Chapter 149.1 : Paladia Kingdom Castle And The Situation of The Village
The second afternoon after the night he fought Nidol in the Proxia kingdom, Rio visited Paladia kingdom’s royal castle. If he were to speak frankly about the aspect of the castle town that spread around the lake, it was clearly prospering as a city of a big kingdom. From the roadside of the commercial district, one could see the usual bustling scenery of merchants and buyers raising their voice.
（It’s………. Surprisingly normal）
Was Rio’s first impression about the capital of this kingdom. Following the information he got from Nidol after the fight in Proxia empire’s royal castle, the first prince of this kingdom –The previous hirer of Lucius’ mercenary group– might have the information about Lucius, but――
He had no choice but to trust and check out the truth of the seemingly shady information.
（Let’s slip into the castle once the day turns into night）
Rio looked at the castle built on top of the small hill on the lakeshore. Its appearance, surrounded by a solid tall wall, was closer to that of a fortress rather than a castle. It was quite compact compared to the royal castle of a big kingdom such as the Bertram kingdom or the Galwark kingdom.
Though an indescribable feeling began to erupt inside of Rio’s chest when he thought of the possibility that Lucius, the killer of his mother, was staying inside of that castle, he calmed himself after taking a deep breath.
◇ ◇ ◇
The day turned to night.
Paladia’s royal castle had shut its gates and rampart as if to refuse any intrusion. The defense became extremely tight with campfires built in almost every conceivable spot inside the castle walls and the number of sentries greater than during daytime patrolled around the castle in order.
When he judged that trespassing from the ground would take too much of his time, Rio snuck into the castle from the air under the cover of night and landed on the roof of Paladia kingdom’s royal castle. Wearing dark clothes and a dark mask, he moved quietly by perfectly blending with the darkness and erasing all signs of his presence. After looking at the situation in the courtyard for a while he decided to go inside through one of the windows.
Normally speaking, castles weren’t designed to have low-rise windows considering the safety aspect, but Paladia kingdom’s fort-like royal castle had even less windows for potential intruders to use. Though he found windows from time to time, they were shut tight and locked from the inside.
Even so, as long as an invader was looking for it there was bound to be a route――、
（Should I go in by using this lookout tower?）
Rio decided to enter the castle by using the spire meant for lookout. But he couldn’t just go there unprepared since there were three sentries on the lookout and more might be inside the passage of the castle.
Rio created a special magic field that made his body invisible to the eye with wind spirit arts by making his magic power permeate the air around him. But, since his magic couldn’t prevent noise from leaking out and it could come apart because of sudden movement, he had to move very carefully.
When he was going along the wall and about to go inside the lookout――
The sentries all reacted to what might have been the sound he made when he landed. But they turned away immediately after confirming that no one else aside from them was on the lookout.
Rio crouched in place for a few seconds after landing then slowly stood up and walked inside the lookout as if weaving his way through the gaps of the sentries. He made his way towards the inside of the castle when――,
（Here’s the real battle: looking for the room of the first prince.）
He focused himself.
Despite that, he couldn’t just swagger around in the open with all those soldiers, who were patrolling around, high ranking mages, who had an acute sense of magic power, positioned inside the castle and other dangers such as magic tools that could detect magic power. This was the place where his skills in gathering information by slipping through the consciousness of the sentries, detecting abnormal reactions of magic power, searching for signs of people and knowledge of when to undo his invisibility or when to activate it came into play.
Rio was already used to these kinds of activities thanks to his experience of sneaking into the royal castles of several kingdoms. Maybe because he came to the conclusion that he needed to go without worrying too much about the consequences at times like these, he started to move without excessive hesitation or moderation.
After descending the stairs of the spire, he finally arrived at the castle. He used his invisibility when passing by the patrolling soldiers, hid in the ceiling or used the shadows, in short, he adapted based on the situation.
（It’s not on the level of a big kingdom, but there’s no gap in the arrangement of the lookout）
Rio strode all the way to the inner part of the castle while thinking so. He decided to loiter around since he had grasped the structure of the lookout and the building itself. The soldiers on lookout divided were into many divisions based on the structure of the building. His targets were the higher-ups present in that building.
