A/N: A relatively serious chapter.
Andy de Mercia was the personal bodyguard-knight for Joel, the second prince of Argrey Kingdom. Andy had a brother and a childhood friend, a girl. Both of them were nine years younger than him.
The girl was the only daughter of a knight, a woman named Kyria, who was the bodyguard-knight assigned to the prince before Andy took up her position, as well as being his teacher.
Andy had doted on the girl. He had treated her as though she was his own sister, partly because Kyria had married into a marquis house, while Andy was also born of a marquis family himself.
He wondered when the rift between them formed.
Was it when her mother, Kyria, passed away in an ‘accident’ that everyone knew wasn’t one? Was it when he took over Kyria’s duty to become prince Joel’s bodyguard, when his responsibilities meant he no longer had the spare time to visit her? Or was it when his brother Karl lashed out against her and drove a wedge into their relationship?
No. Somewhere inside him, he already knew the answer.
It was when she, the girl whose mother had been taken away much too soon, embarked on her endeavor to become the most exemplary noble she could be, and was finally rewarded with a position among prince Joel’s fiancee candidates. He had seen her, had watched her journey.
He thought she was much too dazzling for him. And he blamed himself as well, for not being there for her when kindness was what she had needed the most.
There hadn’t been a single clear-cut reason. If it wasn’t one thing then it was another, and they all combined to drive the two further and further apart. Before he knew it, he found she had already become independent. Lonely.
Loneliness turned into aloofness. As he watched her continuing effort to be the lofty noble she wanted to be, he found there was no longer anything he could say to her. He gave up. She was a fiancee candidate to royalty now; their relationship could never return to how it had been.
Then one day, the girl began to change.
It was the day of the summoning of Partners from another world that she and prince Joel had participated in… or more specifically, when the summoned black-haired girl became her Partner.
Sharon then began to let go of her tension, no longer trying to hold herself together with a rope so tautly strung it seemed like it might snap at any moment. She regained the warm tenderness that a girl of her age should have.
It didn’t matter if the former was the ‘proper’ way of being a noble. Her armor of ice had melted away to reveal a sunny smile, surprising everyone who knew her. The more familiar they were of her, the more pronounced their shock, and the more her smile enchanted them.
Before he knew it, Andy found his eyes were already naturally chasing after her.
It was then that he had his realization.
Just as he followed her with his gaze, so was she doing the same with her own. And whenever their gazes inevitably meet, she would turn away as though surprised, her cheeks burning red and her eyes growing moist.
Upon the sight, he had no choice but to realize that the girl was no longer the baby sister that he had always seen her as.
She was now a woman that took his breath away.
One day, his friend came to visit him.
“Hey, Andy. It’s been a while.”
“…Elias? How unexpected.”
The two were close in age, with Elias being the more skilled knight. The holy knight had always seemed rather detached from reality, however, and Andy couldn’t help but fuss over him. Elias, too, grew to see Andy as a reliable friend.
The pious holy knight was the Church’s most valued treasure, and there was a large gap between him and the kingdom’s knights. He rarely left the Church. It made his visit today all the more curious.
Elias’ perpetual smile gained a hint of wryness as he spoke.
“To be honest, there’s this girl I’ve been thinking about…”
As there are no classes today, I and milady have gone to the Salt Dungeon located to the east of the capital. Another name for it is the Third Dungeon.
“…hey, Letty, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?”
“Yet there are still some among the populace who aren’t aware that its official name is ‘the Third Dungeon’, milady.”
“I suppose it’s true that the salt has been a boon for us as well, but still…”
And so we come to the reason why we are here at the dungeon today: to earn money.
After milady’s reconciliation with her family, we now have the proper financial support. All the same, public money is accompanied by quite a few restrictions, and so we also need to have some slush fund available.
“I’m not sure why, but I feel like we’re doing something illicit here…”
“It is because the majority of our budget has been used for your sweets, milady.”
“I don’t eat that much!”
“…of course you don’t.”
“Can you not say that while pinching my arms, Letty?!”
As I have been giving her viscously sweet drinks practically every day, milady’s weight has unfortunately exceeded the average by a slight margin.
Well, she used to be on the other side of the bell curve anyway. Back then, she didn’t even have the money for snacks. Even if she gains weight now, most of it is still going to her chest. It’s not that much of a problem.
“Using magic consumes calories, milady. Please do your best.”
“Am I so fat I need to exercise in a dungeon now?!”
Milady begins to pinch her belly, looking horrified.
As she has rolled up her upperwear at the dungeon entrance, many of the male explorers nearby are now staring at her, hoping to catch a glimpse of heaven. I gently stop her.
“A lady must never show her skin so readily, milady,” I whisper.
Milady turns bright-red and immediately straightens up her clothes, but her cuteness has not gone unobserved. The ears of the young male explorers and even the guild office’s staff members have all grown Dumbo-sized in trying to listen in on us.
This won’t do. No matter how adorable milady is, I still cannot allow her to be exposed to such salacious eyes. As her maid, it is my duty to save her from the indignity, even if it means bearing it myself.
“Milady. According to the current measurement system, I would consider myself to be between B and C.”
All the men’s eyes snap toward my direction not a moment later. For someone who’d just been a middle schooler not so long ago, it is a rather respectable size.
Incidentally, I should respond to milady’s earlier question as well.
“We are not going to the dungeon to lose weight, milady, but for funds, as it is now necessary to replace your wardrobe. Milady has outgrown underwear that are two sizes bigger than mine, after all.”
“What are you saying?!” “What are you saying?!”
Two shouts overlap. The former is milady’s, her face beet-red to her ears, her hand once more holding The Slipper after she has used it on my head. I wonder whose voice was the latter?
Andy, who has popped up out of nowhere, smiles at milady. His eyes wander.
“Ah, no, it’s nothing, miss Sharon. Nothing at all…”
And here I am, going through all that efforts to divert attention from milady only to have it end in vain. Everyone is looking at her again. Similarly, Andy’s gaze would drop the moment he loses his focus. The male physiology is quite inconvenient, it seems.
But, well, there are men who don’t let it show on their face at all, too.
“It is good to see you again, miss Fleurety.”
“My, my, sir Elias. I am honored to be treated with such respect.”
There’s that holy knight from the Church too. As we conclude our merry greetings, a question comes to my mind.
“Why are you here, sir Elias…?” I ask, sending a glance to his back.
In a moment of realization, he turns around to introduce the two boys behind him.
“The Church has received a request from His Highness Joel, and I am here to help these two Partner candidates acclimatize to the dungeon.”
“Hey there, Kamishiro.” “H-hello.”
The two boys say, one confidently, one hesitantly.
“Greetings. Indeed, it has been quite some time,” I reply.
They are students of the middle-school class that had been summoned from Earth. Their names are… hmm…
…so anyway, as the economy of this country depends quite a lot on dungeons, it is certainly better for them, being Partner candidates for nobles, to be acquainted with the dungeons sooner rather than later.
I suppose the faint blushes on their cheeks had come about after they listened to our earlier conversation. They are healthy young boys, after all. I can’t fault them for dropping their gazes from time to time when speaking with me. And if I am already having such an effect on them, then I can only imagine how much more devastating milady would be to their attention span.
So, they’ve come here with a theurgy-capable member of the Church, probably so that they wouldn’t have to worry about wounds and injuries. But then why was Elias, the Holy Knight himself, the one deployed for the task?
“Miss Sharon, would… umm… would you go to the dungeon with us? Ah, only if you don’t mind, of course.”
“Y-yes, I would like to, sir Andy.”
But before I can voice my question, they have already concluded their talk.
“Kamishiro, that’s an amazing weapon. Can I hold it for a moment?”
I give Sei my Orc Killer EX. It doesn’t stay a second in his hands before slamming into the ground, not budging an inch.
In the end, the six of us all went into the dungeon together. This is going to hurt our earnings a bit, but I can negotiate with Andy to make up for it later.
The two boys are Sei and Genki. Of course I remember their names.
Sei is one of the leaders of the boys in class. Meanwhile, Genki isn’t a student I remember ever speaking with before. He has a sort of cuteness that reminds me of milady’s younger brother. Right now, he is desperately trying to make conversation with her.
“This is… heavy…” Sei says, struggle evident in his voice.
“Let me have a look…” Elias says from beside Sei, and he lifts the spiked bat.
He’s a holy knight all right, though it seems holding it one-handed is still much too taxing for him. With a slight frown, he stabilizes the weapon with both hands and inspect it.
“It is amazing, certainly, but…”
“Is something wrong?” I ask.
“You make it look so easy, Kamishiro.” Sei says with a chuckle, “I’m feeling a bit emasculated right now.”
These may not be the words to use to talk about a boy the same age as me, but I really think he’s a good kid. It is impressive the way he managed to get everyone to relax with just a word or two.
“You’re very much a normie, Sei.”
“…it doesn’t sound like a compliment when you say it right to my face without batting an eye, Kamishiro.”
Oh no, it is. Considering the fact that the Maid Chief used to say I’m ‘wormy’ right to my face without batting an eye, it’s very much a compliment.
“Miss Fleurety, thank you.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, sir.”
As he returns my spiked club, he takes the occasion to caress the back of my hand as well.
“If the occasion permits, please allow me to gift you a weapon more suitable.”
Something more suitable for me? A chainsaw? I hope it’s a chainsaw.
I and Elias move forward as the vanguard. Suddenly, Genki shouts.
“Watch out! There are traps!”
He must have some sort of detection Skill. [Trap Detection], maybe. That’s all very fine and good, but I do wish he had said his warning before I stepped on the trap.
Milady screams as the magic circle below me lights up.
From what I can see, the trap’s range is likely to envelop both me and Elias. Seeing no need to let the trap catch me if I can help it, I decide to immediately retreat. It is then that Elias catches my hand.
When my vision clears, there are only the two of us. This must be a room somewhere in the dungeon, somewhere quite far from milady.
“Teleportation, is it?”
“It certainly seems so.” Elias replies.
There are teleportation traps in this dungeon, but only on the bottom floor. Certainly not on the middle floors where we used to be. How curious.
“Sir Elias, why did you hold me back?”
I expect that just like me, he could have escaped at any time. Elias replies with his unchanging cheer.
“Sorry about that. The reason… well, I suppose I simply wanted to be alone with you, that’s all.”
“Is that so?”
We look at each other, the same smile on our faces, both of us moving back a step unprompted. Elias slowly unsheathes his sword and points it at me.
“Miss Fleurety… who are you?”
A/N: Next chapter, what goes on in the knight’s mind.
Everyone, I think it’s time to start worrying for the maid.