< Evade the Hero and Flee! Side Stories – A certain imperial princess’s reminiscence (19) >
#25 Their circumstance: A certain villain’s circumstance
“Have you lost your mind, Sir Ast?!”
Even as the Foreign Affair’s Count yelled at me, I simply maintained my expressionless face.
“Yes, we were dispatched as an investigation team, but we still entered this kingdom with a sizeable contingent of combatants! Yet, you dare to use a transfer gate without the approval of the royal court?!”
This man occupied a pretty good position in the Foreign Affairs office. He was also a Count, a noble title verging on the doorstep of high-ranking nobility. He might not possess a tremendously important title but, in a way, he could be seen as a thread connecting to some very important people.
Even though the majority of the travelling group came from my camp and I held the authority to command them, getting on the bad books of someone like this Count was an act of foolishness itself. Even though I knew that, I still went ahead, anyway.
“We are currently inside a kingdom embroiled in a war, sir.”
“Sir Ast, I know what you’re trying to say! However, this country is not at war, and more importantly, it’s an allied nation to our empire!”
Indeed. And what I’m trying to do right now would shatter the allied nation’s pride and cause a serious diplomatic problem.
“And that’s why I’m doing this.”
Yup, that’s why I was doing this!
The Count started glaring at me, his eyes asking what on earth I was talking about. Around him were the subordinates of the Imperial Princess that ‘knew’ me well enough, and they were shaking their heads while sighing softly.
If I were to interpret the light gleaming in their eyes…
‘What is that crazy SOB trying to do this time?’
…I guess that’s about it?
That’s probably a correct guess, though. I sometimes look at the Imperial Princess in the exact same manner as they are doing right now, you see!
Well, I do understand where they are coming from. My current actions certainly qualified as insanity, after all.
“We currently do not know who our allies and enemies are. And in such a situation, we have a pressing need to find out, sir.”
“But what will do you if you lose a certain ally while doing that?”
Ah, this Count. He has stabbed the sore point pretty accurately, hasn’t he?
It was as he said. Nine times out of ten, people would demand an explanation from the empire and even go as far as ending the alliance. That sort of response wouldn’t be surprising at all.
“It can’t be helped, unfortunately.”
Indeed, it couldn’t be helped in my quest to get fired.
“The war in the central region has become too unpredictable, sir. And in this war, you see kids murdering their own parents and parents selling out their own kids to survive. Nothing is more important than confirming who is our ally when going through such a war.”
“Sir Ast, do you even know what on earth you’re talking about?!”
Ng. Of course, I know. I know it’s all bullsh*t.
I’m acting up like this simply because the Imperial Princess was backing me up. No, hang on a sec. My behaviour started going out of whack all because of the Imperial Princess in the first place, no?!
If only that kid hadn’t become so weirdly obsessed with me! I’d still be an anonymous gopher working in the imperial court, silently carrying out the orders of the evil organisation! Without needing to worry about anything, to boot!
But all thanks to that damn Imperial Princess, my life became a complicated mess. So, as a just dessert, it’s time I dump all the responsibilities of putting out the fire I started on her shoulders!
Even if I do that, the Imperial Princess wasn’t the type to discard people. So, the punishment for causing problems would only amount to me losing my noble title and getting chased out of the imperial court. My personal wish would be that I don’t get tortured until the day of my firing. That’s about it, I guess?
If you throw me inside solitary confinement, I can keep myself occupied no problem. That’s why I want that kind of imprisonment, Your Highness!
“I shall shoulder all responsibilities.”
When I stared back at the Count with resolute certainty in my eyes, he clamped his mouth shut abruptly.
Responsibilities. The thing all nobles generally hated with a passion. I brought it up first, and by the look of things, it seemed that Count was ready to quietly let it go now.
“…Sir Ast, are you really confident of dealing with the aftermath? To take full responsibility?”
“Yes. With my honour on the line.”
Even though it was only in name, I became a noble by starting off as an honorary knight. No wonder the Count fell deep into his thoughts when I brought up my honour and all. But that meant he failed to notice the expressions of the Imperial Princess’s subordinates silently shouting…
‘…This crazy as*hole is about to do something insaaaaane!’
