Turning to a halt, the horses snorted in unison with the metallic clanks.
“Kanna,” I called.
After a knock came from outside, the door was opened, revealing a set of half-plate armor sets lined to create a path towards a luxurious carriage painted in black.
Alighting first, Kanna waited beside the carriage's door followed by Erina who offered her hand to me. Placing my hand over Erina's, I alighted the carriage.
In the middle of the aisle formed by the armored men, “It's been a while, your Highness.” A medium built man kneeled.
Approaching before the man, “Yes, it has been, Captain Maize.”
Gallantly standing from his position, his swept-back dull crimson hair streaked with a few strands of white was revealed. His brown face, slightly wrinkled, expressed a gentle burning determination through his dark brown eyes.
“The proceedings?” Without turning my eyes away from his, I asked.
From the looks of it, I won't be able to see the condition of Fargan myself.
Producing a parchment from his side, “Brent's first prince wishes to meet halfway towards Tervin's dukedom.”
Nodding, “The preparations I asked?” I said after receiving the parchment.
“It is done.” He replied with a light bow.
Shifting my sight towards Erina, I confirmed the proceedings with a nod. Turning back to Maize, “Lead the way,” I commanded.
Instead of heading towards the black carriage, we were led by Maize around it and into a small vacant house. Inside it, I, Erina, and Kanna went into a room where a wardrobe sat at the side.
“We'll be taking a short rest here,” I said. “Kanna, you can rest first on the bed.”
Turning around to meet me, “What are you talking about?” She pouted. “It should be we.”
Smiling from the side, “Your Highness,” Erina added. “Please take a rest.”
“I'm fine,” I replied. “I'm used to riding carriages while Kanna isn’t. Besides, I still have to review this parchment.”
“Kanna,” I smiled wryly. “You're like a dirty old man.”
“I may be old in human years, but fortunately, I'm not a man!” She raised her fist into the air.
“Erina,” I asked. “Maybe I should throw Kanna into the slime pit for once?”
“I believe so, your Highness.” Erina returned a smile. “Maybe her filth will be washed along the way.”
“... I'm sorry.” Kanna apologized immediately.
“Ahehehe. Ahehehe.” Kanna laughed while drooling. “A bath with Lia, Ahehehe.”
“Haah...” I sighed as I looked at Kanna maniacally smiling on one end of the large tub.
Holding a towel to cover my front, I dipped my foot into the tub. Slowly submerging my body, I removed the towel and placed it on the side.
“Huaah...” I muttered as I relaxed my body to the warmth.
I want this every day… I thought, raising the corner of my lips.
Lifting my eyelids, I raised my right foot as retaliation to the approaching Kanna.
“Mmf.” She muttered as she buried her face onto my foot.
“Kanna,” Unsmiling, I said. “We have a deal.”
Before she finished her laugh, I screamed when my spine shivered. “Hyaa!” Feeling a small and soft sensation from my feet, I kicked her away.
Splashing, Kanna hit the other side of the tub with a thunk.
“Auu...” She cried. “Lia, that hurts.”
“Licking my foot,” I disdained. “That’s disgusting.”
“I can’t help it,” She smiled. “Lia has grown so much. You have a slim but curvy figure now; a supple white skin without a single scar or blemish, a silky long silver hair, a round growing che-”
“Kanna,” I interrupted as I covered my submerged body with my arms. “I don’t need you to describe my body in detail.”
“Hwaaa!” She shouted with sparkling eyes. “A shy Lia is a great Lia too!”
“Haah...” I sighed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have considered taking a bath with you.”
“Ehhh… But Lia’s body is really good, no, it’s divine, a body of a Goddess!” She declared with open arms. “I can’t even imagine what will happen if we sleep together!”
It’s my blood that’s divine and If there’s someone who looks like a Goddess, it’s Celes.
“You’re exaggerating.” Monotonously, I said. “And you may not know what will, but I do. You’ll be a few feet deep underground.”
“I’m serious though?” She frowned. “I can’t even see a single scar anywhere even though you always fought all the time.”
