Chapter 13 – The Beloved
—I will be sending a child named “Ruri” over to you soon, so look after her for the time being.—
That was the entirety of the letter Claus had received a few days before Ruri’s visit. It was completely devoid of any further details or explanation.
As soon as she’d determined that her sons could live on their own, his mother had wasted no time in giving them her house and going to live out her golden years in the forest.
From the perspective of the other races, the dragonkin seemed remarkably hands-off in their approach to rearing their children. But even among her people, Chelsie was considered to be a distant parent. She’d left her kids especially early and, yet, still failed to compliment them for turning out to be upstanding men with steady jobs in the royal palace—something that Claus and his brothers had expressed their displeasure about to her on more than one occasion. She always replied, “Of course you’d all end up fine. No way any children of mine and your dad’s would end up weak.” She seemed to be sincere in this belief, which left them all speechless.
They probably would have strayed from the path of righteousness if they hadn’t felt any motherly love at all, but she was always clear on that point, and her love was never in question. She had always been a tad eccentric, and reached out to them like clockwork, so Claus and his brothers decided to simply accept the lack of praise as part of her personality and shelved the matter.
Knowing how she was, receiving mail from her outside of her usual schedule was almost alarming. And this was the letter he received, a single-line.
Claus searched his memory, but he had no recollection of any person named “Ruri.” It was probably someone she became acquainted with after moving to the forest, but he didn’t put any more thought into it, only noting that it was unusual for his mother to ask him for a favor.
Several days after, while walking out his front gate to head to the castle, he was met by a beautiful white cat and a spirit. Claus found himself surprised by this odd combination, but the tidal wave of surprise hardly ended there.
From his mother’s letter he had assumed that this “Ruri” would be a person, so he was quite taken aback. Then, in the letter that Ruri delivered to him, it was explained that the cat before him was indeed running an errand for his mother. And there was something else that he could hardly overlook… no, a paragraph that was of vital importance.
—The errand-runner, Ruri, is a Beloved. Don’t let her suffer even a single scratch. Ruri knows almost nothing about Beloveds or this world, so make sure to take her under your wing and teach her.—
The word sent a shiver down Claus’ spine.
At the moment, he only saw a single spirit with her. If she were one truly adored by the spirits, then he would have expected her to arrive with two or three in tow. Just one spirit wasn’t enough to call her a “Beloved.”
But when he investigated further, she assembled more spirits than he had ever seen in one place in his life.
He couldn’t believe his mother would unload such a person onto him—that complaint continued to echo through his mind. Realizing that this situation was too much for him, Claus acted fast. He gave strict instructions to his servants not to go near the room that Ruri was in and rushed to the castle at record speed.
The normally calm and collected Claus was now in a previously-inconceivable rush and violently opened the door to the royal office. The Dragon King and his aides, most with documents for him to sign in hand, stared at him in wide-eyed surprise.
“I humbly request that you clear the room, Your Majesty.” Those were the first words out of Claus’ mouth. The Dragon King furrowed his brow, but he didn’t waste time asking questions and cleared the room outside of a handful of trusted aides.
“Now what the devil is going on, Claus? You’re not acting like yourself.” “A Beloved has emerged, sir.”
At first, no one understood what he meant by “Beloved,” but after a short pause, their eyes widened.
“W-What did you say…?” “Is that really true?!”
The Dragon King appeared calm, but his voice was trembling slightly. The aide that had spoken up after him was leaning over, face brimming with excitement—almost as if he might grab the King by his lapels at any moment. While there was a clear difference in their outward demeanors, both of them were astonished beyond comprehension—as was everyone else, naturally.
A Beloved—a person who was preferentially cared for by the spirits. It was said that the very first Dragon King had been a Beloved.
Beloveds brought about blessings but, at the same time, strife and chaos. Spirits gathered around their Beloveds, and those spirits’ powers made the soil rich and fertile. In this land, being favored and protected by the spirits essentially meant having control over the world. Nations and
influential people, plotting to gain these Beloveds for themselves, led to conflict and bloodshed on much more than one occasion. In addition, the Beloveds in those conflicts were sometimes hurt, causing the spirits to give in to their anger and rain down punishment.
