“…It was a hasty decision. I shouldn’t have let you go.”
Even that calm and cold-hearted teacher Mr. Epinhauser showed signs of regret after hearing what we went through.
The two of us, mere students, went ahead and completely annihilated bandits and wandered around the lands tainted by that cursed sword before actually dealing with said sword.
The explanation about the wizard Relya was kept as short as possible. Ellen and I decided to hide her claims and abilities. Ellen was unable to understand Relya; however, she seemed to have a good opinion of her.
Even Temple didn’t know what happened in Exian and about the workings of the current Darklands. There were many adventurers frequenting the place, so I thought things would be fine. I never expected that said adventurers would be one of the place’s dangers.
Most people who’d never been to Exian would think like that.
Although Ellen was very careful of adventurers, she also witnessed a lot of things that were just too hard to believe.
If Temple knew the reality of the Darklands, they wouldn’t have let us go there.
However, Temple did more than enough. They had tried to add Mr. Epinhauser to our party, after all, but we had refused, and they had even given us Teleport Scrolls so that we could escape if we ever encountered a crisis.
“And that would be the cursed sword, I presume?”
I laid the sword I had wrapped in bandages on the table. I told him not to touch it directly, just in case. Mr. Epinhauser was still staring at the cursed sword intently.
“You didn’t fall under its curse?”
“Yeah, I have some guesses as to why… Maybe I’m naturally resistant to these kinds of curses… Or something like that.”
I couldn’t explain it any further than that. A characteristic was a kind of state that a talent scanner wouldn’t be able to pick up.
“I see, I will inform the corresponding department of Temple to analyze it. Don’t worry, you’ll be informed if it’s too dangerous. Of course, it will still be yours. If Temple decides that it’s something you are allowed to use, I won’t interfere any further.”
If Temple determined that there wouldn’t be any safety issues, they would allow me to use the cursed sword or whatever it actually was.
Although it was quite an ominous object, it was clear that it housed some incredible powers.
“If you need therapy, please let me know.”
Mr. Epinhauser thought that it might be necessary because of all those terrible experiences I had been through.
Neither Ellen nor I decided to get therapy.
Mr. Epinhauser seemed almost surprised when he heard that Ellen managed to awaken magic body strengthening all on her own.
It was something universally thought to be impossible. It was quite interesting seeing his surprised expression. Of course, Ellen had undergone some treatment. Those kinds of injuries couldn’t be treated by an ordinary priest, after all.
Someone quite unexpected ended up giving her said treatment.
“It’s like letting a dragon loose in a narrow alleyway. Student Ellen.”
“…Yes?” “Alright. It seems that you stumbled a little while taking your first steps. You took the first step, so it can be said you’re able to walk now.”
“Now… Breath iiiiiiiin…Breath ooooout…”
“The energy of the universe… Try to feel iiiiit…”
It was the yoga master.
Or one might call him a hypnotist as well.
It was the magical power sensitivity teacher. He was the one who taught that class where we only slept and woke up when the class ended.
It seemed that he was unparalleled in the field of magical power control on the continent. One might call him a master. He didn’t seem to be a swordmaster, but he just seemed to be THAT kind of master.
A master of masters.
A grandmaster or something.
Anyway, the Grand Yoga Master guy treated Ellen with something like qi healing.
Injuries caused by magic body strengthening weren’t really all that common to begin with. If one were to use martial arts terms, they would be like injuries left behind by qi deviation. If one never learned that technique, one could never get those kinds of injuries.
So there were even fewer people who could treat those wounds.
However, there was someone among Temple’s staff that could completely heal them.
Anyway, I once again realized that the personnel at Temple was not to be trifled with.
“What about magic body strengthening?”
“Don’t use it. It’s too dangerous. When school starts, you’ll receive one-on-one training.”
In the face of that unprecedented situation, it seemed like the Grand Yoga Master decided to teach Ellen personally. It was akin to teaching a kid who casually played around with nuclear weapons in their free time how to use them properly.
Anyway, our adventure in the Darklands was then complete.
It hadn’t been that long since I had left the Royal Class dorms, but it felt like I had finally returned home after an incredibly long time.
However, the view of Temple’s dormitory seemed unfamiliar to both of us. It wasn’t just because there were very few people around because we had vacations.
We didn’t exchange any words.
Both of us felt great relief at having safely returned to our home, but something within us had changed.
Complicated emotions were swirling in my mind, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what they were. It was difficult to put into words.
Eventually, we both ended up in the lobby after we went into our rooms, unable to rest. It felt like we should talk because we had finished our mission or something, but we just sat next to each other without exchanging any words.
It was as if we had forgotten how to talk.
Only then did I realize something… Both Ellen and I were completely exhausted. We didn’t even have a moment to properly rest after we went through one difficult situation after the other.
So now that everything finally came to an end, we completely lost our vigor. Everything that had happened in the Darklands was just one terrible memory after the other.
