Why did Susanoi, the First Prince of Hinoe, decide to take on the giant serpent with its last head still intact instead of weakening all eight heads?
That was the question that Sigurd had been pondering at the Oswein house before they left.
Susanoi already had a way to win, but he did not choose it… which meant that there must have been a reason for his decision.
“…Are you saying it’s because of King Neuschler?”
“Probably. I expected it from what the attendants had told me but judging by the look on the Black Panther Commander’s face, there can be no mistaking it.”
In the carriage, surrounded on both sides by Lidsalessaloth soldiers, I was explaining to Jolga and Princess Shirayuki the reason for our visit to Lidsalessaloth’s royal castle.
A few hours ago, a hulky man visited the first inn we booked upon entering Lidsalessaloth.
He had jet-black hair and golden eyes reminiscent of a feline beastkin. His bare arms and face were covered with several large scars. The Black Panther Commander-in-chief, Taiga Uru, who greeted us in a polite manner contrary to his rough appearance, told us that he was a direct messenger of the King of Lidsalessaloth. He was a bold man to have come alone with neither escort nor bodyguard to a place where Jolga and his knights were standing guard. From the way the innkeeper was prostrating himself, there was no doubt that it was him. As a representative of the Palcemith Kingdom, I greeted him. In return, he gave me a head-holding pail that he had hung on his horse’s saddle as a souvenir.
After leaving the pale Princess Shirayuki in the hands of his attendants, Jolga and I checked the contents of the pail. The owner of the head was one of the noblemen in Lidsalessaloth who had been identified as a collaborator in the recent coup d’état that had broken out in Palcemith. Taiga explained that he had the rest of the heads ready at the royal castle, to which I smiled and expressed my gratitude.
The man’s golden eyes widened a little when I offered to go and greet His Majesty if it was all right with him.
“Ah, I’m sorry for the late introduction. My name is Anderheim Yucht Asbal. I am the advisor to His Excellency, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Palcemith.”
“Oh! You are Anderheim, the renowned Sage of Palcemith?”
“I cannot say whether I am a Sage or not, but I am presently the only one known as Anderheim.”
“…I heard that you contributed greatly to settling the country’s internal affairs following His Majesty Vikram’s recent accession to the throne. My liege has also taken an exceptional interest in you.”
“Oh my, I’m honoured to hear that.”
I gave a quick glance to Jolga, took the official letter entrusted to me by His Majesty Vikram, and presented it to Taiga.
“I’ve been entrusted with a letter from King Vikrum Atrai Palcemith, explaining the situation across Lidsalessaloth and expressing his desire to befriend His Majesty Neuschler. I would appreciate it if you could convey this to His Majesty, Sir Taiga.”
“…Understood. I’ll pass it on.”
I let out a small “hmm” as Taiga took the official letter in his hand without hesitation. The first thing I did was to smile again when he looked me straight in the eyes, and then I proceeded to do what I did best: shake people up.
“I see. It seems that you have earned the trust of His Majesty to such an extent.”
At my words, Taiga’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“…What are you trying to say?”
“With all due respect, as far as I’ve heard, His Majesty Neuschler is visually impaired. So, normally, that official letter that you have with you would not be credible unless one gave it to him in person or had multiple eyewitnesses. But you just accepted it without hesitation…In other words, if it is from you, His Majesty Neuschler will not doubt it.”
“Hm… It is indeed true that His Majesty Neuschler would not doubt my words. He and I are sworn brothers. I’m proud to say that His Majesty trusts me more than anyone else, and vice versa. I would rather die than betray His Majesty. There is no need to be concerned about the authenticity of the letter.”
Taiga smiled slightly as he gazed at Princess Shirayuki, who was being protected by his attendants at some distance from us.
“Our objective is different. I apologize to you, but our friendship with Palcemith is secondary.”
“Princess Shirayuki of Hinoe, I didn’t expect you to venture into Lidsalessaloth voluntarily. How about this, Lord Sage? Why don’t you leave the Princess to us? Of course, in return, we will compensate you handsomely.”
“Well, well. What do you intend to do with Princess Shirayuki once you have her in your custody?”
I already knew the answer to this question, but Taiga gave a small snort in response to it and answered.
“Once it becomes known that Princess Shirayuki is in the custody of Lidsalessaloth, Hinoe will have no choice but to accept our help.”
“It would have been better if Hinoe had quietly joined Lidsalessaloth’s ranks from the beginning. In addition, it is not a bad thing for Princess Shirayuki. My liege is still an unmarried man. Won’t it be better to be treated as a candidate for His Majesty’s official wife than to be married as a concubine to a man who is as old as her father?”
When I suddenly burst out into laughter, Taiga looked at me suspiciously.
“Oh, pardon me,” I said, unable to stifle the urge to laugh that welled up in the back of my throat.
King Neuschler and Taiga probably wanted to protect Prince Susanoi’s precious brother, Princess Shirayuki, from us under the guise of a hostage and keep him away from the struggle for the succession that was going on in Hinoe.
“What’s so funny, Lord Sage of Palcemith?”
“Oh, my. What a truly wonderful friendship.”
“Did you learn of this beforehand? Did you know about the younger sibling‘s frailty from your friend… Prince Susanoi?”
Taiga’s eyes shook in shock for but a moment. It was only a slight flicker that lasted for only the blink of an eye. However, it was enough to confirm my thoughts.
“…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Hmm, is that so? …Well, it doesn’t concern me either way.”
Suddenly, with a playful gesture, I pointed my finger at the profile of the young princess.
“The Knight Commander is a gentleman. Of course, he has no interest in messing with such a young princess, but… if by any chance…”
I cut my words off on purpose.
“If Hinoe’s side had presented us with falsehoods… For example, the Princess, who promised to become the Knight Commander’s concubine upon the defeat of the giant serpent. If that ‘Princess’ turned out not to actually exist or the like, what then?”
“I’m certain that even the mild-mannered Knight Commander wouldn’t be able to remain silent if he was treated in such a deceptive manner.”
Taiga’s complexion did not change. However, his golden eyes conveyed his hostility to me more eloquently than his words.
“Although we are no match for the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth, we too have a mining slave system. We all know that the end of the beautiful inmates sent to the mines, both men and women, is nothing short of tragic. Kukuku.”
Taiga’s gaze at me was laced with murderous intent.
The words spat out with a cluck of his tongue were, as usual, a compliment to me. Still, Taiga did not draw his sword, as if he understood that there was no chance of winning if he were to fight now. That was what one would expect from the commander-in-chief of a great nation.
“Being a fiend is fine with me. Your beloved King Neuschler accomplished a blood-soaked revolution…and then some.”
That was King Neuschler’s backstory, as regarded by the outside world. He was a blind and evil king, who assassinated his biological mother who had neglected him. He also beheaded his father, who, in fear of the Demonic Eye, had cut off young King Neuschler’s eyes. But those rumours were only meant to deceive the public.
“You have avenged your father’s death splendidly… I, Anderheim, admire you.”
This time, Taiga’s shoulders visibly shook.
“I can’t leave Princess Shirayuki with you, but I was thinking of having her pay His Majesty a visit. If His Majesty Neuschler allows it, I would like to accompany Princess Shirayuki to Nephimen.”
His eyes looked down at me as he bit his lip slightly, trying to hide his agitation.
…What a nice gaze. It reminded me of the old Morino and Jolga.
