The next morning.
“What the heck is this?” (Jace)
Jace muttered, obviously shocked, as he stood in the hall. It’s not completely packed, but I didn’t expect this many applicants. Isn’t this almost 100 people?
“All of them are Braves, huh?” (Jace)
“No way~. You should know at a glance, right my Brave? More than half of them are companions just like me.” (Amid)
Amid tilted her head slightly to one side. Even so, calling it a trade fair of Braves would be perfectly fitting. Unless there’s a considerable flood of monsters, this many Braves would never gather together. And, as far as Amid knows, such a precedent hasn’t been recorded in the documents of the Divine Faith Organization in the last hundred years.
In other words, it was testimony to the Holy Devil Cup and its legend being quite the big deal.
“Rather than that, lil’ old me was startled by the size of this castle, ya know? Even just once, I’d like to attend a ball in a place like this.” (Amid)
“Humph…even though you said all that stuff before, you still came here, didn’t you?”
Shina made her appearance, disrupting her dreams. Apparently burdened by previous events, her attitude was just as sour as the night before, a sharp contrast to her cute face.
“Or rather, it’s great that you got them to let you in, isn’t it?” (Shina)
“Yeah. This is a nice country.” (Jace)
As usual Jace goes at his own pace. He’s antisocial, but that doesn’t mean that my Brave will change his character. It’s just that he has a tendency to be too straightforward.
At that moment.
The continent’s strongest made his appearance. In full, pure white armor, he cut a stylish silhouette. Two swords were crossed on his back. Amid’s eyes widened.
“Whoa, holy shit…ain’t that Riezel the Cross Sword? Together with the White Dignified Armor and the pair of swords, Romeo and Juliet… what a hunk!” (Amid)
Putting aside his equipment, he has a masculine face and a strong aura. He’s completely different from those in the vicinity. Along with a gentleness that allows him to instantly befriend people, he also exudes warm reassurance. It draws you in immediately.
Even Shina is all smiles now.
“But, why Riezel!? Aren’t you busy with the various alliance’s meetings and such…?” (Shina)
“No, yesterday…I was told a few things…by this country’s prince.” (Riezel)
“Prince…you mean that famous idiot? You became friends with him?” (Shina)
Even Amid has heard about the prodigal manner of the prince here. If it’s true, I don’t think he suits Riezel as friend at all… she immediately concludes. Jace, who’s next to Amid, doesn’t move a single step.
“You ain’t going over there?” (Amid)
A blunt reply…and yet he continued,
“He’s really amazing, that strongest one. I thought that he was powerful when I met him on that day, but after three years, there’s still a remarkable difference between the two of us.” (Jace)
“You mustn’t feel frightened, my Brave.” (Amid)
“Yeah. Don’t worry.” (Jace)
We probably stand out, alone in this crowd. Having discovered them, Riezel rushed over.
“Jace…? You’re Jace, right? You came here as well!?” (Riezel)
“Since there were no regular reports to the Great Temple, I was sure that you…” (Riezel)
“That’s right. After all I’m not a real Brave.” (Jace)
“Don’t be stupid. I’m glad that I can meet you again. … Who’s the person next to you?” (Riezel)
Amid clears her throat a few times and quickly smooths down the hair sticking out from her priestess hat.
“I’m glad to meet you, Brave Riezel. I’m called Sister Amid, companion of my Brave. Please treat me favorably.” (Amid)
“You an idiot? Since a while ago, you’re sticking to me on your own accor…mmpf!” (Jace)
She blocks his mouth.
“As such, it’s a great honor to be able to meet with you like this, Brave Riezel. On this occasion, can thou sign this with a few lines…” (Amid)
“Please quiet down.”
A man with a monocle said clearly, as he walked into the hall. Silence fell in an instant. Everyone straightened involuntarily.
“My name is Kaien Gremnam, and I serve as this country’s prime minister. Before performing the Brave Selection for the sake of reviving the Holy Devil Cup, His Majesty has some words for you. Those of you who have been granted the title of Brave by the Divine Faith Organization, come with me. I’d like the rest of you to wait here.” (Kaeien)
Simple words, true to his character. Without repeating himself or accepting any questions, he turns on his heels. Amid pushed Jace’s back with a slap and winks once.
“Go for it, my Brave ♪” (Amid)
“You an idiot? I’m just going to listen to his story, am I not?” (Jace)
“Hey Jace, leave her behind.” (Riezel)
Being teased by Riezel, Jace follows him together with Shina. Only 20 people followed the prime minister. Therefore, the majority of those present were attendants.
Even for Pariel it was the first time that she had stepped into the king’s office. It was a spacious room, where you couldn’t feel that it was too packed no matter how many people came in. None other than the king, and on his right, Kaien, were at an ebony desk in front of two big windows that led to a terrace. On the left are Mahiro and Edelweiss. Along the sides, Pariel was on standby together with the other royal guards in ceremonial uniforms. Originally Shrayban should have joined them, but the veteran army general had gone to the defense line and was in the middle of taking command of the allied forces with the generals of the other countries.
