Ellen didn’t seem to be completely drunk but only slightly tipsy. It wasn’t only her; everyone seemed to be a little drunk.
Both Adelia and Harriet, while tipsy, were excitedly chatting away about something.
“So, why don’t we just make some trigger-type magical weapon?”
“Ththat would be too difficult for us…”
“Okay, okay, let’s do it. We can ask for the components from Temple, and if they don’t have something, I’ll get it!”
“Re-really…? I-I’m sorry to burden you…”
It seemed like they were rambling on about the ideas that were floating through their heads.
Ellen sat on the sofa, hugging her knees.
I figured it out.
She was the type to start acting all cute when she got drunk. She was looking at me with her chin propped up on her knees.
It seemed that the cheese and chocolate weren’t enough.
Her expression showed that she wanted me to cook something for her.
“Well… I don’t think there are any other snacks around here.”
Liana thought about preparing something else to eat when Ellen said that she was hungry. However, it seemed like she couldn’t think of anything. Heinrich was just drinking without saying a word.
That guy. He really was no good.
I was a bit concerned about Heinrich, but it was Ellen who mattered.
She looked like she was planning on holding her breath until I made her something.
At least, that was what her continued stare made me believe she was planning.
“Haah, aren’t you creative today…?”
Eventually, I looked at Liana.
“Do you have any ingredients around here?”
Liana said that there was only one way to find out.
“ Are you going to cook?”
“Dunno, I’ll just throw something together.”
“Didn’t you drink?”
“I’m fine. I’m not that drunk. Arg!”
As I said that, I slightly twisted my foot while trying to get up from the sofa.
“Hey, hey, I’ll come with you.”
Liana followed me out of the room, thinking I was drunk.
“I’m not drunk, okay?”
“…Do you know where the kitchen is?”
The place was a mansion—a place I would absolutely get lost in if I wasn’t told where the kitchen was.
Was I actually drunk?
* * *
The kitchen Liana guided me to had a food pantry filled with ingredients. I took some random things out.
Liana was watching me with an anxious expression on her face.
“Do you know how to cook?”
“Although I’m not confident that I can satisfy the refined taste buds of our esteemed young lady, I can whip up something that would satiate that bottomless hole back there at least.”
“Are you actually trying to make me mad?”
I didn’t plan on making snacks that would go well with alcohol. My purpose was to satisfy that hungry carnivore.
“Be careful with the knife.” “Yeah, yeah.”
I cut some sausages into bite-sized pieces and chopped some onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms; then, I put everything in a frying pan. I added some ketchup, sugar, pepper, and a pinch of salt.
It didn’t really take that long to make either. Luana looked down at the almost instantly finished dish and tilted her head.
“What is this?”
“Sausage stir-fried with some vegetables, then mixed with ketchup, sugar, and pepper.”
“I was asking for the name of the dish, not how you made it.”
Would she understand if I told her it was called “Soyah”?
She should just leave it at that and eat it!
I made a huge amount, of course, because it was meant for Ellen. I also found some baguettes, so I sliced one up and put it in a bowl. Liana cautiously tried some of the food, then smirked.
“I can’t say it’s all that tasty, but… Surprisingly, It’s actually quite edible.”
“That’s what Harriet said last time as well:”
Both of them were used to luxurious food, so they wouldn’t be able to call that delicious, but it wasn’t bad. Then Liana looked at me and folded her arms.
“The more I get to know you, the weirder you get.”
“I get that a lot.”
Now that I thought about it, most people I had met actually told me that.
* * *
Everyone’s eyes widened when I returned with the bowl of sliced baguette and sausage-vegetable stir-fry.
Ellen, of course, just started shoving the sausage vegetable stir-fry into her mouth with a fork without even saying a single word. Liana also ate a little of the food placed before her.
Adelia’s eyes widened as she ate.
“Reinhardt, you’re… surprisingly good at a lot of things…”
Her face was pretty much flushed, as she was slightly drunk as well.
“At first, I just… thought you were someone very scary… But now, I don’t think so anymore…”
That girl who couldn’t even look me in the eyes when she talked to me while sober was speaking quite frankly when she was drunk. Liana nodded her head quietly.
