“In the end, we weren’t able to find out anything more about the wolf,” I mutter glowering up at the sky as I stand in front of the little cabin.
Things just never seem to go smoothly in this world.
…..Dark clouds shade the sky, casting shadows over the land.
This sort of unsettling atmosphere usually signifies that something bad is about to happen.
Or has happened.
It’s probably because today’s like this that I wasn’t able to gather any information about the wolf!
….No, who am I fooling It’s not the sky’s fault.
It’s due to my own inadequacies.
Pinning the blame of not being able to achieve my objective on the weather just shows how incapable I really am.
There’s always tomorrow,” Gilles says while staring at my dark expression.
“So Why did we come back to the cabin when your magic’s already back”
“After two whole years of living here, I grew rather fond of this place.”
“….Maybe you should name it then,” Gilles suggests with a straight face.
I can’t tell at all whether he’s mocking me or not.
“Hmm, then what about Josephine”
“So it’s a girl….” Gilles murmurs, his eyes widening a fraction, though the set of his mouth remains just as serious as before.
It seems that he’s been thinking of this little cabin as a male.
Though, no matter how I look at it, this compactness, this level of coziness, has a distinctly feminine feel to it.
“Should we go visit Gramps” he asks, interrupting my thoughts.
“Yeah, let’s do that,” I agree, and then head off towards the woods.
It’s only been a few days since I was last here, but somehow the atmosphere of the impoverished village seems to have completely changed again.
This time it’s not just a matter of the air feeling cleaner and lighter though.
The whole village almost seems to be abuzz with new life and energy.
Just what has Uncle Will been doing to this place
“Alicia!” Rebecca cries, bounding over to me.
She’s able to move remarkably fast despite having to hop on just one leg.
Her muscles must be amazing.
I imagine it has to be tiring though.
It’s too bad that this village lacks the necessary materials to be able to make her an artificial leg….
As she gets closer, I notice her lovely silver hair fluttering behind her as she moves.
I’m sure it would shine brilliantly under the light of the sun, but even with all these positive changes being made, it seems that the sun still can’t permeate the wall of fog engulfing this place.
“Rebecca, isn’t it tough jumping around on one leg” I ask when she finally hops to a stop in front of me.
For a moment Rebecca’s eyes go round, but then a peal of laughter dances out from her lips.
“I’m fine! I can even fight with a sword like this!” she declares, a smile stretching across her entire face.
“You know how to use a sword” I ask reflexively, my whole body stiffening momentarily.
To not only wield a sword with one leg, but to be able to fight as well That’s unbelievable.
No matter how tempered her leg and core muscles are….
her mobility has to be severely compromised.
It should be impossible for her to overcome such a handicap in an actual fight!
….At least, that’s how it seems in my inexperienced mind.
“Since you’re always trying so hard, Alicia, I felt like I needed to do my best as well,” Rebecca says, her earnest eyes staring straight into mine.
Her gaze is determined.
It’s the look a knight might give to her lady as she pledges her loyalty and allegiance.
……Her eyes tell me of the unfathomable efforts that she’s putting in day after day.
“Alicia, that day, you told me to become this village’s savior.
I promised I would.
And I’m going to do everything in my power to keep that promise,” she says smiling so happily at me that her eyes crinkle and close partly.
How is a villainess supposed to react in this type of situation At the very least, I’m positive that praising her efforts is out of the question…..
Think like a villainess….
Unusable things are thrown away….. Yes.
Any villainess would obviously do that in this situation.
I need to confirm whether Rebecca is truly strong or not with my own eyes.
“Are you telling me that you can fight while bearing the weight of a real sword” I ask in a low, cold tone without averting my gaze.
Rebecca’s eyes fly open at my sudden query.
“You must be a fool to question Rebecca’s swordsmanship.”
Suddenly the prickly voice of a young man calls out to us.
I look towards the source of the voice.
“And you are” I ask unperturbed, leveling my gaze in the man’s direction.
He has deep, blueberry colored hair and slightly slanted, almond-shaped eyes with a large, jagged scar cutting across the middle of his face.
He’s got quite the thuggish appearance.
Will’s currently in a meeting, so he sent me on ahead,” the man says, unhurriedly walking in our direction.
He doesn’t stop until he’s planted his feet aggressively close, and then, crossing his arms over his chest, he looks down his nose at me.
He’s huge, unlike I initially thought.
I’m not talking about just his height, either.
He’s wide too, extremely muscular.
And, now that I’m looking at him from so close, I can also see that his face is quite handsome as well.
Ugh, every once in a while I’d like to see someone with an actually ugly face….
or at least a plain one.
