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Chapter 62: Blessing
Two months after the Dragon God Festival.
The wedding between the Knight Sigurd and the Dragon’s Maiden took place with only their family as guests.
As discussed between me as his adoptive father and Jolga as his biological father, Sigurd’s family registration was transferred to the Oswein family and approved by Prime Minister Morino. With Julieta marrying into Sigurd’s family, the lineage of the Sage Asbal would cease with my generation. The country’s leaders lamented that result and suggested that I adopt Sigurd as a son-in-law into the Asbal family, but I shook my head.
The Asbal family would end with my generation.
This world had already been freed from the compulsion of the setting in the otome game [The Dragon and the Sacrificial Priestess], and it was moving towards a future of its own creation. Even so, the existence of Julieta and me, who should have been ruined by the end of the Dragon God Festival, was clearly heretical. Perhaps the influence of [the game] was fading from the world, but it was best not to let my guard down. Removing the Asbal family name from Julieta and Sigurd and giving them the Oswein family name was also one of my preventive measures.
Julieta appeared with her bridesmaid Venellope where I had been waiting, and gently linked her arms with mine at the entrance of the wedding aisle. Julieta, given the new nickname the goddess loved by the silver moon, wore a gorgeous, pure white wedding dress with a long train.
She looked up at me with jade green eyes covered by a veil and smiled softly at my similar-colored eyes.
My precious, only daughter whom I have loved more than anything, who has been by my side for these six months, I wish for you to build a blissful family, like the family [I] had in the fading memories of my previous life.
…To that end, there is something for which I must leave this country.
I entrusted Julieta to the arms of Sigurd, who was waiting in front of the altar, and stood with Jolga, quietly watching the couple receive their blessings from Head Priest Malacia.
The attendants comprised Jolga and I; Lutora and Malacia; Peragene who came to the shrine from the villa and her daughter Venellope; Prime Minister Morino and the twin ring boys, Cain and Abel; the Knight representative Amy and the elder butler Thomas who had served the Asbal family for years. The moment the newlywed couple exchanged their kiss of oath after receiving all the participants’ blessings, a particularly loud dragon’s roar could be heard from the direction of a hill west of the capital.
In response, small colorful lights burst into existence, dancing across the azure sky.
These were the lights of the spirits maintaining the Palcemith Kingdom’s abundance.
“It’s so pretty…”
All of us, as well as the residents of the capital, smiled while looking up at the sky, pointing at the lights.
It was likely a small blessing from the Ancient Dragon Kharis to the young couple who had made a vow of happiness.
The couple left the shrine to warm applause to begin their life as newlyweds in the mansion on a hill near the Ancient Dragon Kharis’s dwelling. Thomas, who had brought up the two youngsters, continued working as their butler in the mansion on the hill, so the couple’s life shouldn’t have any troubles. The mansion was renovated with a fence around the perimeter at the same time as the preparation of Ancient Dragon Kharis’s dwelling, making it easily defensible.
I had planned to either rent a house somewhere or temporarily stay in one of the Shrine’s guest rooms for nobility, but, at Jolga’s insistence, I ended up freeloading at the Oswein family’s mansion. The Oswein family’s mansion was close to the capital and it was certainly convenient for me, as someone Prime Minister Morino and his aide Venellope had begged to help with the country’s administration. However, living under the same roof as Jolga, well, that had its own set of issues. Generally, issues with my physical endurance.
Both Lutora and Sigurd had some inkling of the relationship between Jolga and I, and when they spotted us together they would immediately interrupt us, which was quite a blow. Especially…when it came to Jolga, it was rather amusing.
As always, Lutora, who should have been living in the Oswein family mansion, was a frequent visitor to the Shrine.
The belief that the citizens of Palcemith Kingdom had in the Dragon God had increased in intensity after they saw with their own eyes the existence of the Ancient Dragon Kharis, of whose presence in the underground lake they had only been vaguely aware. The number of people approaching Head Priest Malacia increased as well and it became a situation wherein Lutora would say, “As if I could just stay leisurely in the mansion!” It was definitely not for me to butt in, so I hoped he worked hard in his own way.
After the wedding an unofficial celebratory gift from King Vikram arrived at the couple’s new home.
I didn’t know what King Vikram felt about the marriage between his close friend and the woman who was once his fiancée, but something far more dreadful than such a trivial embarrassment was lying in wait for the Palcemith royalty.
Four months after the coronation of King Vikram.
Close to two months after the enthronement, news spread throughout the castle that Queen Nasha, who had been rumored to have “gotten fatter” and barely showed up for official duties, had gone into labor.
Morino, Venellope, and I were in the office in the midst of settling paperwork, and we looked at each other’s faces upon hearing the sudden reports.
“…So it was true.”
“My, you noticed it as well.”
“Yes. That stomach bulge could not be classified as [getting fat].”
“That’s true. Even though no one mentioned it, everyone should have noticed.”
“But if she went into labor at this time, wouldn’t it mean that right after pushing the responsibility of the Sacrificial Priestess onto Lady Julieta, Lady Nasha was already with His Highness?…His Majesty sure moves fast.”
In contrast to Venellope, who squinted her amethyst eyes in displeasure under her round glasses, Morino shook his head of messy blond hair and kept making small groans.
