Where Tara runs to save a life and it's Chris's time to shine (one of Kyle's main assistants).
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Episode 137. About 10 Months (14)
The last day of the Hunting Competition was called off in the novel due to the incident. So today had to be the day where it took place: 'The Winter Forest Hunting Competition Incident'. Unless something else unusual happened…
I walked down the snow-covered road deep in thought.
The situation was quite different from the book.
Instead of the small-scale event hosted by the Emperor in the Ocerian Regiment Grounds, it was a large-scale event organized by the Emperor, hosted by his sons in the newly acquired Tandra Forest Manor.
The Second Prince wasn't even present in the original event, which was to be expected since he hated such outings in the first place.
I didn't know exactly who else was in attendance, but just like the Dragon Fruit incident turned into a case where my family saved the Emperor's family, the direction of this occurrence could have changed quite a bit.
The guard who followed me to the boundary said, "From here it's a non-hunting area, so it's safe. Just go straight ahead. Farewell." He left.
The snow-covered firs on the path were beautiful.
"Hmm... Either there will be no casualties… Or more…"
I felt a bit sorry not wearing the blue cloak that Beth had repaired for me because I was in a hurry.
I felt cold each time the wind blew. It was tolerable because the frequency was decreasing, but it was still regrettable that I left my cape behind.
Even if an incident did occur, it wasn't related to my family. But why does the Tillis Valley keep coming to mind? It must be closely related to today's crisis… Hmm...
My efforts to recall this were in vain. It would be nice if the occurrence's scale was reduced, but what if things got bigger and affected my family? The future was unknown.
It was in a clearing somewhere halfway between the forest road to the mansion and the Hunting Ground.
You didn't know which family is targeted or who would die. Ha! ... So much for the transmigration buffs! No, really!
Thinking I was alone, I screamed in frustration, but snow piled up on the tall fir branches fell to the ground as my voice echoed and resonated in the snowy field.
About 30 meters ahead, Olive Benson, a cute blonde with freckles, stopped in surprise. She, too, was in a hurry and was not wearing a proper coat, so her face was pale from the cold.
"Oh! I didn't know there was somebody there. I'm sorry if I startled you, My Lady."
"Oh, no. It's alright."
We greeted each other and she walked towards the path I had just taken. Apparently, she was going to the Hunting Grounds.
Hmm. She was a permanent Aide to the Palace.
My boss gave me a lot of work, but it seemed that hers does as well.
There were other assistants on the Hunting Grounds, but they were all male. Perhaps Lady Olive and I were the only female assistants who visited the Hunting Grounds today.
As Young Lady Olive briskly walked past me, the cloak she was holding in her hand caught my eye.
At first glance, the cloak embroidered with splendid gold geometric patterns screamed, 'I'm only worn by the Imperial Family.'
"… There's a guard post just a little ahead. You don't need to run like that," I whispered.
I felt sorry for her after noticing her anxiousness.
“Oh… Yes. Thank you… My Lady.”
I hurried along, thinking that my mood had darkened a bit.
That cloak was so gorgeous by the way…!
The thought flashed through my mind, stopping me dead in my tracks.
Today was the day the 'Winter Forest Hunting Contest Incident' occurred, and I was certain someone dies, and a family is destroyed.
I didn't know which family it was, but thanks to the cloak Lady Olive was carrying, I remembered what Author Kim had added.
[… An assassin hid in advance… An Aide who came to deliver the First Prince's cloak dies instead of him. The Aide's family was held in high regard by the local nobles.]
Coincidently, sentences in Chapter 4, Part 1 popped in my mind.
[The arrow found belonged to the only family supporting the Second Prince… The victim's family, needing a scapegoat to express their anger, didn’t acknowledge the obvious set-up and dragged out the trial for years… Resulting in their suspension from Office. Not only that, but the local aristocratic faction became hostile... Putting the Second Prince in a difficult position.]
"The local prestigious Count Benson, damn it!"
I immediately turned back and ran.
I was just trying to save myself. Unless it had anything to do with my Family, I kept my nose out of it, going my own way.
However, considering my private meeting with the Second Prince a few days ago, this incident would become closely related to my family.
Author Kim had said that only one family supported the Second Prince before the Hunting Competition.
Baron Kezak supported the Second Prince.
And, since the Midterm Banquet, the Elias family officially supported him as well.
If there was an assassin hiding in advance, this case was premeditated.
Therefore, my family, who had only joined the Second Prince during the Hunting Contest, weren't the target. It would be aimed at the officially known Baron Kezak.
The assassin's target was the First Prince. However, the Aide who brought the cloak was killed by an arrow instead.
Whether Kezak's arrow hit the First Prince or Lady Olive, the problem remained.
The moment Baron Kezak became involved, the Second Prince would suffer a blow which wouldn't be beneficial for our Family either since we had declared that we would side with him.
Moreover, I didn't know what impact it would have on the 'Talent Training System', which was to be the first cornerstone in the Second Prince's history.
Not only this, but Lady Olive Benson would die. I couldn't pretend I didn’t know and just let it happen. I wouldn't be able to live with myself.
