Chapter 53: Hot Spring Commotion (2)
As soon as Ascal arrived in the Kingdom of Kelli, the first thing he saw was...
"Oh my! The esteemed Dragon of the Empire has traveled this great distance to visit us!!! It's an honor, truly an honor. I hope your journey hasn't been too tiring. We will prepare a place for you to rest immediately!"
The King himself rushed out to welcome Ascal and his party.
"Ah, and since my daughter and I are personal fans of Lord Ascal, if it's not too much trouble, could you possibly grace us with your presence at dinner later...?"
"Yes, of course."
"Oh my. Thank you so much."
The King, constantly bowing, led Ascal and Serena to the best room available.
Ascal sat in a plush chair, recalling the earlier events.
"Curious why a king of a nation would be so humble?"
"Gasp, when did you arrive?"
There were supposed to be two separate rooms assigned. Serena had already changed into lighter clothes and entered Ascal's room.
"Though Kelli is an ally of the Empire, in reality, it's more or less a vassal state. You can tell just by the fact that they can't resolve even small issues without seeking help from the Empire."
Serena chuckled mockingly. The King of Kelli, despite his title, held less prestige than even a notable count of the Empire, like Count Erendale here, for instance.
"But for a kingdom seeking help, they seem surprisingly disinterested in actually solving the problem."
"Oh, that's because... Oh my, is this your first time dealing with such a matter?"
Serena casually brought over a bottle of liquor, opened it, and poured some into Ascal's glass.
"What Kelli really needs right now isn't a solution to their problem, but the assurance from our Empire that their hot springs are safe and secure. That would be enough to regain people's trust."
Serena took a sip of her drink. Ascal pretended to drink, discreetly emptying his glass.
"But there have been actual disappearances, haven't there?"
"Whether those missing were drowned in the hot springs or kidnapped, nobody knows for sure."
"So, let's just enjoy ourselves today, just the two of us, shall we?"****
"Hic. Why don't you get drunk even after drinking so much? It's not fair, leaving me like this, while Yulia is always by your side, it's maddening. Look at me too once in a while..."
The effects of Ascal's long-honed skill of discreetly swapping and diluting his drinks were exceptional.
Serena, drunk, had passed out.
She must have been confident in her drinking ability, but her skills were no match for Ascal's tactics of secretly pouring out alcohol, watering it down, and pretending to drink while actually spilling it into a napkin.
'I'll have to learn a few more tricks.'
Ascal gently covered the collapsed Serena with a blanket.
Serena, snoring softly, fell into a deep sleep. She didn't show it, but it seemed the journey had taken its toll.
Ascal put on his coat and stepped outside.This chapter made its debut appearance via N0v3lB1n.
The Kingdom of Kelli was a unique place.
It was one of the most peculiar lands on the continent because the south was always in summer, and the north in perpetual winter.
Legend had it that the land was shaped this way due to a battle between two dragons, but the exact truth was lost to time.
Two seasons coexisted within the same land.
This was why the Kingdom of Kelli had been consecutively chosen as the best vacation spot by the Empire's magazine for three years running.
One could bask in the sun on a beach when they felt like it, and then enjoy a warm natural hot spring.
It was the ultimate holiday destination.
'I've always sent my subordinates, but now I'm finally here to see it myself.'
Ascal couldn't hide his excitement.
However, duty came first.
People had gone missing in the hot springs; how could he wander around the Kingdom of Kelli, worried and anxious?
A true Imperial officer had to conduct thorough investigations and inquiries to uncover the truth behind these disappearances.
And as always, a detective invariably gets entangled in dangerous affairs.Tragically, there are often cases where investigators, passionately pursuing a missing persons case, become so deeply involved that they end up missing themselves.
And in this repeating history, Ascal Erendale was just another name added to the list.
He had already thought of a pseudonym.
'Kalli seems like a good choice.'
To naturally blend into the list of missing, first, he needed to understand how others had disappeared.
Ascal began his inquiries.
A. Village Woman: To me, it's clearly a love triangle gone wrong. The husband must have pushed her. Why else would a man return from a vacation alone? Maybe the wife was unfaithful, or they fought over money. This isn't a disappearance; it's a clear case of murder.
B. Priest: The White Dragon is angry. It's a punishment for neglecting our kingdom's guardian deity. If we don't offer a hundred sacrifices to the White Dragon soon, more people will go missing.
C. Native: The Siren Hot Springs, where the disappearances occurred, are hotter than other springs, and the path to them is rough. In my view, it's likely that someone soaked too long, got dizzy, and fell.
D. Investigator of Kelli Kingdom: Maybe... the hot springs were so hot that people just melted?
The people's words were of no help. The native's theory, however, seemed plausible.
'I need a more natural route to go missing.'
