—The place that the poet guided them to was an old and solemn learning institution.
The mercenaries weren’t explained anything as they followed the welcoming maid.
What was there was a temple of mainly blue, and a single woman was waiting.
The poet bows, and his frivolous mouth said: it has been a while, your Majesty.
……Oi oi, Sharon Doche-kun, I only thought of you as a lecher and an idiot who is too nice of a guy for his own good, you know. I did assume that you were from a high class origin, but…!
“…Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” (Riel)
Our bow princess tucks my clothes as she throws me that question. Of course she would. In her eyes, Sharon is in a specially terrible spot within her view of inferior humans. It is not in the level of insect anymore, she most likely sees him as a cockroach.
And that sexual harassing idiot is…acquainted with the Queen?
Sharon Doche directs a smile at the queen in front of us who are dumbfounded.
The Queen smiles back, and then, she held the hand of that poet who only plays the lute all the time.
“…Aah, Sharon, you really came.”
“…..Yeah, it took time though. Here’s food and medicine. It might only serve to survive temporarily, but…it is a whole lot better than not having anything.” (Sharon)
“No, it is a great help. The blockade of the commercial route was tough. It will still take more time before the Taros Grains can be harvested in our dry land… Thank you.”
“I am glad to see that it was worth coming.” (Sharon)
“…And so, the people at your back, could they be…?”
“Right, let me introduce them. The red haired swordsman over there is Solje Strauss… He served King Verius and is the last dragon knight in the world.” (Sharon)
“…Y-Yeah, I am Solje Strauss, your Majesty.” (Solje)
It has been such a good while that I met an important person -this sudden on top of that- so my etiquette is lacking. Even so, I lowered one knee and greeted this country’s queen. As a knight of Garuna, I can’t show an unsightly behaviour…
“Please raise your head, Strauss-dono.”
Being told that, I raise my head.
She approached me, and held my hand that is ridden with wounds from battles and training.
“U-Uhm, your Majesty?” (Solje)
“Welcome, descendant of the heroes of Garuna. It is an honor to meet you people… Ah, I am late in my introduction. My name is Claris Erz Ludo. The queen of this country.” (Claris)
After saying that, the still young woman smiled at me. Aah, I feel charm rather than majesty from her. I do think she is a good person…but…..
“Now then…standing here talking wouldn’t do good. Come, right this way! It may not be much, but we have prepared dinner. Please attend without any restraint.” (Claris)
With a queen telling us that, there’s no way that I as a former knight would be able to refuse. Well, we are hungry, so we decided on agreeing to her invitation.
Gandalla was looking at me. Umu, even if you don’t tell me, I know. We are about to be caught in a trap. Because of Sharon, there’s the chance that we will be hired as mercenaries in this country that is closing in on being checkmated…
I glared at Sharon. But he ran away from my gaze and followed after the Queen…
Sharon, I don’t know what’s your relationship with the queen, but I am not such a fool as to put my comrades in despairing danger.
“Captain Solje, Sharon Doche must be serious.” (Riel)
“Yeah, in other words, he must have prepared a card that will pull you into this war. I won’t go as far as telling you to go against your philosophy, but be careful.” (Riel)
Riel is not a friend of Sharon, unlike me. That’s why she can make a calm analysis towards Sharon. That’s right, Sharon is a pervert and an idiot, but it is not as if he doesn’t have a brain. I don’t think he has come without a plan against me…
For a dinner that was arranged by the Queen, it was quite the simple one. But for just mercenaries, this was a splendid meal. Sadly, there’s not that much, but the taste is as good as expected. The whine that the people of the temple apparently made was also quite good.
Well, she is a Queen I can’t bring myself to hate. In this time when the country is having a crisis in food, if she were to throw an overly luxurious feast to mere mercenaries… I would hate a selfish ruler like that. In that point, her Majesty Claris was having a poor meal herself. There’s no way I could hate her.
Now then, the meagre feast finished without any issues.
…Isn’t it about time you tell us? Sharon-kun, who is sitting by the side of her Majesty.
