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The Sage and The Sword Saint

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Chapter 4

On the edge

 

It all began that afternoon, when suddenly they heard dragon carriages approaching the Mansion.

 

"Were we supposed to have guests now, Carol-san?", Ezzo asked.

 

"No, we haven't been informed of any guests arriving today, especially since both the Young Master and Felt-sama are absent today."

 

"Then who could it be?" Ezzo peaked curiously from inside the kitchen as Carol went to the entrance, to greet the uninvited guests.

 

As the guests entered the Mansion, Ezzo and Carol felt a surge of anxiety fill them as the guests' faces came into view.

 

"Carol-sama, it's been a while.", 'The Finest of Knights', Julius Juukulius, spoke as he gave an elegant bow. "I must say, it seems as though your loveliness has only further enhanced since the last time we met. It truly is quite hard to believe that you are no longer in your prime."

 

"Please stop with the flattery, Sir Juukulius. I believe it was informed to the Royal Knights two days ago that the Young Master was visiting the Royal Capital. So, what exactly is the purpose of your visit?", Carol narrowed her eyes as she sized up Julius and the knights behind him. 

 

Ezzo too felt it was incredibly suspicious that knights had arrived at a time when neither Reinhard nor Felt was present, when they had been already informed of their visit.

 

"I have no easy way to say this but…..", Julius spoke avoiding eye contact, "I regret to inform you that…. the Sin Archbishop we had captured in Priestella had escaped four days ago. ….That is the reason we are here."

 

While Carol managed to keep her stoic demeanour, Ezzo, who was overlooking the conversation from the kitchen, was terrified. He was glad that at least the knights couldn't see him.

 

"I am sorry, Sir Juukulius. I still fail to see the purpose of your visit."

 

"I apologise for not being very clear. …..But as I have mentioned before, we are here to search for Sin Archbishop."

 

"And as I have mentioned before, the Young Master had departed for the Royal Capital this morning. If you wish to request his assistance, you'll have a better chance if you return back to where you came from."

 

"Hey lady, aren't you being extremely impolite to your guests? It almost makes us believe that our suspicions are correct. If you are hiding that scum, confess now and we'll let you off. But, if you deny it and we find him in the Mansion, we'll make sure to arrest all of you.", a knight with blonde hair, standing beside Julius, threatened Carol.

 

"If that Sin Archbishop has managed to escape, it showcases your own incompetence. Now, not only have you arrived very conveniently during the Young Master's absence, you are also accusing him of harbouring a Sin Archbishop. I believe I have every reason to be angry." 

 

"I apologise for Finn's behaviour. And I understand your anger, but please understand. This Archbishop was extremely injured to have escaped on his own. One of the guards informed us he may have seen someone flying that day. Besides Margrave Mathers, Reinhard is the only person in the Kingdom who can fly. Honestly, it wouldn't be too surprising if Reinhard did save that Cultist after he had defended him back in Priestella."

 

"----" 

 

So, there was no actual evidence present. It was just speculation based on testimony by a guard.

 

"Unfortunately, we cannot bring a lot of knights to search this place simply on grounds of suspicion. So, only Finn and Zacharias have come here with me. Of course, Wilhelm-sama and another group of knights are on standby in Hakuchuri. We have communication mirrors to contact them immediately." 

 

'----That traitor!!' Carol thought as she silently cursed under her breath.

 

"If you are hiding him in this mansion, I suggest you surrender him immediately. If you don't and he is discovered here later, it will gravely affect Felt-sama's candidacy. …..There are already rumours of Felt-sama having connections to Valga Cromwell floating around the Sage Council. Bordeaux-sama seems especially angry by this. This could permanently disqualify her from the Royal Selection."

 

Carol had to desperately fight against the urge to facepalm. She wondered what she had done to have reached a point in life where her own friends were against her. While she was aware that most knights didn't really like Heinkel or Reinhard, she hadn't expected Julius of all people to be the one threatening them. 

 

"Please let us search the mansion. Your refusal will only serve to further confirm our suspicions, in which case, we will have to return back with more knights."

 

Carol's expression had not changed much since the beginning of the conversation, but Ezzo was sure she was boiling in anger at that point. Maybe because Ezzo felt the same way. He was now beginning to understand what had happened to that boy back in Priestella.

