The news that the demon continent had been isolated by something similar to a barrier from the rest of the world appeared to have spread to all other continents far faster than Renya had expected, even if it wasn’t at lightning speed. The only reason why it appeared to be so was the absolute lack of effort by the other races to publicize this piece of information. Renya also heard that the beastmen and elven higher-ups had only learned of this news to some extent through Kaede and Croire.
As for the dragonoids, Renya had decided to not take them into consideration for the moment. The dragonoids, who were reconstructing their order after losing the Witenagemot, didn’t have the leeway to pay attention to anything other than their own matters right now. They seemed to be in a state where they were just barely able to deal with the monsters streaming into their territory from the Miasma Forest.
With them being in such a dire situation, Renya had considered whether he should send Albert back to the dragonoids’ continent as aid, but his offer was declined by the dragonoids. They didn’t tell Renya the reason they declined.
Renya believed that it might be some silly reason that wouldn’t fill anyone’s bellies, like reputation or pride. While lowering his estimation of the dragonoids, Renya increased the amount of food aid in a partly forced manner, thinking that they should accept at least this much. Going by the fact that this was unexpectedly accepted without any problems, Renya got fed up with the dragonoids, labeling them as a pain.
“Not stopping the aid even while being sick of them, that’s very like you, Renya.”
“It’s not like…I want them to actually starve, and it’s not that I can be bothered with them either.”
Returning to the matter of the demon continent; the elves adopted a wait-and-see approach, and the beastmen decided to completely disregard it. These two actions resembled each other in not being assertive, but were actually completely different.
The elves reinforced their monitoring of the demon continent, increased their bases inside the Miasma Forest, and began to augment their military strength. For the sake of providing the new recruits with enough equipment, they were carrying out large-scaled hunts that lasted many days to get their hands on monster materials without allowing the fires in their smithies to go out.
Seemingly having wondered what else could be done, there was a notion to promote acts such as marriages, mating, and child rearing which were to be carried out under a huge Elven Breeding Plan proposed by the elven emperor in person. Thanks to his attendants who had most likely believed that this was going too far, whatever the circumstances might be, the initiative was apparently intercepted, barely stopping it right before it was going to be proclaimed. There was no need to even mention that Croire was at her wits’ end wondering, What’s that idiot thinking?
“A genuine rebellion…”
“I won’t stop you, but wait for now. If even the elves fall into chaos, it will become impossible to settle the current issue.”
The other one at her wits’ end was Kaede – because of the beastmen’s response of course. They concluded that it was unnecessary to deal with an opponent that seemed to have secluded themselves in a shell with no intention of coming out. Thus they began to focus on the struggles between the powers led by the four kings. This much wouldn’t be enough to cause Kaede any headaches, but saying that this wasn’t time for civil wars as they were still more or less at a war with the demons, even if the opponent might not be attacking at the moment, the women, including Lobelia, took up arms.
The four kings turned pale in response to the beastwomen uprising as they believed that they mustn’t make the women into their enemies. Of all things, the kings, who thought that they might get easily crushed by the women if each king were to be dealt with individually, stopped their quarreling temporarily, banded together, and for some incomprehensible reason in Renya’s eyes the whole situation developed into an army of men vs. army of women. The army of men became desperate in their attempt to ward off the army of the enraged women as they feared the consequences if they were to lose. This resulted in a situation where both sides vied for supremacy quite fervently, and it appeared that it would turn into a prolonged war.
Kaede grumbled, “Seriously, just what are those people doing?”, but Renya felt like it was his side that actually wanted to know that.
“I will borrow Lepard for a bit, and annex all of it…”
“Stop it, as that will only lead to things getting even worse down the road.”
If we were to speak about the human continent’s reaction, the majority of the nations stuck to remaining as spectators. There were many among them that believed that the threat of the demon continent was the demons and monsters attacking their continent while a demon king was present, and that there was no explicit need to deal with this if the demons and monsters not only didn’t come attacking despite a demon king being present, but even remained locked up behind their barrier.
Another reason was that many of the countries were exhausted. Although they had just reaped what they had sown, many countries were in such wretched states that they would fall apart like dominos if they forcibly tried to replenish their soldiers, which they had lost in the hero’s battle, as it would negatively affect their industry and farming. They definitely couldn’t be bothered with taking the demons into consideration.
The Trident Principality continuously received requests begging for assistance from many countries. The archduchess, who had gone to Klinge, was immediately dragged back to the capital.
