Chapter 11:

CHAPTER 8: TRAP

The Human Saint is Bored, so I was Summoned to Another World Vol. 4


The Battle of Cullen and its aftermath delayed us for two ‘long sleeps’ before we could move on, considering the relatively short distance of the Duchy of Braunhauer from the royal capital. Anyway, I realized the Duke of Braunhauer actually sent men to help us defeat the rampaging mercenaries—they were the horsemen that approached the enemy lines from behind, having maneuvered undetected while the paladins occupied their attention.Bookmark here

Well, at least it’s all over now. The only thing that’s left was the interrogation of the captured mercenaries, which could shed light on what happened that led to their rampage.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Meanwhile, I had to confront a new problem at Cullen’s town hall, where we set up our temporary quarters…Bookmark here

“A paladin guard whose armament was a demon weapon.” Maddie had a sardonic smile, “It sure is a great irony, huh?Bookmark here

“W-Well…I tried to refuse the appointment…but the Marquise of Monfort overrode me.”Bookmark here

“Maddie and I asked her to. We gave her the authority to coerce you into joining.” Lily admitted.Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

“It’s for your punishment, first. Second, the Marquise of Monfort likes you as her student.” the Head Maid told me, “And also for the third reason, it’s so that you won’t be able to go far away from us. I mean, you’re a paladin guard now, and your job is to protect us.”Bookmark here

“If protecting would come into consideration here, you two are more than enough for an entire army. Maddie’s the Saint, and you’re the Iron Princess.”Bookmark here

“Of course, that’s just the official part of your functions, Kuro.” Maddie’s smile was really jubilant; as if she won a lottery, “The other, actual job you have is to be with us, A.L.W.A.Y.S.”Bookmark here

Your Holiness, you know you sound like a yandere…Bookmark here

Oh indeed I am crazy-in-love with you, Kuro!” the Saint told me, with an air of impending doom surrounding her, “And Lily as well. That’s why we’re stressed-out worrying about you when the paladins brought you back with a face soaked in blood, see?Bookmark here

“Please don’t do again, Sir Kuro.” Lily backed her up, “Or, I’ll be forced to chain you with us.” She brought out a pink, frilly set of chains with a leather collar at the other end. My name ‘Kuro’ was clearly written on it. Her innocent smile as she showed it to me gave me the creeps, to be honest.Bookmark here

That’s…sweet. Did she borrow it from the Marquise of Monfort?Bookmark here

“Err…” I’m not sure if they’re joking or not, but anyway, I guess I should take care of my actions. Some ladies didn’t want to be widowed early on…Bookmark here

Wait. I’m not yet even married to any of them!Bookmark here

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Anyway, the cavalry that helped us was led by the Ban of Kistral, Sir Stefan. He was sent by the Duke of Braunhauer the moment the paladins of the Marquise of Monfort arrived to ask for their help in stopping the rampage of the mercenaries.Bookmark here

They were the ones that sealed the victory for us. However…Bookmark here

“Your Holiness!” the Ban gave respects to us before proceeding with his talk, “I was sent here by the Duke of Braunhauer to escort you all the way to his fief’s town.”Bookmark here

“Ah yes, thank you for your efforts, Sir Stefan,” Maddie answered. But her face had an annoyed look at it.Bookmark here

“Hey, Lily, why’s Maddie kind of irritated? Did something happen?” I whispered to her.Bookmark here

Lily replied with a low voice, “The Ban of Kistral may have declared that he’s escorting us to the Braunhauer lands. However, I could tell that he was here to monitor us. I mean, don’t you think it’s strange that they’d only come escorting us after the battle happened and we already jumped into the fray?”Bookmark here

“Well, we rushed out of the royal capital.”Bookmark here

“Don’t you think I sent an advanced party to notify the Duke of our arrival?”Bookmark here

I fell silent when I realized that. Indeed, if aristocratic logic would dictate courtesy, the Duke would send at least an armed escort of men to meet us halfway; or if not, he’d send nothing at all. However, he only sent an escort after we got ourselves involved deeper into this mess. It’s as if he wanted to witness whether we’d commit on either side…Bookmark here

