Translator: Adam Seacord
「Originally, that song is about lovers torn apart. They want to be together, they love each other more than anything, but they can’t see each other. Why? …Without knowing the reason, the songstress feuds with her parents. There.」
When Old-Man Jemma indicated, the songstress began chucking cargo that was kept at the top the tent down at the large man. Since that small songstress could throw them, they must not have been all that heavy, but the hurled boxes and barrels gain considerable speed and impact. The drum line boomed their instruments at the very moments the man would catch the cargo, and the rest of the band play a comical tune to draw laughs.
「Master… Looking at the footprints of the man who’s catching them, those barrels aren’t light…」
Looking at his feet, his shoes had dug into the ground, slightly. The ground must not have been that hard to begin with, and I presumed that he made no effort to diverge the impact. …In that sense, this act was less of an acrobatic one, and more of an extreme display of physical strength.
Daria’s eyes were completely round in astonishment. Old-man Jemma and the shopkeepers looked back and forth between the songstress above and the large man below, splitting their guts.
The ringleader continued his speech.
「Eventually, the women had lost their humanity, and made a mockery of the man who used to her husband, her father. Words given by god did not reach the women, who were now mere birds. And neither did the sword reach them, high above the sky. Then, at night, when the birds had come down to roost…」
Before I knew it, the band had stopped, and the songstress had climbed atop a large pillar to the wings of the arena, and stood on it with steady balance. I got a good look at her now that she was closer to me… And she was young. As a trapeze artist, it must be a great advantage to be small and light. She may even be younger than Daria. Still well-balanced, the girl waved her hand at the crowd. The girl had big doll eyes, and looked like she would get along with anybody.
「Now, allow me to introduce our second act of the evening!」
The ringmaster suddenly switched his tone, and the drum line started up the drum roll again.
「Hailing form the southern continent over the capitol and across the sea, the man with black skin and a hulking stature, with the strongest body of our circus, is Nubia the Giant!」
With that, the large man who had been catching the boxes and barrels tossed a few of them from a stack with ease, dropping them on the ground.
「Nubia was born in a line of brave warriors in the south, and had gathered a reputation for himself as a hero in his homeland. Legend has it, he would pick up enemy knights clad in full armor and toss them aside like firewood, earning him a handsome reward. Weather that legend is true or not, we will test his strength tonight. Will it reach the monstrous birds, that neither god’s words nor man’s sword could reach!?」
It seemed that each Act is connected. If I was to believe Old-man Jemma, the ringmaster had turned a song with completely different meanings into a parable.
How are they going to wrap this up?
The songstress called Nem began to sing again, as if to taunt the large man. The large man called Nubia tossed aside his sword, and rips off his white-armor costume top with grandiose. With his ebony skin revealed, the crowd fell silent for a moment in awe of his ridiculous muscle mass. After a quick glance, I didn’t pin him for a young man. He must have been in his thirties, past his prime. I was impressive with his muscle development in spite of his age.
The drum roll intensified. Suddenly, Nubia wraps his arms around the root of the thick pillar that Nem is standing on. It’s a log that was so thick that, Nubia’s giant arms only covered about half of it. It stood over two men tall. In short, it was practically a freshly cut down tree. Normally, it would take three or four adult men with specific tools to move a log that size.
The drum roll thundered on, and Nem continued to sing. Every soul in the tent collectively inhaled. When the bass drum let out an especially loud boom, the pillar slowly moved… And was hoisted up in the air. The pillar had only been set in a shallow pit in the ground, which was still deep enough to fit a fist in. The surface of the pillar was impeccably polished, in order to prevent scratches, I presumed. But that only worked against Nubia by making it hard to grip. He had nothing to rely on but his own physical strength.
Atop the hoisted pillar, Nem maneuvered as if she had faltered, and looked around with a jester’s attitude. With that, Nubia dropped the pillar, and Nem fell with it. Before anyone could scream, Nem had slipped in between Nubia’s arms, and wrapped her arms around his neck. Just as the crowd was about to catch their breath, the ringleader shouted with impeccable timing:
「And so, the bird girl regained her heart, and they returned home. This was Act One, Nem the Songstress, and Act Two, Nubia the Giant! If you will, a round of applause for the two performers.」
Tension finally released inside the tent, and thunderous applause nearly shattered it. The white songstress and black giant returned to the wings, passing the other members of the circus as they entered the arena.
The tale ended by being brilliantly brushed under a giant rug, but I was confident that no one minded it. It surely was an awesome show.
After the hour-long show concluded, there was a banquet held for a meeting between the ringleader and accountants of the circus and the shopkeepers. As expected, Olivia attended for Earl Abram, and behind her stood Sara (still riled up from the show) and knight Casper, as well as a few bodyguards.
This wasn’t a good place to broadcast that Olivia and I knew each other, so we didn’t converse more than necessary. Casper was in on that, too.
However, some my secrets were divulged in an unexpected way. It happened when the circus leader made his rounds to greet everybody, and I saw the silver goblet in his hand.
「…That crest on your goblet!」
「…? …Oh, aren’t you that…!?」
It was a silver-coated goblet that he must have been using for years. Some of the coating had come off, showing its material (tin, most likely), which let me know that this may have been his favorite drinkware for years.
I recognized the crest and text imprinted on it very well. It was none other than a cup that was used in my homestead… That bar-slash-inn back home. With my reaction, it seemed that he also realized why the youngster in front of him never took off his cap.
Suddenly, the youngest and most foreign member of the shopkeepers and the ringleader of a circus that had just rode in to town cried out in unison. People took notice.
「What is it, Elliot-kun?」
While I already had no chance of hiding it, Old-man Jemma sped up the process.
