One month since the Empire’s declaration of war in a very common bar that also serves as inn, located in Mismarca’s castle town. The residents aside, a group of travelers calling themselves hunters and even adventurers are here today, resting or gathering information. The sun has long disappeared over the horizon yet the bar is still thriving.
“I thought there was a war on? It sure is slow round here.” (Amid)
Amid said while nursing a mug. She’s past her mid-twenties, wearing a priestess hat and pigtails. A cross hanging from her neck marks her as a sister of the Divine Faith Organization.
“Well, guess there just hasn’t been a major scuffle yet, huh? Oh, miserable lambs, waste not these scarce peaceful times. Praise the Lord!” Amid cackles.
Jace, sitting opposite the delinquent sister, scowled at the guffawing Amid while saying,
“…Are you an idiot? Aren’t you a sister? What happened to…thou must not drink?” (Jace)
“No, no. According to the Lord in the 471st doctrine, thou must not drive if you drink. Doesn’t that mean that all those not praising the Lord are bound for hell for drunk driving!?” Amid cackles even more wildly.
Jace only sighs in irritation. Pointedly ignoring her, he stabs the chicken with the fork in his left hand and puts it into his mouth.
“Hey, you listenin’? You’re a Brave, right? I’m a sister. Look here, you just got lucky in the lottery of the oracle, but I’m part of the Lord’s family. A great, transcendent being. You get what I’m tellin’ ya? Thou must not defy a sister. Okay?” (Amid)
Amid drunkenly bangs on the table but Jace just continues to silently stuff food in his mouth.
It’s only been a few days since Amid met this 18-year-old brave. Since then, she hasn’t seen anything but a scowl on his face. He was probably bullied in the past. He was a gloomy, unsociable youth.
Having given up on trying to make him laugh, Amid lowers the tone of her voice.
“…Now then, my Brave, whaddya think is going to happen tomorrow?” (Amid)
“In regards to?” (Jace)
“You’d get it if you looked around!” (Amid)
Amid licked her lips once and gestured at the surroundings with the mug in her hand.
“The one at the counter over there is Noble Youth Phendy. The ones writing autographs for the waiter back there are the twin Braves, Binary Star AbelCayn. At the five-person table on the opposite side, that armored woman is the Battle Maiden of Zemun, Jasmine Arljew…” (Amid)
Jace silently looks in each direction the mug is pointed. His eyes wander over the people, each with their own style and all adventurers with good looks and equipment.
But his response was curt.
“Don’t care.” (Jace)
“Tell you what, though…they’re all here to rub elbows and impress the Mismarcan king and get that legendary sacred treasure, the Holy Devil Cup. All of them be titled A-rank Braves. How bout it? You nervous now?” (Amid)
The international major religious power that propagates the Mary Faith, the state religion of many countries on the continent, and also acts as the authority of heaven to purify and exterminate all things deemed demonic 1…that’s the 『Sanctum of the Sacred Faith』.
Based on its doctrine, the term 『Brave』 is granted to young people that have been chosen through a ritual called oracle. The title Brave is granted to very few each year. Among those granted that title, the ones that managed to obtain the rank of A class through their resourcefulness and power were the true heroes of this age.
“…I have no clue who’s who. This is the first time I’m seeing any of them.” (Jace)
“So apathetic…you’re so unlovable.” (Amid)
While they are talking, yet another new figure appears in the bar’s entrance. Probably because of its proximity to the main street, it’s a very accessible business.
“Hey, that…ain’t that Shina!?”
“You’re right, that’s Shina Millrosa!”
“Shina, the Rainbow Sword!”
If male Braves are heroes, female Braves are idols. She is the epitome of that.
Long hair held back by an Alice Band, light armor with a stylish design over a beautiful robe, she was a beautiful Magic Swordswoman. The bar was swept with excitement at her entrance.
“Oh man, that’s amazin’. An S-rank is here. Tomorrow is going to be a good show.” (Amid)
“…I’ve seen her somewhere.” (Jace)
“Ain’t it cause she was in the same class as you?” (Amid)
Surrounded by the ordinary folk, Shina is flooded with requests for autographs. Even the Braves that Amid pointed out earlier were socializing with her but…when the uproar finally died down a little, she suddenly noticed Amid and Jace, and approached them with a look of mild surprise.
“Oh my, just when I was wondering who it might be, isn’t that you, Jace? You were still alive?” (Shina)
“What, so your memory does work.” (Jace)
Shina lightly flicked her long hair over her shoulder, eyes narrowing with disdain.
“How could I ever forget you…? There’s no other Brave with an appearance like yours, is there? Rather than that, for you to come to this country, Jace, don’t tell me you are targeting the Holy Devil Cup…there’s no way you are going to say something like that, right?” (Shina)
“That’s my intention.” (Jace)
As soon as he answers, Shina put her hands on her hips and scoffed at him.
