Chapter 47:

Chapter 39.5: First Message to Marna (Interlude)


Morning of that same day, in the Elven city of Dormou. Elven Castle's rooftop.

“Lady Marna. As expected, you’ve decided to avoid your paperwork by hiding here today. The rest of the personnel are running around in circles, looking all over for you.”

Suddenly appearing in quiet steps, Amara now stood a short distance behind me as we both were standing near the center of the rooftop. I smiled her way.

“And yet, like always, you find me rather quickly, Amara. Also, I’m not avoiding my paperwork! Okay? I’m just taking a well-deserved break is all.”
“It’s a place you visit more often than usual nowadays after all. Everyone else decided to thoroughly inspect the kitchen and dining areas. Captain Vaalyun, on the other hand, was preparing to travel to the southern shore. Of course, I made sure to stop him.”
“Mm. It definitely has been a while since I’ve ran off—I mean, took a breather there...”

There wasn’t any other place in this world that could hold a candle to the southern shore for me. That being said, ever since Albel’s arrival—and more so after his departure—I found myself being led here for some reason.

“He also noted that he’s particularly furious that you’ve decided to neglect your duty, today of all days, since it has to do with his personal assignment this time.”
“If that’s the case, then you shouldn’t have stopped him in the first place, Amara! Ugh. I honestly forgot that he has a stake in the documents I’m looking over today...”

Both rays of light and shadows casted by the auburn sequoias intertwined and encircled the two of us. Despite the inconsequential chaos happening inside the manor below us, a tranquil atmosphere still took shape and remained nestled upon one of my now favorite places to hide. For now, it was still just another usual day in Dormou.

“Mm. I think I’ll remain here for just a bit longer after all. Is that fine with you, Amara?”
“If that is what you wish, Lady Marna.”

Now I really don’t have the desire to move from here, especially not after hearing about that. Vaalyun will—without a doubt—end up pestering me with another long-winded complaint...

Vaalyun was currently waiting on approval for his military expedition request to head toward Saelmere—the distant, western ruins of the Elven of Dusk territory and its old capital. This hadn’t been his first submission for the venture either. I had already declined his request several times prior, with reason. Those grounds hadn’t been touched ever since the territory’s destruction two decades ago. And I had no thirst toward probing into a lost oasis without genuine and circumstantial intent. At the very least, not just yet.

His reasoning hasn’t even changed with every resubmitted request. I have doubt that today’s addition will be any different. More than anything, it’s still too soon.

It was one of only a few controlled phases that needed to be time correctly and with caution. It wouldn’t be beneficial otherwise. Thus, I began ruminating on how I would address my disapproval for Vaalyun’s plan once again. Yet, while doing so, I could hear a strange and distracting noise seemingly poking at my ears from a distance.

“Amara, do you hear that odd sound? It’s as if there’s some sort of humming nearby.”
“I don’t think I do, Lady Marna. I can hear the faint screams coming from below us though.”
“Ignore those! And don’t make it sound even worse than it actually is! Hm. Was I just imagining it or something?”

I traced the area with my eyes, and as they reached the sky, I could just make out the blurred figure of a small creature. It was seemingly hovering over the northern tip of our translucent barrier.

“Oh! Right there, Amara! Above us! I think it may be coming from that.”

The small creature was attempting to enter the barrier, but was being rejected as it remained hovered.

What is that exactly? It definitely looks like a bird, but is it really? The barrier shouldn’t affect any lesser and non-hostile creatures at all. Wait, unless... It just might be!


Lifting my hand toward the point of interest, I invoked my will as a slight entryway was created in response. Just large enough for the creature to quickly enter. It was a vague whim, or possibly a flushed hope. One that associated the small hovering bird with the ability of a certain someone. And as the vibrant green bird took its time trying to find a way around the see-through ceiling to our rooftop, it finally succeeded and descended onto the palm of my hands.

“Mmmm! How absolutely adorable you are! There isn’t any doubt in my mind now, that he is your owner.”
“Chirp! Chirp!”
“What a strange looking bird.”