“What is the purpose…?”
“Shall I tell His Majesty Neuschler, of the ‘flower that blooms in lapis lazuli,’ directly?”
The flower that blooms in lapis lazuli that I mentioned was the term used for eyes with special brilliant colours that appeared only in the men of the Dardenian royal family. These beautiful irises resembled the petals of a reddish flower opening in a deep blue lustre. In my original world, they were known as “Earth Eyes.”
Who was the real father of King Neuschler?
Even though he had lost his sight, it was commonly believed that King Neuschler’s eyes were the “Demonic Eyes,” Even if King Neuschler had inadvertently opened his eyelids, there would have been no one to directly see them. Therefore, it was a sad truth that only the survivors of the tightly-knit Mutani tribe knew.
…It was easy for me to guess.
At last, the respectful tone of Taiga’s speech for me was gone. I just smirked, the edges of my lips lifting in a smile.
It had been more than a month since we had received our guest from Hinoe. While we waited for Princess Shirayuki to recover, Morino, myself, and the other civil servants were not sitting idly by. I instructed my secret agents who had been hiding in various parts of the continent to gather information on the relationship between Lidsalessaloth and Hinoe. Not just the current situation, but their relationship over the past ten years or so.
What came to light was a peculiar coincidence of a certain “period.”
The Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth and the Eastern Kingdom of Hinoe: despite being neighbours, the two countries had been in constant conflict for many years and were what one might call bitter enemies. The two countries had been skirmishing for a long time, but about ten years ago, they suddenly stopped. The reason for that could be easily guessed. It was because of the appearance of the great serpent in Hinoe. Naturally, this was not the time to be fighting with Lidsalessaloth.
However, about five years later, unexplained developments began to appear in the logistics between the two countries.
The westernmost part of Hinoe — which was the land bordering Lidsalessaloth — had been given to Prince Susanoi, who completed his coming-of-age ceremony at that time. Meanwhile, the easternmost part of Lidsalessaloth was the domain of commander-in-chief Taiga Uru. Because of their proximity to the border, both countries must have entrusted the lands to their most trusted vassals. There were underwater volcanoes in the waters stretching northward from the border, and both territories were said to have several therapeutic hot springs.
Even I could not imagine what kind of encounter they had. But the First Prince of Hinoe, the young King of Lidsalessaloth, and the Black Panther Commander-in-chief who served as his protector had encountered each other in secret and had developed a friendship.
Probably, at some point, they dreamt of a future where the two countries could join forces.
“From then on, there was an irregular relaxation of tariffs between the westernmost territory of Hinoe and the easternmost territory of Lidsalessaloth. On the Lidsalessalothen side, the tariffs were placed on food imported from Hinoe, and on the Hinoen side, the tariffs were placed on fuel, especially iron ore and coal. They only imported from each other when either the crops of Lidsalessaloth suffered from severe cold damage or there was a shortage of materials in Hinoe. There was no direct support, but rather an arrangement to help each other’s countries in the form of better logistics.”
“And my brother did that…?”
I nodded in affirmation in response to Princess Shirayuki.
After that chance meeting, having obtained permission from the Black Panther Commander-in-chief, Taiga, to visit the royal castle, we were flanked by a renewed escort of soldiers from Lidsalessaloth as we drove our carriage to the royal capital, Nephimen.
“No doubt about it. The tariff relaxation enacted at that time was not an interstate treaty, but an ordinance signed between the territories. Only Prince Susanoi and Commander Taiga had the authority to do so.”
“The public sentiment between the two nations of Lidsalessaloth and Hinoe at the time was not serene. Even if the two leaders were on friendly terms, it would not have been an easy feat to establish peace.”
Next to me, Jolga also let out a sigh.
“While gathering information about their history, I also looked into the folklore about the giant serpent. One thing was quite interesting. Apparently, if one were to cut off a head of the serpent that possessed high spiritual power and immediately gouge out its eyeballs from the head, it would turn into a mirror. That mirror becomes a spiritual mirror that can ‘restore’ whatever ‘broken’ thing the owner desires, just once.”
“…! Then, could it be that big brother…?”
“It is a possibility. I’m sure he wanted to use the spiritual mirror to fix King Neuschler’s eyes.”
Prince Susanoi would have regarded Princess Shirayuki’s physical weakness as “inherent,” so he would be excluded from the mirror. If he had poisoned all eight heads, then the spiritually powerful serpent’s head needed would not be as powerful as it should. Thus, even if he were to gouge them out, the eyeballs might not become mirrors. That was why Prince Susanoi challenged the serpent in the eighth year. Without being able to use the “Dragon Slaughtering Sword”… In order to heal his precious friend.
“I heard from Yoimachi, who accompanied Prince Susanoi to defeat the serpent, that the Prince didn’t use the sword-wielding fighting style that had been inherited by the Sasaragi family for generations. It is said that he used to fight with a low posture. Holding a small katana in both hands combined with martial arts to toss the serpent around. That fighting-style… It’s the same as the one most exclusive to the Mutani tribe led by Commander Taiga.”
Having mastered the techniques taught by his friends, Prince Susanoi was even able to remove the head of a serpent possessing steel scales that no iron blade could penetrate.
But after that, Prince Susanoi’s life was snuffed out by an unknown assailant.
“It was only after that that the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth, which had maintained a neutral stance toward the slaying of the serpent, suddenly began to approach Hinoe for assistance in defeating the giant serpent. King Neuschler and Commander Taiga probably thought that Prince Susanoi had failed to defeat the serpent. The whole invasion act was more of a cover to avenge their friend’s death… Kukuku, how amusing.”
“Is this really the time to be amused…?”
My shoulders shook as I laughed. Princess Shirayuki held her tongue as if she were having trouble responding, and Jolga’s expression was one of fond exasperation.
“Well, you’ll see. King Neuschler is a smart man. He should be a great backer of Princess Shirayuki if things go well after he learns the hidden truth.”
Just as I said this, the body of the carriage jumped up and down.
I looked out the window and saw that the carriage carrying us was approaching a bridge over a large river near the royal capital, Nephimen. Beyond that, we could see the royal capital surrounded by black walls.
“…well then, let’s go.”
The Blind Evil King, Neuschler Ladav Heine.
I apologize, but I am going to have to take advantage of your good nature.
A snake’s eyelids never close, so they were thought to be mirrors.
Kagami-mochi (mirror rice cake) resembles a coiled snake.1
Although some of the miasma in the forest had dissipated due to the Saint’s purification ritual, there was still a subtle heaviness and humidity that lingered in the air. This made the place unbearable for anyone other than the veteran knights and mages with strong enough magical resistance.
That made it all the more eerie to see Seiichirou, who could not even withstand mana on its own, standing in such a place with an amiable smile on his face.
“I thought we would be short of people since the civil servants were unable to join us. If the knights of the Third Knight Order are willing to help us, then we’re all good to go, Mr. East!”
The aforementioned knights of the Third Knight Order frowned. It was highly disturbing that the otherworlder their Commander had been looking out for and taking care of all this time and was now talking to them in an overtly saccharine and cheerful manner. Even the men from the Second Knight Order stoof at a distance with wry expressions.
“Wait a minute!” a boisterous voice shouted. “I didn’t hear anything about this! What are you trying to do, you bastard!”
