“You know, you can entrust your children to us, if that’s the case,” King Titus said to Cyan after hearing Cyan’s plan.
“We can’t afford to bother the royal family that much. The other nobles might get angry if we continue to receive special treatment,” Cyan answered.
“But, Cyan, Ophelia… Wouldn’t it be risky?” Shaula asked.
“Queen Shaula… Yes, it would still be risky. But it’s better than letting them get what they want. And we can’t afford to cause any more troubles in the noble society for getting special treatments from the royal family,” Cassie answered.
“Besides, you would be visiting your parents in the royal villa this holiday, right?” Cyan asked the king.
“Yes, but still, when we return, we can take care of your children. Furthermore, we can keep it a secret from the others.”
“There is no need to rush, you can take your time there. The previous king and queen would be sad if their grandchildren only visited them for a short time. Besides, it would be troublesome if the news of our continued special treatment is being spread to the others, so let’s not take that long-term risk.”
The two men kept debating.
Cassie then heaved a long sigh and decided to cut them off.
“Besides, it’s a good chance for the children to take a look at the other places far away from here. I think Lyra really needs that experience.”
“Ah, so you also had that in mind?” Shaula asked.
“Yes. I don’t know what caused her to have that extreme insecurity… since the East Area of Riviera is the border of Riviera to Naraka, the Oni country, most people are not bothered by [Dark] magic at all… though some may still be prejudiced.”
“That is true. Bad prejudices against [Dark] magic is more severe in West Area that borders Riviera to Cielle, the elven kingdom. I know, since I originated from there,” Shaula made a wry smile.
“And that is why we devised this plan.”
“I see… But still, please be careful,” Shaula finally gave in. King Titus sighed.
Both Cyan and Cassie are so hard to persuade once they have made up their minds. However, they know that the two of them won’t be so careless.
“Cyan, make sure to check the Habbah city’s port while you’re at it. Who knows we might be able to gain some information regarding the activities there.”
“Yes, yes, Your Majesty~,” Cyan replied in an obvious tone.
It has been years since he’s worked as a spy, so he would know what to do without being told.
“Oi, oi, you really have a good manner in front of the king, you know?” Titus teased Cyan a little.
“Of course! I have always displayed my best manner in front of the king, way even when he was still a mere crown prince!”
“And that is what I like about you, haha!” Titus grinned.
“…your taste is so weird, Titus,” Shaula inserted her comment. One that she’s going to regret.
“Oh? But you are included in that weird taste of mine, then!” Titus used his wife’s comment back.
True, they are not in an arranged marriage.
“…,” Shaula went silent. She regretted her words, and she can’t say anything back after that remark.
Before long, the New Year holiday finally came. Chloe and Vince are gone to visit their families, while Niina (+Clavis)’s visit has become less and less… until she is fully taking the days off, too! And that is how the Hartmann family will be helping one another to do household chores!
Because we will be going to our family vacation not long after the said holiday, Vince, Chloe, and Niina all get their days off extended.
A few days before our time to depart, Mom brought Fenix over.
“Fenix, it’s weird seeing you here.”
I said while looking at her, with the background of a normal room. The great background of Royal Magic’s Treasury Room looks all majestic, which suits her so much.
“…I will just take that as a compliment.”
And then, both my parents let me and Alt-nii sit down in the meeting room for a briefing on how the plan is going to go on.
“As I will be off to do some spying work, I can’t go as Valkyane—the head of the Hartmann family. I will disguise as a traveling merchant, along with my fellow spies.”
“As I am summoned as a representative of the Royal Magic Court, I will be going with Meredea as I am.”
This is no ordinary family vacation, of course!
“We have booked rooms and arranged them to be next to one another. We have set it all up, so let’s say we are acquainted there and then would walk around the city together if we have the time to.”
“Question! So, that means we will also be disguising?” Alt-nii raised his hand and asked.
“Correct. The spies plus you children will be putting disguises as a traveling merchant family. We will come up with the names and appearance after we have gathered.”
Which means, it’s like a practical exam for the Hartmann’s secret arts we’ve been training all this time!
The thought kinda excites me.
Well, I can also sense a little fear, but the excitement is more apparent.
“Also, the other spies only knew that we are adept in illusion magic, so please just use that,” Dad added.
What do you mean??
“Alright, Dad, it’s easier to do illusion magic, anyway!” Alt-nii responded.
“As I have warned you—better try to keep that part about transformation a secret, okay? Only do it in urgent cases such as if you are being targeted by someone with illusion magic detection.”
“Okay, fingers crossed, it’s a secret!” Alt-nii crossed his fingers in front of his lips.
