Five, Twenty-three, and Twenty-five Years Ronald’s Collection Chapter 4.3: Protecting the Duke from Assassins – Story

Azhure: Happy new year, everyone. Apologies for the late upload as the celebrations messed up my writing schedule. Furthermore, I happen to revise More About the Otherworldly Court 2 which pushed this chapter’s publish. Add the fact that it’s difficult for me to write this chapter, I decided to take my time and despite finishing this, I think I could do better. Anyway, enjoy.


“So, would you like to tell us your story, miss?” Joshua said, trying to break out a comforting smile to the scared maid. Under the suppression of his, he went a tad bit too far.

Ignoring the “Huh?” from duke Allister, Joshua saw that the maid was still scared stiff, much like the kid spirit who might as well pee his little toga right now.

Feeling no progress and the fact crouching on the tree branch will tire him, he jumped to the broken window, landing one foot on the stool, minding the shards, and-

Me and the reinforcements have rounded up all of the assassin’s cronies, how’s your end, Joshua? (Ronald)

“Aah!” And with the sudden [Telepathy], Joshua lost his footing and ended up falling backward.

[Eject] my shoulder blades 0.01 percent!

TZANG

But fortunately, Joshua quickly released maneg behind him to tilt himself back up, grabbing the outer sides, not the part with shattered glass, of the window. With a sigh of relief and the mild annoyance that the suppression didn’t kick in meaning his Maneg Soul didn’t think he’s in any danger, Joshua looked at the duke and others’ bewildered faces.

“M-Mister Ruze,” Allister spoke up. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Joshua responded.

Joshua? Are you there? Joshua? Joshua!? (Ronald)

Ironically crouching again on the window, Joshua hurried up slapping two fingers behind his ear, targeting Ronald’s Maneg Soul signature he’s familiar with, and gave his response.

The duke is safe and sound and I caught another assassin on a tree, tried to throw a knife at me or the duke either to kill me or just a distraction to escape but I still knocked him out.

Joshua decided to put his ‘knocking out’ aside, for now.

And the assassin within Illyer’s staff? (Ronald)

Disabled her too, and uh… she’s the maid we were going to check back later.

…Seriously? Did we trigger what our future descendants called a flag or something? (Ronald)

Maybe, but the maid looks like she’s forced to do it, she actually tried a surprise stab in the duke’s gut with that frail body of hers. Unless she can morph into an Amazon, she’s definitely not secret assassin material, especially when she’s standing right in front of me frightened like the intermediate spirit as we speak.

Well, I can certainly imagine that. Right, I’ll come over now. I’ll bring the assassins we captured to the mansion as well, let me tell my backup they can go home now. Also, do best in whatever situation you’re in right now. (Ronald)

With that, Ronald cut off the connection, leaving Joshua back to the duke, spirit, and maid looking at him doing nothing but squatting on the broken window with his hand behind his ear. The telepathic conversation was long after all.

“Mister Ruze,” the duke spoke up. “You almost fell and then went silent for a while. Are you fine?”

“Yes, just talking to Ronald through our minds,” Joshua replied, also prepared for what the duke would say next.

“…What?” was Allister’s expected reaction.

“I’ll explain later,” was Joshua’s prepared answer as he finally hopped into the office.

TA-TAP-P T-TA-A-P-P TAPTAP TA-T-P-AP T-T-A-AP-P T-TAP-AP

“‘Cause the others are coming,” he continued as they heard multiple footsteps coming.

“Dear!” It was the shout of Marisa, Allister’s wife. “I heard noises, is everything alright!? …And what are you doing here, Willow?”

“A-Aah…” The maid, Willow, who was still at the other side of the door, in the corridor, whimpered as she clutched her hands to her chest as she turned to lady Illyer, and most likely the rest of the family’s direction.

“I suggest we quickly explain ourselves what’s going on here before they jump to conclusions,” Joshua told the duke as calmly as possible. “Also, we ought to go somewhere more comfortable for Willow’s explanation, bring out some tea or something as well. Oh, and Ronald’s coming over too.”

The duke, seeing the developing situation that could deteriorate quite quickly, agreed. “Right.”


“I see,” Marisa sighed as she cupped her cheek. “An assassin had coerced poor Willow to assassinate you when Ruze intervened and subdued said assassin that tried to kill you instead when she failed,” she summarized to which her husband nodded. She turned to Joshua, “meanwhile, another assassin attacked you and Bell in broad daylight.

