In the hallway of his mansion, Marquis Morgan Auxerre sighed as he rolled his head around his shoulders to relieve the stress that had accumulated during the day.
Ever since Charlemagne’s passing, the empty position of Duke had been up for grabs. Given that there were only three Marquis in the kingdom – himself, Deggendorf, and Reichenstein – it was natural that one of them would be selected to claim that position in the near future.
Though it was not widely circulated, the knowledge that Marquis Deggendorf had supported the former Duke was known amongst the nobility. Someone that favored a take-over of the throne would not be considered for advancement. In respect to Marquis Reichenstein, he had been newly given that title, so it was highly unlikely that he would be chosen either.
That left the only option upon his own shoulders. Already the favorite in most people’s minds, it was only a matter of time before he would be called upon to receive that honor. Though not excelling in magic nor fighting, his steadfast way of working for the kingdom and its people was what defined his legacy.
Preferring to remain neutral in his favoritism towards the royal family and other nobility, he was seen as part of the moderate faction that mediated between both sides. This, of course, made him the prime candidate to repair a kingdom that had been secretly torn in half by those that had chosen sides.
However, his outward actions only implied neutrality and compromise to the general populace. Secretly, he had been on Duke Charlemagne’s side, simply because he saw no other person outstanding enough to take the helm when the current king retired.
Though the prince and the princess were quite capable in the fields of warfare and technology, respectively, their skills were not broad enough to lead a kingdom effectively.
He had to keep the prosperity of his people in mind, both in times of war and times of peace. Perhaps, if they could rule together, it could work out, but that would never happen given Prince Oswald’s pride.
With the rise of capable nobles that could self-govern beyond their own territories, he would likely divide the responsibilities amongst those that he saw fit, creating a ruling body that could mutually decide on the kingdom’s direction. He had heard that the Southern Isles had implemented a system like that, which made the possibility even more promising.
In order to achieve that, he first had to become Duke and rally those that once supported Charlemagne, as well as others. He would be forced to continue what his predecessor had failed.
“What a non-trivial task,” he mumbled under his breath as he sought means to unite them.
In his hands were signing documents providing capital towards a certain trading company that had been booming in success. Though the lord governing it was fairly new, there was an incredible momentum behind her.
Slaying a demon, toppling a person of higher nobility, and befriending a foreign king – these were acts that would embolden anyone, and they had been all achieved within a single year’s timeframe!
Before Viscountess Faulkner could gain any more leverage, he had to create a firm foothold to reap the benefits. She would undoubtedly be a strong ally in the future.
He gave his coat to one of his servants and greeted his wife and children in the hallway, giving them each a kiss on the forehead.
Suddenly, a bang sounded near the front door. Turning around, Morgan saw the figure of a man dressed in a chef outfit. He was surprised by his presence as he had just returned from a meeting with the man in question. Was there something urgent that he had missed?
“Sir Evers, what is the matter? Why have you-“
Before he could finish that statement, the Marquis’s eyes widened in shock at the object in the man’s right hand. Red blood dripped down the side of his chef knife, indicating that it had been recently used to stab someone. Given by how it trickled off the blade and splattered on the ground, it was likely that it had been used on the guards in front of his house. The sleeve of his outfit was also speckled red, and an eerie smile was plastered on his face.
“RUN!” He screamed.
With a cry of surprise, Morgan’s wife and children moved to the next room, while he took up his wand to cast a defensive magic spell. He had no time to ponder why he had suddenly been the target of his blade.
However, before he could finish his incantation, the chef had moved right in front of him, exhibiting the speed of a high-level fighter. With a swift motion, the knife drew a horizontal stroke.
With nothing to hold it up, the hand holding the wand promptly fell to the ground as blood spurted from the stump where it used to be. It had been a clean cut, so sharp that it left no raggedness.
It was now the servants’ turn to run, seeing that their master had no chance. Stunned by the pain of his hand being chopped off and by the unbelievable situation, he could only look on in fear.
Why had it come to this? The chef had just been on the other side of the table, amicably chatting about winning over his support in future endeavors. Morgan felt betrayed by this sudden reversal. What advantage would he have in slaying a fellow supporter?
Just then, he saw mana flicker between the two of them.
“Wait, don’t tell me-“
But his words never finished as the chef knife drew an upward stroke, cutting him off.