“Eh, Dad, I don’t understand–,” I protested.
“Ah, Lyra… that’s right. I also had Altaire practice illusion magic and only told him more details of our o—secret arts when he was around 5,” Dad explained.
“So, I’ve been doing illusion magic? Then, what about transformation magic?” I urged him to explain.
“Okay, okay, then I’ll let you try it, to experience the difference between the two.”
And it has become a sudden training session.
We are standing in front of the big mirror right now.
“All this time, you’ve been practicing to alter yourself by covering your body in mana, right?”
“That’s the art of illusion magic. As for transformation magic… the two of them are quite similar but the essence is different. In transformation magic, you pour your mana to your body and change it. Yes, it won’t just be an illusion, but your actual body will feel the sensation of changing.”
“…Pouring… my mana?”
“Yes. It is harder—but wanna try it?”
I nodded, and proceeded to close my eyes—trying to pour my mana to one of my eye—yup, changing the color of it seems the easiest thing to do.
When I tried to pour my mana in my eye—I feel a tingling sensation! It feels weird!!
Perhaps it showed in my expression, as Alt suddenly asked.
“Are you feeling weird, Lyra?”
“Uhhh, yeah, it’s… ticklish or… I can’t really explain. It’s weird.”
“Well, this is the tricky part. Try to focus even when you are feeling that sensation and try altering your body part that you just poured your mana in.”
I tried to do as instructed and opened both of my eyes once I felt like I’ve done it.
My red eye turned slightly blue—yes, slightly.
“Congrats, Lyra, you’ve got the feel of transformation magic. How is it?”
“…it is harder to do… and my body feels weird.”
“Well, of course, since you’re essentially altering your body… and that is why, for normal people, transformation magic is hard to do and dangerous. Since we have our or—I mean, secret arts, we can actually do transformation magic without such difficulty. That’s why I told you two to keep it quiet—even to my fellow spies that would come along.”
“G-got it, Dad!”
Before, Dad seemed to slip on some words—and I had my suspicion on it—but how should I confirm it? That the secret arts could be… And that he’s slipping because he is conflicted as he hasn’t fully explained it yet to me, but there’s Altaire that seems to already know a lot.
“Eh, Dad, if you and Mom are working, will we be left alone or will we come along?”
Alt-nii’s sudden question made me lose my chance to confirm my suspicion.
“No worries, at least one of the spies would be staying to take care of you two when we are departing for the action.”
“Is… it really okay for us to come? Won’t we just hinder your work?” I asked timidly.
“No, it’s the common practice for us during group operation. At least one person will be left behind, so just in case we got into some kind of troubles, we can always have back-ups.”
“…will they be fine with babysitting, though?”
“Hahaha! It’s fine. They are my comrades—my best friends.”
“Whoa, so we will be traveling with spies? Cool!” Alt-nii’s eyes sparkled.
“…Altaire, you do remember that your dad is also a royal spy, right?” Dad asked, I can sense that he feels a little bit down hearing Alt-nii’s remarks.
Alt-nii only laughed mischievously.
It’s time for me to ask—
“Speaking of which, seems like they will be here soon,” Dad said and all of us went towards the guest room—causing my question to end up being in my mind.
And his hunch is just right.
Two young spies arrived at our home after walking… geh, did they walk all the way here or…?
I can’t see any carriage nearby when I peeked from the door.
“Cyan, we are here~!” The man which seems to be younger—shouted energetically.
“…sorry to intrude,” says the one who seems older—and calmer than the former.
Whoa. The older spy is so pretty, tall, and slender! The big sister type?
“Rupert, Gale, welcome. It must be your first time in forever to come here, right? Please go and have a seat.”
Dad then lead them towards the living room, where everyone has gathered.
“Ah, you two must be Cyan’s treasured pride and joy, Altaire and Lyra, huh?! I’m Gale, nice to meet ya!” The younger one introduces himself.
Based on his look, he seems to be a young adult—somewhere around 16 years, I guess?
A fresh-graduate spy?
But he seems to be overly familiar with my dad…
“It’s nice to meet you, I’m Altaire!” Alt-nii responded, and that’s my cue to also respond.
“N, nice to meet you. I’m Lyra,” I slightly bowed from my seat.
“Haha, no need to be that formal—wait, I don’t need to formally address you, too, right? Well, you are all nobles and all…”
“It’s fine, Gale. No worries. Just like how the Royal Spies don’t uphold formalities inside them, there is no need to act too formal to my family,” Dad reassures the flustered Gale.
“Phew, thank goodness. I’m bad at being all formal and stiff!”
“…I’m Rupert, it’s a pleasure to meet you all,” said the pretty spy with brown skin.
