TGL Volume 3, Chapter 4 (1)

So, Lucia left. …But did she actually leave? I’m still expecting her to come back any second now to pick up Softie’s soul lantern once she realizes she left it behind. It’s already been a day, but there’s no sign of her returning. Did she not notice the lantern was missing? Was her purpose not to save Softie from danger? I know it’s Lucia I’m thinking about, but even she couldn’t have forgotten in the five minutes it took her to state her goal and step into the Immortal Continent, right? Claw did have a theory about Lucia’s intelligence being inversely proportional to her strength…. Could he be onto something? Lucia’s nearly an immortal now; her strength is boundless. Has growing that strong rendered her mental facilities completely useless?

Ugh, my head is starting to hurt just by thinking about it. I can’t leave the lantern because Lucia only seems to know how to teleport directly to me. On the other hand, I can’t take the lantern with me because I don’t actually know if Lucia can teleport to the lantern or not without me being present. If she can, then wouldn’t I just be inviting trouble to myself by bringing it with me?

“Ilya.”

Ah. That surprised me. “Father. What brings you here?”

“I heard Lucia exited from seclusion?”

Where could he have possibly heard that from? I’m sure Lucia teleported straight to my lab and went to the Immortal Continent from there. I haven’t told anyone about it, so how did my father find out? “Are you spying on me?”

“W-w-what? N-no, of course not.”

Suspicious. I raised my arm and tapped on my bracelet, and a visual projection of my lab and its surrounding areas appeared in front of my face. It seemed normal, but a closer look revealed a spot by the door that had been tampered with. “Who’s there?” I pulled a metal rod out of my interspacial ring and pointed it at the door, where the spy my father recruited must be hiding. However, there was no response. “In that case…, Chaos—”

“Wait, wait, wait! Aunty Ilya, don’t do that!” A figure tumbled out of empty air and prostrated herself, her long ears twitching underneath her blonde hair that pooled around her head on the floor like water. “It’s me, Mirta!”

I resisted the urge to sigh and put away my staff. “How many times do I have to tell you? Stop calling me Aunty! In the first place, we’re not even related! In the second place, I’m only twenty-five, but if you account for my elongated lifespan, I’m closer to only being sixteen. And in the third place, if you’re trying to go by the Immortal Continent’s weird way of addressing seniority, your grandmother calls me sister, so at the very least, you should call me Senior Ilya.”

“Yes, Granny Ilya! Mirta understands!”

“You understand shit!” This time, I couldn’t repress the sigh. No, it wasn’t a sigh. It was a breath of pure, unfiltered anger that heated up my body and made my neck itchy. Am I angry? Why? My fuse is short because of Lucia. I’m irritated just thinking about what goes on in that empty head of hers. Why hasn’t she come back for Softie’s soul lantern yet? Is she keeping me in suspense as a punishment? Did she have another lantern? I only noticed Softie passing her one, but maybe I missed something? The exchange did happen ten years ago—memories are unreliable and faulty. “Anyways, get up. I have to teach you not to eavesdrop.”

Mirta raised her head, her eyes wide like saucers. “But I apologized!”

“Really? When?” I didn’t hear an apology. “Let’s check the video recording, shall we?”

“I’m sorry! I lied! I didn’t apologize!” Mirta knocked her forehead against the ground three times before raising her head again. “I’m sorry for eavesdropping too, but it was your father that made me!”

“W-what!? I did no such thing!”

“Okay, your father didn’t make me, but he pays me a hundred gold coins a day to stand outside your door,” Mirta said. “I’ve been bribed, not coerced!” She stared at me with eyes that said, “I’m not regretful at all, but I’ll apologize to weasel my way out of a punishment. Blame your father instead of me.”

“Father.”

My father flinched before clearing his throat. “A-anyways, I’ve prepared a banquet for Lucia. Where is she?”

As expected of my father, the emperor. He was wise enough to deflect the conversation towards a topic that, under normal circumstances, would force me to step down. Unfortunately for him, he entered this battle with insufficient information. “Lucia left for the Immortal Continent already.” I smiled at my father. “Shouldn’t you have known that after using the taxpayers’ money to bribe someone into spying on me?”

“When you were younger, you used to be so cute and adorable….” My father hung his head. “Now you’re growing up to be like your mother.”

“Considering you married her, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

My father sighed. “It makes me worried for the future. Where are you going to find someone who’s brave enough like me to marry someone like you? I’ll never get to see my grandchild.”

…This again? Really? “Who proposed this time? Didn’t I tell you to ignore them all? Aren’t you the emperor with the strongest daughter in the world?” Now that Lucia’s gone, that is. “Who can threaten your position?”

“It’s precisely because you tell me to ignore them all that I’m worried!”

Seeing my father like this makes me feel irritated and guilty, but mostly just irritated. “I didn’t tell you to ignore all of them. Didn’t I give you my standards?”

My father trembled. “Those standards are unrealistic! How am I supposed to find someone strong enough to free you from Lucia!?”

I shrugged. “Beats me, but you can’t say I’m refusing to cooperate. I only have that one simple standard after all.”

“What’s this white lantern?” Mirta asked. When did she get behind me? “It looks like it’s about to go out. Shouldn’t you add some oil?”

Lucia…, just what are you doing up there? Softie’s life is in danger. If she dies…, is it my responsibility? Like seeing someone on fire outside my house but refusing to help them would make me a terrible person, so would ignoring Softie when she’s on the verge of death like this. It’s partially my fault that Lucia doesn’t have Softie’s lantern, just a teensy bit, but still my fault. Ugh, fine. “I think … I have to go to the Immortal Continent.”

“Huh? When?”

“Immediately.”

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