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We need more paper! (ReZero SI)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by JBukharin, Jan 19, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: This is about the Final Boss
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    28 June 422

    I was spot on with my suspicions as when the morning of the next day struck, I was given a full reveal the extent of the situation from the prince himself.

    Maybe a little summarized narration will help.

    The first clue that gave more legitimacy to my guess over why he looked this much afraid was the way Fourier had nervously panicked when I informed him that I had decided to join him for this 'simple visit' back to the capital. I admit the shocked expression was kind of flawless in someone I hardly saw this much awed or surprised by something or someone... but I'm digressing here.

    The blond recovered moments later as he tried to make some 'strong cases' about having me to stay in Erindor to work, or to keep watch over the twins. This last reason actually getting me doubtful for a moment, the kids seriously needing some affection since they got kidnapped by Ivan, but I was stubbornly latching to the red-eyed moron for the sake of not seeing him in a coffin in less than a week from now.

    The very image was enough to send some inner shivers to my core, the idea of ditching the blond to that fate was... uncool. And bad in all possible situations.

    There was also to consider that if Fourier survived, Pandora's plans about the Royal Elections would be screwed beyond recognition and a large chunk of the canon timeline would be nullified and half of my knowledge would be mostly rendered useless.

    Was it a good price to save someone's life? I wasn't Kiritsugu Emiya, but part of my pragmatic self would curiously think about this notion.

    Was it worth? Yes, but a small voice was quick to say no.

    I was hesitant to venture in unknown territory, especially in a dimension like this one and... still, I decided to go ahead and join Fourier in the Royal Convoy arriving from the capital, ready to take the prince back to his castle.

    The carriage was modestly-ample inside and I tried to appear clueless of the inner struggles displayed by the blond while we began our journey to his home, squirming as no proper distraction seemed to come to his head and... he finally surrendered to the indirect pressure.

    He started quietly, his voice showing that he was bracing for some ill reaction from my part and, if I had known the full context of the predicament we were running into, I would have seriously reprimanded him for not telling anything about this.

    But I couldn't chide him, or at least I couldn't in a realistic tone and manner as I too was hiding stuff from him.

    It was the future knowledge that got me to know when things were going to happen, the accuracy a little difficult to pinpoint but it was still some preparation that would have worked if given prior to him.

    Maybe to avoid Crusch getting kidnapped and the little conspiration from escalating to the canon standpoint, surely to also get Volacchia to back away for some years rather than see them meddling around with the events in Lugnica.

    I decided to use a faux stern tone, the guilt possibly hindering his capacity to notice that I wasn't meaning my words to much and in the end I was dealing with a completely quiet trip that lasted for about two to three hours of utter boredom.

    We ended just by the entrance of the strong walls around the capital, some of the guards assigned had requested the convoy to stop as they started to check for anything dangerous or unlisted by the leading figure of the carriages.

    Moments of silence persisted but then we were granted permission to enter while also being escorted to the palace. First we had to detour to leave the carriages behind and then we continued our path to the massive fortress by foot, squadrons of armed men keeping things safe during the entire walk.

    The palace was immense, humongous and incredibly bright to look at, both inside and out. Red flags showing Volcanica's representation as the 'Dragon' that protected the kingdom from the forces of veil.

    Maybe it could have been the case in the past, but with the resurface of the Witch Cult, mabeasts sowing chaos left and right, I reckon that many wouldn't be minding if the dragon was omitted as a part of Lugnica. Only nobles and high-mages nowadays cared for that legend while the rest of the population just settled in praying for... their own survival each day.

    Kind of sad, considering that the legend was true and... the Dragon was sleeping somewhere in the Kingdom. It was never mentioned much but I reckon that, if the big-ass winged lizard was around in this world, it has to be right in Lugnica, in one of the many forgotten caves or mountains littering the nation's lands.

    Just as we stepped inside the palace, we were swarmed by a large group of aristocrats of various ages and ranks, all trying to get the returning prince's attention on themselves and causing quite the flinch-worthy dogpile, the young man almost drown by the mass of eager nobles if not for Wilhelm and the other guards moving to help the poor royal out of that ugly predicament.

    I was left mostly untouched, some individuals sparing some brief curious glances that only ended by the time a new splace in that meat-barrier of soldiers opened for them to exploit and get closer to Fourier.

    I sighed, partly-aware that this kind of situations had to have been predicted and somehow common for the blond, the prince huffing calmly, a clear distance taken by the previous nervousness he had on his face and core.

    Before I could do anything to help the plight unfolding before me, I was interrupted by a gloved hand poking at my shoulder. The slender finger retreated as I turned my head to greet who had decided to interact with me and- I froze in surprise.

    Fluffy, light-brow cat-ears twitched as I found myself staring at a pair of soft-yellow eyes, a small but giddy smirk on his face as Felix Argyle tilted his head in adorable curiosity.

    "Hello," His tone was feminine, so much that if I hadn't known that he was a dude I would have certainly fallen for the trick presented by his appearance.

    "Hello there," I replied back slowly, my eyes blinking just once before I continued. "I'm John Bukharin, Mayor of Erindor."

    I extended my right hand to him and the cat-boy stared down at it with a quizzical look, then without saying much of a word, he had both his hands onto my palm to bring it to his... cheek? He started to nuzzle it, meowling calmly and-

    ...What?!

    A few moments of stunned silence passed from my part but then I woke up and faked a cough with my free hand, ending up managing to get his attention back to the situation rather than just got me to pat his cheeks? What the heck?

    "M-Nyah~?" He opened his eyes once again, he blinked twice and then he seemed to realize that I was confused. "What? You gave me your hand."

    "To shake it," I calmly returned, frowning at the smug exuding from the knight. "Not to use it to get some free cheek-patting."

    "Oh~?" He retracted my hand back, pouting a little but nodding. "My bad then~."

    I decided to ignore the playfulness displayed. "And I reckon you are Felix, one of the close friends to Fourier-"

    "I prefer Ferris," The cat-boy admitted, interrupting me with a bigger smirk. "But yes, that's me and... you are Johnyah?"

    Oh God, no. Please no, I'm not ready for this!

    "John-"

    "Johnyah!" He suddenly exclaimed with a grin, much to my immense chagrin and dismay. It would seem like dialoguing with Felix was proving to be as difficult as expected. Not in the bad way, but in the strange and partly-fun way.

    It was creepy, but it was easy to get weirded out without prior knowledge, which I had plenty of.

    But still, that nickname was just cruelty upon me.

    "Joh-"

    "-nyah~!" He giggled, causing me to facepalm and groan within and outside.

    Goddammit Felix.

    "You aren't going to... make my life easy, aren't you?" I asked slowly, looking at the smug feline as he shook his head.

    "Nope~!" He replied ever-so cheerful.

    I sighed. "Well, at least I know that he was correct when he said that you were this much... amusing." I said with a little smile, Ferris pausing a moment in surprise at that counterattack.

    "Oh? He spoke about me well, I hope." He nodded, trying to recover from what was just the beginning of my comeback.

    "He sure did," I admitted cheerfully. "In fact, I was a little skeptical when he mentioned about your fluffy cat ears."

    He tensed up suddenly, the young knight's eyes widening in shock at that unexpected mention. Fourier did mention about Ferris' cat-like features, but he genuinely never stopped to describe the ears.

    Which was sad and also quite a curious detail to hide from me. Imagine this character with real cat ears and... I was looking at him.

    Those now-attentive ears, those fluffy and cute ears were something that I was having some problem to not stare at.

    I am a pet-person, someone that loves both dogs and cats until they didn't try to bite or scratch me up for no reason. To see a pair of cat ears seemingly itching for attention was... quite a difficult need to keep at bay and soon my hand was upon his head.

    Instead of reaching out for the ears themselves, which were surely more-sensible compared to a cat since those were 'installed' on a human and Ferris looked panicking about at first, I went for the small spot between them and... started to scratch.

    Ferris tensed up even more, his hand hovering by the hilt of his sword but never doing anything about his, his wide eyes displaying an incoherent flow of emotions that started from horror and ended in... delight.

    A genuine meowling originated from his lips and soon his posture dropped to a more relaxed one, his eyes softening and his lips twitching happily at the treatment bestowed to his head. I was taller than him as he was a little shorter than Fourier, so reaching out for the top of his head was easy to accomplish.

    It took me a few more moments to realize what I was doing, it took me even less to understand the reaction the Demi-human was having at the ministrations and the disappointment appearing as I slowly retreated my palm away in abstract surprise and confusion.

    The cat-boy was confused himself, both for what had just happened and his reaction to it. "W-Whyat?" His tone was a little screwed from the little massage and it didn't make him any less adorable than before.

    Seriously, someone quarantine this cat and his cuteness!

    Before I could apologize for doing something like that, I felt something approaching.

    Footsteps, abnormally loud footsteps that were closing in on... Fourier.

    I glanced at the prince, still fending off the 'fangirling' nobles with the help of the guards...

    But I also saw her approaching him with a petite smile.

    WHAT?!

    I have seen only a few images of this character, so little was known of her plans and I had almost missed her when she started her approach.

    My eyes were fixed on her, as if it was the most terrifying monster ever let out against humans and... maybe she was.

    Her hair was platinum blonde with a little blue ribbon capturing a few locks away, her dark-blue eyes a turbulent storm of mirthfulness and godly childishness. She was wearing a simple elegant white dress with black decorations, her appearance the one of a child, a clear contrast to how old she truly was.

    It was impossible to miss her giddy smile, her elated expression as she continued to approach Fourier calmly. None of the guards had noticed her, maybe it was because she looked like a little noble girl approaching in a silly manner the possible future monarch and-

    She stopped. Or rather, she was stopped.

    Her eyes widened in minor surprise, her smile twitching some confusion as I reached out to stop her march to victory by grasping her extended arm.

    She turned to look at me and I felt shivers and trembling at the ominous smile on her face. I knew Felix was looking but... he was still distracted. It didn't matter, she was here and... she knew I was here too.

    A giggle left her lips. "Hello~." She greeted with a mirthful tone, almost eager to see what I wanted from her.

    Boredom? Interest? So many variables that I couldn't pinpoint so quickly.

    "H-Hello," I replied back, my gloom dripping off the words and seemingly sending the girl for another laughter.

    "Who are you?" She asked childishly, curious and amused. Terribly amused, pain-stakingly amused!

    "I'm... someone." My response was careful, I couldn't just give her my name. What if she was already aware of it? But still, I had to try and cover every bases.

    "Hello 'someone'," The child returned with a nod, her smile widening. "I'm somegirl."

    She was playing with me. How cruel, how infuriating!

    "Truly?"

    A nod, then she hummed. "Mr. Someone, can I ask you a question?"

    I was dying inside, the nerves were indeed starting to make me sweat a little. But I continued to display some bravado. "You already asked one."

    She giggled again. "I did, didn't I?" The admission was soft-toned, just like a whisper, and then she continued. "But... really, can I?"

    There was anticipation, like a kid that had just ended up 'cleaning' some plants with bleach. Why the example? My childhood was an odd one.

    "You 'may'."

    Another giggle, she looked so much excited but... her next words proven my assumptions wrong.

    "Why aren't you dying?" The petulant brat finally asked with a solemn but whispered tone. "I 'killed' you 23 times now."

    What?

    ...WHAT?!

    Her words were just... insane. Mad, she was mad but... she was blunt. There was honesty, there was annoyance and... she couldn't kill me?

    Her Authority was a mystery, no limit was ever reported by the lore and... it was considered nigh-impossible to measure with the other beings in this universe. Someone far stronger than Satella and the Witch of Envy.

    She was the leader of the cult, the one that so desperately wanted to shatter the world. Chaos-bringer, an apt title for the little demon before me.

    "Oh? Well, I don't know," I wasn't ready to continue this, the development bringing even more panic out of me. "By the way, you may leave this place, Pandora."

    The Witch of Vainglory looked surprised, her eyes widening again as to show some genuine shock at my knowledge of her name. Names represented power, it was a rule that was always present in those places where magic existed.

    And the girl knew it, that is why no one truly knew about her, why nobody of the Witch Cult suspected why someone this 'fragile' was actually a being close to a deity.

    I was staring at a little Goddess, one that was bound to a deviated and twisted sense of evil and morality, one that didn't care for anything.

    Except someone.

    She finally overcame her initial reaction, the Witch pouting at my order. "But I'm having fun, you meanie," Pandora huffed, her stubborn tone leaving me somewhat nervous.

    "Go away, Pandora," I sternly added, the news that I was immune to her world-warping powers (there was no other ability that matched up with her fullest capacity to kill this easily) gave me some little more courage. I had to get her to leave this place, now I was aware of what had caused the death of the Royal Family.

    It wasn't a curse, it was Pandora taking things on a personal and direct approach.

    The blunt witch, she was.

    She puffed her cheeks but slowly turned around and walked away. She didn't bother to say goodbye, she didn't even seem willing to spare me one last glance as she left my eye-sight and-

    "Ugh-!?" I felt a pair of arms wrapping around my waist from behind, I recognized some of the clothes and-

    "H-Help me!" The muffled request was loudly perceived as Fourier started to push me away from this large room, the guards having finally gotten under control the group of nobles but seemingly having trouble to keep the situation stable.

    I imagined the barrage of people rushing at us, a stampede of aristocratics that would seriously annoy the hell out of me.

    Without hesitation, I decided to comply to the request and I started to pace outside of the area with the prince still latching at my back. Wilhelm followed nearby... with Felix following his example.

    The cat-boy looked intrigued, eager to tease and-

    Oh right, Fourier had yet to tell him that Crusch has been kidnapped by his father.

    ...Oh crapbasket!

    ------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d-------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d--

    Afterthoughts: Ferris is here, expect some character building soon with him and... yes, I am a pet-person. It's because I spent a large amount of my time back in my childhood by my grandma's house and she had several kittens and a small pupper in her house. I was there to help around and some were just attached to me... sadly, cats don't live long and that ended up in quite the saddening way. Still, let us focus on... Pandora?! Yes, I know that she is too much but... she will not appear for a long, long time.
    This is a little Omen for something that will be coming soon, something about the MC's power and it's not Time manipulation like I've said before and it's not a Sin-related ability.
    There isn't much of a hint but... it matches up with Vainglory? How?


    AN for QQ readers: We have reached up the current pace of the story. Next update will be tomorrow (January 28th).
     
  2. Threadmarks: This is about unfaithful necromancers
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    28 June 422

    Things were certainly looking just as I could remember from this segment of the Volume.

    We were all waiting inside the Karsten office, a small section of the castle that was assigned to house some pseudo-embassy to the Karsten family. Furnished with a Conversing mirror connected to the Karsten mansion and with a small home for the officer established there, it generally worked as a quick mean to gather around the nobles in time of emergency. It was sited in one large quarters that contained other offices, as much as there were noble families worth of such honor.

    But the problem at hand didn't allow me enough time and capacity to scan thorough the entire place, my full attention taken by the outburst coming from Felix, the cat-eared knight slamming down at the dark desk, eyes sporting immense horror and fury at the news now unfolded by the officer.

    I didn't say anything, merely look around the room and glancing absently at Julius Juukulius and Reinhard van Astrea, both men being part of the incensed demihuman squad and following the same example as mine while the predicament unfolded in a quieter declination.

    With Fourier intervening to calm down his childhood friend, the officer finally conceded the entire report to the group and... yep, the case was as it was wrongly displayed.

    Biehn Argyle, Ferris' father, has been caught 'smuggling slaves' in his mansion for unknown reasons, completely breaking the rules from both the Kingdom's law and the ones from the Duchy it was part of, which was led by the Karsten family.

    After making sure of having the entire building encircled and isolated, Crusch herself decided to try her hand at diplomacy but said attempt failed and not much was heard of the young woman ever since then, causing a further increase of guards and a letter to Fourier himself to be sent.

    I detached myself from the discussion the moment the officer continued to detail about the current state of the little army led by Bardok, one of the captains incredibly loyal to the family it worked for.

    Why? Well, I was contemplating two major issues over the matter:

    1) The Volume itself wasn't much descriptive of the mansion as a whole, only of some of the rooms were the action happened and I was utterly unaware of the extent of such building. I knew Crusch was kept in the basement, specifically the room which once was Felix's, but I didn't know how to reach it from the entrance;

    2) The guards covering the lands of the Argyle family, the three knights and Fourier didn't knew the horrible surprise the insane bastard had left for them to discover, the slaves having not been used as a work-force but... as specimens for some resurrection spell that was meant to bring Felix's mother back to life.

    So much to do, so little to move around without causing any awkward issues with the others, especially with Julius.

    The light-purple haired young man had some good relations with his spirits and I couldn't risk trying to force a lie if one of said creatures was capable of knowing the truth from the false.

    I had to play my cards carefully to bring some more preparation to the rescue party and... I had a big, insane and incredibly dumb idea to bring up.

    But first, I needed to bring up the 'curious' clues left out by the report.

    "The slaves," I spoke up midst of the concluding sentences of the officer. "Did any of the guards see them, even through the windows?"

    The man stopped to stare in surprise at the interjection, the whole room focusing on me as I blinked at the officer. "Please, do answer that question." I pressed on, gaining a slightly nervous look from the diplomat.

    "A-Actually no."

    The reply caught some frowns , Reinhard being the one to recover first.

    "There was no sight of any of the dozens of slaves purchased by Lord Argyle?" The redhead asked quizzically. "I thought with so many men dispatched, someone would have seen someone-"

    "If there were slaves wandering inside mansion to begin with," I interrupted quietly, once again gaining control of the situation. "I just have two questions I wish to ask, then I will see if this theory of mine is truly worth of be brought up or not."

    Just as I said this, I turned my eyes at the diplomat once again. "Did Lady Karsten ask for any documentation about the current standing of the Argyle family? The economic side of the report."

    The man gave a quick nod and he quickly went to search and bring up the small stack of papers, which I was quick to take hold on and start to look through.

    Felix blinked and walked towards me, stopping as he started to look quickly at the data written on the papers while Fourier frowned at the scene.

    "What are you trying to find, John?" The blond asked without hesitation, something I found myself nodding at as I found the ledger I was trying to find.

    "Something that is dignifying my worries," I replied and I looked up at him. "You know that slaves are used by some nations as unpaid labor, right?"

    The prince nodded and I continued. "Well, considering the quantities reported I can only assume from a logical perspective that the number of slaves would have been used as a free workforce to improve the already-declining state of the family's economy-"

    "But the treasury is still declining, even faster than before," The brunette muttered as he continued to glance at the paper. "This mean that Count Argyle didn't use them as a workforce."

    I nodded at the deduction while ignoring his little poisonous words toward his father. "That's correct and... that means that there are other reasons that had forced the man to buy slaves," I hummed, eyes resuming their stare at the officer. "What about the guards to the mansion, were there sightings of any garrison protecting the building or-"

    "T-That is actually another abnormality that the scouts couldn't explain," The diplomat commented with a brief stutter. "There was no one guarding the mansion before and after Lady Crusch entered the place."

    The knights tensed up and Fourier's frown deepened... while Felix was now staring at me.

    "You mentioned a 'theory', can you say what is it, Johnyah?" He finally asked, causing me to blink back at him.

    ...Goddammit Felix.

    I let out a sigh and nodded. "Since the slaves have not be seen, they haven't been used as unpaid labor and there is no guard to 'keep a watch over the slaves', I think that the situation is completely different that everyone's initially thought it to be."

    The prince huffed. "Then please, do tell what kind of theory you have; every moment is essential," He stated quickly to which I nodded curtly.

    "I think that the slaves have been used for something, something that goes a little beyond the barrier imposed by morality itself and... it would match with another event that has happened to Volacchia thirteen years ago," I commented with a serious tone. "Eight-arms Kurgan was slain and the Kingdom lost one of their greatest heroes... to which no one has been able to even reach in terms of power to properly replace him."

    "How does this detail connect to this case, Mayor Bukharin?" Julius swiftly questioned, yellow eyes sporting an inquisitive glint.

    Nothing in terms of factual truth as the Volacchian connection was just minimal compared to the whole plot but I was going to make a little 'alteration' to the real situation, something to had a backstory and a reason to be wary of the situation while also hiding my current knowledge as... mere knowledge without proof.

    "The Karsten's lands border with Volacchia," I quickly pointed out. "And Volacchia does allow slavery, which is why Lady Crusch suggested a possible foreign support to Count Argyle."

    "Your theory stretches quite a lot, John," Reinhard commented, landing a cautious note around dropping formality but I nodded at him, and then continued. "But it does bring up some important details that were previously ignored; If Count Argyle is indeed dabbling in necromancy, then we should be wary of approaching the area and we should warn Captian Bardok of-"

    "Reinhard, if I may intercede you, I think there is something missing from this supposition," Julius piped in politely, looking once more at me. "I still find it a long jump to consider that the Head of the Argyle family could be making use of such horrible kind of spellcraft. But I reckon from your stare, Mayor Bukharin, that you are ready to provide some more evidence."

    "Please, do refer me as 'John'," I started quietly, drawing a surprised look out of him. "It's more of a safety measure, if something bad happens everyone needs to be able to address each other without having 'mouthful names' to sprout at any issues."

    He blinked, still confused by this development but... giving a slow nod back. "Then I suppose I could ask the same from you, of course only for times of need," Julius concluded and I nodded with a small smile.

    "Good and," I hummed quietly. "I guess I can give a strong detail that prove my standpoint a little more, beginning from what 'could make' necromancy a good probability."

    I turned at Felix, the cat-eared boy staring back. "Ferris, did you ever have the chance of listening anything about your family's secret arts?"

    The sudden question was met with surprise and confusion, the young man blinking at the query before shaking his head.

    "Before I explain what kind of 'secret arts' I'm referring to, I've to bring up a fact that only Fourier knows about."

    The blond tensed a little and I nodded to him.

    "I've a secret spy network that used to work for the Royal Family," I revealed placidly, ignoring the surprised stares from the rest of the room. "And I've some material over some nobles' secrets. One of these is quite the infamous burden of the Argyle Family."

    "Which is necromancy," Reinhard guessed correctly, getting a quick nod from me.

    "Before I name this spell, I wish to know how 'safe' this room is. I don't want to have any leaks of the info that I know much of the entire Lugnican Nobility's secrets."

    The diplomat blinked and, after spending some moments thinking about it, ended up giving a nod. "The room has a powerful soundproof spells to keep discussions of this kind hidden from everyone."

    I nodded. "Then I can go ahead and say that the name of the spell is 'The Immortal King's Sacrament', which technically is just a large fragment of a working spell that was used in the past to bring people back to life."

    "A fragment?" Felix quipped him. "You mean that it doesn't work well or-"

    "It does a partial resurrection, the soul is manifested but quickly rotten if the caster has a limited understanding of the magic behind it," I turned at the demihuman. "Which is why your father 'needs' you as a new hostage."

    His cat ears tensed at that comment, twitching uneasy at the situation as I concluded with one last note.

    "Considering the possible presence of some important Volacchian figures, I suggest that Fourier is guarded for the entire duration of the mission," I pointed out without hesitation, drawing a pout from the prince. "If he is spotted during the raid, he will be considered a prime target to capture and that is not acceptable."

    I saw several nods and Julius stepped forward. "I will take care of His Majesty," The knight said and before anyone could say anything about it, I felt a pair of arms wrap around my neck while a certain face started to nuzzle my cheek.

    "And I will be meowre than happy to take care of you, Johnyah~." Felix explained much to my confusion, shock and inner facepalming.

    Goddammit Felix!

    ------------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d---------

    A few hours later, Argyle Mansion...

    Just as the novel had commented over the state of the grounds before the building, I couldn't help but compare the scene as a full-fledged battlefield.

    Part of the field outside the gates has been scorched, corpses made by undead foes and soldiers were now littering some of the sides as Bardok's unit had suffered some non-negligible losses against the ambush of the zombies even with preparations having been made.

    Some of the still-living fiends were lurking around the courtyard and the duo formed by Reinhard and Julius was quick to end the first line of resistance made by the undeads.

    Fourier was, just as I had expected him to do, keeping up with Julius much to the purple-haired knight's dismay as 'he could not stand behind and do nothing for this situations'.

    I was glad that Ferris was actually smart enough to not engage in direct confrontations until the foes got to close and I would give help when it was needed.

    The place was the least infested by the zombies now festering those lands, the quantity of zombies being far beyond the mere dozens as it easily looked to be hundreds, between two and three to be exact, and the odds were quite grim for the current guards dispatched on the area.

    A rally of sort had been summoned and some of the nearby houses were already mustering enough troops to combine and strike at the undead horde, while we were left to deal with the epicenter of this sudden dangerous force.

    I glanced at the derelict building, seeing some monsters already coming to wander from some of the secondary entrances, further increasing the number of zombies.

    "We have to hold," I muttered curtly, gaining some nods as I was perfectly aware of the unfair situation, but I knew perfectly how to deal with this all at once. "Or we can try something quite mad."

    "How mad are we talking about?" Ferris mused quietly, gaining a snort from Fourier.

    "Probably something as dumb as going inside the mansion but... that would just be too silly and-" The prince stopped in that very moment as he noticed my surprised look. "You two are not entering that place."

    I huffed. "It wouldn't be that bad-"

    "Considering that Count Argyle wants only Felix, he could order for your death-"

    "If he had some guard to order around," I interjected at Reinhard's comment of genuine worry, my eyes glancing at Fourier. "I know it's a bad idea at first glance-"

    "It's a bad idea. Period," The blond snapped without leaving me space to continue. "Don't make me order you to stand down, John."

    "To be fair, Your Highness," Ferris butted in. "I think I can protect him and vouch for him if we were to 'concede' to his demands."

    Then the brunet glanced at me with a tiny smirk. "You want to infiltrate the place and... destroy the cause of the spell, right?"

    I slowly nodded, actually surprised that he would-

    "S-Still, I can't have two of my friends go inside that horrible place and-"

    "Now you are stopping me to save my friend, Your Majesty?" Felix interrupted with a serious look. "You know that I have to help Lady Crusch."

    The blond blinked, stopping in his rant at hearing this sentence and... groaning.

    "I-I will accept it only if you promise me to come back all fine and without any injuries," His scarlet eyes narrowed at me, causing me to flinch briefly. "If I catch any little cut on both of you I will-"

    "We understand," I said ultimately, my tone grasping to some impatience. "And I think we both appreciate the worry... but-"

    He looked surprised when I pulled him in a quick hug. "Good luck with the situation here, I think I can say that I will punish you if you get too boldy with the monsters here."

    The young man blinked twice and... cracked a defeated smile. "How is it possible that you can manage this with me and I can't do it with you?"

    "You mean coaxing to not do something?" He nodded and I smiled widely. "Why, I guess being the oldest between the two of us I've more wisdom-"

    "Says the 'wise one' going inside the evil building," He sassily interrupted, causing me to huff.

    "Well, see you soon then." I waved as Felix and I wandered inside the mansion, avoiding the first floor and rushing at the staircase as many of the undeads here were still unable to discern any enemies, having been spawned possibly quite recently.

    Once we reached the upper floor, we were greeted by a surprised individual.

    The middle-aged woman looked partly-surprised at our presence, then her weary eyes focused entirely on my bodyguard and she started to relax.

    "Welcome home, Master Felix," She greeted with a somewhat warm tone, my heart clenching in silent discomfort as the demihuman scowled slightly at her.

    How tragic it is for a mother to be treated like this by her blissfully-unaware son?

    "Spare us the small talk. Where's Lady Crusch?"

    It was just like in the novel, my presence seemingly adding nothing to the scene but I was glad when the maid merely ignored my presence while interacting with Ferris with the 'weird' familiarity the brunet couldn't make any sense of.

    "-The master is waiting. If you'll follow me..."

    The next few moments were spent becoming a silent witness for the following 'two pages' to unfold, the ominous walk through the hallway filled with seemingly-harmless undeads that just left me with even more disgust towards the man that was Biehn Argyle.

    The situation remained unchanged until we reached the door that led to the study of the horrible bastard, the moment we entered inside noticing the lack of surprise at my presence here in that very instance.

    He was smiling, I was looking at some devious fool smiling at the predicament as if nothing mattered.

    He was empty, his eyes almost glassy and dead-like as he greeted us.

    "You made it back, Felix," His smile widening. "And I see you have brought with you someone quite interesting."

    He stood up from his chair and walked around the desk, his smile never fading and my scowl never once regressing.

    "John Bukharin, the Mayor of Erindor, the one that not only out-smarted Prince Ivan but also made it alive after that encounter," He described mirthfully, gaining a frown out of me.

    "Biehn Argyle, Head of the Argyle Family, true cause of this sudden case of necromancy and... unfaithful husband."

    I admit I had gone heavy with my premises, but the horrified look did made a pretty sight before the red-purplish rage spread all over his face.

    "What?" Ferris asked softly, eyes going wide open while the maid still there seemed to have seen a ghost at how pale and tense she looked like.

    I blinked, frowning again as I realized that the man couldn't technically use spells this close and...

    So anyway, I started punching and things escalated even more. Some people screamed, some people watched in stunned silence... and there was the preserved corpse of a woman lying there without much to do in that very moment. What a odd day for sure.

    ---------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d-----------

    Afterthoughts: I kind of experienced that moment in Chaotic Neutrality that urges people to quote the legend himself, Danny Devito.

    So anyway, I started writing away and-
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  3. Threadmarks: This is about family and matchmaking
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    28 June 422

    A single but loud thud cemented the aftermath of an incredibly satisfying beating, of which I was glad to have initiated, conduced and then concluded.

    Biehn Argyle was unconscious by the time I was done, he was now sitting by the ground with his back slumping on the side of his desk while his head, now starting to sport some bruises, was slightly turned in a display of forced relax.

    I was a little bit winded by the quick intervention, my brain trying to recollect proper thoughts as I was brought back to the reality of things and... I still had so much to do in this little possibility offered by the 'Classic Villain' moment.

    Seriously, the man could have easily planned some contingency instead of trying his way for some partly-insane monologue, but no, he had to play the 'superiority' card and get pummelled by an 'unexpected element'.

    And I had all reasons to give him some 'kind words' about messing with natural laws because he was dumb enough to kill his wife in a bout of rage.

    Like, what should have I done? Let him recover and restrain me so that I could have become another hostage to force Ferris to resurrect 'his mother'?

    My hands were still shaking, knuckles sore and starting to redden up as the ugly mug of this corrupt noble wasn't certainly a soft thing to punch so vehemently, but I still walked around the desk and started to rummage in the various drawers on it.

    Humming quietly, I continued to search for a certain scroll, some old paper that might or might not be glowing eerily and murderously within the furniture and dignify its horrible usage.

    The Immortal King's Sacrament was something that worked pretty much like the Edo Tensei from Naruto, but instead of sacrificing people... to bring dead people back to live, the cost for such a terrible spell was the quality of the energy used in the incantation itself.

    The House of Argyle is known for its high Water-Affinity, a special rarity that had long started to decay after decades of proper training and study, enough to bring this situation to happen... so badly.

    Biehn was correct in seeking Ferris for his prodigious grasp of the affinity, something far better than the man could ever achieve in little time and with so many limitations imposed by his aristocratic life, as the young Knight did have a 'little' chance of actually make things work as per the fragmented incantation.

    Why so little? Why not at its fullest since Felix currently had the highest Water-Affinity in the whole kingdom?

    Well, the issue lingered within a small detail that Biehn had blatantly ignored about the paper he had safely kept around and away from dangerous individuals.

    The Sacrament was not complete.

    Years of being either forgotten or misused saw the integrity of the spell mostly lost for a reason or another, leaving just a meek replacement that couldn't be really used for anything but create zombies out of dead corpses.

    No matter the user of the magical concept, the result would still be the same, if not worse considering what happened in Canon when Felix used it on his mother's corpse.

    Just as I found a certain tied-up scroll put at the end of the lowest drawer on the left, I tensed up at the noise of a pair of hands slamming on the desk and I was soon backed away from the furniture in a moment of quick panic.

    My wide eyes looked up to the responsible of this little 'prank', my mind swift in reminding me that Biehn had been far too much beaten to have recovered so quickly and... I stared up at a pair of furious yellow eyes fixed on my own face.

    "Johnyah, what do you mean with 'unfaithful'!?" Felix demanded with a loud voice, his face contorted in a mix of anger, confusion and... a certain degree of panic.

    I blinked at this unexpected development, suddenly realizing that the cat-eared young man did ask me something after I was done with beating his abusive father, his voice quite quiet at first before it escalated to this crescendo of confused anger over the matter.

    I did drop some 'truth bomb' that were half-proclaimed and left much unsaid, I could have been a little more subtle if not a little more 'expressive' of the matter but... considering the current state of the old maid now staring in shock at me, I could say that I did avoid her getting a higher chance of having a heart-attack.

    I slowly got up from the ground, dusting myself as I continued to grasp at the closed paper.

    "What do you know of your parents' situation before you were born Felix?" I asked calmly and softly, slowly approaching the slightly-furious demi-human, Felix was now looking more confused now than irritated which prompted me to continue. "Did Lady Karsten ever tell you about the issue they had over their early insuccess of producing an heir?"

    His eyes widened a little. "S-She did but- but that couldn't seriously mean that he could have-"

    Before he could finish, I turned to the woman.

    "Ms. Regret, can you please approach the desk and take a seat?" I requested kindly, trying my best to not have her jump at my words. "I think it's the best Felix knows a little more about the real reason behind the hate from both Count and Countess Argyle."

    The maid blinked, her posture easing just a little and then... she spoke.

    "He doesn't need to know this, milord," She said with a pleading tone, something that got me actually pausing as... she did remind me of my own mother. The almost-begging... was quite dreadful to endure without showing any flinch. "Please."

    I sighed, tiredly so as I glanced at the confused look coming from Felix. "Ferris, please tie Count Argyle. We don't need him jumping us for... this much-needed talk."

    His cat-ears twitched suspiciously at the request, but he slowly started to comply while the woman took a step forward. "M-Milord-"

    "Hannah," I briefly interrupted with a certain uneasiness, bringing her to drop her renewed plea by bringing her name up. She tensed up again, but this time it was mere surprise than anything that would induce unrequited shock. "While I understand the nature of your request and the reasons driving you to keep this away from him, I hope you can forgive me for denying you this much. He needs to know as it's his right... as your son."

    The demi-human had just finished tying up the unconscious noble when he caught this last bit of my reply, tensing up as he looked back at the maid.

    The tired woman glanced back, a nervous look on her face as she slowly nodded and walked to take a seat by the chair I gestured her.

    Felix's surprise got him pausing for more than a few seconds, but he too got seated by the remaining chair.

    "Do you wish to be the one to tell me or... I can try to give a summarized version," I tried to ease up her concerns, hoping to not have to deal with any unexpected escalations in this talk.

    Meanwhile, the scroll with the spell had been set on the desk, a little rune circle appearing as I commenced a little incantation to purge the content paper safely and without causing any fire to erupt in the mansion.

    It was the slowest but safest route to take right now as I dealt with... family drama.

    Hannah sighed and nodded before... starting to explain the entirety of the situation.

    "Lord Argyle was desperate to gain a heir, someone to pass on his titles before Lord Karsten could have decided to remove him the control of these lands for lacking a successor to pass those on," The maid narrated with a tense voice. "Lady Argyle was born a frail lady and didn't offer the opportunity to pursue a... proper attempt to secure a child."

    I blinked, keeping silent as the woman continued with her story and I would rarely pause from my staring to take a look at Felix and his reaction to the tale.

    He still looked confused, but some realization was starting to appear on his feminine face.

    I wonder if he had already noticed or not that he looked quite similar to his mother.

    "Time was of major importance for Lord Argyle andwith his wife proving to be incapable of providing him of a heir, he decided to interest himself on taking on a... mistress," Her tone started to feel twitching, close to draw a sob but... still managing to keep herself from stopping with her story. "Many were selected but... I was picked for my unique affinity with the Water element and in the end I was his mistress for twelve months."

    There was some silence, Hannah brought her right sleeve up to her face as she rubbed it by her eyes.

    "Why," Felix softly commented, his voice feeling quite... floored by what he had just listened to. "Why didn't you help me- even once-"

    "My lord had strictly forbidden for me to even approach you for too long," The maid replied with a uneasy sigh. "He would give the most horrible of threats, promising my own demise and... yours, if I didn't abide by his demands."

    The cat-eared knight slowly nodded at her words, some tears already forming by the edges of his eyes. "B-But why- why wouldn't he tell me?" This time he glanced at me. "W-Why?"

    I looked down at the desk just for a moment and then... I decided to intervene.

    "While having a demi-human wasn't truly a stain to begin with, having an illegitimate child with another woman is considered as one of the most heinous child for nobility," I answered him with a heavy heart. "If words got out, somehow, that you were not the son of both the Count and his wife, your 'father' would have lost much more than just his lands."

    "This is- this is so unfair!" The dams broke as his hands slammed again on the desk. "Why did he have to ruin my life- why this much!?" He demanded with a sob or two, his temporary ire retracted into a quiet moment of crying and... much to my surprise the maid moved carefully to approach him.

    He did notice her actions, but he let her come closer and... engulf him in a quiet embrace.

    "I'm so sorry." A sob erupted from the woman as the two basked in the quiet scene allowed by the little office.

    I decided to not disturb them, my eyes moving away from the mother-son scene to look at the scroll, now a little speck remaining as it was decimated by the light-blue flame originated by the circle that carefully destroyed it.

    I blinked by the time the circle disappeared and decided to glance by the window behind the desk, only to see numerous corpses collapsing at once now that the spell was dissolved.

    I sighed happily at the development, now preparing to deal with quite the interesting aftermath as this double problem was solved and I could finally meet Crusch Karst-

    Just as I turned back towards the two, the door slammed open as a certain blond-haired moron popped in with something in his hands. "Biehn Argyle, you tried to kidnap my friends and- TAKE THIS!"

    There are many things that I wasn't expecting from this world and its inhabitants, one of those was Fourier yanking a shoe right below my belt with the mistaken idea that I was the big bad guy.

    Now imagine this little scene, with my entire frame collapsing in utter agonizing in pain while the same 'certain blond-haired prince' noticed the epic miscalculation once he caught sight of the still-unconscious Count Argyle away from the 'target' and that 'I' was missing from the scene.

    The numerous 'sorry' didn't manage to have him survive the chance of being given a 'kind and honest' talk about NOT breaching-and-clearing without a clear idea of what was happening in the room that needed the breaching.

    -------------d-d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d--------------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d-------------

    With Reinhard and Julius deciding to stand by the outside section of the carriage while also keeping an eye to the better-tied-down Count Argyle, the quiet time made by the peaceful return to the capital was mostly dominated by a simple topic, or rather green-haired individual, to which I was given the chance to make an acquaintance with.

    Crusch Karsten was much more different that I had initially thought her to be.

    Despite being two years younger than her canon self and having to not deal with Fourier's unexpected passing, the Valkyrie proved to be quite the complex individual to face and talk to during this initial contact.

    It wasn't that I found her presence negative in any way, shape or form, but I couldn't help but feel quite unsure how to deal with someone with her slightly-different personality compared to what I was more 'accustomed to'.

    Not only was she a polite individual with an undeniable degree of intelligence, far more than the show would dignify to her, but she was incredibly less serious and collected than how she had looked back during the Capital Arc of the show.

    There was none of the overly-pragmatic thinking that made her a difficult character for Subaru to befriend and seek help from, her 'Lion King' disposition far more diluted without our mutual friend's dying because of some curse and that made her... quite an enigmatic individual to understand and properly talk to.

    It didn't help that she instantly started to inquire about what had happened back in that office, about the development with Felix and... me.

    The first two topics were fairly easy to deal with as I bluntly but politely described those moments with the help of the cat-eared boy and his mother.

    The woman had joined with us inside the carriage, but her next disposition after her 'dimissions' proved to be quite difficult to settle with, especially with the various variables to take into account.

    The Royal Castle would have never accepted a now-criminal's former servant and the Karsten mansion was already filled with people working for the family so... the last proposal was actually one that was born out of the sudden issue at hand.

    Since I had been struggling to find someone to properly take care of Fritz and Hans back home, I thought back at the irony that it would be to hire the woman as the caretaker of the two demihumans and... it had clicked perfectly in a more realistic point of view.

    Not only was she experienced with taking care for a noble's mansion, but she would also find some little chance of redemption in the form of taking care of the two children.

    I had explained the situation to both her and her son, Felix surprisingly unsure about the matter as he had just found his 'remaining parent' and he was quite unwilling to part with her, even though it was for her own good.

    Hannah gave it a serious thought, asking more about the limits, the rights and the duties that the job would entail and, much to my inner relief, she accepted with a polite smile.

    With what had happened inside that office fully narrated to the rest of the group, Crusch decided to move the focus of the discussion to something that had sparked her curiosity, a detail I had completely forgotten to have given to Fourier weeks ago.

    A curiously-interesting conversation ensued...

    "So you are not part of the nobility from where you are from, Mayor Bukharin?" The young woman asked with some surprise dripping from her words, just enough to cause me to blink at her.

    "That's correct, Lady Karsten," I replied, thinking that it was just a little declination without much of a deepening planned.

    I was immensely wrong.

    "Yet you are well-educated," Crusch pointed out, careful to not overstep with her own curiosity. "Your capacity as a Mayor having been displayed well in handling Erindor in the last few weeks."

    I hummed. "I guess you are implicating a little question here, Lady Karsten," I said with a mindful tone. "I suppose you are referring to the fact I gained some education despite my upbringing."

    Her eyes showed some minor uneasiness. "I don't wish to sound too offensive about-"

    "There is no need to apologize," I interjected quietly, a little smile on my face. "And to answer your question, I can only say that the society in which I was born in allowed everyone to take on educational paths."

    "But wouldn't education warrant some considerable funds?" Felix piped in with a curious look on his face.

    "Not truly," I commented patiently, slowly coming to realize once more that this world had yet to experience any of the education-related reforms and that there was no such thing as proper 'social mobility'. "The situation is fairly complicated since there are two different kind of schools."

    "Two different... kind?" Crusch asked slowly, blinking at the little details offered. "Could you please elaborate?"

    "Well, there are 'Public Schools', which are sanctioned by the government, and 'Private Schools' that are sanctioned by the parents of the children sent to study there."

    "But why?" Fourier asked confusedly and confused.

    Still, I managed to understand the issue behind understanding this concept and I continued to talk.

