Chapter 3, Part 2
They came home to a battlefield.
In other words, a wretched scene.
When Tohru entered the room, he froze instantly.
Beside him stood Akari, expressionless as usual.
Before both their eyes was—
Chaika, but she wasn’t standing or sitting down. She was sprawled on the floor.
For some reason, her head was covered in some sort of sticky substance, and tableware and wrecked furniture was toppled and scattered everywhere. It was easy to get the false impression that some kind of explosion had taken place, or some kind of powerful magic had been used. Well, the house had already been ruined, so the furniture was in terrible shape to begin with.
While saying that, Chaika stood up.
She turned towards the two nonplussed siblings standing in the doorway, and promptly gave them a big smile.
“Good evening. No, welcome back, should say.”
“‘Welcome back’, my ass. You—what the hell happened here?” said Tohru.
By the way, even though the clearly younger Chaika was now technically his boss, Tohru was still addressing her as “you”, but that matter could be set aside for now.
“Dinner, tried to make. Messed up.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Tohru replied sarcastically.
Next to him, Akari’s gaze seemed unusually scathing. Despite confidently telling Akari that the girl was “more than she appeared to be,” even Tohru was almost speechless after such a disaster.
“I knew you were clumsy in a lot of ways, but this is just…”
Tohru thought back to the first time he met her.
When that girl was running every which way in an attempt to escape him, and then of all things doing something as stupid as coming back to him right before his eyes, she had done so completely earnestly. In order to use magic it was probably incredibly important to maintain a state of concentration, but perhaps he should have considered the possibility that she was a complete scatterbrain in everyday life.
“Bread. Baking. Mistake.”
For some reason she hit her chest with a seemingly proud gesture.
“Explain to me how a mere ‘mistake’ can turn into a disaster like this.”
“Misjudged, intensity of heating magic. So, mistake,” she said, flashing a bright smile.
This kind of cute behavior was something that was expected from someone her age…no, on second thought, this was probably a bit too cute. Looking at the situation from a calm, objective point of view, it was mostly all the bread dough sticking to her head that made this quite the spectacle.
It seemed that when not under pressure, she was somehow a failure at magic. Or perhaps the incident with the unicorn had just been a fluke. Tohru did not want to entertain that possibility.
“Also, did you really go out of your way to buy wheat?”
Tohru had nothing to say to that.
It was true that they had no ingredients. If there had been plenty of ingredients in the house, Tohru and Chaika never would have met in the first place.
“Well, this is just…”
Perhaps she simply didn’t know anything about the fermentation process of bread dough.
But that was irrelevant for now…
“Right now, we need to figure out what we’re going to do from tomorrow onwards, so we want to discuss our plans in advance. Go wash up or get ready or whatever. If you go out and to the right, there’s a water jug you can use.”
“Understood.” She nodded vigorously and headed outside.
While standing there and watching until she went out of sight—
“I see now,” Akari said as she nodded.
“Don’t even say it.”
“Nii-sama, I never knew you were into slightly careless girls.”
“I said, shut up!”
“However, Nii-sama. Rest easy. I’m confident that when it comes to who is the most careless, I am second to none.”
“As if I could rest easy!”Tohru moaned.
* * *
The Gillette Corps’ vehicle was parked in the town square in the center of Del Solant. For Gillette’s team, who were forced to go on reconnaissance for extended periods of time, the large “April” vehicle doubled as both a way for them to get around and a place for them to live. After their meeting with Roberto Abarth, the plan was to return to “April” where they were to meet up with Mattheus Callaway, who had done some preliminary scouting. Then they were to enter a meeting to discuss future strategies.
That had been the plan, anyway.
Mattheus was still wiping the camouflage paint off his face with a towel as he spoke. Normally, the camouflage paint covered from his chin up to the top of his bald head, which made him look more like a wizard. However, without the paint, his charming narrow eyes and round face became more apparent.
He gazed at the interior of the main cabin, looking somewhat baffled.
In the traditional housing parlance, this room would be considered the “living room”—it was used as a multipurpose room for everything from meetings to meals. The driver’s cabin was located to its front, and behind it were the bedrooms–each of which were about as big as a cubby hole, followed by the cargo hold.
Setting that aside…
“Can you not tell just by looking?”
The cavalier Alberic Gillette replied, fatigue showing on his well-featured face.
The members of Gillette Corps were all sitting on a sofa in the main cabin, looking like they were at the end of their ropes. There wasn’t a single smiling face among them—however, there was one that looked much more severe than all the others, and that was Vivi Holopainen’s.
Along with Zita, Vivi was one of the youngest girls in the Gillette Corps. She was sitting backwards in her seat, so Mattheus could only see her back from his position. As she was sitting there she was throwing things at a small piece of wood leaning against the wall.
What, exactly, was she throwing? Needles.
The last needle that she had thrown and embedded into the wood was actually her tenth or so. The characters for “Roberto Abarth” had been hastily carved into the wood, as well as a poorly-done set of facial features.
This kind of action gave the impression that was some serious hostility or hatred in the air.
“Ah, so more of the usual then?”
“Yes, I suppose that it’s basically more of the usual,” said Nikolay Autotor, Gillette Corps’s second-in-command.
The stern, heavily-built man looked very much like a soldier. He pointed over in Vivi’s direction.
“This time, the meeting was incredibly short. So it makes sense that she’s in a bad mood.”
Mattheus looked in Vivi’s direction once more.
