Monday, June 20, 2022 @

Chapter 135 Strategy Meeting

Bonus chapter...

 That evening, I was invited to join Shakuna for dinner.
 I entered a large tent set up next to the oasis, where a large carpet was spread out. Shakuna, Ryuna, and their guards were sitting in a circle on the carpet, and a plate of food was placed in front of them.
 Shakuna gives me a piercing look as soon as I enter the tent.
Her expression is distorted in frustration, but she seems to be conscious of her defeat in the duel she challenged, and does not complain to me.
 "Please sit here, Baskerville-sama!"
 Ryuna waves to me with a smile on her face.
 She sits down next to Shakuna, but there is room for one person on the opposite side. I wonder if she is making room for me.
 I sit down next to Ryuna as she beckons me to sit down... and immediately Shakuna's eyes become intense.
 "If you have a problem with me, you can say it. I don't feel comfortable when you stare at me like that."
 "...Losers have no words to say. You can flirt all you want."
 "I see. Well then, I'll take your word for it, okay?"
 I get a little naughty and hug Ryuna's waist next to me.
 I instantly smell the floral scent of flowers... is she putting perfume oil on her skin?
 "Ghh... Gnugnugnu...!"
 Shakuna's reaction is more than I expected.
 Her bloodshot eyes are wide open, and her bitten lips are split open and blood is pouring out.
 "My Ryuna... is being held by a man... Gghh, ghhh, ghhhh!"
 "Hey... you have a very funny character..."
 I mutter in amazement and release Ryuna.
 The 'Shakuna Maafern' who appeared in the game is a woman who always carries a shadow on her back, a woman who sacrifices herself to save her country, a woman who is willing to shed blood to do so.
 Contrary to such an image, the woman in front of me, who has developed a twisted sis-con complex, is a character that I cannot help but be interested in.
 Well, in the game, Ryuna was already dead at the beginning of the scenario... I suppose that for Shakuna, the existence of her sister played a role of a tag to keep her mind in balance.
 "...Please, all three of you, stop playing around with each other."
 The three of us, Ryuna, Shakuna and me, were snuggled up against each other, and Shakuna was crying tears of blood in frustration. At the sight of the three of us, the elderly man complained to us.
 "We are here to talk about what we are going to do. Shall we get down to business now?"
 "Huff... Haah... that's right. I understand."
 Shakuna takes a deep breath and agrees with the elderly man.
 Still, she gives me a hateful look from the side... but I nod back.
 "I'm sorry. So... What exactly are we going to talk about? I'm new here, so I don't know much about what you guys are up to or what you're doing."
 "Yes, you're right. Well then, let's start with an overview of the current situation so that our guests can understand... Oh, I'm sorry, my name is Haddis. I am a priest-knight in a temple in the capital."
 The elderly man—Haddis, a priest knight, strokes his beard and begins to explain the current situation in a serious tone.
 "Maafern kingdom has been under Guru Rudanaga's influence for the past five years. His Majesty the King and most of the nobles of the palace have been taken in, and there is no one who can stand against Rudanaga. Rudanaga's purpose is unknown, but it seems that he intends to sacrifice the Priestess Ryuna-sama for some strange ceremony. Shakuna-sama and the priest-knights who have not been taken in by him escaped from the capital with Ryuna-sama."
 "Hmm... my question is, do you have any allies other than the priest-knights present here? What about the other priests in the temple?"
 "Most of the priests and priestesses in the temple are under Rudanaga's control. Some of the rebellious priests lost their lives unnaturally, and those who remain here are the last of the rebels against Rudanaga. The nobles, by nature, are only interested in money and power, so they cannot be counted on."
 "One more question. Does the king of this country allow Ryuna to be sacrificed? He is her real father, isn't he?"
 I wonder if Shakuna and Ryuna's father, King Maafern, are in favor of sacrificing his own daughter.
 I don't think it's unnatural, since King Maafern, the last boss of 'Jade Tombstone', is a greedy and arrogant man...
 "That's impossible. If it was my real father..."
 It was Ryuna, not Haddis, who made the statement clearly.
 I noticed that Ryuna is in the same position that I had just hugged her, in other words, she is close to my chest.
 I thought I had already let go of my hold on her... but why doesn't she move away from me?
 "My father... the King of Maafern, Glenys (グレネイス), is a very proud man, a harsh man who does not tolerate those who defy him. But on the other hand, he was tolerant and merciful to those who followed him. My father changed after meeting Rudanaga. It was as if he was being manipulated..."
 "If he was my father now, he would have killed Ryuna without a second thought. He could have killed me too..."
 Following Ryuna, Shakuna also talks about her father with a dark look on her face.
 Hearing the sisters' explanations, I became even more suspicious of the 'Rudhanaga-Rujanaga' theory.
 "Manipulated... I see. That makes sense."
 Rujanaga, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Demon Lord Army, is skilled in magic to manipulate other people's minds.
 In the game as well, he has been able to manipulate people's minds with his magic and has hunted down Leon by treating people as pawns.
 He manipulates bandits to attack towns.
 He tricked powerful people into framing Leon as a criminal.
 He encouraged a classmate in love with Ciel, the childhood heroine, to kidnap Ciel.
 To top it all off, he even tried to start a war with Slayers Kingdom by using a general of a certain country as a puppet.
 With Rujanaga's involvement, it is no wonder that the king and the nobles are under the control of magic.
 "There is indeed a magic that turns people into puppets. There is also the magic to move dead bodies as if they were alive, and the magic to amplify human desires and emotions and induce them to act..."
 "...You seem to know a lot about Rudanaga, do you know anything about him?"
 "I don't know anything about this Guru. But... I do know one bad guy who uses such evil methods. I wouldn't be surprised if this Guru is able to do the same kind of thing."
 I think of the face of my hated enemy and click my tongue.
 "So? You've escaped from him, but what are you going to do now? If the king is being controlled by him, most of the men in this country will become your enemies. I don't think you can escape forever."
 Haddis nodded at my question.
 He seemed to know that this game of tag against the nation would not last for long.
 "...I know that we will not be able to escape. I'm sure that His Majesty the king and the guru are still following our footsteps. Therefore, we must break the spell cast on the king and uncover the true identity of Rudanaga."
 Haddis took a rolled-up piece of parchment from his luggage and spread it out on the carpet so that I could see it.
 It seemed to be a map. He points to a point on the map centered on the capital, and declares in a grave tone
 "We are now going to ‘the royal tomb of Salomon’ in the northern part of the desert. We will take one of the treasures of the legendary magic king Salomon, the scepter that dissolves all evil, and free His Majesty the King from the manipulation."

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