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《This is Kaze 1. The majority of those on duty in the castle have already left.》
《Kaze 2. The population is in the process of gathering at the northern plaza.》
“You are certain about the whispers?”
《Number 1, affirmative.》
《Number 2, affirmative.》
“But for them to really hold a festival…”
《If we’re just talking about that, it’s official since it came from the castle. It’s gone too far to be a trap.》
《The castle town is the same way. There are obstructions all the way from the castle to the southern gate. It seems that both gates will be closed, as expected.》
“In that case, we can confidently assume that they do not have defensive measures prepared. Not closing the gates despite spies being discovered must have been them stalling for time for the sake of this festival. In the event of an enemy attack being announced, the residents would have panicked, but since it’s a festival, the people will naturally convene. I suppose it’s a boon for them.”
《Publicly, at least. But, in reality that’s not true. We are only responsible for the fall of the castle. Avoiding unnecessary chaos is an advantage for us.》
《No matter how heartless Edelweiss might be, she can’t defy the gentle crown prince’s order, huh…?》
“That seems to be the case here. I have reported this back to camp as a good chance for an attack. If things proceed towards an outbreak of war, Kaze will withdraw appropriately. Affirmative?”
《Number 1, affirmative.》
《Number 2, affirmative.》
“End of transmission.”
The loud bustle at the northern plaza, which had become the main venue, was apparently audible even from this balcony.
(Ugh, I wonder, is it going to be alright…?)
The ones left behind in the castle at present are truly just the minimum required number of people. I guess it’s no more than 20 people not counting Mahiro, me as his guard, Edelweiss and Kaien.
“Wahaha! Wahahahaha! Look at it! That successful show! I’m sure father will return my powers after hearing the rumors from the residents in the future! You might as well call this killing two birds with one stone! Wahahahaha!” (Mahiro)
Which reminds me, the king said something along those lines just before departing, Pariel recalled. However, before she had a chance to ask about that Edelweiss spoke,
“So, how are you planning to proceed from now on?” (Edelweiss)
“Huh? What do you mean?” (Mahiro)
“If there are spies in the land near the castle, they definitely won’t let this chance slip through their fingers. What do you intend to do with the residents that you’ve gathered?” (Edelweiss)
At that moment, they heard hurried footsteps from down the corridor. Usually this would result in an icy warning from Edelweiss.
However, the one who burst into the room was Prime Minister Kaien.
“Prince! We have a serious problem!” (Kaien)
“What’s wrong?” (Mahiro)
“Monsters have appeared in the southern side of the land near the castle!” (Kaien)
The room froze.
Monsters. Underlings of the Demon King, who plots the fall of mankind in the land known as the Western Regions. They are unnatural enemies who target mankind, regardless of whether it’s the Republic or the Empire, humans, or Majin. Each time a wave occurs, the result is worse than that of natural disasters. They destroy until there is nothing else to destroy, slaughter until there is nothing else to slaughter.
Countries, cities, and villages in this day and age are all built behind solid walls to protect society from this threat. To put it bluntly, even the respective militaries of each country were formed to defend the people from monsters, rather than for war.
Thus, this news of monsters within the defensive wall is nothing short of a disaster of epic proportions.
Next to Pariel, who has been shocked speechless, Edelweiss asks,
“Prime Minister Kaien, is an interception feasible?” (Edelweiss)
“No, it’s probably impossible. Just at a glance, several hundred monsters have already made it in. Even though they all seem to be fairly low-ranking monsters, more and more keep flooding in.” (Kaien)
Although they are all called monsters, there are various classes. Apart from slimes, even the weakest monster is comparable to a wolf. In which case, this is a pack consisting of several hundred wolves. Moreover, they might be compared to animals, but they possess no fear and no regard for their own safety. You can cut off legs and pluck off arms and they will keep coming. It’s a slaughtering army of wolves without any survival instinct.
If the main army escorting the King were still here, there would be Majin on par with the Empire’s knights. Unfortunately, the ones left behind now are only human soldiers. Their equipment and skills are only enough to take out a few monsters each. If the monsters’ number continues to increase, the army will be overrun. Mahiro’s eyes widen and he makes a choked noise.
“…For real?” (Mahiro)
“Why on earth would I lie about something like this!? Because he’s going to guide the people, Minister Karlo has already departed for the northern plaza!”
Mahiro freezes at Kaien’s shouting.
*slap*! Edelweiss’ paper fan makes a thunderous sound as it hits Mahiro’s head.
“Get your act together.” (Edelweiss)
“No, but, the imperial army aside, monsters appearing is outside the range of reasonable expectations.” (Mahiro)
“Given that there’s no precedent for the city emptying out in one day, there is no positive proof, but…I suspect that the monsters surged into the city under the cover of night because the presence of humans receded too much too quickly.” (Kaien)
“Umm. So what does that mean in short?”
“Mismarca has fallen. To the monsters, before the Empire.” (Edelweiss)
Mahiro nodded once.
“It’s hopeless, innit?” (Mahiro)
“Prime Minister Kaien, this thing won’t be useful any longer. Where is Minister Carlo leading the people to?” (Edelweiss)
“At this point, the defensive wall has become a trap keeping the people in. Fortunately, there’s still some time before the monsters reach the northern part of the city. The original plan was to have them evacuate the city through the northern gate as part of the festivities.” (Kaien)
Looking down from the balcony, excitement has died down a lot. However, even though the people are puzzled by the directive to leave the city…they all head down the main street towards the gate. The music from the orchestra seems to form a chant telling people to “go north, go north”, and quickly a parade-like atmosphere begins to take over. Edelweiss gives her approval,
“That’s the best option. Like this, we should be able to avoid total chaos for a while. Please call all the remaining soldiers back to the castle. Leave the minimum required number to guide the people out. ” (Edelweiss)
Just as Kaien was about to rush out of the room, a sentry from the castle rushes into the room.
“With all due respect, I have something to report! Monsters appeared from the forest in the castle’s backyard! We won’t be able to suppress them with our current numbers! Please give us further orders!”
Pariel groaned. Although he doesn’t say a word, Kaien dons a mortified expression. Edelweiss also casts her eyes down as if in contemplation.
It’s the worst possible development, almost as if it had all been planned by someone.
Right after monsters appeared inside the city, they now appear in the castle. Be it the town or the castle, it’s a fact that neither were made to defend against an enemy from within. All the people have been bloodlessly evacuated under the guise of a festival. And yet something like this occurred, even though everything had been carefully planned out.
“… Let’s run away.”
Mahiro said, trembling in despair.
Mahiro shakes his head before Edelweiss can say anything.
“If you tell me to choose the castle or the people, I will pick the people. That’s why…let’s do as I said.” (Mahiro)
However, Edelweiss’ next words were colder than usual.
“There’s no longer any conviction behind that reasoning. Aren’t you merely making excuses to yourself?” (Edelweiss)
Mahiro is silent, having been hit where it hurts. Edelweiss continued,
“Allow me to speak honestly, Your Highness. You, driven by your compassion, coming up with a wild idea to allow the civilians to get away in the worst case scenario is something well within His Majesty’s predictions.” (Edelweiss)
Mahiro narrows his eyes.
“…Indeed… Father has…” (Mahiro)
“Yes, but, this is a situation where we must deal with monsters on top of the imperial army. This is something no one could have expected. In that case, your true value is going to be called into question from here on out, Your Highness.” (Edelweiss)
Just hearing the words true worth makes Mahiro laugh self-deprecatingly. Pariel can’t bear to watch her master wallow in self-pity any longer, grabbing his shoulders and shaking,
“Please get ahold of yourself! Isn’t this your own home!? Isn’t this everyone’s country!? How can you give up on it so easily! As long as the castle remains, we will still be able to manage somehow! Even if you can’t do anything alone, Prince, we are here! Please order us to fight! After all that’s why we’re here!” (Pariel)
For a moment Mahiro starts to say something, but then he looks away again,
“It’s useless.” (Mahiro)
“If I say it’s useless, then that’s that. Anyway, we are going to escape! Before there’s no path of retreat left! It’s an evacuation for everyone! I won’t allow anyone to remain in the castle! That’s an order with father’s full authority!” (Mahiro)
There’s no trace of the composure he’s had up until now. This is purely a child’s tantrum.
Pariel felt her hands, still on Mahiro’s shoulders, lose their strength. Kaien is disheartened as well. Even Edelweiss drops her shoulders. There’s a sudden loss of any will to remain here.
“… What are we going to do, Prime Minister Kaien?”
“I don’t know about the monsters that have appeared within the castle, but honestly speaking…the chances of us winning against the monsters outside the castle are slim, even if we could recall the soldiers leading the people out. If we prioritize saving lives…then there is some truth in the prince’s words.” (Kaien)
“Is that so? Then.” (Edelweiss)
Summoning the 20 soldiers that had remained in the castle, they moved toward the courtyard. Although they had successfully repelled the monsters attacking the castle up until now, even more grotesque monsters were in the courtyard. They carelessly trampled over the beautiful water fountain, the flower beds and the lawn.
Fighting against each and every monster here would definitely have resulted in heavy casualties. They passed through the castle’s north gate, arriving in the plaza that once served as the festival venue. Now, the populace was mostly on the main street.
Reaching the tail end of the parade, the group breathed out in relief. Kaien called a head count, and made sure: there were no losses or injuries. That’s simply the silver lining though. In the eyes of the people aware of the true circumstances, it’s harder to breathe easy. It’s a defeat.
The castle had become empty at last.
Pariel turns around, intending to talk to and perhaps cheer up Mahiro, but he is staring at the castle gate that they had passed through moments ago.
“… I’m going to return to the castle for a moment.” (Mahiro)
“Wh-…What stupidity are you spouting now!?” (Pariel)
Pariel yelled, but Mahiro’s expression was serious.
“If they were just coming from the southern areas of the castle town, we would probably have some time left. But, at this rate, we might be overtaken by the monsters inside the castle. I will go close the castle gate.” (Mahiro)
“Close, you say. Aren’t you going to be locked up together with the monsters then, Prince!? You saw the situation in the courtyard, didn’t you!? The castle will turn into a den of monsters soon!” (Pariel)
At her retort, Mahiro laughed quietly.
“Pariel, you of all people know that I can appear and disappear at will, don’t you?” (Mahiro)
“There are countless hidden passages inside the castle that only royalty know about. If I use those after flipping the switches of the castle gate and drawbridge, I will easily be able to return to this place.” (Mahiro)
Pariel looks around her desperately, but Kaien and Edelweiss are silent, looking torn. They’re wavering. Honestly, him doing such a thing will likely have negligible effects. Yet Mahiro is concerned about the people…does he really understand their feelings, as their lord?
“Well, even if you were to tell me that I can’t go, I will still do it.” (Mahiro)
“Then I will go with you! I’m your guard, prince!” (Pariel)
“That’s only natural. Make sure to not get separated from the prince by all means.” (Edelweiss)
And so the two run towards the castle from which they had escaped just moments ago.
