Alone in the guest room, Akiru paced.
“What do I do…”
She hadn’t made any wrong choice. Compared to the other targets, Yohanne’s route was relatively simple.
By nature of being an online game, the interference of other players could cause certain alterations to the story. Nevertheless, a constant still remained: the player with the highest affection stats would be given evidence of Sharon’s crimes from her mother, Gidel. During the prosecution of Sharon, by admonishing her while still advocating for leniency, the player character would then receive Yohanne’s profession of love.
If the player answered his proposal, the flag for Yohanne would be established. Afterward, as long as the player kept his affection high enough, they could do whatever until the graduation event, be it spending the days all lovey-dovey with him or even ignoring him to go seduce another target.
Yet before Akiru could give her answer, she got in her way again.
As it was still rather early on in the game’s timeline, Sharon’s misdeeds were still light. In the game, the crimes that the villainess was guilty of could vary depending on when her tribunal happened. If she was prosecuted during the graduation event, she might even be executed for treason.
Akiru wasn’t the kind of person that could knowingly consign the villainess to execution without guilt. Even as early on in the timeline as they were, she had full confidence she could establish Yohanne’s flag before the other players interfered. She had cleared his route so, so many times, after all.
So she had acted. She made her moves with such assertiveness that it surprised even her, and she had succeeded in acquiring the affection of Yohanne as she stayed hidden from the eyes of the other girls who could be player characters, as well as the viscount young lady that was the main heroine of the game.
Akiru whispered. A panel, translucent as though made of acrylic, appeared in front of her.
This was a kind of magic that no one else in this world, other than those who were aware they were player characters, could use. The first time Akiru tried out the chant, she had done it thinking that if she could see her Status in the game, she could do it now, too. And to her surprise, the spell had worked.
[Name: Akiru] [Female — 14 Years Old] [Status: Good]
Skill List (skills with ☆ are hidden): [Water Magic Aptitude] [Noble Blood] [Alchemy Aptitude] [Foreign Tongue] [Charm (Weak) ☆] [Goddess’ Blessing ☆ ]
She hadn’t much interest in the skills that were public. To her, they were only convenient skills to have in this world. Akiru’s attention was on the hidden skills instead.
She suspected that both were skills that only player characters could have. She didn’t know what ‘Goddess’ Blessing’ was, but ‘Charm’ was what had helped her to gain Yohanne’s affection. It was what had made him hear her lines, even sounding as wooden as they were due to her nervousness, as a heartfelt speech full of passion.
Yet right at the end, Akiru was thwarted once again.
Was she a player character too? Then perhaps she might be the kind of troll player that played not to capture any target, but only to mess with other people.
“…I won’t let you spoil my game.”
Akiru had already forgotten what she had done to the girl in the past. To Akiru, she was just an enemy now.
Two knocks came from the door.
“…yes, I am here.”
Upon Akiru’s reply, a maid opened the door to reveal the madam of the house.
“My, madam Gidel.”
“Akiru. Can I have some of your time?”
Gidel was smiling, and in the woman’s hands were some documents that were presumably the proof of Sharon’s crimes. Seeing them, Akiru smiled as well.
Akiru had still not yet realized that this world was reality.
With Yohanne’s official declaration, the competition becomes a duel between siblings to determine the next successor.
Gidel and the servants had tried to get Yohanne to stand down at first. So I gave him just a liiiitle bit of a push.
“Aww, so the little-widdle ****less boy can’t do anything without his mama?”
And he suddenly found his motivation. A lot of it too, in fact. Even madam Gidel seemed to have changed her mind.
“Hey Letty, what did you say to Yohanne?”
“Simply some encouragement, milady.”
She didn’t hear because I was blocking her ears. I simply could not let her innocence be spoiled by such bad words.
“But… I didn’t want to have to fight my own brother…”
Milady’s expression somewhat darkens. Such a kind girl, she is.
“Helping a younger brother gain strength through a trial is also an older sister’s duty, milady.”
Yes, it really is. It’s also an excuse, but she doesn’t need to know that.
The all-important details of the duel are as follows: until the next morning, milady and Yohanne must bring a valuable dungeon item back from the dungeon that lies in the western region of the Michel territory.
This dungeon is medium-sized, with about forty floors. It used to be famed for its high-quality agates until over a century ago, when its yield of the gemstones dwindled down to almost nothing. The dungeon had since turned into a lair for monsters.
Both parties are allowed up to ten servants to accompany them. This rule is mainly for Yohanne’s benefit, of course.
“Milady, I shall accompany you.”
