In reality, Renya didn’t have much faith in Shion’s ability to persuade Rona. Renya greatly admired the part where Shion declared that friendship is unrelated to the other party being a demon or a human since it exceeded his own expectations by quite a bit.
However, saying that Shion might have suddenly become excellent just because of that, wasn’t something Renya would believe. Even under the assumption for it to be true, he couldn’t ignore all the blunders she had piled up so far.
The possibility that Shion simply didn’t think things through always followed her around. Of course, regardless of the method, she had shown him the way to reach the most ideal solution, which Renya couldn’t reach by himself, so he thought that he should acknowledge her for that.
Even a fool can stumble upon a truth that a wise man cannot attain every now and then. Considering it as such, Shion’s speech and conduct lacked logical reasoning, and persuading others without this can be considered extremely difficult.
Not to mention, the other person in question is Rona. Her role is to watch over Shion, and according to her position, she’s capable of remonstrating Shion’s speech and conduct. And, to top it off, since she has that calculative part about her, there’s no way she’ll agree to launch a search for a demon, which would only bring demerits. Moreover, since she’s recently been granted the title of saint, she can’t be seen cooperating with demons.
Since it’d be quite a difficult endeavor even if one’s silver tongued, it probably won’t work out with Shion’s skills, Renya judged.
“Shion won me over.”
In the early afternoon of the next day Rona visited Renya’s office with a slightly gloomy expression and somewhat hunched shoulders.
With the situation being what it was, there was no way to seek Mayria’s assistance for this case. While thinking that he would have to search for Emil with just Shion in the worst case, Renya sat at his desk while pondering about the arrangements of the necessary goods, and racking his brain as to what kind of transportation he had to prepare, seeing as the search area alone would be ridiculously large. Additionally, the demon country was extremely far away besides the fact that they would also need to cross the Miasma Forest and other tough terrain. When Rona suddenly rushed into his office, Renya didn’t understand what he was being told at first. For a short while he just stared at Rona’s face, who returned his gaze with a somewhat glum and reproachful look.
What puzzled him first was that he didn’t know exactly when Rona had entered his room, and the fact he didn’t lock the door. When he was focusing on it, Renya was sensitive even to the faintest hints of people’s presences, but otherwise was so inattentive that it surprised those around him.
Even when you approach ferocious carnivores, their reactions will be especially weak when their bellies are full, but I wonder whether it’s something similar to that? Rona thought while looking at Renya who was staring at her blankly as if unable to grasp the situation.
They stared at each other like that for several minutes. After taking that much time, surprise slowly dyed Renya’s face as his thinking had finally caught up with reality at last.
“Won over? Eh? Who did? Shion did? You? Why?”
“I’d like to at least add that it was against my will, but going by your expression, it appears that you hadn’t expected this outcome at all.” Rona said while sighing.
Renya immediately shot back, “I mean, Rona is a Rona, right?”
“My name has been completely registered as the definition of black-hearted in your head. Could you please stop using my name as a synonym for a malicious woman who doesn’t listen to others?” Rona demanded without even trying to hide her displeasure while massaging her own eyebrows with her right hand.
Renya nodded at her while believing that he hadn’t said anything that terrible, nor had he intended to do so.
“Leaving that aside, I thought that you would definitely reject Shion’s proposal, you know?”
“That makes it sound as if I was deceived in a weird way, but normally people don’t have something they are strictly opposed to.”
“That basically means, you’re scheming, Rona?”
“Could you please stop talking about me as if I’m incompatible with human society?”
Sensitively grasping how anger had started to dye Rona’s tone this time, Renya just nodded. He didn’t have the slightest intention of teasing her. Since he was just pursuing his own curiosity, he didn’t want to rub Rona the wrong way.
“Even I told Shion that I’d like her to stop getting involved with Emil any longer when I heard of Emil’s true identity.”
Renya thought that this might have been a very natural response for a human. But with just this much, he couldn’t tell how Shion had managed to persuade Rona.
“Shion took my hands, and said that demons were beings that deserved to be hated by us since they are a threat to humans, but that Emil was our comrade and friend, and that she hadn’t harmed any humans at least after becoming our friend. She added that we should treat her as our friend and comrade, and asked whether it wasn’t only natural for a human to help a friend who might be in trouble.”
“What cliched lines.”
Those are splendid words. But, they’re too splendid and instead sound like an empty slogan. At the very least, they don’t sound like words capable of touching Rona and making her way of thinking do a 180° turn.
“Shion’s words were trite, but once I considered how Shion had become capable of using such words, it made me all teary, even if it was a blunder on my side.”
“You’re really easy…”
“No, even I wouldn’t give in with just this much, so I firmly endured, but…”
Seemingly recalling the conversation, Rona pressed both hands against her cheeks, and let out a short breath.
“Once she obstinately stared at me from up close with those pure eyes full of trust while saying Umm, I’m sure you’ll understand me Rona and You’re going to agree with my view, right?…”
“You’re really reaally easy…”
“There’s no way I could do something so cold-blooded, atrocious, terrible, and cruel like rejecting Shion’s words while she stared at me with those eyes, is there!?”
Even when she raised her voice to emphasize her words, Renya found it difficult to agree with her. If it had been a man who got cornered instead of Rona, Renya might have understood why they agreed, but Rona’s behavior was impossible for Renya to understand, since it was a conversation between two women.
