During the third day of detention I heard that they had released my father, having not found anything suspicious about him. They judged my family to be completely unaware of what has happened. I felt relieved….
The fourth day passed without any progress, and I spent it reading a romance for ladies, which the Captain gave me with a smirk: “You should study this one…”
Then during the sixth day everything changed.
At early morning the Captain ran panting to me: “They got Cecille Ruff Galaner! She had some Rudy powder..”
He immediately left, and I spent the whole morning spinning around my cell full of agitation…
It was midday when the Captain came back.
“Good news, my Lady! Lady Galaner has confessed about the crime.”
“Lady Cecille..? But how???”
“We were tailing her following your assumptions. We reinforced the surveillance by telling her that she needed more protection against potential killers, and we placed a lot of knights both outside and inside the Palace. Then, one night, she tried to sneak into the garden and place a small glass of Rudy in your bedroom. She couldn’t avoid to be seen by our knights, because they were everywhere. She thought she could indict you, but we were waiting for a move like this already….”
“.. In my room???”
“Do not worry, we were patrolling it from every side!”
If she has been found guilty just because she had some Rudy on her, it was not so much different from my situation.
I couldn’t hide my anxiety, but the Captain smiled at me.
“How can she defend herself when the Heroine herself with her Sacred beast investigated the crime scene?”
So it was Peko. It was not only the Captain and his Knights who were trying to find a solution, there were many other people involved.
“Thank you so much….!!! I don’t know how I can repay the Heroine, you, the knights…”
“Well, I’m the personal knight of His Highness. You can thank him directly. I didn’t agree with him when he decided to use me to protect you. He’s so concerned for all… If he only had wings to move faster… He is really lucky to have his sister in law always by his side. So don’t forget there was another person dedicated to your case.”
“D-Do you mean…. You mean His Highness itself gave an helping hand in solving this situation???”
“Yes, he did. It was him who suggested to focus on investigating on other suspects first. That’s the reason why we put all those knights guarding her with the excuse of protecting her life. She was practically isolated. It has been a really clever interrogatory masked as a favor to her. Lady Cecille was getting more nervous every day which passed, to a point that we were alerted to pay particular attention to her, because she probably would have done a false move soon. She finally had a breakdown after realizing that Prince’s interest about her was, in fact, suspect against her. That’s why she decided to lay it all on the line and tried to place a false evidence in your room. But as soon as she tried… She has been caught by the Princes… No, I mean the future bride of His Majesty, Peko. Noone could image the danger would have come from the sky!”
“..But why…??” I couldn’t get why Lady Cecille had risked so much to frame me.
“Well, I guess it was jealousy. A woman can become obsessed by it.”
“But why has she used Rudy between hundreds of venomous plants?”
“Well….. It must be your fault! Do you remember when you talked about how powerful is Rudy balm when you introduced yourself to us? She must have been very jealous of the friendship between you and His Highness, and probably she remembered that too. You should be more careful not to boast too much about your gardening skills!”
I’m mortified. I know, I can’t resist talking about my beloved garden and its plants. I then realized how tedious it must have been talking about it to the Prince too, so I looked away with a worried face from the Captain.
Just a moment after the Captain had gone, Peko arrived. She came in showing his pinkie, with a tender smile.
“Here I am! I came to you as soon as possible as I promised!”
“Peko……!!!”, I hugged her with tears in my eyes…
“Thank you….! You saved me…! Is everything ok? I hope you didn’t have to do anything dangerous for me…”
“Eheh, nothing compared to my crusade against The Demon King…!”
“You can’t compare it! But I’m so happy to see you safe and sound… Thank you again. I really don’t know how to repay you…”
“Do not worry about it, I did what I had to do.”, Peko tenderly smiled, “But I’m sorry for being late. We must hurry outside. Tomorrow the grand ball will take place! Do you think you can prepare youself in time?”
She told me that she could have lend me one of her dresses, but I moved away shaking my head.
“I won’t go to the grand ball.”
“Why? Do not worry, everyone already knows you are innocent. I can repeat it again tomorrow if you wish!”
“I heard they investigated my family when my father was arrested. You do already know it, right? I’m not Theresa, the one who was sent as a suitor for the second Prince. I’m Theresa’s sister and my name is Anessa. I came as a scapegoat to the palace. I came here acting like her.
I apologize for having deceived you. I used a fake name and I got close to you inadequately. I made this plan and I convinced my father and my family to follow it. I’m ready to receive any punishment i deserve but please, spare everyone else….”
“Any punishment you say?”, her voice was flat and menacing.
I closed my eyes waiting for her to hit me, but I just suddenly felt an hand caressing my cheeks.
“You silly! What are those ceremonies? Not only you are absent-minded, but you didn’t listen to me at all! Didn’t I tell you that I can easily judge people? I don’t care about your name. I would have been your friend also if you were “Elizabeth” or “Pochomkin”. You haven’t become my friend just because I’m a Heroine, have you?”
She removed her hands from my cheeks, and I finally found the courage to look at her bright red face.
“… No, no!! Of course not! I wanted to be your friend because I like you!”
“And do you think I am right seeing our friendship in the same way?”
“…. Yes, you are.”
“ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!”, Peko irradiated happiness.
It was obvious. I’m such a blockhead. I felt so relieved and my tension faded away in front of her genuine smile.
“Let’s forget about your punishment for now. Let’s not involve in thing pertaining politics, I’m not expert about those. Let’s go to the grand ball, shall we? Only few of us know your real identity…”
“That’s not the real problem. I can’t commit another crime. I’m not even at the right age anymore to be the bride of His Highness. It would be better for me to leave the Palace as soon as possible…”
“Do you remember what the Queen has said?”
“… Among the many suitors of various ages and social ranks, there must surely be someone who the Prince will like…”, I answered with confidence, I remember that speech very well.
Peko smirked at me and said: “Ehy, could you leave a shoe here?” “Ok, If you wish…” Still wondering about the previous words I started without noticing to untie my shoes…
“… You are hopeless, Anessa. You are more sleepy than the “Sleeping Beauty”….” Peko sighed.
We came down from the tower. Peko told me that Lord Dalton was still outside the Royal Palace. His Majesty told him to to wait here, as he was planning to return home with me.
“Are you going to return home without saying goodbye to His Highness Itaku..?”
“I.. I feel too ashamed. He won’t even be willing to see me, the woman who cheated him…”
“You didn’t answer to me. I know you would like to meet him…”
The Heroine knows no fear: I couldn’t hold his inquiring gaze.
I became a friend of him just because he thought I was Theresa.
Even if I knew he would had never chosen me, I kept deceiving him. His gaze, his words, the Lirott flower which he gave to me… Everything was addressed to my sister.
“….I-I don’t want to see him. I feel so ashamed of my thoughtless behaviour. I have a guilty conscience. I also have a lot of fear. I can see His Highness looking at me with disgust, I-I feel sick….”
Peko was silently listening to my cowardly confession when she said me with a sigh: “I can’t convince you to stay, uh?’”. She patted my shoulder and ran away: “I’m going to call the Captain out”.
My father had a reverential fear of the Heroine, so he was waiting for me inside the Royal Order’s carriage. A knight was instructed to escort us home, to prevent any escape attempt.
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