Currently, Rio was locked up in jail inside the Royal Castle.
After Christina and Flora were found, the palace soldiers quickly placed them under their protection.
Therefore while Rio was still trying to make heads and tails of the situation, he was arrested and thrown in jail.
A little while later, he found out that Christina and Flora were princesses of the country.
Three days had gone by since he was arrested.
With meager amounts of time for sleep and meals, the majority of the time was used for interrogation.
That was how Rio passed his days in jail ever since he arrived.
While his body and mind were still asleep, he would be questioned every 5 minutes by over three investigators.
“Spit out what you know.”
Rio wondered how many questions he had already been asked over the three days.
Tired of hearing the same questions over and over again, he was disgusted by the suspicion placed on him in the first place.
“I already told you, I just happened to pass by. Bu chance when I was walking in an alley, I happened to see the kidnappers with those kids… with Christina-sama and Flora-sama. On an impulse I decided to help them. That’s all.”
The interrogator became visibly agitated when Rio mentioned “those kids”.
Realising it, he switched and called them by their honourific titles instead. Rio was becoming fed up at repeating the same testimony.
“You’re lying. You’re a spy aren’t you?”
Rio was asked the same question over and over again.
“I’m not lying.”
And Rio would resentfully spit out the same answer every time.
“Naa~, once again, you said that you only helped Christina-sama and Flora-sama on a whim. I find that really hard to believe.”
The interrogator said that while showing an unusual expression.
“Up until now, we’ve been courteous with you during our investigation. But if you refuse to tell us anything, we’ll have to change up our methods.”
The interrogator’s oppressive attitude was caused by the gloomy jail atmosphere and the lengthy yet fruitless interrogation.
For the interrogator, being able to keep up in appearances until now was praiseworthy.
“Heh~? And by what sort of means?”
Rio was smiling defiantly with a rebellious spark in his eyes.
Fed up, the interrogator returned Rio’s smile by striking him in the chest using the hilt of his sword.
Rio’s face was then slammed into the table.
The interrogator repeatedly slammed Rio’s face into the table. By the second time, Rio’s lips were already starting to crack and bleed.
At least he could decrease the damage through flesh body reinforcement but he had difficulty controlling his magical powers.
It seemed that the shackles on his wrists were obstructing the flow of magical power.
“Isn’t it weird? For a kid like you to face four armed opponents and on top of that, defeat them. Furthermore, no ordinary orphan would be able possess that kind of training. It’s strange even considering when you caught them by surprise.”
The incident was too incomprehensible for the interrogator causing him to shake his head.
“This is like a miserable play written by a peasant. You get what I’m saying?”
Rio was glaring at the interrogator as if he was his parents’ murderer.
The interrogator pulled Rio’s hair, raising his face to eye level and punched him in the stomach.
Seeing Rio groan in pain, the interrogator revealed a satisfied expression.
It was certainly the attitude of a sadist.
The pain in his stomach made Rio’s face distort in pain.
“His Majesty told us to treat you with utmost consideration. After all, you are Christina-sama and Flora-sama’s saviour. It’s only natural.”
If that was the case, what the hell was with this treatment?
Rio’s frustration and anger was already reaching its boiling point.
“But you’re too dangerous. As I said before, all your testimonies are too suspicious. There are too many unknowns surrounding you. Even if I have to resort to force, I will extract the information out of you. Understand?”
Grasping Rio by the head, the interrogator was scowling directly in front of Rio’s face.
The two people hatefully glared at each other. Rio floated a ridiculing smile on his face.
“If I say I don’t know, then that means I don’t know.”
Rio readily answered without hesitation.
He did not try answering any other way because what he stated was the truth.
“Hmph. Can a criminal like you not understand His Majesty’s grace? Fine, there’s an easier way for scum like you to understand.”
Saying that as provocation, the interrogator patted Rio’s face.
“After all, you might tell me who the mastermind is. I wonder who it is. Is it a noble?”
To the interrogator’s misguided reasoning, Rio could only let out a tired sigh.
“You don’t know? Why not try asking the perpetra- GAH!”
Before he could finish his sentence, Rio was hit in the face.
“The perpetrators, THEY’RE ALREADY ALL DEAD! They were killed! You’re the only one left alive.”