“It’s not that I never had a scar,” I said. “I have to maintain the image of a princess, so I use ointments and light magic to remove them. If I didn’t,” Recalling an event, I placed a hand over my stomach and rubbed it gently. “I’d have a lot by now.”
Now that I think about it, that time was fatal. If my horn wasn’t there, It could’ve ended my life.
Smiling, “Nihehe.” She laughed lightly. “Lia, this time around, I’ll be with you.”
“It’s not reassuring.” I returned a smile.
Sinking herself up to her chin, “Booo.” She said. “That’s no good Lia.”
“You’re the one who’s no good.” Lifting the palm of my hand, water flowed back into the tub. “But Kanna,” I called. “This time won’t be similar to the Tribe.”
“I know,” She said as she closed in and grasped my hand. “You won’t be here with me if you hesitated.”
“Yes,” I replied. “There’s no room for hesitation. It’s either your blood or your enemy’s will spill.”
“Lia,” She smiled. “Remember? I decided to see where your dream will lead you and I wo-”
Placing a finger on her lips, “it might end badly if you continue,” I said.
“I guess,” She grinned. “But I’ll continue this!” Producing splashes, she jumped to embrace me.
Feeling a hand snaking at my back, I raised my knee before the embrace was completed. “Buoo!” She squealed. “T-that. Seriously. Hurts…” She muttered while she sank.
“Next time, a knee won't be the only thing you'll get.” Leaving the tub, water trickled down my body.
“I-it’s okay. I was able to touch. Heaven…” She continued even after sinking in the tub.
Grabbing the towel,“It’s a dumb way to die by drowning in a bathtub.” I said as I washed myself.
Taking a step, my armor produced a light clanking sound.
Swaying my arms, “It’s lighter than it used to.” I muttered. “Even my old sword felt lighter.”
“Maybe her Highness has gained some muscles?” Erina said playfully.
“Erina,” I glared. “You know that’s untrue.”
“Ara? Maybe there is? Kanna would be happy to check.”
“I volunteer!” Kanna raised her hand.
“I’ll smack you instead so you can check my strength.”
“True,” Erina said. “Maybe try that instead?”
“Please don’t.” Hurriedly, Kanna protested. “Anyway, that’s the effect of your horn?”
“I guess it’s not the only effect it has, but it’s up to me to find out.”
“I believe you’ve found something?” Erina asked.
“I’m still unused to it, and the difficulty is hard but,” Raising my hand, I’ve let my mana flow, restricted it, and shaped it into a magic circle. Shortly, a ball of light manifested. “I learned this.”
“Eh?” Kanna blinked repeatedly. “Magic shards?”
Shaking my head, “No,” I replied. “I didn’t use any shard or crystal.”
Smiling, I nodded. “Yes.”
“How?!” Kanna shouted, approaching in hurried steps.
“How to say this, it’s actually simple than anyone probably thought,” I explained. “The only problem is the ability.”
Shifting my sight to Erina, “I know, I can use it as a card for negotiations.”
“Anyway, the idea is simple,” I said, halting the supply of mana into the ball of light. “Back then, we used to draw magic circles on paper using crushed Crystalline Manatite, but now, we draw them inside the crystals themselves. Now for chanting, it has been used since time immemorial, but all we know is that if we chant, the magic will automatically manifest.”
Moving to the bed, I took a seat. “The difference between chanted magic and magic produced through shards? The answer is the location where the circle is drawn.”
“Err… I don’t get it?” Puzzled, Kanna asked.
“Basically, every time we chant, the magic circle is automatically drawn within our body.”
Shaking my head, “I have no idea. I can only argue that there’s some sort of system in place.”
“… Then you’re saying that we’ve been blind all this time?”
“Yes,” I said. “We are. But the difficulty is high if you’ll form the circle yourself.”
“How so?” She asked. “We can draw magic circles with the help of stabilizers.”
Disagreeing, “That’s too wishful.” I said. “Drawing using a string of mana to function as a pen is easy compared to drawing one within your body.”
“Kanna,” I said. “Can you draw a magic circle without seeing it?”
Realizing what I meant, “Ah...” She lost her vigor.