…Or something like that.
Ng, you’re sooo right. I am about to do something insane, alright.
If I was one of those nobles that treasured their honour above all else, I’d have thrown away my life to protect my honour, sure. But I was a gopher of the evil organisation where having less honour and fame was seen as a plus point. In other words, I was ready to discard my honour whenever it was convenient for me.
No, actually… Please, somebody, come and take away my honour already! You dang nobles so obsessed with honour, what the hell were you doing when someone like me was busy earning honour and fame?! Seriously, man! Do your jobs properly, nobles!
“I shall… believe in you, Sir Ast.”
The Count deliberated it for quite a bit before finally relenting to my request. At the same time, lengthy groans burst forth from our surroundings.
I quickly piped up. “In that case, let us get going right away.”
Should I say, as expected of a seasoned diplomat? Or maybe he’s just quick on the uptake? The Count seemed to have realised that the mood in our surroundings had worsened a lot, and judging from the look on his face, he belatedly wanted to say something about it. But I seized the initiative first, leaving him with no choice but to nod his head in acceptance.
“Well, everyone! Time to head back to the gate!”
The name of this operation was ‘Wihwado Retreat’! Yes, I was trying to re-enact that famous operation that led to Goryeo’s demise and the founding of Joseon! Not only that but in someone else’s kingdom, no less!
“N-no, you can’t, sir!”
“Yes, we can!”
We ignored the employees managing the gate despite their vocal and insistent resistance, and under the banner of the empire’s investigation team, we forcibly took over the transfer gate.
“T-this will cause a diplomatic problem, sir…!”
“That’s funny, didn’t you say earlier that it’ll be a lot better for us to use the gate, Baron Arulen? We trusted in your recommendation and came back all this way, you know?”
The transfer gate’s very cautious person in charge, Baron Arulen, began paling in fright as soon as I called him out by his name.
“Good sir, am I to assume that you were actually making irresponsible recommendations to the envoys of the empire?”
“N-no, that’s not it, Sir Ast!”
This dude has been stuck in this far-flung outskirts of his own kingdom, dealing with similar matters day in, day out. No wonder he couldn’t deal with an empire-certified loon like me.
While Baron Arulen just stood there and unable to offer a counterpoint, his lips bobbing up and down like a lost goldfish, we left him behind and began using the transfer gate without waiting for his permission.
“Alright, then! Let’s hurry, everyone!”
Although the replies weren’t what I’d call ‘enthusiastic’, it couldn’t be helped, now could it? It was crucial for us to make our move first before this kingdom’s royal court caught wind of our actions.
I watched the members of my team get transferred to the heart of this kingdom one by one, and then…
“…Ah, right. I forgot that I can’t even use these gates.”
Only my sheepish self remained stranded there.
#26 Their circumstances: A certain sorcerer’s circumstance
“W-who are you people?!”
The moment we heard that question was when we instinctively realised that someone important among us had vanished.
‘Why the heck is the culprit of this plan not here with usssss?!’
However, none of us revealed our own confusion, which was probably on the same level as the soldiers of this kingdom greeting us.
“But, uh, no one told us anything about this, though?”
We silently observed their flustered faces and inwardly sympathised with their turmoil. Because of one single lunatic, we, too, were experiencing a lot of hardship right now.
When we emerged from the sudden explosions of light, soldiers and magicians of the Peleros kingdom welcomed us with their weapons already drawn. They were glaring at us, their stances suggesting that they would start attacking the moment we take one step.
Damn it, we’re screwed, aren’t we!
I knew it! Their suspicion and hostility towards us are serious enough to pierce the heavens right now! Still, that lunatic told us to say this, so at the very least… I should have a go at it.
“You dare to attack the empire’s investigation team?! So, this was the intent of the Peleros Kingdom all along!”
I followed my superior officer, Sir Ast’s teachings and diligently leaned on the name of the empire. He told us that the more we lean on the empire’s name, the more effective it’d become. So, I unhesitantly leaned all the way in.