Ascal conducted on-site verification for his perfect disappearance plan.
The Siren Hot Springs, the site of the disappearances, were guarded, but upon showing the emblem of the Empire, he was granted immediate access.Steam billowed from the hot spring.
It was enchanting enough to tempt anyone to dip in immediately, but Ascal first took out the water contamination measuring device given to him by Bernstein.
Red indicated the presence of toxic substances, and green meant everything was normal.
'The hot spring seems fine.'
It was just a bit hotter than usual.
Why then had people who used this spring gone missing?
Her song was melodious.
Ascal experienced a drowsiness far beyond what he had felt earlier. To fight off the overwhelming sleepiness, he had to slap his own cheek.
The singing sirens appeared flustered by Serena's song. Eventually, they folded their wings and ceased their singing.
It was as if they had faced a superior opponent in a singing battle and suffered a crushing defeat.
Then, something unbelievable happened.
Numerous sirens simultaneously folded their wings and bowed their heads.
As if they were acknowledging a queen.
"How, how did this happen?"
Serena was perplexed. Ascal couldn't help but voice his thoughts.
"It seems you've been recognized as the queen of the sirens..."
Serena Barba, the second princess of the Barba Empire, had become the queen of the sirens.
"All the missing people were in the territory of the sirens. It seems they were testing them, and those who failed were kept as servants."
Serena, perched on the shoulder of one of the larger sirens, spoke out.
"I told them to send everyone home."
"That's a good resolution."
"The sirens have offered to teach me their songs. I'll stay a bit longer to learn. They say they'll teach me songs to lure men? Can't wait. Hehe."
Ascal broke into a cold sweat.
Anyway, the matter was resolved. All the missing people returned home, and the hot spring resumed normal operations without any issues.
The king expressed his gratitude excessively.
"Truly, the prowess of the Dragon of the Empire!!! Solving in an instant what our investigators couldn't in weeks!!! Please, stay as long as you wish in our kingdom! Of course, all expenses will be on us."
Though his plan to fake a disappearance was foiled, it was a good outcome that the missing people were safely reunited with their families.
'Maybe I'll rest a bit before leaving...'
After successfully completing his mission, Ascal deserved a little vacation, and no one could object.
Ascal nodded to himself.
A day passed.
A week passed.
A month passed.
"So comfortable... so relaxing..."
Ascal, today as well, was fully immersed in the hot spring, enjoying his rest. His chronic shoulder pain had vanished, and without the stress of work, this place felt like heaven.
"I could stay here forever, now..."
He gazed absently at the sky.
'Wait. How long have I been here?'Time had passed so much that Ascal's sense of dates had become blurred.
'I don't know. Let's just rest a little longer.'
Just then an airship appeared in the sky.
An airship ship? Why?
And it was getting closer.
On it was the emblem of the Imperial Royal Family, painted in black.
Only the Empire's special task force could use such a ship.
The Emperor's Hunting Dogs or hound, who could stop even weeping officials in their tracks.
"Really, really Fucked up."
For the first time since becoming a high-ranking official, Ascal let out a curse he'd been holding back, all due to the seriousness of the situation.
The door of the flying ship opened, and a rope was lowered.
Descending from it was a figure.
The person who came down the rope was Ascal's father, Arthur Debrue. The emblem on his chest gleamed in the sunlight. It was the emblem that only the leader of the Hunting Dogs could wear.
"I have climbed up the ranks."
"Let's go home now, son."
His tone was like that of a father coming to fetch a son who had run away from home.
"Ah, what a pity. If only he had stayed a little longer, he would have been mine. I planned to make him the next king. Ah, such a shame."
A girl with white hair stamped her feet in frustration. White scales adorned her cheeks.
"Yunryong, that guy is lively. Hes too lively."
The White Dragon, trying to calm her heart, reached for the orb she always carried in her pocket.
"Wait. Where's my orb? Where did it go? I can't be without it, can't be."
The White Dragon started to sob.****
"Here, a souvenir."
Upon returning to the Empire, Ascal received surprisingly light reprimand and was released. It seemed his successful resolution of the matter, and the fact that he was in the allied Kingdom of Kelli, where his whereabouts were well known, worked in his favor. Serena had already returned.
"What's this? This orb... it seems to have some strange energy flowing through it... Did you pick up something dangerous?"
"I don't know. Anyway, it's from the Kingdom of Kelli, do whatever you want with it."
"This suspicious thing? You keep it."
Bernstein tossed the white orb to Ascal, who caught it reflexively.
"Bring something back and this is the thanks I get. Tsk."
Ascal clicked his tongue and slipped the orb into his pocket. It seemed to be of no use, so he decided to just keep it as a decorative item at home.
[TL: You can support the translation and read 5 chapters ahead of the release here on Patreon: /OracleTls]