Windur and Tornium slaughtered the shadows blocking their path. Maybe they got used to fighting the shadows after facing a disgusting number of them, but the two groups began to advance forward faster and faster.
“It’s to the left from the front!” Glen shouted.
Zich, who stood on the left side, made a wide horizontal swing when they arrived at the forked path. A couple of shadows were sliced out of the way and a space formed in front of them. Zich squeezed his way inside this space, and his companions followed him.
“It’s to our right this time!” Glen broke through the passageway this time. After they passed a couple of forked paths, they saw a dead end. However, it wasn’t that they took a wrong turn.
“That is the entrance!”
The group approached the entrance that was disguised as a wall.
The secret door opened automatically. Everyone looked nervously across the door. If there were also shadows outside this space, there was a high chance that the shadows could be at the tourist sites too. Under the most unfortunate situation, the city could also be teeming with them. Thankfully, what faced them from the other side of the door was a normal looking ruin wall and an empty space.
They all hurriedly got past the door and tensed up in worry that the shadows might follow them. However, the moment the last person in the group, Snoc, passed through the door, the shadows stopped moving.
The shadows lost their form and like a raindrop seeping into dry earth, they disappeared into the floor, walls, and ceiling. In case shadows might bounce out, everyone walked backward from the door. Thankfully, none of the shadows came out even as the door fully closed.
Zich hung Windur on his back, and the others also loosened up. Then, Zich surveyed his companions. As if they were proving the hard battle that they had gone through, everyone had an injury or two on their bodies. Blood poured from Hans’ body as he had stood in the front while Zich fought the statues. However, no one was deeply wounded, and their injuries were only surface-level.
“Let’s wash away our blood for now and change our clothes. We can’t go out in this state.”
Since Zich also had some injuries on his body, he took out some potions from his magic box and poured them over his wounds. His companions also began to pull out their potions one by one, but even as they did this, they took furtive glances at Glen and Browning. It seemed like the unfamiliar group of people bothered them.
However, Zich completely ignored them, and seeing this, everyone stopped concerning themselves with the strangers and minded their own business. They took out a barrel full of water and a cloth to wipe off their blood. Since their clothes were in ruins, they took out a couple of extra clothes.
Zich, who was wiping off blood from his skin with a damp cloth, turned around. He saw Browning scowling at him after she was ignored.
“What is it?”
Browning had shouted in anger, but she didn’t really know what to say. She couldn’t really complain to them that they were ignoring her either.
“Do you need this?” Hans pushed a new bucket and cloth from his side. He didn’t offer his potions since they were expensive. Although they had an overflowing amount of money since they raided an ancient ruin, Hans considered most of it as Zich’s wealth. He might have offered the potions if Browning was almost dying, but since that wasn’t even the case, he didn’t feel the need to waste them.
Browning was a bit taken aback since Hans showed kindness after ignoring her and Glen. It made her look ridiculous for getting angry, but at that moment, Glen stepped forward.
“Thank you, but we also have our own.”
Glen took out a barrel and some clothes from his own magic box. Hans nodded and placed his belongings back. Not long afterward, everyone was clean. Hans, whose clothes had noticeably been in a mess, was in new clothes.
“Are you done? Then, let’s go.”
“Wait a moment!”
Zich stopped at Glen’s cry, and his eyes narrowed. “…Do you have a request this time?”
Browning bit her lips, but Glen pulled her back slightly and stepped forward.
“First of all, I want to thank you for collaborating with us.” Glen extended his hand.
“It’s fine. We got your help too.” Zich lightly grabbed Glen’s hand and shook it. “But did you stop us to tell us that?”
“Can we ask how you managed to enter that secret space?”
Zich smirked and replied, “It was a coincidence.”
“…Did you just say that it was a…coincidence?”
“Yes, it was ve~ry coincidental.”
Glen didn’t seem like he believed Zich’s words. Browning also seemed to think that Zich was being absurd. But what did it matter if they believed in him or not? Zich confidently crossed his arms and stared at Glen.
“Then, do you know about those dark things that came out from there?” There was a subtle sharpness in Glen’s voice, but he had to ask this question. Even in the long period of time he had lived, this was his first time seeing such strange shadows.
Zich thought the tree and Windur in the cemetery of the ancient emperors were the cause of the shadows, but he answered brazenly, “Not at all. They suddenly came out, so we were quite surprised too.” Truthfully, Zich didn’t know anything beyond that or the details either.
“Are you really telling us the truth?” Browning intervened. She was looking at Zich and his companions suspiciously.
“You are not lying?” Even though it was their first meeting, she spoke rudely. However, Glen, who would have normally stopped her, decided to watch over her for a bit. He was that hungry for information.
Zich stared at her. Browning also didn’t back down and stared back at him. So, Zich racked his brain, but before he could find the right words to crush her, another person intervened between them.
“You are being rude.”
It was Lyla. She finished rubbing the blood off of her hair and washed it with water. She flicked her wet hair back and walked towards them.
“Do you two have the right to investigate us?”
Lyla’s beautiful eyes were full of murderous intent as she stared at Browning. Browning flinched under Lyla’s pressure, but she also didn’t easily back down.
“We just saw some strange creatures, and you guys were coincidentally in this place at the same time. Isn’t this enough for us to be suspicious of you guys?”
