TL note: heartfelt thanks to Johnson Keriri, who donated twenty euros for this series!
The birdie that doesn’t chirp – Part 1
“Aaah… speaking formal and minding etiquette made my shoulders stiff…”
The next day, Takumi left the castle again and after cracking his shoulders to relieve some stress, he checked his schedule.
“The match will be held in seven days in the western part of the Eltern plains… I can’t believe that queen. She’s too bossy, and we now have to handle another of her whims.”
Usually, normal duels and even magic battles were fought in the capital, but since this match could be nastier than usual, it was decided to relocate it outside the capital. Eluria ordered to install special seats for the overlords and the royal family, other than providing provisional ones for nobles only.
“And to make things worse, Elsa collapsed due to a stomachache… this is no good.”
The last encounter with Takumi had been a death blow for her. She accepted the request as long as she could have an entire day of rest.
The slave merchant was still thinking about it before raising his head.
“…Aigle, can you ask Gaitsu what’s going on? Trying to handle this by myself might be a bit too much.”
The bird-man that was walking with him spread his white wings and straightened his back.
“Yes, my Liege~!”
“Don’t shout like that. My ears hurt.”
“Forgive me! I will pay more attention next time!”
“…Just stop shouting.”
“Ahahaaah! Do you really think I will?!”
With burning passion in his eyes and an imaginary fire behind him, he kept yelling, so Takumi pressed his palms on his ears while frowning. Then, the drakonid that was with them joined the discussion. His scales were black like kurogane, and his big mouth was filled with sharp teeth.
“Dahahaha! Aigle was scolded ‘cuz he’s too loud!”
“Lewin, don’t shout.”
“Huh?! Am I?! What’s the problem with my hot voice?!”
“It’s that you’re sultry.”
“Duh, that’s a praise, not a problem!”
Opening his red mouth wide, Levin broke into a cheeky laugh, and Takumi let out a deep sigh.
Usually, Kunon and Karin accompanied him, but they already had something to do in the slums, so Aigle and Lewin became his bodyguards for the day.
They were part of his demi-human squad, whose members were equipped with modern weapons and entrusted with various roles depending on their abilities. Takumi taught them modern tactic warfare, and Kunon was their tutor, making them real elites. They were second only to her in terms of power.
Aigle was a bird-man with unbelievable strength thanks to his huge frame and muscular body. A single arrow of his longbow could almost sink a ship.
On the other hand, Lewin particularly solid scales granted him a tough, strong body that was almost matchless in battle.
Bringing many people into the royal castle was hard, and Takumi couldn’t allow anyone to see his underlings use the weapons or tactics he taught them.
That’s why he chose to be accompanied by these two, who didn’t need weapons, but…
“At least Kunon’s is somewhat cute…”
“I totally agree, my Liege! My instructor’s cuteness shines like a treasure! Whenever she pours abusing words on me, I feel an impressive joy warming my heart…!”
“I know that feeling damn well, Aigle! When Kunon kicks my butt hard and looks down on me like I’m a piece of trash I just feel too good!”
…Takumi should have predicted how rotten they could be, despite their amazing abilities.
“I’ve had enough of you two. Shut the hell up. I don’t want someone to see me walking with two perverts screaming in a place like this.”
“A pervert?! I’m so honored to be praised by you, my Liege!”
“Force me to! C’mon, bring it on! Hit me super hard!”
Handling them gave Takumi a headache for the first time, but then his gaze fell on the Goddess’ cathedral sparkling under the sunlight.
On its walls were carved law formulas, as well as complex patterns and figures, which only improved its artistic, beautiful appearance.
Takumi recalled the previous day, and casually started to walk in its direction.
“Aigle, go to Gaitsu and update him. Lewin, go to Mirta and make her write a list of people who need some construction, then reunite with Aigle.”
“But we are supposed to be your escort, my Liege!”
“He’s right, Master! What if we’re not with you and somethin’ happen?!”
“I’m going to the cathedral. Do you wanna come too?”
The two closed their mouths right away.
Bird-men worshiped the sky, the trees and the sun, while drakonids worshiped their ancestors, who they saw as deities.
Every demi-human race had its own creed and respected the others’.
That’s why they were inclined to avoid any contact with them, and Filia’s cathedral was no exception: they would have stepped into it only if absolutely necessary.
“I’m sure you would’ve come if I hadn’t given you another work just a minute ago. But don’t worry, the cathedral is a safe place, and I won’t do anything reckless.”
“Very well! I shall fulfill my new duty, then!”
“Yeah, me too! For our big sisters!”
The two rose their hands high in the sky along with passionate words before walking away. They were indeed noisy perverts, but when it came down to business, they were reliable.
Takumi, now alone, approached the guards stationed in front of the cathedral and spoke to them.
“Excuse me, I am Takumi from the major company Suzuran. I was entrusted by Lady Fairstadt to deliver a verbal message to the archbishop. Is Lise Crest here?”
“She is currently praying in the cathedral… Forgive me but are you perhaps the same Takumi who exposed Amberg’s wrongdoings?!”
“…Well, I do not think there are many Takumis around…”
“Oh my! I would have never imagined making your acquaintance, Sir!”
Takumi was slightly startled by the guard’s excitement, and waited for the right moment to speak again.
“I took part of the operation to unmask Amberg, last month! Your plan was flawless! Truly wonderful!”
“Oh, really? Sorry for using you as decoys, though.”
“Do not mention it! We were just… cowards unable to lay a finger on those nobles.”
For a moment, the guard hung his head in shame at his own words.
“We could only watch like miserable cowards… But we’re now respectful and proper guards, and it is all thanks to you, Sir Takumi!”