“I would rather die than betray Shion’s trust! Even if I have to feed my title of saint to the dogs!”
“Wait, wait, wait, isn’t the title of saint way cheap then!?”
A sound similar to something loud falling down in the far distance reached Renya’s ears as he wondered what the human’s goddess might think about this if she heard Rona’s words. Since Renya heard screams that seemed to originate from the maids working in his mansion at the same time, he grasped that someone or something must have fallen over within the building, but Renya only absentmindedly wondered, Now then, I wonder what might be going on?
“Even so, she had an extra method to get me to agree.”
“I was told that she’d let her fists talk just like when she got to understand Emil, if she couldn’t get me to understand her with words.”
It looked like physical persuasion was Shion’s final means to get her point across. It was unclear whether Shion really intended to resort to violence. Still, in Rona’s eyes, talking to the current Shion with her fists would most likely put her life in danger.
“I think it was the right choice to give in mentally before being forced to do so physically.”
“That makes sense.”
“Besides…” Rona hesitated for an instant, but immediately continued, “…if not for the information about her true identity, I would have immediately supported the idea of going to save Emil as well. If you and Shion say that you don’t care about her true identity, I have no reason to stay opposed to the idea.”
“Sorry, that’s a big help.”
Thinking that he should be proper about what he said or did, Renya apologized and bowed his head towards Rona. In response, Rona flusteredly waved her hands in front of her chest.
“Please don’t mind it. Seeing as I was persuaded, you have my consent as well.”
“Please allow me to express my gratitude despite that.”
There was no way that danger wouldn’t follow them around if they went to search the area between the Miasma Forest and the demon country. And since Rona had been forced to go along with that, it was only reasonable for Renya to feel indebted to her.
“I shall gratefully accept your feelings. Though, in fact it would be much better if I could get you to lend me one thing.”
“On top of black-hearted, you’re really greedy, eh…?”
“It’s a joke. Putting that aside…”
Rona approached Renya a bit, and held out her palm. Not understanding what she wanted, Renya wondered whether she might ask him for money, but Rona demanded something completely different to what Ranya expected.
“Please lend me Emil’s hair clip.”
“I don’t mind, but what are you going to use it for? A curse?”
The idea of casting a curse on someone with their belongings as a catalyst was relatively popular in Renya’s former world. Renya wondered whether Rona might curse Emil as safety measure while considering the possibility that Emil had only faked her friendliness so far, seeing as she was actually a dangerous demon.
“I’m a saint for whatever it’s worth, okay?”
“There’s no law that says a curse won’t work if it’s done by a saint, is there?”
“In the first place, I don’t know how to curse people. Anyway, please hurry up and pass me the clip.”
Rona, who snatched Emil’s hair clip away just as Renya took it out, tucked it away in the pocket of her priestess’ garb.
“Since I was appointed as the saintess, I was blessed with the opportunity to read through various books, and the number of divine arts I can use has grown rapidly, too.”
If it had only been an increase of knowledge regarding divine arts, it shouldn’t have resulted in what Rona described just now. The current Rona having attained the foremost ability on the continent as a divine arts user was due to Shion’s rampage a little while ago.
If Rona hadn’t healed Shion to the point of fainting, the aggregate amount of her divine power shouldn’t have increased. Considering it from a certain point of view, one could say that Rona’s current abilities were owed to Shion, albeit in a very indirect way, but Renya felt that it was very likely that no one was grateful towards Shion for that.
“Among the divine arts there was one that grants the ability to search for someone by using their belongings as a catalyst.”
“You’ll know where Emil is by using that?”
“I will only know their general direction if there’s a large distance between the caster and the target, but I think it’ll get more specific the closer we get to her.”
On the one hand he considered it rather convenient, but on the other, Renya wondered whether that wasn’t actually a kind of curse as well. Of course, since he felt like he’d get into an argument with Rona if he mentioned those thoughts, he decided to keep them to himself.
“Because it will take a bit of time, I will leave the preparations of the necessary goods to you in the meantime, Renya.”
“The goods are one part, but the means of transportation is also a problem. It’s definitely not like we can cross the Miasma Forest and head to the demon country by foot, right?”
Renya didn’t want to think about how many days it’d take to reach their destination if they were stuck walking. Moreover, there was no doubt that the amount of goods they would need to take would become ridiculous.
“Please leave that side to Shion.”
Now that’s an unexpected person to entrust with this duty,’ Renya felt. Leaving Mayria aside, I only feel worry assail me when asking myself whether it’ll be alright to leave this in Shion’s hands.
“Shion is currently explaining the situation to the heroes and Klinge’s soldiers.”
“You do act quickly, don’t you…? Or rather, is she spreading rumors about Emil!?”
Explaining the circumstances would result in exposing Emil’s true identity. But then again, there was no way that anyone would understand why they were going to the demon country if they kept Emil’s identity hidden.
“She told me that she would definitely convince everyone.”
“That’ll become a physical altercation in the end.”
“Who knows, I can’t tell you anything about that.”
Rona was evasive, but it was almost certain that Shion would use the troublesome way of persuasion called talking it out with her fists with those trying to persist till the end.
I hope no one dies from this, Renya held his forehead.
While Renya was in this state of mind, Rona further added, “It looks like she’s going to arrange for a means of transportation by asking Her Majesty, once she finishes her persuasion.”
“The archduchess…that’ll cause an uproar, won’t it?”
