Chapter 3: Blueness of Dragoon Cavalier
For now, Tohru thought it best to feign an astonished expression and tone of voice.
“This place is…?”
Acting wasn’t one of Tohru’s specialties, but he could at least handle this. Tohru’s group were mere passerby cornered by Feyra while trying to escape the forest, and Dominica had rescued them from a precarious situation—or at least, that’s what Tohru wanted her to believe.
“Surprised? Well, when you’re used to it, it’s of no consequence.” She turned to him, showing him a bright smile. She seemed to have bought into his improvisation.
“Troublesome as it is, I do have a duty to that town.”
There was a solitary mansion in front of them.
For a countess’s mansion, there wasn’t really much to it…the scale was considerably smaller than usual. During the long period of wars, the majority of count’s estates were fortified to withstand combat. Actually, it was more like the town itself was just an extension of the estate, and the townspeople just happened to be sandwiched in the space between their walls.
But Dominica Scoda’s estate was different.
There were no outer or inner walls; not even a moat. It was completely and recklessly defenseless; it really was nothing more than a building built in the middle of a secluded forest.
But thinking about it…maybe there was no need for defense. The forest itself was basically its “walls” and “moat.” Tohru knew from his experience with the orthrus that if anyone were to tread carelessly in this forest, like a half-cocked infantry setup, they would surely be annihilated. The very fact that this was the stomping ground of a dragoon cavalier probably also contributed to the fact that other Feyra didn’t dare go near. That in itself was like an invisible layer of protection.
Difficult to get in and out of, huh. That means I really need to consider our method of escape.
Tohru continued to think, looking around at the surrounding forest, when—
“Nii-sama,” Akari whispered. He looked to where Akari was pointing, and his eyes narrowed.
The form of Dominica ahead of them was wavering.
The silver-armored figure, enveloped in a blue-white magical light, slowly began to crumble. Outlines became hazy, almost like they were melting into the environment, and her upper body began to morph. Once it was done, her attire had transformed into a simple set of flaxen clothing.
So that’s…the magic of a dragoon…
He had heard about it before, but this was his first time witnessing it for himself.
“I don’t have any subordinates living with me. It’s rather quaint, so for that I apologize.”
Opening the door to the foyer, Dominica invited them in, but then she stopped, regarding them with furrowed brows when she saw Chaika’s eyes, which were as big as saucers, and Tohru’s surprised expression that he deliberately left unconcealed.
“Something the matter?”
“It’s just…a bit of a shock, is all,” Tohru spoke up for the whole party.
“Well, the location aside, this shouldn’t be too unusual a mansion…”
“No, not that…”
“Transformation, surprising,” Chaika chimed in.
At long last, she seemed to finally realize.
“Hm? Ah, that, right.” She nodded like she understood. “Yes, forgive me, I wasn’t thinking. I completely forgot how that looks.”
To her, that change of clothes just now was probably the most inconsequential of actions. Far from being proud of it, it was likely as second-nature to her as taking off her coat when she entered her home.
“So sorry to shock you like that. Normally, it’s just me living here, so…I tend to forget how using my magic appears to other people.” She smiled wryly.
The atmosphere in the mansion itself was chilly; and dead silent, too: there was no sign of anyone else being in it. If you didn’t know any better, you could easily mistake the building for being abandoned. It appeared she was telling the truth…she really was the only one living here, no servants to speak of.
“No, I’m grateful that you rescued me…and even went as far as to shelter me in your own home.” Tohru faked a subservient demeanor.
Yet inside, his mind was geared towards battle. Now, how should we attack?
This Dominica might possess one of the remains, which was to say there was a possibility that Tohru’s group would end up fighting her in order to take them from her. But for a dragoon cavalier equipped with such overwhelmingly impregnable defense, a surprise attack was the most viable tactic. An all-out attack before she had a chance to take out her claws—with that, they might be able to get a jump on their opponent. In that case, it would be most preferable for her to have not noticed their presence at all.
Yet they had already been seen, so their methods of surprise attack at this juncture were severely limited.
Perhaps she has some kind of weak point?
There were many different kinds of ways to take the enemy by surprise. There was waiting for an opportunity for an opponent to show a blind spot, and attacking a psychological weak point wasn’t out of the question either. In this case, it might be possible that they could cozy up to her now and then assassinate her in her sleep.
For a saboteur, there was no such thing as “dirty” or “unfair.” If it was for the sake of the mission, they would gladly discard their pride. That was their strength.
As he was investigating the possible options, he felt a tug at his sleeve. It was Chaika.
