This was a memory of an event that took place before Zich’s regression; it happened right after Zich’s conversation with Joachim about his “bloody hobby.” After Zich listened to Joachim’s clearly faulty logic, he watched Joachim bathe in a pool of blood for a bit longer. Then, he heard another voice.
“What are you doing, boss?”
Zich turned around to see where the voice came from. There was only one person among his subordinates who called him ‘boss.’ Her auburn hair flung around wildly. The clothes she wore were like pieces of cloth that barely covered her vital areas, and they made her look more sensual. Although she had an elegant face, there was also a crafty air about her; and this head-turning beauty soon approached them.
“What? Were you on a date with Joachim?”
“Even if it’s a joke, don’t say something so disgusting.”
Zich waved his hands, and Joachim scooped a lot more blood and poured it over his shoulders. Evelyn was appalled.
“It’s unbelievable! How could you love something like that so much?”
“That’s what I’m saying!”
Zich finally found someone who agreed with him and felt glad. But Zich also forgot that she wasn’t a normal person. Including Zich—although he claimed that he was different—none of his subordinates were normal.
“Ah!” Surprised, she screamed and lifted a corpse up. Although it was barely maintaining its form, the corpse had a decent appearance like it could have belonged to a very handsome man.
“Hey, I told you to not kill the good-looking ones!”
Joachim changed his posture and answered, “I never agreed to it.”
“Isn’t blood the only thing you need? I told you I would hunt some other guys in your stead!”
“Ah, seriously! It’s not like you care about the owners of your blood!”
Then, she turned to Zich. “Boss! Say something to him too!”
Zich didn’t say anything and quietly scratched his head. When Zich didn’t take her side, she pouted.
“Tch! I should at least take the head.” She took out a dagger from her hip and sliced the man’s head. Then, she carried the head under one of her arms and walked through the corpses as if she was shopping.
“Oh, I found another handsome man!”
She glared at Joachim who killed the handsome man in front of her and sliced that man’s head too. She almost looked like those barbarians who hung their victim’s body parts on their waist like ornaments. However, she was simply looking for parts to use as interior decorations(?) for her room.
‘…Is this my karma for killing so many people?’
The behaviors of his peculiar subordinates forced Zich to think back on his past sins.
* * *
‘That was how Evelyn Rouge was like…’
Zich stared at Evelyn, drinking tea in front of him. She was different from her future self. Of course, her exterior appearance was the same; she still had the same elegant features and was still a rare beauty. No, compared to the time before his regression, she was younger, and her beauty was blooming more splendidly than before. However, she no longer had the sensual gaze or air of Succubus, and she seemed unfamiliar to Zich.
“Did you say that both of you were traveling?”
“Yes, my lady.”
Evelyn didn’t look scruffy as she did when she just got pulled out of the lake; her hair was only a bit wet, and she had changed into new clothes after wiping the water off from her body. Zich, Lyla, and Evelyn were now drinking tea together inside the forest in an area that was quite a distance from the lakeshore.
After almost drowning, Evelyn no longer wanted to stay near the lake, so she asked her servants to move the camping grounds deeper into the forest. With the combined efforts of all the servants and knights, they moved their camping site in the blink of an eye, and Evelyn invited Zich and Lyla for tea after the change was made. She wanted to treat and thank the people who saved her.
While answering Evelyn’s question, Zich glanced at the group of knights. One of the knights who had disappeared came back and said something to Ricky.
‘They are investigating our tracks.’
Although Evelyn’s group expressed their gratitude to Zich, they didn’t completely let down their guard. Zich expected this amount of wariness, and there were even two knights standing behind Evelyn as they talked. Evelyn looked uncomfortable by the situation, but she seemed to know that this level of precaution was necessary and didn’t protest.
However, Zich wasn’t someone they could trifle with.
‘They won’t get anything from their investigation.’
Zich had already covered and fabricated all his tracks. He left some evidence of his and Lyla’s movements, and when he jumped out to save Evelyn in the lake, Zich had pressed his feet widely into the ground to gain traction and completely erased all traces of their presence. Thanks to that, his jump sprayed some mess and debris onto Lyla. When he came out of the lake, Lyla glared at Zich as if she wanted to kill him; but overall, his goal to cover their tracks was accomplished.
‘If a real professional investigates, they might find out. But I doubt a professional investigator would be part of this small group.’
And even if they sent an investigation team later, the ultimate magic called time would have erased all their tracks by then. In short, there was no need for him to be nervous. As expected, it seemed as if the knights didn’t find out about Zich’s trickery. Ricky patted the knight’s shoulder once and returned to his original duty.
Zich replied nonchalantly, “We came to see the celebration for the king’s birthday. Since we still have a lot of time until the celebration, we came to play at a nearby lake. We didn’t expect something like this to happen at all.”
“It’s the same for me too. I always visit this place whenever I come to the capital and didn’t expect to see a monster at all…” As if she was reliving an old memory, Evelyn shook her head. “Let’s just forget these unpleasant memories. Would the two of you be able to tell me more about yourselves? Since I only stay in my family’s residence, I am very curious about the kinds of stories that travelers might have.”
“I don’t know if I have a story that would satisfy my lady’s taste, but I will try my best.” With this, Zich began telling his story.
Since Zich went through all sorts of experiences before his regression, his story flowed well and was interesting. Lyla also used her memories about the future to help narrate her story. Evelyn enthusiastically listened to their stories, and her posture indicated that she grew up like a sheltered plant in a greenhouse. Then, while talking, Zich got thirsty and sipped some tea. He reached out his hand towards the cookie that also came with the drink.
