A Conclusion for that Dragon Knight
Editor: Striker, Ulti, Xenthur
It’s been two days since Lynn switched places with the princess.
We expected someone to interrupt us while we were drinking at the tavern, but somehow, we were able to make it through to morning without any incident.
Did that red-haired woman not report back to the others?
But they should’ve sent quite a few people to secure the princess once they found out that she was a body double.
“Dust, I think I’ll lay off the wine for a while.”
“Me too. I can’t believe that I’ve been asleep for an entire day.”
Taylor and Keith, who spent the entirety of the previous day asleep after consuming sleeping-pill infused beer, drank water with a grimace.
“You need to learn to drink in moderation. As the saying goes, ‘you can drink without getting drunk’. We had to get Yunyun and Lolisa to cover for you, so be sure to go thank them later.”
Princess Leonor, under the guise of Lynn, lectured them, even though she’s the one who drugged them in the first place.
“I see. I’ll bring them a gift as an apology later.”
“I didn’t think I drank that much…”
“Let’s let bygones be bygones. It seems like the two of you are properly reflecting on it, after all.”
I’ll lay off lecturing the two of them today. After all, the original cause was the princess.
Showing a bit of kindness every now and then wouldn’t hurt.
“Every time you see someone in a position of weakness, you’d be the first in line to berate them and attempt to extort money… So what’s with you today?”
“Did you make a lot of money from this quest? Come on, share some of it with me.”
I go out of my way to be kind and this happens.
Actually, I take all of that back. There’s no reason to take pity on these two.
“You know what, I’m going to have you pay for Faitfore’s food as punishment. Then I’ll call it even for what happened yesterday. You have no objections, right? Go ahead and eat your fill, Faitfore.”
“That sounds great. I’ll leave it to you two~.”
“Thank you very much.”
The two of them reluctantly took charge of paying for Faitfore’s breakfast.
“Faitfore-chan, this is today’s recommended item. It’s renowned for being both filling and tasty… It’s a little pricey, but what about having this for dessert?”
A nearby waitress who overheard the conversation showed up with a menu in hand in an attempt to tempt Faitfore.
“Hey, don’t recommend the most expensive thing on your menu!”
“Sorry, but can you offer something cheaper instead?”
The two of them, knowing Faitfore’s appetite, desperately tried to convince her to go for an alternative, but in the end it seems like the waitress won.
The pile of plates grew larger and larger, while Taylor and Keith’s spirits fell even lower.
When they started drowning their sorrows in beer, the princess suddenly tugged on my sleeve.
“About what happened yesterday… I was certain that my pursuers would’ve come knocking on the door, so why hasn’t anyone showed up?”
She said in a whisper, but to be honest, my other companions are probably too busy worrying about the state of their wallets to pay attention to anything we said…
“Who knows? Maybe that red-haired lady is late in reporting back, or perhaps is acting alone. She’s sent by the kingdom, right? Look familiar to you?”
“… Not at all. I’ve memorized the looks of all the maids and soldiers in the castle to avoid being caught when sneaking out, but I’ve never seen her before.”
I think she’s focusing her efforts in the wrong place, but for what it’s worth, the princess’s memory is top notch, especially when it comes to remembering faces and names.
In the princess’s own words,
“If I can remember all that, I don’t need to spend a lot of time on studying or learning etiquette. It’s really convenient.”
Hailed as a genius, but she often focuses her wits on pulling pranks and getting up to no good.
“So she’s a hireling. From the looks of her, she doesn’t seem to be a proper professional. Most likely an adventurer or a small-time thug from another town.”
“Or perhaps she doesn’t know the details and was only told to bring me in. After all, it wouldn’t do to have officials from Brydle raise a huge fuss in this country. If that’s the case, I sense a lot of opportunities for entertainment in the future… Ehehehe…”
She licked the foam of beer from her lips and let out a smile.
Ah, she’s planning something wicked again.
Still, how should I proceed from here? It’s not out of the question to hand her over the next time we meet.
I do feel sorry for the princess, but I’m concerned about how Lynn is doing too.
“Duuu~st, if you sell me out, I’ll make sure to tell everyone about how you were when you were a knight. Especially all those salacious parts.”
Dammit, she saw right through me.
Still, even if I don’t do anything, the fact that Princess Leonor is no longer at the castle has already been revealed, and it’s only a matter of time before Lynn comes back to us.
And when she does, it’s only natural that the princess would be revealed as a fake.
“So that’s where you were.”
I turned towards the source of that irritated sounding voice, and found Perrier standing with arms crossed behind me.
There’s no one else with her, so she must be working alone.
“Say, what should we do? It seems like what happened yesterday is weighing really heavily on her.”
Perrier was wearing a jacket over her red dress.
“You did put her down pretty harshly yesterday. You best apologize.”
“S-Sorry, I didn’t do it out of spite or anything. I just thought it was really an eccentric sense of fashion. I really can’t understand the appeal of dressing up that way, but that’s up to your personal taste.”
It sounds like she was trying to patch things over, but all it seemed to do was inflict more damage onto Perrier.
She seemed about to collapse, but was able to barely support herself by clinging onto the side of a table.
“F-Forget about my clothes! Just come with me. If you plan to resist, I don’t mind going wild here.”
She said with a smile, but just what is she thinking?
Going wild inside the tavern of the adventurer’s guild would make the entire guild your enemy.
Axel might be known as the town of beginners, but due to certain circumstances, there are quite a few veteran adventurers who’ve made this town their home… Especially the men.
“I’m sure you don’t want to drag innocent people into this.”
“Eh? I don’t really care about dragging them in.”
The princess instantly answered, and Perrier’s jaw dropped wide open.
“W-What did you just say? These people have nothing to do with you at all.”
“What of it? As long as I am fine, I don’t really care about the others.”
Slamming her mug onto the table, the princess made a shameless declaration.
I’m sure part of it is the alcohol speaking, but it’s most likely at least half true.
“Y-You are the worst. This is why royalty are such scum.”
“What do I care for the thoughts of the commoners? Ohohoho.”
With that, she put her feet on the table and laughed.
Judging from her looks, it seems like she’s well into her cups. Now that I notice, there seemed to be a lot more empty mugs at the table than I initially thought.
She must have come to terms with the fact that she would be brought back to the castle any time now, and taken the chance to drink her fill of all the cheap wine that she normally couldn’t enjoy.
