Martha said it was quite a mess. And Ain had expected that. However, Ain’s expectation was quickly betrayed.
“Hmm? Who is it-nya? At this busy time… Eh? So it was you, Ain-nya?”
It was like a battlefield. The laboratory was in a state that could not just be described as a messy place. The huge bookshelves placed on the walls also fell forward without exception, scattering the books. Several research magic tools were leaking pungent-colored smoke.
“What’s this? Who did you fight?”
Ain asked. Katima replied, her face showing through the mess. If there was one problem, it was that her confident expression annoyed him.
“Fuh… Against the mystery that permeates the world-nya?”
“Just kidding-nya. So, did everything go well over there-nya? Krone and Chris came here a while ago and gave me a report on the results-nya.”
She said with a sly grin.
“So, what are you doing here-nya?”
“I heard the room was in a big mess, so I came to tidy things up.”
“…Really, what a nephew I have here-nya.”
Good grief, she said, as she showed her body from the collapsed object and wiped the dust around her waist with a handkerchief.
“Well, it was just at the right time-nya. Hoi-nya.”
Katima reached the desk and picked up an envelope.
With a sweep of her arm, she tosses it to Ain. The envelope made a pathetic sound as it landed in Ain’s hand.
“What is this all of a sudden?”
“It is a document that the genius Caith Sith-sama, who has no equal in the history of Ishtalika, has researched-nya. Or rather, I found that out, and that’s why the room was so rough-nya. It was just a moment ago-nya.”
“Eh? What is it? If you know someone like that, let me know.”
“It was me-nyaaaaaaa!”
Ain, who had asked that plainly, was amused and said, “Oh, I see.”
“So, what is this document about?”
“Hmph! Just look at it-nya!”
If it were the usual Katima, she would have made an even more annoying face and told him. But this time, she did not, and she languidly urged him to look at what was inside.
“──The results, sample 1 was determined to be a type of beastman. And as for sample 2, it is expected to be a kind of reptilian species.”
Simply put, it was full of technical terms that he didn’t understand.
It may be the result of an examination, but there was no way Ain could understand it even if several numbers were lined up. Therefore, Ain skipped over the contents and read through the conclusions.
“Warren’s subordinate carried the half-monster as a sample for me-nya. Thanks to them, my concern was solved in no time at all-nya.”
“Sorry, this conclusion about specimens 1 and 2…”
“The one thing I was concerned about was the magic stone embedded in the half-monster-nya. It was not a mouse or a rabbit by any stretch of the imagination-nya. I was wondering if this was the way it was supposed to be at first, but now that I have multiple samples, I can examine them to the best of my ability-nya.”
“Katima-san, that means…”
As Ain began to guess, Katima sighed heavily and approached him.
“There were quite a few half monsters-nya. So the new question is, how did they gather that many magic stones-nya? Surely it can’t be hypothesized that they bought the scrap magic stones, right-nya? Because what was embedded in the stones was a magic stone of a different race. So, in fact, there is a story that has long been questioned among researchers-nya.”
It was during the Great War.
“At that time, among the warriors who participated in the battle, many of the magic stones of different races had not been found-nya. There was a magic stone that Ain had seen in the deepest part of the shrine in Sith Mill, and the theory that someone had carried it there was a realistic one-nya. But the magic stone that Ain saw was not enough, so someone else must have collected and carried it-nya.”
She spoke in a heartbreakingly disgusted, hateful tone of voice.
“…In conclusion-nya. The magic stone that was embedded in the half monster belonged to the different races that were sacrificed in the Demon Lord Wars-nya.”
What a day it was today.
After returning home, Ain’s mind was on the verge of exploding from all of these stories. Seeing Katima’s unusually grumpy face, Ain raised his arms and scratched his head strongly.
“Was that irritation the reason the lab is in such disarray?”
Ain mouthed as he looked at the disastrous state of the lab once again.
“Hmm-nya, not quite like that, but yeah-nya. However, I don’t deny the fact that it has become very rough-nya.”
Katima slowly slumped to the floor and looked at one of the cupboards by the wall. Ain also looked at it. Unlike the other shelves, even the shelves look like expensive items. The floor in front of them was littered with clear cases whose contents were scattered about, giving a good idea of their dismal state.
