah, that's wrong. Isn't there one more?
Putting down the bottle, I lifted the sleeping girl up.
"Please wait. This is the evidence."
"Fuhi...... If you think about it normally, wouldn't it be that she simply got sleepy and lied down?"
"No, she fell asleep because she drank the water you gave her."
"Where's the proof? Is there some proof of that I wonder? Hey, is there?"
She who had played with that dirty man was plenty guilty herself, but this guy went beyond even that and was a genuinely bad person. Rather, should I just blow him away with Magic?
......Ah, that might be good.
Perhaps my composure was lacking, however that dirty man who picked a fight with me was irritating to no end.
Taking out my staff──
"Wait a minute!"
The voice was heard from above.
It was I voice which I might or might not have heard before.
Looking up, there was a certain giant from sometime ago standing there. On his sides were standing two men who could only be distinguished by the color of their clothes.
Ooh, what a thing.
Just this time, I thought if it was a savior who had appeared.
As I bowed at the three who descended, he loosened his face muscles. ......In other words, he laughed is what I meant. "It's been a while, Witch ojousan."
"It's been a while. Brawny Man."
It was the man with lovely muscles I had met few days ago. Brawny Man. I don't know his actual name. I think I don't really care, though. He is a strange guy who throbs on the word muscles, that's why, “Fufun, that's right. I am indeed a brawny man," he replied so while puffing out his chest. After all, the fact that he has muscles even on his brain never changes.
"You two as well, it's been a while."
I also bowed to the two people standing by his sides.
"It's been a while, huh."
"Yes, it sure has."
I somehow feel like their muscles have increased. They were two bad people who had tried to deceive me, but seeing their current selves with bulging muscles, I felt bad for them for some reason.
"Big brother, your skin became somewhat tanned didn't it?"
"I would say the same about you."
It seems they are leading a completely brawny lifestyle.
Ignoring the two who had become moody from such trivial conversation, I secretly explained the matter to the brawny man in detail.
Brawny Man became enraged.
"Oh? I wonder which rotten Chubby fellow that was. Huh?
"W-Wrong! I-I-I-I did nothing wrong! I honestly excelled with my ability!"
"Don't lie!" the Brawny Man caught him by the collar.
Hii, the dirty man raise a groan resembling a shriek.
"I-It's not a lie!"
"In that case, let me examine you and find it out!"
"S-Stop! You mean people! You laughed in your hearts, thinking there was no way someone as ugly as me would ever obtain that girl, didn't you!? But, I worked hard and won! That is a fact! Accept it!"
He said while scattering the saliva. I overlooked the fact that the Brawny Man's expression was a little irritated.
At this rate, the unfair dirty man might be put on a public lynching.
Well, not that I mind it that much.
As I blankly looked at the Dirty Man who was being reeled in by the Brawny Man, a voice resounded from behind me.
Maybe it was because of the Dirty Man making a racket, or maybe because she had enough sleep, but with that perfect timing, she woke up.
While fixing her slightly disordered black hair, she listlessly rose up.
And, after looking around, she spoke.
"Ah, was the winner decided?"
I kept silent for a while, but seeing that no one was saying a word, I informed her of the outcome.
"Ah, yes. Chubby ended up winning."
She had no reaction.
Then, after looking up at the sky, "But I don't want to go out with Chubby." She simply concluded so.
Simply, yet cruelly.
From such words that froze the atmosphere, the dirty man became motionless like a dead fish, the Tidy Man became nervous, the two brothers went on their happy talk about muscles without change, however, there was just one man who uttered words towards her.
It was the Brawny Man.
"You, what are you doing at such place?"
"O-Onii-chan. What are you doing here?"
"You, weren't you kidnapped by the brawny men?"
"Aah, those were the boyfriends I dated at that time."
That plural, what's up with that?
"I see, then what about now?"
"I was looking for a new boyfriend."
"Did you find one?"
"No good at all. There are only guys with meager muscles."
She said, glancing at the tidy man.
I put my hand on tidy man's shoulder who was growing pale by the minute. He started to cry yet again.
"Um, could it be that the sister in question..."
I asked to make sure. The brawny man nodded.
"Yeah. This is the one."
What the hell.
Like this, as the brawny man had found his sister, the three of them returned to his hometown, spending the time in happiness. And they all lived happily ever after.
Eh? Who was the third person you ask? Of course, it was the tidy man.
"P-Please wait! I-I will try my best to be acknowledged by Onii-san, that's why, can you please take me along with you?"
That gallant figure of his as he stepped forth while wiping away the tears as he said that was truly refreshing. Everything he did was worth picturing in one way or another.
After exchanging the looks, the brawny siblings,
"Fumu, you want me to train your muscles is it? I understand."
Saying so, the brawny man nodded as if giving his consent, then, as I wondered what reaction sister would give, she simply gave a yawn as if anything was fine.
Just what part of her is good I wonder?
Well, they say love is blind, so perhaps one day he would wake up from it and his heart would also settle down. That said, at that time, he might already be covered it muscles.
As I waved my hand to the three who departed, I heard a strange groan behind me. Ah, I forgot about this person.
Looking back, the dirty man was unsightly lying on the ground.
I don't feel like comforting him, so let's leave leave without noise.
"Hey, big brother, what is that pig thinking?"
"He's probably thinking 'My muscles are lacking'──Ah, hey, wait a minute. The brawny nii-san is gone."
"It's true. The brawny nii-san is gone."
"Could it be that he left us behind and left somewhere?"
The illusionist brothers who had to end their their muscle discussion at last seemed to not understand the situation around them.
That's why I decided to give them the explanation out of kindness.
Bla bla bla bla bla.
"What! That means the brawny nii-san quit his journey already?"
"What a thing? This is a serious situation, isn't it?"
"Well, it was something like that. He accomplished his ultimate goal in the strangest way possible."
Surely, after returning to the hometown, those three would lead a muscle-covered life.
But, isn't that quite fine?
"Now that you have been freed by the brawny man, aren't you going to get back to being illusionists again?"
To my such suggestion, the two made quite complicated expressions.
Could it be?
"No, when you met with me, you were illusionists. Did you forget that you tricked people and made money from it?"
"......Ah." "......Ah." "That's right...... We were indeed illusionists......"
"Kh...... Because of spending our muscle-covered life, we forgot......"
Muscles are great.
Well, they went with such flow.
Remembering their original roles, the three of them started to perform as an illusionist group, or so I heard. And they all lived happily ever after.
Yes. As you might have guessed, the third one was the dirty man.
"Hey, you, won't you come with us?"
"That's right. You fit well with us. I'm sure you'd become a great illusionist."
The two of them with their hands on the shoulders of the crouching dirty man, proposed it to him quite simply.
Speaking of the dirty man in question, he was simply muttering some incomprehensible things with his face smeared in snot. So unsightly. However, it seems they understood him.
"It's okay. It's okay──Don't worry. You don't have to worry about it. We will properly teach you everything."
"You have a talent in you, that's what I thought from the moment I saw you. That's why, come along."
Before long, the dirty man agreed with a nod.
Thus, their illusionist group of three started their journey just like that. Starting their activity with the name "We and the Barrel", they skillfully solved the problem about combining their names, and before long, they grew into a circus that wandered the world...or perhaps they didn't. Whether it's truth or not, I do not now.
That, after all, is a story that has no relation to me.