 

"Fine then. We will allow you to search the Mansion." As soon as Carol consented, albeit reluctantly, leading them into the parlour, while signalling Ezzo, who she was aware had heard the entire conversation. He began running the fastest he's ever ran before.

 

He soon managed to bump into Gaston and the others, and told them of the situation as they rushed into his room.

 

*******************************

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"Hey you, get up! No time to relax now! We're in big trouble!", Camberley said as they all suddenly burst into Subaru's room.

 

"Huh? What's going on?" Subaru looked at them in confusion, closing the book he was reading and putting it on top of the pile of books that Reinhard had given him in case he got bored. 

 

"Julius-san is here with two other Royal Knights looking for you! Please get up quick! We need to hide you!", Ezzo spoke, breathing heavily. 

 

"....Julius is here? ….How did he know where-", Subaru asked them guiltily but was stopped.

 

"That's not the problem right now! We need to hide you before they find out! If they find out, they might just arrest us as well!" Ezzo begged him to hurry up. "We'll head to the study for now. There's a secret passage to the outskirts of Flanders there." 

 

As he heard Ezzo explain about the secret passage while running, it reminded Subaru of the secret passage in the Roswaal Mansion. Apparently, the houses of most noblemen had secret passages that allowed them to escape in case of an emergency.

 

"Looks like someone's coming up. Hide!", Rachins suddenly pointed out as he pushed Ezzo and Subaru into a nearby empty guest room.

 

Although he was not spotted for now, it was only a matter of time before one of the knights arrived there, opened the door and saw Subaru inside. As they desperately looked around, searching for a hiding place, Subaru's gaze fell upon the bedsheets.

 

He silently walked over to the bed, while the other two inside the guest room silently listened through the door as one of the knights approached the two remaining members of the TonChinKan trio outside. 

 

Although they were doing their best to distract him, Ezzo and Rachins were at a loss on what to do. Hiding the boy under the bed was the best they could think of. However, when they turned to look at Subaru, to their complete surprise, he had tied one end of the sheets to the curtain rod while the other end was left dangling outside.

 

He partially pulled the curtains to cover the sheets from being seen. Then gripping on to the bedsheets, " Bon voyage! ", he said as he jumped out the window while the other two just watched him with their jaws dropped. 

 

Just as he jumped out, he heard the door open and the knight enter inside.

 

Hanging outside just below the window, he could see Rachins moving closer, probably to stop the knight from coming any closer. Honestly, they had nothing to worry about. He had made sure to properly hide the bedsheet from view and he was sure no one in their right minds would look for a missing person outside the window of a second floor bedroom.

 

And then it hit him. He was hanging on a bedsheet below the window of a bedroom on the second floor of the mansion! Glancing down, a shiver ran down his spine.

 

'This is definitely the stupidest thing I've ever done!' He paused for a second and shook his head vigorously. '.....No, scratch that, I've done a lot of stupid things. This is definitely one of the stupidest things I've ever done!'

 

Back at home, Subaru had watched a lot of anime where he'd seen characters use bedsheets as a rope and escape through a window and he admits that he had always wanted to try it out at least once. But now that he was actually doing it, he wanted to cry.

 

The sheets were not long enough to even reach the first floor like he had intended, his feet barely touching the first floor window. He had just recovered and his arms were already starting to get fatigued. At least, hanging on using sheets was a lot easier than hanging on by just gripping on the window sill.

 

'Hurry up and drive him away already!' He could hear them talking but he wasn't in the condition to be able to pay attention to their conversation.

 

As he hung on the edge hearing them talking, doubts began filling up his mind. They weren't planning on abandoning him now, were they? 

 

His grip was beginning to loosen. He looked down and two possibilities arose in his mind.

 

The best case scenario would be if he fell down and died. He would just Return by Death and maybe try to do everything better next loop.

 

The worst case scenario would be if he fell down and broke a few bones, but somehow ended up not dying. He had to prevent this possibility at all costs. 

 

Summoning all the strength he could, he climbed up slightly, wrapping his legs and one arm around his makeshift rope and steadied himself. But before he could release his other hand, he felt himself being pulled up along with the sheets.

 

It looked like the knight had left and he heaved a sigh of relief as his feet were once again on the firm ground. He was never going to do that ever again.

 

"Subaru-san, that was amazing!", Ezzo suddenly exclaimed, surprising Subaru.

