We were invited to dinner in the Laluzulu Castle and I was currently in my guest room. The guest room was large enough to allow any visitor or employee to invite their family in and spend their time comfortably.
[Se… Lutra, is it alright for you to be here? Shouldn’t you be in your own room?] (Yuuya)
In the spur of the moment, I nearly forgot to address her correctly.
Although the castle was supposed to be her home, for some reason, she was currently in my room.
[This is just a precaution. It’s true that the castle is my home, but at the same time, it is also my brother’s playing ground. Even the servants here can’t be trusted.] (Lutra)
[That is true. Sorry for asking such a redundant question.] (Yuuya)
Lutra has been on edge ever since we returned to the castle. To her, this place was the lion’s den.
[Shouldn’t you be visiting your sister? You must be hoping to see her.] (Yuuya)
She did mention that her intention was to win the ceremony and pass the crown to her sister. She held her sister in such a high regard that she trusted her enough with the crown.
[I’ve already contacted her. She intends to meet up tomorrow morning. Yuuya-ojisama why don’t you come along with me? I’ll introduce you to my sister. I wanted to invite the Luna and the rest along however it’ll likely become too loud.] (Lutra)
[I look forward to that. It’s your favourite person and a capable one too.] (Yuuya)
[Yes. She’s physically weak unlike me and my brother, but in return she has a heart more caring than others and a mind sharper than a blade. I truly believe that she should become the ruler.] (Lutra)
Lutra began boasting about her sister. However, I still couldn’t get rid of the discomfort I felt around Lutra’s brother, Prince Aleck.
If he was exactly as how Lutra mentioned, then why would he appear personally to confirm Lutra’s identity? In fact, he was the first person who went out of his way to do so. Since Lutra’s elder sister was a princess, I’m sure that she must be busy, but is there anything more important than your own family? The moment you are able to, you should be rushing to your presumed dead sister to confirm her safety, especially since she was in the castle.
Actually, isn’t she speaking out too much against Prince Aleck in the first place since Lutra was extremely long trusting of her?
Sigh this is turning into a bad habit. If I begin to suspect too much then there will never be an end to this. I should just relax and take a break for today.
It was currently in the middle of the night.
Sensing a person’s gaze and bloodlust, I immediately pulled myself out of the bed, grabbed the knife that I brought with me to sleep every night and began scanning my surroundings.
Being an adventurer for several decades, I developed the ability to keep myself semi-conscious while sleeping, allowing me to react instantly to any changes in the surroundings.
Only a handful number of people were capable of procuring a safe bed. Without this ability my life would had already been long gone.
I threw my knife towards the ceiling without hesitation as I heard the sound of a muffled shriek.
[He ran away huh…] (Yuuya)
Looks like Lutra’s conjecture was spot on, this place was indeed the enemy’s playground. Since this was a castle, you couldn’t reliably send an assassin unless it was a top tier assassin. Thus, in order to confirm it, I threw my knife towards the ceiling, knowing that an expert assassin would dodge it. If the assassin couldn’t dodge something at this level, then it certainly wouldn’t be able to sneak into the castle unnoticed. In other words, the assassin received guidance from the inside.
Even though Prince Aleck seems suspicious, he was without a doubt a first-class swordsman who could understand the extent of Phil and my abilities. He would had judged that an assassin of such level would not be effective. In other words, there was another existence in the castle that was trying to eliminate Lutra.
[I’m starting to get worried for her safety.] (Yuuya)
Thanks to the sudden encounter, blood was rushing to my head causing me to be wide awake. Deciding to cool my head down, I grabbed my coat on the side of the bed and headed towards the veranda.
After entering the veranda, I immersed myself in the view from the castle. Although I was only on the third floor, the castle itself was situated on a hill, providing beautiful scenery as the sun rose from the horizon.
[Yuuya, seems like we encountered some trouble right from the beginning.] (Phil)
I wasn’t the only one who was woken up by the bloodlust earlier as I looked back into the room. Luna and Til were still sleeping soundly with satisfied grins as Selene continued to sleep with a stiff expression. They were still far too inexperienced.
[Who do you think is the mastermind behind this?] (Yuuya)
[I can’t draw any conclusions this early yet. I do think that it can’t be the prince. I agree that the wind that he carried wasn’t malicious in any way and I highly doubt he was lying when he said that he cared about Lutra.] (Phil)
[I agree completely…. good grief. It would be so much simpler if he was the mastermind behind this.] (Yuuya)
Nothing is more troubling than not knowing the identity of your enemy.