“Tsk, you must really be something to get so drunk in the middle of the day. Don’t you feel any shame knowing that others are working hard out in the sun while you are sitting here getting drunk? No person in their right mind would start drinking in the middle of the day. If your family could see you, they’d be so disappointed. There’s no other word than pathetic to describe you!”
Perrier said that in a loud voice, perhaps still bearing a grudge over her choice of clothes getting disparaged.
“Sigh… Have you ever been told that you can’t read the mood?”
“Huh? What are you saying?”
“Where do you think you are? This is the tavern of the adventurer’s guild, you know?”
Finally realizing that she made a mistake, Perrier broke out into cold sweat and cautiously started looking around her.
“Well, sorry for drinking in the middle of the day, lady.”
“Family, huh? I’m a virgin, but I do want to have a family before I die.”
“Let me show you how wonderful alcohol is. Come over here and let’s have a drink together.”
As other drunks started surrounding her, even Perrier couldn’t help but lose her composure.
“W-What are you trying to do? I won’t let you off if you do anything to me!”
“What, you’re charging? Well, name your price then.”
“I’ll give you everything I earned today, so come have a drink with me!”
It seems like those clothes gave them the impression that she was in the business.
“Cut it out. Why would I hang out with scum… Glugluglug.”
A mug of beer was forced into her face while she was in the middle of talking.
“Are you trying to get me drunk? Hicc. You won’t get meー. Drunk that easily, hiccー.”
Did she get drunk from just one mug? Despite her appearance, she seems to be a real lightweight.
“Ohh, that’s a nice drink. Come on, drink up! It’d be my treat!”
“Bring out a barrel of wine!”
The lady’s face blushed a bright red to match her hair and dress.
Taking a seat with the group of drunks, she started drinking and completely forgot about us.
What did she even come here for?
“Don’t leave me out! I’m going to drink my fill too!”
“You’ve had too much to drink. Come on, let’s go outside and get you freshened up. As for you two… Good luck.”
Taylor and Keith were so concerned with the amount of food that Faitfore was eating that they barely glanced my way.
It doesn’t seem like they heard about what happened earlier either.
It wouldn’t be a good idea to tempt fate any further by remaining here, so I grabbed the princess and led her outside.
I walked around, searching for a deserted place where she could sober up in peace, but when we exited the first alley we came across, she suddenly stopped and stared at me.
“Hey, hey~. What are you planning by taking me outside~. You don’t have anything dirty in mind, do you~?”
“Dammit, you are really annoying when you’re drunk! I won’t lay a hand on you.”
“Is that because Lynn-chan is that important to you?”
She asked in a clear voice, unlike the slurred speech she was using earlier.
“So you were just pretending to be drunk?”
“Nevermind that, answer me. Is Lynn-chan really that important to you? I don’t look that much different from her, so won’t you be fine with me too? Plus my chest is bigger too.”
“You know, in the first place…”
I pushed away the flushed and flirty princess who was leaning against me, placed my hands on her shoulder, and took a deep breath.
“Really, why did you come here?”
“I told you, I came to pay you a visit while on the way to the capital of Belzerg.”
“And is that really all?”
It wouldn’t be strange for her to do something like this on a whim.
However, she had no reason to deliberately let Faitfore escape and have her pass a message. It’d be more her style to keep it a secret until she suddenly shows up from nowhere.
That’s the kind of person she is.
“Well, there is the fact that this would’ve been my last chance to meet with you…”
“What do you mean?”
She lowered her gaze and whispered in a lonely voice. This shook me to my core.
Just as I pressed closer to ask her exactly what she meant by that,
“I found you! To think that you’d come up with such a plan to get me drunk, you guys sure are something!”
The red lady interrupted us.
Even though she was clearly drunk back then, she now looked completely fine.
“You were the one who set yourself up. Has the alcohol worked itself out of your system already?”
“Heh, while I was drinking with them, a priest I’ve never seen said ‘You are really bad at holding your liquor!’ and cast Heal on me, so I’m perfectly fine now.”
What a nosy person.
But this place is fairly deserted, so I didn’t need to worry about passerbys listening in. That’s perfect for our purposes.
“Anyway, who exactly hired you?”
“Hire? What are you talking about? I was ordered to come here. To secure the willful princess of the Kingdom of Brydle.”
“Yeah, so you were hired by the guy who gave you that order, right?”
“Well, I suppose you can say that. It was an order from above, after all.”
Hmm? It feels like we are talking past each other.
“Incidentally, who gave you that order?”
“It could be my father or the butler, or perhaps the chancellor.”
If you ask me, the most likely candidate would be the king, followed by the butler.
“All I can say is that she’s a general of the Demon King’s army.”
The princess and I said at the same time.
Did she just mention the Demon King’s army?
“Why are you acting so surprised? Don’t play dumb now, you already knew about it, didn’t you?”
“Err, sorry, not at all.”
“Not one bit.”
We gave our honest answers.
An awkward air descended upon us.
“No, wait a minute. You guys prepared a body double and ran away because you knew that the Demon King’s army was targeting you, right?”
“No, that’s not it. I just made use of her because I wanted to run away.”
…This could be said to be a pretty serious situation, but we didn’t feel any sense of urgency at all.
“So, what exactly are you doing? You didn’t prepare all this to escape the clutches of the Demon King’s army?”
The princess and I nodded in unison.
“Haaa? Then what did I go through all that for? I was planning to negotiate because I thought you were a shrewd person who went as far as to prepare a body double, but this is what she really is like… And my dress was mocked, too.”
I understand very well her desire to grab her head in her hands and scream.
She’s just another victim who was caught up in the princess’s schemes.
“Anyway, what does a member of the Demon King’s army want with her?”
“Since you’re a member of royalty and an adventurer, you should already be aware of recent developments. The Demon King’s army is planning a major invasion in the near future.”
Hearing that, the princess let out a gasp.
I’ve heard some rumours about it, but hearing it directly from a member of the Demon King’s army sure lends it some weight.
“… I was traveling to the capital in order to discuss this matter.”
“… Isn’t that a pretty major issue? Is it really the time to be doing something like this?”
“… It’s fine. I’m just here as a diplomatic gesture, it’s not like I’ll be making any decisions.”
We whispered. I never thought such things would be taking place behind the scenes.
