Chapter One: A Familiar's Day
It had been a week since Saito started his life as Louise's familiar at Tristain Magic Academy. If one were to explain an average day for Saito, it would read like the following:
First, like the majority of animals and humans in Tristain, he woke up in the morning. His bed was, as usual, the floor, though compared to the first day it had mostly improved. Finding that his body hurt all night if he slept on the hard floor, Saito had asked the maid Siesta for some of the hay that was fed to the horses and had packed it into a corner of the room. Saito slept on the pile of hay, wrapped in the blanket that Louise had so "graciously" bestowed upon him.
Louise called Saito's makeshift bed "the chicken's nest," which was appropriate as chickens slept on hay, and as the first thing Saito did every morning was to wake Louise up, like a rooster.
But he had to, because there would be trouble for him if Louise woke up first.
"A stupid familiar that has to be woken by its master needs to be punished." Louise never forgot to remind him.
If Saito ever overslept, he'd be denied breakfast.
Once woken up, Louise got changed. She put on her underwear by herself, but made Saito dress her in her uniform. This was mentioned before.With her enchanting looks, Saito was breathless every time he saw Louise in her underwear. They say you get used to a beautiful lover in three days, but it didn't seem Saito would get used to Louise anytime soon.
Maybe because he was her familiar, not her lover. Still, always by Louise's side, he essentially was one. The only difference was in her attitude and treatment of him.
Getting to see Louise like this every day wasn't all bad. However, it was a persistent wound to his pride. When helping Louise into her shoes, for example, he couldn't hide the irritation from his face.
At least that much was tolerated, but if Saito ever said anything to set Louise off, things became bothersome.
"A rude familiar that displeases its master this early in the morning needs to be punished," was another of Louise's mottos.
If Saito ever teased Louise about her breast size, or got pouty and said something like, "Do up the buttons yourself," he'd be denied breakfast.
Dressed in her uniform, which consisted of a black cloak, a white blouse, and a grey pleated skirt, Louise then washed her face and brushed her teeth. The room didn't even have sensible things like running water installed, so Saito had to go down to the fountain and bring up water for Louise's use in a bucket. And, of course, Louise didn't wash her face herself. She made Saito do it.
One morning, while he was wiping her face with a towel, he lightly traced Louise's face with a piece of charcoal he had found.
Seeing his masterwork drawn on Louise's face, Saito barely held in a snigger. Then in mock obsequience, he politely bowed his head to Louise.
"Mistress. You are the epitome of beauty this day."
Due to low blood pressure, Louise could only manage a sleepy reply.
"...Are you plotting something?"
"Myself? I am simply a familiar serving the orders of my mistress. I would not dare to plot!"
Louise was suspicious of Saito's sudden and excessive politeness, but since she was almost late for class, she didn't question him any further.
With her vividly rosy cheeks, charming hazel eyes, and lips that seemed carved from fine coral, Louise knew she didn't need to decorate herself, so she didn't wear any kind of make-up. In other words, this meant she didn't look in the mirror much. And this day was no different. The result: she had absolutely no idea of the "make-up" that Saito had applied on her.
Louise headed out to class in that state. The time being what it was, she didn't encounter anyone in the hallways or stairs.
Louise opened the classroom door panting. As one, her classmates looked at her and exploded with laughter.
"Hey, looking good, Louise!"
"Oh my god! That's so you!"
Afterwards, when Mister Colbert kindly complimented the stylish glasses and moustache sketched on her face, Louise went berserk. She went out into the hallway where Saito was holding his stomach as he rolled on the floor in hysteric laughter, slapped him a dozen times, and cut his meals for the entire day.
According to Louise, a familiar that treated its master's face like a piece of canvas was akin to the demons of old that opposed the Founder Brimir and his many allied gods, and such demons were not worthy of the bread and soup granted by the Lady Queen.
After breakfast, Saito cleaned Louise's room. This involved sweeping the floor with a broom and wiping the table and windows with a cloth.
