A girl walked through a cream painted hallway. To her right, a door stood. When her sight fell on the knob, she reached for it and opened the door.
As soon as she entered, two figures turned their sights towards the intruder. One black-haired and the other orange, both were female. After closing the door behind her, the girl scratched her messy brown hair.
“Uhh…” she muttered with a wry smile, “hello?”
“Hello! I’m Kanna!” waved Kanna, the orange-haired girl in reply.
Placing her hands on her lap, “N-nice to meet you, I’m Iwasaki Meiko…” the black-haired girl said with a bow.
“Oh, right. My name’s Marianne Ost Leigh Albert,” dusting her white coat, she said. “But you can call me Mola instead.”
“That’s a long name,” replied Kanna while kicking her feet playfully.
“It sure is…” said Meiko with a wry smile.
Approaching the bed where Meiko sat, “Anyway,” Mola turned to grab the ladder’s step. One hand after the other, Mola climbed and reached the second level of the bunk bed. “Her Highness wanted me to stay here for a while with you two.”
Then with a flop, Mola’s body fell on the bed. “Huwaah… rest at last…”
“Eh?” muttered Kanna in surprise, “Lia sent you?”
“Heh, you call her Lia huh. That’s impressive.”
“I’ve been calling Lia as Lia since she’s seven.”
“Oh, that’s seven years now. No wonder.”
Between the conversation, “Eh? Eh?” Meiko turned her head repeatedly. “Her Highness?”
“Oh, Mei. She’s the cute girl I’ve been telling you about.”
“Oh, the silver-haired girl…”
“Cute?!” commented Mola as she sat up. “You call her cute?! What is this?! Am I dead?!” then clutching her head, “this can't be happening!” she shouted.
“Lia is cute!” shouted Kanna as she stood from her chair. “I’ll beat anyone who doesn’t agree!”
Smiling wryly, Meiko remained silent.
“Well…” scratching her cheek, “considering the result of her using school as an excuse to headhunt rather than study, which succeeded in attracting fools alike. Then I guess she's cute. But that's just one side of her. I was fooled by that innocent smile too. I thought she's just a talented young girl. But lo and behold, we're now inside the largest city-turned-facility in Laurel.”
“Uhm… Isn’t that good?” asked Meiko.
“Of course it is!” with a bright smile, Mola replied. “We don’t have to mind our budget anymore! No need to think about food! We can just request for materials then it’ll arrive! We can even acquire books only kept among royals! It’s a win-win situation! We’re free to research as we like! There’s nowhere else as heavenly as this!”
“Then why are you complaining?”
“Yeah, Meiko’s right.”
“Ah, no,” dismissed Mola as she flopped back on the bed. “I’m complaining about the cute word since I’ve been tricked by that facade as well. It’s frustrating that I wasn’t able to see through such simple trick... Such a failure…”
“What a pitiful reason!” shouted Kanna. “Lia is cute! Both now and then!”
In response, Meiko giggled a laugh.
“Well, I guess it’s fine now,” said Mola.
“Eh? Fine what?” commented Kanna.
Ignoring Kanna’s reply, Mola peeked from above the bunk. “Meiko, you’re a Hero right?”
Shifting her sigh to the ground, “That’s what they call me…” Meiko replied.
“Hmm… I guess it’s obvious since, even though I can understand your speech and recognize the words you utter, the movement of your lips is different.”
“No one pointed that out so far…”
“It is?” asked Kanna as she seated, puzzled.
“Don’t mind it that much. I just wanted to confirm if the blessings were real.”
“Anyway, her Highness has a message for you.”
“Oh, the one I delivered?”
“Yes,” nodded Mola. “So here’s the gist of it, Meiko. What do you intend to do from here on out?”
“I… have no idea…” muttered Meiko. “But I want to return home. I don’t like it here. Everyone is chasing me wherever I go. I don’t want this. I’m not a Hero. I’m just another ordinary girl…” then tears dripped from her eyes.
Placing her hands over her face, “I don’t like it. Forced to choose between my life or the others’, it’s impossible…” Meiko said in a teary voice.
While Mola retracted her head, Kanna approached Meiko. Patting Meiko’s back, Kanna said, “It’s okay Mei. It’s over now. Lia won’t do the same to you.”
After a few minutes of Meiko releasing her tears, the calm returned to the room.
“So, I’ll resume now. Okay?” said Mola.
“Yes,” replied Meiko, brushing her eyelids.
Taking out a folded letter from her pocket, “Anyway,” Mola unfolded it and said, “this is how the letter went…”
To the ladyship, Meiko Iwasaki,
I humbly apologize for my impolite greetings during this recent event; that, I am forced to do for I lack sufficient time in consideration of the safety of the refugees, my men, and myself. I’m hoping that you understand that my lash of insults was of indeed scarring words. But I believe that such words were of importance during the said event.
In matters of importance, I wish to hear the ladyship's intentions. However, given that you require a proper rest, I will listen to your answer at a later time. In any case, I wish to inform you of the possible circumstances:
One, if you wish to stay in the duchy as an ordinary human being, please consider it done. Though my authority may not permit such inappropriate action, I will see to it that none shall gain information about your true identity. So please rest assured that you now have a place to stay without worry.
Two, if you wish to return to your world, I apologize. Such a method does not exist within our knowledge. But do not waver; it's possible that a method exists outside the boundaries of human common sense. If you opt to choose this, then I’ll help you. In return, I will require your help.
Three, if you wish to live away from us humans, I can arrange you a citizenship to the Tribe where Elves, Dwarfs, and Enarfs lives in peace. If you require more information regarding the Tribe, please inquire it from Kanna.
Four, if you wish to live without my help or the others, you are free to do so. But I cannot guarantee that the church will stop pursuing you. Neither will I take the time to save you again.
Five, if you intend to oppose me or my kingdom, then a proper judgment awaits you.
“There, done,” I said with a sigh as I finished the letter.
“Your Highness,” Erina called from behind, “don’t forget about the closing lines.”
“There, done,” I repeated while embedding the quill on a natural sponge.
“Mola will probably complain that we’ll be late in attending Academia.”
After confirming the contents of the letter a second time, I folded it, poured a red wax, and stamped it with my seal.
Standing from the seat with the letter in hand, I turned to Erina and said, “Please pass this to Kanna.”
Erina took the letter and said, “Is it fine to let Kanna stay in the duchy? Won’t you require her help?”
Shaking my head, “No,” I said. “It’s best if Kanna stays with the Hero for a while. Since Kanna is the actual person who saved her, then she’ll feel at ease when she’s around. On the other hand, she probably despises me.”
“Weren’t you the one that suggested on a workaround on the slave collar?”
“True, but… I just suggested a way, but it’s possible she did it herself.”
“…Your Highness, what you did was enough. Her life was saved. Only an ungrateful person who does not recognize the circumstances will consider your actions as inappropriate.”
“No, I do know that in the background she was saved because of me, but that’s not what I meant,” I replied. “What I mean is I instructed her to overwrite the magic circle within the collar. But it's possible that she used her blessing that manifested a magic that nullified the slave collar. So in the end, it's highly probable that she saved herself.”
“Good. Then I’ll be leaving, your Highness,” Bowed Erina before leaving toward the door.
As soon as she left, I sighed and said, “I guess I’ll be with Max for a while longer...”
Turning towards the drenched window of the Tervin’s mansion, “I guess practicing is the only thing left for me to do.”