The other party was someone shouldering the fate of a nation. Renya couldn’t believe that such a person would shrug off the information that one of her country’s noblemen was close to a demon as a trivial matter. The transportation that Shion would ask the archduchess to prepare also drew Renya’s interest, but it couldn’t be helped that the archduchess’ attitude currently worried him more.
“In that case, she’s going to persuade her as well. Probably.”
“Won’t that easily turn into a coup d’etat!?”
If it led to something like Shion and the archduchess talking it out with their fists, it would almost definitely end with Shion having replaced the archduchess by the time they finished talking. In that case, it’d likely lead to Mayria immediately succeeding Shion, but it would be extremely difficult to deny that Renya, the lord of Klinge where it all started, had pulled the strings in the background.
“Won’t it work out somehow? It’ll just end up being a simple quarrel between parent and child, right?” Rona laughed out loud after saying this in a very casual and irresponsible manner.
Although it might not be due to them having been infected by Rona’s irresponsible attitude, Klinge’s soldiers succumbed to Shion’s persuasion so easily that Renya actually felt disappointed. This didn’t mean that Shion actually had to go as far as using physical force.
The soldiers, with Keith in the lead, were greatly surprised and slightly confused by Shion’s words, but the majority of them accepted the news about Emil’s true identity without causing a big commotion.
“To be frank, it’s not like we don’t have our own feelings about the issue, but if Margrave-sama deems it acceptable, there won’t be any objections from us as your subordinates.” Keith said with a bitter smile after having been called to Renya’s office in secret to explain the situation at a later date.
Thanks to his reply, Renya felt somewhat doubtful of whether their trust in him wasn’t way too high, but as this doubt apparently showed on Renya’s face, Keith added in a hurry, “Beginning with me, all of Klinge’s soldiers have received help from Emil-sama to a greater or lesser extent. Even if you deduct the part about her being a demon, the benefits we have received from her still outweigh it by leaps and bounds.”
The soldiers stationed in Klinge as Renya’s subordinates were mostly young folks who still had little combat experience, probably because Renya himself was still a young noble with no history behind him. Maybe due to that, Renya’s soldiers hadn’t personally fought against demons yet, and thus hadn’t accumulated that much hate towards them.
In addition, it was a simple fact that Emil had helped them quite often, and had also compounded highly effective medicines for wounded soldiers, who would always appear during training sessions, or the sick. In other words, the soldiers’ impression of Emil ranged from her being a skilled doctor to a decent drugmaker. Being told that she was a demon now after all this time didn’t really change their opinion of her, at least for most of them.
“I think things might have been different if we had fought against the demon army that advanced on Klinge previously, but we simply devoted ourselves to launching ranged attacks from the batteries while Frau-sama was the only one that faced the demons directly.”
“So you’re saying that demons kinda don’t feel real to you guys, huh?”
Considering it from the perspective of danger awareness, it might be extremely bad, Renya assessed, however, if the soldiers compare the threat of the demons, which they haven’t experienced personally yet, and Emil’s medical treatments, which they have received plentifully so far, it’s no wonder that their internal scales lean in favor of Emil.
Once it came to talking about this matter with the heroes, Renya perceived slight differences in their disposition.
The one who understood the current situation the fastest was Grün. Even without being persuaded by Shion, Grün accepted the reality of Emil being a demon, and didn’t bring up any complaints regarding it.
“I didn’t need Shion-san to tell me about this since I was already aware.” Grün said, as if talking about today’s weather, to the surprised Renya.
Renya wondered whether heroes might also have a skill or something similar that allowed them to identify demons, but when Grün told him the trick behind it, it was something far simpler.
“I interrogated Croire.”
“…Oh, I see.”
“Even though my situation is what it is, Croire is still my blood relative, so I’m able to somewhat grasp in my own way when she’s hiding something from me.”
I don’t think you can say it’s the same for the other side, though, Renya believed. No matter how I think about it, between Croire and Grün, I’m sure Grün wins when it comes to mastering the ability to sound out each other’s inner workings.
Croire, who had guessed that Grün would tell Renya about the information he had gained from her, hid herself in Klinge after repeatedly begging Frau not to look for her. She apparently ran away because she thought that she might be blamed for having told Grün something which Renya had asked her to keep secret, regardless of whether Grün was a hero or not. Renya asked Grün to search for Croire and pass on the message that she should come back since he wasn’t angry at her.
The ones that came after Grün in terms of having a good understanding of the circumstances were Kurz, and unexpectedly, Lepard.
Kurz accepted it for a reason that was very much like him. In short, he had no interest in Emil’s identity as long Renya was fine with it. Just like Keith and the other soldiers, Lepard had apparently relied on Emil’s medicines, and since his gratitude for that surpassed his hate towards demons, he came to the clear decision that there was no need to kick up a fuss as long as she didn’t do anything evil.
The one that showed the least sympathy, or rather, the most ordinary reaction according to Renya’s imagination, was Albert who advocated that they should simply ignore Emil. It wasn’t as though Renya couldn’t understand his reaction either.
The humans, elves, and beastmen had all suffered from the demons more recently, but their losses were relatively small. In contrast to them, the dragonoids had sustained so much damage at the demons’ hand that one could call it a catastrophe.
Albert himself should have fought against the demons many times over, and as an actual problem, he had been forced to experience things like losing his friends or being made to experience grief by the demons. It was impossible for him to simply accept it without a hitch after being told that Emil was a demon, even if she herself might not have been directly related to Albert’s suffering.