After thanking them (the Braves) for having come all this way, the king broke the strained atmosphere with a grand speech.
A sacred treasure is the general term for a vessel exhibiting powers equal to those of the gods. And even among those, the Holy Devil Cup hides such an enormous power that it’s said that you could control the world with it. One deeply-rooted theory is that this is exactly why it’s a vessel that the Holy Demon King owns…on the other hand there’s also the theory that the Holy Devil part of the name is due to it being a link between Heaven’s holiness and Hell’s devilry, depending on how it’s used.
“…For that reason the Holy Devil Cup’s power was deemed taboo, and was firmly sealed a long time ago. In other words, the power of the Holy Devil Cup is currently dormant in the form of several crests. What we request of you is nothing more than the release of this seal…gathering the crests, which are scattered all over, into the vessel that has been handed down to us. Also, right now it’s not clear what crests might have been sealed in what region. …This journey might be one of unimaginable hardship.”
A short pause. The king lets his gaze rest on the assembled Braves. In response, the Braves, who have hung on the king’s every word, are also the picture of seriousness.
“Do you, who have assembled here right now, have the resolve? That’s what I want to know first.”
“More than when I received the oracle’s guidance and formed my resolve to bet my life in order to repel evil far and wide for the sake of the light!”
It was declared by a sweet young girl standing next to Riezel. Pariel had even seen her in the newspapers. She’s the S-Rank Brave, Shina Millrosa with the nickname Rainbow Sword.
Voices were raised in approval of her declaration. Just being present in this place made Pariel feel honored. It was apparently the same for the other royal guards, too. All of them looked on proudly with bright expressions.
However, there was a single Brave whose expression hasn’t changed.
“King, I’d like to ask one thing.”
He was a thoroughly seedy-looking boy, making one doubt whether he was really a Brave.
Unkempt, white hair which looked as if it had simply been cropped out of annoyance. A worn and cracked leather vest was his sole upper garment, paired with scuffed, colorless hemp trousers and beat-up boots. A bandit’s attire.
But what stands out above all is the terrible, lightning-shaped scar running from his forehead through his right eye to his chin, and his missing right arm. An awful slashing scar marrs his appearance from forehead to shoulder.
“…Haha! How amazing. He’s a spitting image of Tange Sazen. 1 ” (Mahiro)
“Wai-, Prince…! Don’t laugh!”
Pariel didn’t understand who that Tange-whatever was, but she rebuked him nonetheless. However, the person in question kept staring intently on the king.
“…Let’s hear it.”
“Can I have the Holy Devil Cup?” (Jace)
The room suddenly became deathly silent. The one who turned around and reprimanded him was Shina.
“Y-…You!! Did you listen to the king’s words at all!?” (Shina)
“I did. It was about gathering the crests, right? I heard as much.” (Jace)
He turns around towards the king, obviously ignoring Shina.
“I’d like you to tell us what’s going to happen after the Holy Devil Cup is revived. Can I have it or not?” (Jace)
Everyone remained speechless. Or it might be because they were preparing themselves for the king’s rage. But, in contrast to their expectations, the king just closed his eyes and stayed silent for a short while.
“…You, what’s your name?”
“Let me ask then, Brave Jace. For what are you going to use the Holy Devil Cup after obtaining it?”
“To kill the demon king.” (Jace)
While quiet, his voice carried a resolute tenacity and bloodthirst. Snickers escaped the mouths of the other Braves, as if they were looking at something pitiful, but ignoring them, Jace continues to question the king,
“I have no desire beyond that. I’d like to obtain the Holy Devil Cup by all means.” (Jace)
The one who spoke next was Riezel.
“You are still saying something like that…! Are you unable to understand in what kind of situation the continent is right now!?” (Riezel)
“I have heard.” (Jace)
Contrary to Riezel’s impassioned eyes, Jace remaining eye is tinged with a terrible coldness. He spits out,
“War or whatever, how worthless. That’s completely unrelated to me.” (Jace)
“Ng…! You are a Brave, too! Can’t you at least consider the peace and freedom of the people a little bit!?” (Riezel)
The instant Riezel grabbed Jace’s collar, Jace responded by seizing Riezel’s wrist.
“I should have told you before already, Riezel! I don’t have a country or a home I can return to nor a family waiting for my return! I don’t have anything I would want to protect unlike you.” (Jace)
“Listen, only the demon king matters to me!! I ain’t saying that I’m envious of you, but don’t fuckin’ say to my face that only your justice is right!!” (Jace)
The intensity of his hatred and anger was painful to see. Only the sound of rough breathing broke the silence. Such a dreadful atmosphere swirled around the two Braves that no one could cut in-between.
