The Villainess is a Marionette - Chapter 128
Chapter 22. The Wizards. (Continuation)
* * *
As the sharp cry broke out from the Princess’s chamber, servants and knights rushed in rapidly.
«What happened, Your Highness?»
The fishy smell of blood permeated all over the room. Servants looked down and saw a man in black lying flat on the floor.
«Oh no! What the hell is that…»
The man was obviously dead: he was not moving and only red liquid poured out of his body leaving a bloody spot on the carpet. There was also a blood stained sword lying nearby. The Princess was standing in the bloodsoaked dress amidst the gruesome sight.
«Are you all right, Your Highness?!»
«That one had just popped into my room all of a sudden!» shrieked shuddering Cayena.
The knights approached the corpse to identify its face.
«Isn’t it Sir Jedaiah Ross?»
«Why the heck did he…?»
«Who the hell allowed this man to totter around the Palace?» interrupted Cayena. She was not going to give them any time to think. «How come you can’t control one single knight that could have denigrated me!»
Her yelling made the knights sweat profusely.
Even though Jedaiah was already a deadman, he entered the Palace through good connections with Xenon Evans. And since he was ’a crony’ of the Evans family, who could say anything?
«Get rid of it now! This carpet, this sword, everything!» shouted Cayena sharply.
The knights quickly rolled the body into the carpet and moved it out. The servants rushed to the room carrying buckets of water to clear the blood streaks away.
Immediately after hearing the news, Cale, the commander of the Imperial Knights, arrived. As soon as he entered the room, he bowed low to Cayena.
«Mercy me, Your Highness The Princess!»
Cayena looked down at the commander coldly.
«Whose recommendation did he come from?»
Cale stammered in response, being embarrassed by Cayena’s harsh question.
«That’s… Lord Xenon Evans sent me a recommendation letter.»
«You mean the man recommended by Evans tried to harm me?» wondered Cayena with a slight frown as if she knew nothing.
«Y-your Highness! He’s been a bit suspicious from the beginning. The Evans family has never meant to play a bad joke on you!»
Cayena almost chuckled. Commander Cale was a typical soldier. He hated working with documents and was weak when it came to politics and manipulations. He was easy for Evans brothers to deal with, so they had even assigned him to a high position. Thanks to this, Cayena could handle him easily.
«You think so?»
«Of course! It’s only Jedaiah Ross to blame!»
«How come you accepted him as an Imperial knight?»
And what about that? Such an expression appeared on his face — he felt instinctively that he made a mistake.
«Haven’t you just said he was suspicious from the start? It was also said The Evanses have nothing to do with this and so I believe it. But how did Commander Cale accept him?»
Cayena pretended to arrange the hem of her dress sideways and touched the stained part. As the commander saw the bloodstains, his neck wavered sharply.
«Should I regard this incident as the crime of the Imperial Knights’ Commander?»
«Not at all, Your Highness! It’s a misunderstanding!» cried out the ghastly pale man.
«I’d not like to leave the root of troubles just so» she said icily.
It was not clear whether the cause was the Evans family or Cale himself. Even if it was this dumb commander, he couldn’t help but understand what she meant.
«The source of all evil must be lurking within the Imperial Palace. Otherwise, incidents like this should not have continued to happen over and over.»
«Aren’t you curious to know who the culprit is?»
Cayena heralded a widespread purge.
He finally realized — his opponent did not happen to accidentally or luckily become the state representative. The one who deserved the power took it. Then whom should he side with?
«…In the honor of the knights, I will surely find the perpetrator!»
«I’ll take your word for it,» grinned Cayena.
* * *
The fact that a knight of the Imperial family had hid in the Princess’s chamber instantly turned the Palace upside down.
Cayena put all the focus on one place.
❮Who is the initiator?❯
People paid more attention to the one who was behind it, rather than Jedaiah Ross himself. With a high probability that it could have been a spy of either the Prince’s faction or the Grand Duke’s faction.
