Now left alone with Harri and Yoko, the sound of my head slamming against the table resonated in the room.
“You guys are unbelievable…” I muttered, exhausted by everything that just happened.
“Thank you!” Harri happily answered.
“It wasn’t a compliment. And to think I am the one who needs to clean your mess…”
“What? What’s wrong? Everything went fine, did it not?” Yoko asked.
“Haha… Do you really think so? I thought I told you guys not to disrespect anyone.” I sighed, once again. “Yet… I can’t believe you insulted them right in front of their face.”
“We disrespected no one. Is it because I called your aunt boobless? I was just stating a fact, so it’s not an insult. It’s not my fault if she took it the wrong way!” She exclaimed. “Actually, she is the one you should blame! Even though I was being completely courteous, she is the one who disrespected us!”
As she spoke, Harri nodded approvingly. Obviously, now that it’s convenient to them, those two suddenly come to an agreement.
“Besides, there is nothing to be worried about,” Yoko added. “Even if they did get suspicious about something, you’d just have to give them a good beating to make them forget!”
I sighed. “That’s not how it works, Yoko…”
Lazily lifting my head up, I started massaging my temples, trying to get rid of the new headache assaulting my mind.
“Well, I do agree that you may have gone too far with the kiss, Yoko.” Harri said. “Why did you do it? Did you feel anything?”
“Actually, I did.” Yoko crossed her arms in front of her and stayed silent for a while, seemingly thinking about something, and then, she turned her gaze in my direction. “Lynett, did you do anything to her? When I kissed her I felt her mana core and it seemed… broken?”
Huh? Widening my eyes, I shook my head. “No, I didn’t. I mean… I may have tormented her a little, but I never touched her mana core.”
Harri frowned. “Someone used soul magic against her?”
“Yeah… And it wasn’t a low level spell.” Yoko answered, as she started rubbing her chin. “Besides, it’s not just the woman. I also suspect that there is something wrong with the man’s mana core, but that has yet to be confirmed…”
My uncle too? What’s with this situation? Someone else can use soul magic here? That’s impossible… I would have noticed it in twelve years. Is someone targeting the family? I don’t think I have to worry about mother and brother since they’re protected but… who would do that and why?
“Tell me everything about what happened today.”
Currently sitting in my office room, I am interrogating Ivy, who nervously stands up in front of me. Nora and Yao are here too, as they followed me right after we left Lynett with her… friends.
“Yes my lord…” Ivy responded with a small voice. “The young mistress and I were just walking around the market district, rounding the stalls. However, at some point, she approached a young orphan who was waiting on the side of the road. Soon after the boy left, she ran after him, ordering me to wait for her. I believe he was a thief, my lord.”
Uhm… So far it matches the story that Lynett and her guests told us.
“Continue.” I ordered, seeing that she fell silent.
“T-That’s all I know, my lord…” Ivy muttered, with a hint of fear in her voice. “The young mistress did not return until two or three hours later. When she did, she was accompanied by this strange couple. She introduced them as her friends and told me she wanted to invite them over…”
So we know nothing about them? That’s not enough. Letting out a loud sigh, I gestured her to leave.
“Thanks, you can go.” I simply said.
“Heh?” Ivy widened her eyes in surprise, clearly expecting more. “Is that it? Aren’t you going to… punish me?”
“You can see to that with Mairin. Now leave.”
“Yes, my lord!” Without being asked twice, Ivy excused herself, deeply bowing in front of me.
“Yao.” I called out, once she left the room.
“Yes master.” Yao answered, stepping forward.
“Who are they?” I inquired.
“I do not know, master.”
“Didn’t I ask you to follow the girl whenever she went out?” I said, displeased by his answer.
“And I did master, but lately, it became harder to follow her. She started to notice my presence, so I need to keep a good distance between her and me. This way, it’s more difficult to track her.”
She started to notice him? That’s impossible… Yao is one of the rare beastmen able to transform. As a cat, very few people would notice his presence. Tracking and stalking people from the shadows are his specialty. He is the best in his field. Yet, he lost her?
