“Excuse me. I’m lost. Do you know where I can find some cookbooks around here?”
Alina was busy reading a tome containing various torture and interrogation techniques when a young woman’s voice caused her to pause. The owner of the said voice wasn’t invisible to mortals. It was obvious the voice doesn’t belong to a ghost. People said the Imperial Library is haunted, but Alina hasn’t encountered any ghosts yet, much to her disappointment.
Another living person has entered the library, and it wasn’t someone Alina knew. Whoever visited the Imperial Library to look for anything not related to magic and science anyway? This random civilian with demure appearance was the answer to that question.
She was barely visible at first glance, being less interesting to look at than the surrounding bookcases. If Alina didn’t know better, she would suspect the young woman as an assassin. Someone who could make themselves almost invisible without effort has the potential to become great at silent killing.
“Sure, it’s just around that corner.”
“Thank you! Now I can finally cook something edible for my husband… I hope.”
The woman wasn’t very sure about her capability as a cook, something Alina could sympathise with. Everyone could cook, but not everyone could produce the same quality of food. People these days judged the quality of foods using two points: Tastes and appearances. Most people were unfortunate enough to fail at both.
Somehow, Alina had a feeling that the one who interrupted her reading couldn’t even cook to save her own life, let alone her husband’s.
Wait, husband? She didn’t look any older than Bianca, but she was already married? That was ridiculously fast for a commoner. Alina could only hope she wasn’t married to someone twice her age.
“I need a teacher… I think. Do you know someone who can help?”
“We have a librarian who used to teach. Her name is Lyudmila. You can’t miss her.”
“Thanks a lot! I will be going now. See you later, Miss Alina!”
See you later, huh? That was odd. However, the fact that she knew Alina’s name without any initial introductions were weirder than her expecting to meet Alina again. Alina might be famous, but she wasn’t famous enough to be recognised by civilians everywhere.
“Have we met before?” Alina asked the creature who resembled a young human woman with long black hair and pale skin. She knew too much, could she be a spirit?
“Your reputation preceded you, Lady Court Mage. My nephew won’t stop talking about you in his letters.”
“My youngest nephew… I guess? His name would be Raymond, if I remembered correctly.”
The Prince only has one uncle, the one from his mother’s side who unlocked the ability to see spirits by staying awake for days. Alina would know, Prince Raimond mentioned him when Bianca was indisposed. He was worried if Bianca would follow his uncle’s footsteps, but everything turned out fine in the end.
Well, not everything. The world could have ended, and everything was the Prince’s fault. He was responsible for offering an unknown and potentially harmful artefact to an Archon. Weakest Archon or not, Marcyziel couldn’t be trusted with power. It was dangerous to give weapons to someone who treated everything like a toy.
“Why are you floating?”
“Walking is tiring.”
“I see. Great minds think alike.”
Alina doesn’t need to ask how the Prince’s aunt managed to ignore gravity; she already knew how. If you pretended that something doesn’t exist, it would cease to exist for you. Besides, everyone could float before gravity was invented.
Perhaps Prince Raimond would stop bothering her if she ignored him hard enough. She doesn’t want to marry him yet, thank you very much.
The floating woman whose feet never touched the ground left without introducing herself. That wasn't polite. Or not, seeing how she seemed to be in a hurry to find the super stylish and highly dangerous Restricted Section’s librarian.
Her husband knew many things about artefacts and spirits. Out of all people in Alina’s list, he must be the one who possessed the most insight to comprehend his nephew’s thought process. All Alina need to do was ask, assuming the man would be more than willing to answer her questions.
Everything was so simple. This is what a perfect plan looked like. No plans survived contact with the enemy, but what if there was no enemy? The plan would have no weakness, in a sense that nothing could go wrong with it.
Just because she abandoned her emotion doesn’t mean Alina abandoned her conscience. Without it, Alina couldn’t care less if she was indirectly responsible for ending the world by not doing anything to stop it.
Alina saw the Prince’s currently nameless aunt return from her quest for knowledge empty-handed and decided to start another conversation with her. The woman seemed to appreciate Alina’s attempt. She looked at Alina and gave him an approving nod.
“I forget to ask where I can find the librarian.”
The woman turned out to be more directionally challenged than Alina previously thought. Not that Alina could blame her, the Imperial Library looked like a labyrinth. The kind that let people in but not out, trapping those unfortunate souls inside for eternity.
“Say her name three times, and she will appear.”
“Why aren’t you telling me this earlier? What’s her name?”
“You didn’t ask. It’s Lyudmila, by the way.”
Speaking of names, all names held power. Seal the name of a lesser spirit and watch as hilarity ensued. Most of them will do anything to recover their true name, anything. The Royal Family kept 72 of them for some reason. What if the Prince thought it was a good idea to offer those names to the Dream Archon?
So many possibilities to focus on, but so little time. However, Alina doubted if Marcyziel had any interest in the black book of names. The last time she checked, the Dream Archon did not need servants.
“I tried calling the librarian’s three times, but it’s not working.”
“Have you tried doing it in the front of a mirror?”