“That’s true. Honestly, you looked like a completely different person to me during our group mission last time.”
Everyone had nearly given up during the group mission, but Ellen and I had decided to move first.
Honestly, though, it was Bertus who led all the kids, but I did end up giving him a lot of advice.
“Y-yes, back then… he was a little… cool… right?”
“Ah… Huh? Uhm, erm… Well, I-I don’t really…?”
Adelia looked towards Harriet to ask for her confirmation, leading to Harriet just shaking her head in embarrassment.
To tell the truth, I felt that my classmates’ opinions of me had greatly changed since that time. Liana looked towards me and smiled softly.
“We only have to fix that guy’s crooked personality…”
“God damn it.”
At that moment, a quiet swear broke the mood.
The atmosphere instantly froze over as if water had been thrown over it.
“You keep yapping on about Reinhardt this, Reinhardt that. What’s so good about him?”
Heinrich von Schwarz, with his eyes half-open, muttered vacantly as he roughly placed his glass down.
That bastard was…
“What’s so good about that lowborn guy with a terrible temper, who punches every person he comes across, doesn’t know his place, and just keeps on talking casually with nobles and royalty, whom he normally wouldn’t even be able to look at!”
Adelia shuddered as that idiot started yelling. Ellen began staring at Heinrich, and Liana furrowed her brows. Harriet seemed perplexed.
Wow, that punk.
I kind of felt that things were piling up on him in that situation, but I didn’t think he would explode like that.
“Hey, shut up.”
I looked at him and said some brief words.
“If you talk more, you’ll regret it tomorrow.”
To be honest, if I wanted Heinrich to completely fuck himself over, I could have just kept on sitting there without saying a word. He was completely self-destructing. Leaving him alone would make him suffer the most once morning came.
So to tell him to shut up was the limit to the mercy I was willing to give that guy. That was my limit.
It was clear that my judgment had been twisted in some ways on that trip, so I wouldn’t really react much, even when he tried to badmouth me.
However, it seemed like my words only added fuel to the fire.
“…Who the hell are you to talk to me, part of Kernstadt’s Royal Family, like that? Do you still think this is Temple, you bastard? Just because you got into Temple, do you think you’ve become a great noble or royalty? Do you think you’ve become something better because you take the same classes as the Prince and Princess…?”
Liana de Grantz placed her head on Heinrich’s knee. His body was trembling terribly after he heard Liana’s words.
“Why are you being like this all of a sudden? If you’re drunk, just go and sleep.”
That was probably the last thing he wanted to hear from Liana. If one treated a drunk person as a drunk person, that would be the same as pressing their detonate button.
If you’re drunk, just go to sleep. Don’t act like some gangster.
Hearing something like that from the person one liked would make one all the more angry as well.
“Hey, who do you think you are?”
He looked at me as he said that.
“This bastard. You’ve been kicking up a fuss about going to the Darklands this time around, and you’ve been acting all high and mighty, but then you just came back telling us that you just wandered around in some safe places, not doing anything at all. Can that even be called an adventure? Isn’t that just a picnic? What’s even the difference between playing around here then?”
There were a lot of things that he seemed to have kept bottled up.
I was rather tired, so I didn’t have the energy to get angry. Dealing with that was just tiring, and if I actually got angry at a drunk person, it would be my loss.
It would just seem pathetic in that situation.
I had seriously endured enough.
And I didn’t particularly like or dislike Heinrich von Schwarz.
Did I seriously have to take care of the person who was bad-mouthing me like that?
There was only one thing I needed to do while he was being so obnoxious.
—Just sit still. He would soon dig his own grave.
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I just had to leave him alone.
The best thing that could happen to him was if I actually slapped him. Why would I even hit him when that would just end up biting me in the ass?
I was just going to stay put.
That would be the worst thing for Heinrich.
“Hey. I told you to stop…”
“Wait a sec. You’re nothing more than a bully in Temple who just one-sidedly attacks the ones weaker than you. Are you scared to do it in a place like this? What’s the matter? Huh? You coward.”
He was just pointing his finger at me without even listening to Liana’s advising words.
