After the shock, the carriage came to a sudden standstill.
I’d slipped off the seat, with Sir Leonhard supporting me. His handsome face was a harsh mask, and the atmosphere had become tense.
“I will go assess the situation. Your Highness, take care to not move from this spot.”
I nodded silently. Sir Leonhard released me, and put a hand on the carriage door.
“I am terribly sorry!”
However, a voice from outside called out slightly faster than he could throw open the door.
“Your Highness is not injured?”
“Her Highness is safe. What happened?”
Sir Leonhard kept me safely behind him as he directed his question outside.
“Sir… Someone suddenly jumped in front of the carriage.”
When Sir Leonhard opened the door, I saw my escort and the ashen coachman were on the other side.
It occurred to me that I was probably just as pale as the coachman.
Wait, what? He said someone jumped out? Th-that person wasn’t run over, were they?! It was such a big crash…were they okay?!
“The wounded person?”
“Avoided, so I believe they are safe, but…”
Sir Leonhard alighted from the carriage, and shut the door while he held a conversation with the coachman.
Left to my own devices inside the carriage, there was nothing else to do but imagine what had happened outside from their conversation. According to the broken snippets of their conversation I could catch, it seems like a young boy had jumped in front of the carriage.
Seems like he somehow managed to avoid injuries to himself, so things were looking up.
I breathed a little easier, feeling relieved.
But the conversation suddenly came to a halt. I sensed no disturbing indications, but there was surprise in Sir Leonhard’s voice.
What was it…? I became extremely curious.
I’d opened the door a crack, and could hear the voices outside.
That meant I was improperly positioned with my head stuck against the door, ears pricked. In a panic, I flew back to my seat.
His impatient tone of voice changed to one of surprise, but Sir Leonhard continued without minding my conduct. Rather than say he ignored my strange behavior, it was more accurate that he was ignoring such a slight concern.
“It has become a small problem.”
“Please give your report,” I responded, fixing my sitting posture.
I was fired up to do my duty, but in contrast to my enthusiasm, Sir Leonhard only admitted after an uncomfortable stretch of silence, “The one who jumped out is the son from the noble household of the Viscountcy of Diebold.”
Diebold…it sounded awfully familiar.
Closing my eyes, I brooded.
Even though I’d heard it before, I couldn’t remember. Diebold, Diebold, I repeated to myself, searching my memories.
I suddenly had a flashback of the graphics of a man with a bewitching pretty face.
Long, black hair with a tinge of blue, and long-slitted eyes of the same color. Thin lips that always sported a mysterious smile,* and made it difficult to read his emotions.
His was entirely dressed in the pure white robes of a priest. With a single glance he felled the people into disarray. A man with a dangerous appeal—Michael von Diebold.
So, it was him.
I was ecstatic over what I just remembered, then became pale in the next instant.
Isn’t he the Dark Lord!!
Diebold’s son was the Dark Lord, wasn’t he!!
Completely unprepared for this turn of events and the bomb that had been thrown at me, I was greatly muddled and at a loss for what to do.
In the end, I escaped from reality. Like so. The House of Diebold has two sons, if I remembered correctly.
“Is it the eldest son…?”
Sir Leonhard did me the honor of politely smashing my useless attempt at denial. He sounded somewhat astonished.
“It is Michael von Diebold…”
And so he is!
“Your Highness. There is no danger posed to you here. Will you not do us the honor of descending?” Sir Leonhard asked. Perhaps he thought I wasn’t moving fast enough.
He words did remind that Michael wasn’t the Dark Lord yet, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
The day he became the Dark Lord was still many years in the future. Supposing I failed to destroy the flag.
I took a deep breath.
I opened the door, and climbed down the carriage with my hand held out in demand. The one who met me was the guard with his lowered head, the coachman, and…an unfamiliar boy.
A question mark floating over my head, I stared at the boy fixedly.
I thought I heard Sir Leonhard say Michael was here, but there was not a trace of beautiful, dangerous young man—who had looked perfectly at home against the moonlit night, bathed in blood.
Black hair with a tinge of blue, evenly cut to the back of his neck. Long-slitted eyes peeked through the space between his long bangs.
His shoulders were hunched forward. He looked around restlessly, eyebrows drawn in worry like the shape of a roof. Nonsensical moans leaked out, his voice plaintive. Whichever direction I looked at him from, I couldn’t find in this boy the Dark Lord who had been filled with brimming self-confidence.
