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Several hours after returning from my patrol, I sent several soldiers to guard the mother-child pair from earlier and finished adjusting the night patrol shifts. When one of the two soldiers came back to report, I sent that soldier back with another soldier, so the family's house would be fine. I was glad that I could anticipate this kind of situation, think of a good solution, and give instructions. Now, I had to attend the dinner banquet that served as a meet-and-greet. Conrad, the Emperor, the Holy King, his Holy Kingdom's Representative, the King of the Kingdom, and that Blockhead from before would all be there as well. The Empress would not be attending at this time. The banquet was mostly for the monarchs and the representatives to interact with each other. However, that wasn't going well…
Even though we were supposed to be interacting with each other, a heavy silence filled the room. Actually, it was more awkward than heavy. Food entered our mouths, but words never left. It was a relief that Conrad, clad in ceremonial attire, was beside me. Honestly, I would feel lonely without him.
Anyway, was this what "interacting" was like? Well, I might have had such a thought, but it was understandable. The matter of the victims and nobles who had been arrested during the slave auction incident half a year ago had not been resolved yet. It was customary in this world for criminals to be judged by the laws of the country that the crime was committed in, but this time each country involved demanded that their nobles be repatriated. They had also repeatedly stated that it would be impossible to search for all the victims.
Sheesh, what the heck are they thinking?
There was no way we could just let the criminals return to their own countries. The slavery was legal there. Even if they were guilty by the Empire's standards, they would still be found innocent if we allowed them to return. We weren't foolish enough to return them while knowing the outcome. Neither was searching for the victims impossible, no way. We had already sent each country a list of those who had participated in the auction. All they would have to do was search their homes. I didn't understand why they would say that it was impossible. Thanks to that, the Empire's relationship with the other countries was currently strained. Even so, we had to interact. The banquet was a tradition, so it couldn't be called off, but the timing was truly the worst. We continued to eat in silence. Truth be told, I couldn't really taste the food.
When the meal was finished, coffee was brought out. Now that we finally reached this part, I finally had time to look around me.
First of all, on the Kingdom's side, there was the person I had met at the shopping district earlier, Clive Musgrave, dressed in green finery. He didn't look like it to me, but he was the heir to a viscount house, and his table manners were truly befitting of a noble. Even he wouldn't cause a commotion in front of his king. He had no problem acting with grandiosity when his king wasn't around, though.
Said King was seated next to the blockhead, drinking his coffee in silence. He had short, wavy blonde hair, green eyes, and a mole on the right side of his mouth. My first impression of him was that he seemed to be high-strung. Even though he was the same age as the Emperor, he looked much younger. Or rather, it was probably the Emperor who looked older than his age. The King looked to be about 175 centimeters tall, and he was dressed in blue. His name was Cornelius Ney-Virgil. I had been told that, despite his age, he actually was as high-strung as he looked, not to mention hot-tempered. Well, that was probably because he had a lot of pride. However, I had heard from Conrad that he was competent in his job.I wondered what would happen if he were to hear about the shopping district incident.
Then, on the Holy Kingdom's side, there was their representative – a beautiful woman. She had waist length, silvery-white hair and very matching turquoise eyes. Her eyes, nose, mouth… her whole face was very pleasing to the eye. She even had the body of a model. But her chest was rather modest. She was about as tall as I would be without armour. Her name was Selene Mansfield and she was a magician. In her country, their called her kind 'Wielders of the Holy Art'. If I remembered correctly, she was from a baron household. She wore a simple but gorgeous azure dress. For some reason, Conrad seemed to grimace when he talked with her. I didn't really know why, but I didn't want to pry too much. I wondered if something had happened between them.
Finally, there was the Holy King. My first impression of him was that he had an unpleasant smile plastered on his face. He had short, white hair and blue eyes. He looked handsome despite his wrinkles. You could probably call him a dandy. His clothing was made of silver cloth and had dazzling embroidery that looked a lot like a robe of a western priest. He was the oldest among the three leaders, being in his fifties. Honestly, I didn't even really want to make eye contact with him. The first time our eyes had met, I had felt goosebumps from his creepy, appraising gaze. According to rumors, he swung both ways. Well, Conrad had sounded like he was half-joking when he had said that, but could it actually be true? Not that I really cared about the Holy King's preferences. As long as he didn't cause trouble around me at least. Besides, if I worried about it, it might show through my armour, so it was better to just not think about it. There were other, shady, rumors too. Word of mouth had it that he had removed his competition to the throne, and that he was backed by slave dealers. There was no evidence to prove or disprove that.
