Third Imperial Princess’s Butler Volume 1 Chapter 3 part 4

While I was consumed by regret, Princess Krell shed tears of blood, clutching her chest and coughing up blood in my arms. In pain, repeatedly.

“Roth… this, is…”

“I apologize; it’s my fault for letting my guard down.”

To suppress the anger filling my heart like a geyser, I bit my lower lip until it bled.

This is a deadly poison. There is no chance of survival, an embodiment of murderous intent.

If a doctor were to examine Princess Krell’s condition, they would surely declare that there is no hope of survival. Right now, her body is being destroyed by the poison that entered her system, and in a few minutes, her heartbeat and breathing will cease. She’s fallen into the grasp of the inescapable scythe of death.

If I do nothing, my beloved Princess Krell will die.

Therefore—to save her, I will bear all her pain.

“Regarding the details and the punishment you have for me—Endure all the suffering.”

“Eh?!”

Gasping for breath, I pressed my lips against Princess Krell’s, overlapping them with mine. The soft sensation of her cherry-red lips and the taste of iron from the blood reached me. To call it romantic would be an understatement; this kiss was far too bloody and macabre.

This kiss held no love or carnal desire.

It was merely a means to save Princess Krell’s life and punish myself for putting my master in danger—a form of atonement.

Pain Transference was a magic that only I, possessing the Guardian Shield Key, could use. Its effect meant I would take on all the suffering that the person I kissed held.

In other words, I would become a substitute.

***

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***

Everything, the poison tormenting Princess Krell and the wounds she received from the poison.

After twenty seconds had passed, I parted my lips from Princess Krell, who now looked weakened. Her face was flushed red, not from embarrassment or trembling in shame, but with traces of tears of blood, and she gazed at me with an expression on the verge of tears.

“Roth, you can’t be…?”

“!!”

My heart throbbed once violently, and I, like Princess Krell a moment ago, shed blood tears from my eyes, enduring the intense pain coursing through my chest while clenching my back teeth tightly.

It was scorching. The heat throughout my body was so intense that I felt as if I were sinking into a burning inferno, losing my ability to think rationally. I vomited blood repeatedly, and the floor was stained with the viscous substance. Despite the burning heat, I couldn’t stop shivering with chills. My head throbbed, and I felt nauseous. If this excruciating pain continued for more than a dozen minutes, I might succumb to the urge to thrust a knife into my throat.

No, I couldn’t die.

Because right now, a much greater flame of fury was burning within me than the pain.

“Roth! Roth!!”

As Princess Krell called me with a heart-wrenching voice, I responded without looking at her.

“Don’t worry, Princess Krell. Indeed, I’m tempted to die, but I won’t. My magical key, the Guardian Shield Key, grants protection. After a while, the poison raging inside me will weaken, and the pain will subside.”

I had somewhat gotten used to the pain. The poison’s effect was still active, but at least I could manage to speak.

Leaning against the wall, I pointed at the dish of tomato stew placed on the table.

“…Do you remember what Naft II drank before he was assassinated?”

“Naft II? Oh, it was the red tree sap, right?”

“Yes, exactly. It’s the sap of a short red tree that grows along the river… When living beings ingest it, they experience unbearable pain and die shortly after. Just like I am now.”

Since ancient times, this poison had been used for assassination. Its strength and immediacy were unparalleled, ensuring almost certain success upon ingestion. However, red tree sap was dangerous even through skin contact, as it could invade the body and lead to death. It was dangerous even for the user, making it one of the most lethal toxins.

But… the use of red tree sap might make it easy to identify the culprit.

“In the kitchen…”

“I-I can’t move y–“

“No, Princess Krell. We have to move right now. We can’t let that bastard escape.”

I tightly gripped the Guardian Shield Key, rose from my seat, and headed towards the kitchen, focusing my energy on moving forward.

It had been a while since I felt such intense anger. It was nearly indistinguishable from a murderous impulse, but I wouldn’t kill. At most, I’d leave him half-dead, as I always did.

With my white shirt stained with blood and an expression colored by fury, I emerged from the private room, causing the other customers to stop in surprise and watch me. Some seemed as if they wanted to ask if something was wrong, but a single glance from me silenced them.

Now was not the time to entertain their well-intentioned concern.

