Chapter 035 – Escape
Lute, 12 years old.
The sun has set; it is now the domain of the night.
A few hours ago, the castle fell silent as if the boisterous fun times were a lie.
Chrisse-Ojousama appears to be anxious as she looks out the window.
The visage from not too long ago of the girl who was afraid of going outside was nowhere to be seen.
“Be at ease, Ojou-sama. Since the Master is personally going, our side losing is simply unimaginable.”
Mercè-san gently pats Ojou-sama’s shoulders.
Ojou-sama smiles in agreement.
“… … Ojou-sama, Mercè-san, please be silent.”
I call out the the two who were encouraging each other.
The first floor is strangely noisy.
Flustered voices, wild footsteps, and the like can be heard.
Mercè-san tenses up and holds Ojou-sama close to protect her.
There is knocking on the door.
It is rough.
It is rough to the level that if the head butler, Merry-san, was here, he would have angrily reprimanded whoever it was.
“…..Ojou-sama, Mercè-san, just to be safe, please step back.”
As I give out instructions, the two obediently obeys.
And I, just in case, pick up a letter opener.
I slowly reach for the doorknob and open the door.
There is one maid in the hallway.
She peeks inside the room with an impatient expression.
“I, is Ojou-sama here? There is an urgent report that I have to convey!”
“Report? What is it?”
“At present, Merry-san has returned, and the Master and Madam are–”
“!? Ojou-sama, Mercè-san! Take cover!”
The scream of the maid who was in the middle of reporting.
I immediately turn around and throw the paper-knife towards the window!
Right on cue, a man breaks through the 2nd floor window’s glass and lands in the room. At the same time, the paper-knife sticks into the enemy’s arm.
He had jumped up to the second floor from the courtyard by raising his physical ability with body strengthening magic. Having sensed signs of magic being used outside, I was able to promptly react.
“Guh — !”
The man looks to be in his early twenties.
He has an appearance similar to those of the human race, but since his canines were unusually long, perhaps he is a vampire like Ojou-sama’s family.
He pulls out the paper-knife and starts healing.
“Glow in my hand, O soothing light. Be the glimmer that healeth me. Heal!”
He’s probably one of the novices scraped up by Master’s older brothers and their allies.
Even though the battle isn’t over, he was paying an undue amount of attention to healing his wounds. It would appear that he’s not accustomed to battle.
The result: he shows a huge opening.
I wasn’t trained to be so naive as to overlook such an opening.
Just as Gigi-san had taught me, I quickly move in on the magician.
The male magician panics and swings the paper-knife he pulled out from his arm sideways as a diversion.
Compared to Master, it really wasn’t fast or powerful at all.
I duck, easily evading, and throw a reinforced blow at his abdomen.
The man is coughing out saliva, falling over in agony.
Still I show no mercy and throw a palm heel strike at his jaw, throwing him out of the window he came in from.
Having been thrown out the window, the man hit the ground and stop moving.
His hands and feet are convulsing, so he probably wasn’t dead…
He had merely fainted.
The enemy was a mage, but due to his lack of combat experience, I was able to fight him off.
But why was such a person in the castle?
“I, is Ojou-sama safe, baa~!?”
While I was confirming that the male mage I had thrown out had fainted, the head butler Merry-san tumbles into the room, his body full of injuries.
He was supposed to have gone to battle with Master and the rest.
Yet, why did he come back to the castle in such a tattered state?
A bad premonition is swelling in my heart.
But the bad news Merry-san brought with him surpasses even my wildest imaginations.
“Ojou-sama, there is something I must report. In the recent battle, due to the betrayal of our head guard, Gigi, Master was defeated baa~.”
“ “ “ !? “ “ “
Ojou-sama, Mercè-san, and I couldn’t believe our ears.
There’s no way Gigi-san could have betrayed the Vlad house!
The servants all liked Master and Madam’s character and were highly loyal.
And even among them, Gigi-san was special.
He even treasured Ojou-sama as if she were his own daughter.
For such a person to be a traitor, there must be some sort of misunderstanding. It has to be a mistake!
I instinctively press the injured Merry-san for an explanation.
