Chapter 153.2 : Encounter, And Then――
「What’s the matter? Do you have something inside that you would rather not let me see? 」
Lucius asked playfully, smile still etched on his face, however, he endured the urge to laugh out loud.
「Uhm, it’s as you say. That girl was in this place indeed…………..」
Finally, the village chief admitted defeat and confessed with a haggard face. After that, while bracing for the punishment that might befall him and his village, he heard something that was totally out of his expectation.
「Ha~, against my expectation, you gave up rather fast.」
Lucius said, scratching his head while making a disappointed expression, confusing the village chief.
「She is in this village indeed. This gamble. Is mine.」
Smiling, Duran finally opened his mouth and spoke to Lucius.
The village chief looked at their exchange with a dumbfounded face.
「Your wit isn’t bad, village chief. However, do you truly think that you could hide that fact from us? It was obvious that you were trying to hide something from the first glance though, your village’s suspicious activities didn’t exactly hide it, you know. Since that was the case, his highness and I decided to make a bet about what you were hiding from us.」
Heaving a sigh, Lucius then moved to the bedroom of the village chief and opened it.
Meanwhile, the village chief was at a loss for words. However, before he could gather his wits with him,
「Where is princess Flora right now? What happened to her? Don’t try to hide anything from us and be brief. If you tell another lie, you’re dead. Do you understand? Now, answer me. 」
Duran spoke with a piercing cold voice.
「B-By the time she arrived in our village, it seems that she contracted some kind of disease and decided to rest for a while in our village! When she still did not get better after a while, I suggested her to rely on our local lord. However, before I could do that, she was already gone from her room this morning! 」
Hurriedly, the village chief started to divulge the exact situation, not sparing any detail so that the village might be spared.
「…………….. Humph. So that was the reason for the uproar that happened when we had just arrived in this village」
「Well, that might be the case, but……………. From your tone, you have yet to find her right, village chief? 」
Lucius agreed with Duran’s words, then turned to the village chief and asked another question.
「Eh, no……… We found her, but we judged that she was beyond saving, so……………」
The village chief averted his eyes away, not speaking further.
「KUH-HAHAHAHAHA, YOU ABANDONED HER HUH! RIGHT! ? 」
Lucius raised a joyful laugh.
The village chief replied with a faint voice as his complexion turned pale.
「………… There’s still your son right? 」
Duran asked, his dangerous intentions obvious in his tone.
The village chief trembled in fear.
「Ha~, it seems that his highness is pissed off. So, what do you think, village chief? ……..Do you think she’s still alive?」
Lucius asked awkwardly as if he did not know what to do, scratching his head.
「M-Maybe………… I-It’s just my assumption but when I found her, I noticed that her deteriorating physical condition might be because of a poisonous spider. She probably got bitten before she arrived at my village.」
The village chief replied with a quivering voice.
「Poisonous spider? 」
「There’s a spider whose bite will leave a dark mark on its victim. I-It should have never appeared in the village, but somehow Flora-sama was bitten by it. We never noticed she was poisoned because the effect takes some time before it shows and as far as we knew there’s no antidote for its poison….」
「A~h, that spider huh. Their numbers should be scarce. And yet, they’re kind of troublesome those fellas……. So, how many days since she was bitten by that spider? And where’s the place that got bitten? 」
Lucius went out of his way to ask for more details of Flora’s situation. It looked like he was knowledgeable about that spider and its poison, and how to cure it.
「I-It has been six days since she came to this village! The mark is right on her neck! 」
「………. Her neck huh. That will make it more difficult since that poison works faster when she moves around, however, it’s not impossible to cure it. We might be able to solve it with the antidote we have on hand.」
After the village chief finished explaining, Lucius looked pensive before he spoke to Duran on how to solve Flora’s poisoning issues.
「I see. In that case, guide us to where you left her.」
「Well, you heard his highness’s order. If you’re unable to do it, well, I suppose you’ve prepared yourself for the worst, right village chief? Perhaps with your head…no, that’s not enough. Perhaps you can only pay the price with every single life in this village…」
Listening to Duran’s unspoken words, Lucius threatened the village chief to comply.
「Y-Yeah！ Right away! 」
The village chief nodded vigorously. However, right at that time someone’s call halted all activities.
