Limited Time, Kitchen Maid of the Fourth Knight Order ~I Got a Job Because I Don’t Want to Get Married~ – Chapter 48

𝐑𝐮𝐧, 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐨!

My name is Shiro, Shiro Wanko. Ah, when I speak, I formally use “watashi” for the first person. When I step out of the room, I’m the capable aide—that’s me! I’m at the age where I’m curious about what my ancestors were thinking when they named me.

Today, I’m again gathering information all alone. I dueled with Arthur the other day and lost miserably, missing my chance to go to Miss Norchev.

Even though I can’t use magic, Arthur used it against me. Arthur was smug, saying, “Magic is also part of one’s abilities!” but doesn’t that feel a bit unfair? I wish the duel had been a debate instead.

I muttered complaints, but in the end, it’s about using the right person for the right job.

Arthur stands out even when he changes his appearance, so he’s not suitable for gathering information. I, who am skilled at ingratiating myself with people, move around, while Arthur uses the household staff for his information gathering, utilizing the Duke’s power.

Edgardo and others who have recently become aides are required to obtain the enemy’s objectives and means in ways that haven’t been used before. Going forward, I will probably spend more time outside, away from Miss Norchev.

The opponent is Count Dyson. He’s not the kind to employ ignorant lackeys. Execution is with a small number, and he probably hasn’t told anyone his real objective. Such a cunning person is the opponent. No amount of caution is enough.

Time passed without even a sliver of information, until a significant move came with the founding festival.

Miss Norchev and Rene witnessed Count Dyson secretly meeting with someone.

This was a significant development. Realizing that he was being seriously investigated by Linus-sama, Count Dyson immediately went into hiding.

Likely, Linus-sama shaking off Count Dyson’s henchmen to meet Miss Norchev was turned against him.

Upon investigating who Count Dyson had met, it was found to be someone involved in kitchen procurement. The look on Linus-sama’s face at that moment was so painful, I couldn’t bring myself to speak.

“. . .It’s poisoning. They’re aiming for the same poisoning as with my mother.”

“The likelihood is high, but the royal family’s tableware all uses magical items that neutralize poison. Either they’re targeting a poison that can even surpass the neutralization, or they’re aiming to negate the magic item. Let’s investigate without being noticed. If the enemy changes their strategy now, we’ll lose the clue we finally obtained.”

“. . .You’re right. I apologize; it seems I wasn’t calm.”

His mother was poisoned to death, so of course it would be that way.

But I said nothing and merely stood silently beside him. Linus-sama always turns back and gives me a smile when he’s calmed down. A master who doesn’t show his own pain or weaknesses, only caring about others.

I wish that at least in front of me and Arthur, he’d be more open about his feelings.

The founding festival had many events to attend, and it was all mandatory. Within that, probe for information, and after it ends, track Count Dyson’s movements and share information.

On the last day of the quite exhausting founding festival, an incident happened at the final party. One of Count Dyson’s subordinates quietly left the party venue. A subordinate who has been with Count Dyson for a long time and holds important information.

So, I followed him and, well, it was a trap.

“Shiro Wanko. A dog that wagged its tail at the wrong person.”

My body is numb and I can’t move. I was careful with food and drink, so I’ve probably been drugged.

A deserted, dark corridor, away from the venue. I didn’t collapse out of sheer stubbornness, but I also couldn’t beat even a single unarmed old man. My numbness would probably lessen in a few more minutes, but I didn’t think the other person would wait for that.

 ㅤ

“Rejoice, for I offer you an opportunity to submit.”

“. . .Stop.”

The old man brandishes a wide metal ring, large enough for a neck to easily fit through. It glints darkly and ominously in the dim light.

. . . . . .It’s a collar of submission, a magical tool prohibited in this country.

“You know what happens when you wear this collar, don’t you? The moment it locks around your neck, your life becomes mine. If you dare to disobey, the collar will inject a poison, killing you instantly. Best to put it on while you’re still numb.”

Poison? Not an explosion?

The old man roughly grabs my hair and lifts my face. I wanted to spit at him, but my mouth still wasn’t functioning properly. Damn it.

He forcefully tears my clothes, distorting his face.

“You’re already wearing a collar of submission?! Damn it!”

My face is kicked, and the taste of blood fills my mouth.

Don’t you dare insult my master, you scum! You’re nothing compared to him, he’d never make me wear such a collar!

This is a similar magical tool created by Linus-sama as a precaution. It contains a defensive spell that activates when necessary; it’s incredibly valuable.

If you put the collar of submission on me, the only options are to obey or die. Linus-sama’s insight to prepare for that was indeed brilliant. If you want to use me, you have to put it somewhere other than my neck. Even if it’s not my neck, I can buy a few seconds until death. In that time, the magical tool that Linus-sama gave me will do something. Even if it doesn’t, it’s better than instant death.

