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And we're now somewhere on pg 196. Yay! I think I might actually start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel eventually. ^^; (Okay, maybe not quite yet. There's still a lot left to do, but we're in the final third.)


She slowly walked towards Edgar and the others.

"The illegitimate child was a girl. And her child was also a girl, and eventually, Jeanne-Marie was born. It was pure chance that no boy was born until then. It was possible that Jeanne-Marie would give birth to a boy. By that time, the prince had grown old and wanted a new body. And that's why the prince had the still young Jeanne-Marie become betrothed to one of his followers who was a member of the nobility and carried Stuart family blood."

Most likely that was the Marquess Birkstone who had been one of the prince's men and who had once been his mother's fiance. A man Edgar had driven to commit suicide.

"It was her fiance's wish that she attend the girls' school that was part of a convent in France. In that place where girls of good families were sent and where boys were forbidden, she was to be given Catholic teaching and become his ideal wife."

Edgar could only listen silently. He was riveted by what Aeris had to say.

"It was ideal for me. I became her teacher at the convent and taught her to shun men. Just how far her blood and her descendants would continue to be exploited, that risk...... But it seems Jeanne-Marie couldn't understand that. Or her own value and her own fate. Let alone just how much misfortune the wrong action would bring about. She was like any girl who dreamed of becoming a happy bride, only she was an exceptionally beautiful young girl. And the world is full of temptation."

Edgar's memories of his mother were the same. When put in a social setting, she made anyone and everyone become enamoured with her. She ignored harsh truths and slanderous lies. She never noticed Edgar's little lies and escapades, and to her, he was the perfect son.

"When she turned 17, she returned to England in order to be presented at court, and she never returned to me after that. The son of a duke fell in love with her at first sight, and she readily abandoned her fiance to marry him. She never thought that that action would bring the worst misfortune upon the duke's family."

Aeris stood before the portrait, and just like his memory of that day long ago, she turned those dark foreboding eyes on Edgar. "You're the same way, lord. Like Jeanne-Marie, in seeking your own happiness, you will have those around you meet with the worst misfortunes. She... no, you brought about the destruction of the duke's household."

"You're wrong! It's not Edgar's fault!" Lydia shouted.

"Even if it wasn't his intent, his existence dragged those around him into meeting a horrible fate. Because he was born, the duke and Jeanne-Marie both died. His relatives and the retainers to the household, too, were all killed because of him."

Because she was absolutely correct, Edgar couldn't say anything, and he only felt a strong feeling of regret. It would have been better had he never been born. He remembered his despair when his father told him that.

"Lydia, he'll end up taking you down with him."

"I...... believe in Edgar."

Really? You're the one who'd been hurt. Edgar's the one who hurt you.

Lydia grabbed hold of Edgar's arm as he stood there confused.

"The mermaid's song...... Aeris, that was your magic, wasn't it......!"

The princess of the ancient royal city narrowed her eyes slightly. "That's right. This is part of the magic royal city. A place where my magic reigns. And like the legend says, men cannot return from here alive......"

Just as they noticed the sound of rushing water, a huge wave approached from outside the window.

Lydia. He started to hold her, but hesitated for an instant. He couldn't help wondering if his decision would one day drag her to meet the same fate as his parents.


Vision from the Bottom of the Sea


"Lydia, you should never have married him."

Aeris's voice came out from somewhere in the darkness.

"You're a member of the MacKeel clan of the highlands. A person who carries an old ability that connects the fae and humans."

While she was at the MacKeels, Lydia learned that three ancient families carried fae magic of the Seelie and Unseelie courts both. The Blue Knight Earl's family of Ibrazel, the royal Connaught family of Ireland, and the MacKeel clan of the highlands. The Connaught family had long since died out, and the Blue Knight Earl's family died out 100 years earlier when the final member of the family died. The MacKeel family was the only one to survive, but they'd since lost the magic of the Unseelie Court. Since it was a dangerous ability, all of the families had been very careful to keep the ability from being used for evil. So much so that the Blue Knight Earl's family had chosen to lock away that magic. But it was a traitor from the MacKeel clan that used it of their own volition. And from that evil fae magic, the "Prince of Calamity" was born with the intent of taking revenge on the English royal family.

