The Illusionary Butterfly
The stained glass window that portrayed the goddess in seven different colours was soaked in the sunlight and shone brilliantly.
The basic principles of magic cannot be separated from the knowledge passed down since ancient times, that there was an original existence that created this world.
It is hard to judge just when exactly the church that venerated the Goddess began, but judging by the surviving records it must have been at least 2,000 years ago.
Was the entire religion thought up as a means to shepherd the faithful? Or did the progenitor of the church really have a divine experience? It’s hard to know since it happened so long ago.
The people who explore the ancient tombs to collect knowledge such as that are known as adventurers, archaeologists, or perhaps a mixture of both? Many adventurers study archaeology to expand their own horizons, after all.
Speaking of which, the S-Ranked adventurer who dwells in the Northwesternmost city of the Kingdom, ‘The Illusionary Butterfly’ Grania is both an archaeologist and an adventurer, a top-rate witch who enjoys living her life in that grey area of a profession.
“Mm… Between the Father’s sermon and that scholar’s thesis… It’s a little hard to reconcile the two of them.”
There are buildings great and small around, but near every city in the Kingdom has a chapel and this city in the Northwest is no exception.
The service with a delicate yet strict atmosphere where the Father instructs his flock in the teaching of the Goddess had come to an end. Once everyone had left, Grania’s slightly mocking voice rang throughout the empty chapel.
“The Goddess took pity on its vagrant soul and created the earth for the Ageless Dragon? Or, massive collisions of mass and energy, without intent or purpose? Fufufu, I wonder which is really correct?”
I front of an impossible to unravel conundrum, Grania smiles as if that’s half the fun.
Although she hadn’t been able to defeat that Dragon King, she still ran her hand along the staff she had crafted from its broken horn in a very good mood.
The corpse of an ancient dragon which is a treasure trove of history in of itself, in addition to the material recovered from the dragon king that retreated, not to mention the new ancient ruin that had been discovered and the dusty old tomes written in an unknown language that had been discovered within.
Furthermore, the progress of cracking the code to the inner sanctum of the crystal temple has been even faster than expected, they had found it in the woods near a hobbit village south of the city.
“Aaah, this is why I just adore both archaeology and adventure.”
Running two concurrent jobs that can satisfy both her intellectual curiosity and pride is very appealing for Grania. She got her first taste after being roped into it by her meddlesome living ancestor, but now she’s hooked.
Other blood relatives of theirs often boast that they’re related to Grania and ‘The Golden Witch’, but since she can’t even remember most of their faces, they’re not of interest to Grania.
“Besides… Fufu, I’ll be meeting with such a genuinely interesting person as well very soon.”
Remembering the communication she got from that relative of hers who she loved like a little sister back in the old days, Grania laughed bewitchingly.
She had also been asked to take on the request from the Minotaur who had instructed her when she was just starting out as an adventurer, but even without him she would have accepted the request just looking at the contents.
It’s not the matter of the reward, it was the client itself who demanded her attention. One of the best swordswoman in the guild who nevertheless remains at B-Rank, whose alias alone proves that she should be amongst the most famous of the S-Ranks.
And whilst she’s very interested in the ‘Demonic White Sword’, Grania’s true fascination lies with the swords she knows that Sword Demon possesses.
Four years ago, when she had been freshly promoted to A-Rank, she learned of the existence of two magical swords that had been the supporting pillars of an ancient and powerful country, two objects holding immense archaeological value.
“To think that someone got there before I could… It’s so utterly frustrating.”
There are still many mysteries surrounding the mythical country known as Valonias, though it has at least been proven to exist when many doubted that it truly did.
In the deepest part of a monster-infested ancient ruin, where lesser monsters don’t dare tread一 She had heard this was where those twin swords lay in rest and had rushed there, only to find the monsters all defeated and the place on the pedestal where the swords ought to lay empty.
“Depending on the outcome of the request, there may be an additional reward… hm? Then, it doesn’t just have to be gold.”
