Chapter 1. Harsh season (1)
After the loud welcome, the three people left like the wind as they did when they came.
In the kitchen were all the groceries they had shopped together, a bottle of milk that Martin had bought, and the many jugs of water that they had fetched thanks to the help of Mrs Phenyl and Nella.
While she went with the crowd in a daze, Rietta came back full of food that would last at least a week without worrying about it.
It was like a storm had blown by. A strange kind of storm, one that specialized in supplying rather than destroying.
After Rietta sent the guests away, she sat down in a chair in front of the dining table in a daze. Her head was spinning. It wasn’t because she was hungry. Rather, her stomach was full.
There were two pieces of apple pie left on the table, left over from the four of them eating together and filling their bellies. Next to it was the nameplate that Nella had brought from the grocery store and given to Rietta as a gift.
Having left the store open empty for too long, Martin and Nella hurriedly left their seats, and Mrs Phenyl said that it was time for her son to take over soon, and they left together, promising to see each other again next time.
Looking at the kitchen in a daze, Rietta thought that she should cook and serve the neighbors before all the food went bad.
Their visit was like a drain on Rietta’s soul, but the tightly packed kitchen and the kindness of the people she was seeing for the first time filled her heart with a warm commotion.
Not only the three neighbors who came to visit Rietta, but everyone she met and was introduced to in town was kind.
Everyone welcomed Rietta and gave her more than she paid for, saying they had never seen her face before.
General stores, bakeries, blacksmiths, drapers, fruit and vegetable shops, butchers, well, marketplace……
Rietta, who was thinking of the places she had been shown today, dropped her gaze and stared blankly at the empty nameplate.
Mrs Phenyl worked at a bakery downtown in the center of the Ministry of the Interior. Nella and Martin have been dating and breaking up from time to time, and now they’re separated, so they’re just partners in a grocery store…….
“Oh, my God, Rietta. So you’re a mage?”
“That’s amazing! I couldn’t find anyone who could do that! We had to go far out to the outer lands to find them. It’s very difficult to find a divine being, especially these days when there are no priests to make the pilgrimage!
“We’ll spread the word for you. Oh, put the sign in front of the door right now!”
Rietta sat quietly, fiddling with the tips of her fingernails, then quickly stood up. Then she brought out the thick chalk she had seen upstairs.
She silently looked at the empty nameplate with a bit of awkwardness, and with a slightly unsure manner, she wrote in the word ‘Mage’. It seemed too small, so Rietta scrubbed it off and rewrote it a bit larger.
She held the nameplate and looked at it lightly at this angle and that angle, then raised herself up.
Rietta opened the door and went outside to look at the protruding parts of the fence next to the door, and hung it in a suitable place.
Then she gently looked around and looked at the nameplate again, smoothing the angle of the nameplate.
‘…… What a funny mood I’m in.’
Rietta noticed that the gates and hedges of Axias were lower than those of Sevitas, and so were all the other houses.
‘There are no thieves here? Is it because it is resistant and therefore safer?’
Rietta, who was entering the road, stopped when she saw that there was also a small nameplate by the gate of the house.
It was much smaller than the nameplate Nella had given her and could not be used as a sign, but it was a place where the name of the house owner could be written so that the letter carrier could see it.
Rietta hesitated for a moment, then went inside the house and came out again with the chalk.
Then she stood in front of it again for a long time……
Finally, she took the chalk and wrote her name.
A week later, Rietta came to visit Killian.
“Master, Miss Tristy is here. Would you like to see her?”
Killian, who had been looking at the papers that had accumulated due to his long outings, raised his eyes without saying a word and looked at Ern and asked back.
“Miss Rietta Tristy.”
Killian, who remembered the woman whom he gave a house to a few moments later, looked at Ern and asked,
“Is there a problem?
Killian asked because normally Ern would handle people’s business. Ern answered briefly.
“She would like to see you in person.”
