Seeing that Sara had regained her composure, Hermes prepared some of the black tea in his canteen with a fire spell to help calm her nerves.
“Thank you very much… My, that’s delicious.”
“You’re more than welcome. It tastes better freshly brewed, but Miss Katia always says it never disappoints.”
Katia’s name caught Sara’s attention. “Um… You and Miss Katia have been close since childhood, right…?”
“Then you were banished from your household… and taken in by Miss Katia?”
“…Well, some stuff happened in between, but that’s about right, yes.”
There was a 5-ish year gap before I reunited with Miss Katia, but I can’t speak about anything regarding Master, so I’ll just leave it at that.
“I see… That explains why you work under her, and why she puts so much faith in you…”
“…Must be nice…” Sara gave Hermes a clearly jealous look as she sipped the rest of her tea.
Hermes could tell from the look in her eyes that Sara truly looked up to Katia, like how Katia looked out for her in turn.
“…Miss Katia always treated me well at school,” Sara said looking down, a bashful but adorable look on her face. “I had always been ostracized from my classmates since the time of my enrollment. I, despite being a lowly baroness, had two Bloodline Magics at my disposal… and I suppose they couldn’t stand me for that.”
“They would badmouth me, hide my belongings… Obviously, I couldn’t make even a single friend. It was hard, really… but that was when Miss Katia approached me.”
Considering that girl’s personality, I doubt she could just watch from the sidelines.
While it was true that, at the time, Katia had the devastating inability to use Bloodline Magic, her exceptional intelligence, decorum, and good looks—coupled with the fact that she was a duchess engaged to the second prince—was more than enough to win the favor of her peers.
And Sara, despite being lower ranked, had the one thing Katia desperately lacked: overflowing magical talent. By all rights, Katia should’ve been more jealous of Sara than anyone else, yet she went out of her way to befriend Sara, which helped keep her mistreatment in check.
“Still, there were people who bullied me. But every time, Katia stepped in and stood up for me…”
“Then the claims of her bullying you are fake?”
“Yes… At the very least, I personally never once felt that way. But…”
Then came Second Prince Astor.
The two enrolled in the same year, and ever since he fell for Sara, nothing ever felt the same for her again.
“Miss Katia never changed her attitude toward me. Rather, she kept protecting me from the increasing harassment. But for whatever reason… Prince Astor…”
I can imagine.
Like he did at that party, he must’ve made up some one-sided lie to bend reality in his favor, deceiving everyone into thinking that Katia bullied Sara.
And they all fell hook, line and sinker.
“Miss Katia did tell me what to do at times, that much is true. But the only ‘orders’ she gave me were to make my own decisions, or to have more confidence; they were all things to help me overcome my shortcomings…But His Highness, he…!”
By completely overexaggerating and distorting the truth, he used Sara as a stepping stone to ruin Katia.
She firmly disputed his claims, even going as far as to try and provide guidance to Astor, but it was all for nothing, and the rest is as we know it.
I have no idea why, but Astor is just hellbent on dragging Katia, his first love, through the mud.
“…Just what is his problem with her?”
“I’m sorry…It’s just that… the person who I respect, and helped me in my time of need… is going through so much right now… and I can’t do a thing…!” She began crying again. “Mother was so delighted that His Highness was interested in me…but I was terrified… of going against my family’s teachings to wed a good man…terrified of His Highness… terrified of saying anything at all… Just completely… powerless…!”
I do sympathize with her.
But I can’t just tell her it wasn’t any of her fault.
No matter the circumstances, the fact of the matter is that Sara’s our enemy right now. Whether or not she doubted Astor isn’t important; she still didn’t take any concrete actions against him, and that’s on her.
…But on second thought, people like her might just be the norm in this country.
Everyone here obeys the school of thought that Bloodline Magic is king without question; to doubt or challenge this notion is utterly blasphemous.
That’s just how this country operates.
