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Chapter 59: The Dragon God Festival (Part 1)
The Dragon God Festival had begun.
It was customary for the Sacrificial Priestess to cleanse herself in a purification ceremony early in the morning and then, wearing the ornament she had chosen from the treasury the day before, offer her prayers at the Shrine before the sun rose overhead. The street that went from the castle to the Shrine was packed with men and women of all ages hoping to catch a glimpse of the Sacrificial Priestess as her palanquin, draped with thin cloth on all four sides, passed by.
At long last, Julieta, wearing a pure white robe and led by Head Priest Malacia, appeared in front of the people who had gathered in the courtyard of the royal castle.
A silver circlet with a sparkling, translucent, teardrop gem adorned her forehead as she smiled back at the spectators who cheered in unison.
It seemed that she had correctly chosen the Dragon Pearl.
“Ahh, how beautiful.”
“She truly is the very personification of the goddess…the deity of the moon.”
“Holy maiden, may you grant Palcemith eternal prosperity…!”
Cheeks dyed red, the commoners extolled praises of Julieta’s beauty. I nodded along in agreement. As he stood beside me, Morino’s shoulders trembled as he tried to stifle his laughter, but I did not want to step on his toes today.
As the swaying palanquin slowly headed towards the Shrine flanked by the Royal Knights guarding it, flowers in a myriad of shades rained down upon Julieta from above. Fluttering in and about it were spirits who could usually only be seen in the form of lights. It was said that only on the day of the Dragon God Festival would the spirits who had gathered, attracted by the Ancient Dragon Dragon Kharis’ abundant mana, show themselves in front of humans. It was quite a mystical scene, but when one thought of how they had gathered for the sake of a Dragon who was to eat a young girl, it seemed to be a little more of a scary tale.
Meanwhile, the palanquin that had been showered in cheers all along the way, finally reached the Shrine. We entered the Shrine’s outer court through a side entrance before the Sacrificial Priestess, and waited for her to pass through the arches that resembled the likeness of a dragon.
Seen off by the commoners and the Royal Knights, the Sacrificial Priestess climbed the stone stairs one step at a time. Waiting at the top was the sole prince of this kingdom, the Crown Prince, Vikram Atrai Palcemith.
“…Sacrificial Priestess, Julieta O’shayne Asbal.”
The Crown Prince, who had come to greet the Sacrificial Priestess, received her with the greatest level of politeness.
“…Holy Maiden, the offering to the Dragon and the protector of the Kingdom, I pledge you my lifelong loyalty and all my sincere love.”
The Sacrificial Priestess gently shook her head at the words the Crown Prince spoke while kneeling, his hand outstretched.
“Pledge your loyalty to His Grace Kharis and your love to the citizens that you protect. Please continue to guide this holy kingdom on the path of prosperity.”
This was a kind of demonstration.
The words that they exchanged and the actions that they took were all predetermined. Well, since the Dragon God Festival itself was a string of ceremonies, such a tradition of exchange also held a certain significance.
However, coming here, another incident occurred.
“…What!? That’s all a huge farce!”
A voice full of annoyance, unsuited for the tranquil atmosphere of the place, was directed at the two of them.
Everyone’s gazes turned to its origin.
They were all concentrated on the owner of the hysteric voice, the one who had disturbed right in the middle of what ought to be the most important ceremony of the kingdom, in the outer courtyard of the Shrine where nobody except a few vassals were permitted to enter.
Even the guarding Temple Knights, Morino, and I.
We were all dumbfounded, unable to speak.
The one who spoke was—
Nasha Laturi, who seemed to have mixed in with the attendees, walked briskly, ignoring all the eyes on her. She forced her body between the Crown Prince and Julieta, who stood side-by-side like a married couple.
“Hey, you. What are your intentions!?”
“That circlet is something His Highness Vikram prepared for me. There’s no mistaking it!”
“Give it back!”
“That. Is. Mine!”
To my horror, Nasha’s outlandish actions were faster than we could stop.