And then there was the oh-so-enjoyable laundry. He took the laundry down to the fountain and scrubbed it clean against a washboard. There was no warm water, only icy cold water that bit fiercely at his fingers. Louise's underwear were all expensive looking pieces with lots of lace and frills attached. He would get a meal cut if he happened to damage one, so he had to wash them gently. It was painful work. Tired of it all, he left one particular pair with a slightly torn elastic band in the pile one day. Merely a few days later, Louise walked out obliviously wearing that particular pair, when the elastic snapped entirely. Her panties slid down to her ankles, entangling both of Louise's legs like a trapper's snare.
It just so happened that she was at the top of a staircase, so she tumbled spectacularly down them.
Most fortunately, there wasn't anyone else around to see her roll down the stairs with her lower half shamefully exposed, so at least her reputation was spared. Realizing that it had been overkill, Saito was careful not to peek inside her skirt as he apologized profusely to Louise, who lay unconscious at the staircase landing. He hadn't meant for the joke to derail like this. Ideally, he had envisioned it happening in a hallway for optimum embarrassment.
Once Louise regained consciousness and realized what had happened, she thrust the torn pair of panties accusingly at Saito, who was sitting subserviently by the bedside.
"There was a torn pair."
"Indeed there was, Mistress."
Louise's voice quavered with fury.
"It must have been the fountain water, Mistress. Why, it's so cold it could freeze fingers right off. I believe the elastic couldn't endure that."
Saito replied curtly.
"So you're saying it's the elastic's fault?"
"I'm saying it's the water's fault. It was bad water. I'm convinced that there must be some kind of curse on it to make it cold and also affect the elastic somehow."
"In that case, I should not feed such a loyal familiar soup made from that kind of bad water."
"Most gracious of you."
"Three days should do, I think, for the water to return to normal."
Saito had his meals cut for three days.
However, Saito remained completely fine for those three days. He'd just pretend to be withering and visit the kitchen behind the Hall of Alviss, where the energetic and lovely Siesta would serve him food like stew, and meat on the bone. He went there even when his meals weren't cut. The soup that Louise declared "The Widespread Blessing of Her Majesty, the Queen" was never enough of a blessing to fill him up.
Naturally, he kept his visits to the kitchen a secret from Louise. She was adamant about not giving him more until he had corrected his behavior, so there would be trouble if she found out about the meat and stew Siesta kindly provided him with. Louise would surely forbid him visiting for the sake of "educating" her familiar.
Currently though, she was totally unaware. In any case, Saito preferred Siesta and the kitchen a hundred times more than some Lady Queen and Founder Brimir he'd never met.
One morning, after hungrily drinking down his soup in front of Louise, he went to the kitchen. Saito, having beaten the noble Guiche at the Vestri Courts, was hugely popular there.
"'Our Sword' is here!"
The one who called out was Marteau, the head chef, a well-rounded man well into his forties. Naturally, he was also a commoner himself, but with his position of head chef at the Academy, he earned as much as a lower class noble, a fact he could be proud of.
Dressed in simple but fine clothes, he commanded the kitchen with a wave and a flourish of his hand.
Despite his highly respectable position as head chef of a magic academy for nobles, Marteau wasn't the least bit arrogant, and surprisingly enough, disliked both magic and nobles.
He called Saito, who had used a sword to defeat Guiche, by the nickname "Our Sword" and treated the boy like a king. Thanks to him, the kitchen was an oasis to Saito.
Saito sat down at his chair, and with a smile, Siesta promptly brought him a bowl of warm stew and soft white bread.
"Today's stew is extra special,"
Siesta declared, looking particularly happy. Saito curiously lifted a spoonful to his mouth and his face instantly lit up.
"Wow, this is delicious! It's worlds apart from that gruel I get!"
At this, Marteau approached the table holding a kitchen knife in one hand.
"Well of course. That stew's the same stuff we serve to the noble kids."
"I can't believe this is the kind of stuff they get to eat everyday..."
Marteau snorted loudly at Saito's comment.
"Hmph! Sure, they can use magic. Making pots and pans and castles from dirt, conjuring up unbelievable gems, even controlling dragons - so what! But see, creating such exquisite dishes like this is a kind of magic itself. Wouldn't you agree, Saito?"
"A fine fellow! You're a good man!"
He put an arm around Saito's shoulders.
"Here, "Our Sword"! Let me place a kiss upon your forehead! Come on! I insist!"
"I'd rather you not. And stop calling me that," Saito said.
"It's just... weird."
