Are you playing war?
Children are naturally fond of war. I was not surprised because I encountered it several times during the expedition.
“What? I don’t like Andert. Then I’d have to die from the Great Wizard Mephisto. I’m Raphael!”
However, my arms stopped in the air while planting.
‘I did die once, though it’s strange to hear that with my own ears.’
Yes, Andert is dead. But somehow I’m alive.
I’m no longer Andert. But inside me, Andert still lives.
The gap between the two sometimes came to me as creepy and strange. Not occasionally, but often.
Even though the children disappeared, the neighbourhood remained noisy throughout the planting.
‘Is there a festival going on?’
The smell of savory bread came from the backyard.
After I finished my work and moved to the wide-open kitchen window, I was handed tea by the head maid.
“It’s noisy outside.”
The maid, with her arms resting on the window-frame, looked at me with astonished eyes.
“Miss Daisy is really very indifferent to the world. Today is Peace Day.”
“A day to celebrate the victory in the Magic War. Today marks the 4th anniversary. It’s common knowledge here, so please keep it in mind.”
The day of the end of the war
Today was the day.
‘That’s why I had that gruesome nightmare in the morning.’
Sipping my tea while leaning against the window’s wall, I noticed a daily newspaper lying on the kitchen table. The headline on the front page of the newspaper was emblazoned with large letters.
『Peace Day 4th Anniversary Celebration, Grand Duke Raphael was absent this year.
This year, Grand Duke Raphael Zenail Perotta will be absent from the Fourth Anniversary of Peace Day. This is due to the delay in the Grand Duke’s overseas schedule, which is jam packed…』
Grand Duke Raphael.
Entering the kitchen, I pulled a chair to sit in and opened the newspaper.
It was a very impulsive action, and I regretted the impulsiveness when I saw the face of my old friend embedded in one side of the paper, in front of me.
“It’s the same.”
From head to toe.
The image of him four years ago stuck like a nail in my memory, it’s the same.
‘Four years isn’t such a long time.’
The name was bitter in my mouth.
In truth, I have deliberately avoided the news regarding my old colleagues ever since I woke up in Queen Island. It was to avoid a situation in which I would fall into complex and negative feelings irrespective of one-dimensional concepts such as like and dislike.
‘They do say clothes are like wings. You look like an aristocrat to the bone in such a nice suit.’
In the newspaper, Raphael looked not much different than when we first met 14 years ago.
This is one of the changes that people go through when they reach an outstanding level while doing magic. The rate of aging is slowed down rapidly.
Blonde hair as bright as the sun. Dark red eyes that shimmer crimson whenever light falls on them. The straight eyebrows that have always been stiff, the eyes that laughter never reaches, the nose that is moderately big and high.
In the middle of his cheekbones, dimble as deeply embedded as a well sometimes appear.
Is it because of those dimples? During the rare times he burst into laughter, he gave off the soft and innocent aura of a young boy.
Or was it the soft cheekbones?
Really, his smile was the opposite of his serious, old-man like tone.
“I can’t turn my back to anyone but you, Andert. You’re the only one I can trust. It may sound funny, but often I find myself thinking that If I had a lost brother, it would be you.”
On the nights we were covered with the blood of the demons we slaughtered, Raphael was soaked in such embarrassing feelings.
Brother, best-friend, partner, family, better half.
There were many loving names that he used to call me, but sometimes I found Raphael’s affection to be too much.
I thought that if I took off the mask of Andert, his affection would come off as well.
“Stop it right now, Andert. You can’t die! I won’t let you die this way!”
That scream-like cry was our last exchange.
I remember not being able to turn my back to him because I was afraid my heart would break.
‘It’s a terrible memory, no matter how much I think about it.’
Looking back on the past, I did miss Raphael a little bit.
In addition, I was curious.
How did the war end after I died? Don’t you resent me after leaving you without saying anything? If you resent a lot, do you have any intention to forgive?
Do those days come back to haunt you as nightmares like they do to me? Is it enough to embarrassingly break out in cold sweat even after facing it through paper like this? Do you feel shortness of breath and illusions of having a suffocated and heavy heart…
I took a deep breath.
