The Masked Man
Liese and I, of course, danced the last dance together in the center of the ballroom floor.
She looked up at me slightly reproachfully as we did, but it didn’t deter me at all.
The girls nearby seemed utterly fascinated by Liese’s style of dress, so whilst all eyes were on us I wanted everyone to see how good our relationship was.
『Ahh~, what a sight for sore eyes. I really got to see something great. Now then, I guess it’s about time, huh?』
As I listened to Coebayashay’s satisfied sounding words, I glanced around the hall and caught Finne’s eyes, who must have also heard her words as she nodded slightly with a smile.
Arm in arm with her partner, Baldur, she made her way towards where Liese and I were.
“Fabian and Cecilie are already in the courtyard, whilst my father and the other eleven knights are posted nearby.”
Liese, her hands still in mine, said that with a calm and cool voice.
The General had insisted that ‘outsiders aren’t to be allowed into the ball venue’, so it was decided beforehand that the knights would be stationed around the courtyard.
“Fabian Ortenburg is already at the courtyard?”
I was a little confused with what Liese had said since that wasn’t what we had agreed on earlier, but Baldur interjected.
“‘There’s a girl who wanted to dance the last dance with me no matter what, so we decided to use the courtyard’, is what he said.”
『Really? What a man.』
『Woah, he really has a bright future ahead of him. As expected of Fabian-kyun.』
It seems like those two are getting along well. I breathed a secret sigh of relief.
Thank goodness, there’s no reason for me to be anxious about Fabian and Liese’s relationship from now on.
“Ahh, jeez, all these idiot couples wherever I look, huh? How the hell is this fair!?”
It was my best friend, Artur Richter, who yelled that out with an uncharacteristically frustrated sounding voice.
Because the Thanksgiving period is also considered a religious holiday, he was wearing his full black priestly uniforms, which clashed garishly with his sour-looking face and flashy rosy hair.
“You guys seem way too fluffy considering what we’re here to do, y’know?”
As we began to walk towards the courtyard as a group, Art who was also a part of the team came running up to me.
“There are so many cute girls in this world! But no matter how many I try to chat up, I can never get a fluffy mood like what you’ve guys have got going on! Even Liselotte and Finne gave me the cold shoulder!!”
As Art lamented deeply, Liese glared at him as if she was staring at human garbage, whilst Finne slightly hid behind Baldur’s back with a disgusted sounding ‘woah…’.
“Considering how frivolously you consider Finne and myself, it is small wonder you can’t find your own partner.”
Liselotte didn’t hold back at all.
“Liese and I have never had eyes for anyone else in the ten years since we’ve met each other, right?”
As I told her that with a smile, Liese frowned with a deep blush whilst Art’s disgusted looking face only intensified.
『Cheating! No good! Absolutely not!』
Endow delivered his commandment in a broken string of words, for some reason.
『That’s the way, Sieg! Getting all lovey-dovey with the super cute Rize-tan is important to our strategy of fighting the witch! It’s a shame that we couldn’t get Leon-sensei to help out, but so long as Rize-tan’s heart is stable then we have nothing to fear from that witch!』
Gaining heart from Coebayashay’s words, I strode confidently towards the battlefield, hand in hand with the girl I loved.
And finally, we reached it.
When we arrived on the scene, I heard Coebayashay mention『It should only be about fifteen minutes away, right?』, as we saw that the General, Fabian, Miss Cecilie and the other eleven knights had already fully equipped themselves and looked ready for battle at any time.
Of course, we too prepared ourselves and got into position. Art still looked slightly frustrated, but also ready for the fight ahead.
“Oh, looks like I made it on time?”
From the darkness, a masked man emerged with those words.
『What’s happening now!?』
Endow sounded astonished, but I didn’t have a clue either. It was as if he had materialized out of the night, no one had heard or seen him approach at all.
“Knave, who are you!?”
One of the knights, a rugged man in his middle ages, said so without even trying to conceal the threat in his voice.
The masked man he yelled at must be around 175cm tall? Slender, with dark brown hair.
But, of course, it was the mask that truly caught the eye above all.
The knights couldn’t help but be wary of this unfamiliar man with the strange mask that covered the upper half of his face, that looked like a pure white cat.
