A Girl of White Gold, Caught Between Joy and Dreams
Happy new year, everyone.
I’ll be submitting these at my own pace this year too, but I’m still eternally grateful for having you go along with me.
She had always been dishonest to her own feelings.
It was because of own happiness, she now realised, that she had been turning a blind eye to these things. That she had given up – a lie. That she could bear it – another lie.
If what she had now obtained was truly the pinnacle of joy, then it was possible that the happiness she had finally come to grasp would dwindle as time went on.
If she did come to lose it, then what would she do with herself? How would she spend the time she had left?
The young girl muttered this to herself, spilling clear droplets on the ‘seat’ in front of her.
She was spacing out again.
Dale, his expression one of worry, went to stroke Latina’s locks as she made a blank, dreamy expression. While Latina had taken to spacing out recently, and quite often, she still seemed to slip away like this many times, even after he had give her his official proposal.
He couldn’t help but be assaulted by the most peculiar sensation of anxiety. It wasn’t merely that he worried for her health, but rather that there was something ringing away at his very foundations in alarm.
So, he repeatedly called out her name.
He called out to her as if to have her come back to him.
“Yeah, I’m… I’m here.”
The weak smile Latina mustered for that answer almost seemed to him like the crying face of a child that had lost its way.
The bracelet Latina wore around her wrist had been prompt to invoke the attention of those around her.
Initially, Latina had wanted to put it away out of fear that it might break as she worked, but Dale had outright rejected that notion.
This wasn’t just a simply accessory; it was a magical tool. There was no way it would become grazed or cracked with ease.
“Besides, we need to make it really clear that you’re mine now, Latina.”
Once he had told her that, her cheeks had flushed red.
She clearly understood that there was meaning behind this accessory’s great value. It went to show that there was someone out there who had the power to present her with something so valuable; it showed that someone like him was around. By wearing that on her person, it would let those around her know that she had gained that someone’s affections.
And in her case, it was very much clear just who that someone was.
In any case, that night, Rudolf’s drinking capacity had increased. Not only him, but many a young fellow – and on occasion, a few other bastards of a more advanced age – took to drinking just a tad more.
The old fogies that frequented the place pelleted them with teasing banter and the occasional sexual harassment while gulping down gallons of booze.
That night, the number of customers that visited the Prancing Ocelot was nothing to sniff at, and the turnover ended up being much greater than usual.
The celebratory tips the regulars had gathered with their hard-earned coin did not go Latina’s way, as she seemed to be the type to outright refuse anything of the sort, and were instead daringly entrusted to the couple that ran the place, as was the norm by now.
But despite the teasing, Latina remained in high spirits. Her cheeks would colour in embarrassment, and every now and again she would purse her mouth in displeasure, but every single twitch of her features was enough to make one catch wind of the joy she felt, one that simply couldn’t be restrained.
While the young girl was beautiful as she was, the joy bubbling within her made her beauty shine all the more.
Meanwhile, Dale found himself on the receiving end of endless waves of the old men, crushing him completely. While it could be seen as one way of celebration, he was content to leave himself to the stupor of drunkenness, forgoing any kind of antidote magic.
It could also be attributed to the bother that would follow, should a slip-up of sorts reveal his use of magic.
On the days that followed, Latina still seemed happy.
Whether she was being embraced by Dale, accepting his kisses, or becoming completely flustered – she was just too adorable, which only served to greatly spur on the growth of Dale’s desire to tease her.
As if in response to the way he had held himself back up until that point, he continuously showered his young fiancé with his doting affections.
Enough for those around them to become slightly annoyed.
Also, the fact that the words used to express his doting hadn’t changed all that much even now left them with an odd feeling in their gut.
“Latina’s just too adorable. I don’t want to go to work.”
“I’m well aware that she is.”
For whatever reason, Dale had chosen to report this to Rita while she was in the middle of handling paperwork.
Rita worked an office job, and was therefore rooted to one working space. It was the perfect position to be caught and used as a conversation partner.
But still, Rita, who was exposed to his banter on a daily basis at this point, could do little to endure.
“She’s so cute, you know…? Latina’s just so cute, you know…?”
“Listen, do I have to listen to your love-struck speeches?”
