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Chapter 5: The Magic Turmoil (1)

My period of confinement was nearly at its end.

A month really did pass by so quickly.

Pondering over ‘how to follow the original story’s flow with minimal alteration’ made the time seem to fly even faster.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to gain the upper hand in my dealings with Astaroth, as per my initial plan.

Instead of becoming her underling, I’ve turned the tables and made her mine, which is a significant achievement in itself.

Despite their all vulnerabilities, Astaroth and Prah being the final bosses of Chapter 3 was solely due to her overwhelming power.

Being a high-ranking demon means possessing the might to obliterate a capital city of a decent-sized nation in an instant.

With such a force on my side, I’m unlikely to meet an untimely death in ordinary circumstances. The issue, however, is that a period will soon arrive when even Astaroth’s power won’t suffice... and I must keep that in mind as well.

In any case, the situation is quite complicated. My gaining the upper hand over Astaroth could alter the course of this novel.

I’m aware that even my slightest actions could introduce significant variables in the future. I’ll try my best to adhere to the original storyline of the novel... but I must also be prepared to handle any unforeseen developments.

My ultimate goal is ‘to survive.’ I was willing to do anything to stay alive, especially when being thrust into my own novel felt so unjust, and a meaningless death was out of the question.

To ensure my survival, it’s imperative to foster the growth of the protagonist Ruslan, the main heroine Aris, and those around Ruslan.

There are no alternatives, nor can I rely on any hidden pieces or fortuitous encounters.

Gaining control over Astaroth’s life and death by discovering her true name indicates that the framework I had set up in my novel was compact.

This means the setting that the protagonist must grow through talent and experience remains intact, making my task straightforward.

I must push Ruslan and Aris into hardships, but not to the point of death.

I had vaguely contemplated such a plan while writing the novel, so that should suffice... right?

A vague sense of unease crept in, but I shook my head. There was no time to dwell on that. It was a miracle I could remember this much, considering how long it had been since I wrote that novel.

I had no choice but to stick to the original plan.

The most pressing issue at hand is how to explain the situation to Prah’s father, Edmund Lancel.

It’s troublesome because there was never a need to elaborate from the villain’s perspective, nor had I considered it, leaving me at a loss.

From what I recall, there was a vague mention that Prah had been severely reprimanded by Duke Edmund Lancel at that time... something along those lines.

Prah had acted thoughtlessly, tarnishing the family’s reputation, which led to a significant reduction in the support he received.

Ironically, despite this, Prah had diligently amassed a considerable fortune over time, which he then used to torment Aris and Ruslan to his heart’s content.

For now... Yes, let’s at least be cautious enough to avoid getting hit on the head with a flower vase.

* * *

“Do you realize what you’ve done?”

The question was chilling. There was no shouting or throwing of objects.

These were the first words spoken to me by Edmund Lancel, the head of the empire’s foremost family and now my father, upon our meeting.

The office, which should have been at an optimal temperature, suddenly felt as cold as midwinter.

It wasn’t just a shiver down my spine; it was as if a cold wave had swept through the space itself.

Insane. Was I supposed to stand before this man and say, ’No, it wasn’t that, there was a plan...’?

It seemed not. The only option was to let it pass silently.

“...Yes.”

“There was something I emphasized greatly, Prah.”

“Indeed.”

What Edmund Lancel emphasized was the paramount importance of the family’s honor above all else.

The individual is not important. The Lancel family has always been built by those who sacrificed themselves for the honor of the family.

How did Prah respond at that moment? I don’t have a detailed account of this part.

While I could recall the scene where Prah lunged at Aris and threatened her, as it was a pivotal moment from the early chapters that I had pondered countless times, even if it was a decade ago... now, I’m not sure how to respond.

After all, this wasn’t a crucial part of the story, so it was glossed over with a brief mention that Prah was reprimanded by Edmund Lancel. Hence the frustration.

The thought that a casual response might suffice is naively optimistic. One cannot predict the repercussions that even a single remark made here might trigger in the future.

However, I had no intention of spouting nonsense. Edmund Lancel often gave his family members multiple chances, especially since Prah was usually his pride. Hence, he might overlook this mistake with just a reprimand.

There’s no need to invite unnecessary criticism, especially since Lancel’s support for Prah continued even in the early parts of the novel.

So, the first step should be... an apology.

“I am without excuse. I let myself be carried away by the heat of the moment.”

Prah, who deeply respected his father, would not have acted disrespectfully. His feelings for Aris, which turned dark and led him down a wrong path, did not mean he was inherently corrupt.

