The day Dale invited Latina out to the public square that occupied the centre of Kreuz happened to be a calm day in spring.
a�?Wea��re going for a walk? Is Theo coming along, too?a�?
a�?Noa�� Leta��s go alone for once, just the two of us.a�?
a�?No, you get to watch the place while wea��re gone, too.a�?
Dale strictly reminded Vint of his duties, and Latina gave an adorable chuckle.
They leisurely walked side by side, hands intertwined. The former little girl held by the arm, the two followed the path leading to the capital district until they reached the halfway point.
a�?Do you remember the first time I took you to the capital district, Latina?a�?
a�?I remember being completely blown away. Ia��d never seen so many people in one place before.a�?
a�?Yeah, I was surprised the first time I left the countryside, tooa��a�?
a�?So listen, about that shoemaker you took me too. Theo and Emmaa��ve been getting their shoes from there, too. It looks like shoes for children are their speciality.a�?
a�?Are you buying them somewhere else now?a�?
a�?I visit a store Chloe recommended to me. Rita told me about it, too. Theya��re new to the scene, but theya��re really devoted to any kind of design.a�?
They discussed silly, everyday things, none of which bore any weight. From time to time, Latina would show restlessness and go to touch her left upper arm. Through casual contact, Dale came across a hard texture around her arm and took some time to think it over.
a�?Ah, is it about your arm bracelet?a�?
a�?Yes. I usually put it aside. But I thought it was about time to wear it, so I tried bringing it with me.a�?
It was the only thing she had left from her old home, an object that had the name of her father engraved into it. As it happened to be a bracelet meant designed for adults, it was much too large for the young girl. Dale had already seen her put it away in her room out of fear that she might lose it.
a�?Ia��m just not used to it, so I cana��t bring myself to calm downa��a�?
a�?Ita��s a custom among demons, huh?a�?
a�?All the grown-ups I saw when I was little wore this. I always thought Ia��d put it on once I became one, too.a�?
a�?Therea��s no problem with that, right? Ita��s your fathera��s protective charm, after all.a�?
With the loose clothing she wore, it was impossible to get a good view of her arm. Still, having already seen her bracelet, he could easily enough recall what it looked like. He considered how her childlike, thin limbs had grown enough to accommodate that bracelet without him noticing, and couldna��t help but be a bit moved.
In the middle of Kreuza��s public square, all kinds of people flocked about, making use of their free time. Latinaa��s eyes followed the groups of children that ran about with wild cheers, just as the two of them had done in their youth, and her expression went soft.
a�?You really like children, dona��t you, Latina?a�?
a�?Do I? I suppose I doa��a�?
Latina had never been the type to raise a complaint when looking after Theo or Emma, and now Dale could see her face turning gentle as she watched over those children.
a�?Someday, even I mighta��a�?
a�?… Oh, ita��s nothing.a�?
Guessing the meaning behind Latinaa��s mumbles, Dale tightened his grip around her hand.
Her cheeks being caressed by the rustling wind, Latina closed her eyes. The rays of sunlight falling around her were warm enough to make her sweat lightly. She chooses a patch of shade and sat down on the grass.
a�?What is it?a�?
Latina turned her head to the direction of Dalea��s voice, dazzlingly beautiful. Her hair was tied in loose braids, and her skin, smooth and supple to the point that any cosmetics were superfluous, was vibrant enough to shine.
Even her long eyelashes that covered her ashen eyes; even her lips, the colour of cherry blossoms a�� none of them seemed to have changed in the slightest since she had been a small child, and now that she had grown, those features had turned into the pieces that filled in her beauty. More than that, the innocence one could feel from her expression was enough to impart that she was not merely beautiful, but that she was a being with all kinds of feelings and emotions.
He thought of her as beautiful in the truest sense of the word.
The mere sight her her smiling for him filled him up with a sense of euphoria. It made it clear to him that the choice he had made had not been the wrong one.
a�?Weathera��s nice, isna��t it?a�?
a�?It really is.a�?
a�?Whata��s wrong? Did something happen?a�?
a�?… I guess I am acting a little off, huh?a�?
a�?Of course you are. Ia��ve been watching you for a long time, Dale.a�?
Latina said that while looking up to him, still at his side. She laughed as if something had amused her. While he had know that there was no way she wouldna��t catch on to his stiff, awkward disposition, he couldna��t help but avert his eyes in unexpectedly powerful embarrassment.
a�?Latina, please accept this.a�?
