Five days after departing from Iskia Fortress, Seria finally arrives in Spada.
She is not wearing her usual maid uniform, but rather equipment suited to her original class, the Assassin.
The black, full-body suit that increases her physical ability and grants resistance against all elements is torn, with dark stains in various places where her blood had flowed over it. A wristband is all that remains of her left gauntlet.
She has administered first-aid treatment to herself, but it does not change the fact that she is in a terrible state.
With one glance, even the citizens of Spada simply walking around can clearly see that she has just lived through a battle; an extraordinarily difficult one at that.
However, the trials that she faced on the way here are already a thing of the past, and she has just finished carrying out the tasks her master had given her.
In other words, she has delivered an emergency quest to the adventurers’ guild and just a moment ago, she made a request for reinforcements directly to His Majesty, King Leonhart, in the royal palace.
From here on, it would be the work of the King, who commands the armies of Spada.
Seria’s mission as a messenger is complete. The King himself has expressed his gratitude and asked her to rest.
But it was not an order, so Seria decides to postpone her rest in order to carry out her master’s “request”.
「Now then, it would be good if Kurono-sama were at the Academy...」
Seria, who has left the royal palace still dressed in her bloodstained Assassin’s clothes, guesses where Kurono, the person she is looking for, might be.
The sun has long since set, and the veil of darkness has descended upon Spada.
Thinking about it properly, school hours are over so Kurono should be at the place he sleeps, the Academy’s dormitories.
However, it is not as if he has promised to be in the dormitories; it cannot be said for certain that he is there. Perhaps he had other things to do today.
There is the possibility that, while the female members of his party are not present, he has taken the opportunity to visit Spada’s red-light district.
If he is not in the dormitories, it will be impossible to find him in the enormous downtown area within a single night, even for Seria, the all-purpose maid capable of housework, battle, secret intelligence services and messenger duties.
Preparing herself for the worst case scenario, having to wait for Kurono to return in the morning, Seria proceeds along the straight main road leading away from the royal palace.
But as she takes her first step, a voice calling the name「Kurono」, the one she is searching for, echoes out.
She immediately eliminates the possibility that she has misheard due to the fact that his name is repeated, twice, three times.
「This is... coming from the Grand Coliseum?」
Before her is the enormous, circular arena that is Spada’s most famous building. Although it is in the middle of the night, light is coming from the building.
The wildly enthusiastic cheering echoing out from the Coliseum is unmistakably calling out Kurono’s name.
「Ah, I see. The Curse Carnival, is it?」
Rather than being surprised, understanding and emotion surface to her mind first.
She already knows that Kurono likes to use cursed weapons. She also knows that their power is strong enough to face a Rank 5 monster head-on.
With that being the case, it would not be at all out of character for Kurono to participate in the Curse Carnival, nor is it unexpected for him to be performing well.
「Kurono-sama is a person who generally stands out, after all.」
Whispering this, Seria runs like the wind, heading directly for the lively Grand Coliseum.
Lily and Fiona have finally completed their four-day journey back to Spada.
As expected of a big city, its large main gates are still wide open despite it being the middle of the night, with people coming and going.
The two of them easily pass through the well-lit gates with one flash of their Guild Cards.
There is no point in disguising themselves any longer; they returned to their original appearances after passing Dakia Village.
They are no longer pilgrim sisters; they are now a witch and a Fairy, members of the Rank 3 party,『Element Masters』– the exact identities engraved on their Guild Cards.
And so, they step into the city of Spada for the first time in two weeks.
「Well then, shall we go to the dormitories right away?」
With their emotional reunion finally within their reach, the two of them are in soaring spirits.
In the middle of the main road, which is still crowded with people, Fiona raises the whip to strike Marie with all her strength, fully intent on proceeding at maximum speed. Lily does not stop her; in fact, she is cheering Fiona on.
If they are not careful, they will be arrested for reckless driving, but they are already past the state where they are capable of showing concern over such matters. They have exceeded their limits of being able to hold themselves back.
And as they are about to begin moving at a rocket-like speed –
「Hey, that’s dangerous!」
「You morons! How fast do you think you’re going!」
The voices of the angry citizens of Spada rise from in front of them.
「Jeez, to think that someone would have their horse run at full speed on such a crowded road. I suppose there are troublesome people like that out there, after all.」
「There are, aren’t there?」
Ignoring their original intention to do the exact same thing, Lily and Fiona make dry remarks about this reckless person.
The main road is divided into a road for carriages and such and a footpath for pedestrians, but at night, the traffic consists almost entirely of people on foot.
Therefore, a horse or carriage moving at full speed would create a situation such as this one, where they are barely managing to avoid a collision.
Lily and Fiona are not interested enough to try to see the face of this reckless person who is either in a big hurry or simply a fool. It appears that their destination is the great main gates behind Lily and Fiona.
The black body of a horse emerges from the crowd, somehow not running down a single pedestrian, either through incredible horse-handling technique or pure luck.
But as it draws close, Lily and Fiona glance in its direction.
The horse, moving like a gust of black wind, passes within several meters of their side. As their paths cross –
「We’re going to get through the main gates in one movement, hold tight, Nell!」
The two of them hear that unmistakable voice, the figure of the one spurring on the large black horse.
The fluttering black clothes, black hair and the single shining, crimson eye.
The two of them would normally be overjoyed at this unexpected meeting with Kurono, but what they feel instead is a seething discomfort from the pits of their stomachs.
「Just who might that woman be?」
「Who is that woman?」
As the two of them confirmed that the person they saw was Kurono, they saw her. Even if they didn’t want to see her, they did. Unfortunately, they have seen her.
The woman clinging to Kurono’s sturdy back with a spellbound, happy expression.
Everyone’s ideal princess, with her sweet, tidy appearance and a pair of pure-white wings protruding from her back.
「We shouldn’t have left Kurono’s side for so long, after all.」
Yes, that was –
「See, there was an undesirable insect attached to him.」
An enemy, even more unforgivable than the Crusaders or Apostles.
But simply killing her would not solve the problem. She as the most difficult kind of enemy in this world – a romantic rival.
「Yes, you are right.」
As if reflecting the black, muddy emotions swirling around inside their hearts, the light in their eyes begin to dim.
Their feelings of discomfort have already proceeded to become unpleasant feelings of hatred.
They only saw her, Nell Julius Elroad, for a single moment. But that image of her is burned into their eyes.
Nell, who was wrapping her arms around Kurono’s waist as if hugging him, and pressing her large chest against Kurono’s back with an enchanted look in her eyes.
That was not the pure look of a princess, but that of a vulgar woman with a sexual urge –
「... She is my enemy, isn’t she?」
On the day of her date with Kurono, the unforgettable 13th of the Month of Red Flame (Kouen), Fiona had sat in that exact spot.
But there is no way she can realize that at that time, she had the exact same expression that Nell was wearing.
As Fiona’s anger was reaching the point that her vision was about to become completely red with rage, Lily calls her name in a cold voice.
「Yes, I know, Lily-san.」
Fiona is calm only on the outside as she pulls the reins, knowing what must be done next.
Marie’s body shudders, as if she can sense the dangerous aura floating from her master. And then she turns around hastily, as if her life depended on it.
With a 180-degree turn, they rotate away from the royal palace of Spada looming in the distance to face the great main gates that they just passed through.
「Go after Kurono, right now!」
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