Originally Killian was not one to be easily seen even if by request. This time, however, he nodded without much thought.
Ern, who had the permission, led Rietta to his office shortly after.
When Rietta saw Killian, she stood in the distance and bowed down. Ern stepped outside and pushed in the tea-set tray.
Killian, who was still sitting at his desk in his office, flipping through the papers he had been looking at, finally turned his attention to the tea as it began to be set on the tea table and stood up from his seat.
He walked over and sat down roughly on the chair in front of the tea table, picked up a teacup, and finally his gaze went to Rietta.
The moment he caught sight of Rietta, he saw the white blonde hair she had tied up and a strange intuition came to mind.
It had been a while so he had forgotten about it.
For a while now, seeing young women with white hair, Ern was anxious to let Killian see it again. Only a few times, a few years ago, the woman Killian met happened to have white hair.….
Ern knew that Killian was staring at him, but without any expression on his face, he prepared the tea and left.
Killian laughed without knowing it.
Killian averted his gaze from Ern, who quietly stepped back out of the room, and addressed Rietta.
“Is the house to your liking?”
Rietta replied with her head down, standing in a far enough distance.
“Yes, I’m comfortable thanks to the generosity of the neighbors and the Duke. Thank you.”
Killian stared at her head, and said,
“My face is here, not on the floor.”
Rietta finally raised her head slightly to look at him.
Killian gestured his chin at a chair.
After a few moments of hesitation, Rietta quietly came over to the table. Before she sat down, she greeted him by lowering her head once more, then carefully sat down on the chair in front of the table with just the edge of her bottom.
It was a modest and docile manner. Killian could see her take a deep breath without a sound. Rietta looked quite nervous and stiff.
Inside and out, even though he’d already almost seen her naked body, Killian watched her demeanor change a bit oddly.
Back then in his bedroom, she should be nervous, but she didn’t show any signs of it. So, what on earth is there to be nervous about now?
Come to think of it, Killian only saw Rietta in her funeral robe, the slip, and the fancy dress.
He had never seen her in such unadorned commoner’s clothing before.
It wasn’t often that Killian Axias had a solo meeting with a woman in commoner’s clothing this close up. She wore a very plain commoner’s ordinary clothes, is it because she doesn’t have enough money?
Killian began to speak plainly.
“It seems that you have already decided what you will do for a living. If you had told me the size of the budget you needed, Ern would have taken care of it, but you came to see me in person. It looks like you need my permission to do something.”
Rietta hesitated a moment with her gaze dropped.
Her fingers trembled faintly, and her lips quivered.
How much time does she need before she could talk?
Just before Killian felt frustrated, Rietta opened her mouth.
Rietta pulled a small box out of her sleeve and placed it on the table.
She opened the box with trembling hands and turned it in Killian’s direction.
Inside the box was a necklace.
No, a ring?
It was a modest necklace with a small ring made with a leather strap.
“What is this?”
At Killian’s question, Rietta hung her head, her lips quivering in a small voice.
“It’s just a small thing but I’ve cast it with a blessing…It isn’t much, I’m afraid, but it’s the most valuable thing I can offer…”
Killian was momentarily rendered speechless by the unexpected words.
No one spoke up and a quiet silence fell.
After a moment Killian broke the silence.
“You’re a mage?”
Rietta replied with a small nod.
“Yes. …… I can purify and cast blessings, though it’s limited ability. So I don’t need any money or land to do this business. I will work diligently to pay back the house and the money you have given me.”
Rietta’s voice became quieter and quieter, and her head hung lower.
“So……. The monthly living expenses are too much for me. Please take back the orders you have given to the butler.”
Killian stared at Rietta, who had her head down.
She looked stubborn and pitiful as she gripped the hem of her skirt tightly in a nervous manner.
So it seemed that “No, thank you for the money” was the main point.
‘Is she a diligent type? Don’t want to be indebted to others.’