Several conflicts of that nature persisted until the alliance of the four nations agreed that the Beloveds themselves would choose where they would stay. This policy, determined by the four most powerful nations in the world, was soon adopted by most other nations as well.
That being said, those who wished to use the powers of Beloveds for themselves were by no means gone. It was standard practice that if a nation found a Beloved, they needed to quickly take them under their care before any other nation could intervene.
“Your Majesty, we need to take them into our custody post haste! What race are they?!” “…A cat.”
“What, a catkin, you say?” The catkin weren’t known for their great mana among demi- humans, and there were scant few examples of catkin Beloveds emerging, so the aides were slightly disheartened. Reason being that there were variations between the abilities of Beloveds from different races. Race determined how much of their mana was attractive to the spirits and how much of a spirit’s cooperation they could obtain. If they didn’t have a large amount of mana, then they weren’t going to be able to utilize strong spells. And since catkin had small mana reserves, the aides were disappointed. This Beloved might not be able to handle the power of the spirits. Nevertheless, the fact of the spirits gathering was a blessing in and of itself, and those despondent feelings fell by the wayside almost as soon as they were felt.
However, Claus corrected their misconception in a hesitant tone. “Um… no, actually, not a catkin. A cat. Just… a cat.”
“…A cat? Not a catkin?”
“And you’re positive about that?” The Dragon King repeated this question in place of the shocked speechless aide. Claus nodded solemnly.
“Yes, they only have one tail.” The thing that separated a catkin from a normal cat was the number of tails. Unlike normal cats with their one tail, catkins normally possessed two tails or more.
“Though, I wouldn’t say that they are a normal cat. This cat introduced itself as ‘Ruri,’ and I believe that Ruri might possess mana on par with your own, Your Majesty…”
That incited another aide who had been patiently listening this entire time to violently interject, “A mere cat simply cannot possess power to equal that of the noble King of Dragonkins. Surely you are mistaken!”
“At first, I thought that I was sensing the mana of the spirit that accompanied it, but I am positive, without a shadow of a doubt. It is also capable of telepathic communication and
possesses enough intelligence to smoothly converse with me.”
“A cat telepathically communicating?!”
Claus went on to explain to everyone about the recent correspondence he’d been having with Chelsie.
“I see, Chelsie…” said the Dragon King under his breath. He repeated her name, seemingly at a loss for words. His sentiments most likely mimicked Claus’ own from earlier.
“I don’t know how Chelsie stumbled upon a Beloved, but I’m assuming that cat is a type of magic beast. There are cases of similar highly-intelligent magic beasts being born every so often, after all.”
Claus seemed to agree with the Dragon King’s reasoning. “Indeed, my mother told me long ago that creatures with strong mana inhabited that forest, which leads me to believe this cat is one of those.” Oblivious to the extreme misunderstanding they were taking part in, every person present agreed. That left them to consider their new Beloved’s situation going forward.
“Well, it helps that we can communicate with it and vice-versa. What is the Beloved doing right now?”
“I have them staying at my home. I left instructions with the house servants not to approach
them. I wish to avoid any sort of careless mistakes inciting the spirits’ wrath.” “That was the correct decision. We’ll look after the Beloved in the castle.”
“That is a relief, sir. It would seem that the Beloved does not know of the ways of this land, so my mother instructed me to teach them.”
“Very well. We’ll save final decisions until after I’ve met with them.”
“I would think if it does not know our ways that it would be quite the simple, docile little creature, would it not?” an aide wise-cracked with a hearty chuckle.
Just then, an intense and uncomfortable shiver ran down the spines of all present, including the Dragon King. They all went on high alert and scanned their surroundings desperately.
That was when several spirits floating near the window caught their eyes. “Spirits…?”
“We’re here to give you a warning.”
All present lifted their eyes and were met with the countenances of the spirits who were repeating the word “warning” over and over.
Neither the Dragon King nor his vassals had ever heard of spirits behaving this way, so they naturally froze up.
“Warning Number One!”
The spirits were clearly displaying anger, but this repetition shtick was diluting the tension in
the air. The spirits’ words felt a little anticlimactic.
“Don’t you dare hurt a hair on Ruri’s head!” “Death to anybody who hurts her~”
Once they heard the name “Ruri,” it was clear to everyone what they were being warned about.