Maybe he gave up after being glared at. He cleaned his mouth with a napkin, and then stands up. That’s right, good judgment. It is better to not anger me too much, my friend.
“…Now then, let’s enter the main topic. Your Majesty, I am thinking about telling them the current situation. It would be easier for them to ask questions that way after all.” (Sharon)
“Your Majesty, by doing that, it would also help us out.” (Solje)
I said that to her Majesty. That’s right, between him and I, there’s no need for her to say anything.
“We may have respect and gratitude towards you, Your Majesty, and we have no bad feelings at all. But there’s a number of things I want that man to explain.” (Solje)
“…I see, understood. Sharon, please.” (Claris)
“Okay. Now…first, I apologize for what seems to be a deceit.” (Sharon)
“…Wasn’t our job…‘a simple job of bringing food and medicine’?” (Solje)
“As of present, yeah. This request was one I received from her Majesty. She understands as well that there’s no assurance that you guys will lend your strength in this dire situation of the Ludo Kingdom.” (Sharon)
“…As I thought, shouldn’t we be the ones explaining?” (Claris)
“It is okay, Claris. I can communicate with Solje better.” (Sharon)
…Claris, huh. Calling her Majesty-sama without any honorifics? What kind of relationship do they have? Oh well.
“…That’s right. This may come off as rude in front of her Majesty, but…honestly speaking, the Ludo Kingdom is at a disadvantage -to put it generously. We looked at the state of the fields and the city, but…they are way too exhausted. The blockade of the Empire is clearly taking effect.” (Solje)
“…Yes, it was my misjudgment. I have exhausted my country too much. The morale of the soldiers has lowered, too… If we were going to be pushing for a decisive battle, we should have done so faster.” (Claris)
“But your Majesty wasn’t wrong either. You understand right, Solje?” (Sharon)
“Yeah, I do. If it had turned into a war, with the Ludo Kingdom’s army alone, you wouldn’t have been able to even maintain the front. It would have been the same, with or without the exhaustion. You most likely didn’t want to bring out casualties… It may have only been for a few months, but you did manage to extend the lifespan of your country.” (Solje)
“…Yeah, that’s right. It ended up in the exact situation I thought. In the first place, I didn’t have a card that could overturn this situation. We could only withdraw into our shells.” (Claris)
It doesn’t mean she is incompetent. The core problem is the difference in military power. The Empire is a major power that possesses overwhelming military and economic power. Whether it is the Ludo Kingdom or wherever, they wouldn’t be able to go against them so easily.
What’s between the countries is not a righteous ideology, but a cruel strong eat the weak. Against the Empire that holds the hegemony of the world, every country has no choice but be pushed to checkmate.
Realistically, if it is to increase the duration of the Ludo Kingdom, the only thing that comes to mind would be a political marriage. By having a relative of the royalty marry a powerful noble’s son, you might be able to avoid the invasion of the Ludo Kingdom.
With the empire child that will one day be born from that couple, if they make him into the next king of the Ludo Kingdom, they would be able to turn it into a vassal state of the Empire without battling after all.
…They probably planned that already, but…looks like it didn’t come to fruition…
“And so, Sharon, what are you looking for in me? …There’s a few things I can do. For example; if it is hiding her Majesty somewhere, I don’t mind accepting.” (Solje)
“…I have no intentions of abandoning this country.” (Claris)
I can feel an unwavering will. Looks like her Majesty understands the weight of those words. Sharon smiled sadly at her.
…I see, it looks like her Majesty is prepared. Even the fact that she might be executed by the Empire.
Hey, Sharon, since you seem to understand her personality, you must have known that this is how she would answer, right? What is it you want me to do?
He directs his gaze at me. His expression a rare serious one.
“Solje, what I wish from you is your participation.” (Sharon)
“…Fumu, figures. My true value can only be shown in the fields of battle after all.” (Solje)
“……Oi, Solje Strauss.” (Riel)
Riel seemed like she wanted to say something for a while now, but it looks like she couldn’t hold it in any longer. She stands up, but she was stopped by my adjutant.
