08-12 Elsa’s Crisis
The men who kidnapped Elsa kept moving upstream, and eventually the boat arrived at the left bank of the river.
“We’ll be having you blindfolded from here on out.”
Elsa was blindfolded and carried by the men. Elsa who no longer had any energy to resist was at the mercy of the men.
After about thirty minutes it appeared they had reached some place, as she noticed that the atmosphere had changed. The air was a little smelly and moist. It was like entering a closed room.
Her blindfold was taken off. Elsa also noticed that her leg and arm restraints had disappeared.
“Well, it’s better that you rest for a bit.”
Turning around to that voice, Elsa saw a black-masked man outside sturdy-looking iron bars. Judging from his voice it was the same man from earlier who had attached the choker to prevent Elsa from chanting.
“The day will dawn soon. At that time, I’m sure the branch head himself will talk to you personally.”
Behind him was a man who appeared to be one of his subordinates, and he handed over a wooden cup of water and bread on a plate through the space between the bars.
“Now, it’s not much but it’s for you to eat.”
He said and the men left. Left alone, Elsa tried to once more look around the room.
Walls in three directions, the floor, and the ceiling all made out of sturdy-looking stone. The remaining direction had iron bars. It appeared awfully inescapable.
Putting a hand on her neck, she felt that the metal choker bit into it. Even though she tried to remove it, it seemed very unlikely for it to come off.
Elsa gave up on removing the choker, and simply drank the water.
Then she lay down on the hard floor.
She was feeling too much wretched, and tears came flowing.
“Rai, nii…Jin, kun…”
Her older cousin who always supported her and came to her rescue, and her friend who made one thing after another that nobody was capable of copying.
Just why didn’t she talk to them before running away? That was her only regret.
The tired Elsa fell into a shallow sleep there and then.
She must’ve dozed for a few hours. Elsa woke up to a voice calling for her. Her whole body ached from sleeping on the hard floor.
“The branch head has summoned you. Come.”
Once again Elsa’s both arms and legs were restrained. The restraints this time were two chains 30 centimeters or so long that tied her left and right together.
So if she moved her right arm her left arm would move, and if she raised her left leg her right leg would be pulled.
In other words, her current status didn’t allow for any but small movements.
Taken out from the prison in that condition, as she wasn’t used to it Elsa kept almost falling over but didn’t while she kept walking. Black-masked men were in all directions.
She climbed up a long staircase, and walked across a long hallway to the end. The man walking in front of her opened a heavy-looking door.
Pushed by the man behind her, Elsa fell over. She trust her hands forward to defend her face from impact, but the knees she hit on the floor hurt.
“Oh my, you shouldn’t treat a lady like that.”
Someone said with a slimy voice, and Elsa looked up. In the room was a gaudy chair, and on that a man was sitting looking down at her.
That man was the only one without a black mask or black clothes. On the contrary, his garments were conspicuously white: he had put on a white robe and a long cloak.
“Can you stand? Sorry, eh, my subordinates aren’t aware of how to treat a lady, eh. I’ll warn them later so please forgive me.”
His words were courteous, but his tone had an indescribably unpleasant feeling to it. Elsa slowly stood up.
“Oh my, your knees are bleeding, eh. [Cure].”
He cast healing magic and the wounds on Elsa’s knees recovered.
“This should be fine. Now then, from the top, welcome, Miss Randol. It’s a pleasure.”
The man said and Elsa took another close look at him.
She couldn’t quite tell whether he was in his 20s or in his 30s. He had a smooth white face and grey hair. His grey eyes were narrow, and within them madness seemed to be showing through.
His body was long and thin. He was even slimmer than Reinhardt. He was tall enough that you could recognize while he was still sitting.
“I’m, no, longer, Randol. I, abandoned, that, name.”
Still the choker pressured her throat, making her voice not come out well.
“Oh, I see. According to my subordinates’ report, it appears that you ran away to Celuroa Kingdom together with your nanny, eh?”
The man said with a wide, serpentlike grin.
“Excuse me for my manners, I am the branch head of the eighth subdivision of the Unifilers, my name is Purcell Marces D’Canagerion.”
So this was a base of the Unifilers, Elsa thought, feeling dread once more. However, she hid it, and pondered about the name she had just heard.
“Are you, a noble, of, Celuroa, Kingdom?”
Celuroa Kingdom’s nobles accepted convention for introductions was given name – surname (house name) – d’ – posthumous name (territory name).
