Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 181: Inside the Bird Cage
The first emperor of Alban, Sampson Alastair, died peacefully ten years ago at the age of eighty-three.
To be fair, Ann’s father was a wise king.
More than 20 years ago, Alban was in a full-scale war with Willard, who was at the peak of their strength. The iron-blooded emperor turned the tide with his amazing judgement and strategy. During Sampson’s reign, he befriended the current Pope Quinn. Alban’s national strength grew by leaps and bounds, and the economy no longer looked like it was in a state of collapse. Although small-scale wars on the border had continued, the number of refugees and criminals had significantly decreased, and the standard of living for ordinary citizens had increased bit by bit.
In most of Albanian’s impressions, Sampson was tough, but overall was a good emperor.
However, he wasn’t a good father.
Sampson Alastair had three sons and two daughters.
The two oldest princes were born to Queen Grizelda, who died unexpectedly when she gave birth to the second prince. A few years later, Sampson married his young lover, Theodora, and brought his illegitimate son into the palace, where she gave birth to a pair of twin princesses.
The eldest Prince Ettram was destined to inherit the throne after Sampson’s death. Except for being born weaker, Ettram’s personality was almost a replica of the first emperor—smart, stubborn, and decisive. Unfortunately, some years ago, he fell ill and was kept alive by precious herbs and the efforts of numerous healers.
The second prince, Abbas, had an amazing talent for magic but was too gentle and unambitious. In order to show his brother that he really had no desire, he didn’t even want a fiefdom, so he went straight to becoming a mercenary. After the Tin Soldier Mercenary Regiment became famous all over the world, he would occasionally return to the palace to tell the then not yet emperor the interesting things outside, as well as important information that could not be known in the palace.
The son Theodora brought, Eldric, who was once an illegitimate child, was mediocre in ability but very strong. Because of his young age, the emperor favored him, but he could only be pampered so much and remained a prince at best.
Finally, there were the Nightingales of Alban, the twin princesses Annabelle and Andrea.
This should have been a prosperous family.
Unfortunately, Ettram was too weak and had never had any children. The healers had just worked out a possible cure when he was murdered by his blood relative. The young Abbas had already died at the bottom of the Abyss.
Ann’s older brother, with the same father and mother, the ambitious Eldric, had not yet married to prevent his wife’s family from holding him back. Andrea died from an early “illness”, and Annabelle had only a daughter, Delia—Now there were only two people left in the royal family, Eldric and the underage Delia.
The end of the Alastair family was truly ironic. The female warrior in the tavern poured herself another glass of wine and collapsed the corners of her mouth.
Ann had been disappointed in her father three times.
Unlike Ettram, as a top mercenary, Abbas didn’t exclude his half-siblings. Since Ann was sensible, her favorite thing was to stick with this gentle brother. After enduring the boring theological and ceremonial education, Abbas would tell her many stories of the outside world. Ann loved to jump into his arms and listen, while Annabelle would hide timidly to the side while listening carefully.
That was a world they would never be able to touch.
The change occurred on an ordinary day. Ann slipped out of the classroom alone and ran to the church inside the castle to look for him. Unaware of his sister hiding under the table, Abbas simply placed a stack of books on the table while talking to the preceptor at the door.
Ann thought to herself that it was probably story books and secretly took one at the top.
In order to study theology, the princesses learned to read early, so reading such a book wasn’t difficult for Ann. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an interesting story but a book of royal magic secrets.
The princesses were usually only allowed to practice exclusive spells of the Laddism Church and weren’t allowed to learn other magic from the outside world. Ann was instantly interested, and she flipped through the pages, completely unaware of Abbas, who was watching her with his arms clasped.
“Is it interesting?” Abbas smiled softly. “Okay, stop it. Give me the book, Ann.”
It was an advanced magic book, so he had a little fun teasing the girl.
“Very interesting!” Young Ann raised her head and wiped her nose, her eyes gleaming. “Brother, look—”
She opened her tender hands, and a ball of light surrounded by thunder and lightning floated on her hands, making an ominous hissing sound.
A perfect spell.
Abbas’ face changed. “You… learned it just from looking at it?”
