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I had no map at this point, so I was basically moving blindly. If I went too far, I’d end up on the outside of the castle. At that point, I would be very restricted in my movements under the eyes of guards and trapped within the crowds. Instead, I needed to focus on a way up to the upper floor inside, and I assumed any such entrance would likely be a secret entrance not unlike the one I just escaped out of. After walking hastily for a minute, I slowed to a stop.
Without looking back, I spoke. “Are you just going to keep following me, or do you know the way?”
After a moment of silence, Ayda moved from the darkness and walked to my side, a displeased look on her face. “I haven’t decided if I want to help you yet.”
“Fortunately, you don’t need to help me,” I responded, causing her to glance at me suspiciously. “See it instead as helping your nieces. One niece is about to be forced into a marriage she doesn’t approve of, and I have no clue what they plan to do with the other. You’d be helping them escape their fate if you help me.”
“Yeah… I get it.” Ayda crossed her arms unhappily. “I can’t say I’m familiar with these tunnels, but I am familiar with the layout of the castle. I also know where you need to go.”
“I’m going to the wedding.”
She shook her head. “No. The wedding will be too heavily guarded. Even if you could reach the bride, you wouldn’t be able to escape.”
“Then what do you suggest?” I asked, finally looking in her direction.
“Since this is a noble wedding, it is customary that after the bride and groom give their vows, they are to go to the throne room and kneel for a blessing. Their ceremony is private, and the guards will be at the entrance. That means, there will be a period of a few minutes where Akkar, Theo, and Saria will be alone. This would be the best time to strike.”
“You’ve put some thought into this. “ I smirked.
She snorted. “I was responsible for castle security. I had to think about such possibilities for every event.”
“Yet, you weren’t aware of the tunnels laying under the castle?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I said I’m not familiar with them. I didn’t say I wasn’t aware of them.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “I know the entrances and the exits, and I have a rough idea of how to get there.”
“And the throne room, there is an entrance?” I bit my lip. “Of course, there is.”
The throne room would be an obvious location for a King to be cornered. If one needed to slip away and escape, that would be a means of doing so. There was one issue with their plan.
“Won’t this security measure be guarded?”
“Unlikely. The tunnels were a guarded secret of the royalty. I knew about it, but I dared not reveal them to anyone else.”
“I’m not sure about Akkar, but Theo knows about them as well.”
She shook her head. “He’d have told Akkar. After all, they’re working together.”
I snorted. “You’re still thinking too innocently. Theo wouldn’t tell Akkar about this. It would put him at a disadvantage. Gantar and Gorwin were both betrayed by Akkar. Why do you think that is? It was because Akkar saw them as fools. Theo, on the other hand, has made himself indispensable to his brother. Besides hiding how he destabilized the country with the goblins, he also had several more tricks up his sleeve. Namely, his status as a will-user.”
“Theo isn’t a will user, is he?” Ayda’s stunned expression told me what I needed to know.
“I actually wasn’t sure that was a secret until your reaction right now. I suspected he was holding the secret since he deliberately avoided showing off any will in my earlier capture. The question becomes, is Akkar a will-user as well.”
“If even one of them is a will-user, this will change our plans drastically. It won’t be so easy to take Saria with a will-user beside her.”
“Just show me the throne room. We’ll make our decision then.”
Ayda nodded, but her uneasy expression wasn’t as confident as it was before. Maybe I should have kept this knowledge a secret as well. In reality, Ayda should be stronger than either of her nephews. The wounds on her body were a testament to how unwilling she was to fight her own. She may have resisted, but she wouldn’t dare use her powers and start killing. That’s how she ended up in her current state and in jail. She could only do so much without drawing her blade and fighting back. Suffice it to say that if a melee against her nephews broke out, I might find myself without any backup.
Ayda seemed to be moving with a purpose at that moment, so I followed her through the winding corridor. Once in a while she would stop and listen at a wall, perhaps listening for the sounds of the castle. I didn’t hear anything and was starting to think that maybe she didn’t know her way. However, just as my doubts were starting to grow, she stopped and crawled to a small panel. It wasn’t until I got on the ground and followed her on my hands and knees until I realized we were stopped at a grate. More than that, on the other side of the grate, was a large room.
“The throne room?” I mouthed the words in Ayda’s direction.