“Ah!” While reaching for the cookie, Evelyn slightly touched Zich’s hand. She flinched and slowly withdrew her hand. Her cheeks were slightly flushed. It seemed as if she really had no immunity against men. But from seeing her reaction, Zich felt a shiver run down his back.
‘…This is a nightmare.’
He couldn’t taste the cookie inside his mouth at all. When he looked sideways, Lyla who had been smiling along was now strangely stiff as well.
‘It must be strange for her too since she also knows Evelyn from the future.’
But her experience was incomparable to Zich who knew of Evelyn’s future self firsthand.
“N-now that I think about it, what is the relationship between you two?” Evelyn quickly changed the topic. “I don’t mean to intrude, but it makes me wonder if the two of you actually have a deeper relationship than the both of you are letting on. Especially since the two of you came to rest together in a deep forest like this.”
Her eyes sparkled. She looked like a girl who enjoyed listening to romantic stories.
“We are just traveling companions.” Lyla firmly drew the line. Evelyn was a bit disappointed. However, Zich’s following words soon made her hopeful again.
“Yes, so far.”
Lyla turned her head towards Zich. But Zich didn’t even glance at her, and he just shamelessly looked in front of him.
“…Oh my.” Evelyn stared at the strange atmosphere between them with excitement.
“My lady, will it be all right if we stop talking about this topic now?”
“Ah, of course.” She smiled and withdrew. Then she clutched her small fists and made a slight cheering gesture towards Zich. “Love is a good thing. I also have a fiancée.”
“Wow, what a surprise. I don’t know who that person is, but I’m sure he is an extremely lucky fellow.”
“No, you praise me too much.” Evelyn’s face became red again, but she seemed pleased. “He is too good for me. Since it’s an arranged marriage, it’s a little awkward at first, but our love is slowly growing. Even though I admire love that blazes at first sight like those in the novels, I think it’s also a good idea to have a love that slowly burns like mine.”
While saying this, Evelyn smiled in embarrassment. Zich smiled back. But the entire time this exchange happened, he thought, ‘Who the hell are you! You’re so different from the person I once knew!’
Since Joachim’s hemophobia didn’t show up unless there was blood around, Zich didn’t feel a great distance between the Joachim he knew from his past life and the current Joachim. On the other hand, every word that Evelyn uttered made Zich feel more and more distant from her.
‘Honestly, meeting her is scarier than when I first met Belri Weig.’
It was a completely new type of horror for Zich.
* * *
Zich and Lyla ate dinner with Evelyn, and then, they went their separate ways. Zich and Lyla set up their tents at a place that was quite a distance away from Evelyn and her escorts. Their tent was enormous. Thanks to the magic box, Zich was easily able to carry around a large tent and Zich’s extraordinary physical abilities allowed him to easily set up the tent by himself. Zich lay down on a large bed and looked up at the ceiling.
‘This is pretty good.’
Zich had prepared these items to pretend as if he and Lyla had come out to the forest to enjoy a picnic. When Zich and his companions traveled, they just made one bonfire and slept on mats next to it—Zich had no intention to use these comfortable tent supplies on his travels.
‘If I let Hans and Snoc travel too comfortably, they’re gonna get lazy.’
If Hans and Snoc heard this, they would have loudly protested that this would never happen. However, Zich had already made his final decision. For them, at least for a long while, their travels would be far from comfortable.
“Come in,” Zich said while looking at the tent’s entrance.
Lyla was not even surprised by Zich’s ability to sense her anymore and nonchalantly went inside the tent. She pulled out a chair near her and dragged it beside the bed that Zich was lying on. “What are we going to do from now on?”
“We have to gather information.” Zich sat up and answered her question.
“You have to work on it. That’s the reason why I brought you.” Zich couldn’t sense any presence eavesdropping on them, but just in case, he used mana to block any sound from escaping the tent.
“You really do have all sorts of skills.”
“Well, I used to be a Demon Lord.” Zich turned his body. Then he extended his legs outside of the bed and laid them flat on the ground to face Lyla. “Evelyn will probably show interest in you. While we are returning back home, she’ll probably at least call you to her side. Since I hinted that there was something going on between us, she’s probably going to be very interested in knowing more about that. From what I can see, she seems to love romance stories.”
“Ah, so that’s why…” Since Lyla thought Zich had some sort of plan, she didn’t say much and let Zich talk by himself at the end. But she hadn’t expected that Zich’s casual remarks about their relationship would be to prepare for future meetings with Evelyn.
“For things like that, wouldn’t it be more effective for her to call you s…” Lyla stopped talking. She remembered that Evelyn had a difficult time dealing with men.
“As you just thought, she probably won’t call me due to her discomfort around men. Even if she does call me, we probably won’t be able to have a deep conversation. Seriously, I’m so glad I brought you with me.” Zich generously complimented her. “Just go with the flow of the conversation. And also try to subtly ask her if weird things have been happening around her these days.”
“…I’m not really confident in talking about love stories.”
“You don’t have to say much. Since she already thinks that I really like you and you are indifferent to me, you just have to awkwardly reply to her. That’s gonna be pretty easy. In the first place, if Evelyn asks questions about that, you will feel awkward. There’s no need for you to act or pretend.”
“…Okay. I will try.”
With that, their scheme began to bear fruit.Previous Chapter Next Chapter