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The Dragon Carriage’s wheels made a clattering noise as it travelled across the highway――.
Typically Dragon Carriages would travel down the highway in groups of several. That was the least they could do to mitigate the dangers, a means to avoid being attacked by bandits or wild dogs along the way.
The Kingdom of Lugnica was considered to be a relatively safe place, however that only applied to its urban areas. There was no way for the guards who maintained the public order to nip crime in the bud where their eyes did not reach.
So in that sense, a lone Dragon Carriage without an escort attached to it would be easy prey. The danger around it would increase colossally especially when the Dragon Carriage was one that carried nobles in it.
Even so, there was also an unavoidable aspect to this. They had a reason why they couldn’t take a whole group of Dragon Carriages along with a bunch of guards with them.
???: [These guys ain’t gonna bother listening to us about our situation you know…]
Sat in the box seat, the young girl crossed her arms and gave a frown as she gazed at the situation they’d been put in.
She was a girl with golden hair that shimmered in the sunlight and strong-willed red eyes. Her cute looks along with the fang-like canine that protruded from her mouth could be appropriately described as being adorable, however she had a tough nature to her to the point that you could say it was closer to the valiance of a lion than the cuteness of a cat.
That seemed plain as day from the fact that she wasn’t fazed by the Dragon Carriage being surrounded by a group of rough-looking men.
However, the biggest reason behind why she’d remained unfazed wasn’t because of her pluckiness, but rather because of the red-haired young man sitting beside her in the carriage’s box seat.
Red-Haired Young Man: [——Just a moment please, Felt-sama]
The young man spoke up to her, and the girl — Felt — replied back to him carelessly with a scruffy scratch of her head. Included in that were feelings not too dissimilar to a kind of resignation as well as dismay.
She was letting them out towards the downright hapless men who were there surrounding the Dragon Carriage. To them an unprotected Dragon Carriage going down the highway must have seemed like easy spoils, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.
They really should have staked it out far more carefully. ——There were two possibilities as to why there was just one Carriage here; the first one being that they’d just been careless, and the second one being that merely one of them was plenty enough.
Each of these men had a weapon in their hands, and they all looked like they were well-accustomed to fighting. They would have come up with a good way on how to make money as well after they made them surrender by force, she thought. But there were only 20 of them—— Even if you were to add another digit to that, it still probably wouldn’t be anything worth their consideration.
Felt: [——Go get them Reinhardt]
Reinhardt: [Right away!]
The young man — Reinhardt — gallantly jumped out as soon as Felt had ordered him with a jab of her fingers at those men.
It took him practically less than a minute to capture all of those poor bandits.
They stopped at a nearby town after, so that they could tell the guards stationed there where they’d left the bandits.
Unfortunately they hadn’t had the room in their lone Dragon Carriage to transport 20 people at once. The best they could manage had been to tie up the defeated bandits and have the guards collect them later.
If they could have, they would have liked to make sure that the bandits were properly collected, however they didn’t have such time at their disposal. Besides, it probably wasn’t good for the town either for them to stay there long.
Reason being due to the fellow passenger who accompanied them in their Dragon Carriage.
Felt leaned against the Dragon Carriage as Reinhardt talked to the guards. She could make out a cracked, hoarse voice coming from inside of the carriage that made her eardrums tremble.
Just listening to that voice made her feel like her heart was being grated; if she were to give it a favourable interpretation, then it was humming. However, that humming took away every single good part the song itself was supposed to possess.
The result of which became a cacophony that made her instinctively want to scrunch her face up: a blasphemy towards music. Or perhaps it was far more warped, something you ought to call “The Music of Resentment”. Either way…
Felt: [Hearing you hum is really getting on my nerves, so give it a rest. If you want to keep going that way then sing properly like that spazzy diva]
Felt kicked out at the body of the carriage with her heel, peered inside through its window and brought her complaints to the one singing. Following her complaints, the humming stopped, and the one who’d been singing lifted her face up and looked back at her.
Her protuberant, wide open amethyst eyes stirred, staring at Felt in an eerie manner. The wicked glint in her eyes gave off an impression similar to that of tearing the heart out of anyone facing her. Even so, Felt gave her a dauntless grunt and met her gaze without shrinking back.
There was a terrible pressure coming from her, but at this point it wasn’t really a big deal for Felt. Otherwise, her position ― her title as one of the five candidates vying for the throne which shook the Kingdom of Lugnica ― would be extremely hard to shoulder.
The lips of the one who’d been humming relaxed seeing Felt’s unflinching attitude and they let out a ragged sigh.
???: [I’m sorry if that bothered you? Even so, thank you. You’ve been listening to me for a while without complaining because you must be a kind girl, right?]
Felt: [Me? Kind? That joke wasn’t funny. I kept quiet for a while ‘cuz I imagined it’d be better to listen to you hum than talking to you. Then I stopped bein’ quiet ‘cuz I rethinked things and realised that your humming is the absolute worst]
Sirius: [Dear oh dear, hehehe…]
Felt’s opponent laughed at her curt response while still keeping the smile on her face. There was a slight clinking noise coming from her due to the fact that both of her arms were completely bound in chains. Though it wasn’t just her arms which were restrained, rather it was her entire body, including both of her legs. ——No, in the sense of restraints, chains weren’t the only thing which were wrapped around her entire body. There were white bandages as well.
