Ashes and Kingdoms v2 2-4

<A Message from the translator:> I might be a little delayed with the next few updates because I’ll be handling the official translation for another novel. I mean, this one barely made it within the two weeks I set for myself.

2-4: Dragon Eye

The history of the Nornikom lord’s manor dated far back in time.

It was built in the style of the empire after the resolution of the Great War when the Dragon Lord gathered the Nornikom people native to the southeast. Even though this solid, stone manor had been built close to a thousand years ago, it continued to maintain its original appearance.

However, there were rooms not in use. Some of them had unknown designs and purposes, and a majority of these unidentifiable rooms were supposedly related to sorcery. A sorcerer would have been required to decipher their secrets if it weren’t for the documents and manor rules concerning them. In the first place, it was doubtful that sorcery would even work in this day and age.

Still, no one had the heart to do something so dangerous like make them into storerooms or remodel them.

Someone with a broom would occasionally brush through these rooms abandoned for hundreds of years, yet, as of recently, Elecia was walking through several of them. By borrowing the knowledge from the Flame Dragon Gencytus, she figured out what to do with this useless luggage.

She inspected one room while occasionally coughing before ordering the servants waiting in the hallway to clean every inch of this room she deemed it safe. As they timidly entered the room, Elecia brushed the dust from her hair and walked away, exhausted.

She climbed the staircase on the first floor that grew narrower as she reached the top floor. Then, she made her way throw the cramped, windowless hallway before reaching the towering spire. As she climbed the rickety spiral stairs, she ended up in a surprisingly open space.

The four arches supporting the roof of this room were completely exposed to the wind. From here, she could clearly see the manor grounds, from the capital’s townscape to the farm fields outside the walls.

“Ah, Your Majesty.”

One of the sentries was standing there and gave a flustered salute. Elecia coolly nodded back and waved her hand for him to be at ease. Though, that would be hard in such a tight space. The soldier changed positions while throwing occasional glances at her.

Elecia hid a wry smile as the wind blew through her flowing, auburn hair and made her way to lean against one of the arches. She could see the smoke rising and hear the vigorous sounds of the anvils from the several smith shops in the town.

“There’s a good view here.”

She had liked this place since she was a child, even slipping past the wet nurse’s eyes to climb up here every day despite the warnings. Whether it was snowy, rainy, or windy, she would make her way up here.

This spire was one of those structures whose purpose was unknown. The people many generations ago must have treated it as a watchtower of sorts, but it was too narrow and didn’t have a pedestal for a bonfire.

After all, there was a strange object taking up most of the space and enshrined in the middle of the floor: a pedestal with an orb fastened tightly to it. The polished stone was large enough that an adult wouldn’t be able to wrap their arms around it. Through the age and filth, you could make out the mysterious pattern on its cloudy, golden surface.

When Elecia peeked back at the orb, she accidentally made eye contact with the soldier watching from the other side. He rushed to fix his posture, looked at the slightly eerie orb, and lightly shook his head.

“I heard that Lady Elecia likes this place, but I can’t…relax for reasons. That thing just looks like an eyeball to me.”

“There are many who say that,” Elecia casually nodded. “It most likely is some kind of tool to use sorcery. You and the other soldiers aren’t cowards. The reason why we don’t post guards here at night is that we cannot have even the slightest danger here.”

Ancient sorcery tools had the rare chance of inviting an unexpected disaster. Since everyone was still awake during the daytime, there was still a way to deal with and evacuate the area. But, if something were to happen at nighttime, the damage would be enormous as this was the capital. As they say, let sleeping dogs lie.

At Elecia’s words, the soldier instantly laid his vigilance and fear barren while shrinking back all the way to the handrail. Even if she said that he wasn’t a coward, being told that it was natural for him to be afraid didn’t make him feel at ease.

Elecia wryly smiled and turned back to the orb.

“But that ends today. I’ll have Gencytus explain its true identity.”

[Cytus? If you can hear me, please answer.]

The same time she called for him, the roof above her creaked. Even though he could use his wings to land, he purposely made his presence known. The Flame Dragon was just as his name implied: dynamic and flashy like a burning flame, which may also explain his sweltering presence as he approached.

As Elecia made a rude hypothesis on her dragon’s personality, Gencytus peeked under the arch and answered.

“This is a dragon’s eye.”

These frank yet disturbing words made the already frightened soldier turn paler and crouch on the ground. It was already terrifying for him to gaze at a dragon this close, but being caught in a pincher attack from the dragon and that gouged eye made him truly nauseous.

Elecia was the only one to notice the delight echoing in Gencytus’ voice. She placed her hand on her hip and groaned, “Cytus,” with a sigh. “Cease any further injures to the spirit of the splendid soldier who is fulfilling his tedious duty in such an ominous place. Sometimes, your jokes can be humorless.”

“What joke are you talking about?”

