Happy New Year everyone!!
Sorry for the sudden disappearance. I was intending on writing more over the winter break, but it was unexpectedly busier than I thought it’d be and……gomenasai, I procrastinated. *bows* When I got back to school, I had a lot to catch up on, and then tests……and then with Kirino jumping out in between things, I couldn’t write as much as I wanted, and had some trouble figuring out where I wanted to go with things…and things ended up as they were.
Unfortunately, in the upcoming months, I’ll be having a lot of big tests and exams that may very well determine my future path, so releases are probably gonna become shakier. Since I can’t commit to a schedule, chapters will be released whenever they’re finished. I’ll try to finish up my first arc during this time, but I give no promises. Thank you to everyone for your patience.
Lastly, I wanted to thank everyone who has continued to follow this project up until now. It makes me happy to see others enjoying our stories (even if releases might be a little sparse sometimes) and leaving comments. Our journey in the world of Paletia has only just started, and 2017 is kicking off on a bit of a rocky start, but I hope everyone will still continue to have fun reading our rather wacky(?) adventures.
これからもよろしくおねがいします！(TL: Please take care of us in the future too!)
Kiriko Epawsode 20: Judging and Scorn
An uncontrollable laughter burst out of the man’s lips as he guffawed wildly. Just by looking at him, one could tell how happy he was.
This was probably the first time I had ever seen him – the Stone Noble – lose such control of his emotions.
It only goes to show that even he is simply human.
And no matter how one might try to conceal it, humans were beings with emotions. There would be one or two times where they’d expose their true thoughts – like now.
Even so, just by looking at his unconcealed mirth, you really wouldn’t think that this man’s blood-related son would soon be going into a trial that would likely result in his death.
But perhaps this ruthlessness that didn’t even spare his own progeny was the true ‘stoney’ part of him.
Then again, with such a useless son, maybe it couldn’t be helped.
“Ahahaha!! To think that the Aurelia boy would fall like this!! Excellent!! Truly, an excellent job!!”
Cackling loudly, the man, Lord Cuyler, whirled around and slammed his hands onto my shoulders heavily.
Ow! Hold back a bit, wouldn’t you?
Cursing inwardly, I turned my most sincere smile towards the Lord.
“I am most glad to see that you are satisfied with my work, milord.”
“Indeed! Hahaha! It makes me want to adopt you as my son, rather than having that useless mongrel! Pah!! If I didn’t see his birth, I’d say that bitch had switched him out for some peasant’s child!”
Tch, what do you expect, when half of him came from you?
Determinedly concealing my true thoughts, I maintained my ingratiating smile as I watched the still-laughing man.
“Pfff—still, to think that you’d frame him for the death of that Kiriko lass…ahahaha! I really have to say, like father, like son! They both fall for such easy ploys!!”
His peridot eyes filled with amusement, Cuyler’s body rocked violently.
Tilting my head slightly, I sent inquiring eyes towards the man before me.
“Ah, right, you probably don’t know the story but—–hmm…”
Suddenly, the nobleman who had, up until then, been laughing uproariously, fell silent. Staring at me with an appraising gaze, he then shrugged and gave a rather satisfied smile.
“Well, if it’s you, it should be fine to say. Truth is, I’ve pulled a similar plot in the past on the boy’s father – though I didn’t frame him for something like murder.”
Raising an eyebrow interestedly, I gave the knowing look of a schemer, to which the Lord returned an appreciative smirk.
“Do you remember that case in which the previous Lord of Au was exiled for secretly torturing and killing the residents of his domain?”
My ears perked up at his question. Carefully speaking to prevent my voice from quivering, I volunteered some general knowledge from the case.
“Yes. If I do recall correctly, the bodies were found during an investigation of his theft of beastkin slaves from another noble…”
“Heh, as expected of someone raised in Au – you’re knowledgeable. Truth is, I had those bodies planted in his mansion.”
A triumphant sneer spread across his vile face.
“Not only that, but I was also the ones directing those slaves to run to that beast-loving disgrace of a noble. Knowing him, he wouldn’t be able to help himself from trying to save those useless things.”
“Which lead to the investigation, I see. As expected of milord, what a brilliant plan! I must bow to your cunning and prowess. I daresay that I wouldn’t have been able to do any better.”
