About thirty minutes prior—
For a while, Diana and Alicia stayed at the barracks, resting.
But then, an unexpected guest arrived.
To be precise, he came here to see ‘Alicia and Rosetta’.
The guest was none other than Daniel Freesia, the Young Duke of House Freesia.
He briefly greeted Alicia, then he asked where Rosetta was, as he couldn’t see her anywhere.
Alicia promptly explained.
“Gosh, I was a step too late.”
I was going to invite you both so we could all take a stroll together, but…
Daniel spoke regretfully after hearing that Rosetta had gone out first.
His blue eyes blinked once, twice—glimmering with dismay.
However, he soon recovered.
Regardless of what he had just said, he opened his lips to speak once again.
“It’s a shame that Lady Rosetta isn’t here, but why don’t we take a walk together instead, the two of us The weather is really nice.”
Alicia immediately became flustered as she heard his sudden suggestion.
She had never taken a stroll with someone who wasn’t her family, let alone a man.
Still, her worries were short-lived.
Alicia was lost in thought briefly, but her head soon went up and down slowly.
She had gotten more comfortable around Daniel ever since they became penpals, so she said yes.
At the same time, she also thought that she might run into her sister, who was herself on a stroll.
And as Daniel mentioned, the weather was really nice.
As her bashful consent was given, the two other people who saw this had differing reactions.
One smiled brightly, while the other sighed inwardly.
The former was, of course, Daniel, while the latter was Diana, who was watching everything silently.
‘A stroll together out of the blue, huh.’
A memory surfaced over Diana’s mind.
Before arriving at the hunting festival’s grounds, she had received an order from Rosetta.
No matter what.’
It was the very first ‘order’ that Rosetta had given Diana, and so she vowed to succeed in this.
As it was said—no matter what.
Earlier when she and Rosetta exchanged glances, too.
After seeing the sharp look in Rosetta’s eyes before she left, Diana realized that it meant, ‘I’ll leave Alicia to you.’
Now was the time for her to carry out that ‘order’.
Diana had given Rosetta a straight-laced smile as she nodded.
Beneath that smile, her determination soared.
‘Don’t worry, Milady.
I will protect her.
No matter what.’
Right, that’s how it surely would be.
Until this man appeared.
Even if it was just a ‘stroll’, there were certain risks to take into account.
In fact, Diana hadn’t expected that Alicia would accept his suggestion.
Even more of a surprise to her was the shyness that was apparent on the ducal lady’s face.
In any case, that’s how this situation came to happen.
Diana did not like the external variables that were present in this mission, so the situation right now was far from ideal.
She did not like it one bit.
‘I mean, even if I don’t like it, what can I do.’
She had wanted to dissuade Alicia from going out, but she was merely a maid.
Lady Alicia and that man were both nobles.
In a society divided by class, she couldn’t dare to stop them.
Diana was then forced to prepare to go out.
She couldn’t stop them, but she was going to work hard while walking behind them.
However, the man took one look at her and shook his head.
“Only the Lady and I will be going out.”
Diana asked back in surprise.
This, too, was outside her expectations.
Try as she might, she could only hold her tongue.
Really, she couldn’t say anything back.
‘But I’m Milady’s maid.’
She couldn’t say such a thing in this place, given the unique environment.
Typically, any noble lady would be accompanied by her maid and escort knight whenever she would go on an outing.
But that wouldn’t be the case here at the hunting festival.
This place was rife with nobles.
For those who hadn’t left for the hunting grounds, it’s like an extended outdoor social gathering, in a way.
As it was, most nobles didn’t bring around their maids, attendants or escort knights in such a place.
It’s allowed to take them, but it’s not very necessary.
“You don’t have to follow.
We’ll be taking a walk at the safe side of the woods nearby, on a path.”
“Um, but, if perhaps there comes a sudden attack…”
But while Diana gave this excuse, she had to wonder whether it was the right one.
To reiterate, this was the hunting festival where many nobles were having a large social gathering.
If anyone were to get hurt, just one word would get the knights’ attention.
There were many of them standing guard at the border between the woods and the barracks.
They would defend the others from the beasts, just in case some would go down from the mountain.
Of course, in the written history of all the hunting festivals that had gone past, there was never a time that this had happened.
Anyway, this meant that using the excuse of ‘there might be an attack’ wouldn’t fly.
And sure enough.
Daniel laughed as though he heard a funny joke.
“Haha, you don’t have to be concerned about that.
Even if that happens, there’s nothing to worry about.”
I’ll take responsibility for the safe return of House Valentine’s precious daughter.
Like a whisper, Daniel added in between his laughter.
There was nothing more she could say to this.
Diana just clamped her lips together.
She just thought to herself, ‘I’ll still protect her.’
Diana heard from Rosetta that this man couldn’t even jump down from a tree by himself, and he had to ask for someone else’s help to do so…
Who in the world was he going to protect with that kind of body
However, she wasn’t allowed to say this either, so Diana had no choice but to see them off with a smile.
Then, as Daniel and Alicia were already some distance away, the smile on her lips disappeared in an instant.
“Ha… Yeah, it can’t be helped.”
Diana rubbed the back of her neck as she murmured quietly to herself.
While thinking about how she wished that Rosetta was here, Diana pursed her lips.
Glancing at the two people, whose figures were retreating further away, Diana waited until the distance between them and her was a little wider.
Then, she quietly left the barracks.