“Hey, what’s the matter? Are you going to punch me? Like always? A guy like you who can only be strong against the weak probably couldn’t even do much in the Darklands. Just fucking hit me. It’ll be as easy as befo—”
It was neither Liana nor I who cut off Heinrich’s words.
“If you talk any more…”
Ellen was gazing at Heinrich with cold eyes, picking up a whiskey bottle.
“I’ll kill you.”
She was about to strike Heinrich’s head with that thing.
At Ellen’s harsh remarks, the atmosphere that had already turned cold froze over even more. I took the whiskey bottle from Ellen’s hands.
“Hey, girl. Calm down. Why are you like this all of a sudden?”
Ellen glared at the frozen stiff Heinrich with a deathly look in her eyes.
“Don’t open your mouth when you don’t know a thing.”
“What? What do you mean by, “you don’t know a thing”…?”
“Don’t talk like you don’t even know that.”
Just as Heinrich completely lost his mind, so had Ellen. Her anger had erupted when she heard Heinrich insulting me for being a coward and wimp when she was already in a really unstable mindset due to stress.
Although those weren’t memories we were proud of, we had never acted cowardly. However, that wasn’t something one could easily shake off just by falling for that obvious provocation.
Heinrich paused for a moment, his face flushed red in embarrassment as I stopped Ellen from hurting him, then his attitude changed all of a sudden.
“…Ah, you went to the Darklands together, right?”
Heinrich smiled at Ellen as if he had just remembered that fact.
It was an obvious sneer. “Didn’t you also get cold feet when you got there? Why? Do you feel embarrassed and ashamed that I pointed that out?”
“Stop it, you! Why do you keep going?!”
“Tha… That. Why are you doing this, Heinrich?”
Even Harriet and Adelia told him to stop, but he seemed unwilling to listen to them.
Liana de Grantz’s expression turned freezing cold.
Lightning left Liana’s body and struck Heinrich. In the end, her patience ran out, so she took things into her own hands.
“…If I knew that he would act like that, I wouldn’t have brought him here.”
Liana was staring at Heinrich, who was almost immediately knocked out by her lightning bolt, lying there squished like some insect. After she put out the sudden disturbance in a flash, she just went back to sipping on her whisky.
“It’s okay. He isn’t dead.”
Her saying that so casually sure was scarier, though.
Anyway, Heinrich had done something he shouldn’t have done out of jealousy and some sense of rivalry with me, so he was firmly embedded as an annoyance in Liana de Grantz’s mind.
Maybe I should have hit him earlier. Of course, there was no reason for me to do him that favor when he was deliberately trying to piss me off.
Anyway, a lot of my personality had mellowed out completely. If it was some time ago, I would have flown at him at the drop of a bead, no questions asked.
Of course, that was when my position was still unstable and when I didn’t have any other choice but to do that to not get ignored. I had no reason to care for something like that anymore. I didn’t even want to get angry over some drunk’s ramblings.
Leaving him to his own devices was the biggest punishment for that drunkard, so I just sat back.
So, like that, he received retaliation without me even having to lift a finger.
I felt rather good because I got to drink some alcohol after a long time, so I didn’t really want to get upset.
Having fainted, Heinrich was placed on the bed in his room. After something like that happened, it felt like it was about time that we left, but Liana seemed to have other intentions.
“By the way, you two.”
She looked between Ellen and me alternately. Ellen was still upset at Heinrich’s obnoxious words.
“I didn’t believe even for a second that nothing happened in the Darklands…”
Liana seemed to have realized something after hearing Ellen’s outburst to not talk without knowing anything.
And she didn’t actually believe our words that nothing happened.
“Seeing that it’s something you don’t want to talk about but react to when you hear the word coward or something… I have a rough idea of what might have happened.”
Liana looked at us after she took a sip of her whiskey.
Liana seemed to have guessed to some extent why we were unable to speak about that.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
She poured wine into Ellen’s glass and whiskey into mine.
“However, whatever you ended up doing, I think there must have been an unavoidable reason for your actions.”
No matter what you did, there must have been a good reason for it.
That was what Liana said.
“You might be wondering why I’m so curious about this.”
Liana raised her glass with a smile.
“Because we’re friends. That’s why.”