With those words leaving her lips, Grania disappeared from the chapel without laying a finger on the door. A blue butterfly fluttered onto the top of the pew where she had sat, then was extinguished like a light.
There are no fancy things like restaurants in this frontier town. For things not directly related to the adventuring industry like schools to exist were rare.
Shops that sell tools, weapons and armour are the most common. The only establishments that sell food seem to only stock liquor and snacks.
After nearly a decade of living in this town, the only place Shirley knows that she can go out to have a cup of tea is the Guild’s sitting room.
It was in that place that the S-Ranked adventurer ‘The Illusionary Butterfly’ had asked to receive the details of Shirley’s request.
She gave both their little hands a squeeze. As Shirley walked through the back of the guild towards the reception room, she gently held the hands of her anxious daughters.
She had already told Sophie and Tio about the magic that was trying to interfere with them.
Since it’s all about them, she couldn’t hide it forever and told them all she knew, urging them to be careful.
Sophie drank tea in the waiting room as if to distract herself before Yumina opened the door.
“Miss Shirley, the adventurer is here… Big sis, this way.”
“Yes, thank you.”
The person who entered the room was a beautiful woman, who seemed to be far more similar to Shirley than her relative Canary.
In contrast to Shirley who wore a neat and clean blouse with a long white skirt exposing very little, this beauty exposed her back, shoulders and ample cleavage, her black clothing also amplified her thighs and buttocks whilst on her head she wore a characteristic tri-cornered witch hat. A beauty that makes no apologies for voluptuousness.
Tall for a woman and looking to be in her mid-twenties with long violet hair, the atmosphere that surrounded her was much more sagely than her outward appearance might suggest.
(…She looks awesome.)
(Yeah, with that chest and everything.)
Without a hint of contempt, Sophie shares Tio’s wonder at the flashy looking woman in front of them, whilst Shirley finds it hard to meet the eye of someone who can dress so shamefully by her standards.
“It’s lovely to meet you. I’m the S-Rank adventurer, Grania… I believe this is the first time we’ve met, ‘Demonic White Sword’.”
“Yes, though this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of ‘The Illusionary Butterfly’… You exceed the already… interesting image I had of you.”
“Fufu… I shall accept that as a compliment.”
Then, she glanced at the twins. Watching them as they trembled slightly, Grania showed a genuinely heartfelt smile.
“And I’m also very pleased to meet you two lovely young ladies. I’ve heard a lot about you… Please feel free to just call me Grania.”
“Ah, it’s nice to meet you.”
Shirley was a little surprised at how Grania acted. Considering she was both a direct relative and disciple of that chaotic and tumultuous Canary, she had expected more of the same, but the impression she got was a calm and kind person.
“I’m sorry that my old lady has caused you a lot of trouble up until now. It seems that her head is just as immature as her body.”
“No, that’s not something you have to apologize for.”
If the appearance is young, then so is the head. Shirley had never really thought about that concept before.
It’s something she doesn’t want to admit because she would lose her dignity as a parent, but if the theory of mentality being linked to physical appearance is true despite one’s real age, then that could also apply to Shirley.
That might be one of the reasons why Canary, despite living for a thousand years, still behaves like a selfish child.
(If I look at Martha, it seems like that sense of shame becomes a little smaller as you grow older, but…)
Her sense of virtue still can’t let her relax around the idea of exposed skin. Things like those overexposing maid clothes from before, in her mind they shouldn’t even exist.
“Really though… Both mother and daughters have eyes that sparkle like jewels. I wonder if it’s related to that exceptional talent of yours that I have heard rumours about?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that.”
Shirley woke up to that unknown power when Sophie and Tio were still in the womb.
Whether or not the beauty of their eyes was impacted by that power of hers, she hadn’t ever really considered it――――
(Could it have had some influence on them when they were still in my womb?)
Shirley, who had never thought of the possibility before, suddenly looked at her two beloved girls.
