Sweets and the Newbie Traveler
The sounds of a trumpet and accordion rang out in the plaza in the middle of a noisy town.
There was nothing elegant about that sound. It was fragmented, and sounded like someone was screaming. You could even say that it was just noise layered on top of even more noise.
Following the sounds to their source on the other side of the main street, where people had gathered to do their shopping, I found a street performer who was greeting passersby with a fake smile on his face, and he would occasionally revert to a serious expression while gazing into the instrument case that lay at his feet.
The empty instrument case that waited with an open mouth had only a few coins inside.
I let out a yawn while sitting down on a bench.
The scene of this road lined with white-painted buildings was so beautiful that it was entertaining to just stay for a while and look at the environs. The shrill music and noise did not match the milieu, but oh well.
To begin with, this country was apparently a place where more than half the population was comprised of a wealthy, privileged class, and apart from this plaza, most of the other places I saw had a calm atmosphere. In fact, the sight of soldiers boldly patrolling the streets in groups gave a sense of opulence, rather than security, and apart from this one street corner, the rest of the areas had a soothing atmosphere.
So why was only this plaza so noisy, you ask? That’s because people who came in from outside the country were gathered here.
This country is commonly known as the country of sweets. In fact, even this plaza is full of shops that live up to that name and specialize in selling sweets such as macarons, chocolates, and waffles.
The sweets from this country are apparently quite popular elsewhere as well, as evidenced by the merchants, travelers, and tourists who gathered here from other countries to buy them.
Some of them will resell them elsewhere. Others are buying them for themselves.
There’s a bag full of sweets beside me on the bench. I used up most of the money I had on hand to buy as many as I could.
They were insanely expensive, perhaps because they were made with the intention of selling to foreigners, though they did have an excellent reputation. They look as delicious as their price would suggest. I’ve heard that these sweets were made using liberal amounts of expensive ingredients and they were delicious enough to make your cheeks melt. Going by the old axiom of 『I paid a lot of money for this, so it is obviously going to be delicious,』 I can only hope that it wasn’t just bragging.
“Hello there, Miss! Oh look, your shoes are dirty! How about letting me clean them?”
A place where a large number of outsiders gather is a breeding ground for weird people like this who are looking to earn some small change.
However, there is no reason to worry. Such people usually leave without another word if you show them a (spare) empty purse.
If you add on that simple phrase, this method is exceptionally effective.
By the way, even after I take the effort to do all of this, there are occasionally rude people who click their tongues at me. I wish they would just turn to ash.
Even though this town is filled with people from high society, I guess there are still quite a few people here who can’t afford a decent meal.
It looks like there is a wide disparity in wealth of the citizens.
Weaving through the noisy street, I saw children who were walking around and selling fruits that lacked lustre. They wore tattered clothes, and had a sign around their necks that said 『Ultra special fruit. One gold coin per fruit.』
The boy who offered to clean my shoes is there as well. Although he doesn’t appear to be old enough to work yet.
I also saw the street performer who was playing broken music. The instrument is in such bad shape that it can’t even produce a proper tone.
Just as this location is a place of business for foreigners, it is also a place of business for the poor people of this country.
However, most of the foreigners didn’t spare so much as a glance for them. I could see people looking annoyed while brushing aside the hands of the poor people. It’s like they had completely ceased to exist in their field of vision.
Although it seemed cold-hearted, most people were like that.
Most of the foreigners who were used to wandering from place to place did not show any interest in such pitiful people.
That’s why it’s easy to tell when someone is a newbie traveler.
“Kyaa~! Such wonderful music! This broken melody is especially amazing! It moves my heart more than any other music that exists in the world! We are so impressed!”
There was a young girl who was dropping gold coins from her purse while dancing happily in front of the aforementioned street performer. She had golden hair, was dressed in a very flashy set of gothic-style clothes, had a brown rucksack on her back, and a beret on her head. She was also a weird girl who referred to herself as “We.”
It was apparent that she was newbie traveler, as she went around doing all the things typical of a newbie traveler.
For starters, she never failed to pay a street performer.
Apparently, the newbie had some notion that she had to pay for every bit of music that reached her ears, regardless of what kind of music it was. I used to be like that in the past as well.
