The Princess and the Captain of the Order of the Knights
As soon as Scott F. Lands, commander of the 6th company, entered his dimly-lit bedroom, he heard something zipping through the air. The next moment sharp pain ran up the back of his hand. He immediately knew it was broken. Unable to see the enemy, he quickly turned back and out into the corridor. He felt a sting on his right thigh, and though it didn’t break his bones this time, it was enough to send him rolling on the floor.
「Who goes there?!」
With only his arms, he dragged his body and hid behind the wall. His assailant was in his room.
How is this even possible? This is the fourth floor!
Scott lived alone on the fourth floor of an apartment building. His place was quite big, but he would know if the main door was opened. Yet he didn’t hear anything – which meant that the intruder might have come in through the window.
Did he climb the walls? But they’re made of smooth stone. Besides, I don’t have valuables here. I’ve never heard of an attack in the Nobles district before!
To get to the Nobles district, one would have to pass through the First and Second residential areas. Not only was it difficult to climb over the walls, but the inspection was extremely strict as well. A series of questions sprang up in Scott’s mind: Why me? How’d he get in here? What did he throw at me?
「Knights, huh? What a joke.」
The intruder spoke. Scott gave a start. He didn’t expect his assailant would speak. One more thing bothered him. The voice didn’t sound like it was coming from an adult.
「Who are you? Do you have any idea who I am?」
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「Do you know what happens if you attack a knight?」
「Do tell. Even if you all come at me at once, you can’t defeat me.」
「You sure are confident. Where does all that spunk come from?」
Scott’s gaze darted around. There should be a magic device to notify the Order of an emergency in the next room…
「Confident… Well, yes. Why would I be scared of someone who’s just running around with tail tucked between their legs and not even fighting back?」
「Fight back? Oh, you mean you attacked me just now? I’m sorry, but I didn’t even feel anything.」
Scott moved, limping slowly.
「I went easy on you so you don’t get fatally injured. Is there something in the next room?」
Scott caught his breath, surprised the intruder guessed right even though he was hiding behind the wall.
「Are you going to call your friends? Go ahead. I’m out of here, anyway.」
Enduring the pain, Scott turned back to his bedroom and peered inside. A figure, illuminated by the moonlight and wearing a black cloak that seemed to suck in the light around him, stood on the window frame. His face was silver – he was wearing a mask of the Sun God.
「Stop right there! What are you af—?!」
Before Scott could finish, the boy jumped down, out of the room. Scott dragged his feet to the window, but by the time he peered down below, no one was there. All that was left in the room were two pebbles.
The morning sun shone on the royal castle. The huge structure, built using white stones that possessed both beauty and sturdiness, glowed golden in the morning, glistened white during the day, and burned crimson in the evening twilight. A man was walking at a brisk pace to a room deep inside the building. The Order of the Knights’ captain, Lawrence.
「Captain! What a pleasant surprise. What brings you here so early in the morning?」
The grand chamberlain, an elderly man, greeted the captain in front of the room. A dazzling door, with gold ornaments stood behind him. From his position, it was as if he was guarding the person beyond the door.
「I would like to request an audience with His Majesty.」
「I don’t recall you having an appointment with him.」
「It’s an emergency.」
「I’m sorry, but I must ask you to leave.」
「It’s an emergency.」
「I see. I must ask you to leave.」
「Chamberlain, I’m telling you it’s an urgent matter.」
「I hear you. There are a lot of people like you who claim to have an urgent matter to be discussed with His Majesty. The king is a busy man. Times like this when he could take his meal in peace is precious to him so he could rest his mind.」
Before the old man could say any more, voices of young girls came from within the room. The king was most likely “resting his mind”. The chamberlain simply shot a glance at the door. This was a usual occurrence apparently.
「Please. I just want a little bit of his time.」
「Captain. You may excel in combat, and the leader of the powerful Order of Knights, but I will not tolerate such rude behavior.」
「The kingdom is in danger.」
「And the kingdom will be in danger as well if His Majesty is agitated and doesn’t get his rest.」
The captain let out a creepy chuckle, his brows furrowed.
「Then I’ll wait here.」
「You will only cause trouble.」
The chamberlain cast a glance at the king’s bodyguards, prompting them to move. Unrelated to the Order, they belonged to a different division – the king’s private army. There were various forces within the kingdom at the moment, making the chain of command complicated. The Order of the Knights more or less was at the center. Under it was the regular army. The Ministry of Military Affairs managed the regular army which numbered around 10,000 as opposed to the Order with only over 500 men. The king’s private army was a different organization altogether.
「Do you really think three small fries can make me move?」
The three jumped to their feet the moment Lawrence glanced at them. They were men chosen only by their looks and social standing, who hadn’t undergone any decent training, believing that danger couldn’t possibly come to the king.
「Captain, any more of this insolent behavior and I will report it to His Majesty.」
「There’s danger lurking about!」
The captain raised his voice, and the chamberlain shuddered, his face growing pale. Heavy silence descended upon them.
「What’s with all the ruckus so early in the morning?」
From the other side of the corridor came a young girl in her mid-teens, her orange, curly hair hanging down her back. Her deep-purple eyes, like a pair of amethysts, radiated with nobility.
「Good morning, Princess Kudyastoria.」
The captain immediately got down on one knee. The three guards did the same thing, while the chamberlain put his hands together and placed them before his chest – a civil official’s way of showing respect.
Kudyastoria – her full name Kudyastoria G. Ponsonia – was the king’s second child and a princess of this kingdom. She wore a sky-blue dress that looked refreshing in the recent hot weather, with laced pleats – the latest fashion trend. Her heels, orange like her hair, matched well with her overall outfit.
「Be at ease. So what is going on here?」
「The captain is making a fuss about some danger and requests an audience with His Majesty.」the chamberlain said, as if pleading for help.
Kudyastoria turned her gaze upon the captain. He was still on his knee.
「Lawrence, is what he said true?」
「Then I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ll take it from here, Chamberlain.」
The grand chamberlain looked unsatisfied, but he couldn’t go against the princess. The princess left the scene, bringing along the captain with her.
「This isn’t like you, Lawrence. My father only gets involved in national politics from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon.」
「It’s an emergency.」
「The grand chamberlain doesn’t have the ability to gauge the urgency of matters.」
Lawrence was constantly astonished by the wisdom of the girl walking before him whose height only reached his stomach. She was right. The king only worked four hours a day. He would spend the rest of his time womanizing.
How could he bring up war in this situation? Or perhaps this was precisely why he suggested it. The kingdom was prospering too well that even the king could engage in such activities.
In any case, one could only see the king in these four hours. Of course, if they could go along with the king’s pursuits, they wouldn’t have this trouble. In fact, it was common for the people appointed by His Majesty, including the grand chamberlain, to not show up during the four hours.
「So what’s this urgent matter you speak of?」
The princess entered a small room nearby and locked the door. She didn’t have an aide on purpose. She had a brother, the crown prince and the true heir to the throne. Nobles who had their eyes set on the future generation gathered around him, trying to curry his favor. They would whisper in his ears “Princess Kudyastoria might steal the throne from you.”
To dispel any suspicions, the princess opted to not employ aides. She could perform her duties just fine without them. As a matter of fact, she had been going through the minor national affairs that had been piling up since the king was not doing his job.
Plenty of people thought that she should be the next ruler. There had been cases in the past where a kingdom was ruled by a queen. But it was self-evident that that notion would only put her life in danger.
「Thank you for giving this matter your utmost attention.」
Not going to her own quarters and instead entering a nearby room showed how the princess thought things through. First of all, the captain mentioned it was an urgent matter, so it was important to listen to what he had to say as soon as possible. Also her brother’s watchers were in her room. To avoid any trouble, she decided it was best to not let him know about this.
「The commander of the Order’s 6th company was attacked last night…」
Lawrence precisely laid out all the facts, including the part where the culprit was the same person as the one who attacked East.
「I see. But there is one thing I don’t understand. Is this really an “urgent matter”? Based on what you said, the victims were both from the 6th company. Perhaps they made some sort of blunder in the past and someone’s holding them responsible?」
「I would agree with you if that was all.」
「What do you mean? Is there something more to this?」
「The commanders of the 2nd and 11th company were attacked as well after that. Both were taking a break in the knights’ quarters located in the outer walls of the castle. That means an enemy had infiltrated all the way to just outside the royal castle.」
Silence fell. Kudyastoria needed time to think. When he heard about the news last night with the inquisitor, Lawrence assumed that the 6th company might’ve done something. The princess thought the same thing.
Perhaps it wasn’t a bandit that attacked East, but the assailant only made it look like it was the work of a bandit. Maybe he wanted to know how the knights would react. As soon as he found out that he could strike them without a problem, he eyed the 6th company’s commander as his next target. But then as Lawrence and the inquisitor were analyzing the situation, another report came in. Two more commanders were attacked.
「What’s the status of the Order right now?」
「We’re on high alert. I gave orders to not move alone. Fortunately… I’m not sure if I can really call our current situation fortunate, but it’s only the knights that are being targeted. We’ll be fine if we just keep an eye out.」
「What’s the likelihood of this problem spreading inside the castle?」
「That’s what I’m concerned about. Most likely there’s no chance of that happening, but I’m not entirely sure. So I thought I’d give my report first.」
「Tell me what you make of this.」
「Yes, Your Highness. But there’s only a few things I could think of. First of all, we don’t know what the assailant’s motive is. On the surface, it looks like he has a grudge against the Order, but the way he does things make it seem like he’s testing his abilities. He doesn’t kill his targets, after all.」
「Does this sound familiar to you, Captain?」
「You jest, Your Majesty.」
「Does it look like I’m joking?」
「Yes, it does sound familiar.」
Seeing the man trying to shrink his large frame brought a fleeting smile to the princess’s face. When the captain was young, he used to challenge strong people to test his abilities.
「I too think that it’s highly possible he’s trying out his abilities. There’s no reason to attack this kingdom’s mightiest force otherwise. If he really has a grudge against the Order, then his methods are too sloppy. He’s not killing anyone.」the princess said.
「Sloppy and yet careful…」
「He’s getting away cleanly so he is indeed “careful”. Hmm, yes, testing abilities. We’ll find out if this theory is right in his next attack.」
「I think so too…」
The captain realized that he shared the same thought with the princess.
「You’re probably next, Captain. No, Lawrence the Master Swordsman.」