Act 35: Invitation to Oulu Village
Cordelia continued to read after she finished her tea and left the Witch’s house before sunset.
On the way home, a little further away from the Witch’s house, Vernoux asked Cordelia a question.
“What’re you going to do when you go to the poorhouse Dilly?”
Vernoux, who probably had stiff shoulders as he was massaging his right shoulder with his left hand, didn’t look like he was a noble boy. I should follow his example if I’m going to town incognito, Cordelia thought, and then answered frankly.
“I’m not doing anything. I just want to find out if there’s anything I can do…”
“Say it more clearly.”
“I’ve only heard about the poorhouse, but if I can get more insight into it, then it might be useful, right? And I’m also curious about the market that the Witch was talking about earlier.”
“You have a point. We’ll also be involved in charity work in the future, so it’ll be worthwhile to check it out.”
“It’s best to know about it earlier, right?”
Cordelia said, and Vernoux shrugged.
“Well, that’s just like you Dilly.”
Cordelia smiled wryly in reply to his response.
However, she didn’t really just want to know about poorhouses.
(I’m sure the children at poorhouses have numerous reasons for living there. Some of them probably ended up living there because of unforeseen circumstances… But there are probably some who are living there because of the Dark Fever…)
The biggest reason why Cordelia wanted to go to the poorhouse was because of that.
The disease that had led her to lose her life once… and was the cause of Ted’s incident with the fake flora silks.
She couldn’t unravel the cause of the disease. Despite that, she wanted to do her best to find a way to soften the incidents caused by the disease, even if just by a little. That desire was the same for her other reasons too.
“… I wonder if I should go too.”
“Eh, are you interested in Oulu Village too, Gille?”
Vernoux reacted in a dramatic way when he heard Gille’s whisper. Gille nodded quietly.
“I heard that the poorhouse doesn’t have any noble backers and is run by the village. I’ve heard a little about the operation, but I’d like to see how it runs.”
“Ah… Oh yeah, didn’t the nobles who supported them fall to ruin?”
Vernoux said hesitantly, and Gille nodded again.
“A baron house was supporting the poorhouse until 20 years ago, but they fell to ruin because of corruption. At that time, the kingdom urgently offered to support the poorhouse, but the director declared that it would be operated by the village and it’s been like that since then. I think it’s a perfect chance to observe them if I can get invited to go there.”
“It’s not like I don’t know how you feel, and you may want to visit… But, I’m not sure if you’re allowed to go.”
Cordelia watched as Gille scowled, when Vernoux said that to him, and felt that it was unusual.
At any rate, Vernoux-sama doesn’t fit into noble common sense. He seems like someone who would accomplish anything he wants to do, no matter how reckless.
(The reason why he has a negative response to this… is it because of Gille-sama’s family?)
Cordelia had thought that Gille also came from a House that was as tolerant as the Flantheim House since he often went incognito with Vernoux. But she might have been mistaken, since Vernoux was hesitant to let Gille go to the poorhouse.
(In the first place, Gille-sama should have gone out incognito as many times as Vernoux-sama has, but his appearance hasn’t changed at all, unlike Vernoux-sama.)
Vernoux went out with his blonde hair now because he said he was used to going incognito, but Gille’s features hadn’t changed at all from the time when he was 8. He had grown and was taller now, but he was still clad in Vernoux’s magic, and she guessed that his original appearance was different. And he probably wouldn’t have his disguise released because he was on guard.
(But, sneaking out when it’s forbidden… Gille-sama is quite naughty too.)
She could surmise that from when she met him at Earl Hale’s mansion and when he jumped off the balcony when they met at the Flantheim’s evening party. He looked diligent but was surprisingly bold.
(Perhaps, are Vernoux-sama and Gille-sama two of a kind…?)
No, that’s not necessarily true. Gille-sama might be permitted to travel within the Royal Capital under disguise, or he might be prohibited from going out of the Royal Capital. This could hardly be surprising, since there’s no need for him to leave the Royal Capital.
“Dilly? What’s wrong?”
Let’s not think about it too much, after all. Gille-sama doesn’t seem mischievous, isn’t that enough? ――― Cordelia convinced herself.
Next to her, Gille was persuading Vernoux.
“It’s fine, isn’t it, Vernoux?”
“… Don’t you always make up your mind when you say that?”
Gille smiled, and Vernoux sagged his shoulders.
“I don’t want to be scolded with you.”
Vernoux said, while looking bitter, but he didn’t stop Gille.
“You two are really close, aren’t you?”
Vernoux shrugged when Cordelia said that.
“Well, I don’t know where he’ll disappear to, if I leave him alone. He’s surprisingly stubborn.”
“Rude. You always invite me when you sneak out.”
Cordelia could tell that they were really close.
And she finally noticed that they were back near the fountain.
“Shall I walk you home?”
“It’s fine, I want to do some shopping. Thank you for today.”
“I see. What’re you buying?”
“I want to look for some stationary. Oh yes, Vernoux-sama. Do you know what Clifton-sama and Myles-sama’s favourite colours are?”
Cordelia wanted to make arrangements to obtain seaweed from the gelidiaceae family as soon as she got home. Clifton and Myles were knowledgeable about the sea, so one of them or both of them might know about it. Of course, she might be able to get some through the Eris Firm, but she also wanted to expand her friends. Also, Ronnie always told her not to use the same company all the time.
However, Vernoux frowned at that question.
“Whatever colour’s fine, right? Why are you asking about Clifton and Myles?”
“I want to know more about marine products. I’ve talked to them before, and we’ve exchanged letters a bit. They’re both very knowledgeable about it, and I thought their knowledge would be useful.”
Cordelia couldn’t tell Vernoux about making oblaat yet, so she omitted it in her answer. She was also scared of being treated as an eccentric again, if she told him that she wanted seaweed. But her response was enough to change Vernoux’s expression.
“Oh yeah, you said you wanted water plants while we were walking to the Witch’s place, right? And… well, it’s you, Dilly.”
She couldn’t tell if his face was twitching or if he was appalled, but he ended his sentence with a sigh.
Just what the heck is he imagining? However, she could guess from his expression that he was thinking something rude. However, she didn’t ask about it. If she did, then she would be stirring the hornets’ nest.
“Then, farewell. Vernoux-sama and Gille-sama.”
It will get dark if I don’t end this conversation at some point. Cordelia thought, as she quickly turned around, but then Vernoux spoke to her again.
“Say, you’re using suffixes again. We’re dropping the 『-sama』, right?”
“I dropped it in front of Sensei. But I have to add it properly at all other times. If I accidentally call you 『Vernoux』, then people might think we’re engaged.”
We’ll both be unhappy with that right?
When she included those words, Vernoux shrugged in a pompous way.
“That would certainly be a catastrophe.”
“Right? Now, if you’ll excuse me. Gille-sama, I’ll see you again.”
Cordelia bowed to the two and started walking with Ronnie.
However, a voice called out to her immediately after.
This time it was Gille, not Vernoux.
“I’ll send you another letter!”
Although Cordelia was surprised by his sudden outburst, she couldn’t help but smile.
“Yes, I’ll send you one too.”
Afterwards, she patiently asked Ronnie to go home early and bought stationery from the stationery shop. After that, she went straight to the laboratory when they returned to the mansion.
“Say, Ojou-sama. You look like you’re having a lot of fun. Is this related to the people who you’re sending that stationery to?”
“I knew you would be able to tell, Ronnie. That’s right. I’m going to ask them about it now.”
“I knew it.”
Cordelia looked up at Ronnie while sitting on the chair and spoke.
“I want to make 『paper that is thin enough to eat』.”
“Paper? Why would you eat paper?”
Ronnie widened his eyes in surprise at Cordelia’s words. Then, he tilted his head in confusion and kept muttering, “Paper, paper.” She laughed a little at his surprise.
“What the heck are you making?”
“I want to make something that could be used when taking medicine. You know, I want Hans to use it.”
“… Is it like easy-to-use oblaat?”
“Yes. It’ll be nice if it could be used with sweets too. The ingredient will be red algae from the sea… But, if possible, I want to look for freshwater red algae.”
“You want to make paper from water plants? Will you be paper making?”
“Nope, I have to start by producing the ingredients…”
All I know is that Agar, the ingredient, is made by sun-drying red algae while sprinkling it with water. When that becomes transparent, you simmer it in a pan until it becomes soft. Then, you strain the liquid, freeze it, remove the moisture, and it’s done when it’s dry… But I don’t know how much water it needs or how long it needs to be simmered for.
(… Well, I might have thought about whether it could be made with freshwater ingredients since I’ve never made it before!)
Next, to Cordelia, who was trying to think positively, Ronnie put a hand on his chin and groaned a little.
“… Can I do that?”
“Huh? You want to do it?”
Cordelia was going to ask him for help, but she was surprised that he was offering. Ronnie muttered.
“I have a grandma too. It’s hard for her to drink powder medicines, so I want to do this if I can. It might make it easier for her to take medicine if it’s wrapped in edible paper.”
Ronnie was speaking a little quickly and was unusually shy.
Cordelia laughed a little and nodded.
“Then, Ronnie, I’ll leave this to you, but can I say something?”
“The red algae I mentioned before is just a possible ingredient. Also, you might be able to use potato starch. But I don’t know how to combine those ingredients. The last step is to simmer it, spread it thinly and wait for it to dry… But it might be possible that it’ll work out better with potatoes.”
She said, and Ronnie froze.
She felt as if he was saying, “You don’t say.” Cordelia smiled wryly.
“… Do you want to quit?”
“No, I’ll do it. And I think it’s a good concept. It might be possible to get a pass into the Big Bookcase for it if it gets spread worldwide. You’re aiming for that, aren’t you, Ojou-sama?”
“Well, I do want that to happen.”
Apart from being located at the castle, there was no way that she wouldn’t be interested in that treasure trove of knowledge. Her only worry was encountering the prince.
(I don’t think my Onii-samas talk to the prince. I don’t think it would be that easy to pass by him…)
But what will the real situation be like? When Cordelia thought about asking Isma the next time she saw him, Ronnie slightly stretched.
“I’m also interested in the castle’s book collection… But I’ll think about how to make medicine easier to drink for Hans and grandma first.”
“Then, I’ll write my ideas down right now, so could you wait a moment?”
Cordelia wrote down what she knew and left it with Ronnie before returning to her room. This time, she was writing letters to Myles and Clifton. She followed formalities, unlike when she wrote to Gille. She attached flower bookmarks to the letters that she had finished. The first stage of her enquiries would be complete after she gave them to Emina to send off.
(Next, I have to get permission to go to Oulu from father.)
However, Elvis didn’t get home so quickly.
Cordelia killed time in the library to calm herself and to stop from fidgeting. Then, she looked for books about the poorhouses of the fief.
(But I know almost everything in these books…)
She had already learnt about where the poorhouses were and who the financiers in her fief were. She had also seen income reports, which weren’t listed in these books, from poorhouses that had deep connections with the Pameradia House.
(However, I can’t tell what kind of places they are just from reading about them. The poorhouse in Oulu Village might be different from the ones in my fief. This is a chance for me to experience it.)
She thought, and the library door opened. The person who entered was Ronnie.
“Oh, Ojou-sama. Didn’t you go back to your room?”
“I’m killing time. You too?”
“Well, yes. I wanted to research something about the edible paper. So, I brought the paper you wrote with me.”
He said, as he fluttered the paper and showed it to her.
“So… I have something I want to ask you, Ojou-sama. Could I experiment with other ingredients that might work?”
“Huh? Yes, of course.”
“I’m glad. I thought you wouldn’t get angry. When I was in school, my teachers would get angry if I did that.”
I see. Apparently, there’s a lot of obstinate people at the Magic Academy. Ronnie must have had a hard time. My condolences. Cordelia sympathised with him in her mind.
“Oh yeah, Ronnie. Can I borrow Lara for a bit tomorrow?”
“Yes, of course. What’s wrong?”
“I want to hear about how the stationery development is going, and I want to make sachets. I want to give them to the children at the poorhouse.”
The Witch had said that she would make muffins, but it’s probably alright for me to bring a simple souvenir with me as a visitor. It’ll probably be bad to give them something expensive, but it should be alright if it’s handmade.
“Lara is good with her hands, so I feel like we’ll finish making them really quickly.”
“Then, I’ll have to make something that won’t lose to what she makes.”
Cordelia shrugged. I’m asking Lara to help me, but I won’t let her finish the sachets by herself. My sewing skills are better than before, thanks to my interactions with Hazel-sama… I wonder if the dexterous Ronnie and the dexterous Lara will end up competing with each other.
“On a different subject, Ojou-sama. Something has been bothering me today.”
“What is it?”
“How well do you know… that kid Gille?”
Come to think about it, Ronnie doesn’t talk much when Vernoux-sama comes over. We’ve probably never spoken about Gille-sama in front of him before. Cordelia answered easily.
“Since I was eight. We went to town to buy glass magic tools before, right? I met him then.”
There’s no point in hiding it now that they’ve met. Cordelia reported, and Ronnie replied slowly.
“Oh… That time?”
“Nothing, I was just a little curious…”
His words continued to be vague, so Cordelia tilted her head in confusion. Does Ronnie recognise Gille-sama from somewhere? However, Ronnie didn’t continue and shook his head.
“I’ll stop here. You’ll think I’m an idiot if I’m wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing… Well, you’ll find out eventually if I’m right.”
Ronnie’s being evasive, and he won’t say any more. What the heck is it?
When Cordelia thought that, she heard quiet footsteps. Emina showed up.
“I’m sorry for interrupting you. Ojou-sama, Master has returned. He has already had dinner.”
“Okay. Where’s Otou-sama?”
“In his study.”
Cordelia thanked Emina and left the library without turning back. She was worried that she hadn’t heard Ronnie’s response, but this was Gille whom she’d been exchanging letters with for four years. I don’t think there will be any big drawbacks if something did happen. Cordelia had no idea at that moment.
(Well, Ronnie will tell me if he feels like it.)
With that in mind, Cordelia walked towards the study to talk to Elvis.
In front of the study, Cordelia felt as if the vibe was heavy. She couldn’t hear any sounds in the hallway, but it was apparent that Elvis was in the room.
“Excuse me; it’s Cordelia.”
There was no fondness in Elvis’s voice as usual, but he always let her in the room.
However, he was still looking at the paperwork, even though he’d given her permission to enter. He had more paperwork than usual today, so it was probably that period in time when he had to deal with a lot of issues.
“Otou-sama, I visited the pharmacist whom Vernoux and his friend are learning from today. She knows a lot about medicinal herbs, so would it be alright for me to visit her more often?”
“… Is there something you want to learn from her?”
“Yes. There are still many herbs that I don’t know about, and I want to learn about how to combine them.”
Elvis didn’t say anything else after that. It should be alright for me to continue.
However, while she was feeling relief, Elvis turned towards Cordelia.
“You didn’t come here just to report this… What do you want?”
He knows I want something. Cordelia smiled wryly, but she didn’t let it show. Therefore, she answered calmly and seriously.
“I would like to visit the poorhouse in Oulu Village.”
“The pharmacist I visited today helps out at the poorhouse in Oulu Village. She said that she would take me there if I wish to visit. Would it be alright for me to go?”
Cordelia said, and Elvis frowned a little.
His tone didn’t sound positive.
(It’s less dangerous than going to the forest, so Otou-sama must be worried about me leaving the Royal Capital.)
If so, then he’s probably asking me why I want to go there.
Cordelia looked straight at Elvis.
“I’ve never been to the poorhouses in our fief. So, I don’t know the difference between Oulu Village and our fief. But I would like to broaden my horizons and think about what I can do for our fief.”
When Cordelia stopped talking, Elvis stopped writing.
“… How did that pharmacist look to you?”
“Sensei? She is very kind, but she scolds properly when she has to.”
Cordelia felt that was unusual as she listened to his response.
She didn’t feel like there was anything unusual about being asked that question. However, she didn’t recall ever being asked a question by Elvis without eye contact.
“Bring Ronnie with you.”
“… I can go?”
“This doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do something, even if you go. But if you think that you won’t gain anything from this, then don’t go.”
“Thank you very much.”
I can’t say that there was no possibility of gaining nothing, but I am enthusiastic about returning home with something. In that case, I will clear Otou-sama’s condition. So, I’ll do what I can. Mick and I didn’t really bury the hatchet today, so I hope that we could. She was suddenly curious about something.
(I wonder what Otou-sama was like in his childhood.)
He must have had a childhood. Obviously, there used to be a time when he was the same age as Mick and I.
(… But I can’t imagine it at all.)
He probably didn’t order seaweed or look for herbs in the mountain like I do.
I heard that my Onii-samas spent most of their childhoods studying and practising martial arts. Did Otou-sama also do that? However, Cordelia couldn’t even imagine a short Elvis.
(I’d like to ask what he looked like…)
But she was afraid to ask.
Because Elvis had stacks of documents towered in front of him. I know I’m still in the way of his work, so I better refrain from asking anything else since I’ve already received permission. I should ask him when he has free time.
“Thank you very much. I’ll be leaving now, Otou-sama.”
Cordelia bowed to Elvis and left the room. She turned back to look at Elvis, but he had already gone back to his paperwork.
(… I’ll have Hans prepare tea for him later.)
Cordelia thought, as she returned to her room. On the way, she saw white flowers in the hallway and suddenly remembered the Witch.
(She’s really is amazing.)
And she’s kind. When she thought about it again, she began remembering everything that Gille had said.
『The way Sensei and Dilly laugh. You look alike.』
She felt somewhat embarrassed by those words, but also happy. It would be nice if I grow up kind like her.