“Did you deceive us..? D, Did you..deliberately pretended to be weak during the journey?”
It was an absurd assumption.
Very inconvenient and annoying to enact, and there was no reason for him to do so.
If one thinks about it, even with a little bit of rationality, anybody can figure it out.
However, for the current Eri, rationality didn’t exist.
Her last few months were too heavy for her mental state.
It was only natural for her to receive all kinds of disregard and contempt, and she couldn’t even eat properly.
She wasn’t even able to properly participate in the monster huntings, much less—dream about changing her equipments.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so painful if she hadn’t experienced it.
However, in the past, she had a pleasant experience of traveling with Cloud and his companions, so it was even more painful for her.
The anger that had accumulated for such a long time.
Shredded her heart.
Trampled her self-esteem.
And, quaked her self-thinking.
Tangled and mingled, it became something black and sticky, messing around in her brain.
“Why did you deceive us? Why did you pretend to be weak so that we misunderstood… so much that it disappointed us?”
Words that were neither in her head nor in her heart poured out of her mouth.
If she had been the normal Eri, she would never have said such things to Cloud.
But, as mentioned earlier, Eri was unable to think normally.
“If you hadn’t… I… I…”
She wouldn’t even have considered making such a foolish choice.
The eyes dripping with sullen resentment turned to Cloud.
Cloud made a troubled expression and glanced at Frillite.
She took a step back.
This was something between Cloud and Eri, so she expressed her understanding to not meddle in his personal affairs.
It was an unwelcomed consideration for Cloud.
He looked back at Eri.
Eri’s face was filled with various emotions.
It was an expression that was difficult to define with one word of expression.
‘What would Cloud have done in such a situation?’
What he needs now is not a veteran swordsman with 10 years of battle experience.
What was needed was a warm-hearted Hero, Cloud.
‘I am Cloud.
The idiotic Cloud.
I’m a tree that gives generously.
A flying bird that raises the cuckoo as if it were its own…’
Cloud made a self-hypnosis to become Cloud.
He made suggestions, and his mind felt at ease.
He seemed to have become a foolish, but a good person.
Yeah, definitely, a good person.
Cloud looked straight at Eri and opened his mouth.
“Eri, I swear, I have never cheated on you or others.
I never hid my strength.”
“You never cheated? So what was it just now? You mean you got that strong in just a few months? That makes no sense!”
“I was just lucky.”
“I found a dungeon.
After clearing it to the end, l was able to obtain the legacy left behind by the owner of the dungeon.
It’s just that.”
I-If it was found a little earlier, just a little earlier…!”
As you said, if I had found the dungeon a little earlier, I wouldn’t have disappointed you guys.
But you know, Eri…”
Cloud took one step closer to Eri.
“If you had trusted me a bit more… would this have happened?”
“After I was selected as a Hero, I never stopped to work hard.
To save people, and not to disappoint who believed in me.”
One more step.
“For the first time, I got calluses on my palms.
That also peeled off shortly, and bled.
Sometimes, my muscles were in pain, like being torn from inside out, and to be honest, when I was fighting monsters, I was really scared.”
One more step.
“Still, I didn’t stop.
Because you guys were there, but you all also gave up on me, you all left for another party.
It was a better path for you all.
A third-rate person like me must have felt like nothing worthwhile, but a stumbling block holding onto your ankles.”
Eri took one step back.
Cloud took one step further.
Now, the gap between him and her was only one step distance.
“But even if I understand it, my heart ached a lot.
I cried a lot for a while.
Even the sword was thrown away.
Still, in the end, I grabbed the sword once again and continued to pour out my efforts.
And fortunately, the hard work paid off.”
And so he took one last step.
Cloud and Eri’s foreheads met.
He made eye contact with her and smiled bitterly.
Why didn’t you believe me?”
Eri felt her heart tremble.
It was then that she realized what she had done.
She rolled her eyes down.
She couldn’t possibly make eye contact with Cloud, she wasn’t confident in doing so.
She was so confounded that she couldn’t even speak properly.
Still, it was time to somehow squeeze out her voice and try to apologize.
Frillite pulled Cloud’s body back.
She spoke in a slightly blunt voice towards him, who had a puzzled expression on his face.
“…Isn’t that too close?”
“Oh, that’s right.
Eri, I’m sorry.
You must have feel bad.”
“Uh?! No, no! I, I didn’t feel bad.
Ah, Frillite, I have to go now.”
“The follow-ups are not over yet.
Is it so urgent?”
Please keep your promise and ask for Eri’s participation.”
“I got it.
More than that, Cloud, the Imperial Social Banquet will be held soon.
Don’t forget to attend.”
“I’ll go when the time comes!”
“You must come at correct timing!”
“All right, gotcha! Then I will be going!”
“Hey, Cloud?! Come on, wait.
I haven’t even apologized properly yet…”
Eri muttered, but Cloud had already left.
She stood stunned and looked at the place where Cloud had disappeared.
* * *
“…I never imagined we would suffer this much.”
Lorian leered at that.
Princess Lisbet, the sorcerer Glenn Morrill, and Halberd, who had been in charge of vanguard, all died.
In particular, Princess Lisbeth’s death will cause a great stir back in the Kingdom of Carta.
No matter what happened during the battle, he would not able to avoid responsibility.
“Brother, what are we going to do now?”
“The number of people who used to be 8 has now become 5.
Why don’t we recruit party members again?”
“…you can think of it by yourself.
I have a lot other things to think about.”
“Okay, I got it!”
Lorraine nodded her head with a bright expression on her face.
Her companions died, but she didn’t care much.
Lisbet and Umbri were rotten bitches who flirted with her brother.
She rather like it if they both died together.
It’s a bit unfortunate that she wouldn’t be able to eat the food that Halberd used to prepare, but…
‘That’s ok, just need to find another good cook!’
Lorraine, she had no attachments with anyone.
Of course, except for her older brother, Lorian.
‘Hehehe, I’m looking forward to Eri’s expression of despair~’
A team of 5 people will become a party of 4 people comprising the 1st group, and the last remaining person will be the sole member of the 2nd group for the time being.
And the person who will become that last remaining bone has long been decided.
“Eri, congratulations! Have you ever felt a lot of pain in sharing experience points with others? Now, you don’t have to! For a while, the second party is on your own!”
“Eri? What, what’s with the expression on your face? You don’t like it? Hey, I told you to look at my face!”
Lorraine bawled wildly, but Eri didn’t give her a glance.
Because Lorraine’s words were like a duck egg in a river that didn’t reach her.
Eri sat with her knees folded and just stared blankly at the floor.
– So, Eri.
Why didn’t you believe me?
Cloud’s bitter voice and the bitter smile he had, engulfed her in her mind, didn’t disappear.
 The common cuckoo is an example of a brood parasite.
Such animals trick other animals into raising their young.
They sneak their eggs into other parents’ nests.
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