Chapter 188

While Zich and his companions were finishing up their dinner, an elf came up to their house. It was the same elf who guided them in the afternoon. The elf introduced himself as D’niel Myowem, greeted Leona, and exchanged greetings with Zich and his companions. Then he sat down at the table with them.

“Would you like something to eat?”

“No, thank you.”

At Hans’ offer, D’niel firmly refused. It wasn't because he disliked Zich and his companions; this was just his personality.

Leona asked, “Have you been well, D’niel?”

Zich stuffed a piece of bread in his mouth and watched their interaction.

‘As expected, they know each other.’

The location they were currently in was a village on the edge of the elf country. Even if elf princesses were different from human princesses, it was strange that there was someone who recognized the princess at a local village. 

“Princess, I haven’t been well since you ran away.”

“U-um. Yeah, I’m sorry about that.”

“Instead of being sorry, I wish you hadn’t run away from home in the first place. You left with just a single letter—do you know how worried we were about you?”

A crack began to appear in his stone-like face. However, the crack was not from disappointment or anger. Instead, it was filled with concern about Leona’s wellbeing.

“It’s not like I returned with nothing! Look at this!”

Leona took out the Lake’s Tear and showed it to him. D’niel’s eyes grew wide.

“The Lake’s Tear?”

“I got it back!”

D’niel’s gaze darted between the Lake’s Tear and Leona’s face.

“…Wow, this is surprising. I didn’t expect you’d actually find it.” D’niel had just wanted her to come back safely, and he hadn’t expected her to be able to retrieve the stolen treasure at all. 

“How about it! If I really want to do something, I’m an elf that can do it.”

“…Fine, I’ll admit I was wrong about you. I really didn’t expect that you’d be able to retrieve the stolen treasure.”

“Hmph!”

Leona lifted her chin with an arrogant expression. As D’niel continued speaking, Leona’s chin that was reaching up to the sky slowly inched down. 

“Princess, I heard that you stole a couple of the Queen’s jewels, but I thought you would get cheated by humans and barely receive any compensation for it.”

“…”

“Then I thought you would get cheated again and use up all the money you barely got to buy cheap goods.”

“…”

“And I thought that if you did happen to find the Lake’s Tear, you would get swept by humans and cause a scene. Then they’d chase you out.”

“…”

“But you were able to retrieve our tribe’s treasure back so admirably. This foolish D’niel, I really have to apologize to the Princess.”

“…”

Leona’s chin now hung so low that it became a concern of whether it would fall to the ground. Each of D’niel’s words pierced her heart. D’niel also recognized her reaction in the middle of his speech, but he didn’t stop. Instead, he strengthened his voice and continued to pressure Leona.

“Then would I be able to hear the Princess’ saga? I’m sure you did a wonderful job in the human world. As you said before, you said you were going to do a perfect and fabulous job over there.”

“Ughh…” Leona pulled back her hair. Her companions stared at her as if she was pathetic, and she was so embarrassed that she wanted to quickly find a hole to hide in. D’niel, who was beating down on Leona without a change in his expression, let out a sigh.

“Well, judging by your reaction, you seem to have experienced everything I said or almost experienced those things. Thinking back on it, weren’t you the reason why we lost the Lake’s Tear?”

This was the final blow. With slumped shoulders, Leona slammed her face on the table. Seeing that her body was still twitching, she was probably still alive.

“There’s no way this Princess of ours retrieved the Lake’s Tear by herself.” D’niel looked at the people next to Leona. “All of you must have probably helped the Princess. Am I right?”

“Yes, you’re right.” Zich nodded. An ordinary person would have denied it to be humble, but Zich was not that type of person.

“The Princess seems to be lucky with finding good people. Well, she has always been on the lucky side.”

“Ughh….”

Lying face down, Leona let out a groan, and D’niel stared at Leona. Her hair was sprawled out all over the table. A smile appeared on his face; it was a smile full of warmth and affection, and it was hard to believe he was the same stone-faced elf. He stretched out his hand and touched Leona’s shoulder. Leona slightly raised her head.

“I will stop my complaints now. I’m really happy you’re back, Princess.”

“…Hehehe! I’m so happy to see you too, D’niel!” Leona smiled brightly and immediately perked up.

“Were you able to capture the thief?” He didn’t have much expectations, but he asked since Leona was able to retrieve the Lake’s Tear. However, contrary to expectations, Leona gave a surprising answer.

“I killed him.”

“…” D’niel stared at Leona. Her face was a bit stiff, but it didn’t seem like she was still deeply troubled over it. 

“…It must have been a very difficult decision.”

“I thought he would be good as my first target, and I also wanted to kill him in the first place.”

D’niel stared at Zich and her other companions. From what he knew, Leona was not the type of individual who could say something like this. He had no choice but to think that she received outside influence, and the most obvious culprits were Zich and his companions. However, D’niel did not say anything more. A bird that recently flew out of her nest would definitely be influenced by outside factors.

Moreover, as an elf warrior, D’niel didn’t think it was bad of Leona to change like this. “Since you personally punished the thief, I don’t need to say anything more about him.” D’niel quickly ended the conversation about this thief; moreover, he didn’t want to spend any more time on that petty thief. 

