Stray Ch256

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/


Chapter 256: The Queen’s Preparation

Ann woke up early before the sun rose.

Nearly a week had passed since Oliver, Jesse, and Adrian left for the desert of Garland. After walking on a bloody path for many years, Ann wouldn’t be sad because “only she was left behind.”

But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t worry.

Before leaving, Oliver said goodbye to her very solemnly. Ann never liked too serious partings— As if they might never meet again.

“Promise me to come back soon,” she responded half-jokingly.

But Oliver Ramon didn’t answer.

……Brat.

Ann opened the window, looked out at the city shrouded in mist and shadow, and held down the corner of her forehead. The cold wind in the early morning grazed her skin, completely dispelling her only trace of drowsiness. Ann shivered in the slightly chilly autumn breeze, and directly opened the wardrobe, pushed away the palace attire that seemed too cumbersome, and changed into the casual clothes she had brought.

After washing, she habitually wiped the hunting spear that was resting at the head of the bed. She hesitated for a moment and, in the end, didn’t bring it.

It was time to start a new day. She hoped today wouldn’t be the end of the world.

She was a little hungry and knew that as long as she gave an order, a servant would bring a delicate and delicious breakfast.

The bread was snow-white and soft, and the scrambled eggs had just the right amount of fat. The soup wasn’t too hot, and the vegetables and meat cooked in it were so extremely tender that they didn’t need to be chewed and could easily slide down her throat.

But at this moment, she missed the smell of burning dry grass and pine branches, the crackling flames dripping with animal fat, and the half-cooked, half-burnt, tough and chewy meat of wild animals.

……And the two brats she picked up from the forest casually.

They used to grimace at breakfast, pitifully gnawing at the fishy animal meat, trying to stuff it into their stomachs.

That was not too long ago—three ordinary little people struggling to survive in the woods in the early morning.

Ann smiled bitterly and opened the bedroom door.

It was just that nostalgia was useless, and since she learned the identity of Jesse Dylan, she had no interest in praying at all. No matter what the result was on Oliver’s side, as a member of Tumbleweed, there were still things that only she could do.

Ann walked to the room where the documents were processed, sat down skillfully, and dipped the tip of her pen in ink.

Originally, the things she had to do piled up into a mountain—from learning to process various documents to clearing up the hidden injuries caused by Alban’s internal struggle for power over the years. From when she opened her eyes until they were closed, she was as busy as a gyroscope.

After learning the truth about the world, her task not only didn’t ease, but became more onerous.

She had to be prepared to “leave the castle at any time and act with the team”, and every day she had to act as if it could potentially be the last.

The matter of Oliver and Nemo must not be leaked. However, Tumbleweed had lost a member of its team, and it hadn’t responded to the request from the Mercenary Guild headquarters to go through relevant procedures. They were already violating the rules, and the protection granted by the Mercenary Guild would inevitably weaken a lot.

On the other hand, Lord Zenni made a lot of trouble with the task of guarding the reconnaissance team. The Pope of the Laddism Church knew their strength status and wouldn’t rush to pursue it. Both the Mooney Sect and the one-eye dwarves had to give their statements.

While looking for the dizzyingly difficult method, Ann quickly wrote a letter, ignoring her rumbling stomach.

At the end of the day, it was up to fate. She dipped the nib of the pen in the ink bottle and raised the corner of her mouth helplessly.

She was neither a god nor a Hero. Although she had good talents, she was far from the top of the world, but now, at a time when the world was likely to be destroyed, she took up a weapon she had never thought of.

Secular kingship.

…A ridiculous but effective weapon.

“Breakfast.” When the sun rose, her knight arrived on time. “The Mad Dog of the Wasteland”, Gallagher Salter, looked quite uncomfortable. The smell of his perfume was a lot lighter, but it was mixed with a little bit…

“Baked meatloaf.”

He said with a flat face. The muscles on his face twitched. The marshal wore gloves as he handed over the greasy food wrapped in a paper bag with both hands through his handkerchief. The roasted meatloaf exuded the aroma of grease and coarse pepper that seemed to make Gallagher want to faint just from the smell of the oil.

“Your servant mentioned that you haven’t had a good meal recently—maybe you are not used to this? After all, the royal kitchen can’t make those… Uh, those…”

“Thanks, Salter.” Ann accepted it without restraint and took a large bite, making her voice muffled. “I feel much better.”