    "With the expansion of society, with its evolution, new kind of jobs are born to compensate with the new developments," I replied to him with a small smile. "Those new jobs can't be taught by parents to their children, the intricacies being even new to the parents themselves. Thus-"

    "Schools are created to... allow the learning of those new kind of works," The lady interjected with a surprised glint in her amber eyes. "But wouldn't this kind of change warrant some... reaction from the nobility?"

    "It did... or at least, in a minor scale," I answered with a nod, slightly taken off-guard by this conversation. Seriously, it's been so long since I've held an educated discussion with someone since I was taken in this world and... it was incredibly refreshing. "The nobility was challenged by the growing class formed by self-made men and women that held a certain high standing in society, individuals that had gained some major status to the public with their hard-work and merits. Their fresh perception, along with the full embrace of the new technologies led to a silent victory from the emerging class."

    "By your description, I can only think of... the merchants as the only emerging class capable of withstanding such a conflict," The green-haired young woman pointed out with a frown. "But their current standing is not enough to keep up with the entire nobility."

    "That's because the merchants were part of emerging group," I added to the situation. "But I think I will have to give a little example to explain it properly."

    I turned my attention to the blond prince, the red-eyed young man staring back at me.

    "Imagine that Fourier's birthday is coming soon and you wish to commission for him something that he has shown inclination to like," I started to explain with a slow pace. "Let's say that the object is one made with wood and so you have to summon an artisan to accomplish this task."

    She nodded, following the explanation silently and raptly.

    "Now imagine if said object is easily available because it's made en-masse by numerous workers assigned to the task and the price set for it is cheaper than having it made by an artisan. Let's also say that the quality is similar if not the same," I continued while picking up the pace a little. "You would pick the mass-produced one, not because it's cheap, but because it sounds a fairer price compared to the overly-expensive and seemingly-suspicious price offered by the artisan."

    Crusch took a moment to think about it, but nodded. "The leading figure for this class is the one that owns hegemony over this fresh method of production."

    "Yes but-" I stopped, eyes going wide open at that sudden answer. "T-That is correct. How did you-"

    "It's not difficult," She politely interrupted. "Considering the endless possibilities of expanding this kind of operations with the proper usage of the new wealth gained, the system would easily see the 'leader' of this well-balanced organization able to dominate upon the current market."

    ...

    Holy Jesus Christ, I don't know what to say after this one.

    Like- what the heck?!

    I knew Crusch was smart but... this was a completely new level.

    HOW DID I MISS THIS MUCH POTENTIAL!?

    Felix giggled. "Lady Karsten is incredibly intelligent. So much that she got Johnyah gawking like a fish~!"

    Fourier snorted at this and I realized the need of closing my mouth because... holy Jesus, that absurdly-clever comment hit me out of nowhere.

    "Ferris, you shouldn't be saying such things to Mayor Bukharin and-" Crusch stopped in her half-chiding for a moment, only to sigh before she turned back to look at me with an apologetic expression. "I wish to apologize for his behavior he-"

    "I know, there is no need for that and I find it refreshing." I interrupted with a small smile. "Still, he is correct. Your assumption was not only correct, but impressively accurate considering the little information I had provided."

    A little smirk appeared on her face and... her cheeks took some more color. "Those are flattering words but-"

    "Those are truthful words," I commented back with a wider smile. "Lady Karsten, please... just take this compliment as it's factual."

    She slowly nodded. "I guess I will humbly accept your kind words... but if it's possible, there is another thing I wish to inquire about."

    I blinked. "Sure, do ask," I conceded quite eagerly, now curious about what kind of thoughts she had planned to invest verbally.

    "During the example, you have referred to His Highness by his name and... may I inquire if it's a conceded right or something I might be missing?"

    ...

    No. I don't want to- She couldn't just be suggesting that so suddenly. Not her- Really, I hope this is just my tired mind messing with me.

    ...

    Oh my God.

    "Fourier is a friend of mine and thus we refer to each other by name rather by our titles, only in private of course," I replied carefully, my brain trying its best to not have me facepalm at the little suggestion forwarded by the intelligent woman.

    "I understand," She nodded calmly, seemingly unfazed by the little mistaken thought over the matter... but I was sure not going to forget this little 'slight'. Actually, I had already something planned for her.

    I hid my little smug glee at this simple plan as I nodded right at Fourier. "By the way, why don't you extend this courtesy to Lady Karsten?"

    The blond's smile froze as he looked at me intensively and with an awkward look. "I- What?"

    Crusch frowned. "There is no need. I think if His Highness wants to-"

    "I would like to extend that courtesy myself to you, Lady Karsten," I interjected quickly, my smile twitching. "I wouldn't mind if you called me by my first name and I would like to ask if it would be... acceptable if I referred you by your first name."

    She looked surprised at this escalation, clearly not expecting this much to happen and, since I had been careful to not appear forceful, she merely sighed and nodded.

    "If only for informal settings, I guess that would work sufficiently... John."

    "Of course, Crusch," I replied with a kind tone, trying my best to keep my cover as I glanced briefly at the prince, Fourier looking slightly confused by this development and then... I winked at him.

    The gate is open! Launch the attack!

    The message seemed to pass through as the blond cleared his throat and gave a quick smile as we turned to look at him. "Actually, I wouldn't mind to extend this kind of courtesy to you too, Lady Crusch. Why I think we've known each other for long enough that I should have asked even earlier!" He exclaimed with a cheerful tone, catching off-guard even more the slightly-confused green-haired young woman.

    Still, she nodded and she forwarded a smile with it. "I'm honored of such praise... Fourier."

    The effect was instantaneous, the blond's face exploded in red at being addressed on such a personal note by the very girl he was attracted too.

    Felix noticed this too and snickered softly, turning his attention once more back to his mother, Hannah looking at this whole scene with curiosity, surprise and quite the amusement.

    It would seem the apt words were 'like mother like son' for this peculiar situation.

    The rest of the trip proved to be surprisingly calm and uneventful much to my inner surprise, partly expecting some ambush along the way to ruin the victory gained today.

    Fate wasn't screwing with us and...

    Boy, why did I thought that things would go smoother with Fourier surviving this ordeal. This world... just can't accept changes, doesn't it?!

    ---------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d-----------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d-----------

    Afterthoughts: Lots of talking, lots of drama, comfort and (mis)understandings. Now that the 'worst' is over, we can pass to the next phase... which is the actual worst.

    Also next chapter will have an Omake... and the one after that another!
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
    Lenderman, FeebleEcho, shiver and 4 others like this.
  4. Threadmarks: This is when I faced an indecent offer
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    29 June 422

    It was early in the morning when I found myself rushing through my usual routine, my mind burning a little at the multitude of thoughts born from what I've just heard from the guard stationed outside my temporary room.

    Yes, once we were back to the capital, we were all provided some rooms to make use as guests of the Royal Family with Crusch being taken for a quick checkup by the castle's hospital ward.

    The green-haired woman looked irritated by the need of this procedure, but she seemed to accept quietly the needed step to formalize her complete and safe return away from the previous night's ordeal.

    Felix joined her as his presence would have guaranteed a faster pace for the checkup while also comforting the seemingly-annoyed young woman.

    Fourier had looked interested of joining the little entourage leading his childhood friend to the Royal Infirmary, but the guards led by Captain Marcus were quick to 'escort' him back to his quarters for some urgent matters and I would only discover of the major reason behind this sudden maneuvering by dinner.

    The incredibly-long table that was used for the banquet was mostly left unused and the presence in there was... quite limited too in terms of important people.

    I was actually allowed to take a seat near the young prince, noticing quite swiftly about his distressed mood and the overall strange lack of warmth from him.

    His red eyes were dulled as they were fixed to look at the plate, merely nodding to address the arrival of the small group formed by Crusch, Ferris, Reinhard, Julius and I.

    It took just some careful probing to get a straight response about the gloom coaxing over his features, the lack of genuine happiness at how things had unfolded at the Argyle Mansion and... the reply proved to be more than enough to get me stopping in my tracks.

    Zabinel Lugnica, Fourier's oldest brother and First Prince of Lugnica, had died because of the illness that had struck the other princes and the King, leaving only Fourier as the healthiest heir of the Royal Family.

    It was never expanded much the 'relationships' unfolding in private with the Lugnica family, only that there were some different branches and that Fourier and his father shared the same naive enthusiasm over the future of this kingdom.

    For just a moment in that very cloudy night, I felt a distinct sense of nervousness at the implication born from this very news.

    With the death of Zabinel and the current sickness killing slowly the rest of the King's children except Fourier, it was clear whom was going to receive the title of Crown Prince and true heir to the Dragon Crown.

    Why was this a big issue? Fourier wasn't someone that worked well under so much pressure. This very detail was born more from spending some time around the blond rather than my recollection of the Ex Volume1.

    The young man wasn't ready to rule a kingdom just yet, especially with what he would have to deal with as the crippling issues within the kingdom were nothing to scoff at.

    Witch Cult, Demibeasts, war-eager Volacchia-

    There was just a roster of means to kill this nation in a few, silly but damning moves and I was sure that this was part of the reason why he had looked this much depressed.

    Ignoring any major events that could have both Fourier and Zabinel clashing with each other, I could see some genuine mourning coming from his quiet demeanor and I decided, just like the others did, to not impose ourselves too much with some conversations.

    The dinner was short-lenghted and soon we were escorted back to our rooms, where I decided to contemplate about the possibilities born from the death of this 'unknown' character.

    The oldest child of the King was dead and the state of things was far from sunshine and rainbows, the current liege was close to die too and it wouldn't be wrong to consider a possible push from the Council of Sages to turn Fourier in a figurehead.

    Of course I wasn't thinking everyone in that group would want such development, McMahon being the stark example that maybe some opposition would be born out from this kind of decisions.

    Yet as my mind drifted away into a dreamless night, I couldn't help but notice a new detail that gave me even more worry about the situation at hand.

    Edna didn't appear for the usual chats, something that was possibly attached to the fact that I was also unable to use the mirror that connected me to Satella.

    Maybe it was the holy energy within the castle itself that prevented to establish any contact with the two 'Witches', but my growing concern was mostly directed at the lack of trustworthy advice about the nervous theories my mind was so giddily creating to annoy the hell out of me.

    After a full twelve hours of rest, I woke up at the noticeable banging at the nearby door.

    "Y-Yes?" I loudly asked from my waking spot, my eyes wide open as I tried to force myself out of my sleepy stance.

    "Mayor Bukharin, I'm a messenger with an urgent summon," The man on the other side replied a little louder than I did, he was well awake and ready to dispense this kind of tones. A guard for sure.

    "A-A summon?" I parroted, biting down a yawn while I adjusted myself to sit by the soft mattress.

    "Aye, Mayor," The unknown man continued with his robust tone. "King Randohal wishes to speak personally with you."

    I was about to blink and ignore to answer at first, then the title and name struck me completely awake and quite panicking.

    "I-I see," I said, realizing just a moment later that my voice had grown soft for this response, urging me to reply once more. "I-I will be ready in a matter of a few minutes."

    "Understood, Mayor."

    Without answering that, I swiftly jumped off the bed, my wide eyes scanning my surroundings as I rushed to get in the small bathroom with my ordinary clothes in my arms, leaving behind the night-wear I had taken with me from Erindor for this situation on the bed.

    I was generally done, cleaned and clothed more or less after twenty minutes spent by the bathroom, but this time I managed to get through with it all in less than fifteen minutes, my face now a little red and my breathing sounding labored at the struggle exerted by my body to conclude my usual morning routine.

    Once I got my night-wear folded by the end of the bed, I walked right by the door and slowly opened it, glancing at both guards and the man standing between them.

    It was Captain Marcus, the Knight Commander that had presided over the security of the inauguration event of the Royal Elections in Canon. The large man looked partly-surprised by my sudden presence, possibly impressed by the swift maneuvering I just did from mere sleeping to being this much active and operational.

    I blinked at him. "Can we go now? I don't wish to keep the King waiting."

    My blunt and curt words seemed to bring the experienced Knight out of his surprise and back to his previous serious expression as he nodded, ordering for the two other knights to led me right where the kind was and... I found myself both confused and perplexed by the 'little' trip we had by the castle.

    At first I thought that the current location of where the ruler was resting was still near to the living quarters, or at least close to the hospital's ward.

    Imagine my surprise when we traversed the entire castle from one side to another, then walking to the tallest of the towers present in the building... right to one of the various places where a sick monarch shouldn't be having his own resting room.

    What if someone managed to get some magical artillery cannon and attack the tower?

    Even though I was pretty sure that some magical enchantment had been provided to make that section of the castle impervious to magical attacks, I was still confused over this bad placement.

    Despite these few moments of confusion, I was still capable of giving a proper formal expression when the heavily-guarded and enchanted doors were slowly opened for me to enter inside the bedroom of the king.

    At first I found myself keeping quiet at the scene that welcomed me, but then I found it difficult to keep myself from flinching at the painful amount of papers and ink littering the floor of the room.

    "-but if we manage to increase the wage-"

    "The Military Budget is already satisfying all the expectations of our generals, my liege. Increasing it wouldn't make the guards stronger."

    "But I was referring to the peasants!" The bedridden ruler shot back with a huff, red eyes displaying some hints of playfulness while his shoulder-length golden hair seemed to waggle like a dog's tail at the heated debate. "If we increase their pay-"

    "We don't pay the peasants, your highness," Miklotov McMahon interjected with a patient sigh. "They gain income from selling their crops, then we take some of their income with taxes."

    The old man hummed quietly as he turned around, glancing at me with a curious expression.

    "And I reckon it's time to introduce yourself, young man," The Sage commented with a calm tone. "You shouldn't skip formality because of some unexpected scene."

    I blinked at the blatant chiding, yet I noticed from the eye-widening coming from the King that even the liege hadn't noticed my presence.

    Still, I fell on one of my knees while looking at the floor. "Mayor John Bukharin, I'm here by your Summoning, your highness."

    There was some silence at my presentation, just enough to get me worrying about having messed up with the procedure and I was almost ready to try again-

    "B-B-Bwahahahahahaha!"

    Randohal exploded in a loud laugh, his right hand lifting up to his mouth as to try and subdue the mirthful reaction to my rigid posture, only failing to keep it by his throat while some coughs filtered once or twice in this development.

    "B-Bukharin! You are just like I had heard from my youngest!" The monarch exclaimed once he was capable to speak. "Fourier did say that you were quite the formal and loyal individual, but I've also heard about your mischievous side! I wonder when you are going to show this-"

    "Your highness, some decorum towards your guest," McMahon scolded softly, shaking his head. "Can't you see that he is already panicking at your outburst?"

    The king frowned at this comment but... I was indeed having a minor panic attack.

    While I had read about the easygoing and extroverted nature of the sick man, similar if not worse than Fourier himself, I would be lying in saying that I hadn't been caught off-guard by that wave of warmth and familiarity.

    I was stuck speechless, the gold-haired ruler ultimately sighing at the lecture. "I guess I came in too strong on this young man and... I guess I should be a little more considerate of his unfamiliarity with the court," He glanced back at me with a genuine smile. "Please stand up, Mayor Bukharin."

    I slowly complied, my brain still rebooting from that unexpected escalation, and I was once again standing up before the bed occupied by the king.

    "While you might be curious over your summon here today, Mr. Bukharin, I'm saddened to say that the prime reason can't be discussed right now. At least not until the proper time has come," The sage proclaimed with a cautious tone, eyeing the dying ruler with a stern look to keep him from talking. "The only thing that I can say for sure is that his Majesty wishes to test your logical reasoning with five precise questions."

    The blond nodded. "A simple questioning with no major impacts, nor means to fail," Randohal continued, looking fairly calm over the predicament. "I just wish to see if what Fourier had said about your capacities were correct or not."

    I was once again drew to a confused state of mind, but I still managed to give a solid nod as the monarch's smile widened.

    "Good, then we can begin."

    The elder sighed and nodded himself. "Then I shall start with the first question," He mentioned as he took a moment to ready his throat. "Which is best for a king? To be Cruel or to be Merciful?"

    I blinked at the sudden query, finding myself tensing at the oddly specific inquiry that... I couldn't genuinely connect to my presence.

    "It's easier to be a Cruel King as Cruelty shatters the chances of opposition," I started my reply with a careful tone, minding the fact that a misstep could actually screw me up even with the reassurances advanced by both sage and king. "But it's probably the best when the King can manage the difficult ordeal of being both merciful and cruel when the right times call from one or another."

    "The easy road is never the rightest, but the right road is mostly a difficult one," McMahon added with a polite smile, his eyes widening in interest at my answer. "Truly an interesting response."

    The king merely nodded and then he spoke himself. "What about the need of bringing improvement to the people? Do you think that a King should be generous with his own subjects?"

    "A-A king could consider offer a partial generosity to their subjects," I stuttered early on, surprised by the sudden continuation of the little interrogation. "Money is not unlimited and giving out too much would only urge the people to ask more and more, until the ruler is deemed too careless and giver of false hopes to his own subjects."

    "Balance is the key of success," Randohal continued with a small smile. "Kind is a good thing, but being too kind can be easily be taken as being foolish and dumb."

    There was a brief pause, a long moment of silence that was then interrupted by the elder.

    "What is the difference between a nobleman and a simple peasant?"

    I blinked again, this time feeling close to a real ambush considering to whom I was going to answer and the man beside him.

    I took a nervous gulp and then nodded. "Their early standing in society," I confirmed cautiously. "They might begin from different upbringings, but they still have to deal with the obstacles along the path of success, lest they all fall to failure and dismissal. A peasant can join the military, it would take a war to bring him to a high rank but the situation is possible and thus worth of exploration. A noble can be gifted with money and proper education, but the wrong understanding of affairs can led his life to spiral down to ruin."

    "Personal skills have a major role in the making of great people," McMahon agreed with some emotion in his voice, something I couldn't truly perceive there in that precise instance. "But would it be right to allow social mobility to be something... natural?"

    "Not immediately," I replied quickly. "Society is slow-paced, changes should be gradual and well-ingrained to help those interested by this reforms... while also guaranteeing the safety of those that might feel 'hurt' by such changes."

    Both men nodded at my swift response, another moment of silence ensuing as I felt like tension was rising up from within my chest.

    Until now the questions had been about being a monarch and all of that, something that wasn't meant for someone like me, a 'foreigner' and a commoner to be subjected to.

    The final query, hopefully, would bring me some light over the matter and...

    I was right.

    Randohal coughed a little, his hands moving by the little furniture beside the bed... right where his crown was, sitting on a plump, red pillow.

    "And now for the final question," He said while he gestured me to come closer, something that got me standing still at first before I finally decided to slowly approach the bedside. "I will be honest with you, the reason behind your presence here is... to see if you would make a better king than Fourier."

    ...

    ...

    What!?

    "I would be lying if I said that I wish for my remaining son to be burdened by the horrible issues troubling the realm, the world is far too hostile for my heart to allow the only child I've left to be forced to pick a side so suddenly, to become... sad like I was at his age when I was forced to rule after my father's unfortunate passing," He said while looking at the crown, then his red-eyed stare directed at me. "While Fourier's words would give me little advice upon this decision, Miklotov has spoken highly of your current administration and... he praised your energy and desire to bring prosperity to a place that isn't your birthplace."

    "Your Majesty-"

    "While I can understand the problems rising from being put in this elevated position of power, the issues created by the other branches of the family and-"

    "I can't-"

    "You will be given full support with my last wills. The legacy of a ruler matters more than the bickering of some nobles. Your capacities will fit best to take the lead and-"

    There was no stopping in that steamrolling coming from the king, my irritation growing the more I got interrupted in my interventions and... I just knew what to say to him.

    "[I refuse.]"

    I channeled by inner Rohan Kishibe in those two words, surprisingly enough the lack of a loud voice managing to still get the golden-haired liege to stop in his tirade, a surprised look on his face.

    "What? But... Why?!"

    "The crown will be rightfully inherited by Fourier. He will become King," I explained calmly. "It's his truest right."

    "But you would prefer to let go of such opportunity, even though you would make a better-"

    "No."

    Miklotov looked confused at my interruption, but I still continued to speak. "My abilities would be hindered by a situation beyond the capacities I might have displayed in this inquiry, not only from internal issues but also by the external threats lurking over the border."

    "Gusteko-"

    "Is not the main issue, I know, but Volacchia would still try to impose a monarch of their liking on the throne at the first glimpse of instability."

    There was a pause, a very long one and... then Randohal started to laugh.

    Louder than before.

    "Pfft-hahahahahaha! Y-You truly are a good friend to my son, a-aren't you?" The man asked/proclaimed quite suddenly, seemingly growing even more entertained as I started to look at him with a surprised look. "Y-you are a good person, someone that is loyal to Fourier to the very end."

    He sighed. "I guess I should have expected this but... still, it's good that you have passed the test."

    ...

    "What?"

    "It would be insane if I decided to offer the crown to someone that isn't blood-related to the Lugnica family, or even a noble-born. The riots would be immense and... still, I'm glad that my hunch was correct," The gold-haired joker turned at the tired-looking elder. "It seems like you're getting old and quick to make mistakes, Miklotov. You got what you deserved from trying to outsmart me!"

    I frowned, confused over the need of wacking the cackling ill man while he continued to flaunt 'his' victory over the matter.

    "Once again, I'm glad that this ended up so positively and..." He paused, blinking while tilting his head to the side while looking at me. "By the way, why don't you go and help Fourier? While I've... had enough experience to stomach losing someone like Zabinel, my youngest did take this news the worst. Please, assist him."

    He gestured as if to 'shoo' me and I frowned as I took a few steps back. I gave a quick bow before slowly turning around and retreating away from the room, my mind having to reboot twice now... and it was just morning.

    Still, as the door started to close, I could have sworn to have heard some more mutterings coming from inside, the content quiet and undecipherable but...

    Why I felt like I missed something from that very test?

    ----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d----------
    AN

    You thought it was the end of the chapter, but it was I, the Omake!

    --------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d-----------
    Omake 3: The Hug Affair
    --------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d-----------


    Crusch was unsure of how to deal with what she was looking at, a sight that was certainly rare as disheartening to be dealing with.

    Sitting in one of the small chairs available within the prince's room, her attention was carefully divided between the spent-looking expression within Fourier's face and the concern dripping from Felix's uneasy smile over the quiet state of things.

    Morning was close to come to an end and, despite the efforts displayed by the cat-eared night, nothing seemed to dent the incredibly stubborn front displayed by the blond.

    It was an odd sight, an unnatural one considering the usually cheerful attitude the young man was keen to have around everyone, the almost-childish demeanor that was actually endearing of his growing personality and... she would be lying in saying that such a scene was leaving her quite saddened too despite her minimal efforts to solve this matter.

    It was difficult to be the one initiating this 'close' interaction with Fourier, it was generally the prince that would start any conversation, from formal to friendly and private, and the sudden need to be the one to begin the discussion was... quite difficult to properly contemplate.

    Many outcomes, most of those seeing her failing or even worsening the gloomy mood displayed by the young man and, much to her growing chagrin, she was starting to feel impotent over the matter.

    If it had been something formal, it would have been easier to formulate as the conception of some proper sentences was quite straight-forward and quick to come to her mind but...

    What was she was supposed to do about this? Should she try to emphasize his pain to the departure of her own mother?

    No, Helena Karsten had perished during Crusch's birth and it wouldn't fit with the same amount of attachment and memories behind the passing of Zabinel Lugnica.

    Should she ask to her father for some advice over the matter?

    No, the man was already worried and, with his mind focused on reaching the castle to greet her and possibly bring her back to her own home, it would be best to avoid any misunderstandings by seeking some solutions from the more experienced noble.

    So what should she do? Wait and hope for a change? It would be wrong. Incredibly so.

    Here Fourier was keeping all the pain inside, looking quite the miser individual while trying his best to keep the distance with everyone.

    It was also... painful that she was included among the people he wanted to have 'little about' during his grief and that was certainly a powerful motivation to try and get him to return back to his normal self.

    But it wasn't an easy task, nor she expected a speedy answer to this aching problem.

    Just as Felix tried to once again approach the tired-looking prince while the blond continued to silently read a particularly thick tome, the door of his room opened without notice, nor knock.

    Crusch's eyes darted to see whom was intruding and she blinked in surprise, relaxing just a little as she recognized the individual as the one and only Mayor of Erindor, John Bukharin.

    The man was just a few years older than them, yet the little difference of age seemed immense before the undeniable knowledge and experience this curious fellow was more than happy to gift to those he deemed friends or confidants.

    He behaved well and her Divine Protection of Wind Indication had spotted no lies in the first few interactions they had.

    It was also odd how those discussions would develop, not because of the topics (albeit most of those were fascinating on their own) but by the way he would treat her in such discussions.

    Having taken most of the duties as the matriarch of the Karsten family, the green-haired woman had seen her own fair share of foolish men and women that were quick to denigrate her intelligence based on her gender as many ladies were mostly known for their 'naivety and romanticisms', with the only exclusions being Ferris, Fourier and... John.

    But while the first two had their own reasons to see her as a smart lady, actions that had been truthful of her capacities over her presence in their lives, the Mayor had displayed no doubt while giving her a thorough explanation of something that she herself had some few troubles to understand with her own knowledge.

    That discussion back in the carriage directed at the castle had been... enlightening but also intriguing.

    Yet, while her minor admiration over this curious individual took some of her mind's attention, most of her focus shifted at the actions the young man was now adopting after having spotted Fourier sitting by his desk.

    Red eyes had momentarily glanced to the entrance of the room, a sigh filtering out of the blond's lips as he tried to give little attention over the newcomer but, much to everyone's surprise, John didn't seem to mind.

    Actually, the man seemed to calmly approach the blissfully-distracted prince, looming over him as he read some of the verses in the book and... then suddenly shut it close.

    The loud noise got Ferris almost jumping in surprise-induced fright, the red-eyed prince staring in shock at the perpetrator of this development, but pausing short from answering.

    "Why?"

    John didn't answer, instead his previously blank expression morphed in an amused and mischievous one, a smile perking at some secret idea and... he lunged towards the blond.

    At first Crusch expected a brawl, especially at the first sign of struggling from the prince, but then her panic lessened to nothing as she recognized the close interaction after waiting for just a moment, gauging a reason to truly enter in action.

    Instead of attacking the distraught young man, the Mayor had his arms wrapped around Fourier's neck, pushing his head into his chest while he domineered with what looked to be a forceful hug.

    Her mind was taken back to the hugs she would give to her father, back when she was incredibly young and interested in the warmth born from such interaction and... why would the brunet start such effort to help the sad prince in such an... intimate manner.

    There was still a struggle, yet neither her nor Felix decided to intervene. The cat-eared Demihuman actually giggled at the development, his tail lifting up from its previously low elevation... a sign of entertainment?

    The attempt to break free was all in vain, the visibly stronger man holding without much effort the young man in his hug, the sight turning somehow... comical the moment the prince groaned and conceded defeat, his own arms rising up to wrap around the older male's torso.

    The young Duchess stared at the conclusion of that little 'fight' with a somewhat fascinated look, even more intrigued as Felix approached the duo and, after giving a pleading stare to the tallest of the two, he was allowed to join that lengthy embrace.

    It took her just a moment to realize that she had been standing up for a while now, it took her just a little more to realize that she had gotten a few step closer to watch the scene better.

    Her proximity was noticed by John, the brunet glancing at her with a curious but mirthful look... before he slowly gestured her with his head to come closer.

    She blinked. Wouldn't that be improper? As much as it seemed like an important things for Fourier to have his friends close, wouldn't it be scandalous for a woman to-

    ...

    When did her arms move to wrap around Felix's and John's torsos?

    And why was Fourier blushing and smiling at the same time?

    ---------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d----------

    Afterthoughts: Yes Crusch, you are a dense but lovely lady! Also, quick unrelated note, I have an announcement to make:

    Yes, I, BUKHARIN, decided to bestow you mortals with the first and greatest Self Insert Story of Dio-sama... starting from Ep1 of Phantom Blood! Check it out, Absolute Divinity!

    In conclusion, this Omake 'can be considered' Canon as it doesn't defy too much from what I've planned for their personalities. It was a quick one, it had Fourier being the little spoon of a big hum from his childhood friends and MC... all is fine in the western pillow. Going for the nap and slep maneuver!
     
  5. Threadmarks: This is about assassination attempts
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    30 June 422

    "Are you sure that this is what Captain Marcus meant with keeping a 'close' watch over me?" I found myself questioning in that incredibly-confusing instance I was subjected to.

    Felix didn't reply as he continued to rest his head on my shoulder, nuzzling a little while purring in quite the loving manner. We were staying by one of the various living rooms within the palace, with me and the cat-eared young man sitting together in one of the long couches while Reinhard was quietly seated on the couch standing right in front of us.

    The Sword Saint had been a surprise to find around after just the kind of day I had to face yesterday, but I certainly didn't voice any of the questions about the sudden need to keep an eye out for me.

    Either I had given some 'wrong answers' to the past day's inquiry from both the King and McMahon or there was some serious worry that someone had infiltrated the palace.

    Considering the company I had, I was partly sure that it had to do much more with the latter than the former possibility.

    The Captain of the Knights wouldn't have never let two 'compromised' subordinates to take action in such an important mission if it was truly something against me.

    "Sir Ferris is quite affectionate towards you, I guess it has to do with what had happened after the events back at the Argyle Mansion," Reinhard commented mirthfully, blue eyes vibrantly enjoying the entertaining scene unfolding before him. "But our presence here is related to some royal orders that sadly we can't disclose."

    I blinked at that, curious over the reason behind the quality guarding and the secrecy, yet I decided to bid my silence over this topic and shifted my attention to the Demihuman himself.

    "To be fair, he isn't overbearing about it," I admitted while lifting one of my hands to start to caress a little some of his hair, eliciting some surprised twitch from his cat-like ears before he resumed with his quiet purring. "It's just that I didn't expect this much company without much notice."

    "Y-You are surprised, Johnyan?" The half-feline fellow asked with a teasing tone. "Weren't you expecting Ferris to come and visit ya?"

    "I expected you to be by Lady Karsten's side now that her father has reached the capital," I replied politely. "Couldn't see why you would miss that opportunity, Felix."

    He hummed, glancing at Reinhard with a curious glint and causing the redhead to sigh calmly.

    "We were ordered to keep you safe and away from any dangerous encounter until later today," The overpowered knight explained with a careful tone. "We aren't truly aware of why, but the King was insistent to keep you away from any threats until some event will be happening."

    Not truly something that offered me more insight over the matter, but I was starting to suspect more and more that it had to do with what had happened yesterday.

    While King Randohal had looked quite genuine about the fact that the final offer had been just a ploy to verify my moral integrity, both he and the sage giving him advice hadn't said anything about the purpose behind such a complicated interrogation. I couldn't just accept it as an attempt to gauge my personality... as a friend to Fourier.

    It wasn't made as a friendship test and... hopefully, I wasn't going to deal with some crazy stuff anytime soon.

    The quicker I was out of this castle, the better my chances are going to be of having a chat with Satella over the true nature of Pandora.

    I knew that the insane girl had been close to the Witch of Envy before her personalities split in two, that she had known Flugel and that he was somehow responsible for how her power worked... and was also the cause of her dreadful intents.

    I needed details, some of those surely going to be difficult to get because of how painful the memories attached to those were going to be with Satella but... I had to still give it a try and verify that some of my assumptions were either correct or not about Pandora.

    The final enemy, the ultimate obstacle to peace...

    Or maybe the key to unlock something far worse. Her box was the secrets she was holding.

    "Shouldn't Fourier receive some higher guarding than me?" I pressed over the whole debacle once again. "Once again, I'm not trying to ask for any secretive subjects but-"

    "His Majesty is currently busy with a royal meeting," The Van Astrea interjected with a minor frown. "An important noble-lady just recently reached the capital and wanted to spare some words with the Prince about the chances of an arranged marriage contract."

    My eyes widened in surprise and I felt Felix tensing up as he interrupted his purring.

    "I wasn't... aware of this situation," The Demihuman commented softly, eyeing the fellow knight with a quizzical look.

    "It was something that happened without much notice," Reinhard continued with an uneasy tone, drawing quite some nervous predicament the more he gave details over the topic. "I would find it difficult to say this myself, but I guess it was her luck that warranted this kind of opportunity."

    "Luck generally can't get an encounter with an unmarried prince with the King being ill and-"

    I froze on the spot as the words of the Sword Saint finally sunk within my brain and... I started to connect dots over the horrible predicament unfolding not too far from now.

    It was a slow crescendo as I remembered that only one character had the kind of 'luck' that allowed her to gain these kind of circumstances, someone that was supposedly going to be a thorn in Fourier's rear if not treated with extreme attention and 'proper care'.

    Then I started to bring up in my head all the information I had over such a character, someone with the same ego as Gilgamesh, some non-negligible cleavage and the distinct ambition of ruling over the world 'because it was her right'.

    But I didn't jump in action while the realization started to wrap over my brain, still unsure that it was actually this character or maybe we were dealing with someone less important than I thought.

    "I know that it might sound strange to ask you this, Reinhard," I mentioned with an uneasy smile. "But perhaps the lady that is engaging some discussion with Fourier may be... Lady Pendleton?"

    The knight was quiet, his eyes still showing some surprise at the sudden inquiry and I could feel Ferris alternating to stare both at me and at his companion, a little confused over the question.

    "I'm not aware of anyone with that name-"

    "That is... correct."

    Fuck, double fuck- no, triple fuck!

    The timeline was already getting screwed beyond recognition.

    I was quite aware of that after the whole Agryle Mansion ordeal going differently than Canon, but to see the results of such change already coming to bite my butt so quickly was... horrible.

    Priscilla shouldn't have been coming here in Lugnica, at least not this soon in the timeline and not without the Royal Election happening for her to have a chance of getting a kingdom out of it.

    She was still not married with the plotter that was Leip Barielle, but I was partly certain that the man had to be responsible somehow for this unexpected encounter and-

    I stood up from my seat, Reinhard and Felix following my example and-

    "Mayor- John, I ask of you to not try anything stupid right now," The red-haired swordsman said with an half-plead, making me pause just a moment. "Whatever you are planning to do, Lady Pendleton is well-guarded and she is considered a ward of the kingdom as per order of Lord Barielle-"

    "Which is why this is problematic, Reinhard," I intervened with a tight voice, making just two steps towards the door only to be stopped by the Sword Saint. "Lord Barielle-"

    "Lord Barielle is the one responsible for the Dragon Tablet. His loyalty to the kingdom is assured by difficult tests that show how much of a devote subject he is for the-"

    "The chance of getting to steal the kingdom for himself if he plays his cards accordingly," I interrupted again, this time my irritation flaring at his opposition. "The Tablet has a prophecy about a Royal Election, which would only happen when all the heirs of the Lugnica Clan are dead or have resigned their duties as Crown Princes and... who would have the best chances to win an election, if not someone that was married to the former heir to the kingdom?"

    "That sounds way too... complicated for it to be the case," The knight pressed on. "Even a spy network like yours wouldn't be able to know the content of the Dragon Tablet, the security being far too high for anyone unknown to infiltrate such an administration."

    ...That was actually a fair point. While a majority of the kingdom was still easy to access for a spy, something as ancient and immensely important like the Dragon Tablet had magical barriers that made it impossible to spy upon without being already connected to the group assigned to guard it.

    I blinked, feeling a little stomped by the fact I did just brain-fart here but I was also glad that Reinhard was somehow quick to dismiss my theory as an elaborate and complicated mess without a proof rather than getting suspicious over the precise summary of what might be happening right now.

    It would fit well for Leip, the plan would see Fourier die because of the 'royal illness' and thus prompt the beginning of the Royal Elections while giving Priscilla, someone that would have a 'contract' with some arranged marriage, the chance of having an easy competition.

    Ultimately, the bald bastard would then marry the woman during the competition, offering his riches and his lands as resources to make some aggressive but victorious campaigns.

    I could already see a major flaw in that 'foolproof plan', which was the BS luck the blonde was renowned to have and that could in the end see the young woman obtaining the throne alone and without any dangerous conspirators damaging her new kingdom.

    I huffed, grunted even, as I forced my arm out of Reinhard's hold, marching back to the couch and... slumping over one of the corners, engaging in what many observers could describe as a clear case of deep irritated-induced pouting.

    I was quiet, Felix looked surprised at my lack of strong response at that final obstacle, but still followed me back to the couch and so did the redhead.

    Time passed, ten or so minutes that began silently and then returned to some friendly bantering between the two knights about the recent developments.

    Reinhard would still give me some intrigued glances, confused over my sudden defeat and how 'quick' it had been compared to what he was mostly accustomed to at this point.

    I huffed once in a while, my eyes glancing briefly around the room and giving no response whatsoever at the conversation both guards were having with each other.

    Ferris seemed to have lost his own surprise by going deep with his news about his mother, the woman having arrived at Erindor and having already started to have quite the curious discoveries by dealing with both Fritz and Hans.

    From what the demihuman was aware of, the twins had been skeptical of the old woman's role in the household but they soon started to grow a little more trusting when she decided to prepare for them some apple pie after lunch.

    While many could easily think that I had thrown the towel and I was already killing my mind by thinking at the aftermath of this horrible scenario, the reality of my predicament was quite the opposite.

    I hadn't accepted defeat, I had merely decided to switch tactics to something a little more unpredictable.

    It was time to be a little smarter than usual, I needed to adopt a plan that best worked for my current limitations.

    I couldn't approach the door, nor I could ask to go to the bathroom without having both following me around; making a run for it would result with me getting caught and possibly tied down as to not be able to commit myself to another of these attempts.

    Knowing these two major details, I was offered a grand hope in the form of the large window set right by one of the deepest corner of the room, the further part from the main doors.

    It was half-open as to allow some wind to enter inside, the climate offering little mean to cool down the warmth created by the chimney installed in this room and...

    I did play Assassin's Creed more than enough to know how to move around that predicament and I was fit enough to pull some cool maneuvering if given the proper time to think beforehand.

    I pondered over the floor we were currently standing in this room while also creating a crude map of the overall castle we were in. I hadn't seen many of the rooms there, but if I had to take a wild guess from the general disposition of the quarters, I felt like I could think of a proper planimetry of the major building.

    I blinked, slowly shuffling up from my current seat in utter silence, gaining Reinhard's full attention just for that moment...

    As I started to stretch up and yawn.

    "I need to go for a walk... around the room," I muttered tiredly, my body indeed requiring some genuine stretching after staying in that draining position for that long. "And away from the door."

    The last detail got a curious look from the Sword Saint, the man trying his best to see if I was telling the truth or not.

    In the end, he sighed and gave a nod to which I replied with my own sigh before going for a walk around the place and... right towards the big 'window of opportunity' I had for my little escape.

    I could hear the discussion had resumed behind me, giving me just enough of a distraction to begin move out of the room via the opening.

    Just as both legs had stepped over the small section of the wall, carefully settling by the decorations just outside the window and... I heard the distinct noise of two panicking knights making their way towards me-

    But it was already too late as I started to cautiously descend from that unpleasant circumstance to the others that preceded me from reaching my last goal.

    I was nimble, I was quick, but my name wasn't Jack and I didn't know anyone called Jill~.

    Two floors below and after 'enjoying' some aching hands and toes, I was granted relief in the form of an open window that got me to charge inside... into a completely empty room.

    Not good, but also not too bad as I still had some chances of reaching the scene just before anything serious could happen from this maddening plot.

    I didn't pause for too long in that empty space, just enough to take notice of the section of the palace I had ended up into and... then I bolted without any restraint over my sprint.

    Lungs going for some overwork, I dashed through the hallways with only two thoughts in mind.

    The first was that Fourier might be in serious danger if I didn't move too quickly and-

    Two, I had Reinhard now surely going to hunt me down with the intention of possibly tie me down back to that 'safe room' while giving me some lecture over his duties as my bodyguard, the importance of keeping me away from danger and... something about justice.

    He would be right, he would be correct... but then again the situation warranted some drastic and unpleasant decisions considering the horrible odds staked to me right now.

    Seriously, why there was an assassination attempt right after the whole insane thing with the Argyle Mansion and-

    I turned the corner, rushing through the secondary staircase with the intention to reach Fourier's room, ignoring any strange noises that might distract me along the way to make the difference.

    My breathing got labored, my face reddened and after two minutes of straight running around the place and ignoring the glances I was getting from the various nobles and guards wandering around, I finally reached my destination.

    I took just a few seconds to get my breathing back to normal, the little marathon bringing up quite the adrenaline running through my body, and then knocked thrice at the door.

    I waited patiently for some sound or noise, anything that could bring me relief of the fact that I was just in time to-

    "Please enter," Fourier allowed with a slow but confused tone of voice, enough of a sign for me to slowly open the door and... be presented with quite the odd scene.

    Fourier's red eyes widened in recognition, surprise swelling in his face while Crusch looked merely confused over my presence there.

    It took me just a moment to realize that while Fourier was sitting in front of a younger Priscilla Barielle, beside him was the Duchess Karsten herself...

    And between the two couches, right where the small wooden table was supposed to be, there was an unconscious bald man tied down over the now broken mini-table.

    I blinked. "Oh... so I was right."

    "Mayor Bukharin," A certain purple-haired knight spoke with a hint of surprise. "What are you doing here? I thought that Reinhard and Felix-"

    At the mere mentioning of the two knights surely hunting me down in that very moment, I decided to carefully enter inside the room and close the door behind me.

    "Are supposed to be guarding my well-being, yes," I interjected with a half-whispered tone. "But I had to check here because I knew something was off."

    "W-Who are you?!" A furious feminine voice finally broke through the silence and I snapped my attention right at the angry-looking expression of a certain light-orange-haired young woman. Priscilla looked as gorgeous as she was in Canon, maybe a little bit younger than that considering that she had to be 16 in the current timeline as displayed by her shorter height.

    "John Bukharin, Mayor of Erindor," I introduced myself quickly and curtly. "Currently trying to avoid making amend for doing something not that bad, but also not nice towards some kind people."

    Fourier frowned. "You are running from Felix and Reinhard?" He asked with some nervousness. "You are running from Ferris?"

    The repetition dedicated to the cat-eared boy instead to the strongest of the two knights was more than enough to put a perplexed look on my face.

    "Yes?" I stated with some uncertainty before turning back to Julius. "By the way, can you please tell me what exactly happened here?"

