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“Do you have everything you need?” Mola asked. In her hands were two leather sacks.
In turn, Meiko replied, “I don’t have that much stuff with me, except for my clothes. So I guess I’m all set. But...”
Meiko turned around. There she saw Kanna. However, unlike her usual cheerful self, she simply stood at the center of the room with her back facing the window.
“Kanna, are you really not coming?” Meiko frowned.
“I’m sorry, Mei.” Kanna shook her head, her countenance apologetic. “I’ll wait for Lia here. With Birby and the two other Enarfs and White-tails.”
“Are you not really coming?” Mola asked. “Didn’t Her Highness told you to come to Academia?”
“Yes, Lia said that in the letter, right? But I won’t go. I’ll wait for her here. Because I think Lia needs me more than Mei right now. It may sound weird, but it’s the truth. I feel uneasy. No, I’m really worried. There’s something happening out there, to Lia, and I have no idea what it is. But I’m sure, Lia needs me right now.”
Kanna turned to the window. Her silence indicated that she would not budge.
Mola was taken aback by Kanna’s serious tone. The same was true for Meiko.
“I don’t get it.” Mola scrunched her eyebrows. She placed the leather sacks to the side of the room. “It was an order from Her Highness, right? Why are you going against it? Are you just playing dumb again?”
“Wait, Mola, that’s—”
Kanna interrupted Meiko. “True, Mola, it’s logical to follow orders from someone higher than you. But that’s what you are used to, right? In the Tribe, though we have Chiefs—Lia included among those—we value everyone’s opinions. And because of that, we respect everyone’s decision.”
“Then what purpose does the Chiefs have?”
“To direct everyone, guide them to a better day. Or in times of emergency, be the people to lead the residents to safety. That’s simply it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s just a title, a position that can be used in emergencies. And in some cases, a few special privileges. But at the end of the day, we value skill more than the position.”
“I’m surprised you know that much.”
“Mola… I think you should stop.” Meiko understood. It was Mola’s nature to look down on others far less intelligent than her.
“Mei, it’s fine. I’ll sort out Mola’s misunderstanding.” Kanna looked straight at Meiko’s eyes. Then she turned to Mola with an irritated expression.
[You know, Mola, it’s not that I’m a big idiot or something.] Suddenly, Kanna spoke in the language of the Dwarfs. [But let me prove to you that I’m not what you think I am. It’s just that our field of specialization is different.] This time, it was the language of the Elves.
Mola listened in silence. It was the first time Kanna spoke to Mola in either the Dwarfs or the Elves language.
“Do you really think someone as dumb as me could speak three languages fluently?” And obviously, it was the language of humans. “And Mola, our environment is different. I lived in Alabaster, flying around on the backs of different wyverns. In some cases, hunting dragons.”
“Kanna, you too. This won’t do any of you good.” Meiko inched closer to Kanna.
“I scout half of Alabaster by myself. I reduce the number of beasts now and then so they won’t explode in numbers. I tame beasts that are useful to the Tribe, but it’s true. I’m not that good with magic. But I too can feel spirits like the Elves, you know? Maybe, someday, I’ll be able to form a contract with one and might even best you in a single element.”
“… Fine, I give up.” Mola sighed. Then she turned towards the sacks in surrender. “You’ve proved your point. And I’m sorry for thinking you’re dumb.”
“No! I’m not done yet!” Kanna lashed.
Wide-eyed, Mola turned around. Meiko, on the other hand, hurried to Kanna and held your shoulders.
“Kanna, it’s okay now. Please make peace with Mola. It’s just a small issue.” A wry smile was plastered on Meiko’s face.
Despite Meiko’s actions, Kanna peeked from Meiko’s side and took a step forward. In response, Meiko gave way.
“I don’t get it! You’ve been with Lia for quite some time, but you still don’t get it! Position this position that! Do really think Lia cares that much about social hierarchy?!”
It was like Kanna erupting from her pent-up anger. At that point, Meiko thought it would be best for Kanna to let it all out.