 

"It was!?"

 

"Hey, keep your voices down!", Rachins warned them, but then immediately nodded his head. "But yeah! We were just thinking of hiding you under the bed or inside the closet, but those were like the first places they looked. Your idea was totally awesome!"

 

Well if that's what they thought, he definitely wasn't going to refute it.

 

"It looks like they're already gone from this floor.", the door opened and Rom came in.

 

"So quickly!"

 

"It was really weird! That brown-haired knight came here with that purple-haired knight, searched just this room and left. Not that I'm complaining. The path is clear to go down now.", Camberley said from behind Rom. "Follow us!"

 

As they were going down, Subaru, who had been hanging outside a window, was already tired and moving very sluggishly.

 

"That's it! If you run like that, we're definitely gonna get caught" Rom picked up Subaru as they ran away from his room.

 

"My pride as a man!"

 

"Kid, if being carried like this makes you lose your pride as a man, you lost it the day both Reinhard and Remendis carried you to bed after your rescue."

 

"----Ahh!? I was princess-carried by an old lady!? Why did you have to tell me Old Man Rom! I would have lived happily not knowing that!"

 

"Stop being so annoying! You can't run on your own so I have no choice but to carry you!"

 

"Hey, old man, that brown-haired knight is coming up again!", Camberley noticed as he peaked down from the top of the stairs.

 

They once again hurried into another room and closed the door as Rom put Subaru down.

 

"This is the first time in my life I'm glad that this mansion has so many rooms.", Rom said as he turned to Subaru. "But, where are we going to hide him?"

 

As he looked at their panicking faces, Subaru felt extremely guilty for giving them so much trouble.

 

"Should I surrender myself? …..Maybe they'll let you go after that?"

 

Camberley and Rom were shocked speechless on hearing Subaru's suggestion.

 

"If we weren't trying to hide right now, I would have smacked you, Subaru-sama!", an angry voice sounded from outside the window. 

 

"......Wha- …..Carol-san? You can fly?"

 

"Of course not! I'm on a ladder. They are most likely headed this way! Cromwell, open this window quickly and Subaru-sama, follow me!", Carol told them.

 

"Don't call me that!!", Rom glared as he opened the window. 

 

"I am serious! Why are you helping me? I am nothing but trouble! Just let me go, I'll fix everything somehow!", Subaru insisted.

 

"----Argh, just shut your mouth up! I don't know why I'm helping you, alright! I admit I don't know if I can trust you, but I'm not ungrateful! Just think of this as me repaying the debt from earlier today!", Camberley responded.

 

"----"

 

"Now's not the time to argue, Subaru-sama.", Carol said as she grabbed his arm and urged him to follow her.

 

"----. Carol-san, why are you helping me? All of you are in trouble because of me. You can just leave me here and I'll fix everything somehow.", Subaru reiterated his earlier proposal as they climbed down the ladder.

 

Carol kept quiet and didn't answer his question. When they finally reached the ground, "Flam, please take this ladder back to your grandfather. Grassis, please look out for the knights.", she said as they slowly moved along the walls of the mansion.

 

"Caro-"

 

"I know you have stolen the knife, Subaru-sama."

 

'She knows!' , Subaru gasped. He had stolen a knife and he was caught. He was now certain that she was going to hand him over to the knights. Maybe this was a good thing. They don't have to be troubled by him any longer.

 

"You are a suspected Archbishop and during your recovery, you stole a knife. No matter how you see it, it seems incredibly suspicious. In addition to that, we know absolutely nothing about your origins. So, in this situation the best course of action would be to offer you to the knights and when the Young Master and Felt-sama come back, convince them that it was the right decision."

 

"----"

 

"That's what you want us to do as well, correct?"

 

"....Y- yes."

 

"Subaru-sama, then why do you look so hurt right now, when I suggested it?"

 

"....No, th- ….that's no-"

 

"Subaru-sama, you're forty years too early to think you're capable of fooling me. You may think you've been hiding it well, but ever since you woke up, all I could see was a child afraid of getting hurt again. If you surrender yourself, no one else can betray you."

 

"----"

 

"It's not a crime to be afraid. If the knife with you makes you feel safe, please keep it with you. ----However, even if you do not completely trust us to protect you, we will still do it."

