Afterward, Gran Wolff was tied up and later taken into custody by the Kingdom’s forces. As an Imperial Grandmaster, he had invaded the neighbouring country that his own had signed a treaty with only just before, intending to assault a pair of young children and running riot. But, by far his worst crime was kidnapping the Empress Alice Ragdoll, so unlike Rudolph, who had only committed crimes against the Kingdom, the decision was made to repatriate Gran Wolff to the Empire.
This time, if the Empire refused to punish such a blatant criminal, they would be seen by their neighbours as something of a lawless state. Knowing that would be the case, the nobles who had Albert’s ear counseled him to mete out some sort of punishment, such as loss of peerage or revoking of territory, so that Imperial prestige wouldn’t be too badly affected. But before the lands of the Wolff family could be confiscated, Philia moved first.
“The heinous criminal, Gran Wolff, has not only committed the crimes of acting in breach of our treaty with the Kingdom and kidnapping the Empress, but he also used a demonic sword to take the lives of Imperial citizens who were still awaiting trial for only petty crimes. We shouldn’t show a demon like this any leniency. On behalf of those Imperial ministers who are attempting to give this monster a slap on the wrist for his brutal and unforgivable crimes, I deeply and humbly apologize.”
After the news of Gran’s acts had turned into a major scandal both in the Empire and in nearby countries, Philia delivered such a speech and apologized to the people gathered.
If Gran got off with a lax punishment now, it would cause people to completely lose faith in the ability of the Imperial Knights to enforce the law, which would lead to an irreparable loss of Imperial prestige. It would be an incredibly foolish action for a ruler to take.
Of course, Philia knows this. Even if she wanted to weaken the Empire’s current power, she couldn’t put the citizens at risk by destroying public order. If people completely lost trust in the knights, anarchy would rule the streets.
“Therefore, I hereby announce the dissolution of the Order of Imperial Knights, and the establishment of a new form of public security!”
Instead, Philia intended to dismantle the knights on her own terms. It had strong ties to the aristocracy and government ministers, inevitably leaving it rife with corruption and bribery.
The common people aren’t stupid. There was already a level of distrust for those arrogant and pompous knights, who thought themselves above patrolling the poorer towns and villages of the Empire. Although she could have had Gran replaced as the head of the Imperial Knights by presenting evidence of his illicit relationship with the Empress at any time and put a reformer in charge, she instead saw fit to build a new organization that the people could truly trust.
An entirely new body called ‘police’. An organization headed by skilled soldiers and intelligence specialists that Philia and her supporters had handpicked from all over the country, men and women chosen on merit rather than the class system still pervasive in the Empire, an iron-clad force that would pursue justice above all and never turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.
After it was made clear that this new force would even take a hardline against wrongdoers of noble blood, the idea became very popular. Usually, aristocrats who committed crimes would usually receive meager punishments or get off completely due to the influence of their family, so for the common folk who were usually the victims of these miscarriages of justice, they were most pleased.
“Princess Philia! Do you have any idea what you have done!?”
“Because of your actions, the people have completely lost faith in us!”
Of course, the nobles that surrounded Albert didn’t quietly accept this. After realizing just how much influence they had lost when this new police force was received with widespread public acclaim, they attempted to harangue the seventeen-year-old princess, but she paid them no mind.
Because her support base was the people’s will, a force that outnumbered them many tens of thousands to one. Even if she had inflated the scandal that those nobles were doing their best to snuff out, by appearing sincerely in front of the people she had managed to use it for her own end.
Even more than that, the philanthropic activities that Philia had carried out in various parts of the Empire for quite some time had already made her popular amongst the commoners. To the commoners, who were unable to really participate in politics themselves, the idea that Philia was the true voice of the people compared to the rest of the self-interested Imperial Family and nobility was beginning to spread.
“If you wish to punish me, then by all means, do so. However, what will the public say? Do you truly want to see the second coming of the ‘White Haired Demon’?”
