The Blue Knight Earl and The Island of the Merrow:
Lydia and her father were locked into one of the rooms in the castle.
The Huskleys had forced their way into the building by breaking one of the castle windows and were now occupying one corner of the castle. Apparently, they were chasing after Raven and Edgar who'd managed to escape and intended to steal the "Merrow's Star".
Carlton sighed depressed. He'd been tricked by Huskley, or rather the Gotham brothers, and brought all the way to the island.
"In other words, I was being used by the Gothams."
"I'm sorry, father. Getting you caught up in this."
"You ended up getting caught up in things as well. I'm sorry, I didn't think my research into gems would cause something like this."
All of this started from Gotham trying to use Edgar as a research subject or perhaps from Edgar trying to use Gotham. But that was no longer the issue.
Lydia knelt by Ermine who was laying on the sofa.
Since they didn't think Lydia or Carlton could fight back, the two hadn't been treated harshly. But Ermine had been struck and her hands bound, and she lay there unconscious.
While they wanted to undo the ropes, Huskley had said that they would hurt Ermine if they did anything.
Lydia wiped away the blood around Ermine's mouth with a handkerchief.
"So then, that young man from earlier......"
"Y-you're mistaken, father. That was just a bad joke. I just took a job as a fairy doctor."
"Really? You didn't really elope?"
"Of course not. I'm not that sort of girl."
The professor smiled weakly in relief as he pushed his round glasses back up from where they'd slid.
"It's quite shocking to be called father by a man who not only is a thief but also a kidnapper. I was worrying about whether I should oppose you if you really were serious."
"Father. You mean if I was okay with a villain, you'd accept that?!"
"I thought he must have some very good point to him. It wouldn't be good if his only good point was his looks."
"As if I would choose someone based only on looks."
"But, the thing that worries me...... He is high-born, isn't he?"
"Yes, he said so himself, and his manner of speech and everything about him seems to suggest so. But father, is being a member of the nobility a bigger problem than being a thief?"
"From time to time, they can be even worse than thieves. ......Although I might be biased. But if that was just a bad joke, then it doesn't matter."
"He's serious," Ermine murmured her eyes half open. She'd apparently regained consciousness at some point. "Master Edgar is serious in wanting Miss Lydia. If he thinks it's necessary to get you to do what he wants, no doubt he would show that he truly loves you."
If she hadn't learned who he was, no doubt Lydia would completely believe in and be lost in the sweet dream he showed her.
"I know, Ermine. I'm just a tool for him to find the great sword."
"No, Miss Lydia. There are still things that you don't know. It could be that falling into the hands of the enemy like this will be better for you." Ermine looked away as though overwhelmed with grief. "I don't want Master Edgar to end up being a heartless villain...... In truth, he's very kind and considerate, so it hurts to continue seeing him harden himself and trick and hurt people for our sakes."
Could it be that this was what Nico meant about Edgar hiding something from Lydia?
"What does Edgar mean to do with me?"
Ermine winced as though dealing with a headache as she sat up. She looked tormented as she finally opened her mouth to speak again. "There are two pieces of information regarding the Blue Knight Earl's sword. Apparently, a number of imitations of the gold coin with the Fae poem on it that you saw have been made, and most likely, that's why so many people have come to this island searching for the gem. But there's another key made of silver. Most likely, there's only the one key. And according to it, they're only meaningful when you have both of them and there's something about needing blood to gain the sword written on it."
"A sacrifice to the mermaids. The other possibility Master Edgar has though of is that there's a trap which makes it impossible to obtain the sword without sacrificing someone."
It's said that the mermaids collect human souls like gems. So it's possible that they would want a human soul to be given to them by the descendant of the Blue Knight Earl in exchange for protecting the sword.
"Then...... you mean that he intended to sacrifice me?"
Lydia clenched her shaking hands tightly into fists.
'That big liar. What's the meaning of this?' She was so angry she felt sick.
Granted, she'd never trusted him, but it hurt to think that he'd been thinking that from the very beginning. It meant that there hadn't been the least bit of truth to the things he'd said.
Lydia slumped in a chair feeling very down. "It won't be a trap. The merrow should be there. Most likely it's wrong to think that the sword can be obtained just from fulfilling the conditions. No doubt death waits for anyone but the real Blue Knight Earl."
"If that's true, then it would be dangerous for Master Edgar to try to get the sword, too. Which is why I......"
"You told me, didn't you, Ermine?"
'--About Edgar. No doubt she really loves him.' Lydia thought. Tension mixed with her absolute resolve as she gazed at Ermine's profile.
"In any case, we can't get out of here, and it doesn't seem like we'll have a chance to meet mermaids." It was impossible to know how much Carlton understood of Lydia's and Ermine's conversation, but perhaps he meant to lighten the tense mood with his somewhat irrelevant comment.
