Episode 104

Far Distance
3 weeks ago
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From the academy to the mansion, the distance was considerable, so a conversation neither short nor long took place.

“What have you been doing all this time? Did you practice a lot? What’s it like in Luchern… We couldn’t have a deep conversation, but we could share enough stories, broad but shallow.”

“Brother. Did you read all the letters?”

“Of course.”

“Really? I’m glad my hard work in writing them paid off!”

“…Did you read mine too?”

“Sure. I read yours, too. I didn’t throw them away after reading.”

Physical distance might make the emotional distance grow as well, but such worries turned out to be needless. Just a few face-to-face exchanges of words, and there was an endless supply of topics to talk about.

Shiron glanced out the window while listening to the chattering of his siblings.

‘Isn’t it too late?’

From the mansion’s main gate, numerous people were lined up. As always, passing through a path where hundreds of people simultaneously bow their heads made one feel like a special person.

Stepping out of the carriage, Shiron bowed deeply.

“Good day to you, Lady Eldrina.”

“You look like someone who’s stirred up unnecessary trouble.”

“… That’s not true.”

The lavish welcome was, of course, prepared by the mistress of the house, Eldrina. Entering the mansion but not visiting the main house, Shiron saw Eldrina for the first time in five years.

‘She looks too much like her.’

Shiron glanced at Siriel, who was sticking close beside him, and then looked straight ahead again.

“Don’t worry about it.”

At Shiron’s loss for words, Eldrina smiled softly.

“It would be poor form to neglect the person who will lead our family in the future.”

“Our family… you say?”

Shiron narrowed his eyes. Somehow, the word ‘family’ coming from Eldrina’s mouth gave him an uncomfortable feeling.

‘Pretending not to know all of a sudden.’

Eldrina, covering her mouth with a fan, looked at Shiron and the girls clinging to his side. Siriel, Shiron, Lucia… It wasn’t an ideal picture, but it wasn’t bad either.

“Moreover, you’re partly to blame, aren’t you? There was no notice when you entered or left. I thought it was okay to do this much.”

“I apologize.”

Shiron chuckled and bowed his head.

Then, Shiron heard something he couldn’t help but doubt.

“Mother, shall we go inside? It’s getting hot.”

“Oh, I’ve kept you too long.”

“…”

Shiron’s eyes widened. It wasn’t Siriel who had spoken. The uncomfortable title of ‘Mother’ came from Lucia’s mouth, and Eldrina didn’t find it odd.

“Since you must be tired, let’s go in. And… let’s have dinner together, even if it’s not something grand.”

“Yes.”

“Brother, see you later.”

Shiron waved back at Siriel, who turned around waving her hand.


On the way to the annex.

“When did it start?”

Shiron tapped the shoulder of Lucia, who was walking beside him. He had many questions, but first, he wanted to relieve the frustration swirling in his mind.

“What do you mean?”

“When did you start calling Grandmother just ‘Mother’?”

“Ah…”

Lucia fiddled with her lips as she spoke.

“Mother, Lady Eldrina, she was the one who told me to call her that. Before entering the academy, she brought it up, saying not having parents might cause unnecessary noise.”

“Then, do you call your granduncle ‘Father’?”

“…No, that’s not it. My father is still alive.”

Even though she had seen his face only once.

Lucia kicked a pebble and murmured.

“Lady Eldrina. She was nicer than I thought.”

“…”

“I’m grateful to Lady Eldrina. She treats me like her real daughter. Yes, I can say I’ve received a lot of kindness.”

“I didn’t mean to say that.”

“Then?”

Shiron smiled at Lucia, who was looking up at him.

“It’s impressive that you’ve adapted well without feeling out of place.”

“What… I’m not a child.”

Lucia, turning her head quickly, started walking ahead. Talking along the way, they soon reached the annex. Lucia hurried inside to change out of her school uniform for the banquet that was to take place in the main house.

“Ah.”

‘Seira?’

As the door opened, Lucia stiffened in surprise. A familiar face. Instead of her usual maid, there stood an elf nun.

‘Why is this brat still in our house?’

“…Hello.”

Unsure how to react, Lucia decided to bow her head to Seira.

The true identity…

Lucia was aware of Shiron following her.

‘Not now.’

She planned to reveal herself as a reincarnator someday, but it was not the time. It was unreasonable to expect an emotional reunion with Seira, unlike with Yura.

“What a well-mannered child. And kind, too.”

Seira, unaware of everything, patted the head of Lucia, who had bowed to her.