“To think Gigi-san would betray us, could it be some sort of mistake? Perhaps it was a fake impersonating Gigi-san!”
“He’s definitely not a fake. He stabbed the Madam with a silver knife, and used its toxicity to force the Master to surrender. Furthermore, he had, at some point, replaced our stock of anti-silver drugs with imitations using his authority as the head guard. With only the enemy in possession of anti-silver drugs, the Master, to save Madam, put on a magic prevention choker and surrendered baa~.”
Merry-san looks mortified as tears forms in the corner of his eyes.
“The main family took custody of the Master and Madam and is now marching towards the castle to capture Ojou-sama. I saw an opportunity and was able to escape, but was attacked by pursuers to this pathetic state… … The main family will arrive soon. Ojou-sama, quickly make preparations to escape baa~.”
Merry-san’s bloodcurdling advice.
However, Ojou-sama still couldn’t follow the overwhelming changes in the situation, simply pales, and becomes overcome with surprise.
Instead, Mercè-san starts moving.
“Excuse me, Ojou-sama.”
Mercè-san put on a coat made of thick fur for Ojou-sama who had changed out of her party dress and into her pyjamas.
Merry-san gives instructions to the other maid, the one who screamed earlier, to look for a jewel box in Ojou-sama’s room.
Furthermore, he grabs my arm with his hands which were still wet with blood.
“Lute, after this, go to the hidden passage that no one other than the Master, Madam, and I know. From there, take Ojou-sama and escape far away baaa~.”
“What do Merry-san and the rest intend to do?”
“We will attract the attention of the main family and buy you some time.”
I grind my teeth at that reply.
Merry-san tightens his bloody fists.
“Please forgive us for being so worthless that we have to rely on Lute even though you’re still just a 12 year-old child. However, right now, the only one that can protect Ojou-sama is Lute. Please, please! Please protect Ojou-sama baa~”
“… … Of course. I will show that I can fulfill my duty as Ojou-sama’s butler-cum-blood bag.”
“Thank you baa~”
Around the time I finished talking with Merry-san, Ojou-sama’s preparations have been completed.
Ojou-sama is still pale, and her eyes aren’t focused.
Her mind is still unable to cope with reality.
“Now then, let us go to the dining hall on the first floor.”
Lending the bloody Merry-san a hand, we head toward the 1st floor dining hall.
The dining hall that the Master and Madam always used.
A luxurious, elegant chair in a long table. Massive curtains, gilded candlestands, vases arranged with vibrant flowers — and a hearth that’s a world of difference from that in the servant mess room I usually use.
Merry-san pushs a certain stone brick among the walls in the hearth.
Under the pile of firewood, a linked piece of stone rises.
Merry-san picks up the stone with his trembling hands, and a metal handle comes into view. He lifts the handle with all his might and the floor of the fireplace opens like a lid, revealing a stairway.
Mercè-san entrusts Ojou-sama’s hand to me.
I firmly grasp the delicate hand wrapped in a silk glove.
Furthermore, I am presented with some escape funds wrapped in a leather bag.
“I’m sorry, but since we’re pressed for time, I couldn’t gather a significant amount. Even so, I’ve included some leftover confections from today’s party in the bag. Please eat it on the road.”
“… … Thank you very much. Mercè-san, please be safe, too.”
For a moment, the words “Mercè-san should run away with us” were about to come out.
However, this would only serve to insult her.
Mercè-san’s eyes show that she had made her resolve.
No matter what happened to herself, she intended to buy time for Ojou-sama’s escape.
I urge Ojou-sama into the hidden passage.
At that point, her awareness finally caught up to reality for the first time.
Ojou-sama sheds large pearl-like tears and refusesd to move.
She extends her delicate hands and grabs Mercè-san’s cuffs.
She tries speaking, but her voice wouldn’t come out as she shakes her head.
That she didn’t want to be separated, that she didn’t want to go — was what her whole body was conveying.
“Ojou-sama, time is of the essence. Please make haste.”
Mercè-san yells at Ojou-sama.
This is probably the first time she scolded Ojou-sama since she was hired as a maid.
