“There are only two escorts allowed in the Royal castle and the banquet”
Duke Franklin Barga had said this. In other words, I and a woman would be escorting Lapritrica-sama.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Shaft-san. Ashley-san, he’s the other escort. Shaft-san.”
Lapitricia-sama introduced me to Ashley-san. I closed the parlor’s door behind me quietly. Somehow, I felt like escaping as I closed it. Ashley-san got up from her hair and walked towards me. The morning like caught the mithril chair and the ruby that hung around her neck in the morning light. And her hair swayed with each step she took.
I felt fascinated by her beauty from behind my mask, and I wasn’t able to take a step; until she stood before my very eyes.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Ashley Zepanell. I’ll be escorting her along with you for about a month. Let’s get along, Shaft – -?”
Upon saying so, her head tilted sideways as she looked me in the eyes. Her expression changed in a flash. She was clearly doubting something, because she knitted her thin, even eyebrows.
“Schwartz-san, what are you doing hiding yourself with a mask?”
There was quite some distance from the parlor’s entrance and where Lapitricia-sama was. So even though Ashley-san said that with a loud voice, it seems that I didn’t need to be concerned with Lapitrica-sama hearing it.– Wait, that’s not the problem here! Why was I found out?! I haven’t said anything yet! I’m wearing the kevlar mask and had the zombie face below it! I’ve never wore this kind of cloths in any combination before!
“I’m shaft. Did you perhaps confuse me with someone else?”
For some reason, I also replied in a loud voice. I don’t think my voice was shaking.
“I’ve heard that the other person who’s to escort with me is the Black Masked Shaft. If you don’t mind, would you please show me what’s under the mask?”
“She said that, in an equally loud voice. Our distance closed as she brought her face closer and forcefully peered into my eyes, which were covered with the mask.
If I showed my face, she’d have no choice but to see I was not Schwartz.
I put my hands on the mask, and slowly took it off. I could see Lapitricia-sama flinch slightly as I did so. Ashley-san’s eyes didn’t part from mine, even when I showed the zombie face.
“Ahh, Schwartz, what’s with this face…”
Ashley-san refused to avert her gaze from my face. But what showed in her eyes were tears which reflected the morning sun. Tears that looked like they’d overflow soon – glitering—
Her right hand approached my face, but didn’t touch it. Though, I immediately understood that she avoided doing so because she was concerned and must’ve thought, would it hurt if I touch it?
I put my mask out and called out to the person behind Ashley-san.
“Lapitricia-sama, would you mind waiting for little bit?”
“Eh? Ehm, I don’t mind…”
I took Ashley-san – lightly – by her right hand, and took her out of the parlor. The guards who stood a bit away from the door shifted their attention to us. Suddenly appearing, they checked if everything was alright. I continued to pull Ashley-san and walked a bit down the passage. Taking her to a place were people wouldn’t hear us.
“Ashley-san, here should be fine, right?”
“Schwartz-san, what’s the meaning of this?”
“I’ll talk about the details later. To put it short, I’m living a double life as both Schwartz and Shaft in various ways. As for now, I’d appreciate it if you could address me as Shaft.”
I couldn’t say for sure if Ashley-san, who stared at me, truly understood what I was saying.
“… I understand. But is your face alright?”
“Don’t worry, this is just a disguise. There’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Is that so- – I’m glad…”
“Let’s return, shall we? Lapitricia-sama is waiting for us, after all.”
“Have you two finished talking?”
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I’m glad to be Lapitricia-sama’s escort from here on.”
I declared, but truthfully speaking, my heart wasn’t in the situation. I wasn’t sure how, but Ashley-san had figured out I was Schwartz with one look. I still didn’t know where I was lacking that she could recognize me immediately; I’ll ask her later. If my disguise could be revised, then I should do so.
After that, I must talk about Shaft to Ashley-san too. But that’s the same as informing her about me as the Shaft that caused that commotion in the Royal Capital. And he was a murderer who slaughtered people there.
Given that, I felt that it would much harder to tell her about that than the power of VMB…