“That’s correct,” Joshua confirmed, sitting on a couch, arms crossed.

In the end, they were able to calm things down as the duke quickly explained to his family and prince what happened without things going south. Apparently, for aristocrats, they weren’t as narrow-minded as Joshua thought they would be.

Then, after the “Are you alright, dear”s, “Thank you for protecting the duke, mister Ruze”s, the “M-My deepest apologies!”, and throwing the assassin to the dungeon, they went to the common room where they all sat down with the spirits hiding behind their namers, they’re still not used to Joshua and probably wouldn’t make so much as a squeak since they have no purpose in this conversation, and Willow in the center looking like she was going to be executed.

And she isn’t going to be, Joshua mused internally. That confirms the duke’s kindness at least. Other nobles would’ve thrown her to their darkest dungeon to be tortured or just hang her then and there.

As for an although, Joshua eyed the exits to see a couple of maids peeking out like a totem, worried of their co-worker.

“Calm down, Willow,” lady Illyer, Marisa, softly said to the tear-wrecked maid. “You are a kind girl who came all the way here from your home village to pay back the orphanage that has taken care of you despite your frailty, that is genuine.

“You are not one to attempt to murder my husband without a good reason.” And by that point, everyone can figure it out. “Or is it because?” But Marisa still gasped in suspected realization.

“…” Willow squeezed the white apron of her uniform as she shed some tear hearing her lady’s suspicion. “Yes…” she confessed as she timidly told her story. “I-It was two months ago… when I visited my home village. When I got to my orphanage… there were bandits holding everyone with blades. They said that if they were to be alive… I have to bring their assassins here and… cooperate with them.”

And what the maid meant by cooperating were pretty obvious to piece together the story.

How cliche. (Ronald)

You got that right.

Incidentally, while Willow told her story, as well as the whole exchange, Joshua relayed it to Ronald via [Telepathy]. The Bell heir was still on his way, and since he can hear everything through Joshua and needed to bring the hoodlums he captured on his end without much attention, he wasn’t in a rush.

“And what about the villagers?” Marisa asked.

“T-The other villagers were afraid to resist them either.” Willow weakly shook her head. “S-So they were just as threatened as the orphans.”

“I see…”

“By the greater spirits,” Allister sighed, slumping in his seat. “It was inevitable prince Van would do this. Hah… I am not suited for politics.”

Hm, according to the report Daisuke gathered, most of the workers in this mansion were born in town. Willow was one of the few coming from the rural countryside and still attached to her birthplace. (Ronald)

So Willow’s unfortunately one of the few maids the assassins could force her to cooperate by threatening the orphanage seeing as the rest of the staff wouldn’t take bribes and their families can’t be hostages being under the direct watch of the duke.

Yes, and disguising as one of the staff wouldn’t work either since the duke memorized his servants’ faces and made sure all of them know each other. Furthermore, the duke apparently made quite the fanfare whenever he hired someone, probably to make sure the other workers know them. (Ronald)

“However, if I may be blunt, despite going through the lengths to threaten you, Willow, their assassination attempt was very poor,” Albert, the first prince with his betrothed, Elaine, beside him, iterated in a disappointed tone.

“I mean, the assassins made you, with your weak body, to try and stab Allister, a war hero, with a mere knife,” Albert explained. Unbeknownst to him, however, said war hero flinched at the prince’s statement. “Meanwhile they went after the Bell heir in public. And all of this, I was left untouched. What sort of thugs did my half-brother hire?”

Indeed. They didn’t seem to have a plan. (Ronald)

“U-Um… Actually, they told me to slip poison into your breakfast, your highness,” Willow confessed, mustering her courage to do so.

“Ah, that makes more sense!” The prince soundlessly clapped, with a smile on his face for some reason. “I assume you disposed it?”

“Y-Yes, I couldn’t do it, so I threw it away.”

Damn, he’s so casual about it.

Seriously, we could’ve been done in on that breakfast! We certainly don’t get poison immunity unless it’s magic and our suppression kicks in half the time in those situations! (Ronald)

“And in retribution and not wanting to cut their losses, they forced you to stab me instead,” Allister concluded.

“Y-Yes…” Willow’s head was down, the poor girl couldn’t face the duke in guilt.

“And seeing the threat of the Otherworldly Court by my side,” the prince added. “They most likely thought rashly and decided to take out the potential threat.”