    The knight frowned but gave a polite nod. "Lord Barielle tried to use poison to assassinate both His Highness and Lady Karsten, the attempt was foiled when my spirits confirmed of the illicit action perpetrated in their cups."

    "Then Cru- Lady Karsten's used her gift to gain a full read on Lord Baldhead-" "Barielle, your Highness," "Yes, him, and he got restrained for attempting at our lives." Fourier concluded with a huff. "Now Lady Pendleton is still demanding an arranged contract when-"

    "I am merely asking for something that is rightfully mine," The orangette stated with a serious voice, narrowing her blood-red eyes at the blond. "You are mine, Prince Fourier."

    Crusch blinked at that statement and then sighed tiredly before turning her attention right at me.

    "Considering the current circumstances, I still think that your own issues are far greater right now, Lord Bukharin," She said with quite the pitying tone, way too genuine to allude to some jesting.

    Why were these two afraid of an angry Felix?

    I know that he was pretty rough with Subaru in Canon in certain occasions, but I couldn't see the cat-boy be much of a problem when-

    My thoughts died when I heard the sound of a snort coming right behind Priscilla, the young woman turning her incensed attention right at a certain one-harmed and helmeted fellow trying to hold back himself from laughing for some reason.

    "W-What are you doing? You aren't supposed to-"

    "Forgive me, hime, but I find the name of this fellow quite... familiar as ironic considering the title attached."

    My eyes widened as I knew whom we were all looking at right now.

    So... Al was making an early cameo?

    I was partly confused by the his presence, but considering that it hat been Leip in Canon to bring him as one of the 'knights' for Priscilla, it was possible that the bald man had decided to hire him earlier for this occasion.

    "Truly?" I piped in with a fascinated tone. "Is perhaps a certain Soviet writer that gave off the reference?"

    His chuckles lessened and he seemed to appear even more curious. "What if I did, Johnny?"

    I hummed. "Then I would be elated to find someone that understands references," I replied mirthfully. "You are... Japanese, your accent is a dead giveaway and... how long have you been wandering around?"

    He tensed up at the mentioning. "I've been here for... almost two decades now," He muttered carefully, then he nodded. "By the way, my name is Al."

    I smirked at that opening. "Like a certain 'Weird Al'-"

    "He is still around after so long?" The one-armed knight interjected with some fascination. "Is he still making parodies?"

    "He is, but he is also doing his own songs and other projects."

    Al nodded happily at the news but our little conversation was interrupted by a certain annoyance.

    "T-That's enough!" The young woman exclaimed harshly. "I will not allow this mockery to continue any longer!"

    Priscilla aimed her index at her knight. "You will desist from annoying me."

    And then she moved her attention to me. "And you, John Bukharin, will accept to become my-"

    "Not interested."

    ...

    "It wasn't a request-"

    "Nor it was a demand since you don't have any leverage on me, don't you?" I interrupted with a tired sigh. "You may offer me whatever 'I desire', from riches to favors, but in the end your offer isn't just endearing as it could be to any normal individual."

    She blinked, shock spread on her beautiful face. "What?"

    "Lady Pendleton, you are resourceful and ambitious, you have an absurd luck by your side and you certainly don't lack the intelligence to understand that not everyone can just submit at your whims because you want it," I started to explain with a dull tone. "I could spend endless hours to unravel the kind of individual you are, but I think I can summarize it all in a single sentence: I detest your personality, but I understand where it originates from."

    I glanced at her with a blank expression, her jaw dropping a little at my words. "It was a wrong nurturing, one that got you stuck in the greedy aspect of survival... despite being far from the conditions you were facing just a few years ago," I muttered tiredly. "Consider what I will offer you right now as the best bet right now, ignoring your luck as it wouldn't work against me, and merely accept this."

    I gestured at the document in her hands.

    "That is a magical paper, I can feel some magically-enforced clauses on it and from my understanding it can accept a single drop of blood as the signing of one of the two parts, right?" I asked quietly, keeping silent until I saw her give a slow nod at this, her eyes narrowing once more in interest about what I was referring about.

    Gone was the uneasiness she briefly displayed, now her usual personality was back in control.

    "Then you could just do this with Lord Barielle here," I suggested with a hum, glancing down at the still-unconscious bald bastard. "He is quite wealthy, his lands are extensive and you would have a higher chance to aim at your 'world-conquest'."

    Priscilla snorted. "And let go of the chances of gaining my rightful title as-"

    "You would want to go in a war that could see the entire world plunged in chaos only to try and become the foreign Queen of a nation that is in regression?"

    My inquiry got her to stop with her attempt, enough for me to continue. "Your luck can preserve you, can have you survive, but then you would be alone with dust and ashes... again."

    Her features hardened at the little allusion to her childhood, her irritation kept at bay by the strong sense of self-preservation she had.

    Ultimately... she was forced to concede.

    "B-But why would you want to marry an old man?" Fourier blurted confused, causing the orangette to scoff back at him.

    "Maybe you should ask him why," She quietly snapped back, causing Crusch to appear quite irritated by such response.

    "You best hold your tongue from disrespecting his highness in such a manner, Lady Barielle," The Karsten glanced back at me with a skeptical look. "I still don't see why you would want to trade such an important chance for-"

    "She knows she wouldn't win in a serious 'fight' between herself and us," I interjected quietly, ignoring the angry look coming from the young woman. "But I think it's best to not create enemies without reason and Priscilla wouldn't mind waiting some little more if given something to do in the mean time."

    Plus, I wouldn't be forced to compare Erina Pendleton with Priscilla with their same surnames.

    Her face turned red in fury. "H-How dare you consider me a child- A-AND I DIDN'T GIVE YOU THE PERMISSION TO SPEAK ME WITH SUCH FAMILIARI-"

    She froze as I took some steps toward her, stopping right to lean close and look at her face with a curious look. "You know, you have some pretty eyes there."

    ...

    A blink, then two and... the blush turned into one of embarrassment at the sudden compliment.

    Instead of retaliating with another indignant shriek, the woman merely turned her attention back to get a drop of blood from the man's undefended thumb and sealed the deal for the contract.

    Just as I felt that I had finally resolved quite the insane debacle and prepared myself to think how I was supposed to leave this place without getting caught by my two active 'hunters', I felt... my entire body go numb and... my sense of touch and balance vanished without notice.

    I tumbled backward, a groan stuck in my throat as my lips weren't willing to part and make way to the pain-induced sound.

    I was awake, but my body was disabled as... I spotted a certain smug-looking cat-eared knight looking at me with some amusement.

    "Johnyah, I found yah~!"

    ...Oh God.

    "Good job, Ferris," Reinhard slowly entered in my limited line of sight, the young man giving a full look at the room with a certain sense of sheepishness. "Apologies your highness and Lady Pendleton-"

    "Barielle, Sword Saint," The young woman corrected with a sigh, her attention drawn to my unmoving body. "But I will forgive this slight since you have provided quite the entertaining scene."

    Fuck you.

    "Reinhard, I found him first," Felix whined quietly, his smug smirk deepening in something quite menacing. "Do you remember the bet, don't nyah?"

    Why was the redhead shivering, why was one of the strongest being in this world trembling at Ferris?

    Before I could deduce what was going on, I noticed much to my dismay that the demihuman had already began lifting me up standing and... pulled me out of the room and somewhere I was unaware about, the saddened glances from Fourier and Crusch giving me the worst of dreads.

    W-Where was he taking me? W-What was the adorable-looking soon-to-be 'torturer' going to do to me?!

    --------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d-------d-d-d-d-------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d--------

    ... Hi, I'm Bob the intermission.

    ---d-d-d-d-d--------------
    Omake 4: The 'Torture'
    ---d-d-d-d-d--------------

    I was shocked by how extensive Felix's thought had been over the punishment he had planned for me.

    Or rather, what Fourier and Crusch considered something worth of being a true punishment.

    I blinked with some uncertainty at the little steam created by the heat rising from the bathing area, one of the few rooms within the castle that was mostly used like a sauna of sort and that resembled a lot like the Japanese Onsens.

    Since this very one was currently lacking any previous occupant it was a must for a certain giddy-looking demihuman to claim it as the proper setting to exact his planned torture.

    Felix was humming happily as I carefully used a sponge-like object to spread over his exposed back with some soapy water, the cat-eared young man giggling as I took the nearby water-filled wooden bucket and released its content well over his head, washing away all the soap off from his body.

    "That's just... nice~," He commented with a smile before starting to purr at my hands going to carefully fix the hair getting stuck near his animal ears. "Ya know, Johnyah, I didn't expect ya to be this much helpful about this."

    I frowned at these words, but I shrugged nonetheless as I realized whom was saying this.

    Felix was someone which didn't have as many limitations in terms of physical contact compared to other individuals, the closeness he shared with those he cared for was a result of the distrust born from his childhood to his family.

    Friends were now his new family and that didn't stop him from being quite the intimate-seeker with those that gained his full trust.

    "This isn't the first time I help someone with bathing," I pointed out carefully, unsure if bringing this up would be beneficial to my current predicament or not. "I did try something with Fourier but he was quite the pest."

    Felix nodded. "The prince is quite the little child when he is bathing, especially when around a friend."

    "You are making it sound like you did share a bath with him," I said, only for the cat-boy to nod at the case proposed and... it urged me to think about something suspicious about the matter, something about a certain young woman. "But you certainly didn't bathe with Lady Karsten since she is-"

    "She is reserved about it and very limiting over my means to help her around," Ferris interjected mirthfully. "But there are still some times where she just outright refuses my presence."

    I blinked at this explanation, surprised that even a woman like Crusch, despite her lack of major traits that would push her away from pursuing such a close bond with these guys, would actually accept the demihuman as a help during baths.

    It had to be embarrassing, quite so, but while the young Duchess was still keen to reject some of these instances, Ferris seemed completely unaware of the predicament he was discussing about so calmly.

    "But isn't it a little... nerve-wracking? To bathe with someone of the opposite sex?" I inquired carefully, feeling like these very questions were fairly delicate with someone like the demihuman.

    He merely shrugged. "Just... a little," The knight admitted quietly. "I guess not many would see the circumstance as normal or-"

    "It's just unexpected. Surprising even," I interjected, trying to avoid any souring of the current conversation. "There are instances were siblings use to bathe together, I guess you could compare it to those cases."

    His cat ears twitched at the word 'sibling'. "Thinking of Fourier and Lady Crusch as... my brother and sister?" The brunet mused quietly and distractedly. "I guess... that would be a little odd."

    I frowned, huffing at him. "You mean because you got an 'adorable pair of cat ears and a tail', you are odd?" I pressed him with a faux-annoyed voice, causing him to turn his head to glance at me with a curious look. "As far as I'm concerned those are some pretty perk to have, especially when you are trying to find some ladies' attention."

    Felix blinked. "Why would ladies want a demihuman- uh?"

    He tensed suddenly as I carefully reached for his ears and started to scratch the area between them. He let out a suave purring, delighted by the mindful touch and... I nodded.

    "That is what I'm talking about, Ferri," I mentioned with a twitchy smile. "Ladies dig the affection you could give them with purring while cuddling with them."

    Ferris gave a slow nod as I retracted my hand away from the top of his head. "I guess girls do love this... but I don't think I will interest myself with any romantic relationships just yet."

    I hummed at this decision. "You don't feel ready for a serious commitment?"

    "Something like that," He replied quietly. "I just feel like... I should first find my balance with my life here and now rather than try to jumble in something new."

    "You are doing a good job right now."

    "Only because I've some nice people helping me when I need help," Felix admitted happily. "Even when... I try to make it seem like I don't need any."

    I blinked at the allusion to his little fear and I nodded. "It isn't wrong to seek help, you are still a limited being... or maybe you are confirming your suspected role as God of Fluff."

    A giggle left his lips. "I wonder if I should sign down this title, the... God of Fluff," The demihuman smirked mirthfully at the words and then gave a pleased sigh.

    "Ya know, it's quite the nice experience and..." There was a little pause and then... he smiled even more. "Would you mind if I wanted to do this again in the near future?"

    I blinked at the request, the cat-boy turning his head once again and giving a pleading look, to which I sighed and gave a tiny smile. "I don't see why not."

    "Yay, Johnyah is the best brother ever~!"

    My smile froze at that word, my head tilting to the side in confusion. "Brother?"

    He looked embarrassed at being caught so suddenly about this. "I-I didn't mean to-"

    "Why? Just explain, I'm not angry or weirded out."

    A blink, then two and... he spoke once more. "I just thought that, since you said that my demihuman's traits don't matter much and since your hair is a color just a darker shade of mine that, well, we could pass like siblings. Like you said about... siblings sharing baths together."

    I hummed at the logic and gave a nod to him. "I see what you are referring too and..." I shrugged. "I wouldn't mind to have a little brother."

    His eyes widened in glee and, without much notice, I found myself falling on the floor courtesy of tackling from Felix.

    The cat-eared knight was smiling eye to eye as he nuzzled his head close to my chest, his purring intensifying to a new degree and... thank God we had some towels covering ourselves from giving each other too much of an exposure.

    My soul would never forgive me in being witness of something so awkward after such a meaningful moment.

    -----d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d---------

    Afterthoughts: You know the feeling when you start a chapter, planning to stop before 5k, and then end up incredibly drained but with 1k+ words more than planned? Yep, today is one of those days... especially with the whole crazy situation with the Coronavirus. Sounds odd but yes, Italy is suffering a little from both the spread of the virus and the slow actions to contain the situation to a safe degree. Nothing worrying here where I live, being isolated from major cities and all, but the hysteria is starting to get quite annoying to deal with nowadays.

    Lastly... I did put a lot in this chapter. Some stuff was born from the spur of the moment, I'm expanding a little over this arc because soon MC will be back to his duties as mayors and... some wacky escalations will ensue even there.

    Priscilla is here and she will be quite the hindrance very soon and... a plot is currently going to unfold next chapter as Fate is never going to let go of its favourite events.

    P.S. Should I switch the chapters' names to what I'm using in FF or not? I feel like I should add the fun titles I had picked for the various chapters but... you decide.
     
  6. Potates

    Potates Are ya ready kids?!

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    I ship John and Felix so hard right now-

    ...and now I ship it even harder.
     
  7. Exist Error

    Exist Error Not too sore, are you?

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    reading the chapter with Felix interacting with the MC, my reaction: "must resist urge to ship them!"
     
    FeebleEcho and JBukharin like this.
  8. Extras: Update is delayed!
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    Since there is quite the stirring situation for the Covid-19 that got many students to apply for 'online lessons', I had to waste a lot of time today to help my younger sibling understand how the messy system her school is using to do 'long-range lessons/exercises' actually works. My brain is aching as this is like really a crappy web-system.
    So yeah, sadly I can't write anything right now as I'm fairly sure it would be a bad chapter.
    I'm sorry guys!
    P.S. I'm 100% healthy, barely left home in the last two months so I'm pretty much clean from any issues. So yeah, I will probably upload something this Sunday (March 15th).
     
    Winkins likes this.
  9. Threadmarks: This is about a serious promise!
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    30 June 422

    I was quite surprised when I found myself to face quite the dinner with the people sitting by the table.

    Crusch and Felix weren't there, both having mentioned some simple reasons to skip what was supposed to be just a simple dinner, and Fourier was sitting far from where I was.

    As the new crown prince of Lugnica, it was only tradition to have him sit near to where his father was, the King himself appearing fairly at ease and mirthful while softly-teasing his son around about the recent happenings at court.
    The young blond sported a light blush on his cheeks, trying to keep himself from giving out too much of his usual personality because of the current predicament he was facing.

    The scene would have been nice to glance at if it wasn't for the fact that the rest of the people there weren't worth of my full peace.

    Miklotov had taken a seat on the other side of the table to keep the closest to the king, barely looking around as the rest of the Council of the Elders was mostly distracted by the food presented by the servants of the castle.

    Some I could recognize from the brief appearance they had in Canon, while others had been a novelty to introduce myself to.

    Many were calm about my presence, but I could notice some rejecting or outright ignoring my 'intrusion' in what was meant to be a formal ceremony.

    And then there was him.

    "So you are the young man that managed to win an encounter with Prince Ivan?" One of the Sages, a bald man with thick blue eyebrows, asked bluntly, glancing at me from two seats away from me. "You seem to be fairly untrained to be a knight."

    The jab wasn't missed, but there was no malicious barb in his voice.

    Bordeaux Zellgef was... someone that I wasn't sure how to truly treat.

    While his 'introduction' in Canon was fairly negative towards the 'protagonists', the reasoning behind his blatant racism was hidden in two key subjects:
    1) He served as a soldier for the Kingdom and his last mission happened during the Demi-human war that happened four decades ago;
    2) His loyalty to the kingdom was undying, and thus any possible threat was to be meet with double, if not triple, the firepower required to deal with it.

    The man was what many could consider a 'Goodish' Danzo Shimura, especially with the fact that he was the leader of a secret organization meant to keep a close eye for any external dangers aiming to disrupt Lugnica's existence.

    A good person with incredibly flawed ideals over how justice was meant to exist within a nation.

    But still not someone to be truly worried about.

    "I've started to train in swordplay fairly recently," I replied quietly, only to receive a hum from the sage.

    "By Wilhelm. I'm aware of that, yes, but I find your lack of guarded self to be the result of some sloppy appliance to his regiment," He said with a sigh. "Such a shame that a prodigious knight like him would be this soft while training a young man like you."

    I had to blink twice before grasping the full comment, yet I ultimately frowned at the last bit of his words.

    Wilhelm being... soft with me? It sounded hardly believable considering the many times I had to take pauses and let my sore body recover from the initial beatings.

    There was no mercy in the old man's regiment, and I was certainly sure that Bordeaux was playing with me about it.

    Still, I graced him with a sigh. "As I said, it's some work in progress," I muttered. "I understand that it might sound surprising, but there wasn't a necessity for me to learn more about this until-"

    "All excuses, I can see that you have plenty of potential to grow with," The bald man interjected with an annoyed look. "Heck, it would be almost insulting to diminish your current magical potential."

    ...My what?

    While I had started to experiment with Magic only recently, the magician that had checked on my Gates about two weeks ago had been fairly clear in saying my magical potential was average at best and... that was good for me.

    I wasn't native of this world, thus I was expecting my capacity to make use of magic to be close to a level similar to Subaru.

    While I was sure that the mean with how he had been summoned had influenced his affinity, I was pretty sure that his Gate was meant to be that wake since... he was from modern Japan.

    I wasn't certainly hoping to excel in Magic and I had long planned to focus more on swordsmanship than true magical practicing.

    But to receive this kind comment so suddenly? I decided to keep quiet and interrupt that conversation as I tried to think more about this development.

    Maybe it had been just a mistaken sight, maybe nothing had truly changed about my Gates since last time I had checked...

    What if something had truly happened to me?

    Maybe it had been one of the odd encounters I had to face in the last few weeks, or maybe it was something connected to my own unique summoning.

    When I asked about the magician that had been responsible for summoning me to Erindor, Oreste had been quick to mention that the strange individual had gone missing, possibly resuming his years-long trip around the world.

    I was as confused as one could get from this possible revelation, but the worst had yet to come in that dinner as Bordeaux was far from done with his discussion.

    "And what about your presence during the Argyle scandal?" The bald man pressed on inquisitively. "I know for sure that you had been the one to subdue Count Argyle himself."

    I blinked. "What about it, Sir Zellgef?"

    A brief smile appeared on his face, possibly appreciating the fact that he had been addressed properly after the crap he had thrown at me until just now.

    "You certainly didn't use magic to capture the man, nor you used any sword to fight him," He summarized with a calm voice. "So it would be correct to assume that you used your bare hands to neutralize the threat."

    There was no questions, not a single request for my input over his words as he cracked a grin at the predicament, ignoring pretty much the overall disdainful mood the other nobles were gracing at the conversation we were having.

    The King looked to be interested on the scene, same for Fourier, but Miklotov glanced at the two of us with an unfazed expression, clearly not fascinated by the topic brought up by his colleague... and subordinate.

    But Bordeaux didn't care about it all for I was the sole target in this discussion.

    "I would be lying in saying that I find your means to achieve your goals to be deplorable, quite the contrary if I have to be honest," The Sage resumed with a clear hint of intrigue over the matter. "But I have to ask what were you thinking while you were hitting the criminal."

    ...

    "W-What?" I almost blurted out, stuttering a little at that unexpected request.

    I was treading on some unsure footing with how little was truly known of this man, only that he probably was the spymaster of the council and... that wasn't truly ideal for me.

    He didn't seem majorly surprised by my shock, actually giving a patient sigh before reiterating his question.

    "Your thoughts. What were you thinking while you were dispensing a beating onto that traitorous fiend? What drove your fists into his pathetic face and-"

    "For the love of Flugel, Bordeaux," Mikolotov interrupted with a stern voice. "Please moderate your manners."

    The bald man looked unhappy at being recalled that way, but he complied with a nod before looking once more at me.

    I blinked again, this time pondering over the words displayed by the man and... finding some genuine reason to think about back at the scene.

    I was angry, furious, pissed. I was experiencing the quintessential berserking state someone put in my circumstance was meant to be dealing with.

    I could remember the rotten stench of decaying flesh coming from the monsters wandering the halls of the mansion, how there were some young people among the zombies, young teens making part of the undead mob.

    I was aware of what was meant to happen if I wasted too much time, my fear of failing to properly finesse that meeting with Biehn being more than enough to make me snap to take a more forceful solution compared to mere mind-games.

    He was a capable individual with magic, but the old man had little to no military education to properly keep up with a physical beating. He was also an ambitious criminal with a thug like Miles doing the practical of the dirt work with the efforts to acquire slaves to experiment with the dark magic under his possession.

    Sadly, the Volacchian nobleman having met his demise by Reinhard's hand while the head of the Argyle family had been subjected to my assault.

    I was glad that it had worked in the end, elated even at the bruises I had left but also satisfied with the fact that I hadn't killed in the process.

    Albeit the scumbag deserved that and much more for the horrible deed he had committed to many people in this world, a trial to further make his death a traitor's one was the best course of action to take.

    I could remember destroying the Immortal King's Sacrament, the smoke coming from the paper that was burning under the little magical circle created by me still vividly impressed in my mind.

    I sighed. "Why do you want to know that, sir?"

    Not the answer he was seeking right now, but Bordeaux was still calm enough to grant me a nod without appearing annoyed by my hesitation.

    "What I hate the most about young knights is their disappointing look for their careers," He replied dryly. "Their inability to detach fiction from reality, the chances of becoming heroes through the deeds and hardships only knights are aware of."

    The sages were silent as the fellow elder continued.

    "But you are aware of this, I can see it in your eyes as I explain this to you."

    I gave a quick nod. He smiled back.

    "And that is why I'm interested, if not fascinated by the driving force that got you to urge you to take those heavy steps, to hide doubt and hesitation from hindering you in these actions," Bordeaux said calmly. "I want to know what got you, a mere young man that could have simply stayed to his accommodating role as mayor of Erindor, to pursue so actively the safety of not only Prince Fourier, but also those that are dear to him."

    My stare moved away as I directed my sight to my now empty plate, my face sporting not even an hint of an emotion from the turmoil storming within my brain.

    I felt encircled, claustrophobic at how things were developing right from this conversation as I knew that maneuvering around those words was going to be... immensely complicated.

    I sighed and glanced up from my somber sight over the mostly-clean plate.

    "I... I think I only want to do the right thing when possible," I said with a quiet tone. "I guess it's odd for me to say, especially with my role as a mayor, but I don't think that it would be right for me to truly detach from the truth that is human reality."

    ...

    "Can you elaborate, Lord Bukharin?"

    This time it was Miklotov to inquire, finally showing some intrigue over my reply and possibly wondering what I was trying to truly say with that mess of an explanation.

    It's never easy to bring up the complexity of my morality, something conceived beyond theory and tempered by experience itself.

    But I complied to the query and I nodded.

    "Pragmatism is the logical key to achieve success in the world. Many would easily assume that the world is actually divided between the poor and the rich people, yet that would be a serious misunderstanding of how the world truly works," I continued with a tenser tone. "There are those that exploits, and those that are exploited. The people that are aware of the limits of humanity, and those that believes that there is a need to hope in everything and everyone."

    The sages were now silent, they were all looking at me as I continued.

    King Randohal was staring at me with a curious look, while also edging in some minor realization over where I was going.

    Fourier... he was merely watching me, unsure of what I was doing with this. Why I was delving deeper in what looked to him to be a maddening subject.

    But I couldn't just pull away now, not after what I had just said in front of so many important people.

    The smallest of mistakes was going to see me hauled in hell if I thought of backing away now.

    "I thought myself that I was one of those meant to be exploited by others, to be used for my qualities and ditched for my flaws," I said with a little hint of nervousness. "Yet the more time passed with me acknowledging this conception of life, the more I realized how easily of me it could be to truly exploit those around me and... it disgusted me to the core."

    ...

    "Continue," Bordeaux commented with a stern voice.

    "If there is something that I'm glad to have gained from my father's unique perspective of the world... it's his moral integrity over the harshest of the situations," I complied with a sigh. "The mere incapacity to pursue something that is meant to hurt people that aren't truly capable of holding up against the injustice some are so eager to bestow to them. I despise it, to even think that I could end up even so indirectly cause this to people."

    "But how does this connect to your true drive, Lord Bukharin?" Miklotov pressed me to continue.

    "When I look at Fou- Prince Fourier, I see someone that is truly meant to rule. There is no doubt in my mind of his high chances to become a great king when it will be his moment, that he will be able to muster up enough bravery and intelligence to carefully solve the issues riddling the nation," I persisted with a hum. "That he will safely lead the kingdom out of this period of uncertainty."

    "Like a proper king should," Randohal agreed with a nod, then the royal turned to Bordeaux. "I think this should be more than satisfying as an answer to your own doubts, Lord Zellgef. You should administer him the antidote."

    I merely blinked at the old blond's words, my lack of grand reaction being the fact that I had long been aware that something had been off about the food when I started to reply so truthfully to the bald man's question.

    Said elder gave a calm nod as he took out from one of the pockets in his robe what looked to be a small vial containing a dark-orange liquid.

    He stood up from his seat and walked close enough for me to pick up the small glass container and down the antidote to the truth serum that my food was latched with.

    I felt the strange hold over my mind starting to already ease up, yet the quiet of the room was interrupted when Fourier himself stood up, slamming him closed fists on the table while looking at the entire table with a furious look.

    "W-What is the meaning of this?!" The young man exclaimed angrily, face burning a bright red while addressing what had just happened.

    "Your Highness-"

    "A close friend of mine was dosed with truth potion behind his back, in front of this esteemed council that is meant to represent the proper administration of this kingdom," The prince lashed out without restraint, ignoring Miklotov's pleas "I thought that there was some integrity within this group, yet I find myself stating that I've just witnessed the opposite of proper composure and-"

    "That's enough, Fourier."

    His red eyes widened in shock at the stern order, yet the young man looked back at his father and... Randohal was no longer smiling. He looked incredibly saddened, but also serious over this development.

    "While you are rightfully angry at this seemingly heinous deed, I can assure you that my decision to approve this gesture wasn't one of distrust," The king explained with a tired tone. "But one born from the need of me to make one of my last royal decrees as the King of Lugnica."

    ...

    "W-What?" The prince asked, surprised if not terrified by what his father was alluding with his words.

    "John Bukharin, you truly are an admirable and unique individual, and I'm glad that my son cares for you as a friend the same intense way you do for him," The man continued, ignoring for now the fellow blond's question. "And this is why, by royal decree, I bestow you with the title of Protector of the Northern District."

    I blinked at the sudden proclamation, my wide eyes giving sign that I was shocked by the detail and prompting Randohal to continue.

    "Your role shall be to make sure that safety and stability is guaranteed in the north section of the kingdom, the farthest point of the realm, and your power might be compared to one of a duke... without the noble regalia bestowed to a normal duke."

    I frowned at the last limitation, confused over his disinterest from enobling me after what I had done for the kingdom. Not because I wanted it myself, but because I expected a reward to be a little more 'conspicuous' than mysterious.

    "While I've tried to fiercely to commit Fourier to become the king once I passed away, I had to ultimately concede to the Council of Elders that it is best for the survival of the kingdom to announce a Royal Election two days after my death."

    I stood up from my chair, now more panicked than surprised. "What?"

    "While we both are sure of Fourier's abilities to be a monarch, the people of this kingdom are not," The king replied with a sad voice. "They only know of a silent member of royalty, someone that was either too shy or too uncaring to make appearances around the nation and-"

    "You want to solve this with an electoral campaign," I interjected quietly. "By having Fourier work for his role, people would see him more as a proper ruler and... pick him as the rightful king. This is still a gamble-"

    "One that I'm willing to try my hand out," The prince mumbled with a quiet tone, making me frown at him. "Father is correct in his evaluation, I've never spent too much time mingling with other nobles except those that were at court... and you since I visited Erindor."

    I gave him a slow nod, still unwilling to swallow this bitter pill but... what choices did I have at that time?

    I had waged my best efforts to prevent the happening of the Royal Election, yet I had been so dastardly ignorant of the true state of the people's interest in Fourier.

    He was barely mentioned in Canon, only referenced when Crusch would have been the topic of a conversation and...

    Oh boy, I was going to face a Royal Election with Fourier and...

    No, Crusch shouldn't technically become a candidate. It was one of the few things that were quick to perceive from her character, that her interest behind the acquisition of the highest title in the kingdom being connected to her lover's dying wish.

    Fourier hadn't died, and the Lady Karsten had no real purpose to become the newest ruler.

    But now Fourier could count on both me and the Canon Karsten Camp for his campaigning.

    I was pretty much aware of the events that could happen during this crazy two years, stuff that I could move around for the sake of creating the best outcome for our combined efforts and...

    I was still going to face people like Priscilla, Anastasia and... Emilia.

    To be fair, I wasn't threatened by the half-elf... but I was seriously worried by the degree I could interact around the world once RtD started to be present in this world.

    I hadn't contacted for a long time Satella, but if there was something that I wasn't willing to risk my current friendship with her was about having her to not summon goddamn Subaru to this world.

    It would solve many problems, it would weaken some of my current and future opponents, but said course of action would only end up getting the annoyance of the kinder version of the Witch of Envy.

    The young woman was still in love with Flugel despite whatever reason could have driven the old figure to seal her away... and, for some reason, Subaru was connected to the old sage.

    "This is why I wish to ask you to be Fourier's closest confidant for this upcoming situation," Randohal continued with a calm voice. "You will not be his knight as you lack the means to fit as the proper protector for my son... but I wish that you become his advisor and, possibly, his Prime Minister when he succeeds with this election."

    ...Say what?!

    I could understand helping the prince around with this burdening tasks and the weight behind some of the decisions he might have to take... but the Prime Minister? Wasn't Miklotov already.

    "'If', your Majesty," Said elder commented with a long sigh. "But yes, Mr. Bukharin, I think the intent behind the request is as clear as the sky. While I understand where your past praises for Fourier are coming from, I find myself compelled to believe that the best way of action would be to have you help him and support him through his reign if he manages to win the elections."

    "But what about-"

    "I will keep my post if he fails... and I will concede the position if you prove to be correct once again, disproving this notion I had been having for decades now about the kingdom."

    I closed my lips, unsure how to reply to this and... I looked at Fourier.

    The blond was staring back at me, his red eyes showing some concern about the important question.

    I blinked, feeling my own doubts dwindling away as I knew what I had to do.

    "I... I will accept the request, your Majesty," I ultimately replied with a serious voice. "I will help Fourier to become the greatest King possible-"

    "If he wins-" Miklotov tried to point out, only for me to smile.

    "When he wins, Mr. McMahon."

    --------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d-----
    Afterthoughts: Thousands of apologies for skipping regular updating. Things here have been quite troubling over Covid-19 (no infections, just the messy measures being messy to understand) and I had to help my sister over his school's online lessons and exams. (P.S. I got her to get a 10/10 in a History of Art English exam, yay.)
    But let us focus back on the plot now, shall we. The ripples have indeed ruptured some bits of the future... but some decisions aren't going to never change.


    While many are surely going to be confused with my decisions, I remind you that only King Randohal was most known to the people of Lugnica and that Fourier was one of the least known because of his reclusive nature.

    The Elections aren't going to start anytime soon as... someone will be discovered only two years after this point. (CoughFeltCough) So... next chapter is the return to Erindor and the resuming of some proper administration. First some affection with the kids and to see how things are faring with the new 'housekeeper'.

    P.S. This doesn't mean that Felix, Fourier and Crusch aren't going to appear until two years from now. Since the election is still far from beginning, there still will be some visits from them (even individual ones) and I can assure you that a 'new' character is going to join the messy group that follows this strange Mayor.

    Lastly, I've started some stories (Fate Last Heaven (Sassy OC lead in the HF route/possible Illya route?), Tales of Two Kings (Dude is sent in Fateverse Londinium and becomes King... among Kings.) and Learning: Affection (If you loved The Golden Month, then you might be delighted with the Learning Curves story I have out now!).

    ...

    And now some Omake!

    --------------------------------------
    Omake 5: It's just a sleepover
    --------------------------------------


    Maybe I should have expected something like this to happen... or maybe I shouldn't have.

    Fourier didn't seem to be having any trouble with this situation. Actually, I was pretty sure that this is what he had truly planned to do.

    At first I had thought that his request was a simple and innocent one, to have what I knew as a sleepover inside his room.

    He wanted to have some company. To spare some words with someone trustworthy.

    And now I was stuck to face this odd predicament in this incredibly silent room.

    There were no words, there were no hints of sleepover.

    There was no makeshift bed and... Fourier was currently resting his head on the pillow beside mine.

    We were sharing his large bed, the ample space of the mattress allowing the two of us to stay there without getting too close to each other.

    There wasn't much contact between us, but we were fairly close to one another. Enough to not create some awkward situation from what was initiated as a mere sleepover.

    I let out a quiet yawn as I continued to calmly stare at the dark ceiling above, unsure about what to make of this circumstance and... the young man seemed to be far from sleeping.

    His snoring was just far too light to be the one of someone sleeping and I knew that he was pretty loud when he was truly resting so... what was he planning to do? Wait for me to go to sleep.

    I wasn't in the mood of seeing where this was planning to truly go and thus I let my own thoghts, those born from the recent serious discoveries, keep me up for a little longer than my usual time to go to sleep.

    I managed to stay perfectly awake for about an hour before starting to get a little bit tired and... and I was still far from falling asleep.

    I was annoyed by my worries for keeping me up for so long but just as I pondered over the simple action of merely close my eyes a little to let myself rest for a while, I felt something press on my feet.

    Eyes widening up in surprise, I stared at the other end of the bed and I noticed a fairly noticeable bulge hiding below the covers of the bed.

    It soon moved and I felt the familiar touch slowly making its way over my upper body and towards my face as... I moved the covers up to reveal a familiar smiling face.

    A pair of yellow eyes glowed back at me.

    "Hello there," I half-whispered to Felix as the Demi-human carefully settled his chin on my chest.

    "Hi~."

    "So... why are you here, Ferris?" I inquired tiredly, the cat-eared knight humming quietly.

    "Heard Fourier saying something about you sleeping in his room and I guess this really is a sleepover, right?"

    "It seems so," I replied back to him, glancing at the blond and... I found him staring back.

    The young man blinked as he glanced at Felix. "Oh, Ferris is here?" The prince asked with a note of surprise, some sleepiness in his voice too while he addressed the intruder.

    "Yep, I'm here nyow~," The brunet answered back as he let out a soft yawn. "I'm sorry that I was late, Marcus was keeping me for a late shift."

    "It's... It's alright, I guess we can discuss about 'that' later."

    So Felix was meant to join the sleepover too? And what was Fourier talking about?

    The second question was quick to solve as there were very few things that the blond might be needing some advice about and only one where Felix was the most useful to listen to.

    "We could talk about 'that' now," I proposed while staring up at the ceiling.

    The prince huffed at my words.

    "You don't even know what I want to talk about-"

    "It's about Crusch, isn't it?" I interjected with a quiet voice. "Look, we've been through this for a while and-"

    "He is trying to ask her out for a date."

    Felix's comment was good enough to give me a glimpse of the real problem the young man was experiencing, and while I ignored the prince's effort to appear annoyed by this 'betrayal', I decided to press for more.

    "What is exactly the issue?"

    He opened his mouth and then closed his lips before saying anything.

    This silence lasted for a couple of seconds before he actually tried to convey some explanation about the matter.

    "I... I want to court her," The young man answered nervously. "It's been years now and... and I want to really try to create something meaningful between her and I."

    I hummed at his words and nodded. "So you want to form a romantic relationship with her... and you don't know where to start, right?"

    ...

    "Yes."

    I had a small smile on my face. "Then I will give you a little advice about something I've noticed about her... but you have to promise me that you will never told her that I'm saying this to you, okay?"

    Ferris frowned. "Something important about Lady Karsten?"

    "Quite."

    Fourier yawned, eyelids half-closed as he gave me a tired nod. "Tell me."

    "Crusch is a very intelligent woman with a good friendship with you and Ferris-"

    "And you too, Johnyah," The Demi-human piped in while snuggling on my chest. "She actually wanted to talk with ya tomorrow morning."

    I blinked. "Business-stuff, I suppose."

    The cat-eared knight gave a curt nod and I returned to the main topic of the conversation.

    "A-Anyway," I said while drawing a quick yawn. "Lady Karsten is not good in emotion-related circumstances such as... love."

    The prince frowned. "I think I was aware of that already."

    "-Because she doesn't have someone which she is intimately trusting enough to get some answers about her own doubts about her emotions," I interrupted with a huff, glancing at the blond. "She doesn't have her mother to ask about these new feelings, possibly bottling those up to question about those alone and in private... which is a terrible idea."

    "So you mean to tell me that... Lady Karsten might be in love with His Highness already?" Ferris inquired with a curious tone, slightly confused about this development but I shook my head.

    "Not truly. I believe that she might see Fourier as a close friend, far 'closer' than friendship should allow," I explained properly. "Crusch has taken a shine for him and I've noticed this by how easily she conceded about the first-name basis she now shares with Fourier-"

    "B-But she call you and Ferris by your first name too and-"

    "I'm slightly below her rank, Fourier," I interrupted the prince back. "And Ferris is a knight loyal to her that she had known for a long time now. You are the crown prince and... someone that is way higher in the social pyramid. To quickly submit to the opportunity to address you as 'Fourier', despite her overly-polite mannerism, I would say that she is indeed interested in you."

    He blinked in surprise at my words, yet he didn't seem truly convinced. "What if she considers me just as a... sibling?"

    "Improbable," Felix answered with a quiet humming coming from his throat, it sounded similar to a purr. "Lady Karsten would have been less tense about it if it had been the case. I know that for sue and... what if Johnyah is right?"

    "You could try to go out with her on a date."

    ...

    "A what?"

    I blinked as I realized that in a sleep-induced daze I had forgotten that courting was far stricter than dating. And that dating wasn't a thing yet.

    "A generally friendly hang out," I reiterated swiftly. "You spare some time together maybe for a walk on a place you know she likes, talking to her until lunch and have some time there too to enjoy each other company. Then, once things are done, your answer will be over how she will react when you will say 'It was a lovely day to spend with you, Crusch, and I hope that we can share this once again in the near future'."

    "W-What kind of reaction?" The prince pressed on, clearly interested by the matter and ignoring the soft amused hum coming from Ferris.

    "If she merely smiles and gives you a nod, then it means she only sees you as a friend," I started to answer, the first scenario deflating the blond a little. "But if she actually blushes and perhaps stutter even lightly something like 'I am flattered by your kind words, your highness', then that means she is interested on you."

    "T-That's it?"

    "Well, that would be the beginning," I replied quickly. "From there it will be up to you to plan out how to nurture the seed of love to produce the fruits you can truly enjoy... with your possible lover."

    He blushed at the mentioning of Crusch as his lover and, while he seemed ready to press for more, I decided to slowly let go of my awake state.

    Ferris was quietly snoring on my chest, a mix of human noise and cat-like purring making me slowly lose my grasp over my consciousness as I slipped away in the dream world.

    Fourier had to surely waste some time pondering over my words, but he eventually fall asleep as...

    The next morning, I found his head resting on my shoulder while his arms were wrapped around my right arm.

    What a curious predicament I found myself into.
     
  10. JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    Decided to finally change the threadmarks with the ones I use in FFN. Have fun with the titles! xD
     
  11. Threadmarks: This is about normalcy (and Cannons!)
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    31 June - 11 July 422

    I admit that the return to normalcy was something I hadn't expected to see happening so suddenly.

    Sure, I had thought that once I had been back bashing my heads onto some proper paperwork that things, and that I could have been blessed with some pleasant calm.

    Several days later and I was already coming to regret that I thought this to be a possibility with my busy role as mayor of a city.

    Erindor had recovered from the attack from Gusteko, but several things have been left unsettled while I had been absent and some issues had requested my direct intervention to see them solved.

    But the first topic I decided to brave was contacting Satella via the mirror, deciding to make use of that silent travel back home to talk with her.

    The elf was immensely relieved when she first saw me. Worry and panic had kept her thinking the worst after I had reached the castle, and despite assuring her that nothing bad had happened to me, her reaction to some of my narration was less that stellar.

    She was concerned about the fact that I had come so close to monsters, how I risked my life to prevent an assassination attempt (which turned out to be an unnecessary action from my part), and how I had encountered Pandora.

    My survival left her surprised, shocked even at the idea that I had been able to not be influenced by the Authority of Vainglory.

    The Witch herself was quite terrified by the prospect of fighting someone as frightening as the young girl, stating that her powers weren't enough to match up with Pandora's magical potential.

    Something that was both confusing and horrifying, especially since I had thought for so long that Satella would have known more about Pandora.

    But this very thought was shattered when the young woman admitted that this 'new Witch' hadn't been around when she was still wandering the world freely.

    In fact, the only reason why she was aware of the fellow Witch's presence was all connected to her odd scent and power.

    Troublesome news for sure, but this first conversation after so long ended up in a somewhat comedic escalation as I decided to point out the fact that I had refused to accept the crown over the kingdom.

    She mentioned all the luxuries and the privileges I would have enjoyed in that position of power, the ambitious plans that I could have concocted to unify the world and... other silly stuff like making mandatory tea-times.

    I guess that's a Witch's obsession.

