I’m kind of busy these days so please just turn a blind eye on my grammatical errors.
Like yesterday, I saw Greed-sama when I was going to work.
He is a that corner of the courtyard that can be seen from the hallway again. He was looking at the sky, like what he was doing yesterday. There is nothing, except for the bright sky.
—I wonder if there is something over there.
Even if I do not see anything, Greed-sama is a hero who can use magic, and who also possesses [Spirit Protection]. So it isn't weird if he were to find something that I cannot see.
But I pushed that thought aside from my mind. That's not going to happen. Because this castle is protected by a barrier. Rare incidents seldom happen.
……But what if a rare incident will……?
While I was pondering, Greed-sama, who would usually immediately notice my presence, kept staring at the sky. Because he did not look as tense as yesterday. I felt hesitant to call him out……
I quietly left the hallway.
I felt that it was better to leave him alone, and I also can't make up my mind on what kind of attitude should I take when I face him after hearing yesterday's explanations and what to do next. So I postponed it once again. While feeling a little uneasiness in my chest.
It was lunch break that day when I felt that little uneasiness, or should I say, premonition again. Ever since that day when I was proposed to by Greed-sama, I attracted a lot of attention from other people so I decided to take my lunch at the maid's antechamber beside the Princess's room and not at the cafeteria.
Since the Princess's meal is delivered from the kitchen, the Prime Minister also arranged for my part to be delivered at the same time.
……In retrospect, this was part of the plans to protect me.
The more that I am exposed to the eyes of many people, it will be easier for my information to leak outside and it will be easier for people to approach the hero through me. My master's room, which is my workplace, is located near the heavily guarded main residence. And the servant's quarters is connected here by the hallway which is used by the nobles and high-ranking servants of respectable positions. That place is also close to the main tower and the main residence, and it is difficult for outsiders to enter that place. The rooms of the maidservants and menservants, those who are working behind-the-scenes, are situated outside the castle.
I sometimes see a maid cleaning the main tower from the Princess's room, but such girls have powerful backers. It's about being assigned to a special building.
In other words, wherein the range of my workplace, I should only meet the people I truly know. That's why if someone approached me, I usually did not mind it at all.
The place where I encounter an unspecified number of people was the dining room. That's why the Prime Minister must have secretly helped me. But I did not realize that and was only delighted that I did not get exposed to many eyes.
……So you can say that I don't have any sense of crisis.
Today, I went to the cafeteria during lunch break…… No, to be exact, I went to the kitchen next to the dining hall, pushing the wagon where I put the dishes that was used by the Princess and me in order to return it.
A new maidservant who came in as an apprentice usually returns the dishes, but today, she took a day off from work so I thought of doing it myself.
……Who would have thought that I would get involved in a mayhem.
I left the main residence (Palace), and in the corridor on the way to the cafeteria, I sensed that someone was calling me.
This voice…… When I looked back, I saw Alfred-sama, the second prince of this kingdom.
Today he did not escape his bodyguards, for two knights are standing behind him, maintaining a reasonable distance.
"Oh, Alfred-sama, good morning."
Although I reflexively smiled and greeted him with the best of my manners, I remembered what happened in my room a couple of days ago and the corners of my mouth twitched a little.
Yes. Alfred-sama is mob-faced like me and looks like a harmless wind, but he is a dangerous person who sneaked into my room in the middle of the night!
By the way, this person, because of Greed-sama……
"Aria, I'm glad I met you!"
Alfred-sama approached me quickly with a smile. When he was just a few meters away from me, it happened.
"There's something I wanted to ask. I heard rumors, you and the Hero-dono…… Whoa!"
His legs slipped as if stepping on the banana peel and was about to fall down on his back.
Though he looks lucky to fall on his backside, he may not be so lucky to hit the back of his head……
While thinking about that, the knights who were waiting behind him ran over to him with their impressive reflexes and grabbed Alfred-sama's arm just before he could fall on the floor. Although they were wearing armors, they are really agile as expected of a knight. Though they are the type of knight that is burly, plain faced and hotheaded.
"So-Sorry. Thank you."
Alfred-sama thanked them casually, which is inconceivable for a royalty, and stood up supported by the arm of the knight.