“Is it difficult?” Ann turned a few more pages, and the brilliance of thunder and lightning once again broke through the dark air of dusk.
Abbas made a quick decision. He isolated the room with a mute array and closed the door tightly. He sat down opposite Ann, put the stack of books on the floor, and pulled out one of them. “Try this, little pumpkin.”
Ann frowned and looked at it for a while, and then released another spell.
“Here this one.”
A series of successes.
“This is so boring.” The child’s patience quickly bottomed out, and Ann began to roll on the carpet.
“Last one.” Abbas face held a complicated expression. “This is the last one. Good girl. Try it, okay? Next time, brother will bring you candy from outside.”
Ann’s spirit was shocked.
“As for this spell, you have to swear to me that you’ll never use it indiscriminately unless it’s critical. Be good, okay?”
“It’s called a Royal Edict, but… for some reason, brother can’t teach you it entirely. It can at most directly show a person’s magic potential. It can make others do things for you, and the more powerful you are, the more powerful the command you can give. Remember, it can only be used on the clergy of the Laddism Church. If you use it repeatedly on the same person, that person will develop an uncanny resistance, so you can think of it as a one-time spell.”
“I swear not to use it indiscriminately!” Ann rolled her eyes, already thinking about how to use this spell to cause mischief.
“You.” Abbas smiled and shook his head, clearly seeing through the little girl’s intention. “That’s why I’m only teaching you the incomplete version—you can use it to daze people for a moment at most, and you can’t give instructions.”
“Uh-huh, I got it memorized.”
“Felix, Felix!” Abbas removed the mute array and called for the Preceptor Bishop, who was talking to his subordinates in the corridor. “Are you done talking over there? Come here. I need to tell you something.”
Ann followed Abbas’ instructions and released an incomplete Royal Edict when the Preceptor Bishop stepped into the room. The young Preceptor Bishop froze in place as his eyes stared straight into the void. It took a full ten minutes before he came back to his senses.
Abbas took a deep breath and sent the bishop on his way, feigning as if nothing had happened, then grabbed Ann’s hand. “Ann, come with me. Let’s go see father.”
“No! I want to listen to more stories—”
“This is very important. If your father will listen, you and Belle may be able to get a chance to go out and play.”
Ann didn’t like her father. She never liked him. He never touched her head or even smiled at her.
“What stupid thing are you talking about, Abbas.” As soon as he heard Abbas’ words, their father interrupted him coldly. “Don’t bring the mercenary thinking here.”
“But father, Ann’s magical talent is amazingly high, and her potential has even surpassed the current Preceptor Bishop! Belle is definitely not far behind. As long as they are properly educated, they can definitely be outstanding—” He clenched his sister’s slender little hand.
“They have already received the most appropriate education. What do you want to say? Does Alban want a woman to lead soldiers to war?”
“At least let them go to Clementine for a normal education, please father. Ann’s talent is even above mine, and she can do more for this country.”
“They’ll grow up obediently and marry the right person honestly, which is the greatest contribution to this country. Of course, good talent can be one of the bargaining chips—it means they can give birth to good children. Nothing more.”
Sampson made no scruple about the fact that his daughter was present, as he didn’t even bother looking into her eyes.
Ann stared at her tall father sternly. Brother Abbas’ hands were trembling, his palms were cold, making her heart very comfortable.
“Father… Just try it, okay? Even if they are brought back after they become adults. Give them a chance…”
“If you still have such naive thoughts, I will recall you from the Tin Soldiers. These so-called talents are only temporary. Women are women, and when they grow up, their brains will only be filled with perfume and love. Send them out? Then, wait for them to fall in love with the wrong person? Or worse—fall in love with someone arranged by the enemy?”
Abbas lowered his head. His long, soft brown hair hung down his shoulders.
“Sorry, Ann,” he said with a strong smile. “Brother can’t take you out.”
“It’s Andrea and Annabelle. Don’t use unruly names like ‘Ann’ or ‘Belle’ in front of me.”
Abbas looked very sad. Ann didn’t know what happened, but she did feel contempt from her father’s eyes. A contempt made her body cold.
