Sate sate, it’s time for the start of my Saturday releases! As always, thank you to everyone for being so patient and for continuing to read MoS!
Kiriko Epawsode 17: The Crumbling Cuyler
Before I even had the time to realize exactly what had occurred, the long-unheard, familiar ringing of a notification chimed out within my mind.
Astonishment sent my thought processes grinding to a complete halt as I simply gaped in a moronic manner. I truly could not understand why I had received such a……’unique’ title.
“She did it with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever……ugh…it’s making me ache just looking at him!”
Voices filled with awe and a dash of fear stabbed into me as a wave of murmurs rippled through the surrounding onlookers.
My facial muscles spasmed painfully as I inwardly tsukkomied the various whispers. Between their reactions that had blatantly misunderstood the situation and my newly acquired title, it truly was a situation that made me want to scream while flipping a good-sized table.
I mean, sure, maybe I had given a few well-placed kicks over the course of my stay in 【Paletia】, but it hardly was enough to warrant this kind of title. In the first place, this recent kick was a complete accident! If anything, it was his fault for running straight into my foot like that!
Rather, wasn’t he trying to attack me just now?! Has no one noticed that at all?!
Indignation filled my chest as I looked down at the crumpled man before me. His swamp-green eyes bulged out, hatred burning within their depths as he glared back at me.
His venomous tongue spluttered out threatening words between short gasps of pain as he clutched his crotch. Unable to stand up, he remained curled up on the ground like a millipede.
“You say that you’ll kill me for it, but it was an accident, you know? If you didn’t come running at me so suddenly, then you wouldn’t have run into my foot when I tripped!”
Shamelessly, I decided to take the high ground, throwing all of the blame for the collision onto the injured side. After all, when dealing with snot-nosed brats like Keith, the one who apologizes always loses. Besides, it truly had been an accident! Honestly!
Dumbfounded expressions filled the surroundings as countless gazes bore into my body. Ignoring them, I turned back towards the millipede’s father, intending to finish what I had been saying before I was so rudely interrupted.
“As I was saying, I am hu——”
“How dare you attack my son!!!”
Yet, despite my efforts, it appeared that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as I received yet another impolite holler.
“I didn’t ‘attack’ him. And even if I did, it was purely out of self-defense!”
“What did you say?!”
Fury raged in the Cuyler’s peridot eyes as he let out a shriek.
“I said, it would have been out of ‘self-defense’. Or what? Did you think that he came running over while screaming profanities at me in order to have a friendly conversation? Is that how you greet people in this country? Hm?”
Narrowing my eyes, I tilted my head sarcastically while sneering provocatively. In response, the grown man’s eyes turned red as the tiny vessels within them bulged, threatening to break under the pressure of his ire.
“If I may speak, sir. Your son has also allegedly tortured this young girl, so I believe that it would only be natural for her to lash out violently upon seeing him approach her in such a hostile manner.”
Just as the enraged Lord was about to pounce on me, a hand cut through the atmosphere, bringing our attention to the cool-headed golden-clad soldier that we had all but forgotten about in our bout. Taking an apparently protective stance, the unnamed man placed me behind him as he faced the furious noble.
“Slander! My son has done no such thing!”
“Whether he did or not, we of the Royal Guard shall decide. As the other potential victims of his actions are still unconscious, we will wait until we obtain their testimony before deciding on his – and your – sentence. Until then, please cooperate with our investigation.”
Despite the nobleman’s vehement denial of his son’s involvement, the apparent leader of the golden troop simply shook his head and spoke straightforwardly.
“We will need to search your home for evidence. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the charge, compliance is mandatory.”
The middle-aged man’s face spasmed with disbelief, exposing a clear unwillingness to simply ‘comply’ with the authoritative guard’s demand.
“Is there a problem with that, Lord Cuyler?”
An oppressive aura bore down on the surroundings as the man stared fixedly at Cuyler’s rapidly paling visage. Apparently succumbing to the pressure, the retreating nobleman grit his teeth with resentment as he averted his gaze and mumbled.
“I have not the authority to bar the Royal Guard from performing their duties. Do as you will.”
Giving a satisfied nod, the golden soldier raised his arm. A pair of Royal Guards hoisted Keith up, shackling him before promptly taking him away. At the same time, a few more of the brightly dressed warriors infiltrated the mansion through the gaping hole that had been made by my body.
“While we conduct our investigation, I’ll have to ask you to stay put in your home. Once a verdict is reached, there will be a public sentencing. We shall inform you of the time and place at a later date.”