Those were the other countries' monarchs and Representatives. Quite a colorful bunch.
In the end, apart from scripted greetings between the monarchs, the banquet ended without us uttering a word.In a Certain Palace Garden
I was so tired.
After the banquet, I reported the incident at the shopping district to His Majesty and apologized for getting carried away by my emotions. I should have arrested the blockhead, but I ended up challenging him to a duel. It had been very childish of me. The news caused His Majesty to make a strained smile.
"I guess it couldn't be helped. The other person is a Representative after all. Pen an apology letter, and I shall forgive you," he said.
A written apology… Was my youthful indiscretion going to be recorded for future generations? For a while longer, we discussed how to settle the feud between the blockhead and me. And then, just as I was about to leave, His Majesty smiled again.
"Teach that Kingdom's Representative a lesson," he said.
Apparently, His Majesty was also angry.
Once the audience concluded, I decided to take a stroll in the gardens to enjoy the night air. The garden I found myself in, thanks to the gardener's meticulous care, was filled with seasonal flowers in full bloom. I took in the moonlit scenery, so different from how it looked at daytime.
I would never have experienced this on Earth.
It was partly because I had stayed indoors as much as possible and partly because there weren't any parks close to my home. And also because it was dangerous to go out at night. Well, danger was present in this world too but, tonight, I was in the Imperial Palace – the safest place in the Empire, that was kept under constant guard. I could take a midnight stroll without any worries listening to the birds and insects that chirped quietly in the background.
I took the jaw-piece of the helmet off, exposing my skin to the chill of the night wind. In a mere month, the autumn would end, making way for the winter. So many things had happened since I had come to this world… I never really had the time to take it in and process it all. Had it really been half a year already? I wondered if my family was fine. They must have been. After all, even though it was the past for me, to them, I was still there.
Somehow, I ended up thinking about home again.
My hometown was a peaceful place to which I could no longer return. I had been happy with my family, despite those few issues we had argued about. When I had still been living with them, I would never have imagined being unable to see them for the rest of my life. That all this could happen because I would be mixed up with my childhood friend's summoning into another world. I did enjoy my current life. However, that didn't stop me feeling homesick. I was just seventeen, not even an adult in that other world. I had never planned on leaving my family so soon. I understood that I couldn't have avoided it, but understanding apparently wasn't enough to stop those kinds of thoughts entering my head.
Aaaaah! screamed the rational part of my mind, Nononono!
I had a mountain of important things to worry about and I would be liable to screw them all up if I started moping. I would never be able to show my face in public if that happened. I was the commander of the Imperial Army's Knight Corps! THE Black Knight! A duchess! I was no longer the ordinary highschool girl, Saitou Chie! That was quite enough of self-indulgence, it was very much the time to go back to my room and sleep. And I decided to do just that. There was still work to do tomorrow, and an apology letter waiting to be written. Not to mention all the other stuff.
"… be… se"
I startled. Faint voices interrupted me just as I was about to reform the jaw piece of the helmet and return to my room. Who else could possibly be here at this time? Did I hear two people? Full of curiosity, I stealthily approached the place I heard the voices come from.
I hid behind a tree, where I wouldn't be discovered, and settled to observe the strangers with the help of the magic crystal in my helmet that allowed me to see clearly in the darkness. A man and a woman seemed to have chosen a location among thick trees to meet away from prying eyes. The woman was the Holy Kingdom's representative, Selene Mansfield. The man was my adjutant, Conrad.
W-what's this? I startled again.
Could this be a tryst? Impossible. I could clearly remember Conrad grimacing when he had mentioned her. It wasn't a face of somebody in love. What could it be then?
"I said, I cannot become your husband," said Conrad, looking tired.
Huh? Husband!? Did she skip the boyfriend stage completely?!
"But why?! I have been thinking of you ever since that time! It's been four years!"
"It's all in the past now. It's not like it was the first time for either of us."
"But, I can't think of any other man but you! That night, you have stolen my heart, my thoughts!"
"Frankly, I don't believe you."