Unless you want a rebellion on your hands, then shut your mouth. The nature of her threat was very clear. If Philia, who had started to become a figure of hope for the commoners of the Empire, was suddenly executed or locked away, then the people’s anger would certainly boil over.
Even Albert and his supporters understood that much. Instead of going after Philia, who now seemed unassailable, those nobles who had been so humiliated by her decided to turn their anger against the cause of all this, Gran.
“This is all a conspiracy by Alice! I am just a victim, deceived by that villain!”
“What kind of victim are you!? You’re an obvious criminal who has committed all kinds of evil acts!”
“What’s more, how dare he slander the Empress that way! Shouldn’t we execute this miscreant immediately!?”
In a show trial where the verdict had been decided in advance, Gran’s desperate accusations hurled at Alice fell on deaf ears. Besides, by constantly making excuses instead of acknowledging the gravity of their crimes, it only made his position worse.
“Emperor Albert! My dear friend! Won’t you at least believe in me!?”
“Silence! Not only did you kidnap my wife, but you dare to utter such evil lies as well!? I’m ashamed that I ever thought of scum like you as my friend!!”
“Pray to the Goddess whilst you can, because I am going to end you myself!!”
Out of desperation, he turned to the old friend whose wife he had been sleeping with for years, but after hearing his beloved partner called a whore by the man who abducted her, Albert was furious.
Eventually, Gran was subjected to a public execution, the most humiliating punishment available for a nobleman to face. It was on a specially set up scaffold in the Imperial capital, in front of a huge crowd, that the Emperor himself split Gran’s stomach open, leaving him to writhe and struggle as he died of blood loss.
“And with that, may you suffer in the very lowest pits of hell!!”
Without ever realizing the truth, Albert sliced through the belly of the man he called his best friend without mercy.
The pain was as intense as if his skin were on fire, burning away his skin and muscle, as Gran’s intestines spilled through his fingers and he screamed in front of the crowd. Typically, aristocrats would be given the option to drink hemlock to avoid such an execution, having their suffering exposed to all like this was considered a true disgrace to the upper class.
Gran succumbed to hopeless despair and regret as he began to lose consciousness, never did he think his last moments would be like this, his blood seeping into the wooden boards of the scaffolding.
(Maybe… If I had another chance at life… I’d devote my life to the sword…)
Things may have turned out differently if he never had an affair and truly cared for his former fiancée. He might not have met such an unsightly end. In his final battle, perhaps his skill with the sword may not have been so sloppy. Perhaps, it might have even been possible to match Shirley.
But, what use is talking about that which never came to pass? Gran, who knew the depths of his foolishness in his own heart but would never admit it, still tried to find someone else to blame, as the blood in his veins ran dry.
With a crash, Albert violently kicked the desk in the room leant to him at the Earlgrey estate. By chance, a maid was passing by the door when she heard that sudden sound and jumped in fright, running back the way she came with a light pitter patter of footsteps, though Albert was far too incensed to notice such an unimportant thing now.
It’s no exaggeration to say that all the events that had happened throughout the spring and summer months had been one disaster after the other for the Empire. It was no longer possible to claim the white-haired twins as legitimate successors to the Imperial throne after the Empire’s defeat in the Duel Ordained by the Goddess.
His palace, his pride and joy, had also been demolished and when he had tried to raise taxes from the people he found himself struggling to pay for what he wanted for the first time in his life. And then, to compound matters, a man he once thought of as his friend has kidnapped Alice, illegally crossed into the territory of the Kingdom and apparently fought against the Adventurer’s Guild. It was a horrible situation for the Empire.
As reparation and compensation for breaching the terms of the treaty, the Empire had to give up all the funds that had been raised for the rebuilding of the Imperial Palace. What’s more, Philia, his main political opponent, had a new police force under her patronage that replaced the Order of Imperial Knights, increasing her own power with which to oppose him.
“She might be my little sister, but I can’t stand her at all!!”
