Hanare Gatai Kemono - Chapter 3 [v1]




Chapter 3

DYRIA and Ash were ushered into an area at the west end of the castle.

Judging by the few people going in and out, it was clear that the building had been designed to avoid attracting too much attention. The building had a large number of rooms. Even the parlor alone where Dyria was now brought in for tea, felt like the three rooms of their house that they used to live in.

The parlor was magnificent, spacious, and had high ceilings. The furniture was of beastly sizes. Even for Dyria, who was tall by human standards, the sofa he was sitting on now felt so far away from his back that his toes barely touched the floor. The tea sets were prepared on a high and big table, which made them difficult to use.

"Apologies for bringing you to such a poor room."

Yudha, who led Dyria there, said in an apologetic tone. This man had been apologizing ever since they met.

"The furniture here was all bought by Her Majesty so we decided to leave things as they were out of respect."

Even though the furniture in this room was too big for him, Dyria didn't mind. The sofa was comfortable, the tea utensils were gold-plated, and the flowers in the vase were still vibrant.

Of course there were some inconveniences, but no major flaws were apparent. Although it appeared somewhat imperfect to Yudha.

"I understand."

Dyria draped the blanket that Yudha had brought from his own room over Ash's shoulders. He then stroked Ash's hair who was still asleep while his little hands gripped him tightly. The boy's tail and ears looked slightly disheveled.

The sun streamed in through the window and shone over Ash's eyes, causing his closed eyelids to twitch.

The crease between Ash's brows eased as Dyria's hand went over his eyes to create a shade.

Dyria considered raising Ash in a remote location in the far west, but after staring at his son’s sleeping face, he thought this castle may be the best place where Ash can spend the rest of his life.After all, the ambience was also similar to the house where Dyria and Ash used to live together.

"Wait, I'll fix that."

Yudha rose from his seat and drew the window curtain shut with his own hands.  It was indeed an ordinary curtain, but it was supposed to be the job of the kingdom's servants. The three of them shouldn't have been left alone in the first place, though certainly the royal family in this country seemed to be the type to do everything on their own.

"You shouldn't..." Dyria looked at Ash who was still asleep on his lap. "I believe you could ask someone to do that for you?"

"I don't want to live a life where someone pulls the curtain for me. I only ask for assistance with my inconveniences."

Yudha smiled.

"It's a life where I do what I want. Besides, the boy might wake up now that you finally managed to calm him down."

"I see, you're a strange wolf."

This man seemed to be the only one in the royal family who has such a firm character.

"Well, I get that a lot."

Yudha sat down on the couch to Dyria's right.

"...Haha," Dyria laughed unconsciously. "Why are you sitting there?"

"I thought my shadow would be better. This way, we don't need to fight over the curtains anymore." As the large Yudha sat there, a shadow big enough to cover Dyria and Ash was created. "Then, I can continue being your shade."

"I don't want a big guy like you beside me, it would be too intimidating."

"...I see."

"...So gentleman, enough with the small talk, okay? Let's cut to the chase."

"You're right, it's no use beating around the bush... My brother died shortly after the war ended six years ago."

Yudha's mood shifted in front of Dyria's eyes. He inhaled deeply and began speaking in a more relaxed tone than before.

"Your older brother... I'm so sorry."

"My brother's name was Surdo."

"......"

"It's the name of the former king of this country. I'm sure you've heard of him before."

"And?"

"My older brother was a wise and compassionate king, but he was ill. Due to the madness of the war, his condition deteriorated, and despite being married, he died without having a single descendant."

"Even if the king had no children, there must be someone who could take the throne, am I right?"

In other words, the man standing in front of Dyria should have the right to rule the kingdom as well. He is, after all, the former king's younger brother.

The younger brother of the king has the right to succeed the throne.

"But there's one thing that needs to be done before I can take over."

"......?"

"I need to find Surdo's son, the rightful successor, the heir to the throne."

"Didn't you say he didn't have any children? Or are you referring to him having affairs with other women?"

"It is my brother's will."

"......"

"In his final moments, my brother told me... 'A man with fiery red hair. Find that person and guarantee his future. You'll take over if the red-haired male did not give birth. However, if a boy was born from him, you have to let the child succeed me on the throne.' He died shortly after saying this. He left the will in the official document so I had no choice but to search for you."

