Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
Chapter 7 – A Great Country Without Him
The day Warren collapsed.
It was that night that Ain, who had finished decontaminating the Magic City of Ist and was visiting the refugees, returned to the royal capital. The royal capital was on high alert, which Ain had never seen before, and the first thing he saw when he arrived at the White Rose Station was a large number of knights who had come to the station in force.
It was no surprise that they were guarding the platform where the royal water train stopped.
In addition to the passage to the carriages, they guarded Ain at regular intervals all the way to the main street.
──When Ain arrived at the castle, he was in a great hurry to get to the treatment center where Varra was.
“Hah… hah… Grandfather!”
He heard that Sylvird was there, too.
Forgetting to knock on the door, he opened it roughly and stepped into the treatment center.
“Grandfather… How was Warren-san…?”
The chairs in the treatment center were not luxurious. It was a cheap and unsuitable chair for King Sylvird to sit down on.
But now, he was sitting by the desk in the back, talking with Varra, who was sitting in front of him.
“Oh… Ain… I’m glad you’re alright. There are so many things I would like to ask you about, such as how the results were──”
“That can wait! How was Warren-san…?”
“…Right. Varra, can you explain?”
“Y-yes! Very well, sir!”
As expected, it was better to leave it to those who are involved in the treatment of the disease.
Sylvird looked tired and held his head up when he called out Varra.
“Then, Your Highness, I will explain the Prime Minister’s condition.”
Since she was sheltered in the slums of the Magic City of Ist, she seemed calmer these days than she used to be, but she was still as nervous as before when dealing with the royal family.
This was especially true now that Prime Minister Warren had been seriously injured.
“He has been pierced deeply through the chest. Fortunately, the knights were able to stop the bleeding and provide first aid, so he survived. However, it is not clear whether he will regain consciousness…”
“Does that mean he may not wake up?”
“…That’s right. It depends on the treatment from now on──”
When Ain heard this, he managed to stop himself from falling to his knees and struggled to maintain his posture.
If a life was saved──.
If Ishtalika’s technological capabilities were available──.
A clinging wish was lodged in his heart.
“So, where is Warren-san now?”
“The Prime Minister is in his room. We are fully prepared for the treatment, not to mention the magical equipment for treatment. I also visit him every few minutes to check on his condition. Also, Beria-sama is always by His Excellency the Prime Minister’s side.”
Speaking of Beria, she was an outstanding woman who had no equal among the servants.
If she was by his side, it was reassuring.
“…After all this time, what is Grandfather doing here?”
“Hmm? I was just inquiring about Warren’s condition. To see how he was progressing.”
“Is that what it is? …So who attacked Warren-san?”
Who injured Warren? Ain had not heard that. He looked at Sylvird with angry eyes, and Sylvird replied with a puzzled look in his eyes.
“It was the corpse of a shadow. According to the knight, the corpse was transformed and became like a monster and attacked him. Oz, who was with him, was also wounded and taken to the castle hospital.”
“Professor Oz too…? I see, Professor Oz is coming to the royal capital too ── but Grandfather, what is this I hear about the corpse being transformed?”
Sylvird shook his head.
How was the corpse transformed, and what happened in the morgue? He did not know and could not answer any of the questions.
“The transformed corpse is restrained in a special cage with the help of Majolica. Katima also went to check on the corpse once, but she found the black stone embedded in the chest. I heard that the heart had also been transformed into a core, just like those of monsters and different races.”
“What does that mean?”
Needless to say, for the rest of the story.
“That’s nothing to talk about in the infirmary. Varra. Forgive me for coming by again and again. Keep an eye on Warren for me.”
Varra was suddenly approached and thanked, to which she replied with a flustered look on her face.
Despite the rudeness, Sylvird smiled and strode toward the door.
Even though Warren, whom he had known for a long time, had collapsed. He acted stoutly and without losing his dignity as the king.
“Ain should visit Warren, too. He might wake up if he sees that Ain has come to visit him.”
With a final joke, Sylvird walked away.
Ain, who was left behind, smiled bitterly, but after a few seconds, he spoke to Varra.
“Do you think it’s all right if I go to visit him now?”
“It’s fine. I think Beria-sama is there now, so if you have any questions, just ask Beria-sama…! I’ll be there later!”
“Great, well then, I’ll get right──”
“I will also be coming to check on Warren-sama’s magic stone!”
A magic stone? Was Warren in possession of some kind of valuable magic stone? Even if he did, there was no need for Varra to check it.
“What do you mean by a magic stone?”