“Damn it, the numbing drug is wearing off! You shouldn’t have built up a resistance to poison! Your dominant arm is. . . this one. Listen, this poison is dreadful. Even if you’re lucky enough to survive, you’ll be left a cripple.”

Something cold is placed on my left arm.

What’s so scary about becoming a cripple? What terrifies me most is not being able to fully protect Linus-sama and leaving no information behind.

I subtly clench my hand. My body is starting to move again. As soon as the numbing effect wears off, I’ll snatch the magic stone that’s controlling the collar. Remove the collar of submission and put it on this guy.

“Stay still, you mongrel.”

My left arm is frozen and won’t move, but my body and right arm are free. The hidden dagger wasn’t taken. I could probably incapacitate the old man in about three seconds.

I glare at the old man, but he doesn’t seem fazed.

“Don’t move. Unless you want to risk Emilia Telhar’s life.”

“What. . .?”

Emilia is Linus-sama’s fiancée. And then,

“A dog in heat is quite the nuisance, isn’t it? Didn’t expect you’d try to steal your master’s fiancée.”

“You bastard. . .!”

I will kill him. Right now.

My murderous glare seems to shake him slightly, although his smirk remains.

Emilia and I are likely attracted to each other. ‘Likely’ because neither of us has expressed our feelings in words or actions.

Linus-sama always takes me along to his tea parties with Emilia. She looks at me and smiles quietly when her maids aren’t looking, and I reciprocate.

The relationship has remained like that for a long time. Linus-sama notices our feelings but pretends not to know. And once the conflict with Count Dyson is settled, he’ll break off the engagement and give me a chance. Until then, he’s protecting both of us to ensure that Emilia doesn’t marry anyone else.

 ㅤ

If our feelings were to leak, it would be through Emilia’s maid.

Emilia’s household is filled with people under the influence of Count Dyson. The Telhar family are honest-hearted people but they’ve been ensnared by Count Dyson over the years.

Before we knew it, we were completely controlled by Count Dyson and couldn’t move freely. We were held hostage by Emilia’s illness. We obey because we’re threatened to not receive medicine for Emilia, but we’re still trying to resist.

“Spit out the information. Where is Linus?”

“Ugh, guh. . .!”

“So you can’t speak. The collar of submission must be in the way.”

Don’t insult Linus-sama. This is my act, there’s no way Linus-sama would make me wear a collar of submission! But I can’t say it!

“Fine. If you don’t want Emilia killed, obey. There are plenty of ways to make you talk even if you can’t speak.”

“Let me see Emilia-sama first. Then I won’t resist.”

“Fine. It will be amusing to make Emilia obedient in front of you. Walk ahead of me.”

My hands are tied. I was blindfolded, spun around to lose my sense of direction, and then arrived in a certain room.

Seriously? Emilia is in the royal castle? How much power has Count Dyson gained? It’s certain that there’s a growing number of rebels within the castle than before.

The door was locked, and my blindfold was removed. There was Emilia, wearing a collar of submission.

“Emilia-sama!”

I tried to run, but my left arm wouldn’t move. Should I cut it off right now?

“Shiro! What are you doing?! I am fine, quickly go to Prince Linus. . .guh. . .!”

“Don’t lay a finger on Emilia-sama!”

“It’s necessary to make a stray dog obey. Now, don’t resist. It’ll be fun to see what happens to Emilia if you do.”

“Shiro, I am fine! Such a man can’t defile me!”

“Emilia-sama. I will save you.”

“No. . .! Shiro. . .!”

“Now, tell me. Where is the puppet?”

The man’s finger touched the nape of her neck.

“Who says I will talk!”

“. . .Linus is with the knight corps.”

My heart pounded loudly.

I could keep a poker face. I could even crack jokes no matter how dire the situation. But I couldn’t control my heartbeat. I should have trained to stop my heart!

“It’s the Fourth Knight Order, isn’t it?”

━━My heart pounded again.

He probably already knows where Linus-sama is. All he wants is confirmation.

“Linus’ alias is━━”

I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. She said the alias Linus-sama uses in the Fourth Knight Order, and the man pulled away, satisfied.

“As I thought. Running around yet smitten with some maid, how foolish. . . All that’s left is to make you spill more details.”

“. . . . . .Before that, I want to talk to Emilia-sama.”

“Fine. This is the end anyway.”

The restraints on my arm suddenly disappeared, and I ran to Emilia.

“Emilia-sama! When did you start wearing this collar of submission?”

“That is. . .ugh!”

“I’m truly sorry. Please prioritize yourself, Emilia-sama.”

“You shouldn’t have come. . . Just abandon me.”

 ㅤ

Supporting Emilia as she coughs violently, I gently stroke her back. A soft cheek is laid on my shoulder.

