“When things go smoothly like this, it makes me worry even more.”
Scratching his head, Subaru looked around at his surroundings while sighing. It was a sturdy passageway made of stone, a little less than two meters in width. It was narrow enough that four men side by side were enough to block it up, but if you only consider the movements of servants it was plenty big enough for their use. In comparison, the Roswaal mansion’s hallways were needlessly large which made cleaning a pain.
“I was imagining a whole lot more obstacles―― is it possible we cleared it on the first try?”
An unpopulated passageway―― lurking in the corner of one of the passageways of the Royal castle’s basement, Subaru let out one of many innumerable sighs, unknown to anyone else.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――“Kadomon pictures presents, Exciting Secret Infiltration Plan”, or so he was currently carrying out this scheme they had crafted not even an hour ago.
“Listen here, don’t ever say my name. You can use this trick to enter into the nobles district… the upper ward, but you’ll need to find some other way into the castle. Now that it’s come to this I’ll ask a person I know here by the name of Henehehe. They’ll be able to guide us back safely.”
[TL: ヘネヘヘ, this really is their name]
Off to Subaru’s side reminding him to not get into any unnecessary trouble was Kadomon, he even went so far as having secured information about the all-important escape route. No matter how much he’d already done, his helpful nature compelled him to do even more, this scary faced shopkeeper. Considering he was accompanying Subaru in his recklessness, you could say his goodness as a person was almost disastrous.
Going by Kadoman’s plan (he’d never take the credit for it though), they decided they were going to sneak into the upper ward by mixing in with the carts carrying goods from the business district. The lower classes: commoners living in amongst the general population, including those in the commerce ward or along the business street, when adding in the slums as well, which occupied the outer circumference of the capital, this seemed to be the entire range referred to as the lower class and their corresponding areas were referred to as the lower wards. The transportation of goods between the lower wards and upper wards appeared to occur at regular intervals, and the control issued by the guard station was said to be relatively lax.
“Do they just trust the merchants that much?”
“Rather than them trusting the merchants, it’s more like they never imagined there’d be idiots stupid enough to do something that would upset the nobles like this…”
The one who answered Subaru’s question was the muscular giant with his arms crossed. Rubbing his bald head once, Rom-jii’s outfit was completely different from usual. In place of the old worn rags he had on just a little while ago was a set of relatively clean clothes. Being questioned by him, Rom-jii finally noticed Subaru’s stares.
“If we made it into the upper district you could say I’d be quite suspicious looking, but if I dress neatly like this it probably wouldn’t go farther than drawing attention. In your case, that’s just another unnecessary concern.”
“Well, in my case I’m actually a servant at a fairly respectable house. Since this is my debut in the capital, there’s been quite a bit of money put forward on stuff like my clothes.”
Facing those scrutinizing eyes Subaru gestured his hands toward his clothes, giving himself a quick look over before laughing. Related to his servant lifestyle at the Roswaal mansion, he received some formal men’s clothing prepared by Rem. She said it was ok to get them dirty, but from the appearance and feel he knew it was something of the highest quality. For someone who was basically from the lower-middle class, taking abnormal care of his things was basically a given.
While in the lower ward the formal clothes were a source of attention, but here in the upper ward he thought the quality wouldn’t stand that much so they were a rather mild choice. While making them understand that point, Subaru redirected the conversation to Rom-jii’s tidy appearance,
“Anyways, ” he said while looking him over.
“Um, it’s that, you know… If Rom-jii is seriously coming along with us I’m a bit worried here.”
Since it was his single greatest source of anxiety right now, he touched on the subject apprehensively. Related to their human trafficking into the upper ward, the person who decided to accompany Subaru was Rom-jii himself. Honestly, Subaru was against him coming along since he wanted to reduce the chance they were discovered as much as possible, but…
“What? When it comes to getting into the upper class area I have plenty of experience! Where do you think all the stolen goods from the loot house gets sold?”
“Annoying! You’re like a father trying to hype up how much of a bad boy he was in the past. Or rather, you do this regularly!? It’s dangerous to rely on this that much, old man.”
Looking at Kadomon for some sense of agreement, the scarface’s attention was absent from the two’s conversation and was instead focused on his own conversation with the driver leading the carts. Subaru watched him not comment on Rom-jii’s coming with them, apparently the old man had used this trick far more than just once or twice.