 

He could not understand. Why were they helping him so much? Rem and Ram didn't trust him back then. Garfiel didn't trust him in the Sanctuary. Emilia and Beatrice didn't believe him in Priestella. So why were these people being so kind to him?

 

"With how smart you are, I am sure you will be able to clear all of our names."

 

"Then-"

 

"However, I refuse to let you surrender yourself. Subaru-sama, whatever I am doing at this moment is based on what I have observed so far. I refuse to let preconceived notions of others dictate my actions. I am sure it is the same for all of us here. None of us, after interacting with you, believe you are an Archbishop."

 

"----"

 

"I do not deny the fact that you are a rather troublesome individual, but you certainly do not deserve the hell that is being presented to you."

 

Hot droplets fell down Subaru's cheeks. In his opinion, Subaru believed he deserved all the suffering given to him for failing everyone so many times. Yet, these people he had met very recently, believed he did not deserve it. Would they change their mind if they knew what kind of a disgusting person he was? 

 

"Also….", Carol opened her mouth but----,

 

"Grandmother, someone's here!" Grassis spotted the knights coming closer and told them to turn around.

 

Their conversation ended there as they moved as quietly as possible, ducking under the windows to avoid being seen, while Grassis checked inside each window, trying to find out how to get furthest away from the knights. 

 

However, everytime they thought they had managed to get away from them, the brown-haired knight would immediately show up followed by Julius, forcing them to turn around and move in the opposite direction.

 

"How on earth are they finding us so easily, in the first place? This mansion is huge and yet, they are narrowing down the areas to search so easily. We're already outside. Should I maybe try running away from the mansion?", Subaru asked.

 

"That is a bad idea. It will become easier to spot you the further you move away from the mansion. There's also an extra group of knights led by Wilhelm waiting a little distance away. So, you cannot run away from the mansion."

 

"But this doesn't seem to be leading us anywhere. Just how are they finding us?"

 

"It's probably that brown-haired knight, Zacharias' divine protection. I overheard them earlier talking about some sort of Divine Protection of the Wind where he is able to detect movement by reading the movement of the wind. I was hoping it would be harder to detect movement outside, but….." 

 

"Sorry to disappoint you, but my Divine Protection of Wind Tracing is a lot stronger than that."

 

"--!!"

 

The three of them immediately turned around to see the brown-haired knight leaning out of the window, smugly. He had green eyes and was probably around a year or two younger than Subaru. 

 

Grassis immediately got ready to fight him, but he stopped her.

 

"Yeah, I'm going to stop right there! Are you Flam or Grassis? Doesn't really matter. Anyways, just wanted to say I'm deadweight when it comes to fighting." He continued to smile and suddenly pointed towards Subaru. "In fact, I'm even weaker than Subaru-senpai here. You trying to fight me will only draw attention here."

 

"Wha-mmm" Just as Subaru opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that, Zacharias quickly shut his mouth, putting his hand over it and signalled them to duck down.

 

"Zacharias, did you find something?", Julius asked from behind.

 

"Nope. Nothing here either, Julius-senpai. This is so boring! Can I just have a quick break here? I need a breath of fresh air."

 

"The two of you are supposed to be knights, yet you don't seem like you intend to correct your behaviour anytime soon." He sighed. ".....Fine, but don't take too long." With that, Julius left the area.

 

"It's fine now." Zacharias said, allowing the three hiding members to finally relax.

 

"Why did you help us? I thought you were here to capture me.", Subaru asked.

 

"I'll distract him here. You go that way. There shouldn't be anyone there. Hurry up!" Without answering, he simply asked them to leave.

 

But just as they were leaving----,

 

"Natsuki Subaru!", Zacharias called out and Subaru turned to see him. "After this is over, I'd really like to talk to you." He grinned like a child as he waved at them.

 

Confused about what was going on but not wanting to ruin his mood, Subaru nodded, "Um…. Sure", at the knight before turning around and leaving the area.

 

"Is he someone you know, Subaru-sama?"

 

"No, I've never met him before. I don't know how he knows me though. …..This is just a hypothetical question but….. if he hadn't helped us there, and we were caught, would it have been possible to beat them and wait for Reinhard to come back? I mean, there are nine of us and three of them…."

 

"It might have been possible if that Wilhelm wasn't nearby.", Carol sighed. "I wish Theresia-sama was here.", she said as her lips curved downwards.

 

"Carol-san?", Subaru looked at her in concern.

