Chapter 186 - Quickening of the Northern Continent (3)
Veronica and Sylvia...
Theodore's mind went blank at the unexpected appearance of the two women. He didn't know why they were here chatting with his family.
No, he could understand if it was Sylvia, who had met his family before. The Miller family had no connections with a place like the royal palace, so they would feel comfortable in their own way with people they knew.
'Then why is Tower Master...?'
However, Veronica was different. She was the leader of the Red Tower, responsible for the kingdom's fighting power. Although the nobles were weak, they were above everyone except for the tower masters. Yet even the dukes didn't dare raise their voices in front of Veronica.
Despite this, she was chatting calmly with the Miller family, who had been lived in the countryside until not long ago.
However, Theodore's thoughts on this matter didn't last much longer.
"Let me hug you once, my son!" His mother saw him and hurried to embrace him. Fortunately, she was doing better than before, so the strength of her arms and body had increased. Still, why did she seem tiny compared to three years ago?
Theodore held his mother quietly and smiled inwardly as he realized why.
'No, it is me who has changed a lot since the old days.'
It had already been three years since he'd met his parents at the Miller Barony. Since then, Theodore had gone through many things. That included acquiring 'Battle Song,' which made him taller and increased his physical abilities.
In these few years, he had grown big enough to look down at the top of his mother's head. There had once been a time when Theodore couldn't even make eye contact with her. However, he was no longer that boy who was always alone.
Theodore's father, now Earl Miller, watched the emotional reunion and said, "It really has been a while, Theo."
"I'm sorry I haven't visited more often."
"Uh, don't apologize. In this world, what parent would hold onto the ankles of their child? It is also thanks to you that we can enjoy all the luxuries of the royal palace."
"Pfft." Theodore couldn't help laughing at Dennis' words. It was funny that his father, who always wore shabby clothes, now had a gorgeous robe covering his pudgy belly. His mother scolded his father sharply, but Dennis was still happy.
Subsequently, the atmosphere of the room became lighter. Theodore forgot his usual solemn expression, while Sylvia and Veronica couldn't help smiling softly at the family's affectionate feelings.
It was a side of Theodore which other people didn't know well. The satisfaction of seeing this scene decreased the two women's hostility toward each other.
"Ah, and Theo. There is one person who really wanted to see you again."
After his mother finished scolding Dennis, she turned back to speak to Theodore. It had been three years since she could meet her son. She was proud that Theodore played a big role in the kingdom, but as his parents, she and Dennis couldn't help feeling a bit lonely. So, they came to Mana-vil and prepared a proper family reunion.
The person who wanted to see Theodore again was his younger brother, who had turned six this year.
"B-Brother," a nervous voice rang out from behind the sofa where Veronica and Sylvia were sitting.
'Ah.' Why was it that the moment Theodore heard the voice, an unknown emotion filled his chest...?
The presence of Veronica and Sylvia had blocked his senses, making this a surprise. A young boy walked out from between the red and blue robes. He had the same black hair and blue eyes as Theodore.
Leonardo Miller, the spitting image of Theodore as a child, looked up at his brother with a wide-eyed gaze.
"...Leo?" Theodore called out.
"Yes, Brother Theo."
"You have become bigger."
It was awkward. Theodore had only seen his little brother once when Leo had been at the age of three. Then he hadn't seen Leo again for three years. Leo was just a child, so there would be no surprise if he didn't remember Theodore.
However, Leonardo knew. He knew that the person in the gorgeous outfit before him was his older brother.
"Uh, don't tackle me all of a sudden. It hurts."
Leo had heard a lot of stories. His brother who saved a beautiful elf, his brother who bravely defended their home, his brother who gained many merits... In Leonardo's mind, Theodore was already a hero in a storyFbook.
The boy had a thought as he dug into Theodore's arms. Theodore was his brother who was followed by beautiful women!
The sisters here were so beautiful that the women from Leo's village were like pumpkins compared to them. Leonardo's thoughts were still childish, but in some ways, it was an amazingly precise interpretation of the situation. Had he been born with a brain like Theodore's?
Then Leonardo suddenly recalled the story about the banquet.
"Isn't there a big party tonight?"
The word banquet was more suitable, but Leo was still six years old. Theodore smiled at Leo and nodded. That said, Leonardo had a good brain for a six-year-old. He was able to formulate a question based on what he'd heard from his parents while coming to the capital and from what he'd seen in the storybooks.
"Which sister are you bringing with you?" Leo's innocent question shattered the unspoken armistice between the two beauties.
