“As for the artificial summon spirit, has it been handled?”
Riley finally observed Nainiae’s face, which was now without scars. He asked as he remembered the real reason for this winter trip.
Ever since she woke up, she still had not had the chance to take a look at her face. She felt the face around her right eyes where the scar was gone and responded in shy voice.
“Weren’t you supposed to find the summon spirit that could help you? Did you get it all done in a flash while I was asleep?”
Nainiae actually met someone who was a greater existence than a summon spirit. She omitted the part about it and nodded. She simply said all process was now complete.
“Excuse me, Young Master.”
Riley thought the conversation was pretty much wrapped up, so he was going to go back to where Sera was waiting. However, Nainiae called him.
Riley casually turned just his face and looked at Nainiae. He tilted his head lightly to the side, trying to ask what was up.
“Have I changed a lot?”
Riley was looking at Nainiae. Feeling conscious, she fiddled her face around the right eye and her fingers as she asked in mosquito sized voice.
“What did you say?”
Because of the small voice, he could not hear her. He asked again, trying to tell her to say it again but louder this time. Nainiae mumbled.
“I didn’t change a lot, right?”
“The guards and Ms. Sera did not recognize me. I’m asking because… I am worried. What if it is because my face look even worse now?”
Even Heliona, the summon spirit who was with her for so long, didn’t recognize her and just opened her mouth vacantly.
First, Nainiae thought Riley, the one she served, recognizing her was enough. However, thinking back at what happened, she really did not feel at ease about this.
“Mr. Ian, Ms. Willa, Ms. Iris… Do you think they will recognize me? Have I changed that much?”
Nainiae let out her concern. She tightly grasped her right hand, which was made whole now, and asked Riley.
He held his chin and carefully observed Nainiae’s face again. He smirked and shook his head left and right.
“I am not sure?”
It was a wishy washy response. Nainiae seemed disappointed. Her shoulders sunk. Riley was about to go back to where Sera was, but he added,
“Even if you changed a little, isn’t that still fine? You are still you.”
Nainiae was suppressing the look of disappointment. Having heard what Riley said, she regained the glow.
“Even if you changed, there probably isn’t anyone who would hate it.”
* * *
Two days later, a guard came to visit the infirmary at the Duke Philisneon’s Manor. With a violent look on his face, he started to ask all sorts of questions.
“Young Master, during that night, where were you?”
“I was lying on the bed in the infirmary?”
“Are you certain?”
“I was boiling with fever? I couldn’t even regain consciousness, so where could I have possibly have gone?”
“People said your maid was lurking around the entrance of the mansion while drenched in glass pieces… What was that about?”
“People of the Iphalleta Family tend to take the swordsmanship training to the extreme. It is the same for the servants. Unless they are seriously ill, they do this much training everyday.”
“So, that was just training?”
“That’s right, training.”
It seemed the news about Reutrina situation reached the people in the mansion. The guard asked many questions and got answers. He turned around without finding any problem in particular.
“Anyway, what do you think happened to Princess Reutrina?”
With the guard now gone, Sera, who was still at the infirmary, looked at the window that Nainiae restored and muttered.
“I really think it was odd, no matter how I think about it. Young Master, you said it would be best for us to keep quiet, but the Princess was a little odd that day. When she swung her arm and struck me on the stomach… It felt like an ogre punched me, you know?”
Sera cringed. It seemed she was still hurting on the ribs. She continued to chatter away.
“I held on to the ribs in pain and got over the mansion to get to where the scream was coming from, and… Young Master, you were awake, and the Princess was screaming away to flood the entire world. As for Nainiae, she came back as a different person.”
Sera thought about all of the things that happened during the day Riley woke up. Finding it suspicious, she asked Riley with a serious face.
“Young Master, could it be that, the Princess…”
Riley thought Sera’s sense as a woman was about to do its thing. Riley started to tighten his shoulders.
“… is possessed by a ghost or something?”
Riley relaxed his shoulders.
“Yes, a ghost!”
Sera tightened both of her fists. She didn’t see the hollow look on Riley’s face. Instead, she continued.
“Everything that happened would be hard to explain unless it was a ghost, don’t you think? About the Princess, although she was foxy, I could never shake the feeling that she was very intelligent, yet… All of the sudden, she became a bulging ogre and entered the room. Also, only a little later, she became mentally retarded.”
Sera placed her hand on her waist and took a stance as if she was trying to ask what Riley thought of her deductions. She snorted and was asking Riley to compliment her. Finding it to be ridiculous, Riley shook his head.
“I am not sure?”
“It has to be the ghost! A spirit of the Duke Philisneon Family who had been wondering the mansion for a long time… must have taken possession of Princess Reutrina’s body! Uuuuuu… How scary!”
“That sure is… interesting.”
That sure was a very Sera like story. Riley peeked a smile and got up. He walked toward the door.
“Ah, are you going to go out?”
“You said today is the last day of the banquet, right?”
Riley nodded and opened the door. He explained why he was going.
“I’ll come back after taking a walk.”
Sera was going to go with him, but Riley asked her to organize the luggage instead. Riley leisurely walked by himself and got to the garden inside the Phillisneon Family’s mansion.
The garden was booming with nobilities trying to enjoy the last day of the banquet. Most of them were talking about a girl who appeared at the mansion.
“That girl is the girl?”
“The one who defeated Astroa of Solia?”
“The Six Circles mage?”
“Huh… She is definitely worthy of being the Magic Tower’s master.”