Though, admitting something like that out loud is probably not the best idea…..
But when everyone you meet is this good-looking, you start to feel an uncomfortable sense of unreality.
……Wait, did he say that Uncle Will is in a meeting right now… What sort of meeting
“Who are you” Nate demands with a slight glower as he continues to look down on me.
Oh, I didn’t introduce myself, did I
I quickly straighten my posture and meet Nate’s gaze.
Alicia Williams,” I tell him with a relaxed, alluring, toothy grin.
Putting on this sort of villainous expression is already child’s play for me.
After practicing daily in front of the mirror, it’s become basically second nature at this point.
“……What’s some high and mighty noble like you doing here in a place like this” Nate spits out, his nose scrunching in clear distaste.
…..Which is a pretty reasonable response actually, everything considered.
There isn’t any reason for an aristocrat to receive a warm welcome.
Least of not here.
Though to be showing me such open hostility like this…..
He must really hate nobles.
“A pampered little princess like you that hasn’t even touched a sword before coming to this village That’s rich.
You clearly don’t belong here.
Right, everyone” Nate ridicules.
He raises his voice on those last words, slowly bringing his gaze around to survey the crowd.
The onlookers all raise their arms up high and cry out their agreement.
…..The whole plaza’s become boisterous in an instant.
Though it’s nice to be able to hear everyone sounding so energetic.
“Nate!” Rebecca shrieks, a blaze of anger in her eyes.
“Oi, Rebecca, don’t tell me you’re on her side” Nate scoffs, directing his glare in her direction.
The moment he opens his mouth, the noisy group of onlookers fall silent…..
Could Nate be their leader
Even if I ask, I doubt they’d tell me.
I’ll just have to wait and ask Uncle Will later.
“Alicia is my life’s savior.
And besides, she can use a sword.”
Huh How did she know that I don’t remember broadcasting that particular piece of information here…..
“Ha! Are you talking about when she lopped off your leg Anyone can do something like that.
Though, I guess it could be considered quite a feat for a coddled princess like her,” Nate says, barking out a harsh, gritty laugh.
Ooh, what’s this That expression of his is pretty nice right now.
It looks so hateful and dastardly.
I quite like it.
“And can’t the little princess use magic She doesn’t even need to hold a sword.
Did you come here just to jeer at all us beggars Did you want a pick-me-up To feel better about yourself”
Nate’s gaze slices back over to me.
What hatred-filled eyes.
If I actually were a noble come to flaunt my affluence over them, I suppose such loathing would only be natural and wholly deserved.
“Whether you gave one of your eyes over to Will or not, I don’t know and I don’t care.
You’re nothing but an outsider here.”
Nate’s eyes glare straight into mine.
As he speaks, his voice is low and ice cold.
It’s like a frigid, winter wind carving through the air.
His eyes are the luminescent yellow of a predator’s….
a shade somewhat similar to my own.
I find myself absentmindedly staring at his irises, wondering if we look alike.
In my moment of distraction, suddenly a fierce blast of bloodlust fills the area.
I glance over at Gilles in surprise to see him glaring at Nate with murder in his eyes.
“Alicia came here–“
It’s fine,” I say, cutting him off.
At the same time, Nate’s contemptuous gaze falls on Gilles.
You high-tailed it out of here the second you had the chance.
What’re you trying to do, crawling your way back in You damned traitor,” Nate spits the words out like a slap.
His eyes are roiling with rage and indignation.
……Everyone in this village, they all just want to escape from here.
And by bringing Gilles out with me, I’ve unwittingly set him apart.
He’s still so young….
And I doubt the other villagers are aware of how smart and talented he is.
They couldn’t possibly understand.
Ugh, this has become a lot more annoyingly complicated than I was expecting it to be.
I’ll just shut them up for now.
“……None of this talk matters.
Your whole argument against me is moot, since I’m stronger than Rebecca.”
“Hah” Nate sneers, one of his eyebrows arching high onto his forehead.
“Alicia, saying that yourself is a bit–“
“No way.” Nate interjects confidently before Rebecca can finish speaking.
He seems to think I’ve grown up as some spoiled, sheltered little noblewoman.
“Alicia, you’re grinning too much,” Gilles cautions a little exasperatedly.
There aren’t any traces of killing intent left in his expression.
Not even any anger.
He must have realized what I intend to do.
In fact, he can’t quite hide the smirk of anticipation that’s pulling at the corner of his own lips.
I’d prefer that he fix his own expression first before chiding me on mine.
“Then shall we put them to a test My swordsmanship abilities” I ask silkily, narrowing my eye at Nate with a calm, confident smile on my face.