The fact that the driver didn’t have much of a reaction when Kadomon asked him to smuggle them into the upper ward, lent extra credence to that theory as well.
“I don’t know if I should sigh at how lax the guards are here, or give a thumbs up to the sheer tenacity of these merchants trying to make a buck off it…”
“If a problem occurs, then it’ll bring trouble to Kadomon and the others as well. If there wasn’t this kind of mutual trust we’d never be able to do stuff as unreasonable as this. That’s why it’s only because I’m here that you’re allowed to ride along with us, so where’s my thanks?”
“You’re definitely a bad adult, happily dragging a troubled youth like me down the wrong path. I swear I’ll never be like this old man here, I’ll give you some superficial praise at least though. As expected, Rom-jii! Your head today is shining!”
“Wa-ha-ha, you really don’t know how to watch your mouth you damned brat. Should I kick you off in front of the guard station?”
Reaching such an impasse they let out a sigh at the same time, trading smiles. While shrugging his shoulders, Subaru brought the conversation back to their original topic.
“Nn-so, in the end why did you tag along? It’s not like I mind, since it’s only thanks to Rom-jii that we get a free pass on the cart, but do you really have a reason to be taking such a huge risk like this?”
Kadomon as well, he’d said he was merely an acquaintance of Rom-jii’s but given the current situation that was a little hard to believe. Simply from Rom-jii asking for his cooperation he’d agreed to lend his support, there wasn’t really a clear reason for Kadomon to go along with Subaru’s recklessness so it didn’t make much sense.
At Subaru’s line of questioning Rom-jii made a difficult face, wrinkling his brow.
“It’s about the kid, you said Felt was taken by that ‘sword saint’ fellow right? Since that’s the case, I was thinkin’ there might be an opportunity here to get some information about it.”
Rom-jii had a bitter expression when he said the words ‘sword saint.’ Hearing that phrase, an image of the red-haired youth floated up in Subaru’s mind. If he remembered correctly his residence was also located in the upper ward. He was unmistakably someone from a fairly respectable family, I guess that was to be expected from somebody named ‘sword saint.’ Although, actually finding the house might prove to be fairly difficult, it’s not like they have big nameplates scrawled out on the front gate.
“Not even mentioning the fact that I don’t know which house is Reinhard’s, even if we did find it I can’t really imagine we’d be able to just walk up to the door and ask to meet Reinhard you know? Knowing that good-looking bastard though, I kind of get the feeling that even if we charged in unannounced he’d probably welcome us in warmly… ”
“Brat, you’re the only one that’d do such a stupid thing. At most, I’ll just be doing some preliminary investigation and making some preparations for what comes later.”
“… what comes later?”
Tilting his head, he looked at Rom-jii who was lightly stroking his chin in thought.
“Preparations ‘fer takin’ Felt back. As long as I know where the mansion is, with the right amount of money and connections, learning about about it in more detail should be possible.”
“Uhh… did I just set off a really big event? I’m not one to speak, but Rom-jii you’re giving me the feeling like I just lit the fuse of something I really shouldn’t have.”
While the one criticizing Rom-jii for saying such a radical idea was Subaru, looking at it objectively what they were doing probably wouldn’t be viewed much differently than terrorism. One of them was intending to sneak into the royal castle, while the other was in the midst of drafting up plans to break into a noble’s mansion―― the very nature of the offense made it quite likely they’d be cut down on the spot if they were discovered.
“At least when it comes to Felt, I don’t think you need to worry about Reinhard doing anything bad to her. Speaking frankly, the chance she’s living better now than before is pretty high you know? She could be working as a servant like me, with a fully satisfying lifestyle.”
You might not have been able to tell since she was living in the slums with a filthy appearance, but if you fixed up her clothes and cleaned her up a bit her looks would be pretty decent. If it’s Reinhard, then it wasn’t impossible to think he noticed her aesthetic virtue and decided to take pity on a poor girl struggling in poverty. Shaking his head though, he didn’t think think Reinhard was the kind of guy that would show the kind of compassion typical of an elite looking down on others from his position. Like that, Subaru tried to fit the context into the image he had of Reinhard in his mind and ended up rejecting the notion himself.
In any case, it was hard to believe she was being treated badly. But, towards Subaru’s carefree attitude Rom-jii pursed his lips with difficulty.
“No, I can’t let it be. It doesn’t matter who the other person is, that’s not the problem. That girl has always belonged in the upper classes. ―― Sooner or later though, it’ll cause problems.”
