Ain stepped into Heim Castle with Majolica and several royal knights.
The royal knights cut down the Heim soldiers.
“Nuuooooraaahhh! Look, it’s over here, too!”
At a nearby spot, Majolica shows off his proud fists.
After lightly kicking off the attack for the first of many times since setting foot inside the castle, the group looked at Ain, who was wielding a sword nearby.
“No problem over here either.”
Ain answered with a calm face to everyone’s gaze.
Having single-handedly cut down twice that number of soldiers, who fell right next to the royal knights and Majolica, Ain showed no sign of fatigue whatsoever and seemed unconcerned.
“What is with your body, Your Highness?”
“I mean, aren’t you getting too strong?”
“It’s not cool to be a weak crown prince, after all.”
With the matter of the Demon King in the background, he turned his attention once more to the situation in the castle.
The place where they were now was a straight road leading to the audience chamber, with luxurious carpets, chandeliers, glittering jewelry, and works of art, everywhere one looked.
It may not seem like the proper taste, but this is what the luxurious castle of the Kingdom of Heim looked like.
“That should be the audience chamber. Garland and the others should be there.”
“What makes you think that? You don’t think that they ran away?”
“…Hmm. I just thought he’d be more likely to be in the audience chamber than waiting in his room.”
“Ara. So, in other words, it’s just a hunch?”
“Unfortunately, I can’t deny it.”
Seeing Ain’s embarrassed face, Majolica and the royal knights laughed.
It was also true that… it would be unwise to do such a thing in the enemy’s stronghold, but they relieved the tension in their own way.
They took a pause for deep breaths and bent over to prevent themselves from being crushed by the tension.
“But it helped!”
“Your Highness knows what’s in the castle. Because if I didn’t know anything about it, I would get lost. This is a castle, after all.”
“…What do you mean by eh?”
At Majolica’s words, Ain again looked embarrassed.
“I’ve never been to this castle before, you know.”
“Huh? Then why did you walk here with such sure footsteps?”
“N…no, I just thought that if I went deeper into the castle, I would find the audience chamber.”
The whole group was stunned once again.
The royal knights laughed even louder than before.
“Hahahaha! Did you hear that, Majolica-dono?”
“Our crown prince is truly a man of great capacity.”
When several people shouted like this, Majolica burst out laughing with tears in his eyes.
“Good grief, it wasn’t planned at all!”
“Hahaha….. I know it isn’t good. But there are actually other reasons.”
Ain walked a few steps ahead of everyone else. Looking at his back, everyone could feel the presence of someone else.
If the first king, Gail, had been here, he might have led them like this, and it made them think this way.
“The blood of the Ishtalika royal family tells me this. There is one last enemy ahead.”
Within a few minutes, the group stood in front of a huge door.
The door was not only solid in appearance, but also showed off its carvings and ornate decorations. Despite all this, two royal knights stepped forward and put their hands on the double doors.
The royal knight, with his hands on the doors, opened his mouth.
We are always ready. The royal knights told him implicitly.
Majolica put his hand on Ain’s shoulder to signal him, and Ain took a deep breath before answering the royal knight.
“Open the door.”
He gave the order in a princely manner.
The huge doors opened to the left and right, revealing the inside of the building.
The high ceilings and the corridors that led up to this point were even more luxurious than those of the audience chamber in Ishtalika.
A Garland-like figure was sitting on the large throne at the far end of the room.
The royal knights, who were walking in front of Ain, slowly stepped forward and strongly alerted him.
Stepping on the carpet leading to the throne, Ain and Majolica, who were waiting behind the knight, also took a step forward.
“It smells bad. I used to smell it when I was an adventurer.”
Ain opened his mouth after Majolica.
“Everyone, get behind me.”
When he ordered the royal knights, everyone knew what was happening.
“You don’t look well, King of Heim.”
It was an exaggeration to say that he was rotten, but Garland, who had a purplish complexion and his eyes glazed over, did not look like the human he once was.
He stood up with an unfocused expression and pointed at Ain with a half smile.
“Ohoho… I don’t remember inviting you, but…”
He spoke more fluently than Layfon, but the strangeness in his voice was not due to his imagination.
“Oh, I didn’t want to come either.”
He doesn’t know if Garland had the ability to understand. He may be manipulated like the Demon Lord Arche, but Ain had no way of knowing that.
“I’m looking for someone. I just found the first one, but actually, there is another one.”
Saying this, Ain stepped further toward Garland.
“I’m looking for a woman named Shannon.”
Ain asked, looking straight at Garland in the silent audience chamber. Behind him, Majolica and the royal knights could be heard swallowing hard.
“Don’t you dare address her by her name!”
The moment that an indignant Garland was about to approach Ain with his big toe.
A girl appeared from the shadows of the throne.
“Your Majesty. I don’t mind. So there is no need to be so angry.”
“But he has no sense of etiquette, and he calls you by your name.”
