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Chapter 3: The Yamata no Orochi
The three royal siblings of Hinoe were left speechless at the question I posed.
By their reaction, I could see that I hit the bullseye, and really they, as royalty, should guard their emotions a little more carefully. Well, the same could be said about the King of Palcemith.
“…Worry not, nothing we say here shall leave this carriage.”
Why do I know, you ask?
“There are several reasons, but I found out using the process of elimination. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to leisurely explain it to you. Before we reach the mansion, I would like to clarify the position you find yourselves in. …Firstly, your enemy is among the four people riding in the other carriage. Am I wrong?”
“…! Why did you- to such an extent…! “
“Sir Tokiwa, is that right? When you have engaged in national politics, there are things you learn to see. I’ll explain this in more detail later, but you are unable to determine who your “enemy” is. I’m not wrong about this either, correct? “
“I see. Next, who is the one that has appointed “Princess Shirayuki” as the special envoy? Perhaps this is someone close to this country’s ruler.”
“…It is my mother.”
”Seiji”, who had snapped at me, replied in a small voice. Since he said it was ‘his’ mother, I suspect these siblings likely have different mothers.
“Understood. …And Princess Shirayuki, which prince are you? “
Hmm. Just as I thought.
“Princess Shirayuki, Sir Seiji, and Sir Tokiwa. When was the *last* time you saw Orochi?”
The three of them, sitting side by side, glanced at one another and nodded. Tokiwa, on the others behalf replied;
“Three years ago… before the eighth sacrifice was offered. That year our elder brother, Susanoi, went to fight the Orochi in order to rescue our third sister, Miyuki. She had been chosen as a sacrifice… and in the end, neither of them returned home.””
“…I didn’t wish to touch upon it, but this is quite the complicated situation.”
Leaning back into my seat, fingertips rubbing my temple, I sighed.
Just when the situation at home was finally settling down, I was now being drawn into the problems of another country. Originally, I wouldn’t have concerned myself with it but because the other party is Hinoe, a country I wished to gather information from in the future, it wouldn’t be a total loss to have them indebted to me.
“Now, this is my last question. When will Princess Shirayuki be offered as a sacrifice?” “
At this question, the three sitting opposite and even Jolga were visibly surprised.
Princess Shirayuki hesitated, but then, perhaps believing there was no point in hiding it any longer, raised her head and while looking me in the eye, quietly spoke.
“…Four months from now.”
If you were to follow the southbound route from Hinoe to the Kingdom of Palcemith, during this time of year, it would take at least a month even if the journey went smoothly. Even if we were to leave Palcemith immediately, there would only be at most three months left to resolve the situation in Hinoe. At this point, it was difficult, even for me, to judge if that would be too short a time period or just enough.
“…In the meantime, when we reach the mansion we should focus on ensuring her safety and providing treatment for Princess Shirayuki. Perhaps it would be best to call Malacia and have a physical examination done as soon as we arrive.”
“Is there something wrong with Shirayuki?”
I nodded and scooped up the dazed Princess Shirayuki’s hands in mine. If she had been a real princess, this would be a reprehensible act, but since he’s a prince it’s probably okay. As someone whose body temperature wasn’t that high to begin with, Princess Shirayuki’s hands in mine were ice cold. The surface of her trimmed nails were unevenly warped, and the large, doe-like, bright black irises that uneasily took in every action I made; the whites of her eyes clearly tinged with yellow.
“It will be difficult to lure out our opponent during your stay in this kingdom. Our best bet would be to root them out during the journey back to Hinoe.”
“…Lord Anderheim…? “
“I’d love to explain, but we’re about to arrive at the mansion. Looks like that discussion will have to wait until some other time. …Princess Shirayuki, take care to never be alone in the mansion.”
The coachman driving the carriage took a long detour, with an excuse of a fight in the middle of the road and muddy streets, before finally arriving at the Oswein residence. As we passed through the gates of the mansion, the head steward of the Oswein family, who had become quite familiar with me, greeted me, opened the carriage door, and bowed respectfully to Jolga, who had gotten out of the carriage first. When I got off the carriage next, with my gaze I pointed at Princess Shirayuki, still sitting in her seat, and told him that she was the candidate for becoming Jolga’s new wife, the look of suspicion he gave me was rather amusing.
“Don’t joke around, Anderheim… Rezeph, there are seven guests from Hinoe. Please make arrangements for their stay.”
As Princess Shirayuki disembarked from the carriage with Seiji and Tokiwa help, the remaining four who had arrived in the following carriage rushed up to her. Unlike Tokiwa and Seiji, who seemed to be around the same age as Sigurd and the others, the four of them, who looked relieved after confirming that Princess Shirayuki was safe, seemed to be more or less of different age groups.
The young man named “Asagi”, who had handed the [silk] to Princess Shirayuki in the audience room, seemed to be a little younger than Tokiwa and Seiji, and was probably about the same age as Morino. The tall man with clean-cut features patting Princess Shirayuki’s head was “Tsurara”. He, on the contrary, was a bit older perhaps somewhere in his late twenties. The muscular man who looked to be about the same age as Tsurara is “Fukagawa”. And lastly, the aloof man whose age was difficult to discern was known as “Yoimachi”.
At a glance, the four of them were seemingly concerned about Princess Shirayuki’s health after being forced into the carriage of some unknown scoundrel.. However, there are many, such as myself, who are adept at masking their true nature. And in this situation, the culprit could be unwittingly helping with the crime. .
Leaving the care of the guests to the butler, Rezeph, I made arrangements to call for Malacia, and then headed for Jolga’s room.
