Hermes and Katia continued completing various requests.
Sometimes, they exterminated monsters that other nobles couldn’t handle, as they did previously.
Other times, they delved into challenging labyrinths, bringing back several useful—though not quite Artifact-level—magic tools.
Needless to say, some labyrinths were impossible to fully explore without the use of multiple Bloodline Magics.
But thanks to Hermes’ guidance, Katia was improving her mastery over her magic by the day, becoming stronger and stronger; and that’s not to mention Hermes himself, who was in charge of everything besides offense in battle, all while doing his job as her guard to perfection.
Thanks to Hermes, the guard knights had become all but unneeded, and they often moved solely as a pair, which in turn improved their flexibility, allowing them to take on many more types of requests.
They also chose not to take a holier-than-thou attitude toward the people they saved like other nobles. This made the citizens see them in a favorable light, and their reputation began spreading.
Slowly but surely, stories of a young and beautiful duo, a duchess and her remarkably skilled butler, made the rounds amongst the people, and more and more nobles began reconsidering their opinion of Katia after catching wind of her exploits.
This, in other words, was synonymous with people beginning to harbor doubts about Second Prince Astor’s verdict.
Their first order of business—piling on accomplishment after accomplishment, thereby eliminating any would-be faultfinders and reducing Astor’s sway—was progressing smoothly.
During one such day, the pair found themselves with much more time than they were used to, deciding to take the entire day off.
Hermes, asked by the Trakia household chef to do groceries, had made his way to the capital’s castle town.
Having bought everything on his shopping list, he began his walk back to the estate. He just so happened to glance down an alleyway, and there, he caught sight of it.
…A child from downtown… and a woman?
There stood a young boy wearing simple clothes. He was likely a commoner who lived nearby.
And in front of him was a hooded figure, their back turned toward Hermes. Judging from their voice, they seemed to be a young woman.
From what Hermes could piece together of their conversation, the boy had been injured, and the girl was consoling him.
Where have I heard her voice before, Hermes wondered. An answer would present itself before he could finish that train of thought, however.
“The Angel’s benevolent hand rights the wrongs of the heavens above; a halo of flowers crowned onto man, the land awash with Her boundless affection and divine protection.”
Bloodline Magic: Star Crown, Ars Paulina.”
Hermes, without a doubt, knew that voice, and moments later, an azure light leaked from the hooded woman’s hand.
“It… doesn’t hurt anymore! Amazing! You were a magician all along, Miss?!”
“Yes, for the most part. But I’ll get scolded if anyone finds out I used magic without permission… Don’t tell anyone that I healed you, alright?” she said, speaking in a melodious, slightly playful voice.
The boy, likely captivated by the part of her face visible through the hood, went beet-red. “O-Okay! Thanks!”
He then bowed deeply and thanked her, rushing out of the alleyway and passing Hermes.
With a fond expression, she watched as he dashed away, stood up, and began walking over to where Hermes was…
…then made eye contact with him, stopping dead in her tracks.
They both stared at each other, wide-eyed.
She peered at Hermes from her hood. He could make out her light-blonde hair, deep-blue eyes, and gentle, well-shaped countenance, in which a tinge of youthful naivety still remained.
Sara von Hartman, Second Prince Astor’s newest fiancee. By a twist of fate, Hermes had a chance encounter with someone aligned with his enemy.
“Miss Katia’s servant…!”
The instant Sara realized who Hermes was, she turned around and fled, restlessness and panic written all over her face.
However, the alleyway they were in was a dead end. The only way she could leave was by going to the main street, and Hermes just so happened to be blocking the way out.
No sooner had she realized that than her expression turned into that of despair.
“…F-…Forgive me…” She fell to her knees and bowed her head, pleading. “W-While I am His Highness Astor’s fiancee… I possess no political power to speak of… I’m more so a mere decoration than anything else… so please…”
“…No, hold on a minute.”
I haven’t done a thing, but she’s going off and giving herself a heart attack.
“I’m not going to do anything to you.”
“…Huh?” Sara lifted her head, dumbfounded.
I have a rough idea as to what she’s thinking. She thought I was going to abduct her or something and use her as a bargaining chip against Astor, I assume.
She also must’ve heard about what Katia and I have been up to as of late, so I imagine she has a good idea of what our goal is, too.
“Like you just said, I highly doubt His Highness would do anything if I kidnapped you. We plan on making Astor admit he was wrong by doing things our way. Besides…”
Regardless of her circumstances, it’s undeniable that Sara participated in humiliating Katia at that party.
Hermes could have easily told her off some, but he chose not to. His reason being:
“…Katia is worried for your well-being.”
“Despite you publicly acknowledging that you were bullied by Katia, she’s worried for you all the same… I don’t know much about you, but there’s one thing I’m sure about: there’s more to this than meets the eye. I won’t criticize you for what you’ve done, nor will I do you any harm,” Hermes proclaimed. He stared right at Sara to drive the message home.
Sara listened to Hermes in a daze, and before long—
—a single, large teardrop fell from her face.
“I…I’m… sorry…” While wiping away the tears pouring from her eyes like a river, she began speaking in bits and pieces, “I thought… she would hate me… for sure… if I said that… but instead… she’s worried for me…? I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”
I guess this confirms it… I did say there was ‘more to this than meets the eye’, but it’s not all that hard to figure out what happened: she was simply unable to disobey Astor.
Watching Sara cry only further strengthened Hermes’ confidence in his answer.
Hermes, for the time being, led Sara somewhere with no one around.
Obviously, he couldn’t just leave her be while she was bawling her eyes out.
But more than that, he wanted to know why Sara had become Astor’s fiancee, how Katia—who preferred keeping to herself—and this girl got to know each other at their previous school, as well as what happened there.
And in all likelihood, Astor was a part of it all.
Hermes wanted to know more than what he saw at the party. Only after learning what happened in the past and listening to the accounts of others, did he want to reconsider how he should think of Astor.
Making one-sided assumptions based on one-sided information would make him the same as Astor, the very person Hermes was opposed to.
Besides, taking into consideration multiple perspectives is important in magic analysis, too—at least, that’s what Master said.
In that sense, meeting Sara here was a stroke of luck, Hermes thought.
He began organizing his thoughts and preparing the questions he would ask her as he walked.
Late post again, could’ve finished a lot earlier but am addicted to civ 5 lol. Will post magic arrow tmrw, thanks for reading.