Today was the day we planned to leave Ulmutt.
The first thing we did after getting out of bed and finishing up our morning routine was paying Rumina a visit so we could say our goodbyes.
「The time I spent with you was both eventful and enjoyable.」
「Farewell. Do enjoy yourselves in the Beastkin’s Country.」
「I believe it is quite sunny today. It appears to be the perfect time to depart, and to that end, I do hope that your expression will brighten to match the weather.」
The two weren’t going to part for good or anything, but it seemed like Fran couldn’t help but feel a bit sad regardless.
「Thank you for informing me of Kiara’s whereabouts. I would have never located her if not for your efforts. I understand that this is not my first time making the statement, but I would like to reiterate it in order to express my gratitude.」
「Also grateful. For evolution.」
『What she said. Helping us out seemed to have ended up weakening you quite a bit. You sacrificed a lot for us, we really do owe you a ton.』
「It appears that our feelings are mutual. As that is the case, I see no harm in calling off our debts to one another.」
Rumina smiled cheerfully as she spoke, but Fran ended up frowning in response.
「Please don’t make that face, Fran. I can assure you that our paths will cross again. It would ease my heart to see you depart this place with a smile.」
「It appears that you really cannot go without being spoilt.」
Rumina got up out of her seat, approached the younger black catkin and gave her a full on hug. Fran responded to it burying her face in Rumina’s chest and returning the embrace.
They stuck together for a while, but Rumina eventually dislodged Fran by tapping her on the back.
The younger girl’s face had a pretty rare look on it in the sense that it was tinted with a slight shade of red. She’d clearly felt a bit embarrassed.
「Fuhaha. ‘Twas rather adorable of you. Feel free to return to my side if you ever feel yourself tinged with loneliness. I will be willing to provide you as many hugs as you wish for.」
All the uneasiness had left Fran’s face. Rumina had fulfilled a duty I normally would’ve been responsible for in a way I could never have possibly managed. I felt kinda conflicted in the sense that I both admired her ability to do so, and was frustrated that I couldn’t do anything at all for Fran.
「Time to go.」
「Indeed it is. Stay safe, and enjoy your journey.」
And so, Rumina saw us out the dungeon with a smile.
Fran ended up opening her mouth and speaking one last time right as we began to teleport.
It almost seemed to be something she hadn’t intentionally said, something that had just so happened to leak out.
『We’ll definitely pay her a visit sometime in the future.』
『And we’ll definitely make sure we grow enough to give her a bit of a shock.』
We arrived at Ulmutt’s gate about an hour later, only to find ourselves surrounded by a decently sized group of people.
「Do come back Fran! I’ll welcome you with open arms anytime!」
Erza was the first person to call out to us; he immediately leapt at and glomped Fran as he began to cry. She ended up letting out a “mmrph” sound as he pulled her into his thick, burly chest, but she didn’t end up really minding his actions even though snot had began dribbling from his nose. In fact, she’d even ended up patting him on the back in order to soothe him.
「Sniffles… Thanks Fran.」
「I have a parting gift I’d like to give you.」
Erza handed Fran a basket with ten liquid filled bottles within.
「I made you some beauty cream. It’ll keep your skin soft and smooth so long as you apply a bit of it before going to bed. You’re really strong Fran, and cool too, but make sure you never lose sight of being as cute a girl as you can be, mkay?」
Erza’s advice was pretty solid, and I really appreciate the sentiments that drove him. Fran was pretty damned adorable, even to start with. Unfortunately, she was stuck with me as her guardian, so she didn’t normally end up making use of her beauty due to a lack of exposure to both makeup and fashion.
The 10 bottles we were given would last us a pretty good while, so I was going to have Fran start using them from today onwards.
「Smear on skin?」
「Mhm. All you have to is put a dot of it on your palm and then massage it into your skin.」
「Listen here girl. I know you might not see why you’d bother as of right now, but just do it. I promise you you’ll understand once you grow up and fall in love.」
Fran nodded, but her expression belied the fact that she had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Huh, right, Fran will fall in love one day, won’t sh- wait a second.
Dude, Erza, Fran’s still only 12…
Isn’t it like, a little bit kinda maybe too early for her to fall in love?
I could say for sure that Fran would end up being pretty damned popular with the guys if Erza’s beauty cream worked to enhance her looks the way I was thinking it would. There was no doubt in my mind that all sorts of dudes would flock to her like bees to honey.
A part of me couldn’t help but worry that some of the aforementioned men would end up being so good looking that they’d make Fran fall in love with them at first sight. I knew that I’d be able to cut those individuals down without hesitation if they ended up being scumbags on the inside, but I couldn’t say the same for people that ended up being just as good inside as they were outside. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would end up doing if I actually judged their personalities to be amicable enough to be worth Fran’s affections. Would I be able to entrust her to them?
My immediate reaction was a big no. Fran needed someone strong enough to protect her, someone capable of besting her in combat even with me equipped. I absolutely refused to approve of them unless they were both at least that strong, fairly financially stable, fully willing to commit to a monogamous relationship, and capable of fulfilling every single last one of her wishes.
