Chapter 15:

The General's Treat

The Second Route

“How should we treat Deliruu-kun for his rescue of Lunis?” Lina settles on a new topic as the sun rises to midday.Bookmark here

“There is no need for such,” I reply. A treat is a rather waste of time.Bookmark here

“Aw,” Risho teases, “you know you want some kind of reward as a mercenary.”Bookmark here

“He wouldn’t dare to be so shameless, will you, General?” Tina asks.Bookmark here

“Ah, haha,” I nervously rub my lap. But a reward is nice too.Bookmark here

“Well, if it’s only a treat, then I have an idea,” Rina volunteers.Bookmark here

“Oh, what a surprise. What can Rina suggest for me?” I ask enthusiastically. Since this is the rare Rina who volunteered, I will gladly accept anything she will give me.Bookmark here

“Nevermind, you can go ahead and die,” Rina faces away from me. Bookmark here

What’s with the sudden change in attitude?Bookmark here

“E—?”Bookmark here

“I have a suggestion!” Lina raises her hand. “Maybe we could go into a restaurant for lunch?” Bookmark here

I guess I could settle for Rina’s sister…Bookmark here

“No, I have a better idea,” Tina raises her hand too, “we could all train in swordsmanship.” Bookmark here

You can go ahead and die.Bookmark here

“That’s boring,” Risho interrupts, “let’s all go in a public bath.”Bookmark here

“No!” the other three yell.Bookmark here

“Yes! I shout at the same time they yelled their rejections.Bookmark here

The other three glare at me and shouts, “What!?”Bookmark here

“No, I mean no!” I laugh nervously. Whoops, I almost messed up. But dang, I really wanted to go, not because I want to see them or anything!Bookmark here

“How about we go to a hair salon instead?” Lina suggests.Bookmark here

“A hair salon?” I ask. Bookmark here

“Yeah, I have been meaning to cut my hair around now,” Tina states as she plays with her hair.Bookmark here

“I don’t mind,” Risho says.Bookmark here

“B—but a hair salon? You have those around here?” Even an undeveloped world will have one of those? There is a lot of conveniences to be expected from magic.Bookmark here

“Of course! People in this town need to maintain their hygiene after all,” Lina states.Bookmark here

Well, seeing those would be cool, “But—”Bookmark here

“No, but’s,” Rina interrupts me.Bookmark here

“Ugh, fine,” I reluctantly succumb since it’s Rina, “but why a hair salon?” I mutter.Bookmark here

We arrive at a shop named “Lawid’s Salon,” and the employees lead us to our seats.Bookmark here

The salon itself isn’t much to be expected. As to keep the medieval mood, the interior is covered in wood. The surprising thing is how modern they tried to make it. They painted the walls and ceilings white and placed mirrors in front of the chairs where the customers will have their hair cut. They are some intricately designed silver decorations spanning on the wall, and there is a large painting of a crocodile, that seemed quite out of place, behind the counter. Bookmark here

But I can’t really perceive this salon as modern. The floor is still the brown, wooden floor. The ceiling is literally the roof, and I can see the beams supporting it. The pillars are not painted at all, leaving them bare. The windows’ wooden borders are thick and they didn’t have glass. The doorway doesn’t have a door. Maybe they tried finding a glass door, but their budget didn’t allow them to have it. I mean, glass is quite expensive to make, but it can’t be that expensive, is it? Bookmark here

The tools used for hair hygiene are quite old-fashioned. Mostly they only used scissors instead of the modern electric razor. Of course, how could a medieval-aged world have attained such technologies? But hey, they still do have a sink, where they wash our heads, with flowing water produced by magic.Bookmark here

“First, we have to wash your hair before we trim it,” a woman motions me to seat with a sink behind it, “this way, please.Bookmark here

“Uh, sure…” I seat down awkwardly and place my head on the indent of the sink.Bookmark here

“I’m going to start now,” the woman proceeds to massage my hair with warm water and mix some kind of fragrant shampoo.Bookmark here

I look up and see what I am not mean to see and quickly try to look down at what is in front of me. “This is embarrassing,” I mutter. Wait, did I hear a giggle? I look to my side and see Risho’s and Tina’s hair being washed by two other women employees. “Isn’t there a male employee in here?” I ask the one washing my hair.Bookmark here

