Chapter 459: Brunch
What greeted Seth the moment he stepped through the gate was Minas tear-stained face that directly went in for a kiss. It was a quick and hurried kiss while her quivering hands were framing his face. The next moment they wandered all over him to make sure he was alive and not hurt anywhere.
“You are back! You are back! I was so worried…” she sobbed.
Seeing the usually strong beast woman in tears like this ached his heart. Instinctively he pulled her into an unyielding hug. He pressed her soft quivering body against himself and stroked her hair and kept soothingly speaking to her until the sobbing slowly subsided.
Wiping away the tears from her cheek, he gazed into the big clear eyes and gave her a deep kiss.
“Never leave like that again,” she whispered.
“Never,” he promised and then they kissed again.
“Oh, come on! Is this really necessary? Get a room!” Rich couldnt take it anymore, being fed dog food like this.
Looking up he found the single dogs of the party giving him reproachful looks. Even Ellie looked away awkwardly. Leana and Hardwig, who had also been waiting for them, made complicated faces. The expressions of the knights around varied from reproaching to touching and supporting. However, they all tried to keep a straight face.
But he wasnt the only target of the critique. Marcel and Elza, the two lovers divided by Seths timely murder of the latter, had similarly sunken into a world of their own. Richs outcry of frustration interrupted their happiness and they looked a little embarrassed.
Seth only grinned mischievously and went back in for an even more romantic kiss. Mina made no attempt to resist his wandering hands. After all, it had been almost a month for her, too, since the last time they were together.
“Nnnmmm! Mou! Fin also missed Seth! Stop hogging, Mina!” Fin finally lost her patience. Doing all people present a favour and separating the two lovebirds.
“Fin was worried, too!” she said after clamping to Seths cheek.
“Sorry, Fin.” the blacksmith apologized and soothed the little fairy, too.
This time it was primarily princess Leana looking at him with reproach.
“Okay, we dawdled enough. We have several healers here that will make sure you are all healthy. We also prepared rooms for you to rest. ” Hardwig finally dispersed their awkward assembly.
After the participants left, only Leana and Hardwig and some of the knights guarding the portal were left in the courtyard.
“He is really a tell-tale Bard and powerful, too. Are you sure he is also a blacksmith on top of that?” Hardwig asked a question that had been bugging him for some time. He just couldnt help but doubt his sisters words.
“Yes, he even is a blacksmith, before he is a bard. Remember whose recorders sent the last broadcast? How would a bard take control of the recorder golems?” she asked smugly.
“Hmm, in that case, we have to make sure to keep a good relationship with him. You would do well, to tone down your weird obsession with that fairy. She obviously likes him.” the prince mused.
“Wh-What are you talking about?” Leana tried to deny it embarrassedly.
“Oh please, do you think you could hide it from me? I knew you your whole life. Theres no way I couldnt see the expression you were making just now.” he said with a smug smile of his own.
“Then what am I supposed to do?”
“Im not telling you to get rid of your feeling but… if you cant dial it down to the level of friendship, maybe you could… join?” he suggested.
“What?! No, no, no, Fin and Seth are not even in that kind of relationship!”
“Oh, my poor innocent baby.” he started patting her head.
“Although the blacksmith still seems a little opposed to it, the beast girl seems fine with it. I dont think it will take long for-” his eyebrows jumped to indicate what he meant.
“And if you manage to join you can get closer to the fairy and I wouldnt mind a talented blacksmith as a brother-in-law,” he said and hurriedly ran away as Leana started swinging her fists at him.
Her face was red like a tomato as she shooed her brother away in embarrassment.
The returnees did not go back to the guest mansions. The rooms that had been prepared for them were within the main palace, protected by the best security measures. Everyone had their own rooms. However, the rooms of Seth and his friends were thoughtfully arranged to be close to each other.
Somehow everyone wanted to follow them into the blacksmiths room to catch up, but Seth quickly slipped in with Mina and locked the door. The couple wanted to do some “catching up” on their own.
Had he missed his friends and family? Sure. But he didnt want to deal with the aftermath right now. He wanted to relax and enjoy some quality time. People had to do their catching up without them.
A day later he woke up to a familiar scene. Before he could follow his urges and continue “catching up” someone knocked on the door.
“Seth Smith. His Highness Prince Hardwig asks for your attendance, he invites you to have brunch with the rest of the returned Participants and their backers.” the voice said from outside.
The blacksmith looked at the naked girl in his arms who was also looking up to him. Her gaze signaled to him that she didnt mind going for a snack before continuing. His stomach audibly gave its opinion, too.
Three in favor, the decision was unanimous. It had been some time since he had the chance to really eat his fill at someone elses expense. The couple washed up, got dressed, and soon joined the servant waiting outside for them.
He guided them through the luxuriously decorated palace to an expansive dining room. In the middle stood a long table. It was filled with food to the point that the tabletop was bending under the weight.
A sight that filled Seths heart with excitement and his belly with butterflies. Arranged around the table were roughly 20-30 chairs. He recognized the people he had traveled with for the past few days.
In addition, there were some unfamiliar faces and some people he categorized as “probably royals”. He recognized Hardwig and Leana, the others all had similarities to the two, so they were probably princes, too.
Seth and Mina sat down beside Ellie who was already seated at the table. Hardwig gave him a nod and stood up.
“Welcome all of you who have managed to make it back. First of all, I wish to apologize to you in the name of the Empire. Your lives were endangered because of our negligence in security. We will sort out your contributions and the reparations at a later time. For now, I hope you can relax and enjoy the meal prepared by the best imperial chefs.” he held a short speech before opening the brunch.
Glad that Hardwig did not dwell on the complicated stuff, Seth decided not to hold back on the eating. It was as the prince had said, it tasted heavenly. The meats were tender and juicy and the vegetables almost sweet.
Seth tasted everything, and the food kept melting in his mouth. Despite people slowly finishing one by one, the food kept vanishing from the table with increasing speed. He had kept some consideration for the other participants, but he didnt hold back as there were less and less competitors.
Only one adversary kept facing Seth in this battle. Each dish he grabbed, each bite he took, was mirrored by his opponent. Fin the Voracious, Devourer of Muffins, and anything Sweet challenged him for the crown.
The chefs had thrown in the towel and the heat of their battle rose as the food supply was cut.
Finally, their hands met upon the last chicken drum on the table. Silence ensued. The crowd was shocked when their eyes met and metaphorically sparks flew. The intensity of their duel was tangible like a thick smell in the air.
Who would concede this last morsel?
As Seth stared the tiny Fin down, who just waited for a chance to devour this drumstick like a rabid spitz, he realized something. He was not hungry enough to contend with his family for a drumstick.
His grasp on the drumstick weakened, leaving it to the fairy brute. The brute however looked at him in surprise, unsure whether this was a trick or true compassion.
“We… could share?”
And share they did. The uncontested destroyers of this meal, who had ruined everyones appetites, who had fought together and against each other finally became comrades and each ate one half of the drum in peace.
“Dafuq!” one of the princes couldnt help but exclaim.
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