“Was that smart, Lady Edelweiss? I was certain that you would stop them…” (Kaien)
“Despite appearances, the prince does have a sense of responsibility…or rather, he’s an egoistic gentleman. However, as long as Pariel is with him, she should be able to prevent the worst case scenario.” (Edelweiss)
Seeing how they’re not scolding him, Kaien gathers that something must have happened before. After all, mistakes made by royalty and titled nobility are generally paid the same way.
“There’s no way that the prince is planning to commit suicide, but…” (Kaien)
Kaien couldn’t reconcile that with Mahiro, who lives his life in a perpetual state of joking or coming up with new pranks, being a schemer.
“Who knows. However, I had Pariel accompany him just in case. If His Highness runs away, monsters of that level shouldn’t be able to catch him.” (Edelweiss)
However, Kaien suddenly had a realization and looked up to the castle.
‘If he’s that good at running away, wouldn’t it also…be simple for him to shake off his guard, Pariel?
The winding mechanism hums and roars. The drawbridge, drawing energy from the nearby sorcery reactor1, rises infuriatingly slowly. At the same time the castle gate is gradually grating shut.
The whole operation can be controlled from a panel in the sentry station, but for safety reasons one can’t remove their hand from the lever until the gate finishes closing. If one stops holding the lever, the gate and the drawbridge will stop at whichever position they’re in.
“Prince, how much longer!? I see monsters on the other side!” (Pariel)
“Don’t ask me that! Can’t you tell simply by looking at it!? A little bit more, just a little bit more!” (Mahiro)
Finally, the castle gate closes with a thud. The drawbridge also closes a while later.
“Alright, it’s done, Pariel! Let’s escape!” (Mahiro)
A single flash of the longsword bestowed to Pariel as the royal guard dispatches one particularly sharp-sighted monster that had spotted them. The path is open. They have the advantage in numbers, but the monsters aren’t that strong.
With the longsword in her hands, it only takes one blow to slay a monster. It’s not as if Pariel was chosen as the royal guard for show. She freely swings her sword, protecting her prince as they run through the horde of monsters.
“Here, Pariel! Wait for a moment!” (Mahiro)
“Here…you say? Aren’t we still right in the middle of the garden forest!? Hidden passages are usually at important spots like behind the throne…” (Pariel)
While she’s talking, Mahiro grabs a handle hidden in the undergrowth and pulls it up. He looks back at Pariel, not even needing to verbalise the “what was that you were saying?”
“I told you, didn’t I? They’re everywhere. Or rather, if it were limited to the throne, I would be scolded by Father every time I tried to sneak out. My father is really scary when he’s angry y’know?” (Mahiro)
“You told me that already! Or rather, please get scolded every time you go out to play!” (Pariel)
Still squabbling, they descended into the passage before more monsters appeared. It was very narrow, and barely tall enough for an adult. And once Mahiro closes the entrance, it naturally becomes pitch black. This is the type of darkness where you can’t even make out your own hand in front of you.
“I discovered these passages on my own. Originally, only my father should know about these. Moreover, since there are hidden doors in the hidden passages, it’s gotten out of hand. ” (Mahiro)
“I-I see…is that so…? I guess it will be terrible if you get lost…” (Pariel)
Pariel relies solely on Mahiro’s voice and his footsteps to continue forward.
“Indeed. But, fortunately this passage is a straight path except for those hidden doors. If we follow it, we will arrive in the mansion I might buy sooner or later.” (Mahiro)
He’s probably talking about the blue-roofed mansion we observed from the balcony together. In Emilio’s store he talked about using the money from the national treasury or something like that.
“I’m against wasting taxpayer money.” (Pariel)
“That’s why you are…either way, go straight ahead. Never think about returning to the castle. Got it?” (Mahiro)
A thud and then Mahro’s presence, which had been right in front of her, disappears. The next time she hears his voice, it’s from the other side of the wall.
“As a matter of fact, there’s still something I have to do, Pariel” (Mahiro)
She’s assaulted by a terrible chill. She knows. Behind this wall. He already vanished through another hidden door.
“Or rather, that’s actually the real reason I returned to this castle. Well, you know, even if I might act irresponsibly sometimes, I’m still royalty after all. Seeing as I’ve been more or less entrusted with the country, I will at least fulfil my obligations, or rather …” (Mahiro)
Even though he shamelessly advocated escaping on the balcony, he can say something like this so cheerfully now,
“Haven’t you done enough already? Something like this is unnecessary! Please open this place! Prince!” (Pariel)
Mahiro’s laughter resounds.
“True. If I was satisfied with things as they are, there would be no need to go through this much trouble. But listen, no matter what, royalty is royalty. Soon, it won’t just be monsters, but even the imperial army will invade the castle. So you have to head straight for the town and meet up with Edelweiss. Do not come searching for me. Okay?” (Mahiro)
“From now on it’s fine for you to serve Father and not someone like me. I’m pretty sure that this will be better for you as well… Bye, Pariel.” (Mahiro)
Words of farewell.
“Prince! Priiince!!” (Pariel)
No matter how much she shouted and called his name afterwards, no answer came from Mahiro. The normal frustration at his still managing to one-up her at such a time bubbled inside her. But more than that, she was miserable that she had been tricked at such a critical time. But she knew that staying here was pointless. So Pariel kept going forward.
Groping the ceiling – even bumping into it at some points – she finally locates the handle. She turned and pushed. The dazzling moonlight flooded the passage.
In front of her was that mansion, just as Mahiro had said. The color of the walls, the shape of the windows. I have no doubt. In that case the main street shouldn’t be too far from here.
