The Prime Minister Tormerge had passed 50 years of age, and there were rumors that he was going to retire soon. The regular meetings that he presided over were attended by the heads of each of the pure-blooded families, and daily problems that were on the agenda were discussed.
A relaxed discussion about the discord between Prince Layos and Prince Suaro was taking place near his seat at the end of one such meeting. The majority opinion was that their opposition was not very favorable, considering the stability of the Royal Family. Since the two factions formed by supporters from both sides had deep roots, if this topic was discussed on the agenda during the meeting itself, there would be undoubtedly lots of disorder and confusion. That is why it was discussed in this way to encourage the supporters from each side to speak prudently. It could also be called a half-hearted last resort.
However, the president Tormerge expressed his opposition in bringing up the topic about the discord between the two princes at all.
“In my opinion, these kinds of things should not be discussed by the people not directly related.”
“Prime Minister, are you saying we should let their conflict continue like this?”
“The stance under which Prince Suaro is expanding his control, doesn’t it imply that Prince Layos is not fit to be the next ruler?”
“If we let it be, won’t their conflict just get worse?”
In reply to the attendees who believed they should seek out some sort of solution to this problem, the Prime Minister just warned them again that there was no need for the people not involved directly to clamor about it, and dissolved the meeting. While there were some attendees who left as soon as the meeting was over, the ones who were dissatisfied with the result gathered around and started to talk secretly, in whispers.
Prime Minister Tormerge looked at this scene, and then left the meeting room.
Late night. In the center of the Royal Palace, at one corner of the area that formed the first layer, a masked man that wore clothes like those of a magician visited Prince Suaro’s room. He explained what had been decided about the opposition between the Princes at the regular meeting of the heads of the pure-blooded families, and offered his opinion on what their next move should be.
“Including all the nobles, you now have about 40% of the total supporters. It would be best if we were cautious in increasing our supporters from now on.”
Prince Suaro had been taking advice from this masked man on how to increase his influence in the Royal Palace for about six months. As if trespassing on the room of a member of the royalty to sell his services wasn’t amazing enough, the information he possessed was highly accurate, and his predictions about future events were also spot on.
That time when the opposition between the two factions had worsened considerably, it was him who had contributed the most towards making the plan to send the girl that Layos was obsessed with to the House of Butterflies a success. Back then, the situation had gotten out of hand so much because supporters from both sides got into a frenzy after Prince Layos declared his love for the girl.
Layos had made the outrageous decision to marry a foreign girl of doubtful origin; a girl who couldn’t even speak properly, let alone read and write. Of course, the opposition was great, and they started all sorts of schemes to separate them. Suaro found a chance to lower Prince Layos’s popularity as a member of the Royal Family, and busied himself in stirring up things between the two. The Noble Ladies Alliance also got mixed up in this, and a battle of tactics began between Suaro and the Alliance, both trying to use the other for their own goals. The result of that was a situation that was spiraling out of control.
“At the time, because our supporters got out of control, ours plans were affected, but right now our base is quite firm, so there won’t be too much confusion.”
Suaro was planning to use Sayaka to distract the nobles, while he himself gathered even more supporters. Since Sayaka had entered the House of Butterflies, the opposition against Prince Layos and Sayaka having a relationship had been decreasing, if ever so slowly. Why had it been decreasing? It was because of the influence of the mother of the Third Prince and the Second Princess, the concubine of King Leozeos who was also a former Butterfly, Aira.
Sayaka, the girl who had no identity joined the House of Butterflies and made an ‘identity’ for herself, and now had been taken in by Professor Andagi, who was famous in many ways, and had obtained some standing in society, no matter how small. And on top of it all, they learned that she was apparently a visitor from another world, and it was apparent that King Leozeos would like her very much because of it.
“Big Brother seems very into that girl.”
“Then let us think up a plan.” The masked man said and bowed, melting into the darkness of the room.
Around the same time, there were two ladies talking on the terrace attached to the corridor on the top floor of the castle. The Queen Elishuwon and the former-Butterfly concubine, Aira.
Elishuwon was quiet and reserved, and her body was a little frail. In contrast, Aira was the strong-woman type, full of vitality. Aira was often fussing over Elishuwon, and thus the two were often together. Aira had been directly acquainted with Leozeos since she was a young woman, before her house collapsed and she became a Butterfly, and her relationship with Elishuwon from back then had been one of friendship.
