Chapter 2: Attack
Translator: MadHatter Editor: MadHatter
“I see… Grace did that.”
Duke Valmi’s tone of voice sounded nonchalant, but Elias did not overlook the somewhat relaxed look on his face.
Whether Duke Valmi’s reaction was due to a hint of doting parents over the delay in his daughter’s marriage or peace of mind that he did not have a son-in-law he did not like or Elias was calmer than he had expected or that the matter had been settled so easily was unknown to Elias.
Elias could not read what was in Duke Valmi’s mind. But should he find out that the elderly man in front of him was relieved that the engagement had been called off―it would be more than enough to deal a blow to his self-esteem.
“Your Highness Elias. However, I am relieved. Now that things have come to this, well… I don’t think you and the girl were a good match, after all. Both of you always seemed to be straining against each other.”
Elias clenched his fists. A dull ache crept into his hand as his fingernails dug into his palm.
Straining? Of course he did. He was expecting to get something out of it.
Discontent? Of course there must be. He had rarely been able to live as he pleased.
Nevertheless, that was the nature of the aristocracy, of the privileged class. Those in the center of the hierarchy must put up with something as long as a higher-up existed since only the true ruler can have everything. No, even if someone reigned at the top, he or she must always be on their toes in order not to be thrust up or dragged down from below.
What parent and child you two are―what freedom, screw you!
The fact that Duke Valmi had no intention of being good-natured and his mockery made it all the more unbearable. He felt as if his heart was being trampled on with muddy shoes. Yet, he cannot let anyone see him give in. With his chin drawn back and his stern eyes set on Duke Valmi, Elias in his misery was puffed up with pride.
“Even so… I also thought that if both of you were to be bound together by youthful passion, then if you were to deepen your understanding of each other over a long period of time afterward. However… this is regrettable but it is a decision I have made after reflecting on it as best I can, even for my own daughter. I cannot ask you to forgive her. But please understand. This is a matter of a lifetime.”
Elias sucked in his breath. His head shook so hard as if he were ready to strike the man in front of him dead right now.
For what reason did he back out so easily, and for what reason did he stand there now, feigning a cool face. It was, in part, because he couldn’t stand being a pathetic figure.
A prideful prince. That was all of Elias, and that was the impregnable armor that protected Elias.
And yet, this father and daughter were willing to step over him with impunity, even to the point of trying to impose their footprints on him.
“May good fortune be with you.”
He gritted his teeth and bowed his head to Duke Valmi’s final words.
Elias was praying that his back was not bent after turning back to him, hoping his trembling shoulders were unnoticeable. After briefly closing the door, Duke Valmi gave one more look in the direction of the leaving Elias before shaking his head and taking a deep breath.
Elias was greeted by the terrified-looking squire who was waiting in the hallway. He said in a single low voice before snatching his cloak and putting it on.
“I’m returning… I have no more use for this place.”
Despite the flustered atmosphere around him, he started to walk away as quickly as possible.
The sky that he looked up at as he walked out of the mansion was blue, reminding him of someone’s eyes. The canaries were as broad as the azure sky, joyously singing and soaring wherever they went.
Perhaps it was because she was such a presence that made him unable to take his eyes off her and wanted to keep her bound to himself.
Elias cannot fly. Neither did he have the wings to fly, nor the honest heart to soar with only a dream of hope in the sky.
Shaking his head, he brushed off the words that came to mind.
This is absurd. I am not the kind of man who indulges in such uncharacteristic sentimentality. Just forget about that woman. It was a failure.
―But perhaps five years was a little too long to be dismissed as a failure.
Elias often heard himself sighing inside the carriage. This time, he wildly covered his eyes with both hands to conceal the emotion that was seeping into them.
Could it be that being alone and in a private place helped him release his acute tension?
Elias felt his head drop, and he realized that he had been slumbering until just before he was awakened. He ruffled his hair while swearing, and then noticed something out of the ordinary.
