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Stand By Me Pleiades III


A secret business negotiation was under way at the Suwen Company in the commercial city of Picoutatte. The focus of the negotiation revolved around gaining entry into the Vollachia Empire, which had sealed its borders and prohibited crossings between the two countries. The topic was how to sneak themselves in.

Needless to say, smuggling was illegal. Getting caught would have severe consequences, especially in a country known for its harsh policies. Accomplices to this crime would also face severe repercussions, should they be caught. To complicate matters further, one of the individuals involved in this risky endeavor was none other than the Kingdom of Lugunica’s esteemed Head Court Magician and Margrave of the Western Domain, Roswaal L. Mathers.

The other key player was Emilia, who stood as one of the candidates for the throne in the royal selection, the process by which the next monarch would be determined. While news of Roswaal’s attempt to cross the border would indeed cause ripples throughout both the Kingdom and the Empire, the impact of Emilia’s presence would be far more dire.

“Had it only been limited to the Master, the consequences would be limited to him getting beheaded. But if word gets out about Sister Emilia, it could spark a full-blown war with the Empire…” Although her words hinted at her bias, Petra understood the graveness of the possible future.

In her earlier life as a simple village girl, Petra’s world had been small and limited. But it was Subaru who opened her eyes to her narrow-mindedness. Thanks to him, she had come to know the vastness of the world and the warmth of love. However, setting aside her own personal revelations for the moment, the current issue lies in the stark contrast between the perspectives of Petra the ordinary village girl, and her responsibilities as an attendant to royal selection candidate Emilia.

Petra Leyte was always busy, constantly on the move. Ever since departing Earlham Village, she had become a diligent and responsible person, immersing herself in her daily lessons and tasks. Her duties as a maid, her education as a servant in Margrave Mathers’s mansion, her own personal physical and mental training. The list of responsibilities seemed endless, and she hardly had enough fingers to count them.

As she hurried through her hectic days, Petra couldn’t help but notice the growing tension between the Kingdom and the Empire. Both countries had engaged in multiple conflicts over trivial matters, exacerbating the already strained relations.

But regardless of the size or significance of these conflicts, they were nonetheless clashes between countries. They held no comparison to the harmless scuffles her childhood friends Lucas and Mild had. These conflicts resulted in countless lives being affected and suffering great harm. According to history, Petra had learned that even the most minor of issues could escalate into something far more destructive. And if a mere spark could ignite a full-blown war, then Emilia’s involvement was akin to tossing a drunken Otto into a warehouse full of fire magic stones.

“I need to be careful not to drag down Sister Emilia,” Petra murmured, sitting atop her luggage and gathering her resolve.

“Petra, can I have a moment?”

Just then, she sprang up with an “Eek!” upon the sound of a sudden voice. However, it wasn’t only the abruptness of the voice that startled her, but also because the individual in question was none other than the person she had just imagined tossing drunkenly into a warehouse full of fire magic stones.

There stood Otto Suwen, raising a brow before her as she turned around to face him. He chuckled at Petra’s reaction. “Oh, did I startle you? That was an adorable yelp.”

“No, no, I’m fine,” reassured Petra. “It’s just that I was imagining you in a warehouse full of fire magic stones a moment ago.”

“You put me in a warehouse full of fire magic stones!?”

“Oh, just ignore that. No big deal.”

“It is a big deal for the me inside your head,” Otto lamented, to which Petra lightly waved her hand, dispelling her imagined version of him. He dissipated into a haze, revealing the real Otto, looking on with a tinge of sorrow. “But that is exactly what makes you seem like Frederica’s number one apprentice,” he continued.

This was perhaps the highest form of praise Petra could get. Frederica was Petra’s role model, and her goal in life was to catch up to her. The reason Petra pursued her studies so diligently was undoubtedly to become more worthy of Subaru, the person she loved. However, it was equally important for her not to burden Emilia, whom she served faithfully. She had also vowed to herself to never bring shame upon Frederica, her mentor. For this reason, it delighted her to be told she resembled her.

“However, I’d prefer if you saved your flattery for more significant moments,” Petra remarked. “Don’t go doing so too casually.”

“To be honest,” Otto began, “it was not intended as flattery. You are an amazing individual with so much ambition. I think there are many people who could learn from your example.”

“Is that so? I thought you were the kind of person who found more satisfaction in rewards positioned as hard-earned achievements.” Wouldn’t people rather be praised for accomplishing something difficult than for something easy? There’d be a greater sense of accomplishment, not to mention praise from other people.

“Hmm, I suppose there is a degree of truth in that.” Otto placed his hand on his chin and nodded in agreement. “Oh, whoops. Our appointment is drawing near. Preparations appear to be going… smoothly, it seems?”

Directing his gaze at Petra, Otto spoke with composure, recalling his original objective. Petra extended her arms and twirled gracefully as she stood, revealing a striking transformation in terms of her attire. Her usual maid’s uniform had given way to a captivating ensemble suitable for travel.

She wore an outer layer with ample sleeves and a knee-length skirt, accompanied by trousers underneath for enhanced mobility. Her outfit exuded elegance and practicality for their journey, hinting at Petra’s careful contemplation for the role she was expected to play.

“I don’t want to draw attention and cause trouble for Sister Emilia… Anyway, what do you think?” Petra asked.

“Yes, it is quite nice,” Otto replied. “I have grown used to seeing you in your maid uniform, so the change is rather refreshing.”

“Mmm, that’s not exactly what I meant,” Petra clarified. “I was asking if it looks cute or not.”

“Ah, I see. Sorry,” Otto apologized. “It is cute. It suits you well.”

