「Thank you for inviting us to take part in this evening’s celebration. I hope you enjoy this fleeting dream」
I bowed my head in time with Teacher’s speech.
On the space that was constructed in the hall was me, Teacher, and a small table. Surrounding it were beautifully dressed ladies and gentlemen. The only thing different from the usual was that there was a single boy sitting small and quiet on the special seat.
This boy was probably the young master who was the guest of honor today. His silky blonde hair and lovely emerald eyes were so beautiful and I think features that wouldn’t lose to the word, 「bishounen」, was surely something like this. But, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be the guest of honor, he didn’t look like he was having fun at all. But Teacher should be making us a sight that surpasses the young master’s good looks today. I’m sure even this young master would be delighted.
After I was given a small ornament, I raised the expensive-looking silver candlestick and gave a small nod to the Butler who was waiting near the doorway.
Once the Butler sent the signal to the servants, the guest hall’s lights were turned off one by one.
And with that, the candlestick I held cast a gleaming light under the darkness. The only other illumination were from the faint glows of covered up lamps held by servants who waited close to the walls.
The boy before me stared at me with eyes that were filled with tension.
Nothing will happen even if you stare at me, you know. ‘Look at Teacher’, I thought internally, but I hesitated to say it out loud.
「Please take a look. These shining stars sparkling in the night!」
After his grand statement, Teacher’s hand grabbed a pebble, flung it to the air, and locked it into place with magic. And when ten pebbles had come to a stop near the ceiling, Teacher placed the next pebble that he plucked on his left hand and beckoned me with his right.
As the people present let out cries of admiration, the flame from the candlestick I was holding approached the pebble that Teacher was holding. It vanished into the pebble like it had been sucked in. And in the next instant, sparks came out with tiny cracking sounds from the pebble nonstop.
When Teacher lightly tossed the still sparking pebble, it soared high up towards the ceiling drawing a horizontal arc while giving off lights and sparks. That spark ignited the pebbles that had been fixed in the air and filled the ceiling with beautiful sparks. The ten lights that were suspended, and the one light that continued to move in a circle. Teacher flung several more pebbles there one by one producing a dance of pretty lights that was depicting an elliptical orbit.
「It looks just like a dream」
The cries of admiration rose up from all around the guest room, and I puffed my chest in pride. This is Teacher’s magic!
‘With this, even the aristocratic young master should no doubt be satisfied’, I thought, and when I snuck a peek at the guest of honor, I… was at a lost for words.
Unfortunately, the young master wasn’t looking at the ceiling! Well, it probably was in his line of sight, but for some reason, his gaze was directed straight at me.
No, I’m sure he was looking not at me, but at Teacher. Because it was Teacher who could produce such a wonderful sight. It can’t be helped that the aristocratic young master would look at him with a burning gaze.
After a while, the intermingling lights that were flying in the air began flickering (which meant it was running out of magic), so Teacher called the pebbles back with his hands.
「It appears that even this light is shamed by the brightness of this evening’s moon, please allow it to rest」
Upon Teacher’s words, the covers were removed from the lamps that the servants were holding, and the original brightness returned to the guest room.
「Just like the light that illuminated the night, a bright future will come to everyone gathered here this evening」
I gave a bow with Teacher and together, we exited the room while being sent off by a great number of applause.
◇ ◆ ◇
「Teacher, today’s fireworks were pretty, but could it be that it’s not something new to that boy? 」
As I tidied things up at the antechamber, I finally voiced my question. We’ve showcased various things at noble residences till now, but there wasn’t anyone who showed that kind of reaction before. I think even the firework this time had been a wonderful thing that wasn’t inferior to any other entertainment so far.
「I doubt so, Mari」
Teacher gave a small sigh as he folded his robe.
「It’s just that his interest ended up directed at something other than fireworks」
Teacher’s expression was the same as when he found it a bother to tidy up the studio or when the messenger from the palace informed him to come. It’s pretty rare that Teacher would show this sort of expression outside.
「I was hoping to earn bit more money at the royal capital, but I think it might be best to go back home earlier this year」
「Eh? But, you said we only needed to work around five more jobs to buy the brand new tools for your experiments…」
「It looks like I’ll be having something more valuable than tools snatched away」
I don’t know what Teacher was worried about, but I’d understood that something serious is happening. I packed up the luggage and followed Teacher briskly.
「I beg your pardon. The Master would like to have a personal discussion with you at all costs…」
When the voice that could be heard from outside the door said this, Teacher looked up at the ceiling and sighed an 「Aaah」.
「Mari, I’ll be having a short discussion so please stay here―――」
「No, I was told that the young lady shall be joining」
When the voice from outside the door said this, Teacher made an unusually bitter smile.
「U-uhm, Teacher. Did I… do something wrong?」
「No, it’s not your fault, Mari. If anything… I’m sure it’s mine」
After Teacher stroked my head gently, he pulled my hand, and we exited the antechamber.
Given the unanticipated development, I’d simply been intent on calming my chest that was beating like my heart would leap out.
◇ ◆ ◇
「Please sit there. Magician Iskatel-dono」
What had awaited us was a cleanly dressed man. If I’m not mistaken, I think he’d been sitting near the young master this evening. Even though he looked at the entertainment smiling not long ago, now he was looking at Teacher sharply.