"But Gotham's after the star sapphire that's on the sword. That man needs Miss Lydia's knowledge. Naturally, it's unlikely Master Edgar would simply give in. Which is why I thought that I had to tell you about this now while I have the chance. Even if telling you this means I'm betraying Master Edgar, if it means he'll give up getting the sword......"
The door opened violently then.
"The eldest son of the Gotham family - Huskley - strode into the room and stood before Lydia.
"Miss Carlton, I'm afraid you're to come with us immediately."
Apparently, Ermine's prediction came to pass right away.
"No. I won't help you steal the gem."
"No, we'll have you help us. If that man ends up snatching the Merrow's Star from us, we can't guarantee the professor's safety."
"......What, you mean you're using my father as a hostage?"
"If you do what you're told, there will be no trouble."
There was nothing Lydia could do.
"As long as you get the gem, you'll let us go, right?"
"I give you my word."
"Lydia...... don't worry about me."
"It's okay, father. I'll come back, without fail."
Huskley didn't even allow Lydia and her father to hug one another before taking her from the room.
Huskley and three of his younger brothers accompanied Lydia. Perhaps the other brothers stayed behind to keep an eye on Carlton and Ermine. Or perhaps they were searching for Edgar and Raven.
But Lydia thought there was no need for Huskley and the others to search for Edgar.
She knew where he would show up.
She walked towards the south part of the building next to the garden. Her sign was the small round window. From there, she should be able to see the fairy ring on top of the small grassy hill that she and Edgar had found.
"Hey, is it really this way?"
Huskley made sure Lydia didn't try to escape by holding on to her arm. In his other hand, he held his pistol. Most likely he was wary of an attack by Edgar and Raven.
"Why don't you be quiet and just follow. You don't know where to go, after all."
"You're a cheeky girl. Just try and cross us. You'll regret it."
"I know that."
These people really were much easier to understand than Edgar. There was nothing so roundabout as making Lydia happy while thinking of killing her.
If all he was going to do was use her, he should have acted like a villain, threatened and terrified her and made her do what he wanted. That way, Lydia wouldn't have ended up feeling so hurt.
......I wonder if I'm feeling hurt.
Despite always saying that she didn't trust him and thinking that she had no intention of taking on being an accessory to a thief, she'd been happy to feel that he understood what a fairy doctor's role was. That's why she felt like she could convince him that it would be impossible for him to get the Merrow's sword.
While their goals were different and there was no way for them to be friends, Lydia didn't think she could hate Edgar, and couldn't help hoping that he felt the same way.
But that was just a fantasy of hers.
Opening the door at the end of the corridor, they came to a stairwell. It was a strange space where the stairs crossed one another. Light entered from through the window in one corner.
It was the place where the picture of a door was painted on the outside wall.
Huskley was wary as he pulled Lydia closer.
With only the one window in the hall, it gave the impression that something could be hiding in the shadows behind the pillars.
"Hey, you guys, check the back of the hall," he ordered his younger brothers. But even though they were supposed to have been following him, there was no sense of their presence nor any answer from them. Surprised, Huskley turned only to see the three of the laying on the floor.
At the same time, Lydia felt the air near her move. Huskley was sent flying. Even as he lay on the floor, he tried to raise his pistol only to have Raven step firmly on his arm.
Raven wrested the pistol from Huskley and pointed it at him where he lay.
"Stop. They've taken my father hostage! If you kill him, no doubt father and Ermine......!"
But Raven didn't seem to hear Lydia's voice and he showed no hint of emotion as he stared coldly aiming at Huskley's forehead. His look was like Death's and gave the impression that begging for one's life would be futile.
"Raven, that's enough." Edgar said as he came out of from the far stairs.
Raven lowered his arm at the sound of Edgar's voice. But at the same time, he kicked Huskley in the stomach. Huskley lay there limp.
"Lydia, I'm glad you're unharmed. I was sure you'd come here. Naturally, I anticipated that trouble would accompany you."
His golden shone lightly. A fearless smile filled his perfect looks.
'I won't be fooled anymore,' Lydia told herself.
"But things have become problematic for you, too. Unless I find the 'Merrow's Star' and give it to Huskley, they'll kill my father."
"In other words, we'll end up fighting over the sword."
Without Lydia deciphering the poem and without the key that Edgar was hiding, they wouldn't be able to find the sword. Since Edgar didn't suspect that Lydia knew about the key, she had no choice but to seem to cooperate and try to steal the sword at the end.
"But Lydia, they also have Ermine. They're causing so much trouble, so we have a common goal, don't we? There's no need to give them the "Merrow's Star". I'll also do what I can to save your father."
She didn't think he would worry about Lydia's father's life since he was a total stranger. No doubt he would abandon them as long as he got the sword.