“Oh my! That girl is working despite being so young… how admirable! It’s one gold coin for a fruit, yes? We will take the lot.”
Every time she saw a pitiful child selling fruit, she would buy from them.
Apparently, when faced with a pitiful child, the newbie’s sense of the value of objects underwent a dramatic change, and after causing a deflationary spiral, it could be said that her purse strings did not just loosen, but disappeared altogether. I used to be like that in the past as well.
“Eh? Shoe cleaning? Oh my! We were just thinking that our shoes were dirty!”
Of course, she had her shoes cleaned when they had no need for cleaning.
The excitement of visiting a new country tricked her into thinking that even unnecessary things were necessary. I used to be like that in the past as well.
In this manner, the newbie traveler’s money started to disappear without her realizing. Once a person’s sense of values has been skewed, it won’t return to normal until they hit rock bottom.
Incidentally, the girl hit rock bottom pretty quickly.
“Oh? There’s no money left. I’m sure we had quite a few gold coins until just a while ago.”
However, the girl looked fairly unfazed despite hitting rock bottom.
“Oh well, that can’t be helped. We suppose we will just go around tasting sweets—ah, you there, in the shop. Give us one of everything, and we mean everything.”
The salesperson in the shop looked surprised at her bold manner of speech and request, but he did as she asked and went about packing the merchandise.
By the way, the salesperson had said “That’ll be ten gold coins.” I heard it loud and clear. That was a ridiculously high price.
“Thank you. Here you go.”
The bold girl handed over ten fruits to the salesperson like it was only natural.
The salesperson was very surprised. He looked like he wanted to say “What is this person thinking?”
“Do you not understand? We bought these earlier for ten gold coins. That means they are worth ten gold coins, correct? So please trade us the sweets for them.”
The salesperson was flabbergasted for a while. And then, eventually,
“This is baaaaad! That wicked woman we’ve heard about has finally appeared! Everyone, help me catch her!”
He shouted that.
On hearing that, the music stopped playing and people stopped talking. In the next instant, middle-aged men dressed as cooks came running out of all the shops in the vicinity and pounced on the girl.
“Eh? Eeh? What is this? Stop this, at once!”
The girl was captured easily.
She was held down by the men and had her cheek pressed against the pavement.
“So you’re that wicked woman we heard about!”
“I heard that you’ve been going around laying waste to our shops with your evil ways!”
“Do you take us for fools!?”
“We won’t give in to your threats!”
“Hehehe… you’ve quite a nice body, Miss….”
“Should we make you use your body to pay for insulting us!? Hehehe……”
It looks like things are taking a turn for the worse.
“What are you people doing? We were just trying to purchase some sweets!”
A salesperson who came running from another shop looked down at her with a hard expression.
“I know that you’re the one who has been using despicable methods for the past few days to lay waste to our shops! So you’re trying to trade cheap fruit for our wares this time? We won’t let that happen! You are going to be executed!”
“Executed? Oh my! What are you going to do?”
“Hehehe… Do you really have to ask…?”
The men’s eyes were glued to her chest.
The girl followed their gazes, realized that the men were staring, and finally seemed to understand the gravity of the situation.
The girl shouted while her face turned bright red.
“So that’s it! You people intend to play a lewd prank on us, is that right? Right here and now!?”
“Eh, right now? Nonononono.”
“Of course we won’t do anything in a place like this, that’s only common sense.”
“Even we wouldn’t do something like that.”
“Stop this at once! We are not the type of woman who is good at such things!”
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
“What is this girl talking about?”
“Oh I see, she must be an idiot or something.”
The atmosphere crumbled a bit, but there was no change in the girl’s predicament.
After being restrained by the men, the girl was securely wrapped in a length of rope
It felt like if things were allowed to continue, she would be taken to one of the nearby shops and assaulted by the men.
No, I can’t just let this go.
I stood up from my spot, took a bite out of a yellow macaron, then threw the whole thing into my mouth, and went to stand in the way of the men.
“Hello, everyone. Is something the matter?”
I said that while chewing on the macaron.
One of the men looked at me strangely and said,
“Who are you, are you a traveler?”
