Perhaps it was originally supposed to be a lodging for government special envoys coming and going between Amaddo and it, Klutoreto’s tabard inn was something like the residence of a small noble rather than an inn. There was a garden which was specially partitioned by high walls in the front, and despite being near the town’s business district, a moderate degree of silence was assured indoors. It seemed that today’s guests were just the Gale Chivalric Order and Valeria’s party, and it was unlikely that they’d be troubled by curious onlookers.
Valeria’s party, who had unpacked their baggage and taken a short rest, gathered in a hall, where a huge table was prepared, for the dinner that began along with the evening. Many dishes of delicious-looking cuisines were lined up on top of the table, and Malena, who had seen those, plainly let her throat sound a “gokuri”. As expected, it was easier for Valeria to become friendly with this girl than with Clotilde who seemed to be always wearing a cool-headed mask.
「Well then, once again…welcome to Haiderota, both Your Eminences」
Sigibert raised his wine glass and spoke to them. Sitting at the table were Sigibert, Clotilde and Malena, these three people, and moreover, Valeria’s party of four people—Valeria and Karin, and also the two Hiera Glaphicos who were opposite to them.
「Though I wasn’t able to provide adequate hospitality yesterday because of the night camping ground, I’ve ordered the chefs to display their abilities tonight. Saa, please eat」
From that statement, it was clearly transparent to see that he wanted them to praise Haiderota’s cooking. Maybe because Isaac had returned to his country and the person who would tease him was gone, it was completely Sigibert’s unrivalled sphere of activity already.
Of course, Valeria didn’t intend to needlessly find fault with the cuisines that were lined up on the table. Staking Haiderota’s dignity—though it was exaggerated to say something like that, the numerous cuisines which he prepared, probably having a pride close to that, were certainly wonderful and delicious.
「—By the way」
Keeping a smile which seemed nasty in some respects on his mouth, Sigibert began to talk. Sarcasm might burst forth immediately. Valeria looked at Sigibert with upturned eyes while inserting her knife into a falsetto chicken that was filled with garbanzo beans and cheese and then grilled.
「What do you think of the continent’s situation in the recent years?」
「…The continent’s situation?」
「Yes. —Especially in your country, a rebellion just occurred very recently too, didn’t it? Though a nation’s times of peace and war, rise and fall are normal in this world, your minds have no time to feel at ease, right? Ahaha」
Valeria became slightly angry at Sigibert who had laughed happily while saying “it’s terrible, isn’t it?”. From the point of view of Haiderota who regarded Amaddo as its rival, the recent rebellion in Seriba, so to speak, others’ misfortune, might be a thing called the “taste of honey”.
「…If you’re talking about the rebellion in Seriba, that was suppressed in the early stage with Costacurta-geika’s great efforts; it wasn’t a matter to the extent of our minds being disturbed」
Karin indifferently, but immediately, shifted to the counterattack.
「Besides—I’m sorry, if it’s about being troubled by internal rebellious elements, then our country can’t possibly compare with your country」
Sigibert’s expression stiffened with a “hikii”.
If she remembered correctly, in a book that Valeria had read, nearly 100 years ago, there was a big dissension stemming from the throne succession issue in Haiderota, and one part of the royalty, which had parted from the current royal family, declared independence in a province. Apparently the region which became independent was approximately 20% at most of the entire country, but even so, the reality of the country dividing into two didn’t change.
However, Haiderota’s royal family stubbornly didn’t accept that, calling their ex-relatives who had become independent “rebellious elements”; even regarding the new nation that they had established, they claimed that it was a province of their own country which was illegally occupied by rebellious elements to the bitter end. Incidentally, Amaddo attached importance to its relationship with Haiderota and didn’t recognise the aforementioned new nation as a country.
In any case, Karin’s remark must be a scathing sarcasm for Sigibert. Even though they were being troubled by rebellious elements for many years, Sigibert was also quite careless to have shelved that and brought up this topic.
Beside Sigibert whose expression had stiffened, Clotilde coldly narrowed her eyes. Perhaps she thought that this young master had said needless things again—things like that.
Just when Sigibert cleared his throat again and tried to retake control, Clotilde calmly spoke the next words at once without leaving a pause.
Those words gave one the impression of cold metal.
Clotilde, who had put her knife and fork down and wiped her mouth with a napkin, stared at Valeria.
「Costacurta-geika is a lady who is referred to as the “once-in-10-years talented woman” even in the magic superpower, Amaddo…this is an excellent opportunity; I’d like you to let me hear Your Eminence’s thoughts by all means」
「Eto…w, when you said “thoughts”…?」
Valeria, who had asked a question in return while feeling pressured, strongly felt the gaze of Dimitar, who was sitting right next to her, on her profile. Feeling like he was giving her a warning to be careful in her response, her heart instantly palpitated.
「First, what kind of thing has Amaddo been propagating a Dominas as to its people?」
Clotilde was evidently testing Valeria. She was trying to ascertain the extent of Valeria’s knowledge and insight.
