I’m back. Sorry, I took a bit of a vacation, and then I forgot how busy my job gets in October. Releases might still be a little slower this month, but nowhere near as long as this one took.
Probing for Information
This is the audience waiting room inside the royal palace.
Despite his angry outburst at seeing the disastrous state of Skycastle when he was out in the city, Duke Marsfield was managing to keep his cool now.
“If my brother really is charmed by a demon, then me trying to persuade him isn’t going to do us any good.”
“That’s not true. I think it’s just a matter of asking the King the right questions.”
Ellis tried easing the Duke’s worries before going on to detail her plan, describing what both the Duke and the Hero should do during the upcoming meeting. Her instructions were sensible and clear which was why she earned such a strong look from Duke Marsfield and the Hero afterwards.
Feeling their gazes, Ellis quickly came up with an excuse.
“Um, is what the Land Dragon thinks. I’m just repeating what he said to me.”
The Hero nodded his head, seemingly convinced with a, “Yeah, that makes sense,” but the Duke still looked skeptical. But either way, her plan made sense to them, so they decided to go with it.
“Frau will act on our behalf this time.”
“I was just thinking that was for the best as well. Leave it to me Ellis.”
For the record, at the time of this meeting Katie, Ah-nyan, Claire, and Pi-tan were once again crowded around the room’s coffee table while picking away at the bowl of exotic fruit sitting on top. Meanwhile Reeve looked like she was paying attention to their conversation while standing next to Ellis, but on closer inspection it was quite obvious she was just staring off into space as Su-chan snoozed away.
Gray and Gise started to get a little anxious for what was about to start upon seeing these girls and dragons whereas Marionetta found them funny and started to laugh while Duke Marsfield was finally able to calm himself back down.
“His Majesty will see you now.”
It was a little while after everyone had finalized their preparations before the guards finally came to get them.
Duke Marsfield took the lead with the Brave Party following close behind, and each member of the Jewelry Box alongside their dragons took up the rear. As each person walked into the audience chambers, they gave the waiting King a respectful bow.
Once again there was a set of blinds set up in front of the throne hiding the King’s presence, but this time there was a man and a woman standing on either side of the partition. The Jewelry Box girls instantly recognized the woman; it was the former member of the Brave Party Peach. The spokesman was there as well, standing one step lower than the others looking very anxious.
“Your Majesty, thank you for granting us the opportunity to see you like this. And so, I would like to do away with the pointless formalities and directly ask my King. Why has Your Majesty legalized Sabbath?”
The Duke raised his voice with obvious ridicule in his tone. In turn, Peach beckoned over the spokesman and whispered something into his ear. When she was done, the spokesman turned back towards the Duke looking as if he had just bitten down on a worm.
“I will forgive you only this once for doubting a royal decree from the King because you are my brother. And as for the answer to your question. It is to stimulate our economy and strengthen the Royal Capitol’s residents. I hope you understand. Now I will answer no more questions.”
Nobody knew what to say. Despite everything that was happening, they had expected to hear at least a somewhat believable excuse. What they got instead was a complete mess. But as the spokesman said, any further questions were forbidden.
The Duke reluctantly knelt back down, “By your will,” and gave the only reply that he could.
Next was the Hero Gray’s turn, and he took a step forward towards the King. In the same breath Duke Marsfield fell back, taking a slightly crouching position next to Ellis.
Gray took a glance at the blinds hiding the King before instead turning to the spokesman.
“Spokesman, when the Dragon Maidens first visited, it was proposed that we test out the dragons’ power against my own. As such, I would suggest that we test out the strength of Skycastle’s newest Dragon Maiden and dragon against my own as well. I’m sure all of Skycastle’s residents would be able to sleep easy if they knew the strength of the dragon that is protecting them.”
The spokesman instantly understood Gray’s plan here and turned back towards the King with a light of hope twinkling in his eyes. The spokesman truly believed that the Hero would be capable of cutting away whatever this evil was that had attached itself to the King.
But the answer the King gave completely drowned out that hope. Once again the spokesman turned away from the King after hearing his answer and addressed Gray with a difficult look.