After a short stroll in the castle, Rio, who should have decided on his strategy, went towards the place with less people.
（The living place of the royalty should be that multistoried main building……… But, the problem is how to enter that place ）
As one would expect, even Rio found it hard to enter the gap between the door with two soldiers on lookout right next to it. He could naturally open the door in his invisible state while ignoring the fact that it would expose him, but a case where a door opened by itself would definitely cause an uproar. Becoming involved in such a situation wasn’t that amusing to him.
（Should I leave and see the situation from the windows?）
It was highly likely that any window would be shut tight with an internal lock, even if that was not the case, there was no way they would make a big enough window for someone to come in and out of a noble’s room. He didn’t want to make things more troublesome by opening it by force, so he tried to grasp the situation inside with spirit arts.
（Or wait for someone to enter?）
The efficiency of the second method was really bad since he didn’t know where the room of the first prince was and someone else might enter the room. Infiltration would have been much easier with Aisia who has a spirit form, but he couldn’t ask for that luxury since she was with Celia in marquis Rodan territory at that moment. Eventually――、
（Or…….. Should I look for information about the first prince in the inner side of the castle? I might be able to find his room as long as I strain my ears and eavesdropp）
Slow and steady. Rio chose the wisest and safest third option.
He moved from the area with many people gathered around to the lower floor, the less populated part of the castle. Since the lower floors of the castle were mostly populated by soldiers and employees of the castle, he might have been able to hear various stories there.
That was where most of the juicy gossip was shared. Maybe because the employees happen to have too much spare time without anything to do and loved to gossip, they talked about various things in their free time.
For example, the negative rumors of their co-workers which seemed trivial to Rio, and of course the juicy gossip about the royalty and nobles who live in this castle. The demerit was that he couldn’t guide the topic since they knew the way of the world inside the royal castle best.
During the one hour he eavesdropped on their conversation Rio found out that the name of the first prince is Duran. A gossip related to Duran was currently spreading like wildfire in the rest area of the knights. Rio listened carefully and finally found some clues about the whereabout of the first prince.
「Duran-sama was going out to look for a new woman? It sounds like she’s some sort of pretty girl at the inn in the neighborhood.」
A certain soldier who was oozing with curiosity opened that topic.
「A~h, that again huh? That’s just how it is. He’s changing his women like underwear.」
Another soldier said so with an envious tone. And――,
「Good grief. I want to become a big shot too you know. You’re even permitted to fool around like that, right? 」
「That won’t be fooling around since you’re not even married in the first place. Find yourself a girlfriend before bragging about fooling around.」
「S-Shut up. That’s just “If”.」
The other soldiers also joined in on their pleasant chat.
「Well there’s a saying that great men are fond of sexual pleasure. The battle achievements of Duran-sama are just too terrifying, including the people around him, you can’t let loose such careless remarks you know.」
「In short they’re released when he gets bored of them to prevent future troubles. Want to bet how long this woman is going to last? 」
One of the soldiers offered a gamble.
（It seems he has some nasty hobbies with his fondness of woman）
Is what Rio thought.
「But then, Duran-sama is leaving along with one of his troops and the mercenary acquaintance of him. I wonder when he will be back.」
Rio reacted to the words 「Mercenary acquaintance」.
「Fu~hn. Was there something strange like that? Say, I never heard about any big fight lately. Is there some sort of huge trouble that requires Duran-sama to go out? 」
When another soldier changed the topic again to make their conversation even merrier――,
「Who knows. I heard they’re heading towards the west highway, but………..」
The inquired soldier was shrugging his shoulders. The thing that Rio obtained from that soldier was――,
（So he’s headed towards the west highway along with his mercenary acquaintance…….. Which means that the first prince isn’t in the castle right now?）
He had a pensive look on his face.
The thing that made him really curious was the so called「Mercenary acquaintance」 mentioned by those soldiers in their conversation. Rio kept wondering whether that mercenary could be Lucius.