“Is that it for your report?”
Asks a beautiful girl with red hair the shade of flames. The red hair that reaches all the way down her back glitters in the candlelight, as her wine-red eyes flash over the investigative report. That imposing, beautiful figure of hers makes the reporting knight’s cheeks dye red.
“Th-, that is all, Iris-sama. We will continue our investigation.”
Iris nods, then gestures for the knight to leave the room.
When the door closes, only Iris and a handsome, blond-haired man are left alone in the room.
“Marquis Zenon, thank you very much for your help this time.”
“The incident occurred with school grounds, so I am also partly responsible. But more than that, I am also worried about Alexia-sama……”
Zenon looks down and bites his lower lip in frustration.
“You also have your duties as the Swordsmanship Instructor. I am sure no one would find fault with you for this. For now, what we should focus on is not who to blame, but to safely rescue Alexia.”
Iris suddenly closes the report folder.
“How sure are you of the probability of this student Sid Kagenou being the culprit?”
“I am also loathe to consider a student of the academy a culprit, but circumstances show him to be the most suspicious. But when considering his strength, it is highly unlikely for him to win if he faces off against Alexia-sama in a direct fight.”
Zenon chose his words carefully while replying.
“In which case, it would either mean that he has an accomplice, or that he had to have used drugs of some sort. But he didn’t confess to anything even under the interrogation of the knights, right? Are you sure about this?”
“I want to believe in him. I truly do.”
Iris nods, then closes her eyes.
“You have already assigned trustworthy knights to follow him, right? Then there’s nothing else that we can do aside from waiting for their report.”
“I shall pray for Alexia-sama’s safety.”
With a bow, Zenon turns to exit the room.
But at that very moment, a single girl slides into the room through the door that Zenon had just opened.
“Iris-sama! Please listen to me!”
“Clare-kun, what do you think you are doing! Please pardon her rudeness, I’ll bring her back out immediately!”
Zenon seizes the girl who just slid in, Claire Kagenou, and tries to drag her out.
“Marquis Zenon, who is this?”
Iris stops Zenon and asks.
“My name is Claire Kagenou! I am Sid Kagenou’s older sister!”
“Claire-kun! S-, she is an exemplary student at the academy, and is currently temporarily with the Knight Order on a sort of experience program.”
“I see…… Very well, you may speak.”
“Thank you very much!”
Claire Kagenou proceeds before Iris in supplication.
“My little brother, Sid, would never do something like kidnapping Princess Alexia! I’m sure there must be some big mistake here!”
“The Knight Order is conducting their investigation with the utmost caution so that there would be no mistakes. It is still not yet confirmed that your younger brother is the culprit.”
“But the way things are currently going, if the real culprit is not found, it will be him who gets executed!”
“The Knight Order is being very careful. They will not mistakenly execute the wrong person.”
Zenon stops Claire as she frntically tries to press closer to Iris.
“Claire-kun, leave it at that. Anymore would be an affront to the Knight Order!”
Claire glares first at Zenon, then at Iris.
“If anything happens to that child……!”
“Claire-kun, don’t you dare finish that sentence!”
Covering Claire’s mouth with his hand, Zenon drags Claire out of the room.
Staring at the forcefully closed door, Iris sighs deeply.
“So our love for our family is the same, huh……”
“Alexia, please be safe……”
Long ago, these two sisters were very close.
But when was it that they began to pass by each other?
How many years has it been since they last talked?
Could it be that they would never again be able to talk with each other?
As she closes her wine-red eyes, a single tear rolls down her cheek.
When Alexia opened her eyes, she found herself in a dim room.
No window, and only a single lit candle.
The walls are stone, and a sturdy-looking door is right in front.
She has no memory of anything after separating from Pochi after school.
When she tries to move her body, she hears the clinking of metal rubbing against metal.
Looking towards the origin of the sound, she realizes that all four of her limbs are chained to a pedestal.
She cannot use her magic. Escaping by herself would be difficult in the extreme.
Exactly who was it that took her away, and for what purpose? Kidnapping, coercion, human trafficking…… a train of possibilities flit through her mind, but there’s no way to confirm.
Alexia is not in the line of succession for the crown. But her status as a princess still has a certain amount of utility value. This she knows.
However, the information she has on hand at the moment is really too little to draw any conclusions with
Alexia stops thinking about it, but then a different thought suddenly comes up in her head.
Is Pochi alright?
The boy with a terrible personality who had recently become her friend. She is quite fond of him, because he always saying things to her straight without any fear.
If he was truly caught up in this, then by now he is probably…… let’s stop there.
Alexia shakes her head, then looks around.
Stone walls, iron door, candle stand…… and a black mound that looks like trash.
That mound is right next to Alexia, and for some reason is chained up.
Upon closer inspection, Alexia notices a slight movement.
It is breathing.
The ‘mound’ is a living creature wearing tattered rags.
“You there, can you hear my vo-……!”
The creature moves, and looks at Alexia.
The ‘creature’…… is a monster.
It is an extremely emaciated monster restrained with chains.