If that happened, then our impartiality would be questioned, and Maddie would lose her credibility to force a negotiated settlement on both factions.Bookmark here

Damn…I failed to see through that possibility!Bookmark here

Maddie graciously conformed to the Ban’s words for the meantime. However, it was a different matter for the Marquise of Monfort…Bookmark here

Oi, Stefan!” she angrily admonished him, “Why did your men arrive only when we’re almost done with those mercenaries?”Bookmark here

“Pardon me, Lady Monfort, but there were preparations we had to do before we engaged.”Bookmark here

“Don’t give me that crap!” It was the first time I saw the Marquise that mad, “Just tell me if you’re cowering in fear. I already spotted your force, even before we attacked those bastards. You only moved when you’re sure that we’re winning!”Bookmark here

Milady, as I’ve said before, we had to plan our move, since it was all too sudden.”Bookmark here

“And so do we, yet we attacked them. Are you trying to get us killed so that no one who’d stop you from marrying Eris?”Bookmark here

Lily and I exchanged looks. So, there was that angle in their family, huh? But hey! Isn’t this guy way too older than Eris? I mean, he looked like he’s of my age!Bookmark here

Well, of course, just like what they told me before…they get married early here.Bookmark here

“It’s not that, Lady Monfort.” the Ban kept on explaining his side, but the Marquise won’t listen.Bookmark here

Hah! Father would surely hear of this, you idiot!” the Marquise threatened him, “And besides, your ‘sucking up’ to the Duke would soon be over!”Bookmark here

Those words that she threw on the Ban weren’t simple insults. She really got angry after her paladins were put into danger by his apparent inaction. I hope it wouldn’t end in ugly terms, though…Bookmark here

“And Eris, she’s better off with the good man I know!”Bookmark here

At that point, the Ban suddenly sprung up to the Marquise. I could tell he got provoked by those words that she just said, “Milady, care to explain what you told me?”Bookmark here

Hah! Are you pissed? Well, I apologize ahead, but I support Eris’ marriage to Sir Kuro!”Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

“Hey, Lady Monfort!” I had to speak up for myself, “Why did you drag my name here?”Bookmark here

“Well, Eris likes you, and it wouldn’t be long ’till she desires you as her husband.” the Marquise never paid attention to my protest, “As her sister, I’d wholly support her, rather than be left with this man!”Bookmark here

The Ban’s glare went from her to me. Tensions were running high, and Maddie had to intervene personally.Bookmark here

“Lady Monfort, I understand your anger.” the Saint told her, “But please, let us put it aside for now, and cooperate for the sake of the people.”Bookmark here

With that, the Marquise eventually relented. But I doubt the Ban’s anger to me vanished with those words.Bookmark here

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We set out just before dinner towards the central town of the Duchy of Braunhauer, Coventry. After making sure that the refugees and the townsfolk of Cullen were well and protected, Maddie ordered for our convoy to continue its last leg of the journey. The Ban’s soldiers led our group, with the Paladin Corps marching behind them, in a formation that subtly surrounded and protected our carriages from the Ban’s men.Bookmark here

Good thing the Marquise of Monfort has thought of this.Bookmark here

Of course, we had to leave the kitchen princess behind. We’re basically heading to their enemy’s territory, and having her along with our group could put us in danger. Jessica, who was always dutiful and loyal to the Saint, initially tried to insist. However, Lily and I convinced her to stay; it’s for her safety, anyway.Bookmark here

Moving along, the Braunhauer region was located right in the middle of the Amaranthine kingdom. It was a newly created territory, carved-out from the royal fief that included the capital city, as a reward to the exploits of the current Duke of Braunhauer in the last war before the Saint’s Peace.Bookmark here

“And, since it straddles right in the middle of trading routes from the ports and beaches of Amaranth to the south, and the royal capital here in the north, the Braunhauer fief is the most economically stable and richest region in the whole kingdom,” Maddie explained to me while on the road.Bookmark here

“Yep, as you know, the Duke of Braunhauer is a smart man; he developed his land into an economic powerhouse within this country.” Lily added, “And because of that, he gained power and influence almost equal to that of the royal family.”Bookmark here

