|Author: Kisasaki Suzume||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mui||English Source: Re:Library|
King Lazarus had given one directive to Lucella for when she would visit Monica. It was to give the present to Monica directly instead of entrusting it to someone else.
Well, his goal was to introduce Lucella to Monica, so that was natural. Having said that, going straight to her still left the possibility that Monica would refuse to meet her. Thus, Lucella decided to head for her directly.
She aimed for the time when she would return to her room and climbed up to the window from the outside.
Normally Lucella would’ve probably gotten called by the guards, but she had the certificate from the king, and she also started realizing lately that having the body of a young girl allowed her to get away with various things.
“In other words, that guy asked you to see me?”
Lucella was let inside for the time being, and she explained the chain of events up to that point.
Monica had a lot to say about the matter but she reconsidered and sighed, thinking it would be pointless to argue with someone who’d resort to visiting through the second-floor window.
Lucella opened the treasure box-shaped storage item and took out the contents.
“Is this the present you speak of?”
“Oh, no. This is from the members of my party. Take it if you like.”
What she first took out was a small basket.
It counted the fruit pie that Viola baked, as well as sandwiches made with her cooking ingredients. When she heard Lucella was going to Monica, Viola prepared them in a hurry. She made them after the food was cold so that it wouldn’t steam while it was stored in the subspace, but this was delicious even as cold.
Monica observed the flaked fish sandwich and then took a casual bite.
“Ah! Are you not going to use some poison testing tool?”
“What, did you poison it or something?”
“N-No, that’s not it…”
“Then why would I need it? Besides, I wouldn’t mind even if it was poisoned.”
Lucella felt like she heard her mutter, “So this is how it tastes” in an extremely tired tone.
“So… It’s this, huh? Heh.”
Next, she took a small box covered with something like velvet. This was the gift from King Lazarus. Opening it, something shining in golden color was enshrined within.
“The popular kind, yes. Speaking of Berg Brother Company, they are the top-class–”
Monica snorted and threw the small box to the floor as if tossing a miswritten letter into the hearth.
“W-What did you…”
“It’s so transparent. I can see that this was decided in thirty seconds, thinking a girl my age would like a present like this. And he most likely didn’t even think of it himself, but just nodded when some servant chose it for him.”
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Lucella thought she was being cruel, but she couldn’t deny anything she said. It seemed like something he would have done, thinking it was for the best.
“Do you get it? You are being skillfully manipulated. If you become acquainted with me, there will be more connections between you and that guy. And that by extension would mean having the red dragon on his palm. Even thin threads can turn into a spiderweb once woven together. He’s the type to do that. …To accomplish that, he would be willing to show pity to me who he himself locked up.”
She glared at Lucella with sharp, sky-blue eyes, criticizing her harshly. It seemed that she already knew who Lucella was.
Among the tricks that swindlers used, there was apparently one where they did a favor and earned the target’s trust. King Lazarus might have had such a motive.
Lucella was also astonished at Monica’s intellect which managed to see through the nature of the others. Perhaps she grew up this way due to being cursed since birth and living while surrounded by malice.
“He’s trying to pretend to be a father and drag me into this. I wonder whose fault it is that I can’t meet my actual parents.”
Saying so, Monica waved some kind of invitation paper in the air.
“What is that?”
“Invitation for a meal. It arrived yesterday. It was asking me to come since something was happening in the palace. Random invitations like this sometimes reach me. …But even if I go there, I just end up dining in a separate room while they are making merry at the banquet. I’m not allowed to show my face in public, after all. That would just make me feel more miserable.”
—The palace banquet… Ah, right, there was some small-scale party that was quietly arranged to welcome Julian.
Lucella had already heard about this matter.
The royal palace served as a venue for hosting elaborate meals to entertain guests. It acted as a hub for negotiations, facilitating communication and fostering unity among participants. The palace’s role extended beyond mere discussions; it acted as a lubricant, smoothing the interactions and strengthening the bonds between individuals.
This time it served to welcome and entertain Julian.
As for why Lucella knew this, it was because the members of Golden Helmet were also invited, though to the lowest-class seats.
They were most likely invited as distinguished figures who protected Mount Kuguse. Naturally, they couldn’t be too blatant with the fact that adventurers got involved with the cross-national problem.
It seemed like it was awful timing given that it was hosted for Julian… but perhaps it was intended as some sort of restraint or a show of spite towards him.
However, Lucella and Kafal didn’t participate in it. They would be the main guests when invited, so it was apparently too soon for that.
Lucella also wanted to return to Mount Kuguse for Shurei’s trial with some time to spare, so she planned to leave the three, who were participating in the banquet, in the capital and head north ahead of time.
At any rate, it seemed like Monica was also invited there.
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“This time, I did say that I would go, though. They are saying they would let me meet my half-sister whom I have never met, so well, I decided to see her face. …And, I suppose the king will come to see me during his work break for the sake of formality. I’ll go ahead and count how many minutes he spends with me.”
Seeing Monica smiling coldly, what passed through Lucella’s mind was that she had to stop her. It was probably inevitable considering the life she had lived, but she was far too sensitive towards ill will and deception.
Even among close friends, calculated actions and disagreements still tended to happen. But Monica wouldn’t allow even that. It was the stubbornness of the nobles that pushed her into a life of solitude, but she herself was trying to cut off the final remaining ties.
That was surely not good. Her self-defense mechanism was inflicting self-harm in this case.
“I think it would be better if you talk to him, even for a short time. The king is most likely not without a fault… but at least he didn’t seem like an evil person.”
That was her honest impression. Even if he had an imperfect and dirty side to him, all humans were like that, in the end. Lucella believed that Lazarus was in the category of ‘good people.’
…However, that was something Lucella only felt after hearing him speak Dragonian, so it was hard to describe it to others using words.
“Are you siding with him?”
“I just think it is too pitiful as it stands.”
“Are you trying to lecture me?”
Monica’s gaze turned hostile.
“…You’re an adventurer, right? You have fought battles with your life at stake, right?”
“Huh? W-Well, yes.”
“Then how could you understand it? While I live comfortably in a safe city, surrounded by many people who protect me, I still contemplate whether to live or die. It sounds like an envious dilemma to you, right? You think it’s an insignificant dilemma, don’t you? I won’t be cut by a sword, or die to the jaws of a monster. I won’t ever starve or freeze! I just ran away from mountains of food served to me! Can you say that you don’t, even a little, think that I have a blessed and the most ideal life there is?!”
Monica talked on and on as if what was holding her had come loose. She rejected to be understood while damaging her own worth. It was as if she was trying to drown the other party in her own blood. Her voice was pitiful like the screams of someone in their final moments.
Lucella felt like she was the one being reproached. Currently, she looked younger than Monica, but she was in reality older and had more experience as a human. So she thought she had to guide her as her senior in life, but Monica saw through that fragment of arrogance.
However, if she backed down here, Monica would only grow lonelier. Now that it had come to this, Lucella had no intention to tuck her tail and go back.