“Head Maid!” From behind Erina, before she exited to the hallway, a maidservant called. In response, Erina turned and met the servant’s call. “Was it true that her Highness had been too busy lately? She had yet to share a meal with us in a proper dining area for quite some time now. I’m worried—no, everyone is.”
“It’s true, but there’s no need to worry.” Erina flashed a gentle smile. “Her Highness has been well. However, there’s quite a number of task that needed her immediate attention and thus unable to leave her chamber for a meal. But rest assured, she’ll be free from her task sooner or later.”
“Thank you, Head Maid.” The maidservant bowed.
“Please spread this among the other servants as well. Her Highness wouldn’t want your performance to dwindle out of your concern for her.”
The maidservant nodded. “Understood.”
“Then, I’ll be off.” Erina then proceeded to the hallway. Each step she took resounded a sharp clack against the stone floor. She was headed towards Amelia’s chamber in manor owned by the Lord of Piraeus.
Recently, she had just finished giving instructions to the servants. It mainly revolved around the preparation for Amelia’s announcement of her verdict on the imprisoned family of the Lord. However, it also included the transfer of the non-humans that Kasta had arrived with. Lastly, messages to be sent to the merchants for the liquefying of the assets seized from the Lord.
While walking down the hallway, a thought struck Erina. Have I been pushing her too hard?
Behind Amelia, was Erina. She acted as someone who would urge Amelia to continue each time she failed for the last five years. After all, Amelia was never perfect. But to Erina, Amelia’s figure who kept trying despite her being treated as a child was something that Erina could never miss. She witnessed everything, from the small successes and failures to the large ones.
Despite that, Erina could not stop thinking that Amelia was nothing but a fragile girl. A girl who saved her life twice. Even up until this day, Erina had never questioned how Amelia had fought alongside Gust and saved her. It was all due to Celes’s favor to Erina. It was something that Amelia was not informed by Celes. Neither did Erina spoke about it since Amelia knew it was a sensitive topic.
At that time, while Erina held Amelia’s hand while lying in a pool of her own blood, Celes arrived and had carried the dying Amelia.
“This may sound ridiculous, but this is what Amelia had become. At least with you urging her along the way.”
Erina was still conscious despite her bleeding from her stomach. “Who… are you?”
“It doesn’t matter for now. We don’t have much time, neither does Amelia.”
Celes glanced towards the hallway where Amelia came from. There, the voice of the nine-year-old Amelia came, “E-erina! Erina! Where are you?!”
“Is she… okay?” Erina muttered.
“It’s fine. Everything is over. However, the life of your child is lost. Not even I can return it.”
“You promised her you’ll become her second mother. Abide by it. See through it all. Guide her until the day she becomes the girl who risked her life to save you and herself.” Then Celes’s figure carrying Amelia started to vanish. “Trust your judgment. Be the light in her life of scourge.”
When their figure completely vanished, Erina began to feel the rush of vitality. Her body emitted a calming light that cleansed her body of blood as it healed her body. At the same time, the unborn child, Lily, turned to ash and was stored inside a box that came from nowhere.
As she reminisced those moments, she soon reached a double door. Beside it was two Guards.
Erina came closer to the door and knocked twice. “Your Highness, it’s me, Erina.” Just as she expected, silence came.
She then reached for the knob, but partway, she stopped. She closed her eyes and sighed before grasping the knob. As she pushed the door, she hoped that when she opened her eyes a different scene would welcome her. However, as she took a step forward and lifted her eyelids,
Nothing was out of the ordinary. Amelia was inside the room wearing a white blouse. She sat down on a chair while facing a wooden table. In her right hand was a small stack of papers clipped onto a flat board. Her left was pointing towards a page in a book. Lastly, she was uttering words that were not of the human language.
“Amelia,” Erina called after locking the door. But no reply came. Erina then approached and said, “Amelia, are you listening?”
Still, there was no reply. Amelia was too engrossed in what she was doing.
Erina confirmed the situation and heaved a sigh. [Maize, please tighten the security for a while.]
Erina held partial authority over the servants as Amelia’s Personal Maidservant and Head Maid. Included within those are Amelia’s Guards in a few cases. This time, Maize guessed that it was one of those events where it was almost impossible to get through Amelia.
Erina wasn’t a stranger to the situation herself. She knew it was futile to communicate with Amelia. Not unless she physically disturbs her rhythm. However, it was not something she desired, neither would have Amelia.
“Might as well finish it now.” Erina began taking a separate chair, papers, a quill, and a bottle of ink. She then began dipping the quill’s tip into the ink and began writing. As letters, then words, formed at each stroke, the contents of the letter became apparent.