Monsters are by far the biggest threat to the country, so it’s only logical that greater authority is given to whatever can deal with them efficiently.
Thinking of it that way…
“…For there to be someone as virtuous as Miss Katia in this country is out of the ordinary.”
“Right. But I still truly respect how genuinely kind, straightforward and honest she is. So please…”
“I understand. I’ll pass that on.” Hermes stood up.
He’d heard what he wanted, and Sara had calmed down some as well. There was no further point in staying any longer.
Just one more thing, though. “…Ah, if I may, Miss Sara,” Hermes said, saying her name for the first time.
“Regardless of your reasons, it still remains true that you complied in ruining Miss Katia’s good name, and I have no intention of brushing that aside.”
“However, as a token of gratitude for telling me your story, allow me to give you a piece of advice, presumptuous as it may be.”
“Advice…?” Sara tilted her head.
Hermes pointed his pointer-finger straight at her. “You underestimate the strength of the human heart.”
“Strength… of the human heart, you say…?”
I bet she’s wondering what the hell I’m talking about, Hermes thought cynically.
Hermes normally didn’t say stuff like this.
What someone thinks and does is entirely up for them to decide. He would provide guidance when necessary, but ultimately let them choose for themselves.
But Sara… she’s doing the exact opposite of that, he thought, and continued on, “This is just what I gathered from our conversation, but… I believe that you don’t treat yourself with respect—that you don’t deserve it, or that you just aren’t worthwhile enough for it, someone who’s fine with ignoring their problems altogether. You think that you don’t belong to yourself… that you don’t care what happens to yourself in the end.”
“!!” Sara widened her eyes.
Given her reaction, Hermes assumed he was on the dot.
“But I… I’m different from Miss Katia! I’m not strong enough to be as iron-willed as her… or you, for that matter…!”
“That’s not true. Didn’t I say earlier? You underestimate the human heart.” Hermes took a small step forward and turned his eyes toward the royal capital. “The heart—in other words, feelings. Everyone has this power, and it’s far, far stronger than what everyone believes it to be. It cultivates man, furthers the world around us—the feelings of people even brought into being the very magic you people regard so sacredly.”
Hearing something so out there must’ve come off as a shock to her, but as long as Hermes said it with enough confidence, she’d likely understand. And while she might not really understand, he was so persuasive that she couldn’t refute him.
“Which is why I know you have it in you as well. Something that wasn’t instilled or forced upon you—a heart that belongs to you and you only.”
“Following your heart isn’t such a bad idea. You never know, things might just take a turn for the better. And if you did… I think you’d be even lovelier than you are now.”
“…Whuh?!” Sara had been listening intently, but the moment she heard that last sentence, her face flushed beet-red.
Hermes then immediately realized he worded that statement a little too strongly. “M-My apologies, that sounded like I was making a pass at you. I had no intention of doing so… but that sounds rather rude as well, doesn’t it…”
“Oh, but just to be clear, I meant what I said. I would never have said such a thing if I didn’t think you had a beautiful soul to begin with.”
Okay, this is just gonna get more and more awkward if I say anything more. I think she got my message loud and clear, anyway. Astor is someone she should stay far away from, no more hesitation on her part needed, Hermes thought. He gave a curt bow and started to leave.
Hearing her call, however, he turned around to face her again.
What he saw in her eyes was a determined look that wasn’t there earlier.
“If, hypothetically speaking, I… followed my heart, as you put it…” she asked.
“…and it led me to stand against you… What would you do?”
“That’s obvious,” Hermes answered without a hint of hesitation. “Let’s fight, fair and square. Pour our entire being into our magic. Why else does magic exist, if not for that?”
Without waiting for her response, he left.
“…How can you be so…” Sara stood there in a daze, a faint blush still remaining on her cheeks.
Whether it was from their previous interaction or something else entirely, we may never know.
yes i know i havent updated this series in a year MY BAD, will be picking up translations again though, thanks for reading. also this chapter was cheesy as hell