Moving into the commerce centre, Ellis saw stores, each had their very own distinctive designs that stood out. If any one of these stores appeared in the outer sect, it would definitely be regarded very highly. Though, with so many eye-catching displays, Ellis felt it was like showing a million different kinds of food to a foodie, having no idea which to stuff inside his or her stomach. The best may perhaps be alcohol—
Cafes, jewellery stores, book stores, magic shop, equipment warehouse. Every outlet singing a serenade, wanting to ensnare passersby. An interesting side note: most items were displayed behind pristine glass windows.
The road was separated into double lanes with the centre occupied by neat, blocky flower shrubs and trees. Copper statues or monuments of who-knew-who figures were also built, having turned greenish-blue from oxidation. Ellis didn't know if she was supposed to know who these people were; not that Louise knew either. Hence, they didn't really think too much about it. Talk about patriotism—
At this time, Louise was the one to treat Ellis. They stopped by a peculiar bistro to have a drink. No alcohol, as of yet.
Ellis felt guilty because prices were at least 5 times higher here than the norm. Even a cup of small buckwheat tea cost one silver, the worth of a full meal at Croquel's cafeteria! Louise didn't mind, even ordering a few tidbits as add-ons.
What she did mind were the five knights standing guard. It was an awkward situation where they were the ones looking at the two enjoying themselves while they could only watch from afar.
Beckoned ostentatiously by Louise, she managed to treat them to some cold beverages at least.
After the short tea break, Ellis and Louise continued roaming the commerce centre. All the while, people would occasionally glance at Louise, the five knights, then at Ellis, in whichever order.
Ellis was surprised that she had quickly got used to the attention, not being deterred by the pressuring gazes. Being an adept adventurer she was, it was a necessary skill to be able to adapt quickly to the environment.
She remembered this one instance where she had to sleep on top of a Whaley under freezing temperatures, with her safety harnesses broken. Falling off would be the last thing she hoped for. Fortunately, it didn't come to that, since Curtis never really slept that night. Coffee is powerful stuff.
Or, as Curtis said, Ellis did suit a noble life.
Louise caught a whiff of dry smoke in the air. Ellis noted it a little later, perhaps it was because of Louise's double talents, wind magic.
They stopped at an area where the buildings had crumbled into rubble. There were scorch marks riddled across the place. Here, the trail clearly looked as if man-made, with it leading to the further end of the street. If Louise's memory wasn't wrong then, this path would connect to the dilapidated mansion. So the destruction started here and ended there.
What took place resembled a conflagration powered in by an unknown bulldozing force. It wasn't just a single building, but the whole row of double story outlets that melted into solid magma. Unlike the mansion, the buildings here had been turned into a restriction zone, having long thin cloth run over like safety tape. The path was blocked off, no construction was underway.
"Could this be.." Ellis went up to Louise's ear and whispered—
With an unexpected scowl, Louise turned to Ellis, "Be prudent when saying these things, it's very suspicious." turning away, "And it's plain rude, Will wouldn't do such a thing—except for my sake" she muttered. Ellis could hear the last part of what Louise said due to the effects of wind magic, directing the soft air vibrations directly at her ears.
Ellis made a point to observe her surroundings. What Louise was prudent about were the knights. At this distance they were following them, they would have heard what Ellis had said.
"I cut off your words with wind magic, no worries," Louise's voice entered her ears. Louise wasn't even looking at Ellis when she said that. What an incredible communication magic.
Though, Ellis looked down in response, feeling a tinge of regret. "Sorry."
"It's fine. I was being secretive myself. Let's take a detour," Misunderstandings were bound to happen. Being pulled by Louise, they headed for a different area.
They reached an elegant garden with overflowing red azaleas. The flowering shrubs, a mix of pine green and candy red, magenta scattered all over. Away from the city of buildings, this was a recreational park which occupied a large area inside the inner sect. And the red azaleas garden was merely one out of the many other beautiful domains present.
"Could you give us two some space," Louise sounded, tired when she said that.
"As you wish Princess," Harold and the other knights began to move away. Though, it wasn't to the point of losing sight of the two girls. The distance was just enough for them to act if something happened.
In the centre of the spiralling Christmas coloured garden, a fountain, made from a mix of quartz and marble. Crystal clear water spouting out from the top in quadruple arcs, falling onto the first upper basin. From there, it fell down into the small pool water. The spiral design of the white fountain created interesting water ripples.
The two sat down at the edge.
"Do you have a coin?" Louise peeked into the water—absent of coins. "Do people in Haital not... practice this tradition?"
"The tossing a coin into a fountain tradition?"
"So you do know. It was rare to find fountains in Rozel Kingdom that had no coins in it. They say it's a bad omen if someone saw the fountain naked."
"Wow, so there's such a thing? There's a fountain I know and, it's full of coins you know?" Ellis looked into the fountain, there really wasn't a single coin in there. "If you're visiting again after this, let's go there."
Maybe it was greedy to ask for so much of her time.
Louise was making a difficult expression with a smile.
'It isn't good to monopolize the princess was it?'
"I've been wanting to ask you this since yesterday but I wasn't too confident in my hypothesis, so I held back—"
"Hm?" Ellis looked at the unusually smug Louise who was about to say something difficult? So it wasn't about monopolizing her?
"Who exactly is Curtis?" Louise remembered the time she had a duel with Curtis. The result came out quite unexpected. She found out that, the purplish compound gryostone that negated physical impact, wasn't faulty at all.
"Curtis?" Ellis was thought about how Will was similar to Curtis. "Are Will and Curtis related?"