After leaving those parting words, the apparent captain of the guard gave another disciplined nod before turning away and walking off. As he marched forward, the rowdy crowd split like a yellow sea before Moses, leading the remainder of his sparkling entourage away from the scene.
“Haa……for a moment there I wasn’t sure what was going to happen!”
Under the watchful eye of the Royal Guard, Cuyler didn’t say anything before retreating back into his damaged abode. With two of the witnesses unconscious, and the other one rather heavily injured, it seemed that it would take some time before a ruling was carried out.
Suddenly, the girl of flame next to me crumpled, her previous vigour vanishing like a candle on a windy day. It was only then that I remembered the crimson liquid that soaked her battered armour, all of which seemed to come from her tiny frame.
Worried, I dashed over, preparing to lift her from the ground, but—
“I’m fine. I can walk on my own.”
—I was instead met with words as cold and unyielding as the eternal glaciers of Acull.
Pushing me away, the frail-looking female stood up unsteadily and hobbled off, escorted by one of the golden-clad men. Her slender back, while shaky, seemed to convey a sense of solemness and isolated independence that stabbed deep into my soul.
After all, her actions made it clear. Almost too clear.
She doesn’t trust me anymore……huh……
I suppose it was only natural, considering that I had been the reason she was in such a beaten state. Not only was it reasonable for her not to trust me, it should be more surprising that she didn’t try to pummel me on sight.
Perhaps it was because she couldn’t muster the strength to do so.
Or maybe she simply didn’t want to be associated with me any longer.
Yet, somehow, I felt that she couldn’t bear to do it. Because despite my wrongdoings, we had almost become friends.
At least, that was the feeling that I had gotten.
She truly is too kind……or rather, naive, for her own good……
Shaking my head, I gave a self-deprecating smile as I gazed after the bloodied innocent, her figure swaying like a sapling in the spring breeze.
When I returned to the Guild for the first time in several days, it was a hub of action.
With their dazzling uniforms glittering gently in the candlelight, a group of Royal Guards took up a corner of the Guild, clearly administering treatment to the unconscious Riva and Nelia.
Behind the reception, a number of Guild employees could be seen running to and fro, flipping through piles of paper with great urgency. If I listened carefully, I could hear shouts coming from deep within the building.
On the other hand, sitting by the bar across from the soldiers were the shaggy-looking adventurers, their tattered garb contrasting greatly with the guard’s shiny uniform. Muttering in low whispers, their eyes seemed to be glistening with unconcealed displeasure as they spoke to each other, apparently spreading the ‘news’.
“This way, Miss Kiriko.”
Next to me, my golden escort gestured towards the sparkling group, leading me to a seat near one of the troop’s healers.
A warm light immediately surrounded my body, causing the wounds on my exposed flesh to close at a speed visible to the naked eye. As the pain lessened, however, my sense of fatigue increased dramatically, leaving me barely capable of supporting my upper torso.
“It would be best if you eat something and then take a rest, Miss Kiriko. My magic may be able to stop the bleeding, but it is not powerful enough to handle any internal injuries you might have sustained. For that, you’ll have to rely on you own regenerative ability.”
Somehow managing to stand up, my body lurched as my vision began to darken.
“W-Whoa. You alright there?”
One of the guards grabbed my arm, stabilizing me as he raised a concerned voice.
“I’m fine……just a bit tired.”
Shaking my head, I attempted to regain my bearings, but my vision only seemed to get blurrier and blurrier.
“If it’s okay, I’ll take care of things from here.”
Suddenly, a rather familiar voice that I couldn’t seem to remember reverberated from behind me. In the next instant, I found my legs swept out from beneath me as someone picked me up in what would commonly be known as a ‘princess-carry’.
Yet, unlike the heroine of some shoujo manga, I was hardly in a state where I could blush at my current position.
Though my head felt like a bowling ball, I somehow managed to raise it to look at my carrier.
A pale shade of blonde hair registered on my retinas, but my foggy mind and eyesight simply couldn’t focus themselves enough to recognize the person before me. The only thing I knew was that his embrace was warm, yet bittersweet.
“Make sure she eats something before sleeping – but nothing too heavy. She’s severely malnourished right now. From the looks of it, she hasn’t eaten anything in for a few days.”
“……I see. Got it. I’ll make sure she gets something in her stomach before she rests.”
A pair of voices echoed over the buzzing of the Guild, exchanging words that I couldn’t seem to make any sense of. Not long after, my world began to gently rock for a short period of time before settling down onto a mountain of clouds.