“Margrave-sama, just what are you thinking? The demons are the underlings of the demon king and beings hostile to all the people living on this continent. Not only have you kept one of them close to you until now, but now you’re insane enough to go searching for a missing demon. That’s completely crazy!”
“Yeah, well, it’s not like I can’t understand your feelings on this.”
“Margrave-sama, you’ve seen it with your own two eyes as well, haven’t you? All the agony those things brought upon my country!” Albert shouted with his face bright red.
Even Renya could fully understand Albert’s opinion. However, at the same time he couldn’t.
It was certainly a demon army that had attacked the dragonoids’ continent. Since that demon army had committed atrocities in the cities and lands of the dragonoids that would make one avert their eyes, it was only natural for the dragonoids to loathe them.
However, Emil hadn’t been part of that army. It wasn’t as if Emil had annihilated the dragonoid soldiers. Extending the feelings of hate even towards Emil after lumping all demons together into one pot felt to Renya like barking up the wrong tree. But then again, the sense of being victimized was something that only victims could understand. Given that he believed that an outsider like him had no persuasive power by bringing up such logical reasoning, Renya didn’t even try to.
“You know, I won’t force you to understand or accept it. If you can’t stomach it, it’s fine. I have no right to force you guys to act, and at the same time, you guys have no right to limit my actions either.”
“You’re saying you will be going to search for that demon, no matter what…? I don’t know about the other heroes, but…I’d like you to at least expect absolutely no help whatsoever from my side.” Albert declared bluntly.
His expression overflowed with the determination of not giving way in the slightest, regardless of what he was told, reaching the point where he was even partially glaring at Renya.
“I hadn’t expected it from the very start. In the first place, I don’t have any intention of taking even one of the heroes with me.”
Renya’s answer was extremely plain and light-hearted. Albert apparently hadn’t anticipated such a reply at all, seeing how his grim expression transformed into one of surprise.
“You’re telling me you’re not taking the heroes along despite going to the demon’s country, the demon king’s territory?”
Barely managing to swallow the comment that they’d be a hindrance, Renya pondered how he should answer Albert.
It’s not like I’m actually planning to fight the demon king this time. It’s going to be a very simple mission of swiftly searching the demon country for Emil, and as soon as we find her, we’ll quickly get out. Although we have to get through the huge barrier that seems to cover the whole demon continent while at it, I don’t think it’ll be a mission that requires that much combat power, assuming that I can somehow deal with the barrier using my katana or some kind of powerful sorcery.
If it had been possible, Renya wanted to search for Emil by himself, but Rona, who could detect Emil’s location or at least general direction, had become someone he definitely wanted to take along, since it would speed up the whole endeavor. When he thought about how things would develop from there on out, there was no mistake that it would be much better to take Shion’s group along, who wouldn’t lose to the heroes in terms of combat prowess, and who would surely listen to Renya’s instructions unlike the heroes, who might or might not do so depending on their moods.
“You guys are combat assets endowed with abilities to fight against the demon king, right? Thus, there’s no way for me to force you to go along with my selfishness, is there?”
Once Renya voiced out his answer, which he had somehow managed to come up with while also being the safest reply he could provide, Albert ended up speechless, seemingly believing that it was just as Renya had said.
“If you say that you feel bitter about staying in Klinge now that you’ve found out about Emil being a demon, you’re free to go back to your home country, you know? I’ll give you permission to use the transfer gate, and I’ll promise you that I’ll contact you if something happens.”
“Please let me…think it over.”
Albert bowed towards Renya without saying anything else, turned on his heels, and left. While watching him leave, Renya ended up thinking, ‘I’m sure he’d be happier if he could take it a bit easier.’
With Albert having pulled back, filled with discontent, Shion’s persuasion duty in Klinge could be seen as completed for the time being, resulting in Shion using the transfer gate to head over to the archduchess next. For better or worse, Renya decided to accompany her in this.
This didn’t mean that he was worried about the outbreak of a family fight that Rona had mentioned, but still, he found it difficult to let Shion go by herself since it was an internal issue concerning Renya’s territory.
The two, who immediately requested a meeting with the archduchess as soon as they arrived in the capital, ended up being surrounded by soldiers on the spot and dragged to the audience hall for some reason.
“Margrave Kunugi! Are you still sane!?”
What awaited Renya and Shion, who had entered the hall with the archduchess sitting on the throne, were insults and slander thrown at them by the large number of nobles standing close to the archduchess. Moreover, they only targeted Renya.
Shion was the archduchess’ daughter, but she had abdicated her succession rights. Since she currently held the position of being under Renya’s care, the nobles’ interrogations and insults were all directed at Renya, the one in charge.
“Even screwing around has its limits. The cat’s out of the bag! We’ve heard you’ve been conspiring with a demon!!”
“Margrave Kunugi, could it be that you’ve been planning to harm the human nations after siding with the demons?”
“Your Majesty, you should strip Margrave Kunugi of his power and territory for having sheltered a demon while hiding it from you! If you let him keep his status as a noble, it’s not clear what harm he might bring to the Trident Principality!”
“Damn youngster! You’re not even begging for forgiveness by prostrating yourself in front of Her Majesty!?”
