Zero no Tsukaima:Volume16 Chapter2
 Chapter 2 - Searching for a Residence
At the countryside Tristania of the Kingdom of Tristain......, a corner past the Rosroll Forest.
Wales was an estate agent running a business in Tristania, his customers all either rich entrepreneurs or nobles. Today, he was scratching his head in frustration. Though he dealt with nobles, the estates he handles were not "territories" and had nothing to do with titles. They were mere "lands" any rich merchant and aristocrat could purchase, which very much explains why when today's customers appeared, he was overjoyed. However one looked at it, these customers must be one of the top nobles of this country.
If someone as famed as them became his customers, sooner or later his shop would also rise to fame accordingly.
If he was able to make a successful deal, this customer may very likely introduce other new customers. Imagining how big his business could become, Wales actively searched for all sorts of estates.
But, this master and servant......
"This isn't my cup of tea" Both hands crossed in front of her chest, criticizing Wales's estates, was the third child of the Valliere family, Louise Valliere.
This morning, around 8 a.m. they came to Wales's office. Without much ado, they had asked "Introduce us to a house," describing how their future home should be made for two, how it wouldn't matter even if it were smaller. It looked like it was a pair of young lovers trying to avoid the eyes of the world, preparing a temporary residence before their marriage.
Couples seeking refuge because of their difference in statuses like them were common. According to their situation, Wales quickly picked out a few estates for them.
But, it seemed like their dream house had still yet to show up. The third lady of the duke's family, this pinked-haired beauty could not stop her grumbles against any of Wales's suggestions.
"What's wrong with it? Tell me." Asked the frowning servant of Miss Valliere, a black haired teen. Just by the looks of his clothing, it was obvious that he was not any teen. From the silver coat of arms of a Chevalier, he must be the legendary knight of a civilian's background - co-captain Hiraga Saito.
Because of his civilian background, he was by far a much easier customer to communicate with. So far, he had shown much interest in most of the houses suggested by Wales.
"This place isn't so bad, is it?"
In contrast, every time he'd say so, Miss Valliere's eyebrows would spring into action. Using either the color of the exterior wall, or the worn out structure, how the room faces a bad direction, even going about how the trees planted in the gardens aren't good enough and so on so on, she found all sorts of reasons to send him off.
Wales was also a person with his own dignity. As he took them to the last house possible, it seemed quite unreasonable that they would even complain about this one. Well, Wales was definitely in for a surprise "Young m'lady, what don't you like about this one? The one who designed this house was a famous architect, Sir Rosa Venturini. Under the invitation of an artistic noble, he designed every single inch of this building!"
It was true that this house was filled with an artistic atmosphere, compared to the other buildings they have seen so far, this one certainly looked very outstanding.
Piled into a hemispherical shell with stones, at the center were a grand staircase and a courtyard. In the courtyard grew an enormous tree, running through the entire house.
Its walls were decorated with flowerbeds, planted with all sorts of flowers. The entire house seemed to be cut out from part of the forest itself.
"Incredible, how should I say it, it feels like it is merged with the nature itself. This sure is incredible" Saito praised while nodding. Wales nodded affirmatively towards Saito's words.
"Isn't it? As expected of the Highness's knight, you see things differently! For this one, you only need 10,000 Ecu, it's the absolute exception out of all exceptions! Houses better than this one, you won't be able to find any throughout the entire Kingdom of Tristain!"
He's got a point, Saito thought, trying to urge Louise "Take a look, no matter from which angle this looks very nice, doesn't it?"
"You're annoying, I ask you, how is this good? Which part of it looks good. This entire building is a vase"
"That’s what makes it interesting"
With a displeased look, Louise sighed. "Are you dumb? Choosing a home just because of this reason alone, it's no wonder you have such bad taste!"
Seeing them fight, the black haired girl behind them suggested "Well well, calm down both of you! Since we're here to search for a good home.... let's not fight, OK?"
"How annoying, how does this have anything to do with you anyway?"
"Of course it does, as I'm the caretaker, it's my duty to help you choose carefully right now" Countered the black haired girl with a calm expression. Seeing this incident, Wales began to worry.
From the looks of it..... the only reason this pinked-haired aristocrat was unhappy was because of the black-haired girl. The more she praised the house, the worse Miss Valliere's expressions would look, eventually complaining here and there, such as how the color of the wall looks bad. If the teen knight comforts, her mood would take another turn for the worse. Seeing how the pattern had cycled many times, Wales was becoming very frustrated over this.
"Saito! Come and look! This kitchen, is so big, hurray~~~~!" she screamed happily. Saito and Siesta began wandering around the house for more.