“…..? It’s about the magic stone in Warren-sama’s body, you see? I didn’t know either, but Warren-sama was of a different race, wasn’t he?”
Ain didn’t know; he never even heard of it.
Not knowing why, Ain, who tried to keep his composure, said afterward.
“Sorry, I’ll go visit him anyway.”
He uttered with an air of calmness, as if trying to squeeze it out.
◇ ◇ ◇
Ain proceeded through the castle to Warren’s room.
A light tap on the door with the back of his hand brought Beria’s voice from inside the room.
Ain took a deep breath once and then put his hand on the door.
While puzzled by the sudden information that Warren was actually of a different race, he was now glad that Warren had survived and prayed for his good health.
…The room was divided into two parts.
One was a room with a large desk that was used as both a living room and a study. And at the far end of the room was a bedroom with a bed.
Ain opened his mouth as he stepped into the bedroom.
“I’ve come to visit, Beria-san.”
“Ara ara… Welcome, Your Highness.”
Beria immediately returned to her usual state, though she showed a surprised look on her face.
Her eyes showed signs of fatigue, but it was apparent that she had made an effort to hide them with makeup. When Beria stood up and bowed her head, Ain stopped her with a hand and looked at Warren, who was lying in bed.
“I’m back, Warren-san.”
He approached the bed and called out to Warren, but he didn’t get the usual playful response. His eyes were still and closed, and the tubes strung across his body told of the gravity of the situation.
“Grandfather said he might wake up if I came to him, but I guess that’s not going to happen.”
Ain smiled sadly, though he knew it was obvious.
Sitting down in the chair next to the bed, he let out another sigh.
“I’m sorry. When this man wakes up, I shall make sure to tell him of his wrongdoing,” said Beria.
“Hahaha… it’s okay.”
The atmosphere truly seemed to tell Ain that she was really going to tell Warren, and Ain hurriedly uttered a denial.
“So many amazing magic tools.”
The tubes connect to a series of lined pathways where many magic tools stood in a row. All of them were large and were meant to keep Warren alive somehow.
He was going to ask if Warren was of a different race. But he wondered if this was the right time to ask.
So he stepped back and concentrated on swallowing this question.
“…I hope that he recovers quickly and safely.”
He deflected the conversation by speaking about his other true feelings.
“I know it’s kind of early, but I’ve got to get going. It would be bad for Warren-san if I stayed too long.”
“Please wait. This old woman will escort you.”
Ain was adamant, but as a servant, it was natural for Beria not to want to let the crown prince go back alone, and Ain finally complied.
After leaving Warren’s room, Beria asked the nearest servant to look after Warren.
There was no conversation between them as they walked down the hallway and down the stairs.
──The next time she opened her mouth was when they arrived at Ain’s room.
“I’ll make you some tea to thank you for your hospitality, and then I’ll be back.”
She smiled at him so gently that he felt bad about refusing.
In the end, Ain, who had been spoiled again, entered the room with Beria.
“Well, I have to write a report on Ist’s case.”
With Beria by his side, who started brewing a cup of tea in the corner of the room, he took out a piece of parchment from the desk and started to prepare his report.
While he did so, the soothing aroma of tea wafts through the air.
“Here you go.”
And Beria placed the tea, with its fragrant steam wafting in the air, on the desk.
Then, her eyes unexpectedly.
She noticed Raviola’s magic stone on one corner of the desk, and her eyes were glued to it.
From the side, she appears to have doubted her own eyes. Not sure why, but she was definitely shaken up when she saw Raviola’s magic stone.
In addition, dismay.
Her lips quivered feebly, her eyes widened, and she backed away.
…Why did Beria have to be agitated?
Was it because the magic stone was left exposed? No, it’s not surprising if it’s Ain’s room.
“…It’s a very, very beautiful magic stone, isn’t it? Where did you buy it?”
After that, Beria was calm and soft-spoken.
But what looked different was Beria’s expression… and her eyes. Looking intently into her eyes, you could see the unconcealable tension that shimmers in small increments. There was no way that Ain would accept such an appearance and say, “Oh, I see.”
With a thoughtful look at Ain at her side, Beria’s eyes narrowed, and she smiled.
What happened to her? Ain tilted her head as if to say that, but his suspicion remained unanswered.
“…Do you recognise it?”
Ain asked, not answering the question she had uttered but lowering his gaze to the magic stone.
At the very least, it’s strange for her to know about Raviola’s magic stone. After all, the chief had had it for a long time.
Then… he heard Beria take a deep breath.
──There was such a thing as wisdom of age.
