In front of a gravestone, a girl in a white dress just stood there with a vacant gaze.
“…I’m sorry. I don’t know very well…”
In end of the silence, the girl opened her mouth.
By someone’s good will, the gravestone was placed in a pretty nice location, and on the grave, the spring, whose turn was about to come to its end, was sending gentle breeze mixed with flower petals as a farewell gift.
“…why it ended up like this.”
Facing the wind mixed with flower petals, the girl continued.
On the gravestone that the girl was looking at, there were words written in a dirty language criticizing and blaming her.
It looked like someone definitely came by before she arrived.
It was asking why she couldn’t protect her and why she was the only one that survived. The girl blurred the end of her sentence as she stared at the gravestone with questions criticizing her written on it.
In front of a dead person, she didn’t know what to say as an excuse.
“…Why don’t we get going soon?”
As the girl stood there without being able to continue her words, the priest, who was standing in waiting behind her, said to the girl. It was because there were people waiting for her.
The girl nodded as she looked behind her, and she took a step forward and bent her body down. It was to put down the bouquet of flowers she was holding with both of her hands.
Among the two hands that carefully laid down the bouquet of flowers, one hand had only three fingers.
“…I’ll get going now.”
The girl who laid down the bouquet of flowers, Nainiae, raised her arm toward the gravestone. It was to wipe off the words on the gravestone, no, the dirt used to write them on the gravestone.
“Soon, I’ll be seeing you again, so…”
The new white dress that she received became dirty from Lower Solia’s dirt, but Nainiae didn’t mind it.
“When that time comes, to me, you…”
Nainiae, who just cleaned the gravestone with great care and turned her body around with her hands to her back, was carrying sadness and bitterness on her face.
“Ugh, to think that something like that would happen in Lower Solia of all places.”
“That’s what I’m saying. Because those homeless people have heavy lips, it seems it won’t be easy to ask them about anything.”
Last night, in Lower Solia, Astroa the grand mage died. This was not an ordinary problem.
“And today is the final of the King’s Swordsmanship Tournament, ugh…”
In this serious atmosphere, in the middle of the discussion meeting, as someone sighed and murmured, another slammed the round table,
and that made the polished round table to jump up slightly from the impact.
“Is King’s Swordsmanship Tournament important in a moment like this?!”
“The pillar of the Magic Tower is dead! Not only that, narcotics were discovered! What are we supposed to tell the other side? A lunatic mage was hiding narcotics and was found out? Ha! Sure they will believe that, right?”
Today morning, a few of Solia Castle’s royal guards and some people from the Holy Temple came to the Magic Tower.
As reported by a certain ‘girl,’ in the basement of the Magic Tower, not only the hidden laboratory, but also massive amount of narcotics were discovered.
It had quite literally gone from bad to worse.
“Fortunately, some of the members of the Magic Tower willingly admitted about them. If there was another lunatic like Astroa in the Magic Tower… Ugh…”
The few mages who knew about Astroa’s atrocity acknowledged his crimes willingly. Also, for the crime of keeping silence about it for all this time, they said they would accept punishment as a well-deserved penalty.
Some of the mages were currently being held in Solia Castle.
“Even though it happened now, it was fortunate that it was finally exposed.”
“Let’s go over and get all these organized slowly. First, why don’t we talk about the leader of the Magic Tower? Astroa is dead. That means the chair for the leader of the Magic Tower is now empty.”
“I’m sure you all know the reason, but that chair must not be empty. Who killed Astroa again? From what I heard, it was a mage?”
“Yes, that mage killed him. It was a dark witch.”
“A dark witch…”
It was by a single blow.
When Solia’s royal guards and the people from the temple were in desperate situation in the battle, Nainiae, the dark witch and a disposed product from the Magic Tower, shot the magic that she prepared and succeeded in defeating Astroa.
Everyone that was at the scene of the battle said the same thing. They talked about a violent explosion sound, loud enough to tear the eardrums, and also the dark colored beam of light’s trajectory. They were all explaining that Nainiae defeated Astroa.