“I know, right?” Petra said, a satisfied smile playing on her lips having received her desired response. While a maiden would never wish to attract negative attention, neither would she desire fading into the background. This is the result of my pursuit of perfect balance. So wouldn’t it be nice to receive genuine praise? I sure wish I could show Subaru… I’d love to hear his opinion.

“Do not worry,” Otto said reassuringly. “You will surely be able to see him soon.”

Petra fell silent. Otto tilted his head quizzically, sensing her change in attitude. “Huh? Something wrong?” he inquired. His reaction was vexing, seeming oblivious to the strangeness of his words, as if he had an uncanny ability to read her mind.

“You always seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to things like this,” she mumbled.

“Wait,” Otto started, “am I being scolded, by any chance?”

“I’m complimenting you, albeit unwillingly.”

“I do not feel any satisfaction, despite it being a complement…” Otto whined, his expression tinged with bitterness as he scratched his head. Petra couldn’t help but feel a hint of contentment at his reaction.

“So,” she continued, casting her gaze toward the entrance hall of the manor, “our guide is arriving soon, right?”

The reason Otto had come was to inform Petra of the eagerly anticipated arrival of a certain individual. He closed one of his eyes and nodded in response. “Yes. Thanks to the help of the Regundra family, we’ve acquired the person who will help us sneak into the Empire. Are you adequately prepared for what lies ahead, my lady? I mean, not only in terms of appearance, but on an emotional level, too?” His words carried a teasing edge, as if gauging the extent of Petra’s dedication to her role.


“If we be makin’ our way ‘cross the border, I reckon I’ll hafta dig us through the earth beneath,” declared the man who had been designated as their guide.

His face was obscured deeply by his hood. He was short in stature, with visible dirt stains clinging to his hooded robe. Although his face remained hidden, Petra speculated that he might be around the same age as her father.

Few words were exchanged, yet he carried the air of a man of experience. His demeanor was dignified, despite having been summoned by the esteemed Regundra family, who were some of the most prominent merchants in the bustling city of Picoutatte.

“The least I can do is be keepin’ me humility,” he said, “but I ain’t gonna let fear get the best o’ me, ye know? Folks wit’ jobs like ours be outta business if we ain’t taken seriously, miss.”

“Uh…” Petra started.

“Me apologies,” he said. “That be mighty impolite of me, peerin’ into yer faces despite not showin’ ye me own mug…hehehe.”

Petra felt called out, as if she had been caught staring rudely at him. She quickly averted her gaze. At that moment, Garfiel took a decisive step forward, putting himself between Petra and the guide.

Shielding her behind him, he fixed a stern glare at the guide, whose face remained hidden. “I’m sayin’ this for yer own good,” Garfiel threatened. “Quit intimidatin’ our lady. Yer treadin’ dangerous ground if ya don’t.”

“Dangerous ground?” the man inquired. “An’ I reckon yer gonna be the one causin’ a stir wit’ me?”

“Nah, not my amazin’ self. Those guys,” Garfiel stated firmly, arms crossed as he gestured with his chin. The guide looked around, his gaze settling on the two figures Garfiel had pointed out: Frederica and Ram. Similar to Petra, they weren’t donning their maid uniforms, but were clad in practical travel attire. They narrowed their almond-shaped eyes. Despite their dashing looks, an aura of intimidation surrounded them.

Meeting the guide’s eyes, they smiled. Ram spoke up first. “Ram understands that those in your line of work cannot afford to be underestimated. However…”

“We would like to assure you that we are not quite as delicate as we may appear,” Frederica added.

The man conceded. “Me bad. Seems the odds ain’t swingin’ in me favor.”

Yielding under their gaze, he retreated further into the depths of his hood, acknowledging defeat. Petra’s heart swelled with pride at the reliability of her elder sister figures. The surprise she had experienced only a moment ago had faded into the background. She tapped Garfiel’s back, who had stepped in to shield her, and offered her gratitude. “Thank you, Garf.”

“Ha, don’t sweat it,” he replied. “Protectin’ this camp’s my amazin’ self’s job while the cap’n is away. Jus’ quit scamperin’ off so much.”

“Jeez, I didn’t scamper off. Quit treating me like a child,” Petra pouted. Garfiel laughed, revealing his sharp fangs. Regardless, their intention wasn’t to make the guide feel bad.

“Ummm,” Petra began, “I apologize for staring at you before, Mr. Guide. You are…”

“The name be Musica,” the guide interjected.

“Musica, you’re going to take us there, right? To the Empire?”

At Petra’s query, the guide, Musica, paused briefly before responding with a profound nod. Witnessing that response, Petra felt a quiet surge of hope well up in her chest. Finally, we found the key to our journey to the Empire. To where Subaru is…

A smuggler’s intermediary was a perilous occupation. It required significant effort simply to establish contact with such an individual. They had leaned on the Suwen family–Otto’s family–ultimately securing an introduction in the form of a business engagement. Yet it was this person with the “contacts” who posed a challenge.

“Miss Diadora, thank you for the referral,” Petra said gratefully.

“No need to thank me,” the woman responded, turning her back to Petra. “After all, this arrangement serves my interests as well.”

This woman, with her opulently coiled hair, was Diadora Regundra, the daughter of the esteemed Regundra family, prominent merchants within the city of Picoutatte. It was she who had forged the link between Petra and Musica. It was also she who had been responsible for hindering Otto’s ability to return home, and the mastermind behind Otto’s status as a wanted man.

The feud between Otto and Diadora, in which both parties held some fault, found resolution through Otto’s apology and his acknowledgment of his own recklessness as that which bore the greater fault. Although certainly, Diadora’s hiring of assassins to target Otto could be deemed somewhat excessive.

“If my impulsive actions driven by desperation and my lack of consideration for my surroundings are deemed enough to warrant my life, I cannot argue against it,” Otto confessed. His words were an introspective reflection on his past behavior, thus bringing their conflict to an end.

