Although they gained the freedom to do so, Zich and his companions didn’t get out of the palace. They were officially invited as guests and a whole, small building outside the palace was granted to them. They were treated extremely well, and everyone enjoyed a momentary break.
Meanwhile, Zich organized his thoughts at the terrace while drinking tea.
‘From this incident, I’m sure this kingdom and Karuwiman will try to find out the identities of those robed figures.’
Zich had been going around looking for Demon People from his pre-regression days and trying to find traces of the robed figures. Thus, it seemed regretful to end the matter like this when they had just fought the central power. Zich knew that the kingdom would have opened their eyes to the mysterious groups’ plots now, and Karuwiman was already a group of people who gritted their teeth whenever Bellid’s name was mentioned.
‘It will probably be harder for them to plan in the future.’
Zich thought of the robed figures who would probably suffer even more and chuckled.
‘The people who invaded the palace this time were a bit strange.’
Not only were their skill levels really high, but their reason for trespassing into the palace was also unknown.
‘I don’t think people with high skills like that would trespass into the palace just for the sake of retrieving a guy like Albus Windpool.’
Albus was someone they should have thrown away after one use—not someone they would go through all kinds of trouble to save.
‘Though things would be so much easier if those guys were sentimental enough to get attached to a guy like Albus and try to save him.’ However, the robed figures whom Zich had seen so far weren’t such awkward, kind-hearted folks like that.
‘The guys who go around creating Demon People must be the organization’s action committee.’
However, there were two groups that Zich had met who did other tasks: one in Violuwin and the other one in the palace.
‘The ones at Violuwin chased after Lyla. Their skills were outstanding like the guys I met at the palace. That means the organization has members who complete missions other than just making Demon People.’
There was a high chance that the guys at the palace had a special reason for infiltrating the palace, but Zich ended his thoughts there.
‘I should wait until other evidence comes up. I don’t have enough information to deduce something.’
Zich stood up. He decided to end his musings here, and above all, he felt the presence of people he didn’t want to see. Zich saw the luxurious carriage coming into the building and went out to the terrace.
* * *
Three people sat in the living room, and a tea set that a palace maid had placed was between them. One person was obviously Zich who was using this building, and the guests in front of him were a woman and a man.
“How unexpected that you guys would come looking for me,” Zich tilted his head without even reaching for his teacup.
The people sitting in front of him didn’t look too pleased.
“Have you abandoned all manners since you left home!”
“Even if I keep my manners, I know I will only get disrespect and rudeness back in response. So, what’s the point? Furthermore, aren’t we complete strangers now? Sir Count and Countess?”
Zich’s visitors were Count Steelwall and Countess Steelwall. Zich hadn’t expected their visit at all since they were strangers—no, their relationship was even worse than that. Zich wondered if they had come to fix their relationship with him, but as soon as he thought this, Zich erased that thought from his head.
‘There’s no way.’
Zich was sure that the stubborn Count would never treat him affectionately while the Countess wouldn’t want Grieg’s rival to appear again. Thanks to that, Zich was able to grasp the reason for their visit immediately.
‘If they didn’t come to see me, they probably came to inquire about Hans.’
It seemed as if they really treasured Hans as the Countess’ nanny’s grandson.
Zich asked them indifferently, “What did you both come here for? We don’t even have a good relationship with each other, so please leave after finishing your business.”
The Count’s eyebrows twitched, and the edges of the Countess’ lips trembled. However, they couldn’t raise their voices like before. Although they had a parent and child relationship before, Zich was now the guest of honor of the Cronon Kingdom who uprooted a great conspiracy. Moreover, the Count was on the requesting side. Thus, the Count could only shudder his cheeks as Zich stationed his chin straight and called the Count to speak.
“…Let us meet Hans.”
Zich’s guess was right on the mark. They probably came because the Countess pleaded. Unfortunately for them, Zich didn’t intend to grant their request easily.
“And why should I do that?”
“…Hans is the grandson of my wife’s nanny, who raised her like her own child. Hans must also want to see her.”
“I see. So?”
The Count rolled his eyes, but Zich worsened his attitude and posture.
Zich crossed his arms and legs and said, “I got him as a reward for my battle’s victory. He is not someone you can do much about.”
“Isn’t that why we are making a request to you like this!”
“Is that the attitude of someone making a request?”
The Count’s beard stood up on its end; it meant that he was extremely furious, but he couldn’t get angry like before. “…I see that you have some ill feelings.”
“What else did you expect? Considering everything I endured at that place.” Zich raised his teacup and quietly drank. He looked like he had nothing to regret.
“...No one liked you at the estate.”
“I also know that. My mother did incredible things before she left.” It was almost a talent to turn everyone against her.
“You didn’t have any skills then.”
“I also admit that. Although you didn’t even place one sword fighting teacher to my side, I couldn’t release the mana that most people feel around five years old—if they can sense it that early. I acknowledge that it was reasonable to think that I had no or very little mana.”
After all, who would have thought Zich had a mana capacity similar to a dragon?
