The next morning.
“What the heck is this?” (Jace)
Jace muttered, obviously shocked, as he stood in the hall. It’s not completely packed, but I didn’t expect this many applicants. Isn’t this almost 100 people?
“All of them are Braves, huh?” (Jace)
“No way~. You should know at a glance, right my Brave? More than half of them are companions just like me.” (Amid)
Amid tilted her head slightly to one side. Even so, calling it a trade fair of Braves would be perfectly fitting. Unless there’s a considerable flood of monsters, this many Braves would never gather together. And, as far as Amid knows, such a precedent hasn’t been recorded in the documents of the Divine Faith Organization in the last hundred years.
In other words, it was testimony to the Holy Devil Cup and its legend being quite the big deal.
“Rather than that, lil’ old me was startled by the size of this castle, ya know? Even just once, I’d like to attend a ball in a place like this.” (Amid)
“Humph…even though you said all that stuff before, you still came here, didn’t you?”
Shina made her appearance, disrupting her dreams. Apparently burdened by previous events, her attitude was just as sour as the night before, a sharp contrast to her cute face.
“Or rather, it’s great that you got them to let you in, isn’t it?” (Shina)
“Yeah. This is a nice country.” (Jace)
As usual Jace goes at his own pace. He’s antisocial, but that doesn’t mean that my Brave will change his character. It’s just that he has a tendency to be too straightforward.
At that moment.
The continent’s strongest made his appearance. In full, pure white armor, he cut a stylish silhouette. Two swords were crossed on his back. Amid’s eyes widened.
“Whoa, holy shit…ain’t that Riezel the Cross Sword? Together with the White Dignified Armor and the pair of swords, Romeo and Juliet… what a hunk!” (Amid)
Putting aside his equipment, he has a masculine face and a strong aura. He’s completely different from those in the vicinity. Along with a gentleness that allows him to instantly befriend people, he also exudes warm reassurance. It draws you in immediately.
Even Shina is all smiles now.
“But, why Riezel!? Aren’t you busy with the various alliance’s meetings and such…?” (Shina)
“No, yesterday…I was told a few things…by this country’s prince.” (Riezel)
“Prince…you mean that famous idiot? You became friends with him?” (Shina)
Even Amid has heard about the prodigal manner of the prince here. If it’s true, I don’t think he suits Riezel as friend at all… she immediately concludes. Jace, who’s next to Amid, doesn’t move a single step.
“You ain’t going over there?” (Amid)
A blunt reply…and yet he continued,
“He’s really amazing, that strongest one. I thought that he was powerful when I met him on that day, but after three years, there’s still a remarkable difference between the two of us.” (Jace)
“You mustn’t feel frightened, my Brave.” (Amid)
“Yeah. Don’t worry.” (Jace)
We probably stand out, alone in this crowd. Having discovered them, Riezel rushed over.
“Jace…? You’re Jace, right? You came here as well!?” (Riezel)
“Since there were no regular reports to the Great Temple, I was sure that you…” (Riezel)
“That’s right. After all I’m not a real Brave.” (Jace)
“Don’t be stupid. I’m glad that I can meet you again. … Who’s the person next to you?” (Riezel)
Amid clears her throat a few times and quickly smooths down the hair sticking out from her priestess hat.
“I’m glad to meet you, Brave Riezel. I’m called Sister Amid, companion of my Brave. Please treat me favorably.” (Amid)
“You an idiot? Since a while ago, you’re sticking to me on your own accor…mmpf!” (Jace)
She blocks his mouth.
“As such, it’s a great honor to be able to meet with you like this, Brave Riezel. On this occasion, can thou sign this with a few lines…” (Amid)
“Please quiet down.”
A man with a monocle said clearly, as he walked into the hall. Silence fell in an instant. Everyone straightened involuntarily.
“My name is Kaien Gremnam, and I serve as this country’s prime minister. Before performing the Brave Selection for the sake of reviving the Holy Devil Cup, His Majesty has some words for you. Those of you who have been granted the title of Brave by the Divine Faith Organization, come with me. I’d like the rest of you to wait here.” (Kaeien)
Simple words, true to his character. Without repeating himself or accepting any questions, he turns on his heels. Amid pushed Jace’s back with a slap and winks once.
“Go for it, my Brave ♪” (Amid)
“You an idiot? I’m just going to listen to his story, am I not?” (Jace)
“Hey Jace, leave her behind.” (Riezel)
Being teased by Riezel, Jace follows him together with Shina. Only 20 people followed the prime minister. Therefore, the majority of those present were attendants.
Even for Pariel it was the first time that she had stepped into the king’s office. It was a spacious room, where you couldn’t feel that it was too packed no matter how many people came in. None other than the king, and on his right, Kaien, were at an ebony desk in front of two big windows that led to a terrace. On the left are Mahiro and Edelweiss. Along the sides, Pariel was on standby together with the other royal guards in ceremonial uniforms. Originally Shrayban should have joined them, but the veteran army general had gone to the defense line and was in the middle of taking command of the allied forces with the generals of the other countries.
After thanking them (the Braves) for having come all this way, the king broke the strained atmosphere with a grand speech.
A sacred treasure is the general term for a vessel exhibiting powers equal to those of the gods. And even among those, the Holy Devil Cup hides such an enormous power that it’s said that you could control the world with it. One deeply-rooted theory is that this is exactly why it’s a vessel that the Holy Demon King owns…on the other hand there’s also the theory that the Holy Devil part of the name is due to it being a link between Heaven’s holiness and Hell’s devilry, depending on how it’s used.