Renya, who had been called a youngster, frantically resisted his urge to burst out laughing. The noble in question was a skinny, fairly old man with a physique close to that of a dead tree. Going by his appearance, you could even describe him as very advanced in age, being in his sixties or seventies.
On the other hand, Renya definitely had an outward appearance that would justify him being called a youngster, but his inner self had now lived for almost a century. Even with his memories erased and him being unable to recall his experiences, the time he had lived, there was no reason for him to reply in any way, no matter how many people, who were only sixty or seventy years old, barked at him.
“Margrave Kunugi, you’ve stayed silent for some time now, but if there’s anything you ought to tell us, go ahead.”
The archduchess, who had let the nobles say whatever they wanted for some time, suddenly addressed Renya as her surroundings had run out of complaints. No blame could be sensed within her words.
“With all due respect, there is something I would like to ask you, Your Majesty.”
“Very well, I shall allow your question.”
Voices crying, “Your Majesty!” tried to hold her back, but the archduchess ignored them, and looked at Renya with eyes full of anticipation as if she was waiting for something funny to entertain her.
Even while thinking that he wouldn’t be able to cater to her expectations, Renya voiced out the question he had prepared, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s this city, the far Kukrika, or even my Klinge, but criminals are bound in the prisons of all of these cities, right?”
“…They are imprisoned there, aren’t they?”
Not grasping the aim behind Renya’s question, the audience hall stirred. Shion, who stood behind Renya, didn’t understand why Renya was asking something like that, and even the person the question was addressed to, the archduchess, had put on an expression as if questioning what the point would be in trying to answer.
“Those people…the criminals…about all of them are humans, aren’t they?”
An atmosphere of puzzlement about that obvious fact spread within the hall.
Renya’s party had visited places all over the world, using the transfer gates. However, ordinary citizens never used transfer gates. Not to mention that the idea of deliberately using a transfer gate to commit crimes on another continent wasn’t very feasible. In other words, it was only natural for the criminals arrested for perpetrating crimes to belong to the majority race ruling a continent. On the human continent it was extremely rare to find criminals of any other race.
“Margrave Kunugi, just what the hell are you…”
It was Shion who lightly cried out. Widening her eyes somewhat as she had apparently understood something, Shion glanced at Renya in front of her, and then looked at the archduchess on the throne. After spotting how the archduchess gestured something similar to a light nod, a vicious smile formed on Shion’s lips.
The nobles started to fuss due to the sudden change in Shion’s expression, wondering just what was going to happen next.
With a voice drowning out the nobles’ noise, Renya stated, “If you’re saying that my friend Emil Rajah is a bad person who harms humans because she’s a demon, is it okay for me to consider the race of the criminals, who are bad people harming others, in other words, humans, to be an evil that harms humans?”
“S-Stop playing word games”
“What word games? I shouldn’t have said anything wrong if we’re talking about the good and evil when it comes to races, or have I?”
After silencing the noble, who had shouted, by looking at him and indifferently giving such an answer, Renya turned his eyes towards the archduchess. Behind him, Shion suddenly invoked her body strengthening at full throttle through mana manipulation. The mana blowing out of Shion’s whole body turned into a physical gale, raging throughout the entire hall. The nobles screamed while laying face-down, and the archduchess held up a hand as if to protect her face from the wind, but she continued to stare at Renya and Shion without moving an inch from the throne.
“I’d like to hear your answer to this, Your Majesty. It’s not wrong for me to interpret it in such a way, is it?”
Since they were in the audience hall, neither Renya nor Shion were armed. The soldiers guarding the palace, on the other hand, were completely armed. Even so, the soldiers intuitively grasped that they’d experience the misery of annihilation if they were to act imprudently, and take on Renya and Shion.
Whether they had weapons or not, the soldiers had never witnessed such a powerful body strengthening that it’d create a gale of wind in the surroundings like the one Shion was causing right now. The soldiers understood that the mana circulating through Shion’s body was in a different league altogether. That unbelievable amount of mana was proportional to the magnitude of her body strengthening.
“Margrave Kunugi, you’re mistaken.” The archduchess calmly answered while the nobles, who perceived from the obviously pale faces of the soldiers that this was the one answer that would end the lives of everyone present , watched with their faces going just as pale as the soldiers’. “Judging the act of a part to be the act of the whole is wrong. With that kind of thinking, this world wouldn’t have a single being allowed to live.”
“In that case, Your Majesty, my friend is…”
“It is a fact that demons like to act in a way considered evil by nature. Even so, if the person called Emil is just as Margrave Kunugi has described, she can be considered harmless. Judging an innocent person as evil is unjust. Thus, Emil Rajah will be placed under Margrave Kunugi’s charge, and the principality won’t regard her residence here as a crime for as long as she doesn’t commit any wrongdoings.”
“Is that definitely going to be the case?”
After flashing a wry smile at Renya, who made sure, the archduchess answered on the spot with a serious look, “Don’t make me repeat myself, or are you doubting my words?”
“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty. …Shion, you’re in the presence of Her Majesty.” Renya said while bowing his head.
Shion canceled her body strengthening, and bowed, copying Renya.
As soon as the gale raging in the hall stopped, the soldiers understood that they apparently weren’t going to die in this place today, and let out a sigh of relief.
While still bowing, Renya was astonished in his mind. He had expected that the archduchess would dodge his forceful reasoning in some way. However, he hadn’t thought that she would go as far as admitting that not all demons are evil on an official occasion.