[I feel so too. Yuuya, let’s head back in. It’s getting chilly out here.] (Phil)
[You’re right.] (Yuuya)
As usual, Phil leaned over for a kiss as there were rarely moments when we were alone. Although my reaction was slightly cold, I couldn’t deny that this was nice too.
The next morning, after enjoying my breakfast in the room, I headed towards the courtyard where I would be meeting Lutra’s elder sister, Aure.
Princess Aure, just like Prince Aleck were the legitimate children of the king and queen which granted them significant influence in the kingdom.
The number of princes and princesses were 6 in total. There were three legitimate children, Prince Aleck, Princess Aure and Prince Atra. However, the other three were children born and raised by the king’s concubines, Princess Lutra, Prince Nakura and Prince Soruha with each child being born from a different mother. According to Lutra, both Prince Nakura and Prince Soruha have already withdrawn from the ceremony. Since they were illegitimate children, they had little to no support for the throne and without innate talent like Lutra, they had zero chance of vying for the throne in the first place, reducing the number of participants to 4, Princess Aure, Princess Lutra, Prince Aleck and Prince Atra.
Just as we agreed on, only me and Lutra, would be meeting with Princess Aure.
[This is a beautiful garden.] (Yuuya)
[That’s what I think too. Our gardener tends to the garden every season, decorating it with the most beautiful flowers. This is my favourite place in the castle.] (Lutra)
Even without asking I could tell that Selene was proud of this garden. Even someone like me who had zero interest in flowers could recognize how beautiful this place was. It was a shame that we couldn’t bring Luna and the other girls along with us.
In the middle of the garden was a small shelter with a desk and several chairs for tea parties. Sitting on one of those chairs was a beautiful person with luscious golden hair and a smile as warm as the sun. Although she was in her late teens, she gave off the feeling of a loving mother.
She was Princess Aure.
This was my first time seeing her face, however judging from Luta’s reaction I could tell that this was her.
[You did well returning safely. I was relieved when I heard that you were still alive.] (Aure)
[I managed to survive somehow. All thanks to Yuuya-ojisama. Let me introduce you. This person is Yuuya Grandwood. He’s my personal knight.] (Lutra)
[Nice to meet you. I am Yuuya Grandwood.] (Yuuya)
I barely remembered to perform the Laluzulu salute as I saluted Princess Aure.
[I am Aure Laluzulu. It’s an honour to be acquainted with a celebrity such as you.] (Aure)
As a man, I was sure that anyone would be knocked out by Princess Aure’s smile as she smiled brightly towards me.
However, her smile never entered my mind as it felt like nothing more than a mask.
[Lutra, since we are enjoying a tea party, could you tell me about what happened ever since you set out? I’m curious about how amazing my little sister has become.] (Aure)
With this, the tea party officially started.
Princess Aure listened attentively to every word as Lutra excitedly talked about her adventures. Occasionally pitching in and nodding in agreement while inquiring for more details, time flew by just like that.
Lutra’s story was less of a natural recap of her adventures and more of a disciplined narration. Despite mentioning the gist of her situation, she made sure to omit specific details that need not be said.
Was Princess Aure trying to fish out for information?
[I never knew there was such a thing. I was worried about your well-being after being involved in the accident but looking at the results, it seems that it was a blessing instead.] (Aure)
[If it’s the current me now then I might even defeat Aniue.] (Lutra)
[Fufuu, if you became the ruler then this city will surely prosper.] (Aure)
When Lutra becomes the ruler?
Did Lutra not mention about passing over the throne to her? Thinking that, I turned towards Lutra who nodded to me.
[Aneue, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.] (Lutra)
[Please go ahead.] (Aure)
[I intend to become the victor of the inheritance ceremony, and pass the crown over to you.] (Lutra)
For an instant, Aure’s expression changed completely.
[…huh, why would you do such a thing?] (Aure)
[I am talented at swinging my sword. However I am vastly inferior to aneue whose specialty is in politics and finance. I believe that this is most beneficial for the Laluzulu. I could not leave the kingdom in the hands of aniue, not after what he has done. I firmly believe that aneue should be the ruler.] (Lutra)
[Why now?] (Aure)
[I intended to do this from the beginning. However I did not have the confidence to beat aniue so I couldn’t say it. I did not want to raise your expectations and worry you. But I can say it confidently now. After receiving Yuuya-ojisama’s guidance, I will defeat aniue and make aneue the queen.] (Lutra)
That was a powerful declaration.