Subaru looked suspiciously at Rom-jii, whose attitude was more earnest than obstinate. While his suspicion somewhat included the parts about Rom being concerned for her wellbeing, it was moreso because he had an even stronger suspicion that Rom’s words were tainted with self interest. But before Subaru could question him about his real intentions,
“Oi, we’re finished on our end. If you’re serious about this then hurry up and get on. We’re on the third wagon. Old man, you usually handle the arrangements, so bring that kid up to speed on things.”
Kadomon had finished his conversation with the driver and came back to tell them the preparations were done. Rom-jii responded to that by waving his hand, staring with quiet eyes at Subaru who seemed like he had something he wanted to say.
“In any case, we need to get past the guard station first. Since it’s you I’m giving you an extra warning, don’t do anything unnecessary. Even if their guard is down, they’re still guards. If we’re caught it’ll end up making our purse hurt quite a bit.”
“I was sort of expecting we’d get beaten to death if caught, but for you to actually be able to settle things with money… this place sure is a hive of villainy. Be careful.”
Still finding it rather hard to accept, Subaru nodded; following Rom-jii’s back, who had already started to move. There were four carts headed to the upper ward, they took up about half the space of the business district’s wide street by themselves so these carts were pretty big. And as for the earth dragons pulling the carts, unlike the thin lizard looking type he had seen before, these ones had short, thick legs, and reminded him more of slow lumbering turtles.
For the four carts, there were four earth dragons in total. The one he and Rom-jii were getting on was the third cart in the middle, whose main good appeared to be――
“Wow I was thinking it smelled pretty fishy, could it be that all of this is fish?”
“It smells pretty bad, so the guards are less likely to pay special attention to it. It hides our scent too so it’s perfect. Here, don’t forget to put on this deodorant powder.”
Rom-jii handed a small green colored pouch over to Subaru, who was grimacing at the fishy scent having entered his nostrils. It was a small pouch whose size fit perfectly in the palm of his hand, sniffing the bag from the outside… he almost fainted in disgust. The foul odor was painful to his nose, It was even worse than the fishy smell. The smell attacked his face to the extent he thought he would get a nosebleed. Dropping the bag unintentionally, Rom-jii stooped down to pick it up.
“This is our lifeline, don’t handle it so roughly you damned ingrate.”
“This feels like I’m getting an advanced loan on some divine retribution, what the hell is this stuff!? This isn’t at the level where you can just pinch your nose anymore! It feels more like my nose is gonna get torn off! In a non-metaphorical sense!”
“This Kalnago powder smells bad at first, but a few minutes after you apply it on your body the smell’ll disappear, along with any other odors. Don’t tell me you want to walk around in the upper ward with yer specially made nice clothes stinkin’ like fish; you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Just think of it as a necessary sacrifice.”
Pushing the pouch back at Subaru, Rom-jii had a wicked smile on his face. Reluctantly accepting it, he put the pouch in the pocket of his trousers while keeping his nose as far away as possible. Looking at the back-and-forth between these two, Kadomon waved his hand indicating them to hurry it up. Seeing that he wasn’t allowed to waste any more time, Subaru resolved himself and boarded the wagon.
As he feared―― no, worse than he feared, the fishy smell assaulted his nose. They hadn’t even left yet and his spirit already felt like breaking. It seems they also had some method of chilling the raw fish, as the middle of the cart was unusually cold. While seeing the whiteness of his breath, he scanned for a spot to hide himself.
“Stop it with yer lookin’ around like that. The hidin’ spot is a little bit from the entrance… let’s see, behind that wooden box there. I’m hiding too so try to squeeze in.”
“This is just too sad, I’m stuck with this muscley old man for twenty-four hours a day… the floor better not be covered in fish juice, these clothes are brand new.”
It’s far better than the alternative, having your clothes bloodied from living a life in poverty. B’sides the fish in the crate are salted so they don’t stink as much.”
