49: The princess and Fal


I was watching Etoile with "Clairvoyance" and "Attentive Ears" from the inn's room.
She was going back and forth on the ground floor of the castle in front of the door to the kitchen.

I wonder why she is at the kitchen when she's supposed to meet her nanny.
Generally speaking, princess's nannies are women of high social status. They teach academics and etiquette.
And even if there would be nannies of lower status, they'd just be responsible for feeding, and their role would be quickly over.

Is it different in this world?


I ask Celica who is sitting next to the bed.
"Say, Celica, are the nannies in this country common citizens? Aren't they nobles?"
"Hmm, they are aristocrats or people who are in line with that and who are good at education and etiquette."
"Well, that's normal I guess"

I kept observing while wondering.


Etoile resolved herself and opened the door to the kitchen.
It's very spacious inside. The kitchen is as big as two tennis courts.
Steam rises from pots with soup for hundreds of people. Bread dough is being kneaded in front of the stoves and vegetables are chopped on chopping boards.
The heat was standing.

There were dozens of cooks working, but they stopped moving, startled by the appearance of the out-of-place Etoile.
A man with a good physique and a white cap came over.

"Princess Etoile-sama, what business might you have today."
"Head chef, i, is Isabelle here?"
"Isabelle-sama-- no, Isabelle is in charge of the soup pots"
"Is that so. Thank you."
"Yes, you're welc--eh?"
The chef stared in wonder when she thanked him. His mouth was gaping open.

That the head chef addresses Isabelle without any honorifics was probably Etoile's order.
Isabelle is probably of a high social status. Was she made to do some manual labor by a certain someone?


Etoile's red hair swung when she walked toward the pots.
She slows gradually down. She grasped her skirt so tight that it is flattening.

There were several huge soup pots, but in front of one of them was an elegant lady wearing round glasses.
She stirs the big pot and checks the taste.
But when she noticed Etoile, her hand stopped. She gracefully cleans her hands at her apron and smiles.

"Etoile-sama, you look well. It's been a while."
"I, Isabelle... aren't you mad that I made you cook?"
"I liked to cook my whole life. Also, a lady mustn't get angry in front of people."
"You're right. You often scolded me for that."
"Such things did happen."
Isabelle giggles. Her smile doesn't cease.

Etoile bit her lips and lowered her head.
"I'm sorry. Isabelle, I was mistaken"
"Ah, what's wrong, Etoile-sama"
Isabelle approached her and put her hand on her thin shoulder.

Etoile lifted her head and looked like she was about to cry.
"But, but! Because I lost my temper, such a work..."
"You mustn't, Etoile-sama. Whatever work it is, it is important. I should have taught you this."
"Ah... . That's not what I mean... . I'm sorry.
Etoile lowered her head to the surrounding chefs.

The chefs are looking confused and answer with "No" or "Don't bother".
Just by looking at only that reaction, I could see in their eyes just how domineering she acted until now.

Etoile speaks.
"Isabelle, there's something I want to tell you by all means."
"What might that be?"
"Ehm... This is..."
Etoile's mouth if flapping like a goldfish with an oxygen deficiency.

Isabelle didn't say anything, she only smiled and watched attentively.
Then, Etoile speaks with moist eyes.
"Isabelle. --For raising me... Thank you."

Isabelle smiled like a bud that opens.
"No no, likewise. Being able to watch over you was really enjoyable, Etoile-sama"
"But I, only did awful... "
"It seems like you became a fine lady already. There's nothing more gratifying for a nanny."

Etoile makes a wry face while asking a favor.
"*sniff*, Isabelle... again, won't you teach me lots of things?"
"Yes, of course. If you are fine with that, Etoile-sama"
"Uuuh... Isabellllle!"
Etoile dived into Isabelle's chest. She apologized over and over as she wept.
Isabelle kept smiling and gently stroked her back.


-- Well. This seems to be the best end possible.
I stopped watching and turned my face to my side.

Celica was tilting her head beside me.
"What did you do, glaring at the wall?"
"Ah, nothing. I only thought that Etoile might have become a good child."
"... is that so. I'm glad"
"Well then, shall we have dinner soon?"
"Yes, Keika-sama"
I took Celica and Lapisia and headed for the tavern on the ground floor.

======

Night.
After dinner, I came to Fal's room.

Fal, who wears her habit, sits on the edge of the bed and sews a small bag.
The sewing in itself probably is a way to relief her stress.

I stand in front of Fal who's concentrated when I speak to her.
"Well, you should have something you want to talk about."
"A, yes, that's right! ...It's about brother. Why should brother become an underling of the Demon Lord?"
"We won't know until we ask him in person... but, as it is, he'd just be killed as a sinner. To be alive in exchange for being a subordinate of the Demon Lord might be a reasonable choice."

"Fal is deep in thought."
"Are you... going to kill him, Hero-sama?"
"Not unless I confirm that he's the Demon Lord's subordinate.


Fal sighs.
"Why isn't god helping my brother. Brother did nothing but good deeds."
"For example?"
"When there was a large epidemic in the village, he forced his way though Dragon Mountain to fetch medicinal plants. Even though the clerics at our home were poor he took the sword and got rid of the demons. You'll hear that he is loved by everyone in the village."

"He's that kind of guy... that's precisely why I can't forgive the Demon Lord."
-- It's strange. If I'd be the Demon Lord, I'd quickly kill Leo because he is such an adequate fit for a hero.
Why should he use demons to save him?