“Stop it, Riel Harveld. The one who decides which war the Banjar Mercenaries participate in is the captain. Him and him alone. That’s our iron rule.” (Gandalla)
“…Right. Sorry…” (Riel)
Rule; a word that Riel is the weakest against. She is a straightlaced one after all. Gandalla knows this well.
But that’s a great help. Riel hates the Empire to death. She has killed a lot, but…her desire to not sacrifice her comrades is stronger.
Of course, that goes for me, too.
“…Now then, Sharon, you say you wish for my participation. What’s the pay? There’s no way you are thinking I am going to be participating in such a disadvantageous war together with my comrades. In other words, you must have a sure-hit card that can pull me into it, right?” (Solje)
I am practically taking Riel’s words letter for letter. But that’s how it is, right? You are a weirdo, but not retarded. What kind of bait have you prepared?
“Yeah, of course I do. A card that you will bite…” (Sharon)
“…Go ahead and say it. What kind of sweet info have you been hiding?” (Solje)
“…I am sorry. I actually learned about this 2 weeks ago. That’s why I was thinking about telling you… Because if I were to tell you, even if we don’t get the approval of everyone in Banjar, I would at least manage to pull you in.” (Sharon)
“…Hoh, that’s interesting.” (Solje)
That good of a bait, huh. There’s a few in my mind, but who is it?
“I don’t want Claris to die. That’s why I was puzzled over whether to pull you in… If you are there, we could kidnap her out if the war turned to the worse.” (Sharon)
“…Sharon, you were thinking something like that…” (Claris)
“Sorry. I don’t want you to die. Even if that’s the way of a respectable Queen… I don’t want to create a song for your dead self.” (Sharon)
The two fell silent.
That’s fine and dandy, but Sharon, about my bait. You know me well, so this bait that you say I will definitely bite…just what is it?
I don’t wanna interrupt this nice mood you got there, but my left eye is itching here.
“…And so, what is my bait? Answer, Sharon.” (Solje)
“……The reason why I couldn’t speak of it immediately was because I didn’t want to involve you in such a disadvantageous war.” (Sharon)
“Which is it? Do you want me to get involved or not?” (Solje)
“Both. I don’t want Claris or you to die after all.” (Sharon)
“I see. And?” (Solje)
“I, at first, was thinking about going to Claris’s place alone. I thought that that would be the reasonable decision. I at least thought it would be a valid option.” (Sharon)
“…But the situation seems to have changed, huh. I obtained Zephyr.” (Solje)
“Yeah, the best weapon. With those innocent wings, you won’t die. And you would also be able to do a number of miraculous things. That’s why I involved you in this instance.” (Sharon)
“It makes me happy that you were concerned about the health and life of someone like me, friend. And so, in the end, who is it? Out with it already.” (Solje)
“…One of the three swordsmen of the union, Gazet Klauri. I have caught his whereabouts.” (Sharon)
“!!! …I see!! I see… Good job, Sharon!!” (Solje)
I stand up. And then, after unsheathing my dragon longsword, I jumped onto the dining table. Sorry about that, your Majesty, but this man is at fault!! It is the fault of Sharon Doche who said that name!!
“Oi, Sharon!! Where the hell is that guy?! Spit it out! Spit out everything damn thing you know!!” (Solje)
I grabbed the collar of the man that I consider a friend, and threaten him with my dragon longsword.
Her Majesty appears by the side of my sword as if covering him.
“S-Strauss-dono!! P-Please stop the violence!!” (Claris)
“…Your Majesty…!” (Solje)
“…That’s right, Solje Strauss, you are a highly proud knight of Garuna, right? Don’t do something that will dirty it… That’s your friend there.” (Riel)
The elven girl admonished me.
Yeah…that’s right. Of course. This is a terrible thing to do as a person, huh.
I sheathe my dragon longsword and then jump off the table, sitting back in my seat.
“…I apologize. It is okay, I am calm now. I won’t go wild anymore.” (Solje)
“Fufufu, you could have gone wild for a bit.” (Sharon)
You wanted to be punished? I see, you felt guilty at the fact that you hid something important from your friend, huh. Then, that’s fine. With that outburst just now, we are even.