Ojou-sama was frozen by her angry voice.
Mercè-san did a complete 180, and, with an expression filled with affection like that of an older sister or mother, loosened Ojou-sama’s fingers that held her.
“For worrying about us, I am truly grateful. But no matter what becomes of us, as long as Ojou-sama is safe, then the bloodline of the Vlad house will not come to an end. So please continue living, no matter how tough life gets. Because Ojou-sama’s safety is our sincere desire.”
All the servants gathered in the dining hall nods to Mercè-san’s words as if to say “my thoughts exactly”.
Merry-san further adds on.
“Please leave the matter of the Master and Madam to us. We will save them even if it costs us our lives. Until then, please be safe, Ojou-sama. Now then, Lute, quickly take Ojou-sama to the hidden passage baa~.”
“… … Yes. Ojou-sama, your hand please.”
Though Ojou-sama still left traces of tears, she took my hand and walked toward the staircase leading to the hidden passage.
For the last time, she took one look back.
“Lute, I leave Ojou-sama to you.”
Merry-san left behind those final words and closed the entrance.
A sound echoed as the hidden passage was concealed once more.
All light disappeared.
I concentrated magical power on my eyes and enhanced my night vision.
Leading Ojou-sama by the hand, I descended the stairs.
The hidden passage was an underground excavated tunnel.
Its height was such that a 160cm tall person would be able to touch its ceiling by reaching upwards.
As for its width, it’s about as wide as 2 persons’ armspan.
It was probably made using magic…
Owing to it not being used at all, the passage was very dusty.
“Ojou-sama, excuse me.”
I carried the still crying Ojou-sama and began to walk.
Ojou-sama buried her face on my neck and continued crying.
Warm teardrops wet my skin.
To save magical power, I didn’t use any on my arms or legs, and walked with my own power.
— it has probably been about 1 hour. The exit came into view.
Similar to the entrance, a staircase extended with an iron door covering it on its end.
In order to continue carrying Ojou-sama, I concentrated magical power on one arm as I opened the door slowly and while remaining vigilant.
“… … Is this a shed?”
Just like in the castle, the door was made under a hearth.
Still staying vigilant, I examined the surroundings.
The room is dark and shows no signs of life.
There were walls made of logs, some materials left in the corner, and some crude wooden desks, chairs and the like.
We entered the room and I let Ojou-sama sit on a chair.
“I am going to go check the situation outside for a bit, so please wait here for just a moment, Ojou-sama.”
“… … … …”
Without saying anything, Ojou-sama did as she was told and let go of my hand.
I opened the door and went outside to check our surroundings.
We were in a forest.
Looking behind me, I saw that we were in a log cabin; it seems to be a rest stop.
The area surrounding the cabin was fairly open.
I opened a map in my mind.
Thinking of possible locations, there’s none other than the forest behind the castle.
To confirm it, I climbed up a nearby tree.
Needless to say, I enhanced my physical ability using body strengthening.
I enhanced my vision to my limits while I was atop the tree.
I could barely make out the situation in the castle.
Smoke went up like beacons around the castle.
The maids and other servants were running in all directions carrying something that looked like a person wrapped in sheets.
Following that, some men from the main family’s side gave chase on horned horses.
Since they don’t know which is the real Ojou-sama, they’ll be running around until they capture all the servants.
The servants were running on foot with all their might to shake off any pursuit, all just to buy us some time to escape.
Someone who seemed to be Mercè-san raised her hands toward a man.
I subconsciously grinded my teeth in vexation.
However, what I have to do now is not to go and help them.
Also so as to not waste everyone’s determination, I will take Ojou-sama to a safe location as quickly as possible.
I promptly descended the tree and returned to the cabin.
Ojou-sama was sitting on a chair while holding her knees, covering her face.
“Ojou-sama, this place is still a danger zone. Let’s move locations at once.”
Ojou-sama didn’t show any reaction.
I simply said “Excuse me” and carried her again.
Inside the dark forest, relying only on starlight, I began walking towards a town.
Looking back toward the castle, smoke continued rising even now.
Ojou-sama’s and my escape continued.