“…For that reason the Holy Devil Cup’s power was deemed taboo, and was firmly sealed a long time ago. In other words, the power of the Holy Devil Cup is currently dormant in the form of several crests. What we request of you is nothing more than the release of this seal…gathering the crests, which are scattered all over, into the vessel that has been handed down to us. Also, right now it’s not clear what crests might have been sealed in what region. …This journey might be one of unimaginable hardship.”
A short pause. The king lets his gaze rest on the assembled Braves. In response, the Braves, who have hung on the king’s every word, are also the picture of seriousness.
“Do you, who have assembled here right now, have the resolve? That’s what I want to know first.”
“More than when I received the oracle’s guidance and formed my resolve to bet my life in order to repel evil far and wide for the sake of the light!”
It was declared by a sweet young girl standing next to Riezel. Pariel had even seen her in the newspapers. She’s the S-Rank Brave, Shina Millrosa with the nickname Rainbow Sword.
Voices were raised in approval of her declaration. Just being present in this place made Pariel feel honored. It was apparently the same for the other royal guards, too. All of them looked on proudly with bright expressions.
However, there was a single Brave whose expression hasn’t changed.
“King, I’d like to ask one thing.”
He was a thoroughly seedy-looking boy, making one doubt whether he was really a Brave.
Unkempt, white hair which looked as if it had simply been cropped out of annoyance. A worn and cracked leather vest was his sole upper garment, paired with scuffed, colorless hemp trousers and beat-up boots. A bandit’s attire.
But what stands out above all is the terrible, lightning-shaped scar running from his forehead through his right eye to his chin, and his missing right arm. An awful slashing scar marrs his appearance from forehead to shoulder.
“…Haha! How amazing. He’s a spitting image of Tange Sazen. 1 ” (Mahiro)
“Wai-, Prince…! Don’t laugh!”
Pariel didn’t understand who that Tange-whatever was, but she rebuked him nonetheless. However, the person in question kept staring intently on the king.
“…Let’s hear it.”
“Can I have the Holy Devil Cup?” (Jace)
The room suddenly became deathly silent. The one who turned around and reprimanded him was Shina.
“Y-…You!! Did you listen to the king’s words at all!?” (Shina)
“I did. It was about gathering the crests, right? I heard as much.” (Jace)
He turns around towards the king, obviously ignoring Shina.
“I’d like you to tell us what’s going to happen after the Holy Devil Cup is revived. Can I have it or not?” (Jace)
Everyone remained speechless. Or it might be because they were preparing themselves for the king’s rage. But, in contrast to their expectations, the king just closed his eyes and stayed silent for a short while.
“…You, what’s your name?”
“Let me ask then, Brave Jace. For what are you going to use the Holy Devil Cup after obtaining it?”
“To kill the demon king.” (Jace)
While quiet, his voice carried a resolute tenacity and bloodthirst. Snickers escaped the mouths of the other Braves, as if they were looking at something pitiful, but ignoring them, Jace continues to question the king,
“I have no desire beyond that. I’d like to obtain the Holy Devil Cup by all means.” (Jace)
The one who spoke next was Riezel.
“You are still saying something like that…! Are you unable to understand in what kind of situation the continent is right now!?” (Riezel)
“I have heard.” (Jace)
Contrary to Riezel’s impassioned eyes, Jace remaining eye is tinged with a terrible coldness. He spits out,
“War or whatever, how worthless. That’s completely unrelated to me.” (Jace)
“Ng…! You are a Brave, too! Can’t you at least consider the peace and freedom of the people a little bit!?” (Riezel)
The instant Riezel grabbed Jace’s collar, Jace responded by seizing Riezel’s wrist.
“I should have told you before already, Riezel! I don’t have a country or a home I can return to nor a family waiting for my return! I don’t have anything I would want to protect unlike you.” (Jace)
“Listen, only the demon king matters to me!! I ain’t saying that I’m envious of you, but don’t fuckin’ say to my face that only your justice is right!!” (Jace)
The intensity of his hatred and anger was painful to see. Only the sound of rough breathing broke the silence. Such a dreadful atmosphere swirled around the two Braves that no one could cut in-between.
“Restrain yourselves. You are in the presence of His Majesty.”
Kaien’s cold interruption finally brought them to their senses, and they broke apart.
“Please forgive me for this rudeness, Your Majesty…” (Riezel)
“…my bad, King.” (Jace)
“It’s fine…I understand your reasons. But Jace, with just that, I find it difficult to make a decision.”
Those were not words of denial. No one could hide their surprise.
“I think you, who have traveled the vast world, are aware of it, but…the Holy Devil Cup is a sacred treasure. And it’s said that a sacred treasure won’t bestow its miracle to anyone but the chosen one. The only way is to be chosen by the Holy Devil Cup.”
“If that’s the case, that’s all there is to it. I will look for other leads.”
Jace’s straightforward gaze doesn’t fall apart. Seeing it, the king…of all things, consented.
“…Can I have the Holy Devil Cup?” (Jace)
“It’s just as I told you moments ago. Even if you gathered all the crests, they only way is for you to be chosen. But, if you were to be chosen, I will concede the Holy Devil Cup to you, and accept it as heaven’s will.”
“Please wait a moment, Your Majesty.” (Kaien)
Kaien humbly interrupts.
“Is that really alright? It’s a vessel that will decide the continent’s fate. …Even though it’s your esteemed words, it’s dangerous to make promises at your own discretion, Your Majesty.” (Kaien)
The other countries of the alliance won’t stay silent.