…SO IT WAS LIKE THAT?! THEY HAD SPENT A NIGHT TOGETHER?! Leaning against the tree, I hugged my knees while feeling my face go red under the helmet. However much I didn't want to think about the details…
So they had a one night stand, and it wasn't their first time either, but Miss Mansfield ended up seriously pursuing Conrad. So that was why he had grimaced. It would be really hard to say aloud. Like, who would tell their boss about a woman they had a brief relationship with? And on another note, how could a noblewoman have so much experience? Well, it might sound like a reasonable question but, in reality, these illicit affairs happened between nobles too. Everybody simply turned a blind eye when it was done in moderation. I sighed inwardly. What could I possibly do?
It was very bad for me to be eavesdropping on this conversation, I had to do something not to be here for much longer. And carefully. I might have been hidden from sight, but those two were strong enough to become the Representatives of their respective nations. They could very well discover me any moment now. Therefore, I had better stop—
"Then let us do it again! You shall see I am indeed the one for you!"
"Wha?! What are you thinking, woman?!"
Miss Mansfield suddenly clung to him with all her strength but momentarily stunned Conrad soon started to resist awkwardly. It was so distasteful…
Propelled by that thought, I decided to step in.
"What exactly might you be doing to my adjutant, Miss Mansfield?"
"Wha? You're that!?"
My work-mode voice surprised the two of them completely. Now I just had to figure out how to make her give up.
"… This does not concern you. T'is a matter between me and Conrad Aiden alone. Outsiders should have the good sense to leave. "
And just like that, she resumed where she had stopped. But Conrad's resistance gained new strength. He managed to push her off and ran to my side flusteredly.
"C-Commander, this isn't what it looks like!" his face was completely red as he frantically tried to explain himself. "This isn't an affair or anything of the sort!"
I never expected him to react like this. I patted his back and turned to the woman again.
"You see, I happened to overhear a sliver of your conversation."
"How uncouth. It does save us some tedious explanations. Sir Aiden and I are in a relationship, do keep your nose out of it."
She obviously thought of Conrad as hers. What did she think she was doing ignoring his opinion like that?
"That seems to be only your opinion though? He clearly loathes that idea."
Miss Mansfield's face contorted but returned to normal quickly.
"That's entirely irrelevant. He'll see he's misguided once we come together again."
What did I get myself into?
"Entirely irrelevant? Conrad's feelings are… irrelevant?"
"Obviously. Sir Aiden is a man, and he is mine. He will see reason."
Hers? He would see reason?
"No man ever failed to yield to my will. It was ever thus."
It was ever thus? Hearing her speak those words made my cheek twitch. My fist clenched tighter. And she, with that delighted expression of hers, continued to spew sewage from her mouth.
"And for that reason, Conrad WILL be my husband! He exists for me, and me only! His body is God's gift to bring me satisfaction!"
I felt something snap within me. In few swift paces, I closed the distance between us. My right hand sank into the tree trunk behind her.
She had probably only seen me suddenly appear in front of her and felt the wake of my punch. I retracted my arm. Slowly. Her face turned ashen.
"…I could no longer listen to your drivel, you know. I found it… extremely irritating."
"Wh-what are you…?" asked the woman, no, the bitch, while shaking like a leaf.
"Pardon? Did you ask 'What'?"
I slammed my left hand against the other side of the tree, and brought my face so close to hers that my helmet almost touched her nose. She actually squealed. I continued in my most threatening voice.
"Nothing is ever certain, madam. What happened between you two is not necessarily bad. It wouldn't be strange for love to be born from it. But simply ignoring the other side's refusal and believing everything will go your way… Will. Just. Not. Do."
The bitch tried to turn away so I grabbed her by the chin with my right hand, holding her head in place and forcing to look me in the eyes.
"Do NOT turn away!"
She squealed again. Her eyes, welling with tears, focused on me.
"Understand this, no matter how much you pursue Conrad, he will never become your husband."
In full panic, she seemed unable to comprehend the turn of events. Even though all it took was to think about it for a bit.
"Fine. I'll explain in a way even you can understand. You are both Representatives, indispensable assets of your countries. It would be impossible to arbitrate your place of residence were the two of you to marry. In worst case scenario, your marriage would spark a war. Such is the weight of your position."
Finally able to comprehend, she paled even more. And I continued the lecture.
"But what irritates me most, is how you refer to him like he was just a thing. You two seem to have been close in the past. And that wasn't an improper thing. It is fine for men and women to have relationships. But, considering that, you should at least be on speaking terms now, shouldn't you? Why would you mistake him for your possession?"
