Welcome to the Black Parade
At the break of dawn Hifumi and the others had departed the border. After simply passing through Fokalore, they quickly, they sped towards the Imperial Capital.
After storing their carriage away, they proceeded on horseback. Origa and the others were not carrying people, so Alyssa clung to Hifumi’s back riding the same horse.
「Goshujin-sama, what would you be planning to do from now on?」
「But if we don’t catch Beirevra, we won’t be able to prove our innocence, would we?」
Her horse running parallel, Kasha looked back on the road representing the bright and cheerful days.
「Beirevra’s name appears in the documents procured from Vichy. Labeling him as the Center’s Spy, even. And though Arycelle’s testimony, who is being escorted as we speak, is also necessary, what we have and know should suffice for the time being.」
The Vichy conspiracy of the Viscount led to two women adventurers falsely accused and reduced to mere slaves. These two girls were singled out by the quasi-knight and adventurer with a secret mission Hifumi, and even rescued a girl who was about to be killed by her allies.
Furthermore, the declaration to the rest of the country had also been decided, prompting Pajo to request that they pass along this message to Imeraria.
「・ ・ ・ Will it be alright? ・ ・ ・」
Listening to Hifumi’s explanation, Alyssa felt as if she were being treated as some tragic heroine.
After reaching the Capital’s vicinity without a major problem, they saw a number of knights standing beside the road.
「Yo, it’s been a while」
One of the knights was Midas.
Dropping of his horse, Hifumi raised his hand and called out.
「It has been a long time, Hifumi-san」
「It’s not about me. The information Hifumi-san had delivered…. It has caused the Imperial Castle to fall into a panic. For the time being, Queen Imeraria herself has announced this incident to the people, and has decided to reward you for your efforts.」
Hifumi neither planned nor wanted neighboring countries to find the current absence of a king and financial difficulty as an ideal time to push their luck. However, the current state was too bizarre for them to ignore. Thus, using the Queen’s permit and the fact that he had entered Vichy quite a few times, Hifumi had chosen to bring about some grand result and immobilize them by proclaiming Vichy’s errors.
Up to this point, Imeraria should have amassed quit some support. She was manipulating the temporary, just-crowned prince and guiding the nation as its true leader.
「Moreover, they have been discussing the matter of your promotion」
Hifumi, who had already become a rumor in the guild, was so flashy in dealing with Vichy that the castle town broke out into wild revelries. With no one discussing the possibility of war, proclaiming him a hero who had appeared during this peaceful time, the common folk could not help but feel touched but a story of a young man carrying out women’s tragic revenge and saving them in the process.
So to punish Hifumi now, considering that the citizens are still recovering from their King’s sudden death, would only lead to animosity between the people and the crown.
「Though it is not yet decided, the title is bound to be well above a common knight. We have come to escort Hifumi-san to the castle and protect you from the crowd. Contrary to our expectations, you have arrived quite quickly.」
And, “since you’ll be promoted to a rank above a knight—above me, some will call you a hero and others will give outright ignore you” Midas’ bitter smile seemed to convey; Hifumi acknowledged and asked for a carriage to be prepared.
「Frankly, we too had thought that Hifumi-san would be moving more discretely. Even after becoming a noble, we had figured you wanted a freer lifestyle…」
「Don’t expect me to move according the wishes of nobles or countries」
After a carriage had been prepared, Hifumi jumped on his horse and looking down on Midas, laughed.
「I had intended to create this situation.」
「Even so, I did not expect to stand out this much. Well, it’s been a long time; let’s go meet Imeraria.」
Hifumi went off ahead, and Midas hurried to catch up.
A large group of people had gathered by the front gate awaiting the hero’s return.
Even when the King had passed away suddenly from illness, the people did not react with such interest; and though the fact that it was a funeral, the castle town’s silence could be attributed to the fact that they took it as a stranger’s problem.
The people even brought out food stalls, displaying the strength of the city’s economic appetite.
