We ended up sleeping through the afternoon, only waking up when it was time for our dinner, thanks to our maids. Just like Alec told us, Glinda had already arrived from the castle, and she was willing to talk with us over dinner.
Or, to be exact, we were woken up one hour before dinner, as they wanted to bathe us first.
Just like at the mansion of the baron, this place also had its own bathing house. And we were immediately escorted there. Or rather, “herded” there as they seemed to be so terribly excited to give us a good cleaning, to the point that I couldn’t help to smell myself a little, just to check whether we actually had an unpleasant smell all this time.
Nope. I smell perfectly fine. I’m not like one of those bad-odored adventurers we met on the road. I always insist on taking a bath at least once every day. Thankfully, it’s really easy to do so when you can cast water magic. Though I have to say, taking baths in rivers or just pouring myself with water in the bushes was certainly something I had to get used to. But that’s the sacrifice I have to make in order to keep myself clean. And Erika’s as well, naturally. I used my dryad and fairy to watch the surroundings, making sure that there aren’t any peeping toms around. A mundane use for summons, I imagine, but they seem glad doing the role.
Throughout the process, in which we were thoroughly cleaned by them, I took note that the three were clearly good friends with each other. Heydel, the clumsy one, was the most chatty of them all, followed closely by Merkel, who loved to throw a banter back and forth with her. I could sense that the latter seemed to consider the former as her little sister, and so she teased her a lot. Fantina was the quietest one, too timid to be really joining in with their banter. But from the way she smiled watching them, I could tell that she was perfectly happy that way.
Heydel bombarded me with questions about the eastern frontier where I came from. I answered as much as I could to her satisfaction, without disclosing any information that could divine my real identity. I didn’t opt to ask about her however. Instead, I asked about Glinda instead. I wished to know as much as I could about my host before I met her.
“Lady Glinda is the best! She’s so nice and kind and pretty and thanks to her, I can wear this cute dress all day!” She gestured proudly at her maid uniform. Oh, by the way, the reason why she’s the only one wearing a short skirt was because she kept tripping with the long version worn by the other two. She actually ended up knocking over an expensive vase thanks to that and since then, she was allowed to wear a shorter skirt over the others.
Didn’t really stop the clumsy girl from tripping on our way to the bathhouse though, showing off her striped underwear once again.
After staying in the heated, perfumed water for a while, it was time for us to be scrubbed. To my surprise, Erika actually let somebody else do it to her other than me. It was Fantina, and she somehow managed to convince her to let her do it.
I, on the other hand, was scrubbed by both Heydel and Merkel. The former had my back while the latter had my front.
“Woow, Miss Clarisse—You have such beautiful and smooth skin. I can’t help but be jealous a little!” Merkel spoke with a smile as she lifted my left arm before scrubbing it with her wet towel. “What’s your secret, Miss? Some magical skincare product from the Magocracy?”
After realizing that I was willing to engage in a conversation with Heydel, it seemed she was now brave enough to start one as well.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I just take a bath every day, that’s all.” I answered frankly.
“See, Heydel? This is why you shouldn’t be lazy in taking baths, you know. Lady Glinda is already nice enough to allow her maids to have our own bathing house.”
“Oh, she does?” I asked. That took me by surprise.
“Yes!” She smiled with excitement in her eyes. “She told us that she wants us to clean up after a long day of work, so she built us our own bathhouse near our dormitory. It wasn’t there before, and she paid workers to build it with her own money! Isn’t she amazing?”
“I see…” I gave a little smile. Yet more reason to think that she’s not a bad person.
Merkel and Heydel continued to clean me up, with Heydel moving to my hair while Merkel left my arms for my chest. And to my embarrassment, I nearly let out a moan as she pressed my breasts in the process. They had only gotten bigger and more sensitive as I got older. I just hope that they wouldn’t end up being as big and heavy as Mother’s. No loose dress could hide their size anymore then.
I really don’t understand how some women are bold enough to wear outfits that made their chest noticeable.
My gaze wandered over to Merkel’s chest. I could notice her ample breasts swaying ever so slightly under her uniform as she moved.
I sighed. That is exactly what I don’t want to do. Mother had the same problem as well. I know she said I should be proud of my breasts, but I really don’t have any plans to impress a man with them.
After what Vera did, I had lost my desire completely. I no longer felt the need to touch myself down there. I suppose this is what you would call trauma, but it’s the kind of trauma that I’m perfectly fine with. It just means I no longer have unnecessary distractions. Especially not when I have to sleep with Erika every night.
I used to have a desire to fall in love with someone as well, but that too had disappeared.
