“Now, Nainiae! You can’t leave before you try at least a bite of each of these food! I can’t let you go!”
“This one, try this one first, Nainiae!”
“Nainiae! This is the dish I do best! How does it taste? Is it all right? I think today’s dish turned out especially well.”
“Hey, if Nainiae knew how much it costs for the ingredients, should would be shocked.”
Riley, who casually came to the front of the kitchen, peeked a smile without realizing after hearing the loud noises coming from inside.
“… Unlike what I expected…”
Riley was not thinking the surprise party was going to be this big. With his arms crossed, Riley leaned on the corridor’s wall.
“They are giving her a grand party.”
Actually, it had not been long since Nainiae started to stay in Iphalleta mansion.
It was accurate to say her time here was short.
Despite that, having heard that Nainiae was leaving, many of the servants in the mansion were responding with grand gestures. All these meant that Nainiae was a great person.
‘Ms. Nainiae’s color is white.’
Basilisks could see people through the colors of people’s aura.
Riley thought about what Nara, the last of Basilisks, said. Next to Riley,
“… Looks like we will be heading out the next day morning.”
Andal came next to Riley and also leaned on the wall.
“Well, it looks like Nainiae is happy, so I don’t want to go get in their way… It’s not like her condition will worsen in just a few hours either.”
Just like Riley, Andal was also leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. Smiling leisurely, Andal said the above. Having heard what Andal said, Riley, with a little weary eyes, asked Andal,
“What’s with you all of sudden? Only a moment ago, you were anxious and said you want her to come with you soon.”
“I have a big heart. I only wish for my pupil’s happiness.”
“Oh my, really?”
Andal was already putting on the role of the teacher. Finding it to be ludicrous, Riley clicked his tongue and then turned his gaze toward Nainiae who looked happy in the kitchen.
“It’s delicious, isn’t it? How is it, Nainiae? It’s good, right?”
“Yes… It’s so delicious.”
“Ugh? Nainiae, are you crying again?”
“Did you use too much of spicy sauce?”
“No, Ms. Willa! I even tasted it myself to check it.”
“No, that’s not why. I’m just so happy… and it is so delicious, so that’s why…”
All this time, Nainiae’s heart was burdened with the thought of wanting to die. Now, she have laid it down and shouted out her true wish, that she desperately wanted to live.
Riley watched Nainiae being truly happy while being surrounded by the people. Riley was able to confirm that Nainiae was definitely walking on a different path from his own from his past life.
‘… It’s good now.’
Riley, without realizing, had a satisfied smile on his face.
Riley suddenly thought about a possibility.
‘How would I have looked if I could smile like that in my past?’
Riley thought that.
“… No, it’s nothing.”
Andal, who was vacantly staring at Riley, called Riley, smiled and shook his head.
“What is it all of sudden? You are acting like a human being?”
“How should I put it, I’m slowly starting to understand the existence called human beings? I just thought that.”
“You crazy runt…”
Andal was boasting about himself. Riley, finding it to be foolish, stared at him with a look. He heard steps coming closer from the kitchen, so Riley turned his head.
“… Young Master, Young Master!”
It was Nainiae.
Perhaps she used her right eye. As soon as she got out of the kitchen, she found Riley leaning on the corridor’s wall. She had gleaming eyes, turned her head to the side and asked,
“Young Master, does this… look good on me?”
As she waited for Riley's response, Nainiae showed him the ribbon on the back of her head and explained that it was a gift from Sera.
“… Not bad?”
Riley was not able to tell what changed, so he avoided her gaze and roughly answered.
“Really? Then, what about this one?”
Not just the ribbon that Sera gave her, but Nainiae was wearing various gifts that other servants gave her. She was showing Riley all of them as she asked if they looked good on her again.
“Well, it looks pretty good.”
“How about this one?”
“Then, then, how about this one?”
Looking at Nainiae, who was asking the same question over and over, Riley wiggled his eyebrows. Before she could ask the same question again, Riley complimented her by saying,
“Ah, they all look good on you, so that’s enough.”
Before she realized, Riley’s voice was elevated. Having realized this late, Nainiae knew now that she was just scolded. However… she had a blissful smile on her face.
