|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3848 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1784 words|
Once I snuck back into my room, I washed my bloodied clothes to erase any trace of me going out, then lay down in my bed. The city was swarmed with guards and there was a lot of noise, probably because I had snuck into the mansion. I felt a bit guilty seeing them work so hard because of me, but I was too tired so instead of fighting my body I decided to sleep. When I woke up the next morning I opened the window and looked at the street. There were many more guards compared to yesterday, but they figured the intruder had escaped so they were not running around anymore.
“Well, at least things look better than last night. The others should wake up soon too, so I’ll go downstairs and get some food in the meantime.”
The eatery on the first floor was devoid of guests, so either no one else stayed overnight, or they were still sleeping. But my party was already there and they waved to me from their table.
“Good morning Lapis.”
“Did you sleep well, Master?”
After greeting everyone, I sat down and the waitress came to take my order. I got the same meal as everyone else, who had already started eating, but they seemed to still be sleepy as they were taking longer than usual to eat.
“Somehow last night was really noisy.”
“Yeah, it seems something happened. I got woken up and looked out the window and saw a bunch of guards running around.”
“Maybe they found some remaining demons?”
“Whatever it was, I wish they had been more quiet about it. And here I thought I would finally get a good night’s rest.”
They all looked miffed about it, not knowing the cause of the ruckus had been me. Feeling bad about that, I signaled them to get closer to me.
“What, could it be that you know what happened last night?”
“I guess I do…or rather, I was the one who tried sneaking into the king’s mansion last night.”
Ciel quickly wiped away the food she spat, while I placed my index on my lips to tell Diaria and Luvias to be quieter. When Ciel was done cleaning the table, she leaned forward getting her face closer to ours again.
“Wait wait wait, what exactly happened?”
“Just let me explain. I’ll tell you why I went, and what I found out.”
§ § §
Once I told them how I wanted to talk with the king in private, but on my way there I ran into a demon that told me they had hostages, all my friends looked conflicted. At first I thought they were surprised that so many things happened while they were asleep, but…I was slightly wrong.
“Lapis, you should tell us if you want to do something like that.”
“Yeah, you always have this bad habit of doing things secretly. I thought we agreed we’d discuss things like this beforehand?”
“Master, maybe you think you’re putting less strain on us, but that isn’t really being considerate, you’re just being too prideful. You’re not avoiding putting us in dangerous situations by letting us sleep away, you’re just undermining our position.”
“You know there’s always something we can do to help you, right Lapis? You shouldn’t run ahead like that.”
They were mad. I really had the bad habit of overestimating myself and running forward on my own. We had a similar situation in the past, but I quickly forgot about it and did it again. I really had to change that habit, or they might eventually get tired of me and leave.
“Either way, I hope you’re more careful next time. Let’s talk about those demons and their goals now. Are there any more details you remember from your conversation with that demon, Master? Maybe there’s more clues than we think.”
When Luvias asked that, I tried to go over everything that happened last night again. What happened at first was not too important, I had to focus on everything she said after she threw the first dagger at me.
“Hmm…oh right, she said something about not having enough members, so she didn’t want to be away from the king for too long. So…I guess there aren’t that many demons around then?”
“Right, that sounds important. If she’s the only one near the king, who seems to be their most important asset, then maybe there’s only a handful in the city. Though there might be another possibility too.”
“What other possibility?”
When I asked, Ciel lowered her head a bit before continuing.
“Maybe it’s all a bluff. Maybe there aren’t any hostages to begin with, and the only demons around are there as assassins just in case. That demon said she worked for Aprila right? We know that’s one of the five Demon Kings, but it might tell us more than we think.”
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There were multiple Demon Kings now, as well as hero’s parties. There was one Demon King that launched a full-on attack on humans, and there was one trying to control humans from the shadows. Why did they act so differently? And more importantly, what could they accomplish by luring us somewhere? Did they want the king to do something to us by summoning us here?