By now, she was crying so hard that snot started to drip from her nose. Her face looked miserable. Her makeup was completely ruined. I decided to give this unsightly figure a coup de grace.
"So from now on, do not dare to call Conrad's name or touch him with your filthy body. I would very much love to be your next opponent in the tournament, but sadly, the Annoyance Number One comes first. But I'm sure, Miss Annoyance Number Two, that he will take care of you by himself. I am not really thrilled by the prospect of him facing you, but that can't really be helped. Know this, though. He is entirely beyond your league. A dirty woman like you will not even be able to touch such a chivalrous knight!"
With that final blow, I let go of her chin, allowing her to fall to the ground, still crying. I turned back to Conrad, who stood rooted to the spot dumbfounded. I put my left hand on his right shoulder.
"Let us leave. No good will come from being near that sort of a woman."
He followed obediently, still completely confused by what had happened. How on earth had these sort of people ended up as the Representatives!?
＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊In A Hallway – Conrad's POV
It was the worst possible situation – to be seen by the Commander, of all things.
After the banquet, Selene Mansfield, the Holy Kingdom's Representative, had taken me to a deserted garden. To tell the truth, instead of being taken, I had been the one to propose going there. I wanted nothing to do with her at first, but there was that time in the past when the tournament had been held at the Holy Kingdom… Well, it would be a pain if she kept insisting, so I decided to humor her. I still regretted accepting her invitation four years ago.
Back then, I couldn't sleep due to the excitement of my first tournament, so I took a walk in a garden in the Holy Kingdom's palace. I happened to see Selene arguing with another man. I helped her out. She thanked me once the nuisance was driven off. I asked for the cause of the argument. Her words shocked me.
"Due to our many nights together, he thought we were destined lovers. Even though he's just one of my many men. Sheesh."
I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Could such words really escape the lips of a noble lady? From such a religious country no less? Later, I would learn that Selene Mansfield was a well-known hedonist who used her beauty to the fullest. One who had many affairs with many different men. But at that moment, as I looked at her in stunned silence, she started to cling to me with a thoughtful expression.
"You must be the Empire's Representative. Would you like to spend a night with me? It's your chance to be with a noble lady from another country, you know. Even if only for a night. All I ask is that you satisfy me in return."
And just like that, she seduced me.
I was only twenty at the time. She was unlike all the other women I had played with until then – a noblewoman that approached me of her own initiative. A single night would be no problem, I thought. And thus, the two of us slipped out of the castle, and spent a night together at an empty house owned by her family. Once we had done the deed, I left her sleeping on the bed, and returned to the castle before the sun had risen. Only the two of us knew about the affair. After that night, I considered our relationship over.
She had other ideas.
Why? Why had I ever accepted her invitation back then?
After that night, she pursued me relentlessly. Of course, she never approached me when there were people around, but as soon as I was alone, she would appear out of nowhere. However, there was no way that what she felt for me was anything akin to love. I might have not known love then, but it definitely wasn't that. I could tell from her eyes that she just saw me as an attractive young man that had dared to get away. So, feeling disgusted, I continued to avoid her. Only when I left the Holy Country and returned to the Imperial Capital did I find myself at ease again. That was how extremely abnormal she was.
I forgot about the matter over the next four years. And then I learned she was coming to the Empire as a Representative.
She didn't forget.
What was more, she had become Representative exactly to pursue me. I panicked then. I didn't want the Commander to know about our relationship. It wouldn't be good either if any other person found out, but it was four years ago. Nobody else would say anything. But the Commander absolutely couldn't know. The thought of her finding out pained my heart.
But despite all that, she still did. She heard what happened.
I tried to explain.
I thought I had disappointed her. But, without a word, she just let me be there, all flustered like that, and moved towards Selene. Their exchange surprised me. Commander Chie let loose completely. Her anger felt incomparable to what I felt during the Adelbert incident. Truthfully, I had never seen her like this. She looked so repulsed. And then, as I watched in amazement, a sudden fear took hold of me. What if I was next? Due to that dread, not another of the words she spoke registered in my ears. I only knew one thing. She was tearing that woman apart with her words. She crushed any will to resist. That scene instilled terror within me. And then, she led me away, leaving Selene behind. It was my turn. I had disappointed her. I was ready to accept anything she said. I resolved myself not to let her down again.