Rom-jii pushed Subaru’s back from behind to hurry him up. Coinciding with the moment he was pushed, the dragon-carriage started forward with a light jolt. Before hiding further in the back, Subaru poked his head out of the entrance of carriage to peek. Seeing them off with a wave, Kadomon gave them a final goodbye. He responded to that wave with a wave of his own, but Kadomon turned his back signaling not to look anymore, walking away from the carriage back to the business district. Confirming this, Subaru too retreated back into the wagon――settling in the corner next to the wooden crate he had been designated. He focused on calming his rapidly beating heart, excited from the thought of his first castle infiltration.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Grimacing at the pain from his heart, this carriage ride was one of slight regret for him, lamenting the fact that reckless deeds came so naturally to him. Though, the proof that Subaru’s worries were largely unfounded came when the driver seated on the coachman stand stealthily informed them that they had safely slipped past the guard station.
Roughly twenty minutes had passed since they departed from the business district. Having broken through so very easily, to the extent that he was even depressed from such an anti-climactic turn of events, Subaru looked with at Rom-jii with a shocked face like he had just been told a joke or something.
“Is slipping past the guard station really this simple? They aren’t going to inspect the goods or anything?”
At worst, he had been imagining they’d do a really violent inspection like he’d seen in a few manga, like sticking spears into the wagon one by one. For Subaru who had been lying on the floor under this assumption, it was like his mental state was just thrown sumo-style.
Looking down, Rom-jii laughed at Subaru’s baseless fears.
“Like I’ve been saying, there’s an unspoken agreement here. Normally there are only supposed to be three carriages when bringing food items in from the business district to the upper ward. In the fourth wagon behind us, there were quite a few goods piled up to catch the guard’s fancy.”
From Rom-jii’s attitude, telling him with such an unpleasant face, it seems that Rom already knew the details behind the station’s loose surveillance from the start. Hearing that with a sour face, Subaru openly displayed his displeasure with Rom’s teasing-nature.
“So basically it’s a rigged game from the start, and it’s my fault for getting scared… Anyways, with the way you said it, can I assume the stuff piled up in the wagon were bribes?”
“If I said it without coating with any sweet words, then yes that’s what it is. The cart was filled with a lot of inconvenient things that’d be bad if you got stopped with. And not just a small quantity.”
He muttered like that, with his arms crossed. But after that Rom-jii sent a serious look at Subaru.
“However, displeasing those bunch is the law. And getting caught and inviting unwanted attention isn’t something they want either. They won’t give you any chance to explain yerself, they’ll cut’ya down to keep their secret safe―― what a wretched way to die, got that?”
With unsaid words, Rom-jii warned him against any hasty or rash actions. Faced with such a serious atmosphere, the usually talkative Subaru solemnly nodded his head, indicating his agreement silently. The shaking in the wagon decreased suddenly; it seemed they’d entered the upper ward―― the sound of the wheels biting into the ground changed into that of pavement, informing them of their entrance into the nobles district.
“We’ll get off after goin’ a little bit further. Next, I’m headed to the place I told you about earlier, going to gather up some information in nobles district… hey brat, you should do the same.”
“Um… but if I do that I can’t achieve my objective?”
“It’s only cause you pushed me so much to help that you were able to get into the upper ward. But, trying to sneak in with how things are now should be impossible. You’ll just be throwin’ yer life down the drain. I know you have some reasons, but your preparation is lacking.”
Having logic thrown at him, Subaru kept silent. Seeing him like that, Rom-jii put a firm hand on Subaru’s head, tousling his hair roughly.
“B’sides…”, he prefaced
“Challenging these things with no preparation, from a certain perspective you can call that ‘preparing to lose.’ Even if you rush it, it’s not going to get you the result you want. That’s why… you understand right, kid?”
“…when you preach and act like an adult like that it’s hard to argue”
Removing the hand resting on his head, Subaru sat up in the cart; turning to face away from the old man. Towards Subaru’s pouting behavior, Rom-jii smiled wrly. Peeking out from the gaps of the cart’s canopy, he judged that this was around where their planned departure area was.
“Hey, we’re gettin’ off here. If we fully stopped the wagon it’d look suspicious. The carriage is going slow though, so I don’t think you need to worry about getting injured; try to match your speed to the speed of the wagon and run along with it when you land.”
Putting his arms though the gap in the canopy, Rom lifted it up enough for his body to fit through. The sun’s rays flooded into the cart that was closed off from the light, to Subaru the strong light was painful to his eyes as he peered outside.
It was a paved road just like he had been imagining from the sensation in the wagon, and compared to the lower wards the way the city blocks looked in the nobles district’s upper ward was fundamentally different.
