The Villainess is a Marionette - Chapter 129
The most prosperous adult entertainment district in the capital Elquim was a place called «The Noble’s Nighttown». And a tremendous and ornate mansion of Count Zodiac was situated there. At that place, both the visitors and the workers of the manor had to wear masks. Thus, Cayena and Jedaiah sneaked in, pretending to be guests.
«Attack!» there a cry had broken out.
At Jedaiah’s signal, shouts erupted and a stream of people had poured inside. Yester’s men were kerfuffled by such a flash situation.
«Ward it off! Get rid of them all!»
Jedaiah’s men, who wore armour and weapons and resembled knights, started destroying everything that Yester had accomplished so far. If only they had used guns, things would have been much easier. However, that could have allowed the Imperial troops to make a move. Сonsequently, there was a tacit rule: a gun was not allowed to be used in the dark alleys.
Even though the place had turned into a field of dogfight, the world around Cayena moved at a much slower pace. She roamed through the mob to smash the lanterns. The lesser the presence of any light source, the easier this operation became.
Cayena was editing the space around and exploding the condensed flow of time like gunpowder whenever she noticed her allies were in danger.
The gambling hall on the first floor of the mansion had turned into a bedlam instantly. Cayena broke the lanterns using the metal rod in her hand to impel the nobles, who were right inside the hall, to flee away faster.
The row of lanterns came to be smashed into small pieces which shattered in all directions. Here and there sparks were blowing up and the mansion started to catch fire.
The masked nobles, who had been enwrapped in the fun earlier, were already captured by chaos and commenced escaping while screaming in disbelief.
Then a familiar voice was heard.
«I’ve never invited a madwoman into my house,» it was a man wearing a fox mask, Yester. «Are you that woman named Madam Medea?» he asked disparagingly.
Yet Cayena did not reply and pointed her weapon at Yester.
He stepped back, seized in a fit of astonishment as he did not expect her to be so resolute.
Although Cayena controlled time, she had no particular combat abilities. And Yester’s reaction was as good as her ’slowing down’.
«If the landlord comes out, shouldn’t you say hello?» he grinded his teeth and spit out these words to Cayena who was fully dressed in black. «I have been tolerating you poking around my streets these days,» said Yester and reached out his hand to brandish his gun.
’Well, as expected. This cur wouldn’t abide by the rule.’
It did not matter, though. She could just move faster than the bullets he shot.
Cayena rushed forward, slowing down the time flow. The bullet was striked back with her metal rod and slammed directly into Yester’s waist.
«…A-argh-!» Yester howled like a beast at the awful pain crushing all over his insides.
His men also drew their guns and aimed at Cayena. But Jedaiah was a bit more rapid.
Earlier on, Cayena had furnished Jedaiah with a gun as well. Yester was not the only one who had no intention to adhere to the rule from the onset.
In the midst of that, Yester glared at Cayena with his bloodshot eyes and raised up his gun.
’He has guts, too.’
Cayena stepped back slightly to avoid the bullet and the next moment Yester’s arm, which was holding the gun, got struck.
«Ugh…!!» Yester groaned and commenced a shout. «Blow it up!»
There was a deafening noise ringing out from somewhere. It was an explosion. The mansion seemed to have been installed with explosives all over it. Since he was the owner of a gunpowder warehouse, she guessed he might be supplied with such kinds of devices also.
Cayena smirked under her veil.
The voice, widespread by space magic, resounded loudly.
«How good of you to save me the trouble, Yester,» Cayena spoke to him with a sneer.
What would she exactly do with the Underworld? The attack on the mansion was not really about changing the holder of this place. It was to show the noble’s community that Yester had lost his power. As a result, it was intended to force Yester to hurry up on succeeding the throne because he could not stand the nobility that considered him a brute.
«…you!» cried out Yester, whose face was exposed after his fox mask had been taken off, and glared at Cayena. «You’re doing this knowing who I am!»
Cayena had no desire to stay with him anymore, so this time she lifted the metal rod to break his leg.
Then something caught the rod which she was holding. She turned around puzzled, but there was no one. Something like black smoke was eroding down the rod. Before the smoke could reach her hand, Cayena quickly dropped the rod.
The corroded to rust-dusted item fell helplessly onto the floor.
