Two Witches Tea Party
A teapot and cup clinked as they were placed upon a silver tray. The faint but sweet aroma of freshly baked teacakes previously brought to the table lingered in the air. It was the type of smell that would automatically make stomachs rumble, but she made an effort to endure. Today’s Emilia was somewhat different than usual.
“It would be reaaally unladylike if my tummy were to make a noise, right?”
Teachings of Puck, who wasn’t just a precious family member but also a father figure, still lived firmly inside her. If she closed her eyes, she could still see his soft fur and adorable face, casually scolding her with a “Hey!”
So, making sure to do it in a way that would make Puck proud, Emilia fulfilled her duties as the hostess.
That’s right, Emilia was the hostess today, and she had to properly entertain her guest. And so… Placing the tray upon the table, she called out to them. “It’s ready. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.”
On the opposite side of the round white table, the person waiting for her was sitting in a chair. There was to be a tea party today for just the two of them. Of course, just because there was only one guest did not mean she was at ease. On the contrary, entertaining this singular person had only increased her anxiety.
Whether or not the guest knew how Emilia was feeling, she drew her eyes, framed by long eyelashes, towards her and let out a sigh from between her thin lips, “May I ask you something?”
“Of course, ask away. I am the hostess today, after all.”
“I’m glad you’re so prepared. But be that as it may, I’m not sure you will be able to clarify my doubts…” While she spoke, her dark eyes passed slowly over their surroundings. In the area around Emilia, who was confident she could deal with any question, there was a round table and two chairs. And besides the parasol, nothing but a vast grass meadow.
And so… “Why did you wish to have a tea party with just the two of us?” asked Echidna, the Witch with long white hair and a long, black stretch dress, with a tilt of her head.
It was a known fact that the tea parties held by the Witch of Greed, Echidna, took place in an empty green meadow.
A white table and two chairs, a large parasol, and all the necessary objects were there. Hot tea, and the sweet smell of teacakes. There wasn’t the slightest bit of doubt. The one and only exception was the fact that the roles of the guest and the hostess had been switched.
“Look, it’s always you who prepares the tea and cakes, right? I just thought that sometimes you, too, should be able to be treated as a guest.”
“Huh? So, that’s the reason for today’s tea party. Is something wrong?” Emilia tilted her head. In front of her, Echidna sighed theatrically.
Thinking how strange her response was, Emilia did her duty as hostess and lifted the teapot to pour tea into the cups. In preparation for this day, she had done a lot of research on the brewing and steaming of tea.
“Ram takes these things reaaally seriously.”
Of course, since she was taking lessons, Emilia too took it seriously, so now she was trying to display the results of her studies in terms of providing hospitality to an important guest, but…
“Ack! It’s hot! You spilled it. You spilled it on my hand!”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I got a little carried away…”
The tea, having spilled all over the place, had made Echidna quite angry. “My thought was that it wasn’t a sound that people make while pouring tea in the first place!”
A little too enthusiastic in her task, she had overpoured the tea. Emilia, now feeling down, poured the tea more carefully this time. “Phew, here. Dig in!”
“What a very inappropriate expression for offering tea… Well, though I may not like the one serving them, neither the tea nor cakes have committed any sins. I’ll have some.”
“Yes. Dig in!”
“…I want to ask you something first.”
Leaning forward, Emilia waited for Echidna to take a teacake. Echidna narrowed her eyes and Emilia asked, “What is it?” before going on. “You should drink the tea before it cools off, plus it goes really well with the cake.”
“Based on your confidence, could it be that you had a hand in making these cakes?”
“…Wow, how did you know? Yes, that’s right. Petra and Frederica taught me, and we made them together…”
“Really? Then, no thank you.”
“If you must know—I’m concerned about you having made them.”
The plate of teacakes held by Emilia’s outstretched hand was pushed back, and her shoulders slumped, dejected. But then she suddenly brightened up. “Wait,” she said, pushing the plate back. “I understand why you’d behave that way. After all, you are mean. But I didn’t make these all by myself, so…”
“I’d very much like to object to the dishonorable expression that defines me as “mean,” but I also can’t imagine wanting to eat them no matter how many others helped make them…”
“Beatrice helped make them too, you know.”