“Report everything that you saw today,” I ordered.
“Yes master. After catching up with the thief, Lynett gave him a pouch full of coins in exchange of the necklace he stole.” He said, with a dull voice.
“A necklace? Was it something valuable?”
“No master, just a worthless piece of jewelry. However it had some sentimental value. It was something she got from her mother.” Yao responded. He marked a pause before continuing his report. “After that, Lynett wandered around the city, seemingly without a fixed goal. Eventually, she ended up in the Adventurers’ Guild. There, she met the same boy who tried to rob her. They discussed for a while, and then she left the city to head to the Pine Forest. I believe the boy asked her help for a request.”
The Pine Forest? Isn’t it an enchanted place? Why would she go there all alone? I think I even heard some rumors about a monster living there, lately. It doesn’t make any sense. Even if it was to help someone, anyone sane would avoid that forest. And why would she accept a request to begin with? That’s not like her. She rarely initiates any form of contact with others and tends to be reclusive. Did that boy promise her a special reward?
“This is where I lost her”, Yao continued. “The city was somewhat fine, however, the thick miasma of the forest made it impossible for me to follow her, I quickly lost her track.”
“That would make sense…” I muttered. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about people getting lost here. What about after that?”
“Since she didn’t show any signs of wanting to run away, I waited for her at the gates. It took a couple of hours, but she eventually came back… accompanied with that couple, along with a third man.”
So those two really came out of nowhere. The girl disappears in an enchanted forest and later come back with two people, who have the same golden eyes. That is too much to be a coincidence. Blessed people are not something common. Yet, this mysterious couple suddenly appears, acquainted with Lynett. That’s too convenient. But then, who was the third one?
“What about the third man?” I asked, furrowing my forehead. “Was he special too?”
“No, master.” Yao responded. “Just a normal human, no particular features. I believe he was connected to the boy who asked Lynett for help since once they returned to the adventurers’ Guild, the boy ran to him. They also left together. He was probably his father, or a close relative.”
Trying to catch a glimpse of the situation, I leaned on the backrest of my seat, crossing my arms in front of me.
“I don’t understand what you are being so hesitant about, Jack.”
I turned my head to Nora, who just spoke up. Her eyes were telling me she was getting impatient, displeased by the situation.
“I can’t believe you actually let those two stay… What are you waiting for to kick them out?” She grunted. “No matter how you see it, that stupid couple is definitely suspicious, possibly dangerous. They were completely clueless about us! I get that they are foreigners, but that behavior of theirs… They were too cocky! Are you seriously going to tolerate that?”
Clearly, she is still confused and angered by what happened earlier. She is not thinking straight. Had she been able to think rationally, she would have understood that we couldn’t do something that risky. She, of all people, should know that. The last time she messed with someone close to a chosen one, she almost went insane, while that someone got blessed at the very same moment.
“I understand your point, Nora. However, we shouldn’t act reckless. Besides, I believe that you are being wary of the wrong people,” I said.
For a few seconds, she tried to study me with her squinted eyes, clearly not understanding what I meant by that.
“The one you should be suspicious about isn’t that couple. It’s the girl.” I explained.
Nora suddenly flinched in surprised, causing her step back. In her confusion, she clumsily jerked her knee on the corner of a chair. However, she ignored the pain as she tried to regain her normal state, without breaking the eye-contact.
“L-Lynett? Why? It’s just one girl! Leave the kid alone and focus on the damn couple!” She exclaimed.
Again with that reluctance… Whenever it comes to the girl, she always back down.
I gave a quick glance to Yao. He didn’t say anything, but as he looked at Nora with a slight hint of frustration in his eyes, I could tell that he was agreeing with me. The real suspicious one in this story was not the couple who appeared out of nowhere, but Lynett, who brought them here. Nora’s strange behavior was the very proof of that.