“I hate how most of you humans think!” Kanna pointed at Mola. “Why can’t everyone just see Lia as Lia! Not someone to be revered! Or a trophy to grab! I do get that Lia’s position is something special! But! But can’t you look beyond her royalty?!”
“What’s wrong with that?!” Mola couldn’t take it. She thought Kanna was wrongly accusing her of something she did not do. After all, there was nothing wrong with her treating Amelia as her superior.
“Nothing! Nothing is wrong with it! But do you really think that’s what Lia needs most?! No! Lia is just a child like everyone else! It’s something so simple but why can’t any of you see that?!” Kanna ruffled her hair in frustration.
“Hah, as if you know her than most of the people in the Duchy!”
“I do! Way more than anyone else here in fact!”
“Then prove it!” Mola balled her hands and took a step forward. “Tell me something I don’t know about Her Highness!”
“Lia is stubborn! Way too stubborn! She keeps on prioritizing her position more than herself! She’s aiming for the ideal ruler! Ruthless to her enemies but kind to her allies and people!”
“That’s her job, isn’t it? it’s natural for her to do that! She’s a Royal after all!”
“Then what about her brother Mark?! That dunce who just spend his days lavishing around!”
“That… I can’t refute.” Mola took a step backward.
“See?! Not all Royals would want to prioritize their people before their self! And more than that! Lia is so easy! But everyone else thinks she’s someone very difficult to reach!”
“And what makes you think that?”
Kanna caught her breath for a moment. “You see, if you approach Lia while disregarding her position, she would easily let her guard down. Then, even though she says a few harsh words, you have to remain persistent. You could take it as Lia’s unconscious defensiveness while measuring your true intent. If your intent isn’t harmful, she’ll let you approach even closer.”
“… I’m surprised you know this much. But I can’t verify all this. Besides, I still don’t get the point why you’re telling me this.”
“I’m a tamer, I observe patterns in different kinds of beasts. And Lia’s actions is not that far from one.” Kanna smiled. The previous anger seemed to have abated. “Be Lia’s friend, Mola.” Then she turned to Meiko. “You too, Mei.”
“… I’ll try,” Meiko responded.
“And what does that have to do with anything?” Mola scrunched her eyebrows, puzzled.
“Mola, have you met Lia between the age of seven to nine?”
Mola shook her head. “No, but I heard a few rumors. But rumors from then can’t be trusted. So I guess you could tell that I have no idea.”
“Lia from back then is several levels different from now. But I guess the largest difference is the shell she grew up with, and the claws and fangs she now bears. But back then, she’s just an ordinary girl. A typical, cute, silly, and clumsy girl.”
“That isn’t anything convincing.”
“I know, right? But you see, even now, you may see glimpses of that childish girl. Because, deep inside, she’s still in there, that small girl she used to be. Lia can be silly. You’ll be surprised at how she acts in the Tribe. Especially that time when she was offered those fried beetle larvae. She refused to take it by excessively trying to swat it away! In a few times, she tried to act like a cute granddaughter around Garfin. But afterward, she felt a bit guilty so she was trying not to do that anymore.” Kanna sniffled a laugh.
“It’s all far removed, right? I can see that too. Ever since we left the Tribe, it felt like Lia returned to her shell. At least, that’s what she displays in public. But believe me, if you get a glimpse of her genuine smile, you might think what I’ve said is true. You might even start acting childish around her once you see it!”
“I still think that’s only true for your case, Kanna,” Meiko commented.
“True,” Mola added.
“… You two, come here.” Kanna cracked her fingers.
“As if!” Grabbing the leather sacks, Mola took off.
“Ah, wait!” Meiko tried to run away, but,
“Mei!” Kanna jumped on Meiko and caught her from the back.
“W-wait! It was a slip, Kanna! My tongue slipped! I didn’t mean that!”
Afterwards, something painful happened.
Feel free to point out errors or give opinions.