 

"It's nothing. Please don't worry about it.", she said, composing herself. "These cowards have come here during the Young Master's absence because it is only during this period that they have a chance of victory. …..Bordeaux-sama is just using your presence here as an opportunity to capture Cromwell and eliminate Felt-sama from the Royal Selection. He seems to hate her as much as he hates that half-elf."

 

"But is this really such a good idea? Aren't they afraid that if Reinhard gets angry-"

 

"I wish he would. At least that way, they would be more afraid of him. But unfortunately, the Young Master is not the kind of person who would get angry at someone else. They are simply taking advantage of that. If they are able to capture everyone here, he won't be able to move a finger. It would have the added benefit of the Kingdom being able to keep him on a tight leash."

 

"Grandmother! Here!", Grassis pointed to an empty window, and after making sure no one was there, they began to silently climb back in.

 

Suddenly, the bathroom door opened up and the blonde knight, Finn, came out.

 

"That took longer than I thought. I gotta go meet up with the other two."

 

The three froze. The three were trying to stay as quiet as possible. Fortunately for them, Finn had his back towards them and hadn't seen them yet.

 

The three were wondering what they could do to hide Subaru in that situation. But just as the knight put his hand on the door knob, the door slammed open at his face, knocking him out.

 

"That was not what I was planning, but looks like I got better results than expected!", their saviour exclaimed proudly.

 

""Ezzo!"", the three silently screamed in unison. 

 

"Ezzo, you're the best! If I'm honest, you didn't really seem like the reliable kind of guy! I am so glad I was wrong!", Subaru gave him a thumbs up.

 

"What!?"

 

"I agree. I never thought a day would arrive where I would be happy to see Ezzo-sama!", Carol agreed while the little Grassis nodded vigorously.

 

"Even Carol-san!?", Ezzo exclaimed. Carol sighed at his reaction and began to check the unconscious knight's condition. 

 

"How did you even know we were here?", Subaru asked. 

 

His question was immediately answered when Flam entered the room behind him. Flam and Grassis had the Divine Protection of Mindspeak which allowed them to communicate with each other via telepathy. Grassis must have informed her and Flam, who was sticking close to them from inside the Mansion called Ezzo and immediately came to their rescue.

 

"It looks like this knight won't stay unconscious for too long. Ezzo-sama, please lead Subaru-sama to the study. I'll deal with this knight here.", Carol requested Ezzo, to which he nodded.

 

But before they could leave, Grassis walked up to Subaru and tugged at his sleeves. 

 

"Huh, do you want something Grassis?", Subaru asked.

 

Grassis nodded her head and gestured to him to bend down. So, he did.

 

And to his surprise, she raised her hands and began patting his head.

 

"It will be alright, Subaru onii-san. You'll be safe soon."

 

".....Grassis?"

 

Subaru looked at her in confusion, while Carol, Flam and Ezzo smiled warmly at the scene.

 

"I guess she was also worried about you, Subaru-sama. The entire time we were hiding, she was on lookout duty, so she couldn't do much to help you."

 

When Subaru looked at Grassis, she simply nodded her head in confirmation at Carol's words.

 

".....I see. Thank you for worrying about me. But I'm fine now.", Subaru smiled lightly at her and patted her head. Then, getting up, he turned to Ezzo.

 

"Subaru-san, follow me!"

 

Subaru tiptoed around the unconscious knight and followed behind Ezzo. As they were heading to the study, a question arose in his mind.

 

"Hey Ezzo, won't Wilhelm-san know about this escape route? There might be guards on the other side, you know."

 

"No, he doesn't know. This route was built only recently after…. After what happened to Louanna-san. The escape route was built to be close to her room. Besides us, only Heinkel-san knows of this route."

 

"Louanna-san?"

 

"Reinhard's mother. She-"

 

"Is someone there?" Julius's voice sounded from behind them.

 

"Hide somewhere!" The panicking Ezzo immediately shoved Subaru into the nearest room and shut the door behind him. 

 

As soon as he got in, Subaru looked around the room he had entered. The room was dark, with curtains covering the windows, except for a single candle dimly illuminating the room. But what Subaru saw in that dimly lit room left him completely surprised. 

 

There was a beautiful woman with long golden hair, who seemed to be in her late twenties, sleeping peacefully, showing no signs of ever waking up. But what stuck out the most to him was the woman's resemblance to Reinhard.

