The manor was in an uproar.
Footsteps rough enough that it seemed the floorboards would break, the cacophony of tableware being smashed, the commotion of the confused residents.
Each time he heard the rough voice mixed in with the noise, he felt the fingers in his hands tremble.
Sentoor was anxious.
Who could have imagined that at such a critical time, Yukama, his lord’s uncle, would suddenly take such a forceful measure.
“Princess! Please make haste.”
Sentoor turned around. His lord’s elder sister, Princess Yunoha, was looking back at him with a pale face. The lustrous hair famed for resembling the finest thread from a ka’ikoh, was now dishevelled across the cheeks of her oval face.
The fingers in his hand were slender enough that he thought they might break with just a squeeze. They were freezing so he thought that the tension and anxiety might have affected her circulation, so Sentoor carefully wrapped his boorish hands around hers again.
He had to allow the princess to escape.
Yukama was targeting the one famed as the number one beauty in the nation, Princess Yunoha, as well as the position of king.
The previous king had passed away last year, and his son Setsugen inherited his position as king of Triht. Setsugen was a youth of little more than twenty, but he was plenty qualified to be king. In these last two years, he had always stood at the front and endeavoured to protect his clan and nation.
Yukama did not think fondly of this.
With things contrary to his expectations, he abused his authority as Setsugen’s guardian, and aimed for Setsugen’s sister, Princess Yunoha. His plan was to marry the princess and steal the seat of king from Setsugen.
Yukama’s dirty scheme had been stopped by Setsugen and his talented subordinates. Though they had a lot of trouble in definitively stopping Yukama, even so, they protected the Princess.
However, this year Triht suffered a harsh cold, of a kind unseen in recent years.
With the ground frozen from the breath of the legendary suu’rin, an being that lived underground, farmers found it difficult to even plough the fields, to say nothing of growing crops. On top of that, the storehouse for emergency food was struck by lightning, and half of it was turned to ashes.
At this rate, a great many people would starve to death come next winter.
On the verge of ruin, argument after argument, one day a completely unexpected bit of news reached their ears.
Yohk’Zai, the nation that governed the Zaharya beyond Mt. Pirenia, had fallen into a struggle for the throne, and was on the brink of civil war.
To Triht, it was like a gift from heaven.
Taking advantage of the domestic chaos, they would ally with the Kak’Kenah tribe who lived south of Mt. Pirenia, and together they would take a part of the Zaharya. That was the aim of Setsugen and his retainers.
Yohk’Zai was a nation with shallow history.
By no means had loyalty reached every corner of the nation, every corner of their hearts. The plan would surely go well. So believed Setsugen, as he began his journey with just a few companions.
Following contact after contact, they had only recently received a positive response.
Even though Triht would be saved with just a little bit to go, thanks to Yukama’s shallow ambitions, it might all come to nothing.
Sentoor’s ears caught the sound of footsteps from enemy intruders, as he rushed towards the back entrance. They were coming this way, from a corner of the manor. Two of them, no, it seemed there were three. Sentoor clicked his tongue. It was conduct unbecoming of a warrior, but right now there was nobody to admonish him.
Opening a nearby door, he slipped in, and quietly closed the door.
They had escaped into a room for entertaining guests. Inside the room was a simple wooden table, and on each side were straw mat seats made from sen stalks. Although the door was closed, because there was no fire here, it was freezing.
Sentoor quickly scanned the room, but there was nowhere to hide. On the other side of the wooden sliding door was the courtyard, but it was likely that Yukama’s subordinates were there.
Is this as far as we go?
Sentoor was ready to die at any time. But, how about Princess Yunoha? Thinking that it was necessary that she protect her honour if it came to it, he turned around, and met his eyes with the princess who had drawn a dagger from within her sash.
Her trembling hand gripped the hilt, and she looked at Sentoor. Sentoor saw unwavering determination in her ultramarine eyes, like the sky just before dawn, and he unconsciously knelt to the floor as a retainer.
As he thought, he could only serve these siblings.
The clamour from the hallway was getting noisier.
Come whenever you wish!
Sentoor stood up, and stood in front of Yunoha as though to protect her.
Drawing his sword and standing in a vigilant guard, a rectangular frame suddenly appeared before him.
Fine carvings were cut into the frame, and inside the frame was a translucent board.
Sentoor shuddered. If even a mystic had joined hands with Yukama, then…
With a clatter, the translucent board slid to the side. Sentoor thrust the sword in his hand towards the frame. The moment that he felt a response from his sword,
a sound like the dying cry of a goeru squashed flat under the wheels of a flatcar, echoed throughout the room.
