I’m glad that many people are liking this story! 😀 We still have two more interludes before entering the fourth arc. Enjoy!
ED: xtostos and eristol
It was when I was on the route for home in the sea , bringing back big business deals to Knot Reed.
The ship’s trip was going well and it was scheduled to arrive at the harbor at dawn.
Somehow, I had a premonition which I had failed to realize myself at that time.
I could not sleep well so I decided to go out on the deck alone and faced the night wind.
The fog was thick that night, so no one would be able to see the other’s face even if they were only 10 steps away.
There was not a single star in the night sky, the only illumination came from the already lit lantern and the light of a lighthouse that could be vaguely seen in the distance.
Even though the visibility was bad, it was my own ship which I knew by heart.
I was leisurely walking while watching the orange light showing on the distant shore.
Then, suddenly, a big guy in all black appeared in front of me.
It seemed that he was a former soldier, his limbs were made of golem prosthesis.
Perhaps he didn’t want his face to be seen, he was wearing a black hood covering everything from under his eyes to his visor.
The man was soaked as if he had crawled up from the sea some time ago.
Droplets of water were dripping from his wet mantle onto the deck.
No, no, there was no way he was in such situation.
He couldn’t have just crawled up from the ocean onto the deck.
That is why, needless to say, I felt freaked out as to why he was soaked wet.
More than anything, the man’s eerie atmosphere made me be stricken with fear.
I felt the hair on the back of my neck standing upright as I asked, “Who are you?”
Thinking about it now, why did I do that, I wonder.
Perhaps I wanted to confirm that the man was just a human being.
Maybe I would hear a funny story that he just made a blunder and poured water over himself so I quickly felt relieved.
It was then.
In the fog, something big was swaying.
It was swaying quietly.
The swaying thing was many times as thick as the mast and I saw some big circular patterns on it.
At that moment, I finally realized.
That was a tentacle of a kraken.
The circular patterns were its suckers.
I didn’t know whether I took a wrong route due to the fog, or the kraken had left its den for an outing.
But, I knew immediately that it was dangerous.
Because of the krakens, many ships got dragged into the sea and sank, including my acquaintance’s ship.
No way, I couldn’t believe that my ship would be the next in line for suffering the misfortune, I had never seen this coming.
Anyway, in great haste, I ran away trying to take refuge in the cabin.
But, just when I was a few steps away from the cabin, I suddenly realized with a start.
I didn’t hear that all-black man’s footsteps.
“You too, hurry up and get over here!”
I cried out, but even when I looked back, there was no figure of that big guy.
Even when I looked around, there was no one on the deck.
No way, did he get caught by the kraken?
I was frightened by such imagination.
Even a ship that had been caught couldn’t be saved.
If it was a person, they wouldn’t be alive anymore, or so I thought.
From the waves, I saw the eerie, shining, big eye of the kraken.
At that time, beyond doubt I was also in danger.
Just as I thought so, I could see even more terrible things beyond the fog.
There was a hand.
In the white fog, I saw the shadow of a black hand, which was many times the size of the tentacles.
No, not the tentacles, it must have been thicker than the kraken’s torso.
Just the hand alone was that big.
Imagining the whole size, I was terrified.
It had to be many times the size of the ship……no, the Water Palace of Knot Reed.
The huge hand caught the kraken and a scream like a shrilly trumpet resounded in the foggy sea.
It might have been my first time hearing a kraken scream.
The kraken was resisting, but it was no use.
The size of the hand was in a different league, it was like a fight between an elephant and an ant.
That huge hand easily dragged the kraken into the sea and disappeared.
A large whirlpool was created in the place where the hand and the kraken sunk.
The ship swayed greatly and I desperately clung to my surroundings and endured it.
Well, I thought that following the kraken, this ship would undoubtedly go down next.
However, no matter how long I waited, the next shake didn’t come.
When I opened my eyes nervously, the fog was already gone and there was neither the kraken nor the black hand.
Even when I tell of this story, you will likely not believe it.
I guess, you will be thinking that I have gone insane.
If you think so, please see the starboard side of our ship.
Because there are traces of the suckers of the kraken who was struggling, clinging to the ship.
(The story of Arnaud, shop owner of a well-established herbal shop)
Seasons came around and it was around the time when autumn was coming near.
Erica was visiting Trade City Knot Reed due to the Duke of Aurelia’s official business.
After arriving at Water Palace and putting her luggage in the room where she was going to stay for that morning, Erica immediately headed towards the Turm Wand Store.