‘…What?’

Lucia, treated like a child, clenched her teeth. Her willingness to catch up with her old friend, even slightly, faded away.

Lucia and Seira were comrades in her previous life, but she had treated Seira as a colleague, not a close friend.

Seira and Kyrie were like opposites.

In those times, it was common for magicians and swordsmen to not get along, and their personalities… even thinking about it, both seemed a bit off. Without Yura’s mediation, they might have met as enemies rather than comrades.

‘I don’t understand.’

Unaware of why Seira Romer was in this annex or why she was with Shiron, Lucia stopped brushing off the hand on her head.

“Who are you, and why are you here?”

“I’m Seira Romer, a sturdy companion and great magician to the little priest. It’s common sense to stay together as comrades, right?”

“Ah…?”

Lucia, though confused by this nonsense, decided to nod. She wanted to ask Shiron where he had been wandering for the past five years to bring this person home.

“Then why are you wearing a nun’s habit? You’re a magician.”

“It’s comfortable.”

Seira fluttered the hem of her habit and smiled brightly.

“See? It’s well-ventilated and easy to move in. It’s not too hot in summer and decent in winter. And… to stay with Priest Shiron, it’s better to dress as a nun, right?”

“When did you wake up? I thought you were still asleep.”

Shiron joined the conversation.

“How could I keep sleeping?”

Seira shrugged her shoulders.

“I persuaded the demons who came to clean your room, making them realize again that I’m not an enemy, and dealt with the nuisance.”

It seemed there was some friction, perhaps due to a curse, even though Seira had informed Encia and Ophilia beforehand. But dealing with being treated as a stranger was something Seira was accustomed to.

Over the past five hundred years, Seira had often encountered the crumbling of relationships she had built.

Even without using mental interference magic, Seira could skillfully exert her affability in a situation where a plan was laid out. If she couldn’t build new relationships and new characters, she wouldn’t have survived the last 500 years.

‘Are they closer than me?’

Lucia harbored complex feelings, watching the two converse effortlessly. Seira seemed closer to Shiron than Kyrie, and Shiron appeared closer to Seira than to Lucia.


In the northern region of the empire, the Makal Mountain Range

There was a solitary castle in the rugged mountains that divided the world into the demon realm and the rest.

In the frozen corridor of Dawn Castle. Yuma bowed to the man who suddenly appeared.

“Have you arrived?”

“Yes.”

Glen rubbed his forearms and exhaled.

“It’s cold.”

“There’s no need to light a fire in a castle where no one lives. Especially since you’ve been outside for so long.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. It’s been two years since your last return.”

Yuma, chuckling, approached Glen. She had prepared a snow leopard-patterned coat in advance and wrapped it around the man.

“It’s a bit better.”

Yuma said, fastening the front of the coat.

“But, you’ve returned earlier than expected. The coming-of-age ceremony is still months away.”

“Do you wish I hadn’t returned to the castle?”

“You always seemed reluctant to return.”

“Just had some free time.”

Glen spoke, his breath forming white puffs in the air.

“One of the Apostle’s positions has disappeared.”

“I see.”

“You’re not surprised. And you don’t ask for more.”

“It was expected.”

Yuma turned her gaze to the window. It was hard to see in the night, but beyond the endlessly sprawling snowy mountains, Shiron was there.

Glen saw who Yuma was thinking of.

“You opposed bringing Irina in so much.”

Irina was Glen’s wife, who had already passed away. Tears welled up in Yuma’s eyes.

“Madam was too frail. Inadequate for surviving in this harsh place. Given many experiences, it was natural to issue a disqualification notice at that time.”

Irina was always bedridden. The woman who coughed every day, barely making a sound, died after seeing only one offspring.

The head of the family, Glen, did not take another wife after Irina’s death. Instead, he brought home a young girl.

A girl with red hair just like him, emitting a different scent.

“Yuma.”

Glen read the suspicion in Yuma’s eyes.

“Lucia is my child.”

“Did anyone say otherwise?”

“Right. As you know, she proved it herself by passing the succession ceremony.”

Glen managed to suppress a sigh of relief, but he couldn’t stop a few drops of sweat from trickling down his back. Yuma closed her eyes and bowed her head.

“It’s a trivial matter. Lately, I’ve been thinking that succession ceremonies are not much help. Maybe I should consider a new approach for the coming-of-age ceremony.”

Perhaps it would be the last coming-of-age ceremony…

Yuma, thinking of Shiron, clenched her chest that was tightening.

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