After pacifying the nearly berserk Klaus, I somehow managed to return the conversation back to the real question, and parted from Lutz and Theo after hearing what they had to say.
From here on out there was little chance of Lutz and Hilde getting close, but I couldn’t bring myself to hope his Abduction Flag had been broken off.
At any rate, with the other royals entangled in this mess, I doubted the threat would simply disappear. If Hilde messed up, they would only bring out the next trick in their bag.
I urgently needed to uncover the identity of the person behind Hilde, but good information was unlikely to just come rolling in through the door.
And someone who just so happened to possess information was Theo.
Because of the magic power they have possessed ever since they were born, Lutz and Theo have become well adapted to sensing the bad intents of others. They excelled at reading through lies, and and seeing past the façade of others through their countenances, behaviors, and manners of speaking.
No doubt something was being schemed, but what was still unknown. My premonition that something was going to happen soon was merely a guess, so I couldn’t put a finger on when it might take place.
Anyway, because Hilde only focused on approaching Lutz, Theo slipped under the radar and was left in a position to observe her actions.
They were having a dispute, with Hilde desperately clinging on to the man as he shook her off.
I’ve hit upon the mastermind, haven’t I?
He must be the one who instigated Hilde’s suspicious behavior; the blackguard who would spirit Lutz away.
If Hilde wasn’t taking part in this criminal scheme for gold, riches, or even prestige, then was she willingly doing it in order to have her affections returned by the man she had fallen in love with?
If I could think of it that way, it was only natural to assume the game’s original Hilde and Lutz had both been duped and betrayed by him.
It must have been his intention to sell the girl together with Lutz from the very beginning, as blackmail to ensure the boy’s obedience. After Hilde discovered she had been thrown away, she in turn rejected Lutz.
What a scumbag.
I couldn’t forgive Hilde for planning to use Lutz, but it was also a true waste for her love to be taken advantage of like that. It was unforgivable.
In spite of the fact that without any sort of proof it was all pure conjecture, I was nevertheless livid. Inside my mind, Hilde had blown up to become an earnest young maiden quietly nurturing her first love.
Meet Rosemarie von Werfard, 10 years old. Her hobby is having grand delusions.
Well, for now, whether it was the truth or not would make itself clear soon enough.
My top priority was finding out everything I could about that man. At the moment, the only information I had came from Theo’s testimony. It seemed like that man wore the guise of a Royal Knight, so I planned to start tearing down the layers of this mystery from there.
In the meantime, Hilde might get discarded, and Lutz might get swept away through a special passage.
I had to do everything in my power to stop it!
“Bright-colored, long hair. A slim build, and left handed?”
Hmmm. Repeating the description I gave, he brooded.
“Yes. Are you aware of such a man?” I asked Sir Leonhard, and he nodded with not a little hesitation.
“Well…I dare say I might.”
I was pressed for time, so I decided to go ahead and consult with Sir Leonhard in my need for haste.
Sir Leonhard, on the other hand, had a more open mind. I chose to go to him, anticipating he would provide better information when asked.
By no means did my personal feelings come into play. Probably.
Actually, it was likely Sir Leonhard understood exactly who I was asking for, but he seemed reluctant to disclose that information.
For a moment, he fell silent, considering me. At the end of his unclouded, obsidian gaze, it seemed like he could see straight into my heart, and it made me uncomfortable.
“I would tell you, but for one concern. Why do you seek this man out? I would like to hear of your reasons.”
I didn’t know what to say.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to lie to Sir Leonhard.
What could I do? I sank into silence, unable to think of a reason good enough to dodge his question.
“Is it a difficult matter you cannot bring yourself to speak of?”
“N-no. Nothing like that…”
At my suspect behavior, Sir Leonhard openly stared at me, looking like he was trying to pry the truth out of me.
Ahh, crap. I’m starting to sweat.
My thoughts chased each other around, but no good idea came to fruition. Time only passed cruelly, and all I could do was stand stock still in front of Sir Leonhard. I don’t know how he interpreted my silence, with me refusing to look up, but the conversation suddenly went in an unexpected direction.
“Women tend to fall in love with him easily, could it be?”
My head shot up and I shouted, reflexively denying his words, “You’re wrong!!”
