Chapter 67: The Girls’ Self-Evaluation Meeting, And Some Alcohol
After leaving the Sundial Forest and arriving back at the surface, we walked through the scenery of dark night streets and finally arrived at our home, the White Wolf shop.
I had left home in the afternoon, so I had actually been gone for around half a day. But as if it had been some kind of illusion, it strangely felt like I haven’t been home for a long time.
That only meant that so much had happened during this short time.
I was only there to use “Repair” on the suspension bridge, but then it turned into having to using “Repair” for the encampment, and in the end, I ended up fighting a one-on-one battle to the death with a leader from the Demon King’s army.
The four of us were really lucky to be able to return safely home.
“We’re back… Oh.”
“Welcome back, Luke, Garnet!”
As we entered our home through the back door instead of the shop entrance, Sylvia came pattering to welcome us.
I could smell the delicious scent of her cooking from beyond the corridor drifting around.
The smell alone managed to get the tiredness away from me, and also stimulated my appetite.
“Sakura and Noire are home already, right? I sure told them they could go ahead and eat…”
“Um, how should I put this…”
Sylvia put on a troubled expression and brought me and Garnet to the dining room.
I instantly understood the reason behind that her expression.
Even though the food had just been made, Sakura and Noire were just sitting there, and neither of them looked like they have any appetite for it.
First, there was a wrinkle between Sakura’s well-shaped eyebrows, as if she was thinking of something with a serious look.
On the other hand, Noire was sitting in such a way that she was hugging her knees and her long black hair loosely covered her face.
This was definitely the right mood to be starting a fun meal.
“Ah… I think I understand why…”
“I’m an outsider, so I thought maybe I shouldn’t ask what’s going on. So I waited until the two of you returned. After all, well, what if it had something to do with some secret information I wasn’t supposed to hear?”
From Sylvia’s perspective, we had taken on a secret commission from the Golden Fang Knights and left, but then night fell and Noire had returned for some reason, and Sakura –who wasn’t even supposed to be there– had come along as well.
It was certainly understandable for her to htink that “something happened”.
“I don’t think… it has anything to do with secret information.”
“It’s nothing too serious. These two, they couldn’t perform the way they wanted to, so they’re feeling down.”
Garnet then straight on cut off from the dining room and instead of going to the dining table, she sat down on the sofa.
Then, with an exhausted look on her, she looked up at the ceiling.
“…Well, I’m not in the position to talk about others.”
“Oh no, it’s spreading.”
Sylvia mumbled with a serious look.
From my point of view, the only thing I could say to the three of them was that they had done their best, but all they could see was the dissatisfaction at their own performance.
But I understand that feeling.
I too had felt down after not being able to deliver the result I expected for myself, despite what other people would say.
But right now, I thought the timing was not correct.
To leave the food go cold in front of the person that had especially made it for us wasn’t a nice thing to do to poor Sylvia.
Just as I was about to say something, Sylvia dashingly jumped into action.
“Y, yeah? …Whoa!?”
With all her strength, Sylvia pulled out the cushion under Garnet, making the girl fall flat onto the floor.
Then, when Garnet was about to get up, Sylvia took her arm, pulling her to the dining table and sitting her down on the chair.
“Okay! Everyone raise your head!”
Sylvia promptly lined up the table with dishes, then she pinched Sakura’s cheek lightly, pushed up Noire’s bangs with a hair clip she had pulled out from somewhere, and brought everyone back to the reality of the dining table.
“I know you are all hungry. Your bellies are growling! You can’t go thinking about your worries in that condition, you know?”
After having the truth about their stomachs growling exposed, Sakura blushed slightly, while Noire’s face went as red as a tomato.
“Eat a lot, warm yourselves up in the hot spring, then sleep well. If you worry before doing those things, your heart and body won’t be strong enough to take it. Also, Green Hollow is a town that welcomes people who want to rest to begin with. Do you understand?”
Pushed by Sylvia’s energy, the three of them nodded in unison.
It somehow felt like watching some kids getting overpowered by their mother’s attitude.
Sylvia was pretty young in relation to the other three. In fact, the only one who was the same age as her was Garnet.
“Okay! Let’s have some dinner!”
Sylvia’s radiant smile signaled that the long awaited time to enjoy dinner had finally arrived.
The menu, as always, was an assortment of exquisites dishes.
Since I was here myself, of course, I also savored the tasty dishes that Spring’s New Leaves had to offer.
And once those three began to eat, they became completely fixed on the food, very much absorbed in eating.
Just like that, the food went down in no time, as did the alcohol that had been served.
…Though I think for only four people eating, it felt like the alcohol had gone down a little too quickly.
Noire poured wine without restraint onto the cup in her hand, gulping it down instantly.
“… Hah… you know, that always gave me the creeps… When I was locked up in that jail, that Nordri guy came by a couple of times to check on me… Remembering that kind of thing would scare anyone, don’t you think…?”
Even though nobody had asked, Noire timidly began to speak about her experience.
She was obviously getting drunk.
Her way of speaking also became a lot more fluid than usual.
“The fact that you didn’t run away is already impressive on its own! I know that if someone wants to run away, they won’t hesitate about it! Back when I was training at the great mountain, I was always impressed by the escapees’ skills!”
Sakura jumped on Noire’s story, but her way of speaking, contrary to Noire’s, had become quite shady.
I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere, there was this belief that people from the east were rather weak to alcohol.
It made me wonder if it wouldn’t be too soon for them to stop drinking altogether.
“Ah—! Damn it, so pathetic. Whyyy didn’t I avoid that.”
While drinking down her cider as if it was apple juice, Garnet started to grumble.
Unlike before, when she gloomily regretted it, now she was doing a self-assessment with her usual mood.
It’s always better to self-reflect positively rather than look back filled with regret.
In that sense, I was relieved to see the usual Garnet.
… By the way, the law around Green Hollow Town stated that the drinking age for weaker liquors –like beer, wine, and ciders– is 15 years old, while stronger liquor like distilled spirits started from 17 years old.
Everything served here was all weaker liquor, but I couldn’t remember whether Garnet was 15 years old, or still 14…
It wasn’t like I never heard that she was 16 years old, but I was also already feeling pretty tipsy, so my memory was vague.
“So in the end, this became a self-evaluation meeting.”
Sylvia casually muttered her thoughts, and then showed me a smile.
“It’s better like this. Piling up your worries is not the best thing to do. It’s much better to just let it all out, then you’ll feel better about it. You can start thinking hard about it tomorrow.”
As expected from the inn’s poster girl.
She was used to dealing with this kind of situation.
Before long, dinner was over. Sylvia then took the drunk Sakura and Noire back with her to Spring’s New Leaves.
Sylvia also did all the cleaning after dinner.
She said that it was included in the paid business trip cooking service, but I couldn’t be more thankful to her.
I poured down 2 cups of the herbal tea I had made in the morning, and after filling the cups, I placed one of them in front of Garnet.
Garnet hadn’t passed out, but she had flopped down on the dining table, not moving at all.
“You should drink this before you go to sleep. Alcohol is something that would make you thirstier the more you drink it.”
“Yeah… Thank you…”
After making sure Garnet took the cup, I poured my herbal tea down my throat, and then I casually muttered the words that came to my mind.
“Hey, you know, I know you have a lot on your mind right now, but I’m going to keep on counting on you from now on too.”
“From now on too, I’m looking forward to working with you, Garnet.”
There wasn’t any reply from Garnet.
Using her arms like a pillow, she covered her face, flopped back down on the table, and once again stopped moving.