“A hangover!” Orpé couldn’t believe the unfolding situation. Not only had Erna woken up before her assistant was supposed to wake her up, but she was already fully dressed. And now she had a hangover on top of that! “Your Grace, I thought you didn’t drink alcohol.” Orpé stared at the woman in front of her, wondering if she was the Erna she knew.
“What’s with that weird look in your eyes?”
“It’s just, I can’t believe it. Duchess, is that you? Did something happen that I should know about?”
Indeed something has happened, though she couldn’t just tell her openly.
While Erna was clutching her ever-pounding head, Orpé clicked her tongue and tended to her duty of drawing the curtains and opening the windows. As soon as a fresh breeze drifted in, Erna leaned on the desk feeling like she might live after all.
“I’ll bring up a dish that’s a good cure for your hangover, your Grace.” She placed a notepad on top of a smaller table in the corner of the room, wrote something down, then threw it up in the air. It quickly swirled around mid-air and flew out of the window as if it had grown a pair of wings and came alive.
Orpé was a member of Erna’s first team of trainee wizards. She had originally worked as a laundry maid in the Grand Castle, and now followed Erna who had changed her life so dramatically. Even as a wizard, she was excellent, but she had become an assistant on account of her excellent abilities to assist Erna with her duties as well.
“You failed a few times, but I see you can do it now.” Erna gazed proudly at Orpé, who was now naturally using the magic she had taught her.
“Yes. It was a little bit difficult to specify where you wanted to send it, but if it’s in the Grand Castle, there’s no big problem anymore. I’ve explained it to the other wizards, so please take a look after you have finished eating.”
“Sure, I will.”
Erna thought of the wizards under her command. The all-female group consisted of members who had been found and trained by her. Her most affectionate wizard group, which had made its first official appearance last year, when they had taken care of the monsters in the southern region of Hessenguard. The Hessenguard Council had been truly delighted and looked forward to their future endeavors. Erna was well-pleased about the fact that her trainees had become the military power for the state of Hessenguard. They were evidence of her efforts to survive up until now, and she would never leave all of this behind to go back to Haband. So, she would grit her teeth and devote herself to making a successor.
With her thoughts now on the successor again, Erna, who’d made up her mind, said to Orpé, who was checking today’s schedule, “Orpé, I have something I want to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“If you had to be close to someone you hated with all your heart, how would you go about doing it?”
Orpé thought deeply about the unexpected question. Then she soon found an answer, “What has made you ask such a thing? If it’s someone I hate with all my heart, instead of trying to get close, why not bury them?” She laid down the frightening answer with a quizzical look on her face.
“Oh, goodness. No, burying is not an option. Through an unavoidable circumstance, you have to let them live.”
Orpé thought it would be fun to play along with the question, but when she saw the serious look on Erna’s face, she thought about it once more, twirling her finger in the air. “Oh, is it to appease an enemy?”
Erna rubbed her throbbing head again at Orpé’s answer. She would sooner die than tell her she was talking about Kalion. On top of that, quite frankly, Kalion was Public Enemy No. 1 in her eyes. The two were rivaling for the Grand Duke’s throne, where only one person could be seated.
“Let’s just say it’s similar to that. In a situation like that, what would be the best thing to do?”
Orpé hummed, “Wouldn’t it be important to get familiar with each other first?”
“Get familiar with each other? How so?”
“Well, first, you have to get them to drop their guard. While being in the same place together for a long time, it’s also important to get used to the other person. It’s only when you don’t care much if you’re next to them, that you can either comfort them or attack them.”
Erna was now frowning at Orpé’s response.
Staying in the same place with Kalion? Over a long period?
Over the years, when they had seen each other, they had avoided one another or sat at opposite ends of the table, sneering. Every time they had been in the same space together, they had constantly been disgusted by the other’s existence, and just the thought of having to continue to do it made her feel nauseous.
Orpé’s voice interrupted her nightmarish thoughts, when she boldly said, “Never mind that. Please take a look at today’s schedule and the documents that arrived this morning. If your hangover is too much to handle though, I can remove some of the less important things that need to be done.”
“No, it’s alright. I can’t change my schedule once it’s already set.” Erna would just have to suffer in silence with her hangover for the remainder of the day.