ZAP – Chapter 54: Eugene has an audience

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“…Eugy, it has been a while.” 

The one who spoke to me was a lady in high class knight appearance, wearing a pure white armor that has a golden lion engraved on it. 

It was a familiar face, but I had a hard time recognizing her. 

(Airi…has become beautiful.) (Eugene)

The one in my memories is Airi in her military school uniform. 

It has been 2 years since then. 

She looks more mature now. 

My childhood friend right now is one of the strongest forces in the Empire, a Heaven Knight, and also a general. 

Her standing has completely changed compared to mine who is taking it easy outside the country as a student. 

Oops, I sunk in my thoughts for a moment there. 

I am being spoken to. 

“It has been a while, Imperial Princess Airi.” (Eugene)

I placed a hand on my chest and lowered my head. 

My Pops is a noble of the Empire, but I am a commoner. 

As such, this should be the correct response towards the Oracle Airi. 

If you are from the military, you would need to kneel here, right? 

“Eh?” (Airi)

What came in response was a confused voice.

“U-Uhm, Eugy, you can talk normally—” (Airi)

“Airi, what are you doing there?” 

Just when Airi was about to say something, someone spoke to her. 

When I glanced that way, there was a tall blonde and blue eyed man that looked like the very picture of a noble. 

“Berthold. I told you before. This is the top of the military school, Eugene.” (Airi)

“…Aah, the pathetic man that ran to a foreign country after falling behind in the Selection Exam.” (Berthold)

Thorny words were returned from the man by the side of Airi.

I have heard the name Berthold before. 

If I remember correctly, he is a young talented general that rose from being a low class noble and has distinguished himself. 

And he should currently be…the boyfriend of Airi.

Looks like the rumors were true. 

They look really good together side by side.

“Wait, that way of putting it is…” (Airi)

“We must not make His Imperial Majesty wait. It is an important period after all.” (Berthold)

“I know. But let me have a short talk with Eugy—” (Airi)

“No time for that!!” (Berthold)

While I was listening to the dispute of the two…

“Oi, Eugene~, what are you doing at a place like that?” 

My name was called by a loose and familiar voice. 

The reason why his voice is a bit more raspy than usual is probably because he drank too much yesterday. 

““Imperial Sword-sama!!””

Airi and the knight by her side hurriedly fixed their posture. 

“Oh, you were with Airi-chan and Ber-kun? Did I intrude?” 

Pops doesn’t suit the imperial palace. He was dressing casually as usual with a katana hanging at his waist.

“No, not at all! Hey, Airi, let’s hurry to His Imperial Majesty.” (Berthold)

“O-Okay…” (Airi)

The general called Berthold left to the audience room where His Imperial Majesty is together with Airi.

Airi was looking back over and over, seemingly wanting to say something, but didn’t say anything in the end.

“Why are you in a place like this, Eugene? Did you forget the letter of introduction?” 

“I showed them, but they told me they can’t read it.” (Eugene)

“Hm? Couldn’t read it?” 

“No, I can read it though.” (Eugene)

I give the envelope to Pops. 

The receptionist knight had a pale face and ran here most likely after hearing the conversation.

“My deepest apologies, Imperial Sword-sama!” 

“Aah, it is fine, it is fine. Sorry my writing is so bad.” 

Pops pats the shoulder of the completely pale knight and heads to the audience room frivolously. 

After walking a few steps, he turned back.

“Oi, Eugene, come already.” 

“Me too?” (Eugene)

“Obviously. I promised you would meet His Imperial Majesty by noon.” 

“…I didn’t hear about that one and it is already 10 minutes late.” (Eugene)

“Yeah, we are late, so let’s hurry.” 

Whose fault do you think it is that I am late?!! -I swallow those words right before they come out from my mouth. 

I followed after Pops and crossed the giant door of the audience room. 

◇◇

—In the presence of His Imperial Majesty. 

Actually, I haven’t exchanged words with His Imperial Majesty directly. 