This was magic.
’Here’s another wizard!’
There was someone exuding a very ominous aura. Oh no, was it just one person? There might be several. Cayena tried to pause the time, but she had already overused her powers so dizziness along with sharp tinnitus began grasping her.
Yester took Elixir out of his pocket, drank it, and he was fine again. He swung his fist at Cayena while bearing bloodshot eyes. But Cayena did not have time to concern with it.
A man in a cat mask suddenly appeared and clasped Yester’s arm.
Without thinking twice, Yester kicked the disturber. However, the opponent’s figure disappeared as though a mirage. Only then did he realize that the man wearing the cat mask was also a wizard.
«Ya wizards, help me! Here’s the one you’re looking for!»
Bael, the man in the cat mask, held lurching Cayena by her waist and created a shield surrounding them to block the black smoke that shot like an arrow towards her.
The mansion collapsed quickly. Soon after, three men in black robes appeared in the midst of the ruins.
The shortest man in the middle was snickering.
«The owner of the Black Garden came all the way here.»
Bayel tried to disappear with coldly sweating Cayena, who had almost lost consciousness.
«This woman is mine.»
«Cut the bullshit.»
Then the man took off the hood that was covering his face. He had a creepy appearance filled with madness. But something was bizarre: the man resembled Bael.
«Weren’t you supposed to stay out of human affairs, hyung?»
«Who’s your hyung?»
«How sad. We’re one and only family to each other.»
Bael gritted his teeth.
«And if not…» the eyes of the wizard resembling Bael suddenly changed and black smoke exploded from him. «Hand over the Black Garden.»
«Don’t infuriate me.»
The black smoke blew up and disappeared even before it could get closer to Bael. Tottering Cayena stood upright, letting out a slight sigh. A cold sweat rolled down her nape, but her mind returned to a more clear condition. She looked at the man resembling Bael scorningly.
«All those so-called younger ones are anyway…»
Cayena reached out to him, editing and twisting time and space. She was about to remove the opponent out of that space. However, her opponent was one who wouldn’t be easily beaten. He vanished with a scattering black smoke and appeared in another place.
«Oh, what a delightful ability!» he clapped for Cayena with a jubilant face. «For real… I wanna make it mine right now!»
«Stop it, Cain!»
Cain, the wizard, commenced forming the black smoke into the shape of a giant hand, without paying attention when Bael’s anger burst out.
Everything that the smoke touched quickly began corroding and melting. At that moment, Cayena grabbed Bael and edited the space.
However, they could only get out of the mansion because she had not recovered fully yet. Strength in her knees loosened.
«Be careful,» Bael hurried to help Cayena, who stumbled.
«…How did you raise your little brother?» she criticized him, breathing roughly.
«Your brother is even worse!» said Bael with an outrageous look. «And he’s not a brother to me anymore!» continued Bael, suffering unfairness. «Wizards are independent beings!»
Then Cain, who turned the mansion upside down with the black smoke, came out and spoke to him with a sad look.
«That’s so saddening, hyung. I wanna kill you.»
«Run away while I’m dealing with him,» Bael told Cayena, sighed and white smoke started billowing around him.
Cayena instinctively felt it would be dangerous to use more of her magic.
She hurriedly moved the space.
Why were those wizards after him? Cayena was questioning herself inwardly as she frantically moved as much as she could through the space.
And only then she realized that she had no knowledge about the world of wizards. All she knew was that the wizards were quite isolated beings. Hence, she assumed she would not get entangled with other wizards except for Bael. Even in the original novel which she read, there were no wizards other than him.
’Bael seemed to know why that man named Cain was targeting me.’
Didn’t he tell him to pass over the Black Garden? It seemed to be something that could be usurped like a throne. And it appeared to be that Cayena was needed for such a thing, but Cain’s behavior showed no intention to keep her alive.
’Can he take my powers away?’
In any case, for now, she had to focus on hiding and replenishing her strength before heading back to her chambers.
The streets were chaotic after Count Zodiac’s mansion was blown up: there were people running away, raving gangsters, and horses and carriages riding desperately to get out of the alleys.
Cayena was trying so hard to hide that she looked too suspicious and it was easy to get her discovered. If only she was in good shape, there would be nothing to fear, but now she was in a nasty condition.