Pariel climbs the tall fence surrounding the grounds, lands on the other side and heads to the end of the parade on the main street where Edelweiss and the others should be.
“Lady Edelweiss! Lord Kaien!” (Pariel)
Kaien noticed that she had returned alone, but he supposed that he had expected this. No, he reconsidered, his prediction had taken the worst possible turn. He frowned.
Pariel can’t do anything but report the truth.
“Wh-…What are we going to do? I…what should I…?” (Pariel)
“And you shamelessly came back here just like that?” (Edelweiss)
Edelweiss’ words were too biting. Unable to simply listen any further, Kaien intercedes.
“Lady Edelweiss…going by what we heard just now, there’s no reason to blame her. It’s not like she abandoned him.” (Kaien)
“This is a matter between me and my subordinate. Prime Minister Kaien, please be silent.” (Edelweiss)
Pausing briefly, Edelweiss abruptly changes the subject.
“Pariel, there is a big scar on your back, isn’t there?” (Edelweiss)
Pariel blinked through her tears.
There definitely is one. I even told Mahiro about it a while ago…but why is she bringing it up now?
“Do you remember how and when that scar came to be?” (Edelweiss)
“N-…No…? I…” (Pariel)
“Is that so? I assigned you to the prince because I believed that you knew.” (Edelweiss)
Suddenly hyper-aware of her back, Pariel asks,
“What…do you mean? This is from when I was attacked by a monster in my childhood…” (Pariel)
“Weren’t you playing with a boy when it happened? It should have been a boy who had a very strong sense of justice.” (Edelweiss)
Feeling as if Edelweiss had taken a peek into her deepest memories, Pariel’s eyes widened.
That’s right. Even though I was the older one. Therefore, even though we were being attacked, that very small back trying to stand in the way of the monster felt so reliable—
“…Why…do you know about something like that, Lady Edelweiss…?” (Pariel)
“That’s only natural. After all I was that child’s, Prince Mahiro’s, wet nurse.” (Edelweiss)
For a moment Pariel didn’t understand what Edelweiss was talking about.
“Prince…? That boy was…?” (Pariel)
“Yes. On that day, His Highness used his power to protect you from a monster attack. However, even though he was very young, His Highness has tremendous latent power – superior to any Majin in the royal family. And because he was so young, that power ended up going out of control.” (Edelweiss)
What’s that? What is she saying?
“The scar on your back isn’t something caused by a monster. The prince, who tried to rescue you from the monster, injured you because he released too much power.” (Edelweiss)
Edelweiss took a breath and turned her eyes in the direction of the castle where Mahiro had stayed behind.
“Injuring another person with his own hands was probably traumatizing for a child’s heart. That’s when His Highness started to hate extreme violence. And, His Highness changed after having his powers sealed by His Majesty and the court magicians who saw the gravity of the situation. If he remains like this, His Majesty wouldn’t return his powers.” (Edelweiss)
And then she stopped talking once again, turning her eyes in Pariel’s direction. It was an unusually cold look.
“If you hadn’t been there, the prince would never allowed his powers to run wild that day. If it hadn’t been for that day, he would have become a splendid prince who never had his powers sealed. Even if he couldn’t compete with swordsmanship or wisdom. A wave of monsters at such a level wouldn’t be a threat with his powers. His Highness should be able to take care of a few hundred imperial knights without any cheap tricks.” (Edelweiss)
“I…I didn’t know…! A story like that…!” (Pariel)
I don’t understand.
I mean I didn’t know about that. It’s because I don’t know. Something like me shaping the fate of this country…there’s no way that I would know about that. To have that forced on me now of all times.
“Story time ends with this. Think about the rest yourself.” (Edelweiss)
What a stupid response.
I can’t read anything from that ice woman.
“If you are unable to protect him…if you die protecting him…even if you just leave the city right now. Make sure not to do anything you will regret. I believe that I selected you because I believe in your decisions as His Highness’ guard.” (Edelweiss)
The real me. A Royal Knight.
(No, it’s different…)
Pariel shook her head.
The real me and the me as Royal Knight have always been the same person. Yes, I was just caught off guard by an old memory.
In that case…
“I’m going back…” (Pariel)
In that case, I will go back. There’s no meaning in me staying here. There is no path for me except to return to the castle.
“Pariel, I will accompany you.” (Kaien)
“Lord Kaien…!? But…!” (Pariel)
“Swordsmanship isn’t my expertise, but if the opponents are monsters, I will still be useful.” (Kaien)
Kaien drew a long and imposing pistol from his waist. That’s not a weapon for knights or soldiers, but that of a hunter. Lead bullets are useless in a battle against armor protected by sorcery but, against demonic forces, it’s a different story.
“If the prince intends to die, we probably have to bring him back even if i have to personally drag him back by his hair. Won’t it be difficult for you to break through that monster swarm by yourself while carrying the prince?” (Kaien)
“While that might be true, is there any need for you to personally do this, Prime Minister Kaien?” (Edelweiss)
“Lady Edelweiss, I have become very interested in Prince Mahiro these last few days. Therefore, no matter what…I find it difficult to believe that he is planning to simply die. As such, I wonder if it would be so bad to die so long as I get to see what he’s intending to do.” (Kaien)
“…Prime Minister. You have been infected by His Highness’ stupidity.” (Edelweiss)
The prime minister, who always has a serious expression, lets out a laugh. Edelweiss sighs.