“…Shut up, don’t go saying things like a masochist.” (Solje)
“Right. Something like that wouldn’t be enough to make up for it.” (Sharon)
“Fine, no more of that. And so, my payment for being hired as a mercenary is the whereabouts of Gazet Klauri then.” (Solje)
“…Yeah, that’s right. Will you allow Claris and I to hire you with that?” (Sharon)
“……Yeah, of course. But this is will be my personal job. You are not hiring the Banjar Mercenaries, but me. No issues with that right, Gandalla?” (Solje)
“Personal matters are not tied to the rules. Everyone has their own target enemies after all.” (Gandalla)
As expected of my adjutant.
Okay. And so with this, even if I were to die, he will be the next captain.
Just you wait Gazet Klauri, the person who killed Cecil…my family!!
- Chapter 19
“Okay!! Then, I will also par-ti-ci-pa-te!!” (Mia)
My little sister was shouting. She has a wide smile on her face. Oi oi, were you even listening?
“Ooi, Mia, what are you saying? We were talking about how the Banjar Mercenaries don’t need to participate in this time’s job, you know?” (Solje)
“Yeah, I know. That’s why this is my personal matter!” (Mia)
“Don’t use those words for convenience.” (Solje)
“Cause if Onii-chan were to die…I would definitely want to go kill that guy that killed Onii-chan. Even if I were to die as a result, I would still try to carry out my revenge, you know?” (Mia)
Oh, right. Now that she mentions it, she does have yandere traits.
Mia ran towards me and hugged me like a pampered child.
“You know, if Solje Strauss dies, I will die too! …That’s why, if we go together from the beginning, it would be faster, right?” (Mia)
“…Eeh, as expected of my little sister.” (Solje)
“That’s right! Don’t go refusing, okay? I will follow you in secret otherwise. In that case, it would be a lot better to have me by your side from the very beginning, right?” (Mia)
I was underestimating the resolve of a warring time brat. That’s right, that’s how my little sister is.
“Okay, got it. Come with me. Together, we will kill the guy that killed my mother and little sister.” (Solje)
“Yeah!! It is revenge timeeeee!!” (Mia)
Mia jumps on my back. Aah, it reminds me of Cecil. She was also light. I can feel the heavy weight of a fickle life. But the warring time girl hasn’t lost her smile.
“Onii-chan, I request a fusion!” (Mia)
“Alright, sibling fusion!!” (Solje)
Mia climbs up to my shoulder and I piggyback her!
“Umu! The world looks wider!” (Mia)
“Fufu, the fusion is complete!!” (Solje)
The black cat Cait Sith raises a roar!!
“Uooooh! The enemies of us Strauss family will be slaughtered even at the cost of our lives!!” (Mia)
Maybe as if in agreement, we also heard the roar of Zephyr who is in standby far at the forest.
Nice… You really are a Strauss-like protegee.
…In life or death, we go together, huh.
Right, that’s something I couldn’t do for Cecil. I will do that for you, Mia. If that’s the kind of song you want to become!!
“Ah, if that kind of logic works for you, then I will also participate. Okay, it’s settled.” (Gandalla)
Gandalla raises his right hand and says this.
“Oi, don’t go saying something weird as well… If you die, who will become the third captain of the Banjar Mercenaries?” (Solje)
“As if I know. Honestly speaking, I have a debt with Solje Strauss. That’s why I am working as a mercenary. No point in refusing me. I will go together with you. I have no intentions of having you die without repaying you.” (Gandalla)
“…Eeh, you are an unexpectedly fiery man. Okay, come as well!! With you at our side, we are a hundred men stronger!!” (Solje)
“Well then, looking forward to working with you from now on, too.” (Gandalla)
Kukuku. That just means that, in the end, we are all cut from the same cloth.
Now then…with things like this, our gazes would naturally gather at the remaining one.
“…W-What are you looking intently at me for?” (Riel)
Of course, it is Riel Harveld-san.
