At Tinassha’s question, the room erupted with noises before Feura could say anything.
It was mainly the magicians who got surprised, but Art and Meldina also looked back at Tinassha in astonishment.
Kum asked her on behalf of everyone:
“How do you know?”
“How… Because I am one. Just by looking, I know whether a person is, or was, an elementalist. Temis’ tattoo was something very difficult for someone who isn’t an elementalist. I thought that there was an elementalist I haven’t met in the castle, but seems like it’s not the case.”
Tinassha stopped there and looked at Feura with somewhat-sad eyes. She quietly asked:
“Was he the one you sacrificed your chastity and power for? Do you regret it?”
Feura looked straight into Tinassha’s dark eyes. They were filled with the power of a hollowed will.
In the end, she smiled sweetly and opened her mouth:
“Leaving the forest… coming to a foreign country, only to meet another elementalist in the royal palace; this is unexpected. It’s a miscalculation. Knowing from just a look, you must be quite powerful. Sorry for making them suspect you.”
Her eyes were as calm as the surface of the water. Like an elder who had come to the end of het life, resignation enveloped her entire body.
“I don’t plan to say much. I don’t want to justify myself. I just… I couldn’t bear him looking down at me, who isn’t able to use magic anymore. I couldn’t accept his sense of superiority. Whenever I look at his body, my protective… I see my foolishness, and I hate that. I killed him for my own dignity. That’s all.”
That voice didn’t call for understanding or sympathy; it just spoke her own words.
※ ※ ※ ※
“In the end, she dismembered the body after the drowning incident.”
Kum, Art, Meldina and Tinassha gathered in Oscar’s office for a talk.
After Feura’s public hearing, she had been handcuffed and imprisoned.
Meldina was checking the document on the hearing with a cup of tea in her hand. Tinassha was standing by the table with the tea set; she answered while adding hot water to the set:
“Magical diagrams will retain its effect as long as their creators are alive; this is true for not only elementalists but also for the least skilled practitioners. It was the same in her case: She has lost her power as an elementalist, but the tattoo kept on functioning. Even though its original power isn’t lost, she was still able to transfer a part of it to her own body, as she is its creator.”
“You didn’t even realize that it was a woman’s arm.”
Meldina poked at Art; he seemed greatly troubled. Kum pacified:
“When people catch sight of something that gives such strong impression, they surprisingly only pay attention to it. Not to mention it was a distance away, so it couldn’t be helped.”
“Well, it was impossible for her to cut off his arm once she noticed the disturbance. It doesn’t make sense. That woman probably simply planned to burn the body to conceal the fact that the tattoo was gone.”
Oscar uncrossed his legs and accepted a pastry from Tinassha. Art looked even more perplexed at his words.
Meldina ignored her childhood friend and asked:
“Then why did she dismember the body? If she hadn’t, her pretension act probably wouldn’t have been exposed, right?”
It was Tinassha who answered her:
“It seems to be a bet to her. She couldn’t retrieve the glass spheres from under the moat, and she probably also considered the possibility of being suspected. Once people started doubting that it wasn’t Temis, if the arm had been cut off, then everyone might have been the suspect. But if it wasn’t… Only an elementalist could move the tattoo. As someone who takes pride in being an elementalist, she wanted to avoid putting suspicion on her kind. Well, it turned out to be a disaster, and she was exposed.”
“You were tricked splendidly, weren’t you?”
Meldina cold words made Art unable to raise his head.
“Well, don’t tease him. Thanks to Art’s resolution, we managed to settle it. Quite early too.”
Art bowed deeply at Oscar’s words.
At the exposed truth, Kum shook his head, a bitter expression on his face:
“But Temis consulted me about a marriage with her. Did he truly look down on her?”
“Whether it’s the truth or just that woman’s delusion, no one will ever know.”
Oscar concluded and signed the document. Kum then picked it up.
When Tinassha looked out the window, the sun had already begun to set.
After their talk, Kum, Art and Meldina left the office to go back to their duties. Meldina felt strange that Tinassha stayed; she opened her mouth but couldn’t say anything.