Surprisingly, the objection had come from the head of the Court’s Magic Department – Director Zoltan – who had raised his voice. Perhaps it was because Zoltan had been a rank holder in the Metabo Reserve Army, but he seemed to have made it this far in his career as the magic department’s director without incident.
“Huh? That’s strange,” Seiichirou intoned, “I spoke to Mr. East, the Deputy Director, the day after I met him at the banquet…”
That was a lie. To be more precise, Seiichirou was unable to talk to East about it because Aresh had unintentionally interfered, so Seiichirou had resorted to talking to East the day before yesterday. As long as the fact that he had talked to East beforehand was true, then telling a little white lie to accomplish this goal was fine.
“Is that true, East!?” Zoltan turned to stare down his deputy director.
“Well~ I wonder~?” East murmured to himself in that same obtuse way he often spoke. And if one were in the magic division, knowing well that this behaviour of East’s was commonplace, one would be willing to accept such an answer because East held a decently high position.
“So, that’s good, isn’t it? This is a job that can only be done by those from the Court’s Magic Department who are skilled in magic and are familiar with magical studies. Therefore, I am also willing to offer you a special reimbursement for your services should you choose to do this task.”
As soon as they heard this, Seiichirou felt all of the mages’ eyes light up. They must have been struggling greatly with their everyday research expenses to warrant such a reaction.
“How can you, a mere deputy director of the accounting department, decide such a thing on your own?” Zoltan challenged, looking suspicious of such a monetary promise.
“Don’t worry. You can find the signatures of both the director of the accounting department and His Excellency, the prime minister, right here.”
In his hand, Seiichirou had pulled out a signed document from his pocket. It was the real deal, so he handed it over to Zoltan willingly without putting on airs.
“Hmm… indeed,” the director of the magic department mumbled while reviewing the piece of paper.
That should handle the magic department.
Seiichirou then asked Zoltan, who insisted that he be placed in charge, to give instructions to the mages and asked East to select someone with exceptionally strong mana resistance.
Seiichirou stopped to wait there again. “Now then, those from the Third Knight Order…” he murmured under his breath.
When he turned around, he caught sight of Yua who still looked a little pale. The silver-haired prince who was supporting her glared at him.
“You!” Prince Julius narrowed his eyes even further. “You’ve been doing whatever you pleased since a while ago! With whose permission, huh?”
Seiichirou had expected the royal to leave with Yua shortly after the ritual finished to look after her, but unfortunately, things did not seem to be going so smoothly.
“His Excellency, the Prime Minister’s permission. I have also received a letter from him saying that he has entrusted me with this matter.”
“I am the commander of this expedition!” the prince snarled.
“Yes, Your Highness, you are. So, the command of the expedition itself has been left to you, Your Highness. I, on the other hand, have been entrusted with a different matter.”
“What did you just say to me?” the crown prince snarled.
“Your Highness, should you not hurry and take the Saint to a place where she can safely rest?”
Seiichirou thought that if he placed emphasis on the Saint’s health first, Julius would take his leave, but now it was Yua’s turn to shake her head in disagreement.
“But… I-I want to stay here with you, Kondou-san,” she murmured pitifully in Julius’ arms.
“Yua…?” the prince turned to stare at her in wide-eyed disbelief.
Seiichirou could only narrow his eyes at the young girl, who looked up at him with an imploring expression on her fair face.
After all this time, Seiichirou had known about the dangers of this world and his own position in it. Regardless, he did not allow those things to get in the way of his work often, and there was little to nothing Seiichirou could do for Yua right now.
“The Saint must be very tired,” he tried again. “Please take her back to town and make sure she gets some rest.”
“So, what will you have us do?”
“Hmm…?” Seiichirou turned around to look at the owner of that voice.
Just when Seiichirou had finally thought that Yua, Julius, and the knights from the Second Knight Order who protected the royals and their guests had left, the prince and two of his escorts returned.
“I told you, I’m the commander of this expedition. The damage caused by the miasma is the most pressing issue for our country. There’s no way we can entrust something like that to an otherworlder who knows nothing about it.”
As the crown prince of this country, Seiichirou could understand Julius’ strong desire to do something about the noxious miasma himself. Still, that did not mean that an outsider from another world, who had been abducted by a summoning technique at the behest of the royal family, might not be able to offer some insight to the situation.
“Then, Your Highness, I would like you and your guards to stand back and watch for a moment.”
“Seiichirou,” Aresh called out. “What should the knights do?”
Now that the prince had quieted down, they could finally begin. Seiichirou gave the final instructions while trying not to stare at the knights who gave him varying expressions of disbelief, as if to say, ‘Are we really going to do this, too?’
“Yes, I would like you to escort the mages from the magic department and record the ‘warding’ that they will be applying.”
“Warding…?” The prince raised an eyebrow in confusion. “What are you trying to protect?”
“We’re going to protect this country,” Seiichirou explained.
Both the mages and the knights flashed clear looks of contempt as the royal official answered directly without hesitation.
“That is nonsense! Warding magic is a highly complex art that few people can use,” the prince argued. “I’m sure you’re thinking this is the best course of action to protect the people of this country from the horrible effects of miasma, but no matter how many mages we have here, we’ll never have enough to cast a protective barrier big enough to cover the entire country!”
Julius let out a sigh in frustration, as if Seiichirou was completely ignorant of the situation. In fact, of all the mages present, only eight were capable of casting this type of magic. But in Seiichirou’s opinion, that was more than enough.
“You could think of this from another way, you know,” the royal official reasoned.
Seiichirou had directed the eight mages to position themselves around the tree at even intervals and asked Aresh to ensure his knights guard them as they measured and recorded the distance to the miasma core… the giant deadwood tree itself.
East and the other mages, with strong mana resistance and sensing abilities, would then further discern and document as they got closer to the center.
The tree itself, which appeared to be the source of miasma, would be the object protected by magical wards.
“Since we know the main source of the miasma, we could use a different approach to stop it besides the Saint’s power. We can seal it up ourselves,” Seiichirou explained to Aresh.
As usual, the knight was sitting on Seiichirou’s bed in the room at the inn where they had departed from earlier that morning. Seiichirou held a document in his hand that showed the written measurements the mages had detected from the miasma concentration inside the Forest of Magic. It was approximately a three-meter area around the tree where a “ward” needed to be placed.
“Even so, reinforcement of the barrier will be required regularly once the miasma fully fills it; this is not a permanent type of magic.”
Seiichirou had already experienced that with his own body, as Aresh had been the one reapplying wards on him daily to ensure Seiichirou made it through his expedition in one piece. To test how long a single barrier could last, he had taken the time to plant some vegetation around a tree inside the village and asked one knight and one mage to stay behind in town to record how long it took for the magical ward to weaken.
“Ultimately, we’ll have Shiraishi-san complete the purification process before we apply the barrier and station a watchman in that forest to reinforce it periodically to prevent miasma from spilling out again.”
Of course, during that time, I would like the magic department to continue their research on eliminating the source of the miasma without purification magic.
“I’ve never bothered to think twice about this until you told me your plan,” the knight said softly after Seiichirou had finished speaking. Aresh appeared somewhat downcast now that Seiichirou looked closer, but he did not blame the knight for overlooking such a simple answer to the kingdom’s problem. It was easy for anyone to miss such an obvious solution if they were not purposefully looking for it.
