When we had the strategy meeting earlier, the king didn’t mention that his sister was being held captive. In fact, he even declared that everyone inside the royal palace was an enemy.
That woman just now probably used transformation magic to look just like the real princess. The enemy could only use her as hostage after the king has been rescued by us. And if the king was rescued, he would immediately know right away if the woman was an impostor, unless of course, they had the real princess to copy the transformation magic from.
If the real princess was captured, there was no way the king didn’t know about it. One of the methods the enemy could’ve used to force the king to obey their orders was probably telling him that they had his sister.
There’s one reason why the king didn’t tell us what he knew. The king intends to abandon his sister.
If we just say that the princess died of an illness, it shouldn’t have any huge effect on our situation. Of course, it doesn’t really mean that that her death won’t have drawbacks, but compared to the king himself and the palace, the importance of the princess is a step or two lower.
We might be able to make the king owe us, but he already owes us big time for coming to his rescue, so a little extra doesn’t really mean much.
If this was a game, saving the princess would be the biggest challenge, but in reality, there’s such a thing as order of priority. The current order of precendence is as follows: the king’s life first, and the palace second. One would think that the princess is third, but no, it’s Count Meigis, then Mylia. After that there’s Sachylis, then people from the Count’s army who are highly valuable for strategies. The princess is probably around the tenth spot.
I can’t risk the success of retaking the royal palace for the princess’s life, and it’s not worth it to even risk the troops. From an emotional standpoint, the safety of the troops is more important than the king’s sister, whom I’ve never met before. But…
“All right, let’s go save her.”
Sachylis looked a little surprised. “I don’t think His Majesty would condemn us for abandoning the princess.”
Sachylis knew that the king didn’t mention the princess on purpose. If I wasn’t here and was instead giving orders from afar, I would certainly order my troops to forget about the princess. But that’s only if saving the princess would hinder our operation or put my troops in danger.
“I suppose. Well, we can just abandon her if it looks like an impossible mission, but I think it’ll work out.”
People with a lot of experience can at least judge when to back down. If we deem the situation to be dangerous, we will retreat immediately. So even if our target is low on the priority list, we can still at least try.
“It’ll work out, sir?”
“Yeah. I’ll go rescue her alone, and you will prioritize your safety. Just keep me within range of Wind’s Whisper, and let me know if that becomes difficult.”
Wind’s Whisper is one of the Skills Sachylis possesses, which allows for long-distance communication. It has less range than voice-amplifying magic, but unlike normal conversations, no one else can listen in, so it’s useful for conveying information that you don’t want others to know about. It’s the best tool for communication during a raid.
“I understand. But do you know where the hostage is?” Sachylis asked.
“I’ll look into that now.”
When locating hostages, we first need to make educated guesses as to where they could be. It’s not like there’s infinite possible locations. I think the best candidate is the basement. Even though the palace is occupied, there should still be many people inside.
There’s a chance that people would find the princess if she was locked up in a normal room. The enemy can’t keep her mouth shut all the time as well, as she might starve to death, and I don’t think they’d want that. Unlike on Earth, there are no IV drips here to keep someone alive even without them eating anything. If you want to confine someone where sounds would be less likely to escape, the underground basement is your best bet.
“How many enemies are underground?” I asked.
“Um… It’ll take some time to count them. Is that okay?”
“Yeah. Just take your time and make sure you don’t miscount.”
Sachylis began counting the number of enemies with Search Enemy. After a while, she looked up at me and said, “There are twenty-six of them.”
“Magic Search,” I muttered. “I got twenty-seven.”
Magic Search locates everyone whether they’re an enemy or not, while Search Enemy only detects enemies. That means someone who is not an enemy is down there, most likely the princess.
“Let’s go, then. Like I said, you stay somewhere safe as backup.”
A while later.
“Magic Search. Hmmm, looks like they noticed.”
Before storming the basement, I was going around crushing enemies around so they wouldn’t butt in. It seems they noticed my movements.
The enemies were scattered in a circular formation in the basement—centered on a single mass of mana, and the size of the circle was…
“Looks like the radius of Steam Explosion’s AoE.”
Now the enemy can’t use their trump card unless they leave the princess to die. Put it another way, I can get that much closer to the enemy without anyone bothering me.
Distance is one of the biggest threats in a rescue mission, so there is an advantage to having the enemy reduce the size of their formation. This means that the princess is almost certain to be the one in the center.
After confirming that Sachylis was in a safe position, I went closer to where the enemies were gathered together. Considering the overall terrain, the closest route I can take without the enemy noticing me is…
I descended down the stairs to the basement and made my way down a deserted path. And when I came to the other side of the wall closest to where I thought the princess was, I cast a spell.