Rupert’s brown skin really goes well with her cold grey eyes and her short ashen grey hair. She let her right bang grows until it covered her right eye. She is definitely the cool type.
In contrast to Rupert’s cool vibe, Gale’s soft peach skin, his light brown hair and his friendly matte brown eyes reeked off youth.
“Both Rupert and Gale have always been my best comrades in the Royal Spies—and they have guided me a lot when I first started,” Dad said.
Oh, I see.
…wait, what…? Both of them—guided Dad?
It’s understandable with Rupert as she’s brimming with a mature aura although she sure looks young, but Gale should be younger than Dad, right?!
“Eh? Wait, what? But Gale…,” I shifted my eyes at Gale.
“Haha, you’re not the first person to think that I am still young, eh?”
“Young lass, there is the blood of dwarf and elf in my veins—although the human blood is more dominant.”
Whoa, mixed breed!
The combination of human-beastman, human-elf, human-dwarf, human-oni hybrid is not that rare. However, the combination of elf and dwarf…? Hmm, it is still possible as they are living in coexistence since the olden days.
Oni-beastman hybrid should be there, as well, if the theory of coexistence holds some truth.
However, I have yet to see the other combinations.
Not to mention, oni-elf hybrid seems impossible.
After all, oni have bad blood towards elves—and since dwarves side with elves, and beastmen side with oni… well, no wonder that the other combination is not that common.
Most of the mixed breeds have human blood—well, we humans are the neutral faction, after all~
We can meld with anyone, that way!
“I am way older than I look, hehe,” Gale rubbed his nose and smiled.
“Oh, hey, Rupert, you should also—“
Before Gale can finish his sentence, Rupert shoved his index finger to Gale’s lips. He then turned to face me and the corner of his mouth slightly formed a smile.
“Gale, there is no need to tell unnecessary information,” he said.
“Hmm? Ah, Rupert-san, you’re so pretty!” I tried to express my fascination to her. I definitely want to be a cool woman too!
“Drop the -san, please… And… huh?” Rupert showed her wry smile.
Should I tell her that she’s cool, instead?
“Whoa, Mom, aren’t you jealous that Dad is working with a woman like Rupert?” Alt-nii tried to tease Mom.
“…hmmm, so you’re suggesting that Cyan has something with Rupert?”
Mom’s answer was totally unexpected. Her voice is very, very calm.
I thought that at some point, Mom would hold some kind of jealousy against Rupert.
“Well, the three of them seemed close and all… Ah, maybe Rupert is with Gale, instead?” Alt-nii asked.
“Eh, no, I’m not into something like—,” Gale quickly retorted.
“Uh, Rupert, I mean…,” Dad was stuttering.
“No problem. I’m used to it already. Instead, I am happy that I can captivate the others without using any trick,” Rupert’s wry smile remained.
Alt-nii and I are looking at each other with confusion.
“Fufu, it would be funny if your dad is indeed smitten with Rupert. Okay, I shall encourage him to that path instead~,” Mom chuckled.
…now that I can take a closer look at Rupert… could it be that Rupert… is a man?!
A beautifully handsome man?
…Her body built is slender and slim so I can’t really tell—her skin is beautiful, too—no way…
“Could it be that Rupert…,” I started to speak.
“…Eh?!” Alt-nii seemed to notice it, as well, as he kept observing Rupert.
“Yes. Rupert here, is a man,” Dad clarified for us.
“S-sorry, Rupert!” Alt-nii and I both bowed our heads to apologize.
“But, but, you look so alluring and beautiful that I—uhh, I mean, as a man, you’re also good-looking! But your aura…”
Alt-nii is babbling. He’s trying to hide his embarrassment.
“No worries there,” Rupert gently smiled.
“Then, let’s proceed to discuss our plan!” Dad clapped his hands together.
“I will be going with Meredea on a separate carriage,” Mom’s voice slightly hinted her sadness, looking at both me and Altaire bitterly.
“Meredea will arrive using a carriage from Capicastle. So, we’ll be going ahead of you.”
“We have devised a disguise plan, so listen carefully,” Dad said.
“We will be going under the disguise of traveling merchants. I will be taking the role of the father—let’s say, I will name my disguise Marvel Rashad,” Dad then proceeded to use his illusion skills.
Dad then turned into a shorter and fatter man with a beard. His black hair is really in contrast with his real appearance. His eyes are now brown.
I don’t think we have to really think about our disguise’s names, but perhaps it’s there to make sure we don’t call one another with our real names in public?
