The birdie’s tears – Part 5
As the match was declared over and the arena emptied, silence fell on the plains and the royal castle…
“Fuck it! Shiiit!”
Kiad’s room was the only exception.
He bashed the wall to vent the rage boiling in his stomach.
Defeat… that word was clinging at his mind like a parasite. He’d been unrivalled until then, but now… he had ultimately been defeated.
He was born the eldest son of the Fortesea and, unlike his younger brother, he had been blessed with the strongest magic… or so he had believed.
He had scouted the best wizards and greatly increased their abilities with the best magic tools he could provide them with. They should have been able to crush anything standing in their way, and yet… they had lost.
And to make things worse, he was defeated the moment he entered the arena to settle the score. The lowest human on the planet, some guy that couldn’t even use magic, had him in the palm of his hand from the start.
“No… I didn’t lose…!”
Even though Kiad had lost the match, his defeat was never officially declared. But even just trying to find any sort of justification for himself was pissing him off.
What he needed to do was sending that damn slave merchant straight to hell. And if he didn’t… he was afraid that something within him might break.
He tried to drive that feeling away and headed to the royal castle’s laboratory, when, at the end of the corridor, he saw a little girl walking towards him—her silver hair tied up into twintails.
“…Are you awake, Lord Kiad?”
The tone of her voice was as flat as ever.
“…Lize, I was looking for you. The magic tools you’ve created were so bad they made Boris and Castells lose. I want you to start working on better ones now, as they’re the main cause of all of—”
“Sorry, I cannot help you.”
“…What did you say?”
“I have been in the laboratory to destroy all the prototypes and law formulas I created. I even blocked the magic that allowed you to hear whatever I could.”
She lowered her gaze while facing the man.
“I will not help you in your experiments anymore.”
The man’s expression twisted unsightly at her words.
“YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE SAYING?!”
Smacked by his roar, her body jolted and froze.
“WHO PICKED YOU UP AND LET YOU STUDY WHEN YOUR FATHER DIED?! WHO’S THE ONE WHO WORKED HIS BUTT OFF TO GET YOU WHERE YOU ARE NOW AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?! WHO DO YOU THINK IS KEEPING YOUR SICK MOTHER ALIVE?!”
Squashed by his burst of rage and his mad gaze, Lise felt her eyes water, but she bit her lower lip to suppress her fear and firmly stared back at him.
“I am grateful for your kindness, Lord Kiad. Thanks to you and the Fortesea family, I became a holy warrior and earned my title. But…”
Trembling, she let out the feelings she had locked away for so long.
“I didn’t become who I am to do this kind of stuff! I’m glad I could help people with my magic tools! I’m proud I could save people like my father, who’s fallen in battle, from certain death!”
She was forced to warp her researches slowly: some of the law formulas she entwined were harmful to people, and yet she had to experiment them on human test subjects. Due to that, a constant sense of guilt tormented her and gnawed at her heart.
Despite being a child, she knew it very well—what she was doing was absolutely wrong… but she was forced to do it. Locking her heart away was her only way to keep it together—not to make her sanity crumble to pieces.
“I’ve had enough… I don’t want to hurt any more people with my work!”
Her jumpy voice was clear despite her shaky legs.
She had finally squeezed out of herself the words she most feared to say in front of Kiad.
“Is that all, Lise Crest?”
The low, heavy sound of his words was stained with murderous intent.
“My pet dog still bit me even while chained and with its tight collar on, huh?”
As rage started to blind him, he slowly closed their distance.
“You don’t get it at all… You can’t even dream to be free.”
His gaze seemed to look at some unnecessary piece of trash as he towered over her.
“LET ME BRAND ON YOUR BODY WHAT BITING ME AND THE FORTESEA ENTAILS!”
He charged his fist to vent all of his rage on Lise when a sash of light sprouted from the darkness and coiled around his arm. Many others bound his body until he found himself completely blocked, and then he snapped, unable to contain his rage anymore.
“I KEEP GETTING THWARTED EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME! I’M A FORTESEA, AND NOTHING CAN STOP ME FROM DOING THE FUCK I WAAANT!”