She was writing a letter to Tercel, the palace in Aves. The contents of the letter concerned Amelia’s previous encounter with the imprisoned family of Piraeus’s Lord with the help of a temporary Lord sent by Diane. While she wrote the contents, she began to recall the specifics of the encounter.
“Your Highness.” A man in his late thirties clutched the slightly rusted steel railings of a cell. The man’s cheeks were sunken and bags hung underneath his delirious eyes. “Please forgive my family. They had nothing with it. Please.”
In contrast to his appearance, his voice remained composed, but the low tone hinted in his voice was evident. It was because he knew the punishment for the treason he committed. His crime was equivalent to an execution of two generations of the perpetrator’s family. In this case, it was his brother and sisters along with his wife, then his sons and daughters.
Although the punishment was indeed harsh, it has remained in the law of Laurel. Diane believed that it was a law made to give an example to those who were given the power to rule. And also, to tame a noble’s desire in sparking a civil war or similar cases.
“Please, your Highness.” The man kneeled on the dusty stone floor.
“Lord Tineva,” Amelia said coldly. She stood imposingly on the other side of the railings. Not a spark of innocence or lack of composure could be seen.
“Yes...” Tineva sunk his head closer to the floor.
“You thought of your family dearly. But did you know that the victims of your crime have their families as well?”
“Have you thought about it? They too had a family, Lord Tineva, just like yours. A happy and satisfied family. And as a result of you and the other Noble’s actions, they lost it.”
“I’m willing to receive any punishment your Highness, please spare my family.”
Amelia squinted her eyes and looked down at Tineva. “I’m asking you. Did it ever cross your mind as you aided Libet?”
In response, Tineva hunched his back and pressed his forehead to the floor. “No. I did not.”
Amelia closed her eyes briefly. “… Lord Tineva, your actions are inexcusable.”
“Please take my head, your Highness. I’ll bear any shame, but please spare them.”
“You knew it could’ve led to this Tineva. But despite that, you still aided Libet. What was the reason? Was it power? Money? Fame? Tell me.”
Tineva remained silent. The silence ensued for a few minutes.
A sigh left Amelia’s lips. “Your willing to accept any punishment, but you’re not willing to admit the cause of your fall?” She raised her hand and placed it on her forehead. “My question is simple. What did Libet offer you? What led to you aiding their cause? Tell me and I’ll consider sparing your family. But of course, your life can no longer be saved. There’s no return for you.”
Amelia calmly listened.
It all began three years ago.
Piraeus is widely known as a port city and known to play an active role in serving as a relay station for ships. It also served as the first city in Laurel to receive incoming guests and tourists that hoped to travel towards Tervin’s Dukedom.
However, like all port cities that lined the coasts of Laurel, there was never a ban or limitation to impede people coming from Brent or Libet. The closest thing that limited a foreigner’s arrival is the border crossing fees and ship fees. This, in turn, allowed people coming from Brent and Libet to come and go as they please as long as they have the money to pay for it. In return, it boosted the number of tourists.
In any case, there was no indicator to assess the position of a person alighting a ship. This allowed clerics, priests, and priestesses to disguise themselves as ordinary people. As a remedy to this problem, the King from two generations prior to now had made a system. This system keeps a record of each person alighting a ship for the first time. It stores the person’s illustration done by a certified artist and details written in a proof of citizenship. Every three months, these records are copied, sorted, and stored within Tercel’s archives.
Unfortunately, there was a seam in the system. The records only referenced those recorded in Laurel. A joint reference with Brent hasn’t been fully established yet, but it was currently in process. Needless to say, it does not have a link with Libet’s roster of citizens. This made forged papers to pass through in the first few investigations. And sadly, before the investigation finished, those suspected people had usually returned to their homeland and had made the results a waste of time.
The same method was used by those people coming from Libet. They made use of that seam to establish a contact with Tineva. And that contact person changes every few months, but a single phrase known only to Tineva has been used as a proof.
Through those years, the people that came from Libet had slowly poisoned Tineva’s mind. They ingrained doubt sourcing from the false accusation of tyranny on the royals of Laurel. A single family that ruled the kingdom since its establishment.
Originally, Tineva didn’t care, but the longer he accepted meeting with those people, the seed of doubt started to grow in his mind. He came to think that it was possible that the Royals were tyrants for keeping an absolute monarchy rather than constitutional. The thought of toppling them had also slipped into his mind accompanied by the establishment of a monarchy that relied on a limited selection of Noble houses.
That aside, the reason that Tineva kept on agreeing to meet with the people from Libet was his second son. His son, since birth, had suffered from continuous pain from broken bones. It was a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that weakened a person’s bone and made it break with little to no effort.