Of course, that’s bound to happen. In human politics, having a lot of money in your coffers equated to power and influence. Add a formidable mind to the formula, and you get a dangerous opponent, as well as a sturdy ally, whichever that person chose to treat you as.Bookmark here

It’s one reason for conflicts back in medieval Earth. The nobility’s loyalty didn’t lie with the country, but on the person they chose to take an oath of fealty…and sometimes, it’s not the king.Bookmark here

“I’m just having some thoughts about the Braunhauer-von Albert relations though…” Lily suddenly spoke.Bookmark here

Hm? Care to say it so that Kuro can also hear?”Bookmark here

“Well, back in the wars of the past, the Duke of Braunhauer—still known as the Earl of Dawson, wholeheartedly supported the current von Albert king, William. They’ve forged a powerful alliance that eventually weathered Nerfes’ powerful assault on this kingdom.”Bookmark here

“Now that you’re saying it, I think it’s a waste of opportunity.”Bookmark here

“Indeed.”Bookmark here

“Makes you wonder why they’d part ways. I mean, if I remember correctly, the Duke of Braunhauer is Prince David’s godfather, too. It must’ve been a big, heavy reason for him to fight against his old friend and his heir…”Bookmark here

Maddie had a point. I knew human politics was petty and quite stupid, but then again, one wouldn’t just turn against his closest friend for a light reason, unless you had personal ambitions to rule yourself.Bookmark here

“That can’t be, Kuro.” the Saint explained, “The Duke of Braunhauer is one of the most loyal men of the old king, and he even swore before to be forever a friend to his house, including his heir.”Bookmark here

“That’s why we’re surprised when the news reached us about the events here.” Lily added, “The Duke of Braunhauer is a well-known man of his word.”Bookmark here

“You said before he’s a shrewd man.” I pointed out, “How’s that possible to be a man of your word and be crafty? In my world, it’s like oil and water—they don’t mix.”Bookmark here

“Sometimes, I wonder how broken your world is, Kuro,” Maddie said.Bookmark here

“Well, it is broken alright.” I chuckled at the thought that even someone who didn’t even live in my world could say that. It only showed how fucked up the society from where I came from.Bookmark here

Ah, what we meant by crafty, Kuro, is that the Duke of Braunhauer is a dangerous, sneaky opponent on the battlefield.” Lily elaborated, “However, he’s an honest person with his own people.”Bookmark here

Oh, so that’s it, huh? I guess I misunderstood.”Bookmark here

But well, even with that explanation, something’s not adding up. Indeed, if the Duke of Braunhauer is what Maddie and Lily claimed he was, then why would he lead the rebellion against the heir of his old friend in the first place?Bookmark here

“The Duke of Braunhauer’s power is the reason His Majesty survived our onslaught in the last war.” Lily turned to Maddie, “Remember that campaign we had back in the Dawson valley?”Bookmark here

“Just carry on, Lily…don’t make me remember some terrible memories,” Maddie told her.Bookmark here

“In case you’re wondering, our army’s campaign back in the Dawson valley during the last war ended in a stalemate.” Lily explained to me, complete with a nasty smirk on her face, “Our force was ambushed by the Amaranthine soldiers while we’re on our way to the Amaranthine capital. And Maddie was so scared during that time she went berserk!”Bookmark here

Oh? I didn’t know about that!” I’m honestly interested to hear that story of Maddie during the last war.Bookmark here

“Come on Lily! You know it had to be done, or we’ll be wiped out because your Bloodbath was spent!” Maddie retorted.Bookmark here

Heh, at least I didn’t piss on my armor and sprayed it around while slicing through the ranks of our enemies!”Bookmark here

“Lily!” the Saint’s face was all red, and she tried to silence her friend.Bookmark here

But seriously, I’m glad to hear those kinds of stories about Maddie. It made me feel that she’s more human than ever before.Bookmark here

“Kuro.”Bookmark here

“W-What?”Bookmark here

“You have some weird fetishes yourself, huh?Bookmark here

“What are you talking about?”Bookmark here

“Y-You t-t-t-think it’s n-n-n-n-n-nice of me to p-p-p-piss while fighting?”Bookmark here

