Zero no Tsukaima:Volume5 Story3 - MTL

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Preview symbol.gif This text is a machine translation (MTL).

Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.

This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
For details, see the machine translation guidelines
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Story 3: Tristania's Holiday[edit]

Chapter 1[edit]

The bell of Saint Rémy‘s temple rang eleven o‘clock.

Saito was running towards a central plaza of the De Chicton street.

As to why he was running... well, that's because he was late for a date. He elbowed his way through the mass of people, barely making it to the central plaza, and saw the one who was waiting for him pouting.

“H-hey."

Seeing Saito, Louise, who was sitting at the fountain, puffed out her cheeks.

“What‘s up with you?! You're late!”

“No... when I was about to leave I was caught by Scarron.”

“Just ignore him!”

“I can‘t, for the time being, he is my employer...”

Nagging, Louise urged Saito. Aah, I should have saved my head and not come to the date if she was going to be angry like this.

Louise was dressed for the occasion. She was embarrassed, because even though she looked gorgeous, her clothes were still not suitable for a noble… She was dressed in a recent trend, popular among town girls – black beret and black dress with a plunging neckline. The pendant that Saito gave her was hanging on her neck. In these clothes she really looked like a true town girl. As one would expect from a girl in her pubescence, it was hard for Louise to acquire a suitable dress in town.

Aah, when silent, she really looked pretty charming. With her arms folded and tilted chin… the young girl looked across the street intently. Her strawberry-blond hair shined vividly in the rays of the sun. Her big hazel eyes were an obvious sign that she was from another world. Aah, his lovely master looked very cute right now, furiously tapping her feet.

“Hey, lets go! Before the play starts.”

Louise said, still sounding little shy.

Saito nodded and started to walk. However, Louise remained standing in her place.

“What is it?”

“Muu! Escort me properly!”

“Escort?”

ZnT05-173.jpg

“Right. Hey!”

Louise pulled Saito's arm.

“Kuh?” He looked dumbfounded at their united arms.

Holding hands! It made Saito very awkward. Though she had used his hands as pillows to sleep on lately, he still wasn’t used to them walking while holding hands in the middle of town. Saito felt nervous. Then she stepped on his foot.

“W-what?!”

“During our Void day off you should lead me. Why won’t you say something? Uuuuh!”

Louise groaned.

“W-well, this is our Void day. H-how about going to the t-theater?”

Louise shook her head while sighing, and then pulled his arm dragging him after her.

“Muu! Useless escort! This way! Here!”

And so, walking in a way that still was not clear who was escorting whom, the pair went down the streets of Tristain, bathing in the sunlight of summer.



Well, as to why the couple went to see a play… 

Today was the day of Rag and the inn was closed. “I want to go to the play,” Louise had said early in the morning, when she was having her breakfast (though it actually was a dinner, because they went to sleep late yesterday) with Saito in the attic.

“Play?”

“That’s right.”

Louise muttered somewhat ashamed.

“You like things like plays?"

“I don't like them, but I want to see one.”

“See it?”

Louise nodded. When you think about it, she grew up in a different environment. Louise was strictly disciplined at home, so she probably never went to the town’s theater.

Thinking this way, Saito suddenly felt pity for Louise.

“All right, but why do you want to see a play now?”

“Jessica told me that today there is a very popular play on stage.”

Louise was a girl after all and fashionable things attracted her just like any other.

And…

Louise for some reason insisted that this be a date.

“It doesn’t feel right just going there. The mood is important! Therefore let’s meet each other!”

“Meet?”

“All right? Meet me in front of the fountain, in the central plaza.”

“Bothersome.”

“Not bothersome. Hence, lets go to Royal Tanaijiiru Theater.”

“Fuu~n.”

And so, they met.


 

Royal Tanaijiiru Theater was indeed majestic, a splendid theater of gorgeous stonework. The lined up columns made it look like a temple.

Gentlemen and ladies fashionably dressed up gathered up in the theater.

Saito followed them as well.

After buying a surprisingly cheap ticket from the box office, Saito headed towards the seat. A thick curtain was dropped over the stage, and it was gloomy around it… indeed, Saito was getting excited by the mysterious atmosphere.

Seats were marked by numbers and it was written on a ticket where one should sit, however agitated, Saito, without noticing, sat down in a different seat.

When he and Louise waited for the play to start, a good looking middle-aged noble with beautiful silver hair tapped his shoulder.

“Listen, pal.”

“Y-yes?”

“This is the seat I have had reserved for some time. Isn’t your seat different?”

This being said, the number of the seat was confirmed. It was as the man said. Hastily Saito, being urged by Louise, stood up.

“Muu! You have no shame!”

Louise complained shaking her head. Searching for the seat, Saito asked Louise.

“What was the play again?”

“…Tristania’s Holiday.”

“What’s the plot?”

“Princess of a certain country and the prince of a certain country come to Tristania secretly. The pair meet each other hiding their identities, however once they fall in love… they learn each other’s identities and separate. A sad story.”

Such a story shared a great popularity among the young girls. And indeed, the theater was crowded with young women.

After he found his seat, with much effort, the curtain rose. The play started. Music played and… it sounded beautiful in the theater.

“Amazing.”

Louise watched the stage with absorbed interest.

Saito, who was seeing a Halkeginia play for the first time, at first gazed at it attentively as well. However… he got tired soon.

The scenario wasn’t so bad – he thought. Yet, the actors were unskilled. Though Saito was not very interested in plays, he still saw various movies back on earth and saw some school plays as well.

Compared to that… these guys were ham actors. Occasionally the voice turned inside out and singing scenes were executed in a tone-deaf manner. Was this really a royal opera?

Yet Louise was still deeply moved by it, laughing ‘Ha!’ and sighing weakly. Waa, I should just enjoy the play like them, Saito thought.

However… the play still seemed to be no good. He looked around yawning, watching the visitors. There seemed to be some well known faces of society there. However, only young women were intensively gazing at the actors. Guess some things do not change even compared to Saito’s different world.

Saito became sleepy while watching.

Not being able to bear it anymore, he started to snore slightly.

Louise threw an angry look at the sleeping Saito.

Wh-what?! This fellow… even though it is such a special play! I invited him!

For Louise this was a date. This should have been her memorable first date. Therefore she was so picky about such details as meeting, yet this familiar didn’t notice that.

More so, he didn't escort me!

Did not know where the theater was!

I had to buy the tickets!

Furthermore, he shamefully mixed the seats!

Moreover, he fell asleep!

Though she chose him to be her long-awaited first date companion, this familiar was reluctant to be his master's date! Reluctantly he chose to do so! Un-for-gi-va-ble! Louise restrained her feelings that she wanted to shout out and stared at Saito, who had started a journey to dream land.

But… the play was long… and Louise has gotten tired in the course of time too. Then sleepiness took over her and she slowly closed her eyelids.

It was not possible to endure after all and… she leant her head against Saito's shoulder… she started to watch another play in dream land… Louise began to row a boat.



There was another visitor who wasn’t looking at the play as well. It was the same middle-aged noble whose seat Saito took by mistake. He was sitting next to a merchant and was having a secret talk with him.

This talk's content… were the things they heard from Tristain generals. The extremely secret Tristain’s military was the object of the gossip.

“F-fleet’s construction?”

The merchant asked.

“It will take half a year at least.”

The noble answered.

There were more whispers throughout the talk… In exchange for such secret information regarding Royal matters, the merchant passed a small bag to the noble. The noble peeked inside and saw it was tightly packed with golden coins.

The merchant whispered,

“However… why contact each other in the theater?”

“What? To have a secret talk among the crowd of people. It is natural to tell a whispering story here. Therefore – a theater. If you would do that in a small room, one would get suspicious that you are plotting something not good.”

“Haha. I am sure that His Highness the Emperor will be greatly interested in lord’s information. He might even give you a medal if you would come above the clouds.”

“This Albion’s person has a cold heart.”

“What, this whole land will be called by this name, sooner or later. Thank you for your cooperation."

After saying this, the merchant tried to stand up. The nobleman stopped him.

“What more?”

“Why don’t you act slowly? Wait till the last minute of the play.”


* * *


The stony floor of Tristain’s Royal palace echoed the sound of boots as a lone young female knight walked. She had shortly-cut blond hair and clear blue eyes. A protective chain hemp garment with sheet metal parts was wrapped around her body, in addition to a robe with a lily coat of arms painted on it.

Yet there was no wand at her lower waist… instead a long, thin sword.

Coming and going, noble's mage bodyguards halted and stared at her surprised, as it was unusual to see a fencer in the royal palace.

Mages saw a sword at her waist and the chain-mail that she wore, and started whispering among themselves.

“Fuun! Commoner woman!”

“She must have some grand permission to walk in palace dressed up like that… oh dear, different times!”

“Moreover, this woman is a Protestant! Giving a Chevalier's title to such a harmful insect… I feel ashamed for our young majesty!”

Despite the impudent glances and rude comments about her, the young woman kept on walking straight, without sparing a single look at them.

At the end of the passage… she headed towards Henrietta’s office. She was stopped at the door by a magical guard member with a royal crest on his chest, not allowing her to visit her majesty.

“Her Majesty is in the middle of a conference right now. Come again later.”

The mage guard declared coldly, not even trying to hide his contempt for the female knight.

“Please tell her that Agnes came. I have permission to visit Her Majesty anytime.”

The guard scowled then opened the door and disappeared into the office. After that, he came back, granting Agnes permission to enter the room.

As Agnes entered the office, Henrietta was in the middle of conference with Richmon from the High Court of Justice.

What is the High Court of Justice? That’s the organization that rules the administration of justice in the kingdom. Whenever the privileged class disagreed… judgement is brought in. They inspected literature works, operas or plays in theaters, or supervised commoner’s markets and frequently took care of conflicts within the monarchic government prefecture administration.

Henrietta who noticed Agnes, smiled with the edge of her lips, and told Richmon to break off the conference.

“But Your Highness… Raising taxes any further will make resentment among the commoners grow. This will cause disorder. Other countries may use it against us.”