“Hmmm…I wonder…Is it really so…”
This time, it was Vanellope’s turn to tilt her head at the mumbling Morino.
“What’s the matter, Prime Minister? You’re slurring your words.”
“…If there’s something bothering you, say it quickly. It’ll be too late once nothing can be done.”
Emboldened by my comment, Morino raised his head and pointed at a large piece of paper with this year’s calendar written on it.
“I don’t mean to actively defend His Majesty, but the timing is strange. After Lady Nasha was established as His Majesty’s fiancée, in order to protect her chastity, he deliberately opened the Queen’s Chambers ahead of time. I heard that the two of them pledged their love on the balcony of the room prepared for the Sacrificial Priestess but, uh…they did not engage in any actions that would cause her to lose her virginity.”
“However, right after Melia was sentenced to Dona’s Penalty, while comforting the grieving Nasha, he…um.”
“In the end, they did it.”
Venellope heaved a sigh and I shrugged my shoulders.
“Even if she had conceived at that time, wouldn’t it only be about the seventh month now? It’s far too early to be going into labor.”
“…Is there a possibility that His Majesty is lying?”
“We can’t be sure of the truth of the matter, however, he had reported that he was unable to protect her chastity until their wedding ceremony, so there’s no need to lie and fudge the dates.”
I didn’t have any evidence of what was growing in her womb either.
For example, if she was pregnant with twins or more, it was possible that the growing children put pressure on her womb, causing her to go into labor in the seventh month.
In either case, the truth will soon be [born].
We continued processing the paperwork while waiting for new updates, and it was three hours later when a maid came running in alarm.
“Her Majesty gave birth to a [baby with animal ears and tail]!”
Count Lowe, who had served the Kingdom of Palcemith for a long time, committed suicide in prison.
The reason why he wished revenge upon the royals remained unclear in the end, but thanks to His Highness Vikram’s leniency, Count Lowe’s relatives were merely sentenced to exile. With his daughter held hostage, the Royal Prince Borzeff made the bitter decision to lend aid to Count Lowe, purposely letting himself stand out as the ringleader of the rebellion to protect his wife and daughter’s lives, and was killed as a traitor. The Crown Prince’s close aides, led by Prime Minister Morino, lamented greatly when they learned of the truth from Borzeff’s daughter, whom they had rescued from Count Lowe. In atonement, His Highness allowed his widowed aunt Peragene to stay in a royal villa and made the same arrangement for her daughter Vanellope. Vanellope was deeply grateful for the Crown Prince’s magnanimous treatment and, hoping to help with the country’s affairs, became Prime Minister Morino’s assistant.
“…I thought it was an unreasonable scenario, yet it turned out well.”
She calculated the listed numbers, compared them to the ledger, and ticked them off. The documents on the table continued stacking up, but Vanellope swiftly processed them. She let out the words nonchalantly without pausing the hand that was counting on the abacus, and Morino, who sat opposite her calculating the budget, raised his head. In the castle’s office. As rumored within the capital, Vanellope was working as Prime Minister Morino’s assistant and displayed excellent skills in calculating and distributing funds to various departments, such that even Anderheim was surprised at her outstanding ability in handling essential but time-consuming tasks. Morino was elated and the civil officials, who were struggling with their limited abilities and lack of manpower, welcomed her admission with open arms. Several weeks after the rebellion that ended in exchange for the Royal Prince Borzeff’s life, the capital was filled with its usual splendor and liveliness as the Dragon God Festival drew near. There were almost no disparaging voices aimed at Vanellope, who was positioned as the tragic daughter in the scenario Anderheim depicted. This was despite the fact that there was no doubt Vanellope was complicit in her father’s rebellion. No matter how one tries to control information, bad news travels quickly. Vanellope’s participation in the rebellion should be a known fact. And yet, why?
“Lord Anderheim called it pre-established harmony.” “…Pre-established harmony?”
Vanellope repeated the unfamiliar phrase, and Morino nodded.
“If a fragrant flower blooms, butterflies will come. If a cup of water is knocked over, the water will spill. If there are strong rains, the river will flood…[Common sense outcomes] such as those are easily accepted by people, he said.”
Vanellope put a finger to her chin and put herself into the metaphor.
“…In my case, it would be [Vanellope is the daughter of the traitor Borzeff].” “Exactly. But if it becomes [the true mastermind behind the rebellion was someone else], then the citizens will question [why did the Royal Prince act as the mastermind]? If we present the information that [the Royal Prince’s only daughter was in the hands of Count Lowe], their imagination will run off and they will start thinking[…Maybe His Royal Highness was being threatened]? Then, we announce the truth that [actually, the Royal Prince’s daughter was being held hostage and he was threatened into aiding the rebellion]. [I knew it! Just as I had thought!] the masses would be convinced…” “The art of controlling people’s thoughts with the timing of information release…How enlightening.” “Yes. An answer one was led to come up with, with substantiated evidence, is subjected to less doubt than an answer given by someone else. That was what Lord Anderheim was aiming for.” “…Not realizing that they were being led by someone…Amazing.” “I agree…I’m still far too inexperienced. I have to learn to be able to skillfully wield the citizens’ emotions.”
Moreover, in the future, he wouldn’t be able to say he was fulfilling his duties as Prime Minister unless he could use the art of guiding people’s thoughts at a national level. Morino’s future was a path full of thorns.