“W-What?” Lily was equally shocked.Bookmark here

Hah? What made you think of me that way?” I’m not some degenerate who’d get aroused from seeing a girl pee, much more when she’s literally fighting for her life! If there’s any ‘preference’ I had in my system, I’d say I’d like to stare at a girl’s ass.Bookmark here

It’s normal, compared to someone pissing…Bookmark here

Hey. Of course it’s with reservations. I put my lewd thoughts in their proper places.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“What do you think, Lily? Does mine look and feel good?”Bookmark here

Lily was feeling up Maddie’s buttocks through her skirt, “Well, it’s kind of firm and bouncy…my hands can cop a feel and it’s great. I think our future husband would love it.”Bookmark here

“Great.”Bookmark here

“Better check mine too.”Bookmark here

“Alright, come over here.”Bookmark here

What the hell are you guys doing?Bookmark here

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The rest of our journey to the town of Coventry was quite uneventful. Apart from the region around Cullen, the deeper we went into the Duchy of Braunhauer, the fewer signs of conflict came into our view, much like the lands near the royal capital.Bookmark here

It’s like the simmering war’s effects could be found and felt at the fringes of the territories of the key players in this conflict.Bookmark here

At the town proper of Coventry itself, life continued as usual. It’s like a different world when we entered, and though the militia and the Ban’s soldiers were immediately moved-in to secure our path, the people still rushed in to peek at the Saint’s entourage.Bookmark here

Hurrah for Her Holiness!” the shouts grew louder as we went down the main road that bisected the town. Some even went as far as throwing flowers at us, and confetti came raining down as well. Good thing that compared to Fen, Coventry had fewer people for its population, thus the escorts had an easier time in subduing them.Bookmark here

I was looking at Maddie from time to time. Though she would occasionally wave at her adoring crowd, she kept a reflective distance from them.Bookmark here

I wonder what’s on her mind…Bookmark here

She looked so beautiful with that expression on her face.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Ahem. Alright, moving on, soon a familiar person came into our view.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness, welcome!” the young maid—I mean, Duchess Eris was happily waving her hand at us. Behind her was an armed contingent of men, possibly the Duke’s guards.Bookmark here

I guess we already arrived at our destination, huh?Bookmark here

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Hello, Duchess Eris! It’s good to see you again!” Maddie’s mood quickly changed from prim and formal to friendly once she saw the young maidservant. She alighted from her carriage and came to greet Eris on foot—a Chersean custom of showing ‘mutual respect’.Bookmark here

“Hello, Your Holiness!” Eris responded by giving the Saint a curtsy, “Welcome to Eris’ land, the Duchy of Braunhauer.”Bookmark here

“Glad tidings, Duchess Braunhauer!” Lily also greeted her subordinate, “It’s been a while!”Bookmark here

“Eris missed her Big Sis Head Maid!” the young duchess threw herself on Lily, at which the head maid caught without flinching, “She hopes Big Sis Head Maid, Her Holiness, and Mister Kuro be happy in their stay!”Bookmark here

“T-Thank you, Your…uh, E-Excellency!” I nervously answered. Well, this was an unfamiliar situation compared to when we’re at the Holy Palatial Gardens. Back there, Maddie would encourage her guests (including me) to treat her maids as what they were, servants (with due respect, of course). It’s for them to know how it was to serve, she said.Bookmark here

However, here, Eris would be way higher in rank than me, a commoner. So, I got to mind my tongue when talking to her, lest I intend to piss-off her family’s supporters.Bookmark here

Uh…Mister Kuro, you don’t have to be formal to Eris!” the child told me, “Eris’ your friend!”Bookmark here

“Greetings, Your Excellency Lady Eris!” the Ban of Kistral approached her and kneeled to kiss her hand, but the young duchess quickly pulled her hands away and hid behind Lily.Bookmark here