“But, there’s no meaning in possessing it, if you can’t use it.”
For a moment the prime minister was hard pressed for words.
“…Can’t use, you say?” (Kaien)
“The Holy Devil Cup might pick this man. However, in other words, it will mean that we were unqualified.”
Even Pariel lets out an “Ah!” in realization. Even if the alliance collected all of the crests, it will be meaningless if no one of the alliance was chosen. It won’t be anything more than posturing and borrowing the reputation of the Holy Demon King if no one can use it.
Shina objected to that.
“P-Please wait! We gathered here for the sake of defeating the Empire! That is, umm, for the sake of a demon king whose existence hasn’t even been confirmed so far…” (Shina)
“Then it will be fine as long as you gather the crests and are chosen.”
“That is…true, but…” (Shina)
Shina falters and glares at Jace.
“No, everyone assembled in this room will have that right. If you are chosen by god’s vessel, it will be taken as god’s will. At least it won’t be taboo, since you have been chosen as Braves by the oracle. That’s what I believe.”
Seeing that there were no more objections, the king went ahead with the explanation.
“One more thing. In order to release the seals of the crests, a descendant of the Mismarcan dynasty, guardians of the vessel, is necessary. It’s been decided that I will entrust the safety of my child, Mahiro, to the selectees. As he’s inexperienced, I’d like to have them teach him martial arts, too.”
At that point Mahiro finally spoke up.
“…No, just wait a moment, father. I haven’t heard anything about that?” (Mahiro)
“You are not allowed to decline. Mahiro, acquire some skill in martial arts. Right now is a time of great uncertainty. It’s not just the Empire that’s our enemy.”
Pariel recalled the chat in the dining hall last night, and became even more worried about the terrible situation. He avoided those exact words, but the king basically hinted that there might even be enemies within the alliance. Even though they currently have the Empire as a common enemy.
“As such, to allow your guards to maximise their strength, it’s necessary for you to also have an awareness as the one being protected. You need to know how you should move when surrounded by a great number of enemies.”
“In Pariel’s shadow…” (Mahiro)
A large number of people let out sighs at this. Pariel was among them, resigned to having the hem of her uniform be crumpled in his hands.
“Umm, prince, even just keeping up appearances is fine, but I would like you to be able to fight back to back with me…” (Pariel)
“… I need a weapon then though.” (Mahiro)
“That’s why your father told ya to get training to wield a weapon, right? Riiiight!?” (Pariel)
Says the commanding officer of the chamberlains.
“You are in the presence of His Majesty.” (Kaien)
Says the prime minister.
Scolded by the two top retainers, Pariel is miserable. Being laughed at by the Braves is even more demoralizing. But, as if he was displeased with the response, Mahiro becomes frenzied.
“Yeah, wonderful! Very wonderful! Everyone has arbitrarily decided that I’m weak! Then I shall ask you in reverse, father! Why are we surrounded by a great number of enemies!?” (Mahiro)
Apparently a switch had been flipped in Mahiro’s head. Probably signaling the activation of his infamous nitpicking mode.
“Isn’t that because the enemy has been allowed to come so close after pushing us so hard !? Being in range! Having the distance closed! That’s the sole reason why martial arts have become necessary!” (Mahiro)
“That’s only natural.”
Mahiro slammed the table with his fist.
“It will be fine as long as we manage to get away…!” (Mahiro)
“Even if you used the Thirty-Six Stratagems2, there’s no move better than escaping. Additionally, this means that avoiding pointless strife will be beneficial in the future. I believe in those words.” (Mahiro)
“Are you still speaking of such naive thoughts?”
“It’s far better than relying on violence.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro’s expression as he confronted the king was strangely reminiscent of the one he had when facing down Lunas.
“I’m confident in my ability to run away, father. It’s fine as long as I simply don’t get caught. An enemy that resorts to violence is no more than a barbarian after all. As long as they cannot lay their hands on me, they are useless, incapable of doing anything!” (Mahiro)
“Mahiro, I am speaking of what happens in the event that they do manage to reach you.”
“No, umm, I mean, father…” (Mahiro)
Mahiro has suddenly lost momentum.
“I understand what you want to say. But, even so you will likely be tracked down. I should have already told you, we are now in an era where there is no predicting what might happen next. That’s why I told you to decide the people to whom you will entrust your life.”
The instant they heard that it will be Mahiro and not the king who chooses, the Braves look at him differently.
“It looks like I have talked for a bit too long. Tell us, Mahiro. How are you going to decide?”
“…Let’s see. Personally Shina-san is definitely set in stone for me though.” (Mahiro)
The beautiful Brave dumbfoundedly points at herself.
“Ha…? M-me…? But…Prince, just why…?” (Shina)
“Since you’re pretty, as my wife or concubine candidate…” (Mahiro)
Shina is an idol-like Brave who often appears in the newspapers and has many powerful, unofficial fanclubs in various countries. Of course, even in this country, this castle and among the Royal Knights present there might be a number of them.
“…Umm, since the number of murderous looks directed towards me despite the various duties of the people here has increased by quite a bit, let’s leave that aside for now, okay…?” (Mahiro)
He clears his throat with a cough. Mahiro’s expression suddenly becomes much more serious, as if what he’d just been joking to lighten the mood. A great number of people hold their breath in silence. After a short look around, Mahiro addressed the king, not the Braves,
“Father, last night I thought it over carefully, but let me start withj the conclusion. At this time, Braves and the like are not necessary.” (Mahiro)
Everyone is left speechless. Even Pariel, who thought that he would choose Riezel anyway, Riezel, who was encouraged yesterday by none other than the prince to participate in this event, Shina, who was nominated first despite it being a joke…and Jace, who attracted the king’s interest before.