There were two weeks left until the Dragon God Festival.
Two days after the rebellion in the castle was suppressed, the Crown Prince’s missing fiancée, Nasha, was found hugging her knees in an alleyway in the capital by a vigilante corps on patrol. She remained silent about what had happened during the two days she was missing, and holed herself up in her room upon arrival at the castle refusing to leave even for His Highness or his entourage. While Vanellope was working as Morino’s assistant, she became closer with the Sacrificial Priestess Julieta, who lived in a residence built on a western hill some distance from the capital. Trained by her royal father and her mother, a high-class prostitute whose main clients were royalty and bureaucrats, Vanellope’s manners and etiquette were no different from any refined noblewoman. The Sacrificial Priestess Julieta gained the acquaintance of the first peer she could converse with, and would hold tea parties in her garden just for the two of them where they could sit around the garden table and laugh happily. Sigurd fell deeper in love with Julieta as he watched over them. Seeing Sigurd return to guard position after kissing Julieta’s cheek, Vanellope asked, “Who is that knight?” Receiving a bashful “He’s my brother as well as the man I’ve sworn my future to,” from Julieta, she stood up and pushed up her spectacles with one hand.
“Shall we have a short talk?” she asked with a serious expression, grabbing Sigurd’s shoulder.
“…So, Lady Julieta’s goal is to return the Dragon Pearl to His Grace Kharis, right?” “Yes, that’s right. As long as there’s the slightest bit of hope…I think I will struggle as long as I survive.” “We can’t let it stop at [the slightest bit of hope], Lady Julieta. It will surely come to fruition. I will give you my full support.” “Lady Vanellope…Thank you very much.”
Nasha, who had shut herself in her room for some while, had begun leaving for short periods by that time, and she hated Vanellope who was occasionally by the Crown Prince’s side due to work. Having had foul words hurled at her once, Vanellope instinctively sensed Nasha’s rotten personality and had avoided encountering her as much as possible since. Conversely, she became progressively closer to Julieta. Thus when Vanellope learned that Julieta had plans in the works to escape her fate as the Sacrificial Priestess, thinking that Sigurd and the other aides were making preparations, she started looking for other ways that she could help. As a result, Vanellope looked into the origins of the Sacrificial Priestess and Dragon Priestess, as well as the history of the Kingdom of Palcemith that Morino had once flipped through, and noticed something.
In the past, the hero Palcemith had defeated the Ancient Dragon Kharis who ruled over a barren and uninhabited frozen land, and cut off a portion of the Ancient Dragon’s soul with [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons].
“…How did the hero Palcemith know what to do?”
Even within the whole Yugena continent, the only country that had the dragon’s blessings was the Kingdom of Palcemith. There was no other country in history that had cut off the dragon’s soul and weaved it into their country to receive its blessings.
“In that case, where was the precedent?”
The hero Palcemith went out of his way to challenge the Ancient Dragon Kharis with [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons] in hand. One could tell there was a clear purpose to that decision. Even going back a thousand years, there was no record of a country that used dragons in the same manner.
“…What happens when the Ancient Dragon regains the Dragon Pearl, half of his body?”
No one knew the answer.
That was the prelude to destruction that Anderheim had whispered into Ancient Dragon Kharis’s ears.
Hasr: Hijacking Aby’s chapter for an announcement
We have some good news, and some good news! The Show Must Go On is finally going to get a LN in Japanese!! While we don’t have the exact details yet, don’t forget to support the author when the novel is finally out! Secondly, as of the posting of this chapter, I am on a TL marathon to finish off the last 3 chapters of the novel. Come cheer me on in discord and I might share excerpts! You might also get a chance to decide what I will TL next.
P.S. There should be a second chapter out in 2-3 hours or so
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Chapter 54: Nasha
Nasha Laturi was running. She raced purposefully through the dark underground passage, searching for the exit with her lantern raised.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way, Nasha thought. Nasha’s mind had gone blank when, after being dragged to the capital from the village of her birth, the Head Priest told her that she would be sacrificed to the dragon. Before she could rage at his absurd statement, her legs trembled at her own helplessness. The room prepared for the Sacrificial Priestess was in the middle of the royal castle, and to Nasha, who had been raised in a family that was not well-off, the gorgeous, lavishly decorated room was like a luxury straight from a dream. When Nasha realised it was a cell meant to cage her in, however, her heart sank again. Beginning with the Crown Prince waiting for his enthronement and his Royal Guards, young men including knights from the Royal Knights Order, civil officials, and many others would regularly visit Nasha’s room to ask after her. They claimed to be there to help teach Nasha, who would become Sacrificial Priestess. She wasn’t sure how education could be of any use, but staying silent and doing nothing would have been akin to accepting her fate. Though Nasha was wary at first, everyone was friendly to her and she quickly became accustomed to these interactions. As Nasha was born and raised in Palcemith, she knew that the country benefited from the Ancient Dragon Kharis’s blessings. As she learnt more and more about their history and culture, she nevertheless began to feel that the role of the Sacrificial Priestess, chosen wilfully by the Shrine for an arbitrary death, was extremely unreasonable. Nasha expressed her opinion to the Crown Prince and others who visited her. She requested that she be allowed to visit not just the castle, but also the Shrine to the Ancient Dragon Kharis and the library full of wisdom. And after several days, with the condition that she be accompanied by someone, she was granted permission to leave the room to which she was confined. When she headed to the Shrine, His Highness accompanied her. The Crown Prince had beautiful golden hair, deep blue eyes, and a gentle demeanor. Despite his position at the top of the country’s hierarchy, he was always supportive of Nasha, who was prone to crippling anxiety. She was charmed by him before she knew it. The shrine was where she first met the [Dragon Priestess], Julieta O’shayne Asbal. Frankly, Nasha harboured hostility towards Julieta’s arrogant attitude from the moment she was introduced by the Crown Prince as his fiancée. The same could be said of Julieta. When His Highness spoke about his hope for them to get along as contemporaries, Julieta hid her face, which was stiff with caked-on made-up, with her fan and spat out a reply.