Just before everything became black, Morgan saw the chef turn into two separate images. The cut had cleanly bisected his body in half, such that his brain barely registered the fact that his eyes were slowly creating distance from each other. The two halves of his body separated and slumped to the ground.
With a stony expression, the chef stepped around the corpse of the Marquis and continued to the next room, where a collective cry of terror erupted. One by one, the shrieks faded into silence as the knife found its mark. With no emotion, the chef indiscriminately carved at the bodies of the wife and children. Body parts scattered across the living room, cleanly sliced into sections. Blood clung to the surfaces of the room, as well as the body of the murderer.
After a few moments of silence, the chef walked out of the room and casually made his way out the door into the courtyard. Fairly soon, the sound of soldiers marching towards the front gate could be heard. As they burst through the gate, a few of them halted in shock.
In front of them stood a figure that many of them recognized – the Demon Cleaver. But now, his chef uniform was stained by the blood of the mansion’s occupants. A sickening grin was plastered on his face.
Looking around the courtyard, they spotted what appeared to be guards lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Not only their bodies, but also the armor covering them, had been neatly sliced through. Only someone as powerful as him could have done something like this.
Hesitantly, one of the soldiers yelled out to him. “Y-You! D-Did you do this?! Did you kill them?!”
The chef merely tilted his head and returned a wicked smile before dashing off in another direction. Before they could give chase, he had swiftly climbed over the wall and hopped over to the other side. Such agility was only possible for those that were highly leveled. There was nothing that they could do but call for backup.
“It’s impossible… How could he… do such a thing?” The soldiers were all confused. They had heard stories of his bravado and friendly nature. What would drive such a man to such blatant acts of murder?
Searching the house, they fell into further despair at the gruesome scene that had been left behind.
“Such unbelievable cruelty! How could he! To children!” Some of the men vomited off to the side, the carnage refusing to be wiped from their minds. Despite their previous perceptions, this was enough to unify them against the terror that had unfolded.
“We have no choice. The Demon Cleaver must be stopped at all costs! Send word out to every soldier and knight! We must bring him to justice and find out why he has done such a thing!”
In the time that they had searched the building, the chef had long escaped from the vicinity. Moving carefully so that he wouldn’t be seen, the chef maneuvered in the shadows of the buildings making sure that no one was following him. After some time, he managed to find a quiet lot that hardly anyone visited.
Seeing that no one was around, the chef reached toward his neck and pulled out something. It was a magical charm that had been strung around his neck. With a snap, the string broke off, unequipping the accessory from his body. The mana around him slowly started to warp as the effects of the charm were deactivated. The chef’s body blurred into the body of a young girl of Asian descent with long, black hair.
She tossed the bloody chef knife in her other hand to one corner of the lot. Afterward, she looked up at the orange rays of the evening sun that peeked around a nearby building. A distant gaze was plastered on her face. She was waiting for someone.
“There you are, Saki.” A voice called to her.
“Yes, Master. The job is done.” Saki turned towards him with a stony expression.
“Good, then let’s get you cleaned up. You can’t walk around like that.” The Chancellor brought out her normal outfit.
Saki stripped off the chef’s uniform that had been ‘borrowed’ and tossed it next to the discarded knife, letting the air hit her naked body. The Chancellor cast some water magic which doused her clean of the blood that had splashed across her body. Following it with a wind spell, a swift gust blew around her, drying her body of the liquid. Before long, the traces of her previous actions had been wiped clean.
She walked over to the Chancellor and grabbed her outfit, casually getting dressed. In the meantime, the Chancellor cast another spell, which churned the earth. Seeing the knife and outfit being pulled into the ground, he flattened the earth so that it looked like nothing had ever happened here. All traces of the disguise had been swept several feet underground where no one would find it.
“Now, come along. This is only the first phase of our plan. It’s early, but there is so much to do, so you should get some sleep.”
Saki nodded weakly as she started to follow behind him, like a puppet being pulled along. The Chancellor smiled to himself.
“Yes, by the time you wake up, you’ll experience the first step to the rebirth of this kingdom.”
In the distance, sounds of cries and rallying could be heard, an abnormal sound for a day that should have started winding down. There was no doubt that this would be an eventful evening, for him and for all of the players that he had placed on his board.