However, Abbas didn’t give up on this. Ann received a stack of books the next day, along with a stack of sweets. The books were well-hidden by an illusion spell that had the cover shown as a sweet and cute fairy tale, but could be easily unlocked by eliminating the illusion with the spell Abbas had taught her.
[Don’t give up and don’t use them to mess around until the last moment.]
Abbas left the castle as usual and continued to act with the Tin Soldiers. His message on the title page was very simple.
“Belle, Belle!” Ann happily moved the book into their bedroom. “Let’s learn together.”
Her trembling sister shook her head. “No… No. The tutor said that we couldn’t learn this. We weren’t born for it…”
“She’s just spouting bullshit! I learned well.”
“Don’t say that.” Annabelle was so scared that she hurriedly covered her mouth. Until they separated, Annabelle hadn’t looked through those books once.
That was the first time she was disappointed in her father.
Ann Savage has been in the Black Chapter business for many years. She has excellent combat power, but she wasn’t outstanding. However, she could always survive any disaster that would cause the death of an entire team. That was because if her life wasn’t threatened, she would never use an advanced spell of the Royal Family of Alban in front of people.
She kept this secret, and to this day, she has never broken her agreement with Abbas.
Even if he was no longer alive.
Ann was just nine years old when she learned the bad news. Her brother returned from the Tin Soldiers with the title of “Hero” while lying cold in the coffin. This time her brother would never leave again, but he could no longer tell them stories or secretly sneak her magic textbooks.
With the exception of a very small number of members, the Tin Soldier Mercenary Regiment was almost wiped out at the bottom of the abyss.
Flint Lopez brought back the body of Abbas and the head of the Demon King, but he refused the emperor’s reward and asked to retire to live in peace with his wife.
Sampson readily agreed to Flint Lopez’s request.
Ann slipped out of the window after going to bed late, got into the morgue of the church, and hid herself among the pale flowers under the coffin. She waited patiently. They all said that Abbas was a powerful mage, and her brother might be playing a big joke on her.
She thought desperately.
Annabelle perfectly inherited her mother’s character. Theodora, who became the new queen, was not arrogant and domineering but was careful to the point of neuroticism. Seeing that the emperor wasn’t interested in the two princesses, she was also stingy about giving them the “maternal love” mentioned in books, and her heart was all for her young son Eldric.
Abbas was the only one who would love them as normal relatives. Alban’s two nightingales had no worries about food or clothing, but that was it. The Almighty God probably didn’t like her or her sister either. Ann numbly rubbed her fingers together to crush the delicate petals.
The sound of footsteps came, and she cautiously dug deeper into the flowers, breathing softly…
“You promised him? Flint Lopez is a good talent. The nationality of his wife is unknown. It is very likely—” A voice suddenly sounded in the dark. The voice belonged to some old nobleman, and she couldn’t hear it clearly.
“I know.” The other voice belonged to her father. “No matter what, he will come back. Now that the Tin Soldiers Mercenary Regiment has been hit hard, Flint has the right to find a gentle place to soothe himself. His wife… well, I remember her name is Sonia Ramon? Just a wandering dancer. Can a strong man of Flint Lopez’s level and a lowly drifter survive?”
Her father continued in a tone that sounded like he was talking about the weather. “He’s just temporarily confused by that woman, as her figure is still fresh. When our Lopez wakes up, he will naturally know the importance—the princesses are still young, and when they come of age, Flint should regain his senses. Let him pick one at that time, and the remaining one will be married to Duke Earley. Just watch, Flint won’t leave too far from the capital.”
“Your Majesty, in case. I mean, in case it’s true…”
“If it’s true…”
“Well, then just let Miss Ramon disappear as naturally as possible.”
She should tell Uncle Flint. Ann covered her mouth in the flowers, thinking in a daze.
But the next day, when the head of the Tin Soldier Mercenary Regiment stopped in front of her and saluted her slightly, Ann couldn’t say anything—if she said it, would her father hate her even more? Maybe Flint was really just playing around with his current wife? She was just a nine-year-old girl. Would Flint believe her?
She… Should she really say it?
She raised her head, looked at the slightly sad smile on Flint Lopez’s face, and finally remained silent.