    The reasoning I had then presented her seemed to mollify her shock, yet part of her was saddened by the fact I hadn't accepted. Perhaps she had expected for me to free her somehow if I had become the monarch of Lugnica.

    Even reminding her that the proposal had been just a test and that there hadn't been truly a possibility for me to become the ruler of the kingdom seemed to soothe her just barely.

    Once the discussion had been concluded in quite the friendly but saddened tone, I spent some time thinking about the unpleasant circumstances that Satella had been forced to live into.

    Her partially-desperate tone was not only a sign that she openly trusted me, but that she was also hating the 'beautiful heaven' she had been living reclused for centuries now.

    It had to have been quite the maddening experience, to stay in that garden of flowers where the sun was always up... and nobody was there to offer some thoughts or even some company.

    Disheartening, but sadly there was little I knew that I could do to help her as of now.

    The current seals kept both her and her darker self into that limited space, and I knew that playing around with the powerful spell imprisoning her could possibly free the Witch of Envy from her own prison.

    Not something I was willing to risk, especially with Reinhard being the only one capable of keeping up with someone of her caliber.

    It was infuriating how I couldn't just help her, how impotent I was over saving someone that seemed to be so innocent.

    I was confused by many things about the past, about why Flugel did what he had to do if he knew about the duality of Satella, about why Pandora existed and...

    Satella was still unwilling to let out answers about the first question. Flugel was the prohibited topic in any discussion and no persuasive argument managed to get through her stubborn resilience over this instance.

    The rest of the trip went well and smooth, with nobody having set any ambushes along the way.

    I was partly confused by the uneventfulness of this not-so-short trip back to Erindor, but I suspected that Pandora was merely being cautious about attacking me.

    Thinking back to how her mind worked, I could see her waiting patiently for me to slip out any major flaws that she could exploit with some of her minions.

    I had to prepare for any sudden attack from any of the Archbishops the moment I reached back home. I knew that it would be a matter of time for Pandora to strike back after this period of planning.

    I could counter Petelguese and Regulus, the rest being currently too strong for me to elaborate some good plans to beat them with their known flaws.

    Still, I accepted the peaceful path back to Erindor as I was graced with quite the warm welcome when I walked beyond the open gates.

    Two silver-haired missiles coming to crash at my chest for some quick hugs and I was more than happy to dispense those after so much time had passed since I had last seen the twins.

    Hans and Fritz looked excited at my presence, incredibly giddy but also quick to politely back away when a certain weary woman made her presence known with a fake cough.

    I blinked, staring right up to see the small smile on the face of Hannah Regret as the maid gave me a proper bow. "Lord Bukharin, I see that you have made a safe return home."

    "Hannah," I bowed my head, smiling happily at her genuine calm. "Felix sends you his love, and he hopes that the letters have arrived."

    She tensed up a little, but the brunette smiled a little more at this comment. "They have arrived, yes, and... I've read that your stay at the castle has been fairly eventful."

    I nodded at her, proceeding to start walking with her and the two children towards the patiently waiting Ser Orestes.

    "Some minor bumps, nothing truly concerning-"

    "I was referring to the fact that my son regards you as a 'big brother'," She interjected mirthfully and I sighed at that.

    "He mentioned me like that? I guess he was meaning it when he said it back at the castle," I muttered calmly. "I hope this is no reason to create issues with you."

    She blinked, eyes growing wide for a moment. "And why should I? I think it's good that Ferris receives some more affection. In fact, I would daresay that I approve of it."

    "Understood," I said while nodding once more at her. "And... have been there any issues about settling there, maybe someone creating any issues."

    "If I've to be honest... no," The woman concluded with a sigh. "I admit the new role requires more attention from my part, but the servants seem to understand perfectly how a proper work for each of their roles is done."

    Our conversation was then interrupted as we stopped by the old knight that had been watching over the city.

    "Ser Orestes, I hope I hadn't been away for too long," I greeted him with a half-apology. "I understand that things have slowly calmed down in the last few days."

    "Most of the older problems have, Mayor," The man admitted with a tired smile. "But the rumors of your recent deeds have caused quite the influx of newcomers to settle here in this city."

    I blinked in surprise at this development. Sure, I had expected some stuff to reach out and wide in the kingdom, but to actually have some migrants to reach out for the city?

    Now I was interested about this topic.

    "What kind of people have come here principally? Any similarity among the newcomers?"

    "Many are small families groups trying to have a proper place to settle down. Away from the less-safe villages around the county," Orestes replied calmly. "But there has been a strong majority of young people coming here too. Men and women that were quickly introduced to some of the vacant workplaces that you have been commissioning before leaving."

    "Oh? So there have been new soldiers-"

    "And some helpers for the new construction business," The old man interrupted with a sigh. "The group is growing steadily and new buildings are planned to be build by the second half of July."

    "So early on?" I inquired with some awe in my voice. "I thought it would have taken much more than that."

    "With the new workers, some project have been rescheduled to happen earlier than initially planned," Orestes pointed out. "But there have been request to expand the first plan to include more projects so that the company can keep everyone busy and working."

    I nodded. "I think I can add some more buildings to the queue," I conceded with a sigh, my mind drifting away from the conclusion of the conversation as we started to make way towards the mansion.

    The rest of the day was evenly spent between giving attention to the boys and drowning into the paper & ink that has been waiting for me by my desk.

    I sneezed a few times during this last activity as I felt like, for some reason, someone had thought me well to be dealing with this annoyance.

    Why do I feel like I should curse cousin Joseph?

    Groans returned to be noises that would be let out once or twice in a while as I finally resumed something that I had been somewhat missing for sometime now.

    The expansion of the current projects was finalized with a proper ordinance that allowed for the inclusion of some little experiment that I had planned to try out early on.

    The implementation of greenhouses was something that I had pondered for some time now, and it had been one of the first initiatives I've been wanting to try out in this medieval era.

    With magic being a reality, I was able to add some little notes to the document describing the importance of coordinating the expertise of professional mages and experienced farmers in the realization of the 'ideal farm'.

    The creation of the perfect habitat, the undeniable chance of making crops without risking any sudden issues created by droughts or dangerous plant diseases.

    The quicker I solved the issues of the farms located outside the safe walls of the city, the less damage the Witch Cult was going to cause when they decided to finally strike.

    It would give me the chance of modernize the agricultural sector while I planned out how exactly I was going to kickstart an industry within the city.

    Magic offered the means to bypass the troubles of using non-renewable energies that could cause several issues, from pollution to the need of having a grand reserve of resources to keep up with the demand, and I was going to abuse the system as much as possible with how 'limitless' the magical potential was.

    So with the entire first day passed quickly and without much of a problem, I found sleep to be easy to attain... but the resulting meeting with Edna proved to be much more than I had thought it was going to be.

    The moment I fell to my slumber, I felt instantly detached from reality as my mind drove me deep in my consciousness and...

    I was free-falling into my doom.

    My eyes widened in utter panic as I felt the wind coming upward onto my face, the immense darkness welcoming me as I continued my descent into what looked to be an infinite abyss.

    I screamed a little early on, the sudden sensation of seeing my body going through that experience, the sense of death approaching as my body braced for a horrible 'crunch' that didn't seem to be actually coming.

    After several minutes of confusingly trying to make sense of this utter nightmare, my worries were washed away at the familiar sound of... giggles.

    I blinked, my attention turning right to see a smiling Edna enjoying the fall right near to where I was.

    "This is so amazing!" The girl exclaimed happily, giddily letting her body move around without much of an input. "Ivan is so right, this is truly cool!"

    I groaned at the mentioning of the mad prince, but my immediate interest was the fact that this was all created by Echidna's fragment.

    "Edna!"

    The loud call seemed to draw her attention instantly to me.

    Charcoal orbs stared at me with childish wonder, the white-haired girl's smile almost cracking her entire face but she nodded.

    "Hello John!" She giggled again. "It's been so long and- why couldn't I reach you?!"

    Edna's sudden mood swing took me by surprise, but I managed to reply quite quickly at her question. "The place I've been staying at was protected by some ancient wards that messed up with long-ranged spells."

    A hint of realization struck on her face and she nodded, giddiness returning full-strength in her expression. "I see and... catch me!"

    I barely had enough to let the words sink in that I had her headbutt into me, her arms wrapping around my waist, and my fall increasing its speed toward the nothingness.

    I yelped a little before having my own arms wrap pull close onto Edna, her head nuzzling close as the fall continued so endlessly and... so calmly.

    It was lulling after a couple more of minutes had passed and... I could feel the pseudo-Witch keep close.

    "Is everything alright, Edna?" I dropped out with a hum, and while she kept quiet, I could feel her arms tensing up.

    "Everything is fine!" She squealed in faux-amusement and I sighed, my right hand moving careful up behind her head.

    The tension started to slowly melt away as I kept her close a little while, maintaining the silence as I thought about what I was supposed to do about this very case.

    While Edna wasn't Echidna about advanced sociopathy, her lack of connection between her feelings and her logical side rendered her close to a child much to her immense displeasure.

    If she felt something was hurting her, the response would be to think to something else that brings her immediate happiness.

    Like the 'fun' born from flying senselessly into a neverending blank hole, away from all concerns and worries.

    "I'm sorry," I blurted out, my brain kind of messy for how quickly the world was spinning. "I know I should have tried to... do something about it."

    ...

    "It's not your fault," She admitted with a genuine sigh. "I- I can see when you are lying and when you are not. You were telling the truth."

    I hummed quietly as the world finally shifted back to the usual bed, with her now resting atop of my chest as I stared down at her pained eyes.

    "You missed me a lot, didn't you?"

    She blinked and looked away from me for a couple of seconds.

    "Ivan is... nice," Edna started to say. "He can be fun, he can be entertaining... but he isn't the same nice as you are."

    She moved her chin onto my chest, staring directly at my face. "You can be funny, but you prefer to be caring rather than amusing. My happiness swell all the same, but it isn't out of pure entertaintment."

    ...

    "Why?" The girl inquired quietly. "Why is it simple to gain happiness from mere talking? Why extreme actions, those activities that are meant to make people feel alive, just don't satisfy me when you are not here?"

    Now, wasn't that a big question?

    "Everyone has a limit. Everything is limited for a person despite how 'unlimited' it can be, from writing to drawing, from working to lazying around," I started to explain with a calm tone. "This is why life needs variety instead of a repetitive lifestyle. You can do the things you love the most, but sometime you must stop for a moment and get the chance of experience something else. The novelty refresh your mind and body, it exalts your interest in doing something meaningful instead of dully think how to waste time."

    "So it's just because... I grow tired of having fun the way Ivan likes?"

    "That's just part of the reason," I answered her query. "There is also the fact that I think you care for me, am I right?"

    She blinked. "And why is that important?"

    "Because... humans can die from loneliness, but we are better in holding up against it compared to... bunnies."

    Edna hummed. "Bunnies?"

    "The little fluffy things. The very representation of purity and kindness are actually the ones that suffer the most when they are left alone," I muttered with a tired voice. "Everything loses color, food turns stale, and the world with everything and everyone in it becomes inconsequential."

    "That's dreadful," The pseudo-witch mused. "Why is loneliness a thing?"

    "Loneliness exists because we know that we care for someone or something," I replied quietly. "It's the ultimate proof that we genuinely care for people and that people cares back."

    Her eyes widened at this words and she sighed.

    "Is that so?"

    But before I could have had the chance of giving her a proper response, I felt myself getting tugged by reality.

    I blinked and sighed sadly. "Yes it is and... we will continue this discussion tomorrow."

    "Are you waking up?" She inquired in a half-whisper, almost sounding annoyed by this but I hummed.

    "I'm waking up... but I want to continue this conversation," I confirmed with some determination. "I think we have lots to talk about, especially since I've got some fun stories to tell you."

    Her eyes shone brightly. "Really?"

    "Yep," I answered curtly.

    Then the imaginary world started to crumble away as I found myself back on my back to enjoy the new morning.

    And from there a full week of peace was granted to me.

    Some insanity was still there to keep me up on my toes, between the talks with Satella and Edna to the daily troubles rising from new developments either from home or within Erindor.

    The city enjoyed some careful planning, and the inhabitants were blessed with some economic boon with the growing activities there.

    Mages and farmers concluded their meetings about lying down the plans for their compromise over the 'Greenhouse Project' about two days after my return and the statal construction company began creating the first experimental buildings that were meant to contain the first crops of grain.

    Four more days would pass for these to be completed, and the early results of the project gave some optimistic outlook of the near future.

    The military force wasn't neglected during this period of calm, knowing way too better that a standing army during peacetime was going to become an important asset in case of conflicts.

    My mind was directed at Volacchia and at its non-negligible militarist government.

    While the Emperor was the head of state, the other members of the Nine-Divine Generals had something of a dislike for Lugnica.

    The rivalry probably stemmed from the continuous clashes by the border, the skirmishes that would then ensue mostly ending in the Dragon Kingdom's favor.

    Something that was worrying considering how delicate the current situation was with the King being a few weeks away from passing away and with the Royal Election now something unavoidable.

    Said concern translated into a need to modernize the current equipment.

    I had planned to bring in rifles, skipping the whole mess that were muskets, but the main issue to this first plan was the lack of precise tools to create adequate equipment.

    Smiths didn't have the means to put on reality the concept of rifle, even muskets turning out to be quite the distant utopia with how things were right now.

    Erindor was still a remote city compared to many other major settlements near the capital and it lacked the manpower to achieve the degree of modernization I wanted it to go through.

    But I didn't desist from pursuing something that would bring a serious advantage in any conflicts and... I found the solution while studying some books in the manor's library.

    Looking through some designs left around by ancient scientists of Lugnica trying to introduce the gunpowder as a step forward for warfare, I ended up spotting some rudimentary schemes that seemed to allude to cannons.

    The issue with rifles was the lack of precision in producing the small pieces required to make the guns work, but trying to create a cannon proved to be an idea easier to realize.

    Six days after my return, I was asked by Orestes to assist to the presentation of the finished piece.

    The artillery was tracked by two horses that rode it up one of the nearby hills to Erindor and its target, a large carriage without wheels, was settled on the direction opposite to the city.

    The old knight was unsure about the effectiveness and true purpose of the new weapon, but instead of whine about it, he preferred to keep quiet while standing beside me and let the test go through.

    Part of me was nervous about the gun missing its target since it was an early prototype for something that was known for its chances of missing.

    Yet, much to my surprise, the gun didn't make the usual loud bark as it shot its metal ball and... the explosion made sure to introduce some loud noises to the world around us.

    The target was obliterated in smitheerens, incredible smoke covering the general area where the chariot had been.

    My jaws dropped low, but Orestes looked to be the most shocked among the military officers studying the experiment and I glanced at the operator, the man now smiling giddily as he approached.

    "How was the surprise, Mayor?" The burly individual inquired eagerly. "We decided to engrave some runes to reduce the issue of the loud bark and make some perfect precision. But of course it costed more and-"

    "How difficult was to engrave the runes?" I interrupted with a tense voice, my mouth almost salivating at what I had just seen.

    Holy Napoleon and Moltke Sr., this is the wet dream for any artillery-focused general.

    A mostly-soundless and precise siege artillery piece!

    I scolded myself for forgetting about magic for this crucial instance, but the childish glee at having these big boys roll out now was more than enough to drown down that disappointment.

    The entire day fleeted swiftly as I happily went through my duties and my family moments in relative piece, finally having the chance of replying to some mail coming from the capital and... Karsten's domains.

    Crusch's letter was one that kept some lingering friendly politeness that appeared to be more like positive formality hiding some careful poking at seeing what kind of responses she would get from me and... I ended up replying positively myself, still keeping a polite and formal manner.

    There was no reason for me to drop the pleasantries with the Duchess and I was sure that only patience would get through her shell.

    Then there was the dual message coming from Fourier and Felix.

    The former could be summarized with three simple words:

    I'm bored.

    Which was pretty normal considering that Fourier and I have been spending so much time together and... then I realized that there were also five more words about its summarized version:

    I might visit soon too.

    That was a development I took with mixed emotions. I was glad to have the prince around and all, but I thought well enough that he would have avoided getting to visit so soon now that his father was still ill and in need of some familial support.

    And while I didn't know how to deal with this circumstance, I was given the sugar cub by concluding the mail-reading by looking through Ferris'.

    The Demi-human wrote with quite the cheerful style, bringing up only the topics that in his opinion were best suited to entertain what should normally be a conversation. I was caught off-guard by such mannerism, yet I couldn't help but chuckle at how he would describe some of the people he was supposed to work with.

    Fourier was spared the worst of the cat-eared knight's creativity, being labeled only as 'Fouri', while Reinhard was called 'Reddy' and Julius was 'Pricky'.

    I almost chocked at the plum-haired guy's nickname, feeling almost saddened by the 'odd fate' reserved for him, but then I conceded to a full-blown laugh when it came to the part describing Captain Marcus.

    I was aware that Felix didn't look highly at the chill Knight Captain, but I had to admit that the childishness of calling him 'Cube-head' was... immensely endearing.

    I replied to both young men, telling Fourier that if he needed to ask or say something, that he could still do it through letters and... Ferris was given a spiritual head-pat for giving me a little amusement note to think about for the rest of the day.

    With such a delightful day, I expected the one that followed this to be even better.

    So, feeling my morale soaring from the very beginning of the morning, I prepared myself for whatever was going to happen and-

    A letter came quite early, Ser Orestes personally delivering it to my desk.

    It was a formal invitation from a County located just a few miles away from Erindor and the newest ruler had requested my presence to solve some 'incredible mess' left about by the former liege of that land.

    I blinked in surprise at the fact that someone was already asking me to make up for my new role as 'Protector of the Northern District', but I wasn't going to shy the request given by a-

    ...No.

    This is- No, I refuse.

    I REFUSE TO-

    A few hours later, I had everything packed with a little squad of bodyguards following me outside of Erindor and deep on the east where the nearby castle was supposed to be.

    I sighed, I groaned and I felt very reluctant that I had to go to do something that I was sure going to detest immensely.

    I can already hear the screeches forming in my brain as... my little enourage reached the entrance and stopped so that I could stare at the woman that was standing right by the entrance with her own group.

    Chocolate brown eyes clashed against blazing blood-red orbs.

    And my brain was already aching at the prospect that I was going to solve whatever issue Priscilla Barielle was dealing with.

    ---------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-------

    Afterthoughts: You thought that she wouldn't have returned until the proper opening of the Royal Elections... but here she is in her full glory.
    Goddammit, Priscilla!


    ...

    Do I hear 'Omake'?

    ---------------------------
    Omake 6: Hannah's Arrival
    ---------------------------

    When she stepped outside of the carriage and gave a glance right at Erindor, Hannah Regret had thought that things would have just a little better compared to her previous situation with Lord Argyle.

    The welcoming entourage had felt genuine, with the chivalrous Ser Orestes proving to be more than honest in promising her utmost acceptance for her arrival.

    It had sounded so odd, yet so pleasant to perceive so early on and the woman had replied with a calm 'Thank you' as she gave another look around and... noticed the two fox-eared heads peeking from the entrance.

    Two little boys, both looking to be the twins that Lord Bukharin had mentioned to her, were staring at her quietly and they didn't seem shocked too much to have her glance upon them.

    Their ears shared a brief collective twitch as she slowly was led inside the manor, with the rest of the servants following closely behind her.

    "The house has been properly cleaned, Madam Regret," Orestes mentioned quietly. "There is a regular schedule that has been approved by Mayor Bukharin and-"

    "I think that makes me less useful if the cleaning schedule has been already been decided, good Ser."

    The interruption almost made the weary knight trip on his own feet, but the man merely blinked in minor shame.

    "I didn't meant to devalue your importance, Madam Regret," He commented tightly, careful to not 'trip' again before her sight. "I wish to apologize if-"

    "I'm no Madam, good Ser," The maid interjected with a melancholic tone. "I'm but just a lowborn servant."

    She had thought that her comment would have had him trip again... yet he surprised the woman with a sudden tension in his posture.

    Instead of showing embarrassment, there was some upset in his eyes.

    "I was made Ser by my merits and my loyalty, not out of noble blood like many others," He retorted in quite the stern but forgiving voice. "I was but a farmer's child, a young and naive fellow that worked to gain this position and wisdom."

    Hannah's eyes widened in surprise as the knight took a step closer, but he didn't sound menacing with his looming figure. Rather he looked fiercely determined in his expression.

    "So I shall consider you Madam Regret," He concluded with a nod. "As I know that the title is more than deserved."

    It wasn't.

    Her years of service as a loyal servant to the Argyle Family had all crumbled and turned into a bad omen instead of a boon.

    The house had betrayed the kingdom, all for the sake of a foolish man's desperate plan to keep his honor intact before his wife. Hannah Argyle had discovered the deception committed behind her back, the unfaithfulness that had saw the birth of the 'unique' Ferris.

    Emotions were never something the Lord Argyle was known to restrain, and in a moment of passion what was left of his family perished by his mindless hands.

    He had paid dearly for his betrayal, the righteous royal tribunal was known to spare no mercy for murderers and traitorous lords, and while it wasn't the direct plan she had wanted to go through with, the old maid knew that justice was unavoidable now.

    But while she mused over the sad nature of her survival, by the hands of a seemingly-kind Mayor that cared well for her child, the next scene drew a new color in what was going to be her new life here in Erindor.

    She felt a subtle tug by her left arm and her eyes were granted quite the fascinating sight as the twins were standing in front of her... holding what looked to be a couple of silver roses.

    Hannah blinked, surprise swelling from within her chest as she glanced at the nervous looks on both boys.

    "Pretty flowers for a pretty lady," The child without glasses proclaimed quietly, getting a wide-eyed stare from the weary old woman.

    The two demi-humans were smiling, trying to show some positive effort in this first contact and... her tears quivered down her cheeks.

    A sob died quickly, she didn't want to scare the two poor children and she quietly took the gorgeous roses in her hands. "Those are... really some pretty flowers."

    Her comment got wider smiles from both boys, but before she could continue with her words at such a delightful act of kindness, the woman tensed up when she felt a robust hand carefully grasp at her arm.

    "Madam, perhaps you require something for you tears?"

    The query felt oddly stronger than it seemed to be, her heart skipping a beat as she glanced back at the concerned look on Orestes' face and...

    She blinked.

    He was handsome alright despite the age, possibly close to hers, but what made her cheeks flare in a traitorous red was the genuineness of his worries.

    Was this- Could it be-

    But no. Not now, at least.

    Emotions barely kept at bay, she silently nodded at him as he slowly led her back to where the kitchen was and Hannah felt somehow enlightened by this mere introduction to her new life.

    None of the dull walls of the Argyle's mansion, instead this house seemed to be filled with hints of colors that she had long lost after becoming ward of the now-deceased family.

    A time when she still had her mother and father, when her older brother would chant the entertaining adventures of becoming a knight and serve the king.

    Happier times, times that were slowly bringing her back to a state of humanity she had long thought lost.

    Maybe, perhaps...

    No, it had to be so.

    Her life, which had been pretty worthless and forfeit until a few days ago, seemed to regain the value she had given to it before surrendering her soul to the horrible deception ordealed by a mad nobleman.

    The tears flowed pleasantly, no longer out of pain... but out of joy.

    For the first time after decades of hateful self-imprisonment, Hannah Regret was set free before a prettier world.

    --------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d-------

    Some would ask why Hannah and other 'secondary' characters are getting this much deep when the series has a 'main cast'. Re:Zero, despite the usual attachment to the classic genre of Isekai, still is something that strive to attain realism from a magical-medieval world.

    People gain valor the more Subaru interacts with them, but this isn't Subaru's stories. This one is made by someone that interacts with this world in a different fashion, in a different time, and with a different cast of people.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  12. Threadmarks: This is about a broken girl
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    11 July 422

    Priscilla looked angry. Truly a novelty, what a glorious surprise-

    But my irritation at the prospect of cleaning after whatever she had messed about with her new fief was big enough to drive any ounce of sarcasm hidden, only to be replaced by some dull hints of annoyance.

    I wasn't angry, just annoyed.

    Both at the fact that Erindor was so close to the Barielle Estate, and at the fact that the blonde was sure as hell going to make quite the common thing to harass me with 'requests of help'.

    Is this the medieval 'Is your fridge running'? I can see an odd correlation between the two seemingly unconnected things.

    ...Yet my attention was drawn at the fact that when I was allowed to finally get off from my ride, the young woman had restrained herself from hound me that very moment, keeping herself looking around instead of pressing some importance over a quick discussion of what she might have caused with her presence here.

    I waved at Al, the helmeted guy replied with a quick wave of his lone arm. I noticed someone shorter peeking from behind him, and I blinked in surprise when I realized whom it was.

    Really short, something that was a strong sign that dignified his still-developing body. The young boy with pink hair and red eyes looked to be slightly surprised by my stare, but he didn't seem willing to shy away as I took note of his butler-like clothes.

    Who would have thought that Schultz would have appeared so early on.

    My mind quickly brought up the little info available about this little guy. Loyal to the core to Priscilla, the blonde loved him like a son (for some reason that sounds so odd and so wrongs), and I can now see why Subaru described his appearance as if 'inducing an immoral feeling'.

    I was having way too many vibes about another pink-haired guy from another series and... hopefully, that connection didn't transcend beyond the mere hair color.

    Turning back to the owner of this little stronghold, I was given a stern look from the woman. I started to approach her, slowly but steadily, eyeing warily around for any signs of clues that could help me make understand what truly was wrong here.

    While I wasn't going to ignore the possibility that she might as well have made use of this 'emergency' excuse just to annoy me after the little 'loss' suffered against my lack of interest over her 'self-proclaimed' supremacy over everything and everyone, the probability of this being the case was dashed away by a couple of elements that were already evident there without even starting a conversation.

    The first clue was her lack of arrogance, her lack of interest in flaunting around with some big greeting that would then be filled with a mix of self-compliments and swift insults delivered to good ol' me.

    Priscilla's posture was quite tense, not enough for it to make it appear she was truly scared, but that would highlight that she herself was slightly concerned with what was going on within the castle she has inherited.

    I finally stopped beside her, ready to hopefully greet her without getting burned for no apparent reason, but before I had the chance to even mutter a single word, the woman huffed and started to pace right towards where the main entrance of the stronghold was.

    I blinked, silently walking to try and keep up with her as our combined retinues started to follow our movements. I was confused, not too much, but still surprised by her lack of verbal interactions.

    I expected the silence to last for a longer time, but this wasn't the case as my ears were assaulted by a curt but strong sentence.

    "It's your fault."

    I blinked again, my features hardening a little at that. "What?"

    "It's your fault," She repeated, her tone tightening. "You pressed me to take this fief. And now I've to deal with this non-negligible issue."

    I hummed at those words, even more confused at the direct confrontation I was being subjected with... for something that might have happened there without my knowledge?

    This was the first time I had to come and aid some other settlement outside of Erindor's sphere of influence, but the genuineness of her voice over my 'guilt' seemed to be incredibly truthful on her part. Which made me question more about what the hell was going on here.

    "Care to elaborate my crimes, Priscilla?" I asked politely and she huffed.

    "Baroness," She corrected swiftly, a hint of annoyance in her voice. "And the crime is that you hadn't mentioned that my 'husband' had a demon in his dungeon."

    ...A demon?

    My brain was thinking deeply about this little detail, starting to draw some lines about what truly was happening right now.

    "That's a big accusation?" I pointed out cluelessly, making the woman pause mid-walk, interrupting both me and the rest of the following behind us right in that little corridor underground.

    "A massive slight, a deplorable offense," She replied sternly. "And-"

    "Can tell me what kind of demon it is?" I interjected with a question. "You know, the one that I was supposed to somehow be aware about when it was hidden to the rest of the world... despite the fact this is the first time I've ever come to this place."

    She looked incredibly annoyed at the control I had over the conversation, silently resuming her walk while she pondered over my question.

    "It looks like a young girl," The orange-haired woman started to describe. "Pink-hair and some infuriating dark-blue eyes."

    ...Oh no.

    I did forget about that so... I guess I can see it really as a fault of mine.

    To think that I would have truly miss that very important bit about Leip... I really need to write some stuff down. Perhaps a magicked diary that I could only write in and read from.

    But let us step to the issue in the room- castle.

    It was one of the few events that were never explained well in the story, but that I had some backstory about since the demon was connected with the story of EX Volume 2.

    Lewes Meyer was a strange young woman that was several hundreds years ago had decided to make a deal with Echidna over preserving the integrity of the Sanctuary. In exchange for the Witch of Greed to actively protect the special settlement, the girl had to forfeit her body and mind to the devious woman... and from there Echidna had made quite some experiments about.

    Cloning was the first thing she did, taking notice of the young girl's absurd magical potential, and started to try out to make the best clone possible.

    Subaru had to deal with some of the clones back when he and Emilia had decided to free the Sanctuary, but then Echidna had exploited the chaos created by the situation to hijack one of the latest, best clones produced out of that, calling herself 'Omega'.

    But that story was barely fitting with the current instance and the reason why that detour was necessary is connected to the fact that the first clone ever was one of the culprits that had sparked the Demi-Human War.

    Her name was Sphinx, and while her appearance and mannerism were the same as a girl of her age, her grasp over reality itself... wasn't.

    The first clone was an incomplete mess. It didn't have proper emotions, but just diluted forms of those, and her mind was terribly fragmented from some sloppy work from Echidna.

    The only one to actually live Sanctuary, the 'Witch' Sphinx became important for supporting the Demi-Human alliance... and for killing Libre Fermi during the final hours of the War.

    Nothing much was known afterwards... except that she somehow was abducted by Leip Barielle and tortured by the man.

    It was never mentioned the extent of the damage impressed on the girl, now how did the crazy bastard even manage to subdue someone as strong as the girl... but she was here and... I groaned.

    "You mean to tell me that you've not recognized her by just her appearance, Priscilla," I chided quietly about it, drawing a frown out of the young woman's face.

    "Beg your pardon?" She retaliated soon after, causing me to watch behind us and at the retinue, noticing some of the guards tensing up a little at my comment.

    "A couple of decades ago, Lugnica had to quell a rebellion caused by numerous Demi-humans. The Demi-Human War was intense, but brief... and what made it truly memorable was the presence of someone that was considered the Witch's Legacy," I explained very quickly. "Someone that was magically strong enough pressure Roswaal J Mathers to rely on melee fight her way against her."

    "That sounds so absurd and... tell me her name then!" Priscilla shot back without hesitation, causing me to blink in surprise at that, yet I still complied.

    "Her name is... Sphinx."

    Her anger quickly disappeared at that single word, replaced by a shocked expression on her face.

    "So you know about her?"

    "Everyone that had the chance of learning about the stories of the War recognize her name," I pointed out calmly, glancing once more at her guards. "In fact, if you had asked your new guards about this, they would have surely told you at least a fragment of what I just told you. Perhaps failing to offer a name as that detail is quite difficult to learn about."

    She glanced back at the nervous-looking soldiers and then let a sigh leave her lips, saying nothing else as I continued with the little interrogation.

    "Did she retaliate early on? Did you do anything to-"

    "When I found her, she was incredibly tense about getting tortured again," The Baroness admitted with a stern voice, rather irked by my pressing but still offering some more insight over the situation. "She sounded happy that my 'foolish husband' would never return back, and she almost teared up when I, in my infinite mercy, gave her the chance of leaving that horrible place."

    And here is the little 'Priscilla' filter that I was missing about, yet up until now the story wasn't explaining what got Sphinx to react badly enough to make Priscilla freak out so much.

    "But?"

    There was some silence... then she sighed.

    "Then she asked me a silly question, one that I was quick to provide an answer too and... she got angry," The young woman pointed out with a hum. "She said that I was lying to her, that I was going to hurt her too because I was a liar 'like him'."

    "You were forced to leave the room where you found her," I concluded with a sigh. "Still, did she try to make a run for it? Perhaps exploiting the chaos to-"

    "No. I had guards set by the only two ways she could have gone after that," The woman interjected quickly. "She is still in that room."

    Well, at least there was some good news out of this messy issue. Now I had to ponder well how I was going to solve this little predicament.

    "What kind of question did she ask you for her to know you were lying?"

    My query was carefully-phrased to bring up the fact I was aware that Priscilla could have actually lied about anything related to the inquisition of the clone.

    "She asked about my name. What kind of lies do you think I could have said to make her react so badly?"

    It was like a challenge, one she knew she would have lost if I had pressed on, but also won because it would have gotten me in deep waters over the fact I actually knew about her real name.

    I hummed, moving my stare away as I finally noticed that we were finally there.

    I didn't deign her an answer, merely stealing a glance at the closed-up hallway that had just a single open door visible from where we had stopped.

    "I will have to approach this alone," I stated calmly, while glancing at my guards. Some of them looked unsure about my decision, but I gave a solid nod to make them back away from any attempt to not follow the order.

    "I will come with you," Priscilla replied fiercely. "This is my castle, and Sphinx is my issue."

    "Despite your sense of invincibility thanks to the necklace, you shouldn't be getting silly over the magical prowess Sphinx has," I countered with a huff, causing her to tense up a little at me bringing up her 'three-hits save' that was currently hanging by her neck. "Plus, I'm sure enough to say that I will not be attacked during this little interaction."

    "And you call me 'arrogant'?" The orange-haired woman shot back, causing me to snort in amusement at that remark.

    "I've yet to lie to her, Priscilla," I said as I started to walk through the corridor, luckily for me nobody had followed behind me as I reached inside the room and... I was greeted with quite the unexpected sight.

    There were some magical candles offering some illumination over the room, enough to give me some proper look of the dreadful place.

    There were two wooden tables that were both stained in dry blood in the center, more trails of red were painting the floor and up to some workbench with rusty tools that would were meant to be used to torture people.

    Yet the subject of the abuse wasn't visible at first, the candles offering just enough light to show the main elements in that room... and only the shivering of a cloaked figure giving me clues where the little clone was.

    I glanced there, taking a couple of steps inside and stopping between the two tables. With my eyes fixed on the piece of cloak covering the small frame of the 'Witch' I took a couple more steps, right up until I was close enough to crouch to look better at the poor girl.

    Gone was the insensible clone that had brought some important rebellion in Lugnica, gone was the blank expression and the educated mannerism.

    I could only see a visible blue eye staring back at me with a remorseful glance, the other one covered by some of the various bandages over her head.

    Her long hair were now hidden, or actually gone, as only a few pink locks managed to pass through the medical bandages.

    Her lips were twitching as quick, furious whispering was leaving her mouth.

    I'm sorry, she was saying, she lied.

    It was a continuous rehearse of this theme, enough to bring even more distress at merely glancing at what happened to her.

    I sighed and nodded. "She did lie."

    Her whispering stopped as I let out those words.

    Her lone eye widened a lot, expressive incredible awe and surprise.

    "You know that. You really do?"

    I nodded and... she trembled again. "T-That's good." She nodded to herself, breathing nervously as she looked away for a moment.

    I hummed. "I'm not going to hurt you, Sphinx."

    Her trembling ceased again, her lone eye widening even more than before as the girl glanced at me with utter shock.

    "You know me? You know what I did?"

    I nodded at both of her questions, causing her to flinch.

    "A-Are you going to hurt me too then?" Sphinx continued panicky. "I- I did some bad things. I'm a naughty girl and... and the only way to absolve my horrible deeds is... is to suffer."

    ...

    I sighed, then I reached out for the top of her head.

    Her visible eye closed shut, and her body tensed as if waiting for more pain as I slowly hovered my palm over the top of her head and... patted her there.

    Her fear lasted for a couple of silent minutes, her tension slowly melting the more she failed to perceive any harm on herself.

    I was careful in my ministrations, trying my best to now show any aggressive attempt in that simple action of care as I know how easy to mistrust the broken clone was.

    The girl sniffed, her lone eye starting to let out some tears down to her cheek as she tried to make sense of what was going on in that very moment.

    "W-Why?" She bawled a little, her arms slowly reaching to cover her face. "W-Why aren't you punishing me? I'm bad and-"

    "You are not bad," I stated calmly, my face still displaying some sadness over the situation. "You once were, yes... but now. Now you are just a victim."

    More silence, more inner musings over what I was supposed with what I was looking at.

    Sphinx in EX Volume 2 was a terrible monster that lacked any moral compass. She cared, and she was slowly understand what friendship was through her attachment to a younger Rom but her brutality wasn't just something that could be ignored out of a little scene or two.

    But now? Now I was assisting to something that answered so many questions over the fate of the girl and why it was never brought up in the Canon Stories.

    If Priscilla had to deal with this on her own, knowing how she had been so foolish to label the clone as a 'Demon', I wouldn't be excluding that she had ultimately killed her after the attempt made at the first contact.

    And I was now here to deal with this mess on my own. I was glad that the situation wasn't truly that bad... but I was also unsure how to tackle the problem early on.

    I could feel a feeble note of her magic still present by merely patting her head, I could see it rushing all around to try and heal the damage inflicted on her body... but failing as there was just so much to do, and so little energy to accomplish it properly.

    I didn't need to glance beyond the robe to know how little food she had to get when Leip was alive, her arms being too boney even for someone as childish as her.

    Blinking again, I decided to speak up again.

    "You need to be brought out of this place," I muttered quietly, gaining her attention as she lazily and silently stared up at my face. "Your body isn't receiving back enough energy. You need to eat something, and be checked by some healer."

    She blinked. "So... you want to get me out of there?"

    I nodded back, and her body shivered briefly. "But what if someone hurts me when-"

    "I can assure you that this isn't the case," I interjected quietly but seriously. "Even if they tried, they would have to go through me first."

    Sphinx gave a slow nod and I carefully moved to pick her up... but just as I had my arms ready to lift her up from the ground and in my hold, she spoke again.

    "A-Actually," She said with a nervous tone. "W-What's your name?"

    ...Oh God, now that I was this much close to her that she had to ask about that?

    I was expecting this to happen but... not this suddenly, or at least not this later on in the interaction.

    I had expected it to be the first thing she would have asked about, perhaps even never considering that she had already asked this to the previous 'challenger'.

    And despite my lack of opportunity to make a different decision, I found myself thinking about the kind of implications giving up my name now would entail.

    Sphinx was in a horrible shape. She was tired, scared and hurting everywhere. She didn't have people to trust... except the ones that were willing to give up their greatest treasures.

    Regulus had been the blatant clue of this, but it was something that had been severely hinted thorough the series for a long time now.

    Real names had some importance to them. May it be for abilities, of for connections... maybe even for feelings and ambitions.

    Everyone stuck well to their false masks, unwilling to let out their true selves to unknown people all for the sake of preserving their life, their integrity.

    And I had done just that, all for the sake of avoiding some unpleasant inquiries from people all around.

    It was tiring enough that I had to make sure that I didn't give too much out of my real home, all for the sake of not having some horrible mistakes to happen because of any words of mine.

    Even pondering over the chance of offering my real name, the one beyond 'John Bukharin', left me in a state of abject fear for my future here in this crazy world.

    Until now I had won battle after battle, but now I was set to possibly fail if I didn't make some unfair concessions to someone that couldn't even bring herself mentally to manipulate people.

    I wasn't talking to Lewes Meyer, I wasn't talking to Echidna...

    I was talking to someone that couldn't even be considered anymore as Sphinx.

    The girl looking so nervous, so fearful, so tired of living in the dark, just failed to stand up to that character I knew about.

    So instead of thinking about a secondary way to avoid answering that question (to which I knew there wasn't truly one about), I merely nodded and... told her my real name.

    It was a heavy action, one that sounded so odd considering how I had to just deliver two words out of my mouth.

    It's been a while since I had used that name, it's been a while since I've been called as such and... the girl didn't lash out once I replied to her query.

    There was a moment of quiet from her, a moment of silence to think over my words as she seemed surprised by both my genuineness and the 'oddity' of the name given.

    But ultimately... she nodded. Sphinx sighed tiredly, her head calmly settling on my chest as I lifted her off the floor and in my arms.

    The girl snuggled close to my body, seeking out the warmth coming from it as I noticed how cold her skin felt to the touch.

    God knows how long she had been sitting on the cold stone ground, but it was a miracle she hadn't experienced any hypothermia out of this.

    What truly got me to pause for just a second was how frail she actually felt within my hold, how fragile her limbs and chest looked to be from this closeup.

    I didn't linger any longer in my thoughts as I knew that she needed utmost attention the quickest possible.

    I took a couple of steps toward the door, carefully stepping outside that horrible room as I made my way back to where I had left Priscilla and the retinue.

    The guards tensed up a little as they spotted the little cloaked thing on my chest, but they eased up as Priscilla herself started to approach, her pace slow and calmer... but her eyes dignifying some interest over my visible success.

    "She let you get her out that room?" The orangette asked quietly, almost awed... if not annoyed by it. "Did she even ask you about your name or-"

    "She did," I hummed quietly, noticing that Sphinx's breathing had dropped to a stable quiet one, and her visible eye was now close. She had fallen asleep. "And I've answered her correctly."

    "That's... odd." Priscilla conceded without making any issue out of it, knowing that I would get 'suspicious' about her real name. But while I had a certain need to tease her a little over this, the fact that I had to get Sphinx some proper check up overwhelmed this little need of mine.

    "Indeed," I remarked curtly. "Now, if you would excuse me, I need to have this girl checked properly by a healer-"

    "She was in my castle. She is supposed to be my subject," The woman pointed out sternly. "As such, you've no mean to-"

    "Do you wish to deal with an incredibly explosive case as hers? Do you wish for her to die so suddenly because she doesn't trust you?"

    My voice slammed her reasoning back, forcing her red eyes to stare strongly at me to try and exert some dominance over me.

    "This is my castle-"

    "And I am well beyond your station with my role, Baroness!" I stressed out with a hint of anger, starting to get annoyed by her words. "If you wish to advance some 'legitimate' grievance over my decision, then please send something to the king so that someone can verify how Sphinx got there and why, albeit she isn't a subject of yours, should she be restrained at your court."

    ...

    "And with your permission, I will take my leave."

    There was no resistance to that, and I was quickly followed by my retinue as we continued to walk up to the entrance of the stronghold and right where we had left our Earth Dragons.

    The return home was uneventful, yet my mind was lost in the storm born from that infuriating standoff I had to go through with Priscilla. I had expected her personality to be fiery, but I had completely forgotten how much of a petty bitch she could still be.

    Hopefully for her, she wouldn't commit any stupid retaliation for this, because I was sure going to return the favor with twice the strength and ferocity!