Err…you don’t do that to a kid, you know? It’s creepy.Bookmark here

“Hey, little squirt!”Bookmark here

“SIS!” Eris’ face lit up, and she rushed toward her sister, the Marquise of Monfort, once she saw her. Just like how she threw herself on Lily, the young duchess let her older sister caught her just as she was about to slam on her.Bookmark here

Heh! You really are used to this place!” the Marquise lovingly doted on her, “You got heavier than last time!”Bookmark here

“Well, Eris missed Mommy Hanna’s cooking!”Bookmark here

Hehe…yeah, the old lady’s a superb cook.”Bookmark here

“Indeed!” Maddie backed the Marquise’s statement, “I tasted her food once when you brought some of it last time. And it’s great!”Bookmark here

“Right! Mommy Hanna cooked dinner this time, and it’s Her Holiness’ favorite too!”Bookmark here

“Oooh!” Maddie’s eyes suddenly sparkled, “It’s really nice to be the Saint sometimes…”Bookmark here

“Oi.” Lily’s iron hand gripped the Saint’s shoulder, “I know what you’re thinking; but if you overeat once again, I’ll have you run 50 laps, Your Holiness!”Bookmark here

Maddie said nothing back at Lily. But well, from time to time Lily could get scary…especially with her friends’ well-being.Bookmark here

Just like a mother…Bookmark here

“Mister Kuro!” Eris turned to me, “Eris also taught Mommy Hanna about the food you cook for Eris before! You better have a taste!”Bookmark here

“You mean that ‘adobo’ thing? Sure!” Well, it really piqued my interest, hearing that a familiar dish from the world would be given an otherworldly twist. I wonder how it tastes?Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Oh, dear. This isn’t good.Bookmark here

The other men who were with us were glaring at me as if they wanted to tear me apart. It reminded me of those mercenaries whom I fought earlier. A few of them were deliberately showing me their well-maintained blades, as if telling me silently that I’d better be watching my back.Bookmark here

Maybe they don’t like it I can talk so casually to these noble ladies?Bookmark here

“I’d mind my back if I were you.”Bookmark here

I turned and saw the Ban of Kistral was behind me, “You may have the Saint’s support with you, but the men of the House of Braunhauer aren’t pushovers, commoner. I suggest you know your rightful place.”Bookmark here

I said nothing back to him, for I didn’t want any trouble for now. Don’t worry, I don’t like you either.Bookmark here

My eyes inadvertently fell on Maddie, asking for help in this situation. After all, I could feel daggers being thrown at me by the Duke’s men. Good thing she was quick to pick up my distress call, “Anyway, Duchess Eris, shall we see your father now?”Bookmark here

Ah, yes!” the young duchess pulled her hand, “Daddy prepared the family guesthouse, at the eastern side of the town, for Your Holiness. He’s waiting there, together with Eris’ mommies. Please feel at home!”Bookmark here

“Alright, lead the way!” Maddie cheerfully chirped in.Bookmark here

And with that, the second phase of our mediation began.Bookmark here

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The Braunhauer guesthouse was like a typical remote French chateau in the middle of a grassy plain, not too far from the eastern side of the town of Coventry, which served as the duchy’s capital. Outside, the walls surrounding the house were quite thick, perfect for keeping off some raiding parties who would try to sack the place.Bookmark here

However, with a determined attacker, I think I won’t like to be in this manor during that time.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

But I guess the Duke didn’t even have to worry about that. His primary residence was that mansion at the top of a mound constructed sometime earlier for defense, not too far off from where we were right now. In case of a siege like the one in Cullen, the Duke and his family could also seek refuge at the tower that dominated the skyline of the town, and the town proper itself was surrounded by thick, high walls and a moat.Bookmark here

The Duke and his family could seek shelter in the town proper and direct the defense from there anytime.Bookmark here

A pretty clever arrangement, huh?Bookmark here

“Daaaad!!!” Eris called out to her father once we arrived at the doorstep of the guesthouse. Fortunately, she wasn’t screaming this time, or it’d break our ears, “Her Holiness is here!”Bookmark here

A few moments of silence followed. Maddie and Lily looked at each other awkwardly. The Marquise came to me and whispered…Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. This is normal. Wait for it…”Bookmark here