The man let go of Saito and spread his arms out in protest.
"But you cut a mage's golem to pieces! Don't you get it?"
"Say, just where did you learn to use a sword? Tell me where I can go to learn how to swing a sword like that."
Marteau stared earnestly at Saito. He asked the same thing every time Saito came to eat, and Saito's answer was the same every time.
"I don't know. I've never held a sword before. My body just moved by itself."
"You guys! Did you hear that?!"
He yelled, his voice echoing around the kitchen.
The younger cooks and the apprentices shouted back.
"We hear you, boss!"
"This is what they call a true master! They never boast about their skill! Look and learn! A true master never boasts!"
The cooks chanted happily.
"A true master never boasts!"
Then Marteau turned back around to face Saito.
"You know, "Our Sword," I'm starting to like you more and more. So how about it?"
"Um, how about what...?"
He was simply telling the truth, but Marteau always thought he was just being modest. It was somewhat frustrating. He felt like he was deceiving the good-natured man. Saito's gaze dropped down to the runes on his left hand.
Since that day, it hasn't glowed anymore. Just what was that, I wonder... Even when Saito tried to make a point of staring at his own runes, Marteau interpreted that as him being reserved.
The chef turned to Siesta.
Siesta, who had been cheerfully watching the two of them get along, responded brightly.
"Bring our hero here some of Albion's finest."
Her smile widened, and retrieving a wine bottle of the requested vintage from the rack, she poured some into Saito's glass. Siesta looked on absorbedly as Saito's face grew redder and redder from the wine. These events repeated almost routinely:
Saito visited the kitchen, Marteau became more attached to Saito, and Siesta's respect for him deepened even further.
Although that particular day... there was a crimson shadow spying on Saito from a window of the kitchen. One of the young cooks took notice of it.
"Hey, there's something outside the window."
The shadow gave a garbled 'kyuru kyuru' and slinked away.
Then, after breakfast, cleaning, and laundry, he accompanied Louise to class. Originally, he was made to sit on the floor, but after Louise realized he had become rather transfixed with peering up other girls' skirts, she reluctantly let him sit on a chair. And she made it clear to Saito that should his vision ever stray too far from the blackboard, he would be denied lunch.
In the beginning, the lessons fascinated Saito with their marvels: turning water into wine, combining various reagents to brew special potions, materializing fireballs out of nothing, levitating boxes and sticks and balls out of the class windows for their familiars to fetch, etc... but after a while, the novelty wore off.
And so he took to napping instead. The professor and Louise would give Saito evil looks every once in a while, but there were no rules forbidding familiars from sleeping during lessons. And just looking around the class, all the nocturnal familiars were snoozing away, even someone's owl. In fact, if they were to wake Saito up, it would mean that they were acknowledging him as a human. Louise chewed her lips from the overwhelming desire to give the sleeping Saito a piece of her mind, but she couldn't because doing so would mean contradicting herself about him being nothing more than a familiar.
That same day, bathed in sunlight, Saito was fast asleep during another lesson.
The wine he drank that morning was taking effect, and Saito dreamed.
It was quite an unbelievable dream.
A dream in which Louise crept into his hay pile at night as he was sleeping.
"What's wrong, Louise...?"
At hearing her name being called, Louise shot a glare at Saito.
"You can't sleep? Oh, all right... can't be helped. Munya~"
Oh, he's just muttering in his sleep,
she thought, and faced the front again.
"...Munya. H-hey, don't hug me all of a sudden."
Louise's gaze snapped to Saito once more. The other students were starting to take notice of the situation, and perked their ears to listen.
"...Jeez, for the slave driver you are during the day, you're such a sweet little thing in bed."
A trickle of drool ran down from the corner of Saito's mouth as he continued to enjoy his dream.
Louise grabbed his shoulders and shook him vigorously.
"Hey! Just what kind of dream are you having?!"
Her classmates burst out laughing. Malicorne the Windward made a passing comment.
"Oi oi, Louise! Is that the kind of thing you do with your familiar at night? I'm surprised!"
The female students whispered something amongst themselves.
"Wait! This is just some stupid sleep-talk! Ah, jeez! Wake up already!"
"Louise, Louise, you're like a kitten; stop licking me there like that..."