“Hey, don’t ignore me and whisper amongst yourselves. That’s really mean, you know?”
Is she really a member of the Demon King’s army?
Her words and actions are rough, but she also feels very human.
“Didn’t anyone tell you that you shouldn’t interrupt when someone else is speaking? If we can secure Princess Leonor as our hostage, we’ll be able to seal away those pesky Dragon Knights that are the mainstay of the Kingdom of Brydle.”
I see. True, if you can control the skies, you’ll achieve a significant advantage on the battlefield. And the greatest threat to any flying beast would be a Dragon Knight.
“Oh, it seems like the Demon King’s army has some sharp minds at work. However, you guys overlooked a critical issue with your plan.”
“Hah! What are you talking about? What issue could we have overlooked?”
I pointed at the princess and loudly declared.
“Princess Leonor has no worth as a hostage!”
“W-What are you saying!? I’m the pure, smart, and beautiful Princess Leonor who is akin to the sun that shines over the kingdom. If I were to be captured by the smelly and violent Demon King’s army, the entire kingdom would be awash in the tears of the citizens!”
Those words came out almost all at once.
I almost couldn’t believe that she would value herself this highly.
“Y-Yeah, that’s right! Regardless of her behaviour, she’s still a member of royalty! And she’s the first princess too, so there is no way she wouldn’t have any value!”
“Ah, you just don’t get it. She does nothing but cause trouble for the people in the castle all day. They aren’t able to touch her because she’s royalty, but if the Demon King’s army were to take care of her for them, they’d practically jump for joy.”
Or so I say, but that is a bald-faced lie.
She might be willful and selfish, but her straightforward personality and the way she acts without care for differences in status has undeniably made her popular amongst the citizens and common soldiers.
“You’re lying, right!? I can’t be that hated! Tell me you’re lying, please!”
Princess Leonor grabbed her head and yelled at the sky.
I think she’s just acting to go along with me, but when it comes to her it’s hard to tell what is an act and what is genuine.
She’s not seriously in shock, is she?
“True, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone like her to be hated by the kingdom…”
“Don’t be convinced so easily! It’s fine, I’m not hated! It’ll definitely be fine, so go ahead and hold me as your hostage!”
Why is she offering herself as a hostage?
“Ah, no, actually, I think I’ll pass.”
“Just a little while would do! Just two days and a night would do, so hold me hostage already!”
The princess pressed up to Perrier’s face as the other girl slowly shrunk back.
… What’s up with this situation.
“You’ll continue to be wilful even when you are a hostage, right?”
“Not at all. All I need is a skillful chef and a fluffy bed. Oh, and a large bath, three meals a day, and afternoon naps. As long as I have that, I won’t throw any tantrums.”
“Yeah, I think we’ll be fine.”
“Why!? I gave you a really good deal, didn’t I?”
Could I say that the plan went well?
She lost any intention of taking the princess hostage, so that is a success, right?
“Ah, shut up! You’re so annoying! My superiors told me to bring you in alive, but it’d be the same if I kill you here. It’d be troublesome to have any witnesses lying around, so you’ll be dying here too.”
This girl chose the absolute worst way to lose her temper!
“Hey, aren’t you afraid of what will happen if you disobey your superior’s orders?”
I stepped in front of the princess.
“Oh, can it! I’ve always been bad at thinking! I can’t be blamed for my boss picking the wrong person for this mission!”
This girl seems to have flown off her handle entirely.
Still, I can’t say that her actions so far have been particularly intelligent. Her boss really did pick the wrong person for the job.
She tore off her jacket, and a large pair of bat-like wings sprouted from her back. Along with it, a pair of horns started growing from her head.
So she was a demon, huh.
“Ah, I see. I thought you were just a tacky exhibitionist, but this is why you wore a dress with an open back.”
The princess seemed impressed by how those large wings sprouted out without damaging her clothing.
Though I don’t think that’s where you should be focusing on.
“She seems like a pretty strong opponent. Dust, I’ll leave this to you!”
After saying that with a wide smile on her face, she turned around and ran down the alleyway.
“Hey, she ran away on her own.”
“… Yeah, she did.”
Her escape was so unexpected that Perrier couldn’t react in time to stop her.
The two of us stared at each other.
“Say, is there any point to us fighting?”
“Quiet! I’ll hunt her down later, but right now I’m going to vent all my frustrations on you!”
Doesn’t seem like she has any intention of talking at all.
Perrier took off from the ground and swooped down at me.
Five long red claws left streaks in the air as she swiped them at my face.
I managed to parry it with my sword, but the moment I blocked it she swiped at me with her other hand. It took all I had to hold her off.
“Your head isn’t much to speak off, but you’re pretty good when it comes to fighting!”
“I clawed my way to becoming a general candidate solely on my strength! Even my boss gave me her stamp of approval, saying that ‘you can count on her when it comes to fighting, at least’! This kidnapping thing was supposed to be taken care of by someone else, but I ended up taking over after showing my strength!”
I see, so she forced the guy to hand this mission over to her.
… That means it’s not your boss who made the wrong choice!
“As fellow struggling people, I feel like I would have a lot in common with your boss!”
After blocking her attacks, I leapt backwards in order to gain some distance.
She only blindly attacks without using magic or any tricks, so in a sense she’s an easy opponent to deal with, but at the same time, her physical capabilities are monstrous. The attacks come in so fast that it’s taking my all just to fend her off.
Her claws are a little longer than my blade, so I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to reach. Additionally, she had both hands available.
I spotted an opening and tried to land a blow, but she immediately took to the air the moment she sensed the danger.
Yeah, she’s definitely good at this.
“Dammit, this might be pretty bad for me.”
Maybe it’d be better to run away instead of fighting it out here.
But if I ran away here, she’ll definitely go after the princess next.
“Then I can’t back down now, can I?”
I lowered my center of gravity and raised my sword.
“Oh, you’re not running away? You’re better than I thought, but it seems like your reach is just a little too short. Oh well, I’ll deal with you in a jiffy and go chase that bitch down!”
She soared high into the air and dove down towards me.
It’d be impossible to block her blow at this speed. It’s not my style, but I’ll have to settle for landing a fatal blow as she lands hers…
“Dust, use this!”
A voice shouted from behind me, along with the sound of rushing wind.
I dropped my sword and grabbed the thing flying towards me from behind.