After all, he was thinking of sacrificing Lydia.
But for the time being, Lydia just nodded.
"The problem is whether we can really find the sword."
"Let's move on to the next fairy then. What about 'Silkie's cross'?"
Lydia went past Edgar as she went up the stairs. Several doors were lined up there and she continued past a number of them before stopping in front of one with the sign she was looking for.
"There are no crosses anywhere?"
"This pattern, it's a mountain ash. The door's made from the same wood. Silkie is a ghost-like fairy and its weakness is crosses made from mountain ash."
She opened the door and a narrow passage could be seen continuing beyond. The three hurried on.
It wasn't difficult for Lydia to continue according to the path described by the fairy poem. It wasn't difficult as long as one had the knowledge expected of a fairy doctor. But the sword was something that should only be passed on to descendants of the Blue Knight Earl, so it didn't make sense for anyone with knowledge of the Fae to be able to find it.
Most likely the problem lay ahead when they reached the merrow.
"How was Ermine?" Edgar asked as they walked.
"She's alright. But since she's very quick and knows how to use weapons, they tied her up."
Perhaps he was worried about her; his expression clouded over. Lydia glanced surreptitiously at Raven, but it was impossible to tell how worried he was for his sister from his expression.
"......She was worried about you. After all, it's impossible to know what sort of dangerous traps there might be if you try to steal the sword."
"But if I can take on the name of the Blue Knight Earl, Ermine and Raven will be able to escape living in constant danger. Ermine especially. If she could dress up like a regular young lady and grow her hair out, no doubt many men would be attracted to her. And no doubt she'd be able to find a man that she could trust with all her heart."
Even though she had eyes only for Edgar.
"Is there no other way? All you need is for the person who's chasing you to give up, right? Unlike in America, people can't have slaves in England."
"In this world, the only thing that can stand against power is power. He's not so kind an opponent as all that."
Lydia couldn't imagine how terrible that person was. All she knew was that, more than being able to escape that place, Ermine was more afraid of having Edgar sacrifice others.
Lydia could understand that feeling.
They were definitely getting closer to the sword's hiding place.
But Lydia still didn't know how to go about facing Edgar. For one thing, she didn't know if she'd be able to beat him and get the sword. If she couldn't, she might end up having her soul sacrificed to the merrow as he planned.
Or if Lydia did manage to defeat Edgar, it could be that he would be the one to die.
In other words, Lydia would have caused his death.
"The phouka is a maze. Follow the wyrm's tracks. To the right of Fear Dearg."
They continued along solving the poem's riddles one at a time.
"Please wait a moment, Master Edgar." Raven said suddenly.
Continuing ahead a few steps, he listening carefully to their surroundings.
Lydia finally made out the sound of footsteps. Perhaps there was another passageway nearby; someone was coming down some stairs. Someone was moving on the other side of a nearby door.
Raven moved silently next to the door. Edgar pulled Lydia over by the wall. Just when the doorknob moved slightly, Raven kicked the door open. He slipped into the next room and grabbed the person there. He wrapped his arm around the person's neck.
"Raven, it's me."
Just before his knife struck, Raven realised it was Ermine and let her go.
Edgar relaxed relieved.
"Ermine, you managed to escape."
"I'm sorry, Master Edgar."
"It's okay. As long as you're alright."
"Um, my father......?"
"I was taken to a separate room. And got away at that time. So, I suspect he's still being held prisoner," she said apologetically. She walked to Edgar. "Gotham and the others will catch up soon. If they find us in this narrow passage, it will be difficult to move. I think it would be better to move to somewhere where it's easier to hide."
"But this path leads to where the sword is hidden. We'll continue on this way."
Apparently, Edgar had no intention of taking a roundabout route. He prompted Lydia to continue on and started walking.
"You'll only end up leading them to the sword."
"We'll find it before that happens."
Perhaps Ermine seemed disappointed because she didn't want Edgar to get close to where the sword was. But she didn't make any more suggestions to Edgar.
Lydia heard Raven say softly to his sister, "It's not like you."
"Yes, you're right. Getting caught like that."
"That's not what I meant," Raven said. He fell silent.
Ermine had tole Lydia something very important. It cold be that her younger brother sensed her change of heart.
There was a strange headless painting. Lydia knelt as she examined the wall under it.
"Is this painting of Dullahan?"
"That's right. It's a headless fairy. Since it says at his feet... Aah, see, the panel comes off."
Lydia went through the opening. Stairs continued downward from there. When they reached the bottom, the landscape suddenly opened up before them. The place looked like a terrace jutting out from a cliff.
The castle itself was built at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. And that place was the most seaward part.
On the other side of the simple handrail, was nothing but sheer cliff that stretched down dizzyingly and the sea. The strong wind blew mercilessly.
"It seems like we've come to a dead end?"
