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All night long, the princess cried. All the while, I watched over her till she cried herself to sleep. It took quite a bit before she finally settled down, about two hours I'd say.

Such a child she is, too nice, and far too kind for someone who would be queen. Even if Merida said that she had taught her the use of drugs and poisons, I doubt she'll ever use it for more than putting someone to sleep. Is that a good thing? For those around her maybe, but for herself, I think she needs to toughen up a little, be harsher, crueler. Otherwise I don't think she'll go very far, not with the world as it is. I have no doubt in my mind that they'll be tough choices ahead, and I fear that she might not be equipped to deal with them.

Seeing the princess lying beside my bedding, I reach out to wake her only to stop upon realizing that Merida is probably nearby. I should get her to carry the princess back to her own tent.

As I consider the option, the princess' droopy ears twitch and immediately she springs up, looking towards the entrance to the tent. She's kind of like a dog, rather, I suppose she is a dog of sorts. Having gotten used to the Beastkins, I sometimes forget that they're half beasts.

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, it nothing to worry about, Aurelius, though I think someone is here to see you."

It is exactly as she says, turning towards the entrance, I see a figure peeking in from the outside.

"Is this a bad time?"

Smiling forcibly, as if a child knowing that she's going to get in trouble yet still trying to put up a brave front, is Cecilia.

"Shouldn't you be sleeping? You're going to have a hard time waking up tomorrow if you're up till this time."

"I'll have you know that I tend to be awake during these hours. It's a side effect of being in college you see."

Did I hear that right? Cecilia's in college? I thought she'd be older than that.

"I believe I'll excuse myself here, I'm sure both of you have a great deal to discuss. Good night, Aurelius, Cecilia."

With that, the princess slips out, evacuating the premise before the storm begins, and now only Cecilia and I remain.

An awkward silence fills the space in between us. I have a great deal to say to her, but I'm waiting for her to speak first, mostly because I'm not feeling well enough to get mad and I don't want her to realize that. I'd like to enjoy the sight of Cecilia fidgeting over the thought that I might break into manic rage at any moment for a bit longer.

"Look, Aurelius, about today..."

Well, technically, it should be yesterday, since I'm quite sure that we're way pass midnight.

"I know it was reckless of me, but I seriously thought it'd work out, and well, it did, so..."

While rubbing the back of her head, she keeps up that forced smile of hers. How should I put it? It's strangely irritating that she's trying to play it off as some kind of clumsy mistake she made. Still, irritating as it is, I don't feeling like yelling at her, I feel like I might faint if I do, that's how weak I'm feeling. Instead, I simply let out a sigh, just to let her know I'm not happy.

"Well, you know what you did. Not to mention, you're the guildmaster, it's not really my place to be telling you what you should do."

"Au-Aurelius?"

Strangely, Cecilia appears to be a little shocked after hearing what I have to say. How odd, I thought she'd be a bit happier to be left off the hook.

"Look, I know I've done something bad, b-but I was panicking too. I was just trying to do what I thought was best. I mean, I was scared you know, when you got shot. I thought I had to do something."

Well, I figured that much. Really, I wasn't planning on blaming her too much for it to begin with. At best, I might yell at her a bit just so she'd think twice before trying to pull something like that again and expect it to go well.

"Like I said, I'm sure you know what you did. There's really no point for me to say anything about it. I don't intent to nag and I really don't feel up to it right now either."

After all, it's not like Cecilia's an idiot. She knew how dangerous that was and she's more than capably of learning from her mistakes. Even if things turned out well in the end, I trust that she knows that it's because she got lucky and will act accordingly in the future.

"I'm sorry, Aurelius..."

"There's no need to be sorry. You've done nothing wrong to apologize for, right?"

At my words, Cecilia looks upon me with shock on her face as blood seemingly drains from her complexion. Her eyes turn away from me, her hands ball into a fist, clenching tightly and trembling.

Something's not right here? What's wrong with her?

"Please... don't be like that..."

Her voice trembles as she speaks. I don't get it. I don't understand why she's in such a state. Don't be like what?

"If you're mad at me then just yell at me all you like! Just... don't be so cold... I- I said I'm sorry, didn't I?"

Cold!? Do I sound cold? Maybe I'm being a little callous but that's just because I'm feeling tired, that's all. Why would she think that? I told her that there's no need to be sorry, didn't I? Or did she think that I was being patronizing? Something's definitely wrong here. This isn't the sharp-minded Cecilia I'm used to.

"What are you talking about? I'm not mad, honest... Well, I mean, I'm a little mad, but it's not so much so that I'm going to rage on about it. I don't mean to sound cold either, I'm just feeling a little weak, that's all."

After clarifying everything, silence persisted for a moment between the two of us. It was truly but a moment, yet it felt like it lasted for minutes.

"Oh man, I thought I was in big some trouble there for a moment. Phew."

Like so, Cecilia quickly returns to her normal self. That great and all, but, how should I put it, I'm a tad bit miffed, miffed that I actually fell for her little act. She's good though, I'll give her that. She had me thoroughly convinced that she was actually upset about my apparent callousness.

"Well, good for you."

"Now, now, Aurelius, don't be like that. For what it's worth, I'm actually quite worried that you might be upset with me."

"Well, if I weren't before, I certainly am now. And there I was, actually feeling bad for you."

