The Blue Knight Earl and The Island of the Merrow
Manaan Island was an island with sheer prominent cliffs along its coast. With seagulls flying overhead, the light green-coloured island was so mysterious that it almost seemed like it itself could be the Blue Knight Earl's faerie land of Ibrazel, but thanks to the rough seas surrounding the island, Lydia was completely exhausted. The only ships available to reach the island were small fishing boats that rocked wildly. All year round, the waters surrounding the island were very rough, and they were supposed to be very dangerous to all but seasoned sailors. Having finally arrived on the island that was virtually isolated except for the fishermen who came and went, Lydia and the others followed the advice of the ship's captain and went to the one inn on the island.
"While this is an infusion, it's very effective against seasickness."
The smiling elderly gentleman who welcomed them was Mr. Tompkins, the owner of the inn.
"......Thank you." Lydia leaned heavily against the back of the sofa as she took the cup.
"Still, is this young lady the only one suffering from seasickness? It's rare to see people looking so well when they come to this island for the first time."
The owner smiled at Edgar and the others.
Lydia couldn't help wondering why everyone else was fine. Nico the fae cat aside, Edgar, Raven, and Ermine, all three of them had been calm even as it seemed like their boat would be overturned in the rough waves.
"Well, no doubt that's because they've been through even rougher waters in this world," Nico whispered next to Lydia.
"Nico, that's not funny."
"You're no fun."
Lydia choked down the bitter medicine.
"By the way, innkeeper, there's an old castle here on the island, isn't there?"
"Yes, there is. If this inn is too confining for you, would you like to use it?"
Edgar looked at him warily.
When it came to a castle, it could only be the castle of the Blue Knight Earl. While his goal was to be able to investigate the castle, most likely he thought it strange for the innkeeper to suddenly say using the castle would be okay.
"Can anyone just use that castle?"
"Certainly not. It's the castle of our liege lord. But sir, seeing how you've come to this out-of-the-way island, you must be one of the heirs to the family, right?"
Having him come straight to the point, everyone fell silent, but Edgar alone just smiled.
"I see. There must have been many imposters who've come to this island claiming to be the Blue Knight. You seem very accustomed to such visitors."
"Also, members of my family have been the butler for the earl for generations. If it should become clear that you're the real earl, it will mean that I will be serving you. I look forward to it," the innkeeper said as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a key.
"This is the key to the castle entrance. Please feel free to use it. There have been numerous people who have broken the doors and windows searching for treasure, and since it was so much work repairing the damage, lately, we've taken to giving the key to those who claim to be heir. Also, while I realise it's rude to say this, but we've taken an inventory of all the furnishings and valuables in the rooms, so please don't remove anything. And even if you wanted to, please keep in mind that it will be impossible to take it off of this island."
"You do good work. I don't think I see any problem with continuing to entrust you with being the butler," Edgar said insolently.
"I'm honoured. If you feel you wish to leave this island now, please feel free and let me know, and I'll have a ship prepared immediately.
"Has anyone given up from what you just said?"
"Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, everyone I've spoken to in this manner is found washed up on shore with the seaweed within three days. That's how it's been, sir, so I'll be praying that this doesn't end up being how we part ways."
"Umm, do you mean that everyone who's gone to the castle has ended up dying in the sea?"
While Lydia still hadn't managed to escape the feeling of being tossed about by the waves, she couldn't help interrupting as she listened to their conversation.
"That's right, miss. No doubt the merrow dragged them into the sea."
Lydia remembered the landowner from the previous day telling them about the rumour that when the merrow could be heard singing in the castle the next day a body would be washed up on shore.
"Have you ever seen the merrow?"
"I don't know any pure merrow, but everyone on this island carries merrow blood in them. Because of that, this island was too much for the previous liege to handle, so he ceded it to the Blue Knight Earl a long time ago. It's said that the inhabitants of the island and the merrow both welcomed their new liege."