“I was just wondering what you think, Riel.” (Solje)
“…W-What do you want me to do?” (Riel)
“Are you going to go together with me? Or are you going to go back?” (Solje)
“…I-I am thinking it!!” (Riel)
“I see, so you are not sure.” (Solje)
“Yeah, it kinda pisses me off.” (Solje)
“W-What’s with that?” (Riel)
“…Riel, come with me.” (Solje)
“Eh? W-Why am I the only one getting ordered?” (Riel)
“I want you to come. That’s all there is to it.” (Solje)
Ooh, wasn’t that cool just now? …Riel’s face is red.
Let’s go, show her your guts as a Strauss.
I approach Riel. Riel draws back, but she is cornered by the walls of the dining room.
“…W-Wait, Solje?” (Riel)
“Onii-chan, chance! A kabedon!!” (Mia)
Being controlled by the order of my little sister, I perform the ultimate technique that’s apparently popular with the girls in the capital. I place my hand right by the side of Riel’s head.
“W-What are you planning on doing?” (Riel)
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” (Mia)
Mia is going ‘kyahaha!’ as she cheers for us. Fumu, a kiss with the tsundere bow princess while my little sister is piggybacking me? That’s a first for me.
“Huuh?! Mia, wait a moment, what are you saying?!” (Riel)
“Isn’t that okay? We did it before, didn’t we? And you told everyone else.” (Solje)
“Y-You shouldn’t eavesdrop!!” (Riel)
“Muuh, kissing Onii-chan where I can’t see is a bigger no. That’s why you should redo your kiss where I can see!” (Mia)
Hm? My little sister is saying weird stuff.
“Hah? What’s with that logic? That’s a bit weird. Ah! Mia, you reek of alcohol!” (Riel)
“Nfuh. The apple juice ran out, but…everyone seemed to be having a serious conversation and~ it was difficult to ask the maid-san, so I took only one sip of wineeee!!” (Mia)
“Oi, this isn’t the time to be laughing, Solje Strauss! That goes against the law, right? A Cait Sith child drinking alcohol!” (Riel)
“…Who cares about the little details. Now then, let’s kiss.” (Solje)
“Why does it lead to that?! Are you siblings messed up in the head?!” (Riel)
“Isn’t it fine? We have done it twice already, so a third time is the same, right?” (Solje)
“That’s right. Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” (Mia)
“Aah, geez!! A-At the very least, not in a place with so many people!!” (Riel)
I see, prioritizing the mood. That’s how elf girls work, right.
“I get it. Then, let’s go to the bedroom.” (Solje)
“Since you treasure the mood, we will remake the mood there, and I will press onto you there again.” (Solje)
“Nice, Onii-chan, so cool!!” (Mia)
“D-Don’t be stupid! If you were to press onto me in a place like that, it obviously won’t end with just a kiss!!” (Riel)
Looking at the flustered Riel is so damn fun. Aah, it looks like the wine is also getting me. That’s right, this is also the scheme of Sharon. He got me drunk in order to make it easier to convince me, huh… As expected of my friend, you know me well…
“Hm? What am I going to do to you in a bedroom, Riel?” (Solje)
“As if I can say it!!” (Riel)
“Riel, women are all about the guts! Onii-chan gooo!!” (Mia)
“Yeah, here I gooo!!” (Solje)
“Uwaaa! Don’t grab my arm…!” (Riel)
“Hm? Do you really hate it that much here?” (Solje)
Nod nod. Riel nods several times with teary eyes.
“I see. Then, run away with all you have. There’s no way you cannot run away from a drunken me.” (Solje)
“N-No way…!” (Riel)
“Okay, game…start!” (Riel)
Mia jumps off my back while saying that. Oh, Mia is staggering. That’s dangerous. Ain’t she way too drunk? I support the body of my little sister.
At that instant, the elf jumps away! And runs off!
“Uo, crap!!” (Solje)
“Auuh. Sorry, Onii-chan. I messed up.” (Mia)
“Y-You damn sexual harassing siblings!! Don’t even try to get close to me till you sober up, okay?! I will pierce you with an arrow if you try!!” (Riel)
The elf girl runs away from the place while crying that out.
What speed. There’s no way I would be able to catch up while I am drunk. Let’s give up.