“I did hear the investigation team would be arriving sometime today, but… didn’t we receive a message saying that they’ll be travelling over the land?”
“Could it be that the information was incorrect…?!”
Was it because we were so unfazed, openly brazen? Besides, it looked to me that they were not entertaining the possibilities of us invading their royal court.
This was definitely not the accepted way of doing things. Plus, the job of managing the transfer gate was a very comfy one where you didn’t have to worry about getting fired unless something extraordinary happened under your watch.
This wasn’t in the past when the space transfer magic was still unstable and a bit of a gamble. Unless someone made a mistake inputting the coordinates, things should not go wrong with this magic nowadays.
“P-please show us proof that you’re from the empire!”
While I was thinking that to myself, a magician with fairly high status among the soldiers stepped forward and yelled at us.
So, I pulled out a token engraved with the imperial court’s emblem from my inner pocket.
“L-lower your weapons!”
As expected of the transfer gate’s person in charge. Was it because he had encountered many nobles hailing from other kingdoms, like the dude in charge of the border control? Just a single peek at the empire’s emblem was enough for him to freak out and begin withdrawing the troops.
“Sir, do you think it’s working?”
“Well, we’ll be able to tell by looking at their response, now won’t we?”
What will happen now, I wonder? Would they analyse this situation calmly and try to throw all of us inside prison? That would be…
“Allow us to offer our sincerest welcome to you all for visiting our Peleros Kingdom, oh the brave warriors of the empire. I’m Relkerra, a Marquis of the Peleros Kingdom serving as its Chancellor.”
…That should’ve been the normal thing to do, so why was he assuming such a position?! I mean, he’s the bloody Chancellor! A dang Marquis, for crying out loud!
“Let me reiterate, we welcome the envoys of the empire, our allied nation.”
The warmly-smiling Marquis Relkerra began guiding us in the most courteous manner imaginable.
…What’s this? What’s up with this kingdom and its deep patience that even rivalled that of priests of religious orders??
#27 Their circumstance: A certain noble’s circumstance
Diplomacy is war. A war fought not with blades but with words.
Even before the start of the war…
Even after the war has begun…
Even after the war comes to an end…
And even as the post-war peace continues on…
The war called diplomacy continues on, unabated.
“Your prank this time has gone overboard, Count Maures.”
And Count Maures, who had spent almost his entire life on such a battlefield, knew oh-so-well the person right before his eyes.
‘The light of Peleros, Marquis Relkerra!’
Marquis Relkerra utilised his excellent diplomatic skills, the gift of gab and sharp insight to see at least one move ahead to act as a sturdy pillar supporting his kingdom. Even though he possessed enough political clout to pressure the king if that’s what he wanted, Relkerra always put the welfare of his kingdom first instead of gaining more political power. He was famous for not getting into a power struggle with the royal family for the future of his nation.
‘If he makes up his mind, not even Peleros’s king can change his decision…’
Even though the Peleros Kingdom was a part of the central region embroiled in the great war, it has not participated in the battles so far.
Sure, Peleros was located on the outskirts of the central region. However, it still chose not to dispatch any combat force even as an allied kingdom nearby was under attack. Which meant that either Peleros chose to forsake said allied nation, or it has successfully delayed participating in the conflict via diplomacy!
‘Dammit… Baron Ast!’
And Count Maures began chewing out Baron Ast in his mind. Well, he now had to deal with someone as fearsome as Marquis Relkerres by himself, after all! That’s because Ast, as soon as arriving via the land route, rushed somewhere while saying he’d go and confirm the status of the remains.
‘That damn bastard! A mere commoner who got lucky! How dare he wield Her Highness’s authority as his own! I’m a Count, dammit! Even if you’re close to Her Highness, this… Mm… I guess it’s allowed in that case?’
The empire’s First Imperial Princess was a celebrity of sorts.
The monster of the imperial court, the second coming of the founding emperor, the inheritor of the dragon’s bloodline, etc., etc…
All sorts of modifiers accompanied her, but at the end of them all, one nickname would always sneak into people’s conversations.
