Two people walked down the bustling street of the royal capital.
One was a beautiful woman.
She had a fair complexion, and her long, silver hair was bundled on her head and ran down her back, nearly reaching her waist.
She was considerably tall, but the man next to her was equal in stature, his body muscular and well-built.
With red hair and black eyes, he had a well-balanced face, but there wasn’t a shred of the young nobleman-esque naivety in his demeanor; only the soldierly strength befitting of a warrior showed on his countenance. In his eyes dwelled a sharp gleam, giving off an air akin to a bird of prey.
The woman walking next to him smiled.
“How’s the royal capital after all these years, Lucard?”
In response to the woman’s mocking tone, the man—the leader of Darkness, Lucard—glared sharply at her.
“Can you not call me by that name here, Faltima?.”
“Ufufufu. Don’t worry, no one’s listening.”
This was the main street of the royal capital. It had already been crowded to begin with, but the advent of the Kingdom Festival attracted even more people. They were all hurriedly going to and fro amidst the jovial hustle and bustle; the cacophony of noise would most likely drown their conversation out.
The woman continued speaking.
“If you’re so worried, why don’t you put on your usual mask? No one would realize who you are, you know?”
“You know I’d get treated like some weirdo and immediately get dragged off by the guards for questioning…”
The mask that Lucard wore at the Sanctuary of Darkness wasn’t to his taste.
It was one of the ritual tools bestowed to him as the Son of Darkness. He put it on at the sanctuary to set an example for the others, but by no means did he want to wear it outside—or more precisely, Lucard was self-aware enough to know he would be arrested if he strolled around with it on.
“I’m joking, I’m joking. Ahahahaha!”
“You needn’t worry. As long as you don’t come across an acquaintance face-to-face, you’ll be fine with that ring on.”
Lucard was wearing a ring on his right index finger, and it was filled with mana.
Lucard’s black hair was now red due to the effect of the ring. It could also obstruct the voice perception of others, which obscured how his voice sounded. Even if someone who knew the old Lucard were to hear his voice, it was unlikely that they would instantly connect the dots.
“…I suppose so.”
Despite answering like so, Lucard had a thought.
…My old acquaintances might not even recognize me, even if I didn’t have this ring on…
Lucard touched his face.
He wore an unfeeling expression, devoid of any emotions. He knew that only his sharp gaze remained, with neither kindness nor warmth showing any trace of ever existing.
He was once cheerful and everybody’s center of attention.
Those who knew him from back then would surely be unable to even imagine the face he was making.
Next to him, Faltima opened her mouth again.
“But I wonder. Is it really alright for our gracious leader to personally infiltrate the capital?”
After saying that, she continued like so:
“This is a trap, you know.”
Lucard and co’s aim was the Crest of Darkness, located in the royal capital.
The very treasure that was stashed deep in the academy would now be put on public display for all to see during the Kingdom Festival.
And then, Royal Court Magician Carlyle would be going out on a trip right after.
It was way too good to be true.
“On top of that, there was that over-the-top announcement… Even a baby would catch on.”
“You’re fully aware, yet you say you want to dive head-first into it?”
“…We have no choice but to dive head-first.”
The Crest of Darkness.
To Lucard and Darkness, it was an item of utmost importance.
Lucard couldn’t afford to ignore this once-in-a-lifetime chance to obtain it—even if he understood that his opponent deliberately set this up.
Lucard recalled Carlyle’s face. He was a year older than Carlyle, his senior during his academy days. Although they didn’t really talk much, Lucard knew of Carlyle’s talent.
He imagined Carlyle’s well-shaped face form an impish smile.
—I’ve prepared the bait you all so desire. Feast upon it to your heart’s content.
That genius showily surrounded said bait with pits of fire and deadly snakes, all the while mocking him.
Lucard heard of the rumors that Carlyle was a despicable man, but—
He really is despicable.
“Well, he’s brave, I’ll give him that.”
Faltima made an evil chuckle.
“Hidden traps are always the most obvious.”
If the opponent knows about the trap, then use it to intimidate them instead.
Show it off for the world to see and give the opponent no other option but to walk into it.
Pressing a blade against Lucard’s throat, Carlyle posed a question to them:
—Do you have the courage to take the plunge?
That Royal Court Magician’s hidden bad-side stood out like a sore thumb.
“He went out of his way to invite us. We mustn’t simply disregard his good will. We’ll charge in head-on and take what’s ours—that’s all there is to it.”
“How strong-willed of you. But don’t you realize?”
Faltima curved her delicate lips into a smile and continued.
“You’re playing right into the opponent’s hands through and through, you know?”
“I’m well-aware. I’ll rise to his provocation and smash his scheme to bits.”
To accomplish that, Darkness’ most powerful asset—Lucard, the leader—went to the capital. He had the Cursed Sword Dynesleif when push came to shove, too. All he had to do was push through using brute force.
Faltima continued speaking.
“We don’t have much choice but to take the bait, but… Does it really have to be you? Are we really that short on hands?”
“That much is true, yes.”
Lucard recalled the subordinates that died so far.
“Losing the Crest Master was a tough blow.”
Lucard had received reports stating that they were on the verge of winning the battle at Glicia Lake. He never would have guessed that it would’ve ended with the Crest Master’s death.
“Hermit was super shell-shocked.”
Faltima laughed, likely remembering how he acted at the time.
“Hermit” referred to the elderly man that was always with Lucard.
“T-T-T-… That’s impossible! I heard from the Crest Master’s mouth that he had the upper-hand!”
Faltima mimicked what Hermit said.
She sounded surprisingly similar to the real thing.
“I thought Gramps was gonna dislocate his back. I was real shocked, too.”
Faltima laughed and continued.
“But I wonder who it could’ve been. They somehow managed to break through that Crest Master’s Absolute Defense. That isn’t a stunt your average person could pull off.”
“…A white arrow magician…”
“I heard it from Hermit. There was some magician that shot abnormally powerful white arrows—that’s what the Crest Master said, apparently.”
It was possible that the Crest Master bit off more than he could chew with that magician and got the tables turned on him.
The lizardmen might have some sort of info on his identity, but as of now, Lake Glicia was under heavy surveillance by the kingdom; he probably wouldn’t be able to ask them so easily.
“Faltima, what kind of spell comes to mind when you hear white arrow?”
Ranked as a Four, Faltima had over 400 spells in her repertoire. She placed her finger on her lips and fell into thought.
“…Magic Arrow, I suppose…”
“Magic Arrow, huh.”
Lucard, who used to attend the academy a while back, thought the same. However—
“It’s hard to think something like that could kill the Crest Master.”
“Agreed… Besides that, I suppose it could be Original Magic. Then again, anything’s possible when it comes to that.”
Faltima tilted her head to the side.
“…A magician that’s capable of killing that sturdy Crest Master without allowing a spare second to escape… Honestly speaking, I’d rather not run into that guy.”
“I feel the same.”
However, Lucard had a hunch that they would end up meeting.
The fates and motives of many were on a collision course in the coming future—there was no way a magician powerful enough to kill the Crest Master would end up being a no-show.
Who could it possibly be?
…It doesn’t matter who it may be. My only job is to cut down those who get in my way.
Cold and unfeeling, that was all Lucard thought.
Today’s chap. Bit late today, I’ll try and get out next chap later today but if I don’t make it I’ll just post it early tomorrow like last time. See you guys then. EDIT: Forgot to delete a line, mb. Did some other touch ups.