"Yudha, do you wish to inherit the throne?"

"No one in the family is as qualified as me."

"Then, my son won't stand in your way."

"No. If the child wants to take the throne, I am willing to protect the throne until he reaches an appropriate age."

"...Are you satisfied with only being a...middleman?"

"What matters is how you feel. Yours, as well as the child's. It is my responsibility to keep you two safe."

"Ha. Now you talk about responsibility... Sure, red hair is rare, but I'm not the only person in the world who has it. And there's no proof that this child is your brother's son in the first place!"

"All of the king's affairs have been documented. Surdo had a limited number of affairs. We checked each and every one of them to see whether there had been any births."

"For more than six years?"

"More than six years."

"You are too obsessed."

"Yes, I am obsessed."

And after that obsession, he finally found Dyria and Ash.

The Asriff are one of the various races of humans who live today. A small group of people who lived in mountainous places and rode horses. To make ends meet, they hunt and raise cattle. This race, who possessed a unique physical ability, always went to the battlefield to work and thereafter followed in the footsteps of their mercenary forefathers. Asriffs are all redheads with snow white skin, pale pigmentation, and attractive appearances. Both the men and women.

"You didn't return to the Asriff people after the war."

"No way... You went to such a remote mountain?"

Dyria's home was in a distant town that required crossing numerous snowy mountains and treacherous regions. A location that is purposefully designed to make it difficult to enter or exit.

"You did all this just for Ash?"

"...For the both of you."

"......"

"I never thought you were living in this country instead."

The war was over, however Dyria and Ash's old village ruled by the golden wolf tribe, a human foe, seemed to be the ideal place to settle down. Particularly for the child.

Of course, living in an enemy country would have been difficult. However, because red-haired humans  are rare in the golden wolf's country and therefore, he was able to find someone to give him protection.

"Did you live in this country because you wanted to be close to the child's father?"

"Of course not. I don't expect anything from this child's father."

"Then why...?"

"I have my own reasons."

"May I ask more?"

"It's not a big reason but...no."

"I understand."

Yudha shrunk back at the rejection.

"Thank you for the answer."

Yudha was surprisingly not a pushover and a bit dumb. If Dyria is hesitant to respond to Yudha's questions, the wolf will not delve too far into the matter.

Dyria guessed Yudha's feelings. This man was most likely telling the truth about everything and was serious with Dyria. Dyria, on the other hand, couldn't help but be wary. His main goal was to keep Ash safe. And this man was still untrustworthy.

"Can I ask your name at least?"

"Dyria."

"I know, but those of your clan should have a longer name..."

"Oh, that's..."

Those of the Asriff tribe have a very long real name. Yudha seemed to have done a lot of research on the Asriff in order to find Dyria and Ash.

"Are you that interested in Asriff's customs?"

"I'm interested in you."

"It's creepy to have a werewolf interested in a guy who apparently slept with his older brother."

"I apologize for being disrespectful to you."

Dyria's poor provocation never fooled Yudha. In fact, he treated the red hair in a polite, regal, and gentleman-like manner.

"You don't have to apologize. I'm sick of you apologizing all the damn time as if it's your fault alone."

If Yudha was openly humiliated, he may reveal his true nature. With that in mind, this man seemed to pardon all of his harsh words.

Contrary to his fierce appearance, Yudha's expression, style, attitude, and words are all kind. Everything is perfect, and everything centers around Dyria's forgiveness.

But what would this man's expression be if he was a bit upset? Dyria was adamant about seeing it.

"...An Asriff's real name is only told to the best man and his mate, whom he will marry in the future."

Unapologetic for his rudeness, Dyria explained the custom of his tribe.

"I hadn't looked into it that far."

"When you give your name to someone and they accept it, it means they have taken on the whole meaning of your name. Of course, I'm also prepared to accept the entire meaning of my mate's name."

"You're quite passionate."

"It's a clear indication of responsibility."

"...Is there anyone who knows your name?"

"None."

"Surdo?"

"No one."

Dyria didn't have time to tell Surdo his name because he had to flee at the time. He even gave up on their relationship since he knew that even if he taught Surdo his name, their future would not improve.

"...Does Ash have one too?"

"Of course."

