Gidel was born as the first child to the count of Balla.
Theirs was not a particularly wealthy noble family. They had land, but their land had neither any dungeons nor industries of noteworthy value.
The Balla count wasn’t content with his lot. He made ventures into multiple lines of business only to end in failures after failures, and his debt to other noble houses grew and grew.
It was at that time that the Michel marquis of the previous generation decided to grant him a loan. In return, the marquis wanted Gidel to be the second wife for his heir, a young man who had just gotten engaged.
The Michel heir’s engagement was with a young woman who was close to the queen. While the lady had been adopted by a viscount, originally, she was born as nothing more than a simple daughter of a knight. Even if the couple themselves did not mind, it was still enough justification for the noble world to look down on them. So the Michel marquis had thought that by bringing Gidel, the daughter of a count, into their family, then they would be able to maintain their status. On the surface at least, if nothing else.
The fact of the matter was, having the eldest daughter of a count as a second wife wasn’t generally done. It meant that instead of being a union of equals, it was a declaration that the Balla house would be subservient to the Michel house.
Gidel’s pride as a noble was dealt a grievous blow.
Still, Gidel believed that if she could give birth to a child before the main wife could, she would gain more influence within the Michel house than her. But the Michel heir had consummated his long-awaited marriage with his sweetheart, and the two had had a child together before his second marriage with Gidel.
With the second blow to her pride — as a woman, this time — Gidel had the Balla house’s magus to make her some aphrodisiac. She used it to force the Michel heir into bed, despite the fact that they hadn’t yet entered wedlock.
As a result, their wedding was delayed, and she almost had her newly-born Yohanne taken away from her, but the Balla family had then brought the boy who carried the blood of Michel into their protection. They didn’t return him until the next year, after the Michel marquis passed away in a sudden accident.
Several years after, when the Michel heir was now the official head, tragedy struck once again as his main wife died due to a sudden illness. It was then that the current Michel marquis, a man now poor in spirit, officially took Gidel as his second wife.
Everything went smoothly. As convenient as they had been for the Ballas, the successive deaths had given rise to rumors among the nobles for a time, but in the end, for a noble caste of a country that had lasted for a thousand years, it wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen before.
But a single concern remained: Sharon, the child of the main wife. The girl must have been carrying a grudge against her stepmother and brother, considering how they had spurned her so.
In the noble world, the son generally inherited the house, but according to the law, the first child also had inheritance rights. In another noble family, an older sister who wouldn’t relinquish the house to her younger brother could be safely dealt with by marrying her into another house, but Gidel could no longer do that to Sharon when she was now a fiancee candidate to the second prince.
Then what should Gidel do? The solution was simple.
“Aah… finally. Finally…”
Gidel sighed as she looked down upon one of the boss rooms of the Agate Dungeon. Everything she had done was for this day.
To Gidel, the girl summoned from another world, Akiru, was nothing more than a convenient pawn.
She could gain some amount of fame if Yohanne could take Akiru as his wife, but she would also earn the ire of some other nobles. So she decided that the girl would become a victim of Sharon’s, and the two would die together in an accident. Yohanne would then gain sympathy from the other nobles as a boy who had lost his beloved.
Gidel truly thought that having Akiru as a daughter would be fine too, if that Dario hadn’t failed. Still, dealing with Sharon took precedence.
And if the maids attached to Akiru — innocent commoner girls — happened to die as well, public hatred would further concentrate into Sharon. The Michel house would gain even more sympathy, and their bad rumors would dissipate as well.
So it was very fortunate for Gidel that the monster that had appeared in the boss room was a minotaur — and not only that, its black horns marked it as a higher-ranked minotaur as well, one unique to this dungeon. Its bones had been transformed into magic iron through its consumption of minerals and ores.
Gidel did find it rather regrettable that she would lose the knowledge of the maid that Sharon had brought, the impudent girl who possessed bizarre skills. On the other hand, seeing her tears, her cries as she begged for life would be much, much more fun, Gidel thought.
She turned her eyes to the maid. The black-haired girl returned an unblinking stare.
Gidel looked at that silent stare, that unfeeling smile, those dark eyes, and an unsettling discomfort began to churn deep inside her chest, seeping through her as it grew and grew.
Upon having its axe deflected, the minotaur released a roar of fury. It charged at the maid.