    ----------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d-------------

    Afterthoughts: Sphinx is here... somehow and quite the fragmented girl. Canon never explains what happened once Leip got hold of Sphinx (neither how he pulled that mad shit or why he didn't use her early on). The only thing that I know for sure is that considering that humans were the worst in the story, I could see the bastard hurt her a lot for the sake of getting a willing puppet to manipulate and use against his own nation.

    ...

    Also... an unofficial Omake with a crossover!

    ---------------------------
    Omake EX 1: Visitors from Beyond the Sea (1?)
    ---------------------------

    It was supposed to be a normal day.

    A day filled with paperwork, new projects, playing with the cubs, more projects, training my magic and... even more projects.

    The potential to expand even more Erindor to become a proper modern city was there to be taken, the chances were all high and the resources were all here to work with.

    I was prepared to deal with everything and everyone, from good news to bad ones, from complaints to positive remarks towards my leadership.

    With my schedule today filled to the brim as usual, I entered my office ready to headbutt into the usual tower of paper and ink that just waited for me.

    But just as I took a seat by my good chair, with my left hand grasping at the first paper and my right one taking the nearby pen, I commenced with the morning ritual of doing at least twenty forms and four reports to send back to the capital.

    It was an easy job, nothing that truly tired me up, and I was sure as heck going to enjoy this much peace after the messes I had to deal with up until now.

    I was tired of dealing with too much drama and action, I needed my much-needed load of simple work that nowhere put me close to be killed.

    Writing down the first lines, I took a pleasant sigh as this day was sure going to be another one for my career as the Mayor of Erindor-

    "Mayor Bukharin, we've just received some urgent news from the Port of Fomore!"

    I almost jumped in sudden fright as I registered the booming voice that only Ser Orestes could muster up so unexpectedly.

    With my chair rocking a little and with a panicked look directed at the man standing right by the now open door, I slowly regained my bearings as I noticed his serious look.

    "What is the situation? What happened?"

    "Mayor, we've received some important reports from the garrison stationed there that a ship has requested permission to dock and..." The weary knight took a moment to ponder how to continue the explanation. "Well, the guards have mentioned that the cargo of the ship was Demi-human slaves, while the owner vehemently repeats that these aren't actually Demi-humans but some other term."

    I took a deep breath and frowned at the odd situation presented. I suppose slavers were getting quite desperate now that the Kingdom had advanced even harsher additions to the current laws against slavery... but to hear them actually coining new terms to address Demi-humans? Now, that was quite dumb.

    "And the reason why they weren't arrested already?" I inquired with a certain degree of annoyance, as this argument was depriving me of the opportunity of continuing with more serious stuff.

    Instead of explaining verbally, Ser Orestes pushed as document across the table, retreating his armored hand once the paper was in front of me.

    I blinked in surprise at the lack of response about my query and my eyes started to read the content of the paper. It was an authorization... just not one signed by the Royal Kingdom of Lugnica.

    Neither by Vollachia, Kararagi or Gusteko.

    In fact, the authority mentioned that was responsible for this certificate was... a Templar Order. I frowned at the name, but I paled as I glanced down at the small emblem drawn on the paper.

    Fuck. Okay... how the fuck is this possible?

    Re Zero shouldn't be bordering with that other series. It shouldn't.

    Even though both are set in medieval-like settings, this just wouldn't make sense. Because of their deities actually limiting their world up to just a single Pangea-like continent.

    Yet there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the document and I... sighed.

    I glanced at the supposed name of the owner of the document.

    Eric Adrian Vaughan.

    ...

    Fuck.

    "I suppose the reason why they didn't get arrested is something about diplomacy. Right?"

    "They have diplomats on board, yes," Orestes admitted with some hesitation and surprise. "I'm surprised you thought of this."

    "I might be aware of whom is onboard and... yes, those are not Demi-humans-" Keidrans and Basitins. "- and technically their government allow slavery... I guess, the garrison has requested my presence."

    "And I've seen to contact Prince Fourier considering that this is the first contact with a legitimate new nation," Orestes pressed on, freezing me on spot at these implications. "It would be proper for a representative of the Royal Family was there to assist at the situation."

    "Indeed..." I agreed absently. "I suppose we will be going now."

    The old knight nodded, but just as he turned around to leave, two smaller figures rushed inside and stopped in front of the desk.

    "Papa, what's going on?" Fritz inquired quickly.

    "Yes, Orestes mentioned that there were Demi-humans but-"

    "Not Demi-humans," I corrected Hans quickly, sighing at their dual surprise at that correction. "I suppose I will explain once we're all in the carriage."

    Their foxy ears twitched at once. "Wait, we're coming too?" The youngest twin asked giddily and I nodded.

    Both rushed outside giggling, probably to get themselves ready for what was going to happen. Hopefully, Hannah was going to survive the eagerness of the two Fox boys so early in the morning.

    Meanwhile, I leaned on my chair's back with my eyes staring at the ceiling as I started to think deeply about what I was supposed to do now that I had to deal with such a strange situation.

    Sure, I still didn't have everything planned out to deal with everything in this world... but to consider this outwordly development.

    Now I can definitively say that things were just going to be a mess to solve diplomatically...

    ----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d----------

    That's all folks! (Why the odd unofficial Omake? Boredom. Sue me!) xD

    Edit: The Xover is with the webcomic Twokinds.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
  13. Threadmarks: This is about multi-tasking!
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    11 July 422

    Perhaps I should have thought about this situation more instead of alluding myself that I would've entered the city without much of a problem, yet how was I supposed to foresee being grilled so much by a certain weary knight when I arrived at the gates.

    Orestes had fought in the Demi-Human War, and I should've expected him to recognize the sleeping individual that had well nestled herself in my hold.

    Panic, stress, and justified angers were all directed at the girl, the man almost ordering to seize the 'witch', but I was quick to dismiss such situation with some counter-orders.

    Surprise was etched on his face back when I spoke against him, hurt was visible in his eyes as I mentioned that Sphinx was going to be my ward until further notice.

    It was difficult already that I had little to no ideas with what I was supposed to do with the girl. With her mind being too far unstable to be treated with normal therapy, I knew that I would have to adopt the most cautious of approaches to avoid dealing with any massive fallouts.

    A ticking bomb. A magical nuke that had given me the utmost trust to avoid anything bad to happen once more to her.

    And while I was left to reach the Magical Hospital without any major obstacles, the grand concert of words began by the very second I had left the room reserved only for the pseudo-witch.

    Sphinx had been put under a powerful sleeping spell by a couple of specialized healers, urging extreme attention to have it kept going until I was available to visit her room. A proper medical check-up ensued, with the girl being given a full diagnosis and some medicines to begin with her recovery.

    The moment Orestes closed the door of the room behind himself, he began talking with quite the tense tone.

    "Mayor Bukharin, you sure understand that what you're doing is incredibly dangerous," He pleaded nervously, almost urging me to listen carefully to his common sense. He was right to be hesitant with this predicament, but for the wrong reasons. "This witch- she was the one that caused the War just mere decades ago."

    I blinked, showing him a serious look. "Incorrect."

    ... "What?"

    "Sphinx isn't the prime perpetrator of the conflict. Her role was, in fact, secondary compared to the one of Libre Fermi," I started to explain with a calm tone, trying my best to not show any uncertainty and empower his current arguments. I really didn't need to deal with some Spanish Inquisition anytime soon. "And... she is not a witch."

    He frowned at the comment, teeth greeting in a moment of annoyance at my 'uncaring' moment. "Sir, she was slaughtering men loyal to the kingdom for the rebels, she was there and doing this on her own accord and without anyone subduing her mind," Orestes rebutted with a strong voice. "And her magic was one tainted by the corruption only witches are capable of attaining."

    "Perhaps you're actually the one missing some points, Ser Orestes," I muttered with a sigh, gesturing him to follow me as I began taking a couple of steps away from the busy halls of the hospital. "In fact, I can dare to say that Witches aren't the only ones capable of making use of that tainted magic."

    "Authorities are the only way to achieve that degree of magical corruption," The knight replied with a somewhat more confused tone. "But you know something more? Please, don't indulge with this waiting."

    I hummed quietly. "Do you know who was the Witch of Greed, Orestes?" I suddenly inquired, drawing a surprised frown from him.

    "You speak of Echidna?" He asked back, causing me to nod. "She was one of the most dreadful beings, but she disappeared ages ago and..."

    ...

    "Sphinx is connected to her," He wasn't asking, but I nodded back nonetheless.

    "To be exact, Sphinx is one of her first experiments she had done with a poor young girl that decided to sell her own being for the sake of protecting a handful of Demi-humans," I started to explain. "Lewes Meyer was a simple girl born from a farm-based family. She didn't have much magic on herself, she was possibly one oft the staunchest supporter of equality and... she was also naive enough to believe the promise of a witch."

    "How is she connected with-"

    "The first experiment that Echidna decided to apply with Lewes' dormant form was... cloning," I interjected quickly, my words getting quite the shocked expression at the topic brought up. "While the girl lacked any 'proper' magical potential, her body still had enough vitality to allow the implementation of artificial magical Gates to allow anyone to bypass certain limits that Authorities have."

    We turned one of the corners, the halls there lacked any other individuals that could've listened to our conversation. I really was starting to grew displeased with the discussion, but it was a must that I got it going and completed before even more unpleasant stuff started to happen.

    "Yet experimenting with Gates tend to be quite a dangerous subject, especially if the starting point for the experiment lacks any Gates," I continued, glad that I had yet to be interrupted by the weary knight. "This is why Lewes was cloned and... Sphinx is the first one."

    I stopped, looking at the man before sighing. "Cloning is a tough topic, a little less than artificial magical surgery, but still enough to give some issues to Echidna."

    "The girl... is she flawed? Is that why she was set free?" The old man finally inquired and I nodded.

    "Too dangerous, too volatile- Sphinx is... an incomplete version. A failure which saw the creation of a clone with half the required emotions to function as a proper human being," I replied grimly. "But there was something that Echidna did right... and that provide the clone with a large quantity of Gates cloned by her own body."

    "The taint," He muttered quietly, connecting the dots over what I was referring about to the 'hint' that saw her labeled a witch.

    "Correct," I quickly reinforced his correlation. "The girl has an absurd amount of mana within her body, but it's mostly corrupted by the essence of the witch."

    "But then... why you still took her in?" Orestes inquired, his tone once more showing some uneasiness over the topic. "Sir, I understand that you're a benevolent man but-"

    "It was either us or our newest neighbor. And I will say this more out of respect for her than anything foul directed at the woman, but I don't think it would be wise to keep Sphinx under Lady Barielle's control," I interrupted with a huff. "The woman is strong-headed, but terribly greedy before an immediate being of power she can manipulate."

    "You're painting her as a vile individual," He pointed out, causing me to nod.

    "Never said my respect was directed at her entirety, rather I see some points within her mind I can't help but agree wholeheartedly," I rebuked calmly. "But still... no, I can't have her keep Sphinx."

    "And I assume there is also a reason for you not considering..." Orestes hesitated with the final bits of his query and I took over for him.

    "Killing her?" I guessed, getting a swift nod from him. "That would be the worst decision I could take now even if I wanted."

    "Sir-"

    "All clones are connected by a faint bond, Orestes," I interjected quickly, noticing how unsure he looked over my certainty. "If she ends up dying under her care, we will have far worse to deal than just her."

    The knight paused at that, looking at me with a quizzical look. "And that is?"

    "Echidna... she is still alive," I revealed slowly, making Orestes tense up at the novelty.

    "What? But that's-" He stopped, blinking uneasily at this development. "Sir, that's- it can't just be-"

    "It's the truth and, before you ask, no, I can't alert the King or any other agent of the government to intervene with this situation," I smoothly tried to bring out this crucial explanation. "Not with someone more influential than me being the one that is keeping this a secret from the rest of the world."

    "And... you can mention the name of this individual? And do you have proof of-"

    "Roswaal A. Mathers was the first and most obsessed apprentice to the Witch of Greed," I interjected with a groan, knowing that I was opening quite the fugly kind of issues way too early. But I knew I could trust Orestes to keep some discretion over this sensible information.

    Eyes going wide open at the news, the man didn't reply at first, losing some seconds to recover from the shock and ponder over what I had just told him.

    "The Mathers- they have always been loyal to the kingdom-"

    "Never said they weren't, Orestes," I interjected again, and I was starting to get annoyed of this circumstance myself. "But between the Kingdom and his master, Roswaal will always pick her."

    "But the rest of the family shouldn't be loyal to her as their ancestor," The knight pleaded with some doubts. "Surely, there is no way that she had any sway on them without having ever came in contact with them."

    ...

    I sighed, then I closed my eyes and... then I stared up at the dark-blue ceiling of the hallway.

    "Don't you thinks it's odd that the name 'Roswaal Mathers' is the same and only a letter brings in the difference?" I asked quietly, gaining sudden silence from this musing. "There are traditions about names... but to this degree? Can I say that I find it odd that this rule exist?"

    ...

    "Orestes... what do you know about possession?"

    "It's foul magic, sir," The knight replied suddenly and then he paused. "That's- that's just-"

    "A massive stretch. I know," I groaned on my right hand as I brought it to my lips. "But what I can say is that their habits are the same, their flamboyancy, their magical prowess, and their planned visits to see where Lewes Meyer's Sanctuary is."

    ... "You mean that he is aware of this too?"

    "Roswaal J Mathers was part of the taskforce that fought against Sphinx and the rest of the rebels," I answered while nodding. "Her main objective was to either recover the clone for her own studies, or kill her before any connection with Echidna was discovered."

    ...

    "That's a lot to digest, sir," Orestes had to admit with a somber tone. "This... this makes everything worth of doubt. Especially those that live close to the King and the prince."

    I nodded slowly, knowing that doubt was fine, but paranoia just wouldn't help in this very predicament.

    "Prime Minister Miklotov is trustworthy, that I can tell, and I know that he is keeping a vigilant eye over those that comes too close to what is left of the Royal Family."

    "But what about the rest of the sages? What if they too are planning anything against the family."

    "I..." I took a moment to sigh as I knew that this detail wasn't something known just yet. "Some of the sages are ambitious, but none is plotting to kill the king, not with what is going on... behind the scenes."

    The old man frowned. "Mayor Bukharin?"

    "Nothing I can tell just yet," I nervously muttered. "But the King, Fourier, and I have a solution to what is happening. And hopefully, things will work as planned... if not better."

    "It doesn't sound convincing."

    "Well, it is," I rebuked quickly, shaking my head as we both resumed to walk out of the building, this time the conversation diverting away from the complicated topics we had to face up until now. "And I've to ask, how are things going for Ms. Regret?"

    Orestes tensed up, but this time it wasn't shock, but rather embarrassment to see him freezing up on the spot. "S-Sir?"

    "Just asking," I added, trying to keep my mirthful tone down. "I mean, you're the one that has spent the most time around her. I'm sure you have more insight over her predicament than most of the occupants within the house."

    "She seems... happy. She has grown accustomed to the life here in Erindor," He replied curtly, hoping that his face was showing none of the nervousness he was dealing with. I blinked, my small smile hinting at some smug as he continued. "Ms. Regret is doing a good job, I reckon... right?"

    "She is experienced and fairly dutiful, I've no reason to lament her presence," I admitted with a nod, having no reason to hesitate over that truth. "I wonder if she has written to his son about you, good sir."

    He blinked, looking even more uneasy at how the situation was devolving badly for him. "I suppose? He is a knight, I'm sure a young fellow like him would want to know about someone of my standing."

    I snorted at that attempt to divert the teasing away, getting an annoyed frown back in response.

    "Perhaps I should write him myself," I conceded with a bigger smile. "I know Felix would want to have some more details. He is quite the curious individual that wouldn't shy away from this kind of topics."

    Finally, Orestes' stare moved away from me and onto the street we were in, with the two of us having left the hospital building just a while ago.

    "S-Sir, there is also something that I've to tell you," The man sobered up pretty quickly soon after, making me almost frown in disappointment at the lack of more chances to tease him. "The four builders that you've assumed for the initiative of... renewing Erindor. They have asked for a meeting by tomorrow morning, and they were citing that it was about the latest orders you've issued."

    I nodded, showing some surprise at this very concern as I hadn't expected this kind of reunion. At least, not this soon.

    I gave him a nod, our conversation further derailing away from its initial serious undertone to accommodate some simple arguments, just enough to entertain the two of us until we were back at the mansion.

    ----------d-d-d-d--------------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-----------

    12 July 422

    A brand new day and I was still having some trouble dealing with how I was supposed to solve the situation with Sphinx.

    The girl was still sedated, sleeping heavily and soundly as I planned to visit her by the time I was done with this meeting with the builders.

    Yesterday concluded with two somewhat construtive talks with both Satella and Edna, with the former showing some familiarity with the concept of cloning from Echidna.

    The young woman mentioned how her former friend would usually brag about being able of replicate the liveliness of all beings with her refined spells, but the 'awe' that this novelty was supposed to bring up to those that listened ended up becoming actual horror at this discovery.

    Flugel had been steel-minded over his opposition over such practice, causing one of the many rifts that would see both Witch of Greed and Grand Wizards at odds for years before his passing.

    Satella was mostly unsure which side to pick... and that was until I brought up the situation regarding Sphinx. While she had doubted about her former friend's sanity and morality, believing that there was still a chance to redeem 'something' out of the fellow Witch, the fact that Echidna had gone so far to achieve a resurrection left the young woman fairly uneasy over the situation itself.

    I ended up interrupting that very conversation the very moment I noticed her hyperventilating, deciding to switch the focus of that discussion elsewhere to avoid issues with the poor girl.

    Edna proved to be a completely different eye-opener, with her 'illumination' being offered via her comments over my 'scent being different'.

    It was 'familiar', almost 'nostalgic', but also 'saddening' and ' annoying'.

    It didn't take me too much to connect the dots over the fact that the fragment of the Witch had somehow perceived the lingering 'sensation' left on my body by staying so close to Sphinx.

    Obviously, Edna inquired without any restraint or filter, trying to get as many details as she could over the curious circumstance, turning into quite the pest to deal with over this matter and forcing me to deflect over certain sensible answers that could give out the existence of not only Sphinx, but also giving her clarity over her own identity.

    The night came and passed, but soon I was granted some peace in the morning when there were no surprises by Priscilla.

    I had expected the woman to sent some complaint, and I knew that apologies weren't something to be even bothering to hope about, especially with someone like her.

    Without any issues rendering the day annoying, I ended up receiving the four men tasked with the construction of the city's projects without much stress on myself.

    With the paperwork almost done, this was going to be the only serious thing I would have to face for the rest of the day, and then I would be finally free to take a proper rest away from drama, dilemmas and any other horrible escalations.

    The master builders themselves looked pretty alright, no gloomy mood visible from their calm expressions as they entered my office by properly greeting me.

    Once they were well seated by the available chairs, the closest one decided to speak after giving a proper look at the rest of his colleagues.

    "Mayor Bukharin, we really hope that we haven't sound too much urgent with our requests but... we need to bring up a curious problem that had risen up just yesterday, quite early in the morning," The man started to explain with a polite nod. "You see, when we first announced a recruitment campaign to expand the company you've so kindly allowed us to form... we weren't expecting to deal with..."

    There was a pause, and I frowned at this hesitation. "What is the problem?"

    "There's too many recruits rushing to gain a job under the company," One of the others finally admitted, drawing a sigh and a shake of head at the lack of initiative from the previous speaker. "Some are young fellows within the city, but others are just coming from outside, from the nearby villages."

    "They've heard about your deeds, and they got enticed by the promise of well-paid jobs," Another one of them added with a nervous tone. "While we were quite positive about this matter early on, I think it's proper of me to say that we are worried about this rushing out of our hands without some proper guidance."

    "Which is why we're here to ask you for some assistance over the situation," The final one concluded with a nod. "Your capacity in dealing with complex situations isn't something we are unaware of and we request your help to find a mean to stabilize this case, lest the entire company comes crashing down on us all."

    I nodded at their worry, finding some legitimacy over it as I had expected for many people to rush at new, safer and, most of it all, highly-paid job positions.

    What I had failed to see was that the presence of so much Demand for Work, and that it was closing in with catching up on the limited Offer for Work.

    Building as a focus can offer just so many positions before actually saturating and collapsing on itself, especially with how 'small' Erindor was compared to the current capacity of the building sector.

    Which meant that I had to do something drastic to avoid the full default of this little project.

    "Does any of you have some connection with people experienced in working with textile-based objects?" I inquired quietly, pausing for a moment as I noticed that my words were causing some confusion instead of much-needed responses. "Clothes. You know people that are experienced in making clothes and other cloth-based stuff?"

    I saw all of them nod, a small smile forming on my face. "What about fishing?"

    Only two nodded, my smile twitching in a brief scowl at this unpleasant development as I really needed to have a ton of experts if I wanted to advance the fishing sector.

    "Good, then the solution to this issue shall be an outright expansion of the company," I finally explained with a nod, drawing some surprised looks from the group. "We will include experts in clothes-making and fishing within the board and move divide our workers between the three focuses."

    One of the issues with this plan was still the fact that the abnormal wave of new workers will eventually cease to be in a matter of a couple of months. The only way I could see this being development to be softened is the ever-present predicament of people emigrating from Gusteko.

    With racism and slavery running rampant up in the north, I wouldn't be surprised to see huge amounts of people rushing through the border, risking their lives against the guards stationed there just for the sake of living the best of lives, away from the dreadful situation back home.

    "But sir," Nervous guy hummed nervously. "While the arrival of so many workers is causing so many issues with our current state, how would expand the company benefit us all?"

    "The real issue of so many people working in building new constructs is that the sector itself tends to have a limit imposed by the size of the city and the demand of building within the city," I replied with a calm tone. "By diverting workers away from occupying way too many roles within the building section, and moving them to deal with two modest-sized sectors that can only improve with a bigger amount of workers-"

    "Our worries would never come to happen, mostly because the rest of the influx will be divided between the two other sectors," The deadpanned one muttered with some understanding voice. "But what about the company itself? I thought it was just going to be limited to us builders, yet you're proposing this offer that would see it expand beyond just that."

    I nodded. "That's correct," I hummed happily as I started to elaborate on this very topic. "This was something I had planned, admittedly I would've liked for this eventuality to have it happen a little later than now but... it's here and there's nothing much to do about it except to push forward with our current instance."

    I took a moment to ponder over the next words, but then I continued. "The contract, the one that I've reserved to you all, will be the same," I assured with a nod. "Your work will not change much, except that now you will be able to work properly with more people and be allowed to create joint projects among each others."

    "You're giving us more means to expand our own business," The one that spoke first pointed out, a greedy smile playing by his lips. "I don't see why we should be worried about-"

    "The new members of the company will have different contracts than ours," One of the colleagues interrupted. "I hope it will be based upon the normal differences between the sectors, nothing else."

    I nodded. "I don't plan to make favoritism with the contracts, I will treat you all equally as partners within the same group," I assured again, gaining some nods in return. "The main objective for this company is to bring prosperity to everyone, from the rich ones to the needy, from the bureaucrats to the simple cadets."

    "It will be an impressive hardwork," One of the builders admitted. "One that will probably engrave our names in history."

    And yet I couldn't still get hold to remember any of you. The horrible irony...

    "It will be a colossal burden with the highest of rewards, pride and money."

    "It will be glorious!" One of them also admitted with a pleased sigh and I nodded in response to that multitude of comments over the success waiting around the corner.

    Risks were still there to keep everyone on their tip-toes but hopefully it wasn't going to be as horrible as I could only think sparsely about.

    Once we were done with this reunion, I found myself quickly moving to reach the hospital, a healer waiting already by the entrance and leading me through the various corridors to reach the room where Sphinx was in.

    The girl was still sleeping, but I could already see from just half-a-day of healing that her skin color had regained some warm shade. Her hair seemed a shade darker than I remember from the day before, a sign that her magic was slowly restoring her vitality.

    Her bandages had been removed to gauge the full damage on her face, and the diagnosis turned out quite kind as there was just a small magical-induced scar that ran along her left cheek, interrupting right below her eye.

    I took one of the chairs within the room and set in right by her bedside, taking a seat there as I waited for the doctor assigned to remove the sleeping spell off from her to do his job.

    It was quite quick, but the girl needed a little more time to break free from the 'shackles' of tiredness keeping her in that partial slumber.

    With the healer leaving, I was left alone in that room with just the pseudo-witch, knowing full-well that introducing her to someone else now would be counter-productive.

    Soon she started to stir, her arms growing tense as she stretched a little and... I blinked as she let out quite the big yawn.

    It was still cute-pitched, enough to make my heart quiver in a brief moment of pseudo-diabetes, but I managed to survive that onslaught as I noticed her realizing that she was resting on a warm bed.

    The girl blinked, then again, finally her left hand reached up to her face as she started to verify the now bandage-free area.

    Sphinx tensed momentarily as she felt the little scar, but then she reached her eye and noticed that it was working perfectly.

    "Good morning," I hummed quietly and slowly, her attention suddenly shifting away from herself and right at me.

    "U-Uh?" Her throat sounded as if it was aching just a little bit, perhaps the sudden magical recharge had shocked some parts of her body in a state of temporary tiredness.

    "Do you remember me?" I inquired carefully, hoping that there wasn't any memory loss within the unknown effects behind her slumber.

    Thankfully, she gave a slow nod, her eyes glinting at some recognition and I smiled. "Good."

    From there, Sphinx' stares darted away from me and around the room, curiosity and anxiety filling her expression.

    "I brought you to a safe place, like I've promised you," I mentioned with a sigh, her attention once more back at me. "Right now you're supposed to stay there for at least five more days as your body has yet to recover from what happened to you."

    She frowned at this, but before she had the chance to even try to say something, we both paused at the distinct sound of a stomach rumbling.

    The girl tensed up, her eyes widening in a moment of odd mortification as her hands shot to press at her belly.

    "Are you hungry?" I asked politely, yet smiling as I grasped a little more at the wooden box in my hold, giving it a minuscule shake to attract the pseudo-Witch's attention.

    I stood up and placed the container right by her lap, opening its upper section and revealing what was inside it.

    Surprise adorned her face as she studied quietly the odd dish before her eyes, her hands carefully taking one of the many flat and soft baked goods making a tower above the small plate well deep in that box.

    Giving a quick sniff, realization struck as her eyes glowed eagerly at the fragrance coming from the 'flat food'.

    Sphinx brought it to her lips, nibbling at the edge and testing the first bite.

    The nibbling then became an outright big bite when she was done with her first one, the petite girl getting endeared by the taste as she started to devour the delicious dish with her barehands... ignoring the small fork and knife I had left inside the box for her to use.

    Sighing at the surprisingly amusing scene, I waited patiently for her to be done and... she blinked, staring down with a saddened look at the lack of more food to eat.

    "Sorry, but that was already a large portion for a simple breakfast," I half-apologized, the girl giving me a brief pout. "If I gave you more, you would feel sick."

    She sighed. "Okay."

    I gave a slow nod at that sudden reply, and as I retracted the now lighter box, I proceeded to offer her a small book.

    Sphinx looked perplexed, her blue eyes scanning down at the title written over the first page.

    "Fairy... tales?"

    "Stories that are written with some light-hearted content," I replied with a small smile. "Since you're going to spend some time there, I wanted to give you something so you don't get bored."

    She nodded, opening the first two pages and giving a brief reading. "Thank... you."

    "You're welcome."

    And in that serene scene, away from Paper, Ink, worries, dramas, intrigues and other messes of that kind, I ended up finally easing up while around someone so dangerous and yet so dangerous. How odd.

    --------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d----------

    Afterthoughts: This chapter was written in the midst of a Macroeconomics exam. The question is legitimate: 'What the heck are you doing?' and the answer is that the start was delayed, there was a mess of people talking online because there were 70+ students connected at the same time with webcams and microphones, and there was a lot of cheating.

    And now, lets go to the second part of this four-parts crossover Omake!

    ---------------------------
    Omake EX 1: Visitors from Beyond the Sea (2/4)
    ---------------------------

    Fomore looked quite modest for such a barely-known seaside town, yet the imposing fort built within the center of its settlement was what truly made it an important part within the Kingdom of Lugnica.

    Manned by numerous soldiers armed with the best training and equipment, the main objective of this garrison was the prevention of any pirate-led attacks against the rich ports of this safe haven for many ships sailing from many of the countries bordering the nation.

    While I would've been more delighted to study a little more the extent of the city that was technically under my control too, but led by a governor that was my official subordinate because of some decentralizing reform, I had much more to be worried about.

    As Ser Orestes tried his best to attempt to describe the situation with what little he was aware about to the two inquisitive fox-eared twins asking him endless questions, I was well immersed in my own thoughts over what I was supposed to tell to the children myself.

    I was well-aware of the kind of 'foreigners' we were dealing with, but my true concern wasn't about the morality of this group. I knew that 'Team A' was full-fledged Paragon, with only a little Rogue having some doubts over their situation with the rest of the team.

    No, my issue was... how the heck was I supposed to interact with the 'leader' of this group.

    Trace Legacy, former Grand Master of the Templar Order. He went through a Darth Vader phase after his wife was killed in a raid against the village they were staying for the holidays, couped the only human kingdom within the continent, and literally tried his hand at necromancy.

    Literal godly intervention then saw him lose most of his memories, and literally thrown in quite the exciting adventure with some of the odds individuals one could ask for.

    Problem? He had some powerful magic that could get triggered if someone dumb enough tried to attack any of his friends with lethal force.

    Bigger problem? There was someone else that cared a lot about him and was way beyond most of the strongest people within the world of Re:Zero.

    Hopefully, she will not come anywhere close to this... world?

    "Papa," I felt Fritz tugging at my sleeve, making me blink back to reality and look at him. "Why are the newcomers not called Demi-humans? Aren't they like us?"

    The boy gestured at himself and his younger brother, making me sigh calmly and shrug.

    "There are some differences that differentiate a Demi-human from a Keidran-"

    "Keidran, sir?" Orestes interrupted quickly, curiosity filling his words.

    "Indeed, that's the correct term to address part of our diplomatic guests," I replied quickly. "These people are quite... primitive. Mostly so. They tend to live in tribes."

    "And?" Hans pressed on and I sighed.

    "And they do have a limited lifespan compared to Demi-humans," I answered truthfully, drawing a perplexed look by the knight listening to the description. "They start either like little kittens or puppies, and then they reach adulthood by the time they are 9."

    "That's quite a small lifespan, sir," Orestes admitted grimly. "But if they are as intelligent as other living beings, why are they enslaved?"

    "The humans from the other side of the 'curtain' have established slavery of Keidrans because of how tribalistic this race is," I explained with a huff. "Not only that, but there's also the reason that Keidrans are best attuned with Magic."

    "That's still horrendous and..." He frowned, pausing for just a second. "Why this isn't applied with the rest of the guest? Those that advanced diplomatic insignias and documents."

    "Basitins are... quite different from Keidrans," I muttered quietly. "Generally a jingoistic race, their physical prowess are well beyond the two other races. Albeit quite short, they are still born in a warrior society that cultivates the whole 'the strongest is meant to rule'."

    "That sounds... bad?" Fritz said with a hint of uncertainty and I patted his head, scratching a little behind his fox-ears.

    "Just a little bit. In fact, there are quite some troublesome elements that make their whole civilization quite silly to study about," I confirmed with a brief snort. "Part of their legs need to be covered as they considered that spot... inappropriate. And their doctors work with their eyes covered so that they can't stare at their patients' bodies."

    ... "I don't... why are these even considered good traditions?"

    "I really want to know myself," I admitted with a sigh. "But I guess we will be able to ask about it now that we're... here."

    The carriage came to a full stop, and soon we started to disembark it. We were greeted with a handful of soldiers, the leader of the garrison of the fort, and the governor of Fomore.

    "Mayor Bukharin, it's an honor to have you here to visit our humble city," The governor bowed briefly. "And we're glad to know that our request of your presence was taken so well under your best consideration."

    I frowned at the overly-sugarish words being used by the man, but I sighed and nodded. "I should be the one thanking you for alerting me of this situation. Right now, I can say for sure that the group that reached Fomore is an authentic diplomatic mission."

    The man's eyes widened with some surprise. "Is that so? Then I'm glad that I allowed them the guests' treatment," He mentioned with a small smile. "We were quick to provide them with resources for the time being, but they have to stay within their ship until you arrived to commence any diplomatic approach."

    I nodded again, this time returning the smile. "Then this gets a double praise from me, Governor. I hope it wasn't straining for your men to provide the execution of this situation."

    "Not at all, no," He replied curtly, then he started to lead us right to where the ship had been anchored and I prepared for the kind of meeting I was supposed to deal with.

    Just as I reached the small bridge that connected the ship to the dockyard, I paused for a moment to address a couple of points with the twins.

    "I want the best behavior from both of you," I mentioned calmly. "I understand that there will be some interesting sights, but I need you both to keep close and never leave my side until I tell you that you can... okay?"

    They both nodded, making me sigh in relief.

    "Okay then, let's go."

    I spearheaded the small group up into the deck of the ship, and I was soon greeted with the full group deployed.

    Pausing for a moment to take a full hold over the sight bestowed in front of me, I couldn't help but hum at what was going to be quite the odd situation to face like this.

    Trace was keeping quite close to Flora, the Tiger Keidran and her life partner. They both looked quite fascinated by our arrival, but the young woman's attention was swiftly taken away from me the moment she noticed the twins standing behind me.

    Keith looked... quite curious himself, but also restrained and guarded, with Natani standing just a step behind him and studying our group.

    Eric was looking at the scene with an intrigued look, yet his eyes seemed to be darting between me and... twins.

    Like hell, I'm going to let him make portraits with my kids!

    But just as I looked ready to stop at Eric, I felt my focus captured by some fake coughing.

    Lynn had a calm smile on his face as he took out a familiar piece of paper from his pouch and-

    "You should be, Mayor John Bukharin," He greeted with a quick bow, displaying the document a little closer. "I assume you've been informed that we are Basitin Ambassadors on a peaceful mission to-"

    "Mainland Mekkan," I interrupted him quickly, drawing a smile as I nodded at his surprise. "Yes, I'm aware of your diplomatic mission, Personal Advisor Lynn."

    He puffed his chest with a hint of pride. "I suppose I've been mentioned by the message sent to you."

    "I'm actually aware from you and the rest of this fun group a little earlier than this assignment," I rebuked with a sigh, causing him to frown, but I looked at Keith.

    "And you're Keith Keiser, the head of this diplomatic mission," I greeted with a nod, with the Basitin returning the favor with a slower one.

    "Mayor Bukharin," He replied curtly.

    "I could say much more about you all," I admitted while looking around. "We got Natani..."

    The Keidran tensed up at being the example of this little 'game' of mine, perhaps expecting me to mention his time as an Assassin of the Black Market Magic Guild.

    "The... smartest sibling of the 'Magi Brothers'," I continued with a big smile, making his jaw drops in surprise at that derail. "I've heard that you and your brother Zen are quite the impressive hard-workers."

    "I- That's..." He blinked, his heterochromic (brown and gray) eyes showing some shock at that kind of praise. "Y-Yeah, that's correct."

    I nodded at that and then turned to stare at the blond bespectacled young man. "Eric Vaughan, owner of the Vaughan Trading Company."

    He nodded, keeping quiet as I finally moved to stare at the protagonists of TwoKinds.

    "Trace Legacy and Flora," I said with a somewhat excited tone, drawing some confusion from both as I bowed a little lower. "First thing first... congratulations."

    At first they failed to understand what I was congratulating them for and... then their face sported some bright blushes as they realized what I was referring to.

    "That's... that's odd, I don't remember telling to anyone else other than..." Trace tried to mention, but then stopping as he thought well about it and frowned. "H-How do you know about this?"

    I shrugged. "I just know and-"

    Just as I thought that from there the situation would have shifted to the diplomatic/bureaucratic bits of this encounter, I felt giggles approaching and... a shadow moving over my head.

    "I win~!" I could feel my jaws dropping as my eyes caught the petite form of a certain Basitin trying to escape from the deck while being pursued by-

    "Eeep!"

    Something soft crashed on my face and body, making me trip on the floor.

    I blinked, recoiling at the pain caused by the fall as I tried to understand what had just happened when I found myself staring in two unexpected pools of light blue.

    "U-Uh," The keidran stood sitting on my chest for a while, keeping her stare fairly close to my own brown eyes. "H-Hello?"

    I gulped nervously.

    "H-Hello there... Kat."

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    Afterthought:

    Second part! And... this chapter is 7k words! I just had a good day, and the positive energy turned into Ultimate Writing Works! HUZZAH!

    Also Kat... and Felix. Think about it. The ultimate duo (to not be shipped together for the sake of the world's sanity!)
     
    adaw, Ayashi and Winkins like this.
  14. Threadmarks: This is about Picnics
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    21 July 422

    Nothing much happened in the following ten days.

    Sure, it was clear that Sphinx's conditions were improving on a steady pace thanks to the presence of various doctors keeping track over her conditions, but she was still far from attaining a degree of mental and physical stability that could match up with a proper human being.

    With her mental regression to a state where her mind was forced to rediscover everything around herself, this time without the input of her creator, the girl had been hesitant to accept sudden changes in her newest predicament.

    She had given some trust to the mages assigned to take care of her while I was absent, and she looked fairly happy with the books I would bring to her.

    Considering from who her mind was shaped from, I wasn't shocked with the voracity she would display towards newer content to read and be entertained with.

    Knowledge was amusement, and amusement turned into a sweet painkiller over the unpleasant circumstances she was going through right now.

    Still, I was pleased with the fact that Sphinx had somehow grown more accustomed to her new room. While there were some subtle hints of nervousness over the noises around the building, the girl had seemingly taken well the fact that now she was being helped back to a healthier shape.

    But while the books helped in dwindling her hunger for entertainment, I ended up also refining the bond that we had. It was quite simple, but incredibly curious in its development as the pseudo-Witch decided to take some hazardous steps while I spoke to her.

    Pushing herself to bring more words out, she seemed to care very little over the strains it took over her mind to expand any conversations with lengthier sentences.

    An effort that I praised quietly, but restrained from actually interesting her to pursue so earnestly because of her mental blocks.

    Warnings that were mostly ignored everytime, yet I could see that the girl had put some moderation to any action that could hinder further her recovery.

    A pleasant conversationalist, Sphinx seemed to be fairly adept in understanding concepts and ideas from the brief explanations I would offer over new words for her or even topics that she had forgotten about.

    A curious way to entertain part of my day, yet I soon found out that the burden of my work was increasing to a degree that I was starting to grow weary about.

    The policies adopted to avoid any saturation on the Building Sector seemed to be making some positive success already. At least, that was what was reported on the paper.

    The introduction of new sectors within the primitive version of what I could define 'Medieval Industry' was a slow-paced development that was meant to have quite the impactful effect within society as a whole.

    With the creation of new jobs, of new 'reasons' for commoners to be interested in the situations within the city, I was slowly nurturing the necessity of preparing reforms within the politics and the social system in Erindor.

    It was a mere plan as of now considering how mindfully slow the circumstances were being dragged, but I with how unexpectfully some changes were happening, even earlier than my early estimations, I knew that some failsafe to avoid any sudden revolts within the region.

    Patience was a virtue, but also a terrible trap-door to hell itself if not handled correctly.

    In the middle of paperwork and visiting Sphinx at the hospital, I also decided that it was about time to resume the homeschooling with the twins.

    Both boys were eager to spend even more time with me, but their moods were dampened a little by the fact that it wouldn't be to play around.

    They were bored in some instances, but I was capable of keeping their interest up while helping them around with the homework I would leave them to do.

    I had seen how smart these two were, and I really wanted to see them become people that would make greater steps than me.

    Some would call it paternal instincts driving me to have both my surrogate children on the right path of success with their lives, and I would actually agree to that.

    I could still remember when Dad had so suddenly commented how quickly I had grown up, as in his eyes I had gone from ten to twenty years old in a mere blink.

    It was a confusing notion, yet now that I was the father dealing with the responsibilities of the role, I could see the bittersweet necessity as something to be wary about.

    Not because I was worried about losing them so soon, but rather that I didn't want to see them going for their own ways without being prepared enough for such a journey.

    They were cute, they were small and very attached to me- but would this persist by the time they reach their teenage years? Maybe, maybe not.

    Orestes was glad to bring more and more news over the growth of the current garrison, and how the manpower serving the army had reached a record number after more than a month had gone by in my tenure.

    Young men had gone up to the barracks to get recruited, their enthusiasm highlighting an element that was good right now but could prove to be detrimental if left unchecked for too long.

    When people flocked at the recruitment booths, it meant that there was a degree of interest to see some military-based action happening very soon.

    The population wanted to see the administration flex some of the armed might to confirm the stability within the novel government.

    Which meant that I had to find a motivation to send the small army within Erindor around to make some propaganda and... that wasn't an easy task to accomplish considering the circumstances and the border the city shared closely with Gusteko.

    I wasn't going to poke at the largest wasp nest by making any border conflict, despite the fact it wouldn't be completely odd for the two nations to do so. I really didn't want to face that insane bastard of a prince any time soon. Actually, never sounded like the best choice regarding the opportunity of encountering him once more.

    Thus I was left with the limited solution of allowing the preparations of assaults all over the region against any confirmed bandits' bases.

    There were a few of those well-spread over the land, and the criminals were actively damaging the trade routes in the area.

    By sending out some armed parties to track down and destroy these small, unorganized groups, the economic growth in the region would return to a somewhat stabler pace compared to the current one.

    Orestes was allowed to take command over the major plans and the creation of an officer corps specialized over this specific task. In layman terms, I was giving him the chance of making a group of capable men that knew how to lead soldiers in battle without making any dreadful mistakes in their deployment.

    The nobles wouldn't be minding this little unseen slight, especially with how 'disgusting' the task itself was, and I was thus making some more steps in modernizing the army.

    Now that there was a standing one instead of one born from levies, with proper wages and rights, it was now the matter of time for the creation of what I hoped to be the Lugnican New Model Army.

    And with most of the activities in Erindor properly left in the hands of trustworthy individuals and with the entirety of the paperwork for today already done completed, I prepared myself to make my words true over a promise I had made just a month ago.

    After receiving the invitation from Preacher Caralde for the monthly visit to the sealing grounds just two days ago, I had prepared myself to make a little surprise to Satella.

    Preparing an extra bag to bring to the tainted territory, I decided to bring some food and books as a gift for the lonely girl.