Both her legs were already shaking and her eyes were flickering. It was impossible to use magic continuously in this state. She had to stop using the magic and find a hideout to sit tight in the darkness as much as possible. All she needed to do was just get there.
«Clear the way! Move!»
Carriages carrying nobles ran mercilessly, regardless of whether there were people in front of it. One of the carriages popped into the alley where Cayena hid.
«Get out of my way if you don’t want to die!»
Then several carriages poured into the narrow street all at once. The horsemen shouted and drove their horses with fierce faces.
Someone clung on Cayena.
«Come this way,» a low voice sank above her head.
The person moved away from the carriages, gently holding Cayena. When she looked up, a man wearing a black wolf mask was seen.
’Is this the man from the Zodiac’s mansion?’
But she was used to his voice. His height, physique, and even the hand that embraced her.
When they finally stopped in front of the hideout, Cayena turned to him.
«…how did you know?»
«Madame Medea has been kept an eye on ever since she appeared.»
It was unexpected and strange that he watched gangsters appearing in the dark alleys and identified them as well. Raphael found the hidden spot of the building and opened its door as if he was already used to it.
«Come on in.»
She took Raphael by his outstretched hand and went inside with his help. When they entered the place, hidden from others’ views, he took off his mask, shaking his head and smoothing his hair.
«How did you know it was me?» she asked him again and Raphael stared at her black veil.
«It was something that couldn’t be explained without magic,» at his words Cayena bit her lips.
’How come he knew it was magic?’
Raphael must have been an ordinary human who did not even assume magic existed in the world. However, how would he know about it, and, what was more important, how did he know she was a wizard?
«Were you pretending to be asleep at that time?»
Except for the day Cayena went to visit him, she had no explanation for it.
Raphael did not reply and only put his arms around her veiled face carefully. Pale moonlight that came through a small window flashed on his face. He had a painful look on his face.
She was suffocated and her heart commenced pounding violently. This man knew — he knew that she had traded her life to obtain magical powers…
«…Raphael,» Cayena squeezed her lips and then called him cautiously.
He closed his eyes tightly for some time and slowly opened them anew, hardening his face.
«May I know how much time you have left?»
It looked like he was barely holding himself not to burst into tears.
’Bael couldn’t have let this be known.’
He seemed to have researched some materials related to magic. Cayena hesitated and spoke frankly.
«I sold half of my life,» Cayena spoke to Raphael frankly after a long beat and squeezed his hand.
Raphael’s eyes flickered. Cayena would rather prefer him to get out of patience and be angry at her.
«You can be mad at me for not thinking about you and thinking about leaving you alone…»
«How can I?» Raphael shook his head, drooping his eyelashes down.
He knew better than anybody else why she made that decision.
Raphael had to blame himself if he wanted to resent. Having failed to protect Mrs. Clarence Elivan, he felt guilty for just delivering her letter to Cayena.
«My nanny was killed by Rezef. You didn’t do anything wrong,» said she in a stern voice, realizing that he thought it was his fault. «It’s… it’s only his and mine issue. And it’s the Emperor’s sin, too.»
Raphael couldn’t think of it that way. He wished he had helped her not to be so cornered. If only he had acted more daringly earlier…
«It’s almost over,» she said to him, who was about to shed tears. «When it’s all over, the rest of my time will be yours.»
So he just had to hold on a little more. Just another day. Again, just one more day. If she won, all her time left to death would be entirely his. That would be the genuine freedom she longed for.
Her dark-gloved hand stroked Raphael’s cheek. Then Raphael kissed her through the black veil. That thin cloth hung on between the two overlapped lips.
«I will bring you the victory,» he claimed, lowering his head slightly.
A failure was no longer in their plans.
* * *
Rezef was laying down on the sofa and glaring at the ceiling. He had no motivation. Nothing was pleasant to him. He could not even get swept away by endless wrath like before. As if his soul had been lost, he was wasting time staring at nothing with listless eyes.
Preparations for the hunting competition were also burdensome. What to do there? And, after all, what else to do to avoid getting caught up in some kind of mess prepared by Yester? Or, perhaps, he would see his sister’s innocent smile as if she knew nothing…
’You’re pining away, Rezef.’