At the time when he was the crown prince, Pops was together with him 24/7, so I met him often. 

He apparently faced many assassination attempts when he was a crown prince. 

He would often come to our house, eat food, drink alcohol, and lounged about. 

He got along well with Pops, so I remember him being an easygoing person. 

I remember watching this somewhat baffled together with Airi. 

I have only heard about him from Airi and Pops once he became an Emperor. 

Pops said ‘he has become serious’ and lamented it, while Airi complained ‘Father has suddenly become strict!’.

I listened to that while going ‘I see’.

They were all things I didn’t see with my own eyes.

After you graduate from military school, there’s a direct greeting from the Emperor when you are enlisted. 

If you go up the ranks, there should be opportunities to have talks with him at least -is what I thought at that time. 

And so, finally, today…

I am finally facing His Imperial Majesty…

“It has been a while, Eugene.” 

The voice of His Imperial Majesty sounded colder than the one in my memories.

“It has been a while, Your Imperial Majesty.” (Eugene)

I kneeled and greeted him.

The glance I got of his countenance gave me the feeling that he should be around the age of my Pops, but he is a healthy blonde hair man that looks far younger than him. 

The way he looks down here with a serious face has the magnificence of an Emperor. 

The one at the right of the Emperor is my Pops -the Imperial Sword. He is yawning as if sleepy. 

And then, at his right, there’s the Prime Minister—or at least that’s how it should be, but the Prime Minister Leopold I am well acquainted with is not there. 

The one in his stead is a beautiful lady of unknown age…most likely younger than the Emperor. 

Did Prime Minister Leopold retire? 

If I remember correctly, he was already over 70 years old. 

It wouldn’t be strange for him to have retired. 

The old man that pampered me and Airi like his own grandchildren. 

I wanted to greet him after such a long time though…

At any rate, is that the new Prime Minister? 

She is without doubt standing in the position of the Prime Minister.

The only ones who can stand on the same height as the throne of the Emperor are: the Imperial Sword and the Prime Minister. 

That’s why she must be it. 

(Isn’t she way too young no matter how you put it…?) (Eugene)

The Emperor continued on while my thoughts were wandering. 

“Eugene, you have raised exemplary achievements with your victory against the Divine Beast Cerberus and the Demon Lord Erinyes. Splendidly done.” 

The voice of the Emperor rang well in the vast audience room. 

“I am deeply honored by your words. Thank you very much.” (Eugene)

I gave a safe answer for now.

“When you overcome the 100th Floor of the Last Dungeon, the Zenith Tower Babel, there’s a law in the Empire that dictates you are qualified to have rights equal to those of a Golden Knight Captain. If you so wish, I can provide you  that position, Eugene. How about it?” 

“That’s…” (Eugene)

I remembered the words of Mazio. 

The grateful words of the Emperor. 

But I must not accept them at face-value… While I was choosing my words…

“Apologies for overstepping here, but I have advice for Your Imperial Majesty!” 

Before I could answer, the knight that was together with Airi, Berthold, interjected. No, he is a general, huh. 

“In the battle against the Demon Lord of before, he had the help of the otherworlder Ifrit and the top Holy Maiden candidate of the Holy Nation of Caldia. I would say his victory would have been far from possible without them. Wouldn’t it be overly hasty to acknowledge him as a Golden Knight Captain?!” (Berthold)

A clear objection. 

Is it alright to give advice so brazenly against the words of the Emperor? 

I was thinking that and the face of the Emperor changed into a slightly displeased one. 

“I didn’t ask for your opinion. Stand back.” 

“…My apologies.” (Berthold)

General Berthold lowered his head and closed his mouth. 

“Now then, Eugene, how about it?” 

“……” 

Oi oi, it has gotten more difficult to refuse. 

What should I say? -as this happened…a lax voice rang in the silent hall. 

“Oi, Eugene, you haven’t forgotten the family precept of the Santafield house, right?” 