“I refuse. I do not think I can converse with such a plebian.” “…That’s what I should say!”
Julieta laughed scornfully at Nasha’s shout. His Highness covered for Nasha because of her frustration at her inability to retort.
“Julieta, you’ve said too much. Besides, Nasha is the Sacrificial Priestess. She may have been born in town, but her status now is equal to that of the King….She is not lowborn.”
A large, warm hand tightly held a soft handkerchief… Gently wiping away Nasha’s involuntary tears. Unsurprisingly, Julieta, the Crown Prince’s fiancée, was infuriated by the romantic scene unfolding in front of her. Nasha stayed a few days in a guestroom meant for visiting patricians in order to investigate the Shrine’s internal affairs but Julieta harassed her at every turn. The attempts to break Nasha down backfired; His Highness distanced himself from Julieta even more as a result. Meanwhile, Nasha’s twin Melia was chasing her missing sister and eventually, arrived at the royal capital. She was delighted at Nasha’s safety but surprised at the role imposed onto her, and offered to help look for a way to escape. Nasha was greatly relieved to learn of their family’s current good fortune from Melia. Their current circumstances weren’t bad and it seemed like her brother would be able to undergo surgery thanks to a generous aristocrat. Having learnt of their family’s status from Melia, Nasha was greatly relieved. Nasha’s affection for the Crown Prince grew stronger as they spent more and more time together thereafter. Even so, he had an established fiancée. Further, she was fated to be killed as a sacrifice. She could do nothing. Her twin sister with an identical face was the one who consoled Nasha earnestly through her depression. Just like Nasha, Melia was in love. It was with the taciturn knight who had saved her from the kidnappers moments before she lost her chastity, and it had happened right before she entered the capital.
“Nasha, you’re in love with His Highness, right?” “…Love, huh. Is it that obvious?” “Definitely. Even if we were not twins, I could tell. Especially since…I am also in love.”
They swore to each other that they wouldn’t give up on their love. His Highness would visit Nasha’s room everyday at that point, as if seeing her was part of his daily routine. Nasha took the plunge one day and handed the Crown Prince a letter, asking him to come to her balcony at night.
That night. His Highness snuck in to visit Nasha, who waited nervously. The Crown Prince led Nasha by the hand, guiding her. The pair faced each other on the balcony at night. Underneath the starry sky they pledged their secret love to one another. Resolute, the Crown Prince and his close aides acted quickly. After gathering evidence of Julieta’s attempts to harm Nasha, they uncovered the misconduct of her father, Prime Minister Anderheim, and his collusion with Head Priest Malacia. They successfully obtained the forbidden drug [Suimo] that had been smuggled to foreign countries.
Finally the fateful day arrived. They denounced the Dragon Priestess Julieta in the middle of the audience hall with all the nobles and vassals gathered. Adding insult to injury, they freed Nasha by condemning the unconscious Julieta, victim of a broken engagement, to take over as Sacrificial Priestess. His Highness’s proclamation that he would protect her made Nasha ecstatic. Moved to tears and embracing the Crown Prince before the throne, a clear voice entered Nasha’s ears.
“You wish to annul your engagement with my daughter Julieta and install Nasha Laturi, who was brought into the castle as the Sacrificial Priestess as your new fiancée. And Julieta, who has long served as the Dragon Priestess, shall now become the Sacrificial Priestess…Is that the gist of what the Crown Prince said? “
The evil Prime Minister. Anderheim Yucht Asbal. That man, disliked even by his own son, confirmed the Crown Prince’s intent with indifference. In contrast to the expectations of Nasha and the others, he easily accepted the matter. The Crown Prince’s close aide and child prodigy Morino had expected that Anderheim would surely have been enraged at what happened to Julieta. Anticipating that he would negotiate secretly with his allies among the nobility, they had made a plan to confirm his actions. That plan went spectacularly awry. Come to think of it, it was as if a cog came loose in that moment, and unexpected things kept happening as a result. The Dragon Priestess wasn’t a figurehead but a position with a severe burden for the priestess. The role of Dragon Priestess was handed to Melia in exchange for Julieta taking the position of Sacrificial Priestess. Julieta, no longer concerned about her complexion, was freed from her thick makeup, and her divinely pure face attracted those gathered at the banquet unanimously, both the high-born and their retainers. The Suimo Morino had prepared as a trump card was both a form of medical treatment and a means to conceal royal corruption. One by one, the close aides who had gone to observe the former Prime Minister Anderheim’s actions in order to know their enemy ended up admiring him. While Nasha was granted freedom after her betrothal to the Crown Prince, she now had to face unaccustomed lessons to prepare for becoming a queen. She undertook the lessons for the sake of His Highness, though she was a reluctant student who did not learn easily. Nasha gradually started throwing tantrums which caused a drastic increase in the turnover rate of her instructors. In the meantime, foisted with the role of the Dragon Priestess, Melia slowly went mad. She was eventually sentenced to the Dona’s Penalty for attempts on Julieta’s life.