“That appearance of yours is joke enough, you don’t need to do anything else. I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but amongst us classmates, you are the only one still stuck at E-rank, you know? And before that, are you saying you will be able to accomplish something in that state?” (Shina)
“Yeah, unfortunately I’m in this sorry state. I cannot kill the demon king without the Holy Devil Cup.” (Jace)
Since Jace didn’t seem to realize that he was being mocked, Shina shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
“You really don’t understand anything. Are you still saying such nonsense? In the first place, why do you think Mismarca is gathering Braves? To defeat the demon king? No, it’s because a war has started. If the continent is ruled by the Grand Marsenal Empire, it will turn into a world where us humans would be treated as slaves for life.” (Shina)
A vague sort of anxiety seemed to settle over the entire bar at Shina’s words. The invasion of the Empire and the existence of the legendary Holy Devil Cup had already become common knowledge, after all. However, the one who brushed that anxiety away was also Shina.
“But, such tyranny cannot be allowed. We cannot yield to it. The might of the Holy Devil Cup is necessary for the sake of justice. In order to awaken that might, the power of us Braves is required. For the sake of justice! Isn’t that right!?” (Shina)
Rallying cries resounded through the bar, not just from the Braves and travelers but also from the citizens. But…
After all this, only my Brave has still that unchanging sour look, Amid sees. Jace looks on at the display with cold and indifferent eyes.
“What we need in the alliance right now is a will to win against the Empire! Yes, you might be a Brave, but if you say something anachronistic like defeating the demon king, you’ll just be turned away at the gate, Jace.” (Shina)
And with the flow of the conversation so far, even the other guests have understood the situation. Half of them look on with disdain, and the other half address them with sympathetic voices. Amid roughly scratches her head. While she’s pondering what kind of sermon she should give based on the situation…
“It took great pains for me to arrive here. I will try anyway.” (Jace)
What a perfectly honest reply. Believing that her warning had been ignored, the look in Shina’s eyes hardened and she brought her hand down on the table.
“With someone like you becoming a Brave, people might think that we’re on the same level. I’m telling you that you’re a bother.” (Shina)
“My bad.” (Jace)
Even this apology is upfront. But, his eyes are also looking straight forward without hesitation. As though…she was unable to endure, the one who averted her eyes first was Shina. Instead, it was Amid who suffered collateral damage.
“Humph…do as you see fit. Just keep that drunken fake sister of yours company.” (Shina)
“What, I’m a real sister. Thou must not doubt. If you like, I can bless you? Do your best Brave! Here, you have my super divine protection! See?” Amid laughs.
Finally Shina’s jaw drops in disbelief. She ignores any attempt to form a connection and turns towards Jace.
“Three years ago, when we received our oracle, it was regarded as a once-in-a-century good year for us Braves. Only you are still an E-rank. I haven’t heard anything of you in these three years. Despite not having put in any effort and not doing any good deeds, you’re boldly aiming for the Holy Devil Cup now that you’ve heard that it possesses an almighty power!” (Shina)
She stopped talking and pointed at the Mismarca castle towering over the town through the window.
“Right now the kings and ministers of all the nations have assembled over there to frantically discuss day and night how they should fight against the invading Empire. Even Riezel, who is from our generation, is currently fighting in that place as representative of Highland! And yet you…! You are saying that you want the Holy Devil Cup just for your own sake. Don’t you find that inexcusable!?” (Shina)
“I don’t.” (Jace)
Shina lifts a brow at his immediate reply, releasing a somewhat threatening aura.
“…Look here, my Brave. Do you know the expression A conversation is like playing catch?” (Amid)
“Don’t care.” (Jace)
This guy’s a lost case.
“I got it, I got it. In the end you are still the same. Whatever. But, if you want to defeat the demon king so much, I will tell you just one thing.” (Shina)
“What is it?” (Jace)
“The direction is the other way. The place where the demon king supposedly lives is at the end of the western regions. At the very least, this is not the place where you should be.” (Shina)
Shina turned, flicking her mantle, and swept out of the bar she had just entered…as if she were unwilling to even breathe the same air as him.
The interior of the bar was in uproar. There are many looks and voices that seemed to shun Jace.
“Don’t worry, my Brave.” (Amid)
“It doesn’t matter. I’m me.” (Jace)
Has he grown accustomed to such public attention? Watching Jace’s ever-unchanging face, a natural smile formed on Amid’s lips.
“Good fortune to you!” (Amid)
“Not necessary. As long as I get my hands on the Holy Devil Cup, all will be fine.” (Jace)
Chewing the last of his food, Jace leaves his seat and heads towards the second floor of the inn. Amid holds her mug up at his retreating figure.
“I earnestly wish you all the best, my Brave…” (Amid)
The youth that Amid had met a few days ago was dressed shabbily, like a thief, and his hair had turned white, like he had suffered some great shock. His right eye is missing. And so is his right arm.
