Kotori's idea is to stand guard in two key locations.
Here in Red Tulip, and back in your village, Buried Oasis.
She cutely draws a diagram to illustrate for you, using one of her countless spears. Not that you really needed one, as knowledgeable as you are of your world's terrain, but you let her continue because it's cute. Anyway.
Somehow, she believes these to be the two most likely spots for an assassin to infiltrate through, but when you ask her why, she offers no reasoning behind it.
Yet, the more you think about these locations, the more reasons you find for them to be a good choice, based on your own knowledge.
Kotori & Solis: Make & discuss how to execute the one plan you can have.
Red Tulip Town lies in a forested region named Akkarmara.
This is the area with the least population in your world, due to the illusory nature of Akkarmaran forests. Besides a few small settlements, Akkarmara seldom sees activity.
Well, does the lack of supervision not make it the perfect hiding place?
Buried Oasis lies in a vast desert named Niyran.
It's large area that houses significant historical sites, and it lies the furthest from the Royal Marshes. Although it is far from the direct oversight of the prince's forces, it does have its own guards in place, and is not unwatched by any means.
However, Niyran holds numerous secret underground passageways and tunnels to be used for fast travel. These lead all the way to various key locations within your world, even directly to the settlements by the Prince's tower in the marshes.
Why, does that not make it the perfect hub to stealthily traverse this world, perhaps even towards the target of this assassin?
Indeed, these are the most strategic locations for your foe.
And yet again, this kind of knowledge isn't exactly commonplace. Not even Kotori, a fellow monster, could give you these facts. Not only is the method for accessing Niyran's tunnels a secret, but their mere existence is a well-guarded secret.
Solis: How does she even know... or feel any of this?
- Solis: Sorry for interrupting you, but...
- Solis: Really, how did you come to this prediction, let alone be so sure of it?
- Kotori: We've been over this!
- Kotori: I told you, it's my hunch...
- Kotori: And I trust what I know more than anything!
- Solis: I get that, but what kind of odd hunch is this?
- Solis: You're so sure of what you say, but you don't know the reasoning behind it.
- Solis: So this.. it's starting to sound like a prophecy.
- Kotori: That's not it!
- Kotori: Unlike a prophet, I don't see into the future at all.
- Kotori: If I did, I wouldn't be struggling as much, don't you think...?
- Kotori: But here I am, missing so many details, because there are so many variables.
- Solis: Then what is this, exactly?
- Kotori: I just... have a hunch, and it's not very complete, so...
- Solis: Is having incomplete-yet-reliable hunches like this a part of your ability?
- Kotori: Uh, gosh... not really!
- Kotori: My ability, uhm... it has nothing to do with that.
- Kotori: But I would rather we don't talk about it.
- Kotori: It's not what's important here...
- Kotori: And you do know it's bad manners to ask about people's abilities, right?
- Solis: Well, pardon me, but how else am I supposed to explain this...
- Kotori: Sorry! I know that your Solis-brain really wants clear explanations.
- Kotori: But I don't have any of those to offer.
- Kotori: If you can bring yourself to go against your nature a little, and believe what I said without much questioning...
- Kotori: I would appreciate that.
- Solis: ...Sorry. I didn't mean to put you on the spot again.
- Solis: But... it's a rather scary prediction.
- Solis: I mean, can you really imagine this event happening?
- Solis: Kotori, do you seriously believe that the prince could really... die?
- Kotori: He wouldn't just 'die'.
- Kotori: He'd be killed.
- Kotori: And yes, I can imagine it.
It's looking like you won't get a concrete answer about this hunch here, but continuing to question it will likely only bother her more.
You have a feeling she's keeping a lot from you. Perhaps once the celebrations pass safely, she'd be more keen to share. But right now, further probing seems meaningless, and you don't exactly want to force things out of her... in the first place, it took a lot to make her comfortable enough to cooperate this much.
Right, to Kotori, addressing the contents of this hunch must be a more pressing matter than trying to pin down where exactly it had come from.
Naturally, since she currently believes that the most precious life in this world is at stake under a very short time limit, she's considering discussing any other matters to be a waste of time.
A human assassin, huh. That does ring a bell.
Solis: Theorize the source of the killer.
Lune Umbra, the commander of humankind's army, and a former Umbran assassin.
Who, prior to becoming a guard, had once tried to take the life of the very prince she currently serves.
She may have been raised as an assassin in her youth, but she's become nothing more than a highly-favored guard by the prince. Indeed, knowing how dearly Prince Ruit regards Lune, her involvement is pretty unlikely.
In your time spent at the human world, rarely did you ever see them apart.
For he clings onto her like ivy, and she follows his strides as closely as his shadow, or perhaps even closer.
Never in a hundred years would he wager her life in such a risky manner.
