“Y-, y-, you! What have you gone and done this time?!” (Claura)
“…… Don’t worry, I’ll explain.” (Gio)
After smashing the knights’ morale to dust with her engagement declaration, Elizabel smoothly talked the knights into allowing her to stay together with me — as in, even living in my room — until they return to Filsand. Then we went back to my room together.
The first thing she said when she entered the room was “My name is Elizabel, and I have exchanged engagement vows with Margils-sama.”
Which brings us to the present, where Claura is pulling on my ear with the face of a hannya.
(T/N: Hannya is a horned, grinning demoness mask from noh theatre used to depict a woman’s rage and jealousy.)
Leiha is anxiously looking between Claura and Elizabel.
Incidentally, Elizabel is still glued to me on my right side, so Claura is on my left…… ok that’s enough of that.
“I presume that this engagement was brought up as the pretext to enable Margils-sama to interfere with Elizabel-sama’s situation, is that correct?” (Irudo)
“That’s exactly right, Irudo-kun.” (Gio)
With a pensive look on his face, Irudo manages to guess the exact truth. As expected.
“So the aim is to protect Elizabel-san from assassins by accompanying her as her fiance……?” (Claura)
“That’s the gist of it. This would also allow me to brazenly approach the Duke. After I explain the situation to him, the engagement can be voided.” (Gio)
Elizabel’s eyebrows draw together into a frown as she listens to our discussion.
“Every single person here is my ally. They can be trusted. There is no need to worry.” (Gio)
She bats her red eyes in surprise as she understands what I’m trying to convey.
“Yes. She is not just someone who gets on my case all the time, she is an important ally who has been of great help numerous times up to now.” (Gio)
I remove Claura’s fingers from my ear, despite her still sharply glaring eyes. Elizabel’s gaze roams around in hesitation, then she sighs softly and lets go of my arm.
“Understood. Everyone, everything up to now was an act…… there is no cause for concern.” (Elizabel)
“I, I was not really concerned! Margils had a lewd look on his face so I was just giving him some pertinent advice!” (Claura)
“Nn, now I feel all refreshed.” (Claura)
“…… To think that the dwarves were enjoying something this good everyday……” (Leiha)
“That’s true, I myself have also taken a liking to it.” (Elizabel)
The ladies have returned from bringing Elizabel to the baths, as she had been covered with blood from head to toe.
Of course, I already casted the now-familiar [Invisible Demon] spell, and also requested the dwarves to strengthen their security, so there is very little worry about any harm coming to Elizabel here inside Battleaxe Village.
Rather than that, I am relieved to note that due to the naked socializing or whatsoever, Claura’s and Leiha’s attitudes towards Elizabel have softened quite a bit.
Now that everyone’s calmed down, it’s time to exchange information.
“…… So in short, my aim is to decrease the number of casualties from Shadow Demons, and to even cut them off at the source if possible.”
In my case, I need her to understand my greatest goal, or else my actions and decisions afterwards would be really hard to explain, so I ended up talking quite a while. Like the true diplomat she is, Elizabel interrupted with appropriate questions here and there and listened earnestly, but it seems that she is still doubtful about the content of what I’m saying.
“You find it hard to believe?”
“I…… suppose so, yes. It just sounds so…… so like a dream. What do you stand to gain from doing this?”
Rather than contempt, her question was posed with true puzzlement.
Which reminds me, when I had helped her earlier, I did mention “my interests as the lord of Jiiteias Castle.”
It seems that everyone else also is interested in how I would answer Elizabel’s question, as all gazes in the room gather on me.
I close my eyes and do a bit of self-inspection.
I try to organize the vague thoughts that come up and put them into words.
“I apparently have enough power to possibly change the entire world. If I do not pour all of it into doing something righteous, I am afraid that I might be crushed by that power of mine.”
I shiver as I recall the temptation I felt to [Charm] Mora when I first met her in the jail cell at Jiiteias Castle.
What comes next to my mind are the words that Claura said in Lelis.
“ ‘This is a world where Shadow Demons can appear at any moment and kill anybody and their family. If there really is a true hero who can change that reality, I……’ ”
“…… Furthermore, at the end of the road where I continue to use my power correctly, perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to do something about all those things in this world that everybody thinks nothing can be done about…… That’s what I’m thinking about, I guess.”
My resistance towards talking about and thinking about power and the world and the like has gone down a lot.
All the faces around me have their own reactions, but ridicule is not on any one of them. It seems that I myself have also gradually grown to become a resident of this world.
“As I’d thought, it really does sound like a dream…… But I can tell that you and your allies are indeed serious about it.”
Elizabel’s expression softens up a bit as she nods.
“And it is because you all are like this that I feel safe in forming this alliance. Now it is my turn to explain my circumstances……”
“In other words, you do not know for sure whether your father, the Duke of Filsand, is behind this attempt on your life?”
“That is the case. From what I gathered while eavesdropping on my knights, the order was given directly by my second stepbrother, Agbeil Filsandia. However, it’s just that I can’t imagine my father not knowing about it……”
From the conversation between Irudo and Elizabel, I’ve gotten a grasp on the general situation.
The ongoing war between the Duke of Filsand and the Shulz tribe, the deaths of Elizabel’s mother and eldest stepbrother, the machinations of her second stepbrother.
To think that I was going to go into the middle of all that to discuss my trade route and alliance……
In the end, the most important point is what the Duke of Filsand intends to do about his daughter.
There isn’t much reason for them to decline the trade route itself, but in the worst case scenario, we might have to demand to retain Elizabel with us.
Either way, we wouldn’t know anything until we go there in person.
However, we still have the ongoing construction work at Jiiteias Castle and the negotiations with the dwarves of Battleaxe Village, whereas Elizabel herself still has her mission of purchasing those siege towers.
After we rearrange our schedules with Irudo as the focus, it became like this.
Firstly, both our sides will wrap up our negotiations with the dwarves within tomorrow or the day after at the latest. After that, then we will head towards Filsand together, and the single way journey will take about 10 days.
Assuming that the negotiations or whatever else on that side take another 10 days, then 10 more to return to Battleaxe Village. Overall, it would take roughly a month to get back to Jiiteias Castle.
“Well then, Claura and Ted, I entrust you two with Elizabel’s protection. Use the three soldiers as you see fit.”
“…… Very well.” (Claura)
“Irudo, you and I will be working on the negotiations with the dwarves. Leid, please continue protecting this room.” (Gio)
“Yes, sir.” (Irudo)
“…… Fun.” (Leid)
“My lord. What should I do?” (Leiha)
“Leiha, please investigate the Filsand Knight Order. If possible, we want to use this time to bring them to our side.” (Gio)
Elizabel looks doubtful at my instructions for Leiha.
“I’m sure they are fully aware that they have lost all chance of fulfilling the order by Agbeil, right? In that case, they should be amenable to persuasion.” (Gio)
“Spoken as if my second stepbrother isn’t a popular leader. Not that it’s wrong, though.” (Elizabel)
Elizabel smiles with a nod.
Despite being the seed of a very thorny problem, she is going to be a very trustworthy ally.