A Summer Meeting
The castle with walls as white as marble that towered over the capital was the symbol of King Edward Pendragon’s authority, enough to leave any first-time visitor agape. Inside there was a wing where only those trusted by the Queen were permitted entry, a beautifully maintained garden that overlooked the capital, replete with an elegant tea party set-up.
“Cumore? If I am not mistaken, is he not the son of that most prestigious Stahl ducal family? You say that he hasn’t left the family estate since having a run-in with an adventurer in the frontier town?”
The girl who enjoyed the warm trust of the royal family looked across the table at the silver-haired beauty wearing the stunning summer dress that outlined her form perfectly… As she listened to the words of Alicia Pendragon, the King’s beloved wife, Philia blinked her sky blue eyes.
“Why, yes. From the report I received, he approached a female adventurer in that town and was met with a rather forceful riposte. That said, since her son who used to be so disdainful of the common folk has become so meek and docile lately, the Duchess has become somewhat relieved.”
The two women faced each other across a round table covered in plates of sweet tea cakes and fresh, juicy fruits. Beside the two of them were a pair of maids that brewed teas on a wheeled trolley, whilst closer to the door Lumiliana stood to attention, watching over her liege.
As the two of them enjoyed that elegant tea party surrounded by the refreshing fragrance of the surrounding flowers, it is no exaggeration to say that in accepting Alicia’s secret invitation, the Princess of the Empire is sitting down and having tea with the royal family of a hostile country. When the traitorous Princess who sought the weakening of her own nation came to have an audience with the King, she was invited to have relaxing chat in a quieter area of the castle for a brief respite.
“It seems she had been worried about him for quite some time. Although the Duke of Stahl’s family has been known as a prestigious and even-handed family for generations, it seems like Cumore, the eldest son, had been smearing the family name through his frivolities and bad reputation. Rather, it may actually help them out if he simply stays at home for a while.”
“I… See… By the way, Queen Alicia, why did you want to speak with me about this?”
Although they had been talking about it, these sorts of domestic noble scandals weren’t exactly the kind of thing you would talk about with someone from another country. It seems that profligate sons and foolish young noblewomen can still cause problems for commoners by relying on their privileged class no matter which country you’re in, even in a land that has tried to move past the discriminations of a class system.
In the case of the Empire, ever since Albert’s ascendance, there has been a marked increase in nobles cruelly lording themselves over commoners, drawing the disdain of neighbouring countries. And sadly, even in the Kingdom where such a culture was never ingrained throughout their history, it seems like a smattering of such nobles were beginning to crop up here and there.
(I didn’t think that she would invite me here just to talk about the Duke of Stahl’s son… But, I can’t deny it’s nice to have a break every now and again.)
The incident had happened in front of a lot of people. It took place in an adventurer’s guild, where the initial story had originated It seems that the rumours had been making the rounds since then, but since Cumore was hardly popular amongst the nobles for his infamous reputation, not to mention the deep disdain the commoners in the duchy felt for him, it doesn’t seem like many people held that much sympathy for him.
It didn’t really compare to some of the really horrific scandals that surrounded nobles back in the Empire… It also didn’t seem of much concern to Philia, the girl who conspired to bring that Empire to its knees. Since it didn’t seem like they were discussing that businesses, Philia thought they were going to have a more relaxed chat, but this kind of gossip wasn’t really appropriate for small talk either.
Philia, who had an intuition that there was something more to this story, looked into the eyes of Queen Alicia who raised the teacup to her lips with an elegant motion, then kept going with a happy smile.
“Even though in the Kingdom we do not permit nobles to abuse their status, that system of separate classes still exists. Therefore, it can reflect badly upon us when things like this happen… In order to try and set things right, I had the matter investigated in an attempt to try and find the commoner whom Cumore made advances on, and to my surprise, it turned out to be none other than Shirley herself.”
As Alicia hid her mouth with a fan and laughed quietly, she looked at Philia’s surprised face.
When talking about women in that frontier town who would catch the eye of a nobleman to that extent, it really could only have been the female adventurer that the two of them knew, Shirley. Once she heard that Cumore has met with that misfortune after going after a female adventurer in that frontier town… The moment she heard it, Philia had briefly thought of that white-haired woman, so to an extent, she had predicted it before Alicia had outright said it. Cumore had managed to earn Shirley’s wrath.
“I was wondering if I would have to step in to defend her, but fortunately Duke Stahl decided to use this opportunity to reprimand his son. When he came to pick up his son it didn’t seem as if he had any serious injuries and when I discussed it with the Duke, he described Shirley as the perfect shock therapy for his son, so it doesn’t seem like he holds any grudge against her.”
“Is this the fruit of His Majesty’s policies?” Philia murmured, as she breathed a sigh of relief. She was worried about Shirley getting caught up in the machinations of the aristocracy yet again, but it seems that the nobility of the Kingdom has many strict and decent people, unlike the Empire.
(Then… Just why is she telling me all this…?)
Was it really just a simple chat? As she thought that, the story reached its point.
“When I heard that story, I began to think to myself. I wonder if Shirley was the most qualified person to handle that particular issue?”
“That issue… Do you mean that calling card…?”
“That’s right… After his crimes in the Duchy, Theocracy and lately even the Trading Country, we have to capture the man who now aims for the treasure of the Land of Demons.”
Back at the frontier town, as the cicadas droned on just outside the window, Lisa threw down her pen and collapsed into her chair.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! It’s finally over…..!”
