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    “Phew…”

    With a half-falling momentum, I heavily sat down on the sofa.

    Ah, I’m truly exhausted today…

    I just want to sleep on this fluffy sofa…

    “Takumi… I understand you’re tired, but you’ll catch a cold if you sleep here.”

    “Hmm…”

    After finishing our search and withdrawing, Gazelle, Felix, and I came to that red-brick house the two had purchased.

    Since it was closer than the Audley mansion to the knight squadron’s barracks, we chose this place.

    When we arrived home, it was already late at night, but the servant came out from the detached house to greet us. “Do you need dinner or a bath prepared?” she asked, but Gazelle gently declined and asked for privacy.

    It was already late, and we had come unexpectedly, after all.

    Upon entering the house, the fireplace in the living room wasn’t lit, but the room wasn’t cold.

    And now, I’m sitting on the sofa in such a living room, slumped over.

    “Felix, why don’t you carry Takumi to the bedroom? I’ll bring some hot water.”

    “Thank you, Commander Gazelle. Shall we go, Takumi?”

    “Eh?”

    While I was dazedly sitting on the sofa, Gazelle suddenly said that.

    I hurried to stand up from the sofa, but before I could, Felix had already lifted me up, supporting my back and the backs of my knees.

    Hey, isn’t this a princess carry!?

    Like what Haruka-chan got from Leon earlier!

    …Oh, by the way, Haruka-chan is of course being protected by the knight squadron.

    Since she refused to leave Leon’s side, he took her back to the White-winged Knight Order’s barracks.

    Leon was somewhat… no, quite perplexed!

    “Fe-Felix. I can walk on my own, put me down.”

    As I hastily told Felix, he carried me out of the living room and into the hallway, unfazed.

    “Don’t be shy, Takumi. You’re tired tonight, right?”

    “Yeah, I’m tired, but not so much that I can’t walk…”

    “Then, is it unacceptable if I say I want to do this? To touch you, to feel you.”

    Felix approached me with his amethyst eyes shimmering sadly, and our foreheads gently bumped together.

    “I’m really glad… you’re safe.”

    “Felix…”

    “When I saw you tied up on the bed, my blood boiled. If you and Captain Gazelle hadn’t stopped me… by now, my sword would’ve been stained with that despicable man’s blood.”

    I’m really glad I could stop Felix!

    I’m happy he’s angry for me, but I don’t want to see Felix killing someone!

    “I’m glad you didn’t have to dirty your hands for such a guy.”

    “…Takumi is strong. I must also strive to be more worthy of you.”

    Felix gave a bitter smile.

    Hmm, really?

    Comparing me with Felix, there’s no way Felix is inferior.

    The opposite seems much more likely!

    “――What are you two doing talking here? Did I interrupt something?”

    As Felix and I were talking, we seemingly arrived in front of the bedroom door without noticing.

    Gazelle, who followed us a bit later, was carrying a steaming washbowl and looked puzzled.

    Gazelle, taking over from Felix who was still holding me, opened the door with one hand. We were in the bedroom allotted to me.

    It had been a while since my last visit, but the room was neatly tidied, without a speck of dust.

    Felix, still holding me, walked to the side of the bed and carefully laid me down on it.

    Paired with a bed that had a dark blue canopy, it really made me feel like a princess…

    “Thanks, Felix.”

    “No need to thank me. Please rest well tonight.”

    I thanked Felix, and he smiled back at me with a kind, caring gaze.

    “Takumi. You said a bath can wait till tomorrow, but wiping your body down a bit might feel refreshing.”

    “Did you bring that just for me? Thanks.”

    I thanked Gazelle as well, who placed the washbowl on the corner of the bed and sat on the edge.

    Then Gazelle frowned as he looked at me.

    “Hmm? Your left cheek looks red on closer inspection… What happened there?”

    “Ah, probably from when Audley hit me.”

    “…He hit you?”

    Suddenly, the room’s temperature seemed to drop dramatically.