Like Edgar said, there didn't seem to be anywhere to continue onwards to. But at the same time, there'd been no other paths splitting off from the stairs they'd gone down.
The next line was "the leprechaun's treasure."
"The leprechauns are fairies that make shoes. It's said they hide their treasure underground."
"Underground. Surely you don't mean we're supposed to jump from here."
If they did that, no doubt they would die. Waves pounded on the rough boulders that jutted up below them.
Lydia thought over the meaning of the poem's words, but having reached that place she had to admit to suddenly being at a loss.
"Please give me a bit of time to think."
"If the enemy catches up to us here, we'll have nowhere to run."
Ermine looked behind them worriedly.
"We'll stop a short while."
Everyone fell silent. Lydia desperately tried to remember all the stories she knew of the leprechauns.
After a time, Ermine spoke again. "Master Edgar, it's just not possible for us to gain the sword. ......I don't care if we end up running in fear from the Prince for the rest of our lives. If this is for Raven's and my sakes, then please stop."
"Ermine, don't be foolish. More than anyone else, you know how terrible the Prince is. I swore I'd break the hold the prince has on us."
Ermine looked down lost in thought. She raised her face. "No doubt that's also impossible, Master Edgar." She looked at Lydia. "The Prince knows what I want and my weaknesses. And that I'm happy continuing being on the run with you...... The closed comradeship of having the same goal and supporting one another while not letting anyone else get close. And he knows that I can lose myself in the pleasure of knowing that in this group, I have you all to myself. If we did somehow end up escaping the Prince, we will end up being like any other master and servant. And he realised that that's what I fear."
"I'm very sorry, Master Edgar. He said that if I would continue keeping an eye on you, he wouldn't do anything for awhile yet."
"You don't mean...... by the Prince." A hint of anger could be heard in Edgar's voice.
The sound of the marked anger he felt whenever mentioning the prince grated even to Lydia's ears. While she knew that he was the one who had enslaved Edgar and the others, that wasn't all. To them, he was someone for whom they felt great fear and hatred.
"You mean that our movements up until now were leaked to him?"
"It was your idea to use Gotham who was searching for experimental subjects when you were at risk of being executed in America. But it's the Prince who told me about Gotham. And he's continued to control us in that manner. It seems like he's enjoying watching us as we continue fighting."
"......So he knows about the swords as well then, doesn't he? And he's watching us from above."
"He knows. It seemed like he didn't think the sword exists. But with Miss Lydia's help, you're definitely getting closer to the great sword. If you were to get hold of the sword, it might be possible for you to break our tie to the prince. But that would also mean you're learning of my betrayal. So I didn't know what to do. If you'd given up looking for the sword, I would've been able to stay by your side a little longer...... But more than anything, I didn't want you to put yourself in any danger. Master Edgar, it's reckless for us to continue further since we have no ties to the Lord Blue Knight. I don't care if you revile me for being a traitor. The only other thing I can do......"
Lydia suddenly found herself being held fast by Ermine.
"Miss Lydia, if you're to hate anyone, please make it me alone."
By the time Edgar yelled, Lydia found herself being forced over the handrail and falling towards the cliff.
She tried to grab hold of Ermine's body, but it was pointless since Ermine apparently intended to jump with Lydia.
She watched as heaven and earth switched places. Everything seemed to go in slow motion and just as she felt dizzy staring at the sky and the sea, she felt something pull on her.
Raven had managed to grab hold of Lydia's sleeve. At the same time, he'd also grabbed hold of Ermine's clothes, but it seemed like he was struggling to hang onto both of them. On top of that, it seemed like her sleeve might tear at any moment. Lydia reached out her hand desperately trying to grab hold of the railing.
Edgar took hold of her hand. "Raven, I've got her."
He grasped her arm firmly as he carefully pulled her up and held her in his arms as she fell onto the terrace. Lydia unconsciously clung to Edgar and she felt comforted at the feel of Edgar stroking her hair as he soothed her.
"Raven, what are you doing?!"
She quickly came back to herself at the sound of Edgar's voice.
Raven had managed to get hold of Ermine's arm, but he made no attempt to pull her up.
Ermine was struggling to free herself from her brother's grasp.
"Raven, please, let me free."
Even if he saved her, she would no longer be able to stay by Edgar's side. And the only thing remaining would be the Prince's hold on her.
"Don't let her go. Under no circumstances are you to let her die!"
Edgar tried to run over to them but her arm slipped away.
She was instantly swallowed up by the deep cliffs below.
Lydia closed her eyes. She didn't hear any scream let alone the sound of the strong surf. When she opened her eyes again, the only thing she could see was the white surf pounding on the rocks as though nothing had happened.
Edgar sat there stunned.
Hopefully it all makes sense as it's very raw. ^^; Enjoy!