The Phantom Thief’s Premature and Unannounced Entrance
“Now then, please spend the day together with Her Highness in this room. Until I come back, make sure not to leave.”
“Mm. Got it.”
“Be careful on patrol too, mama.”
“Sophie! Tio! What are you doing!? Let us begin at once!”
Four days before the beginning of the summer solstice… Just as they had every night, Sophie and Tio saw off Shirley from their guest room.
At first, Shirley had thought to stay closer to Hilda at all times, but she soon realized that the notorious Phantom Thief might have set up some magical traps and tricks around the castle that only she had the ability to see with her power.
“I will definitely claim a victory today! Yesterday was only because I was a little unlucky!”
“I didn’t think it was possible for me to win 100 times in a row at Old Maid.”
“Ahaha… Hilda isn’t very good at keeping a straight face, huh? Maybe that’s a bigger problem than her luck?”
“Whaaaa!? A-Are you saying that I am weak!?”
The princess had become addicted to card games lately, which were usually the pastime of gambling types, and constantly invited Sophie and Tio to play with her before bed. Despite her unending losing streak, however, she continued to challenge them without learning her lesson.
Usually, people would get tired of playing the same thing over and over.
That’s what Shirley thought, but maybe when it comes to playing with friends, who you’re playing with is more important than what you’re playing. Convinced that her girls were having fun, Shirley left the room with a faint smile on her face.
“Ah, Shirley-san… Are you heading out on patrol already?”
“You can wait until we got back, y’know.”
“She probably knew it was about time for us to change shifts anyways.”
After stepping out into the corridor, she ran into Kyle and the others who were just finishing up their own patrol. They were checking potentially suspicious places with magic, but they hadn’t turned up anything.
“Did you find anything strange?”
“Nope, not really.”
“In the first place, there’s already a bunch of security magic tools in the royal castle. Plenty of guards too. I really doubt anyone would be able to slip in or out easily.”
“Is that so?”
It was fairly predictable that they wouldn’t find anything, be that a trap or some other mischievous mechanism.
In all of Crowley’s previous kidnappings and other assorted thieveries, nothing had ever seemed amiss before the promised day of his heist. The young girls he had kidnapped over the years included daughters of influential families, guarded in ways not inferior to the current security of the royal castle.
(It would be nice if this thief thought that Her Highness had left the country since Siegfried himself has already left for the Land of Demons.)
Even though the dragon king that had originally served as Hilda’s escort possessed a high level of intelligence, he was still technically a monster after all. Whilst his sworn friend, the Demon King, had no problems allowing him into his castle, there were naturally some hesitations about allowing a dragon into the royal castle, so it was decided that he would return.
“Well, then, if I could ask… Please take care of my daughters, for the time being.”
“P-Please leave it to us.”
Feeling the weight of a huge responsibility suddenly being thrust onto their shoulders, the three of them nodded earnestly. Satisfied with that, Shirley began to bound through the castle.
Of course, she was running in her own unique way. Speeding through like a divine wind, she passed by the patrolling soldiers at such velocity that they had little chance to register her as more than a sudden trick of the light.
(I have to get back as soon as I can.)
She couldn’t afford to forego her escort duties for too long, even if it was for the sake of patrolling. Using both her eyes’ ability to see ‘everything’ as well as her slight power of clairvoyance, Shirley was able to inspect most of the castle within a very short span of time, eventually finding herself in front of the main doors that lead to the throne room. It was there she ran into Glorious in a full set of armour, himself on patrol.
“Hm. If it isn’t Lady Shirley. Are you on patrol?”
“Yes… Saying that, it seems you’re doing the same.”
“Indeed. Even if I’m a Marshal, I am still a soldier in the service of His Majesty. I didn’t want to sit around idly after finishing my paperwork for the night… Have you found anything, by any chance?”
Glorious whispered the last part, but Shirley shook her head in response.
“I see… The security sweeps haven’t picked up anything either. It’s possible that this ‘Phantom Thief’ of ours might not make any moves until the eve of the festival.”
Could that really be the case? Shirley categorically decided that it was impossible.
Even if the thief hadn’t gone so far as to lay any traps, it was ludicrous to think that he would stage a kidnapping without at least scoping out the castle in advance. No matter how self-assured this thief might be, that was too much.
“I haven’t heard any reports from Canary. In any case, we shouldn’t let our guard down.”
“Agreed. Make sure to keep a good eye out.”
As Glorious said that, he turned to walk away. Shirley casually looked at him as he departed, but then her eyes suddenly opened wide with realization.
“…Your Excellency. When I met with you before, had you hurt your leg?”
“What…? No, such a thing is… What on earth are you suggesting?”
“…No, I was just imagining things. I beg your pardon, I’ll be taking my leave now.”
Shirley spun on her heel and walked away, but as soon as she turned her corner she ran even faster than she had before.
Focusing the spell on her eyes and brain, Shirley cast a spell called Anti-Mirage, designed to dispel any illusionary magic. As she used her eyes to see through the whole castle, she sped up the side of the wall aiming for the highest peak of the tallest tower, summoning her twin favourite swords with imagination alchemy as she did so.
(I was careless…! We should have considered he would have a unique power as well…!)
When Shirley had been patrolling and guarding throughout the castle before, she hadn’t been able to find a single trace of Crowley.