Mismarca’s castle at the same time.
One person spoke up, obviously unable to bear it any longer.
“Isn’t what we need right now unity?!”
A blond, blue-eyed youth kicked his chair away from his spot at the end of the table. His name is Riezel Pharis McLaren. He is the first crown prince and representative of the Highland Religious State, adjacent to the Sanctum of the Sacred Faith deep in the mountains, on the western side of the Strife Zone.
“All of you are only pursuing your own national interests even though the Empire is breathing right down our necks!” (Riezel)
After a short moment of silence…more than one or two people at the round table burst into laughter. These people are all prime ministers, ministers, and clan heads of their respective countries, and have held these positions for a long time. Despite his title as a Brave, and despite how his words could move the masses, the words of a boy who hadn’t even spent 18 years on this earth were not something they would take seriously. A prime minister of some country answered,
“So you say, Prince Riezel, but you’re no longer a child, are you? No wait, these words are those of a Brave though.”
“Indeed. Since he comes from the sticks, he probably never had the chance to learn real negotiation, but…I guess to the still young prince this might appear to be internal discord.”
Riezel slams his fist on the table.
“Why are you afraid then!?” (Riezel)
“Afraid? Us? You must be joking.”
“Even if you might be called a prince, don’t you think you are going too far with your words there?”
“No, you are afraid! That’s why you try to put all your faith into the sacred treasure called Holy Devil Cup and only consider what will happen after the victory!”
“Having our national interests as the top priority is our duty. If we’re going to fight anyway, it’s obviously better to do so in a more advantageous situation.”
“What you should think about right now is not that kind of self-preservation, but rather how to defeat the Empire, isn’t that right!?” (Riezel)
“Of course. That’s also the reason for this assembly. What have you been listening to up until now? Unlike Prince Mahiro over there, it’s not like you slept through it all”
Despite of Riezel’s deeply agonized words, it was like beating the air. Many of those attending just shrugged or laughed at Mahiro or Riezel.
The representatives of the nations of the Strife Zone had convened in the castle of Mismarca, a member of the Strife Zone and located roughly in the center.
At the end of the assembly hall, Mismarca’s King presides over these people. At his left, Mahiro, Prince of Mismarca, nods off.
It was a discussion that would never be concluded no matter how many days and nights they spent talking. The defense line set up in the buffer zone in Lazulka’s south is firmly united only in appearance. This is immediately apparent once you step into this room.
And the origin of all this dissent is…foolishly enough…
The Imperial army is not as powerful as they are believed to be. Looking only at the military forces on the front lines, the Alliance is superior as a whole. Consequently the Empire is at a loss as to how to continue. Various probing attacks and small skirmishes take place, but with a capable general on both sides, these are all ultimately pointless. It’s clear to both sides that if an actual battle were to take place, it would quickly be dragged out into a war of attrition. Thus, the stalemate continues.
At the same time this means that the Empire probably also put quite a lot of faith into the Holy Devil Cup. The fact of the advance unit led by Lunas appearing at all was the best evidence of the Empire’s belief in the existence of the Cup.
That sparked a change in the intentions of the allied nations.
The glory of the old Mismarca Dynasty, which once ruled over the entire Strife Zone, is long past. There’s no way any of these representatives, who each hold the power of a nation, to not harbor any intentions of taking advantage of this conflict to become the next country to lead an era. That’s why none of the nations are genuinely willing to send out their soldiers. If the Holy Devil Cup truly exists and they manage to obtain it, regardless of which country it is, becoming the supreme ruler of the continent would no longer be a pipe dream. Hence they must participate in this meeting. Half the people attending this venue are present only for the sake of such ambitions.
On the other hand, if the Cup is not real, there are many countries that are trying to curry favor with the Empire. The future is unpredictable after all. At the same time, the major power in the north, the Zephirum Republic, is eyeing this group of small nations, looking for a chance to annex this territory.
The veneer of civility is only maintained by the fact that this is a world-class conference. It is truly Machiavellism at its finest.
Nobody here believes for a second that there’s a firm round table that doesn’t waver in the slightest, overflowing with the hope to overthrow the Empire and love towards peace in this big secret room. That’s why everyone is aware, that for the innocent people, who harbor no such ambitions, the peace they currently enjoy rests upon such an unsteady scale.
Riezel can’t endure that. Taking each other’s hands for the sake of opposing evil. It’s so simple, why can’t they do it?
“…Look, even Sir Braver is saying something like that.”
Bent forward and stroking a white beard, he has a dignified glint in his eye despite his age and small build. It was the old king of Zemun Kingdom, boasting the biggest national power in the Strife Zone. He sits next to Mismarca’s king, the chairman.
“Cease your rambling and reveal your hand, King of Mismarca.”
“How about not speaking in riddles?”
