She and the Unexpected Reunion
After having some pleasant tea, we left Ms. Delris’s house and leisurely walked around the town.
It was just the right time for afternoon tea, so I was thinking that we could go to my Japanese café, but Freed had another suggestion.
“Lidi, I’m sorry, but could we drop by the guard station?”
“The guard station?”
The guard station was where soldiers guarding the town were stationed. They were known simply as guards, and patrolled the town and listened to the concerns of the residents. They played the role of police from my previous life. They reported to the knights of the Royal Guards, who reported to Glenn, the knight commander.
Glenn was the main person responsible for the security of the royal capital.
There were five guard stations in each district. Freed was heading to the biggest station in the south district which was near the outer gate.
We were walking with our hands joined together, and I tilted my head.
“That’s unusual. Why do you want to go there?”
“I received a slightly concerning report yesterday, so I want to go over it as soon as possible.”
“‘A concerning report’? Should I really be coming with you, then?”
It’d be better if I weren’t there if it was about work, so I thought I’d wait at my café until he finished, but Freed said.
“Lidi, I want you to come too.”
“… All right.”
I didn’t know Freed’s intentions, but he wouldn’t invite me without a reason, so I obediently nodded.
Moreover, I was genuinely interested in learning more about the guard stations.
Even though I knew what kind of place the guard stations were and where to find them, I’d never had a reason to go to one. I often saw guards, but I’d never been to their post.
I was immensely curious about what kind of place it was.
Freed led me by the hand towards our destination. It was a two-story building right by the southern gate. On the roof, the Royal Guard Order flag fluttered, depicting a white lily and a dragon.
Two soldiers stood at the entrance.
The soldiers were wearing uniforms, unlike those of the Royal Guard Order. They were wearing navy blue uniforms, peaked caps, and mantles, showing that they belonged to guards.
“This is the guard station, huh…”
“Exactly. Let’s go.”
Urged on by Freed, together we walked towards the soldiers standing at the entrance.
When they noticed our approach, they tilted their heads and, after a pause of realization, loudly shouted, “Ah!”
“Your Highness! Princess Consort!”
Freed had black hair, so they didn’t immediately recognize him. However, they were regulars at the castle, so they were familiar with the face of their prince. As soon as they noticed, they bowed to him.
“Is the guard captain here? I’d like to discuss the matter reported yesterday.”
“We’ll send word immediately! Your Highness didn’t need to trouble himself with coming here, he’d have gone to the castle the moment he was called upon!”
“I happened to be in the area, as I’m on a date with my wife, so you needn’t worry.”
“Certainly. W-What… about the man behind you?”
Apparently, they hadn’t met Cain yet, so Freed answered their question.
“He’s Lidi’s exclusive bodyguard. I’d hate if anything happened to my consort, so I hired somebody skilled. It goes without saying, our fathers are already aware.”
“My apologies for asking an unnecessary question.”
After learning that the King knew, the soldiers bowed timidly.
I was gratified that Cain was introduced to the King and my father. Though it was not the intended result, thanks to that, I could take him with me openly.
“It feels weird that I don’t need to hide.”
“Right? You used to always follow me in secret.”
While I was having a hushed conversation with Cain, the front door opened and a man wearing a different colored cap than the others stepped out. I’d seen his face before.
He was the guard captain who had come after I’d been attacked in town.
The guard captains knelt on the spot in a fluster. Freed told him to stand up and got to the heart of the matter.
“I want to hear about the report you submitted to the castle. Do you have time?”
“O-Of course I do. Please come inside! The Princess Consort as well.”
We entered inside after the guard captain.
It was interesting to enter the guard station for the first time. Right by the entrance, there was a service counter manned by a soldier that citizens probably utilized. Inside the building there were no gaudy decorations or ornaments, only the bare minimum of functionality. The floor was covered with a thin carpet, and there were plenty of simple tables and chairs on it. On the stone wall hung a bulletin board with notices.
While we walked behind the guard captain, the soldiers bowed one after another as they saw us. Some of them didn’t know our identities, but those nearby held their heads down.
It’s not their fault that the new guards weren’t familiar with the black-haired Freed.
Be that as it may, those who had been there longer would probably scold them later. I felt a little pity for them, because they’d be chided for not recognizing the prince of their country in disguise, but since his face was unchanged, I understood that not recognizing his face was an issue.
“This way please, Your Highness.”
Guided by the guard captain, we climbed the narrow stairs behind the counter. His room was right by the stairs.
I was surprised since I thought he would have the innermost room, so Freed turned back to me and explained.
“The innermost room is for the knights coming from the castle. He’s certainly the person in charge here, but the Castle dispatches several knights from the Royal Guard Order as well. He’s certainly important as the liaison between us and the guards, but the knights are ranked higher.”
“I see. Does Glenn occasionally come here, as well?”
When I mentioned the name of the Royal Guard Order Commander, the captain leading us (apparently he’s referred to as Howl) shuddered.
“A-Absolutely not! The commander himself would never come! When I want to contact the commander, it is the norm to request the knights stationed here.”
“Therefore, I never expected Your Highnesses to come here directly today… I apologize for the delayed welcome.”
“I didn’t contact you, so don’t worry about it.”
“Eh, Freed, you didn’t?”
I thought he’d already given a notice that he’d be coming, but Freed shrugged his shoulders.
“I had time off yesterday, so I only skimmed reports at night when I had some time. His report especially caught my eye. I thought about dropping by here since we’d be going out to town, but I didn’t have time to announce my visit, and I wasn’t sure about our schedule.”
“Hmm. What was the report about?”
I was only told to come with him, so I wanted to at least ask that, but Freed just replied, “Let’s talk about it once we enter the room.”
I nodded to him, and we entered the captain’s room and sat on the sofa for visitors. Cain stood behind me and Freed like it was natural.
Freed held my hand and began, “So?”
“Captain Howl. I’m sorry, but can you explain from the beginning? I want my consort to understand everything, starting from the contents of yesterday’s report. Is that fine?”
The captain nodded. Then he nervously began talking.
“As a matter of fact, it started some time ago, outside the royal capital. A beast began to appear in the vicinity of the outer gate.”
The term ‘beast’ made me tilt my head.
“It wasn’t something like a magical beast?”
“I wonder. It might be, but we haven’t received any reports of it using magic, which is why I called it a beast. However, I’ve heard rumors that it can speak human language. It’s large and its whole body is covered in dark fur. It warns and attacks people who hold malicious or dangerous intent. It has no companions and always acts on its own. I thought it was a bad joke when I first heard about it, but people who were harmed by it began appearing. Some were merchants who were trying to smuggle goods, so it benefited us, but as it kept happening, I decided to report it to Your Highness.”
“A beast that can speak human language…”
I’d heard about that somewhere. Thinking that made me remember my friend, Tiris, who had mentioned it at a tea party before.