Amara had approached from behind, now looking down on the bird with a slightly bemused expression.

“Strange?! Well, I guess that’s expected from you. Your tastes have always been a bit unorthodox. I personally think it’s very cute...”
“Could this possibly be a familiar from Sir Albel then, Lady Marna?”
“Mm! I believe it is.”

It only took a single touch for me to understand that the familiar in my hands was his. It was a very subtle signal, where one could easily miss it if they weren’t naturally attuned to the corresponding imprint. I was already quite familiar with Albel’s conjuration work and the tenor of his mana after all. Thus, I could instantly feel that peculiar connection—that imprint of his magic in the familiar.

And for him to send it all the way here to Dormou—it gives me an idea! I wonder how surprised he’ll be when he notices this.

“Lady Marna, just so you’re aware; your giggle after a prolonged bit of silence may easily be deemed as creepy to someone other than myself.”

That tongue of hers, I swear. Only Amara can give advice and insult someone all in one breath, and in such a stoic manner too. However, she’s not wrong. That aside...

There was a separate thought now lingering on my mind after tampering with the familiar in my hands. I could, ever so slightly for a short moment, feel the trace of someone else’s magic laced together with his. Yet, before I could further investigate, the small bird began to lift itself into the air.

“It seems to be pulling something out of a miniature inventory.”
“Oh! Like how Sir Albel once showed us? Aren’t you quite nifty, little green one.”

While hovering once more, the green bird poked its long beak toward the empty space in front of it. It then struggled to pull out a rolled letter as its entirety drifted slowly higher and higher with its ongoing attempt. It then dropped the letter unto my palm and seemingly began singing in success.

“Chirp!! Chirp!!”
“Ah! It really is so adorable! You did an incredible job, little green one! Thank you for delivering this letter.”

It landed on my hand once more as I then turned toward Amara and handed her the letter.

“You mind taking the letter and reading it aloud for me?”
“Are you sure about that, Lady Marna?”
“Mm, why wouldn’t I be?”
“I figured you’d want to quickly and stealthily head back to your room, where you could read it all alone and savor each word.”

I allowed the sudden idea my full attention, almost agreeing with her in an instant. Lying in bed whilst reading a letter from Albel definitely sounded as if it were a rather attractive proposal. But.

“...No, that wouldn’t work at all.”
“And why is that?”
“If Vaalyun catches me, I won’t even get a chance to read it at all today. I won’t risk that. With that being said, could you please, Amara?”

She nodded in affirmation to my request and began opening the letter. I watched on in quiet anticipation as the little green bird then rested itself on my shoulder.

Dear Marna.”
“Lady Marna, I’ve only started and you’re already smirking.”
“Please! Don’t go ruining my immersion that quickly!”

I couldn't help but feel a flush of happiness in hearing those first two words. We hadn’t discussed any means of sending letters or using magic to communicate before he departed after all. I wasn’t expecting to see nor hear from him until he decided to return to Dormou.

“Now, if you would so kindly continue, Amara.”
It has already been almost a month since I’ve last seen and talked to you. I truly hope you’re doing well and taking care of yourself properly.”

She was now giving me a sideways gaze, bringing along with it an unnecessary pause. She was definitely enjoying herself as she effectively toyed with my heart. A mischievous maid, if ever I’ve seen one.

As with Amara, the Captain, your father and everyone else in Dormou.”
“Sir Albel has such a big heart, doesn’t he, Lady Marna?”
“...Please, just shush for a moment, you! It makes sense that he would say something like that. It’s not as if I actually expected a very personal letter or anything, you know!”

I was definitely hoping for one though. It goes without saying that this was also better than receiving nothing at all.

As I write this, I am currently in Firspur and on my way toward Nefra. It has been quite an eventful trip thus far, honestly. I look forward to sharing all of the details with you on my next visit. There are a few things I wanted to let you know and ask in advance though.

