“They’re treated the same as magical stones. Living only to supply magical power to magical tools.”
“I explained that Barrier Maidens are also magical tools, didn’t I?
They’re used in the same way to infuse magical tools used in war with magical power.
That’s why only witches are taken to war.”
Remembering being trapped in that narrow tower, both of them scowled.
I understand the feeling, though.
“Aren’t they treated as people?”
“No? They are treated very importantly.
Even in wartime when others cannot eat, food is given to the witch first.
Even when sleeping places are limited, the witch can sleep in a warm place.
Witches must be alive to generate magical power.”
“. . .That may be true.”
“Originally, in an era when the status of common women was low.
Many of the girls who were poor and couldn’t be raised even if they were born were abandoned.
In orphanages, it was hard to eat every day, and I heard that everyone slept in a huddle.
But if you become a witch, you will be taken care of.
You can eat, sleep comfortably, and never get hit.
Many common children longed to be witches.”
“”. . . . . .””
“It’s unimaginable from this country now.
Before witches were created during wartime, girls were the first to be abandoned.
After I became a witch, it became a severe punishment to abandon a child before testing for magical power.
Because witches were needed in the war.
If a raised daughter became a witch, a reward was given to that family.
It was a time when the whole country was poor. It wasn’t all bad.”
“But as the war intensified . . . witches who were taken to war started to die in battle.
When there was a big battle, we were defeated, and Otou-sama died in battle.
By that time, Okaa-sama had already passed away, and since Otou-sama was the only family member,
I was taken care of in the knight’s dormitory while Otou-sama was at war.”
I remember that time clearly. It was just before the snowfall season.
In the freezing, dry wind, I was suddenly called and headed to the hall.
Many knights and palace members were gathered in the hall.
I wondered why they were gathering so many people, and then,
I was told that most of the knights who went to war had been killed in battle.
Everyone gathered there was a relative of someone who had died in battle.
“I heard that Otou-sama had died, and I don’t remember how I returned to the dormitory.
But I remember that there were knights standing and talking on the way back.
Among them was the commander of the knights, and I overheard him talking regretfully.
If that child could use it, if that child was a witch, maybe we could have won the war.”
“That’s. . .”
“Me. By that time, the result of my magical power assessment was known.
But because I was a noble lady, I couldn’t become a witch,
I knew I was being told how wasteful it was.
. . .If I had been a witch on the battlefield, there would have been no running out of magical power, and the tools could still be used.
We wouldn’t have lost the war, and Otou-sama and many people wouldn’t have died.”
“It’s not your fault, Princess.”
“I understand that now.
No matter what, they would never have made me, a noble, into a witch.
If they made the daughter of the Count family into a witch, they would be blamed by other noble families.
Because every noble has magical power.
If something like me becoming a witch happened, they would have thought they might be next.
But after Otou-sama died, and I wondered how to live from now on,
If I’m no longer a noble, I can become a witch.”
Even then, when I said I wanted to become a witch, people around me stopped me.
They told me I didn’t have to do anything like that.
The daughter of the deputy knight commander didn’t have to become a witch.
But I hated to remain unable to do anything.
I felt it was better to die fighting like Otou-sama rather than live hiding my power.
“Eventually, even though I became a witch, I was not taken to war.”
“Why is that? Weren’t witches needed?”
“Unlike the child of a commoner, I had knowledge.
Because I had been accompanying Prince Nikola in his studies, I had a basic understanding of magic, and
I could read and write the archaic language used at the time.
So I was told to inherit the master’s legacy, and I started training in magic.
Eventually, I was told to perform the witch’ rituals, but
I only trained with the master for three years.
I was told it would take at least ten years to be able to perform the witch’ rituals.
But that became beside the point.”
“That became beside the point?”
“The country was on the verge of falling.
So, His Majesty decided to enact the Barrier Maiden.”
“Is that, by any chance. . .”
“Sofia was also. . . in that tower?”
“I was there. However, it wasn’t that tower, but the one on the border with Ahrens.”
“Uh!! Is it Lilia?!”