"The blood of the merrow? In which case, innkeeper, do you also have webbing or scales?"
"No, I have a fin on my back."
"That's the Blue Knight Earl's butler for you."
Perhaps Edgar thought it was a joke. He seemed like he was merely amused.
"No wonder he seemed rather fishy," Nico muttered to himself.
Jack in the Green from the spunkie's cradle.
Dance with the pixies on the moonlit night.
Beyond the Silkie's cross.
The pookah is a maze.
Follow the wyrm's path.
To the right of Fear Dearg.
Go under Dullahan's feet.
The leprechaun's treasure.
The bed of the clurichaun.
Follow the banshee.
The merrow's star in exchange for the star.
Otherwise the merrow will sing a song of lament.
The castle was at the top of a high cliff. The blue castle with its Gothic looking spires blended in naturally with its surroundings as it looked down on the light green island. It was an elegant building that looked very much like a country manor.
Having gotten over her seasickness, Lydia went with the others to the castle.
"The merrows' island, huh? It seems you were right when you chose this place, Lydia. No doubt the great sword is in the castle."
Edgar looked at Lydia and gave her a satisfied smile. However, for Lydia, the difficult job was about to begin, so she braced herself.
"Yes, this island is 'Jack in the Green' - the green spirit covered in leaves. Seen by ship, the island itself looked like the crouching form of the leafy man."
"I see - the first line of the verse on the coin. In that case, what about the next part and the spunkie?"
"That's about will-o-the-wisps."
"Does that mean we should search for a cemetery?"
"No, the spunkie are supposed to be the souls of children who died before they were baptised."
"In that case, they'll have been buried somewhere other than the cemetery."
Ermine went towards the gate that was left open. The path leading inside from the gate and the gardens stretching out on both sides were so well-tended that it didn't seem like the castle had been unoccupied for 300 years. Most likely, the island inhabitants have been tending the place believing that their liege lord would someday return.
"However, this castle is a country manor. Even if there's a child's grave, just whose grave could it be."
"You're right. It's possible the grave was there even before the castle was built."
"Either that or it could be more like a memorial."
Edgar and Ermine walked together. Even though she was dressed like a man, her simple clothing and short hair that only came to her shoulders couldn't hide her femininity.
Seeing them standing so close that their shoulders were almost touching, Lydia couldn't help blushing as she remembered what she saw the night before.
'I wonder what happened after that. Could it be they spent the night together.'
"For now, let's split up and search for this 'spunkie's cradle'. Lydia, you come with me."
Lydia was surprised at being spoken to suddenly. She felt uncomfortable at the idea that he noticed she'd been lost in thought.
"Wh-why should I go with you?"
"Because you seem like you'll get lost."
Raven and Ermine quickly split up as they searched further in the gardens.
Perhaps Edgar wanted to keep an eye on Lydia because of what Nico had overheard.
At the inn, Nico had said that he was going out and went his own way.
It was Nico's idea to let a group of brownies from the town by the sea to ride with them on the ship to the island, and apparently he went to make sure that they managed to meet up with their relatives.
He said that he would also try to find out what he could about the merrow on the island and what role the merrow had in protecting the earl's sword at the same time. Since they were a clan of fae living on the same island, most likely they would know something about the merrow that the humans didn't.
If the wee fae were also inhabitants of this island, they would have lived as subjects of the Blue Knight Earl's just like the merrow.
She would be more than happy if helping the fae at the landowner's residence went gaining some unexpected help. However, Nico wasn't keen on this job of Lydia's. He felt a lot of enmity towards Edgar. And it wasn't because he'd almost been thrown into the fireplace, but rather it was because the fur on his tail ended up getting burnt. The fae were prone to being very particular about minor things and holding grudges because of them.
So, most likely he wanted Edgar to have a tough time, and that's probably why he was gathering information.