“Warning Number Two!”
“Don’t you dare ignore Ruri’s wishes!”
After hearing that, one of the aides interjected. “So basically we just have to convince this ‘Ruri’ of the wisdom in our plan and obtain her consent?”
The spirits huddled together and whispered amongst themselves. Then, after apparently reaching a consensus, they turned to face everyone once again.
“It’s fine if it’s okay with Ruri, but it’s not if you force her.”
“Just, don’t try to take advantage of the fact that she doesn’t know anything.” “Next, Warning Number Three!”
“If you ever make Ruri sad or feel unwelcome…”
“You’ll feel the flames~”
“You’ll drown in water~” The fire and water spirits spoke over one another, soon breaking out into a verbal scuffle over which one was more scary sounding.
From the Dragon King and his court’s perspective, either method put their lives in jeopardy, so they wanted to staunchly refuse both, but the spirits continued to bicker like a couple of kids fighting over what they should have for dinner.
“Why not both?” another spirit suggested, unable to stand the sight of them fighting any longer. Their faces lit up as if to say that this was a great idea.
“Yup, after we burn them to ashes, we can flush them all away with water.” “Let’s call in some spirits that are outside the royal capital too.”
“Yeah!” They cried, pumping their tiny fists into the air, looking as if they were going to go rushing into action at any moment.
The Dragon King and his court all went very pale and frantically broke up this little pep rally. “Wait a second! We haven’t even done anything to them yet!”
The spirits had completely forgotten their initial objective. “Oops,” they all said collectively, looking quite embarrassed.
“Eheheh, right, almost forgot.” “Oopsie, oopsie~”
If they hadn’t been stopped, they might have ridden that high and wiped out the royal capital, which sent a shiver down everyone’s spine, yet again.
“Anyway, honor our wishes.”
“And make sure you don’t forget that we’ll get you if you bully Ruri. Alright, bye~” The spirits exited like a storm, leaving every person in the room in stagnant silence, all lost in their own thoughts.
After a little while, the Dragon King spoke up. “Claus, does this Beloved have a firm control over their emotions? They’re not the type of being who raises a fuss over the slightest thing that doesn’t suit their fancy, like some sort of infant, I pray?” This was an extremely important question. Ruri’s slightest whim could launch an all-out assault on the royal capital, and the nation wouldn’t withstand an attack launched by the spirits for the sake of their Beloved. If they didn’t have any patience, then the damage the country would take in the future would be immense.
“No, it did not seem to be that way. They were very calm as they conversed with me and displayed impressive manners. Oh, which reminds me, they also remonstrated the spirits for being too noisy.”
“And the spirits abided?”
“Yes, once they told them to be quiet, they did just that.”
After contemplating once more, the Dragon King returned to his initial conclusion. “I believe assessing this being in a face-to-face meeting is the best option after all. Is the Beloved willing to come to the castle?”
“Well, they didn’t seem very keen on the idea…” replied Claus, his voice naturally growing quiet seeing as how they had been viciously warned about ignoring Ruri’s wishes just a few moments ago.
“In that case, get confirmation from them first and if they don’t want to come here, then that’s fine; don’t strong-arm them. If they don’t wish to come here, I’ll simply send men to guard them there.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Very well, then,” Claus said with a respectful bow, leaving the royal office to pick up Ruri.
The Dragon King breathed a heavy, annoyed sigh at this whole situation. “The Nation of the Dragon King hasn’t had a Beloved for a while, but is this how it is for Beloveds in other nations?” he asked his remaining aides.
None knew the answer, however, and shook their heads in response. “Currently, both the Nation of the Spirit King and the Nation of the Beast King have Beloveds of their own, but I have never heard of spirits personally appearing to deliver warnings before,” said one aide.
“Perhaps the difference in their abilities as Beloveds is the reason? If so, it would mean this individual must possess quite the substantial amount of mana favored by the spirits,” chimed in another.
“Seems that they cause just as much chaos as they do blessings, eh?”
“Nevertheless, Sire, to think we have a Beloved in our midst now. We must count our lucky stars that they showed themselves here and not in Nadasha.”
“You can say that again,” said the Dragon King, dropping his eyes to the documents in his hands and sighing deeply once more.