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- Myself, I think.
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???: [Even so, is this really alright Princess?]
Al asked that to his Mistress, who was sitting up in the front, as he fiddled with the seams of his iron helmet. The young lady with crimson eyes narrowed her eyes languidly at his words before returning his gaze.
She had bright orange hair and her crimson eyes looked like the colour of blood. She was wearing a magnificent dress bedecked with many ornaments, and possessed a beauty that went undimmed by all of its radiance―― Priscilla Barielle.
She was the one who owned the Dragon Carriage they were in; Al’s one and only Mistress of arrogance.
The Dragon Carriage was currently on its way back to Priscilla’s lands. They’d been staying in Pristella up until a few days ago, a Great City in the North-West of Lugunica.
As much as he wanted to say “The scenic streets in Pristella, so well known as the beautiful water-city, ended up being a delight to our eyes”, the reality was that it hadn’t been such a pleasant trip.
The savagery of the notorious Witch Cultists struck the Great City where they’d been staying, and to make matters worse, several of the big guns, the Sin Archbishops, also turned up; all in all becoming an absolutely unthinkable affair.
Thus, the city suffered catastrophic damage of the likes which had never been seen before, giving them no time at all to settle down and enjoy the scenery. Fortunately enough, Priscilla and her faction had managed to leave the city practically unscathed…,
Al: [I mean it’s not just bro’, but the other Royal Selection Candidates who are busyin’ themselves around with stuff as well, right? So, if we like pull out without doing anything then that won’t give us much of a good image, right?]
Priscilla: [Hah. And here I was wondering what all this babble was about, yet ‘tis just the man getting caught up on his trivialities. Everyone’s going to end up knowing about what sort of caliber you have with these kinds of things. Cease your foolish preconceptions this instant.]
Al: [Foolish preconceptions. And here I was worrying so much about you Princess…]
He’d been worrying about his Mistress’ future. The offer had been from his own flavour of kindness, but it didn’t look like this young lady, who kept these kinds of people at bay as well, was all too pleased by it.
Her gaze had become sharp and Al could almost feel his neck being burnt by her heat, making him trail off his words. Taking in his reaction, Priscilla let out a short sigh and then spoke,
Priscilla: [I thought you’d learnt how to serve me properly, but I have to say, on that point your ability to learn is even worse than Schult’s. Nevertheless, being so generous, I shall grant you some leeway.]
Al: [That’s really kind of you…]
Priscilla: [Indeed, now let yourself be moved to tears at my generosity. If you manage that I’ll let you off the hook for your clownish ramblings. ――Something you really couldn’t stomach must have happened back in that city.]
Priscilla: [Did you really think I wouldn’t notice? That would put you even further below a commoner if that’s the case.]
Priscilla drew out her fan from between her cleavage and quietly covered her lips with it.
Al silently held his breath, taking in what she’d just pointed out; then, he placed his hand over his head at the complicated feelings that were emerging in him due to her having seen through to his heart. However, his head was covered by his helmet, so in actual fact the best he could do was place his hand over his helmet.
What had happened in Pristella―― The sort of helplessness he’d experienced back there had been profound.
Strictly speaking, it was the sort of thing he would say was a sense of defeat that had only been felt by one of them. There’d been that young man there who’d been burdened with just about everything and yet had still challenged his role impressively.
This sense of defeat had been engraved on his back as something so far, far out of reach―― The fact that the young lady in front of him had seen through it was even more awkward than he’d imagined.
The mood he was in was so bad that he almost felt like wanting to redo this scene.
Al: […It ain’t such a convenient thing; at least, this curse of mine]
Al spat those words out before moving his finger over to the seam of his helmet – something that had become a habit of his. There was a small click, making him aware of how turbulent his mind was and calling him back to his senses.
Though his helmet had been something he’d gotten his hand on quite unexpectedly, he’d really been saved and helped out a lot by it being there with him. It was a lifeline, not just in the sense that it protected his life, but also in the sense that it allowed him to cover his face up.
Aldebaran would never be able to face anyone without it. ――Since he’d be unable to conceal this desperate tempest of emotions that continued to simmer in his heart from them.
