From my position on the hard surface of the wagon’s floor where I’d been discarded long ago and promptly neglected, I quietly whispered, “No need to show off.”
My entire body was an aching mess from head to toe. My left arm had gone numb under me, and with my hands and feet bound, I’d been reduced to a wriggling caterpillar. My current state made it rather difficult to maneuver, but I somehow managed to turn face up. I sighed in relief.
A fireball trailed across a sky now visible through the tossed up canopy.
This was in no way, as a matter of fact, the achievement of my inchworming self.
“No need to show off,” I said again, a dry laugh croaking out.
The name’s Theo Eilenberg. Current position—the remote outskirts of the Kingdom of Neyval, on a mountain trail close to the national border shared by the neighboring Kingdom of Vint.
Three days have passed since Niklas von Buelow attempted to kill Hilde Kramer when he was revealed as a spy. In the following events, the royal palace was infiltrated by the enemy, and I was stuffed in a sack and carried to the wagon where I was unceremoniously dumped.
I tried to escape using magic, but could not get a proper hold of my magic due to the limiting effects of the choker. When a wizard with zero strength was prevented from utilizing his powers, it was over for him.
I didn’t want to get hurt, so I obediently lay where I’d been tossed like a sack of potatoes, but it seems like one prodigy with a little too much pride had no intention of doing the same.
Right in the middle of his work, a rider from the rear noticed something amiss and stopped the wagon.
Abandoning me in my caterpillar state, Lutz moved himself into a more prepared stance for battle.
The magic stones Lutz held had been created by our master, Lady Irene von Artmann, as a means for self-defense because his powers had been sealed.
For that reason, Lutz was able to shoot fireballs—magic of an attribute his exact opposite—into the sky. The problem was…the one he just sent off was his last. It signaled the end for him.
Inevitably, Lutz came back after his struggle.
I checked to see if he still any other weapons on him, noticing a great many bruises on the exposed upper half of his body. His shoes had been taken, so he was now barefoot. To top it off, he’d been tied up in circles with rope. The finishing blow came from the shining choker.
…a mysterious force instinctively nudged me to look away.
He owned looks of unparalleled beauty, but it was also his misfortune. I could only view him like a pitiful pretty boy who had been roughened up by a bunch of perverts.
“Lutz… I’ll tell the princess not to probe too deeply into the situation with your ass.”
I tried lightly joking about it, but the eyes he turned my way looked like they could kill. They promised to moderately beat me to a pulp, in sync with his irritation.
“Before that happens, I’ll thrust an icicle into your ass.”
I sighed without a drop of fear, and shrugged.
“There’s no point in resisting, you’ll just get hurt. Be obedient. We can’t even use magic, how were you gonna run away?”
“Shut up. Don’t order me around.”
Lutz abruptly turned his face away.
Shaking my head in amazement, I faced the other way.
A short while later, a single man climbed aboard.
Until now, he hadn’t been riding alongside the wagon so that he could keep an eye on the pace of the wagon, but I knew I had to an eye on him.
“Don’t cause too much trouble,” he said, scowling at us.
I knew him.
It would be convenient if he came closer.
“At any rate, you brats have no idea where you are. It would bode better for you to make your masters happy and earn their favor,” he said with a sneer, not even trying to hide his contempt.
“Ohh, I see… Pet dogs should act like pet dogs, and work hard to please their owners,” I said with a smile.
Niklas snorted as he laughed.
“Now here’s a good attitude!”
Well. I could say things were looking favorable.
Up to this point I’ve been following a script that had already been prepared beforehand.
The attack on the palace, the abduction of us apprentices, even Lutz’s blunder—everything was going according to the scenario First Prince, Christof von Werfald, had planned. Naturally, anyone untrustworthy had been excluded.
Going back in time, three days ago.
Entering like we were getting locked up, we came face to face with distinguished personages. The First Prince, the Commander of the Royal Knights, and our master, Lady Irene von Artmann.
We gulped as the First Prince said to us, I ask for your cooperation.
For a short time after that, he went into details about everything that had been happening under the surface. The King of Sckellz was scheming to have Lutz abducted, and the one to guide his men would be a member in the Order of the Royal Knights. The maid who had been approaching Lutz lately had been the underling of this spy.
In order to seal her mouth, he tried to kill the maid but the princess happened to be present for everything.
At first, we were dumbfounded, but we gradually began to piece things together, making us want to kick ourselves.
We looked at each other, my identically…no, Lutz looked even more harsh than I, biting on his upside down lips. He kept his hands in a fist with all his strength, shaking slightly.
“Then…the princess had always protected us?” Lutz asked in a daze, and I remembered something.
The princess had been awfully interested in the matter between Lutz and the maid.
