Rockwall Lou – V5 Chapter 2

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐


In front of the Prime Minister’s office, a female secretary was sobbing. Despite being called several times by the king, Hou refused to come out of his room. Desperate, Ozma pleaded to convey the king’s wishes.

To ask a favor of the wizard must mean they were really cornered.

“Well then. Huff, huff, huff.”

After briskly running on the spot about twenty times, Ozma entered the Prime Minister’s office.

Inside the room were two figures: an elderly man, Prime Minister Hou, engrossed in writing amidst a mountain of documents, and a mysterious old woman sitting against the wall, murmuring to herself.

With exaggerated panting, Ozma addressed them.

“Master Hou. I’ve come as summoned.”

The old man looked up with bloodshot eyes. Beneath his eyes were prominent dark circles. Contrary to expectations of being yelled at, Hou, with a pleasant demeanor, inquired.

“Ah, Ozma. I’ve been waiting. So? How was the situation in Perzen?”

Many in the palace despise wizards, but this old man is a pragmatist and highly values the Black Neck Squad. However, he is also the type to relentlessly exploit those he finds useful, so his reputation among the members is quite poor.

Upon hearing the report about the city of Pelzen from Ozma, Hou dramatically scattered the documents on his desk and jumped over it, rushing to a table in the center. A map of the kingdom was spread out on it, with various shaped blocks placed on top. Likely representing the positions of demon beasts. It seemed the old man had a precise grasp of the situation throughout the kingdom.

“Look! The horde of demon beasts that emerged from the northern ‘wilderness’ is radiating outward, moving south. If we remain idle, within half a year the entire kingdom will likely be overrun.”

While voicing this ominous prediction, a smile played on his lips. The worse the situation becomes, the more this old man seems to thrive.

“So, Master Hou.”

Ozma glanced at the old woman sitting in a corner of the room. Dressed modestly, she murmured to herself while clutching a staff.

“Who is she?”

“She’s a ‘prophet.'”

After this peculiar introduction, Hou explained the circumstances.

Three months ago, the “Blue Demon Beast” that appeared at the ceremony celebrating King Ramon’s 40th year of coronation was found to be connected to the once influential Mail Cult within the palace.

Since then, Hou had been searching for those associated with the Mail Cult.

“Whenever there’s instability, there will always be those who take advantage of the situation to incite the masses.”

Hou had dispatched spies throughout the capital to gather rumors about the “Blue Demon Beast” and information on those who spoke of it.

“Well, considering they’re survivors of the ‘Cult War’ from forty years ago, narrowing down the age range isn’t that hard.”

Indeed, that person was found.

It was an old blind woman who sat at the base of a feeble tree in a park located in a corner of a certain slum. All day, she would murmur to herself.

It’s not that she had just appeared out of the blue; she had been there for a long time.

The one who brought attention to the old woman was a caretaker of the slum. Out of pity for the lonely blind old woman, the caretaker took her home and cared for her for some time.

That’s when he listened to the old woman’s murmurs.

About the ancient “covenant” between the goddess and the royal family, the “Horned Lion” which is a Sacred Beast, and how the country would perish engulfed by the “Crimson Wave”.

The caretaker, who had been documenting this story out of mere curiosity, noticed that the events currently happening or about to happen in the kingdom eerily resembled the old woman’s tales.

Due to the commotion caused by the caretaker, the rumors spread rapidly.

The whereabouts of the “Blue Demon Beast” remained unknown, and the status of the Royal Knights was still uncertain. Although the royal family acknowledged the existence of the demon beast hordes said to have emerged from the “wilderness”, they have yet to devise an effective strategy.

Hence the rumor in the city of Perzen.

When people feel anxious, they seek to verify the current situation. The answers the citizens of the capital were desperately searching for were freely shared by the blind old woman.

The park where the old woman sat started to attract crowds upon hearing the rumors. The number of visitors grew day by day. Eventually, the old woman came to be known and revered as the “prophetess”.

Hou, after receiving a report from a spy, took swift action.

Under the pretext of heresy, the old woman was arrested.

“She is the ‘Star Tongue’, not a storyteller of the so-called Mail Cult.”