Shouldn’t they be hibernating under the earth in this season? wondered Sentoor as he tilted his head, before becoming dumbfounded at the scene before him.
A naked woman was standing there with what seemed to be a seamless white bucket, thrust out before her chest.
Sentoor’s sword had struck right through the middle of that white object.
A cold sweat ran down his back.
To block a fully committed thrust from a swordsman like him meant that this woman was no ordinary enemy. Was this an assassin hired by the mystic, or was the mystic an expert themself?
“I ask for your name.”
His blood as a swordsman was heating up.
The woman named herself, looking somewhat dumbfounded. To think that she had even trained herself in acting to incite carelessness. Even the fact that she was naked was undoubtedly a tactic to distract the enemy. Sentoor was speechless. She lacked nothing as an opponent.
“My name is Sentoor. I challenge you.”
After releasing his grip from the sword that was completely trapped in the white shield, he reached his hand to the other sword by his waist.
“HAHH!? Hang on a moment! What the heck are you saying after stabbing a sword through my keropiiⒸ bucket? No, seriously, if you’re done then I’m closing the window!”
Though in a state of confusion, the woman still shouted angry words at Sentoor.
“Turning tail after meeting resistance during an assassination? Laughable!”
Sentoor set up a sword guard.
“Hey-! Do you have brain problems?”
Sentoor was crestfallen. He had thought that for his last moments, he had met a worthy opponent, but he was apparently wrong. The moment that he thought to cut down this unsightly assassin in the middle of her excuses, the woman turned her eyes to the person behind him.
“Hey, you there! Can’t you do something about this uncle? He isn’t listening. I’m not an assassin! Just as I was about to take a bath, I thought that since the water was hot I would just open the window to cool down a little. To begin with, just what kind of world would you find a naked and unarmed assassin! Or could it be that the assassins in your world are exhibitionists? Are they all exhibitionists!”
After talking on and on without even taking a moment to breathe, she sent an imploring gaze at Princess Yunoha.
Sentoor began to find something strange about this woman in her vigour.
“Sentoor, lower your sword. This person seems to be unrelated to Uncle Yukama.”
Princess Yunoha supported this feeling of his in a quiet voice.
“You’re not an assassin hired by Yukama?”
The woman nodded as though it were natural.
“I’ve never even heard the name Yukama before.”
Sentoor gazed at the woman head-on. Her dark eyes felt somehow bottomless and even seemed terrifying, but she didn’t seem to be lying.
“And so, I’m unrelated, so mind if I close the window?”
The woman put her hand against the translucent board. From her movements, you could see impatience and anxiety.
So she really was a suspicious person…? suspected Sentoor once again, but the moment that he was about to turn his eyes towards her, Yukama’s angry shout came from the hallway.
“Yunoha! Where are you? Won’t you hurry up and come out? You’re going to be mine.”
Yunoha’s thin shoulders trembled with a start.
As the shouts for the Princess came one after another, the woman frowned and looked at the Princess.
“Yunoha… Is that you?”
Princess Yunoha brandished the dagger that she had been gripping at her chest.
Although paled, her face was not at all pathetic.
“This is as far as we go. Sentoor, please be my second.”
Sentoor shut his eyes and nodded. While slowly raising his eyelids, he poured strength into his sword arm.
Princess Yunoha looked at Sentoor, and raised the corners of her mouth just a little. It was a shockingly beautiful smile. She would be able to die without burdening her lord… her younger brother. The smile might have been filled with that kind of satisfaction.
Kneeling on the spot, Princess Yunoha pointed the blade at herself.
“May Triht be blessed with joy.” she muttered, before hanging her head. After making sure the swing of the blade would meet her exposed white nape, Sentoor raised his sword up high.
“Ha-? Eh-? W-, Wait a moment!”
A panicked voice distracted Sentoor.
The woman threw the white shield in her hand behind herself, before placing her hands on the frame and leaning forward.
“Is something troubling you!?”
It sounded like the cry of somebody in desperation.
“You’re troubled, right!? Ummm, ummmm, please leave it to me. I’ll save you!”
The woman placed her hand against her chin and seemed to think.
“The hoarse voice outside is Yukama? And, you’re being chased by Yukama. Am I right?”
Each still holding their own blades, Sentoor and Yunoha nodded together.
“I’ll hide you, so come here. Climb over this frame, come on.”
The woman beckoned.
“What are you doing? Hurry!”
The sound of Yukama’s footsteps were getting closer. His hesitation only lasted a moment. He recalled an old saying; you can’t catch a tura cub without entering a tura den.
