Chapter 17:

Interlude: The Princess's Feelings

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

Several hours later, by the time the sun was on the way back up again, princess Alena found herself outside the gates to one of the largest towns in the area. Bookmark here

She hadn’t ever been there herself, but she had certainly heard of it. The sheer size of it was not entirely unimpressive, though it was still dwarfed by the capital Clodea, or by any of the largest cities in the country. Bookmark here

Its name was… Denert? Something to that effect. The princess had never paid as much attention as she should have to the countless maps people had placed in front of her over the years. With the real thing in front of her eyes, whatever obscure facts she potentially could have pulled up from those maps hardly seemed relevant at the moment.Bookmark here

Only one obstacle remained between the princess and safety: the gates, and the two guards who were guarding them. Bookmark here

At first Alena had considered trying to find some other way in. Her companion had passed out soon after their escape, and having an unconscious girl in your arms would certainly raise some level of suspicion. As such, she figured staying away from the eyes of people may have been the wiser decision. Bookmark here

The very next moment, the princess had remembered a rather important fact: Bookmark here

She was both a cute girl, and rather small in stature. She did very much not look like the kind of person that would be accused of knocking a girl unconscious, or trying to kidnap her, or any similar sort of crime. If there was any real problem, it was her appearance. Her clothes were a mess, her hair thoroughly dishevelled, and it was clear she had taken a bit of a beating. Bookmark here

Good thing keeping up appearances was what Alena was best at. Bookmark here

She cast an illusion over herself while she was still just out of sight from the guards,Bookmark here

exchanging her beat-up clothes for the kind of fancy dress she would usually wear in the castle.Bookmark here

That was however the one thing about herself the princess changed. She kept her hair short instead of making it look long again, and did not do anything about the bruises and dirt that covered her body. Bookmark here

With an illusion in effect, Alena suddenly lost the effect of her enhancing magic, and the girl in her arms felt much heavier, leaving the princess just barely able to muster up the effort needed to lift her. Her new appearance firmly in place, she walked up to the gate and the two people guarding it. Each step took significant effort, and the journey took several minutes, even as short as it was. Bookmark here

There was sweat all over her body by the time the princess reached the guards. Bookmark here

“Excuse me, but before you can enter we need to check… Young lady, what has happened to you?”
Bookmark here

“I-I… Me and my friend were just on our way here when our carriage was attacked by bandits. They were very violent, and took most of our belongings. But they spared our lives, just barely. My friend has been unconscious ever since, and I had to carry her the whole way here… I-It took me the whole night. I was hoping she could be cared for in this town.”Bookmark here

Alena had a hard time standing up while carrying the girl in her arms, and tears were running down her cheeks, her face overflowing with emotion. Bookmark here

“Of course she will be, young lady! Some of the finest doctors in the country have offices here. Please, hurry inside and get your friend seen to. Return here later and we will deal with the formalities then.”
Bookmark here

“Thank you!”Bookmark here

Alena was clearly having a lot of trouble trying to carry someone bigger than herself, and the guards should clearly have been able to see as much. Yet, neither of them offered to help her out. How rude. Bookmark here

But at least she had made it inside without problems. The guards at the gates of the larger towns would generally check the identity of anyone trying to enter, and this one was no exception. If you didn’t want it to be known who you were… Then playing at the guards’ emotions would usually be one of the most effective tactics. That, or bringing a small army, but Alena was currently in short supply of those. Bookmark here

Once the princess was past the gate, the tears in her eyes vanished into nothingness and a smile reappeared on her face, the illusion having served its purpose. Bookmark here

To think, that the guards let the princess slip right by them just like that, not a clue who she really was...Bookmark here

She found their ignorance amusing, and couldn't help but let out a small chuckle. It nearly made her drop the girl she was carrying, and Alena had to direct her attention back towards more immediate matters. Bookmark here

