Chapter 29 – Aftermath

I had no time to worry about her escape. My footmen were still facing two ghouls each. I ran at the ghoul nearest me, screaming at the top of my lungs to turn him away from the wounded footman. Instead, both of his opponents turned to face me.

Not smart, I was thinking as the footman immediately plunged his blade into the back of ghoul #1. Well, nobody ever credited a ghoul with high intelligence. They’re basically the goblins of demon-kind.

Ghoul #2 parried my mithril blade, but failed to recover quickly enough to do anything about the foot I planted in his chest. He toppled backward, and the footman took his head. I kicked off with a mighty downward wing stroke, sending myself above the footman and Carson, circling around and angling for a third ghoul, but Carson had already been on the job, binding both remaining ghouls and leaving them helpless to the footman they were facing. By the time I could help, they had been slaughtered.

I landed and retracted my wings while huffing to catch my breath. Making rapid tight mid-air turns on the deck while swinging a sword is seriously hard work. I strode over to where the asura had been, picked up her staff and carried it with me to the driving seat.

When I climbed up, I confirmed that the coachman was dead as I had suspected. His hand was still holding the reins. He had spent his final moments bringing the carriage safely to a halt. I looked down at Carson, who was checking the third footman. He looked up at me and shook his head.

“Same with the driver, I’m afraid.” I answered his wordless report, then looked over to one of the surviving footmen “Mitter, you’re the assistant driver, right?”

“Uh… y, yes, Young Mistress.”

“Are you in good enough shape to do it?” I asked as I dragged the unfortunate driver’s remains across the bench. Carson stood ready to accept what I was about to hand down.

As I lowered the body and Carson got hold of him, Mitter nodded. “I can, but I’m bleeding here, Young Mistress.”

“Do we carry a medical kit?” I asked Carson.

The other footman was already at the back of the carriage, digging into the trunk. “I’m fetching it now, Young Mistress.”

I spent the next several minutes applying field dressings. Having learned about the usefulness of healing potions during my months with the hero’s party, I decided from now on that Pendor House’s field kits would contain multiple phials, despite the cost of the quality healing potions that didn’t expire quickly.

The footman kept insisting he was ashamed to make the young mistress do such work, so I ordered him to shut up and deal with it. I wasn’t the ‘young mistress’ at that moment, I was a royal knight with wounded subordinates to worry about, and I was the one best trained to do field dressings.

The bottom had a stream running through it. I asked Carson if he knew the name, so I could report the location. He didn’t, so I took the ghouls’ weapons and planted them standing upright in their carcasses so they would be visible. It would make it easier for the city guard to spot the location, when they came to investigate. They needed to see if there were any clues for how demons could get so close to the capital.

Carson and I finished the trip with two bodies in the cabin. I wouldn’t let him put them in the rear box. I just felt like they ought to ride inside, not get handled like luggage.

# # #

Naturally, it was quite late by the time we actually got back to the mansion. Benedetta and the maids were horrified to hear I had been attacked by demons, and they became determined to scrub off every bit of demon gore that had splashed me. They also decided that the tea gown would have to be destroyed rather than laundered. I had misgivings about that; it was one of my most normal outfits.

I was in the middle of being bathed when Mother came into my bathroom. Now, it’s weird enough being in the tub together with five wet, half-naked maids, but doing so in front of your mother? That’s embarrassing. Even though she’s the one who arranged for my baths to be done this way.

Only allowed on

“It seems extraordinary, that the carriage the demons to attack happened to be yours,” Mother mused. I don’t know if she was insinuating I might somehow have set it up, going back to her theory that I was somehow of demonic origin, or if she had her mind on some other issue.

But it was no coincidence, so I shook my head. “There’s nothing extraordinary about it, Mother. That demoness knew who I was. She was out to ambush me, specifically.”

It’s rare that I can shock Mother. She echoed, “She knew who you were?”

I had to wait until the maids finished rinsing my hair. Once I was able, I explained, “She called me ‘little dragon slayer’. It seemed she was looking to avenge that dragon’s death. But what worries me is, how did she know I would be there? I mean, it was easy to identify the carriage once she saw me coming, but how did she know I would be traveling down that road?”

They stood me up to step out. Genette dried me with towels that had been in a warming box at the fireplace.

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Mother waited for them to dress me in ‘casual wear’. Tonight’s selection was a sexy, close-fitting number in thin black silk, with spaghetti-thin halter straps, a vee that went more than halfway to my navel, revealing far more of my bust than I was comfortable with, and a slit up the front of the left leg damn near to my panties. And they put me in high heels.

Why would any girl want to wear high heels for casual wear, Genette?

Actually, could somebody explain to me why any girl would want to wear high heels in any situation? When they don’t have the same enchantments as my sabatons, they really suck.

 My very late dinner was waiting in my sitting room for me. I invited Mother, but she asked only for tea. I felt weirdly proud watching my Genette serving it to Mother. I really was getting infected by Tiana’s tea snobbery.

Genette wasn’t proud. She was terrified. But Mother smiled her approval after a sip, and I thought poor Genette would faint.

“So, what sort of demoness was it?” Mother asked.

I hesitated for a moment, then admitted, “I’m only guessing, based upon verbal descriptions. I’ve never seen one before. But I’m very confident that she was an asura.”

Mother jerked backward slightly. She set her cup down, staring at me.

“Well… you did defeat a dragon, but…”

“Without Carson’s help, I would have been in serious trouble.”

Her face went blank for a moment, then she turned to my lady’s maid. “Genette, dear, would you please excuse yourself for a while?”

Genette curtseyed and left the room. Mother watched the door shut, then turned back to me.

“So Carson used it, then?”

- my thoughts:

I've felt at first like Tiana was too calm and collected for a fifteen-yo girl while dealing with dead bodies, but then I realized it was because of the back story I put together of the events the hero's party went through during the four months prior to 'Substitute Hero'. She's seen a crapload of death by now. I'm kind of sorry I've done that to the kid.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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