Chapter 185 - Quickening of the Northern Continent (2)
Theodore's mind was still blank. The unreal beauty was similar, but it was very different from when she had been standing at the border between a male and female. If the previous Ellenoa seemed like a fresh leaf, the Ellenoa before him now was a blossoming flower. The acacia scent which tickled his nose seemed to be her body odor.
Despite facing a national VIP, Theodore couldn't open his mouth.
No, Theodore wasn't the only one. All the people around Ellenoa held their breaths, regardless of what sex they were. She had a beauty that gave off a sharp vitality. Her face shone like soft sunshine and naturally attracted the attention of the crowd.
If Paragranum hadn't poked him, Theodore would've continued staring blankly at Ellenoa.
"Ah! It is great to see you after a long time, Ellenoa. I didn't know that you would be coming here," Theodore greeted hurriedly.
"Huhu, I didn't expect Theodore to come and meet me." Ellenoa smiled gently at his embarrassed greeting.
Theodore didn't know why but there seemed to be something behind her smile. He couldn't stop his eyes from moving up and down. Softly curved lips, the white teeth between them, and the slender fingers near her lips... It wasn't just the curves of the body which had changed. There was also femininity in her behavior.
This was also true for her gaze which stared straight at him. Her eyes were filled with solid trust and goodwill, which could make the recipient feel troubled.
Theodore barely managed to escape her gaze as he spoke to Ellenoa and the other envoys, "...Then we will move from here. Please tell me if you ever feel uncomfortable."
"Of course, Benefactor! Please look after us."
"I will gratefully accept this favour."
The two guardians bowed and naturally stepped behind Ellenoa. If their purpose was to escort her, they would stand on the left and right. However, Theodore didn't know the meaning of their current positions.
'Why are both of them standing in the rear?'
It was as if they were obstructions...
While he thought about it, Ellenoa's face flushed red as she approached Theodore's side. She was acting nervously like an adolescent girl. Her white fingers moved awkwardly before she took a deep breath and held out her right hand. It was a motion like she wanted to shake hands, but the meaning was different.
"Please look after me, Theodore."
It was an act of courage for Ellenoa, but Theodore grabbed her hand without much thought. This was before Ellenoa could prepare her mind. "Ah...!"
Her palm, which had been made smaller by her feminization, was lightly caught in Theodore's hands. She felt a rough texture and heat. Ellenoa felt the warmth being transmitted from her palm to the tip of her head. It might be different with another man, but Theodore was special. Ellenoa's white face flushed completely red.
Theodore saw it and urgently pulled his hand back. "Ellenoa? Are you in pain somewhere?"
"Ah, it is nothing. I'm okay."
"Your face is red..."
"T-This isn't because I'm in pain...!" Ellenoa couldn't say it was because he held her hand tightly, so she closed her mouth. However, Theodore nodded and didn't ask any more. He thought she was burdened by the trip from Elvenheim in the heart of the Great Forest to Meltor.
So, he said, "I understand. My thinking was too short-sighted. I will move as quickly as possible so that Ellenoa can rest."
Theodore turned away from Ellenoa and commanded, "Quattro and the guards! Open the path!"
He was a Prime magician who would become the next tower master, as well as an honorary marquis. Additionally, Theodore was the hero of the kingdom, so no one here could disobey his command.
At Theodore's shout, the guards, William, and the others recovered from Ellenoa's dreamy beauty and began moving. They were truly the elites of Mana-vil.
"Open the path! The direction is the royal palace!"
"Clear the road as quickly as possible!"
"This is the command given by Sir Theodore!"
Spectators gathered again, but Para used the perfect timing to unfold her architectural magic again.
This was simple 2nd Circle magic which created an impenetrable wall. However, the magic was different from normal standards when coming from Paragranum. The range of the magic was from the north gate to the entrance of the palace. It was 3 meters in height, 0.5 meters in thickness, and made of granite. If she invested a bit more time and magic power, she could even build a wall for a small or medium-sized manor.
The walls stretched out on the right and left, blocking the gazes of the spectators and forming a clear path. It was a calculation ability which took into account the two guardians, Ellenoa and Quattro.
While the guardians admired the feat, Theodore looked at Ellenoa again. "We will head to the royal palace now. His Majesty doesn't like any unnecessary formalities, so Ellenoa can rest soon."
"It is nothing. Then let's go."
Ellenoa unintentionally deceived him about her condition and followed behind him with a small smile. Theodore's hands helped her into the carriage. While doing so, Theodore could feel Ellenoa's hand shaking finely in his.
'...What?' Theodore was puzzled.
Where was this ticklish feeling at his neck and wrists coming from? However, he didn't notice until he got into the carriage with Ellenoa. Sylvia had been watching their encounter with deep and cool eyes since the beginning.
* * *
"I sincerely welcome you to Meltor, Forest Neighbours! I hope you will have a comfortable stay." Kurt III raised his body from his throne as he spoke, revealing his passion.
