The next morning, we commenced the plan accordingly. After we prepared ourselves, we’d return to our “designated” rooms and went outside as the Rashad family. We would take the spacious table and sat just like a real merchant family, enjoying the breakfast.
And shortly after that, Mom and Meredea’s figure could be seen. Seeing that the dining hall was quite crowded, Mom and Meredea noticed the empty spaces at our table, enough for them to join in—that’s how the scenario works, and then, they would join us.
We would chat for a while and got friendly enough that we wanted to take walks together—as we have the same destinations, sightseeing to popular sites in Chinosato City.
…At least, that’s what other people should be thinking when they saw us.
Well, not that it really matters, I mean, Mom and Meredea aren’t wearing their robes, and we are not that flashy. We can just walk the streets while most people would ignore us and continue with whatever they are doing.
Now that I can take a closer look at the people here—most of them have dark hair color. Some even have small horns. Since this city is next to the Oni country’s bordering town, I guess it can’t be helped that the people here have mingled with Oni.
I never really see Oni or halfbreeds with Oni when I was Reinst, given I lived in the Western area that’s closer to Elven country.
I feel like I’m observing a totally different culture here!
“Let’s play shadow tagging: police and prisoners version!”
When we came to the nearby park, I could see some small children—eeh, they are around six to ten years old. They formed a group of around 10 people and seemed about to play a game. Shadow tagging, eh? The one where one person shall be “it” and must step on others’ shadows? But what’s it about police and prisoners version?
“Eeeh, what is police and prisoners version?”
Oh, a child seems to be as confused as I am and stated her confusion.
“Ah, you’re new here, so I guess you don’t understand how we do it?”
“Let me tell you, one person will be the police or “it”, and the others will be the prisoners, with one being the leader of prisoners. The police should chase the other prisoners and step on their shadows. Once stepped, the prisoner should not be able to move! And the leader of prisoners shouldn’t get caught as having him getting caught means an instant loss for all prisoners. At the end of the game, when there’s only the leader of prisoners, he would get the privilege of facing a shadow-stepping showdown with the police. It will be cool!”
Now, that’s an interesting version of shadow tagging.
I noticed that Rupert—“my mother” came back with ice creams and gave me and Altaire one each.
“Eeeeh, Mommyyyy, I wanna ice cream, too! Gimme oneeeee~!”
Gale—as Robert, the eldest son, demanded his share of ice cream, only for Rupert to throw a sharp glance at him.
Their interaction is funny.
Dad said that the ice cream I’m eating is this town’s famous matcha ice cream. Hmm, it definitely tasted better than the matcha ice cream I’ve ever had.
“Okay, so… to decide who’s it… hey, who can do [Dark] magic?”
I almost choked on that remark.
Will they simply bully the Dark magic user and decide that they are “it” even when they don’t want to?
…wait no, this is Chinosato… but why did he throw that sudden question?
…I definitely didn’t expect that cheerful and boastful answer, but the little boy with a bandage on top of his nose jumped in the middle of the circle and raised his hand proudly.
“My top affinity is Dark! Hehe!!” He announced happily.
“Eeeh, that’s cool!”
The boy that proudly announced himself as a Dark magic user got praised by the other children.
…A dark magic user, being praised and admired?
I was exasperated.
Although I know this is a town where interactions with Oni often happen—but I didn’t expect this kind of treatment.
I thought that other people would still be judging to those who are closely related to Oni… given the fact that Naraka, the Oni country is more hostile compared to Cielle, the Elven country.
“Are you surprised, Murphy?” Mom, who’s sitting next to me, silently asked.
“Uh, uhm, yes…”
“This is Chinosato city. Most of the people really admire [Dark] magic, given the influence of the neighboring Oni country.”
“I, is that so…?”
Those children didn’t even think that having a dark magic is a nasty thing. Instead, they gave the same reaction that my acquaintances as Reinst had, upon finding out that someone’s got light magic affinity.
It’s as if…
As if the standards between the West Area and the East Area are completely reversed.
Could it be that some people are still inclined to support Naraka despite their hostility?
As a former West Area civilian, it’s something I can’t really fathom.
Could it be that I was also biased?
“Then, I will be the leader of the prisoners, as I also have an affinity to [Dark]! We are allowed to use shadow manipulation for the showdown of police vs leader of prisoners, right?”
Another boy with a small horn on his forehead raised his hand.
“Whoa, perfect! Let’s get started!!”
“Are you interested to see the last showdown?” Mom asked.
Honestly, I am a bit interested in this version of shadow tagging that I have never heard before.
“It’s okay, let’s stay here until their shadow tagging match is over, then,” Dad said, he seemed to be listening in on us.
–while Rupert is still bickering with Gale.
“…go and buy your own ice cream, won’t you? R-o-b-e-r-t, my dearest eldest son?!” Rupert smiled—an icy smile.