This might determine the outcome of the succession battle. The nobles realized that there was a huge gambling board unfolding in front. So, who should they bet on?
Just at the same time, the Imperial Palace was strewn out with petitions as if they had been prepared in advance. It was required to quickly find out who was behind the harm done to Her Highness. This was the effect of Baron Elivan’s fast movements on drawing educated people. It did not end there, though. Marquis Dottie held a noble conference, where it was emphasized that the offender was ’a crony’ of the Evans family.
Cayena got both justification and circumstance. Depending on how she turned this blade in her hand, the balance of power would be changed anew.
Marquis Rodrick was thunderstruck with the sudden news.
«Xenon, this damn bastard is still holding me back even after his death! How come nobody stopped you from giving a recommendation letter for a guy who hadn’t even had any basis to receive it!»
His frosty rage roared over the audience room.
Julia went to visit her brother, who was just in the process of scouring the guiltless personnel.
«Brother, I have something to tell you.»
«I’m busy right now, so go away.»
Marquis Rodrick could not even pretend to be relaxed as usual. The man’s eyes were glistening with uncontrollable wrath. Julia’s body stiffened at the moment — she was afraid another big palm might slap her cheek.
But Julia clenched her fist and took a step forward.
«I have a way to get over this situation.»
Marquis Rodrick glanced up at her.
«Her Highness the Princess gave me a hint at today’s tea party. It would be great for the Evans family to join the charity work arranged by the Kidrays.»
«So what do I get?»
«The Evans family will show respect for the Princess and prove that it has nothing to do with the unsavory incident.»
A moment of admiration lingered in the man’s face. He felt caught off guard because he did not expect that Julia, who was considered to be only a foolish little girl, would say this.
«But there’s the letter of recommendation as evidence, isn’t there?»
«It could be manipulated as if someone else’s spy was disguised by borrowing the name of the dead knight. Brother, as you know, in this matter we need Her Highness’s mercy.»
Now Marquis Rodrick looked much calmer than before.
Julia’s idea was excellent. Besides, looking at the attitude of the princess, it seemed that she favoured Julia quite a bit. So that was why she offered her helping hand.
Rodrick heard about Prince Rezef’s ferocious temper several times through Xenon. But he was only an 18 year old boy, wasn’t he?
Marquis Rodrick suddenly thought that it would be right to collude with the Princess now in order to profit later in the future. He felt that Julia was not a tool to use only for marriage, but a more profitable one. He felt quite satisfied.
«I got it. But first you go back.»
In any case, the work needed to proceed after consulting with the relatives. He let Julia out and closed the door.
Julia wiped her sweaty palms on the hem of the skirt.
* * *
The news of Jedaiah’s death was delivered to Yester through his secret agent.
«He was caught and killed while sneaking into the Princess’s bedroom. I checked the body and it was really him.»
«That crazy wanker…» shouted Yester, unable to conceal his shock from the absurdity of the situation, put his palm on his forehead. «So, he decided to hide in her bedroom and then snuffed it? What’s the point?»
«There’s no connection with me, right? Take care of the mansion that was given to him and shut up the personnel right now. Got it?»
«Yes, Grand Duke!»
Then three men in black robes entered the oval office.
The moment Yester saw them, his irritation was completely gone. A pleasant smile showed up on his face.
«Oh, I’ve been waiting. Please sit down.»
As he spoke to those in black robes, he made an eye gesture to the attendant. It meant to go away. When there was none who did not need to stay in the oval office, Yester sat down in his chair.
«What’s with the thing you’ve been looking for? I really wanted to help you…»
«It’s out of human intervention,» a sinister voice came out from under the black robe.
Yester smacked his lips.
«And still, it helped..»
The same one in the black robe pulled something out of his pocket with a hand in black leather gloves. That was Elixir.
Yester’s eyes glistened with greed. He already knew what effect it had. As expected, he was a lucky one. Heaven must have sent these wizards to sit him on the throne.