“What’s wrong, Pariel. Hurry up and lead the way to the secret path.” (Edelweiss)
“Eh? No way, even Lady Edelweiss…” (Pariel)
“Letting the prime minister die with His Highness will affect my good reputation.” (Edelweiss)
I wonder why she’s so convinced that we are all going to die.
“No, but, umm, the evacuation of the people…” (Pariel)
“If it’s just ensuring the people leave the city, we can leave it to Minister Karlo. As for what to do after that, I would need to ask His Highness for his instructions.” (Edelweiss)
Kaien was unable to hold back his laughter.
“No matter what you say, it looks like even you have been infected with stupidity at last, Lady Edelweiss.” (Kaien)
“You must be joking.” (Edelweiss)
Edelweiss spit out.
In the end I don’t know whether this person is actually kind or has a bad personality.
Well, I guess that even though they both look like perfect beings to an underling like me, they still have emotions.
“T-…Then, I shall guide you! This way…!” (Pariel)
Running in front of the two of them, Pariel led the way back along her original path.
Yes. It’s just as Kaien says. It’s very unlike that selfish, whimsical prince to simply die. That’s why I have to go back. It should still be alright. He should still be alive.
Southern part of Mismarca’s castle town.
A luxurious eight-in-hand carriage pulls up into a space cleared by black knights. Getting off it, Lunas lets her gaze wander. She’s adorned by a jet-black helmet and armor decorated with golden ornaments. A characteristically long flowing robe takes the place of a skirt. A snow-white mantle finely embroidered with the family crest sits on her shoulders…the war princess gives off the same imposing aura as heavy cavalry.
A shield capable of covering her entire body, engraved with an angel in prayer, is stabbed into the ground beside her. A gauntlet with an exaggerated design covers everything from her right hand to her shoulder.
“Well, hasn’t this turned into quite the enjoyable event! What’s going on here?” (Lunas)
Reiner, who is only wearing the coat of a commissioned officer over his uniform and no armor, shakes his head.
“Kaze is guessing that they took advantage of the cover of darkness after sensing that the presence of people had vanished since they’re all at the festival.” (Reiner)
“…I wonder about that. So, how did so many of them flood into the city?” (Lunas)
“We only just broke through the defense gate.” (Lunas)
Saying that, Lunas jerked her head at the gate that had been destroyed by the chivalric order. Then she looked up at the walls.
“Having said that, there are no monsters who would try to climb over the outer wall. Of course, there were no monsters hiding outside the city until we arrived here.” (Lunas)
“Certainly, it’s an abnormal number.” (Reiner)
At that moment something in the upper part of the city caught Luna’s eye, and she watched it with the intensity of a hunting falcon.
“Proceed north while repelling them.” (Lunas)
Ignoring her maid’s cry of alarm, Lunas jumped up with agility one wouldn’t expect from someone wearing heavy armor. She leaps from one roof to another while keeping a careful watch on the swarm of monsters filling the streets below. A few monsters fly through the air to attack her, but she dispatches them with a single stroke.
Then it hits her. A heavy, gas-like fog hangs over the streets. According to the legends, it’s miasma, evil oozing out from the underworld.
There’s absolutely no way for this to have happened naturally. In that case there must be someone behind this.
(…That guy, huh?)
A small figure looks almost bored watching the flow of monsters, abnormally calm in this situation. Lunas, who had erased her presence, lands on top of the building where that person stands.
A black cloak with a hood and a shaman-like outfit completely covered their whole body. In their hand is a board with a magic circle drawn on it.
“Hmm, I think this much would do the trick…but since it was expressly requested, I think it would be best to use up all of it…”
“What are you doing over there?” (Lunas)
Despite Lunas’ sudden question from behind him, the other party only turned around calmly.
“Yo, good evening, pretty lady.”
“A child…?” (Lunas)
How unexpected. Just going by his face, he should be 5 or 6 years old. A young, cute boy that is still innocent to the ways of the world. But then again, if he’s a Majin, I must not judge by appearance.
Noticing Lunas’ appearance, he laughs, carefree.
“Hee, this is amazing. To be in the presence of the Sword of Gleaming Light herself.”
“… What are you doing here? Is this swarm of monsters your doing?” (Lunas)
“Ahahaha… I’ve been found out?”
The boy scratches his head and laughs. Blonde hair peeked out through his open hood.
“Can’t be helped if I was found out.”
A glance. A sudden unearthly gleam in his eyes narrowed in laughter. Almost at the same time, Lunas drew her sword and swung it. The remains, not of a monster but a much more sinister creature with no flesh, scatter at her feet.
“… A shadow beast, huh? You are using something rather unusual.” (Lunas)
She points the blade at him, and he readily raised both his hands.
“As expected of a rumored Seven Star Sword. Though it seems wasted on someone like me…”
However, he’s no inexperienced boy. Chantless summoning magic. And even though he was hit with the full force of my bloodlust, he hasn’t even twitched as he maintains an aloof attitude.
“You bastard, you are a covert operative sent in by my country, aren’t you? In that case, put things in order right away. This is now no more than an obstruction to our advance.” (Lunas)
“Empire? Ahaha, by no means! I was pretty much told to keep it secret, but…whatever. It’s no use with the rumored Princess Lunas as my opponent. I haven’t received any hazard pay.”
“Let’s see…if I had to say, I’m a covert operative of this country.”
“Don’t screw around with me.” (Lunas)
As she says so, the last hint of mockery finally vanished from the boy’s face. Instead he revealed a predatory smile.
“I’m not messing around. The one messing around is this country’s prince. That guy has gone completely insane. The current situation is something desired by that prince.”
Her eyes widened.
