Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「Meeting with Nozan’s King」
Nozan’s capital city, Soalia
A cubical tower had been built near the inner wall as a sort of command post in case the city needed to fight a defensive battle. It was a practical brick building that lacked any elegance.
The narrow pathways, little sources of natural light due to the small windows, and the relatively cramped room empathized the building’s intended purpose.
A certain room in the building felt even more cramped the rest of them as the people gathered here sat across from each other.
Four people had taken a seat at a table, which wasn’t a polished masterpiece like those you’d find in a palace, but crude board that sat atop two unstable legs.
Two of the seats were occupied by King Asparuf of Nozan Kingdom and his daughter, Princess Lille.
At their backs stood Zahar and Nina, the knights who had been charged with protecting the princess, while the country’s ministers lined the wall.
On the other side of the table was the pointy-eared and lilac-skinned dark elf Ariane and a knight wearing silver full-body armor who fidgeted in the rickety chair beneath him…… in other words, myself.
Another person, a black-haired cat beastman dressed in black grabs, Chiome, stood behind us, holding Ponta to her chest.
Had it not been for Ponta, Chiome’s dark attire would’ve made her blend into the background of the dimly light room. If one were to let their guard down, they would’ve lost sight of her.
In the silent room, it was Princess Lille who opened her mouth first.
“Allow me to introduce ourselves once more. This is my father and the King of Nozan Kingdom……”
“Asparuf Nozan Soulia. You have my sincerest appreciation for helping us through our country’s plight at my daughter’s request. Elves and beastman.”
King Asparuf interrupted his daughter by bowing his head and offering a self-introduction as well as an apology.
The King’s subordinates let out an audible gasp when they saw his behavior, but silence overcame the room once more as they all held their breath.
Personally, I wasn’t all that surprised by this.
The Hiruku religion, in which elves and beastmen were objects of disdain, was widely practiced in this country. The King had just lowered his head to members of those races, so I expected someone to complain about it, but the statesmen remained completely silent.
Occasionally, their gaze would focus on Ariane or me, but their eyes would dart away whenever one of us caught them.
Ariane’s shoulders shook and a small smile appeared on her face as she watched their behavior.
A little while ago, the three of us ended Palermo’s monstrous rampage, so they were naturally cautious…… no, they were terrified of us.
Honestly, our handling of Palermo gave us a convenient advantage in negotiations, seeing how the contempt I expected wasn’t present.
……Haa, talks wouldn’t proceed if things were left as they were, so I took it upon myself to start our introductions.
“I am Arc Raratoia of Great Canada Forest. Beside me is……
“Similarly, I am Ariane Glenys Raratioa.”
Once I finished my introduction, Ariane gave her own brief introduction after I urged her with a look.
My eyes landed on Chiome and Ponta next, but while her cat ears slightly twitched atop her head, she remained silent and I had to introduce her.
“This is Chiome-dono.”
“…… and that’s Ponta.”
s self-asserting when I finished introducing Chiome, so I added her as well before l turned back to the King.
“So, let’s move straight to the main point……”
The tension in the room rose at my declaration.
The gunboat diplomacy was a bit extreme, but I might as well make the most of it.
“You’ve already heard some of the situation from Princess Lillie, but we accepted her request to help liberate the capital. Although the level of support deviated from what was expected, the princess had agreed to a certain compensation. For the sake of our elven brethren and our beastmen allies, we don’t mind a bit of hardship.”
I cut off my words and gauged everyone’s reaction.
It was a brief explanation to inform the king that our efforts to rescue the capital had been done under Princess Lille’s employment, thus justifying our actions…… that was my intention anyway.
Several of the Kingdom’s ministers looked at the princess in utter bewilderment.
“I’ve heard about your reward from Lille. Of course, I intended to honor my family’s promises and deliver your earned payment since the beginning. However, are you certain there are no mistakes within the contract? So that everyone here may be informed, would you please reiterate what kind of payment you seek?”
Ariane gave me a sideways glance and a small gesture with her hand when King Asparuf boldly asked us about our demands.