Priscilla: [――The mansion should be coming up soon]
Priscilla muttered this not to the taciturn Al, but to herself, while resting her chin in her hands. And just as she’d said that, the familiar Barielle Mansion came into view along the path of the cantering Dragon Carriage.
For the time being, he’d be able to get out of the Dragon Carriage when they got back to the mansion. As tense as his time with Priscilla could sometimes get, it was still usually quite enjoyable―― Yet now Al wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.
???: [――Please give me a chance to redeem myself]
???: [A chance to redeem yourself, huh. What an odd thing to say. I didn’t know you could afford to beg for your life after having your head cut off in the battlefield. Is this how they do it in the Kingdom?]
The middle-aged man choked on his words, faced with Priscilla in front of him, who’d now returned home and changed out of her lavish formalwear.
Before the seated Priscilla’s eyes was the red-haired man, kneeling before her and sweating nervously. He was Heinkel Astrea―― The current head of the Astrea Family which was well known for being the lineage of the Sword Saint.
However no one in the Kingdom, not even himself, recognised him by that title. Thus Priscilla had taken Heinkel on as one of her subordinates, making him her pathetic clown.
Because of that Heinkel had accompanied them on their trip as well; but it appeared like he’d caused quite a huge mess out of Priscilla’s sight. She’d followed her instincts in thinking that it would be amusing to bring him along, yet…
Priscilla: [You threatened your own son and gave that lowborn girl a chance to take advantage of it. You really should have carried out that scene before mine eyes, because if you’d done that…]
Priscilla: [I would have had your head personally, so things would have probably ended without us having to have this unpleasant conversation.]
Heinkel’s face grew paler and the sweat beading on his forehead grew clammier. This state of his, where he was alternating between hope and fear at every turn of her behaviour in a manner that was likewise different to Al, was a sight worth seeing.
Al would take what she was feeling into consideration and receive her whilst keeping his composure. Unfortunately right now, a shadow was appearing over that attitude of his; but in stark contrast Heinkel, who had no leeway for that, was also putting on a fantastic show.
That said, there was no way she was going to indulge him insofar as pardoning his impertinence or letting him off the hook for his next blunder. Therefore, Priscilla was about to give up on him unless he could come up with something witty in return.
And in this case, giving up meant no less than making him pay with his life.Though perhaps that would be more of a mercy for Heinkel.
The tragic circumstances that surrounded him were a curse of the kind which you wouldn’t find anywhere in Priscilla.
Priscilla reached out for her water pitcher as she thought to herself, “Now, what shall I do with him”, and noticed it was empty.
Priscilla: [Schult, my water pitcher’s empty. My good looks are going to fade away to nothing with how thirsty I am. Go fill it up, quickly.]
Schult: [――! That would be a disaster! I shall fetch you some right away!]
Schult had been waiting on her at her side, and as soon as she gave him her command, the young pink haired servant sprung up and dashed out to the hallway as fast as he could holding the empty water pitcher. Priscilla saw him off before then looking back down at Heinkel, with the two of them now left alone in the room. The foolish man shrank back and braced himself for what Priscilla was going to say next.
An elaborate Knight Sword was hanging down from the trembling man’s waist. Yet what a pathetic condition he was in, despite possessing this famed sword that probably was full of rich history; even so――,
Priscilla: [That sword at your waist hasn’t rusted away, has it?]
Heinkel: [――hk, W-well]
Heinkel’s expression stiffened when he heard what Priscilla had asked him. However, her intentions were far different from what he’d imagined.
Priscilla tilted her head in thought, still sat on her chair, and then closed one of her eyes.
Priscilla: [You said you wanted a chance to redeem yourself, didn’t you? Then behold, a chance for that has just fallen your way.]
Heinkel: [What do you…]
“Mean”, Heinkel didn’t manage to finish his sentence.
The moment after, all of the windows in Priscilla’s room were smashed in from the outside, and multiple figures clad in black came rushing in.
Priscilla’s smile grew wider as Heinkel instinctively drew out his sword.
――The battle to redeem himself broke out with a flash of silver.
Al gritted his teeth, feeling a burning heat coming from his shoulder that came at the same time as that high-pitched yell; with all his might, he brought his Blue Dragon Sword into a horizontal strike. For a moment his sword got stuck on his opponent’s body, but a split second later, it cut him in two.