“The heat of the moment? You were that fond of Aris Winslet?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Indeed. It was quite apparent. But haven’t I always said? Love is fine, but one must not be swept away by their emotions.”

“...I remember.”

“To consider it merely a mistake would be to underestimate the gravity of the offense. Such an act would disgrace our name even if committed against a commoner at the academy, let alone against the noble lady of the distinguished Winslet family...”

“I am aware.”

“What do you intend to do about it?”

What to do was something I had already contemplated. To stay as far away from Aris Winslet as possible and will continue to harass her.

...It’s a really despicable notion, but necessary for survival.

“It would do no good to stir up trouble needlessly. I plan to keep my distance from Aris henceforth. Even attempting to apologize could wound her deeply.”

To appear before her seeking forgiveness after declaring it merely a play of friendship would be contradictory. Thus, this is the only course of action available to me.

“Good. You’ve thought it through. We shall not discuss this matter further. However, your excessive actions warrant punishment. Aidan Winslet, head of the Winslet family, deserves an explanation.”

“I will accept whatever punishment you deem fit.”

“I hope this is the last time I have to punish you. Even though you are my only son and heir, I cannot entrust Lancel to someone who consistently errs. As this is your first offense, I’ll let it pass with this much.”

“I will bear that in mind.”

“The punishment I decree is a flogging.”

“...Flogging, you say?”

“Yes. A severe punishment on your part might prevent further complaints from their side. As it’s your first offense, a strict approach is necessary. It will deter you from making such mistakes in the future.”

“That... that makes sense.”

It was then that a memory surfaced. 

Right, I had forgotten about this.

The matter didn’t end with a mere reprimand.

Flogging. Yes, Prah was definitely to face the family’s punishment.

My vision blurred at the thought. The flogging, even on Prah’s well-conditioned body, would be excruciating.

This was a mess.

Yet, I had no ground to resist.

It was a longstanding tradition of the Lancel family to impose a fitting punishment on a member who had tarnished the family’s honor, a tradition that had elevated us to our current standing.

The moment I threw a tantrum refusing the punishment, my position as the heir would be jeopardized. The vassals of Lancel would not follow someone who shirked their responsibilities.

In the end, I had no choice but to humbly accept the flogging.

* * *

My father, Edmund Lancel, acted with remarkable speed.

He promptly conveyed an apology to the Winslet family for the heir’s misconduct and even sent an official document announcing the execution of my flogging.

While the Winslets were enraged by my actions, my father’s impressive tact prevented them from demanding my immediate hanging.

Upon hearing of the flogging, they insisted on witnessing my disgrace... and so, Aidan Winslet, representing the Winslet family, was now present in the Lancel mansion.

For the record, Aris wanted to see me flogged, but Aidan Winslet dissuaded her, suggesting there was no good in her witnessing it.

Regardless, I was shirtless. After all, flogging meant lashing the back with a whip... it was only natural.

Aidan Winslet looked at me with stern eyes and then nodded to my father. It seemed like a gesture to let this be enough.

Fortunately, it didn’t escalate into a feud between the families.

They knew all too well what it meant to make an enemy of Lancel and seemed inclined to let things slide, given the conciliatory gesture from our side.

Of course, this was merely a matter between families, yet Aidan Winslet’s gaze upon me was incredibly, incredibly fierce. Understandably so. To him, it was as if his daughter’s childhood friend had attempted to r*pe her, the sense of betrayal he must feel was unimaginable.

The silver lining, however, was that up to this point, everything was unfolding as per the original narrative. This scene of receiving flogging. Yes, I’ve made it this far correctly. That’s all that mattered.

I suddenly wanted to give my past self a good thrashing.

Had I known this would happen, I would have just written about a happy academy life filled with laughter and joy. What was I thinking, inserting such a plot into a novel written solely for my own amusement, aspiring for some grandeur?

“Consider yourself lucky that we’re letting it go with just this, Prah Lancel.”

“...Yes.”

I refrained from uttering an apology. I knew that no matter what I said, it would sound insincere to them.

Prah was sentenced to ten lashes of flogging. To some, ten lashes might seem insignificant, but flogging executed by a skilled practitioner could be fatal for the weak.

Swoosh!

The sound of the whip tearing through the air was followed by an intense pain exploding across my back.

Crack!

Even after just one strike, I felt my consciousness blurring. But it’s alright.

Things are going according to the flow. It’s just pain, not death. I just need to endure this; I can receive healing from a priest afterward. Just endure this!

However, the formidable force of the whip eventually rendered me unconscious. 

How was one supposed to withstand such agony? Literally, chunks of flesh were being torn from my back.

Could you not go easy? Damn it.

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