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Lylia kept on groaning.
Looks like that hurt. Is she all right…?
“Hey, I did say ‘it’s over,’ you know?”
“Y-you did that on purpose!?”
“Nah, just a coincidence.”
I answered with a voice full of confidence, prompting Lylia to widen her eyes in surprise.
“!? J-just say that you did it on purpose!”
…And then she said something quite random.
“What? Why? It really was a coincidence.”
“Just say it!”
“O-okay… I did it on purpose…”
“…All right, I suppose I can give you the win this time.”
What the hell did she even want?
Maybe she wasn’t satisfied with her loss being ‘accidental’? I mean, that does makes sense, but it’s a surprise that she was hung on on THAT particular point.
Lylia rubbed her forehead and held back her tears, acts that made her look… pretty youthful, actually.
And then we received a big round of applause from the two adventurer teams.
“Incredible! I didn’t expect you to win that, Asley.”
Looks like Argent was rooting for Lylia.
“Asley, man! That was awesome — and you didn’t even need your arcane energy there!”
“Asley, I’ll heal you!”
“Oh, thanks, Natsu!”
As Natsu ran up to me and prepared to cast her healing spell, I sat down on the spot.
Lylia walked over to me, too.
“You really got me good.”
“Uh, like I said, that was a coincidence.”
“Hey, I did use my special techniques, whereas you couldn’t even use your arcane energy for anything. That means your physical strength is already superior to mine, as much as it frustrates me to admit.”
“Didn’t you catch me off guard a few times, though?”
“I’m not the kind to over-analyze everything like you, Asley. I said you got me good — just shut up and take it.”
Huh, so she WAS fighting me seriously… quite a bit surprising. Looks like all that training I did to improve my fighting techniques over the past month have already paid off.
I can become even stronger… when my arcane energy comes back, and even after that.
“…By the way.”
“I’ve noticed Irene taking glances at you for quite a while now…”
“You’re right… and her eyes are all red? Did you do something to her, Asley?”
Lylia’s comment and Natsu’s innocent observation dealt a double blow to me.
“Bwuh–!? A-ah… did I make her angry again? I mean, her eyes are all bloodshot… Hahaha…”
“That’s not the kind of emotion her eyes suggest.”
“Yeah, it’s more like how Fuyu and Haru would look at you, Asley!”
Man, what an unexpected combination. Who would’ve thought Lylia and Natsu would be this in sync with each other?
Actually, wait… Natsu does get along with the serious and stoic-ish Blazer so well that he could’ve been her dad. Maybe she’s taken a liking to Lylia for having a similar personality.
“Well, whatever. Asking her will clear things up quickly enough.”
“Yeah! Let’s go!”
Natsu raised her hands up, excited like she was about to go on a school trip.
“Ah, no, I mean… It looks like she’s angry, so it’s probably better to wait a bit before–“
“She does speak to me with a decent level of respect. It’s fine.”
“Li’l Irene and I are friends! It’s fiiine!”
That’s understandable in Lylia’s case, but where’d Natsu even get that confidence from?
…And while I was wondering that, they were already on their way to Irene.
“What’s this? Something happened between you and Miss Irene yesterday?”
“Whatever it was, we gotta know too! C’mon, Asley! Give us the deets!”
I was about to follow them when the party girl — Betty — appeared behind me, along with Lina’s big sister Mana, who looks kind of grumpy for some reason.
“You really expect Asley to talk, Mana? We’d be better off asking Miss Irene herself.”
“R-right! I’ll go with Natsu to ask her!”
Incited by Betty, Mana proceeded to run after Lylia and Natsu.
“…And you’re got going, Betty?”
“Well, it’s a little too late for me now, y’know?”
“Too late for what?”
“Heh, I dunno~~”
And so Betty pressed the feign ignorance button.
This is why I can’t ever figure things out — everyone’s gotta be so tight-lipped about what they actually want!