Just how much did Edgar realise that Nico wasn't a normal cat. Even though he didn't believe cats could speak, most likely it was because he was cautious that he'd been upset at the thought of being overheard, so naturally he was also being wary of Lydia.
If that's the case, she figured she should stay with him as he wanted and try to find out what it was that he was hiding. Trying to get her courage up, Lydia followed him.
"Hey, aren't you afraid?"
"The fake earls that have tried to get the great sword have all been dragged into the sea by the merrow. Mr. Tompkins said they all died."
"In my opinion, they were were fools. No doubt, they'd been caught in some trap laid around the sword that's meant to protect it from thieves."
"You're saying that it wasn't the merrow, but a trap? And that you're sure that you won't get caught by it?"
He looked at her and smile.
"If anything should happen, will you mourn for me?"
"Huh?! You should ask Ermine for something like that."
"Y-you're lovers, right?"
For some reason, her words came out accusingly making Lydia look down in embarrassment.
"Take comfort. It's not like that."
"Why should I find comfort in that?!"
"It's just my wish."
'Just what's with this guy,' Lydia thought as she knit her brows.
"Would you mind not saying those sorts of things just to tease others?"
"I wasn't teasing, but in that case, let's change the subject. What's your ideal type?"
'The subject hasn't been changed at all.'
Lydia felt annoyed because, from what he said, Edgar seemed to be interested in Lydia, but even though she she knew that he wasn't serious, her feelings still ended up wavering.
Perhaps it was because Lydia wasn't even accustomed to flattery.
"Someone serious and honest. ......Holding someone and kissing them when they're not your lover is despicable."
"Huh, so you saw."
Lydia blushed even more at having dug her own grave. He looked amused, but didn't tease her any further.
He slowly continued down a small path in the garden.
"Ermine's a very dear friend. I want to do anything I can for her if it means she'll be happy."
Unlike how he normally was, his expression as he stared straight ahead was serious. He said they weren't lovers. But even Lydia could tell that she was special to him.
She wasn't someone he would make make fun of and tease, and his holding her wasn't from such light-hearted feelings that could be considered contemptible.
Lydia's limited experience and imagination couldn't comprehend Edgar and the others. Perhaps it was only natural. Even though she could see the fae, she wasn't used to dealing with humans.
"I see. She's someone very special to you. Um, it's not like I was spying, I just happened to be going by the room at the time...... I'm sorry, it's not something for me to say anything about. I can't understand you in the least, but most likely, the people with you are blessed."
Edgar continued staring in the distance as he thought for a moment. And with the same look on his face he slowly turned to look at Lydia.
"Do you perhaps have wings?"
The strange question was very much out of the blue.
"For some reason, I felt that maybe you had butterfly wings the colour of the rainbow hidden on you."
It gave a completely different feeling from having someone someone call her a changeling.
No doubt, the way Lydia accepted what people said without question and the way she didn't try to keep up appearances and simply said what she thought made her seem like she was from another world.
While his words were embarrassingly pretentious, and even though they suggested she was a fairy, it didn't have a negative feel. And they simply suggested that to Edgar, she might literally seem like one of the fae but that he was still able to gently accept her being that way.
When Edgar was with her, there were moments when she felt that she could become someone unlike how she'd been up until then. And she ended up having mixed feelings whenever she tried to think of him as a villain.
Lydia stopped unthinkingly next to where he'd stopped. There was something like a shrine to one corner of the garden. The place with its small statue of an angel was clearly meant for children's graves.
"'For the sleeping children of the mermaids', huh? It certainly seems like it's a memorial, but what does it mean by children of the mermaids?"
"The people of the island are all supposed to carry merrow blood. Most likely, it's for the children whose merrow blood was too strong that they couldn't survive. No doubt, in the past, they couldn't be baptised."
"I see. On this sort of isolated island, the inhabitants will all be related to one another. With frequent inbreeding, it's understandable that certain illnesses and traits become more prominent."
