Kuro no Maou 430 – Part 2/3

 

A heartbreaking homecoming

“We’ve already left Dakia Village. We should be arriving in Avalon tomorrow, princess.”

With a tone of voice much more tender than usual, Helen, the daughter of the noble Azrael family of Avalon, and head of Princess Nell’s bodyguards, gently speaks to her beloved princess.

“…”

On the other hand, Avalon’s first princess, Nell Julius Elrod just blankly stared off into space and didn’t reply with even a single stare.

The royal carriage they were in was surprisingly stable, or rather, it didn’t feel like it was shaking at all. The outside view from its small window was a white mountain range which was most likely the snow-covered Galahad Mountains.

Nell was on her way back home to Avalon after leaving Spada.

Her Royal Guard, clad in silver armor, was escorting her, surrounding the carriage. It had been one week since they had arrived in Spada with the king’s orders to escort the older brother and younger sister back to Avalon.

However, only Nell is going back to Avalon. Nero quickly disappeared after pledging to bring her sister, who had become considerably debilitated, back to the knights.

It is a well-known fact in Avalon that the First Prince Nero usually wanders off to play wherever he feels like, even to some absurd places. And once he does leave, no one will ever catch the slightest glimpse of him until he is satisfied. Both his own royal guard and his father no longer reprimand him for his hopeless behavior.

After receiving a letter from Nero explaining the current circumstances, the royal guards resigned themselves to protect the prince’s identity, and dedicated their efforts only to Princess Nell’s convoy.

The lifeless Nell didn’t say a single word to them due to her strange condition, but fortunately, still obediently followed their instructions.

Neither the maids who accompanied the knights, nor Helen, who volunteered as Nell’s personal escort, nor the royal guard were privy about the princess’s situation, and were merely trying to fulfill their duties to the best of their ability.

In other words, the only one who could actually reach out to Nell was none other than Helen, who had been her friend ever since being an overseas student in the same school as her.

“It’ll be just one more day.”

And so, Helen’s heart smashes in front of Nell, who showed absolutely no reaction at all. Only her earnest love and loyalty could be what allowed her to continue talking to a person who was more like a doll who never replied for an entire week.

Or perhaps it was because she thought that the worst was yet to come.

The Nightmare Berserker Kurono was a sworn enemy who was the cause of Nell’s situation, being someone who tried to get himself into the hands of a demon for his own lowly desires. That man had taken on an urgent quest to defend Galahad Fortress and had ever since parted ways with Nell. For Helen, nothing had ever given her more peace of mind.

It seemed that Nell was terribly sad because of his parting since he had posed himself as a friend to her, but Helen believed that now that they were apart it was just a matter of time to mend her broken heart. After returning to Avalon, Nell should be able to get better and return to her former cheerful self.

“…Ah.”

Suddenly, Nell opened her mouth. It had been brief and rather air-cutting, but a voice definitely came out of it.

Helen was just about to call out to her, happy to have finally heard a human reaction out of her after such a long time, Nell leaned a bit forward and looked out through the carriage’s window.

“What’s the matter, princess?”

“Here… is where I first met Kurono…”

Nell smiled. It was a ghostly smile that would send shivers down anyone’s spine.

“Ah, is t-that so?”

Helen managed to muster up a reply in front of her princess’s weird countenance.

“Yes, my horse wouldn’t move… hehe… I was in deep trouble… hehe… it was lovely.”

A weird laughter escaped through her lips. They were inside a luxurious royal carriage, but at the time Helen felt the tension of having been thrown into a dungeon in an underground burial mound, where the laughters of the dead echoed.

Nell wasn’t having a conversation. It was a monologue. She was speaking to herself while looking out through the window without noticing that Helen was in front of her.

“I want to ride that horse, that ‘Marie’, Kurono…”

Helen suddenly realized she was speaking about the time when Kurono had kidnapped her, or rather, accompanied her to leave Spada, back when the monster army had besieged the Academy students in the Iskia Fortress. At least Nell could be sure that she was riding Kurono’s beloved horse at that time.

The idea of someone who looked like an adventurer and the princess riding together on the same horse disgusted Helen. She had no choice but to hope that such an event had happened only once. Did something like this happen twice, three times perhaps? She definitely did not want to know.

“How will we be able to ride? When will you take me for a ride again?”

Nell kept on murmuring as if she were talking with Kurono, who was still miles away inside Galahad Fortress. She was grabbing the both sides of the window with her hands, as if she were about to jump out of the carriage at any minute.

Of course, the carriage’s window wasn’t big enough for a person to go through, and opening the door while the carriage was moving was unthinkable. Helen was sitting by the door’s lock, and in front of Nell. Even if Nell were to try to open the door, Helen would block her way with her body.

Helen couldn’t do anything but staring at Nell with a cold sweat running through her face as she went on with her eccentricities.

“How, when… I… Ah.”

Then there was silence. Nell suddenly stopped talking to herself, and stopped moving altogether as if she had become frozen solid.

Before Helen was able to ask her if something was wrong, Nell looked at her. The way she had turned her face toward her reminded her of a mechanical golem. But her muddy eyes looked like those of an undead monster.

“Ah, um… is something the matter… princess?”

“Helen.”

She had said her name. At last, after such a long time, Nell had finally looked at Helen and called her name. She had said her name with a smile, a different smile from her previous ones. It had been a smile that looked like sunshine.

“Y-yes! What can I do for you, princess?”

The tense Helen leaned forward as she replied, eager to fulfill any wish her princess would have.

“You are my friend, aren’t you?”

She hesitated for a moment before her initial impulse to reply at once. However, after considering it for a moment she realized that there was no better choice but to reassure her.

“Yes,I have been awestruck by you as we attended school together in Spada, and we became friends.”

“I see. I see you as a close friend too. You have been an important classmate to me as well.”

Helen was overcome with emotion. The tender words of the princess who she had seen even in dreams had made her so happy that tears started pouring from her eyes. Nell’s eyes, however, were still muddy and devoid of light.

“I have a request to make of you.”

“Yes, princess! You can ask me anything!”

Those weren’t the words of a retainer, but the words of a friend. No one would have been able to say the contrary even if anyone else had been there.

“Is that so? Well, in that case…”

Then Nell declared her unreasonable request.

“Let’s go back to Galahad Fortress and fight.”

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