Gazing at the night scene of the garden in the Royal Palace block, the two were having a fun chat. Passing by, Liiza called out to them.
“Good evening. May I join you?”
The mothers of the First Price Layos, The Second Prince Suaro, The First Princess Elrose, The Third Prince Rozeth and the Second Princess Suwida were all gathered face to face. The three of them holding tea parties together wasn’t uncommon, and under the protection of King Leozeos, the three had built up an ideal relationship.
At least, on the surface.
The Queen and the concubines; the three mothers were talking about the recent news related to the Princes and Princesses, but none touched upon the subject of the discord between Prince Layos and Prince Suaro.
“If I recall correctly, he received quite a blow from the golem at the tournament the other day; is his body in good health?”
“Fufufu~ That boy has a strong body like his father, so it seems that there are no problems.”
Elishuwon replied with a chuckle to Aira who was concerned about the health of Prince Layos. Hearing that, Liiza mentioned that all around the Royal Palace block, a rumor was going around that Prince Layos was getting feverish about that one girl again, and brought up the topic of Sayaka.
“Just the other day, I heard the maids saying that she was called to the higher levels of the Royal Palace.”
“Well, I guess he took to his father too much, down to his taste in women.” Elishuwon said, smiling bitterly.
“I just hope it doesn’t become an uproar as it did before…” Aira said, and comforted Elishuwon by mentioning that at least Layos seemed relatively devoted to Sayaka.
It was that kind of peaceful evening tea party.
Having spread his scope of activities to the higher levels of the Royal Palace, the next morning Kou was practicing the bow with Karen. As he began practice with Karen who taught everything with great care while sticking as close to him as possible, Daido also stared muscle training nearby. Watching on with smirks on their faces were Reaper and Dis. Such was the scene.
Kou then left for the laboratory, where he chatted with Sayaka, and helped stimulate the creative spirit of the Professor until noon. The Professor had been called to the Research building because the rapid-fire function of his internal-combustion weapon had garnered a lot of attention, and it was being debated if this weapon could be wielded by normal soldiers, who were not very good at using magic. Thus, at a request from above, he was doing research to improve the projectile weapon. He was also making changes to Kou’s weapon little by little, and it was being upgraded, if slowly.
In the afternoon, Kou went to the garden in the higher level of the Royal Palace, and in the secret place of relaxation he enjoyed tea with Rozeth while they talked about complex stuff, and received confectioneries as souvenirs. Since he was going there almost daily, he became a very familiar sight to the gatekeeper of the Royal Palace block who was also acquainted with Sayaka. He also enjoyed talking with Elrose who regularly came down to the garden in the third level.
“I see, so that Professor is doing that kind of research…”
“Just yesterday the knights were at the laboratory, and they were discussing various things.”
Elrose, who had asked about nothing but Layos before, started asking about Sayaka and the happenings at the laboratory and little by little got interested in the Professor’s research. She became inquisitive about things ranging from the magical tools adventurers used to the activities of adventurers related to Layos.
Kou stayed at the Royal Palace till evening, after which he started magic training with Lef. And then after everyone went to sleep, he went to the empty piece of land outside the walls of the city where he had trained with Gawiik’s party before, and practiced attack magic all alone till sunrise.
Kou’s days at the capital were mostly spent like this.
That day, Kou arrived as usual at the laboratory, and hearing that the inspection of the composite Golem had finished, decided to change bodies. Even the smallest scars on the armored skin had completely disappeared. After checking out it’s condition by doing a test run in the plaza in front of the laboratory, Kou remembered that Gawiik’s party was going to descend into the dungeon today, and decided to join them.
“You’d been made to do nothing but talk for a while, so you might be feeling a bit rusty. Go wild to your hearts content!”
He had went down in the dungeon of the capital once before to gather medical herbs and such. At the time, they had stayed on the upper levels of the dungeon, so they hadn’t run in to any dangerous monsters, and hadn’t experienced fighting like he did in the dungeon of the town of Barasse.
In front of the special training institute of the army of the capital, which was near the entrance to the dungeon, a platoon of the army which was getting ready for training and parties of adventures which had gotten permission to explore the dungeon were gathered. Gawiik’s party was also gathered along with them. Participating in today’s exploration was Dis, the young, immature magician of Gawiik’s party and other apprentices.