“Ahahaha! No, no. Your scheme this time was quite good. It got rid of two eyesores in one fell swoop after all! Hahaha!!”
“Many thanks for you compliments, milord.”
Bowing my head to conceal my expressionless face, only the slightest gripping of my clenched fist revealed my true thoughts.
“Anyhow, you must have other things to do. Make sure this farce plays out until the very end, Darius. Now go.”
Settling down into his chair, Cuyler snickered to himself as he dismissed me.
“Yes, milord. I shall.”
I’ll make sure this farce ends. On my terms.
“We shall now begin the sentencing!!! Bring forth the accused!!”
The blazing sun beat down on the crowd as they clamoured at the words of the arbitrator. Two men, both possessing hair the shade of blond, were dragged forward, shackles clanking as they walked.
The first man was an all-too familiar figure, with his murky eyes the colour of a decomposing swamp. As his appearance was greeted by jeers, his face paled visibly, clearly well aware of the atrocities he had committed in the past.
In contrast, the second man seemed to be an empty shell, unresponsive to the crowd as his golden eyes remained blank. Despite the fact that he had been caught red-handed murdering our saviour, he still acted as though he were innocent, pretending to be paralyzed with shock.
Glaring at the two criminals, I walked forward, bringing along Riva while gripping her hand tightly.
“Citizens of Auksas! Today we are here to deliver justice! Justice for the unfortunate noble girls who have suffered under the hands of a man who has claimed to be one of our own for so long, a beast wearing the attire of a human being. And last but not least, justice for a girl who put her life on the line to free her fellow females, but was brutally murdered at the hands of another on the very evening of their escape. Our holy monarch mourns the loss of such a brave individual, and desperately hopes that her spirit may find peace in the disposal of her murderer.”
Yes……we’ll be sure to get justice for you, Lady Kiriko. It’s the least we can do for you.
Thinking about our lost saviour, I gritted my teeth in chagrin. Even though she had fought so hard to free us all, in the end, she was the only one who remained unable to be freed.
“Present here today we have the two Rossonian noble girls who were unlawfully imprisoned by Keith Cuyler, the son of the Lord of Au. We, of the Royal Guard, have investigated deeply into this case and have contacted his Majesty regarding this matter.”
The crowd murmured restlessly, demonstrating their shock. After all, it was highly unusual for the highest authority within the kingdom – the king himself – to be involved in such “minor” matters. Although this incident did involve nobles from an ally country being detained and tortured by another Aukish noble, for something occurring in a border town like Au to reach the ears of the king was extremely odd.
Perhaps this is Auksas’ way of demonstrating their sincerity?
Though Riva and I were merely the runaway daughters of mid- to low-level nobles, it was still unknown how many girls had fallen victim to that disgusting man.
“His Majesty was deeply saddened by the fact that one of supposed noble status would commit such an atrocity towards females of a brethren country. As such, he has de—”
“HAH!! What brethren country! Those sluts are just bitches that fell for some low-class whores! Just a bunch of morons! What’s wrong with treating them like the—ugh?!”
A heavy blow on the head from a man behind him promptly silenced Keith as he fell to the ground, stunned.
“Shut up!!! You failure of a son! How dare you say such vulgar things about the noble Rossonian ladies!!”
Keith hollered in shock as he held his head, looking up at the man who had hit him with disbelief painted across his face.
The man named as Keith’s father looked valiant, hugely contrasting with the vicious, beast-like demeanor of his son. If it weren’t for his peridot green eyes and his honey blond hair, one might even think that the two weren’t related at all.
“You’re a disgrace to the Cuyler family! Actually doing such disgusting things behind my back…I’ve always been greatly disappointed with your incompetence, but in light of your late mother, I didn’t reprimand you much – but this is the last straw!! I expel you from the Cuyler family! You are no son of mine!”
Declaring thusly, the nobleman gave a fierce wave of his hand before crossing his arms and looking away from his stupefied son. It was as though the mere sight of Keith would dirty his eyes.
It truly was a cold-hearted strategy.
