The Dragon Kingdom
Meili's Witchbeast Observation Record
How did it come to this?
“There’s no need to be so nervous… But I suppose it doesn’t sound very convincing when it’s coming from me.” As he spoke, the red-headed youth standing before her gave a faint wry smile. With hair like fire, and eyes like a clear sky, his well-defined face and neat appearance would dazzle anyone reflected within those captivating eyes.
This youth was undoubtedly breathtakingly beautiful, but Meili’s shaking, at least, was not due to any kind of surprise at his appearance. The feelings she harbored towards him came more from a primitive instinct than anywhere else. In other words, it was fear that stemmed from coming face to face with him—a person whose existence was totally different and on a completely different level than hers.
And what had pushed Meili’s heart into further chaos, was—
“I don’t mean to frighten you. I only wish to ask you a question, first of all,” he said, looking down at Meli, who had gone stiff, his eyes wandering down towards her shoulders.
Her braid rested over one shoulder, but the blue-eyed youth seemed to see straight through it.
Something was concealed behind the braid.
Thus he spoke…
“…How did you tame that witchbeast?”
The way he spoke as though it was a completely normal day-to-day question made her blood run cold more than any angry voice ever could. Her shoulders shifted involuntarily, and she felt the faintest tickle at the nape of her neck. By the time she realized, she was too late.
Escaping through Meili’s hair, it leapt up onto the girl’s head and raised its stinger, swinging its small pincers in an attempt to intimidate them.
“Whoa,” the young man said, raising his eyebrows slightly. But the surprise that spread around him was not quite as tame. Seeing what had jumped so suddenly onto the girl’s head, those in the meeting room were a mixture of surprised, cautious, dumbfounded, and openly hostile.
There was quite a commotion, and in the middle of that, Meili Portroute covered her face with her small hand while listening to the pincers snapping on her head and thought again: How did it come to this?
Meili was frequently suspicious that her life might very well be a dream.
“Even if it is a dream, it’s difficult to decide whether it’s a good or a bad one,” she muttered, plopping down on a step and placing her arms on her knees before resting her chin in her hands.
Her original profession was a job that frequently involved taking the lives of others. She had evoked people’s resentments, and there was such a thing as karmic retribution in the world.
Meili had the awareness to question illogical stories. When she was arrested and locked away in a confinement room at Roswaal Manor, she recalled playing with Subaru’s handmade dolls and stuffed toys by herself—items she had never asked him to bring.
A monster kidnaps the princess, and the prince takes along his friends to go and rescue her.
Meili also had the awareness to conjure up common stories such as this.
“If that’s the case than me being safe and sound would be an illogical story.”
If she were to allocate the roles in a puppet show, Meili would be the villain. She was either a monster, or the evil sorcerer who cooperated with the monster. The villain had to exit the story once they stirred up enough trouble.
But in this puppet show, the prince and princess had held a hand out to the villain.
“It’s weeeird,” she grumbled to herself, pouting her pink lips.
The sorcerer understood that it was weird and wrong, so they had the option to reject the outstretched hand. But they already knew that if they did that, it would make the prince and princess terribly sad.
“…That’s a very serious face.”
Meili was reflecting upon her complicated situation before someone called out to her from across the garden. Glancing up, she saw a small girl walking her way—a girl she identified as Annerose.
Examining the state of Roswaal Manor’s gardens, Annerose carefully looked over the red petals of the flowers that lined the flowerbed. “If you’re going to make such a glum face, how about you admire these flowers? Getting these Agares flowers to bloom in such a beautiful way is a rare sight.”
“I think they’re pretty, buut staring at flowers won’t improve my mood. Are you sure it’s okay though, Annerose?”
“Is what okay?”
“To be relaaxing in a place like this,” she answered. Against the background of flowers in full bloom, the girl turning around and tilting her head made for an incredibly picturesque scene.
However, this serene ambiance and the situation she had been placed in did not go together. Emilia’s group—which also included the lord of the mansion, Roswaal—had set out to the southern empire in order to search for their missing companions. In reality, though, they had set out in order to search for a way to get there.
In the meantime, Annerose was left in charge of the house, and Meili was also given things to do. Everyone is surely soo busy now, and yet—
“For us to be so relaxed is…”
“Things are in motion whether or not you fret like this. Besides, I am inspecting the routine work of the servants. I told you this already, didn’t I? Agres flowers are difficult to take care of.”
“…Petra takes care of the flowers.”
“Yes, what a talented child. Both Frederica and Clind also praised her a lot.”