“See? Everyone is considered a blind artist. The only good thing about it is that the mana will disperse rather than explode if you fail. On the bright side, if you’re near the actual circle, the magic will manifest, but on a lower level.”
“But isn’t the previous light ball at the size of an ordinary one?” She asked while trying to shape the size of the ball with her arms.
“For a light ball manifested through shards, yes, but for me who has an affinity in light, no.”
“Ah, so the affinity affects Chant-less too...”
“That’s a given,” I nodded. “It was formed within the body.”
“Then how did you do it?” She asked.
“Illusions are my specialty, and it needs a high level of visualization.”
“Then a good image will serve as a guide?”
“Yes,” I replied. “But imagining it and forming it while imagining it is different. It requires greater focus compared to chanted magic.”
“Then it’s worse than chanting huh.”
“Not really,” I said. “It can change the tides if used properly.”
“Right.” She said, taking a seat beside me.
“It’s been three days since I’ve been practicing but I can only produce a light ball.”
It feels lacking. I thought. If this is everything about chant-less magic, then why did Celes taught me to control mana on the outside?
“Maybe I'm thinking too much into it?” I unconsciously muttered.
Or maybe I should stop using Celes as a reference instead...
“Is something the matter, your Highness?” Erina asked.
Shaking my head, “No,” I said. “It’s fine. Please inform Maize of our departure.”
In reply, “Yes,” Erina bowed before leaving.
“What are you going to do with two swords?” She asked, pointing to my old sword.
“Ah, that,” I said. “This rapier specializes in taking down large beasts due to its nature to act as a needle and inject lightning. Using that against humans is too much of an overkill.”
“Why not embed a magic in the rapier instead?”
“I’m planning on doing that, but I’ll have the rapier specialize in taking down beasts, and my old sword on something else.”
“Then dual wielding?”
Shaking my head, “Of course not,” I said. “My style requires me to have another hand free for my dagger or shards.”
“Then you’re bringing both?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
Coming from the door, a knock came. “Your Highness, the preparations for the departure are done.”
“Yes,” Shifting my sight to Kanna, “Let’s go.”
Fixing my right foot on the stirrup, I lifted my body onto the saddle. “It’s been quite a while since I last rode a horse,” I muttered.
Clopping its hooves, Maize, riding a horse, came to my side. “How is it, your Highness?”
“It’s a good horse,” I said, rubbing the horse’s mane.
“I’m glad you liked it.”
“Yes, I do,” I replied. “Maize, we have a lot to discuss so let us depart.”
“By your will.”
Surrounded by the clopping of hooves and the rattling of the carriage behind me, I held the reins of my horse as I spoke with Maize.
“Maize,” I called. “The duchy?”
“Everything is normal your Highness.”
“The number of attacks?”
“It’s been reduced by a lot huh.”
Despite me spitting at their faces directly this time, they reduced their visits.
“Hero Meiko, a woman with a long black hair had escaped towards the south.”
“The Royalty, the Nobility, and the Church are contesting each other on who gets her first.”
“Eight kilometers north of the twin peaks from five days ago.”
“Maize,” I smiled. “Advance six men to do an advanced inspection of the refugees. Along the way, have the towns and villages relax on their patrol on the west, then do the opposite on the east.”
Grinning brightly, “Truly, your Highness is a gem.” He chuckled.
“I’m still in the rough Maize,” I replied. “As always, you’re free to add orders.”
“What do you wish to do to the Hero?”
“I’ll decide after meeting her myself, but I have no intention of relying on a Hero.”
“Don’t attack or threaten her. Similar actions to what Brent and Libet took is also forbidden.” I commanded. “Upon contact, drop your weapons and opt for a dialogue.”
“Maize, I know you’re itching for an opponent, but it’s best we avoid antagonizing the Heroes,” I said. “Also, it’s been quite a while Master,” I turned my head to Maize. “I’ll be your opponent once we’re back in the duchy.”
Snorting a grin, “I’ll have you show me how far you’ve improved, Apprentice.” He smiled.
“Enough, tell me more of the condition of the Heroes.”
“I believe his Highness will be more suited.” Then he started giving out orders to the men.
So they’re already here. I thought as Brent’s banner waved from the hills in the distance.