The carriage had halted. The prince would not hold his troops accountable for such behavior. What mattered was the noise coming from outside. There were shouts, shrieks, and the high-pitched clang of metal against metal. Elias can feel the blood rushing to his veins.
This must be a joke, we are under attack!?
A voice called out to him, and he reacted swiftly by placing his hand on the window curtain and pulling it back with a single motion – at that moment, accompanied by an exclamation, the window was covered with a splash of crimson color. Without a second thought, he pulled back the curtains and thought to himself, soothing his racing heart.
Relax, the carriage comes with a good number of guards. They are not the kind of people who can be defeated by amateurs.
But when the earlier event replayed in his head, his heart began to race.
Is it possible that they are skilled? If so, the purpose – there must be no mistaking it, they are aiming for my life. Who on earth could it be?
He searched for hints, but none stood out as decisive or suspicious. This was not to say that this had never happened before, but he couldn’t think of anyone who had the guts to pull off something this spectacular. Each and every one of them would look at him and prick him, and if he scowled at them, they would run away. They were all such spineless people, no doubt.
While the Fifth Prince’s status was not exactly unassailable, Elias stood out somewhat from the rest of the princes. He could conceive of any number of people who would try to take advantage of him, or who would not be pleased with him. Therefore, he sought a stronger position, a more secure place, by gaining a connection with Duke Valmi. He desired a backer. His own family was unreliable. Even his own mother was preoccupied with his sickly brother and took it easy on him, assuming that he would be able to manage without her.
“Damn, the carriage―Your Highness, you mustn’t go outside―Ugh, ahhhhh!”
Elias’ train of thinking was disrupted by the knight’s shouts and his recognizable voice. Elias felt his body stiffen more and more. The voice, if he wasn’t mistaken, belonged to the captain of the guard. Even though he and Elias didn’t always see eye to eye, he trusted him to perform his duties because he was an upright warrior, the type who would carry out his tasks without taking his personal feelings into consideration. He was even a skilled fighter. The man’s screams were like nothing else in the world.
The screams eventually ceased, and the surrounding area fell silent. Instinctively, Elias became aware that he was the only one left. Taking a deep breath, he gingerly placed his hand on his own sword.
…This is the worst day of my life. Where in the world have things gone south?
Elias was a man who couldn’t stand failure by nature. He was always irritated by the fact that his ideal plan didn’t match reality since he expected perfection from it. But after so many disastrous failures and unanticipated occurrences, he was no longer able to chuckle at the absurdity of circumstances. The situation could be described as beyond hopeless. With a perilous glint in his dark brown eyes and a slight lift of his mouth, he glanced at the door and waited.
Now, you ruffians! Elias, the Fifth Prince, will not be at your mercy.
Even the sound of his heart was deafening.
The door opened gradually.
An eerie silence descended as though time had once and for all frozen in place.
What Elias beheld outside the door was a mysterious figure, their face hidden by a veil, clad in an exotic costume.
The figure was large and slender, contrary to all of his assumptions of an assailant; indeed, the delicately rounded lines suggested that the person who opened the door and peered at Elias was a woman. Her stark white costume was stained crimson in several spots, perhaps from blood returned from the attacker.
At the edge of his vision, he saw something moving and followed it. Elias sensed his intellect abandoning its line of reasoning this time. It was distinctly the tail of a beast, wagging at the side, extending out from around her back.
The demi-human woman, her face hidden, wore an air so divine that one might have mistaken her for some saint were it not for the pungent iron scent of the air coming from outside.
The woman seemed to shudder.
The instant she started to slowly back away from the door and go toward Elias, she dropped to her knees and bowed respectfully.
Elias was struck by a wave of cold sweat that seemed as though it had sprung from his entire body at the faint sound of her voice.
He intuitively knew. This was a demonic voice. Listening to it would drain his soul. But he could not cover his ears or even make a slight movement. The woman knelt down, perhaps only raising her face, and called out to Elias, “As I promised, I have come to get you.”