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Chapter 11: The Tea Party, Part I Whoa there… The ground suddenly shakes, and I stagger unsteadily on my feet. Whatever could have happened that would make a castle of this size shake this much? I had just gotten to resume my leisurely walk after making my escape from Ritter and Reese, too. Honestly, I should really see to getting the both of them – well, Ritter at least – some kind of re-education. Asking me to pet her rear was really going over the line.
Sure, I’m happy that they’re showing me that kind of trust, but that’s still out of the question. But is there anyone even close to suitable for that task…? While I’m occupied with thoughtful humming, I exit into yet another courtyard. Unlike the one prior, which was there purely for the sake of training, this one presents itself with lush greenery. All kinds of small critters and tiny insects, such as b.u.t.terflies, roamed the area, bringing it a greatly comforting atmosphere. There was even a small river not too far up ahead. This place had been created in response to the demands among the members of the guild. Since I had no issue with creating such a peaceful, soothing place, I had it prepared immediately. The one most likely to be here would be… Once again, I let my mind wander as I walk. I stroll through the abundance of nature for some time, then arrive at a slightly more open location. A mult.i.tude of trees covers the skies above, and not a single ray of direct sunlight can find its way through. Regardless, whatever light manages to filter itself through the trees is enough to gently illuminate the area. The small river flows by with soft murmurs that soothe the nerves. In the center of this place of healing, two silhouettes make themselves visible. “Oh my, Master?” One of those two takes notice of my presence and calls out to me. She has long, golden hair and deep red eyes; this would be Vampir. Her skin is pale to the point one might suspect illness, and her features are arranged to radiate beauty. Vampir also happens to be a member of renowned species of demons, but there really isn’t any need to make that clear at this point. She’s wearing an extravagant red dress that suits her wonderfully, and she’s daintily sipping away at a cup of black tea. The scene really is only picturesque thanks to her addition; if I were the one in her place, I very much doubt I’d invoke more than a sn.i.g.g.e.r. “Schwald, be a dear and offer the Master a seat.” “Right away.” The girl dressed as a maid that stands by Vampir’s side pouring tea makes her way over to me. I should mention that the two of them don’t share the relations.h.i.+p of a master and servant. They are, in fact, equal members of this guild. It’s probably more that Vampir tends to ask Schwald to make her tea since she happens to be quite skilled at it. At least, I think that’s what’s going on. Admittedly, even I always look forward to her tea. “Good morning, Master. Would you mind if I show you to your seat?” Schwald greets me by quickly lowering her head. On top of her short, silver hair rests a maid’s headdress. In strong contrast to Vampir, her skin is a healthy, deeply tanned brown. The ears that poke through her short hair are pointed, very much unlike the ears of a human. Thanks to her appearance, it’s easy to make the connection that she isn’t part of the human race. This right here is a perfect maid; one that the entire guild can boast about, long skirt and all. I return her greetings, and a smile settles on my face as I give her my thanks. “It’s nothing… If it means acting as your arms and legs, then there’s no greater joy to be found.” Ever-modest, Schwald responds. But, while I’m not sure whether it’s because she’s happy with my thanks, a soft red does creep into her tanned cheeks. Yep. This one’s still a child at heart, too. Really, all of this is bringing a smile to my face. “Hey now! Are you still taking your time?!” While Schwald and I look at each other, Vampir’s angered voice reaches us. I laugh and apologize, then allow Schwald to show me to my seat. The seat she guides me to is the one on the exact opposite of Vampir. It looks like I can at least get some tea for myself here. “A pleasant morning to you, Master. I didn’t think that you’d ever be up this early, considering how often you tend to oversleep.” That’s cruel, you know… I mean, it’s not like I just idle about and sleep until past noon. “Our Master is always busy. It’s a given that he’d sleep for longer than most.” “I do realize that, of course… There’s no need for you to go out of your way to tell me this.” Schwald had come to my rescue as I had only given a strained laugh. She had been pouring in tea for me, but that hadn’t stopped her from offering Vampir a few brief words. Vampir puffs her cheeks and looks a tad displeased. Being as familiar with her personality as I am, I already know that she hadn’t meant any harm with her words. She had just wanted to poke a little fun, that’s all. I tell Vampir to cheer up, and then tell Schwald that she had meant no ill, but thank her for her support regardless. “I-I was hardly feeling down in the first place! I only wanted to annoy you a little…” “Oh, it’s not worth mentioning. After all, Master, no one knows you better than I do.” Vampir’s face goes red. Possibly because I had hit the bull’s eye, but I can’t be sure. Still, she shows an angered expression at Schwald’s words that came right after her own. “Schwald, why don’t you explain just what you meant by that? To think that you’d go so far as to spew such reckless nonsense…” “There’s nothing reckless about it. It’s the truth, after all.” There’s a snap and crackle in the air… It’s an overwhelming tension, thick enough to be cut. How… How did things come to this…? I know I’ve said this before, but even if the members of my guild do get along, they still tend to get into a spat every now and again. Still, I do think it’s great of them to always return to normal after each quarrel. Granted, I don’t outright forbid quarrel among the members of this guild, but I can’t help but be slightly perturbed by having them fight while I’m next to them. Involving myself in their squabbles, after all, could more than likely lead to an early grave. In a last-effort attempt to break down the frozen air between them, I drink the tea Schwald poured for me. Yep… It really is delicious. Had there been none of this tension, I’m sure it would have been all the more enjoyable. “… Thank you. I have as many refills as you’d like, so please, just say the word.” Schwald’s smiling happily now. Much like Ritter, her expression doesn’t change all that much. But she still offers me that smile on occasion, one that hides insurmountable destructive power. See? I can already feel my heart getting warmer. “Fuuh… It would seem that I’ve lost the will to fight.” While normally, Vampir is the type to push her own wishes over those of others to move forward, it looks like she won’t sink her teeth in any further this time. She puckers her face and silently goes back to sipping her tea. Honestly, the way she carries herself right now is far too fitting. I’m already aware that she has an origin among the n.o.bility of some well-off place, but seeing her like this in front of me always reminds me of that fact. It would be nice to spend time together like this, so utterly peaceful… But, as much as I hate to admit it, I know better. I know it wouldn’t go that well.