“Mama? What’s wrong?”
“…No, it’s nothing. Let’s just move on.”
“True, we have something else to discuss.”
It’s not necessary to get wrapped up in anxiety discussing a useless hypothetical. As Shirley judged so Grania took a sip of the tea that Yumina had handed her.
“First thing’s first, the investigation of the magic… Ah, excuse me for one moment.”
Grania gently rested both her index fingers on Sophie and Tio’s foreheads, their tips began to glow with a green colour.
The gesture is used as an alternative to chanting. Having closed her eyes, Grania watched the stream of magic through the back of her eyelids, then she nodded once and opened them again.
“This is… It forces one to act against their own will. It’s a large scale ritual, something done to a distant opponent.”
“You already understand that much?”
“That’s right. Using the detection magic, I could pick up traces of the caster’s residual thoughts… Like you said, your daughters are definitely being targeted with this magic.”
Shirley frowned hard at the assessment of this expert mage. Although she was proven right, it hurts even more because she wanted to be told she was wrong.
“Where is the caster?”
“As for that, once the other party uses the magic once more I can investigate it… How many times have you interfered with it now?”
“Twice before submitting the request, once after.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that the magic is being cast at a rapid rate, considering it has only been five days since the first attempt.
“Hmm… I understand. In that case, for the time being, I shall stay in this town and set up various countermeasures. I’ll have to live in quite close quarters for some time, is that alright?”
“I don’t mind, but…”
She glanced at the twins.
“It’s fine with me. You did come to help us, after all.”
“I’m ok. You seem reliable.”
“Fufufu… Such honest children.”
Grania looked at the girls gently. For Shirley, she’s just grateful to have such a skilled mage nearby.
She can cut whatever she sees, but Shirley has a hard time dealing with what she cannot.
“By the way, I wanted to talk about the reward.”
“…I am still preparing the money I mentioned in the request form and there might be additional rewards like I mentioned, is that not enough?”
“It’s about that additional reward.”
Grania leaned in and whispered in Shirley’s ear in a seductive voice.
“I don’t care for the gold… Instead, show me all the magical swords you possess.”
It was something she hadn’t expected to hear. When Shirley’s eyes widened at this strange request, Grania giggled softly.
“I’m an archaeologist after all… I have an excellent eye for antiques. Es~pe~cially things like… Say, the magic swords of ancient Vallonias?”
It seems like an unacceptable demand at first… For adventurers, it’s a golden rule to never reveal their full hand to anyone but their trusted party members and partners.
Shirley had used the abilities of Ig-Alima and Sul-Sagana during the Dragon War, but she had not displayed their full capabilities.
As Shirley glared at her in suspicion, Grania spoke as if she had seen her inner thoughts.
“Don’t worry too much about it. Even if you refuse me, I shall still carry out that request of yours and simply take the gold as the additional reward. …This is simply my request should we not be able to conclude a favourable settlement in regards to that additional reward. No matter what you might go through after this little meeting of ours though, I hope you keep my request in mind.”
Looking into Grania’s eyes as she spoke, it seemed like she was telling the truth. Certainly, it was Shirley who didn’t say that the additional reward would be in gold and if she refused this request now, what if that potentially affected the quality of her work?
It would be best to show some good faith here. Besides, for Shirley, the safety of her daughters will always easily win out over notions of confidentiality.
“I don’t mind. From now on, I’ll recognize you as a temporary party member, that way I’ll show you everything you’d like. If showing the magical swords I own can help us trust each other better, it’s not a big price to pay.”
“Thank you for your understanding… I thought you might have refused since I’ve heard stories about how difficult you are to work with… But you’re actually quite a good person, aren’t you?”
Over these past ten years, one thing Shirley hasn’t grown accustomed to is accepting praise.
Although she had only agreed to show her weapons simply as a measured act of good faith, it seems like she accidentally got on the good side of this witch… Well, it didn’t feel too bad.