"You mean to say that it's not because of the merrow? ......Granted, we don't know if it's true or not, but the islanders all believe their descended from the merrow. And you intend to become the liege lord of that sort of place, right?"
"Is it necessary for their liege to believe in the fae? It doesn't really matter, does it? Whether it's mermaids or illness, if it's normal for the island inhabitants to have scales or webbing, that's all there is to it."
Normal. Even though he didn't believe, it was normal.
She couldn't help feeling like she'd heard something very unusual.
He didn't believe in what he couldn't see, but if the phenomenon existed such that it seemed like they had scales or webbing, then he had no problems accepting that. Lydia couldn't help thinking that to be strange as she looked at Edgar.
A person who didn't believe in the fae didn't accept that they couldn't see them. Rather, they conclude that such things don't exist and prefer to believe that. That's why they deny those who can see them. But by Edgar's reasoning, he himself didn't believe that the fae existed, but it didn't bother him if they did exist. And that's why he didn't make fun of Lydia.
"......Could it be that you think of Raven's spirit in that way, too?"
"Raven's? Ah, did he tell you about it?"
"Yes, that he was born with and controlled by a terrible spirit."
"Huh, that's rare. It seems Raven's taken a liking to you. Maybe because you both have some connection to the fae."
Lydia thought it unlikely that Raven had taken a liking to her but remained silent. He'd simply warned her not to do anything against Edgar.
"I can't tell if Raven's spirit exists or not. But as long as I know what sort of person he is, what he needs, and what I can do for him, that's all that matters."
That's why he was able to accept him and the spirit. Lydia couldn't help thinking that he had no fear.
But perhaps that was evidence of his strong spirit. Regardless of how ignorant he might be about the world, he had the strength not to be fazed by it. To him, what was important was for him to do what he could.
For her, being able to hang on to reality was both a given yet surprisingly difficult. Because people's spirits were so easily fooled, there were weaknesses for demons to take advantage of. But most likely, it would be difficult for evil beings to influence him.
Even though he couldn't see the fae, Lydia couldn't help feeling that it would've been nice had he been the descendant of the Blue Knight Earl.
If he had been, she would've been able to do everything she could to help him.
"In any case, it seems that there's no mistake that this is the spunkie's cradle. In which case, next is 'dance with the pixies on the moonlit night'. What about this?"
"Ah, umm, I think it refers to faerie rings that pixies make. A ring forms on the grass when the fae dance on moonlit nights."
"A ring? You mean like that?"
Edgar pointed at a spot where stones were arranged on the grass.
They went to that spot, and Edgar stepped into the ring unconcerned.
"Aa." Lydia couldn't help exclaiming slightly.
Edgar turned. "What is it?"
"......Nothing. It wasn't a real fairy ring."
"What would've happened if it had been real?"
"It's possible to get caught by the fae."
"Hmm, I see. Rather than that, take a look Lydia. The view changes at this spot."
Lydia carefully entered the ring. When she did, the trees that seemed to be planted haphazardly nearby became lined up. And at the end of them they could make out the building that had been hidden by them until then.
It was the castle, and a door was there as though beckoning to them. No, when they got close to it, they saw that the image of a door had been painted there. Embedded in the wall, was a small window to let in light.
"We can't go inside through this."
"In any case, the key's only to the main entrance. So we'll have to go in through there, and figure out where this is from the inside."
Just as the two moved to go back the way the came, the underbrush nearby rustled unnaturally. A man in black clothing came out. It was the Gotham brothers. Huskley stepped out from among them, and blocked their way. He looked around. He grinned after checking that Raven and Ermine weren't there.
"Hey, John. We meet again."
"You're quite persistent, too," Edgar said raising an eyebrow annoyed.
"It seems that the 'merrow's star' is somewhere in this castle. I'll find it later. Don't resist and release her."
"Release? That's a strange thing to say."