Comparing their abilities right now, I would say that Lutra defeats her brother 7 in every 10 rounds. Although I wasn’t as familiar with Prince Aleck as I was with Lutra, I could roughly gauge his capabilities. If it was Lutra from before, then she might not get that many wins.
[I see, I hadn’t realised how much thought you put into this. Now that I know about it, the fact that you felt so strongly about it makes me happy.] (Aure)
Aure grabbed tightly onto Lutra’s hands as she thanked her for her consideration.
[Aneue has always been kind to me even after aniue changed. You have even taught me a lot of things which helped me numerous times. I wish to become that sister’s strength.] (Lutra)
It was a beautiful display of sisterly love.
I was sure that if the two of them joined their strengths and worked together, that the Laluzulu Kingdom’s future would be extremely bright.
[… Lutra, hypothetically. If your elder brother hadn’t changed and continued to care for his people and his country, passionately wished the best for everybody and the rumors were being fabricated, continued to build up his repertoire and was about as skilled as I was in politics and economics, what would you do?] (Aure)
[Although that sounds impossible, I would leave the crown to him.] (Lutra)
[Fufu, so long as he had the ability you would have chosen oniisama over me who comforted you when he abandoned you.] (Aure)
[…. that is the case.] (Lutra)
[Well you were always that kind of person. And your decisions were always right.] (Lutra)
I could feel her genuine smile sneak through the masking smile she had.
[But aneue, isn’t that just a meaningless question. After all I’ve heard all about what aniue has done and how he changed from you. Last night he even tried to deceive me but I had more faith in you than him.] (Lutra)
I could hear Lutra’s voice trembling as she told her sister about her trust.
[You’re right, it was a meaningless question. I said something a little excessive. Although I do think that your answer was correct. When thinking about the people and the country, it is more important to prioritize the person’s abilities over your own feelings.] (Aure)
Aure cut her sentence off before letting out the most perfect smile than she has ever did before opening her mouth.
[That is the part I love the most about Lutra.] (Aure)
She then continued to make tea as the conversation continued on.
As it was about to approach lunchtime, Princess Aure clapped her hands.
[Speaking of which, since oniisama had forced himself to make some time for you last night, he left as early as dawn today for work leaving me to take care of the house. If it’s now, I could try to get permission for you to use the exclusive dungeon if you like.] (Aure)
[I would like to accept but it is impossible for me to raise my level anymore before the ceremony.] (Lutra)
[You’re right, however if you manage to clear one of the dungeons, the Gate of Trials, then as a member of the royal family, you’ll gain a special ability. Both oniisama and I have already completed it, and you should be able to too.] (Aure)
If it was the Gate of Trials, then I knew about it too as it was a dungeon I cleared in the past. It was a dungeon that came up in an event where you would team up with other players and work with the battle princess Renoir, and obtain her powers.
[That is true. There is still time before the inheritance ceremony for me to obtain the power. If it gets too dangerous or take too long then I could use the Return Stone to return. Aneue, could you please lend me your power.] (Lutra)
[It would be my pleasure.] (Aure)
With that, our next course of action was decided. We were heading towards the Gate of Trials. And now, I was wholeheartedly convinced that Princess Aure was an enemy.
Regardless, there is one thing I’ve come to understand. Princess Aure has been putting on airs from the beginning, as if she did not want anyone to read her true thoughts.
What sealed the deal was the matter about the Gate of Trials. There were special dungeons in the world where Return Stones couldn’t be used.
The Gate of Trials was one of them. Despite Lutra’s comment about the Return Stones, she decided not to advise her about it. Since it was the royal family’s exclusive dungeon, the number of people who didn’t know about this were few to none. There was zero possibility that Princess Aure didn’t know about this. It only looks like she was supporting Lutra
We have the option of not entering the dungeon until the ceremony, however Lutra firmly believes in her older sister. Even though I had to tell her, ‘Princess Aure is an enemy’, I couldn’t do it. Furthermore, it was true that Lutra could become even stronger by clearing the Gate of Trials. Given the opportunity I would definitely choose to close it.
Let’s play on the palm of Princess Aure’s hand for the time being in order to determine our real enemy. I’m sure that even if some problem shows up somewhere, we’ll be able to deal with it. While thinking about this, I continued to enjoy the tea party until the end.