Translator: Adam Seacord
「The goose pie is almost done.」
「Almost. Once the goose is done, what’s next?」
「After the goose, a stinky stinky acorn. Put it on the fire, roast it up, and pop♪」
「Roast it. Burst it. Skewer it. Once the pie’s down, then bon appétit♪」
「But, where did the goose go?」
「Left to rot in the woods, I’m afraid. Our walk is over. Let’s go home.」
Two girls walked through the festive crowd. Enjoying a sing-song, bird-like chitter-chatter. With the matching outfits and matching ribbons. Near identical face and body. They must have been twins. They giggled in glee, and finally made it back to the crowd.
The parade was approaching, but these short girls may not be able to see it directly. Even if someone had noticed the girls moving out of the parade crowd, all they would think is that it was a shame for them to miss the parade coming through so soon. No one would ever suspect them of anything sinister.
「It’s all going to be cleaned up anyway.」
「They can’t help it. They don’t know. They don’t know a thing.」
「Yes, they don’t know.」
「Yes, and the four of them that don’t even know they were the bait.」
Even the fighting taking place close enough for them to recognize the faces of the participants didn’t seem to bother the twins. Of course, they were at peace because they knew they weren’t going to be a part of it.
In reality, a knight have dove in, followed by a scream. The fleeing crowd noticed that, and cheered. Of course, there had to have been people planted specifically to cheer at that moment. The Twins knew that their client could easily pull off something like that.
「It’s about time, don’t you think?」
「They haven’t told us otherwise. So, we go on as planned.」
「Yes, just like we planned. We’re about to start the goose pie.」
「So, let’s go back soon. We’re not the ones eating the pie.」
After a moment, once the cheering had resumed, the Twins started walking again. Behind them, in the dead center of the parade crowd, a pillar of flames erupted.
「Hmm… I wanted to bake the pie when we were right next to it. I guess we walked a little too fast… But it’s no our job to eat the pie♪」
「We did our errand. Let’s leave them for the rest.」
Once the attackers were subdued and the crowd cheered, an explosion erupted in a separate location. From below the crowd. The pillar of red flames rose above the heads of the knights on their horses. While it wasn’t large, a few residences in the center of it were burned to crisp. With screams, the crowd parted.
Then, black smoke gushed out immediately. It couldn’t have possibly been from the burning victims or their clothes. The stinging stench reached all the way to the front of the parade. The fleeing people collapse left and right. The street was now chaotic, and many fled to the waterways nearby.
「What is this, magic? …The smoke is poisonous!」
「Hold your positions! Evacuate the citizens!」
It was difficult for the parade crowd to notice bags left behind on the street. Explosives and a gas contraption must have been left in one of them. That much, the knights on guard immediately understood. But dealing with the catastrophe was another story. They expected the parade to be ambushed, and they were on alert for it, but they didn’t expect the citizens to be under attack. Besides, there was only so much they could prepare for.
The explosion occurred in the territory the knights of House Roland were guarding. They left a few of them to guard the carriage, and the rest moved to create a barricade so the panicking crowd wouldn’t rush the parade. Some went to evacuate the crowd, but only a few.
She knew that she should be heading there to protect the people. But right now, she had her duty of guarding the parade. It was extremely likely that her master’s possible future wife (although that acknowledgment evoked a pinch of pain deep inside her chest) was still under attack. She had to stand her ground. Layla the Knight gritted her teeth.
「Knights of Blare! The Knights of Roland and Lambert will guard the parade. Protect the people! There may be another attack! 」
She nearly turned around to the voice coming from behind her. It was the knight who relayed her the message earlier. She thought that the messenger had been young, but the other older knights obey without hesitation. Was that messenger in a higher position than she first appeared? Or else, did the knights of Blare all think alike?
「Lady Olivia is right there. Of course, she could give her orders to the messenger…」
Atop the carriage, the magician Sara was looking around frantically. Olivia, sitting down next to her, was taking in her surroundings calmly. Even though she must have understood that she was the one under attack, she was worried about the people in the crowd, and she had her guards prioritize their protection. Layla admired this decision, and she felt like she saw the true essence of Olivia for the first time.
「…I see. Elliot didn’t oversell her.」
A subtle smile appeared on her face. The people were still screaming, but it wasn’t a complete panic, probably thanks to the speedy response. The explosion and smoke must have been planted to cause a panic in the crowd. And so, the parade had stopped, with the soldiers and knights running around to contain the situation. One wrong move, and Olivia’s carriage could be swallowed up by the crowd. If she was the assassin, she wouldn’t let such a prime opportunity slip. If anyone approaching them now was unnaturally calm, they were the assassin. Layla opened the faceguard of her helmet, and glared all around her.
