Rupert and Cyan managed to arrive at Sakura Inn again, and the two of them hurriedly ran to reach the stairs after they put on their disguises.
“Excuse me, dear client, but please be quiet as it’s night already—,” the receptionist tried to warn the two approaching people, but then Cyan’s words stopped her.
“Something bad might be happening upstairs, your inn was hijacked. Please call the local officers right away! I gotta go to my children!!”
Though she wanted to inquire more from the two of them, she couldn’t do so as they have already fled upstairs. Unsure what to do, she decided it would be safe to call the officers either way.
Upon arriving at the hallway leading to their rooms, they noticed the presence of a separating magical barrier as something prevented them from proceeding forward.
Yes, the intruders managed to set up a separating barrier discreetly after somehow entering the inn, causing the others to be oblivious to what was happening.
After the barrier took a few blows of their water balls and dark balls, it was finally torn down—revealing two men guarding it.
Noticing that Cyan’s bad omen was correct, Cyan and Rupert decided to go all out and managed to finish the battle quickly, using their most powerful magical attack.
“If you still love your life, tell us, why are you targeting us?” Cyan asked the men who were on the verge of passing out.
“…Because we know who you truly are.”
–is what they managed to say before they passed out.
From that simple sentence, it’s clear that they are targeting Cyan and his children because of their true identities, clearing up the doubt of them targeting the wealthy merchant family (which is their disguise).
Cyan and Rupert were surprised as to how they would find out about their disguises—but since it’s confirmed that their identities were known by the ones who targeted them, they canceled their disguises in order to conserve energy and proceeded.
On their way to the room, they saw Gale’s pitiful state as he was lying down helplessly on the floor.
“Gale!” Rupert called out.
“Urgh… never mind me… go to the room, quick!” Gale was conscious, but his body was still paralyzed and he could still feel the pain inflicted on his body as he grunted.
“Of course, that’s obvious!” Rupert didn’t even hesitate a bit and proceeded to the room.
“Gale, sorry, but we’ll get back to you later!” Cyan apologized and quickly followed Rupert.
When they arrived at the room, Cyan and Rupert could feel blood draining off from their heads.
Currently, Lyra has already positioned herself quite far away from both the thunder ball and fire blast, while Altaire—who realized that his motion was stopped by the effect of magic—has already broken free from the magic that bound his movement and has approached Lyra.
However, both the man and the lady have already broken free as well, and they are now rushing off to attack their preys.
Rupert and Cyan both dashed forward full speed, positioning themselves between the children and the attackers.
Somehow, everyone’s movement stopped, except for mine. While it is quite a vexing phenomenon, I know what I should prioritize—for now, I gotta escape from both the thunder ball and the fire blast!!
As I managed to slip by the two attacks directed at me, I glanced at Alt-nii, worrying about what I can do to help him.
But seems like I was worried for nothing. Somehow, Alt-nii could move again and he’s coming to me right now.
I was just about to sigh in relief when I noticed that… our attackers have started to move again!! Meanwhile, the thunder balls clashed with the fire blast, and they disappeared after a blast.
The two enraged people started to dash forward at us—the lady’s intense crazed eyes made me feel nauseated.
Why couldn’t they stay halted until I have frozen them?
Just as I readied myself to fight again—the door was loudly opened.
But then, two familiar figures could be seen—it’s Dad and Rupert!!
Dad glanced at me and Altaire quickly—and I can see his tense face seems to be loosening a bit. Not too long after that, both Dad and Rupert dashed forward to counter the incoming attacks.
The man cast a fast fireball towards Rupert—and Rupert managed to dodge it. The fireball slightly grazed his hair, causing the wind to flutter from the speed it had, and in that short moment, Rupert’s covered face could be seen.
At least for me, who’s way smaller than him, I can take a glance at his face perfectly.
On his forehead, close to where his hair is, there are two tiny, very tiny horns.
But they’re there.
Rupert’s line of sight matched mine and he only smiled gently, before proceeding to subdue the man.
In no time, because the man was tired after exhausting his energy to fight me with his fire magic, Rupert successfully managed to conquer the man. The man is right now lying down on the floor, unable to move, but his ragged breath can be heard loudly.
Meanwhile, Dad is handling Miss Trouble—wait a second, Dad’s specialized in Water magic, it’s clearly not a good choice against Miss Thunder!
The moment Dad’s chanting water balls, Miss Thunder-Trouble returned them with her thunder balls, and Dad had to evade the returning attacks. Miss Trouble let out her mad laugh again when she watched Dad like that.
“Oh? Sure, laugh while you can~,” Dad’s cold voice managed to silence her noisy laugh.
