The Inevitable Meeting
Connie and Illumca enjoyed a slow walk towards the guild while she recounted the things she did. Connie had some experience with stealth missions. Though she had not done it much ever since she reached Treading Earth stage in the past and offered some insights. To which the dark elf accepted with a smile.
“Eh, you know…I’m glad you aired out that baggage early, but isn’t this awkward for you?”
Connie was referring to how Illumca had been clinging to her arms. As she was a head shorter than the silver haired elf, the girl had to stoop a bit.
“No. Not at all.”
“You have been establishing yourself as the aloof and cold dark elf in the guild, people would get confused, you know. If you act like this everyone’s going to be disillusioned.”
“I don’t care.”
Even as they entered the guild, she did not separate from her.
The moment they stepped foot into the building, they felt many Hunters’ eyes looking at them.
“It’s them! The girls who saved the Maiden!” one of the hunters finally said.
The guild was suddenly filled with the sound of cheering. Men hooted and stomped on the floor twice as they shouted in approval. Though there were also stares of envy, most of them were jovial.
“What is this?” Illumca said in question. Stepping back as a man tried to clap her back. The man did not mind and offered a toast.
Connie was perturbed by the sudden friendliness and quickly seek the respite of a familiar pink-haired receptionist.
“Hello there, Miss Shining Knight on a White Horse. Heard you saved a Maiden in distress,” Cosette said with a smirk.
“That was really bad,” Illumca commented haughtily. “And we did not ride on a horse. We ran there.”
“I thought that was a good one,” Connie said. “Tell me…why are these guys so…friendly?”
“You saved the Maiden of Water. The symbol of our belief. After what happened yesterday, news got around. Your party’s arrival was not exactly a quiet one either. Though…,” she gestured for Connie to lean forward, Illumca also followed. She then whispered. “We did hide the fact about the demon. Wouldn’t wanna jeopardize the city’s peace.”
“That’s stupid. If there is a Named Demon that managed to enter the kingdom, then there might be others,” Illumca whispered.
“It is by request of the Cardinal Deacon. We need to respect their request.”
“A request, or an order?” Illumca asked.
With the same smile that she showed every Hunters, she replied. “A request.”
Connie nodded. Whatever they are planning, it was not of her concern. She had a plan to go to the Capital to research some things but not in the near future. “I see. Well, no skin off my back. I’m here just to get my rewards. Including the reward for yesterday’s quest, please.”
“Sure,” she gestured towards one of her colleagues at the back, who nodded and went inside the treasury room. “…Is something wrong with her? Why is she smiling so much? It’s creepy.”
“Right now, it doesn’t matter whatever you say, I’ve already gone a step further,” she said arrogantly.
“W-what do you mean?” Cosette glanced at Connie, then at Illumca. Her triumphant smile was not lost on the pink-haired girl.
“Y-you! Connie, did she do anything to you? Look, I – I can do it better than her!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Connie said, bewildered by her action.
While they were bantering, suddenly a red-faced Barnaby came bursting in through the guild’s door. He looked at Illumca as if he had seen a ghost. But then he regained his composure and bowed to Connie.
“L-lady Cornelia!! I h-have been…phew…looking for you all around the city! You were not at your mansion.”
“Long story. What are you doing here, Barnaby? You should be resting.”
“D-don’t worry,” the man took a few gulps of air and continued speaking. “Please. Come with me! The Maiden of Water wishes to see you.”
She pictured the blue-haired young woman with the generous bosom and frowned. “What does she want?”
“I don’t know. Please. She is currently staying at the Master’s Townhouse.”
“Let her wait then. I’m still processing my reward,” she answered calmly, turning her back to face Cosette.
“B-but Lady Cornelia! The Maiden…!”
“You can return by yourself if you want,” she said without looking at him. “I will not be ordered around by anyone.”
“Just return,” Illumca added in. “She won’t change her mind if she’s like this.”
“I…uh…” he said, unsure. Finally, he bowed to them and said. “Then excuse me. I’ll…report to my Mistress. Please come to the Master’s mansion as soon as you are available.”
Illumca watched the man retreated outside before speaking. “Huh, that look in his eyes…very odd.”
Connie briefly looked back before saying with a sigh. “Ah, you’ll see.”
As soon as she got the rewards, Connie and Illumca walked down to the Noble’s District. The mansion they were heading to belonged to Henrietta’s father. Although it was less of mansion and more of a townhouse where they usually stayed when he had business in town.
