I was awake at a time when I would normally be asleep long ago, but I was up because I had a vague feeling of anxiety.
She hasn’t come back yet.
No matter how late it is, Lilia will always see me when she returns. This was even true when I was asleep.
Once, I had a hint of Lilia coming in the middle of the night while I was half-awake, so I asked her the next morning, and she said she couldn’t go down to her room until she saw for herself that I was safe before she left.
So I was pretty sure she wasn’t back yet.
Since she’s Lilia, who’s like a one-person intelligence agent, I know she’s doing a lot of things in the dark that I don’t know about.
She also said she was going to check on me, so I knew it was going to be late, and in some cases, she might not even show up tonight.
So when Alice and the others said they were going to be late, I smiled at them and followed up with a smile and said that I had asked Lilia to run an important errand for me and she might not be back today.
While I knew that Lilia would be fine, I couldn’t put out my anxiety, only tonight.
Maybe that’s because Lilia went to the Queen’s place…
The moment I heard the sound of glass breaking, I reflexively jumped off the bed, threw my gown over my head and ran towards the living room where the sound came from.
I thought I was being a bit unladylike, but I excused myself, saying that this was an emergency.
When I ran into the living room, some knights had already rushed in.
That’s as good as it gets…
Perhaps it’s because they’ve learned their lesson from the danger they put me in at Elzevert, but they’re very quick to act.
Sir Reyes immediately notices me standing in the doorway and kneels down.
“What’s going on?”
“It looks like someone threw a chunk of building material in the air.”
“…In this palace?”
Because the security here is more stringent than anywhere else, and to put it plainly, it’s always being monitored…you can do that.
Yeah, but it could be a trap, too.
Phil-Lynn said he would intentionally leave an opening. He would lure them in, he said.
Seeing that he is not here, perhaps he is in pursuit of the criminal now.
Well, even if it’s impossible for him to step into my sleeping room, anyone can just throw a stone into an unused living room at night.
We don’t have bulletproof glass or tempered glass or anything like that here, so if you throw something a little hard with all your strength, glass is easy to break and doesn’t take much force.
There are plenty of little blind spots in the yard, and I’m sure it’s not as difficult to blind a security guard as it is in the bedroom.
Well, it’s all just a possibility.
There are no security cameras or anything like that, and basically, as long as we rely on ‘people’ for everything, there is no ‘never’.
So no matter how tight the security is, it’s not absolutely ‘impossible’.
When I glanced over, I saw that shards of glass were scattered on the interior side. No doubt it was broken by the impact from the outside.
It’s scattered quite a bit…
I thought they threw a stone in, but it could have been a slingshot from a distance.
The knights of the guard were clearing away the broken glass as they kept track.
I was guided not to step any further into the back of the room, even though it was my room.
The garden is bright as daylight, probably because so many people have been mobilized to examine it.
Each one of the lamps and torches, which seemed dim to me, who knew about electricity, would have a considerable amount of light if they were gathered in large numbers.
“I’m sorry. The blame lies with me.”
Sir Reyes hung his head as he dropped to his knees.
He must be the head of security tonight, I thought
“No. His Highness is at war and I’m sure he’s short on men in many ways. It’s not like the thief invaded me.”
‘Don’t worry,’ I told him with a serious face.
“Besides, it could be a prank…”
Sir Reyes smiled slightly at me as I said this, and then bowed deeply.
We both knew we didn’t actually believe that. But it is necessary to have a construction. If he pursued the truth too much, it would be a matter of his responsibility.
I don’t want him to take responsibility for something like this and get demoted, or if it’s just a demotion, I don’t want him to be expelled.
Alice comes in, dressed in a maidservant’s dressing gown.
She doesn’t have her hair tied up or makeup on, but she seems to have come dressed in anticipation of the knights’ presence.
“It’s not safe for you to be in a place like this, so please return to your sleeping quarters.”
Seeing the same Alice as usual made me feel somewhat embarrassed about my night gown. Well, twelve years old is still a child, so the people around me wouldn’t care so much.