Huh? What is it to wait for?”Bookmark here

Heh…a comedy.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

Soon enough, we heard the clanging of pots and crashing of plates. And then, there were clucking chickens and some ladies screaming. Finally, the door opened, and a slim, quite disheveled man emerged.Bookmark here

“Told ’ya.” the Marquise silently laughed.Bookmark here

“M-M-M-My apologies, Y-Your Holi-Holiness!” he said, while trying to fix his pants’ buttons, “I was halfway done bathing, and Eris came shouting that you already arrived.”Bookmark here

Err…no worries, Your Excellency, the Duke of Braunhauer.” Maddie answered, “I understand that you’re in the middle of doing…something. But please, try to wear your underclothing under your pants next time.”Bookmark here

The Duke’s jaw almost dropped upon hearing that, and he stumbled back into his manor. Eris was red in embarrassment, while the Ban of Kistral was shaking his head. The next thing that happened, we heard someone hitting something, a man crying out in pain, and a thud. After that, a dignified lady appeared—who quickly threw a wooden club away from our view, and greeted us.Bookmark here

What, is this some slapstick comedy?Bookmark here

Uhm…our deepest apologies for my husband, Your Holiness! He got too engrossed in choosing the best clothes for the occasion, that he forgot that you’re arriving soon. I hope you don’t take his foolishness against him.” I think we all heard that she emphasized that word, “If it pleases you, do come in our humble abode. We prepared the most modest fare fit for a Saint, in case you haven’t had your dinner yet.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Lady Braunhauer!” The girls curtsied while I took my bow, and one by one we entered the guesthouse. I couldn’t help but notice that Lady Braunhauer was taking an eyeful at me from head to toe.Bookmark here

What? I have done nothing yet! Well, no matter. I’d just stick around Maddie this time.Bookmark here

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Since it was late for dinner when we arrived at the Braunhauer guesthouse, we were immediately led to the dining hall, where the Duke had prepared a modest feast for us.Bookmark here

Well, yeah. A modest ‘feast’, because though they claimed it was humble fare, this could already feed a battalion of men.Bookmark here

The Duke of Braunhauer, now dressed like a true noble, officially welcomed us by introducing his entire household, “Your Holiness, these are my wives. The Mistress of my house, Yasmin Johanna Braunhauer.”Bookmark here

The dignified-looking lady with auburn hair curtsied before us, “As the Mistress of the House Braunhauer, I gladly welcome you to our lands.”Bookmark here

Once the mistress sat down, the Duke continued his introductions, “This is my other wife, Lady Ulrika Marie Hanna Braunhauer. She’s in charge of my daughters’ upbringing.”Bookmark here

“It’s a pleasure to meet you once again, Your Holiness!” the lady with red, braided hair greeted us with a curtsy as well. After her greeting, I noticed she cast a glance at me, before going to her respective seat at the dinner table. Between the two wives, Lady Ulrika Marie Hanna resembled Eris more, so I guess she’s her true mother?Bookmark here

“And Your Holiness, I believed you know them already. However, let me once again introduce to you my daughters, Dusis Luisa Braunhauer-Monfort.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

The Marquise of Monfort then came in the dining hall, all dressed-up formally. Her noble gown was of light purple and had yellow roses on the fringes. The goofy, sometimes tough-talking captain of the paladin guards was looking like a proper lady before us right now.Bookmark here

“…” I guess everyone present at the dinner table was flabbergasted. I mean, for me, it’s the first time I saw her wearing a noblewoman’s attire. And well, though she may be a known tomboy at the Holy Palatial Gardens, it’s easy to mistake her for a lady at this moment.Bookmark here

“As the lord of the March of Monfort, under the authority of the Duke of Braunhauer my father, I, Dusis Luisa Braunhauer-Monfort, welcomes Your Holiness to our humble land.” the Marquise of Monfort curtsies with all grace and dignity.Bookmark here

I’m really surprised by her transformation. I didn’t know that the Marquise had this side to her personality.Bookmark here

