The conference between Queen Imeraria and beastmen representative Reni began harmoniously.
Reni enjoyed the offered baked sweets and black tea, and the fruits, which she brought as return gift, had been sliced and lined up next to the baked sweets while being chilled with magic. Their juicy sweetness, which was refreshing in a different way from sugar, pleased Imeraria.
“What delicious fruits. Aren’t they fairly valuable?” (Imeraria)
“Yes. To the extent that they can only be found once in a while. But, they are nothing you could set aside, so we always eat them immediately since they might be taken by someone.” (Reni)
“Then, these are…” (Imeraria)
“Since Hifumi-san had stored some of them, I received them from him.” (Reni)
For an instant the stretched-out hand of Imeraria stopped. However, the fruits were sinless. Picking up yet another, she brought it to her mouth.
Then she wiped her fingers, which had gotten wet by the fruit juice, with a handkerchief.
“We have just been eating without proceeding with the talks, haven’t we?” (Imeraria)
Correcting her sitting posture, Imeraria looked once more at the sheep beastgirl sitting in front of her and the rabbit beastgirl at her side. She doesn’t know whether the beastmen standing in the back is a dog or a wolf, but she makes sure to not look at him since male beastmen are scary.
As far as for the sheep girl with her droopy eyes and her fluffy white fur, she doesn’t look at all like a person who leads wild beastmen such as wolves or tigers. Even the rabbit girl sitting next to her is pretty obviously nervous in a place like the royal castle, albeit having a strong will dwell in her eyes. Depending on the point of view, she looks even charming.
Imeraria’s impression was that they are not much different from humans. The escorting beastman, who might be dog or wolf, looks just like a beast, but the women only have a “beastmen-like” atmosphere due to their noses in the center of their human-like faces. Even among beastmen there might be differences between tribes and individuals though.
“So, I heard you have something to discuss with me? Since you especially came all the way here, please allow me to listen to your various matters.” (Imeraria)
“Well then, let me start first with a question. …Your Majesty, around what point are you planning to compromise in the upcoming conference with the demons?” (Reni)
Being all of a sudden asked a question that stabs into the heart of the matter, Imeraria instinctively looked at Reni with something akin to a glare.
“I’m well aware that it’s an impolite question. However, even if it might be rude, the future of the beastmen race rides on this. Please tell us, if possible at all.” (Reni)
“Understood. It’s only natural, but no one in this country, including me, plans to fight against the demons.” (Imeraria)
“I have actually seen the front-line, and your country is completely holding back the demons at the border. At this rate there won’t be any damage to your country. If you can get Hifumi-san to act, victory is certain, I’m sure. If you win, it might be possible to include the demons, who are said to have extremely powerful, individual strength, into your military forces. Fighting against other countries will probably become much easier. And yet you don’t wish to fight the demons?” (Reni)
With the name of Hifumi appearing once again, the wariness level in Imeraria’s mind went up. She looks as if she’s sleepy, and yet, contrary to the timbre in her words spoken by her lovely voice, she’s only advocating fighting.
But, the current Imeraria won’t be lulled by that.
“Since it seems that you’re having a misunderstanding, I shall tell you; I don’t wish to fight against Horant, our neighboring country. The other day I had the privilege to help that country in resolving its problems, and as result of that, we could deepen our friendly relations. I’m satisfied with that outcome. Besides…” (Imeraria)
Looking at Reni, who didn’t show any particular reaction to her words up till then, Imeraria couldn’t grasp the intention behind Reni’s question.
“Hifumi-sama has already retired as family head of his noble household. I’m not in a position where I can order him for the sake of the kingdom.” (Imeraria)
“How about requesting it from him by offering him some kind of reward?” (Reni)
“I don’t believe that I could arrange for a reward which could make him change his mind. It’s a disgraceful truth for the kingdom, but…” (Imeraria)
“It’s simple.” (Reni)
Reni interrupted Imeraria’s speech with a brief comment.
