A sullen, young man rode in the back of a carriage as it traveled away from the territory governed by the Madiswil family. His face was reminiscent of someone who had just lost everything. If you had been someone who had accompanied the young man just an hour before, then his current state would be understandable.
“I cannot bear to be associated with one as vile as yourself any longer! At this moment, our family ties are cut, and you are to be exiled!” The lord of Madiswil announced to his son.
Starkenberg, having heard this declaration, lost any hope of being saved by his father’s position. His father had covered for him many times before, arranging for special favors or hush money for officials to conveniently ‘neglect’ his misdoings. However, the magnitude of this problem had been severe enough that his father would rather wipe his hands clean from it.
After all, what merit would it be to defend someone that had plans to bring disorder to the kingdom? It would greatly diminish the position that he fought so hard for. Better to nip it in the bud before others began to question if he had any involvement in his son’s plans.
In fact, the Lord of Madiswil knew everything that had been transpiring. He had allowed for his son to freely use his connections and applauded his ambition, but sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Feigning ignorance and letting his son take full responsibility would be best. At the very least, he could send someone to secretly watch over him while in exile.
Of course, Starkenberg could not read any of his father’s thoughts. All he saw was blame shifted solely on his shoulders and the consequences he would be made to bear. He ground his teeth in frustration and rage as the verdict was given. His family members remained quiet during the entire time, but as he was led away from the room, Starkenberg caught a glimpse of his siblings smirking at him.
‘That’s what you get for being so stuck up!’ Their expressions seemed to read from a brief glance.
Starkenberg had boasted on and on about his superior magic ability, making his siblings jealous. It would be no wonder that they held a grudge against him. But for that grudge to be so great that none of them would stick up for him? An ever-growing hatred swelled up from the bottom of his heart. He could see that not even familial ties were worth considering anymore.
His thoughts returned to the present as he felt the carriage abruptly stop. His body lurched forward as his head smacked against the inner wall.
“What the hell?” He muttered clutching his head in pain.
Two muffled yells could be heard outside before being cut off. A long silence permeated the carriage.
Moments later, the carriage door opened, revealing a man in a long robe. Revealing his face under the hood, he beckoned Starkenberg to come out.
“It’s you!” Starkenberg was surprised at his sudden visitor. “You came to save me?”
“Shh!” The man drew a finger to his mouth. “Quickly!”
The man led Starkenberg away from the scene. Looking back, he could see two bodies on the ground in a pool of blood. Who cared about them anyway? After they had traveled a considerable distance, Starkenberg finally spoke up.
“This is bad! I tried to do what you suggested, but I failed and was forsaken by my family!”
“Oh? So do you want revenge?”
“Bloody damn well, I do! I’m going to make those that rejected me suffer ten times over, be it those jealous of my abilities or my so-called family that wants nothing to do with me anymore!”
The embers of rage were re-kindled in his body as Starkenberg saw a glimmer of hope in his revenge. He vowed to himself that nothing would stop him as he would do everything to make sure the faces of his enemies contorted with despair. He couldn’t wait to see it through, especially if he had this person at his side.
However, his self-delusions wishing for revenge were momentarily paused as he felt a sharp pain in his stomach. Looking down, he saw a sword had been embedded there. The taste of iron started building up in the back of his throat.
That sole word was all that he could manage before crumpling to the ground. The sword slid out of his body, and his warmth started to fade.
“How easy it is to manipulate a simple-minded noble such as yourself.” The man smirked before placing the hood back on his head. “Now, I have one more task for you. Let’s see if you’ll be more useful in your next life.”
A spell was cast, which started to envelop Starkenberg’s body.
Though Starkenberg’s life had expired, the robed man could still see the traces of anger and resentment still shining brightly in that body.
“So…you being a princess…you were going to tell me when?” I looked at Katsys, or rather Princess Sistina.
She was wearing her typical cloak that I always encountered her in. Who knew that she wore that to travel incognito around the capital? Eryn and I found her a few weeks later in the marketplace, where we promptly cornered her. At the moment, we were at a nearby café so that she could tell her side of the story.
After Eryn had caught up with the events that had transpired while she was recovering, she had given me a dirty look.
“Ehhhh, so you’ve been making good with the princess when my eyes are off you. How sly,” Eryn said with a hint of jealousy at the time.
I insisted that I had no way of knowing her secret identity, and that our relationship had been purely business. Eryn shot me a skeptical look, so there was no way around it but to find the person in question.
