< Evade the Hero and Flee! Side Stories – A certain imperial princess’s reminiscence (18) >

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#23 Their circumstance: A certain villain’s circumstance

 

“Hah-aaaah…”
A sigh jumped out of my mouth the moment I settled down inside the carriage. One slip of the tongue yesterday, and it felt like the entire imperial court had transformed into a bed of thorns.
“Should I just make my getaway now…?”
Currently, I was on my way to another kingdom for a mission. Although the timing seemed ripe for a perfect getaway, I had a feeling that Dame Reia would strike me down with her sword if I did that. That’s why I gave up on the idea.
“Getting hit by a swordmaster’s sword strike will… uh…”
Right, I often heard about it in the past, no? Because a bullet spun in the air, the entry wound will be small but the exit wound will be so much larger.
I’ve never been shot, so there’s no way I’d know how that feels, but something tells me that getting struck by a swordmaster’s sword swing will have a largely similar effect. The only difference will be the sword light’s effect causing big holes in both entry and exit wounds!
“I knew it. I should’ve bounced outta there a long time ago. It’s too late now, isn’t it!”
Someone in my previous life said this. By the time you think it’s too late, it really was too late to do anything. I have to concede that that saying is the truth now.
I should’ve made my escape the moment I thought about escaping but worrying about ‘this and that’ kept delaying the timing for it.
“…No choice but to think of this as a valuable lesson, then.”
Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I swear to run away the moment I get any thoughts of escaping. Of course, the problem with that was whether I could actually escape from the imperial court or not in the first place.
Still, the imperial court was run by humans, and Her Highness was also a human being. An opportunity is bound to arise sooner or later, so I should take my time and wait.
I should focus on handling the current matter first, too.
“Hah-ah… What an ungainly mess.”
As this good ol’ me was the representative of the imperial court in this mission, I now occupied a position similar to that of a commander of our group. Which meant I was given the documents containing the information on the situation so far.
And if I was to summarise it…
<Karuan Empire, come. Come fight us if you dare.>
…Well, that’s about it.
“Kyah~, check out how blindingly obvious they are.”
Of course, the way they did things was pretty rotten to the point where they were obviously trying to screw me over, but…
“Most victims were poisoned to death, while the remaining few were openly murdered, huh? And I should consider the people taking care of the aftermaths, too?”
Most of the corpses were discovered in the middle of cities. And the culprits didn’t even bother to hide the cause of death, either. Seriously now, if you kill someone, shouldn’t you be at least hide or burn the bodies?! If you don’t wanna do that, how about sinking them in a pond or something!
If only they had done that, someone like me would’ve been able to say stuff like, “The corpses’ decomposition have advanced too greatly, which made it too difficult to confirm the methods of assassinations,” in case I make a mistake.
But… According to the report submitted by the Peleros Kingdom currently holding the remains, the bodies have been far too perfectly preserved, apparently.
“They shouldn’t have the reason to do so, though.”
Even a dummy could tell that the empire would demand compensation from the instigators of this war, the kingdoms of Madesen and Helkas, since the diplomats went there to get some answers.
However, even the empire should know it by now – that those two kingdoms were not the culprit. And that someone else did this hoping to expand the scope of the war between two kingdoms by having the mighty empire participate, too.
The real culprit, then, could be either another kingdom participating in the war or some other bastards making a tidy profit from the war itself.
No, hang on. It could also be one of the empire’s allied nations currently fighting in the war. Since they were losing the fight, they schemed to have the empire join their side – or something like that.
“Whatever the case may be, things would’ve been more convenient for me if they had made it a bit more complicated, though!”
Here’s the thing about incidents like this: the more complicated and twisted an incident was, the more people will start harassing the one trying to solve it. Crucially, however, no one will call you out on your incompetence.
That’s because even though they’ll say, “How can you not solve something like this!” deep down, they also know there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.