With his cold voice and calm expression, Dad chanted.[Holm Swelgnes] (Water Whirlpool)
The instant he finished uttering the chant, a whirlpool of water started to form, trapping Miss Trouble in it. Miss Trouble was surprised and tried to hold her breath so she could last against the water that enclosed her surroundings, but the whirlpool suffocated her. She became unable to breathe and started to asphyxiate, as she desperately grabbed her neck.
When she seemed about to pass out, Dad canceled the whirlpool, throwing the lady down to the ground, panting very roughly.
“Lyra, Altaire, are you alright?!” Dad hurriedly approached us and observed our bodies from head to toes, as if making sure that we didn’t get hurt. Eeh, we did get hurt, but our whole bodies are intact, thank you.
“Dad, you came! We’re fine!!” I tried to show him a smile to help him calm down. I never saw Dad’s cold expression and that cold intonation of his voice before.
“Dad, thank you for coming at the right time!” Alt-nii said, feeling relieved.
“No, no… I’m sorry for not coming here sooner… Sorry for not noticing this whole scheme happening…,” Dad proceeded to hold the two of us tightly. His arms shook a little, indicating that he was really scared that something would happen to us. Realizing this, we hugged him back tightly.
After that, Dad successfully tied up every single attacker with his magical vines, gathering them all in the middle of the room while Rupert dragged Gale inside.
“Gale, are you alright?” Alt-nii quickly approached Gale and Rupert, asking worriedly.
“It’s… okay,” Gale weakly answered.
I also approached the two of them—and then I remembered the sight I saw.
Rupert gazed back gently at me as if he already knew what I was about to ask.
“You saw… didn’t you?”
I can only nod.
“Yes, I am part-oni… And my affinity is [Dark],” he smiled and tucked his bang outward, revealing his whole face and the two tiny horns gathered on the right side of his face. They were really tiny and grew curled up, so it was possible for him to grow his bang to cover them.
“Wow… that’s cool!” Alt-nii was exasperated seeing Rupert’s horns. I think the type of horns that he has is quite rare.
“Are you… afraid, Lyra?” Rupert asked.
“Eh? Uhm, no…,” I shook my head quickly.
“Really? I heard about your reaction to Dark magic and I thought you’d be quite scared to know that a part-oni and a [Dark] magic user is right here, close to your proximity,” Rupert’s expression started to loosen as if he was relieved by my answer.
Ah… when we first met and when Gale revealed his part-dwarf blood, Gale was encouraging Rupert to reveal his oni blood, yet Rupert seemed reluctant to say anything…
Could it be because of me?
He thought I’d be more guarded and put my distance if I knew he was part-oni… so he didn’t reveal that so I could pose as his daughter just fine…
I lowered my head, thinking.
Could it be that I was too biased…?
I hated the people who bullied, exiled, and judged me because of my Dark affinity in the past as Reinst… but could it be that I was also doing the same thing? To be prejudiced against something without any good reason?
Realizing that the possibility of my being biased exists, I contemplated. Of course, there was also trauma involved in my reluctance to learn Dark magic… but could it also stem from my prejudice?
“Alright, I think the officers would be here soon, so let’s tidy it up,” Dad concluded as he looked down on the captured kidnappers.
“Okay, let me go down to check on them and to get some medicine for Gale,” Rupert silently moved outside, with his shoulders sustaining Gale’s injured body.
“I would love to interrogate you all right now, but… be thankful that the kids are here. You need to spill everything out after this,” he said.
Hearing those words, Miss Trouble suddenly laughed.
Who knows what triggered her to suddenly laugh like a madman–but I sensed that her eyes glittered with idea just now… perhaps it was just my imagination?
“What’s so funny?” Dad had his icy glare again when he looked at Miss Trouble.
Miss Trouble glowered at Dad. Although I’m sure that Dad has the right to scowl at her, not the other way around, seeing the current situation… Dad standing tall while Miss Trouble was all tied up on the floor.
However, Miss Trouble only laughed again.
“What’s your objective?” Dad continued to ask her.
“Hmmm? Why should I tell you? Would it suffice to say that… for now, we’d love you to renounce your title as Duke! You don’t deserve that noble rank!”
Dad raised his eyebrows.
“Oh. You are one of those who opposed my assignation to resume the title of Hartmann’s Duke?” Dad said, as if he was used to handling people like her.
“Yes!!” Miss Trouble hissed.
“Which noble house hired you to do this? If you have any problem with me, then shouldn’t you be aiming for me, and not the children? You want to threat me using the children?”
“That is… another agenda of ours, but we can kill two birds with a stone that way,” Miss Trouble’s eyes stared back at us, as if she felt some kind of excitement from saying it.
“…Enough. I’ll be tearing off your mask right now,” Dad moved closer to Miss Trouble, after deciding that it was no use asking her anything right now. Perhaps having her identity might help.