It was Philia who had been working to obstruct his tax-raising efforts from the beginning, gaining influence amongst the commoners and local officials and truly gaining the support of the people. Even though Albert was supposed to be the one who was Emperor.
Whilst Albert was called the Fool Emperor by his subjects, Philia was seen as the Saviour Princess. If things kept going like this, his ambition to become the greatest ruler in history would be well and truly buried.
“And what’s worse, Alice is…!”
Although the various scratches and cuts she had received during her ordeal could be healed, there was nothing to be done for the hideous scarring almost like burn marks that ran all below her waist and arms, the places that had been merged with that disgusting monster Gran had become. After hearing about it, Albert laboured to do what he could for his beloved wife, but as he endeavoured to find some way to treat her scarring it felt less like something he took upon himself out of a sense of passionate love, rather something closer to duty.
There was no doubt that it had been growing harder and harder for Alice to maintain her looks, spending money as if it grew on trees on whatever beauty products she demanded. Now that Alice’s whole body had become unsightly, not just her face, did she still have value as a woman to him? Albert’s hypocritical side would say that she could stay by his side no matter what, but his true feelings had other ideas.
“W-Well… Whilst looking for a cure for Alice’s scars, there’s always Shirley. The succession is still a pressing issue, after all, so perhaps I should bring her back to the Empire to become my new w… My new mistress.”
Albert muttered, glossing over what he was about to say. But, when he saw the ugly scars on the body of his wife who had aged as one would have expected (or perhaps more so) for someone married to him for ten years, Shirley’s youthful and mysterious beauty was the first thing that came to his mind.
If asked, he would have said that his love for Alice remained unchanged and he wanted to believe that himself. But his thoughts unconsciously always flickered back to the image of himself marrying Shirley, with Sophie and Tio as part of the package.
“She was originally my fiancée and the twins are my daughters… Then, what’s wrong with us all becoming a family again? And what’s more, there was what the court magician saw in Gran’s memories…!”
There were a lot of obstacles in his way, but the flames of passion danced in Albert’s heart. Barely a few days after his wife suffered such greivous scarring, the Emperor’s head was filled with thoughts of bringing a more beautiful woman to his side, as he stared at that southern sky with a dark smile.
The situation in the parlour of the adventurer’s guild branch in that frontier town had grown tense.
“I will give you until the count of five. Finish your prayers to the Goddess by then…!”
“No matter how you slice it isn’t five seconds far too brief!?”
As soon as Canary finished telling Shirley the whole story about the incident this time, she slashed a blade straight at Canary’s head, the witch barely dodging it by a hair’s breadth.
“Is this truly any way to treat your faithful friend who rushed to save your daughters after receiving that message from Philia!? ‘Oh, thank you so much, Canary-sama! I pledge my loyalty to you for life!’, isn’t that the kind of thing you should be saying!?”
“Yes, I would be very grateful to you for helping my girls… If you hadn’t sat on the sidelines and watched them being attacked by Gran Wolff for who knows how long first!”
“T-There’s actually a good reason for thaaaaaaa!!!! C-Calm down!”
“No matter what reasons you have, how can I not be angry when you expose my daughters to danger like that…!”
The blade grazed the top of Canary’s scalp. The Demonic Sword chased the Golden Witch around the room for a while. It kept going on until Yumina yelled from behind the door that their squabbling could be heard throughout the entire guild, so Shirley put away her blade regrettably and sat back down opposite Canary.
“So… Is it true? That Sophie and Tio have a power?”
“Hmm~? Ah, yes, it is the truth. The very same as yourself, a power that manifests in the eyes.”
As Canary answered bluntly, Shirley felt like she was at her wit’s end. Since powers like that are so exceptionally rare amongst humans, it must be because of their mothers own unique circumstances that her daughters possessed them.
“‘Twas not like they had suddenly developed on the spot. Those two have been special since the day they were born.”
“…I don’t believe it. I couldn’t see their power at all, even with my ability? Canary, what exactly do you know?”
