༺ Friede (2) ༻
Friede spoke, while staring at a gloomy-looking man holding a sword who stood amidst the scattered corpses.
“You enjoy this sort of thing?”
A beautiful voice echoed faintly.
As they said that, they gestured with their chin towards a decapitated body wearing tattered clothes.
Even though the rest of the bodies were in a mangled state, it seemed like they wanted to hear an explanation about that particular body.
“What about it?”
His eyes were filled with vigilance akin to a predator eyeing its prey.
Friede crossed their arms and gently rubbed their chin, alternating their gaze between the body and Vera, then uttered.
“Hmm, are you attracted to corpses? That’s rather intriguing, friend.”
“I’m not obligated to answer you.”
As he responded to Friede’s words in a provocative tone, Vera continued to think.
‘Any hostility… No, none at all.’
Naturally, the situation was likely to be misunderstood. But considering they spoke jokingly, he could only catch a strand of curiosity emerging on their face as they looked at him.
What should I do?
Vera recalled his thoughts, then immediately sheathed his sword and spoke to Friede.
“I’m from Elia.”
“Aid of the Apostle of Abundance.”
A brief response. While awaiting an answer, Vera suddenly felt his irritation soar at the look on Friede’s face.
The blame lies with his past life memories, which began to resurface.
There wasn’t much to say about it. The main reason why Vera was caught and cursed by the Heroes was Friede.
While being pursued by the Heroes, there was a group that irritated him the most. The party that chased and launched wind at him night and day.
At that time, his judgement was clouded from the accumulated exhaustion of Friede’s constant wind attacks, and as a result, he fell into a trap. No matter how much time passed, Vera, who remembered the moment vividly, could never see Friede in a favorable light.
So while Vera was somehow suppressing his burning animosity inside.
“I think I heard something like that.”
Friede’s voice resounded.
While grinning, they added.
“I was sure that I heard the Saint is coming…”
Friede’s eyes glanced up and down at Vera.
“…But no matter how I look at it, you don’t seem to resemble a ‘woman’. Are all human women as tall as you these days?”
What are they talking about?
Upon hearing that, Vera momentarily contemplated and soon realized that they mistook him for the Saint. He replied, with a frown on his face.
“I am the Saint’s escort.”
“Oh, is that so? Um, right? That would be correct. Wouldn’t it be weird if the Saint turns out to be a ruffian, who indulges in such pleasures?”
Vera clenched his teeth as veins emerged in his oculus.
“First of all, I don’t indulge myself in this sort of stuff. Second, refrain from using such vulgar words and deeds when in the presence of the Saint.”
“Vulgar, I’m quite sorry to hear that. And there is no need to try to conceal your taste. I’m not one of those insufferable individuals who meddle in other people’s preferences.”
Friede, who was up on a tree, descended onto the ground.
“Then will you guide me to the Saint? After that, I’ll lead you to the Great Woodlands.”
Seeing Friede approaching, Vera gestured towards the corpses and asked.
“What about these?”
“Oh, siblings who ran away from home? What can I do? They’ve already passed and returned to nature.”
Siblings. They spoke indifferently, but an apparent melancholy lingered in their face as they gazed at the corpses. However, even with that context, it still felt somewhat despicable.
‘…Were you that kind of person?’
It was something he never knew in his past life when they just fought without any other interactions.
‘It’s hard to grasp what they really think.’
When Vera tried figuring out the truth, he looked closely at Friede in detail. Unfortunately, what came back only managed to scratch his nerves.
“I feel quite embarrassed if you look at me so passionately. Sorry, but I don’t have genitalia, so I can’t relieve your lust. Hm, or if nothing else, you could use the other hole?”
Words he blurted out without even realizing it. But he had no regret in doing so.
Vera recalled that it wasn’t rude in the slightest to use foul language like this.
In front of the campfire.
Renee was sitting on a tree stump, carefully eating her soup. She asked Norn, worried about Vera, who hadn’t returned even after a long time.
“Where did Vera go?”
“Ah, I heard he ventured out to scout the surroundings. He said we should prepare for any possible dangers because we’re almost at the entrance of the Great Woodlands.”
Renee nodded, expressing that she understood. Then, she dazedly returned to eating her soup as she continued contemplating.
‘He’s quite late….’
He must be struggling out there because of me. But sadly, the only one vulnerable to danger here is me.
Not to mention Norn, Hela has also received training as an apprentice paladin.
Renee suddenly felt uncomfortable, thinking she might be a burden to Vera.
She wanted to be of any help, but there wasn’t much a blind person could do in this situation.
Her mind was in turmoil, and Renee’s expression began to darken as a result.
A rustling sound resounded in the distance.
Renee realized that the footsteps belonged to Vera and raised her head, but soon doubts began to spread across her face.
There were two different footsteps.
Vera’s heavy and powerful footsteps were followed by a sound so quiet that, if she didn’t listen closely, her ears might not have registered those footsteps.
“Saint, I’ve returned.”
