Soon as Auguste, Diane, and Argent left the Grand Hall, unease descended on the Nobles. They began to question the situation. They asked the nearby guards. However, the guards responded with a simple shake of their heads. A gag order was immediately issued.
Amid the confusion, a man announced his name. The man, or perhaps a boy, was Mark Laurel.
“Fear not!” He shouted, abreast with glee. “I will ask my Father, His Majesty, the situation. Standing about in confusion in this hall is nothing but a waste of time. Let me deliver to you the details and let us act in kind to earn His Majesty’s favor.”
In Mark’s statement, several Nobles were reluctant, but a few are willing to earn the favor. Some decided to observe, while the remaining fetched their private guards and started an individual investigation.
After Mark confirmed the faces of those who thanked him, he followed his Father.
Arriving at the palace, Auguste, Diane, and Argent rushed towards Clarissa’s chamber. Surrounded by maidservants, Clarissa got up her bed as soon as the door swung open.
“His Majesty, Her Majesty, His Highness, I apologize.” Clarissa bowed low, imitating Laurel’s form of apologizing.
For one, the three were relieved to see Clarissa’s safety.
“No, it is our shame. We have allowed the assailants to enter the capital and endangered your life.” Auguste bowed in return. Along with him bowed Diane and Argent.
“But I am relieved you are safe.” Diane sighed.
A frown crept up Carissa’s face. “My safety. I owe it from Her Highness Amelia.”
Clarissa could not weep over her servants’ death. She felt she did not have the right, not until Amelia has safely returned. Strong she was in bottling her emotions, she could not help but dig her nails into her palms.
A while ago, Auguste had ordered an explanation from the guard, to which the guard pointed to his captain. The captain, as a matter of protocol, explained the situation in detail, though filled with holes.
After Auguste relayed what he knew to Clarissa, the maidservants were ordered to leave. As soon as they left, Auguste, Diane, Argent, and Clarissa sat around a tea table.
“It started when guards went missing one by one. It was as if they were abducted with no trails left behind. It felt like they just… vanished,” Clarissa confessed, recalling her memories with a sour expression. “Since then, my servants told me to hide since it was the silence around the manor was odd.”
“After stuffing myself in the closet, I waited and waited. But no one came, so I was really afraid. I feared what had become of my servants. I feared what would have become of me.”
“Then… after that, Kanna came.” Then Clarissa told the three how Kanna brought her to safety, but at the cost of Amelia. “If only I was able to help Kanna… then maybe…”
Clarissa kept muttering her inaudible regrets.
As Clarissa kept her head hung low, Argent reached his hand towards hers. “Clarissa, it’s fine. My sister would be glad to know you are safe if she were here. Besides, we cannot rule her safety just yet. There’s still time to hunt the assailants, so we need your help to piece whatever information we can gather and get her back.”
Argent’s sudden action surprised Clarissa. Since, ever since he entered her chamber, Argent was visibly silent other than the time he apologized.
“Be at ease, Clarissa,” Diane added. “My daughter does not give in easily, just as how your brother viewed her.”
For a moment, Clarissa recalled his brother’s ramblings regarding Amelia’s continuous refusal, enabling her to express a light smile.
“Yes, I have to work hard. It’s my turn to help her.”
Relieved Argent was from Clarissa’s response, he still could not find a reason as to how Amelia got herself caught in the situation.
“Where is Kanna?” Auguste then dragged them back to reality.
“I heard she…”
After Kanna found an empty lot, she ran a lap around the manor, each time extending her distance from the manor. However, after expanding her search radius at about 500 meters, she gave up and nabbed a nearby horse. Afterward, she was last seen exiting Aves’s western gate.
Auguste frowned. He loathed Kanna’s actions. He thought that Kanna should have shared what she knew before running off on her own.
“I don’t know much about the relationship between Kanna and Amelia, but I felt she was really afraid of losing her. So please, don’t blame her for her rash actions. Since I too might have rushed out on my own to chase the assailants if it were for my family.”
Auguste understood it very well, but he could not contain the rush of worry that had turned itself into anger.
“There is still one who might have known some information,” Clarissa muttered.
“Who is this?” Auguste asked.
It all started when Lia ordered the coachman to divert from his course.
“Sorry, Kanna, I guess I’ll have to pass on the event, after all.”
“It’s okay,” I replied, taking notice of her wry smile. “I guess it’s a bit awkward for you to see your brother after that, right?”
“Yeah.” Lia shifted her sight towards the passing street.
Although Lia did not tell me how it went when they entered the rift, her expressions and tone told me that it was not good.
“But where are we headed?” I asked, curious.
“I want to apologize to Clarissa. I’ll tell her that I’m feeling under the weather and cannot attend.”
A few minutes later, after Lia continuously communicated with the guards around the coach, Lia ordered a select few to rush towards the manor where Clarissa remained. However, after a few minutes, none came back.
That was when I argued with Lia to take all the guards with her as I round the manor and retrieve Clarissa, to which she accepted.
But… she’s gone…
I could not describe with words how blank my mind went at that time. I just stood there, trying to take in the reality that she was gone, but refused to do so. From that point on, my mind was in a daze. I made rounds with nothing in mind, not knowing what to feel or what to express. Afterward, in just a random rush of emotions, I took off from Aves in hopes of finding a trail.