“It’s an emergency. Despite our citizen's poverty…”

“Construction of 50 warships! 20,000 mercenaries! Equipping 15,000 lords army-men! Food to feed officers and men and our allied forces! Where can you get so much money? Building of a scout army and so on, just give it up, please.”

“The overthrow of Albion is now a national priority of Tristain.”

“But Your Majesty, though former Kings of Halkeginia with united forces attacked Albion on countless occasions… they were always defeated. Going into a campaign across the sky has more difficulties than one can imagine.”

Richmon declared, adding a hoity-toity gesture.

“I know. However I also know that the finances minister reported that ‘The procurement of these war expenditures is not impossible.’ Are you dissatisfied that you won’t be able to enjoy your former luxuries? As a matter of fact, I wonder how much you've saved since you started working?”

Henrietta said sarcastically, looking at the gorgeous clothes that Richmon was wearing.

“I myself prohibited imperial guard knights to wear the chain of silver that decorated the cane to show an example to others. There are no nobles, commoners nor royal family members. We are united now, Richmon.”

Henrietta watched Richmon. He bowed his head.

“You got me with this. I know, Your Majesty. However, the council of the High Court of Justice consists of many people and it is not possible that they would agree with this campaign. I would like you to acknowledge it as a reality.”

“We will reach consensus, with the cardinal’s and my own work. I have confidence that we will be able to persuade the council.”

Richmon watched Henrietta, who declared this with dazzling eyes.

“…Something wrong?”

“No… I just admired.”

“Admired?”

“That’s right. This Richmon, served ten years for Philip the Great, thirty years ago. By the time you were born, I knew more about Your Majesty than Your Majesty yourself.”

“Oh, well.”

“Though you might not remember, the King and Queen were really happy about Your Majesty’s birth! Though it was scary to lift your tiny body in one’s arms, I was still honored to rock and bathe Your Majesty once or twice.”

“My mother said you served well.”

Henrietta said smiling.

“You are too kind. Just a while ago I was giving rude comments not thinking about the mother country.”

“You are a real patriot, I know that very well.”

“Anyway, I’ll say no more. Though Your Highness was such a crybaby before, she became a splendid woman now. There’s nothing for me to regret.”

“I am still… a crybaby. Please lend your power for the mother country, Richmon.”

Richmon bowed, asking for permission to leave the room. Henrietta nodded.

Agnes, who stood next to the door, watched Richmon leave.

Finally Agnes turned to Henrietta, who sat in her chair, and kneeled down, bowing her head.

“Agnes Chevalier de Milan, welcome.”

Looking up, Henrietta urged.

“Did you finish the investigation?”

“Yes.”

Agnes took a letter out of her cleavage and handed it to Henrietta. The Queen took it and looked inside.

This was… Henrietta ordered to this female knight to investigate that ominous night's events. The night where an abductor from Albion… a revived Wales, snuck into the royal palace following someone’s written plan.

“So the guide wasn’t guided alone… as I take.”

“Exactly, he had help getting inside, the bolt was pulled up, and he could go unnoticed into the royal palace as he was alone.”

“To hide, once the group that tried to entice me entered.”

Henrietta said with painful look in her eyes.

“Yes. In only five minutes, Your Majesty.

“Once found out, he insisted that it was a coincidence. However, he could not explain from where he had obtained the money…”

The man whose name was written there, was the one that she gave a position to herself, and assumed him to be faithful, but was bribed by the sum of…

“70,000 écu… This amount of gold is higher than the total amount of his pension.”

“It is as you say.”

Kneeling down, Agnes agreed.

“Though we were able to capture the informant who worked for the money… The number of people going over to Albion’s side has increased recently.”

“That employee…”

“I could not contact him yesterday. Perhaps, he sensed that he was found out.”

Henrietta sighed.

“Snake on one’s chest.”

“Reconquista’s nobles reach and hear beyond the national borders.”

“Might of money. A man with dreams turned into a man with lust for gold. For the money… he tried to sell me and the country.”

Agnes kept silent. Henrietta gently put her hand on her shoulder.

“You did well. Thank you.”

Agnes looked at the crest on her surcoat. Crest… lily, the sign of the Royal family.

“I dedicate myself to Your Majesty. Your Majesty gave me a family name and a position.”

“I cannot trust people that use magic anymore. Except for a few old friends…”

Henrietta said in a sad voice.

“In Tarbes, nobles are similar to military. Therefore, this is what makes you a real noble.”

“You are too kind.”

Henrietta shook her head gently.

“You… had it tough in royal court, Agnes.”

“I was born the way I was born. And no sneers matter.”

“Though you are not noble by birth, you are a noble by soul. Foolish people.”

Agnes muttered a question,

“And what will you do about that man’s case?”

“Not enough evidence. It is hard to prove a crime.”

“Then…” Agnes continued in low voice.

“I am just newly established Queen… I will leave everything to the ‘Musketeer Corps’.”

After commander Wardes' betrayal, War of Tarbes, and the recent annihilation of the Griffon Corps, the magic guard that ought to protect the royalty had crumbled. The Griffon Corps were under the command of the Manticore troops now, thus only one unit was still on duty.

To supplement the lack of guards, Henrietta established the ‘Musketeer Corps,’ led by Agnes. As suggested by its name, the new force used musket and sword, instead of magic. Because of mage shortages, the only members were commoners… For the sake of the personal safety of Henrietta, a woman, the guard consisted only of other women.

Because it interferes with negotiations with other corps when the commander is not an aristocrat, Agnes was awarded a noble title by exception. She became a ‘Chevalier’ and a fictional family name was granted.

Henrietta’s exception made the national military power increase due to the numbers of joining commoners. Although nobles were naturally repulsed by this idea, Henrietta suppressed it. Though it looked like the way they allied Germania, it was actually different. Henrietta, thanks to the kidnapping that deeply damaged her confidence… was unable to trust mages anymore.

“We are the way the royal court says – born without fineness. After all, it is impossible to become a noble.”

Henrietta shook her head.

“Who said that you are not a noble? You are a commander of the corps of the imperial guard knights that I myself admitted. The commander of imperial guards is different, as your position can only be rivaled to that of a field marshal.”

Agnes deeply bowed.

“Have pride. Walk tall. ‘I am an aristocrat’ – tell that to yourself in front of the mirror. If you do so, you will gain the fineness eventually.”

“As you say.”

“You just follow our former plan and watch over the man’s actions. If we are correct, the criminals will surely expose themselves tomorrow.”

“We won’t let them go free?”

“Surely. I won’t forgive anyone who is related to that night’s incident… Countries… People… Anyone. Yes.“

Then Agnes deeply bowed and left the room.

She was eternally grateful to Henrietta. Not because of the position or family name... No, because she was given a chance for revenge.

Chapter 2[edit]

Saito was lying on the floor. Towering above him stood a roughly breathing Louise. It was the kitchen of the 'Charming Fairies' Inn. The inn just opened, but it was already noisy inside. Louise, with her arms crossed, looked down at Saito.

“Tell me, big brother.”

Louise still called him big brother. In here, Saito pretended to be Louise’s elder brother. No one believed it as everyone in the inn already knew that Louise was a noble, yet she continued calling him ‘Big Brother’ anyway. She had a really stubborn character.

“What, little sister?”

Saito asked in a voice feeble and strained from Louise’s harsh beating.

“What were you doing before I called you?”

“Cleaning dishes.”

“Don’t lie. You were looking away.”

“A little.”

“Not a little.”

Louise pointed inside of the inn.

“You were ogling that girl’s thighs, this girl’s breasts and that girl’s bottom…”

Then, Louise angrily pointed at Jessica.

“You were watching the valley of Jessica’s breasts too.”

“A little.”

“Hey, big brother...”

Louise stomped on Saito’s face with her feet.

“Yes?”

“Isn’t it bad for you not to look at me? Isn’t your master gathering information from drunkards? If your cute master is endangered, you ought to protect her, right?”

“I'm sorry.”

“Sorry is not enough. You looked at me only twice; I counted. You looked at this girl and at that girl four times. You looked at Jessica’s cleavage twelve times. You looked away, ignoring your Master. I c-c-c-cannot p-p-permit that!”

“Hey, I wasn’t looking!”

Pardon me. I’m seeing Louise every day. Her sleeping face too. It is love. Aah, master is cute. However, I want you to permit me to look at other girls. It is a man's nature. You cannot fight it even if looking away. Therefore, it is not necessary to get angry so much… Saito misunderstood her anger.

But, he would never say such an excuse aloud. By now, Saito had learned how to deal with Louise.

“What if the moment when you look away, I am attacked by a strange man? Do you understand? Are you willing to put me in such danger?"

“No… Wouldn’t that be alright? Ugh!”

“Why?”

“Master is not that appealing really. A tiny body has tiny popularity.”

Saito said what he was thinking. Louise spread her hands, sighed with a ‘Fuuh,’ and started warming-up for another physical exercise.

“Really? I see. The dog can only be taught physically. Nnshotto.”

She went back to her vigorous exercise.

While Louise was warming-up, Saito quietly slipped towards the back door. He had enough punishment a little while ago. Ten minutes. He needed to run away and get some rest.

Saito gripped Derflinger, who was rolled up in a cloth. Due to a recent incident, he was always carrying Derflinger with him. Reluctantly, he decided to carry it around, even though he knew how obstructive it could be.

The moment he opened the back door and stepped out into the alley, he saw a hooded woman running in short steps in his direction.

Don! The woman knocked up against Saito, who just opened the door and fell on the ground. This made Saito flurried.

“S-sorry...Are you all right?”

The woman hid her face with her hood and said in panic,

“…That, is there a 'Charming Fairies' inn somewhere around here?”

ZnT05-193.jpg

“Eh? That’s here…”

Muttering, Saito noticed that woman’s voice sounded familiar. At the same time the woman became aware of the same thing as well. Quietly, she lifted an edge of her hood and stole a quick glance at Saito's face.

“Princess!”

“Shh!” she said, covering his mouth. Henrietta, wrapped in the lobes of gray hood, hid herself behind Saito, to avoid being seen from the Main Street.