 

"......Louanna-san?"

 

The sight made him feel nostalgic. Memories of the nights he had spent talking to a sleeping beauty like the one in front of him bubbled up in his mind. 

 

Why was she asleep? Was she also a victim of Gluttony? Had Reinhard also lost someone precious to him just like he had the day after they had defeated Petelgeuse?

 

He walked closer to her, observing her quiet breathing. He could hear people arguing outside the door. He chuckled ruefully at the irony of the situation. The whole mansion was in turmoil, and yet, this woman was sleeping peacefully, unaffected by it all.

 

Subaru could see no hiding places in the room except underneath the bed of the Sleeping Beauty. 'Sorry for disturbing you.' , he mouthed as he reached into his shirt pocket and quickly got under the bed, slightly pulling the sheets down from the sides to prevent the knights from noticing his hiding spot when they came in.

 

The voice outside the door, probably Julius, was growing more agitated the more Ezzo was preventing him from entering. This was the end. He was going to get caught soon. 

 

'Better now than never!' , he thought as he brought the edge of the knife closer to his neck. But then, his hands stopped.

 

----Where would his savepoint be after he Returned by Death?

 

Will all the memories he had made for the past three days disappear again? Will these new friends of his forget him again? Will they trust him again?

 

Just then, the door to the room burst open and Julius walked in. 

 

"Julius-san, please stop. You can't go in there.", Ezzo said desperately, still trying to stop him.

 

'----However, even if you do not completely trust us to protect you, we will still do it.'

 

Subaru smiled. All the mansion residents were trying to help him, even though they knew nothing about him. Even now, Ezzo still hadn't given up, still trying to delay the purple-haired knight till the last second.

 

He should stop trying to convince himself that he'll be left behind again. Even if he were to meet them again, he'll make more memories with them. He'll just get them to trust him again. 

 

He raised the knife in his hands and took a deep breath.

 

"Please Julius-san, this place is extremely important to Reinhard. He's your friend, isn't he? Don't touch anything here. You won't find anything."

 

"I…. I have already lost the right to call him a friend, the moment I stepped foot in this place in his absence.", Julius said remorsefully.

 

"----Then why did you do it, Julius?", a new voice sounded from behind him.

 

Everyone stopped in their tracks including Subaru. His face lit up as he recognised the voice. He kept the knife back in his pocket and peaked from under the bed. With hair as red as a blazing fire and eyes as blue as the skies, he silently stood near the door, waiting patiently for Julius to speak.

 

".....Reinhard."

 

"Julius, I believe Ezzo already told you that this is my mother's room and it is not to be opened."

 

".....I wouldn't have had to do such a thing if you hadn't helped the Archbishop escape. …...You are too kind, Reinhard. However, that is your weakness as well, which the Archbishop has taken advantage of. By sympathising with an Archbishop and helping him escape, do you not realise what you have done?"

 

"Let us assume that I did help him. Was it really that huge of a crime that my own friends would come here and threaten the people I consider my family in my absence?", Reinhard asked, his face filled with sadness.

 

Julius flinched. But he did not back down.

 

"Reinhard, there's an entire city that has been affected by the Witch Cult, including my brother and Crusch-sama. By helping him escape you have taken away the means of curing-"

 

"I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR BULLSHIT!", an angry voice interrupted him, ordering him to stop.

 

The blonde princess marched inside the room and glared at the purple-haired knight.

 

"......Felt-sama.", Julius bowed. "It's been a while since-"

 

"SHUT UP! You cowards come here in our absence, threaten our loved ones and then have the audacity to say we're the ones at fault? You've had that person for two months and you still haven't gotten any information from him! That just proves he's most likely innocent. But you still kept torturing him!"

 

"Felt-sama, all we have done is interrogate-"

 

"Don't give me any of that nonsense! I know what 'Interrogation' means. Your two assistants outside, they're searching for a white-haired boy. When we had left him back in Priestella, his hair was black."

 

"----"

 

"Do you seriously think when Reinhard tried to protect him back in Priestella, he was just being kind? What about Priscilla? You seriously think she was doing it out of kindness? How dumb do you think they are? He can detect lies, you know."

 

"But-"

 

"I said shut up! After getting no information from him, it must have been obvious that he wasn't an Archbishop. So why did you continue to torture him?"