She might have tenderly stroked his cheeks and looked at him with worried eyes.
Rezef lifted his hand and wiped his face. He regretted it. He was so remorseful of his impulsive and foolish deeds in the past. He should not have murdered Cayena’s nanny prematurely.
«I should have brought her alive and put to death right in front of her eyes…»
If it was that way, Rezef could have hugged Cayena who lost all her reasoning powers and told her to stay calm under his protection.
Rezef lost something he desired the most — a family. The family that only loved him. A reliable blood alliance formed under that perfect bond, which could never have been broken.
His sister showed him its sweetness. She did everything for him: gave him both pleasant concern and affection.
«I didn’t need anything if only I was with Noonim.»
The words, which were supposed to be childish and maudlin, flowed out coldly and ruthlessly. Yet, Cayena betrayed him. So Rezef wanted to cut off these family ties and dispose of her immediately, but his lingering mad attachment had not disappeared yet.
He generously decided to forgive his sister.
«Noonim should kneel in front of me and beg for forgiveness.»
As he was in a stew, Rezef was determined to do so. He could not wait to clear up such a bothering situation. Preferably right within this hunting contest.
«Jameel,» he called and his secret attendant emerged from the darkness. «I’ve always had one prey,» continued Rezef, rising from his seat. «Get rid of the Emperor during the tournament.»
«I obey Your Highness’s orders,» Jameel knelt on his knee.
* * *
Count Zodiac was defeated by mysterious Madam Medea. Cayena took control of the Black Market smoothly, pouring out as much money as she could.
Jedaiah reformed his forces for their next goal. Their plan was to annex Heimbel, a city-state, to Kidray Duchy. Owning such a wealthy city by a duke makes him as powerful as a head of a country.
Cayena elaborated on the fact how the Lord of Heimbel was threatened by the barbarians in the original story. And based on this, an approximate schema was made by her.
«If we follow this drawing, will we catch the Lord of Heimbel?» Jedaiah asked Cayena, memorizing the route of the invasion to the castle of Heimbel Lord.
«Yes. He’ll enlist a horseman so he can flee to the Duchy of Kidray.»
«That thing is possible if you’ve got money, and still…» Jedaiah spoke to her anxiously. «What if the Duke suddenly declares independence?»
Enabling the Duke to capture the Lord would overwhelmingly increase the Kidrays’ power.
As for Cayena, Raphael, who already had a strong trade route, would get a tool that would not make any trouble with pushing Ethel as the next successor, but on the other hand it also provided him excessive power. The Empire could be affected if he declared independence of the Duchy. It did not matter to Cayena, though.
«Then you should think that it was meant to be this way.»
«Oh, my, that’s really…» Jedaiah nodded, scratching his cheek — he did not know about the relationship between Cayena and Raphael. «Then I’ll leave for Heimbel now.»
«What about your brother?» asked Cayena this time.
She meant if he was okay after drinking Elixir.
«Thanks to Your Highness, he’s all healed up,» a light smile appeared on Jedaiah’s face.
«I’m glad to hear that. The Imperial Palace is vast, so one has to be resilient to get around.»
No matter how prompt Jedaiah would complete his job, he must leave the Empire for almost a month. Cayena had been planning to bring his brother into her palace to protect him.
As Jedaiah stepped out of the bedroom, the cheese-colored cat, that was hiding secretly in there, appeared. It was only a few days after the scuffle in the Underworld. There seemed to have been circumstances in which he could not come to the Imperial Palace.
«Are you done handling your brother?»
«That crazy jerk,» the cat sighed deeply. «He’s aiming for your power and the Black Garden.»
Bael explained that innate wizards could steal ’black roses’ put on the contractor wizard’s body.
«In that case, will I die right on the spot?»
«Your brother looked to be colluding with Yester,» Cayena recalled the situation at that time.
«I told you before that if you stop time, other wizards can feel it, didn’t I? That’s why — he came feeling the magic aura.»
«That means he hasn’t yet known that I’m the Princess…»
«No worries, I’ll do something about Cain.»
«This is very reassuring,» said Cayena and scratched Bael’s chin as he approached her.
Bayel tried to get mad at Cayena for scratching an adult’s chin recklessly, but her hands were so cool that he just frowned and closed his eyes.