「In some sense, I too am a traitor from Vichy, but I had not expected this kind of welcome…」
Alyssa, who was in the cart, began crying from nervousness upon seeing the great uproar that the city was in.
「Seems like we Kasha and I won’t be treated as Goshujin-sama’s extras this time around.」
「Seriously, it will be what it will be. I often don’t understand what Goshujin is thinking, but I can’t do anything about it at this point.」
From Hifumi and Midas’ conversation, the three understood that they too had to accompany Hifumi to the castle. Which caused them to worry.
And while the wheels of the carriage turned, the gates opened releasing a flood people, who, as if finally having found Hifumi’s group, raised their voices.
「Kasha. Stop for a second in front of the gate」
Nodding to Hifumi’s instructions, Kasha dropped the speed.
And coming straight to the gate, stopping his horse, Hifumi addressed the crowd.
「Open me a path! I must go atone for my sins to Her Highness Imeraria!」
The people, who had been awaiting a hero’s triumphant return, were bewildered by his words. They turned to each other, murmuring.
「I have heard from the knights who had come to meet me. That you have come to accept me most favorable. And you have my gratitude! But, I have crossed the border, and killed a man to save a little girl. Thus, I have exceeded my authority and betrayed Her Highness’ trust… For this reason, I have come to confess my sin and accept my punishment!」
The commotion only exasperated.
「But these girls are not at fault! So I have come to tell Her Highness! Should I perish at the gallows tomorrow, I but ask that you welcome these girls warmly in my place!」
Imploring the people with grand gestures, o how did Hifumi appear to the people! Although he too was a noble, for the sake of the people… no, for the sake of slaves and people of another country he was willing to accept a punishment, and to save them—appear before the queen.
Moreover, upon his urging Arisa and Origa leaned out of the carriage. Including the driver, these were the girls he intended to protect; their young faces evoked in the people a desire to protect the girls.
「Those children are the slaves you say…」
「That knight-sama, though he is a little short, what a wonderful man」
「They were going to kill that little girl?」
「What demons those bastards at Vichy are!」
A murmur of truth and gossip spread among the crowd, but every mouth sang Hifumi praise and expressed pity for Origa and the other girls.
The gathering parted creating a path from the gate all the way to the royal castle.
When he looked back, he saw Kasha frozen from anxiety in the coachman’s seat, and Midas’ corps with a sour expression on their faces.
(The knights too are unused to this, huh. Now then, what are the Queen’s thoughts?)
When Hifumi raised his gaze to the castle he saw a single girl standing on the balcony.
When Hifumi passed through the castle gate, the steel gate closed behind him.
Hifumi got off his horse, and the three girls exited the carriage.
「Please leave the horses to me. If you please, meet with her Highness」
Leaving the horses to Midas, they were lead into the castle by a single knight.
Since their gazes were also focused on Alyssa, Origa, and Kasha, the girls felt ill at ease.
「・・・Please wait in this room」
The knight said, and the maid opened the door.
Prior to entering, Hifumi said,
「Thank you for showing me in. But the three people hiding inside the room, you’re a bother: get out」
Feeling the presence of a few people inside the room, the maid look inquisitively at Hifumi—having no idea what he was talking about, but the knight started to tremble.
Pajo and Midas would not do something like this, but the first division of the castle knights must not have heard yet of Hifumi’s abilities.
「W-what are you…」
「Don’t play dumb… well, I guess it’s fine」
After entering the room, Hifumi stabbed his blade into the wall behind a decorative vase and the wall on the other side—decorated by a painting.
He could hear some muffled voices on the other side, and blood flowed from the floor.
「The guy in the ceiling seems to have run off, huh. You—I won’t be as forgiving next time」
Stunned by Hifumi’s performance, the knights looked towards the place where their comrades now lay dead, and left in a panic.
The maid, unable to understand the transpired, just stood dumbfounded.
