Please Answer Me - Chapter 27
When Rashid and his party arrived, the door to the mansion opened. An elderly man with graying hair stepped out of the door.
As soon as he saw Rashid, he threw his arms around him. A smile spread across his wrinkled face.
“I’m glad to see you’re safe. I had just gotten word that you were back and was contemplating going to the castle.”
“I apologize for causing you to worry.”
A brief smile flashed across Rashid’s face.
“No need to apologize, I don’t deserve it. How grateful I am that you walked directly to this old man as soon as you arrived. So, how did things work out?”
“I made sure nothing happened to cause you concern.”
The old man, Calante, took Rashid’s hand and led him inside.
“Come on, come inside.”
Sitting down at the table, Rashid was offered a cup of hot tea. Rashid wasn’t much of a drinker by nature, and Calante was well aware of that.
“Krell returned first yesterday with a severed ligament.”
At that, Rashid swallowed his tea with a wry smile.
“How did Elder Perce react?”
“Extremely angry, as you might have expected. He can’t be sane when his only heir has lost the function of his leg. At first, he insisted that Riga had deliberately maimed his son, but now that the man who brought Krell to him says he witnessed the ritual himself, he can’t even argue anymore. Krell also revealed that he had requested the ritual first.”
Calante then turned to Rashid with a cautious question. “But why did you go to such lengths, haven’t you always avoided anything that would cause you direct trouble? I’ll be honest, I’m a little surprised you did that to his leg.”
Rashid’s unflagging fulfillment of his duties as Riga has quieted the forces against him, but Elder Perce and his son Krell, who were closer to the position of chieftain than anyone else, have not been able to hide their antipathy toward Rashid until now.
Nevertheless, so far Rashid had managed to keep Krell’s erratic behavior in check. The Elder Perce’s land is close to the Basque, if he were to change his mind, it could spell trouble.
“I’d rather you kill…”
“Killing him would have been cleaner and less messy,” said Rashid.
Calante nodded. “Yes, it would be, since he died in a fair ritual anyway, which even Elder Perce would have to approve of, but it’s a different matter if he’s still alive. There’s no telling what kind of malice he might develop in his heart if he sees his son suffer for the rest of his life.”
“That’s why I did it.”
“I thought about killing him, but then I changed my mind. I thought it would be more painful to make him unable to walk properly for the rest of his life.”
Rashid added, “And that time, Krell crossed the line.”
“Crossed the line?”
“By insulting my wife and trying to take her from me.”
For a moment, Calante looked dumbfounded.
“Your wife? When did you get married without my knowledge?”
“Three days ago.”
“No, you were in a hurry to prevent an alliance between the Basque and Croa tribes, so you got married in the middle of all that…”
Then Calante realized something and exclaimed in surprise. “You- you can’t be serious, don’t tell me your bride is…”
“You are right. She is the daughter of the Basque chieftain, a woman who was originally to be the bride of the Croa chieftain.”
In his confusion, Calante did some quick calculations in his head. It wasn’t a bad way to prevent an alliance through marriage, and to prevent interference from the Kingdom of Lysa, but he wondered about Rashid’s true intentions.
“Are you serious about the marriage?”
“Of course not. When the time is right, the bride will be returned to her family, and with her honor, you can pretend you don’t know until then, grandfather.”
He looked down into his tea and said coldly, “I have no intention of taking the daughter of the enemy who killed my parents as my real wife.”
Calante couldn’t help but think back to that bitter, brutal thing that had happened to Rashid’s mother, the former Rigaina, and his daughter.
And now the daughter of that enemy has become Rigaina and is in this land.
The old man’s pale purple eyes narrowed and trembled little by little. It had been a long time ago, but he still hadn’t forgotten in the slightest: why his daughter should have chosen such a death after all the hardships she’d gone through to have an heir, and who should be responsible for that and who should pay that debt.
“What happened to that thing I asked you to do the other day?”
The sudden question snapped Calante back to reality.