It had been none other than Petra who proposed that Otto apologize after hearing Diadora’s side of the story. However, she was genuinely taken back by the sincerity of his heartfelt apology not limited to only words. “I must say, Otto is quite odd…” she thought aloud.

Diadora’s attention, however, was elsewhere. “In any case…” she started, hurrying toward Musica. Towering above the comparatively shorter man, the tall, slender Diadora inquired, “Did you come here on your own? Is the chief not joining you?”

“Father ain’t feelin’ too well,” Musica responded. “Gonna take some time to recuperate. I reckon he’s gonna retire. So, bit by bit, I’ll be takin’ over.”

“I see… I wish him a swift recovery. However, work is a separate matter. These individuals are important guests, not only of myself, but of the entire Regundra family. It is critical that they encounter no inconveniences,” Diadora instructed.

“Aye, well aware o’ that,” Musica acknowledged, bowing reverently. His face—or rather, his voice—showed no signs of displeasure at Diadora’s authoritative tone.

Judging by the flow of the conversation, it was evident that this business was overseen by his father, and that Musica would be inheriting his role. A generational business centered around smuggling people was a world entirely foreign to Petra’s previous imaginings.

“Lady Petra,” Diadora spoke. For a brief moment, Petra found herself taken aback by the formality of the address. However, she concealed her anxiety, responding with a gentle smile to Diadora, who had turned to face her. It’s the role that I am expected to play and the script that I must follow…

Ram and Frederica, donning their travel attire, waited alongside Garfiel and Otto in quiet anticipation for a response from the girl who had been called “Lady” Petra. That’s when another voice spoke up.

“Don’t be so tense, Lady Petra. Relaaaax.” It was Roswaal.

“Yes, that’s right,” Emilia chimed in. “You can count on us for sure!”

Petra felt her face tensing up as the two addressed her, yet she managed to maintain her composure. I have to keep it together. I’m a daughter of nobility in a rather complex situation.

“Thank you,” Petra finally replied, remembering her role as the respectable master of Roswaal and Emilia. “I’m putting my trust in you… Dudley, Emily,” she added, calling the two by their chosen aliases.


The primary objective behind their illicit entry into the Vollachia Empire revolved around safeguarding Emilia’s true identity, while also ensuring that Roswaal’s true identity remained concealed. Given the delicate nature of the relationship between the Kingdom and the Empire, the mere revelation of their identities could result in war, as they had previously been made aware. Therefore, it was imperative to maintain utmost secrecy regarding their identities during the illegal border crossing.

To achieve this, they had devised a carefully-orchestrated setup. Petra assumed the role of a noblewoman with complicated circumstances, while the individuals accompanying her took on the roles of her guards and attendants.

“This might sound somewhat insensitive, but it feels reaaally exciting,” Emilia remarked. Going by the alias of Emily, Emilia was to act as Petra’s guard, dressed in her usual cognitive disruption robe. Between Frederica and the other maids, and Garfiel and Otto, assuming the roles of military and civil officers, respectively, there wasn’t anything conspicuously out of place. However, Emilia’s presence felt quite out of place.

Emilia had been rather inept at lying and hiding things to begin with. Being so good natured, straightforward, and honest to her core, she was susceptible to stomach aches whenever she resorted to lying. Of course, her motivation was genuine, however that motivation often backfired, leading those around her to scrutinize her words and actions. On the other hand, in contrast to her heaping mass of insecurities—

“Lady Petra, pray, may I inquire if you find yourself parched?” Roswaal queried. “If there be aught that requires attending, do not hesitate to commaaand me.”

“Your face is annoying me, sir,” Petra groaned.

“Oh, I implore you to desist,” Roswaal responded unperturbed. “Engaging in such formal colloquial discourse with individuals of lower standing is rather inappropriate. Maintaining your customary air of arrogance would scaaaarcely be remiss.”

“Your face is so annoying… Get out of my sight,” Petra insisted, pursing her lips. She spoke in a manner of which she was well aware lacked any semblance of charm, directed at the individual who was earnestly attending to her in the dragon carriage.

Unperturbed by her harsh attitude, Roswaal joyfully backed away, giving her space. His nonchalant demeanor irked her even more. He was visibly enjoying their predicament much as Emilia was. Perhaps, even more.

Assuming the alias of Dudley and acting as Petra’s butler, Roswaal’s attire differed from his eccentric norm. Rather, it was fancy yet practical travel attire befitting of the long journey ahead, tastefully accented rather than excessively expressive so as to not to overshadow his mistress.

His long hair was tied back, and his natural face was unadorned by makeup. This butler character hardly bore any resemblance to Roswaal L. Mathers at all, more so to those who knew him well.

“It really bothers me how effective that makeup is…” Petra remarked to herself.

In the sense of how substantially his impression had changed, the impact of his usual eccentric attire and makeup was clear. He didn’t require any form of cognitive disruption like Emilia did, as his usual whimsicalness was more than effective. Petra felt bitter, but refrained from commenting, as she knew full well that this transformation also played a role in rescuing Subaru.

“I know how ya feel, Petra,” Garfiel sympathized. “Like they say, ‘Appas from Kue look sweet but are sour.’”

Petra smiled wryly at Garfiel, who understood her emotions. He was similar to Petra in that neither of them had a good opinion of Roswaal. In essence, they were part of the “Let’s Keep a Harsh Eye on Roswaal” alliance. Otto was another member, along with one more.

