It was the early morning of the following day from when Aearis and the others had woken up. The sun had barely risen. Perhaps because of already getting a lot of sleep, Aearis had woken up earlier than usual. Surprised to see Hiroshi as he worked on something, she timidly greeted him.
「Hiroshi-sama, is everything all right with your body？」
「Ye'd think I'd be the one askin' you instead usually」
Hiroshi continued working as he gave a bitter smile. Aearis had been concerned about even being able to interact with Hiroshi after the painful events of the previous night, but from what she saw, he seemed to already have put the events of last night into the past. What tremendous mental fortitude he had!
「I am very sorry for what happened yesterday」
「Nah, don't worry 'bout it. It ain't like yer in the wrong, plus the way things were yesterday, it was objectively easy to be mislead」
「Honestly, I wanna forget about it as soon as I can, so if yer really sorry, then can ya quit bringin' it up？」
She nodded with an apologetic face, making sure to not carve in his wounds any further.
「Umm, what about Harunsama？」
Recomposing herself, she asked him the next thing on her mind. Haruna should have been sleeping here yesterday night, but she couldn't see her anywhere.
「She's gone to the mornin' market to replenish stock. We generally buy a hefty amount, so we usually go together, but there's somethin' I gotta make today. I feel bad about it, but I gotta have her go alone today」
「Is that right. And is that what you need to make?」
「What sort of thing would that be？」
Something he had gone out of his way to make, even so far as to leave the hard work to Haruna. Curious as to what it was, the question came unconsciously out of her mouth.
「Tools to disguise appearance. You three are all pretty well-known, right？」
「…Yes. Aside from me, those two are certainly」
「Also, the people from the Association are tellin' us to keep y'all a secret, so that's why I figured we could start with appearance」
「…I'm sorry that you have to go so far for us」
「We've gone this far in, so don't worry 'bout it. Plus I'd feel bad about kickin' ya guys out as soon as ya woke up」
Hiroshi gave a pleasant response, despite all that had happened yesterday. That only served to increase her apologetic feelings, though. She felt really bad when she saw how he was guarding himself when talking with her. She even had the audacity to think that maybe getting kicked out would be more reassuring.
「Incidentally, I haven't seen Lord Douga or Rayna anywhere. Might you know where they are？」
「The old man Douga's contactin' someone in the room that he's borrowin'. Raynsan is in the same room, takin' some sorta punishment for yesterday」
「I-Is that right…」
Aearis nodded, wondering what in the world Hiroshi could be doing, especially since he sounded oddly reserved. This time around, it was different from his usual gynophobia. As they were discussing all of this, the entrance door opened and someone entered.
「Welcome back. Thanks for the hard work」
「There were all sorts of good-looking ingredients, so I stocked some unplanned things」
「Gotcha. We've gone so far as to get soy sauce and bonito flakes, so let's think up a good Japanese food menu later」
She nodded, taking out only the necessary things for the cart's inventory from the bag. Seeing that, Hiroshi cleaned up the table.
「Finish the accessory？」
「If I obsessed over it more, I could probably touch it up some more. But eh, not like it needs to be flashy or nothin'. This'll be fine. I made some internal medicine just in case」
Hiroshi said as he showed the current product. Sure, it was a step below what he usually made, but it wasn't any less than a completed product. There was also the issue of how effective it would be, but as it didn't require walking into the public eye, there wasn't especially a need to fine-tune it.
「What'll we do for breakfast？」
「We're already on the subject of inventory, so how 'bout the stuff from the cart? Everyone seems to like it」
The conversation over, he gently cleaned up the rest of the table and took out cooking utensils, dexterously beginning preparations. That being said, they were already stewing the curry from the curry bread daily, and the dough was also plentiful in the storage from what they stocked in yesterday. Truthfully, this stocking was a type of insurance in the case of a scenario where they wouldn't be able to stock up. Times like these were when Prevent Rot enchantments truly shined.
Aearis had worried about a rift developing even between Hiroshi and Haruna due to yesterday, but she breathed a sigh of relief as she stood from a safe distance watching the two of them converse as per usual. Though it had only been a month, it seemed that the fruits of their communal lifestyle and respect for each other boundary had been enough to not let their relationship be shaken by something like yesterday.
「I do apologize for requesting something so selfish, but I'd like to discuss yesterday with you. Could food preparations wait for later？」
As he was getting ready to prepare breakfast, Douga interjected as he came out of the room, accompanied by Rayna. Behind him, Rayna's face was painted with apology and regret, and there was no hint that she had ever been so hot-headed as yesterday.
「I'd prefer it if we didn't drag it up…」
「I honestly would rather not talk about something that would make the meal unpleasant…」
「However, if we go through with breakfast like this, the atmosphere might become too lenient. I did give her a punishment, but what happened yesterday was too dire to let her off」
Hiroshi and Haruna drew their breath, realizing that he had seen through their intentions to let it go. Honestly, Japanese people are the type to not enjoy judging individuals too much. They didn't want to deal with any potential problems for letting their emotions get the better of them in the heat of the moment.
