In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 86
Yumina Erneas Belfast felt she had a privileged life. Not because she was a princess or born to high nobility, but because her father and mother were strong people that would protect her. She knew they were good people who only wanted to the best for everyone, she didn't need the Mystic Eyes of Intuition for that.
She felt sad sometimes that she was not born a man, that the Kingdom would not have spent her twelve years of life wondering about the security of the succession without a male heir. Many were the men who lusted after her body and her position, never caring to see the girl beneath.
But she could see them. All of them. Darkness in their hearts, but unafraid to approach her anyway.
They all thought that they were all so righteous. That they were never doing anything wrong.
Now her father the King, was lying down withered and dying and there was nothing she could do. She should be afraid for her future, but she would be happy to give everything just to see him alive again! Mystic Eyes, what? How useless! All she could ever see was that they were all surrounded by evil, she was useless at pointing out where that evil would strike next.
Yumina held back her tears as she clutched at her father's cold hand, even as her mother sobbed openly on the other side of the bed. That was her fault. It was because she was weak. It was because the royal family had this big obvious vulnerability in it whosoever married the Princess would become Royal Consort, if not King. Their child would inherit all Belfast.
Perhaps there were those who would blame her mother instead. Her father refused to put her aside and try again with another woman, this time maybe to achieve a male heir. In a land where polygamy was legal and even expected for nobles, the King was shockingly monogamous. Like the Duke, and like their father before them, they only took one wife.
Did no one remember why her grandfather, King Albert, deposed his own father? The backbiting, the intrigue, the false accusations and the murderous plots mistresses and concubines and legal wives all jockeying for position, courtiers all taking sides and putting their chosen puppets forward all that useless, useless, court drama that sapped the energy of the ruling class instead of driving it for the benefit of the country. Almost a generation of men were killed off twenty years ago resisting Regulus, but without the unity of her grandfather's reforms no one could have imagined Belfast surviving that onslaught.
One father, one mother; she enjoyed a life very similar to that experienced by the common people a happy family. And now these nobles have had enough, she was old enough, they were ready to tear open her innocence and make her play the game of thrones.
She was not ready. She was not ready!
She didn't care about the throne. She just wanted him to live. Laugh that booming laugh of his again. What was the worth of all the wealth and power in the world if it cost you the people you loved?!
The door opened, and the guards announced "The Duke of Ortlinde!"
Her uncle rushed into the room and was at his brother's side. She heard him inquire from her mother about the King's condition, and offer a comforting hug. This was the benefit of monogamy, Yumina noted, brothers that actually cared for each other instead of fighting to be first in the favor of their father.
And behind him, was a pink marshmallow.
Yumina blinked. "Sue?"
"Sue, can you do something?" the Duke asked.
"I I'll try."
Yumina remembered that Sue did have a [Light] affinity. But if even the Court Healer couldn't do anything, what could her cousin hope to achieve?
Sue approached the King and held her arms out. Though still clad in her habitual frilly pink dress, the little girl had the demeanor of a practiced doctor. Then she chanted:
"I repudiate Formality;
"Let me sink down to the formless golden sea
"The Golden Sea of Chaos
"Buried in the Flow of Time
"Where all Creation springs
"Hear my [Call]."
Sue opened her eyes, and her royal green eyes blazed gold. A strange beeping and grinding sound rang through the room. (1)
"I am the [Light] the carries the hopes of the world
"I am the [Light] that separates the firmament!
"Show me yet those that can be saved by my warmth!
The backs of Sue's palms glowed, and so did the King's body.
The little girl shivered. "It's poison. It's definitely poison."
Yumina sighed. Wasn't that particularly obvious already?
"We need to stop the spread of the poison!" Sue shouted.
"Oh [ Time ], flowing through the universe
"Marked by pain, witnessing virtue
"Mankind, stop and remember
"The reason why you exist on this world!
And then her father stopped breathing. Yumina felt his skin grow cold and hard under her touch.
"What did you do?! What do you do!!!" Yumina almost lunged for her pink-dressed cousin, but Sue collapsed backwards, limp onto her own father's arms.
Doctor Raul reached out to inspect the king. He failed to pull up on his wrist to take the pulse. "The King. is frozen? No. He is rigid but not dead."
"Uncle won't get any better," Sue whispered. "But at least he won't get any worse anymore. Father" she looked up at the Duke. "You know. There's only one person who could help him now. Only one person to do the impossible. Sorry I couldn't do more than just this."
"Yes. Thank you Sue, you did your best."
Yumina relaxed her face and bowed. "Thank you cousin. Please forgive me for thinking the worse of you"
Sue just grinned that happy grin of hers, her canine teeth poking out cutely. "It's fines! Don't ya worries Sir Zah will make it all right!"
The next time she entered that room, her father was hale and hearty again. Yumina didn't restrain herself and ran to hug him, shedding tears and her fears.
This was the first time seeing that person Sue was going on so much about. Surely he was a good person by how much her little cousin respected him so?
Yumina activated her Mystic Eyes of Intuition immediately.
No he was not.
In a way, that was almost comforting. No one could truly be a saint in this day and age.
And yet there was something fascinating there.
Then he stared back at her, unashamed and unafraid to be looking at the King's daughter. She could tell that there was no lust or ambition in his gaze. How odd. Yumina was confident in her own beauty, but she didn't imagine herself to be someone so unique. She was almost at marrying age, and as the future Queen she dealt with those gazes every day. Men saw first the Crown Princess and what that meant to anyone who could claim her body. Even if they would not be King, but a Prince Consort, their child would inherit the whole kingdom.
