Chapter 5 - A Wizard from the Capital
“Well, you know, you might’ve noticed but, umm, Young Master is getting more…” Maylie trailed off.
“…Yeah, I know. Our young master is not so much of a gentleman.”
The taste from the chocolate pie spreading on her tongue was sweet, but Azriel’s expression was bitter.
Maylie drew a long breath, “I heard from the coachman that after his coming of age celebration, the quality of the places he began frequenting has worsened. He drinks more and more and even has acquired dirty habits.”
While chewing the rest of the chocolate pie, Azriel calculated the money she saved so far.
“I still need to do several more jobs. I have enough to settle in a nearby dominion now, but I’ll be captured quickly if I do. If I want to go farther, then I should…”
“I’ll lend you some. Get away quickly, please?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Azriel refused Maylie’s suggestion with a solemn face. “What about your siblings?”
The reason why Maylie began doing odd jobs at the castle around the same time Azriel had been brought in as a slave was because of her sick mother and younger siblings. The young maid’s wages were hardly enough to make a living for her family.
Maylie swallowed hard before lowering her voice and whispering, “I have some money saved. Use that.”
It was unquestionably obvious what the money had been for. Maylie’s mother had been suffering from an unknown illness for a long time, and she often said that she wanted to take her mother to the capital. There were great wizards in the capital who could possibly cure her. Azriel choked. She could not take such money nor did she wish to.
“It’s all right,” she said while clearing her throat. “You saved that money for your mother’s medical treatment.”
“I will lend it to you, and you can pay me back after you run away and settle down. You can do that, right?”
“You don’t know when I’ll be able to pay you back.”
“You will earn it soon. You can even write in Lemm, after all.”
“You’re right. So I just need to hold out a little longer.”
“What if something happens to you? It’s not like you have the healthiest body either!” Maylie’s face was distorted as if she was about to burst into tears.
Maylie’s genuine concern moved Azriel to tears. She turned her head away.
“If I sense that something major is about to happen, I’ll run away no matter what, so you don’t need to…”
In the direction she was facing, Azriel caught sight of the top of the box she had carelessly stashed away earlier. She paused. Suddenly, she thought of a way to make money quickly.
“…Maylie, do you know anything about the wizard visiting tomorrow?”
“Hmm? Like what?”
“Does he have silver hair?”
“The wizard is indeed a man, but he doesn’t have silver hair. They say he’s old enough to have a child around our age.”
The wizard named “Rhema Reshith” seemed to be in his early to mid-20s at most. If he stood next to Damon, who did seem older than his age, Rhema would definitely look younger.
‘I’m sure he’s not the wizard coming from the capital,’ Azriel pondered. ‘Who is he, then? If he can give me something like this like it’s nothing, then he must be extremely rich. It’s rare for a wizard to be that wealthy, though.’
Wizards were generally well off in comparison to the common folk, but it was unusual for one to be as rich as a noble.
‘Is he a wizard from a foreign country who came here after hearing about the ruins? …Why did he show kindness to me?’ Azriel meekly pulled the box out from its hiding place.
“But what about the wizard all of a sudden?” Maylie sniffed. “And what is that?”
“A weird wizard I met today gave this to me… I should trade this in for money.”
These shoes were crafted by a renowned boutique that was famous enough for Deborah to boast about to her other aristocratic peers. Since they were a new pair, they would surely fetch a handsome amount if she sold them. Azriel felt uneasy about receiving such an expensive gift, so she thought to return them, but the current situation necessitated her using them for her own sake and then finding a way to pay him back another time. She knew his name, his face, and the fact that he was a wizard, so she should be able to find him later.
Having reached her decision, she tugged at the ribbon on top of the package. The intricate knot came undone at once.
Maylie spotted the logo branding the lid of the box and her eyes widened, almost to the point of bulging out of their sockets, as Azriel opened the box.
“Whoa, whoa,” she exclaimed, “look at that…”
“My goodness,” Azriel admired the shoes, at a loss for words.
Adorning the shoes were crystal flowers that were so clear they seemed to be made of glass. Jewels surrounded the flowers like a serene scattering of stars, blindingly dazzling. Her dim, basement room seemed to brighten as well.
“A, A, Azriel, th, this… I don’t think it’s c, c, crystal but d, d, diamond,” Maylie stammered with a voice that sounded like she was being choked.
Azriel vacantly looked down at the glass shoes, turning her eyes towards the crystal flowers. They were about the size of silver coins. If they were indeed real diamonds… She felt like she was about to faint.
“That can’t be… They must be crystal.”
“I, I heard of a trick before that we can use to test whether it’s real,” Maylie murmured. “If you spill a drop of water on it, and it forms a round droplet instead of running down, then it is a real diamond.”
Still murmuring, Maylie tipped a nearly empty bottle of water towards the shoes. She shook the bottle, and a bit of water barely dripped from it, forming a droplet on the rock. Azriel had to cover Maylie’s mouth to prevent her from screaming.
‘The shoes themselves are enough to make my heart leap into my mouth, and those are diamonds?’ Azriel thought. ‘This is not something I can just take,’
“You just received these?” Maylie gasped, barely managing to calm herself. “From who? For what reason?”
“I don’t know,” Azriel tried to explain her encounter with Rhema. “I had never met him before. He was a wizard named Rhema Reshith. I was at the bookstore…”
Maylie rolled her eyes, “Could that wizard have fallen in love with you at first sight?”
