“Well then, thank you very much.”
“Yeah. It seems hard, but I’m sure you all can do it!”
While we were given warm words by the innkeeper, who had misunderstood our affairs in the past, we left the inn.
After all, our accommodation was in a stable. There weren’t any keys or other check-out procedures in particular, but we still decided to meet the innkeeper and tell them that we were leaving.
The innkeeper was also talking normally, as it was likely the effects of Hisame’s event had vanished, but it was still difficult to confirm that over just a few phrases. I decided to go to a place where the most talkative fellow in this town was. It was a good opportunity to do so, after all.
The biggest blabbermouth that lived in the city, was of course…
“Ma’am, two apples please!”
“Alright, 100E please! … Huh? If I’m thinking correctly, it’s you from yesterday…?”
Time to inform you. It’s the old lady at the grocery.
“Yes. I made a commotion earlier.”
While saying that, I took two apples and gave one of them to miss apple girl Ringo.
As ever, both apple apples and humans who are named after apples are a confusing thing.
While Ringo started to look at the apple she just received with her passionate eyes, I turned back to the old lady.
For now, there aren’t any signs that she’s gonna talk about Hisame’s house. However, it can’t be said that I’ve totally lost my doubts, so I think it’ll be good if I gather more information. I’ve got nothing to lose.
I once again spoke to the lady.
“By the way, have you heard any new rumors about the princess?”
Hearing my words, the old lady gives me a wry smile.
“What you talkin’ about. It’s only been a day, It’ll be impossible for anything new to pop up… Well, that’s what I’d have wanted to say.”
“Did something happen?”
She said to me to not tell anyone else about this. Indeed, after those introductory remarks, she started to speak in a lower voice.
“Recently, the princess seems to have been a bit naughty. Here and there, there’s been talk by the people in the castle about not knowing how to deal with her.”
“Ahaha, I see.”
By the age of seven, Maki had mastered her skills in the way of the troublemaker.
There are many great stories to be heard about that girl. Late at night, she snuck into her own house through the window like a burglar. One time she said she wanted to be in the same class as me, so when she hid in the cleaning closet in my classroom, it caused a big fuss. At one point, she used a crayon to write “Maki Sanjou” on the fence between my house and the neighbours. So yeah, stuff like that. If the princess was indeed replaced by her, I don’t think she’d just sit down and be a good girl.
By the way, the way she wrote “Sanjou” in kanji (三上) seemed to have been a mistaken way to write Sanjou (参上). Even though my parents and I teased her for it, considering her age, you could say she was rather smart for using kanji even if it was imperfect. That girl, despite appearances, is mysteriously good with her studies.
In any case, it’s most likely that the princess’s real identity is Maki.
(Oi, you, did you really come to this world….?)
I found myself shifting my gaze in the direction of the royal palace.
If I’m right, Princess Shielmia should have her room at the top floor in the west tower of Licht Castle, which is at the heart of the capital. I think it’s very inconvenient to live at the top floor of a tower, but for the sake of events, I suppose it’s good there.
(I’d say it’s even worse for her, being stuck in such a place.)
By any means, I want to get in touch with Maki.
Wait, there’s an even simpler way to know if the princess is really Maki.
“B-By the way, that Maki princess you were talking about, what kind of person is she? Like, her appearance. I just realised I never knew.”
I asked her this with various motives in mind. The old lady looked at me bewilderedly.
“You really don’t know anything about that princess, huh. Princess Maki has pretty, black hair, and a sweet but small stature.”
Small girl with black hair. Yeah, those seem to match with Maki. Although, even Hisame has black hair, and just being a small person isn’t enough information.
“Is there anything else?”
I asked. The lady started to think.
“Hmm… Right… Something else, something else…. Oh! I, of all people, totally forgot she has an incredible characteristc.”
“An incredible characteristic?”
While I was thinking about if Maki had anything that made her stand out, the old lady brought her face close to mine and began to talk in a whisper. It was as if she was confiding with me a tremendous secret.
“As I said, the princess’s hair was black, yeah? That hair……”
The old lady paused the words there to give a dramatic effect.
“The split ends of her hair are so beautiful!!”
Was I mistaken?
I thought a few words in that sentence sounded out of place.
“Um, what did you say?”
“Split ends, I said. Split ends! That princess, her ends are split!”
“It’s amazing, right?” was the expression the old lady was giving me.
I have no freaking clue what she’s talking about.
“Ah. You don’t know what split ends mean? It’s like this. When the ends of your hair, right here, they just split apart like a tree branch….”
“Yeah yeah I know that! I’m wondering why split hair, out of anything…”
….No. In the game, there were characters with grey hair of bald heads, but the game devs never bothered to make any characters that had hair with split ends. If this world had faithfully reproduced the game, there shouldn’t be any people with split-ended hair.
On the other hand, if it’s a game, then my real-life appearance may have been interpreted by it through a special program. I also did not take care of my hair in real life, and thus the ends of my hair started to split. So, it’s no wonder that the program incorporated this into my character design. Then, since hair having split ends would be considered rare, it’s possible the inhabitants might treat it something similar to a four-leafed clover.
(Could it be, that was the reason why Ringo cared so much about split ends?”
Nah, it could just be that Ringo simply liked things with split ends, but if it’s true that split ends are rare in this world, the possibility that the princess was Maki has increased. I would be excited that this clue has come from such an unexpected place, but in reality, I’m not.
After all, from this unexpected place, a crisis was approaching me.
The horror that had struck me was…
“Good heavens! If I look at you closely, your hair also has split ends! Well I never. That’s a rare sight. Show me a bit more.”
That old lady was huge.
“Hey, wa- wait….”
The lady at the grocery was focused, staring deep into my eyes. Speaking of this, I had a similar encounter with Hisame this morning, but this oba-chan is exerting a different power.
“Are you a bit shy? It’s all right, all right. It’s not like I’m going to eat it, after all!”
While she said this, the big girl swung herself towards me.
Her lips broadly disfigured.
And, like a bird of prey, dazzling aimed at me.
(I-I’m gonna be eaten…..!)
In spite of her words, I feel a great danger looming over me.
Something white had interrupted me and the old lady.
Coincidingly, a voice with poor intonation hit our ears.
“No…. That’s… Mine.”
In order to block me from the old lady’s line of sight, Ringo had her arms stretched out in front of me.
“Come to think of it, previously you also…”
Even the old lady was struck by Ringo’s sudden intervention, and her focus diverted away from me.
Not missing this chance, I distanced myself from the woman.
“Th-Thank you very much. We’re going now!”
And so, taking one of Ringo’s outstretched hands, we quickly went away from the grocery stall.
[TL Note: The whole “Split ends” thing was foreshadowed earlier with Ringo saying it, but I localized the joke and altered it. (Thought it was random nonsense) I went back to previous chapters and added it back in. Sorry! I’ll try to be more literal.]