The Girl with a Crush and the Woman in Love
Willem had a terrible dream.
In it, his master, Navrutri, and the emperor were all drinking and having a merry old time. They were all extreme in their treatment of women in their own ways, so of course the topic of conversation quickly shifted to women. His master, who was really just a perverted old man at heart, offered his opinions on breasts and buttocks. Navrutri, who claimed to have numerous lovers in the various towns he had traveled to (which was probably true), talked about a particular beautiful woman he met in the Flowing Sands Confederation. And finally, the emperor, famous for always touching his court ladies somewhat inappropriately (and being yelled at by his wife), went on and on about the fresh innocence of his new maid with the dreamy eyes of a teenage boy.
I don’t want to be a part of this…
As soon as Willem thought that, however, his shoulders were suddenly grabbed by three hands.
“I want to hear from you too,” Navrutri said.
“Spit it all out,” his master ordered with a drunken smile.
“That reminds me, I heard you were alone with my niece the other day,” the emperor remarked suggestively as he leaned in closer.
Willem tried to run away using training as an excuse, but it didn’t work. He was held down in his chair while extravagant amounts of alcohol were poured into his mouth. Before long, his consciousness began to grow hazy and his lips started to move on their own, spilling out the names of the women he knew.
“– Technician. Yo, Technician. What are you doing sleeping in here?”
Willem Kumesh, Second Technician, woke up at the sound of a voice. With a quick look around he was able to grasp the situation. The first thing that caught his eye was a mountain of completely unorganized bundles of paper. The next thing to catch his eye was a mountain of completely unorganized bundles of paper. Right, left, up, down, no matter where he looked he saw pretty much the same thing. In other words, he was in the reference room of the fairy warehouse.
“You weren’t in your room so I was wondering where you were… and then I find you here of all places.”
“… Aiseia?” A brown haired girl stood nearby with her hands on her hips and a not so impressed look.
“Mhm, your very own Aiseia Myse Valgalis. Anyways, if you don’t hurry to the cafeteria soon there won’t be anymore breakfast.”
“I see…” The previous night he got the idea to organize the resource room for the first time in a while. But, as expected, it proved to be a very difficult task. Not only did he lose track of documents, it seemed like he also lost track of time, and somewhere along his arduous journey he had passed out on the couch. “Well, can’t go without food.”
Willem sat up, and, a split second later, a small girl rolled off the couch.
“… ouch.” The gray haired girl picked herself up and sat on the floor.
“Ah, I was wondering where that warm blanket came from.”
“It’s cold now, so I didn’t want you to get sick.”
Makes sense. Willem was grateful. “Thanks… so why did you end up sleeping on the couch too?”
“It’s cold now, so I didn’t want you to get sick.”
This time, her reasoning didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and Willem wasn’t too grateful.
“Collon’s had a fever since yesterday, and Tiat and Almita are sneezing. If you let your guard down, you’ll catch it,” Nephren added on to her explanation.
“I’m glad you’re worried about me, but when you sleep, sleep in your own room.” He lightly poked her forehead.
Aiseia, who had been standing off to the side quietly, eyed them suspiciously. “This situation seems like it should sound really dirty, but for some reason it doesn’t.”
“That means your mind hasn’t been fully corrupted yet.”
“Is that something to be happy about?” Aiseia asked. “Also, Nephren, you seem to be playing the role of a pet. Is that okay with you?”
“Moral support is important.”
“I see.” Aiseia nodded.
“… let’s hurry up and go to breakfast.” Willem pulled the still sleepy looking Nephren up.
“Oh, by the way, Mr. Technician, how has Kutori been lately?”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh you know, I was just wonderin’ how it felt to have someone going after you so hard. Feels good?”
“I won’t deny it, but I don’t need you asking about it.”
“Ohoho.” Aiseia looked surprised. “Are you interested?”