“I’ll achieve enough happiness for my sister, Melia, as well. Otherwise, I can’t forgive myself.”
Only the Crown Prince remained as kind as ever to the lip-biting Nasha. Despite the Crown Price’s attitude, as Nasha began to wield her power without regard to her position, the others near her treated her with increasing coldness. Just a few months more, she told herself. Nasha had no choice but to believe this was true: As long as Julieta was offered as the Sacrificial Priestess to the Ancient Dragon and His Highness was crowned as King, things will definitely turn in her favor. Then, on the day of the coup d’état. After getting the three of them out of the audience hall, Jolga instructed Morino to take the Crown Prince and his fiancée Nasha to hide out in the basement of the former Asbal mansion. He bought them time by staying behind alone to hinder pursuers. Morino immediately ran to the Oswein mansion to request reinforcements. With utmost reluctance, the remaining pair finally arrived at the Asbal mansion where they found the promised underground shelter for royalty. His Highness Vikram and Nasha spent a full day hiding there, fearful of shadows. Nasha then discovered the entrance to an underground passage at the back of the room. She recalled the words Jolga had secretly whispered to her a few days ago. Misfortune had befallen her family and they were saddled with debt. Her whole family with the exception of her parents had been sold to the circus. Coincidentally, it was the same Abyss Ring Circus that was in the capital now. If she negotiated well, they might release her family. However, she could neither inform His Highness nor allow him to find out. After all, it would be difficult to become queen when her family was in debt. Nasha heeded the words spoken by Jolga moments before they crossed the drawbridge connecting the castle and the capital: “The enemy came to the capital from the east. It’s possible that they have left men on the road or at the checkpoints. So if you’re going to escape, run towards the south! With any luck, you’ll be able to find the circus tents…! “
She persuaded the Crown Prince and then dashed through the tunnel. In the dark passageway, she ran unwaveringly in the direction she thought was south. Soon, the passage before her brightened slightly. Gasping for breath as she snuck a peek outside, Nasha saw the exit was in the corner of the grasslands, under a bridge built over a small river. She exited with trepidation and looked around, In the gradually dimming light, she spotted a few tents set up beyond the grass. In the center of the tents was the giant big top decorated with red and white stripes. Doubtless it was the Abyss Ring Circus tent she had visited a few days ago with the Crown Prince.
“There it is…!”
Huffing and puffing, Nasha sprinted towards the circus tents. The circus in the evening hours was usually filled with spectators. Perhaps due to the incident happening in the capital that day, there was no sign of anyone today, neither at the fence that separates the pavilion from the grasslands, nor at the gates.
“Oh no…What should I do now?”
Bewildered, she nevertheless climbed the fence. She peered at the area which seemed to house the animals, wondering if there was anyone around.
A familiar voice called her name, and Nasha turned to see.
Dressed only in thin clothing and trapped in a cage were her two elder sisters.
“Sisters, what happened…!?” “Shh… Nasha, be quiet…”
In response to Nasha’s fervor as she hurried to them with wide eyes, her two sisters spoke calmly in hushed tones.
“…We were sold into debt slavery.” “No way!…Both of you!?” “Eugene is likely in one of the tents as well but…I’m not sure he can be rescued.” “I’ll save him! You two should also escape!” “…Can you open this cage?”
At her sister’s words, Nasha looked around and noticed a bunch of keys hanging on a pillar in the tent. She grabbed them immediately. After trying several keys in the cage’s lock, it finally opened with a click.
“My!” “Amazing, Nasha…!” “Well, hurry up…!”
She opened the doors of the cage wide and stretched out her arm towards her sisters, only for it to be grasped tightly by both pairs of hands.
Startled, Nasha was dragged into the cage by her sisters while still dumbfounded. While Nasha was unable to comprehend the situation, one of her sisters approached the entrance of the cage and shut the door. She removed the key that had remained inserted in the lock and threw it away outside, confining them with her own hands.
“S…Sister…what are you…?”
At Nasha’s doubtful words, her two sisters’ only reply was a simple smile.
Within the kennel. A black-furred magical beast that already impregnated both his beautiful wives rested leisurely. The magical beast was dozing off after playing with his wives, but he roused upon sensing someone entering his nest. He slowly padded closer to see his two wives grinning and an unfamiliar human.
A female with an aroma similar to his wives.
She stood right there.
Nasha was found squatting with her arms around her knees in an alleyway in the capital. Two days had passed.
The gestation period of magical beasts is half a year.
Returning triumphantly to the castle, Baron Suey tossed the apprehended Crown Prince to the ground in front of the large entrance gate where I was waiting to greet him.
“Baron Suey, you’ve returned safely. Seems like everything went smoothly.”
Baron Suey, who had ridden across the drawbridge straight to the castle gate, was pleased upon hearing my words.