It was located up a hill at a different road to the Steelheart’s mansion.
Two Church Knights could be seen standing guard before the place. Once she gave their name, they were let in.
Barnaby had been waiting by the door and greeted them. Although he still looked at Illumca oddly.
“Lady Cornelia. She’s…” the man hesitated.
“She’s coming with me,” she said, waving him off.
“I-I see…very well. Please follow me.”
The man then led them up a flight of stairs with iron railings. It was an old townhouse, but well maintained. The paintings on the walls and the details on the wooden stairs were mostly of dogs. Something the owner was particular about. The gaps between the steps were also lower to allow for easier ascent.
At the top of the stairs was the office chamber where the Master of the house usually used to meet with his friends. Connie had only been there once or twice during her visits.
Currently a Church Knight was standing in front of the door. Even with his helmet on, anyone could see that he was nodding off by the way he was starting to slouch.
“Urh, yes. Sorry about that,” the Church Knight saw them and quickly stepped back.
Barnaby gulped and knocked at the door three times.
“Milady. I have brought Lady Cornelia…and a guest.”
“Come in,” they heard the reply from inside.
The Butler opened the door and bowed once towards the occupants of the chamber.
Inside the office was Henrietta and the Maiden of Water sitting on the same sofa, chatting over a cup of tea and some sweets. Standing to the side, admiring the books on the shelf was the fat Cardinal Deacon the pair saw in the guild yesterday.
“Lady Cornelia and…Lady…Illumca” he said slowly, as if afraid of saying the latter’s name.
Henrietta stood up and was about to bring her friend into her embrace when she realized the existence of a dark-skinned elf standing beside her.
“A…a dark elf!” The expression on Henrietta’s face became ugly.
Illumca felt disturbed by the ill feeling radiating off from the young woman before her.
“Why is that thing here?!”
Everyone but Connie and Barnaby were surprised by the angry shout coming from the gentle looking Henrietta.
Being called a thing reminded Illumca of the time when she was treated as an object, which made her mood sour. She gripped her fist hard and her shoulders trembled. Softly, Connie put her hand on her shoulder. Feeling its warmth, Illumca placed her hand over hers, holding it tight.
“Henrietta. You might be my friend but calling my companion a thing is intolerable. Please apologize,” Connie said sternly.
“Connie! Did she seduce you?! How dare you put your hands on my friend!”
Her hysterics was getting worse by the second and Connie was not in the mood to handle her. She was about to take out a pill from her robe when she heard the Maiden said.
“By the Graaace…of…Junnaveil. Pleeease grant…this weeeary traveleeer…respite. Sleep.”
The green-haired noble girl suddenly began to wobble, her eyes slowly closing, and fell. Barnaby managed to catch her before she fell onto the floor.
“Pleeaase…get heeer…to her…room.”
“Yes, Maiden,” Barnaby obeyed. “Please pardon me, Lady Cornelia.”
The butler quickly carried his Mistress out the door. The Church Knight outside peeked in and asked them. “Shall I, er…close the door, then…?”
The door was closed and Connie sat without waiting to be told to sit. Illumca took hers next to Connie. This action of clear disrespect made the plump Cardinal Deacon’s face scrunched up in dissatisfaction.
“I don’t know about noble ladies these days. Such hysterics…” the fat priest scoffed as he looked down on the two. “…such neglect of etiquette.”
“She has…problems with dark elves,” Connie said. She did not even hear the man’s sarcastic remark. “That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t take you with me, Illumca. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later.”
“I’m sorry for scaring your friend.”
“She might be Cornelia’s friend. But you are my companion. You are far more important.”
“Oh,” Illumca blushed at her words.
As the fat priest was about to speak out in anger, the Maiden of Water laid down her cup with enough force to make a harsh sound, which stopped him from speaking out.
He then coughed and addressed the two girls before him with a conversational tone. “Lady Cornelia Asterium Steelheart and Lady Illumca. Thank you for agreeing to meet us.”
The man ignored the apparent lack of respect from Connie and Illumca, and continued speaking. “This esteemed personage before you is Her Holiness Allenca Viandros. The Maiden of Water. High Priestess of the Junnaveil Faith. And I am Cardinal Deacon Rudolph Babblebrook,” he announced with pride.
“And we called you here because we have a private request to ask of you.”