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Dolls

Chapter 41 – The one who watches over the hands of fate

 

There’s no way that soft dad of mine could have tried killing someone. He’s definitely being framed.

Altirea’s original world also had something similar to this happen, after all… Though it happened many years later at that timeline, and the accusation was related to a connection with a different country… For some reason, I think this discrepancy is very important… but why? I don’t get it. I just have this feeling, but I don’t understand where it is coming from, it feels as if I’m trying to solve a math problem with a misguided approach.

(Was this also done by that rotten sage?

(We should talk this over with Kajero and the Wandering Earl for now. Nothing will get done if we just trouble ourselves over this.) Weiss suggested.

(I guess… I… I’m sorry, I couldn’t even think of doing such a basic thing, I…) I apologized to him.

(Don’t worry. It can’t be helped that you are unable to think calmly about things when your family is involved.) Weiss replied.

(… Thank you.) I said.

However, it is no good for the doll’s leader to be this unreliable. I need to get myself together.

… It’s hard.

I went to the window and held ‘Cactus’ tightly… At the very least, let me hug you to soothe my heart a bit, please…

… Huh? (Cactus… Could you be hungry?) I asked it.

Of course, he didn’t answer, but… I don’t know, something about him seemed strange… It was a weird feeling, but it sent me shivers somehow.

(Alty, you okay? Dolls can’t get hungry, you know?) Weiss told me.

He is right… I must be imagining things.

***

The people that reunited in the room to discuss the matter of the assassination attempt that my father was accused of were: me, Kajero, Cactus, Weiss, the Wandering Earl, Figuz and Phillka.

I wanted Walf to be here too, but he was feeling troubled about being unable to contribute much in the last battles, so he decided to focus fully on training and ended up being unavailable for our meeting.

I was a bit worried about having Phillka and the Earl here, but Kajero thought it would be better to have the perspective of outsiders, since they might catch something that we might miss.

I understood his point, but I’d rather have Feria instead of Phillka here in that case…

(Weiss, Christophe du Vergennes or Wandering Earl, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintances. I’m Phillka Louivas, an alchemist.

(I may not have lived an eternal amount of time like you two, but I can assure you that my feelings of wishing the best for Altirea will lose to no one’s.) Phillka made a very weird introduction.

He also called me ‘Altirea’ instead of ‘Sister’… I guess he might have concluded that it was a bit too much to refer to me as family.

(You bark way too loudly for such a newborn puppy. I’ll have you know that Alty is my protegee.) Weiss said while moving around in his scabbard.

(Why don’t you try ‘chilling’ a bit, Weiss? It’s always a wonderful thing to have more people pledging allegiance to the princess.) The Earl said with an amused smile, (I welcome you to the lady’s side, Phillka Louivas.)

(You’re way too carefree, that’s why you ended up becoming a self-proclaimed earl.

(Hey, Phillka, if you end up saying nonsense, I’ll smash you, got it?

(Also, what’s wrong with you, Kajero? Why bring an outsider like him to this secret meeting!?) Weiss asked.

(Because Sage Asklasua is most likely involved in this case. If we work with that assumption, it’s quite possible that he already took measures against us.

(In that case, it’s possible that not only our moves are limited, but also our information network.

(To overcome this, we need outside help, hence why I called Phillka over.) Kajero explained.

It was basically what he had told me before, but it felt like the choice was a bit biased… Since the time they stayed ‘together’, Kajero and Phillka seem to have gotten a lot closer to one another, and often times end up discussing advanced alchemy in a way that totally loses me… It makes me feel a bit lonely in all honesty.

(In any case, that’s enough for introductions, so I’ll start by listing out what we currently know, alright?) Kajero looked around to see if anyone rose an objection, but nobody did, so he continued, (First of all, Solute Wisp was called back to the Empire under the pretext of an urgent matter related to the emperor’s unforeseen circumstances.

(We have already confirmed that the emperor has fallen ill, but what was the exact urgent matter?) Kajero asked Figuz.

(The aristocrats were meeting to decide who would be the next emperor… However, I believe anything would have been fine for as long as Solute was held back at the empire.

(In fact, the meeting was delayed numerous times due to various trivial matters, such as the emperor’s grandson being slightly unwell.) Figuz explained.

(Must have been because of the interference of that rotten sage.) Weiss commented. His tone was quite angry. He’d probably be gritting his teeth right now if he had any.

(I agree with Weiss there. Figuz, could you re-investigate the situation to see if you find anything linking to the sage?) Kajero asked.

(Hold on, Kajero, you’re asking way too much out of him. That damned sage has Philosopher Stones available to himself, and also has some abilities that can directly counter spirits.

(As annoying as that might be, it’s probably better if we don’t go after it directly, but instead request for the help of the Adventurer’s Guild.) Surprisingly, it was Weiss who raised the objection.