“Indeed, I do understand your point, father. Therefore…please allow me to attempt it just once.” (Mahiro)
“How far I’m capable of running away. Whether they are able to completely track me down is exactly what I’d like to use for this time’s selection test.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro bends over, propping himself up with both hands on the king’s desk.
“Just as I stated moments ago, I’m confident in my ability to run away. Fellow travelers that can’t even catch me won’t be able to follow my escape in the event that we are faced with the worst-possible predicament. They will be a burden. In that case, I would rather have no Braves with me.” (Mahiro)
Looking back mischievously at Braves, who were nursing their wounded pride, Mahiro turned around and said,
“It’s just as you’ve heard. What’s really necessary for obtaining the crest isn’t Braves, but the blood of the royal family. Besides, if you can’t catch me, it will be impossible for you to catch the likes of a Demon King. Killing him would be even more impossible. Or am I wrong?” (Mahiro)
At Mahiro’s pointed words, Jace’s look becomes grim. With the term Demon King on the table, Jace’s expression finally changes.
“You little, Prince Mahiro…was it?I have heard the rumors about you. Don’tcha have quite the confidence for a sheltered, foolish prince!?” (Jace)
“That’s only natural. Due to a single whim of my father, the Holy Devil Cup is about to vanish into the far reaches of the West.” (Mahiro)
The West actually refers to the western half of the continent. The domain of monsters, said to be home to the Demon King in its deepest depths. In short, Mahiro is saying…”Even if you manage to acquire the Holy Devil Cup in your quest to defeat the Demon King, you will simply be going to your death”
“I’m sorry, but my thoughts are different from father. Even if no one in the Alliance is chosen, the Holy Devil Cup should stay with the Alliance. If it never passes through your hands, you will never be chosen. Thus, if I collect all the crests, there won’t be any reason for you to take it.” (Mahiro)
And, having provoked the Braves just for the sake of it, Mahiro turned back to the king.
“Indeed…with just me, the collection of the crest should be possible. Rather than the bitter experience of being annihilated with Braves, if something really does happen, it would be better for me to die by myself.” (Mahiro)
“Prince, you are saying things like that again… His Majesty worries about you…” (Pariel)
“What kind of stupidity are you spouting?” (Mahiro)
Pariel recoiled at the sudden yell.
“I told you just now, I alone will suffice. If you don’t like it, you just have to catch me faster than anyone else. If you fall behind, you are unnecessary as a guard.” (Mahiro)
“Such a…!?” (Pariel)
The one who stepped forward instead was Edelweiss, who had selected Pariel as guard.
“Your Highness, don’t say something so unreasonable. I dare say, if they are at the level of the Empire’s Kaze, getting close to you Your Highness, would be no trouble.” (Edelweiss)
“Look, that’s a fact. Then let me ask you, Edelweiss. If we were surrounded by ten “Kaze”, would Pariel be able to cut her way through them all?” (Mahiro)
“With her skill, she would be able to let you get away by becoming a decoy. Please consider your positions. Your Highness, you are someone who must survive even at the cost of another’s life. All the more if it concerns the Holy Devil Cup. That duty is…” (Edelweiss)
At the king’s command, Edelweiss withdrew. From his demeanor, and probably also as his parent, the king likely concluded that Mahiro wasn’t going to concede…she inferred.
“Mahiro, you will be satisfied with that, right?”
“Yes. If they are able to catch me, I will accept that they are capable of protecting me… I will even obediently hold a wooden sword for self-defense, as you request, father.” (Mahiro)
Even though it is just a conversation, a strange feeling of tension lingered between father and son. In hindsight, that might have been an omen.
“I will say it once more, then. Right now is a time where it’s impossible to predict what will happen. Begin from this moment on.”
“”At your command!””
Mahiro and Jace answered him, even as Jace dashed forward through the crowd of Braves.
However, just as Jace reaches out to grab him, Mahiro kicks off the floor, landing on the king’s ebony desk. Jace manages to catch hold of the edge of Mahiro’s mantle, but Mahiro has already unclasped it and kicks it away. Jumping over the king’s head, he breaks the big window using his momentum and rolls onto the terrace.
All present are dumbfounded by the spectacle, forgetting their mission entirely. Jace alone is hot on Mahiro’s heels.
“Damn, wait, you rascal!!” (Jace)
“Hahahaha! Farewell, Akechi-kun3, let’s meet again another time! Waaahahahahaha!!” (Mahiro)
Leaving only laughter behind, Mahiro climbs over the terrace’s railing…and of all things, jumps off the third floor.
The crash of a monumental splash sounded.
“Bring it on!!” (Jace)
Jace, who had taken a look below, jumps over the railing as well. Yet another splash sounded. Immediately, Edelweiss picks up the telephone receiver on the desk, and quickly dialed an inner line.
“…It’s me. It’s an urgent message to all stations; Prince Mahiro has escaped. Immediately seal off all exits within the castle and the land near the castle. Set up inspections and arrest him as soon as you discover him. Dead or alive.” (Edelweiss)
“No!? D-Dead or alive…Lady Edelweiss! It’s meaningless if he’s dead!” (Pariel)
At Pariel’s insistently shaking of her shoulder, Edelweiss lowers the receiver.
