I’ve been scowling at the book a little under two hours now, vertical lines carved into my brows, and a pounding headache from overworking my brain and eyes.
I stretched and rolled my head around to loosen the stiffness in my shoulders.
I was massaging the furrows between my brows when the back of my chair–which happened to be my father, spoke.
“Could you understand it?”
He was so quiet, I had forgotten he was there. Man, my ability to react was awesome.
“In truth, only a little.”
“Tell me.” He said it without so much as a glance at me, his face turned away.
I thought about it as I replied, “The peace we know of, we owe in no small part to the sacrifices of our forebears.”
“I don’t care for your opinion.”
I paused. “Is that so.”
He was quick to cut me short when I had put so much thought into my words.
I seethed, but did not argue. I had to admit, even to myself I sounded like a school girl writing an opinion essay.
“I understand there is a possibility the Dark Lord’s powers were dependent on his hosts.”
Over the course of countless fierce battles I believe they were eventually able to fabricate a stronger seal, but until that happened it must have been living hell. It took him a mere five years to come back to life, or so the story goes.
It seemed, however, with every instance the Dark Lord revived he was never imbued with the same strength of power.
“In the nightmare era where half the continent turned to scorched earth, his host was a renowned wizard. Tracing the humans who became his hosts from the previous generation to the ones before even that, I was lead to wonder if perhaps the Dark Lord amplified their magical strength.”
Father closed the book in his hands and turned to look at me.
“Magic was necessary to oppose the Dark Lord, but taking anyone with strong magical abilities near him was a risk–a dangerous gamble.”
I looked down solemnly, silent.
They held powers capable of opposing the Dark Lord, but because of that they were turned on the world.
There was something I wasn’t seeing.
What was it? It was important. I had a strong feeling I was forgetting something.
I was deeply lost in thought when my father said, “Well, then,” and I suddenly felt attacked by suffocation.
“Uguhh?!” I shrieked.
“As I said earlier, I’m off to bed.”
“E-even so, please don’t grab me by the back of my neck!”
With the candlestick in one hand and the scruff of my neck in the other, my father left the room.
The moment we were outside, I was dropped.
I questioned the way he grabbed his young daughter by the neck like a kitten even though she begged him not to. At least show some hesitation!
I glared at him reproachfully, but he was unconcerned.
I was pissed, but snapping here would prove extremely immature.
“Thank you for sparing time for me. Please excuse me.”
I bowed my head and left.
Just wait, Father. I’ll definitely get back at you, with interest.
I was guilty of keeping him waiting long, but not an inch of slack was shown in his posture. He stood alert and commanding, his form and the austere light in his green eyes as he kept unceasing vigilance reminded me that yes, come to think of it, he was actually a man of influence.
But in the next second, his firm expression dissolved and his eyes crinkled gently as he happily addressed me with lips curved, fierce features softened.
It was easy to see his joy.
Why was he such a faithful dog?
I flinched away from his enthusiasm.
For a moment I worried how I should respond, but I walked on brusquely, no change in expression.
“I have returned.”
He only said one word, but it made me question what he was so happy about.
The difference between the two was that I couldn’t see Klaus as cute. Anything but that.
Hey, who was it that said ‘tsundere’?
As I walked back to my own rooms with my flower boy of a dog–who happened to be my guard knight–I thought back to the Dark Lord’s description.
I didn’t want to put off as many of my worries as I could until the next day. I wanted to unravel the puzzle by the end of the day.
The biggest piece of information I’ve gained was the fact that the Dark Lord amplified the magical strength of his hosts.
It wasn’t definite, but the possibility was quite large.
“Princess Rosemarie, are you not cold?”
No known figure existed for how much the Dark Lord amplified, but if that number was a hundredfold, for example, a host with a power of one then became a hundred, and a hundred became ten thousand.
When it came to the people who were turned into hosts, there must have been a great difference depending on whether they were a fighter or a wizard.
“Once we have returned, would you like me to prepare you a cup of warm tea?”
“No, thank you. I’m just heading straight to bed.”
If that was true, letting any wizard near the Dark Lord was probably be a risk.
If they had strong magic strength, then to a strong degree, the moment they turned into hosts their potential for damage increased.
“Catching a cold will be tough on you. Please do not strain yourself, I implore you to instruct me.”
Among the Dark Ones, there were some types with tough shells and other types with coats of fur, and many situations where swordsmen and archer units were ineffective. So if you took the Dark Lord’s loyal subjects and his own defensive powers into consideration, a wizard was indispensable in a subjugation party.