Renya and others believed that it would be fine to just ignore those requests altogether, but if they were to actually leave the current situation alone with many countries collapsing as a result, the people fleeing from those countries would turn into refugees, and keep pouring into other countries. This would trigger a deterioration of the food situation and such in the countries swamped by these refugees.
Furthermore, it wasn’t unusual for such events to cause the public order to worsen as a consequence. Since the people affiliated to the country’s army would turn into bandits after ruining themselves. Those bandits would then attack the refugees streaming into the country, or visit the neighboring countries to lay waste there.
Being unable to get rid of the main cause behind all this, it wouldn’t end with it being just one country’s problem, but the effects would instead spread to the surrounding countries, which in lieu would trigger a chain reaction with the consequences continuing to spread even further.
The archduchess, with an extremely tired smile, explained to Renya before being taken back to the capital that it was necessary regardless of the circumstances to provide just enough aid so that the countries wouldn’t collapse thus avoiding the domino effect disaster. Since Renya couldn’t do anything about it even after being informed, he stopped any further thinking about this matter.
Somehow Renya felt the strong urge to, “And you guys had really planned to go to war?”, but once he considered it thoroughly, it was only normal for the recovery rates to differ depending on the country’s conditions and the on-site circumstances. A situation, where the hero brings the world together to oppose the demon king like it happens in some heroic tales, was the epitome of weirdness. He could only think that it was fairly reasonable for the current situation to be what it was, if you considered all that.
“If things proceeded～ as they do in stories～ no one～ would need to suffer～”
“Though I kind of think that it’s the common people that suffer more than you, Your Highness.”
Speaking of heroes, Renya ordered the four heroes, Kurz and Grün who came back, and Albert and Lepard who had received treatment, to earnestly hold mock battles against Shion, Rona, Croire, and Frau. As Shion’s new equipment, Renya gave her a set of armor that used the same design as her previous one but was made out of evil dragon hide, and after he got persistently and intently pestered by Shion, a single katana which was tempered with an alloy of mithril and steel.
As katana were weapons from his former world and because he felt it would be somehow misplaced for him to add an inscription on the blade in this world’s language, Renya decided to keep the katana unsigned, but once he tried to appraise it with his appraisal skill, the result was rank 8.
This was the highest rank an artisan living in the transient world could achieve. It was such a rare item that people wanting to buy it at any price would rush Renya’s place if word got out, but without having a clue of this fact, Renya swiftly made a scabbard and a belt with the same mechanism as the one he was using himself, and handed the set over to Shion.
Thanks to the mithril added to the katana, it wasn’t a blade that would chip easily, but since it wasn’t maintenance-free like Renya’s katana, it resulted in Renya first teaching Shion how to properly maintain her new katana.
The heroes were reluctant to hold mock battles with Shion and the others at first. Lepard’s cocky words that it wouldn’t be much of a battle was the commonly shared opinion among all heroes, and the surroundings, who had heard about this idea, harbored the same opinion, too.
However, their way of thinking was easily betrayed after observing the first match.
Shion was abnormally strong on top of having the ability to manipulate mana. Because she wore the equipment especially made for her by Renya, her defensive and offensive abilities got boosted, and to top it all off, she could even use Lepard’s <Roar>.
Thanks to being appointed as a saint alongside the steep rise of her art powers, Rona had rapidly increased her repertoire of divine arts by reading all kinds of scriptures related to divine arts which she had ordered from the capital.
With the elves’ characteristic abundance in mana as backing, Croire had developed her abilities even further by not shirking her training even after coming to Klinge as an accomplished, excellent sorceress.
And lastly, Frau who had rumors surrounding her saying that her existence itself might be getting too nonsensical.
If these four formed a party and cooperated decently when fighting, there was no way for them to lose so easily, even with the heroes as opponents.
“Those eight people can’t be handled by us anymore.” Keith said feebly next to Renya as they observed those eight jumping and rushing around on the wide, flat field prepared outside the city for the mock battle from atop the city wall.
At the end of his gaze were Frau, who was manipulating countless tentacles which she had created from the ground, and Kurz who intercepted them with countless tentacles of his own, created from black mist. The battle, where their respective tentacles devoured, tore apart, bumped, and smashed each other with their numbers being replenished in proportion to the losses, didn’t seem like a fight between a hero and a fairy at all, no matter how you looked at it.
“In case something were to happen, I will ask you to handle it, Margrave-sama.”
“…Somehow I feel like the troublesome matters have increased even further.”