There’s no need for me to turn to look in order to grab something that’s so familiar to me.
“Oh, you came back! Once I cut this guy down, you’ll be next!”
I planted the butt of my spear on the ground and pointed the tip at Perrier as she screamed downtowards me.
Just before she reached me, I shifted towards the side.
There’s no way for her to change directions at that speed.
The only thing left where I was moments ago was a spear pointed right at her. And it is obvious what will happen if you charge towards it at full speed.
“I wanted to go easy on you because you’re a sexy lady, but I can’t do that if you go after the princess.”
I stepped into the princess’s line of sight to shield her from seeing this grisly scene and hurried on out of there.
“Dust, I’m heading back.”
As we were passing by a restaurant, the princess suddenly said that.
“Where did this come from?”
“It’s bad enough that my life was targeted, but there is a chance that Lynn-chan’s life is at risk as well. It’s unlikely that Perrier was the only person that the Demon King sent.”
“Yeah, if I was the boss I’d send someone else after her too.”
Perrier had the skills when it came to combat, but she wasn’t exactly good at using her head.
“Right? I’ll be safer with my bodyguards, and I can’t let Lynn-chan be exposed to danger for my sake. So this will be the end of my selfishness. I had a lot of fun, Dust. Thank you.”
She uttered those rare, honest words of gratitude and bowed her head.
“Don’t be so nice all of a sudden. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
“Hehe. I won’t be able to meet you like this anymore, so at the very end, at least let me act like a proper princess for once.”
I have to say, that unblemished smile that appeared on her face as she said that really does suit her.
“Leonor is back! Open the gates!”
The princess stood in front of a lavish mansion in the wealthy district of Axel and boldly declared.
The emblem of the Kingdom of Brydle was emblazoned on the breastplate of the guards guarding the gate.
“It’s true, she looks just like Leonor-sama. If they hadn’t told me about this in advance, I would’ve fallen completely for it.”
The guard scrutinized her before nodding to himself.
What’s with this guy? That’s not how a soldier of the kingdom should be acting.
“What are you saying!? That is an order from me! I won’t have you say you’ve forgotten my face!”
“Of course I remember your face. I’ve faced plenty of troubles both at the castle and on the road. I’ve even had my salary cut three times for failing to stop the princess from escaping.”
The soldier let out a huge sigh. It doesn’t seem like he recognizes the princess.
“Then let me through. I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that earlier.”
“I can’t do that. I’ll keep the fact that you took the princess’s name as your own a secret, so hurry up and make yourself scarce.”
“What? Who do you think I amー”
“You are the princess’s lookalike, right? Princess Leonor is currently in the mansion, and the head butler told me that there is someone who happens to look just like the princess in the town of Axel. She might try to use her name to pull off some kind of scam, so make sure not to fall for it.”
This person thinks that the person currently within the mansion is the real princess.
Well, I suppose I should’ve thought about that before. If Lynn managed to successfully fool everyone into thinking that she is Princess Leonor, then obviously the one standing out here would be treated as an imposter.
“Are your eyes for show!? Take a good look at me! Who else could such a noble face belong to other than Princess Leonor!?”
“Even the way you speak is very much like the princess. I’ll admit that you really did your homework, but, really, you should give it up while you still can. Masked man over there, can you please take her somewhere else?”
He’s not buying it at all.
Incidentally, I’m wearing a mask I bought from Sir Vanir’s store to prevent the guards from recognizing me.
“This situation doesn’t look very good. Let’s head back for now.”
“No way! I can’t believe nobody can recognize the real Princess Leonor! Ah, old man! Look over here! It’s me!”
The princess happened to see the bearded butler, accompanied by a maid, walk past the courtyard, and enthusiastically waved towards them.
The butler stared at us for a long time before raising an eyebrow and approaching us.
“Oh, it’s the young lady that looks exactly like Leonor-sama. I’ve heard the rumours, but it’s still surprising to see you in person.”
He ran a hand through his immaculately kept beard as he said that.
“What are you saying!? I am the real one, the one inside the mansion right now is the real fake!”
“Now, now, I can’t have you calling Leonor-sama a fake. That’s no way to speak about royalty.”
“Indeed. Even as she is, she’s still technically royalty.”
The maid standing next to the head butler gave an expressionless nod.
“Hey, wait a minute. Do you two really not recognize me?”
It seems like having the head butler who had been with her ever since she was born not recognise her was a major shock to her. She took several shaky steps back.
“The Leonor-sama currently in the mansion has some problems when it comes to the finer points of etiquette, but she’s throwing herself into her studies without any complaints. This is just me talking to myself, but the entire entourage has agreed that it’d be perfectly fine if things remained like this.”
“She’s much cuter than the first Leonor-sama.”
Hey now, they just said something really unbelievable.
Are these guys serious about having Lynn take Leonor’s place even after knowing her true identity?
“Y-You’re betraying me!? This is treason! A conspiracy!”
The princess cursed at this unexpected turn of events.
“What are you saying? I am merely following the princess’s wishes. I hope she’ll enjoy her life of freedom. I doubt she’ll have access to the luxuries that she’s grown used to, but I’m sure she’ll have a fulfilling life ahead of her. Pui.”
The maid spat on the ground without her smile cracking in the slightest.
“Wait, are you seriously saying that!? I’ll reflect on my actions, so please say you’re joking!”
The princess tried to jump on the head butler, so I grabbed her from behind to stop her.
“Is Lynn fine with this?”
“Oh, that voice. I think I’ve heard that voice somewhere before. Well, leaving that aside, the new Leonor left a message for you. ‘If you think that I’m more important than the princess, then feel free to bring me out.'”
Why is Lynn being so stubborn?
“Does it mean… They told her about the past?
I bowed and muttered to myself, when the maid suddenly came into my line of sight.
Her face looks familiar. I think she was Leonor’s personal maid. She was a Thief, and had a surprisingly venomous tongue despite being almost entirely expressionless.
“I told her the story of the princess and the young Dragon Knight to kill time, after which she became really ill tempered for some reason. She said: ‘If he doesn’t lower his head and come pick me up, I’ll stay here forever’, and in a sense that gave me a really nice feeling in my heart.”
“So you were the one who did it…”
She must have gotten upset after hearing about the secret that I’ve kept from her all this time.