Unlike the plain looking and crammed-together buildings in the trade district or slums, the amount of land dedicated to each building was vast. From Subaru’s perspective using so much space between each building was a waste of land, it was like each building was enshrined by its own plot of a land. Each building felt pretty close being an extravagant mansion that you’d only see in fairy tales. He didn’t see any buildings that were quite as large as the Roswaal mansion, but that was already a nonsensically large waste of space and was only really that large for the entertainment of Roswaal. Without the Rem and Ram sisters being excellent at their jobs, it’d probably end up where the mansion was impossible to maintain.
Finally at an understanding, Subaru took in the sights as he came to experience the difference between the upper-class and lower-class on a fundamental level. I guess this is the disparity between these fairy tale-like nobles and commoners, but it’s also probably proof of how powerful the Lugnican empire had grown to be.
Including the wagon full of bribes behind him, he didn’t exactly have a good impression, but it was also true that he had rode in on the back of those very misdeeds. Easily dismissing that inner-turmoil, Subaru’s attention turned to getting off of the dragon-carriage.
“How’s it, think you can do it?”
“I’ve got some experience when it comes to jumping, or rather, falling off a dragon carriage… I’m a little bit scared to be honest, if you would demonstrate it for me, I’ll send you a nice gift or something.”
“At least you don’t try to act tough, that’s one of yer good points you know. Here, watch close.”
Nodding at Subaru, who had just confessed his own incompetence with honesty, Rom-jii was the first the climb off. Pushing off from the edge of the wagon with one hand, his old body worked with practiced movement as he propelled his body off the wagon. Grabbing the edge of the wagon with both arms, he waited for the perfect timing before setting his feet on the ground.
He had imagined him being dragged along like that, or even worse getting caught in the wheel and turned to mince-meat in a huge accident, but――
“And without any of that happening… could this be?”
“It’s because the divine protection’s still working. As long as you don’t let go with your hands you won’t get thrown off. Like this.”
Just like the dragon-carriage they had ridden to the capital, this dragon-pulled wagon also appeared to have divine protection against wind. So as to not have his body affected by the wind when putting it outside the carriage, he was running alongside the carriage while matching speed.
The speed of the cart was roughly what a bicycle pedaling at a relaxed pace could achieve. A little faster than a jog, but considerably slower than an all-out sprint. For Rom-jii, whose stride was considerably bigger than the average person, keeping pace wasn’t difficult at all.
Letting his hand go, Rom-jii was completely separated from the divine protection of the carriage. His body was now subjected to the natural law of inertia, but for Rom-jii who had predicted its influence, this was a small matter. Without even flinching, he ran alongside the dragon-carriage.
Witnessing his magnificent skill, Subaru couldn’t help but sigh in admiration. And as for Rom-jii, seeing Subaru’s face exuding awe, he clapped his hands once while running alongside the carriage normally.
“Here, jump down just like I showed you. I can even catch you if you’d like, nice and gently.”
The words might have been intended to stoke Subaru’s competitive spirit. But, having that thrown at him, Subaru simply peered out from the canopy looking over Rom’s smiling face. What he learned from watching the running Rom, that is, to put his hand on the wagon’s edge and propel his body off―― his practical application of that never materialized.
His innermost thoughts were seized with fear at the realization that he had to perform such an unexpected display of acrobatics. After chasing the dragon-carriage on foot for roughly 300 meters Rom-jii seemed to have picked up on Subaru’s thoughts as concern wove its way into the furrows on his brow. Veins popping on his wrinkled brow, his face reddened and spit flew while he shouted,
“W-wait, kid! Weren’t you going to get off here and sneak into the castle!?”
Seeing through Subaru’s inner thoughts, the running Rom shouted with a face full of unease. While ignoring that, Subaru neither affirmed nor denied his words. But, with an attitude like he was going to close the canopy, his actions were demonstrating he heard it.
――This dragon-carriage was bringing supplies to the castle.
Although he had repeatedly corrected that statement saying he’d just misspoken, Subaru’s ears hadn’t forgotten the words Kadomon let slip at the start. This dragon-carriage’s destination was the royal castle, it was probably safe to assume the food provisions they were carrying would be brought to the castle’s cellar. Otherwise, then the plan of getting off here with Rom-jii and finding a way into the castle together should have had a far better chance of succeeding.