“Our demands are as followed: First, we request entrance into this country’s treasury. And Second, the immediate release of all the elven and beastmen slaves, and that a penalty is enforced for anyone caught enslaving them in the future.”
I could hear the chatter picking up around us once I spoke the controversial demands set as our reward.
Since we were demanding a change of this nation’s laws in exchange for mercenary work, arguments were unavoidable.
…… However, we held the power to push for acceptance here.
“It is a reward for the efforts that insured your country’s survival…… it may be petty of me, but we’ve done the work to earn it. Our greed is in line with the effort we expended to make those demands.”
My eyes wandered towards Lille who was sitting across from me, as she slowly nodded her head in agreement with my remarks.
By simply referring to “your country’s survival” I was bolstering our position with our previous achievements while simultaneously wielding our abilities as a threat towards the very country indebted to us.
King Asparuf seems to have caught onto that, his smile remained as he responded in an agreeable manner, but the muscles in his neck strained against his skin.
“It’s ridiculous to consider that greed. The possession of elven and beastmen slaves is outlawed within our country. Emancipating the illegally possessed slaves is a rather cheap reward for us to provide.”
All chatter halted at the King’s statement.
……I seemed to have drawn out a promise from the King.
Ariane and I locked eye with one another before she gave me a small nod.
It would be a good bargain to remove the deeply-root Hiruku religion as well…… No, there were already plenty of reasons to remove the Hiruku Religion.
However, I doubted the religion would be purged even if we asked for it. In fact, the country might be divided into faithful church supporters and abolishers if I pressed the issue.
After all, the main reason for the current situation was me.
It was an angel who had annihilated the undead army…… Stories of “Michael” were bound to spread amongst the general populace.
Many of the city’s residents had been evacuated from the area between the inner and outer walls when it seemed like it would be turned into a battlefield, but those behind the inner wall witnessed the angel descending from the sky.
Of course, the soldiers who had been fighting on the second wall and the high-ranking ministers inside this room knew the truth. The greatly adored angel had descended on behest of an elf…… something no one would believe.
The angel that had appeared in front of the city’s inhabitants, they believed their god sent the angel in response to their plight. A multitude of citizens had witnessed Palermo’s demise and rumors of the cardinal staining his hand with evil had already started to spread as well.
Right now, the Hiruku religion was in a delicate position in the city.
It could be said that the faith in the upper echelons of the church had plummeted, but faith in the doctrine had increased for the people that witnessed the miracle.
What to do…… while I tried to figure things out, King Asparuf brought up the matter first.
“At that time, if Cardinal Palermo was to be believed, the reason he took on that horrifying form lies with the current Pope of the Hiruku religion. This is a very serious matter for us. The Hiruku religion has spread to many human country’s across the continent…… that those directly beneath the pope, the upper echelon of the church, are monsters is something none but those here would believe……”
King Asparuf let out a large sigh as he spoke before leaning in close to me with an earnest expression on his face.
“I would like to ask you…… No, Arc-dono, it seems that Cardinal Palermo knew of you. It seems to me that you already killed another cardinal based on what I heard. Even though he looked human, you knew that he’d been a monster since the very beginning?”
Apparently, they wanted to know if we elves were aware of the Hiruku Church’s other dealings, such as this attempt conquest from behind the scenes.
However, I only met one other cardinal in Tajiento and defeated him by chance, we were only investigating the Hiruku religion because of what happened to Chiome’s brother.
While I was at a loss as to how to answer the question, Ariane unexpectedly voiced a reply.
“We encountered them before by chance. ……but, it was inevitable that we’d discover their secret.”
Her golden eyes took on a feral gleam as she stared down the people in the room, it was if she were daring them to challenge her.
Several people unintentionally filched back when they got caught in her gaze.
It was the same in the Rhoden Kingdom, Ariane had no mercy for elf and beastmen slavers, especially those in a position of power.
The only exception seemed to be human children.
It was rather fortunate that the one who’d contracted us had been princess Lille.
“……What in the world do you mean?”