However, we students, as well as the younger-looking knights who must have only graduated in the past few years, were baffled by the sudden realization it seemed we simultaneously came to.
“I am… How should I put this… Hmm… Well, call me Karschen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a rat, so a cat will have to do.”
Even though we could only see his mouth, there was something obviously familiar in that relaxed smile of his.
“No no no no! Even with that mask on, there’s no way you’re anyone other than Mister Le-” “Just who on earth is this man, I have no idea who he may be!?”
Just before Finne could finish her sentence, I shouted over her at the top of my lungs.
In an instant, everyone’s eyes turned to me.
Don’t say a word.
I looked meaningfully at the students and recent alumni who stared back at me, people who obviously knew the identity of the masked man.
It seemed like they got the message since none of them opened their mouths. Meanwhile, the older adults just seemed even more confused about what was going on.
I know. I know just as well as everyone else that this was Mister Leon.
He could have at least worn a mask that covered more of his face. And why a cat? What did he mean when he was talking about a rat? I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but I managed to swallow them down and pretended that I didn’t have a clue who the man in front of us was.
Because, I remembered what Coebayashay had told me earlier. That 『Due to certain circumstances, Leon-sensei cannot let the true extent of his abilities become known』.
So, that’s why he appeared the way that he did. It was obvious just be looking at him. If it became known just what Leon Schafe was capable of, things could turn very nasty for him.
So, I played the fool with every ounce of conviction I had. Since I had the highest standing of anyone here, I took the responsibility of keeping up the farce onto my own shoulders.
“What I am saying, what I am saying is, that I have no idea who this person is. Or, are you saying that I have become blind? If any of you wish to insult the Crown Prince of this country, you best be prepared to suffer the consequences!!”
As I looked at them all, putting very specific emphasis on my words, it seemed they all slowly came to understand what I meant… or, perhaps, didn’t see any point in going against my stubbornness.
“Yes, me too, I have absolutely no idea who this man is!”
The second-highest-ranking person here, Marquis Riefenstahl, cottoned onto my words with a smile and agreed. Thank goodness.
So long as he’s working with me, we can make sure that it’s commonly accepted that Mister Leon was definitely nowhere near here tonight, there was only Karschen. At the very least, we can count on the knights to hold their tongues.
“Indeed, I am sure that Sir Karschen is a wandering mage with a strong taste for justice, who must have sensed the great evil of the Ancient Witch and came to lend us his age.”
As the General nodded at the farce I was construction, I breathed a small sigh of relief.
“Quite so! I have no idea who Sir Karschen is, but I am sure he is a trustworthy fellow and a reliable comrade!”
As the General and I kept up our ridiculous play, the people around us either gaped in confusion or stared at us with something resembling pity. However, there was one person who held a hand to his mask as he laughed.
“Fu… Fufu… Fuhahaha! Ah yes, Your Highness, you’re definitely a good boy, aren’t you?”
Unable to hold back that loud laughter of his, he said that.
『I see now. Taking advantage of his position of Crown Prince, Sieg managed to have Leon-sensei participate in the battle as an unknowing mage allied to the cause of justice, huh?』
Coebayashay sounded impressed, but I could barely listen to her words as I furiously tried to hold back the embarrassment as I listened to the self-styled Karschen laugh.
Even though I did this on the spur of the moment, I realized just what I had played along with. This really is embarrassing.
『The full reverse harem has been assembled! Now, only victory awaits!!』
As I heard Endow’s excited voice, I managed to calm down a little bit. That’s right, in order to win this battle to protect both the country and Liselotte, then participating in a little farce was nothing. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself.
『But, I wonder just why he suddenly decided to volunteer to participate?』
I couldn’t help but ponder over Coebayashay’s question as well. Why would he suddenly risk his life like this?
“Fuhaha, that’s right, I am the Karschen! On behalf of a certain princess… or rather, comrade? Well, at any rate, as her disciple… or perhaps, her partner, I’ve come to perform a little mischief.”
As he said those words with another laugh, for some reason, he looked straight at Finne with a smirk.
The pretty girl who had been described by some of the older teachers at tonight’s party as the ‘second coming of the Fairy Princess’, looked at the masked man with a confused expression.