When I visited the master room on the second floor of the mansion, I found Jolga waiting for me, having taken off his military uniform and changed into more comfortable clothes. As soon as I entered the room, he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close, slipping his tongue between my lips, and intertwining it with mine. His rough actions were a sign that Jolga, though seemingly calm on the surface, was somewhat annoyed.
Running my hands over Jolga’s body as he kissed me as he wished.
His strong upper arms and warm chest. His tense abdominal muscles and thick waist. His tough feet that didn’t falter even when I stepped on them. His amorous gaze, that I had gotten used to him using to charm noblewomen, was now directed at me, heavy with lust. No matter how many times I ascertain it, what’s good is good.
I’m glad to see that even though he is approaching his forties, my lover has only gotten more attractive with age.
“Shouldn’t you be giving me a reward? “
The meaning of the words he solicited between our kisses was simple.
It was because Jolga had obediently accepted the proposal for a girl younger than his daughter’s becoming his mistress, something extremely unpleasant to him. Of course, it was because he knew that Morino and I had some sort of goal in mind, but even so, Jolga had taken the trouble to pledge his faithfulness to me since we became lovers. For a third person to trample upon it like that, of course he wouldn’t feel good about it. In short, he was sulking.
“…My cute Jolga. Don’t be so angry.”
“Whose fault do you think it is?”
“Pfft…hn. It’s my fault, but.”
The fingertips that crept in through the gaps of my blouse, gently rubbed the red jewels on my chest. It’s frustrating to be hindered by a button made of shaved seashells, but if we go any further, we will inevitably leave our guests waiting, finding ourselves in a situation where I cannot stand on my own two feet. I had no choice but to lightly nibble on the tip of his nose to indicate my rejection, and Jolga smiling wryly quickly removed his hand from my body.
Jolga’s seemingly composed attitude may seem less clingy than when he was mindlessly seeking me. But if anything, I take this composure to be an action that comes from his confidence that he will be able to hold me later. Of course, I have no qualms about it. I’m the type of person who feeds the fish I catch and aims to fatten them up even more.
“Rest easy, Jolga. I won’t let you sleep tonight.”
“Normally, shouldn’t I be the one saying that line? “
As I sat on Jolga’s lap atop the sofa, stroking his chin, Jolga wrapped his arms around my waist once again. However, this time, it wasn’t to seduce me, but as a means to stabilize my position.
“So Anri… what did you read from those guests? “
“Rather than reading, I would say I sensed something from them. It seems every country, no matter where you are, has an ugly side to it..”
I grabbed Jorga’s right hand and made him open it.
Naturally, what was there was a palm with five fingers, from the thumb to the little finger. Beside it, I opened my hand as well, and together we lined up our fingers.
“While I do not have much information about the sovereign of Hinoe, the Sasaragi Clan, I at least know their family structure. The patriarch, Motonari, has ten children. …Or more accurately, he had.”
Five sons and five daughters, making it a total of ten.
“The one who called themselves the third daughter, “Princess” Shirayuki, was, in reality, the fourth prince. I think Sir Seiji and Sir Tokiwa are probably the second and third princes. I do not know which one is older, but they are each likely born of a concubine.”
“I remember that there was a big earthquake in Hinoe a little over ten years ago. There was talk about a huge serpent appearing at that time.”
“It rampaged and then went quiet for a while after being offered a sacrifice. But, a year later… it demanded another sacrifice.Why do you think Hinoe never asked for help from other countries while this cycle repeated continuously for a decade? “
For instance, even here in Palcemith, the Ancient Dragon Kharis is a being who demands sacrifices, but in exchange for that, he grants the Kingdom an enormous blessing. However, I have not heard any rumours of Hinoe receiving blessings from the giant serpent that nests there. And yet, the Sasaragi Clan continues to offer sacrifices.
Although their neighbour has been trying to invade them under the guise of assisting them, this was the first time Hinoe themselves had asked for help from another country, and their first course action was to request it from Palcemith.
“There must be a secret somewhere. …At the same time, I believe this is because there is an issue with the succession.”
“…Is that so? “
Jolga cocked his head, unable to connect the problem I mentioned to the existence of the giant snake in his mind.
“I’m thinking of confirming it from Sir Seiji and Sir Tokiwa after this… but chances are, that giant serpent is a huge snake god called the [Yamata no Orochi]… However, it seems like the members of the Sasaragi Clan are already aware of how to defeat it.
And most probably.
“The Yamata no Orochi has already been vanquished… however, the chances are high that its “existence” is still being used.”
Based on that assumption, we can theorize what had happened previously.
It is possible that the eighth sacrifice and the eldest brother who tried to save her were not [defeated by the giant serpent], but were [killed by someone after the giant serpent was vanquished].
The mastermind of the plot also wants to kill Princess Shirayuki, who was on her way to Palcemith as a special envoy.
If that is the case, the most effective thing to do is to come forward and accompany her on her journey. Putting aside Princess Shirayuki herself and the families of her two half-brothers who never leave her side, the people in question seeming to really care for Princess Shirayuki, so it shouldn’t be a problem to ignore them for now.
The only ones left are those four people who rode in the second carriage. I deliberately chose the old man “Toriichi”, who had the most useful skill among the five, to be left behind in the castle. Well, if he is a traitor, so be it, we’ll find that out later.
Among those four, who is the one serving Princess Shirayuki poison?
A/N: That “something” in the form of an Orochi, is much more repulsive than the real one.
Hasr: With Aby busy, I’m gonna need another TL to help out or releases become Bimonthly welp. Head on over to recruitment to try your luck~