Even women held looks of calculation or flickers of dark jealousy. But this the first time she had seen someone be so completely unaffected.
"Imagine something like an egg," she reported to her father the King and uncle the Duke later on. "There is is hard opaque shell, very very dark, but very very solid, protecting all inside.
"And then there's this gray fluid that seems to change opacity, or darkening and lightening, advancing and retreating, around this bright core. Sometimes the gray deepens and pushes down on this core, almost like it wants to crush it," Yumina made a gesture opening her fingers out in a cage and lacing them together, "but doing that makes the core look like it's shining even brighter."
She then retreated her fingers "And then sometimes the light just leaks out so much lightening the fluid around it, turning the insides pale."
That, she said, is when she can tell he is being the most dishonest about something. It's the reverse for normal people.
She observed the perturbations in his soul as he lounged by the corner of the room watching her father play out the scenario he had crafted. The notion of war against Regulus didn't intimidate him. Did he really not care about the people who would die and suffer in war?
His true self didn't even flicker as Count Balza's punishment was declared, but it shone with both embarrassment and triumph as her father shouted for her nation to ROUSE against the TRUE THREAT.
ROUSE against REGULUS!
The bitter black of shame, the shining bright of empathy. Why?
And without the use of her Mystic Eyes, she could see a tall young man dressed in red. Her first thought, seeing him in that room yesterday, was that a beastkin with a duck's face had arrived. But what she thought was a black duck's bill was actually a thick black slate strapped in front of someone's eyes and secured by straps going around his ears and up over the crown of his head.
She could see a little spring-line attached to the back of his head, pulling taut to force his gaze to stay up proudly. If he allowed the weight of the thing in front of his face to dip, he would over time develop a spinal deformity and an unattractive turtle neck.
Yumina had the Mystic Eyes, but that didn't mean she relied on it exclusively to understand people. A Royal needed to be able to guess at people's standing, motives, and motivations at a glance. And so she could tell, this was someone that cared for himself but also too much what others could see about him. How egotistical, how attention-grabbing, and yet
To anyone with any discernment, it was obviously a way to deflect attention from something else.
Yumina was curious. If she rapped her fingernail on that hard outer shell, would it ripple inside?
Breakfast with Sir Zah Playa was an uncomfortable affair for many reasons. Her mother, the Queen, looked lost as to how to converse with someone her husband sought to flatter. Her father, the King, it was easy to see that he was putting up a front to hide his fear.
It was easy to see too that Sir Zah Playa was putting up a false front to hide /his/ fear, and treating the King amiably just like any other person was a way to deal with being uncomfortable with being praised. But surely it wouldn't be fair to treat saving someone's life as just a small act of charity? Wouldn't that be insulting the person you saved?
And then he started talking about chickens.
Yumina could see him come alive with enthusiasm. This was something that had meaning to him. And equating it to [Wind] magic made sense, for the wind could go anywhere and always sought to escape from any confinement. Finding the familiar, the taste of home among strangers, that should be comforting enough to let you keep going another day.
Yumina tilted her head to the side.
But why CHICKEN?
Her father began to talk to Sir Zah Playa about how she had [Wind] Magic too. Yumina was a fairly accomplished magic user herself, she knew enough to defend herself. But her Affinities were [Earth], [Wind], and [Dark].
Yumina blinked. No, seriously. Why CHICKENS? What sort of place obsessed about fried chicken that much? Did they perhaps have dietary restrictions against pigs and cattle? Chickens were easy to raise and produced lots of meat for comparatively little land, maybe?
As her father went on about magic teaching, she looked at their guest again. Sure, powerful magic was interesting, but she could tell that he wasn't really proud of that. He didn't enjoy being powerful as much as the simple joy of building a business.
A man like that didn't care about all the wealth and power and privilege of nobility, but merely what it can do to help.
A man like that would enjoy seeing a kingdom grow, its people safe and happy.
A man like that too afraid to give the truth of himself, yet aching to be understood.
A man like that wouldn't care if his wife's achievements eclipsed his own.
A man like that would never take from others anything they wouldn't give of their own free will. In giving, gain more. A merchant's heart wants every buyer to become wealthier and happier and return for repeat business.
A man like that does not see the world as a game where there can be only one winner. The more everybody plays, the more everybody wins.
A man like that there was no one else in this kingdom like that. They all wanted something from her, they all wanted to put her into a little box of their own making.
A man like that well, if she didn't dare to take him then someone else would!
Yumina slammed her palms onto the table and declared "Mother, Father! I have decided!"
Yumina Ernea Belfast tried to keep a brave face up. She was being hugely improper, but let her just be brazen for a little longer and it would look normal. Just looking at him made her feel warm inside, so there really was no question about it! She knew she could never expect someone like that to be teased and pursue her on his own. Though it may be beneath her dignity as a Princess, she had to take measures and seize control over her own future.
And then with the sound of shattering glass, a woman made of mist and light appeared at Zah Playa's side. She smiled widely, her long ponytail whipping in an unseen breeze.
/"How interesting ,"/ the spirit whispered. /"I've got to know. Who is this little princess? And what is it that makes her think I'd even allow this?"/
And then Yumina knew only terror.