Behind them, Louise kept a gloomy expression for the whole time. "......although I said I didn't need maids"
Just like last night, Siesta followed them in broad daylight. If Louise complained to Saito, he would then say "where could you find a better helper than Siesta?"
Certainly, on closer inspection one would realize it was almost impossible to find a maid quicker and more efficient than Siesta for housework. Moreover, the idea of not hiring a maid at all was incomplete to begin with. There were jobs that could not be handed to a male after all.
Rather than hiring an unknown maid, Siesta was certainly a better choice.
On the other hand..... these things could not be decided with reason. The bright colored future Louise had originally imagined began to turn grey.
"Incredible, I never knew a stove could be so big! This way we can cook anything~~~~! Would you like to make your order, Mister Saito?"
"Well..... as long as it's made by Siesta, any food would taste great"
Louise gritted her teeth to the degree where she could rip her handkerchief into shreds. What was this! This was like a conversation between a newlywed couples! Who exactly did he want to live with~~~~?!
Feeling as if she lost very badly, Louise began to fight. After searching around herself, Louise discovered an excellent item.
"Hey--, ahem, ahem ahem"
"Hmm? What's wrong?" Saito noticed this side. Keeping as calm an expression as possible, Louise pointed to a corner of the ceiling.
"This is an excellent chandelier don't you think, as expected of something built by an artistic noble, an avant-garde design, but you can feel its elegance through its simplicity" Louise nodded with a straight face.
".....but that's only a basket used to dry vegetables" Siesta chuckled, making Louise go red all the way to her neck.
"Please Louise, don't joke around, even I can see that it's only a basket"
"Ha, if the job was given to Miss Valliere, I'm sure we'll never be able to choose a suitable house"
"Nobles don't have much common sense, it can't be helped"
Finding it hard to swallow, Louise swung open a trapdoor on the floor "L-look, there's a basement"
"A storage room, I guess?"
"Possible. Say, Saito, shall we take a look around?"
"Nah," Saito swiftly rejected, soon turning back to Siesta's presentations. With the choice completely in the other's hands, Louise was out of ideas and snuck into that storage room, sitting down and hugging her knees.
"Look, Mister Saito! This is the ultimate oven! It's the newest product! Look how much effort they spent even on the vents!"
"Although I don't really get it, if Siesta says so then it must be very incredible!"
Hmm--hmm--hmm--hmm. Louise hummed a song alone, but no one heard it. Suddenly in front of her eyes, something popped out.
"F-frog--!" Louise who had always had a genuine dislike for frogs panicked, unconsciously casting spells. The house was quickly filled with surprised cries and smoke....
After the smoke have finally cleared, Wales told them "My deep apologies, but it would be impossible for me to suggest a house that is able to satisfy Miss Valliere"
"Then, in the end you didn't find a single thing?" The shopkeeper Scarron sighed. After Wales had completely given up, to clear up their gloomy emotions, Louise and the rest came to Tristainia's "Charming Fairies" inn.
"That's what happened, all because of her, saying only selfish things. In addition, even magic was used. Just the repair bill alone was 200 Ecu," Saito complained grumpily.
Louise hung her head in shame "I-it's not completely my fault either"
"And? Exactly what kind of house will you be pleased with?" Saito asked exhaustedly from the bottom of his heart.
Actually, all she wants is for the maid to be gone, but directly saying so would mean admitting her own defeat.
With no choice, Louise began listing one by one, saying how the position of each room should be like, where the sunlight should reach, so on so on.
Standing next to Scarron, Jessica nodded from watching Louise. "In short, Louise feels uncomfortable living with Siesta, right?"
Instantly the atmosphere froze. Well, that was to be expected. Realizing so, Saito couldn't help but turn pale. It felt as if the thing he feels most guilty about has been placed under the spotlight.
On the other hand......, he had always felt that Louise and Siesta had an understanding on this. After all, the one he likes is Louise. Plus, even after clarifying it with Siesta, Siesta was still willing to be a maid..... Siesta completely sees his charming points, the way she feels for him has already surpassed love.....
Just by looking at Louise and Siesta, in addition to the embarrassing atmosphere, one can feel the cold chilly air hanging between them.
"Recently your relationship with each other seemed to have improved" Saito mumbled casually. Scarron patted Saito's shoulders and said "Saito-kun really doesn't understand the heart of a woman~~~~ well, this has been the way it was from the start"
"Eh? Eh? Eh eh?"
Scarron continued, wiggling his waist "After purchasing a house, that's when your real life begins, isn't it? Cute little Louise wants to settle down, but so does cute little Siesta"
Saito noticed how both Louise and Siesta have been staring at him for some time.
