Since my hands were smarting by just being exposed to the air, I decided to borrow a potion from the knights. Well, seeing how a potion works is just a bonus. I stared at my hands with keen interest, watching layers of my skin growing rapidly. In no time at all, my hands were completely restored.

“Thank you for the potion.” When I said that, one of the knights smiled wryly and replied, “We should be the ones thanking you. At that rate, all of us would have died. Moreover, Lady Ruby might not have been spared either. So, thank you.”

The knight who had been thrown against the tree by the Treant’s blow, had several broken ribs and some trouble breathing, but they assured me that his life was out of danger. Once he awakened and was given a potion, he bowed his head to me in gratitude. Looked like broken bones couldn’t be healed so easily, he still seemed to have some pain while moving.

The horses that had broken away in fear returned soon after the Treant had fallen. They are well-trained and care about their masters. The carriage didn’t suffer any major damage, and could still be drawn without trouble. “Dear brother Nicola, please come to our place!!”, requested Ruby with an irresistible gleam in her eyes. “Brother?”, I asked hesitantly. I think my engagement with your sister has been de facto dissolved.

I’ve met Ruby once before. I remember her well because unlike Rosa, she loved to talk. “You remember me Ruby?”, I asked surprised. “Yes! My sister talks about you often!” Is that so… Ruby began pulling me by my recently healed hand, or rather, she was pretty much hugging it and dragging me. I’d still been wary about monsters in our surroundings and didn’t notice her approach.

“Um, I have somewhere I have to be though….”, I protested weakly. “””No!!””” A powerful response came not just from Ruby, but from Eida and Nadia too. “Please, brother. Please come with us on our way back.”, pressed Ruby. I looked to the knights for some help. The one with the fire attribute was busy inspecting his broken ribs. The others didn’t want to interject, and were strongly seconding Ruby’s request with their expressions.

“Maybe I could go with you half-way…..”, I tried, but “Until our house! Please come with us!!”, insisted Ruby as she tightened her grip on my arm. “If my sister knew that you made a break for it in the middle, what do you think she would do!! Oh! But she’s not home right now…. She’s on a trip to greet the neighbouring Noble families.” Make a break for it? My reputation seems to be falling by the second.

I guess there’s no helping it. She already knows that I’m alive. If I leave now, Rosa might search for me later and word would travel to my asshole of a father. That won’t do. I suppose I’ll have to agree.“Alright, I’ll go with you.”, I relented, and Ruby beamed with joy.

When we boarded the carriage, Ruby chose to stick to me the whole way back. Nadia and Eida smiled wryly at her behaviour. When I told them that I would recount my story at Count Voldory’s place, they began telling me about how they left the Leslie household.

“—– after that, I formed a contract with Ruby.”, finished Nadia. “Then, Riley’s water attribute….”, I began to enquire. “Yes, I don’t think he ever had it. Come to think of it, there were times he couldn’t use the water attribute when we went far from the mansion. Back then, I thought he was just having an off day, but now I see it in a different light.”

I see. Then I’d been sharing my mana with Riley the whole time, or rather, with Nadia. The month before I was injected, it wasn’t just Katrina who didn’t train but Riley too. That’s why my mana had built-up so much, consigning me to the bed for the whole month.

“So it’s thanks to you that I’ve managed to survive for so long.” When I surmised that, Nadia made a bitter expression and said, “I didn’t notice anything before. Worst of all, I couldn’t do anything when she tried to kill….” I quickly interjected saying, “But you couldn’t have known that Katrina would try to kill me right?” Nadia nodded with a pained expression. “I don’t think Count Leslie or Riley wanted to take it so far either.”, said Nadia. “Yeah, Katrina chose to kill me for her own reasons. I guess she must have really hated me.” It seemed to be my turn at self-pity.

I quickly changed gears and turned to Eida. “Eida, I am really grateful to you. You’ve always served me well, I don’t think I could have done anything without your help. I was thrown out before I could convey my gratitude to you, I’m really happy that I can finally do it now.” Smiling, Eida shook her head and said, “You honour me too greatly my lord. I only did my duty.”

The carriage rattled along the paved path as it entered the town. Even though Rosa was my fiancée, I could never go out to see her thanks to my weak constitution. So, this was my first time in this town. It was smaller compared to Entour, but it was very lively and seemed like a good place to live. We followed the path and reached the castle. Ours was an estate with a mansion, so this was the first time I was looking at a proper Castle, and I unconsciously oohed like some country brat, causing the girls to stifle their laughter.