“Search there!”

“Maybe she headed to Bourdonne Street!”

From the Main Street the rough voices of soldiers could be heard. Henrietta put the hood back on again.

“…Is there a place where I could hide?”

Henrietta looked so tiny.

“There is an attic here where we live…”

“Please guide me there.”



Saito quietly brought Henrietta to the attic. She sat down on the bed and breathed out deeply. 

“…Safe for now.”

“It is not safe. What was that about?”

“I just sneaked away for a minute… and such uproar happened.”

“Huh? Weren’t you kidnapped the other day? No wonder it turned into a fuss!”

Henrietta became silent.

“Princess, aren’t you a ruler now? And you still act so selfishly?”

“That not it. It’s because I have important business… And I heard from reports that Louise is here… I’m glad I could meet you at once.”

“A-anyway, I’ll call Louise.”

Louise after noticing that Henrietta disappeared would surely go ballistic, but this might help to ease her mind a bit. Louise’s behavior was easy to predict. Like always.

“Don’t.”

Henrietta stopped Saito.

“W-why?”

“..I do not want to speak with Louise.”

“What?”

“I do not want to disappoint that girl.”

Saito sat on the chair and stared at Henrietta.

“Then, what else? Sneaking out of the castle without permission is not a good thing to do.”

Then Saito realized.

“But, if you didn’t come here to meet Louise, then what did you come here for?”

“I came to borrow your power.”

“M-me?”

“If it’s all right, I want you to guard me till tomorrow.”

“W-why me? Aren’t you the Queen? You have many soldiers and mages to guard you...”

“For today and tomorrow, I want to blend in with commoners. And, naturally, I do not want anyone from the palace to know that. So…”

“What?”

“I trust only you.”

“That’s… don’t you have anyone else?”

“Yes. I know you are good, and I, myself, am almost lonely in the palace. Many people there do not like me as a young queen…”

And after a moment of hesitation she added,

“…and as a traitor.”

Saito recalled Wardes. Asking Louise, who was her best friend after all, to travel incognito – there might be something that cannot be spoken even to Louise.

“I see. Only because it is the Princess' request I will do it, but…”

After that Saito watched Henrietta’s face.

“It’s dangerous isn’t it?”

Henrietta veiled her eyes down.

“Yes.”

“Really? Then Princess, do not tell that to Louise about going through danger. Please promise me.”

“All right.”

She nodded.

“Then it is good, but…”

“Then, let's leave. I cannot stay around here forever.”

“Where are we going?”

“We won’t be leaving town. Please calm down. For the time being, I want to change clothes…”

Henrietta looked at the dress under her robe. It was a white, clean and elegant dress, hiding behind the robe would be too noticeable. Even a noble couldn’t complain about this attire.

“These are Louise’s clothes but… She bought them to make her look as a commoner.”

“Please, lend them to me.”

Saito pulled the box from under the bed and took out Louise's clothes. Then Henrietta turned her back to Saito, not worrying about him looking! Saito started to panic once she took off her dress. He accidentally caught a glimpse of Henrietta’s chest from behind. Though it was not as big as Kirche’s, it was still bigger than Siesta’s. After all, she was a queen, so her breasts must be Queen-like as well. But then he realized.

Can she wear Louise’s shirt?

It was just like he thought.

“The shirt… is rather tight.”

Not ‘rather’. The shirt was bought following Louise’s size, and it could not match Henrietta’s breasts. The more she strained, the more buttons flew off.

“Mhm. Very.”

Saito said while holding his nose.

“Mh, good?”

Good! Nothing else one could expect from the queen. Henrietta should not worry about that. “I hope it won’t be too flashy if I do this,” she muttered as she unfastened her top two buttons.

It only emphasized the valley of her breasts - this was as if there were no shirt at all to begin with. Though it might be embarrassing, walking next to a man in such attire. This also made one forget that she was queen and made her look more like a woman.

“Let’s go.” Henrietta urged Saito.

“We cannot go yet.”

“Eh? Really?”

“You should at least change your hairstyle.”

“Then, change it.”

Henrietta is similar to Louise after all, what an inexperienced princess, Saito thought while fiddling with Henrietta's hair. Even changing clothes could not mask that…

He lifted her hair up into a ponytail, the way that he occasionally did for Louise too.

This changed the atmosphere a lot. Then, Saito put some light make-up on Henrietta, using Louise’s cosmetics.

Wouldn’t they need make-up in the inn? Because she said so, Saito bought it… But since Louise did not use it, there was plenty of it left.

“Fufu, this way you look like a town woman.”

With a light make-up and in the front open shirt… She certainly looked like a cheerful town woman.

Because she came forth to the attic, it seemed like they would not inform Louise about anything. Saito felt uneasy for a moment. He guessed he’d have to talk with her later. It couldn’t be helped, as it was the Queen’s wish.

Saito and Henrietta quietly sneaked through the back door to the alley.

The alerted state about the Queen’s disappearance seemed to have increased… The exit to Chicton was heavily guarded again.

“They placed a cordon.”

Saito reported things that seemed like a police drama in his world. Somehow understanding the meaning, Henrietta nodded.

“What now? Would it be all right not having your face covered?"

“Hiding it would be even more suspicious. Drop your hand over my shoulder.”

Saito held Henrietta’s shoulder as he was told. They approached the place where the guards stood. The tension rose and thier pulse quickened. Henrietta muttered in a hard tone,

“Pretend to lean into me. Like a lover.”

Eh? Giving him no time to think, Henrietta clasped Saito’s hand that he was holding her shoulder with, and led it to the crevice of her open shirt. Feeling Henrietta’s soft and smooth hills of flesh along his finger, Saito panicked.

“Don’t squirm.”

Henrietta drew her mouth next to Saito’s ear and muttered tenderly, with a fake smile on her lips.

Saito passed through the guards doubly nervous.

Though the guard accidentally saw the couple… he had only seen the Queen's face from a distance. Besides even in his wildest dreams he could not imagine the Queen walking with a commoner, allowing his hand to touch her skin in such a way. He turned his eyes away at once and called another woman to stop.

Henrietta, walking out to the Main Street, laughed.

“Princess?”

“No… I'm sorry. Because it was such a funny moment. However, a pleasant one.”

“…Eh?”

“I put on rough clothes, changed my hairstyle… put on only a light make-up and no one could recognize me. “

Certainly… Henrietta seemed to merge with the scenery of this night. Saito felt that she was a different woman.

“However, we were seen by a person who barely knows your face, Princess.”

“Shh!”

“Eh? Eeeh?”

“Don’t call me princess in public. Call me ‘Ann’ in short.”

“Ann, then.”

“Yes.”

Then, Henrietta inclined her head to the side in doubt.

“Tell me your name.”

Being unknown to the Princess, Saito answered sadly.

“Saito.”

“Saito, unusual name.”

At that moment, Henrietta muttered leaning to Saito in a town woman’s way.

“Y-yeah, Ann, it’s unusual.”

“Be more rough.”

“Understood, Ann.”

Smiling, Henrietta entwined her arm around Saito’s.



Because night came slowly, the couple went to a hotel for the time being. It was a plain, cheap lodging house. They were led to a worn-out room on the second floor that made even the attic at “Charming Fairies” inn look heavenly.

The futon of the bed was strangely damp, it was unclear for how many days it had been left to dry, and a small mushroom was growing in the corner of the room. The lamp, even after wiping off the soot, was still really black.

“Well, for so much money, it's not that great a room.”

But Henrietta said while sitting on the bed.

“No, the room is fantastic.”

“Is that so…”

“Yes. Here at least you do not have to worry… about venomous snakes sleeping on your chest.”

“And no weird bugs either.”

“Right.”

Henrietta smiled.

Saito sat on the chair standing in the room. The chair, as if protesting, made a strange, creaky sound. For some reason, he wanted to keep the distance between him and his honorable partner as far as possible. Finding it difficult to keep talking, Saito asked.

“Is it really such a nice room?”

“Yes. It is exciting. Because it has the taste of the imprudent, ordinary life of citizens…”

She emphasized that with a cute gesture. Henrietta acting like that, created a slight feeling of intimacy.

Because the room was pitch dark, they decided to light up the sooted lamp. He could not find any matches, though he looked around carefully.

“They don’t have matches here… I’ll go down and bring them.”

Henrietta shook her head and took out a crystal wand from her bag. She swung it and ‘Posh!’ the lamp's wick lit up.

Henrietta sat gazing at the lamplight, holding her chin with her hand.

Saito, feeling dazzled somehow, turned his eyes away.

Seeing Henrietta relaxed like that… though she still had that sense of intimacy around her, she was still a princess. No, she was a queen now… a very young queen still. The word princess suited her more. Unrivaled grace and dignity. Though it was a similar feeling with Louise… but Louise could be so childish when unhappy, while Henrietta was still calm and composed. She had an aura of a grown up adult around her. Even through the gaps of her shirt one could smell her womanly charm.

This was an indescribable charm of mixed noble pride and danger.

“What now?”

She asked Saito in an innocent voice. Such a princess was really beautiful, thought Saito while mumbling something.

“Is Louise all right?”

Henrietta asked Saito from the other side of the lamp. Mysteriously, Henrietta’s presence made this worn-out place look like a royal palace bedroom. Henrietta had the power to change the surrounding air that way. Even at night time it felt like it was a bright day.

“Yeah. Well, she, that, she said she would accomplish her job for the Princess…”

As for Louise, she always scolded Saito for failing to gather information.

“She is all right from that aspect.”

“Eh?”

“That child has sent me a precise report through the carrier owl every day.”

“Is that so?”

If you think about it, she probably wrote those while Saito was sleeping. What a serious fellow.

"Yes… She exactly informed me every day about every rumor… Every single one. Without a single complaint. She certainly blended with commoners, not worrying when it will end. Because that child is highborn… Thus, I worry if her health is all right.”

“She is all right. She does everything energetically.”

Saito nodded.

“I'm so glad.”

“But, is the information that Louise gathers really useful?”

“Yes. It is useful.”

Henrietta smiled.