Rona’s mace, which she had swung while using self-strengthening magic, powerfully hit Lepard’s guarded arm. As a consequence, Lepard’s large frame was pushed back several meters while raising a cloud of dust. Shion’s frontal kick awaited him there, blowing Lepard another dozens of meters away despite the fact that Lepard had guarded against the attack.
He’s right, taking something like that on will be rather hard for common soldiers, Renya sighed. In short, whenever Shion’s group and the heroes happened to cause some kind of trouble in Klinge, I would have to deal with all of it.
“Won’t it somehow work out if you face them using around a hundred people?”
“It won’t. Please do your best, Margrave-sama.”
Keith shot Renya down curtly.
It was decided that Kilie would stay in Klinge. On paper, she had the position of Renya’s observer on behalf of the archduchess. Renya’s protest that Shion and Mayria would be more than capable of that was rejected by the archduchess with the comment that there were no signs of them accomplishing that duty at present as both of them had ended up being tainted with thoughts similar to Renya’s.
Renya didn’t try asking her about Kilie’s true identity. After all, it was obvious that she would answer that she was a member of the Trident Principality’s Intelligence Unit who had disguised herself as a peddler, even if he asked.
From the two pieces of information she had told him, Renya decided to share the information about the demon continent with all his friends, but he hid the other piece of information deep within his heart.
As far as Renya could tell, it appeared that the residents of this world didn’t know anything about the existence of a component referred to as “resources”. Thus he thought that it might be better to have them perceive the collapse of mountains and the retreat of the coastlines as nothing but an unusual phenomena.
Renya wasn’t confident that he could fully explain these events even if he tried to. Therefore he assessed that it would be better not to worry his friends unnecessarily with this information.
Instead, Renya somehow managed to grasp Kilie’s true identity as she had directly informed him of these pieces of information while anticipating that it might cause quite a big shock if she let others know herself, but in the end he still had no desire to check whether he was right.
“So it wasn’t possible for things to improve at least to some extent with me coming here?”
“Hmm? What might you be talking about?”
“The decrease of resources went faster than anticipated. The reason…we just recently managed to identify the place that might be at fault…is difficult to deal with right away. Still, thanks to you Renya-san, it seems to be a situation where we still have some time until things become irreparable. This is what the electromagnetic waves, which I received, tell me.”
“You know, that part about the waves is obviously weird if it’s supposed to come out of the mouth of a resident of this world, okay?”
“Don’t tell me, a leading question!?”
Kilie widened her eyes while pressing a hand to her gaping mouth.
“Well, I don’t particularly mind if you continue insisting that you’re the peddler Kilie.”
“It would be a big help if you could go along with that. It wouldn’t be a very cool story to tell the people that the new supervisor of this world willingly came to the lower world as your guardian angel, Renya-san.”
I guess you don’t have any intention of hiding it anymore, Renya thought, but didn’t retort audibly. He also pretended not to have heard the inappropriate term of guardian angel. Although he ended up thinking, It’s no more than a protection that lacks any kind of divine favor.
While at it, he also thought that it was her who had stood by the pillows of the priests all over the country, but he avoided pursuing this matter any further either.
Even if he were to disclose it to the public, no one would benefit, and Renya himself decided to flag it as trivial information. He felt that the little girl goddess would tell him everything, even the parts he didn’t need to know, if he asked her directly.
“Though I had thought that this world would be a place where I could spend my life more easily.”
When Renya grumbled this, there wasn’t anyone nearby that could answer him.
Spending several days in such a mood, one day something unexpected happened.
Emil Rajah disappeared from Klinge.
Renya had been sitting at his office desk and brooding over the two things placed in front of him. One was a letter signed by Her Majesty the Archduchess, the highest authority in the Trident Principality.
The letter, which had accompanied a massive and excessively secured case, had a wax seal with the crest of the archduchess’ family imprinted on it, and was elegant at a glance, but in Renya’s eyes, only the contents mattered, no matter how wonderfully decorated a letter might be. He ended up thinking that she might as well have told him while they took a bath together if the contents were so important.
The letter contained a notice that 2,000 soldiers of Trident’s army had been dispatched to Klinge, and an order for him to allow them to set up camp in the city. Moreover, it stated that the soldiers’ provisions were to be fully provided on-site, which was quite a troublesome matter.
The archduchess, who brought the information that the demon continent had been isolated by an unidentifiable barrier forward, immediately decided to send reinforcements to every territory adjacent to the Miasma Forest in preparation for any unusual phenomena. The letter, Which Renya was staring at with a displeased expression while shuffling it around atop the desk, notified him of this fact. In Renya’s eyes, the Trident Principality’s army not only couldn’t be counted on as combat asset, seeing how they got annihilated when Frau was holding the fort before, but they even gave him the impression that their presence alone would already become a nuisance, but unexpectedly they were highly rated by the nobles other than Renya.