The members of Gawiik’s party welcomed the familiar golem that arrived with heavy footsteps, saying “Glad you could make it.”, and smiling and waving at it. The other parties and soldiers that were around were very interested in the rumored golem that had become very famous at the great tournament the other day.
“Okay, so we are all gathered. Today, we’re going down to the third floor. Dis, you are going to lead the attacks. The rest of you, just follow your training and decide on your roles as the situation dictates.”
Getting their orders and roles distributed by captain Gawiik, they descended into the underground ruins that were the dungeon of the capital. Incidentally, Kou’s role was of course being the Tank, but if the need arises, he was the convenient all-rounder who can serve any role from Melee Fighter to Attack Magician to Healer. However, since he was still in the learning stage, his current abilities were akin to a jack of all trades and master of none.
As they descended into the first floor, the soldiers platoon broke off from them to headed to the area exclusive to the army where their training was going to take place. The group of adventurers were apparently on a collection mission, and they headed off into the wide corridor that lead to the rooms that had the medicinal herbs or the secretions of the experimental animals. The Gawiik party headed to the place that had stairs leading to the next floor.
The monsters that appeared in the dungeon of the capital were different than the monsters that appeared in the normal dungeons which you could enter freely. Most of them were demon types that had been created because of magical experiments.
Sometimes, they encountered the rare small animal, such as a rat or a bat, but their number were very limited because the crowded environment that was created by the increase in experimental animals was not very suited to breeding.
Another way in which the dungeon of the capital was very different from the other dungeon was that the will of the monsters were not controlled by a “collective consciousness”. Simply put, the “collective consciousness” did not exist in the dungeon of the capital. The dungeon of the capital was not a place where monsters lead by a “collective consciousness” had settled down naturally, but was an underground maze that had been made artificially using the already existing ruins.
“There are two mummies, and one spider-snake. How should we deal with them?” Asked Gawiik.
“Well, first, let’s start with the main body of the spider-snake” Replied Dis, getting into position to cast offensive magic.
Gawiik muttered “Only half right” under his breath and sent a signal to Kou with his eyes. Receiving the ‘Protect him’ order, Kou moved forward the moment Dis shot the magic, putting up his shield.
“Ah.” After noticing the effects of the attack, Dis realized his own mistake in judgement. The magic attack that he had shot at the spider-snake had been intercepted and absorbed by the Mirror, and then shot back at him with three times the force. Kou had blocked all of that with his shield.
The magical beast Mirror and the fused demon-beast spider-snake. Spider-snake was officially referred to as Eight-Headed Snake Spider, and had eight snake heads growing out of the body of a spider. The main body of the spider-snake was very agile, and one of the 8 snake heads also contained poison. The head that had the poison had a spotted design on it, and if you destroyed that first, it became a relatively safe monster to fight.
The Mirror was like three, round lumps of meat joined together with a tube; a strange looking magical beast that absorbed whatever magic was shot at it and returned it back. The power of the magic it shot back was less than the magic that was shot at it, but the magic was shot back from all three round bodies, and thus it was called “Three-times-over Mirror”.
What was most interesting, however, was that even if you cast healing magic at it, it would cast it right back, thus making it useful in some situations. It was very weak against physical attacks, but you had to be careful when facing it in close quarters to destroy the round bodies one by one, starting from the main one. If you accidentally severed the pipe-like connection between the bodies, then the body that was cut off would explode, making it quite dangerous.
“In this situation, it also okay to shoot at the tube of Mirror to make them explode.”
As Gawiik paused to give advice to Dis, an explosion resounded. Kou had blocked the advancing Mirror with his shield and pushed it back with a blow of his axe, but during that the main body had gotten disconnected from the tube and had exploded.
“Vuvuoaaa~” That surprised me~
“Ah, I should have told you beforehand.”
In under any normal circumstance, that explosion would have easily sent a fully equipped warrior flying through the air, but Kou didn’t even sway from the blast because of his composite body that was carrying a heavy shield, on top of having toughness guaranteed. Lightly kicking off the spider-snake that had latched itself on his ankle, he returned to everyone.
“All right, there is only one more Mirror, and a wounded spider-snake. Deal with them aptly.”
Dis and the other apprentices got into formation again, and focused on the fight using the advice they just received.