I nodded, and,
“Yes, I’m a traveling witch. I’ve been watching the situation for a while from the bench over there… Did this girl cause some sort of scandal?”
“That’s right. She’s a wicked woman who has been laying waste to the shops in this area for the past few days.”
“We’ve heard the rumors. The wicked woman does not pay a single coin, and instead tries to trade some random fruit or something for our sweets.”
“Hoho. And so you captured the girl who tried to exchange fruit for sweets?”
Seeing me agree with the men, the golden-haired girl shouted,
“It’s some sort of mistake! We merely attempted to trade fruit that we purchased for ten gold coins!”
Well, she’s not wrong.
“I saw the whole thing. This girl is just a fool who purchased the fruit from a child for an exorbitant price, and then thought that she could exchange the fruit for sweets. She is not a wicked woman, nor does she seem intelligent enough to carry out any evil deeds.”
“…Hey, that’s uncalled for.”
“Actually, all of you said that you heard rumors about a wicked woman, but didn’t you hear anything about what she looks like?”
I ignored the girl who butted into the conversation and asked that question to the men. Hearing that, the men ground their teeth and started to discuss it amongst themselves.
“That’s right, I feel like the wicked woman who came to my shop the other day was a little younger…”
“She wasn’t golden-haired.”
“Did she have black hair?”
“I don’t remember her breasts being quite so large.”
“I feel like she was more composed as well…”
I see, I see.
“So it’s clear that she’s not the one you’re looking for, isn’t it? Now, let her go. If you don’t, I’m going to shout for help.”
Actually, there was no need to shout for help; a lot of people had already gathered around. We were in the plaza where a lot of people ordinarily gathered, at a time when there was a lot of pedestrian traffic. Our dispute had gathered a lot of attention, and everyone heard our discussion as well.
From the perspective of the surrounding people who didn’t know the circumstances, it must have looked like a bunch of men who were trying to unfairly capture a woman and do something unspeakable to her, and a witch who had appeared to stop them. The foreign merchants, the high class people who had gathered in the plaza to buy sweets, and the tourists were all looking at the men with cold gazes.
The men faltered.
Not only that, they must have understood that there was absolutely no way for them to turn this situation around. They removed the ropes restraining the girl and said,
“……Well, you know. Next time, use money to purchase something instead of fruit. Do you understand?”
They started acting like reasonable people, hurriedly pushed their way through the crowd, and returned to their respective shops.
The girl, who had not entirely processed the situation yet, had simply and weakly collapsed to the ground, and was looking up at me.
“Umm… Well… Thank you…?”
“Don’t mention it. What’s your name?”
Seeing me extend my hand out to her, the girl hesitantly took hold of it.
“We are called Sabine.”
“I see. I’m Elaina. The Witch of Ashes, Elaina.”
This might seem like an abrupt change in the topic, but regarding that wicked woman those men were talking about earlier.
Just who was she?
That’s right, it’s me.
“Eh? Sorry, we didn’t hear you properly. Can you repeat that?”
Once things were settled, I felt that it would be a waste to just part ways with the girl in that manner. I thought I should at least explain the situation to her, so we were currently sitting opposite to each other and sipping coffee in a cafe located in a corner of a peaceful residential district, a little distance away from the plaza.
Of course, I was paying.
She went through all that because she was mistaken for me, after all. This was the least I could do.
“Like I said earlier, I’m the one that those people are searching for. I am the one who is laying waste to the sweet shops in town. So I’m sorry that you had to go through that because of me.”
To think there would be a girl optimistic enough to try and trade fruit for sweets. It was completely outside my expectations.
Actually, I’ve been giving a small amount of money along with the fruit… but it looks like the rumors mention only the fruit.
“Why would you do something like that… Do you not have the money to buy sweets?”
“I do. However, I didn’t feel the necessity to pay for them, so I didn’t.”
“Oh my! How arrogant!”
“Not at all. If anything, I’m very humble.”
“But you’re cheating people when you buy the sweets, aren’t you? That’s horrible. How can you do something like that without feeling anything?”
Sabine-san was glaring at me.
I looked away from her as if trying to escape that gaze, and,
“Well… Let me just say there are various reasons for that.”