"...What?" Theodore uttered.
"I saw it in a book. A man and woman will go to a big party together and dance. So, I thought that you would go with one of these pretty sisters..."
'No?' Leo just shook his head with an innocent expression.
This was truly a surprise! Theodore started sweating nervously as he faced the cliff before him. He knew it was a question without malice, but it was fatal in this situation. Unsurprisingly, someone else spoke before Theodore could reply.
"Yes, Kid, who is your partner?"
"Just call me, 'Becky'. I introduced myself as your senior because I didn't want them to be uncomfortable."
'Ah,' Theodore realized. Veronica hadn't revealed her identity. Therefore, the Miller family were able to talk to her with a relaxed atmosphere. They would've been stiff if they'd known that she was the Red Tower Master.
Veronica naturally grasped his left arm and whispered into his ear, "Yes, who will be your partner?"
"You aren't going to kick me away, are you? Yes?" Her hot breath and low voice tickled his ears, making him feel dizzy.
The similar heat coming from his left arm made him feel like he was melting. At that time, something cool wrapped around his right arm.
"No matter how rushed you feel, you shouldn't cause him pain. Right Be-cky?" Sylvia dragged out Veronica's nickname as she glared at her opponent.
Then she whispered in Theo's ears, "Come with me, Theo. You shouldn't go with a middle-aged woman like that."
"M-Middle-aged...?" Veronica's eyebrows twitched, but she soon recovered and launched a counterattack. "Hrnn, can you speak so proudly when you haven't even grown up yet? This kid prefers women like me."
"N-Not grown up...?" Sylvia gaped.
Veronica flapped her robe, revealing her sensual body. The clothing couldn't hide how voluptuous she was. Then Sylvia looked down at herself, but she couldn't see her natural beauty. However, she didn't know yet. She wouldn't know what Theodore's taste was unless he said it himself.
The two women reached the same conclusion and focused on Theodore.
"Theo, who is it?"
Theodore gulped and took a deep breath, feeling more tension than when he faced the empire's Seven Swords.
Of course, he would be happy with either of the women before him. However, he currently wasn't free to choose a partner. Kurt III had directly asked him to escort Ellenoa, and he couldn't ignore Ellenoa who had come to the distant Meltor.
"I'm sorry." With that apology, Theodore refused both of them. "His Majesty has asked me to be Ellenoa's partner. I don't have a choice for this banquet."
Sylvia was devastated, while Veronica thought it was ridiculous. The two women had different types of beauty, and even their actions were the opposite of each other.
"...Yes, I'm sorry to ask something unreasonable."
"It is nothing. I was glad to hear Tow- no, Becky's suggestion."
"Thank you for those words. Then I will go talk to him."
'Talk to who?' Theodore was unable to object and stayed silent until Veronica left the room. He could guess, but would she really do that?
"Oh..." Meanwhile, Sylvia squatted on her chair.
"Oh, my. Don't be so upset."
"Our Theo has been popular since the old days. Even back home, Julia next door.."
Theodore could hear it all. As his mother's words soothed the crestfallen Sylvia, Theodore gazed at Leonardo like he had committed a big sin. There was no malice, but Leo was the one who had created this mess.
However, his brother was still looking at Theodore with a bright expression, unaware of what he had done.
"Hah..." Theodore was exhausted before the banquet had even begun.
* * *
Seven hours later, the entrance of Meltor's palace was wide open. The nobles, magicians, and foreign dignitaries let out sounds of admiration as they crossed the threshold.
"Ohh...! So, this is Meltor's royal palace!"
"From the pillars to the stairs and fountains, they are all magical products. I'm afraid to look away from anything."
"It is a pity that I can only come once a year!"
It was as they said. In keeping with the title of Meltor the magic kingdom, the interior of the palace was covered with artifacts. There were living armor meant as alert devices to catch unauthorized intruders, as well as fountains to control the ambient temperature.
Most of the foreign guests were from the Central area, so they never enjoyed the use of such advanced artifacts.
In fact, the bleak North felt like another world.
The guests walked a few more steps while salivating with greed, and they soon arrived at today's ballroom.
There were so many guests that a temporary banquet hall had been made in the spacious front yard. The yellow tower magicians had used their architectural skills and had been able to complete it in one and a half days.
"T-This big building is just the temporary banquet hall?" Dennis had been in the capital for less than a month, so he couldn't hide the tremble in his voice.
