Although he was distracted, he was able to obtain transportation to the Miller Barony. It was thanks to the merchant company that he had accompanied recently.
"Thank you for your help in acquiring it so quickly."
"No, shouldn't I be thanking you? Thanks to Professor and your disciple, didn't my company reach the capital safely? I can certainly do this simple request for you!"
"You are truly worthy of becoming the boss of the company."
The carriage Gordon had prepared for Theo wasn't something which could have been made in one day and as a favour.
The body of the carriage was lightweight due to magic, and it could seat up to six people. Even though it was only a temporary rental, it was a carriage which would cost a few gold. Yet it was used to pay back a mere favour.
However, Gordon just smiled widely.
'The professor is wearing a robe with the symbol of a 6th Circle magician… This is the chance to form a link with a senior member of the Magic Society!'
Gordon was a seasoned merchant. So, when he learned of Vince's achievement, he pretended not to know. It was necessary to offer human 'affection' in order to form a relationship with a magician who was disconnected from the world.
He kept this position in mind and obtained the luxurious carriage.
'A thorough merchant. Well, it isn't bad.'
Of course, Vince knew of Gordon's ulterior motives but accepted the small favour anyway for his disciple. There was no need to give back what had been given to him. As soon as Vince finished his conversation with Gordon, he approached Theo who was waiting beside the carriage.
He wanted to exchange a few greetings before leaving.
"Have a good rest. After the contest is over, most of the annoying people will return to their homes to concentrate quietly on magic."
"And keep that dimension pocket well. There is magic on it for the investigators to track, so the costs will be charged to you."
"…I will take care of it."
Theo grew nervous as he looked at the dimension pocket in his hands. He had to consume two to three books a day, which meant he needed a means to carry the large volume of books. So, Vince had rented a space pocket and given it to Theo.
However, the management was strict, so there were many bloody stories about the investigations. If Gluttony swallowed the dimension pocket…
'I might be dragged to a hearing and…?'
Theo had heard rumours about the Magic Society, so his complexion turned pale at the thought.
He even thought that he shouldn't hold the pocket with his left hand. So far, Gluttony had never popped out without being called or when it was hungry, but Theo never knew. There was nothing wrong with taking extra precautions.
As they talked about a different subject, the coachman arrived and sat down on the carriage.
"Then, I'll be going now, Master."
"Yes, please take care of yourself."
Theo finished saying goodbye to Vince and disappeared inside, then the colourful carriage started moving slowly. Due to the lightweight magic on the carriage, the movements were soft. Shortly afterwards, Sylvia and Theo were taken away by the carriage, and Vince turned around.
He wished for the safety of his disciple who had left home for five years.
The limited express carriage provided by the Pullonet Company sped up after leaving Mana-vil's gates. The lightweight magic on the body of the carriage made it possible for the horses to run pleasantly. They ran at a dizzying speed as the scenery outside the window sped past them.
'Yes… If we continue traveling at this pace, we will arrive at the Miller Barony in five days.'
It would've taken a fortnight if this were a normal carriage. Gordon had confidently said that it would arrive in a week, and Theo could accept that confidence after experiencing the carriage. It seemed like there was no need to waste a long time traveling back and forth between the capital and his home.
The problem wasn't the carriage, but what was inside it.
'Uh, so awkward…!' Theo desperately glanced at Sylvia who was sitting next to him.
Despite the glaring natural light, Theo could see her brightly coloured eyes and silver hair clearly. He had no idea what she was thinking. Sylvia suddenly dropped her gaze after meeting Theo's eyes and pulled something out of the pocket of her robes.
"Theo, let's play cards."
She pulled out a pack of cards.
The back didn't have any decorations, so he couldn't see what the cards were used for. Common sense suggested trump cards, but he couldn't imagine Sylvia playing poker. He willingly received the pack of cards from her and checked what was written on the front.
"Uh, these characters are…?"
Theo's eyes widened as he saw what was written on the front of the cards. 'Are these runes?'
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Runes formed the most familiar language for a modern magician and an essential element to configuring magic formulas. Sentences written in runes were lined up on the front of the cards.
When he interpreted the runes on one card, he saw that they formed an accurate representation of a magic formula. It was the same for the other cards. There were parts of the formula on different cards and they had to complete the spells.
Theo's expression became troubled as he understood what she meant by 'play cards.'
"You want to play with these cards?"
"Yes. Since early childhood, I played this with my grandfather. Theo will have a lot of fun."
"No, wait a minute."
Theo turned the cards over a few times and understood how difficult it was. This degree of difficulty would make the academy professors groan. Nevertheless, Blundell seemed to have taught her magic through this game.
Sylvia's ability was excellent, but Theo's expression wasn't bright.
Who could she play these cards with?
With the exception of Theodore, there was no one else her age who could play with her. Even those who wanted to be close to Sylvia hadn't been able to be a match for her to play with, so she had gradually moved away from them.
Being friends was more difficult than other people thought, so it was rare to be friends with someone overwhelmingly superior. Sylvia's beauty, genius, and nature had kept her away from people.