While pushing up the crown placed on his bald head like a hat, Zemun’s king presses on,
“Humph, I have spoken my intention.Those present here have been summoned because you proclaimed that the Holy Devil Cup had become vulnerable. Yet, rogue, you have yet to give us even a glimpse of it. What do you mean by this?”
“I believe I asked for your support to protect the peace of various countries in the Strife Zone the other day.”
“I have requested enough for you to stop repeating such an obvious ruse. If the Holy Devil Cup becomes that of the Empire, none on this continent may resist them any longer. It is precisely because such a legend has emerged that we are inclined to oppose that huge lion”
It’s been said that the Holy Devil Cup’s power can decimate not just mountains and islands, but entire continents.
“And I have told you many times now, as long as the crest has not been assembled, its true form will not appear. If you want an empty cup so badly, here you go. There are pitchers and glasses here for the taking in front of everybody.”
The Mismarcan King retained his calm attitude, even as the Zemun king propped himself up on one elbow and lifted an eyebrow.
“Zemun’s king, half of the continent has been assembled…and yet you’re still anxious?”
“Certainly, I am uneasy. I trust that you too have not forgotten the atrocity that was the first invasion of the Empire. Though it may appear docile at present, the time will come when the sleeping lion will awaken. Can those present today truly be reassured that the Holy Devil Cup will be allied with us then? I, for one, would first ask that there be evidence to that end.”
However, this is probably all just for show. If the legend shows up once, it’s certain that they will next start quarreling over where to safekeep it. Under the pretext that it can’t be left in this country that lacks military and national power, so that it can’t be stolen by the Empire.
“What’s the Republic’s opinion on this?”
The one to whom the Mismarcan king has composedly shifted his attention was a man with a stiff collar and a regulation cap placed next to him.
“Yes. It’s not like I’m going to echo Zemun’s king, but…let me tell you, once you two come to an agreement…”
In contrast to the Southern Lion, the Grand Marsenal Empire, the Zephirum Republic is extolled as Great North. The marshal from the General Staff Headquarters takes a breath.
“If I cannot confirm the existence of the Holy Devil Cup, nothing will stop our army’s retreat.”
A shock ran through the assembly hall. The majority of the soldiers forming the defensive line would leave. Angry bellows exploded from the senior statesmen of several countries.
“Wait! Even if you are one of the marshals, how can a mere soldier possess that much authority!?”
“Won’t the Republic be equally troubled if the defensive line is penetrated!?”
The marshal smiles shrewdly at these outbursts.
“We won’t be as troubled as the nations of the Strife Zone.”
To everyone in attendance, that was the worst threat. They have forcefully been reminded of the consequences if the Republic is lost.
“Even if our army was to withdraw, you would be capable of maintaining the military strength of the frontline if you gathered all of the forces of the nations of the Strife Zone…such is our information.”
“That’s absurd! Our own countries would become defenseless then!”
The enemy is not just other countries. The human domain is always exposed to the threat of monsters. However, he merely laughs at these exclamations.
“That is none of our concern. I shall tell you frankly; our army exists for the sake of defending our country. It’s not for the sake of protecting the Strife Zone.”
It is likely the same for the other countries as well. That’s why you are unwilling to dispatch your soldiers. He doesn’t voice the thought, but his eyes relay the barb nonetheless.
He’s saying that as a result of their analysis of both side’s military strength, there’s no big difference in damage for the Republic, between challenging the Empire to an all-out-war and fighting the imperial army after depleting its energy breaking through the Strife Zone.
In the ensuing silence, the marshal adds,
“And one more thing. If you don’t have the Holy Devil Cup, the Alliance’s defeat will be inevitable, no matter how much military forces you throw into battle…this is the conclusion of our Secretary of Defense that reached me this morning.”
“The oracle….said that?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The existence of an oracle is merely gossip.”
“However, it’s said that she can predict a victory and a defeat as if she’d seen them.”
“What foolishness! Nowadays prophets don’t exist…”
The commotion didn’t settle down for a long time. The Republic’s marshal seemed to enjoy the chaos. Zemun’s king strokes his white mustache and scowls in annoyance.
“Good grief, in the end it appears that it will be left to inviting Braves and selecting a contingent to locate the crest. To leave it all to a bunch of questionable rabble…”
“We should have already taken a vote about this.”
Zemun’s king sighed dramatically at the words of the Mismarcan king.
“However, although they might be called Braves, there are still humans…it’s unclear with whom their loyalties lie, right?”
“Bold words, Pelgrun. Although I did hear that the Binary Star AbelCayn, which is supported by your country, has come to the castle town.”
“Oh my, oh my, with all due respect. I have heard the same of Jasmine Arljew, renowned as War Maiden of your country, oh King of Zemun.”
That’s how it is in the end. A public stance is a public stance.
Speaking of countries is fine. Even politics are fine. These are, in the end, the work of people. But,
“We are no tools of countries!” (Riezel)
This time, Riezel spoke not as Highland’s representative, but as a Brave.