Beria was the personal servant of Laralua, a skilled servant who was also skilled and intelligent outside of her job as a servant. Although she was always able to talk as a matter of course, now all such appearance was gone, and she revealed only one word: bewilderment.
“Hey, Beria-san, do you know it?”
Ain asked again with his eyes downcast.
This time, he held the Raviola magic stone in his palm.
“I believe I saw a similar gemstone in a jewelry store,”
“Is that when you were accompanying my grandmother?”
“Indeed. I often accompany your grandmother, Laralua-sama, to the castle town. So I might have seen it at that time.”
Beria smiled and answered Ain, despite the pressure that Ain was exerting on her.
At first glance, it was not much of an act, but it was something that stuck with her.
Ain was caught in a strange feeling as if he had missed something and could not escape from it.
Normally, he would simply say, “Oh, I see.” He knew that Laralua would take Beria shopping along with her. As long as she’s the queen’s attendant, it’s a story that happens all the time.
Although he replied in a distracted voice, Ain could not look away from Raviola’s magic stone.
What was he stuck on? In this brief moment, he repeated the question to himself in his mind.
“Pardon me, but I must return to that man soon.”
Beria said with a rare urgency.
Devotion, yes, but no wonder, given the magnitude of the situation.
But now Ain was even sharper than usual, and his mind was thinking on its own.
(Speaking of which…)
The reason for Beria’s devotion to Warren was something that came to mind.
After all, Beria was said to have been in love with Warren during a certain time.
It was Martha who told him this story. It was the day Roland, Leonard, and Batz arrived at the castle for a social studies field trip.
“Your Highness? Is something wrong?”
Ain stood up from his seat and looked out the window.
He felt as if he had heard a similar story recently.
“It was in Sith Mill. I heard it from the chief.”
“What is it that you have been asking since a few moments ago…?”
The chief told him about the history of the two people who were involved in the founding of the nation.
“The two of them had a very important role in the founding of the unified nation of Ishtalika. The one who came to call me was a man. He was the one who made the laws, made many contributions, and was a friend of His Majesty the First. The other one was a woman. She served as a servant to Queen Raviola and was her constant companion.”
These were the two attendants of the first King of Ishtalika, Gail, and his wife, Raviola.
Strangely enough, when he begins to notice things like this, he sometimes becomes even more clear-headed.
The next thing Ain recalled was an old story that Oz had told him. This was probably also easy to remember because Oz was attacked along with Warren.
“There was a tribe in a certain place, and the tribe had a woman called the chief. The chief had three excellent subordinates. One was a man who was very studious, and another was a master of the spear. And finally, there was a man who was like a brilliant military strategist.”
He remembered the details, partly because of the narrative’s tone but also because it was so intriguing.
“But the man who was like a military strategist was different. He fell in love. He had fallen in love with the queen of the tribe he had helped during the battle. Naturally, the love was never fulfilled. But he decided to stay close and watch over her.”
These stories seemed to connect.
Let’s assume that the red fox, the man who made the contributions mentioned by the chief, was the same man Oz described as a smart military strategist. He was said to have fallen in love, but there was only one queen at the time. There was only one Raviola von Ishtalika.
(If Warren-san had a magic stone… and was a male red fox, then… Beria-san was his childhood friend’s red fox…?)
Actually, there was some credence to this hypothesis.
In the old tale from Oz.
“But there was another tragic love. It was his childhood friend, a woman. She knew that her love would never be fulfilled either, but she never left him.”
The story goes on like this.
“──Haha, I see. It’s… too good to be true.”
Ain laughed at his own hypothesis with a dry smile on his face.
But it was too late to stop laughing.
Still, it was strange.
Where did Oz learn about this old tale? He must have done a lot of research on the literature in which the red fox appears, but was there any other information about the red fox left in this way, even if it was not explicitly stated to be a red fox?
He could not find the answer, and he did not have the time to think about it right now.
Ain’s feelings were extremely complicated even as he called out the name.
This was because, for Ain, it was a completely unrealistic story.
He had never dreamed that the person he had been living with until now was such a remarkable person.
“I’m sorry to keep you, but I just have one question.”
“Yes, what is it?”
With eyes that seemed to be unaffected, Beria looked at Ain and waited for his following words.
But Ain suddenly changed his mind. The air was full of royal majesty, an air that made even Warren snarl.
“I issue a royal decree in the name of Ain von Ishtalika. From now on, you must answer my questions without lying.”
A breathtakingly high solid energy filled the room.
Beria’s eyes widened, perhaps not expecting this.
Then, perhaps trying to appease Ain, she tried to respond with a gesture for a moment, but Ain opened his mouth first and spoke the essential words.