    A picnic would be a pleasant thing to experience once in a while in that eternal tea party she had with only herself.

    The pleasant recreation of a heavenly garden just offered endless possibilities in how to spend time there, and it was just a matter of the things available to keep things interesting for the two of us.

    After leaving control of the city once more to Orestes, I proceeded to make my way to the convoy of mages that was concluding the final preparations before going through the gates and right to their important destination.

    The stroll was as long as I remember it being and the tasks required by the mages over the necessity of verifying the integrity of the seal were the same as the first time around.

    I was more patient over the sluggish procedure compared than the previous occasion, but my attention was raptly directed at the barrier that divided me from reaching where the lonely half-Elf was.

    There was a plan that I had concocted for this little event, and I had to wait for every subordinate to Caralde to leave the premises of the seals, to be back to the little camp that had been set up for the remainder of the day needed to be spent there.

    With everyone being alerted that I didn't want to be disturbed up until it was about dinnertime, I proceeded to sneak out from my tent and right up to the closest piece of land to the barrier.

    Staring carefully at it from a safe distance, I started to ponder how exactly was I supposed to enter inside the barrier and reach the hole without getting captured by the lurking Witch of Envy.

    While I had no reason to question my current speed, I was also concerned that my natural speed could hardly make a difference against a being capable of making the world quiver with her destructive spells.

    Stuck in this very circumstance, I was about to reconsider bolting through the seals and hoping for some lucky and uneventful run when I noticed that something in my bag was... glowing brightly.

    As I picked it up from where I had left it, the mirror seemed to have gained a silver-like shine that coated its entirety.

    It looked quite divine, but also not in the process of contacting Satella through the barrier. No, it seemed that this phenomenon was connected to my relative closeness to the barrier.

    Taking a couple of tentative steps closer to the spherical containment spell, I stopped just a moment to further study the eerie glow coming from the mirror and... I took a step inside the barrier.

    Just as I did so, the glow spread to the point were I saw a bubble-like form starting to grow around me, stabilizing after I started to walk once more deep within the contaminated lands.

    The miasma was filtered by the unknown spell, and I decided to pick up my pace as I remembered that while I wasn't being influenced by it, the Witch of Envy was going to know exactly where I was within her domains.

    My legs burned a little at the sudden increase of speed, but I steeled my mind on the sole objective of reaching the only refuge available from the dangerous and deranged dark-side.

    MINE!

    I barely noticed the hand-like tendrils rushing at the barrier, just as I was about to jump through the hole and...

    The Unseen Hands failed to pierce through the defensive barrier, actually bouncing away from it.

    Deciding to not linger around to study more the sturdiness of the projection of the mirror, I subsequently jumped down the hole.

    The fall wasn't as immense as I had thought it being after so long, and, in fact, I ended up reaching the ground without crippling my legs in the process thanks to some flowers having been carefully placed to make for a good landing zone.

    Sighing in relief for the successful arrival, I carefully stood up from my crouched position to start and look around for Satella.

    My search was quite short as I spotted the distracted young woman sitting near to the lone small table in the garden, tinkering with... her own mirror?

    I quietly made my way towards her, and I could already hear some curious muttering coming from her.

    "C'mon, why isn't this working?" She hummed with irritation. "The spell seems alright, same for the mirror's integrity- so why it's not-"

    "Is everything alright?" I inquired quietly, an amused smile playing on my lips as, just like I had expected, my sudden intermission caused quite the loud reaction out of the Half-Elf.

    A 'eep' left her lips at the immediate question, her eyes widening in utter shock as she turned to look at me, her body tensing up at this sudden predicament.

    She blinked. "You- But- Wait, you're here and-"

    "Do you remember that I promised you that I would've visited?" I interrupted with a curious look.

    Another blink, then her posture lessened to confusion. "But weren't you meant to visit on a monthly basis? I mean, surely you shouldn't be coming so soon."

    "It's been a month already," I pointed out with a frown. "Actually a month and a day. I had to make sure that things were alright back home before coming here and-"

    "B-But maybe you shouldn't be risking yourself for this- I understand you care but-"

    "Nope," I rebuked quietly. "I promised you that we would spend time together at least one time every month, and here I am... with stuff."

    I brought up the bag containing books and food, each separated from one another, before actually taking out one of the tomes I had selected as a gift to the girl.

    Her violet stare was quick to move at the book, then she frowned in realization of what I was holding up for her to see.

    "Why?"

    I blinked at the unexpected query. "What?"

    "Why did you bring me... books?"

    "Well, since you don't have much to do here to pass time... I thought it would've been nice to give you something to enjoy your stay here," I explained with a careful tone. "Plus, I've got some interesting stories here that you might actually like."

    The young woman looked genuinely interested at the gift, yet there was a layer of nervousness that prevented her to fully express her curiosity.

    "B-But- It's not something you needed to do. I'm fine with staying there and-"

    "Satella."

    Flinching at my neutral interjection, the Witch froze up in her humble protest while I quietly moved closer to the table to settle down the bag.

    "When I said that I consider you a friend, I was meaning it," I muttered with a sad smile. "And if I see you sad, lonely, or even bored, I feel the need to make sure that those issues are solved."

    Her lips twitched, her nervous lips trying to hold back some protests as she perhaps wanted to hear those words.

    "I thought that it would be nice to give you something to enjoy staying there. Something that isn't exactly a permanent solution to boredom... but it offers you the means to actually find some happiness in these circumstances."

    She huffed. "I understand but- I don't think I deserve this kindness. I'm-"

    "A silly girl that is trying to forget our first talk together," I interrupted with a snort, her cheeks flaring red at the embarrassing call out. "You're my friend, Satella, and I'm not backing away from this stance."

    ...

    The girl gave a slow nod. "I... I see. And... Thank you."

    I blinked, my smile widening at the little defeat. "You're welcome," I stated happily, before actually starting to shake the bag a little more. "And books aren't the only things I've brought here."

    Her curiosity flared unfiltered as I brought out a little blanket.

    "What are your thoughts about... a picnic?"

    Differently from the earlier surprise, her eyes widened in positive eagerness at this comment and... let's just say that the visit finally took a better twist compared to the previous interaction.

    But while Satella and I started to settle down the food and the tea over the large blanket, Erindor was being currently visited by someone important.

    Someone that I really hadn't thought about coming so suddenly in the city, especially while I was away from there.

    -----------d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d-------

    ~Change of POV~

    The carriage with a small group of curious guards was silently going through the busy streets of Erindor while the occupant was quietly looking through the small windows on the sides.

    Bright blue eyes were staring at the limited vision offered over the road, and her interest over the curious destination seemed to swell even further at the presence of so many people wandering around in a somewhat ordered pace.

    The scene hinted to productivity on a fairly unusual scale, which was enough to intensify the young woman's fascination over the individual responsible for this sudden change of course within the economic and social development of the 'border' city.

    Truly a marvelous sight to be bestowed with so early in the morning.

    She hummed quietly, her mind shifting back to when she had noticed in one of the more recent reports from her merchants in the city that something had indeed changed since the last time she had studied the case over the expenses in the region.

    The sharp increase of the tariffs for merchants from beyond Lugnica had felt like a cold slap across her face, something that had been so sudden that she had almost faltered for a moment at hearing this news.

    It wasn't a terrible ordeal, or at least one that gravely damaged her company, yet the unforeseen development had still harmed the interests of her trading operations in the area.

    Quite a pity for sure, but one that Anastasia Hoshin wanted to fix as quickly as possible.

    It was a must for her to seek some alteration to the past deals, to see the introduction of convenient settlements that would favor her merchants to continue to linger within Erindor.

    The move had been quite annoying from her part, yet she could easily see what had driven such a dramatic twist from the past flow.

    The city had become in a larger and more active hub for many workers, a place that was steadily improving its presence over the region by merely favoring the intensification of jobs for the locals thanks to some curious policies.

    She had the opportunity to read some official papers that had been published on the very day that those plans had been enacted, and the young woman from Kararagi couldn't help but be endeared by this revolutionary take on economy.

    Not many had been so bold to accept new theories over the understanding of economics, with many sticking to some rules that were just... silly. And easy to manipulate to her own advantage.

    But this mayor, this John Bukharin, had turned out to be a unique expert on the subject. A rookie that had stood up from anonymity and had managed to rise up to a respectful role within Lugnican politics by playing his role properly and without risking too much of his own reputation and life.

    The very nature of the case drove close to Anastasia's core, especially since the parallels between them were... way too many to counts.

    From their origins, to their social statuses (past and current), and finally their common point of bringing out the true potential out of mismanaged activities.

    Erindor was strong before he had come around, but when he started to put rules and laws the entire game board had flipped to a confusing but endlessly amusing circumstance.

    Not only this unexpected situation had forced her to come to confront directly the young man, but she had to also keep quiet over the matter with how obsessed Prince Ivan was about him.

    The madness of the current ruler of Gusteko had been well-known to her since it was normalcy for the rest of the Gustekian people, but the recent fixation that the strange individual had developed out from a 'diplomatic issue' that had happened quite recently in Lugnican territory had sounded as interesting as worrying.

    It was no secret that there had been some magical contract that prohibited the monarch of the Cold Kingdom from pursuing any direct or indirect confrontations with the young mayor, forcing the ruler to seek out the guidance of many experienced law-makers and legislators.

    The resulting circumstances weren't particularly known, yet there have been a slight increase of deaths among people working in this specific sector.

    Still, her worries about being noticed by the dangerous prince were well unneeded with the fact that she was now within Erindor, away from being noticed by anyone working for Ivan.

    Her plan to resume some of the power her Company had over this region was particularly simple considering the possible clash of minds that might ensue during these simple talks.

    While Anastasia had no intention of pressing too much aggressively over the matter, she had plenty of leverage to make use about thanks to the debts accumulated by some of the local merchants in the past with her own organization.

    By merely mentioning this little issue, she had a foothold to advance a degree of 'goodwill' all for the sake of gaining some concessions in exchange of concessions from her own side.

    But while this was the spearhead of her little probing, the following step was to ensue a healthy amount of 'friendliness' with the mayor.

    Not just to avoid any backstabbing, but to prevent any souring between the Hoshin Trade Company and the rest of the sections in Lugnica.

    While she hadn't expanded too much into the Dragon Kingdom, the few settlements she had managed to have some trading agreements with had undoubtably increased her wealth to smile-inducing numbers.

    It was also supposed to be a quick visit, nothing too informal as to not delay her return back to the main headquarters considering how complicated things have been quite recently with Volacchia and Gusteko itself.

    Yet, much to her partial disappointment, this very hope turned out to be a pipe dream as the carriage came to an unexpected halt.

    It was Ricardo that came to knock at the small door of the carriage, the Demi-human peeking a little and showing a slightly uneasy look as he requested her to leave the vehicle.

    Surprise increasing at his words, the young woman complied out of curiosity as to why they had been stopped.

    Just as she descended out of the carriage, her eyes offered a full assessment of the situation materializing in front of herself.

    Numerous guards, about sixty from a first estimation, were now standing behind an experienced and cautious-looking knight.

    The man looked tense, but carrying himself with a resolute and calm manner as he took a couple of steps forward. "Madam Hoshin, we weren't expecting you to arrive so suddenly."

    A frown adorned her pretty face. "Truly? I thought that I had offered the proper dates as for today in my message."

    "Your letter stated that you would arrived on the 22th. Today is the 21th," The old knight replied politely, and despite her interest to rebuke such a claim, cold realization reached her mind.

    There had been a mistake... from her part. Not a massive one, but rather one dictated by some forgetfulness regarding the date system used in Kararagi compared to the one used in Lugnica.

    It was a day off, and that error had left her in quite the pickle.

    "I'm... I'm surprised to discover this issue. I had written the letter with some mistaken remembrance over the date system," She admitted with a hint of sheepish embarrassment. "I understand that our presence might've been felt like an imposition, a very... prepared one to that."

    Her last comment was correlated to the particularly 'threatening' nature of her guards, all of them being part of the Fang of Iron mercenary group.

    "I suppose you're referring to the difference between Kararagi and Lugnica," The elder mentioned with a hum. "It's an unpleasant circumstance, but one that from my understanding isn't perpetrated willingly or for malicious intentions."

    She nodded at the last bit, drawing an eased sigh from the knight as his posture relaxed at this confirmation.

    "Then I suppose you could be allowed to stay in the city for the time being... at least until the mayor is back from some important business," The veteran militaryman mentioned, gaining a surprised look from Anastasia.

    The Mayor was currently away from the city? But why?

    Instead of pressing for some answers right now, the young woman opted to keep quiet and accept the dispositions brought out by the leader of the local guards and the temporary administrator for the city up until the proper chief of the city was back from wherever he had gone to.

    She was allowed the information that the young man would've been back by tomorrow's early morning and that he had no important appointments that would obstruct any meeting between the two.

    It was a pleasant accommodation, but one that was also sweetened by the living quarters that she was allowed to take a stay within for the rest of the day.

    The large building where her entourage had been escorted into looked to be a grand palace that had been built quite recently, or at least after she had first visited this settlement.

    This place was meant to usually house diplomats passing by this region, but it was also meant to be used by important figures deciding to visit the city.

    The rooms that were offered were some of the largest and best-serviced compared to other establishments that were used for the same purpose.

    Despite her growing endearment over the pleasant situation that the mistake had allowed her to experience, a minor issue had been the disposition of her guards.

    Not everyone could've been fitted in the hotel, at least not without creating problems to the rest of the staff and occupants.

    A small squad was allowed to house a room beside hers, while the rest was allowed to stay rent-free by the local barracks.

    She was forced to have only the Pearlbaton triplets to keep a closer watch over her and... she was glad that the trio accepted the important role so eagerly.

    Mimi especially as she was told that there were Hamburgers being served for lunch as part of the standard service.

    Yet, despite the soft pillows, the comfy mattress, the pleasant-to-the-touch sheets and the lack of any major stress-inducing issues in the room that was hers for the whole day, Anastasia couldn't help but feel like accepting so many gifts so suddenly just felt... wrong. As if she was making a mistake of being so eased by the numerous good discoveries she was making.

    ...

    Or maybe she was still miffed at the fact that she didn't have any mean to sneaking out that place with the pillows.

    Those were incredibly soft... and she couldn't have them. The injustice!

    -------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d-------------

    Afterthoughts: Yes, Anastasia is here and... she is incredibly adorable. But also an experienced economist and a greedy girl with a good, but greedy heart. It's surprisingly odd how little spotlight she was allowed in the series in the first couple of arcs after the introduction to the Royal Election. Gah! I wanna hug her and share philosophical talks with her!

    And yes, I did add a Cover Image to the story in FFN. The Artist is みゅー (@Myu_Myu_Moon) on Twitter and boy, I love that art!

    Lastly, let's go for the third part and penultimate part of this Omake EX!

    ------------
    Omake EX 1: Visitors from Beyond the Sea (3/4)
    ------------

    After what could easily be considered one of the oddest, but perhaps most expected first contacts I could've imagine out from meeting with such a unique cast of characters, I soon found myself dealing with the serious bits of this little parenthesis.

    With Eric leading the mixed group inside the ship and right to the large meeting room within the place, we were quick to occupy some chairs on each sides of the table.

    There was some order as to not create issues among the two parties, and while the idea was seen as genuinely good for many, I was quick to notice that someone had either not gotten the memo or had outright ignored it with the place she had taken.

    Madelyn Adelaide, better known as 'Maddie' by the rest of the occupants of the ship, had preferred to take a seat right beside me, quietly waiting for any discussions to truly start.

    I wasn't the only one taking notice of this discrepancy and I saw Keith staring sternly at the girl as if trying to get her to budge out of that seat while the rest of the assemble came to a conclusion.

    Yet the young Basitin didn't seem to even ponder over this instance, deciding to stay on that chair much to my growing curiosity and surprise.

    Maddie was the daughter of the current King of the Eastern Basitin Tribe, Jade Adelaide, and while simple appearance would make her appear as young as a thirteen years old, she was actually a very unruly young adult that had just sneaked inside the ship to see more of the world.

    But while I was well aware of her childish nature in some situations, I could think of nothing that could actually motivate this little unexpected decision.

    "Why?" I inquired softly, drawing her yellow eyes at me.

    "Because I want to sit there?"

    I blinked at that reply, studying her posture as she easily held back any suspicious undertones with that rebuttal.

    In the end, I shrugged at this confusing matter as I felt that there wasn't a genuinely serious argument behind this circumstance, turning my attention back at the other side of the table.

    With a heavy sigh, Keith seemed to regain some seriousness over the situation, trying his best to not poke once more at the 'princess'.

    "Before we ask this session, I wish to ask for confirmation over the fact that we will soon be reached by Prince... Fourier? The current Crown Prince?" The ambassador inquired with some uncertainty, to which I replied with a solid nod.

    "Would it be possible to also ask about why your King couldn't take part to this important situations? Perhaps a more pressing concern or-"

    "King Randohal has been ill for months now," I mentioned with a tight tone, interrupting Lynn's half-inquiry. "The Royal Family has been decimated in the last few years by a mysterious sickness. And the King and the prince are the only known members still alive."

    "That's some tragic news," Trace commented with a sad expression.

    "I hope the prince is well and healthy, then," Keith conceded with a slow nod. "But still, I feel the need to ask about another concern that has yet to be brought up about what happened earlier when the ship had just docked."

    I frowned. "And the concern is?"

    "When we first arrived, some guards seemed to tense up at the main role of this ship, saying that slavery in general wasn't condoned," The Basitin continued with a tense tone. "I would've like to ask you if that was truly the case. Has slavery been abolished?"

    I gave a quick nod to that question, drawing some surprised looks from many and a confused expression from the owner of the ship.

    "Why?"

    It wasn't the blond that inquired, but rather the girl sitting beside me.

    I looked at Maddie with a curious look, surprised by her participation in this very topic.

    "Well, right now we're talking to each other on an equal basis, right?" I asked back, making the Basitin frown and nod at my query. "And let me ask you this. If without a reason I decided that you are no longer my equal because you... have yellow eyes, what would you reply to me."

    She frowned at my example. "I would be angry and say that it is unfair."

    I nodded. "Slavery is based on the presumption that equality among individuals, which is enabled by the fact that we can have a proper conversation without much issues, is forfeited on the basis that a difference between you and I can be considered an undeniable example of inferiority or superiority."

    "And that's stupid," Maddie summarized with those words.

    I cracked a smile at that and nodded again.

    Before I had the chance of continuing to press on this argument once more, I saw Eric tense up over the subject and intervene.

    "Mayor Bukharin, you surely understand that the system is like this- I'm not the one that promotes it," The blond tried to explain. "I'm not hurting anyone by-"

    "Perpetrating an erroneous practice even right now," I finished for him, sighing at his uneasy look. "Mr. Vaughan, I can try and understand that you're not a bad person on a normal basis, but slavery is inherently bad."

    "I-It's not that bad."

    We all glanced to the other end of the table, where Kat had taken a seat and was seemingly interested with this topic.

    "Eric has allowed me to express my own opinions on various occasions," She continued with some determination, yet her supportive words were actually damaging the little defense that was left on the Pro-Slavery side.

    Instead of pressing over the matter, I decided to turn my attention to Flora, the Tiger Keidran regarding me with a curious look.

    "Flora, what is your opinion about apples?"

    The girl's eyes widened at the comment, a small smile spreading on her lips. "Well, I like them."

    I nodded. "Good. Now... did you need to ask me for permission to express this comment?"

    ...

    "No?" She replied with some confusion, to which I nodded again.

    "Yep. I didn't ask. I didn't need to," I expressed with a sigh. "You don't need to have the permission of anyone to give your own personal opinion over a topic. It's one of your rights and freedoms to be able to do that."

    I turned to Eric, he wasn't trying to even look at me at this and... I noticed Kat looking fairly nervous at that failed effort to help the blond.

    But before I had the opportunity to try and press the argument back to the main priority regarding diplomacy, the conversation was interrupted when someone started to knock at the sole door of the room.

    A brown-furred head peeked inside. Evals, I muttered inwardly as I recognized the Dog Keidran.

    "Master Eric, the royal entourage has arrived and-"

    Before he had time to finish, my ears caught on some footsteps approaching and I saw the guy make way as the group started to enter the room.

    Orestes and I stood up from our chairs at the sight of Fourier, while the rest of the room merely stared at the development with a mix of curiosity and surprise.

    "Prince Fourier," I greeted properly.

    "Lord Bukharin," The younger blond replied happily as he took a few steps towards me.

    The red-eyed prince approached me with a dazzling smile, quickly offering me a quick hug before I was allowed to move to greet the smiling woman behind him.

    "Lady Karsten," I greeted again, bowing my head to the young woman.

    "Lord Bukharin," She returned with a quick bow of her head, accepting a brief handshake too.

    Before I had the time to properly turn to greet the last member of the visible group, I found myself almost tackled down by a powerful pounce, a giggling brunet eagerly giving me a tight hug without any moderation to his eagerness.

    I sighed. "Ferris, you should be a little more careful. I almost tripped."

    "Sorry, Johnyah," The cat-eared boy apologized quickly, sounding less apologetic and more mirthful in the process.

    And while the rest of the Re:zero group settled by the remaining chairs on our side of the table, the other group couldn't help but bestow us a newer degree of curiosity and fascination.

    But Maddie merely smiled eagerly as she prepared to assist to quite the interesting meeting considering the odd bunch of people on both parts, curious to see how things will turn into from this shaky beginning.

    -------d-d-d-d-----------------d-d-d-d------------------d-d-d-d-----------------d-d-d-d-------------------d-d-d-d----------------

    AN

    Third part. Next one will contain the wrap up and... then we move back to normal Omakes. Expect lots about Ferris, some about Fourier, a couple about Crusch, a sure one for Anastasia and... Prscilla.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  15. Threadmarks: This is about the Bloody Princess
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    22 July 422

    Satella was elated. Or at least, that was what I got from her genuine reactions up until I had to leave.

    The young woman had slowly accepted the fact that I was going to make it a serious commitment to visit her on a monthly basis. Her happiness was even intensified by the pleasant day spent together.

    The picnic was a success, and I ended up scoring some interesting stories about Echidna and other Witches. I was mostly interested in those starring Witch of Greed considering the abundance of figures related to her that I found myself taking care for. The main theme of the narration was... utter, and undeniable life-dumbery from the amoral researcher.

    Some were indeed stupid, from Echidna trying her best to gauge the 'limits' of Daphne's Authority, risking more than once of getting consumed by the eternal hunger the Witch of Gluttony, while others were just... odd. Like why the heck would you want to create a demonic bunny that breed asexually so frequently. Especially if the little critter could turn in a swift and unforgiving carnivore.

    Yet, despite my return to the tent went uneventfully and without anyone noticing the lack of my presence, that night ended up with me pondering with an unnerving sight of the Dark form of the Witch of Envy merely staring as I went away from the barrier's inner miasma. It didn't help that I also heard some sound, something that just felt like was... a 'sorry'.

    It was unbelievable. The manifestation of Satella's own guilt shouldn't be able to feel beyond a scope of emotions that were within her 'creator/truer self', but the possibility of it actually developing an independent state of self was concerning to a magical degree beyond what I could imagine.

    Sure, the case was unique and there were no precedence that could help me understand what could be happening between the two 'same' individuals. It was odd enough to keep me awake at night, unsure how to truly tackle this novelty right as I was meant to come back there.

    Would I be greeted aggressively like earlier on today, or perhaps I would listen to more words coming from the Envy?

    That was going to be a hassle to deal for sure...

    Still, a day passed and the entourage was quick to return back one. This time there had been no major attacks, nor I could see any problems rising as Orestes wasn't at the gate.

    Yet, despite my greatest hope to be left alone with my own workload, I soon found out that something had indeed escalating while I was away.

    Never mind that I wasn't expecting Anastasia to actually pass by to deal with some trading issues her company was suffering with because of the new protectionist laws I had approved a while ago, but I had to also deal with a certain noblewoman that had finally decided to visit.

    The fact that I had to deal with the two of them at once because both were unwilling to make a proper turn was enough to make me groan inwardly. A lot.

    Still, I was graced by the fact that her little Fox Spirit was currently inactive. I wasn't unsure if I could draw it as good news or not, especially with how dreadful it would be if I forgot about the dangerous artificial spirit.

    Sitting down by the office, I knew that I should've pushed to 'discover' some coffee. Or at least something that matched the effects of caffeine.

    "Ms. Hoshin, your request is a legitimate one, but I would like to inquire if you've prepared some drafts for an agreement," I commented quietly. "As you know, I can't just offer your company privileges that could alienate other companies working within Erindor."

    She nodded, preparing some papers as I heard a long sigh coming from beside her. I glanced at Priscilla, her arms crossing below her bosom as I stared right at her irritated expression.

    "Yes?" I inquired with a curious voice.

    "You could greet me."

    I blinked. "I think I did. Back when you were huffing and whining about 'having priority' over talking to me."

    "I do," She reaffirmed without hesitation. "And I think this is unacceptable. I'm Lady Barielle, you should prioritize visits from Lugnican Nobles."

    "Why?"

    "Because the city is part of the Dragon Kingdom of Lugnica. Not of Kararagi, nor Gusteko, and especially not Volacchia!"

    Is that a grudge that I'm hearing right now?

    "Well, as the mayor of Erindor, I've the rights to decide how to program and deal with different kinds of visits. To be a little more specific, I would've favored to speak with Ms. Hoshin since she's here for business' reasons. Then I would've offered you as much time as you wanted-"

    "You 'offering' me?" The orange-blonde repeated with a miffed look. "Do you understand that I can't stand for this? First you deny addressing me by my proper title- then this! I can't accept this and-"

    "Found them," Anastasia quipped with an uneasy smile, perhaps getting nervous over dealing with these circumstances. "And here. I made some adjustments to the current system, just a couple of changes to still favor my trade company's presence within the city. Nothing too excessive, and I've included the increase of some of the fees to equalize the changes."

    I nodded, returning my attention at the papers that the violet-haired woman was tending towards me. "Can I give it a thorough look?"

    She nodded and I went ahead with some thorough checking to see if this draft could be acceptable, or if we were going to spend a little more than a couple of minutes debating about it.

    After a couple seconds passed with me swiftly reading the lines and the comments left in there, I frowned at some details that just... didn't feel right.

    "Ms. Hoshin, forgive me if I ask but... how is it equal if you're lessening the burden of the fees on precious metals by increasing the one for the bread?"

    She smiled innocently. "Bread is good."

    "I know that bread is good, but I fail to see how that actually make it as profitable as gold or other high-quality ores."

    Her smile faltered a little. "Okay, I was just testing the ground with how you actually worked like-"

    "So you decided to present a false document to a legitimate meeting with a Lugnican officer?" Surprisingly enough, it was Priscilla that jumped at the occasion to chide the 'silly foreigner girl'. "Is this a custom from Kararagi, Hoshin?"

    Anastasia blinked at the pressure, but didn't seem particularly fazed by the stern comment. In fact, she merely displayed a sheepish look.

    "I guess I shouldn't be playing around with this important situation, I suppose you will forgive me for probing a little about you, Mr. Mayor," The young woman inquired and... I sighed.

    "Ms. Hoshin, I will forgive this slight only if you promise here and now that you will not try anything like this ever again," I responded with a calm tone. "Or I will find myself force to return the favor by 'punishing' your company for a childish prank from its leadership."

    She flinched. "Now, that's cruel."

    "You would've done the same to one of your subordinates if they tried to trick you like this," I rebuked mirthfully. "I know you would."

    "Guilty as charged, Mr. Bukharin," Anastasia giggled as she passed over the real draft. "Now, this is the real draft."

    Priscilla half-glared at me as I just ignored the little situation that had happened. But I was actually understanding of her irritation, just not willing enough to actually sour up relations with the trades coming from Kararagi. Out of the three giants bordering Lugnica, Kararagi was a good ally and trustworthy trade buddy. It has been the case for years now.

    Finally, I got a decent document I could accept with just some minor changes. I started to inquire about the possibilities to apply these adjustments, trying to make the paper as fair as possible.

    Anastasia offered her own thoughts, responding to my questions over the topics brought up with exceptional preparation. Behind that innocent-looking mask, I knew that I was dealing with an incredible contract-dealer. She had the experience, and the success of her company was proof to that.

    I hummed calmly as I finished signing the final documents, allowing for a copy to be made so that the girl could keep it as legitimate proof of this substantial meeting. I walked her to the door, and I was instantly confused when she started to inquire about the hotel's pillows. Directing her to the regal furniture shop within Erindor seemed to dissolve this odd conclusive note.

    With Anastasia gone for her merry way, I was left to deal with Priscilla. And boy, I was ready to face quite the ordeal with her.

    I returned to my seat, I was spared just enough to sit down on my chair as the woman quickly spoke.

    "How is the girl, Sphinx?"

    It was interesting to see her switching to a serious tone. This time, it really seemed to lack any cocky edges from her usual personality.

    "Recovering. Her magic is doing its best to heal her own body, and her mind is... slowly regaining some understanding of the world."

    The orangette nodded leaning relaxingly onto her chair. "And there were no issues about her current situation? No whining or-"

    "Outbursts?" I concluded for her, gaining a scowl out of her face. "She was a little nervous. But she's showing less distrust over others."

    "Good, I suppose that... you were correct."

    ...What in the glorious heck was going on?

    I didn't speak, I couldn't even if I wanted. She resumed with a hum, straightening herself in her seat. "Can I ask you something, John?"

    I felt a cold chill, something was just off right now about her current attitude. Something that was correlated to the fact that this wasn't... something I was prepared to face.

    "Sure?" I inquired back, trying to hide my sudden bout of nervousness.

    In a normal situation, I wouldn't have minded dealing with Priscilla. Yet, right now, the woman was display a range of emotions that... wasn't something I was aware about. None of the boisterous, overconfident adult-brat that I had known thanks to Canon.

    No, this was... much worse.

    "Is there anyone that is currently... spying on us?"

    I blinked at the odd query, shaking my head instinctively and gaining a calm sigh from her.

    "Good."

    She stood up, still staring at me, and I frowned as she started to walk around the desk, stopping on my left side as- she suddenly pushed me on the ground, making me topple down my chair.

    I squirmed quickly, yet I was soon surprised by her quick feet as she rapidly pressed me down, with her hands grasping at my arms to keep me from struggling out of her hold.

    I was confused, surprised. Incredibly furious too. I had been bamboozled!

    "W-What-"

    "Stop, I don't want to harm you but... I need to know," She muttered seriously, her eyes keeping a degree of steel-like resolution that made me question what the heck she wanted for her to literally manhandle me like this.

    I eased down my struggle and... she released hold over my arms. Still sitting by my chest, I could see her face close and way too personal to my own.

    "W-What do you want?"

    Priscilla blinked. "You know. Don't you?"

    ...

    "Wha-"

    "It would explain why you're so confident while talking to me," The orangette continued. "Why you skip the formalities- Why you just know how to 'handle' me. Why you knew why Sphinx thought that I told her false by replying with my 'name'."

    She took a brief pause to breathe. "Tell me. What's my real name?"

    I prepared all the verbal leverage I could've used to get out of that dangerous situation. I know that I was risking big time and- my brain went blank when she materialized the Yang Sword Volacchia right aimed to be plunged down on my chest.

    I started to sweat at that sight. Now I was feeling the 'heat'.

    And rightfully so. I mean, what the fuck was she trying to do with that stunt? The sword, albeit its power was never shown in the show, nor it was in the LN and the Manga- it could easily become something similar to a small-scale Ea with the power it holds. Yet I knew that the woman was serious about her interest in having an answer by the fact that the upkeep of the sword was mortal on her Gate.

    Priscilla was risking a sudden death the more she kept it around.

    "Y-You damn moron- What are you trying to get from-"

    "My real name," She pressed without hesitation, and I could see her face sporting a flinch at the drain. "Tell me."

    I gritted my teeth, my anger rising to a degree which I hadn't felt in ages. To see someone so recklessly, so stupidly, trying to get some answers through that suicidal method was.

    "Drop the goddamn sword, Prisca!"

    There was silence after my shout. I could feel my anger cooling down to a still state as I noticed her eyes widening at the chiding, her sword vanishing instantly at that.

    The silence persisted even though the answer had been given. Her body relaxed a little more, her skin paler than moments before. Either for the sword's upkeep or for her suspicions becoming the truth.

    I was screwed anyway. The truth was out, I was now a dangerous element to keep around as I would undermine her presence here.

    Her eyes narrowed at me. "Why?"

    ...

    "Why did you- If you knew, why would you even consider helping me?!" She almost screeched. "You- Are you a spy to my foolish brother- have you been sent to-"

    "I'm not from Volacchia," I finally spoke up. "Nor I am a spy from other nations. I just know-"

    "And that's a lie. If you 'just knew' then you wouldn't have cared for a little reject like me. So why did you decide to help me?"

    ...

    "Answer me!"

    "Because I can understand your plight," I answered loudly to her shriek. "Not because of a bribery or some stupid ties to that crazy nation. I just know and I just care enough to help."

    ...

    Her eyes were wide open, yet she didn't spoke after this declaration. Slowly standing up, Priscilla started to walk towards the door and I stood up to try and assess the damage that was committed in that very instance.

    She paused by the doorstep, looking back with an impassive expression. "I will be staying here as a guest for the remainder of the day. Or else I will report that you've been securing sensible information about one of the heirs to the throne of Volacchia."

    "You're the heiress-"

    "I know," The woman interrupted me with a bitter smile. "I guess now I can see how 'exciting' treating you with your own medicine feels."

    More like a poison.

    The door closed before I had the chance of giving that rebuttal, and I was lost over my thoughts about what had just happened.

    This- To think that Priscilla could get so daring and desperate when things are stacking against her.

    I can only dread what kind of hell awaited me for the rest of the day.

    ----------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d-------------

    Surprisingly enough, I was spared any major conflicts with the orangette as the day went more or less smoothly. I remembered to pass by the hospital and visit Sphinx. The girl was happy at the fact that I kept true to what I promised her.

    The joy born from that very instance was enough to make her display a bubbly personality for the rest of the visit. The pseudo-witch had enjoyed her books, and our conversations moved over some of the topics high-lighted by the books I brought to her.

    She was adorable in showing so much eagerness to learn, but it certainly didn't soothe my worry that this was something correlated to Echidna's own thirst for knowledge.

    The visit still helped me in distracting my mind away from what had happened during the morning.

    Then I spent some time mixing my attention between the kids and the paperwork, doing my utmost to steer clear from walking into a room or a corridor where I knew Priscilla was wandering around.

    Hours passed without me making contacts with the Bloody Princess, nor I ended up seeing Al around. Maybe the man was enjoying some time away from the chaos for once, or maybe he was trying to make damage control with his boss. Difficult to say for certain.

    Yet, despite my best efforts to avoid making any other confrontations with Priscilla, even going as far as skipping lunch, I still ended up having to be present for dinner.

    I didn't have any good motivations to employ for the situation itself, and Orestes was keen to stress out how having me legitimately ignore my 'noble guess' was going to put a serious strain with the rest of the monarchy. I hated it, but he was so right about it.

    So I was there, sitting right the opposite seat to Priscilla's. We weren't daring to stare to each other, and the rest of the room was quick to perceive the tension between us.

    There was silence, it looked like it was going to be a civil truce for once. I thought- no, I hoped for it to be the case for the entire dinner, but I would soon find out that a certain helmeted knight had other plans about it.

    Both the twins and Schult decided to leave the table early on to get some proper rest, leaving just me, Priscilla, Orestes and Al to deal with the awkward circumstance that was in that room.

    It was in that very moment that the one-armed man decided to speak up.

    "So, is it a mayor-thing to get girl to cry?"

    ...

    I blinked, staring off from my almost done plate and right to Al. "What?"

    "I mean, I understand that you can be a bastard. But I don't think that's something you regularly do."

    Orestes looked scandalized, yet I kept a straight face as I finally turned my attention to see if he was telling the truth. Priscilla was trembling a little, but I knew it was all from irritation ignited by her subordinate's words.

    But I saw her eyes, and I could see signs that she had been crying.

    That wasn't possible. Priscilla couldn't just cry, it wasn't... something of hers. It wasn't 'correct'. Especially with what had happened back in that office.

    I was the victim, she was the aggressor. I should be feeling distressed, not her.

    Still, the sight was there to put me in a state of inner discomfort as once more I couldn't make sense of this sudden shift away from her usual pattern.

    "So, whatcha going to say?"

    I returned my stare at him, then at Orestes as the weary knight addressed me with a confused look.

    "Can I ask for both of you to leave?"

    The request was met with stiff opposition, mostly by the helmeted knight. "Now, I understand that you want to talk to her but-"

    "Aldebaran," Priscilla commented with a calm tone. "Comply to the mayor's request. At once."

    At the words of his lady, Al couldn't do much but begrudgingly nod and follow Orestes towards the door.

    Once it close, I was once more facing Priscilla, this time there was no surprise, nor any weapons to threaten me around.

    "Are you okay?" I asked with caution.

    The orangette blinked, her stare still directed at her now-empty plate. She looked dull.

    "No."

    Quite curious, but not something I hadn't expected with that turn of events. The bluntness and sharp honesty had survived that strange 'switch' of tones.

    "Do you want to talk about it?"

    Another blink. "Why do you care?" She asked suddenly.

    I frowned, arms crossing close to my chest as I leaned back on my chair.

    "I just do."

    She snorted. "That's pathetic."

    "I guess it is," I admitted without restraint. "But then again, what would you have wanted to hear?"

    ...

    I sighed at her silence. "Look... I understand that you got your own messes- you don't want to deal with your past and all of that."

    "I don't. You're right," The young woman muttered back. "Which is why I found the fact that you're aware of it... unsettling."

    "I tend to get people uneasy with my knowledge."

    "It doesn't sound like a compliment," She pointed out, and I nodded. "What? You mean to tell me that you're flawed too?"

    "Everyone is flawed. Don't make it appear like I build up that kind of image," I chided quietly. "Just because I'm prudent, that doesn't make me 'perfect'."

    "Prudence can take you so far before you start having to face troublesome situations," The orangette rebuked. "Like luck. It eventually runs out and leaves you to the wolves."

    I blinked. "I suppose that's correct."

    ...

    "What do you mean 'I suppose'?" Priscilla pressed with minor irritation. "It's the truth. The cruel and naked one."

    I nodded, keeping quiet for a while as I pondered about some thoughts that were slowly emerging out of that conversation.

    "Priscilla. Do you think that it's odd that fate can end up offering someone the world?" I inquired quietly, our stares matching the very moment I called at her. "That things just... change so suddenly for the good, but also that responsibilities grow to a point where you just start to think about life's fragility."

    "You're odd to entertain yourself with this kind of philosophical stupidity," The noblewoman shot back, but then, surprisingly enough, she nodded. "But I can see what you're trying to refer to with these words. I can... relate."

    She blinked, her lips twitching. "Life is unfair. I don't think I've to tell you why."

    I merely nodded, and she took this as a sign to continue with her rant.

    "I didn't wish for much. I wanted my own peace," Priscilla mused with a sad sigh. "I didn't want a big crown to wear, I didn't desire for a tall chair to rest myself by. I didn't even care if people addressed me properly or not."

    Her eyes stared up at me, and I froze.

    "I just wanted to live a happy life," She admitted, her true dismay finally revealing. "I just wanted to be happy. Nothing more. Is it wrong that I wanted that? Was it asking too much?"

    I shook my head. "You were asking... for the best thing one could ever want."

    She smiled, but it was an empty one.

    "What a pity then," The lady hummed with shallow annoyance.

    She stood up from her chair, and this mere action made me stand up too. While I knew that she wasn't showing anything close to what had happened back in my office, I decided to prepare a counter by mere instincts.

    A curious look adorned her face, but she still went around the table and stopped right by my left side. But instead of pushing me down to the floor, she merely forced me to sit as she made a seat out of my lap. She leaned back a little bit, enough for her head to nestle well by my shoulder.

    I blinked at the strange escalation, but I decided to not speak as she hummed.

    I could feel her warmth, and her smile just seemed to have gained some childish amusement out of this.

    "You... You're odd, John Bukharin," She said, enjoying the 'entertaining' nest she had made. "I wish to hate you, for you represent someone I've grown to despise the most. And yet I can't help but... envy you. So happy, so tired, so..."

    She didn't end that sentence, her body easing up even more as the girl finally had her last energies falter. My right arm reached around her upper back the very moment I noticed her tilting a little bit.

    Her breathing softened to a quiet lullaby as I found myself dealing with the most unexpected of situations. Priscilla had fallen asleep. And I would've eventually needed to take her back to her room

    ...

    Al is surely going to make some awkward comments out of this.

    -------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-------------

    Afterthought: Admittedly, I can see people finding this sudden escalation quite 'wrong'. The reason why Priscilla had this un-Priscilla moment it's connected to the fact that the one shown in Canon isn't 'her true self'. Prisca Benedict is a curious case once people starts to dig more into it. She was one of the candidates to the throne, easily thrown away by his siblings in an arranged marriage that saw her unhappily wedded to a rebellious noble. Kind of ironic how in Canon arrived to have an ambition to the Crown of the Dragon Kingdom when she openly despises thinking back to her homeland and 'connection' to the Volacchian throne.

    P.S. The Ships' Cold War takes a sudden twist with Priscilla making progress. I hope Fourier, Ferris, and Crusch are ready to take on the challenge to a further level.

    P.P.S. The chapter after the next one will probably have a time-skip. Kind of sudden but... we need to start moving the story a little bit. It will be a big jump (not frighteningly big) but quite epic from the usual ones. So expect lots of background in that chapter about what happened in the last 'few months' and why there is a jump to begin with.

    And finally... the last chapter of this Omake EX! After this one there will be lots of fun Omakes centering ReZero. Can't promise that there will be a Omake EX2 anytime soon.

    ------------
    Omake EX 1: Visitors from Beyond the Sea (4/4)
    ------------

    The meeting was going smoothly now that the full-fledged Lugnican group was assembled.

    Some introductions had ensued, and the seats were reshuffled a little bit to better fit the situation with the new arrivals. Orestes had taken his leave, bringing the twins with him as now the real bits of true diplomacy were about to start.

    Maddie had stuck to her seat beside mine, creating quite a problem when Fourier and Ferris clashed over who was going to get the other seat beside mine. The cat-boy won the 'battle' by pointing out that it would be 'best for his highness to be sitting between him, a knight, and Lady Karsten'.

