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TN: I have kept the names from the earlier translation except for the Hero(ine), who they had as Kiriru. I will be rendering her name as Cyrille. Everybody else has a western fantasy kind of name, so I think she should as well.
– Two days after Flamm was sold to slave merchants.
Of course, at the appointed meeting time Flamm did not show up in the basement of the castle. Jean spoke up after everyone else had arrived.
“Flamm has returned to her hometown. She will not participate in the trip any more.”
The first person that reacted was surprisingly the hero Cyrille. She gave a wide-eyed stare at the Sage Jean.
The remaining four merely showed a small reaction. The witch Eterna gently furrowed her brow. The warrior Gadio softly exhaled. The saintess Maria sighed while the archer Linus muttered “that might be better.”
“How do you know that?”
Cyrille’s voice trembled as she asked the question. Jean showed a bitter expression for a moment. When Flamm left the party, he thought that she would clearly disappear from Cyrille’s heart. How sweet. In her heart, the existence of Flamm is still interfering.
“I convinced her that it’s impossible to accompany the party any more. She was also keenly aware of it, so she decided to go back home by herself.”
“By her own decision…”
“That’s right, so forget her already. She was never useful, don’t you agree?”
Jean thinks he is a man that is suitable for Cyrille. Compared to his 28 years of age, she is 16 years old. He may be somewhat too old but the important thing is not her age, but her talent. For the sake of his descendants, it is desirable to marry an equal or better.
He always thought so even before joining the hero’s party. And then he met her. The ideal “raw material,” Cyrille Swicca.
However, the first to get close to her was not Jean, but a girl like garbage – no talent, no strength, no useful role – Flamm. It seems that a great connection was gained by having come out of a similar background.
He was angry due to his injured pride. The more he thought about it, the more angry he felt. Why should Cyrille choose Flamm over him? Shouldn’t excellent human beings be attracted to each other?
That’s why he started making steady plans to guide things in the right direction.
Planning was Jean’s specialty. It was thanks to his blessed talent and a tremendous amount of planning that he gained the position of a Sage. For him, it was easy to chase out Flamm in order to take Cyrille’s mind off of her.
“Was that rude?” Jean walked close to Cyril and hugged her shoulders as he asked her the question.
Cyrillic says softly and nods her head.
As Jean planned, she at least recognized that Flamm was incompetent. The disturbing person was no longer there. She had been sold as a slave and will no longer appear in front of Cyrille. So, there is nothing to worry about. Cyrille will eventually scrape the dirt named Flamm out of her heart and follow his lead in the right direction.
Other than Cyrille, there was no one who questioned Flamm’s departure.
Cyrille activated the return magic. The room was wrapped in light and the six people transferred to the last progress point.
Jean was excited as if he was a child on Christmas morning, just to be able to go on a journey without Flamm.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Hey Cyrille, Jean, wait!” Linus’s irritating voice echoed in the demonic territory.
How many times has he called the names of two people this way?
“Oh, sorry,” Cyril said, stopping and looking down at her feet.
When Jean came close to her, he gently tapped her back and spoke. “There’s no need to apologize, Cyrille… Linus, there is no need to slow down any more.”
“Huh. I have said it before, but I was not slowing down to fit Flamm. This is enemy territory. You need to be careful!”
“There is no threat if we combine our power!”
Jean’s confidence is proportional to his ability.
Certainly monsters and ordinary demons have been repulsed easily even after they launched surprise attacks.
“What if one of the three Demon Generals attack us? Just keep in mind that we won’t lose if we’re careful, right?”
Demon Generals. When he heard that, Jean couldn’t respond. They are demons that bind demons, their immediate subordinates.
The party had clashed with the blood-borne Neigas and phosphorus-powered Zion. Neither had power equal to the Hero, but the power of the magic released in those battles was so powerful that Jean felt like he was going to die.
“If you understand, slow down,” Linus continued.
Jean had no choice but to obey.