“That’s likely because of the Saint’s presence,” Seiichirou explained without a hint of blame in his voice. “Not many people would consider another more time-consuming option when there is an easier one more readily available. They just stop thinking altogether.”
Well, except for some intellectually inquisitive people it would seem.
Seiichirou chuckled to himself lightly as he thought of a brightly colored sorcerer with sleepy eyes and a handsome middle-aged man with a head of taupe hair.
“Well, now you won’t have to go through the trouble of summoning a Saint from another world again, will you?”
Seiichirou smiled gently at Aresh, who had an irritable look on his otherwise attractive face.
“So what you’re saying is that it’s time we started cleaning up after our own messes, huh?”
However, Seiichirou had anticipated that this plan would not be so easily accepted by others. The presence of a Saint gave hope to the people and was a great trump card for the country. Zoltan had also been very vocal about that. The fact that his mages were able to summon a Saint was probably a good deterrent to neighbouring countries who were eyeing Romani with less than savoury interests.
Still, there was one more thing Seiichirou needed to do to convince the king that the Saint was no longer needed. In order to get started on that right away, Seiichirou attempted to stand and return to his desk to continue his work, but his arm was pulled from behind. The force was too strong, and he was forced to sink back down onto the bed.
“Sir Aresh…” Seiichirou said in a low, calm voice, “I still have some work to do…”
“Later,” the knight insisted. “You were exposed to the miasma source for far too long today. We need to reinforce your protective barrier.”
It was true that even the best well-trained knights who were more resistant to mana than an average person had left the forest worse for wear. The only reason why Seiichirou, who was undoubtedly the most vulnerable person in this world, had been able to keep such a calm demeanor was because of Aresh’s dedication to Seiichirou’s care.
That was exactly how he had come up with this idea in the first place, and he could not be more grateful to Aresh for having given him the elusive answer to the kingdom’s miasma troubles. All that aside, even this plan would require three more purification expeditions, and Seiichirou was sure he would be sent out again.
Although Seiichirou noticed the change in Aresh’s eyes, now was not the right time.
“Sir Aresh…” Seiichirou cleared his throat to command attention. “Is it really necessary we go to that extent?”
Whenever the protective spell was done being applied, Aresh would jump right onto Seiichirou, raining kisses over his eyes, ears, and neck as he took off their clothes and pressed them close together, skin to skin.
Seiichirou had tried to take his clothes off by himself once before, but Aresh’s hands had stopped him and done the undressing for him.
It’s infinitely more embarrassing to be stripped by someone else… Seiichirou groused.
Aresh’s large hands slowly crept up Seiichirou’s inner thighs, and he could not help but let out a yelp at the teasing contact.
“It’s absolutely necessary.”
That was a lie. Probably.
From what Seiichirou had gathered from their previous encounters, all he really needed to do was touch Aresh, and on rare occasions, ingest some of his bodily fluids, such as saliva or… There was really no need for Seiichirou to feel pleasure during the act or even perform such other crudeand unpalatable activities.
“No, there’s definitely no need for that—uh! Sir Aresh…! P-please don’t touch me there—ha… Ngh!”
With the strength of a knight commander who could, as expected, render Seiichirou’s feeble resistance futile, Aresh’s hand began to slip below the waistband of the royal official’s pants.
“Wait! With my mouth! I’ll do it with my mouth!!!” Seiichirou sputtered in panic.
Thus Seiichirou’s desperate plea went unanswered by the sudden sound of the door being flung open, and East’s cheerful voice.
What was the last thing that the young Neuschler saw?
It was the figure of a kind man, with red petals scattered on his chest, collapsing into a bed of blooming white flowers.
Forced to live in a shabby hut in the yard behind the royal castle, Neuschler grew up never knowing what warmth was. Even his father, the King, hated him for being filthy and repulsive. He was always alone.
Although he never had to worry about where to sleep or what to eat, everyone feared him and did not want to touch him. Everyone but the young man with the deep blue eyes, whom he met for the first time that day at the flowerbed in the backyard.
He picked up young Neuschler as if he were a treasure and kissed him on the cheek and forehead.
‘There’s nothing to worry about.’
‘I’ll protect you from now on.’
‘Let’s go back to my country together.’
That was the first act of unconditional love that Neuschler had ever received. It was the kind of love that parents who cared for their children would naturally offer. It was quite a common thing, but to children, it was like a ray of light.
Fearfully, he reached out his hand and clung to the warmth of the young man’s chest. The arms that embraced him were full of love as if he considered Neuschler as his own child.
But that happiness was snatched from Neuschler in the blink of an eye.
He did not remember what his father, who had looked like a demon as he pierced the young man’s chest with his sword, was shouting.
But the beauty of the young man’s eyes as they were losing their light, still gazing at Neuschler and smiling at him in an attempt not to frighten him, was the only thing that was still etched in his mind, even though he had now lost his eyesight.
The person who picked up Neuschler, who had both of his eyes torn out and was abandoned in the uninhabited wilderness, was Taiga, a child of the Mutani tribe. That tribe was regarded as barbarians in Lidsalessaloth at the time. The Mutani were a tribe with beastkin ancestry. Even today, though their blood has faded, they still boasted a high level of physical abilities. Taiga, the son of the chief, was only ten years old at the time. To convince the adults who opposed his decision to help the child cursed with the Demonic Eye, much less the child of the hated royal family, he announced that he would give up his position as the next chief if they would accept Neuschler.
In the Mutani tribe, the chief held the utmost respect and power within the clan. Taiga was the leading candidate for the next chief, both in terms of bloodline and ability, so the chief’s concubines, who had children of their own, were excited by his proposal. Taiga’s mother, the chief’s legal wife, Tabiya, a former respected female warrior, supported Taiga’s proposition, saying that it was her son’s own decision.
Thus, Neuschler became a member of the Mutani tribe and was raised by Tabiya as Taiga’s younger brother. Tabiya did not coddle Neuschler because of his blindness but strictly disciplined him so that he would not be dependent on others for everything, rather be able to do what he could on his own. Before long, the wounds from Neuschler’s torn eyes healed, and he was able to open his eyelids, even though sight would not return. When Taiga and Tabiya saw Neuschler’s eyes, they realized the crimes of King Aego.
After remonstrating with the outraged Taiga, Tabiya secretly went to visit Queen Clareth who was said to be “holed up” in a remote palace, but she was not there. Clareth had been imprisoned in a remote dungeon under the orders of King Aego II. She was already on the brink of death when she was rescued from the said dungeon by the Mutani. When Clareth was reunited with Neuschler, she burst into tears of joy and told him about his real father, Prince Luvent.
Clareth, who had been suffocating under the pressure of being forcibly married off to King Aego II, who was as old as her father, met the second prince of the Kingdom of Dardenia, Luvent, during a secret trip to the city. The King, Aego II, did not want his young and beautiful wife to be seen in public, so rarely took Clareth out. Thus, Prince Luvent met as a young man and woman, unaware that Clareth was the Queen, and they fell in love with each other. Eventually, the relationship between Lidsalessaloth and Dardenia began to grow unstable. When Luvent had to return home, he went and asked Clareth to become his wife and to return with him. It was only then that he discovered that she was the Queen.
It was a helpless love.
It was an unattainable desire.
Heartbroken, Prince Luvent left Lidsalessaloth, leaving Clareth behind. And in time, Clareth found herself pregnant. Ten months later, she gave birth to Neuschler, who had the distinctive features of the Dardenia’s royal family in both of his eyes.