The memories of the first prince who'd been born at that time, was currently inside Edgar. In other words, Edgar was the only one who carried the evil fae magic that the three ancient families had fearfully kept and later lost. If by any chance, he should be taken over by the prince's memories, it was possible that the fearsome magic that had been hidden away could change both the human realm and Faerie.

"You even knew about me, didn't you?" Lydia said.

"The sea tells me many things," Aeris replied. "While people say that they're separated by the sea, everything's connected to it."

"And the sea told you that Edgar became the prince's successor?"

A member of the sea. That's what she'd said.

"If I don't know about changes that happen in the fae realm, I can't protect my country. My connections with those of the sea bring me important information.

The thought that came to Lydia's mind was of Ermine who'd become a selkie. There weren't many who knew that Edgar had taken in the prince's memories, and perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that she'd thought she'd seen her at the hotel.

"And that's why you tried to get me away from Edgar?"

"That's right. I enticed you with the picture of the red moonstone that's tied to the Blue Knight Earl. In order to bring you here to Bretagne."

"And you're also the one who tried to take me into the sea with the mermaid's song?"

"I absolutely wanted to have you come here."

"That's rather forceful."

Aeris responded to Lydia's criticism firmly, "You'll be killed if the prince awakens."

"Edgar won't be overcome by the prince's memories. He promised me."

"Promised?" Aeris murmured and laughed. "You actually believe a man's promise?"

"You might have been betrayed by your lover and can no longer trust men, but not all of them are unfaithful. Your fiance tried to save you after all, didn't he?"

"Lydia, he didn't want to save me, he just wanted to do what was right—to do the good deed of trying to save a poor girl. That's why I let go of his hand. And he loosened his grip as though he'd been waiting for it. And that way he didn't have to be bothered by a guilty conscience."

"Do you really believe that? If so, then why did you have a portrait done with you wearing the red moonstone ring? That ring was your fiance's, wasn't it?"

Aeris paused pensively. "That's... an unusual stone. As it sank together with me, it changed the colour of everything around me—the sea, the sky, even Bretagne's coast. They were all coloured a light hue as though the ring had dissolved. And I think that gave me a little comfort at that time. That perhaps it wasn't so bad to end up sinking in the rose-coloured sea......" Her words trailed off as she struggled to contain her memories. But after that, she'd returned to her usual cold manner of speech. "Gemstones don't betray people. But that painting was simply to get your attention and entice you here."

Lydia wondered if that were true. And if a person would wear on their own hand, even if only in a painting, the ring of the man who'd abandoned them simply for that purpose.

"Lydia, think about it. It's too late to regret things once you've been betrayed. You're the prince's enemy. In the MacKeel clan, there's the one known as the prophet, and you are his betrothed. Since you're the one closest to the prophet, it puts you in great danger. Isn't that right?" Aeris then continued gently as though to reason with Lydia. "And that's why you're also the key to fighting the prince. I too am a bridge between people and the fae, and as the survivor, for the sake of this city, I don't want to lose you."

"You presume too much! I'm not a member of the MacKeel clan. I'm Edgar's fairy doctor!"

Lydia ran off into the darkness.

Aeris's voice followed after her. "You've realised it already, haven't you? That your marriage was a mistake."

Lydia never once thought that. At least not on her part. But Edgar? She didn't know, which is why she was afraid.

"Stop it......!"

She covered her ears as she ran blindly. Her moonstone ring glowed, and Lydia suddenly found herself free of the darkness. She stood alone in a marble hall. Aeris's voice and presence had were gone. Lydia gently stroked her white moonstone wedding ring, and it twinkled as though to reassure her.

"I mustn't doubt." Since realising that Edgar might not be content and not knowing what to do, the only thing Lydia could think of doing was to become indispensable to him as a fairy doctor. But even if she was wanting in some way, they were a married couple. And this gem was a definite bond she had with Edgar.

She had to find Edgar.

Aeris saw him as 'the prince' and was trying to eliminate him. She'd said that men couldn't return alive.

'She didn't mean, that he's already......' Lydia panicked and ran off frantically.