“Franz… I truly appreciate the thought, but you shouldn’t. What if something happens to Father when you’re not here?”
“Besides, I also need you to protect Mother’s grave. I fear her resting place may be disturbed if you get injured, Franz.”
Franz kneels, his voice full of reluctance. Milady tenderly places her hand on his shoulder to console him.
“I will be fine. Letty is with me… look, Franz, over there. Something is shining in the evening sun. Is it not beautiful?”
“…it is. If only lady Kyria could witness this with us…”
“Indeed, if only Mother was here…”
The gleaming thing is, in fact, lady Kyria’s grave.
Franz accompanies us all the way to the dungeon in a horse carriage. He says his goodbye as he prepares to return to the marquis castle.
“Then I wish you good fortune, milady. Miss Fleurety, please keep her safe.”
He looks at me with eyes full of trust.
Then I must prove myself worthy of his trust, too.
By the way, the horse carriage we used was the one I borrowed from the dorm mother. The horse that pulled it is now rampaging in the forest and devouring all the monsters it comes across, even with the carriage still attached to it. It must have been the monster blood I gave it.
This is great. Saves on fodder, too.
“Milady, it seems young master Yohanne had already entered the dungeon.”
At the dungeon entrance are corpses of what look like goblins, as well as the footprints of multiple people.
Expecting that we may have to stay awake all night, I had let milady take a nap. It was why we had arrived later in the evening, after Yohanne.
“W-Well then, let’s go.”
We hadn’t taken her leather armor with us on our homecoming trip — who would expect we’d need it? — so milady is now wearing a robe made from my threads. I have my usual maid uniform on, of course.
Our way has already been cleared, just as I planned. It won’t take much time for us to reach the depths.
Milady shouts, smacking a skeleton on the head with her staff. It collapses.
She has relatively more magic power than most others, but also worse control. It is why her spells either burn her targets to ashes or simply fizzle out — there is no in-between.
One of these days, I shall have to devise a way for her to use her magic effectively.
“Letty, I did it!”
“Beautiful work, milady.”
We have descended to the twentieth floor underground, yet we still haven’t encountered any particularly tough enemy. I was thinking that if we can’t find any good items then we could substitute with monster materials, but at this rate…
“Maybe going to the bottom floor would be faster.”
“Then let us hurry. Yohanne should already be deeper in.”
I had let Yohanne go first so that he would clear the way for us, yet I have also found monster corpses in some rather unexpected locations, in paths that the younger brother did not take. Did they split into two teams?
We are now at the thirtieth floor.
“Excuse me, milady.”
I pick milady up and start running. Bare moments later, rocks fall from the ceiling where we used to be.
I have noticed traps there. I have also not triggered them.
“Yes, milady, traps.”
I catch the sound of far-off running footsteps. As I expected, that was a human trap, one leveraging the dungeon’s own. I did think it was about time and indeed, they haven’t betrayed my expectations.
“Please continue to hold on, milady.”
“We’re running through.”
With milady holding onto me for dear life, I run deeper into the dungeon. She… jiggles… quite a bit.
I hop to the side to dodge a sudden arrow flying toward us from the front. Before the second could be let loose, I silence the men hiding in the shadows with Maid Kicks.
“Umm, Letty, what was that? It sounded like fruits being crushed…?”
“Something like that, milady. I think even their seeds are ruined now.”
The two men foaming at the mouth aren’t anyone I’ve seen at the castle. I wonder who they are? They don’t seem to be bandits.
I would have liked to interrogate them with my ‘truth serums’, but I don’t have the time at the moment. I continue running.
After that, we encounter a few more sporadic traps.
“Letty, there’s a boulder coming toward us!”
Hmm… it feels like we’re being led somewhere. The boulder chases us to a wide-open room without a floor, and we fall.
“Do not worry, milady.”
It’s less a pitfall and more like an atrium that connects two floors together. It has two doors. Both are closed.
After landing on my feet, I place milady down. She looks up in unease.
“This is also a trap.” I reply.
I turn to look at where the new voice came from. One of the doors open, and several people appear.
“Miss Akiru?! Why are you here?!”
“To judge your crimes, miss Sharon.”
Accompanying the lady Akiru is a gaggle of young maids, all armed and pointing their weapons at milady and me. They look fearful.
“You are accused of planning Yohanne’s assassination. How terrible, Sharon. I cannot believe you would do that to your own brother.”
“Wait, no! I would never do anything like that!”
“I have evidence provided by madam Gidel herself.”
Akiru takes out several sheets of paper, thrusting them to milady’s face.
“You have no excuses now, Sha—”
“Why did you not bring these to the town guards?” I interrupt, my head tilting in puzzlement. Milady shares the gesture.
