Editor: Thor’s Stone
Anyway, since I already got provoked, I turned my gaze to Major Serena right away for some backup.
Hey, how should I deal with this guy?
That’s what my gaze implied. Major Serena’s cheek twitched as she cleared her throat and turned toward the young nobleman with swords strapped to his waist who was glaring at me with a vein throbbing on his forehead.
“Baron Crias. Could you please leave it at that? He is a mercenary who is neither a nobleman of this empire nor its subject. In a sense, he is simply a visitor to this country, albeit an honored one. Thus, it would be unreasonable for us to expect one of his standing to express the same fealty to the imperial family as the subjects of our empire.”
“I think I did show a proper amount of respect though.”
Major Serena turned back toward me with an irritated glare after I made my comment. It looks like she wants me to shut my trap. Fine, fine. As you wish, milady.
“However, this man has already received the Silver Sword Wings Assault medal and the First-class Star Cross medal. He’s already received such utmost favor! Therefore, I cannot condone his rudeness no matter what!”
It was your empire who gave me these awards without consulting me first though. You expect me to feel gratitude because of these? The heck! Is that how this galactic empire rolls? Un, how grand. Un.
But this is bad though. It seems Major Serena can’t offer an appropriate rebuttal this time. I wish she’d try harder though. That’s why I call you troublesome, my dear major.
“Forgive me for interrupting, Baron Crias. I am ultimately a mercenary. A mercenary acts for rewards, and not for gratitude and honor. In fact, I do not know any mercenary who acts for gratitude, sentiments, or honor at all. Unlike imperial aristocrats such as yourself who can make a living off of tax revenues from your territories, we mercenaries depend on the rewards after every successful job to put food on the table. In other words, without rewards, we will not be able to make a living at all.”
Baron Crias turned speechless after I said my piece. In fact, it wasn’t only him who got shut up. All the surrounding nobles and guests became quiet as well.
“In the first place, what exactly are you expecting from a mercenary like me, lord baron? I am merely a lucky mercenary who was able to capitalize on opportunities in order to achieve some merit and was awarded for them. That’s all. I’m sure no one here would actually believe a petty man such as me would suddenly awaken my patriotic spirit for the empire after receiving these medals, right?”
Baron Crias continued to be speechless as he gnashed his teeth. Nice. Let’s push some more then.
“As long as you evaluate me fairly, I will most likely continue to offer my utmost services to the empire. You can see this as a mercenary’s own code of honor. This is what I meant by my earlier statements. The wise Princess Luciada was able to understand where I was coming from and that’s why she did not treat my earlier conduct with reproach.”
It’s true that Princess Luciada didn’t call me out for my behavior earlier, so this prickly nobleman couldn’t offer any retort. Or rather, ain’t I supposed to be treated the same as a viscount when I got awarded this shiny, new Gold Star medal? Why the heck did this baron still decide to make a fuss then?
“That should be enough, Baron Crias.”
A dignified and solemn voice resounded all across the hall, and the man who was the source of the voice walked to the front. He was quite tall and fairly well-built. His full head of silver-gray hair streaked with black was quite conspicuous. His eyes were as sharp as a hawk’s, and on his waist hung two noble-issued swords that looked similar to mine.
“You seem to be doing quite well, Captain Hiro.”
“A-Ahaha…… I’m delighted to see you again, Earl Dareinwald.”
The one who appeared from the crowd was Chris’ grandfather, Earl Abraham Dareinwald. I really couldn’t seem to calm down in the presence of this guy for some reason. He was basically the silent-type, and he had this stifling aura about him due to his ever-present scowl.
“I applaud you for your steadfast show of loyalty as a fellow noble of this empire, but since Princess Luciada has already permitted such conduct from our honored guest, it would be best for you to let things go as well. Do you not think so?”
“Are you implying my actions are against the will of Her Highness, Earl Dareinwald?”
“It is a fact that Her Imperial Highness did not rebuke Captain Hiro for his conduct. That is all I’m trying to say.”
Earl Dareinwald gave his statement while glaring daggers at Baron Crias. In the middle of such a tense atmosphere, a third, no, a fourth person interjected.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, wishes to see Captain Hiro and his crew.”
It was Elma’s dad, Viscount Eldmoore Willrose, who barged into the scene. Why was he the one who got assigned to call on us? Did the emperor find out about Elma’s situation when he had us investigated and appointed Elma’s dad as his representative due to that? A mercenary like me has totally no idea about the political workings within the imperial court after all. He’s apparently working for the Internal Affairs Bureau, so that might have played a part.
“Wha…… His Imperial Majesty!?”
“You don’t mind if I bring them away, right?”
