A/N: This cannot be! The young lady isn’t in this chapter!
Andy de Mercia was an imperial knight squad leader of Argrey Kingdom, one assigned to the second prince Joel.
In a usual knightly order, while the Knight Commander would always be a high noble, squad leaders were, as a rule, meritocratic positions instead. Only less than half of them were nobles; the rest were people who have climbed up to the position themselves.
Things were different when it comes to Argrey Kingdom’s imperial knights, however. While other countries might not follow the same rule, here, those chosen as imperial knight squad leaders were almost always of high nobility.
This rule was created after a certain incident in Argrey’s history. There had been a monster outbreak — monsters escaping the confines of their dungeon — and yet one of the royal family at the time had made use of the army for their own purpose, and nobody had had the political power to stop them. It had resulted in the near-complete destruction of a town.
It was the reason why the imperial knights attached to a royal family member would always be chosen from families of high nobility that were relatives of the royal family. This granted the imperial knights the power to keep their charges in check, if the need arose.
The previous queen had come from the Mercia marquis family. As the princes and princesses’ second cousin, Andy had been allowed to enter the palace to be their playmate ever since he was a child.
At first, Andy was to be assigned to the crown prince as he was closest in age. But after a certain incident, Andy was suddenly set to be Joel’s imperial knight instead.
What had happened?
It was the death of Kyria, spouse to the Michel marquis and, as according to the wishes of the queen, also the woman who was to be Joel’s personal bodyguard until her successor was chosen.
Kyria had met the queen at school when she had still been only a daughter of a marquis family at the time, and the two had become fast friends. For the sake of her friend who had then entered the royal family, Kyria, despite being the daughter of a knight’s family, had gotten herself adopted by a viscount’s family who was close to the queen just so she could become the queen’s imperial knight.
Kyria’s beauty and her silver hair had earned her the title of “The White Rose”, to accompany the “Sunflower” that was the queen. Even after the Michel marquis fell in love with Kyria at first sight, even after the two had a child, the two women’s friendship never waned. So it was that the queen entrusted the protection of Joel to Kyria, until such time that the boy decided on an official aide.
These events had been ten years ago.
At the time, Andy was still a student and a knight apprentice. He studied under Kyria, his superior knight officer who had been very strict in his training, and as the two were both of marquis families, he, as well as his younger brother, often played with her daughter, Sharon.
The circumstances behind Kyria’s death was a mystery even until now.
Almost immediately after her death, the Michel marquis took a second wife, a woman from a count’s family. But the problem was that Yohanne, Sharon’s younger brother of a different mother, was only one year younger than her.
As young as she had been, knowing about Yohanne must have hurt Sharon terribly. For a time, this fact had also given rise to rumors that lady Kyria had been assassinated, but they were soon quelled by the marquis family.
Sharon’s grief had been heart-wrenching, both for her and for those around her.
Andy had tried as much as he could to visit her and to console her. But he was still just a student, still just an apprentice knight — not only that, he was also chosen as Kyria’s successor since there was nobody else fit for the role, and so he found himself with fewer and fewer opportunities to meet with Sharon.
However, Sharon had been a stronger girl than he thought.
For a time, there were even rumors that the Michel house was spurning her. Yet as though to prove everyone wrong, Sharon had worked herself to the bone to perfect every aspect of being a noble lady, and her efforts had borne fruit. She was chosen as a fiancee candidate to the second prince.
Upon hearing of the news about the girl he had always thought of as a little sister, Andy felt both sadness and happiness. On the other hand, Karl, Andy’s younger brother, immediately began to lash out against her.
Andy remembered that Karl and Sharon had been very close in their younger years. If anything, he thought Karl had liked her even more than Andy himself had.
And yet that very same younger brother had turned cold to Sharon. Upon entering the academy, he even began to be overtly disdainful of her.
Andy himself had scolded Karl many, many times, yet he showed no signs of changing. A rift had formed between the two brothers.
The news that his younger brother had collapsed in the dungeon and had been carried to the nearest clinic reached Andy’s ears.
Details had been vague. However, apparently Karl had taken the Mercia family’s treasure, the Hallowed Sanctuary, with him to the dungeon without permission, and that he had been fighting.
As he had been attending to his Highness Joel, Andy was near the dungeon. Joel had graciously allowed him to take his leave to visit his brother, and so Andy came to the clinic.
Karl sat up on his bed, his body still shivering.
Andy wondered what sort of monster Karl had been fighting. His face was pale and haggard, while his body was so bruised and battered he could barely move himself.
Andy had also heard that after he was carried to the clinic, Karl had woken up and then immediately fell back to unconsciousness multiple times in a row, and that he was also poisoned. Thanks to healing spells, however, his younger brother now seemed to have recovered enough to stay awake.
“…this is quite terrible. Did you meet with an ogre horde in the middle floors or something?”
Karl said nothing as he turned away, his expression inscrutable. He seemed unwilling to talk.
“Losing is nothing to be ashamed of. Considering your wounds, you didn’t wear the Hallowed Sanctuary, right? Father would certainly scold you for taking it out without permission, but I reckon he’d be lenient if he knows you’ve had a change of heart.”
Karl continued to look away despite Andy’s words of consolation. Cold sweat dripped from his skin.
Andy found his brother’s reactions to be somewhat strange, but he paid it no mind. He had something else he had to ask, even when he was aware of the rift between them.
“Karl. I’ve heard that lady Sharon was the one to have brought you here… did something happen between you and her?”
Karl’s eyes widened a fraction, as though it was the first he’d heard of it.
“I don’t know why you’ve been so stubborn, but remember that lady Sharon might just be our future princess. It’s about time you grow up…”
“…you’re such an idiot, brother.” Karl said with obvious exasperation.
Andy released a sigh mixed with a wry smile. It had been a long time since he’d heard such a tone of voice from his brother.
“…maybe I am.”
“…I’m not going to do that anymore.”
Andy didn’t know what had happened. Nevertheless, as curt as Karl’s reply was, Andy could still feel that his brother was no longer as bitter as he had been.
And right now, that was enough. Mending bridges wasn’t something that could be done in a day or two.
For a while, Andy simply looked at his younger brother, his gaze kind. Then he turned around and silently stepped out of the room.
Karl looked at his back until he was no longer in sight. He gave a small sigh for his dense older brother.
“…if you don’t make a move soon, brother, then I will.”
Did everyone think this chapter has been in third-person narration? Too bad. It was actually me, Fleurety.
Currently, I am infiltrating Karl’s room, clinging onto a corner of the ceiling while hiding my presence as best as I can. I’m actually surprised that nobody’s found me yet.
All the exposition above was what I’ve found out from using my Maid Interrogation Technique these last few days. I just added a little bit of dramatization while writing the personal character thoughts myself from educated guesses. I’ve gotten the gist of it right, I believe.
The older brother is just a blockhead, while the younger brother is far too stubborn. How deplorable. They’re siblings all right.
Well then, readers, you may be wondering why I wanted to come here so much that I would leave lady Sharon to take her rest alone in a cafe. The answer is that I had a bit of an experiment to do.
I wasn’t able to kill either Karl or Hina, and I did not know why. There was a need to investigate the secret they held and how far this effect could extend.
To start off, I waited until Karl fell asleep and dropped a string from the ceiling. I then released some light neurotoxin, which followed the string to drip into his mouth.
His lungs seized up and he choked on air, but otherwise nothing happened. The medic hurriedly ran toward him and immediately casted healing spells on him, and that was it.
I was relieved, seeing that at least my poison still worked. Then once Karl went from sleeping to being unconscious, I tried out some muscle solvent.
His skin instantly turned mud-grey. But just as I thought that finally did it, a dull glow emanated from him, and he was as healthy as ever again. Curses.
With that, Karl finally returned to consciousness. I immediately strangled him with loops of stronger-than-steel thread wrapped around his neck and he writhed, thrashing in agony as his lungs begged for oxygen. But in the end, he just dropped into unconsciousness again. He still didn’t die no matter how long I choke him.
Results of my experimentation: I can harm people just fine, I simply can’t kill them.
There’s nothing to indicate him being any sort of undead or immortal, nor was there any sign of skill activation. Regrettably, I will have to give up here. Any more and I risk discovery.
To be fair, it’s not like there aren’t workarounds I can try out, but I think I’ll keep up my observation for the time being first.
…I have more than one puppet to experiment on, anyway.
With adhesive threads wrapped around my fingertips and toetips, I briskly skitter across the ceiling. I reach the linen room of the clinic with everyone else none the wiser.
“Apologies for the wait, Hina. How are you feeling?”
I’ve packed Hina up tight with straw rope — using my thread would have left some rather undesirable evidence — and buried her under a mountain of linen sheets, but she still looks as lively as ever. I hadn’t taken much care when I tied her up, so Hina turned out to look a bit like a honeycomb, but, well, she’ll probably be fine.
I remove her gag. Hina glares at me, her eyes teary.
“Oh yes, do you need to relieve yourself? Just as well that there’s some adult diapers here…”
“N-No, please! I’ll be quiet, just don’t…”
I see. I did recall her smelling a bit ammoniac in the dungeon, so I thought it would be about time. What a shame.
“Please… I’ll apologize, just don’t hurt me…”
She does seem quite sincere in her remorse. I wonder what could have caused such a change of heart…
I untie her and let her sit down. She looks at me, looking perplexed.
“…you’re holding your head up high now, aren’t you?”
“That is because I am a maid.”
Might she be referring to my earlier days? Her face is reddening somewhat. She looks like she wants to say something.
“What is it?”
“…n-nothing. It’s not like I’m thinking you look better like this, not at all!”
Really, just what did she want to say?
“So anyway… I’m sorry. Oh, yes, I’ll tell you something interesting!”
Hina stands up and whispers.
“So I overheard this one girl from our class muttering something. She said this world is an otome game, apparently.”
“Excuse me! Does this clinic has a psychologist?”
“STOPPPP! I’m normal, I tell you! I’m not crazy!”
How ridiculous. Hina must be making it up.
A/N: By the way, our protagonist has also… cordially… invited the young lady Hina to help out with her experiments. She agreed, of course.