“Oh, Lord Anderheim. There were some hindrances along the way… but as you can see-! “
As he spoke, the trussed-up Crown Prince Vikram let out a muffled moan from where he laid after being dropped onto the cobblestones. Casting a quick glance at the Crown Prince, I promptly directed my attention back to the Baron with a disinterested expression. The horse Baron Suey was seated astride nudged me in a spoiled manner, so I gently stroked the tip of its nose. And as if I’d just noticed, I opened my eyes wide in surprise.
“Oh my, isn’t this the Knight Commander’s horse? “
Jolga’s horse was a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred, with a white star on its forehead. It was a warhorse that Jolga had personally raised since it was a foal, and was so outstanding that there had been offers to buy it for large sums of money. In response to my question, Baron Sway nodded, unable to hide his excitement, and opened the coat he was wearing for me to see. The sword he wore under the slate grey coat was [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons]. Once wielded by the hero Palcemith, it’s now an heirloom inherited by each generation of Knight Commander, and its current owner should be the Royal Knights’ Knight Commander Jolga.
“The Knight Commander’s horse was at the mansion His Highness was hiding in. Furthermore, this sword was carefully hidden there too. …This is surely a divine revelation that I’m the next owner of this [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons].” “…Hoh.” “Lord Anderheim. Once Prince Borzeff ascends the throne, won’t you recommend me for Knight Commander? Let’s completely reform the Knights and gather loyal knights befitting our new country.” “…Goodness.”
With a complete opposite attitude from the passionate Baron Sway. I slumped my shoulders and let out a sound expressing deep disappointment.
“…You’re a classic example of what happens when you give privilege to the ignorant.” “Lord Anderheim…? “ “Well, you have my gratitude for safely carrying it over. His Highness as well…”
A shadowed figure hidden in a blind spot created by the pillars, pulled a bow taut and released an arrow.
Baron Suey might not have comprehended what had happened up until the moment he perished. Shot through the neck, his body bending backwards with his eyes rolling back into his head, the man fell from the saddle.
Turning over Baron Sway’s corpse with my foot, I pulled the [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons] from his belt.
“…Jolga’s precious sword and beloved horse.”
I knew that if this kind of attention seeker saw the [Quistacis: He who Controls Dragons] or Jolga’s beloved horse, he would surely claim them as his own. And that he would definitely bring it to the castle in order to show it off. Had I brought them myself, both the horse and the sword would have been confiscated. In order to prevent this, I had given instructions to move the horse, with the sword still hidden, to the Asbal mansion in advance. Thus, I dispatched Baron Suey, whom I felt was suitable for the task.
“Though I didn’t expect him to subdue the Crown Prince so quickly…”
Upon confirming Jolga’s release, the knights had moved like fish in water, swiftly overpowering the mercenaries in the castle. In the end, wasn’t it just a normal delivery of Jolga’s horse and sword, with the Crown Prince tacked on? As if answering my complaints, the figure hidden in the pillar’s shadow came running over.
“Father! Your Highness! “ “Sigurd, well done.” “…Sigurd…! “
While I supported the Crown Prince, who had somehow managed to rise into a sitting position, Sigurd carefully untied the rope.
After the scene in the audience hall. While I was struggling with the lock on Jolga’s shackles, Sigurd, who had returned to the audience hall after freeing the knights in the guardroom, released it with a single blow of his hilt. Deprived of my fun, I grumbled darkly, but upon hearing my complaints Jolga stooped down to whisper in my ear, and I quickly regained my good mood.
I patted Jolga’s head while ignoring the suspicious Sigurd, and headed to the castle entrance to welcome the ignorant Baron Suey.
“…Your Highness, please be at ease. The rebel forces within the castle have already been subdued.” “Anderheim…”
At my words, the Crown Prince’s blue eyes were blurred with relief and emotion. His blond hair, covered in dust, slowly lowered in our direction. Even before Sigurd, who was flustered at his intention, I stopped the Prince from lowering his head and smiled gently while shaking my head.
“Such an action is unnecessary. Rather, Lord Morino has begun preparations to deal with the aftermath. First, please show your vassals in the audience hall that you’re unharmed. Everyone has been worried for your safety.” “Father is right, Your Highness. We did what was expected of us as your vassals… Your Highness does not need to make a fuss about it.” “Sigurd… Anderheim… Thanks.”
Smiling through his tears, Vikram wiped the corner of his eyes with the back of his hand, and entered the large gate accompanied by Sigurd. The gate he had escaped through just a few days ago, now welcomed him back. Towards the softly sniffling Vikram’s back, I spoke again.
“If I may be so presumptuous, there is something I must say, Your Highness.” “Hn…? “
Vikram turned back to look at me, and I adjusted my glasses before leisurely crossing my arms.
“This rebellion… With all due respect, was partially caused by Your Highness and Lady Nasha’s behavior.” “…As expected, it seems that way.” “Yes. There were sufficient reasons why your disgruntled vassals sided with His Royal Highness. However, there is still the Dragon God Festival coming in about a month. I believe it’s best that you figure out how to handle this rebellion without aggravating the situation.”
This was where we could make use of Borzeff’s wife, Peragene, and their daughter, Vanellope. Especially the daughter, who could become a key person in the future. Since Lutora is pursuing them, I believe there’s nothing to worry about, but in the unlikely event that Count Lowe took drastic action, her safety may be in danger. Though mainly, it’s her chastity at risk.
