* * *
Cadel, Van, Lumen, and Lydon were now on their way to the ‘White Kingdom’. This destination was also Cadel’s choice, and with everyone’s consent, he procured two horses and decided to travel in pairs of two.
Cadel felt the dawn breeze ruffling his hair as he embraced Lumen’s waist. As the cold wind swept through his head, the complicated plan seemed to be getting sorted out little by little.
‘With Lydon on board, the first priority is to increase the cost.’
With the joining of an S-grade knight, the well-to-do cost rose to 8 at once. Lydon was already maxed out, so he didn’t have to worry about his awakening, but Lumen was the problem. He couldn’t get Lumen, an A-grade knight, with only 2 extra costs left.
‘My best bet is to complete the knight order promotion quest in the Osma Empire. The cost will increase dramatically when the mercenary corps becomes the knight order. However…….’
In order to progress in the quest for knight order promotion, he needed to have a high reputation and specs. Cadel remembered going through the promotion quest and falling out several times and then retrying countless times. If he didn’t want to lose his one and only life, he had to be fully prepared.
‘First, I need to complete the main quest in the White Kingdom. Once that’s done, I’ll take on a sub-quest to increase my reputation. Breaking Lydon’s seal is next. I’ll just have to hold on to Lumen as a temporary member for as long as possible until I’ve promoted the knight order.’
Lumen couldn’t be missed. His importance was keenly felt during the tragedy of the ‘Forest of Enchantment’. Lumen’s aerial prowess, speed, and keen senses would shine in any situation on the battlefield.
Lumen’s existence was indispensable for the future progress of the story.
‘Somehow, I’ll have to cajole him into sticking around. ……It’s always a good idea to give a gift. I don’t know what his favorability is right now, but it’s not going to go down with a gift.’
Since he was not an official knight, his abilities could not be viewed. Because of that, Cadel had no choice but to calculate the favorability as a rough guess. Cadel vaguely agonized over a gift that a noble might like, and Lumen looked back at him lightly.
“You’re not asleep, are you? If you fall, you’ll get hurt.”
“How can I sleep when I’m this excited?”
“Then hold on a little tighter.”
Since leaving the forest, Lumen had been checking on Cadel periodically. Whereas before he had been free to roam and act as he pleased, now he was reluctant to leave Cadel’s side.
That was how it was now. Whereas before, he would only catch Cadel and tease him after he’d almost fallen, now he checked on him and worried about him. Cadel, realizing the change, suddenly came up with an assumption.
‘What if I’ve already built up enough favorability?’
They had relied on each other in the heinous environment of the Forest of Enchantment. Although it was an unavoidable situation, he had made the choice to remain in the barrier alone for the sake of Lumen.
This kind of fellowship, cooperation, and sacrifice. Weren’t they the right keywords to increase favorability?
‘If Lumen asks to join the knight order first…….’
He had no choice but to refuse. Yeah, because the system wouldn’t allow it! It might give a penalty for exceeding the cost.
But he couldn’t explain this situation. The prideful Lumen might not accept the reality that he had been rejected and might carry out a second runaway.
There was no way he could see Cadel’s increasingly pale complexion, but Lumen, who had been silently driving the horse, spoke with a strange atmosphere.
“I know it’s better to talk about things like this face-to-face, but this is probably the only time I’ll get to do it.”
“My thoughts on our relationship.”
Thoughts on their relationship? Cadel’s instincts quickly raised a red flag.
Currently, his relationship with Lumen was only ‘temporary member’ and ‘temporary commander’. A reflection on that relationship?
There were only two possible answers. Either he wanted to end this relationship, or he wanted to take the ‘temporary’ part off.
Cadel’s eyes rolled with anxiety. Lumen spoke casually as if he didn’t care what Cadel was thinking.
“Honestly, the only reason I accepted a ‘temporary’ relationship with Leader was because of my interest in you. Not that I was expecting anything to come of it, I just thought Leader was interesting. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to hang out together.”
“Is, is that so…….”
“But once I lost Leader right in front of my eyes, I realized that I couldn’t keep this relationship going based on interest alone. Either way, I had to give up something. The past that had sustained my life so far, or the future that was driving me so intensely. Something between the two.”
Cadel’s expression gradually hardened. His expression was far from that of a trustworthy commander who listened to his subordinate’s sincere feelings. He pressed his lips against the growing flag.
