Chapter 187: A Single Sprout
“…Lord Lugis. You don’t have to attend that meeting.”
Largud Ann’s low-pitched voice filled the room. I was listening to her words when I lightly distorted my eyebrows. At the same time, I began to think deep into my mind, what her words truly meant.
If I could not to attend the meeting, did that mean that my confinement had to continue? But what for? What was going on here?
Moreover, considering Ann’s personality, it was hard to accept that meaning. Originally, she was like a coordinator who put cooperation first and focused on not disturbing the place. I did not remember seeing her use such strong words. That was why I couldn’t understand the meaning of the words she used now.
I slowly opened my lips while looking for the right words.
「Huh, why is that? It’s true that I don’t know what I can do at the moment, but maybe I can provide some aid after I hear what is discussed at the meeting.」
I questioned Ann’s true intention while looking at her eyes. Partly because of her petite stature, I looked down at her. In response, she mumbled for a moment. A facial expression that made me wonder whether to say it or not.
How rare. It was the first time I saw this sort of expression in Ann’s face. She always looked more intelligent than anyone else did. However, right now, she looked weird. Different, if I must say. I sat back in a chair, moving up my shoulders while waiting for her words. Her little lips finally bounced.
「…Lord Lugis, don’t you realize it? You are still our guest in terms of our Heraldic Order policy. You are, so to speak, an outsider.」
Ann felt as if her tongue came out of her mouth. The moment she spoke her words, she felt a squeezing pain in her stomach because she feared Lugis’ reaction. She glanced at Lugis and he was stroking his chin with his finger, as if he were thinking deeply about her words.
“Oh, I hate it. Why do I have to play such a role?” Ann’s teeth were rattling and shivering, and an unusual sweat flowed down her spine. “I hate this. I really hate this.”
「Until now, you have been behaving in a destructive manner. This meeting sets the right policy of the Heraldic Order. We will give you information, but you don’t need to participate.」
“Unless he could officially contribute to the Heraldic Order. But I closed my lips, without emphasizing that part.” Ann watched Lugis’ reaction again. Her gut was hard as if cold air froze it completely. As if it had become like stone.
It all started when they magically called the Elf Queen, Fin Eldith, to attend the previous meeting. When the officials asked for her cooperation to counter the Great Holy Church’s Invasion, Fin Eldith said it was okay. However, she moved her lips to respond like this.
…Of course, there is no problem. We are allies, and we promised cooperation if needed. But if you want to start a full-scale war, you’ll have to comply with us. Perhaps, it is time to return the knight Lugis to me, whom I have entrusted to you temporarily.
At that time, Ann remembered that her cheeks had hardened in a strange way.
“Yes, that’s right. The position of the current hero, Lugis, remains very vague and unclear. From the Heraldic Order point of view, Lugis is still a guest. Yes, he is not a believer. He is just a guest. Is he in the position of a collaborator at least?”
Ann knew that he was the trigger for the fall of the walled city of Garoua Maria, and this time, he broke the feet of a giant named the mercenary city of Belfein. Still with his achievements, he refused to gain a formal status. Ann tried to change this fact secretly for many times over. Would he get the title of Heraldic knight? If not, would he get the title of at least a guest general?
However, all of her efforts ended in an empty circle.
No matter how much she or Matia invited him to join the Heraldic Order officially, Lugis refused each offer with a bitter smile. It felt as if he refused to be tied to something.
The only official position he had now was as the knight who reported to Fin Eldith. He, of course, would not have signed a formal ritual contract with Ghazalia, but Ann heard that he made a verbal, albeit, contract during the civil war in Ghazalia.
“Bad. That’s no good. As it is now, as Fin Eldith put it, Lugis’ official ownership will be attributed to Ghazalia. However, it is also true that he has become a big symbol of the Heraldic Order.”
He didn’t just play an active role in expanding the power of the Heraldic Order. His loss would mean something bigger. Ann perfectly knew that losing Lugis could lead to the loss of Caria Burdnick and Filaret La Volgograd.
And even more. There was something that Ann did not want to believe, and she did not want to think about it. There was no doubt that even Saint Matia, who she believed in, was feeling a special attachment towards Lugis.
“It’s bad. A very bad situation.”
Fin Eldith was also going to attend the upcoming meeting as an ally. If Lugis were to join the meeting without any promise, Fin Eldith would naturally seek his presence. Ann knew that she had to prevent this from happening. “I am a person from the Heraldic Order. I consider the Heraldic religion first, and Saint Matia alongside it. I do not intend to change it now or after this. For the sake of my faith, and for Saint Matia, I need to restrain him at all costs.”
After a moment of silence, Ann forced her lips to speak. She felt her throat terribly dry.
「How about this, Lord Lugis? If you’d like, you could take this opportunity to be commissioned by Saint Matia. If you do so, then there is no doubt that…」
「…No. Let’s stop this discussion. I’m not a believer of the Heraldic religion. After all, if I accept the proclamation of the saint, even God will be angry.」
Lugis responded with a bitter smile as usual. He did not care about the organization as a whole. He did not want to do anything with it.
“Really, this person.”
Ann felt cramps in her eyes. After hearing Lugis’ words, Ann realized that her cheeks, lips, and hands did not move as if they were stones. Instead, she heard a sound of something lighting up in the depths of her chest.
“Ahh, ahhhh. Does he know how much I’ve made a noise in my heart and how much I’ve given my mind and body to clean up after his deeds? Even now, I still have huge dark circles under my eyes, even though I am visiting the room like this without having time to hide the dark circles with makeup.”
“Why is this happening to me? How much do I have to swallow for his selfish behavior? Yes, heroes often do something extraordinary. However, is it not I who devoted all the efforts behind the scenes? Is it not I the one who is serving the religion faithfully without a break?”
“And yet no one looks after me at all. Maybe I am reaping what I sow. But shouldn’t I receive some compliments from time to time, such as being someone great?”
“I know. Even if I know, I keep having this ugly emotion. I feel shame and self-loathing that bites each other in my chest. It continues to circle around without stopping.”
“Still, even if I try to suppress this sprouting emotion, it will crawl back to me.” Ann slowly opened her lips, as something close to tears was about to spill from the edges of her eyes.
「…I will explain everything from the beginning. Please listen to everything I have to say before making a decision.」
Ann said with a quivering voice, as she tried her hardest to avoid exposing her vulnerable self. As a negotiator, it was the first time Ann felt so humiliated.
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