I doubt the demons were stupid enough to think the king could imprison or restrain us somehow. Any country that did that to the residents of a foreign country, not to mention a hero, would do that without risking their international standing. In the worst case it could lead to war. On top of that, the king saw what we were capable of doing, and would never risk his own army trying to stop us. Even with the help of demons, they already were low on numbers according to the maid, and those numbers would only go down with no guarantee for our capture. There was only one more possibility…
“So they want to use us to take down another Demon King?”
“That’s probably it.”
“Yeah, I think that’s most likely their objective.”
Karin aside, who struggled keeping up with our conversation, we all reached the same conclusion. It was impossible to tell with certainty that was the correct answer, but considering what we knew, it was the only one that made sense.
“Next, who do you think those hostages are? The king’s relatives?”
“His relatives would make the most sense as hostages. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t do anything to save their family.”
Karin raised her fist as she spoke, followed by a nod from Luvias.
“As far as I know, there’s seven members in Strom’s royal family. There’s the king and queen, followed by the prince, and the prince’s wife and three daughters.”
When we heard the prince had daughters, Ciel and I looked at each other. The king had three granddaughters. He had been willing to sacrifice the residents of the city when it was occupied by demons to save the rest of the country, but he would surely hesitate if the lives of his granddaughters were on the line.
“Luvias, do you know how old his granddaughters are?”
“I don’t remember that many details, but uh…I think the older one isn’t even ten yet.”
“I see. That’s the perfect age to manipulate someone close to them.”
The prince and his daughters were the most likely hostages then.
“But what if there are other hostages too? I don’t think we have enough people to rescue all at the same time.”
If we had a large-scale holy magic spell like Freya, things would be much easier, but we had to make do with what we had. We had to come up with a different plan.
“Maybe we could ask the temples? Not just one, but many different sects. They all combined might be able to cast a powerful holy spell.”
“I’m not sure most priests are that powerful. I don’t know what the average power of a priest is, but the best they had when the lich appeared was swatted away like it was nothing…”
“I know, that’s why we should look for the most powerful priests in all countries. We could tell them whoever helps the most can influence the official religion of the country…or something like that.”
When I said that, everyone looked disappointed in me.
“Lapis… We haven’t even gotten the king’s permission for anything, you can’t just decide something like that…”
“But it won’t be necessarily untrue. Even if it doesn’t become the official religion, knowing the king he’ll build a temple or two in return.”
“I’m onboard with that. I mean, the world is already so messed up but I haven’t seen many priests doing much. I’d say it’s about time they stop worrying only about making money.”
While Diaria’s opinion was slightly narrow minded, she was not necessarily wrong.
“Alright, let’s send letters tomorrow then, under my name so they have more credibility. Should we also request help from the other heroes? Freya is probably still on her way to her country so she might be hard to reach, but I’m sure the rest will happily help.”
“Sounds good, I don’t know how much we should expect, but there’s no harm in inviting them over.”
“I’ll do that.”
Now we had a plan to release the hostages and identify the demons. We just had to wait and work hard.
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§ § §
“King, just when are you planning on sending the hero’s party to Trianf’s place?”
Late at night a maid entered my room and said that with a sneer. Ever since her return from her pursuit of the intruder from last night she had been in a foul mood. Whether she had let go of a large group of attackers, or just one had outsmarted her, I did not know, but she had gotten more annoying than before. But since they held my granddaughters hostage I could not do much against that, so I had to force myself to stay calm.
“I know. Last time I was too nervous and couldn’t do it, but next time I’ll make sure to send them that way.”
“Are you sure? You won’t just stammer and fail again? Though well, I can’t guarantee the safety of certain three girls if you fail again.”
My three dear granddaughters and many innocent children, they were all an irreplaceable treasure for me. I was willing to do anything to keep them safe. Feeling a dark fire engulfing my heart, I decided to go through with their demands.