“Oh? And what might those be?”
“You really want to know?”
“We would like to know.”
That suits me just fine.
“By the way, Sabine-san. Do you have some free time now?”
“We are a traveler.”
“The only thing we have is free time.”
In other words she has a lot of free time and no money.
That makes things even better.
After walking some distance from the cafe and flying along with her on my broom, we passed over the roofs of many houses and eventually reached the back gate of the town.
Unlike the majestic front gate that the high-class people would like, this one had a very plain appearance and was barely wide enough to allow one cart to pass through at a time.
I found this place on my first day here, when I was killing time by flying around the town on my broom.
“Take a look at that.”
Peeking over the roof of one of the houses, we saw a retailer from this country who had been waiting for a cart.
“Hey, I was waiting for you. Thank you for your hard work today as well.”
After a slight bow in greeting, the merchant got down from the cart and started unloading wrapped bundles.
“I’ve brought them today as well. As you can see, they are all items that were acquired under special circumstances. I gave them a quick examination, so I don’t think you’ll have a problem with any of them”
The retailer looked inside one of the bundles.
It was full of things like fruits, butter, sugar, milk, wheat flour, and cacao; namely things that were indispensible for making sweets.
“What is all of this?”
Sabine-san looked puzzled by that sight.
“It’s just like that merchant said. Those commodities were all obtained under special circumstances. For example, being rejected due to issues during manufacture or failing the taste test… what you see here is a collection of such failures. Of course, they are not high-quality products.”
“……Wait a minute. The people of this country were singing praises about how the sweets are prepared from carefully selected ingredients.”
“In a way, they are using carefully selected ingredients.”
It’s just that they are selecting ingredients with certain issues.
“But the people of this city are famous for making delicious sweets. We only came here because we heard about that.”
“I’ve been going around buying up all the sweets I can find for the past few days, and I’ve occasionally tried eating some of them. They were all exceedingly plain. Would you like to try one?”
I pulled a macaron out of the bag I was holding and handed it over to Sabine-san.
After taking it hesitantly, she took a small bite out of it and carefully chewed it.
She had a very complicated expression on her face.
“……Well, it’s not bad. However, we would not pay gold for something like this.”
At the most, it would be worth one copper.
“The people who come to this country to buy sweets are just being fooled by the ‘high-quality ingredients’ catch phrase. In reality, they are just cheap products.”
Well, in summary….
Let me put it as clearly and concisely as I can.
“In other words, I have been buying sweets in exchange for fruits and a small amount of money while casually letting the shopkeepers know that I am aware of the truth.”
“…We are in shock. We thought that we would be able to obtain the ideal sweets here… but they are just cheap items…? Compromised ingredients…? There is such a thing as going too far!”
“It looks like you’re taking this pretty hard.”
“Of course! What is this!? Are they trying to make fools of people from other countries? Rather, why are they selling cheap products despite being so rich? We struggle to understand their motives!”
After we returned to the cafe, she puffed up her cheeks in anger and started slapping the table.
Her vigor caused ripples to spread across the surface of my second coffee of the day.
While picking up the cup, I asked,
“Well, I think you’ve got the order of things wrong. Most probably, it’s not that they are selling cheap products despite being rich—rather, they were able to cleverly find a way to sell cheap products for a high price, so this place ended up full of rich people.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I said.”
Most likely, the people of this country were able to build up their country’s image to the current level because they kept stubbornly selling cheap products for a high price.
By selling cheap sweets branded as high-quality items and using poor children to sell fruit, the adults of this country must have become rich and obtained an elegant, upper class life.
However there was definitely a disparity in wealth here. The poor people earned a daily income by working as shoe cleaners, street performers—or selling fruit on the orders of rich people, and were living their lives in this way.
I took a sip of coffee. A slightly bitter taste spread through my mouth.
“There is no guarantee that you will only ever see righteous and good things, Sabine-san. You may not know this because you are still new to the life of a traveler, but the world is overflowing with people who attempt to earn money through crooked means.”
She was visibly shocked.
“How did you guess that I am new to being a traveler?”
“Seasoned travelers don’t buy fruit for an exorbitant price just because they were being sold by a little child, and they clean their boots themselves.”