For an instant Renya considered whether he should politely refuse the dispatched soldiers. However, he immediately revised his train of thought.
If he only thought about Klinge, Renya’s current military forces were endowed with sufficient abilities that allowed them to defend the city. Thus, if he only thought about Klinge, the story would be over with at this point.
The problem was the fact that Klinge wasn’t the only place in Renya’s domain where people lived in large groups. Renya’s territory also encompassed the area outside Klinge, and that area was dotted with smaller and bigger villages.
Renya didn’t concern himself with this part much since it was exclusively handled by Mayria. If he believed the information Mayria brought up, within Renya’s territory…once he had thought up to this point, Renya stopped recalling all the detailed information.
Anyway, there existed settlements which were somewhat difficult to protect completely with the number of soldiers he had at hand. Considering this fact, the reinforcements sent by the archduchess were suitable assistance, and there was no reason to turn them down.
The soldiers’ food, which has to be delivered to them, and a place to station them might be necessary expenses, Renya made a clear decision.
But then again, it was set in stone that Mayria would file a mountain of objections since the increase in paperwork accompanying the fund raising would put an additional burden on her.
“I guess I’ll ignore it.”
Renya made a cruel comment that would have made Mayria and her civil officials speechless while crying tears of blood if they had heard it. He carelessly tossed the letter from the archduchess onto the bundle of documents to be carried to Mayria’s office. Losing all interest in the letter as the rest would probably work itself out one way or the other, Renya shifted his attention to the other object laying atop his desk.
It was something that had been discovered in Emil Rajah’s private room after she disappeared.
Emil had two rooms inside Renya’s castle. One was her private room she used to lodge at usually, and the other one was a laboratory used for her research.
The one who had noticed Emil’s absence first was Frau who often worked with her. When Frau went to wake her up in the early morning, Emil wasn’t in her room, and she hadn’t come to eat breakfast either.
Even the soldiers patrolling the city as a security measure hadn’t seen Emil. At that point, Frau suddenly understood that Emil might have disappeared.
At first Renya had taken the news lightly, thinking that she might be working hard on some kind of shady experiment again while secluding herself in her laboratory, but once Frau began to suspect that she might have disappeared, things changed. It wasn’t a simple feat to avoid Frau’s eyes inside Klinge. Of course, based on the precondition that Frau felt inclined to look.
Still, if this silky, who perceived the whole of Klinge as Renya’s home, felt like searching for a target for real, she had enough tracking ability that even Grün, who was regarded as a master in covert operations, wouldn’t be able to stay hidden from her for more than an hour. And that very same Frau had declared that Emil wasn’t in Klinge.
It was considered that she might have wandered outside Klinge to observe something that had caught her interest. However, that hypothesis could be disproven as the door to Emil’s laboratory, which Renya had visited on a hunch, wasn’t locked. Moreover, he also noticed that not a single one of the traps was active with the laboratory having stayed as it was, when usually swarms of various traps should be planted behind the door to repel any uninvited guests.
By the way, after this came to light, Frau, who had become as white as a sheet, decided to immediately seal off Emil’s laboratory. Given that Renya had only taken a glance at it, he didn’t know much of what was left within the room, but according to Frau, it was full of extremely dangerous objects, laying around in there really casually.
Even if there wouldn’t be an issue as long as Emil was present, it would become very dangerous to the point where it could even put Frau in a tight spot, if Emil was absent. Renya was conflicted on whether he really wanted to hear what might have happened from Frau, who said that it would have almost certainly ended in a disaster if they had been just a little bit slower in realizing the problem while wiping the sweat off her forehead.
What was delivered by Frau just when Renya returned to his office after pushing those complicated feelings away by using the proverb, Curiosity killed the cat, was the object which he was brooding over right now while rolling and nudging it around with his index finger atop his desk. It was a very small, simple, violet metal pipe with engravings added to it.
While turning it over with a feeling that he had seen this somewhere else before, Renya searched his memories. After a brief moment, he remembered that it must be the pipe which had been tied to the root of Emil’s side ponytail. Once he wondered about the individual called Emil Rajah, Renya thought it very unlikely for her to have been kidnapped without leaving any kind of traces behind.