But, the reason wasn’t that Crowley hadn’t been there at all… The truth was, Crowley had some method of evading Shirley’s exception sight. Shirley was convinced of this when she met with Glorious before, but chasing after the thief who had evaded her attack just now, she had conclusive evidence.
(Between the first time I met him and his gait today… His Excellency’s movements were clearly different…!)
Both of them had stood tall, walking with a soldier’s stride. But, something she had learned over the past few days was that swordsmen classically trained as soldiers will tend to lean slightly towards the side of their dominant sword hand.
The soldiers she had beaten in those duels were like that, and now so was Glorious with that impeccably trained body of his… Except, the first time she met Glorious, he didn’t have that kind of gait at all.
(The first time I met His Excellency, he was actually a different person who somehow managed to evade my powers… In other words, that person Phantom Thief in disguise!)
Only through an eclectic mix of her exceptional power and high-level magic was she able to keep track of him now. The fact that she had to go that far to see through his disguise attested to the true power of the Phantom Thief.
(No, that’s wrong… If he used any power, I would have been sure to see it… But, for some reason, I couldn’t register it despite that. That means the Phantom Thief’s real power is something different…)
Reaching the top of the tower, Shirley finally stood face to face with the thief that had eluded her all this time, as they were both exposed to the strong night wind.
“Well, well… I suppose congratulations are in order for being able to see my true form? This has been the first time anyone has seen me in, well now, it must have been three hundred years already?”
With a top hat and monocle to match his fine white suit, the young man in front of her truly cut a unique appearance.
To judge his age purely by looks alone, he must be younger than Shirley… Perhaps in his mid-twenties. However, the centuries-old atmosphere he exuded belied that youthful appearance.
“I suppose as much is to be expected from the ‘Demonic White Sword’…? Until the other day, you didn’t seem to notice my little trick at all, but I am ever so interested in just how you saw through it, for future reference?”
“…You’re not going to have a future to speak of. You are the Phantom Thief, aren’t you?”
“Fufufu… The very same. Now that we can meet each other without reservation for the first time, it is indeed I, the one who sent out that invitation for the eve of this summer solstice, Arsene Crowley.”
The semi-immortal in front of her doffed his hat in a low bow, extending his other hand elegantly in a way only a showman would. Apparently, he had no intention of denying it.
…What’s more, it showed just how much self-confidence he had in his own ability to escape, even when confronted by Shirley.
“To be honest, the only thing I care about is capturing you. It would be easy if you would just stay still so I could tie you up… But I need to make sure you won’t be able to escape first.”
As she held up one of her blades with a cold glare, Crowley rolled his shoulders leisurely.
“Goodness gracious… You really are an exceptionally prickly lady, aren’t you? Don’t you think it’s important in life to enjoy a fun chinwag every now and again?”
“What nonsense… There’s no reason to have a leisurely conversation with a dangerous kidnapper at all.”
“Oh, and isn’t she ever so cold? Personally, I would much sooner get along with you, truly.”
Shirley frowned at his perplexing words.
“…What do you mean?”
“Well, think of it this way… I would rather not be on such sour terms with the mother of the daughters I am going to be spending a lot of time with.”
With a flick of his wrist, a familiar looking calling card appeared between his fingers, which he turned to show Shirley. And, written there…
To toast in celebration of our unexpected encounter, at the same time that I shall receive the princess into my care, I shall also welcome with open arms the two twins of blue and red, guarded by the fearsome yet beautiful sword demon.
– Crowley the Phantom Thief
To little surprise, Shirley blood lust became a tsunami of murderous rage that surged forth like a tsunami. Crowley expression twitched for just a moment, but he quickly went back to flashing a jovial grin.
“Oh, such a daunting pressure…! My deepest apologies for calling you cold earlier, you clearly are full of wonderful passion!”
“…Before I lose control, answer me this. What are your goals for targeting my daughters? A magical experiment… Or do you intend to sell them on to some influential person who is pulling your strings?”
The adventurer relied on the last vestiges of her composure to ask him that question. After all, Crowley still hadn’t revealed even a trace of his motives. If she could figure out just why he committed his crimes, it would be much easier to thwart him.
“Magical experiment!? Selling them to some boorish noble!? Perish the thought! To do such a cruel thing to a young girl, why, that is the gravest insult against the name Phantom Thief!”
However, in reaction to the first motives that came to mind, Crowley’s joking face turned to one of fiery indignation as he baulked at the very idea. Shirley’s expression, meanwhile, didn’t move a muscle as her sword tip stayed pointed squarely between the man’s eyes.
“Then, just why are you trying to kidnap them? If not for experiments or money, then…?”
“For the sake of true love.”
Crowley didn’t hesitate at all as he responded.
“My love for the unspoiled innocence of unpicked flowers, that is my raison d’être.”
She had no idea what he meant. Realizing Shirley hadn’t quite understood him with the eloquent way he put it, Crowley reiterated himself differently, looking slightly bashful as he did.
“Well, to put it more bluntly than I would like, I am what some crude people might call a lolicon.”
Well, there we go, we are now officially caught up and waiting on raw releases. The only things left to translate are light novel exclusive side stories, but I’ll be working on those sometime later. I will have the illustrations for v2 of the LN at around 3:30pm GMT this Friday, so watch this space if you’re interested in that.
Until then, thanks for reading this far and all your comments, encouragement goes a long way towards motivation （ ´∀｀）
Edit: I only just realized there was a major cock up with the site over the past few days that I thought I’d fixed but evidently not. It should be good now.