But before Dad managed to touch her mask…[Hlynrian hnitan] (Thundershock)
Electric spark was emitting from her body—wait, did she really electrocute herself to send the electric spark flying, in order to prevent Dad from getting closer to her?!
“Ha… haha!! How did you think that you deserved the noble title of Duke, when you’re nothing but a mad lunatic?!” Miss Trouble asked Dad, without any hint of her feeling hurt from the electric shock running through her body.
Dad only heaved a long sigh.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Oh? But I know how you came to gain that Duke title!! We are really much alike!!”
Dad’s expression stiffened at her words. Miss Trouble’s eyes flashed with happiness.
Wh… what is it?
Is this Miss out of her mind?
There is no way they are alike at all.
“…We are not alike at all. I am not a mad lunatic like you,” Dad said calmly.
At that time, I could hear footsteps rushing to our room.
“But… But you snatched the Duke title after killing your own family!!”
Miss Trouble’s cold voice echoed through the room. At the same time, the door’s opened, and I could see Mom standing there, surprised to hear the mad lady’s words.
Altaire and I are standing there in our surprise and confusion. Our pupils are widened, our gazes are filled with disbelief.
“You murdered your own flesh and blood, you’re mad like me, how come you claim yourself deserving the Duke title, when you obtained it in such a dirty way?!”
Since there was no response, Miss Trouble continued to spout such a nonsense.
I mean, there’s no way a person as gentle and kind as Dad would be capable of doing familicide, right?
Miss Trouble’s only spouting nonsense to cause a rift in our family…
“Every single of them deserved to die, for they have made a lot of people suffer.”
To the contrary, the words I heard from Dad’s mouth were not words of denial. His icy voice could be heard instead, his face twisted with hatred.
In that instant, I felt as if I didn’t know my dad at all.
Alt-nii and I could only look at him, our minds drawing a blank.
Miss Trouble seemed to be laughing at the spectacle, but for some reason, my mind omitted her laugh.
“You admitted it!! You admitted to murdering your own family!!” Miss Trouble said those words excitedly, like a child getting a candy from her mother.
“Cyan!! What are you saying?! Look at your surroundings, you’re scaring Alt and Lyra!” Mom shouted, and at her words, Dad’s snapped out of his cold self, and his gentle expression returned.
“Cassie… Altaire… Lyra… I…,” Dad seemed to realize what he had just done and looked at us worryingly.
We were just standing there blankly and was surprised by his sudden movement that we took a step backward.
When we realized what we had just done, Dad’s already looking at us dejectedly.
“Ha… hahahahahahahahahaha… AHAHAHAHA!! YOU FELL FOR IT!! YOU ADMITTED OPENLY!” The mad lady’s body shook in excitement and laughter.
“Tch,” Dad clicked his tongue.
“Altaire, Lyra… It’s not… it’s not what you think… I…,” Dad’s voice was shaking—his face showed his agony and resentment.
The mad lady’s laughter still continued, and Mom quickly rushed off to our side, hugging the two of us.
“Altaire, Lyra… Please… don’t fall for her words. I can assure you that your dad is not a mad murderer—he isn’t thirsty for power that he’d commit a familicide… If he is, then I won’t be with him, and you two wouldn’t be here…,” Mom pleaded to us.
I thought back of Dad’s cold expression—and his usual gentle, loving self. The two sides of him seemed as if they were of different people altogether.
“I… I want to… believe in Dad… After all, when I went along with him to patrol the area… The people… the people are smiling…,” Alt-nii’s voice could be heard.
I thought back on the occasions where I played in the downtown, and to the people who smiled back at Dad. Surely, they were throwing out sincere smiles, not smiles because they were forced to do it.
If Dad really killed his family in cold blood and if he usurped the title of Duke in such a way, I don’t think they would be smiling at Dad. …no, Dad’s friends with King Titus. There’s no way King Titus would assign Dad as the next Duke of Hartmann if that was the case.
…has someone ever told me about Dad exposing his family’s wrongdoings, and arrested them because of it?
Could it be that…
“Dad, you only helped the government in arresting them, right?” I asked after I came to my conclusion. Mom was surprised to hear my conclusion, but from her expression, somehow I can already guess the answer. Altaire’s eyes widened in surprise as if he’d just remembered that fact.
“Yes… I handed the evidence needed to arrest them…”
I looked at Dad who answered my question weakly… Dad… is in such a pitiful state… He’s looking down dejectedly, afraid to look at my face and Alt-nii’s face… Did our reaction cause him to be like this?
Our reaction earlier made it seem as if we were afraid of him—as if we trusted that lady’s misleading words and bait rather than Dad…
I’m… sorry… I didn’t think it straight…
“Your actions where the reasons why they met their demise!!” Miss Trouble’s still accusing Dad.