“Do you have a plan, Anderheim?” “I have one I’m thinking of… But that can only be proposed after we’ve invited Lady Peragene’s daughter, Lady Vanellope, to the castle, so there’s nothing we can do for now. First, as I mentioned earlier, we should head over and congratulate the loyal vassals who were truly worried for Your Highness.” “…Understood.”
Facing the nodding Crown Prince. I confirmed another question I had.
“By the way, Your Highness, what happened to Lady Nasha? Was she not together with you in the basement? “
In order to capture someone like Vikram, it’s common for the weaker companion to be used as a hostage. Looking troubled by my question, and after some hesitation, Vikram replied as if he had made up his mind.
“Actually… last night while we were hiding. We discovered a secret passageway for royalty in the back of the shelter. I had heard of its existence from Father before, but to think it truly existed.” “Ah… Indeed, it’s there, a dark underground passageway. Do you mean to say, Lady Nasha…? “ “Yes… I tried to warn her that it was dangerous, and to patiently wait for rescue… But she said she’d go and call for help… and then I didn’t have time to stop her.” “Haa.”
In other words, she’s missing in action.
“Your Highness, how much time has passed since Nasha entered that secret passage?”
At Sigurd’s question, Vikram put his hand to his forehead and counted the hours with his fingers.
“I’m not sure… when we discovered the passage, it should’ve been the day after the night we went into hiding… so it’s been over half a day since she disappeared.” “…I see.” “Even if she had wanted to call in reinforcements from somewhere, an official letter signed by me or something similar would be required… Nasha can be somewhat reckless, so it’s worrying.”
If she managed to escape the country, that would be quite the problem too. Also, she can’t be summed up as just ‘reckless’.
“…Let’s start by searching nearby. We can assign some of the knights. Starting from the surroundings of the Asbal estate, we’ll slowly increase the search radius and track down Lady Nasha.” “Thanks, Anderheim… I’ll be troubling you.” “Naturally… Please do not worry, Your Highness.”
Truly, there’s no need to worry.
After all, I knew exactly where she was headed.
Following what Jolga had told her in secret, and believing that the Crown Prince’s acquaintance, Ringmaster Ducali, would be able to help.
Towards the south of the capital. Towards the grassland where the circus tents are spread out.
Awaiting my carriage that crossed the drawbridge and passed the stone gates on it’s way into the royal castle, was a group of soldiers in armor bearing the markings of another nation, presumably Borzeff’s protégés. Giving my name to the soldiers who surrounded the carriage and pointed spears at me, I requested an audience with Borzeff. After exchanging glances, they ordered me to wait inside the carriage. Obeying obediently, I looked out the window at the royal castle I hadn’t visited for four months. The Palcemith castle was a fortress situated in the middle of the capital, with the streets forming a semi-circle shape around it. Usually, the drawbridge that separated the capital and the royal castle was left down, with guardsmen stationed on each side. The castle was built atop an artificial embankment, and its exterior seemed reminiscent of Peles Castle in Romania. However, the beautiful castle beloved by generations of Palcemith kings did not look much different from when I saw it last.
“…So that’s how it is.”
It was a victory for Borzeff, who had stormed into the city, sticking to the basic principle of a night raid and a dawn attack. That was why there were barely any signs of a raid within the castle. Not to mention, Borzeff had been exiled from the country over twenty years ago. Despite having been exiled, there were few people left who could have recognized the former Royal Prince. Because of this, it was very unlikely that anyone had tried to stop him at the border. Even so, judging from how smooth the operation went, there should be a spy within the Crown Prince’s forces. The countryside nobles’ rebellion or the merchant guild’s opposition was one thing, but I had predicted that a betrayal of the royal nobility would be further in the future… The Crown Prince and Nasha’s deeds had garnered more hate than I thought. Taking a cursory glance around, there was no trace of the Royal Knights who usually serve as guards. They were likely under house arrest around the knights’ guardpost.
“Anderheim Yucht Asbal. Royal Prince Borzeff has approved your audience. I shall guide you there… Please do not make any careless mistakes.” “Fu… Thank you for the warning. Morino, let’s go.” “Okay.”
After getting off the carriage, with Morino following behind me like an attendant, I walked through the familiar castle led by the soldier. It goes without saying that the increase in paintings and artwork displayed in the corridors was thanks to Nasha. I wished to tell her to choose better pieces if she was going to display anything.
“…The audience room is up ahead.”
A short distance from the audience room where Vikram had announced the annulment of his engagement with Julieta. Just around the corner, a stone’s throw away from the destination, two soldiers stood blocking the passage. The soldier who escorted us came to a stop and turned back to Morino and me.
“Before you enter, we will check you for any weapons.” “Hm. Of course, I have no objections. Right here? “ “Yes.” “Understood… Morino.” “Okay.” “Hold this for me.”
I grasped the bottom of the lapel of my knee-length coat, and slowly pulled it off my shoulder. The sleeves coiled around my elbows, stuck due to the frills and I allowed Morino, who was waiting behind, to help pull it off and entrusted my lightly bunched coat to him. I had chosen to wear a loose-fitting pirate blouse made of a comfortable material under my gilet. Opening the front of the gilet, I coiled my fingers around my cravat as I took it off, tantalizing the men with occasional peeks of my skin.