"You kidnapped Miss Carlton. And you've been forcing her to accompany you. As far as the public's concerned, a robber has kidnapped a university professor's daughter."
"But Lydia, you never know what he'll do to you if you get caught by him. I think you're safer with me."
"What are you talking about? You're a thief! Miss Carlton, you mustn't believe what he says."
'That's true for both of you,' Lydia thought in mild disbelief.
"Raven, over here!" Edgar suddenly shouted.
Huskley and the others tensed as they looked around. Even though there was no wind, the trees around them rustled. Just as she realised that, a man to one side suddenly groaned and collapsed.
"Damn it, hold your ground! He's only one person!"
"Master Edgar, this way."
Ermine was suddenly standing nearby. She motioned to Edgar and Lydia and led them to a narrow path. But once they got a little away from Huskley and the others...
Lydia recognised the voice that called her. Lydia's father ran towards them.
"Father! What are you doing here?"
"I heard you'd been kidnapped......"
Lydia tried to move towards her father but Edgar grabbed her arm stopping her.
"Are you the kidnapper? Let Lydia go."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Carlton. Your daughter's been helping me a great deal," Edgar said greeting him calmly.
"What are you after. I'll do anything I can. Just don't harm my daughter."
"I'm sorry to have caused you so much worry. But I'm serious. Please, father, let me have your daughter."
"Wha-, what are you talking about?!"
However he pulled Lydia close wrapping his arm around her shoulder.
"To be honest, I should have sought your permission to court her, but I became so enamoured of her that I'm afraid I completely lost track of everything else."
"If I didn't have her by my side to ease this passion, I'm sure I would soon die."
Just how many people were there that could get away with saying such things without the least bit of embarrassment?
"W-wait a moment......"
Lydia had never seen her father look so flustered as he opened and closed his mouth wordlessly.
"...Do you really want this tomboy?"
"To me, she's the most wonderful lady. She's the only one who can save me with her great love."
"Wait, Edgar. You put that the wrong way!"
Naturally, it wasn't Lydia's love that would save him, but her ability to find the treasured sword.
"I agree there's no question that Lydia is a wonderful girl. But don't you think that, as a man, you were acting very irresponsibly bringing an unmarried girl with you?"
Apparently, Carlton had switched from seeing the situation as dealing with a kidnapper to that of dealing with a young man in love with his daughter.
"You're right. I'm very sorry."
"Like I said, it's not like that!"
"John, let her go!"
When Huskley reappeared, Lydia couldn't help feeling like he'd saved her from the confusion. But it was short-lived as Huskley pointed a pistol in their direction.
"Wait a moment. Lydia's over there."
"I know that professor. However, he can't afford to kill your daughter even though he's an unscrupulous thief. Not until the jewel's been found."
"Gotham, I can imagine what you might have said to Mr. Carlton, but you shouldn't do things that would quickly make clear that you yourself are unscrupulous when it comes to the jewel.
It was striking how Edgar seemed fierce yet still had the refined air that was so like him as he smiled thinly and glared at his opponent. If this were the scene of a duel, no doubt the match would have been decided in that instant.
"Hurry up and move away from her," Huskley said sounding annoyed.
Carlton looked at Huskley uncertainly. Huskley put his finger on the trigger making clear his threat.
"Hey you, stop..."
Since Lydia was right next to Edgar, the gun pointed at him also posed a danger to her. Carlton grabbed hold of Huskley's arm in order to stop him.
"Ermine, take care of Lydia," Edgar murmured.
"Right." Along with the short reply, Ermine pulled Lydia away. Edgar pulled his rapier from his cane. And at the same time, a shot rang out.
Lydia tried to turn back, but Ermine pulled Lydia into the bushes, so she couldn't tell what was happening over there. However, Ermine suddenly stopped when they came out on another small path. She retreated several steps while trying to protect Lydia, but they were completely surrounded by Huskley's younger brothers.