He spared only a sidelong glance at his enemy’s blood spurting out and getting all over the walls and floor before hurriedly running over to where Schult was. He felt really impressed at how loyal the boy was, having not dropped his water pitcher even at a time like this.
Were it possible for him to do so, he would have liked to have patted him on his head for a job well done, however…
Al: [Unfortunately I ain’t got enough arms to spare for that. I’ll get the Princess to pat you for your hard work later Schult-chan]
Schult: [Th-that can wait for later! More importantly, there’s blood coming from your shoulder Al-sama! A ton of it!]
Al: [Oh yeah, right. He sure got me good there.]
Al took a quick glance at his wound where he’d been stabbed. A hefty amount of blood was flowing from it, showing just how sharp his opponent’s surprise attack had been.
In all, it would be ridiculous to even count how many times he’d had his head lopped off or his heart stabbed. He’d somehow managed to give the interminable hells of death the slip, so something like this counted just as an inevitable expense.
Al: [But thank goodness nothing happened to you Schult-chan]
In actual fact, Schult’s safety came first above all else. He had no way of knowing what kind of punishment he’d receive from Priscilla later were he to screw up there.
Biting back his relief at that fact, Al turned his eyes back over to the invader―― over to the assassin.
There collapsed on the kitchen floor with his limbs still twitching lay the black-garbed individual whom he’d cut in two. He definitely hadn’t lacked in skill and his fighting competency had been far superior to Al’s.
In that respect, he almost felt bad for his opponent since he’d gotten his win over him with a dirty trick.
Al: [Guess he’ll have to try and forgive me about that… wait, Schult-chan! What about the Princess?]
Schult: [Uh…I’m… I’m not sure, though she ordered me to go and fetch her some water]
Al: [Of all times to do that… Ah wait, no, maybe that’s okay? If the Princess hadn’t told you to do that then one of them would’ve targeted you by now…]
Having thought that far, Al finally remembered the position his Mistress had upstairs.
In this mansion, the one who had the highest likelihood of being targeted by the assassins was Priscilla herself. If it was Al or Schult being targeted, then that could only be considered as them being bystanders getting caught up in the mix.
Al: [Schult-chan, let’s make our way over to the Princess! Follow me!]
Schult: [R-right away!]
Al rushed over to Priscilla’s room with a paling Schult in tow. When he arrived, he kicked the large door open and jumped inside, calling out to his princess.
What unfurled itself in front of both Al and Schult’s eyes was a bloodbath.
Six corpses were lying there on the fluffy carpet inside Priscilla’s room; and in front of these corpses, a red-haired man ― Heinkel ― was crossing swords with the last intruder.
The assassin brought his body down and swung up the sharp daggers he held in each of his hands. He threw the blades up with blazing speed, aiming straight for Heinkel’s neck and heart; and to make matters worse, he took out yet another blade from within his bosom and tried to strike Heinkel with it.
However, Heinkel deflected the daggers away with a flash of his Knight Sword, and with his parrying blow slashed his opponent down along with his weapon. His flash of silver had cut the assassin down, downward through the shoulder.
His swordplay, which you could even admire as being beautiful, made short work of the assassins that had been targeting Priscilla.
Heinkel: [*Puff*, *Pant*…]
Priscilla: [You’ve done reasonably well, foolish commoner. This doesn’t make up for all the disgrace you’ve caused, but you have my praises.]
Priscilla clapped Heinkel’s shoulder from behind with her fan as he panted in exhaustion, leaving him some unusually generous words. As far as Heinkel was concerned, considering that he was making up for his disgraceful behaviour in Pristella, those few words were a salvation to him.
Heinkel’s shoulders slumped in relief at that; meanwhile, having moved away from him, Priscilla turned her eyes over to the fallen assassin who was still breathing faintly.
Priscilla: [Al, what are you doing just standing there? Go lift this guy’s face up.]
Al: [Ah, if you’re on about my shoulder wound, it’s just a scratch, so I’ll be okay. Thanks for worryin’ about me.]
Al retorted back with a sarcastic reply to his Mistress, who didn’t seem to be much in a mood to spare them any thanks, before then indifferently shrugging his shoulders. He grabbed the dying assassin by his head, the one Priscilla had indicated to him with a jerk of her chin, and forced his head up.
