Yua invited her childhood friend Leena in to sit down, but as she put out tea and cookies she never let her guard down.
Leena began to eat the cookies as gratefully as if they were back in that royal garden.
“Yep, they’re delicious. I’d expect nothing less.”
But, the person in front of her was nothing like that cute young girl from the past.
“So, just why have you come here? And dressed like that?”
Leena wore a white breastplate that looked ill-fitted for her slender frame, and a crimson cloak covered her back. The standard gear for one of the Kingdom’s knights.
She had never heard of this girl belonging to the knights.
Not when she was a Princess, at least.
That must mean Leena joined the knights only very recently or had joined in secret some time ago.
Those are the only two possibilities.
Although, the latter seemed more likely.
A single silver wing was engraved on Leena’s breastplate.
That emblem signifies the rank of a cavalry lieutenant, meaning that she’s an adjutant to a knight captain.
Even if Leena is a member of the Lilyfall family, advancing up the ranks that quickly should be impossible.
“I kind of like it, do you think it’s weird? I thought it was a cute outfit.”
“What’s weird is that you’re wearing a knight’s uniform. Did you join the Order?”
Yua asked with a tone full of suspicion, but Leena answers as if there’s nothing to it.
“Yeah, it’s to help mother’s work. I joined half a year ago.”
“You joined that recently, and you’re already a Vice-Captain?”
No matter how you look at it, that’s quick, it usually takes several years. I suppose it should be expected that a member of that particular lineage would be able to make it in less than a year.
“So, which unit did you join?”
Yua looked confused.
“What’s this, you haven’t heard of Aria Squad? It’s a clandestine squad that is tasked with information gathering.”
No, she knew. But, it didn’t make any sense.
For someone with her capacity, she should be enlisted in one of the elite frontline combat units. Why is she operating with an intelligence unit?
Yua asked the question along those lines, and after Leena swallowed a cookie and washed it down with black tea, she answered.
“I can’t tell you all the details, but needless to say it’s important for mother’s business. I didn’t really have a choice.”
Her mother. The Lady of the Lilyfall house. Yua had never met her and isn’t sure of what exactly her work entails, but she’s well known for just how capable she is.
After hearing the answer, Yua decided not to probe any further and changed the subject.
“Anyways, since you’re wearing that uniform, that must mean the other knights are…”
“Yes, they’re on their way.”
…She knew it.
Yua stood up curtly.
“I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to warn Veena.”
“Hmm, I don’t mind if you go, but that might complicate things.”
Leena nodded and told Yua the truth.
“Well, it could get messy since Aria has already found her.”
“Wha-! Then I have to go help right no-”
But Leena moved to calm Yua down with just one sentence.
“My sister will not be defeated.”
“…Leena, you’re a member of the Order now, aren’t you? How can you say such a thing?”
“I don’t care. Besides, truth be told I really don’t care enough about this Kingdom to put my life on the line for it.”
A treacherous remark. If another knight heard her say it, she would be expelled from the Order immediately. But, Yua won’t condemn her for it.
“Then, just who would you risk your life for?”
Leena opened her mouth, and with a childlike voice answered with “That’s a secret ♡”.
What is this?
How can this be?
I’m being dominated so easily…
Aria is baffled as she’s being constantly pushed further and further back.
If she stopped swinging her sword for even an instant, she would be defeated.
She knew that on instinct.
“Guh, damn you, ha-!”
The sword is blocked again and again by the barrier. She cannot pierce it or break it.
The girl in front of her should just be a student.
That’s why she made the decision to capture her alone. Originally, her unit was not intended for regular combat but was entrusted to scouting missions and intelligence gathering.
Nevertheless, she chose to pick a fight here because she was certain that this was an opponent she could overcome.
It was as if her blade had lost all its keen.
Her sword had been on the verge of breaking through mere minutes ago. But now it was like smashing steel against a castle wall.
She puts all her might into the blows.
But still, the barrier stands firm.
(What do I do? Call for reinforcements? No, that would only increase the casualties. I need to withdraw and relay this to the-)
Veena’s spoke before she could finish her train of thought.
Multiple pillars of light sprung up in the forest behind the two of them.
It was arresting magic.
Aria bit her bottom lip.
“Yes, I got them all.”
Aria staggered backwards. She had played them.
Until now, Veena had persisted in fighting defensively. Aria thought that Veena had simply been fighting defensively in order to bide her time and counter-attack.
But, Veena had different plans altogether.
She was using the time to find and prepare magic to capture all of Aria’s subordinates that were on standby.
(Checkmate? No, if I can make it back to the kingdom alone, that will still be a victory.)
But, at the moment it took her to make that decision, she had already been caught.
Swallowed in a pillar of light, Aria’s body began to lift off the ground.
If she hadn’t taken so long to react after her subordinates were captured, she would have been able to escape.
Veena isn’t able to track Aria’s movements when she’s at full tilt.
But, Aria didn’t have the experience to react to the changing situation quickly enough.
“Kuh… This kind of thing, I’ll…”
Aria strengthened her body with magic as much as she could, but she couldn’t break free from the spell.
“It’s a wasted effort. I’ve combined various sealing magic sigils.”
“Is that your singular sorcery!?”
Veena denied it with a simple ‘No.’.
“I have no such thing.”
“No such thing? What a poor lie, there’s no way you could cast such high-quality magic without it being a singular sorcery.”
Keep the conversation going for as long as possible to look for an opportunity to escape the spell.
“You poor thing. I really don’t have anything like that.”
“You’re bluffing. And what’s more, you’re terrible at it.”
Aria does her best to get a rise out of Veena. But, Veena remains as stoic as ever.
She’s completely uninterested in what Aria has to say about this.
“You seem to have a misunderstanding. Why should I rely on some unique skill when I’m already capable of using every magic? I don’t have, nor need, a magic that’s only for me.”
For a moment, Aria didn’t understand. But, eventually, surprise began to wash over her.
“T-that can’t be true! That means… You can handle the singular sorceries of others?”
Veena slowly walked towards Aria, who was still in a state of shock.
“Well, no matter. What I want to know is why a knight of the kingdom is here. Answer me.”
Aria says nothing, she just glares daggers at Veena.
As if to declare that she would rather die than answer her.
“I see. I suppose there’s nothing for it then.”
Veena formed a magical sigil in her hand. Eight lines of light expanded from its centre.
“What do you plan to do? I will not yield to your torture.”
“I’m not going to do anything as barbaric as that.”
“I only ask that you look forward to it.”
As she said it, the white light enveloped them both like a cocoon. What was going on inside of it? It was impossible to say from outside.