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The Slave Trade
Turning back the pages, to the time before Anderheim and Jolga would be in attendance at the dog show.
Inside the red and white striped tent.
To think guard duty would be this tiring, Lutora sighed in the corner of his mind, gazing off into the distance.
As a squad leader within the Royal Knights, Lutora usually chose to stop by during guard duty in order to put pressure on anyone who held ill will towards the Crown Prince. Both Sigurd and Jolga had done the same, but this time the circumstances were different. Instead, Lutora was stationed behind His Highness, deliberately wearing an armet to hide his face.
Crown Prince Vikram sat in the VIP seats situated directly in front of the circus’s mainstage with his fiancee, Nasha Laturi, beside him. As amazing acrobatic feats were performed on stage one after another, the circus-loving Crown Prince watched eyes shining with delight. Next to him, Nasha would occasionally cling onto His Highness and shriek, seemingly losing interest during the second half of the performance. Calling on the waiting maids to bring drinks and even snacks for her to devour. Oblivious to the chilly stares from the audience seated around her.
(…She’s more shameless than I had thought.)
Nasha was snuggled close to the Crown Prince, showing off their mutual love, when her sister had been sentenced to Donna’s Penalty just over a month ago. It was said that Nasha no longer visited the sleeping Melia, who lay in the Dragon Priestess’s room in the Shrine, alive despite being unable to wake. Although she had condemned Lutora for being unable to save Melia, and persecuted Morino for his ineptitude, she already seemed to be over it.
“I will be happy in Melia’s place!”, Nasha had declared in a huff to her tutor snapped their pointer and retorted, “Then you should be taking your queen lessons properly.” At the time Nasha had immediately complained to His Highness, and the tutor who had succeeded a number of predecessors, instead was content with being fired and left the castle.
Less than two months remained until the Dragon Festival.
The day after the festival, the Crown Prince’s coronation ceremony would be held, and on the same day he would be wed to his fiancee Nasha. In other words, from that day forward, Nasha would no longer be the “country bumpkin fiancee” and instead become the “queen”. Did she properly understand the weight of that responsibility?
On the other hand the preparations to save Julieta, who had become the Sacrificial Priestess in Nasha’s place, were proceeding smoothly.
While His Highness and Nasha were enjoying the circus, Sigurd and Julieta should have snuck into the royal castle’s treasury with Morino’s guidance and identified the circlet to be returned to the Ancient Dragon. Since it’s Sigurd, they should have successfully pulled off the mission.
During Melia’s case, Nasha had branded Lutora as a traitor and by all rights, shouldn’t be fit to be His Highness and Nasha’s bodyguard. While the Crown Prince trusted Lutora, his fiancee glared at him like he was her sworn enemy causing problems to arise during his escort duty. However, his father, the Knight Captain, and former Prime Minister Anderheim had an appointment and as a result, unfortunately for Lutora, couldn’t take on the duties of a bodyguard. While he thought it wouldn’t be difficult and had wanted to leave the duty to the Royal Knights, the squad leaders who led the knights in their absence begged for mercy.
Led around by Nasha’s selfishness, the knights were utterly exhausted.
In her words, the knights on escort duty should be a rotation of only good looking young men.
In her words, the female knights were unwomanly, violent people who swung swords, and thus didn’t want them to be around her at all.
In her words, since she was to be queen soon, she wanted her own special knights, instead of just His Highness’s. Of course, she wanted to be able to choose them herself.
She only made her tutors angry during the queen lessons, behaved thoughtlessly when she went to the nobles’ salon, and even pushed all preparations for the royal tea party onto the maids. Since she had neglected to even look into those invited, the party turned out poorly. The noble ladies had been angered by their treatment, and once they had calmed down, were dumbfounded. Lamenting the future of the kingdom with such a person as queen.
“We’re troubled too… Lady Nasha would immediately come to the knights’ guardroom with a request as soon as she encountered a problem. Just the other day, she wanted to eat a limited time cake at a new cafe in the capital, and requested we buy it for her.”
“Because if she’d asked the maids to do it, the tutors would find out. We’re not her slaves, goddammit.”
“Nowadays, our only solace is the days we’re on duty at the shrine… Amy will be discharged soon, right? Lutora, do you know what flowers she likes?”
“Seriously, His Eminence and the kids are such a comfort. It would have been nice if we’d started getting along earlier.”
Amongst the knights, there had been a particular young man, with both good sword skills, looks, and a promising future, who Nasha had requested to be her personal knight. It would’ve been fine, but for some reason, he was forced to break up with his girlfriend and serve only her. Full of distrust, he ended up quitting the knights altogether. As he had been a knight whose future they were looking forward to, both Lutora and Jolga were disappointed when they received the report.
His colleagues despaired, unsure of what they would be asked to do within the tent. Unable to abandon them with a “Good luck”, Lutora ended up stuck as His Highness and Nasha’s guard, his face hidden to prevent Nasha’s displeasure.
(Actually, at this time, I should have been with Malacia bringing the kids to watch the circus…)
Malacia had received an invitation to bring the children from an acquaintance in the circus. Bringing all of them out at once would be an ordeal, so the priests and temple knights set up a roster and planned to take the children to the circus in multiple groups. “Lutora, would you like to come with us on the day I’m in charge?”, came the offhanded offer and he had immediately agreed.
Lutora had been secretly excited, thinking it was a date, but was so disappointed that the calm Morino offered, “I’ll draw up a date plan for you next time, so this time, please work hard,” and other similar words of encouragement.
Right after he entered the tent as the Crown Prince’s guard, he had spotted Malacia leading the children.
After the children sat in their given seats, Malacia purposely took a route behind Lutora, who was standing behind the VIP seats. He should not have been able to see Lutora’s face in his armet, but Malacia faced Lutora as he passed, and whispered a kind “Good work”. Needless to say, with that phrase, Lutora’s mood immediately brightened.
The long, long period of suffering came to an end.
Leaving behind the VIP seats full of crumbs, Nasha and the Crown Prince left the circus tent hand in hand.
It was within their predicted timeframe, so Sigurd and Julieta should have both already returned to the Oswein mansion.
After sending His Highness and Nasha back to the royal castle, Lutora’s job would’ve ended too.
The knights escorted them, as they waved at the other spectators, to their carriage. After checking it for threats, they helped them into the carriage. and mounted the accompanying horses.
Just as Lutora was about to give the command to set off for the castle.
A knight doing the final checks of the tent ran towards Lutora in a panic.
With his name being called quietly so as not to let Nasha overhear, Lutora dismounted his horse. The knight beckoned him over after swiftly checking the surroundings, and whispered into Lutora’s ears what he had just witnessed.
“I saw it. When the Head Priest was about to leave the tent, he was called out to and grabbed by the arm. He left the children to the Temple Knights, and followed a familiar large-built man…That man was Demetesca.”
“That’s right…It was the notorious slave trader, Demetesca.”