“But I want Mommy to buy it for meeeeeee!”
Those two are amazing.
Their acting is very good, I wonder why haven’t they become actors already?!
“Wow, that’s interesting. Ah, well…,” Alt-nii jumped from the bench after gulping down the cone of his ice cream.
Before I noticed, he ran full speed towards the other children.
“Hey, can I join, as well?”
The children that were about to start their game got surprised by Alt-nii’s sudden request.
Alt-nii… you’re really something. You don’t even know any of these children, but you daringly wanted to join them…
“Fine, but you will just be a regular prisoner, is that okay?”
“That sounds good!”
And that’s how he just suddenly fitted into the group.
“You’re not going to join them, Murph?” Rupert asked.
“Ah… No, I think I will just look at them.”
As the game started, the boy with bandage who became “it” quickly chased after his friends’ shadows. He quickly stepped on the slowest girl’s shadow while saying something I can’t quite hear—and in that instant, the girl’s movement stopped.
Wow, the girl’s good at acting, eh? She can even notice that her shadow’s being stepped and stopped her movements immediately.
Soon, the other children were caught—and now it’s down to Alt-nii and the leader of the prisoners.
“Newbie, you’re good at this, but I’m going to catch you!”
“Hehe, thanks for your compliment~”
The moment when Alt-nii’s shadow was about to get stepped on, suddenly his shadow shrunk and the child who became “it” failed to step on his shadow.
“Huh, wha, how could it be?”
I can see that he’s confused. Alt-nii, on the other hand, smirked even more.
“…He is definitely using his Void magic to erase part of his shadow,” Mom deducted.
…Alt-nii, seriously? In a game?
As he ran around the park, he managed to see the other children whose movements are completely stopped. Really, the children are so good at pretending to be paralyzed. One of them had an amazing balance, as one of her legs were crossed to the back. Or did she wobble when I wasn’t paying any attention to her?
Alt-nii seemed to be thinking when he saw the other children. And at the moment he slowed down, the child who chased him was about to step on his shadow. I was sure that Alt-nii would pull out his trick again, to erase the presence of his shadow, but… for some reason, his shadow wasn’t shrinking at all. At that moment, the child managed to step on Alt-nii’s shadow, and Alt-nii also immediately stopped.
Wait what, Alt-nii, you’re also as good as the other children in immediately stopping your movements? Wait, could it be that the children of this generation often play games like this that they are so used to it? Did Alt-nii play this kind of game often at school?
The long-awaited moment is finally here. The bandaged child—the police, versus the half-oni child—the leader of prisoners. Instead of one being the chased and one being the chaser, the two of them seemed to be going after each other, and as their shadow was about to get stepped on, they would utter something and their shadow was manipulated in such way that the foe won’t be able to seize it.
…Could it be, a chant?
They agreed on shadow manipulation during the final showdown, after all.
The chase continued on until the bandaged child seemed to get exhausted, and the game ended when the half-oni child stepped on his shadow.
“Alright, police, free my underlings!” The leader proudly announced.
“—kh, can’t be helped then. I lost this time, but let’s play again next time. I’ll definitely win the next game!”
The bandaged child snapped his fingers and said something I couldn’t really decipher what, and at that cue, the other children moved again.
“Rye-nii, how did you manage to stop as soon as your shadow’s stepped on? That reflex is cool!”
“Huh? Ah, no, Murphy. The boy who became “it”—he’s a dark magic user, you see? So, he always chants a spell to stop the others’ movement once he steps on their shadows. That’s how we can keep our last position without moving. That’s pretty convenient, we don’t get all wobbly although it is still quite tiring to keep our position~!”
Eeeeeh?! You can do that? That’s actually cool…
“So, when are you going to train and use that move too?”
“Eh, ehhh?! N, no, I mean… the dark magic users here are free from any prejudice because it’s Chinosato… but if it’s me, uh… we are not living in Estrada island and Chinosato, so… Uhm, no… not now, at least? I don’t feel like I’m ready to learn it right now.”
“Eeeh? Come on, everything’s gonna be fine~”
“Rye, it’s fine. Murphy, we won’t force you, but we just want you to understand that not everyone will always judge the dark magic users. See the children that just played here. If no one was a dark magic user, I think they won’t be able to enjoy their game as much as they did,” Mom said.
Even so, I still shuddered and stiffened my body at the mention of dark magic user—as I was often bullied because of it as Reinst…
But just so you know, I properly learned how the dark magic circle is like. Even when I haven’t properly trained my dark magic. Just in case it is needed.
“Well, it’s normal for magicians to have their own preferences on what affinities they like to use and which ones they don’t really use, so we won’t force you about that. But at least I don’t want you to be prejudiced against any affinity,” Mom explained her concern.
