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My Male Lead is in the Process of Being Corrupted (6)
I furtively snuck a look at the man’s face.
“… Thank you for this. But just this.”
Still suspicious, I thanked him and the smile on his lips grew wider.
“I would transport you to a comfortable little sanctuary myself, but I am not particularly skilled in the use of magic.”
I glanced at the man’s vibrantly luminous eyes.
“Then what about your eyes? I feel strange whenever I look at them.”
“What, have you fallen for me already?”
Ah, I really want to hit him once. This man and Kylis both have a talent for driving people nuts.
Firmly suppressing my rising anger, I asked another question.
“How far is it to the Empire’s capital? No. First of all, is this the Laniakea Empire?”
“This is the Empire, but we are over 12 hours from the capital.”
I felt like crying. I tottered unsteadily for a moment as the strength drained from my whole body.
“My lovely lady, you are sweating quite a bit.”
Sure enough, my face was a little hot. His perfectly composed reaction pissed me off.
“Because of you!”
Gahhhh! I want to go home and rest! In my own bed!
Suddenly feeling the cold, I hunched up. I had been so caught up with everything that the fact I was walking around in my nightgown hadn’t registered at all. The nightgown itself was fairly lengthy and it had long sleeves and a lot of lace, but it was still just a nightgown. It didn’t do much to keep me warm in the middle of the night.
A sigh escaped my lips.
“Hey um… Do you have anything I can wear?”
“I can take off some of my clothing if you’d like.”
“I won’t say no to your offer, but… is there anything you could actually remove?”
The man’s clothing was fairly undone, so I chose my words very carefully. But he simply chuckled as though he’d heard something funny.
“I am never bored around you.”
As my expression turned grave, he immediately stopped laughing.
Looking as though he had decided to stop his nonsense, the man feigned the act of removing his coat. That is, he vaguely made the motions of taking his clothing off rather than actually doing so. A scalelike crack suddenly opened up in the air, revealing something shaped like his coat.
The man took the coat and placed it around me.
“What did you just do?”
I grabbed the coat and examined its material.
Umm… It looks normal? It isn’t disappearing back into thin air.
I slipped my arms into the coat with some dubiousness. The man puffed up self-importantly.
“This is a special loan. My presence is not fully concealed without it, so my location becomes easily exposed.”
“Are you being chased by someone?”
The sleeves were a bit long, but I wasn’t in a position to be picky. In any case, the coat was pretty thick, so it was warm.
The man regarded me curiously as I rubbed my slightly feverish cheeks with the back of my hand.
“You seem rather unshaken.”
Did this guy’s eyes go bad?
“You can’t see me shaking with anxiety?”
“That is due to your wariness of me, not concern over the issue of your lifespan.”
I stared blankly at him.
“If I ask how you know about that, will you answer me this time?”
“It’s nothing much. The longer you live, the better you are able to sense certain things.”
I was slowly forming a guess as to the man’s identity. Whether it was magic or illusion, he looked to be roughly in his mid-to-late twenties despite claiming to have lived for a long time, he was acquainted with Kylis, and he didn’t like showing his hands. His talent for messing around flirtatiously, in particular, seemed suspiciously familiar…
My thoughts came tumbling out of my mouth.
“Are you Chester Frey?”
The man neither confirmed nor denied my guess. He pointed towards Kylis’ helmet, which I was holding in my arms.
“Do you plan to continue carrying that around? I am not sure if you are aware, but that great king isn’t exactly in a great mood right now.”
“Even if he isn’t, I want to give this back to him as soon as possible. I have something I need to say to him… Did he look really angry?”
“It is likely that his thoughts are preoccupied by holy relics currently. He seemed especially dejected this time.”
I had to agree. This was the first time I’d ever seen Kylis look so disappointed.
“Hey, what happens if Kylis gets his missing body part back? Is there any chance that he’d start killing people again?”
Uhhhgghh. My eyes keep trying to close…
A tired groan emerged from my mouth. I shook my head wildly to fight off the fatigue.
“… If you’re curious, why not ask him yourself? You seem to have a closer relationship to that great king than I do.”
“There’s no way that’s true,” I replied flatly.
I rubbed my eyes. The man studied me with his jewel-like eyes.
“Will you be able to hold on?”
“Of course. When it gets light out, I’ll go look for a carriage.”
I was considering asking for help if I saw another noble lord or lady. But either way, there were numerous risks to keep in mind regardless of the option I went with. Just thinking about it made my head hurt.
The man looked doubtful. After glancing around, I spotted a place to sit and eagerly moved towards it.
Ah, I almost forgot.
I looked back at the man.
“You’re coming too.”
Awful though he was, I needed his help to get out of this place. The cliff just outside was a formidable challenge.