I didn’t want to put it into words.
Although the incidents were all resolved, all of them were horrible and absolutely terrible.
We had to wrap it up and move on, but I didn’t seem to have the confidence to actually wrap it up with words.
Although we were forced to do it, it left some indelible scars and imprints in both our hearts.
Verbally confirming that fact might just hurt a lot more.
Ellen rested her head on my shoulder without saying a single word.
We stayed like that for a while, completely silent.
Although we returned from the Darklands, it was only natural that we resumed our training.
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Three days had passed since we had returned to Temple.
We still had vacations.
Only a few people remained on campus. Except for us, the only one around was Adelia.
So we did our early morning exercises together. I was finally able to keep pace with Ellen with a little help from my supernatural powers.
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Earlier that year, I would have been crawling after that much, but I was able to manage. That was the result of my hard work, my supernatural powers, and my cheat.
After a long workout session, we wet our throats with some water and sat down on a bench.
After returning from the Darklands, we had not a single conversation.
It wasn’t because I felt awkward.
I just couldn’t figure out what to say. We hadn’t brought anything up regarding the Darklands ever since the consultation with Mr. Epinhauser.
Ellen was very talkative back in the Darklands. She had a lot of things to think about, a need to discuss things, and a lot of doubts.
However, after she returned to Temple, she spoke as little as possible again.
It was a bit different from Ellen actually returning back to her original state.
We never even tried to discuss what happened in the Darklands. It practically felt like the topic was taboo.
However, neither of us could have a conversation about something different without bringing that up.
It was only natural that it was the only thing continuously swirling in my head.
But that talk would be about the people we killed, the ones that almost ended up killing us. Although it somehow ended, I couldn’t help but feel that it had left some trauma. The people we killed, the zombies we fought.
I actually kept having nightmares.
I couldn’t sleep at all because I kept remembering slaughtering those maggot-filled zombies in my dreams.
When I was over there, I had no nightmares whatsoever, but as soon as I had to process everything after I finally reached a safe place, all those thoughts kept rushing in.
—They blew through my head like a hurricane.
I decided not to think about it further, but apart from the guild, all those terrible images continued to flood my mind.
So we avoided talking about the Darklands, resulting in us making very little conversation.
Even after we returned, we were still together all the time, except when we were sleeping.
I didn’t know what to say to her, so I just continued to train and train some more.
Do you want to eat some dinner? -Yes. Let’s go train. -Yes.
That was all we talked about.
Of course, aside from becoming less talkative again, she was a bit different from before as well.
Ellen seemed to be a bit more open-minded towards me than before.
She would lean on me often, and she would even fall asleep on my lap after training, saying that she was tired.
It did feel nice that we seemed to have grown a bit closer…
However, it also felt rather strange because we seemed like a couple while not exchanging even a single word with each other.
* * *
A lot had happened, but only two weeks had passed since our vacations had started.
We were in the Darklands for only a week or so, and yet so many things happened that changed both Ellen and me forever.
Thinking that she had probably returned already, I went to Eleris’s shop and found her sitting inside.
“Your Highness.” “Hmm.”
Eleris had taken off her Relya disguise and returned to her true form.
“You went through a lot. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Although it wasn’t enjoyable… it was quite the meaningful experience.”
Eleris smiled sadly.
“That child. As I expected… She’s someone related to Ragan Artorius, right?”
“…His younger sister.”
“Is that so?”
—The younger sister of the Artorius who had killed the demon king.
—The son of the Demon King who had killed Artorius.
Eleris seemed rather confused about whether our relationship would end up being an ill-fated one or not.
“She’s a good kid. Upright, strong, and good.”
Eleris quietly took my hand.
” With all my heart, I hope that your bond with that child won’t turn into a tragic one, your Highness.”
Although she had said that, her expression seemed as if she was watching a story coming to its end.
“You should never ever tell the others about this. Especially Sarkegaar.”
If Sarkegaar found out, he would do everything in his power to harm Ellen. Loyar wouldn’t put a finger on her if I told her to stand down.
No matter how strong the relationship between Ellen and me was, in the end, it was nothing more than a giant glass castle that would shatter no matter what with just a single truth coming to light.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“And give her this.”
I put my backpack in front of Eleris.
It was filled with jewelry and precious metals from the Darklands. I was going to sell them through the Thieves’ Guild.
I didn’t know how much all those things were worth, but they were definitely worth more than a penny or two. I didn’t only bring my part of the loot but Ellen’s as well. She couldn’t sell it herself. She obviously found it much too annoying to take care of that herself, regardless of whether she was able to do it or not.
Additionally, I also packed some for Eleris so she wouldn’t have any financial problems for some time.
“Also, go look for that sunless semi-basement you said you wanted. I mean, what’s the use of earning money if not to spend it, right?”
“C-can I really do that?”
Eleris was so thrilled to the point that she was shivering. She seemed happy just imagining what awaited her.