"Did you pack the sweets, HOOT?"
Naell lied across his bed, feet planted on the floor as he stared up at the ceiling. The sun had not even shown itself when the two were already done preparing.
Around them were several bags that were ready to be [ poofed ] away. With the owl's question, Naell cheekily smiled as he replied,
"Sharing is caring Owly."
"...I have my own, that's for Lily and your mom, HOOT."
Naell then clapped sarcastically and replied,
"Oh my, Owly is learning."
The young owl glared at the lazing man, emotionless and lacking mercy. He then flexed his talons and made its shape sharper. This surprised Naell.
"And soon you'll learn how sharp my beak and claws are, HOOT."
Naell’s response to him was delayed, as he blankly stared at the owl’s claws. At that moment he felt confused and wished to understand the science behind Owly.
“I… jest. Waking up early makes me really cranky."
Owly then looked at him smugly and with a HOOT of triumph agreed.
Upon the end of their winter exams, schools in Mundo would then take their holiday off until the second week of spring.
Naell and Owly within the past months had been looking forward to this vacation. Firstly because it had been chaotic for them.
The herbs they spread with instructions on how to efficiently utilize, began growing in popularity with both commoners and nobles alike. It was sought throughout every kingdom, likewise was he who mysteriously pioneered the innovation.
All the merchants Naell shared the knowledge with were investigated. Yet all kept their mouths shut, as thanks to him, they themselves earned a large profit in many ways.
Not to mention they garnered improved relationships with the villages they've visited, and saved a lot of lives in the process.
Naell and Owly also gained money, as the merchants gave them some of their profits, making him and the owl overjoyed.
The Adventurer's guild, however, was suspicious especially Tahina and Loknar who knew of the mission they did. Yet since they were denying it, they could only persistently ask.
Much to their dismay, Loknar and Tahina could only sigh and nod to the duo's sham excuses. Although the adventurer’s guild was the one responsible for the decree of the right to privacy, much like the royal family, they are not allowed to impose on any of their adventurers.
Going back, the merchants Naell chose would never betray him. Not only were they saved by him, they also viewed him with much respect.
Still this did not change the fact that for them, Naell should have grabbed the recognition and the awards. Yet when he said he didn't want it, they understood and were filled with awe from his humility.
Little did they know, Naell simply didn’t want the recognition, as it would prove fatal to his mission; This being his goal of becoming a self-sufficient hikikomori, and a part time Baron of Beryldot.
As they finished [ poofing ] the last of their bags into Naell’s spatial ring, all that was left was for them to finally take their leave.
The campus seemed to be void of students as they approached the school gates. Some guards had even greeted them and asked why they left so early, to which Naell responded,
"I very much miss my home, I can't wait to see them."
The guards felt warm as they bid him safe travels. Yet Owly sighed as only he could decipher the true meaning of Naell's words,
‘I very much miss my bed, I can't wait to see my books again.’
As it was early in the morning, the night's ambiance hovered, seemingly trying to reign at the slowly rising sun.
There were already other beings on the streets, and yet unlike in the past where some had symptoms of colds, their bright smiles lingered with their greetings.
"Aurora be with you."
"May Magi bless your way."
Naell was surprised, Owly too as they were often left out of those greetings. Yet since they didn't know why they all of a sudden changed, they simply nodded and greeted them back.
Little did Owly know, Naell was truly touched. He could only recall his first arrival, where he was often seen to be hostile. A reclusive young master with a reputation unbefitting a noble.
As they walked through the cold streets, a question came to his mind,
'Would you be happy with all this change if you returned?'
"Nice to see all of you again." Said Naell with a calm smile.
He wore a simple black buttoned down shirt, resting under a comfortably large brown coat. His elegance presented itself, even as he stood with an owl hiding under his arm.
The knights were a little too late with their greetings, as they were shocked with the difference from his usual demeanor.
As the greetings didn't come, Naell was confused. The knights were afterall very familiar with him.
"We joyfully greet the young master and Owly." Unknowingly, as they couldn't react to the apparent changes, they were stiff with their reply.
Naell’s demeanor that was usually cold and intimidating, was far different from how he seemed at that very moment. Regardless, as they were the same knights who accompanied the young master to Taglagas, they were already well aware of how he truly was.
In response Naell only smiled, thanked them once more and asked how they've been.
The exchange made them feel at ease, and soon the knights were able to act normally again.
Owly was also pleased to see them, that if it weren't for the temperature, he would have flown and pestered them with sweets.
Much to the young owl’s pleasure, they didn't forget how sweet his teeth were, as they offered the great Owly the sweets he wanted.
Immediately the owl accepted with his claw, and with a HOOT of gratitude, hid once more under Naell's coat.
"Sorry about that, Owly doesn't like the winter." Said Naell wryly trying to appease the knight who could have been baffled by the owl's rudeness.
Yet much to his surprise, all of them just laughed as one said,
"Why don't we eat first, young master. I'm sure Owly would love that."
They feasted at the inn where the knights were currently staying. Which was also the inn they also first stayed at in Taglagas.
Naell and Owly also often go there to eat, making them a frequent customer known by the staff and owner.
"They told me you were going home, Young master. In Aurora's name, may you all have safe travels." Greeted the innkeeper.
The fireplace had brought them warmth and allowed Owly to leave Naell’s coat. He even happily HOOT the innkeeper.
Naell nodded and replied likewise. He then requested for a table where they all sat, ordering food to their liking.
"Order all you want, I’ll be paying."
Upon saying that, the knights cheered and immediately glanced at the alcohol on the menu.
Naell smiled with no intention of drinking with them, and immediately remembered they probably shouldn’t drink. Luckily, upon ordering, the waiter that was close by, scolded the knights making them rethink what they'd have.
After some time, the food was served; Naell ordered some chicken sauteed with herbs and ginger, with fresh cold lemon tea, certainly unbothered by the cold.
On the other hand, the knights ate large cuts of tender meat, and had even ordered side dishes of mashed potatoes and fries. As to compensate for the beer that they weren't allowed to order, the knights went on to have fizzy drinks made out of lime.
Yet even with their plates filled with a carnivore’s dream, they all paled in comparison to Owly whose appetite was much larger than theirs.
Several varieties of meat were served, from roast beef to lamb chops, and several side dishes including baked cheesy potatoes and more.
To wash down the heavy meal, he ordered cups of green tea and the popular black herb drink which unwittingly made his appetite grow.
With them being the only people in the inn, their conversation and laughter echoed throughout the place.
Naell could not help but feel nostalgic being with the same people and having breakfast with them again.
"How nice…" He mumbled, somehow noticed by Owly and the knights.
"What was that, young master?" Asked one of the knights as he took a sip of his drink.
They didn't hear him exactly, yet they did see him speak. In which Naell just smiled and said,
"The food here is really nice."
They all agreed and laughed once more, continuing the conversation. It was only Owly who notice Naell's embarrassed face.
His cheeks had reddened with those thoughts. He never knew that aside from the lazy life he wanted to have, social interactions were something he'd treasure.
'I guess I'm learning, Naell. Maybe you are too.'
Upon drinking his tea, and glancing once more at his companions, Naell smiled and answered his past question,
‘I'm sure you will.’