What are you saying in this situation, Pops?! -I held back from shouting that and remembered the words I wouldn’t forget. 

—Keep your promises.

The words I have been continuously told by Pops since I was a child. 

There’s no worthy victory for a swordsman that can’t keep their promise. 

That’s our family precept and the iron rule. 

—Sumire…let’s aim for Floor 500 together.

There’s a promise I haven’t fulfilled. 

That’s why what I should be telling the Emperor here is…

“My apologies. There’s something I still need to do at the Magic Academy. I can’t return to the Empire until then. I can’t become a Golden Knight.” 

I refused the proposal of the Emperor.

The hall grew noisy. 

However, I won’t take back what I said. 

“Insolent!” 

“Throwing away the charity of His Imperial Majesty?!” 

“A mere peasant!” 

Yeah, they are going all out here. 

Looks like Pops is not going to throw me a lifeboat. 

“Now, now, isn’t it fine? Right, Your Imperial Majesty? You would cheer for the challenge of the young swordsman with a forbearing heart, right?” 

This is when the lady on the left of the Emperor spoke for the first time. 

The ruckus stopped clean. 

“Obviously.” 

The Emperor said slightly sulky and stood up. 

Have I hurt his feelings? 

He disappeared deeper into the hall. 

The Prime Minister lady disappeared too as if chasing after him.

As for Pops…he is yawning. 

Come on…

Oh well. 

He is the same as usual. 

There was apparently going to be a military council afterwards, so I was chased away as a civilian. 

I bowed towards the high class people in the hall and left. 

“…Eugy.” 

I heard that voice suddenly. 

I looked back at the direction of the voice, but there were so many people, I couldn’t see Airi. 

◇◇

I have returned to the corridor of the Einherjar Palace.

“Audiences with His Imperial Majesty are closed for today! Come tomorrow!” 

That voice rang. 

Looks like the audience time for today is over. 

(…Is that my fault?) (Eugene)

If that’s the case, I feel really bad. 

I apologized to them internally. 

However, my personal matter is over. There’s no point staying in the palace any more. 

Just when I began walking to the exit to go back. 

“Eugene-dono, please wait!” 

I was called to a stop.

When I turned back, there was a knight at his prime in golden armor. 

(A golden knight…under the direct jurisdiction of the Emperor?) (Eugene)

I don’t remember seeing the face of this man before. 

“…What may it be?” (Eugene)

I answer slightly wary. 

That said, we are currently inside the Einherjar Palace. 

Even if he is unfamiliar, it is impossible for him to be a suspicious individual. 

Moreover, the crest at the chestplate has two wings. 

In other words, he is higher than a  lieutenant. 

“Prime Minister Catherine has something to speak with you about, Eugene-dono!” 

“…Prime Minister-sama, with me?” (Eugene)

I am not acquainted with her. 

I left the Empire 2 years ago. 

The new Prime Minister must have taken post after that. 

In that case, she should not know me.

“If you have previous arrangements, she said you can come at a later time. How about it?!” 

“…I do have time. I can go now.” (Eugene)

Looks like I can’t just make an excuse to escape this one. 

I followed after the Golden Knight and was guided to the big door by the side of the door leading to the audience room of the Emperor. 

I know this place.

It was the room of the former Prime Minister Leopold after all. 

I used this place often to play with Airi.

…*Knock Knock*

The Golden Knight knocked on the door. 

“Please enter.” 

The slightly high voice of a woman rang from inside.

“Go ahead, Eugene-dono.” 

Looks like this is as far as he will be guiding me. 

“…Excuse the intrusion.” (Eugene)

I step into the room of the Prime Minister I came to often in my childhood while slightly nervous.

■Comment Response: 

There were a lot of comments regarding Airi.

This time it was just seeing each other. 

There should be more interactions with Eugene in the future…most likely. 

■Author’s Comment: 

Happy New Year. 

I look forward to your continued support in Zero Attack Power and Zero Believer Goddess this year as well. 

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