Wincing their eyes, they seemed to be appealing on something.
What do you plan to do? Questioned their looks.
Which would be the best way out of this...?
Only recently had Saito begun to sense Louise being attracted to himself, explained perfectly why he had no desire to consider the feelings of girls other than Louise. Of course, every now and then his body acted on its own accord......
As for Siesta, he liked her a lot too. But this kind of fondness was completely different from the one he felt for Louise. Yet even so, Siesta never complained. Just considering the things she had done for him, he could not thank her enough.
If she said she wanted to become Saito's maid, Saito would not be able to refuse, no matter what. If he did, it would feel as if he had forsaken an important thing that defines him as a human.
All sorts of thoughts tangled in Saito's mind, refusing to let Saito reach any conclusion.
Looking at the three of them like this, Scarron clapped his hands "If that's so, then let's solve it using the adult's way"
"The adult's way?"
"Mhm. If this goes on, we'll never produce any result"
The three of them blushed in embarrassment.
"I would suggest Saito-kun buy a house all by himself, live with cute little Louise, hire little Siesta, then all's solved"
Siesta's face glowed brightly; Louise's eyes shot daggers; Saito face palmed.
"Why does it always end up like that!" Louise yelled. Scarron answered Louise coldly "Say, little Louise. Saito-kun is a national hero right now"
Louise had also noticed this. Even right then, outside the shop was a band of people fighting to get a glimpse of the "heroic charisma"...... even earlier on their way to town, they were often stared at in the same way by other pedestrians.
And all of those looks were aimed towards.....
From the visiting crowd, a middle-aged female jumped forward and knelt in front of Saito.
"Eh? What! What's going on!" Saito flustered.
"Excuse me....., you must be the co-captain of her majesty's Water Spirit Ondine Knights, Sir Hiraha...."
"Erm, it's Hiraga....." Hearing Saito's response, the visiting crowd boiled. Enthusiastically. Feeling a natural sense of fear towards this disturbance, Louise and the others shuddered.
"Being able to meet you in person, I'm so, so touched~! Although commoner, you made so many great achievements! You are our pride! Please, you must must must name this child!"
Behind this hysterical female, an apparent businessman also jumped forward and forcefully shook Saito's hand. The crowd began to list Saito's achievements.
"The retreat of Albion"
"His active performance at the Tiger's Highway!"
"And then he defeated hundreds at the Lelion river! After hearing fantastic stories about you, we Tristania citizens could not be more proud!"
"Well, it was only around ten....."
"It's already difficult enough! Defeating ten nobles! But now you're a noble yourself!"
Looked like other than Saito's activities, various pointless chatter was also included. Now that Louise thought of it, if he was well known throughout the Gallian nobles, it wouldn't be so surprising if Saito's heroic stories were spread around Tristainia.
Before this, Saito's name had already been well-known from his performance at Albion. The war with Gallia could only make him even more famous.
Saito shook his head, too embarrassed to know what else to do. The treatment he already got at the Magic Academy had evolved to a city-wide phenomenon, no, perhaps even a country-wide phenomenon.
With a low voice, Scarron whispered to the Louise who was pushed away by the crowd.
"Little Louise, do you understand now? Saito's popularity is now sky high in Tristania, he will barely be able to walk alone on the streets"
"How, how did he suddenly turn so popular....."
Ahem, Scarron coughed, pointing towards the poster on the walls of the inn. It was the advertisement of the Tarbes Garbo's Troupe. Louise examined the repertoire with round eyes.
On the poster was a picture of a man holding a sword, facing a bunch of scary looking Albion soldiers. The man was dressed in leather, handsome looking and tall. He looked like somebody somewhere, but not so much in other places.
But, this..... unless......
"Since we have a chance, why don't we all go and have a look?"
Louise nodded with cold sweat on her forehead.
"Cruel ruthless Albion army! Come at me!"
Watching the opera on the stage, Saito and the others were wordless.
The black haired actor with a sword was facing a dummy dragon and actors dressed up as nobles.
"There are 70,000 enemies! I am alone! But God and Founder Brimir will never abandon Tristain!"
Saito muttered quietly "There're only 7 of them"
"How do you suppose they put so many people on stage" Scarron calmly replied.
"To save our kingdom, our dearest Queen sent me here! Swordsman of the wind, Hiraha Saigo!"
"Swordsman of the wind"
"His title changed!"
The actor portraying Saito waved the sword in his hand, using it to block the attacks of the dummy dragon and the enemy actors, then defeating them one by one.
