First Step Homeward
The next morning, we quickly ate the breakfast Gina prepared and left the mansion.
At the time, my curiosity was piqued slightly because contrary to her gorgeous mansion, the locks she put up were simple things.
*Katchin* A small ding sounded with the turned lock. A small and slender silver key was held in Gina’s nimble fingers. If is was responsible for locking every entrance in this gorgeous mansion, then we would not be able to leave until the sun had completed its journey across the sky.
When I asked about crime prevention, Gina looked at me for a long time with wide open eyes before she started to lovingly caress my helmet. Apparently, the question I asked was an extremely ‘beginner witch’ thing to ask, and it was just to cute for Gina to bear.
“There is really no need to lock it.”
“The key? What if someone comes by? With such a beautiful mansion, surely a thief…..”
Gina shook her head and gave me her explanation with a bemused smile.
To reach Gina’s mansion, you have to be guided by Concetta, climb up the rock walls, venture through the valleys, and read the magic words to find the door hidden in shadows.
It was a course that would be almost impossible for even the most seasoned explorer to follow. In other words, it is only possible for witch’s invited to visit that are able to arrive at the mansion. A simple lock to let any previous visitors know she was not home was all she needed.
I picked up everything she said interestedly and nodded my head when she was finished. I would have to set up my dwelling in an equally out of the way location when I moved here.
Let’s make a complicated mechanism using magic so that my home cannot be reached easily. Alexis and Percival will get lost trying to find it and end up wandering around while their eyes dart every which way. Then me and Robertson can watch them bumble around from an out of sight location.
Entertaining such a fantasy, I handed off my luggage to Percival who received it silently.
While watching me enjoy my thoughts, Gina passed off her luggage to Alexis as if it was a natural thing to do. As expected of a true witch, to not feel anything as she thoughtlessly passes off her luggage to a country’s prince.
Her figure while embracing Concetta and striding forth was the epitome of elegance, and even the princely dignity of Alexis would have to bow before her.
This was the way a witch was supposed to be. Thinking so, I tried to imitate her stride and follow after her……but my legs suddenly stopped.
“Gina, you’re going the wrong way.”
“Because it was from here.”
I pointed to the road that we came in on because Gina had started to walk in the opposite direction.
Alexis and Percival were clearly wondering the same thing. Both of them were staring at Gina with a strange look on their faces, and Percival even pulled out a map he had for the area and looked it over.
Even so, Gina calmly received the combined stares of us three before looking down at Concetta who was content purring in her arms. Then she said,
“Oh Concetta, did you guide our guests through the road that is almost impossible to walk through again?”
To her declaration–me, Alexis of course, and even Percival had our eyes opened wide in surprise. Then Alexis probably remembered the bottomless swamp he and Percival had gotten stuck in which caused his shoulders to drop from exhaustion.
The journey back to the city led by Gina was a distance comparable to the incoming route, but there was no steep change in inclination nor were there any rocks or scaffolding for us to climb up nor any scaffolds for us to balance our way across.
Nevertheless, there were no obvious markings on this path, and if you took a single wrong turn, you could end up lost forever, so this road would also require some directions. But there were no rocks or swamps, so the sky was still bright and happy by the time we reached the city.
“……What was all that hard work for?”
Percival’s sigh was depressing.
Alexis was walking next to him, carrying Concetta after Gina handed him off saying, “He’s cute, but I can only carry him for 30 minutes before my arms get numb.” He was begrudgingly looking down at the small cat in his arms…..before he suddenly turned his head away. The sudden movement made me curious, so I focused in on the bundle in his arms.
What I saw was Concetta with his mouth half open, and is he not staring up at him? It’s the kind of expression that is hard to describe.
“A-Alexis, what’s wrong with Concetta?”
“I read in a book once that cats do this around certain smells.”
Listening to Alexis’s answer, my gaze turned back to Concetta.
According to Gina’s follow-up, it seems that a type of grass which Concetta dislikes grows around the area we are currently passing, and he opens up his mouth like this whenever it is nearby.
Although it is a weird face, it is still adorable in its own right, so I decided to caress Concetta myself. …….Alexis’s arms were trembling slightly after holding Concetta for so long, but he will be okay. Probably.
Then as soon as we arrived to town without any difficulty, Percival headed over to pick up a horse-drawn carriage.
Gina watched him go and laughed with gusto and spirit telling him, “I look forward to the carriage you bring back!” A wonderful threat to get him to rent the must luxurious of carriages. In addition, because she ventured off to do some shopping in the name of food procurement, I unexpectedly started to smile at her abundant free-spirited nature.
I always called myself a quirky, spontaneous witch, but I am nowhere near Gina’s level. Truly a wonderful witch.
“I am going to procure food along with my senior witch.”
“Go. I will watch Concetta and the luggage.”