“Next, I will be the mother figure,” Rupert stood up and chanted.[Gliderung, sâwolhord wendan] (Illusion, body alter)
Then, he turned into a beautiful woman. His formerly ashen grey hair turns into beautiful silky silver hair—as long as his waist, but his right bang still covers his right face.
His lips turned into seductive red, the same as his eyes—but his skin is still brown.
“The name’s Ruby.”
After that, he called off his disguise and returned to his true self.
He isn’t going to keep his disguise?
“Lyra, using illusion magic to disguise themselves cost lots of mana. Therefore, they won’t be in disguise when it’s just us.”
Dad patted my head—wait what, no, not with that appearance, Dad.
Rupert smiled at me.
“That’s right. Both Gale and I use additional magical tools to regenerate our mana and to make our disguise perfect.”
“I, is that so?” I asked.
“Anyway, let me pose as the eldest son of you two.”
It’s time for Gale to take on the spotlight.
[Scinna, scîene wandrian] (Illusion, light alteration)
Huh, different spell?
He then took on the form of a teenage boy, with brown skin, silver hair and matte brown eyes.
“Voila, that’s it, the name’s Robert, the first son! What about you kids?” He then asked me and Altaire.
“Well, Altaire and Lyra should just be the second and third children, then. And to keep it easier, don’t change into your opposite gender. Just try to think about your desired appearances,” Dad encouraged us.
“Oh, I got an idea!”
Altaire-nii stood up and quickly transformed—nah, used his illusion magic to disguise himself in front of us.
His navy blue hair turned black, and his eyes turned both red. He also added some freckles to his face. He’s become the cute younger brother!
“The second son of Rashad family, Rye~”
…which leaves me.
“Uhm, then I will be the third so—wait, third child and the only daughter… uhm…”
I stood up and focused myself to alter my appearance by illusion magic—let see, use my mana to cover my body and…
I turned my hair into the same long silver and silky hair that Rupert chose—and my eyes would turn both red. No changes to my skin.
“What about this?” I asked.
“Lyra is still cute, no matter how she’s turned to!” Dad’s remark. As usual.
“Well, you will certainly look like my daughter that way,” Rupert added.
It felt kinda wrong, but okay.
“T, then call me… Murphy?”
“That’s cute!” Gale said.
“Murph, Murph… That’s nice! Hi, Murph, oh, just call me Rye or Nii-chan~!” Alt-nii took my hands and shook it up and down.
He must have taken a liking to the name that I chose.
“Eh, come to think about it. Gale used a different spell than Rupert?” I asked before I forgot.
“Ah, yup. Gale’s affinity is light, so he’s manipulating the light to create an optical illusion to disguise himself,” Dad explained.
“Yes, Lyra! The three elements known to be able to show illusion are [Neutral], [Light], and [Dark]~!”
Neutral… well, the same mechanism as for how our Hartmann secret arts could act—manipulating mana to control our appearance, but it is limited so that it wouldn’t be able to transform ourselves to such extent.
Light… As Dad explained, by manipulating the light, it’s possible to generate optical illusion.
…What about dark?
“Uhm… Neutral… Light… I know how, but Dark…?”
“Dark magic can manipulate the light by absorbing them into darkness, or by using illusive suggestion to the target’s minds,” Rupert explained.
“Oh, I see… So, those are the only three elements that can use variations of illusion magic?”
“Exactly. Mine was a [Neutral] magic.”
“I see… That’s awesome…”
I was really in awe. The fact that the two of them can skillfully change their appearances is the undeniable proof that they are powerful in terms of magical power.
“Do all members of the Royal Spies have such powerful magical power?” I asked.
“Hmmm, well… No, there are people who rely on magical devices, potions, or other disguising tools. We all have different specialties and roles,” Rupert kindly explained it to me.
“Well, if proficiency and excellency at magical power is an absolute requirement to be a spy, then there would be lots of Royal Magicians who are doing double-job as Royal Spies as well, right?” Alt-nii deducted.
“True. But being excellent in magic such as illusion magic alone is not enough for the magicians to be spies,” Mom replied.
“Of course! You’re gonna need lots of guts, and nice acting skills!” Gale said it with pride.
Oh my… I am really looking forward to seeing how they operate!
And no wonder Alt-nii and I are instructed to just disguise ourselves as the children—since basically, it’s the same as our role right now. It will be easier for us—who are untrained in terms of underground activities—to disguise ourselves.
The front door is being knocked three times and a familiar voice could be heard.
“Ah, that would be Meredea. Be at ease, Meredea’s position is high enough that she also knows about the Hartmann’s illusion.”
Mom then quickly opened the door and let the expected guest in.
“Meredea!” I exclaimed.
