She and the Eighth Day
On the morning of our eighth day in Irvine, Freed and I were leisurely eating breakfast together.
Sitting side-by-side on a long sofa, we enjoyed a breakfast arranged on the table. I reached my hand for mango juice.
It was incredibly thick, and I felt nutrients permeate my body.
I nibbled on a slightly salty flat bread with finely chopped bacon and cheese inside. It was quite hearty and considerably tasty. While we were talking about our schedule over the meal, the door abruptly opened without knocking.
Startled by the loud voice, I almost dropped the bread.
Who came was Prince Hendrik. His breathing was uneven, perhaps from running as fast as he could. I could tell just by looking that something happened. His gaze immediately fell on Freed, and Freed shortly told the guards and court ladies around us.
Under Freed’s sharp gaze, they silently bowed and left the room. Only I, Freed, and Prince Hendrik were left.
“And? What the hell is this disturbance? It’s early in the morning.”
Freed asked without hiding his irritation. Prince Hendrik spoke with a face on the verge of tears.
“… Ophelia and Edward are gone.”
As I understood his words, I unconsciously looked at him in shock.
“What do you mean by Raid being gone!?”
Knowing that something happened to my important friend, I turned pale and was about to stand up from the sofa, when Freed hugged me.
“Lidi, calm down. Hendrik, we won’t understand with just that. Explain in order from the beginning. And then, say why you came to us.”
The calm voice must’ve made Prince Hendrik realize he also lacked composure. Looking like he calmed down, he blinked his eyes.
“Sorry. You’re right… I also lost my cool… Actually, I visited Ophelia’s room just before. I knew it was early in the morning, but I wanted to quickly report to my little sister about the results of persuading Edward. It took until late at night, so I couldn’t tell her right away…”
“Late at night…”
Did it take so long?
Seeing our surprise, Prince Hendrik nodded.
“Unexpectedly, it took a lot of time. When I told Edward that I wouldn’t consider him for my little sister’s marriage partner, he persistently wouldn’t agree. I also talked about the diary. That it wasn’t directed at him. When I said that it was a mere creative work, he returned, “No. It definitely spelled Lady Ophelia’s true feelings.” Even when I mentioned stealing the manuscript, he persisted, “I had no choice but to do that so we could be united in marriage.” I didn’t think words wouldn’t get through to him.”
My face unconsciously twitched as I heard about Edward’s behavior that exceeded my expectations. I looked at Freed. Sure enough, he also seemed surprised.
“Still, I somehow conveyed to Edward that my little sister wouldn’t do it and we finished talking. When I visited her room earlier to tell her the outcome, it was completely empty. Edward was also gone.”
“… Is it possible that Princess Ophelia spontaneously went out?”
Freed’s question was natural, but Prince Hendrik shook his head.
“No. Until now, Ophelia has never gone outside without saying anything. When she goes out, she always leaves a short note on her desk. There are no exceptions. I couldn’t find it anywhere this time, so I don’t think Ophelia left by her will.”
The note she usually leaves behind wasn’t there. And, Raid’s personal knight disappeared with her.
There’s unmistakably only one conclusion.
When I looked at Prince Hendrik, he nodded with a bitter face.
“That’s right. I think it’s most likely that Edward ran away taking Ophelia with him. The obsession he showed for Ophelia yesterday was certainly abnormal. He was saying that he’d give up, but that must’ve been a lie. Knowing that he couldn’t marry Ophelia, Edward must’ve run away with her.”
“… The possibility that the culprit is an outsider isn’t zero, right?”
As Freed asked, Prince Hendrik declared, “No way.”
“Edward, a knight of Irvine, is always at Ophelia’s side, right? Even at night he takes position in front of her door to protect my little sister. If he’d heard Ophelia calling for help, he’d have run in without hesitation. I’d only believe it was an outsider if his body was left in my little sister’s room. Ophelia and Edward being kidnapped together is virtually impossible. He’s without a doubt the country’s top knight.”