Beatrice helped make the dough, kneading with an unskilled hand. It was the first time they had stood together in the kitchen, enjoying themselves as they baked. The baking was fun, and everything turned out pretty well. Echidna wasn’t there when we made it, though. “So I’m sure we can share the good times we had with you. So eat it, alright?”
“…You’re not convincing me at all.”
“No, not one bit. But—” After pushing the plate back and forth several times, Echidna suddenly stopped and stared at the teacakes on the plate. Then, with her thin fingers, she slowly reached and picked up a single, flat cake. “Just because you’re quite persistent, okay,” she said, raising the cake to her mouth.
“How is it? Good?”
“Did my reaction make it seem like it tasted good? I can’t believe it betrayed my expectations like that!” exclaimed Echidna with a bitter face before shoving the remainder of her cake into Emilia’s mouth.
Having to eat it so suddenly, Emilia’s eyes widened as the taste hit her. She bit through it with a crunch, the texture being hard and gritty. “…Yep, sooo sweet.”
“The right answer is too sweet,” Echidna retorted. “Also, I don’t get how you can be so nonchalant about it. It has to taste good for that to make any sense.”
“But it would be nice if you acknowledged the effort everyone put…”
“I may be a Witch who’s able to enjoy the process, but when it comes to cooking I think most people are more concerned with the finished product. Though that’s just what I’ve learned after studying this world for a long time.” As Echidna finished saying such harsh words, she took a sip of tea to cleanse her palate. Gently placing the cup back on the table, she added, “The tea was decent, at least…” feeling relieved.
Despite the single passing grade she received from Echidna in the end, Emilia was not at all pleased. I won’t be able to face everyone who helped me, she thought. “Ah, but Echidna. I don’t think all the teacakes were hard and gritty. So how about I take a bite of each of them, and then you can eat the rest of the ones that taste okay?”
“Do I look like a baby bird?”
“No, you don’t look like a baby bird, you look like Echidna…”
Although Emilia had thought it sounded like a good idea, Echidna rejected that proposal and sighed once more. Subaru told me that every time a guest sighs, it’s counted as a negative point against the host. This is already the second or third time she’s sighed, so things aren’t going well. As a proper host, it’s my job to think about the treatment of my guests and see things from their point of view. “Echidna, is there anything you’d like me to do? I’ll do my best whatever it is.”
“Really? Then, will you be quiet?”
“Okay! I can do that.” While Echidna tilted her cup, Emilia sat in front of her quietly, both hands pressed over her mouth.
During that time, Echidna stroked her white hair, then, from the plate of baked goods, took a different kind of cake and closely examined it.
Emilia—her mouth firmly shut—watched Echidna as she cautiously tried to decide whether or not it was edible, and wondered to herself whether it was the right thing to do. It’s true that I’m fulfilling her wishes by doing as she said… “But is this really very hospitable of me? I’m not sure… What do you think, Echidna?”
“First of all, I’m rather surprised by your inability to keep quiet for even a minute… Hmm, this one doesn’t seem to be entirely hard, nor too sweet,” said Echidna after biting into the cake, which gave a soft crunch. She had most likely managed to find one that Petra or Frederica made, since Emilia’s and Beatrice’s would be a hit-or-miss, and Ram had just watched.
“Subaru claimed half of what I made, so…”
“So the ones brought to me were those that managed to escape his scrutiny? Does the rather hard one I ate earlier fall into that category by any chance?”
“No, mine were the super sweet ones. The hard ones were made by Beatrice.”
“Well, we shared them between us, so I think Beatrice will be pleased.”
“You have a bad habit of looking only at the end result and twisting the process. I find that hard to accept.”
Covering her mouth, Emilia let out a short giggle. Echidna snorted and turned away. Guess I made her angry again somehow. But it’s true that I thought that Beatrice would be pleased, and it offends me that it is getting treated as a mistake too. “Seriously Echidna, all you do is say mean things. Even though you’re drinking the tea, eating the cakes, and fully enjoying this tea party, you’re such a goblin.”
“Goblin? That’s a disgraceful way to call someone. I’m a Witch. Whether you like it or not, that is something that will never change.”
“Hmph, then you’re just like me.”
