Side Story: Setting the Stage

“Welcome back, Claira.”

With a weak and unsteady gait, Claira passed through the outer gate and walked towards the mansion. As a voice called out to her from behind, Claira’s shoulders trembled exaggeratedly.

In a hurry, Claira turned around. Leaning against the wall near the gate, waiting for her return, I easily curled the corner of my lips into a grin.

“Ah, Lord Sora…”

“Oh my, your complexion looks terrible. Are you alright?”

Upon hearing this, Claira’s already pale face grew even paler. Fear and suspicion flickered alternately in her crimson eyes.

I grinned at Claira once again.

――Although my words seemed to suggest that I saw through everything, in reality, I was only half-guessing.

To be precise, I knew that suspicious individuals had infiltrated Ishka. After the previous Jijinbou incident, the eyes of the Dragnaut Duke were focused on the border between Adoastera and Canaria, and a network of information from the slave traders’ union spread throughout Ishka.

Professional spies might have evaded such surveillance, but the warriors from Demon Island are not so versatile. They are warriors, not spies.

Thus, I could roughly track their movements.

The problem was that I didn’t know when they would make contact with Claira.

I said they were not spies, but if I kept an eye on them in the city, someone would notice. If they became cautious, it would complicate my plans.

Thus, I deliberately ignored them. The only one I had to watch out for was Claira. If they contacted her, her behavior would change.

Of course, this posed the risk of escape, but it would be difficult for Claira to leave through the city gate unnoticed given her appearance. Even if she managed to pass the city gate, I could catch up to her before she reached Demon Island if I pursued her with all my might.

I was thinking like that while waiting for Claira to come back.

And the result was Claira in front of me, pale faced. Yeah, you’re showing it too much on your face, Claira Berch. I didn’t even need to doubt it; I was convinced she had made contact with Demon Island.

Well, one way or another, Claira is a member of the Berch family, a part of the golden generation that has been expected to excel by those around her. “In a sense, she is an elite, making it difficult for her to remain calm in a situation like this, being held hostage.

Now, let me repeat the conditions I presented to Gozu and Klimt.

『First, I will send Gozu and Klimt back to Demon Island and have them convey my demands. Of course, my demands concern Suzume. I will entrust the matters regarding Suzume entirely to myself and make the head of the Mitsurugi family swear that they will not interfere in any way from now on.』

『Claira will be held hostage until that oath is taken. Of course, if the head of the family refuses my demands, they should be prepared for the consequences. The same goes if they try to harm those around me.』

My father only sent me a message saying, “If you want me to leave the Kijin to you, come to the island and prove your strength.” There is no reason for me to release Claira.

If Demon Island were to attempt to retrieve Claira under these circumstances, we would simply retaliate against the hostage. Claira must be aware of this, which is probably why she looks so pale.

However, this was my oversight: I did not explicitly state, “Do not send a single Warrior.” If they were to insist that they “only came to ensure Claira’s safety,” there would be no justification for retaliation. No matter how transparent the lie may be.

Of course, I could have acted without considering such complicated reasoning.

I could have assumed that all actions were for the purpose of reclaiming Claira, cut off the suspicious individuals, and devoured Claira’s soul as retaliation.

However, if I were to forcibly subdue Claira in that manner, I would have to constantly keep an eye on her actions in the future.

After all, there are already various troublesome matters piling up. For now, Claira is behaving properly as a hostage, fully aware of the rights and wrongs of her situation. Provoking her into unnecessary defiance would be a poor strategy.

Above all,

From what I can see, the earnest Claira would likely accept any retaliation from me as a natural consequence if she judged herself to have broken the oath.

If I could bring Claira to that state, it would be a great victory for me.

“What’s wrong? Did you meet someone in town? Who on earth could it be that makes a Green Woods Warrior have such a face?”

“…That is…”

Unable to grasp how much I understand, Claira stumbles over her words.

From Claira’s perspective, she must feel cornered. Should she lie to me and provide a pretext for retaliation? Or should she betray the Mitsurugi family by telling the truth? Either way, Claira would be forced into an inescapable position.

That’s precisely why Claira is taking refuge in the fortress of silence. However, as far as I am concerned, that’s exactly what I want. I laughed again, amused.

“If you can’t say it, that’s fine, but I’ll remember that you chose to remain silent.”


Anxiety swirls in Claira’s red eyes.

If she maintains her silence while being aware of the rescue plot, it would be tantamount to cooperating with the rescue effort. After dealing with the Green Woods Warrior, it could be used as a weapon to corner Claira.

I repeat, I don’t know about Claira’s actions today, so it’s not accurate to accuse her directly. If Claira insisted that she didn’t know about any plans to reclaim her, there wouldn’t be much else I could do. However, judging from Claira’s current state, it’s evident that the effect is undeniably potent.

It seems I might be able to devour the soul of the Green Woods Warrior sooner than I expected.

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