“It is my pleasure to be of use to you, Princess Rosemarie. Please, let me know if you desire anything.”
I gave up. I couldn’t ignore him.
I was trying to think, but the constant yapping in my ears were too damn annoying. Are you a stupid dog? Is that what you are?!
“I’m trying to think. I want to you be quiet.” I looked over my shoulder and gave him a cold glare.
He was silent for a long time before he said, “Yes, m’lady,” and hung his head downheartedly.
For some reason, I lost my composure when I saw him so dejected.
My being cold to Klaus was nothing new. In fact, I don’t remember being nice to him at all.
To think of it now, I’m quite heartless, aren’t I?
No, well, I did have something of a reason. Klaus triggered unnecessary flags on his own, and he’s a pervert. Even though he’ll eventually become the Priestess’s guard, I don’t think he should be so fixated on me. And he’s a pervert. It was hard to keep him on a leash because he’s quite the belligerent pervert. He’s a pervert, you see. A pervert.
Right. Keeping him from getting any closer than necessary also served as self-defense.
Contrary to the fresh flower boy looks he gave off, Klaus came with some serious handling instructions on the labels.
But let’s face the music and admit the truth.
The reason I adopted a cool attitude with Klaus was because I am, in a sense, taking advantage of him. No matter what I did, he smiled; and that was a distorted form of trust.
“Klaus,” I said after some hesitation.
He carefully peeped a look at me.
He really was a dog. The very image of an abandoned one. I could almost imagine him sniffing at the ground pitifully, asking, Don’t you need me?
He was probably lonely. Lately I’ve been sticking close to Sir Leonhard because I ask for his company. And even though Klaus may be my personal guard, I was relying exclusively on someone else.
Of course, there was a justifiable reason for that and I had no intention of apologizing.
But this time, I was at fault.
He only worried for me, and I treated his kindness with disdain.
“I’m sorry, Klaus. Could I have that cup of tea after all?”
He made a sound of surprise.
“I’d like you to make it, not the maids.”
Eyes rounded, Klaus choked down a breath before he managed to say in the likeness of a server, “My pleasure!”
His earlier despondency seemed a lie when he smiled with his entire face.
I smiled wryly to myself, quietly releasing breath of relief.
I was glad to see him cheered up.
“I will make an absolutely delicious pot of tea for Your Highness,” he declared with fresh determination.
“Yes,” I answered with a smile pasted on my face after a few hard seconds had passed. “I look forward to it.”
I hope he missed how I unintentionally stumbled over my words, and the sudden dread in my eyes. I couldn’t help it, because the punishment I just inflicted on myself will begin soon.
I only leaked it once before, but Klaus was devastatingly disastrous at all work of the domestic type.
There were many reasons for this. For example, he had clumsy fingers. His personality was not the type to heed fine details. Most importantly, he lacked common sense.
Please don’t say common sense and the like aren’t necessary in housework, it’s pivotal.
When you’re cooking and think there isn’t enough of a certain flavor, you adjust it by adding seasonings. Klaus killed the taste of his ingredients by adding no more than a few drops of his secret ingredients. Of course, I meant that in the bad way.
Once he made me tea and I wanted to spit it out. As a princess I had to resist the urge, but my body had instantly rejected the flavor. I wasn’t wrong to question whether I had been served poison from its unpleasantness.
But why was it gooey? Why was it bittersweet??
I wondered if he had added jam like they did with Russian tea, but he denied it. He said he hadn’t particularly added anything else. Quite the contrary, I remembered with fear.
Then why is the tea thick, you! I silently snapped. Are you some sort of alchemist, able to create something from nothing?
Suddenly, something niggled at the back of my mind, and I inadvertently stopped moving.
“Princess Rosemarie?” Klaus said in a mystified voice.
I ignored him to focus on my thoughts.
To create something from nothing went against reason. It was impossible.
It’s not like I was trying to be critical, but I felt like I had just discovered the answer to worries I had dragged along with me from the king’s own chambers.
Right. That was it. It went against reason.
If you multiplied one with ten thousand it became ten thousand, but anything you multiplied with zero was zero. No matter how great the Dark Lord’s powers were, someone who had none would not be augmented.
For example, even if the Dark Lord amplified ten billion times over, if his host had no magic strength then it meant nothing.
A sound of dismay fell from my lips.
My derived answer was very simple. Therefore, it was cruel.
In the game, Michael von Diebold became the Dark Lord’s host.
He possessed magic.