Pressing my lips to the skin I’ve touched for the first time, I keep my back turned to the old man. To ensure I move my mouth as little as possible, I speak in a voice only Emilia can hear.

“If you refuse, you die here. If you comply, you’ll die eventually.”

I gaze at Emilia. I wish I could be as cool as Linus-sama, but I can’t.

I’m probably making a pitiful face, like a tearful smile.

“Emilia.━━Will you die with me if it comes to that?”

“Yes.”

She answers immediately, without a moment’s hesitation. Ah, this is Emilia. The woman I’ve utterly fallen for.

I hold her tightly and turn back towards the old man.

“Have you said your goodbyes? Any information would be useful for dragging Linus back.”

The old man’s finger is placed against the nape of my neck again. His hand, opposite to the one likely holding the magic stone, moves slightly.

He seems to be communicating with someone. Surely informing them of Linus-sama’s whereabouts. Someone will likely come to this room soon.

. . . . . .What a joke. Who would betray their lord just to save their own life?!

I draw the hidden dagger from my clothes and slash at him with the arm not bound by the collar of submission. Though my aim is slightly off, it doesn’t matter.

My target is the magic stone controlling the collar of servitude. Sure enough, as he falls, the magic stone drops. I chase after it, pick it up, and point my dagger at the old man, who has fallen on his back. The blade sinks into his flesh, blood flowing.

My dominant hand may not be in play, and the blade may be short, but I can handle one old man!

“Deactivate the collar of submission!”

“Don’t move!”

“Ha! The magic stone is mine now. You can’t command me anymore.”

To deactivate it, either the owner of the magic stone has to die, or it must be deactivated. Reinforcements will come soon, so I have to deactivate it before then or kill him.

I thrust the blade further into him. The old man’s face twists in agony.

“What is Dyson planning? Why target the throne? Linus-sama is not one to be puppeteered! You know this, don’t you?!”

The old man, who had been struggling to escape, suddenly stops moving. His clouded eyes slowly look up at me from below. Those eyes are swirling with hatred and regret.

“You mindless dog that can only wag its tail. . .! Suffer along with Linus and die! . . . Guh, gob. . .”

The old man coughs up blood and convulses. A few seconds later, he stops moving, and the light fades from his eyes.

“I can’t believe he took his own life. Did he have poison stored in his teeth?”

The collar of submission on Emilia and me comes undone. It’s because the old man has died.

“Hm? There’s something on the old man’s neck. . .”

My fingertips touch something. With a bad feeling, I rip open the old man’s shirt.

“This is. . . a collar of submission. . .? Could it be, this old man was also being commanded by someone?”

I know exactly who it is. It’s Count Dyson.

The old man didn’t say anything. He didn’t even make a move to speak. It’s highly likely that the collar of submission was set to activate with certain keywords.

Names like Linus-sama, the throne, usurpation, Dyson’s name. . . and any other terms important to the enemy. It must be along those lines.

“. . . . . .No wonder he couldn’t recruit more subordinates. You can’t just make a collar of submission willy-nilly! Damn it. . .! What does he think people are?!”

 ㅤ

“. . .No, wait a moment.”

Creating a submission collar is difficult, but Dyson might be mass-producing them. A submission collar is something you put around the neck and can detonate. Since it’s modified to inject poison, it’s best to think of it as different from existing ones.

The old man’s submission collar couldn’t be removed, even when pulled or attempted to be cut with a short blade. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to spend more time on this. Just to be sure, I stab his heart and turn back.

“Emilia-sama, are you alright?”

“Yes.”

She’s pale, but putting on a brave face. Cute.

“Emilia-sama, there’s no time to waste. Let’s hurry to the Fourth Knight Order. It’s hard to believe this old man was acting alone. He must have been in contact with his allies, planning to capture Linus-sama. People will be coming to this room soon.”

“If that’s the case, leave me behind. I’m just a burden.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! Do you think Linus-sama would abandon Emilia-sama? He would definitely hesitate, and that moment of hesitation could be fatal. Let’s go!”

“Ah!”

I remove Emilia’s collar of submission and lift her up. I’d love to give her a princess carry, but there’s no time for that. I’d like to say she’s as light as a feather, but there’s no time for that either!”

This dress is heavy! Who knew so much fabric was needed to make it flutter!

“Please be quiet. You might bite your tongue. Hold on tight.”

There’s no window, so I have no choice but to stick my head out the door to see if anyone is there.

Seeing no signs of people, I enter a nearby room and go out the window.

. . .Good, the numbness from the drug has worn off.

I rush to the Fourth Knight Order wher Linus-sama is. Despite my training, I’m out of breath. How pathetic.”

The thought that Linus-sama might be under attack or poisoned makes it impossible to stay calm.

