SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 6
Chapter 6 – A Bleak Feeling
“…Your Highness, where did you sneak off to again…?”
Feli sighed as she addressed me, since I had snuck out of my room during the night.
I could feel her gaze accusing me. I was ordered to stay put in my room, after all.
“And you even had a sword with you…”
Feli looked at the shadowy “Spada” in my left hand, which I made no efforts to hide, then looked at me again with a sharper glare.
“…I went for a walk.”
“Really. You’re a very early riser today.”
It was still five in the morning.
Today Ratifah was not around for certain reasons, but usually Ratifah and Feli came to my room at about five.
Coming back at such perfect timing only helped make her angrier, as the sarcasm in her words clearly indicated.
I messed up this time, I thought.
“Kind of, yeah.”
My reply ended up half-hearted.
Actually, I was 90% in the wrong. Because of the guilt I felt, I looked down, averting my gaze from hers.
Feli sighed, a tired tone in her voice.
“When you go out, please bring someone with you, or at least leave a note.”
She was just like a parent scolding her unruly child.
“I was worried, wondering where you went.”
“I will be grateful if you pay attention from now on.”
It was the day after the bombing incident, after all.
When I left my room, all I was thinking was that it’d be fine as long as I wasn’t caught, but I ended up making Feli extremely worried.
Her words made me realize my error, and I felt guilty.
“How was your walk, by the way? Did you find anything?”
I laughed bitterly, realizing she already knew the real reason why I left my room, then shook my head. Feli had easily seen through my shallow train of thought — to make myself visible to see if the “enemy” would spring into action.
“No, nothing at all…maybe it wasn’t the right time of day.”
“No one would expect someone that was recently attacked to go out at this hour, after all.”
I didn’t expect much, but the results were really disappointing, so it had been a complete waste of time and effort.
I even started wondering why I decided to go out at a time like that.
“By the way, Your Highness, what time did you wake up?”
“I woke up at…around two, I think.”
Feli then turned towards the wooden clock hanging in my room. The short hand was pointing to five, while the long one was almost on twelve.
*groooowl…* The loud roar of a rumbling stomach echoed in the room.
The source was, naturally, the stomach of the man who woke up unusually early and went out for a walk.
Feli looked a little surprised at first, then her expression eased. Smiling at how hopeless I was, she spoke again.
“It’s still a little early, but let us have breakfast.”
I shouldn’t have done something I wasn’t used to…
I realized it very well at that time.
We headed to the palace’s large mess hall, which could accommodate up to 100 people. It was mainly used by those who worked in the palace, but I ate there fairly frequently, so I was very familiar with it.
The kitchen was locked, and only a select few had access to it.
“I’m not a cook, so I can’t prepare anything special, though.”
Feli, one of those “select few”, chuckled while she said this. Thirty minutes later…
She came out of the kitchen holding a large basket, containing about 10 slices of steaming bread.
The hall was already bright, illuminated by the dawn sunlight peeking through the windows. The knights were already training outside. People trickled in the hall little by little.
“Have as much as you like, Your Highness.”
I was sitting at a table, staring at the kitchen. Feli walked towards me and put down the basket on the table.
The bread’s faint scent spread all around.
“I’ll do just that.”
I reached for a piece of bread shaped like a screw. I bit onto the piping hot piece and heard a pleasant crunch.
“…hm, pretty good.”
I chewed more slowly, to savor the taste, then expressed my opinion as soon as I swallowed. Feli looked very pleased.
You’re not going to eat? I meant to ask.
She simply kept watching as I ate.
The bread in the basket was definitely for more than one person. I thought she had made it for us to eat, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
“I just made too much, so I— ”
Feli looked like she was holding back, so I picked up a piece of bread and thrust it at her.
“It’s lonely to eat by myself, so join in.”
“Besides, it’s awkward if you keep looking at me like that.”
When I thrust the piece of bread in Feli’s direction, inviting her to eat, she decided to give up.
Feli chuckled, said “Pardon me, then” and sat on the seat opposite to mine.
“How’s Stenn doing?”
I started the conversation, asking about my older brother. I had not seen him since we were both scolded by our father.
“Do you want to know?”