When the King saw Neuschler’s eyes, he was furious to learn of his wife’s infidelity. However, the news of the Prince’s birth had already spread throughout the country. The King imprisoned Clareth in the dungeons but did not immediately kill Neuschler. Instead, he kept him as bait to lure Prince Luvent to his country.
And then, that tragedy happened.
Once she had finished recounting everything, Clareth grasped Neuschler’s hands and apologized for not being able to protect him when he was a newborn. Neuschler groped and caressed his birth mother’s face, tracing the outline with his fingers and kissing her forehead and cheek, just as his father had once done for him. Clareth smiled, and a few days later, she had passed peacefully on to heaven.
Even after the secret of Neuschler’s birth was revealed, the Mutanis’ attitude toward him did not change. The younger kids, who were close to his age, laughed and said that it was good that their little brother did not have the blood of that terrible King in his veins. The older adults patted him on the head and told him that even though the light had left his eyes, the light in his heart was still burning.
If I could just live peacefully as a member of the Muthani tribe, that would be enough.
However, Neuschler’s wishes were cruelly crushed by King Aego II, who heard rumours about Neuschler from somewhere.
One day, an army directly managed by the King of Lidsalessaloth raided the Mutani village. They accused the Mutani of murdering Queen Clareth and announced that they would eradicate the tribe without giving any reason or explanation.
The chief at the time was Taiga’s older brother, the son of the previous chief born of a concubine. He struck Neuschler on the neck with his hand when Neuschler begged him to present him to the King’s army, knocking him out and placing him in the arms of a dumbfounded Taiga. He then had the women, children, and young men of the tribe, including Taiga, flee the village.
The adults purposely stayed in the village to give them time to escape. No matter how physically gifted the clan was, they could not compete with the overwhelming difference in quantity between them and the armoured army. The adults who stayed behind were all massacred, and Taiga’s brother, the chief of the tribe, had his head displayed on the castle’s gate.
Neuschler, who had been carried away when he was unconscious by Taiga, wailed.
‘If I hadn’t been picked up by the clan, or better yet, if I had never been born, none of this would have happened.’
For the first time that day, Taiga struck Neuschler, who was weeping and screaming. He said, ‘Do you mean to mock those who loved you as a brother and the adults who cared for you as part of their families?’
Neuschler clung to Taiga and sobbed. He knew that his brother’s cheeks, which he had cupped in his palms, were also wet with tears.
I will not forget this sorrow, this indignation.
Neuschler and Taiga vowed to each other that they would make the Mutani people’s regret known. The two of them joined the survivors of the Mutani tribe, who had fled to various places, and were reunited with Tabiya, who had been leading the women and children. They became nomads but gradually rose to prominence. Originally, the reign of King Aego II was notorious for being oppressive. The Mutani, who had gained many allies both domestically and abroad, gathered under Taiga, the new chieftain, and Neuschler, who supported him, and revolted against the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth.
At the end of the year-long struggle, King Aego II was finally cornered and captured by the rebels. When his father begged for his life, the silent Neuschler chopped off his head with a single swing of his sword, despite his blindness. Thus, the lineage of demonic eyes flowing directly from the Heine royal family was cut off.
At the heart of the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth, in the royal castle built in the royal capital Nephimen, there was a royal room with a polished marble floor and high ceiling.
Sitting alone on the cold throne, waiting for the familiar sound of footsteps to approach, was the young King with both eyes scarred shut. The Blind Evil King, Neuschler Ladav Heine.
Ten years ago, Neuschler, who had taken the throne after overthrowing the then-King in a coup d’état, installed his sworn brother Taiga as his commander-in-chief. He then went around purging the country of influential nobles and merchants who had been under the thumb of King Aego II. The tragedy that unfolded with such apparent indifference earned Neuschler the nickname, “The Blind Evil King.”
“Nora, I’m back.”
“Welcome home, Taiga.”
A tall man opened the door to the King’s throne room, which also served as an audience chamber, and walked with large strides to the throne without hesitation. Taiga Uru, the Black Panther General. He was the one who brought Neuschler to the Mutani tribe and was also the current chief of the Mutani tribe. He was Neuschler’s sworn brother, whom Neuschler loved and trusted more than anyone else.
“How’s everything going?”
“I’ve already delivered the souvenirs as planned, but…”
Taiga’s words were unusually inarticulate.
Both Neuschler and Taiga were well aware of the giant serpent that had taken up residence in the neighbouring country of Hinoe. It was also reported that the Princess of Hinoe had bypassed Lidsalessaloth and had gone to the Kingdom of Palcemith to ask for help from the Knight Commander Jolga, which had been approved by the King.
Over the past few years, Lidsalessaloth had repeatedly approached Hinoe about cooperating in defeating the giant snake. Of course, it was for ulterior motives such as food circulation, but that was not the only reason. That was why the action Hinoe took, disregarding the intentions of Lidsalessaloth, could have caused unnecessary tension in the originally bad relationship between the two countries.
As they continued to monitor the situation, the Hinoen Princess who was accompanying the Knight Commander Jolga of Palcemith surprisingly chose to cross Lidsalessaloth on their way back.
It made one wonder if the Knight Commander was too confident in his skills, if there was some kind of plan stirring behind the scenes, or if it was just sheer bravery.
The first thing Neuschler did was deliver a souvenir to the Palcemith Kingdom’s party, accompanying the Princess of Hinoe and her entourage.
The coup d’état that broke out in the Kingdom of Palcemith, just before the current King ascended to the throne, was said to have been successfully prevented thanks to the Knight Commander and his other loyal subjects’ abilities. However, it seemed that many of the coup’s collaborators were hiding in the surrounding nations. Neuschler gathered information, found the collaborators that were hiding in Lidsalessaloth, and had their heads chopped off and stuffed into pails. He then delivered them to the inn where the Palcemith Kingdom’s party was staying.
It was a blatant check and a powerful reconnaissance. The general, Taiga, took on the dangerous role of delivering the pails. Knowing from experience that it was useless to stop him, Neuschler let out a sigh and sent Taiga off to the town near the border, telling him that he would not forgive him if he did not come back.
Two days later…
According to the report from the scouts, Taiga delivered the pails to the group who had taken lodging in a town about a day’s wagon ride across the border from Cemthoah.
“Was there a problem? What sort of person was the Knight Commander?”
“Speaking of problems, there was one… it’s the Knight Commander. He is far beyond what rumours say. He is a heaven-sent god of war. With one look, I knew I wouldn’t be able to win. Even if I were berserk, if I could manage to draw against him, I’d be happy.”
“…Is he really so strong as to make you boast that much?”
Neuschler’s unseeing eyes opened, and he growled low.
“But, Nora. The real threat isn’t the Knight Commander.”
“…What do you mean by that?”
“The Knight Commander’s party is accompanying the Princess of Hinoe. One who is travelling with them is… that man.”
Taiga could recall it so vividly in his mind.
A beautiful young man peered into the pail that was handed to him, a faint smile on the corner of his lips.
Politely thanking Taiga, he said, ‘That’s very good.’ His boastful lips were red as he lowered his head and smiled sweetly. A chill ran down Taiga’s spine at the light words they exchanged while standing there.
“It was terrifying how he could see right through me. Our relationship, the real truth, which differed from the stories circulating in Lidsalessaloth… Even that we were friends with Susanoi.”