“Here’s my youngest daughter, Eris Braunhauer.”Bookmark here

At that cue, Eris then entered the dining hall, wearing an elegant dress as well. Well, it was also new to me, for I always see the young duchess in her maid uniform I forgot that she’s a daughter from the nobility. I’d say they really prepared for this welcome for us, since these two Braunhauer children took the effort to fix their appearances here at the dinner table.Bookmark here

“As the duchess of the Duchy of Braunhauer, under the authority of the Duke of Braunhauer my father, Eris—”Bookmark here

“Eris…” the Lady Ulrika Marie Hanna gently interrupted her daughter, “I believed that’s the wrong way you introduce yourself. You don’t have to imitate your older sister every time!”Bookmark here

“Eris is sorry, Mom!”Bookmark here

“Please introduce yourself properly.” the other wife, Mistress Johanna, told her, “You can do it!”Bookmark here

Eris then curtsied before us once again, “E-Eris…is…uh…E…Eris…is…” Her cheeks were both red in embarrassment, and I could tell that she was shaking.Bookmark here

Well, I know it’s bad to think that way, but I think it’s cute.Bookmark here

“Hahaha!” the Duke of Braunhauer suddenly laughed, though he did not mean to mock his daughter with it, “It’s fine Eris, just come to the dinner table! You’ll have plenty more time to practice that later, Chummy!Bookmark here

Eris quickly dove into the arms of her other mother, Mistress Johanna, to hide her embarrassed face.Bookmark here

“My apologies for my daughter!” Lady Ulrika Marie Hanna told Maddie, “She’s still learning to do proper introductions.”Bookmark here

“It’s fine!” Maddie answered, with an amused smile on her lips. She really enjoyed Eris’ cute way of introducing herself.Bookmark here

Well, at least I got someone who has the same opinion as me. I’m not a lolicon at all!Bookmark here

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Anyway, the Duke continued to introduce the rest of the people who were with us inside the dining hall. Well, honestly, I think it’s a kind of time-wasting process, for if you had about 20 individuals to introduce and they all have different ways of welcoming you, the food would be cold before you could even take your first bite.Bookmark here

Really, is this how the nobles of this world do their introductions? I’m hungry…Bookmark here

“Finally, this is the Ban of Kistral.”Bookmark here

Ah yes, Your Excellency!” Maddie interrupted him, “We already met each other when you sent him to Devyere to meet us.”Bookmark here

Oh, I did?”Bookmark here

“Yes, you did, Your Excellency!” the Ban of Kistral told him, “You ordered me to meet with Her Holiness.”Bookmark here

Ah! R-Right…hahahaha!” the Duke had an awkward laugh, “Right, right. Sorry for that, my memories were failing me. Please, I know you’ve all been waiting for this, but let’s partake of the food!”Bookmark here

I looked at Maddie, who seemed to be in a hurry to eat. We’d been traveling before we ate dinner, so it’s only natural that we’re hungry…Bookmark here

Anyway, finally!Bookmark here

The Duke raised his glass for a toast, “For Her Holiness’ success and long life!”Bookmark here

“Cheers!” Every one of us raised a glass to Maddie’s honor. Of course, I had to go along, looking around to make sure that I correctly follow their movements well. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself on a formal occasion such as this.Bookmark here

“Eris, that’s not how you raise a glass properly!” I heard the Lady Ulrika Marie Hanna correct the young duchess once again.Bookmark here

“E-Eris is sorry…”Bookmark here

“It’s fine. Just try to do it properly again next time.”Bookmark here

And then we ate. Of course, it’s the usual Chersean manner of messy, wasteful eating, so I tried my best to appear as dignified as possible while I ate. I didn’t find their customs that appealing to my values.Bookmark here

“That’s not how you hold the fork, young lady.” Mistress Johanna was the one correcting Eris this time, “Why are you doing it that way?”Bookmark here

Uhm…but Mister Kuro’s table manners looked so graceful!”Bookmark here

“Well, it is. But that’s not how we do things!” she explained with a gentle voice, “Come now, hold it correctly.”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes mother…” the duchess sadly complied.Bookmark here