    It felt as if someone had turned on the air conditioning, and I inadvertently glanced around the room.

    Of course, that wasn’t the case.

    Nervously, I peeked at Gazelle and Felix’s expressions.

    “…That bastard… Before handing him over to custody, I should’ve broken three or four of his bones.”

    Gazelle’s narrowed golden eyes were as sharp as shattered glass, emanating a cold, cutting aura.

    “…It’s good that I didn’t hear about it at that time. Even if Captain Gazelle and Takumi had tried to stop me, I doubt I could have held myself back.”

    Felix’s expression was utterly blank.

    His flat, unemotional tone only intensified the fear.

    “Guys, your feelings alone are enough. Besides, Audley will face legal judgment, right?”

    This was bad. At this rate, they might seriously go after Audley.

    Uh, um… I need to distract them with something else… Ah, that’s it!

    “Right, speaking of Audley, I haven’t told you guys about Haruka-chan yet, have I?”

    I brought up Haruka-chan in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

    Afterward, I explained to them what I had learned from Audley. He had discovered his ancestor’s notes and learned the summoning ritual. He wanted a person with black hair and black eyes and thus summoned Haruka-chan based on this desire.

    And then―

    “At that time, Audley mentioned something. The notes apparently contained not only the summoning ritual but also a method for a return ritual.”

    “…………huh.”

    “…Is that so?”

    “If we can get those notes, we might be able to perform the return ritual, right? I have the necessary magical power for it.”

    The normal summoning ritual brings people from the other world to this one, and reversing that process requires a vast amount of magical power. That’s why the protagonist who was summoned into the world of “Change the World” was told there was no way to return to the original world.

    But I received magical power from the Demon Lord. Finally, I obtained knowledge about the return ritual.

    In other words――I can send Haruka-chan back to her original world!

    However, the magical power I received will disappear after performing the return ritual once.

    It’s a bit of a shame, as I would have liked to use magic at least once.

    “That notebook seems quite important, and I think Audley probably didn’t leave it in his own country, but brought it here.”

    After all, he wouldn’t have proposed such a deal to me otherwise.

    Plus, isn’t it true that the summoning ritual can only be performed on Ritzheim’s land?

    So, I think that notebook might be somewhere in that mansion…

    “…………”

    “…………”

    “…Gazelle, Felix? Is something wrong?”

    My enthusiastic explanation was met with an unexpectedly lukewarm reaction from both Gazelle and Felix.

    “…Takumi wants to get that notebook, right?”

    “Uh? Yes, of course.”

    “And you’re saying you want to learn and perform the return ritual…?”

    “…That’s the plan, but…”

    What? Why are they not more enthusiastic about this?

    Wait, could it be that there’s more needed for the return ritual than just magical power? Something else required?

    Confused, I looked at Gazelle and Felix.

    They exchanged glances and nodded to each other in silence.

    Um… guys? Could you please include me in your conversation?

    “Takumi…”

    As I wondered what to do, Gazelle suddenly grabbed my shoulder and pushed me down onto the bed.

    …Huh?

    “Gazelle?”

    “I’m sorry, but I can’t help with what you’re proposing.”

    Gazelle’s face twisted briefly with bitterness, but it quickly disappeared.

    He then picked a strand of my hair scattered on the sheets, his expression filled with determination.

    “I told you before, didn’t I? Even if you hate it, I have no intention of letting you return to your original world.”

    Wait, what? Why are we talking about me going back to my original world?

    “Takumi, I share Captain Gazelle’s sentiment. I’m sorry, but… we can’t help with that.”

    Looking towards the creaking sound, I saw Felix also climbing onto the bed, peering down at my face. He too had a sad, yet resolute expression. He then reached for the buttons on my shirt.

    “We understand your desire to return to your homeland. But even so… we can’t let you go.”

    “That’s right, Takumi. Sorry, but you’ll have to put off resting. We need to make you understand how much we need you… I don’t think you’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”

    “Wait, both of you…?”

    What’s with this atmosphere?

    Could they have misunderstood something crucial?

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