It was clear now the princess had been fearful Lutz held affection for the maid, and that it would be used against him.
She’d tried to stay by our sides as much as possible, making use of spare time in her busy schedule. It had probably been all for both of our sakes, so that she could have the guard who had been assigned for her own safety protect us.
Such a young girl had tried so desperately to spread her arms to protect us.
And yet, what the hell did we do? We knew something had been troubling her, but we hadn’t noticed at all that we were the cause of her worries.
“What a disgrace… We’re pathetic.”
I wanted to laugh at how hopeless we were, but I couldn’t even do that. All that leaked out from my twisted lips was a hoarse voice.
“Why-why did you let the Princess do something like that…! If I’d been aware of the situation, I could have dealt with it by myself!!”
It wasn’t something we could simply end by physically beating up the enemy.
“Calm down, Lutz. You know it’s not that simple,” I reproached him, and Lutz ground his teeth in vexation, turning his face away.
“I confess to using my little sister to get the end results, but I never ordered her to do anything,” the prince quietly said without expression, carefully watching us.
What did he mean he hadn’t ordered her? Unable to understand his objective, I looked at him questioningly. The prince closed his eyes and gave a long sigh.
“I said she was worried about you two, but I will say no more on the matter. When I caught wind of grievous information that the possibility of a nation-wide conflict could break out, did you really believe I would have told the young princess?”
“She’s clever. She has the ability to take action. Without anyone ordering her to, she analyzed the situation in her head, and was able to move everything in a direction that brought about the very best results. Sometimes, I’m struck with the ridiculous notion she may even be able to see straight into the future. She is my brilliant little sister. This time, however, her brilliance has brought about the least desired effect. She has been dragged in a plot she should have never been a part of.”
Our eyes were wide open.
Almost as if the young girl had finally reached beyond her adolescence into adulthood.
Her brilliance could not be settled with just words. With the information we previously lacked before now given to us, I connected the strange events that had happened inside the castle, going from dot to dot until I arrived at an answer, and closed in on an impossible talent. Simply put, visions of the future.
“To make matters worse, she has even caught the notice of a ruler.”
“A ruler…you don’t…?!”
“No,” the Prince said, cutting short my words, which had come as quick as the blood had drained from my face. “I don’t mean Sckellz, but the ruler of our kingdom.”
Ahh, that was good… I’d gone faint at the thought of the princess getting noticed by that war fiend.
“Our kingdom? In other words, your—”
“That’s right. My father.”
Even though he was quite lost, Lutz asked and the prince nodded in confirmation.
“However, to that person we are not children. We are nothing more than underlings related to him through blood. Those he deems useful will be put to work, and everyone else ignored. For her sake, it would be better for him to decide she is useless, but…”
It seems like she has “use” after all, the prince remained expressionless when he muttered that, but his voice became extremely bitter. Even the prince seemed to find it an unpleasant turn of events.
“Use…? What did he have in mind for the princess?”
“Our foes are aiming for the two of you, but they need someone to manipulate you two so that you’ll as you’re told. Right now, there is no one more suitable for the job than my little sister.”
“Wh-what the hell…?” Lutz said, his voice shaking.
It’s probably a little too late now, but we’ve been acting very rudely towards His Royal Highness. My reasoning told me I needed to stop Lutz.
But, against my better senses, the words I needed to stop him never came out. Truth be told, I felt the same way.
“In other words, you’re letting her get kidnapped so that you can round up the whole lot in the righteous name of rescuing the princess?”
Don’t screw with us!
The princess wasn’t born as royalty for the sake of getting dragged into this mess!
We, I didn’t stay by her side to get involved in this…!
A terribly brutal desire welled up from the bottom of my heart.
As if it was in concert with my feelings, my body temperature rose incredibly, and heat gathered in the palm of my hands. The controller that had been installed around my neck sparked to life, making a keening sound.
“Calm yourself, fool apprentice.”
Cold water literally poured over my head, leaving me stunned.
She was our master, the one who had carefully supervised us until now. Lady Irene had summoned water from above with magic to rain down on me in order to stop me from losing my cool, even though she was a flame wizard.
She was the only one in our kingdom who could call upon magic of her exact opposite attribute so easily.
“Prince Christof would not permit such an atrocious deed.”
“Observe how displeased His Highness is, all because the princess is so adorable, so cute he cannot hold back his emotions.”
Even with the prince’s chilling glare fixed on her, my master was not perturbed at all. Gracing him with a smile, she easily evaded him.
“Goodness, how rude of me.”
Perhaps he understood he was no match for her with words, because the prince let her audacity pass without reprimand. A sigh slipped from him, and he continued our conversation.
“As I mentioned before, I don’t want my little sister further involved. Therefore, your cooperation is essential.”