    The victory-inducing comment gained a quick glare, but the blond settled without much of a pout as the entirety of the situation started to properly meld with the rest of the people there.

    The prince was well-prepared to continue the discussion with Keith, slowly but surely making some progress over the circumstances while the rest merely stared at the situation unfold.

    ...Well, mostly everyone. Ferris' appearance certainly gained the interest of a couple of individuals as Katherine and Flora glanced at him with some neutral looks.

    Of the two, the knight took notice of the Tiger Keidran. The stare that ensued gave me the opportunity to ponder what kind of amusing developments would come out of it.

    I felt someone tugging at my sleeve as I had my attention directed at the scene, turning briefly to look at Maddie's questioning look.

    "Just watch," I whispered as a response, gaining a slow nod from the young Basitin as she followed my glance back to the two felines.

    It didn't take too long for one of the two to finally expanding the interaction, with Ferris smiling and letting out a simple 'word'.

    "Nyah."

    The simple sound didn't interrupted the conversation between the two main talkers of both sides, and the reaction from Flora was priceless. The girl's yellow eyes widened in a moment of surprise, which was soon replaced by eagerness and mirthfulness.

    Trace finally realized that his partner had locked onto the cat-eared knight, keeping quiet too as he watched the scene unfold.

    The response finally came, and many rejoiced.

    "Nyah."

    I could feel Maddie holding back a chuckle at that, her hands shooting to block her mouth from letting out any noises to disrupt the serious meeting.

    The interaction continued well even after the diplomatic effort had come to a stable conclusion. While there were still some difficulties over the different stances over slavery, the situation was resolved with a mere request to leave Lugnican territories and sea once the ship was prepared to. Which meant by the end of the day, the Na'Rella was going to leave the dockyard.

    I was slightly irked by the fact this wasn't lasting a little more, but I knew that they still had to go through a lot. I pondered over the chances of meddling with the characters and offering them some help, but then again I didn't knew 'everything' about the series, and I wasn't sure that meddling for good would actually end up well for them.

    With that little parenthesis slowly coming to a close, I soon noticed both Ferris and Flora continuing to exchange some words. Trace was around, quipping within the discussion once in a while as I merely glanced at the two felines continue with their happy moment together.

    The real treat? Flora had yet to realize that Ferris was actually a dude. I wasn't sure that telling her directly would be a smart choice, especially since they both shared the fact they were felines, they both made use of 'Nyah' frequently and... they were both flat.

    So I decided to be a little more 'careful' about it and play it safe. Maddie was slightly confused when I crouched a little and gestured her to approach. She still complied, listening to my whispering and... her eyes widened in surprise.

    "No way- Are you telling me that-"

    "Yep," I replied with a smug grin. "And that's why I need you to... and..."

    Her wide eyes glinted up in amusement as I finished telling her about my plan, a cheeky grin spreading on her face as she nodded at my request. Soon Maddie was walking up to Ferris with a faux-curious look, pulling a little at his arm to get his attention.

    "What did you tell her to do?"

    I turned around to see Kat giving me a suspicious look. I merely smiled. "Just watch."

    The cat-eared knight stopped the chat he was having with the Tiger Keidran, turning to the short Basitin with a minor frown. "Yes?"

    "Mr. Bukharin told me that you're the best medic in the kingdom. Is he saying the truth, Mr. Felix?"

    Little, adorable Maddie. Her role worked masterfully as the cat-boy nodded in reply, while both Flora and Trace took a moment to realize what the young girl had asked to the knight.

    While the blue-haired magician gave a surprised look, it was his partner that gave the greatest of reactions.

    "Wait, WHAT?!"

    I snorted, and I heard Kat gasping at the discovery. "She- She's"

    "He is," I muttered with a smile.

    I expected for Flora to be merely shocked by the discovery, yet I was soon proved wrong by a very detail I had forgotten about the young woman.

    She blinked, her eyes narrowing at Maddie... and then at me. I blinked back, and she took a couple of steps towards me.

    "You knew."

    Her tone promised a degree of pain that I wasn't willing to accept without a flight.

    "...Yes?"

    "And... you didn't say anything about it. Why?"

    I felt my lips twitch in amusement despite the 'deadly' situation.

    "Because of... a chuckle?"

    She smiled. "Run."

    That verbal comment was the only warning I got as I was soon chased around by an enraged Tiger Keidran. I had completely forgotten how vengeful the girl was and let's just say that I had to get some bandages to cover the scratches on my face.

    Still, I was grinning. 'Worth it.'

    ----d-d-d-d--------d-d-d-d--------

    AN

    Conclusion to the Omake EX 1. A pity that Raine wasn't there. I love that adorable girl~!
     
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  16. Threadmarks: This is about hugging a friend in need
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    Quick Warning: Last chapter I wrote that I was going to make the timeskip by the chapter 'next' to this one. Well... I kind of got a meh 'script' for the aftermath and... I really want to kick the pace a little bit. There isn't much to do with how the situation is.

    18 December 422

    Five months. That's how much had passed since I had the chance to genuinely get to return back to the capital.

    The charioteer was quiet as he drove the vehicle through the somber streets of the massive city. The entire population was barely wandering around, and I expected this 'odd' behavior to persist for a little more than a few days.

    I stared at Hannah as she was sitting in the seat in front of me, the woman having asked to have the opportunity to visit her son considering the circumstances that saw us visiting the castle. Her perplexed stare was distractedly directed at the small window that showed the world outside of the chariot. I was silently waiting, carefully making sure to not disturb the sleep of both twins. I had decided to bring the boys with me, feeling like I couldn't exactly leave them back home with the fact I had planned to stay there well beyond the planned celebration for Christmas.

    Of course the occurrence wasn't defined as such. It would've been odd to explain why this had to be named after an important figure of a religion beyond their current one. So I stuck with the term 'Winter Festival'. Stealing from Memory Snow but... I couldn't exactly make use of 'Yule' or 'Nativity' to indicate the specific days as the former was directed at the period between the Winter's solstice and the first day of January, while the latter was still regarding the birth of Christ.

    While there had been some skepticality over the economic needs of such a celebration, those were scattered away the moment the current numbers of the treasury were unveiled to Orestes. The old man was... surprised. Yes, that term was the best way to describe the brief emotion that he displayed before almost falling unconscious at the coin registered in our 'bank'.

    Efforts in Erindor with the process of modernizing and creating a stable and magic-aided industry had resulted in plenty of advancements in various sectors. From the development of improved mechanic tools, the standardization of a proper 'civil lifestyle' and a few steps that had been made towards a proper legislation to guarantee the workers' right to the introduction of new architectural rules, the implementation of a mandatory Elementary School system and the conception of a decent professional army.

    Sweat, blood, and time had been used to fuel the never-ending machine that was moderate innovation, and the things that were slowly spreading among the kingdom were improving general life's conditions. Of course, the diffusion of the new technologies was all possible thanks to various joint operations between my representatives and the royal administrators assigned to this specific kind of situations.

    The 'Royal Department for Magic and Science' was quite eager to get their hands on a couple of the inventions arriving from my city, and they were baffled by a few of the 'absurd contraptions' that they were given samples of. The large majority were delighted with this amount of innovative objects, with some skepticism mostly directed to the state of things regarding the military applications of a few of the tools presented.

    This very issue was moved to the inspectors of the Royal Lugnican Army, and the verdict of further examinations were quite... fair. Anything that hadn't any possible military purpose was competence of the RDMS, while anything else which could be used for War-related situations was to be limited to the RLA and Erindor's own military force. The agreement had been signed under a tense situation, as two months ago the Vollachian Kingdom had decided to once again intensify their border raids after some issues happening by the Gustekian borders over a mass immigration wave reaching for Erindor.

    The resulting situation? Cannons made their baptism of fire by shelling down some of the lines of a small Vollachian Battalion trying to scour and loot a couple of the villages near the border. Diplomatic attempts to secure a 'good peace' were made, and Vollachia was forced to eat a bitter and humiliating defeat with the losses suffered against the forces dispensed by the RLA.

    Now, this situation would've generally sparked major irritation from the leadership to try and attack again, this time with more preparation, but the aftermath was incredibly different that one would've imagined. The Emperor himself saw the execution of the officers that 'deceitfully attempted to sour relations with Lugnica' and the event was seen as an attempt to impose an ultimatum to the chaotic army. Order or death, and that message was the clearest possible thanks to the recent defeat and punishment from the government.

    I listened to thsee news with mild interest, finding this entire situation kind of fitting considering who was ruling that nation. Vincent Vollachia was someone that was first described in EX Volume 4, and he was described as someone capable of making quick decisions while keeping a calm and observant mind over any circumstance. In a year or so from now Ferris, Reinhard and Julius would end up being sent to escort a diplomatic mission to the 'Sacred Empire', only to be framed for an assassination attempt directed at the Emperor himself.

    Hopefully, I will manage to offer to the knightly trio some assistance in the form of 'warnings'. I really didn't want to make bets that canon will keep being... canon. Especially with what had happened in the last few months. With this little parenthesis with Vollachia came to a sudden closure, I found myself drawn away from my thoughts and back to the present.

    The chariot had finally reached the castle, moving to one of the parking spots still available within the walls. There were large crowds of nobles occupying various bits of the courtyard, this situation not truly a surprise on a normal basis, but since the situation was fairly grave, I didn't have much to say but move hesitantly before a proper convocation from Miklotov. The time had finally come...

    The king was dead. The illness had taken him out around the same time it had back in Canon.

    And with Randohal now out of the big chair, it was Fourier's time to finally prepare for what was going to be quite the fierce competition. Everything was happened fairly earlier than in the OTL, but the very reason behind the sudden shift of events was the fact that the blond was alive and well. Had he been cursed by Pandora, he would've survived for something close to a full year before giving the opportunity to Miklotov to actually convene the Royal Elections.

    With my mind still distracted by these heavy thoughts, I proceeded to wake up the twins. Fritz had fallen asleep while sitting on my lap, while his older brother had settled for the seat beside mine, leaning to the side to use my shoulder as a makeshift pillow.

    Both Demi-humans woke up slowly but steadily, letting out some quick yawns as they swiftly dealt with the post-nap sleepiness. Soon we all left the chariot by the same door, letting Hannah walk out first as I took the boys out shortly after. I didn't waste much time in addressing the charioteer, merely letting him known to stay put until I got someone to move the stuff from the rear of the vehicle.

    Silently and calmly, I took the lead of the small group, with my main objective being the main doors. Various foreign dignitaries and high-level nobles were almost obstructing the entrance because of their unwillingness to move out of the way from the small space that led inside, but considering how small my entourage was, it proved easy to enter without getting too much attention on me.

    Some of these people seemed to recognize me, but none made efforts to actually approach me. I was known to be a close friend to Fourier, and considering the serious mood I was in, my face was just exuding a major dislike for any sudden obstacles along the way. I needed to see how the blond was holding, if he needed support. If he needed a hug.

    I sighed at this last thought, genuinely hoping that the situation wasn't as bad as I thought it being. I could easily remember how gloomy things had been when the Prince had learned about his older brother's passing, and now that the last member of his family had perished, I knew that the situation was going to be incredibly bad. Which is why I didn't make any delay in swiftly take a trip to the capital.

    My musing was finally brought to an end as I noticed a certain cat-eared knight starting to make his way towards us. Felix looked... okayish. The brunet seemed to be giving a faux smile to hide away the general sadness and discomfort correlated to the main event of today. He gave a nod as he finally stopped in front of us.

    "Johnyah, mother..." He paused for a moment, his stare lowering to stare at the two kids occupying each my side. "And I think you're... Fritz and Hans?"

    "Y-Yes," Hans muttered, carefully adjusting his glasses while trying his best to not blush at the pretty face staring at him. "A-And you're Ser Felix?"

    "Just call me Ferris. Nice to meet nyah two~," He replied with a vibrant tone, enjoying the little title before his name. I sighed drawing his stare up back at me.

    "What? Aren't you going to give your mother a hug?" I teased with a snort, making him take a surprised look as he redirected his attention back to the embarrassed woman. Hannah looked ready to lightly protest about this, but her opposition crumbled instantly as her son reached for a good embrace.

    "Sorry, mom," Ferris muttered with a muffled voice, making the woman huff as she reached with her hand to pat his scalp.

    "There's nothing to apologize, dear. You're a good knight trying to uphold a proper standing and-" The older woman almost eeped as his hold tightened.

    "But you're my mom, why shouldn't I hug you when I'm greeting you?" The Demi-human inquired rhetorically. Hannah sighed calmly, conceding to that point as I waited patiently for both to be done with the hug. But just as I hoped to be granted some early answers about the situation, I found myself engulfed in a quick embrace from the young man.

    "And I missed you too, Johnyah~!" He sounded excited as he snuggled his face on my chest, prompting me to pat his head.

    "Likewise Ferris. You wouldn't believe how much I missed having you around," I muttered back, smiling a little at the close gesture. "But I suppose you're not here just to greet us. Aren't you?"

    He huffed, holding me hostage of that embrace a little longer before finally letting me free. "First you say you missed me, then you quickly talk about the serious things."

    The cat-boy pouted and I hummed at his expression. "Sorry, Ferris. I didn't mean to sound like a liar. It's just that... I wanted to know how was Fourier."

    His animal ears twitched at the mentioning of the prince.

    "Are you worried about him?" Felix quickly questioned, offering a sympathetic look before nodding. "Lady Crusch is currently talking to him by his room. She had arrived earlier today and... she had been talking to him since then."

    I nodded at that, almost ready to march up to where the blond's room was, only to be interrupted by more words coming from the brunet.

    "But I was assigned to have you all report by the living quarters that have been picked for you by Lord Miklotov. Captain Marcus' orders," He mentioned with hum, making me frown at this development.

    They had planned the possibility I was going to check on Fourier early on... and set Felix to stop me? It wasn't ideal, but at least I wasn't dealing with either Reinhard or Julius about the whole assignment.

    I had more than enough opportunities to experience the rush of climbing off a building through open windows.

    "I guess then that we should get going before-"

    "Still, I think you could check on his Highness," Ferris interjected quickly, ignoring my words and winking my way. "I will help mom and the kids to find their rooms, and then I will come and check on nyah."

    ...

    "You were barred from entering his room, weren't you?" I quickly asked, making him freeze up in sudden shock.

    "How- I mean, that's... that's just ridiculous-"

    "You're not a good liar, Ferris~."

    He huffed, crossing his arms close to his chest. "Fine, I was forbidden to interrupt lady Crusch and his Highness during their time together- but I just want to help them, nyah!"

    "Then I guess I will accept your little offer," I commented happily. "But I want something in return."

    The cat-eared knight frowned at the second bit, ready to inquire about it... only to be stopped as my arms wrapped again around him and pulled him in a tighter hug. I ruffled his hair, I scratched carefully at his ears and enjoyed the harmonious purring from the mix of positive petting.

    I released him shortly after, the boy's face completely red for what had been quite the awkward gesture.

    "That was-"

    "I really missed you. And I mean it," I interjected mirthfully before turning to the twins. "Now Ser Felix will help you find where our room is. You will be with Hannah and... I will be back once I'm sure Fourier is fine."

    Hans nodded, but Fritz looked a little bit uneasy.

    "P-Papa, can you... can you tell Fou that we miss him too?"

    My heart disintegrated at the cute words, but I managed to give him a serious nod. "I sure will tell him that. I bet he will be quite happy to know you two are here too."

    The final words seemed to finally convince the duo, and soon I found myself wandering alone through the halls and the staircases of the palace. My mind was set, my intentions were clear... and I was ready to dispense the proper hugging for friends in need.

    Operation 'Bro Hugger' has now begun!

    ---------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d--------------d-d-d-d--------------

    My little march was mostly uneventful and devoid of any major issues. Guards passing by didn't offer me much of a glance, ignoring my presence to continue with their patrol around the floor. I was glad that I didn't have to deal with anyone else enlisted to stop my friendship crusade, but I soon ended up facing a brief obstacle in the form of a certain noble.

    Meckart Karsten, Crusch's father, was patiently and calmly pacing by the corridor that faced Fourier's room.

    The man was initially lost in his own thoughts as I took the corner that led to that hallway, but he seemed to spot me quite easily as soon as I was close enough to him. He looked surprised, if not perplexed by my appearance, but instead of merely greeting me and spare a handful of formal words, he proceeded to do something fairly unexpected.

    Just as I started to walk towards him, the man's pace picked up to reach me in what looked to be a little rush, swiftly pulling me away from the corridor and back from the corner where I came from. My eyes widened in surprise at the sudden manhandling, but my confusion turned in dread as I was regaled with quite the intense staring from the man.

    "Mayor Bukharin," He addressed curtly. "It's a 'pleasure' to make your acquaintance. Please, do let me ask you a couple of questions."

    The request didn't sound like one by the way it was... imposed on me. I gulped nervously at the strange turn of this encounter, but I gave him a slow nod.

    "Lord Meckart?"

    He ignored my confused greeting. "You see, Mayor Bukharin, I'm sure you're aware that my daughter has been sending you letters in the last couple of months. Quite extensively and frequently too."

    ...Oh no.

    I mean, I could see him make that connection with the fact that Crusch and I had been exchanging letters for a long time now, but it was strictly for business affairs correlated to her efforts to improve her territories.

    "Sir, I-"

    "You've also replied with the same frequency. And the more you've written to her, the happier she would get each day," He pressed on, quite unwilling to listen to my weak attempts to deal with the misunderstanding afoot. "While I know for a fact that you're part of the group that rescued my daughter months ago, and that she has spoken highly of you, I can't help but feel like you both are keeping a big secret from me."

    "Sir, we're not-"

    "I'm confused. My daughter wouldn't certainly harbor feelings for someone she had met a couple of times only and-"

    "Sir, the letters weren't about some secret love affair," I quickly snapped, tensing up in the unpleasant grasp his hands had over my shoulders. While he was slimmer and weaker than other men his age, the closeness and the seriousness of his tone were certainly driving me panicky. "It was all about things she wanted to implement within the Duchy, nothing more-"

    "Oh, but I'm well-aware of that," Meckart rebuked quickly, looking hardly fazed by my explanation. "Crusch told me so already, and I've seen that she was actually reformed parts of the old rules to better fit with the current times."

    Then why are you giving me the 'overprotective father' spiel if that wasn't the problem?! Seriously, I know that he was someone that jumped the gun at the first hint of an awkward situation, but he couldn't be serious about thinking that someone like Crusch was actually thinking of me like that. There were just no hints of that in her letters, and she seemed to keep the usual tones in most of her papers.

    "The issue, John Bukharin, is that she has been searching in our libraries for books related to courting right by the same time she had started this exchange of letters with you," He finally answered, giving me more stuff to think about as... this did make for a compelling piece of evidence now that I was introduced to it.

    That could easily connect the two events together, but... I was also aware that I had been the one that had started to coax her to abandon any formal restrictions with Fourier. Maybe the frequent exchange of letters had somehow primed her to inquire about any possible romantic relationship with the Prince, especially since he was being incredibly 'visible' with his intentions.

    "Sir, I can assure you that while Crusch and I share a friendly relationship, she doesn't harbor any romantic-" I paused a moment as the man pulled out from his pants pocked what looked to be a crumbled letter. "Feelings; what is that?"

    "This, John Bukharin, is one of four drafts that were meant to be letters that one of my servants found underneath her bed," He said while offering this new proof to my hands. "I suggest you read it at once."

    I blinked at the demand, feeling particularly uneasy at the fact I was being forced to read something that was possibly private. But then again, I knew that whatever was the alternative with someone as influential as Meckart, it wouldn't have been pleasant for me to experience.

    Thus I started to read the piece of paper silently, carefully eyeing word by word what Crusch had intended to send me.

    Oh? It was quite early in our exchange. About two months since we started with the occurrence if I recall correctly.



    I can remember reading this is in a letter dedicated to this very situation. But... I could already see something odd about it. Crusch addressed me only by full name and... no title whatsoever. She would usually put 'Mayor' before my full name when starting a letter.

    The first half of the letter was pretty much what I remember reading ages ago, which had me frown at the possibility that the reason that saw this one rejected by the girl was just the 'only mistake' I could see on the paper. I wasn't going to rule out that she had thought about trying with something a little less formal and ended up regretting it before sending this one out.

    I was truly convinced of this very possibility... up until I saw something incredibly bizarre unfolding by the second half of the letter.

    She had wanted to invite me to her home? I suppose it had to have been awkward to think of a better way to phrase the request, and that was visible by the nervous 'accentuation' in her written words.

    I was about to stare up at Meckart to ask about what should seriously get me worried if this was a mere attempt from his daughter to invite a friend at her house, when I stopped at the final bit.



    ...What the heck? No, there was no way she had written something like this...

    While such a small detail shouldn't have made for a compelling case for the worries forwarded by the concerned father, I was pretty sure that Crusch would have never used a tone so informal and so... straightforward like the one in that closure.

    Now I could see why this paper was something of a proof for what Meckart was talking about. But why? Why would she actually consider me as a good candidate for courting?

    My brain burned a little at the complex thought as I was fairly certain that Fourier should've been the one to easily swoon her to his side. He was her childhood friend, he knew what she likes, and he knew how to make her laugh.

    Those were the most excellent elements a man could strive to achieve to be loved by a woman. And yet she had picked me, someone that had spared with her just a couple of discussions and some business-related letters.

    ...Why?

    ...

    Unless-!

    I frowned inwardly at the possibility, but then again it was something that made incredible sense considering the circumstances.

    Crusch Karsten was a young Duchess, with just two individuals she considered trustworthy (excluding me), and both were young men around her age:

    1) Ferris was a close friend, someone that cared a lot for the young woman since she was the one that freed him from his father's abuse. While the cat-boy preferred feminine clothes, this flair matched perfectly with Crusch's own interest in keeping a masculine fashion style (pants before skirts);

    2) Fourier was the youngest Prince in this kingdom. The two have known each other since early childhood when the girl had first visited the castle. Once again, the boy knew her well enough to crack at her dense shell more than once by having her laugh or even flutter in awe at his determination;

    3) Then there was me. I was... a friend to her. We spared just some words, the rest was an exchange of written papers and... and yet I had something that the two previous cases couldn't exactly offer to interest the young woman's attention. I could relate to Crusch on a personal level. And no, it wasn't just because I had knowledge of her actions and personality through the lore.

    When I first gave a look at the series, Crusch struck me way more than any other character. I could see a large part of my 'former' self represented in that mix of bravery and mind hiding away a degree of uneasiness and awkwardness of the unfair world around her.

    Sure, the girl was by far one of the strongest characters in the show, both in terms of skills and mind, yet there was just something about her MO, something about her 'unknown' reasoning (that I didn't know about before the publications of the Ex Volumes) that just reminded me of... me.

    The general lack of social skills that were perfectly denied by the inner push from her part to interact with people. Her bravery was twice, if not thrice than the one she had back before Fourier had died in the OTL. The lack of ambition? Filled with the hopes and dreams of someone she cared about. The unwillingness to waddle too much in politics? Erased by the need of fulfilling Fourier's desire to 'save the kingdom'.

    While this sounds like nothing new, these details are important to understand something that just clicked with my personality. It would be a lie to say that... I had never changed since I had first seen Re:Zero. I was still stuck in High School, procrastinating over the annoyances forwarded by various issues rising up during that part of my life.

    Time-skip to years later, when I was ultimately done with this kind of struggle and left to think about what I really wanted to make of my life. It wasn't a single event that sparked everything, but a process that led me to become what I was right now. I had my own desires... and my own dreams.

    Without Fourier's death, Crusch was stuck right to the point where she was still aimless and in need of something to change the monotony. She didn't hate the routine, but she wanted more. She wanted to give a proper purpose in her life.

    And I was someone that had managed to achieve that. It was subtle, yet since it wasn't something related to love, her denseness hadn't prevented her to pick that instance quickly and quietly. The fact I had sounded so trustworthy, so helpful and, most of it all, incredibly correct in many situations, made her see me as a model to follow. And more.

    Which was why, probably, she thought courting to be the best way to properly approach me. But to say for certain if it was out of friendship or really something more... I didn't know. I was a moron in love in the past, and I didn't improve much after years spent trying to make sense about it.

    Complicated things were still complicated.

    But just as I allowd that realization to unravel on a deeper scale, the man decided to speak more about the matter.

    "This was the first draft. The other three follow a similar pattern, if not for some differences of words at the beginning and at the end," The former Duke added. "Which is why I'm certain that she might be feeling something a little more than mere friendship. And the reason why I want to know what you think about this."

    "It's the first time that I hear about th-"

    "Oh, I also know about that too. In fact, I spared some looking through your own letters for anything that might allude to your knowledge of this matter." He commented with a serious tone. "But from the way you kept the discussion always focused on her requests, only digressing when talking about Fourier and Ferris, and by the way you're reacting to all of this right now... I think you're clueless about the matter. Well, you were clueless about it."

    I nodded at his deductive skill, making me frown at the surprising extent he had gone to make sure that his daughter wasn't engaged in some-sort of secret affairs with someone the father didn't know much about of.

    "You want to know what I will do now that I know about this... right?"

    He merely nodded, keeping quiet as I sighed at this.

    "I don't want to hurt Crusch-"

    "Which I'm quite glad about as I'm aware you care for those close to you from the way Ferris depicted you as," Meckart interjected smoothly. "But I hope you understand that dealing with such a dilemma isn't an easy task, especially since a maiden's heart is at stake about this matter."

    I nodded, understanding perfectly what he was trying to ask from me.

    "I wish for Crusch to have a happy life. One which she can find comfort and genuine peace with the decisions she will have to make," I answered as cautiously as possible. "Which wouldn't be one with me. I'm... I'm not good with this kind of stuff, and there would be so many complicated things that would just make a peaceful life difficult."

    The man snorted. "If only- I will tell you this, young man, since the situation warrants it, and I feel like this little tale can make you understand how really complicated things are," The former Duke countered. "When I first met with my wife, my dear Helena, and we both fell in love for each other, I was unsure about how we were supposed to marry before the fact we were Count and Countess of two distant fiefs. To this very day I don't know how she managed to accomplished the task, but it took her a couple of months to acquire various territories that helped to connect our regions together. In fact, she's the reason that saw the Karsten become the leaders of a strong Duchy."

    ...What?!

    "If my daughter is shown any obstacles to the path that she thinks will lead her to happiness... she will move mountains and seas to succeed against those," Meckart added. "I know she has a good-heart and that she will restrain herself from trying anything horrible, but I know for sure that, just like her mother, she will make miracles happen for the sake of winning the ultimate challenge that is love."

    And... now I was feeling incredibly uneasy at this thought. Up until now, I knew very little about Helena Karsten. But the fact that she was the one that literally made the Karsten as powerful as they were right now? Surprising and... somewhat worrying considering to what this tale was trying to warn me about.

    If the concerns were true- if Crusch was indeed crushing on me... then things were going to be much more difficult than anything I had faced up until now. I wasn't exactly ready to deal with that possibility.

    Especially because Fourier was currently going through Hell now that his family was gone!

    Still, with these warnings and assurances exchanged, I was finally set free from approaching back to the door that led into Fourier's room.

    Gulping nervously at the thought that I was supposed to balance a downtrodden prince and a woman that was interested in me with more than mere friendship at the same time, I mustered up plenty of my usual bravery and ventured inside the dragon's lair.

    The first strange thing I noticed as I entered the room was that the illumination was rather... dim. The curtains were lowered down to three fourths, letting in just enough light to give a perception over the presence of objects and persons within the enclosed place.

    I could see Crusch, the young woman's attention was directed to the prince, or rather what I imagined being Fourier trying to stay in bed, cloaked in some sheets... despite it being close to lunchtime.

    Frowning at the scene, I advanced towards the bed. My footsteps alerted the green-haired woman, the Duchess quickly giving me some attention by looking right up at me. Her eyes widened, but her tension vanished instantly as she recognized me. I held a finger close to my lips, gesturing her to keep quiet as I studied the situation a little closer than before.

    Yep, that mass of angsty and sheets was the one and only Fourier. Now... how the fuck was I supposed to approach it?

    There was the stealth way, which implied me sneaking around the bed and reaching for the side which the young man was currently procrastinating by.

    There was the Randy Orton method, but then again Wrestling wasn't famous (just yet) in Lugnica.

    Finally, the way of the bro. But that was... too divine. I needed to give it a try tho.

    A mix of stealth and Randy Orton, I carefully walked by the edge of the bed, keeping myself away from the dull red-eyed stare directed at the wall in front of the young man and... proceeded to yank him by his feet. The effect was immediate, with the blond yelping as he panicked at the sudden pull, struggling away from my holding while also forcing himself to stand up on the mattress and stare down at me with immense confusion.

    "What- Wait, you-"

    Ladies and Gentleman, I think I crashed Fourier.EXE.

    He stared at me with a mix of shock, anger, surprise and confusion. Then he gave a full confused look to Crush, the stare staying briefly on the girl before turning back at me.

    "You're here," He muttered in a skeptical tone. "Or are you?"

    I frowned at that curious reaction. Really? Thinking I'm an hallucination despite Crusch greeting me? Either the situation was that bad or he was just yanking back at me.

    "If you want, I can start tell some secrets of yours out-loud," I suggested with a flat tone, his eyes widening at the verbal input. "Like when you and Ferris first bathed together and you-"

    "N-No, there's no need for that!" The blond interrupted quickly, blushing a storm at the mere allusion to quite the fun story between him and the cat-boy. "Still- you're here!"

    I gave him a nod, expecting him to just stare at the void a little longer instead of acting at my responses. My expectations were shattered when I saw the young man leap towards me, soar through the air, and successfully tackle me down to the floor in what turned into a desperate hugging session.

    My back exploded in pain and I groaned as I felt his arms wrap tightly and quite painfully around my neck. I blinked at the silence, offering a mere nod to the shocked Crusch as I tried to defuse the current embrace of death I had been set up to experience.

    "Fourier-"

    "I missed you."

    I sighed. "I missed you too but-"

    "And now you're here."

    "You know that you're hurting me if you hold me so tightly?"

    "Sorry," He apologized quickly, making me groan.

    I waited a little while, hoping for the situation to defuse... but then my nose picked up a particularly familiar stench coming from Fourier.

    "Fourier," I started with an incredibly calm voice. "Did you forget to bathe yesterday?" The last part was whispered as to keep the prince's love interest completely unaware of the little issue going on with the now-tense blond.

    "...Sorry?"

    "Sorry will not do, buddy," I said before actually lift myself and the particularly light young man up. "And I think it's about time you get prepared for the ceremony."

    "I don't want to go," He tried to refuse, but I wasn't in the mood to take that kind of 'nos' from him.

    "Welp, that shucks. I guess you're going to be disappointed since I'm not taking any rejections about that."

    He groaned, but didn't make much resistance as I proceeded to walk towards the small door that connected the bedroom to the large bathroom with the massive bath. I stopped just moments later going to open it, turning towards Crusch as I knew I still needed to talk to her despite my inner uneasiness over recent discoveries.

    "Crusch, I'm sorry that the situation took this kind of turn," I started with a sigh. "But I need to get His Highness prepared for the ceremony before he screw things up and... I hope we can share some discussion once I'm done here."

    She gave a calm nod. "I understand. His Highness had been rather reluctant to go through the usual routine," The girl conceded with a small smile. "And... sure, a talk sounds nice, John."

    I held myself back from shivering at her earnest use of my name... but her restraint in calling Fourier by name despite the previous discussions we had shared over the matter. More evidence? I really hoped not.

    "Also if Felix pass by, please do tell him that I will probably need his help too to get His Highness ready."

    At the mention of 'Felix' and 'Bath' when he was going to be in it too, the blonde tensed up and struggled a little... but the very hug he had used to constrict me had turned in his very prison.

    The girl nodded, tensing herself a little at the thought of Felix joining in with the arduous task, and I moved inside the bathroom with Fourier...

    If only Fourier had actually gone to bathe earlier, things wouldn't have gotten... spicey so suddenly.

    ----------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d---------d-d-d-d-----------

    Afterthoughts: I... I did something with this chapter. It might be a big thing, it might be a false alarm...

    Also, time-skip. I've announced it early on, I just didn't mentioning how lengthy it was. No, the 'monologue' in the first section didn't describe everything that happened. In the next chapter there will be a little more words about Priscilla, Sphinx, Edna, Satella... and the Witch of Envy?

    --------------------------------------
    Omake 7: The 'Torture' Pt.2
    --------------------------------------


    The water was just warm enough to ease down my muscles and my nerves.

    Fourier was moping about at the fact that he was literally being helped around by both me and Ferris.

    The cat-boy was... ecstatic about the fact he was sharing such a monumental event with the two of us, yet his enthusiasm was dampened by the very reason that allowed this to happen.

    I was quiet about the matter, unsure how to exactly tackle down the serious topic without getting the blond to actually lash out at us. I was sure that, despite the calm exuding from the red-eyed dummy, the prince could've seriously retaliated at any wrongful mention of his deceased father.

    Thus I focused on the present rather than to the near future. There would've been plenty of moments to properly discuss about this important matter, and neither Ferris nor I were willing to try to do something as stupid as that.

    Which is why we were trying something 'silly' rather than stupid by teasing a slightly sleepy Fourier out of his angsty-nap self. The process was long and difficult, but the presence of warm water that helped in cleaning the sweat off from his back while the young man himself focused on his frontal self.

    Felix hummed happily as he helped me clean my own back while I focused on the Prince. The blond huffed, but there wasn't much to do as I carefully avoided creating any discomfort where I was directing the soapy water.

    "You know, it's kind of odd that you're actually keeping quiet about this situation," I commented with a confused tone. "I mean, I know that the situation isn't the usual, but I would've expected you a little bit more... interested."

    He stared back at me with a frown. "What are you talking about?"

    "Weren't you the one that lamented how I would say no to bathing together?" I inquired back, making his frown lessen up to an awkward stare.

    "I'm just... not feeling it," Fourier admitted, turning back forward and sighing while staring down at the floor. "Kind of... odd. I know that myself but... meh."

    "And you don't 'meh'," I pressed on with a panicked tone. "You aren't allowed to 'meh'!!"

    ... "Why?"

    "Because that sounds quite... un-Fourier," Ferris piped in with some wise words. "In fact, I can see why Johnyah is worried about. You shouldn't fall this much."

    He sighed. "My father died-"

    "And we're not asking you to forget about it," I interjected politely. "But while you should keep at mind and heart about this matter, I think it would be wrong to let this drag you down."

    "I- I don't have any family... anymore."

    "Hmm," I hummed back at him, causing him to turn again.

    "What? I thought that you respected my father-"

    "I do respect him even now. But that doesn't mean I can just stand the fact that you're going to brood about so suddenly and so intensely, while motivating all of this over the fact he died," I rebuked quickly. "In fact, I can say for certain that he wouldn't want you to behave like this."

    Fourier sighed. "He would want a proper heir."

    "And you are one, Hi- Fourier," Felix finally addressed the prince by name. "We all believe that."

    "I'm not."

    "By what definition you aren't a proper successor, Fourier?" I asked with some disbelief.

    "By my own thoughts. I'm... not the best at administrating a country, I'm not ready for anything. Period."

    "Bah, you're underestimating yourself too much!" I muttered, getting a nod from Ferris.

    "I think you're more than that, Fourier. Even Crusch believe so!"

    He tensed up at the mentioning of his love interest. "She- She probably got a mistaken idea of me. I'm not-"

    "Fourier, with due respect, don't blurt out all the offensive crap you can muster up at first thought," I interrupted with an annoyed tone. Ignoring the shocked red eyes now staring at me, I continued. "You're going to be a good monarch, I can assure you of that."

    "Miklotov said I wasn't ready. The sages wanted the election to happen."

    "Miklotov thought I was a nobody, yet first I was taken aside for that talk with your father and the sages and now I'm going to be his apprentice once the Election is formally started," I continued without hesitation. "Expectations, especially from those that don't know who you truly are, aren't the best ones to follow. Trust me on that."

    "Still... even though you're both saying the truth, I can't help but feel..."

    "How about a sleepover for tonight?" The cat-boy suggested. "We could've Lady Crusch- there's also the twins, Fritz and Hans too!"

    That last bit got a surprised look from the blond. "Really? You bring them here too?" He asked while looking back at me, which I nodded to.

    "It would be... nice! Even more now that we're all together."

    "You just want to hug people, especially beneath a warm sheet and a nighttime so that you can nap on them" I retorted softly, smiling as I saw the demihuman's expression freeze up at the thought. It was just blatant at this point, and I did perceive this very interesting cat-like attitude quite early on during our first encounters. "You thought I hadn't noticed after so long that you just love hugs, Ferris? That you want to be hold in a warm embrace, to get your head patted, your ears scratched-"

    "I'm- I'm not like that," The cat-boy weakly protested. "I mean, I wouldn't mind a hug but-"

    I moved in, suddenly turning around and scooping him in an embrace. "Really~?"

    "N-No- M-Mroow~!" It was too late! He was already vibrating at the intimate gesture.

    ... "Is... Is Felix purring?"

    I nodded, turning back to stare at the curious look on Fourier's face. "Yep. And I bet you want a piece of this entertainment."

    "N-No~~!" The cat-boy couldn't hold back any of his purring, the endearing sight just being far stronger than anything I had experienced. And it was strong enough to get Fourier moving. He joined the hug, grasping around Ferris' chin and scratching below there. The sudden action making the brunet's eyelids flutter to almost close, the purring intensifying at the renewed efforts.

    I snorted, the prince smiled in utter amusement and... Felix looked to be experiencing true heaven thanks to our ministrations.

    And while the noises suggested quite the obscene scene unfolding, the situation was much lighter and... entertaining.

    -----------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-----------

    7.5k+ words? Oh mai!!

    Also 425 followers in FFN. We Need More Papers is the second story in there by Followers!! A massive thank you to everyone reading and loving the story here too!
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  17. Potates

    Potates Are ya ready kids?!

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    I see through your tricks, trying to show Crusch is the main girl but the Omake reveals the truth! Felix x John is OTP!
     
    JBukharin and Razorfloss like this.
  18. Threadmarks: This is about renewing the promise!
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    18 December 422

    "You did good."

    I can't still believe that I was actually saying this to Fourier of all people. The guy was just someone that I would've never expected to see running out of the abundant positiveness that I knew him for. But circumstances were unusual already as they were with the fact he had to outlive his entire family, and I wasn't going to make some stupid scene out of the sadness exuding from Fourier's sagging form.

    Just as I had expected, the ceremony hadn't been simple nor quick. There were many dignitaries, both from within the Kingdom's border and outside of it.

    The entourage from Kararagi proved to be the 'kindest' in terms of mourning. A large purpureal sheet that was meant to be used to cover the king's body.

    Despite the fact this wasn't the very world I had left, the idea of purpure as a noble/imperial color seemed to hold within the traditions of the foreign country. There was some reluctance at first to go through and comply with the polite request, but Miklotov himself accepted the offer. The sheet was folded in half and placed just below the deceased monarch's chest.

    When the function started, I was impressed by some words offered by the various members of the Sage Council. The group had always been portrayed as opponents to Randohal's interest to modernize and bring equality in his kingdom, but the speeches offered for this very event held a degree of genuineness in depicting the former king's rule as one of 'fairness, stability, and peace'.

    It was odd, but then again the reasoning behind their previous opposition was the fact that the king himself didn't have much knowledge over the state of things within the realm. The Sage Council, albeit 'limited' by the laws of the Dragon Kingdom, were still the ones that had been responsible for many of the acts enacted in the last two years.

    Against all odds and differences with one another, both entities had been the true protagonists of the decent few years that had preceeded the shitstorm that was Re:Zero's Canon Timeline.

    Miklotov was the last one to take the large crowds' attention. As the Prime Minister, his words were meant to represent a change... and a line that the government was going to follow for the next couple of years.

    And his words shook the entirety of the world.

    "The Dragon Kingdom of Lugnica, as agreed by the Council and Crown Prince Fourier Lugnica in a shared mindset, will no longer consider the old Pact with the Dragon legitimate for the current state of sovereignty," The old man proclaimed with a calm but loud enough voice. The direct spectators, mostly the nobles from within the country, were quick to create chaos out of the 'absurd' development taken in that very day. "The stability of the kingdom can no longer be reassured through the Alliance we once had with Volcanica and we've come to the conclusion that something unusual shall happen to confirm a stable and strong monarchy within this nation."

    There was a pause, just enough for the leftovers of the previous upstart to be quelled thanks to the guards' presence.

    "It was agreed, under special conditions, that a Royal Election will be indicted to determine a successor to King Randohal," Miklotov resumed with his explanation. "Crown Prince Fourier, as requested by his legitimate status, shall be considered the first candidate to this challenge. I will leave him now to provide more details over his candidacy, his motivations and his plans for this nation's future."

    While the young prince was nervous to go out and appear strong as he prepared to read 'correctly' the piece of paper containing little speech I had prepared for him, the pep talks prior to this situation seemed to offer a positive outcome to our collective efforts.

    There was still some clear suffering going within his posture, but the mighty stand the blond had managed to achieve before nobles and foreign dignitaries of all kind and nations seemed to gain a decent ovation.

    Which was good for the long-term campaign that awaited us. We had been given a tremendous advantage in this occasion by Miklotov's implicit support to the cause, something that not only will offer various steps beyond what our future adversaries could ever imagine to pull off, but also offer to the kingdom a 'particular' look to these elections.

    It wasn't much agreed by everyone, Fourier had been forced to accept the conditions of this predicament, and that was a terrible attack on him despite the fact he would be a good ruler.

    He was a victim, but not a weak one before the public eye. Someone that had been outmaneuvered by the plans enlisted by people older than him. The sages were all aware of this faux notion but... they were all going to die eventually and they weren't going to care for some negative popularity at the end of their illustrious tenure. Considering their collective old age, it was already a miracle that they were all in good health and flawless sanity.

    After Fourier was done, I was called to take the place he had been standing on by Miklotov himself. Once I was standing beside the Prime Minister, the elder resumed his speech momentarily to offer me quite the praises by highlighting my 'good deeds' to the kingdom, how I was improving life-conditions through my model administration... and finally how I was going to be his successor to the role of Prime Minister.

    There was surprise among the people looking at this novelty. Plenty of nobles had heard of me, and many were elated by the fact that the one that was meant to replace the wise old man to the important job wasn't someone greedy or corrupt.

