Chapter 12:

A Pleasant Evening Stroll Where I Don't Do Any Walking

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

I didn’t know how long it took before I woke up. Bookmark here

When I opened my eyes, there was blue sky above me, albeit slowly starting to be shaded by the yellows and reds of evening. At first I thought I was in the carriage. My body shook ever so slightly up, then down, then the same motions were repeated again, over and over — a pattern much the same as what riding in the passenger wagon earlier had felt like. Bookmark here

But if I was still in the carriage, I wouldn’t have been able to see the sky. And I wouldn’t have seen Alena’s face above me, or her arms under me. Bookmark here

The princess was carrying me. I couldn’t say why, but she was. Bookmark here

“...Maria? Are you awake?”

The relief on the princess’s face was palpable. She didn’t bother with putting me down, and even kept walking while we spoke. Bookmark here

“I strongly suspect I am. What happened after I passed out? And why are you carrying me?”
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“I’ll answer your questions soon, but before we talk about anything else there’s just one thing I really need to ask. You’re… you’re Maria, right? Not the witch? I guess the witch was technically also a ‘Maria’, but anyway, are you… are you… you?”
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“Who else would I be? I’m me, and no one else.”

I smiled reassuringly at the princess. Bookmark here

“I-I know. It’s just… what you did back there, it made me kind of scared. You’re in the witches’ body, so how do I know she doesn’t have some way of coming back to it? How do I even know she was actually switched for you? That you’re not just still her, and you were just acting this whole time so you’d get to live. What you did there was way more like her than anything else I’ve seen from you so far, and it’s almost enough to make me start doubting. You’re not her… right?”
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“I’m not, Alena.”
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“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?”
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“Fortunately there’s a really easy way to answer that question. If I was her, why would I not just have killed you? Doing that would have let me escape right away, without any further complications. And why would I have let those men run away when it would have been much faster to just kill them instead?”Bookmark here

The princess breathed out a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

“Thank you for reassuring me. You’re right. There’s no reason for me to worry. Not about that, at least… Now, what was it you wanted to know?”
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“For starters, why aren’t we in the carriage? Because the driver is dead?”
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“The carriage? You… do you remember you destroyed that, right?”Bookmark here

...I did?Bookmark here

“I did?”
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“Yup. When you were doing that crazy murderous flame thing or whatever it was. Some of the fire spread behind you too, and you were kind of standing right in front of it, so… yeah. Bye, carriage. It was nice knowing you. Rest in peace knowing you served your duty well the few hours we actually got to use you.”
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“Sorry. That was… That was absolutely not intentional, I promise. What about the horses?”
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“They ran away somewhere after the carriage caught fire. Part of the reins were still dangling behind the horses and on fire when they ran off, but considering your fire just kind of… disappeared by itself and how destroying the carriage was one of the last things you did before passing out, I think there’s a good chance the horses are alright.”
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“I thought the fire was just spreading in front of me… that was at least what I was trying to make it do.”Bookmark here

Perhaps it shouldn’t have felt as surprising as it did. It was literally just the second time I used this magic, and it wasn’t mine from the start anyway. I hadn’t been the one that put in the time needed to learn it, or had the talent for it originally, or… How did the magic in this world work, anyway? Bookmark here

“By the way, it wasn’t just the carriage. There was this huge patch of burnt grass in the area around where you were standing, all the way from the road off to a few meters down the side. You’d better make sure you aren’t near anything flammable when you use magic, especially around people, or in populated areas… Unless you want to graduate from grass to burning whole buildings down instead. Oh, and I don’t know if you’ve realized, but the grass and our carriage weren’t the only things you ended up burning. Have you taken a look at your clothes yet?”Bookmark here

I hadn’t, but a single quick glance confirmed what Alena was talking about. Bookmark here

My shoes were completely gone, as was most of the socks I had been wearing. My skirt had somehow gotten away with only a single hole on the side, even if it had turned a charred black instead of the pleasant blue it had once been. My top…. was thankfully already black from the start and had escaped mostly unscathed.Bookmark here

“I guess I’ll have to get changed when we get back… Actually, are we heading back? If I remember that map you showed me correctly, I’m pretty sure the place we were going is way too far away for us to reasonably get there on foot. Maybe it’d be better to wait with the mission until we’re sure I can actually handle my magic? I don’t want to accidentally cause any disasters just because I can't do the whole magic thing right.”
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“I…”, the princess sighed, “I’d theoretically say you’re right.”Bookmark here

She paused for a moment before she continued speaking, as if needing to search for the right words, or just feeling very unsure about what she was about to say.

“But we can’t turn back. You do remember, don’t you? We’re not doing this just for fun. You won’t be free if you don’t complete the mission. You’re supposed to fight for the royal family. Until you’ve helped us enough, your execution is technically still just suspended and not cancelled.”
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“I remember. But can’t we at least go back first? Surely we’d at least be offered adequate time to prepare?”
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“You’d think so. But that’s not the deal I was offered. We go complete that mission right now, without returning, or you die. That’s what I needed to agree to in order to make sure you wouldn’t just be killed right then and there. You’re dead the moment we turn back. So I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to give up just yet. I'm determined enough that I’ll carry you if I have to! ...Actually, I am already carrying you.”Bookmark here

So if I didn’t want to fight, I was as good as dead? Fun. Bookmark here

“If you want a positive aspect to all of it, at least you’re getting to spend a ton of extra time with me.”
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“That’s supposed to be a good thing?”Bookmark here

Perhaps it would have sounded mean out of context, but I also smiled and winked at her while I said it. It was probably safe to assume she got the idea. Bookmark here

“I say it is, so yes. You’d better appreciate it. I don’t take the time out of my day for just anyone. Hey, come to think about it, you’ve officially spent more one-on-one time with the royal princess than anyone else in the entire kingdom. How does that feel?”
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“Do I get a reward?”
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“I’m carrying you right now, maybe that counts? It’s not like I’d do that for anyone else, you know.”Bookmark here

We continued chatting along those lines, just going back and forth between various random topics, having fun talking about normal everyday stuff. About fun things, about less fun things, about the differences between our worlds. Bookmark here

Trying to make it the whole way to our final destination in one go would have taken too long, so after some discussion we decided to hope to encounter somewhere we could rest along the way — when I asked Alena how far away anywhere like that could be, it became clear that she knew the geography of this place about as badly as I did, if not worse, somehow. Bookmark here

It took a few hours before we reached anywhere to stop, and by the time we did it was dark, dark enough that it felt like the shadows themselves were eavesdropping and we easily could have been attacked again at any moment. Bookmark here

Yet, nothing happened and we safely managed to find refuge before the day was over. Bookmark here

For some reason the princess kept carrying me the whole time, and I was still too tired to question it. Bookmark here

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