「I wouldn’t mind at all going through the servants if it’s about the remuneration for this evening. But do you have some kind of business with us?」
I was surprised at Teacher’s hard tone, but I was even more surprised over what he said.
In other words, this person in front of us was… the one who called for us, this estate’s Master. The owner of this HUGE estate!
「Let me get straight to the point. I want you to handover that young lady to be my son’s playmate」
For a moment, I couldn’t understand what had been said.
What “young lady”?
「I will have to decline」
Even Teacher’s voice sounded somewhat distant.
「My son, who is normally never interested in anything, begged me for this. As his father, I wanted to fulfill his wish. Today’s my son’s birthday after all」
「Mari isn’t an object. She’s not something that can be transferred from left to right」
When I heard the proper noun, “Mari”, I decided to finally accept reality.
This person was saying that he wanted to keep me by his side as that young master’s, his own son’s, playmate.
I clenched my fists that were at my side tightly.
I was only six years old when I began living with Master. Even now, I can’t forget the feeling I had at that time.
I don’t wanna. I want to stay right here. Don’t throw me away.
The difference between that time was that I could more or less keep calm about things now. Still, it was all I could do to resist the urge to cling to Teacher right now and cry ‘I want to stay with Teacher’.
Teacher still wasn’t on the same wavelength as the sharp eyed man that was this estate’s master. This man had such a splendid estate, who knows what he’ll do to Teacher if he became serious. For Teacher’s peace of mind, surely, I’ll—-
I jumped upon hearing the loud sound of the door opening.
The one who came bursting in was the young master who was the guest of honor this evening.
「Crest. Why did you come here? What about the guests you left in the assembly hall?」
「I heard you were negotiating, Father. So I was worried you’ll say something rude to her」
With that exchange, Teacher gave out a short sigh.
「You came at the right time. Unfortunately, I’m not planning to part with Mari. I want you, Earl Arouge, and even the young master to understand this」
「Your name is Mari? What a splendid name」
Unfortunately, not listening to a word Teacher said, the young boy named Crest took my hands and grasped it with both of his.
「Magician-dono. I have no plans on mistreating this girl like you do」
The sparkling pretty boy in front of me said something I couldn’t understand.
When I snuck a peek at Master, for some reason, he lightly shook his head. What on earth does that mean? Not understanding what this young boy was talking about nor the meaning of Teacher’s head shake, I could only stare blankly.
「Hull, place it here」
When the father called out to the standby Man in Black (the one who showed us into the estate), he respectfully brought some kind of heavy looking a pouch on a silver tray.
「This is compensation for this evening’s entertainment, as well as for that young lady」
*Chink*, I was surprised at the hard sound of metal clinking together. The pouch that opened up just a little informed me that it was brimming with gold coins.
「As I told you several times before, Mari isn’t an object, Earl Arouge」
「I understand that. But―――」
「Aren’t you, yourself, treating this girl as an object, Magician-dono! Look at this!」
After abruptly pulling my hands with a jerk, the young boy, Crest, pushed up my sleeves. There, the gauze that I’d just applied before the party, and a great number of scars that were produced in the same way, remained.
The young boy, Crest stared at the great number of scars on both my arms with an expression in his eyes that seemed as if he was looking at something outrageous.
「This girl cannot be taken along by a man who mutilates young girls」
Was this enough compensation for the kind Teacher who had fed and raised me?
「If you don’t leave this girl here, I’ll lodge a maltreatment complaint. A stray magician should know how weak a magician’s position is without a guild, right?」
「Crest! Hold your tongue!」
I couldn’t believe those words.
「Maritsia. Remain in this estate」
I slowly stared up at Teacher.
「In this estate, it would be good if you absorb a lot of things by being this young master’s playmate. With only what I teach, it looks like you’ll simply end up lacking common sense, after all」
Is it happening again?
Not only my parents, even Teacher was throwing me away? Was I still the lighter one compared to a peaceful life when weighed on a scale?
「That bracelet, though it’s meager, treat it as my farewell gift. Take good care of it」
The thing teacher was pointing at was a silver loop with fine details. A self-defense bracelet that had been given to me since I was brought away from home to work.
I muttered dumbfounded, not understanding just what his intentions were, while I was hugged from behind by the young boy, Crest.
「Earl Arouge. Let’s settle the deal with the pouch. It’s truly regrettable for me, but it can’t be helped that the young master wants Mari to that extent」
「I see, so you’re gratefully accepting it?」
The sharp eyed father, for the first time, softened his expression. Did he treasure this young master that much? Enough to snatch Teacher away from me? I was seething in bubbling indignation.
「Yes. However, I have only two conditions」
When Teacher took a fleeting glance at my direction, he creased those black eyes of his into a smile. As if telling me, ‘don’t worry’.
「The first condition is that even if Mari were to grow sick of living in this residence and run away, I will not be bothered」
I don’t understand how to interpret those words.
Did it mean that it’s okay to go back to where Teacher was if I ran away?
Or did it mean that I shouldn’t go back to where Teacher was even if I run away?
I lowered my gaze and fixed my eyes on the bracelet that he called a farewell gift.