Bandages wrapped around every inch of her body from head to toe, making it so that the only thing that remained visible was her wide open eyes.
——That monstrous figure was the Sin Archbishop, Sirius Romanee-Conti.
It went without saying that Felt, currently being one of the Royal Selection Candidates, had one of the most important positions in the Kingdom. Felt and one the Sin Archbishops who’d committed so much atrocity across the world were two individuals who should never be associating with each other. Yet by some twist of fate, the two of them were riding on the same Dragon Carriage and had been sharing the road together for their journey that would take them no less than 10 days to get to the destination.
Just how many times already had they had these shallow conversations, let alone her humming, Felt sighed. Even counting it was already tiresome enough for her.
Felt: [Jeez, I’m probably gonna regret not getting a Sin Archbishop-escort, or whatever.]
Sirius: [So you’re going to hand over your role to someone else from now on?]
Felt: [I wouldn’t be going to all this trouble if I could, god damnit!]
Felt gave her a foul-mannered tch after she’d retorted back to her in a casual tone. Though Sirius hadn’t abandoned her friendly-looking attitude, not in a million years would Felt do something like relaxing her guard around her.
The reason behind why Felt had taken the role to escort this monster hadn’t been so she could warm up to her; it had been because she was never going to let her escape, no matter what she was scheming.
——A calamity of the likes never seen before had struck the Watergate City of Pristella. A concurrent attack by several of the Sin Archbishops on the city had incurred colossal damage before they’d managed to settle things. The incident had led to the death of one of the main offenders, whilst others had been captured or had managed to flee. However, the Sin Archbishop they’d managed to capture was Sirius herself.
They needed to get this monster to tell them about the mysterious Witch Cult. And so for that they were taking her to the Royal Capital so she could be interrogated.
It was none other than the Felt Faction who’d taken on the role to bring this monster to the Royal Capital. At first they’d been planning to make the trip there in around 10 days, but by now they’d gone way over their schedule. All because of the hindrances that they’d come across along the journey.
——They captured bandits and reported them to the guards in nearby villages. This was already the sixth time that they’d come across impediments like these — an unusual amount, no matter how you sliced it.
Sirius: [It’s always like this]
Sirius: [It feels like my presence attracts misfortune, or well… It feels like I have a disposition for calling disaster to me. That’s why all these things keep happening. I’m sorry? Thank you.]
While clattering the chains on her hand, Sirius let out both an apology and a thanks in chorus. Hearing that, Felt gave her a frown and then batted one of her eyes shut.
Felt: [Calling misfortune to you, you say. If that’s true, wouldn’t it have been better for you to have lived a quieter life? If the result of you despairing about the world was to run amok in the Witch Cult, then my bad, but I can’t sympathise with you one bit.]
Sirius: [That view of yours is a tad biased. I just go around preaching about the importance of love, but it doesn’t get through to you or that knight of yours… It’s a real real shame.]
Even her dropping her shoulders looking rather crestfallen was, in the end, something to not be taken at face value.
In any case, Sirius’ words were correct; Felt wasn’t affected by the authority, or whatever it was, that induced abnormalities in one’s psyche which the monster strew around. If all the stories she’d heard about it on the way were true, then it looked like even Sirius’ authority had some conditions or whatnot that Felt hadn’t been able to satisfy.
According to what that dodgy Natsuki Subaru, who was oddly versed in the Witch Cult, had said, the more targets Sirius’ authority had, the more effective it would become ― or so he’d surmised. In that sense as well, when it came to the least amount of people required—— You could probably say that just having Reinhardt escort her would have been adequate enough.
Even so, she couldn’t help but feel on edge, and not because of something that had to do with her authority. It was moreso a sensation which she couldn’t help but feel, one of instinctive repugnance towards the Sin Archbishop.
Sirius: [You’ve ended up hating me, haven’t you?]
Felt: [Is there really anything about you which is likeable by anyone…? For all your blathering on about love this and love that, talking with you always keeps pissin’ me off.]
Sirius sunk into silence in response to Felt’s pointed reply. The monster was the sort who never ceased throwing in needless retorts, no matter what was said, thus Felt became suspicious about her auspicious reaction.
Felt didn’t really think she’d hurt her feelings, not that she would have cared about that; however, she did feel some fear in not knowing what she was scheming when she sunk into silence so ungracefully.
So, as she stared off into the distance where Reinhardt was still busy talking to the guards, she spoke up,
Felt: [What is it then? Are you saying that your misfortune was behind all of those bandits attacking us, as well as us happening to come across those migrating Witchbeasts, and the river’s pier collapsing too?]
Sirius: [Who knows. But there’s a side of me that thinks like that you know? After all, in spite of how things look, I’ve lived farfarfaaar longer than you…]
She repeated the word three times, causing a look of suspicion to appear on Felt’s face. She couldn’t properly hazard a guess at the monster’s age due to her bandaged appearance. That being said, judging from her tone of voice and her bodyshape, her “longevity” seemed pretty likely to be a bluff.