When they reached the place where the stairs lead down into the third floor, the Gawiik party found a large, luminescent, white ball floating in the corner of the passage.
“Vuvuvo Vuuvoaa.” Something is floating over there.
“A Bo, huh. We found it at a good place, lets capture it.”
“Voo?” A Bo?
‘Bo’, or ‘Healing Jellyfish’ as it was officially called, was a magical creature about one meter in diameter that looked like a jellyfish, and just drifted around the dungeon. It had no attack power, and if you fed it, it released a healing powder of light. When you found it, you attach it with a string and carry it around with you, lessening the burden of healing for your party.
The powder of light that it gave out healed indiscriminately, so putting it at the back of your party and feeding it after the battle ended was the common method to use them. Sometimes, monsters were also carrying them around, and in those cases, there did exist two strategies to deal with them: Defeat them first or rush the enemy and take control of them. Most of the time, people chose to rush in and take control of them.
The fresher the ingredients you gave them, the more healing powered they released. Sometimes, they would even release the healing stone which was the crystallization of the healing light powder, and apparently, there were some adventurers that explored just to find them. They couldn’t take it outside the dungeon, but they could take it to the entrance to give it to an adventurer party that was just entering the dungeon.
When it died, it just liquefied and disappeared, and it didn’t even leave behind any useful materials, so it wasn’t hunted per se. In other words, it was lucky monster. Incidentally, it was called ‘Bo’ because it made a ‘Boo~’ sound.
So there are monsters like this too~ Kou was impressed by the explanation Gawiik gave him while he taught the apprentices how to attach a cord to the Bo. Can I possess it? He thought, and searched for the ‘hole’ that would let him possess the Bo, but he couldn’t find any such hole. Maybe it’s not a living creature…
After that, the exploration continued smoothly, and the Gawiik party decided to come back up from the dungeon in the afternoon. After that, they held a small meeting to discuss areas which needed improvement, and they disbanded. Kou had also learned a few things. It seemed like there were some magical creatures that existed only in the capital’s dungeon that he could not possess.
“Well then, lets head back to the inn. Kou, what are you going to do?”
“Vovoha…” I’ll…Suddenly, the composite body disappeared, and the light of summoning began to shine, from which a small boy appeared. “I’ll drop by the Royal Palace.”
“I see.” Are you sure that isn’t his real body? Is what Gawiik had begun to think recently, and smiling wryly to himself he saw off the boy Kou as he ran off energetically.
As Kou approached the gate of the Royal Palace block the usual gatekeeper called out to him.
“Yo, you’re late today.”
“I went to the dungeon with the others.”
“Heee~ That’s pretty reassuring. Hahahahaa!” The guard said, and laughed loudly. Actually, the gatekeeper did not know that the boy Kou and the golem were the same person. Not only him, but most of the servants, maids, or guards within the Royal Palace who were familiar with Kou did not know of his real identity.
There was no real reason to bring it up either, and the people who knew of Kou’s real identity like Layos and Rozeth met him in the laboratory and the hidden place of relaxation respectively, and since these places were not so conspicuous, nobody could overhear them talking either.
The fact that the Professor had just made and given him the body on a whim was also becoming a reason for the spread of misinformation, and adding on top of it the childish looks and way of talking, Kou was now recognized as the “attendant that works at Professor Andagi’s laboratory” and most people thought that he was just a boy. Thus, he had unexpectedly deceived the “eyes of intelligence” around the palace.
Heading to the garden on the third floor, Kou ran through the corridors. When he passed by some of the servants, they recognized him as the boy was always being called by Princess Elrose and saw him off with a smile. It was the same, peaceful scenery that he had recently seen in the Royal Palace block.
“I’m a little late.”
Reaching the garden where he could finally have a conversation with Elrose, Kou started searching for a bench that was a little hidden. Elrose didn’t want her conservation with Kou to be heard by other people, so she had designated a bench that was surrounded by trees and grass, had the stream flowing on one side and had flowers all around it their ‘secret’ meeting place.
“Ah, there she is.”
“Ah, he’s here! …You’re late! How long are you going to make me wait~” Elrose, who was pacing around in front of the bench impatiently, smiled upon seeing Kou, but immediately returned to her pouty face. However, this was a daily occurrence, and Kou didn’t pay it any attention and dived into the conversation.
“Today, I was at the dungeon.”