“That’s nonsense. It didn’t feel that way.”
“He gave you this exorbitant gift. That can’t be meaningless!”
Azriel let out a low sigh and closed the box’s lid, “In any case, I absolutely can’t sell this.”
“Why? This was given to you as a gift anyway!”
“This is too much. I’m afraid of the aftermath.”
There were different kinds of gifts, but this was more extreme than she expected. Azriel decided to find the wizard by any means and return the shoes. Maylie had a regretful look on her face, but she also agreed with Azriel’s judgment.
“Well, right. You might get in trouble for accepting this. Then, how are you going to make up for the shortfall…?”
“I can manage it somehow. Don’t worry.”
“Somehow? Do you have a plan?”
“I have something in mind, so don’t worry about me and go to sleep now. You know tomorrow is going to be a busy day, too, because of the guest.”
“You are sure, right? You need to let me know if there’s anything I can do, okay?”
“Okay, I will.”
“All right. Good night, Azriel!”
“Good night to you, too, Maylie. Thanks for the pie and bread.”
Maylie peeked outside to check if there was anyone around before quietly returning to her room. After bidding goodbye to her, Azriel glared at the box she had placed on a pile of straw. She thought about the pale wizard with a straight face and the look of embarrassment that had briefly appeared as if his mask had been broken. The feeling of deja vu…
‘Did I meet him during the time in my life I can’t recall? Can he be the one who named me…? No, I told myself I wouldn’t expect that person to return anymore.’
Azriel put a stop to her thoughts before they could take root. She emptied her mind and pulled out the book she received from the bookstore today. Even though she had told Maylie not to worry about her, she had not come up with a specific solution yet. She had to hurry and quickly raise the money she needed to run away. She set about transcribing Lemm into Limble until it was deep into the night when she finally fell asleep.
The next day, a wizard from Modjankle, the capital city, arrived at Colte Castle. Since the morning, the entire castle had been busy preparing a banquet to welcome him. Deborah would be attending the banquet, so there were no classes scheduled for her today. Though Azriel, as her whipping child, was given a reprieve from working in that capacity, she was, of course, not allowed to rest.
“Hurry up! What are you staring at? Hey, you! Wipe this again!”
Azriel ran errands for the kitchen, which currently resembled a battleground. Because of how busy everyone was, she did not even notice that the chief maid had been missing all day.
“Hey, take this to the banquet hall! Give this to the wizard! Be quick!”
A maid pushed a tray carrying a new napkin towards Azriel before running off to attend to someone else calling her. Azriel stopped wiping the cups she had been cleaning to take the tray and left the kitchen. The entire castle was boisterous except for the banquet hall. Only the sounds of soft chatter and the occasional clinking of tableware were heard. She took a deep breath and opened the door to the banquet hall. An orchestra was playing next to a long table laden with various, fancy dishes. The musicians had originally been hired to serenade the diners, but their hands were now off their instruments because the guest had said they were too noisy. Thus, awkward silence surrounded the hall.
The wizard did not remove his hood even though he was indoors and focused only on eating quietly. Chubby Count Colte kept wiping his sweat with his handkerchief. Damon Colte was cutting his steak into pieces with a frown. Deborah Colte narrowly managed to muster a smile with the corners of her mouth twitching.
Only Countess Colte, with a fake smile, began a conversation with the wizard, “Mr. Tarbo Tameion, I heard you are a member of Aurora. How wonderful. Of course, someone like you can also use great magic, right? Like the wizards of legend…”
“Do you even know what Aurora is?” the wizard snapped at her with phlegm in his throat.
“I do,” the countess replied feebly, embarrassed. “Isn’t Aurora a social club for remarkable wizards? It’s a place where people like you, Mr. Tameion, get together and form friendly relations…”
“Of course,” Tarbo smirked and lowered his head toward his bowl, “you have no idea.”
The Countess’s face reddened and an awkward silence befell the hall again. Still holding the tray, Azriel studied the atmosphere. The butler, who was dressed in a tailcoat, stood at the entrance and noticed her. He squinted his eyes after scanning her attire, which was untidy from working.
“How dare you lowly being walk into the banquet hall with such filthy attire! Give it to me. I’ll do it.”
He reached his hand out with annoyance. Even though he spoke quietly, the wizard heard him since the rest of the hall was quiet. The hooded wizard quickly eyed the entrance. He had initially overlooked Azriel passing her tray to the butler and hastily turned his head toward her. Tarbo Tameion glared at her as she was about to leave after bowing to the butler. His shaggy, brown beard—the only part of him visible beneath his hood—was trembling.
Before Azriel could close the door behind her, he abruptly cried out, “Wait!”
All the banquet hall’s occupants were surprised. Azriel, as well, was startled as she looked back.
“You,” Tarbo gazed at her with sharp eyes and gestured, “come over here.”
Azriel hesitated for a moment before approaching him. When Tarbo removed his hood, a horrible burn scar covering his entire face appeared. Deborah was about to scream but managed to swallow it at her mother’s dissuasion. Azriel also flinched a little at the sight. Tarbo did not care for the others’ reactions and stared at Azriel with a piercing glare—especially her eyes.
After a moment of silence, he asked, “Who are you?”