I did promise to tell her some day, but I never got around to doing so. From the sound of things, her mood wouldn’t get better unless I prostrate myself and apologize to her from the bottom of my heart.
“That’s the story, so please leave. Though, on the off chance that you do manage to break through the security and reach the new Leonor, we will agree to trade her back for the ex-Leonor, reluctant as I am to say that.”
“Ex, you say…”
I heard a trembling, rage filled voice, so I think I’ll avoid looking her way for the moment.
“Well, you’ve sure shown some real spine. I’ll see if you can remain that way when the fake is taken away! I’ll make sure to pay you all back when I regain my authority… Just you wait!”
“Ho, ho, ho. The words of a mere lookalike are but songs in the wind.”
The princess glared angrily, but the butler seemed unfazed.
They must have suffered quite a bit at her hands, so this is their opportunity to get a little payback.
There’s no room for me to interject. From how things look, I’m practically guaranteed to have to sneak in there to rescue her.
Still, I suppose it isn’t too bad.
And it’s unlikely that they are being serious about this. I’m sure they are only putting it this way in order to get the princess to seriously reflect on her own actions.
If she returned of her own will, she’ll be somewhat less wilful in the future. The butler seems to be counting on that.
“Sigh~. If the ex-Leonor were to return, that would mean an end to these peaceful days. Ah, what a pity.”
“I can’t believe we have to swap out the pure Leonor-sama who was so elated by just a dress and a meal. Sigh.”
The head butler and the maid let out a huge sigh.
Princess Leonor, seeing their actions, started trembling with rage.
“Of course, we’ll do everything in our power to stop you, so please be prepared if you do decide to challenge us.”
“It’s been some time since I’ve needed to use the skills I had developed as a Thief.”
The two of them cracked their knuckles and struck up a confident pose.
Are these two seriously intending to get in our way?
“Stupid! Stupid! I’ll definitely make you cry! Let’s go, Dust!”
As the teary eyed princess dragged me away, I looked back at the mansion, and met the gaze of Lynn looking down at us from the second floor.
Wearing that dress that ill-fitted her, she stuck her tongue out at me.
She seems to be in a bad mood.… Well, in order to brighten her up, I suppose I should treat this a bit more seriously.
That night, we observed the mansion from our vantage point.
There were four soldiers in front of the gate. The crest of Brydle was emblazoned on their breastplates, so they must be soldiers that they brought in from back home.
“Um, why did you drag me out here? It’s work time for me now…”
Pinkie-hair said something, but I ignored her.
Beyond the gates is a wide open courtyard. It’s best to assume that there are a few more traps and guards hiding out there.
“Has Lynn-san really been kidnapped? If that’s really the case, after I rescue her, as a thank you gift, she can be my f-friend…”
The gullible loner Crimson Demon was saying something too, but I ignored her.
“Hey, explain exactly what is going on. I know that this Lynn is just a lookalike, but what’s exactly happening?”
“Yeah, how did Lynn get mistaken for Rene-san here and end up getting locked up in a nobleman’s mansion?”
Keith and Taylor pressed me as they drew closer.
I would really like to ignore them too, but I get the feeling that these guys will probably leave if I do that.
I only told them Lynn was in trouble in order to drag them out here, so they know nothing about the situation.
“Well, Rene-san is a certain noblewoman whose parents recently died. One of her relatives tried to force her into marriage in order to secure her inheritance, and she ran away to avoid that. As a result of a chance encounter, they mistook Lynn for Rene, accidentally kidnapped her, and is now trying to use Lynn as Rene’s replacement for their own gains.”
That’s the story the princess and I came up with in order to secure the aid of my companions.
Using the old fake name of Rene does bring back some memories.
“I’m really sorry for causing this much trouble to Lynn-sama.”
The princess sorrowfully said while dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. She’s used to lying and putting on acts, so something like this is a breeze for her.
My companions are all good people at heart, so they were completely taken in.
“I see. A nobleman who wished to force a girl to marry him, a woman who runs away because of it, landing the adventurer who took her place in a huge crisis… I feel like this situation will really appeal to a portion of our customers! I should note this down!”
Loli Succubus, standing in the back, was furiously writing something down into her notepad.
“Doesn’t that mean Lynn-san is in really big trouble!? If a villain is involved, everything changes! As a Crimson Demon, I won’t let such a situation slip me by!”
Yunyun is surprisingly enthusiastic about this. I guess the Crimson Demons do have a penchant for games of justice.
“If Lynn is in danger, I can’t ignore this. You can count on my help on this matter.”
“She’s the only girl in our party. Without her, all that would be left is a bunch of scruffy old men.”
Taylor and Keith bought the story too.
“Still, is there a reason for us to bring the child along?”
Taylor’s gaze was directed at Faitfore, who was clinging onto my back with the help of the carrier string.
Normally she would’ve been sleeping soundly in bed, but instead she’s having a nap on my back right now.
“I don’t feel safe leaving her alone at the inn. Plus she’s been clamouring to come along with me lately. I’ll make sure she gets away if anything happens, so don’t worry about it.”
It is true that she has been clamouring to come along with me, but the main reason I brought her along is that, as a White Dragon that has made a contract with me, the closer she is to me the more powerful I grow.
If push comes to shove, that will really come in handy.
“Right, here is the plan. First off, Yunyun will strip completely nude and blast away with her spellsー”
“No way! I’ll definitely become a criminal if I do that! And why do I have to be nude!? There’s no need for that!”
How cheeky can she be to interrupt me before I could even finish outlining the first part of my perfect plan?
“It’ll be fine. It’s the middle of the night, so no one will be looking.”
“That’s not the problem! If you want to do that so badly, why don’t you do it yourself, Dust-san!”
“I don’t mind committing minor crimes, but major crimes like that are a little… ”
“Don’t make me do anything that gives you pause, Dust-san!”
“Yeah, stop messing around with stupid plans like that and think of something more realistic.”
“I support the nudity, but at least try and use your brain a little.”
Taylor and Keith joined Yunyun in lecturing me.
“I really wracked my brains coming up with that plan. Okay, fine, why don’t you guys come up with something? If my plan is so stupid, then I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with a plan I can get aboard with easily, right?”
I looked at my companions in turn before stopping in front of Yunyun.
“M-Me!? Umm, maybe we could ask the guard at the gates to please return Lynn-san to us?”