Akiru stands in slack-jawed silence. It takes a while for her to respond.
“If you already have all the evidence, why not take it to the palace? Or even the local town guards?”
“…b-but…” Akiru stammers, her eyes darting to and fro. The young maids begin to chatter in anxiety. “T-this is supposed to be a judgement scene…”
Akiru lowers her gaze as her voice shrinks into a whisper, having lost all of its former fervor. Really, wasn’t she supposed to have come from Earth? Did she forget about the existence of police?
“May I have a look?” I say.
Akiru absentmindedly allows me to look at the so-called evidence. It’s a sales receipt of the purchase of a rather special kind of poison, and on it is milady’s signature.
“This is not milady’s handwriting.”
I suppose that with the power a marquis house has, they can make it work even with such a shoddy piece of ‘evidence’, but I would be surprised if it actually fools anyone.
“Miss Akiru, do not listen to her!”
The voice is of a man’s, and it comes from behind the group of maids who are currently confused by the unexpected development.
“Miss Akiru, that maid might as well be a demon with how easily she can lie to your face without blinking an eye. We haven’t given the evidence to the guards only because the madam wishes to grant lady Sharon a chance to redeem herself.”
“I-Is that so…?”
“Indeed. As long as we have the evidence, lady Sharon won’t be able to talk her way out of it. For the house of Michel, we will have her atone for her crimes here and now!”
“This is for young master Yohanne, lady Akiru! Everyone, ready your weapons!”
With an upward swing, my Orc Killer EX finds its target.
“Letty?!” Milady exclaims, shocked.
“It seems sir Dario is not being sound of mind. Is there a doctor around?”
Akiru and the maids furiously shake their heads. They look rather pale, for some reason.
As for Dario, despite his frothing bubbles and convulsions, he still lives, perhaps due to his armor. As I could not let milady’s eyes be tainted, I had been very careful with my strike. Still, I doubt he can continue to live as a man from tomorrow onward.
“…really, so useless.”
Upon hearing the woman’s voice echoing from above, Akiru and the maids look up, exclaiming in surprise mixed with relief.
Gidel is standing not at the door where the two of us fell from, but on another protruding platform. Accompanying the woman is an elderly maid and some armed men. She looks down, her gaze frosty.
“Good work, Akiru. We can finally make Sharon atone for her crimes now.”
Akiru stumble over her words. She stares at the ‘evidence’, her disarrayed thoughts apparent on her face.
“I had hoped that that butler and you working together would be able to deal with Sharon. How disappointing. A pity, too, I thought you could have made for a good daughter…”
Akiru’s face pales, while a fearful uncertainty spread through the young maids. The door opposite to the one Akiru’s group used slowly creaks open.
Somebody squeaks. The thing that entered slowly scans its gaze around, and it roars.
It is a humanoid monster nearly three meters tall, with the head of a bull and a pair of enormous horns.
Milady whispers, her voice quivering.
“This is one of the boss rooms on the lower floors. Apparently this room leads to a shortcut if you can defeat the minotaur, so why don’t you try? Oh, yes, which reminds me, Yohanne had taken the safe route. Do not fear for him.”
Gidel says, laughing in genuine mirth. Milady glares at her.
“Madam Gidel, what are your intentions?! You would even involve lady Akiru, one of his Highness Joel’s Partner candidates?!”
“Aah, truly regrettable. Akiru was simply unfortunate to have been entangled in your crimes, that was all.”
“It can’t be…” Milady whispers in abject disbelief, while Akiru slumps to the ground upon hearing Gidel’s words, her expression one of sheer despair.
The minotaur picks that exact moment to roar and charge toward Akiru.
I don’t plan on saving her. She’s probably immortal too, anyway.
What I didn’t expect, however, is for milady to shout a warning and jump toward Akiru in an attempt to save her.
Milady covers Akiru with her own body. Before the minotaur’s axe could reach its target, I smack the weapon away with my spiked club. I bring the two to safety.
“I-I’m fine, Letty.”
A trickle of blood drips from her forehead, likely from a piece of flying debris. Despite that, she still gives me a brave smile. Akiru shivers, her teeth chattering, and her gaze is fixed on milady.
“Miss Akiru… may I leave milady in your care?”
Akiru looks ready to cry. Out of guilt, perhaps. I look at her icily.
“If you harm her even a hair further…”
“I-I won’t! I swear I won’t!”
What a gaffe I’ve made, underestimating milady’s kindness.
So they really want to see me go all-out, then?
A/N: Our lady Sharon is an angel.