Sentoor picked up Yunoha, and finding his determination, passed through the rectangular frame.
The moment that he stepped down, his foot was wet with hot water.
Speaking of which, she did mention that she was going to take a bath…
The wet clothing clung to his legs and it felt like he was going to fall, but just as he was about to he corrected his posture and shifted the way he was carrying her so that she wouldn’t get wet.
“If we close it completely, you might not be able to go back, so I’m just going to leave a little open, okay? I’m going to go find something to use as a weapon.”
“Wait, Mystic-dono. What of us!?”
“Just stay in the bath or something! Listen, you absolutely can’t leave, okay? In particular, y-, you definitely can’t pass through this door.”
Leaving those words behind, the woman hurriedly ran away.
Being left behind, there was nothing for Sentoor and Yunoha in his arms to do, except look at each other dumbfounded.
The woman returned before long. Her body was wrapped in a white cloth that covered everything from her chest to buttocks. She was grasping a cylinder with an illustration of a terrifying winged monster.
“It’s insecticide. For killing wasps.”
Without even minding that her cloth would get wet, the woman entered the bucket with the hot water, and stood next to Sentoor.
She peeked through the gap in the translucent board.
The sounds of the door being violently hit could be heard.
“Yunoha! …What’s this?”
It was Yukama’s voice. His angry bellows had turned into a voice of confusion.
“Yunoha? Are you in there?”
“She’s not! Piss off already, baldy!”
In reply to Yukama’s probing voice, the woman yelled back vigorously in reply.
But, wasn’t that the same as admitting that she was here…?
“What are you doing, Yunoha. To be sitting there with a suspicious mystic like this.”
Being blind to his own shortcomings, he sure could talk. Sentoor gently lowered the Princess―――to the floor of mysterious white substance―――before reaching his hand to the sword at his waist, and being stopped by the woman.
“Leave it to me.”
What did she intend to do? ―――――They met each other’s gaze, but the woman just nodded, and had no intention of speaking. But she had declared herself that they should leave it to her, so she probably had some sort of plan. Sentoor abided her will, and stayed to the side.
Leaving violent and loud footsteps and not even trying to hide his irritation, Yukama entered the room. Behind him were a number of his underlings.
The faces of the men visible through the crack by the board were familiar. There were a bunch who only cared about money and knew nothing about loyalty, but their skill was the real thing.
Sentoor began to feel anxious.
However, even when they walked past the round table, the woman showed no signs of movement.
One step, and then another step. They shortened the distance. Yet, the woman didn’t move.
―――――This is the limit.
Sentoor gripped the hilt of his sword.
Yukama was right beyond the frame.
And at that moment, the woman threw open the translucent board, thrust both arms forward, and held up the cylinder.
“Eat this! Bee EasyⒸ Spray Double!”
Together with the chant of a curse, a mist spouted vigorously from the cylinder.
Yukama covered his eyes with both hands.
“W-, What is this… I-, I can’t see.”
Looking at the suffering Yukama, the woman declared loudly.
“I’ve cursed you. If you don’t wash our your eyes for three days and three nights with water thawed from perpetual snow, your eyes are going to become useless. If you wash it a little, you might be able to see again for a while, but unless you continue for three days and nights, the pain will return before long.”
Sentoor felt fear towards the woman, and reflexively covered his own eyes with his palm. It seemed that Yukama’s followers were afraid of the curse as well, and not a single person moved.
Finally, Yukama collapsed onto the floor.
“Don’t you think it would be better for you to go home?”
The woman said this as she looked down upon Yukama.
Curled up on the floor, from between the gaps in his fingers, Yukama’s now bright red eyes turned towards her. Those eyes, filled even now with ambition, rolled here and there, before fixing on Princess Yunoha behind Sentoor.
“Yunoha. Listen well. Your brother has gone cold a long time ago. I paid the younger brother of the Kak’Kenah Clan Chief in Zaharya to poison his wine at the feast. His body should be arriving any day now.”
Sentoor was assaulted by a rage like the blood currents in his body had gone backwards. The irrepressible feelings rose up from his gut, and stirred his body into action.
Drawing his sword, he stepped onto the frame. The frozen henchmen of Yukama came back to their senses, and rushed over to their lord’s side. Outnumbered. It might not be possible for him to take Yukama’s life. But at the very least, he wouldn’t be able to calm down unless he attacked. Going along with his rage, the moment he was about to step forward out of the frame, a naked arm wrapped around his waist.
“Calm down. What you need to do now is protect Yunoha, right?” came a quiet whisper into his ear.