Unlike her previous visits when she was travelling incognito, this time she asked her father for permission and brought along a maid as a chaperone.
Therefore, unfortunately, Tirnanog was in his small golem form and Palug was disguised as a cat.
Knot Reed’s Town of All Kinds of Goods was as lively as ever even after a year and Erica’s footsteps were also light.
Many people were crowding in Turm Wand Store.
Erica heard that Harold’s rumors spread and noble customers from neighboring territories were increasing day by day.
Because of that, there were two clerks in charge of customer service. A young girl with brown hair and a young man with red hair.
Leaving the wand restoration consultation to the maid, Erica headed to the back of the store.
The porcelain dishes decorating the aisle leading to the Wunderkammer increased from a year ago.
Next to the dish repaired with gold lacquer, the same patterned dish made by Gilbert was lined up.
Just by looking at it, the present relationship of the Turm parent and child could be guessed.
Erica knocked and opened the Wunderkammer.
Inside the Wunderkammer seemed even more messy than a year ago.
Beyond the sea of materials and alchemy tools that didn’t leave any space for treading, there was a redheaded boy who was keen on reading.
It seemed that as usual, he didn’t even notice the sound of her knocking due to his concentration.
“Long time no see, Harold.”
When Erica called out, Harold looked back at once.
The serious look she saw for a moment quickly disappeared and a friendly atmosphere showed on his face.
Harold ran over to Erica while avoiding the randomly rolling objects.
“Erica! You have arrived? You’re earlier than I thought!”
“It was thanks to the newly available route.
Recently, it seems that the damages caused by krakens have decreased a lot.”
“Ah~ so that’s why! That’s good. I’m glad to see you anyway!”
Starting from about three months ago, damage by krakens in the area surrounding Knot Reed was on a downward trend.
Experts believed that the population of the large-sized krakens themselves was on decline.
As a result of the joint survey of Aurelia-Knot Reed-Lindis, several sea routes which were once designated as dangerous points were proved to be navigable even by commercial merchant ships.
Those points were incorporated into the new route and the sea distribution in the Western part of the continent had a slight improvement in efficiency.
While talking about such a thing, the small golem at her feet secretly stuck out his chest and proudly posed.
Yes, the sharp decline of the kraken was caused by Tirnanog.
The purpose was to reduce the dangerous water routes in the north-western part.
The increase of the large-sized krakens was caused by the magical power discharge from the neighboring altar of vampires.
Removing the contaminated altars was risky for the present Palug whose angelic power had not fully recovered yet.
Therefore, as a symptomatic treatment, Tirnanog was hunting the magical beasts which had become larger and ferocious by absorbing the magical power of the altars, starting from the krakens.
“That said, recently, the older brothers of Gilbert-aniki seem to have become busy.
Since the shipping routes became safe, the number of businesses entering the sea distribution increased and new customers were coming.
Thanks to the decrease in number of the sinking ships, the insurer’s profits are also rising.”
“Oh my, is that so?”
“On the contrary, the hunters’ business is suddenly falling.”
“There was a harmful effect in an unexpected place, huh? So, there is a change in the employment rate……sooner or later there will be issues with public order……”
“Eh? Erica, did you say something?
Oops, sorry. I made you talk while standing.
Please come in and sit there……or not. Wait, I can make a little space.”
Harold tidied up the tools and materials scattered in haste and opened up a way to a chaise lounge.
This chaise lounge was not there when Erica first came.
It seemed that only the place around the chaise lounge which was bought with visitors in mind, was neatly tidied up.
When Erica sat on the chaise lounge, a golden cat quickly took position on her knees.
Harold also sat down on a chair across Erica.
“Ah, right. I will brew us some tea. We just received new tea leaves.”
“Sorry for bothering you, Harold.”
“No, no, it seems like it’s going to be a long talk anyway.
By the way, where is that all-black mister? I wonder if he can come and meet up with Master?”
“No, he has other errands to take care of.”
Erica’s smile seemed apologetic for a moment.
This time she had come out with her father’s approval.
It was difficult to bring around a suspicious person in all-black when she already had a chaperone.
“I see, that’s too bad. I thought I could see him after a long time.”
Tirnanog stroked the back of Harold who was disappointed.
Harold who saw the gesture reflexively gave a broad smile.
“This golem, it looks like it is comforting me.”
“That’s right. Isn’t he a gentle child?”
“Eh— what’s with that? Do you intend to brag?
The one who constructed it to console downhearted people was you, right?”