“Oh, that’s a good plan. As the person who came up with it, I’m sure you have no issues going up and asking him yourself.”
“Eh? Eh? Me!? You want me to go?”
“Dust, aren’t you being a little too cruel there?”
“What’s so cruel, Taylor-san? If you are going to raise objections to my plan, then I’m sure you would have an alternative plan in mind, right? It’s easy to just criticize, after all. So go on.”
Yunyun gave me a fearful look before stepping out of the shadows and inching towards the gate, trembling and looking every which way as she did. She’s pretty much the textbook example of a suspicious person.
She started talking to the gatekeeper, though due to the distance I wasn’t able to make out exactly what they are saying.
After some time, she dejectedly came wandering back towards us.
“Um, he told me that girls shouldn’t be out alone this late…”
“You’re totally useless! Does anyone else have another plan?”
Everyone averted their gaze at once.
They are afraid to say anything because they know they’ll be asked to carry it out if they do.
“Let me explain my plan.”
The only person who didn’t avert her gaze, Princess Leonor, raised her hand.
“Oh, do you have something interesting in mind?”
“Something like that. The noble in charge might be a villain, but the underlings under his command know nothing about what’s really happening, so I would like to avoid harming them as much as possible. So we should do this…”
Everyone leaned in to listen to her whispers.
“First, we should split up into two teams, one to sneak into the mansion to rescue Lynn-san, and the other to stay outside here to cause a distraction.”
“Splitting into two, huh? True, taking them head on and forcing our way in is impossible, so having a smaller team would make it easier to sneak in undetected.”
“I’m fine with it. The issue is how to split everyone.”
Seems like Taylor and Keith are in on it.
“About that, the team sneaking in should be me, Rene, Faitfore, and Lolisa. What do you think of that?”
“Eh? I’m going in too?”
Loli Succubus pointed at herself in shock, almost like she never expected to be picked at all.
“You’re good at using mind-affecting spells, right? It’d be a great asset when sneaking in.”
Plus, as a succubus, it’s her job to sneak into a man’s room without anyone noticing in order to give him a dream, so infiltration should be an old hat for her.
“Um, wouldn’t it be really dangerous to take Faitfore with you?”
Yunyun shakily raised her hand.
“You’re too naive in your thinking. What would you think if a man snuck into your house carrying a young girl on her back?”
“Umm… It’d be quite a surprise.”
“Right? I would be able to take advantage of their surprise to get the drop on ‘em. Plus, even if we happen to get captured, they’ll definitely let her go.”
“Yes. I’ll definitely get them to leave her be if she gets caught. Oh, and, the goal of this mission is to get me and Lynn-san to swap places once again. I’ve managed to get some unsavory information on that nobleman during the last few days I spent in town, so I’ll be able to get him to call off the wedding.”
The princess confidently declared, but those are all lies.
To anyone who doesn’t know the truth, she’d look just like an inspiring noble heroine who forged her own path through sheer will and effort.
Apart from me and Faitfore, everyone else present seemed to be having such thoughts run through their heads as they watched her act.
“Right, then, let me get down to the details.”
The order of operations was decided and everyone got into their positions.
Though, in truth, most of the plan is riddled with holes and relies heavily on improvisation.
A single girl walked past the gates. Perhaps because she’s walking alone at night, she seemed restless and jittery, and ultimately very suspicious.
“Hey there, pretty thing. How about having some fun with me and the boys? … Hey, your line.”
“Ah, sorry. Errr… How about having a cup of tea with us?”
“T-Tea? Um, are you really fine with me? You aren’t mistaking me with someone else, are you?”
A pair of adventurers called out to her, seemingly trying to hit on a weak woman.
Or it would be if it wasn’t for the smile she had on her face. This wouldn’t do.
“Yunyun, you need to put up more resistance. Otherwise there’s no point in doing this. And Taylor, put a little more effort into your act.”
“S-Sorry. I don’t get asked out very often…”
“Y-Yeah. You want me to act more thuggish, right? What would Keith and Dust do…”
…We might’ve put the wrong people for the job.
Keith is doing fine for his role, but the other two are really bad when it comes to acting.
Fortunately, the three of them did manage to draw the attention of the gatekeepers with their antics, and all the men at the gate are currently looking their way.
“Are they hitting on her? No, wait, it sounds like it might be a couple’s quarrel.”
“It might be best to stop them. And isn’t that girl the one who came up earlier?”
Taking advantage of their distraction, Leonor, Loli Succubus and I snuck up to the gates and walked past them. I was wearing the mask in order to avoid having my face recognized.
We considered climbing the walls and getting in that way, but they’re high enough that it wasn’t a viable option. I might be able to get over the walls by myself, but not if I wanted to bring the Princess along.
Plus, the other side would be expecting us, so breaking in through the front might end up being more surprising.
“Right, we’ve successfully snuck into the courtyard. I’ve memorized the layout of the mansion, so follow me.”
We hid ourselves in the shadow of a large tree in the courtyard.
Leonor pulled out a piece of paper from her bosom and led us.
“It’s nice that it came in useful, but why did you have a map of the mansion on you?”
“I had to get it. Getting out of this mansion is part of my escape plans, so naturally, I had to prepare a map of the layout beforehand.”
I didn’t feel like complimenting her foresight at all.
The courtyard is needlessly large, so there’s still quite some distance between us and the mansion.
“There’s nothing that we can hide behind between us and the main door. There are a lot of lights around too, so we’ll definitely be spotted if we go through the courtyard.”
“That’s a problem. What should we do?”
“Well, we’ll just have to stick to the shadows, dodge the lights, and see where that takes us.”
Princess Leonor and I, along with Faitfore clinging onto my back, crouched down and slowly made our way across.
Just as we covered about 80% of the courtyard, the surroundings suddenly became a lot brighter.
“Gyaaa! My eyes! My eyes!”
“Argh, it hurts!”
The princess, who was coincidentally looking in the direction where the light came from, rolled around on the floor clutching her eyes.
Using my hands to form a sunshade, I squinted towards the source of the light and saw the head butler striking a pose along with several maids on the roof.
“So you finally appeared, Beta Princess Leonor!”
“Don’t call me Beta!”
“Even if you say that, we’ve all agreed to serve the new Princess Leonor. In other words, you are nothing but a lookalike.”