Okay, fine, let’s change the subject then.
“…By the way, Betty, while I was playing tag with Sir Argent, I saw someone in Team Silver General who looked just like you. You don’t happen to know her, do you?”
Suddenly, Betty froze.
…Oh? Did I ask her something I shouldn’t have?
Come to think of it, when we were on our way to Regalia for our rank-up evaluation trials, we stopped by Radeata…
…And she asked whether I had ever met a red-haired warrior lady… I think?
Before then, I had gone on some hunts for the Adventurers’ Guild, during which I met the Silver General brigade for the first time. And indeed, there was someone among them who fit that description.
This woman who I noticed looked just like Betty… also has red hair.
Ah, I see. This could be the person Betty was looking for.
So I looked at Betty, waiting for her reaction.
“She’s called Belia the Old Silver’s Confidant — and she’s my mom.”
“Huh!? And Bruce’s, too!?”
“Ah, not really. He and I ARE blood-related, but only through our father. We were born to different mothers.”
“Damn, I didn’t know…”
“Only he and Blazer were the only ones who knew. I’ve never told anyone else before.”
“…And you think it’s fine for me to know now?”
“Well, weren’t you the one who asked?”
Right, I was.
And now I’ve learned something that I can’t unlearn… great.
“A-all right! I’m listening! Whatever you’ll say, I’m listening! Mm-hm!”
“What? You tryin’ to be nice or something?”
Betty let out a dry chuckle, and I could do nothing but chuckle back.
“There’s nothing deep to it. My brother’s mom died soon after giving birth to him. Our dad was in Silver General, which was why we were there, too. Then at one point, he died fighting a monster, so my brother didn’t really have a reason to stay with the team anymore. At around the same time, old Argent was thinking of sending Blazer away for a bit so that he could learn to be independent… so my brother, already close friends with him by them, took that chance to go with him. And so they became the founding members of our team.”
Interesting that she has never brought this up until now. Must’ve been a sore spot for her — and maybe this means she and Bruce did not get along all that well back when they were with Silver General.
“And you see, I was raised REALLY well when I was a kid. Like, as if I was a princess.”
“Really? In a brigade of adventurers?”
“Funny, huh? People laughed at me for that all the time — I just didn’t realize that until much later. My brother didn’t even get close to me to raise a fuss about it. Well, more like Belia didn’t let him… I guess.”
That wasn’t a very nice tone to reference her mother with.
…Maybe that was why Betty broke away from Silver General.
“My brother’s mom and Belia were rivals in Silver General — but their rivalry was far from healthy, apparently. That’s probably why my brother was disliked by her. My dad was heartbroken when he lost his wife, and Belia just happened to be the one to put him together. Sounds like a sweet story, but to be blunt… that ended up making things one hell of a mess for us.”
Please don’t make me react to that now. I’d like to keep being the listener.
Hell, I don’t even know if I want to react to that positively or negatively…
“Maybe that’s why, as I grew older, I became quickly aware of my… unusual upbringing, and the way other people actually felt about it. That culminated in a big fight with Belia.”
“I-I see… So that’s why you’re with Silver…”
“Yeah, I just got up and ran away from home. Then I kinda forced Blazer and my brother to take me along.”
“Huh… You know, considering everything, it’s good that you managed to get on with them. I mean, you probably weren’t all that close to Bruce at the time, right?”
“Yeah, right! I guess I got my brother’s positive attitude for that… I guess.”
…Aha. That last sentence was all I needed to understand everything.
Belia kept Bruce away, but Bruce had always considered Betty his family. That part where she forced them to take her along? That couldn’t have been the case — really, it’s easy to figure out. That was probably more like Bruce forcing Blazer to let her in.
“Oh, keep this a secret from my brother, all right?”
“Ahaha… yes, of course.”
Betty held up an index finger, prompting me to crack a smile.
Then we heard Bruce’s sneeze echoing in the distance. A good sign, I’m sure.