I think he might be right on that though. Even though the sage was supposedly put to sleep after our encounter, we have no way of being sure that he is actually incapacitated… Not to mention how he might have put countermeasures in place even if he himself isn’t directly involved anymore.

(… That’s a fair point. Let’s discuss this idea later then. So next…) Kajero also agreed with Weiss’ thoughts.

But before he was able to continue talking, the Wandering Earl raised his hand and said, (If you’ll excuse me, I also have some interesting information to share.

(During my time in the knight academy, I actually heard about a pale-faced researcher that has been going in and out of numerous noble mansions for the past two years.

(His name is Sukasua, but it’s probably a fake name. He’s most likely…)

(The wise me knows it. He’s definitely Sage Asklasua.)

(The genius me knows it. He’s definitely Sage Asklasua.)

Both Weiss and Phillka said this at the same time… Though everyone here probably thought that this conclusion was kinda obvious and that you definitely did not need to be wise or a genius to reach it.

(Hey, don’t copy me!) Weiss exclaimed.

(I just put my thoughts into words. Weren’t you the one doing the copying?) Phillka replied.

Everyone understood that it was the sage, there was no copying here… And yet, those two, the sword without eyes, and the genius with unstable glasses, were definitely glaring at each other… It was quite the surreal sight.

(How lovely it is to see people match so well in their first meeting. I’m sure that those two must have been connected by fate.) I wasn’t sure if the Earl was joking or being serious, but I found myself agreeing to his remark, (In any case, let’s not mind those two and continue our conversation.

(Basically, it is quite likely that it was due to the sage’s interference that the princess’ father was called and forced to stay at the empire… It is natural to assume that the charge of assassination against His Majesty is false and that this is all the Sage’s fault.)

… Something about the Earl’s words stung.

It was… ‘Natural’ to ‘assume’ it? Does he mean that I’m rushing to conclusions? That my wish of father being innocent is clouding my judgement?

I understand that I’m far from being calm right now, but…

(Princess, it’s really hard for me to say it, but…) Figuz uttered those words while looking downwards. Even Weiss and Phillka sensed the mood and stopped their banter… What is it that is hard to say? (We hardly have any clue about what your father was doing in the time he stayed at the Empire’s capital.)

Kajero seemed to be dumbfounded by this statement, (Figuz, why were there no ninjas accompanying Solute?) his words were sharp. It seemed like Kajero was really angry at Figuz right now, as if he was blaming Figuz for the current situation… Or rather, he is blaming Figuz for it.

(I apologize. I understand that this is just an excuse for my own incompetence, but I was acting under direct orders from Cactus.

(He said he’d be escorting Solute directly, so there would be no need for any ninja doll to help him, and that I shouldn’t report to you unless an emergency occurred.) Figuz explained.

… But that makes no sense. Cactus has been on this house all the time, and is in my arms at this very moment.

But then… Cactus started vibrating violently. I was surprised by it and ended up letting him go.

He bounced on the ground. Once, twice, and then… Gone. Cactus disappeared in a small smoke cloud, in the same way that a ninja would.

(Wha…?) Even Kajero seemed to be in disbelief at this sudden development.

On the other hand… (Alright, I, the wisest person here, have understood the situation) Weiss proudly declared that, (This fake was elaborate enough to the point that not even Kajero could detect it. There is only one being that could possibly do something like this… Truly, what a complicated turn of events…)

(Weiss, don’t just brag, explain things properly) Kajero sighed as he said that.

(I’m getting there. Don’t be too impatient.

(The spirit inside this cactus doll was most likely a god who was above even the great me. Humans knew him as ‘The one who watches over the hands of fate’.) Weiss explained.

(I’ve heard that name before.) Phillka commented.

Unsurprising. There are many useful hints for alchemy in old folkloric tales, so he must have found something related to this name there.

(This god is the same one that gave ‘Sacrifice Rings’ to heroes of old myths, isn’t it?) Phillka asked.

(Indeed. He used to give items with his power to humans. He directly supported humans like that… You could call him the opposite of that Rotten Sage.

(Though after we were lowered to the form of spirits, I have heard of no more interference by this old god… However, if Alty’s dad is with him, then we can’t rule out the possibility that Solute was actually planning on carrying out the assassination.

(Of course, we can’t be sure of it, but there’s no doubt that something big is going on regardless.) Weiss replied.

Those words… It was hard to take them in. I did not want to believe them.

However, I also remembered some words that my father uttered long ago…

‘Greedy aristocrats who control a puppet emperor.

‘The Stable dynasty already reached its limit. Just like how it happened a thousand years ago, it’s only a matter of time before the ruling dynasty is changed again.

‘It might not even take ten years for that to happen. Considering how messy things became at the time of the old rebellion, I think it would be much better for you to focus on Doll Magic instead of on General Magic.’

Could those words… Not be talking about his expectations for the future, but instead be an advance notice to let me prepare?

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