“I mean, I’m not an old man and I don’t have peculiar tastes. Even if she is a little young, is there any guy that feels absolutely nothing when a cute girl takes a liking to them? But even if she gets my heart pounding, I can’t accept those feelings. That’s why I’m trying to push her away.”
What am I saying? Apparently, his weird dream was causing him to ramble on about weird things. If he said anymore it might start to get dangerous, so he shut his mouth tight.
“Don’t tell her,” he added on with a groan.
“I heard you were sleeping with Nephren?”
As Willem was walking down the hallway, someone suddenly grabbed his ear and started interrogating him. Enduring the pain, he turned around to see, as expected, a blue haired — no, blue and red haired — girl. An unhappy looking Kutori was glaring at him with a hint of anger in her eyes. It was… how to say… scary.
“Geez, why’s everyone gotta make such a big deal out of it…” He patted the hand latching onto his ear, trying to signal her to let go. “Don’t make it sound like more than it was. What’s wrong with an adult and a kid sleeping under the same blanket?”
“You’re not old enough to call yourself an adult.”
“Well, people often think I’m younger than I am, but I was born over five hundred years ago, you know?”
“I know. I also know you spent those five hundred years sleeping. So stop making that ‘clever comeback’ face.”
Ouch. Willem was pretty confident in that one.
“Anyways, I don’t think you would invite her to sleep with you, so I assume she just did it by herself, but…”
“I’m still not okay with it. You were bragging about how you lived through so many dangerous situations before, weren’t you? How did you not notice her snuggling right by you? What happened to being able to dodge a knife in your sleep?”
“This and that are completely different things. I can sniff out enemies. There’s no point in being cautious of people with no hostile intent, right?”
“Alright, well what if it was Naigrat? What would you have done?”
“I would have thrown her out the window within two seconds,” he answered immediately with confidence. It was an obvious answer. Only one with suicidal thoughts would get that close to a Troll who’s always blatantly expressing her appetite for others.
“See? Your treatment would be different than with Nephren.”
“No no you can’t put them together even if she isn’t an enemy when danger draws near of course I would respond because I don’t want to die you know in the first place you could say she has hostile intent in a broader sense.”
“Talking that fast makes only makes you sound more suspicious.”
“… what do you want me to say…” Willem drooped his shoulders.
“I’ll ask one more question. What would you have done if it was me?”
“Well of course–” He thought a bit. If he spoke carelessly here it would most likely turn out bothersome later on. It would also be quite a bother if she actually tried to test it out. “– I’d kick you out, obviously.”
He expected her to get angry, to say something like ‘why does Nephren get to stay but I don’t?’.
“Hmph.” She still had that unsatisfied expression on her face, but she didn’t inquire any further and released her hand from his ear. “Watch your behavior. You don’t want the little ones picking up bad habits, do you?”
Kutori gave him a light pat on the back before starting off down the hallway in a light jog.
Wha? Unable to grasp the situation, Willem stood there confused.
He was used to dealing with girls, but not women. So when it came to girls on the border between the two age groups, he never knew how to handle them, and even now, five hundred years later, he was still clueless.
But still, there was one thing he managed to detect.
“She’s pushing herself too hard…”
Of course, he had no solid evidence. He simply got that impression from Kutori, who, at first glance, was acting perfectly normally.
Another fairy warehouse managers’ meeting was held in Naigrat’s room. Freshly baked scones sat on top of a plate, with three types of jam next to them. In the fireplace, the tea kettle whistled energetically.
“… is Collon’s cold getting better?” Willem asked.
“We can’t let our guard down yet. Her fever’s started to decrease, but it’s still pretty high. Tomorrow I’m going to buy some medicine in town.”
“I see… if in the middle of the night Collon sounds like she’s having a nightmare or something, put this under her pillow,” he said, then placed a shard of metal about the size of his palm on the table. It was just a plain old chunk of metal, with nothing special looking about it.
“It’s an ancient Talisman to ward off nightmares caused by colds. By itself, it has no race restrictions, and there’s no need to put magic into it. Just place it under her pillow and it’ll start working automatically.”
