Whilst Shirley was off on her adventure that day, Sophie and Tio had their class at school.
“Wow… They’ve already gotten that big?”
“Yep. Mama said that they must be birds that grow up quickly.”
There had been a number of new buildings constructed behind the school and among them is the spacious aquatic training area designed personally by the Golden Witch… Put simply, a big swimming pool.
As for their instructor, the witch had gone above and beyond, securing the services of a man with webbed hands and feet, a half human and half merman whose body was covered in scales. Thanks to his excellent and efficient teaching, the boys and girls had fifteen minutes of free time to play around in the water at the end of his lesson.
And, although they were unaware of it, Sophie and Tio, whose damp white hair was sparkling in the sun, were garnering the full attention of their classmates, with no distinction for gender.
Originally, Shirley had hoped that their swimsuits would be modest enough that it would cover up most of the skin of those two beautiful twins. However, some of those children began to notice the difference between boys and girls for the first time in their lives as they saw a side to those girls they had never seen before, with those swimsuits tightly hugging their bodies.
“Wow… Those two are pretty…”
“Wait… What the… Are they really still just kids?”
Seeing just a touch more skin than usual alongside those shining locks of hair, it was like they were seeing a whole new side to the girls.
Those boys who saw the uncovered arms and legs of those twins for the first time couldn’t tear their eyes away from the sight of them, whilst even the girls who had seen them get changed for exercise classes countless times found themselves charmed by the different atmosphere that suddenly surrounded the two of them.
Every single one of those children suddenly recalled the image of the girls’ mother who they saw on the parent visitation day. Even though the girls were young, it seemed like they had already begun to show some of that incredible eye-catching charm their mother had.
“I’ve been worried about them ever since that day they stuck to your heads, since we haven’t seen you since then. We thought that you and Tio might’ve gotten in trouble, too.”
“? We’ve been busy with building the birdhouse and taking care of them, and practicing swimming as well, did something happen to make you three worry?”
If Shirley had been there, all those boys would have fled at the overwhelming bloodlust, but Sophie and Tio weren’t really aware of the attention they had garnered as Lisa, who was sitting on the side of the pool next to them, was talking.
“Hey, you’re all helping out for the summer solstice festival, right? My dad is going to playing a big part this year.”
“Ah, that’s right. It’s almost that time of year, huh?”
The summer solstice festival is dedicated to the Goddess, praying for a bountiful harvest of fruit and crops, it’s held in the Kingdom every year and falls during the school’s summer holidays.
The whole ‘praying to the Goddess for a good harvest’ thing is really just a cover story when it comes to this frontier town, though. The real reason why the summer solstice festival is so popular in this adventurer-crowded town is that, compared to the more formal ceremonies in the city, it was more of an excuse to host a big party.
“We’re hosting an outdoor bazaar this year. You guys should help us out, okay?”
For the children who have lost their parents to adventuring, or for the sake of creating happy family memories for children who may one day lose their own, the festival always aimed to be bright and fun.
Lisa’s family, who owns a bar, cooperates with other bars and eateries to host a huge outdoor food market, whilst the orphanage that Chelsea lives at receives help from some of the women in the town to open up a stall that sells all sorts of homemade clothing.
It might not be able to compare to the massive events that the festivals in the major cities of the Kingdom or the Duchy had become over the years, but it was still a blissful experience that ordinary folk looked forward to every year.
“By the way, I’m going to be working at a bazaar with my mother, so I will be busy.”
“Mm. We’ll be busy too.”
Since it’s a place of lodging for so many people, the Deficit House will be open, festival or not. As for Shirley… Since she had the pleasure of browsing all the shops alongside Sophie and Tio last year, this time around the three of them aren’t going to be quite as free.
“I’d like to go shopping again, but since there’s going to be even more adventurers than usual around to visit all the stalls, they need somewhere to stay. So, Martha-san has lots of work for us.”
Although it’s probably a similar story everywhere, it’s true that there’s a huge uptake of people traveling to the frontier town during the days of the festival.
In the past, there have also been a lot of thieves skulking into town, looking to steal the food and clothes displayed in the markets. To combat this, the adventurers guild will sometimes pay a guard’s wage to adventurers as reward for a request, having them help patrol the streets that were far busier than usual.
…By the way, since Shirley herself has no talent when it comes to knitting or making accessories whatsoever, she has used this request as an excuse in the past to avoid having to participate in the bazaars… Of course, this is a secret she will take to her grave
“Anyways, getting back to the other thing. Since we haven’t been able to see them for so long, can we come around and visit the birds today?”
“I’m really interested in seeing the houses you two built inside that treasure chest too~”
“Mm. I think it’s fine.”
“Wooow… I know you said so, but this place is even bigger than I thought.”
After school that day, Lisa and the rest who had gone with Sophie and Tio after they had come home, expressed their amazement when they followed the twins down the ladder into the Hero’s Toolbox.
“It’s so much bigger than it looks on the outside… How does it work?”
“……Who knows? It seems complicated, so I don’t really think about it.”
“Ah, I actually learned a little bit about it. You see, the magical seals carved into the inside of the chest reacts to the magical pathways of the owner in order to ――――”
As her sister and friends were wondering about the chest with wonder, Sophie took the chance to show off her pride as a big sister and, puffing out her chest, began to motion with her hands as she explained.
Whilst Tio excels at athletics, Sophie instead is an excellent learner, as she managed to roughly understand most of the difficult magical theory behind the chest despite not being a trained magician herself.
Right now, despite the feeling of losing quite a lot of ground to Tio lately, she was going to take the chance to recover some of her dignity as the eldest sister. She tried to leave out the most difficult parts of the explanation, but although she thought that she had managed to explain it as simply as possible ――――
“――――due to the structure and arrangement of the runic patterns, it can maintain spatial magic that creates another world inside of the box.”
