In the end, they decided to retreat from Avalon that day and return to the fort.
The inside of the mage's box garden, which was in shambles, would be restored to its original state by the next time they enter it.
On the way back to the fort, the carriage was very quiet.
Especially Eden, who had been quiet even in the past, had become more and more silent. Her armet was still off, and she was looking at the scenery from the carriage with a somewhat melancholy expression. She was probably thinking about something.
* * *
When they arrived at the fort, the group was split up.
Dorothea is going to repair Alexis' shield with his grandfather.
"The next one should be sturdier."
She said and received Alexis' weapons and armor when she came to the workshop.
Alexis returned to his private room and lay down on his bed to rest before entering the bathroom.
He lies on his back and closes his eyes, but he does not seem to be able to take a nap.
He was thinking about Jerome all the time.
Even though they were not so many years apart, they were still brothers. They were often at odds with each other but were also the closest friends.
（...is there anything else we could have done?）
He can't help but think of such barren thoughts.
No matter how much he thinks about it, there is no way he can start over.
At that moment, he heard a knock at the door.
「...Who is it?」
Alexis gets up, though he feels like he should leave it alone for now. After a moment of silence, the knocking sounded again.
He says, and after a moment of silence.
"...Eden. Eden Emperley," came the reply.
* * *
Alexis took Eden into the room.
Eden entered Alexis' room, still wearing her armor as usual. However, her armet was off.
Eden gives an unusual impression.
Although Alexis sat down on the bed, he was still uncomfortable, so he tried to fool himself.
「...I didn't expect you to come all the way to my place. What a strange thing to do」
Eden's expression did not change, and she stood in front of Alexis with a troubled look. For a moment, she remains like that.
Then, with a clank of her armor, she kneels in front of Alexis.
Standing on one knee, she bows her head to Alexis with one arm resting on her knee.
「...Prince Alexis Sheridan Krangal」
Her voice was somewhat formal.
「I've come to ask a favor. Please, be my Master.」
Eden said suddenly, keeping her head bowed.
It was out of the blue, and Alexis couldn't help but open her eyes.
「What are you talking about all of a sudden?」
Eden kept her head down.
「...I don't know. I don't know... except this way of life... So...」
「So... When Aniki dies, am I next? Didn't you hate me? I mean, you know...」
Alexis bites his lip.
「...I'm like... I killed my brother...? Indirectly... by me」
That's what's been bothering Alexis.
If only he hadn't chosen silence. Jerome might not have gone alone to the dungeon if he had sought another way.
But Eden shook her head.
「I don't...hate you, and it was... me... I... that time. When... when you... tortured me...」
Eden is not a talker by nature.
She choked on her words, but in a muffled voice, she confided this.
「...I broke my "oath"... I thought I was keeping it, but my heart is different... So, the fault... the real fault is...」
Eden keeps her face down and continues to speak to Alexis.
「...I succumbed to you. When you did that... even a little bit... I didn't mind... And I thought I didn't hate it... For a moment, I forgot about Jeromes-ama. So...」
After that, Eden stopped talking.
Unusually, she had been speaking in halting but frequent bursts, but now she was downcast and silent.
For a while, Alexis just stared at her in silence, puzzled.
「...So, it's my fault, is it?」
Eden asked in a quiet voice.
She looked up, and Alexis then told her.
「He's your vassal. When a vassal screws up, the Master has to take responsibility. Otherwise, he shouldn't call himself Master, and he shouldn't call himself Master. If you feel you are responsible for your Master, you are mistaken」
As Alexis spoke, Eden looked puzzled.
It was the first time she had heard this theory, the first time she had been exposed to these values.
Inwardly, Alexis understood.
The reason why she felt Eden was young beyond her age. It is probably because she has so little experience of her own.
Under the armet that covers her face, she has lived a life with little contact with the outside world.
「If you feel responsible for your Master, it means he was not worthy of being your Master 」
Eden remained silent on her knees for a few moments.
Eventually, she gave a slight shake of her head.
"...I don't know," she says softly.
「I don't... well, I don't know. But... maybe you're right. But... maybe not. I wonder what Master thinks when... that happens...」
Hearing her mumbling, which sounded like she had no self-confidence, Alexis couldn't help but laugh.
—I see. She certainly needs a Master.
Not only is she not good at making decisions on her own, but she is also probably more afraid than she should be.
「From now on, there is another way: to pledge allegiance to the Master in her heart」
Alexis thought it was the only way for her to have her own will.
「...I don't know.」
「Inside me... My Master... no matter what I ask, there is no answer...」
Eden slowly places her hand on her chest and turns her head.
「Master... was like that. He always tells me what to do. But...the only result I got was what I wanted. He always said that, and I, I don't understand. I... I don't know why... why he did that... I don't know...」
Eden shakes her head.
「...I'm not very smart... I couldn't understand what he was talking about. So, I'm going to do it. I'll do... what I want. Whatever is it」
Then, she looked up at Alexis, her normally sleepy scarlet eyes taking on a rare, willful color.
「...So, please be my Master... You... you who went to such lengths for Master's soul. I'm sure Master will forgive you」
Alexis chokes up.
Jerome... —his brother was not the kind of Master who would grant Eden anything.
But, suddenly, Alexis remembered what he had heard from Fransisca.
『Please help Eden-san!』
At that time, he did not know why she said that.
But Fransisca must have seen it. The relationship between Eden and Jerome was not like between Alexis and herself.
Eventually, Alexis nodded quietly.
（I am responsible for what happened to Aniki）
That's what Alexis thought.
"...I'll at least take care of the remaining family members," Alexis muttered.
Alexis nodded and looked straight at Eden.
「Okay. I'll be your new Master 」
Alexis replied crisply.
「Prince... no, Master」
Eden looked relieved. Then she stood up quickly.
「...Thank you, Master. I'll do my best」
Eden said it with a smiling face.
The smile she shows for the first time enhances her impression of herself as a young girl more than expected.
In front of Alexis, who stutters involuntarily, Eden reaches for her armor.
And then, she begins to remove her armor.
"Eden?" Alexis asked.
Eden's cheeks flushed as she spoke in a small voice.
「I... promise. To you. Therefore, this is a token of my loyalty」
With these words, Eden takes off her armor in front of Alexis.
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