«That’s an invaluable thing…»
«There’s someone we’re looking for in the Palace.»
Yester crinkled his eyes.
«There will be another event to watch in this hunting competition, so you’ll definitely be able to achieve what you want.»
The man in the robe put the bottle containing only one drop of Elixir on the table.
They disappeared with a smoke.
Yester removed the painting from the wall and put this bottle into the safe hidden behind.
«The person who they are seeking for is in the Palace…» he muttered suddenly.
’And if I first find out who it is…’
A crafty smile came to Yester’s lips.
«Will I be able to get more Elixir?»
* * *
During the social season, classes in the Imperial Academy finished earlier. The attribute that the children of noble families needed more was not education but connections. Thanks to this, Raphael was able to use the deserted Imperial Library at ease.
He passed by the Humanities and Tactics section that he enjoyed and entered a corner where he had never taken a step into before. The titles of the books were completely unusual.
《Why did wizards disappear?》
《The Legend of Elixir》
Raphael sighed slightly. He had no idea which one to start with first — he hardly had the slightest knowledge in such an area. In any case, considering he had nowhere to turn for advice, he decided to pull out every single book that fell into his hand. Among them there was a title that attracted Raphael’s eyes.
«The Magic Garden…»
Raphael thought for a moment while taking out the other books and then picked up «The Magic Garden». Just like in his days at the Academy, he chose to sit down on the floor in the corner of the bookshelf rather than at the table.
Even when he was a little boy, there was not enough space between the bookshelves. Thus, he leaned against the bookshelf with one of his legs bent and the other one folded below. The sunlight coming through a small window was bright, so there was no need for an additional lamp.
He began to flip through the books in an oblique position with his arm extended on his raised knee. The information here was not very useful. All the focus was on why wizards had disappeared and how great the Elixir they created was.
«Wizard’s blood is used for creating Elixir…»
It was also reported that weak wizards, who were often captured by the government, died of excessive bleeding while creating Elixir. Raphael frowned and turned to the next book, «The Magic Garden». While he was turning the pages, some sudden things appeared to him.
Mighty wizards have their own gardens. The garden, which is thriving with magical mana, absorbs life and new flowers continue to blossom. A wizard with this garden can generate new wizards, and the price is their life. The level and scale of their magical ability vary depending on the contractor’s lifespan, but individual talents are essential as well.
Occasionally, there appear humans with excessively huge talents compared to their lifespan, but such novice wizards must be careful.
Magic always costs life.
How to possess magic? The Magic Garden? Lifespan? It was the book which treated a completely different content compared to the ones he had read so far.
«The owner of the Black Garden trades magical powers in exchange for life. There is a „black rose“ on the back of a wizard who traded his life…»
He hurriedly moved on to the next chapter.
There are three main types of wizards. An owner of the Black Garden, an inborn wizard and a wizard who traded their life.
An inborn wizard refers to a human being who has been enlightened by magical powers since birth. Their classification can not even be limited as „new humanity“. They have enough qualifications to be the owner of the garden, however they are far away from the owners of the Black Garden.
The power of the owner of the garden is beyond imagination. It’s better to give up hope on becoming one unless an inborn wizard masters magic of time and space control.
The inborn wizards usually have strong combat capabilities and they can terminate the pact of the contractor wizard by taking one’s „rose“ away. In that case, the wizard, who breaks the deal, dies.
Raphael’s eyes flared. Hold on, were they irritated? He did not know. Raphael’s vision seemed to become dizzy. Before he realised it, an indescribable, awful ache pierced his entire body and his breathing got difficult.
The book fell out of his hand and banged down on the floor with an unpleasant sound. The man’s dry palms pressed against his eyes. It was more loathsome than shaking hands and talking to dozens of people at the banquet, or seeing his father looking at him with contempt.
What-! What the hell!
No, it was a delusion. He was in delusion for a moment. There were no bullets flying by, and the gunman was defeated from the beginning.