Alexis took Concetta back in his arms from Monette and watched her run off after Gina. Monette’s voice gave away her excitement, and she was quickly sucked into the store that Gina had entered a moment before.
Meanwhile, Alexis was left alone with Concetta. Looking down at the cat resting in his arms, he smiled and asked, “Should I buy something for you as well?” Although the fatigue in his arms were greater than before, he did not feel like putting the adorable cat down.
“Shall I buy a fluffy cushion for Concetta?”
“Let’s see. Indeed a large cushion would make the carriage ride comfortable. Then my arms….”
“It’s starting to get a little painful. Although there is no way I would be forgiven for putting you down.”
“My arms falling off from holding a cat for too long, is this another unfortunate event from my bad luck?”
While droning on about much of nothing, Alexis was rocking Concetta in his arms.
As if he were a baby, Concetta slowly closed his eyes and relaxed. Eventually falling asleep. Alexis leaked a bitter smile and mumbled, “He got heavier.” It was becoming painful holding up Concetta all this time, but the expression on Alexis’s face was still content. This was much more preferable than sinking into a bottomless muddy swamp.
Percival returned somewhere in the middle of Alexis’s soliloquy after completing his errand.
Monette and Gina returned a little time later unexpectedly carrying two large paper bags. It seems that the two ladies bought quite a bit of food to eat together.
“I bought a lot of additional confections along with some fruit bread from a very popular shop.”
“…Ms. Gina, that food is not really suitable for traveling.”
“Nonsense. Delicious food is an essential part of any trip. Ah, Alexis, I’ll charge you for the cost later.”
Everyone was stunned by Gina’s carefree remarks, but the first one to recover and broke the following silence was Percival with a small cough in his hand.
“I was able to arrange the best carriage in the city. It is wider and faster than the previous carriage, so the trip home should be faster than our journey here.”
After Percival’s story, Monette’s excitement rose to newfound heights. We had always been riding in good quality horse-drawn carriages, so something even beyond that must be the picture of luxury.
This will be such a pleasant ride….but then I caught something in the corner of my eye. After news came that everything was prepared, Alexis’s face warped into something strange. The knowledge that a good carriage was prepared made him far too tense.
Concetta is resting in his arms as usual, but now he was not enjoying the cat’s cute sleeping face.
What’s wrong….I wanted to ask, I swallowed the words before I could.
Returning home means beginning the search for the real criminal who cursed him.
As a result, it could mean that his curse will be solved or it could mean that everything could become that much worse depending on how deeply the hatred of the culprit really is…..there are a number of ways that this can go. Not to mention the fact that he will be returning to hostile territory, and the possibility remains that someone might end up making a move on him.
For Alexis, it will be like returning to the needle’s tip. No, it might be better to say he is returning to a country full of needles.
Nevertheless, Alexis got over his anxiety and looked up to Gina with resolute eyes. Gina, who had been watching him as well, shrugged her shoulders before taking out a piece of bread from one of the paper bags.
She then proceeded to shove it into Alexis’s mouth. Alexis made an absurd *Muguu* sound as the surprise attack caught him completely off guard and almost resulted in him choking. At that moment, Alexis’s sudden flailing about resulted in Concetta being shaken from her slumber.
“Alexis, have you been attacked by misfortune since you met me?”
“…….Acthuly, I thlept shine………Co-Contheta!”
Concetta, who had been sleeping in Alexis’s arms until now, had woken up and had started to nibble on the bread still hanging out of Alexis’s mouth. It was a scene so cute it could be fatal for cat lovers as two people–well one person and a cat–ate from both sides of the bread, each taking half the loaf. Well, probably a little more in Concetta’s case considering how fast she was nibbling away at that bread.
I watched him go like that for a moment, lost in his cuteness, before having an aside with Gina.
“Gina, did you apply curse avoidance to that bread?”
“Hm? I didn’t use curse avoidance on the bread.”
“Well but, Alexis’s bad luck has occurred…..”
So where did she apply the curse avoidance?
Before I could finish my question, Gina started to caress my helmet once again and patted my back.
“There’s no need for me to constantly reapply a spell for a curse placed by a pathetic small-fry witch.”¹
Gina’s tone showed that she held no falsehoods in what she was saying, and she made it seem like it was not a big deal or something that even needed to be thought about.
She was so beautiful I felt a little embarrassed gazing upon her like this although she did feel a little cold. Still, contrary to her appearance, her voice was low, strong, and got stuck in the ear causing your spine to tremble.
Then, as Gina started to walk away, I–along with Alexis and Percival who had been eavesdropping–were all left behind stunned……,
“A real witch,”
and murmured under our breaths.
1. 「あんな付け焼刃の些末な呪いを弾くのなんて、魔女には小虫を払うより他愛ないことなのよ」I’m not really sure about this sentence. I translated as best I could, but if I completely missed the mark, let me know.