“Please kill the demons, I won’t allow anyone else to interfere…with just these words he would gladly take up the task, don’t you think?” (Reni)
She’s aware of his circumstances, Imeraria evaluated Reni. And she feels a strange sense of superiority that Reni still doesn’t understand him well.
The rabbit girl, who still hasn’t raised her voice once, seems to be tense due to Reni’s words. It looks like they haven’t had a preparatory meeting.
“…Those words, it looks like they would pass even if I exchange demons with beastmen.”
“That’s true. …Are you going to do so?” (Reni)
“You’re not surprised, are you?” (Imeraria)
When Imeraria looked astonished, Reni laughed.
“I’m the one who suggested it, but I know that it’s unlikely for him to accept. If he were a person to move because of that, I would have already asked him, Please kill everyone except for the beastmen.” (Reni)
If there was a method to manipulate Hifumi, it could also be used to make him lower the number of humans, Reni clearly stated something equal to that.
“Besides, aren’t you trying to stop relying on Hifumi-san, Your Majesty?” (Reni)
“Why do you believe so?” (Imeraria)
“I heard various things while staying in Rhone. About your active role in the battle against Horant. And also about the training for the knights.” (Reni)
“…How do those things connect to not relying on Hifumi-sama?” (Imeraria)
Imeraria wanted to check in a separate room whether her voice trembles or not.
Miraculously the quivering of her throat calmed down after taking a sip of black tea.
“The construction of a defense not depending on Hifumi-san. The retirement declaration might be unexpected, but it’s a fact that you easily accepted the retirement of a person who accomplished a lot for this country and is hailed as hero. The training for the knights. Above all, considering Hifumi-san’s age, it’s too early for him to hand over his title to the next generation. I just wondered whether not all of this serves as your stance to protect the country even without Hifumi-san being present.” (Reni)
“It’s a simple guess,” Reni laughs freely, but Imeraria ponders, How many humans are thinking the same as the little girl in front of me…no, is Hifumi himself thinking the same as well by chance? Does he plan to support her even after declaring his retirement? Or was perhaps him taking over the training also…
“Your Majesty?” (Reni)
Reni uneasily spoke up to Imeraria who’s sweating.
“Y-Yes, I’m…fine… Rather than that, we digressed from the topic. Whatever the situation of my country might be, wars are won within a short time with overwhelming power. Otherwise they only turn into a useless waste of lives and hard-earned tax money. At times it might be necessary to fight too, but it’s a crucial task of a ruler to protect the interests of the people supporting them, if the balance is off.” (Imeraria)
She forcibly returned to the topic.
Reni apparently doesn’t intend to reference to Hifumi any further, and calmly answers “Got it.”
“You said it was your first question. Do you have any others?” (Imeraria)
“Yes. But before that I have to apologize.” (Reni)
Imeraria tilted her head to the side in doubt, not understanding the meaning behind Reni’s words.
“As for the plan of removing Hifumi-san from this country…no, this world, I already know about it.” (Reni)
“Wh-, I wonder what you might be talking about.” (Imeraria)
“I heard about it from an influential informant.” (Reni)
Pondering about the possibilities with whom Reni might have gotten in contact after coming to the capital, Imeraria considered whether it might have been Origa who leaked the plan.
But, she abandoned that idea right away.
“It’s been a while since I last visited the royal castle. Since the time of talking with Adol-dono, I guess.”
The face of a man that had a bluish-white face peeked out from behind Reni.
“It’s shinigami-san. Please allow this person and me to join the group of people, organized by you, setting up countermeasures against Hifumi-san, Your Majesty.” (Reni)
The head-only shinigami grumbles, “I can’t materialize anything but my head as my power has declined,” but Reni ignores him.
“We will be able to provide good ideas. Instead I’d like you to prepare a foreign settlement for the beastmen, or develop a part of the wastelands for us.” (Reni)
“How about it?” Reni asks.
I wonder, how much of the slowly moving time did it take? In the end Imeraria accepted Reni’s demand.
