The Strongest In The World Doesn't Have Any Abilities? Book 1 Chapter 69
I don't know how it happened but I'm standing in front of a shrine while wearing a white suit with a red flower pinned on the chest part, matched with white pants and shoes. Looking around, I can see many people, both familiar and unfamiliar, standing in front of me with all of them wearing either red or white clothes. All of them are looking at me with bright smiles in their faces.
I joke you not, all of them are smiling at me with tears in their eyes.
Then I realized why they are acting like that.
'This can't be happening...'
Looking around once more I have concluded, based from the venue, the people around me, and from the place where I'm standing, that I'm indeed at a wedding ceremony, and I'm the groom.
What the hell is going on here?! Why am I about to get married all of a sudden?!
I tried to walk out of the place but I can't move my feet, as if they're glued to the floor. I can't move my hand either and shortly afterwards, my whole body has started to grow numb from the fear of what's more to come.
The large doors of the temple opened with a thunderous sound, and everyone's attention diverted into the person standing at the entrance.
'H-Hey, this is a joke, right? I'm in a gag show, and all of it's just a prank, right?!' I thought to myself as words can't come out of my mouth.
If there's a groom, surely there's a bride. And for some reason the one who became my bride was...
Her white wedding dress, decorated with white and red roses and pink ribbons, fluttered gracefully as she slowly walked on the aisle while holding a bunch of flowers in her hands. All of the spectators gasp their breaths in admiration and excitement as the little girl march her way to the shrine.
Uwaa, she's cute...wait, that's not it! No matter where you look at it, this is totally wrong!
Okay, calm down...this is just a dream and to prove that, if I bite my tongue it won't feel painful...
I felt pain. MY. FREAKING. TONGUE. FELT. PAIN!
NONONONONONONONONONOOOO!!! This is impossible! How did it all end up like this? What happened prior to this moment? I don't remember going into dating phase with anyone in my whole life--
By the time I came back into my senses, Saki is already standing in front of me. Her eyes are all misty, as her emotions are starting to pile up for this (unfortunate) moment.
'Brother Ren, I thank you with all my heart for not being able to find a woman during our business trip at the capital. Because of that deal Big Bro is very happy now, and I get to marry the one that treated me like a real sister...'
W-Wait, you mean to say...
From the corner of my vision, I could see a young man looking at me with an evil grin on his face, all while flirting with a beautiful woman beside him.
I knew it! That bastard Saku!!!
'Brother Ren may not have won the challenge against Big Bro, but in my heart you're still the winner. That's why...'
In a quick motion she pulled my head down to her level, and brought her face close to my ears. Then, with an unnaturally soft, seductive voice, she whispered:
'Let's make lots of babies after this, okay?'
As I screamed, I fell down from my chair and hit the back of my head against the floor. I got up while still in pain, and I noticed that I'm already in the Sandy Fish.
"Brother Ren, are you okay?! Y-Your head! Is it bleeding?!" Saki screamed as she threw the mop she's holding and rushed to my side.
Different from the Saki that I saw a few moments ago this Saki is wearing her usual work clothes, and her eyes aren't misty due to happiness, but from fear.
"I-I'm okay, but what happened? Just now I was in..."
"You were sleeping here at the dining area for a few hours now, Brother Ren," Saki explained. "Big Bro and Aoi have already returned to our respective rooms and are asleep now, but you're still here. Seeing you sleep deeply despite in such an uncomfortable position, I can't bring myself to wake you up. However, you started to look like you're having a nightmare. You also bit your tongue, then afterwards you woke up and fell from your chair."
I understand it all now. Turns out I'm aware that I'm dreaming all this time, yet I can't do anything to come out of that dream. Sleep paralysis, perhaps?
"Looks like I caused you too much trouble Saki. Sorry," I said to her as I stood up.
"A-Are you sure you're alright, Brother Ren? I'll get the first aid kit just in case..."
"Don't worry. I'm Aoi's brother, remember? I won't die just from a fall," I shook my head.
Though I said that, my head still hurt. That dream would definitely haunt me for all eternity as it imprints itself into my subconscious mind.
"About what Big Bro said earlier...please don't take it seriously!" Saki said as her cheeks turn red.
'I challenge you to a contest!' I remembered how he declared that to me earlier.