Yeah, that’s what made sense. And on the day whilst he robbed Yester’s powder depot, there surely had been a secret guard. And even that night when he believed they had finally reached the rapport…
Raphael put all the books back in their place. Like he was someone who had never taken these out and read them, as if time was turning back. He put on an emotionless expression again. He was used to pretending to look like this, he had been doing it since he was 10.
People were difficult: you had to smile or cry as they wanted. Mother, father, the whole family. Therefore he had better lose his emotions.
She appeared in his empty life that resembled a desert. He could never give up on Cayena. A weak heart would not be able to resolve this situation and Raphael was well aware of this fact. So he had been constantly coping with it, just like now. But what if Cayena traded her own lifespan?
Was that why she had asked him what he would do if she died the next day? He had nothing to be afraid of. Even if a knife had flown towards him, he would not be scared. During the war, he was nicknamed ’The Judge’ due to his cold-blooded and ruthless attitude. But this… He was extremely terrified.
Raphael quietly got into the carriage. He was confused all the way back to his residence. Nothing was clear as if he were a wandered child. He was gradually starting to understand what happiness was. Turbulent and perilous, but at the same time it was such a precious and ardent feeling. Incredible.
If Cayena was a contractor wizard and she traded her life, then… He felt suffocated just by assuming that she might die right away as a big part of her lifespan could have already been lost. Now everything was known. He had found out the cause for every time when Cayena pushed him away, hesitated and seemed confused. What could he even do for a woman who was burning while devoting herself to revenge?
Raphael raised his head and saw Jeremy with a puzzled expression.
«Right now there is…»
Before Jeremy could finish speaking, Raphael’s gaze reached to the one standing in the garden. He stopped moving abruptly.
Blond hair as bright as sunlight, white skin, slightly closed eyelids and topaz-colored eyes. The man, who despite his middle-age, could boast with great beauty, turned away from the garden tree.
He, as if his voice was lost, could say nothing for a moment.
Leo Francis smiled at his call. Like a loving father. Had he ever looked at Raphael like that? Raphael could swear — not even once. And whenever he called him ’father’, a bottle of alcohol, or an ashtray, waited it’s turn to fly towards him. What was worse he could not even believe Leo Francis visited him.
«What are you doing here?»
«I had a business trip to the cathedral. I have inherited one of my father’s titles,» replied his father and took a step closer to Raphael. «I haven’t seen you for a long time, and you’re not offering me a cup of tea?»
He always had a friendly tone. According to others, his father was originally a person who spoke like this. It was just Raphael who had been shamed, coldly treated and hated since he was a little boy.
«Come on in,» nodded Raphael, feeling a bit weary.
The personnel of the villa, who had already prepared to greet the guest, held their breath. Leo Francis silently watched their actions with an aimless smile.
«You seem like a Kidray,» he did not have the same hateful tone as before.
«Sit down comfortably,» Raphael pointed to the seat.
The two sat down and Leo tilted his head as he took a sip of the tea that was served in front of him.
«The tea tastes strong.»
Madam Noah loved mildly brewed tea, so the Kidray family’s members usually brewed tea like that. But this tea was strong.
«If it doesn’t suit your taste, it’ll be brought back.»
«No need. I didn’t know you had such a taste,» Leo shook his head at Raphael’s words.
He spoke as if he was blaming his own indifference. It was so abominable and painful to listen to it quietly any longer.
«Why are you here?» Raphael asked without touching the teacup.
«I told you. At the cathedral…»
«That’s not it, right?»
His father, still with a smile on his face, put down his teacup. His topaz-like beautiful blue eyes turned towards Raphael.
«I’m here to find my real son.»
Real son? His mind went blank at those words. His heart, which he thought had settled down, gradually began to beat violently to the point of hurting displeasure.
«…what do you mean by a real son?» asked Raphael again soon after.
No, he wasn’t hurt by his intent or anything. The very fact that Leo Francis found out about him and Empress Sun having a son was substantial.
’How the hell did you know?’