He tore his mask off, revealing the young man beneath who still looked like he was in his mid-teens. The young man quietly stared up at Priscilla as he breathed out his dying breaths.
There was neither anger nor hatred in him, his blue eyes were full of tranquil emotion.
Al: [He sure has the typical assassin look in him. Did another one of the candidates send these guys here or something?]
Priscilla: [If those people were to choose to use an approach like that then they wouldn’t even begin to enter into my consideration. This has nothing to do with the Royal Selection… No, this probably doesn’t even have anything to do with the Kingdom.]
Al: [With the Kingdom as well?]
Al cocked his head in confusion at what Priscilla had said as she’d brought her face close up to the assassin’s. The assassin’s shoulders tensed slightly as she stared at him with her crimson eyes.
However, no matter how much he tried to muster his strength, he still didn’t even have it in him to hold his dagger. All he could manage to do as he waited for death was to not avert his eyes from Priscilla’s gaze.
Priscilla: [Who commanded you to target me?]
Priscilla: [Hmph, then let me change my question. ――It was the wolf of the sword who commanded you to do this, wasn’t it.]
(TL Note: Wolf of the sword is probably referring to Vollachia’s flag.)
His response to that question was dramatic.
The assassin, whom Al had seized by the hair so to keep his face up, began trembling all over and foaming blood. Seeing this all unfold, Al peered down at his face to try to find out what had happened. However the assassin was shedding blood from his eyes and nose as well, and like that, the strength abandoned his body. ――He didn’t even need to double check, death had come instantly to him.
Priscilla: [He must have ingested poison. He was probably keeping some in his molar or whatnot.]
Al: [These guys were really damn resolved…]
Priscilla: [That’s to be expected, they’re as good as dead if they mess up. That’s how it is in Vollachia after all. ――So, they’ve finally stirred]
Priscilla glanced over at Al, who looked rather surprised at her having touched on the identity of their unknown enemy. Then her gaze latched onto the wound on Al’s shoulder,
Priscilla: [By the way Al, about that shoulder wound of yours…]
Al: [Oh, yeah, it’s just a scratch. No point in worrying about it now…]
Priscilla: [――Considering where these guys are from, they would have coated it in poison.]
Immediately following her sudden warning, Al’s field of view began to spin.
His strength deserted him, causing him to fall to his knees. Unable to keep himself up, he collapsed into the pool of blood. No matter how many times or places he’d been covered in someone else’s blood, the feeling was always the worst for him.
Al: [Bgh, bgggh, bggggggh…]
Priscilla: [What a fool you are. I’d say you’re getting careless, wouldn’t you agree? You aren’t going to make it in time for the antidote.]
Al could hear Priscilla’s disembodied voice as she gazed down at his collapsed, foaming self. He could feel Schult panicking behind her as well, but he had no time to worry about that.
In front of him, Priscilla shrugged her shoulders and said,
Priscilla: [Do you need me to put you out of your misery, foolish commoner. At the very least I can lop your head off]
Al: [A-are you sure? I’m your prized servant…]
Priscilla: [You’re my clown. Besides, if an attack like this is all it takes for you to die, then that’s it for you. Even so…]
Priscilla trailed her words off there, and her crimson eyes met Al’s. The gleam in her eyes seared queerly, yet vividly, into Al’s fading consciousness…
Priscilla: [――Will it end for you like this? If so, what a terrible disappointment you are, Aldebaran.]
Al: […Don’t call me]
“By that name”, he wasn’t able to finish his sentence. Nevertheless, at the edge of his dimming consciousness, he inscribed in his soul, “I musn’t receive even a scratch”, and whilst holding that firmly within him, reality slowly started to slip away…
Being poisoned is an annoying one considering how long it takes to act.
With such deep emotion in his thoughts in his final moments, Al’s “Current Life” fell apart, and once again, the stars went around.
The stars went around―― For the sake of granting him a next chance to redeem himself.
(TL Note: Al’s Current Life could also be translated as “Al’s World”. Also, the phrase “stars went around” is sometimes used poetically in Japanese literature to refer to the sense of time passing, i.e. when the stars finally come back around, their existence will be forgotten.)