A storyteller is one who passes down myths and history. They are specialized in memorizing and telling, making conversation difficult. Though the interrogation of the old woman was challenging, Hou was finally able to grasp the situation by cross-referencing it with the records of the princess’s assassination event from ten years ago, known as the “Fanatics’ Rebellion”.

“The goal of the Mail Cult is succession and salvation.”

Hou spoke openly and revealed everything.

Ozma quickly summarized the long, heavy, and seemingly hopeless tale.

“So, the ‘Blue Demon Beast’ is merely a guide, and the supposedly assassinated princess is the key.”

Indeed, it matches the story told by the “Blue Demon Beast” and corresponds to the real threats.

“What do you think, isn’t it fascinating?”

Ozma didn’t find it particularly interesting, but he thought it might not be a matter of belief anymore.

If no action is taken, the kingdom will fall.

“So, master, what should we do?”

Hou had already formulated a response strategy, and all that was left was to obtain the king’s approval.

Ozma decided to review the proposed plan.

“Listen well. To fulfill the ‘covenant’, there are three challenges.”

Enthusiastically, Hou explained.

The first challenge is finding a way through the “wilderness” to reach the “Altar of Endings” where the “Blue Demon Beast” resides.

A large troop movement would likely be spotted by the horde of demon beasts. It would be best to use a fast carriage and navigate with a small elite group.

“Leave the princess’s protection to the Royal Guards. Of course, the Black Neck Squad will also be involved, acting as scouts and a strike force.”

“. . . . . .”

Ozma paused, narrowing his eyes as he skimmed through the plans.

The second concern is the treatment of the princess.

King Ramon, who greatly disliked the princess with a peculiar mark on her forehead, forced her to wear a mask and exiled her from the capital. Despite the absence of trust between father and daughter, a young princess now has to bear an enormous responsibility.

And the third is the state of the world.

“Ideally, we would have foreseen such developments and prepared to face these trials. If only the “Cult War” from forty years ago hadn’t happened.”

The Mail Cult, tasked with the mission of saving the nation, was decimated in their youth by King Ramon and Hou. Knowledge about the “covenant” was lost, and the kingdom now stands on the brink of collapse.

“Indeed, ignorance is a sin.”

The old man looked down, shaking slightly. A chuckling sound, reminiscent of laughter, escaped him. It seemed as though he was mocking himself, regretting irreversible past actions, but that wasn’t the case.

“That’s what makes life so intriguing!”

When Hou looked up, his eyes shone with childlike brightness.

“I never thought that at this age, my entire life would be turned upside down. If I had retired early, I wouldn’t have been able to fully express my regrets!”

Ah, indeed, this old man is exceptional, thought Ozma.

Hence, he cannot be allowed to live.

“The nation, its cities, and all its people must unite. To achieve this, a strong authority from the royal family is essential.”

In other words, inconvenient truths must not be disclosed.

“As long as we safely reach the “Altar of Endings”, everything is fine. The public’s objective can be set as defeating the “Blue Demon Beast”. Let’s see. . . . . .”

At this point, Hou seemed to ponder a bit.

“There’s another issue. His Majesty’s distrust of the Mail Cult still runs deep. How can we persuade such a stubborn man?”

“Ah, about that. . . . . .” In a casual tone, Ozma made a suggestion.  “. . . . . .I have an idea.”

Grinning, he pointed upwards with his right index finger. The tip of the finger glowed faintly, wriggling like a larva.

“Did you know, Master? Among the parasitic demon beasts, there are those that can take over the mind and body of their host, controlling them freely. Although, only for about half a day.”

A bewildered silence enveloped the room, with only the mumblings of a blind old woman echoing loudly.

Casually, Ozma tossed away the plan. As Hou reflexively caught it, Ozma made his move.

Swiftly circling behind the old man, he forcefully covered his mouth and thrust his right index finger into Hou’s ear.

“――Guh. Gah, Gagh.”

The small-framed old man convulsed violently several times before becoming still.

“Master Hou?”

Whispering into his ear, Ozma said,

“Now that you’ve set everything up for us, that’s enough. Please leave the princess’s protection to our Black Neck Squad. We will certainly meet your expectations. Right?”

“. . . . . .Yes, Ozma.”

That night, the “Wise King’s “Wiseman” Prime Minister Hou left behind a petition to the king and thereafter,  took his own life.

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