Hearing those words, Rio’s face cramped up.
At that moment, he wondered if his body could hold up after receiving so many beatings.
But with existence of recovery magic, he reconsidered the thought as he could probably be kept alive for further questioning.
“You know? Poison. Their meals were poisoned. Fortunately, your meals weren’t.”
While Rio still harboured some doubt towards the interrogator’s words, he believed what he was just told was the truth.
Hearing those words made him shiver.
To be able to poison the perpetrators, the mastermind behind the kidnapping incident must be somewhere in the castle.
But why did he not kill me?
That was because the mastermind would not be affected even if he was left alive.
Rio immediately arrived at that conclusion.
Rio and the mastermind had no connections. For Rio to be interrogated would be a benefit for the mastermind.
So Rio was deliberately left alive to throw off the investigators.
If that was the case the Rio’s life was not in danger for the time being.
However that was only limited to the mastermind.
If he got careless, the state would not hesitate to take his life.
Even though he rescued royalty, thanks to the suspicion placed on him he was treated as such.
If this trend continued, they would probably soon resort to torture.
In that case it would not be strange if he died.
(DAMN IT! At this rate I really will be killed…)
Feelings of anxiety and frustration began to accumulate.
Did he make the right decision by saving Christina and Flora?
If he ignored them, he would not have to suffer through such hardships.
This was the result of him getting caught up with his own feelings.
He just wanted to end the terrible incident; in the end Rio guessed he was just a selfish person.
“Hmph, how’s that? Feeling scared? If you’re afraid to die then tell us what you know.”
The interrogator ignorantly said that with an arrogant expression causing Rio to snort through his nose.
Seeing that, the interrogator hit Rio in the nose.
“Who’s the mastermind? From my superior’s investigations, you and those thugs never came in direct contact with the mastermind but received instructions through a third party.”
Rio was already fed up with everything. He could not do anything but protest which only worsened his situation.
Thinking about it, Rio thought he was a victim caught in the political crossfire occurring within the Royal Palace.
If that was the case, everything started to add up.
Disposing of the perpetrators by poisoning their meals and leaving Rio to fend for himself. Naturally he would be interrogated as he was the only remaining link to the incident.
Rio calmly analyzed the information he gathered so far.
Someone probably stood to gain from perpetrating the incident.
The mastermind was the most likely candidate since the thugs were disposed of to destroy any remaining evidence.
The losing side would fall into predicament and try their hardest to extract information from Rio.
For example, the mastermind could be the King if he was a ruthless person who had no qualms with using his daughters as political chess pieces. But the chances of that were low.
Aside from the king, a person who had the most to gain from this incident would have to be a highly influential noble.
But those with close relations to the royal family had no incentives to do so either. It was doubtful that they would gain anything from the King’s downfall.
For those reasons, the person who stood to gain the most from this incident was neither the King nor any of the nobles associated with the King.
But as far as Rio was concerned, he was caught in a political dispute between nobles.
(This is no joke.)
Rio had a delirious smile in his mind.
An influential noble lost in the power struggle this time and was using all their efforts to forcefully extract a confession from Rio while the winning side was against it. As long as the losing side held their suspicions, Rio would not be released.
That kind of suspicion would be very difficult to clear.
The interrogator remained paranoid throughout the interrogation and continued questioning Rio. If things did not go well, faking his confession was a possibility.
(If I can fabricate a confession that makes the losing side’s influence fall, there’s a chance I can get out of this alive.)
But he could not run away.
“Who did you receive orders from? It was a lower class noble’s child wasn’t it? You’ve actually received combat training right?”
Without growing tired, the interrogator continued to question Rio.
Carrying a stick, the interrogator tried to provoke him by hitting him on the cheek.
Rio spat out a mix of blood and saliva at the interrogator.
He could feel a bit of his resentment wash away.
Even if showing defiance to such a degree would not change his fate.
Without a command from his superiors, the interrogator could not kill Rio.
Enraged, the interrogator roared at Rio. At that moment, the cell door opened.
Seeing the man who just entered, the interrogator immediately stood up straight.
“Your Excellency Deputy Commander! Thi-This is…”
“Be at ease. How is his condition?”
The man who just entered was known as Alfred Emal.