“Restrain yourselves. You are in the presence of His Majesty.”
Kaien’s cold interruption finally brought them to their senses, and they broke apart.
“Please forgive me for this rudeness, Your Majesty…” (Riezel)
“…my bad, King.” (Jace)
“It’s fine…I understand your reasons. But Jace, with just that, I find it difficult to make a decision.”
Those were not words of denial. No one could hide their surprise.
“I think you, who have traveled the vast world, are aware of it, but…the Holy Devil Cup is a sacred treasure. And it’s said that a sacred treasure won’t bestow its miracle to anyone but the chosen one. The only way is to be chosen by the Holy Devil Cup.”
“If that’s the case, that’s all there is to it. I will look for other leads.”
Jace’s straightforward gaze doesn’t fall apart. Seeing it, the king…of all things, consented.
“…Can I have the Holy Devil Cup?” (Jace)
“It’s just as I told you moments ago. Even if you gathered all the crests, they only way is for you to be chosen. But, if you were to be chosen, I will concede the Holy Devil Cup to you, and accept it as heaven’s will.”
“Please wait a moment, Your Majesty.” (Kaien)
Kaien humbly interrupts.
“Is that really alright? It’s a vessel that will decide the continent’s fate. …Even though it’s your esteemed words, it’s dangerous to make promises at your own discretion, Your Majesty.” (Kaien)
The other countries of the alliance won’t stay silent.
“But, there’s no meaning in possessing it, if you can’t use it.”
For a moment the prime minister was hard pressed for words.
“…Can’t use, you say?” (Kaien)
“The Holy Devil Cup might pick this man. However, in other words, it will mean that we were unqualified.”
Even Pariel lets out an “Ah!” in realization. Even if the alliance collected all of the crests, it will be meaningless if no one of the alliance was chosen. It won’t be anything more than posturing and borrowing the reputation of the Holy Demon King if no one can use it.
Shina objected to that.
“P-Please wait! We gathered here for the sake of defeating the Empire! That is, umm, for the sake of a demon king whose existence hasn’t even been confirmed so far…” (Shina)
“Then it will be fine as long as you gather the crests and are chosen.”
“That is…true, but…” (Shina)
Shina falters and glares at Jace.
“No, everyone assembled in this room will have that right. If you are chosen by god’s vessel, it will be taken as god’s will. At least it won’t be taboo, since you have been chosen as Braves by the oracle. That’s what I believe.”
Seeing that there were no more objections, the king went ahead with the explanation.
“One more thing. In order to release the seals of the crests, a descendant of the Mismarcan dynasty, guardians of the vessel, is necessary. It’s been decided that I will entrust the safety of my child, Mahiro, to the selectees. As he’s inexperienced, I’d like to have them teach him martial arts, too.”
At that point Mahiro finally spoke up.
“…No, just wait a moment, father. I haven’t heard anything about that?” (Mahiro)
“You are not allowed to decline. Mahiro, acquire some skill in martial arts. Right now is a time of great uncertainty. It’s not just the Empire that’s our enemy.”
Pariel recalled the chat in the dining hall last night, and became even more worried about the terrible situation. He avoided those exact words, but the king basically hinted that there might even be enemies within the alliance. Even though they currently have the Empire as a common enemy.
“As such, to allow your guards to maximise their strength, it’s necessary for you to also have an awareness as the one being protected. You need to know how you should move when surrounded by a great number of enemies.”
“In Pariel’s shadow…” (Mahiro)
A large number of people let out sighs at this. Pariel was among them, resigned to having the hem of her uniform be crumpled in his hands.
“Umm, prince, even just keeping up appearances is fine, but I would like you to be able to fight back to back with me…” (Pariel)
“… I need a weapon then though.” (Mahiro)
“That’s why your father told ya to get training to wield a weapon, right? Riiiight!?” (Pariel)
Says the commanding officer of the chamberlains.
“You are in the presence of His Majesty.” (Kaien)
Says the prime minister.
Scolded by the two top retainers, Pariel is miserable. Being laughed at by the Braves is even more demoralizing. But, as if he was displeased with the response, Mahiro becomes frenzied.
“Yeah, wonderful! Very wonderful! Everyone has arbitrarily decided that I’m weak! Then I shall ask you in reverse, father! Why are we surrounded by a great number of enemies!?” (Mahiro)
Apparently a switch had been flipped in Mahiro’s head. Probably signaling the activation of his infamous nitpicking mode.
“Isn’t that because the enemy has been allowed to come so close after pushing us so hard !? Being in range! Having the distance closed! That’s the sole reason why martial arts have become necessary!” (Mahiro)
“That’s only natural.”
Mahiro slammed the table with his fist.
“It will be fine as long as we manage to get away…!” (Mahiro)