Chapter 96: The Return
Ants were surely obstinate... Once an enemy was identified as such, they could start swarming it with their numbers until it died, even if it meant the death of millions of them.
In this case, even when their numbers decreased by half, they still kept coming at us without the slightest bit of hesitation. It was fucking scary honestly.
At least Goblins had a certain regard for their own life, but these guys? They were just plainly an army of Suicide soldiers.
Luckily, after four hours or so, we managed to lose them somehow, either raising enormous dust clouds with my magic so that they couldn't see us or hiding behind sand blocks that camouflaged very well with the infinite sand in the desert. So right now we were finally taking a bit of a rest from all this journey we had until now, and I was the one watching our surroundings carefully in case those ants managed to find us somehow.
Why was I the one watching over the group, even when I was the one that saved all of them and retrieved the weapons safely? Well, I was the only one energetic enough to do so.
Most of the Knights were either trying their best to endure the infernal thirst they had or were simply doing their best to not fall unconscious due to exhaustion. After all, running constantly under the scorching sun of the desert for four hours, while drinking very few and short doses of water every now and then wasn't exactly something that a normal person like them could endure without falling unconscious in the process.
I just had a bit of thirst though.
From behind me, the sound of something heavy hitting the sand reached my ears and stopped my train of thoughts.
And another one that falls unconscious... Who is it this time?
When I looked back, I saw the body of the princess lying flat on the ground completely unconscious. The Knights, who were a bit confused about what had happened, noticed that the one that had fallen was their princess and rushed immediately to her side to check on her condition.
"Princess Yuuki! Oh god, Oh god, did she collapse due to the amount of heat?!"
"It's a possibility, quickly give her some water!"
As the Knights brought some water for her, I made my way towards them and started inspecting her condition.
Back then when I was still new to the business of Alchemy, I investigated a bit on which type of situations should I be careful to not die instantly. After all, although my regeneration abilities are pretty op, I will die instantly if I receive some mortal damage. So I wanted to know how many things out in the outside world could kill me, and how could I avoid them properly.
Topics of overheat, and freezing came up while I was investigating, after all, there were still a few deaths related to those topics, and since my Abilities just granted me immunity to the heat of hell, I wanted to know whether it could be wise to venture there without any type of precaution.
So while I was a bit proficient in this topic, I wasn't a master.
"Aspen? What happened?" As some Knights noticed my approach, they got a bit startled and asked confused if there was something wrong happening. I was the one checking up on the surroundings after all.
"I just want to check her condition, I know a bit of medicine"
"A bit of medicine you say?"
Of course, I was the best doctor you could find anywhere.
All you need to do is...
"Hey what are you doing?!"
I turned Yuuki's body around and placed a healing potion on her mouth in order to make her drink it all. Of course, I was making sure she wasn't choking or asphyxiating, I'm not that brute.
After I took the healing potion out of her mouth, Yuuki coughed briefly before her eyes opened slightly with furrowed eyebrows and an angry expression on her face.
Hmm... No, I'm sure she looked like she was about to kill someone.
However, when she noticed all of us surrounding her, her expression returned back to being that of the peaceful princess and she smiled gently while looking at the group of Knights.
"Hmm... Thank you for treating me... I guess I lost consciousness while we were resting..."
"N-no princess Yuuki, it was our duty. Besides, the one who did most of the Job was Aspen here... he gave you a strange red potion and you suddenly woke up"
When the Knight mentioned my name, Yuuki's smile twitched slightly and she stayed silent momentarily for a few seconds, but after that, she turned to look at me and bowed briefly her head in thankfulness.
"I-is that so... Thank you, Aspen, I couldn't have been able to recover my consciousness so fast without your help. But what was that red potion you gave me?"
"It was just a healing potion"
As soon as my reply came out, all of the Knights surrounding me became silent as well as Yuuki.
It wasn't until a minute or so of awkward stares between us, that Yuuki finally opened her mouth and said with a dubious tone.
"I'm sure Healing Potions are not that miraculous..."