He was the second son of the Emal household tasked with protecting royalty and the court.
Entering the cell, Alfred waved his hand at the interrogator and the interrogator muttered something to Alfred. He then turned his gaze towards Rio.
“Ha~. As I thought, even with a bit of force he won’t say anything. Such a rebellious attitude. With that kind of mental fortitude, I really wonder if he’s just a child.”
Alfred his hand on his mouth as he listened to those words.
“Because that… Your Excellency Deputy Commander?”
Judging by his expression, it seemed the interrogator wanted to ask something.
“The commander is busy at the moment so I came in his stead.”
Hearing those words, Alfred was slightly shocked.
The interrogator explained the situation and Alfred directed his gaze at Rio.
“Hmph. Are you really the orphan who rescued Hime-sama?”
Alfred’s voice resounded within the cell.
Even though he was still relatively young at only around his late-20s, he could release killing intent no ordinary person could endure.
But Rio just ignored his question.
Shouting, an imperial guard standing beside Alfred closed in and struck Rio.
Rio shifted his body as much as possible to lessen the impact of the strike and directed an icy glare at the knight.
When their eyes met, the guard involuntarily flinched.
“Interesting, even I can’t make this vagrant youngster speak.”
Alfred looked at Rio while evaluating him. The two stared at each other.
After staring at each other for a while, Alfred muttered in a low voice as if he realised something.
“Fumu, take this boy to the training grounds.”
“Roger! Right away, sir. Move!”
Following that, the interrogator yanked the chain attached to the choker on Rio’s neck and handed the chain the imperial guard.
Rio did not put up any resistance but he was still roughly pulled along by the guard.
The jail was located in the basement but the training grounds were above ground.
The appearance of the Bertram Kingdom Royal Palace, surrounded by sturdy stone walls was a small yet stunning castle constructed from fine white bricks.
The ugly but pragmatic stone walls were erected to withstand external assaults.
Exquisite pieces of art and ornaments lined the halls of the castle.
Rio was walking in a wide corridor with regularly set columns on either side and lush, vermillion coloured carpet laid on the floor.
On the way, castle guards and servants eyed him curiously.
The knight leading him ignored them and continued guiding him.
(Just like a monkey exhibit, huh. No this is even worse than that.)
They looked at Rio with discerning eyes mixed with sympathy and contempt.
The occasional high class civilians he passed in the halls displayed similar expressions.
When he met the onlookers’ gazes, they averted their eyes.
And like that, Rio was brought to the training grounds.
Nobles and their knights serving the Kingdom gathered around as spectators to observe the spectacle.
Rio was passed a training sword and made to stand in the center of the training grounds to face a knight.
Rio could not comprehend why he was forced to fight, but he had no other choice but to go with the flow of things.
Right now, he only needed to focus on how to defeat the opponent in front of him.
Fortunately the handcuffs obstructing his magical powers were already removed.
If worst came to worst, he could use body reinforcement to force his way through the gate.
But escape could wait until after the duel.
So he only needed to end this match peacefully.
Taking a stance with his training sword, his opponent was an imperial guard equipped with light metal armour and a buckler.
He looked down at Rio with one of eyes.
Even when provoked by the imperial guard to make the first move, Rio did not move from his position. Rio silently observed the opponent in front of him.
The imperial guard could feel Rio was not a normal opponent, especially from his peculiar sword stance.
Facing the imperial guard, Rio was not at all intimidated.
Annoyingly clicking his tongue, the guard decided to go on the offensive.
Swiftly closing the distance separating them, he released a blow with all his might in order to crush Rio. The guard skillfully weaved the training sword. At the current rate if the blow connected with Rio’s body, it would not end with just an injury.
Sensing the approaching danger, Rio decided it would be best to avoid the attack.
He dodged the blow by nimbly side-stepping.
The guard’s face twisted in astonishment while the spectators were aghast at what just transpired.
Without missing the chance, Rio used minimal amounts of magical power to strengthen his physical abilities and muscles and instantly pointed the tip of his training sword at the Imperial Guard’s neck.
Silence filled the area.
“Wa-Wait! I was unprepared! He just got lucky! I’ll get serious next time!”
The Imperial Guard started to panic as he blurted out flimsy excuses.