Her eyes were still staring at the documents in her hand; her brows were tightly locked, and her usual air of freedom disappeared without a trace.

“The death of Mr. Light is sad. If there is anything I can do…” Gallagher said cautiously.

“I’ve worked you hard recently.” Ann stuffed the baked meatloaf into her mouth and changed the subject. “I don’t really want to talk about this for the time being, Salter… Next month.”

Although it was early in the morning, her smile had a bit of weariness to it.

“If we have the opportunity next month, we can go out for a drink and have a good chat about it.”

If the world is still there next month.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Gallagher looked at Ann, who had stuffed the meatloaf into her stomach within a few bites, and there were still crumbly bits that were stuck in her mouth. He couldn’t help but hand over a clean handkerchief. “In addition, I saw Her Royal Highness Delia just now. Her condition seemed to be a bit bad.”

He looked a little hesitant.

“I can help you with some chores about repairs or castle arrangements. Maybe you can take some time to talk to her.”

“I can probably guess what’s wrong.”

Ann wiped her mouth with a handkerchief and sighed. Unlike Gallagher, Delia currently had no responsibility on her shoulders, so she told her the truth herself. She originally expected the little princess who grew up in the bird cage to let go of her baggage as soon as possible and enjoy her life.

But Delia’s situation was more serious than she thought. Not only did she not mean to enjoy life, but she also ran to ask Oliver, hoping to find out why he didn’t accept the proposal of the Sage of the Abyss.

Very unlike a child.

When she came back, there was confusion on her face, and Ann thought in a daze that she had seen her deceased father—It was the same expression—cold annoyance belonged to the late emperor.

With all these years of experience, Ann could guess what Delia was worrying about, and at the same time, she knew that it wasn’t a problem that she could solve by herself—it was better to say that it was because she herself couldn’t solve it.

“Speaking of this, Salter. I have two things to ask you.” Ann put the quill pen into her hand.

“Please speak, Your Majesty.”

“First, go find Telaranea and tell him that I’m willing to open the bottom floor of the royal library to him for a week,” she said calmly. “The price is that he has to have a good chat with my lovely niece. I believe he can understand.”

“Yes.”

“Second, after you tell him all this, go to Delia and ask her to see the progress of Telaranea’s research. Just say I’m too busy to get away. I believe she can understand too.”

“As you order.”

The breakfast was very exquisite, but Delia didn’t touch a single bite. She stared coldly at the plate containing the soup. The creamy soup gradually cooled and no longer looked so delicious.

Since the day she asked Oliver Ramon why he didn’t accept the proposal of the Sage of the Abyss to kill the body of the Pillar of the World, Cat Whiskers began to lose their temper.

The spider curled itself into a ball and didn’t want to spread its legs and feet no matter how she poked it. Even if she communicated with her thoughts, all Delia could get was anger and grievance.

The little princess carefully packed it in a small silk bag and carried it close to her body. But these days, Cat Whiskers didn’t have any intention of paying any attention to her.

But she didn’t want to apologize for it either.

According to old habits, she took a walk in the corridor. In the past, Cat Whiskers would climb down her arms, put up two front feet on the windowsill with the best sunlight, and stretch its body. But it remained motionless as usual today, and it didn’t mean to climb out of the silk bag.

Delia wasn’t in the mood.

Not long ago, after the maid brought breakfast into the room, she had even lost her appetite.

Pushing away the already cold cream soup in front of her, taking away the teacup, the little princess took out the curled Cat Whiskers and put it on the saucer—The demon just shrank there and pretended to be dead. Even if she couldn’t see its expression clearly, Delia could feel its resentment.

“I know, you probably want an apology.”

She hissed from between her teeth, “But I…”

Delia cautiously stretched out her hand and poked the spider. Cat Whiskers still didn’t respond.

“You are my only friend,” Delia said in a hoarse voice. “Remember Rosa? My half-sister… Rosa is a naive girl. She is very nice, but there is nothing to talk about between us. I can’t understand her world, and she doesn’t understand me at all.”

“She smiled at me, and I protected her. That’s enough, but we can’t be friends.”

“I originally thought it didn’t matter. Naïve people will always die if there’s no one to protect them. No one was willing to protect me before, but I’m not qualified to be a naïve person.”