But, now that the culprits had caused a scene and left behind plentiful evidence, any mistake on my part would be the same as proving how incompetent I am.
If that happens, the best outcome I can think of will be a reduction in my wages, but the worst will be getting fired from my…
“…Mm?”
Getting… fired, is it?
“Huh? Wait, could this be actually an opportunity for me?”
The persons in charge of the team heading to the Peleros Kingdom to retrieve the remains were a Count affiliated with Foreign Affairs and me.
Now normally, this fat Count dispatched by Foreign Affairs should be the leader of this expedition. But I was ‘recommended’ by the imperial court… No, make that the Imperial Princess who had personally selected me for this job. Which meant the fat Count and I held a similar level of authority during this trip.
Besides, the combat force accompanying us came from Her Highness’s own unit, and the one of the dead happened to be engaged to Dame Reia, too.
That’s why the count was basically only here for the appearance’s sake, and I was the actual leader of this expedition.
Sooo, what if I caused a massive incident during this trip…?
“They’ll surely fire me, right? But, uh, hopefully, they won’t execute me or something like that.”
Right. We’ve been working side-by-side in the imperial court until now, so my colleagues surely wouldn’t be so heartless and execute me for making a mistake. Maybe, my punishment would be getting kicked out of the court without receiving the benefit of all the taxes I’ve been paying so far. But that much is a-okay in my book.
Besides, I lived my life as a gopher for the evil organisation. I was pretty sure that such an organisation would not pay their taxes, so what right did I have to claim benefits from it in the first place?
“So, the best scenario would be someone sneak-attacking us and stealing the corpses…”
Of course, I’d have to protect Dame Reia’s former boyfriend. If I fail to do that, then even before the imperial court could fire me, she’ll fire me to the afterlife for sure.
If the other corpses get taken away by the enemy, the grieving families would most likely lodge a strongly-worded complaint to the imperial court, forcing me to take full responsibility and resign.
Then, I could explain to the organisation’s top brass that I got fired for so-and-so reasons. All said and done, I’d get to start a comfy life as the organisation’s instructor once more.
“Kuh-huk… It’s perfect.”
Of course, things might get dicey during such a sneak raid, but one particular point about this incident put me at ease. And that was the fact that this whole thing was not arranged by someone in the same trade as me.
If an agent from the evil organisation was involved in this matter, then they would’ve twisted it just a bit further, making it that much harder to see through. They were pros at this sort of thing, after all.
For instance, they could’ve disguised the crime scenes in such a way to mislead people into believing that separate factions were involved in the matter, even if the crimes themselves were the same. People would naturally assume, “Many factions are involved in this dastardly scheme!” or something like that.
Not stopping there, they would win over a few nobles and persuade them to make some noise about this incident reeking of conspiracy. And then, they would win over the opposing nobles to have the different factions go against each other.
Doing so would naturally attract other nobles supporting either side of the argument. As the unique traits of the nobles dictate, they would start spreading all sorts of baseless rumours to badmouth the factions opposing them. Without me or my… colleagues doing anything, these nobles would do their best to burn each other down and fight to the death.
Once that happened, I figured that the imperial court would be forced to investigate. And the ones involved would doctor the evidence to make it look like a few nobles were in cahoots with a kingdom embroiled in the war to instigate this incident. Only then will this thing qualify as a dark conspiracy, after all!
“Idiots that can’t even come up with a conspiracy on this level…”
To think that they, whoever they were, created such a juicy situation only to waste it as a one-time deal…
To me, this whole thing seemed to be concocted by a country or an organisation with no talent in cooking up dastardly conspiracies.
“Well, they could have come up with a plan so perfect that not even I can see through it, but…”
But, I didn’t think this matter was so vile and convoluted that I, a master among the evil organisation’s elites, would fail to notice the depths of its depravity.
That’s what I thought at the time.
“Mm?”
Well, I never anticipated how pathetic my opponents’ level would be, after all.