There has been some strange things going on for the past few years, and only a fool wouldn’t have noticed that each time, the girl was somehow involved. I have always been careful about her since she was a chosen one. I thought of keeping her a few years and then discard her, but obviously, I have underestimated the situation.
A proof of divinity. The evidence that someone had been chosen by the Gods and received their blessings. If it was only that, we could have handled her without too many problems, but then, her mother got blessed in her turn. It was probably the first hint that something wasn’t right.
Having one person blessed within the family was already rare enough. Two? That was unheard of. But then, they became three. Only a few months after Azariah, it was Aoban’s turn to receive the blessing of a God. Most of people didn’t even ask questions. The joy of having the heir of the family blessed easily overcame their surprise, as very few people noticed the unusual condition of the event.
At first, since it was only Azariah and Lynett, people assumed that there was something special in Azariah’s lineage which cause her to be blessed, and later passed it on to her daughter. However, with Aoban’s blessings, it became clear that it wasn’t the case, since those two were not blood-related. Yet, Azariah and Aoban’s blessings conditions were very similar: they were both chosen after their birth. So why did those two get blessed? What did they share in common? Thinking about it, it was obvious: the girl. The first one who has been blessed, and the one relative they shared.
After that, no one else got blessed. It only reinforced my hypothesis.
But that wasn’t all. There was also Nora. At the very same moment Azariah got blessed, Nora, on the other hand, almost lost her sanity. The timing was too much to be a simple coincidence.
My sister always had temper problems and was never really mentally stable. However, what happened that time was of a whole other level. I asked doctors, healers and priests to examine her, but the diagnosis was always the same: nothing was wrong with her, she was perfectly healthy. Whatever happened to her, it was all in her head.
Even after Nora somewhat regained a normal state, her behavior took a 180° turn. Yao was the first one to notice it. No matter how much she hated her, she never touched Azariah again and would always avoid her and her daughter. Whenever mentioned, she’d get nervous and try to change the subject. Given the timing, we first thought that she came to fear Azariah since she was somehow involved in her breakdown, however, as time passed, it became clear that the one she feared wasn’t Azariah but her daughter.
Why would a mage like her fear a child? She refused to take any action against her, wouldn’t look at her in the eyes and even seemed… submissive. Toward a child, toward a half. Whenever I tried to confront her about this, she denied the facts.
Then there were the girl’s mentors. Even as a ghost-member of the family, Lynett needed to receive a proper education, so I hired some tutors for her. They weren’t the best but they weren’t the worst either. Yet, they quickly ran out of things to teach her so I had to change them regularly. Each one of them reported the same thing about her: completely clueless when it comes to politics or social studies, but abnormally brilliant when it comes to math or science.
And now, as if it wasn’t enough, she suddenly brings home this mysterious couple who appeared out of nowhere. If it was only for their perfection, I could have accepted it, but their eyes… Golden eyed people keep appearing around Lynett. Coincidence? Definitely not.
Besides, just as Nora said, even as foreigners, the behavior of the couple was definitely unnatural. Except for the royal family and the dukes, there weren’t any family more powerful than us. Yet, they did not feel threatened at all. Quite the opposite actually. Their behavior suggested that we were inferior to them. A Duke family? I would have heard about them. Royalty from a small country? But they were a mixed couple. It doesn’t make any sense. As long as we don’t know more, we shouldn’t take the risk in provoking them.
No matter how you’d think about it, it was clear that the girl wasn’t normal. Strange things kept happening around her. So far, she has been a pretty passive and obedient child, she never caused any problems. But if one day, she suddenly decides to do as she pleases, I am not sure we will be able to stop her. I don’t know what she is hiding, but that is clearly beyond us. Nora was right: it may have been a bad idea to take her in. However, since she seems to only care about her mother and her brother, as long as we have some control over them, she shouldn’t do anything.
“Master, what should we do?”
Yao’s voice suddenly drew me out of my thoughts, as my eyes fell upon him.
