Chapter 77 – Allia Destia

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I didn’t learn until we were already in Bray Seaport that I had someone else to dread meeting.

I paid to put Arken and company up in a decent inn after realizing they were planning to head to the same seaside dive that we had used when we passed through this town on the way out. I wanted him in a cleaner, safer place to finish his rehab. Melione was very happy about that and gave her honest thanks. I guess my relationship with her was recovering.

Our first expedition had gone west out of Atius into the mountains of Huba. Arken had intended it as a training exercise for Ryuu and a way to acquaint the party with each other (only Melione and Brigitte had worked with each other before), although it had turned into quite a mess when we ran headlong into a small army of demons that were trying to create a foothold there. Frankly, the ‘quick trip into the Dragonsbacks’ had taken up the second half of volume one and all of volume two and volume three. Fans referred to it as the ‘Eridus Arc’ because we ending up using that city as a home base.

But volume four began with sailing up the east coast to Bray Seaport, from whence we zig-zagged across the north coast territories until reaching Tavital and the dragon and the end of volume five. Now, at long last, we were back.

Thinking about that fact made me wonder; what volume were we in, now? Had my experiences back in Atius been part of them? Apparently they had run into Jurmat and whatever he used to petrify them less than a week after I left, so we would probably still be in volume six if it picked up with me unpetrifying them. Perhaps it had stuck with Melione and Arken in the hideout and I rejoined the story when I showed back up in Cara Ita. If it followed me from there, maybe we were at the end of six or even into seven.

It occurred to me, I didn’t actually know how to judge these things. It took a lot longer to live through them than it took to read about them.

So I had just bid goodbye to the Hero’s Party and we were just walking out of the fancy hotel in the nice part of Bray Seaport that I hadn’t noticed existed before, when Ceria declared, “Now we’re heading up to the fortress town.”

“We’re what?” I asked. I knew what Bray Fortress Town was, of course. It was the capital of what Orestania called ‘Brosia County’, the territory of Marquess Brosia, but the locals all separated into ‘Brayland’ and ‘The Garden Islands’

“You need to come home with us and meet Mom, Lady,” Bruna declared. “She’s gonna figure out something’s up with Ceria as soon as she starts compounding potions or writing talismans, so we can’t hide it from her.”

Instant panic. My fight-or-flight switch was definitely flipping to ‘flight’ at that moment. I forcefully hid my reaction and nodded.

“I suppose you’re right.”

Both of them instantly, visibly relaxed. I hadn’t realized until they did it that they had both been tensed up.

I was a little hurt by that. “You two thought I might refuse?”

“Well, you talked about how time is short and you need to get home,” Bruna answered. “And you’re a noblewoman, so we couldn’t exactly force you to come with us.”

I shook my head. “Of course I’ll come. I have three days before school starts.”

“Three days!” Ceria yelped. “It takes longer than that to get to Atius, Lady!”

“I’m fine. I can fly home in a day, Ceria. Let’s go meet your mother, okay?”

# # #

According to Ceria, their mother was forty, so I was surprised when I met her. She didn’t look quite thirty yet. I learned later that the mother’s grandmother was a mermaid. They’re longer lived, although not as long-lived as elves. Most live close to two hundred years. Thus, Mom was aging more slowly than a normal human.

Yes, Merrow x Human does happen. And Bray is a nation of sailors. You pretty much have to expect Merrow blood in its population. Even though it sounds a little cringy to me. Not to mention, it begs the question, “On the beach or in the water?”

We were in her shop, which was the second floor of a multi-story building. Most businesses in Bray are like this; vertically planned structures with business on the lower floors and residences above. There was a greengrocer on the ground floor, then her shop, then his residence, then hers at the top.

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Her apothecary was closer to being a magic item shop, but it did include a counter with compounding tools and rows of potions and a pair of high quality medicine furnaces in the back.

Ceria introduced me to her mother almost like she was bringing a boy home, which was uncomfortable for me. But her mother simply responded with a warm smile for me.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, My Lady,” she said, giving me a surprisingly polished curtsey.

“The pleasure is mine,” I answered, responding in kind. I was wearing my armor plus the cape Melione made me buy back in Cara Ita, so a curtsey probably looked a little weird.

“I hope my girls haven’t caused you too much trouble,” she said with a smile.

I shook my head. “Not at all. Your daughters have been greatly helpful to me.”

I really felt like I was dealing with a fellow aristocrat.

We moved into a back room that had a table, and the mother began preparing tea. To my surprise, she was just casually heating the teapot with magic instead of putting a kettle on the stove. Huade is a world of magic, but one doesn’t usually use it for casual everyday things like that. You might start the fire burning with magic– in fact magic tools for starting fires and for lighting are probably the most common devices you see in everyday life– but the bulk of the energy normally comes the old-fashioned way, by burning charcoal.