 

 

#24 Their circumstance: A certain kingdom’s circumstance

 

“My lord, we just received communication from the border. The investigation team from the Karuan Empire has arrived at the border control.”
“Have we finished securing all the remains?”
“Magicians and sorcerers have been mobilised to operate preservation magic at all times, my lord.”
Currently, inside the Peleros Kingdom’s royal palace…
But, rather than a palace fit for a king, this place now resembled a busy marketplace, with so many people hurriedly running around like headless chickens.
“Good. The war in the center of the continent is heating up, so this is an opportunity for us to present a good image to the empire!”
The Peleros Kingdom was among the nations located in the central region of the continent. Its royal court had sensed that the war started by two small kingdoms was gradually spiralling out of control.
Not only a neighbouring kingdom was participating in the war, another one sharing a border with Peleros had recently joined the fighting, too.
With their location being in the center of the continent, it was unsurprising to see the ruling class of Peleros focusing heavily on reinforcing their alliance with the empire, the wielder of the strongest army in the continent! Especially when they could smell the approaching fumes of the deadly war!
“The war is getting bigger in scale. With how things are, we need the empire in order to keep the Merdeia Kingdom in line.”
The Merdeia Kingdom.
Although it wasn’t called an empire, was it because they’ve been in conflict with the Karuan Empire for so long? At this point in history, Merdeia boasted a military that wouldn’t lose out to any empires on the continent.
Peleros had chosen to side with the Karuan Empire diplomatically, meaning it now found itself at odds with Merdeia!
The two kingdoms didn’t share a border, but Merdeia had formed an alliance with one of the kingdoms that did with Peleros. Which meant that the ruling class of Peleros felt a certain pressure toward the possibilities of Merdeia’s invasion.
“My lord! An urgent report from the one in charge of the border control gate! The empire’s representative has conveyed his wish to not use the transfer gate but continue using the land route, sir!”
“What was that?! But, why? N-no, wait. For now, pass my order that all checkpoints will let the empire’s representative go through them as painlessly as possible!”
To strengthen the kingdom’s alliance with the empire, the very first hurdle to clear was managing the current event. The second important thing to remember after that was to earn a favourable impression from the representative of the incoming investigation team, Baron Ast du Lilac!
“He might be only a baron, but he’s also the closest confidante of the empire’s First Imperial Princess! He’s also in a similar position as Dame Reia, the famed Sword Princess! As he’s someone wielding a considerable influence in the imperial court, inform all the territories where he’s scheduled to stop by to treat him with utmost courtesy!”
“Understood, my lord!”
The Peleros Kingdom’s representative watched the back of a magician hurriedly leaving, sensing that he might have earned a smidgeon of breathing room for himself.
“U-urgent report coming in, my lord! The empire’s investigation team has arrived at the royal court’s transfer gate!”
“Say what?!”
Unfortunately for him, the moment he sighed in relief was when he got hit in the back of his head!
“But weren’t they supposed to travel on land?! What on earth are you talking about!”
“Sir! They said that, since they wanted to cut down on the travel time, they went back to use the transfer gate!”
“Dammit!”
The investigation team also included heavily-armed combatants. Such a group of people stepping into what could be considered the nucleus of a kingdom, its royal palace, without permission was a terrible diplomatic discourtesy. Yet that man still chose to intrude the royal palace, seemingly not caring about consequences in the slightest.
“He’s no ordinary opponent…”
This had to be a protest, a show of force, by the empire.
We had already experienced the death of the envoys in our allied nation. That’s why we had to overlook such an unacceptable discourtesy to protect ourselves.
That man was asking us this: Even after suffering indignity on this level and other potential insults that may come in the future, can you really stay as our allied nation?
“What a rotten type of test this is.”
Indeed, this was the empire testing the Peleros Kingdom.
Even if the empire’s combatants were powerful, a team consisting of around one hundred people couldn’t possibly invade the royal palace of a kingdom.
They wouldn’t have a pretext to complain even if we arrested them all and sent them to prison, yet the higher-ups of the empire still chose to risk it and committed such an act.
“In that case, we don’t have a choice but to accept it.”
Our opponent this time was the First Imperial Princess’s closest confidante, a man climbing up the imperial court’s pecking order at an unprecedented speed!
That man’s prowess didn’t seem all that real even after I went through the report submitted by our diplomatic agents dispatched to the empire, but this incident finally helped me understand it.
“Playing a truly unexpected hand, admirable decisiveness, and enough charisma to put all of them to practice. Is this the true ability of the man who climbed up from the position of a commoner to quickly seize a sizeable political power in the imperial court?”
It hadn’t even been five years.
A man hired as a mere servant to deal with sundry chores rising up to become the First Imperial Princess’s exclusive butler and earning himself a noble title…? That feat would’ve been near-impossible even if it was within the halls of the weakest kingdom in the continent.
But that man had achieved exactly that in one of the strongest nations on the continent. And I was about to come face-to-face with such an individual!
“This might be a lot harder than I imagined.”
I, too, had spent my whole life working in the den of devious demons – the royal court – where one slip of the tongue could lead to my head getting chopped off. But my opponent this time had not only survived the empire’s imperial court but even managed to occupy the position of power in an unimaginably brief period. The imperial court, famed for being a literal hell on earth that even Peleros’s own royal court paled in comparison!
If I continued to underestimate him as a greenhorn not even thirty years old yet, it’d be me who might end up on the chopping board, instead!
“How did you respond?”
“My lord. We managed to delay them at the transfer gate by saying that we still need to perform brief inspections.”
“Very good. Your job now is to contact the agents looking after the remains as quickly as possible. Tell them to get everything ready in less than one hour.”
“Yes, my lord. However, Lord Chancellor, what will you do…?”
“I shall personally handle the empire’s investigation team. Do not send anyone else lest you want to see them get mercilessly devoured!”
“Yes, sir!”
I watched the knight rushing outside my office and sucked in a deep, deep breath. That poor man didn’t even have enough time to wipe the sweat off his brow.
I then turned to address my aides. “The empire has arrived. From this moment on, hurry up and finish our preparations, then give your everything to carrying out your individual assignments! It’s our sacred duty to display the Peleros Kingdom’s dignity to the empire’s agents!”
“Understood, my lord!”
We were trying to strengthen the alliance between us and the empire, but we could not afford to show them our weak side. Our aim was an amicable alliance, not to become some kind of a vassal state.
“Well, then… Shall I go and meet the newest monster of the imperial court, then?”
And to fulfil that purpose, I, the Chancellor of this kingdom, headed to the location of my encounter against the newest monster of the imperial court.

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