Solis: Still, try to believe Kotori...
In the first place, Prince Ruit and his army completely lack the critical information required to plan something like this.
Picking the suggested locations requires a host of knowledge about the terrain and structure of your world, knowledge that even monsters lack. Especially regarding Niyran's passageways, which are reserved only for their Regional Lord - and you, as the next in line for the position.
It's illogical that a human could be aware of any of this.
That's why, you can't bring yourself to fully believe this assassin story... but you've chosen to believe Kotori. So in spite of its unlikeliness, you must show your choice by actions, or you might ruin your one chance to fully mend this friendship.
And, if you happen to actually accomplish something here...
Then isn't it your chance to recover that valuable princely trust, as well?
- Kotori: So... what do you think, Solis?
- Solis: ...It's not a bad plan. Perfectly possible, too.
- Solis: I can personally return to Buried Oasis, and stand guard there.
- Solis: And as for you...
- Kotori: Oh! I'll guard by Red Tulip, of course!
- Solis: Yeah, that'd covers both bases.
- Solis: See, didn't I say it was far too early to give up?
- Kotori: Yeah... alright!
- Kotori: Thanks, I didn't think I'd convince anyone, much less someone like you!
- Kotori: Really, thank you for listening to me.
- Kotori: I mean it.
- Solis: ....It's no big deal, really.
- Solis: You're supposed to tell your friends when you're this worried about something.
- Kotori: ...Yeah.
- Solis: But we're not done just yet... there's one more thing.
- Solis: On my part, I wouldn't be totally alone.
- Solis: At my hometown, I can immediately make use of Niyran's guards if need be.
- Solis: But what about you?
- Kotori: Hm? I can take care of this place just fine.
- Solis: No, no. Kotori, you're stationed all by yourself here.
- Solis: But remember, a human managed to injure you before...
- Solis: So I wouldn't want to leave you alone.
- Solis: Especially not when you don't have any manpower under your command.
- Kotori: Hehe, my command?
- Kotori: That's a funny thing to hear.
- Kotori: Even without people, I'll be fine, Solis.
- Kotori: The spirits here can do the job.
- Solis: What...?
- Kotori: Watch.
-.-. --- -- . .-.-.-
- Solis: Woah...!
Solis: Be wary...?
- Solis: Stand back, Kotori!
- Solis: That's-
- -.. .-- . .-.. .-.. . .-. ... / --- ..-. / ... .... .- -.. --- .-- ... / .- .-. . / .- - / -.-- --- ..- .-. / ... . .-. ...- .. -.-. . .-.-.-
- Kotori: See? It's fine.
- Solis: ...No way.
- Solis: What in the world, Kotori...?
- Kotori: Oh, don't be scared of it!
- Kotori: This one won't try to hurt you, since I forbid it to.
- Solis: You... what!?
- Solis: Why would any spirit listen to you so obediently?
- Kotori: Oh, umm...
- Kotori: Because, I'm... very nice to them!
- Solis: That's all it takes? No way.
- Kotori: I-it's true!
- Kotori: You know, everyone else just runs away, or tries to hurt them...
- Kotori: See, you're doing it right now, too!
- Kotori: Put away your claws!
- Solis: T-that was on instinct!
- Solis: Fuck, of course I'm going to try to protect myself if I see a spirit.
- Kotori: It's not going to hurt you!
- Kotori: Trust me, you can put those sharp things away.
- Kotori: But, do you see what I mean...?
- Kotori: Me being nice to them, unlike what others do, makes me stand out.
- Kotori: And... I guess, I became somewhat accepted by them, haha.
- Kotori: Anyway, it's like this, so don't worry about me now!
- Solis: Oh, no.
- Solis: You don't get to "anyway" your way out of this one.
.. -. ... --- .-.. . -. - .-.-.-
- Solis: Although we've previously used spirits in war...
- Solis: It takes a lot to tame them at all, much less to behave to this degree.
- Solis: I mean, this is definitely something unprecedented!
- Solis: So explain yourself, Kotori.
- Kotori: Wait...
- Kotori: What did you say...?
- Kotori: They, the spirits... are used in war?
- Kotori: Really?
You weren't supposed to ever mention that so casually.
- Solis: ...Ahem. No...
- Solis: I meant to say that...
- Solis: They came in handy just a few times, nothing major.
- Solis: So, uh...
- Kotori: ...Did you just tell me something I wasn't supposed to know, Solis?
Solis: You fool. You absolute dumbass.
.... . .-. / .-.. .. --. .... - / .... .- ... / - --- ..- -.-. .... . -.. / - .... .. ... / --- -. .
- Kotori: How unfortunate it is, that they were once used as weapons.
- Kotori: ...I'd hope it never comes to it again.
