Chapter 60: Leandar’s King
In a lavish chamber, Nisha sat in front of a steaming hot cup, supposedly containing an exotic beverage called Pacas. It was imported from a faraway land and released a hot and bittersweet note into the air. It did not help to calm her down. Instead, she clutched the hem of her expensive dress, an unfamiliar yet soft material crumbling in her fist.
True to Luthais’ declaration, Galan had taken the dragon out to a tailor in the same district, giving some expert instructions to the lady that ran the shop. Within a candle, several female servants swarmed her and used her body as a dress up doll for various materials. They were fitting them to her needs while the master of the shop personally drew up a plan for the dress.
Having to stand still for a long period of time was taxing on the otherwise energetic girl. However, she endured it then, so she would be able to do it now too.
The servant that silently led her into this place when the court session concluded didn’t say anything, but his curious gaze was enough to tell her that this was an unusual arrangement.
I wonder why he asked for only me. There’s nothing I did wrong before, did I?
On this day, the marshal formally introduced his half-niece to the court, simply by letting her sit in the same alcove as him – reserved for duke families only.
When they entered the throne room, quite a few curious glances found her because no ordinary person could enter with the duke. Yet as soon as she entered the prestigious spot right in front of the throne, Nisha’s fine hearing couldn’t help to pick up the hushed whispers, words that were speculating just how she was related to the Dharnas family.
The session itself had been fairly uneventful with just a few minor disputes between merchants and nobles. There was nothing that could have drawn out the mysterious lord the Dragon King had sent over.
Feeling quite pleased with herself that she had endured that boring affair, Nisha secretly peeked at Luthais, who seemed similarly pleased with how her introduction went.
Unfortunately, King Cederic appeared to have other plans.
Just as the attendants were about to dissolve the court session, the master of ceremonies slammed his wooden staff on the ground and silenced everyone present.
In the following silence, the king himself rose from his throne.
“We are quite pleased to have such a joyous occasion today. As Our subjects may know, just a while ago Our dear friend and former court magician, Eldrin Dharnas, passed away due to old age. While he did not spend his last moments here, We are pleased to have been blessed with a parting gift from him.
Nisha Dharnas, We would like to invite you to a private audience to hear about your grandfather’s passing directly from you.”
Dropping an explosive piece of news just like that, the whole hall had exploded in speculations and rumors. It was especially so when a servant appeared to lead the elven girl away, while the regent withdrew.
After leaving Nisha alone in this room and preparing the drink before her, the servant had left and led her to the current situation.
Twisting her brows into a frown, the dragon inhaled another breath to get a feeling for the exotic aroma before taking a cautious sip.
To her surprise, the bitter scent in the smell wasn’t too severe and another substance counteracted the bitterness. This resulted in a quite delicious drink, albeit she personally still preferred tea.
Nonetheless, she felt watched and somewhat on edge, similar to being in the Wilderness. The dragon couldn’t quite name what exactly was wrong, but it irked her.
Not a moment after she finally started to become comfortable in this strange environment, the door was blown open.
Leading with huge strides, the one who entered was none other than the king who held court earlier.
Not daring to appear disrespectful for even a tiny bit, she hurriedly put down her cup and properly curtsied before the tall blond human.
Amazed or astonished by this display, King Cederic placed the object he brought with him on the delicate table between his seat and his guest. He laughed slightly.
“No need to be so formal, it’s just us here now. Please rise, Nisha.”
Following his instructions, the elven girl properly sat straight on her seat, her back bent and her eyes focusing on him.
“Really, I mean it. Only in front of the citizens, I have to act like a king. That’s just how things are. Rather than all those formalities, there are too much in this place anyway, I’m much more interested in your story. You are Uncle Eldrin’s granddaughter after all, right?”
Seizing her up, the king filled a cup with the liquid called Pacas for himself and added two white cubes before drinking it.
Bewildered at such friendly treatment, Nisha blinked a few times before collecting her thoughts.
“You are too kind, Your Majesty. Just as You have said, ever since I was born, my grandfather took care of me. I owe him everything.”
Recalling the face of her kind relative, the dragon even lost some of the nervousness she had from being in front of the mightiest human in this kingdom.
“I see. However…”
Suddenly displaying a frosty attitude, Nisha was badly startled when he stared at her.
Why? Did I anger him somehow? I don’t think I said anything wrong or lacked manners.
Under this kind of air, she couldn’t even move a single muscle.
“I think I asked you to drop the formalities. Can you not do that for me?”
Despite being a question, the king’s aura accompanied the words, turning them far more threatening. Combined with the ice in his eyes, Nisha really didn’t know what was going to happen if she denied his request.
“Uhm, sorry. I am not used to it … Cederic.”
She had no chance but to add the last bit after he continued to stare at her. Eventually, the silence started to become uncomfortable.
Suddenly, the king was all smiles again and acted like nothing happened.
“No problem, no problem, I’ve heard about it. You just recently moved to [Thurgau], so it can’t be helped.
Say, what do you think about the city?”
Retelling her experiences so far – leaving out a bit here and there to conceal her secret as well as the affair at the Guild – Nisha gave her honest opinion of how she saw [Thurgau].
“Strictly speaking, it is still somewhat confusing. Compared to the forest, the streets are really noisy and I couldn’t believe how many people live here. It’s a lot to take in.”
“Certainly, that’s true. Hopefully you can adapt soon. Missing out on a chance like this would be too bad.
Come, I want to show you something.”
Leading her to the window, he opened the wooden frame and even lifted her up. Otherwise with her small frame, Nisha would have been unable to see.
Outside, the sun already started to slowly set. Summer was ending and the city was dyed in the orange glow of the dying light.
From her vantage point, the king and the dragon oversaw the whole city. All streets, every roof covered in red stone or straw, every corner, and every park were bustling with life.