“Hmm, hmm. I completely understand.”
Chelsea rubbed her chin and nodded sagely, then after turning to Tio and Lisa, they all said the exact same thing in a low murmur.
” ” “Did you get any of that?” ” ”
“…Anyways, do you want to come and see Rubeus? Follow me through this door.”
(Uuu….. They weren’t even listening, even though I thought I explained it really well…)
Although she had tried to make it as simple as possible… As expected, an explanation of spatial magic was a bit too complicated for three ten-year-olds who were especially bad at studying. Instead of grandstanding as the older sister like she had planned, it seems like things had been flipped on their head yet again, with the other girls following along with Tio’s pace.
“Mm. I’m home.”
“Wah!? They really did get bigger!”
When they entered the only room in that magical space that Shirley had given them access to, the spirit birds happily tweeted as their owners returned.
As Tio was about to fill up their meal bowls with the bag of feed she had brought with her, Chelsea piped up inquisitively.
“Hey hey, can I feed them?”
“Sure. Here you go.”
People who can’t keep pets are often the ones most excited about caring for animals.
TOK TOK TOK TOK TOK TOK! As the girls fed the eternally voracious birds from their hands, stroking their heads as they did so, Mira noticed something.
“Hmm? Those two, did they get even bigger just now?”
“…Mm. I think you’re right.”
They had gotten larger since they entered that room. It’s not like their bellies had just puffed up from eating too much food either. It was as if both of their bodies had truly grown, their bones and muscles under the surface stretching out.
“Actually, aren’t they getting really huge!?”
“B-Beryl!? Rubeus too!? W-wait, what’s going on!?”
And eventually, we return to the present. Shirley heard the whole story from her daughters, trying to get a grasp of the situation as she folded her arms.
“So, they just kept getting bigger and bigger right in front of us, and soon they could even fly.”
“Mm. It was really shocking.”
As Tio said that with her usual sleepy eyes that didn’t actually seem all that shocked at all, Rubeus flew in circles above her head.
“But, mama, is this really okay? Birds don’t normally grow this fast, right?”
Although her sister didn’t seem too bothered, Sophie had a worried expression. The blue bird on her head, despite being so different from how it looked this morning, couldn’t be anything other than Beryl.
Shirley stared at the two birds with her shining eyes of red and blue, using both her supernatural power and all her experience as an adventurer to try and find an answer to this sudden phenomenon.
The first thing that’s noticeable about the birds is that their wings and body have grown dramatically enough that they could now fly, as well as their eye-catching new tail feathers.
Those tail feathers of theirs stretched out almost as long as their bodies, with Beryl’s feathers a vibrant green and Rubeus’ a dark shade of purple. Their colour aside, they looked similar to magpies.
As she considered their magical power that was overflowing even more than before as well as their sudden rapid growth, Shirley could only draw one conclusion.
“These birds must be something more than normal monsters… Perhaps a spirit?”
” “Spirit?” ”
There are many things in the natural world that exist outside human reasoning, including beings that possess their own will and conscience.
Ladies who live in lakes, men who dwell in lava, beings that reign freely beneath the earth, fairies who dance on the wind and warriors who beat thunderous drums during a storm. Even putting aside those associated with the five elements, there are spiritual beings with wills of their own that live in the forests, in lands covered by ice and even inside of flowers, if they were small enough.
By transforming the magic in the air as they feed on it, they create a mystical atmosphere in the places where they dwell, as such, they are very often worshipped, as its thought by many that they bring both blessings and curses depending on how well they’re appeased. These spirits are also affected by the perceptions that humans and other highly intelligent creatures hold of them, changing appearance and also sometimes gaining incredible wisdom.
“Take a good look. These two birds have never left any droppings despite eating so much, right?”
“….Ah. That’s right.”
Remembering back, ever since they met the two of them, they’ve never seen the birds leave any droppings. Not even since building them the birdhouse.
Even though the droppings of such small birds might have been hard to notice, especially in terms of smell, when they took a close look inside they couldn’t find a single dirty mark anywhere. Clearly, they weren’t normal living beings.
“I’ve heard that spiritual creatures eat for their own amusement as well as to nourish their own magical power. Perhaps all the food we’ve given them so far has been completely converted to magic energy. It’s possible that they used this excess magical energy to grow physically, which makes sense if you consider just how much food they eat.”
“Mm… They always ate everything we gave them. They must have wanted to grow up quickly.”
“That’s what I thought, but…”
Beryl and Rubeus confirmed that their food bowl wasn’t completely empty and flew at it with explosive momentum, pecking it dry within seconds as their beaks hammered away at a furious pace.
“…Maybe they’re just gluttons. I get that feeling, for some reason.”
Was it truly a desire for magical energy that was motivating them, or simply an obsession with eating? Shirley couldn’t say. She had said they were spirits, among the most mysterious existences in the world, but as she watched those two birds, she suddenly wasn’t so confident in her conviction.
(That said, this is actually quite convenient.)
If they truly were what she thought they may be, then spirits were the strongest type of familiar that a magician could have. Many adventurers seek out spirits to contract with since even a low-ranking spirit is considerably powerful and also very easy to train and communicate with compared to normal familiars.
(Their strength aside, they should be the perfect familiars for these two. Perhaps I should hold a familiar ritual even sooner than I thought?)
No, I didn’t mix up the bird’s tail feather colours (if you’re looking at the volume 1 cover), that’s just how they’re described. Also, since they’re described as looking like magpies (for now), I don’t actually think they are the birds on the cover.
Also, double chapter ∩( ・ω・)∩