「Your highness, Lucius-sama.」
A soldier came in from the entrance and called Lucius.
「Hm, what’s the matter? 」
「There are two villagers that slipped out from the village towards the southern highway, we’re chasing after them now. One of them is the son of the village chief and he seemed to be panicking for some reason, but………..」
After Lucius received the soldier’s report, he turned to the village chief and spoke in a derisive tone.
「Hahaha, well you heard the report village chief, what do you think about this matter? 」
Smiling ear to ear, Lucius asked the village chief.
「Don’t tell me……… I-I’ll guide you right away! 」
The village chief muttered to himself before his complexion took an earth-shattering change as he moved, losing his cool.
◇ ◇ ◇
Meanwhile, a few minutes later, two young men could be seen. It was obvious that they were running out of breath as they ran along the main road that stretched to the south from the village, but they still continued to run. They were Will and Donner.
「Donner. You BASTARD! Because you said such things, we’re in heaps of trouble now! Never mind, saving Flora is our top priority right now!」
Will spoke to Donner, who he met along the way, even though he was angry at him.
「I know that! Even so, are you telling the truth about Flora-sama? Is she going to become a hostage? 」
「Yeah, Flora-sama is a princess of an enemy kingdom! 」
「A princess…………. But how? Flora-sama is sick right? We ca-………」
Donner face darkened as he lost his cool.
「Shut up already! We have no choice but to do this all right?! At this rate, Flora-sama will really become their hostage! 」
Hearing Will’s roar, Donner shut his mouth. And they continued to run.
「……….. In fact, we have no choice but to hide Flora-sama in a different place while looking for a way to save her during that time. That noble might know something about her illness, or better yet, know the cure for it. Let’s ask them about it, or if push comes to shove, let’s steal it from them」
Before a long silence could descend though, Will muttered his idea impatiently to Donner. It was an idea that had come purely due to the spur of the moment. And maybe because both Will and Donner understood that time was running out, they ran in silence towards the place where they left Flora. Unfortunately, when they got there, they could not find her.
「I’m sure she was there! 」
The two of them reached the place where they abandoned Flora after leaving the main road towards the forest entrance. Not seeing her, they looked around the forest entrance, and――,
「THERE YOU ARE! FLORA-SAMA! FLORA-SAMA! 」
「WHAT! ? FLORA-SAMA! 」
Donner found Flora.
Will immediately followed Donner and they both called Flora’s name to wake her up.
「U~h…………. Ha~, ha~……………」
Flora’s response was weak; she was already in the state where she was barely able to hold on to her consciousness. Her face was flushed red, her breath had become even rougher, and her clothes were already drenched with sweat. Nevertheless, she was alive.
「Goddamn it! My apologies, Flora-sama……….」
Will apologized to Flora, shame clearly showing on his face.
「M-Move her quickly to a warmer place.」
Donner urged Will with an impatient voice. After all they were fighting against time right now.
「………… I know. We have no choice but to go back to the village, huh.」
Will frowned when he said those words. However, he was sure that the knights would be waiting for them if they were to return to the village right now because they did not leave through the main entrance of the village. They left through the agricultural field, just for the sake of rescuing Flora.
「Let’s go to my house from the agricultural field. My house is right at the edge of the village, thus it’s easier to move her in there.」
「okay. I’ll carry this side, you hold her legs from that side.」
Saying so, Will carried Flora’s upper body from behind.
「Like this? 」
While Donner held Flora’s legs from the front.
「That’s right. Stand aand………. Yup, let’s go. You lead the way.」
Both of them stood while holding on to Flora’s legs and torso. And so, they went towards the path leading to the village. After leaving the forest and getting closer to the main road――,
「Wa-Wait a minute！ I hear horses! Someone is coming! Get down! 」
They heard the sound of horse hooves coming from the main road so they hid themselves in panic.
They hoped that the sounds would not come closer to them, but their hope was dashed as the sound of the horses got closer and closer before completely stopping right before them. Right in front of them were knights on their horseback with Lucius in the lead――,
「Hello there, were you trying to secure our princess ahead of us? I’ve put you throught such great troubles, huh?」
Lucius said, with the same smile he showed before, but they felt early unpleasant seeing his smile.