His lunatic scream roared in the hallway as his eyes became bloodshot.
Then, the clacking sound of approaching footsteps started to reverberate over his voice—a self-confident grin filled the calmly approaching man’s face.
“…Can I ask you not to lay your filthy hands on my best article?”
Hearing that voice, Kiad twisted his neck to watch behind him: there stood Elsa, whose Binding Magic was restraining him, and Takumi.
“Yes, it’s me. I came here to get my article and here I find you on the verge of beating it to death… I can’t allow it.”
“…Takumi, you never know when to speak appropriately, do you?”
Elsa commented almost shocked, and Kiad started to scream again.
“FUCKING FAIRSTADT! I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU’RE AN OVERLORD, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!”
“Neither will I forgive you, Kiad. I’ll let you know I was ordered to escort this slave merchant to his new article by Her Majesty.”
“STOP SPITTING OUT BULLSHIT! WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”
Takumi’s grin broadened when Kiad’s glare shifted from Elsa to Lise, who was still standing in front of him.
“Lise Crest, we’ve come to retrieve you as this slave merchant’s belonging.”
Takumi took a document out of his breast pocket and waved it on Kiad’s face.
“That brat asked me for a huge-ass sum of money a few days ago, but since she couldn’t pay it back entirely, I made her become my slave.”
“SPARE ME YOUR BULLSHIT!”
“This isn’t bullshit. She couldn’t pay me back for the super expensive ingredients we put in her apple pie, which would be around… like, a thousand holy silver coins.”
Takumi was obviously joking, but the document he was holding in his hand was absolutely authentic, and the name of Lise Crest was scrupulously written on it.
They must have found a way to keep in touch with her without him knowing, that’s why she holed herself up in the laboratory until today.
Still, the only contact she should’ve had with people was with the maids that brought her food and checked her body up to see if anything was off… which means that they could’ve used only one way.
“I-It can’t be… I crushed it, there was nothing—”
“That’s mean. Did you really crush my leader’s pie? She put her soul into it… although it was only a snack for Lise.”
Takumi gasped as he waved the document in front of him.
“Did you forget that Suzuran is a company of the slums? We’re the lowest craftiest scum around… and our way of doing really do us justice. We know a lot of ways to contraband stuff, and it’s very easy when we speak in coded language between comrades.”
Cooked sweets meant that they were going to smuggle something, the basket was the way they were going to perform it, putting the sweets in the basket meant that the contract was somewhere in there, and doing it for Lise meant that she was involved with the contract.
“Our former leader loved to come up with this kind of tricks. If you do the right things in the right order, the basket’s handle comes off and reveals that it’s empty inside.”
Vatel Famille came up with that.
If one didn’t wrinkle the thin paper in the basket and peeled it off slowly from the one beneath it, they’d see the memo showing how to activate the mechanism, then they’d find the hidden contract and message in the basket’s handle.
“That basket is like a printed list of instructions. There’s no point in shelving it.”
“How can someone understand how that works without explanations?! That’s uselessly risky!”
“Risky? What are you saying? I leave nothing to chance.”
Takumi said that while laughing from his nose.
“I knew Lize would understand it. I made sure she would do the right things, since I observed her personality, behavioral principles, the people around her and what she thinks about them.”
That’s why he had prepared the letter and the contract for her.
Lise had been enslaved due to the huge debt she had with Takumi: since she couldn’t pay him back with money, she had to pay him with her life.
“I… I CAN’T ACCEPT ANY OF THIS!”
“Who cares if you don’t, the law of this country allows me to enslave her.”
Takumi tapped on his temple.
“Holy text… law section, article twenty, line eighteen: ‘If a debtor cannot pay up their debt to their creditor, the debtor can be enslaved by the creditor, who will then own the debtor’s fortune and human rights.’ I’m legally enslaving Lise Crest.”
That law had almost been forgotten… but law was still law.
“If you try to prevent me from having what I rightfully own, you will be publicly exposed as a criminal. Then, as a criminal, the law would force you into slavery despite your being an overlord.”