"And his name is...?"

"You can't know. Ash's name will be known only to me and the person Ash will marry in the future. Normally, both parents would work together to come up with a name, but Ash's father never showed up. As a result, I'm the only one who knows Ash's name. It's the price of being solely responsible."

"If you didn't run away."

"Well, I did."

"Ash's father did a very stupid thing then."

At that moment, Dyria was compelled to take Ash into his arms, bury him in his pocket, and embrace him so firmly that he was buried in his own skin. To make him his, and his alone, for all eternity.

If only he had stayed...

"Yes, Ash's father might have done something stupid... He didn't get to see five lovely years of Ash's life."

"I'm sorry..."

"It doesn't matter now. Dead men tell no tales. You can say anything you want."

"I'm sorry... But he had certainly been searching for you ever since he met you."

"He was looking for Ash."

"No, he was looking for you."

"......"

"He wanted to see you."

"......"

"He had been...hoping to see you for a long, long time."

I've been looking for you, too.

I was so impatient.

I was always thinking about you...

"Really?"

I see... Did you think that way?

Did you remember that night?

Did you have the same feelings as me?

Did you really remember me?

"Did you cry for him?"

"...Ash should be the one crying, because he lost his father."

"No one will blame you if you cry."

"There's more to do than to cry."

"Yes?"

"I have a responsibility to raise Ash well. I don't have time to cry, and..."

"And?"

"I didn't have...enough memories to cry."

That night, six years ago...

Surdo's fur on top of him was the only thing Dyria recalled. The warmth and touch of his hand. They could barely see each other's faces in the pitch-black tent.

"I think it's good that he at least remembered you have red hair."

Dyria stroked Ash's soft fur, searching for a trace of the man in his son, of whom he had no memory. He tried and tried, but he couldn't seem to catch anything.

He didn't even have enough memories to tell Ash about his father...

"I'm sorry..."

"How many times are you going to apologize to me?"

Dyria was annoyed by the wolf's constant apologies. Yudha then raised Dyria's chin and stared him in the eyes.

"What's on my face?"

"I'm sorry for making you look like this."

"Well...what kind of face do I have to make exactly?"

"......"

"That day, I was there to assassinate your brother. Do you know that?"

"I know."

"But I couldn't do it, so I ran from your brother and ended up here. That is all there is to it. I'm not blaming you, and I'm not expecting you to apologize or ask for forgiveness. It's the way of life that I had decided."

"......"

"So? You didn't bring me and this child here just to wallow in the sentimentality of your brother's death, did you? When are you gonna let us go home?"

"...There is a complicated issue, about the succession to the throne."

"......"

"This whole misunderstanding has gotten out of hand. Believe me, I'm going to explain everything... But for now I just need you to trust me."

"Someone, somewhere, is targeting Ash's life?"

"That's right."

"Well, to me, you and everyone else are equally untrustworthy."

"I don't know how to respond to that, but I'll definitely protect you."

"But I don't expect you to."

Dyria leaned his upper body forward in an attempt to lift the blanket that had slipped off Ash's shoulder, but suddenly stopped. 

"Hey, are you okay?"

Yudha's strong arms held his shoulders.... He hugged Dyria, kept his weight leaning against his chest and let his head rest on the soft fur of his neck.

"......"

Dyria closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The warmth, the one he remembered somewhere, melted over his bones, almost making him fall asleep.

Like an infinite calmness... This warmth reminded him of Ash sneaking into his bed on a cold winter day. The same feeling he received from Ash when the boy hugged him.

Yudha gently caressed Dyria's back, and his palm radiated warmth. The sensation weighed down Dyria's eyelids.

"I'm sleepy..."

"We talked too much today. I'm sorry... It's normal for your head to be all messed up. Get some rest. You haven't slept the whole way, have you?"

How could Dyria even think about sleeping? He was hugging Ash the entire time, using his body as a cushion to reduce the carriage's rocking, easing the boy's fright, and shielding his small ears from loud noises. Dyria is willing to go to great lengths for Ash, but not so much for himself.

"You should rest. I'll take you to your bedroom."

Dyria hugged Ash in his arms, sighed softly and refused Yudha's offer. Dyria didn't need a bed, as long as he had this warmth...


tl/ed: Greanteaa/Mara