His challenge was this: both of us have to ask a woman out while we're at the capital, and have her accept our invitation. By the end of our business trip, whoever manages to successfully find a partner wins, and the loser has to do the punishment set beforehand. If Saku loses he will never ask a girl out again and will live a celibate life, and if I lose--
'You'll have to marry my little sister.'
"I'm not taking it seriously, though," I said to her.
"I'm relieved," she let out a sigh.
"But you know he means it, right? That bastard Saku, if he said something he'll definitely do it."
With us living with them for some time now, I'm starting to get the hang of how these two siblings think. Just like what happened earlier, I know he's serious by the look of his eyes.
"So I decided, why not play with him for a while? That way, this trip will be more thrilling for both of us."
Though I reluctantly agreed, a deal is a deal. That said, I won't just ask a girl out recklessly. My reputation is also at stake here, you know?
"Compared to Saku I have no experience, so I'll lose to him for sure. What happens after that, I want to say sorry for the troubles I'll be bringing to you."
The legal age for marriage here in Narashel is 15, but since I'm not from this world I have to stick with 18. I'm sure within that 5 to 8 years all of us would forget about the punishment, and we'll continue living normally as if nothing happened.
"I see. Leave everything to me then, Brother Ren."
When she said that she hurriedly picked up her mop, and went straight to their room with heavy steps. Her eyes are looking downcast, with a gloomy expression in her face.
After all the twists and turns we have experienced throughout the week, the day we're all waiting for has finally come.
"...We'll get to experience traveling again after a long time, big brother! Aren't you excited?" Aoi asked as she sat on the boxes and baggage inside the horse-drawn carriage that Saku rented for this trip, her legs swinging up and down alternately.
Of course. Unlike in the desert where there's giant worms and the only natural features available were sand dunes and rock pillars, I'm looking forward to the wide variety of things we'll get to see on the way.
"Good morning, Brother Ren, Aoi! How's the situation here?" A few minutes later Saki came smiling as she wants to make sure everything is all set.
"All baggage has been loaded into the carriage, Saki," I replied to her.
"That's great! Now that everything's set, let's get this trip started!"
"Wait, where's Saku? Is he still asleep?" I asked Saki.
Well, that's weird. Considering he's the one who looks forward to our trip the most, I expected him to be the first one to wake up and prepare the carriage.
By the way, the carriage we'll be using is the one merchants use when buying supplies, putting more emphasis on cargo than passenger capacity. It is large enough to contain all our things while leaving enough room for people to sit and lie on, though not being too large so as to put a great strain on the horses that will pull it.
"N-No! Big Bro said that he wants to talk to the rental carriage owner about something, so he left for a while," Saki shook her head.
What's that? I think I heard a faint banging sound just now.
"...Hm?" Also hearing the sound, Aoi got intrigued as she placed her ear against the box she's sitting on. "Big brother, I think there's a large rat inside this box."
Feeling suspicious, I sent out a gaze at Saki, who in turn started sweating bullets.
"T-That's right! R-Rats do love s-sneaking into boxes after all, hahahaha!" Saki replied as she started laughing awkwardly.
Isn't that a bad thing? I mean, one of the reasons behind the Black Plague in Europe was because of infected rats unknowingly brought by ancient traders in their travels and into their destinations. Even though this world has magic to compensate for the people's apparent lack of scientific knowledge, the possibility of that happening here is still very high.
If this small matter snowballs into a catastrophe, I don't think I'll be able to handle the responsibility for it.
"...But based from the heartbeats that I'm hearing right now I'm sure the one inside this box isn't a rat or any other animal...rather, it's more like that of humans."
"Is that so? I'm relieved that it wasn't a rat...eh? Human?"
Placing my ear against the box, I could hear that banging sound and muffled screaming coming from inside.
With a small knife I slashed the seal, and...
The rat that Aoi was talking about was, in fact, Saku, curled into a fetal position and his hands and feet tied with a rope.
"GHAAAAHH!!! I'm really scared, you know?! I don't know how it happened, but it was only when I woke up just now that I realized I was tied up and placed in a box! I almost suffocated back there!" Saku yelled and panted as soon as the cloth gagging him was removed from his mouth.
Judging from the situation, the perpetrator's identity is obvious.
"W-Why are you guys looking at me like that?! H-How can I, a little girl, do such thing?"
I glanced at Aoi, who then simply shook her head in response. Just from hearing her heartbeat, she can easily find out if the person in question is lying or not.
Confused with the situation, Saku asked: "Saki...is this your all your doing?"