“Right now, I’m not confident that I won’t regret either choice. But I don’t want to lose my chance by following Leader half-assed. Therefore…….”
This was a flag. It was a definite joining flag!
The dazzling flag, which could no longer be denied, gave him goosebumps.
Cadel gave Lumen an urgent pat on the back before he could say that ‘forbidden statement’. When Lumen, surprised by the sudden attack, closed his mouth, Cadel called out in desperation to stop the coming tragedy.
“The, the restroom! I need to go to the restroom!”
“Uargh! I’m in a hurry! Pull over quickly! Pull over!”
It didn’t matter if Lumen’s favorability plummeted. No, in the current situation, it was better for it to crash!
With Cadel’s careless appeal of physiological phenomena, Lumen’s joining flag was put to an end.
……For now, at least.
* * *
Increasing specs for the knight order promotion quest. Increasing the reputation of the mercenary corps in preparation for Lumen’s recruitment. Breaking the seal for Lydon’s role as a knight.
There were countless tasks that Cadel had to shoulder, but these were the most prominent of them.
“Why does this kid have to share a room with Commander? He’s a full-grown man. Unless he’s young in the head, he should be able to get his own room. If you don’t want to spend the money, let him be homeless―”
“Huh? Cadel is my human, so of course he shares a room with me.”
“Your, your human? Cadel? How dare you call Commander’s name without hesitation?”
“It’s up to me whether I call Cadel by name or by nickname! Ahaha!”
Lydon’s joining was made by his own decision as the commander. The friction between the subordinates caused by that…… It was like a children’s fight.
‘Van and Lumen quarreled every single day, and now Lydon was added here. I don’t know about Lumen, but isn’t it Van’s first time seeing Lydon in such a cute boyish form like this? I thought he’d be a little nicer to Lydon…… Was I being greedy?’
Van was also beaten up by a fairy in the Forest of Enchantment, so Cadel expected some hostile feelings. Still, since Lydon’s appearance was surprisingly angelic ― a judgment made purely by Cadel’s weakness for his younger siblings ― he was willing to let his guard down a bit, but it was not what he expected.
‘Well, at least Van doesn’t lay a hand on Lydon. Whenever Lumen sees Lydon, he tugs on him, beats him up, or pushes him away like it’s a mistake.’
Even now, Lydon would be rolling down the stairs if Lumen hadn’t gone to pay for the inn room. Luckily, Lydon was busy spitting out exclamations of ‘Wow, I get pushed around so easily?’ throughout the whole ordeal. Cadel, who watched, was very nervous.
After making his appearance young at will, Cadel became restless whenever he saw Lydon being bullied. Unaware of his subordinates’ growing animosity day by day because he had been covering Lydon every time, this time too, he sided with Lydon without realizing it again.
“I can’t help it. Lydon is new to the outside world, and now half of his abilities are sealed. He may end up in a dangerous situation, and he may get into an accident while wandering around, so I have to protect him.”
“……Then I’ll do it. Protect.”
“I’ll share a room with him.”
With that, Van roughly yanked Lydon away. His gaze looking down at Lydon had an aura that seemed more fitting for ‘killing’ than ‘protecting’.
Rubbing the back of his neck nervously, Cadel and Lydon’s eyes met. The red eyes, which had been filled with nothing but madness, were now wet with moisture and staring at him pitifully.
Of course, that was simply due to Lydon’s yawn as sleepiness overtook him. Cadel’s heart, which had no way of knowing that fact, had become softer than rotten fruit. He murmured, sneakily grabbing Lydon’s arm.
“Still, he would be more comfortable with me than with you…….”
That timid remark sparked a fire in Van’s eyes.
“Commander? Doesn’t that sound a bit odd? From what I’ve heard, this fairy has been harassing Commander terribly, and the other fairies have tried to kill you several times. Why would you cover him up? Even if you were forced to bring him here, is it necessary to care this much? I don’t understand at all!”
“I’m curious about that, too. Shouldn’t you tell me more about it soon? Commander.”
Panicked, Cadel’s gaze fell on Lumen, who had just climbed the stairs, and as he shivered in the cold fury of his two subordinates, Cadel finally cried out in surrender.
“……Okay, I’m sure I can explain it to you.”