“I myself want to hear citizens' real intentions. I want to hear the true opinion about the politics I do. If they inform me directly, they change some things. They would not be comfortable with telling me… as they are with others. I want to know the truth. Even the things I don’t like.”

A sad smile appeared on Henrietta’s face.

“Princess?’

“No… It’s just that knowing the truth is sometimes difficult. Though I am called a ‘Holy Woman’, there are harsher names I heard. I am looked down as a greenhorn trying to attack Albion, abusing her power to organize an invasion army, and I am suspected of being Germania’s puppet… Really, not queen-like...’

“Seriously?”

“Is your world also the same?”

“Eh?”

Saito looked blankly.

“Excuse my impoliteness. I asked the Magic Academy Director Osman. I was surprised to learn that you came from a different world. I could hardly ever imagine that such world existed. So in your world, at war… is the government spoken ill about?”

Saito remembered. Newspapers were flooded with everyday news about the corruption of the politicians at war…

“There is not much difference.”

“It is the same there as well.”

Henrietta muttered, relieved.

“Wars… do you have them?”

“Our country is in the middle of one.”

“No… I mean, besides attacking that flying continent?”

“Why would you say so?”

“A little while ago, you said an invasion army. Did similar invasions happen here, too?”

“Oh well. In that case, this war is endless…These are the things that should be left unsaid. It’s not a thing to talk with you about. Please forget it.”

Still, hearing Saito being silent, Henrietta looked up.

“Do you hate war?”

“I guess I do not love it.”

“But, you saved the kingdom at Tarbes.”

“I did so to defend an important person.”

“Then, that night…”

Henrietta turned her face away and muttered hesitatingly. Then Saito… recalled that ominous night.

The night that Wales, who was thought to be dead, revived and tried to kidnap Henrietta. He remembered seeing his corpse. But he couldn’t recall much.

“I am sorry.”

Henrietta said in a tiny voice.

And then…

It started raining. As small raindrops beat against the window. They could hear people in the streets shouting “Che! Rain!,” “Out of nowhere!”.

Henrietta started to tremble.

“Princess?”

Henrietta muttered in a tiny voice. In a voice that seemed to vanish.

“…can you do something for me?”

“W-what?”

“Hold my shoulders tightly.”

The wand fell from the trembling hand of Henrietta and made a dry sound hitting the floor.

“What's wrong?”

“I’m afraid of rain.”

After those words… Saito remembered that on that night it started to rain as well. Henrietta and the revived Wales used that rain to create… a huge tornado that tried to swallow Saito and the others.

ZnT05-209.jpg

Saito silently sat down next to Henrietta and held her shoulders. Henrietta kept on shaking.

“Princess…”

“Because of me… everyone died… I killed them. I don’t understand. I do not understand. Can I ever be forgiven?”

Saito thought for a while and said.

“No one can forgive that. Indeed…”

“That’s right. I… I have no forgiveness for what I did to you or other people… When I hear the rain, I can only think about such things.”

Henrietta closed her eyes and drew her cheek to Saito’s chest. Her hand firmly gripped Saito’s. At the sound of the rainfall, her shivering grew stronger. She was not a queen, not even a princess… she was just a lonely, weak girl now. A girl who fell in love with a prince from a foreign country. Maybe this person, was weaker than anyone. She cannot do a thing, without someone next to her. Yet she was forced to put on a crown. She was forced to grip the scepter that commands the war.

He thought unhappy thoughts.

Chapter 3[edit]

Louise was watching the falling rain and pouting. Where had Saito gone to in the middle of such rain? Louise finished warming-up a while ago and when she turned around to her familiar for some chastisement… Saito was gone.

Although she searched the inn inside out, he was nowhere to be found. At first she thought he had gone back to attic and hid himself there, but it was empty. However… her commoner clothes, that she had bought to blend in, had disappeared as well.

Feeling somewhat uneasy, Louise left the attic. When she returned back to the inn, Scarron and others looked worried.

“No good, rain… Customers will stop coming because of this rain.”

“However, it's quite noisy outside. Did something happen?”

Indeed, as said, one could hear outside the sound of rainfall mixing with the roar of palace guards. Louise opened the door and stepped outside. She approached a soldier with a sword and called him out.

“Hey, what happened?”

The soldier shot a short glance at Louise’s camisole and declared in annoyed voice.

“Eei! Shut up! It is not bar woman’s business! Return back to your inn!”

“Wait.”

Louise still called him to stop and took Henrietta's authorization papers out of her cleavage.

“Though I look like this, I am Her Majesty's court lady.”

Pop-eyed, the soldier looked at Louise, then at her authorization papers, and then back at Louise again, and stood upright.

“F-f-forgive my rudeness!”

“Just speak.”

The soldier in a tiny voice explained to Louise,

“…We finished inspecting Champ de Mars, but when we returned back to the royal palace, Her Majesty had disappeared.”

“Is it Reconquista again?”

“The criminal’s objective is unknown, but he was certainly skillful… Suddenly a mist came out of her carriage…”

“Were you on guarding duty at that time?”

“It was a newly organized corps.”

“I see. Thank you. Do you have a horse?”

The soldier shook his head.

“Useless!”

Louise began running towards the royal palace through the rain. At a time like this, where the heck has Saito gone to? She clicked her tongue angrily. Really, just when you need him the most he is not there!



Agnes pulled the horse that she was riding on to a stop in front of a certain large residence. It was the Richmon’s residence… here, during the day, she conferred with Henrietta.

It was the corner of an upscale residential area where often lords resided. Agnes looked at a huge and wide two-storied residence and crooked her lips. She knew painfully well that Richmon lived here for 20 years and used any possible method to build this luxurious mansion.

She knocked against the gate, loudly announcing her visit. The gate window opened and a page stuck out his head.

“Who’s there?”

“Please tell Richmon that Her Majesty’s Musketeer Agnes arrived.”

“At such hour?”

The page said in a suspicious voice.

Indeed, it was around midnight.

“Urgent message. I need to convey it by all means.”

Inclining his head, the page disappeared inside. After a while, he returned and removed the bolt of the gate.

Agnes gave the bridle to the page and headed towards the residence.

After a while, when she passed the living room, she finally saw Richmon sitting at the fireplace, dressed in his nightclothes.

“An urgent message, huh? It better be good to wake me up so abruptly.”

Richmon muttered, not trying to hide his lofty contempt towards Agnes.

“Her Majesty disappeared.”

Pikun! - Richmon’s eyebrows shot up.

“Kidnapped?”

“It’s under investigation.”

Richmon looked doubtful.

“Big incident indeed. However, is it similar to the other day’s kidnap case? Is Albion involved again?”

“It’s under investigation.”

“That’s not the way guardians should talk! Under investigation! Under investigation! Yet you cannot do a thing. You always bring trouble to the law academy. What units were on duty?”

“Us, musketeers.”

Richmon stared at Agnes unpleasantly.

“It just proves your incompetence as a newly established unit.”

Richmon declared in a voice loaded with sarcasm.

“To clear our name, we are doing the best we can at investigating.”

“That’s why I said! Swords and guns are children toys against magical wands! A whole unit of commoners cannot replace a single mage!”

Agnes watched Richmon quietly.

“Grant the permission of military acts… I would like to get the permission to block highways and ports.”

Richmon rejected the cane. He grabbed a pen that flew towards him through the air, wrote something on a parchment and handed it to Agnes.

“Do your best to find Her Majesty. If you are not able to find her, all members of the Musketeers will be hanged by the war tribunal. Think about it.”

Agnes turned to leave but halted in front of the door.

“What? Is there anything else?”

“Your Excellency…”

In a low, anger filled, stifled voice, Agnes began to squeeze out words.

“What?”

“There is hearsay about the incident you were involved in 20 years ago.”

Hauling the string of memory, Richmon closed his eyes. Twenty years ago… a revolt that shook up the country and he remembered the suppression.

“Aah, so?”

“Your Excellency was involved in the ‘Slaughter of D'Angleterre’.”

“Slaughter? Don’t call it so ill. Weren’t the commoners in distant provinces planning to overthrow the nation? That was a rightful duty of repression. Anyway, it’s mostly a legend.”

Agnes left.

Richmon watched the closed door for a while… Would he be given the pen and the parchment again, he might change his decision, as he felt that a vicious force had been unleashed just now.



Agnes, who left the residence, took the horse from the page. She took out of her saddle bag a black robe and put it over the chain hemp garment, placing the hood over her head. Then she took out two pistols and carefully reloaded them, watching that the gunpowder would not get wet from the rain. Then she checked the fire grate, percussion hammer and shut the gun barrel. It was a new, flint type gun.

Then she placed her sword in a sheath and straddled the horse, finishing up the battle preparations. But then… someone ran out through the rain. The girl could be seen coming from the Chicton Street, who, after noticing Agnes straddling the horse, ran up to the female knight. Because she was running through the rain she looked poorly. Her white camisole was dirty due to mud and barefooted as she had taken off her shoes since they were too uncomfortable to run with.

“Wait! Wait! Please wait!”

Wondering, Agnes turned around.

“Lend me your horse! Hurry!”

“I refuse.”

Saying that Agnes tried to turn her horse away but the girl blocked the way.

“Move aside.”

She said but the girl did not listen. She took out some parchment and pointed it in front of Agnes.

“I am Her Majesty's court lady! I have the authority to use police powers! Your horse is requisitioned in Her Majesty's name! Dismount it at once!”

“Her Majesty's court lady?”

Agnes looked doubtful. The girl looked like a woman from a bar. However, though she was all dirty from running in the rain, her noble features could still be recognized. Agnes hesitated for the moment.

Louise, finally losing her temper because Agnes didn’t dismount her horse, pulled out her wand. Mimicking Louise’s movements, Agnes pulled out her pistol at once.

Two people went still aiming wand and gun at each other.

Louise said in a trembling low voice.

“…Though I am still not well accustomed to my magic. Nontheless, it is still more powerful. Give up.”

Agnes replied, with her finger on pistol’s percussion hammer.

“…from such distance, a pistol will be more accurate.”

Silence settled over.

“Introduce yourself. You have a wand, thus you must be a noble.”