As expected, even Neuschler was shocked.
That was supposed to be a secret known only to Neuschler and Taiga. Neither their retainers nor even their mother, Tabiya, knew about it. For years, they had nurtured a solid friendship with Susanoi, who was expected to be the next Lord of Hinoe.
“As it happens, he has requested an audience with you… I couldn’t refuse, as the Princess of Hinoe was accompanying him. You’ll be receiving a visit in a few hours. In the meantime, I’m hurrying to prepare for their arrival.”
“Taiga… tell me. Who the hell is that person?”
At Neuschler’s question, Taiga exhaled softly.
“Anderheim Yucht Asbal. He is the former Prime Minister of the Palcemith Kingdom and is regarded as the last Sage. He is the biological father of the Silvermoon Maiden, who is favoured by the ancient dragon.”
The Mutani tribe’s berserk form is a way of fighting by literally turning oneself into a berserk warrior.
During it, one gains overwhelming strength but loses their rationality, making it impossible for them to distinguish between friend and foe.
“It’s been a while since we last talked, hasn’t it, Kondou-san?”
As always, Yua looked lovely and youthful with her beautifully braided hair. Now, however, she was not wearing the dress she usually did within the royal palace. That was probably because they were on this expedition. Even so, the outfit she was currently dressed in hardly seemed appropriate for someone to wear on such a dangerous journey with knights.
“You’re right,” Seiichirou replied, casually looking around. There was a knight standing guard at a distance, but when his gaze met Seiichirou’s, he quickly looked away.
He must be the same quiet knight from the dining hall. So, unless there is a problem, we won’t be at a disadvantage, Seiichirou thought to himself.
It was true that it had been a long time since they had spoken to each other, but that was partly because Yua really did not care about Seiichirou and also because he had been avoiding her too. To be honest, it was no exaggeration for Seiichirou to call her a ‘kimon’1 at this point.
He knew that she had no ill intentions towards him, but he also knew that getting involved with her would be bad for the both of them because of their respective positions in the kingdom. Seiichirou was also aware that she did not understand any of that because she was still just a child.
When Yua invited him to her quarters for some tea cakes, he informed her that he could not join since there was still work to do. All she gave him in response was a troubled look.
“I’d appreciate it if you could keep whatever you have to say short.”
“W-Well, uh,” she seemed to sputter, “I want you to switch places with me for tomorrow’s travel!”
Suddenly, Seiichirou felt himself grow dizzy from Yua’s thoughtless utterance. Saying something like that with flushed cheeks as if she had made up her mind, was she not embarrassed?
No, is this happening because we’re approaching the miasma?
Seiichirou silently glanced at the Saint’s escort. He caught himself thinking, isn’t it the role of a bodyguard to condemn such things if they might put her at risk? But the expressionless knight swiftly averted his gaze once more when Seiichirou scrutinised him. That bastard.
When Seiichirou did not answer, Yua looked up at him anxiously with upturned eyes and asked, “Umm…is that…a no?” She fidgeted as she waited.
But what should he say? Seiichirou thought about it for a while, but nothing good came to him. This was all too quickly becoming troublesome.
“Shiraishi-san, do you understand the significance of this expedition?”
“Huh? Of course I do. It’s to purify the miasma of this world, right?”
“Yes, that’s correct, and you’re the one and only precious Holy Saint who can do that.”
When Seiichirou said that, Yua blushed shyly in embarrassment, but that was not the point he had been trying to make.
“Well, that’s why you’re riding in the same carriage as the other royals, where you’re surrounded by knights ready to guard you, ready to face anything.”
That was something that had probably been said to her before departing this morning. As expected, Yua’s lips pouted in childish frustration, trying her best to appear utterly disappointed at Seiichirou’s response. However, she needed to hear the next words he spoke properly.
“And I’m the most miasma-prone person in this world,” he began.
“Um, does that mean you still have no resistance to mana?”
“That’s right,” Seiichirou told her. “To put it another way, it’s just like breathing in polluted air from our world. That’s enough to make anyone feel weak. With that in mind, if someone like me were to go to a place filled with an even more poisonous gas, one that can even make a normal person from this world sick if exposed to it, I would surely die.”
“Eh?” Her eyes widened in disbelief.
Seiichirou was certain that Kamil, the Prime Minister, and even Aresh himself had mentioned all of this to her and talked about his precarious condition at length, but Yua still had the audacity to seem shocked.
“No way… but to that extent…”
“Yes. I would absolutely die, 100% for certain. In fact, I’ve almost died twice already since we came to this world,” he finally admitted.
The first time had been due to magical poisoning from his nutritional supplement overdose. The second time was due to a vicious attack by men who had personal issues with him, one of which had been assigned to guarding the Saint in front of him.
“I know that you said that without thinking it through, but if you keep on insisting for special accomodations, you’re only adding to the workload of those around you who are trying their best to keep you safe. Right now, you’re even proposing something that could kill me.”
Yua’s one-sided love for Aresh was too apparent, but honestly, Seiichirou did not want her to allow it to disrupt the ranks or add to anyone else’s duties during this trip. Moreover, he did not want to die because of such a selfish desire to monopolise the knight commander either.
We are rapidly approaching an area covered in miasma.
Although Seiichirou felt that Aresh’s actions might have gone a bit overboard, Seiichirou’s safety would not have been possible without him.
“That’s…I didn’t mean to…”
Unfortunately for her, Seiichirou was not even the least bit moved by the pitiful sight of the poor teenage girl with tears in her eyes, shaking her head in denial at the hard truth Seiichirou had brought to light.2
“It’s time you start thinking about taking your responsibility as the Saint more seriously. This isn’t a world where you can just continue blindly doing as you’re told and living out the rest of your days in blissful ignorance.”
Seiichirou was not doing this out of malice. In fact, he cared a lot about the young girl’s future, which is why he was so set on diminishing the importance of the Saint’s position in this kingdom.
“So, I heard that you said something to the Saint?”
After the banquet dinner, Aresh had gone to relax in Seiichirou’s assigned room as if it were his own. Said royal official, who was sorting through the information he had gathered from the civil servants asking around town, looked back at him blankly.
Yua had appeared to be in low spirits at the banquet. That much was readily apparent to anyone who looked at her. Still, the fact that she had chosen to show up instead of shutting herself in her room was something Seiichirou thought worthy of praise.
After all, she was being taken care of in the governing lord’s mansion. If the Saint did not attend the banquet meant to honor her presence, it would have tarnished the poor man’s image.
The Crown Prince Julius, as expected, had expressed his gratitude to the lord while disguising Yua’s lack of energy by saying that she was merely tired from the long trip they had made. Seiichirou had originally thought the prince was a lovesick fool for the Saint, but now seeing the young man’s diplomacy in action, his opinion had changed.
“From where did you get this information?”
Slowly, Aresh stood up from the bed and extended his hand towards Seiichirou. The official turned his body in the chair without releasing the documents in his hand. Although Aresh repositioned him to sit down between the knight’s legs as they lay back on the bed, not once did a single piece of paper ever leave Seiichirou’s clutches.
“From the Saint’s guard, of course. I made sure that His Highness wouldn’t hear about it.”
Seiichirou tilted his head and blinked. That was strangely considerate. “I appreciate that.”
If that Prince were to ever find out that I made Yua cry, he would leave me in the forest for dead.