Fal feebly shook her head. The veil of her habit sways.
"Brother should have been saved instead of me"
"Do you really think that?"
Fal suddenly gasps. She shook her head in a hurry.
"Yo, you're wrong. I'm really grateful that you saved me, Hero-sama. But..."

Fal hangs her head, but I put my hand at her thin chin and make her look upward. She looks at me bewildered.
"If you wish for salvation that much, I will become your god"
"H, Hero-sama!?"
"Call me Keika. Dedicate yourself to me and remain pure your whole life. Then I'll save Leo."
"R, Really? Her-- Keika-sama?"
"I won't promise things I can't do. But the only one who can save Leo is me."


Fal closed her eyes like she prepared herself before she spoke.
"...Please, Keika-sama. I don't care what happens to be, but somehow save my brother."

"This wish, I swear upon my name, I will grant it. Should you break your words, you'll receive divine punishment, so be careful... Still, I don't mind if you continue to believe in Lilille while paying your respects to me."
"Ah, yes, I understand."
I didn't mind if she believes in more gods than one. We have polytheism after all.
Because Fal also understood that, she nodded obediently.


"Well then. What's left is to find Leo. Do you have any idea where he might be?"
"My brother's whereabouts... He should be in the west after all. At the foot of Green Mountain, where the village is."
"The mountain where the dragon lives, huh. I see."

I expect Leo to know, that pursuers will come after him.
So it may be safe to think that it is better for people to escape to places that make pursuers refrain from intrusion.
In that respect, the dragon is neutral, and arbitrary invasion is not permitted.
If the village where you lived is nearby, you can also ask collaborators to get you food regularly.


"It seems likely. I will focus the the search on the west side"
"Yes... then, please take care of brother."
"Leave it to me"
I stroked Fal's head. Her face turned bright red and she looked down.

"Can I wait at this inn?"
"The house at the village isn't done yet, so I don't particularly mind. ...But could you make me some smaller bags?"
"How should they be?"
"About this, and embroidered with this pattern..."
Because it was difficult to explain verbally, I wrote on a piece of paper while explaining it.

"Yes, this can be done easily"
"Then, please make a lot of them... well, I don't think I have to tell you."
"When I said this, Fal laughed for the first time."
"Ye~s. Making them calms me down."


After that, I put a sudden thought into words.
"Later, ehm, won't you teach Lapisia some healing magic?"
"I don't mind, but..."
"Lapisia should have a talent for healing magic, but she hasn't picked it up at all"
"Was that so. Then I'll try to teach her when I have some time to spare."
"This helps. Well then, I'm counting on you."

I left the room and headed for the ground floor.
When looked at my palm with "Truth Sight", the number of believers increased and decreased continuously.
-- They still can't believe in me completely, huh. It seems that at least Fal will become my believer once I have saved Leo.
However, even though I declared that so imposingly, I don't have any idea how to help him.
I still wished for some more information.

======

Late night.
I sit next to Kynmerick at the counter.
There are no other customers.
We drank some alcohol while eating snacks. It was some bitter liquor.

When I finished talking about the port town, Kynmerick tilted the glass and spoke.
"I see. She got some inspiration by Madam when she met her. That alone would have been impossible for me. I'm glad she went on the journey."
"To be honest, I also didn't think that Minya would become such a resolute child."

The corner of Kynmerick's mouth distorted slightly.
"I think that she got a good man, but as a parent I feel a little lonely."
"You don't have to worry because her partner is a good and sincere man."
"I wonder about that. There's a possibility that he's just a womanizer"


I laughed scornfully and drank my beverage without answering.
"So, how is Lionel's work? Does it look like he can make a living here?"
"I was worried because of his meager build, but he learns fast. He cleans fast and is polite. He can also talk to the customers without any flaw. I can probably leave the handling of the reception and requests to him in three more days. Cooking still seems to be hard for him though."
I guess that raising and lowering the big pots and wielding the frying pans might still be harsh with his thin arms.
Minya was probably fine because she is a catfolk child.

"I think he'll get used to it before long. I'm glad that he is useful."
"I wonder, who is Lionel exactly? From his attire and manners I thought he might be a noble. You don't have to tell me if its unpleasant to talk about."
"Ah, he's the son of the mayor of Doruas"
"Mayor, huh. I see. Lionel looks like he'll become a good mayor."
"...yes, I guess so"
I suddenly thought about Jean who developed an interest in the mayor's occupation.
For some reason I got a bad premonition but I stopped thinking about it.
I wonder if Lionel becomes an adult who can push through things by himself in such a future.


I picked up some vegetables that were marinated in fish sauce and eat. The saltiness goes well with the alcohol.
"By the way, it was terrible yesterday, huh. You were attacked by demons"
"Nah, there were only lots of curious onlookers who made a fuss. Not a single building was damaged."
"The demons seem to have escaped to the west, do you know anything?"

Kynmerick looks at me in astonishment.
"As expected of the hero. You're fast at gathering intelligence. The suppliers from the nearby villages and the paddlers who come from the west are saying that they saw a lot of demons moving west."
"So it was like that. The confirmation really helped."
"It's give and take. I'll be counting on you in the future."
"Likewise. I'll be in your care."
That said, I and Kynmerick clinked our glasses and drunk.
A brisk sound echoed through the dim tavern.

After that, we continued telling silly stories as the night grew late.


-- The next morning, Kynmerick was unable to get up, so Minya had to replenished the stocks instead. Later she angrily made him sit in seiza.