The emperor said his father certainly did not know this. Noah would never have said it. His father was still smiling gently and it felt rather creepy.
«You may be a little confused. I understand. I was very surprised after finding out about this not too long ago.»
The gentle and soft voice of his father as though became a blade and was cutting his ears. He wanted to cover his ears right away. However, his father did not stop there.
«As you know, I didn’t have a very good relationship with your mother.»
So then, without a doubt, an affair was necessary.
«Isn’t it common for nobility to have at least one child born outside the family?»
What a shameless statement it was. Raphael was tormented to hear more of this nauseous story.
«So, do you know who the son is?»
Father smiled strangely and leaned deep on the sofa. Now he was waiting for his lips to open again. Perhaps, depending on the answer, Raphael might have had to commit a sin against heaven today. He deliberately did not take off his thin spring coat — there was a gun inside.
«Well, I’ve only heard that you’ll help me find my son.»
Was that true? Could it be that he was hiding the truth by being afraid for himself?
’Who informed you?’
Endless doubts were burying him up.
«But I’ve heard that he resembles his mother and me, so that I can recognize him at first glance,» peacefully said he.
He did not expect his father to have common sense. Yet, it was too much to openly and casually talk about his infidelity in front of his own child.
«There will be scandals in the social world. Do you still have to do it?»
Raphael involuntarily clenched his fist at the nickname. He did not want to hear it. Leo dared to act kindly to him, pretending to be friendly.
Even though there was no tactile contact and they were at a moderate distance, Raphael was irritated and disgusted. Not long after learning the shocking facts, a terrible thing happened to torment him again. It was even more unbearable staying in the same space with others than usual.
His complexion and expression seemed to become invisible to his father.
«It’s your brother. Don’t be so heartless,» Leo Francis simply scolded Raphael, twisting his brow slightly.
At those words, his whole body became cold. Father’s cruelty still did not stop there.
«Have I ever been so miserable to ask for your help? I haven’t said you should do filial duties, have I? I didn’t even scold you for pushing the divorce proceedings forward.»
Divorce was the will of both parents, and it was moving at a snail’s pace as the result of the Francis family’s constant demand for unreasonable compensation.
Raphael’s mother rather prefered to get her throat cut with a blade than to give Leo or his family even a single penny. Thus, the trial was conducted in secret. Raphael, who watched the dirty brawl, made a colossal donation to the cathedral to end it and now he was being blamed for it.
«Father, may I ask what title you have received?»
«I inherited the title of Viscount Allen,» he said, giving Raphael a little curious look.
Raphael slowly closed his eyes and opened them, twisting the corners of his mouth.
«Have I ever told you to act like my father, Viscount Allen?»
«…What are you saying to your father now, Raphael!»
«The Francis family dared to request part of the Duchy as compensation and when I tried to proceed with the trial as decently as possible…»
As soon as he said this, a sudden laugh burst out of his mouth.
The father’s sweet smile had disappeared and instead gave way to the usual devilish expression that came back onto his face. Only then did Raphael feel at ease.
«Aren’t you grateful to me for not firing cannonballs at the Francis’ mansion and transforming it to dust on the pretext of you bringing disgrace to my family?»
Raphael lunged from his seat and lifted Leo up by grabbing his collar. He was not a ten-year-old boy anymore. Now he had grown up enough so his father had to raise his head to look up at him.
«Don’t you, once the Duke of Kidray, know the power of the Duke, do you, Viscount Allen?»
«Let go of me! What kind of hogwash is this!»
With a grim expression Leo tried to slap Raphael’s cheek roughly.
Raphael grasped his arm and threw him down on the table, capturing him.
The aides and knights rushed in at the sound of shouting and crackling of something inside.
«What is going on?»
They found the struggling Leo cry out, suppressed by Raphael.
«He dared to assault and tried to intimidate me, the Duke. I will seize the noble court, so this man has to be put under arrest,» ordered Raphael.
«…yes, my lord!»