“It has been a long road… But now, our time has finally come…!”
“Now that we’ve finished our summer homework, no one can stop us anymore…!”
Five days of pain. Those three who had endured a terrible period of not being able to play since the summer vacation began felt a wave of relief and newfound freedom flow through their bodies. Now they can spend the rest of their summer break doing whatever they please without having to worry… The pleasure they felt was as if they had been emancipated from heavy bonds.
“Good work, you three.”
“I brought some drinks.”
Meanwhile, Sophie and Mira who had finished their own tasks the day before brought in some cold fruit juice from the kitchen. As strong yet ice cold citrusy taste blew away the summer humidity that hung like a pall over them, Chelsea finally caught her breath as she asked everyone a question in a cheery face, that depressed mood she had been in as she dragged herself to the desk before a thing of the past.
“Hey hey, what are you guys up tomorrow? Want to meet up and play!?”
“What are you talking about!? If we’re talking about playing, then it has to be today! The day is still young!”
“Mm. There’s still enough time to play around in the forest and get back home.”
Even the usually sleepy Tio has eyes that are lit with a determined passion. After having gotten over the hurdle of the holiday homework, it seems that she’s excited to spend her days in joy without having to think about things like school, classwork and lectures… That said, her usual deadpan face and tone of voice didn’t change much.
“Well, we still have to do the free research project.”
” ” “………………..” ” ”
“W-What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You can’t read the mood”, “Don’t ruin our fun” and “As expected of the honour student.” It seemed like these kinds of accusations were being silently hurled at Sophie. Withering under their glares, Sophie cleared her throat and tried to change the subject.
“B-But we should still enjoy ourselves today, right!? We can do the free research project quickly once we start!”
“That’s right~! We still have a whole month left!”
“There’s only one bit of homework this time, not like last year! We could even leave it until the last day!”
Although they might really forget about it until the last moment. As they set themselves up for future disaster, those five chose to play outside for today instead. That said, most of the day had gone since it was already past lunchtime, and because they couldn’t rely on Shirley to get them somewhere fast since she was out shopping for dinner, by the time they got anywhere it would already be time to go home.
“What do we do? Should we go swimming at school?”
“Don’t we have to get permission to use the pool!?”
“In the first place, it’s not filled up over the school holidays.”
“Unless it’s to play in the pool, I don’t wanna go outside on such a hot day~”
The forest is relatively shady because of all the tall trees, but it’s still hot. It might be a little much to play there considering they’re already tired from studying. The boys from class probably wouldn’t care about the heat at all and just sweat it out playing ball games underneath the glaring sun after finishing their homework, but the same can’t be said for girls… Although if they made use of those beam blasting birds and unleashed the limits of their magical powers, those twins would be head and shoulders above any boys their age, but…
“Why don’t you guys come to the orphanage then? We’ve got all sorts of board games and stuff there.”
Apparently, they’ve decided to limit themselves to playing indoors today. As young girls, could they resist the desire to endlessly gossip and chat? Or play with whatever might be the new craze that week? After deciding to go along with Chelsea’s plan, the group only truly began to feel the heat once they stepped out of the Deficit House, somehow even more overwhelming than usual.
“Uwaaa!? I’m melting…!”
“The moment you step outside into the heat going from a cool room is the worst, huh?”
Ever since the development and widespread use of air condition magical tools, this has become a common phenomenon. It was going to be a very uncomfortable walk to the orphanage if the five of them had to sweat like this the whole way, but that’s when Sophie hatched an idea.
“Ah! That’s right! Umm, let’s see… I think this is the way to do it… 《Body・Outside・Cooling》.”
A spell in three parts was cast. As she said it, cool air formed in a way that it wrapped around the outside of Sophie’s body like a suit of armour. Listening in during dinner last night, she had heard about a magician sick of the summer heat developing a new spell, a type of spell that enveloped the caster in cold air like armour, it was called 《Cool Armour》.
“Wow…! This is the first time I’ve tried it, but it really is cool! I can go anywhere during the summer like this!”
“Ehhhhhhhh!? That’s unfair!!”
“Us too! Give us that magic too!”
But, that girl’s friends wouldn’t let her escape from the heat all by herself. Lisa and Chelsea hugged her tightly, holding their friend close as they tried to enjoy some of that cool air as well.
“Wait a minute you two!? It’ll get hot and sticky if you cling to me like that!?”
“Whoa~! This is super cool~!”
“We can be one big happy chilly family~”
Even if you’re wearing a suit of armour made from cold air with magic, there’s not much point to it if you’re accosted like this. Sophie managed to pull those two off of her, but there was nothing she could do about her twin sister who leaned on her back, wrapping her arms around her neck.
“Just doing it by yourself is cheating… Teach me too.”
“Wait, Tio!? You’re too heavy…!”
“Please, Sophie! Stay with me forever from now on!”
“I want to hear those lines in a different setting!”
As those four girls got into a kerfuffle with each other, Mira watched them with an awkward smile. As they took a shortcut through the markets on their way towards the orphanage, they suddenly heard a sharp and high pitched voice cleanly cut through the air.
“Whatever do you mean by that!?”
The girls instinctively looked to see who had shouted that out. Standing under a dark umbrella and dressed in a luxurious dress, there was a young girl who seemed to be the same age as them shouting at the owner of the stall. But, what caught their eye most of all, were the two black horns that grew from her head.
I’ve been looking forward to this character showing up. And no, I don’t mean the little lady at the end.