“My comrades, whom you will probably meet here…all the Braves…for the sake of everyone’s happiness, for the sake of the continent’s peace…!” (Riezel)
Verbal agreement here means nothing. Even though we’re all sitting at the same table, their eyes, their expressions…they’re all terribly distant.
“What is so wrong about the justice we are trying to exercise!? Where’s your will to protect peace and freedom from the evil Empire – which is just trying to expand its territory and enslave more humans!? Who do you think God will support!? The miracle you all expect from the Holy Devil Cup, it’s not something that will be affected by your behaviour, is it!?” (Riezel)
“We have been graced with your esteemed opinion. As expected of the Crown Prince of Highland, Sir Youngest SS-rank Brave.”
“But, Prince Riezel, no matter how much people prayed to God, he didn’t come to defeat the Demon King. Likewise he won’t come to overthrow the Empire.”
“Good grief…to rely on God this late in the game. You make me laugh. I wonder, are you even sane? This is real life we are talking about.”
Riezel’s hair covers his eyes as he grits his teeth.
“…You people! Do you intend to only depend on the miracle of the Holy Devil Cup without even trying to believe in God…!?” (Riezel)
Suddenly, a hurried knock interrupts him. An officer of the Republican Forces enters the room. That in itself was nothing unusual, but he was noticeably harried. When the marshal questions him, the officer drops his head and stiffly reads off his clipboard,
“Reporting! A large amount of supplies have been moved in the imperial army’s encampment. Moreover, along with that, a new general joined the enemy camp.”
“Is it a known general?”
“Yurika Mikajima Majestia…the Empire’s Second Imperial Princess. We believe the enemy side is reforming their battle formation by replacing the supreme commander. It’s possible that a general offensive will begin within ten days.”
The officer saluted once and exited the room, leaving behind a heavy atmosphere. Zemun’s king breaks the silence gloomily,
“What have you in mind, Mismarcan king? With the appearance of the imperial family, the enemy has clearly begun to take things seriously.”
“If the enemy attacks, all we can do is to meet the enemy with our full force. That should be the policy at this meeting.”
Once again the two looked as if they were glaring at each other, but…in the next moment Zemun’s king leans back in his chair and releases a big yawn.
“Good grief, I’m an old man. I can’t help getting drowsy at this time. I will go to sleep soon.”
Once the word time comes up, all of them look up at the clock, apparently reminded of its existence. Since morning, they have been at it for 12 hours. At that moment, they seem to collectively reach their mental limit.
“…I still haven’t received an answer though.”
The marshal’s words are like a bucket of cold water.
“Is it alright for our army to withdraw by tomorrow morning?”
Scowling in annoyance, Zemun’s king spits out,
“Don’t get carried away, greenhorn. If the Republic pulls back, we will surrender unconditionally. We will even let the imperial army pass into the Republic in perfect condition. Did you think that you could just leave this room alive?”
“…As expected, I guess that’s how it’s going to turn out. Is it fine to take today’s meeting as never having happened then?”
Silence reigned, but all of them show signs of agreement.
“Oh, come to think of it, I almost forgot. If I remember correctly, it was tomorrow; the choosing of Braves for the gathering of the crest.”
Seeing the Mismarcan king confirm it, Zemun’s king grinned at Riezel.
“How about it, Highland youngster? It’s fine if you join the party of chosen Braves, too. Even if you keep us old men company over tea in such a place, there won’t be anything of interest for you.”
Riezel left his seat with his fists clenched
“Allow me to excuse myself if the meeting has concluded…!” (Riezel)
Once again some snickers leak out. The old king’s words weren’t to acknowledge him as a Brave. They implied that, “It’s inappropriate for you to sit at a meeting of heads of state.”
“Yay, it’s over, finally over. Father, you look tired recently. Aren’t you working too hard?” (Mahiro)
Mahiro has finally opened his eyes after everyone had left and silence had returned to the room.
“…So you were awake after all, huh? Why didn’t you join the discussion? Wasn’t there a single thing you wanted to say after being turned into a laughingstock right in front of me?”
Mahiro stifles a yawn down and stretches.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get them to listen to me anyway, even if I said something. I’m even younger than that Prince Riezel.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro showed up at the meetings almost everyday, together with the king. But, with such a reason, he never opened his mouth. At the beginning he was also mocked for nodding off, but after three days, everyone had lost interest in him. In other words, no one interrupted Mahiro’s dozing.
“What did you think about today’s meeting?”
“It was terrible. If the full particulars were to be made available to the public, the masses would rise in revolt due to the unfair treatment of the Hero. It’s probably enough for the Sacred Faith to deploy the Holy Order and an Inquisition.” (Mahiro)
He truly was that outstanding a Brave. Gaining an A-rank when he was chosen by the oracle, he then gained a rank every year after that. Now he’s the youngest SS-rank Brave. An outstanding talent that might or might not appear once in several hundred years.