Agnes said.

“Court lady, directly accountable to Her Majesty, de La Vallière.”

La Vallière? That was a familiar name. In the conversations with Henrietta, she heard that name on countless occasions.

“Then, you…”

Agnes withdrew the gun. This trembling girl with her wand set up… is rumored to be Her Majesty’s best friend. This young girl with disheveled pink hair…

“You know me?”

Louise, with a blank expression on her face, put down her wand as well.

“I often heard about you. I am very honored to meet you at last. You can share a horse with me. Let me explain the circumstances for you. If you were shot, it would cause Her Majesty to hold a grudge.”

Agnes stretched forth her hands to Louise. Agnes easily pulled up Louise with a strength that was hard to imagine for such a delicate woman to posses.

“Who are you?”

Louise straddled behind Agnes.

“Her Majesty's musketeer. Commander Agnes.”

This made Louise, who heard about the ‘Musketeers’ from the soldier before, enrage.

“What on earth were you doing?! Were you sleeping while forgetting your guard?! Her Majesty was shamelessly kidnapped!”

“As I said, let me explain the situation. Anyway, Her Majesty is safe.”

“Whaat?!”

Agnes spurred on the horse and it started to run. With the rain falling hard the two people disappeared within the darkness of the night.



On the bed of the cheap lodging house, Henrietta was sitting with her eyes tightly shut and Saito’s arms around her, trembling. Saito couldn’t find words… so he just sat and held Henrietta’s shoulders.

When the rain finally changed into drizzle, Henrietta calmed down a little and forced a smile.

“I am sorry.”

“No…”

“I brought you to this useless place. Yet, I was helped by you again in the end.”

“Again?”

“It is so. On that night, I… I could not think straight, I was manipulated and tried to leave with Wales… You stopped me…”

“Yeah.”

“You said at that time. 'If you go I will cut you. I cannot permit you to lie to yourself even if you are madly in love', you said.”

“I s-said so.”

Embarrassed, Saito turned down his face.

“Still, the foolish me did not awake. I tried to kill you. However, you stopped the foolish tornado that I myself unleashed.”

Henrietta closed her eyes.

“By the way, at that time… I felt relieved.”

“Relieved?”

“That’s right. Even I noticed that it wasn’t the same Wales whom I loved. The truth was different. I... in the bottom of my heart, wanted for someone to say those words and stop the foolish me.”

Taking a deep, as if painful, breath, Henrietta continued to talk. In a withdrawn voice.

“Therefore, I ask you, Familiar-san. If I were to do something foolish again… if I were instigated again… Would you stop me with your sword?”

“Why?”

“At that time, I was ready to kill, not holding back. Even though I was asked by Louise, that gentle child, I could not stop. Therefore…”

Saito said in a surprised voice.

“I can’t do it! Really… you can’t be weak. You are the queen. Everyone obeys your will. Don’t talk like this, Princess. You would not be alive after all this if you were not brave. Was that all a lie?”

Henrietta looked down.

Then…

Don, don, don!

Someone battered against the door.

“Open up! Open the door! It is royal police! We are searching for run away criminals hiding in this inn! Open up now!”

Saito and Henrietta looked at each other.

“They do not seem to be searching for me.”

“…Let them go away. Stay silent.”

Henrietta nodded in agreement…

Meanwhile, the knob began to turn. However… it was not possible to open because of the lock. Clank-clank! The knob shook violently.

"Open up now! It’s an emergency! Or I will break it!”

Bam! One could hear the sounds of sword against the door knob, trying to open it.

“Not good.”

Henrietta, with determined face, unfastened the buttons of her shirt.

“Princess?”

His surprised voice was cut short as Henrietta captured Saito’s lips with her own. The kiss was sudden and intense. Locking her arms around Saito’s neck, Henrietta pushed him down to the bed. Seemingly undisturbed, Henrietta had her eyes closed and with a deep sigh, pushed her tongue into Saito’s mouth. It could take one’s consciousness away, so intense was the kiss.

Simultaneously with Henrietta pushing Saito down to the bed, the soldier, who was trying to break the door knob, kicked the door open.

What the pair of soldiers saw… was a young woman, lying on top of a man, intensely kissing his lips. The woman did not pay any attention to the soldiers and kept on going crazy. Sighs of affection were escaping from the opening of the pair of lips.   The soldiers watched the spectacle for a while… then one murmured to the other.

“…T-they seem to be just sheltering from the rain, and enjoying it a lot.”

“Damn, lets finish up checking the others.”

Thud! The door was closed and they disappeared down the stairs. Since the doorknob was broken, the door opened up, slightly squeaking.

Henrietta separated herself from his lips… but, even though the soldiers were already outside the hotel, she still kept on watching Saito with moist eyes.

Saito was completely surprised by Henrietta’s behavior at that moment. When the time comes, she could sacrifice her own body, like tonight, just to keep the secret. She was really strong.

With flushing cheeks, Henrietta kept quietly watching Saito.

“…Princess.”

Henrietta said in a strained voice.

“I already told you to call me Ann.”

“But…”

Not waiting for him to finish, she pressed her lips against his again. This time, it was a gentle… emotional kiss. In the dingy lamplight… he could see Henrietta’s white shoulders that he held just a while ago.

With Saito strongly confused, Henrietta’s lips started to trace the shape of his face.

“Do you have… a lover?”

In a hot voice Henrietta whispered into his ear. He felt like melting from that sound. Then, Louise’s face popped up in Saito’s head. Louise was not his lover. But…

“I don’t, however…”

Henrietta started to nibble Saito’s earlobe.

“Then, treat me as your lover.”

“W-what?!”

“It’s all right, only for tonight. I am not telling you to be my lover. But, please, hug me… and kiss me.”

That moment - time stopped… this way, a few minutes passed.

Moisture filled the room thanks to the rain. The mixed smell of futon and bodies drifted in the air.

Saito watched Henrietta's eyes. Even in such a dirty room… Henrietta’s beautiful face was dazzling. No, maybe it dazzled because of this dirty room.

He was almost inadvertently drowned in these charms. But… he could not go beyond Henrietta’s kiss… Louise would never forgive Saito. Not only would she never forgive him but also she would be saddened, because Louise respected Henrietta the most.

He could not do such a thing.

He could not pretend to be lovers and kiss with a person… that his important person held important. Henrietta was just lonely. There must be another way to comfort her.

Therefore, Saito lightly patted Henrietta's chestnut hair.

“I cannot become a prince.”

“I’m not asking to do such thing.”

“Remember? I am not a person from this world, I am from a different world. I can't… substitute someone.”

Henrietta closed her eyes and drew her cheek to Saito's chest.

After that… when the heat gradually vanished… Henrietta muttered, embarrassed.

“…You must think I am a shameless woman. Even though I am called a queen… I am still a woman. And at night I still miss someone’s warmth. "

For a while…, Henrietta didn't say a word and just laid there, pressing her cheek against Saito's chest. Inside a cheap lodging house, that might be the cheapest in town, the noblest woman of the country trembled like a child in his arms. Saito smiled wryly at this somewhat absurd situation.

And… felt uneasy.

“Princess.”

“What?”

“Please explain to me slowly. What on earth are we doing here? Secrets… everyone looking hard for you. And… you are trying so hard to hide yourself. It cannot be just one of those capricious things, right?”

“…Oh well. I guess I need to tell the full story.”

Henrietta voice regained her usual dignity.

“It’s a fox hunt.”

“Fox hunt?”

“Yes, you know that clever animal, the fox? Even with dogs at it, even with beaters, it is not easy to capture one’s tail. Therefore… I set a trap.”

“Trap?”

“Yes, and the bait is me. Come tomorrow… the fox will leave its nesting hole.”

Saito looked at her.

“And who is the fox?”

“Albion’s spy.”



Agnes and Louise were riding the horse down the alley leading to Richmon’s mansion. Though the rain eventually turned into drizzle… it was still cold. Agnes gave Louise her own mantle to wear.

“W-what are the circumstances?”

“Rat hunt.”

“Rat hunt?”

“Yeah, they not only damage a kingdom's granary… but also try to betray the master in the middle of the hunt.”

Uncomprehending, Louise stared at her

“Explain it in full detail.”

“There is no time to explain it any further now. Nha! We arrived.”

The gate of Richmon's residence opened and a young page appeared before Agnes’s horse. It was a 12 or 13 year old boy with red cheeks. Holding a torch, he looked around restlessly before starting to lead his horse again. The page started to gallop while holding a torch. Agnes smiled thinly and began to chase after the horse, following the light of the torch.

“…What’s going on?”

“It has started.”

Agnes answered briefly.

In the night air, the page continued galloping the horse at full speed. Seems he was told beforehand by his master to hurry. The boy was surveying his surroundings while desperately clinging to the horse's back.

Agnes, keeping a distance between them, followed him.

The page's horse passed the upscale residential area and stopped at a suspicious district. In the surroundings of the night, one could hear the Queen's search party drinking and having fun.

Omitting going through Chicton Street, the horse disappeared into a secluded alley.

When he disappeared at the entrance of the alley, Agnes descended from the horse and looked into the alley.

Leaving the horse at the stables, Agnes turned to the hotel once she made sure that the page entered there. Jumping off the horse, Louise asked while running after her.

“What, what is happening?”

Agnes did not answer any more.

She entered the hotel and elbowed her way through the mass of people at the bar in the front till she saw the page going up to the second floor. She followed.

From the staircase, Agnes confirmed the door through which the page had entered.

Two people had expected visitors for a while there.

Agnes whispered to Louise.

“Take off the mantle. Start leaning over me in a bar woman's way.”

Not understanding, Louise did as Agnes said and took off her mantle. Then she pretended to be a fizgig flirting with the knight. She saw such scenes often during the hustle at the bar and had them imprinted in her mind.

“Good.”

Agnes said to Louise without averting her glance from the second floor. Though her voice was still womanly, when keeping silent she left an impression of an honorable knight, probably because of her short hair. Louise’s cheeks started to blush inadvertently.

The page walked out of the room at once.

