The Calm Before the Storm Part 1
“Kuh…! He got away…!”
Philia stood on the edge of the ruined terrace, glaring at Gran who was disappearing into the distance. He’s heading towards the south-east… Towards the Kingdom.
“That scream just before… He must be aiming for my sister! I have to tell her right away!”
Gran can’t simply be left to run loose. It may well present a good chance to further damage the authority and prestige of the Empire and its rulers, but there’s no point if the people she swore to protect are hurt in the process. The same could be said of the people of the Kingdom, whose ruler still lent aid to Philia.
As she thought about what to do, a great wall of rock trapped the monsters spawned from Gran that had been knocked into the garden below, then that earthen prison was pierced and engulfed with massive spikes of ice and pillars of fire. Having wiped out the creatures, Lumiliana leapt back up to the second floor, going down on one knee before Philia, her face looking squarely at the ground.
“I have no excuse, Your Highness… I let him escape…!”
Her voice is tinged with something more than remorse. As her knight cursed herself on the inside, Philia shook her head and tried to calm her.
“It’s alright. Right now, let’s just focus on what we have to do. If Grandmaster Wolff enters the Kingdom in such a state, there’ll be an uproar!”
Although he’s flying at an unreachable altitude, he isn’t moving all that fast. If they acted straight away, it was possible to deal with this before there were more casualties. Telling herself that, she turned back towards the door, determined to take action, when a young maid with brown hair burst into the room, despite the fact that it seemed on the verge of collapse due to the battle.
“Y-Your Highness! A-Are you okay!?”
“Hannah? I told you to wait outside because it’s dangerous, didn’t I?”
This was Hannah, a maid she had recently hired. She had been in the employ of the Earlgrey family until recently, but she couldn’t cope with Alice’s absurd demands and was fired, forced to wander the streets with her sickly brother, with no prospects of a job due to the wave of unemployment sweeping the Empire. By chance, she had run into Philia who was visiting the town hall and was offered a job.
“M-My apologies. I was worried about Your Highness’ safety, so I just…”
Because of the circumstances she had been lifted out of, Hannah saw Philia as something of a saviour. They hadn’t known each other for a long time yet, but Philia had already grown to trust her and Hannah’s skill as a maid who previously served a high ranking noble house was not insignificant.
“There’s no use in regretting what’s already come to pass. For now, all we can do is act quickly! I shall return at once to the Regnard estate and send a communique to the Kingdom. Lumiliana, please prepare the carriage immediately! Hannah, I shall entrust the relevant documents to you!”
” “Yes!” ”
“Uuu… It’s so noisy outside.”
From the forest that spread from outside the frontier town into a reserve nearby the Deficit House within its walls, the cacophony of cicadas is unbearable in the summer months.
As if the heat wasn’t enough, now they had to deal with this endless noise as well, even Sophie wasn’t able to keep herself from grumbling.
“It must be nice being a bird… No matter what, you don’t seem to get hot at all.”
Sophie gazed at Beryl, who perched on a post that stood a head taller than herself.
It’s something she only learned after starting keeping a pet, that animals don’t seem to be as visibly affected by the hot weather as she is. At first, she thought they just didn’t show it on their faces, but it wasn’t like that at all. The skin that she felt under its feathers was cool to the touch.
“But since Tio is suffering even worse in this heat, as the older sister I have no choice but to take the lead!”
Hmph! With a rejuvenated spirit, she took the watering can and continued to soak the plants hung up in the planters in front of the inn.
The sunlight shone through the sprinkling water, producing a small yet beautiful rainbow. Just as Sophie finished watering the plants Tio opened the door just a little and poked her head around it, the same head that Rubeus was comfortably perched upon.
“Sophie, Martha said you could take a quick break if you’re finished. I think she made some ice cream.”
Walking back inside the inn with a happy grin on her face that suited her age, Sophie felt the cool breeze from the air conditioning magic tool as soon as she stepped inside. As Martha stepped out of the kitchen, limping slightly, she looked at the eldest twin who still had beads of sweat on her forehead.
“Ah, thanks for working so hard, Sophie. I’m really sorry about having to ask you to do that.”
“No, don’t worry, you’re always helping us after all, Martha-san.”
“Mm. When you got hurt, it was like we got hurt too.”
At the moment, Martha’s right ankle is wrapped in bandages. When she was trying to replace the magic lighting tool in the ceiling the other day, she stretched too far on the ladder and fell. She twisted her ankle slightly and had to have it treated, so Shirley and her daughters offered to help her out in the meantime, considering all she did for them.
By the way, whilst Sophie was watering the garden outside, Tio is mopping up the corridor and Shirley is chopping up firewood around the back of the inn.
“Since the ice cream is ready, could you call Shirley? She should be just about finished.”
“Mm. We got it.”
After a quick nod, Sophie and Tio went around the back of the Deficit House. Opening the backdoor, they could see Shirley out in the yard, a basket by her side and a huge log in front of her.
Exhaling deeply, she reinforced her legs with the strengthening magic called High Rise. As soon as she finished, her leg flashed towards the log, kicking it high in the air, as Shirley readied a curved blade in her other hand.