Jean had thought that if Flamm is not there anymore, the party should be able to go faster. Naturally, that thought had been speeding his stride.
On the other hand, Cyrille was acting as if her heart wasn’t in the journey. She hardly seemed to be paying attention to her surroundings.
The thought on her mind, of course, is the dilemma of Flamm.
They said horrible things about her, she got hurt a lot, and they just got separated from each other… Cyrille wondered if she could even call herself Flamm’s friend.
She grew up in a rural town and had nothing to do with fighting. If not for the cheerful Flamm, she would have been crushed by the pressure as being the Hero long ago.
Although she feels that she is an ingrate… whatever her regrets, Flamm will not come back. She still has to defeat the Demon Kingdom and save the world.
With Cyrille in such distress, it is impossible for the companions to ignore.
Linus, after chewing out Jean, sighed softly when moving next to Maria.
“We don’t have much time.”
“What’s the matter, Linus? You’re usually more confident.”
“There’s a bad feeling in the air. To be honest, I said some terrible things to Flamm, but now it seems things have changed a lot since she left.”
“Certainly, Cyrille seems depressed. As I see it, Jean is too rough and haughty, Eterna is always in a bad mood, and she never says a word to Gadio. Right?”
It seemed that Flamm always tried hard. Perhaps she had brightened the atmosphere of the party without knowing it. However, it is something Flamm herself did not even notice, so no one can blame the others for missing it.
“How about you?” Linus asked
“I…” Maria said, before trailing off.
Linus looked into her face.
“Maybe,” Maria admitted.
“I’m surprised. I thought you got along with Cyrille.”
“From the time we started the journey, when I would talk to Cyrille the topic that came out of her mouth was always about Flamm.”
Cyrille was always cheerful and looked happy when talking about Flamm. Maria could only listen to her and smile.
“Okay… if Cyrille is falling into depression, it will spread to the whole party,” Linus said.
She is still a young 16 year old girl, but she is definitely the main force at the party. Without her, it would be hard to go as far as they had, let alone defeat the Demon Kingdom.
“I think… well maybe it’s not proper to say to a priestess,” Linus continued.
“I will not mind what you say, because you’re always improper.”
“That’s…” Linus said, before shaking his head. “Well, honestly, when I heard about Flamm’s status, I thought Origin made a mistake.”
Mary smiled. “Origin doesn’t make mistakes.”
Looking at her from nearby, Linus was struck again by her sheer cuteness. From her blonde hair, fair skin, neat personality and tone – everything about Maria perfectly matched his preferences.
After a moment Linus returned his focus to their topic of conversation.
“Yes. She seems to have played a necessary role in the party after all. We can’t just stop because she went home, though.”
He can’t drag Flamm back into the party. That would hurt Jean’s mood as well as putting Flamm in danger, even if it would be a relief for everybody else.
Even without Flamm, they have to proceed.
“That’s right,” Maria said. “We are entrusted with the sublime role of defeating the demons. No matter what happens, we absolutely must succeed.”
Maria spoke with strong determination. But Linus had doubts. Is it really “saving the world” that is the mission statement hidden in her heart? He feared that a darker emotion was asleep at the bottom of that beautiful heart. If it wakes, everything will end.
But, for all his doubts, he didn’t feel he could bring them into the open yet.
◇ ◇ ◇
They decided that meal preparation, which had been done by Flamm, would be handled on a rotating basis. The first day’s meal is in the hands of the S-rank adventurer Gadio. He has the most experience with being on long campaigns.
“I do not guarantee the taste,” Gadio warned.
Though he spoke with humility, the dish prepared using monster meat gathered nearby was rough but delicious compared with Flamm’s cuisine. Most of the party members were satisfied, but Jean frowned.
Monster meat had a distinct smell to it. Although it was disguised as much as possible with herbs, it was still present to the extent that it could be perceived by someone who dislikes the flavor.
“Gadio, can you not do more with this meat? The smell had disappeared more thoroughly before.”
