“Yuuto-sama… Just what’s going on here…?!”
Anri’s expression strains itself to the extreme, contorting in a manner that I had never seen happen to her before. I’m practically assaulted by sensations so strong they were an inch short of stopping my heartbeat.
“Why would you lay your hands on a mere human woman instead of on me…?! I’m always prepared; you should know that…!”
That’s what you’re upset about?! Forget the fact that I’ve apparently whisked away some human girl and hoarded her in the castle, that’s what you’re up in arms about?!
I suppose it really doesn’t matter what she’s angry about; the situation’s precarious enough either way. If word gets around the castle that the High King showed some compassion to a human being, it definitely won’t end well.
Isn’t there something, anything I can do?! I just have to find some excuse, something that gives me an out…!
Just then, an idea pops into my head. That’s right, that’s the answer!
“Listen well, Anri. You appear to have come to some kind of misunderstanding.”
“A… misunderstanding, Sire?”
“You see, you may think that I’ve been overcome by passion for some human girl and that I’ve brought her here with me, but that’s far from the truth.”
“You should already know that I plan to eradicate humanity some day. But when all is said and done, I happen to be the cautious type. I’d knock on stone bridges before even attempting to cross them. Therefore, I believe that in order to begin putting my plans into practice, I must first familiarise myself with the humans’ way of life. This girl is nothing but a sample… no, a guinea pig!”
I give myself a minute to close my eyes. It should be obvious that I don’t have any actual plans of eradicating humanity, but there really isn’t any other excuse I can come with.
How’s that? Ain’t it majestic?!
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Very timidly, I pry my eyes open.
“Of course, then it all makes sense! Yuuto-sama, you never cease to amaze!”
The first thing that meets my sight is Anri’s greatly reverent stare.
My heartbeat calms down, and so do I. I did it. Somehow. I somehow managed to dodge this bullet. Also, while I’d been harboring a certain impression for some time now, this just cements it all the more: Anri’s sort of on the… simple side.
“Not realizing your true intentions has brought my rudeness to the forefront. For this sin, I shall –”
“You don’t have to take your own life, alright?”
“Take my own – Whaaaaat?! J-Just how did you know?!”
Please, an elementary student would’ve caught on to you by now.
“But Yuuto-sama, why did you hide the human in your own closet? It’s almost as if you weren’t too keen on her being seen…”
“…Hmph. I simply thought that a room this large would be wasted on a mere human. Something as small and narrow as a closet is much more suitable for their kind.”
“Of course. That is indeed the case, My Lord.”
I let out another sigh of relief. Really, I can never tell if Anri’s a bit dim or sharper than she lets on.
“But still, Yuuto-sama… If you wished to examine them, we would have gladly done so for you. There really is no need to burden yourself…”
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“No, I do not mind. Seeing human faces as they twist in abject fear is one of the great joys of my life. Besides, you and the others must be exhausted, what with all the things you’re tasked with. Just leave these matters to me.”
“Understood. We are all undeserving of your great consideration, Yuuto-sama.”
I don’t have to stretch my imagination to picture just what the poor girl would go through if I were to leave her with Anri and the others. At least I could now safely say that she’d make it with all her limbs intact if nothing else.
“Well then, Yuuto-sama… Please, take your time. Enjoy yourself.”
Anri leaves my sleeping chambers with an overall appeased look on her face. A wave of exhaustion washes over me the very second she does so.
I… I made it… I have to say; I’m a little proud of myself for finding one excuse after the other. A few of those excuses had been, I have to admit, a little bit humiliating in retrospect… But I’d managed to pull one over Anri, so I’ll just count those as a success in my book.
Well, the first wave of trouble may have been avoided, but that doesn’t mean that the situation’s changed all that much. As long as I have to hide Rina away in my room, exposing everything I’d just said as the farce it is is just a matter of time. I have to come up with something before that happens…
“Rina. I must apologize for putting you through all – hm?”
Casting another look towards Rina treats me to the image of her shaking like a leaf, with her face so pale it’s like she’s borne witness to Hell itself. Had Anri really scared her that much? Can’t blame her, she’d packed one hell of an impact. Enough to almost make a High King shiver in his boots.
“Destroy humanity… A… Guinea pig…?!”
Way off, it’s my own damn fault! She believed every single thing I’d said!
“Rina, calm yourself. Most of what I just told Anri was a simple joke. I don’t have any intention to destroy humanity, nor do I intend to turn you into a guinea pig for that matter.”
Wait, trying to convince her about that while looking like… well, a High King does won’t go anywhere. And, sure enough, it really doesn’t look like Rina’s shivering is going to stop anytime soon.
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“I’m p-p-perfectly fine. After all, I’m a s-s-slave. I’m completely ready to be turned into some sort of g-g-guinea pig…!!!”
Her fear won’t give away. That can’t be good. It certainly won’t do much to clear her misunderstandings either. But doing away with the natural wariness one formed when facing someone who looks like a High King really might be asking too much…
An idea pops into my head. That’s it. I just have to not look like a High King for a while.
I chant the spell and my form shifts into something else. I transform into…
“… Hi there. I’m Azora Yuuto.”
I transform into myself, from when I was still a human being. The gaze that falls on me is one of complete befuddlement.
I make use of a nearby mirror to check up on my form. Yep, there’s no mistaking it. That’s me, right before I was reincarnated as a High King. Something feels a little off about the image, almost as if my features had been refined into a slightly more attractive visage, but that’s probably just all in my head.
There’s really only one problem with the Transform spell. If I were to cast any other spell while in another form, then my transformation would be forcefully undone.
But even without that one flaw, it’s already likely enough that any transformation of this sort wouldn’t end up being well-received by Anri and the others, probably prompting them to say something like, “It doesn’t matter if Yuuto-sama himself is the offender, transforming into a human being is simply outrageous!”. That in mind, it’s very unlikely that I can get that much use out of this spell.
“Um… Who… are you?”
Rina’s question comes hand-in-hand with a totally perplexed expression. Well yeah, that’s a given. I mean, the High King just changed into a human right in front of her. Out of nowhere.
“Surprised, huh? This is the real me – actually, saying that sounds a little weird. I mean, I’m not even human anymore, not really. Let’s just say I tried to change my looks a little, to fit what I used to look like.”
Rina looks like she’s just getting more and more confused. Again, a given. Being told this sort of stuff totally out of left field isn’t really something that’s understood on the spot.
Alright, I’ve made my decision. Since Rina really doesn’t strike me as someone who’d go around spilling the beans and exposing secrets, it’s probably safe to shed some light on my own.
“Alright, Rina. I’m about to tell you something, and I want you to listen close.”
So, I tell her everything I can about my personal history. I tell her that I used to be a human, I tell her that I’m from another world, I tell her that I’d somehow become the High King before I even had time to really process the situation, and so on and so forth.
Rina lends me her ears and hears my story out, from beginning to end.