“Stay right there, I’m going to turn you all into burnt bacon! FireーOw! What are you doing? It’s really dangerous to poke me while I’m chanting!”
I stopped the princess from doing something stupid, and she snapped at me instead.
She was really going to shoot a fireball at him, wasn’t she?
“I don’t want to hear that from a princess who blasts away with magic at the drop of a hat! What are you going to do if the mansion catches fire? Lynn is still inside, you know?”
I don’t really care about the head butler or the maids, but I can’t let any harm come to Lynn.
“Then what are we supposed to do?”
A bunch of soldiers came out from the mansion while we were talking.
“It seems like you’re worried about Lynn-sama, but there’s no need for concern. She’s right here.”
The butler stepped to the side, revealing Lynn wearing a dress standing behind him.
She was looking down at me with a cold stare, her arms crossed.
“Oh, you really did come.”
“Yeah, I came. Let’s go home, Lynn.”
“No way. Why don’t you go off and flirt with that princess? Just like you did in the past.”
Lynn puffed up her cheeks and turned away.
“… You’re not jealous, are you?”
“Is that bad?”
Eh, wait, what did she just say?
She’s not the kind of girl who would honestly come out and say that, right?
“I said, is that bad? I’ve heard an old story about you here, Dust. The reason why you approached me when we first met is because I looked so much like her. That’s what going on, right? You couldn’t forget about the princess, right?”
“That’s not it. No, I mean, I did mistake you for the princess when we first met, but after spending so much time togetherー”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses! I thought you were shaping up recently. I have just the little, really just a little bit of… For you.”
The most important part was said too softly for me to pick up.
After saying that, she stepped back, and the head butler went back to his original spot, breaking my line of sight.
“Hohoho, hearing the young ones have a sweet and sour conversation is something special. Now then, former Dragon Knight-dono, the new Princess Leonor doesn’t seem to have any intention of hearing you out. What will you do next?”
The head butler has already seen through my identity, so I got rid of the mask I was wearing.
When Lynn is in a bad mood like this, it doesn’t matter what I say. She won’t listen to a word of it.
In other words, there’s only one thing left to do.
“That’s obvious. I’m going to forcibly drag her out and prostrate myself before her!”
As I said that, everyone present gave me an exasperated look.
“Isn’t there something cooler you could’ve said at a time like this? You’ve changed quite a bit, but I’m relieved to see that you’re still as bad at dealing with women as ever.”
“That bit of you hasn’t changed at all.”
Those voices prompted me to shift my gaze, and emerging from the bushes were a pair of knights accompanied by their dragons.
“You guys are…”
Those two were my former colleagues and Dragon Knights. One of them was my self-proclaimed rival, and the other one was my junior who used to look up to me.
Did the princess bring Dragon Knights as part of her entourage too?
“There are better ways to put that, but, in a sense, I’m a little jealous. Rein, you’ve finally found someone you really want to protect.”
I turned towards the source of that voice, and met the somewhat lonely gaze of the princess.
“Yeah, I’ve found someone who is important to me.”
“I see. I suppose that’s a load off for me too. You know, the… Date for my marriage has officially been decided. That’s why I wanted to see you one last time. To see what you’ve become.”
I did hear her say something about her marriage getting decided before I left the country.
I didn’t keep up with news from the country after that, but… I see, you’re finally getting married.
Those words came out of my mouth without prompting. There is no longer any of the wavering from before.
Hearing that, the princess gave me a smile.
“Then, go get the princess that you really want to protect!”
She gave me a slap on the back and I took a step forward.
“Oh, do you intend to take out this many people? We even have Dragon Knights on my side. What are you planning to do? These are all the elite troops that we’ve gathered in order to prevent the princess from escaping. Especially the maids. They were chosen based solely on their capabilities with no regard to their backgrounds or personality. You guys can show your true natures for today.”
He’s speaking like some villain in a play.
“Get him! Get him! Get him! I’m going to turn you into ground beef.”
“Oh, today’s ingredients involve a lively human, huh?”
“I do love making men cry…”
The maids produced countless weapons from nowhere.
One of the maids was lovingly stroking a machete.
Another one was waving around a long whip studded with barbs.
“You gathered yet another bunch of colourful characters… You should at least pay some attention to their personalities.”
“So that’s how they are… I never knew that.”
If the princess’s words are to be believed, they don’t usually act that way.
In addition to the soldiers and those dangerous seeming maids, there were also Dragon Knights present.
“Your odds of victory are less than one in a thousand. If the princess would get down on her knees and sincerely apologize for her actions, it would not be out of the question for us to acceptー”
“There’s no way I would do that. Dust, send those idiots flying!”
Even in this situation, the princess is still headstrong.
… But that’s just how it should be! I didn’t get all the way to this point just to see the princess grovel.
“Understood. It’s time for me to get serious. That’s your cue, Faitfore.”
I took off the carry strap and lowered Faitfore to the ground.
She was still yawning and sleepily rubbing her eyes, so I leaned in close and whispered into her ear.
“If you do well here, I’ll… No, that’s not it. Partner, lend me your strength.”
Her eyes suddenly glowed and she gave me a wide smile.
Taking off her dress, her body started growing to several times her original size, and a pair of large, white wings grew from her back.
In the blink of an eye, she regained her true form, a White Dragon, and rubbed her cheek against me.
“I didn’t expect that such a young girl would be a White Dragon… Is that how you snuck out of the castle without anyone seeing you?”
I ignored the fearful and admiring voice coming from the head butler and got onto Faitfore’s back.
As I did so, my eyes met with the princess again, and she, with a slightly forlorn expression on her face, opened her mouth.
“Farewell, my knight.”
Instead of replying with a farewell of my own, I merely raised one of my hands.
“Let’s go, partner.”
At those words, Faitfore flapped her wings and carried me high into the sky.
“There’s no reason for me to fight my way in on land. Watch me take Lynn away in a single swoop.”
“Sorry, but I can’t let you do that.”
“Taking back the White Dragon is also one of our missions. Don’t take this personally.”
Flying in front of me were the pair of dragons and their Dragon Knights.
“Hey, come on, this is the part where you read the mood and let us go.”
“Don’t say that. Unlike you, senpai, we are just lowly palace workers. If we let you go, our salary will be docked.”
“Plus I always wanted to have a real fight with you once. Not just in training, but on an actual battlefield.”