Feli was clearly enjoying the situation.
Her expression signaled that something amusing had definitely happened to him.
My interest was thus piqued, so I nodded to her while continuing to eat.
“Don’t push yourself, you’re still recovering. Don’t drag Fay into your schemes. Prince Grerial’s preaching continued for hours, it seems.”
“Aah…as expected from Grerial…”
“He eventually started crying, saying that he really regretted it all, imploring Grerial to set him free.”
Stenn would definitely say something like that, Feli and I agreed and laughed together.
Less than one hour passed since we had breakfast.
It happened all of a sudden.
We heard a loud bang-like sound, as if the two doors leading from the corridors to the mess hall were slammed shut.
The mess hall was usually open at all times, to be available for those who trained or stood guard at night.
Its doors were also always left open, to let anyone inside respond quickly to any situation.
This rule was just broken, however: it was easy to suspect something was going on.
A suspicion that soon enough changed into certainty.
A black, human-like mass. Something I had seen before.
The thing that changed shape and vanished when I used my “Spada – Shadow Bind” the day before. Several of them were now surrounding us. Since they had appeared so suddenly, I concluded they were probably transparent until then.
“They’re the same…!!”
Feli noticed them too and reacted with a surprised exclamation.
She surely did not even consider the possibility that we could be attacked here. I couldn’t conceal my surprise either.
It didn’t show on my face, though, thanks to the fact that I was paying close attention to our surroundings since we arrived in the mess hall.
And because I didn’t have the luxury to act surprised.
“They’re fifteen…a lot.”
I spoke with the intent to share the information with Feli too.
That was the number of silhouettes I could see.
At that moment, I thought I heard a voice.
— Don’t trust your eyes. Don’t trust your nose. Don’t even trust your ears. Trust only the instincts you trained in battle.
“Yeah, I know. I know it very well.”
I put a hand on the “Spada” at my waist and felt a smile appear on my lips, despite how badly it suited our current predicament.
At the same time, I started silently analyzing the situation.
The missing pieces came together one by one, forming a theory.
Why did Stenn decide to investigate the enemy in a way that would stand out?
Why did he use his magic like that, as if he wanted to show it off?
He was the kind of person that wouldn’t do anything without reason.
If Stenn had shown off his power, presenting himself as a threat, then *happened* to be confined to his quarters, thus luring the enemy into acting…
That brother of mine would definitely do something like this.
Additionally, we were attacked by the bomber shortly after we left the palace.
Meaning that it was highly likely for the perpetrator to be someone inside Diestburg.
In such a case, smoking them out would require a sacrifice.
“That damn Stenn…”
You don’t pull your punches, do you?
I finally realized that he asked if I could kill because he would sic the attacker on me. As roundabout as ever…I muttered under my breath.
If my theory was correct, my father was in on the plan too.
It was even possible that the time of the preaching was calculated too.
The more my theory formed in my head, I felt it weigh heavily in my gut. Oh, they were going to pay…
“Anyway…so it was you.”
The rumors about me being a “Hero” had already spread far beyond my control. Not everyone believed them in the same way, but it was natural to use them as a basis to be wary of me.
The explosion that time, however, was a long-range attack through and through.
The bomber had no intentions of fighting me in close quarters, as if they knew I fought using my “Spada”, a sword, as my main weapon.
Ever since I returned to Diestburg, I only wielded my “Spada” on the day of the explosions.
“I didn’t dislike you, though.”
I focused my nerves and picked up one presence.
A presence I knew, located precisely in my blindspot.
Stenn and I were confined to our rooms, prohibited from contacting each other, for one day only.
Including the fact that they chose that very day to act, my conclusion was firm.
“You joined the troops going to Rinchelle because you were charged with spying on Grerial or me, I guess?”
The familiar face appeared from behind a door, my blindspot.
I thought about what words to continue with for a moment.
“Mister male knight?”
I called to the knight I had become somewhat familiar with in Rinchelle.
“I didn’t dislike you either, actually…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, though.”
Your Highness, he added.
He addressed me and spoke in the exact same way as he did while we were fishing in Rinchelle.
I could feel a sort of bleak sadness in his tone, though. It probably wasn’t my imagination.