*


'You should never have been born.' Those were the last words he remembered his father saying to him. And the Edgar who was the legitimate son of Duke Sylvanford died at that time. And not just because he was considered dead and had been stolen away by the prince's organisation. His father pointed a gun at him and denounced him, so could he truly claim himself to be Duke Sylvanford's son? So he became a non-entity and survived. Despite that, deep down, a part of him still thought of himself as the heir of a duke. Even if his father didn't acknowledge him, he was dead now, and Edgar was therefore in the position of inheriting Sylvanford in its entirety. Even if no one else knew, the undeniable fact that he was the head of a duke's family, and his honor as a nobleman supported him all this time.

But even he'd thought countess times, 'if only he'd never been born.' The beautiful property at Sylvanford—the members of the duke's family would no doubt be living there peacefully, even now. And even if his parents hadn't had a male heir, they would probably have been happy having a sweet daughter. If the prince hadn't seen that his relatives were killed as well, there were potential male heirs in branch families.

'You should never have been born.'

'One day, you will kill your parents.'

His chest tightened as he remembered Aeris's words.

"Lydia, he'll end up taking you down with him."

Could that be true. Could he really be someone who seemed fated to only bring misfortune down on those around him?

"You poor thing. You're feeling quite hurt, aren't you, my lord."

Edgar opened his eyes upon hearing a voice next to him. Where was he? There were several white pillars, and the place resembled a temple. Several scantily clad women surrounded him, and he was lying down on an old-fashioned divan.

"Are you Aeris's underlings?"

He sat up, but they hung around him enchantingly.

"Forget about that sort of thing."

"We'll help you forget all your troubles."

Gentle arms wrapped themselves around him. Their translucent white skin enticed him from beneath the fabric of their clothes, and their lips curled in alluring smiles. Soft fingers stroked him on the cheek tracing down along his neck and tried to undo his tie. He wrapped his arm around the nearest woman's waist, and she immediately cuddled against him. Even though he was a little rough as he lay her down on the divan and lay over her, the enchantingly beautiful woman smiled. Edgar smiled back at her and wrapped his hands around her slender neck and started to tighten his grip.

"Where's Lydia?"

Just before being swallowed by the wave in the old castle, he'd gotten over his momentary uncertainty, and grabbed Lydia's hand. He'd held on desperately determined not to let go. If this was part of Aeris's magical domain, Lydia should be nearby.

The woman flailed as she struggled to breathe, and the others drew back. Among the others, someone said, "My lord...... please stop. We were only trying to comfort you."

"I'm not so sexually frustrated as to fall for seduction."

He noticed a damp breeze stir, and the woman he was holding down changed shape. Her body was covered with scales and her tail arched. Surprised, he let go, but the mermaids sent up a spray seawater as they rushed him. Just then, a flash of silver danced through the air. The mermaids screamed, and a fairy in the form of a young child leapt over their heads and landed in front of Edgar.

"Arrow."

The completely silver fairy grinned as he looked up at Edgar.

(You called, my lord?)

Edgar had called countless times, yet he hadn't appeared.

Edgar looked at him exasperated as he got to his feet. "Hurry up and give me my sword."

The silver fairy touched his hand to his chest as though in salute. He seemed to shine for an instant and the next moment, a sword stood there thrust into the marble floor. A large star sapphire decorated the hilt; it was the Blue Knight Earl's great sword.

The mermaids slowly edged away as Edgar grabbed the sword and asked them, "Where's Lydia?"

"We...... don't know!"

Even before he could wield the sword, the mermaids all vanished. Edgar sighed as he lowered the sword.

"Arrow, just where were you playing about?" he asked sharply of the fairy that was the star in the star sapphire.

(I beg your pardon. But please don't be upset. I'd been captured."

"Huh? When? By whom?"

(I was relaxing at the hotel when I was suddenly caught in the mermaids' magic, and ended up being hauled away here. After that, I was locked up here in this royal city.)

"In other words, this is the royal city at the bottom of the sea that's mentioned in legend?"

(That's right. It's in the rift between the human world and Faerie.)

Since it was partly in the fae realm, that probably explained why he could clearly see Arrow.

"So, Aeris knew about you, too?"

In order to steal Lydia away and ensure that Edgar had no means to try and follow after, she'd been careful to imprison Arrow.

