|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 2266 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1066 words|
We returned to Strom and landed near the capital, then as arranged, we disguise ourselves to enter the city undetected. We had requested merchant and adventurer licenses from the guild, so there was no suspicion at the gates. Though I could see the guards were all on edge from the recent demon attack.
“Good luck, Luvias and Diaria.”
“Leave it to us, Master.”
“See you Lapis, good luck to you too.”
My Master and the rest went ahead of us. Everyone except for Diaria and I would enter the city to familiarize themselves with the layout of the streets, and find good spots to set up ambushes. The actual battle would start in three days at eight in the night, and by then we wanted to know if there were traces of demons anywhere in the city. Diaria and I would also be in the city soon enough, working on finding demons too.
“We are the heroes of Bordaule and Zelvis, Luvias and Diaria. We’re here in response to His Majesty’s summons.”
“Please wait a moment, I’ll go check with the registers. Feel free to rest here in the meantime.”
The king had returned to his palace from the frontlines, so that was where we were summoned to as well. Since this was the actual palace and not some mansion, there were many more guards, making it harder for someone like my Master to try sneaking in. Though I had a hunch if she really wanted to she would do it regardless.
“Thanks for waiting, I’ll guide you inside now, please follow me.”
The guard returned after some time and bowed respectfully as he said that. This was my first time inside of Strom’s royal palace, but nothing really stood out to me on its construction, it looked like an average palace. The ambiance there did feel a bit odd though.
“…Everyone still seems to be on edge.”
Diaria said as she looked at the various servants we passed by.
“Yeah, can’t blame them though. They were attacked not too long ago.”
“Apologies for our current situation. Many of the guards that were dispatched from the palace never returned from the battlefield, so those of us that remained are still struggling with that.”
“I see…you have my condolences.”
I could tell that if given the chance to, all the guards here would gladly take their weapons and seek revenge from the demons. But that was impossible for Strom in their current status. Full blown war was not so easy to prepare for, and they needed a more concrete goal first, while also being ready to lose if things didn’t pan out well.
There would be no way of compensating the families of those fallen in battle if they lost, and conscripting more soldiers would also decrease the regular workforce. How would they recover from something like that? The more I thought about it, war brought in more and more issues. That was another reason why the king could not simply charge into the Haunted Lands in retaliation now.
This was yet another reason why every country had formed small groups with a hero on the lead, to enter the Haunted Lands with fewer people in an attempt to nip out the Demon King directly.
I kept thinking about all that as we walked through the palace, and before I noticed we had reached our destination. The knight that guided us there stepped aside, and as our names were called from inside, a pair of double gates opened up, smaller than those in the audience room of Bordaule’s palace. On the other end of the room was the throne, with the king of Strom sitting on it.
Royal etiquette dictated for a large number of nobles and knights to stand on either side of the carpet going from the entrance all the way to the throne. But it was clear that their numbers had diminished.
“Welcome to our capital, Luvias and Diaria. Thank you for accepting my invitation.”
Diaria and I promptly knelt down and bowed deeply.
“It’s been a while, Your Majesty. We’re glad to see you again.”
“Mm, it’s only been a few days, I wouldn’t call that a while. Still, I’m sorry I keep calling you like this. I’m curious though, did only the two of you come today?”
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He looked at the empty space behind us two as he asked that.
“Yes, Lapis, Karin, and Ciel had other matters to attend to and couldn’t come with us. It’s only us two here today.”
“I see, I guess you really have your hands full already. And there’s not much I can do about that…”
The king made little effort to conceal his disappointment. It was obvious he had been preparing himself to make a complicated request. If he asked us to go defeat the Demon King right now, the fact that the rest of the party was somewhere else would help buy us more time for our plan to work. Separating beforehand had been a good decision.
“I’m sorry if this is a bit sudden, but could you spare me some time? I have a bit of a request I’d like to make.”
“I don’t really mind…”
“Ohh, nice nice. Then come with me, I’ll get us some tea.”
He stood up and opened a door behind his throne, then beckoned us to follow him inside.
Usually a door like that would be concealed and only used in emergencies, it was not something most people would ever get knowledge of, not to mention people from a different country. That he showed it to us meant that either he had complete trust in us, or that he was at his wits’ end. Refusing to follow him would be rude in the extreme, so exchanging a glance with Diaria we quickly stood up and went behind the throne. The king took the lead and we walked through a path lined with royal knights.
“I don’t have much time, so I’m sorry but it’s best if we take this shortcut ”
“Huh… But Your Majesty, are you sure it was a good idea to let us know of this path?”
“I don’t mind at all, it’s not like I could defend myself anyway. It would be foolish of me to think I’d gain anything hiding this from you.”