"Well, Mine are"
The reason the Healing potion helped her? It was easy, I may know a bit about insolation and hypothermia problems, but all I had to do was to check her status and easy peasy~
She had an injury deep inside her muscles, and that summed up with the heat and lack of water, it wasn't long before she could collapse because of the add up of health problems, even if she was a Human+ or whatever.
So, adding her increased vitality due to her special body, the only thing needed was her wounds to heal up for her to wake up immediately.
Damn, I'm good at my job. Not that I want to continue working though.
A day later
In the heavily guarded gates of the city, several soldiers watched their surroundings with attention, while also sending glances at the road where the group of Knights and the Princess had left three days ago from time to time. After all, a vast majority of the city was worried over the security of the group that went to retrieve the Sacred Artifacts, and all of them knew that those Artifacts were probably inside a city filled with Antlions. Thus, every one of the soldiers was alert just in case they managed to see if the group was anywhere near.
Soon, however, one of the soldiers noticed many figures in the distance walking towards the city gates, and called at his superiors just in case the group had managed to come back.
After checking the identities of everyone there, soon a big group of soldiers were dispatched and started moving at great speed towards the group in order to provide immediate assistance in case it was needed.
"Princess Yuuki and Sir Jeffrey, It's wonderful to know that you have come back! We will move the injured towards the infirmary if you don't mind"
Jeffrey, who seemed to be on a slight daze, woke up and nodded softly at the Soldier before he turned to look at his arm with narrowed eyes and a dubious expression on his eyes.
Soon, after the group entered the city and gave the report of the mission, Yuuki went back to the palace and the group of Knights moved towards the training grounds in order to finish with their duties for the rest of the day.
"You all did a splendid job, thanks to you all we have managed to retrieve the Sacred Artifacts and return them to where they belong. Tomorrow morning you will be all called and commemorated for your actions in this mission, and the King himself will bestow upon you your rewards, so be sure not to over-sleep"
At this, some Knights laughed softly, while some of them muttered to their companions about what possible rewards could the King give them.
Aspen just stood there silently though.
"We will reunite tomorrow at the outskirts of the Church as the ceremony will be held inside it, and the Saint also wants to thank all of us for our service, so be sure to also wear something formal and elegant for this even!"
Aspen, who heard this, grinned slightly while remembering old times.
'I might wear the tracksuit and my slippers that I used every time there was an important event in the Alchemist Guild, they are my formal clothes after all...'
"That's all, you are free to enjoy the rest of the day!"
As the Knights enjoyed finally being able to rest after such an extenuating mission, Aspen prepared himself to leave the training grounds and go back to his room in order to begin his investigation on the body of the Albino Antlion.
However, when he was about to leave, the hand of Jeffrey grabbed his shoulder and stopped him from leaving immediately.
When he turned around to look at Jeffrey, Aspen noticed that he had no longer the proud and cheerful expression from a few seconds ago, instead, he had one of shame and regret.
"Aspen wait, first let me speak to you about a few things... First of all let me thank you, without your help, we could have been probably wiped out right away. Besides, I could be probably one-armed by now if you haven't given me that healing potion of yours... And secondly... I'm sorry about the way I treated you, I acted like a jerk and ended up mistreating you just because of some slight problem at the coliseum"
Aspen, who heard his apology, started feeling awkward and wanted to leave right away, he, after all, wasn't a person that enjoyed seeing others apologize to him. It was annoying, and it wasted his time. But, for the sake of Jeffrey, he simply stood silent and continued listening.
"I doubt that would have been how the Captain of the Knight order should have acted. When I saw how you responded to his majesty's reward, I got angry and judged you as an impetuous idiot who didn't care about honor at all"
'But I do not care about honor though...' Aspen though.
"But I was wrong, I judged you before knowing you more in profundity, as a leader should have done. I promise you that I will repay you in the future for everything I have done and everything that I owe you!"
Jeffrey bowed respectfully and waited for Aspen to answer his apology.
"It's okay, I'm rather accustomed to it. As for your promise... Some magic books could help"
"Yes!!" Jeffrey nodded his head and turned to look at Aspen with a smile on his head. However, before he could even notice, Aspen had already left the training grounds.
He stayed silent for a few seconds before he muttered something in a low voice.
"Damn he already left..."