“… didn’t know you were holding on to such a convenient little thing.”
“Well, I wasn’t really holding on to it… it’s part of the equipment here.”
Naigrat looked at him questioningly. “Wait a second. If it’s part of the equipment here, then I should’ve known about it. On top of that, I can’t imagine the funds to buy such an expensive thing being approved. Not only is it a Talisman that any race can use, it’s one that has a function unrelated to battle.”
“You knew it was here, you just didn’t know what it did.” Willem tapped the metal shard with his fingers. “It came from right around the center of Seniolis’ blade.”
“I told you, didn’t I? Kaliyons are a collection of over 23 Talismans bound together by spell lines. Or in other words, if you undo the spell lines, you end up with at least 23 separate Talismans. By the way, Seniolis has 41 of these things.”
“The other forty are pretty useless, so they’ve just been sitting in the storage room. They’re all things like ‘protection against cutting too much of your fingernails off when using a non magical blade’ or ‘a noise sounds whenever the user calls themselves anything other than their real name’.”
“Return it immediately!!” Naigrat pounded her fist on the table. The teacups placed on it shook violently, but miraculously not even a single drop spilled. “What do you think those Kaliyons — Dug Weapons are? They’re literally the only thing keeping Regul Aire from sinking! And Seniolis is the most important and valuable one!”
“I know I know.” Willem nodded. In fact, he probably knew Seniolis better than anyone alive now. That had both good and bad implications, but…
“Then you should understand, shouldn’t you? That you shouldn’t be ripping apart the sword just to get this convenient little charm! Get your priorities straight!”
“I was wondering where you were going with this.” He let out a small laugh. “Collon getting a good night’s sleep is obviously more important than the fate of this world.”
“That contradicts the entire reason for this warehouse’s existence!” Naigrat facepalmed.
“Relax relax, that was 80% a joke. It’s not like I’m a complete idiot. There aren’t any enemy attacks predicted to happen soon, and in the first place Seniolis’ user can’t even wield it at the moment. The sword won’t get to see any action for a while, right?”
“That’s not the problem…” she sighed deeply. “Alright, whatever. As long as word doesn’t get out no one will get mad at us, and it’s not like I don’t want to help Collon get better too… put it back together when you’re done using it, okay?”
“Leave it to me. You’re always able to understand things in the end. I like that part of you.”
“I don’t need your compliments. I’m in a bout of self hatred right now.” Naigrat shook her head a few times before taking a sip of tea. That seemed to help her calm down. “By the way, do you still have that Talisman? You know, the one you used right after waking up… the language one.”
“Right here.” Willem patted his chest. “Haven’t used it since I learned the common language though. It conveys the very will of the speaker itself using language as an intermediary, so you can’t pick up on all the subtleties of conversation.”
“I was thinking, couldn’t you have easily paid off all your debt if you sold that?”
“Well, technically this is one of the treasures that Grick and his team dug up that day, right? So I’ve basically been borrowing it this whole time. I’ll need to return it eventually.”
“But wasn’t it originally yours way back then?”
“By that logic, I could claim a few of these Kaliyons around here as mine. Even though I couldn’t use any of the high class ones, I tried out quite a number of the average swords. That reminds me, did you ever figure out what to do about Tiat’s sword?”
“We’re still testing a few candidates. Right now Ignareo is looking like a good fit.”
“That one’s also more on the average side. Well, I suppose that’s a good thing.”
“That’s right. Of course given my position I’m not supposed to be happy about it, so it’s kind of a complicated feeling.”
Kaliyons could only be used by the Braves.
To the Braves, strength was a necessity. They were the ones who carried on arcane techniques. The ones who suffered great tragedy from birth. The ones who offered both heart and soul to their duty. The few who had a background which could convince anyone of their worthiness to wield immense power were the only ones who could actually receive such power.
If one could only wield a mediocre blade, it meant that the necessity was weak in them. It meant they had no need to throw away their life to worthless things like fate or tragedy or duty.