You never knew that Kotori was this much of, uh, a pacifist, if that's the correct word here. Still, it really looks like this spirit is on her side, even seemingly shunning you for questioning Kotori about its loyalty.
It's not like forming some kind of peace with spirits had never been under consideration before, but it was simply ruled out as too dangerous to try, a waste of time and effort, and frankly... even if it succeeded, it'd have been far less beneficial than utilizing their fury in war against humans.
Regardless of how cruel it seems, your words have no sway on that decision.
... ..- -.-. .... / .--. . --- .--. .-.. . / -.-. .- -. .----. - / .-. . -.-. --- --. -. .. --.. . / -.-- --- ..-
- Solis: I guess that kind of... makes sense.
- Solis: But in the first place, how can you communicate with them?
- Kotori: Oh, um.
- Kotori: You can talk with spirits if they put on an illusion of a person?
- Solis: Oh.
- Solis: Right. Obviously.
- Solis: Otherwise, you wouldn't understand their noises.
- Kotori: Right! Correct!
- Kotori: So, well... it'll be okay if you go, Solis.
- Kotori: I won't be alone.
- Kotori: Many more spirits will come protect me, if I ask them to.
- Solis: Did you get them to help you before, by any chance...?
- Kotori: Oh, yes! Many, many times.
- Solis: Huh...
- Solis: I don't know how to react, this is just...
- Solis: Very interesting, to say the least.
- Solis: Are you sure it's going to be fine...?
- Kotori: Yes, please don't worry about me.
- Kotori: If I'm ever faced with a human again...
- Kotori: This time, they won't be able to act so easily.
- Kotori: So focus on guarding at your end instead.
- Kotori: Remember... you're doing this for his highness' safety.
- Solis: ...Right.
- Solis: Naturally, I'll be vigilant.
Solis: Maybe she's not as incapable as you thought.
Albeit they may be ghostly, illusory, spooky hand, one thing's for sure... if the spirits made for powerful weapons against humans in war, then they can make for powerful protectors against them, as well.
Looking at Kotori, something echoes in your mind.
It's the words of a dear former friend.
"She is in your hands."
"You must keep her safe."
In an area nowadays known as the Royal Marshes, Prince Suvillan IV had just assumed his new position, and declared his status to the survivors of the war.
In the name of furthering his power, the former monster prince had initiated a direct attack on humankind's former princess. His people were all but expandable corpses, used for nothing more than bringing him closer to his desired victory.
It was a bloodbath, through and through.
But when the new prince faced the crowd, he called you all his power. You weren't nameless soldiers, tools of conquest, but a part of his world, and a part of himself.
"If I am to embody this world, then you all are the blood that flows in my veins."
Prince Suvillan's first order was to address the drastic loss of lives, by caring for those whose lives could still be salvaged. So you sprung to action, rushing to help take care of wounded survivors, just as his highness wishes.
Among them was this one feeble monster girl.
The woman teaching Solis about Niyran and lordly-duties here is the current Regional Lord of Niyran, and his oldest aunt, Marisol Ardor.
She's one of the people currently at the celebrations, seen in a previous panel featuring Suvillan, Corona, and the rest of the regional lords.
First red translation, by Kotori for this, afterwards by Spirit: COME
Second translation, blacked out text: DWELLERS OF SHADOWS ARE AT YOUR SERVICE.
Third translation, textbox: INSOLENT.
Fourth translation, textbox: HER LIGHT HAS TOUCHED THIS ONE
Fifth translation, textbox: SUCH PEOPLE CAN'T RECOGNIZE YOU
Sixth translation, Panel, upper left: NO MATTER.
Seventh translation, Panel, lower right: JUST ANOTHER BLIND FOOL
Solis> If a human could try to take the life of the human prince, perhaps a monster might be behind a plot to kill Suvillan?
That would actually be a really good twist since this whole time its been hyped up as Lune.
Wow... the call is coming from inside the house
Solis: Recall your work in the medical ward, along with how you met Kotori.
Solis: What a pitiful state she was in.
Past Kotori: Awake.
Past Kotori: PANIC.
Past Solis: Calm the redhead down. If she strains herself, she could reopen her wounds.
Past Kotori: Realize you aren't where you were when you went unconscious. What do you last remember?
Past Solis: Explain the situation while trying to ignore the fact this girl is actually pretty cute (ignoring the major wounds of course).
Solis: But she didn't just leave your life now, did she? It's never that simple.
Solis: Kind of ironic actually (is that the right word?). You thought she didn't need your help anymore, but in truth, she needs it now more than ever.
spirit: prank solis, maybe turn invisible and give him a wedgie. you know for insulting you. this way youll be even.
Solis: Calm her down, make sure she isn't seeing any red.
it seems to me alone that the killer of the prince of monsters will be Nino. 🤔🤔