Looking at his unsightly appearance, the silence was replaced by roars of laughter.
“…YOU! Don’t tell me you’re making excuses for losing to a kid. What a disgrace for an Imperial Guard. This kind of blunder is inexcusable.”
A loud voice resounded from the crowd of spectators. The voice belonged to one of the nobles who was watching the mock battle from the corner of the training grounds.
“Y-Yes! As Duke Euguno said, it’s outrageous for an Imperial Guard to be making excuses like that.”
The surrounding nobles murmured in agreement. On the other hand, isolated groups of nobles lost interest in the display and bit their lips while listening to the speech.
Rio remained expressionless at the spectacle unfolding before him.
“Fool! Cool your head! Your negligence was the cause of your loss. As an honourable member of the Imperial Guards, obediently accept your defeat.”
Alfred admonished the Imperial Guard who was facing Rio.
As one would expect of one being reprimanded by the Deputy Commander, the Imperial Guard vexedly repented and lowered his head.
Alfred directed his attention to Rio. After seemingly being lost in thought for a bit while observing Rio, Alfred opened his mouth.
“Fu~n, splendid! Boy, this is proof that you really were the one who rescued Christina-sama and Flora-sama.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Rio daringly asked Alfred without hesitation.
“Oh, I was just personally relaying His Majesty’s gratitude. It is a great honour for you to receive His Majesty’s thanks. A room will be made available for you. You’re free from prison now.”
Using His authority, Rio was completely one-sidedly cornered.
The King was an absolute existence held in awe by all.
It was that kind of feeling.
The King had not said anything ever since Rio left prison.
Rio’s nonchalant reply made Alfred furrow his eyebrows. He then looked at Rio and said,
“Fu~n, anyway you may head to your prepared room now. A magician has been arranged to examine and treat your injuries.”
“Thank you very much.”
The ones responsible for putting Rio in such a miserable state was under Alfred’s command in the first place. He was unhappy at the fact but for the time being he expressed his gratitude.
Thus Rio was released from jail.
After accepting treatment for his injuries, he was guided to his room for a bath. There he was greeted by an older girl serving as his caretaker.
She was still in her teens.
But the beauty the girl boasted would make even renowned artists hesitate to bet their life to try and accurately reproduce her elegance.
“Beautiful” was the only word that could be used to describe her.
The girl quietly entered the room and bowed to him.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Aria Gavness. I am an apprentice maid working in the Royal Castle and have been appointed as Rio-sama’s caretaker. Please take care of me.”
Arira said that with a blank face like a Noh mask.
It was a clear voice with no hesitation.
“Why thank you, for you to display such courtesy to someone as lowly as myself. I’m Rio.”
Bowing respectfully without being distracted by the maid’s unbelievable beauty, Rio politely greeted her in return.
If the other party acted courteously, then Rio would also respond in a courteous manner.
An eye for an eye, a favour for a favour; that was what Rio believed.
He did not know the etiquette of the country but from the way he returned the greeting, a very small hint of surprise sparked in Aria’s eyes.
Unless one had very keen observation skills, they would have missed it. But Rio noticed it.
It seemed like behind the Noh mask, Aria was not totally expressionless.
“I will be serving as Rio-sama’s attendant during your time at the Royal Castle. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to call for me.”
But Aria was also acted quite professionally; she did not pry for any information about Rio.
“Then tell me one thing. After meeting His Majesty the King tomorrow, will I immediately get kicked out of the castle?”
“I am sorry. But I don’t know anything regarding that. I only know you have an audience with His Majesty the King tomorrow. I was ordered to take care of Rio-sama for the time being.”
In other words, there was the possibility that he would be placed under house arrest after the audience.
Hearing the reply he had predicted made him despair.
But at least when compared to his former jail cell, his current accommodation was a large improvement.
“I see. Thank you for telling me.”
“No need, it is my duty to inform you of such matters. If you don’t have any more questions, shall I bring your meal?”
“That’d be wonderful. By all means, please do.”
After suffering through numerous days being served inadequate meals, Rio displayed a smile befitting of his age.
(It’s not all that bad after all. I get to eat luxurious meals instead of receiving a reward.)
While entertaining difficult thoughts, Rio headed towards the Royal Court kitchen.
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