Takumi’s cruel smile resembled that of a wild beast.
“It’s a shame that Lise has become a slave, but I already found someone who would pay a lot of money for her. I’m going to meet the buyer after I’m done with you.”
He didn’t specify the name of the buyer, but it was obvious who it was.
“Now… I’ll tell you as many times as you want—checkmate.”
That was the same word he told him at the buffet.
He had planned everything up to that moment.
“You’ve never been able to change anything in my plan. No matter how much you squirm, there’s nothing a worm like you can do.”
Takumi locked on Kiad’s eyes—a shade of fear was painting them.
“I’ve never even looked at you. Whenever someone tries to, they see a mere shadow of Fortesea. You are so insignificant that you’re not even worthy of anyone’s attention.”
As Takumi said that, Kiad’s eyes started to shake violently—those words were like knives slicing at his heart.
Then, Takumi took another document from his breast pocket. This time it was tied up with a thread.
“And yet, insignificant as you are, you’ve always been so pushy and pompous… that’s why I’ll make you fall to the perfect place for you.”
“The perfect place for me…?”
“You’re gonna fall in the most hideous and loathing place you can imagine.”
When he unfolded the document, Kiad goggled his eyes.
He grasped that the list of complex symbols and codes in front of him was a law formula, but it was the first time he saw that language. There wasn’t anything like that in Richtert… it could’ve even been a variation of some type of language.
“When I studied magic, law formulas were the thing that most interested me—I don’t have magic power within me, so I find magic and magic tools useless, but law formulas make use of other people’s magic power.”
With a smile plastered on his face, Takumi waved the paper in front of Kiad.
“Law formulas are very interesting… they can active so long as the used language and symbols make sense. They could work even with something that isn’t part of this world.”
That law formula was written with the language he had learned in his previous world, so it was something that shouldn’t have existed in their current world.
That’s why it might bring unexpected results.
“Kiad, tell me… what happens to a human when they get stripped of their magic power?”
Slowly, Takumi brought the paper closer to his target, who was shaking his head violently.
“That’s impossible! Humans can’t rule over magic!”
The next moment, his instinct shrilled to get away from there, but he couldn’t move.
“Fall to hell.”
Mouthing sharp words, Takumi pushed the document on Kiad’s chest, and the paper squirmed as it was alive, assaulting the man’s body.
“STOP IT! I’M PART OF THE VALIANT FORTESEA, THE STRONGEST—”
He felt like his inner self was getting teared to pieces by an intruder. His dignity, his pride, his power; everything that was part of him was getting destroyed.
Takumi looked at him coldly.
“…Is that so? I didn’t fight you, so I can’t tell you are.”
A few seconds later, the light bindings coiled around his body had vanished, and he was left staring at the air with empty eyes, shivering and clattering his teeth.
“Why… Why is my power… what I inherited from the Fortesea…”
He was powerless—his heart had been torn to pieces and his condition was now a living hell. Takumi, after observing him for a brief moment, lost any interest in him and faced Elsa.
“I’m done here. I’ll bring Lise to her buyer and leave the rest up to you.”
“Okay, no problem. I don’t think I’ll have anything to do with Kiad like that.”
Her expression stiffened as she glanced at the man who was hanging his head in a trance.
“Takumi… I trust you because we somewhat collaborate, but… tell me again, what are you? What are you aiming for?”
She squinted her green eyes ever so slightly.
“You siblings look alike in the most strange places…”
Remembering that not that long ago even Lux asked him the same thing, Takumi smiled happily.
“I only want to see how far my abilities can bring me. I’m aiming for… let’s say something big, like world peace or world domination.”
“Tch, I knew it. You’re the kind of guy who’d answer like that.”
“Thank you for understanding. Rest assured that I won’t do anything bad, anyway.”
“I’m not worried about that… you’re the ‘Soft-hearted slave merchant’, after all.”
He faced a shrugging Elsa with a bitter smile, then turned to approach Lise.
“Howdy~! You really tried your best there.”
“…Yes, I tried my best… and I have a favor to ask you.”
“A favor? What is it?”