“We do have one, sir, and he will be trimming your hair,” the woman washing my hair replies.Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s a relief,” I say, but I’m far from relieved. I’ve been itching to get out of this chair and this place.Bookmark here

Soon after, it is Rina’s and Lina’s turn to have their hair washed while I, Tina, Risho start to have our haircut.Bookmark here

“What kind of cut would you like to have, sir?” the barber asks.Bookmark here

“Ah, just trim the sides and the back short trim a little bit on top, leave some hair over here,” I motion to the left side of my face, “yes, that would be it.”Bookmark here

“A fade cut you mean? I got it,” The barber then proceeds to skillfully use his scissors.Bookmark here

Ten minutes pass, and I look at myself in the mirror, “Thanks, this is exactly what I wanted to look like.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, sir. I’m glad you liked it,” the barber bows.Bookmark here

“This way sir,” the same woman that washed my hair motions me to the sink.Bookmark here

“Wait, again?”Bookmark here

“Yes, sir, to get rid of the excess hair.”Bookmark here

“Oh,” come on!!Bookmark here

After she finishes washing my hair, I awkwardly sit down outside the shop feeling the cool breeze going to my head, “It’s cold,” I shiver as I wipe my head.Bookmark here

“Just noticed? Typical for a thick head,” Rina remarks.Bookmark here

“Wha—” I sigh and I look at Rina who somehow is beside me, “woah, you look like a different person.”Bookmark here

“Cheh, whatever,” Rina faces away from me.Bookmark here

I lightly pat her head, “You look more like a kid now,” I can’t help but mischievously smile.Bookmark here

“H—hey! What do you think you are doing?” Rina quickly removes my hand from her head.Bookmark here

“Your head looked like it needed a pat.”Bookmark here

“E—excuse me? And who are you calling a kid?” Rina furiously asks me.Bookmark here

“Now, now, no need to tease my sister,” Lina comes up to me and flips her hair around.Bookmark here

“You look…” I inspect Lina’s hair closely, but notice no change, “the same?”Bookmark here

“What? I look the same?” Lina fixes her hair around, but no matter how hard she tries, I couldn’t see any change.Bookmark here

“Jeez, you have poor eyes do you?” Rina pouts.Bookmark here

“Eh, it’s seriously—”Bookmark here

“Deliruu-san! How do I look?” Risho enters the scene with a spin making her hair dance.Bookmark here

“Woah…” I admire her in awe. Risho has her hair around the shoulder’s length and expands in a semicircle around her head. She even has bangs covering her forehead too, “You actually look like a different person.”Bookmark here

“Th—that’s all you had to say!?” Risho impatiently asks.Bookmark here

“W—well, what should I say?”Bookmark here

“That, ‘You are beautiful,’ or something?” Risho crosses her arms.Bookmark here

Why did you lower the pitch of your voice though? Were you trying to mimic me?Bookmark here

“Where is Tina?” I ask to attempt to change the topic.Bookmark here

All of us look around but fail to find her, but I notice a white helmet with a white mohawk on top and realize that it is Tina, “Tina!” I holler, “over here!”Bookmark here

Tina comes to join the group, “Yes, what is it?”Bookmark here

“Uh, didn’t you have your hair cut?” I ask.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah, I sure did,” Tina nervously answers.Bookmark here

“You know you keep hiding in that helmet,” I reach out to take off Tina’s helmet, but she avoids my hands.Bookmark here

“No, now is not the time,” Tina steps away from me.Bookmark here

“What do you mean? It’s just a haircut,” I say.Bookmark here

“It’s embarrassing,” Tina fidgets around.Bookmark here

“If you say so then…”Bookmark here

“No! This isn’t fair!” Risho shouts and forcefully takes Tina’s helmet from her head in one fell swoop.Bookmark here

“No!” Tina bashfully covers her head with her arms, but all of us can see her new hairstyle.Bookmark here

Her hair is cut short until her chin and has bangs covering some of her foreheads. I start to compliment her, “You look like a differe—”Bookmark here

Tina smacks the top of my head, “You are just going to say that!?”Bookmark here

All the girls glare at me for a moment, and I shrink in fear and embarrassment, “Yes, w—what is it?” I raise my hands to my face to avoid their eyes.Bookmark here