She didn’t mind that Annerose was complementing Petra, but the point she had made before that wasn’t very funny. Meili wasn’t fretting or anything like that—she was just a little anxious.
“Uncle is always rushing through life. Although, since he has a responsibility towards Emily, it’s obvious he’d be working so hard.”
“You seem to be quite ruthless towards the margrave, Annerose… Or rather, everyone is.”
“If you think about the mess he made, it’s only natural. If anything, if it weren’t for Emily and the others pleading on his behalf, I’d have sent Uncle into retirement and taken over for him in the royal selection.” Unable to hold back her anger, Annerose narrowed her slanted eyes even further, and her lips twitched as she spoke of Roswaal.
Although, her complaints were completely justified.
In reality, Meili didn’t really understand why Emilia and the others had forgiven Roswaal, either. She didn’t understand, but—
“It’s because they’re like that that I’m here right now…” she muttered to the empty sky. The right or wrong of such a thing was unknown to Meili, who seemed to be somewhat ignorant in the ways of the world.
“…My lady, Miss Meili. You’ve both waited long enough. Complete.”
“Eeeeek!” A voice unexpectedly called out from behind, and Meili inadvertently let out a scream.
In contrast to her scream, however, Annerose was rather unaffected. “Oh, Clind. Don’t play such pranks—it’s a bad habit of yours. Where are Lady Anastasia and the others?”
“They were sent away safely. Success. As for the shock, it was quite by chance that I happened to return here and so was an unfortunate accident. False accusation.”
“What a shameless thing to say. Are you okay, Meili?”
As they spoke over her head, Meili eagerly climbed to her feet and took a step back.
The one who had appeared behind her as she sat upon the steps of the entrance to the mansion was Clind. “I’m sorry,” he said, bowing his head modestly with an unreadable blank expression.
“…It’s just like Petra and Annerose said, I need to be caareful.”
“My lady and Petra were talking…about me? Delight.”
“How about you actually listen to what’s being said?! It was a stern talk about that attitude of yours… Jeez.” With drooping shoulders, Annerose shook her head. Then, sighing as she regained her composure, she looked over at both Meili and Clind. “If Lady Anastasia and the knight Julius have no problem with it, it’s fine. I’ve completed my preparations. What about you, Meili?”
“I’m fine. But is it okay?”
“…? Is what okay?”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Annerose, as a noble, but won’t it be difficult to get them to listen to you in the castle?”
The capital of the kingdom of Lugunica and its castle were where they had to go to make a certain report and have a negotiation. This was the reason why Meili was here with Annerose and the others. Of course, there would naturally have been some sort of report made to the castle already, but the people from their side were just the two girls and a steward.
To the anxious Meili, Annerose nodded. “Ah, no need to worry. Of course, the people in the castle will probably be busy, but circumstances are circumstances. Besides, I also have a plan that Uncle has created.”
“That the margrave created… That’s worrying.”
“Well, I do understand what you mean… Clind.” After putting her hand to her mouth in mock surprise, Annerose called for Clind. As a response to the call, the slim face of the butler obediently stepped forward. Then Annerose stood alongside Meili, with Clind behind them. “Do you have sufficient compensation? It takes far too much time by dragon carriage, after all.”
“Certainly from the master. I consider the degree to be within the scope of my payment. Consideration.”
“Then that’s fine. Please go ahead.”
Meili had no idea what the conversation was about, but once it was completed Clind placed a hand gently on each of the girl’s shoulders. Meili had no time to prepare herself, for it was finished in an instant.
“…What a truly strange poweer,” Meili drew in a breath in astonishment.
The scene before her had changed within a blink of an eye.
Meili and the others had jumped from the garden of Roswaal Manor that they had just been in, to another garden entirely. Petra spent every day keeping the mansion garden in beautiful order, but this garden also seemed absolutely wonderful.
Clind’s teleportation—the principles of which were not understood—was, as far as she’d heard, the unique ability that allowed him to jump anywhere within the kingdom. Making use of that ability, he’d taken Meili and Annerose to this garden.
“Soo, whose garden is this in the royal capitaal?”
“You’ll find it out soon enough. See—here they come,” Annerose jerked her chin in answer, and Meili turned round to look. Seeing the figures rushing towards the three of them in the garden, her eyes widened.
They were soldiers who wore a cloak over their white clothes, and a beautiful decorative sword that hung from their waist. Or rather, they were not soldiers, but knights. At their apparent strong sense of duty and vigilance, Meili’s breath caught in her throat.
Staring at them, the leader of the group, with a face like a rock, stepped forward. “Exactly where have you come from? Did you commit this atrocity while being aware that this is Lugunica Castle?” he asked in a low voice, and Meili—who had wondered whose garden they were standing in—was suddenly enlightened.