The boy stirred, growing uncomfortable under my appraising eyes, and I fell silent for a moment.
What was the point of making the Dark Lord (the guy who will become him) have stranger anxiety?!
“Highness,” Sir Leonhard reproached me, like he was unable to watch by the sidelines when the boy looked like he was about to tear up.
Like he was trying to protect himself, Michael made a cute cry that sounded like meow.
Hm? Why a cat?
When I looked closer, there was a completely black cat in his arms. A pair of blue gems stared back, looking at me doubtfully in suspicion. Most definitely cute.
“It seems like he was trying to save the cat from getting run over when he jumped in front of the carriage.”
“Is that so? Are you unhurt?”
Michael blushed furiously, and dropped his head.
“Eh…, uh…y-yes,” he replied with scarcely any words in a very thin voice.
Even if I tried to look at it in a favorable light, he wasn’t very attractive like this…but, I did think he was cute. It was probably rude to think of an older boy as cute, though.
“Ah…I, I am apprenticed to a priest. M-my name…is Mi-Michael von Diebold. I…was u-unaware this was a carriage of the royal house. Please…forgive…me.”
STOP ALREADY! I silently yelled.
I felt guilty when he tried so desperately to apologize even though he had difficulty getting the words out, but I could handle no more. To be frank, because I had memories of it from my previous life, I couldn’t think this fault that turned his speech inarticulate from nerves to be anyone else’s problem.
“It is a blessing none of us were hurt,” I said, and aimed a smile loaded with forgiveness at him.
The blushing boy lowered his head into his chest even more.
It was pitiful looking at his form curling into itself, so I wanted to let him go quickly, but there was something on my mind.
What was Michael doing in a place like this alone?
Though we were in the middle of town, we were a great distance away from the Great Temple. Wasn’t it a bit far for an errand?
“What brings an honorable priest of the Great Temple here?” Sir Leonhard asked the question in my stead.
Did he also sense something amiss?
Michael mistook the words for an accusation.
“Er…..aahh um, I had no intention of doing som—anything wrong.”
The blood drained from his face, and he desperately shook his head.
“Worry not. I am not criticizing you. I thought perhaps to offer help if something troubled you.”
Sir Leonhard gave him a nice business smile, and the tension fell out of Michael’s shoulders. Unconsciously? he squeezed the cat in a hug. The human-friendly cat did not make any attempts to run away.
“M-my work is done, so the time is mine to use, and I go to the orphanage.”
According to his story, after his duties were complete at the Great Temple, he would make his way to the orphanage and lend a helping hand.
It’s probably out of self-satisfactation, he added, and looked down.
Who was this little angel?! Such a good child!
“Not at all. I think you are amazing,” I said with a smile, and Michael’s face beamed.
“T-truthfully, I want to go to distant villages, too, and not just the ones in the royal city. I-I have not yet, received permission.”
I had been making yeah, yeah! sounds of encouragement, feeling like I was doting a small child as I listened to the words Michael spoke with such delight, but I pulled up short on the way.
He said he wanted to go to the distant villages?
Even though the war didn’t break out, and the disease wasn’t spreading yet, the future hadn’t changed?
The apprentice priest was brimming with energy to set out and make his rounds around the entire kingdom if only he could obtain permission. His ability to take action vividly overwhelming his introverted nature.
Bad timing. Seriously bad timing.
I needed to do something, one way or another, but I only felt the pressure and could think of nothing good.
Sir Leonhard, who had been keeping quiet, intercepted.
“Your Highness, I have a request.”
A request? I turned to him questioningly, and he slowly blinked his eyes twice to send a message.
“I have a report to make of previously detected suspicious individuals in this area. Something may happen to the sir priest if he returns alone. If Your Highness sees fit to grant permission, I would like to travel together with him. Once Your Highness’s tasks are over, how do you find the suggestion of sending him as far back as the Great Temple?”
“You are very gracious.”
Nice move, Sir Leonhard!
That’s right, this way we can kidnap him, and persuade him along the way! Even if it sounded unreasonable, the next time we meet it’d be nice to get him to make an agreement with me!
Unable to keep track of the development, Michael became confused and in his arms the black cat carefreely cried Mweoow.