“You look better like that,” Risho states.Bookmark here

“Huh?” I react.Bookmark here

“Yes, don’t you agree, Lina? He looks more handsome now.”Bookmark here

I cringe. Don’t look at me now! Stay angry!Bookmark here

“Does he?” Lina answers, “he looks the same.”Bookmark here

“Hey, now!” I lower my head. It’s too embarrassing! And don’t laugh!Bookmark here

“Let’s have a late lunch, I’m quite hungry myself,” I invite.Bookmark here

“Sure! Let’s go!” they say in varying unison.Bookmark here

We enter a better-than-average restaurant in town. I would say, it is between the average and the fancy restaurants I have dined in. So it’s not overbearing or underwhelming. It is just right. A waiter leads us to an appropriate seat that can contain five people, and I suddenly realize something, “I don’t have any money.”Bookmark here

“Welcome to Kach’s restaurant!” the waiter enthusiastically greets us and hands over some menu cards, “Here are our menus. I am your waiter, Ivan. Happy to serve you!” The waiter gracefully bows.Bookmark here

I take it back. It is a fancy restaurant. I think to myself. I look over to the items in the menus while the others do the same. I am sure they are looking at the food itself, but I am looking at the prices. Two hundred silver? Three gold coins? Eight hundred silver? Dear heavens! I pray to thee, give thy humble servant a miracle!.Bookmark here

“Sir, could you please give me your attention for a moment?” I look up to the waiter to fulfill his request.Bookmark here

“Aren’t you Aeko?” the waiter asks.Bookmark here

“Me? Aeko?” I point to myself to confirm if he meant me.Bookmark here

“Yes, you! Don’t you remember me?” he gestures to himself, “didn’t we meet each other at Zinta years ago? I’m glad you ended up here in Lunis!” the waiter enthusiastically recalls about his friend I haven’t known of. Also, where is Zinta? I recall seeing that name somewhere.Bookmark here

“A-ah, haha… yeah sure. I remember you. How could I forget? We did some crazy things and that,” I nervously laugh.Bookmark here

“So you do remember!” the waiter laughs freely in comparison to mine, “since it’s been years, my old friend, I shall treat you to meals. The meals are on me!” The waiter promptly leaves behind the restaurant’s kitchen room.Bookmark here

“Do you know him?” Tina asks.Bookmark here

I whisper back, “No, I don’t, but can we pretend that I do?”Bookmark here

“Sure, but why?” Tina asks.Bookmark here

Lower your voice, dang it.Bookmark here

“Just do it in favor please, I beg you,” I plead.Bookmark here

The waiter returns with a huge plate with a huge lobster in it. “Here is our best dish for you!” Ivan leans to my ear and whispers, “Introduce me to the girls, will you?”Bookmark here

I jolt but maintain my firm seating, “Sure! Sure! yes!” I awkwardly face the girls and the waiter. “Ah, right, this is my friend, I—Ivan… Ummm… and Ivan, this is Risho, Tina, Lina, and Rina. Uh, they are my… uhh… friends, yes?”Bookmark here

“Mhm, that’s right, Aeko is amazing when he defended the town of Zinta, but sadly, the town is no more,” the waiter laments.Bookmark here

“Wait, what do you mean by no more?” I ask.Bookmark here

“You haven’t heard? Must have been a journey, huh? Well, they were wiped out by the Snow Knight mercilessly,” the waiter falls on his knees and begins to sob on my lap, “Aeko, where have you been? Aeko, why did you leave?”Bookmark here

“Uh, well…” I tremble at a loss for words.Bookmark here

“I mean, I do understand why you left, but,” the waiter sighs and stands up wiping his tears, “the past is the past, and there is nothing we could do about it.”Bookmark here

I think I have heard that somewhere before, I can’t recall when. Could it be I have said it before? I couldn’t remember.Bookmark here

“Aeko, are you okay?” the waiter kneels to me, “you are spacing out.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. I did, but I am fine though,” I refocus my blurry eyes. I just recalled a painful memory I didn’t want to remember.Bookmark here

“So you do remember. I’m glad you haven’t forgotten. Just so you know, I have no grudge against you. Never will I have. You have been the best defender you could be,” the waiter puts on a warm smile, “then, let the feast begin!”Bookmark here