「Magician! Watch the crowd, three o’clock!」
Layla’s voice reached Sara atop the carriage. Layla was trying to get her horse moving in that direction, but the fleeing crowd was preventing her. She must mean that she had spotted an enemy there.
However, the knights have formed a wall. Even the large crowd have not been able to penetrate that. A sniper? She spotted a small figure in rags and went into high alert.
I’m being watched. Clearly, that figure is watching me.
She reflexively put down her box of catalysts, and began the incantation for a barrier, which she wasn’t use to. The spell for deterring arrows was a common spell one would learn at the academy, but Sara never really took to it.
The man in rags made a move before she could finish her incantation.
「Hee hee hee? Let’s get rid of that half-baked magic, shall we? And that little box, too.」
Sara saw the man in front of the figure in rags scream and collapse. The man in rags took something from the ground by the fallen man, and ran up his back. He shoved away another man in front of him into the horse of a knight. In the split second the guard took to adjust his position, the man in rags jumped!
「Gr… From the wand of stars…」
She attempted to switch to another spell, but there wasn’t enough time. A shadow the size of an arm outstretched from the rags, knocking off the wand in her hand and the box of catalysts. Sara abandoned them both, and managed to dodge the shadow. Some shimmering objects stabbed the carriage where Sara was standing. Needles.
「A magician that needs catalysts? Crumple her up in no time. Too bad I don’t have time to play, but I’ll make sure you’re dead!!」
Only Sara knew that this was the one called Number Three, who had been guarding Lubreo. He was capable of sneaking up on Elliot (albeit he wasn’t a fighter) undetected, and has at least three arms or some sort of trick up his sleeve. In hand-to-hand combat atop the carriage, Sara the magician wouldn’t stand a chance. By the time the knights around them could react, Sara and Olivia would be silent corpses.
The assassin called Number Three was, right before landing on the carriage, checking the location of the Lady and the Magician as he considered how to efficiently take care of them. Normally, he would take care of his main target, the heir, first, but it was hard to give up on seeing her expression drain of all hope as he killed her magician in front of her. It would be easy for him to flee through the chaos. He could afford to take some liberty in the job.
But his thought process was but short. By the Heir looking forward as if she paid no mind to him, and by the magician, who had just lost her wand and catalysts, summoning multiple fire djinns on her arm and behind her.
「Impossible, you need the catalysts to…」
「Come forth! My Salamanders!」
A shorten incantation with no catalyst and no wand. Before his utterance left his mouth, and before his foot touched the carriage. A total of four spears of flames penetrated the assassin in rags, who was immediately engulfed in flames and soon burnt to a pile of black ash.
「…I can’t believe he really went after the box of catalysts. Saved my life.」
That meant that this assassin was aware of the red herring that only Lubreo and Gratina knew.
「Magician! Look down!」
When she did, a large serpent was slithering towards her. The serpent, as thick as a man’s arm, could choke a horse to death even without venom. In its gaping mouth, shimmering fangs. The snake slivered past Olivia’s feet towards Sara. As soon as she knew that she couldn’t dodge it, the carriage shook, and the snake stopped.
「Now! Get Lady Olivia to the back!」
Layla, who had dove out of her horse, had pinned the snake to the carriage with her sword. Even Sara could tell that her sword was an expensive one with some sort of enchantment. It definitely wasn’t meant to be used in such a brutish method. But Knight Layla didn’t hesitate.
The serpent veered away from Sara, and turned its head toward Layla. Her metal gauntlet curled into a fist, and smashed the snake squarely in the mouth. As Sara watched astonished, Knight Layla held down the serpent and put it out of its misery by stabbing it again with her dagger.
All of this took place within a few moments from the man in rags lunging toward them.
「…Layla, right? Thanks. You’re too good to be a knight of Roland.」
「…Please. We’re all just doing our jobs. No thanks necessary… What you lack in diction, you make up in etiquette.」
They looked at each other, and shyly conversed. Some of the crowds who had witnessed the course of events started cheering.
「Sara! Layla! Get out of there!」
The voice was heard from the connecting car to the back of the carriage, which served as storage and a break room. Sara looked stunned, and Layla froze for a moment. She knew the man well… It was Elliot.