“Beria-san, I want you to tell me the name of the first queen you ever served.”
These must have been the crucial words.
Beria lowered her arms as if she had lost all strength and turned her head to look at the desk.
But seeing Beria, who just couldn’t say anything, Ain changed the question.
“──The former royal capital. To the real royal cemetery, the two of you… Beria-san and Warren-san have visited there with Raviola-sama, haven’t you?”
That was as far as he got.
Looking into this man’s eyes, Beria couldn’t lie. There was no way she was going to defy even the royal decree.
“…Yes, I have.”
It was probably more difficult for Ain to put his current feelings into words than at any other time since his reincarnation. The first time he saw Beria, who answered in the affirmative to his earlier words, he felt a sense of accomplishment as the gears mesh, but also a sense of discomfort bordering on bewilderment, not knowing where to direct the contradiction.
It was a simple reply, but there was no time to ponder further.
“You served the person who used to be the owner of this magic stone, didn’t you?”
It was a roundabout way of asking.
It might have been enough to ask, “Are you a red fox?” but Ain did not have the courage to say it. He could feel the sweat on his temples, and his hands were sweating from the strain of holding the magic stone. He wanted to pretend that he had not heard anything and go to sleep. In a feeling akin to a kind of escape, Ain took deep breaths.
“…Yes. I have been in the service of Raviola-sama.”
Prime Minister Warren. And the head servant, Beria.
These two were the two red foxes the chief was talking about.
Why didn’t you tell me before? Ain thought. The first was about the Demon Lord Arche and the existence of the red foxes in the dark.
…Many other things still came to mind.
“Y-Your Highness ── Warren and I…”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Just one sentence, a different emotion to describe it as anger. A restlessness, that’s for sure. Yet, when Ain looked at Beria with cold but powerful eyes, Beria answered Ain without fear.
“Please forgive me. There is a reason I could not tell you.”
Suddenly, Ain felt a sudden irritation that seemed to be an extension of his hunger.
Then, it was also irritating that the room is warm. It’s also irritating that his body is slightly tired. Irritated by Beria’s excuses.
In other words, he felt annoyed at everything.
The chief had said that they were not enemies but important people in the founding of the country. This much was unquestionable. The fact that Marco did not regard them as enemies was proof of this.
However, he wanted them to tell him.
He even felt a deep sadness, wondering if the reason why he had not been told until today was that big a deal.
But unexpectedly. Just as when he received it at Sith Mill, magic flowed from the magic stone of Raviola into Ain’s body. It was warm as if he was being asked to forgive Beria.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door of the room. The tension from a moment ago vanished like a fog, and Ain suddenly felt his strength drain from his entire body.
Ain answered the knock, and the door opened immediately.
It was Sylvird who appeared.
“I was passing by the room and heard a lot of noise. I was curious, so I went to see what was happening.”
Sylvird was sensitive to the subtleties of human nature, especially if he was dealing with someone who is close to him.
“I have the right to ask. Ain, will you tell me?”
From outside the open door, Lloyd peered inside with worried eyes. He seemed to be considering whether or not he should go in but finally closed the door quietly.
“…But I was about to get an explanation too.”
“Mm? Ain asked for an explanation? To Beria?”
“Yes. But I’m a little tired, or rather, I’m a little distracted. So I’m sorry, I’m going to cool off.”
If he really wanted to, he would have asked for everything immediately, but Ain, who understood that he was not calm right now, decided to pause.
He walked beside Sylvird, who was trying to intercept him and headed for the door.
“…Yes, Your Highness.”
Standing in front of the door, Ain called out to Beria without turning around.
“Please explain a few things to my grandfather. I’ll ask you later.”
How should he be on guard, and what should he do about the guards?
What was the right thing to do with Warren and Beria?
Then Sylvird called out to Ain, who had his hand on the door.
“Tonight, I will wait for you in the small room of the audience chamber. Do you understand? Beria will come with you, depending on the circumstances.”
He asked if it was okay, but in effect, he was being told to come.
Ain nodded his head to listen to what Beria had to say.
“I understand. I will come after dinner and rest.”
“If you want to cool off, you can go to Katima’s lab. According to Martha, Katima is in a panic because of the mess in her room.”
“It doesn’t look calm at all, but I’ll go.”
Thus, Ain opened the door this time.
Without looking inside the room, he left with quiet steps.
He only slightly bowed to Lloyd, who was outside and continued down the corridor.
His steps were heavy and felt as if they were not his own, as he simply headed straight for Katima’s laboratory.