……As I thought, the Greed-sama's spirits are still going on with their admirable sabotage.
It's because there was nothing at the spot where Alfred-sama was about to fall down, so it was impossible for him to slip. Alfred-sama also thought the same. When he stood up, he took a glance at the floor, then faced me with a complicated expression. But since I could not tell him, I gave him a stiff smile and feigned ignorance.
"Ah, I'm sorry, Aria. I let you see something unsightly."
Alfred-sama raised his face and told me awkwardly.
I shook my head and said, "Don't mention it." Because it's not Alfred-sama's fault at all.
"The floor here is slippery, isn't it? It's alright since Alfred-sama was not injured."
I kindly said to comfort him. Although it is not really slippery, the end justifies the means…… Look, once again, I've already been here for 6 years.
Alfred-sama's face turned redder and redder……. Huh? Is it perhaps because some flag is triggered?
"Do you need some help?"
He is the elder brother of my master after all. He is a prince of this country, and above all else, I was the cause of Alfred-sama's misfortunes.
I said that in that sense but…… Hey, Alfred-sama, why are you blushing hard?!
Eh, don't tell me I failed? Not only did I triggered it, but I also instigated it?
Alfred-sama again asked in a determined expression.
"Aria, I heard a strange rumor about Hero-dono and you—"
A very panic-stricken voice muffled Alfred-sama's voice, and I saw another knight running towards the bodyguards.
This…… Is this a new obstacle created by Greed-sama and the spirits? I thought so because the timing was perfect. It was as if it was carefully aimed. However, the running robust knight looks like he is at his wit's end.
The knight stopped in front of Alfred-sama, took a breath and reported.
"There is a very serious incident!"
"What exactly happened?"
It was not Alfred-sama but one of the bodyguards. He wore an armor of the same color as that of the guard, and he was obviously familiar with him.
The knight who came running was catching his breath, breathing heavily. He was about to open his mouth to answer, when he finally noticed my presence. Breaking off, he shot a troubled look at Alfred-sama. It seems that it was impossible to say in front of me. Alfred-sama was in-charge with the security of the castle, and it seems that an important problem in the security had occurred, so he ran to find Alfred-sama.
Being tactful, I told Alfred-sama.
"I have to bring my dishes back to the kitchen, so I will excuse myself."
"Eh, ah, ah……."
Alfred-sama looked somewhat disappointed and reluctant, but since he must obviously prioritize his work over me, he reluctantly nodded.
"Well then, I will leave first."
As I said that, I lowered my head to Alfred-sama and slightly bowed to the knights who were behind him, then pushed the wagon and started walking.
Seeing me leave, the knight spoke.
"It might be a big deal, Your Highness."
Behind Alfred-sama, who let out a startled voice, I left the place.
While walking in the corridor pushing the wagon, I strongly grasped the handle of the wagon. The knight who came to report has a louder voice than usual. So even though he trying to keep it secret, even though he is trying to whisper, it was in fact so small, however in places wherein sounds easily resonates like the hallway, some will be able to hear it.
—Including me who was pushing the wagon.
—According to the report, a humanoid demon was spotted inside the castle grounds—
The knight definitely said so.
* * *
The castle is enclosed by a barrier. It protects the castle from invasion of demons.
It was destroyed by the Demon King once to capture the princess, so the current barrier was made by a magician who did not sleep and rest for many days. So at the event that it will be destroyed, it will be fine and the demons will not be able to enter…… That's what it was supposed to be.
However, according to the report of the knight, demons were spotted inside the castle.In other words, it means that—the barrier is not functioning. A cold chill ran down my spine.
I remember, a few days ago, Greed-sama told Alfred-sama in my room.
"The magicians of this kingdom have put up an anti-demon barrier but there are inadequate parts in some places. Probably it is because there is a difference in the ability of each of the magicians. The barrier is mottled, wherein there are tightly stretched parts and thin parts. It can withstand if it is just an ordinary demon, but a high-class demon can break through the thin parts of the barrier."
In other words, even if it can block a beast, a powerful demon might be able to break it. After that, I think the magicians will reinforce it, but it might take three days. There were also many parts that were not reinforced yet, but that's not the case. What was seen was a humanoid type of demon.
