After a big battle, Alexis usually took a day off before heading back to the dungeon, but this time he decided to take a couple of days off.
That day, while Alexis was wandering around the fortress, he saw Maria and Valencia walking together.
Valencia ran up to him with a big smile on her face like a flower blooming.
「I didn't know you had come back!」
Alexis nods, "Yeah," as Valencia speaks to him.
「I just got back yesterday.」
「So, that's it... from the looks of it, the defeat was a success, right?」
「I hope I could have been there...」
Alexis responds to Valencia's raised eyebrows with a wry smile, "Well, even so".
「There's only a limited number of people who can go into the dungeon at a time. Eden also took the vanguard already...」
「Then please use me next time. Absolutely!?」
Alexis responded lightly to Valencia's clenched fist, "Okay, okay," and suddenly, his eyes met Maria's, who was staring at him intently.
When Alexis tried to speak to her, Maria suddenly looked away.
Alexis had no choice but to speak to Valencia instead.
「...When did you two become such good friends, by the way?」
「Uh, we've been friends for quite a while. Maria-san is very kind like Ane-sama」
After she says this, Valencia asks, "Isn't it, Maria-san?" and Maria's expression becomes troubled.
It is the first time for Alexis to see such an expression on Maria's face, who smiles with a slight smile and a puzzled look.
（...What is this girl? She can make a face like that?）
As Alexis was thinking this, Maria walked toward Valencia and whispered to her, "Let's go, Valencia-chan".
「Ah, yes. —See you later, Alexis-sama! Next time, please take me with you!」
Valencia left with Maria, reminding her to stay with her.
Alexis waves her off and thinks, "Anyway".
（Even if Fransisca and I can't be replaced, it might be better to go to the dungeon while replacing the members who can be replaced so that we can have more strength physically）
With this in mind, he took a walk in the fortress and met Sara this time.
Sara was walking along with Dorothea, and Alexis said to her, "Hey".
「So now you guys are a set. That's an unusual occurrence」
「What do you mean, now?」
Dorothea replies suspiciously.
"Nothing," Alexis responds. But then, Sara interjects.
「Let's go, Dorothea-chan」
Dorothea nodded and said, "Bye, Alex-kun!" Then Sara pulled Dorothea's hand and went away.
「What happened to them...?」
Alexis can only look away, tilting his head.
Sara holds Dorothea's hand like a little girl who misses her older cousin. Of course, the cousin is Dorothea, and the little girl is Sara.
If he mentioned such a thing, Sara would surely get angry with him...
（...I'll be myself, huh...）
Alexis decides to leave.
—However, he is not walking for any reason.
He is just taking a walk to get some light exercise, that's all.
* * *
After that, Alexis stopped by the courtyard of the fort.
The garden is a well-tended flower garden, which seems to be tended by the servants called from Krangal in turns most days these days.
He expected to see Fransisca and Fatima having tea at a place with chairs and tables set up, but they were not there.
Unusually, Eden was there.
Eden was all alone, sitting on a chair wearing heavy armor as usual. She did not move a muscle, which made Alexis feel uneasy.
He called out and shook her shoulder, but she didn't say anything.
「...H-Hey. Are you all right...?」
Alexis hurriedly grabbed her armet and pulled it off. He thought something was wrong. But there it was.
Eden closed her eyes and sighed softly in her sleep.
She was sitting on a chair, showing a pouty, innocent sleeping face.
「...What is it? She's just sleeping...」
Alexis patted his chest and then wondered why she was in such a place.
At any rate, he decides to shake her shoulder again to wake her up, just in case, she's not sick.
Eden finally opens her eyes sleepily.
「Mmm... Mas, ter...?」
Eden's eyes are looking at Alexis with a blank stare.
Alexis nods his head, feeling relieved that she is awake.
「Yeah, it's me. Don't you think you'll catch a cold if you sleep here?」
Eden smiled faintly in her sleepy state.
「...I'm fine. It feels so comfortable here...」
Soon, Eden's head turns around, and Alexis says to her, "Hey, hey, hey!".
「You should at least sleep in your room...」
Eden opened her eyes sleepily again and responded in a muffled voice, "...It's bothersome...".
Alexis felt like he had been shown an unexpected side of Eden.
"But, don't tell me she is usually quiet because I'm a pain in the ass?" He almost said these words.
「Anyway, go to your room」
Alexis urges, and Eden finally lifts her heavy back.
「...Mmm... If Master says so...」
Eden complies, but with a somewhat uncomfortable expression on her face.
Then, as she was about to get up, she fell asleep again with a "...uhh..." sound.
Alexis called her again, but Eden was sleeping in the same position she had been standing up.
「What the hell...?」
He was dumbfounded, but then he heard a voice behind him say, "...What's going on?"
He turned around and saw Fatima standing there in a maid's uniform.
When Fatima's eyes met Alexis's, she smiled at him and said, "Hmm?".
"You seem to be in some kind of trouble..."
「Yeah, I'm in trouble, Fatima」
Alexis nodded and pointed toward Eden.
「She won't wake up. I need to get her back to her room」
「Hmm, leave her alone. She'll be fine. Besides, this is definitely a good place for her to fall asleep. I'll get her a blanket later, though」
"Well, please do that," Alexis replied.
Fatima nodded, and Alexis suddenly questioned her.
「By the way, what are you doing here?」
Fatima responded with a soft smile.
「I came here today to take care of the flowers」
「But the servants are taking care of them now, aren't they?」
「Still, I'm a maid, and I don't like to be left to them」
Alexis heard Fatima's reply and wondered if that was the case.
「...Well, if that's what you say.」
As Alexis was about to leave, Fatima said, "Oh, right".
「Hmm, what is it?」
When Alexis turns around, Fatima's gaze drifts to him, and a somewhat embarrassed expression appears on her face.
She lets out a small voice, "Well, I mean...," and then she says fidgetily, "...Are you leaving already?".
「Hmm? Yeah, it's not like I have anything else to do, but I'm taking a walk.」
Alexis answered, and Fatima nodded, "I-I see".
「Then. S-See you later...」
Fatima put on a cold face as she spoke, but Alexis knew immediately that she had swallowed what she really wanted to say.
「What? Is there something else?」
When Alexis tilted his head, Fatima let out a small, inarticulate voice. She then mumbled something as cryptic as ever: "Oh, nothing...".
（What the hell is this girl...）
As he was thinking so, Fatima must have made up her mind.
She walked closer to Alexis, clutched the arms of his clothes, and then put her lips on Alexis' cheek.
After the kiss, Fatima's cheeks blushed slightly, and she parted her body, covering her mouth with her hand, "...That's it".
「Ah, uhh... What?」
Alexis was unintentionally upset by this sudden action.
Fatima gave a slight nod. Her expression had regained its calmness, but she still looked somewhat lonely.
「Uhh... are you sure you want me to go?」
Somehow, Alexis wanted to make sure.
Fatima nodded and said, "Sure," so Alexis decided to continue the walk.
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