「Elliot!? You are the kid from that inn in Grendle! You’ve grown so much while I haven’t been checking on you. How’s your mom?」
Everyone seemed surprised that the ringleader suddenly spoke in a gruff manner.
Yep, I remember him know.
「Oh… I knew I recognized you from somewhere. When in the world did you up and become a circus ringleader? Wow, it’s been years. You would come and play with me when I was a kid. It’s good to see you, Gordon. Mom might have given it to you, but I see your goblet’s from home.」
The volume of his hair had changed drastically, but as it turned out, I knew the ringleader very well. His name was Gordon. Mom spent a lot of time with him back when he was a mercenary and before Gustave became her lover. The man who taught me the basics of magic… Was a witch doctor.
「…I see, Amrosa died before the village hit the fan, huh. It’s weird saying it to you, but that was one hot piece of woman…」
He did seem to take the news of Mom’s death with some pain, and I didn’t blame him. Gordon was a man that Mom liked well. He understood her just as well.
「When I think about it, that sounds like her kind of way to go. I’d like it to be quick like that too, when I go.」
He nonchalantly dropped this confession, which shook the other members of the circus, who tried to mumble away the bad luck. My bigger problem was the glaring eyes directed at me, undoubtedly caused by Olivia.
It was Gordon who was Mom’s lover back when I used to play with Olivia. Olivia, at the time, thought that Gordon was my father, and Gordon had even played with both of us, once in a while. With that memory jogged, she let out:
「From the inn in Grendle… Aren’t you Uncle Gordon from the inn? I remember you spent time with me when I was a child…」
「Hey, aren’t you little Olivia? Elli boy, wasn’t she your only friend back in your wee days!?」
And bam, the fact that Olivia and I knew each other was public knowledge among the shopkeepers. Luckily, Sara’s 「What?」shed a light to our situation. Almost subconsciously, we gave each other a look, and turned to each other to:
Let out a cry of surprise in union. We didn’t put on a show for the fun of it. If people found out that we had continuously known each other before this point, a lot of mayhem could ensue. Casper gave us a much needed helping hand.
「Lady Olivia, you approved this man’s merchant’s license yourself. Of course, you may not have noticed without meeting him, but…」
He remarked, loud enough for everyone to hear. Our story became much more believable with this third-party confirmation. I wasn’t sure on how Old-man Jemma took it, but I was confident that most people in the room now believed that I just now found out that Earl Abram’s heir was my childhood.
That fact alone did not work against the shopkeepers. Even though I was a newbie in town, the fact that the ringleader knew me allowed the circus accountants to feel more comfortable with the shopkeepers, which made the meeting go more smoothly.
Olivia had left, saying that she had work left back in the castle, but since I didn’t have plans, even to set up a pop-up shop, Gordon had arrested me for rounds of talks about the past.
「All thanks to you, the magic you’ve taught me has allowed me to make a living for myself.」
I couldn’t tell him everything in my life, but the basic training in magic that Gordon had given me back in the day came extremely handy for me to survive. I was hoping that Gordon now had some magical knowledge that I didn’t.
「You didn’t have much talent either, huh… Well, since you’re in the business, it means you’ve got a good enough eye for things. You could call yourself a witch doctor just for that. I might have talked big, but my talent for magic could fit in the tip of anyone’s pinky. At the end of the day, I was better at fighting with metal. That being said, I got creative and set myself up as a ringleader.」
「…So you’re using magic somewhere in the show?」
「That’s our trade secret, boy. But you know that magic isn’t omnipotent, don’t you?」
I sure did.
After that, I was talking some business about magic items that would illuminate the tent, when a voice chirped:
「Hey, ringleader. Is he your friend?」
Before I knew it, the songstress from earlier had climbed onto Gordons shoulders. It wasn’t like Gordon’s shoulders were immovable objects, but she crouched on them with ease. Her beady eyes looked at me without any guards whatsoever.
「Nem, I’m talking business with a customer. How many times have I told you to stop climbing on people’s shoulders… Ah, I wouldn’t exactly call it business. Where’s Nubia?」
「Oh, right. The stage is all cleared up, so he should be here soon. Nubia!」
She flew outside like a tornado. She sure was acrobatic.
「That’s Nubia’s daughter… She can barely leave her daddy’s side, it’s amazing. Our girls have their side business, and they hook up everywhere we go, but… She’s not a kid anymore, I thought she’d be with a man or two by now.」
It wasn’t rare that travelling performers offered prostitution on the side of their main act, but looking at that girl, I could see that she could use a few more years before she dabbled in that side of the business.
I almost missed what Gordon had said, so I twisted my brow after I nodded. Nubia was most likely a pure-bred Southerner. Nem had white skin like us… Even like the people in the northern mining region, where they didn’t get much of a tan. I couldn’t believe that they were related.
「Right, obviously they’re not related. She’s Nubia’s stepdaughter. The daughter of his dead wife. And with his face? Since his daughter’s a looker, when they first came to us, we couldn’t stop talking about the odd taste in men his wife must have had. …Oh, that’ right. Elli boy, you have any connections with the mercenaries here? We’re gonna stick around this town for a while, but Nubia’s an ex-mercenary to begin with, and he’s more of a bodyguard than performer. He also said that he’d like to look for other work if we’re gonna stay here long. You got any leads?」
「Sure, I can talk to some people, but… Gordon, Gustav’s mercenary is in town. You might have better luck talking to him.」
「Huh, you’re telling me he’s still alive…? He better buy me a drink when I see him.」
Gustav and Gordon used to be in the same mercenary team, so they naturally know each other. I think they had their differences back in the day (partially because they were each Mom’s lover at one point or another), but time seemed to have washed those under the bridge.
A clear, soprano voice ringed, as Nem came back with the giant.
That, was how I met Nubia and Nem.