Ceria noted my surprise with a grin. “Mother’s a top class mage, you know. Guess what they used to call her when she was an adventurer!”

“Ceria,” her mother protested, growing a frown. Ceria looked over at her with a slightly dissatisfied pout. So her younger sister, who had just brought teacups from the cupboard to the table, leaned close to tell me.

“‘The Baron’s Bloody Daughter’.”

“Allia Destia?!” I responded in shock, surprising them in return. I guess they didn’t expect I had heard of her, but I very much had.

As she spooned tea leaves into the pot, the mother declared, “I was disowned and never agreed to return to Destia House, My Lady.”

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“What are you guys talking about?” Bruna asked, sounding very confused. “And what ‘Destia’?. Mom’s name’s just ‘Allia’.”

I told her, “Lady Allia is the daughter of Baron Destia,” I told her.

Ceria giggled. “Lady Allia?”

Bruna followed with, “We knew there was a baron, but Mom’s illegitimate, right?”

Her mother brought the teapot over and set it down to finish brewing, then sat. “I… am what nobles call ‘legitimized’, girls. My father recognized me as his child. I was able to attend Bray Academy because he paid for it. So Lady Tiana is not wrong. Although, he had to disown me when I refused the fiancé he arranged for me and eloped with your father.”

I was having some secret fun watching their expressions. Apparently they had known about their grandfather, but thought their mother was an unrecognized bastardess. But she had clearly been given education in noble manners, judging from her well-practiced etiquette. And her current tea-pouring.

I noted, “You said you didn’t agree to go back. Do you mean, after their father died?”

She nodded. “Father asked me to return home, but he would have made me give up my daughters. I said no. So, technically, I’m just Allia, My Lady, not Lady Allia and not Destia.”

But she was famous by that name. The fiancé she jilted had hired a dozen thugs to kill her husband. She sent him back their heads by express delivery, with a promise to take his as well if he sent any more.

It caused the journalists to tag her with that label, but it sounded like it had become her adventurer’s nickname as well.

I tipped my head though. “But I thought you were a magic swordswoman?”

Technically, that’s what I am. It describes the way I reinforce my weapons with mana. But a properly trained one has a number of basic level one spells as well. Stuff like what Graham and Ryuu do with their weapons.

“I am,” she answered with a smile.

“Ceria describes you as a pretty amazing mage, so…”

She chuckled. “I’m an overachiever. I completed the arms curriculum early, then went into the magic curriculum and completed most of it, as well.”

For a while she chattered on about how she’d met her future husband, and why she decided to run from marriage. I learned that a girl who had been legitimized but not raised in the family due to the jealousy of the baroness did not feel the same sense of duty that was keeping me from running away from my own marriage arrangements. I was a little jealous of that.

I also heard a bit about the difficulties of raising children on one’s own. This shop and their current home were fairly recent acquisitions. She was doing well now, but after her husband died, she had been left in poverty.

The three younger members of the household came thundering down the stairs at this time, and I had to be introduced to them.

Their brother Bartomo was a good-looking human boy just old enough for my armor to be too much for him. While his big sisters teased him, I quietly tied the front of my cloak together, so the kid could tear his eyes off my body.

His little sisters, twin twelve-year-olds Rosa and Mersa, were humans too… although I wondered aloud if they might have fairy blood, due to their green hair and eyes. I learned it wasn’t fairy but merrow; their paternal grandfather was a merman. They had inherited the beauty of the sea from both sides.

I didn’t ask the whereabouts of the father. Bartomo might have the same father as the twins, but I didn’t ask that, either. I already knew from Ceria and Bruna that their mother hadn’t remarried after Ceria’s father died. She had completely abandoned noble ways in that respect.

I know. I have no room to talk, considering my mother’s track record.

Finally, the youngsters were ordered to get back to their studies and the moment I was dreading came. I had to tell her why I had come. I said it as simply as I could.

I stood and presented herself the formal deep curtsey, and told her, “Miss Allia, I owe you a deep apology. Due to circumstances, I have placed your daughter Ceria under blood bondage.”

- my thoughts:

Allia is a character I designed for much later in the series. I haven't written that far yet, and she could always end up lost in whatever changes happen as I actually write, but for now, expect to see her again later in the series (in addition to the completion of this scene in the next chapter.)

I don't know how many people are familiar with the term, but 'merrow' is an old Irish English word (from Gaelic) that means 'merperson'. I hate the clumsy word 'merperson/merpeople' so I like to promote use of the much cooler sounding 'merrow'.

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