Morning came and the horse fell down on the pathway, foaming at its mouth. On the other hand, all I could do was stare at its heaving body and my empty hands.
“Lia…” Rain trickled on a small area. “Where are you…?”
An inconceivable smile was plastered on Celestia’s face. To think that she would express such a smile… it was unthinkable—at least during this time that Elena did not live. But then again, there was one person who could bring about such a smile. And that person was the same girl that she tasked me to play along with.
[You seem filled with delight just now. Did something amusing happen?]
“Far interesting that you could imagine, Fenrir.”
She skipped about on the massive roots of the Tree of Origin, making her way up on a small peak. In this sense, she was like a child dancing in glee—to which I found utterly abnormal. Unbecoming, even. However, despite my bewildered expression, she kept skipping, jumping from one root to another as if flying.
[Care to tell me?]
Celestia shifted her sight towards me and leaned forward. “You see, Amelia had dragged herself in a predicament with a Hero.” Then expressing a smile, a mischievous smile, she said, “It would be a great learning experience for her.”
[…] I could not help but keep my silence. After all, rejoicing at the sight of others in a predicament was hardly understandable. However, given that Celestia was that kind of being, there was a sliver of sense for her to rejoice. But knowing Amelia’s condition, it was neither here nor there. Or so to say, I found it hard to make use of that silver lining to rejoice over her predicament.
“Oh, it seems you don’t share the same joy I am feeling right now.”
[Unlikely.] I jumped over a nearby root and turned my head towards her, gesturing my paw towards the massive tree in the distance. [But do explain as we head to our destination.]
“Let’s take a leisure pace then.”
We passed by various creatures as we walked. Normally, it was unthinkable that such creatures would be present in a subspace—since subspaces needed a mechanism to replicate weather conditions for creatures to live for a long period of time. Nevertheless, there was no creature who expressed hostility towards us. They themselves knew the difference in strength.
[I have been using the same words to ask you, but I’ll ask it anyway. Celestia, what are you planning?]
“Nothing in particular.” She snapped her finger and reached her hand towards a root crawling in her direction. Once in her range, she grabbed the transparent marble at the end of the root and continued as if nothing occurred. “I’m just glad there’s a chance for her to grow with her actions alone.”
[… Then I guess it is worth the expectation.]
In that matter, I understood what she meant. Amelia, for one, was exceptional. As a half-baked Divine, her growth rate was alarming if compared to an average Divine. Still, she has yet to reach a full year and far was from harnessing her full extent. On another note, though her knowledge is considerable, there were numerous things she overlooked.
However, her overlooking the scattered hints was what Celestia and I expected. Immediately noticing and understanding the principles of the things happening in her surroundings was unthinkable.
[But I must say, what you are expecting to happen is unlikely.] Knowing Celestia, and the amount of joy she expressed, it was probable that the situation took her favor.
“Please, don’t douse my expectation like that. We don’t know the result yet, after all.” Passing the marbles between her fingers, she continued. “Besides, I’m betting that she’ll notice something, at least. If not, well, nothing. A coincidence wasted, if anything.”
[… You did not tell her the whole story, but you’re still hopeful. It’s hard to believe, to be honest.]
“I did not lie? And besides, that information isn’t necessary. She might turn towards mass massacre if I did? But would it be a massacre if she did on criminals?” Celestia giggled. “With her authority, it’s not an event I cannot foresee. But such method is distasteful. It won’t be hard to imagine that such a method would exponentially increase her mental burden anyway.”
[You know well you can manipulate memories.]
“Resorting to such is a no. A definite no.” Celestia frowned. “I’m not trying to make a monster, after all. I’m raising her as my kin.”
[It’s hard to believe that you don’t see your kin and yourself as a monster.]
“Because we are not?” Celestia tilted her head.
[You are the only being that believes that.]
“I wonder? If I showed myself to humans, they won’t see me as a monster, probably. At that point, you’re wrong. Not unless if we’re talking about Divine beings alone.”
[… Your adamant denial is somewhat—]
[No. Nothing. We’ve arrived anyway. Let’s get this done.]
Celestia giggled. “Cut short by the trip, is it?” After her casual remark, she vanished like a wisp of smoke.
[No matter what, I can’t help to think that guarding the surroundings of this tree is meaningless,] Fenrir muttered to himself. [Still, I can’t help but wonder what is inside.]
I had lost count of the time I guarded the Tree of Origin each time Celestia entered its midst. In those countless times, there was never an issue or was there any attack. I simply stood in attention as I raised my senses as if preparing for a battle that would immediately break out. However, just like those times, nothing significant happened.
“And we’re done for the day.” Celestia reappeared as quick as she vanished.
Just like usual, Celestia would say her short farewell and I would return to the far ends of the graves. Still, no one knew what was happening inside the Tree of Origin. Or if Celestia was really entering the tree. In any case, all I knew that each time she approached the tree, she held a marble and returned with none.
At some point, it was meaningless to ask. Celestia would always ignore the question and change the subject. It was up to the point that even her siblings, the True Divines, did not know what was inside the tree. Nevertheless, it can only be assumed that it was one of the main tasks solely given to her by the Gods that created her.
In any case, I guess it would be better off to listen in on Amelia’s predicament. I myself felt curious after encountering Celestia’s unusual response.