(The princess of Armorica seems to be well-informed about the people of Ibrazel.)

"Madame d'Armor—the lady of Armorica...... I see. She's been openly naming herself the princess of the ancient royal city."

He could see the sky beyond the white pillar. Leaving the building, a breeze smelling of the sea blew against him. Apparently, it wasn't at the bottom of the sea. This building that stood at the top of a cliff, likely was in fact a temple. He could see a town below. The rose-coloured town was made from rose-coloured stone and looked as though time had stood still and that the town hadn't sunk to the bottom of the sea one thousand and some hundreds of years ago. There were no signs of any people.

(It's low tide right now. That and this time of year—it seems that for one day only, the royal city is released from the bottom of the sea. And as it was in the past, as a garrison city, it's very close to the human realm.)

Apparently, even though he'd been imprisoned in the city, Arrow had been busy gathering information.

"Still, that woman... if she thinks that things would be better without me, she should have come after me at the hotel or in London and killed me."

(If she were human, she probably would have done so. However, since she's already abandoned the human world, she can no longer take a human life. Although things are different here in her domain.)

"I see. In other words, by following after Lydia, I essentially fell into her trap."

Edgar found himself in an area where the houses came to an end and stared at the tall wall. He could see the horizon beyond it.

"Is this the breakwater? That's supposed to surround the royal city?"

(That's right. The city was said to have been below water level even when the tide was out, and it was protected by that wall.)

"But the devil enticed the princess's lover into stealing the floodgate's key, and the city ended up sinking to the bottom of the ocean."

(The floodgate is still open, even now. But once a year, the waters of Faerie fall lower than the floodgate, so the city is able to come up to the surface. Although it's not visible from the human realm.)

"But that small island is part of the human realm, right?"

The breakwater continued straight out offshore. And at the end of it was the island with the stone castle. The city and that island was connected by a path protected on both sides by a breakwater. Even though the royal city had sunk to the bottom of the sea, since that island had always jutted up above the surface of the sea, it probably hadn't ended up sinking with the city.

(That small island is now the only path connecting this city with the human realm. This place will soon sink to the bottom of the sea again. You need to get out of here soon, or you won't be able to get back.)

"You mean that once it sinks, there's no way to return to the human realm?"

(Even before that, my lord, you can't survive at the bottom of the sea, can you?)

He was absolutely correct. He wasn't like that half-fae princess.

"How much time do we have?"

(Until sunset.)

He had to find Lydia before then.

(I can feel Bow's presence. It's faint as the mermaids' magic is interfering. This way.)

Edgar followed Arrow who had changed form to that of a young child with silver hair and skin. At a glance, the building seemed Roman with rows of pillars continuing down its long passageway that seemed without end. It was very convoluted and surprisingly vast. He didn't know how many doors he went through. Edgar stopped in one room. A silver-haired young man was there.

Francis seemed quite happy as he was surrounded by inviting women. He drank some wine from his glass which as constantly being refilled, and accepting one kiss after another, he looked completely at ease.

"Hm? Edgar? You should come over here, too."

'Talk about hopeless.' Edgar thought as he looked at him in disbelief.

(It seems he's quite sexually frustrated,) Arrow muttered to Edgar.

"You seem to really be enjoying yourself, aren't you, Francis? Do you want to end up at the bottom of the sea with the mermaids?"

Edgar grabbed Francis by the collar and hauled him to his feet.

"Come now, don't look so angry. I'll share this fortune with you. You can take whichever girl you like with you."

Francis was acting so blasé that Edgar couldn't help getting angry.

Didn't you come all that way because of your feelings for Diana?"

"Diana? ......Ah, but she abandoned me. I must've been out of my mind. Even though they're not her, there are lots of wonderful women, after all!"

He knocked Edgar's hand away and dove back into the women's midst. The women shrieked in delight as he held them in his arms. He was completely under the mermaid's spell.

Edgar didn't have time to deal with him. As he turned to leave, another woman clung to his arm. He tried to push her away, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him. She seemed decidedly unwilling to let go.

"Edgar, don't be so cold. Ahh, perhaps that girl's more to your liking. She looks a lot like Lydia."
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