She nodded, remaining just as silent. The reason for that was that the room wasn’t empty. There were two people talking in the middle of the room, away from the throne. One of them I instantly recognized as Theo. As for the other, he wore fine clothing. He looked a bit older and more mature than Theo, and if I had to guess, I would believe he was Akkar.
“Shouldn’t you be at a wedding?” Akkar voiced the thoughts running through my head.
“My bride can wait,” Theo responded smoothly. “The wedding can’t take place without his highness present anyway.”
Akkar chuckled darkly. “That is true. You wouldn’t by chance be planning to rectify that situation, would you? If you were King, then the world would wait for you.”
“Do not jest, brother, I have never had aims at the throne. Giving me my bride, you have already sealed our bond and my loyalty.”
“Time will tell with that. You never did tell me how you managed to cause half the country to die. You put the people into a state of panic. Father had to send out half of his loyal men to maintain peace. Taking over was all too easy. That was your plan. So, you can imagine my ill-ease that you might repeat the same…”
It seemed that Akkar was extremely paranoid. For a man who betrayed his entire family, he ought to be. As for Theo, he seemed more of the uptight kind of person. He was someone who did things by the book and was a no-nonsense kind of guy.
“Brother, as I’ve explained before, I do not have the forces that you have. I would never have been able to do it on my own. Furthermore, while Onvyr has always been cruel to me, I believe Akkar would be a far better King. I simply want the sisters.”
“Hmph… but both of them? I admit you surprised me a bit at how… aggressive your appetite. I almost feel sorry for them. After all, I’ve seen what’s left of those whores you play with.”
Theo’s eyes widened and his head raised for a second, but when he saw Akkar smiling, he glanced back down. “That is… another matter entirely. Do not worry. Our sisters will be left alive. I just want to… have some fun.”
I frowned as I listened to the pair of them talk. Something about Theo felt a bit off. There was something I was still missing. It was a piece of the puzzle that I still needed to fit together.
“Why have you come, Theo?” Akkar’s smile faded as he spoke in a demanding voice that possessed none of the original mirth.
“I’ve finished checking the sister… she had a letter on her that was supposed to be delivered to the King. At first, I thought to just kill them and throw it away, but I realized it might be best if my King read it. I’m sorry to ignore your order, but the envoys from the beastkin are still alive.”
“What is this?” he took the letter and opened it.
The seal had already been broken, and it was clear that Theo had read it. My eyes narrowed even more as I watched.
“Oh, hoh… so their attack was actually such a thing?” Akkar let out a laugh. “Theo, why would you think to keep this from me?”
“It could have been a trick or a lie. You had already given your orders, and I don’t like to break them if I don’t have to.”
“Brother, you’re way too rigid!” The suspicion in Akkar’s eyes dissipated for a bit as he looked down and reread the letter one more time, moving his lips as he sounded out the words. “This is absolutely splendid. It looks like I’ll be getting married too. Tell me, is this Lucy beautiful?”
“She is… a rabbitkin.”
“Hehe… a little bunny, huh? Well, I bet she can go all night!” A bit of lewdness shown in his eyes, causing Theo to look away in disgust.
“Oh, what? Don’t tell me little brother is disgusted by beastkin. Not all of us lust after our own sisters. Between incest and bestiality, well, we each have our perversions.”
Akkar’s mood seemed to be much greater, although my mood had soured quite a bit. It was my fault that the two of them were in this castle. If I failed to do what I needed to do somehow, and this all fell apart, it would be my sisters paying for it again. Just with the birth of the devil prince, my sisters had to suffer a great deal. They lost their mother when they were young, only to be replaced by an uncaring reminder of her that only obsessed over me.
Then, they were each dragged away from their homes, one at a time, being raised on foreign soil and away from both of their parents. Meanwhile, the devil prince lived in the home that was once theirs, living happily as his very existence caused the country around him to crumble. I could still save them, but now both of my sisters were caught by malicious elf princes who wanted nothing more than to play with them.
“My lord, I need to go get dressed. The guests are waiting.” Theo bowed.
“Let them wait!” He snorted. “We’re royalty. It’s not like they’ll leave without us.”
I grabbed Ayda’s arm at this point and pulled her away from the grate. Once we were a good distance away that we wouldn’t be heard, I spoke.
“Can you take me to Theo’s room?”
“His room?” She frowned and then nodded. “There is another grate that lets out a hallway away from the royal suites. Why?”
“I just have a hunch is all,” I said.