Rom chased after him, having guessed Subaru’s intention, but this place was the nobles district and once they got into the more populated areas he’d have no choice but to stop his pursuit. Just like Subaru had things he had to accomplish, Rom-jii had his own priorities. If he caused a commotion on his own, that benefitted neither of them. Because he understood that point, with a vexxed expression on his face he dodged off the road, his giant body slipping into an alleyway. Seeing Rom’s back disappear behind a corner, Subaru felt a pang of guilt.
In the end, it was like he was throwing away Kadomon’s kindness and Rom-jii’s sympathy. They had given him the most assistance they could possibly give, it wouldn’t be wrong if they thought he was paying that back with betrayal. Even so, Subaru had exploited their goodwill but he had no intentions of making excuses for himself.
――I’m going to be by Emilia’s side.
For the current Subaru, this was truly his only priority. For that purpose, any problems that stood between him were nothing more than words on a page to be ignored.
The capital was a distorted land, where danger spread like a disease. Leaving Emilia exposed and defenseless in a place like this was something that Subaru couldn’t allow on an emotional level.
If he were at least by her side there might be something he could do. In other words, “Even if it’s no good, there’s still a chance I might be able to do something, somehow or another.” Or so Subaru was thinking subconsciously.
――Not noticing that this kind of thinking excessively prideful, or even inhuman.
Among the supply carriage’s cargo there was only the slightest of differences, an unfamiliar face enjoying the smoothness of the paved road as they headed towards the royal castle. Happy with the realization he’d made it this far without something like a bribe, unbeknownst to him the situation was like an unexploded powder keg, growing ever and ever larger.
[TL: anyone have a better way to translate this sentence?]
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
After the tearful farewell with his benefactors, Subaru had no choice but to challenge this ordeal himself. Blocking his way were countless thousands of crises and hardships, along with the love and friendship born amongst such tribulations. And, his collapsing life, ambition, dreams―― stepping over that and shedding blood while pressing on.
“Or something like that would be ideal… in reality aren’t I in a pinch?”
Easily slipping into the castle’s food cellar and currently walking around in the castle’s interior, Subaru couldn’t help but sigh in wonder at the state of the castle’s defenses―― or rather lack of.
From the point of their journey where Subaru abandoned Rom-jii about thirty minutes had passed, with Subaru riding along with the dragon-carriage he had easily entered the premises of the royal castle. Part way through, before they reached the castle the fourth wagon had strayed off the path, but that probably meant the bribes in it were destined for a different location. If that was the case it should be that the leading three wagons weren’t headed for a location other than the castle, and that Subaru’s life was probably safe for now.
“I guess this is what I get for cohabitating with salted fish. I didn’t expect the salt to stick to my body, but I guess the deodorant powder did its work.”
Noticing that some white powder was still clinging to a few spots on his body, Subaru dusted himself off with neurotic scrutiny while praising his own quick-wittedness. As expected after entering the castle, in order to unload the wagon of course they had to check inside. Faced with the likelihood of being caught, Subaru decided to climb into the crate of salted fish to escape the current crisis.
In actuality, they checked the contents of all the wooden crates next to him, but thanks to a stroke of god-like good luck they never checked the one Subaru had climbed into.
After that, the movement of the cargo itself was done with something like wind magic, Carrying the food provisions to the interior with something other than by human labor. Thanks to that the unnatural weight in the wooden box went undiscovered, and with his primitive hybrid-combination of absurd, reckless, and unreasonable, he somehow managed to succeed with his unlikely plan.
For Subaru the current situation was very lucky, but with the lax surveillance his thoughts immediately drifted towards worrying about Emilia’s safety, so he couldn’t celebrate without restraint. Taking into account all the information he had he slipped out of the food cellar, and thus choosing an area with few people he began moving about the basement.
“Well, it’s nice I managed to get in, but… I seriously have no plan here.”
Honestly, it was nice he got to this place, but he was drawing a complete blank on what to do now. Watching over Emilia from the shadows, if that was possible that was the best option, but as one would expect it didn’t quite seem possible to make it to where she was in the centre of the royal castle without being noticed. At worst, even if he was discovered mid-way through it wouldn’t be impossible to handle it by gradually pressing to meet up with Emilia to have her bail him out, or so Subaru calculated shamelessly.
But now that he had snuck in this far, even though Emilia would probably be angry he didn’t think she would send him away. It’d be enough to just apologize with his whole heart, and rely on her kindness. Thinking with extreme optimism, Subaru ran through the basement passageway. Without even a shred of self reflection, if other people were to see him now how would they judge him? Fortunately or unfortunately there was nobody around to do that.
