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The Forbidden Fruit

Translator: Kuromaru

Editor: Evelet

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Chapter 13: The Sage’s Domain

The meeting ended on a more cordial note than I had expected. That night, a banquet was held in the royal castle to celebrate our arrival. It was small in size yet very considerate.

A majestic chandelier hung from the ceiling. The carpet beneath our feet was beautifully woven, the white flowers on the table swayed gracefully, and the dishes served one after another were elaborate. Perhaps because only a few vassals whom King Neuschler trusted were invited to the banquet, mainly from the Mutani tribe, the guards seemed to be taking it easy.

By the time the desserts were on the table, the atmosphere naturally turned pleasant. In the corner of the venue where such a friendly atmosphere prevailed, away from the groups of people drinking and chatting, someone was gazing intently at a certain spot.

“…Hmm.”

Taiga Uru. Known as the Black Panther Commander. The fang of the Kingdom of Lidsalessaloth. His golden eyes were fixed on his beloved King Neuschler and the smiling Princess Shirayuki next to him. And then there was Jolga von Oswein, the Knight Commander of the Palcemith Kingdom, who was conversing intimately with the said King. The brother of an old friend, disguised as a girl, and a handsome man of mature age, whom most young men in Palcemith had admired at one point or another.

Suddenly noticing something, Jolga reached out and gently touched King Neuschler’s hair as he called out to him. A single white petal was plucked from between his locks. It must have fallen from one of the flowers decorating the table.

When a smile appeared on Jolga’s face, the vassals who were standing near King Neuschler involuntarily let out a gasp of admiration. The blind but handsome King Neuschler, flanked by a beautiful girl and a majestic knight. What a picturesque scene.

A sigh of forlorn resignation escaped Taiga’s lips as he silently averted his gaze from the attention-grabbing trio. He slipped through the balcony’s door and stepped outside like a feline1, moving without any presence. 

I picked up a glass of wine and followed as I continued to secretly observe him. I was curious about what he was thinking as he stood there under the twinkling stars of the night sky. When I stepped out onto the balcony, Taiga, who naturally noticed my presence, leisurely turned around.

“…Lord Sage.”

“Fufufu, I told you that moniker is a bit much.”

I stood next to Taiga and peered down at the castle town. The town was relatively quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of the day. The lights gathering in the centre of the town and the sounds of musical instruments on the breeze were probably from a party to lure yazus again tonight.

“It’s such a nice, functional town. It makes so much sense.”

“…It’s all thanks to His Majesty.”

“Indeed. But you know what I mean, don’t you?”

My lips lifted in a grin as I looked at Taiga. His eyes narrowed slightly. He looked down at me in silence as if he was assessing me. I pressed my lips to the wine glass in my hand and took a sip. A sweet, fragrant aroma wafted between us.

“A birdcage. If one is constantly pressured to do something, the mind grows weary. Therefore, what is needed is….real, tangible results. A cage to hold the blind bird.”

“…!”

Taiga’s body stiffened noticeably.

“Commander Taiga. What did your former friend, Prince Susanoi, declare to you?”

“…”

“Prince Susanoi tried to heal King Neuschler’s eyes by obtaining the spirit mirror from the Great Serpent. So, did he tell you why exactly he wanted to do that?”

“…Can no one keep a secret from you?”

“Not really. There are many things I do not understand. However, everything has a cause and effect. As long as they aren’t out of impulse, someone’s actions — even if they are difficult to understand — have meaning. Although Prince Susanoi had the means to defeat the serpent if he had waited another year, albeit at a small cost, he didn’t wait. ‘I want to heal my friend’s eyes,’…Sure, that’s a noble goal. However, if that was all, it would be impossible. It isn’t something he could choose easily. All the more, considering his status.”

So, there must be a reason for it. It was only logical to assume that Prince Susanoi had something to gain that he could not get otherwise.

“…He said that he loved him,” Taiga muttered. As I was an outsider, the Black Panther Commander could easily permit himself to express his feelings.

“He told me that he loved Nora. They were both destined to lead their countries, so he knew they could never be together. That’s why he couldn’t lie about his feelings for him. He just wanted to tell Nora that he had feelings for him…He said that he would try to rekindle the light in Nora’s eyes as proof of his unwavering devotion to him.”

“Hmm…as I had suspected.”

“I could only nod my head… I myself wished to be able to show Nora the white flowers.”

By all accounts, it was obvious that Taiga loved King Neuschler. And perhaps King Neuschler loved him too. If one wished to come between those two, they would certainly need to be prepared and willing to pay a considerable price.

“He was a strong man. I knew that even without the Dragon Slaughtering Sword, Susanoi would surely be able to defeat the giant snake. I was both looking forward to and dreading the day when the report would come… but…”

“…You were informed that Prince Susanoi failed in defeating the serpent.”

“Yes.”

Taiga took the glass I offered him and downed the rest of the wine in one gulp.