Once we finished, we returned back to our rooms wearing bathrobes, while our clothes would be washed by the maids. Back in our rooms, I took out the dresses that were given to us by the baron. I thought for dinner with an important personage like a court mage, we should dress more respectably. And of course, the trio helped us on the difficult trial that was putting them on.
As the maids put on the final touches, we heard a knock on the door. It was Alec, coming here to inform us that her lady was ready to receive us.
The dining room was a lavish one. It was a large and long rectangular room, filled with suits of armor to the left and right. Swords and spears were hung on the wall, a display more than a weapon. There were also paintings of flowers and birds and nature in general, juxtapositioned against the warlike nature of the other decorations.
A group of maids and butlers stood on the sides, ready to pull out our chairs and refill our glasses. They would also place our food on our plates from the wide selection available on the long table, so we wouldn’t have to reach forward. And I was pretty sure if we asked, they would even wipe our mouths.
And in the middle of all that was our host, Glinda Fernwood. She sat on the tall chair on the end of the long table, signifying her position as the head of the house.
My first impression of her was that she was a beautiful, if a little outrageously dressed, woman, with long light brown hair that went down to her waist and probably even more (I couldn’t really be sure since she was sitting). She wore a long and flowing deep blue dress that changed color to light green at the edges. The dress was bold, showing off her left leg all the way to her upper thigh. And accompanying that was a sizable bosom, with nearly half of it not covered in the slightest. Her eyes were violet, a rare color that only few had if you were a human.
And then, sitting beside her, there was another woman. She was dressed less flashy, with dark shirt and brown tight-fitting trousers, with what looked to be a rapier attached to her hip.
Wait, who is she?
I didn’t voice my concern of the presence of this other woman here however. At least, not immediately. Instead, I opted to take the seat across her, with Erika sitting to the left of me. Of course, considering her height, she was given a booster so she could eat comfortably with the rest of us.
“Greetings,” the court mage first spoke with a smile, placing her chin on her hands while her elbows rested on the table. “Should we begin with some formalities or would you rather get straight to the point?”
“I would like the latter, if you would,” I replied.
“Very well. Leave us.”
With that one command, all the maids and butlers who were standing immediately evacuated the room.
Once there were only us and us alone in the room, she began.
“So, that letter,” she spoke, as she looked towards my direction with extreme interest. “My brother said you have something interesting to say to me. Would you mind telling me all about it?”
“I would, but I’d rather do it in private, if you don’t mind,” I replied, giving a look towards the other woman.
“Oh, don’t mind her,” the court mage replied. “She’s a co-worker of mine. And she’s also interested in what you have to say. And don’t worry. She dislikes them as well.”
The woman herself didn’t say anything. She merely took a sip of her tea.
“…Very well. I will decide to trust you on the matter.”
And so I told them everything. My true identity, how I ended up being a victim of the Magocracy, how my family took down Vera, and how I was now a fugitive.
I hid the part where I was drugged. It’s unnecessary information that I didn’t want to talk about. I did tell them that Vera wanted me to marry her grandson, which was the whole reason for the kidnapping. I also told her that I was frozen and unconscious when the fight happened, so I didn’t know anything on the matter.
I am not going to tell them of Hugo’s genius. There’s no good reason why I should.
When I finished, the court mage was in complete disbelief. The other woman was as well. And she was the first one to break the silence.
“So the information I got was true… Vera Marjoram is dead…”
“And to think her end would be met not by an army, but by just one single family…” the court mage followed.
“I know Alan Greenwood. He and his wife, Renee, were ex S-rank adventurers, along with Myrilla Nerthusia, a Nerthus demoness. Myrilla wasn’t with them, correct?” The other woman asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “She had already returned to the Demon Continent years ago.”
“I know nothing about your little brother though. You said he was part of the rescue. And he was just ten years old? And where is he now? Shouldn’t he be with you?”
“Calm down, Arya. You’re being too pushy,” Glinda interrupted, giving her a warning look.
So her name is Arya… I should take note of that.
“A-ah, apologies.” She looked back towards me after glancing momentarily to her co-worker. “I believe I should introduce myself first. I am Arya Cordova, the spymaster of the Marchen Kingdom. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Marina Greenwood.” She put her hand in the middle of her small breasts.
“Spymaster?” I raised my eyebrows.
“I am the one in charge of gathering information of anything and everything that might be a threat to this kingdom,” she explained, as if I didn’t know what the word meant. “And that includes the Magocracy, naturally. In fact, I would say that it’s the biggest threat to our kingdom right now. Which is why I’m here. I wish for you to tell everything you know. It’s been a really long time since a Council member actually got assassinated, you know. The Ledo Kingdom tried all those years ago and look at where they’re at now. Ha! How ironic that it was Vera’s own folly that led to her downfall.”