“Lucky. Good night’s sleep,” she said, looking positively delighted. But Tohru gave her a frown just slight enough that Dominica wouldn’t notice, and whispered in the simple-minded girl’s ear.
“…What do you think you’re doing?”
“How you can be so nonchalantly overjoyed? Don’t you remember your objective, Chaika Trabant?” Tohru asked her, trying his utmost to keep his volume down so that Dominica wouldn’t catch on.
“I’m talking about the possibility that that dragoon cavalier has one of the pieces of the remains! You do understand that in this situation our chances of taking her by surprise have been ruined, right? It’s like we’re smack dab in the middle of enemy territory!”
“…Ah.” Chaika struck her open left palm with her right fist with a ‘pon’ sound and nodded.
“Remember. Of course, remember. Forget, no way.”
“You completely forgot, didn’t you.”
Even as he was saying it he couldn’t believe it.
Of course, for a while now they had been operating on an extremely strict schedule and hadn’t had time to get a proper night’s sleep in an actual room, so it wasn’t like Tohru didn’t understand Chaika’s elation at the prospect of being able to sleep soundly for one night. Out of the towns they had been to, the one time they had managed to secure lodgings, they had spotted Gillette’s crew and had to hightail it out of there.
“Tohru said. Negotations, possible.”
“…Ah.” Tohru let out an idiotic grunt.
Yes, indeed. He had previously mentioned to Chaika they didn’t necessarily need to take the remains by force.
Truthfully, ever since he had witnessed Dominica chasing away the orthrus without even unsheathing her sword, Tohru, in very Tohru-like fashion, had probably unconsciously become overtaken with thoughts of how he was to take down the strong opponent in front of him. As a rule, saboteurs weren’t supposed to be choosy about their methods to achieve their goals, nor was it good for them to confine themselves to one line of thinking. In that respect, it seemed Tohru still had a ways to go.
“‘You completely forgot, didn’t you.’”
Chaika cleverly parroted Tohru’s own words back at him.
“Oh, so you’re completely fluent at times like these, huh!?”
“Ouch, ouch, abuse, prohibited!” Chaika yelped as Tohru’s fists ground into the temples of her forehead.
“Indeed, Nii-sama,” Akari cut in. “The only one allowed to abuse you or be abused by you is me.”
“Now what are you on about?”
“Oh, just talking about how you’re tossing aside your sister to engage in skinship with a total stranger,” she said without a hint of emotion. She certainly seemed indignant, and yet since she was a girl whose emotions never came to the forefront, or rather, even if they did they were very slight, it was hard to tell. “Talk about the height of disgrace. My pride as your younger sister has been gravely wounded. I demand an apology, as well as compensation.”
“Your idea of pride’s a complete mystery. Wait, what do you mean by ‘apology and compensation’?”
“Well, for starters you could whisper ‘Don’t be stupid, you’re the only one for me, Akari’ in my ear, and then there’d be passionate touching, accompanied by ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’; thumps and bumps.”
Such a bold-faced, serious statement, and yet when she said it in that boring monotone as if she was reading off a script, it was just unsettling.
“Neither one of those things is an apology or compensation, you know.” Tohru glared at his sister-by-obligation through half-lidded eyes.
Just then, Dominica turned to face them—
“By the way, how are you all related?” she asked.
Tohru’s group exchanged glances.
“You don’t seem like merchants…well, no merchants would come this far into the forest anyway.”
Come to think of it, since this encounter with Dominica had been so sudden, they hadn’t had time to come up with a “setting.” Well, actually on the way here Tohru had thought up several scenarios, but he hadn’t had the opportunity to relay any of them to Chaika or Akari.
What to do?
They had come to a forest that the locals considered dangerous enough to not set foot in. Just that point alone was abnormal. Excuses like “Well, we were just passing by” or “We got lost” probably wouldn’t cut it. As for them being armed, it wasn’t too unusual to bring weapons into a remote region for defensive purposes, so even if she caught sight of those he could probably talk his way out of it—
It was Akari that answered the question.
Though she clearly caught sight of Tohru’s surprised expression, she returned it with a stony averting of her eyes and continued.
“Well, I can tell that much.”
Earlier when they hadn’t been trying to conceal their voices, Akari had called Tohru “Nii-sama” plain and simple, so of course.
Then Akari said,
“We are actually blood-related siblings, and yet we’ve become hopelessly entangled in a forbidden love.”
An off-the-wall statement, yet she announced it grandly.
Tohru’s face blanched, but Akari seemed to pay it no mind—she just continued on in her monotone script-read voice.