«Come to think of it,» Cayena opened her mouth with a weak sigh. «Raphael found out about me being a wizard.»
«What?» Bael opened his eyes wide, curling his fur up.
«I overlooked that he is a quick-witted person. As soon as he felt it, he researched about the wizards.»
She frowned slightly, explaining that Raphael had even noticed her lifespan deal.
«A quarrel between a wife and a husband is like cutting water with a knife,» said Bael tapping on the table with his tail.
These words of consolation meant him caring about her in his own manner.
«We’re not engaged,» Cayena smirked. «Let alone married.»
A very convincing hypothesis was led later.
«A wizard named Cain will appear in this hunting contest.»
This was a confirmed crisis.
«What are you going to do?»
«Of course I’m going to participate in the tournament.»
There was no greater chance than that to overturn the crisis. Cayena was determined to clean up the line of the successors at the hunting competition.
«We don’t have much time left,» Cayena murmured and squeezed her trembling hand. She felt her body being weakened day by day due to the frequent use of magic.
’Just a little more.’
There was not much time left to reach the throne.
At the sound of knocks, Bael turned invisible again. Soon after, the door opened and Annie came in.
«Your Highness, we have prepared the carriage.»
That was the day of arrival into the hunting competition’s zone.
’We will start searching the grounds for hunting today, and the noblemen must have already arrived.’
And it also meant Raphael was there.
‘I don’t know what will happen there, so I should warn him in advance to be careful.’
* * *
The hunting ground was quite large. Cayena was guided to the fine camps located at the innermost part. The barracks could not be as good as the chambers of the Imperial Palace, yet they were perfectly prepared for the royal family’s stay.
Those barracks strangely resembled a battlefield. It was not completely clear what was going to happen here, but, obviously, an incident of a life-or-death issue would happen.
Though Cayena called for him just in case, the cat did not appear to be here at this moment. As she stepped outside, she could see the Kidrays’ barracks not far away. She scoured them by magic.
’Raphael is alone there.’
She had something to tell him before his departure soon, so Cayena moved to visit his barracks.
«Raphael… oh, gosh.»
Cayena shut her mouth: his torso was completely naked. His beautifully muscular body always made her admire him.
Raphael followed her gaze when he realized his shirt was taken off.
He did not know whether it would be better to say hello or dress up first. Even though he understood that Cayena was a wizard, Raphael did not know that she could suddenly teleport and appear in space. But, first of all, he should put on his clothes. Even before Raphael could put on his shirt, he heard a voice at the entrance of the barrack.
«Master, this is Baston. May I come in?»
There was no time to hesitate: Raphael took Cayena to bed and hid her, covering themselves with the black coverlet. As the two lay down, the bedding made of feathers got blown up.
Raphael was lying with his back turned towards the entrance and hugging Cayena tightly. If not present nearer, she would not be seen, being overshadowed by his body.
Cayena held her breath as he pressed her cheek right against his naked body.
«Come in,» ordered Raphael, arranging her golden hair that was scattered over the black sheets under the cover. Cayena’s breath was touching his flesh ticklishly.
Baston came into the barrack.
«I suppose you’ll have to go to the hunting ground soon.»
Baston’s expression became subtle as he saw Raphael’s long, scarred, sculptural back.
«Why are you naked?»
«I was about to change into my hunting tunic shirt…»
«…then why are you lying in bed?»
Raphael thought for a moment.
«…I was resting for a while.»
Baston’s master had been quite peculiar these days.
«Shall I help you?»
«There’s no need,» said Raphael, still not turning his head towards Baston.
He boldly stroked Cayena’s hair.
’What if we get discovered…’
Of course, if it was only Baston, even if they were found out, it would only stop at a slightly embarrassing level. Still, wouldn’t the Princess’ image get stained by an utter disgrace? It was not a very good sight since they were not even engaged.
’I should’ve moved space.’
Embarrassed by the sudden situation, she lay in bed without even thinking of teleporting to her barracks.
«I’ll get ready and go out later, so go and prepare yourself first.»
No matter how much Baston thought his lord behaved a little strange, he went out first. As his presence was no more felt, the silence sank.
She relaxed at his words and then the black blanket, which had been covering her head, slid down. Raphael smiled and kissed her forehead when Cayena, who was entirely embraced by his arms, was revealed.
