TL note: heartfelt thanks to Jethro Salim, who donated twenty euros for this series!
The birdie that doesn’t chirp – Part 2
As the gondola floated down the river, the elegant townscape around them gradually turned into the slums’.
People tend to relax when they return to places they know. On the other hand, those who set foot into a new territory are usually excited and curious, and it’s exactly that curiosity that dissipates their caution, pushing even the most careful of lambs into the lion’s den…
“I-I… should have stayed home.”
Lise was now in the dining room of Suzuran, trembling slightly.
“What Her Majesty said was real… Scary people kidnapped me when I was alone…”
“Hey, who’s scary? Don’t go around tarnishing people’s reputation.”
“…I am sure she is talking about you, Takumi.”
Karin, who had finished her work, was taking a break and sighed deeply.
“I can’t believe you kidnapped the archbishop…”
“I didn’t kidnap her, but only fueled her interest and got her to come with me without specifying where we would go.”
“So, you are not only a crook, but you also tricked a child, huh…?”
“I am not a child. I can go back alone anytime.”
Lise tried to put up a brave front, but her voice was weaker than usual.
“I already told you we’re gonna bring you back later. Relax.”
“I-Is that so…? Are you not lying?”
“No, I’m not. You said you never visited the city, so I wanted to let you see the one part you would have never bothered to see in your entire life.”
“C-Can you not decide everything by yourself, please?!”
The archbishop showed her anger, and so did Mirta, who was listening to their exchange.
“She is right. You cannot keep doing whatever you want! And stop involving people in your moody choices.”
“…How can I take you seriously? You prepared all of this with a huge grin on your face, Mirta.”
“I-I was not! I was only trying to cook what you suggested and… ended up doing too much!”
Bashfully pressing her fingertips together, she lowered her gaze from the dining room’s long desk, which was covered with food.
Stew, omelets, doria, gratin, hamburgers, fried chips, pizzas, curry, various fried food, tonkatsu, fried prawns, udon, carbonara, napolitan, sandwiches, french toasts, pancakes… and many more.
She was used to cook large quantities of food, given how many people their company had, but she asked Takumi for advice to expand the menu further, and things turned out like that.
“This looks like a family restaurant…”
“A family… what?”
“Nothing, don’t mind me. You gathered quite a lot of ingredients, huh?”
“Geiz asked his contacts to help him, and they made him seal a business deal with a new sea route, which stocked a lot of foreign ingredients. He had to go through quite a lot of troubles for it.”
Mirta showed a radiant, proud smile. She was indeed a passionate cook, which was wonderful, but it wasn’t a great characteristic for a leader.
Still, in front of her effort, Lise looked amazed at the delicacies spread in front of her.
“There is plenty of food I have never seen before… May I have a taste?”
“Yes. I never cooked these before, but feel free to help yourself.”
Lise grabbed a spoon and timidly brought some stew to her mouth. Then, she repeated the same motion again and again, in silence, like she was in a trance.
Seeing that she was liking it, Mirta’s face brightened.
“Lise, would you like some hamburgers?”
“Mh, yes, please. I would love to taste many of these dishes.”
“I am glad to hear that. Let me give you some, then.”
Suzuran’s leader started to take small portions from various plates for her guest.
The usual image of a dignified leader was nowhere to be seen, but she was honestly enjoying the moment, so no one said anything.
“But… is this meal not too much for us?”
“Probably… I’d feel bad to have any leftovers, and Karin doesn’t eat much…”
In front of them was food for dozens of persons, and many of the plates were main dishes and fried ones, so they were quite heavy on the stomach.
“Ah, do not worry. There are some voracious members in our company.”
“You mean Kunon?”
“Are you speaking of Kunon?”
“Yes, like Kunon… Ah, Lewin told me he and Aigle will come here after they finish their work.”
Karin and Takumi stiffened at her words.
“Karin, you got it?”
“Yes. What if Aigle tries to do something?”
“Make sure he can’t move. If necessary, feel free to beat him until he passes out.”
“Why would you do that?!”
“Prevention is better than cure. We can’t make him meet L–”
The door flung open, interrupting Takumi.
“Woah! There’s a lotta food!”
“There really is, Instructor! Is this aroma not a bliss for the nose?!”
“Keep it down, Aigle! Otherwise I’ll pluck your wings!”
“Ahaaah! That would be a real honor for me!”
“Then, Sis Mirta will cook them!”
The three demi-humans entered the room, and as soon as Kunon saw Takumi and Karin, she trotted to them.
“Hey Karin, Takumi! Are you back already?”
“Yeah… we came back to eat. Why are you with those two, anyway?”
“I met them on my way here! I just finished training the other kids!”
She happily answered, and Takumi hid his face with his hands.
It was bad. He didn’t expect that turn of events, and now it was too late to prevent them, especially her, from coming here.
The next moment, Aigle opened wide his bloodshot eyes and sniffed the air deeply.
“I smell an unknown girl.”
“Damn you, stop sniffing out people.”
“I can prey on targets with both my eyes and nose!”
“Can you?! For Filia’s sake… your super-senses are a hassle in these cases.”
Ignoring Takumi’s shock, Aigle looked around to track the source of the smell, and after locating it munching food nonchalantly at the table, he slowly walked and stopped beside Lise.
His overwhelming frame towered over her, who faced him with a puzzled look.
The next moment, something changed in his expression, which became more elegant, and he kneeled.