He could still only see her back, but it wasn’t hard to guess that she was scowling with that immature face of hers. Being a young assassin, she was able to suppress her emotions scarily well when she was working, but as soon as she was free they all came spilling out.
“It was six minutes and seventeen seconds long, to be precise.”
Zita, who had been with Vivi and Alberic when they had gone to Roberto Abarth’s mansion, spoke. She too looked quite young, and wore large glasses on her face.
“That’s a new record, isn’t it?”
Vivi puffed out her cheeks and turned to look at Zita.
Even though Viviwas throwing the needles with incredible skill,an expression like thatmade her look more her age—no, actually, it made her look even younger than she already was.
“Don’t act like it’s somebody else’s problem. You were plenty mad too, Zita.”
“Ahaha. But you’re mad enough for both of us, Vivi. I’m satisfied just from that.”
Zita displayed an easygoing smile.
The two were completely different when it came to things like their birth, the way they were brought up, andtheir title, yet somehow when together they were like sisters. Sure, the two were both females in Gillette Corps and similar in age,but even so they seemed to get along quite well with each other.
“As always, I apologize to both of you.”
A wry smile crept up on Alberic’s face.
“I realize this incident made you rather upset. But still, going there by myself without some kind of attendant would have looked way too suspicious. Oh well, there’s always a next ti—”
Vivi gave a big sigh.
“It’s because you’re like that, Gillette-sama, that—”
“Eh? W-wait, it’s actually my fault!?”
Alberic blinked rapidly in confusion, looking around to his comrades as if seeking some sort of explanation, but—
Nikolay said with a grin.
“Really, how do you not realize? Vivi and Zita aren’t upset because the count treated them rudely.”
Alberic tilted his head.
It seemed like he really didn’t understand.
“Stop right there! Shut up!”
Vivi waved her hand, fast enough to create a whooshing sound.
In the next instant, Nikolay held his hands up in front of his face and made a quick motion like he was wiping off a window.
“That was close.”
In the palm of Nikolay’s his massive hand—no, actually between his fingers, there was a single needle.
Nikolay had caught in midair what Vivi had thrown at him. No matter how you looked at it, to do something like that simply by eyeballing where the object was going was a superhuman feat. However, Nikolai showed no sign of being proud of it, and none of the others seemed to be surprised at all.
“Shut up! Silence! Stupid-Niko!”
She was blushing a bit as she shouted.
Zita, too, was blushing slightly, eyes downcast, when—
“What have I done wrong?”
“No, you didn’t do anything wrong, per se. Actually, it’s the opposite…”
Nikolay said, keeping his hand raised as if he was swearing an oath, the needle still between his fingers.
“…On second thought, please pay it no mind.”
“…? Okay, if you say so.”
Though a bit of bewilderment still remained on his handsome face, he gave a nod.
Mattheus, who had been observing this scene, looked up at the ceiling and sighed—
“It looks like everything’s the same as usual,” he said.
Having to deal with uncooperative nobility. Vivi’s displeasure. Even Alberic’s extreme blockheadedness. All of it.
To tell the truth, Gillette Corps was rarely actually welcomed by anyone they visited.
Perhaps many of them thought that Gillette Corps were merely swindlers that gave off the impression of nobility. And to be honest, that was a reasonable thing to think. After all, to be told something like “We can’t divulge the details because it’s dangerous, but we need you to hand over your family’s treasure” and then actually comply with the request was something only the most idiotic of idiots would do, or perhaps just someone who had abandoned all common sense to embrace eccentricity.
“Count Abarth did treat us like fellow nobles, though,” Alberic said as he shrugged his shoulders.
“This isn’t good,” Mattheus said. “There’s no question that she has entered this city. Based on her movements, she seems to be going after Abarth himself.”
“Most likely,” commented Alberic.
“But of course, explaining the situation to him would be impossible.”
“Naturally,” Alberic replied bitterly. “For the time being, I have asked Leonardo to head to Abarth’s place on observation. If anything happens, it would be best for us to rush there immediately. However, something seems strange about that mansion.”
“It’s unusual, but there don’t seem to be a lot of guards there. Well, that’s not true; they all seem to be outside the mansion. There have been almost no guards stationed inside. Even all the guardrooms are outside. I get the strange feeling that it wasn’t like that originally…”
He closed his eyes as if trying to remember something.
“Well, whether or not she can actually make it to Abarth’s mansion is anyone’s guess. However, there’s also the issue of what happens if she makes a mistake and gets herself captured by Abarth.”
“Well, in regards to that…”
“It could be that she has a few pawns under his control. And quite skilled ones at that.”
“…What do you mean?”
“The unicorn I bound together with magic and used…was killed.”
At those words, all of Gillette Corps’ expressions changed.
Even Vivi, who was in the middle of throwing another needle, stopped and turned to look at Mattheus.
“I thought she was alone. So because I happened upon her in my field of vision, I thought it best to attack. Then…”
“‘Happened upon her in your field of vision?’ Don’t be silly. What kind of magician could kill a unicorn at such close range?” Nikolay said with a puzzled expression.
“The magic destroyed it with one direct hit, and it was her magic that did it. There was someone who was buying time for her to charge the spell. If they’re still accompanying each other, there could be trouble.”
Alberic and the others exchanged glances.
“Still, if all of us went we would stand out. Vivi, Nikolay, I’m sorry, but make the preparations. We shouldn’t need to go as far as to cause a quarrel at Count Abarth’s mansion, but if worse comes to worse we have to be ready.”
Nikolay nodded, and Vivi hopped off of the sofa.