Even assuming that I had been the one doing the kidnapping, I’m not confident at all that I could disable Emil while preventing her from putting up a fight. Even if I tried to take her by surprise, I’m positive that she has already prepared some kinds of countermeasures. Precisely because she’s a researcher, whose calling doesn’t lie in combat, it’s completely incorrect to look down on her very careful preparations and her senses that are close to cowardly, Renya felt.
But then again, Renya had only fought against Emil once. Moreover, because the opponent was a remote controlled terminal, her true abilities remained hidden to him. Thus, her being unexpectedly weak was also a possibility.
There won’t be an end to it if I keep thinking about it. At present I don’t have any basis or evidence.
And yet Renya was convinced that Emil was probably a fairly formidable opponent. Considering the situation in lieu of that train of thought, the idea that Emil had left Klinge out of her own free will wasn’t unreasonable.
Now then, in such a case, it’ll bring up another question.
It was the question of why Emil had left her hair clip behind, which she always wore as far as Renya knew, in her private room. If you said that she dropped while resisting a surprise attack, things would be easy. However, seeing as no traces of a battle could be seen anywhere in the room, it was only natural to consider that she had left the clip there on purpose.
In case I assume that Emil left the hair clip there intentionally, what’s the meaning behind doing so? The clip itself isn’t overly gaudy, and it’s not like it uses some rare metal either. Since it doesn’t look like a valuable object, I doubt that she intended to have it serve as settlement money, Renya assessed.
In that case, what about the line of thought that the act of leaving a hair clip behind might mean something special for demons? Renya asked himself, but immediately rejected the idea. There’s no way to confirm something like customs and traditions characteristic to demons. In the first place, there’s no way that a human would be able to understand it even if Emil tried to use that as a sign.
It was hard to imagine that a researcher, who would likely place logic above emotions, would do such a pointless act while knowing that the recipient wouldn’t understand it to begin with. If she decided to disappear anyway, it was very unlikely that she’d act in a completely meaningless way that only relied on suggesting things, even if one were to consider Emil’s character of liking to pull off such pranks.
Renya, who tried to think about other possibilities, stared into the air for a while, but then stopped thinking about it altogether.
No matter how much I think about it, predictions will never stop being just predictions.
Rather than that, there was one thing Renya had to admit first.
Once he clearly expressed his feelings in his own mind, he could quickly agree that this was the crux of the problem here. Renya had been hesitating.
If Emil were a human, Renya would have taken some kind of action right away, regardless of whether she had a couple loose screws, or a lacking understanding of the concept called morals. The reason why he hadn’t done so yet was solely because she was a demon.
Considering the timing of her disappearance, there’s a fairly high chance that Emil was in the demon country, which was locked up behind that barrier. It wasn’t as though he had completely discarded the possibility that she had wandered off somewhere completely unrelated to all this, but based on the information he had obtained regarding her origin coupled with the time of her disappearance, Renya didn’t think there was much room for error here.
In which case, if it comes to looking for Emil, I’ll be forced to extend the search in that direction, and if I’m asked about the reason for doing so, I’ll need to expose Emil’s background. The part where I get blamed for not saying anything sooner isn’t a problem.
Renya had the resolve to accept any consequence, no matter how he was blamed. However, Renya was afraid that honestly putting everything he was feeling right now into words would end up destroying the environment around him.
I’m going to have to admit it, Renya pursed his lips. That I might lose someone among those currently at my side, and that I’m very afraid of that happening.
Emil might come back eventually, but if I don’t take any measures right now, it’s also possible that I’ll lose her forever. However, If I do such a thing, it might result in someone else leaving me.
On top of being well aware that there was no way to make everyone happy, he couldn’t take the next step out of fear.
“Now then, what should I do about this?” Renya muttered, giving voice to a question with no answer.
And just then, the door to Renya’s office was attacked by a considerably rough knocking. Even before Renya could reply after he stopped contemplating, the door’s hinge, which couldn’t endure the repeated knocking impacts, split apart, and the beaten door transformed into splinters as if using the hinge’s surrender as a signal to give in.
The one that appeared in Renya’s line of sight, who was thinking that Frau would get very angry if she saw this, and stepping over the splintered door was Shion.
“I’m entering, Renya.”
Without waiting for Renya’s reply, Shion rudely stepped inside the room, walked up right in front of the desk where Renya was sitting, and slammed both hands on its surface. This produced a fairly loud slamming sound which reverberated across the room. However, unlike the door, the desk didn’t shatter into splinters since it had apparently been built more sturdily.
It looks like she’s pissed off, Renya guessed from Shion’s words and attitude. However, he had absolutely no idea what she was angry about.