“I see. But Hendrik. To tell you the truth, it’s strange you let a person you knew was dangerous be near Princess Ophelia. It’s your fault.”
As Freed calmly pointed that out, Prince Hendrik looked like he was lost for words.
“… I can’t refute it. But, I was exhausted last night. Since I was persuading him until late at night, my fatigue reached its limit… I couldn’t think that far. I understand it’s no excuse though.”
Prince Hendrik admitted his own mistake and regretfully grimaced.
“When I saw Ophelia’s empty room, I finally realized I messed up. Flustered, I left the room as if nothing happened and immediately came here. I came here because I want to ask you for help. I don’t want it to become a major incident. If possible, I want to rescue Ophelia before anybody learns of it.”
Prince Hendrik nodded to Freed’s words.
“I’m sure nobody imagines Edward has kidnapped Ophelia. Aside from you, who’ve listened to our conversation yesterday, nobody knows how Edward really is. Moreover, if the kidnapping was known, Ophelia would surely be insulted more than ever… It would be questioned if she wasn’t made unmarriageable. I don’t want to see my little sister suffer from such rumors.”
Prince Hendrik’s worry was reasonable.
It’s the same everywhere, if a woman is kidnapped, her chastity is put under doubt.
I’ve heard that when I was kidnapped by Sahaja before, the King and Father carefully restricted information. My kidnapping is treated as top secret only known by a select few people.
Even though I’d slept with Freed many times until then and had the Royal Flower, I still received such treatment.
So what rumors would arise about Raid, who has no fiancé yet?
Even though she dresses like a man, she’s a fully-fledged woman. If she were to suffer from terrible rumors… I shiver just from imagining it.
That’s why I think Prince Hendrik’s decision was correct.
I reflexively looked at Freed.
I want to cooperate as much as possible, but Freed is my husband, and he’ll make the final decision. I can’t be selfish.
Still, I clingily called his name. He looked at me and nodded.
“I know. It’s okay, Lidi. Princess Ophelia is your important friend and Hendrik’s little sister. There’s no way I wouldn’t cooperate.”
Freed’s reassuring reply blew away my anxiety. I was comforted by it from the bottom of my heart.
A relieved expression also showed on Prince Hendrik’s face.
“Thank you, I’m saved. I understand that you’re foreigners, but I can only rely on you about Ophelia――”
“Save your thanks for when we find her. More importantly, Hendrik. Do you have any idea where Mister Lantinotz headed for?”
“I was thinking about it until I came here, but nothing came to mind. We have truly no idea no idea what Edward is thinking now…”
“No clues, huh…”
Prince Hendrik hung his head and Freed pondered about what to do. While watching their impatience, I suddenly realized.
Searching for a person without a lead. Isn’t the perfect person for that in Irvine now?
Moreover, he’s looking for work!
“Freed! What about Abel!?”
As I spontaneously stood up from the sofa and gave his name, Freed too must’ve realized it. He looked me in the eyes and nodded.
“You’re right. Making a request with him is probably the best way. Lidi, sorry, but could I ask you to send Cain to Abel’s inn?”
Just as I replied, Prince Hendrik interrupted us.
“W-Wait a moment. Um, who’s that Abel? I might have asked you to cooperate, but I want as few people as possible aware of this matter.”
Prince Hendrik’s concern was reasonable. Freed too stood up and gave a brief explanation.
“He’s an ex information broker from Sahaja. He gave us a lot of trouble some time ago. Now he’s escaped from Sahaja to Irvine. His skills are certain. Since we have no clues, I think it’s fastest to rely on him.”
“An information broker?”
As he listened to Freed’s explanation, the look in Prince Hendrik’s eye changed.
“Yeah. Moreover, he’s a remarkable one. Every second counts for finding Princess Ophelia. Am I wrong? I don’t think we can be picky about our means.”