For each enemy defeated, the audience burst into wild cheers. On closer inspection, most of the audience were commoners.
During this process, a basket carrying the diva slowly descended from above, singing the song of praise about the swordsman
"Hero of Tristain~~~~~~~
Accompanying the song, was the fight one would expect to see in talent shows.
"Such overly swordsmen drama......" Saito expressed his thoughts in sorrow.
"Although this play has been under heavy criticism from critics, it is very popular in the hearts of us citizens"
Even this kind of lame story content could not stop the wild cheers from the audience.
Everyone was chanting "Swordsmen Hiraha" in unison.
Saito buried his face deep into his scarf. Without his sword and with his black hair hidden, no one would recognize that this was the real Saito.
Siesta looked at the play, then looked at Saito, her face full of admiration.
"There's Mister Saito! Look, look look. Ohh...... my Saito, finally appeared on stage!"
"That's not me.... it's someone else...."
"Waa, that's soo cool! That's what you looked like when you defeated the Albion army....."
Siesta took no notice of Saito's words, deeply mesmerized in the play.
On the stage, swordsman Hiraha finally defeated the enemy captain. Seeing this, the heated audience all stood up, whooping.
"Bravo--! Swordsman Hiraha! Bravo--!" echoed throughout the theatre. Usually, stories about achievements of a swordsman wouldn't be allowed to be on a stage as large as this, only performed on small puppet theaters or plays on the streets. Most likely, this only passed the test since this swordsman "Hiraha" is based on a national hero.
Overwhelmed by the audience's enthusiasm, Louise muttered simply "In-incredible....."
It was as if he was as popular as the Pope himself. In fact, in the eyes of a peasant, Saito's fame preceded even the king himself.
"Hey, take a look on that side" Scarron pointed to a corner of the audience. There, a large number of females stood blushing. Their excited voices could be heard all the way to Louise and the others.
"Incredible...., a mere swordsman being able to take down the enemy captain. Too bad it's only a story."
"What are you talking about! The hero for this story actually exists. Thanks to him, the army of Tristain was saved."
"I even heard that he received a medal this time in Gallia."
Really wanting to be with that kind of person, the girls all nodded dreamily.
Louise shivered. No..... she unconsciously acknowledges Saito's achievements at Albion and Gallia. Only after seeing it happen in person does she realize how she had ignored these things.
"Do you understand now? Whether or not you hire a maid, nothing will change. Nowadays, the number of ladies who have their eyes on Saito are as uncountable as flies around a pie. He did, after all, make all of these things happen, he even became the co-captain of a squadron." Afterwards, Scarron tuned down to a low voice "Not only so."
"Look over there."
Right where Scarron indicated with his head, was the balcony seats on the second floor reserved usually for grand nobles enjoying operas.
From the gaps of the curtains, one could see how unpleasant the noble's face looked. As a noble, watching how a knight of a commoner's background defeated a noble, even if enemy, must be painfully boring.
Louise couldn't help but laugh.
"I know, right? Do you understand? Popularity also brings unhappy people like them. Randomly hiring an unknown person, who knows what will be mixed into your food. That's how the brother of the Gallian king died, in case you forgot. That Earl Oscar died from poisoned bread. For someone like Saito, a trusty maid like little Siesta is definitely needed. What you need is a true friend who can report to you any suspicious activities from the people you've hired."
Louise finally understood the reason why Scarron insisted they hire Siesta.
True. As admirers increase, so do enemies. From now on, Saito and Louise couldn't let their guard down while defending themselves against these enemies.
"Shopkeeper Scarron is right"
Drawing death just because of some stupid jealousy would be a hell of a way to die. Thinking so while watching the Siesta crying out hysterically along with the rest of the crowd, Louise suddenly felt how important this ally is. If it's her, no matter under whatever circumstances, she would never betray Saito.
While Louise kept adjusting her thoughts, she could almost read Saito's thoughts on this play modeled after him.
Wow, I'm slowly becoming famous.... I wonder what would my family and friends on Earth would say if they saw this?
Surprised, or happy....?
After the opera ended, with his head completely covered in his scarf, Saito hurried out of the theater. Louise and the others surrounded Saito, cautiously watching their surroundings. Just like how celebrities are treated, from the situation Saito is in currently, it was as if he was a star back on Earth.
Around them, civilians who have just finished the opera could not hold back their enthusiasm, still chattering about the opera.
Hurriedly leaving this place, arriving on the streets.....
"Oh my! If it isn't Louise!" A familiar voice called out. Turning their heads around, they instantly recognized Guiche in his brand new Chevalier cape. Beside him were the rest of the Water Spirit Ondine knights.