As for paying the street performers, well, maybe occasionally. However, they would certainly not shower them in gold coins.
“I see… But don’t you feel sorry for those children? If carefree travelers like us don’t help them… Especially that child who was selling fruit, she looked like she would collapse at any moment if we did not extend a helping hand.”
I calmly shook my head.
“Giving them money in exchange for fruit will not help those children at all. The truth is that there are adults who are directing those children from the background. 『A poor child walking around selling fruit,』 isn’t that something that would move strangers to tears? It’s not just this country, there are crooked adults all over the world who earn money by using children. Of course, most of the money earned by the children is siphoned off by the adults, and the children are only left with a pittance.”
“If you truly wish to help the children, you must not give them any money. If the practice of using children to earn money stops being profitable, then the children will no longer be forced to sell items in such a manner.”
At any rate, buying fruit from the children only provided temporary peace of mind.
For both the children as well as the travelers who gave them the money.
“…Yes, I see.”
I wonder what’s going through her mind right now.
She was just staring at her cup with furrowed eyebrows.
I too received a major shock when I learned that there were evil adults controlling the children from the background.
“Why did you start traveling?”
When I asked that question, the girl suddenly smiled and said,
“There are no sweets worth talking about in our country. That is why we decided to go on a journey centered around sweets. This happened only a few days ago.”
“I also planned on studying the sweets from various countries so that I could go back and sell sweets in my country as well.”
“…However, it looks like We cannot learn anything from this country.”
“At the very least, you’ve learned what it takes to live as a traveler, right?”
After that, we just drank our coffee and spent some time in silence.
“Pardon the intrusion! We are soldiers from this country. We will be carrying out an inspection of this shop.”
The peaceful atmosphere was shattered abruptly.
A soldier with a menacing air had violently opened the door and raised his voice. The sound of his heavy leather boots striking the floor reverberated throughout the shop.
“W-What is that about? He looks incredibly menacing. Was there an incident of some sort?”
I moved my face closer to Sabine-san who was sitting opposite to me, and whispered,
“They are searching for the wicked woman who has been popping up frequently over the past few days. Her existence is a problem for these people, after all.”
“……Doesn’t that mean that they are after you?”
I raised one finger and put it near my lips.
“It’s fine. I most likely won’t be found out.”
I pulled out my staff from under the table and cast a small spell on my own hair.
“When I was going around all the sweets shops, I was changing the color of my hair like this.”
I turned my hair black for just an instant, and then returned it to its usual ash-grey color. Of course, when I do it for real, I don’t only change my hair. I also change the appearance of my clothes. There is no way I’ll be found out.
And so, basically,
“Excuse me. We’ve received reports of a woman committing wicked acts in the area lately, do you know anything about that?”
I was able to keep a calm face even when the soldier came to our table and asked that question.
The soldier was holding up a painted likeness of a girl with pitch black hair. The girl did not leave any impression of being a witch, she was just plain girl with black hair.
“I see, you have no idea. How about you?”
I had just shook my head, but,
“Eh? Umm… That is…”
It looked like Sabine-san was the kind of person who wasn’t good at telling lies.
I stomped on her foot under the table.
“You haven’t seen her around either, have you?”
“Hiyaaa! N-No, I haven’t seen her.”
“Well, that’s how it is. Sorry we couldn’t be of help.”
The soldier who came to our table looked dubious, but he nodded in assent.
I would have been very happy if the soldier just left at that point, but apparently that was not all he wanted to discuss. The soldier showed me one more portrait.
“By the way, a princess from a nearby country has gone missing recently, do you know anything about that? She looks like this.”
Well, that was a surprise.
It was a portrait of a pretty girl with golden hair. She was looking towards the viewer with a beautiful smile, and if you put a beret on her head and dressed her up in gothic-styled clothes, she would look exactly like the girl who was sitting opposite of me.
“Oh, and her name is Princess Sabine.”
Actually, it was Sabine-san herself.
“She apparently disappeared all of a sudden a few days ago. Seeing as there’s a good chance she might have been kidnapped, we are looking around for her in our country as well. If you have any information about that, could you please tell—hmm?”