No matter who looked at it, it appeared to be the case, so it could not be told in a different way.
“In that case, that…dark witch… Should we assume she would be taking on the leadership role in the Magic Tower?”
By law, the leader of the Magic Tower was decided by the people in the tower.
It was possible for the others to propose their opinions, but they couldn’t just demand the people of the Magic Tower to elect a specific person. It didn’t matter who proposed it, even if they were royalties or the king’s associates gathered in the meeting at the moment.
Therefore, they could only speculate.
“Probably, that would be the case, right?”
“From what I heard, it was also her that went to the Holy Temple and reported the narcotics and human experiments.”
“Regardless, her exploits are commendable. She had the courage to report the dirty secrets of the Magic Tower. Solia Castle was already thinking about giving her rewards.”
“In that case, looks like it is a sure thing now.”
“…That’s not the case.”
When everyone was thinking the dark witch will become the leader of the Magic Tower, someone in the meeting room shook the head and continued,
“She probably will not be able to become the leader of the Magic Tower.”
”Why? Her exploits are deserving of such a title, so why?”
In light of the negative opinion, everyone turned their heads. That someone started to explain,
“There are many reasons, but the first one is her appearance.”
“Like her nickname ‘witch,’ because of experiments in the Magic Tower, one side of her face is in a horrible condition. Her appearance is not becoming for someone who would be representing the Magic Tower.”
“The second factor is her age. She is currently 17. Even if we provided her with an aide, it is questionable if she would be able to properly carry out her role as the leader.”
Everyone in the discussion meeting either brushed their chins or scratched their heads.
Certainly, if she is a 17 year old girl, asking her to be the leader of the Magic Tower would be asking too much.
Priesia, the priestess of Solia’s Holy Temple, was also estimated to be around 17 years old, similar to the dark witch, but the Holy Temple was completely different from the Magic Tower.
If they were to compare Priesia and the dark witch, the environments in which they grew up, were also different, so that was also another factor that could not be denied in the consideration.
“The third factor is her magic. Perhaps it is due to the experiments, but I heard that all of the magic that she launched had dark tint to them.”
“Dark-colored magic. That’s intriguing…but why is that a problem?”
“Yes. By chance, have you heard about the ‘dark mage’ that had recently became the biggest issue in Rainfield, our neighboring country?”
“Yes. Some people were mistaking. They were thinking that she might be the dark mage from Rainfield who has a bounty.”
“Hm. What is the likelihood of her being the dark mage from Rainfield?”
“Fortunately, there is none. However…the problem is that people could mistake her for the dark mage.”
“Um. I think I understand what your concern is.”
Being mistaken as the dark mage. This was not the kind of problem that would have ended with a simple statement such as ‘if she is not the dark mage, then that’s fine.’
“The fourth factor is…”
“There is another one?”
The people around the table asked as if they were sick of hearing more.
The mage that was giving out the reasons nodded.
This reason was the most important, and the last, reason why she could not become the leader of the Magic Tower.
“…I’m sorry, Nainiae.”
It was at Solia’s Holy Temple.
In the best guest room they had, Priesia was sitting in front of Nainiae. Priesia tightened her grip on the tea cup.
“I did the best I could, but…”
Watching Priesia crumpling her face, Nainiae pursed her lips as she thought she was undeserving of such a statement from Priesia.
Her appearance and clothing that were dirtied from her life in Lower Solia were cleaned up. However, the injuries from the experiments from the Magic Tower or right hand, which only had three fingers, were still the same.
“It could be said that it had been too long. That’s, what I’m saying is…”
“You can’t heal me, that’s what you are trying to say, right?”
Instead of beating around the bush, Nainiae asked straight and got it off her chest.
However, it weighed heavily on Priesia’s mind.
After a long hesitation, Priesia finally replied.