“I didn’t have any reason to tell anyone about my position. Besides, would you really believe me if I had said that the king’s daughter finds it comforting to spend her days in a musky workshop?”
“A surprise, yes. Believe you? I could be convinced.”
After all, my brain had already been conditioned to believe all sorts of quirky female archetypes and situations. You could thank my otaku interests for that. A girl of royalty being a mad scientist wouldn’t even top my list for strange. One example fitting the description floated in my mind. She had a tail though.
“But…where are your guards?” I looked at her strangely.
“Around.” Katsys gave me a smile.
From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something shift in the air, but it was gone before I could focus on it.
“Maybe that’s why I find it comforting to talk to you…” Katsys diverted my attention back to her.
Eryn cleared her throat at that moment as if to re-focus our attention back to the main question.
“So why all the secrecy? I’m sure the people would be thrilled to know that the great inventor Katsys is actually their own princess.”
Katsys thought for a moment before answering. “Would they be happy because of my inventions, or rather that the inventor is the princess? I couldn’t have people buttering me up for every little thing I made. I wouldn’t get any real feedback.”
For fear of drawing the ire of the royal family, I’m sure there would have been plenty of people that would praise her regardless of how crappy the result. That much I could understand. As I saw from her workshop, she had seemingly built her successes upon the mound of failures. It was rather admirable of her.
“What about your duties as a princess?” Eryn questioned.
“Duties? What duties? Father treats me as nothing more than a girl to conveniently marry away when the time comes. I’ve already long completed those kinds of preparations, so why bother with that when I can do what I want now? Who knows what will happen after I become chained to a prince or noble somewhere?” Katsys muttered with a frown.
“Is that so? Then I guess that I have no more questions on that part.” Eryn finished her tea and got up to leave.
That was a quick change. She seemed strangely dismissive after hearing about that. Did she feel sympathetic being similarly chained to her family’s business?
“In any case, please continue treating me as normal. I still haven’t picked your brain enough yet, Claude.”
“That shouldn’t be hard. The only you I know is the one in front of me. I’ll let you know if I need something else made.” I gave her a grin. Royalty or not, her tools had proven to be quite useful so far.
Eryn impatiently coughed, interrupting our moment.
“Let’s get going, Claude. We still have to report in for our current assignment.”
Weird. She didn’t usually need me to come with her when she gave her report. Guess I’ll tag along this time.
The previous week or so after the nutmeg incident happened had been relatively calm. Eryn and I returned to our normal cycle of menial jobs and hunting requests that we could squeeze along the way. It didn’t feel like adventuring if we didn’t take the time to kill some monsters during the trip.
In other news, I finally hit level 30. While this called for a brief celebration, I felt much like the vanilla hero that no one would ever want to use due to a lack of interesting abilities. I could only accept that reality would never surpass my expectations. How sad.
The ground started trembling around me, knocking me out of my daydream as we were walking to the guild.
“What is this?”
While the ground trembled, the air around me felt suddenly colder than normal. A chill ran down my spine as I looked around the sky for any changes.
In the distance, a column of purple light had erupted, piercing the clouds in the sky. A faint roar traveled through the air from that direction, a roar that sounded foreign to my ears.
Looking over at Eryn, I saw her eyes wide in shock as she too was staring at the straight phenomenon in the sky. I waved my hand over her face.
“Oi! Eryn! You know what the hell’s going on?”
Eryn remained firmly grounded in place, neither moving nor answering me back. A look around the city showed me that others too were looking on in shock. People had dropped the stuff they were holding. Some had their mouths agape.
Less than a minute later, the rumbling subsided as the column of light started shrinking before fading out of existence.
As the surroundings grew quiet, Eryn snapped out of her trance and dashed in the direction of the guild. I hurriedly followed her, having been caught off-guard by her sudden movement.
“HEY! What’s going on! Say something!”
“No. No. No. That can’t be!”
“What can’t be?!” I yelled back trying to understand her mumbling.
In front of the guild, a group of magic knights had already gathered with the same looks of panic as Eryn had. I finally caught up to Eryn as she stopped in front of her peers.
“What in blazes has everyone so worked up?” I placed a hand on Eryn’s shoulder.
Eryn gripped that hand firmly. I could tell that she was trembling.
“The texts tell of a purple light rising to the heavens, which happened periodically throughout recorded history…” Eryn swallowed before continuing. “A light signifying the birth of a demon.”