“I couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would let a single-headed serpent get the better of him. Nora was devastated, and I felt a hole inside of me.”

“Then, you proposed to help Hinoe with defeating the snake.”

“We indeed wish to avenge him, but we also want to expand our territory. Lidsalessaloth doesn’t produce many crops. If we can get a portion of Hinoe’s land as a reward for our help, it will contribute greatly to our food supply.”

“…I see.”

I pushed the bridge of my glasses up a little with my fingertips and slowly glanced at Taiga through the lenses.

It was a breath-taking gesture from such a hulking man. I pretended not to notice as I loosened my cravat slightly, revealing the brightly coloured marks on my neck that my cute little dog had playfully left.

“I have a suggestion.”

“…”

“After we go to Hinoe and successfully defeat the Great Serpent, I was thinking of offering one of the Spirit Mirrors to King Neuschler.”

“What…?”

“Princess Shirayuki won’t object if I were to say that it was the late Prince Susanoi’s wish….or what do you think, Commander Taiga?”

These words were like driving a wedge; such was the power of language.

“…What did you see earlier that made you sigh?”

A young king flanked by a beautiful knight and a lovely princess. It resembled the days he used to spend with his old friend.

“I heard that Prince Susanoi was also a dignified and beautiful young man. So, alongside King Neuschler, I’m sure that…”

It looked far more fitting than standing beside Taiga, with his beastly appearance and scarred physique.

“…I’m sure that they made a good match.”

“…!”

Commander Taiga bit his lip.

…This was like a “parting gift” from Prince Susanoi.

A young man from another country appeared between King Neuschler and Taiga, who until then were okay with only having each other. Taiga, who had never cared about his outward appearance before, must have realized this for the first time.

He was a man of no particular beauty, serving beside a beautiful king. But when Susanoi, who became their friend, held the hand of his beloved king… It was like a painting. Like the beginning of a story. Like two lovers who were destined for each other.

I appealed to Taiga, telling him that this was the way it should be. As he hesitated, I spun my words further.

“Once his sight returns, the birdcage will become useless.”

“…”

“The King’s world will expand farther and farther…far beyond your reach.”

“…What should I do?”

Taiga muttered, revealing his true feelings.

If I could get this out of him, then all I had to do now was to give him a light push.

“What should I do…? What do you want me to do, Lord Sage?”

“Hmm? That isn’t for me to decide.”2

I took my leave and left a silent Taiga on the balcony, returning indoors with an empty glass in my hand. As soon as I crossed the doorway into the room, an arm reached out from the shadow of the curtain, but I did not fight it. I was immersed in the intoxicating feeling of his lips on top of mine as we were hidden within the blind spot created by the gap between the wall and the curtain.

“…hmm.”

“fu…”

I wrapped my arms around his thick neck and pulled him in again. When I begged for more, he strongly rubbed the branding mark hidden by my hair with his fingers.

“Ngh…!”

“Good grief, I can’t take my eyes off you for a second…”

A resigned sigh escaped the lips of my dearest lover.

“I told you numerous times to break your habit of flirting with other men. Do you really want my sword to draw blood?”

“Fufufu, well, you seemed to be having such a good time with King Neuschler, didn’t you? It was quite a sight to see you entertaining Princess Shirayuki too.”

“You were the one who told me to do it… Though I don’t know what you’re scheming exactly.”

“I was simply trying to show them where their wavering emotions were leading them. Well, I certainly… allowed myself to get drugged.”

While resting my body on Jolga’s chest, I fiddled with the empty wine glass.

What I had in my mouth was not poisonous. It was more like a kind of herbal medicine.

“How was King Neuschler? Did he have any reaction?”

“Yeah, he had been keeping an eye on both of you since you went out to the balcony. It’s amazing how a blind man can observe so much from just movements.”

“Hmm, I see… If it’s like that, then it might be the opposite.”

“…the opposite?”

I nodded back at the puzzled Jolga. Then, we returned to the banquet hall, looking around us, waiting for a moment when no one was paying attention.

It was already late in the evening, time for children to go to bed. Princess Shirayuki bid farewell to King Neuschler before taking his leave. After receiving a kiss on the cheek from him, he returned to the room that had been provided for him.

The end of the banquet was approaching, and the hall was becoming more and more empty. I walked over to King Neuschler, who was sitting in the guest of honour’s seat pondering something, and softly called out to him.

“Your Majesty.”

“Hmm? Ah, Lord Sage… Is there something you wish to talk about? If it is related to interstate affairs, we can discuss it tomorrow.”

“No, not at all, Your Majesty… I would like to humbly offer a proposal.”

“A proposal…?”

“Indeed. If you’ll excuse me, I need to borrow your ear for a moment…”

I gently bent down beside him. I covered my mouth with my hand and whispered my proposal to him.

King Neuschler opened his blue eyes, which had no light in them.


Author’s Notes:

The herbal drug is a decoction of Muira Puama root.

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