Ah, I get it… Dad didn’t say anything because he thought his actions were the same as killing them, so…
That time when I thought Dad’s words gave her the idea–it was not just my imagination. Miss Trouble failed to harm us, so she wanted to shred our trust and love to Dad instead…?
However, sorry, Miss Trouble.
I won’t let everything go according to your plan.
“…if it’s the authority’s decision to execute them, then Dad’s clear.”
I stated this with a clear, determined voice.
Dad turned to look at me. I smiled at him.
The moment I saw his tense face breaking down to form a smile, looking at me with his teary eyes, I can’t help myself and get teary-eyed, as well.
This might be weird coming from a four-year-old girl.
Even when one considers the historical fact that the human race has developed maturity earlier than the ‘prototype’ humans back then in order to survive from the war and slavery, this level of maturity for a child my age is way beyond normal.
Yes, as precocious as someone could be, my behavior right now wouldn’t convince anyone that I was just a precocious four-year-old child.
However, I don’t want to regret it by holding myself back right now.
I don’t want to hurt a precious family member.
For the kind and loving Dad—I want to repay his love back.
“Lyra…,” Dad scooped me up to his arms and kissed my cheek.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
At that time, I know I made the right choice.
“Altaire… Lyra… I promise I will explain it all to you in time,” Dad said gently.
“It’s okay, Dad… I believe in you,” I said calmly.
“I… I don’t really get it, but I know that Dad’s kind!!” Altaire also replied, as he came forward and hugged Dad.
Mom’s expression turned soft and her eyes got wet as she observed the scene in front of her. She must have felt really worried about how it would all turn out.
After looking at the warm family moment, the mad lady dissed out.
Then, something unbelievable happened.
She’d continuously chanted electric spark to hit the vines binding her!! The friction soon turned into a fire that burnt the vines—but the fire also injured her body!
This lady is really insane!! It’s confirmed right now—no, actually, it’s confirmed when she electrocuted herself back then. How did I fail to predict her next movement?!
Dad and Mom were also taken aback by the mad lady’s action and were about to confine her again when the lady quickly raised an electrical barrier and jumped to the far away side of the room. She then took out a magical scroll and tore it down.
Wait, could it be a teleportation scroll?!
That thing should be hard to obtain!!
And my prediction was right. The lady’s body quickly disappeared from her original spot. In the end… we couldn’t even get her identity.
The officers came to our room right after the lady leader disappeared, and they greeted Dad politely as they recognized Dad who’s not under any disguise—albeit they were very shocked. Dad explained the situation to the officers who quickly settled their business, while Mom healed Alt-nii and me.
When Meredea returned in panic, almost everything’s been tidied up, so we only laughed upon seeing her messed up appearance and frantic movements.
Because of the unwanted circumstances, the rest of our holidays was canceled, and we returned to our house shortly afterward. As soon as we got home, Dad’s back to his work—seems like he’s busy managing the incidents in Chinosato, trying to catch the mastermind behind all this.
When Clavis, Niina, Chloe, and Vince heard about the crisis we’ve been through, they kept asking us if we were really alright, if we didn’t suffer any trauma and the likes.
Of course, news has traveled to the royal family and that includes Luca. When I showed up at the Capicastle shortly afterward, Luca tried to send me home with a slight hint of worry. Seems like he wanted me to rest after all this ordeal, but hey, I wouldn’t be here in the first place if I needed to rest!
Mom noticed my missing pendant and asked the details about it. Since I didn’t know the full details of it, Alt-nii helped me to fill in the details. Mom’s face turned from confusion to a surprise, then back to her thoughtful expression.
In the end, she gave me another necklace with different stone—saying that this one’s got a stronger power.
In addition to that…
“Lyra, it seems that you unconsciously used a dark affinity magic back then—to exert a mental pressure that caused everyone else to halt their movements,” Mom explained.
“And it seems to be quite a powerful one—as it managed to shatter the magical necklace and to halt three people at your first try…”
“I, is that so?”
“Yes… and… that’s why, what do you say about learning how to control that power? Controlling shadows and commanding people to stop, for example…”
Mom’s face showed a hint of worry, as she was unsure if I’d like the idea of using Dark magic.
I tried to recall back my experience in Chinosato. About how they praised those with Dark magic. About how they could use it to play shadow tagging. About Rupert’s strained smile when he explained to me that he was a dark magician and that he was of oni descent. And about the magical stone’s shattering.
Clearly, there is a need for me to learn dark magic. If not, Mom wouldn’t even try to ask me.
With this, our troublesome holiday to Chinosato has ended. The intruders failed to harm any of us, and they also failed to ruin our family bond.
If anything, I have gained a lot of life lessons from this holiday vacation.
And about Dark magic… well… though my feelings are still complicated about it, wouldn’t it be fun to play the shadow tagging game using shadow manipulation technique?
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