“If he dies from something like this, collecting the crest will be impossible anyway.” (Edelweiss)
“Still, how could you say that!?” (Pariel)
Suddenly, the sound of running filled the hallway. There was a brief knock before they quietly entered…maids armed to the teeth with brooms, mops, frying pans, pitchforks and even ropes…
“Lady Edelweiss, preparations for the prince hunt are perfectly in order. We request your orders.”
Given the sight before them, one would be hard pressed not to draw comparisons between these chamberlains and the royal guards, despite the differences in their duties.
“The target has fallen from the terrace into the fountain below. Currently an one-eyed, one-armed Brave is in pursuit. One squad will fully back him up. The second squad will take command of the castle’s sentinels, under my name. The third and fourth squad will leave the castle and do similar patrols. If there are no results within 20 minutes, consider him to have escaped the castle and have the whole force switch over to a search operation. Report regularly. That’s all.” (Edelweiss)
“””Yes, certainly! We shall stake the dignity of the Chamberlain Unit on this!”””
Bowing once more, they swiftly and silently left the room. Rubbing his temple as if trying to alleviate a headache, Kaien asks,
“…Lady Edelweiss. Did you forget that this is about the Holy Devil Cup? Going at it too showily is…” (Kaien)
“My, my, even if you are the prime minister, what naive things are you saying, Kaien? Won’t it be fine as long as we catch and silence him?”
He cannot help but feel like she has said something very sinister.
“Let’s have His Highness personally experience the kind of worst-case scenario that His Majesty has been trying to prepare him for. …Pariel.” (Edelweiss)
“Eh? Y-Yes, Lady Edelweiss…” (Pariel)
“What are you spacing out here for? You also pursue the prince at once. That’s what a guard is for.” (Edelweiss)
It doesn’t sound like a guard’s duty though?
Once again the braves are left with a culture shock. The Braves look at the broken, big window to the terrace, then at Edelweiss and finally at the king, wondering what kind of joke this is supposed to be.
“…You’re not going? Mahiro announced the method and I gave the start signal.”
As if coming to their senses, the Braves start running out of the office all at once. In the blink of an eye the room is deserted. And then Edelweiss bows deeply.
“Well then, Your Majesty, I shall be off too to take command. Please await the good news.” (Edelweiss)
“Ah, please wait, Lady Edelweiss!” (Pariel)
Pariel runs after her. The ones left behind are the seated king and the prime minister next to him. For some reason it is the Royal Knights, not the maids, who are cleaning up the shattered glass.
“Perhaps it is just our country, but…don’t you think that women are terrifying?”
“With all due respect, Your Majesty, rather than our country, it’s Edelweiss as an individual who’s frightening.”
A breeze blew in from the shattered remains of the window onto the king’s back, as he collapsed onto the desk and groaned.
(Fuck, what a guy…that dumb prince!) (Jace)
Jace frantically chased after Mahiro. Falling from the terrace, from the forest in the rear garden all the way to the front yard…
From the king’s behavior back in the office, he had predicted that the king would suddenly surprise them with the start signal. That’s why he had stepped forward to grab Mahiro as soon as the king opened his mouth.
However, looking back now, that was his biggest mistake. Mahiro escaped in an unexpected direction, away from the entrance door. Moreover, despite being parent and child, Mahiro made his escape by rudely placing his feet on the desk of the king and jumping over his head, of all things. It was truly completely unexpected. Even the mantle, that I managed to grab, was cast away in an instant, likely because he had already predicted my movements.
His foolishness is beyond what I heard in the rumors, but that man is by no means a dimwit. If he was merely a sheltered boy, it would have been impossible for him to break the window, and allow himself to be covered in sharp glass shards, let alone jump down from that height without hesitation. And, this escape sure lives up to his boasting.
He had no sooner realized that his foot had been caught on something than a huge metal basin fallen onto him. While he was distracted blocking the attack from above, his foothold disappeared and he felt himself falling.
A pitfall. And after that, a wash basin baptism.
“Waha! Wahahahaha!” (Mahiro)
“Don’t take me lightly, you little shit…!” (Jace)
I won’t take any damage from this kind of thing. And, as long as I suffer no damage, I can continue the chase for as long as needed. With that thought, Jace leaps out of the pitfall
And continues to pursue Mahiro who runs away in surprise.
“Try catching me before saying that, Tange Sazen!” (Mahiro)
Despite his mocking, Mahiro was getting quite desperate. First off, that Brave really jumped down and came closely chasing after him. Since it has come to this point, he plunged into the dressing room where the maids were in the middle of changing their clothes, their screams not reaching his ears, and their skin not entering his sight.
(Well, this might be bad…!?) (Mahiro)
How unexpected. No wonder he was able to demand the Holy Devil Cup as compensation. He’s really crazy. Plus, these easy castle traps aren’t capable of delaying him for more than a moment. I can’t rest for any longer than it takes for him to climb out of the pitfalls.
Arriving at the front yard, Mahiro catches sight of the drawbridge and the castle gate which is open as usual.
He couldn’t use the secret path thanks to Jace sticking behind him like a starved, stray dog, and he figured the odds of making it here were less than 50%. With Edelweiss’ character, it’s about time for her to start a complete lockdown.
Given her unreasonable orders, the common soldiers would be bewildered for a minute or two. Three or four minutes for the order to reach the foot soldiers and for her trusted maid unit to start moving. After that, it’s an instant strike-out. It’s imperative to escape through that castle gate and vanish into the land near the castle before that happens.