“The prince has…? What’s the point of doing something like this?” (Lunas)
“You want to know? Oh well, after all I don’t want to die. I haven’t received any hush money either.”
He changed his attitude unexpectedly easily.
“It’s simple. First, it’s for the sake of driving the residents, who had gathered in the northern part, out of the city even if they are reluctant, under the pretext of a festival. Second, it’s for the sake of hindering the imperial army which will likely come into the city at the same time.”
She was becoming more and more alarmed.
“You are saying he’s using monsters…as soldiers? Is he sane?” (Lunas)
“Hmm, I wonder. But I told you, didn’t I? That his sanity suddenly broke. That stupid prince believes that he can do whatever he wants as long as no harm comes to the people. Neither the city nor the castle know of that fact. At this rate even your subordinates will fall into the trap, princess.”
The sounds of angry roars, jeers and hooves rise from below.
They are different from vigilante corps in a remote region. They are elites, Majin and not human slave soldiers. A single black knight can slaughter five or ten monsters of that level in a single stroke in the streets. However, the circumstances of an anti-demon battlefield are usually different. I suppose they could become overwhelmed over time.
The presence of people in an otherwise completely uninhabited place. The monsters, which have been giddy and restless until now, are beginning to gather around the black knights.
“Castle…you said, right? Is there still more to it?” (Lunas)
“This.” The boy showed her the board in his hand. It’s a magic circle with a strange design that doesn’t belong to any of the sorcery schools known to her.
“Board of Descending Evil…is it’s name. Once activated it continuously spits out monsters from a monster storage connected to the underworld for a fixed period. Since it’s a forced summoning, you can’t call anything but blockheaded monsters though.”
These monsters not destroying the city itself…unlike the monsters I’m familiar with… is because of that, huh? They seem to be attracted to nothing but the presence of people.
“I went and set up the same thing in the castle a while ago, but… going by the prince’s character, that’s probably not the end of it, I think. Though I haven’t heard what it is exactly he’s planning.”
“Where did you set it up?” (Lunas)
“Ah, you don’t have to worry about that. Since the monsters currently moving will soon run out of energy, their numbers won’t grow any further.”
“I see. That’s all I needed to know.” (Lunas)
Blood sprays. The boy’s body was cleaved in two alongside the Board of Descending Evil. The heavy robe, soaked with fresh blood, falls down with a wet sound, covering the pieces of meat.
She definitely cut something, but it didn’t feel like human flesh. It’s the same kind as the one she slew moments ago.
Suddenly she hears a voice out of nowhere.
《Due to the nature of my business, I have prepared quite a few measures to defend myself.》
“Your name.” (Lunas)
《Emilio Apricot. Owner of a humble general store. Princess, if on occasion you want to order something…》 (Emilio)
“You are an interesting fellow. I shall remember you, merchant of darkness.” (Lunas)
Lunas declared and leapt back.
She lands on the street and returns to the imperial army that’s advancing slowly against the waves of monsters. The two high-classed maids are visibly relieved to see her back.
“Princess Lunas, just where did you…!?” (Reiner)
“For a little business. It seems that these monsters are Prince Mahiro’s doing.” (Lunas)
“No way.” (Reiner)
“True. Our country has fought many battles, but it’s the first time against a fellow who does something so absurd. Putting on a flashy show like this is certainly not Edelweiss’ style. Or does this country shelter still more tacticians…?” (Lunas)
“Either way, we will advance. You guys, open a path.” (Lunas)
Upon Lunas command, the knights ahead of her parted to the left and right. Of course, monsters charged through the space that had suddenly been freed up. The princess brandished the seven-starred sword.
Pouring her mana into the jet-black gauntlet, a high-capacity sorcery booster, she shows off the power of the sword that is her namesake. That wave is something a human sorcerer might not be able to accomplish in a lifetime. Even the knights obeying her tremble as their breath is taken away.
The princess laughs.
“Get out of my sight!” (Lunas)
One sword swing. The knights bring up their shields as a flash passes by, instantly disintegrating the low ranked monsters who have no magic to protect them from the sorcery-enhanced strike.
When the light fades, there isn’t a trace of a grotesque figure left in the straight line to the castle gate.
“Now then, let’s go.” (Lunas)
Ah, this is the true Sword of Gleaming Light. The Third Princess, who is revered and worshipped. Our goddess who guides us to victory on the battlefield.
Lunas calmly walks towards the castle as the knights whisper lowly behind her.
When Pariel and the others entered the entrance hall of the castle, bat-like monsters swooped down on them from a corner of the drafty ceiling.
Pariel releases a short yell and takes one step forward, cutting down her target in mid-air. One monster down. Behind her, there’s a short slashing sound and then the sound of a monster dropping to the ground.
Still three bats in the air. They appear to be cautious of us. My sword won’t reach. It’s fine as long as they don’t attack, but it will be a nuisance if they attack us as soon as we turn our backs on them.
(…It sure would be convenient to be capable of using magic at such a time, but…)
Pariel shrieks in surprise, ducking at the sudden sound of pistol shots from behind. The monsters that had been mockingly out of reach drop, their wings flapping uselessly.
“Magnificent, Prime Minister Kaien.” (Edelweiss)
“In my student days, I often earned some extra money by doing this.” (Kaien)
The prime minister said, preening rather unsubtly at the praise.
“U-Umm, Lord Kaien…I would be very grateful if you could say something before pulling the trigger…” (Pariel)
No matter what I do, I can’t get used to it. It startles me each time.
“Become accustomed to it.” (Edelweiss)
There’s no room for argument in Edelweiss’ words.