“…Is something wrong?”
When I peered up at him from underneath my glasses, the soldier who had fallen silent took a step back. The two soldiers blocking the passage too, hadn’t moved from their spots but their eyes were glued on me.
“I didn’t bring anything… that could possibly hurt His Royal Highness Borzeff.”
With a soft smile, I grabbed the soldier’s hand, who didn’t seem to be starting the body search, and placed it on my chest.
“Then, please investigate.” “Uhh…” “Quickly… and thoroughly.”
The soldier, who had been frozen, started moving his hand, awkwardly tracing my body. He’s no Malacia, but he’s a little interesting.
“Hn…” “! “
The moment his palm traced my hips, a soft moan escaped me and once again, the soldier’s movements halted. I tilted my head and looked up at the man, who was slowly flushing red, and drew my eyebrows together slightly in a troubled expression.
“Fufu, sorry. It was…a little ticklish.” “I-I see.” “Aah… So just a little. A little harder would be fine too. “ “…! “
The soldier, who was more innocent than I thought, bit his lip and quickly patted down my butt and thighs to finish my body search. Hey, with this type of frisking, I can smuggle in a lot of things, you know?
“Next…You in the back.” “Okay.”
I accepted back the coat I had left with Morino without putting it back on, remaining in just my gilet and blouse as I watched over Morino as the soldiers searched him. Rather than Morino undergoing the inspection in front of them, the attention of the soldiers blocking the passage continued to flicker toward me. I gave them a sideways glance and licked my lips a little, and the two soldiers averted their eyes in obvious discomposure. Hm… they don’t seem to be formal soldiers. Must be some hodgepodge mercenaries. As I recall, Borzeff was sent as an ambassador to Kicoed, a maritime country in the southeast of the continent. Unlike Palcemith, which maintains a favorable climate thanks to the Ancient Dragon Kharis’s blessings, it’s a country that has a naturally mild climate and a thriving sea trade and fishing industry. It’s unclear how much influence Borzeff had gathered there, but it didn’t seem like he had any political power yet. Well, I expected as much the moment he had taken a high-class prostitute as a wife.
“…You may enter.”
When Morino’s shakedown was done, Morino and I, wearing my coat, followed the soldier down the corridor and around the corner. Not forgetting to smile at the two soldiers who had been blocking the road as we passed, I finally arrived before the audience hall, where Borzeff, who had achieved his coup d’etat, waited. The soldier stopped before the door, and in a loud voice, sought for permission to enter.
“…Your Highness Borzeff! I have brought Lord Anderheim Yucht Asbal! “ “Oh…! I’ve been waiting, enter! “ “Excuse me.”
It was a low, foul and unpleasant, hoarse voice that echoed from behind the door. Laid out beyond the door, was a scarlet carpet, unchanged from four months ago. On the throne atop the stairs at the end of the carpet, with a voluptuous beauty waiting upon him, proudly sat a man with his large belly jiggling as he laughed.
I approached the throne, and gently lowered my head in a respectful bow to Borzeff. Next to me, Morino obediently followed suit. On the throne there sat a fat and ugly middle-aged man, with an expression similar to that of a giant toad. It was said that time can change a man, but to think it would be to this extent. The only vestiges of his former beauty were the few strands of blond hair and the blue eyes buried within his flesh.
“Oohh, Anderheim…! You truly are the blood of the cursed Asbal, Prime Minister of the Silver Moon. You haven’t changed at all! “ “Thank you for your praise, Your Royal Highness. I never thought I would be granted an audience with you again. It’s fortunate that this Anderheim has survived till this day.” “Hm, I am pleased too. I had heard that you were stripped of your title as Prime Minister… That brat you brought along should be the new Prime Minister that damned Crown Prince appointed? “ “That’s correct. When Your Royal Highness conquered the castle, due to his inexperience, he had fled in shock. I explained the situation to him, and brought him along to give his greetings. In the future, please make use of him as if he were an extension of yourself.” “Wha…”
I pressed down on the back of the head of the surprised Morino, and prevented his inevitable outburst. I suppose he had not expected me to flatter Borzeff, and though I could feel his bewilderment growing, I needed him to remain silent for the time being.
“Hoh… Make use of that one’s pet, huh. Good idea. By the way, Anderheim, do you have no intention of becoming my ally? I value your ability greatly and I can ensure you won’t be treated badly. “Goodness… It is an honor, Your Royal Highness. If you don’t mind my incompetence, I will gladly oblige. “I see, I see! I had thought you’d say that! “
Slapping the armrest of the throne, Borzeff laughed loudly in a good mood. The mature woman clinging to his back should be Peragene. Unlike Borzeff, although she may be getting on in age, she was still beautiful in her own way.
“Incidentally, Anderheim. Do you have any idea where Vikram might have fled to? I’ve captured the Knight Commander, and those pesky knights are being monitored under lock and key. All that’s left is disposing of Vikram, and there will be no hindrances to my ascension to the throne.”
At Borzeff’s inquiry. I held my hand to my chest and answered clearly.
“Indeed. I had a mansion within the capital before I retired from the Prime Minister’s office.There is a place of refuge for the royal family in the basement of the former “Asbal Mansion”, where His Highness the Crown Prince is hiding.”