“From what I hear, the place is off-limits to even Lysa’s royal family. I’ve sent someone to see if there are any priests in the temple who can be bribed. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”
Soon after, Calante asked cautiously, “Can’t you tell me now what’s going on, and why you’re so interested in the affairs of the Kingdom of Lysa, and even the temple?”
The other day, Rashid had sought out someone who could provide him with inside information about the temple within the royal palace of Lysa, but he had been forced to leave for Basque in a hurry and had left the task to Calante.
Rashid stroked his fingers over the smooth surface of the teacup. After a moment, a low voice came from him.
“Actually, the last time I was in the capital city of Terra, I heard an interesting story.”
“What do you mean, an interesting story?”
“I was looking for a way to directly deliver goods to the royal palace, and I was introduced to a man who now runs a business in Terra, and he told me that a long time ago he used to work as a guard at the royal temple. But then he got drunk and said some strange things.”
“Strange things? Like what?”
“He said he saw something when he was at the palace.”
“What did he see?”
“He said there was a hunt inside the palace about ten years ago.”
“Inside the palace, not in the hunting grounds? What was hunted?”
Rashid shook his head slightly. “I can’t be sure, it was all gibberish from a drunken man, first he said they shot a bird, then he said they shot a man, and he kept changing his story.”
“So wasn’t it just the ramblings of a drunk, and you believed him?”
“I thought it was just the ramblings of a drunk at the time and didn’t pay much attention, but…”
Rashid set his teacup down with a clink.
“I suddenly remembered that it was ten years ago that the last king of Lysa died, and if I remember correctly, a strange rumor made its way here for a while.”
Calante quickly remembered what it was. “You mean the rumor that the king was actually murdered?”
It was a very sudden death. Since the healthy king without any illness died overnight, rumors spread to other lands that he had been murdered. And the subsequent funeral further fueled the rumors.
“Yes, it is customary for a king to be seen by the public for a short time before his body is laid to rest, but it was said that at the last funeral, that procedure was omitted. The king’s cause of death was said to be a fall. Why would the body of someone who simply fell from a horse be so tightly concealed?”
“I remember another rumor that went along with that. In fact, it was said that the king had been attacked and killed by a monster…”
Rashid nodded. “I always thought that rumor was bizarre. I didn’t understand what kind of monster could have killed the king, since there couldn’t possibly have been a monster in the Kingdom of Lysa. But then I heard about it: a bird had been hunted in the palace around the same time as the king’s death.”
“So you think the bird was connected to the monster that killed the king?”
“If the rumors are all true, I suppose you could make that connection.”
“It’s certainly an interesting story…”
Calante rubbed his beard and muttered to himself, “But why a bird? Not some other beast.”
Birds are very special animals in the Kingdom of Lysa, as a bird with golden feathers is associated with the origin myth of the royalty of Lysa.
According to mythology, a long time ago, the heavenly god Elheim came down from heaven and married a human woman. At that time, a half-human half-animal being was born between Elheim and a human woman, and he was said to be the beginning of the Lysa royal family.
“You are thinking of Ataraxia.”
Its original name is Maiastra, and if translated into Ardennese, it is Ataraxia.
At Rashid’s words, Calante affirmed lightly.
“Yes, since it’s a bird, I can’t help but think of Ataraxia, though of course it can’t be real. The last recorded sighting of an Ataraxia was a few hundred years ago. Besides, if it were a real Ataraxia, it would have protected the royal family of Lysa, so why would it harm them?”
There was a time when the appearance of an Ataraxia was proof of a king. Said to possess celestial beauty, a noble light, and a voice that resonated with the soul, the legendary being was a symbol of royalty.
Though many years had passed, and Ataraxia had long since ceased to appear in person, the authority of Lysa’s royalty was still strong, for they wielded power comparable to that of Ataraxia itself.
“Why do you want to know more about it? By any chance, are you also curious about the power of Lysa’s royal family?”
It’s a secret that many want to know. Why do monsters not appear only in the Kingdom of Lysa? And what is the source of the magic that can turn ordinary stone into something harder than steel?
“I am not interested in that. All I want is to find out what it is they’re trying to take from us.”