«I can’t believe the nasty Kidrays are holding me back till the end!» he cursed Raphael while being dragged away by the knights. «You and your mother are the same! Damn you!»
Raphael did not turn a blind eye to his evil father and called Jeremy.
«Tell the Francises: if they don’t take care of their relatives, His Majesty grants them a territorial war and all those who have the Francis’ surname on their grounds will be wiped off the map.»
Emperor Estebian was likely to support his army. The Francis family knew well that they were hated by the Emperor, so they might get rid of Leo.
«Find every single one who has recently approached my father and explore everything.»
«I obey your orders,» bowed Jeremy.
* * *
In addition to those recruited for land reclamation, the Central Army reinforced security by organizing a new unit. They searched for the Princess’s illwishers with radiating intent to rip off all their limbs. Thanks to this, the Capital froze again on a warm spring day as if it had been rocked by a blizzard. It was impossible to know who would be decapitated by the sword which the Princess held.
Cayena, holding the hilt, pulled out the candied lemon slices with tweezers and dipped them in her black tea.
«Your Highness can’t eat only sweets.»
At Vera’s words, Cayena, who was trying to eat some candies, paused. Julia, who was writing the report, raised her head.
«Ah, Your Highness has eaten too little today!»
Cayena squinted at the maid of honor but Julia looked unyielding.
She put down the tweezers dissatisfied. It was good that the maids were competent, and yet…
Then Susan led the maids into the bedroom. The pile of clothes and accessories for Cayena to wear at today’s tea party started increasing continuously.
«How about this dress for Lady Catherine’s tea party today? It will look sophisticated with bright colors and silver strips.»
«I should wear it.»
As her maternal uncle Jonathan took over the family, Catherine and Ethel moved to the other residence. Ethel was supposed to return from school earlier and attend this party, therefore Cayena could meet him after a long time. She put on the bracelet with the moon-shaped pendant that she received from Ethel as her birthday present.
«It’s the only party Your Highness is attending after declaring absence from all the parties owing to the last incident, so the competition rate to get there will be high.»
Cayena smirked and sipped her tea, listening to Vera. The sour-sweet lemon syrup went well with the bitter taste of black tea.
«The foal was sent directly to Lady Catherine’s mansion,» said Susan, decorating Cayena’s hair at the same time.
Formerly, Cayena asked Susan to send a foal to Ethel as a gift.
Julia, who had written all of her work reports, approached Cayena with her heart pounding.
«You’ve improved considerably,» said Cayena, checking.
Julia was delighted to hear that. She also brought the following report with an excited expression.
«And my brother contacted Esteemed Madam Noah — we’re going to join the charity.»
It was true that he was given an opportunity that he couldn’t miss, but Julia seemed to have worked better in persuading him.
«You must have done a good job on persuading him,» Cayena praised Julia proudly.
Julia straightened, then she took the hem of her dress and performed a slight but graceful bow.
«You are exaggerating, Your Highness. I just did what I had to do.»
Everyone burst into laughter at her deftly accomplished act of modesty.
Cayena put down her teacup and slowly began to get ready to go out. She put on that dress which Susan showed her, and soon the preparations were over after her outfit was completed with a cream wide-brimmed hat with sky blue ribbon and floral embellishments on it.
«The carriage is ready, Your Highness,» informed Olivia, who just came in.
Cayena left the bedroom with her maids of honor — she was planning to attend the tea party with all of them.
Cayena and her retinue walked along the hall chattering with each other. However they closed their mouths just when Rezef appeared leaning against the wall at the entrance of the Princess’s Palace.
«We are greeting Your Highness the Prince,» bowed the maids.
Rezef strode to Cayena and grabbed her arm roughly.
«Are you sure you want to play with me?»
Vera was startled and tried to protect Cayena, but Rezef pushed her away.
«How dare a maid interfere?»
Everyone rushed to support Vera, who stumbled backwards, contemplating his fierce behavior.
«Everyone, go to the carriage.»
«But, Your Highness…!»