“I thought you weren’t interested in the Saint…” Aresh muttered as he wrapped his arms around Seiichirou’s waist.
“How could I not be interested in her?”
After all, she was the one who had dragged Seiichirou into this world—she was the entire reason why he was here. She was also the only person capable of dealing with the natural disaster that threatened the survival of this country and all its people. Well, the actual culprit responsible for both their presence here was this country’s magic department, who had originally summoned the Saint in the first place, so it was not as though Seiichirou bore a grudge against Yua or anything like that.
Putting thoughts of himself aside, Seiichirou felt kind of sorry for Yua. She was but an ordinary high school girl who now had to come to terms with living in a world vastly different from what she was brought up knowing. So, yes, Seiichirou did not hold a grudge against her, but he did think it was time for her to finally face the reality of her present situation.
“I see…” was all Aresh said.
“Sir Aresh? Perhaps it’s time for you to go back to your room?”
“I’ll go back when you stop working and go to bed.”
“So you’re not going back…?” Seiichirou asked.
“So you’re not going to sleep…?” Aresh asked in reply.3
Oh, what unnecessary trouble have I brought upon myself!?4
Shortly after that, Seiichirou’s papers were taken away, and he was shoved into bed and forced to sleep.
The next morning, Seiichirou stumbled upon Yua and the prince near the stables right before their departure. She still looked somewhat disheartened from their conversation the day before, so Seiichirou felt compelled to awkwardly avert his gaze in the hopes of not disturbing them. Perhaps there was no point in trying to keep their conversation a secret from the prince, Seiichirou thought as he hid sheepishly behind Diana. Just being exposed to Prince Julius’s sharp gaze would likely be enough to cause Seiichirou to crack under pressure and admit he had said something harsh enough to make the Saint cry.
They reached their accommodations for the second day around noon.
Due to the fact that the land beyond this point would become greatly infested with miasma, it was decided that they would take a rest and leave early the next morning to reach the Forest of Magic. Seiichirou, who had been working tirelessly on horseback once again, was given another layer of “protective barrier” as a precaution and slept soundly in Aresh’s embrace in the evening.
Then, on the third day of the journey, their party finally arrived at the edge of the Forest of Magic.
Hasr: Pls motivate staff, kindly donate a furry aresh and daddy kamil to our fanart contest
There were two possible routes we could take if we were to travel from the Kingdom of Palcemith to the Kingdom of Hinoe, which lay at the eastern end of the continent of Yugena.
The first was a southbound route that went through Aron, a trade hub where the borders of the three countries of Cemthoah, Sahana, and Palcemith met. Then, after Cemthoah, it passed through the Grand Duchy of Oakneth and the Kingdom of Dardenia to reach Hinoe. During the rainy season, Cemthoah often suffered from flooded roads, making it difficult to get around. However, if we were to avoid it, there would be no major problems. Plus, the countries we would be passing through were all countries with calm political situations at present. That was the route that Princess Shirayuki and her party had taken on their way to Palcemith, and although it was a relatively safe route, it was a rather lengthy one. The time it took to reach Palcemith from Hinoe was one month, which was quite long.
The other was a northbound route that would take us straight east from the royal capital into Cemthoah and then across the massive nation of Lidsalessaloth, which lay to the east of the Kingdom of Palcemith, to reach Hinoe. Like Palcemith, Lidsalessaloth was located in the northern part of the continent of Yugena, but obviously, its lands were not blessed by a dragon. Although its territory was vast, it was not very fertile. It lacked agricultural production, so it made use of the many mines in the country, leading to a thriving iron and steel industry. The road through there was somewhat rough. However, if all went well, we could make it to Hinoe in about ten days.
There was also the option of going via sea from the Kingdom of Palcemith to Hinoe. But, the Northern Sea of the Yugena continent was famous for its complicated currents and turbulent weather. It was not a very practical transportation route, but it was the best we had at the moment.
As a result of our prior discussions, we chose to cross the nation of Lidsalessaloth along with Princess Shirayuki. The Princess, as well as her attendants from Hinoe, were all surprised by this. But naturally, we had a plan in mind when we made our choice.
“How much do you know about Lidsalessaloth, Princess Shirayuki?”
In response to my question, Princess Shirayuki, who was carefully holding a box full of parting gifts and a bouquet from the twins, tilted her head slightly. She was sitting opposite me in the swaying carriage headed out of the capital.
“All I know is that it’s a country that has been plotting to bring Hinoe under its control for a long time… and that its king, His Majesty is…”
“Oh, he’s famous. The King of Lidsalessaloth, Neuschler Radav Heine…the Blind Evil King.”
The royal capital of Lidsalessaloth, Nephimen, was located in the centre of the country, in a relatively warm area heated by geothermal energy from the magma flowing deep underground. The current King, Neuschler, was a young man who would turn twenty-six this year. However, he had already been king for more than ten years. At the age of fifteen, he overthrew his father, the former King Aego II, and took the throne for himself.
In case we crossed that country, I had read through all the materials that Morino and Vanellope had researched regarding it. This was in addition to the information that I had originally known about the internal situation of the country of Lidsalessaloth.
…It was a nation that had been continuously governed in a rather bloody manner.
“King Neuschler was born with the ‘Demonic Eye’ in both of his eyes. Those who stare into his eyes lose their will, blindly trust him, and want to give up everything for him… Those are some troublesome eyes.”
The first to fall prey to those eyes were King Neuschler’s mother, the Queen, and his father, King Aego. Both parents were instantly captivated by their child, who blinked his still unseeing eyes and reached out to them for warmth. The two were at odds with each other, vying for the favour of their newborn child, grappling and cursing at each other like children. Fortunately, the effect of the Demonic Eye was not permanent, and they came to their senses when their subjects pulled them apart, and the infant Neuschler started to cry and closed his eyes.
Immediately, a renowned doctor and a sage were invited to investigate. After repeated examinations, it was concluded that the eyes were the “Demonic Eye” that had been handed down from generation to generation in the Heine royal family.
“In the past, the Heine family had had rare occasions when someone was born with the Demonic Eye. However, it always manifested itself only in one eye, whereas King Neuschler was born with it in both eyes, a first.”
If it were only one eye, it would have been easily dealt with. He could have gone about his daily life with an eye patch or something to cover his Demonic Eye and only remove it if needed. Though it was temporary, its effect was immense. It could be used as a trump card in dealing with any enemy.
But, if it were in both eyes…
“If it were in both eyes… he’d have to wear a blindfold to cover them completely.”
I nodded at what Jolga, who was sitting next to me, had said.
“Exactly. King Neuschler had both of his eyes covered with a black cloth and spent his childhood in a world blocked from the light. Also, even if a person who had been bewitched by the Demonic Eye came to their senses, their memories of the time they were bewitched don’t disappear. As a result, the King and Queen had a falling out, and the Queen refused to raise King Neuschler, to whom she had given birth, confining herself to a remote palace.”
And then, an incident took place.
“It was when King Neuschler was five years of age. The Kingdom of Dardenia in the south, which had repeatedly engaged in skirmishes with Lidsalessaloth, sent an envoy to the royal city of Nephimen to establish peace. The envoy was the second Prince of Dardenia, Luvent Morris Dardenia. He was twenty-six years old at the time and was said to be a good-natured young man who supported his eldest brother, who was soon to succeed to the throne. He also made efforts to ensure the security of the country. He had visited Lidsalessaloth when he was twenty years old when the two countries were in a brief alliance. Thus, he had been chosen as an emissary of peace because of his experience.”