The King asked Ariane to expound upon what she said with a straight face.
“Though I’m am unfamiliar with the Hiruku doctrine, after seeing Palermo I can guess why they remove elves and beastmen from human cities. He might have seemed human to you, but he was far from that…… we could tell that he’d been undead with a single glance.”
The ministers swallowed and focused all their attention on Ariane after she said her piece.
Eventually, an old man standing along the wall timidly asked her a question.
“S-So, you’re saying you knew Lord Palermo wasn’t human on sight?”
“That’s right. Even if an undead wears human skin, it won’t slip past us. You people have been removing the eyes that can see through the monsters’ disguises with your own hands, all for the sake of those monsters’ doctrine.”
Well, there was one person that hadn’t been able to see through it, but let’s keep that close to my chest instead of interrupting her.
Still, today’s “Ariane-dono” was in a bad mood because of our surroundings.
Had she been practicing her speech about the “The Hiruku Church……” ever since we dealt with Palermo?
The old man lowered his head after receiving Ariane’s criticism.
According to their doctrine, elves and beastmen were inferior races, there wasn’t a single Hiruku follower that didn’t see themselves as being above those two races, but that superiority complex had them dancing in the palms of the undeads’ hands.
However, pushing them any further on the matter would only ignite even more hostilities against elves.
She was sitting next to me and they knew she had the power to sink sections of this city beneath the earth, so no one was brave enough to challenge her now.
Still, it was for the best that we move on……
“Let’s put that on hold for now, Ariane-dono.”
She crossed her arms and remained quiet at my request.
“There is no doubt that Cardinal Palermo was the one who orchestrated the assault on the capital. Since we’re not concerned with the inner-workings of the Hiruku Theocracy, we only have a rough idea of their goals. No, you could say that this event has clued us in on their goals.”
King Asparuf held his breath as I changed topics and looked directly at him. Beside him, Lille clasped her hand together over her chest like a child listening to a ghost story.
“When I encountered Cardinal Charos…… he was on the verge of conquering a city through the use of undead and other monsters. Since there was a church in the city, I didn’t understand his reasoning, but it probably had something to do with the enormous number of undead that attacked this capital.”
Someone opened their mouth when they heard what I said but they quickly shut it afterward.
You couldn’t spontaneously create that many undead…… moreover, the armor and weapons were uniform in appearance, not something you’d find on undead scavenged from random battlefields.
Palermo had said that his power was something “the Pope had given me”, so that meant the pope could create undead himself.
The two cardinals were simply one type of monster the pope could create.
It was all about the available materials……
“Then my brethren that are taken to the Hiriku Theocracy are……”
When Chiome unexpectedly joined the conversation with that quiet question, I slowly nodded my head.
“They were probably turned into undead…… From what I heard in Rhoden’s port city Lanbaltic, the Theocracy has been purchasing a large number of criminal slaves recently. I was told that they would be put to work in the mines, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
For now, I simply spoke the conclusion that I had come to based off of the information I had on hand, how they would treat the Hiruku Theocracy from now on was up to them.
Lille’s shoulders trembled and her eyes bulged when I said my piece.
“This is serious, father! The Hiruku church has to be removed at once!”
Asparuf turned to his daughter and tried to calm her passionate declaration.
“Wait, Wait, Lille! it’s not that simple!”
Of course, it wasn’t simple……
To expel the deeply ingrained Hiruku religion from a country, you’d need to convince a majority of the proud believers to turn their backs on their faith.
It wasn’t an easy feat to accomplish now that an actual angel had descended.
Rebellion was all but assured if they tried to force the matter with the royal family’s power, and depending on the scale, it could result in them being overthrown.
And would the Hiruku religion just leave Nozan alone simply because their attack on the capital had failed?
Perhaps they were already preparing a larger force to launch the second attack, or they would simply apply pressure.
Even if they revealed the truth about the church to neighboring countries, how many would actually believe them…… in this world, which lacked means of communication, it would take days before the message even reached the heads of other nations.
Frankly speaking, they were in a check.
