“Welcome back!” Sain greets Swift.
“What do you mean it’s not so easy?” I ask.
“I found everything I needed but…”, Swift sighs, “as you know, I’m the Keeper of the Crystal Down. I’m sworn to political neutrality.”
“And helping me in the current situation would be opposite to that…”, I add. This means…
“Correct. I’ve even received an oracle about this. The terms they set are clear and concise: I am only allowed to help you if you become my aide.”
Becoming his aide?
“Then that means…”
“Yes, it means you will have to leave Matt’s side and start living in Avan Forest with me. I’m sorry, this is something that has been dictated to me. They even stated I can’t help you with getting out of that encirclement of running water in the case you refuse.”
It’s as if they’re saying I don’t have any other choice but to become Swift’s retainer. Swift has an expression of self-loathing on his face.
“I’ll be frank here,” Sain interjects, “from what I see, you’re left with either trying to deal with this yourself and possibly being banned from ever getting near Prince Matthew again. Or you leave his side and get to meet him from time to time.”
I know Sain is right, it basically boils down to that. Logically, becoming Swift’s aide is the only choice. But I don’t like the prospect of abandoning my post.
“Oh, a message from Matt!” Swift opens his message bottle and takes out the piece of paper and looks at it.
“It’s for you,” he jumps over to me and hands the paper to me.
It’s Matt’s handwriting.
I have been notified of the oracle regarding your fate.
Thus, I, Matthew Sitnalta, second prince of Sitnalta, relieve you,
Patrick Boots, of your duties as my aide.
Thank you for your service. I pray for your recovery, my friend.
An official announcement will be made later or when I have found a suitable replacement for you.
This is… “Swift… Matt… this was supposed to be a choice for me to make.”
“It just shows how much we care about your well-being.”
“Well, since I’ve been relieved of my duties. I’m left with no other choice but to accept and become your aide.”
I extend a hand towards Swift. He shakes my hand. He closes his eyes for a while and mumbles.
“You shall not consume other blood than mine! Forced Compulsion! Envassal!…”
I can see something… what is that? Swift continues mumbling, but I can’t understand him.
“I’ll explain later. For now, use these Awakening Crystals,” Swift produces several crystals from his Infinite Storage. Two of them have a white glow. One other one has a sapphire-blue glow.
“I’m leaving then,” Sain says.
“Are you sure? It’s quite late,” I ask.
“Don’t worry about me. The route back to Tatilans is quite safe.”
“Oh, right… I got careless. You heard nothing!” Swift asks.
“Yes, I heard nothing. To keep it that way, I need to leave!”
“I understand, please don’t take it personally, I can’t escort you out.”
“Don’t mention it,” Sain turns to me, “I pray for your recovery. Bye!”
He hurriedly leaves.
I touch the crystals one after the other. Each one shines brightly for a moment before turning transparent.
“This should do for now. Since Sain is gone, we can talk about everything. But let’s get into my…, I mean, our cave first. Displace Earth!”
The rising earth interrupts the flow of water. I can finally get out. We leave the Magic Space.
“You used some rare spells…”
“Yes, I did. I don’t know why, but the gods insisted on me using the Forced Compulsion Spell to only allow my blood in case your need for blood ever surfaces. I believe Monster Blood should be a suitable source of Mana, too. But then, that may just be the price for helping you…
The other spell is a contract for me sharing some of my Traits with you. You should have something new added in your vision.”
“Yes, I can see it. What is that?”
“That’s the manifestation of a hidden Trait called Menu.”
“Menu?! That’s a trait only summoned heroes are supposed to have! Are you a summoned hero? I have become a hero’s retainer?!”
I knew Swift was special, but I didn’t imagine this special! But it all makes sense. His almost limitless Mana… And him not knowing what’s normal…
“I’m not a hero. Or have you ever heard of a hero that holes up in a forest?”
“OK, I do admit I was reincarnated into this world. While I’m quite sure that disqualifies me as a summoned hero I’d be quite happy if nobody were to learn about that.”
“No, it’d be better to keep that fact hidden. But will you ever tell Prince Matthew about it?”
“At some point, I definitely will. Now just isn’t a good time. Back to the trait: Menu is just a basic framework for other traits. Some of our other traits like Mystic Eyes of Analysis and Cavern Navigation have integrated with it.”
“Mystic Eyes of Analysis? Cavern Navigation?”
“Mystic Eyes of Analysis was in the blue Awakening Crystal. I was just looking for a trait that would turn your eyes back to a blue colour. It just happened to be the Mystic Eyes of Analysis.”
“Some people would sell their soul for this trait and you just give it to me so I can have blue eyes again?!”
“You’re my retainer now. There’s no need to hold back.”