“The dungeon? Why visit such a dangerous place…?”
As Kou was about to tell her that since his composite body had finished with all the repairs and test, he had gone to the dungeon to explore with Gawiik’s party, they heard footsteps of someone approaching. As they turned towards the sound, they saw a black robed man wearing a hood low over his eyes.
“…? Who are you? This is place is off limits for a while. Leave immeadiatey.”
“Fufu.” As Elrose told the man to leave, he gave a nasty smile and held up something that he was holding in his hand. Kou recognized it; it was a ‘summoning stone’. The summoning stone which had been filled with magical energy began to glow brightly and the shape of summoned beast began to take from. When the light subsided, they saw the figure of a one-horned wolf-type summoned beast that had a spear like horn on its forehead.
“!? An assassin…”
“Indeed.” The assassin faded to blue as he retreated while inciting the summoned beast to attack Elrose.
From a low position, the one-horned wolf shot out and began sprinting towards Elrose. Elrose was petrified, unable to move. As the wolf was about to pierce the thin, frail body of Elrose with his sharp spear, someone intervened.
“Kou!” Reflected in Elrose’s wide eyes was Kou’s small body impaled on the horn of the one-horned wolf.
The wolf that had skewered the boy growled and lifted his neck, sending the lifeless, doll like body flying, after which it landed in the bushes.
“Kukuku. If he had just been a good boy, he wouldn’t have gotten involved.”
“Ah…Ah…What have you–!”
“You should worry about yourself.” The wolf cornered the trembling Elrose as she slowly backed away. It straightened its aim, as if it didn’t intend to miss a second time.
“If you want to curse someone, curse your brother’s ambition.”
“Brother…? You can’t be…” Elrose was staring at the man with fear and confusion mixed with surprise. The one-horned beast leapt forward. At the same time, Kou sprinted out from the bushes and rammed himself in the side of the wolf’s face. The horn of the wolf missed its target and pierced the back of the bench, and the wolf began struggle to try and take it out. Standing in front of the robed man, shielding Elrose was Kou. The hole in his body was still there.
“What’s up with this kid…” Sensing something special about Kou, the robed man faltered and took a step back.
“Kou! Don’t push yourself! Weren’t you stabbed!?”
“I’m fine; step back.” Kou said, and raising his hand up in the air began to glow. He extended his spirit body as far out from his body as he could, and released his summoned body. In an instant, the huge amount of magic that had been maintaining his summoned body was released at once, and a bright light was let out. Elrose and the robed man reflexively turned their faces away from the bright light, and as they did, Kou brought out his composite body from the other dimension and possessed it.
“It can’t be…”
“The boy transformed into a golem!?”
In that moment of disbelief, the wolf finally freed its horn from the back of the bench, and seeing two targets, turned to his master for instructions on who to target. The robed man hesitated for a moment, but then instructed him to injure the original target, Princess Elrose.
“Grrrrrararu~!” The wolf aimed at Elrose again, and shot forward like an arrow, but since the tournament Kou had leveled up and was easily able to keep up with the wolf. Kou grabbed the wolf who moved forward with light steps by the scruff of its neck, and hauling it high–
–slammed its body on the ground with all his force, causing the earth to tremble underfoot. In the huge crater that was formed, the one-horned wolf, which had taken more damage than it could sustain, had its summoning forcibly released and scattered with a flash of light. After the light subsided, only a summoning stone was left.
“Vuvuoaa?” Are you alright?
“Y, yes…I’m quite alright.”
“Vuvuoa, vuvuoaaa.” The person from earlier ran away. Said Kou, and Elrose looked around in surprise. Before they realized it, the robed man had disappeared.
Hearing the loud sounds of the battle of the one-horned wolf and the composite body, the guards assigned to Elrose realized that something was wrong and rushed to the scene. Just to be sure, Kou remained at Elrose’s side in his golem form.
The summoning stone left behind was handed over to the knights, so that they could launch an investigation to find out its owner.
After this incident, as the rumor that the First Prince had tried to have the sister of the Second Prince assassinated began to openly circulate around the Palace, the voices of people who had fears about the discord between the two princes also began to rise around the palace.
“Well then…It’s a little different from the schedule, but it’s mostly going according to plan. Now, next is…” The one who had caused this situation smiled to himself somewhere in the darkness of the Royal Palace.