«I was surprised when you suddenly showed up.»
Cayena got off his chest and sat in a more comfortable position. As his arms tightened around her waist and their eyes met, her heart calmed down.
«You’re going out to hunt soon.»
«Are you rooting for me?»
«I didn’t know you’ve been so active in such contests.»
«I can bring the best prey for Your Highness.»
Cayena kissed his lips with a proud look on her face. Raphael’s eyes grew for a moment and then lowered gently.
«I’m here to tell you in advance that you need to be careful,» Cayena spoke to him, gently stroking his cheeks, firm jaw and statuesque neck.
«You mean the Grand Duke Heinrich.»
«I’ve brought plenty of weapons and other stuff which I haven’t informed the government about.»
Cayena laughed when he proudly declared that he had committed a crime.
«You speak so boldly in front of the Princess.»
At that moment Raphael rose up and leaned over Cayena, locking her in his arms.
«Are you going to arrest me?»
«I’d like to lock you up in my room.»
Raphael exhaled ’mmmh’ and frowned. The expression on his face was quite dissolute.
«Are you seducing me?» she wondered.
Raphael held Cayena’s hand, which was wandering his body, and kissed her palm.
«Your Highness the Princess.»
This action caused a tingling sensation of tension blooming within the whole body. The feeling of accepting him seemed to rekindle inside. Raphael lowered his head, putting their lips together and her eyes closed. A heated breathing erupted between their interlocked lips.
«…It’s hard to endure.»
Despite his warning, Cayena licked her teeth and bit his shoulder. Raphael sighed briefly, glancing at the entrance to the barrack.
’Two hours should be fine.’
What a pity, but he could be satisfied only this way.
* * *
The holder of the Underworld had now changed.
This fact seemed to be irrelevant to the noble community. However, everyone gossiped, saying that the time of Count Zodiac was over. Only a few nobles were aware of his true identity. Which specific one was the woman who dared to splash cold water on the Grand Duke? People began to watch Madam Medea, who had brought down Count Zodiac.
Yeaster has already suffered a heavy blow from Madam Medea, thus, even if he tried to take the control on the Underworld away, that would be of no help. It was difficult to recover from such loss for the time being, unless he occupied the throne.
Yester lost what could be called his key force, The Nighttown.
Yet, in the current situation the scales were tipping away from Rezef. While both Rezef and Yester were entirely weakened, Cayena was the one pressing hard on their heels.
«Oh, Grand Duke, have you arrived already?»
As Yester arrived at the hunting camp, he began greeting the people with a smile.
«I’m a little late because I had to get my new hunting gear packed up.»
«Oh, I see…» the other party smiled somewhat oddly in reply.
’This petty brute…’
Yester’s forehead twitched slightly, and the intensity of his sight changed.
«Oh, I’ll have to change into a hunting shirt.»
The nobleman felt something eerie and got away quickly.
As soon as Yester entered his barrack, he went on a rampage that was holded back so far.
«You still haven’t found that goddamn wench!»
«Forgive me, Grand Duke.»
«Huh… How dare those inferior things look down on me like on a brute?»
He got a headache and immediately poured brandy into his glass to swallow it in one breath.
«This hunt is my opportunity. Is everything set?»
«Don’t worry about it. No matter how far the paladins search around here, they won’t find any vestiges of the beast.»
«What about the javelins?»
«It was piled up next to the barracks.»
At these words, a fishy smile came to Yester’s lips. The javelins were just a cover to distract attention. In fact, it was filled up with gunpowder.
«Now all I need to do is to find Medea and tear her apart.»
Thanks to Elixir, his wounded body was healed to an intact condition. However, Elixir could not erase the pain from his memory.
Since the day of the clash, Madam Medea had not appeared in the dark alleys. Yester was frantically putting money into the search for her identity. But, no matter what he did, no matter how much money he spent, he could not discover her.
’Madam Medea… Who the hell are you?’
Even the money which she was investing into the Underworld right now, there were only a few people who had such wealth. Moreover, wasn’t she protected by the wizard in the cat mask who had appeared out of thin air?
There was a possibility that the black-robed wizards were looking for that man. Unfortunately, the wizards had corroded all the surroundings and he could not hear their conversation because he had to run away.