 

".....I didn't-"

 

"At least that cat-eared onii-san was helpful. But Mr. Finest of Knights, what did you do in Priestella? You were the one most influenced by Wrath's authority, you lost your assigned battle against Gluttony and you let him escape. You were completely useless in Priestella!"

 

".....I wasn't-"

 

"You couldn't do anything and you even lost your brother. So, when the person you thought was a Cultist was more helpful than you in rescuing the 'Nameless' including your own brother, he pissed you off, didn't he?"

 

Felt was unrelenting in her verbal beatdown of the knight. Even Subaru felt sorry for him.

 

"Envy is a ugly emotion, Julius Juukulius! What were you trying to prove by beating him up everyday? That you were doing something? That you still deserve to be the 'Finest of Knights'?"

 

"----" Unable to answer, Julius was just desperately shaking his head.

 

"You were just taking the frustrations of your inadequacy out on him, weren't you? You were beating him, simply because you could. Just like that time at the beginning of the Royal Selection when you beat up Big Bro and-" Felt suddenly stopped.

 

All of their eyes widened.

 

Usually, whenever someone remembered an incident involving him, he was one way or the other pressing them on. So, how did Felt remember that incident without any context?

 

".....I….hurt…..", Julius whispered softly as he held his forehead in pain.

 

"Julius, I think you should leave.", Reinhard said.

 

"Julius-senpai, I think our work here is done. Your Archbishop isn't here. Let's go.", Zacharias said, still having a smile on his face, as grabbed the dazed Julius' hand and ushered him out.

 

"Wait! Before you go, did Ana know about this?", Felt stopped them before they could leave and asked.

 

"With the exception of Miklotov-sama, and obviously, the missing Priscilla Camp, everyone else involved in the Royal Selection knew. Of course, not all of them contributed though. Just the Royal Knights, Anastasia Camp and the Crusch Camp." Julius, still in shock, was unable to answer, so Zacharias answered in his stead. It was the first time his expression changed to something other than a smile.

 

Subaru's eyes widened. The Priscilla Camp is missing? Not just Heinkel?

 

"I see. Now, get out!", Felt said.

 

Zacharias' smile returned as guided Julius out. 

 

"You can come out now, Subaru. They're gone.", Reinhard said.

 

As Subaru came out and walked to the door, he noticed a small smile on Reinhard's face.

 

"It seems even my mother has helped protect you."

 

Subaru was surprised but he immediately smiled. "Yeah….. she did."

 

"Thank you.", he turned around and bowed to her, before they all finally left the room and closed the door.

 

*******************************

*******************************

 

"That was an exhausting day!", Felt said as she plopped down on the sofa.

 

"No kidding!", Camberley responded.

 

Everyone, except Grimm who had gone to check around the mansion, was gathered in the parlour, relaxing with tea and snacks after having run around all day.

 

"But I still can't believe they would do something like this. Was I wrong in thinking that we were friends?", the red-haired knight looked down guiltily.

 

"It's not your fault, Reinhard. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. Because of me-" 

 

"Yeah, you should shut up as well. None of us are at fault here."

 

Subaru tried to comfort him but was stopped by Felt.

 

"Though seriously, every single one of them was in on it?"

 

"Miklotov-sama didn't know about it though. And not all of them contributed.", Reinhard interjected.

 

"I doubt that old geezer didn't know. He probably just didn't care enough to stop it."

 

"Or he let them do this knowing they'll be unsuccessful.", Carol said.

 

"Who knows? The point is I don't think we can get along with them anymore." Felt sighed. She lifted up a pastry and took a bite.

 

Following her, everyone else dropped the discussion for now and began enjoying the snacks.

 

As she was gobbling up the pastries one after another, she saw Grassis pick one up and run over to Subaru and extended it to him.

 

"......For me?", Subaru asked, surprised by her actions.

 

Grassis nodded. "I made it. Please eat."

 

"OK, sure!", Subaru said as Grassis fed it to him.

 

"Did you like it?"

 

"It's delicious!", Subaru smiled as he patted her head. 

 

Having completed her objective, Grassis happily ran over to her sister who also patted her. Then taking a tissue, Flam walked over to Subaru and gave it to him.

 

"There's cream on your face, Subaru onii-san."

 

"Oh, thanks.", he thanked Flam as he wiped his face.