With every passing word, Willow seemed to get more depressed. Seeing this, Joshua felt a tug in his heartstrings, he couldn’t just sit there and watch when he agreed with Ronald to pay attention to her. However, it looked like the maid will not be out of her self-deprecation anytime soon, no matter what consolation he could give her.

Especially when the prince Albert has not finished talking, “Amateurish as they are, the assassins do seem to be very loyal to my half-brother, seeing as they would hastily forge a backup plan on the spot.”

“Indeed, the second prince is at least… charismatic in a sense,” the duke commented. Afterwards, he seemed to be in deep thought, but Joshua didn’t pay mind to it.

“Not to mention Van might know about us now,” as Joshua decided to give his input instead. “This could be a problem in the future.”

“Um…” Willow spoke up, catching their attention. With Joshua concluding the exchange, the maid finally has the courage to notify them that, “I-I didn’t tell them about what you and lord Bell really are. Only about lord Bell’s sudden visit.”

“What?” Joshua blinked. “So you’re saying you didn’t tell the assassin about the Court?”

“Y-Yes,” the maid nodded. “I didn’t tell them about it.”

“Hm… unless you see it for yourself which they certainly could not have, I highly doubt the assassins would believe her claim if she told them about it,” the prince thought out loud, holding his chin. “Then the assassins may mean to kidnap Ronald Bell being a valuable bargaining chip for their prince or at least grief his father, Alan Bell, with his death to order Arnald to cancel the alliance. Since Alan was notorious to disappear as soon as he steps out of cities, they probably thought his son would too and acted hastily, leaving the assassination of the duke and I poorly managed after the initial attempt failed.”

He’s right, the dining hall doesn’t have any windows, and all the servants know each other, so the assassins couldn’t see our demonstration, so it made sense that the assassin I knocked out from that tree was surprised by my Orders, Joshua thought. And the assassin falling from the top of the restaurant does seem to be going for a knifepoint and not at the same time. Welp, too bad the sucker didn’t expect our hyper-awareness through our suppression.

“Well that’s convenient, ’cause I’m not exactly sure if I got all the bad guys here. And considering their shell-shocked faces, they thought I’m ordinary. Looks like we were worried over nothing.”

“”Eep!/Aah!”” Both spirits squeaked in unison. So they did speak in this conversation after all.

The household turned around, alarmed by the sudden voice to see a red-haired young man. Joshua wasn’t surprised though as he already sensed his signature.

“M-Mister Bell!?” the duke exclaimed at his arrival. “When did you arrive?”

“Just now, through the door.” As he took a seat, Ronald nonchalantly stuck his thumb back to the half-opened door that he didn’t close properly when an out-of-breath butler peeked out of it.

“M-My lord,” the butler panted, holding the door as support. “Lord Bell has arrived.”

“Right, you are dismissed,” duke Illyer said before the butler gave a bow and leave. Then, Allister turned to Ronald, “So-”

“No need,” Ronald interrupted, gesturing his hand to Allister. “I heard everything from Joshua.”

“Hm?” The prince raised his eyebrow. “How do you know?”

Ronald simply looked at Joshua and vice versa. “”We’ll explain it later,”” both said in unison, leaving the others in the dark.

“Anyway,” Ronald continued. “We caught all the assassins in your city and got all the information from them, I’ll send it to you soon.”

“Ah,” the duke uttered, snapping out of his stupor. “I see, and what did you do to the assassins?”

“I brought them here, they’re in the front yard with your guards.” Ronald shrugged. “Again, we got all we want from them, so do what you want with them, it’s your territory.”

“I see, very well,” Allister nodded before looking at a servant. “Inform the guards to put them in the dungeon.”

“Right away, sir.” That servant gave a bow and promptly left.

“Also,” the duke turned back to Ronald. “Thank you for capturing those assassins, mister Bell.”

“No problem, but…” Ronald’s tone shifted, his eyes pointing towards the frail maid. “With the assassins sent here more or less rounded up, their friends back at Willow’s village won’t receive the news of their successful assassination or only receive a few stragglers we missed bearing news of their failure. So…”

“They will execute the captives,” Allister concluded with his eyes narrowed.

“..!” And Willow was the first to react in horror, clasping her mouth with an inaudible gasp and fear dreading her eyes as the color of her face drained away.

“Well, let’s go save them,” Joshua interjected.

“Indeed,” Ronald nodded.

And the room fell silent.

“…What?” Before Willow murmured in confusion.


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