“I have a question, and I’d like you to answer it, Renya.”
She bent herself forward across the desk, using her hands as supports, and stared at Renya fixedly while bringing her face close to his. Renya couldn’t do anything else other than to silently nod at Shion’s words.
Even though being overpowered by an angry Shion was a fairly novel experience, Renya acted as if it was nothing special on the surface.
The fact that I was overpowered isn’t a big deal. After all, it’s been a common rule since ancient times that a woman’s anger easily surpasses a man’s. The problem here is that she would run her mouth, even if I don’t listen to what she says, going as far as to talk about unnecessary stuff until I finally cave in, resulting in me being unable to do anything after getting cornered.
Right when Renya was leaning across the desk, about to ask what had caused Shion to angrily charge into his office, trying to make the conversation proceed in a calm and composed manner, Shion’s right hand grabbed Renya’s head in an eagle hold.
Renya had made his friends thoroughly experience his iron claw so far, but he perceived that he would be on the receiving end this time. At the same time, probably so that Renya wouldn’t get away, Shion put some strength into her grip.
Going by the pressure transmitted through Shion’s fingers to Renya’s skull, he was convinced that Shion might be able to crush his skull with the pressure she was applying, which made a slight shiver travel down Renya’s spine. If Renya was injured to some extent, he should be able to pull through one way or another due to the <High Recovery> skill which he had received from the little goddess. However, Renya speculated that even he would die if his skull was crushed.
As Renya brooded over thoughts in his mind that were close to escaping reality, such as, If it’s possible to recover from having my head crushed, contrary to my expectations, it might remove me from what would be considered as a human, no matter how much it might be a blessing of the skill’s function, Shion started to talk slowly in a deep voice.
“Renya, right now I feel like I could even crush an ogre’s head.”
“You won’t hear any arguments from me.”
“No matter how strong you might be, your head isn’t as tough as an ogre’s, right Renya?”
“I agree if we base it on the skull being physically crushed.”
If it’s based on psychological crushing, I can be pretty stubborn, Renya assessed.
This nuance had apparently gotten through to Shion as well, even if only somewhat. At the edge of his sight, which was mostly blocked by Shion’s palm, Renya faintly saw Shion’s mouth slacken a bit. Renya wondered whether he should seize the opportunity and try to free his head from Shion’s hold, but when he saw Shion’s mouth tighten again, he reconsidered.
Things will likely become complicated, if I act imprudently here and offend Shion.
“Based on the fact that I don’t want to get violent with you, I’d simply like you to answer a question of mine.”
“Very well. I shall do my best to give you a truthful answer.”
Hearing Renya answer with an obedient tone, Shion took a deep breath, and asked Renya, “Why don’t you give the order to search for Emil?”
Although it’s said that there’s no point in crying over spilled milk, I must admit that her question is very valid, Renya realized his own blunder. Even if it’s going to give Shion a bit of a bad impression, I should get Shion’s hand off of my face for now. Completely hiding the intense ups and down of my emotions will be extremely difficult like this.
Even so, if it were limited to what he showed on his face, Renya was confident that he would be able to remain expressionless throughout this. However, that was ultimately limited to his facial expressions. No matter how much he subdued them, he wouldn’t be able to completely stop his muscles from moving or his skin from stiffening as they were instant reactions. Even more so since he had only thought about the matter at hand moments ago, and had been forced to realize that he was still hesitating without being able to reach a conclusion.
“I guess you have your reasons. So I’d like to hear them.”
Shion had apparently noticed the faint changes in his expression through her palm.
“Considering the situation…of Emil having disappeared from in front of us, it’s very likely that she did so voluntarily. I don’t believe there’s a need to chase after someone, who left on her own accord, at present.”
He couldn’t afford to pile up blunder upon blunder. That’s why Renya gave the reply, which he had prepared in advance, while making an effort to keep his voice as flat and as calm as possible.
He didn’t lie. Considering only the parts that were clear at present, it was a very natural conclusion and the only answer he could come up with while being confident of it.
Having misjudged that he probably wouldn’t get exposed because of that, Renya ended up widening his eyes, albeit faintly, underneath Shion’s palm as he listened to her.
“That’s a lie, isn’t it?”
“You’re denying my words…with quite the confidence there, aren’t you?”
Renya asked himself whether he had overlooked something. He reflected on whether he might have missed something crucial, seeing as Shion had been able to see right through his lie. Renya wasn’t a poor talker, but he wasn’t silver tongued either.