He chances a glance back. There’s almost no distance between them. I didn’t want to use my tricks so early, but it can’t be helped. Decision made, Mahiro rushed over to a guard at the side of the castle gate.
“P-Prince!? What’s wrong, why are you dripping wet…or rather, a moment ago there was a message for you from Lady Edelweiss, Prince.”
“Please save me!” (Mahiro)
Explaining nothing, Mahiro just pointed at Jace. Jace’s eyes widened as he realised what Mahiro was planning. Both are soaked to the skin, sprinting with all their power and have ghastly expressions. There’s no way anyone would believe that they are in the middle of playing a game of tag.
“Wh-…! It’s you, you bastard. I thought it to be weird, but you are really no more than a fake Brave!”
“Engage! It’s a scoundrel targeting the prince’s life!!”
In a flash, several soldiers, including even guards from other countries, rushed out of the castle gate’s guard station and stood in Jace’s way like a wall.
“Wait, shitty brat! Unhand me! Release me, you idiots!” (Jace)
“Hey! Behave yourself!”
Mahiro looks back at the situation and finally takes a breather.
“…Don’t think badly of me. I can’t afford to get caught yet.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro escapes towards the land near the castle, followed by the sound of Jace cursing him.
“Wait! Waaait! Stoooop!!”
“Are you alright, Jace!?”
Pariel and Riezel seem to have arrived. But in the time it takes to resolve the misunderstanding, Mahiro has long vanished into the depths of the city. There’s not a clue left as to his whereabouts.
Late evening on that day.
《This is Kaze 1. Nothin’》
《Likewise, Number 2 here. I’m bored…*yawn*》
“…Hey, you guys, are you doing your job?”
《There’s nothing to do, so it can’t be helped》
《Having said that, what about your side?》
《See, what did I just say?》
“No, what about the prince escaping to the castle town this morning?”
《That stupid prince again…?》
《Cut it out with that stupid prince…》
《Man, all he’s good for is kicking up shit with his foolish antics.》
《We ain’t his nannies, you know…》
《If it was at least a princess at an appropriate age…》
《Yeah, you’re right! I feel totally unmotivated watching that stupid brat…》
“…No, I mean, same here too, but…it’s still a job, isn’t it? Do your work.”
《This is Special Number 6》
“Oh? It’s you, huh? Been a while.”
《Yo, Special Number. Did something interesting happen?》
《Or is there something you want to ask?》
《It’s the latter. It looks like the prince hasn’t returned since morning. Do you have any information?》
《…No, apart from the fact that he was apparently headed to the western district of the castle town, I haven’t gotten hold of any other information.》
《Which reminds me, today the lot of the chamberlain unit had awfully bloodshot eyes…》
“Special Number…I don’t really want to believe it, but is that the reason why the Braves were prowling around?”
《Yeah. It seems to be related to the Holy Devil Cup》
A sharp intake of breath.
《We will stay in contact just in case. As soon as there’s a change, I will message you again》
《Number 1, roger》
《Number 2, roger》
“…You really are amazing, Special Number. Where are you hiding? Inside the castle?”
《Sorry, but I won’t let that become one of Kaze’s whispers.》
“…Ah, true. So that’s how it is. Sorry for asking you something weird.”
《Don’t worry. End of transmission》
Now then, did the prince really disappear? I hear the maids and Braves searched for him quite a bit throughout the day, but it seems there weren’t many eyewitness testimonies so early in the morning. And since it would make the people, not to mention the other nations, uneasy if the search continued through the night, it’s been suspended till tomorrow morning. However…
Just as he hid the communication device in his hair again, a small applause could be heard in the prime minister’s office.
“Well, as expected of you. It’s fine like this. That’s how it has to be.” (Mahiro)
“…Prince…? Did you return?” (Kaien)
“Just now. There’s something I need.” (Mahiro)
As he walked out from behind the curtain, Kaien noticed that his attire had changed. With baggy trousers, a worn-out jacket and a cap, he looked like a very common boy. It wouldn’t feel out of place at all if he was selling newspapers.
“Need…? Do you still intend to stay hidden?” (Kaien)
“Of course. I didn’t hear father mention a time limit. Nonchalantly returning and then being caught right there…that would be a bad joke.” (Mahiro)
Thinking about it normally, not knowing the whereabouts of a country’s prince; that is truly the bad joke. No, but…to not consider that at all is typical of him, isn’t it?
“I’m going to go hide in a place where I could never be found. If someone manages to catch me against all odds, I’ll resign myself to whatever since I’ll be out of options anyway…I’m in the process of persuading myself like this. ” (Mahiro)
“…Did you come to me just to say that?” (Kaien)
“Yeah, something like that. I mean, not giving any hints in this situation would make it boring after all.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro held out a letter. Kaien takes it and turns it over, noting that it’s been sealed with a snake coiled around a sword, Mismarca’s royal crest.
“If there are any tenacious Braves…well, that in itself would be a big deal. There would be no disadvantage in getting along with them.” (Mahiro)
Kaien raised his eyebrows.
“You really meant it when you said that you didn’t need any Braves?” (Kaien)
“The situation being what it is, I don’t really want to have too many outsiders meddling in our affairs. It will probably be fine as long as I can use Edelweiss and…Pariel.” (Mahiro)
If the rumors are true, Edelweiss is a top-ranking assassin who used to lead the Empire’s special chamberlain unit. Naturally she knows how to deal with people in that business. And Pariel wasn’t assigned as his sole guard for nothing. If we only consider those in the Strife Zone, there are probably only five people that could match her. Granted, she was utterly defeated by Reiner the other day, but that man belongs to the top five in the continent, rivaling Riezel.