At this, the laughter threatened to burst through the ceiling.
Louise kicked Saito off the chair, violently returning him to reality from his soft and gentle dreamscape.
"Wh-what was that for?!"
"Since when have I ever snuck into your hay pile?!"
Louise crossed her arms and looked down imposingly on Saito.
Saito shook his head profusely, only further amusing the class.
"Saito, explain to these rather rude people that I never take one step out of my own bed during the night."
"That's right, everyone. I was simply dreaming out loud just now. Louise would never do such a thing."
The students turned away disappointedly.
"Isn't it obvious? Like I would ever do something like that! With this thing, no less! This thing! To even think that I would curl up in bed with this lower life form is far beyond being a joke!"
Louise huffed haughtily, averting her gaze upwards.
"But, my dreams often come true."
Saito piped up.
"Indeed! Dreams do have the power to foretell the future, after all!" Someone in the room supplied in agreement.
"My master here, with her personality, probably won't ever find herself a lover."
A vast majority of the students nodded. Louise shot Saito another evil look, but it was too late. Saito was on a roll.
"My poor master gets quite "frustrated" as a result, and instead resorts to slipping into this familiar's humble hay pile."
Louise put her hands on her hips and strongly reprimanded Saito.
"Enough! Close that unclean mouth of yours right now!"
That didn't stop Saito from continuing either.
"When she does, I have to fend her off a bit..."
By this point, he was too far gone. Louise's shoulders began to tremble angrily.
"And tell her, 'this isn't where you sleep.'"
The class applauded. Saito mimicked an elegant bow and went to sit back down.
Louise kicked him away, sending him rolling across the floor.
"Don't kick me!"
But Louise was beyond the point of reasoning. Her gaze was fixed firmly forward, and as always, her shoulders shook with barely contained fury,
Once again, there was a crimson shadow watching Saito.
It was Kirche's salamander. With its belly to the floor, it stared at Saito through the gap in the row of chairs.
Noticing it, Saito waved his hand at it.
"You're Kirche's salamander, aren't you? I know you have a name. What was it... Oh yeah, it's Flame. Flame-"
Saito motioned for it to come closer, but the salamander flicked its tail around and spat out a few embers before running back to its master.
"Why would a lizard be so interested in me?"
Saito tilted his head in puzzlement.
And while Saito was having a staring contest with a salamander during class...
At the Headmaster's Office, Miss Longueville the secretary was busily writing away at something.
She stopped writing for a moment and glanced over at the sequoia desk at which Sir Osmond was busy taking a nap.
The corner of Miss Longueville's lips rose in a faint smirk, an expression she had never shown anyone before.
She stood up from her desk.
In a low voice, she murmured the incantation for a Spell of Tranquility. Dampening her footsteps so as not to wake Osmond, she crept out of the office.
Her destination was the treasury, located on the floor directly below the Headmaster's Office.
Stepping off the stairs, she confronted enormous iron doors. They were kept shut with a thick bolt mechanism, which in turn was secured with an equally large padlock.
This place was where artifacts dating from even before the Academy's establishment were contained. After cautiously surveying her surroundings, Miss Longueville withdrew her wand from a pocket. It was about the length of a pencil, but with a flick of the wrist, it extended to the length of an conductor's baton, which she whirled expertly.
Miss Longueville cast another spell.
Once the invocation was complete, she pointed the baton at the padlock.
However... nothing happened.
"Well, it's not like I really expected a Spell of Unbinding to work anyway."
Smiling deviously, she began reciting the words to one of her specialty spells.
It was a Transmutation spell. Chanting loud and clear, she waved her baton at the heavy lock. The magic cascaded over it... but even after a considerable wait, there was no visible change.
"Looks like it's been magically reinforced by a Square-class mage," she muttered.
A Spell of Reinforcement was one that prevented the oxidation and decomposition of matter. Any substance that had this spell cast on it was protected from any chemical reactions, and allowed it to be preserved forever in that state. Even transmutation magic would have no effect against something protected like this. Only if one's magical skill surpassed that of the mage who cast the spell could it be overcome.
As it was, the mage who had enchanted this door was apparently an extremely powerful mage, considering that not even Miss Longueville, an expert in Earth magic and transmutation in particular, was able to affect the door.