Latinaa��s expression showed confusion at the small box he gave her.
a�?Isna��t it a little early for my birth-month?a�?
a�?It is. But todaya��s a�?speciala��, isna��t it?a�?
Latina lightly grasped her arm at Dalea��s words. It was on this day, nine years ago, that she had met Dale inside that forest. Exactly nine years had passed since then.
a�?Ita��s a special day for me.a�?
a�?It really is, isna��t it?a�?
Latina answered, then went to open the crude little box. The glittering radiance that jumped her eyes took her by surprise. The decorative jewel inside was finely crafted, so much so that calling it splendid would be an understatement.
a�?Isa�� Isna��t this a little expensive-looking for an accessory?a�?
a�?Why are you saying thata��?a�?
Dale couldna��t help but make a wry smile at the hesitant, but sound reasoning that was so indicative of her personality.
Urging her on, he managed to get her take it out of the box. He then took her hand and smoothly slipped it onto her small wrist.
a�?Ita��s supposed to be a magic item. Its impression as a personal accessory is way stronger, though.a�?
The jewel that sparkled on her arm had been fashioned to resemble a flower, and had been sculpted to show one in full bloom. No matter from which angle one looked, it had been designed to show a plant sprouting a beautiful flower adorned with glamorous fruits.
a�?… Leta��s get married.a�?
a�?Leta��s become a family, one that isna��t made up of a foster parent and child.a�?
The expression Latina made as his words forced her to look up from her bracelet was one of complete bewilderment.
With her face betraying nothing but her own surprise, Dale began to feel a little awkward, and his eyes began refused to meet her. He was known as a veteran hardened by countless battle, an adventurer of the highest calibre, someone who would venture forth in even the harshest times of battle without a tinge of fear.
a�?La-Latina? I-Ita��s really rough if someone responds to a proposal with silence, you knowa��?a�?
a�?I meana�� Buta�� Ita��s just so suddena��a�?
She was shaking, and her voice had gone hoarse.
a�?Is that a no?a�?
a�?Thata��s not ita�� Thata��s really not it, buta�� Ita��s just that Ia��ve never thought about marriagea��a�?
a�?You told me that you loved me, but youa��ve never given marriage a thought, huha��a�?
a�?I meana�� Ia��ma�� Ia��m a demona�� I dona��t even know if we could have childrena��a�?
a�?I know. And I do think that any child of yours is going to be absolutely adorable, but I dona��t want to marry for the sake of having kids.a�?
Dale already knew that the more long-lived demon species had a low birthrate. He could also easily surmise that Latina, with her fondness of children, had given much thought to the idea that she would never be blessed with one herself.
a�?Even ifa�� Even if you say ita��s alright, Dale, your familya��a�?
a�?The answera��s right in front of you.a�?
Only now did he touch the bracelet he had attached to her arm. In his hometown, the symbol that showcased a flow and fruits together was a crest that held a special, traditional meaning.
a�?My old man and lady just told me, a�?About time, eh?a��. And that old hag, she said, a�?If you let little Latina go, someone like you wona��t manage to find another partner in a lifetimea��.a�?
Latina muttered lightly and directed a moist gaze at him.
a�?Is this really alright? Are youa�� really fine with me?a�?
a�?Ia�� Ia��m fine with you, Latina.a�?
That was when she lost all control of her emotions, large tears dribbling down her face.
a�?Ia�� I always wanted toa�� to be the one. I alwaysa�� wanted to become the girl special to youa��a�?
a�?I love you, Dale, I want to be together with youa�� There really isna��t anything I can give back to you, but I still want to stay by your sidea��a�?
a�?Therea��s no way you couldna��t give anything back, Latinaa�� Just staying at my sidea�� Youa��ve always kept supporting me, soa�� so Ia��a�?
Being embarrassed, being bashfula�� those were nothing compared to the regret he would come to feel if he didna��t tell her now.
a�?I want you to stay beside me from here on out, too.a�?
Dale peered into her ash-coloured eyes with the utmost clarity, and Latina, her tear-drenched face breaking out into a smile like a flower going into full bloom, gave her answer.
Latina brought her face close, then tried to a�� awkwardly a�� cover her eyes.
Even though they had shared countless of these innocent, childish kisses, Latina could only blush until her earlobes went red and Dale, as if strung along by her, felt the red hue creep into his cheeks.
A right-out downpour of sweetness a�� I feel as if thata��s just how I want to wrap up a�?My Daughtera�? for this year. Thank you for yet another great year. A happy new year to all of you.