Also…Mia seems to not be feeling well. She is a child that’s still not in an age where it is okay to drink alcohol after all. Gotta nurse her up.
“Oi, Mia, might as well just puke it out. It will make you feel better.” (Solje)
“Y-Yeah… I will puke outside…” (Mia)
“Need me to tag along?” (Solje)
“I can’t show you myself puking…” (Mia)
“I see. Then, good luck!!” (Solje)
Mia says that while giving a thumbs up. Umu, looks like the Cortez style signs are working well today too.
Okay then, I will…hm?
My eyes met with her Majesty. She is laughing out loud?!
C-Crap, we ended up making a stupid ruckus with the alcohol as the fuel, but her Majesty was still here! Uooo, I have done it now!!
“I-I am so very sorry, your Majesty!! Such a thing to do as a dragon knight, to show such an unsightly sight!” (Solje)
“No no, don’t mind it. It was a soothing sight.” (Claris)
“I-I see… That’s a relief.” (Solje)
Looks like this lady has a nice personality. As expected of Sharon’s girl.
Ah, I see, this familiar feeling of magnanimity…reminds me of my mother.
“Solje Strauss-dono, the Banjar Mercenaries, and also Sharon, please lend me your strength.” (Claris)
“If there’s something we can do, we will. But we need to know more about the situation.” (Solje)
That’s right, we have to ask Sharon.
I look at him. Not with a glare. Right now I trust him. You are a friend, not an enemy. You simply used me a bit, right? If it is only that much, I can tolerate it.
My dear friend poet began to speak without his usual smile and a serious expression.
“…Solje, Gazet Klauri -your family’s enemy- is currently one of the captains of an empire’s assassin squadron.” (Sharon)
“Hoh, no wonder I couldn’t find him.” (Solje)
“I see. An assassin squad that was in hiding, huh. That’s the reason why it didn’t get caught in the information net.” (Gandalla)
Right, it would be worrying with just me alone. It really helps out a lot that he is here as the brakes.
“That’s right. Klauri is a formidable foe that was once called one of the three swordsmen of the now former union army. He has many achievements under his belt, but…he is also known for his cruelty.” (Sharon)
“I know that plenty well enough. With this magic eye, I saw how he lit my little sister on fire. He beat up the seven year old Cecil, even though she was scared and crying…! He burned her to death!!” (Solje)
Her Majesty was on the verge of being swallowed by my anger and showed fear. But it was only for an instant.
She is prepared for death, so she receives my anger coated in magic power with her kind heart.
“…You have been through a lot of pain, Solje Strauss-dono.” (Claris)
“……No, it is simply one of the many tragedies happening in the whole world.” (Solje)
“But there was one Cecil-sama in the world, right?” (Claris)
“Please let me pray for you and Cecil-sama.” (Claris)
“Thank you, your Majesty. Cecil might get scared at my prayers. We Strauss are a bit on the rough side, you see… But I am sure that if it is your prayer, it should be able to reach her in the stars.” (Solje)
…You have found a good woman, Sharon Doche. This Queen is a good person. I have seen my good share of annoying nobles, but…I feel like this one is a great person. She isn’t scared of a berserker like me, and instead is worrying for me.
A silent time of prayer passed…
Her Majesty, Sharon, and even the nonbeliever Gandalla is also praying -for the sake of Cecil. Also, the tsundere bow princess that has climbed on top of the roof is offering an elf passage to the silver stars.
Right, I will also pray.
A prayer that doesn’t bear any anger, hatred, or violence. That’s right, I even managed to suppress my vengeful feelings, and prayed for the happiness of Cecil. There’s not been many times I could do something like this.
…For the sake of the girl that has become a star, we pray to the Holy Tree.
For the time when life makes its cycle and returns once more to the world.
Let’s write her name in one of the leaves of the Holy Tree that will never wither.
The Tree will never forget, because it will always be connected to the earth.
—I won’t forget about it, about your smile.
About your name, about the song that you loved.
The Holy Tree records it.
For that time when the world does a cycle, and you once again sprout into the world.
…May you be able to meet the people that have prayed for you once more…