Exuding a tense atmosphere, I pressed my hand against the wall and proceeded towards my destination. On the way, the waiter who had shown us to our private room called out to me.

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“C-Customer!? What happened–“

“It’s perfect timing. Show me the way to Webber. Right away.”

“B-But to the head chef’s place? Shouldn’t we get you treated first–“

“I can get treated later as many times as needed. Now, what’s important is getting to that bastard before he can escape.”

With a stern gaze, I spoke, and after a brief moment of hesitation, the waiter reluctantly led me to the kitchen. Good, this would save me the trouble of searching for him.

“Head chef, a customer is–“

“Hm?…Hey! Roth, what the hell happened to you? Why are you all beaten up just from having a meal?!”

When the waiter called out, Webber abandoned the pan he was seasoning with oil and rushed over to me without even turning off the stove. His large, worried face showed signs of concern and agitation.

Yeah, I knew it. Webber wasn’t the culprit. He was a guy who poured his heart and soul into his cooking, not someone who would do something so cowardly. He simply wanted me and Princess Krell to enjoy his delicious dishes.

I knew from the start that Webber wasn’t the culprit.

So why did I come to him?

It was because… I needed his testimony to confirm my deductions.

“Webber, I have one question.”

“Come on, now’s not the time for that…”

“It’s crucial.”

I grabbed Webber’s shoulder and asked.

“When you serve your tomato stew, do you plate it while it’s still boiling hot?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s right.”

“How long do you let the tomato stew cool down in the plate before the waiter takes it to us?”

“You mean the cooling time?”

After a pause, Webber answered.

“We let the tomato stew sit in the plate for about thirty seconds before serving. We don’t want our customers to get burned when they eat it right after it’s served.”

“During that time, does anyone touch it?”

“No, we tell everyone not to touch it, and we use an hourglass to time it, so no one comes close until the sand runs out.”

“Got it.”

His answer made me smirk.

Though the excruciating pain throughout my body had slightly eased, the burning sensation and chills remained, and blood tears still flowed. Just breathing made me feel like I would cough up blood.

While anyone else might have gone insane in such pain, I released Webber’s arm and smiled at Princess Krell, who was anxiously looking at me.

“Please, step back a bit.”

“Eh–“

Without waiting for a response, I walked forward and forcefully grabbed the head of the black-haired waiter who had accompanied us this far, slamming his face onto the frying pan still hot with oil in a fit of rage.

“!!!!”

As everyone present was astonished, the waiter with his face burning from the scorching oil tried desperately to escape. However, I held him down with far greater strength than he possessed, so there was no way for him to get away. Of course, I wouldn’t let him.

“Roth, what are you–“

Interrupting Princess Krell’s words, I spoke while my rage was still boiling.

“You’re the one who mixed the red tree sap into the food, aren’t you, you scum!”

Despite the pain, I kneeled on the back of the waiter’s head, which had turned bright red. Then, I grabbed his collar, threw him into the dining area in front of the customers, and stomped on his oil-covered face as he lay on the table. I forcefully grabbed his hair, causing him to almost lose consciousness in the middle of the broken table, and demanded loudly for everyone to hear.

“I’m asking you a question. Did you poison the food?!”

“Y-you…!”

“No, I didn’t.”

He immediately denied it.

It took some courage to outright lie in this situation. But I was so sure that he was the culprit, which was why I had inflicted so much pain on him.

Oh well. I might as well demonstrate a simple deduction.

“You think you can still escape at this point? I’ll tell you something. The red tree sap, the poison raging inside my body, is neutralized when exposed to temperatures over seventy degrees for two minutes. From the moment the dishes were ready until Princess Krell took a bite of the stew, fifty-six seconds had passed. It took you twenty-three seconds to plate the dishes. It took twenty seconds for you to guide us from the kitchen to our private room. That adds up to ninety-nine seconds. If you had put the poison in the dish, it should have been neutralized by the time it was brought to us. So, the only person who had the opportunity to poison it after you plated it is you, right?”

“…Ugh.”

“Your silence is the answer, huh?”

The waiter’s gaze shifted slightly to the upper right. Apparently, when humans are thinking of lies or excuses, they tend to look up and to the left. In other words, this guy was still trying to find a way to escape even at this stage.



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