«You must be the first to find out who the wizards are after. There’s a high probability he will be at the hunting camp today.»
«I’ll scour everywhere.»
As the wizard’s collision began, Yester sensed that if he stayed there — he would die. His ’animal instinct’ had always kept him alive in any case of crisis, and this time, as well, Yester survived.
«As long as Princess Cayena is enraptured, everything will go well,» he clicked his tongue and muttered. «What kind of useless nonsense are you doing these days?»
Her growing popularity among the Imperial people was not so good for him. Just in case if Cayena, powerful enough to become the Empress, got drunk on her forces, it could turn out too hard to control her.
«Both the princess and that insane madam, why are they being so annoying?»
Madam Medea acted superciliously as if she was fine with him finding out about her true colors. It could mean either she was indeed mad or someone who did not have to care about it.
’Are you Duke Kidray’s person?’
If she was not from one of the three great families of the Empire, the only family remaining was royal…
«…the royal family?»
A somehow strange premonition ran through his flesh. It was just when he was about to dwell on this thought.
«Um, Grand Duke,» a voice calling him cautiously was heard outside the tent.
«What’s going on?»
«A guest has arrived.»
While he was wondering, the entrance of the tent was opened and Yester faced an unexpected person. A handsome blond with sky-colored eyes grinned. The Duke’s eyebrows wrinkled up.
«…I greet Your Highness Crown Prince,» he welcomed Rezef courteously.
«I came to say hello before entering the woods,» Rezef replied to him with a smile befitting his beautiful face. «I hope you don’t mind, do you?»
It wasn’t even funny. When was the last time they exchanged greetings chatting genially?
«Oh, no, siree,» Yester waved his hands, not even blushing. «It’s very significant to have such a friendly time between fair rivals.»
The personalities of these two did not match, except for the race for the throne. The winning side had to cut the opponent’s neck. Hence there was no single time when they stayed alone like this. It would be a big trouble if one was poisoned by tea while another was sitting side by side.
So, they sat face to face before the start of the hunt. Yester’s aide brewed them tea. Of course the two did not even say a word.
’The prince is not a person who will come all the way to the barracks just to say hello.’
«Actually, it was unexpected,» said Yester, staring at him sluggishly. «Your Highness was looking for me…»
Rezef was only 18 years old. But his cunningness and brutality were beyond common sense. Even Yester was extremely restrained from bumping into him head-on.
That mad prince was the type to handle things faithfully following his own feelings without weighing up everything. It was not like him: acting after finishing the profit and loss calculation.
There was a silver teacup and a silver teaspoon in front of Rezef, who was wondering whether it was really made of silver. He put sugar in the tea and stirred it with the spoon. There was no change in the cutlery.
«I have a suggestion.»
Rezef had a reason to come to Yester today.
«I propose a temporary alliance to the Grand Duke.»
Yester, who was trying to pretend to drink tea at ease, paused.
«…If it’s about a temporary alliance, what is it for?»
«Noonim showed her will to the throne.»
The porcelain teacup was smashed by Yester and the tea that was inside of it soaked his hands and colored the table.
’Cayena, the Princess, expressed her will to the throne?’
«Oh, I’m sorry. I was so startled that I couldn’t control my power.»
If so, did it mean that all her actions so far had been to become the heiress?
«Do you want to form the alliance to prevent the birth of the new successor?» asked Yester.
«I intend to depose noonim.»
He was out of his mind.
Yeaster swallowed the words that were on the tip of his tongue. As expected, this prince was not sane. Anyhow… he loved the idea.
«How can you depose Her Highness the Crown Princess?»
Rezef was fiddling his silver spoon that still had not changed its color. The import of this was not lost on Yester.
’He’s going to poison the Emperor and frame her.’
It would be a great plan if they succeed. But what if it failed? It felt like he was about to burst out laughing.
’The Princess drove him completely insane.’
Poor Prince. He was paying all his attention to the wrong things, not knowing what disaster he was about to suffer. Yester recently received some very amusing news. It was that the Crown Prince was the son of the Empress Sun and Leo, once the Duke of Kidray.
’Now he’s not Leo Kidray, but Viscount Leo Allen.’
By the way, it was the black-robed wizards who informed him.