「Could I get some tea? For a few people」
「P-please wait a moment!」
Calling out to the maid, Hifumi flopped onto the sofa. He didn’t really have an attitude of someone who came to attone for his sins.
「・・・You haven’t forgiven any of them」
「I did forgive that guy, though?」
While retorting to Kasha’s comment, talking about the ceiling guy whom he let go, Hifumi tossed the katana into the storage.
「You guys sit down, too. We still have lots of work to do」
Perhaps wondering why the tea was late, Hifumi stretched his body with an aloof expression on his face; seeing this, the girls’ anxiety could only grow.
「Her Royal Highness, Queen Imeraria!」
While Hifumi was casually sipping some tea, a maid knocked on the door and so announced.
And after the maid moved from the door, Imeraria entered. Seeing two pools of blood, she frowned.
「Please have the knight who escorted him here brought before later」
She told the maid who placed the tea at her seat, and ordered that no one is to enter this chamber for a while. Imeraria then sat facing Hifumi.
She was just as dignified and beautiful as when they had first met.
「It’s been a while, eh. I heard you’re handling things pretty well around here」
「If possible, I would have preferred not to meet you… but I have caused you great inconvenience with Duke Lagraen’s and Viscount Hagenti’s incidents. Moreover, the men here have also acted excessively…」
Imeraria directed her gaze at the blood stained floorboards.
「Don’t sweat it. Besides, I’m putting your third knight corps to good use」
「Ah, before that, I believe there’s something on your mind, no?」
Sighing heavily, the Queen’s eyes wandered off Hifumi and focused on Alyssa.
「So you would be Alyssa, right? I have received the report」
「Y-yes! Umm… what… what is my fate?」
With a gentle smile, Imeraria tried to convey as much gentleness in her voice as possible,
「Don’t worry. You will be treated as this country’s citizen. If you so desire, how about working here in the castle?」
「I see. Feel free to come to my side at any time」
Smiling at Alyssa one more time, Imeraria returned her gaze to Hifumi.
「You have handled things well, I see」
「That was sarcasm」
Sipping her tea, Imeraria continued.
「I have received Pajo’s report. Since it came from her, it covers the information contained in the documents in your possession. And thanks to the commotion outside, my hands are rather tied, so I’ll have to recognize Hifumi-sama as a hero and have our ambassadors to Vichy and Holanto pass along some unpleasant news to them」
Moreover, Imeraria continued,
Origa replied while Kasha stood poised.
「Because of this country’s putrid nobles you have found yourself degraded to slaves; as a representative of the royal family who controls the nobles, I express my deepest apology. I apologize for my inability to do so publicly and hope that you will accept my apology」
「Your Highness, while we do regret becoming slaves, we have not faced any misfortune after being bought by Goshujin-sama. Moreover, we were able, with these hands of ours, to carry out revenge…」
Kasha merely nodded at Origa’s words, unable to decide whether or not she had the right to address the Queen herself. Honestly, however, like Alyssa, she was rather poor with words.
「Your words put my heart at ease. Since yours is a special case, I will have the castle magicians release your slave crest. We’ll have this done immediately, so please live freely from now on」
「We thank you for showing such unexpected benevolence」
Origa and Kahsa deeply lowered their heads.
「Furthermore, I would like to have Hifumi-sama become a Viscount and rule over Fokalore and the surrounding villages in place of Viscount Hagenti.」
「Please stop joking around. If we were to punish Hifumi we would lose the goodwill of the people. Did you seriously expect me to do something so thoughtless?」
Hifumi was once again taken aback by how well Imeraria carried herself as a statesperson. At the same time, he decided to make as much use of her as he could.
「My bad. I’ll gladly accept the title. Nor could I hope for a better land」
「Hope? Are you planning something again?」
Imeraria asked with concern on her face; Hifumi merely sipped some tea and answered.
「I will crush Vichy. So gruesomely that they will never think to cross paths me again」
And the look on his face stole everyone’s breath away…