Will and Donner froze when they heard that. Before they could speak though, the village chief who rode along with the knights behind Lucius’s lead descended and harshly spoke to Will.
「………….. Will! You were a fool through and through!」
With a sour expression as if he ate a bitter bug, he shouted at Will.
「Well, as you say village chief. Both of them were just volunteering themselves to carry her to us. How kind of them. From the looks of it, they were going to carry her all the way to the village too. And then, after confirming her condition, you two were also going to look for the antidote, right?」
Lucius soothed the village chief with a nonchalant voice, giving him the excuse to protect the two young men, then descended from his horse with swift movements. He walked towards Flora, who was semi-unconscious at this point.
The first prince, Duran, following Lucius, also descended from his horse and went towards Flora. But――,
「…………….. Urgh. She stinks like hell, huh.」
Frowning, Duran stopped in his tracks while muttering those words.
「KUHAHAHHAHA. That’s a given right, she hasn’t bathe for days after all. And look at the amount of sweat. Right, dear princess. Are you conscious? You’re smelly, you know?」
Lucius approached Flora and told her as he grabbed her hair rudely.
While Flora was not conscious, her body was still making faint movements that Lucius could perceive.
「O~h, at least she’s conscious for the time being. She might feel ashamed right now. ……… It’s certainly on the nape of her neck.」
Lucius spoke after confirming the poison’s entry point in Flora’s body with experienced movements, but before he could do anything more, someone’s voice interrupted his concentration.
A calm, but strangely clear voice resounded in the vicinity.
「…………… Hah? 」
Squinting his eyes, Lucius looked towards the source of that voice. Before anyone realized, a black haired young man in his teens was standing there.
「………….. You bastard, since when did you get there? 」
Drawing his sword, Duran asked the young man with a sharp tone . The knights around him also drew their swords and prepared themselves for battle.
But, the young man, Rio, blatantly ignored Duran――,
「You are Lucius, Lucius Orgaule I presume? ………. No, there’s no need to confirm your identity anymore. I will never forget that disgusting face of yours. Do you remember me? 」
Not giving Lucius a chance to answer, he replied to his own question. Suddenly, he pointed his finger at Lucius.
「Black hair………. Hero? No…………. Those features………. Yagumo? You, don’t tell me…………….. Rio? 」
Standing up slowly, Lucius withdrew the sword on his hips as he looked at Rio with vigilance. But, a moment later, his eyes opened wide.
「…………… Yeah, I’m Rio. I crawled from the depths of hell to this place………. to kill you.」
Rio drew his swords as well when he said that.
「KUHAHAHAHAHAHA…….. I SEE, I SEE. THAT SNOTTY BRAT IS STILL ALIVE HUH. OR, SHOULD I SAY, YOU SURVIVED. IT’S JUST AS I PLANNED! 」
Suddenly, Lucius laughed happily with a loud voice from the bottom of his heart.
Rio did not respond. He looked at Lucius in silence. The knights and Duran were also looking at their exchange in silence, not interrupting.
After he finished his loud laughter, Lucius snorted lightly and began to speak.
「A~h, that woman. Yes, Ayame. She was a good woman. She truly was a good entertainment for me.」
His sentences were aimed at provoking Rio. But——
「Is that all you want to say? 」
Rio did not take his bait and asked uninterested.
「……… Yeah, the way she resisted me was truly satisfying, don’t you think so? Her killing intent gave me goosebumps. I guess…………. It’s been ten years since then. NOW, COME AND PLAY WITH THIS OLD MAN! 」
Lucius silently made a gesture with his left hand towards Duran and his knights, signaling them not to meddle with his fight. Then he continued to taunt Rio, keeping his pleased smile on his face.
As soon as he finished speaking though, Rio was already standing behind him, afterimages of his sword still visible.
Almost at the same time as Lucius noticed that Rio had vanished from his line of sight, he realized that something was missing from his body. To be exact, his left arm felt lighter.
Unconsciously, he looked towards the left arm that was fluttering in the air before it fell on the ground. His brain still did not connect the fallen arm to his own body.
「Okay, I guess I’ll play with you.」
Rio said those words with a bone chilling tone.