The ground was also littered with several magic stones. Some of the precious stones seemed to be broken, but he was afraid to ask.
“What caused such a disastrous situation? Was it simply because you were too absorbed in your research?”
“That’s how it seems to me-nya. I pushed the machine too hard, and it just went a little bit out of control-nya.”
…..I see, said Ain.
When presented with a scene like this battlefield site, he couldn’t even process a tiny bit of it.
“This is enough-nya. I’m going to take a bath and go to bed-nya.”
“It’s still bright, though.”
“Shut up-nya! Bedtime already-nya! I said bedtime-nya!
She dived onto the floor and rumbled.
No matter how he looked at her, there was not a shred of princess-like appearance to be found in her, but Ain naturally let out a smile.
It was a refreshing change of pace, and it might have cooled his head down a bit. Without saying it out loud, he secretly thanked Katima.
◇ ◇ ◇
As night fell, Ain stepped into the audience chamber as promised.
Walking through the central carpeted area, even the quiet sound of stepping on cloth echoed through the audience chamber, which is simply described as silent. The high ceilings and stonework allow sound to reverberate through without being absorbed.
(What is the right thing to do?)
With each step, he called out to the two people inside him, Misty and Ramza. Perhaps Marco was also alive inside Ain, but he was not certain about that.
But there was no reply at all and no sign of reaching them.
Since you are listening to me, why don’t you tell me something? He wanted to complain like this.
(Hey, do the two of you know about Beria and Warren?)
Ain, thinking that if he traced the magic stone’s connection, there would be a gathering of acquaintances, he chuckled that it’s a bit of a reunion.
While he was doing this, he arrived at the entrance to the small room.
Knocking and signaling that he has arrived, Sylvird’s reply arrives from inside.
“Is that you, Ain? We’ve been waiting for you.”
Upon hearing the reply, he slapped his cheeks once and went inside.
Inside, Beria was also seated, just as he had expected.
“Here, Your Highness, if you don’t mind.”
Saying so, Beria handed him a cup of tea she had brewed.
She looked nervous and reserved toward Ain. But Ain was calmer than before. Apparently, it was worth taking the time.
When he sat down in front of Sylvird, Ain accepted the tea with open arms.
Beria was delighted at the acceptance, and the edges of her lips relaxed.
“Grandfather, I was wondering if Lloyd-san is here.”
“I understand what you mean. Even though the chief of the elves has assured you that Beria and Warren are not enemies, you are saying that we should be on our guard, are you not?”
“But I have decided to trust what I have seen and what I have lived my whole life. I want to believe in what Warren and Beria have done so far.”
Even so, Ain was not satisfied.
He wanted Lloyd to at least be allowed to stay in the audience chamber.
“According to the report, you used the royal decree. Is that correct?”
“Yes. I am prepared to be punished if there is a problem.”
“I can’t declare this incident inappropriate, so there will be no punishment. …I have been told that Beria has complied with the royal decree. Then there is no doubt that Beria is a citizen of Ishtalika.”
Sylvird never changes his position.
“If the need arises, I have Ain here. It may sound irresponsible to say so, but I can make a strong choice because Ain is with me. I can always count on you.”
──Isn’t that really irresponsible?
Or rather, please don’t invoke the grandchild fool at a time like this. He suppressed an inward complaint and changed the subject.
“So, how far have you progressed with the story?”
“I have heard what kind of race the two of them are. But I was told that the rest of the story would be long, so let’s start now.”
“I understand. Then, please explain immediately.”
Ain signaled Beria with his eyes, and she coughed once to set the tone. She still looked nervous, but both Ain and Sylvird just looked at Beria quietly.
“I would like to tell you first that Warren and I have a flaw in our memory, as does Marco-sama.”
“Sorry. I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did you ever wonder why Marco-sama didn’t tell Ain-sama about his past…?”
A thought occurred to him.
During their first encounter, there had been some resentment that Marco should have told him about it at the time.
Ain nodded at Beria’s words.
“That was of Marco-sama, and my flawed memory. …The curse of the red fox chief has affected both of us.”
“It is called the curse of loneliness, at the time when Arche-sama was in a state of disorder. The chief must have hated us for not obeying her words. I noticed that Warren and I were cursed as well. But fortunately for Warren and I, the effects were not as severe as Marco-sama’s.”