Sir Leonhard stared at me in surprise.
It was possible his words hadn’t been serious, but said jokingly to break down my mulish attitude, a silly topic to start the conversation.
But, I couldn’t run with it.
He was the only one I never wanted to hear that from.
Resisting the urge to shed my welling up tears, I kept lips shut.
Seeing me thus, Sir Leonhard deferentially bowed his head.
“My sincerest apology. I have regretfully caused you distress you with my worthless jest.”
When I silently shook my head, he looked even more worried.
Most of all, I hated that I was still a 10 year old child. At the earliest, it would take another five to six years before he could start looking at me with interest.
It would be of greater help for him to properly present me with all of his knowledge, more than anything a demonstration of his devotion, hearing him call me lovely or something else perhaps, could do.
Even though I knew this, all I could do was keep my mouth shut, so I became annoyed with myself.
Why couldn’t I be more agreeable?
Bending down, Sir Leonhard whispered into my ear, “Niklas von Buelow…”
I looked up, and saw the regretful smile on his face.
“The name of the man you seek.”
He told me the name, but I was more lost than glad. He had been holding back so much earlier, why did he suddenly decide to disclose that information to me?
Seeing the bafflement on my face, Sir Leonhard bowed his head once more.
“Your Royal Highness, I duly apologize for testing you, one most honorable, with my words. However, please do not approach that man unless absolutely necessary,” he told me, an extremely serious look in his eyes.
Sir Leonhard was a great soldier, his name renowned throughout the surrounding kingdoms. Exposed to that sharp gaze of his, you’d feel like a frog being preyed upon by a snake, unable to make the slightest move. Overwhelmed, I went rigid.
Noticing how frightened I had become, his relaxed his gaze, but…
That had greatly surprised me. Did Sir Leonhard lessen up on me because I had made him worried with my tears?
After calling to Klaus, who stood slightly apart from us in a different spot, Sir Leonhard whispered something to him in a voice so low I couldn’t make out a single detail.
Why was he telling me to be wary of this Niklas?
Even if it was another kingdom as I suspected, in the game the culprit wasn’t supposed to be noticed. If we were to pay attention to him, then he probably wouldn’t be able to slip through the castle’s defenses.
I had a feeling the end result would create an inconsistency with the game.
That’s right… Here was another discrepancy. At the start of this year, Sir Leonhard was ordained Commander of the Royal Knights.
Certainly, he was already Commander inside the game. However, at this point in time, his promotion had come to pass too quickly. The details revealed inside the game said that he had only become Commander a little before the Priestess was summoned, perhaps when I was 14-15 years old.
I sensed that this disparity had been caused by me…
When the 5 year old me asked Christof to dismiss all of Johan’s tutors, Sir Leonhard took the place Johan’s sword instructor.
All I had wanted was for Johan to be raised with integrity, but the outcome was that Sir Leonhard, who had been greatly held back, had also been able to display his competency.
Was it because of that?
In the unusual event that he was overlooked, it became possible for him to get noticed simply because he was at the top…
After his conversation with Klaus ended, Sir Leonhard switched his gaze to me.
“Your Royal Highness, in the event you are to go anywhere, please take Klaus with you without fail.”
I regretted the worry I had caused him. I really did it this time, didn’t I?
Keeping silent, then turning around and sneaking off to sniff out that blackguard after Sir Leonhard had been moved by discomfort to name him would be a nasty move on my part. Even if I say so myself.
I nodded, and he gave a sigh of relief.
The truth was, I wanted to chase down several leads, but I couldn’t even protect myself. If I were go to poking around without a goal, I’d only be a burden on Sir Leonhard.
I should leave the rest to someone else.
When it was all was done and over, weren’t there several ways things could go terribly wrong? I thought, and couldn’t dispel my unease.
I lightly shook my head to rid myself of my negative thoughts, and began to say my farewells.
“Thank you for giving me your time, I truly appreciate it.”
His emotions changed as I prepared to leave. For some reason, he stopped me.
“Your Royal Highness…”
“If,” he bent down again to whisper into my ear. “If there is something causing you worry, please consider calling on me for assistance before you act.”
I will help you without fail, the serious look on his face promised.
Not knowing how to respond correctly, all I could do was let my astonishment wash over me.