“You hug her, just a little, and she gets all embarrassed… You give her a sudden kiss, and she just goes totally red. Then you ask her if she’s angry, and she says she’s not in the most adorable voice…”
“Vint! Where the Hell is Vint?! I don’t give a damn if you go all-out on this moron!”
“Right now, there’s nothing that can scare me!”
Dale broke out in loud laughter, and Rita’s patience could almost be heard cracking at the seams.
“Aaah… It’s still really scary to hear her say she hates me… But hey, there’s no way Latina’d ever say something like that!”
“Latina! For goodness’ sake, do something about this happy-go-lucky idiot!”
Rita’s voice travelled to the kitchen, and Latina timidly stuck out her head.
“Fueeeh… Rita… If I try to get closer to Dale, I’d just…”
While only able to muster a feeble response, Latina couldn’t even bring herself to finish.
It had taken a single moment, and she was caught.
Dale, first-class adventurer and warrior that he was, was capable of physical skill the more normal Latina could not even begin to avoid. In no time at all, she was brought onto his knee and hugged tightly enough to have her pulled back. While it seemed like nothing more than a regular embrace, she could make no attempt to struggle as she was restricted, completely unable to move freely.
She went red to her ears in shame, and flustered, looked around her for help as Dale rained down kiss after kiss.
“Dale, Dale! This is embarrassing, stop…!”
“Latina’s so adorable when she’s embarrassed…”
It was useless. This man had no intention of restraint!
The light slipped from Rita’s eyes. She had reached the climax of resignation.
“At least… Do me a favour, flirt where people can’t see you…”
“Okay, I’ll take you up on that.”
With a hup, Latina was easily lifted while embraced. As Dale went to his own quarters, Latina looked to be on the verge of tears, still in his arms.
Rita’s eyes on their backs as they went off, she couldn’t help feel a strange tinge of worry whether Latina’s body would be able to hold out when the two of them decided to… take their relationship further.
‘That girl’s still a demon… Her bodily disposition may make it harder for her to have kids, but I wonder if that idiot Dale’s going to get cocky anyway…’
Kolmozei was a god who governed the harvest, as well as the propagation of one’s descendants. Dale was someone who was in possession of this deity’s highest form of divine protection.
The attempt to apply her imagination turned far too vivid for Rita’s taste, so she intentionally discarded her line of thought.
‘Well… Latina can use healing magic, so…’
As a kind of superior in life, the only thing Rita found herself capable of doing was to send a small, internal yell of encouragement to her protegee.
Latina, who had until now been writhing in his arms in embarrassment, had gone still and absent-minded, now wandering between dreams and reality.
He strengthened his hold around her, and lowered his face to the tip of her shoulder. The way she didn’t even respond made him anxious, almost terrified.
Only when he called her by name did she give him a small response. She slowly moved her ash-coloured eyes, as if searching for Dale and no one else.
He kissed her on her eyelid, then on her cheek.
As he did so repeatedly, strength finally seeped back into Latina’s eyes, and she spoke.
“Dale, Dale… That tickles…”
The relief he felt at the sound of her sweet protests almost made him weep. So, he found no reason to slow down his kisses or reign back his embrace.
He asked her, time and time again.
Each time, she answered that she was feeling fine. It was different from what he had thought; she hadn’t even notice the way she repeatedly lost herself to her thoughts.
If there were any gaps in her memory, then she, being much more intelligent that he was, would have noticed any kind of aberration. But she hadn’t. To him, that was all the more terrifying.
He felt as if something might have happened that she couldn’t recover from.
That was why releasing her from his hold, if even for a single moment, was so scary.
“I… I’m here with you, you know…”
“…? I know…”
Though she cocked her head to the side in confusion at his words, Latina smiled happily and nodded.
It was as if she had been driven off ahead, as if in a hurry.
The reason that Dale, who should have been patiently waiting for her to grow in both mind and body, desired for an even deeper relationship between him and her without waiting for time to pass after his official proposal was simply based on this personal anxiousness of his.
The use any means that would deepen their relationship even if only by a meagre amount, that would tie her even a little closer to him – all of it was built on his own desires.
If kissing her eyes wouldn’t suffice, if neither her cheeks nor her lips were enough, then the way he would kiss every nook and cranny of her, the way he wished to leave himself engraved in her – it was all founded on his want to never let go of her, and his desire for the two of them to be together, always.