The perpetrator Clind had a rather unruffled air about him, and his mistress Annerose took the lead. “Yes, we know. We also know how terribly rude it is. However, Uncle told me things would be settled more quickly this way.”
“Yes, Roswaal L. Mathers, the western margrave,” she replied boldly, leaving the knights with a bitter face.
“Even so, to think you were related to Margrave Mathers. Well, the margrave does often surprise. It seems it runs in the family, too.”
“Oh, as someone who knows exactly how Uncle behaves, I certainly can’t take that as a compliment,” Annerose replied with a smile to the old man, who was nodding again and again as he stroked his extremely long beard.
Her posture was dignified, and Meili was dumbstruck to such an extent that it turned into admiration. It seemed almost as though she’d been invited here—a situation that was highly irregular for an outlaw who had just entered the castle without permission.
The three of them had been caught by the captain of the knights, and not just knights, but the Royal Guard, in the garden, and—after disclosing her lineage—were immediately taken to a conference room within the castle. There, the ones who welcomed them were the prominent figures of the kingdom and they were in the middle of a talk, the old man with the white beard seemed like their representative.
“…I received word from Margrave Mathers regarding the urgent matter. However, he did not come himself to explain, and the representative he sends in his stead seems to be a small child,” replied a bald man who stared at Annerose with thick eyebrows and crossed arms in the seat next to the old man.
Although he looked down at her in disdain, Annerose didn’t seem intimidated in the slightest. On the contrary, she seemed to be aware of how to deal with those who look down on her because of her age, and laughed. “Is my age a problem? I’m afraid if that’s the case, I could make a similar comment to all of you, no? Everyone in the Sage Council seems to be pretty old.”
“Ho-ho-ho. Well, well. She has you there, Bordeaux.”
At Annerose’s warlike response, full of impoliteness and disrespect, the man who’d spoken fell silent. Only the old man with white hair seemed to find enjoyment in their exchange.
At his laughter, the one called Bordeaux drew in a deep breath. “I don’t think this is a time for laughter, Miklotov. It’s a grave situation, this. If we take the message Margrave Mathers sent by carrier bird as truth, then…”
“Yes, I understand the gravity of the situation… Young lady.”
The old man Bordeaux had named as Miklotov looked over at Meili. “…Oh, are you referring to mee?”
Thinking that her time to speak had not yet arrived, Meili had let her mind wander, and suddenly straightened her back under the weight of his intellectual gaze.
To Meili, Miklotov gave a deep nod of his head. “I have a rough idea of the circumstances, but is it true? Can you drive away the witchbeasts and clear a path through the Augria Sand Dunes?”
“Umm, well I don’t really understand the difficulty of clearing a path, but if you grandpas are scared of those witchbeasts in the desert, then I can make them go away.”
“To actually be able to manipulate witchbeasts…” At Meili’s careful reply, they looked at each other, and then a commotion spread amongst the people in the room.
Even during all the hubbub, Miklotov never lowered his gaze, continuing to stare into Meili’s eyes. Meili was somewhat overwhelmed by the old man’s gaze, which seemed to almost peer directly into her heart, but—
“Hold it together. We’re with you on this,” Annerose announced from her side, which helped to drown out her feelings of timidness.
She didn’t know Annerose enough to call her reassuring, but her words allowed her to remember. She could recall the kind words of Subaru and Emilia, who had pointed her in the right direction.
“…Those are good eyes,” Miklotov appraised, his gaze softening slightly.
At those words, Meili felt a weight lift from her shoulders and was suddenly overcome with exhaustion. The exhaustion brought on by a mere exchange of glances was immense. This old man is definitely not an ordinary person, either.
“Then, do you believe us now?” questioned Annerose.
“Hmm, that’s the problem,” Miklotov replied. “I didn’t sense any lies in that young lady’s eyes, but we still need to do some fact checking… And actually, I have the perfect person for it.”
“Perfect person?” Annerose asked, furrowing her well-defined eyebrows at Miklotov’s words.
Meili’s eyes widened too, puzzled at a sentence she didn’t understand the meaning of. At the two girl’s response, Miklotov narrowed his eyes as he caressed his beard. “…Bring the knight Reinhard here. He is familiar with the desert, so we should listen to his detailed explanation.”
Upon hearing the demand for the attendance of the Sword Saint who resided in the capital, Meili’s cheeks stiffened.
Although it may be obvious, the discussion in the castle to decide Meili’s fate from here on out seemed unlikely to be settled particularly easily.