Just then, a strong wind wholly unsuited for this dry summer, as cold as if swept off a mountaintop ran, through the yard, sending the snow-white hair of mother and daughters both flying out behind them as Sophie desperately tried to hold down the hem of her skirt.
The cold air unleashed by the sheer force of that blade’s swing cut through the humidity around them. And as for the unfortunate log that lost the incredibly short battle against the edge of that sword, it was sliced into a huge amount of identically sized kindling, falling neatly into that basket.
“…..And that’s all there is to it.”
As Shirley muttered that, tossing the single errant piece of kindling into the basket, Tio sent a quiet little cheer her way. She had cut up the firewood in a completely different way than she had for Dimros’ forge some time ago. At the request of Martha’s husband, who was hard at work in the kitchen, she had cut it as small as possible so that it wouldn’t be too bulky, whilst still having enough mass to burn properly.
“Mama, Martha-san said that you should take a break soon.”
With the basket in her arm, she returned with her two daughters, as well as their two spirit birds, to the kitchen. Martha brought in three well-chilled homemade ice creams on a tray, flavoured with mint and chocolate, served in glass bowls.
“I thought that it was high time that our inn got into the spirit of the season too. I’m hoping that this will be popular with the female adventurers on a hot day, so tell me what you think.”
It would be hard to resist an ice cold treat made with milk and sugar on a hot and dry day like this. Whilst Sophie and Tio seem happy with the treats, Beryl and Rubeus meanwhile look as if they’ve lost their minds to longing as they gazed at the ice creams, leaving one to wonder if they really were birds at all.
“The guild master seemed to like it as well.”
“Well, Canary was the first person in history to find a way to mass produce sugar, probably just so that she could eat sweets like this.”
Shirley muttered expressionlessly, but it wasn’t as if it was something she was especially unhappy about.
Sugar and pepper used to be worth their weight in gold, due to the difficulties of planting and refining their crops with the technology available at the time. Many years ago Canary, who had an infamous sweet tooth, introduced new methods of manufacturing sugar, signing her name into the annals of culinary history.
“Oh, that’s right, mum.”
“What is it?”
“That magic you used earlier to move your body, can you teach me that too?”
As Tio turned around to gaze at her with those unintentional puppy dog eyes, full of pure intentions, Shirley felt herself losing composure and turned her face away slightly.
“Hmmm… What’s this all of a sudden?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I’m really interested in trying that magic.”
After clearing her throat with a light cough, she turned to face Tio. Originally, body strengthening magic was used to help physically weak humans measure up against the brutish power of monsters.
Of course, it would feel incredibly refreshing to jump higher or run faster than ever before, more so than any normal human could ever think of. It made even more sense if you considered that these were already Tio’s specialities.
“Ah! Then, me too! That kind of magic seems that it would be really convenient if I was in a hurry!”
“Sophie too… By any chance, are you girls asking me to teach you things like that in hopes they’ll eventually become adventuring lessons?”
” “…..” ”
The twins whistled and looked away.
“Ahahahahaha. You three really are alike, you know that?”
Martha couldn’t help but laugh at the mother and daughters who both had reacted the same way, but Shirley sighed, wishing that perhaps they weren’t so similar in certain ways.
“Right now, you’re both too young to use physical reinforcement magic. It could affect the growth of your bones and muscles.”
” “Ehhh~” ”
But no matter how hard it might be for Shirley to resist those big eyes gazing so earnestly at her, she draws a clear line between simple spells and potentially dangerous magic that could put them in harm’s way if there was some kind of mishap. As a parent, she couldn’t give in here.
“…But, that is true. I really ought to be teaching you some simple magic.”
The two of them looked quite surprised at this turn of events. Especially since she had seemed so against the idea of them doing things like learning magic since it would lead to them becoming even closer to being adventurers.
“During the summer holidays, you’ll be outside playing with your friends a lot of the time. So, it would be helpful if you could at least apply protective magic for your skin, as well as some simple healing spells.”
“Mm. Then, it’s a promise.”
“M-Me too! Please teach me too, mama!”
“Yes, then it’s a promise.”
Shirley answered as if it wasn’t a problem at all. Of course, she isn’t lying. During the last summer holidays, when Shirley wasn’t there to watch over them, there were times when they would forget to use the sunscreen ointment and came home with their skin bright red, and other times where they would be playing in shallow water and hurt themselves on the sharp stones in the riverbed.
She finds it hard enough to cope with the heartache of being away from them, it’s even worse if she thinks that the two of them might hurt themselves when she’s not there to look after them. Naturally, the best solution was to teach the two of them ways to take care of themselves. To her, it has nothing to do with becoming an adventurer.
(Practicing magic with my girls… When we did the contract, it was all my own magic, but this time we can actually do it together as mother and daughters…!)
That said, that doting mother also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some quality time teaching magic to her daughters. Especially because Grania had beaten her to the punch earlier.
“Ahh, right, right. Shirley, there’s a letter for you.”
“A letter? Wait, is it…”
Thinking about who it could possibly be, Shirley, tore the top off the envelope that Martha gave her, then read the contents in a way that no one could see.
The sender’s name at the bottom of the page was listed as Turner Jewelry Store.
Sorry about no chapter yesterday, I was incredibly busy with the business of being lazy.