Chapter 29: Madame Yael (1)
“Are you interested in the Balwala language?”
I was eating my lunch on a park bench in the shade when I was approached by a man who had just walked out of the library.
He was wearing glasses and appeared to be in his mid-twenties.
He had reddish brown hair and brown eyes.
“I’ve seen you around, but you always take a book from the Balwala shelf to transcribe or read, don’t you?”
Ethan is out with Ojisan today, leaving me alone.
I set my lunch on the bench and grabbed my backpack, ready to take off at any time.
The man notices this, smiles bitterly, and steps back a little.
“I apologize if I scared you.
I’m Mikhail, and I’m a new scholar… I know how to speak Balwala and thought I could teach you if you didn’t understand something.
My mother is from Balwala, so I just wanted to help you if you are interested in visiting the country.”
So that’s how it is.
I loosen my grip on my shoulder bag a little.
“I’d like to be taught, but I’m afraid that befriending a stranger would worry my parents.
It’s really a shame.
As a self-taught person, you can learn to read and write, but [hearing and speaking] is difficult.
If she were a woman, I would have jumped at her invitation.
Perhaps it was this kind of depression that showed on my face, but Mikhail made another suggestion.
“My mother is all alone when I’m away.
So, would you like to learn from my mother? Of course, you don’t have to pay tuition since you’re going to talk to her.
She would love to have someone to talk to in Balwala.”
“…If you don’t mind, I’ll bring a friend.”
“Of course! Okay, we lived here.
You are welcome to come here at any time during the day without contacting me.”
Mikhail-san scribbled the address on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.
It was the name of a neighborhood with big old houses.
I went to Mikhail’s house with Hakim as my escort, and my father drove us there in a wagon.
Hakeem has grown so much since I met him that sometimes I ask him to be my bodyguard.
The house is an old but magnificent structure with a large garden filled with flowers and plants.
On the property, there is a well or spring.
“Isn’t this a nobleman’s home, Alesia? — It’s simply magnificent.”
“Your father felt the same way.
I’m not sure if it’s okay that we came here without warning.”
I’ve also never been to a nobleman’s house before.
Just as I was deciding what to do, the door opened and Mikhail-san and a plump woman who resembled Mikhail-san emerged.
The woman, who appeared to be in her late fifties, waved at me and smiled broadly.
Her hair was the same color as Mikhail-san’s, auburn.
Mikhail-san dashed over to us and opened the ivy-patterned gate.
My father was relieved, just greeted and left.
“My name is Yael, and I am Mikhail’s mother.
I can’t believe two such young people are here! Please enter.
In the fountain, we chilled melon and ponka.
Do you like it?”
“I really like it.”
Hakeem responds with a smile.
“Well, I’ve got to get going.”
“Have a safe journey.”
Mikhail-san departs, leaving just the three of us.
Yael, the woman who introduced herself, enters the house, makes a cup of tea, and arranges the gourds and ponkas for us.
The tea tasted and smelled delicious.
“This tea is popular in the Balwala kingdom.
I was missing it so much that I ordered it.
So, why are you interested in learning Balwala?”
“I’d like to visit the country someday, but it’s extremely difficult to get there.
At the very least, I wanted to read about Balwala in books.
Not books translated into the local language, but books in Balwala that show the lives of ordinary Balwanians.
It would be even better if I could also learn to speak it.”
“What a pleasure—I come from Balwala and my only relative is my son.
I was lonely because I was afraid I would forget Balwala.
And I don’t agree with my neighbors of the same age.”
“If you don’t mind, could you tell me why you disagree? I might say something that will offend you.”
Madame Yael gave me a strange look.
“Did you know that this country experienced a major flood long before you were born? I’m from Balwala, and I have a completely different perspective than the people here.
We had a minor disagreement about it once, and I greeted them with a smile.”
Madame Yael said this with a bitter smile.
“People in this country think that the flood was caused by a wizard, don’t they? But nobody in Balwala believes it.
It was a natural disaster.
The water wizard was executed for this.
And they spread lies about a secret agreement between the wizard and Balwala.”
“Eh?” “What do you mean?”
Hakeem and I both inquired at the same time.
“The rain that wreaked havoc on the former Shemel kingdom moved to Balwala, causing heavy rains.
Several structures were damaged.
It doesn’t make sense that the country’s wizards would collaborate with Balwala to cause the heavy rains, does it? My neighbors were furious when I told them that Aura was innocent and that she had been falsely accused of the crime.
I tried to be friendly with them at first, but as I grew older, I lost the desire to be friendly with them.”
Yael motioned to us and offered us some fruits.
“And the promised Aura to be queen of the Balwala kingdom is complete nonsense.
At the time, the queen of Balwala was a highly respected figure who had made significant contributions to reforming the country’s education system.
There was no need for Aura to be the queen at the expense of Balwala’s queen, also, because there was no shortage of water in Balwala.”
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