“If I follow your logic, won’t the two of you also be under the same suspicion?”
“We really found this place by coincidence!”
“Even though I don’t think you guys will believe us, it’s the same for us. Don’t you think we also have no reason to believe your words?”
Browning bit her lips; it seemed as if she thought this situation was unfair. It was understandable that she might have felt this way, because all she really did was wander around the ruin and follow Glen around. Then, a secret door suddenly opened in front of her and after she went into the secret passage, she met Zich and his companions.
In her perspective, Zich’s groups were people who broke the city’s rule just to go sightseeing in a restricted area. Even though Browning lacked experience, she had a strong sense of justice, so she didn’t look favorably upon Zich or his companions. Of course, she had also broken the city’s rules, but she did it to help protect the city from monsters. Moreover, she would not have even thought about breaking the city’s rule if it hadn’t been for Glen, whom she completely trusted and followed.
Browning was a very straightforward person. It was difficult for her to answer Lyla’s questions. As a straightforward person with a strong sense of justice, she felt heavily responsible for even the smallest things if she thought she did something wrong. In another way, this also meant that Browning trusted and followed Glen to the extent that she would ignore established rules.
“Browning, please stop.”
Glen finally intervened in the conflict. He stood in front of Browning, who was red in the face with fury and self-hate. Then, he bowed his head towards Zich and his companions.
“I apologize. I’ll apologize in her stead.”
Lyla asked, “I’m also asking you, but you guys have nothing to do with those monsters either, right?”
“Then that’s fine. Let’s just leave this matter as a coincidence; the defense system of the ruins just happened to be triggered today.”
Lyla narrowed her eyes.
“I hope you don’t continue passing over what you want to ask to your companion and act like you weren’t part of it. And when the situation becomes unfavorable, you suddenly come up and apologize in her stead. Honestly, that is way more unpleasant, and it also makes you look petty and childish.”
“…I will also keep that in mind.”
Glen stopped Browning who was about to shout something and nodded his head. Lyla turned her back. Her companions, who were worried that this might lead to a fight, were relieved—of course, Zich was not part of the group who felt relieved. Zich’s group separated from Glen’s group. It was only after they were a significant distance from Glen and Browning, they began talking again.
“I didn’t think you would step up like that,” Zich said to Lyla as he walked next to her.
“Based on your personality, you might have started a fight. We just went through an intense battle, and you expect us to enter another battle? That’s a hard no.”
Moreover, their opponent was that Glen Zenard.
Based on his fighting today, he didn’t seem to have the overpowering skills as he had in her memories yet. Even though Zich and his companions definitely had an advantage in numbers and skill, Glen Zenard was going to be the strongest hero in the future. It felt uncomfortable to fight against him.
There was also another reason. No, this might be the real reason why Lyla intervened between Zich and Glen’s groups.
“It was also annoying. Why are they treating you like a criminal?”
“Wow, you got angry for me?” Zich said this as a joke; of course, he didn’t believe this to be true. For that reason, his voice was full of jest.
“Of course. Do you think I’m going to stand still when you’re hearing stuff like that?”
Zich was so surprised that he could not reply back immediately.
“…You really got angry for me?”
“Yeah, so what?”
Lyla looked at him with a glum look.
“You might not know, but I feel a pretty big amount of gratitude towards you—at least to the extent where I would get angry when people insult you with rubbish.”
“Well, thanks for that.”
While smirking, Zich also added, “But they weren’t saying rubbish.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Contrary to Zich’s excuse, they hadn’t come to the restricted site for sightseeing, and they hadn’t found the secret passageway by coincidence. Moreover, there was a high possibility that the shadows appeared because of Zich; or more specifically, because of Zich’s weapon, Windur. Zich and Lyla stared at each other for a few moments. Then they burst out laughing at the same time.
“Well, that’s fine. They won’t know, so let’s keep our mouths shut.”
“Yeah, in the first place, if you can’t prove the truth, it becomes rubbish anyways.”
Then, they let out another burst of laughter.
* * *
After Zich and his companions left, Glen and Browning did not move for a while. It was so that they could increase the distance between them and Zich’s group. Moreover, Browning needed some time to suppress her anger.
“Calm down, Browning. As that woman said, we are also in the wrong.”
“…Yeah, that’s right. I also think the same, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are suspicious as hell!”
“Well, according to their words, we are also suspicious.”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m even angrier!”
For that reason, Browning was unable to push harder against them and get any information about them. But Browning hadn’t pressured Zich and his companions just because she was suspicious of them or something like pride. She nervously stared back at the secret door in front of them.
“Those shadow-like things won’t bring harm to the city, right?”
“There seems to be a low possibility for that. They’re unable to get out past that door.”
“I’m still worried though. This city was already ambushed by monsters before. If new monsters come out from the ground, everyone in the city would feel anxious about living here.”
Even though Browning was still immature and rash, she was thoroughly a good person on the inside. She showed goodwill and concern towards people whom she never met. Glen felt happy seeing her concerned about the people in this city. Glen thought that unlike ‘Lubella,’ this child hadn’t ‘fallen’ yet.
“Still, it’s not good to continue suspecting people without definite proof.”
“…Yeah, you’re right.”
Browning took one deep breath in.
“Even though my suspicions about them aren’t gone, I should first apologize to them if I ever meet them again.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter