We had no choice but to sneak out of the castle like bandits kidnapping the Princess. With Katsys passed out and hoisted onto my left shoulder, it’s not like my situation could get much worse at this point.
Luckily, the rest of the castle had not been alerted to my escape, but it was only a matter of time before someone patrolled past the princess’s room and noticed the downed guards.
As Ludmila and I were running, I constantly scanned around to check for traces of mana. At times like this, I had no choice but to keep firing off my skill in bursts to detect if people were nearby like radar.
We rounded a corner and ran right into the sight of two guards that were just outside of my detection range.
Before I had the time to grab something from my Item Box, the girl who had been next to me disappeared and ended up behind them. My ‘Eyes of Providence’ saw a burst of mana exploding out of their stomachs before they felt over unconscious. I had to whistle in admiration.
Catching up to her, I asked Ludmila what she had done to them. It was the same move that she used before, this ‘Mana Strike.’ According to her, injecting a burst of mana into a person who wasn’t used to mana control would overload the body’s senses, knocking them out. I couldn’t help but appreciate her pseudo-ninja skills.
“Can you make a body double?”
“Aw…,” I grumbled in disappointment, but with her speed, her afterimages could almost fit the bill.
We passed by some small groups of people along the way who were knocked out by Ludmila before they could raise an alarm. I pilfered some cloaks from the men for later. It wouldn’t do to walk outside with my easily recognizable chef uniform out in the open. Creating more rumors as the townspeople bare witness to me stealing the country’s princess wouldn’t be good either.
Before long, we found ourselves in front of the stable where the horses were kept.
“Oh, smart girl! We’ll definitely need some transport to make it out quickly.”
Just then, an alarm sounded through the castle grounds.
“Guess our time’s up. Quickly, there’s a cart!”
I pointed in the direction of a caretaker that just happened to be hitching a horse to a wagon. It was the perfect timing, so Ludmila went over and knocked him out. Laying Katsys into the bed of the wagon, I grabbed the reins, thinking that it had been a while since I had touched one last. Thankfully, the horse was well-trained, so I had no difficulty getting it to cooperate. The wagon raced along the pathway leading to the front gate.
However, a problem laid ahead. The alarm had signaled for the two guards stationed there to close off the exit.
“Ludmila, can I count on you again?”
Like the blur of a certain blue creature that had to go fast, Ludmila knocked out the guards and hit the switch for the gate before I had the time to blink twice. Before I knew it, she was sitting in the wagon once again. Against her speed, the castle didn’t have the capability to slow us down.
In the short span of time since she had joined our family, there was no doubt in my mind that she had become a capable Electi. That’s how a summoned person should be, shouldn’t it? I guess the kingdom would be a bit hard-pressed to fight against two Electi now, but it would be over for us if they called out the big guns.
Though the two of us had overpowered skills, it depended on the situation. There wasn’t much we could do against attacks magical in nature. Solely encountering guards that excelled in physical combat had been a lucky break. Keeping Ludmila’s talents a secret had also worked to our advantage.
Ignoring the cries of people around us as we sped down the main path out of the city, we set our sights on the Faulkner domain, our only safe haven.
Our trip back was relatively uneventful. Most of the guards were probably resting by this point, as it was late into the night. Though they were no longer on alert for a murderer, it wouldn’t be long before an uproar started again, fueled by the addition of a missing princess. I couldn’t help but feel like a certain spiky fiend from a video game. If only I had supporters that could distract the pursuing party and tell them that their princess was in another castle.
News of the events had not reached the town of Faulkner yet, as none of the people were wary of my appearance. Of course, it was also late at night, so the townsfolk probably wouldn’t hear about my misdeeds until the next morning. For once, I was thankful that information didn’t travel instantaneously to the public.
However, that was a different case for certain people of importance. By the time we arrived back to our home, Pietro and Carina were there waiting for us. The lords of the different domains had already been notified early on, which was why Ludmila had been sent to help me. Since Eryn was a magic knight of the kingdom, she had to report in and contribute to my capture. Given that I was her familiar, all eyes were on her to see what she would do next.
As I lifted Katsys from the bed of the wagon, Pietro and Carina looked over to me with upturned eyebrows.
“She started attacking me out of the blue, like someone was controlling her,” I quickly explained. “I saw a weird cloud of mana over her head.”
The two of them walked over and touched where I indicated. With my enhanced sight, the purple cloud of mana still swirled around her head, like a ghost attached to her. I swatted at it with my hand, but it seemed to pass right through.
“Dear, looks like this is your specialty.” Pietro looked over at Carina, who gave a nod.
Focusing on her hand, a veil of mana developed around it. Rather than passing through her hand like mine had, her graceful movements had caused the cloud to twirl and coil around like she had grabbed ahold of some taffy. With a light pull, the cloud was plucked from Katsys’s head before a flash of mana caused it to explode in the air. The resulting pop could be seen even to those that couldn’t detect mana, creating a visible puff of smoke lingering in the air.
“She should be fine now. This was a mid-tier puppeteering magic that connected a target with the caster. I severed the connection just now. Those with good mana control would be able to resist a spell like this.” Carina gave us her normal smile.
“Carina…Who are you, really?” I found it hard to believe that a normal person would be capable of reversing this technique.
“Just a retired old lady, though I have a feeling that’s not the answer you are looking for. I guess it won’t hurt to tell you now. I was a practitioner of the spiritual arts from Sanshiro, at least in my past life. Now, I’m just a kitchen servant living out her days with the man I love.”
“Yes, techniques focused on mana control and manipulation for various purposes. I could even get the jump on this stiff swordsman back in the day.” She poked Pietro in the side.
I thought she was joking at first, until I saw the look of sourness on Pietro’s face.
“Wait, really?! But wasn’t Pietro the former Captain of the Royal Guard?!”
No matter how I looked at Carina’s stats, it showed that she was only a level 5 commoner. Pietro, on the other hand, was currently at level 50, but somehow, he felt a lot stronger than that.
Looking at the status windows in the air in confusion, Carina chuckled at me. With a wave of her hand, I felt the mana around them change. For the next few moments, the status window blurred before settling on completely different numbers.
“Level 70s! The both of you?!” I cried out in surprise.
Though they had stats different from each other – Pietro specializing in Atk and Spd and Carina specializing in MP and Dex – their stats, on average, far surpassed any veteran soldier in this kingdom.
Katsys stirred from her unconscious state, probably because I had yelled. With a groggy expression, she lifted up her head and rubbed it with her palm.
“What… happened? I felt like I was trying to find you, Claude, but I don’t remember anything afterward.”
“Well, you tried to kill me apparently.”
“I did what?!” The fog cleared from her mind the instant I said that.
“You were controlled by someone that cast a spell on you,” Carina explained. “Do you recall who did it?”
“I don’t know… I can’t remember anything… though I do recall wanting to speak with the Chancellor before finding Claude…”
Unknown to us, Carina’s mana manipulation had not only freed her from the Chancellor’s control, but it had also unearthed a portion of the memories that he had tried to hide.
“The Chancellor?” I was surprised to hear that name.
Why would that guy have a grudge against me? Wouldn’t the ice magician that had temporarily turned him into a statue be higher on his list? However, his aptitude in magic was known to be tremendous, so he would likely be one of the few that could cast it. That was bad. How would we survive against the most powerful magician in the kingdom? And why would he do that to Katsys? There were too many questions swirling around me.
“I, too, have been wary of the man. Part of the reason that I gave up my position long ago,” Pietro added to our developing mistrust of him.
“Could it be? Is the Chancellor trying to manipulate the kingdom?” Katsys pondered out loud.
Certainly, there had been a lot of changes recently across the kingdom, particularly in terms of a technological revolution, which Katsys and I were at the center of. Had the Chancellor seen this as a threat to the country in some way?
“And here I thought that we were doing good in helping people better their lives…,” I sighed at the possibility.
I didn’t understand how the minds of nobility worked. Why would they want to keep the common people grounded to a low standard of living?
“Power given to the people is a power that can be used against you. That has been one of the views my brother has held.” Katsys offered her take on this.
“Whatever his reason was, he had enough desire to frame me for murder, and then, control Katsys to cover it up. Even more so, if royalty is involved, there will be no escaping a dire fate.”
“Do you think we could somehow make him confess like how I made the former Duke?” I recalled the potion that was used to make him admit all of his wrongdoings.
“Good luck getting him to take it. And even if we succeed, his magic is undoubtedly strong enough to resist its effects. Who do you think engineered its creation? Certainly, not some lower class citizen with an objective to control those in power.”
As Katsys pointed out, the creation of a magic potion with such worrisome effects could only be done by those holding significant backing in the kingdom. Most likely, it was a tool originally created to aid the Chancellor’s investigative duties.
My eyes looked off to the distance, recalling something Eryn and I had once talked about.
“We have to run. With me wanted and the princess also being targeted, neither one of us is safe while we stay in this country. There’s nothing we can do with so much stacked against us.”
I couldn’t rely on Eryn for this. She had her position to consider. Going against the kingdom would simply lead to her title being stripped. I couldn’t let her lose that, not after she had tried so hard to become Lord. But where could we go?
“Here. Take this. Head east to Sanshiro.” Carina handed me a rolled-up scroll that had been aged by time.
I opened it, revealing what looked like a family crest – a symbol of a person calmly warding against a sea of fire around him.
“Please show that crest when you arrive there. And tell them that Narika sent you.”
“You should go. Take what you need and head out immediately,” Pietro told us.
Taking some time to quickly pack, I stuffed as much as I could into my Item Box for our journey ahead, silently thanking the inventor for the greatly upgraded capability. I made sure my Item Box was filled with supplies for the long journey and equipment that I would need in case of battle. Ludmila and I would be the only ones that could protect Katsys.
In the meantime, Katsys changed out of her dress and was given some of Eryn’s old traveling clothes. Seeing her dressed in them brought up some nostalgia of the time that I had first met Eryn. I knew that I wouldn’t be seeing her for a while.
Given that I was still a chef at heart, I may have focused too much on food and spices. Since I wasn’t sure how difficult our travels would be, it didn’t hurt to have a healthy supply. A good meal on the road would certainly lift our spirits, and there was plenty of space in my inventory.
With everyone prepared to go, we sped off on our wagon, leaving the Faulkner home behind. I didn’t want to leave Eryn’s side, but I couldn’t see any way around it. The best thing for her would be to convince everyone that I had acted independently. Being a Viscountess, her title held some weight, and the people that lived here would back her.
Furthermore, there was no way that Cornelius would ever allow her to be in harm’s way. After some time to cool down, I realized that Cornelius’s plan had likely been to quickly capture me so that he could defend her innocence. I hated to admit it, but I felt more at ease with a guy like him watching over her. His brilliant mana control was probably the best defense against the Chancellor at the moment.
As our wagon sped through the town at night, I almost didn’t see the person standing near the town’s perimeter up ahead. However, that person quickly cast a spell, creating a large pillar of fire in our path.
The horse halted in fear, bringing the wagon to a screeching halt. As the flame pillar subsided, I took a good look at the magic knight in front of me. The glint of her sword in the moonlight cast an unmistakable glow around her figure. It was Eryn, and she was pointing her sword at us.