Kaien ejects the empty cartridges from the smoking pistol and smoothly loads a new batch of six bullets.
“Well then, we are inside the castle, but…the question is how to find Mahiro in this huge castle,” Kaien inquires.
“Pariel, do you have an idea?” (Edelweiss)
“Y-Yes…well, usually he’s close to the dressing room, behind the large public bath or irresponsibly stalking a maid…” (Pariel)
“What do…no, nevermind.” (Kaien)
While adjusting his slipping monocle, Kaien turns to Edelweiss,
“Lady Edelweiss.” (Kaien)
“Who knows.” (Edelweiss)
Why is she so blase in this situation?
“A-Anyways, if no one has any ideas, there’s no other option but to do it the hard way! Let’s search all conspicuous places!” (Pariel)
Pariel, who couldn’t bear to stand still, was about to run off. However, Edelweiss called her to a halt.
The chandelier dropped. If she hadn’t stopped me, I would probably have died on the spot.
“It’s a trap set on His Highness’ order. I can’t guarantee anything if we move carelessly.” (Edelweiss)
“With the armor of the Imperial Knight Order, one might just narrowly escape death.” (Edelweiss)
That means that for us, who don’t have superior armor, this place is filled with deadly traps that will kill us in one shot. The chandelier has been secured so that it looks like it conforms to regulations and doesn’t look like a disposable item.
Oblivious, new monsters appear, having broken in from somewhere. Some step on a trapped tile and are skewered by needles flashing out of the floor. Some brush a part of the wall and are immediately fried by a bolt of electricity. Others step over an invisible threshold and are cut in half by a guillotine falling from the ceiling.
“…T-That prince planted such cruel traps…?” (Pariel)
“By no means.” (Edelweiss)
“Since the traps planned by the kind prince were much too lenient, I adjusted them a bit.” (Edelweiss)
“Lady Edelweiss!?” (Pariel)
Since the monsters have already triggered them, it appears that the Imperial Knight Order won’t be caught in these as planned.
Kaien shuts his eyes behind the monocle, cold sweat pouring down his face, mumbling
“…With this, it seems that splitting up is impossible.” (Kaien)
“I think that’s a wise decision. However, those traps that were triggered just now didn’t activate when we left the castle.” (Edelweiss)
“In other words, you are saying the prince is still alive, correct!?” (Pariel)
Edelweiss nodded silently towards Pariel who clapped her hands together.
“Please follow in my footsteps.” (Edelweiss)
She walks in a zigzag pattern and climbs the stairs up to the second floor, skipping some steps. Turning around, Pariel watches the pursuing monsters lose their footing on the stairs or be flicked back down to the first floor by spring-loaded boards.
“Now that we have come this far, we don’t need to worry about monsters.” (Edelweiss)
“We have to worry about traps though…” (Pariel)
Edelweiss ignores Pariel.
“Umm…is it possible that the prince has been caught by one of your traps, Lady Edelweiss?” (Pariel)
At that, Edelweiss suddenly averts her gaze, apparently having realized it just now.
“Who knows.” (Edelweiss)
“Lady Edelweeeeeiiss!?” (Pariel)
“I have planted the traps in the places ordered by His Highness with the triggers ordered by His Highness.” (Edelweiss)
If Mahiro drew up the blueprints, he’s capable of evading them. However that’s only if he remembers all of it.
“But, with time being insufficient, I only was able to plant those powerful traps in the entrance hall. The traps set up in the hallways to the throne room are as ordered by His Highness from here on out.” (Edelweiss)
“But, if it was just about triggering the traps, there was no need to leave me behind in such a manner… I’m pretty sure that he has a different objective.” (Pariel)
“In that case, the areas on this floor are the sentries’ and maids’ stations, the dining hall, the church, the library…and something resembling residential quarters. It’s not like there’s anything there in such an emergency anyway. It will probably be fine to ignore them.” (Kaien)
“On the second and third floor there are the living quarters and offices of high officials and guests, and the parlors. Let’s check the throne hall and the audience hall first. If His Highness – as feared – intends to carry out his fate as monarch…” (Edelweiss)
She didn’t finish the sentence. The three of them go down the hallway of the second floor and into the audience hall. But there is only a gaping emptiness. No one is there. They retrace their steps and go up the steps to sweep the third floor. Then the fourth. They search the throne room but…as expected, no one is there. There is not a trace of the person who ought to be there, where the future of the country is decided.
“The basement…what about the basement?” (Pariel)
The two consider Pariel’s suggestion.
In the peaceful Mismarca, the dungeons for criminals aren’t put to much use. Instead, it houses the sorcery reactor that powers the castle and the castle town around it. Even further underground than that – a place Pariel isn’t allowed to even get close to with her social status – is the burial chamber of the royal family, dating back to the ancient Mismarca dynasty, where successive generations of royal family members slumber for eternity.
“Where royalty has been entombed…huh?” (Kaien)
Kaien muttered, apparently not eager to imagine it.
Naturally, the mood became gloomy.
“Umm, I’m sorry…after all…” (Pariel)
Despite being the one who suggested it, Pariel begins to babble as the gloom gets to her, but Kaien shakes his head.
“Indeed. Our thoughts are heading in a bad direction because we are standing still. There’s still a mountain of places we haven’t checked. Let’s visit those first. Moreover, we can think it over again once we have a good idea.” (Kaien)
A decision made, they head back and are about to descend to the third floor when Edelweiss pauses. She steps up to a big window and watches intently.