As the screams of Sharon and Akiru echoed in the chamber, the minotaur once more swung its battleaxe at the black-haired maid to cleave her in half. But before the weapon could hit its target, the girl spoke, her voice quiet and lilting.
“…I call the Darkness…”
And all was instantly suffused in black, the darkness surging to cover even where Gidel was standing.
It took a moment for her to realize that it was her who had shouted. No voices answered. Not from the maids or the soldiers under her command, nor even Sharon or anyone else below. Even her sight extended no more than her immediate surroundings.
“Is anyone there?! Answer me!”
She shouted once more, in confusion and in fear, but she couldn’t even feel the presence of her servants. They were supposed to be right behind her.
Suddenly, in front of Gidel was the minotaur. Both its horns were broken, its whole body covered with blood, and it collapsed after a final cry of agony.
What had happened? What could have done something so horrible?
Gidel staggered several steps backwards, shaken by a sight so nightmarish she didn’t dare to even think of it. Her back hit something.
She turned in trepidation. She screamed.
Standing behind Gidel was her maid, a servant of the Balla house who had come with her. The maid’s face was deathly pale, her eyes were rolled up, her limbs hanging loose. Only her head jerked to turn toward Gidel, and inside her mouth…
…were crawling, squirming, arachnid legs.
Gidel’s face lost all colors. She tried to run, but a hand caught her legs.
The maid had served Gidel for a long time, but now, feeling cadaverous skin and ice-cold fingers on her own body, there wasn’t a single moment of hesitation before Gidel reflexively kicked at her.
And Gidel screamed hoarsely in fear as she witnessed the maid visibly shriveling, crumbling into dust.
The jewel on Gidel’s ring lost its colors and broke, the fragments evaporating into thin air. The woman vanished.
What Gidel used was a Ring of Teleportation, a magic item that could rarely be found in the lower levels of a dungeon. By speaking the keyword, the user would be transported to the location where they believed to be the safest place for them.
Each Ring cost 150 gold coins, and it worked only once. Still, it was a cheap price to pay if it could save one’s life.
“This place is…”
Gidel looked around and realized that she wasn’t at the Michel marquis’ house. She was at her parents’ home, in the territory of the Balla count.
“Gidel is here! Somebody, answer me!”
The sun had already set, yet it wasn’t so late that all the people of the mansion had gone to sleep.
Gidel saw light coming from several windows, but there was no sign anyone was here otherwise. She shivered, remembering her previous fear, and she ran through the mansion in a desperate attempt to forget her terror.
“Answer me, anyone! Father!”
She had already previously contacted her father, the Balla count. He should have been here today. It was supposed to be the day of Sharon’s disappearance, of the fall of the Michel house by the hands of the Ballas.
Had her father and retainers been impatient for the good news? Had they celebrated in advance and drunken themselves into sleep? In order for them to carry out the takeover at a moment’s notice, they had kept only the servants who knew of their plans at the mansion, so Gidel had expected that there would be fewer people than normal today.
But she didn’t expect this desolation.
“…what… what is this?”
Her realization came late due to the darkness. Only now did she noticed that here and there, in corners and on the ceiling of the hallway, there were masses of tangled spiderwebs.
The housekeeper would never have allowed this to happen.
Since when had the mansion deteriorated so? What had happened…?
She reached the ballroom. It was no longer the glorious chamber used for dinner parties that she remembered, but instead a dilapidated hall wreathed in darkness and enormous spiderwebs. She looked at the cocoons hung on the web, and there was one face she immediately recognized.
After noticing the Balla count, Gidel also realized familiar faces of her retainers in the other cocoons. They were hung upside-down, their faces pallid.
She wanted to scream, but her voice died in her throat, frozen by a coldness that seemed to seep into her bones.
Gidel stood paralyzed. Silently appearing from the darkness in front of her eyes was the black-haired maid. The girl was floating in the air.
She noticed that the girl wasn’t actually flying, but was keeping herself in the middle of the spiderweb. All the same, the realization brought the woman no comfort.
Why was she here? How was she here? Questions after questions flashed through Gidel’s mind, questions she couldn’t ask when her voice wasn’t cooperating. The black-haired maid’s lips tore to her ears in a dollish smile.
“I bid you farewell.”
The black-haired maid said, and the nightmare began.