I started rubbing my chin, thinking. “Uhm… Find the boy and his father, and bring them here. I want to have a little conversation with them… Make sure Lynett doesn’t find out about this.” I ordered.
“Yes master,” Yao responded, before leaving the room.
Nora stayed silent for a while, looking at me with her eyes tight and worried. Then, she finally decided to speak up.
“Are you going to… investigate about her? I told you it’s useless. There is nothing wrong with her so you should drop it.”
She really is against it. Clearly, she doesn’t like the fact of doing something behind the girl’s back, but that reluctance of hers only drives me to find more information.
“Don’t worry, it’s not about Lynett. It’s about our guests,” I told her, trying to reassure her.
Not entirely convinced, Nora still let out a relieved sigh.
“Please, don’t feel nervous and make yourself at home.”
A few days have passed, and Yao finally managed to find the boy and the man Lynett met that day. Receiving them in my office room, I asked the maids to prepare the tea set before they arrived so that we wouldn’t be interrupted.
As the curious child he was, the boy kept looking around him, inspecting the room in awe. It must be the first time that he visits a noble mansion. On the other hand, his father was pale and cold sweats formed on his face, as his body stiffened up each time I said a word. Clearly, he didn’t understand the reason why I, the Marquis, summoned them, so he could only apprehend the situation.
“Have a seat.” I said, gesturing two chairs placed in front of my desk.
Nervously, the two of them complied. Imitating them, I sat on my chair, at the opposite of them. Placing my hands with intertwined fingers on the desk, I smiled, trying to reduce their anxiety.
“Don’t feel so nervous, you are not in trouble,” I said.
“Umh, my lord…” The man spoke, after swallowing. “May I know the reason why you asked to see us?”
“Of course. I simply heard that you met my niece a few days ago, and I just wanted to know more about it.”
The man furrowed his forehead while his son tilted his head to the side, raising an eyebrow.
“Her name is Lynett, a fourteen years old girl with golden eyes. Does it ring a bell?”
The boy’s eyes widened, as if realizing something. “That’s big sis!” He shouted.
“She was… your niece?” His father asked, lowering his gaze.
“That’s right, and she went home late that day.”
“Heh?” The boy exclaimed, his eyes full of worries. “Did you ground her? You can’t, my lord! She was just helping me! It wasn’t her fault!”
I curled my lips into a smile, trying to appear as friendly as possible. “Is that so? Don’t you mind telling more about it?”
The boy nodded. “At that time, it had been a few days that my dad disappeared in the forest. I submitted a request at the guild to have some adventurers find him, but no one was taking it. Only big sis accepted to help.”
I turned my gaze on the man. “Is that so?”
“Yes…” He muttered, after hesitating a bit. “I heard the rumor about a monster terrorizing the citizens, so I went to confirm it…”
“You purposely ventured in the forest, just to confirm the rumor?” I asked, my eyes squinted.
“Ah? W-Well, yes! I mean… I used to be a guard so… I guess it’s just the old habits! You know, protecting the citizens’ safety!”
He kept stuttering and hesitating. Obviously, he was lying and unwilling to say the real reason why he went there. However, since it didn’t seem to be relevant to the information I was looking for, I didn’t push it any further. I returned my attention to the boy.
“So you asked for Lynett’s assistance. Even if you were desperate, doesn’t it seem a little crazy to ask the help of a fourteen years old girl?”
“At first, I thought so too…” He responded. “But big sis is a mage, and a chosen one on top of that! So I concluded that she must have been really strong, and I was right! It only took her a few hours to find my dad!”
… A mage? Lynett? Since when? What is this child talking about?
“Was she the one to tell you that she was a mage?” I asked, furrowing my forehead.
The boy shook his head. “I asked her. But I saw her using magic! It was a weird spell that prevented people to move, and with one word, she cancelled it!”
