Moist air and silence hung over the testing grounds, and everyone observed the same person without saying a word.
But the subject of their attention was unconcerned and exhaled.
Shiro took several deep breaths and ended with a long sigh.
(I didn’t think I’d have to use two at the same time.)
Shiro looked down at the bracelets on his arms. Sure enough, the magic schemata on the gold and silver bracelets had disappeared and the gems that functioned as their cores were cracked. These magic tools were something he designed for his exclusive use.
The more precise and powerful the magic, the longer it took to cast. There were two ways to shorten this casting time—either to use a magic tool prior to casting or to expend a massive amount of mana.
The schema on the gold bracelet was to shorten the casting time while the one on the silver bracelet was to supplement mana…
Shiro looked at his hair covering his shoulder. It glowed with a faint, light blue light, but it was slowly returning to its original pure-white color.
(As expected, it’s impossible to not only combine powerful water magic and barrier magic but also instantaneously cast them together with my mana and the supplemented one alone.)
His own mana wasn’t enough to compensate, so he had used the additional mana supplemented from the magic tool. But that still wasn’t enough as his body automatically absorbed the wandering mana around him.
Whenever he had to absorb wandering mana to use magic, his hair changed.
Monster. —The one who spat out that word was his biological father.
If it weren’t for you… —The one who said that and hit him was his biological mother.
This was how someone born with unusual powers was viewed.
The words echoed in Shiro’s mind, so he shook his head. But then, the words of the magicians around him reached his ears.
“I can’t believe a single person using that much mana…and even erasing it a single moment later.”
“I’ve never seen such magic schemata like those before. Also, their hair…”
Instead of surprise, the emotions behind those words were a mixture of terror and fright. Exposure to those feelings had caused his past to resurface in his mind.
(That’s why I hate people.)
Only that person accepted him; Shiro wouldn’t have been here if he didn’t say anything…
As if pulled out from those dark emotions, he was brought back to his senses. Or more precisely, his robe was physically pulled from behind, choking him when his clothes tightened around his neck. Coughing, Shiro recalled that the prince was still with him.
(It’ll be annoying if he starts crying.)
He was no good with children since they lacked reservation. When he was young, the neighborhood children called him a monster and threw rocks at him. But, when Shiro turned around, the prince had an unexpected expression.
“Amazing! And beautiful! How did you do that, Mr. Shiro?!”
Herscherik’s eyes sparkled, appearing to have completely forgotten the imminent danger to his life just before. He clutched Shiro’s robe as if to prevent the man from running away, and he looked up. There wasn’t a hint of any of the dark emotions like those around Shiro.
He was about to add “you scared of me?”, but his voice didn’t come out. Herscherik tilted his head.
“Eh? Did you say something? Can you say it again…?”
Having his name called, Herscherik turned around. When he did, he saw his aides running towards him at top speed. Their heavy panting made them look slightly like perverts, but Herscherik decided it was best not to say.
“Kuro and Oran? What’s the matter?”
A question mark floated above his head as he asked his aides. He really did completely forget what had happened before.
“Are you okay? You’re not hurt anywhere, are you?!”
Oran shouted in a panicked voice, and Kuro checked the prince’s head, face, and arms, not glossing over a single inch.
“I’m not hurt anywhere…”
“I’m glad. I was at the training grounds nearby, but I thought I heard the barrier break. I remember hearing this morning that you might be at the testing grounds, so I rushed over. I’m so relieved that you’re safe…”
“Hey, who’s the one in charge here? Is this how they handle safety precautions?”
After confirming that Herscherik was safe, Kuro interrupted Oran and slowly stood up.
“Depending on their response…”
Kuro said and snickered. If you only heard his voice, you would have thought he was simply worried, but the two who knew him for a while now were aware of how furious he was.
“Wait, calm down, black dog. It’s not a joke when you say that.”
“Shut up, delinquent knight. If something happened to Hersche, their entire bloodline…”
“AAAH! You’re the one who needs to shut up, you dangerous butler! You can’t run your mouth with risky words in such a place! Nothing will be settled if you go out there! I’ll do it! I’ll make sure to find out everything! Gah! Why the heck are you quietly taking out your hidden weapons?!!!”
Kuro was currently plotting how to turn this whole area into a sea of blood, causing Oran to panic, restrain Kuro, and pacify him. Seeing his aides like this, Herscherik mumbled.
“Calm down, you two…”
Herscherik dropped his shoulders in exhaustion at the bickering happening between his aides. He was also in the middle of being jostled by the triplets who rushed over in concern for his well-being. During this time, Herscherik looked over at Shiro.
Shiro looked outside the small window as the carriage rocked. The Greisis Kingdom had a temperate climate, but snow still accumulated in the winter. The snow had fallen and ceased last year so it lay accumulated on the ground to this day, blanketing the castle down in a white carpet. Children ran around on top but rushed over to a plump lady who appeared to be their mother as soon as she appeared. Shiro intently watched the scene unfold.
(That reminds me. How is Mother doing nowadays?)
His last memory of his mother was of her bony body and vacant eyes looking at him as she led him somewhere. A single tear fell from those eyes, but Shiro still didn’t know the meaning behind it to this day.
When he tried to remember, his mind grew hazy and he was unable to recall.
“Today was a busy day. So, how is the prince?”
Shiro had been lost in his memories, so who brought him back was Hoenir, sitting opposite him.
He shifted his eyes from the window to his adoptive father. This man was the one who rescued him from that place.
“He’s a strange prince.”