“Then Ann appeared.” She said with clenched teeth, her voice beginning to tremble a little.

“I thank her, and I thank everyone in Tumbleweed. But I have already become like this. I can’t change it back. Can’t you understand that?”

Cat Whiskers lay quietly on its back. Its eyeballs quietly turned around.

“Those fairy tales that my mother gave me… Those fairy tales that record spells and power, the stories they write will always be the advent of heroes, the salvation of princesses, and all imperfections are all made up. That was all a lie. My hero finally arrived, but the first sixteen years of my life can’t be repeated.”

The spider hesitated for a while, its feet trembled, but it still didn’t move.

“I’m a terrible person, I know!” Delia wiped her eyes fiercely. “Ann is the only family I have. She’s a great person. I should trust her. I should love her unreservedly and accept her love openly.”

“But I can’t do it. At least now, I can’t do it… All we have is blood, and she doesn’t understand my nature at all. Cat Whiskers, even if I have the time to do it all over again, I will ask Oliver Ramon the same question. I am such a person. Do you understand?”

“Even if I tell Ann this, she will tell me it’s okay. She can only tell me it’s okay. In her eyes, I am an unfortunate child. What else can she say?”

“But I know. I alone know that there is no difference between Eldric and I—No, no difference between my grandfather and I. Sampson, who abandoned her, to press on. I will never be able to become a carefree person with unconditional trust in others.”

“I can’t be Oliver Ramon, I can’t be Nemo Light, I can’t even be Gallagher Salter. I can’t be her companion. It will only make her more disappointed; can you understand…”

“You can always hear my thoughts. You know how cruel I am, but you didn’t leave me before… Please, talk to me, okay?”

Cat Whiskers rolled slightly, still looking in a bad mood. It chose a compromise—it burrowed into the ribbon, fastened the mouth of the bag, and floated with the bag to Delia’s knee.

Then continue to pretend to play dead.

Delia blew her nose and sighed.

Delia’s eyes were still slightly red until the sun had gone most of the way across the sky. Following Ann’s orders, she went to check on Telaranea’s progress.

In that room, the Sage of the Abyss was at work. The Demon King’s skull was placed on a stone platform in the middle of the room, surrounded by dense and complex runes. The ground not far away was full of bottles and jars, one of which smelled like fresh blood.

The body used by Telaranea—The handsome red-haired young man pushed up his glasses and nodded at her. The calculation in his hand didn’t stop.

“The progress is placed on the round table to your left.” The demon’s voice had a cheerful tone. “There are not many conclusions, so feel free to look at it… In case she is dissatisfied, keep this in mind. I told Savage I couldn’t devote my full attention to this job right now.”

“Even if you know what this job means?” Delia’s voice is still a little hoarse.

“If your throat is uncomfortable, you can take some potion and drink it. To the right, on the third shelf, at the bottom. Do you see it? That bottle of light blue potion that smells like mint.”

Delia picked up her skirt and carefully held the crystal bottle in her hand to look carefully.

“I won’t be stupid enough to poison you here,” Telaranea snorted. “Back to the topic just now… Yes, of course I know what this job means. I think you also know that the ground under our feet may crack at any time, and everyone will die together.”

This time, Delia held back her question as she took the vial and poured herself a little sip of the potion. It was cold in her mouth and a bit bitter, but it worked quickly.

“But I promised someone I would wait for him at the entrance of the Abyss. Now he hasn’t come out yet, causing me to waste a body guarding the place. There’s no suitable research equipment in that shitty place, and there are fewer bodies that can be used, so of course the efficiency of my research will be a lot slower.”

Telaranea finished writing on one piece of paper and changed to another. His tone was flat, and he didn’t raise his head.

“Well, don’t hold back, Your Royal Highness. I know what you want to ask—In that case, why should I waste time waiting for him? ‘There is no contract for this kind of thing, and the Sage of the Abyss isn’t the sentimental type.’ …I have lived a long time, so it’s quite simple to see through your thoughts.”

Delia lowered her head and looked through the progress report sullenly. She took another sip of the light blue potion in the cup without saying a word.

“There is no need to be embarrassed. I know this idea very well. To tell you the truth, we’re very similar in some ways—results take precedence over everything, and if necessary, we can abandon anything, including ourselves.”

Telaranea put down the pen and changed to another one. He picked up a jar of blood on the ground and began to smear the magic array around the huge skull.