From the story that Shirley had just head, the twins had completely hoodwinked Gran time and time again in the forest. No normal girls their age could have pulled that off. Even though Shirley had very little trouble bringing him down, Gran was still a monster that shouldn’t be considered any less dangerous than a dragon.
“No great surprise that you couldn’t see it, laying dormant as it was. Even I was wholly unaware. Truth be told, I’ve seen that power once before, a long time ago…”
Shirley gave her a confused look. Just like the individual, these exceptional powers are supposed to be unique. Although it might have been well in the past, it’s hard to imagine that the power some person had back then was identical to what the twins possessed.
“The Empire’s Grandest Revolutionary, Luciferd… Perhaps you know him better as the White Haired Demon? This one and he were acquaintances at the time and it seems that your daughters possess the same power he once held. He was a semi-immortal with red and blue eyes, just like you.”
“The same as me…”
“The reason I became intrigued with you was due to how well your visage bore the likeness of my old acquaintance. Indeed, I thought that perhaps you were the one who had inherited his power. In fact, mayhap the power that now manifests in your daughters was originally to be yours? I haven’t ever heard of that exceptional power being split between two like this, however.”
That said, there’s a first time for everything. Since Shirley had awoken to her own abilities at the time she was pregnant, Canary’s theory is that these latent powers passed to the twins in the womb from their mother.
“So, in regards to that power. I felt the presence of a truly strong magical force as I watched the… pfft, ‘Grandmaster’, fight against those twins… Hold on, I’ll endeavour to assist how I can, alright? So put away that sword.”
“….So, what next?”
“Bah, this foolish parent… Well, fine. To describe their ability, it’s akin to clairvoyance magic? Something to that effect.”
A type of magic that relies on the position of the stars, then the drawing of portents from the world around the clairvoyant in order to predict the future. Although Shirley’s exceptional power let her see what would happen a few seconds into the future, Canary, by contrast, a witch who excelled at this magic, could see a full month ahead.
However, it is never a watertight prediction, with events tending to fluctuate wildly due to unseen changes in circumstance and fortune. Although looking a few seconds ahead might not be an issue, once you start to look further, perhaps even only by 10 seconds, things begin to get more and more blurred.
“There has never been such a thing as certain clairvoyance. Truly, at best, it’s a way to foresee little more than a likely possibility of things to come.”
Somehow, Canary seems to be enjoying herself.
“The power your daughters have is quite different. Those blue eyes see a myriad of future possibilities and the red can see the one that will come to pass with impeccable certainty. Overcoming all dearths in ability and strength, bending the very whims of fate. A power that sits upon a loftier peak than I have ever yet seen. Those twins of yours must have shared a spiritual connection ever since they were in your womb together. The instant their power sparked to life, so too did their eyes begin to sparkle.”
Shirley couldn’t help but frown. If what Canary said was true, when Sophie and Tio are together, they had the ability to alter the fates of all living things, perhaps even the course of history, a tremendous power not unlike a god’s. Even Shirley’s unique power was nothing compared to her daughters’.
If things were just left as they were, it wouldn’t take long before those powers began to manifest themselves in unpredictable ways. Honestly, Shirley herself wasn’t interested in the power her daughters held, what she was concerned about was what kind of people would try to interfere with her daughters’ lives if their power became known.
“This kind of ability… It’s difficult to believe that magic is the only thing fuelling it.”
“Well, depending on the scale of the future they’re trying to change, perhaps it might demand a piece of their soul?”
“!? Then, we have to seal that power straight awa――――!”
“Now, now. Although it is definitely queer, it is not the dire situation you believe it to be.”
Canary urged Shirley, who was about to rush out of the parlour with a panic stricken face, to sit back down.
“The power entwined within the left and right eyes are different. True, should that power be used by a single person it would exact a heavy toll, but that price is well placated now that it is split betwixt the two of them. Their greatest boons are those spritely little familiars of theirs, however.”
“Beryl and Rubeus?”