‘…A personality disorder patient.’
It wasn’t just some ordinary disorder, either. Even the current emperor, a wielder of incredible power, had to concede to her whims. That’s how much of a troublesome person she was.
All these stories about to be told already had achieved legendary status by now.
The stories went that she could speak from the moment she was born. Or, how about she became as strong as a swordmaster by the age of ten? There was also a legend about her chantlessly casting high-class magic that only a commander-level magician could use.
However, her final nickname, ‘the personality disorder patient’, was not a legend. It was reality.
Count Maures recalled that time when he witnessed the current emperor shut his mouth and do as she wanted. The emperor was famed for being strict, yet he was still rendered helpless when she brazenly declared, ‘Oh? Then I’m going to run away from home, you know? Or, maybe I’ll cause a huge commotion!’
That was when the Imperial Princess was only five years old.
Thanks to her unreasonable demand back then, the youngest swordmaster of all time and one of the most promising talents in the empire’s knight corps, Reia Lil Areis, got snatched away by her. And that talent had bloomed into someone deserving of the title, the Sword Princess, too!
“Marquis Relkerres, I assure you that it was not my intention.”
They said that the birds of a feather flock together. Crows and herons would never fly together, though. Count Maures was reluctant to provoke someone minding their own business – especially when that person happened to be a member of the First Imperial Princess’s entourage, so he decided to dump all the responsibilities on Baron Ast but not go any further than that.
The thing was, his decision came about after he heard the evaluations of the knights and sorcerers under the Imperial Princess regarding Baron Ast. They unanimously saw him as a ‘truly insane bastard’ – an evaluation made when Ast was not around to glare at them!
“Hahaha! Yes, I’m already aware. This isn’t our first meeting, Count Maures, so how can I not know?”
“…Hahaha, thank you very much! Chancellor!”
Maures would always experience some losses whenever he had meetings with Relkerres, but there was no reason to point that out this time.
As long as they could laugh together and sweep this incident under the carpet… That would be the best outcome for everyone. The discourtesy of today was so grave that it could easily spiral into breaking off of the diplomatic ties between two nations.
“Count Maures, if I may be frank, it was a rather aggressive move. Honestly speaking, I was stunned silly when I first received the report. As expected of the rumoured confidante of Her Imperial Highness…”
Count Maures couldn’t help but tilt his head at what Marquis Relkerra said as a follow-up. That sounded like the disrespected person giving out a high evaluation to the one who disrespected them.
“I’ve already understood the empire’s intentions, Sir Maures. However, a test of such nature is a bit too cruel, so I implore you to give us a small heads-up next time. I’m quite old already, and such a heart-stopping event is not good for my health, you see.”
“I’m not sure what I can do to rein in him in, but… I’ll do my best to persuade him from next time onward.”
Count Maures had no idea just where the empire’s intentions were and what kind of a test had taken place here, but all he could do for now was nod slowly at Marquis Relkerra’s gentle smile.
‘Could it be that a diplomatic battle of a high caliber is taking place right now? One that’s too high class for me to even notice?’
Was this the case of a monster’s trusted aide also being a monster? As expected of a man experiencing an unprecedented rise in his status, something that had never happened before in the empire’s history!
‘It’s too early to say, but… Could Sir Ast be a real tactical genius, then?’
The First Imperial Princess was only five years old when she saw through the youngest swordmaster in history, Reia Lil Areis’s talents. Five years old… Young enough to be still called a little baby, even if she was an Imperial Family member!
And someone like that had personally chosen Ast.
Count Maures began to seriously ponder if every little crazy thing Ast had done without warning carried much deeper meaning behind them.
‘Right. Common folk apparently can’t recognise geniuses, no? In that case, he could be…!’
It happened then.
“Lord Chancellor, sir!”
A decisive blow landed just as Count Maures began cooking up the theory of Ast being a certifiable genius.
“Baron Ast of the investigation team has uncovered information on the culprits, my lord!”
Yup, that man was indeed a genius. That’s the conclusion Count Maures had come to.