“Yeah. One of my subordinates excels in both fire and water magic, but he put more efforts towards his fire magic just because he likes it better, but that’s not because he’s prejudiced against the other one.”
‘The first step required for Lyra is for her to be free from the prejudice,’ Cassie thought.
“So… it’s also okay for me to not…?”
“As long as there’s no problem, yes. But it depends on the result of your second test plus some certain circumstances.”
I don’t know what that circumstances Mom mentioned might be about, but… if Mom insisted that I should do it regardless, then I believe it would be for my good, too. As she is the Head of Royal Magician, I don’t have any reason to doubt her judgment, right?
Before long, we managed to see several places that are Chinosato’s tourism spots, such as the museums, restaurants that sell Eastern and Oni country’s foods, cultural exhibits, and so on. I came to understand how East and West have different culture and preferences. As someone who lived all her previous life in the West Area, this is a nice change.
Then, we visited a traditional medicine store before going back. I saw lots of medicines that I never came across. It’s interesting! I think Dad bought some medicine and potions, for stocks, I guess?
“Dad, why are you taking that medicine? Shouldn’t it be this one?”
A clear voice of a girl could be heard. I was somehow attracted to that clear voice—not to mention that she spoke quite loudly. Her voice rings like a clear bell. I think she will be a good singer in the future!
I glanced at the source of the voice—a girl who’s around Alt-nii’s age. Her light green hair is a bit long and it’s kinda wavy. The hairpin that she wore kept her hair from falling to her eyes.
But that also exposed… her slightly pointed ears. I glanced at the other person next to her—her father, out of sheer curiosity.
My hypothesis was right. Her father also has pointy ears—and the father’s ears seem to be longer and more pointed than the girl.
“Well, the doctor instructed your mother to change her medicine.”
“Heee… so, will she finally get better with this medicine?”
“Let’s just pray so, Fiona. I want to believe that she would get better.” The father gently patted the green-haired girl’s head.
“Okay, hey, can we visit the pastry shop on our way home? Let’s buy Mom some cherry pies!”
“That’s fine, but you actually want to buy your favorite cinnamon roll there, right?”
“Oof!!” The little girl quickly covered her mouth with her hands.
“Haha, alright, alright. One cinnamon roll for naughty little Fiona, and some cherry pies for Mom and Dad, then.”
“Yaaayyy! Thank you, Dad!” She raised her hands in happiness.
“Eh, elven descent?”
I can hear the auntie besides me slightly whisper to her friend.
“Ah, yeah, I know that family. The mother opens up a flower shop near my house, I know her, she’s a human originally from Chinosato. Maybe that’s why they are living here.”
“Hee, it’s so rare to see elven descent here. I wonder if it’s not a harsh living condition for them? I mean, some may pick on that girl, especially those naughty children. I am worried especially for that girl’s future.”
The same condition as how Oni descents are treated in the Western area.
Guess it’s confirmed that the East and West are really polar opposite, I mean—in terms of culture, too?
…could it really be that it was a contributing factor to my bullying as Reinst?
So, this time… it could be different…
As I’m Lyra, and I live in East Area… and I can also do Light magic…
But, I know… Dark magic is also associated with the darkness of one’s mind, of one’s heart—and if one is not careful, they might get corrupted by its power.
Besides, I don’t really like the nature of Dark magic itself, most of its spells are manipulative. They manipulate other people’s mental condition, like inducing fear to them, and such.
Still, Mom said that I might need to train my Dark magic, even if it’s for a bit… Maybe… maybe that’s why she let me saw all those things with Dark magic, in order to help me develop a neutral view towards it.
That’s seriously a good strategy. I feel calmer upon seeing how they treated Dark magic users here. Though it isn’t enough to erase all my fear and insecurities, at least it’s reassuring.
I closed my eyes for a little bit, to send my thought to God—though I don’t know if that little light would be able to hear my thoughts.
God… I wonder why are you giving me something that I don’t like at all? I think it’s useless to give me something like this… It’s quite bothersome, even. It’s wasted on me, don’t you think so?
When the part-elf girl and her father were about to leave the store as they have finished their purchase, the part-elf girl seemed to notice me staring at her and she glanced back at me with her emerald eyes and slightly smiled.
I was surprised at her sudden ambush—I mean, smile, and awkwardly replied her smile.
Although she is still young, perhaps due to her elf lineage that manifests quite strongly, I can see that she has the aura that screams, “beautiful!!”.
Being (little) part-elf myself, I may have inherited several characteristics of elves, for example, the case with my magic power, but I don’t think the elf characteristics manifest quite strongly in me and Altaire.
My mom’s doll-like beauty might partly be due to her stronger elf blood, but even my mom has lost the pointy ears characteristic of an elf, causing her to look more like a human.
In the evening after we shopped at the medicine store, we finally decided to go back to the inn.