After all, there’s no way that this man, Keith’s supposed father, didn’t have any idea about what his son had been doing. As the Lord of this town, he had to keep track of any major ongoing events within it. And even if it was common for Rossonian nobles to run to this area after a failed elopement, the presence of a foreign noble in a small town like this was something that should be noted.
Yet, even so, the ‘Stone Noble’ pretended to be completely oblivious to his son’s evil machinations. Despite the pain and suffering Keith had brought upon others, this father of his didn’t seem to care, as long as it didn’t affect him. Likely, he had planned on doing this from the start. No matter what his idiot of a son did, he would feign ignorance and then cut him off if things started going south.
The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Ahem! As such, his Majesty has declared that Keith Cuyler is to be stripped of his noble title and demoted to the status of a criminal slave. Furthermore, his punishment shall be determined by the noble ladies whom he has offended.”
Hushed whispers swept over the crowd like a wave, gradually building up before they turned into shouts of approval. Unsurprisingly, it seemed that Keith was not well-liked.
“N-No! You can’t! Father, you can’t let them!”
A frightened voice suddenly shrieked out. Needless to say, the one speaking was the very man whose fate currently rested within the palm of our hands. However, it didn’t take very long for his desperate plea for salvation to be ruthlessly struck down.
“SILENCE!! You filthy bastard, I’ve already said that you are not my son any longer!”
The older man shouted angrily at the anxious boy. Perhaps it was at this moment that Keith realized how dire his situation truly was, as his face warp with despair.
Suddenly, a burst of snickers exploded from the small frame of the coral-haired girl next to me. Startled, I turned, only to find a jovial look bordering on insanity sparking from her eyes.
Involuntarily stuttering out her name in my surprise, I gripped her hand tightly, drawing her gaze.
“Fate must truly love to toy with the hearts of people……”
“No, I was simply thinking how the gods truly must have a poetic sense of justice.”
Her cobalt eyes were like the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, cold and unfeeling. Though she brushed off her quietly murmured words, I had no doubt that she was not merely thinking about how the gods had a “poetic sense of justice”. Instead, it seemed like she was trying to hide her true thoughts, but what they really were, I had no idea.
“To think that the man who had a son arrogantly tormented us would be at our mercy like this – it really is perfect, isn’t it, Nelia?”
A wide smirk spread across her face, wiping away that timid demeanor that I had come to know over our time together in those dark, dark dungeons. It was as if she had been possessed by a demon, ready to enact her vengeance at any time.
But perhaps it was only natural. After all…
I had the exact same expression forming on my face too.
Two pairs of eyes maliciously bore into my body, filled with an almost hungry look.
However, what they desired was not something as simple as food, nor as sensual as sex.
They desired my death.
They wished for me to suffer, in the most painful way imaginable, to repay the pain that I had delivered upon them.
Even though they were just some cheap bitches that I had bestowed my favour upon.
Dammit! Even though I’m nobler than them all!! They still dare to look at me like that!! These fucking peasants!
Hatred burned in my chest.
They had been my toys. Things whose lowly lives had laid in the palm of my hands. Yet now, it was my life that was in their hands.
I couldn’t bear it. It was simply humiliating.
That spineless father of mine didn’t even think twice before abandoning me. And doing so didn’t even make him blink.
He was throwing me away. Just like my mother.
That fucking bastard!!
I’ll show him. No matter what it takes, I’ll show them all!
I swear, this won’t end here!!!
“Next, we have the man believed to have murdered the brave girl who helped to perpetuate the escape from the hands of this vile man. Conrad Aurelia, stand forward!”
Hearing my name being called out, I instinctively flinched before walking into the open square. As I marched forward, Keith’s struggling body was dragged past me, his eyes glinting with a vicious light.
Condemning looks from all around bore into the murky-eyed man’s frame as he was shoved into a corner of the square, surrounded by numerous town guards and members of the Royal Guard.
Will everyone look at me with such eyes after this?
An overbearing voice called out to me, drawing my attention to the authoritative man. These next few moments would probably dictate how I would spend the rest of my life. Whether that life would last a few more hours, or longer, would depend on this verdict.
Inhaling deeply, I struggled to calm my wildly beating heart down as I looked ahead of me. Greeting my gaze was a pair of indifferent eyes, judging me carefully.