“Is Marchen not getting along well with the Magocracy?” I asked. From what she just said, it’s as if it would just be a matter of time before the Magocracy came and destroyed this country as well.”
“Hmm, I wouldn’t say that,” she replied, folding her arms. “We get along well for now. Or rather, we wish to get along well with them. Because we know the consequences of not doing so. We’re not like the Holy Empire who can face them head on.”
“So you stood no chance whatsoever against them.”
“Nope. Nilch. Nada.” She shrugged. “Too many unbelievably strong mages. Which is why I’m surprised your family actually managed to kill one of them. Do you have any idea how they did it? I mean, I knew your parents were strong, but not that strong. And they actually brought a young boy to the fight too.”
Suddenly, her eyes lit up for a moment, before giving me a suspicious look.
“Your little brother… is he possibly some kind of prodigy, either in swordsmanship or magic? Is that why your parents brought him along?”
Tch, she’s sharp. But that’s just to be expected from a spymaster, I suppose.
“Apologies, but I would rather not talk about him. I’m only here to talk with Glinda about the Magocracy,” I replied as politely as possible.
“I see.” She smiled. “You’re protecting him, aren’t you? How wonderful. That’s how a big sister should be. Honestly, even if he’s somehow miraculously equal in strength to Vera—a ten year old equal to that old hag, imagine that!—it still wouldn’t be enough to survive an invasion from the Magocracy. Just one person wouldn’t be enough. We need more.”
Suddenly, she stood up. “I’ll leave you two alone for now. You’d prefer that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, if you would,” I answered in complete frankness.
“Good.” She yawned. “I’m tired. Got so much work to do today. Glinda, I’ll take the usual room.”
And so, she nonchalantly left, leaving only us two and Glinda.
“Sorry about that,” the court mage spoke once her friend vanished. “She can be too blunt at times.”
“I don’t mind,” I replied. “It’s her job after all.”
“So,” She poured tea to her now empty cup. “What do you wish to accomplish by meeting me? Or are you just doing it because my brother told you to?”
“Mostly the latter,” I answered her honestly. “I am interested to hear what you say about the Magocracy. I heard that you dislike them and I wish to know the reason why. Also, if you have any information on them, I would like to hear it as well.”
“Dislike, huh?” She chuckled. “You know, I used to attend their academy, just like you. Aah, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sent all the way there by my overbearing parents. After my dear big brother—” I noticed the sarcasm in her words. “—found it a good idea to run away from home and become an adventurer, the expectations of the Fernwood Family all crashed down onto me. Knowing that I was talented at magic, they sent me there, hoping that I could be where I am now, a royal mage.”
“And that experience led you to dislike them?” I asked.
“I guess you can say that,” she replied with a wry grin. “I used to have a friend there. Or rather, who I thought was a friend. Selendia was her name.”
“Selendia?” My eyes widened with shock. “You mean that Selendia?”
“Yes, the one and only.” Her gaze drifted away. “She was already being called a genius back in the day. Reached Master-level before even graduating. And then inventing the improved Rainstorm spell that was now commonly used all over. And of course, she was popular as well. How couldn’t she be? She was beautiful in every sense of the word. The boys swooned over her while the girls admired her.”
Beautiful? I think I remember Hugo, who has met her, describing her as such. Beautiful but terrifying at the same time.
And she had used Vera’s death as an opportunity to steal whatever magic knowledge she might have. And leaving me with a “generous” headstart so I could escape before the rest of the Magocracy knew what my family just did.
Most likely, she’s the person who sent that letter. It wasn’t done out of good will, but to use my family in the off chance that they could kill Vera. Perhaps they didn’t get along in the Council. Power struggles like that are commonplace, after all.
But she also let me go. Is it truly an act of kindness from her part, or is it just another one of her schemes?
“And you?” I asked, deciding to put my thoughts on her for a later date.
“Me? Why, I am just a foreign noble. I am not that smart or skilled in magic, especially compared to her. But somehow, she became a good friend of mine. She let me into her inner circle, filled with her other admirers and retainers, of other, less powerful mage families in the Magocracy. She even taught me magic from time to time. Perhaps thanks to that, I managed to graduate with a Master-level spell in my belt. Just before that, right in the final months, she asked me to be part of her household once I graduated, just like the other members of her clique.”
“Which is where all of it fell apart, if I had to guess.” I spoke up.
With a grim smile, she nodded. “Yes. She asked me once. I told her that I preferred being back at Marchen. She then asked me again. I told her that I didn’t want to betray my country and family. She then asked her again. And I told her the real, true reason why I couldn’t go with her.”
“And that reason was…?”
To my surprise, her face immediately turned crimson as she looked away.
…Oh dear, I think I can already guess what it might be.