We call it roughly the same as "Demon", but in reality the demons belong to two kinds. One is a beast that looks like an animal. The other one is said to be just a handful. They are the himan-like demons that possess intelligence and high magical power.
It is mainly the beast that appears in front of a person and attacks humans and domestic animals, but a humanoid demon rarely appears.
I have also a seen a horse-like beast, but in fact, it was my first time to see a humanoid demon and that was that macho Demon King.
Even Famima-sama, the longest living royal magician who has been deeply involved with demons for so long, has never seen a humanoid type of demon. Other than that, there are a few opportunities to see humanoid type of demons.
That's because—when they appear, nothing remains. Due to their overwhelming magical power, human life, buildings and nature have been destroyed.
I wonder that such a high rank demon might be inside the castle… Are they certain?
And as doubt clouded my eyes, both the Palace and the east building seem to remain unchanged.
However, the castle grounds was wide, and even though there was a uproar somewhere, it was enough to make thoughts run wild.
Who on earth did they witness and where? Looking at the places that has not yet riotous, could it be the magicians? The knights?
Just when I thought of that, I suddenly remembered Greed-sama. In connection to demons, of course it's the Hero's party. There are no other people who were more familiar to demons than them, and even if they were able to encounter the top brass demons, there's nothing to worry since Greed-sama defeated the Demon King.
The information about the demon who was spotted inside the castle was probably known by Greed-sama—
"……I don't think so."
I stopped pushing the wagon and muttered to myself. Unfortunately, our kingdom has a so-called face. They will not probably say, "A demon was spotted. Then let's ask the Hero."
The Hero was not invited in order to get rid of the demons inside the castle, nor they had reason to stay. They are state guests, the guest of the kingdom. Towards the guests, it is not proper to ask them to do something before we could deal this with ourselves.
Besides, there's the issue of the pride of Alfred-sama, the knights, the soldiers and the magicians. It would not be good to entrust the territory they are responsible for protecting, even though he is the hero. I’m sure they will manage to do something…… Before the big sacrifice.
When the situation gets out of hand, I guess.
Since I am one of those who are working in the castle, I can understand their feelings. For example, if a maid from another country suddenly arrived, well, I'd probably feel offended. It's the same for them.
But . . . this involves human life. It is too late since there are victims. I feel bad for Alfred-sama, but I think that Greed-sama should know that a demon had been spotted! [T/N: The spirits have already told him, I'm pretty much sure.]
With determination, I pushed again the wagon and walked again in the hallway. As soon as I deposit the dishes in the kitchen, I will proceed to the living room of the Hero's party to tell Greed-sama what I have heard.
Though I personally knew the route to where Greed-sama and the others are, Alfred-sama may not know it…… so I have no choice but to tell him, right?
With such thoughts, I passed in front of the dining room and headed toward the adjacent kitchen. I then returned everything in the wagon, and when I retraced my steps, something happened.
There was suddenly a scream coming from the dining room.
"What is that!?"
I stopped on my tracks upon hearing those words, and the big door of the dining room opened and people scrambled out and ran to escape.
"Knights! No, we have to call the magicians!"
"Why is there a demon in this place?!?!"
There seemed to have quite a panic in inside. I was pushed by the waves of people who came out of the dining room, but I went behind the door that was left open.
Even though a demon was nearby, I do not know why felt calm, but I will think about it later. Anyway, I had to report to this to Greed-sama and the others, so I thought it was best to check it with my own eyes.
Because I have seen the Demon King, I am more or less immune to humanoid demons.
…….Though the Prime Minister said "it's because I am a member of the Milford family."
Anyway, compelled by a sense of purpose, I peeked inside the cafeteria when the wave of people ceased, feeling fearless. Those who were unable to stand up due to fear, those who could not move, the soldiers and knights, as well as several magicians, remained and were present in the cafeteria at this time. They are pointing all their swords towards the window.
Following the direction of their gaze, I also saw—Standing outside the window, 'something' is staring at us.
Sorry for the unintentional cliffhanger. This chapter is ~28, 000 characters long, so I am quite forced to divide this into parts. This part is 6, 553 characters long. orz