Therefore, they did not die, nor did they lose their sanity.
But the memory loss was inevitable.
“I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but what was it that you overheard in the Elven village?”
“I was talking about Wernstein. I also heard about what happened in the royal cemetery…”
Why is Wernstein mentioned there? Sylvird looked puzzled.
“Your Majesty, I will tell you first what His Highness has heard from the chief of the elves.”
“I understand, Your Highness. I know the wishes of Queen Raviola and the feelings of the chief of the elves. But I can no longer keep this from His Majesty.”
Then Beria narrated the story.
The content was almost the same as what Ain overheard in Sith Mill, only the perspective of it was now Beria’s. Whether she really has forgotten or was just being vague, who knows, but the content of the story was exactly the same as what the elven chief had mentioned.
“I have not had the privilege of seeing Wilfried-sama, but I have heard that he lived out his life in great honor.”
Hearing of the strong blood connection between Chris and the current royal family, Sylvird was so weak that he felt as if he had lost his spine. He looked to Ain for help, and Ain nodded his head in affirmation.
He was surprised when Ain told him about the former Demon Lord’s territory, but this time he was even more astonished.
He had no idea that a member of a branch of the royal family, one with blood thicker than his own, would be a vassal.
With both Sylvird and Ain having received the same information, it was finally time to get down to business.
First of all, Beria told them why she had kept it a secret.
“The first reason we could not tell you anything was because of what His Majesty Gail had said. His Majesty Gail has kept secret the fact that he himself is from the former capital… the former Demon Lord’s territory. It was in order not to cause confusion in Ishtalika at that time and to keep Ishtalika alive.”
The time of unification was certainly built on a fragile relationship compared to today.
In addition, considering the fact that there was the Demon Lord disturbance, the united nation might be easily destroyed if that fact was made public.
“In other words, you have been concealing it from the public, considering the feelings of His Majesty the First?”
In the light of the culture of Ishtalika, it could be said that it was rather the right thing to do. In the midst of her explanation, Ain softened his thoughts.
“There is one reason for that. But there are other reasons as well.”
Beria took a deep breath, her hands clasped in prayer in front of her chest.
“Some of us red foxes have the ability to change our appearance as if we were reborn. For Warren and me, this power is more important than anything else. It was the best power we had to continue serving Ishtalika.”
Beria then turned her attention to the flag that hung in the room.
“After serving the first king of Ishtalika, Gail-sama, Warren and I devoted ourselves to the service for hundreds of years until the reign of His Majesty Sylvird. We even received knighthoods on occasion. Warren and I never had children, but we adopted a child, a girl, and lived as a family.”
“──What kind of nobleman were you?”
Beria spoke in a motherly tone of voice when he looked nostalgically at her.
“It was a cozy, ordinary baron family. It is an old and common title that has not survived to this day. But our daughter’s lineage continues to this day.”
Ain and Sylvird were intrigued and urged her to continue.
“She was married to a very just knight. Her husband was brave and rose to the rank of duke. And still ── at Your Majesty’s side.”
Beria did not say more, but the information was enough to give an idea of the situation.
Sylvird leaned back deeply on the sofa where he had been sitting, put his hand on his forehead, and looked up at the ceiling.
No way, that’s what happened. He was stunned by the unknown fact.
“Now, let’s get back to the story. Warren and I have been using our abilities to give advice, sometimes outwardly, sometimes behind the scenes. We served for decades, even centuries. But at the time, we did not understand the cost of our transformation.”
She continued with regret.
“It was as if we were losing ourselves as if we were forced to take on a new identity. The power to change our appearance was closer to the meaning of a rebirth. Unlike the curse of our chief, it was more like a spontaneous spilling over than a killing of memories. However, those who cooperated with the chief would be safe. And since they were not cursed, they may not have lost their old memories either.”
“When we realized our memory loss, it was already too late. We should have kept many things in our memoirs and kept our own memories. We have regretted this more than once. We couldn’t even remember the faces of Arche-sama and the others.”
She put on her saddest expression so far this day and clamped her mouth shut.
