Chapter 29.1: Aroth (4)

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The crowds were a natural sight.
The Wise Sienna's mansion was a holy place that all young saplings of magic wanted to visit; and even for those not learning magic, it was a standard tourist destination that needed to be seen at least once when visiting Aroth.

“Please….
Please let me pass this exam so that I can enter a Tower of Magic….”

“This will be my eleventh time failing.
Please at least let me get to the interview stage….”

The recruitment exams for the Towers of Magic, which were held twice a year, were reputed to be a truly brutal competition.
Across all five towers, there were thousands of wizards taking the exam, but only a few dozen wizards at most would pass the exam and be accepted.

There were still two months until the next terrifying public examination, but the road in front of Sienna’s mansion was already packed full of students praying for success.

“You don’t need to pay them any attention,” the guide said upon noticing Eugene looking in their direction with shocked eyes.
He walked over with a grin on his face.
“They won’t be able to get into the mansion anyway since they don’t have the money for it.”

“…Is that so?” Eugene asked.

“The mansion’s gate fee alone costs hundreds of thousands of sals.
And that’s just the cost to see the garden; if you want to look inside the mansion, you need to pay several times that amount.”

“Why is the price so high?”

“Because there are still people who are willing to go inside even if they have to pay such a price.
There’s a superstition that if you pray for help in passing your exam at the portrait of Sienna that’s hanging in the mansion's main hall, you will definitely pass the recruitment exam for the Tower of Magic that you plan on entering.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Of course, it isn’t….
A few years ago, after working hard to save enough money, I prayed at the portrait, but I still failed.”

The guide’s shoulders slumped as he admitted this.

“…In any case, the fact that it’s so expensive just shows how valuable the opportunity to enter is, right? Since Lady Sienna never married and didn’t leave behind any children, all tourism fees from this mansion go to the royal palace.”

Together with the guide, Eugene headed to the mansion's front gate.
Although there were already people lining up here, the Lionheart name proved effective in getting them to step aside.

‘So this is why he told me to keep my formal clothes on.’

Before boarding the aerial carriage, Eugene had started to feel bothered by all the gazes coming his way, so he had tried to change out of his formal clothes.
However, the guide had insisted that he needed to continue wearing them, or at least keep them on until he was done visiting Sienna’s mansion.

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Thanks to his advice, there was no need for them to wait in line.
After the guide had pulled the guards aside to have a word with them, the captain of the guards immediately emerged to greet Eugene.

“Sir Eugene Lionheart, your identity has been confirmed.”

Eugene’s identity card was linked to his blood, so it was impossible to forge it.
Especially since Eugene’s identity card had a rare and eye-catching appearance, as the Lionheart sigil had been engraved on the back of the card after he was adopted into the direct line.

‘Back in the old days, we went around carrying badges instead….’

And although they had all kept those badges on them, they actually weren’t very suitable for identification purposes, as the badges were easy to forge.
Back in that era of constant bloodshed, it was strength, not a badge, that was used to prove their identities.

‘Even the currency has been converted into some strange pieces of paper….’

Although the currency had still been called sals, they used to carry around coins made of copper, silver, and gold.
But the paper money that they use nowadays? Where exactly did its value come from?

‘The world really has changed quite a lot.’

While Eugene was living at the main estate, he hadn’t really felt the difference.
But since venturing out into the world, it all felt a little unreal to him upon noticing that so many things had changed from his past.

The captain of the guards asked, “How would you gentlemen like to pay for the entrance fee?”

With casual ease, the guide replied, “We want a full course tour of the mansion.
Sir Eugene, would you like to pay with cash or card?”

Caught off guard, Eugene stammered,  “…W-with card.”

Fumbling, Eugene took his card out of his wallet.
This thing called a wallet was pretty awkward as well.
Why did you need to pull your money out of these thin leather pockets? Didn’t anyone use money bags nowadays? And what’s with this card? He’d been told that he could use it without any hesitation whenever he needed to pay for something.
It was a black card with the Lionheart sigil engraved on it.

“A bla—a black card,” the guide took the proffered card with a gulp.

The national banks only issued such black cards to the highest level of accounts.
Even though this might tempt thieves to try and steal it, stolen cards could not be used so easily.
The public banks had linked cards like these to their owner’s blood, just like the ID cards.

“Whoa…,” after a slight pause, the captain of the guards took the card with a respectful bow of his head. 

Once they were done with the payment process, Eugene and the guide were escorted away, not to the crowded main gate but to another more secluded gate instead.

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“Please enjoy the tour,” the captain of the guards saw them off with a bow. 

While still ruminating on the acute difference between the current day’s common sense and the common sense he had inherited from his past life, Eugene put away his wallet.

‘I’ll just have to try and get used to it.’