Shiro had expected Herscherik to abuse his position and condemn Shiro for disrespect, but the prince merely gave a wry smile. The prince was royalty, but he easily apologized. Shiro thought the prince would be scared the moment he revealed his monstrous power, but the prince’s eyes sparkled as if he spotted some treasure.
Even now, Shiro could recall the sensation of the prince pulling on his clothes.
(Maybe he has a few screws loose in his head…)
“Fufu, how interesting.”
If Hoenir had to put it to words, it was rare for his adoptive son to show interest in others, so he chuckled.
“Listen well. I need you to continue to observe the prince like this. He might be the aid we need for the future of our world.”
“…But I’m not good with children.”
Shiro showed disapproval of Hoenir’s statement.
Herscherik and Shiro met back up with Hoenir after the incident. As Hoenir listened to what had transpired, he suddenly proposed lending Shiro as a teacher as Herscherik wasn’t good at magic. Herscherik was hesitant at first, but he finally agreed.
“Besides, it appears that the prince is extremely fond of you. And what about you? You say this and that, but you don’t despise the prince, correct?”
His adoptive son claimed to dislike people, so even though he frowned, his inability to deny was solid proof. If Shiro really despised the idea, he would have rejected the idea, even if he had to use magic to blow him away.
That was why Hoenir easily foresaw that his adoptive son would reluctantly agree after some time.
“…I understand, Lord Hoenir.”
Satisfied by that answer, Hoenir smiled.
“Thank you. I expect much from you…my precious Noel.”
Shiro, the young, heretical magician called Noel by Hoenir, quickly turned his gaze back outside the window. Because the adoptive father knew that this was how Shiro hid his embarrassment, he didn’t bother to reprimand his behavior.
“I confirmed, and it appeared that the magic tool in question had been switched.”
It was already ten o’clock at night, and Herscherik closely listened to Oran’s report and grabbed with one hand the cup of hot milk prepared by Kuro. The beverage known as coffee in his original world also existed over here. As Herscherik had enjoyed coffee in his past life, he had requested Kuro to make some but was rejected by the butler since it would keep the boy up at night. How truly disheartening. In any case, the current issue at hand was the faulty magic tool.
The expression on Herscherik’s face silently asked, “How?” Security around the castle included barriers, and while there were open holes in the barrier after all these years, your average intruder wouldn’t be able to spot them. Furthermore, the place that housed the magic tools was not only inside the castle but also inside the laboratory safe that boasted outstanding security.
(Was there an insider among them? Just like with the drug incident…)
He considered such, but those involved with the drug incident were no longer in this world from what he had investigated.
Herscherik thought and shook his head once because he knew it was pointless to carelessly make inferences based on scarce information. He waited for Oran to continue.
“It appeared that the switched magic tool was crammed full of control-type magic schemata. Because of that, it will go berserk no matter how excellent the magician is. I had Mr. Siegel investigate for us, but he gave an unusual display of anger and shouted, ‘I’ve never seen such horrendous magic schemata in my life! They deserve a thousand deaths!’”
Herscherik imagined his cool eyes clearly raised in anger. Siegel enjoyed magic devices and tools more than anything else. No, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he loved them.
When they first met, the man explained, “They are crystallizations of magic and study. Heritage left behind since ancient times. More valuable than money!” Such a man would undoubtedly be indignant if someone heinously handled the magic tools he cared about as you would to your own child. Despite his anger, he would surely aid their search for the cause.
(Then, let’s leave the investigation on that front to Mr. Siegel.)
“I don’t know how they switched the tools, but it’s highly likely a plot by either the Church or the nobles. Besides, it’s clear that the Church made some kind of move during today’s event.”
That was right. Archbishop Hoenir pressed Herscherik about having Shiro teach him magic. He had barely studied as of recently, only having learned the basics and never done anything practical.
(Plus, there’s only a handful of people who know that I don’t have mana.)
Only his father knew about this in his family; the other members were clueless. The archbishop also didn’t know or else he wouldn’t have recommended a teacher to the prince who was poor at magic.
“Kuro, immediately go survey the Church’s movements. Don’t let a single thing slip by.”
At Herscherik’s instruction, he promptly began to move. He did a right about-face on the spot and left the room.
“Oran, I want you to inform Mark as well as William and Eutel.”
“Understood. But, it’ll have to be tomorrow. The black dog isn’t going to be around now, and given what happened at noon, I refuse to leave you by yourself.”
“…Guess it can’t be helped.”
“Don’t make such an unhappy face.”
Oran said to chide the frowning Herscherik.
(I want to say that I’m fine, but I can’t deny what happened today.)
A deliberate accident was caused inside the castle believed to be completely safe. The reason he was unscathed was thanks to Shiro being with him.
When he thanked Shiro for saving him as they left the training grounds after the accident, the beautiful man looked unsure of himself. The closest way to describe his expression was as if he had a fishbone stuck in his back teeth.
(If the Church was targeting my life, it’s counterproductive for them to have Shiro, someone on the Church’s side, save me. But, that doesn’t clear the Church of suspicion…)
Even if the planned magic accident was a ploy to kill him, Herscherik would have completely forgotten about the experiment if Siegel hadn’t reminded him, so it wasn’t likely for him to be present there. But, in that case, who was pulling the strings…?
(Am I reading too far into it? But if it’s like that… No, it’s still too dangerous to act on mere conjecture. Besides, there’s something else that needs to be taken care of.)
The day of the marriage meeting with Barbasse’s daughter had been finalized.
Herscherik slowly sipped the hot milk. The faint scent of herbs and the slight sweetness from the honey unwound his tight nerves.
(Would something good or something bad come out from this Venture Strategy?)
Herscherik swallowed his unease together with the milk.
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