“Beatrice…” Petra whispered. The young girl on her lap offered no response to her voice. Beatrice, in a state of energy conservation, slept on her lap as a pillow. She gently stroked the cheek of the young girl’s white, doll-like, slumbering visage. It may have appeared quite disrespectful of Beatrice to be in such a position in the presence of an outsider, considering Petra’s role as a noblewoman. However, this was not an issue, thanks to the script Petra and Beatrice adhered to. They had explained to Musica that they were sisters. Notably, Petra played the role of the elder sister, while Beatrice assumed that of the younger one.

“She got all angry, saying ‘Betty is far older, in fact.’” Petra smiled as she remembered Beatrice’s red-faced complaint. It was certainly something Beatrice would say, however, as Petra was taller, the situation couldn’t be helped. A year had already passed since she had met Beatrice, and Petra had transformed from a girl to a lady in that span. She was different from the spirit Beatrice, whose adorable appearance remained unchanging.

“The gap between us is going to only get wider while you sleep like that,” Petra whispered, gently caressing Beatrice’s soft cheek. While Petra deeply yearned to reunite with Subaru, Beatrice remained a dear friend, and her forced sleep proved more agonizing than separation.

“How’s yer lil’ sis holdin’ up?” Petra’s concern for Beatrice was met by Musica’s inquiry from where he had been riding beside the dragon carriage. Atop his earth dragon, he led the party toward their destination. According to their plan, Petra served as the group’s representative. This led her to suspect that Musica’s inquiry was either an exercise in courtesy, or a means of ingratiating himself. What a cynical notion, Petra thought, shaking her head.

“Thank you for the consideration. I suppose her condition hasn’t changed,” Petra said.

“Me apologies ‘bout that,” Musica apologized. “That be a daft question. If she were to manage recoverin’ after gettin’ rattled by this here dragon carriage, there’d be no need for a journey like this in the first place.”

“Right…” Petra gave a short answer, admonishing herself for her persistent air of caution. Although she thought of Musica’s questions as probing, they could also be interpreted as dutiful adherence to Diadora’s orders, and consideration for her important guests.

It was often the case that things perceived maliciously tended to become malicious, while those approached with goodwill tended to result in positive outcomes.

“Were you really that concerned about my sister?” Petra asked.

“That be it, too,” Musica replied, “but it ain’t like I’d go outta my way showin’ it, with them guard of yers givin’ me them glarey eyes… We be approachin’ me workplace soon.”


Although Musica’s expression remained hidden by his hood, Petra understood his gesture, indicating what lay before them. Following his gesture, she peered ahead to where Otto was positioned on the coach box. The highway had long since disappeared, and they were now traversing lands not usually frequented. However, their destination lied straight ahead.

“This be Shamrock Valley. Me workplace,” Musica confirmed. Petra wordlessly squinted her eyes at the location ahead.

Shamrock Valley, situated east of the commercial city of Picoutatte, was one of the most notorious spots in the entire Kingdom of Lugunica, known for its shady stories and ominous tales. The area was shrouded in an ever-present mist and saturated with a high concentration of mana. It was rumored that the souls of the deceased, referred to as hollows, wandered the region. It was an eerie reputation that discouraged most people from venturing into the area.

“Such a shady reputation must be exaaactly what makes it that much more convenient for crossing the border in secret, riiight?” Roswaal asked.

“Aye, ye be right,” Musica responded. “It be a blessin’ from the gods, both for us and fer them guests puttin’ their trust in us, don’t ye reckon?”

“Well, ya ain’t wrong. I jus’ hate how ya put it,” Garfiel said.

Musica shrugged in response to Roswaal and Garfiel’s exchange before shifting his attention to Petra. He appeared to gauge her feelings, considering the foreboding canyon looming ahead. However…

“Just make use of whatever you feel is most convenient. Even if it’s Hollow’s Mecca or whatever. You don’t have to keep checking up on me,” Petra reassured.

“I get it,” Musica remarked. “Ye got guts, I’ll give ye that. Yer reassurin’ answer actually eases me mind a bit.”

His voice carried a note of astonishment at his incorrect assumption, and he reverently bowed. Petra nodded with satisfaction, and Garfiel and Roswaal each acknowledged Petra’s courageousness with a voice low enough that an outsider couldn’t hear them.

“No shock, comin’ from the chillest one in our camp,” Garfiel commented.

Roswaal added, “I made the right decision in recommending you from the staaaart.”

Petra accepted the praise from Garfiel, and half of the praise from Roswaal, as she anticipated their arrival at Shamrock Valley. It wasn’t an act of bravado. Petra simply lacked the fear commonly associated with hollows and unfounded superstitions. She was eager to traverse the misty valley as soon as possible.

However, a slight hint of unease lingered. Divided into two dragon carriages, Petra couldn’t help but worry about the resolve of those in the carriage behind theirs. “I hope Sister Frederica’s side is faring well,” she said to herself.


Shamrock Valley was enshrouded in an ever-present mist and a high concentration of mana. It was a literal ‘loophole’, a passage between the Kingdom of Lugunica and the Vollachia Empire, carved deep within the ominous lands.

“It may look spooky, but as long as we have a guide, there is no need to fear,” Otto assured.

“You don’t seem the type to fear hollows, anyway,” added Petra.

“Well, that may change if I ever happen to come in contact with a real one in person,” Otto said, gripping the reins. “But so far, I have yet to encounter anything like that, so I have no reason to be afraid.” Living humans were far more frightening, not to mention experienced merchants–a sentiment to which Petra also agreed.

In fact, even along this bumpy terrain, the earth dragon’s Divine Protection of Wind Evasion allowed Otto’s beloved dragon, Frufoo, to pull the carriage with no issue. Naturally, the same principles would apply to the carriage pulled by Subaru’s dragon, Patrasche. However…

“Eek!” Frederica’s scream pierced the air. “W-Was that a face floating in the mist over there!?”

“It is only the wind stirring up the mist,” Ram said rationally. “It only happened to appear that way.”

