Sky of the Wolf: Chapter 3

Translator: Hasr11

Editor: Gold Swallow

First published on Ainushi

Thunder

It was an awful thunderstorm. It was tempestuous enough that it seemed like it would tear off the boarded roof, and the rain lashed down heavily.
Plop, plop, the water leaking from the roof dropped into the bucket.
————It’s like the day I picked up Neil.
It had been four years since then. Neil grew up rapidly and it had lately become a daily routine for him to compare his height with mine.
I’m still barely taller than him, but it’s just a matter of time before he surpasses me. If you took his ears into consideration, I had already lost, but for fairness, we compared it by the top of the head.
Even though the pretty boy was at the age of slowly turning into a pretty youth, what should I think of him still sleeping in the same bed?, I mused.
I was hesitant to make Neil, who always had nightmares on such days, sleep alone.

————He was still 13 or 14 years old? I don’t know his exact age. He’s grown quickly, but he’s still a child.

Just a little more. Let us be together.
Sooner or later, Neil will go somewhere far. Till then, I hope I’ll be forgiven if we stay together.
When I think of our imminent parting, my heart feels painful and lonely.
But, when I think of Neil’s future, rather than staying here in this desolate place with nothing but grass and forest, going out to work in the town seems miles better.
If he works in a place where there is no discrimination, say, the country of Beastmen, he will surely become an existence sought after by everyone.
————Even if that happens, it’d be nice if he came to visit at least once a year.

When I tried to hug Neil who was having nightmares just like in the past, I was hugged instead by his arms that had now grown large.
Hearing his breaths turn peaceful, I too drifted off to sleep.

✣✣✣

The once a month delivery day.
This must be our nth time walking in the largest town around.
At first, I too accompanied him for deliveries, but ever since Neil’s voice had returned, I’d do some light shopping while Neil delivered the goods.
We’d meet at the square with the fountain, and would go to buy heavy things such as wheat flour. That was how it was every time.
I hardly remember how my life was without Neil now.
My mother died when I was 15, and as if to follow her, my father died when I was 16. Even though I was alive somehow, I had become reckless.

When I reached the square, I saw Neil.
Seemed like he was called out by a slightly older girl.
When I was at a loss at what to do, I heard a loud crash from the Main Street.

————We don’t have any food for the likes of Beastmen!

It was a man with brown ears.
He was forcefully thrown out of the shop and had water thrown on him.
I couldn’t simply stand and watch, and I unconsciously ran up to him.

“———Are you okay?”

I lightly brushed him with my towel and then handed it over.
He had a good build, easily discernible even while sitting. He didn’t seem to have any injuries at a glance, and relieved, I pulled my hands away.
He apologised and while I rebuffed him, I thought back on what had happened.

“It’s a little far, but if you don’t mind, would you like to have a meal at my home?”

He gave a snort, and turned his sight to look behind me.
He made a face as if he’d been convinced of something and lightly bowed his head

“My apologies, but may I accept your generous offer? The truth is, I’m starving.”

My shoulders were grabbed strongly from behind, and when I looked back with a pout, wanting to say ‘It hurts, geez‘, I saw Neil with the most grim look I’ve ever seen on him.

“Don’t pick up every stranger.”

A low voice. ———Ummm, he seems angry?
I gave a foolish laugh and dodged the question, saying ‘I’m not picking up strangers. It’s fine, it’s fine.’ When I said that, the creases between his eyebrows deepened further.
———Waa, an angry beautiful face is super scary.

While we bought the wheat flour, and even on the way back home, Neil was silent throughout.

✣✣✣

The brown-eared man introduced himself as Matthew.
He said he was a dog Beastmen.
He ate the simple food with gusto and without any complaints, and handed over money that was a little too much.
I turned him down, saying, ‘I can’t accept this much’, but he forced it on me, saying it would cost him thrice the amount in the town, so even this was cheap.
Then, if it is fine with you, you can stay here.
Such a suggestion was obvious for me, but the gaze from the person beside me hurt.
———Mr. Neil. It’s somehow becoming cold. It feels like winter is here in just this place.
When I slapped his hand under the table as if to coax him, he grasped my hand and entwined my fingers.
———I wonder where he learnt this.

