|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3303 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1579 words|
After parting ways with my friends, I kept sighing as I walked alone towards the castle. It was not because I was scared of the enemy, or that I felt lonely. Simply thinking about what I had to do after this made me feel depressed.
I was fully aware that I was not good at dealing with other people. I did try to reply whenever someone spoke to me, but I never knew how to start a conversation, or keep one going, so most of the people who tried talking to me would eventually get tired of my silence, and just go away with awkward smiles.
Growing up as royalty, as a princess nonetheless, there’s a large gap between how I act and what they expect from a regular person, making them think I judge or accuse them, even though I never intend to do so.
“Always mind your smile, Princess. Otherwise you’ll make any suitors run away.”
Sepia had taken care of me since I was small, and sometimes she would remind me to keep smiling. At first I tried to do so, acting the way everyone expected a princess to behave. But then one day I overheard some of the maids talking about me, and I stopped trying after that day.
“Princess Luvias’ smile is so scary.”
I was shocked in a considerable measure hearing that, and I started practicing swordsmanship to shake off those negative feelings. Eventually that led me to my current position. But now my role was to act like a country girl, and extract information from the soldiers and knights in the castle. Just thinking of it made me depressed.
(I agreed to Master’s plan without thinking it through, maybe I shouldn’t have been so hasty.)
I was walking slower than usual, but I still got closer to the castle, and I reached it while I was still lost in my mind.
The castle’s main gate faced the main street, but there were large and sturdy iron bars sealing it now. The gate was usually open wide, inviting anyone to enter if they needed something, but now it was like they feared some sort of attack, closing off the entrance. Grom’s castle was more like a large mansion anyway, so it had no moat.
It only had a tall and thick wall around it.
(They even increased the number of lookouts..?)
I saw there were more than twice the regular number of guards all around the castle. But when I observed their movements more carefully, I noticed a common pattern. They all seemed to have no desire to fulfill their duty. All of the city’s guards worked under Grom, and they all served him happily, but now they seemed lazy and unwilling. I could easily guess they were like that because Grom was being held hostage in his own castle.
(Getting inside the castle is going to be tricky like this. I guess it’ll be faster if I try speaking to the guards outside.)
I formulated my new plan, and quickly put it to action. I hid in the shadows nearby, and observed the faces of the guards patrolling from a distance. Once the guards I set my sights on got closer to me, I walked out and suddenly sat on the ground.
“Hm? Hey, girl, are you okay?”
As I had planned, two of the guards seemed curious seeing me sitting on the ground like that, and quickly approached me.
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“Are you okay? Is something wrong?”
“Ah, I don’t know…I got dizzy all of a sudden…”
As I said that, I slowly raised my face. When they saw me, the guards’ eyes widened with shock, but they managed to stop themselves from saying anything unwise.
“I’m not feeling too well. Could you take me somewhere I can rest?”
“I-I see. That doesn’t sound good. Let’s carry her to the station.”
Saying that, the two guards pick me up from the sides, and carry me to the guard’s station near the castle. From afar it looked like two guards helping a frail woman, but if someone got closer it was clear something else was happening. The two guards were sweating profusely, and both refused to say a word.
“It should be safe over here…”
There were many guard stations scattered throughout the city, and they took me to the closest one. They were usually employed by guards, soldiers, and citizens who wanted to report something, so it was not unusual to see a sick country girl resting in them either. Inside, they closed the door, and once no one could see us anymore, one of them, who looked older, spoke to me.
“That was quite the scare, Lady Luvias. I never imagined I’d see you in such a getup.”
“Apologies. I didn’t know how else to attract your attention.”
They tried to kneel, but I stopped them. They seemed hesitant to talk to royalty in a casual manner, but we never knew when someone else could enter the station, so I wanted to avoid any risks.
The only reason why I chose them was that I recognized their faces. I did not usually talk with the guards of the castle, but there were a few exceptions. Sometimes I would spar and train with some of them, and that was how I met these two.
“I’m sure you’ve largely guessed why I approached you in disguise, correct?”
“You’re worried about the governor?”
He nodded, his hunch proven correct. Mine was as well, the reason why they were acting so sluggish. Some nobles no one heard of had invaded the city out of the blue, and they had put the good governor under house arrest, even though for many years he had worked to better the city. No one would want to work after that, even more so when they branded me and the rest of the hero’s party as criminals.
“I’ll be straightforward. How is governor Grom? Could you tell how he and his family are doing?”
“We’ll obey all your wishes, Lady Luvias. I’ll tell you everything I know.”
The younger guard looked unsure, but the older one just smiled at him. I knew this was risky, no one knew what would happen if the enemy found out they helped me, but it was easy to assume they and their families would be in danger. They could not afford to worry about that though, someone was willing to be their ally now, and they needed any help they could get.
“The governor is safe. Though I heard his wife and daughter were put in prison.”
Put in prison? Even though they committed no crimes? Whether it was under Stied’s orders, or a whim of the nobles that invaded, doing that was still too extreme.
“Are they safe at least?”
“That is not my area so I haven’t seen them myself, but from what I heard they aren’t in the best shape. They are provided food and water, but they aren’t used to living in prison, so they’re quite exhausted, mentally and physically…”
I saw him bite his lip in annoyance as he said that. He was talking about the family of his boss, it was clear he cared for them.
“Is that why the governor isn’t fighting back? Because they took his family?”
“Yes. At first he wanted to send soldiers to free them, but the knights in black armor are ridiculously strong… We were no match against them.”
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I thought the soldiers of this city were stronger than most places, but it seems even they were not powerful enough. That meant rescuing them would need to be done quickly, and as stealthy as possible. I crossed my arms as I tried formulating a plan, when the soldiers suddenly knelt.
“I realize this is a selfish request, Lady Luvias! But please, help our governor and his family!”
“We would do it ourselves if we could, but we’re not strong enough! So please!”
That I was a wanted criminal aside, if I was still a helpless princess I would have no choice but to refuse their plea. But I was no mere princess, even if I was still short on power, I was a hero. The disciple of my Master who saved the world in the past. I would never allow myself to ignore them. I nodded at them, and somehow forced an awkward smile.
“I was planning on it even if you didn’t ask. From what I’ve seen so far, I can’t allow myself to continue hiding, for all of Bordaule. I have to stand my ground and face it all. I’ll start by rescuing Grom and his family.”
“T-thank you very much!”
“You have my gratitude! Lady Luvias!”
Now that I had said that, I could not go back on my word anymore. First, I had to undo the shackles tying Grom, his captured family. But if I showed myself on either side, the castle or the prison, it was likely someone on the other side would get killed. In other words, I had to act on both sides at the same time.
“I don’t think I can do it all alone though. I’ll need to ask my Master or Diaria for help, they’re somewhere else in the city.”
I promised I would help them, as they repeated their words of gratitude, and I went back into the city.