“I don’t want to do any more.”
“As an S-rank adventurer, you can’t do as much as Flamm?”
Jean’s remarks were a little stupid, but Gadio did not change his facial expression. However, that didn’t mean that Jean did not hurt the mood.
Eterna, sitting next to him, narrowed her eyes in frustration. “She started preparing the day before for the person who dislikes the smell of monster meat.”
Gadio shrugged. “That was a useless effort.”
It is just a fact that the meal he made is perfectly edible.
Jean looked obviously dismayed. He become obstinate and threw a massive piece of meat into his mouth. He chewed with a painful expression, withstanding the smell spreading in his mouth.
Gadio just rattled his nose with a “hmm,” and concentrated again on his own meal.
After that, there was no conversation between them, and the dinner surrounding the bonfire went quietly. When Flamm was there, she had always started a conversation because she was unable to endure the awkward silence.
◇ ◇ ◇
After eating, the party stayed in place. Each member had free time until they went to sleep.
Cyrille, Linus, and Gadio maintained their weapons. Mary made prayers to Origin. Eterna meditated.
Jean’s daily routine was to read a book on magic while drinking a sweet-scented herbal tea. With Flamm no longer around, his tea no longer appeared automatically.
Since there was no choice, he went through the luggage and found the appropriate tool. He could only brew the tea himself. However, from the time he joined the kingdom’s research institute and became known as a genius mage, he had never needed to brew his own tea. While he was trying to figure out how to use the tools, Linus came closer.
“So, there is something you can’t do,” Linus said.
“I leave such things to the servants,” Jean replied.
“You nobles are all alike. Hand me the tool, I will brew it.”
Jean felt humiliated by the turn of events. He was said to be the best magician in the kingdom but still had to rely on others to do a simple task that even Flamm could handle.
He folded his arms and sat on the ground with an unhappy expression, waiting for Linus to finish.
“Oh, you made it.”
Jean took the gently steaming cup of tea and immediately took a sip-
He spat it out.
“What is this? It’s terrible!”
“You… What’s with that attitude! I just made it normally.”
“There’s no help for it. What’s terrible is terrible. The taste is bitter and the smell is the worst, how can I drink this thing?”
Jean, who had been growing more frustrated throughout the day, raised his voice toward Linus. Of course, considering that Linus had brewed the tea for him as a favor, his behavior was unreasonable. Linus understood that Jean was prideful and intended to act as his friend, but it was hard to bear his attitude.
“You can’t even make tea worth drinking, either?”
Linus’s finally lost his temper and was almost ready to grab Jean, then.
Eterna piped in, her tone of voice unchanged from the usual.
“Because Flamm prepared the tea differently for each person, was it not delicious?”
With that, she skipped away from the two of them.
Now Jean had thoroughly lost his temper as well.
“Aargh…… Flamm Flamm Flamm!”
He threw the tea cup down to the ground. The white porcelain shattered, and the liquid in it splashed on Linus’s feet.
But Jean didn’t say a word in apology, leaving everything a mess as he walked away.
Linus called out, but Jean ignored him. Since it couldn’t be helped, he crouched down to collect the debris.
“This tea cup, a luxury item, it’s probably just pocket change for Jean.”
When he finished cleaning up the mess, Linus started drying the hem of his wet pants by the camp fire. A gloomy expression spread across his face as he looked at the flickering flames.
Linus was 24 years old, but he’s at the same S rank as Gadio.
He had survived in a dangerous world from a young age, and he had accumulated experience that was not comparable with most of his generation. His intuition was ringing a warning bell.
“This is a bad atmosphere. It feels like a party on the eve of collapse.”
When a party formed by adventurers dissolves, the biggest cause is usually not an attack by a monster or financial trouble. It’s the tangle of human relations.
“We should be able to stick together until we arrive at the Demon King’s fortress.”
While Linus was speaking his hopes out loud that the journey will continue smoothly, his extensive experience was telling him… it’s impossible.
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