“Ah, wait, Ram!” Emilia interjected. “I think I heard someone calling for help in the fog! It sounded like, ‘The only way out is death!’ That’s so distressing! We have to help them!”

“It is the wind,” Ram repeated. “We are in a valley, so it probably just sounded like a human voice.”

Unlike those of us progressing smoothly, Ram’s side seems a bit on edge. Even if Sister Frederica tries to hide it, she’s a bit of a scaredy-cat, and tends to overreact to things like hollows and unexplained phenomena. Now that I think of it, I heard that Sister Emilia was also fearful of hollows before, but in her case, that was because she couldn’t distinguish between hollows and humans. But so long as she perceives cursed words as a call for help, she’s far off from Frederica’s level.

“Ram is content with her never reaching that state for all eternity,” Ram muttered. “Babysitting one person is enough for Ram.”

“I can’t disagree with you there, Sister Ram… I mean, Ram,” agreed Petra.

Nonetheless, thanks to Ram’s physical control of the reins and her role as a leader, they successfully traversed the valley without incident, reaching their destination—the loophole.

“So this is…” Petra began.

“This thing here be what we call the Everlasting Darkness,” Musica explained. “Folks say this tunnel’s been dug out by our grandfolks’ grandfolks, way back when.”

“Dug by your ancestors, Musica?” Petra asked.

“Yep, with these here claws.” Musica slowly removed his hood before Petra, who was overwhelmed by the sight of the cave gaping on a small hillside in front of them. Petra and the others gawked at his previously hidden face, now revealed.

“Sorry ‘bout bein’ so rude all this time,” Musica said. “It’s ‘cause we be hated, plain and simple.” Saying that, he waved his hands—hands with thick, sharp claws that had also been hidden under the robe—and smiled, face covered in short, dark brown hair.

With his round nose, large mouth, and small ears, his face resembled a rat. Despite his slight stature, it was clear that his round body wasn’t fat, but rather packed with dense, powerful muscles. His eyes were obscured by the short hairs, similar in color to the soil, which rendered them invisible even without the cover of the hood. Yet, Petra knew exactly what Musica was.

“Are you a moleman?” she asked.

“Aye, aye. We ain’t an easy bunch to come across, ye know? So, seems to me the only way yer familiar with us is either ‘cause yer well-read and savvy, or ‘cause of our notorious rep.”

“I think it’s because I’m so studious.”

“Tch, tch, how nice of ye,” Musica said with a chuckle that could be taken as either sarcasm or gratitude. Petra speculated that Musica’s self-deprecation was likely connected to the rumors surrounding the mole people and their history of persecution. It wasn’t entirely irrelevant to Emilia’s ideals of winning the royal selection.

“Iris and the King of Thorns,” Petra said, referring to the title of a play. Musica silently affirmed. It was a popular play originating from the Vollachia Empire, said to be based on true historical events.

The story followed a girl named Iris who fell in love with the King of Thorns. To save him from a dire situation, she faced calamity with the help of many people. At first glance, it sounded like a universally beloved tale. However, its enduring impact arose from its tragic ending.

At the end of the play, the protagonist, Iris, perished after driving away the calamity. She had been betrayed by her companions, right before reuniting with her lover. The story ended without her ever meeting her beloved again. And as the play was based on historical facts, the characters also reflected historical figures. Many signs indicated that the King of Thorns represented the Emperor of the Vollachia Empire at the time. Iris, the girl who died before their reunion, was also confirmed to have been real.

“Those who betrayed Iris and brought about the tragedy were the same ones who had helped her counter the calamity—the mole people and wolf people,” Petra summarized.

“‘Cause o’ that, we ain’t had no place in the Empire fer generations,” Musica said. “Them wolf folk, they ain’t be knowin’ how to make ‘emselves scarce, and got ‘emselves wiped out. Then our forefathers dug this here tunnel and…”

“And that’s what led to this Everlasting Darkness?” Petra concluded.

He nodded and gave a small smile, clearly impressed, as the darkness loomed behind her. “Ye really got that studious streak in ye.”

“Why are you sharing this story with me?”

“There’s folks out there who be gettin’ all riled up just ‘cause the tunnel been dug by a buncha mole people,” Musica answered the skeptical Petra. “It’d be a right pain if ye start gripin’ once ye get inside, so think if it as givin’ ye the chance to bugger off at the entrance if ye fancy.”

“You can also think of it as reassurance,” Otto added, joining the conversation. He raised a finger in response to Petra’s puzzled gaze, also looking out at the Everlasting Darkness. “As Musica mentioned, there may be people who’ll become apprehensive after learning about the mole people’s notoriety. At the same time, though, once they learn the past about his ancestors escaping from the Empire, it can also serve as a reassurance to prove that this cave does in fact connect the two countries.”

“Oh, you mean as a way to prove he has no intention of deceiving us and trapping us inside?” Petra asked.

“That is correct. What do you think? Though I imagine that you would have explained it even if I had not brought it up.” Otto closed his eyes, directing his inquiry at Musica, who raised his arms in surrender.

“Blimey, ye lot can be quite frightenin’, can’t ye?” he said. “‘Fraid I’ll have to kindly ask ye not to hinder me business, mate.” It appeared that Otto’s assumption was indeed correct, and that Otto had indeed disrupted his work.

“My apologies,” Otto said. “Please understand that the impact is not as great on those of us who are already aware.”

“Otto, you probably shouldn’t say that out loud…” Petra cautioned Otto on his critical attitude toward others.

“My apologies,” Otto formally apologized to Musica after Petra’s scolding. He appeared to have been oblivious of his actions. He was undeniably dependable, but whether due to his merchant nature or his own disposition, he tended to interact rather coldly with those outside his inner circle. Despite his competence as a domestic affairs official and adeptness at facts and figures, there were still times in which he fell short.