He tossed over one of the pair of spears he was holding.
“Seems like you’re serious.”
I’ve crossed spears with these two numerous times. I’ve yet to lose, but these two aren’t opponents that I can take lightly.
In my prime, I could’ve easily taken on the two of them and won, but I’ve since quit being a Dragon Knight and the two of them have kept on training.
I wonder how much the gap in our abilities has narrowed.
Seemingly sensing my worries, Faitfore growled in concern.
“Yeah, I have you with me. Plus I don’t think I’ve grown any weaker since I became an adventurer. If anything, I’m stronger than I was before.”
Not just physically, but mentally too.
If I wasn’t strong and smart, there’s no way I could’ve survived this long as an adventurer.
“Rein-senpai, please forgive me!”
“Let’s do this, Rein!”
“It’s been some time since I had such a practice session!”
At those words, Faitfore violently flapped her wings.
To someone on the ground, Faitfore might look like nothing more than a flash of light as she streaked through the night sky.
The wind rushed against my face and pushed my hair flat.
However, I kept my eyes open and focused on the other two Dragon Knights.
I targeted my former junior who hastily got his spear into position, and swept at his side.
He managed to block the blow in the nick of time, but the force of the impact threw him to the side, messing up his posture.
I planned to take advantage of that and take him out of the battle in a single blow, but just before my spear could reach him, I suddenly changed my target in order to stop the spear coming at my back with the butt of my own.
“Oh, wow, you managed to block my attack even from that position. Your skills haven’t rusted a single bit. I can’t believe you managed to pull that off while riding on a shaky dragon.”
The one who got in my way was the other Dragon Knight, my self-proclaimed rival.
“Thank you, Senpai.”
“Don’t let your guard down. That man isn’t called a prodigy for no reason.”
“I know that very well. I used to look up to him, after all!”
The look in their eyes totally changed. Breaking through them won’t be simple.
“Let’s decide this fair and square! Or at least, that’s what my old self would say!”
Looking at the two Dragon Knights cutting through the air towards me, I grinned.
Holding out my other hand, I snapped my fingers.
“What is that supposed to… What the… I suddenly feel sleepy…”
“T-This is magic? But where did itー”
I drew closer to the two men who were trying desperately to fight off the drowsiness and knocked their weapons out from their hands before delivering a sharp blow to the stomach with the butt-end of my spear.
Seeing that their riders have lost their fighting spirits, the dragons slowly and carefully descended towards the ground.
“In a true battle, this is your most potent weapon. Wouldn’t you agree?”
I tapped at my forehead with my fingers before looking up towards the sky.
Floating right there was Loli Succubus, dressed in her usual lingerie like uniform with her arms crossed.
“Umm, I might be a devil, but I still think that there was something wrong with that. Weren’t you supposed to have a cool fight scene to show off your good side?”
“What are you talking about? It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you win. The victor can write anything he wants into the history books. Even if you win underhandedly, it’ll be written down in history as a brillant technique.
“That’s not the level we are talking about…”
She doesn’t seem entirely convinced, but she did put them to sleep like the plan called, so I think I’ll leave it be.
We split up with Loli Succubus the moment we entered the gate.
I knew the enemy would focus their attention on us, so she would take to the air while we kept their attention. When I snapped my fingers, that would be the signal for her to use her magic on them.
“In any case, thanks for the help.”
“You’re welcome. Still, to think that Dust-san is really that rumoured Dragon Knight. There are some truths that really should remain buried. I must make sure to never let Yunyun learn about this.”
“Leave me alone.”
I decided to reveal my secret to Loli Succubus since I knew of some of her secrets too. I’m really glad that she’s so quick to catch on.
“All that’s left is to kidnap Lynn-san back. Good luck, Knight-sama.”
“Former knight. Former. And I’m not kidnapping her, I’m taking her back.”
I patted Faitfore twice on the neck, she understood my intentions and flew down to the roof of the mansion. Once the maids saw us approaching them, they scattered before Faitfore.
The only person who remained in place was the head butler, who stood there watching us fly by.
Stepping onto the roof, I came face to face with Lynn, who stared back with half open eyes.
“What are you doing here? Your princess is down there, you know?”
“I came to pick you… Kidnap you. My princess is you, Lynn.”
Saying that, I extended my hand.
I fought through the embarrassment to say those words, but Lynn’s reaction is surprisingly tepid.
She didn’t move to grab my hand, but neither did she run away.
She simply stared at me.
“Are you embarrassed?”
“Shut up, don’t look at me! I can’t help it, I’m not used to this.”
She turned away from me without giving me a chance to look at her face.
The bits of her neck that I managed to catch a glimpse of were bright red.
Faitfore thoughtfully leaned over, so I wrapped my arms around Lynn’s waist and pulled her onto Faitfore’s back.
“Kyaa, what are you doing!?”
She immediately started struggling when I plopped her down in front of me.
“Let’s take a night stroll together.”
Holding onto Lynn from behind, we took to the skies.
As we did so, Lynn calmed down.
“Wow, it’s beautiful… So this is what Axel looks like from the skies.”
She let out an honest voice of amazement.
This seemed to have lightened her mood, so I decided to continue with this scenic flight.
“Hey, Dust, is it really fine? Leaving the Princess alone down there?”
“About that, there’s one huge misunderstanding you have about her. Princess Leonor is… Soon to be married.”
Lynn’s eyes opened to the size of baseballs and her mouth dropped wide open.
Is it really that surprising?
“… Whaaaat!? Eh, you’re kidding, right? I mean, she eloped with you!”
“We didn’t elope, though it’s true that I ran away with her. Her fiancée at that time called off the marriage arrangement, but someone else put out a marriage request. It seems like the ceremony is going to be taking place soon.”
I only just learnt about that, though.
“Oh. I feel like such a fool. So, you don’t have any feelings left for the princess, right?”
Normally I would respond with a joke or avoid the question, but…
“I already told you, right? The princess that I want to protect right now is you, Lynn.”
My embarrassment is almost overwhelming, but I managed to power through it.
“Ugh, that really doesn’t suit you. Wait, you’re not embarrassed, are you?”
“Don’t you dare turn around!”
As revenge for earlier, Lynn leaned against my shoulder and started teasing me back.
I get the feeling that tonight will be far more memorable than the time I flew through the night sky with the princess.