However, less than a year later, Sonia Ramon, who had become Sonia Lopez, died of an acute illness and was pregnant at the time of her death. And her father was not surprised by this, and even smiled after learning the news.
That was the second time, Ann thought. She felt disappointed in her father for the second time… as well as fear for her father.
Then it was the last time…
Two years after his death, Ann managed to escape while taking advantage of the chaos caused by the theft of the Demon King’s skull. Well versed in the ways of royal tracking, she tore off her lace skirt and decorations as soon as she entered the woods, and rolled in the mud. Her beautiful maroon long hair was stuck into a ball by the smelly mud.
She kept in mind the stories that Abbas told her. Suddenly, in order to avoid being tracked, she had no intention of exchanging royal jewels for money, so she simply threw all of them in the woods, leaving only a muddy line all over her body. Ann ran out of the woods—powerful spells were installed in her mind, and she was confident that she would survive.
Eleven-year-old Ann had barely any notion that this escape might be a hand to freedom or some kind of punishment from her biological father.
Would that cold father have been anxious for her if he still had the most basic parental love for her?
Even if the lining was soiled by mud, the delicate brilliance of the satin was still dazzling. Ann ran to a family on the edge of town, stole the linen clothes that were drying in the yard, and wrapped the satin clothes in stones and threw them into the dirty sewage river.
So far, everything had gone swimmingly, but the harsher side of reality soon surfaced…
The linen clothes pierced her skin, and the hard-soled shoes she had never worn blistered her feet. In order to avoid possible hound tracking, after using magic to block the tracking array on her body, she gritted her teeth and got into the smelly sewers.
The situation took a sharp turn for the worse since then.
Sitting on the hard ground, the hard gravel made her feel pain all over. She had vomited at least five times because of the terrible smell of the sewer, and her body, which lacked exercise, was overwhelmed. Her mental state was even worse. She closed her eyes, curled up, and fell asleep in the shadow of the sewer.
She was awakened by hunger.
It was the first time in her life that she knew what “hunger” was. At first, Ann thought she was having a medical emergency, and she was so scared that she was sweating coldly. The strange pain in her stomach bothered her and made her dizzy. It was already dark, and she thought that they must have figured out that her whereabouts were unknown. This small sense of triumph sustained the little girl as she rose to her feet—
Then she screamed.
The insects in the sewer had bitten through her skin while she slept. The mud had caked in her long hair, and she felt something seemed to be crawling on her scalp. She got up so suddenly that the sound that had been pulled created a sharp pain that she had never experienced before. Tears came to Ann’s eyes, and she sobbed and wandered down the sewer until she found an abandoned half of a shear.
At this moment, she couldn’t care less. Shivering, the pampered young princess used the sharp metal blade from the shear to cut off her hair, breaking off the long, muddy hair and throwing it into the dirty and vicious underground river.
Breathing in the rancid and humid air of the sewer, fear began to bite her toes and invade the blood along the wound. Taking risks wasn’t as simple as Abbas said. Yes, she clearly knew the difference—he was an adult man, while she was just a child.
Should she go back? Ann trembled and thought. How would her father punish her if she went back?
No, it was imperative to get something to eat first. It was late at night, so she could think about it in the morning. After struggling to walk for a long time, Ann poked her head out of the sewer and carefully pressed her short hair, which had become a mess. The roar of her stomach was like thunder, making her eyes twinkle.
A trace of the aroma of food floated from a distance, and Ann followed the taste. The end of the smell was a semi-open, dilapidated house. There was no one in the room, and a large pot of sticky hot soup was bubbling on the fire. The soup was cloudy in color, and she couldn’t tell what ingredients were used. The aroma was very weak. There was also a thick black oil stain stuck to the handle of the ladle next to the pot.
Despite feeling nauseated, Ann couldn’t help but swallow her saliva.
Just a little. She thought. Just a little to eat. It shouldn’t matter, right?
That was the first fatal mistake she made.
The author has something to say:
In the next chapter, Ann’s past will come to an end~
The price of freedom is also very heavy _(:з”∠)_
Only two little fools, Nemo and Ollie, really have a happy in childhood.……
In the beginning, many little cuties guessed the identity of Ollie’s mother, but his mother was really just a wandering dancer. A pure ordinary person XD