If the Holy Kingdom still had its original authority, they would have immediately branded the Trident Principality as heretics, and come to overthrow them. You could say that the decline of the Holy Kingdom and the appearance of a new religion rooted in the Trident Principality was the reason why the archduchess could say something like this right here and now.
“Your Majesty, now that we clarified that my friend Emil isn’t evil, I have something I’d like to request.”
Suddenly, Shion lifted her face behind Renya, and made a direct appeal to the archduchess. Usually this would be an act that would be stopped by the surrounding nobles or soldiers. However, because they had been freed from a tense situation similar to facing their own deaths, the soldiers’ minds had completely let down their guard, and none of the nobles tried to even move as they were too scared of the power behind Shion’s body strengthening.
“Because of my friend’s disappearance, Margrave Kunugi has been planning to perform a search.”
Despite believing that this wasn’t something that ought to be said to the archduchess at such an official event since it was a personal matter, Renya decided to let Shion continue after he had somehow missed the opportunity to stop her, since the archduchess showed no signs of stopping Shion’s appeal.
“In line with this, I’d like to request permission to borrow the dragoon for the sake of the travel required for the search.”
“I allow it. Take her with you.”
No, no, there’s no way that you’ll be given permission, Renya believed, and so did everyone present in the audience hall. But, the archduchess’ instant reply betrayed everyone’s expectations.
“Eh? It’s been allowed?
Being told so by the archduchess while letting her eyes wander across the vicinity, Renya became flustered.
“Ah? Umm, with all due respect…”
“Gosh～it’s a pain～ so let’s keep it casual～”
Her atmosphere relaxed all at once. Once the archduchess instructed them with a wave of her hand as if saying that it’d be fine for the nobles not to hear the rest, the soldiers quickly carried the nobles, who had fainted, flopped down on the spot as their legs gave way, or had foam at their mouths, out of the audience hall.
“Umm～, since I’m going to lend you the dragoon～, you can just use her to look for Emil-chan～”
“Even though it’s a normal occurrence, this difference in character is really intense.”
Since she can act properly during official duties, I’d like her to always act like that, Renya thought. For some reason, he felt an extreme mental exhaustion from the difference between her proper and loose behaviour.
“Get used to i～t. So～, can you find out～ what’s going on～ with the demon country～ and the barrier completely hiding the demon country～ while you’re at it～?”
“That means, you’re telling us to investigate?”
“You don’t have to try the impossible～. Can I leave it to you～?”
Giving permission to borrow the dragoon, who could be described as the country’s strongest combat asset, for Renya’s very personal matter, who was no more than a noble, was unprecedented.
At the same time, this in itself might be something like a reward for the requested information gathering, Renya assessed. It’s not a bad deal. The only additional workload will be to tell the archduchess about what we observed during the search for Emil in the form of a report.
After making that decision, Renya informed the archduchess, “I accept, Your Majesty,” in the audience hall that had become mostly deserted.
Renya and Shion’s return from the capital took place at almost the same time as the dragoon’s arrival to the city of Klinge. Due to that perfecttiming, Renya suspected that they might have prepared in advance, anticipating that things would turn out like this from the very start.
No matter how ditsy her outward appearance, how stupid her look, and how slow her way of speaking might be, as someone acting as archduchess, she does have the discernment and guessing ability befitting her station, Renya was forced to realize.
The arrival of a dragoon meant that her mount, the dragon, would come to Klinge. Renya was worried that a dragon would cause chaos and fear among the residents, and regretted for an instant that he should have prepared a landing point for dragons outside the city, but contrary to Renya expectations, the residents didn’t panic at all, although there was a bit of a confusion, when the dragon was about to land on a plaza in the middle of the city.
“They’ve grown accustomed to it, huh?” Keith murmured calmly among the soldiers, he had rounded up as guards just in case.
Renya cocked his head, puzzled, wondering whether that’s how it was, but after observing the residents, who were surrounding the plaza at a distance while full of keen curiosity, he revised his thinking that this might really be the case here. Even though they were the residents of his city, Renya got slightly scared by their high adaptability.
Completely unrelated to Renya’s thoughts, the crimson dragon, who had flown all the way from the distant capital of the Trident Principality, drew a circle above the city, and then began to descend towards the plaza in a straight line, seemingly having recognized Renya who was waiting for him.
Renya tilted his head once more due to the appearance of the dragon which was gradually getting bigger.
“I’ve heard no rumors about the Trident Principality’s dragon having been substituted.”
On the plaza, where a cloud of dust started to blow up due to the wind pressure caused by the descending dragon, stood Croire in a light green shirt and a flared skirt next to Renya. Even the soldiers, who had been deployed in the vicinity just in case, grimaced due to the blowing wind or staggered after losing out to the wind pressure, but in the midst of all that, Croire, who was far more slender than the soldiers, stood still like a rock.
“As always, your skirt is an impregnable fortress.” The one saying so while mystified from the bottom of her heart was Shion.
Going by her physique, Shion also entered the delicate category when compared to the soldiers, but she didn’t budge at all either, even while being exposed to the wind which packed quite a bit of pressure by now. Her eyes weren’t directed at the dragon alighting from the sky, but the hem of Croire’s skirt that didn’t show the slightest hint of being blown up even while fluttering in the violent wind.
“I wonder, isn’t it a curse in a certain sense ~no?” Frau uttered her impression.
