After parting with Kyle, Flora and I walked down the path leading to the village's square.
The warm sunlight shined on us as a comfortable breeze blew across our skin.
Lovely greenery filled the surrounding area and homes of the villagers were scattered along the way.
Since we were past the morning hours when people headed out to work, there wasn't anyone else around us.
I could hear our footsteps along with the faint sounds of grass and plants being moved by the wind.
Just from looking at the scenery like this, it was almost as if there was only me and Flora in this world.
When I turned and looked over in Flora's direction, she somehow noticed me immediately and looked back at me.
Then, she smiled as our eyes met.
I also smiled at her while a little embarrassed when facing her lovely smile.
She looks at me and pays attention to me- Just knowing that made me very happy.
I probably have a huge smile on my face right now.
Just walking side by side with her like this is happiness.
That thought went through my mind as I walked at a slower pace than usual to match hers.
While I was enjoying the nature of Nordende, Flora muttered a few words.
「…The sun has gotten hotter the closer we're getting to summer」
「Yeah. I've been sweating so much when I worked on our field. Maybe I should start wearing a hat or something」
「If that's the case, do you want to use one that I made last winter? It's not that well-made though…」
Flora said as she smiled shyly.
「Really? You say that but I thought the straw hat that you wore when I saw you working at the fields was really pretty」
Yup. The straw hat that I saw on her when she was helping with field work was sewn very nicely. Isn't she just being humble because she's a modest person?
「No! Um, that is because my mother helped me with most of that hat! The ones I made by myself are a lot worse!」
Flora shook her hands as she denied it.
「Truthfully, I wanted to make you something nice from scratch, but I won't be able to finish it in time for this summer, and the straw hats that my mother made were all sold to peddlers…」
「No, as long as the hat was made by you, you don't have to worry so much. It's going to be fine」
I would be glad to wear a hat made by the person I love.
Even if the other villagers have nicer ones, I'd still choose the one Flora made for me.
「I understand. It's a little embarrassing, but I'll give you the hat that I made when I get home」
「Un. Thank you」
I thanked Flora who was smiling happily at me.
While we were in the middle of our conversation as we walked, her hand touched my right arm.
A short "Ah" came out of her mouth naturally.
They only touched for a short moment, but I fully felt her smooth and soft skin from that. The feeling went away in an instant but I wanted to touch her more.
I wonder if Flora was thinking the same thing because she was moving suspiciously- as in she kept on glancing at my hand.
Maybe she also wanted to hold hands with me, I think?
I think that she'd normally be too embarrassed if the villagers saw her holding hands with me, but it seems to be okay to do so right now when there's no one around.
Since now I understood a little more about her mindset, I will show her my manly side.
Yup, I made up my mind and decided to reach my hand out.
Flora's shoulders trembled when I grasped her hand like she was surprised.
But she accepted it with slightly reddened cheeks as she tightly held my hand back.
Unlike my rugged, tough hands, I could fully feel how soft her hand was.
Her body temperature combined with that softness was starting to make my heart race. My face became red as I started to feel nervous, but at the same time, a warm, fuzzy feeling was filling my chest.
「…Aldo-san, your hand feels so big and strong. It makes me feel so safe when we hold hands」
「…Your soft hand also makes me feel calm when I hold on to it, Flora」
While we were talking to each other and having some laughs, we swung our hands up and down slowly as we walked.
I made sure that I held her hand tight.
For the next little while, I was soaked in an indescribable feeling of bittersweet happiness.
I thought that since we'll come across other villagers as we get closer to the village square, it'll be a pity that we won't be able to hold hands for much longer…Even though I wanted to do this with her for the whole day.
I kept wondering how long I had left to hold hands with her for, since there are still no villagers to be seen anywhere right now. I looked around restlessly as I pondered.
Then, I noticed an old grandpa looking at us from the front of his house on our left side.
「Hey look granny, those two are finally together」
「Ohh my, would you look at that– It was so frustrating just looking at them before. Lemme see, lemme see. Ohhh, Flora-chan has such a nice expression on her face. How nice」
The grandpa and granny said to each other as they looked at us. It was making me feel extremely uncomfortable and I wished they'd stop looking at us like that.
Flora had also taken notice from the voices of those two people; she quickly took her hand away as her face turned red.
Ah, so this is where our hand holding stops. Flora looked at me with a stupefied expression. It was like she wanted to tell me that it was nice to hold hands but now it's a little too embarrassing…
However, it couldn't be helped now since we had been seen.
But even if that's the case, I won't remain still while being exposed to such looks!
「Flora, we're going to run for a little」
Flora was confused by my words for a second, but then she quickly understood me and nodded with a playful smile on her face.
Then, I grabbed her hand again and started to run.
「Ohhh– they're running away」
「Ah we didn't have any bad intentions, but I guess it's not good to look at them like we were looking at some scenery, right? 」
I heard their faint voices coming from behind when I focused my hearing.
In a way, I didn't feel like running away from them anymore after hearing that.
After the grandpa and grandma disappeared from our sight, we reluctantly walked with our hands parted.
The scenery around us gradually changed from grassland to farms, and people started to appear here and there.
We waved and said hi to the villagers we saw on the way before we arrived at the village square.
「Oh! It's Aldo!」
「Ohh you're right, Collette!」
「The one who defeated that terrible monster with a sword?」
And then a lot of people, including children, gathered around me.
What's going on? What on earth is happening here?
Both Flora and I were confused from the villagers surrounding me all of a sudden.
Meanwhile, Colette, who was at the front of the crowd, spoke out.
(Colette was a village girl that invited Aldo to dinner before from some chapters ago)
「Hey, hey Aldo, is it true that you took down a red bear?」
She asked me with excitement like an overly excited young boy.
「Hey is it true that you beat it with just a sword alone?」
I was convinced after hearing those questions.
It seems that the news of me single-handedly defeating the red bear has already spread to everyone in this village. It's a little embarrassing.
Was this what Kyle meant when he told me to be careful on the way?
「Well, yeah. I used a sword to defeat that red bear」
Even the adults around us were impressed when I answered the questions of Collette and the village boy with a bright smile.
As your adventurer rank rises, it was natural for the difficulty of the hurdles you'll face to rise as well. So it really is something for people to be happy for when you take down those strong monsters.
But back when I was an A-ranked adventurer, the guild wouldn’t be happy at all when we made our reports of taking down things like red bears. Rather, they gave the feeling that doing that much was expected from us.
Of course, our clients or the villages involved would be happy that we took down the monsters, but the people who knew of us or other A-ranked adventurers would understand that monsters like red bears are an easy task for us.
Although I didn't care 'cause it was work, I might have completely forgotten about that joy of being an adventurer since I had been one for so long.
「I heard that you cut the monster cleanly in two at its stomach, is that true?」
「Yeah. I slashed at it and cut it in one swing」
I answered the young girl who had a composed feel to her while making some hand gestures.
It seems that stories about killing monsters that threatened villages were popular among villagers since they are usually hungry for stimulation. I was often asked by other villagers from other villages in the past like this after a monster subjugation.
「Amazing-! Show me your sword next time! I have never seen a sword before!」
A lively boy asked me with his eyes shining.
「Sure. A long sword would be dangerous but I could show you a short sword used for self-defense for a bit」
This child is the type that would want to touch the sword and maybe swing it all around when I show it to him. I hope he'd endure with a short sword used for self-defense so there won't be any danger.
I don't think he'll be able to tell that my long sword was made to slay dragons either, but it'd be better to not show that to people.
「Ueeee, why don't you show me a long sworddd?」
「Kuroru, I bet you'd want to touch it when he shows it to you, right? A long sword would be dangerous for that so just let him show you a short one」
The young boy named Kuroru was admonished by the composed-looking young girl with my exact thoughts.
「I've heard that there would be casualties even if a group of a dozen hunters went to take one down, no? And he won just by himself-」
「You know that just means that Aldo was that strong of an adventurer, right? We can surely live with peace of mind if we have such a strong hunter guarding the mountains」
While I was being asked questions by the kids, the adults behind them were also having a conversation of their own.
「Hey, Flora-chan, are you okay? I heard you were attacked, right?」
「Y-yes. I'm alright! I wasn't hurt anywhere!」
「Why did you go in the forest in the west in the first place?」
「Didn't you know? It's to pick that flower! That flower from that forest in the west!」
「Flower…? Ohhhh?! That flower!」
Behind me, Flora was surrounded by mainly women from the village.
I could hear Flora shyly yelling and the other women's shrill voices.
「She went to get the flower of union and was attacked by that monster. Then, the one she loves picked up his sword and gallantly took down the monster to save her! It's that kind of story!」
「So? Did you end up giving him the flower at the end? What happened after that?!」
The villagers all looked at me after hearing the female villagers' loud and excited voices talking about the flower of union.
Oh yeah. There were a lot of people that saw her holding that flower when she came back. It was natural for the news to spread after being seen by people like Kyle.
「「So what happened?」」
When she was asked further by the villagers, Flora looked over at me asking for help.
Then, the women's eyes also focused on me all of a sudden.
Ah, there's no point in hiding this anymore. Or rather, it'll be the same in the end even if I say it now. Wouldn't I be able to hold hands with her on the way back home if I just let it all out?
While I was thinking about what to do, I walked up close to Flora.
Then, I grasped her hand and said one thing.
「We got together」
And then thundering, loud cheers echoed in the village square.