“You’re so noisy! Hurry up and leave. Or are you fine with being blind?”
With her arm still wrapped around Sentoor, the woman called out to Yukama.
Yukama groaned in frustration.
“Listen well, Yunoha. This country is already mine!”
“Such a stubborn geezer. Shall I go with an even stronger one this time? Far from just your eyes, this time I’ll make your skin rot off.”
The woman held up the can in one hand, and Yukama let out a pathetic cry. Grabbing onto his subordinates to try and escape even a second faster, he stumbled out of the room.
“Prepare thawed snow!” “Call a mystic!” “I don’t care! Smoke them out! Surround this room until you can!” came Yukama’s voice, each time further away than the last.
The woman let go of Sentoor’s waist, and sank down into the bath.
“Thank god it ended well.”
Replying to the mutter of relief, Sentoor frowned and hung his head.
“Setsugen-sama… Setsugen-sama… Shitt…”
Unable to bear it, he struck out at the wall. The pain in his fist emphasised the fact that this wasn’t a dream.
“Setsugen… It can’t be… Setsugen…”
Princess Yunoha’s faint crying voice filled the strange rectangular space.
“Ummm, I think he’s okay though.”
Sitting in the hot water with her arms wrapped around her knees, the woman looked up at Sentoor.
“That Setsugen person, I think he’s okay.”
“Why do you think that…?”
He squeezed the hoarse voice out of his throat.
“Because I met him. See this? I got it from that Setsugen person.”
Having a look at what the woman was pointing at, he realised that green leaves were stuck in a thin tube.
“This is, frostsnow grass?”
“Right right, I got it in a trade. That Setsugen person was inside a hut, and after talking to him for a little, he said that he didn’t need to go to Zaharya any more and that he was going home. Or something like that. And at the time, I got this frostsnow grass from him. That Kak’Kenah Clan or whatever is in Zaharya, right?”
“Isn’t it possible that Setsugen didn’t go to Zaharya?” concluded the woman, before flicking the frostsnow grass with her finger, and making it ring out in a clear and refreshing sound.
“A hut with frostsnow grass… Could it be the mountain hut at the summit of Mt. Pirenia!? When was this? When did this happen?”
Without caring about the water, he knelt by the woman’s side. Grasping the hand that was poking at the frostsnow grass and asking his question, the woman shifted uncomfortably.
“A week… Seven days ago, but?”
If they used the mountain hut seven days ago as a basis, then it was about time that he arrived in the capital.
Sentoor’s eyes grew hot. Even though he hadn’t cried even when his parents had died, it couldn’t be…
Sentoor placed his hands on the surface beneath the water.
“Mystic-dono! Thank you. Thank you.”
He bowed his head down, and his entire body submerged in the hot water. It was choking, but right now he was thankful for the water. Sentoor shed his tears in the water without anyone knowing.
“Mystic-sama, I would like to thank you as well… You’ve saved not just myself, but the whole of the Triht nation. No matter how much I thank you, it wouldn’t be enough.”
Although soaked, when Sentoor raised his head, Princess Yunoha was outside of the water, performing a bow with her fingertips on the ground.
“No, um, well, that’s great… I guess. Will things be fine once Setsugen returns? That baldy is going to come again, you know?”
“No, almost all the hearts of the people of Triht belong to Setsugen. Perhaps uncle will run around and cause trouble by proclaiming that my brother is dead. But once Setsugen returns, there should be nobody who will follow Yukama.”
“Then that’s fine then.” relaxed the woman.
“Um, what should we do until Setsugen-sama returns?”
Sentoor looked about the rectangular box that he was in. They had already been in the woman’s care too much, and he wanted to return the favour even if only a little. Enough that he would be fine with chopping the wood, cleaning the toilet, or anything like that.
“Let’s see, then for now,”
The woman stretched a hand into a box that was left in the corner, and after groping about for something, she turned back around. Her hand was grasping a transparent cylinder. The inside was filled with liquid, and a single frostsnow leaf was floating inside.
The woman let out a smile.
“Shall we drink!”
“…breath of the legendary suu’rin, an being that lived underground…”
“…breath of the suu’rin, an underground monster…”
The latter is the literal, the former is what I went with. To sum up the problem, basically in Japanese you have a lot of words that are only suitable as being expressed by the English word “monster”.
This time the word used is 怪物 (kaibutsu) in other words, a strange or mystical creature. It’s not the same ‘monster’ as the one used in RPGs 魔物 (mamono). Neither is it the same ‘monster’ used in “B-, Bakana! Kono bakemono!” which would be 化け物(bakemono).
I think I should make a new post to complain about this.