Probably because of the tininess of her body, Frau had been losing out to the wind pressure generated by the dragon’s wings. She had been partly closing her eyes while enduring the wind by clinging to Renya’s waist. The hem of her apron dress’ skirt was violently fluttering. However, the fluttering never caused her skirt to roll up above her knees.
This might also be a curse in a certain sense, Renya thought.
“I think it’d be possible for it to be turned up if you removed the curse? This is the time for the saint to shine~”
“Eh? Wait a sec? I’m supposed to use my divine arts to do something about her skirt…?”
Although it wasn’t clear whether she wanted to make Rona use her divine arts, or to use her as a shield against the wind, Kilie tried to make Rona move towards Croire by pushing her back which she was using to hide. On the other hand, Rona started to resist while confused by the sudden pushing.
Probably due to her body’s volume, Rona kept a firm posture even within the raging gale. As a trade-off, her slitted priestess’s garb fluttered in the wind. Given that she pinned it down with both arms so that the fabric wouldn’t get turned up, she couldn’t do much to resist Kilie’s insistent pushing from behind.
“How noisy,” Renya curbed his eyebrows while lightly sighing.
Renya had tried to round up all the personnel he could find since they were welcoming the dragoon, officially the Trident Principality’s strongest combat asset, but at this point he started to regret his decision, thinking that his judgment might have been mistaken.
By the way, Renya himself was regarded as the strongest unofficial combat asset. Even someone like the archduchess took into account that they wouldn’t be able to hide this fact forever, but there was no way that she could publicly announce that their country had a noble who was capable of annihilating the four heroes all by himself. After all, the existence of a man excelling the heroes by leaps and bounds would be like a nightmare for the ordinary citizens of all nations.
Even Renya himself didn’t have the slightest intention of crushing this world’s inhabitants’ perception that the heroes were the strongest beings, possessing the power to save their world.
While Renya was indulging in such thoughts, the dragon slowly alighted on the plaza. There was a reason why Renya had cocked his head in puzzlement at first, wondering whether the approaching dragon was really Dra-kun, and the surrounding people understood Renya’s confusion when the dragon landed on the plaza, causing a slight tremor.
The dragon had obviously grown in size to an extraordinary extent. Even by the lowest estimates, the dragon in front of them was almost twice as big as the Dra-kun in their memories. The wing-spread and thickness of the dragon’s limbs had increased in proportion to that, and even his body had taken on a far deeper crimson color than before.
While everyone was wondering if this was really Dra-kun, a figure nimbly jumped off the dragon’s back. Befitting the dragon’s increased body size, its back now towered quite high up in the air, but despite the deep crimson heavy armor apparently covering the figure’s whole body, they displayed fairly agile movements, landing safely with the soles of their boots clacking somewhat as they touched down on the stone paving.
Following the armored figure, a slender figure jumped off the dragon’s back in the same manner. This figure wore a gray robe and held a twisted wand in their hand. Seemingly using some kind of spell to mitigate their equipment’s weight, they slowly descended, landed silently, and lined up behind the armored figure.
After having confirmed that the robed figure had dismounted, the armored figure removed their helmet. Holding the helmet at their left flank while exposing their unpainted face, they turned their eyes towards Renya, and spoke to him.
“Dragoon Liaris Hound reporting in. By Her Majesty’s decree, I have come here to enter under your command, Your Excellency Margrave Kunugi.”
(T/N: The illustrator failed with the color of Liaris’ armor.)
There was no mistake in what she had said. But Renya still frowned slightly, feeling that her words contained a piece of information he shouldn’t ignore.
The robed figure behind Liaris called out to Renya as if to emphasize that piece of information even further, “Accompanying sorcerer, Az Hound reporting in. Likewise entering under Your Excellency’s command. Pleased to be working with you from here on out.”
“Oh my, Az-san, huh? Long time no see…but leaving that aside, both of you have the same surname!?” Shion interjected before Renya could gather his thoughts.
Her words clearly brought to light the piece of information that had bugged Renya for a moment there.
“Both are Hound…?”
“Ah, well, you see…for the time being…it’s just an engagement…” Az quickly became flustered upon hearing Renya’s question.
Seeing his unsociable face take on a slightly red tinge and his eyes wandering around restlessly was a fairly amusing sight to behold, causing Renya to unconsciously break out into a broad smile. With her face bright red while still standing at attention, Liaris couldn’t move as she was stuck between the grinning Shion and Rona, who were standing beside Liaris while keeping a slight distance from Renya and Az.
“You’re going to invite us to the wedding, aren’t you? We’ll put the Kunugi Margraviate’s assets and resources to use as thanks.”
“…That sounds like it’ll become something dreadful, but…if I can have you go easy on us, you’re obviously invited. Well, that’s only after the battle has ended, though.”
While smiling wryly as he felt that saying “only after the battle has ended” was a jinxed way of phrasing it, Renya changed the direction of his gaze, just to notice Frau and Kilie waving small white flags in both hands with smiles plastered all over their faces for some reason while standing quite far away.
As soon as Renya glared at them with a single tongue clicking, the four white flags fiercely went up in flames without warning. Of course Frau and Kilie’s hands were directly affected by the heat produced by the flames. Letting go of the flags, which had turned into ashes, in a hurry, they began to wave their scorched hands.
After seeing that, Renya turned his gaze back towards Az. Not understanding what had happened, Az was surprised by Kilie and Frau suddenly kicking up a fuss.
