“Huh, are we really supposed to fight like this?” said Tom, in his own, happy way.

Sally grinned in the darkness, “You can take it in later,” and grabbed her practice weapon.

Meanwhile, their opponent had a huge claymore-type weapon, needing so much rubber to be safe that it practically doubled the weight. If knight swords were made for piercing the mercurial form, then this one was for cutting them wholesale.

She said sagely, “Real knights need to be able to fight where there are no night lamps. Now, I can’t see you too well either. This room is perfect, don’t you suppose.”

Ms. Schwarz must’ve been beaming, because even in the dark training hall, made to imitate where streetlights went out, she shone as in her own element. She was also inhumanely strong, for she used the two-handed sword in one, and still used a parrying dagger and a buckler to fend off Tom and Sally sat the same time. She swam in the darkness despite the weight of her safety gear too.

“Tom, snap out of it,” said Sally, “Maybe there is a trick to this room.”

He did, “There’s no person alive who can move like this.”

It was very unlike the sword duels they had at Oakwood, because she merely demonstrated how hard it was to fight in very low light. Both the Lodestone Knights and the Black Knights often had to fight like this, and she made it clear as crystal.

Instead of offering a fair fight, she was waiting for them to realize that, truly, she was moving inhumanly with equally impossible strength.

“That’s enough. We give up,” Sally said, barely able to speak between the blows, all of which Schwarz could block.
They stopped but then worried, Schwarz said, “Well. I forgot, but we need to find the way out.”

Then, she collapsed to the floor, the glint of her eyes barely visible in the low light, but with a smile. She didn’t seem so much as fazed when Tom and Sally finally fumbled and found the switch and the door, and she was back on her feet. Her buckler slipped and clanged, and they saw the silver paint was tarnished almost completely by all the blocks.

It was completely by chance that Tom had met the most mysterious celebrity of his mind, at the residence. The place they had stumbled into was neither the Palace, nor any proper part of the museum, but a Royal Residence that was most like a house. It was more like an ancestral cottage and was probably left around on the grounds as an attraction, and the interior was not original and was more like a breakroom now for the Royal Palace proper.
The elderly woman was not only expecting them, but the coincidence led Tom to think that it was planned, but Nick only shrugged.

Instead he said, “This is the King’s mother, the Queen Nelia.”

But the lady could look like anyone else, “Pleasure to meet you. I occasionally hold tours here.”

She must’ve felt sheepish, and while she looked plain right then, she had a gaunt and heavy majesty like when Tom and Sally recognized her from the news. She smiled and disappeared, leaving them to wonder if her mettle was like her late counterpart’s in Elodia.

“Hmm, I wonder if she was in a bad mood, or just didn’t like being discovered here,” remarked Luna, but Tom was left confused. They washed up and walked upstairs, and there the Emperor was, “This old study is cozy, hmm” and he got up and embraced Nick, but then his neutral expression twisted.

“I was so scared, Nick, when I was told what happened. I’m sorry. I think I know what’s going on.”

Tom remembered that among the spectators of the duel between Neil and Nick, there must’ve been someone who reported to him.

“There has always been a friendship between us,” Kevin said, “but I think I have failed you.”

“I’m sorry, Luna, Baronets, but I could not act on my own. Travelling could have been dangerous since the conspiracy I asked Nicholas to tell you about, was not solved. But being cautious, we lost a life.”

Kevin said, “I think the culprit is one of my own.”

He continued, “It’s one the ambassadors, and a magician. The baroness, Dia Beck. I feel bad to suspect her just on that account, but then she had direct contact with Prince Neil before he went berserk. Though, we don’t know for sure if she’s a magician, and she is currently abroad in Lodestone anyway.”

Luna said suddenly, “Huh? We got to help Ella!”

“No, while their arent many people I can trust right now, we can ask Stein to take care of it. Though, it’s scary to deal with someone who can evidently mind-wash people,” said Nick.

Kevin again, “Right now, it is a question of what we can do. Since I can’t arrest her without a reason, and I would also be disgraced if I acted out of my power, we can only gather information and protect Ms. Eleanor. Not to mention, I can’t have foreign nationals interfering with an ambassador.”

“We want to help,” Tom said and latter added, “Your Highness.”

“I know, but after all there is nothing to be done, and you aren’t fit to do anything anyway.”

“Ah,” said Sally, “but we are the only ones close to the regent that you can trust entirely. Not even Stein!”

Carefully, Nick added, “We don’t know how her magic works, assuming she is guilty. It wouldn’t help to go back to help. Yet, I don’t think it would be safe to travel by the airship. We should stay here and relax so we can go back on patrols soon.”

Luna had remained silent until now, “But we could never relax that way. It might be against principle, but we have to do something, as he said.”

“Ms. Dia Beck was at the palace a few days ago. Then I can’t trust anyone except for the Black Knights. Maybe not even all of them. So Nick, I ask you if you can trust these three with your life,” said Kevin.

“Okay, but you wouldn’t trust them with something deeper than that. You haven’t forgotten that political turmoil can attract so many darklings. Even with the knights working their best, can you trust them with thousands, or even ten thousand lives?”

Nick didn’t respond.

“But we have to right now. I’ll ask for the Aena, and she’ll go with them. After all, wasn’t she someone you wanted to meet?”


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