“Do you admit to the crime of murdering Miss Kiriko?”
Time seemed to have stopped as the crowd fell silent, awaiting my answer with trembling anticipation.
“No sir, I do not.”
Because despite what I did to her before, I hadn’t killed her.
“…very well. Then let us begin with the presentation of the evidence.”
Gazing at me with solemn eyes, the judge waved his hands. Attracted by his signal was an entourage of men, carrying a long wooden box between them.
The sight of it was enough to send a piercing chill shivering down my back. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was in it after all.
The group stopped right before my eyes, standing between the judge and myself. Then, as two of them moved to the sides to stand guard, the remaining two began to pry open the coffin.
To display the someone’s corpse in front of a crowd like this, like some ornament on display, was highly disrespectful. It was a sacrilegious act that disturbed the dead. At least, that is what I had always been taught as a child.
More than anything, I had little desire to face her frozen body again. Not after everything I had done to her.
But despite my thoughts, the box was opened ruthlessly, exposing her calm, doll-like face.
Pain and guilt stabbed into my heart. Even now, it looked like she was just sleeping. As though she could wake up anytime now.
Yet, the memory of her cold skin reminded me. She truly was dead.
“According to maids who were guarding Miss Kiriko’s room, she was still alive and breathing just 20 minutes earlier when she had been treated by the Guild’s healer, Darius. Due to the nature of her injuries, she was rendered unconscious after the spell was cast. It’s been confirmed by one of the maids attending to her that she was still alive at the time. However, within minutes of your arrival, her breathing ceased and she was deemed dead. As we can see here, her body has no visible life-threatening injuries. Thus, we, the Royal Guard, have determined that she was killed by poison.”
After narrating the series of events, the judge gave me a heavy look, as if he were telling me to hurry up and confess how I killed her. Clearly he was already convinced of my guilt.
But, as expected, the one who healed her was Darius, huh.
In other words, the only one who could have possibly killed Kiriko, other than me, was Darius. And even I knew that there’s no way he would’ve done that. He had no motive.
Then who could it be? One of the maids? None of them went anywhere near her, even during my visit. And if one of them tried to enter, the others would have noticed. Unless all of them were collaborating together. But again, they had no motive to kill, though it was possible that there were some circumstances that I wasn’t aware of.
In the first place, Kiriko was a stranger in this town. The only one who truly had any degree of closeness to her was me. It was no wonder why they thought I had been the one to kill her, considering that Keith had been in jail the entire time.
There was one person who would probably want her dead.
Keith’s father. The current lord of the Town of Au.
But even he had still been under supervision by the Royal Guard during her murder. There wasn’t any way for him to have killed her. Personally, that is. Being a noble, it wouldn’t be surprising if he had one or two assassins under him.
“I don’t have any way of proving it, but I didn’t kill her. She had already stopped breathing by the time I got there.”
As calmly as I could, I tried to explain the situation. Though my attempts were quickly met with a furious rebuttal.
“HAH! You actually dare to claim innocence when your guilt is clear? As expected of that man’s son, you’re just as shameless as HIM!”
His face red with agitation, the nobleman jabbed out his finger as he snorted with ridicule.
I could feel irritation rippling across my features as I returned the loudmouthed noble’s glare.
“My father, has absolutely nothing to do with this!”
Why was it, I wonder, that this man always thought to bring up my father at every turn? Even though it was because of him that father wasn’t here anymore……
“Oh, he has everything to do with this! It’s because of his inability to bring you up as a proper human being that you’re in this mess!”
Isn’t it because of your inability to raise your son properly?!
After all, if it wasn’t for Keith being such a scumbag, these girls wouldn’t have had to suffer. The townspeople wouldn’t have had to suffer. My sister wouldn’t have had to suffer.
And most importantly…
That flame-haired girl wouldn’t have had to die.
“Shut up!!!! You don’t know anything!!! Father was a good man! You don’t have any right to say bad things about him, because you’re the reason why he’s not here anymore!!!!!!”
Suddenly, a shrill voice screamed out, suppressing the loud murmuring of the crowd. Looking over, I saw a figure I couldn’t be any more familiar with. Because the one that stood there was…
My one and only beloved sister.
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