Its black, festering face only barely retains what seems to be eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Its entire body is bloated in an non-uniform manner, with its left arm even longer than Alexia’s leg. In contrast, its right arm is shorter and thinner than Alexia’s own, and seems to be affixed to its chest as if clutching something.
Such a monster is right beside Alexia.
Whereas Alexia has all four limbs chained up, that monster is only chained by its neck. If it reaches out with its long arm, it might actually be able to reach Alexia.
In order to not aggravate the monster, Alexia lowers the sound of her breathing and looks away.
But the monster is looking at her.
Alexia can feel the monster’s gaze on her body.
After a period of silence that seems as if time had stopped……
Jyarara, the sound of chains rings in the air.
Peering from the corner of her eye, Alexia sees that the monster has curled up and gone to sleep.
Alexia breathes a sigh of relief.
After another while, the door in front is opened.
“Finally! Finally, I have gotten my hands on it!”
The person who comes in is a skinny man wearing a labcoat.
His cheeks are hollow, his eyes are sunken, and his lips are cracked.
His sparse hair is sticking to his skin and giving off a horrible smell.
Alexia quietly observes the man.
“Blood of the royals, blood of the royals, blood of the royals!”
Blood of the royals.
The man continues to repeat that phrase while taking out a contraption connected to a thin needle.
It seems that he intends to draw her blood. The royal physicians have done it to her a few times before, so she recognizes what that contraption is.
She does not understand why this man wants her blood so badly that he would go to the trouble of kidnapping her.
“May I ask something?”
Alexia’s voice is steady.
The man replies Alexia with some weird grunting.
“Why do you want my blood?”
“Y-, y-, your blood is demonic blood. It can revive the demons in this day and age!”
Alexia has no idea what he’s talking about, but at least can gather that he is not right in his mind, and that he is in some sort of a cult.
“But it would be a bit of a problem if you draw too much of my blood. I’m not quite ready to die yet.”
“Hihi, hi, n-, no worries. I want a, a lot so I’ll c-, come everyday to d-, drain a little at a time.”
“Wonderful, let’s go with that then.”
As long as this man needs her blood, then chances are low that she would be killed.
Do not resist, remain cooperative. Alexia determined that her best choice of action at the moment is to wait for rescue.
“It, it wasn’t supposed t-, to be like this. It was all the f-, fault of those i-, idiots!”
“I understand, I hate idiots too.”
‘Because dealing with you is tiring’, whispers Alexia to herself while looking at the man in the labcoat.
“M-, my research, all, all destroyed! They got to that idiot Olba first.”
“That’s right, that idiot Olba was the first.”
“After that, again and again and AGAAAIIINNNN! AAAARRRRRHHHHH!”
“How terrible. It must have been hard on you.”
“YES, YES IT WAS! MY, MY RESEARCH IS SO CLOSE! SO CLOSE, SO CLOSE, BUT IF I DON’T FINISH IT, I’LL, I’LL BE EXCOMMU-, EXCOMMUNICATEEDDD……!”
“What, how could they!”
“SH-, SHIT, SO USELESS, SO USELEESSSS!”
The man in the labcoat rushes towards the chained up monster and kicks it violently.
Again and again, he kicks it and stomps on it.
The monster simply curls up and does not react.
“Weren’t you going to draw my blood?”
“Oh right, oh right, your blood, as long as I have your blood I can finish……!”
“Isn’t that great?”
The man picks up the contraption and sticks the needle into Alexia’s arm.
“With this, with this! I can finish, I won’t be excommunicated!”
“Please do it painlessly, ok?”
‘Otherwise I’d want to punch you,’ adds Alexia inside her mind.
The needle enters Alexia’s arm.
Alexia looks on like it’s someone else’s business as the glass container is gradually filled with red blood.
When the glass container is fully filled, the man cradles it with utmost care and leaves the room.
Alexia waits for the door to close before heaving a long sigh.
Everything was for the sake of this day.
Tw days after my release from the knights, I am in my dorm room, sorting through my power in shadows collection and picking out what I can use.
Cigar…… it’ll be a long while yet until when I would be of the appropriate age to use it well.
Vintage wine…… this is a rare one from Portau in southwestern France that is worth 900,000 Zeny. Good, this is just right for the moonless night tonight.
Which means I need the ultimate glass to go with this…… ah yes, the only glass made by Vuitton. This is also French-made, and costed me 45,000 Zeny.
Then there’s also this antique lamp…… and this…… this too…… oh right, and this legendary painting called ‘The Scream’ that I had coincidentally picked up that time. It goes on the wall like so, and…… ahh, perfect.
My heart feels so full.
Bandit hunting and crawling on the ground picking up gold coins was all for the sake of this.
I shed a tear of admiration for this room that I had decorated with the very best items from my collection.
The coup de grace is this invitation that I had received just today. Then all that’s left to do is to wait.
I continue waiting, for that moment.
Waiting in suspense!
The moment the girl clad in black comes in through the window, I open my mouth.
“The time has come…… Tonight shall belong to the world of shadows……”
Verily, everything was for the sake of this very day!