"Are they? I wonder that myself," Louise sent a distant gaze towards the sky, then in a hush but clear voice dragged by the wind "Try to act as if you're speaking softly, it would arouse suspicion if the knights found out that I was using magic to hide our conversation."
Ellis nodded, "If it's about Curtis—urm, he's my friend that I've known him for nine years? Or was it ten? And we came to the capital from Nessy Earldom to become adventurers."
"Friends? You two are a couple already aren't you?" Louise wanted to laugh.
Ellis blushed."I guess..."
"That's not really what I'm implying. I mean, do you have any recollection of him before that? Has he ever told you about his past? How about his magic? Maybe he knew about Will but was trying to hide it?" Louise let loose a track of questions. "Uh.. I think I asked too many questions at once. Let's start with his past."
"Hm? His past?" Ellis thought for a moment. "I don't get why but, well, I remember him talking about his unusual magic potential that he had since he was born," hold up, "Curtis said he didn't remember how he learned magic yesterday..."
"Not knowing how?"
"He was worried about it yesterday, for a bit..."
"So he's suspicious, as expected."
"Will is also acting weird too," Louise made a wryly smile, a hint of worry could be seen. "When I interrogated him yesterday, I learnt that he was acquainted with Curtis or that, he knows him."
"Interrogation? Can you even do such a thing?!"
"I was just poking fun out of him. But, it did seem like that was the case," The knights didn't look to have noticed the content of their conversation, "Did anything happen last night? Will strangely requested to bring the dress over to your lodging."
"Err...I don't know. Maybe Curtis knows? He was the one who told me about the clothing but I'm sure he doesn't know who Will is..."
"So could I assume that Will wanted to meet him?" Louise tried to string a possible theory, "Curtis has some connection to all this, he's an 'unorthodox mage' after all..."
"Ah? Is this term not familiar?" Louise just remembered that not many people knew about unorthodox mages, "An unorthodox, like Will, is someone with magic aptitude that exceeds normal comprehension."
"Curtis is an unorthodox mage...?" Ellis muttered to herself. "Then?"
"Then? I'm not sure myself, besides knowing that those two are suspicious—I think we'll know the connections to it in time. I feel like it's going to turn out that way," Louise dropped her shoulders in relief, "In any case, aren't you curious to why I can be out here even though there's a Kingdom conference being held?"
"Eh. Didn't you say you got permission from the prince?"
"You know shirking it isn't as simple as that right? I'm an envoy from Rozel Kingdom, together with my brother prince Herlock. I'm literally his vice-secretary."
"Royalty is really a complicated thing..."
"Most people who don't hold the position think that way," Louise shrugged.
"So the Kingdom conference, you said they were going to talk about the matter between Will and Curtis?"
"In a way, yes. But it won't be related to Curtis. I don't think anybody knows about him being an unorthodox mage at the castle, so the chances of his name being brought up would be extremely quite low."
"All troops within two divisions of Great Hall Library rendezvous there immediately."
Louise quickly shifted her gaze towards Harold at a bad premonition. Ellis too noticed and slowly turned towards him.
Harold held a box-like object, supposedly a communications device. Ellis had seen it before but this was the first time seeing it being used. Normally, only on knights that had a higher ranking could you find this equipment dangling close to their waist.
"Relay, this is Knight Greene, confirmed involvement of Zen organization" the device sounded part human, part static. "Complete subjugation of the group, report."
"7 of them," a brief pause, as if the person on the other end was hesitant, "No, not yet."
"Has the area been confirmed safe?" Harold quickly asked.
"There are more yet to be noted...", listening closely, it was reported in a pained voice.
All of this could be heard by Louise and Ellis under the effect of wind magic.
"All members are restrained in ice, the source is— unknown, eye-witnesses are too afraid to speak."
"Ice?" Louise's expression tensed.
"Library? That's should be where Curtis is.."
Louise came closer to Harold, Ellis followed from behind.
"What's going on?"
"Princess— Fine, I think you deserve to know. One of our libraries is under siege. The attacker must be thinking to utilize this period where the security is loose," By security, approximately 30 percent of the guards and knights from the outer sect had been arranged to guard the inner sect and royal grounds. Additional knights had also been arranged to guard the kingdom conference's vicinity from spies. "This matter is ours to deal with, please don't be worried princess."
Common sense, to tell people that a library is under attack and to say not to worry is nonsensical. However, Harold took into regard the fact that the Pierson he was speaking to was the Princess of Rozel Kingdom. He believed she would be able to take the news while remaining calm.
"A mage," another report came from the device, "Witnesses say it was done by a mage."
"An unorthodox mage has appeared in the kingdom?" Louise asked Harold seriously.
The other information from the communication device was ignored as Harold took priority attending the Princess.
"I'll assume you mean the Jesters," Looked like the two kingdoms had different terms to define the same thing. "Apparently, that is the case."
Louise had a dumbfounded expression on her face.
'Was this the reason why Will is so wary about Curtis? No, first of all, what if this was Will's doing? At this point in time, is he still even guarding me?'
No matter how Louise tried using magic or physical means to send a signal, there was no response. Why would he go to the library if that were the case?
"I'm sorry young miss, I would remind you to refrain from exposing what I have said earlier, it's a royal secret," Harold told Ellis overtly.
A royal secret—If only they knew Curtis might be the one behind it, what would they think?
'Mages who reached a certain level that broke all common sense are called Jesters? Unorthodox mages? What are they?'
While Ellis felt a chill at the thought, Louise glanced over at the dazed her and spoke, "Ellis, you said Curtis was in the library correct?"
'Who is it? Will or Curtis? What in the world did they do?'