“Did you know? Tiat said she wanted a sword as strong as Seniolis… that she wanted to become strong enough to take over Kutori’s place.”
“I know all too well how she feels, but it looks like that’s not going to happen,” Willem said with a wry smile as he reached out for a cup of tea. He took a sip. It seemed a little more bitter than what they usually drank in Naigrat’s room. He didn’t know too much about tea, but he figured she must have changed the leaves or something. “It’s not easy to get its approval. That’s why I’m here now.”
Sensing a gap in their conversation, Willem brought up a subject that suddenly popped up into his mind: his exchange with Kutori earlier. As he finished, Naigrat burst out laughing. “I don’t believe I was telling a joke.”
“I-I know, that’s why it’s funny.” Naigrat’s voice shook from her continued laughter. “You really can be awkward sometimes, even though it’s not like you’re unaware.”
“I don’t get it…”
“She was happy because you said you would treat her the same way as you would treat me,” Naigrat, finally calming down, explained as she wiped her eyes.
“Why would she be happy receiving the same treatment as a Troll?”
“I’m the love rival she’s most concerned about. If she gets the same treatment as me, that means she’s being treated as an adult, right?”
“Ah, I see.” Willem grabbed a scone, spread some apricot jam on it, then stuffed it in his mouth. There was quite a lot of sweetness, but it was neutralized somewhat by the bitter taste of the tea still lingering on his tongue. He was a bit impressed by Naigrat’s arrangement. “Wait… love rival?”
“Your reaction’s a bit slow.”
“It was so unexpected it took a while to process. So what’s the deal? Does Kutori think we’re gonna end up together or something?”
“Well it could use some elaboration, but yes that’s the main idea.”
“I see. I think I understand now.” He chewed his scone. “It’s true that you’re the only adult woman around here… I guess it would seem natural from the perspective of a girl that age.”
“Hmm… that’s about right, but there’s one point you should correct.”
“You don’t need to say ‘of a girl that age’. I share the same perspective too.”
Not grasping what she meant immediately, Willem thought for a bit. While contemplating, he unconsciously took a sip of tea.
“I have a pretty high opinion of you.”
Willem choked. All the bitter tea went down the wrong way, obstructing his breathing.
Watching Willem squirm in agony with a smile, Naigrat rested her chin on her interlaced hands and continued. “I wouldn’t mind being together with someone like you. I’m serious. You have a promising future, you talk bad about Trolls but you’re nice at heart, we already know that we respect each other’s work, you like kids, we have similar tastes, we’re both markless, you’re face isn’t too bad, you seem like you could control my father when he goes on his drunken rampages, and above all you look delicious. See? You’re an excellent candidate.”
“Hold on a minute. I feel like there were a few weird ones in that last half.”
“So that means the ones in the first half were true?”
No… Or at least, that shouldn’t be the case, but Willem couldn’t find the right words to object.
“Besides, the demon races are said to have branched off from the Emnetwyte, so our races should actually be pretty close. That means I might be able to give you family who bear your blood. And I can’t think of a more certain reason for you to continue living in this world than if you were to have children of your own. If I could do anything to give you happiness five, ten years down the road, then that would make me happy too. That’s the number one reason why I wouldn’t mind being together with you.”
Willem couldn’t sincerely accept her words. However, one thing was clear: Naigrat was serious. Her mischievous face and playful tone were simply Naigrat’s way of hiding her true emotions.
“Well, right now making Kutori happy is more important to me, so I don’t plan on taking action for the time being. So anyways, that’s why Kutori is so concerned about me. Do you understand now?”
“Let me ask one despicable question.” Wallowing in self hatred, Willem groaned.
“What is it?”
“Can I pretend I didn’t hear any of what you just said?”
“That really is despicable. But, that’s fine with me.” Naigrat laughed.
She showed no signs of her feelings being hurt, yet despite that Willem couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eyes anymore.