Of course, there are many people who try to get more by appealing to their sincerity in this way.
“I don’t need a monthly allowance…”
Killian drew the line without giving her a firm answer.
“Then I’ll tell Ern. Also you don’t need to return what you’ve already given.”
Rietta lifted her head.
“No, I can’t do that…..”
Killian interrupted Rietta’s words with a blank expression.
“Excessive politeness is disrespectful. Do I look like I’m in need of money?”
Rietta’s face burned red.
“And what is this necklace?”
Killian’s gaze went to the table.
‘You don’t have to go and do this either. There are plenty of these things at the temple.’
Killian was about to say his thoughts, but he swallowed his words when he saw Rietta’s hand trembling holding the hem of her skirt.
He wasn’t unfamiliar with people who were afraid of him, but seeing Rietta like this. It was a little too absurd, he thought.
Killian leaned back against the sofa and sat crookedly looking at Rietta.
‘What did I do to deserve this?’
It was ridiculous that he should be treated this way, despite his good intentions.
It wasn’t like him to be nice and reserved.
“Thank you for the necklace.”
When Killian answered, Rietta finally let out a small breath of relief.
Then she turned her slightly watery eyes to him.
“Thank you for accepting it……”
Killian stared at her silently, then averted his gaze from Rietta and looked down at the necklace.
Well, it didn’t hurt to have one more blessed thing.
It was a harsh season when the plague struck the world.
Rietta retreated with a polite greeting, and Killian looked casually at the ring in front of him. It seemed to be an old one, with many fine scratches.
It was made of precious metal, albeit crude.
For such a poor commoner, it must be the best thing she had.
The only thing new was the leather strap that made it possible to wear it as a necklace, a luxury item that must have been quite expensive. It looked like it had been newly made for him as a gift.
She must have bought it with the money he gave her.
A mage with purify ability.
It was a high skill. Especially in times like this.
Cast blessings is the ability to bless a person or objects with holy power to prevent disease, demonic invasion, and pray for good luck.
Although it’s the most basic sacred magic, it’s an ability that received good treatment because sacred abilities were very rare to begin with.
It was almost always done by priests with sacred abilities, but in rare cases there were those who could not become priests who had such abilities.
Most were raised and educated in monasteries from an early age, but failed to become priests and returned to the secular world.
Many of them developed their abilities late or had disqualifications that prevented them from becoming priests, but in many cases their abilities did not allow them to become priests.
They were called purification Abilities or mages, but because their status was not as clear as that of a priest and their abilities were not uniformly guaranteed, they were treated at a lower level than officially recognized mages.
Usually, they were hired by people who were not in a good enough condition to go to the temple, or not wealthy enough to call a priest.
On the contrary, however, recognized mages with blessing ability who lived in a single territory were treated as professionals and loved by many people.
In particular, those with superior abilities were positioned as influential figures in the village, and were sometimes respected even more than priests.
When the plague spread like these days, and the priests were desperate for a higher price, the cost of hiring mages jumped to a nominal price, so being a mage with blessing ability was truly a blessed profession that brought in money with their bare hands.
Not to mention the purification, exorcism, and healing abilities that were treated more highly than cast blessings.
The ability may not be at such a high level, but it was well timed. Just the fact that he brought her here and she’s settled in the manor would make it easier for her to gain people’s trust.
Killian had a feeling that as a mage, Rietta’s settling in this land would work out without any major problems.
But to think that the Sevitas people were trying to bury a mage…Wasn’t it a foolish thing to do when the territory was riddled with plague?
‘To have rescued such a person from danger and brought her to his place at such a critical time…I’m a very capable lord, aren’t I?’
“Your Highness, Would you care for a friendly duel?”
Leonard, Killian’s loyal servant, an excellent knight, asked,
Killian leaned back on the sofa and looked at Leonard with a smirk.
“But it wouldn’t be fun since I’m already so competent.”