“Just what is going on over there? It seemed as if something caught fire.”
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“Who knows. They were probably punished for doing something silly. Rather than that, I think you should hold back on phrases such as ‘after the battle has ended.’ Most of the people voicing out such things tend to run into trouble.” Renya thought that he should warn him just in case.
“Oh? Okay…if that’s what you say, Your Excellency.”
“Somehow being called Excellency by you gives me goosebumps. Feel free to use Renya. Just like before.”
Even after being encouraged to do so, it was obviously difficult for Az to simply go along with it. Previously, when he had collaborated with Renya, both of them were mere adventurers, but now Renya was a full-fledged noble, moreover a fairly high-ranking one.
“Aren’t you going to be way above me when you become the dragoon’s husband, this country’s strongest fighting force?”
“We’re not married yet, and also, even then that won’t be true. Besides, the big shot is the Dragoon Liaris, not me.”
Az’s attitude of not budging from his claim that he was ultimately just an extra of Liaris was very typical of him in Renya’s eyes.
“I see. Then I shall order you: You may treat me just like before. In case you go against this order, you will be punished. To be more precise, I will fully enjoy groping Liaris’ breasts. Regard this as Margrave Kunugi’s official order.”
“That’s quite unreasonable.” For the time being, Az protested against Renya’s order that he would be punished for defying orders if he didn’t treat Renya disrespectfully. But immediately shrugging his shoulders, he continued, “I can’t help it if it’s your order. Not to mention that I can’t really go against it with you taking Liaris hostage. Long time no see, Renya. You look the same as before, although your position seems to have changed rather drastically.”
“It’s a full array of troublesome matters. I want to wrap up this incident quickly, and return to a carefree, prodigal life.”
“I heard we’re going to the demon country to search for a demon. Is that true?” Az’s tone dropped faintly.
Renya answered his question smoothly in a calm tone, as if talking about today’s weather, “Indeed. Any problem with that?”
Considering it normally, Az and Liaris should think according to their common sense. It wouldn’t be strange at all if they were hostile towards demons, or hated them. People, who received training as professional soldiers, should be able to swallow their dissatisfaction to some extent, and follow orders, but Liaris and Az were originally simple adventurers.
As Renya thought that it’d be troublesome if they refused to help because they disapproved of this whole endeavor, Az slowly shook his head after thinking about it for a brief moment.
“No, not in particular. I don’t plan to hide my dislike of demons, though. Still…somehow that’s very like you. I guess it’s a course of action truly befitting a Lost.”
Renya pondered on whether he should actually take Az’s assessment as praise or slander.
“This was meant as praise, you know?” Az added as if he had read Renya’s thoughts.
“It doesn’t really feel like praise though…well, whatever. The dragon you rode here is Dra-kun, right?”
When Renya asked this, believing that he should make sure of this as well, the dragon, who had waited motionlessly on the plaza, lifted his head faster than Az could answer, and moved his head up and down several times in Renya’s direction.
It seems like he’s nodding.
A saddle for two riders had been tied on his back, but because Renya had to secure a spot for all members when carrying out the search, Frau removed the saddle and began to affix a new one on Dra-kun’s back. The members that would accompany him this time were Shion, Rona, Croire, and Frau, in addition to Az and Liaris – in total seven people with Renya.
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You could say that Dra-kun carrying this number of people by himself was slightly unreasonable. However, now that Dra-kun’s body, and consequently his back as well, had grown, it appeared possible to secure enough space for seven people, and Frau swiftly proceeded with the preparations.
“That’s without a doubt Dra-kun. In the first place, it’s not like Liaris can switch to another dragon, right?”
“He sure became big. Is he in his growth period?”
“I’ve got no clue whether dragons have something like a growth period…” Az answered without confidence while watching Dra-kun who was waiting obediently after having bedded his head on the ground again, apparently in order to make it easier for Frau to get her work done. “I don’t know whether it’s due to better fodder or for some other reason, but either way, he’s grown up quite remarkably recently…”
Must be the fodder, Renya judged. There’s more than enough examples of reptiles growing much larger as long as they get enough good food. Dragons might be a type of reptile as well.
It was unclear to Renya whether the categorization of ‘reptiles’ existed in this world. Moreover, it was doubtful whether dragons could be labeled as such, but Renya didn’t care since he wasn’t a scholar to begin with.
“Oh well, it’s a big help either way. I’m sorry to bring it up right after you got here, but I’d like to depart as soon as the preparations are completed. Since we will hold back on hurrying the preparations, take a rest at my mansion for the moment.” Renya said after interrupting his thoughts about how great it was that he wouldn’t have to call any other dragons due to lacking space on Dra-kun.
In response, Az asked with a curious look, “A rest is welcome. We’ll fly as soon as you tell us to, but…are the provisions going to be okay? It’s not going to be a day trip, is it?”
“Did you forget that I have a void storage? I’ll simply store all the goods in there. You don’t need to worry. We’ll also prepare a tent for you two, including sleeping bags.”
“We’re not married yet, so sleeping in the same tent is a bit…”
When Liaris, whose face became redder than her armor, said so to Renya in Az’s stead as he was at a loss for words, Renya was puzzled for a moment, then his throat began to tremble right away with him muffling a laugh. The surrounding female group and soldiers crowded the frozen Az and the bright red Liaris with broad smiles, fully intent on teasing them.