A bowl of steaming stew landed itself on the newspaper.
A shadow that rose long on the table from behind my back and disappeared as if just passing by, spoke,
“Only meals are allowed during mealtimes.”
Has there ever been a time when Rue’s voice sounded so pleasant?
‘..It has meat in it.’
I raised the spoon with that thought blankly.
Before I knew it, the maid was sitting at the head of the table, and Rue was sitting across from me, dipping his bread into the stew and eating it.
It’s terribly hot.
I looked at the maid, soothing the roof of my mouth burnt by the hot stew.
“What do you do on Peace Day?”
“Peace Day is a public holiday. At home, people eat bread to celebrate Peace Day, at temples, a public blessing prayer is held, and at the square, a flea market is held. All income generated goes to the Magic War Refugee shelter. Market merchants also donate some of their profits.”
It’s a good holiday. I should take this opportunity to go to the pub.
After eating and washing the dishes, I ran to the head-maid who was smoking and held out my hand,
“Let me do it.”
“You’re just looking to skip and go play. Although, we did just ran out of sewing thread.”
Good. With this, I can sneak into the pub pretending to visit the market.
The market was a little quieter than usual.
Perhaps because it was a public holiday, the old potato seller was nowhere to be seen. I needed to check if the merchants got paid back for the seats they’d paid for so far.
I passed time for a while looking at this and that at the general store.
“One <A cost-effective sewing thread set for maids> Please.”
The merchant of the grocery store, who took out the goods as if he had been waiting, said while receiving the money.
“Is that all for the day? If you have time, stop by another store in advance, miss. All the stores in our market are having big discounts this week. They’re selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, all for cheap. It’s better to buy it now.”
“Peace Day discount?”
“Huh? Well, it might as well be because of Peace Day. Actually, the guys that had been bothering us for years suddenly repented.”
The owner of the western-style shop of the building in front of me, who was chatting with the general store, put in a few words.
“Yes. They paid back four years worth of seat rent at the market all at once.”
“There are more than one or two people who have closed their business because of them. I heard that a righteous man made a fuss at ‘Pub: Peace Land’ a few days ago. He must have scolded them harshly. Who could it be?”
“He’s a hero who eradicates the cancer of society, of course! For people like us, a real hero is a righteous man. Who do you think it might be? Do you think he might be from our neighbourhood?”
“I wish I could see his face just once. Everyone will come together to treat them to a meal.”
“I will tailor him a nice custom-made suit.”
“I heard that the brother at the photo studio takes pictures, too. Why don’t we just save money and put him in a newspaper advertisement? Huh?”
I left the general store pretending not to hear them, at this rate I might end up in a newspaper.
I walked towards the pub and dropped a few words.
“I lost something in the pub. I forgot it here by accident.”
All right, that was natural.
‘But Don’t pubs open in the evening?’
As I was trying to retreat back, I checked the sign on the door and stopped.
What kind of pub sells lunch?
Is this the assassin-butler’s work?
‘It’s effective, though. It wouldn’t be strange for a maid to come in and go out if it was open during the day. More information would come in, too.’
The inside of the pub was so quiet that the colorless sign faded from my mind.
It will be difficult to attract customers in just a day since it is the main camp of those who used violence to to collect seat taxes.
I leaned against the bar and held out my hand.
The bartender, who was cleaning the glasses, took out a chocolate from the cabinet and held it out to me along with a note from the pocket of his pants.
“Here’s the note from butler-captain, miss maid-captain.”
The whisper sounded quite serious.
The butler assassin must have educated you thoroughly. As expected, it’s best for experienced people to come forward in this kind of work.
At that time, the former executives who were sweeping the floor gathered and naturally approached behind me and whispered.
“You’ll be surprised. I’ve got kids all over the place, and I’ve got information.”
“We’re a secret guild that acts secretly in the dark. Hihihihi…”
I think something’s fundamentally wrong with the people here.
I warned them as I pulled myself away from the bar.
“Don’t call me captain.”
The executives bowed their heads.
“What’s your name again?”
You guys really fit in.