“However, in the first place, I just really don’t like those Braves. They are justifying violence with the words “Light” and “Righteousness.” Just a group who have allowed their brains to stop at some point.”
Kaien cannot hold back his laughter.
“As expected, that’s some scathing judgment, Prince. It seems that I can at least look forward to an enjoyable conclusion, though.” (Kaien)
“Well, that’s down to your judgement. Though it might end unexpectedly quickly. Anyway, I’m off.” (Mahiro)
Mahiro vanishes behind the curtain. He opened the window normally this time, moved onto the ledge, and then closed the window properly. Soundlessly. And then headed off somewhere.
The next morning the prime minister handed over the sealed letter to all concerned Braves who had gathered in the hall.
“…Braves are yakuza wannabes feasting on other people’s misfortune. You, their elites, are nothing but brutes, who rationalize everything you do with the word Justice.” (Riezel)
Pariel listened with Edelweiss and Kaien as Riezel read out the letter.
“Consequently I have not the slightest intention to yield the Holy Devil Cup to the likes of you. From now on I shall hide in a place where I definitely won’t be caught. But you people have contributed a not inconsiderable sum to the various bars, inns, and other business facilities in our country after especially making your way to Mismarca. For that, I shall express my gratitude as representative of my country. Thus I decided to leave you some hints in this letter. If you think that you can catch me, then be my guest, you stupid idiots. …that’s awful. That’s what that guy thinks of us?” (Riezel)
Having finished reading, Riezel scratches his head and looks down at his feet. His reaction is exactly why he’s famous for being gentle, as the other Braves and their attendants are boiling with rage after being ridiculed in this way.
“Humph, what’s with the definitely, you good-for-nothing. Now that it has come to this, we will definitely catch you and have you beg for mercy!”
Shina urges Riezel to continue.
“So, Riezel, the hints he mentioned…” (Shina)
“Okay, please wait a moment…tell the fools who believe in violence, words are what’s known as truth of man’s world…” (Riezel)
“…Just that?” (Shina)
“Yeah, there’s nothing else…” (Riezel)
Grabbing the letter, Shina glares at it from every angle, even going as far as reading it backwards, but in the end it seems that’s really all. The other Braves take over and scrutinize each letter, trying to read them in different ways or find deeper meanings.
Naturally, complaints began to escape from Pariel’s mouth.
“Geez, Lord Kaien, couldn’t you have called for me when he came to pass that letter to you…?” (Pariel)
“I wanted to do that, but it was out of my control seeing as the window of my room was destroyed. Given that, the prince probably came to my place in order to safely pass the letter on. Had it been at Lady Edelweiss’ office, the conclusion would have been clear as day.” (Kaien)
“It’s an honor to receive such praise from you, Prime Minister Kaien.” (Edelweiss)
It is no praise, Lady Edelweiss.
“However, it bothers me. A place where he definitely won’t be caught…a place that he could believe is so safe, the options must be fairly limited. Prime Minister Kaien, do you have an idea where such a place might be?”
“Well, I wonder about that. At first I wondered whether it might be the aforementioned pathway, but…” (Kaien)
He’s probably talking out the hidden pathways that the prince used during the battle against Princess Lunas and the imperial army. Mahiro said something about there being countless networks throughout the city. Certainly, he wouldn’t be found easily in one of those, but…
Pariel suddenly took notice of two people who were close-by. Jace, who was riled up by Mahiro yesterday, and a sister who seems to be his companion. They are listening to the conversation but remain at a distance from the circle of Braves.
“Did thou grasp something?” (Amid)
“You realized? I ain’t no detective…however, if it’s about people knowing, can’t you narrow down the candidates quite a bit?” (Jace)
“…? What do you mean?” (Amid)
“There ain’t so many places where someone definitely won’t be caught. If it’s such a safe place, the available options are limited instead. Or am I wrong?” (Jace)
“…Ooh, that sure makes sense. Aren’t you on the ball here, my Brave? So~~, what’s the solution to the riddle?” (Amid)
“I told you that we have to hear that from someone who knows, didn’t I? I have no clue.” (Jace)
It looks like the other Braves have also thought things through to this point. However, only Jace, who was closest to catching Mahiro yesterday, possessed yet another hint.
Pariel listens carefully to the quiet murmuring that’s nearly drowned out by the noise of other people.
“…I can’t afford to be caught yet…huh?” (Jace)
“My Brave, did the prince say that?” (Amid)
“Just before he managed to escape.” (Jace)
That’s certainly strange, Pariel thought. That means…it will be fine if he’s caught after a certain time passes? The Brave Selection isn’t enough of a reason to slip out of the castle. His true objective is something else…
“Also…what was it? ‘Words are what’s known as truth of man’s world’? I believe that to be fishy, too, but what do thee think?” (Amid)
“Why do you insist on asking me? You have learned things as well, right?” (Jace)
“Oh my, you have realized? If you become a super sister of my level, intelligence simply exudes from my very being…” (Amid)
“You a moron?” (Jace)
The sister became sullen and shrugged her shoulders.