The slave merchant smiled back vividly at the guard’s pristine smile.
“I only pushed you a little, but you earned the respect you deserve by sticking bravely to an unreasonable tactic.”
“Thank you…! I will treasure your words and pray for walking the path of justice forever!”
“Good. I will also try my best to meet your expectations.”
The guard bowed deeply before straightening his back again and nodding to Takumi, who proceeded to enter.
The cathedral was bathed in sunlight, and probably thanks to the stained glass, there wasn’t a single shadow inside. In the deepest part, a young girl was praying on her knees. She must have heard the sound of the door opening, because the next moment she turned toward it.
“…Keep your voice down, slave merchant. I could hear you from here.”
“Ouch, really? My bad.”
“…No problem. I had already finished my daily prayers.”
After brushing the dust off her knees, she looked straight at his face.
“So, what brings you here in the holy cathedral?”
“I just left the royal castle and thought to drop by to chat a little… What’s that face?”
“It is the mirror of my current displeasure.”
Takumi smiled bitterly at her reluctant expression.
“This is no place for unbelievers like you. Go back home, please.”
“That’s rude. I’m a dedicated believer of Filia, you know?”
“Stop mentioning our Goddess’ name in vain. You have not even read the Holy Text properly…”
“‘Thou who aspirest to being a hero, thy Goddess shall grant thee the smile of victory,’ chapter of the goddess, twelfth paragraph. The words that Goddess Filia reserves for the heroes who march to war.”
“…Chapter of heroes, twentieth paragraph.”
“‘For our choice, we proceed down the righteous path we decid’d.’”
“…The difference between the other chapters and the law’s one?”
“The former ones record the ancient war between nameless heroes and gods and are divided into chapters and paragraphs, whereas the latter one is composed of two-hundred-sixty-four articles and forty poems that record the law established after said war.”
Lise let out a puff, unable of finding an error in his answer.
“What matters are not the contents but what lays behind it.”
“I can’t take you seriously with those puffed cheeks… anyway, don’t you think I’m a bit better than those who treat the Holy Text as a simple decoration? Shouldn’t I be awarded for this?”
“…I cannot help it. The archbishop’s duty is also to exchange words with other believers.”
Coming to terms with her work, Lise patted a bench with discontent, and Takumi sat on it facing her to have a proper conversation.
“Come to think of it, aren’t you the genius who invented the law formula?”
“Yes, I am. Is there something you want to ask this genius archbishop?”
“Oh, yeah, totally.”
“Given your rough conduct, you would not deserve any answer… but whatever.”
“Thank you for your generosity, oh genius archbishop. I have a question concerning the law formula.”
“…Is that so? I thought you were going to ask about magic.”
Lise tilted her head, and Takumi looked up at the ceiling while answering.
“Someone is already teaching me its basics and use in battle… and I’ve also done some research on it.”
Magic was divided into two parts: Innate and Control.
The former referred to the power stored in the soul, which was the source of magic, and the latter was basically imagination, which served to control and polish that mighty power known worldwide. People could create supernatural events by combining these two, and Takumi was especially interested in the Innate part.
“Is Innate something that you can simply imagine gathering on your fingertips?”
“Yes and no. There are many ways to control and use it.”
Lise spoke while moving her hand in circles.
“Imagining gathering it, casting it with words, activating it by moving according to specified patterns… It is not only about imagination, but about the various meanings that the actions hold.”
“Like the thing you just did?”
“…You have quite keen eyes. I was imagining magic gathering into my finger while enhancing it with words and shaping it like a circle. This way, I overlapped chanting, various hieroglyphs, and actions, so it does not really matter how you do it.”
“I see. Last time I saw someone casting magic, they only chanted it.”
“That is quite common. Other countries’ magic is weak exactly for that reason. Overlapping more methods is a slow process, but it amplifies significantly the output of the spell, and the only way to speed the preparation process up is doing everything simultaneously.”
“I guess it’s not that easy, though.”
“Indeed. Writing something with a hand while tracing a shape with the other and chanting at the same time is no easy task, but a real holy warrior should research how to speed up, polish and improve this process.”
“Wow… that’s quite interesting.”
“I agree. It is like trying to solve a puzzle in many different ways.”
Her expression was as dull as ever, but she was swinging her legs excitedly.
After a little while, Lise shifted her gaze to Takumi.
“What? I was listening.”
“…That is why I am surprised right now.”
“Don’t take me for one of those adults who never listen to children…”
“There are plenty of people like that among nobles. They do not care about the effects and essential points of the law formula that makes magic work, so almost no one listened to this kind of explanation except Her Majesty.”
“Well, isn’t it better to have a casual talk with them?”
“…I spend all my time researching, so I do not know how to do that.”
She replied with her usual flat tone, but there was a hint of loneliness in her words.
She was part of the elite of society, and wasn’t only a unique holy warrior thanks to her distinct ideas and intelligence, which made her earn the title of archbishop, but had even enough prestige to being invited from the Overlord of Fortesea as a house guest.
Takumi started to think about her words, and the next moment he got up on his feet.
“Lise, wanna try to get out of here?”
The slave merchant grabbed her hand and started to walk toward the door.
“N-No, wait. I have to get back on my research…”
“There should be gondolas passing on this layer, right?”
“I saw them passing behind the cathedral… should you not prepare for your match?”
“Who cares, I’ll just do it tomorrow. Have you ever been on a gondola?”
“N-No, never. I only watched them descend Listina’s channels. It was relaxing.”
“Getting on one is even better, trust me. Listina isn’t the Water Capital for nothing.
Also, the look of the city is amazing when…”
He kept talking to fuel Lise’s interest as they approached the gondola, and once they were in front of it, Takumi helped her getting inside.