He probably thought I valued the hostage so much that I wouldn’t just fire spells all of a sudden.
“You have twenty seconds to come out. You can send guards as well, but only a max of four people can come out, the negotiator and princess included.”
I heard footsteps from inside the hall. Then three men and a woman—probably the princess—bound with a rope came out to where I could see them. One of the men seems to be the representative for the negotiations and the other two are the princess’s watchers.
“Hmm. Looks like the real princess,” I muttered to myself as I studied her.
I had no idea if she was real or not, of course. I don’t even know if the king has a sister or not in the first place.
I’m sure that the enemy didn’t consider that someone who doesn’t even know the face of the king’s sister would come to retake the royal palace. If she was an impostor, they would have made sure she looked like her anyway. So for now, I’ll just pretend to believe them. I might be able to catch them off guard a little bit.
Then the princess made a move.
“Leave me… Aaah!”
Her guard hit her as she tried to tell me to abandon her. She was about to fall over, but the man pulled her back up.
A rather rough way to treat a hostage. It seems like she wants to be abandoned, but there should be some merit to saving her.
“Let’s hear your terms,” I said.
“I want you to let us leave the palace unharmed. We’ll leave our weapons behind.”
Hmm. Begging for your life, I see. It is certainly a more realistic proposal compared to demanding me to leave this place at once, but for a plan B from people who charged at me fully prepared to die, it seemed strange.
There’s an issue to begin with. Even if they escaped from the royal palace alive, the chances of them returning to wherever they came from are not high. If they were imperial soldiers, they would need to shake off their pursuers and reach the border in order to survive.
The empire could even deny involvement in the occupation of the royal palace, effectively abandoning them. In fact, that’s more likely to happen. Judging from how they just charged in at me, I don’t think the empire values the lives of its soldiers.
“If we accepted those conditions, the hostages would be released as soon as you leave the royal palace. What are you guys going to do after that? There’s no guarantee we won’t go after you.”
“We’ll go our separate ways. If the number of pursuers is limited, the lucky ones will surive.”
Hmm. They seem to have thought that far, at least. The king can’t really give orders easily in this situation. While we can send people from the Count’s troops, there’s too few of them. If the enemy mixed into a crowd of ordinary people, I can’t really use my powerful spells, so there’s definitely a chance that some percentage of the enemy will survive.
The drawback for letting these guys go would be leakage of intel. I want the fact that only me and Sachylis took back the palace to be under wraps if possible. I’m not sure people will believe these men’s words, but it would prove troublesome if they brought magic recorders with them. I can prevent that by doing a check of their belongings, though.
“Sachylis, what do you think about their terms?”
“I think we should accept them,” she answered immediately.
The enemy’s expression changed from tense to a little relieved.
I walked over to the doorway of the hall. Then, when I got to just the right spot, I muttered a few words.
The hall turned bright red, and the barrier I put up shattered in an instant. Shock wave swept through the entire place.
I searched for mana signatures in the surrounding area. With the spell’s AoE, it could explore the whole palace. Checking if there’s anyone alive in the hall is easy.
I found nothing. After confirming that there were no survivors, I spoke.
“So she was an impostor, huh?” I said.
“Yeah. I believe their main objective was for the woman to assassinate you, not for them to survive.”
I told Sachylis that if Search Enemy didn’t catch anything, she was to answer my question with “I don’t know.” If the spell, however, sensed hostility from the hostage, then she was to answer in the affirmative.
Sachylis clearly agreed to the terms earlier. In other words, the hostage was an enemy—an impostor. The “princess” even tried to say something so brave, but she was actually an assassin hired to kill me.
Since their previous assault failed, it’s unlikely that the enemy will be able to fight me head on. I was wary of them, so they couldn’t really beat me. But they would have a chance if we saved the princess.
If the princess tried to kill me from behind while I was fighting to protect her, there’s a good chance that her blade will reach me. It’s difficult to watch someone bound by a rope while fighting.
However, such a tactic is useless in the face of Search Enemy.
“I’m glad it wasn’t a real princess being threatened,” I said. “It would’ve been difficult to make a judgment.”
“I agree. We managed to settle things without much effort.”
The downside of Search Enemy is that it only works if the target has hostile intentions towards me. If they were threatened, given no other choice but to attack me, there is a chance that Search Enemy won’t work.
So just because Search Enemy doesn’t pick anything up doesn’t mean we can trust them a hundred percent. If the spell senses hostility from someone, we know right away that they’re an enemy, which makes it a lot easier to make a move.
“Now, the question is where in the world is the princess.”
“Should we ask the king if the real princess has been captured?”
“There’s no need for that. I’m pretty sure she’s in the hands of the enemy.”