“But though there was no way our parents and the rest of our family would accept something so illicit, no one could extinguish the flames of our burning love. The flames had spread too far. They crackle, they burn.”
The words seemed to flow from her mouth like a waterfall, and yet she remained as expressive as a stone.
This tale of forbidden love had even gotten Chaika staring wide-eyed at her; however she continued on unaffected.
“Though we knew we would be eternally joined together in death eventually, deep down we realized the better option. We decided to elope from that place, hand in hand, and so in order to dissuade our family from pursuing us, we deliberately came to this dangerous forest.”
Dominica stopped walking. She didn’t just look over her shoulder at them; she turned her entire body around to face them fully. Her eyes narrowed, and Tohru felt as if she was seeing straight through them.
You idiot, what’s with that ridiculous bullshit out of nowhere!? Tohru mouthed to Akari with the slightest lip movement he could muster.
It has persuasive power, she mouthed back. She looked proud, of all things. There’s absolutely nothing strange about a pair of siblings eloping in the throes of forbidden love to come to this forest on a forced march.
It’s completely strange! And how are you able to come up with this shit off the top of your head, anyway?
This is actually all taken from an ever-evolving draft of my ongoing work, “Passion.”
When did you start writing that!?
Or rather, Tohru had never known Akari to have such a hobby.
I’ve already got up to 30 volumes in the final draft stage.
That long!? No, never mind that! She’s definitely going to find the scenario suspicious!
Even under normal circumstances it was going to be next to impossible to get the jump on her, and now with this, she would be on guard for sure. Things had gone from bad to worse for such a pointless reason. Just as he was thinking of some way to backpedal, some way to explain to her that his sister was delusional—
“…I see. That’s how it is, huh?”
Then…Dominica gave a big nod, as if she had been deeply moved.
“…Uh, what?” Tohru froze. His eyes widened despite himself.
But Dominica continued to nod over and over again, saying, “It must have been hard for you two…” She sounded earnest.
“You may rest easy. I won’t be so callous as to blow the whistle on your love. It is what it is.”
Against all expectations, it seemed that Dominica had completely bought into Akari’s nonsense. She hadn’t even doubted it for a second; in fact, she spoke reassuringly, almost encouraging.
“Until you’ve gotten rid of your pursuers, feel free to think of this as your own home.”
“Um…th-thank you…very much.” Tohru thought it best to bow his head here.
Although he couldn’t think of a more undesirable outcome, there was no longer any other option but to go along with Akari’s fantasies.
“But, if that’s the case…” Dominica’s gaze shot over to the surprised Chaika, as if to imply one part of the story just didn’t add up. “Who is this girl, then?”
Giving Dominica an ambiguous smile, he gave Akari a nudge with his elbow.
What about Chaika? What’s her story?
Indeed. The problem was Chaika.
The story of two siblings having eloped in the name of love, abandoning their friends, family, and hometown in the process, had worked, but sticking with this scenario of course meant that Chaika was now unaccounted for, or rather, her existence in this setting was unnatural. Tohru really doubted that a cover-up like “actually, she’s another one of my sisters” would fly here.
Hmm. That is a problem. Akari made a face. My story is only a chronicle of the “oohs” and “aahs” between brother and sister. It does not allow for the inclusion of any extraneous supporting characters.
Sounds like the worst work ever written, then.
Once Tohru was done mouthing his reply to Akari…he turned to Dominica once more and spoke.
“We humbly ask for your consideration here. This girl has also been chased away from her hometown.”
Rather than making up some huge tale, he determined that divulging her actual circumstances was the best option here.
In other words, the truth, but not the whole truth.
”Our paths fatefully aligned, and we ended up traveling together.”
Dominica glanced over at Chaika, as well as the coffin which the girl so dutifully carried around, and nodded.
“Everyone has their circumstances…and there are also circumstances that people aren’t comfortable with divulging to complete strangers.”
“I am relieved that you understand.” Tohru bowed his head.
Well, without knowing any details, the sight of “a girl walking around carrying a coffin” just wasn’t normal, no matter how you look at it. It seemed that Dominica had gone ahead and filled in the blanks with some complex, hesitant-to-announce-publicly circumstances of her own surmising. For better or worse, hearing Akari’s earlier delusional novel setting had probably left plenty to the imagination.
Regardless, it seemed it had now become a situation where they had to continue acting out “The Tale of The Siblings’ Forbidden Love (Plus 1 Extra)”.
Akari looked proud for some reason.
What is it?
This was an inevitable conclusion.
Tohru felt supremely dissatisfied at not being able to shout at her at full volume.