It was Vera’s voice. Renee, who blanked out just moments before, was about to reply with a cheerful expression.
“Oh, of course. So this is the Saint. A truly kind-hearted person.”
But from the same direction as Vera’s voice, came a beautiful voice that echoed faintly.
Renee’s body suddenly stiffened, and her expression trembled more than ever before.
From how beautiful the voice was, that was the only assumption she could come up with.
Clench-! Her grip around the spoon tightened. Renee felt anxious for some reason and started stuttering out words that were difficult to understand.
Who is that? It seemed challenging for her to say that, and she could only utter the bare minimum.
Friede replied with a smile.
“Nice to meet you, Saint. I’m Friede, the Keeper of the Great Woodlands.”
Her heart cleared up in a flash.
She realized that the voice belonged to an androgynous Elf.
“I met them while scouting around. They say they’ll show us to the Great Woodlands.”
“Hmm? Why are you being so formal all of a sudden? You’ve treated me so warmly just before.”
“No such thing happened.”
“Well, you’re a timid one, aren’t you, friend?”
Vera glared at Friede while swallowing curses that were about to pop out as he recalled that he should always be careful of what he says in front of Renee.
However, unaware of Vera’s intentions, Renee felt her heart sink with a ’thump’ at the ensuing conversation between the two.
Treating someone warmly you’re not familiar with and keeping a distance from someone you are friendly with? Isn’t that suspicious?
That’s not possible! It doesn’t make sense! Vera explained it himself!
Since Elves are said to be beautiful, maybe Vera has opened his eyes to love beyond gender?
Perhaps that’s why Vera, who has always been reserved, is having such a comfortable conversation?
Feeling a cold sweat dripping down her spine due to such thoughts, Renee hurriedly spoke, intending to interrupt the conversation.
“Ah, nice to meet you too! Shall we eat first? Vera hasn’t eaten yet, so come quickly, let’s eat!”
Her suggestion came out of nowhere.
Perhaps she was confused from her erratic mood swings that fluctuated back and forth between the sky and the ground.
Friede, blinking at Renee’s interjection, immediately presented a smile and sat beside her.
“You are very considerate, my dear Saint. It’s not easy to offer a meal to a stranger you met for the first time.”
While slightly far-fetched from her true intention, Renee, who couldn’t bring herself to say it, just smiled awkwardly and nodded.
“E- Eat to your heart’s content.”
“Thank you for your consideration.”
Tension began to rise. Renee, who was on edge, only felt slightly comfortable once Vera sat beside her on the opposite side of her, far away from Friede.
However, the realization that her first crisis in love wasn’t over yet dawned upon Renee.
…As such, she fell into deep thought.
The next morning, after clearing the campsite which had been in a mess the night before, the party embarked toward the Great Woodlands. Renee began restlessly wriggling her fingers.
The reason being, Friede was in the carriage as well.
The carriage was submerged in silence, but still, Renee didn’t like the fact that Friede and Vera were in the same space. Moreover, she resented the fact that she was blind right now.
Maybe Vera’s eyes are on Friede? Maybe he and Friede are quietly having a secret conversation with their lips?
Nothing but endless delusions.
Occasionally, Renee’s imagination conjured up such delusions, like being praised by Vera for having an extraordinary gift for elementary art.
As those delusions persisted, a cold sweat rolled down Renee’s forehead.
Her fingers, wriggling without end, suddenly curled up into a fist without realizing it.
Renee could no longer stand still, so she closed her eyes tightly and reeled in her resolve.
If there was any possibility of a secret conversation, then she had to take any opportunity to stop them from doing so.
Renee raised her head and opened her mouth.
“Excuse me, Friede!”
Her idea was to lead the conversation and make it impossible for the two of them to do anything else.
Friede smiled softly and replied to Renee’s sudden outburst.
“What? What’s wrong?”
‘Why?’ It was a question that always reminded Renee of the difficulties she faced when she acted impulsively.
But today was different.
A strong rival appeared before her eyes.
“What is the Apostle of Abundance doing in the Great Woodlands?”
In a seldom-seen moment, a plausible excuse came out of Renee’s mouth. She inwardly cheered and praised herself.
It was one of her most frequently asked questions.
“Did you hear anything else before coming here?”
“Ah, yes! I was told in the Holy Kingdom that we might as well come and help.”
Friede seemed briefly, troubled by Renee’s question, but soon continued while nodding.
“She’s delaying Mother’s death.”
An unexpected response.
Renee’s head tilted at their reply, while Vera, who had been listening in until then, stiffened.
Renee couldn’t understand what Friede meant, so she put aside her thoughts for now and asked again in a cautious tone.
“By Mother, you mean…”
“In your words, the World Tree. I’m talking about ‘Adrin, The Deepest Roots’.”
Grin. A smile crept across Friede’s lips.
However, it wasn’t a story that could be laughed at, even as a joke.
“Mother is dying, and Marie is in the Great Woodlands trying to delay her death somehow.”
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