Oh boy…I didn’t know they really were enforcing such a stupid way of eating. Queen Elizabeth II would surely be embarrassed to witness such manners. Not that I’m one to speak about it; I’m not much into royal mannerisms, either. But for goodness’ sake, Chersean nobility looked like a bunch of uncivilized people on a drunken revelry when they eat.Bookmark here

They really have stupid customs in this world…Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

A fork suddenly flew to my plate. Yeah, I kind of expected that, since they ate like barbarians. But this was the first time that cutlery fell right onto me. Surprised, my eyes quickly fell on Maddie’s direction, in which I presumed the fork came from.Bookmark here

Oh, my apologies, Kuro!” she said.Bookmark here

I was about to let it go, but then I noticed she had a ‘strange’ stare on me. It’s as if she’s sending me a signal that she wanted to talk to me, but couldn’t do it in front of the table.Bookmark here

“Y-Your Excellency…” I raised my hand.Bookmark here

“Yes?” the Duke asked.Bookmark here

“Can I ask for the directions to your toilet?”Bookmark here

The Duke then signaled for a maid on standby to assist me. I quickly stood up and went out.Bookmark here

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Bookmark here

M-M-Maddie, I don’t think we…we should do it here…ahn!Bookmark here

Uhh…what are you doing, Kuro? You look stupid!”Bookmark here

“Come on, Your Holiness! I’m just joking!”Bookmark here

“Well, I don’t find it funny.” the serious tone of her voice told me that Maddie was not in the mood for jokes.Bookmark here

I immediately turned on my ‘business-mode’ as well.Bookmark here

“Listen, Kuro. I only excused myself for a quick break, so they were expecting me back as soon as possible.” Maddie furiously whispered to me inside the comfort room. Apparently, she teleported to my location—once she got a considerable distance away from the dining room, to avoid being spotted by anyone.Bookmark here

“Well, if you’re in a hurry, then tell me what you found out already.”Bookmark here

“Rrriiggghhtt!” she then took a deep breath before continuing, “I can’t read the Duke’s thoughts.”Bookmark here

“What?” now I’m surprised thoroughly, “What do you mean you can’t read his thoughts?”Bookmark here

“There seems to be a dark barrier surrounding the Duke’s mind as I try my best to peer into his mind. The same applies to his wives, and the other nobles present, save for the Marquise of Monfort, and Eris.”Bookmark here

“Seriously?”Bookmark here

Maddie nodded.Bookmark here

“Then what’s the meaning of that?”Bookmark here

“Well, I need to tell Lily about this as well, but without arousing suspicions. I don’t know, but maybe one of those people who belong to the Duke’s household had been deliberately hiding information from us.”Bookmark here

“Is it really possible for a Saint like you to create a spell to negate your abilities to read minds?”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s only applicable to other saints. For example, I couldn’t read Ruro’s mind, no matter how I try. And she’s the same as well. But for a subject of ours to cast such powerful magic…”Bookmark here

“It means someone powerful is with us!”Bookmark here

“No. It’s much worse…” Maddie clicked her tongue, “To cast this kind of magic, it must be the work of a saint, for that power is only reserved for us.”Bookmark here

“You mean, we’re possibly fighting another saint?”Bookmark here

Maddie nodded, “And it could be connected to the Empire’s provocations. Remember that person you and Lily fought before?”Bookmark here

“The one who calls himself ‘Traveler’?”Bookmark here

“Yes. I know the emperor personally, Jean Durres III—Lily and I fought against him before in the old wars. He’s cautious, and wouldn’t move his armies against the northern kingdoms if he had no support from someone who could equal my powers. And now that the Battle of Hagena Castle happened, the appearance of the imperial legionaries shows that Emperor Jean is confident he could defeat me.”Bookmark here

“Damn…”Bookmark here

“I don’t know whether the Duke and his entire household, save for the Marquise and Eris, knew about this. Or it could be the work of an individual, being used by the saint. Or no one knew they were being used at all!”Bookmark here

“Maddie…”Bookmark here

“Yes?”Bookmark here

“Don’t you think we’re surrounded by hidden enemies?”Bookmark here

“Looks like it, Kuro.”Bookmark here

“Well…” I could only laugh dryly, “Seems that we fell for a trap.”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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