It would be much too difficult to deal with any lingering resentment spurred on merely because of giving too harsh of a punishment. Some might scoff at them for giving too light of a punishment, but in the end, they were carefree adventurers. All they had to do was mercilessly cut off said person the next time they got arrogant.
To put it bluntly, from Hiroshi's point of view, Rayna was quite preferable to the people in his middle school days, since she at least showed signs of reflection and regret. With there being plenty of people in the world who would continue attacking even after all they did, she at least admitted her faults without holding unjustified resentment, even if that was partly due to sanctions imposed by Douga, so she was still redeemable. It wasn't unusual for people in the world to lash back.
And in the case of Haruna, she saw that Hiroshi, the victim, no longer cared. She was not the type of person to go so far as to dig it back up just to fulfill her own emotions. Only victims have the right to speak from their emotions, after all. Even if involved, if a third party were to give their own heated speech, nothing good would become of it. It would be a lie to say that she was entirely fine with this, but as she had quelled her wrath to give Rayna a second chance, she could not violate her own rules by bringing it back up again.
「Ye might say that it be good for us to judge our own people, but it would be a problem if someone were to say that we lightened the punishment because of that. Plus it would not be surprising if the victim were to settle things out of their own wrath. I know that this be mighty self-serving, but I'd like ye to tag along with me briefly」
「…If we don't settle things, then it will hinder us, I see」
Douga was apologetic, but unrelenting. The two of them nodded while sighing.
「Now then, though there certainly is an inclination for blood to rise to her head, she is usually composed enough to protect Her Majesty's life. So why did you repeatedly disobey orders and let your emotions take control？」
「It was all due to personal sentiment. I am painfully aware that I am not just a failure as a knight, but also as a person」
「Ye might call it personal sentiment, but know that the title of knight is not so cheap that we would leave affairs to people who race on ahead from their mere hatred of men. I know it might be difficult, but ye must fill us in」
Rayna lowered her head in response, repeating the gesture once more to Hiroshi and Haruna. Then, organizing the reasoning in her head, she chose the words that would most precisely describe it.
「The circumstances are simple and extremely shameful. Right before said incident, there was some worthless trouble that we were having with the private army of Mazlack, which was what pulled us into it. When I woke up, I felt powerless and had lost my composure, so when I saw Her Majesty crying there, I could no longer hold back at all」
The blood seemed to rise in her head as she recalled what had happened, which was why as opposed to her facial expression, her tone of voice was placid. She was desperately trying to keep her cool.
「Indeed. Well, I daresay that I can guess as to what kind of trouble that was with the private army. But that is a bit weak for a reason」
「I must also regretfully inform you that the person heading the Mazlack army, umm…」
She seemed to be quite hesitant to say it, but realizing that she could not fool them, she strived to open her mouth. Furthermore, the private army of Mazlack was essentially a privately owned knight's order headed by someone by the name of Count Mazlack. It was privately owned, but its existence was still publicly accepted, so they had permission to come and go as they pleased in the imperial castle. They had a long, proud history as a group, but what with the latest two generations of feudal lords, they had fallen, now treated as private troops.
「And I am really sorry to say this, but that man strongly resembles Hiroshi-sama…」
「…Is that so. Now that you say it, leaving aside his true nature, his face and atmosphere do resemble him a bit. Doubtless, you can tell them apart, but in the sort of situation where blood has rushed to your head, I suppose it is not unreasonable that you would consider him to have the same face」
Douga acknowledged what she had to say to a certain extent. As Rayna said, the man she spoke of was certainly the kind of person who would have no issue with doing such a thing. If she had mistaken him for that person, then it was understandable why she would plunge into this situation.
In addition, he had previously made various things dreadful for her in the past, so it could be said that he was the perfect candidate for mentally rubbing her the wrong way. Incidentally, being that Douga and others had skillfully isolated themselves from him, Aearis knew nothing about that man.
The gist was that both sides were simply out of luck.
「When I thought that vulgar man had made Her Majesty cry, the blood immediately rose to my head…」
「Leave it at that」
With a difficult expression of a mix of frustration and apology, she brought herself to say more, as if spitting out blood. Hiroshi had cut in, shaking his head and insisting that she need not say more.
「Be as it may, I feel that if it were an utterly different person up close, ye'd realize… but I guess it be pointless to say that to a hot-headed person」
Rayna further shrunk as Douga exclaimed, "How pathetic".
「Well, it's true that everyone's got someone they have bad blood with, and narrow-mindedness isn't somethin' ya can stop once it starts」
「Thank you for your comment. However, no matter how young she might be, there is no knight who would let go of their senses over something like that. There is nothing to be gained」
Rayna nodded in response to Douga's severe words, as if agreeing. From what he had heard thus far, it sounded like she was too thorough in her habit of fiercely plunging ahead to the target. This was why she could not easily change trajectory once a decision was made.
「Hey, okay if I ask ya somethin'？」
「What might that be？」
「Ya say she's young, but just how old is Rayna anyway？」
「She turned fifteen about four months ago. From what I can see, ye might also be mistaken about the age of Her Majesty, so I'll fill ye in there too. Her Majesty be ten years old」