Gencytus loudly grumbled in his throat and narrowed his eyes.

“That is definitely a Dragon Eye. It’s something made by sorcerers.”

When the soldier learned that it was man-made, he let out a sigh of relief and timidly looked at the orb while still crouched. Because the underside had avoided being dirtied from dust and the elements, the original material and pattern could be barely made out. The soldier slightly drew closer and nodded.

“It’s true… There does look to be a character. I hadn’t noticed from above.”

He pushed out these rational words in an attempt to maintain dignity, coughed, and stood up. Gencytus grinned, so Elecia snapped back to keep him in check.

[If you intend to shout, “Wow!” in an attempt to scare him, I’ll sew your mouth shut.]

[That’s no way to disciple a child. Threats do not work on me.]

[Right, Aeon was better at listening.]

Elecia recalled the eldest of her two sons, and the pain in her chest made her lips purse.

She didn’t know Aeon would be such a “boy” until the very moment she gave birth to him. Concern, persuasion, and various punishments couldn’t do anything to control her son’s behavior. If anything, she was the one being disciplined. Nevertheless, when he matured, Aeon showed slight discretion as he cared for his younger brother, assured his parents, and planned his future.

Someday, he would become a capable officer commanding an army, or he would skillfully govern and protect Nornikom together with his brother—.

But, those dreams never came to fruition. In reality, the image of him being the commander of an army or a bureaucrat supporting the kingdom could only remain as figments.

If he was taken as a hostage to the capital and allowed to live, she wouldn’t have to have become a Dragon Lord like this.

“Lady Elecia…?”

The anxious voice of the soldier brought Elecia back to her senses, and she shook her head.

“So, Cytus? Is it safe to leave it alone? Or must it be disposed of?”

“That’ll depend on your position.”

Gencytus’ response was dripping with meaning, but this one didn’t hint his usual bemusement. Elecia frowned and waited for his explanation.

The answer ended up coming from the orb itself.

The appearance of a small spark startled Elecia and the sentry and caused them to move away from the orb. Immediately after, sparks continued to crackle one after another on the surface of the orb.

“This is… What’s happening, Cytus?!”

“Do not fear. No direct harm will befall upon you from this. It appears that there are still those who would resurrect the old techniques.”

He said with a low sound rose from deep in his throat. As Elecia tried to figure out if he was laughing or growling, Gencytus disappeared from on top of the roof.

The soldier held his sword in hand and stepped closer to Elecia to protect her. In front of the two watching nervously, the orb burned and dispelled the pile of dust and dirt on its surface to reveal its original brilliance.

The huge orb shone golden just like an actual dragon’s eye. The surface created ripples that rumbled with an almost audible hum. The strange sound wasn’t something sensed through the ears but through the gut causing Elecia to grimace.

Eventually, something emerged from inside the Dragon Eye.

It oozed darkness. Elecia winced, but when she noticed the back of the soldier protecting her stiffen, she forced herself to stand tall and glared down at the orb.

Soon, the black stain began to take shape.

(A person…?)

She recalled Gencytus’ words: Depends on your position.

(Was this some kind of tool to communicate with someone? But, with whom—)

She gulped. It was obvious. The one who set up this device had to be from the first generation of Dragon Lords. In other words, this was a relic from the time when Nornikom joined hands with their equal, Diatius. In that case, the one who would use this tool here was…

[Can this be destroyed?!]

Elecia yelled in panic, but Gencytus gave an unsympathetic response.

[You can, but it’s a valuable relic. Can’t you wait until you can confirm who the other party is?]

[I don’t want to see that emperor’s face!]

[Ah, but I have heard that this emperor is rather on the young side.]

Hearing him play dumb enraged Elecia as she returned to look at the Dragon Eye. There, the black shadow transformed into a different face—an elderly man.

“…Well, well.”

His muffled voice echoed. Elecia scowled and tried to retrace through her path of memories to figure out this man’s identity.

“I’m sorry for surprising Your Majesty, Elecia, King of Nornikom.”

His tone, while courteous, had a hint of disdain. Elecia took a deep breath and walked out from behind the soldier.

“Yes, I was surprised, Your Excellency, Nakte’s Dragon Lord, Cenate. To think that you’re an actual user of sorcery.”

“The desire to not stagnate at just the name of a Dragon Lord but to obtain the ancient power is not unique only to you, Your Majesty.”

There was silence. Elecia smiled sweetly and beautifully, but inside, she was clicking her tongue in scorn. Being treated as the same went beyond a misunderstanding. A man who only desired to become the new emperor could not possibly understand the anger of a woman who had been trampled like she had.

But, such thoughts remained inside, and Elecia lightly nodded.

“Then, I presume this strange call to be of good intentions.”

“Would you care to join me in my campaign against the usurper Valis? However, this is just one hurdle in my way. My grandson Cenate has yet to be found.”

