It was now a little over a month since Michael became an apprentice, and we’ve had almost no contact ever since that day.
I’m convinced he was avoiding me, but I was hard pressed to prove it. It was already difficult enough to come up with indirect ways to get close to him, and though it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the greenhouse had become the gathering spot for the wizards, he’s never once shown his face around there. I was certain it would be the ideal place for an earth attribute wizard to nourish his skills, but he seemed to have his own spot to raise plants.
I’m sure he wanted to assess his abilities and own growth, but he wouldn’t be able to get accurate data if interfered by others.
Since I often met with his fellow wizards, I thought I’d have plenty of opportunities. I might have been a little too optimistic because I kept missing all of the right chances.
I couldn’t meet him in his free time either and was left wondering where he had gone and what he was doing. The answer came from the most unexpected direction.
“You know what the raw ingredients for the medicine are?”
Astonishment stilled me for a moment.
I was visiting Master Julius’s home. Georg, who sat on the opposite sofa, nodded when he heard my question. He picked up a bundle of papers on the walnut table and handed them over.
“But not the exact location yet.”
Still not fully back to my senses, I poured over the information at hand.
A tall tree with an upright trunk was drawn on it. The lower reaches had no foliage, leaves grew thickly at the top, and small flowers were blooming. The leaves and flowers’ information were pointed out with arrows, and even characteristics were noted in detail.
More than being happy, I was confused beyond all else at the sudden progress.
Despite our efforts, no clues were to be had.
“Why so suddenly?” I looked up. As I asked him, I gained an inkling of an idea.
“We owe it all to Michael’s collaboration.”
I knew it. Even though he confirmed my thoughts, the why left me unable to hide my confusion.
When it came down to it, an earth wizard like Michael was likely to have more information on plants.
That I understood.
But if he was helping, why?
He must be avoiding me.
Even though Georg and Master Julius were the ones mainly doing the searching for the medicine, I was the one who started it. I won’t say he had to talk to me first, but he should’ve at least dropped by to say hi
. Since his move into the palace, he was technically closer to me. Wouldn’t it be faster to approach me rather than calling on Master Julius’s residence and volunteering his help?
As if he didn’t notice my endless worrying, Georg spoke as he spread open the map.
“We know the main raw ingredient is, but not the other ingredients or the production method. Which is why the next step will be pinpointing where the medicine was made. According to the information from Michael, it seems like this tree often grows in high altitudes.”
My worries haven’t been eased at all, but for now I decided to focus on his words.
“By high altitudes, does that mean near the mountains?”
On top of the map, I pointed to the mountain range that acted as the national border for Nebel, Schnee, Wind, and Sckerz. Georg made a troubled face as he placed his hand on his chin.
“This medicine is for fever, so I have a hunch it more likely came from the south rather than the north.”
“Southern ranges…” After a moment of thinking, my finger moved from the north of Nebel down the map as I voiced my thoughts. “Certainly, there are the ones to the southwest of the Kingdom of Flamme.”
“Yes.” He nodded. “The sailor in possession of the medicine was also from a ship from Flamme. I thought it prudent we search there first.”
I agreed with his explanation.
Hmm, Flamme, huh…
I sorted through my knowledge of the kingdom while I looked at the map.
The Kingdom of Flamme.
It was a big kingdom, with the third most land on the continent, but a quarter to the southeast was barren desert. Being surrounded on three sides by sea meant the fishing and shipbuilding industries thrived.
For the present, I believe the queen consort who had lost her husband at a young age was acting as the interim ruler until the young princess and prince came of age. However, this is a rare case, and normally whoever marries the princess has the right to become king.
That was all I could remember. I knew no more beyond the general information you might glean in a history class.
This wasn’t looking good. Not being able to communicate was problem on its own, but what about public order and the environment? For example, the weather, or the road conditions to the mountains?
My first priority was gathering information.
“I believe I have a lot of research to do before I leave for Flamme.”
“Huh?” For some reason, his eyes rounded and his mouth gaped open.
Whatever made him so surprised?
“Is something the matter?” I asked, head falling to the side. His stare was making me uncomfortable. He pulled himself together, deep lines etched into his brows as he thought.
“Miss Ma—” Georg cleared his throat. “Your Royal Highness.”
He was about to call me Marie, wasn’t he? But he changed the address.
“Kindly allow us to handle this matter from now on.”
“Flamme is a land filled with unknown dangers. It is best if you do not go,” he said quietly.
As I looked into his eyes, the strong determination I found there reminded of Michael. When I met him in the greenhouse, his eyes had the same look as they quietly pushed me away.
Ahh, it’s the same, my heart whispered as it filled with deja vu. It wasn’t only Michael from a month ago, here was another one.
My intuition told me I was being left out again, just like the time when the wizards were kidnapped.