It wouldn’t be odd if he had made a mistake somewhere just because of this, but no matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t determine where he had made a mistake that would be so obvious to Shion.
“There’s no reason for Emil to leave your side, Renya.”
“That’s something you don’t know for sure, do you? Although it’s me who’s saying it, I’m well aware that I haven’t treated her very well. It wouldn’t be surprising if she ran out of patience with me, don’t you think?”
Renya felt complicated as he kept saying things that seemed to abase himself, but there was no lie in his words either.
However, Shion easily denied this as well, “Such things don’t matter. At the very least, Emil appeared to have enjoyed her time in Klinge. It also seemed as though she felt something akin to a debt of gratitude towards you. Otherwise she wouldn’t have helped you in so many ways for free, right?”
Renya admired Shion for having properly registered those things albeit seemingly not having paid them any heed. Certainly, Renya had gotten Emil’s help on various occasions. And although Emil complained about that every now and then, she never refused to give him a helping hand. Moreover, although Renya had taken advantage of Emil to quite the extent, he never gave her some sort of reward, as an employer would normally give his subordinate, so far.
“It’s not like I only exploited her for manual labor, you know?”
“I’m aware of that.”
Once Renya added, “I had to spell it out, just in case,” Shion nodded with a wry smile.
“Since I’m not in charge of brain work like Mayria, I don’t understand the complicated stuff, but there are two things I do understand. First, I share a relation of having crossed fists with Emil.”
Even when being told so, Renya couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. After thinking about it for a while, he remembered that Shion and Emil had a scuffle in his office a while back.
Renya believed that what happened couldn’t be described as crossing fists, but since it had apparently transformed into something like that in Shion’s mind, he decided to remain quiet about that part.
“It’s not like Emil had complaints with the current situation, and even if she had dissatisfactions that I didn’t know of, she isn’t the type of woman who would silently leave. She would have definitely told you something, Renya.”
Even while Renya was thinking that they would have likely been able to sort it out with a short chat, in case Emil really had some sort of issue with him, he urged Shion to go on. Seemingly having judged that Renya had no intentions of escaping, Shion released her iron claw, removed her hands from the desk, and faced Renya straight on.
“The second thing is something I heard from Frau. Emil’s hair clip was left behind in her private room.”
“You mean this, I suppose.”
Renya pointed at the metallic pipe left laying on top of his desk with his eyes. Following his line of sight, Shion nodded shortly after spotting the clip. Support the translator by reading this at Infinite Novel Translations.
“I also use a hair clip. It’s nothing expensive, but I cherish it.”
Shion’s hair clip wasn’t metallic like Emil’s. She gently placed her right hand on her clip, and swiftly unfastened it. What remained on her palm was a cloth hair band similar to a plain ribbon.
“Mother often told me to wear something slightly cuter, but for someone aiming to become a swordswoman like me, this was the maximum. Even so, it’s undoubtedly something invaluable for tying one’s hair, which is important for a woman.”
That part was something Renya couldn’t really understand very well. ‘And most likely there’ll never come a time where I’ll be able to understand such things,’ he assessed.
Shion tied her hair together again with the same hair band she had removed, remaking her ponytail. She then placed her hands back down on the desk, without slamming them down this time, and leaned forward again while staring deep into Renya’s eyes.
“She deliberately left the hair clip behind. There’s no way it’s meaningless.”
“It’s incomprehensible to me.”
Honestly, Renya couldn’t give any other answer. Although he wondered whether he would be ridiculed for that, Shion kept staring at Renya with a serious expression, showing no indication that she would laugh at him.
“You don’t need to understand why she did it. I will tell you. Emil has left her heart with Klinge, or rather, you, Renya. However, she had to leave this place against her will due to some kind of circumstance. I don’t know the reason, but I think she couldn’t ask for our help. Her leaving the hair clip behind is an expression of those feelings, I think.”
“That’s absurdly difficult to understand, isn’t it…? But, it’s also possible that your line of thoughts is wrong, right?”
Renya was puzzled as to why Shion, who had made her statement rather cockily, was overflowing with so much confidence. Still, due to her having spelled it out so confidently to him, there was a part of him that could somewhat go along with her argument, even though it was a notion he couldn’t understand himself.
“You can ridicule me if I made a mistake in my interpretation. I won’t mind at all if you laugh at me. However, if we never get to reunite with Emil because we didn’t go out to search for her, I’ll regret the fact that I wasn’t able to persuade you, Renya. Even if you exclude the two things I said moments ago, she’s still my friend.”
