In the perimeter of Farsas Castle, in front of the guard station, there was a square about the size of two or three estates combined.
It was where soldiers built their physical strength and practiced their sword skills. In peaceful times, voluntary personal trainings and group meetings usually happened there.
Right now, there was a mock fight happening in the center of the square. It was a one-on-one fight, and soldiers gathered around to watch the match. The match was also being observed from a gallery of the castle’s outer walls.
Leaning against the stone wall and languidly looking over the match was Tinassha, the Blue Moon Witch, who had entered the castle a few days before as an apprentice magician.
She had once entered the castle as a witch, but this time she decided to use a cover. Regardless of who she was, witches are generally shunned. Considering that a small country had been ruined in the night about three hundred years ago because they had offended one, people’s fear wasn’t unreasonable.
Tinassha had proposed hiding her true identity, and Oscar had agreed. And so, she had become an apprentice magician.
Her hair was in disarray due to the gentle wind; she combed through it with her fingers. She was wearing multiple magic-suppression rings to pass as an ordinary magician. She also wore earrings with magical patterns for the same reasons.
A strong gust of wind came, blowing dust into her dark eyes. As Tinassha was rubbing at her teary eyes, she heard a voice from behind.
“Do you come to these places too?”
With the feeling of a foreign object still in her eyes, Tinassha turned back and saw Razar standing there, carrying a pile of books. She greeted him with a smile.
“Hello. I’m just taking a walk…”
“Ah, you can see the training ground from here.”
He came to stand beside her and looked down himself.
“That person has been winning all along. He’s quite strong.”
She pointed to the redheaded swordsman on the right side. Razar took a look and let out an understanding “Ah!”.
“It’s General Art. He’s young, but is the most skilled among the generals. He led a platoon that exterminated a band of armed robbers last month.”
As if in response to Razar’s explanation, Art’s right hand rose sharply, and the sword of his opponent flew into the air. The awfully thin soldier held his wrist as if in pain and said something.
“He lost, but he’s also quite strong… Is he an ordinary soldier?”
“She’s called Meldina, a subordinate of General Art. She’ll have her own unit soon.”
Tinassha strained her eyes to see the female soldier better, but couldn’t make out anything from the distance except for her bright blond hair.
Farsas had few gender restrictions regarding professions – one could take on any occupation as long as they had the ability and the desire. That was why Tinassha wasn’t very surprised to hear it was a woman. Female soldiers with such outstanding skill were extremely rare though.
“She’s a bit stiff, but she’s a good woman.”
Razar said this and smiled, unaware of how generous he was. That compelled Tinassha also to smile.
“But is watching mock fights interesting to you? I thought magicians don’t have much interest in such things.”
“I used to use a sword before. It’s been quite a long time, so…”
Razar seemed to be surprised; he glanced at her slender body.
“So you’re actually strong… or something?”
She smiled wryly at that question.
“I don’t have much strength, and wasn’t that good. But well… I think I can win against that woman earlier. But that general is, uhm… Impossible. I’ll probably lose.”
She said without hesitation, but Razar couldn’t decide if she was serious or joking. In the end, he didn’t say anything.
On the training ground, Art was taking on yet another soldier. His opponent seemed to have gotten cold feet, so the crowd was cheering him on.
Razar straightened up the books in his arms, which were about to collapse.
“His Highness is even stronger than General Art.”
She sounded amazed at his casual remark. Hearing that, he looked back at her in surprise.
“Why are you that amazed? There’s no one stronger than His Highness in this country. The other day, in the tower, he… Eh?”
He was sure that something had happened at the witch’s tower, but now when he thought about it, he couldn’t recall anything specific at all. He cocked his head in confusion. On the other hand, Tinassha was troubled, and her expression stiffened.
“Stronger than that general… Hmm… Is it true?”
“It is. Of course, he has talents, but that person is more hardworking than it seems. He has always been able to learn anything and absorbed quickly.”
“Why do you react like that?”
With an unpleasant look on her face, Tinassha knitted her brows and folded her arms.
“It’s been awhile… I want to practice my swordsmanship a bit.”
She silently nodded.
Still feeling suspicious at her strange reactions, Razar left for the secluded library.
※ ※ ※ ※
It was getting hotter as the day gradually got longer. Oscar was walking down a hallway with a thick report in his hand.
Farsas had a mild climate throughout the year, but there still were two slightly hotter months as summer and two slightly chilled months as winter. It was early summer, and the festival of Aitea, a God believed by the majority of the continent, was coming in Farsas.
Oscar was skimming through the report while walking, but he noticed a black hair girl walking towards him in the hallway and looked up.
She waved and half-ran to his side.
“Long time no see.”
“It’s been about one week, right? How’s the castle? Are you bullied?”
He patted her head as if she was a kid. From under his big hand, Tinassha looked up at him in amazement.
“I’m not a child. I’ve been doing well. They look at me a bit differently though.”
“Isn’t it because they know you’re from the tower? If you meet any troubles, just tell me.”
“There’s no trouble.”
Tinassha seemed to have no particular destination in mind; she started walking alongside Oscar.
“Are these for work?”
“Ah, these are diplomatic relations and security arrangements for the festival. It’ll be troublesome if they’re not settled.”
He flipped through the bulky documents and smiled wryly. She shrugged.
“A prince even does such things? Shouldn’t it be more leisurely for you in the court?”
“You too, don’t talk so bluntly.
…Last month, my uncle, who had been the Prime Minister, passed away. We’re short of staff, temporarily. If it’s something I can do, I don’t mind.”
With such small talks, they arrived at the door of Oscar’s personal chamber before one realized.
He thought Tinassha would leave, so hearing “Can I come in?” from her was unexpected.
“I have a simple question: Is there anyone other than you who inherited the royal blood? There should be some relatives by marriage, I think.”
Sitting lightly on a couch placed by the wall, she asked.
Oscar took the pitcher on the table and poured some water into a porcelain cup. He tasted it with a wry smile.
“I have some relatives by marriage, but they have no children. When I was four or five years old, there was a series of missing children cases happening all over the country. In the end, dozens of children were gone, and my younger male cousins also went missing. As a result, there are no royals younger than me now.”
As expected, Tinassha was surprised. She leapt to her feet despite just sitting down and went to his side.
“Does anyone know the reason?”
“No, it’s still a mystery.”
“Did the Silent Witch come before or after that?”
“It was after my mother passed away due to illness… So it was probably after.”
He tried to associate the undisclosed records with his own childhood memories.
The moment he forced memories, a piercing pain struck his head.