'Maybe she can play with me… No, I can't change Sylvia's attitude this way.'
Blundell wanted to teach her social norms. If Theo played cards with her, he would be treated in a special way. Other people would remain distant, and she would clearly end up relying on the person called, 'Theodore Miller.'
Then her magic would become stagnant again. The thing she needed now was a non-magical environment.
"Instead of that, tell me a story."
"I don't care if it is anything trivial. It can be your favourite food or place. Something that was fun recently…"
'Oh!' Theodore suddenly had a good idea. So, he said, "Are you interested in elementals?"
"Elementals?" Sylvia's eyes brightened at the sudden word. She seemed to have some interest.
A lump of dirt flew in the window and changed into the shape of a little girl. Mitra had become slightly bigger since Theo reached the 4th Circle, but she was still just slightly bigger than his palm.
"…Cute." Sylvia's face brightened as she looked at the little elemental who jumped into the carriage.
[Hoing?!] Mitra made a cute sound as she was held by Sylvia. Sylvia stroked the head of the little elemental carefully like she was scared Mitra would break down. Did Mitra like Sylvia's touch touch? At first Mitra was in a bad mood, but then she eventually purred like a cat.
It was like a page from a children's book.
Theo felt more relieved now.
'The susceptibility still remains. It is impossible for a magician to not be interested in Mitra.'
While playing with Mitra, Sylvia smiled and laughed, looking more like a girl her age. This was an expression that Theo probably wouldn't have gotten see if they had just played cards. Sylvia was normally impassive like water, but a woman who smiled like that wouldn't be burdensome.
The journey of the two people continued in a much gentler atmosphere than he had expected.
The luxury carriage ran from Mana-vil like the wind. The horses were from an excellent lineage, so they were able to go through the hard mountain trails without much difficulty. As they left the mountain ranges, there were no longer any delays.
On the fourth day, the carriage entered the territory of Viscount Teheran, which was right next to the Miller Barony.
Five years ago, Theo had taken a month to reach Bergen Academy. However, this time it only took four days.
"What is Theo's hometown like?" Sylvia's awkward way of speaking now seemed quite natural.
Her words had changed a lot. Unlike when she first wanted to only talk about magic, she now talked about the colour of her favourite clothes and the scenery outside the window. It was also common for her to be interested in Theodore's personal history.
He thought it was a good sign and replied, "Well, it is just the countryside. The people farm, eat, and live while surrounded by mountains and lush forests. When wild animals come down, they hunt and have a feast. Life isn't always abundant, but they don't hesitate to give to their neighbours. It is a place where such fools live."
As he spoke, the scenery of his home entered his mind.
He pictured the people sowing seeds, playing in fields, working busily in the springtime, running around in the summer, harvesting crops with a smile, gathering with their neighbours, and burning firewood.
Thinking about it again, there had been more years of poverty than abundance. His father had opened up his warehouses and starved along with his people, so Theo had often gone hungry during his childhood.
The taste of a piece of bread formed from the wrinkled hands of an old man was much more memorable than the white bread he ate at Bergen. The weight of those memories echoed in Theo's voice.
Sylvia felt something warm and muttered, "A good place."
"…Yes, it is a good place," Theo agreed.
As Sylvia said, it was indeed a good place. Theo's hometown was just that. They never lived richly, but they were happy. The 14 years he'd lived there were more precious than the countless beauty he'd seen in Bergen and Mana-vil.
'Mother, Father…' Theo's eyes turned red at the thought of greeting his parents and neighbours after a long time.
The atmosphere inside the carriage had become warm, when…
A groan emerged from both of their lips at almost the same time. Theo felt a chill on his neck, a warning from his sensory perception. Sylvia had excellent sensitivity, so she noticed the mana around the carriage being depleted.
The two of them opened the windows on both sides without hesitation. However, despite it being sunset, their range of visibility was extremely short.
'Too dark… The sun can't have set already. If this is the case…!'
Theodore's eyes shone gold. He invoked Hawkeye which allowed him to see even through darkness. If Theo concentrated, he could find a single coin situated a few hundred meters away. It was dark around the forest, but there wasn't any difficult obstacles.
The golden light penetrated through the shadows in the distance. Theo stiffened the moment he grasped the outline of the shadows.
A gasp escaped from his lips, "Undead in this place…?!"
As if in response to his words, the shapes wriggling in the darkness emerged. They were distorted, broken, and crushed bodies. The procession of the undead caused a feeling of aversion inside him.
They were moving catastrophes which ate living creatures to increase their numbers, by-products of necromancy magic used by warlocks. The two people faced the undead that circled around them.
Woong, woong, woong, woong…!
The owner of a grimoire and the Blue Tower's best genius… Theo's and Sylvia's magic power wrapped around each other and caused a mana storm. The undead was stopped by the momentum of the mana storm, but it was only for a moment.
A hard and firm voice emerged from Theo's mouth, "I will take the left, you the right."
"Yes," Sylvia affirmed.
After the simple exchange, the two magicians left the carriage and greeted the crowd of corpses.