With the intention to follow those two secretly.
Others might think that her worries were too excessive for a simple outdoor stroll, but no matter how unusual her actions might seem, today was a day that she had to do it no matter what.
There’s surely a good reason behind Rosetta’s firm order.
The conversation Diana and Rosetta had earlier this morning at dawn came to mind.
‘You must protect Alicia today, Diana.’
‘Yes, Milady, I will.
But… Will something happen today…’
‘There will be a demonic beast attack.’
‘I beg your pardon, Milady Demonic beast attack’
Shocked, Diana flinched.
However, Rosetta smiled ambiguously and nodded back.
About half an hour after the rain sets in, a demonic beast will appear.
It will be at the boundary between the woods and the barracks.’
‘Demonic monsters, gracious.’
Diana had muttered with a grim expression.
She had been doing this and that for the entirety of her life, but she had never seen a demonic beast in person before.
‘As I mentioned before, I’ll be going up the mountain with Cassion for a while.
There’s something we need to retrieve.
I’ll be back by rainfall, but just in case, you must protect Alicia.
Receiving this order, Diana nodded.
Determination flared up beneath her dark brown eyes.
Diana then blinked after she recalled this conversation.
Now that she thought about it, Rosetta didn’t explicitly say that this was an ‘order’.
Well, it didn’t matter.
Order or not, the request was clear.
That’s why, no matter what, Diana had to do her job perfectly.
This was a great opportunity for her to repay her lady’s kindness.
She wasn’t all too excited about this sudden situation—where she’d have to protect two people, if need be—but what could she do about it
After leaving the barracks, Diana hid her presence and followed those two.
Since it was a forest path, it wasn’t very difficult to hide behind the many trees around them.
That’s how half an hour had passed.
Overhead, the blue sky gradually became downcast as more and more dark clouds drifted in.
It looked like it was going to rain soon.
Since Rosetta said that she would come back by rainfall, it should be about the right time that she would be returning.
Pulling back her gaze from the sky above, Diana then looked behind her.
There, at the quiet, lonely forest path.
The looming shadows of the lanky tall trees were being swallowed by the shadows brought upon by the gray clouds.
After taking in the downcast sky and the shadow-filled forest, Diana was stricken with discomfort.
She got more anxious when she felt no sign of anyone around them.
Just in case, before she left the barracks.
〈 Young Duke Freesia and Ducal Lady Alicia went out for a stroll together, towards the forest path at the west side of the barracks.
She left a note that said this.
Perhaps the ducal lady would head this way after seeing Diana’s note.
She said that she’d be back before the rain would come.
Since that’s what the sky looked like now, she should be back.
However, far from the ducal lady’s approach, there was nothing but silence around them.
It’s only natural that Diana started having a bad feeling.
‘By any chance, if something happened.’
Diana refuted the thought at once.
She stopped herself right away.
She didn’t want her foreboding guess to bring misfortune for no reason.
The Lady Rosetta that Diana knew was the kind of person who would pull through, come what may.
All Diana had to do right now was to focus on the task at hand.
However, how long had it been since she made up her mind like that
As the air went damp and as the heavens further grew dark, a drop of moisture fell upon Diana’s cheek.
In other words, the time that Rosetta promised had long since passed.
As the number of raindrops that soaked the ground increased, Diana’s anxiety grew slowly but surely.
“Good grief, seems like it started to rain.”
“Ah, I felt a drop just now as well.”
From a short distance away, Diana heard Daniel and Alicia’s voices.
Diana gulped heavily as she blinked her eyes.
Even though it was raining, those two young nobles continued to maintain only a bright outlook.
Though they were facing some troubles right now, there was still some excitement mixed in there.
A sudden situation.
A bit of a thrill.
Something like that.
And they had no idea what’s in store for them half an hour later.
Over the low laughter of the young man and young woman, Diana heard Rosetta’s voice in her mind once again.
‘About half an hour after the rain sets in, a demonic beast will appear.
It will be at the boundary between the woods and the barracks.’
Diana let out a sigh, then she chewed her lower lip.
She was anxious about Rosetta’s absence, but her priority right now was to do her job properly.
The rain had started, so those two should at least be able to seek refuge from the downpour in the next thirty minutes.
At a safe place, even if demonic beasts were to appear.
To ensure this, Diana would have to appear in front of those two right now.
‘I can’t do it just like that though.’
It wouldn’t be good if it was found out that she followed them regardless of what she was told earlier.
She at least needed to walk up there with a proper excuse.
Something like, she heard that it was going to rain soon, so she rushed out to pick them up.
But if she knew it would come to this, she should have brought an umbrella with her before coming up here.
Lamenting briefly because of hindsight, Diana momentarily gauged when would be the right time for her to come out.
But then, all of a sudden, chills ran down her spine.
She froze where she was.
One, two, three… six, seven…
As she counted in her mind, Diana’s head turned hurriedly to this direction and that direction.
Those chills came from the sudden presences that she felt.
Obviously enough, their surroundings were quiet up until only a second ago, but then all these presences appeared at once.
Those presences were everywhere.
It was meaningless to try and pinpoint where they came from.
‘What on earth…’
Diana was tense, rigid as she urgently looked around her.
Like a rabbit that’s being hunted.
And at that moment.
A huge roar.
Daniel and Alicia, and then Diana.
All three of them looked towards the direction one place in unison.
Towards the direction of where those sounds were heard.
At none other than the barracks.