Living As the Villainess Queen - Chapter 353.2
It felt as though he were emerging from a profound slumber. Aldrit slowly closed his eyes and, with a groggy sensation, blinked them open as his consciousness returned. The world around him gradually came into focus.
“Mother?” Aldrit mumbled, his gaze darting around.
“Mother!” he called out, only to realize that her mother had long departed from this world. Stricken by a severe mental ailment, she had made the agonizing choice to save one child’s life at the cost of the other. Her passing had come prematurely, almost as if following her departed child. Aldrit had shouldered the weight of those memories for years, never allowing their deaths to fade from his mind.
Yet, just moments ago, Aldrit had found himself face to face with his mother once more. It was a vivid scene that defied belief. His mother gazed at him with a tender smile and extended her hand.
“Shall we go, Aldrit?”
The outstretched hand held an irresistible pull, and Aldrit responded with vigor, hastening to follow his mother. It felt as though he were under some enchantment, with no doubt that his departed mother had somehow been restored to life.
When he finally reopened his eyes, he found himself in an expansive field, enclosed by a fence, and shaded by towering trees with sprawling branches. It was a place he recognized well.
This was the tribe’s burial grounds, a sacred space where they commemorated the members whose bodies couldn’t be recovered, conducting their funeral rites by placing nameplates on those towering trees.
Aldrit stood there, baffled, unable to comprehend why he had been brought to this location. But soon, his memory surged back to the surface—the shadowy underground warehouse and the mystical events that had transpired within.
“Teleportation magic…,” he muttered in realization. Until just moments before, Aldrit had harbored doubts about the feasibility of covering such vast distances in the blink of an eye, from the Hashi Kingdom to the tribe’s sanctuary. But now, standing near the sanctuary, the incredible speed of the teleportation couldn’t be denied.
Nevertheless, the vision he had witnessed remained perplexing. Aldrit was convinced it must be some elaborate prank orchestrated by Mara. The thought that his own mother might be used in such a manner ignited a surge of anger within him.
“Mara! Where are you? Can you hear me?”
The response arrived promptly, as if it had been eagerly anticipated. Aldrit’s eyes caught sight of a small lizard nearby. The diminutive creature, no larger than the span of a palm, fixed its red-eyed gaze on Aldrit and flicked its tongue.
“What have you done to me?” Aldrit demanded.
“Don’t act like you’re clueless. You’ve employed some strange magic on me, and I was shown a vision.”
“It’s not magic; it’s a spell,” Mara corrected.
A puzzled frown crossed Aldrit’s face. “A spell?”
“Do you comprehend the magnitude of teleportation magic? And how exceedingly challenging it is to execute.”
Aldrit’s expression contorted with bewilderment. “You attempted such a dangerous spell on the Queen?”
Was Aldrit angrier about Mara using a spell on Eugene or the fact that he had been subjected to it himself? It was quite a sight to witness someone who acted boldly to the world but wilted in the presence of Anika. Mara remarked that Aldrit seemed like a devout disciple of the Anika religion.
“It’s not that the spell itself is unstable,” Mara explained. “This spell requires the target’s consent. However, humans are complex beings. They think and doubt a lot. Securing complete consent for teleportation magic is almost impossible.”
Aldrit glanced back at his past self, who had been skeptical about the spell’s effectiveness, and felt a pang of embarrassment.
“Well, what’s the solution?” he asked.
“I added an illusion spell to dispel doubts,” Mara said. “All that’s needed is unwavering trust and consent.”
“Then you should have been honest with me.”
“You talk too much. You should be grateful that you arrived here comfortably instead of suffering in the desert, all thanks to me.”
The voice delivered the comment more as a scolding than an apology. Aldrit shot a withering glare at the lizard, suppressing his anger. Even in the face of danger, the same Aldrit from before couldn’t help but quickly lose his patience when dealing with the cheeky reptile.
“Ugh, did it fail, Anika? Why did it fail?” Mara grumbled, lost in his own lament.
Aldrit couldn’t let this soliloquy pass. In a swift move, he lunged and grasped the lizard in his hand.
“What did you just say? What have you done to the Queen?” he demanded.
“I didn’t do anything harmful. I would never harm Anika,” Mara responded.
“Wait, did you try to bring the Queen here using teleportation magic? She clearly had no such intention, and instead, I was the one who agreed to use the magic. What kind of scheme have you concocted? Was everything a lie, even the part about cutting my hair?”
“I never lied. Your hair is the catalyst for activating the spell. However, I already had a strand of Anika’s hair in advance, and that’s what I used.”
Aldrit found himself too furious and dumbfounded to form a coherent response. “How could you!”
“Why is it such a big deal? Even if the spell had succeeded, it would have only brought you here. Is there something wrong with your body now? Have you lost an arm or a leg? You’re fine! If you want to return after coming here, you can. I just wanted to speak with Anika a bit more. What can I accomplish from here with the King watching?”
Aldrit fixed an intense glare on the insolent lizard, his hand quivering as it held the creature. In that moment, he contemplated crushing it with all his might, but deep down, he knew it would only result in the poor lizard being sacrificed to Mara’s control.
Summoning all his patience, he reluctantly released his grip. “The Queen placed her trust in you,” he said disappointedly.
“Hmph. They were attempting to manipulate me.” The lizard, now free from Aldrit’s grasp, turned and lashed out at him. “You’re a gullible pawn, deceived and foolish. You and your tribe will eventually be exploited. Your tribe’s survival owes more to me than to any human.”
Aldrit watched the retreating lizard in silence. After standing still for a while, he muttered to himself. “No. I trust Anika. You don’t understand the power of one person’s trust in another.”
He recalled the advice given by Eugene.
“Mara is a lark, Aldrit. Even if your tribe received help from him, you shouldn’t place your trust in him.”
Aldrit nodded in contemplation. The feeling of betrayal from Mara had taken him by surprise. He wouldn’t have felt betrayed if he hadn’t placed his trust in the first place. Unbeknownst to him, he had spent considerable time with Mara, developing an unexpected fondness that had caused him to lower his guard. Now, he sought to sharpen his dulled emotions and resolve to be more cautious.