Okay. I just needed to stop the cloak's delivery. Just the delivery…
After running for a few minutes, Lady Olive's golden hair came into view. She had just passed the guard post and was going around the corner of the barracks.
Without a second thought, I called her out.
"My Lady! Lady Olive! Wait a minute, oh!"
My voice echoed everywhere but was drowned out by the short horns sounding the end of the break.
Naturally Lady Olive Benson didn't hear me. I ran at full speed, which wasn't hard since I trained a lot, but the ground was slippery because of the snow, and I almost fell which made my body tense.
To enter the Hunting Grounds, I had to show an ID card approved by the Knights. I took out the one I'd received from Captain Nick earlier and showed it to the guard on duty.
"I forgot to relay a message to my leader."
The knight looking at me sullenly and seemed annoyed by the fact that he had to follow me again.
"Sir Knight, please, I need to hurry! It's important!
The knight slowly put on his sword and helmet, then left a record in his journal.
I stamped my feet.
As soon as the wooden outpost door opened, I took off as if I'd heard a starting pistol fire.
Startled, the knight shouted and began running after me while I followed the path Olive had taken earlier.
Many nobles were starting a hunt in the large clearing.
They rode their own horses, holding hot mugs of tea or checking on their escort knights and weapons while their attendants fetched various goods.
And about 400 meters away from the clearing, you could see the Emperor's and First Prince's horses in front of the entrance to the lush hunting forest. Lady Olive was fast approaching them followed by a knight.
I angled towards her while running. Behind me, the knight kept yelling as he followed suit.
200m, 100m, 50m, 20 m.
By the time I reached Lady Olive, she was about 200 meters away from the First Prince's horse.
Without a second thought, my body reacted.
I slid and tackled her as I stopped myself from screaming, "Olive! My Lady, My Lady, My Lady!" out loud.
We both fell as I hugged her thighs.
We landed in the snow. The knight accompanying Lady Olive stopped and stared blankly as I slid by.
The knight following me had an identical reaction, unable to believe what just happened.
Only a few people laughed at us since most were busy preparing for the hunt and went about their business.
"Ah… Hmm... Are you okay, My Lady?"
"No… What the hell is this…?
However, Olive's words were drowned out by the sound of pounding hooves.
It was because the Second Prince was galloping at full speed, followed by a bunch of knights.
… Thank God.
I didn't know why but seeing him instantly alleviated my tension and filled my body with a sense of relief.
Meanwhile, Chris, who rode his horse at full speed, stopped about 500m from the clearing.
"… Found him."
Following his small whisper and hand signals, five Phoenix Knights quietly dismounted and coordinated their actions with Chris.
Crouching to conceal his body as much as possible, Chris quickly gave his orders.
“Two behind that bent tree over there and the tree next to it. One behind the rock underneath. Try your best to capture him alive. I'll take the other side.”
If you triangulated their current locations, Chris stood at the left vertex and the knights hid at the right one. All of them were looking towards the triangle's apex where the invaders mentioned by the Second Prince should be located.
(A vertex is a point, in this case a triangle point.)
The apex, where a faint shadow had been seen, was the entrance to the Hunting Grounds that was the most visible from 200m away.
The shadowy figure was hiding among the big fir trees. Dressed all in white, no one could have found it, unless they looked really closely at the snow-covered forest.
At Chris's signal, they all moved, lowering their stances as much as possible.
He quietly drew his sword and hunkered down as well while moving forward with measured steps. He continued along the sloping bank leading to the shallow snow caped valley.
[… They were your escort knights. That was what was written on their ID cards. It's been four hours since they went through. There is no record of them leaving the Hunting Grounds in the guard's post log.]
[My... escort knights?]
[Yes. That's what I said. Their IDs were checked and sported the Imperial Guards' seal. What's wrong, Your Highness?]
The imperial guard stationed at the checkpoint widened his eyes, bewildered.
[My escort knights stayed in the Capital. I didn't bring them along. I want a full search of the Hunting Grounds for those four intruders. I'll go to the Emperor.]
[Yes! Your Highness!]
All the knights split in groups, leaving only the minimum number of people guarding the checkpoint.
Soon, Chris found the intruder.
As the distance narrowed, the culprit hiding behind the fir tree pulled the bowstring with all his might.
It was obviously an assassination attempt aimed at the Imperial Family, by a person boasting an ID linking him to the Second Prince.
Chris immediately pulled two daggers from his waist and threw them.
However, the assassin pulling the bow instantly twisted his neck to avoid one dagger as the other hit his shoulder.
Chris ran at full speed towards the bowman, whose face was covered leaving only his eyes exposed, while drawing his bow aiming at him.
The arrow flew at high speed and Chris narrowly escaped injury by slashing it away with a knife.
Halfway there, arrows flew again, and he had no choice but to dodge. Despite his shoulder wound, the intruder continued to fire arrows towards Chris.
As Chris faltered, the assassin turned his attention towards the entrance of Hunting Grounds and drew his bow.
Both the arrow and Chris’s dagger flew simultaneously.
This time, the blade went straight into the intruder's neck.