“E-Earl Tohno…ah, no, you have retired, haven’t you?” (Midas)
The one calling out to Midas was Hifumi who loitered around close to the castle after sending Reni off.
“Come with me for a bit.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi, who forcibly dragged Midas downtown, pointed at a single man.
That man is talking with another man, who seems to be a shop owner, inside the city that is thriving due to the big news of the queen’s pregnancy. His attire is a simple, linen jouge. He carries large baggage that makes it easy to see that he’s a traveling merchant. He wears boots that had cloths fixedly coiled around them.
“Is something wrong with him?” (Midas)
The number of merchants coming and leaving the capital is huge. Most of them are peddlers who transport the produce from the countryside, visiting various places, but among them there’s also not few who try to attain success in the capital with their earned funds. He doesn’t know which of both the merchant in question might be, but to Midas he seemed to be nothing more than an ordinary merchant.
“It’s really a bother to explain since he doesn’t use any technique or anything…look very closely. Doesn’t it seem as if his ears are slightly tapering to a point?” (Hifumi)
Once Midas observes him as told, he notices, Certainly, the ends of his ears are pointed. But, if it’s to such an extent, it might as well be called an individual quirk.
“I don’t know whether you can see them from here, but have a look at his eyes. They are green, but no matter what color eyes have, they are usually black right in the middle.” (Hifumi)
While listening to Hifumi who speaks as he pulled down his lower eyelid of his eyes with his index finger, saying “Like this,” Midas intently gazed at the merchant’s face while intently straining his eyes, but as might be expected, he couldn’t see that far.
“The middle of that guy’s eyes has a tinge of red, you know? That complies with a characteristic feature of the demons, but…what do you think?” (Hifumi)
“What, you ask…are you saying that he’s a demon?” (Midas)
“That’s what I mean. Well, I will go and check the truth.” (Hifumi)
Leaving the bewildered Midas behind, Hifumi headed straight for the man.
While chasing after him, Midas recalled the events at the time when Hifumi left for the city from the castle for the first time. That day when he chased a young man with a strange appearance after changing his clothes into that of a commoner while being surprised by the sudden surveillance order.
Being immediately spotted, he felt just as embarrassed as during the time when he was still a newbie knight. The shame was so strong that he couldn’t even tell his wife about it.
That young man walks across the street while swaggering about just like back then.
And just like at that time, not knowing what he’s going to do next pressures Midas.
“Damn it, each time I meet him, it shortens my life span…” (Midas)
In front of him Hifumi calls out to the man.
“You’ve got a moment?” (Hifumi)
“Eh? Yes, what is it? Do you need something from me?”
Being called out from the side, the man turned towards Hifumi with a smile just as he does with all customers.
The shopkeeper, who had been his conversation partner, smiled brightly, apparently recognizing Hifumi immediately after seeing his face, backed away with a “Looks like he has business with you,” and entered his store.
“Let’s talk for a bit over there? Demon’s, ah…I guess your name doesn’t really matter anyway.” (Hifumi)
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Well, I guess it’s your job to stay hidden. You have my respect. For now, that is.” (Hifumi)
He forcibly drags the man along together with Midas, who caught up, entering a cafe that spread out tables along the street.
“Black tea for three. Also, food please. Anything’s fine as long as it’s delicious.” (Hifumi)
Quickly ordering on his own accord, Hifumi shallowly sat down on a chair with his katana still affixed to his waist.
It seems the man said to be a demon still hasn’t realized, but Midas knows that this is not Hifumi’s usual way of sitting. He’s probably making sure that he can move immediately if something happens.
Midas was nervous. If the opponent was a normal human, Hifumi wouldn’t prepare himself to such a degree.
“The demons’ place had a lot of relatively sketchy food. Didn’t it surprise you after coming here that the food’s so tasty?” (Hifumi)
The man’s face became increasingly sullen due to Hifumi talking to him while having arbitrarily decided that he’s a demon.
“You’re wrong. Taking me for a demon is a misunderstanding.”