Unfortunately, the people didn’t know that it was a genetic disorder. Their understanding of various diseases was cut short. And the reason was magic.
People relied on magic too much to the point that any form of ailment was solved healing. However, in truth, healing magic only returns a wound or condition to its previous and functional state. In the case of viruses, it was possible to lessen them and eventually eliminate them through continuous use of Detoxify. But in the case of genetic disorder, there was no cure in sight.
This lack of knowledge had made Tineva clung to the potions that the people from Libet arrived with. They claimed it as an inferior form of Elixir from legends, Elixir Tincture it was named. This tincture relieved his son’s disorder for a day or two at the start. It then grew between two to four days when a better quality of the tincture was used. The last straw was when he was offered a real form of the Elixir when he cooperates with Libet’s plan. Then Tineva, wanting to cure his son so dearly, accepted.
“That is all, your Highness.” Tineva remained hunched on the floor. A tiny puddle of tears formed underneath his face.
“...” Silently, Amelia fixed her gaze on Tineva.
“I beg you. Please.”
“You are to face the people, both yours and the people whom you’ve sinned against. You will face them in Piraeus’s plaza. There you would be subject to shame for a day. The day afterward, your neck will serve the guillotine’s blade.”
“I accept.” Tineva sniffed.
“Regarding your family,” Amelia paused.
“They will be spared.”
Tineva’s voice became hoarse. “Thank you...”
“However, they will be banished from Piraeus permanently. The status of your house shall also be removed. From here on, your family would live as ordinary citizens with no hope of reclaiming your status.”
“That... is fine.”
“In light of your achievements in Piraeus, a third of your possessions will be given to your family to start their life anew. They will be placed in a newly established town in the east. There, they will serve as a support and a guide to the new Noble who owned the fief. Lastly, your son.”
Tineva raised his head and stared in Amelia’s sharp gaze.
“I loathe you Tineva.”
“To subject your own son with an unknown drug. you’re disgusting. You made him serve as a test subject. A live experimental subject of a drug you believed to be a cure.”
Tineva’s mouth gaped and closed repeatedly. “B-but...”
“I will take your son to the Duchy. I will have my people check his condition. If in case you had made his condition far worse than it was, you may rest in regret.”
At that point, Amelia turned to her heel and walked towards the exit. Behind her, Maize and Erina followed. They listened silently the entire time.
“W-wait! Your Highness!”
Tineva slipped his arm through the railings. But Amelia did not give much as a glance. She then left the dungeon, mindless of Tineva’s cries.
Erina sighed as she finished the letter. She then began to fold it and sealed it with a blue wax. Afterward, she stood from her chair and turned her sight to Amelia.
Still the same… Then she shifted her sight towards the clock. It’s time for her bath.
Later, Erina returned with a warm pail of water, a few cloths, and a towel. This time, rather than calling to Amelia, she tapped on her shoulder. In response, Amelia halted after a few seconds. She turned to Erina and immediately realized what she intended. Promptly, she walked towards a stool and began undressing.
“You shouldn’t tire yourself,” Erina said. She began cleaning Amelia’s body with the cloth dipped in water. “The servants had begun to worry. So be mindful of your health.”
“...” Regardless, Amelia was silent. She kept her eyelids closed.
The silence ensued while Erina moved from Amelia’s arms to her body. During that moment, her figure vanished. Erina was surprised for a moment, but the feel against the cloth remained.
“Amelia, it would be hard for me if you kept practicing that.” Then her figure returned.
“Sorry,” she muttered. In return, a ball of light manifested.
Erina continued with dancing light balls around her and Amelia.
Later that night, Amelia was bathing in the moonlight that came through the glass window. She sat on a stool with her horn manifested while the blue curtains swayed in the breeze.
On the other hand, Erina remained a distance behind her. She fixed her gaze on the solemn scene. Shortly, Amelia began reaching for her necklace and had vanished like light absorbed by the necklace. For the nth time of the day, Erina saw Amelia vanish. And each time, she felt unease.
Unable to do anything aside from waiting, Erina took a chair and stared at the stool where Amelia previously sat. A few hours ticked and she kept on waiting, but soon, sleep had visited her. And so Erina fell asleep while seated.
When morning came, Erina felt heavy. She felt a weight burdening her body. However, when she opened her eyes, she realized something was amiss. She thought that she’d be either seeing the floor or the room’s wall, rather, the ceiling welcomed her.
Soon, a warm and gentle breathing entered her ears. She shifted her sight towards her body and found a familiar figure.
To think that she could carry me all this way… Nevertheless, she smiled. She lifted her hand and caressed Amelia. I guess it’s fine to rest for a while longer.