3 – 6
The center of Mohnton is dominated by an expansive marsh, split into innumerable smaller swamps. People talked about how these swamps were being heated by excess amounts of miasma, causing them to bubble and froth on the surface.
The stagnant marshes reached deep into the earth and had a feral green colour to them. Common grasses and flowers never grew around them, only poisonous and toxic plants and herbs imbued with the magic of the miasma instead. In the shadows of the poisonous plants, brown toxin-resistant toads hopped through the swamps.
This kind of sight is what foreigners who have never been to Mohnton imagine when they think of the territory and is also the origin of Alois’ unfortunate nickname, the ‘Toad of the Swamp’.
The areas between the swamps were dominated by muddy wetlands covered in moss.
There were no valleys or hills, the land was almost uniformly flat. A vast amount of shallow rivers and streams crisscrossed the landscape, only adding to the damp and humid nature of the land. The land itself was cracked in places, so this water found no shortage of ways to seep into the earth.
Einst was a town built on a large piece of land that was reclaimed from the bogs. By splitting up and draining the swamps, it was possible to dry out the land enough to build houses and roads. The town took on a strange shape as a result, becoming as oval-shaped as the swamp it was originally reclaimed from.
Houses constructed from packed earth and mud lined the streets of the town. The houses had no personality whatsoever, so for an outsider, it was impossible to tell one from another at a glance.
The main street was eerily quiet, without the cheers and shouts of children playing or the gossip of women going shop to shop. The men who were heading out to the swamps to their mining jobs would silently step in time through the streets like soldiers on a march.
In that way, life in this town had continued unchanged for over 200 years.
At first glance, it was a place incredibly strict in their ways, valuing modesty above all. An old town that put pragmatism before feelings.
However, in the hearts of the people, there was a certain pride that gave way to an insidious sort of pleasure.
– It’s all so strange.
Camilla frowned as she looked at the town of Einst.
The sky was overcast and the streets were shadowed by dark grey clouds. The miasma was even stronger than in the capital, just being outside hurt her skin. The wind that blew off the rooves of the old earthen houses was desperately cold, making the winter air even more unbearable.
Camilla was staying at another one of the Montchat’s residences in Einst. It was a stone mansion on the main street. To put it simply, Alois eventually had to give in to Camilla’s demands.
After they were finished visiting the victims in Einst, they would move on to Grenze. Once their visit to Grenze was complete, the investigation into the manastone veins could begin. Whether that took a few days or a few weeks, Alois was determined to find the source of the disaster using his magical power.
At the moment, Alois was busy greeting the influential men in the town. Rather than quickly breezing through the greetings from the members in the room, he was held up listening to the complaints of each and every one of them individually. She couldn’t help but think it was some form of harassment.
A few days had already passed since the disaster struck. As far as she could tell, there weren’t any real implications of damage to the town.
According to what they had heard, the damage hadn’t occurred at a mining site, but deep inside a forest that people rarely entered. Although a magical explosion had occurred underground at wherever the disaster site might be, the main issue was the earthquake caused as a result. Not to mention the release of vast amounts of miasma. Apparently many trees had been toppled and a lot of the wildlife suffered. Yet whilst it had caused a dreadful fright, it was quite a distance away from the populated towns and villages in this area so the damage to person and property was minimal. There was one house in town that collapsed due to the earthquake and several people with high magic power were involved in accidents due to the miasma, but other than that, the town was unharmed.
For how big a fuss was made about all of this, it was quite anti-climatic. But in the end, it was a good thing that no one was seriously hurt. Since Einst was in this condition, Grenze was probably fine as well so Camilla felt relieved.
However, she had other problems to think about now.
“Mistress! I cannot believe how rude the people here are!”
Nicole, Camilla’s personal maid, was incensed. She couldn’t bear to keep quiet about it as she combed Camilla’s hair.
“‘We weren’t ready to receive you’, what a bad excuse! What are they thinking, making you stay in such a poor room like this!?”
A room in the north wing of the mansion with no curtains on the windows. It was the worst guest room available in the Montchat’s residence in Einst. When they were given this room to stay in because all the other rooms ‘weren’t ready’, Nicole had actually gotten angrier than Camilla.
“‘We didn’t think you would truly come’ they said!? Jeez!”
“Ow ow ow ow!!”