“…Like you?” Pulling her beautifully shaped eyebrows together, Echidna looked at Emilia doubtfully.
Emilia, however, merely nodded with a “Yes” as though the look she gave her wasn’t a big deal. I’ve been hurt a lot by people calling me a Witch, but… “I was called the Witch of Glaciation by many people in the village near where I grew up. Perhaps not to the extent you were, but I was quite famous.”
“That’s all in the past. Now there are none left who know my name or the names of the other five.”
“Ah, that’s right… So, does that make me the most famous now?”
“…How stupid of you to even think of such a comparison,” Echidna replied coldly, despite how timidly Emilia had asked.
Compared to when I first showed up, or when I scalded her with tea, or even when I was forced to chew the hard cakes, this rejection is the worst by far. “No, I’d say it’s probably equal to when I spilled the tea…”
“I don’t want you to make light of us Witches… It is offensive not only to me, but to the five others who have lived and died as Witches as well.”
“───” Emilia’s eyes widened slightly upon hearing the objection made by Echidna, who was usually very quiet.
Perhaps not expecting Emilia’s response, Echidna grumbled sullenly. “What is it? If you think just making a dumb face is a type of response, then you would be mistaken… That doesn’t get anything across.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re sooooo thoughtful of your friends.”
“…I’m thoughtful of my friends?”
“Yes. After all, you don’t want anyone to have the wrong idea about your friends. That’s why you got mad at what I said, right? That’s what being thoughtful of others means.” From my experience, being called a Witch isn’t a good thing. But in Echidna’s time, it must have held some sort of special meaning to her and her friends, who were referred to as such.
To be prodded by Emilia, who knew very little of such things, surely wasn’t pleasant. “…Even in our time, being called a Witch wasn’t a compliment.”
“Yes. But it didn’t matter what anyone called us. We didn’t need anyone to define us, we defined ourselves as Witches. That’s all.”
“…That sounds reaaally complicated.” Even though she wanted to know more of Echidna’s story, it was difficult to understand. But as it was a compromise coming from Echidna, Emilia couldn’t simply disregard it as difficult to understand and leave it alone. “This won’t do. As you’re the guest, I should be doing all sorts of things for you, but instead, all I do is learn from you.”
“I am well aware that I am someone who enjoys teaching, but I don’t recall teaching you anything. Even throughout the tea party, all I did was complain. Cruelly, too.”
“…? Isn’t that the same as teaching me not to do something? It’d be far more cruel to just watch me coldly without saying anything.”
The word ‘cruel’ gave her a very unpleasant feeling, but Emilia did not think Echidna’s attitude matched that word in the slightest. Although it was true that she may come across as foul-mouthed and mean. However, to Emilia, the worst thing in the world would be being ignored and kept at a distance.
“You’re nothing like that. So it doesn’t matter what you say.” As she spoke, Emilia grabbed a cake from the plate and took a bite. The crunchy texture and sweet flavor warmed her heart.
Hearing Emilia’s answer, Echidna placed a hand upon her forehead and sighed.
Another sigh means more points deducted, but that sigh felt different from the others.
“I know whatever I say will be pointless. You’re a very detestable girl.” More directly than ever, Echidna threw her cruel words at Emilia. But even as she said them, she was reaching for another cake. A grinding sound was heard, and she frowned. Then came a crunching sound, and Emilia smiled.
“…Why is it that I always pick the wrong ones? How do you tell the difference?”
“Huh? There’s nothing to it really. I just kind of pick one… Ah, this is delicious.”
“Was it hard again?”
Echidna looked down and placed a hand over her mouth, but gave no answer to Emilia, who tilted her head.
But that reaction alone told her enough, so Emilia put a finger to her lips, and said, “Ah, then shall we try it the other way around? I’ll choose yours, and you can choose mine. Maybe that will work.”
“Even if you do that, I have a strong feeling that I’ll end up with a hard one again… No need to do something so unnecessary, just pour the tea normally.”
“Okay! I can do that! Yaah!”
“Ow! That’s hot!!”
And so the tea party continued like that. Although of different generations, the two Witches sat opposite one another—one as a host, the other as a guest—with a white table between them.
Although to an outsider, it would look like nothing more than a pleasant tea party between two girls.