“Then I will explain the current situation. Ah, but before that, I will formally introduce myself.” He straightened his posture and stared at Zich and his companions.

“As I have said before, my name is D’niel Myowen. I work as the guard captain for this forest.”

“A guard captain?” Leona opened her eyes wide. “Why are you a guard captain? What happened to working as a royal guard!”

‘That’s why he was so close to Leona.’

That satisfied part of Zich’s curiosity. He was wondering why an elf on the edge of the province was so close to Leona, and it seemed as if he used to be a guard for the royal family. He was probably in charge of guarding Leona. However, compared to being a royal guard, a guard captain was definitely a downgrade.

“Were you demoted because Leona ran away from home?” Lyla guessed the cause. 

“Huh?” Leona was surprised. She stared at Lyla once and then stared back at D’niel.

“I-is that true, D’niel? Were you fired because of me?”

D’niel looked troubled. Even though he was straightforward to Leona as a princess, to the extent where it would be considered rude, he still cared about not hurting her. If he confirmed Lyla’s question, Leona would definitely feel guilt. However, he couldn’t lie either, so he ended up confirming Leona’s guess.

“It was because of that, but it was also because I was unable to prevent that thief and the Princess from hanging out together. I was also unable to stop the theft of the Lake’s Tear.”

After hearing his reasoning, it was fortunate that it just ended up with his demotion. Leona was teary-eyed. Due to her actions, someone close to her was harmed significantly.

“I’ll try to do whatever I can to fix your situation!” Leona loudly shouted this as she hit the table.

“It’s alright. It’s true that I didn’t do my job prop—”

“It’s definitely because of me.” Leona cut off D’niel’s refusal. D’niel was surprised by her change in demeanor. Leona used to be always bright and immature; it was the result of everyone babying her because of her young age. However, her determined face to take responsibility for the harm she caused was now that of an adult. 

“Of course, I won’t be able to fix your demotion right away. I’m not going to make a fuss, and that probably won’t work anyway. But I was able to get the Lake’s Tear back, so this will probably help your case. I’m also going to take responsibility for my own actions.”

“Princess.”

“Even though I said a lot of things out loud, I know it’s not going to be easy. But I’m not going to let one of my people be harmed because of me. So please just wait a little bit more.”

On her short journey, Leona learned about so many topics. She learned about how the world was scary and how ignorant she was about the human world. Fortunately, she was able to meet Zich and his companions, and she progressed one step further as a more mature individual. 

She watched Zich as he used his tremendous strength and cleverness to get through all sorts of events and obstacles. She heard the teachings that Zich gave to Hans and Snoc while standing next to them. Zich also directly gave advice to Leona a few times. Moreover, Lyla, who was as strong and wise as Zich, took very good care of her.

Leona was able to gain an abundant amount of experience in this environment, and her perspective became wider and her thoughts became deeper. It was as if she was a completely different elf than before.

‘It seems as if the Princess's journey has been very successful.’ D’niel was a bit, a very tiny bit thankful to that thief who instigated Leona’s decision to go on a journey.

“I understand. I’ll wait, but I won’t expect much.”

“In this type of scenario, you have to at least say some empty words like ‘I will look forward to it’,” Leona pouted. D’niel let out a small burst of laughter. He wanted to set up a small party to celebrate the Princess’ progress, but this was not the time for parties. D’niel erased the smile from his face and reverted his posture. Zich also immediately straightened his back. So far, a personal conversation had passed between Leona and D’niel, but Zich predicted that D’niel was now going to begin addressing all of them about the main topic at hand. 

‘He’s probably going to talk about what’s causing the tension in the whole village.’

“Truthfully, the reason why I’m in this area is not just because of my demotion. It’s so that I can be on the lookout here.”

Leona asked, “Lookout? What are you looking out for?”

“As you know, in order for humans to come to our kingdom, they have to first come through here. In order to refrain humans from entering, I was dispatched here despite being one of the elite guards of the capital. Also, for your information, if I’m able to successfully accomplish my mission here, I might be able to return to my previous position—even if it might take a while.”

“That’s good news, but why are we suddenly looking out for humans? Do we have any conflict with humans? Is it perhaps because of the Lake’s Tear?” Leona’s face became pale with the thought that she might have caused a conflict between humans and elves.

“No, that’s not it. It’s just to be prepared in case something happens. This matter has nothing to do with humans. Yes, not with humans.”

‘It seems like they are on the verge of a war, so they are tightening up their borders just in case.’ While thinking this, Zich chimed in, “Perhaps, is there a war going on with another elf tribe?”

“Excuse me?”

“What?”

D’niel was surprised; Leona was especially shocked as her eyes seemed as if it was going to pop out of her eyes. However, D’niel’s eyes were filled with admiration. “That’s amazing. You were able to make an accurate prediction based on the few words I said.”

“What do you mean, D’niel?! Are Zich’s words true?”

“Unfortunately, yes. No, it’s actually more serious than that.”

D’niel’s face became stiffer as he continued, “The Iron Tribe declared a Puola. They called all the Tribal Kings in Adrowon to gather together, but we lost all contact with the King, Queen, and shaman who went to Mentis to participate in the Puola. We think they are being held as captives.

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