The first thing noted was about the familiar that delivered the message to me. Apparently, it went by the name ‘Cruubi’ and wasn’t even originally named by Albel himself. The second was about the ring I had given to him and its current condition. Using it, he summoned and made a contract with Haifalaura, the Celestial of the Moon.

I see. He succeeded in summoning her after all. Thank goodness. Nevertheless, that’s still just the first step down a long and bending road, Sir Albel...

According to Albel, the third and fourth weren’t entirely connected, but they aroused my curiosity in a way that I began to suspect that they might be. The third was a short report involving a named Lesser Lich that was roaming near the mountain split, whereas the fourth was about an encounter with three altered Disians in the Balsamic Ruins. I had already received a rather murky vision of the latter, but the former had seemingly eluded me completely.

The appearance of a named Lesser Lich—in broad daylight at that—doesn't make any sense at all. Could it be due to some separate experiments that they're doing on the side that I’m not currently aware of...? I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The fifth, and final one, was the most startling of all. It involved a young woman by the name of Eru, from Druhwood. One in who, not only held a Virtue, but a Deadly Sin already too. To go even further, she even held a Unique SKILL and her rank was altered to include ‘Other’. It unsettled me, like hearing a faint whisper in an empty room.

Who in the world is Eru...?

Vision after vision upon Albel’s arrival, I had seen a variety of faces at his side. I had heard numerous voices and learned of dozens upon dozens of names. And yet, the name ‘Eru’ hadn’t rang any bells within my memories.

Hold on.

A sudden realization then struck me as my gaze turned toward Cruubi who was sitting on my shoulder. It didn’t occur to me that first moment I had laid eyes on the bird. I didn’t know Cruubi’s name either until the letter, nor had I ever seen a named, bird-like familiar accompanying Albel to begin with.

Could that unknown trace of magic inside of Cruubi be hers then? Was she the one that named it? If that really is the case, then...

“Lady Marna.”
“You’re beginning to scowl again, and you did tell me to warn you whenever that happens.”

In response to her warning, I reached for my forehead. There was certainly a bit of tension.

“Mm. I did, didn’t I? Sorry, there was just something on my mind. I’m fine now. Is that the end of the letter?”
“Not exactly. There’s a P.S. at the bottom, but with how it starts, I feel as if I shouldn’t finish reading it myself. It doesn’t seem like it’s meant for anyone but your eyes.”
“Hm?! What do you mean by that, Amara?! Here! Let me have it!”

Quickly grabbing the letter from Amara’s hands, my eyes began scanning and deciphering the small paragraph at the bottom of the page. I could feel my eyebrow instinctively twitch as my eyes perused the remainder of the letter in a swelling vexation.

“Is that P.S. so salacious that you’re unable to give a proper reaction with me here? I’ll take my leave if that's the case.”
“...P.S. Now that I think about it, if I know Marna as well as I believe I do, she probably decided to let you read this for her instead, Amara. That’s why I’ll let you have this one single moment to tease her. Just this once. Have fun.”
“Sir Albel truly does have a big heart, doesn’t he, Lady Marna?”
“Mmmm! You couldn’t let me just have this one moment! The both of you! Toying with my heart, over and over again... Fine. I think I’ll send some magically-infused, runic inscriptions for my reply.”
“I’m sure that would definitely shock him.”

It only took a short while to create my response to Albel’s letter. That being said, I didn’t want to send it out immediately, so I decided to hold the letter and Cruubi for the rest of the day. Meaning Cruubi would stay the night in Dormou. A simple act of grasping at straws toward a minor chance, one that would be for the sake of understanding a far larger and dangerous one.

“You’re fine with staying for the night, right, Cruubi?”
“Are you certain about this, Lady Marna? Tonight is...”
“I am. It’s possible that it could be just a misstep down the road, but I want to know how it would affect what happens. When an unwritten familiar ends up encountering a preordained event. Don’t worry, I will make sure nothing happens to it.”
“If that is what you wish, Lady Marna.”