Because of her guilt over the fact that she couldn’t heal Nainiae’s injuries, because she felt powerless for not being able to give anything in return to a benefactor who raised courage and came to the Holy Temple, Priesia was questioning herself as a priestess. Her shoulders were completely down.
“It’s all right. I was ready for this.”
“I don’t know how to express how sorry I am, and also, how grateful we are… Thanks to you, we were able to stop Astroa. Thanking you several times would not be enough.”
“No. It’s all right. I didn’t actually do much.”
All Priesia could do at the moment was talk.
She feared how her foolish self would look to Nainiae. Priesia lowered her head and bit her lip.
Nainiae was fiddling with her new white dress because she felt awkward wearing it. Nainiae said,
“Excuse me, Priestess Priesia.”
Priesia responded. It appeared she knew what Nainiae was going to ask. Priesia was trying hard not to let her own face shrivel out of powerlessness.
“In that case, my illness… No…”
Nainiae was about to ask a question, but she shook her head and changed it.
“How long do you think I’ll be able to live?”
Although Priesia knew the question was coming, her face still crumbled.
“I can’t completely cure your illness. That’s why… That is… I can extend your life, but…”
The skirt that Priesia grabbed on to started to shake. To her benefactor, more over, to a friend of her age that Priesia made for the first time in her life, Priesia felt that it was not enough to say she felt like a fool for continuing to talk only to give out excuses.
“It’s all right. I had my heart prepared for this.”
As she did before, Nainiae responded again with grit.
Having heard her courageous voice, Priesia made up her mind to not show Naniae the foolish side of herself. Priesia, with her tears hanging on the corners of her eyes like dew, lifted her head and faced Nainiae.
“I’ll tell you.”
“Yes, please tell me.”
“It could be as short as until the summer, or it could last up to the winter. However… I believe it will most likely last until the fall.”
Nainiae murmured the season with a vacant stare.
‘Until fall… It’s pretty long.’
“Priestess, thank you.”
Because of the priestess’ kindness, Nainiae now had a new white dress, and her life was extended to the fall which she believed could be any day now. To her, to tell the truth, she felt it was enough. Actually, she was thinking all these were more than generous. That’s how she was thinking.
That’s why Nainiae took a bow and expressed her gratitude toward Priesia.
“Nainiae… Please do not feel grateful toward me.”
Having heard Nainiae’s words expressing gratitude, Priesia shook her head with a look on her face that stated she doesn’t deserve it.
“If you thank me when I have done nothing for you, I wouldn’t know how to respond to that.”
“If there is any favor or request you would like to ask of the Holy Temple, please tell me.”
Priesia suddenly got up from her seat and leaned her face toward Nainiae’s face.
She had Nainiae’s horrifying face right in front of her nose, but Priesia was not even batting an eye.
On the contrary, Nainiae was feeling down and overwhelmed by Priesia’s angel-like beauty. Her beauty was becoming of a priestess and was incomparable to Nainiae. Nainiae leaned herself on the back support of the chair and hunched up her shoulders.
“If it is something that the Holy Temple is capable of handling, we will do anything for you. I may not look like one, but I’m really a priestess.”
Having heard Priesia saying she will accept any request, Nainiae, who was still sitting there with a blank look on her face, asked carefully,
After seeing Priesia nodding her head, Nainiae thought about something very carefully, and after a long silence, she opened her mouth.
“In that case, can you make all of these ‘exploits’ as if they never happened?”
“About exposing the narcotics and the human experiments in the laboratory, and also defeating Astroa, I’m talking about those exploits.”
A question mark floated up on Priesia’s face on its own.
Wondering if she didn’t hear Nainiae correctly, Priesia tilted her head to the side and asked,
“You want your exploits to be nullified as if you had never done anything?”
Nainiae nodded without any hesitation and continued,
“As I said many times, I have not done much.”
“The one that should be praised and paid attention to is not myself…but someone else. If there is someone who should be recognized for these exploits, it is that person.”
“If you would like to grant my wish, then please grant that person’s wish. That is my request, my wish.”
“Who is this person?”