Thinking about it for a moment, I nodded obediently. I had a feeling that my anxiety wouldn’t go away even if I was here, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I suddenly noticed a scrap of paper under a small table by the wall. Looking around, I saw that no one else seemed to have noticed it. It must have been hidden just so well by the legs and was in a blind spot.
While Alice was discussing something with Sir Reyes, I stealthily picked it up.
It looked like just a crumpled up scrap of paper, but when I picked it up, it had a weight to it that wasn’t just paper.
The moment I realize that there is something wrapped up inside, my heart skipped a beat.
I squeezed it in the sleeve of my gown…something so small that even my small hands could grip it…it felt hard.
“You’re back first, aren’t you?”
With a quick peck, I tiptoed through the hallway and back to the sleeping room.
Then I instantly shut the door behind me and leaned over to block it.
I shut my eyes…I had a feeling that something was up.
Then I quietly opened the paper.
“It’s a lie…”
Among the scraps of paper was one worn, shiny, matte gold cufflink.
It was Lilia’s…with the blue lapis lazuli stone of a design I had seen before.
I recognized it right away.
Both Alice and Miredei have the same design.
But this one is Lilia’s.
The quality of the lapis lazuli stone is completely different from that of the other maids, as Lilia’s were reworked from the earrings that His Eminence Shion gave to Lilia.
Maybe the reason I was feeling bad is because I had been anticipating a moment like this.
Calm down…it’s not the worst thing yet.
This is a message, not proof that something happened to Lilia.
No, no, no, no, she’s not coming back, because something must have happened.
I think I’m pretty confused myself, as I’m stuck here and blabbering on alone…
I took another big, deep breath to calm myself down.
What to do…
Lilia had her cufflinks taken away by someone…it could be rephrased being captured.
Lilia has a special place in her heart for these cufflinks, so there is no way she would give them to someone else herself.
And whoever captured her gave them to me.
Who on earth?
The clue is the Her Majesty the Queen, by all accounts.
But when I visited the Queen and said, ‘Lilia hasn’t returned, do you know?’ It’s no wonder.
I think this is a threat.
I’m not going to call out on it immediately, but I think the bottomlessness of the criminal’s torturous nature can be seen through.
I carefully unfold the paper that wrapped the cufflinks. There is no text there.
This paper, which is thinly lined, is the official letterhead of the royal palace.
The crest is clearly printed in the upper right corner, and this one on a cream-colored ground is the one provided in the main palace room of the royal palace.
It is not at all a clue to narrow down the culprit, as anyone in the main palace can get their hands on it.
Ah, there we go again…
A scent that tickled the tip of my nose slightly, a scent I remember.
But then it fizzles out, stimulating my memory just a little bit.
It’s frustrating that I can’t remember it well.
What’ kind of scent is it…
It’s not a perfume or a cosmetic or anything like that. It’s sweet and yet somewhat bitter.
There’s something almost recognizable about it, but the scent is too vague to capture.
I’ll just have to wait and see how it comes out over there…
Do I regret it? There’s little I can do without Lilia.
I’m restricted to even going out on my own, and on top of that, both the Count and Miredei, who I could ask for something personally, are away right now.
…I sighed involuntarily.
It’s shameful that I can’t do anything… At a time like this, I’m in a raw state of affairs where I’m only able to wait for the other side to come out.
She’s probably alive, that’s for sure. Otherwise, there would be no point in delivering this to me.
If you want people to know that you killed someone, you don’t have to go around like this.
I will help you, I promise…
The sound of a knock on the door made my body shake with a jolt.
It was Julia who came in, with a tray of steamy cups on a tray. Alice may not have returned from the living room yet.
“Here is some brandy milk, please.”
She was dressed in her usual spiffy dress, but she looked a little sleepy. It’s understandable at this hour.
The figure of a knight could be seen through the slowly closed door. They seemed to be standing in the corridor as a sentry.
Normally, they didn’t often enter where I could see them, but I guess that’s still not the case on a night like this.
I opened my mouth as I waited for Julia to come inside.
“Julia, I need to ask you a favor.”
I look straight into Julia’s eyes.
Julia straightened up a bit and looked over at me.
“Can I go to church first thing in the morning?…I want to wish His Highness well.
Yeah, I know I can’t. Because I’m provisionally ill.
