In the afternoon, Alexis returned with Fatima. Fatima looked tired from the long trip, so he brought her back to her room immediately and went to the command center by himself.
The command center was empty.
But then a man came to the room.
「Hey, Alexis. You came back...」
Standing in front of Alexis with a smile on his face is a slender young man with light blond hair and a gentle face. He is Alexis' brother, Jerome.
「Hmm? Where's the decoration that's always by your side, Aniki?」
Suddenly, Alexis notices that the knight who is supposed to be with Jérôme is not there. Jerome's eyes are not smiling, but he is more concerned about the absence of his knight.
「Oh, I lent my knight to the beautiful princess...」
Jerome smiles and replies.
「She said she needed guardian to go to Avalon.」
Alexis raises an eyebrow.
What's she doing trusting my brother's puppet so easily? Is she a fool? Alexis thought to himself.
「By the way, hey, you. I've heard some unpleasant rumors...」
Jerome continues smiling.
Oh, I see. I guess this was the reason why I felt he was smiling but not smiling.
While thinking about it, he asked, "What do you mean?"
「Is it true that you are blackmailing Princess Fransisca?」
Jerome asked with a smile.
Alexis looked doubtful.
What kind of rumors had he heard? But whatever it was, it seemed that Jerome was seriously angry behind his smile.
「...Hmm. Anyway, can you be more specific? The rumor that you heard...」
「What? Are you going to pretend like you didn't hear it?」
「That's okay. Just tell me. I can't answer that question if I don't know what it is, right?」
Alexis's calm manner does nothing to ease Jerome's skepticism. After all, everyone who knows Krangal knows that he is a man of schemes with an aloof demeanor.
Nevertheless, Jerome opens his mouth, thinking that he must be specific.
「...You are acting as if the support from Krangal for Sagrado is your own, and you are telling the princess what to do. You are forcing a girl in the position of a princess-maiden to open her legs for your own desire, and you are using her as an outlet for your sexuality. I heard that the princess cries herself to sleep every night—」
「What? No, wait a minute—」
It's true that we were prepared for our relationship to be revealed to one of the people in the fort at some point. But, an outlet for my sexuality? Crying all night... What's going on? Alexis thinks.
「You've always had a tendency to do that. Even when you were at Krangal Castle you used to pester the maids and they didn't like it. But I never thought that you would not only act as if all the support from our father was your own achievement, but also that you would go so far as to make a move on the Princess-Maiden!」
Jerome pointed straight at Alexis and looked at him sharply.
"You have failed me, Alexis!!" he shouted.
For a while Alexis was dumbfounded as Jerome stared at him.
「...Uhh, Aniki? Who told you that?」
He asked with a headache. Jerome's expression turned grim.
「Of course I asked the servant who lives here...」
Well, all of these servants are newcomers.
Probably, they are just ignorant of the situation, and they have been spreading their own rumors as a result of their ill-informed guesses based only on the relationship between Alexis and Fransisca.
（However, I have only called about three people to the meeting. So, only three of them have opened their mouths so easily. Really, they've been fooled by Aniki's face, and their loyalty to me, the master of the fort, is nothing...!）
That's why good-looking guys are so bad...! Alexis was almost at the edge of his throat.
Anyway, Alexis decided to fire the maid who had told Jerome about the rumors. Although in reality, they will be sent back to their home country. In any case, she is fired from this fortress.
Alexis was frustrated.
How can it be that Sagrado's maids are more loyal to his brother than him?
But Jerome seemed to take the cause of his frustration as something else.
「I still can't trust you with this fortress. I will report this to father. And I will be the captain from now on!」
Jerome declared clearly, to which Alexis replied.
"No," he said with a straight face.
Jerome's eyebrows furrowed in anger.
「What are you talking about at this point?」
「No, you won't do it. I'm not acting like my father's support is my achievement, and Fransisca doesn't hate me either. Maybe...」
The reason why Alexis was not able to say this clearly was because he was still stuck in his past experiences.
Jerome was right, when he was in the castle he had approached many maids and had been turned down by all of them, and since he had become an adventurer he had repeatedly approached ordinary people and been turned down.
