And that was it. There was no grandiose farewell party being thrown, only me going around exchange greetings with those closely acquainted before setting out for the fief.
Everyone in my family along with all servants sent me off. Even though I were to “return” to the fief, for some reasons I felt a tinge of loneliness inside.
“…Milady. We will hasten our trip home in full measure. As uncomfortable as it would be, please put up with it anyhow.”
“It is fine, Tanya. Everybody here must be worrying about my safety, right? It wouldn’t feel right to make a fuss about it, though.”
Just as Tanya said, the trip is anything but a pleasant itinerary. I spent the entire daytime on carriage, only to rest incognito at local inns when night fell. Upon daybreak, we already set out with me on carriage. Days after days like that. It was tiring, but I didn’t complain since I was the reason for these to happen.
… Rather than that.
“Everyone, I am so sorry for putting you through such harsh time.”
While I could stay in good shape thanks to being on the carriage, the bodyguards had to accompany on horses tirelessly all day long. This trip must have taken quite a toll on them. A simple sorry would not suffice, hence I conveyed my apology during a few breaks we had on the way.
“Milady, there is no need to apologize, for we are Milady’s bodyguards after all.”
“An opponent that might be targeting me is an opponent to watch out for… Ryle and Dida, you guys are always gearing yourselves up for this, I suppose?”
As a close-knit bunch since childhood, having the capability to read those two’s atmosphere despite their nonchalant behavior is a must before being able to decipher Tanya’s deadpan face anyway.
Even though those two have never lost their composures, they were constantly being on guard during the whole trip. Gave off an incredibly tense feeling, to say.
To judge if there would be an attack or not, in what way if that was the case. A frontal onslaught, or perhaps sneaky attempts in darkness of the night? Will the opponent resort to violence, or will they use contraptions such as poison though? Whether it is contraption or sleight of hand, how much could they have at their disposal? Yelp, that kind of opponents in their minds.
To begin with, what if the opponent was the royalty… Many would have quickly abandoned such a troublesome master, and they could have gone anywhere they wanted – especially if it was Ryle or Dida. And yet here they are still following me, which makes me both happy and responsible at the same time.
While thinking of that, as if understanding my concern, Ryle came and kneeled before me.
“…I am honored to be your sword and shield, Milady. For long and from this moment onward, I serve to protect Milady’s safety and well-being.”
Standing beside Ryle, Dida also kneeled.
“…I am honored to be your sword and shield, Milady. For long and from this moment onward, as your servant I shall wield my sword for your sake, Milady.”
As soon as Dida finished his speech, the other guards also turned to me and gave their salutes. It was unusual seeing Dida not cracking a joke – which mildly surprised me, however the spectacle in front of my eyes came off as a true astonishment.
“Everyone, thank you so much.”
The short break came to an end, and once again I got on the carriage. Through the gap of the curtain, I absentmindedly took a peek at the scenery outside. Just a little more and we would arrive at the fief.
While on horseback, the guards maintained their positions side-by-side, making sure to encircle the carriage… Quite an ear-popping scene, I must say.
Suddenly Tanya pulled herself toward me, trying to keep my body as far from the window as possible. The carriage’s speed also went up considerably.
“…Right now, it seems like the guards are engaging in a battle.”
“Can you identify the assailant?”
“Not that I have in mind. However, based on their equipment, I assume they are not an established force though…”
It was silence inside the carriage from then on. An air of tension soon occupied the whole place. The carriage went through, trying to distance itself from the tumult.
Before long, the carriage slowed down to its original speed and came to a halt.
“Please wait for a while, Milady.”
Tanya seemed to be talking with Ryle outside.
“It appears that the situation is now under control.”
“I see. Is everyone safe?”
“Yes. You may call for report from Ryle, is that alright?”
I shifted from my position and approached Ryle. Apart from being a bit dirtier, Ryle didn’t seem to have any visible injuries, which is a great relief.
“My apology for still being on horse, Milady. Right now, we are annihilating the hostile force, and has conducted manhunt for the several remaining remnants.”
Annihilation – a word carries such great burden, especially to a person who once resided at a peaceful country like Japan. However, the happiness of driving off the crisis outweighed the concern. I hate to admit this, but the present “me” is no longer the same as the “me” in the previous world.
“I see… Thank you, truly. What about the casualty?”
“There are several people slightly wounded. However, the guards may resume their duties without problem.”
“It is good then… Regarding the assailant, have you learnt anything about them yet?”
“Regrettably no. From their equipment and movement, they appeared to be ordinary bandits… However, it is unclear whether they targeted us because we are nobles, or because their true objective was Milady though.”
Unfortunately, bandits still exist within this country, especially at fiefs’ border where public order is not so strongly maintained.
Nevertheless, were they just ordinary bandits who seek ransom by kidnapping nobles indiscriminately, or were they hired to make a move on me? If it was the latter case, I felt the attack by the queen and that sect’s subordinates was not serious enough though.
“My utmost apology. By all rights, we should have kept a few alive to interrogate…”
“It is fine. Considering the number of assailants, I deemed it would be difficult to even capture one. For now, aren’t we not so far from the fief? Since we plan to arrive at our destination before the day is over, let’s make it quick then. I will also express my gratitude to everyone thereafter.”
Once again, the carriage departed. It seemed like those who conducted manhunt has also returned to continue the trip.
…I want to return to the fief quickly.
My mind was occupied by such thought while being rocked by the carriage.