“It’d sure be great if Subaru were here for moments like these,” Petra reflected.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” Musica said. “Look at that, ye got yerself a mighty tender look there chatterin’ ‘bout that Subaru. Who in tarnation is the feller?”

“He’s my fiancé,” Petra beamed unapologetically.

“Buh—” Otto attempted to suppress his laughter, but burst into a fit of amusement. Petra stuck out her tongue at him and shifted her gaze to the gaping mouth of the Everlasting Darkness. Now fully aware that this immense tunnel led to the Empire and why it had been dug, there was only one task left.

Petra clenched her fists. “We need to pass through here to accomplish our goal.”

“Y’know, even reckonin’ it be all fer the sake of yer sister, ye still one brave lass,” Musica commended her determination with a sigh of admiration.

Her companions had informed the impressed Musica that the reason for their journey to the Empire was for Beatrice’s sake. They explained that the cure for Beatrice’s ailment, stuck in a state of light sleep, was in the Empire.

In fact, the cure for Beatrice’s situation was Subaru. Thus, they hadn’t lied about anything. They simply worded it differently. And the same went for Petra, who was also in need of the same cure.

“So, what’s the deal?” Garfiel asked. “Ya gonna guide us through that tunnel like how ya brought us here?”

“Loosely speakin’, yeah,” Musica replied. “But wit’ a moniker like ‘Everlasting Darkness’, ye best believe the insides be pitch-black. Ye won’t be catchin’ a breath if ye bring fire in there…”

“So what?” Garfiel pressed.

“From here on, all ‘em folks from me clan gonna go alongside ye,” Musica answered straightforwardly. Little by little, a dozen figures emerged from the depths of the tunnel, all mole people like Musica, dressed in similar robes with prominent stains of dirt.

“We’ll be headin’ in with our Divine Protection of Wind Evasion down, so kindly pay heed an’ make yer moves accordingly,” Musica instructed. Leading the group of mole people, he maintained his role as their guide through the Everlasting Darkness they would soon face, instructing Petra and her companions to brace themselves for a journey that promised to be anything but pleasant.


As Musica had warned them beforehand, the journey through the Everlasting Darkness was full of challenges. For starters, they had been engulfed in an overwhelming pitch-blackness as they moved through the walls of soil.

The passageway through the soil of Shamrock Valley was a place that received scarce sunlight. Lagmite ores positioned at regular intervals along the path provided faint sources of illumination. However, the gaps between them were quite wide, and Petra, who was unaccustomed to such circumstances, found them difficult to rely on. The mental strain of the inability to see one’s surroundings far exceeded her expectations.

Despite having been pre-informed of the dark path they would traverse, experiencing it firsthand was an entirely different story, and her initial resolve seemed to have easily dissolved within the oppressive blackness. Reclaiming my courage will be no simple task in this endless expanse of darkness.

The thing making her gloominess further melancholic was the humid air inside the Everlasting Darkness. Maybe it was due to the fog of the canyon entering it, the humidity underground was really strong, and she also felt it being slimy. On top of that, if she began sweating due to the heat then it would have been worse, but she had narrowly escaped that agony. But then cold dampness was bad for your health too and one needed to be careful not to get sick from it. And the greatest difficulty that surpassed the darkness and humidity was…

“My butt hurts…” Petra muttered before lifting her butt off the seat and massaging it. She was trying out different things, like adjusting her position or sitting on luggage, but nothing seemed to work, so it tormented her without end.

As has been previously explained, the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion didn’t work within the Everlasting Darkness. To be precise, it couldn’t be activated as it didn’t meet the requirements for doing so. It was a divine protection that was bestowed upon all species of earth dragon that allowed them to run unhindered by wind resistance or rough terrain, or any other factors that might prevent them from running smoothly. It was a crucial element for long journeys, but in order for it to activate, the earth dragon had to be running; standing still or going at a slow pace didn’t count.

Due to the darkness of the Everlasting Darkness, they had to move forward carefully, as they couldn’t see ahead of them. It was because of that that Petra’s butt was dealt devastating damage.

“Guh, the pain won’t go away no matter how much I massage it…” she complained.

“Are you alright, Lady Petra? Would you like to sit on my lap?” asked Emilia, who was riding in the dragon carriage with Petra, unable to bear seeing her in pain.


Emilia was treating her as her mistress, acting in the way she should in the role she had been given. They were both in the same boat with the divine protection not being active, but Emilia looked energetic as ever even in the dim light.

“Doesn’t your butt hurt, Emily?”

“It hurts a little, of course, but it’s nothing I can’t manage. Say, I think it would be more comfortable to sit on my lap than in a seat, so how about it?” Emilia asked again, weakening Petra’s frail resolve by patting her thighs.

“I-I’m flattered by the offer, but…” She felt like it would make her feel significantly better if she accepted her attractive offer to let her sit on her lap. But how would Musica and his companions react to seeing this? It would do no good to make them have doubts about us just because my butt hurts. “But it hurts so much that it makes me want to cry…”

“You can just take it easy, Petra. Subaru lies at the end of this dark path, so I can endure it.”

“I’ll endure it as well, then.”

“Huh?! Why?!” Emilia cried, widening her eyes in surprise at Petra’s sudden change of heart. Considering her position, Petra couldn’t lean on her after hearing her say something like that. Emilia had unintentionally changed the pain she was feeling in her butt into a competition to see whose feelings for Subaru were stronger, so now she was determined to win, the trivial pain be damned.

Her resolve to endure the pain, however, was immediately interrupted by a chuckle. “Hah.”