The current Anti-Empire attitude of the people is a massively influential force, leading to Riezel participating in the meeting of senior statesmen. 『God’s Son of Light』. 『Blade of the Cross Sword』. He, who received heaven’s power, is a keystone of the Alliance. As for why he has yielded today…
It is beyond a doubt because of today’s state.
“…True. For a pure person like him, these meetings might be too harsh.”
The king stands and walks away. Mahiro stands to chase him.
“What do you think about me then, father? Even though I’m still at the age to play around, this month, like a caged bird…” (Mahiro)
“Since you were looked down on like this, there won’t be a single person that will listen to your words even when push comes to shove.”
He turns towards Mahiro who walks three steps behind him.
“But, it’s good if you keep thinking about things. You often read books. Even if you feign sleep, you are carefully listening to the conclusion drawn in this place, where the fate of the continent will be decided. That’s all I’m asking for now. I’m satisfied…with that.”
And then he says to Mahiro who had stopped in confusion,
“I will leave tomorrow’s Brave selection to you.”
“…Hah? Seriously? What are you saying, daddy dearest. I don’t get it at all. HAHAHA.” (Mahiro)
“Tomorrow’s selection is nothing more than a selection of people who are going to protect you. Decide for yourself to whom you are going to entrust your life. There’s nothing strange about that.”
“T-That is, in other words…it means it’s also okay for me to choose…to choose g-g-girls, moreover beautiful female Braves, right!? Traveling together means it will raise flags for legal wife and concubine candidates. Yahoo!” (Mahiro)
“…Edelweiss, you were here?”
“We came to clean the meeting room.” (Edelweiss)
Following Edelweiss with her cold expression, several capable maids arrive with cleaning tools at hand. The king turned and left the war room without a backward glance.
The dignitaries of the various countries come and go within the castle, guarded by the elites of their respective countries. Pariel has also been assigned to serve as a guard in the castle, trading her usual uniform for a regulation cap and guard outfit. Since Mahiro is still attending the conference, there’s no need for her to act as his babysitter.
During such a time…
“Ah, Prince Riezel!” (Pariel)
Discovering the blonde youth in a corridor facing the courtyard, Pariel saluted. Today’s conference has probably finished now. She had been able to catch a glimpse or two of the foreign senior statesmen, kings and their respective attendants in the big hall.
“Yo, Pariel. You’re on guard duty today as well? Good work.” (Riezel)
“No, those words are much more suited to you, Prince Riezel. Many thanks for working late into the night every day.” (Pariel)
The strongest of the Braves chosen by the oracle every year to subjugate the demon king. He was a person of such great repute that he frequently graced the covers of newspapers, in articles speculating on things like “What would happen if he battled the Empire’s Three Swords?” Besides his strength, one could easily infer his high personal virtue from the fact that he rushed to this emergency meeting instead of his queen, going as far as postponing his travel plans as a Brave.
Pariel had formed a friendly relationship with him as his sparring partner during his stay here.
“Are we training today too?” (Pariel)
Pariel bounces readily on her heels. However he smiled faintly with an unusually worn-out expression.
“No…thanks for asking, but not today.” (Riezel)
“? Did…something happen?” (Pariel)
Riezel’s smiled self-deprecatingly.
“No, it’s nothing. There’s just something I want to think about…” (Riezel)
“It’s not something you have to ponder about, is it?” (Mahiro)
Said our prince, who just arrived.
“How about it, Riezel? You just have to turn up at tomorrow’s selection assembly. King Zemun said so at the end as well, didn’t he?” (Mahiro)
However, Riezel shook his head slightly.
“What, even you are mocking me, Mahiro…? When everyone thought you were dozing, you were shrewdly listening, weren’t you?” (Riezel)
“No, I meant what I said. Though not formally, you are the representative of Highland. You are in no way obligated to listen to people from other countries telling you to do this and that. Isn’t that actually why he proposed it? If you try doing something that suits you…that is.” (Mahiro)
“You mean to tell me…to swing my sword for the sake of gathering the crest?” (Riezel)
Pariel, who had already wandered off into dreamland at the suggestion, clapped her hands together.
I have already heard that famous Braves are gathering in the castle town…to turn the legend into reality by gathering the crests that will allow the resurrection of the Holy Devil Cup. Even though just that’s already amazing, if you add the fact that the continent’s strongest will take part…
“I think nine out of ten people attending that meeting probably wish for that to happen.” (Mahiro)
“…In short, it means that I’m not needed in the meeting?” (Riezel)
Unexpectedly Pariel caught a glimpse of irritation on Riezel’s face. But, Mahiro simply affirmed Riezel’s question.
