Originally, several mines that produced iron ores existed in Ahmad, and with that as its support, it had been producing weapons, armours, horse gears, and the like in large quantities. The horses that were raised comfortably in vast plains and such equipment created Ahmad’s cavalry corps, which was famed for being the strongest in the continent. However, when time passed and the decline in production of iron ores became apparent, Ahmad then had its eye on the abundant mine resources of its neighbouring country, Romarikku, instead.
Approximately one century after the stratagem battle that was devised in order to take possession of all of them ended in failure—Ahmad took advantage of the “Rebellion of the Seven Kings” and obtained its heart’s desire, Romarriku.
One hundred and fifty years after that, Ahmad’s military strength became more and more firm, and it also achieved rapid progress in fields other than the military aspect, such as the development of agricultural machinery and equipment and the improvement in the blacksmiths’ techniques.
The practice of bathing hadn’t taken root in her motherland on the south side of the mountain.
In the southern countries which had many arid regions where dusty winds blew, it was troublesome to procure clean water, so they didn’t get inside bathtub filled with hot water; they preferred steam bath, where they’d splash water on hot, heated stones, then fill the bathroom with the steam that was produced and stimulate perspiration inside that, more.
However, Galarina herself liked soaking in tepid water for a long time more than a steam bath. She didn’t know which was healthier, but because books would absorb moisture and be spoilt immediately, she disliked the steam bath.
Moreover, carrying the bathtub out to the balcony in the summer night, then bathing while being blown by the night wind—though she felt sorry for the maids who were made to do the preparations—was a comfort that couldn’t possibly be experienced in a steam bath.
「—In the first place, you should at least put your book down when bathing, you know」
Sprinkling the rose petals she had plucked with her hand from above Galarina’s head, Jelena giggled.
「I’ll make good progress with my reading if I do it this way. Or rather, it’s more efficient」
Brushing the petals that had fallen on top of the open book off, Galarina pushed up her spectacles.
「…By the way, do these petals have some meaning?」
「They have no meaning in particular, but they’re pretty and smell nice. …Does Onee-sama dislike them?」
「I have no reason to actively dislike them」
「You’re using that sort of roundabout way of speaking again…」
When Jelena, who had filled the water surface of the bathtub with petals, took off her dressing gown cheerfully and stripped herself naked, she stepped over Galarina’s body and sank into the hot water.
「Jelena, the book will get wet」
「Like I said, leave your reading until later, Onee-sama」
Jelena took the book away from Galarina, put it beside a lamp and then sat down on Galarina’s knees perfectly.
「Whew. Since Jelena isn’t so heavy, it’s fine, right?」
「…Intentionally coming into a cramped space, your thought is impossible to understand」
Shrugging her shoulders, Galarina placed both arms on the edges of the bathtub and gazed at the starry sky.
「…Whether it’s the south side or the north side of the mountain, there’s no very big difference in the given names of the stars. I think the cultural exchange between the south and the north had probably been going on from quite long ago」
「No! That sort of difficult topic is uninteresting!」
「It’s sufficiently interesting, you know. …Well, it might be quite incomprehensible for you, who has never gone out of this town」
Galarina wiped the lens of her spectacles, which had fogged up slightly because of the steam, with her fingers and stared at the girl’s white back.
「…Come to think of it, your back has a strange magic crestHieratika, right?」
「Can you show it to me for a while?」
When Jelena held her hair down and swept it from her shoulder to the front, she cast her eyes down and started to focus her consciousness.
A pale scarlet brilliance was lit on Jelena’s back. A pattern similar to a small flower emerged around her left shoulder blade.
「…Whom did you say put this on you?」
「It’s Jelena’s maternal great-great-grandmother」
「Great-great-grandmother? How old were you exactly when she put this magic crest on you?」
「Jelena doesn’t remember, but my great-great-grandmother arbitrarily put it on me when I was still a baby… and since she passed away immediately afterwards, I don’t fully understand why she did such a thing」
「Does that mean that your great-great-grandmother was a Hiera Glaphicos?」
「I heard that she worked in the magic academyPrasa Marefikos in Roma during her early days, so that was probably the case, wasn’t it? But since there’s hardly any living person in the family on my mother’s side any more, I’ve never heard the full story」
Jelena’s real mother wasn’t here any more, let alone the family on her mother’s side. Jelena heard that she fell ill and passed away a few years ago. Jelena adoring Galarina like a biological older sister might also be attributed to those circumstances.
「But what’s the matter with this, Onee-sama?」
「No, I was simply a little curious. My theory is that the “crest magic”Hiera Marefika in the north and the “sorcery”Fata Malefica in the south are substantially the same thing. That’s why I think there’s no very big difference regarding magic crests as well. However, regarding this magic crest of yours—」
「No! Onee-sama is going to try to bring it to a difficult topic immediately like that!」
「…It’s an interesting topic though」
Galarina, who was splashed in the face with hot water, rested her chin on her hand and looked up at the starry sky again.
「Speaking of magic crest… I want to see the magic crests of the Dominas for reference」
「Onee-sama, you have bad taste. You want to see the naked body of such a child?」
「It’s not the naked body. It’s the magic crests, you know, magic crests. —In the first place, you call her “that sort of child”, but that Dominas is the present head of the House of Costacurta, you know? Speaking of the House of Costacurta, it’s a distant relative of the royal family; it’s an old family that had originally separated from the royal family and has an ancient and honourable origin」
「I don’t know that sort of thing!」
「Why do you, who is a person from Ahmad, not know something that I know?」
「No! In any case, you’re not allowed to praise another child!」
「I understand, I understand; in any case, stop splashing like that. The hot water will run out immediately」
Jelena, who was wilful and jealous, felt irritating sometimes, but looking at her as a whole, she was lovely. There probably wasn’t any person—Galarina included—who would feel bad from a beautiful and intelligent girl becoming attached to them.