“Hee, you know about demons? Aren’t you quite well-informed for a simple merchant?” (Hifumi)
“I-It’s information I obtained in F-Fekalore. I came here in a hurry after hearing that the demons are coming…”
“Fokalore, right? I’m still attached to that place. Don’t make a mistake there. …So, Midas.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi turns his eyes to Midas who has tensed his body in order to be capable of moving at any time as he intently watches the merchant, who looks fidgety while half-risen to his feet, next to him.
“If you are so tense, your movements will become unnecessarily slow. So, has the story of the demons coming here been announced on a grand scale?” (Hifumi)
“…No, it’s planned to mobilize the soldiers just before the planned date, occupy the highway and guide them here.” (Midas)
“Compared to knowing such highly-confidential information, not knowing my face is slightly odd, isn’t it?” (Hifumi)
Hifumi, who grabbed the merchant’s head and bent forward, fixedly stares into the eyes of the man.
“A-Are you going to kill me…?”
Seeing the black eyes of Hifumi as his face approaches right in front him, the man speaks words that are equal to confessing that he’s a demon.
“I really want to kill you. After all I haven’t had my fill for a while around here, just like a hungry monster. I’d love to kill you.” (Hifumi)
“But,” Hifumi removes his hand and sits down on his chair.
“If I consider that waiting for a meal that I haven’t been able to devour yet is a lot more fun, I can still endure for a short time.” (Hifumi)
The demon didn’t comprehend, but Midas yells while restraining his voice to the best of his ability,
“W-What are you getting all psyched up for!?” (Midas)
“Oh? I told you that I’m going to cooperate for the sake of humanity’s future. Is there any problem with that?” (Hifumi)
“Her Majesty doesn’t wish to fight. Please, I’d like you to restrain yourself…!” (Midas)
“That depends on how the demons are going to move, doesn’t it?” (Hifumi)
Being asked, the demon shakes his head, say “I don’t know.”
“I haven’t been informed about Vepar-sama’s intentions!”
Hifumi’s fingers grabbed the demon’s neck and he easily fainted.
“Arrest and use him to train how to see through demons. Considering that such a guy has infiltrated this far, I’m pretty sure that you should patrol the city a lot more seriously.” (Hifumi)
Sitting down on his chair with a flump, Hifumi told the employee, who watched the situation from a distance, “Don’t mind it, you can bring the food over.”
Midas, who tied the demon’s hands behind his back for caution’s sake, called over a soldier that happened to pass nearby and ordered him to carry the demon to the close-by knight order’s station.
“I will say it once more, but I’d like you to act prudently. I shall thank you for this time. But, unnecessary battles are not needed in this world any longer.” (Midas)
“Hmmm… I see, if that’s what you believe, that might be fine as well, I suppose.” (Hifumi)
Continuing, Hifumi called out to Midas who was about to leave after saying, “Well then.”
“Hey, Midas. Between a guy that believes no fighting will take place, and a guy that believes fighting might take place, who do you think will be able to survive?” (Hifumi)
“…I was taught by you that fighting might happen at any time. It’s wrong to not stay with that belief.” (Midas)
“That’s a miss.” (Hifumi)
“Eh?” Midas raised an idiotic voice and turned around.
“You will be able to survive if you can calmly move at the time when the fighting starts. Even if you can move swiftly, it holds no meaning if you take refuge at a dangerous place, right?” (Hifumi)
From the outset Hifumi stabs the whole body of a fish with his fork from the dishes that had been lined up on the table and tosses it into his mouth.
“Have a gooood look. Who’s your enemy and who’s your ally. Check on how many people you can rely among those you trust. And, whether they can become your support when push comes to shove.” (Hifumi)
“What do you want to say?” (Midas)
“Nothing really. Just a little small talk.” (Hifumi)
Genuinely starting with his meal, Hifumi didn’t say anything else.
One week later after the incident that made Midas jump at shadows, Fokalore’s military forces arrived at the capital while bringing demons, elves and beastmen along.