“Yeah…frankly, you haven’t participated in that meeting until now. You only stated your own opinions without listening to those of others.” (Mahiro)
“I did listen to them! But, it’s the same for them as well, isn’t it? They keep talking about their own country’s privileges, their national interests. Won’t the matters that have to be settled be left unsettled if things continue like that!? In the first place, I don’t want to hear that from someone who just sleeps everyday…!” (Riezel)
Ignoring those words, Mahiro says very directly,
“Prince Riezel…as long as you don’t understand, your presence in the meetings is in vain. Sleeping like me is still much better in that case. But, unlike me, it’s not like you can only sleep. You are capable of fighting.” (Mahiro)
From his words, Mahiro didn’t seem to have any intention to tell Riezel what he was lacking in the discussions. And yet he says to Riezel, whose bitterness had mellowed somewhat,
“It’s not like everyone has been blessed with a natural talent like you. They are anxious. And yet, you let that talent of yours got to waste during those meetings. You, the strongest individual of the alliance.” (Mahiro)
“Rather than the Prince Riezel, who’s discussing nonsensical matters…everyone would rather see Edge of the Cross Sword, God’s child of light clad in the Dignified White Armor.” (Mahiro)
Riezel lowers his gaze, thinking it over.
“…You are really amazing, Mahiro. Always pretending to be asleep even though you know that you are ridiculed by everyone.” (Riezel)
“No, to be frank, there are times when I’m actually sleeping.” (Mahiro)
“Hey!” Pariel poked Mahiro lightly.
“Now, now. I said it so haughtily, but the one to decide is you. Seeing as you have come here as representative of a nation, no one can order you to do anything. Likewise, if you make up your mind, no one will be able to stop you either. Besides, tomorrow is a day off for the meetings. Wouldn’t it be fine to at least show your face while taking a breather? I’m sure many of your old friends have arrived in the city, right?” (Mahiro)
“…I guess…so. Thanks, Mahiro. I really need to relax a bit. Moving my body suits me a lot more than sitting around.” (Riezel)
Pariel was relieved when Riezel’s expression changed into a more energetic one. Having said that, when she thinks about it, with that kind of expression he will definitely participate.
“Well, let’s stop there since I haven’t been chosen yet.” (Riezel)
“Yeah, yeah. It’s fine to take it easy. Let’s stop talking about it. By the way, Riezel.” (Mahiro)
“What is it?” (Riezel)
“Weren’t you a friend of the Rainbow Sword Shina?” (Mahiro)
“Shina…Shina Millrosa? Yeah, she’s a Brave of the same year. I also joined a party with her several times, but…” (Riezel)
“Somehow it looks like she’s staying in the castle town at the moment. If she comes here tomorrow, I’d really like you to introduce me to her~” (Mahiro)
Pariel grabbed Mahiro’s nape.
“Wait, wait, aren’t you misunderstanding something here, miss Royal Guard? I don’t particularly have any intention to take her as legal wife or turn her into a concubine candidate…” (Mahiro)
“Did you bring up the topic with Prince Riezel only for that reason? You certainly never stop with the bullshit, do you? Prince Mahiro?” (Pariel)
“Which one of us is screwing around here, Pariel!? I’m always very serious!!” (Mahiro)
Riezel sighed in exasperation as Mahiro was once again hit by Pariel.
Even after 9 o’clock in the evening, there are still figures in the dining hall, albeit a select few Because of the strict, twenty-four-hour security measures, there are many people who can’t eat meals at fixed times. There are cooks from other countries as well as foreign soldiers.
Pariel, finished with her duty for today, had a late dinner with Mahiro.
“But, it’s already clear to everyone that Prince Riezel will be chosen tomorrow, don’t you think?” (Pariel)
“How are they going to choose? As expected, it might be similar to bouts held in front of the lords…uwah, in that case I would really, really look forward to it!” (Pariel)
“…You were here, Edelweiss?” (Mahiro)
“It’s an event concerning the fate of the continent. Make sure not to say anything imprudent.” (Edelweiss)
“Uh… I’m sorry…” (Pariel)
She probably free because she ran out of work. Edelweiss placed a tea set on the table and sat down. That didn’t really mean that she made it for Mahiro, she started to taste the tea by herself.
“So, how are you planning to go about it, Your Highness? I am not Pariel, but I suppose bouts are a valid option.” (Edelweiss)
“As expected, normally that would be true, wouldn’t it…?” (Mahiro)
“As expected…is it wrong?” (Pariel)
“Yeah. It was decided that I will be the one to choose. To suddenly being told that by father…” (Mahiro)
Mahiro mashes rice together with the contents of the mackerel can that he skillfully and efficiently broke open, and adds soy sauce to the mix.
“Matches! It has to be matches, Prince! Something like a martial arts tournament limited only to Braves with the future of the continent at stake will be a historical first! It will turn into a legendary, major tournament, won’t it!? If it succeeds, even your reputation will go through the roof…!” (Pariel)
Also it was Pariel’s personal dream to witness it.