“Forgive my rudeness, Silver-haired Lady… would you be interested in riding on my shoulders?”
“…Riding on your shoulders?”
“Yes. If possible, I would love your soft, silky legs to swing in front of my face… Legally speaking, enjoying bare legs should not be a problem!”
“I believe your death will unburden the world.”
“NHHH! So glad I was abused by such a soft voiceee!”
As Aigle shouted his torrent of feelings at the sky, Lise turned to Takumi.
“Slave merchant, what is this revolting and twisted bird’s problem?”
“Long story short, he’s a pervert.”
“…Thank you for putting it this clearly.”
“W-Well, Aigle is a bit gross, but he is also a good guy… Do not mind him and let’s keep eating before it gets cold.”
“Lady Mirta screwed my service up… but this feels good in its own way!”
Paying him no more mind, everyone started to dig in.
“Oi, Silver-haired Missy! This curry is hella good, ya know?! It’s so spicy it reaches even my blazing heart!”
“…I cannot handle spicy food.”
“Dahhahaha! Probably it’s still too early for your taste!”
“Lady, try this fried chicken meat, then! Delicious juices spread in your mouth when you bite it!”
“…Bird, do you consume your own race’s flesh?”
“I descend from hawks, so, technically, I am no cannibal!”
The two demi-human’s loudness and energy softened the mood, and probably resonated with Lise, whose cold expression seemed to warm a little.
Observing her from the distance, Takumi smiled.
“Karin, make sure those two don’t get carried away.”
“I know… You really are soft-hearted.”
Karin was surprised by his choice, but happily got closer to them the next moment.
Kunon, who was eating at the table, rose on her feet after seeing her friend approaching, and walked to her Master.
“Takumi~! As you said, the Captain gave me these!”
“Oh, great job. Are you sure they are two different types?”
“Yes! They’re the oldest and the latest style’s magic tools!”
Saying that, she took a couple of bracelets from her pouch.
They were magic tools provided to the guards: both were made of gold and silver and had a peculiar shape, and words carved on them.
Takumi tried to analyze them by sight alone.
“I see. Writing the code with gold on holy silver speeds magic transmission up… and using the Veril continent’s language, which comes from the ancient Centaria, boosts the output power… huh?”
“Woooah! Could you tell only by looking?”
“Well, I was in charge of those magic tools and law formulas.”
“Didn’t you say they resemble some of the machines you have in your country?”
“Yeah, only a little bit. If I think of magic as electricity and law formulas as circuits, I can get a grasp of it.”
Magic tools weren’t that different from his former world’s machines.
They reproduced magic thanks to the materials they were made of, their shape, and the Law Formula that bound the components together.
Fundamentally, they controlled the flow of magic to reproduce the desired effect.
“But this is closer to occult stuff than machines. Law Formulas are a mix of semiotics, iconography, and mainly allegorical hermeneutics, while magic’s concept is closer to Taoism and Chinese medicine.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
“Basically, there’s a lot of jumbled, unclear stuff. I could figure out some parts thanks to what I learned in my country, so I can potentially create a Law Formula that Richtert hasn’t still come up with.”
“Woah…! You really know a lotta things! I don’t wanna study more than I need to, and I prefer guessing than remembering!”
“I think you’re fine as you are, Kunon… so? What does your intuition tell you?”
Asked Takumi while staring at the magic tools, and the Hound frowned slightly.
“I’m not sure… but these are somewhat bad.”
“It’s like… a drop of oil that melts into water… something like that?”
She started to think deeply as she couldn’t express her feeling clearly.
“Well, I’ll remember there’s something off. You demi-humans have incredible senses and can perceive a lot of things we can’t, so I’ll trust you.”
“Yaaay! So, can I go back eating now?!”
“You sure can! There’re lots of plates from my coun–”
“I wanna eat meat!”
“…Then try tonkatsu.”
Kunon grabbed a fork and pierced the tender, tempting meat and brought it to her mouth, where it melted slowly as she chewed it.
“Nhhh~! It’s crispy but juicy, and the seasoning is perfectly made! The sauce’s flavor is richer and tastes a bit like apple, which also fixes the oil’s boring taste!”
“Try to express what you just felt like that.”
“I can talk about good food, but everything else is boring, so forget it! Gimme more!”
“Yeah, fine… Eat as much as you want.”
“Eeeh? I’m tired from all the work, so I want you to feed me.”
“…No? If you only want to stuff your stomach, shouldn’t you do it by yourself?”
He protested as he brought to her open mouth some food.
“Lieeege! I am really envious of what you are doiiing!”
“Masteeer! That’s not what a Master should dooo!”
“Shut your traps, bird-head and blockhead. If you two wanna do it, just do it.”
As they pushed their fists together and let out cries of joy, Kunon turned her face away.
“Forget it. Aigle is too noisy, and Lewin is too sultry.”
“Nnnhhh! Instructor, abuse me more, please!”
“Sis Kunon, drive a hot shot into my mouth!”
As they asked for some good, they felt a tight grasp on their shoulders.
“You… know what will happen if you dare to touch her, right?”
“Guys… if you keep yelling like that, you will ruin our meal, you know?”
Mirta and Karin were grinning as they towered over them.
“If you want, I can pluck the feathers of your forehead and write ‘idiot’ on it.”
“Ah, this frying pan is still really hot…but you like hot things, don’t you, Lewin?”
The next moment, the two demi-humans prostrated while begging for forgiveness.