Immediately afterward, Mom and Meredea went out, heading towards the Chinosato Magic Association. After all, they are here for work—come to think about it, what about Dad, Gale, and Rupert? Now that we are all gathering in one room, I think I should ask them about it.
“Dad, what about your work?” I asked—he couldn’t have forgotten about it, right?
“Don’t worry, Phyllo is keeping a watch on the harbor where the illegal trafficking will take place—so far he hasn’t seen any suspicious activity, so for now, we’ll be under our disguises and take turns to patrol and uncover the other illegal trades, such as black markets.”
“Heee, I see. Seems like it’s quite a roundabout way, eh, we can’t really face the criminals head on right from the start?” Alt-nii asked.
“Well, if you were to face them head on, they would be hiding their crimes very well, so we have to lead them on with our disguises and then strike them once they’re vulnerable—and they won’t be able to escape that way!” Gale answered.
That explains why Dad couldn’t just come here as himself to patrol… They would be alert and Dad wouldn’t see anything.
“Alright, then I’ll be going this evening,” Rupert said, as he quickly cast a spell that changed his appearance to be Ruby again.
“Take care, Rupert!”
As Rupert in his beautiful disguise left the room, he slightly looked at us and smiled. Uwaa—nobody would suspect that he is actually a man that way, right?
It can be quite risky for Rupert himself, right?
Night time. It is a perfect time to do all the undercover work—as the darkness of the night sky would be able to hide whatever it is you’re doing.
In the broad daylight, people would also have their usual jobs to do—to display that they are nothing but ordinary people, who worked a normal job and lived a normal life.
But once night falls, they ceased to do their outward jobs and they would have the chance to do their transactions, trades, and other activities. Secluded alleyways, dark roads with a high prevalence of crimes and hooligans might be the perfect place to walk at.
The bars that reeked the aura of suspicion, yet with no apparent proof that they are hosting some black trades would be found not too far away from the said road.
A beautiful slim woman, with her brown complexion that made her silky silver hair stood out even more, is walking around the street, hiding near the small alley and leering at the noisy bar next to her.
Her ruby eyes are keenly observing her surroundings. Upon seeing a certain nobleman entered the bar, her eyes showed a spark of determination and then she followed suit, her hands already on the door’s handle.
[Gliderung, sâwolhord wendan]
As she chanted that spell, her silky silver hair turned into a beautiful light purple, now with slight curls, yet her ruby eyes remained the same.
[Ferhð cêape, fylnes]
As she murmured another incantation, she entered the bar and walked directly through the swarm of men and women who are all sitting in their seats, laughing, with some drunken people.
Her alluring beauty stood out among them, with her sexy lips and seductive aura—somehow… her pheromone and charm got very strong that it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that she was irresistible.
Unable to resist the aura that she has, most of the men are already staring at her with eyes full of lust. It should be apparent because the noisy drunk men and other boastful men who contributed to most of the noises—suddenly became quiet to observe the walking beauty among them. However, the woman seemed that she didn’t notice it—or did she notice it and pretended not to notice?
“Hey there, beautiful lady! Would you mind accompanying me tonight?”
The woman just walked pass by the drunken man that flirted her just now.
“Hey, forget about him, try me!”
The surrounding men suddenly got so noisy.
“A woman of your caliber shouldn’t even be here in the first place. A fine lady just like you should be at the castle, being treated as a princess you are.”
The nobleman that the woman had her eyes on before entering the bar stood out and reached out to her.
At his words, the ruby-eyed woman finally stopped walking and turned to look his way. She slightly smiled—followed by the exasperated gasps the other men had from witnessing that sexy smile she just displayed.
“Whoa, as expected of the noble young master! He managed to capture her attention!”
The man smiled. Rupert immediately confirmed the target’s identity. A young nobleman in his bachelorhood—rumors have it that albeit engaged, he still remains a playboy.
And the spies have already taken an interest in him—since he’s suspected of being majorly involved in slave trades. Perfect target, easy to get.
I’ve got him.
“Oh? Then, would you mind showing me how I should be treated and entertain me with things that I have never witnessed before?”
At that cue, the young man let Rupert—sit next to him.
Rupert smiled in satisfaction. He is getting closer to expose the slave trades and all involved parties. And he will do anything to make sure that this foolish young master will lead him to the secret slave auction that’s rumored to be held regularly in close proximity.
If we can catch them, too, then this will be a bonus.
Rupert tried to forget the horror that he would have from having to seduce a man and would risk himself to go on a few dates with the man before he finally could get what he’s aiming for.
I am as straight as an arrow, straight, yes…
He kept saying that sentence in his mind as if chanting some kind of spell that he seems to be used to.
Nobody is more perfect to handle assignments involving seduction techniques than Rupert, after all.[Ferhð cêape, fylnes]—the spell from earlier, it’s a spell to manipulate others’ minds—to seduce them.