I steeled my resolve, and yet, the knives set at taking my life instead dug into powerful arms that swiftly moved to block their path.
“… Seems I just barely made it.”
The masked man’s knives pierced deep into Sein-sama’s arms.
Despite the blood that trickled from his wounds, Sein-sama showed no signs of backing off.
“Well well, if it isn’t our loner of a prince.”
“… Insurgents, huh.”
Paying no heed to his words, Sein-sama sent his magically enhanced fists toward the masked man.
The man tried to dodge, but Sein’s fist still managed to connect with the man’s mask.
Without the mask in the way, I managed a peek at the man’s face.
I didn’t get a clear view, but the glow from his bright red eyes left quite the impression in the darkness.
“Ohhoh? I thought I saw through your attack, but maybe you’re better than I thought.”
“… The army is on its way.
Give it up.”
The army had plenty of outstanding casters as well, but Sein-sama was especially proficient in physical strengthening.
He was also naturally quick on his feet, and it was likely both of these factors that allowed his attack to connect.
That said, it was unacceptable for a man of his stature to charge ahead on his own without even an escort!
“Is that so, I see, I see.
Well then, I guess I’ll see how far my legs will take me.”
Despite the situation the, now maskless, man continued to use the same out of place cheerful tone that he had from the beginning.
“… Do you really think I’d let you escape?”
“Well, I’m sure things will work out, they usually do.
Either way, it looks like we’ll get what we wanted.”
“We were just out to slaughter as many nobles as we could… But looks like we’ll get more than we came for.”
As I tried to figure out what the man was trying to say―
Sein-sama suddenly fell to one knee.
In a panic, I rushed over to his side to see that Sein-sama’s face was very pale.
“… Poison… huh…”
A really special one with no known antidote.
Cherish the experience for me, will ‘ya?”
With evident glee in his parting words, the man disappeared into the darkness of the night.
Shortly after, the army arrived and arrested the remaining henchmen as well as both Lambert and Lene.
Unfortunately, I had more pressing concerns to address.
I clung to Sein-sama as I desperately called his name.
Despite my efforts, he gave no response.
Covered in sweat, he gasped for air and occasionally let out pained moans while ominous black spots began proliferating his skin.
“A doctor! Someone, hurry and call for a doctor!”
“Claire-sama, step aside.”
“But, Sein-sama is…!”
At this rate, Sein-sama would die―overwhelmed by my emotions, I panicked.
The few memories that we shared flashed through the back of my mind.
If this was how things would turn out, I should’ve been more proactive! But it was already all too late…
I didn’t expect the commoner’s next words.
“It’ll be fine.
I can neutralize the poison, probably.”
I couldn’t bring myself to believe her, but even then, I entrusted Sein-sama to her.
The commoner composed a unique water spell and proceeded to cast it―
“! The spots…!”
The spots that once plagued Sein-sama’s skin began to recede.
Though he did not regain consciousness, his breathing calmed.
“Very well done, commoner!”
“I’m glad that it worked.”
Without thinking about it, I embraced the commoner.
For the first time, I felt grateful that I had hired her as my maid.
“Just as I thought, it was a poison created by the Naa Empire.”
“What was that!? So that man too was from the Naa Empire!?”
The commoner nodded.
The Naa Empire was a great militaristic nation on the other side of the Kingdom’s eastern border.
Bauer had fought many wars against the Empire over territory.
“Why do you have knowledge about something like…”
“And before that, why did you come here all on your own in the first place? It’s almost as if you knew of their plans all along!”
“I always thought Lambert might be up to something… But I was surprised when I found out that Lene was involved too.”
At a glance, her claims stood to reason… But I couldn’t help but feel that it was all too perfect.
I didn’t want to think about it too deeply, but was it possible that she too was an imperial spy?
“You… could you be―”
“… Ur… Urgh.”
Just as I tried to ask, Sein-sama woke up.
“… Claire…? Looks like you’re okay, good.”
“What are you saying!? You’re the one that was in danger… What were you planning to do if things took a turn for the worst!”
I clung tight to Sein-sama’s chest and cried.
I’m so glad… I’m truly so glad that he was okay… Sein-sama appeared troubled at first, but he then pulled me into an embrace and gently patted my head.