Then Agnes drew Louise to her. Ah, and snatched a kiss.

Though Louise tried to wriggle out in rage, Agnes suppressed her with strong power, and she could not move...

The page gave a short glance at Agnes and Louise kissing, and turned his eyes away at once.

A kiss between a knight and a bar woman. Just like in the painting that hangs on the wall of the residence, an ordinary spectacle.

Then the page went out through the exit, straddled a horse just like the time he came here, and disappeared into the town of the night.

Agnes finally let Louise free.

“W-what are you doing?!”

Louise shouted, blushing. If her partner were a man, she would have pulled out her wand and blown up this place already.

“Relax. I do not have such a hobby. This is duty.”

“Neither do I!”

Then Louise recalled the page who left.

“You won’t follow him?”

“It does not matter anymore. That boy doesn't know anything at all. His role was only carrying the letter.”

Agnes, not making a sound with her footsteps, silently approached the front of the door in the guest room that the page entered. Louise asked whispering.

“…You aren’t a mage, right? You can’t blow this door off.”

“…you still can break it with enough strength.”

“…it is surely locked. There is nothing you can do. With all that rattle he might run away.”

Louise pulled out the wand that was attached to her thigh, took a deep breath, and muttered the spell of 'Void', aiming the wand at the door. 'Explosion'… the door exploded and was blown off into the room. In no time, Agnes pulled out a sword and jumped inside.

A merchant was there, standing near the bed with a surprised expression on his face. He was holding a wand in one hand. A mage.

The man seemed to be a considerably good magic user, as he quickly pointed his wand at Agnes, who had jumped in, and muttered a spell. A mass of air blew Agnes away. When he uttered another spell and threw Agnes into the wall… Louise entered.

Louise's explosion hit him. The explosion hit straight in front of him, the man fell on the ground holding his face.

Agnes stood up and hit the wand out of the man’s hands with her sword. Louise picked up the wand that lay on the floor.

Agnes pointed at the man's throat with the tip of her sword. It was a middle aged man. Though he looked like a merchant, the light in his eyes was different. He probably was an aristocrat.

“Do not move!”

Still pointing her sword, Agnes pulled out handcuffs from her waist and locked the iron circles on the man’s wrists. Then put a gag of torn sheet in his mouth.

What is happening at this time of night? – Visitors of the hotel started gathering and looking into the room.

“Do not make any noise! Just arresting a sneaky thief! ”

The scared hotel people withdrew their faces.

A letter that page gave to the man must be somewhere inside, Agnes thought. With a smile on her lips she rummaged through the man’s desk drawers. She found lots of letters and documents and began to slowly read them one by one.

“Who is this man?”

“Albion’s rat. He pretended to be a merchant and lurked in Tristania, gathering information for Albion.”

“Then, this fellow… is an enemy spy. Isn’t it great?! We caught him!”

“It is not finished yet.”

“Why?”

“The parent rats still remain.”

Then Agnes found one sheet of paper, she gazed at it quietly. That was the rough sketch in the building. Notes written in some places.

“So that’s how it is… you damned ones must have planned to contact in the theater, right? This letter arrived some time ago, saying to meet at the same place as usual tomorrow. As it looks from this rough sketch, the place must be a theater, huh? I am sure of it.”

The man did not answer. He became silent and quietly looked the other way.

“Answer me… Noble’s pride.”

With a cold smile on her lips, Agnes pinned the man's foot to the floor with her sword. With the mouth gag still on, the man writhed in agony.

Agnes pulled out a pistol from her belt and pointed it at his face.

“I’ll count to two. Choose. Pride or life.”

The man’s brow started to sweat. Gachink… The sound of Agnes lifting the percussion hammer echoed in the room.

Chapter 4[edit]

Dawn was breaking, morning. Central plaza, Saint Rémy's temple of Confucius rang the bell. 11 o'clock.

A single carriage stopped in front of Royal Tanaijiiru Theater. Richmon stepped out from it. He looked up at the theatre proudly. The page who sat on the driver's box, tried to come down and follow him.

“It’s all right. Wait with the carriage.”

Richmon shook his head and entered into the theater. The ticket salesman bowed once he noticed the noble. Not buying a ticket, Richmon went forward. Because play inspection was one of his duties as a censorship director, this place was like his personal villa.

The theater visitors, who were only young women, had started to arrive six minutes ago. At first it was a popular show, but because of the horrible acting it received harsh reviews by the critics. It was likely they had lost business as a result.

Richmon sat down in his private seat and quietly waited for the curtain to rise.



Agnes and Louise had arrived at the front of the theater just a while ago. Louise could not understand why they had to stalk in the alley near the theater all this time. Only when a certain carriage showed up did Agnes let them leave their hideout.  

Louise was tired and spent. She hadn’t slept last night. Besides, Agnes did not explain a thing. She said it was a rat hunt, all right, but whenever she asked who the rat was… Agnes became silent and stopped talking.

Before Louise’s eyes, who was patiently waiting in front of a theater, dearly known figures passed.

It was Henrietta escorted by Saito, who had bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. Though Henrietta put on a robe and commoner clothes, those Louise had bought earlier, and wore her hair in a town-woman’s way... Louise was certain she was not mistaken.

Agnes spotted the two people earlier as she had sent a report with the mail owl and kept her eyes open for them coming.

“…Princess. Saito!”

What started as a small mutter turned into a loud yell as she ran up to the pair.

“Louise…”

Henrietta embraced her tiny body closely.

“I was so worried! Where had you disappeared to?”

“I borrowed gentle Familiar–san…and hid myself in town. Forgive me for not telling you. I did not want to drag you into this. So, when I was informed this morning by Agnes that you were acting together, I was surprised. Yet, you are my best friend, so I guess we were destined to run into each other sooner or later.”

Then, Agnes who stood silently nearby, knelt down.

“Everything is ready, waiting for your orders.”

“Thank you. You really did well.”

And the last spectators that arrived in front of the theater…

Were the Manticore Corps, Mage Guards.

Everyone watched surprised as their commander, who had a fantasy beast with a lion's head and snake's body on his coat of arms, approached in an angry manner.

“Hey! What’s the big idea, Agnes-dono?! I came here flying after receiving your letter, but Her Majesty is not here!”

Then, the commander of Manticore noticed Henrietta and ran up to her in panic.

“Your Majesty! We were worried! Where were you? We were searching for you all night!”

On the verge of tears, commander raised his voice.

What was with these magic guard units? Spectators started to gather, wondering. Because of such an uproar, Henrietta pulled down the hood of her robe again.

"I am sorry for causing anxiety. I will explain later. For now, Commander, just follow my orders.”

“What are they?”

“With the corps under your command, please encircle Royal Tanaijiiru Theater. Do not let even a single ant out.”

The commander, though he had a suspicious expression on his face, bowed at once.

“As you wish.”

“Then, I’ll go in.”

“I’ll follow.”

Louise shouted. However, Henrietta shook her head.

“No, you must wait here. This is something I should finish myself.”

“But-“

“It’s an order.”

Hearing such decisive words, Louise bowed with poor grace.

Henrietta, alone, disappeared into the theater. Agnes, having some other secret things to do, mounted her horse and rode off somewhere.

So… only two people, Saito and Louise, were left.

Louise pulled Saito’s sleeve, who watched Henrietta leave with a blush on his cheeks.

“Hey.”

“What?”

“What, what happened?”

“I was told this is a fox hunt.”

“I heard it was a rat hunt.”

“It’s the same, anyway.”

After that, they both stared blankly at each other.

“Somewhat, it is a duty…”

“Yeah.”

“Guess we both were just supporting role fillers.”

Saito nodded.

Louise noticed a certain smell and brought her nose close to Saito's body.

“Wh-what-”

With a dangerous expression on her face, *sniff sniff* Louise started sniffing Saito’s body smell with her nose. 

“H-hey, what the-“

“This smell… It’s the smell of the Princess' perfume!”

“Eh?”

Saito was startled.

“You… you didn’t do anything strange to the Princess right?"

Louse stared at Saito menacingly. Saito turned pale. Surely… he could not tell her about the kiss. He could not betray Henrietta. For the honor of the Princess, he must not tell this. Besides, even if he told, Louise would not believe him anyways.

“Idiot! I didn't do anything!”

“Really?”

Louise kept staring at Saito.

“It must have attached from the escort a while ago.”

Louise grabbed Saito’s ear and pulled him closer. Then she buried her nose in the scruff of his neck.

“Sniff, sniff. Sniff, sniff. Then why does it smell in such place? Why there is perfume on the scruff of your neck just from being an escort? Hmm? What kind of perfume is that?!”

“No, that… that must be from turning in bed while sleeping. Faces must have gotten close. Nothing else.”

“It’s all right. I’ll hear everything from your body!”

Louise, still holding Saito’s ear, dragged him into the side alley.

Saito’s scream echoed in the empty lane.



The curtains rose… the play started.  

Because the play was for women, the spectators were only young females. Surrounded by loud cheers, on the stage, gorgeously dressed actors started to play a story of sad love.

It was the play that Louise saw before… ‘Tristania's Holiday.’

Richmon puckered up his brows. But it wasn’t because of the actors laughter or posing, not because of impudent and jarring cheers of young women. It was because an expected visitor did not show up at a promised time.

In his head, various questions turned round and round.

Was the queen’s disappearance an Albion plot that I was not informed of? If so, what is the reason? If not, then maybe a third power exists inside Tristania that he was not aware of? Either way, it was troublesome - Richmon muttered to himself.

Then… a spectator sat next to him. Was it the expected visitor? He threw a side glance. That wasn’t him. It was a young woman with a hood on her head.

Richmon whispered.

“Excuse me. This seat is already taken. Please sit in another place.”

However, the woman did not try to stand up.

This young woman… With an angry expression Richmon turned to face her.

“Haven’t you heard me, Mademoiselle?”

“Spectators should watch the play, Richmon-dono.”

Richmon’s eyes popped out once he recognized the hooded face. It was a person he was sure had disappeared… Henrietta.

Henrietta, looking straight at the stage, asked Richmon.

