Chapter 151 - Through The Gate
The palace’s storage room was deathly quiet. Richard, Aled, Tania and Girgantia stared at where the gate had once been. For unknown reasons, the gate had closed the instant Cecile fell through it. In other words, they’d lost the empress in the gap between space, and there was no way to rescue her. None of them dared to make a peep.
The first ones to turn ashen were Richard and Aled. The archmage was recalling Estian’s warning before he departed… What was it? That he would dice Richard into dog feed if a single hair of the empress was harmed? Aled also looked sickly. The spirit had tried to immediately follow after the empress when she fell, but as if to thwart him, the gate vanished in a blink of an eye.
“Y-your Majesty…?” Tania stammered. Barely coming to her senses, she walked towards where the gate had been and groped at the air. Naturally, there was nothing there. “Goodness gracious, Your Majesty! What do we do! Open it again, right now! We have to go find Her Majesty!”
Richard and Aled exchanged looks at Tania’s outburst. What she asked of them was impossible. Even if a gate was reopened, it would be a new connection that passed through an entirely different space. It was impossible to meet with Cecile.
Just as the two of them were bemoaning their fates, an attendant called out from outside the storage room, “Your Majesty, are you there? It is time for your next schedule.” Everyone’s heads swung towards the door in surprise.
“It’s an emergency! Her Majesty has— Mmph! Hmph! Let me go!”
Richard and Aled hastily tried to restrain Tania, who was trying to rush out, but she sent them rolling with her punches. Even so, the two didn’t give up and clung to her hem.
“Hey, calm down!”
“R-right! Calm down and hear us out!”
Kicking them away, Tania cried, “Do I look like I can be calm? If we don’t hurry and rescue Her Majesty—”
“It’s for the empress’ sake!” Richard shouted, nursing the sore spot on his knee where he’d been kicked.
“What do you think would happen the instant it’s known that the empress has disappeared? Chaos will ensue. And it wouldn’t just end with chaos. The emperor’s enemies might take the chance to act, which would only make the situation more complicated. It’ll be even harder to find the empress.”
Tania immediately shut her mouth. Richard was right. There would be a huge uproar if news of the empress’s disappearance got out. Looking at the door with a troubled look, she asked, “Then what do we do? They’re right outside looking for Her Majesty!” If the empress didn’t show herself, word would get out soon enough.
“Let’s use this to deal with it for now,” Richard said.
The archmage quickly began drawing a magic circle on the floor. As the magic circle began to emit light… Cecile suddenly appeared in the center.
“Your Majesty?” Tania blinked in surprise. What was going on?
“It’s a fake, but this should be good enough to fool others for now.”
“Wow…” Tania couldn’t help but be amazed. The doppelganger was the spitting image of the empress.
However, while Tania was gaping with amazement, Girgantia interjected, “Hang on. Why didn’t you recreate that thing? The scepter, was it? What the empress was holding.”
“Oh, I can’t make an illusion of that. It’s quite the complex item, you see. It’s not the emperor’s regalia for nothing.”
The scepter was a magically complex object, completely unique and impossible to replicate, which was why Richard had been hounding the empress incessantly to let him have a touch. If he’d been allowed to touch it, perhaps he would’ve been able to analyze it to the extent that he could conjure a fake. Alas, Cecile had refused stubbornly till the end. The only physical contact he’d had with it was when she used it to beat him while yelling, “Why’d you go on about the whip!” during the ride back from the casino.
“Let’s use this to buy some time for now, while we work to bring the empress back.”
The others nodded solemnly at Richard’s words. They were all in this together now.
* * *
Cecile raised herself with a groan when she finally came to, blinking with difficulty as she adjusted to her surroundings. ‘It’s dark.’ Where was she? Somewhere along the way of falling endlessly, she’d passed out cold. If she’d been dropped somewhere, shouldn’t the sky be visible? Yet, all she could see was darkness. However, it wasn’t like this place was completely devoid of light. All around her was a seemingly magical weak glow that illuminated her surroundings.
‘It looks like some place people would live, but…’ The ground was made of hard, cold stone, but there were traces of artisan crafted work hanging on the walls. Cecile dusted herself off as she got to her feet. Removing her earring, she threw it to the ground. A blue phoenix emerged from the blue flames, just as it had back at the casino.
“Thank goodness you appeared again,” Cecile said, sighing with relief. The phoenix had returned to its earring form after Cecile returned from the casino, so she was concerned that its protection might’ve been a one-time deal only. Luckily, that didn’t seem to be the case. Having confirmed the blue phoenix’s appearance, she turned around. “First, let’s use your light to find out where this—”
The empress was astonished.