Hopefully she’d be okay… Bookmark here

There was a single part of the princess’s act that hadn’t been fake. She hastened her steps as she proceeded into the town, looking around for a place to stay. Before she could find one, Alena spotted some soldiers from the royal army, identifiable by the signature crest of the kingdom. They had just rounded a distant corner and did not appear to have seen her yet. Bookmark here

She snuck around the nearest corner before they had time to spot her. The princess found herself inside a smaller alleyway, short and with just a few buildings lining the sides of it. There were at least no signs of military presence there… Alena went over to the other side, taking mental notes on what sort of buildings she passed. Bookmark here

She peeked around the other corner of the alleyway, only to find another group of soldiers walking down the street almost right in front of her. She turned right around and hoped they hadn’t noticed her. Bookmark here

Her father was going to much greater lengths than she had expected. Or was this for some other purpose, one that didn’t involve her?Bookmark here

If they were here for her, that raised two questions. One: how did her father know she would be there, in a town not directly on the course she had initially chartered? Two: Was there any way for her to hide that didn’t require exiting the alley she was already on?Bookmark here

It would perhaps not quite qualify as “hiding”, but… There was that one building she passed mere moments earlier. A somewhat large one, with a sign out front that proudly proclaimed it to be the “Grand Princess Inn”.Bookmark here

With that kind of name, surely a princess must be welcome inside?Bookmark here

After she doubled back to take a closer look… It seemed one of the least reputable inns the princess had ever seen. In fact it looked downright shabby, paling in comparison to the luxurious offerings of the capital. The door was barely attached to its hinges, and every single front-facing window was boarded shut.Bookmark here

Just the right kind of place to go when you needed to hide with an unconscious girl. Bookmark here

Alena entered the building, and soon found herself face to face with the plumb and kindly-looking old lady that was the innkeeper. Bookmark here

“Welcome, young lady. I take it you want a room for two? Or would perhaps one be enough? Either way, if you plan on doing anything criminal, please be abundantly clear I had nothing to do with it if you cet caught… You can do that, right? It would be such a shame if you forgot, dear.”
Bookmark here

“I’ll take whatever the cheapest room you have is. One bed will be enough… But I wasn’t planning on doing anything illegal, you know.”
Bookmark here

“Right, I get it”, the old lady winked, “that will be two bronze coins.”Bookmark here

Did Alena have any money on her? She had taken some plants with her to consider which would make for the most romantic gift… No, in case any of them would prove useful. A few herbs had slipped in, right? She had taken them with her in case either she or her companion would get injured. Yes, that was definitely it.Bookmark here

Sure, they were still quite pretty for being herbs, but that didn’t change that they actually were useful and that she clearly had taken that into account when choosing them. Bookmark here

But aside from those, all Alena could find after rummaging through her pockets was a single coin.Bookmark here

The princess looked down at the girl in her arms.Bookmark here

If she wasn’t from this world, she probably wouldn’t have been using any money. She also wouldn’t have any herself, but what if the witch had any? Alena hadn’t known why, but the witch hadn’t been searched after her arrest. The girl that had taken her place had changed clothes once since then, but it seemed reasonable she would still have kept any money on her if she had found some in the clothes she originally had been wearing… Bookmark here

The princess searched through the places that seemed the most convenient for storing money and eventually she managed to pull out one more coin. She’d just have to apologize for searching her and stealing her money while she was unconscious later… if she remembered and felt like it. Bookmark here

Still, that had been a close call. Alena pledged to herself to start carrying large amounts of money around until she got used to it. Then she’d be able to start creating illusionary money whenever she found herself with this kind of common everyday problem, and that would have solved the whole predicament much faster. Bookmark here

Once she had successfully hired a room for the night, Alena placed her companion in the one small bed in the room they’d been allotted. Bookmark here

“Thank you”, Alena whispered in the girl’s ear. She hadn’t told her, but Alena was grateful she had come to their world when she had, however little of it had been the girl’s own intent. .Bookmark here

She didn't know what she had saved the princess from… At least not the true urgency of it. Bookmark here

Yet, that didn’t change that she had. Bookmark here

Alena kissed Maria on the cheek, and prayed she would wake up soon.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.