“… Looks like I worried you.”
“Really… If Sein-sama were to have died… I… I…!”
“… I’m sorry.”
“Uhm… I hate to interrupt but…”
Just as Sein-sama and I seemed to have found our moment, the commoner made an absurdly obtuse interruption.
“Don’t you think it’d be best if we go somewhere else? It’s kinda cold.”
I’m sure that I gave her a terrible glare.
But in truth, I was only pretending to be angry to hide my embarrassment.
Deep down, I was truly grateful for what the commoner had done.
“Looks like things more or less worked out.”
Rodd-sama and the rest of the Order had also arrived at the scene.
It was decided that a small team of field medics would escort Sein-sama to the infirmaries.
With a stern look on his face, Rodd-sama looked both the commoner and I in the eye and spoke.
“Give me a quick rundown.”
“―So there we have it.”
We were all gathered in the Order of the Academy’s meeting room listening to Rodd-sama’s explanation of the string of events that led us to now.
The incident was rapidly proceeding towards its conclusion.
A large number of commoners affiliated with the commoner’s movement had managed to trespass onto academy grounds, but once it became clear that there were criminals among the activists, they lost the pretense of a just protest and dispersed.
The commoner’s movement, which had amassed much momentum after the courtyard incident, was, at least momentarily, in decline.
The commoners of course still felt dissatisfaction at the current system and the nobles, but in the shadow of such a huge crisis, they were careful not to step out of their boundaries.
While parts of the campus suffered damage and some visible claw marks remained, the academy managed to return to an almost unbelievably peaceful day to day.
Sure, I’d occasionally see workers from the kingdom’s construction guild carrying wood or brick supplies to facilitate repairs, but that too would settle in due time.
As a quick aside, it was determined that military use of chimaera may be impractical, so further research and development was promptly suspended.
Even as I listened to Rodd-sama’s summary, my heart ached.
Behind me, slightly to my left.
That was where Lene would always stand and wait on my orders.
Since the incident, that spot had remained empty.
Lene and Lambert were both arrested under charges of treason.
Though they had been acting under threats, the fact that they had helped a foreign power infiltrate our kingdom, and the fact that they had participated in the premeditated slaughter of both royalty and nobility could not be overlooked.
They might have seen some leniency in their sentence if they had been nobles themselves, but at the end of the day they were mere commoners.
Even should their circumstances be taken into account, at best they’d receive the death penalty, and in the worst case, their entire household would meet the same fate.
In just one night, the Orso family had lost everything.
The Kingdom seized their rights in the magic gem industry and all that was left to them was to wait for the kingdom’s final verdict.
“Is the Orso family… Fated to meet its end?”
Though I already knew what Rodd-sama’s answer would be, I couldn’t help but ask.
“The chances are high.
It sounds like they were in a pretty bad spot, but even then what they’ve done is just too big to let go.”
“… You’re right.”
The meeting room sank to silence.
It wasn’t just me, Lambert was a well respected and well trusted member of the Order.
Commander Lorec had practically seen Lambert as his right hand man, so he was taking the news just as harshly.
Seeing the commander in that state was disheartening.
Claire, Rei, it seems the two of you will receive a reward.”
Rodd-sama forced a cheerful tone to try and break the surrounding gloom.
You both were the very first to discover the culprit and even defeated the chimaera.
On top of that, Rei saved Sein’s life! He’s a prince you know.
There’s no way that you two wouldn’t receive something in return.”
“I heard that the two of you will be called to the royal palace soon.
Seems the king wants to meet you two and offer you your reward personally!”
Both Rodd-sama and Yuu-sama responded to my question.
“I certainly haven’t done anything that deser―mmrgh!?”
“Is that so! That’s really quite the honor.
We’re ever grateful.”
As I attempted to simply state the truth, the commoner covered my mouth and spoke boldly.
“Hey, just what do you think you’re doing!”
“Claire-sama, I have an idea.”
The commoner then whispered that idea into my ear.
“I see… I believe it’s worth a shot.”
It was like a single ray of light that broke into the darkness.
I decided to take my chances, though I was admittedly peeved that she was the one to come up with the idea.
A few days later, we received summons to the royal palace.
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