Like Theodore, he had predicted the arrival of the guardians. However, a high elf, the pillar of Elvenheim, visiting Meltor personally...?
This was clear proof that Elvenheim had accepted the alliance with Meltor and was willing to join them against Andras. The people present had pleased smiles on their faces because they thought the same thing as Kurt.
However, that wasn't the only reason for their excitement.
'She has become more beautiful after changing to a woman. Are all high elves like her?'
It was inevitable that Kurt III's eyes would be drawn to Ellenoa. The unfamiliar beauty was no different from the last time he had seen her, but her charm was incomparable. According to Theodore's report, Ellenoa had been neutral a year ago. So, what had caused this feminization?
Kurt's eyes narrowed for a moment at the thought. He thought the flush on her face was because of the attention, but what if it wasn't? What if her face changed due to the person who accompanied her on the carriage?
Then it wasn't a matter of the staring eyes. Kurt hid his wily grin and pretended not to know anything.
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"You must be tired from coming a long way, so why don't we start the discussion tomorrow? I have organized a place where you can relax."
"Your Majesty, thank you for your concern."
As the dialogue flowed like water, he struck. "Additionally, you will be accompanied by Quattro when out in Mana-vil. Are you uncomfortable with that?"
"Quattro, do you mean..."
"I mean Sir Theodore's division, who brought you here."
At that moment, Ellenoa's eyes returned to Theodore. She stared at his side profile and briefly bit her lips. Kurt III was closely watching her reaction, so he didn't miss it. It was only slight, but it was clear that Ellenoa favored Theodore.
Unsurprisingly, she accepted the plan. "I am happy to follow Your Majesty's will, but what does Benefactor think?"
"I see. What does Sir Theodore think?"
"I will gladly accompany Ellenoa."
When Theodore replied without hesitation, a small smile appeared on Ellenoa's face. No matter how many years she had lived, she had only recently become a woman. Only Kurt knew all the circumstances, and this made him smile.
A key figure in the alliance and the kingdom's hero... Wasn't this relationship a combination of politics and other factors? It was sufficient to use a slight deception. A young man with a strong heart and a girl blooming like a flower... It was obvious that a fire would light up if given a slight chance.
After that, the conversation quickly ended. Ellenoa and the two guardians were guided to their residence. Only Theodore remained in the room.
"Well done, Quattro's captain. It is more than my expectations."
"You're overpraising me, Your Highness."
"No, if it wasn't for you, this situation wouldn't have happened. Then I have one more request." Kurt fiddled with the armrest and spoke to Theodore whose head was bowed, "This evening, there will be a banquet announcing the alliance with Elvenheim. I would like you to recommend the delegates, including Ellenoa, to participate in the ball."
"This is politics."
"That's right. It may be hard for the guests who came from a distant place, but we have to make the most of this opportunity. I want them to enjoy the banquet as much as possible." Then Kurt III's voice rose as he ordered Theodore, "You will escort Ellenoa to the banquet. I hope you don't refuse. Take care of her so that she has a good time in Meltor."
"As Your Majesty commands!"
"Oh, I also have a present for you."
"......?" Theodore looked puzzled.
Kurt pointed outside the room and whispered with a smile, "Do you remember the fact that I gave your father, Earl Dennis, an estate near Mana-vil?"
"Yes, I am thankful for Your Majesty's generosity."
"I wasn't aiming for your thanks. I know you have been busy and haven't been able to go home. So, I sent an invitation and carriage so that your family can attend tonight's banquet. They arrived an hour ago and are waiting for you."
Theodore's eyes widened at the words. As Kurt said, Theodore had been busy. In fact, Theodore hadn't simply been busy. He had gone on a long journey and struggled with a sword master. Wasn't it natural to think about his home while experiencing homesickness for Meltor? The faces of his mother, father, and little brother entered his mind.
Theodore was touched by the king's meticulous care and remained silent. He wanted to speak words of appreciation but was worried an unpleasant sound would be released if he opened his mouth.
Kurt III rose from the throne like he sensed Theodore's mood. Then he said, "Please go back now. I still have a lot of work to do, and there is nothing left to tell you. Understood?"
"...Yes, Your Majesty," Theodore replied in a heavily subdued voice and exited the room at a faster pace than usual.
His father, mother, and brother...
His brother was still young, so he might not be present. However, it was sufficient to see the faces of his parents. There was only one place where people would be waiting in Meltor's palace.
Theodore was accustomed to the layout, so he didn't get lost on the way to the waiting room.
Voices could be heard from beyond the door. As Theodore heard his father's low-pitched voice and his mother's cheerful voice mixed with several others, Theodore unconsciously opened the door.
Clink. The door opened with only a slight noise as it was well oiled. The faces of his parents he hadn't seen for ages, the sight which Theodore looked forward to...
"Eh? You came sooner than I expected, Kid."
"Theo, you came!"
Red and silver... The two beauties with different shades of hair color were chatting with his parents.
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