The witch silently tidied up the cups after the others had gone.
“Come to think of it, why am I acting like a lady-in-waiting?”
“Isn’t it because you make delicious tea?”
In response, she put the tea tray down on a table near the wall with an unsatisfied expression.
“After getting arrested, what will become of her?”
“My old man will decide it… But it won’t be something like an immediate execution. Seems like the magicians also have a lot to ask her.”
Hearing that, Tinassha looked down at her own palms as if they were something pitiful.
“Elementalists rarely come to large towns.”
“Isn’t it alright for you? Just show yourself.”
“I’d rather spend my days idly. Besides, it’s against my will, but everyone now considers me as your favorite. I won’t do anything brash.”
She untied her hair while making a disgusted face. It was a hindrance when making tea, so she had been keeping it up.
“Isn’t that nice?”
Oscar laughed throatily at her reply while picking up another document. As he dipped his pen into the ink, he remembered something and raised his head:
“By the way, as you’re also an elementalist, will you lose your power if you’re not chaste?”
Tinassha smiled and said while wiping the table:
“It’s true, but it’s more of a myth. The truth is, souls are easy to mingle during sexual relations, so it’ll take more power to perform elemental magic than before. Most practitioners become unable to use elemental magic then. Simple magic is a different story though… Didn’t she mix the Limas poison herself? That technique was something simple.”
She stopped there, folded the cloth used to wipe the table and placed it on the tea tray. Now empty-handed, she went back to stand before Oscar’s desk and shrugged.
“As my power is different by nature, I don’t have to worry much about that. It’s not like I can only use elemental magic. At most, I’ll struggle a bit when performing considerably powerful magic.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
Tinassha finally realized Oscar’s intention then, and was taken aback. Flustered, she rounded the desk and came close to him.
“No, that was a lie. I’ll be in trouble. Big trouble. I won’t be able to use magic.”^
He didn’t care about her threatening look at all and just laughed teasingly:
“It’ll be nice if that happens, right? I’ll take responsibility properly and protect you.”
“Not nice at all!!”
Tinassha, having blood rushed to her head, had her hands on both Oscar’s shoulders and was shaking him back and forth when furious knocking came from the office door.
“What is it?”
A soldier rushed in and answered breathlessly:
“The woman imprisoned because of murdering a magician killed herself!”
Oscar could hear Tinassha’s breath caught at the news.
Kum and Art had already arrived at the small room assigned to Feura.
She was lying face down in the center of the room. Her right hand clutched a small bottle, and there was some blood scattering nearby.
“She took the same thing she used for the murder, Timas. She didn’t eat so there was no vomit, but there’s blood coming out from her eyes and nose.”
“Weren’t her belongings checked?”
“They were, but nothing was found then…”
When the guard who had discovered the body was explaining the situation, Tinassha peered at the bottle Feura had been clutching. She scooped up a drop of liquid on the opening of the bottle with a white finger.
Everyone was focusing on Oscar, so no one questioned her action. Tinassha chanted a small spell and concentrated the magic on the small drop of poison on her finger.
By the time everyone began to move according to their given instructions, Tinassha had already left the room and stood outside as if nothing had happened.
When Oscar went out, he immediately noticed her beckoning him and walked over, bending down to match her shorter height. She lightly stood on tiptoe and whispered into his ears.
“It’s better to check those around Feura once more. There’s an accomplice, or a mastermind.”
Oscar nodded with a serious expression on his face, then returned to the room’s entrance to give orders to the remaining soldiers.
Alone again, she sighed deeply, then left.
According to the result of the second investigation, an unknown man had been seen around Feura about a month ago. Furthermore, on the day when Feura had been arrested and later committed suicide, an unknown magician had also been seen inside the castle.
Putting those testimonies together, it could be concluded that they were the same person. However, no trace of this crucial character could be found at all. Oscar was in a bad mood due to the left-over unrest of the event.
Tinassha claimed Feura’s body and buried it in a forest somewhere.
What did she see in a lonely magician who had given up her power for a man, then killed him for her own dignity? ――――In the end, she didn’t say anything.