Passage Chapter 3

In the Spotlight

The next day, everyone was present in the audience chamber. A messenger had come and gone, notifying everyone of the arrival of Oboro’s Detective Agency, presently headed by Oboro’s assistant, Fuyo. Not too long after the announcement, the small, pudgy-faced woman entered the room, followed by two of her top employees.

“Hello there, Your Majesty!” she greeted the queen, and then looked around. “Everyone. It hasn’t been too long, but it sure feels like it.”

Sagiri gazed upon the other occupants of the room, her eerily constant smile a bit subdued. “Good afternoon...”

Shigure stretched his arms and ran a hand through his long, shaggy hair. “What a pain,” he grumbled. “I was hoping to get in a nap before this...”

Ignoring the complaint, Lymsleia stood up. “Hello, and thank you so much for coming on short notice,” she told them. “I’d like to get down to business immediately.”

“As you wish,” Fuyo replied. “I think I might have a pretty good guess, but what did you want us to investigate?”

“Anything you can about all these murders!” Miakis exclaimed suddenly. “Clues that will help us protect Her Majesty in the event our worst fears are true!”

Fuyo nodded. “All right. We already know all the nobles murdered were in favor of Queen Lymsleia’s rule. We have a strong suspicion of who is behind these murders, but considering how involved all of you were in the recent war, I have a feeling you share this suspicion.”

“So you think it’s Nether Gate too?” asked Miakis.

“As far as the murders go, yes. But as for the actual”

The queen’s face fell briefly, but she remained hopeful. “’ll be able to find that out, won’t you?”

“Of course!” declared Fuyo. “We’ll get on it right away.”

“R-really?” Miakis said, her eyes lighting up. “That’s wonderful! And you’ll tell us where there creeps are hiding too, won’t you?”

“We’ll definitely try our best. Oboro may not be around, but the quality of our detective work hasn’t diminished in the least.” The woman turned to her two employees. “Shigure! Sagiri! Tell Raven we’ll be leaving for Stormfist shortly.”

“Will do...” Sagiri said softly, then started to leave the room.

“Yeah...” an apathetic Shigure sighed, following after Sagiri.

“Thank you so much for your help,” Lymsleia told Fuyo, her voice full of relief.

“No problem,” the short woman said with a tiny smile. She began to leave the room but then stopped. “Your Majesty...while we’re out there, we could also investigate the whereabouts of your brother at no extra cost. If you’d like, that is.”

“You can do that?” Kyle inquired.

“Oh...” Lymsleia’s eyes widened at the offer, but then shook her head. “Thank you...but no. I’d really rather you stick to this investigation.”

“Your Majesty?!” Kyle, Miakis, and Galleon all exclaimed in shock.

“It’s all right,” the young queen insisted calmly. “Brother...Brother is taking a well-deserved break. I may have support, but if I can’t learn to depend on myself once in a while, what kind of a leader would I be?”

Miakis’ look turned somber. “Your Majesty...”

Fuyo nodded slightly in response. “Of course, it’s your decision. But if you ever change your mind, Your Majesty, we’re here.” She then exited the chamber.

“I sure wouldn’t have minded that offer to get him back here,” Kyle said, bringing his hands behind his head. “We sure could use the extra help. And he could even play Commander for a while...”

“Speaking of which...” Lymsleia set her eyes on Wilhelm. “Have you...decided on what we spoke of yesterday?”

“Huh? Oh, uh...” The man’s cheeks nearly matched the color of his rosy hair. “About that, makes me a bit ashamed of my men to admit this, but I haven’t found a soldier to be the commander of the knights. Well, one who isn’t a total gutless coward, anyway.”

“I think Richard should do it,” Mueller said suddenly.

“What?!” Wilhelm, Miakis, Kyle and Richard all turned to face Mueller, equal looks of disbelief on their faces.

“Think about it,” Mueller continued. “Richard--” The man rolled his eyes. “--for reasons beyond my own grasp...has acquired a reputation in the Brigade as the ‘Blademaster.’ When people hear that the Blademaster himself is overseeing the protection of the queen, they won’t lose confidence in the Queen’s Knights. We can likely expect easier cooperation from both soldiers and citizens.”

“Hmm...” Richard looked intrigued. “I don’t really get all of that, but I’m honored you think I’m up to the job, Mueller.” He then flashed them all one of his smiles. “Okay, I’ll do it!”

“J-just like that?” Lymsleia asked nervously, looking at Richard with uncertainty. “I-I mean...can you be sure capable of protecting me?”

“With all due respect, Your Majesty,” Kyle began. “I’ve fought with this guy. He could probably beat me, Galleon, and Miakis by himself.”

Galleon stepped forward. “Though I hate to be thought of as incapable of filling my duty, I must say I’m in agreement with Kyle...mostly. Don’t be fooled by this person’s easygoing nature, Your Majesty. He’s extremely dangerous on the field of battle.”

Looking back and forth between Richard and her knights, the queen only seemed to turn redder. “R...really?”