The girls start slicing the large lobster to serve themselves and start eating on their plate, but I couldn’t get myself to eat it, “Um, may I have a different dish?” I ask Ivan.Bookmark here

“Sure, no problem! What is your request?” Ivan asks.Bookmark here

“I would like to have steak and a side dish of salad, please,” I request.Bookmark here

“Oh, right! Your taste hasn’t even changed at all! I’m glad! Coming right up, medium-rare!” the waiter promptly leaves.Bookmark here

Woah, he even knew how I wanted it to be cooked, but was I that similar with this ‘Aeko’?Bookmark here

My food arrives and we all eat in peace, albeit Ivan waiting over our table. It’s quite uncomfortable being watched while eating, you know, Ivan? Once we finish, Ivan offers us drinks, “Would you like cold tea with ice, our dear customers?”Bookmark here

“Cold tea with ice?” Risho asks, “What is that?”Bookmark here

“It is just your normal tea served hot except that we used cold water and place our specially produced ice!”Bookmark here

“Isn’t that just iced tea?” I blurt out.Bookmark here

“Iced tea! Aeko, you are a genius! It sounds catchy too!”Bookmark here

“Oh, iced tea…” Risho trails off.Bookmark here

“I want to try it!” Rina raises her hand exuberantly.Bookmark here

“Me too,” Lina and Tina simultaneously request.Bookmark here

“Then, iced tea, coming right up!” the waiter starts to leave, but I interrupt.Bookmark here

“Wait, can you bring me a cup of milk as well?”Bookmark here

“Sure!” the waiter promptly leaves and returns with six glasses, five iced tea, and one milk.Bookmark here

The rest of the girls drink their iced tea in satisfaction.Bookmark here

“Woah! Never knew cold tea would taste this good!” Tina exclaims.Bookmark here

“I should be able to make my own when I produce my ice,” Lina states.Bookmark here

“Sister, please makes some of this at home! It tastes so good!” Rina nudges Lina.Bookmark here

“This tastes so nostalgic…” Risho trails off.Bookmark here

“Thank you! This is the special invention we wish to spread in the town! Oh, general, please spread the word to the Queen if it would be appropriate,” the waiter humbly bows.Bookmark here

“Sure! Definitely will be a pleasure! I will make sure to arrange a special order for this drink!” Tina answers.Bookmark here

“It would be an honor!” the waiter bows again.Bookmark here

Risho looks at me with the two glasses I have ordered in hand, “What are you going to do with that?”Bookmark here

“Ivan, I shall show you a new drink,” I say jovially, and Ivan watches closely as I pour the milk into the iced tea and shake it gently, “this is called improvised milk tea, or milk tea for short.”Bookmark here

“This is genius! Does it taste good?” Ivan keenly asks.Bookmark here

“See for yourself,” I take a drink from the glass and taste a mediocre homemade milk tea, “from where I’m from, they had more ingredients than just this. They would add creamy milk, tapioca pearls, some sugar, and ice cubes,” I say as I set the glass on the table.Bookmark here

“You truly are a genius of drinks! You thought me before how to make iced tea, and now milk tea! I will be back! I shall create one of these from myself! Excuse me, my dear customers,” Ivan rushes back to the kitchen room.Bookmark here

“I taught you that?” Just who is this ‘Aeko’ guy?Bookmark here

Lina stares at the milk tea on the table, “I’m curious. What does it taste like?” Lina carelessly takes the only milk tea and takes a sip from it, and all of us stare at her in shock.Bookmark here

“Lina…” Rina grows alarmed.Bookmark here

“Lina, that’s—!” Tina’s face becomes red.Bookmark here

“The glass, Lina,” Risho belligerently points out.Bookmark here

“Hm? The glass?” Lina takes the glass from her mouth and her eyes go wide in realization, “Oh!” she squeals.Bookmark here

“You pervert!” Rina slams the table glaring at me.Bookmark here

“I—I didn’t do anything!” I wave my hands in the air in panic.Bookmark here

“How dare you violate my sister!” Rina stomps over to my seat and starts punching my arm.Bookmark here