This good news deserved to be widely known and so Yester contacted Leo immediately, telling him about his son from the Empress Sun.
«I heard the unfortunate news about what had happened to the Grand Duke,» Rezef spoke to Yester, who was already enjoying the feeling of victory, with a deadpan face.
«…What do you mean?»
«It seems like my sister is disappearing somewhere every night,» continued Rezef.
Cayena had been setting up a bunch of guards in the Imperial Palace every night, using the knight who entered her bedroom as an excuse. Then she was making sure no one entered her chambers.
Rezef doubted everything: that the man named Jedaiah entered the Palace on the recommendation of Xenon Evans, that he did something unacceptable, and that his sister killed him.
Rezef knew his sister better than anyone else. Cayena was never the one to kill a human. She didn’t even kill that Henburton Gillian, did she?
«Did you know that the black market was passed to noonim?»
Yester’s head suddenly commenced throbbing. What the hell was this all about? He could not collect his thoughts, his jaw stiffened and his hair prickled.
«This is what I’ve figured out.»
Then, the time to lead their horse into the woods came and Rezef stood up.
«So think about it carefully.»
After Rezef left the tent, Yester shook his head and looked at the ceiling of the barracks.
His confused thoughts gradually began to sort out.
A woman with enormous wealth. And the cold voice by which she indifferently murmured something towards him. An eldritch personality that reminded him of someone.
A despondent smile leaked out from his squeezed lips. He covered his eyes with his big hands and smirked nervously. It was pathetic that he did not notice it until now. Yester giggled and gritted his molars.
’Ah, why didn’t I understand?’
Actually, Madam Medea was Princess Cayena! He wanted to run out of the camp immediately, grab her beautiful golden hair, and grind her pretty face on the dirt.
’How dare you fool me?’
An uncontrollable anger engulfed Yester to the extent of mind-boggling.
The princess. It was surely the Princess.
Of course, it did not make sense for Prince Rezef to reveal his plan that could put him at disadvantage. He offered an alliance, knowing that Yester would inevitably be furious. What an act of the human’s guile!
This plan was a perfect hit: Yester was going crazy with the desire to kill the Princess right now.
«I’m gonna kill them all.»
His golden eyes glistened murderously.
* * *
When the heat in the barracks had subsided somewhat, Cayena raised herself on the bed. Raphael also lifted his upper body and hugged her from behind.
«At this rate, the hunt will begin.»
«It doesn’t matter.»
Originally, there was nothing interesting in the competition itself. Cayena leaned comfortably against him and rested for a while before standing up. Her dress and accessories strewn across the floor were returned to their original state at Cayena’s will. She renewed her condition to how she was when she had just arrived here. Though her body was clean, the accumulated fatigue did not disappear. It felt like she had to drink Elixir.
’Am I supposed to drink Elixir every time we do this?’
It was very hard to handle Raphael’s excessive stamina. He was completely obsessed with Cayena, saying they were running out of time. At this rate, it might become even shorter for some absurd reasons.
«What kind of ability do you have?» asked Raphael, watching the dress and accessories being put back on their own.
«It’s the magic of time and space control.»
Raphael uttered something resembling either an exclamation or a sigh. He already knew Cayena could do teleportation. But he could not believe she controlled time and space. Wasn’t it under the sphere of God’s power?
«Oh, and here…» Cayena opened her hand and then something wrapped in a silk handkerchief fell onto her palm. «It’s a handkerchief for a lover who goes hunting. And what’s inside is called Elixir…»
«Isn’t it an impeccable cure for death?» asked Raphael, frowning at the word ‘Elixir’.
He read about it in the book. It was said one could die from excessive bleeding while creating Elixir, but she made this anyway.
«…You learned about magic well,» said Cayena and kissed Raphael on the cheek, handing him the bottle and the handkerchief. «I’m afraid Yester’s going to pretend to be crazy and open fire when you’ll be in the hunting ground. Make sure you drink it if you are in danger.»
«…Yes, Your Highness.»
When it was time to leave, Baston approached the entrance again.
«Master, are you sleeping?» he asked, thinking that Raphael was taking a nap as he did not come out for a long time.
«Take care,» she whispered to Raphael, he nodded and kissed her.
Cayena moved space and returned to her barrack.