Early morning of the following day.
We all gathered in front of the house with our luggage.
Our week of living together is over, so everyone will be going home.
Since returning to my hometown, I've been thinking.
Should I stay in town or go out again?
And if so, what will I do?
...Thanks in part to Marianne and the other girls, I have been able to recover, at least a little.
However, the hole in the chest has not yet closed.
Perhaps I have not yet been able to organize my feelings.
I was betrayed, then I learned the truth and I took action against my tormentors. That sequence of events was too big for me, I still don't know what to make of everything that has happened.
So I've decided to go on a trip... One more time.
I think it will be the best thing to heal this broken heart of mine.
Nei and Soara came to say goodbye.
"Come home soon, I'll cry if you don't."
"I don't plan to be gone for very long."
"Toru, don't think you have the freedom to go to distant lands again, you have to come back. You now have many responsibilities to answer to."
What kind of responsibilities are those?
Sometimes Soara says things that are difficult to understand.
Kaede and the others said goodbye to Nei and Soara, while promising to meet again.
The girls seemed to have gotten to know each other better over the past week.
"Frau, if you will."
"Leave it to me!"
Frau spins in a circle just above us and sprinkles us with her fairy dust.
My body began to float.
We should be able to get to Pione's house by the end of the day.
Or more realistically, in the middle of the night.
With me in the lead, all the girls soared high in the sky.
They all arrived safely at their homes. Now we can continue our journey.
Our destination is the country of Lastoria.
It is a large country with smaller countries like Northstar under its umbrella.
It is also a sea-facing nation, and is the only one of the surrounding countries that has the technology to build ships.
Furthermore, there are many tourist attractions and you can enjoy the marine cuisine that can only be found here.
By the way, I have already made a master-servant contract with Kaede and Frau.
It turns out that there was a slave trader in the town where we stopped.
"I can't believe I'm back to being Master's slave. I feel like I've regained something important."
"You're overreacting. When you sign a contract, you can't resist me. Are you sure this was a good idea?"
"That's what I want. I want my master to control me, I want to be under his mercy."
"You know Kaede, sometimes you say things that are very hard to hear."
Kaede looks at me with a pouty face.
I don't think it's normal to want to be dominated.
But she is Kaede, after all.
This kind of statement is pretty normal for her.
We are currently going through the forest.
If we follow the road, we will be able to enter Lastoria in no time.
"How far do we plan to go with this trip - is there a goal or something?"
Says Frau while riding on Panda.
Honestly, I have no answers to that question.
I simply decided that I wanted to travel.
An objective... Hmm...
Kaede tugged at my clothes.
"Um, Master, there's a place I want to visit, can we?"
"A place you want to visit? Isn't it your first time here?"
"It's my second time, to be exact. In fact, I used to live around here before I became a slave."
What a strange way of putting it.
If you've lived in Lastoria, you can't say it like you've visited.
You lived here once and then you suddenly didn't? Is that what you're trying to say?
"Let's go there."
Kaede pointed to a cliff in the distance.
It is too small to be called a mountain, and too big to be called a rock, it is a huge rock like a tower created by nature.
I wonder what's in there.
"What are you doing? It's not that way!"
"Kaede wants to visit a place."
"Eeeh…? I wanted to eat candy in the city."
Frau and Panda are insensitive.
"It's taller than it looks from a distance."
The huge rock towering before us is imposing.
There seemed to be a monster living at the top, and a bird flew overhead.
What could be in this place?
"There it is, my old iron fan!"
Kaede picked up a dirty iron fan hidden in the grass.
She embraced that iron fan as if it were important to her.
Apparently, she had come looking for it.
"Master wondered how I came to be a slave, didn't he?"
"Um, yeah, are you going to tell me?"
"Frau-San, take us to the top."
"Okay, I'll take care of that."
Kaede flew above us and sprinkled her fairy dust.
With Kaede in the lead, we quickly flew upwards.
"How far do you plan to go?"
"To the top. There you will find the path I took."
We reached the top, where there was a foothold about thirty meters in diameter.
Grass and trees grew thickly, and I was secretly impressed that plants could grow in such a place.
We cut through the grass and continued walking.
Soon after, I see something that looks like an artifact.
It was a circular stone stand.
In the middle was a magic circle that had lost its light.
"Did you get here through this magic circle?"
"That's right, this was the point at which I appeared when I was brought to these lands."
Kaede bends down and touches the magic circle.
"Too bad. All the magic power was probably exhausted by the time I got here."
"Doesn't a magic vein run through here?"
"This magic circle is different, it stores power and uses it, so it's a little different from the rest we've seen."
Does such a thing really exist?
As one would expect from an ancient species, they've left all sorts of things behind.
"But it can be used if I pour magic power into it, right? It's like filling up the tank."
Kaede shakes her head.
"It's no use if only one side of the magic circle is activated. The magic circle on the other side was almost out of power when I got here, I don't think we can cross over."
"And where does the other side of the circle lead?"
Kaede does not immediately answer my question, but hesitates.
The words spoken as she squeezed them out were quite ordinary
But I notice a lot of meaning in her not-so-happy mood.
Kaede is no ordinary type of beastkin, I know that from what I've seen so far.
If so, it's not hard to imagine that her homeland is also in an unusual place.
"My homeland is.... on another continent. I used to live there."
"Wait, what continent?"
"Didn't you know?"
My head is spinning.
Is there another continent besides this one?
But I have never heard of any other land.
"I don't understand, how did you end up here through that magic circle? How did you become a slave? I have many questions I want to ask."
"It's because my hometown was in a critical situation and I was the only one who escaped with this magic circle. But my level was too low, so I failed to descend this rocky mountain and fell halfway down, then a slaver picked me up after I fainted."
At that moment, she dropped the iron fan in her hand, and it seems that Kaede had been worried about it for a long time.
"I'm sorry, I should have asked about it earlier."
"That's fine. I had decided that my master's needs should take precedence over my own, and besides, I'm happy to have this back."
She then quietly said, "It's my mother's last memento."
Hearing that, I grabbed Kaede and hugged her tightly.
"It's probably late, but we're going to Kaede's hometown. We can get there without a magic circle, right?"
"It's possible if we cross the sea, but are you sure you want that? We may not be able to come back here."
"Don't be silly. My Lord and I are grateful for all you've done for us. When it comes to you, nothing is a bother, you're like my family."
Kaede shed tears, probably from joy.
Yes, you are right, Frau.
We are very grateful for all that Kaede has done.
We wouldn't even be here if it weren't for her.
To make sure she no longer has to bear her pain alone...
I will help her in any way I can.
I will take her wherever she wants to go.