The people around us started to understand and frantically began voicing countermeasures and tactics to avoid the worst case scenario, however, even I could tell none of their suggestions would bear fruit.
There were no effective measures, but for those that lived under the Hiruku religion for so long, maybe it was impossible to think of any solution.
Still, there was no reason for us to proceed at our own discretion, so we might consult Dylan abo…… no, in this situation, we needed to speak with someone higher up.
“That’s it! Why not seek reinforcements from Rhoden?”
I heard one of the ministers suggest an interesting idea, but how realistic would it be to expect Rhoden to send reinforcements across the gulf?
In my heart, it wasn’t all that likely to occur.
“That…… should do, right?
Lille’s eyes had become teary-eyed after hearing her father yell at her, causing me to switch towards cleaning up this discussion before asking for our demands to be met.
“Since your country is incapable of purging the Hiruku church right now, wouldn’t the next best thing be to announce the mastermind behind the crisis to the populace and start detaining clergymen for questioning? The fact that any of them could be an undead in human skin can be used as a valid excuse.”
The King began stroking his chin as he considered my suggestion, while Lille watched him with a frustrated expression.
Instead of replying, Aspauf gave me a stout nod to indicate he’d accepted my suggestion, despite the brevity of our acquaintanceship.
I honestly expected the King to criticize my proposal when he stared at me with a hard look on his face.
“When the questioning begins…… I suppose you’d like to be there to watch?”
Since it had been my suggestion, it was a reasonable question to ask.
Currently, the ability to detect the undead was limited to elves and beastmen, but I doubt there were any more hidden undead within the capital.
If you were an undead capable of mixing in with humans, they must have some will of their own. It’s unlikely that any of those guys would’ve stuck around after Palermo’s defeat.
Well, there was no reason to refuse selling this country a few more favors.
“You don’t mind if I leave Ariane-dono and Chiome-done in my stead, do you?”
My gaze shifted between the two as I spoke, Chiome nodded her head in approval, while suspicion began to cloud Ariane’s eyes.
“Hold on, what are you going do after pushing this hassle on us?”
Although they were humans, calling a request from a country’s king a “hassle”, had me worry that they’ll carry a grudge over it.
“I’ll be clearing out the remaining undead in the city.”
I rose from my seat, grabbed the 『Holy Shield of Teutates』 with my left hand and rested the 『Holy Thunder Sword』 over my right shoulder.
It wasn’t like I was capable of distinguishing the hidden undead from humans anyway.
A more productive use of my time would be to help the soldiers clear way the undead that had breached the outer wall.
Since the majority of the credit for the annihilation the undead army went to the angel I summoned, I figured I could compensate for that with a good showing now.
An elf activity taking part in the defense of the capital should dispel some of the negative assumptions the people had of elves, even though my elven nature was hidden while I still had my helmet on.
The King’s face turned pale when he caught on to what I was suggesting.
“Arc-dono, I am grateful for the offer, but we’d like to have a city left standing……”
The ministers who had been talking about future countermeasures along the wall stopped talking and simultaneously looked in my direction.
They were afraid I’d call down another angel to clear out the city, even though doing so would cause the reputation of elves to plummet.
“Do not worry, that isn’t something that I can recklessly call down. I’ll just be swinging this sword around.”
I gave the worried people in the room a brief explanation, asked Ariane and Chiome to meet me later, and left the room.
Ponta had been relaxing in Chiome’s arms up till that point, but she came flying after me with her wind magic, gracefully landing on her favorite spot.
“You wanna come too, Ponta?”
Ponta vigorously wagged her tail in response to my question.
There were a lot of soldiers stationed around the building once I stepped outside, the citizens that the knights kept at bay began pointing and chatting amongst themselves when they saw an unfamiliar knight leaving the building.
Well, the inner wall’s gate was still shut tight and the soldiers should be capable of handling the regular undead themselves. Therefore, for the sake efficiency, it would be best to focus on the remaining spider chimera.
I’ll probably be finished in the evening……
With that thought in mind, I began making my way towards the gate.