"Alright, I get it. I'm sorry, alright."

So she says, but it certainly doesn't sound like she's sorry.

"Ah, whatever. If there's nothing else, do you mind? I'm still feeling rather unwell from having an arrow shot through my heart and my blood draining from my body."

"Yes, well, I actually have one more thing I want to discuss."

All of a sudden, Cecilia's tone becomes sullen. As much as I would like to, I don't think I should tell her save it for tomorrow.

"Go ahead then, I'm all ears."

Cecilia debriefed me on her battle within the forest, about the Champions she fought, about their tactics, and about their classes and abilities. As she described what happened, her tone grew solemn and while listening to her, grim thoughts began surfacing from the depths of my mind.

"Sounds like it was the right decision to send Six after you."

"It was, he really saved me."

I am dancing around the issue, the issue that I suspect is on both of our minds. However, at the moment, I'm not sure if I should bring it up, not unless I'm absolutely certain that she's thinking of the same thing. If I am to bring it up, then there will be no going back for her.

"Aurelius, do you think that...... No, never mind."

She's hesitating. Is she thinking of the same thing as I am after all? Is she afraid that I'll come to the same conclusion as her? Are we both having the same idea and are afraid to share it with one other? I'm going to have to gamble, won't I? I should know that Cecilia's not as tough as she likes to seem. If I let her bottle it all up here, I am afraid she might only get more reckless in the future.

"The two Champions you fought, the Archer and the Warlock. Did they seem like someone you know?"

Cecilia's eyes widen in surprise. Looks like she did not think that I might figure it out.

"How did you figure?"

"I see the pair from time to time. Never really played or chatted with them though. Six probably has no idea who they are, since he logs in at different times from them."

With me mentioning Six, Cecilia seems just a little bit more relief. Looks like she is worried after all, about the rest of us finding out, finding out that we're actually fighting against our own guildmates, fighting against those that are stuck here in this world just like us. I don't know about Toto, but frankly, I don't think Six would take it very well.

"Yes, it's just as you said. I know those two. Or at least, I think it's them. I'm surprised that you accepted it so quickly though."

"I've been thinking about it, ever since I first stepped into the forest, about what would happen to us if we were to succumb to the [Corruption] effect the forest afflicts us with. That, and what would happen if someone were to land in the forest, or anywhere else for that matter, when they were summoned. There were four parties in that raid of ours, and each one had six members, twenty-four members in total. Yet, so far, we have only found four here, in the Beastkin's territory. I've considered that we may just be arriving at different times, but even so, some of us must have landed in the [Corrupted] lands somewhere. In other words, the Champions you fought in the forest, and the Champion I fought in the mountains, they were, well..."

"Chances are, they might be our friends."

"Correct..."

"You're awfully calm about this, Aurelius."

"I'm not calm, Cecilia, I'm not calm at all, but I just have too many things to worry about. Trying to get us all home is all I can handle. I don't have the leisure to wonder about who it was that I've killed."

I say that, but the truth is, I was too afraid to think about it, the idea that I've not only killed someone, but someone that I might have once played with, someone that I might have chatted with, someone that was just caught up in the same situation as I.

"Do you mind?"

Before I notice it, Cecilia has already moved beside me. In response to her, I lightly shake my head. Promptly, she sits down beside me, hugging her knees with her back facing against mine.

"We can't let the others know."

"They'll realize it eventually, just like how you and I did. We can't keep it a secret forever, Cecilia."

"But if they find out, they'll stop fighting, and they won't survive if they don't fight."

"I think you might be giving Six and Toto too little credit."

So I say, but I'm thinking about the same thing, thinking about how I can keep this secret from the rest. Heck, I never wanted Cecilia to find out either if I could help it. But, I want to be convinced otherwise, that those two are stronger than what Cecilia and I give them credit for.

"I mean, they're not like you and me. We're kind of abnormal, don't you think? We can even chat about having fought and killed people who might be our friends like nothing."

Are we though? Are we really talking about it like nothing? I don't believe so.

"That's not true."

"What makes you say that?"

"You can't sleep, can you? You haven't been sleeping well at all since you got here."

"Aurelius, how-"

"I hear you, you know, pacing around in the night, all worried and anxious."

"Was I being that loud?"

I shake my head.

"You weren't, I just have good hearing. That, and I couldn't sleep either. Nighttime is when I get the most scared, it's the time when all the scary thoughts I tossed into the back my head during the day resurface. It's the same for you, right?"

"Wow, I never knew that we're so alike."

"Why so surprise? It's normal. That's right, we're plenty normal, Cecilia."

"I guess we are... Hey, Aurelius, can I stay here like this for a bit longer?"

"Go ahead. I don't think I'll be falling asleep anytime soon anyways."

In the end, we never did decide whether or not to share our secret with Six and Toto. There were still doubts on whether it would be better if we did or did not. All night long, we went back and forth, never coming to an agreement. We don't remember where our discussion ended, only that by the time we woke up, it was already pass noon. Yet, due to spending all that time debating about Six and Toto, I had forgotten to mention it, the words said to me by the Bestial Champion.

***

End of Chapter 36

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About the author

Neverender

Bio: I am the author of "So What If I'm a Summoner Who Only Wants Fluffy Creatures?" My favorite genres are fantasy, adventure, and occasionally I get the tingles for sci-fi.

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