“Oh my, so you know. M’lady is rather wise.”
His flattery combined with his expression only gave Elsa feelings of disgust.
“Now then, before we get down to business.”
Purcell ordered his subordinates to have Elsa sit on a simple chair.
“It’s not proper to have a lady stand around for a long time, you see.”
He said, and then finally cut to the chase.
“Now then, first of all the reasons we’ve invited you, there’s two of them. Well, actually, maybe I should say there’s three?”
Say whatever suits your fancy, Elsa thought while staring at Parcell’s feet.
“Number one. As a restraint against Reinhardt-dono. This one’s already taken care of, eh?”
Elsa wondered for a moment what’s the connection between Reinhardt and her, but then realized that if her gentle cousin knew she had been taken hostage, maybe he’d be obliged to work for the interest of the Unifilers.
“Number two. That mysterious Magi Craftsman who suddenly appeared. Jin Nidou, was it, eh? We’d like to know every detail about him and the golems who are with him.”
In other words, they would extract information about Jin who ruined the Unifilers’ plans from Elsa who’s been together with him.
“I, don’t, know. Even if, I did, I wouldn’t, tell.”
Elsa made a brief proclamation while glaring at Purcell.
“…Number three. You’re an excellent magus. The fact is that I would also love to have you as an ally of us Unifilers.”
“Who’d, do that.”
Elsa looked away in a huff.
But Purcell continued while smiling as if he was making sport of Elsa.
“Consider it veeery carefully. At the very least we’ve achieved one goal. And were you to refuse to cooperate on the second and third then, well, we have our methods.”
He wasn’t any less polite, but this time there was ice in his words. Elsa reflexively looked Purcell in the eyes.
“The only thing needed for you to satisfy the requirements of that first one is to stay alive. As for the second, you need only to be able to speak.”
Understanding the meaning of his words, Elsa’s face went pale with horror.
“You understand, right? Tearing off fingernails is the gentlest way. Breaking off fingers. Shaving off the nose. Cutting off the ears. Amputating the limbs. There’s other ways to torture a woman, eh, but I do not wish to do something like that to a lady.”
That was absolutely a lie. The man called Purcell in front of her said that with such joy. Elsa felt that instinctively.
“E, even, so, m, my, reply, does, not, change.”
Elsa tried her best to act brave, but her body shivered slightly.
“Oh my, so you must like being tortured, eh?”
“N, no. I don’t, like, either, option.”
Hearing that, Purcell burst into laughter.
“Oh my, oh my, aren’t we a selfish lady, eh? Alright, you’ll have just this one day to think it over. Tomorrow morning, I’ll hear your reply once more. Until then, please consider it very, very carefully.”
“N, no, matter, how long, I, think, my, answer, won’t, change.”
Elsa firmly stared at Parcell while she retorted with a trembling voice and,
“Ah, m’lady’s eyes are pretty, eh. Like the finest of Aquamarines. I wonder just what kind of voice you’ll be making once I gouge them out, how about you, eh?”
Purcell said and licked his lips.
Elsa quietly fainted.
“What, that’s boring. You just fainted. …Return her to her cell.”
＊ ＊ ＊
When Elsa once more came to, she was in her cell. The iron bars were shut and locked. There was no window so she couldn’t tell the time.
But no matter how much time she had, Elsa’s heart was settled. She had betrayed the people kind to her by running away, but she would not betray them a second time.
No matter what she went through she would not budge.
Suddenly, she remembered what Reinhardt had said when he gave her the dagger Jin had made.
‘As a noblewoman, that blade is the final tool to protect your dignity with. Only when you absolutely no matter what do not want to your will to be trampled is it acceptable to draw.’
What she couldn’t understand at that time she now vaguely could. To sever her own life with her own hands. The dagger was for that purpose.
But she had left that dagger behind. No, she had abandoned it along with her status of a noble.
“Even, so, I’ve, already.”
Elsa made a vow in her heart. To never sell out Reinhardt and Jin. To that end, she would subject herself to anything.
“That’s, my, pride.”
She closed her eyes and sights of the journey until now came to mind.
“It was, fun.”
The trip with Reinhardt. Departing for the golem boat race. Being together with Jin on the return trip. She learned a lot of things. Met a lot of people.
Thinking about that, even at this time she felt her heart grow warm.
Muttering that, Elsa laid herself down. There was still time until nightfall, but perhaps because of her piled up fatigue, her body was sluggish and while she lay there her awareness sunk into the darkness.