“Well…that’s fine with me, but we don’t have much time, do we…?” (Mahiro)
“You are talking about something quite interesting here. Is it fine for me to join you as well?”
Monocle on his eye, the prime minister showed up holding a tray. He’s the one who has been entrusted with the governing of Mismarca while the king is caught up in meetings. In any case, his busy schedule is probably why he’s eating his meal at such a late time as well.
“Thank you for your hard work, Lord Kaien.” (Pariel)
“Your hard work is very appreciated, Prime Minister Kaien.” (Edelweiss)
“What, someone like me is just holding a pen while sitting at his desk. It’s not as busy as it is for you.” (Kaien)
“No need to be humble, Kaien. Someone like me is only sleeping without even holding a pen.” (Mahiro)
Don’t brag about it!
“Hahaha…by the way, Prince. I was told by His Majesty that you will hold tomorrow’s Brave selection ceremony.” (Kaien)
“That’s correct~ How troublesome~” (Mahiro)
“I won’t stop you if it’s something like a tournament, but…otherwise it’s probably advisable not to treat the decision lightly.” (Kaien)
“What do you mean by that?” (Pariel)
Pariel asked, puzzled. It’s not something as simple as “Don’t merely choose eccentrics”…it sounded like it came from a deep-rooted anxiety.
“What, it’s not that complicated.” (Mahiro)
Seeing that there’s few people in the vicinity, Mahiro continues…while wolfing down rice.
“First, speaking of why it became a matter that involved the Braves..”
No country wants other countries to obtain the Holy Devil Cup, or the crest that will become its trigger. In that case it becomes necessary for it to be people who are not only suited to lead an army but also capable of bringing it back to this castle while avoiding the hands of the Empire and the monsters.
There are various skilled freelancers such as mercenaries, tournament fighters, hunters and others, but…the one reason why it was limited to Braves is because they are people who adhere to the absolutely neutral stance in politics that is the Sanctum of the Sacred Faith…
“Even I have participated in the meetings several times, but mostly matters of the Empire have been secondary. It’s an international conference concerning the supply of things like weapons, armors, provisions and materials to build a front while clashing with each other over the maintenance costs of the defense line and the quota of the military forces composing that line. And now at last the talks have begun to address the claims over the Holy Devil Cup’s ownership rights.” (Kaien)
“…Is…that so? Something like that…” (Pariel)
It was a terrible shock. The forces for which the king had left his son behind by himself for… that predicament a month ago, which Mahiro had evaded only with his quick wittedness and negotiations while putting his life on the line…she believed the alliance was a cohesive group. “Even if they confront the army of the demon king, they definitely won’t lose”…she had believed that those meetings were the groundwork for such a promising future.
“Even now nothing has been decided. If they lose, they will pass the blame. Even if they win, it will be a continuous quarrel for the splitting of territories and the distribution of reparations after the war.” (Kaien)
Kaien says as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Riezel, who gained the title of strongest through hard work, must have suffered a lot when this reality was thrust in his face.
“However, Braves are other people’s children, too. Where the benefit of their own homeland or their own prestigious fame is concerned…” (Kaien)
“Well, absolute neutrality is fishy in itself, right~?” (Mahiro)
Having finished eating, Mahiro laughed without a care as he chewed on a toothpick.
“Ah, I got it! Prince, you wanted to encourage Prince Riezel with that! If it’s him, he has no interest in such matters, and that’s why even the other people attending the meetings…” (Pariel)
“Is that really the case?” (Edelweiss)
Edelweiss says, putting down her teacup.
“If what’s been said just now is the truth, His Highness Riezel looks rather dangerous to me.”
“For sure. If Prince Riezel was recommended to me…I would probably consider him to be easier to manage than a Brave that’s supported by some country. But the history of the Highland is grisly, yet he is too clean.” (Kaien)
Pariel is gradually losing her appetite due to Kaien’s dispassionate words.
“…Is that something so terrible…?” (Pariel)
“Don’t get so discouraged. That’s how politics are.” (Kaien)
“Lord Kaien…” (Pariel)
The more one believes in justice, the more impossible it is to not become dejected after hearing this talk. I wonder how much of it was truly from Riezel’s heart.
“So, Your Highness, how do you plan to bring this problem to a close?” (Kaien)
“Oh well, I will manage somehow. There’s also a little something I wanted to ascertain, so it’s just the right time.” (Mahiro)
“Make sure to not do anything too unreasonable.” (Edelweiss)
“It’s all fine. The ones doing the unreasonable this time will be the Braves. It won’t be me.” (Mahiro)
- 魔 (ma) – this one’s a bit tricky as it’s a kanji appearing in many words. In this case it first refers to the Holy Devil Cup, where the Devil is represented by that kanji. It also appears in the words for Magic or Sorcery and many other occasions. Basically imagine it as kanji pointing towards many things that have with “demonic” to do