“Quite so. The two of them were once spirits created by Luciferd to ease a portion of the strain his power exacted on him. It seems that the last order he entrusted to them before he passed was to find whoever would next take on his exceptional power. In any case, all those who held that exceptional power has always seemed to get themselves wrapped up in the biggest periods of strife in their age, without fail.”
A massive crack suddenly split the parlour’s tea table. The white hair waved and swirled, a solid wall of red hot killing intent filled the room, slamming into Canary’s body.
“Well, should you not want to see your daughters caught up in such things, simply shield them away from it. So long as that power isn’t used to excess, whatever magic or even soul is lost will return in due time. If it’s merely for small matters of foresight, even ten times a day should be no matter.”
“……I’d do that even if you told me not to.”
“Fuu… Do everything within your power, Shirley. It remains the solemn duty of a parent to protect their children… Whether or not that power will change the fate of the world, I am sure you will show me.”
With a grin, Canary left the parlour just like that. A thousand years old… Shirley stared at her back as she left, seeing the witch as something far larger than her tiny frame would suggest. As she got up from the sofa herself, beginning to wonder what she should make for dinner tonight, she heard the shouting of a young woman from down the hallway.
“GRANDMA!! You ate all my sweets again, didn’t you!? They were from a limited time sale in the capital, only one hundred people got them!! I was really looking forward to them!!”
“Meeeyaaaahh!? C-C-C-Calm yourself, Yumina!! Even though I wanted to buy some myself, I wasn’t allowed!! Because of that fiendish secretary of mine who hounded me into working!! Besides, if such delicious temptations are presented towards me, I cannot go against the laws of nature and deny myself them… AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!?”
BANG. Rattle rattle rattle… As the black horn that was snapped off rolled down the hall and past the parlour door, Shirley let out a sigh. Canary was still just Canary after all.
The tension she felt before seemed to have melted away as her mind drifted to dinner and by chance, she happened to look out the window just in time to see Sophie and Tio walking down the street with their friends, those two spirit birds alongside them.
As the two birds grasped the back of their master’s dresses and lifted them up off the ground, their friends laughed and clapped with delight at the scene. Shirley’s eyes softened as she watched.
Just the other day, those two must have feared for their lives as they ran from a man turned monster. Yet, Sophie and Tio were already playing and having fun just like always, as if nothing had happened. Shirley couldn’t desire anything more than that.
Even without her being there, they had grown up to become so courageous. It just won’t do to be overprotective and coddling, no matter what fate had in store, she had to let them take a hold of their future themselves, as a parent it was her role to guide them.
As time goes by, they will grow and become strong enough to protect themselves. As a mother, she should be overjoyed to see her daughters grow like this, that’s what Shirley tries to tell herself.
“But to tell the truth… That makes me feel really lonely……….!!”
Yet, the feelings that ran through her heart were hardly that simple. As much as she wants to help her girls to become independent young women, such thoughts are truly unbearable for that silly doting mother. Still, if she really loved her children, she had to endure that pain.
“What kind of summer will it be this year, I wonder…?”
As the sun poured through the open window, Shirley turned her back on it and left the parlour, making her way towards the food stalls.
Soon, the school holidays would start as well. Going out to see the festival, helping with homework assignments, spending as much time as she could with her daughters, busy days were on the horizon. But, this summer was going to be much busier than she could have ever imagined.
Volume III, finished~. I also have a couple of things to talk about.
First, the good news. MotoMusu v1 sold way better than the publishers expected, since they had to do three reprints. I can only assume that was because all of you bought five copies each, so well done.
In less bright news, as you might have seen, I’m quite close to catching up on the raws. The question I have to ask now is do I keep going (at a somewhat slower pace) until I catch up, or do I wait until the author is close to completing volume IV so that I’m not leaving things for over a week on cliffhangers? Tell me what you think in the comments.
MotoMusu Volume IV: Summer Holidays, coming soon to a TL blog near you.
Despite the name, it’s anything but peaceful, as Shirley potentially meets her match (in more ways than one) in a country mentioned many times before, but we know precious little about.