Prince Hendrik resolved himself and agreed to Freed’s question.
“… Fine. I can’t go wrong with your recommendation… Please, do it.”
Prince Hendrik deeply bowed to me and Freed. Since he agreed, I called Cain.
Perhaps out of consideration for Prince Hendrik, Cain innocuously appeared on the balcony, not from the ceiling like usual.
The morning breeze felt pleasant, so the windows were open. Cain came in and, ignoring Freed and Prince Hendrik, looked at me.
“Please, Cain. I want to make a request for Abel. Raid is missing. The culprit is probably her personal knight. The kidnapping took place somewhen from late night yesterday to early morning. There are no clues. Sorry, but that’s all the information we have.”
After I quickly gave him the minimum necessary information, Cain’s eyebrows scrunched.
“Personal knight, so that dangerous guy, right? Princess, how much can you pay Abel for the information?”
I immediately answered Cain.
“As much as he asks. It doesn’t matter how much it is, so tell him to find Raid. If he finds her, I’ll gladly give him a completion bonus.”
When I said that without hesitation, Cain made a surprised face.
“As much as he asks… Is that fine? He’ll rip you off for sure.”
“There’s no time to negotiate. I want to help my friend, so I’ll pay as much as needed. That’s why please. Could you tell him to be quick?”
“… Got it. Princess, if you say so, I’ll report it to him like that.”
Cain nodded and disappeared from the spot.
Freed came to my side.
“Lidi, don’t worry. I’ll pay all the cost.”
I knew he was being considerate of me, but I shook my head.
“It’s fine. Raid is my friend. I won’t ask you for money to save my friend.”
“No, I’ll pay.”
It was Prince Hendrik who cut into our conversation.
“I can pay all the cost. No, I want to pay it. It’s for helping my little sister. It’s only natural. Of course, it doesn’t matter how much it is.”
“Your Highness Hendrik… I understand.”
Since Prince Hendrik wants to do it for his little sister’s sake, I nodded. I would also like to pay for it myself in his position.
Freed told Prince Hendrik.
“Also… That’s right. Hendrik. Can you change your and my plans for today? Make it so I’ll go observe the Royal Capital with you as a guide, and that Princess Ophelia will spend the whole day with Lidi. Saying that will buy us some time.”
“Yup, you’re right. I’ll do that. Sorry, but I’ll use your name, Princess Lydiana.”
“It’s alright. I didn’t have anything planned today from the start.”
When I nodded. Prince Hendrik immediately tried to leave the room. Freed called him to stop.
“What? I’m in a hurry.”
“Sorry, but I’ll explain the situation to Alex, my close aide. Changes to today’s schedule must go through him. He won’t agree to them without an explanation, and if he’s aware of the situation, he can work around us going out to rescue Princess Ophelia. He excels at such things.”
Prince Hendrik nodded in agreement to Freed.
“Got it. Certainly, it will be exposed that Ophelia is gone if we don’t even have one collaborator. I understand.”
After saying that, Prince Hendrik left the room.
I was left alone with Freed. Tingly gripping his arm, I clung to him.
I was worried, so it couldn’t be helped.
“Who would’ve thought Raid would be kidnapped…”
The leisurely breakfast we were eating before feels like a lie. But, this is reality.
Raid has been kidnapped and is currently missing. We have no idea where she is.
While I was praying for my friend’s safety from the bottom of my heart, Freed said.
“Lidi. I understand you’re worried, but we need to keep it together at such times.”
It’s as Freed said.
Even if I panic here, it won’t help Raid. Isn’t the only thing I can do now is to be ready to go out at any time?
However, it’s very hard to wait.
Watching the window Cain left through, I let out a small breath.
“… I hope Abel finds Raid.”
It’s a desperate situation without any clues.
For Raid’s sake, we need to find her as quickly as possible.
Right now, we have no choice but to hope Abel can tell us where Raid is.