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   Face to face, neither of us moved nor spoke.
   Hilde was the one to break the long silence that had fallen over the area.


   The sound of her footstep resounded throughout the passage.


   Klaus cut her off right away.
   Placing himself to protect me, he stared her down with cold eyes.

   “The area beyond is restricted. Begone,” he commanded her in an unimaginably severe voice.
   Reprimanded, Hilde jumped as if she had been whipped. Coming to a halt, the pallid girl looked at me imploringly. Her arms were similarly crossed like mine, her body shivering.

   “…Your Royal…Highness…” her voice wrung out.

   I couldn’t hide my trembling. This was truly my first meeting with the girl. Even if she was asking for help, I didn’t know what to do. Klaus stepped in front of me, blocking my view.

   “I told you to leave. Did you not hear?”

   Klaus placed his fingers on the sword hanging from his hip. The blade rang with a faint sound, but conversely seemed dreadfully loud.

   I wanted to talk to Hilde, but the situation was getting ugly. Not sure if she was planning something, or more pressingly, if she dared venture closer, Klaus seemed prepared to cut her down.


   Stand down, I tried to order her, but before I could—

   “I didn’t know…!” she yelled. “It’s all…everything is, I…it’s wrong, different…I didn’t know.”

   Hilde was confused, babbling incoherently like she was about to go mad.

   “What nonsense is this?”

   Klaus knit his brows in suspicion, but I felt like I could understand what she had said.

   She didn’t know things would turn out this way.

   It was staggering.
   That guy had involved her in such a big scheme, and he had only revealed a fraction of it to her. She was literally a sacrificial pawn. A scapegoat to be used and thrown away.

   I was moved to pity.

   Even though I tried to warn myself, my heart went out to her.

   “I, I…”

   Hilde walked forward with dangerously unsteady footsteps.

   If it was all an act put on to beg for a lesser punishment, then she was really talented at the rare role of a villainess.

   “Princess Rosemarie, please stand back.”

   With Hilde approaching, one step at a time, Klaus finally unsheathed his sword from its scabbard.

   This wasn’t the time to lose focus.

   “Klaus,” I said in a panic, “don’t be too rough—”

   “I understand,” he very calmly told me, cutting off my attempts to control him.
   Seeing him point his sword at Hilde made me uneasy, but there was nothing left to do but trust him now. I took a few steps back. Caught up in my actions, Hilde desperately followed suit, the expression on her face so tragic, it stole my breath.


   Without a voice, my lips only formed the words.

   At that moment, the sound of rough footsteps could be heard in the distance, and a man suddenly appeared at the end of the passage.
   Clad in the armor of a royal knight, his suit clanked as he fiercely pushed toward us. Unsheathing the sword hanging from his right hip, he headed straight for Hilde and swung his blade down.



   Hilde had gone still at his sudden appearance, but she immediately responded to my voice, stepping to the side.

   “Nn, gahhh!!!”

   But without any protection, the sword tore cruelly into her right shoulder. She was blown away by the force; her body slammed into the wall. Crumbling without a hint of energy, she slid down where struck. Blood began to flow from her torn up shoulder, copiously dyeing her clothes red.


   Swinging his sword to rid it of blood, the man turned to me.

   “Are you safe, Your Royal Highness?”

   He had just cut down a girl, and yet his light tone suggested he was lightly conversing about the weather. His light brown eyes, which had seemed so gentle from far away, were colored with cruelty.
   It was Niklas von Buelow.

   “My deepest apologies. Because I looked away, you were placed in peril,” he said with a meek expression, but even that looked like a mask he had glued on. I felt sick.

   After knocking Hilde off her feet like he was sloppily shooing away a bug, he now tore at the hem of her skirt.

   “WHAT ARE—”

   And something tumbled down, hitting the ground with a THNK. It was a dagger, about 15cm in length.

   Picking up the small blade that had been strapped to Hilde’s thigh, he showed it off dramatically.

   “The woman in front of you belongs to a group who would do you harm. Unfortunately, the intelligence I acquired came from a source that cannot easily reveal its identity, so it will prove difficult to gather evidence of their evildoing.”

   I was stupefied. What the hell was this wretch saying? He was carefully laying down one lie after another as if it were an act of breathing.

   I had previously been born in a peaceful era, and even after I was reincarnated, I was raised like a flower inside a guarded greenhouse. This was truly the first time I had ever met anyone so depraved.

   There was neither anger nor sorrow in his eyes, much less a guilty conscience. Not even mercy. He was as emotionless as if it was merely time for him to get rid of an item that had worn out its uses.

   “U, ngh…”

   Lying limp against the wall, Hilde moaned a little and stirred.
   Before I could even react, Niklas advanced on her. He raised his sword, prepared to strike again.


   “Princess Rosemarie!”

   I was running before I knew it, but Klaus held me back.

   I struggled unreasonably against someone who had no gap in his defenses, but was easily restrained.
   I gritted my teeth.

   “Your Royal Highness, as long as this woman lives, she will try to harm you. We must dispose of her immediately,” Niklas said.

   “You dare think you have the authority to decide that? I ordered you to stop!” I roared, even with Klaus holding me back.

   But Niklas displayed no hint of hesitation. Like a third rate actor, he exaggeratedly shook his head.

   “I will gladly receive your criticism later. However, we cannot leave this woman alone.”


   It was useless. This wretch was indifferent to my attempts to stop him. No matter what happened afterwards, he planned to deal with Hilde here.

   My heart was beating painfully fast.

   It hurts, I can’t. How do you breathe normally?

   Even though I was gasping for breath like a fish swept ashore, I couldn’t take in oxygen well. My mind went blank, and while I watched like a fool, Hilde raised her head and met my eyes.
   She looked at me with tears in hers, her trembling lips slowly forming the words…


   ——SAVE ME!


   The blood stained tip of the sword moved in slow motion. The image of the sword swinging down, just before it reached her, burned itself into my eyes.
   Even if I cried, even if I yelled, I couldn’t reach them.




   Something intercepted his sword, and it was sent flying through the air until it embedded itself in a tree. Niklas moaned, holding on to his left hand, a stone half the size of a fist on the ground next to him.


   “You are in the presence of Her Royal Highness, Niklas. Restrain yourself.”

   The voice came from the end of the passageway. A man straightened himself from his throwing position, commanding his subordinate with his low voice. Niklas gulped at the sight of this man’s anger.

   On the contrary, my body lost all of its strength.
   He wasn’t scary to me. I would never think that. When no one else listened to my shouts, he was the only one who did.

   Only Sir Leonhard would grant my wishes.

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