Nasha Laturi snatched the circlet from a frightened Julieta’s head, smiled triumphantly, and then took off running towards the crowd gathered around the Shrine.
“Don’t tell me!”
She didn’t know the reason.
Nevertheless, even though she had come to ruin now, Nasha still had been born into this world to be the heroine.
So maybe that’s why she instinctively realized it.
The circlet was the real thing, the very item the Heroine had offered to the Ancient Dragon Kharis.
It seems that Nasha was planning to blend in with the crowd with the circlet she stole, to stop it.
Amidst this crowd, once we lost sight of her, finding out her whereabouts would be quite difficult.
If that happened, Julieta, who would go to Kharis’ side without the Dragon Pearl, would no doubt be eaten.
“I definitely won’t return it to the likes of you, Julieta…!”
Two small figures clung to Nasha’s legs as she pushed past the Temple Knights who stood in front of her to stop her as she tried to pass through the dragon-shaped archway.
“What are you…doing…!?”
“Doesn’t that belong to Julieta!? Give it back!”
The two twins, Cain and Abel, who lived in an orphanage attached to the Shrine had been watching the outer garden where the noble guests had gathered with the other orphans. Somehow, they ended up paying attention to Nasha, who had left a deep impression on them by being especially restless among the attendees, shaking her shoulders, and acting overtly suspicious.
“Get out of my way!”
Nasha shook her body, which seemed to have piled on weight; swayed her right leg to shake off Cain, who had coiled around it; and threw the boy onto the ground. Next, she tried to similarly shake off Abel who was entangled with her left leg, but was held back by someone who rushed out to stop her.
As a result, Nasha’s leg kicked the person stopping her in the stomach with all her strength. As he groaned in pain, Nasha saw who the figure was.
Her eyes widened as she held her breath.
“…Nasha…I beg of you. Please, stop.”
Rather than words of admonishment, they were closer to an entreaty.
“Why? Why are you getting in my way…? Morino.”
“Because I cannot let you do this, Nasha. You are to become the Queen. You have to be a role model for the people. You must take responsibility for the consequences of your actions!”
“I beg of you, Nasha…”
Nasha’s answer as she stared with eyes on the verge of tears was a loud slap on Morino’s cheek as she held the circlet she had stolen from Julieta.
Receiving a tight slap on his face, Morino quietly bit his lips.
Her long nails had left a clear red mark on his softly curved cheeks.
“So what!? So what, so what!? Why won’t you be my ally? Why won’t you help me? Morino, you too?”
Each and every single one.
“You told me that you loved me! You promised that even if we weren’t together, you would help me!”
The Crown Prince and the other Temple Knights who at last had reached them, took back the circlet Nasha had stolen.
Even as she was being dragged off, Nasha continued to scream in agitation.
“…Are you an idiot? Don’t dredge up someone else’s past and interpret it to your own convenience.”
The fact that Morino had previously loved Nasha was certainly true.
But that was a thing of the past. The present was the present, and Morino now held a different set of feelings towards Nasha.
Nasha had no right to deny them.
I took out a handkerchief from my breast pocket and wiped the dirt from the circlet that the temple knight had returned to me. I then went to Julieta, who was waiting with the crown prince in the centre of the outer court, and kneeled reverently on the lawn with the circlet raised in both hands.
“I apologise for the commotion. Here, Your Holiness the Sacrificial Priestess.”
“Uhm…Lord Anderheim, thank you.”
Julieta smiled happily as she received the circlet.
I smiled too, nodded a little to remind her that it’s okay, and then left the place.
“It belongs to me! It should have been mine!”
…I could hear screaming from a distance, but it would be better to ignore them at this point.
I turned to Malacia and urged him to guide Julieta inside the Shrine.
Well then, from this point forward, I could not accompany her.
…Julieta, my beloved daughter.
Seize your future with your own hands.
Hasr: We got a new translator on the site, Kuromaru!! Don’t forget to check out their novel, Tensei Saki de Suterareta no de, Mofumofu Tachi to Oryouri Shimasu ~Okazari Ouhi wa my Pace ni Saikyou Desu~