 

Flam smiled and walked back to her sister.

 

'Huh! That's the most I've seen Flam and Grassis talk to someone. Do they like him?' , Felt wondered. Well, he really does look harmless. He seems friendly and easy to tease. And he's a lot more fun to be around than Reinhard. 

 

"Seriously, how did the people come to the conclusion that you're a Sin Archbishop?", Felt asked, suddenly drawing everyone's attention to her.

 

"What?", Subaru looked at her, confused.

 

"You look so weak, you don't even look like you can fight! How did a suspicion spiral out of control like this?"

 

"Were you defending me or insulting me!? …..But yeah, spiralling out of control is really the most accurate way to describe it.", he said, closing his eyes and taking a sip of his tea. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he kept the tea down.

 

".....a tiny suspicion compounded out of control.", he murmured to himself as he put a hand on his chin.

 

"Big bro, did you realise something?", Felt asked.

 

"Huh, what? …..Oh right! It's just a guess but, where were we when I was captured for being a Sin Archbishop? What had happened just before that?"

 

".....I see. I think I'm starting to understand what you mean.", Reinhard responded.

 

'How the hell did he understand from just that!? Since when did these two start reading each other's minds?'

 

"Stop being so confusing! What the hell is that supposed to mean?", Felt demanded them to explain so she could understand.

 

"----Wrath was escaping at the same time he was being suspected of being an Archbishop.", Reinhard explained.

 

".......Oh!" 

 

As soon as Felt heard it, she went quiet. After giving it some thought, she once again questioned,

 

"But then, after we left that place, why are they still….."

 

".....I'm sure that's all them. No outside influences. I guess, once that belief was planted in their minds, they decided not to question it. I don't really know why though. …..Wait, why the hell are you asking me that? After how brutal you were with Julius while exposing him!", Subaru responded.

 

"Yeah, I was just super pissed. I don't really know half of what I said. I don't even know if it's true. Though at the end there……"

 

".....I've been meaning to ask this, but Felt, how did you remember that incident? Me being beaten down by Julius?"

 

"I don't know. It just came naturally to me as I was shouting at him. I don't really remember very clearly. It's very hazy. Sorry."

 

"No, it's fine." Subaru smiled and shrunk back making Felt feel extremely guilty.

 

"But with this, I hope he'll at least come back to his senses and start questioning everything that's happening."

 

"Oh, he's questioning everything alright. I don't think he'll be coming back here anytime soon.", a new voice announced as he entered the room.

 

"You! How did you get in?", Felt asked angrily.

 

"...I…..let him…..in. …..He helped…..today.", Grimm answered, entering behind him.

 

"He did? Then, I must thank you, Zacharias. I am forever in your debt.", Reinhard spoke to the brown-haired knight that had entered.

 

"Please stop, Reinhard-senpai. I'll get really embarrassed if you continue.", the junior knight, Zacharias said, while grinning. "Anyways, I am Zacharias Lane. Junior Knight. Joined the Royal Knights last year. Pleasure to meet you. The moment I heard Ferris-senpai can't come due to being unable to leave Crusch-sama unattended, I begged them to let me come."

 

"Thank you for your help though. You seriously saved my life back there.", Subaru thanked him.

 

"......Not a problem. I just wish I could've seen Subaru-senpai hanging from the window though. That was honestly amazing!"

 

"Ahhhhh! You knew!!", Subaru suddenly stood up, his face as red as Reinhard's hair.

 

Ezzo and Rachins nodded agreement with Zacharias and laughed while everyone else was left wondering about what had happened.

 

"Zacharias, if you don't mind me asking, why did you help everyone here?", Reinhard asked, curious about his motives.

 

"Well, I had to. I couldn't just let them get away after disrespecting my idol like that."

 

"Oh look! What a surprise! Another Rein-", Felt began sarcastically but,

 

"Natsuki Subaru-senpai, Spirit Knight, Killer of Mabeasts, Slayer of Sin Archbishops, it's always been my dream to talk to you.", Zacharias jumped towards Subaru grabbing both his hands, and from where Felt was sitting, she swore she could see stars in his eyes.

 

"Ehhhhhhh?!", everyone exclaimed in unison.

 

"Wait, you remember who I am?", Subaru asked the junior knight nodded while continuing to hold his hands and staring at him in awe.