Fransisca's expressions of affection for him are not enough to make him feel comfortable with them.
「Maybe, you're as optimistic as ever! But don't you get it? You're a scumbag! You're the worst man. You have nothing that a woman could ever find attractive!」
Jerome shouted at Alexis in a heated tone.
His words were painful to hear. However, certainly he had been optimistic when he was in the castle—but he didn't know Alexis very well beyond that. Alexis, too, had realized in his adventuring days that he was not popular.
Yes. And he knows he's not attractive. So he never expected any affection from women. And yet, Fransisca says it's okay. No, Fatima is the same.
（...That's why I don't trust him）
Alexis looks at Jerome with this in mind.
But he decides to trust Fransisca's earnest love for him.
「...Hey, Aniki. You know what? There are women out there who'd love someone like me.」
「What the hell are you talking about?」
「Yeah, you mu think so too. But, yeah. That's what they told me. That's what you're saying, isn't it? ...Maybe」
Jerome looks more and more doubtful.
While the two of them were talking like this, it seems that they have returned from Avalon.
He must have thought there was no one in the command center.
The door opened suddenly with a click, and Fransisca, who had just taken off her armor, entered the room.
She must have been completely careless because she thought no one was watching her.
「Ahhh, I'm tired...」
She stretched out, took a step or two, and then stopped walking.
Jerome and Alexis were standing together in front of her, and both of them were looking at her.
Fransisca, perhaps thinking that she had been seen in an embarrassing situation, hurriedly put her hands down. Then, she smiled with a deceptive smile and said "Ehehe," as if she was trying to cover up her embarrassment.
「What's the matter? It's unusual to see you two together.」
After saying that, Fransisca seemed to have realized the meaning of Alexis' presence.
Her expression seemed to light up, and she started to run toward Alexis.
「You have returned. I'm glad to see you. How was your visit to Izard?」
Fransisca walks up to Alexis with a beaming, innocent smile on her face. But Jerome grabs her arm firmly.
"Princess," Jerome says to Fransisca.
「You'd better stay away from him.」
Fransisca turns around in a daze, and Jerome says.
"I will protect you from this beast," he says with a smile.
「Huh... Beast? Well...」
Fransisca pondered for a moment. Then.
「Are you saying that Alexis-sama in front of me is a fake? Are you saying that he is a beast!? N-No way! A monster from Avalon has come this far...!」
「What? No, it's...」
Jerome is so puzzled that he releases his grip.
「Then, where is the real Alexis-sama!?」
Fransisca was talking so earnestly that Alexis was taken aback.
「Are you an idiot? Of course I'm the real one」
「What!? Then why did Jerome-sama lie like this?」
「Because I'm a beast, and you're a big fool for believing it」
「What? Then Alexis-sama is a fake after all!?」
「...No. I'm the real one, okay? Can you see it?」
Fransisca stared at Alexis for a while.
Then, wondering what had come over her, her cheeks turned red and said.
「If so, how do I check if it is real or not?」
「What? How can you be sure?」
"It got complicated. It's your fault," Alexis thought while looked at Jerome.
But Jerome just smiled wryly.
「Well, of course it's—」
Fransisca fidgeted and then looked at Jerome several times with concern.
「Well... it's not nice to be seen by another man... but if Alexis-sama is a fake, it's better to be with another person...」
Listening to Fransisca's soliloquy, Alexis had a feeling that he had a pretty good idea of how she was going to make sure.
In the end, however, Fransisca's shame seemed to get the better of her.
「...Excuse me, Jerome-sama. Could you leave us for a moment?」
Fransisca asked, but Jerome shook his head.
「I can't do that. I can't leave you alone with Alexis.」
「Ehh? I'm at a loss. Then it's hard to be sure.」
Jerome was miffed, but he seemed to think that the only way to clear up the misunderstanding was to go along with her for the time being. So, he said, "...Then".
「I'll leave Eden here. But when you're done, please come to me.」
「Okay. That's the condition for me to leave.」
Hearing Jerome's words, Fransisca was troubled, but she responded, "...I understand".
Jerome nodded and said, "Well, I'll have the people at the fort arrange it that way."
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