Liana de Grantz thought of Ellen and me as friends. I didn’t expect such words to come out of her mouth, so I couldn’t help but feel a little dazed.
The relationship between us wasn’t that long. We also didn’t really talk much.
But people didn’t have to know each other for a very long time to become friends. After she drank a bit, Liana seemed to be a lot more honest and talkative than usual.
That was why she was acting like that and telling us that we were friends, which was why she was so curious about it.
She was the complete opposite of Heinrich, who only talked about his status and asked me if I still thought I was in Temple when he got drunk.
No matter our status, we can be friends. I think of you as my friends.
Ellen was quietly staring at Liana, seemingly slightly startled by her words. Then she looked at me.
I knew what that gaze meant.
Can I tell them?
It seemed like she didn’t tell them anything before because she was worried that everyone would just be afraid of her and shun her.
However, continuing to hide those things even after Liana said those words would be rude to her, as well as Harriet and Adelia.
It looked like she didn’t want to hide it anymore in front of those people who definitely could understand her.
I gazed into Ellen’s eyes and nodded slightly. She took a few deep breaths for some time. She was already pretty drunk.
“We killed people.”
Ellen continued to speak in a calm but slightly trembling voice.
With the exception of Liana, Adelia and Harriet both seemed to hold their breath in surprise.
“26 in total.”
Unlike me, Ellen could even remember the exact number of people we killed.
* * *
Ellen calmly continued her recounting. Slowly, from the beginning. Everyone listened to how our journey through the Darklands went with bated breath.
—How we noticed and preemptively stopped a robbery attempt on us while we were traveling from Exian to St. Point.
—How we made a wizard join us in St. Point.
—The conflict we had with a B-ranked adventurer called Hugson.
—How we chose between going to Als Point ourselves and joining the Convoy mission.
—How we ended up choosing to take a look ourselves and went south.
—The massacre in Klitz Point as well as the annihilation of the bandits there.
—Our return to St. Point and how we found out that Hugson was their accomplice, leading to his arrest.
—How we were asked by an investigator of the Adventurers’ Guild Headquarters to return to Als Point.
—The disappearance of all the corpses in Klitz Point, how they came back to life as zombies and attacked us.
—The mysterious case of Als Point, caused by a cursed sword.
—And the battle between us and the cursed sword along with the zombies it controlled.
Ellen didn’t reveal anything about the “true identity” of Relya, the suspicious wizard.
Then she told them that, after all those battles, she finally realized how to use magic strengthening and how we recovered the cursed sword and left it with Temple.
After having listened to the whole story, the three of them had dazed expressions on their faces.
“Too many people had died, and we even killed some ourselves. I just thought that it wasn’t anything pleasant to listen to, so I couldn’t bring myself to tell you.”
Ellen then looked at Harriet.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She apologized to her for not telling her anything. Harriet bit her lip and shook her head.
“No… No. It’s okay. I think… I think I can understand why you couldn’t say anything. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t know… That something like that happened to you…”
After Harriet heard the whole story, she was more than convinced that we had reasons enough for not telling her. Rather, she actually ended up apologizing to Ellen.
With that, even the last bit of enmity between them seemed to have melted away.
“…It must have been hard for the two of you. You did well.”
That was what Liana told us. Her words were short, but she seemed to have understood how we felt. Rather than just understanding, she even thought what we did was good.
“…It’s scary… It’s very, very scary, but… Both of you did great. If it were me… I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I… I! You two. I think you did really well! I think you did what you had to do! And thinking that you fought without even thinking of running away… Is so amazing… So… don’t feel so sad. Yes.”
Adelia seemed slightly frightened but confirmed Liana’s words that both of us did great, seeming as if she was squeezing out every last bit of courage in her.
Harriet looked between Ellen and me.
“Both of you… saved so many people.”
We thought that the kids would be afraid of us or distance themselves from us after hearing what we did.
“I mean… It’s not something one should brag about, but… I think you can be proud of yourselves. I don’t want you to suffer from this.”
That whole thing was our misunderstanding.
Ellen drank her wine with a warm smile tugging on her lips.
It felt like that shadow that seemed to have been cast over Ellen’s face after we returned from the Darklands had finally disappeared.