As Nicole angrily combed Camilla’s hair, she absent mindedly pulled the comb through harder than necessary. Although she had gotten slightly defter lately, it seemed like she still needed more practice.
“Anyways! They haven’t even cleaned this room at all!?”
Nicole sighed heavily, not noticing Camilla yelping in pain.
Like Nicole said, it didn’t look like the room had been given any care for a while. Just how long had it been since it last saw a guest? It was covered in dust and smelled faintly of mould. Had the room really been touched at all before she arrived? It seemed like only the bed was still in a usable state, not that it was particularly good quality though.
It was obvious that she was being treated coldly. Usually, at this point, Camilla would be smouldering in anger at the slight and might have even tossed a pillow across the room.
But, right now, Camilla was different.
“How dare they treat the lady of the House of Montchat like this!? I won’t ever forgive theAAAAAHHMM!?”
With a scream, the comb in Nicole’s hands exploded. The wooden comb broken into pieces, its loose remains falling through Nicole’s fingers.
Nicole’s unstable magic power had run loose yet again.
Since her power was so strong, she was more susceptible to the miasma than most. When her emotions get the better of her, even over little things, she had the tendency to lose control of her power.
Whether that trivial thing was something physical like being overly tired or simply something triggering strong feelings within her.
This time, that poor comb reduced to pieces had been the victim, as Nicole’s anger made her lose control.
That was the third one in a day, by the way.
“Nicole! What are you doing!?”
“Yes! My apologies!”
“Stop getting angry at every little thing! Have a little composure, will you!? Controlling your magical power is part of your job!”
Camilla scolded Nicole in a way that would make any onlooker think she was being hypocritical since Camilla herself was angry as well, but that’s another matter entirely. Even if Camilla was utterly furious, she didn’t have magical power enough to overflow and potentially injure someone. Also, if Camilla only ever practiced what she preached, she probably wouldn’t ever have room to scold anyone.
Right now, though, Camilla was putting up a front so that she could properly lecture Nicole.
Truth be told, she was very angry.
The attitude of ‘you really ought not to have come’ that she was greeted with when she arrived enraged her the most. When she arrived, even the manservants didn’t help her with the luggage because ‘no one was assigned to help you, since we weren’t expecting you here’. Meanwhile, the maids did their utmost to avoid Camilla completely. Eventually, they were shunted into this horrible room.
Deep down, Camilla’s anger easily surpassed Nicole’s. Camilla had always been short-tempered, after all. She didn’t actually know how long she could truly keep a lid on her feelings if this was how she was going to be treated in Einst. If she suddenly yelled out ‘You’re all fired!’, who knows what lies and half-truths they would spin for Alois against her.
Yet, despite her frustration, because of Nicole losing her temper, she has had to keep her own rage buried. When Nicole gets angry, her magical power ran wild. When it did, things had a tendency to get destroyed. Since she was the only one here who could calm Nicole down, if Camilla lost herself to anger as well, things could get out of hand.
So ever since they arrived in Einst, Camilla had tried to stay calm, if only for Nicole’s sake.
In a dejected mood, Nicole glumly swept up the remains of the comb. As she watched Nicole sweeping the floor, Camilla frowned.
– I might have made a mistake in bringing her.
Was it a misjudgment to bring Nicole along to accompany her, knowing the miasma would be even worse than back in the capital?
But, other than Nicole, Camilla didn’t have any maids she could rely on at all. In fact, she didn’t think there was anyone other than Nicole that she could have brought in the first place. It wasn’t as if the maids in Einst were going to be pleased to help her with the way things stood currently, either.
Nicole who was a ticking time bomb or the maids who would do their job efficiently but despise her, which one was truly better?
– Nicole is a good distraction, at least.
If Camilla’s treatment in Einst was to be as cold as the reception she got in Grenze, there might eventually be problems. But because she was constantly having to deal with Nicole’s problems, she sometimes forgot about the burning anger and frustration swirling in her heart.
It might be a hassle, but in a way, it was also a small comfort. So in that sense, it wasn’t too bad.
– I wonder if that’s really true?
“I-I’m deeply sorry!”
Nicole’s apologies broke her train of thought, as the broom in her hand exploded with a popping sound.
This time, it seemed like the broom became a victim of her depressed mood.
Camilla sighed as she looked at the remnants of the wooden broom in Nicole’s hands.
Edited by: ApoPie