Konoe only had half a mind on the dawnberries she plucked from the bushes and thicket. The other half dwelled on how she would proceed from here.
Kotori would hopefully feel good enough to walk again once she’d been fed and had more rest. As for the numbness, her friends in Eternia might have some insights. Kotori didn’t seem to be in any imminent danger, and hopefully that wouldn’t change for the couple months it would take to get word back once she’d written a letter to them.
Her hands plucked dawnberries and dropped them in a wooden basket as if they had minds of their own.
As for the letter she would write to be able to take on students, as long as she omitted anything about Nia, and simply claimed to only take on Natalia, the Association of Ritualite Casters hopefully would be none the wiser. And if they bothered to check, that would ideally be after she’d rescued Tamatoya and managed to send Nia back to wherever distant plane she hailed from.
But one thing at a time.
As for how to teach Nia, she would be careful this time. Not just how to cast, but why there was casting. Ingrain that casting was a tool meant to protect the weak. Perhaps she could even learn about Nia, so that she might know what attitude to take. Rather than dismiss any faults in Nia’s character as growing pains of having been summoned to another world. But if Nia did exhibit any poor qualities, what could she do?
How Nia would treat Natalia would be a useful metric. The difference in their power would be like comparing an ocean to a drop of water, but their experience level was the same. If Nia could treat Natalia well, or at least respect her as a fellow disciple, then there would be hopefully little to fear. If Nia lorded the first sign of that power disparity over Natalia, then that would be something to consider going forward.
Nia didn’t strike her as someone haughty or condescending, but there wasn’t too much she could glean about that from someone who she couldn’t understand. At least Nia seemed receptive to learning, if how she tried to learn the language was any indication.
She would also want to go home to her family badly, so that could be a good motivator. Looking into how to break the boundary again, and send her back, would take time. Time Nia could use to rescue Tamatoya. Though if Nia’s power was anything like that of the previous heroes, once she learned to harness hers, a small coven of hags would be little issue.
Her lips pressed together tightly as she brought a berry close to her face, rolling it between her thumb and forefinger.
Learning the language would be the most difficult part. But also nothing Konoe had any control over. Everyday that she couldn’t begin instructing Nia on how to use her powers was another day that Tamatoya was suffering. She bit her lip. The tool to bring her husband back to her was right there, and yet it was so out of reach. Using magic to force herself to understand and speak Nia’s tongue was far riskier, considering she didn’t know the language or its rules to begin with.
If she could teleport to Eternia, then Nia wouldn’t have even been necessary. She could’ve simply told her former cabal members about what had happened to her husband, teleported them across the ocean back to Melioda, and then they could have destroyed that coven. If the Association of Ritualite Casters and the crown caught wind of the teleportation afterward and sought to punish them, then she would voluntarily suffer all the blame.
But teleportation, especially of something on that scale, was far beyond her.
“Konoe? You’re not with Tsubame and Kotori?”
Konoe looked up to find Foucine nearby, a basket under her arm as well. But as opposed to berries, the apothecary’s was full of leaves and flowers. She’d also removed the pin from her hair, leaving her red hair free to bounce about.
“Kotori woke up, so I’m just getting food for her. And thank you for getting her that medicine. I’ll pay you back when I can.”
“You really don’t have to,” Foucine said.
“It’s not your fault, what happened to Tamatoya.”
Foucine bit her lip.
“I could’ve kept him in my shop for the night. Insisted on it.”
“But you didn’t know,” Konoe said. “And as much as I appreciate your kindness, I don’t want you dwelling on something you had no control over, Foucine. It’s not healthy.”
“I know that, but…look, stay safe, okay?”
“And you as well,” Konoe said. “You’re just fetching things for potions, I take it?”
“That’s right. I think I’ll go a bit deeper though. Should be some richer ingredients there.”
Konoe glanced at the sky through the gaps in the trees’ branches. It didn’t look like it would be growing dark just yet, but even so…
“Would you like me to go with you?” Konoe said. “Safer in numbers, yes?”
“Thanks, but I’ll be fine. I won’t be out late enough for that to matter,” Foucine said, waving Konoe’s offer away with a smile. “You go back to town when you’re done. Get back before dark yourself. Unless you were going to go hunting for the hags again?”
“I intend to, yes,” Konoe said, nodding firmly.
“Best of luck,” Foucine said. “But if you see them, don’t just jump in okay? Come and get help from town. If you want women, I’m not much of a fighter, but I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you Foucine,” Konoe said, smiling at her. “Your kindness is unmatched.”
“Oh, there’re plenty that match it, I’m sure. Your darling husband, for example,” she said. “But thank you Konoe.”
The way she said darling had Konoe squirm, but she quickly cleared her throat.
“You’re welcome. Anyway, I’ll be going over there,” she said, pointing to the trees down to the left and away from Foucine.
“Of course. I’ll be seeing you.”
The two parted ways, Konoe waving to Foucine over her shoulder before resuming her berry picking.