* * *
It was early morning before the sunrise.
At the entrance of the mansion, Andal was waiting outside.
“You packed everything you need, right?”
“Take care… No, you have to get well, okay?”
“You have to come back, all right? You promised, got it?”
Nainiae hugged with all servants. Before leaving the mansion, she went to stand in front of Riley and Iris.
Next to them were Ian and Sera who were serving them.
To Ian and Sera, Nainiae bid farewell with her gaze. With a bright voice, she said,
“… I’ll get going now.”
And her eyes met with Iris.
“Nainiae, will you be able to contact us?”
“… About that…”
Having heard the question, Nainiae casually glanced at Andal, who was waiting outside, and responded, all disappointed,
“I think that might be difficult.”
Having heard her response, Iris also had a disappointed look on her face.
“In that case, something like… that mask?”
Perhaps she was worried. Iris thought about the mask that was broken last time and asked about it. Nainiae slowly shook her head.
“No, it’s all right. It’s all right now.”
Looking right at Iris’ eyes, Nainiae answered with pride. Iris still looked disappointed. Having noticed this, Nainiae slowly approached her.
With her arms open wide, Nainiae walked toward Iris. Iris also opened her arms and tightly hugged Nainiae.
Along with the hug, the two fell to silence.
Nainiae spoke first.
Nainiae was sorry for not looking at Iris’ eyes when she woke up at the bed yesterday. Also, Nainiae was thankful to Iris for waking her up by holding her hand when she was having a nightmare, giving Nainiae a gift before she went to Rainfield, and many other things that Iris have given her. Her apology contained her gratitude.
“… It’s all right. You are a family.”
Having heard Nainiae’s apology, Iris, who was holding her tight, brushed Nainaie’s head and continued in gentle voice,
“I think of you like my daughter. I’ll always be waiting for your return.”
Nainiae, who was happy to be held in Iris’ bosoms, nodded and said,
“… Lady Iris, I also think of you like my mother.”
Nainiae, who sincerely thought so from her heart, released herself from Iris’ hug, took steps back, smiled big and said,
“So, you don’t need to have that look on your face.”
The beautiful smile on Nainiae’s face showed how much she have grown in just a day.
“… Young Master.”
Now, Nainiae stood before Riley. The pain was starting to come again. Nainiae was trying to open and close her hands. At that moment,
Riley lifted his hand, placed the palm on top of Nainiae’s head, and said,
“Have you found the answer?”
Although it was just Riley’s hand on her head, the pain, which was about to peek its head out, disappeared like a ghost.
Because of Riley’s hand on her head, because of Riley’s question, Nainiae pulled her chin and was blushing. Eventually, she faced Riley’s gaze and said with pride,
Although she didn’t find the answer yet, the expression on her face looked like she accomplished a lot.
“So, this time, I’m going to go and try to find the answer on my own.”
“Well then, see you later.”
Riley said leisurely as he retrieved his hand from Nainaie’s head. Nainiae took steps back as she said goodbyes to everyone at the mansion who were looking at her.
“… I’ll come back.”
She felt light in her heart.
She was smiling.
Like that, she made promise to everyone that she will come back. Nainiae joined Andal who was waiting outside.
“Oh? You are here?”
Instead of the maid dress, Nainiae was now wearing a regular dress. Perhaps she was feeling awkward about it. She walked toward Andal as she fiddled with the tip of the skirt. Nainiae asked,
“So, where are we going now?”
‘Is it going to be the bar at the Iffa town? The cave underneath? Or another place?’
She didn’t know where they were going, but Nainiae had her heart prepared.
It was so she could return to the people she loved.
Before Andal cast teleport, Nainiae prepared the carriage so that the people at the mansion would not find it suspicious. Nainiae heard Andal’s voice and turned her head toward him to look. He said,
“… from today and on, you are my pupil.”
With his arms crossed, he was watching Nainiae preparing the carriage. Nainaie’s face had a question mark floating up after she heard the word ‘pupil’ from Andal.
‘Pupil? I thought I was going with him to be treated for my illness? That wasn’t it?’
Nainiae, with confused look, asked back.
Andal twisted the tip of his lips and said,
“Say it after me. Teache… No, call me Master.”