“This is the play for women. Are they having fun watching it?"

Richmon settled down, regained his composure and leaned back into the seat.

“I am looking over such a trivial play only because of work. Anyways, Your Majesty, there is a rumor that you have hidden yourself…Is it for safety reasons?”

“Indeed. I am discreet with my contacts. It’s a good place to secretly meet with my mistress, right?"

Richmon laughed. Yet, Henrietta did not laugh. She squinted like a hunter.

“If one can get everything, it is useless to wait. I was standing in the ticket line. You went watching a play without buying a ticket, such an act is a violation of the law. I would like a royal palace judge to follow the law.”

“Ho! When did ticket sales became the royal family's jurisdiction?”

Henrietta sighed, breaking the string of the tension.

“Now, let's stop with this nonsense. The secret messenger of Albion, whom you came to contact today, was arrested last night. He talked about everything. Right now he is in Chernobog Prison.“

Henrietta drove Richmon into a corner.

However, as if knowing everything would turn out this way, Richmon didn't loose his composure. He smiled broadly in a fearless manner.

“Hoho! My relation is well hidden, you can’t beat this strategy of mine!”

“That’s right, royal palace judge.”

“I won’t dance on Your Majesty’s palms!”

“I really did not want it to turn out… this way.”

Richmon never showed a malice behind his smile. He never showed a bad attitude, Henrietta remembered in a sore displeasure.

“Because of my disappearance, you decided to come into contact with the secret messenger. ‘The Queen was enticed by hands, other than ours.’ For you this was nothing more than just an affair. You are calm and did not panic. A careful fox, that doesn’t show his tail…”

“Well, since when did you start suspecting?”

“I was not sure. Besides you, there were many suspects. However, the person who was to inform about my disappearance that night, must have been the criminal. And that person was you.”

Henrietta continued in a sad, tired voice.

“I did not want to believe. You were such… Royal Palace Judge, who should defend the authority and the fineness of the kingdom, assisted a plot of such treason. During my childhood you were always the one who cherished me… and now sold me to the enemy.”

“Your Majesty, for me you are still a girl who doesn't know a thing. Being ruled by Albion is still better than by an ignorant girl on the throne.”

“Was your love for me a lie? You looked like such a gentle person. Was it a lie too?”

“Affability for lord’s daughter does not descend to vassal. You can’t understand that. Because you are such a child, that’s why I did it.”

Henrietta shut her eyes. Whom should I believe? Why it is so hard to be betrayed by a person whom you trusted? No… I was not betrayed. This man cheated me only for the sake of his career. I cannot understand such a thing, maybe I am, as Richmon says, still a child.

But, I cannot be a child any longer.

I should gain… eyes that see the truth.

To see the truth despite the heart.

Henrietta said in a decisive tone.

“In the name of the Queen, you are stripped of the title, Royal Palace Judge. Surrender yourself quietly.”

Richmon didn't move at all. Moreover, he pointed to the stage and declared in a tone as if Henrietta was a little idiot.

“Do not say such an inelegant thing. Let the play continue. It just started. Leaving before the play is over is an impoliteness towards the actors.”

Henrietta shook her head.

“At this moment, outside, the Magic Guard has encircled the building. Now, show the nobles' bravery and hand me your cane.”

“Really… such an inexperienced lass… Whom do you think you are arresting?”

“What are you saying?”

“I am only saying that you are 100 years too early to set a trap on me, that’s all.”

"Pon" Richmon clapped.

Then, actors who had been performing the play up till now…, about six men and women, pulled out their wands hidden in their trousers or jackets, and aimed them at Henrietta.

Young women started causing an uproar.

"Silence! Watch the play silently!”

The angry voice of Richmon… revealing his true nature, resounded within the theater.

“Anyone who makes a noise will be killed. This is not a play.”

Suddenly, the whole building was wrapped up in silence.

“You were really unlucky coming here, Your Majesty.”

Henrietta… muttered quietly.

“The actors… were your partners.”

“Yes. This is not a bluff. They are first class casters.”

“And terrible actors, it seems.”

Richmon clasped Henrietta's hand. Henrietta got goosebumps from his repulsive touch.

“My scenario is far reaching. Your majesty, I am going to take you as a hostage. Then, I’ll arrange a ship to Albion. Your persona will be my emigration gift to Albion. The end.”

“Indeed. This play’s scenario is yours. The stage is Tristain and the actor is Albion…”

“And you’ll be the heroine. So, take part in this comedy.”

“Unfortunately, only tragedy suits my taste. I can’t take part in such a monkey show.”

“Sadly, in this life, no one acts against my scenario.”

Henrietta shook her head. Her eyes shone with confidence.

“No, today’s play scenario belongs to me.”

“Your management is bad. Sadly, as a chairman, I can’t allow you to destroy the play.”

Henrietta, not losing her composure… pointed her wand towards the mages, impersonating actors.

“The bad ones are the actors. They are ham actors. One cannot help but notice.”

“Don’t say such extravagant things. Sooner or later they will be celebrated actors in Albion."

“Now, leave the stage.”

Up till now, noisy and frightened women….

After Henrietta’s words, they changed their looks completely and pulled out their guns at the same time

Richmon’s subordinate mages, who were pointing wands at Henrietta, surprised by the spectacle, delayed their movements.

Doon! Sounds of tens of gun shots melted into one big sound.

Because inside of the theater the sound was multiplied, it felt like a thunderous roar.

When the dark, thick smoke cleared up… The Albion mages who were impersonating actors were riddled with bullets, all of them were killed on the stage before casting a single spell.

All theater spectators… were members of the musketeers. Naturally, even the suspicious Richmon could not see this through.

All the musketeers were young commoners… moreover – women.

Henrietta informed her neighbor spectator in an icy tone,

“Please stand up, Richmon. The play is over.”



Richmon stood up with much effort.

He laughed loudly and pulled out the dagger at the same time.

Continuing to laugh loudly like a madman, not afraid of the swords pointed at him, Richmon went up to the stage slowly. The musketeers surrounded him. They were prepared to skewer him if he were to make even one suspicious movement.

“Know when to give up! Richmon!”

“I am glad with the success! Cannot become a splendid scenario written by Her Majesty! So much for my play scenario…”

Richmon watched the surrounding musketeers in a hoity-toity way.

“Your Majesty… The last advice from someone who served Your Majesty since the day of your birth.”

“Speak.”

“Though it started a long time ago, Your Majesty…”

When Richmon stood up in the corner of the stage… and *Don* hit the floor with his foot. Then, just like a pitfall, the floor opened.

“It ends up short here.”

Richmon fell straight through it. Though the musketeers ran up hastily …the floor shut and did not open though they pushed or pulled. Apparently, it was controlled by magic.

“Your Majesty…”

All members watched Henrietta anxiously. Mortified, after biting her fingernails, Henrietta looked up and bellowed,

“Search for him at the front gates! Move it!”



The hole led to an underground passageway. Richmon made this loophole for a rainy day.

To stop from falling Richmon used ‘Levitation’ and, putting a light spell on his wand, began to walk through the underground passageway while illuminating the ground under his feet. The passage ran to Richmon's residence. He needed to return there. He was going to escape to Albion after collecting his money.

“However… the one that led to this was the Princess…”

On the day of his escape, he was going to apply to Cromwell for one troop regiment. Then he’d return to Tristain again, catch Henrietta, and after repaying her for today’s humiliation many times over, he’d rape and kill her.

While walking and imagining such things… he saw a shadow in the light.

A moment passed.

The face that surfaced from the darkness was… the face of Agnes, the musketeer.

“Oh my, it’s Richmon-dono. Taking another way home?”

Agnes said with a smile. Her voice echoed in the narrow, gloomy and damp passage.

“You…”

Smiling in relief, Richmon answered. Indeed, they might have found out about this secret passage and might have seen his theater plans… but this was not a mage, just a fencer who ambushed him, this should not be hard. He, like most mages, looked down on fencers.

ZnT05-249.jpg

“Move out of the way. There is no time to play with you. It’s too bothersome to kill you in a place like this.”

After Richmon’s words, Agnes pulled out her pistol.

“Checkmate. I have already uttered an incantation. I’ll only have to release it on you. Bullets can’t get past my twenty layer mail. Your obligation to Henrietta doesn’t include giving your life. Because you are a commoner.”

Richmon continued talking in a bored tone.

“An insect's pay is not worth going against a noble’s spell. Leave.”

Agnes squeezed out the words.

“I will kill you not out of loyalty to Her Majesty, but for my personal revenge.”

“Personal revenge?”

“D'Angleterre (Angle province).”

Richmon smiled. Come to think of it, the other day, before leaving my residence… this fellow asked me about it. That was why, Richmon, finally understanding the reason, laughed.

“I see! So you are that village’s survivor!”

“You were responsible for that crime… my hometown was destroyed without even knowing why.”

Agnes declared, biting her lip. A stream of blood ran down her lips.

“Romalia’s heresy, ‘Protestant Hunt’. You claimed ‘Protestantism’ was a rebellion and crushed my town. How much did you earn from Romalia’s religion agency in return, Richmon?”

The edges of Richmon’s lips turned up.

“Amount of money you ask? You want to know? I’d like to tell, but I cannot remember the sum of the bribe.”

“Is money all you believe in? Miserable man.”

“The way you trust in god, I trust in my money, is there any difference? The way you regret about relatives that passed away, I yearn for money, is there any difference? Tell me. I would like to know.”

“I’ll kill you. Spend your savings in hell.”

“Though it is wasteful to use a noble’s spell on the likes like you… this is fate.”

Richmon muttered releasing the spell.

A huge ball of fire appeared on the tip of the wand and flew towards Agnes.

He expected for Agnes to shoot the pistol that she was gripping in her hand… yet, she threw it away.

“What?”

She covered herself with the mantle and received the fireball. Though the mantle blazed up in a moment… the water bag beneath it evaporated absorbing the impact of the fireball. However, it did not disappear completely. It knocked against Agnes body, incandescing her chain hemp garment,

“Uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

However, Agnes endured it not falling down. Fearsome willpower. Enduring the pain of having all her body burned, pulling out her sword, she rushed towards Richmon.

