Sorry this one took so long. Turns out October is our busy month at work. I’ll try to make sure the next one comes out quicker.
A Hardship After a Hurdle¹
We leave the inn, borrow a carriage, and we are on our way once again.
Today’s departure lacked the excitement that yesterday’s did, and a lot of grumbling and mumbling about what the future holds could be heard bouncing around the carriage walls. The tension was obvious on Alexis and Percival’s faces. No matter how far from town they traveled from, two or three rumors would always pop up, and this time they had left the country entirely.
That’s why it was imperative that they travel immediately to the royal palace and explain about the witch’s curse. His Majesty would have to believe them if two different witches testified on his behalf. Alexis was a wonderful son to them, and someone they were deeply proud of until a year ago.
I am sure they will understand. That’s why Alexis’s eyes seemed to shine slightly with the light of hope, and Percival was patting his back saying, “Soon His and Her Majesty will know the truth.”
Then would come searching for the culprit alongside the two witches Monette and Gina to solve the curse…….
But Alexis and Percival didn’t say anything after that. Because even if they find the criminal, there is no guarantee that things will ever be able to return to how they used to be. It has already come so far that even if the cause is resolved, the effects could leave behind scars that would never heal.
To see Alexis who would be unable to say anything as mud is thrown at him from across the country while taking the thrown…….., it might even become necessary for him to abandon his line for succession. Percival’s knuckles turned white from gripping his sword handle too tightly due to stress.
By the way, it was only Alexis and Percival who were so beside themselves thinking about the future like this.
While stroking Concetta atop my knee, I waved off their worries as, “Something that can’t be helped,” while taking out a loaf of bread and shoving it into their mouths. Afterwards, I pulled out a sugar confection from my bag for me to enjoy. Concetta cried out when I did, clearly asking for some bread for himself as well.
Although his attitude towards me is a little different from other people in the carriage, I suppose that’s just that natural result when considering the position I hold.
“So Monette, when everything calms down, be sure to invite me over to your old castle as well.”
“Yes, Robertson would be delighted to meet you Gina.”
“A spider best friend, I look forward to meeting him.”
Whenever a serious air began to brew and oppress the carriage, a piece of bread was packed into the guys’ mouths. I continued petting a cat straight out of a fairy tale eating my own piece of bread.
While such an unfamiliar sight was transpiring inside the horse-drawn carriage, a familiar sight was passing by the window.
Roofs densely crowded together radiating around a large building at the city’s center. The figure of the royal palace always had looked as if it was watching over the downtown area. This will be the end of my journey to a different country. Realizing so, I breathed a sigh of relief.
…Yes, this was supposed to be the end.
Although we had safely arrived to the city area, we were quickly surrounded by knights as soon as we had descended the carriage, and we were brought to the royal palace without anyone saying a word to us.
Everyone wore a rigid expression, and some people were even releasing a bit of bloodlust while holding sword in hand.
“Such a generous welcome is nice, but completely unnecessary, don’t you think?”
“Well, yeah I suppose….”
Gina was walking along while holding Concetta looking a little irritated at the whole affair. I tried to be as nonchalant as her, but dumbly nodding and halfway agreeing with her was the best I could manage. A knight was sticking close behind us, watching our movements prepared to act in the event that one of us moves away from the group.
As expected, I have a long way to go before I can be at Gina’s level.
Rather, Gina’s level where she can speak mostly leisurely in this type of situation is too abnormal. Indeed, Percival had yet to say a word as he glanced back and forth between his former colleagues with the stern expressions, and Alexis–who was the most vigilant of us all–was white as a ghost.
It’s natural that he would be pale right now.
“I do not know what type of rumors could be floating about, so we will head immediately to the royal palace……” The plan itself was going perfectly. Although I’m sure what he was planning and the current situation are far from what he imagined.
He had yet to say anything either, so I continued to glance after him from the corner of my eye here and there.
In the first place, if he were to say anything, he would end up silenced by the knights. —In the first place, Gina had already been told to refrain from talking by one of the escorting knights. Of course, she shut him up with the words, “What type of knight tries to silence a woman?” As a bonus, Concetta meowed right alongside as if to back up his mistress.—
The knight seemed to be instinctually intimidated by Gina, so after clearing his throat with a cough, he backed away.
“Gina, you’re pretty amazing aren’t you?”
“Really, don’t forget that you’re a witch too Monette. A witch is someone who can’t be held down by ordinary human beings. Here, embrace Concetta and walk with your head held high.”
“No, Concetta right now…..”
I tried to hold back, but Concetta was pushed into my grasp and held him a little cautiously. I wonder if the mewling he is doing right now is him thanking me.
If you walk in to the royal palace while holding a cat, you will certainly give off a certain air about you. By confronting a witch with that much confidence, you might be better off just fighting a demon with your bare hands.
“But he’s heavy….”
Muttering such, the knight walking behind me coughed once, most likely realizing that he was to blame.
Then we were taken to the royal palace and placed before his Majesty.
The reunion of Alexis and his parents was a moving sight…..it goes without saying that this was not the case. Naturally, nothing was prepared for us in way of hospitality. In lieu of an audience, we had numerous knights surrounding us on all sides. This was starting to feel less like a homecoming and more like an interrogation.
The king held a steady gaze down upon us while the queen blatantly looked away, only occasionally turning towards us with a wrinkled nose before looking away once again. It was the second prince, Alexis’s younger brother who stood between them and us.
The three of them were clearly not delighted with Alexis’s return, and the heavy air they were giving off made even me, someone not sitting squarely under their gaze, was affected. The intimidation I felt sent a chill down my spine, yet the iron of my armor almost burned at the touch.
“Is this the majesty of the royal family?” I muttered in my heart. – It would still be awhile before I learned that the source of this intimidation came from somewhere else. –
“Alexis, do you know what you’ve done?”
The king’s voice was low when he spoke, and there was no warmth in his voice for the son returned from a long journey. On the contrary, he seemed to be almost blaming Alexis for having come back. As Alexis whispered, “Father,” underneath his breath, his words and feelings were being completely ignored.
Still, despite his unease and pain, Alexis held his head up and looked back at the father who talked down to him.
“Using government expenses for personal pleasure has been a crime since our country was first…”
Alexis was completely taken aback by the accusations his father put forth.
But it was Percival who shouted out his outrage. Knights jumped forth and held both of his arms to prevent him from moving, yet he looked back at his king without fear.
“All the travel expenses we used were what I earned! We never laid a hand on any government expenses!”
“Silence, Percival! Screeching at the top of your lungs like a witch casting a curse. Accompanying Alexis so far on his folly, have you no pride as a knight!?”
The king’s frosty words came down like a hammer, and all Percival could do was narrow his eyes in frustration.
He moves due to his loyalty to Alexis. Yet the king standing before him was also someone he had made a pledge to. No, obviously his loyalty to the king would have to weigh more than anything else, as was his duty as a knight.
That’s why Percival backed down with a heavy heart, muttering, “fidelity…” in a voice no one could hear.
“Alexis, you will be remanded to your room for awhile.”
“Wait, I must find the culprit…!”
“Are you still going on about such nonsense that you were cursed by a witch? Do you not understand all the trouble I’m going through to lighten your punishment this much?”
The word lodged itself in Alexis’s throat. Then, in case he was planning on moving, another knight reached over and grabbed his arm.
Percival told them not to touch the prince, but all that did was lead more knights to grab hold of him to prevent even the tiniest amount of resistance.
I watched all of this through my helmet and looked around me to see if anyone was making a move on me.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel like sticking my neck out into this family drama, and I’d rather not be dragged into this heavy atmosphere. If I were to move poorly here and get caught by some knights, things could get unpleasant. I may be a witch, but it could be said that I’m not that different from an ordinary girl.
However, if things keep moving at this rate, then Alexis is likely to end up imprisoned. Likewise, Percival will end up dragged off somewhere and could end up as a scapegoat for the current situation–in other words, the worst possible situation.
This is bad….or so I was thinking until Concetta drew my attention away with a hiss.
Unlike his usual demeanor, Concetta had his ears pointed down and his teeth barred, and all the hair on his body was standing upright.
“…Concetta? Hey Gina, Concetta is…”
“Something fishy has come.”
I tried to ask the smiling Gina, but before I could….
“Please! Please don’t do anything terrible to sister Monette…!!”
A girl entered my field of vision inside my helmet, making a pained appeal,
and I whispered her name to myself.
This author loves their sayings. This saying in Japanese is 一難去ってないのにまた一難 which roughly translates to ‘One difficulty after leaving one difficulty.’ As you can probably guess, it means to have two bad things happen without any space between the events.