Chapter 39 – Kain-san
‘Grass’ is a term for Edo period spies/ninjas. The term came about because they would often infiltrate enemy territory and stay there for two, three generations, spreading their roots like grass. Plus, nobody ever suspects the grass… ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Kain was on the verge of an identity crisis.
He was a “Grass”, a special kind of soldier. Soldiers that were in charge of intelligence gathering under the King’s orders. Sometimes they would also involve themselves with assassinations, sabotage, or other types of unsavoury work. Although, ever since the reign of the new King, not once had they been ordered to do so.
Lately, Kain had been incessantly agonising over a certain matter.
(Should I tell him…? No, but, I am a Grass…)
As he watched his target from the top of a tree, he thought back to his earlier conversation with the King.
Having come to the King’s room without anybody seeing him, he reported the results of all the other Grass members, before hesitating over whether or not to report a certain issue.
“Your Majesty, about Princess Fii-”
“What. Was she ‘black’ after all?”
“No, she was not.”
“Then no need to report on her.”
The King went back to his work and began writing again, completely cutting down Kain’s chance to say anything. He hadn’t realised at all that Kain’s “No, she was not” was more strained than usual. It was also because Kain had trained to not let his emotions show, but…
Kain couldn’t stand not telling him.
(That same Princess Fii is trying her best as one of your knight apprentices you know! And you’re the one who hired her!)
But he couldn’t… He had undertaken a mission.
『Observe Princess Fii. If she is ‘black’, report it. Otherwise, no need.』
For King Roy, ‘no need’ meant ‘there is no need, so do not do it’.
The plan was to make the guards around her villa more and more lax.
Their missions were 『Stand guard so that Princess Fii does not leave through this exit』, 『No matter who visits, do not let them in』 and 『If she has any requests, give her only what she absolutely needs』.
As long as those guards didn’t suddenly burn with some strange sense of duty for their equally strange orders, there would definitely be times when it was unguarded. That was the plan.
As for Kain, he had been told 『While this is happening, observe Princess Fii. If she is ‘black’, report it. Otherwise, no need.』
If she was ‘black’, then she would contact somebody related to that incident.
A few days after Kain began his mission, the first incident occurred.
The cook left the villa. Considering the possibility of him being used as a messenger, Kain sent some other Grass to follow him, but he simply left the castle never to return. Right now, he was working as a cleaner in some run-down inn in the outskirts of the city.
The same day. Late at night, when he saw Princess Fii leaving the villa walls, ‘Could it be?’ he thought, but in the end she just strolled here and there, before stepping on a paper of some kind. After holding it out under the moonlight, she circled about happily, and then immediately headed back to her villa.
No matter how you slice it, she didn’t seem suspicious. Well, perhaps suspicious in another way, however.
Later on he checked it, just to make sure it wasn’t some message, but it was just an announcement about the apprentice knight exams.
And then on the next day, Princess Fii’s survival lifestyle began.
Princess Fii never spoke to the guards. Far from it, she tried to avoid them. As she did, in a villa where it was impossible to support herself, she subsisted on the food―――essentially just leftovers―――that the cook left behind.
When he saw it, huge droplets of sweat began to run down Kain’s forehead.
(Why did things turn out like this…? Should I report to His Majesty? No, but the orders were to not to report to him unless she was ‘black’… Then, should I bring food… No, I can’t. My orders were to only observe. Those guards are the ones who are supposed to be looking after her…!)
His faint hopes were dashed when the guards showed no signs of noticing what was happening inside.
Even though the cook had often come and gone from the villa, the guards didn’t notice at all that he had stopped.
Kain remembered the people His Majesty wanted for the role.
‘People who have low work ethic and are too stupid to question a guard cycle with holes in it.’
And His Majesty had found people fantastic for the job.
These men showed no signs of suspicion at all, and simply stood there until their shift was up, enjoying a happy and lazy lifestyle.
(If it comes down to it, then… But, that’s my very final resort…)
There was a nutritional ration in his pocket.
But to give her this was tantamount to denying his existence as a Grass.
(It’s fine… If I just sneak it into her pocket, then it’s still okay. I won’t have defied any orders…!)
Kain continued to tell himself this in his mind.
As for Princess Fii, her survival lifestyle continued. While making sure the guards didn’t see her, she started to practice sword swings.
(Exercise is bad for you when you’re fasting, you know…! And you hardly have any muscle on you…!)
His stomach had begun to hurt.
Finally, the villa had run out of food…
Princess Fii continued to train on her empty stomach, and when she wasn’t, she would sit still to conserve energy.
(What do I do… What should I do…)
His head was spinning with his master’s orders and Princess Fii’s condition.
If he could just leave these rations somewhere she would notice… No, he could even just go buy her normal food. Just that would be enough to save her.
But disobeying orders for personal feelings would disqualify him as a Grass.
A Grass, was a special kind of soldier.
They were simple soldiers, without pedigree or position, but the information they dealt with were national secrets, or sometimes even beyond that. They were the people who were closest to the King, and needed to work even in such a private environment. There were many times when they knew things that would cause a national scandal.
Because of that, their mindsets had to be different from other retainers.
Any other retainer would advise their King if he erred, and doing so was good.
But the Grass could not.
Questioning the King’s judgement could inevitably plant seeds of rebellion, and such things had already happened many times in history.
And for a Grass to rebel was more dangerous than any other retainer.
Given the natures of their job, it wouldn’t even be difficult to directly assassinate the King, and the danger they posed was immeasurable.
Because of that, Grass were raised to become as faithful to their orders as possible. Making their own decisions was only to be done without the scope of the orders.
If berating and guiding their lord’s foolish actions was the role of the retainers, then to blindly exact their master’s orders was the role of the Grass.
(I am a Grass… I am a Grass… I am a Grass…)
Kain continued to persuade himself in his head.