“It’s all right. Come, Your Majesty. Once more to the throne.”
It had been nearly ten years since Ain had seen her. Even so, Ain recognized her at once and turned his gaze from Garland to her.
Surely, she was Shannon.
If she were at a party, she would have the eyes of the opposite sex all to herself, and she was as pretty as an angel. But on the other hand, she has a mysterious glamour that was inappropriate for her age.
(She’s so simple. Isn’t she on her guard?)
The fact that he didn’t expect to see her so soon makes him a bit puzzled.
He raised his eyebrows.
“Oh! If you insist, I shall sit down!”
Garland sat on the throne, responding to Shannon’s words, and smiled happily.
He laughed good-naturedly and smiled, rubbing his cheeks in Shannon’s hand in pleasure.
When he was satisfied, Shannon stood in front of the throne and looked at Ain without saying a word. Her eyes turned a dazzling golden hue, and a kinetic sound echoed in everyone’s ears.
But nothing happened.
Yet, if Ain had not been there, things would have been as she expected.
“──It did not work?”
It was called “the curse of solitude,” as Ain recalled. It was written in the diary that was left in the first king’s villa.
(Did the Toxin Decomposition EX work against the curse?)
He’s unfamiliar with the concept of a curse, but at least it’s not some kind of fungus or poison.
“I see. My charm doesn’t work on you, does it?”
“Charm? It’s not the curse of solitude then──”
If charm was another power that Shannon had, what was the difference between it and the curse of solitude, the power that manipulated people?
There must be a reason why she used it here and now. For example, the curse doesn’t work unless the charm is used, or something like that.
“You don’t want to use the curse?”
“Ara, you want me to use curses as well? If you want it, that’s fine, but it would be pointless for you to come all the way here.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying you were waiting for me?”
He asked, still uncertain about her purpose.
For a moment, Shannon seemed lost for words.
She looked at Ain’s face, her eyes trembled repeatedly, and finally, her lips tightened, and she said in a weak voice.
Thinking back to Marco’s words, she was waiting for Ain. It was predictable from the implied way she just said it.
(Why, there isn’t a single feud between Shannon and me, though.)
No matter what he thought of, the reason was unclear and confusing.
He thought about it before, but if Shannon’s target were someone from the Ishtalika royal family, she could have gone after someone other than Ain.
“If you don’t want to answer, fine.”
But what needed to be done remained the same.
Even if Shannon had some kind of purpose and was waiting for Ain.
“You’re a cold person, aren’t you? Even though the people you care about are on the verge of death.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, you didn’t know? Edward told me. He couldn’t take their lives, but it’s only a matter of time.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“Oh, I don’t know much about them. But I heard that they were the ones who were by your side. I heard that one is a big-bodied man, and the other is a beautiful elf.”
Ain grew dismayed.
Even though his body pulsated violently and irregularly, both his hands were clenched and his breathing became a little raspy.
A mental gap was created, but he looked at Shannon with unyielding eyes.
“──I don’t believe it. I’ll settle this quickly and return back to them both.”
“No. It’s impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible. All I have to do is kill you quickly.”
“Speaking of which, can I ask you something?”
Shannon asked, looking curious.
“How did you deal with Layfon in Birdland?”
Garland seemed to be in a good mood besides Shannon, even though she had called out the first prince. Garland moved his face close to Shannon’s hand to kiss her, but she gently brushed him off.
“I guessed that, even if it were in Ishtalika, there would be no room to breathe with that kind of miasma. That boy… Edward came back with a devilish look on his face. It took me by surprise.”
Shannon’s expression as she spoke was filled with curiosity.
In other words, Layfon was a kind of trump card. Hearing her story, Ain was convinced in his heart.
“You are my brother’s fiancée, but you have never heard of my natural ability?”
“No, as I said before, I am aware of it. But miasma is not a type of poison. It is just like the magic power contained in a magic stone.”
“Whether it’s a magic stone or miasma, it doesn’t make a difference before my toxin decomposition.”
“Even if it is a magic stone?”
Shannon’s eyes widen a little as she looks startled.
She seemed particularly interested in the term “magic stone” and repeatedly muttered the word “magic stone” in a small voice.
“I’d like to ask you something as well. Did he not report anything other than Layfon’s death since his return from Birdland?”
“I heard something else. I also heard that you were using your old powers.”
Presumably, she was referring to Dullahan’s illusory hand.
“So why isn’t that Edward here?”
“Since he didn’t do a good job earlier, I sent him to take down your men who are spreading throughout the royal capital. He should be on his way to take the life of the knight you brought with you right now.”
Shannon spoke. She sounded annoyed from the bottom of her heart, yet she didn’t seem to really care about Edward.
(Why did she let Edward go when she knew I was coming?)
Shannon smiled at Ain, who was on the alert and said.
“The one who should defeat you is not Edward.”
As she said this, the door to the audience chamber opened.