She was the prime suspect of what happened to the Princess Reutrina, so she was asked to stay in the mansion until the end of the banquet and be investigated. Nainiae sat on the garden and vacantly killed the time.
“Excuse me. Miss… If it is all right with you, would you like to have a drink with me?”
“If you would like, would you like to go for a dance with me in the center? I’ll lead.”
Although she was sitting there with blank face, she looked like a work of art on a canvas. Men from other nobilities came by one after other and recommended drinks or dance.
“No, it’s all right.”
“In that case… Please remember my name. My name is…”
“No, it’s all right.”
She declined all men. It seemed she was uncomfortable with the gazes of the people coming her way. She signed lightly and started to fiddle with her clothes.
‘I like the maid uniform better…’
Because of a request from the mansion, instead of her maid uniform, she ended up wearing a dress. She complained inside as if she found it uncomfortable.
“… It’s awkward.”
The dress she was wearing, the place she was sitting, the gaze of the people, the face that was changed, and everything she was feeling in this situation… They were all uncomfortable for her.
“Ms. Nainiae, if it is all right with you, how about you come to visit our manor around next spring?”
“Ms. Nainiae, I think this dish is quite delicious. Please try some.”
“Ms. Nainiae, you are truly… beautiful. If it is all right with you, would you like to have a conversation in private with me?”
Most of the noblemen were trying to talk to her.
“I am sorry.”
Unlike the past, none of the gazes seemed to be indicating that people were looking at her and thinking ‘disgusting.’
They were all responding positively and taking interest in her.
This was unthinkable when she still had the scar on her face. She should be happy, but surprisingly, she was not all that happy.
‘I was so happy when Ms. Sera complimented me, but… why?’
Nainiae tossed the question at herself inside. She got up and asked the men around her to make way.
“Ms. Nainiae, please wait!”
“Ms. Nainiae, can you please answer?”
“I will wait for you!”
She got countless love calls from the noblemen. However, she refused them all. She walked away as if she was annoyed. However, she found someone who had the arms crossed leisurely. She opened her eyes big.
From her mouth, for the first time, something other than ‘I’m sorry’ came out. The noblemen who were surrounding Nainiae all directed their gazes to where she was looking at.
“If you are calling him Young Master, then…?”
“Ah, the Iphalleta Family’s…”
It seemed they recognized Riley. They started to mumble among themselves.
They said things like the Lazy-Sword or bum.
Most of what they said were harsh. Finding it unpleasant to hear, Nainiae crumpled her face.
“Speaking ill of the Young Master is…”
Nainiae was going to get apologies from the noblemen who spoke ill of Riley. However, having noticed Nainiae who was about to do this, Riley shrugged, telling her that it was fine. He gestured with his hand to ask her to come over.
Having noticed the hand gesture, Nainiae, who was about to use magic, could not help it but to walk over to where Riley was instead.
The noblemen around her made ways as if they noticed the mood she was exuding earlier. Dumbfounded, they glanced around.
“How was it? It’s a bother, right?”
Riley peeked a smile and asked quietly so that others could not hear it. Nainiae lightly nodded.
“See? It is such a bother.”
Riley added that this was the reason why he always did not try to stand out in a place like this and snuck around. He then pulled Nainiae’s hand.
“Still, if I don’t step in, I thought things will get bothersome for you, Young Master. So…”
While she was being lead away, Nainiae mumbled quietly as if she was trying to make excuses. It seemed the people around them misunderstood the whole picture. They were showering Nainiae and Riley with sharp gazes.
“What’s this? Look at those two?”
“Now that I think about it, Ms. Nainiae is definitely… a maid from Iphalleta Mansion, that Lazy-Sword Young Master’s maid.”
“Huh? Is that true?”
“Yes. So, there was that talk before.”
“If you are talking about Young Master Riley’s maid, isn’t that supposed to be that girl who had a scar on her face? How could she look like that?”
“If I knew this would happen, I should have made good connections with the Iphalleta Family.”
The two were exuding mysterious atmosphere. Some clicked their tongues in regret. Some were showing gleaming eyes, saying they could take on the challenge.
* * *
It was at the Karuta desert.
The desert was located on the boarder of the Solia. Currently, the place was in a disarray with dead, pitch black sands. Number of living beings on this place and people who passed by had decreased substantially at the moment.
“What a horrible stench.”
Through the middle of this desert, Kabal the mercenary was carrying a hammer on his back and walking with his subordinates.
“Hurry up. Before we lose the track, we need to catch up.”
“Commander! Ugh, Commander! Wait. Let’s slow down a bit! Just who are you trying to find? Why are you doing this, coming all the way to a desolate desert? Why?”
Because this was desert, each step sunk deep into the sand. A subordinate was following slowly. He asked Kabal where they were headed in such a hurry.
“Lightning Boulder Mercenaries.”
“Lightning Boulder Mercenaries?”
Kabal responded to the struggling subordinate as if he was shooting an arrow at him. It seemed Kabal found something. He narrowed his eyes and took a knee.
‘Is it around here?’
What he was looking at was a track left by a carriage. It seemed it had not been long since the carriage passed through here. The track was still clear.
‘Damn it. Where is that lass doing and what’s she up to? If she got the letter, she should join us right away.’
Kabal thought about Princess Reutrina of Solia and cringed his eyes. Kabal got up.
“Looks like we almost caught up.”
After getting up, he started to walk again and went over a hill on the desert. It was night fall now. In the distance… he could find a group of mercenaries who were camping in front of bonfire.
“… I found them.”
In the distance, of the mercenaries, Kabal found a girl who was the only one wearing a hood. Kabal muttered quietly.