The pair of us headed away from the pair. I couldn’t make out their voices, but Akkar appeared to be saying something to Theo. However, from the beginning, Theo had left me wondering. What was it about him that felt so different from the other brothers. I had only seen him three times. Once, he had bested me in the subterranean catacombs. The second time, he had arrested me as Gorwin. And then, just now… I had seen Gorwin, Gantar, Akkar, and Theo. To the best of my knowledge, Onvyr was already dead.
“They’re fools.” I suddenly spoke out into the darkness.
“Huh?” Ayda raised an eyebrow.
I shook my head, but my mind was already working. That was the difference between them. The other brothers were all incompetent. Theo was the only one who gave me a feeling of pressure. He was the only one who came off as intelligent. That couldn’t be a coincidence.
“We’re here.” She spoke this time, gesturing for me to go first.
I looked through the gate and then cautiously opened it and slipped through. She followed behind me. The pair of us moved quietly down the hallway. She stopped about three doors down.
“He will be heading here before his marriage. You only have a few minutes.” She said stiffly, “Are you planning on ambushing him?”
“Yes,” I responded simply.
That was why her actions were suddenly hesitant. She figured out I was going to make a move on Theo. The pressure he was giving off gave me a feeling like he needed to be taken care of. I was no assassin, but if I hid in his room with illusion magic, I could potentially kill him.
“If he doesn’t show up, the wedding will be cancelled, and you won’t have a chance to save Saria.”
“True… but she also won’t be married.” I responded.
“I won’t… help you with this.”
“Good. Be a watch instead.”
She lowered her head. “Very well. However, just like the King, my help only goes so far. If it is you who dies instead of Theo, then I will not make any move.”
“If you’re okay with that, that is your own prerogative.” I turned to the door and grabbed the handle.
Ayda looked hesitant for a moment and then turned away, walking back down the hallway, likely to hide by the grate. With a breath, I opened the door and stepped inside. My eyes immediately jumped to a woman tied to the bed in chains. I was reminded of what the King said about Theo’s use of prostitutes. However, this woman was alive, and she was moving as if she was in physical pain. I could hear her panting in agony.
Recognizing the woman, I immediately raced to the bedside. “Bala!”
As soon as I leaned close enough, she lunged at me. Her lips stuck to mine, and she tried to stick her tongue in my mouth. I pulled back instinctively, and her body started wildly thrusting out. I suddenly realized she was indeed in agony, but not in pain. Her pants had formed a wet spot, and she was looking at me with extreme desire. There was a hint of relief in her eyes that it was me and not someone else.
“Forced it… ahhh… just fuck me… David… fuck me!” She moaned, pulling against the restraints.
I couldn’t help but give a wry smile. It was rare I got to see a side of Bala that was this… needy. He must have given her an extremely strong aphrodisiac. The only thing that worked that strongly that I knew about was concentrated devil’s blood. I stopped just as I went to touch her.
That was it! I leaned down and kissed her. Suddenly, her hands grabbed me, and her legs managed to wrap around each of mine despite her restraints. She started wildly humping me while she tried to suck my face against her own. It took me almost a minute to escape her grasp, and I had earned several bruises in the process.
Bala broke into tears. “Please… I need it. I love you, Master. Please… I won’t do it with him. Only you…”
“You’ve given me the last piece of the puzzle. I know what to do.” I said, pulling a vial from my sock. “I’m glad they didn’t strip search me before tossing me in prison. They really did underestimate Gorwin. Here, this should cure you.”
I held the vial up to her lips, and she began to eagerly drink it as if she was desperate. She swallowed gobs of liquid down excitedly. As it entered her body and took effect, her normal cold demeanor started to return. By the time she drank the whole vial, she was watching me with her usual eyes.
“If that didn’t do it, my fingers hold a bit of magic as well,” I said, touching her stomach and lowering my fingers down into her soaked zone.
“Release my restrains.” She said, her voice cool and crisp.
I sighed and pulled my hand away. If there was time, I would. I removed her restraints, and Bala stood up immediately. Without hesitation, she stripped off her wet pants and panties, revealing her naked butt. I looked down at it, which she put on display without reservation.
She tossed her dirtied undergarments away and glared at me, “My sister is in trouble. Stop acting like my brothers. It’s disgusting.”
“You were in more prominent danger, it seems. Well, I already have everything figured out, so now it’s just time to let the plan fall into motion.”
“What is the plan now?” Bala demanded as she covered her lower half with a sheet.
“I believe I have a wedding to attend.”