Best not to make a fuss around here. Just as she was about to push Saito and leave this dangerous area, Guiche closed the distance between them, smiling "Hey hey! Where are you going! There's something I want to ask! Where did Saito go? That guy, I haven't spotted him since this morning!"
Pushing his glasses up his nose, Reynard whispered "Louise, tell us if you know. We must hurry. But don't get shocked! We found a pretty amazing castle!"
Hearing that name, it began to draw some of the people's attentions. Bad! Although in the show they used some weird name Hiraha Saigo, or was it Hirama? Anyhow, it still sounds similar to Saito.
Saito pulled his scarf even tighter, covering almost his entire face. Meanwhile, Louise began to shoo them away "D-don't know, I don't know that kind of guy...."
"What are you talking about? Don't tell me you lost your memory again? Lemme remind you? You know, the retreat from Albion? The man who replaced someone to stop the army?"
More and more citizens began to gather. Unfortunately, Guiche was the kind of teen whose excitement grows with the size of his audience. A 100% match. Still not knowing how widespread Saito's legends already were, he began his speech, waving his hands exaggeratedly "Not only that! He single-handedly fought on the Lelion river! The first to come forth was the so-called undefeatable Duke Socarton! But Saito couldn't care less! Easily chasing Duke Socarton all over the place, beautifully slicing his staff in two!"
The crowd began to heat up. Mistakenly believing that their reaction was because of his charisma, he puffed up his voice "The second opponent had good skills! But we, as the Water Spirit Ondine Knights..... wah, ah!"
Louise sprang towards Guiche, clamping his mouth shut. "You, enough"
"Huh? What's wrong! How's it bad to talk about that guy's achievements!"
That's right that's right, the crowd booed. Just as Siesta, Scarron and Jessica were about to bring Saito away from these dangerous grounds..... an amazingly sharp-sighted Malicorne found the hidden Saito.
"Oh heey! You were here all along Saito! Why hide your face? Such a weird fellow!" Then he ran to Saito, unwrapping his carefully concealed face. The gathered crowd turned wild like a thunderstorm.
"Th-this gentleman, is the co-captain of the Water Spirit Ondine Knights, Hiraha Saigo?"
"Right you are," Malicorne nodded. The people crammed towards Saito like a flash flood. The disturbance caused in the "Charming Fairies'" Inn was incomparable to this one.
"Pl-please bless us!"
"Please touch my hand!"
"What's going on?" asked Guiche, still completely clueless about Saito being popular to the degree where they have made him into an opera. Saito was engulfed by the incoming wave of civilians.
"Oi! Where, where are you touching! Stop!"
Somewhat surprised, the Water Spirit Ondine Knights also joined in the crowd amusingly. "Wahahahaa! Popularity ahoy! Say, Saito, you haven't used the ransom you saved yet, right? Stop looking for tiny little dollhouses, let's get a castle! We found a pretty good one! A piece of land as large as 60 Allubon, it's an ancient castle with quite some history! They even claim there're ghosts or something, but those things are nothing in front of our bravery!"
"Don't want those kinds of castles! Besides, I already split the money with you guys!"
"It's only 2,000 ecus! Tell you what, take your wallet out!"
"Wait.... I earned that......oof! Waah!"
Trapped in between the castle-hungry Water Spirit Knights and the "Hiraha" chanting crowd, Saito's situation became too difficult for anyone to save. Things the way they were, no one would be able to stop it. It was like being dragged into a tsunami.
Louise watched this scene, shocked; Siesta watched with fascination; Jessica and Scarron stood by chuckling to themselves.
"Hey! What's with the disturbance! Disband yourselves at once!" Cried out a team of cavalry from the other end of the street.
"Or what! You should back off!"
"Say what?" The leading female knight drew her sword. "We are her highness' Musketeer Corps! Disobey and I'll have you all arrested!"
Just the mention of her highness' personal Musketeer corps was enough to quiet even a crying baby.
Even though their members were made up entirely of young females, none of them felt that they should be looked down upon. Due to their ferocity, they became widely known almost instantly.
"Good! Take them all to the Shelbourne jail!"
Hearing the word Shelbourne plus Agnes's thunderous bellow, the citizens scattered without a trace.
Seeing Saito kneeling on the ground coughing, Agnes said "Oh, it's you guys. Perfect."
"Thanks for helping..... eh? Perfect?"
Agnes dismounted her horse and handed Saito a scroll.
"Perfect so that I can hand this to you. So you were at Tristania. Sure saves my time"
Saito gulped. On it was the seal of the royal family of Tristain.
"Her majesty requests me. Immediately, at the palace."
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