Before I knew it, my mind had flown away to an entirely different realm.
The sun’s light shone down dreamily, bringing warmth to my heart and softening my soul.
A summer breeze sang across a grassy plain, ruffling the velvety stalks in an affectionate manner.
Sitting next to a crystal pond, I dipped my hands into its cool waters, parting my lips to drink the refreshing liquid.
As it snaked down my esophagus, an almost burning heat accompanied it, followed by a cosiness that seemed to snuggle within my stomach.
Enjoying the feeling of fullness that filled the emptiness of my belly, I took several more sips, until I could take no more. Then, laying back, I smiled back at the beaming sun.
“Just rest now, Kiriko……”
Hearing the wind whisper to me, I gave a quiet hum of acknowledgement as I closed my eyes. A soft feeling then pressed against my forehead, sending me spiraling down into a peaceful sleep.
“THAT DAMN WOMAN!!!!! MAKING A FOOL OF ME LIKE THAT!!”
The desk trembled as the man beat on it. Creaking dangerously, the wooden structure endured the hits together with the weight of the documents perched on its surface.
As his face contorted with fury, not a single trace of his usual handsomeness could be seen at all. Instead, he resembled a demon from the lowest level of hell, oozing a detestable aura of pure malice.
Though tempered by the winds of time, it seemed that the man was unable to maintain his calm facade in private, exposing the true ugliness of his soul. Well, he was the father of that after all. It had to learn it’s bad temperament from somewhere.
Besides, it wasn’t like anyone here would gossip about this side of the enraged man. At least, according to him.
“Milord, I have found additional information on the girl that may provide useful to you.”
Bowing my head, I proceeded to reveal the key points of what I had discovered over the past few days, tearing down the fragile protection that the title of ‘nobility’ bestowed upon the girl of flame.
“I have looked through the Guild’s ‘List of Lost Love’, but her name wasn’t inscribed on it. It appears that the girl has been making use of the fact that Rosso nobles commonly elope to masquerade as one.”
Disbelief was evident in the man’s voice as he whirled towards my kneeling form.
“That’s impossible!! With that degree of purity, she MUST be related to some high ranking noble family! And even if she wasn’t, there’s no way that any family would refuse to adopt her as one of their own!!!”
After all, to the Rossonian nobility, nothing was more important than the purity of their crimson appearance. Even if they weren’t blood related, bringing a girl with such brilliant red eyes and hair under their banner would be an easy ticket to power.
Which makes her current situation all the more interesting.
“But milord, if she truly did elope, then her family definitely would have put her name down!”
“I’m aware of that! Perhaps……is she living under a false name?”
“I’ve looked into that, but she looks nothing like any of the females on the list.”
Hearing my words, the nobleman’s brow furrowed in contemplation.
“It’s possible that she’s the bastard child of some former Rossonian royalty…but…argh, it doesn’t matter whose child she is!! The point is, she doesn’t have any noble families backing her, correct?”
Though it probably won’t be like that in the near future.
Because as soon as any noble family from Rosso were to catch wind of such an unclaimed gem, a struggle to obtain it was surely guaranteed. And with the two noble girls that managed to escape with the girl, one could say that the ‘cat was already out of the bag’.
Even so, considering that none of the families had yet to properly contact the girl, it wouldn’t matter much if she disappeared now.
“What of the other girls that were rescued with her?”
“I’m afraid that the Guild has already reported their discovery.”
“-tch. I see.”
Clicking his tongue, the man’s peridot-green eyes flashed with displeasure. With this, he was no longer capable of keeping the entire incident quiet. The Rossonian nobility would soon find out about the actions of his son.
However, it was apparent that the man himself was extremely unhappy about being dragged into his son’s mess. While he hadn’t done anything about his idiotic offspring’s wrongdoings, it should be said that he didn’t actually have anything to do with them. Despite that, he had somehow been accused of sending his men to capture one of the victims, and as such, was also implicated in this incident.
But, since an official statement still hadn’t been taken from the flame-headed girl, it was still possible to overturn things.
And it looked like that was something the shrewd nobleman hadn’t failed to notice.
“Leave the other two girls alone for now, but silence the noisy one.”
As frosty killing intent surrounded the noble of stone, I lowered my head, knowing that my eyes were likely glinting with a similar ice-blue light. Then, opening my mouth, a voice that one could hardly recognize as my own spoke.
“As you wish, milord.”