The Adventuring Princess of Himmelheit

“Leave it to me, Sergeant!”

Elster stood with her back straight in front of her swordplay instructor, hand on her heart to solemnly swear she would comply to her superior's orders at any cost. Grus couldn't stifle a laugh despite her best efforts, seeing the image of child Elster — nodding solemnly at her mom's request to go and buy some meat for dinner — superimposed over the Elster of today.

She wasn't the only one. Elster (and Grus too, at some point) had always been so set on helping her fellow citizens out that pretty much anyone in Altenwolk still thought of her as the cheerful daughter of the Pickart's, even though that barely matched the serious front she put up nowadays. Especially to elders, she was always "little Miss Pickart from Pickart's Bakery".

Downside of living in the same place all of your life: no matter how much you changed, a part of your past still survived in the memories of the people you lived with, forever. That's why Captain Finken could sometimes not hold herself back and ruffle both their heads when they were taking a break from training, much to Elster's annoyance; Grus, however, had learned to cherish even the smallest acts of affection from those she cared about. She never knew how many more they had left.

Elster didn't mind the harsh training because she felt free from such judgment. Grus was just too focused on Elster, as always.

They were supposed to be taking a break, which is why they were together in the first place: having different specialties, Elster and Grus rarely trained together unless they sparred in their free time (something Elster loved, and Grus could never really say no to her). Elster saw the sergeant running around in a hurry and insisted to ask him what was wrong.

“What's wrong? The princess is missing, that's what's wrong!”

Elster kept calm while processing what a great honour would've been to help the princess, of all things, even before she became a proper knight. She reminded herself that being giddy when the royal family was in peril wasn't very professional.

And that's when she went “Leave it to me, Sergeant!” and ran towards the city districts, soon followed by Grus (who took a few seconds to briefly apologize to the instructor for her girlfriend's haste).

Aquila Habichtar, princess of the Kingdom of Himmelheit, was happily strolling through the streets of the Altenwolk commercial district. She had planned her escapade for months: taking notes on the spare minutes between guard change, her father's routine, her nosy brother's sleepy time. Surely, if Falco was awake and knew she planned to flee from the castle — not even from Altenwolk, for heaven's sake! — he would've snitched on her immediately. But Falco was just a big baby who needed his afternoon nap, and she was already a grown-up adventurer: she even went out of the castle all by herself! She'd be back before anyone noticed.

A couple of soldiers running and calling for her name just a street ahead stripped her of her grin, and she hid in the nearest alley. She had spoken too soon.

Aquila tightened the hood on her head, making sure that no one could recognize her as the princess. Her father never let her out on her own, and even when she was accompanied by the guards they never went too far. And yet, so many food stalls needed a taste test...

“What good is a princess that doesn't even know what she rules over?” She thought.

As she kept pondering whether to ignore the soldiers and blend into the crowd, Aquila felt a hand on her shoulder.

“What's a child doing all alone in an alley? Playing hide-and-seek?” The voice asked. Aquila slowly turned over.

The voice belonged to a pink-haired woman — a soldier in training, judging by her uniform. Despite it all, she was being awfully gentle. Maybe too much.

“You don't look like a pickpocket... and your parents don't seem to be around, are you lost?”

Aquila thought she could lie her way out of this easily.

“No, Miss... I... I have no family, you see...”

But the woman's grip tightened slightly.

“Oh, I know all the orphans in town, Princess.”

Aquila squirmed and the woman, afraid to hurt her, inadvertently let her go and couldn't catch her in time. She'd have to tell Elster soon.

Aquila ran up the stairs of Altenwolk until, tired and out of breath, she took a break on a terrace in the residential district.

“There you are!” A different voice shouted: another soldier in training, a blonde one this time.

“Is everything alright, Princess? Your father is worried about you!” She seemed to be honest. But Aquila didn't really care.

“Tell my father I'm perfectly fine! I'm adventuring!”

“Ad... Adventuring...?” The woman was baffled. Aquila didn't really have the time to explain her plans to silly commoners! But she did anyway. What a kind, gentle ruler she was meant to be!

“I'll be a great, famous adventurer one day! I'll be known as Aquila Habichtar, the Adventuring Princess of Himmelheit! So I need to practice properly.”


“I know, I know. Altenwolk is just a playing ground, but soon I'll visit much more exciting lands!”

“I'm sorry, Princess, the Royal Guards are looking for you and I...”

“You're not even from the Royal Guards, though!”

The woman pouted.

“For now!”

“See? We're both in training! I'm just better than you.”

The woman reminded herself that arguing with an 8-years-old, especially when the latter was the Princess, wasn't very professional.

“Take a good look, rookie! This is how you stage a runaway!”

And so she jumped from the terrace.

Which she assumed was several meters shorter. She never practiced a fall from such a height.

She braced for impact...

But the impact never came; instead, she felt something soft and warm on her cheek. She opened her eyes and discovered she was trapped inside a ball of light, a dozen centimeters from the ground, the pink-haired woman from before panting right in front of her.

“Thank heavens I made it in time...”

“At least let me see the cityyyy...” Aquila whined. Grus gently patted her on the head.

“I'm sorry, we can't. But we'll tell the Royal Guards to talk about it with the king, alright?”

After having her life saved, Aquila calmed down considerably and had been amicable enough to walk back to the Royal Palace hand in hand with Grus, while Elster led the way a few steps ahead.

“Come oooooon, Grugru...”

Grugru?” Elster stopped. What kind of nickname was that?

“You don't like it, Elsty?”

“No, wait, Elsty really is not-”

“Come ooooooon, Elsty is cute! It suits you, Elsty.”

Elster, once again, reminded herself that she risked not being very professional anytime she opened her mouth to reply to the Princess.

Grus giggled at the scene and Elster immediately calmed down. Aquila looked at the two inquisitively.

“You two are married, right?”

Elster started coughing, hand on her stomach, desperately trying to regain control, while Grus just turned completely red in the face.

“What kind of question is THAT?!?” Elster shouted.

“I dunno, you seemed pretty close! Isn't that what adults do when they look at each other like that?”

“Who taught you that?!?”

“W-We're definitely too young...!” Grus murmured, hands covering her face.

“What? You look, like, ancient.”

“A-A-Anyway,” Elster tried to cut it short “this has nothing to do with your current situation.”

“It does!” Aquila insisted “You could adopt me and I could hang out in the city all the time!”

Elster was at a loss for words.

“Listen, Princess, it's for your own good, you can't just ask that to someone you just met... or to ANYONE, I mean...”

Grus took a deep breath and squatted down to the Princess's eye level.

“Your father loves you very much, and I bet your brother does too. They'd be very sad if you were not around, so try to spend some more time together. Besides, how can you be an Adventuring Princess if you're not part of the Royal Family?”

Aquila fell deep in thought. Grus was right, even if that meant she was still stuck with her brat brother.

“Can't you come over to play, sometimes? Pretty please?” Aquila said, as she hugged Grus while she was still crouching.

“Not for now,” Grus picked her up “we still have to finish training, and we have so much to study still. And so do you, right?”

“But my lessons are booooriiiing...”

Elster, for once, thought that being professional could wait.

“I'll be a Royal Guard soon, so just wait. We'll play a lot then.”

“I bet Grugru is more fun to play with than you.”

“Hey!” So much for being professional.

“But if you both become my personal body guards once you're done with training... I guess I could endure a few more years of studying!”

She really was going to be a kind, gentle, and patient ruler!