The Second Route
We spend another night at the ravine just in case the Ugibiris Army would appear. But since they haven’t appeared, we decide to return to the castle using the Air Spells written in scrolls that Izumi gave to us. Once we arrived, Tina takes me into more sessions of her hellish training with the sword.
“A general who can’t use their weapon is unfit to be a general,” she said.
“But, I’m tired!” I whine.
I strive to win but I still lose every round of sparring against Tina. My reflexes are already long gone since I haven’t touched any reflex-based games since high school because I focused on my career and business. Though, my reflexes and form did improve due to Tina’s rigorous training. But that isn’t the only problem. Although I train once a week to the gym and can be called fit to live, I am not strong enough to swing a sword in consecutive succession. Using a sword is a completely different story. The lack of attention to my fitness is revealed every round of the exhausting sparring.
“You are pathetic. A little girl could win against you,” Tina mocks.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I have no strength to argue with you right now.
“You have a long way to go. I still can’t believe you are the one that killed General Pareyo.”
Augh, shut up. Stop shoving my luck and lack of skill into my face. I look up to the sky as I remember something forgotten, “Ah!”
“What is it?” Tina asks.
“How are Risho and the sisters doing? Where are they?”
“They were staying at the Mercenary’s Guild’s inn. Would you like to visit them?”
“Yes, I have something important to ask.”
We arrive below the banner of the guild and open the door respectfully as we are greeted by the faux-knight mercenaries. I make my way over to the receptionist’s desk while Tina follows behind me. A familiar head appears from behind the desk.
“What do you want?” Izumi says in a disrespectful tone.
“I would like to see Risho,” I say.
“What are you,” Izumi finally stands up and takes a good look at me, “her— OH! Why if it isn’t the General! and the generals? Ohohoho~”
“Still as obnoxious as ever,” I grin. “Anyway—” I get interrupted. Rude!
“Anyway, is this the delivery of my fortune?” Izumi excitedly asks.
“What do you mean what? I mean the reward you are supposed to give when I fulfill your favor?”
Tina nudges me from behind and whispers into my ear, “Hey, hey, how will you give this reward? You have tricked her into thinking that she will gain something, but the kingdom won’t give compensation for this.”
I slightly flinch as I find myself in a pinch as I search my mind for an excuse—an escape. Wait, didn’t she say she volunteered? She almost got me there. This pesky little rat.
“Oh? You have returned?” A familiar voice sounds from the hallway to the inn and I turn my head in relief to Risho.
“Risho!” I quickly run up to her. “It’s been a long time! Why not talk in your room. I have stories to tell!” I say as I grab Risho’s hand to escape.
“Wait— huh? What are you— why are you dragging me?”
“H—hey!” Izumi shouts and points at me in realization, “We are not done here! Hey, you swindler, come back here!”
Are you talking to yourself? Crazy.
Upon entering the room where Risho is lodging, I find Rina and Lina sitting by a table in the center of the room.
“You are back!” Lina quickly stands as she warmly welcomes me while Rina stays aloof as usual, only merely casting a glance.
I missed your arctic presence, Rina-chan.
“Um…” Risho slowly raises her voice in concern, “are you done… holding me now?”
“Holding you?” I slowly look down at our linked hands and suddenly pull back, “Oh! Sorry, sorry! Was my hand sweaty?”
“No, no, it isn’t, but that isn’t what I mean…” Risho trails off.
We all sit down by the table, and the girls await my chatter.
“So, um, we didn’t fight the Army but fought a scorpion, and, uh…” I search for the lost topics I have set up before coming in here. Somehow my social skills plummet, but I quickly recover the words I am supposed to say, “Lina, Rina,” I look at the both of them, “would you like to come to the castle to see your sister?”
Lina and Rina look at each other and nod, and Lina speaks up, “If that is alright, we will.”
“That’s nice,” I say as I sigh in relief, “then, shall we be going?”
“Yes, sure!” Lina answers and the twins stand up to go to their room and prepare their things.
I look to Risho and notice an atmosphere of sadness and expectation, “Is there something wrong?” Risho shakes her head in dismissal, but I know I should press on a bit further, “If you would like to come with us, you can.”
“No, it’s okay,” Risho answers, yet her head droops down slightly.
“There is something wrong, isn’t it?”
Risho looks at me for a moment, but then quickly stands up from her seat and leaves the room.
“Wait a minute, Risho!” I stand up to chase her, but trip on the chair in front of me hitting my head on the floor, “Ouch.”
Lina rushes into the room to find me rubbing my forehead, “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“I am indeed hurt, but it’s alright,” I sigh, “Risho just ran out suddenly. Did I do something wrong? Did something happen?”
Lina only stares at me as she analyzes the situation, “I do not know about you, but I think she has something she has been showing to you, but you haven’t seen it.”
“And what is that something?”
“That, I can’t tell you,” Lina leaves from my sight.
I rub my forehead, not only because of the pain of the recent fall but the aching of my brain. “Managing a business is easier than talking to girls,” I mutter.
We, that is I, Lina, and Rina, arrive at the castle. The unnecessarily large door opens to reveal the high ceilings and the shiny floors and the walls adorned with gold, but most importantly, Sina, one of the maids working in the castle.
“Welcome back generals—” Sina looks at the twins in shock, and the twins returned the reaction.
“Sina?” Lina slowly walks up to her as Rina tags along the hem of Lina’s skirt.
“Yes, that is I,” Sina answers coldly yet respectfully.
I look at the heartwarming scene and observe their looks. Their faces are almost the same yet, somehow, I was not able to tell that Sina is their sister. Maybe it’s because of Sina’s different body figure. Her breasts are huge compared to Lina's or Rina’s, which is almost non-existent. But this alone does not explain why I didn’t recognize them as sisters. Maybe it’s because of Sina’s smarter face, or Lina’s homelier face. But such trivial matter doesn’t deserve this much thought.
“General, are these your guests?” Sina turns to me.
“Could it be possible for them to lodge— live in the castle with me perhaps?” I ask.
“That—” Sina hesitates an answer, “You are the general, sir.”
What a vague answer.
“Wait, we can live here?” Lina asks.
“You want us to live with you here?” Rina asks as she emphasizes the word ‘you.’
Hey, what are you trying to mean by that, Rina-chan? But anyway, I recover my patience to explain to them, “Well, if you want. I just thought that as sisters—”
“We are not sisters,” Sina interrupts and her eyes turn wide, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”
Lina looks at Sina in shock while Rina lowers her eyes to the floor, “What do you mean?” Lina asks.
Sina casts a resentful gaze, “Two persons cannot be sisters if they are from different fathers.”
“What are you talking about, sister?” Lina asks.
Sina’s face flinches in disgust, “Don’t you dare call me that!” Sina quickly turns to leave, “Please excuse me, General, I have some chores to attend to.”
My voice gets stuck in my throat, and I couldn’t speak. Everyone stands appalled as Sina walks up the grand stairs to the second floor.