Soon, we arrived at our destination. It was the conference room used for the Commanders and Vice-commanders. Naturally, at that time, nobody was there, aside from us two. The Commander lit the candles on the table, then turned to face me. It was coming, I thought. She took off her armor, put both knees on the floor, and then prostrated herself with both hands in front of her.
"I'm sorry!" I could hear her say.
I was so very confused. What was she apologizing for? Why was the Commander bowing down and apologizing to me? Despite my confusion, she continued on.
"I'm really sorry! I was taking a walk, and I heard voices, and I ended up eavesdropping on you out of curiosity! It would have been more polite to pretend I wasn't there and didn't hear anything, but instead, I did the worst possible thing! As your boss, I really apologise!"
The Commander was apologizing profusely.
"Commander! Please raise your head." I replied, shaken from my stupor, "There is no reason to lower your head to the ground like that!"
I too got on my knees in order to bring her up. I had never seen this posture before, but I knew that she was prostrating herself before me. I had to do something to get her to stop, but I didn't know what to do so I spoke again hurriedly.
"Commander Chie did nothing wrong! All the blame lies on me! I have disappointed you greatly!"
She looked at me, puzzled, but finally got up. I was relieved.
"Yes, four years ago, I had an affair with that woman. You must be disappointed in me. Please give me a punishment."
I then copied the pose the Commander took. That must have been a posture of apology from her hometown. I kept my head to the ground. It was a very fitting position for someone like me. This time, it was the Commander who became flustered.
"Wha? Hold up, hold up! You're misunderstanding something. Did you hear nothing of what I said to that bicchi?"
It was my turn be puzzled, again.
What could she possibly mean? Wasn't she angry about our affair?
"Ah, you didn't hear what I said, did you?"
Commander Chie sat in a weird kneeling position, and scratched her head. I raised my head and assumed the same position.
"I didn't. In my shame, I thought you were disappointed in me, so I didn't hear anything you said."
She began to speak.
"You see, what made me angry was how that bicchi completely disregarded your feelings and the inanity of her words."
I was shocked. I was certain that she was angry at both Selene and me. And what did "bicchi" mean anyways?
"That woman was completely oblivious of her position as the Representative. An ordinary noble would be bad enough, but the Representative is an indispensable military asset. No country would let them leave easily. If two of those were to fall in love and marry, it might even start a war between the two countries. And she didn't understand that at all. Is her head completely filled with s.e.x, or something? It must be. She became a Representative only in pursuit of your body after all."
She spoke with a strained expression, kneading her forehead. Her voice contained a mixture of anger and astonishment.
"Do the nobles of other countries lack even a shred of common sense? The blockhead from the Kingdom, and the bicchi from the Holy Kingdom. There's no way that people like that could manage their countries well. Well, I guess it doesn't really matter how the other countries turn out. But it still ticks me off. I'm so going to vent my anger in the tournament. I'd very much like to beat up both of these annoyances. But I can't do that. Conrad!"
The way she spoke so quickly made me involuntarily straighten my back.
"Don't hold back against that bicchi. Or rather, since it would be over in an instant if you went all out, let's do something else! Let's show those ignorant people that we don't even have to face them seriously. I'm not going to fight that blockhead head on. We can fight to the fullest in the finals. So let's show them—"
She smiled as she spoke. But the expression on her face was not her usual calm one. This smile belied her anger. I understood that perfectly when she finished her sentence. The other countries had awoken something they shouldn't have.
"—the strength of the Empire."
The Empire's Black Knight's wrath.
To be continuedAfterword
It's been a while, hasn't it?
I'm sorry, even though I said I would do my best, I made you wait.
How was chapter 31?
The other kings didn't speak at all.
Please look forward to when they speak and get compared to the Emperor.
Of course, the new character is an "akuyaku reijo" ( a noble villainess )(TL note: speaking of, go read )
Conrad's youthful indiscretions came to light, but thanks to Selene's attitude, everything got cleared up.
Chie is the hero, and Conrad is the heroine!
That's how I feel.
I'll finish this tournament arc by the end of the year. (TL note: how unfortunate that this will be released early in the year. It ruins how well the author notes and TL nots coincide)
In order to do so, I bought a new PC!
A broken PC was one reason I was late, but I was able to do a bit of revision as a result.
Please continue to enjoy my work!