«It’s an order,» commanded Cayena firmly though they looked worried.
When they left, Rezef grabbed the blue ribbon of Cayena’s hat. The ribbon felt just like Cayena’s thin neck.
«Are you thinking of becoming the Empress?» asked Rezef, wriggling his lips.
Cayena slapped Rezef’s hand, which was holding her ribbon. Then she grabbed Rezef’s tie and pulled it down to meet his gaze. With her other hand, she clasped his cheek gently. Rezef’s eyes widened.
«Exactly, Rezef,» she said to him, raising one corner of her lips. Cayena put her head on one side and whispered in his ear in a sweet but cold tone. «Noona will make sure you learn what it feels like to be deprived of what you want the most.»
At that moment, Rezef’s face got distorted just like demon Yaksha.
«Cayena!» he cried out, being completely overwhelmed
«Oh my, it’s too late,» she let go of his hand without hesitation and spoke softly. «I have a party to attend today.»
«Are you insane? Are you out of your mind?»
«You can’t say this to your noona, Rezef,» said Cayena as if she was too lazy to deal with him.
This couldn’t have happened. His sister couldn’t have done it unless she had gone crazy. How much did he put up with for her? How much did he love her? This was a barefaced betrayal.
«You think you’re going to be safe?»
It was a foolish threat.
«Rezef, don’t you see your arms are cut off already?» Cayena smiled genuinely.
Neither Marquis Dottie nor Marquis Evans could support him anymore. A sand castle or a house of cards. If Cayena blew only once, it would surely collapse. And it did. Completely defenseless.
«If there’s anything to blame — it’s all your own folly.»
Cayena ignored Rezef, who was staring at her like he was about to tear her apart. It was too easy to provoke him. He would become obsessed with the idea of ruling her in the future. Thus, it was destined to reach the limit.
’Such as him killing the Emperor and in order to displace me he will pin it on me.’
However, Cayena had already put together a scheme, which was made when she provided the silver spoon. She also had a card called Elixir. Cayena decided to wait for Rezef to get caught in her trap. Now all that was left was the Grand Duke Heinrich. It was necessary to neutralize his actual weapon, ’the Underworld’.
’I’ve already made preparations for it.’
Cayena went to the carriage as if nothing had happened.
«Are Your Highness all right?»
«I know how much you care for me, but if it was even a little later and Rezef had lost his reason completely, he would have brandished his sword right away,» Cayena held Vera by hand. «You have to be careful.»
Vera knew it was highly possible with Rezef’s personality. However, it seemed that he would be unable to control himself if he faced Cayena again.
«We can’t just talk about these disappointing things on such a fine day. Let’s go and enjoy the tea party.»
They nodded reluctantly and climbed into the carriage. After the carriage left the Palace, it stopped after some time in front of the mansion, which was built in a pretty good district of the Capital.
Old-fashioned but not flashy atmosphere was just like Catherine. There were already a lot of attendees at the party. They sprang to their feet with sparkling eyes as soon as Cayena and her retinue entered. They seemed to be anxious to greet the Princess.
Catherine approached Cayena with a much brighter face.
«Thank you very much for coming personally, Your Highness the Princess.»
«Oh, please, auntie! It’s a picturesque manor.»
The silver-haired boy in a fluttering dress shirt emerged from behind Catherine.
Cayena deliberately waved her hand to show the bracelet on her wrist. Ethel’s cheeks heated up like a peach as he saw the bracelet. He approached Cayena and courteously bowed.
«I greet the Princess.»
Cayena tilted her head: somehow Ethel was creating a little different impression.
’Is he taller? Looks like he’s somewhat changed since we haven’t seen each other.’
«Have you grown bigger? You’ve become more manly, Ethel.»
«…don’t make fun of me.»
«Nah, for real.»
Ethel looked so cute while his lips were sticking out so she hugged him and stroked his hair. After saying hello to Catherine, the maids of honor found Ethel and commenced peering at him.
«My brother, isn’t he cute?»