“The person beside you is also a Beastman, right? It’s unusual in this country. Are the two of you lovers?”

At that question, I almost spit out my tea, and in a fluster, controlled my mouth.
What, what’s with such a misunderstanding? Neil was handsome, but my only redeeming feature was my ordinariness, and we clearly weren’t a good match. In the first place, we’re both men. I knew there were couples like that, but it isn’t that common that such a question could be popped.

”That’s, Neil has been living with me ever since I picked him up four years ago, that’s all! We are more like family than lovers!

A voice of strong denial resonated in the room.
Damn it, if I deny this strongly it’ll seem like I’m affirming it on the contrary,’ thinking so, my cheeks flushed.
To evade the question, I asked, ‘Even though his ears aren’t visible, you figured out he was a beast man, right?’

“I know it by scent. Beastmen have a good nose. Is he a wolf? His fur must also be excellent.”
“Indeed, his fur is soft and black……! Ah, no, um— look!”

Damn it, I’ve done it again.
While I was vexed over just how much I’d made him think I like Neil, I took his hat off to show his lustrous coat.
———I didn’t know anything at that time.
The reason why Neil had been silent all throughout.
The reason why he hadn’t removed his hat despite entering the house.
The reason why the affable and amiable Neil was on guard.
Even though these entwined fingers always seemed to depend on me.
———I didn’t understand a thing.

“Lord Firiel. I have always been looking for you.”

Matthew suddenly stood up and then kneeled, placing his right hand on his left shoulder.
———Wow, it’s so knight-like.
Even if I escaped from reality, no matter how many times I blinked my eyes, the situation was unchanged.
I wanted to deny the premonition of parting, and grabbed his hand tighter and tighter.

✣✣✣

———It seemed he was ‘God’s Beloved Child’.

They were seldom born in the country of Beastmen, wolves with pitch-black fur.
If the Beloved Child was happy, the country would be blessed with good weather and prosper.
If the Beloved Child was sad, it’d rain. When angry, thunder. Generally speaking, the country would meet with catastrophe when they were sad.
They would spend their life with their parents till 9, and from age 10, would be protected by the shrine.
But they were confined and couldn’t even be touched, and were at a position where the things they wished for would be fulfilled to the best of abilities.
———Neil would no longer have to live in a house with a leaking roof, or go hungry on meager food with no meat.
Neil was actually called Firiel. He had been kidnapped when he was 6 and brought to this country, and was really 9 when I first met him. He would soon turn 13.
———I didn’t know anything at all.
Thinking ‘If he doesn’t want to talk, there’s no point forcing him to’, I didn’t ask anything of his circumstances. I knew that he was a child who would say something if there was anything dangerous, and even if I returned to that time now, I’d probably not ask anything anyway.
I’d asked him his name once after he’d regained his voice, but he’d immediately replied “Neil”, and so I thought of it as an amazing coincidence that the nickname I’d given him was the same as his real name and was impressed.
———I was an idiot.
Neil was important and precious to me. Even though I should feel happy that a person who’d always been searching for Neil and would treat him preciously had come, and that he would return to his country.
I wonder why I’m this sad.

“————Rio.”

Neil, who had just taken a bath, entered the bedroom as usual.
He approached me, sitting on the bed, with his hair still wet.
He gave me a light kiss on the cheek. It was just as always.
I dried off Neil’s hair with a towel as he sat with his back facing me.
I stoked the fur of his ears and arranged it, and then combed his tail with a brush.

“Rio. I’ll go.”

——————‘Yeah.’ My voice was incredibly hoarse.
‘I know.’ My voice that added that too trembled awfully.
I wonder if he thought I sounded strange, for Neil turned back and stared at me.
His long black eyelashes came closer, and this time our lips brushed against each other’s.

“———Rio. Wait for me. I’ll definitely come back.”

Because I’m not Firiel, I’m Neil.
At those words, my tears flowed down uncontrollably.
I’ll see you off with a smile tomorrow, so that’s why, please, just for today.
————Let me cry in these arms.


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