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The Best Mother

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"Revered Lord!" The woman whose accented imprecations had disrupted Aaran Ledale's work copying a form in the court's entry hall looked at him with pleading eyes. Foreign woman she might be, he thought, but she bears universal emotions within her face.

"Why call me that?" he asked. "I am not even in Vernin College, and where I live when not in school is hardly a Lord's castle."

The woman's face hardened into a faint frown. "You just had to address my petition, you know. Student Ō-omi or Onmyōji, you can help me."

Then, looking down into her hands, she jerked in surprise and thrusted forth a piece of paper.

Reading its scrawl, Aaran learned that the woman, Hikari, was seeking a lawyer for her daughter, who was in trouble.

"Why come to me?" Aaran asked. "I only assist Federick Neelin, and he is no lawyer nor judge. He is only a clerk to Judge Serra Quorro, whose court this is."

The woman bowed to him, and Aaran jerked in shock. But her words were refreshingly mundane.

"You have heard of a girl who calls herself Miya Hikari, yes? Attend school with her and her friend, right?"

Aaran blushed. Given what he and the girl who liked to be referred to as Wəlt Timnokalt got up to together, describing her as his friend seemed inappropriate.

But the woman Hikari, presumably interpreting his blush as a sign of normal development in students of a certain age - which he knew was not entirely false - said, "She just told me that I should seek you out, truly. Miya told me at the jail that...Timinokalt would know what to do, and I trusted my daughter and your friend both."

"Maybe you should have done otherwise," Aaran said cautiously.

"You mean, just chanting On Korokoro Sendari Matōgi Sowaka," Hikari said. "Despite what Miya may make people think, her family can do practical and subdued solutions."

"Here is one," Aaran sighed. "Consult a lawyer - you know where to hire one, right?"

"Maybe you can recommend to me a good lawyer," Hikari said, looking at him with hope in her eyes.

With that as a request, Aaran felt that he had no choice but to help the woman. After he had written some lawyers' names and addresses upon the other side of Hikari's petition, he waved her off in a way which he hoped was not brusque.

"I know that you must work," Hikari said. "Many thanks for helping me."

After she had gone, with grateful glances thrown his way, Aaran had scarcely returned to his job of copying when he felt a tap upon his shoulder. He looked up and said, "Hello, Wəlt. Let me guess - you knew that you could help but it was too dangerous, right?"

"Blame Euneycia for that," Wəlt said. "She teaches through hard efforts what you learn in your orphanage."

"I would rather have her than an orphanage, some days," Aaran sighed.

"At least orphanages naturally involve the fun type of swing when joined and do not reveal the religion to be false," Wəlt whispered with a scowl.

Aaran looked at Wəlt with woe. It was difficult to be an orphan in Mineta, and more difficult to be an orphan in Mineta with his mother's mastery magic research - but it was perhaps most difficult to be the boyfriend to a girl who regarded herself as a daughter to Aminþia Que’la!