Translator: Adam Seacord
A half a year had passed since the parade. The new year had come, and the long winter was almost over.
The water gate city of Abram was bustling with the first cheery rumor in a while. With Earl Abram’s diminishing physicality, the position of Earl was going to be passed to the heir, Olivia, on the day of the spring festival… At the same time, Olivia would take a husband.
After the parade the previous year, the ceremony was held privately, and there would only be a presentation in the plaza within the castle walls. Even though Abram was one of the largest water gate city in the nation, it was unprecedented that such a large-scale assassination attempt to take place at a city far from the frontlines, so it was only natural. However, the new ruler Olivia was very popular among her people, who in turn resent the fact that the ceremony wasn’t made public.
Although it was called a plaza, the only place where one could see the presentation was form within the castle walls. Even though the castle was on the larger side, it could only take about one tenth of the population of Abram (which had been climbing during the past three decades) before it was filled shoulder-to-shoulder. Many of the city’s residents were scrambling to earn an invitation through the castle walls.
The aging owner of Jemma Firm was washing down his light brunch with tea as he looked over new papers and memos that had reached him since the previous night. Old-Man Jemma’s clout had earned him a predetermined invitation. Which came with a rather large number of guests he could bring. Sorting through people trying to contact him for one of those spots alone took up some of his time.
As he sorted through his papers with some exasperation, he noticed something peculiar mixed in. It took him a few seconds to remember what it was, and a few minutes to understand what it meant. All the while, his tea sat on the table, only cooling.
He called his assistant to confirm that the route the paper had travelled was indeed a secret one, which he rarely used, that passed through several shops before reaching him. This route was unused for over half a year, and he had never initiated communication through it for that time. So, there was no business for any paper to reach him through it now.
Old-Man Jemma order his assistant to find out who delivered the paper to the first shop on the route, and tore open the envelope. It was a high-quality paper with a seal of a small floral design. He knew the man who used this set of stationary.
「…Monster. I knew you were hiding out.」
Just like before, the paper contained a simple request with no context, along with some information that would benefit Jemma Firm. From the writing, the old man confirmed that it was written by the man himself.
At the end of the letter, there was a sentence unlike the others. A sentence that would convey their current situation. Something the monster had no business including. The old man read the last sentence silently, and gazed up to the ceiling.
After a short moment of silence, he jotted down some instructions on the paper by his side. He called up a subordinate, and sent him off with some business orders. Then, he sat down deep into his chair, leaned back, and closed his eyes.
「Mmm… It’s rather lonely… To be left behind…」
「The air’s finally starting to warm up.」
Adding logs to the fireplace, my soon-to-be wife mentioned.
「…At the time, I never imagined that I would be marrying you. Us enemies…」
Olivia, who has now officially been determined the new ruler of the city, seemed to have lost a little bit of weight since the incident. The more she had to concentrate on politics, the more muscle she lost. In exchange, I think she was a more feminine body than ever.
「Maybe it’s time to switch out your bandages? I thought we could at least get them off your face by the wedding… But we just have to take our time to adjust. Your voice. Your face… Your memories.」
She closed the window, and came to me as I sat on the bed. I pulled her close with my arm, still wrapped in bandages. My glasses touch her breast. For better or worse, my vision hadn’t changed.
I had seldom spoke at all recently, that speaking at all was an ordeal. Moving my body was still tough, too.
「By the way, where is your housekeeper today?」
Gratina, who always ruined it at the best part, wasn’t here today. I had left her to take care of some business somewhere else.
I told Olivia that, and she chuckled quietly.
「…Sara won’t be back today. She’s busy getting ready for tomorrow. It really has been awhile since… We were alone.」
She grew a smile lightly tinted. She was lusting. We were both so busy that, it had been so long since we had any conversation… With our mouths or our bodies. I could feel lust warming my body, too.
I stole a kiss. One of initiated, and our tongues were entangled, excavating each other’s mouths. I collapsed down to the bed with her, and held her tight. Olivia whispered in my ear:
「Take me… Fill me up. Just like you took me for all for yourself… Please, Lubreo.」
…I was dreaming.
Mom was there, and little Olivy was there. Little Daria was following as we ran around. Gustav and Gordon, still with full sets of hair, were having a shouting match with mom in the middle. Someone was calling from far way.
A mirage of my happy past that never existed. A happy, fake memory reconstructed by my mind of its own volition.
Daria was running, with tears, trying her best to keep up with me. Still, a few years’ growth is a world of difference for children. Daria faded away behind me…
…I found out later that I wasn’t out for that long. A lot had happened in the meantime.
Layla was controlled by magic when she mistook me for Olivia and stabbed me. At that point, her curse had lifted. Layla must have finally realized that she had struck her blade into Olivia.