Cayena moved Ethel in front of her and they covered their mouths.
A boy version of Cayena!
They burst into admiration surrounding Ethel.
«Oh my God, you look so much like Her Highness!»
Ethel was happy to hear that, so he coyly remained still, assuming a prim air. Everyone was watching this scene.
Cayena approached Catherine again with a faint smile.
«Should I interpret today’s tea party as colluding?»
It meant whether it could be interpreted as a declaration about joining the political race.
«I’ve already boarded your ship. There’s nowhere else to step back from here.»
It was fortunate as Cayena had Ethel in mind as her own successor.
«If I show my will to take the throne, Ethel will be noticed at the same time.»
Their friendship would be seen as a creation of a new family tree. And it was truly so. Cayena intended to confer Catherine with a title of the Empress. She wanted Ethel to become the perfect heir without any flaws.
Catherine was overtly nervous and had to gulp.
«Count Hamel will welcome you. The family tree will be twisted again, it is just as if the Empress originated in their family once again.»
«…It means that His Highness the Crown Prince and the Grand Duke will be completely destroyed in the battle for the throne.»
«Rezef’s patience won’t last long,» nodded Cayena. «I’m guessing sooner or later there’s going to be a real hurricane in the Capital. It’s a race against time.»
Battle over time was also Cayena’s personal one. Organizing everything while she was alive. The part where she would be unable to get through ought to inevitably be passed on to Raphael, but…
’We’re going to clean up the Underworld soon.’
Cayena removed all the pieces but the king from the chessboard. She intended to pass on an already won game, so it would not be too much of a burden for Raphael.
She waited for the sun to set.
* * *
A night devoid of even a single light source.
Cayena scrupulously set up a guard in front of her bedroom and locked the door so that no one could come in. She summoned a box hidden out of humans’ reach and it appeared in front of her. Cayena began preparing to get in stealthily into the Underworld. She repeated it for several days, so it became as natural as the flow of water.
She dressed up all in black and wrapped her face with a black veil. It was done in order to hide her identity. When all the preparations were completed, Cayena moved space to commence teleportation.
Instead of the luxurious bedroom filled with soft candle light, a dim and drab room came into view. She took an accustomed step.
When the door opened, a dainty place, that was solemnly decorated with black satin, appeared. There was a man in a rabbit mask waiting for her in front.
«Hello, Madam Medea.»
It was some kind of a stiff greeting. The awkwardness of this role-play situation was almost deadly as Cayena was unfamiliar with such things. She bought a building under the name of Madam Medea in Yester’s Underworld. It was here. Cayena looked at the rabbit mask and smiled quietly.
«It’s pretty cute and well-made.»
At that, the man in the rabbit mask took it off. He had a scar on his left cheek. It was Jedaiah.
«Why did you tell me to specifically use the one with the rabbit when there’s so many others?» he asked, glancing at the mask with rabbit ears pricked up in his hand.
«Because you can’t lose to a fox mask,» said Cayena quite seriously.
The fox mask was a symbol of Count Zodiac.
«You’re not good enough to deal with the fox with silver fur…»
Cayena looked at Jedaiah and fell silent. It must be a little hard for a supporting character to beat the main hero’s appearance.
«But if you can be cute, you’ll have a chance to win,» she encouraged Jedaiah.
«I mean, why do you need to watch such a match…?»
«It’s fun,» Cayena said so and sat down on the black leather sofa.
«It could be dangerous to go out by myself, should I do it? Besides, what if I get discovered?»
«If you get caught, enraged Yester will try to murder me,» replied Cayena to his concern.
Today she was planning to sweep away the Mansion of Count Zodiac, Yester’s home. Such an opponent like Yester had to be provoked to aggression so that he could not remain calm. If they succeed, Cayena would be able to prevent Yester from capturing the throne even if she died a little too early.
Cayena put Jedaiah in the lead and went out. Outside, there was a mob of men in armor.
«Let’s go get Count Zodiac!» cried Jedaiah.