At that time, King Neuschler lived in a small hut built in one of the corners of the castle’s backyard. He had servants who lived with him, but all of them were afraid of his Demonic Eye and did not want to have any contact with him beyond the bare minimum. Even though he was a young boy, King Neuschler somehow understood his situation. He would secretly take off his blindfold away from the watchful eyes of his servants and continue his life of solitude by admiring the flowers blooming in their flowerbeds.
“One day, while the young King Neuschler was looking at the flowers, an unknown young man walked by. King Neuschler was so surprised that he made eye contact with the young man. By chance, it was Prince Luvent, who was strolling through the backyard. Prince Luvent instantly fell under King Neuschler’s spell, picked him up, and tried to carry him away. A knight of noble birth, who was serving as the king’s bodyguard, saw this and condemned him. He noticed that King Neuschler was being kidnapped and tried to stop Prince Luvent. As a result, the prince, who had lost his will, drew his sword and attacked the knight, who in turn killed Prince Luvent.”
That knight was the fiancé of King Aego’s youngest sister.
Though the other party was misled by the Demonic Eye, he had to bear the responsibility of killing the prince of another country. The young knight was beheaded, and the King’s youngest sister committed suicide by poisoning herself.
“Although it was clear from eyewitness testimonies that Prince Luvent was at fault, there was a great deal of backlash from the Kingdom of Dardenia. When the King sensed that the talks that had managed to reach an amicable settlement were in danger of collapsing, he ripped out both of King Neuschler’s eyes in front of the masses, blindfolded him, and threw him directly into the winter wilderness.”
Princess Shirayuki’s young face contorted, and she bit her lip.
Although it was indeed a terribly cruel story, this decision could not necessarily be said to be wrong for a ruler to make.
By punishing the first prince himself, he was taking responsibility, saving face with foreign nations, and at the same time, eliminating the possibility of domestic unrest. It might seem inhumane, but if it were done for the greater good of maintaining national stability, it could also be considered just.
“…That is if there were any truth to this overblown story.”
It was the second night after leaving the royal capital of Palcemith.
Our party, accompanied by Princess Shirayuki and her attendants, had made a smooth journey and reached the town bordering Cemthoah and Lidsalessaloth. Tomorrow, we would be entering the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth at last. We had spent the previous night in our carriages, but tonight we were going to stay at an inn in town to be fully rested.
Princess Shirayuki and her entourage were asleep in their assigned rooms. The knights guarding her were probably taking turns keeping watch and resting. Jolga and I were sharing the same room. After wiping each other down with a large tub of hot water, we lay on the bed, Jolga’s body lying underneath me, with his arms around me.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that tomorrow would be the real start of this itinerary.
Jolga, who was recounting what I had told Princess Shirayuki about the inner workings of Lidsalessaloth along with his thoughts, brought up the truth that I had not shared with her.
I stroked Jolga’s chin as he questioned me and, with my other arm, I rested my cheek on his chest.
“For example, Jolga, if your son… Sigurd or Lutora was born with the Demonic Eye in both eyes; what would you do with him, your child who possesses the Demonic Eye that can bewitch others at will?”
“If it were me…I would educate him.”
Jolga’s answer was straightforward and exemplary.
“Yes, that is the norm. You would make him practice so that he could lead his daily life without the use of both eyes. As soon as he was old enough, you would teach him how to use the Demonic Eye properly so that he wouldn’t use its power carelessly, yet he would be able to use it as a weapon to protect himself in case of an emergency. That’s what a parent would do. If you care about your children, whether you are a nobleman or a King, these principles won’t change.”
Furthermore, even though it dwelled in both eyes, it was very valuable and rarely appeared in the Heine family. The fact that he had charmed both of his parents in one go was proof that his Demonic Eye was that powerful. Wouldn’t it seem like a bad idea to treat the first prince, Prince Neuschler, so coldly?
As in any country, scandals at the heart of a nation tended to get covered up with a bunch of post hoc reasons, especially when it involved the first Prince born to the King and Queen.
“Everything was too good to be true. The fact that the parents were fascinated by the infant King Neuschler, the fallout between the King and Queen because of it, that the envoy of peace was the Second Prince of Dardenia… And that the Second Prince happened to stroll into the backyard and ran into the young King Neuschler.”
“The former King of Lidsalessaloth, Aego II, and the former Queen, Clareth, were a married couple with a huge age gap between them. When King Neuschler was born, King Aego II was already forty years old, but Queen Clareth was only eighteen.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“At the age of 20, Prince Luvent was staying at the Royal Castle as an honoured guest. It was about a year later that King Neuschler was born. The direct line of the Dardenian royal family is famous for having distinctive pupils. They are so charming and beautiful that they are described as flowers blooming within one’s eyes.”
One by one, the missing puzzle pieces were probably snapping into place in Jolga’s head.
If what was in the baby’s eyes was not the Demonic Eye, but evidence of the blood of someone other than the King, then…
What if the quarrel between the King and the Queen had not been influenced by the Demonic Eye but had been a validated mutual cursing?
What if the Queen had not confined herself to a remote palace, but had been imprisoned there?
What was the reason behind the Second Prince, who had visited Lidsalessaloth when he was 20 years old, taking the trouble to risk his life to visit the royal capital again as a peace envoy? He was, after all, a young man who held the second most important position after his elder brother and was in line to the throne.
Why did that Prince try to kidnap the young King Neuschler, who had been raised as a prisoner behind the castle?
Even if it was in the name of bearing responsibility, what was the point of King Aego’s ripping out both of his own son’s eyes without hesitation?
If one were to flip over the well-drawn front side of the completed puzzle…the facts displayed on the hidden back were indeed…
I slid my palm over Jolga’s cheek as he furrowed his brow and muttered in exasperation. I stretched my back, licking his bitten lips, and smiled.
Jolga’s words were probably directed at his past self as well.
Yurikano, who was destined to be my wife, and the past Jolga, who made a mistake one night and impregnated her.
That was a matter that had already been settled. If anything, it was probably due to the coercive force of the “Otome Game” scenario that was the setting for this world. When you got right down to it, it was also my fault for being the “Evil Prime Minister.” Well, I was not going to tell Jolga about that.
“Jolga. What’s done is done.”
“Because of your mistake, Sigurd, Lutora, and Julieta were born.”
“But you suffered.”
The hazel eyes that reflected mine were quivering with anguish.
“I don’t care… In exchange, I got you. That’s more than enough to make up for it.”
His voice shaking, Jolga put strength into his arms that encircled me and kissed me deeply. After swapping our positions and pushing me down on the bed, he hungrily sought my body.
We had promised to refrain from any physical activities, as we still had to continue our carriage journey tomorrow, but…
Well, I guess it can’t be helped.
No matter how much I tried to fix him, I, too, had a soft spot for my one and only lover.
The knights who were guarding our door were clearly sleep-deprived the next morning, so I did feel bad for them.
“Let us depart, then, to Lidsalessaloth.”
With Jolga’s voice as our cue, the line of people heading for Hinoe began to move again.
A valiant general, known as the Black Panther, a blind evil King, and a blood-drenched country waited ahead.
A world not spun by the whims of gods, but created by human hands.