“Shiro, there are guards at the Fourth Knight Order, right?”

“Yes, I’ll take them down. If I don’t return within 30 minutes. . .”

“It’s okay, I’m prepared. Shiro.”

Emilia approaches, and I feel a soft sensation on my cheek. Emilia’s face is close.

“If you desire me, come back alive.”

“Wha, what now. . .”

“My lips are a tribute to Shiro.”

“Alright!”

 ㅤ

Surprised, I couldn’t even muster a proper response. Despite my pitiful reply, Emilia laughed. As if she didn’t have a care in the world.

“I’ll be waiting, my dearest love.”

“Yes!”

What about me afterward? Well, I was amazing.

Although nobody noticed because I was discreetly taking down those who were secretly monitoring the Fourth Knight Order. It’s more like the amazing part is that nobody noticed. I wish Emilia could’ve seen it!

After thoroughly confirming that the observers were gone, I ran to Linus-sama’s place. When I intentionally triggered the security magical tool and entered Linus-sama’s room, there was no one on the bed.

“Linus-sama, it’s Shiro. Are you alright?”

“Shiro? What happened?”

“Dyson has found out about your location and alias. You must flee immediately.”

“. . .Understood. How much time do I have?”

“Not a moment to waste. They probably also know about your new aide, so please take them with you. They mentioned Miss Norchev as well. They might know she’s from the Norchev family.”

“. . .So you’re saying I should take them?”

 ㅤ

Answer in silence.

I can’t imagine the carefree young lady being able to escape Dyson’s grasp and find safety on her own. If it’s known that she is a Norchev, then going home won’t be safe either. It’s easy for him to kill her in that deserted household without anyone knowing. Going back to that house is rather dangerous.

“. . .Take Miss Norchev with you. Inform everyone.”

“Yes, Linus-sama, please be safe. I will stay here and try to delay them as much as I can.”

“No!”

“I failed at tailing and have revealed Linus-sama’s location. At the very least, let me buy some time. Both Emilia-sama and I have been equipped with a collar that injects poison as a form of control. It’s deactivated for now, but Dyson’s subordinates have similar ones. It seems to automatically inject poison when certain keywords like ‘throne’ or ‘Dyson’ are used. There is a possibility that it reveals our location, so I’ll take it and run in the opposite direction. Please hurry.”

“Is Emilia there?”

“Yes, she’s hiding nearby.”

Lastly, after disclosing the information and the name of the old man who died, Linus-sama handed me a magical transformation tool.

This is one of only three such precious items in the country. It can change everything except your height to any appearance you wish. It doesn’t actually change your body shape, so if you’re touched, you’ll be found out. But it’s sufficient as a decoy.

“I will equip another magical tool. Shiro, wake everyone up. Make sure Emilia can escape. I’m going to wake up Miss Norchev.”

Linus-sama looked straight at me and gripped my shoulder painfully.

“Listen, I’m not letting you delay them because you failed. I’m entrusting you with the rear guard because I trust you the most. I’m only holding Emilia as a hostage to make sure I’m here. It’s not your fault that our location was leaked. In other words, you haven’t failed.”

Despite the dire circumstances, despite being told that I wouldn’t hesitate to risk my life for Linus-sama, I laughed when told I hadn’t failed.

“Linus-sama, please be safe.”

I quietly stepped into the corridor, went to my room to get my sword, and first woke up Arthur. As soon as I said we’d been discovered, he jumped into action. I left waking up the others to Arthur and went to get Emilia.

Emilia was crouching where she had first hidden herself. Adorable.

“Emilia, we’re moving. Change your clothes quickly.”

“Shiro, you’re safe. . .I’m glad.”

I carried Emilia to the kitchen maids’ dormitory. I broke the door open due to the emergency and put her down in an unused room on the first floor.

“I’ve hidden a dress and boots in this closet. Please change.”

“Wait, I can’t take off the dress by myself.”

“Eh?”

“Cut it quickly!”

“Ah, yes.”

It’s an emergency, but it’s true, and it’s impossible not to be surprised when told so.

Cut the back of the dress to avoid harming the white skin. While making sure not to see her changing, put on the boots and tie the laces. I felt the presence of Linus-sama entering the dorm.

Finally, I put the cape on and kissed Emilia’s cheek.

“If you make it back alive, kiss me. You’re my goddess.”

I equipped the transformation tool and dashed outside. I ran in the opposite direction to the secret passage that Linus-sama would use.

I haven’t checked whether the collar has a location-revealing function, but I’m sure it does. I can’t imagine that suspicious Dyson would be content with just putting the collar on us.

I’ve prepared as much as I could for this day. What worries me is not that I don’t trust him, but that he is so precious to me.

I pray for Linus-sama’s safety. I hope everyone can make it to the hiding place alive.

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