5-05 Assassination of a Princess

 On that day, there was a shock in King's Landing.

 It was said that the Minotaur, a demon from the Abyss, the deepest level of the Labyrinth of No Return, the oldest labyrinth in the capital, had suddenly appeared in the city.
 At the moment the demon appeared, all of the senior guards guarding the entrance to the labyrinth were killed.
 Princess Linneburg, a talented princess who had just returned from exploring the middle level, was also on the verge of losing her life.

Are you sure? Are you sure that the Minotaur appeared at the entrance to the labyrinth?
Yes. According to the testimony of the only eyewitness to the moment of occurrence, that is, the survivor, Lady Linneburg, there is no doubt. I think it was a summoning spell activated by someone.

 The prince bit his teeth as he received the report from Dalken, the chief of staff of the Royal Knights.

So, the appearance of the Minotaur was man-made?
"Probably. You can find a lot more information on this topic on the web. We were able to recover the wreckage along with the body at the scene. It is made of an extremely pure magic stone. It's not something you can buy on the market, it's out of the ordinary.

 Chief of Staff Dalken said and pulled out a piece of reddish purple gemstone.

"I see. So we have some idea of where it came from, right?

 It is a very advanced technology, requiring a precise magic circle engraved by a high-ranking magician and a high-purity magic stone.
 In the event that you have a lot of money to spend, you should be able to buy and sell it.
 The number of people who can prepare all of them is naturally limited.

In the event that you're not sure what you're looking for, there are a few things you can do. He said that the wavelength of the magic stone is similar to that of the magic tools manufactured at the most advanced magic tool manufacturing facility in his country. And using a magic stone of this purity, it should be possible to trap the Minotaur in a ring-sized ward.

 The prince's face clouded as Dalken's report continued.

 The three surrounding countries surrounding the Kingdom of Crace.

 Mithra, the Holy Church in the west.
 Derridas, the Magic Empire to the east.
 Sarenza, a commercial autonomous region in the south.

 Among them, the magic empire of Derridas, located in the east of the kingdom, is now the most powerful country in the continent.
 And it's a country that's been putting pressure on us at every turn.

It's possible that it's in retaliation for that incident,......?

 In the past few years, the Magic Empire of Derridas has expanded its armed forces against the backdrop of a rapidly developing magic tool manufacturing technology.
 It's a great way to make sure you're getting the most out of your money.

 In such a situation, they have come to my kingdom as well.
 In such a situation, they demanded that my kingdom give them the rights to the labyrinth in exchange for lending them our military power.
 We knew that such a request was impossible, but we demanded it.

 My kingdom is a small country that relies only on its abundant labyrinth resources and the human resources that gather around it.
 If that foundation were taken away, the nation would not be able to operate in the first place.
 Naturally, my father refused, saying that he would take care of his own defense.

 But the Emperor of the Magic Empire, Sigurd Derridas III, is not a man to be satisfied with that.
 So he responded to my country's rejection with retaliation and threats.

 That makes sense.

No. That's not all.

 We've been harassed before.
 But not this time.

 My sister is in the middle of a trial for the throne, according to kingdom law.
 In some situations, she's alone and vulnerable.
 He took advantage of that and tried to kill her.
 When the Minotaur was summoned, the princess was simultaneously warded to prevent her actions.
 Clearly, the intention was to eliminate her.
 Furthermore, they left behind blatant evidence, as if they didn't care if they were exposed or not.

 This has not happened in decades.
 In other words...

The assassination attempt on my sister, Linneburg... The purpose of the assassination attempt on my sister, Linneburg, is not so much to threaten us as to induce us to wage war against her.
I think you're probably right.

 If my sister, the first princess of Linneburg, was assassinated, the whole country would be forced to search for the culprit.
 Even if it was an assassination attempt, it would be the same.
 And this time, the evidence was so blatantly left behind.

 It was as if they were trying to claim who did it.
 Or as a show of force.
 It's easy to identify the person who did it.
 It's as easy as coming forward.
 But if you use that as an excuse to question the other side you are setting yourself up for war.

 That's what they want, I'm sure.

They want to lash out, crush us head-on, steal our resources, and they're not even trying to hide it anymore.

 An obvious provocation.
 If you can do it, you can do it.
 It's clearly unjustified interference, and the fault lies with the other side.
 But appealing to neighboring countries about it...

I guess it's useless.

 Until now, they've been at odds with each other.

 The kingdom of Crace in the center of the labyrinth resources.
 In the northeast of the mountains, the magical empire of Derridas.
 Mithra, the Holy See, northwest of the forest resources.
 Sarenza, a commercial autonomous region in the south for marine resources.

 Each plays its own role.
 What they lack, they make up for through trade and negotiation.
 They have maintained peace for hundreds of years.

 However, the good relationship that had been balanced for a long time has been fragilely shattered by the recent rise of the Magic Empire.
 When the Magic Empire captured the labyrinths of countless small countries in the vicinity through wars of aggression, the three surrounding countries aligned themselves and began to make unreasonable demands on our country, which is in a weak geopolitical position.

 The goal of the Magic Empire is clearly "labyrinth resources".
 They seem to want it desperately.
 Relics from the Labyrinth of No Return to gain even more power.

 There are probably no allies around.
 The three nations have probably already negotiated their share after the invasion.
 From the kingdom's point of view, it is surrounded in all directions, and all the neighboring countries are becoming enemies, which is the worst situation.

I can't help but understand what your father is thinking.

