“But he was in your room…”
“Why are you so mad about that? It’s not that big of a deal.”
“But it is. He…”
While Alec held Ruth tighter, Maxim fell to his hands and let out a pained groan. He sounded like there was an invisible hand strangling him. No matter how you look at the situation, everything about it was alarming.
“Alec, stop it!”
Ruth struck his head against Alec’s head. Because his attention was on Maxim the whole time, Alec was defenseless against the sudden attack, and his anger dissipated from the impact. The collision had both of their heads hurting, but Ruth had successfully diverted Alec’s attention away.
Alec finally looked at Ruth, and although he was glaring at him, Ruth wasn’t afraid.
“What are you doing, Ruth?!”
“More like what are you doing?! He’s the village’s benefactor! You were the one who wanted him to come and even though you’ve helped us a lot even while on your journey, I’m not going to stand for this. If you do something this rude again, I’m going to ban you!”
“Ban me from what?”
“I’ll never let you enter my room again.”
When Ruth said that, Alec’s eyes wavered. The atmosphere from earlier began to fade away and the chill around them had disappeared. From behind, Ruth could hear that Maxim’s breathing was back to normal and that he was no longer in pain.
However, in return, Alec had looked like he was deeply wronged.
“I was trying to come back like crazy...and yet…why did you have to be all cozy with this guy…”
The always imposing Alec now slumped his shoulders and had a pitiful look on his face. He was pouting and teary-eyed, it was obvious that he was sulking. It was too much of a 180-degree change from how angry he was earlier. Ruth felt his heart being pierced like he was the one who did something wrong.
(Huh? Could it be...that Alec is jealous because he thought that I found a new best friend?)
That must mean Alec thought that Maxim and Ruth had become each other’s new best buddy. And—just like anyone else—he’s sulking because Ruth is having fun being by himself in the village. Alec must have felt like his seat as Ruth’s best friend has been stolen from him.
(So that’s what’s going on.)
Although he’s relieved that it was just a misunderstanding, Ruth found it strangely cute when he thought about how that was the reason why Alec was sulking.
Ruth looked at Alec with a smile, unable to bear the adoration that was growing in his chest.
“With Maxim? What are you even saying? He’s the captain of the Royal Knights, we aren’t that close. Rather than friends…I would say he’s more like an acquaintance that I admire, I guess?”
“I see…just acquaintances, huh.”
“Yep, though it would be nice if we could become friends.”
“Interesting…so you guys are technically less than friends?”
For some reason, Maxim kept making these pained noises behind them as Ruth spoke, but Ruth couldn’t bring himself to turn around after seeing Alec’s expression suddenly turning to complete joy. In any case, the one who needs comforting the most here should be Alec.
Ruth gently stroked Alec’s slightly rough blond hair. In response, Alec narrowed his eyes in pleasure.
“There’s nothing to be worried about. No one else can take your spot as my best friend.”
Ruth told Alec what he really thought in hopes of putting him at ease. He learned a valuable lesson from his previous world that if he were to beat around the bush in times like these, it would only lead to more misunderstandings. And so, to avoid that, he was not ashamed to be so direct.
“That’s right. You’ll always stay as the friend I care about the most.”
“Mhmm, no doubt about that.”
Ruth carefully chose his words and told Alec how he was the most important person to him. However, instead of looking happy, his expression stiffened up and his mouth was twitching. He also looked like he was staring off into the distance for some reason.
(Oh, was I too forward?)
Ruth had his share of life experience in his previous world so he had no shame when saying cheesy lines, but Alec was still young. He knew very well that Alec would’ve been embarrassed, but it looks like he couldn't help himself anyway in the end. It happens every so often, but it’s difficult keeping himself in check.
“What are you laughing at!?”
While Ruth was mulling over his thoughts, Maxim broke his silence with a sudden laugh and in response to that, Alec snapped at him.
When Ruth turned around, Maxim was already standing up. He was still laughing but he looked a bit conflicted.
“Looks like neither of us is a match for Sir Ruth.”
“Don’t lump me up with you! You’re just an acquaintance of his anyway.”
“But are you any better? You’re considered just a close friend after more than 10 years together.”
The atmosphere of their conversation was not filled with hostility like before, but rather it was like they were comrades fighting the same battle. Ruth had no idea when it changed, but he was a little envious.
Maxim let out a big sigh and sheathed the knife that was on the floor. This time, he took out a small bottle instead. He approached Ruth, who was still locked in Alec’s embrace and handed over the bottle to him.
“Sir Alec’s poor complexion may be due to magic exhaustion. Please take this medicine, it should help replenish magical power.”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t need that.”
“I’m only giving it to Sir Ruth. Whether you decide to drink it or not should be discussed between the two of you.”
Maxim then headed towards the door. Before he left, he turned back and lowered his head towards Alec.
“I do agree that it was quite foul for me to take advantage of your time away to make my move. As such, I will consider what happened earlier as my divine punishment. I will give up for now.”
“I presume that you understand my intentions from here on out, so I do not intend to back out from this battle.”
“You piece of shit…”
“Well then, goodnight, Sir Ruth.”
“Ah, all right, good night.”
Maxim gave a final refreshing, yet mature, smile before hurriedly taking his leave.
(Were they talking about me earlier?)
Ruth didn’t think he was able to talk to Maxim properly at all. He was still locked in Alec’s arms so let alone seeing him off, all Ruth could do was to wave goodbye. He’s hoping that he would have a chance to ask him about what happened tomorrow if there was still time left.
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