During their journey, there were times when they had to stay outdoors, but of course, there were also times when they rested at inns. It was rare to find an inn with a large room that could accommodate all four of them, so they would basically have two people stay in one room.
In those cases, the basic room arrangement would usually be Hikari and Hapti sharing one room, and Laguna and Fors sharing another.
At that time, magic tools didn't exist in the Human Realm yet, and the room was only dimly lit by the pale light of a lantern. Finished writing her diary, Hikari moved her gaze.
A few distance away from her, her roommate Hapti was laying out knives and other items on the floor, checking them one by one with a serious expression on her face.
Hapti would always, just like this, clean her tools before going to bed. Regardless of whether they were used that day or not, she would check all of her tools……
After Hikari watched her for a while, Hapti put away her tools, as if she had finished cleaning them…… and took out what seemed to be cheese.
This is also basically a daily thing, as Hapti eats a little something before going to bed. She eats dried meat, fruit or whatever she can eat in one bite before going to sleep, so when she takes out some kind of food, it's a signal that she's ready to go to sleep.
Taking out a small piece of cheese, Hapti cut it into small pieces and offered a slice to Hikari. Since this was also a regular occurrence for her, Hikari accepted the cheese as usual and put it in her mouth at the same time as Hapti.
After eating the cheese, they would usually turn off the light and go to sleep…… but it was a little different that day. After finishing the cheese, Hikari didn't turn off the lights, and instead looked like she was thinking about something, which made Hapti tilt her head in wonder.
[Hapti…… If, I'm just saying, if…… for example, errr…… I want to run away or something like that…… what would you do]
It was difficult for Hikari herself to explain why she said such a thing. Perhaps, she may have been traveling for quite a long time and might have been exhausted.
The fact that it was currently just her and Hapti, who she knew well, may have loosened the tension in her heart a little bit, and she may have started to feel weak.
If one applies the calendar of her former world to the calendar of this world, tomorrow would exactly be Hikari's birthday, so perhaps…… she might be feeling a little homesick.
In response to the jumbled emotions dwelling within Hikari's heart, Hapti only plainly responded, without seemingly thinking about it.
[Unnn Then, let's run away together! In that case, let's become a Chivalrous Thief Duo! Well, since Hikari's an amateur, I'll teach you everything I know!]
[……Pfft, fufu…… Ahaha.]
[Why are you laughing……]
Hikari couldn't help but laugh at her response that sounded like the most obvious thing in the world. Her response was just like Hapti after all……
In the end, she has always been the same. Like when she talked about the reason for fighting before, she said that she was accompanying Hikari on this journey to defeat the Demon Lord, and that if Hikari ran away, she would run away together with her, because there was no reason for her to stay in the party any longer……
No matter what choice Hikari makes, she can feel that Hapti…… "will always be there with her", and those words…… For Hikari, who has been summoned to fight in another world, those words make her feel that she isn't alone…… and they may make her inexplicably reassured and filled with happiness.
[After all, you're not a Chivalrous Thief. You're just a simple thief.]
[Ehh~~ I think I'm a Chivalrous Thief who helps the weak and crushes the strong though.]
[Why are you laughing that hard!]
That's why, Hikari laughed…… as if to "cover up the tears of joy" that welled up at the expected response.
After Hikari apologized to a slightly disgruntled Hapti and was about to go to sleep, as if she suddenly remembered something, Hapti spoke.
[……Ahh, that's right. It's a little early, but I'll give this to you now.]
[Unnn What's this]
[It's some kind of weirdly designed necklace sold by a street vendor.]
[……And why is it that you're giving this to me]
What Hapti handed was, just as she said, a strange necklace…… that had a subtle design that was neither cool nor cute, and receiving it, Hikari curiously tilted her head.
[Tomorrow's Hikari's birthday, right That's why, that's my gift!]
[……You remembered huh……]
[Of course, I remember my friends' birthdays, you know]
Indeed, Hapti knows Hikari's birthday. Rather, cross-referencing the calendar of Hikari's world to the calendar of this world was something she had done when they had just started their journey together, and Hapti asked about Hikari's birthday at that time.
[……T- Thank you.]
Hapti smiled somewhat happily at Hikari as she thanked her. After a short chat, deciding to go to sleep to prepare for tomorrow, they turned off the light.
By the time she got under the covers and closed her eyes, the loneliness that Hikari had been feeling had disappeared, and her heart was only filled with a gentle warmth.
For Hikari, Hapti was the first friend she had made in this world, and a very important one of whom she trusted enough to show her weaknesses.
That's why…… Hikari was very shocked when she suddenly disappeared after the Treaty of Friendship was signed. She didn't show it to the people around her, only saying that "it was just like Hapti"…… but she wasn't calm inside.
She considered her as her irreplaceable best friend. She definitely felt friendship with her…… and thought that she would stay with her as a matter of course.
However, Hapti disappeared without telling her a single thing. She wanted to scream out and ask "Why".
The next day, with these depressing feelings within her heart but still wearing a smile, Hikari decided to live with Kuromueina and moved to her castle…… when a letter and a package suddenly arrived at Hikari's door.
Seeing the name "Hapti" written in the sender's column, feeling a jumble of emotions, Hikari hurriedly opened the letter.
The letter states that Hapti is a subordinate of the Phantasmal King and that by the order of the Phantasmal King, she had come into contact with Hikari in order to assess her.
The Phantasmal King's order was only to assess things, and it was Hapti's own decision to accompany Hikari on her journey.
The trip with Hikari was noisy, but very enjoyable, and even though she had originally planned to leave after defeating the Demon Lord, she ended up staying with her until the Treaty of Friendship was concluded.
The contents of the letter was shocking, but despite her surprise, what was in Hikari's heart…… was a feeling of relief. The letter contained all the circumstances that the person named Hapti was facing, and it also contained a sentence that said "Please don't tell Laguna and Fors about this", so she understood that this was something that she had confided in Hikari alone.
And more than anything, she was saved by her words that although the initial contact was at the order of the Phantasmal King, but it was by her own will that she accompanied her on the subsequent journey.
And the fact that she had told her all about it…… made her really happy.
At least, the friendship she had felt for Hapti wasn't a one-way route……
As Hikari's eyes teared up with relief, she continued reading, thinking that one day, she would be able to see her best friend again…… but that was the end of the serious content.
"By the way, I'm on a treasure hunt in a lost underwater city, and on the way, I found some weird-colored coral, so since Hikari's birthday is coming up, I will be enclosing it with this letter as a present. Going back to the topic, from what I've heard, the treasure of this underwater city……"
And thus, Hapti talked about her current situation…… or rather, it was a long story about her treasure hunt. When she opened the parcel that had arrived with the letter, she found that there was indeed a coral with an indescribably strange color.
[……How should I say this…… Seriously…… It's just like Hapti.]
After muttering with a slight dumbfounded expression on her face, Hikari placed the coral on a shelf and smiled. Hapti's letter concluded by saying that she would send another letter on Hikari's birthday, so Hikari expects that she would continue to hear from her.
She was sure that she would enclose a strange birthday present like this one again…… and thinking about it, a smile naturally came to her face.
In fact, after that, Hapti sent letters and packages whenever Hikari's birthday came around. The letters were basically a list of Hapti's activities over the past year…… There were also a lot of crazy stories like a certain Ancient Takoyaki Civilization and a fallen Taiyaki Kingdom.
And every time she received a gift, it was a strange item that she had found in her travels.
For a long time, the letters were one-way and Hikari couldn't reply to her, probably because Hapti herself was moving from one place to another, but some time later, Hapti accidentally obtained a magic tool in the shape of a box that had the effect of teleporting to the person registered as the owner of the box whatever it is that was placed in it by imbuing magic power in it, so Hikari became able to write replies by putting a letter into the box.
Since then, Hapti and Hikari exchanged letters about once a year, and at Hapti's request, she has kept this a secret from Laguna and Fors, and only Hikari knows that Hapti is alive.
After talking for a while with each other, Hapti left with Kaito and the others to go to the Adventurer's Guild, and Hikari…… Neun smiled.
[……How should I say this…… That was quite the personality she had.]
[Yes, seriously…… She hasn't changed at all.]
With a wry smile on her face, Neun nodded at Vier's words. Although they had exchanged letters, it had been a thousand years since they had seen each other face to face. In spite of this, Hapti seemed to be as light-hearted as if it had been yesterday, which was very much like her.
However, it was really great for Neun that she was able to meet her this time. At that time, a thousand years ago, magic tools were not yet widespread, so it was not possible…… but this time, they've registered each other's magic power with their hummingbird magic tool, so from now on, they can communicate with each other using hummingbirds.
Also, Hapti, who was a Demon, didn't seem to think that a thousand years was a very long time, so when Neun asked Hapti to come and see her more often, Hapti agreed.
At least, Hapti has never made a mistake with her promise to Neun, so now that she has said that, she will come to see her in her spare time in the future.
[……Seriously…… She hasn't changed at all. A whimsical, free-spirited, money-grubbing troublemaker…… and my best friend.]
Yes, nothing has really changed. Even now, after a thousand years had passed before they met again, Neun can still feel…… that friendship between her and Hapti remained unchanged.
The peculiarly shaped pouch that Hapti wore on her waist…… Despite the fact that it has been used quite a bit and there are traces that it may have been repaired many times, it is still quite clean as if it has been used with care…… It was a gift that Neun had given her along with a letter in return for a birthday present about 100 years ago.
Pouches custom-made in a shape to match the weapons Hapti uses…… Seeing her using it with great care even after 100 years, she felt the deep friendship Hapti held for her.
As Neun thought that it might be a good idea to give her a new pouch another time…… With a kind expression on her face, she gazed in the direction where her first and best friend in this world had departed to.
The first character rough draft of Volume 11 is now available in the Activity Report!
~ ~ Additional Explanation ~ ~
Hapti is one of the "clones that are made to act with independent thoughts" that Alice mentioned back in the Six Kings Festival, so she does exist normally.
Although she shares information with the main body in real time, she's still going about her daily treasure hunting, and she's still taking good care of the pouch that Neun gave her while repairing it over and over again.
From now on though, she may be seen visiting Neun and spending time lazing around with her.-