「H-Hey Fran, are okay? That amazing cursed sword of yours just started shaking all on its own.」
Shit, that was close. I seemed to have momentarily lost control of myself, as I’d started unconsciously casting telekinesis.
『I-It’s nothing. You should probably thank Erza.』
I didn’t really have to concern myself with the thought for the time being, as romantic love seemed to be something Fran wouldn’t experience for quite some time. There was no point to not accepting Erza’s gift, there was no real harm in Fran getting even cuter than she was already.
「Nn. No problem. Thanks.」
「I’ll make you more when you run out, so stop by when you do!」
The next two people to call out to us, Dias and Aurel, came as a pair.
「Heya. Looks like you picked a pretty good day to set off. The weather’s looking great.」
「Take care of yourself out there.」
They bowed to Fran and thanked her for the whole Kiara fiasco. I was expecting them to hand us letters, but they didn’t end up doing so.
「We still remember her as vividly as we would have had we seen each other just yesterday, but the opposite may not necessarily hold true.」
「To her, we were just another pair of unreliable adventurers. There’s a good chance she’s long forgotten about us.」
To me, their situation almost sounded a bit depressing, but they didn’t seem to mind. The looks on their faces suggested that they thought of it as only natural, and hence, they weren’t planning to send her any letters.
「We would like you to mention us, but that’s it. All you really have to say is that some of the adventurers that she used to know miss her.」
「Nn. Got it.」
The next group Fran was approached by consisted of Amanda, Forrund, Fermus, and Colbert. The half-elf, who was at the group’s front, greeted Fran with a hug.
「It looks like we’re going to have to say our goodbyes again, Fran. I’m really going to miss you…」
Amanda cried much in the same manner as Erza, minus the snot. Her beauty and grace made her much girlier tha- Okay no, I’d better just stop there and write Erza off as an exception of sorts.
Forrund was short and to the point, just as he’d been back in Barbra. In a sense, one could say that he bore a slight resemblance to Fran.
Honestly, I hadn’t even expected him to come see us off.
「Is that not a bit too blunt of you, Forrund?」
Colbert’s tone clearly conveyed that he was taken aback by Forrund’s greeting.
「Sorry Fran, Forrund always acts like that, so please do not think ill of him.」
「Hahaha, I do have to say, the two of you are quite similar with regards to your mannerisms. Forrund tends to like strong adventurers, he is here today because of the favourable impression you left on him.」
「I have the feeling that putting the two of you together might not be the best idea.」
Colbert shuddered, and for a good reason at that.
The two were conversing in a manner that no one but them could understand. Despite that, they seemed to be communicating losslessly.
「Was Barbra your next destination, Fran?」
「In that case, I’d like for you to have this. It’s a pass that’ll get you a free meal at my restaurant. Please do stop by.」
Oh nice. That’s a pretty damned good present. Fran really seemed to have enjoyed the stuff she ate at The Dragon’s Table.
「I am going to be training myself from the ground up again, so I will not lose the next time we fight.」
Colbert declared that he wished to duel Fran again in the future, which prompted her to immediately respond as any other battle maniac would.
「Bring it on.」
Amanda finally released Fran after we did a good chunk of conversing.
「I’m going to be going to the Beastkin’s Country too.」
Thinking back, Amanda had actually said something similar when we left Alessa. Unfortunately for her, that simply wasn’t something she was permitted to do.
「I highly doubt that you will be allowed to do so.」
「It definitely won’t happen.」
All three of the men accompanying her shot down Amanda’s idea the moment she voiced it. She went on to state that she at least wanted to accompany us back to Barbra, but she had duties to attend to in Alessa, and as such, her three companions ended up dragging her away.
「See you later Fran!」
The last group to approach was the Beast Lord’s.
「Make sure you get along with my daughter if you happen to run into her. She’s a bit of a tomboy, but a good girl anyways.」
I was fine with the idea of having Fran make friends with the Beast Lord’s daughter, but his phrasing had me worried. He of all people had called her a tomboy, so I couldn’t help but suspect her to be on the wilder side.
We spoke to Royce, Goldalfa, and Roche in that order, before finally moving on to Zefmate, who immediately offered Fran a handshake.
「It seems I caused you a lot of trouble.」
「I’m going to be one of the Beast Lord’s attendants from now on. I’m planning to train by his side, and grow much stronger. I swear I’ll at least force you to make use of the abilities you obtained from evolving the next time we duel.」
Zefmate seemed to have a lot of potential. Training by the Beast Lord’s side would definitely serve to turn him into a powerful foe to face.
「Both my tribe and I plan to start over. We’ll show you that we can change for the better.」
「That’s good. I’ll make sure I uphold them.」
Zefmate was one of the Blue Cat Tribe’s most influential members. I was sure that, going forward, his work would reduce the number of Blue Catkin involved in the slave trade.
Fran firmly grasped the Blue Leopardkin’s hand and shook it for quite the extended duration, a demonstration of her trust in his success.
Fran leapt atop Urushi’s back after letting go of Zefmate’s hand.
She got ready to go, but made sure to give the group that’d come to say their goodbyes one last wave before actually leaving.
「See you soon!」
Urushi began to run, with Erza’s and Amanda’s particularly loud voices trailing in the wind behind him, as we once again set off on a journey.