But then again, within the Demi-Human Tribes, there were a bunch of them who did live for long. It wasn’t like she could have wholly denied Sirius’ claim from the start either.
Sirius: [It was harder to live back then compared to now, way tougher… My hometown was destroyed by a Witch Hunt. Back then, I was still really young…]
Felt: [A Witch Hunt? Never heard of such a dangerous thing.]
Sirius: [Indeed, I supposed you wouldn’t have. You’re still quite young after all.]
Felt had never so much as heard of anything as reckless and over the top as hunting witches. But, having received Felt’s answer with an air of composure about her, Sirius had shown her that she understood.
Sirius: [Ever since then, misfortune has followed me around no matter where I flee to… So that’s why I thought that ― that misfortune is following in my wake. It appears like it tangles everyone up in it but me.]
Sirius spun those words in her gloomy voice while moving her chains about. Her rattling the chains, which had now tightened firmly around her, should have made her arm bones creak and brought her pain.
Her doing that to herself looked almost like she was punishing herself—— Yet at the same time, Felt could only feel like she was full of herself.
Felt: [As if I’ve heard anything so absurd]
Felt: [It’s like you believe that the whole world is revolving around you, don’cha think? First things first, if that’s the reason why you said that…]
Felt trailed her words off there and lifted her gaze up slightly. Her eyes squinted in the sunlight that was streaming from the clouds, and she let out a quiet sigh.
Sorry, but when it came to Sirius giving her oh so esteemed opinion that misfortune gathered around, with her smack bang in the middle of it; such an idea was completely absurd.
Felt: [I know someone as well, just like you, who is seen in a bad light from the people around them, ya know? But that girl didn’t take it as an excuse to act rotten. The complete opposite in fact, she’s got an easygoing attitude over her condition where she just tries to give it her best.]
Sirius: [In a bad light… from the people around her…]
Felt: [Of course, I reckon it’s also because she’s blessed by the people around her, yeah? She’s prob’ly had a bunch of bad experiences, but at the same time, she’s also got people with her who treat her well. That too must be why she came up decent.]
What had come to Felt’s mind had been that silver-haired, amethyst eyed, half-elf girl.
It was pretty easy to imagine that she would have kept meeting unreasonable experiences due to her features resembling the “Witch of Envy”. Felt too had once been just as wary of her.
However she didn’t make excuses for the unfavourable situations she found herself in through no fault of her own. There must have been times where she would have felt frustrated and bitter. And yet…
Felt: [There’s these people who turn out decent, so what you’re saying is just you being spoiled. I ain’t ever gonna feel any sympathy for you. You’re just a crazy asshole.]
Felt dismissed this monster with her words while still looking away from the inside of the Dragon Carriage. She was honestly so glad that she’d spoken exactly what she wanted to.
Sirius’, or rather, these Witch Cultists’ justifications really boiled her blood whenever she just heard them.
Felt didn’t like people who resigned themselves to weakness, not to even mention weak people themselves. The Sin Archbishops’ ― rather, Sirius’ insistence had been meshing as well as oil on water with Felt’s likes and dislikes.
Sirius didn’t utter any words for a bit after hearing what Felt had told her. Although Felt could say that she’d rather have her be silent than keeping up her eerie humming or her pointless chatter, the way she’d gone quiet ― as if her words had really hit home ― had won over her unease.
Felt: [Hey, say something. Don’t tell me I hurt your feelings and you’re gonna start cryin’]
Sirius: […No, I’m not going to do that. I was just thinking.]
Felt: [Thinking? About what?]
Sirius: [——About how odious that slut is]
Felt’s body stiffened as soon as she heard her tone of voice, which seemed chock-full with hatred.
Where on earth had the superficially calm and friendly attitude she’d had up till now gone. Sirius’ feelings would cool down in a flash while at the same time boiling up.
Sensing this, Felt moved her back away from the Dragon Carriage and gulped.
???: [Sorry to keep you waiting, Felt-sama]
Having come back from talking to the guards, Reinhardt had called out to Felt. She looked back at him, seeing his familiar face when she looked up. She felt a touch of relief―― and then her face grew sullen.
Reinhardt: [Felt-sama? Is something the matter?]
Felt: [Nothing, was just angry at myself for seeing your face and being so relieved by it.]
Reinhardt cocked his head in confusion as if he didn’t understand what she meant, but Felt didn’t bother with any further explanation.
Felt: [No need to worry. If things are settled here, then we oughta head off… How much is left till we get to the Royal Capital?]
Reinhardt: [I think it will take five days, even at Romy’s pace. I apologise for the inconvenience it’s becoming for you, Felt-sama…]
Felt: [Yeah, it’s fine, whatever… I’m just gonna sit by your side for a bit, alright?]
A look of wonder appeared over Reinhardt’s face at Felt’s words but she glared at the Dragon Carriage without giving him any further reply again.
Through an imperceptible wall, was the Dragon Carriage that contained the Sin Archbishop who wouldn’t let them perceive their true nature.
The road to the Royal Capital was still long, and there was probably going to be more trouble Felt thought with a sigh.