“I can’t believe you care about me so much.”
Is your head actually filled with flowers? If I get out of here, I’m never getting involved with you again.
I narrowed my eyes.
“If you really want to be helpful, tell me how I can get to the capital safely.”
My words made my intentions clear. I plopped down onto a chair, not caring whether or not the man seemed contrite. Even without my foot injury, I could feel the condition of my body getting worse and worse as time went on. It was a serious issue. I straightened out my numb legs while I sat and as I began to stretch them a little, the necklace that Adele had given me slipped from within my clothing.
I fiddled with the musical pipe that dangled from the chain of the necklace.
Come to think of it, that time I fought with Rayleigh, Adele found me by using this to set his coordinates. He also told me that it only produces sound under a certain set of circumstances.
My curiosity aroused, I called out to the man.
The man looked over with a cryptic expression on his face. He stopped moving towards me and began glancing around uneasily.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Hmm… I can just ignore that, right?
I stated what was on my mind.
“You said you have good eyes, so can you tell what kind of magic is in this?”
Chester, still somewhat jumpy after having been dethroned and exiled by his own children, straightened his expression and sat down beside me. I narrowed my eyes.
The chain was long enough that I didn’t need to remove the necklace in order to show it to him. His eyes lit up with interest.
“Is it made from the bone closest to the heart? It’s rare to see this kind of thing.”
Chester didn’t touch the musical pipe. He drew back after a quick glance.
“Bone is tricky to work with. You have to infuse magic into it little by little over a long period of time and any impure thought, no matter how brief, will cause it to break apart immediately. That is how pure the material is. This sort of thing can only be made once in a lifetime. Even if a king gave an order for it to be made, no one but the most loyal of subjects would ever do so.”
I tilted my head to the side.
“Bone? What kind of animal did it come from?”
“……. Animal? Well, who knows…”
Chester gave me an incredulous look, but after seeing the expression on my face he immediately became evasive and shut his mouth.
Opening it once again to speak, he altered the direction of the conversation slightly as though he were reluctant for me to deduce the source of the bone.
“Was this made by that boy named Adele?”
“Why are you asking?”
“Do you happen to know how old he is?”
“… He was born a month after I was.”
I was about to ask him why he was so curious about Adele, but I was interrupted by the sudden, visible relief on his face.
He said in a much lighter tone, “Well, you’re rather lucky for a normal human being. He must be regarded as quite the genius.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“It’s nothing. I was mistaken. A person’s character does not travel about, there is no way it could have persisted for this long.”
His voice gradually trailed off and I wasn’t confident that I had heard the last of his words properly.
As I puzzled over what he said, Chester belatedly answered my original question.
“That piece of jewelry is enchanted with three types of magic. Protection magic, summoning magic, and one other… I am not sure, but it is probably something similar.”
“Which conditions cause the magic to activate?”
“That was the entirety of what I was able to ascertain, young miss. Using a lot of power is tiring. Although I suppose I could try harder if you offered me a little more in the way of benefits.”
“Get away from me right now.”
Chester let out a boisterous laugh at my ice-cold expression and rose from his seat.
“Anastasia, would you like something to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
I was lying, of course. For one thing, I was dying of thirst.
He gave me an incredibly sinister smile.
“If you don’t mind passing out while it’s just the two of us here, I won’t stop you.”
I had no other choice. I followed him to the kitchen and sat down at a wooden table, keeping a close eye on him as he prepared some food. The ingredients he used looked pretty normal. At least for now.
“Please don’t tell anyone about seeing my hands.”
With that warning, Chester removed his gloves. I recalled the information that Adele had told me.
Chester Frey had a body that could not die, but that immortality did not extend to any nonnative hands that he attached to himself. That was the reason he continued to steal other people’s hands…
Bleh. Nope. Let’s not get into that right now.
Gripping the musical pipe firmly, I made a conscious effort not to think about his hands.
I need to remain composed… like my mother!
I decided to follow Yevgenia Sinclair’s ironclad rule to avoid acting too hastily in urgent situations.
Now that I think about it, Kylis talked about Chester Frey once before. How long have those two known each other? It doesn’t seem like Chester helped Kylis because he likes him…
I added just enough indifference to my voice to sound nonchalant and said, “I saw a fair number of holy relics piled up in the underground area. You said you have no connection to Kylis, so why did you help him?”
“Because I am scared of him.”
“Is that really it? Truthfully, don’t you think of him as a friend or a comrade?”
“… That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Genuinely dumbfounded, Chester shut his mouth and focused on cooking.
I drank some cold water, occasionally glancing towards the window as it slowly grew lighter outside.
When will Ilina notice that I’m gone? She checks how I’m sleeping from time to time, so maybe it will be sooner than I thought.