A building which should've taken a year to construct was right before his eyes. What about the royal motifs and symbol of the magic towers carved on the walls? Even if a dozen skills sculptors were called, it would take at least a month.
For those who weren't accustomed to magic like Dennis, magic events of this magnitude were considered miracles.
Thus, Vince's words surprised him.
"Yes, that's right. It seems that the Yellow Tower has been working hard during the past few days. Usually, the construction of a national building like this would take a few weeks or months."
"Magic is truly great. Thanks to Professor, I've broadened my insights."
"You're overpraising me, Earl."
As Theodore's master and a Prime rank magician, Vince Haidel had volunteered to guide the Miller family. He had been planning to participate in the banquet anyway, and this task wasn't too hard when it was the family of his disciple.
"We are lucky to be with Theodore's master. Hahaha!"
"It is nothing. He is my student after all."
"Thank you, Professor."
The attitudes of the Miller family, who didn't act like they were earls or senior nobles, was refreshing. Vince smiled softly as he saw where Theodore's upright nature had come from.
After sharing a few words, the lighting of the banquet hall turned off, and darkness fell upon them. Then a beam of light shone on the podium. A pair of purple eyes gleamed in the darkness, as Kurt III, king of Meltor, stood there.
"Fill the cups." Without speaking a single word of greeting, Kurt held up his cup and gave an order. For some reason, his voice sounded worse than usual, but it added a sense of weight.
This was a charisma which didn't allow anyone to sneer. The participants of the banquet all took a cup from the tables. Then for a moment, the banquet hall was just filled with the sound of drinks being poured into cups.
Kurt waited until the last person was done before continuing.
"Today is a good day," he said.
Why was it a good day? Hundreds of eyes filled with this question as they followed Kurt's gestures.
"Is it because today is the day that the Magic Contest begins? No, that is wrong."
Their speculation was denied, and confusion appeared in the eyes of some people.
"Is it because we are enjoying good drinks, food, and song? Wrong."
Kurt III completely dominated the atmosphere in the ballroom. No one could move their eyes from him or stop listening to his voice. A monarch required the ability to lead, and Kurt had been born as a monarch.
"Then why is today a good day?"
No one answered. He didn't want them to answer. The magic kingdom had been fighting with the sword empire for half a century. So, Kurt III's presence wasn't something that the nobles of the Central continent could go against.
Finally, Kurt III raised his cup and said, "Everyone might've heard about this. The story of the high elves who enrich the world and the hero of Meltor who rescued them!"
Someone nodded. Someone else looked down. Another person sighed. Someone's eyebrows twitched. Every person reacted differently, but there was no one here who didn't know the story. There were those who thought it was propaganda for Meltor, while others thought it was true but exaggerated.
Kurt III's charisma embraced the crowd, and the banquet hall started to heat up.
"Please bless us! Please be glad! Don't hesitate to raise the first toast to their beautiful reunion!"
Suddenly, the number of lights increased. The direction of the light was aimed to the left of the podium, and all eyes naturally shifted to that point.
...Once again, the world was silent.
No one could make a sound at the wonderful sight. Their lips parted, but no sound was made. Their eyes widened to the limit as they tried to engrave the miraculous sight before them into their minds.
The reactions of all those who saw Ellenoa were the same. The lighting illuminated her beautiful face, which had no makeup, displaying a beauty that was out of this world.
'Remarkable... Well, I can understand their reactions.' Theodore, who was forgotten by everyone, stared in amazement at Ellenoa's profile in front of him.
With eyelashes which looked like dew would form on them, skin that seemed like sunlight would bounce off it, and hair which was like a fresh leaf... Wasn't she a goddess of the forest which some ethnic minority served?
Theodore and Ellenoa were holding hands but it seemed like she could disappear somewhere. Theodore unconsciously opened his mouth and said, "Ellenoa."
"Yes, Theodore." She didn't look back but smiled kindly as she answered him.
"If you don't mind, I would like to ask you one thing."
"Yes, you can ask me anything."
"...Have you found a companion?"
He had previously heard it from Ellenoa's mouth. A high elf could decide to become a woman or a man, depending on the sex of their companion. The last time he saw her, she had definitely been neutral still.
However, Theodore remembered. Ellenoa's hands had felt thinner when they stood on the world tree.
...What if he wasn't mistaken?
"Yes." Ellenoa's answer was clear. She was already a woman.
He had another question after the answer. No, Theodore already knew-
"He is right in front of me."
Turning away from the crowd, Ellenoa's eyes shone brightly as she faced Theodore.
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