Richard chuckled. “There’s no need to exaggerate!” he exclaimed, then fixed his gaze on Lymsleia. “Don’t worry, Your Majesty. I’ll do everything I can to ensure your safety. You can count on me!”

“Eh...heh heh...” Lymsleia returned the smile, though it never became quite as confident as his.

* * * * *

The next day, Miakis was standing outside Lymsleia’s room, knocking on the door. “Priiiiinceeeeessss...” she called in a sing-song. “Are you ever going to be ready?”

“I’m ready, Miakis!” Lymsleia called impatiently before appearing a moment later in full robes. “I don’t understand why I have to come to this...this thing.”

“Princess, a queen must have confidence in the strength of her knights. All her knights--past, present, temporary, whatever! You’ve got to witness this training session and let the temporary Commander of the Queen’s Knights prove his strength!”

“Oh...all right.” She joined the female knight, and the two headed for the front doors of the palace. “Speaking of queens,” Lymsleia said as they walked through the halls. “That’s what I am now. Could you please remember that?”

Miakis pouted. “I’m trying, I told you!” she insisted. “It just takes a bit of getting used to. I know what you are, but it’s weird calling you ‘Queen’! I mean, how would you feel if the first thing you hear outside your bedchamber in the morning is ‘Queeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen, time to get ready’?”

The words left Lymsleia with a nauseous look. “On second thought, please call me by my name. Or just stick with ‘Your Majesty.’”

“Okay, Your Majesty,” Miakis said. “Oh, and while we’re bringing up queens and responsibilities, you really shouldn’t wander off by yourself like that, you know. These aren’t exactly safe times.”

“I didn’t wander off!” Lymsleia insisted, her face growing warm. “I just needed a bath and a change of clothes. I’ve been up all night, after all.”

“True, but if I hadn’t caught you in the hall, I’d have been looking for hours. Please don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk next time, Lymsleia. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you while you were out of my sight...”

Lymsleia’s expression softened as she looked up at Miakis. There was a pause as they approached the entrance of the palace, and then, one of the guards pulled open the left door.

“Come on...” Miakis said softly, stepping out first.

Lymsleia followed after her, and the two walked down the stairs as the familiar sounds of combat filled the air. “Oh...?” Lymsleia turned her head to the left, watching three men on the grass below, weapons drawn. Kyle and Galleon she recognized immediately, but she was stunned at the identity of the third fighter...and eventually would be at his performance as well.

“ that...?”

Miakis grinned. “The temporary Queen’s Knights Commander? None other than.”

Down below, Richard stood with poise, rapier by his side. Unmoving, he watched as Kyle rushed him, long katana closing in on its target. At nearly the last second, Richard dodged and countered with a strike of his own. Though stunned, Kyle was quick to block it with his blade, and he pushed his opponent’s weight completely off of him. After a brief break, the agile teen charged toward Kyle and swung the weapon, knocking the knight completely off his guard. The man stumbled back slightly but quickly regained his stance.

The two continued their battle, Richard attacking with swift, perfectly calculated moves. Kyle found himself being pushed back more and more, realizing he was approaching the waterway’s edge. To his relief, the teenager finally withdrew, and the knight saw his chance to strike back. As he did so, however, Richard ducked and swung his leg around, tripping his opponent. Kyle cried out with surprise as he lost his ground, and he fell into the waters with a loud splash.

“Oh...!” exclaimed Lymsleia, completely wide-eyed. “H-how did he...? Kyle okay?!”

Miakis let out a giggle. “Of course he’s okay, Your Majesty!” she said. “They’re just training. No serious injuries!”

The young queen continued to view the fight, watching Richard with fascination.

While the defeated Kyle pulled himself out of the water, Galleon was next to approach the ever-placid ‘Blademaster.’ He swung the halberd from the underside, but Richard was quick to evade. As he bounced backward, he saw the knight coming at him again. Richard decided to meet the old man head-on; their weapons clashed for a moment, and then, the two separated. The teenager attempted again to slash at Galleon, but Galleon easily blocked the attack with his shield.

The older man had been unprepared for the young warrior’s stamina, however. The moment he moved his shield, he saw the blade coming down on him. With a gasp, the knight immediately caught it in the nook of his halberd. Richard, however, effortlessly pulled his rapier back and, with great force, arced it around three-quarters of the way to knock Galleon’s weapon out of his hand. Staggering back, Galleon grunted in slight pain, then brought his gaze back to his opponent. What he found was the teenager pointing his blade at him, a victorious but characteristically friendly look on his face.

“M-Miakis...” Lymsleia stammered. “This is incredible. The only two people who could best Galleon were Father and Georg...! And...taking on two Queen’s Knights on his own and defeating them? That’s...truly amazing...”

“Hee hee, I know,” Miakis replied with a grin. “I just wanted you to rest assured that this guy isn’t just clowning around. He’s serious about his craft, and you can definitely depend on him.”

“Ah...” The color in Lymsleia’s cheeks turned a good shade of pink.

He really is dedicated... she thought, her doubts alleviated at last. I...should apologize for doubting him...

Chapter 4

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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