 My father, a strict and inflexible man, has always rejected their unreasonable demands.
 Anything that seems unethical, from the most important to the most trivial.
 It's a natural attitude for a king.
 I understand the logic of it, and I think it is right.

 But that is why there is friction.
 The relationship with neighboring countries is deteriorating every moment because of the reasoning.

 This incident is a threat to my father, the current king, who has not yielded to pressure.

 The other side is no longer going to hide it.
 And perhaps other neighboring countries are also aware of what is going on.
 What it means is: .......

We're in a real crisis, aren't we?

 The situation is so urgent that there is not a moment to lose.
 That's the impression the prince got.

"Dalken. I don't think this is the only sabotage. It's possible there are still other tricks being played in the country. Investigate that as well.
As you wish.

 There's another problem.

The man who rescued Lean...

 "Lean" was Princess Linneburg's childhood name.
 The prince still calls his sister by that name.

 The prince still calls her by her nickname.
 She told me that there was a man who had single-handedly defeated the Minotaur, the demon of the abyss.

 But it was a very hard story to believe.
 The prince himself heard the story from the princess, but it did not make sense.

 The man was said to have easily defeated dozens of heavy blows from the Minotaur.
 With a single mass-produced broadsword deployed by the guards.
 Moreover, it was a quick attack and defense that lasted only a dozen seconds (・・・・・・).

 It's impossible.

 That was my impression when I first received the report.

 It was unbelievable, at least from my own knowledge and common sense.

 But as I continued to listen to him, it became even more unbelievable.
 In the end, the man used a broadsword with a broken handle to repel a siege axe made of magic iron, and cut off the head of the Minotaur with the axe.

 It was impossible to imagine such a thing.

 Let's suppose there is such a man.
 That is to say, there is a man who has a better fighting ability than the six saints who once faced the Minotaur in the depths of the earth - the party of six.

 The Six Saints, a party made up entirely of S-rank adventurers.
 These are none other than the six people that the current king, my father, once led to explore the depths of the Labyrinth of No Return.
 When they encountered the Minotaur in the depths.
 When they encountered the Minotaur in the depths, even Dantarg, the legendary warrior (tank) of the party, prepared to die.
 His entire body is covered with muscles harder than steel, and even his eyes are unharmed by arrows or swords.
 Although it seemed to be a good thing that the magic of the [Demon Saint] Oken and the king's labyrinthine relic, the Black Sword, barely worked, everyone exerted all their strength and finally killed one of them, gave up all the treasures in front of them, and ran back.

 The Minotaur is that much of a threat.

 And yet, he was able to defeat it single-handedly...
 It was as if a hero from a fairy tale had stepped out of the story.
 It was unbelievable.

My sister must have been a little confused. You should calm her down now. Then maybe we should talk to her again.

 Her life was in danger.
 Even a talented young lady who has risen to the rank of [Silver Class] at the age of only 14, much earlier than herself who was said to be the most talented person in the kingdom, would be confused.
 This must be the first time for my sister. No wonder.

 Or, there is the question of whether it was really the Minotaur.
 But that question has already been answered.
 Because one of the Six Saints, Sig the Sword Saint, confirmed the demon's corpse and said that it was definitely the Minotaur.
 It didn't add up.
 There is no other way to think about it than to believe that someone as dreamlike as my sister says actually exists.

Did you find out where he is? You must have seen him at the scene.

"Well, that's the thing. I saw what I saw, but...
I saw what I saw, but what?
"According to the witnesses who rushed to the scene, he 'vanished before their eyes like a phantom. I haven't been able to track him since.

What the hell is that? What do you mean? A highly trained reconnaissance unit lost track of him? What the hell is the...

 The prince was about to say what the elite were for, but then he remembered that they were his very best men, so he shut his mouth.

I understand what you're saying. I understand what you're saying, but I'm telling you that I saw a man. And then he just... disappeared without a sound.

So you're saying they're too good to track, even with their sensing abilities.

 Who the hell is that thing?
 A man who easily defeated the Minotaur by himself, and whom even the elite troops of our country could not track down.

 And he's hiding in the country?

 The friction with the surrounding countries is growing.
 Something's starting to happen.

All right, that's enough. Get to work. Let's not waste any more time.

 The older man bowed briefly and strode away.

We'll have to take action on many fronts at the same time.

 The other man had taken a bold step.
 The other party took a bold approach, as if he didn't care if he was discovered or not.

 That can only mean one thing.

I think we're getting close.

 There's going to be a war soon.
 Or maybe it's already happening.

 The king needs to be advised.
 But my father is a man of intuition.
 He's probably already noticed what I've noticed, and he's already made arrangements...

 But still...
 I can't stop thinking about that man.

 If he's not an enemy, there's nothing more reassuring than that.
 He saved my sister's life, so I hope he is.

 But as it stands, he is an unknown entity.
 Why he left without telling us his name, and why he ran away, remains a mystery.
 Even with that, it's hard to imagine him as an ally.

"We shouldn't get our hopes up.

 This situation...
 It's tempting to cling to naive expectations.
 But the prince shakes his head.

"If only all the stories my sister told me were true.

 If only all the stories my sister told me were true.

 It's like her story.
 Whenever there is a crisis, a hero will come from somewhere and solve it all.
 It was like a common fairy tale.

I'll have to calm down and think about it.

 There was one more element running through his mind.
 The prince sat down in his chair to sort out the board, and sank into a sea of deep thoughts.