“So, that’s all we know.” I finished explaining the situation to all of my girls.
The Knights that Lord Reign was using to maintain his power were all inflicted with a demonic curse. The purpose of that curse couldn’t be completely predicted, but it was clear that someone was planning to take control of the army and perhaps have them do something they wouldn’t be willing to do otherwise. Whether this was orchestrated by Lord Reign, or whether it was some plot that was using Lord Reign’s naivety, that was unknown.
“My interactions with my former Master were limited. He was a greedy man who didn’t value life.” Raissa explained. “Going so far as to work with the demons, though. I can’t believe he’d be so bold.”
“We also have to consider that this might have some relation to the Widow’s Dungeon,” Shao added.
“Huh? Why the Widow’s Dungeon?”
“It was a curse located so close to the city. In normal circumstances, he would have destroyed it. However, just as he was pressured to get rid of it, Orichalcum seemed to randomly show up. It also seemed designed to ensnare the King, something that only benefited Lord Reign. Demons have a strong connection to curses, so with these mysterious coins showing up so closely nearby, I just thought that maybe we should consider that.” Shao explained.
I nodded thoughtfully. I recalled back to the first time I had ever met Lord Reign. At the time, I had handed him an enchanted necklace, which had caused him to react oddly. I had originally figured his odd behavior was because necklaces in this world were a symbol of betrothal. However, I asked a bit more, and while giving a woman a necklace was associated with marriage, it wasn’t to the level the girls had insinuated. They were, more or less, making a mountain out of a molehill. No guy would have thought a magic necklace as a visiting gift would have been so odd.
How did Lord Reign react back then? He had thought I was suggesting I knew something. Shortly after, he tried to keep me from entering the Widow’s Dungeon, and then he turned around and tried to have me killed once he realized I was in there. I had completed the lore, so I thought I was done with the place. Was it possible there was still some secret buried in that dungeon that I had missed?
Stories didn’t always match reality, and at its heart, a dungeon was the telling of a story. Besides the inevitable degradation of data, the spiritual equivalent of the telephone game, dungeons also could get some details wrong, especially when they took a story from only one point of view.
The more I thought about it, the more confused I grew. There was some deep mystery afoot, and I couldn’t make heads nor tails on what it all meant. Furthermore, it had to be something that even the dungeon master wasn’t aware of. If the Queen knew about it, then I would know about it. That’s not to say she’d honestly tell me everything, but that the lore was downloaded into my head the moment i cleared the dungeon.
“Master?” Miki asked worriedly as she saw me sitting there with my eyes closed.
My eyes snapped open. “We have only one choice now. Our next heist… we’re going to break into Reign’s keep!”
After carefully considering the entire situation, I decided that the best course of action was to gather more information. That meant that we needed to infiltrate Lord Reign’s vault. It was the biggest heist yet to perform for Reign’s End and was a natural evolution of our goals. However, this felt like it was a bit too soon. It may be too dangerous.
I wouldn’t have even considered it, but with Demonic Knights being mass created, it was a danger to all of Aberis. It was something I couldn’t ignore, and I needed to know whether Lord Reign was involved, or just a pawn. The fact that this would be a major blow to him was only a plus. Putting us at odds with Lord Reign so directly may cause the Bandits who are, at least, partially financed by him, to fear reaching out to our group.
I had to put the issues of the Bandits in the south to the side for now, since this was currently posing a greater threat. I even considered calling the other girls in, so that we worked on this altogether. In the end, I decided not to. They needed to be able to grow on their own, and so did I. We were strongest as a unit, but that was because every girl was strong on her own too.
Of course, I had sent a message to Lord Aberis and the castle. I didn’t really expect a response. First off, I didn’t have much to tell them. There were tokens, and they may be cursed by someone. They already knew Lord Reign had too many Knights. Whether they were supplied by Imperial Cloud, or by counterfeit tokens, didn’t make a difference. Everything I had were guesses. Until I had more information, there was nothing they could do. Even then, I knew the answer I would receive. The majority of the army was tied up in the south, and until a peace was officially reached, there was no one to spare.
As for Astria and Elaya, I didn’t want to get them involved. The pair would only complicate things, and with Elaya’s former dungeon possibly serving some connection, it may rile her up and cause some unwanted effects. Overall, I still considered my control over the two women to be feeble. That was just another reason that I felt I needed to get stronger on my own.
We spent another day and night preparing for our attack on Reign’s Keep. In the end, we realized that the best time to attack would be when he wasn’t there. The next round of the gladiatorial fights would begin tomorrow. That would be between the top twelve. Since this was the last battle before the finals, Lord Reign would attend. The next three matches would be back to back over three days, narrowing from 6 to 3, 3 to 2, and finally the last for the win.
While Carmine was on stage fighting, with Lord Reign in the audience, the rest of us would sneak into his keep and make our move. We weren’t going to do anything particularly special. We had already gotten some guard uniforms from previous raids. We’d come to the castle looking like we belonged, knock out the guards when necessary with Miki’s help, and then work our way inside.
No one sold a map of the castle and my Map only fleshed out my one entrance into the castle. Unfortunately, we’d have to go in blind. However, we always had Portal and Return under our belt. No matter how deep we got into the castle, we’d always be able to get out. Everything would turn out fine. It always did.
The next morning, Shao ran recon on the keep while Carmine prepared for her next fight. I hadn’t taken her back to Dirage, as I wanted to give her time to get used to her new levels. Rather, an event where she pancaked her competition against a wall was something that I wanted to avoid happening a second time. People were already suspicious of her newfound power. If it was revealed that she was a Knight, it would lead to the question of who knighted her.
That day, I remained in my room most of the day while the girls went about their assigned chores. I went through the plan we had come up with a few times. As I said, it wasn’t much of a plan. We were planning to break in, pretend to be guards, and survey the castle. Then, if things became more than we could handle, we’d escape via a Portal, and no one would be the wiser. Even if we failed today, simply the new Map knowledge would allow me to Portal into the castle easier in the future.
You could say that was the true goal of this visit. I wanted to see as much of the castle as possible, unlocking a visual map that I could use to navigate and keep track of things inside. Mixed with Sense Life, I’d know all movements inside and could move around with ease.
Lord Reign would be all but helpless if I could create a Portal in the hallways right outside his room. This went all the way to when I was finally going to war with him. If we captured him in a single move, the war might even be over without a drop of blood spilled. Well, I might have thought that before the appearance of Demonic Knights.
As for why we didn’t Portal directly into the castle this time, the answer was obvious. I was taken through the busiest and most secure route into the keep intended for guests. There was no place we could enter without risk of being seen and subsequently surrounded. It was the back-hallways, the kitchens, the storage closets, and the servant quarters that would allow us to sneak into the castle in the future. It’d be nice if we got all of the answers we were looking for in this journey, but I was also considering when Lord Reign and I were eventually at war.
“Master, his carriage has left the keep!” Shao’s voice came through Slave Communication.
My eyes snapped open, and then I rose and left the room. “It’s time.”
The remaining group consisted of Ruby, Miki, and Salicia. Ruby had an expression on her face like she hadn’t signed up for this when she decided to adventure with me. In truth, none of us would have imagined that hunting down a few Bandits would have led us into a conspiracy involving Lord Reign. However, that was just how things had ended up working out.
The group left the small home, and we didn’t dress like guards until we had found an alley where Shao was waiting for us just outside the keep. She used darkness to block the view while we quickly changed to look like guards. With our disguises ready, we left our hiding spot and started heading toward the keep’s side entrance. It was time to find out the truth.