“So, I couldn’t hand the Count position to you.”
“Even though it seems like you are trying to explain a decision driven by emotions, with various logical reasons to justify your decision now, I’ll admit you are right. When I was young, I really wasn’t enough to become an heir to become the next Count Steelwall, the Kingdom’s Metal Fortress.”
Zich put down his teacup. The heavy silence between them greatly heightened the sound of the teacup, and it sounded too sharp and loud.
“So what? Do you think I will now understand you or something?”
“But you admitted I was right!”
“I never cared much for the Count position. I give no crap whether you give it to Greig or not. I was extremely naïve during that time. All I wanted was the love and interest of my remaining family members.” Zich stared at the Count’s eyes. “And you could never give these things to me.”
Of course, to the current Zich, these events happened a couple of decades ago. There wasn’t even a trace of these emotions left in him. Zich leaned back in his chair. The Count and the Countess kept their mouths shut.
“…So you’re saying that you can’t accept our request?”
Zich stared at the Count’s eyes for a while. Then he smiled brightly. “How is Greig? Before I left, I worked pretty hard to destroy him.”
“He looked all right at the ballroom, but he seemed frightened by the sight of me. He looked a bit disappointing to be the next successor of Count Steelwall.”
As soon as Greig was mentioned, the Countess’ eyes were filled with fury.
Zich continued, “He needs to quickly get back to normal for the Steelwall family. Did his swordsmanship improve while I was gone?”
The Count roughly got up from his seat, but Zich was still calm; he merely grabbed his teacup again and raised it to his lips.
“Judging by your reaction, I guess he hasn’t improved. Sigh, I really do worry about the future of Steelwall.”
The Countess also stood up. Without even a farewell, they quickly moved towards the door. From their backs, Zich could see how furious they were.
“I will be sending Hans to your mansion. How could I refuse the requests of such high and noble people? Furthermore, when both of you came all the way to see me?”
As soon as Zich’s words faded, the door slammed roughly. Zich turned his head. He saw a vibrant garden past the window, and as Zich looked at the scenery outside, he quietly murmured, “Ah, the tea tastes excellent.”
* * *
How long did he stay in the palace? A great many people came to see Zich during his stay: Lubella and Weig who personally knew Zich, the Crown Prince and the King who were now familiar with him, and complete strangers. The last group of people usually came to scout Zich into their organization. Of course, Zich was not interested.
Zich asked, “You’re late?”
Lyla was the last one to come into the restaurant, and with her arrival, all of Zich’s four companions were gathered together. Nobles usually began their meals only after everyone arrived, but this was not the case for Zich’s group at all. Zich, Hans, and Snoc had already begun their meal, and Lyla also did not mind that they started dining earlier than her.
“I was late because I had to organize the gifts I got.”
“I heard you got a crazy amount of gifts?”
Combining her beauty with her rare position as a magician, she received a ton of love calls.
“It’s ridiculous how they keep talking about love when they barely saw me.” Lyla shook her head. “It’s okay to not return their gifts though, right?”
“Yep. If they ask for it back, it will hurt their reputation. Is there any present you like?”
“I’m not interested in the clothes, but there were some nice jewels. With the quality of the jewels, I can make some pretty high-quality artifacts.” Lyla spoke with a perk in her voice and picked up the tableware. She began cutting her steak. For a while, only the sound of eating food could be heard in the restaurant.
While Zich continued to eat, he looked around his surroundings. “How about you guys? Do you guys want to be nobles or work for aristocrats?”
Hans and Snoc stopped eating—they met each other’s eyes and carefully put down their utensils. They swallowed all the food inside their mouth. While diligently cutting up her steak, Lyla also looked towards Zich’s direction.
Hans asked Zich, “Sir, what do you mean?”
“I’m sure that you guys are also getting tons of scouting offers. Especially you, Hans. If you go back to Steelwall, you will probably receive an extremely warm welcome.”
Since Steelwall needed more military force than any other estate and the Countess also greatly favored him, Steelwall had more merits for Hans than any other estate. However, Hans shook his head.
“The Count and Countess already gave me an offer, but I am satisfied with my current lifestyle. I feel that I’m fulfilling my fairytale dream.”
Sitting next to Hans, Snoc also nodded his head. Nowem did the same while stuffing his nose in a soup plate. Then he immediately went back on gulping down more soup.
“From the first place, I have no interest in things like nobility. I like traveling all over the world, and I’m also on the run too.” After she said this, Lyla busily stuffed steak into her mouth.
“Is that so.” Zich smirked, “Well, if that’s what you guys want, I’ll do my best. I will put you guys through even harder training so that all of you can fulfill your dreams. You can have high expectations.”
Hans, Snoc, and Lyla all put down their utensils immediately as they suddenly lost their appetite, but Zich paid no attention to their reactions and began planning their training regimens inside his head. Watching Zich’s concentrated expression, the three of them felt nauseous.
At Zich’s words about training, Nowem took his nose out of the soup plate and let out a soft cry.Previous Chapter Next Chapter