A man who looked to be a servant appeared from the castle’s entrance, after confirming Ruby’s presence, he smiled wryly and quickly retreated back to the castle. We got down from the carriage first, Ruby, however, extended her arm appealing me to help her down. I smiled and played along, escorting her like a lady.

Soon, Count Voldory appeared and greeted me. I was planning to make my exit after exchanging pleasantries, but was dragged along to the parlour. I guess this was to be expected. If someone who was supposed to be dead, suddenly appeared, it would cause quite the commotion. Not to mention, I was engaged to his daughter.

It was too late to be worrying about whether I was rude in not coming to greet them before. After all, I wanted to avoid this hassle, and felt that it would be easier on Rosa too if she believed that I was dead.

After we were all seated in the parlour, I began to explain all that had happened to Count Voldory and Ruby, who were seated opposite me. From being injected with Animium and becoming healthy, to all the things that had happened in Entour. Count Voldory nodded deeply once I finished recounting everything.

“I see so that’s what…. Anyhow, thank you for saving Ruby’s life. Even though that forest is evaluated as Rank-C, it should be pretty safe as long as you stay on the path….” The count pursed his lips in thought. “There was a loud noise. We were attacked only after that.”, said Ruby. I remembered hearing that noise too. “I guess the monsters were startled by it.”, added Ruby. “Hmmmm, could be. Let’s try asking the Adventurers Guild if they have any information.”, said the count, bringing the topic to a close.

I decided to make a request while Count Voldory was still feeling grateful. “Could you make sure that Count Leslie doesn’t find out that I’m alive. That’s my only request.” I’m not sure how he’ll react to such news, but I definitely don’t need another murder attempt. “Yes, I’ll make sure that the news doesn’t spread.”, assured the count as he got up to leave.

I spent the rest of the day at Count Voldory’s place. During dinner, the count told us about what he’d heard from the Adventurers Guild. “Looks like a reckless Rank-D party went deep into the forest as a test of strength. Something seems to have happened because of that, causing a large disturbance in the forest. Things appear to have calmed down, however, the adventurers in question are presumed dead.”

Looks like you can find people like Jason no matter where you go. But the real problem with Jason is that he would escape and continue to cause trouble. “Rosa will definitely want to meet you. According to her itinerary, she should return in a week from a town that lies beyond Entour. Could you come by again when your work is finished?”, asked the count. “Understood, I will come by again.”, I nodded, agreeing.

The next day morning, I went outside to the lawn for my daily magic practice. I also wanted to try and replicate yesterday’s unexpected outcome. When I stabbed that flaming sword1 into the Treant, I tried to protect myself from the heat and flames using a wall of water. I was just desperately trying to cool myself off. I don’t know if it was because I was focused on cooling, but somehow I’d created a sphere of ice.

Ice can be created while using water attribute magic? I created a ball of water in front of me and imagined reducing its temperature, like feeling a cold winter breeze. Goosebumps rose on my arms. The undulating ball of water went still as it began to freeze over from its surface. The morning breeze started to feel chilly, so I stopped supplying mana to the spell.

The ball of ice fell and rolled along the ground. I nudged it around with my foot and confirmed that it was completely frozen till its centre. “You can even create ice now.”, came a voice from behind me. I turned around to find Nadia standing there. She was staring fixedly at the ball of ice I’d made. “This was the first time I did it on purpose. I noticed it in the fight yesterday with the Treant.”, I replied. “I could have never done this when I was contracted with Riley. I was at my limit shooting water blades.”

I felt concerned when she brought up Riley, so I asked, “How’s Ruby? Is she a good contract holder?” Nadia nodded and said, “Yes, she’s very good. She always stays with me and has become dear to me in no time at all. She doesn’t have an attribute, but unlike Riley, she participates in the construction of the Ability, making her very easy to work with.”

“I see, that’s good. I’m happy for you.”, I said, feeling relieved. Nadia smiled back, but soon her expression turned meek. “I would like to do something to atone for what I did or, in fact, didn’t do.” I was completely blindsided by this statement. “Eh? There’s no need for anything like that. I don’t think that you were in the wrong back then.”, I said, trying to console her. “Even then….”, she said, biting her lip in dismay.

I unconsciously scratched my head and said, “Then, be a good friend to Ruby and protect her well. That’s more than enough for me.” Nadia looked like she wanted to say something more, but instead, she nodded deeply, almost bowing.

As noon approached, I left the Voldory castle. Ruby held my arm and begged me to stay, but finally relented after I promised that I would come back soon. “Well, see you all in about a week.”, I said, waving goodbye. I’ll return soon. That’s what I believed then.

T/N Notes: