Extra 01: To my Beloved Sister
It was the end of the year in winter in the capital and Ridill was sitting at her desk in her room.
She held the uninked end of a wooden pen to her mouth and had been troubled since a while ago. In front of her was a blank sheet of paper, better than the ones she usually used for writing notes and beside that was an envelope.
Then, a knock sounded at the door.
“I’m home, Rille-nee.”
“Oh, welcome home.”
Her sister, Aime, had returned home on her day off. Aime sat her bag down on her own bed and was in the process of removing her uniform when she caught sight of what was in her sister’s hand. She tilted her head in confusion.
“What are you doing?”
“I wanted to send a letter to Gis-nee to let her know how we’re doing, but I’m not sure what to write. I’ve never written a letter before.”
“Oh, I see.”
Aime took out an envelope similar to the one Rille had prepared from her bag. It was already sealed with glue.
“We were thinking the same thing.”
Aime said as she laughed but Rille-nee still looked troubled.
“Umm, I guess she wouldn’t want my letter since she already has yours.”
“That’s not true. I’m sure Gis-nee would love to receive a letter from you too. She would be twice as happy to receive two letters from her cute sisters.”
“You think so?”
“I do! Besides, the price for sending one or two letters is the same, so it’s more economical to combine them.”
“I see. You’re right.”
Ridille chuckled at her sister’s comment and picked up her pen again, but she didn’t start writing straight away.
“What should I write about?”
“Why don’t you write about a day in your life, Rille-nee? I think Gis-nee would want to know what kind of life you’ve been leading. It’ll be interesting for you to write about what you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed.”
Ridill wasn’t sure about that but she believed that her street smart sister was right and thought about her days in the capital.
Ridill woke up to the delicious smell of breakfast that was prepared by the boarding house owner on a weekday.
There were no glass windows in her room and the wooden door was fitted so that the morning sun wouldn’t shine in. The first thing she did when she got out of bed was to slide the wooden door open horizontally to let the light in.
Then she got dressed with minimal movement, closed the window again and went downstairs.
Anna, the landlady in the kitchen, replied to Ridill’s greeting in a loud voice.
Another one of the boarders, a young woman, was already at the table in the entrance hall. She quickly gobbled down her soup and bread.
“Good morning, Dorte-san.”
The young woman with cropped brown hair up to her shoulders responded by waving one of her hands in the air. She didn’t speak because her mouth was stuffed with food.
Dorte stood up when Ridill brought her food from the kitchen and put her finished dish on the counter.
“Thanks for the food. I’m off.”
“See you later.”
Dorte answered Anna and Ridill with a wave of her hand and dashed off to work. Ridill heard that she was a fabric weaver at a big store.
Ridill secretly admired her because believed she was a little like Giselle since she moved so briskly and didn’t chatter pointlessly.
Then, the other lodger came slowly down the stairs just as Ridill was finishing her meal.
“Good morning, Sonia-san.”
The woman who was dressed in a simple one-piece nightgown was a few years older than Ridill and was around Dorte’s age.
Sonia was employed at a second-hand clothing shop, and she had apparently come home late last night after drinking too much. Her long black hair which reached down to her back was messy and her eyes were bloodshot and puffy.
She sat down next to Ridill, put her face on the table and tried to sleep again, but Anna pulled her up by the collar and served her breakfast.
“Come on, eat up. You’re going to be late.”
Ridill believed that the interactions between Sonia, who wasn’t a morning person, and Anna was like a relationship between a mother and daughter even when Sonia wasn’t hungover, but she had never had a mother-daughter relationship herself, so she could only imagine what it was like from what she had heard from the merchant children in the downtown school.
Ridill would normally go to work after finishing breakfast, but today, she returned to her room to rummage through her suitcase and went downstairs with a bag of herbs.
“Anna-san, please make Sonia-san a cup of herbal tea with this.”
Ridill was carrying a bag of herbs that was a regular remedy for hangovers as well as weakness in general.
Sonia smiled with her puffy face after she had heard what Ridill had said.
“Thanks, Rille~. You sure know your stuff since you work as a royal healer~.”
“Good luck with work. Well then, I’m off too.”
Ridill’s workplace was the medical department attached to the military wing at the palace.
Her duties included treating and caring for the injured soldiers, mixing medicine and various other chores assigned to her by her superiors.
There was no end to her work, and she was always on the move except during breaks. This was partly due to her obstinate superior who assigned her work to do whenever she even looked like she had free time.
“Ridill, check the herbs we received against the list and put them away.”
Jed, a military doctor with a scar on his face, somewhat roughly tossed the list to Ridill. She was puzzled as she accepted the list that almost dropped to the floor.
“Umm, but I have to replace the soldier’s bandages.”
“There’s no need for you to do that since I’ve already driven him away. He’s still acting like he’s wounded even though his bones have already healed. You should notice this next time.”
“Really? But he looked like he was still in pain.”
“Don’t take a patient by their words. People who take a break for a while have the habit of slacking off. Hit the affected area once if you’re not sure.”
Ridill thought he was being unreasonable, but he always spoke abusively. Franz, the gentle but stern medical head, always came down hard on him because of this.
Jed, however, only had a sharp tongue; his diagnosis was never wrong and he was highly trusted by his colleagues. Ridill was aware of her boss’s personality, so she didn’t argue and listened to him.
Boxes of items were stacked in front of the herb storeroom which was connected by an inner door to the treatment room which was lined with beds. Ridill took the items out of the box and put them onto the nearby desk. She checked them off one by one and put them away in the storeroom.
Rille learnt about many medicines here that she had not seen in Giselle’s store, such as dried leaves and berries, and sometimes insects and animal organs. She made a notebook to note them all down and learnt them all, and now she was able to sort them.
But they had stocked up on so many items on this day and it was difficult for Ridill to sort them all and put them away.
“Let me help you, Ridill.”
A middle-aged woman who was the assistant doctor came. She was wearing an apron like Ridill, and her dark brown hair, which had slight hints of grey through it, was tied up.
“Thank you very much, Nicola-san.”
“You’re welcome. Jed-san is a bit of a slave driver. I’m worried about you since you don’t speak up for yourself. You can complain every once in a while, you know?”
“I’m alright. I’m getting better at talking back, aren’t I?”
“That’s it, that’s the attitude! You can’t keep holding back towards people who speak bluntly!”
Nicola laughed. She wasn’t afraid of younger, cocky doctors even if they heard this conversation which was loud.
Nicola was a very reliable senior colleague but she did have a bad habit.
“By the way, how are things going with the General?”
Nicola, who was already married, was extremely interested in young people’s love stories.
“N-nothing. There’s nothing between me and the General.”
“You don’t have to hold back here either. It’s a beautiful tale. A love story between a handsome young noble and a woman from a different social position.”
Ridill smiled wryly.
Her life was already like a dream since she had gone from living on the streets to working in the palace. She didn’t wish for more happiness. All she wanted was to have her family together again so that she could live with Aime and Giselle.
Ridill opened the door of the boarding house after work in the evening and smelled the delicious aroma of dinner.
“Welcome home, Ridill!”
The person who greeted Ridill cheerfully was not Anna, but for some reason Connie, the maid working at the Chancellor’s mansion.
She sometimes went out with Ridill on her day off. She was sitting at the dining table with no one else around.
“Connie-san? What’s up?”
“I just met Anna at the market, and she invited me to dinner!”
“I’m thanking her for helping me with my bags.”
Anna added from the kitchen.
“I have a day off today!”
Ridill was delighted to see her friend for the first time in a long time. She quickly put her bag away in her room and sat down in front of Connie just as dinner was being served.
Dinner was teriyaki chicken with Anna’s special sweet sauce and gave off a savoury scent.
“Wow~ this looks as delicious as always! Thank you very much!”
“Thanks for the meal!”
Anna smiled happily at the excited Connie and Ridill.
The two were hungry but still enjoyed their food by chewing, savouring the food and occasionally stopped to talk with each other.
“Ridill-san, do you have a day off soon?”
“I have a day off tomorrow, and Aime will be off too.”
Connie clapped her hands in delight.
“That’s great! I’m off until tomorrow! Why don’t the three of us go to see a play? The theatre is small, but there’s a play I would like to see there!”
“Wow, I’d love to go. I’ve never seen a play before.”
“Let’s go! I’ll be happy to have you guys see it with me. I don’t feel comfortable seeing it by myself. My colleagues and I have different days off, and I don’t have any nice men to accompany me.”
“It’s the same for us.”
“Eeeh, you’re lying.”
“W-why do you think I’m lying?!”
“Just sounds like you are.”
“Huh? I really don’t have anyone like that since long ago.”
“I’ll have to ask Aime about that since you seem slow.”
“Even you’re saying that!”
Ridill enjoyed their bantering while pretending to be angry.
Connie left after dinner. Ridill got ready for bed and went to bed earlier than usual that day.
She was looking forward to having a day off with her friend and sister tomorrow.
A few days before the new year dawned, two letters and a small box large enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand was delivered to a small apothecary in the Chancellor’s fief.
Giselle knew from the senders’ names that they were sent by her sisters. She smiled before she even opened the letters. There was a lot of work to be done before the end of the year, but she decided to take a break and went to the counter to open the letters.
The first letter she opened was from Aime and inside the envelope, along with the letter were several small blue star-like flowers, which came out like snow when she shook the opening of the envelope down. Giselle knew that these were flowers that bloomed in winter at the capital.
It was a stylish noble gesture to put flowers in envelopes. Giselle thought it was very Aime-like to not send just a letter.
The letter was a concise and well organised status report which concluded by saying that she had made new friends and was enjoying her schoolwork.
Next, Giselle cut the seal on Ridill’s letter. Nothing came out of this envelope, but it seemed that the small box that was sent with the letters was from Ridill.
This letter also said that Ridill was adjusting to her new life and was enjoying her time. Giselle opened the box next and found a decorative stone that she could attach to her sword which Ridill had bought near the theatre that she went to with her friend.
A clear round stone that glowed in rainbow colours was attached to the end of the red braided cord. The rainbow coloured glow shimmered beautifully as the stone changed angles. The letter said that this stone warded off bad luck.
Gisille immediately attached it to the hilt of her dagger which she used for harvesting. She held the beautiful ornament in front of her for a moment and let out a giggle.
“――― I’m glad the two of you are enjoying yourselves.”
Just as she said this, several children came to the storefront.
“Hi, we’re here to help.”
They were all children from the school. Some of them were small and some were big. They often came to Giselle’s apothecary to earn money as it was difficult for her to deliver the medicines by herself.
Their identity was guaranteed by their teacher, Fabion, so neither Giselle nor the other merchants were wary of them.
Many of the children who came to Giselle’s apothecary are those who are fond of Ridill and Aime.
“I received letters from Rille and Aime, do you guys want to read them?”
Giselle told them and their eyes widened in excitement.”
“This is from Ridill!!”
“A letter from the witch?! Let me see! I can read!”
Giselle handed the letters to the children who crowded around the counter and looked out at the nice weather until they all finished reading.
Ridill and Aime must be facing difficulties that cannot be described in words even though they hadn’t written it in their letters.
Giselle imagined her younger sisters overcoming those difficulties and growing stronger, and she hoped more than ever that she would be able to see them again one day.