The pendant I took was a magical item that disguised me as Olivia. Olivia was under the guise of a knight, and was a part of the parade from the start along with Sara and Layla. She was wearing the item I had used in Abram when I was actively “the monster” which prevented most recognition… But that was almost too bold for comfort.
…So, Olivy was right by Layla and I when it happened. It was her scream. A visceral heat and cold radiated from the blade in my side. Before I could recognize it as pain, I was out cold.
Apparently, it was Miyabi that reacted to Olivia’s scream. Olivia had called my name. Realizing what had happened, Miyabi, in her rage, attacked Layla, and swallowed Layla and I whole in her mouth, and pulled us into the water.
If someone were to get hurt, the quickest transport would be through Miyabi swimming through the underground waterways. It was the only responsibility I had given her after she nearly burst in tears because she couldn’t come out in the open and help me. Of course, I couldn’t throw her in willy-nilly. I was considering the possibility of utilizing her once we discovered the location of the other attackers.
But I, the commanding officer, went down, and the chain of command was broken. The magical items that relayed information were scraps among the rubble of the carriage. Things sprung into action before Daria could find out what had happened.
Carrying Layla and I, Miyabi headed straight down the underground waterways. Olivia, Sara, and Astarte were immobilized. All she could do was go to Daria.
「Master, open your eyes… Master…!」
It felt like waking up from a slumber in mud. My body was cold, and I could move a finger. I couldn’t even tell where my body was, but somewhere in it I could feel a pocket of heat… I just felt hot.
I heard a voice. As soon as I wondered why I couldn’t see and understood that it was because my eyelids were closed, the throat caught in my throat spewed out in a violent coughing fit. I could have sworn I could have heard a gurgled cough, but Miyabi later told me that all she heard was blood spraying out.
Above me, I could see Daria through a blurry veil. Not a child, but the beautiful woman she had become. Her less expressive face was distorted with anxiety and fear.
…What is she worried about?
「Master! Master! Miyabi is here! Don’t… Don’t leave me… Don’t leave me alone anymore…!」
Miyabi stuck here face in. Her pretty face was crinkled in tears. I remembered that the last time she was crying this hard was when I had caught her in the underground waterways.
I could feel the heat curdling all over my body. Even though I was cold, I couldn’t stop sweating. A small clot of blood traveled up my throat and out of my mouth again.
Someone held my left hand. Probably Miyabi, judging by where her face was. Finally, I realized that my hand was there, too.
I wondered what Daria was doing. At last, my vision was returning. I could feel magic flowing into my body, holding onto my consciousness by a thread.
Slowly, I tilted my head. For the first time, I realized that I was lying on the floor of our lair in the depths of the underground waterways. An unconscious knight in the corner of the room… But she didn’t look dead. It was Layla.
In an instant, my memories that lead up to being stabbed flooded back to me, and I understood that I was stabbed. I could barely feel any pain. Which meant that my body was on its way out.
「Master… You’re awake.」
Daria said. I look down to see some sort of magic circle on the floor under me. Daria must have prepared it. Since she had been helping me prepare rituals, she could now do most of them on her own. Her perfect memory of a golem was extremely useful in both our official and unofficial businesses. So, even though she couldn’t use magic all by herself, she could prepare everything up to the start of the ritual… And she had memorized all steps to every ritual she had witnessed.
I tried to speak to her, and coughed up more blood instead. I was impressed myself that I was still conscious. Then, Miyabi, lowered her head to my neck.
「Daria. This is next, isn’t it?」
「Yes… Inject Master with that. At this rate, he won’t make it to the end of the ritual.」
Immediately, Miyabi’s fangs gently penetrate my neck, and some sort of medicine came flowing in. My body lit up, and my heart beat started racing to the point where it was hard to hear anything else. With that, I could hear soft, wet sloshes echo in the room. Soon, I realized the source of it. On the cold floor, Daria and I were connected.
Daria was naked. Except, she adorned her entire body with runes using a ceremonial ink comprised of blood and semen. I was sure I had taught it to her, but I couldn’t recall what ritual this was.
Finally, I realized that my clothes had been torn off, and the same runes were drawn onto my body as well. I knew well what these runes meant, but I just couldn’t remember.
Then, the realization that I was on the verge of death finally dawned on me. Was Olivia all right? Was Astarte all right? Did we fail, after all? I couldn’t answer any of those questions, and it was becoming harder and harder to think. The flood of magic flowing into me from Daria was just holding my consciousness and life by a thread.
That’s right. I remember. These runes. This ritual.
Strangely, it wasn’t hard to swallow, and I felt that it was okay, if it was Daria. I was dying. If the ritual was interrupted, I wouldn’t survive more than a breath or two. Daria had the technique and knowledge, but no magic. If I died, the ritual would end, incomplete.
The Man-Eating ritual I had showed Daria just once before. Daria was about to perform the ritual that I once used to Arachne, devouring all the life and magic.
This time, it was my turn to be devoured by Daria.