“Hi there… though you are disguising yourself, you must be… Lyra!” Meredea crouched down to pat my head—and as she does that, her permy brunette hair lightly grazed my cheeks.
I lightly brushed it aside as to not let it tickle my nose!
“Yes, you got it right!” I responded.
“Ah, excuse me, where are my manners? Sorry for intruding on you all. I’ve come to pick up Ophelia-sama,” Mereda lightly raised the hem of her skirt.
“It’s okay, Meredea. Please take care of Cass,” Dad said.
“…though your appearance right now is way… too different… I will, Cyan-sama.”
“Fufu, well then. Guess it’s my time to depart. You guys feel free to take your time.”
“Mom, mom! Are you going with just Meredea? I thought there will be some other magicians! Will you two be okay?”
I am worried.
“No problem. We are just going to fix the barrier and discuss things with the magicians of Chinosato city. Only Meredea and I will do.”
“Isn’t it dangerous? No guard at all?”
“Going with lots of people will just hinder us in case something happens. We are strong enough to defend ourselves, and once we arrived, the other magicians will be there, on our side.”
…Mom is the top magician here, so her argument is valid. …and Meredea seems to be a nerdy magician, but she is also strong, then, based on what Mom said?
“Be careful, Mom!” Alt-nii gave his hug to Mom.
“I’ll be off then.”
Mom then lightly brushed my head.
“I’ll be okay. Take care, too, Lyra.”
“…be careful, Mom.”
“Be careful, Cass—“
“Cyan, no, not in that form.”
Before Dad can even approach Mom in his current chubby form, Mom stopped him from doing so.
“It’s okay, we’ll be seeing one another again, though we are taking different ways to get there. So, see you.”
With that, Mom and Meredea entered their carriage and departed. With our currently transformed forms, we didn’t send them off, but we did say our goodbyes properly.
No worries, we will soon meet!
After quite a while, finally, as the carriage has arrived, it’s our time to depart.
I’m so excited!
“Let me go out and make sure the situation’s safe,” Rupert held me back from going outside.
Rupert stepped outside and calmly observed the surroundings. Only the carriage and the carriage driver could be seen there. The brown horse that the driver is using looks like a normal horse, but one has to admit that its built is quite tall and sturdy, compared to the normal horses portrayed in the picture books.
The air feels refreshing as usual, because there are lots of trees in the premise. The birds are chirpling—it is yet another normal, peaceful day.
However, that doesn’t stop Rupert from being alert to his surroundings.
He noticed the presence of something that might pose danger, as he could feel that there are eyes observing him. In that instant, he nimbly moved his hand and chanted at the same time.
A black magical arrow appeared from the hand that he swung, as its sharp blade moved rapidly towards the direction in which he sensed something odd.
The agonizing cry could be faintly heard from where Rupert is standing. Even though the hill where he pointed his magical arrow is way taller than him, he could still see the bush on top of the hill moving, and then the creature exposes its black wings.
At the same time, the same creature with its black wings escaped from the location, leaving its dying friend behind. Its three legs and long black tail can be seen by Rupert, as the tail flutters due to the wind, trying to help its owner to fly. A glimmer of red can be seen on the edge of its tail.
Meanwhile, the dying creature exposed its head out into the daylight, its beak being open, exposing its sharp teeth. The creature’s three red eyes are dilating—before it finally collapsed and stopped reflecting the light on its pupils.
“…what, it’s just Falsanzuwu…,” Rupert sighed out. He worried for nothing.
The presence of the Falsanzuwu is certainly odd in comparison to the normal, peaceful atmosphere outside, but it is no big deal. Falsanzuwu—or the fake yatagarasu is a normal monster that can appear anywhere from time to time, but they normally hide their presence from their potential predators. The two Falsanzuwu that he just saw—they just happened to be there, so Rupert thought.
“Rupert, is something the matter?” Cyan—with his newly modified voice to match his appearance, asked.
“Ah, it’s nothing. Just some normal monsters that I mistook for something dangerous. Let’s go.”
As the remaining four went out of the house and entered the carriage, Rupert couldn’t get rid of the uneasiness that he felt—and glanced lightly at the spot where a Falsanzuwu met its demise—before he finally joined the rest of them to the carriage.
Perhaps, it was just his own paranoia. After all, it is the first time they are traveling with the children. Of course, some form of anxiety is going to pop out in his mind. Still, as long as they are careful, everything should be alright.
The Falsanzuwu that has lost its friend–who knows where is it headed this time? Nevertheless, it is currently flying in the air, following a certain route without even faltering. Sometimes, it would stop by to take a rest or to eat–but it is flying with one destination in its mind.
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