「Of course, Dominas, um…as the symbolic wives of the “Lord of Redemption (Furigana: Redountra)”, they guide the people, and that faith—」
Recalling the things that she was taught in the Magic Academy (Furigana: Prasa Marefikos), Valeria explained with faltering wording. However, since such a thing was taught to anyone in the beginning if they entered the Dominas training, it was impossible that Clotilde, who was an active service Dominas, didn’t know this. Although she vaguely felt that such an answer as per the textbook wasn’t what Clotilde wanted, Valeria didn’t answer other than that.
Clotilde, who was listening attentively to Valeria’s words, quietly nodded with a face that had brushed feelings aside.
「That’s very easy to understand—it’s an answer that is easy for even children who had just enrolled into elementary schools to understand」
For Valeria, it couldn’t be helped in any way that the impression of Clotilde felt like something of a condescending attitude. As though saying “it’s an uninteresting answer on the level which even children who had just entered elementary schools could say”, she felt like she was being made into an idiot.
And perhaps, the intuition of Valeria who had felt so wasn’t wrong. A colour of obvious disdain was floating in the eyes of Clotilde whose expression is lacking more than Karin.
Following the gaze, which seemed to pierce her, of Dimitar that she felt on her right cheek, she felt Karin and Petra’s gazes on her left cheek. Their worries towards Valeria could be felt in their gazes.
In other words—Valeria had committed a mistake that was glared at by Dimitar and worried about by Karin and Petra.
As soon as she thought so, her palpitation grew even quicker. Not knowing how she should follow up, the inside of her head became hot with a “ka~a”.
「Well then Your Eminence, I’ll ask you one more thing」
Malena, who appeared to be very uncomfortable, tried to say something while the edges of her mouth were smeared with sauce, but Clotilde ignored that and threw a question further.
「What kind of thing is Redountra’s doctrine? I’d like Your Eminence to let me hear your own thoughts」
The inside of Valeria’s mind became completely pure white at that question.
Valeria wasn’t very good at this sort of scholarly conversation. In the first place, for Valeria, Redountra was simply something that she must earnestly show respect to; he wasn’t a “what’s his doctrine” existence. Magic could be used even if she had never thought deeply about Redountra’s doctrine; rather, she felt that was it not important to continue believing without thinking about unnecessary things to borrow Redountra’s powers.
Therefore, even if Redountra’s doctrine existed, it wasn’t something that she could explain this or that to people—was what Valeria was thinking. At the very least, it was impossible to logically explain it to Clotilde at this place now.
「Diaghilev-geika, regarding that—」
「If Rudbeck-geika has a personal opinion, I’ll ask you afterwards. First, allow me to hear Costacurta-geika’s thoughts」
Clotilde flatly rejected Karin who had tried to interject.
Valeria, who couldn’t hope for Karin’s timely help, put down her cutlery and clenched her fists. If she held the knife poorly, her hand might tremble and make coarse “kacha kacha” noise.
—Even though such a thing was thought, the answer to the main question didn’t come to mind at all.
After a long, long silence, Clotilde quietly took a deep breath and slowly nodded with that triumphant expression again.
「…It seems that my question was too vague. I’m sorry」
Although she was outwardly apologising to Valeria, it was to the end superficial only. The expression of Clotilde completely told a different thing. As though seeming to want to say either “I’ve seen your limits”—or “you’re of this standard?”, a thin and faint smile clung onto her lips. It must be because she believed that she had properly seen and judged Valeria’s ability that Clotilde easily retracted her question.
At the sense of defeat that she was one-sidedly knocked down and the frustration that she couldn’t even counterattack, Valeria felt the inside of her nose became “tsu~n”.
If it was magic skill, she wouldn’t fall behind even if her opponent was Clotilde. Even though she didn’t know whether she could win or not, she could at least fight head-on.
However, when it came to an academic battle of words, Valeria was at her wit’s end. It was frustrating, and Valeria almost cried. Thinking that she’d really lose if she cried, she somehow endured that alone. She had no choice but to endure.
Perhaps he felt that a retort had been repaid in the exchange just now, Sigibert’s disappointed expression from until a little while ago had disappeared, and he was drinking wine while grinning. In fact, he looked like he’d start to hum a tune at any time.
「…May I say one thing?」
When Valeria was firmly biting her lips, Dimitar, who had been continuing his meal in silence until then, removed the napkin which was thrust into his collar and opened his mouth.
Clotilde slowly shifted her gaze to Dimitar.
「…What might it be, Richternach-kyou?」
「It’s the matter of Diaghilev-geika’s question from just now…, but to begin with, it’s meaningless to ask Costacurta-geika that sort of thing」
The thin smile vanished from Clotilde’s face, and a suspicious expression surfaced.
「Why is that again?」
「Costacurta-geika doesn’t answer that sort of question. Or rather, she can’t answer it」
What did this person started saying again?—Valeria opened her eyes wide and looked at Dimitar. In regard to this, it wasn’t just Valeria, but Karin and Petra, and above all else, Clotilde was surprised.