The girl’s pinkish-white skin blackened and gained a tint of bronze. Her high-quality set of maid clothes turned frayed and ragged in a blink of an eye, as though the garment had been left to the mercy of the rain and wind for thousands of years.
Miasma surged from her to cover the whole ballroom, rotting the walls and the ceiling in seconds. Bursting out from her back were eight spindly black limbs that resembled the legs of spiders, each about ten meters in length.
Gidel screamed silently, blood trickling from her mouth.
In her research for ways to dispose of Sharon, Gidel had looked into curses and poisons. And at their roots, all curses had a connection to demons.
But demons were but myths. Fairy-tales for children. This world had no demons, and the Church also denied their existence. And yet according to the knowledge of some of the people who had been summoned through the ritual, many among them demihumans, demons did exist.
Demons. Rulers of fear. Enemies of gods. Existences with power equivalent to elemental spirits.
And among them, there existed a certain class of high-ranking demons with such might as to rival Arch Elementals, spirits so powerful they could shatter the earth and sunder the seas.
Legends had it that when they manifested themselves in the mortal world, they would take the form of a human clad in old and weathered noble clothing.
Gidel whispered and collapsed. The spider legs of the black-haired maid soundlessly carried her closer, and her lips slowly parted.
The sight of the innumerable, skittering things inside the maid’s mouth drove Gidel to a mad scream. The dark maw moved close to Gidel’s ear, and the maid whispered.
“I wonder if you can die…”
Here and there, hung across branches of green, spiderwebs glimmer with droplets of dew. What a wonderful morning.
Greetings, Fleurety here. I wish everyone a Nice Shot on this fine day.
At the castle, Yohanne hangs his head, whimpering in despair.
He has returned before us, and in his hands is a letter that has been delivered first thing in the morning by an express messenger.
Wooow, I just wonder what it could have been about.
On the ground next to him are some small agates, so it looks like he hasn’t been able to find anything good in the dungeon.
I take a peek at the letter. It says everyone of the Balla house has gone missing, and only Gidel was found at the scene, the woman gibbering mad. She has been apprehended by the guards.
How unfortunate. I wish she would recover someday.
Milady Sharon calls at him. Yohanne wipes his face with his sleeves. He picks up one of the fallen agates and glare at milady.
“This is all I could find… Mother and Father are gone now. I’ve lost. Now that I no longer have any backing, the country would never accept me as the next marquis with just these tiny pieces of rocks…”
There are quite a few inconveniences involved in inheriting a noble house, aren’t there?
“Yohanne… take these.”
Milady gives him two large horns.
“The horns of a magic-iron minotaur. Letty got it for me. If you need them to succeed the house, take them.”
Yohanne’s eyes open wide.
“…w-why?! Mother has always told me that you didn’t want to leave the house to me, that you considered me an eyesore…”
“No, Yohanne. The head of the family should be a man. You’ve shown me the courage to go into the dungeon yourself for miss Akiru. Your life has only just begun, Yohanne, stand tall and face it!”
With milady’s lecture, Yohanne instantly shoots to his feet, back ramrod straight.
“And besides… I never wanted us to fight.”
The dam breaks, and Yohanne starts bawling his eyes out. Milady gently holds his head to her chest… why do I see his ears turning bright red? Does he want me to tear them off?
Akiru says, moved by the heartwarming scene, her eyes wet. I gently place a hand on her shoulder from behind and give her a beaming smile.
“Well then, I think it’s time the two of us have a talk in the office.”
That is that, and this is this. I’ve already prepared the medicine. It won’t take long.
…I must say, why does everyone keep calling me a ‘demon’? Such slander.
The capital held the church to the Goddess of Time.
It was said that the Goddess held domain over the bonds between people and fateful encounters, and that She had brought prosperity to this country through the Oracles that She had granted to people, such as the queen of the first king and the saint.
In the church, a young man was praying in earnest. The solemn sight had invited many a passionate gaze and breathy sigh of infatuation, all coming from the younger sisters and women who had come to worship.
Anyone who was seeing him for the first time would never have thought that this handsome, blond-haired man was, in fact, none other than the Holy Knight, the one considered to be the most powerful person of the country.
His long eyelashes rippled. His eyes opened wide to reveal verdant-green orbs, and he stared at the statue of the Goddess.
“…there’s an Irregularity in this world…?”
A/N: Unbelievable. The maid does not actually know what she is.