“Ow! Ow! Hey now!” I struggle with Rina while I block her attacks with my palms.Bookmark here

Tina weakly laughs while Risho glares at Lina. Lina vigorously wipes her mouth as if it was the most disgusting thing her mouth has ever touched. I couldn’t blame her though.Bookmark here

After the ruckus was over, we leave the restaurant with the moonlight brightly shining on the streets. We have been eating and chatting for so long that we lost track of time, but we leave the restaurant satisfied.Bookmark here

“That was so good!” Rina says in a satisfied voice.Bookmark here

“I feel like I could not eat for seven days,” Tina states.Bookmark here

“How about you, Deliruu-san?” Risho nudges me.Bookmark here

“Yeah, my steak was fine,” I say.Bookmark here

Risho comes close to my ear and whispers, “You didn’t have any money, did you?”Bookmark here

“Huh? Money?” my voice raises, and I quickly lower it, “of course I had, it’s just that…” I trail off.Bookmark here

“Oh? You are a lucky man,” Risho says teasingly.Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah, about the contract,” I face Tina, “could you deliver five hundred gold to the Lunis’s Mercenary Guild?”Bookmark here

“Huh? Why?” Tina asks.Bookmark here

Yes! I have successfully digressed.Bookmark here

“I made a contract with them to defend with me,” I bow my head slightly, “I’m sorry if I had done a rash thing to hurt our finances.”Bookmark here

“It’s no problem,” Tina responds, “five hundred gold coins is no problem at all.”Bookmark here

I sigh in relief, and we all return to the inn to lodge our night there. When we are at the inn’s door, the messenger whom I rode with to Lunis quickly runs to me, “Genera— Bari, I have an urgent message! Please hear quickly!”Bookmark here

“Oh, hello! I’m sorry for leaving you out there,” I slightly bow my head to apologize.Bookmark here

“It’s all fine, General, but I must tell this message to you right now,” the messenger quickly opens a crumpled envelope, “it’s from the Queen, and it’s also addressed to you, General Tina.”Bookmark here

“We will hear it,” I say.Bookmark here

“Ugibiris’s Army has been spotted one thousand miles west of our Kingdom. They are currently camping at the Desert of the Fox as I write this letter. They pose a huge threat and are estimated to arrive in one week. I command that all the horsemen return to protect the Kingdom and mobilize all our forces in our Castle Mountain. The number of men we are facing is estimated to be five hundred thousand. We need you now quickly and with speed. Safe and swift travels, from the Queen.”Bookmark here

We all stand in shock due to what he has heard.Bookmark here

“We have to get back now,” I say to Tina.Bookmark here

“I agree,” Tina faces the other three, “friends, we are taking our leave now.”Bookmark here

“Wait!” Risho calls out, “Deliruu-san, I shall come with you.”Bookmark here

I face Risho and dismissively wave my hand, “You don’t have to—”Bookmark here

“I know I’m a weird person,” Risho looks down to the ground, “it’s just that you don’t understand, but I understand. And all I can do, and all I want, is to be by your side.”Bookmark here

“Risho—”Bookmark here

“I promise you, I shall be by your side, no matter what!” Risho looks up to me in tears and clenches her fist to her chest, “Please allow me!” Bookmark here

“T—then, sure,” I say weakly. Her resolve’s too great I just have to allow him.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Bari!” Risho bows to me.Bookmark here

“O—okay,” I straighten Risho’s posture and face the two sisters, “then we should be taking our leave then.”Bookmark here

“Wait, we will come,” Rina says.Bookmark here

“Rina?” Lina faces Rina with eyes of concern.Bookmark here

“We will come with them, sister.”Bookmark here

“Rina, are you sure? If you don’t want to—”Bookmark here

“I want to!” Rina raises her voice, “don’t bother about me. You always worry about me, but it’s time for you to stop it. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t want you to miss out on this opportunity. I know you wanted to return for a long time, and I prevented you from that,” Rina sniffles as tears start to form, “I want you to do what you want to do, not for me, but you.”Bookmark here

“Rina…” Lina hugs Rina tightly as the moonlight shines on them.Bookmark here

“I want to meet sister Sina too…” Rina says.Bookmark here

“Then, we will all be leaving!” Tina wears her white helmet, “I have some horses on standby!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.