Andal looked like he was really looking forward to this like a child for some reason. Having noticed this, Nainiae vacantly opened her mouth.
“I said follow after me. Call me Master.”
The look on Andal’s face was about to turn violent. Although Nainiae was not sure what it was for, she decided to go along with it. She carefully mumbled,
“Um! Good! It’s got a great ring too it! Hahaha!”
It seemed that Andal remembered what Riley thought him wrong on purpose. Toward Nainiae, Andal flipped the middle finger and started to laugh in joy, not realizing that it was an insult.
Nainaie smiled awkwardly. She started to drive the carriage as she looked back.
The scenery of the mansion was gradually getting further.
She was already starting to miss it. She steadily gazed on the scenery. With a blank look on her face, she mumbled what she said to the people earlier.
“… I’ll come back.”
She mumbled as she remembered that one day, she will return to them.
Sera, who was like her real sister…
Ian, who was like her grandfather…
Iris, who was like her mother…
She thought about the day in the future when she will be reunited with them again.
“One day, again.”
Inside the moving carriage, Andal used the teleportation magic. The carriage, which started its way from the mansion… was engulfed in light and disappeared without a trace.
* * *
It was at the border between Solia and Ansyrium.
“So, from today and on, we are at a cease-fire?”
“Yes, that’s right. Further collision between forces may cause Rainfield to intervene, so… Even though they love making a huge mass, they will be a little careful.”
On a field that smelled like dirt, inside a tent, men each wearing armors with different insignias were gathered there. They were in middle of a meeting.
They were all nobilities who had their names widely known from their exploits in war or swordsmanship.
“Anyway, even though we are entering the cease-fire, we should not let our guard down.”
“Of course, Prince.”
There was someone besides the nobilities.
There was also Prince Daniel of Solia.
“Anyway, this is quite an irony.”
Carefully looking at the map on the desk, Prince Daniel mumbled,
“To see Ansyrium attack our border first…”
“I’m surprised too. I can’t help but to think that someone must have had a hand in it.”
“The fact that our border is being attacked is a problem on itself, but the bigger problem is ‘that mercenary’ who participated in the last battle.”
It was the mercenary who was said to be accumulating exploits rivaling that of the mercenary hero.
“To think that he will interfere in this war… It we didn’t have Count Stein, we probably would have lost the last battle.”
It was a brief conflict. It didn’t even last a month.
“The rumors. His monstrous strength was true.”
The mercenary entered the battle since the middle of the conflict. Standing on Ansyrium’s side, the mercenary appeared by himself in middle of the battlefield. Literally, he displayed his monstrous strength and disappeared only after he flipped the flow of the battle at an instant.
The fact that Solia almost lost this battle because of that mercenary was… It was still making the nobilities of Solia to feel the chill.
“He’s just a mercenary that acts for money… If we had Astroa…”
One of the nobilities mentioned the name of a criminal. Prince Daniel narrowed his eyes and glared at that nobleman as if he was daring him to speak the name again.
“M… My apologies, Prince. That was a mistake.”
The nobleman immediately apologized. However, Daniel didn’t change the look in his eyes. He corrected the nobleman and said,
“… You shouldn’t look down on mercenaries. Everyone gathered here take this opportunity to keep that in mind.”
Daniel coldly advised everyone. He asked the secretary who was on standby behind him.
The secretary, who had a desperate look on the face, barely answered the question.
“He doesn’t appear to be… No… He is not in a good condition.”
The secretary corrected the sentence in the middle and said that Stein was definitely not in a good condition. Daniel, as if he was trying to tell the secretary to say it clearly, turned his head and glared at the secretary.
“What do you mean?”
“That is… In order to reattach the ‘right arm that was thrown off’ back to the original form, we need to retrieve the arm, but because that mercenary’s monstrous strength was so incredible… We thoroughly searched the area, but we couldn’t find the Count’s arm.”
“I don’t think… we will be able to reattach it.”
Daniel ground his teeth and ordered the secretary.
Prince Daniel’s eyes filled with murderous intent.
All noblemen on the table held their breath.
“… Send out a royal decree against the Kabal Mercenary group. Tell them Solia will bestow a medal of honor for the one that will bring that mercenary’s head.”