“You’re really enviable…”
Renya began to feel stupid for having wavered after thinking about various things. The very simple argument that it was normal to search for a friend that vanished without a word was persuasive precisely because it was so simple. However, that was only the case if you omitted Emil’s true identity which Shion didn’t know of.
“Renya, what are you hiding?”
“Something I can’t say, want to say, and might end various things if I do say.”
Harboring the faint hope that she might deduct the truth with this, Renya deliberately used a way of speaking full of implications. It was a comment that had the nuance that she wouldn’t be able to double back once she heard it. Renya thought that it would be a big help for him if he could get her to back off with this.
In response, Shion looked mystified for just a moment, “I don’t quite get it, but…if that’s the case, let’s do it like this. First, spit it out.”
“In exchange I promise I won’t do anything that might worry you, no matter what I hear.”
Shion pulled back the hand she had placed on Renya’s desk, straightened up, and hit her chest as if saying that he should leave it all to her.
As Renya made a doubtful expression, Shion became sullen and further added, “It’s ‘no matter what I hear. Even if Emil were to be pregnant with your child, if she were to be my mortal enemy, if she ran off with a good amount of cash after finding another man, or if you, Renya, actually had a fetish for little girls.”
“It’s not such an erratic story…no, wait, I guess I can’t say that it’s not…”
Even while considering where to start, Renya ended up wondering, Now then, if I had to choose between divulging Emil’s real identity or pile up various offbeat stories like the ones Shion has mentioned, which would I prefer?
Renya himself was aware that his understanding about just how much the people of this world hated demons was rather shallow, probably because he didn’t really feel that much fear or have emotional views about demons. Even an elf like Croire, whom he considered to have a relatively broad-minded personality, disapproved of demons. Thus he couldn’t make an educated guess as to how Shion, a human, would react.
“What is it that makes you hesitate so much? Just give it a try, Renya. I’ll keep my promise.”
“Emil Rajah is…” Faltering for a moment, Renya fixed his eyes on Shion, who tried to not avert her eyes, and spit out the next words as if having partly resigned himself that whatever will happen will happen anyway, “She’s a demon. Considering the current situation, it’s very likely that she’s headed to the demon country. If we’re going to perform a search, I think we’ll need to go beyond the Miasma Forest into the demon country. I have ordered those, who know about Emil, to remain silent on my own judgment.”
“Those who know?”
“Croire and Frau. I ordered both of them not to divulge the information.”
As Renya waited to see how Shion reacted while filled with trepidation, Shion folded her arms and brooded for a while, and then declared without any hesitation, “Then it’ll be okay as long as I make sure that it doesn’t become a problem by properly talking it over with Rona.”
Renya was confused, wondering whether he had misheard. Seemingly having perceived what he was thinking from his reaction, Shion cracked a smile, “Don’t worry, Renya. Rona might get slightly surprised, but it’ll be alright. I’ll explain it to her.”
“No… Eh? You understand what I’m saying? I told you that Emil is a demon, you know?”
“I heard and understood that, but what about it?”
Renya blankly stared back at Shion, who replied with another question, with a dumbfounded expression, since he didn’t know how he should answer her.
“A demon, she’s a demon. The ones that are underlings of the demon king, you see?”
“I’d like you to tell me if you know of any other beings called demons…”
Shion became bewildered instead, and Renya was confused as to what the heck was going on here. Shion seemed to finally grasp from Renya’s expression what had made him hold his tongue in fear, and clapped her hands together.
“Ohh…you were worried that I’d go ballistic or something because she’s a demon?”
“It’s as you say, but isn’t your response to this way too casual?”
Doesn’t your reaction make me look like a complete idiot for having worried so much? Renya wondered.
“No, well, I hate demons, and it’s unthinkable that I’ll get along with them. I’ll slaughter them if I spot any, and I also believe that it’d be better for them to get completely wiped out.”
“Before being a demon and all that, Emil is Emil, right? Renya, you judged there wouldn’t be a problem if you ignored it either, didn’t you? Isn’t it a non-issue then? Rona might loathe them a bit more, but since Emil has gotten along with us without any problems so far, she should be able to understand if I explain it to her properly.”
“Is that…how it works?”
“Isn’t it? Even if someone might see it differently, isn’t that how things work in Klinge?”
Shion broadly laughed at Renya, who felt as if his anxieties had been cleanly and easily cut apart and dumped away.
“That’s the way it is with friends. Renya, you overthink things too much.”
Without any words with which to retort, Renya couldn’t even groan. He could only keep staring at Shion’s bright smile.