“In the midst of all this, Katima-sama brought Wilfried-sama’s book, and Christina-sama translated it. After that, Warren and I were lost. We wondered if we should still tell Your Majesty about what we had kept quiet until now.”
But they did not do so.
“Maybe I was irresponsible. Or perhaps it was a lack of loyalty. But we could not do more about the red fox race than Wilfried-sama had done in his book. Therefore, we decided to keep our promise to His Majesty Gail. We were concerned about what His Majesty Gail feared and decided to keep it close to our chests.”
It is understandable what she is trying to say. It is no wonder that they kept quiet because they could not give the necessary information.
However, from Ain’s point of view, he could not deny that there were still some aspects that made them seem irresponsible. No matter how much they had kept their promise to the first king, it was also true that all they wanted was a little bit of information. Although he no longer had any skepticism toward Beria, he could not ignore the feeling of a gaping hole in his chest.
“If that was the case, then why did you send Chris at the time of the sea dragons?”
At least the two of them have not forgotten about Wernstein.
Ain opened his mouth to question her about it.
“Ain, you are wrong to blame them for that.”
Then, as if defending Beria, Sylvard interrupted.
“The final approval was given by me, no matter what the content. And all the nobles who had agreed to send Chris during the meeting up to that point were responsible.”
“You are more emotional than usual today, Ain. I know what you are trying to say, but without the information that she has royal blood in her veins, Chris is just an ordinary knight. Despite her position, there is no difference that she is one below Lloyd in command. Besides…”
Sylvird paused for a breath.
What he goes on to say is something he has never told Ain before.
“At the time, Warren was not in favor of sending Chris.”
Ain stood up from his chair vigorously at hearing this for the first time.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing!”
“That’s true. I never had a chance to tell you what the meeting was about. And at the time, Ain moved before I could give such an explanation, and in the end, you rendered Lloyd powerless and headed for Magna.”
“The idea Warren came up with was that we should dispatch a royal ship exclusively with the intention of using it as a shield. This would ignore all the damage to the fleet and protect the lives of Chris and the knights. But that would lead to the loss of Ishtalika’s sea power for decades to come. Many nobles were concerned about this and did not agree with Warren’s opinion.”
Ain was puzzled by the fact that he was being told such a thing now. According to what he had heard, Warren was trying to protect Chris.
“I thought it was an unrealistic idea by Warren’s standards, but I see what he meant… I guess that’s what he was trying to do. He was certainly trying to protect Chris.”
He couldn’t protect her publicly, but he was trying to prevent her from going to her death.
No matter how much of a prime minister he is, not every word is a priority. Especially when it comes to a national crisis like sea dragons, there was nothing that could be done.
“Your Majesty, I really wanted to tell you the whole story of my encounter with His Majesty Gail. But it seems that my memory is not sufficient for me to tell you. Fortunately, Warren remembers more than I do. So please wait for Warren to wake up before bringing this to the light.”
Beria stood up and bowed deeply.
In fact, there is still a lot of explanation that they want to hear, but believing her, it is undeniable that she does not have enough information.
Ain pondered what to do, but Sylvird replied, “I understand.”
“You will be placed on duty in Warren’s room. You’ll be under guard, is that alright with you?”
Considering the content of the request, this might have been an exceptional response. Even so, Sylvird was unable to make a better decision for those who had served Ishtalika for so long.
“──I thank you for your generous words.”
Then Beria shed a large drop of tear.
“But can I ask you a few more questions, however ambiguous they may be?”
“If you wish, of course, I will tell you, but the story could become inconsistent, even incoherent. In other words, it could be a list of words.”
Sylvird, feeling even more confused, sighed and gave up.
“I understand your point. I’ll ask the old prankster himself when he wakes up.”
“I am truly sorry. I wish I could have told you more about the story of our journey to unite the continent.”
(…I’d love to hear it.)
It was a statement of strong interest, but it could not be helped. Ain drank a cup of cold tea and turned his eyes to the night view outside the window, admiring the beauty of the night view.
After that, since it was late at night, they decided to end the meeting.
The rest of the story will be told after Warren wakes up.
Until then, Ain and Sylvird prayed that Heim would not take any action, but their prayers were answered two days later when the news arrived that the Kingdom of Heim had marched to Rockdam.