「”Can’t answer it”—what in the world is that?」
「How Redountra’s doctrine proves to be depends on the interpretation of the person who receives it. One may say that there are tens of thousands ways of thinking. Hence, I understand the reason that a person to explain the meaning to the people is needed. Perhaps in your country, Diaghilev-geika shoulders that duty」
Without even a slight pause, Dimitar spoke at length. There wasn’t even an interval for Clotilde to interpose.
「But in our country, there are—ways our country’s Dominas ought to be. In our country, telling Redountra’s doctrine to the people is done by Shakira Babel-geika. And then, reading an extensive amount of history books, collecting and arranging the words of wise men, and bequeathing them to future generations are things that Karin Rudbeck-geika ought to do. And Valeria Costacurta too, as expected, has the thing that she ought to do」
「The thing that Her Eminence ought to do is?」
「It’s “to stand beside the people”」
Clotilde opened her eyes wide in surprise.
Moreover, Valeria also opened her eyes wide in astonishment. It was her first time hearing that she had such a role.
However, Dimitar was confidently talking about her position that Valeria herself didn’t hear of either.
「—Most of the people are unrelated to difficult doctrine. They just genuinely believe in Redountra. Indeed, originally, difficult doctrine and books are not needed in order to believe in God. Costacurta-geika is a lady who embodies that」
In short, Dimitar was saying that Valeria was a Dominas, who didn’t understand difficult things well, whom people, who didn’t understand difficult things well, felt familiar with. It was quite an inexpressible, complex feeling similar to being looked down on and being praised, but it didn’t mean that there was no persuasive power.
For the people who weren’t scholars, the books which were written about Redountra’s doctrine were too difficult. After all, they were to the extent that Valeria herself didn’t bother to read them properly.
Nevertheless, even such a Valeria could be blessed with magic talent and become a Dominas.
「…This is undoubtedly God’s grace」
Dimitar spoke in succession so as not to give the other party time, fully demonstrating his glibness that was usually used to corner Valeria mentally.
「Knowledge isn’t always necessary in order to believe in Redountra. One can just earnestly believe in Him. God is able to bestow grace onto this faith that could be called “simple honesty”. Costacurta-geika is a lady who embodies such a love of God」
「Love of God—」
「Looking at Her Eminence, Amaddo’s people understand the importance of a heart that believes in Him. People who can learn, people who can’t learn, and even people who can’t even read characters, as long as they’ve hearts that believe in God, they can receive that grace…people look at Her Eminence and perceive so. And also, Her Eminence’s existence makes people feel that God is closer to them. —Thus, Her Eminence is extolled “Pure Jewel” by Amaddo’s people」
This was again Valeria first time hearing that such a second name was attached to her. As it was somehow heard like this when Dimitar said it, she went beyond being amazed and was even impressed. Indeed, since even Valeria who didn’t understand things like difficult doctrine in the slightest was competent to be a Dominas in this way, people who thought that something good might happen if they prayed earnestly also probably existed in their own ways without a doubt.
Clotilde who had kept silent for a while, perhaps collecting her thoughts in that short time, tried to open her mouth once more.
「—Speaking of close to oneself」
Prior to Clotilde uttering a word, Dimitar continued and started to talk.
「That Puyol-geika is a big eater. It’s really pleasant to be watching her」
The lower parts of Clotilde’s eyes quivered with a “hikuu”, and she glanced at Malena who was beside her in silence. The Malena in question—as she made her cheeks, which had stuffed food just like a squirrel, puffed up—was shrugging her shoulder with a “bikuu”.
「She’s a lady who seems easy to get on with; surely she’s adored by Haiderota’s people too, I think」
Clotilde nodded laconically. However, her cool-headedness which had no gap until just now crumbled a little, and she seemed to be feeling awkward somehow. If one were to look very careful, Sigibert also showed a grim expression. Although it wasn’t well understood, it seemed that for them, they couldn’t welcome the fact that Malena was touched upon much.
Sigibert personally poured wine into their glasses and quickly changed the topic.
「—By, by the way, how’s the cuisine, I wonder? Do they suit your taste?」
「We’re eating very deliciously~」
Petra’s long-drawn-out words caused the strained atmosphere to relax in a skilful manner. She had probably aimed for that effect and answered in that way at the very beginning.
Thereupon, Malena who had shown the most relieved expression, more than anyone at that place, hurriedly cleaned the edges of her mouth with a napkin and started to talk about tonight’s cuisine.
「T-t, this pie, baked in a parcel, is Haiderota’s local speciality, a, and is called “Coffin Pie”! The case which was made with pie dough is likened to a coffin, and minced meat of calf and lamb which was seasoned with spices is stuffed in there and then baked—」
Malena, who had been timidly peeking at Clotilde’s complexion only until then, became talkative as soon as she started the explanations of the cuisine. Although one could easily imagine if he saw that figure and her actions up to this point and so on, this girl might really love to eat.
In the end, the talk of “what Redountra’s doctrine is” fizzled out on that note, and it was possible to calmly enjoy the wine and cuisine while listening to Malena’s explanation, which put professionals to shame, in the latter half of the dinner.
In short—Valeria was saved by Dimitar.