“Hero Gray, this dragon and Dragon Maiden have already fallen under the King’s rule. So then, why is it necessary to show their power here? Don’t you think it’s unnecessary as well? The Hero is our sword, and the dragon our shield………..that is what His Majesty believes.”
“But isn’t it important to demonstrate that defensive power, if only to discourage an attack from the Demon Lord’s forces?”
Gray’s refusal to let this go caused Peach to frown and once again whisper into the spokeman’s ear. By now the spokesman had lost any hint of emotion on his face and spoke in an extremely business-like tone.
“Just the dragon’s existence inside the castle is already a deterrent to others, especially the Demon Lord. Just as the girls standing behind you do for the city of Warren. By the way Hero, between the royal capitol’s guardian dragon who serves the King just as you do and those dragons lending their name to an insignificant trading city next to you, whose side do you think you should be taking? Your body might be strong, but your head is clearly lacking. Maybe you should have the thief or magician do the talking from now on while you go ahead and learn a little common sense.”
Marionetta had to physically hold Gray back when he started trembling in anger, only able to calm him down after whispering into his ear, “We have to be patient here Gray. It’s all just part of the demons’ strategy.”
Despite the Hero’s current state, Duke Marsfield and Ellis were calm, quietly conversing with each other unnoticed.
“How is it?”
“The King and spokesman are both human. I can’t tell if a demon is possessing them though. Peach and the other man standing next to the King are both demons. The man is dangerous, but the one that has disguised itself as Peach is even more so. The soldiers surrounding us are all either under a demons’ sway or are demons themselves, but they’re all small fry. Killing them here wouldn’t make anything better. So we’re going to have to go with strategy three here. Or so the Land Dragon says.”
Ellis relayed everything that Ra-chin was able to sense. Of course Ra-chin was just able to tell the humans apart from the demons. The plan itself was developed by Ellis.
As a matter of fact, Ellis had drawn up three plans.
The first was for the event that the the Dragon Maiden Peach or the King were being directly possessed by a demon. In that case they would use Ellis’s Isolation ring and Claire’s magic to forcefully separate the demons from their hosts. At that time they could kill the demons, restore the King to a right state of mind, and he could withdraw his decree.
The second plan would go forward if the spokesman had been possessed as well. Similarly to the last plan, they would separate and kill the demon that had high-jacked his body. For this one, they would be able to get the decree at least suspended for a bit pending an investigation to make sure such a decree hadn’t been influenced by a demon acting as the King’s mouthpiece.
Strategy three was the least effective plan to be used in case neither the King nor the spokesman were being possessed. In this case they would take this opportunity to mark down every demon that had wormed its way into the castle and mark them down for later eradication.
As for the case of Gray trying to provoke a fight, despite Gray’s best hopes, Duke Marsfield and Ellis had never thought it would actually bear any results. They had always intended it as a tactic to buy a little more time for themselves, so its failure did not bother them any.
“It’s about time to pull back.”
“Indeed. But there’s still one last thing we should do. Frau, go ahead.”
On Ellis’s signal, Frau called out one last thing for the spokesman’s ear.
“Spokesman, my contract dragon had quite the unpleasant experience when Peach tried forming a contract with it before, vomiting out ectoplasm and almost passing out. Please tell the royal palace’s guardian dragon to watch out or else something like that might happen to him as well!”
It was meant to be a disturbance. Nothing Frau said was a lie. But, her words could be interpreted however you’d like. It was meant to be a message for all the humans left in the room. A last minute stink bomb the Jewelry Box would leave behind to help raise doubts about the guardian dragon’s true identity.
Naturally everyone who had gathered to watch these proceedings stirred. But considering how the flow of the conversation had moved so far, Peach didn’t have the opportunity to give a rebuttal.
“Thank you again for sparing us your precious time Your Majesty.”
Duke Marsfield left after showing his older brother some obviously disingenuous courtesy. He was then followed by the Brave Party with the Jewelry Box girls taking up the rear.
All that was then left in the room where groups of whispering humans, demons forced to bite their tongues, and an unresponsive king.