Sabine-san’s eyes met the soldier’s at that point, and he immediately held up the portrait and compared it to her many, many times.
He also shot several glances at me.
If Sabine-san was a princess who was thought to have been kidnapped, then I wonder just how I appeared to the soldier.
Ah, this is bad.
“You must be the one who kidnapped Princess Sabine!”
Just as I figured, it ended up like this.
There’s nothing else for it.
Since things had come so far.
I pulled my staff out from under the table.
After I gave the floor of the cafe a couple of hard taps with my staff, vines sprouted up and started twisting their way across the ground and, as if they had a will of their own, they captured the soldiers.
Immediately after that, I grabbed Sabine-san by the hand and left the store, but there were soldiers waiting outside as well.
I could hardly expect to talk my way out of this, given that I had just covered the inside of the store with vines. I cocooned all the soldiers in the street with vines as well, and then escaped towards the city plaza.
While pretending to be calm, I hid myself in the crowds of people and continued to pull the girl along by her hand.
She was still coming along with me because she was overcome by the pressure of the situation, but thinking about it calmly, there was no reason for her to run away along with me.
“Thank you, Elaina-san. You were looking out for us, weren’t you?”
“Eh, ah, that’s right. That’s exactly what happened.”
That was a lie, of course.
“More importantly, I didn’t know that you were the princess of a country.”
“Yes, We started our sweets-centric travels for the purpose of bringing sweets to our country.”
Such a frivolous motive.
“Still, there’s the fact that we were discovered in this country… This is bad.”
“Wouldn’t it be settled if you just went home?”
“We cannot do that! There are no sweets in our country! For the sake of the women in our country, We cannot afford to stop here!”
“By the way, what excuse did you give for leaving your country in the first place?”
Well, the soldier had also mentioned that she had gone missing, so it was likely that she had slipped out without saying anything.
There should be a limit for recklessness.
“What do you intend to do now?”
“Of course, We will continue to travel. Our travels have only just begun, after all!”
“That’s assuming you actually manage to leave this country.”
“You’re right. That is something We are also worried about.”
By this time, the garrison must have received word that Sabine-san was somewhere within the country. Even if she tried to boldly walk out of the gates like this, I doubt they’d just let her go.
“We would like to make a request of you, Elaina-san. We will certainly repay you someday. Could you please get us out of this country?”
“Hmm… Well, I suppose that would be okay…”
“Seeing the magic you used earlier, Elaina-san, we feel that it should be possible for both of us to escape safely.”
I’m not sure how I should feel about that.
“Well, we should probably… be….fine…”
“What was that? We could not hear you clearly.”
“I can only feel a sense of foreboding about taking you along.”
“Oh my! That’s rude!”
Oh, she’s angry again.
However, it feels like Sabine-san is not good at dealing with sudden developments, so for now I should move things forward without allowing her to speak.
“There’s no choice, now that things have come to this. I suppose we’ll just have to use my secret trick.”
“A secret trick? What do you intend to do?”
“For starters, it’s a wonderful trick that will at at least make you be silent.”
Saying that, I pointed my staff at her.
“Halt, stop right there. We need to conduct a search of your belongings. There have been dangerous things happening on our country as of late… apparently, there is a woman hiding here who kidnapped the princess of a country. So we are conducting baggage checks.”
Since it was daytime, there was a line of people waiting to leave by the main gate (the extremely flashy one) and soldiers were climbing into the carts belonging to merchants to check if a pair of women were hidden away inside.
The soldiers went down the line, and finally arrived before me, who was last in the line.
One of the soldiers squatted in front of me.
He probably did that so our eyes would be on the same level.
“…Hmm? Why are you trying to leave the country, Miss? Where’s your mother?”
My current appearance was that of a young girl, not much older than nine years of age. I was holding a staff in one hand and a teddy bear in the other, and was wearing a gothic-style dress.
As usual, my hair is ash-grey and eyes are azure, however, I look about half as old as I usually do. There’s no way I will be found out.
“My mother is waiting outside the country.”
Staying true to my role, I answered the soldier.
“Oh? So you’re going to go outside by yourself? Such a brave young girl. Do you want me to go with you?”