Even when Eugene was back in Gidol, he had hardly ever left the mansion.
After all, once he left his mansion, all there was to see were endless fields of wheat.
And after he was adopted into the main family, Nina was there to bring him whatever he needed, so he devoted all his time to training his mana and martial arts.

“How long would you like to stay here?” the guide asked politely.

“Maybe one or two hours?” Eugene answered, sounding unsure.

“If that’s the case, then I’ll wait out here until you’re done,” the guide replied with a smile.

Eugene absentmindedly nodded and turned away from him.
At first, he had wondered why someone would even need a guide, but now he found it convenient to have someone handle the troublesome work for him.

“…Now then…,” Eugene took a deep breath before putting his best foot forward.
“Let’s take a look at how that chick lived.”

Sienna’s mansion was huge.

It was a home that she had lived in for over a hundred years.
During that time, Vermouth had married more than ten wives, and even that foolish Molon had gotten married and had several children.

However, Sienna never married.
She didn’t even live together with her three personal disciples.
Except for her servants, Sienna had lived in this spacious mansion all by herself.

‘If she lived here for a hundred years, it wouldn’t have been strange for her to have married and even gotten to her grandchildren.’

Because of her faith, it was normal for Anise to not get married.
But what about Sienna? If she was going to live that long, wouldn’t it have been better for her to get married and have children like Vermouth and Molon, just so she wouldn’t get lonely?

 

—Hey, what are you going to do after all this?

 

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This memory, when did it come from again?

It was probably… sometime after they had killed the fifth-ranked Demon King of Carnage.
In the ruins of the Demon King’s Castle, while everyone was still exhausted from the battle, they had set up an order for the watch.

On a night when everyone else had fallen asleep out of exhaustion, Hamel had been bandaging the wounds on his body when Sienna, who was next up for the watch, suddenly opened her eyes and had asked him that question.

 

—Why are you asking that all of a sudden?

—I’m just curious.
Since we’re going through all this shit in a hellish place like this when we’re meant to be enjoying the bloom of our youths, shouldn’t we at least get to enjoy some happiness once all this is over?

—I’ve got no idea.
Never given it any thought.

—Molon, that idiot, says he wants to become a king.
Doesn't that sound hilarious?

—Crazy bastard.
What a load of bullshit.
Why on earth does he want to become a king?

—Hey, leave him alone.
It’s what he wants to do….
Everyone has the right to dream.

—Have you been drinking? ‘Everyone has the right to dream….’ See this? I’m getting goosebumps from the cringe.

—Scumbag.
Even though I was trying to be sincere—!

—Then, what do you plan on doing once this is over? Do you want to become a queen like Molon?

—Are you crazy? Why would I choose to do something so boring?

—But you’re implying that something like that isn’t impossible for you?

—Of course, it’s not impossible.
If we return after slaying all the Demon Kings, won’t they still try to pawn kingships onto us, even if we tell them not to? Molon has probably thought of that as well, and that’s why he says that he wants to become a king.

—So then, if you don’t want to become a queen, what do you want to do?

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—For me, I’d like to….

 

Eugene looked up at the portrait.
There was Sienna, just as Hamel remembered her.
Light purple hair that would enchant the eye, even from a stray glimpse caught in the middle of a crowd, and green eyes just as beautiful as her hair.

 

—…live a normal life… just like everybody else….
I want to get married, have children, live comfortably, and eventually become a grandmother.

 

In his mind, he saw the wind blow through Sienna’s hair. 

Unconsciously, Eugene stretched his hand out towards Sienna’s portrait.

Suddenly a voice reminded him, “You’re not allowed to touch the portrait.”

Eugene couldn’t help but curse, ‘This motherfucker, just when I was feeling a bit emotional.’

One of the guards deployed throughout the mansion gave him a warning glance.
Although all of the objects in the mansion had been enchanted with preservation magic, that still didn’t mean that they could be touched freely. 

“I understand your feelings,” the guard said sympathetically.
“Lady Sienna is truly beautiful….
Of course, there’s no way that that portrait can fully capture Lady Sienna’s beauty.”

Still slightly annoyed, Eugene asked, “You’ve never seen her in person, so how could you be so sure of that?”

“Because portraits always pale compared to the real thing,” the guard stated confidently.

Eugene wasn’t too sure about that.
He raised his head to stare up at the portrait.
At first, he had thought that the portrait’s appearance perfectly matched his memories, but now that he took another look, it felt like the portrait seemed more beautiful than the real thing.

‘…Really now.’

The more he continued to look at the portrait like this, the more uncertain Eugene felt.
If she had returned without killing the last two Demon Kings, she should have just gotten married, had children, and grown old peacefully surrounded by her grandchildren.
So why did Sienna live all by herself for over a hundred years?

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