“…What’s so funny, Dudley?” Petra asked, glaring at the one who had laughed—Roswaal—who was sitting across from her. She could barely make out his face due to the dim conditions they were in, but even so, it was clear to her that he was grinning. “That face really makes me sick,” she muttered.

“Oh my, can you see it from all the way ooover there?”

“Yes, but even if I couldn’t, I’d be able to tell since you’re always looking at me like that, Dudley,” Petra seemingly accused without remorse. As expected, despite her stern tone, Roswaal just chuckled as if it amused him.

His casualness was what irritated her in the first place. He was fulfilling his role as a pretend butler with perfection, and even seemed to be enjoying his disguise. We’re on a journey to rescue Subaru and Rem, yet he doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, she thought. Maybe Ram and Garfiel should give him a good whipping.

“No matter what I say, he just doesn’t listen,” Petra lamented.

“Yeah, you’re right. I think so as well,” Emilia said, agreeing with the offended Petra. “That’s not very nice, Ros—Dudley.”

Roswaal gave her a provocative look. “Hm, whatever do you mean by that? I’m ever curious to see how you plan on correcting me, Emily.”


Roswaal normally showed Emilia respect, but their temporary disguises as Dudley and Emily had them in the same class. Petra’s face soured at Roswaal’s taking advantage of it. However…

“Status isn’t what matters here,” Emilia asserted. “You know very well that Lady Petra is working reaaally hard but are still being a meanie… That’s childish and uncool.”

“What are you saying? That you should constantly be worried with a serious frown on your face while traveling?”

“That’s not a nice way to put it, either. I’m worried about Subaru and Rem too, but I don’t think we should always be gloomy.” Emilia pulled Petra closer and hugged her shoulders as she confronted Roswaal.

“Emily…” Petra whispered.

A shadow hung over her face, but her bright amethyst eyes were brimming with energy. She hugged the surprised Petra, then continued. “Isn’t this what you were trying to say, Dudley? But you refuse to put it into words and think it’s fine that it doesn’t get conveyed…and that’s childish.”


“If Subaru were here, he’d be upfront about everything he’s done and wants to do. I’m not good at picking up on how people feel, so it helps me understand if he’s happy or not. Do you understand?” she asked, as if speaking to a child. Then she turned to Petra. “Lady Petra.”

Petra stiffened up as Emilia’s glittering amethyst bore down on her.

“Dudley acts like that, but he doesn’t mean any ill will… Or perhaps he does, but he’s not directing it toward you or me but at himself.”

“Ill will towards himself?” Petra asked.

“Yes, despite being all grown up, he’s still a wee child.”

Correction, she thought. Emilia’s tone wasn’t one she’d use with a child, but rather one she’d use to scold a naughty child. Petra couldn’t hold back her laughter at the way Emilia had phrased it. Her worldview is so gentle that even these brutal topics feel as though they’re wrapped in silk. She even made Roswaal’s mean personality seem like that of a spoiled child.

Roswaal offered no retort to refute her claim. Covered in darkness, he let out a sigh at Emilia’s words. “Anyway, Lady Petra. May I suggest engaging in the practice of magic to take your mind off things?” he asked, attempting to divert the center of attention away from himself by introducing a different topic.

“Practicing magic? Here? In the dark like this?” Petra asked.

“You maaay find it easier to concentrate in the dark. Meditating and taking hold of the mana within you is the first step towards mastery.”

“Are you certain it’s not just an excuse to weasel your way out of the difficult situation you find yourself in?”

“I cannot entirely dismiss that notion; however, the mana density here is quite notable, you see. Therefore, it is mooost suitable for detecting mana.”


I’m not sure what kind of expression Roswaal is making in the dark, but I know he’s serious, and that he wouldn’t lie or use the topic of magic to escape the situation. That was the genuine conclusion she arrived at after being Roswaal’s magic student for the past few months.

“Are you going to give it a try, Petr—Lady Petra?” Emilia asked.

Petra nodded. “Yeah, I will. Though it displeases me that I’m doing as Dudley wishes,” she said, making sure to add a jabbing comment at Roswaal. It would be dark whether she closed her eyes or not, but she closed them nonetheless and looked inward. Whether it be through one’s chest, stomach, limbs, or back, mana circulated through one’s whole body like blood. Unlike blood, though, which circulates through the body with each heartbeat, flowing mana was soundless. That was why the flow of mana was difficult to grasp, but…

“Try to grasp it with color and heat rather than sound,” Roswaal instructed.


Following his advice, Petra imagined that her body was transparent behind her closed eyes. Inside her transparent body, she could see the ebb and flow of mana, like water being taken up by a plant. Imagining pink mana, a path of mana formed in her body like a blooming flower. The circulating mana flowed through her fingertips, chest, and neck. And then…

“Wow…” As soon as she opened her eyes, Petra was taken aback by the transformed scene within the Everlasting Darkness. She saw the previously pitch-black world where she could barely see her own hands in pink. To be precise, she could see people and things in light shades of pink. It was like they were clad in a pale pink light. Roswaal’s face started turning pink, but his facial expressions were clearly visible as well.


Roswaal looked at her as if he were looking at a toddler that had just stood up on its own. Realizing that, she averted her gaze, feeling awkward.

She was then startled by a giant lump of pink next to her. “Waah?! Is that you, Emily?!”

“Huh? What? What happened? Did I do something weird?”

“It’s not that you did anything weird, it’s just that you turned into a lump of pink…”

“Pink…seems reaaally sweet,” came an innocent, child-like response by the pink lump, as well as a belated realization that it was indeed Emilia. It was perhaps due to her environment that Petra could see the flow of mana. Whether it be people or things, anything with even a bit of mana could be seen in the darkness.