“I have heard the rumors. You have my condolences.”

Even if he stole the throne, he’ll only be putting a puppet on it.

Although Elecia had such an ironic thought, her face naturally showed her heartbroken when she thought of the missing child Cenate. Dragon Lord Cenate still looked serious and nodded.

“…I believe that while we are making our way back, we might need to conceal ourselves. However, if in the unlikely event that we need to head east to delude Valis’ eyes, we will need to pass through Your Majesty’s territory.”

“I understand. I shall also see if there is such a child here.”

“Much obliged. He is thirteen, blond, and has eyes a mix of gold and silver. No matter what, we must find him before Valis does. I wonder what would happen if little Cenate were to fall into his hands.”

“Yes, I understand,”

Elecia pursed her lips together. If the emperor were to threated with little Cenate as a shield, or even more cunningly, to adopt little Cenate and have him inherit the throne…

(The fight wouldn’t be in Nornikom only then.)

Not only would the 4th Corps from Nakte be unable to help, but they might, in the worst-case scenario, end up as enemies. Currently, Elecia only had the 5th and 6th corps as pieces on her side. Besides, officers loyal to the main country wouldn’t be exiled or executed, so there were few who could become her commanders. In other words, there was no chance of winning alone.

The fact that Elecia fully understood the situation was conveyed to Cenate. He nodded with a wide, satisfied grin on his face. Then, he suddenly looked to the side.

“It appears that the preparations for war are proceeding smoothly.”

Because it was said so casually, Elecia didn’t notice the implications of this right away. One pause later, she was startled but quickly concealed her expression.

“It seems that you too can look upon this view.”

“Indeed. This is quite the convenient tool. …However, my sorcerer seems to be in pain. Please excuse me for cutting off our talk here for today. It was unexpectedly fortuitous to have met you. Then, pardon.”

With a smile filled with composure, Cenate’s image wavered before disappearing. Elecia continued to keep up her smiling façade until the light had completely gone out from the Dragon Eye.

When the Dragon Eye returned to being an original, silent, stone orb, Elecia finally let out a deep, exhausted sigh.

[Hoh, that’s it? I thought that you would at least kick the Dragon Eye.]

Gencytus popped his head from the roof again in teasing mockery. Elecia glared at him but said nothing to him in response.

“How troublesome.”

Instead, she groaned and looked around. This view was neither to look out nor to entertain the lord’s children. There was no doubt that this was proof to the faraway Dragon Lords or even the emperor that there was nothing to hide here. That was why if there was any change occurring in this capital, everyone would be immediately notified and can offer help—in the past.

But, now, that great trust had been lost. Even though she had decided to join hands, she wasn’t exactly wholeheartedly welcoming of the Nakte feudal lord. From what Elecia had heard from her husband about his evaluation of each member of the Council of Dragon Lords back in the day, Lord Cenate was already lacking points. It wasn’t from incompetence; rather, it was more like a lack of likability.

(People do say that Austra is just a “clan of women.” But, it is also true that Lord Cenate’s wife had long passed away and the same for the previous generation’s many years ago. That means that Lord Cenate had been monopolizing all the power now.)

Could good fortune come out from that or would it be bad fortune…

As Elecia pondered with a grim face, the sentry timidly asked.

“Your Majesty, shall I…destroy this?”

“We have no choice but to leave it here for now.”

Elecia bitterly said and shook her head. If destroyed, it would incite Cenate’s suspicion.

“Once the emperor starts using sorcerers, that’s when we’ll have to destroy it. But, I still don’t like it. After all, they can peep at us at any time while we can’t even greet them.”

[If you search all over the territory, who knows, you just might find at least one sorcerer. Though, I don’t know if they’ll only be capable of pulling a pigeon from their sleeves.]

[Your jokes really aren’t humorous. No, I don’t plan on using a sorcerer at this point. Even if I had one. I will not make the same mistakes as those from the Great War during the Dark Ages. I only need you.]

[Hoh, it looks like I’m highly valued.]

[I wonder.] Elecia finally showed a relaxed smile. [You don’t know. I could be saying that I already have too much dealing with you.]

Gencytus was crestfallen. Elecia laughed a little and slapped the orb in front of the blinking sentry.

“Let’s tell everyone about this. We’ll have to keep someone on watch at night now.”

“Eh?” the soldier was going to voice objection but quickly swallowed it back. Elecia turned around and announced with a sympathetic tone.

“We obviously don’t want to be peeped at in the nighttime without our knowledge, but it’ll also be troublesome if they call us for an emergency when no one is around. And if that old man screams or sings loud enough to wake up the entire manor, it’ll be a blight on both sides.”

The soldier burst out into laughter, a beat too slow to cover his mouth. When Elecia showed a look of surprise, he embarrassingly shrugged his shoulders, and the two laughed together.

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