“…I want to pray for His Highness’ safety.”
Come to think of it, it’s not the first thing to be dismissed out of hand.
When the pillow phrase “for the Crown Prince” is added, everyone becomes very supportive…This is like a magic spell that only I can use.
Moreover, it is a very effective all-around spell no matter how many times or I use it.
“In that case, all you have to do is ask His Eminence Shion to come over here.”
Julia laughs with an expression that says, ‘hey.’
Thank you, Julia.
It was calculated that she was going to say that. Yes. It was calculated!
…So please, don’t give me that lukewarm smile. It makes me feel like I’ve lost something.
“Although it is absolutely not possible for the princess to go outside…His Eminence Shion told me that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince has asked him to be absent, so he comes here every day to check on you. If you let him know at that time, he will come right over.”
“Is that so? I didn’t know.”
I didn’t notice that His Eminence was here at all. Well, it’s not like I have to be reported on every single thing.
That’s convenient. I want to contact His Eminence Shion as soon as possible.
I can’t do anything about this, but I’m sure His Eminence Shion will have a way to do something.
Surely, if Lilia was in danger, His Eminence Shion would not back down, no matter who the opponent was.
“If His Eminence is present, even if it’s not a church, I think it’s enough for a place of prayer.”
I would like to see him as soon as possible… How can I call him here right away…
“Did His Eminence come here without my knowledge?”
“Yes. His Eminence is also a busy man, so he is always here late at night or early in the morning…He says it’s not a good time to see you, but he always leaves immediately after hearing the report.”
“Yes…Did he come here tonight?”
Then there’s a chance I could be in touch with him soon.
“I wonder how I can get to His Eminence Shion soon…”
“It’s too late tonight.”
“But I’m running out of time …and I might not be able to sleep at this rate.”
I’m sure I won’t be able to sleep until I confirm Lilia is safe.
I consider the various possibilities in my mind and dismiss them.
By all accounts, it’s impossible for me to summon His Eminence here right now without being unnatural.
Julia let out a funny laugh at my seriousness.
“Your Highness really likes the Crown Prince, doesn’t she?”
“…What are you saying all of a sudden?”
I couldn’t figure out what kind of expression I should have with those sudden words, so I let my gaze swim.
Because, I was suddenly told that…Well, I like His Royal Highness…
But I don’t have to say that all of a sudden at a time like this.
I have to keep my composure, but I feel like I can’t sit still.
…Praying for his safety is just a way to get in touch with His Eminence Shion!
It’s an excuse I can’t say out loud.
Sure, I’m worried about His Highness Nigel, but I’m not overly worried about him.
Because it’s His Highness.
…Somehow, I have an unconditional trust in His Highness Nigel.
I faked my embarrassment by drinking a little warm brandy milk.
“…I’m so worried about His Royal Highness that you can’t sleep at night.”
Julia is nodding yes, as if to say, ‘I understand.’
I feel like I’m being terribly misunderstood about something.
But I can’t deny it. Yes, I can’t.
That’s why I can’t help myself.
There was a knock at the door, and I have to admit, I felt a little bit of relief.
“His Eminence Archbishop Gittice is here to see Her Highness the Crown Princess.”
It was Sir Reyes’ voice that I heard through the door.
The timing was so good that Julia and I looked at each other.
There is a smile on Julia’s face as if she wants to say something.
For my part, I’m at a loss as to what expression to make.
Julia replies on my behalf, and there’s a hint of a light gasp on the other side of the door from Sir Reyes, who has brought a message.
That’s probably true. A visit at this hour is not normal. It’s too insane.
“It’s just as well, Your Highness.”
“Yes…but why did he ask for a visitation only today?”
“It’s not so much an incident as it is a case, but because it just happened, does Your Highness knows it’s still happening?”
“Maybe so, but…”
“Anyway, it’s okay because it’s good timing.”
Suddenly something flashed through the back of my mind.
Something that had been bothering me for a long time.
For a moment, I felt as if I was about to remember it.
“Your Highness, we need to get dressed quickly.”
But it fizzled out without fully forming, leaving only a rough, uncomfortable outline of discomfort in its wake.
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