That is impossible. Lynett shouldn’t be able to use magic. I never hired anyone to teach her and the only ones who can use magic here are me, Nora and… Azariah. Could it be her? Could she have been teaching her daughter in secret? It doesn’t make any sense. That woman hates magic and never uses it. Then, could Lynett have been learning it by herself? Is it even possible? I know that elves have a higher affinity to magic than humans, but Lynett is a half. Besides, she couldn’t possibly have learned any incantation by herself.
Even if she did, since when was she able to use magic? How long has she been hiding it? Wait… Nora. Does she know about this? Her sudden change of behavior, her fear toward the child… Could it be, ever since she arrived here? No. It doesn’t make any sense. I am thinking too much.
“And do you know anything about a foreign couple?” I interrogated the boy. “A human male and a demi-human female. Both with golden eyes.”
“Yes, I saw them!” He exclaimed, as a wave of excitation swept through his body. “Her party members, right? It’s so cool to have a party with only blessed people! If they had registered at the Guild, I’m sure they would have become famous!”
“Do you know where they are from?”
He shrugged. “I don’t. I thought big sis was going to find my dad alone, but she came back with them, so I guess she must have met them just before going?”
So he doesn’t know either. In that case…
“Mister? Since you were there, you should know what happened in the forest, right?” I asked, turning my gaze on the man.
He immediately flinched, as he started playing with his nails, clearly nervous. “I’m not sure…” He answered. “I was just lost somewhere when the young lady found me. A-At that time, she was already accompanied by… her friends.”
That’s a lie. He obviously knows something, yet he won’t tell. He is exactly like Nora, stuttering, hesitating, and looking away. He has a reason to fear her. I can understand that Nora would lie to me, but this man? As a commoner, he should understand the power and the authority that my family possesses, yet he dares to lie. This can only mean one thing: he fears the girl more than he fears me.
That is enough. There is no point in interrogating them any further; I don’t think I will get any more information than this. I smiled at the boy and his father.
“Well, thank you very much for your cooperation! I was able to learn some very interesting facts!”
The boy looked up at me. “Uh, my lord? You won’t punish her, right? She was only helping me. Big sis wasn’t at fault…”
“Of course not. Because you told me what happened, I no longer have any reason to ground her, do I?”
A bright smile appeared on his face. On the other hand, his father was as pale as a ghost. Sending them back, I stayed in my office, thinking about what I had learned.
“Did you call me?” Nora asked, entering the room.
After reflecting upon the situation and the options I had all day, I summoned my sister in my office room. Even without being asked to, she casually took a seat, in front of me.
“I just had a talk with the people Lynett met the same day she brought her friends for the first time.” I said, with an indifferent voice.
At my sudden revelation, Nora flinched, her eyes widened in surprise. I could see a glimpse of fear in her expression. She quickly averted her gaze, looking at the wall.
“Is that so…? Did they say anything?” She asked, as her voice was slightly shaking.
“Did you know that Lynett could use magic?” I inquired, going straight to the point.
Nora’s face immediately lost its colors, as a chill made her skin crawl. “I-I didn’t! Why would I? How was I supposed to know that a child was able to use magic?!” She shouted, clearly panicking.
She knew. My expression unwavering, I fixed at her with a cold stare.
“I’m telling the truth…” She tried to convince me, as she saw my face.
“Sure.” I said with a dull voice, crossing my arms in front of me.
We stared at each other for a while, without saying anything. I was expecting –hoping- that she would eventually confess something, but she didn’t.
“… So what are you going to do about it?” Nora asked, breaking the silence.
Understanding that she wasn’t going to say anything else, I let out a heavy sigh. Opening the drawer of my desk, I pulled out a letter that was carefully shoved in, before presenting it to Nora, in front of me. Her eyes immediately widened as she saw the seal on the letter.
“It wasn’t easy, and I had to use a lot of contacts, putting pressure and using a lot of favors across the kingdom.” I explained.
After hesitating a bit, Nora took the letter and carefully opened it. As she read its content, her face washed blank and every muscle of her body just froze. She blinked several times, making sure she didn’t see it wrong, before looking up at me.
“That’s right.” I said. “The time has come for the girl to leave.”