“…My legs are shaking so much I cannot move.”
Reaching her limit, her legs caved in, and she composedly fell on her bottom.
“Jeez… I’ll piggyback you, get on.”
“Stop treating me like a child! No, I never said I was not getting on!”
With her cheeks flushing red, she climbed on Takumi’s back, who had bent over, then he started walking to the garden where the buyer was waiting.
For a short while they were silent as Takumi’s clacking footsteps resounded in the stone-paved corridors.
“Thank you, Takumi.”
Lise’s few words sounded like a distant whisper.
“I could find the courage to say it only thanks to you. That I have had enough. That I do not want my work to hurt people…”
“You said it because you wanted to. Even if you didn’t tell him a thing, I still would’ve brought you to our Queen.”
“Even so, you never turned your back to yourself like I did, and you successfully defeated strong magicians like Fortesea’s… if you did not show me that, I would have kept those words to myself alone.”
She talked slowly as she clung to his shoulders.
“I kept pretending not to see that what I was doing was hurting people… That is why I had to act the opposite of what I wanted.”
Her words were a firm declaration—I can’t forget about those I hurt with my actions, and I can’t forget about trying to find a justification about it.
She let out a soft yelp when he cocked his head to his side and hit her nose with the back of his head.
“I mean… children shouldn’t think about stuff that complex. Just face sincerely what you really want to do.”
“What I really want to do…?”
“Be glad of what you accomplished. People always see the bad part in everything, as if it’s the only part that leaves an impact… but you accomplished way more than that.”
He started to speak about her accomplishments with a warm laughter.
“The law formulas you invented can be used in a lot of different ways. The binding magic we’ve just seen is just one of them.”
“…Right. Lux asked me to create a law formula that helped guards to seize people without hurting them. It’s useful to arrest criminals or to quell riots.”
“You live in this part of the city so you probably don’t know it, but those magic tools are used quite a lot down in the slums. That place is a mess and there’s very poor public order, you know?”
Since the slums were filled with violence and criminals, the guards’ equipment was provided with defensive barriers and seizing magic tools just like Elsa’s. They were used frequently.
“With them, even a simple quarrel can end with people being unscathed, and there isn’t much risks for guards to face criminals, since they have their defensive barriers. Also, Elsa told me they can be used in many other ways.”
He took a brief pause before resuming his talk.
“Let’s take Binding Magic for example. When it rains very hard, the water flowing to the slums becomes very muddy and its current becomes fast and powerful like a rushing stream, so it isn’t rare for kids to get hit by a wave or something and fall into water, where they usually drown. Still, some times they’ve been saved thanks to those magic tools.”
Saving them has been very hard, but it’s been possible only thanks to Binding Magic.
“It’s even been used for rebuilding a destroyed church. Bringing logs of wood that high requires quite a lot of attention, but thanks to Binding Magic, they could speed up the process and provide again a shelter for those who’ve lost a place to sleep.”
As he spoke, he felt Lise trembling, but he pretended not to notice and kept talking.
“That’s the same for those defensive barriers. Before, when something caved in, people had to pulverize the rubble with magic, but that could hurt the survivors who were buried under them. Now the soldiers can just jump on people, saving them right away as the barrier activates. Yeah, those who decide to do that have balls of steel, but it’s all thanks to magic tools if they can do stuff like this. They’re all happy to have them.”
He could hear Lise trying to stifle her sobbing.
“I bet you thought only about the bad things you’ve done, but many other people are grateful to you, as they could save someone or be saved by someone with the tools you’ve created.”
Lise let out a soft lament as her tears started to stain Takumi’s overcoat.
“That’s why you shouldn’t deny everything you’ve done. Even though you blame yourself for what went wrong, you should be proud of your achievements.”
Unable to hold back anymore, she started to sob out loud.
“You did great by yourself so far.”
She pressed her face on his back as her little body trembled. Her tears streamed from her eyes as if to wash away her sense of guilt—a reaction fitting a child her age.
Takumi didn’t speak another word, and after buying a little time with a couple of detours, he headed to the garden where Eluria was waiting them.