“It looks like we have little time remaining.” (Edelweiss)
Running to where she’s standing, they understand the meaning of her words. Black shadows advance along the main street in a straight line. It’s not a loose formation like the monsters adopt, but an orderly march.
“The imperial army…!?” (Kaien)
Looking in the direction the army is going, Kaien raised his voice in surprise before Pariel could even react.
“No way! Why is the castle gate open…!?”
The enemy has advanced this far already. Did someone open it? However, they didn’t have the leisure to question why or who had done it at this point.
“We might still be in time! I will go and close it!” (Pariel)
Pariel carelessly stepped forward in her run, and immediately a strange clink rang out.
She was completely covered by something.
“Noooo!? Sli!? Slime!? Eeeeeeeeeekk!?” (Pariel)
It was transparent, pink, slushy and tasted terrible.
“Is this also your work, Lady Edelweiss!?” (Pariel)
“Certainly not. That’s His Highness’ preference. Going by its color, it’s the type that only attacks women.” (Edelweiss)
“Whaaat’s the point of it only attacking women?!!” (Pariel)
Tearing it off her, she threw it on the floor with a splat.
“The attack itself is the objective.” (Edelweiss)
“T-…That’s the worst! He’s the worst, that damn prince! I’m sure he procured these from that shady shop! Using our hard earned tax money!!” (Pariel)
Even though she steps on it and steps on it, it doesn’t die. It just splats. That’s a sludge-type slime.
“I’m pissed off! Now that it has come to this, I will use my last resort! If we can’t find him even after looking everywhere, we’ll just have to make him come out!” (Pariel)
The prime minister is startled.
“Wh-…What!? Is that possible!?” (Kaien)
“Please leave it to me, Lord Kaien. I’m not the babysitter of the prince for nothing! Leave all of it to this Pariel!”
Pariel breathes out very deeply, then sucks in as much air as possible.
“Noooo, the slime won’t get oooff!! Help me, my Priiiince!!” (Pariel)
“…Yes, Lady Edelweiss.” (Pariel)
“Uuuuh…I mean…you know…” (Pariel)
“Come to my room afterwards. I have to talk with you for a bit.” (Edelweiss)
“Yes!! I came to save you, my honey…” (Mahiro)
“…Your Highness.” (Edelweiss)
Edelweiss’ paper fan exploded with a sound that shouldn’t have come from a paper fan at all.
“I am… Edelweiss’ eyes are scary…!” (Mahiro)
“That’s only obvious, you stupid prince! Just where have you been all this time!? Come on! Spit it out!!” (Pariel)
As if that wasn’t enough already, Pariel repeatedly kicked Mahiro after forcing him to sit in seiza. Kaien feels cold sweat streaming down his back watching this improper scene where the roles of master and servant have been reversed, while Edelweiss simply watches on silently next to him.
“What have you been doing?” (Pariel)
“…That’s my line. What are you all doing here? This place will be soon stormed by monsters and the imperial army. As you can see, you don’t have to worry about me. Hurry up and escape.” (Mahiro)
“Do you really think we can say “yes, sir” and go back?” (Pariel)
Pariel said in a loud voice.
“But, for your sake I plan to…” (Mahiro)
“I mean, what’s with that attitude after making us worry! Are you reflecting properly!? Hah!? Just who the hell do you think you are!? Come on! Say it!!” (Pariel)
“I’m the esteemed prince, the prince!! Stop, ugh! Help! Edelwei…! Uuuuggh!!” (Mahiro)
Edelweiss sighed and placed a hand on Pariel’s shoulder, causing her to finally stop kicking him.
“Don’t hurt his face. It will be a bother if there are scars.” (Edelweiss)
“Ah…S-Sorry, Lady Edelweiss…” (Pariel)
Obviously unable to watch the two women any longer, Kaien began to speak,
“Rather than that, let’s leave the castle quickly. I don’t know what kind of objective the prince had, but…” (Kaien)
“That’s the issue. I still haven’t accomplished my objective.” (Mahiro)
Edelweiss holds Pariel back with an iron grip on her shoulder.
“Your Highness. You should at least tell us what this objective of yours is. We will not withdraw willingly.” (Edelweiss)
After pondering for a moment, Mahiro apparently gave up and said,
“…What, didn’t you say it yourself during the war council? If we are somehow able to bring them to the negotiation table…” (Mahiro)
“What foolishness are you speaking!” (Kaien)
“Isn’t this a suicide mission!? I distinctly remember also saying that our side doesn’t have a usable card to play! All the more in this situation…” (Kaien)
“No, Kaien. It’s the other way around. It’s exactly because it’s this kind of situation, that we have a playable card.” (Mahiro)
Unable to wrap his head around the concept, the prime minister groaned,
“What did you say…?” (Kaien)
“However, there’s something I need to prepare for that. Well, thanks to the crude acting of some half-assed flat-chest, I’m wasting time here.” (Mahiro)
*Thump*!! *thump*!! *thump*!! *thump*!!
“Oomph, bwak…! F-…For the time being it can’t be helped now that it has turned out like this. Please stay here and buy some time for me. However, just a little is enough. Don’t die. If that’s impossible, just escape by yourselves.” (Mahiro)
His voice has the same tone as when we were inside the hidden passage. It conveys just how heavy the burden of the kingdom is, because him being royalty.
“But, prince, you’re…!” (Pariel)
“It’s alright, Pariel. Edelweiss, since it’s unimaginable for this child to listen, I leave her to you in the worst case scenario.” (Mahiro)
“As you wish.” (Edelweiss)
Mahiro nodded and – just like as he appeared – disappeared into a hidden passage that had been laid out below the plain floor of the castle.
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