Erica smiled thinly while eluding Harold’s comment.
Tirnanog shrugged his shoulders and sat down next to Erica.
While admiring the life-like movements, Harold exited the room to make tea.
“……We should come here with your humanoid form next time.
You will go to the wand store first and wait there and we will join you later, how about it, Tir?”
When Erica suggested it, Tirnanog silently nodded.
After a while, Harold returned with the new tea set on a tray.
The new work had a luxurious design but with a calm atmosphere, grape leaves were drawn on it only with gold color.
When Harold brewed the black tea, the fragrance of bergamot spread inside the Wunderkammer.
The scent somewhat resembled Earl Grey1.
Erica was impressed that something very similar to the previous world was made, although there were neither Lapsang souchong2 nor Earl Grey.
“Now then~ what should I talk about?”
“How about starting with the story of this tea?”
“As expected of Erica, I’m glad you asked that.
This is a blend developed by the tea sector of Turm in cooperation with Bell-anechan.”
Erica and Harold began with the story of the black tea and talked about various things.
The majority of those talks had been mentioned in the letters, but it was fun to actually meet and talk in person.
Blue glass and silver perfume bottles made of cobalt which were used in Bell’s store were popular and the Nibelheim craftsmen were busy because of that.
As a result of this influence, blue glass and silver accessories showed signs of being a trend in this autumn.
Gilbert finally proposed to Bell three days ago.
Erica was told that it was a confession with 5-6 small boats fully loaded with rare roses ordered from Ignitia.
Despite his confident proposal, Bell’s reply seemed to be on-hold.
Gilbert who had been waiting for the reply was uneasy and there was a possibility that he wouldn’t be able to get any work done.
While the boss was in such a miserable state, the porcelain business itself was doing fine.
The other day, a sometsuke dinnerware which he was proud of was baked after being held off for a year and was presented to the Ignitia royal family.
By spring, mass orders for seika tea sets dropped in unexpectedly from the Hafan Ducal House.
Gilbert’s partner was found and it was decided that he would be put in charge of the branch store in the Duchy of Hafan.
Also, when Erica told him about the course of Elric’s treatment which she heard from Eduard, Harold was delighted.
At Knot Reed, Elric who first conveyed the crisis of Cursed Sword of Fire was treated as a hero.
When recovery potions were sent to Lindis on Erica’s order, this information was spread to the surroundings by the potion master Sergei.
Eventually, it was settled by dispatching a large amount of potions with the joint signature of each company in the Town of All Kinds of Goods.
Speaking of the Cursed Sword of Fire, Erica remembered something.
“Ah! What happened to Knot Reed’s rumors about the angel?”
“It’s still going on. Did you see the amulets sold out around here?”
“Eh……I certainly saw it, but does Knot Reed’s angel have that kind of image?”
Erica glanced at the cat on her knees.
Most of the amulets that had been sold were vague designs with a high-degree of abstraction in the size of a key holder.
Certainly, no one would think that the real angel was a cat.
The main culprit of the rumors was crying out with a forced ‘meoow’ while averting her eyes.
“Aniki was disappointed since it would have been profitable if we also participated in the rumors.
Since we are more or less the source of the rumors.”
“It’s a late start, but we were talking about making an amulet of the angel made of white porcelain.”
Erica, who was hoping for the rumors to abate, awkwardly smiled back.
Looking at the girl’s state, Harold gave her a grin as he added.
“So, I told him that we should make a full-blown figurine.
Therefore, Aniki wanted to ask you to be the model—?”
Erica responded promptly without leaving so much as a second gap.
Her expressions disappeared from her face in a moment and she looked at Harold with hard, gloomy and indifferent eyes as if she wanted to stab him.
At that atmosphere, Harold unintentionally flinched.
“E-eh~? Isn’t it fine? Your face is especially beautiful.”
“Well then, you can use Auguste-sama’s face.
You see, it’s a beautiful face and he surely looks better than me.”
“No, no, that’s not good! If it’s the face of His Highness Crown Prince, it will surely be exposed, right?
That person, he knows who the source of the rumors is, so he will put the screw on me.”
Harold hastily stopped Erica who had issued an alternative proposal that was not the best idea.
Erica’s expression had changed unnoticed into one of enjoyment at Harold’s dismay.
While cursing in his mind at the other party who was as cunning as ever, Harold’s face involuntarily broke into a smile.
After pondering about the matter for a moment with an evil face, Erica eventually smiled with yet another evil face.