“Crap, somebody’s coming…”
Feeling somebody’s presence coming from the front, Subaru’s eyes searched his surroundings in a panic. As the location was a passageway in the basement, this was most likely a place only used by servants. Sliding his body into a nearby room, Subaru stood behind the crudely made door.
Luckily for him, there was nobody in the room he snuck into.
This small room was probably something like a dressing room used by the servants. There were several closets lined up next to each other, from the sweet scent he could tell this was room was intended for female servants as some feelings of guilt came to mind. But, he didn’t have the leisure to savor the sensation of the room’s sweet scent. In a hurry Subaru opened the interior closet, confirming that nothing was inside he quietly hid himself in it.
Concealing his breath, it would be fine if he just waited for the presence in the hallway to pass. If he was caught he could probably do something about it, or so he was going about thinking optimistically, but his body’s actions revealed that this wasn’t a situation where he’d get off easily if discovered. Although he hadn’t steeled himself for the situation and his courage was wavering, to him now this was a trifling matter.
First thing was to get through this current situation, he could even try announcing himself and playing it off from there. But, Subaru’s composure in considering his future course of actions…
“――This room stinks.”
…was broken so easily; a girl’s voice called out as the door swung open violently. He was so nervous it felt like his heart was going to jump out of his throat. He felt the sound of his blood moving with each pulse while he ground his teeth in despair. This closet was unlike that of changing room locker in that there were no convenient holes for him to peer out from. In other words, Subaru was in the dark and could only imagine what was happening outside based on the actions of the other person.
While feeling his throat closing up from stress, Subaru once again regretted his actions. He underestimated it, made fun of it, and got full of himself. He was too conceited. And now looking at the predicament he was in he understood just how stupid his actions were. Why did he ever just calmly carry out with such a reckless idea, he couldn’t understand the reasoning behind his actions and decisions up till now.
But, while confused and trying to reason things out, Subaru still decided not to go ahead with the option of announcing himself to the other person. He was still hoping that maybe, just maybe, the other person hadn’t noticed he was here. Or so he clung to that thread of hope thinner than a spider’s silk, unable to throw those feelings away.
Subaru held his breath, his whole body tormented with the urge to run.
“――I’m only going to wait five seconds. My princess hates waiting even more than I do, you see.”
He heard a muffled voice proclaim from beyond the wooden door of the closet. It was somehow a voice without much energy, but the intention behind it appeared not to be a lie, from the midst of silence the sound of a sword sliding out of its scabbard was proof enough.
Like this the proclamation he thought was just a bluff turned serious, he was still hoping to pretend like nobody was there and wait for this all to blow over―― but he didn’t have the guts to go through with that choice.
“5, 4, alright I’m done counting――”
“Time-out, stop, let’s talk this over! I’m coming out, I’m coming out right now, just wait”
Hurried by the voice seemingly eager to use their sword, Subaru was pressured through fear to open to door. The closet slowly grated as it opened, the scent that had settled and drifted about in the room flowed in as a refreshing breeze, for just a moment it softly caressed his feeling of despair.
But then again, what followed was going to be a harsh scolding where excuses were useless. Thinking of the current situation he had brought about, it wasn’t something that could be settled with just a light punishment. It’s not like he hadn’t thought about it at all, but it was true to a certain degree he had been overly optimistic in thinking everything would work out in the end.
Since there wouldn’t be much point in arguing about it, before he was completely defeated he would play every card he could play―― and Subaru having come to that determination, looked at who stood before him,
“See, look Al. Isn’t it just like I said?”
It was a certain haughty voice he’d heard before, reflexively raising his head, an orange-haired girl smiled arrogantly while pointing the small fan-like prop in her hand at him.
“For us to meet this buffoon again so soon, even I’m surprised at how much early than expected this was.”
“Aah, I guess so. As expected of Princess, you have quite the eye. And you, you sure have bad luck.”
It was the middle-aged man standing next to her―― sporting a jet-black helmet and bizarre light clothes, same as last time. The first half of Al’s statement was agreeing with the girl, the latter half he uttered with a tone seemingly full of sympathy for Subaru.
Wasn’t this the very situation he wanted to avoid? Getting thrown about without any say. Still, a feeling of relief attacked his whole body, before he knew it he was crouched down, letting out a dry laughter; he couldn’t help but breath out a long sigh.