In short, Emilia was a lump of incredible mana. Petra had always wondered what kind of trick she’d used when she saw her freeze a wide area around her in the mansion while practicing a special move with Subaru. But there wasn’t much to it at the end of the day. It was just that her special move required an enormous amount of mana, which had been provided.

“Just as I surmised, Beatrice is a lump of mana as well…”

Beatrice, who was lying on the seat next to Emilia, was also a lump of mana. Her outline was practically indistinguishable due to the sheer amount. Emilia had the upper hand when it came to volume, but Beatrice had a stronger concentration. I suppose it’s the result of her being a spirit, who’re made up of mana.

“But this is like… Do you always see the world like this, Dudley?”

Roswaal shook his head. “Not to thaaat extreme, no. It is becaaaause, Lady Petra, the magic element you happen to excel in is the Yang element, which is known for its influence on the body.”

“The Yang element…” Petra muttered at his explanation, glancing down.

The Yang element was one of the six magic elements of the magic system. It was a rare affinity, and its counterpart was the Yin element. Petra had learned that people were normally born with the Fire, Water, Wind, or Earth element, but since she received the Yang element, she wasn’t the norm.

Once you learned which element you had an affinity with, it changed how you studied going forward. This is a huge step for me as a student of magic, but…

“So I don’t have an affinity for the Yin element like Subaru and Beatrice. I’m disappointed…”

“No, no, this one is also rare, you knooow? Having the Yang element isn’t something to get disappointed about.”

“I don’t care if it’s rare or not,” Petra huffed, giving the pushy Roswaal an ice-cold response. She wasn’t trying to put him down or anything, it was just how she really felt. I get that some people want that rare, special power, but what matters is whether I can use it properly or not. With rare affinities, the downside is that few people can wield them, so there’s less precedent.

Petra was running around busily, incredibly occupied. She couldn’t use youth as an excuse in the fight she was preparing for. She needed power and skill that she could utilize immediately and the assurance that it could keep evolving.

“But that’s amazing,” Emilia praised. “So you can see in the dark?”

“It would seem so, yes,” Petra replied, before looking around in response to Emilia, who was holding her hands together in front of her chest. “I can see the dragon carriage behind us being pulled by Frufoo, and I can see Frederica and everyone else inside pretty well…”

To Petra’s eyes, the darkness known as Everlasting Darkness was clear as day. It wasn’t like she could see through walls or the path ahead, though. At best, she could see what the mole people being led by Musica were up to as they guided the dragon carriages, or Ram lying on Frederica’s lap.

“Other than that, a bit ahead there’s…” She looked ahead towards the end of the path and noticed a spot emanating a radiant mana light. It was 10 or more meters away and seemed much more mana-condensed than its surroundings. I guess that’s what they call a mana pool. Though it wasn’t even close to Emilia’s level, it grabbed Petra’s attention since the pooled-up mana was far more condensed than the mana around it.

“Lady Petra?” Emilia said.

“Oh, sorry. So, the ground in front of us is glowing and…” Petra quickly pointed out.

“…Right in front of us?” Roswaal asked, his voice slightly stiff. He didn’t seem like he was about to start explaining what mana pools were. In fact, he never started to do so. Before he could, things took a turn for the worse.

“Ah-uh,” Petra cried in agony as a sudden impact shot up from beneath the seat. It happened right as they passed over the mana pool. The cause was the dragon carriage getting thrown into the air, but that wasn’t all.

“…Petra!” Emilia shouted, scooping Petra up in her arms and cradling her head. The dragon carriage tilted forward, shaking violently, before rolling down into the depths of the Everlasting Darkness. Yes, it was falling, deeper and deeper into its depths, with great force.

“Dodogyuuun!” You could hear Patrasche’s screams along with the creaking of the dragon carriage. It went without saying that if the carriage was falling, so too would the earth dragon. The dragon carriage carrying Petra, Emilia, Roswaal, and Beatrice was then hit with a violent impact. It was if they were insects in a cage that was being shook around…

The impacts that seemed to last an eternity finally came to an end.

“…D-Did it stop?” Petra muttered, exhausted and out of breath, while her head was being tightly hugged by Emilia. Right after that, she realized what was going on, and was especially concerned about the vulnerable Beatrice.

“Beatrice…” she whispered.

“Please do not worry. I kept her safe.”


The one who’d responded to Petra’s anxiety was Roswaal, who was kneeling in the tilted dragon carriage. Still being able to discern her surroundings by their amount of pink mana, Petra saw Roswaal holding Beatrice securely in his arms. He had protected her from the fall and the impact.

Relieved and sincerely grateful for this, Petra turned her attention upwards. I wonder what happened. As soon as we passed over the mana pool, the dragon carriage fell, and…

“Are you okay, Musica…?”

“…Apologies fer takin’ extreme measures, miss,” came a rough voice from outside the dragon carriage, interrupting her question. His strong tone of voice was one thing, but the reason she stopped was because of what he said. He said ‘extreme measures’ rather than that he made a mistake.

“Is this your doing? What are you planning?” Emilia pressed after hearing Petra gasp. Her resolute words were full of determination. In short, she was willing to resort to force if necessary.

However, contrary to Emilia’s resolve, Musica gave her a warning in the dark. “Kindly hold off. I’d advise against pickin’ a fight in the Eternal Darkness wit’ us. This here’s a cramped, deep, and damp domain—this be our world.”

“…What are you going to do with us?” Petra inquired. Having gotten to this point, it being an accident was no longer a possibility. Since they did this on purpose, they must have had a good reason.

Musica, who emitted a weak pink light, let out a tired sigh, then let out one last sigh before he made an offer that Petra and her companions would find…inconvenient. “Ain’t lookin’ to cause ya trouble if ye stay put. All we’re after is you and yer companions to use as a kind of hostages fer our negotiations wit’ the kingdom, ya.”