Taking off her glasses, she stared at the door once more. At this point, she heard footsteps coming up the staircase.
She shrunk down her baton and slipped it back into her pocket.
The person who appeared was Colbert.
"Greetings, Miss Longueville. What are you doing here?"
"Mister Colbert, I was going to catalog the contents of the treasury, but..."
"Oh, that's quite some work. It'd probably take you all day to go over each and every item. There's a lot of junk mixed together with them, and it's a rather cramped space they've been arranged in too."
"Why don't you just borrow the key from Old Osmond?"
The woman smiled.
"Well... I didn't want to disturb his sleep. In any case, I'm in no immediate hurry to complete the catalog..."
"I see. Sleep, you say. That old man, I mean, Old Osmond, is quite a deep sleeper. It seems I shall have to visit him another time."
Mister Colbert began to walk off, but paused in his tracks, and turned around.
"Err... Miss Longueville?"
"Is something the matter?"
Colbert looked slightly embarrassed as he opened his mouth to speak.
"If it would be all right, how would you like to, say... join me for lunch?"
She took a moment to consider, then smiled brightly as she accepted the offer.
"Sure, it would be my pleasure."
The two of them headed down the stairs.
"Hey, Mister Colbert."
In slightly informal tones, Miss Longueville struck up conversation again.
"Y-yes? What is it?"
Emboldened by how easily his invitation had been taken up, Colbert responded quite eagerly to her.
"Is anything important actually inside the treasury?"
"Then, do you know of the 'Staff of Destruction'?"
"Ah, that is quite a curiously shaped item, indeed."
Her eyes glinted.
"What... kind of shape?"
"It's extremely difficult to describe, except as simply strange, yes. But never mind that, what would you like to eat? Today's menu is flounder baked in herbs... but I'm quite well-acquainted with Marteau the head chef, and I can have him make any of the world's finest delica--"
Miss Longueville interrupted Colbert's babbling.
"I must say, the treasury is quite amazingly built. No matter what kind of magic is tried, it would be impossible to open, I assume?"
"That's quite right. It's impossible for just any one mage. After all, it was devised by a group of Square-class mages to resist all spells."
"I'm very impressed that you're so knowledgeable about this, Mister Colbert."
She regarded him with a comfortable expression.
"Eh? Well... Haha, I just happened to come across a lot of documents pertaining to this floor, that's all... I like to consider it a part of my research, haha. Thanks to that, I'm still single at this age... yes."
"I'm sure the woman that you find will be very happy to be with you. After all, you can teach her so much about things that nobody else knows..."
Miss Longueville fixed him with a fascinated look.
"Oh, no! Please don't tease me like that!"
Colbert flustered nervously as he wiped sweat from his balding forehead. Then, regaining composure, he faced her seriously.
"Miss Longueville. Have you heard of the Ball of Frigg that is being held on the day of Yule?"
"No, I haven't."
"Haha, I guess it's because you've only been in Tristain for two months. Well, it's nothing spectacular, just a party of sorts. However, it's said that a couple who dances at this ball will be destined to be together or something like that. It's just a petty legend of course! Yes!"
Smiling, she pressed him to continue.
"So... if it would be all right, I was wondering if you would dance with me, yes."
"I would love to. While ball parties are fabulous, I'd like to know more about the treasury right now. I'm quite fascinated by magical items, you see."
Wanting to further impress Miss Longueville, Colbert racked his brains. Treasury, treasury, she says...
Remembering something she might find interesting, he put on an important air and started to talk.
"Ah yes, there's one thing I can tell you. Although it's not particularly important..."
"By all means, do tell."
"Certainly, the treasury is invincible against magical attacks, but I believe it has one fatal weakness."
"Oh, that's intriguing."
"That weakness is... physical force."
"Yes! For example, well, not that this is ever likely, but a giant golem could--"
"A giant golem?"
Colbert stated his opinion quite proudly to Miss Longueville. And once he was done talking, she couldn't help but smile in satisfaction.
"That was most intriguing indeed, Mister Colbert."
Translator's Notes and References
- In Norse mythology, Frigg (Eddas) or Frigga (Gesta Danorum) was said to be "foremost among the goddesses," the wife of Odin, queen of the Æsir, and goddess of the sky.