Chapter 98

 With the dungeon canceled and some free time, Alexis decides to go check on Maria today.
 She seems to have grown more and more distrustful of Alexis after the last encounter. He is afraid that this might affect their teamwork.
 In view of this, it was probably a good decision to interrupt today.
 As he was walking down the corridor toward the entrance of the fort, he came across Maria who was turning back just as she received the news of the cancellation.
 Maria muttered as soon as she saw Alexis, and then she turned her head away and tried to change her direction.
 "Wait a minute," Alexis said, immediately pulling her back.
 Then he went around in front of Maria, who stopped immediately.
「Hey, can you stop avoiding me so obviously?」
 Maria bit her lip tightly and looked away with a small tremble, wondering what she was afraid of.
 Indeed, it's hard not to feel sorry for her small animal-like frightened attitude. But he must not let it interfere with the mission. It's a matter of life and death.
「Maria. You heard that the mission is canceled, right?」
 Alexis asked, and she finally gave a small nod.
「Then why don't you come and talk to me now? Just the two of us.」
「...Uh, um, I have some business I have to attend to...」
 Maria insisted in a voice that sounded like it was about to fade away. But...
「That's impossible. How could there be an appointment on the day we were supposed to conquest?」
 Alexis, who immediately saw through the lie, dismissed both sides of her argument. Anyway, he knew they had to have a chance to talk, even if he had to force her to do so.
「Come on, Maria. Follow me, even if you are scared.」
 Alexis turned and started to walk away. Maria sighed and finally made up her mind to follow him.
* * *
 Alexis had brought Maria to an empty command center for the time being.
 The private room would have been fine, but he thought that the command center, with only a table, a chair, and some books, would be more suitable for a formal talk like this.
 So, Alexis sat down on one of the three chairs surrounding the spacious desk there and asked Maria to sit down as well.
 Maria nodded and stepped closer to him.
「...Can we stop this kind of talk?」
 With a somber expression on her face, she put her hand on the robe of the Conjuror she was wearing.
 The robe slips off, revealing the chainmail she was wearing underneath.
 Maria took off the chainmail as well, and started to take off the one-piece dress underneath, which made Alexis startled.
「Hey, what are you doing!」
 Alexis stood up and grabbed her hand to stop her.
 Then Maria silently turned her green eyes behind her glasses with a somewhat cold color in them.
 Maria raised her mouth in a thin smile and said "...It's okay".
「I know what men are like. Especially since you are a prince-sama... and I don't want to disobey you. So... do what you want.」
 Alexis didn't miss the tightening of her fingers on his clothes as she said this in a whisper.
「You don't really like it, do you? That kind of thing.」
 Maria did not answer, but pulled up her clothes again, exposing her crimson panties and bra.
 She bites the hem of her skirt with her lips and kneels down in front of Alexis, reaching for his pants.
「You can leave it to me. I'm going to get it out of you.」
 Maria tries to touch Alexis' manhood through his pants, but Alexis grabs her wrist.
「I'm sorry, but I don't feel to do it. After all, I've had a morning—Ah, no, nothing. Anyway, I think you misunderstand.」
 Maria blinked as Alexis grabbed her arm and pointed out.
「W-What do you mean...?」
 Maria looked stunned as she spoke, but Alexis did not miss the glimpse of disgust in her eyes.
「You don't like men, do you? In fact, you don't like me either.」
 When he said it clearly, Maria showed obvious signs of being upset.
「W-What are you talking...」
 But she stutters, trying to deny it with her mouth.
 As she does so, Maria removes her mouth from her skirt and backs away from Alexis.
 Maria was tightly gripping the skirt of the dress that covered her knees.
 She remained silent for a while with Alexis staring at her. But Alexis never missed. When she realizes that Alexis does not miss her, she opens her mouth.
「...What do you know about me, prince-sama?」
 Her voice has a surprisingly hateful tone.
「You were born in a good place. Raised in good circumstances. I'm sure you must come from good origins. So what is it? Am I not allowed here? I'm not... cheating. With my own strength. I got myself in this position...!」
 Anger runs in the depths of her voice.
 Alexis gulps when he sees a hint of defiance or strength in the frightened look in her eyes, but then, he says quietly, "Okay".
「You want me to guess where you're from?」
 Alexis says to Maria, who is shaking slightly.
「You used to be a prostitute. The kind of brothel where orphanage girls with no real identity end up.」
 Maria has gone silent. Instead, her body is trembling. Her face is pale. "Why?" She bites her lip, as if to say that.
「You thought you could hide it by dressing like that, didn't you? Are you really that surprised that a man of "respectable status" like me could guess it? Well, maybe. Normally, a prince wouldn't be in a place where a prostitute in a brothel is out of his league.」
 In Alexis' case, he is familiar with prostitutes for some reason. Well, even he has never been to a brothel as shoddy and cheap as the one where Maria would have been.
 Then, before he knew it, Maria had stopped trying to hide the look of disgust she was giving Alexis. She crouched down in front of him and looked at him, and Alexis asked her a question.
「By the way, how did you become a mage? You must have good grades, right? That's a role that you must have excellent grades to be able to do, right?」
「...Of course I studied hard. I worked hard. After all, my life depends on it.」
 Maria answered as if she was going to throw up, then she pressed her glasses with her hand and added, "...And also...".
「The prince thinks I'm hiding behind a disguise, but these glasses aren't really special. They are just the result of my studies.」
 Maria shuts her mouth after saying this, and Alexis repeats, "So".
「The question is, how did you get the environment to study?」
「...I had someone who accepted me as a mistress. So, are you satisfied with this confession?」
 Maria says in a casual manner.
 Surely. Alexis was convinced.
 But still... he can understand that she has no good memories of men in cheap brothels. However, if there was a man who was willing to take her in, wouldn't she have been able to live a comfortable life there without becoming a mage? That's a new question. However—
 "Okay," said Alexis, deciding to drop the subject for the time being.
 It would be outrageous to ask someone who is already looking at him with disgust to dig up any more unpleasant details from their past.
 Alexis stood up and sat down in his chair again.
「I think you are a good conjurer. Your power is well-deserved.」
 When Alexis says this, Maria's gaze drifts to the floor, looking flustered.
「So, what's the problem... what are you planning by saying that now?」
「...Ah, I see.」
 Alexis nodded.
 He understood it. Maria thinks he is up to something. That's why she can't get out of her guarded, frightened posture toward the man.
「I'm not up to anything. Though—I don't think you can trust me.」
 Alexis smiled.
 At least he can turn her dislike toward him in a dignified way, which it's a step forward.
「I'm glad to hear where you come from because I don't like to trust my back to a person I don't even know where they came from. Next time, I'll be looking forward to working with you.」
「...I see. That's good to know.」
 After a curt reply, Maria stands up and begins to put back on the chainmail and robes she had taken off.
「...Are you sure you want me to go like this? Do you really mean it?」
 Maria piles on the clothes as she puts them on, asking for confirmation.
 When Alexis nods, she says, "I understand. But, please don't say anything later".
 After that, she bows her head deeply with the same demeanor as before, "E... Excuse me," and turns to leave the room.
「Oh. I'm sorry to take up your time. See you later.」
 Alexis was relieved to see her off.
 For the time being, he had avoided any obstacles to the dungeon.
 But he hopes he could have gotten to know her a little better. He thought.

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Edited Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.
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