While stroking the throat of the cat on her knees with a gentle hand, she suggested to Harold—
“I will send you two pieces of portraits later, you can make a model from it.”
“Is there a reason for being so specific?”
“I am acquainted with a wonderfully beautiful woman and man. They are very famous, but unexpectedly their faces are not well-known.”
“Heeh? You are well-acquainted as usual.
Then, please send those directly to Aniki’s workshop.
It seems that he wants to hurry up and make it before the he misses the fad.”
If there are any problem, they will be directed at Gilbert-aniki.
Harold thought so and decided to throw all the responsibilities on him.
By the time the portraits arrive, the turmoil about his proposal should settle down.
Their topic afterwards moved on to wands and new magic tools.
But, at that time Harold had forgotten.
Even after Gilbert’s proposal succeeded, the more difficult event would continue.
Seasons went around and early summer had arrived. The season of the Advent Festival was approaching again.
In Ignitia’s Island of Messenger, many angel statues were displayed even more than the usual.
In the royal castle hall, Queen Adélaïde was giving directions for transporting the decorations of the Advent Festival.
In addition to the traditional stone angel statues, this year, figurines made in the north-western part were also brought in.
It was delivered with the joint signatures of the Nibelheim family and the Turm family.
“Mother, the decorative cloth has arrived from Hafan. Will it be okay for me to bring it here?”
“Oh my, thank you, Auguste. Since the arrangement of the statues will take a bit longer, please do it afterwards.”
Adélaïde, who was gazing at the angelic figure of a brave young man, turned back at the call of her son.
Auguste realized that it was an unfamiliar texture and remembered the gifts from the North-west.
“That’s an example of the figurine, isn’t it? ……It looks like a strong angel.”
“Doesn’t it? It is somewhat similar to the figure of the young Henri, so I was inadvertently captivated by it.”
“Heeh? Maybe they made it to look like father?”
Auguste nodded to Adélaïde’s words and stared at the statue of the angel.
A burly body overflowing with youthfulness and vitality.
A bright and refreshing smiling face that people would praise for, a glimpse of a child-like expression on the daring features.
Certainly, it seemed like King Henri.
However, the actual model was not him in particular.
It was the ancestor of Henri and Auguste, the Severe King Jean.
“The other angel is also wonderful. Please take a look at it.”
Adélaïde pointed to an angel figure covered with a protective cloth.
Perhaps it would resemble mother?
Auguste thought so while turning over the cloth and then he exclaimed.
“See? Auguste, doesn’t it look exactly like you?”
Adélaïde stared at Auguste and the angel alternatingly with a full smile.
It was a beautiful angelic figure with a pure smile filled with affection.
Certainly, its features were as alike as Auguste just like two peas in a pod.
However, the body was clearly designed as that of a girl.
This one was modeled after the Conquest King Guillaume.
However, each one of the porcelain makers thought that he was a girl by seeing only Guillaume’s portrait.
And Gilbert who was unable to calm down due to the series of turmoils such as his engagement and marriage, didn’t notice that it closely resembled Auguste.
“It makes me feel somewhat complicated to see my face in this way……”
“It is very cute, isn’t it? It is a popular design in Knot Reed.”
A conversation exchanged at Water Palace during autumn a year and a half before came to Auguste’s mind.
As the consequences of delegating the incident’s post-processing to Harold, there were rumors of an angel’s appearance and disappearance.
(No way, maybe this is a form of his revenge……)
Auguste nodded to Adélaïde while hiding his upset with a shaky smile.
“I’m touched by the wonderful workmanship.
I’d like to make an opportunity and greet the Knot Reed’s porcelain workshop.”
“That’s a good idea – surely the craftsmen will be pleased as well.”
Adélaïde agreed with Auguste’s proposal and promised to push forward the visit plan.
Auguste bowed perfectly and quickly left the hall.
Now then, I wonder how the north-western porcelain workshop will explain this.
While walking in the corridor of the royal castle, a thought like this was turning around in Auguste’s head.
The figurine decorated in the hall of the royal castle at the Advent Festival was looked on by many people.
After that, the angel statues made in Gilbert’s porcelain workshop became prevalent among Ignitian aristocrats.
Gilbert’s porcelain workshop supposedly insisted that the model of the angel was not His Highness the Crown Prince until the end, but the person who became the model remained unknown.
1 Earl Grey tea is a tea blend which has been flavoured with the addition of oil of bergamot.
2 Lapsang souchong is a smoky dark tea from the mountains of Fujian.
Also, finally the Queen has a name!