“Yeah, yeah, I never left the monastery anyway.” (Amid)
“That’s a lot better than me.” (Jace)
“You are so not lovable. But, if you take his words literally, it means…a place where you can only enter with words, not with brute force, right? I heard that there are doors that open by voice among the remaining ruins of the ancient civilization.” (Amid)
“Voice recognition…? Is there such high-tech ruin nearby?” (Jace)
“No idea. Or rather, though, where did thee learn such difficult words such as veuss rekonishion? Yeah…I wonder, is that Highness not a mere idiot?”
“Indeed. That man’s no simple fool.” (Jace)
Amid stares in puzzlement and then smiles happily.
“Hee, for thou to praise another person. How nice.” (Amid)
“It ain’t no praise. That ain’t a problem of idiocy or superiority. His brain’s just fucked up.” (Jace)
At that moment, the sentinels rushed into the hall.
“Prime Minister! Prime Minister Kaien…!”
Spotting him in the crowd, they ran up to him and whispered in his ear.
“…There’s no mistake?” (Kaien)
“Ha, because it was several minutes before sunrise, I’m told that they couldn’t positively identify the person, but…however, it would be wise to account for the worst case scenario. Of course, if the prince is inside the castle, there’s no…”
“Understood. You are prohibited to disclose this to anyone. Withdraw.” (Kaien)
“Yes, Your Excellency!”
The prime minister brooded over this for some time and then…
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to wait here for a little moment. Lady Edelweiss, Pariel.” (Kaien)
Beckoning them over, he leaves the room with the two of them. People with sharp ears or good perception can roughly guess what kind of discussion they are going to have.
“Well, well, I wonder what happened.” (Amid)
“Why are you looking so happy?” (Jace)
“Other people’s misfortune are the Brave’s feast, he said. My Brave, you’re still an E-rank because you’re innocent of such things, haha♪” (Amid)
With barely a moment to spare before the meeting begins, Kaien told the king about the report he just received. A hunter, who was returning to Mismarca just before dawn, reported that he had seen what seemed to be the prince leave with someone. Exchanging two or three words in passing, he was informed that they were heading to Lazurka since it was good for business as peddlers.
The military power directly opposing the imperial army’s encampment; that’s Lazurka.
“…What do you think, Kaien?”
“I believe the probability of it being true to be exceedingly high.” (Kaien)
Kaien was also one of the people beside Mahiro a month ago. He recalls Mahiro’s daunting appearance as he held his own against Lunas without violence, and without a single casualty.
“The other day the prince had the resolve to sacrifice the castle, the castle town and everything else for the sake of preventing victims amongst the population. No, actually he considered himself an acceptable sacrifice….” (Kaien)
“He currently holds the position of the son of the alliance’s leader. He might intend to brandish that authority. In order for this war to come to an end.” (Edelweiss)
Kaien silently agrees with Edelweiss’ statement. After listening to the words of his two close aides, the king sighed heavily while casting down his eyes.
“…He might be drunk.”
“Yes, Pariel. Or maybe you guys are as well. A miracle that shouldn’t have happened, happened against impossible odds. That will obviously remain in everyone’s hearts for a while. And it might cause others to have the unrealistic expectation that more miracles will occur. Worse still, he might have misunderstood and begun to think that he, single handedly, brought it about. ”
The look in the king’s eyes was awfully harsh.
However, it might certainly be as he said. If you were to ask whether anything and everything really went according to Mahiro’s calculations…you would be hard-pressed to take luck out of the equation. In that case, luck might have been the main reason for the miracle.
Yes, a miracle. Putting aside a small amount of luck, it doesn’t change the fact that it was a disastrous situation, which makes it valid to say that he caused a miracle.
“However, that’s all the more true since it was his first battle. He might simply be arrogant and overestimating his ability after winning against the Imperial Princess Lunas.”
If that’s the case, it’s a story that happens often enough. One’s thinking becomes overly optimistic and one ends up underestimating the enemy because everything went smoothly in the beginning. Then, only one outcome awaits you in the next battle.
An utter defeat.
“…I’m very sorry, Your Majesty. It was my mistake to not have restrained him last night.” (Kaien)
“No, you haven’t done anything wrong. The one who allowed that person to choose the selection method and approved it is me.”
Now that I think of it, this king is a person who doesn’t show many emotions to his son. He seems to only be focused on the future.
“Kaien, which countries should be regarded with apprehension?”
“First is Zemun, I think. Then, the Republic. As usual, those countries haven’t made their attitudes clear. Pelgurun has also deep-running ambitions…however, if the information about him heading to Lazurka is correct, none other than Lazurka should be regarded as the most dangerous. That country continues to be in an unstable state due to the disputes in the royal family. It’s very likely that the prince’s presence could become some kind of explosive trigger.” (Kaien)
“Such a…is that so after all…?” (Pariel)
No one denied Pariel’s question. Putting the Empire aside, there are so many enemies even within the alliance.
“…Your Majesty, we should mobilize the army for caution’s sake.” (Kaien)
The king shook his head at the prime minister’s proposal.
Even Kaien was surprised by this.
“I don’t know what that person intends to do, but in that case we will make full use of him. You and Edelweiss are to tell the Braves the plain truth, and have them depart from this country. Got it?”
“Yes, Your Majesty…it shall happen as you wish.”
“Understood, Your Majesty.”
Pariel takes one step forward.
“Your Majesty, please allow me to head out as well then! Give me permission to depart!” (Pariel)
“…Can I have you do that? My son is causing trouble again. I’m sorry.”
“…No, I shall do so as his guard, and in the name of the Royal Guard Unit! I will definitely bring back the prince!” (Pariel)