“No, thank you.”
“Eh, I see…”
“Please allow me to leave as soon as possible.”
Magic that changes my appearance is very tiring. Moreover, right now I also have to keep up Sabine-san’s altered appearance. I’m exhausted just by waiting in line.
“You’re quite something… you have a pretty sharp tongue.”
It looked like the soldier had too much free time.
“By the way, that stuffed animal you’re holding is very cute.”
“Really? She’s called Sabine.”
“Oh, that’s also the name of the princess we are searching for.”
“Oh, I see.”
The teddy bear attempted to move, and I secretly put more strength into the arm holding it as if to restrain it.
“Maybe this stuffed animal actually is Sabine-san.”
I said that with a laugh.
“Hahaha, as if. Oh, the line is moving. Go on ahead, little girl.”
At that moment, the merchants in front of me had finally moved ahead.
After giving the soldier a small bow, I walked forwards.
In this manner, the two of us left that country.
“Well, that was easy.”
I whispered in a low voice so that no one else would overhear.
“Yes, it was easy.”
She whispered back, from her place within my arms.
Hey, you didn’t even do anything.
In that way, the two of us snuck out of the country and parted ways outside.
I’m not sure what kind of path that girl, who was a newbie traveler, took after that.
However, I felt like we would meet again somewhere, for sure.
Now that I think about it, this is just a story about how I tricked people to escape from a country that tricked other people into buying all their sweets.
Not only is it lacking in excitement, there are no dramatic plot twists and even remembering it is difficult.
However, I certainly remember what happened after I left that country—the incident that occured a year ago.
That streets of that city were extremely normal, and whether it was the alleyways, the city plaza, or even the royal palace, there was nothing worth mentioning.
It did not have a single distinguishing feature, and it was the kind of place that one would soon forget about.
The population was neither too large not too small, and the country was not particularly prosperous. All the people I met there just lived dispassionate lives.
Even so, I remember being invited to the royal palace in that kingdom, and the incident that happened after I was shown into the reception hall.
“What do you think of our country?”
After I had been shown into the reception hall, the person who came to meet me was none other than the princess of that kingdom.
She was a girl with golden hair, whom I remembered meeting at some point.
“It’s quite ordinary.”
Hearing my concise answer, the girl suddenly laughed and nodded.
“That’s right. It’s ordinary.”
She started to set down sweets on the table. The table was loaded to capacity with sweets like macarons, chocolates, and waffles.
“However, I realized it after traveling. This ordinary life is actually a blessing.”
“When we saw children walking around with dirty clothes, we would think 『Ah, this country has a disparity in wealth.』 However, if we only saw people who were dressed in pretty clothes, we strangely did not feel anything about it. People have a tendency to pay attention to only the bad things. Even if a person sees a fresh and beautiful spectacle, their feelings will fade with time and it will eventually become just another sight.”
“Well, that is true. The reason why travelers find every sight to be beautiful is because they are only there for that instant.”
“After that, we had a thought. When a country becomes monotonous and does not make a strong impression on anyone, that is when that country is truly blessed.”
“There is no need to force oneself to make speciality products to stand out. Being ordinary might very well be the most difficult thing to achieve and also the happiest state of being.”
“……So did you give up on trying to popularize sweets in your country?”
Hearing my question, the girl slowly shook her head.
Right now, we are in the middle of distributing books about sweets to people all over the country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could make the sweets they liked by themselves?
“We are in the middle of preparing for that. We are trying to negotiate with a nearby country to send us the ingredients required to make sweets. They are all inferior goods and ingredients that have special circumstances, but depending on how they are used, we will be able to spread cheap and delicious sweets throughout the country.”
I see, that’s certainly a valid strategy.
“So, are these the sweets made with those cheap ingredients?”
“And you want me to sample them and give you my thoughts.”
I pretended to look reluctant as I picked up one of the macarons.
When I tossed the bright yellow macaron into my mouth, the taste of lemon spread throughout my mouth. It felt identical to the taste of the macarons I had eaten in that country a year ago, when I had first met her.
It was a nostalgic, calming taste.
“How does it taste?”
After swallowing the macaron, I answered her question.
“It’s quite ordinary.”