The perspective was simply breathtaking.
No place near the [Dragon’s Den] had such a breathtaking view.
“You don’t really notice it when entering, but the palace is actually built on top of a small hill. I think originally there was a fence when this hill was all that [Thurgau] was. Only when the small settlement slowly turned into the royal residence did people forget about it’s original intent.”
Leading her back to the seating arrangement, Cederic was visibly proud to be the ruler of this scenery.
“Actually, there’s a reason why I wanted to show this to you.”
Picking up the book he brought with him earlier, he carefully turned over old page. The pergament rustled under his fingers due to old age.
Finding the right passage, he turned the tome around and pushed it towards Nisha.
“Many people would kill or slaughter everything in their way to sit on my throne. However, they don’t understand a single thing. The throne doesn’t only hold privileges and advantages, but also a heavy responsibility and many duties.
If I make a wrong decision, this beautiful view might turn into a sea of flames and countless people would lose their life. A crown is truly heavy.
Therefore, even if you only are a part of Our family by being born to parents that married into our bloodline, I still hope you can gain a bit of insight from this.
Take a look into the book, it’s the family tree of our Loewe family.”
Following a set of interweaved lines, each signifying another branch of the royal family up to the current date, a single line connected to a name very well known to Nisha. Following her grandfather’s marriage with Yulia Loewe, a small line continued towards two empty lines, which resulted in her own name.
Of course, she was greatly surprised to see the name Nisha in the annals of this kingdom.
“Before you ask anything, I want to explain something to you. Your grandfather was a really close friend of mine, and you might have noticed I even call him Uncle. I grew up around him and he always was like family to me, so now I am trying to return these feelings to you. But there’s no need to feel burdened by that. Explore the world, grow strong, pursue your dreams. With your name signed into the royal records, no one can deny your rights as Eldrin’s granddaughter. I am sure he would be very proud of you, no matter what you do.
And if there’s a problem you can’t solve by yourself, feel free to rely on Our strength. We are a kind king after all. Do you understand that?”
Unable to even bring a single word over her lips right now without starting to cry, the elven girl simply nodded as she clutched her fists again in the soft fabric of her dress.
“See, I knew you were a smart young lady. Now, don’t make Luthais wait too long. He is sitting in the carriage before the gates. Maybe I will see you again soon.
Sending her off like that, Nisha rushed outside, partly glad to escape the strange old man that showed his city off to her, and yet sad because he certainly had many memories of her grandfather and was fun to talk to.
Only after the echo of her steps in the empty corridors died down did Cederic touch his own Pacas.
“Are you satisfied now, Milap?”
Seemingly speaking into empty air, the king took a deep gulp of his favourite refreshment. It helped him staying awake when he worked late into the night.
Out of thin air, an otherwise unremarkable old servant appeared, though he didn’t quite fit the demeanor of one.
With unhurried steps, he exited the corner he hid in and seated himself right where the little girl just sat. He took her cup and enjoyed the Pacas she barely touched, an action that made Cederic raise a brow.
He had no choice but to repeat himself.
“Why did you insist on this charade? I even had to add that country girl to our ancestor book.”
Clearly displeased with his subordinate, the king waited for an explanation.
Undisturbed by all of that, the spy finished his drink first.
“While she was alone in this room, she truly didn’t prepare any traps or poisoned needles. Neither did she attempt to take your life when you lifted her near the window or touched her. Strictly speaking, she was a tad nervous, but who wouldn’t be when meeting her ruler.
Despite that, I think she felt my presence. As for the need to add her to your ancestry, I really hoped it would tempt her to reveal more of her plans.
Although you don’t have to worry, it is only a small branch of a side family, married into your royal clan. No matter what she does, she’ll never get a chance for the throne.
No, the real reason I insisted on this meeting is an incident that happened in the Guild yesterday. A girl matching her description. She wore an adventurer’s attire, fought a duel with several promising youths.
No one paid particular attention at first. Yet somehow the situation escalated with the girl escaping and two of the adventurer’s having to be rushed to the temple for healing.
Even with the [High Priest of Light] personally overseeing the treatment, one still passed away.
Simply speaking, there was a high chance that this Nisha girl is an assassin sent by the elven faction.”
Stating this huge revelation in a matter-of-fact tone, Milap regrettably put down his empty cup.
“If there was even a tiny hint of malicious intent in her actions, I would have doubtlessly acted and apprehended her. In spite of that, she seems to be genuine, even with that horrifying poison she has. Maybe it is her gift. I know High Priest Roland took her to the underground testing place, but I haven’t been able to discover her results yet.”
During Milap’s speech, King Cederic regained his royal bearing, staring at his shameless spymaster. Nonetheless, he couldn’t help but feel astonished when he heard about the peculiar black poison that claimed the greatsword wielder’s life, sending a shive down his spine.
“And you madman quickly arranged this farce when you heard that Luthais would finally introduce her to court? Are you insane to toy with my life like this?!”
Thoroughly angered, the king truly wanted to continue lashing out against his servant.
Milap, on the other hand, only kept smiling and helped himself to another cup of pacas.
“Sir, there was nothing wrong with her behaviour. I was already uncomfortable when I suspected she saw through my guise, because she kept glancing in the corner I was standing in.
But from start to finish, there was not even a trace of killing intent on her body, nor did she act hostile when you scared her.
So in the end, it might be possible that with this matter, you didn’t only get rid of a potential assassin, but also gained the support of someone directly related to a troublesome duke family. Isn’t that worth a small thing like legitimizing her origin?”
Unable to refute that assessment, King Cederic simply dismissed his troublesome spymaster and pondered about the possibilities implied with Nisha’s true intentions.
Milap couldn’t help himself, and took the cup with him when he left his ruler alone.