With all of us having come up with the same conclusion, Saki--
"You're right! It was me who tied and put Big Bro inside the box!"
"B-But why would you do that? Did I do something bad to you?!"
Meeting Aoi's gaze, who, for some reason frowned at her, she started to weep.
"It's because...of your stupid game."
She then voiced out her grievances to her brother, about how a mere 'joke' would cause troubles to everyone's lives.
"That said...while I don't want Big Bro to live a sorrowful life as a celibate, I don't want Brother Ren to marry someone he doesn't like too! If you two are really dead serious about this contest, then once we reach the capital I'll make a way for both of you to find a girl you like! I'll make it so that no one will lose from this stupid contest of yours!"
"...Big brother..." Aoi opened her eyes wide and asked, "how come I wasn't informed that you're getting married? Are you hiding things from me?"
"W-What are you saying?! I'm not marrying someone yet. Also, you were in a daze eating your dinner last night, so you have no idea about what's going on."
Though if that happens...would she approve of the girl that I choose?
"So you thought that by sealing me inside the box, we won't get to proceed with the 'contest'?" Saku looked at her with a stern expression.
"I only showed you what it feels like to live your life according to the consequences of your stupid idea: suffocating," Saki replied.
I think I already said it before, but this girl...has the mind of a capable a.d.u.l.t. That, combined with Aoi's bad influence, has resulted in a girl who has the potential to lead a huge crime ring at the age of 10.
No wonder she's called 'The Little Mistress of Sandy Fish' by the customers.
After hearing his sister's complaints, Saku laughed and said: "If you really hate it that much, you should've said it last night and not resorted into this method. Oh you little brat...why do you like making things more complicated than it should be?"
Cutting the ropes tying his hands, he beckoned her to come closer to him. "I may be a man of my word, but it doesn't mean that I'll do everything that I say. All the things I can do, all the things that I can't--you know all of it the most. Hence, there's no need for you to fuss about the things you see and hear from me all the time. Even Ren knows it's just a joke, right?"
"Well...I guess so? Hehe," I quickly averted my gaze from him.
"Also, I don't want to be single forever, you know? I'm not aspiring to be a monk, I want to have a family of my own too," he added.
He then declared, he'll continue his plan of hitting on girls at the capital, even without me participating. The consequences will also become null and void, and Saki and I won't have to worry about marriage in the future.
"How regrettable. Now my retirement plans would be put on hold indefinitely...wink."
Ah, so the thing about giving your sister's hand in marriage to me is actually part of your plans? Looks like it's my turn now to teach this bastard a lesson he'll never forget...
"...Um...everyone? The sun's already up."
While listening to the three of us, Aoi noticed that the skies had already turned blue. A few moments later, the bell at the town plaza rang six times, telling us that we're more than an hour late from our planned time of departure.
"Sheesh! We're late!"
"It's my fault that our departure got delayed, Big Bro."
"Don't worry about that. Everyone, get on the carriage. We're going to hit the streets with a--guh?!"
Just as when Saku's about to come out of the box, he fell face first on the ground as his feet are still tied together. After cutting the ropes, he immediately jumped at the driver's seat.
"Alright, the first [Rainen and Friends' Business Trip] will commence at this moment! Hold on to your seats, because this journey will surely be one hell of the ride!"
Tugging the ropes lightly, the two horses that pulled the carriage started to move.
[Rainen and Friends' Business Trip], huh.
At the back of the carriage, Aoi and I looked the Sandy Fish as it gets smaller and smaller from our perspective. While doing so, I recalled the places I've went to in my journey so far:
From one world to another. From one country to another. Desert, forest, killing field--
I've traveled too far from my home, only to end up staying in an inn with a funny name. I've wandered too far from my family and classmates, only to be welcomed by people who made me feel that I'm not alone. I've almost crossed the boundary of death for who knows how many times already, only to find out what it feels like to be actually living.
Even so, my journey doesn't end here in this place.
The capital city of Narashel, Harlin.
For some reason I have this strange sense of curiosity towards that place. A strong force that pulls me closer, regardless of my will. Just like gravity.
Other than the task given to me by the Guild, I'm essentially free to do anything once we get there. I could go explore the famous places there, try new food, meet new people, and gain new experiences. Of course it's more fun if Aoi, and the Rainens, are with me.
I know, being this optimistic is futile, but I can't stop grinning while thinking of those great things.
Needless to say, I'm excited.