“…I don’t like this,” Delia finally said. “Being able to trust others is a great ability, and I have lost it. You said we are very similar, but you’re still waiting for your… friend, aren’t you? You trust him.”

“Nature may be changed, but it cannot be completely erased.”

The painting technique of the Sage of the Abyss was very smooth.

“I’m not going to comfort you. To be honest, I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with this. What, are you thinking that there’s such a thing as right and wrong with someone’s ‘character’? If all humans acted in accordance with the most ‘ideal’ character and behavior, then at least for me, humans would be less valuable to observe.”

Then, the demon paused for a few seconds.

“I don’t trust Aurorae,” he said. “I’m just like you, I don’t trust anyone. It’s just that he needs me. If he comes back from the Abyss, he must need treatment. If I’m not there… he will disappear.”

“And the probability of him coming back doesn’t seem to be zero, so I must be there.”

Delia’s breathing stopped for a few seconds.

“So, Your Highness. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you continue to live like this. If results come first, you must mind ‘trust’ and ‘love’. Then, when considering the result of ‘what you want’, also consider the result of the wants of ‘those who care’ when considering the outcome. Isn’t this enough?”

Delia put away the report. She took a breath and bowed slightly.

“Thank you, I think I can think about it in a different direction,” she said.

“Also, you don’t seem like a very talkative person, Mr. Sage. I also hope you can… thank Ann for me,” Delia added after a few seconds.

“…I won’t apologize because I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

Delia poked the small silk cloth bag hanging on her chest and whispered. Cat Whiskers in the bag moved.

“But I promise, Cat Whiskers, I will consider your mood next time.”

The spider poked its head out of the mouth of the bag, laid back on her shoulder, and bit her gently to vent its anger. A little emotion took the initiative to pass into her mind, still with anger, but Delia showed a smile.

She rubbed the dark spider and walked to the door.

Ann breathed a sigh of relief outside the door of the research room.

“All this time, and you still care about a little girl’s mood,” Bagelmaurus muttered discontentedly. “Ramon hasn’t come back yet. Why isn’t he back?”

“It’s not just Delia, I also care about Alban’s future. Okay, okay, take your beak away—I know, if there is a future. After all, when Oliver comes back, I will probably have to leave here, and I may not be able to…”

Ann stopped talking, looked out the window, and then squinted hard.

A white behemoth was flying in the direction of the castle, and Jesse Dylan was about to land at the entrance of the royal city.

“They’ve come back—”

Before she finished shouting a word, Bagelmaurus screamed and flew out of the window. Thinking of the flying spells forbidden in the castle, Ann, who had already climbed to the window, cursed, and honestly rushed out of the castle from the steps.

Then she bumped head-on into Oliver Ramon, who was about to enter the door.

Seeing that the other party’s limbs were intact and his head was still on his neck, Ann didn’t care too much, and directly gave the leader of her team a big hug.

“Asshole.” She gritted her teeth, took a step back, and punched him in the shoulder without any hesitation. “What took you so long to get back?”

Oliver smiled a little embarrassingly.

“Sorry.” He scratched his head.

“Well, let’s see. I’ve put off all the protests of the Moonies and the one-eye dwarves.” She breathed a sigh of relief. Her eyes were a little red. “But on the side of the Mercenary Guild, we have to solve it quickly… I will sign the document and forgive the three of you. At least in this way, the regulations on the Black Chapters—”

“Thank you for your hard work, Ann.” Oliver smiled a little bigger. “But I don’t want to dissolve Tumbleweed.”

Ann raised her eyebrows.

“This is one of the reasons I came to you,” Oliver said, holding out a hand. “Uh, are you free recently? We need to go to the Mercenary Guild and get Tumbleweed’s name back.”

“Of course I’m free. I’ve been desperately squeezing out my free time.” Ann rubbed her chin. “It’s just you have to explain it well, Captain.”

“Considering that you can’t pull Nemo to the surface for the time being, what are you going to do about the fifth member…? Oh, wait, I’m going to speak to Salter and take my spear. The goat and horse are in the yard. Someone will bring them later. We can talk while we walk.”

She shrugged and showed a bright smile.

“I have a hunch that this mission will be quite amazing.”


The author has something to say:

Tumbleweed is gathering!!! Still missing Nemo (.


<<< || Table of Contents || >>>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s