    But many ambassadors hadn't heard about me. Kararagi's entourage was fascinated by the development, while the small Vollachian group stared at me with 'aggressive impassiveness'. It was the four men from Gusteko that seemed to be 'overjoyed' by this news.

    Fanatics, I could tell at first sight. It was like looking at multiple 'slightly saner' Petelgueses trying to celebrate me as some deity. Truly an unpleasant sight for sure from my part.

    Still, the mere silent standing wasn't 'accepted' by Miklotov as he soon requested from me a speech to elaborate what my 'promotion' to the role was going to entail. I remember tensing up, holding my breath a little, but still proceeding with what was going to be one of the most important milestones of my career here in this world.

    "Citizens of Lugnica, ambassadors from Gusteko, from Kararagi, and from Volacchia... I greet you all with a brave face, a steady heart, and a lucid mind," I started with a loud voice. "Today, we mourn the passing of King Randohal, the last king to the Old Order that has assured a perpetual state of peace within the borders of this kingdom. An era that had plenty of bumps because of internal issues born from reluctance to make small steps forward, but still one that didn't see our livelihood threatened by threats."

    I sighed. "I will not delude anyone by saying what will happen from now on. I don't think I'm prepared to make promises that I'm not sure to keep, nor I will attempt to coax people to believe my way is the best one. I refuse to propose this kind of lies..." I took a pause, glancing around and scanning for any skepticism from the crowd. There was none. "But I can affirm with utmost certainty, and with undeniable faith, that my beliefs are for the betterment of the kingdom... with only a reward in mind as a man of truth I always request in my projects."

    ...

    "I want people to be happy," I continued with a sigh. "I want everyone, from those in this room to those that right now are just listening through rumors or other means, to have a chance at being happy. To never see the horror and the dread that are caused by today's problems. To never suffer the chances of being considered 'bad' all because of circumstances beyond their means of influence."

    There was some chattering. A couple of dignitaries had already noticed what kind of topic I was highlighting in that situation and I sighed. This was going to be tought to sell.

    "But before I continue, I wish to make something clear once and for all. Something that will clear doubts and uncertainties that are currently preventing you all to judge me with a clear thought," I muttered with a nod. "A clarification that stems from the negativity born from the recent conflict within our nation. I wish to state clearly and loudly enough for everyone to understand that... I believe in 'innocence before guilt'. That people should only be judged by their actions, and not by their background. That trials are to do what they were meant to do since the first trial happened. It needs to highlight a crime, to explain the reasons behind the crime and to extract a verdict to condemn said crime while also establishing a precedent for future heinous deeds of the same kind."

    ...

    "You may think that I stand by one side, and that I actually accept the idea of factions within the monarchy and... you would be wrong on both occasions," I resumed sternly. "While some would expect this 'liberalization' to come in and sweep the current order, I can assure you that such process would be more harmful than beneficial to those that merely wish to align their desires to mine. I'm not aiming for a subversion of the nature of this kingdom, but I wish to state what has been obvious for years now. We can't all depend on the status quo, and if there's a need to improvement it has to be for everyone. Not only for the poor people, not only for the merchants, not only for the military, not only for the nobles... not only for the government."

    Surprisingly enough, this last bit managed to silence out completely the entire room. I felt a slight panic at the chance that I had fucked up with this ambitious and bold speech, but then I noticed that every single one of the nobles was staring at me... raptly and with extreme interest. I could see some close to drool and... that was a sight I really didn't want to get distracted with.

    Speak about improvements for everyone and guarantee the nobility a bright future, the doors of heaven shall open to the daring one.

    "Still, just as I've mentioned early on in my speech... this is all part of my beliefs, and not my real plans," I started to make steps to the conclusion of this speech. I wasn't in the mood of stealing the floor for too long. "True plans, those that I will seek to implement, have yet to be truly formulated. The functions and the administrative branch of the kingdom as a whole is still an unknown variable to my knowledge and I plan to correct this by properly learn under the wise advice of Prime Minister Miklotov. I hope that I will not disappoint with my devotion and loyalty to a strong and prosperous Kingdom of Lugnica. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm glad to be here and... may King Randohal be remembered as one of the greatest kings this nation had ever been blessed with."

    I expected more silence as I was gestured to leave by Miklotov, the elder giving me an intrigued but pleased glance as I made my slow retreat back to where Fourier and the others were sitting by.

    Much to my immense surprise, the entire room exploded with applauses and I could hear some praises erupting from the crowd of people that had listened to my words. I almost tripped when I first heard of that loud reaction, but then I straightened my posture to a calm demeanor and returned to my seat.

    The ceremony was now over, and with nothing else left to be done, we were making our way back to the living quarters.

    Patting my at his shoulder, Fourier managed let out a reluctant but agreeing sigh at my little comment. The young man was finally free from the 'strong' facade that he had been forced to wear in front of so many individuals, and he wasn't restraining himself in showing his melancholy. Crusch was walking beside us, keeping by Fourier's free side and trying her best to appear comforting to the uneasy-looking blond.

    Since she had never experienced the dreadful emotion of a close relative's death, the young woman was absolutely clueless in what good approach to take. Instead of daring in making something unique, she decided, rightfully so, to stick by a pattern close to what I was doing. Quick praises that were to highlight his 'bravery', and to coax him to lessen up his broody self.

    Felix was a couple of steps behind us, still keeping close as we all were quickly trying to get through the various halls of the castle without getting stopped by anyone along the way.

    Truly an interesting task, but one that had yet to find any issues with the lack of major figures standing in our way.

    Still, the stroll wasn't a completely silent one as Fourier wasn't planning to keep quiet during the trip. He sighed, straightening his shoulder and offering me a calm look.

    I glanced back at him with a quizzical glint, waiting for him to react as I tried to get a glimpse of what he was planning to talk about from his red eyes.

    Truly a difficult task, especially with how well the blond had mastered the sublime art of poker face. Now I needed to teach him how to play some serious card game and he will be robbing casinos left and right in no time- Oh right, there are no casinos in Lugnica... yet.

    "How are you... so good with speeches?"

    The question was delivered in a quiet and slow manner, but I took a moment to properly digest it as it was fairly... unexpected.

    "You mean, how do I know what to say at the right time?"

    He nodded, and I sighed in return.

    "I studied. A lot. For a long time."

    The blond frowned at my response. "I was aware of that- but what did you study to know how to do this so flawlessly?"

    Aw, that's a nice compliment... but not the bit of the query I should stop to think about.

    "I would say that it wasn't a single subject. My knowledge comes from studying various things and... this knowledge in turn allows me to do this kind of stuff independently."

    "What if I... wanted to learn about these subjects?"

    ...Oh? That's... an interesting development. I mean, I had seen Fourier being rather dutiful with his role but... I hadn't seem him so much-

    Determined? No, he was desperate for answers. Answers about the inability that Miklotov had been pointing out for so long. And answers about why I could do so much without having a royal pedigree to back up my lexical capacity.

    "Then I wouldn't mind teaching you about Dialectic," I replied with a curious look directed at him. "Which I can assure will be more than enough to help you with these speeches."

    He raised a confused eyebrow. "Only that?"

    "Oh no," I said while shaking my head. "That might help in talking with people, making speeches, and working with dignitaries... but then there are the economic subjects and the ones about diplomacy."

    The young man grimaced a little... but then he gave a solid nod. "I will take these on too."

    I frowned at that. "Fourier, I can do that for you, but I hope you understand that it has a price to it."

    ...

    He stopped, surprised by my words as I stopped myself to stare at him with a serious look. He looked shocked, but his face quickly regained from what I had just said.

    "What? Why?"

    "Consider it more of an important things I need you to do for me. Something I really want you to do for me as a friend."

    The blond blinked in surprise. "And that is?"

    "I want you to... tell me how you're feeling right now," I replied earnestly. "I want you to tell me what you're keeping bottled up right now, without restriction nor hesitation."

    Felix hummed as he moved closer and between Fourier and I.

    "Isn't that a little bit too direct, Johnyah?"

    I glanced at the cat-eared knight with a sad look and then sighed.

    "I can understand what you're trying to say and... I can't just let him keep with this torture," I answered with a tense tone. "I know that he's trying his best to not give this impression, but now I can pick up when you're lying, Fourier."

    He snorted. "I'm not."

    "Another lie," I muttered and I saw the prince's face show a scowl at that.

    "As if you're unable to lie-"

    "Never made that assumption," I swiftly interjected. "I'm still human after all."

    "But you're still a prodigy to Miklotov," He commented back. "And... and dad gave you so much political power-"

    "Miklotov never said that. He just mentioned I was the best choice to replace him, not the smartest," I interrupted again, this time my voice growing tired of this charade. "People around him are running on stagnation. They wallow in people's sorrow to survive in the political landscape. And do you really want to know why your father, King Randohal, decided to give me this much trust?"

    ...

    "I thought about it myself the very night he gave me this much prestige and title, and I got an answer when I started to evaluate what would've happened to you once he was gone," I ranted, my irritation swelling for some reason. "People want you dead, Fourier. And not just for the crown you might end up inheriting."

    "W-What?"

    "John, perhaps you're being too harsh about it and-"

    "I can still treat him like a pampered child, but the truth is the truth," I interjected, glancing at Crusch with a tired look. "If someone wanted him dead, they can remove everyone he cares and trust from his proximity and have him vanish in mere instance. Or that would've been the case if I wasn't there to keep a watch over you."

    "What do you mean, Johnyah?" Felix quipped with a frown. "I'm quite sure that Reinhard would've-"

    "Been sent to a mission. Perhaps a diplomatic one with you and Julius as part of the attaché," I concluded for him. "Crusch can be forced to return to her home if some of her neighbors decide to move troops near to her land's border."

    "And why are you the only choice for that? Wouldn't you fear for Erindor to fall if someone decided to move troops at it?"

    "Nope," I answered while shrugging. "I've two reasons to not worry for any of that. First, my only neighbor is someone that I've come to trust to not try anything foul of that kind on me."

    Priscilla would've never dared to pull a backstab of that caliber. We would still engage in some shouting contest once in a while when we would visit each other's domains, but I was sure enough to say that she considered me a friend. Or a good ally to not use as cannon fodder for more fame and power.

    There's so much wrong between the young woman and me. But it was the wrong that made things right, like the fact that she had slowly lost faith in getting me to address her by her title.

    Small progress was still progress in my eyes.

    "Second thing is... I have a big army garrisoning the city," I admitted without hesitation. "After what happened with that crazy prince, I've made sure to leave a substantial and 'beyond sufficient' garrison within the walls and some divisions well spread out in military encampments around Erindor."

    Once I was done with that explanation, I returned my attention on Fourier.

    "I should be angry," I muttered quietly. "I should feel so furious at the fact that you truly believed I would've accepted this kind of deflection to avoid answering my questions."

    There was an awkward silence at my accusation. Crusch was the first one to recover from my last words.

    "What?"

    Yep, we're reaching that kind of utter insanity. Only when I'm dealing with Fourier's emotions I end up facing these situations.

    "I don't know what you're-"

    "You were there when your father first spoke to me. Miklotov also alluded to you about this situation multiple times now and I know you're goofy, but not stupid," I interjected fiercely. "That might've worked if I wasn't seriously invested in really pulling your head out of the ground, but right now I'm too much interested in getting you back to healthy shape."

    "Then you can help me with the subjects and... yeah, that would work."

    "No. No, it wouldn't," I muttered back with a sigh. "We've been about this since-"

    "W-Wait, Johnyah. I think I might have misunderstood but..." Felix looked incredibly unsure what he could truly say about this mess unraveling so quickly before his eyes. "But did you just call your highness out for trying to lie his way out of your request?"

    "I-It wasn't a lie. I just thought that it would've been correct to... bring these matters up to you two," The blond blurted out suddenly, nodding at his own BS. "Y-Yeah, that's what it is."

    "Fourier," I stated blankly. "It really doesn't work on me."

    He tensed up at the newest call out and, just as he prepared another excuse, I decided to spring into action and pull him in a hug.

    The prince didn't mind, in fact his arms moved quickly to wrap around my waist as I dived his head by my chest. I started ruffling his hair.

    "You're a moron," I commented with some conviction in my words. "But a good-hearted moron. Which is why I don't mind babying you from time to time, like a little brother you are."

    Seriously, first it was Edna with her bouts of reluctance to speak with me when I wanted to not deal with Ivan's crazy moments through her recounting, then it's Sphinx and her voracious craving for more books to read and re-read. Then there was the Witch of Envy trying to make contact through tapping at the shield I used to go and visit Satella with.

    Since when did I became the caretaker of most of this world's most important individuals?

    I wasn't minding that but... the burden was starting to strain at my poor psyche.

    The blond snorted at my comment, yet he seemed unwilling to part away from that hug. I saw Crusch look at the scene with mild surprise and I expected Ferris to have a similar reaction. But then again the Demihuman was not someone that liked to be excluded from embraces.

    The young Duchess turned perplexed at the growing hug and... I gestured her to join in. There was some hesitation as she wasn't truly much of a hugger... still, the drastic issue called for drastic solutions and she went on with it.

    Fourier was literally caged in that hug box and, despite his little protests of being 'unwilling to be subjected to this much affection', the young prince had completely surrendered at the embrace, almost growing limper in our hold.

    It sounded like the usual resolution to this kind of maddening scenes and I felt mostly sure that this new situation was going to be concluded once we were back in a more private setting to discuss about the young man's problems.

    But just as I got more distracted in that embrace, I felt a strange pressure develop behind me. It was soft at first, but then it grew a little more... difficult to ignore. Arms were wrapped around my lower waist and I could feel a head tentatively pressing under Fourier's arms.

    Confusion swelled well within my chest as the embrace came to a end and I addressed the strange sensation. I glanced behind and froze at the sight of a certain individual giving me a sneaky hug.

    My jaws dropped at the close-eyed crouched form of a certain white-haired half-elf seemingly too distracted by that one-sided situation. I blinked, and soon the rest of the group took notice of the reason why I looked that much tense and incredibly confused.

    "Uh..."

    My little confused noise seemed to get the girl's attention, and I saw Emilia slowly turn up with her violet eyes open and looking in slight panic at my face.

    "Hi."

    She eeped and pushed me off before bolting out of the hallway with quite the swift pace. I stared in shock at the scene, almost failing to stabilize myself after that shoving and... I frowned.

    "Did she just..."

    "I don't know."

    ...

    What the fuck did I just see there?

    ------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d--

    Afterthoughts: What in the heck is- Omake, I need answers!

    Yes, boss!!

    --------------------------------------
    Omake 8: Innocent Wish
    --------------------------------------


    "I'm still confused about why you decided to do that, Lia."

    Puck's tone felt incredibly confused. No, it sounded terribly surprised by the lack of reasoning behind his contractor's sudden action...

    And Emilia couldn't exactly answer that very strange urge without ending up getting teased because of it.

    It wasn't like she had any reason to go around and hug people she didn't know much about. Especially if said stranger was actually someone she admired for his interesting ideas about good governance.

    John Bukharin was a... model administrator. Or at least she could see him working well as one with how well Erindor had fared in the last few months under his care.

    A man with seemingly no fear for the burdens of being the mayor of a major city like the one he ruled over, but also a benevolent aura that just made people feel at peace around him.

    It was difficult to just ignore the magical trace that promised genuine trust and warmth. His gate was releasing just a careful amount of energy, just enough to keep it working and... it was quick to affect her. As a half-elf, Emilia was susceptible to particular magical patterns.

    Sometimes those would leave her terrified, while others, rarely, would offer her solace and a trustworthy outline.

    John's energy was... sublime. It was alluring to a painful degree for her, to the point where she just had to move and catch a quick hug.

    The result of that hasty? It had been just as perfect as the allure had felt to her. Then the embarrassment had peeled her off from the shocked-looking young man.

    This had been the first time in a long while since she had the chance of hugging someone that wasn't Puck. Sure, the spirit was someone that she trusted to be her surrogate step-father... but hugging a spirit was more complicated than hugging a normal human being. It didn't help that Puck had a specialization in Ice just like her and... it made any embraces feel like she was hugging herself.

    It was just plain odd. Just like she had done with the probably angry mayor. She almost hoped to not be caught- she needed to find Roswaal.

    Still, the girl couldn't help but ponder over the reason that had her wandering alone in the castle, away from Rem's and Ram's attentive watch, and right to where the Prince and his little group had started with that unexpected discussion. Emilia had just wanted to get to talk with the mayor, and maybe hope for some advice with her own plans for the kingdom.

    It would've left her sad if someone of his mind and morality just abandoned the post because his favorite candidate wasn't elected, so she knew that she needed to be ready to take that complicated job on her own.

    At first she had expected for John to be just a big delusion. His early intervention feeling rather cruel, if not despicable with how unwell the prince had looked back at that point.

    But then the twist had come and her mind had felt going blank at the unexpected turn of events. Rather confusing, but also educative since she was given a glimpse of who the prince was.

    Fourier Lugnica. Roswaal had told her that the blond was quite pampered and incredibly silly, but upon closer inspection through that unexpected situation, Emilia could easily say that the Margrave's comment was mostly outdated.

    While the prince wasn't shy from being naturally silly before his friends, the strange twist that had ensued quickly highlighted how difficult it was to decipher whenever Fourier was telling the truth or not.

    She continued to muse over this matter until she eventually ended up finding someone she was familiar with. Ram looked quite surprised when she turned the umpteenth corner and found Emilia looking at her with a surprised look.

    "Lady Emilia?" The pink-haired maid increased her pace to meet up with the fellow girl. "Where were you? We couldn't find you and-"

    "S-Sorry, I had to use the bathroom and... I kind of got lost for a while."

    The young woman granted her a confused look hinting to some suspicions too, but the girl relented and merely decided to take her ward back to her master.

    Things sure are going odd during this visit at the castle.

    ---------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d----------d-d-d-d---------

    AN

    Emilia is in the Harem? Sadly for many people... no. Like really, no.

    I can justify so many other choices and candidates, but Emilia is a big no-no. Kind of strange to say... but Subaru has nothing to do with this choice.

    She will still be active and around in a couple of chapters from now and... yeah, stuff happens.
     
  19. Threadmarks: This is when I met the Red/Pink Oni
    JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    20 December 422

    Two days of intensive pestering was what it took for us all to get Fourier out of his shell. The young man was still uneasy when speaking about any topics somehow connected to his father, but he had slowly come to realization that waddling in that sadness wouldn't do well for him.

    Surprisingly enough, while I had thought this to be the main focus for these two days, I eventually realized that the real problem I had to fight quite 'fiercely' and whenever possible was the subtle advances of a dense green-haired girl.

    Crusch had managed to keep herself from making any attempts as our mutual friend was suffering the worst. Quite thoughtful, but I knew well within the boundaries of what I could see that it was a temporary 'truce' from giving it a serious try. Once she got a glimpse of a recovery from him, the young woman found it to be the best hint she could get from the situation to actually try out her chances at 'courting me'.

    It was nothing too rushed, but I could feel the 'initiative' in particular cases.

    The first attempt was the tamest possible, and I found myself to blame by being awake so early in the morning. The habit had finally started to sting me with the paperwork, and now I had a new problem that capitalized on my particular sleeping schedule. Crusch was, much to my 'surprise', awake herself as I decided to spend the first few hours of the day walking around the castle.

    I found her speaking with Ferris, with the brunet lamenting over the fact he was forced to be awake for the morning shift. I approached the duo while smiling a little bit at Felix's huge yawn while looking around for anything that could distract him from the boring duty.

    With his expression brightening the very moment I got close enough to draw his attention, the cat-boy almost blitzed up to me to greet me first.

    "Good morning, Feli-!"

    I tensed up as he bear-hugged me once I was in his range, forcing me to wrap my own arms around him to stop him from making me fall backward.

    "Johnyah~~" He whined muffledly from my shoulder. "Can you tell Captain Marcus to leave me be with my bed?"

    I snorted in clear amusement at that request, urging me to pat his back to show my sympathy over the plight he was forced to live through on a daily basis.

    "Now, now, Ferris, it wouldn't be correct with the other knights if you were the only one to be given some more hours of rest," I replied calmly. "And I don't think I would be able to convince someone like Captain Marcus. I don't have that kind of power."

    "But aren't you Miklotov's heir?" He inquired, and I took a brief moment to realize what he was talking about. Technically speaking, he should be correct as the role should warrant a degree of influence within the castle. I was the 'vice'-Prime Minister, as I was meant to replace Miklotov once the Elections would start on a proper way.

    Heck, the man has given me a schedule about lessons that I supposed to take after lunch was over. The focus of these lectures were to bring to my attention the full bureaucratic system that existed in the macroeconomic picture of the kingdom.

    From diplomacy about alliances, treaties, military agreements, to the full scale of levies and taxes administered out of the various vassals that recognized the sovereign of the Lugnica as theirs.

    The true experience of a feudal system was finally unveiled to me, revealing quite the well-oiled machine that had managed to work things through for so long without needing much of a reform after centuries of existing.

    But sadly enough, said machine needed to get fixed one way or another. The last few years have shown how there were still circumstances that the kingdom itself wasn't capable to take on with the proper timing. And that mean that I was going to need to push for some reforms as quickly as possible once I had the chance to do so.

    Still my position at the moment was merely ceremonial than else as I didn't get any role in the government, nor I had anything that could genuinely force people to listen to any order I could give.

    So I sighed and shrugged as the hug ended. "It's a formal title. Not much weight behind it except for some political clout."

    "It would be still enough to force some nobles to listen him," Crusch added with a nod. "But nothing that would sway orders from the Royal Commander of the Knights."

    The Demi-human nodded, a minor grimace spreading on his face at the 'tragic development' of this discussion. Still, just as the aftermath settled, Felix spoke up once more.

    "By the way, Johnyah," The brunet started chirpily. "Lady Karsten said that she wanted to take a walk around the castle and, since I'm stuck with this task... can you please walk with her?"

    I almost facepalmed at the blatant and forced request from Ferris, but I was more caught up by the fact he was promoting this development.

    I ended up taking on the offer and spend some time with Crusch, talking to her about random and seemingly unrelated subjects to the main motivation behind the unexpected walk. We returned by the living quarters for breakfast time and... things didn't seem to calm down from that point onward.

    Even though Felix mentioned no genuine knowledge behind the sudden interest of the Duchess to spend time around me, I was quick to explain to him what the woman's father had told me.

    The brunet was definitively surprised, but also wary of the fact that this was a scenario nobody had seen it coming until the moment it happened. And it was still bad considering that we were both staunch believers of a romantic relationship between Crusch and Fourier.

    With the prince having his own troubles to deal while we offered plenty of support and assistance, the blond was in no shape to actually consider his efforts with Crusch at the moment.

    At this point, it was just a matter of holding bravely and strongly before her courting, to make sure that my reluctance wasn't visible enough to gain her shunning, but also to not give any wrong hinting about being interest in deepening our bond. And it wasn't easy by all means.

    In fact, the tame became a little bit noticeable by the time of the second day. Crusch was relentless with her slow approach, and her careful efforts were actually well-planned considering how inexperienced she was about love.

    I would even go as far to say that I would've been quite endeared by her hard work to try and get me to lower my defenses and show if I had any interest in her beyond mere friendship or not. I did get in some close calls with girls interested in me back in high school, but even then I was morally forced to cautiously rebuke their attentions out of the fact that some of my former friends did care for them in a romantic light.

    I ended up creating some stable couples by keeping myself away from any trouble about the topic, but...

    There was just a time when I really got close to someone. She was so bright, so lovely, so endearing and... so far away. So difficult to get hold of, all because of obstacles born beyond my own capacities. We ended up parting abruptly before anything happened, and our last meeting was...

    Sad.

    She was happy, or she tried to appear so when I noticed her approaching. She looked so disappointed in me, in herself, and to the causes that drove us apart.

    And I didn't hesitate to smile and apologize for how things ended.

    She didn't answer to that, and our interaction was so brief it seemed like a mere daydream in the middle of our respective errands.

    After two days of helping Fourier while also balancing out Crusch's relentless advances, I found myself wandering alone by one of the sections of the castle I had explored just barely in my previous visits.

    The library was still one of the few places I hadn't paid a complete trip, and I was feeling rather interested by a couple of tomes that Miklotov had mentioned in our first 'lesson'. Most of those were about special taxes that have been applied in specific regions of the kingdoms for specific reasons, while the rest was all about magic.

    My Gate has... improved. Somehow.

    I was still unsure as of what might have caused this massive growth in the span of a couple of months, but the high amount of Mana being processed on a daily basis made it a must for me to increase my magical arsenal. My main element was Yang, and I was supposedly meant to be stuck in the support class of Medic.

    ...But I had also discovered that Yang could also be used for other things. I had some suspicions back when I first discovered that Echidna (and thus the rest of her clones) had a strong affinity for the Light element and had been known for a couple of highly-damaging offensive spells.

    Spells that I was interested to learn with a steady pace and in due time, but I also wanted to add my own 'mark' in magical history by using a detail of Yang that was never used much for.

    The art of Creation.

    Magical Constructs were a thing, yes. But for offensive purposes? It was incredibly rare and mostly cumbersome to replicate in large scale. And Everyone loved the whole 'Superior Firepower' capacity this trait could offer that they couldn't see the true potential held within the element.

    Something that absolutely rendered me a magical enigma, and someone that shouldn't be fought without a hard-thought plan beforehand.

    Still, I wasn't there to practice any magic. Just some light reading before I was meant to return back to the new troublesome routine I was forced to live by until Fourier managed a full recovery out of his depression.

    The place was mostly quiet, with just a handful of guards passing around and keeping watch over the place as I carefully wandered by the aisles containing the books I was searching. My little search ended quicker than I had expected, and I arrived at the empty table I had chosen to sit by mere minutes after I had entered the large room filled with historical documents, fiction, and magical tomes.

    Once I was seated by one of the comfy chairs, I opened the first book I had found. It was something that detailed the full extent of 'strange events' that had happened to the Royal Family. Someone had seen it proper to document the confusing deaths and disappearances that had each year lessened the number made by the members of the Lugnica Household.

    It was particularly slim considering that the historian that had taken up the task had died a decade or two ago, and the rest of the 'tragic development' was detailed in two other books in that small stack of paper I had recovered from my search.

    Yawning a little as I lost focus of time and made my attention through the first ten pages of the book, I barely noticed that someone else had entered the library.

    Soft footsteps, my ears twitched at the barely perceived change in the room. It was still enough to warrant a glance away from the words in the book, and I quickly retracted my sight the very moment I spotted the 'intrusion' in that peace.

    Walking calmly, as if patiently waiting for something, a pink-haired young woman donning a maid uniform made her way through some of the aisles.

    Ram looked uninterested by my presence at first glance, but I could feel that her presence here and now was just way too coincidental to be casual.

    And my suspicions increased to a deepened state of doubt when she ended up picking a thin book and walk right up to the table I was sitting by.

    "May I take a seat here?"

    A simple request. One I would've easily said no if not for the fact that any rejection could be considered by possession-master Michael Jackson to actually press more to learn about me.

    And I wasn't really keen to get Roswaal's attention this early on. Especially with how dangerous he could get if he knew of my connection with Edna, Satella and Sphinx.

    Thus I merely nodded, returning my attention back on my books and away from engaging any interactions with the serious maid.

    Out of the Oni Twins, Ram was someone I really was unsure how to tackle on a direct confrontations. Sure, I didn't have to fear for a flail to smash my skull in if I ended up saying something 'wrong', but the pinkette had something that many lacked in this world.

    A silver tongue that was the most cutting of them all. The pure simplicity of her daily trouble creates a character that I can't help but like and detest at the same time.

    She is quick-thinking, smart, and terribly dangerous despite the lack of her full strength since she had lost her horn when she was younger. If Rem was the soft-spoken girl that one could easily grow close to, Ram was the cheeky one that would use all circumstances to troll those that stupidly got too close to her.

    Subaru was the prime example that trying to get to know the pinkette easily resulted in a quick death. She was one of the few individuals that had learned to play the harshest of games by merely surviving a tragedy and becoming stronger through that moment. Her crippled self barely showed any signs of weakness that could allude to any chances of exploiting her prodigious mind and important knowledge.

    I took a moment to sigh, noticing that the girl was stealing glances my way and hardly paying attention at her own tome.

    ...

    She is onto me, isn't she?

    I closed my book, eyes closing for a moment as I prepared for what was going to be a troublesome conversation.

    "Do you need something from me?" I asked with the driest tone I could muster... and I ended up getting silence in return as Ram suddenly started to be engrossed by whatever was written in that tiny book.

    Sighing, I stared at her intensely. "You know, it's rude to stare and then try to make it seems you're reading."

    ...

    There was no response... again. And I was getting quite frustrated with this silly game-

    Oh, right... she is doing this on purpose to enable me, isn't she?

    I guess the only way to get some answers was for me to push back with a greater intensity.

    Instead of pestering her with more words and be ridiculed the same way Barusu would, I merely stood up with my books and made by way to another table.

    From there, I waited just a couple of seconds and... the girl moved out of her table with a slightly annoyed look. She walked up to my table and once again asked.

    "May I take a seat here?"

    I glanced up again to stare at her, this time taking my sweet time to answer. Pink clashed with chocolate, and the local sass came in contact with outwordly sass.

    "Uh... I don't know," I replied slowly, faking stupidity. "I don't trust people that I don't know for sure... are you perhaps an admirer?"

    Her irritation grew more at that question. "I'm not."

    "And how do I know for sure?" I pressed on, my cheeky smile twitching eagerly by my lips.

    Ram-chi narrowed her eyes even more at that instigation.

    "May I take a seat here, Lord Bukharin?"

    I smiled for a little longer, just enough to scratch at her exposed nerves.

    "Since you are so polite... why not?" I gestured her to sit by the chair in front of me.

    There was some hesitation at the sudden 'let go', but while the maid was going to think a lot about this matter... the reality was that I was only playing mind games with her.

    One of the few things I could easily do to Ram was manipulating her to get irritated and 'abandon her task for superior reasons'.

    Time to test her patience and devotion to the cause... in the most brutal but still effective method of torture possible!

    "So are you going to talk about your creepy staring or-"

    "I was surprised by the fact that you were actually spending time in this place," She interjected swiftly and mercilessly. "My apologies for giving the worst of assumptions, Lord Bukharin."

    Oh? Trying to outpace me like that?

    Let's see how she likes a little shake.

    "Apologies accepted, Ram," I replied quickly and carelessly, drawing a surprised look out of her as I addressed her with her true name. "But next time... I think you should also include an introduction to the apology. It avoids you the risks of still irking people despite your 'sincere' intentions." Or, you know, can still be a massive bitch and still play around like that.

    "I suppose you're also aware of why I'm here right now," She dryly commented. "So I don't see neither a reason to introduce myself, nor why I should specify why we're talking."

    I shrugged. "I mean, it could be that you just wandered off for a quick read, but you got mesmerized by my presence," I started with quite the narration, stopping to see her flat look just undermining everything and my whole existence. "And by 'mesmerized' I mean, you saw me and you thought about the possible rewards the Margrave is going to give you at the first chance of knowing more about a new political player. You cheeky girl!"

    The teasing half-worked, as she looked away with an annoyed look... and a tiny speck of red adorning her cheeks.

    Ah, to think that this encounter would've been this much... amusing. Good God, why didn't Subaru do something about this? It would've been hilarious!

    But no, the NEET had to make things limited to just Emilia and Rem in the early arcs. Why not include the sass to the crazy mix when you have the naive half-Elf and the fanatic Blue Oni?

    Sass is... important. Kazuma is the perfect example of it by merely being himself.

    Except around Megumin in the latter bit of the series. Never understood why the creators of Konosuba went on with the idea of having him and the Explosive maniac to end up together. I don't have anything about that lovely explosive fiend, but I really didn't feel that Romance to that 'degree' worked well with the comedic nature the show started with.

    But that's an opinion of a show I wasn't going to see... for a long time. And with 'a long time', I meant 'never again'.

    ...I hope Aqua will still be as 'useless' as I remember her being if I manage to make it back home just once.

    "Anyway, what's the Margrave interested about?" I asked politely. "Surely he wouldn't be pressing for much. So let's get through with this instead of playing a game of chase."

    "He was surprised by your appearance."

    I blinked at the comment, but I quickly realized what she was talking about.

    The little book the 'cheerful Clown' was hiding from the world wasn't giving him much info about me. I was an anomaly, enough to push him away from making any direct interactions with me.

    That was quite fun news to be rewarded with, but I wasn't certainly going to pass the opportunity to squeeze more info out of her.

    "I suppose I can be rather stunning to some eyes," I mentioned with a mirthful tone, then gracing her with a curious look. "Still, I dare to ask: what do you think of the speech I've given two days ago?"

    Ram blinked. "Lord Roswaal thought it to be... interesting."

    "Not the answer I asked for," I pointed out with a sigh. "I want your genuine opinion. Your biased, rude, and possibly crass thought you might have about me."

    The maid seemed rather surprised by the request, but she frowned at the adjectives I used to depict whatever her mind had cooked out of my speech AND this very encounter.

    "I think you should've added 'disappointed' and 'depressing'," The girl muttered with a nod, making me smile as she was indirectly playing this fun game. "But why should I even bother giving you my opinion? I don't see how it would matter to you considering I'm just a lowly servant?"

    "If by lowly you're trying to humbly say pleasantly sassy and interesting, then yes," I complimented back at her. "And don't diminish your value, Ram. You might be surprised how highly I consider you from an objective perception I got from your situation."

    She huffed, crossing her arms close to her chest. "Forgive me then, Lord Bukharin, but I fail to see how this would be convenient to me. I'm the one that is meant to gain information over you-"

    "And you are. You already got out of me a considerable amount of respect by being a good older sibling."

    ...

    "What?" The Hornless Oni inquired blankly.

    "Just take the compliment, Ram," I muttered calmly. "I'm literally trying to play cool with the fact you decided to come her by your own accord to try and get anything to blackmail me with."

    She tensed up at the sudden mood swing, but I wasn't letting go of the fact that...

    I was in control of this conversation. I was in control from the very beginning, and I was going to end this by my own accord.

    "And yet now, you're the one getting to face the issues of blackmail," I continued with a hum. "Emotional one at that. But I can also blackmail Roswaal with far more dirt than his influence can deal with. I can ruin him if I want to."

    I stood up. "But I will not because... I know you don't really trust him."

    ...

    She didn't rebuke my final words, merely staring at me with extreme surprise and dread.

    "You have a contract with him. One that can be broken by his part if he ends up being the main cause behind the suffering you and your sister had been put through," I persisted a little more with my dominance of the dialogue. "But you don't have any plans after that. If the news of his death reaches the capital, you and your sister would end up labeled as criminals worth of an execution."

    ...

    "What do you want?" The pinkette finally asked, and I smiled widely.

    "To be fair... not much. I just want two things in exchange for you to just accept my kind offer," I mentioned happily. "I want you to smile for your sister's own hard-work, and to accept my simple offer of friendship."

    At this point, I was expecting her to press for more. I was being so vague with this answer, so I wanted for her to ask for more.

    But I forgot that Ram was still a twitch or two different from the normal inhabitant of this kingdom, and I was stunned by her followup question.

    "Why friendship?"

    I blinked, shocked by her interest being centered over this very topic.

    Humming, I decided to provide her with the truest words about the matter.

    "Because I think I can somehow relate to your plight, Ram," I answered genuinely. "The struggle of being the oldest sibling, to try and provide with your best efforts to your younger sister... while also making sure that the pressure and toll aren't visible in your usual appearance."

    "You're speaking by experience," The maid pointed out and I nodded.

    "While my sister is surely worried that she doesn't know where I am, I'm sure that she is making good steps in becoming the best person," I replied calmly. "And to know that I can see you striving for the save objective... it makes me nostalgic and happy."

    She blinked. "Shouldn't you be... sad that she isn't here?"

    "Oh, but I am," I admitted without hesitation, glancing at her with a fond look. "I would like to be there, to know how her day is going, and if she needs my help."

    ...

    "But you can't," Ram finally realized. "And when you noticed me-"

    "I saw someone dealing with my own troubles. Just... with different ordeals thrown left and right," I added with a nod. "I can relate about family matters, but it would be hypocritical of me if I tried to take your own unique burdens and call mine too."

    She huffed, standing up herself and taking a couple of steps towards me. I looked at her and she stared back at me with a bored look.

    "Your speech... it wasn't that bad," The pinkette confessed blankly. "But I think I will believe you more if you actually did at least half of what you mentioned. Words are empty without actions filling them with intentions."

    I blinked at that, but I found my chances of keeping up with that interesting conversation faltering to nothingness as Ram decided to finally leave the library.

    Leaving me to ponder about what kind of impact I had left on her. Hopefully, I didn't push Canon too hard to get a massive alteration so early on.

    --------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d------------d-d-d-d------------

    AN

    It might sound odd for those that have followed the series through the Anime that Ram distrust Roswaal and... you're half-right. The sassy pinkette, albeit devoted to the greatest (Aka Michael Jackson da Clown) she still has her own reservations about him. There is a contract between him and her that, if she discovers that he had lied to her about his 'responsibility' to the attack on the Oni Clan, then she is free to do whatever she wants to do with him.

    While magic could accept this as a good exchange, the legal procedures wouldn't give much support to the Maid Twins. Which is why Bukharin enters in the room and throw a singular offer to sway them both to at least distance themselves from Roswaal.

    And for a moment he became like Dio-Sama!

    --------------------------------------
    Omake 9: A Feline Problem (Part 1)
    --------------------------------------


    The Royal Castle of Lugnica was considered one of the places that still contained some of the most dangerous artifacts ever created since the sealing of the Witch of Envy.

    Some of those were well-contained in known rooms that were forbidden to ever be approached, while some were still unknown to the knowledge of the government itself.

    Quite odd to imagine that there were a couple of terrible objects that could either kill people or transform them in vile beasts left around for some stupid fellow to end up finding those.

    The real issue would be if said 'fellow' ended up being the Prince of Lugnica himself and... that his target to experiment with the curious object he had found was the one and only person that is currently narrating this tragedy.

    The first hint that things were going to be complicated was when I found something burdening the top of my head. I had been distracted by the usual amount of paperwork that was still occupying a large portion of my desk, when a tip-toeing Fourier managed to drop something on me.

    I stood up, feeling instantly weird at the strange action, but just as I turned around to address the sudden activity with quite the irritated mindset, I quickly noticed that I wasn't speaking properly.

    Rather... I was making a curious noise that I had heard so many times when I was back home.

    "Miao Miao Mia- MIAO(1)!"

    I clamped my mouth shut with my own hands, ignoring the muffled chuckles erupting from the red-faced young man in front of me.

    With my eyes widening in confusion at the feline noise leaving my lips, I reached up for my head and... I felt them.

    Two new small appendages had been placed atop it. These felt rather furry, twitching and... sensible.

    I shivered in surprise at the odd sensation coming from touching the pair of cat ears now settled on my head.

    "I-It's more hilarious than I expected it to be."

    I frowned at him, taking a few steps closer to him and almost snarling at him.

    "MIAO MIAO MI-MIAO!!!"

    If only he knew the kind of words were reaching out from my mouth. I was furious at the sudden prank, but the message exuding from the single word being repeated was enough to lessen up the effects of my angry state.

    "L-Look, it's not that bad. Cat ears are... good on you."

    I started to pinch at his cheeks, and it seemed to be enough to get him to relent with this absurd circumstance.

    He reached up and... removed the small hair-piece with the magical cat ears on those.

    "I found these hanging by dad's room," Fourier started to explain while handing those to me. "And I thought it would've been fun to test these out after Miklotov told me that Nyah nyah... Nyah?"

    The blond paused for a moment, confusion swelling in his expression as he realized that the hair-piece was no longer in my hold. Instead, there was just a smug smile spreading on my face as I had successfully returned the favor back at the young man.

    "I suppose these ears are good on you too, Fourier," I muttered with blatant eagerness. "In fact, let's test these out."

    He looked panicky for a moment, but there was nothing that he could've done to intercept my swift hands. After having handled Ferris for so long, I knew exactly the proper spots to touch to get a reaction out of him.

    The prince twitched in clear pleasure at the sudden ear-scratching attack, tensing up as his red eyes widened in a moment of pure bliss.

    His shoulders sagged a little bit, indulging more and more in the powerful sensation erupting from this heavy petting and... soon he started to lean more on me. I was amused by this as it happened, but then I noticed that the prince was slowly pushing more of his weight onto me.

    I had just the chance of blinking when the unthinkable happened and... I fell backward. There was nothing behind me to leave some damage on me, but I was surprised by the sudden action coming from the dazed blond.

    The young man was now on nestling his cheek by my chest, rubbing it affectionately and like a cat as I had continued scratching softly at the back of his cat ears.

    A low noise began to vibrate thorough our bodies and I blinked in surprise as I recognized it. "You're... purring?"

    The boy didn't answer, and I felt dread rising up as Fourier started to come closer to me and start rubbing his ears by my chin. At this point, the surreal escalation had finally taken away the pure amusement that had existed up until now.

    With the prince now pressing his whole weight on me to keep me from leaving, I felt confused as to why I couldn't get to find where the edges of the hair-piece were. maybe it was the suddenness of the situation, or maybe I was really dealing with a magical mishap.

    But while I struggled to find a way to end this awkward situation, I froze at the noise of the only door to the room opening as someone entered.

    "Johnyah! I brought the slice of cake you asked for and I brought Lady Karsten so that we-"

    Ferris paused at the sight presented before him as he vaulted the doorstep. Crusch would enter shortly after and... they would both stare at the scene with a mix of surprise and fascination. An intense amount of fascination at that.

    "C-Care to offer some help?"

    They didn't. In fact, they even felt more endeared at the opportunity presented by that unexpected fluffy device.

    -----------d-d-d-d---------------d-d-d-d-------------d-d-d-d-----------d-d-d-d--------------d-d-d-d---------

    AN

    Another Omake, this is a bigger one considering the fluff/fun combo potential. Expect lots of giggles by next part, and one can wonder what will be Crusch's version with the cat ears...
    I also learned about how to use Invisitext. Yay!


    1) Miao is the Italian version of 'Meow/Nyah'.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  20. JBukharin

    JBukharin Signer of the Totalist Charter

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    Left a little surprise by the end of the AN.
     
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