Richmon, in haste, shot another spell trying to counterattack. The blade of wind attacked Agnes. Though it tore through the chain hemp garment and sheet metal armor, it prevented her from suffering a mortal wound. While receiving innumerable cuts on her body, Agnes still rushed on.

The moment when Richmon tried to recite another spell, Agnes crashed into his chest.

“Uoo…”

It was not the spell that escaped Richmon’s mouth…but red blood. Agnes pushed her handle plunging the sword deeper into Richmon’s chest.

“M…mage to a commoner… a noble like me… to a fencer like you…”

“…tell me, are a sword and gun still toys for you?”

While having her whole body burnt and cut, Agnes twisted the sword slowly scooping Richmon's chest out.

“They are not toys. They are weapons. Unlike you nobles, we have at least polished fangs. Die from those fangs, Richmon.”

*Gop* Richmon vomited an especially large amount of blood.

And slowly crumbled down.

Silence returned to the vicinity.

Agnes picked up the lantern that she dropped earlier, and, supporting her shoulder with the wall, staggeringly started to walk. The cuts on top of burns hurt so much that Agnes could fall down at any moment.

Still, Agnes walked.

“…Cannot die here. Still, still…I need to kill.”

Slowly, step by step, using her sword as a cane, and still bleeding, Agnes headed towards the exit.

The nearest exit of the secret passage going under Tristania’s soil was… the drainage trench on the Chicton Street. As Agnes crept out of there, pulling her body through, townspeople started to scream. Looking up at the dazzling sun… feeling lucky to be alive, Agnes fainted.



Three days later…

In the kitchen, Saito was washing plates as usual. *Don* Louise bumped against his back. Almost dropping the plate, Saito complained,

“Be more careful! Don’t make me break the plates!”

Grrr, Louise glared at him. Feeling relieved, Saito turned his head. Since that day… Louise hadn’t talked to him.

Louise criticized him, as eventually Saito told her everything that happened while hiding with Henrietta in that cheap lodging house. Except one thing… the kiss.

She was only pouting now, but she would get really serious if she were to find out about the kiss. Anyhow, Louise’s desire to monopolize was very strong. She raged whenever her familiar Saito got distracted by other girls; the kiss with her highly valued Henrietta would be even worse.

She would kill him if she knew.

Consequently, no matter what, Saito had to make sure she didn't find out.

“…D-don’t be so angry.”

“I am not angry.”

“So why are you not talking? The Princess and I embraced each other because we had no choice. We didn’t want to be found out…”

“…You didn’t do anything else?”

“O-of course not!”

Saito started to whistle while washing the plates.

Although from the outside it looked like a quarrel between lovers… they both thought otherwise. Saito viewed Louise’s jealousy as a desire to monopolize her familiar. And Louise being Louise did not admit her feelings to herself. So altogether, both their relationships were still going in parallel lines. Would things continue to remain the same? For now, they were parallel lines.

Then, in the place where two people’s relationships were complicated as usual, the door opened and two visitors showed up. They were wearing hoods.

“Hello. Can I help you?”

When Louise went to take an order, one of the guests quietly lifted the hood and showed their face to Louise.

“Agnes!”

Agnes whispered to Louise.

“Please prepare the room on the second floor.”

“If it’s you, then… the other…”

“…is me.”

Henrietta’s voice.

Louise nodded and prepared the guest room on the second floor.



“Now then… Louise. First of all, let me express my gratitude to you...”

Henrietta said looking at everyone who sat around the table.

Louise, Saito, Agnes…

Though Agnes was badly injured, with Henrietta’s, who was a water user, “Recovery” spell help, she was almost completely healed. However, she still couldn’t wear armor. Therefore, today she was wearing a padded undershirt and plain trousers with boots.

“The information that you collected is really useful.”

“I-is it really useful for you?”

It wasn’t only political topics that the town’s gossips were about. It was also citizen’s opinions and criticisms. Even though she couldn’t think all of them through, they were useful for Henrietta…

“This way I can see without pretending myself how I really look to others. I want to hear the true words. Even if they are painful for the ear…”

Anyway, there are a lot of criticisms regarding Henrietta. Though Louise did not agree, she reported everything as it was. That’s why she was glad.

“I am still a greenhorn, thus I should accept the criticism, because it is necessary for future improvement.”

Louise bowed.

“I also need to apologize. I am sorry for borrowing your Familiar-san without permission and not explaining the circumstances.”

“Indeed. It was cruel to ignore me.”

Louise said dully.

“I did not want you to get too much involved. I needed to do a dirty job of setting traps… for the traitor…”

“The Royal Palace Judge was the traitor…”

Though Henrietta tried to keep it a secret… such secrets always seemed to leak somewhere. Richmon being an Albion spy was already a popular rumor in town.

Louise reared her head.

“However, I am not a child anymore. I can keep Princess–sama’s secrets. From now on, always tell me.”

Henrietta nodded.

"I see. Let's do it that way. Anyway, the only the people whom I am able to trust from the bottom of the heart… are the ones in this room.”

“Familiar too?”

Louise wondered. Henrietta and Saito's eyes met for a moment. After that, a light blush appeared on both their cheeks, and they mutually looked down.

“Y-yes… Naturally. Ah! That’s right! We still have not had a formal introduction!”

Henrietta, trying to change the topic, held out her hand towards Agnes.

“This is my trustful Musketeer Commander, Agnes Chevalier de Milan. Though she is a woman, she uses a sword and gun as skillfully as a man. She also punished splendidly the betrayer who was trying to run away. Without fear she stood against a mage with just a sword… A hero.”

“I am not a hero.”

Agnes brushed off the statement and returned to her cheerful expression again. Then she said in a smooth voice.

“Her Majesty, we don’t need the introduction. With Miss Vallière, we already had a relationship overnight.”

Louise blushed, remembering the kiss.

“I-it wasn’t like that!”

“That was an unforgettable night, right, Miss Vallière?”

Agnes said laughingly. Which made Louise blush even more.

“Unforgettable night?” Henrietta asked.

“Nothing, to trick the enemy's eyes we pretended to be lovers. We kissed! That was so funny! Ahahahaha!”

Agnes laughed happily.

Louise blushed more and more. She expected Saito to start making fun of her that she was kissed by a woman. However, he did not laugh.

Somehow awkwardly, he averted his eyes.

Louise glanced up at Henrietta. She as well was twining her fingers hesitatingly.

Besides, a little while ago when the eyes of these two met, they turned their faces down. A strange doubt… crept inside Louise.

“W-well then, since there are a few more things to do, we should get ready to leave, Agnes.”

Henrietta stood up.

“Eh? I thought we were going to have toasts all night long?"

“I’m worried about your wounds… Well then, Louise, I ask you to continue.”

Henrietta hurriedly left the room. Agnes, who seemed to be completely lost, followed.

Saito also stood up and tried to go out.

“There is no need to rush.”

Louise detained him. Feeling a dreadful premonition, Saito’s face turned pale.

“No, well, dish-washing…”

Saito said looking straight ahead. His voice trembled.

Louise smiled, however.

“Mm, sit. It is alright. Stay here until morning.”

She pointed to the bed. Slowly, Saito sat down. What happened, did she find out? Princess’s kiss… No, surely not… She would not be so calm, right?

T-that’s right. If she were aware, Louise would not take such an attitude. She would be countless times trampling on Saito’s face and saying,

‘You kissed the Princess didn’t you?’

Yet she was smiling. Maybe she really, without any ulterior motive, wanted to show appreciation to Saito’s misery.

“W-what is it? You are strangely gentle.”

“No, thank you for your hard work lately. I just want to express my gratitude. Really.”

Louise gave Saito a cup and poured in some wine.

“T-thank you.”

“Look, I…was just upset that the Princess did not need me. These two, no, three days I was in a bad mood… over this and that. But now I am back in high spirits! It’s alright again!”

Seeing that, Saito felt relieved.

Aaah, he just worried too much... I'm so glad… She really seems to have recovered her good humor.

“Was it hard to guard the Princess?”

Louise grasped Saito's hand.

“T-to some extent.”

Why is Louise so gentle? Aah, who cares, I haven’t felt so good in ages.

“As one would expect from my familiar! I am so proud!”

Saito started to boast.

“T-that was… a piece of cake. But we did it together…"

"Still, it was wonderful. The way that no one was able to find you, you must have really tricked the chasers, right?"

“T-that’s right.”

“Drink, drink. I’ll be doing the duty of a caring master today. I’ll be the waitress.”

After saying that, she refilled the cup with wine. Being flattered by Louise in such a way, Saito’s confidence gradually grew.

“Saito is so wonderful! When he was suddenly walked in, he quick wittedly pretended to be the lovers and deceived them, right? You should have become an actor! You could have been Royal Tanaijiiru Theater’s main performer!”

“That’s right! Easy victory!”

Louise continued in the same way.

"Saito’s wonderful! Did he kiss the Princess?”

“That’s right!”

At that moment, the air froze.

Saito noticed that he was splendidly tricked. If you want to draw something out from the partner, first of all, you need to make him feel relaxed. The technique that Louise picked up in the bar! She used it!

Louise was using it every day, so her skills grew.

“L-Louise, this… Y-you… that…”

The tension in the room rose.

Then Louise stood up and locked the door.

Turning back, Louise said in a bright, even voice.

“Hey, dog.”

Dog.

In one breath the giddiness from the wine was gone.

Saito began to tremble.

Why is that dark aura emanating from Louise’s shoulders?

What is this dark aura?

“Dog, what’s wrong? Answer me!”

“W-woof!”

Tonight, ‘Dog’ surely sounded different. It was different. The presentiment of doom pierced through Saito's numb body. The taste of bitter despair filled his mouth.

“Excuse me. With magic or foot, which?"

“E-either seem painfuuuuul.”

“Sorry, it has to be painful. Now, make your decision, hurry.”

And so… it was going to be a long night.

Really long. And a long daybreak.

Assuming, that I can survive tonight…

And I should beware of all girls serving alcohol from now on, Saito thought.


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