For an ardent fan of the emperor and the imperial family like Baron Crias, there was no choice but to yield. Earl Dareinwald also backed down as well.
“Chris has been wanting to meet you again. Please come to our residence in the imperial capital once you have the time.”
Earl Dareinwald crisply nodded and left the hall with dignified steps. He’s as frank and direct to the point as ever. …… But maybe that rigid character of his was actually one of the reasons why he failed to put a stop to the conflict between his own sons.
“That’s how it is, Major.”
“Fine. Off you go……”
Major Serena, who wasn’t of any use in stopping Baron Crias, wearily shooed us away. Even though she was the daughter of a marquis, I guess her influence still paled in comparison to a noble who’s considered the head of his house.
“How did you come to know Earl Dareinwald?”
“Uh, we met due to a job, I guess.”
As we followed after Viscount Eldmoore, he suddenly asked about the relationship between us and Earl Dareinwald, but all I could do was answer in a vague manner. We met him due to a conflict within his family after all, and we also have the responsibility not to reveal the details of the jobs we’ve taken to respect our client’s privacy.
“Fumu…… Well, no matter. Make sure to follow after me.”
We left the ceremony venue with Elma’s father, Viscount Eldmoore, in the lead. Mei, who was seated near one of the walls, also stood up and followed after us after politely bowing to the nobles in attendance. She’s seriously so dedicated.
“I was really surprised earlier though. I was actually worried he’d slash at me without restraint you know.”
“Of course he won’t…… No matter how much of a hardliner those Drawn Sword faction nobles are, they wouldn’t dare issue a duel without good reason. It would be a different story if you made Princess Luciada angry though, Hiro.”
“Nobles sure are scary, Hiro-sama.”
“I’m also bad with nobles you know.”
Eldmoore, who was walking in front of us, glanced back after hearing our discussion.
“I understand, alright. Milfi and Elfin already grilled me several times about your matters. And also, it’s not like you’ll be able to part yourself from him now, right?”
“W-Well, that’s how it is.”
After hearing Elma’s response, Eldmoore’s shoulders sagged dejectedly as he made a big sigh. That’s quite a reaction. What’s up?
“Uh, Mimi, what are they talking about?”
“Eh!? U-Um…… err, Elma-san will probably tell you herself, Hiro-sama.”
“Ueh!? Y-Yeah, that’s right.”
Mimi and Elma’s faces were red for some reason. And Eldmoore was looking at me with an expression that’s close to crying tears of blood. Oi, wait a sec. Why the heck are you reaching for the hilt of your sword? Stay, Eldmoore, stay.
Considering Mimi, Elma, and Eldmoore’s reactions as well as the insinuation that Elma won’t be able to leave me even if she wanted to, did I end up doing something to her that was totally irreversible or something? Fumu?
“Don’t tell me I really went and made you pregna– Bufuuu!?”
“Of course not!!”
“Why’d you hit me then!?”
I ended up eating a full-power punch in the gut from Elma. How’d she pull off such a perfect body blow while wearing a fancy dress anyway? But… Hm. So she isn’t pregnant yet huh. I see? Well, maybe it’s something related to the unique biology of space elves. It looks like she’ll tell me later, so I guess it’s fine. I’m sure Mei will tell me the reason if I ask though. But since Elma’s saying she’d tell me herself, it would probably be better if I waited.
After that short interlude, we continued to follow after Eldmoore until we reached another high-speed monorail station and boarded it to travel further inside the imperial castle.
“From here on out, you’ll be witnessing the true imperial castle. In other words, we will be entering the central area reserved for the imperial family and His Majesty, the Emperor.”
We got off the train and passed through a gate filled with sword-wielding imperial guards. As expected of the place where the emperor of the Graccan Empire resides. The security was exceedingly tight. We were told to leave all our weapons at the gate, and limiters were placed on Mei’s functions as well. As a result, Mei’s abilities were reduced to being similar to an ordinary human.
However, even if her abilities have dropped, they couldn’t do anything to the muscle fibers and skeletal frame made of special alloys hidden underneath her artificial skin, so she was still pretty tough.
“I-I’m starting to get nervous.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I see. Just try to calm down, you two.”
“Why are you okay though, Hiro-sama……?”
“I guess I still can’t wrap my head around the situation since the other party’s status is way too high.”
The other party was a powerful person who controlled a certain portion of the galaxy after all… I better be careful not to blurt out things that would sound rude. I may be a Platinum ranker that’s as good as a viscount right now, but the emperor was the commander-in-chief of the entire imperial military. The difference in our statuses was just too big.
As I repeatedly warned myself not to run my mouth, we finally came before a fancy-looking door that was exuding a regal atmosphere. This was probably the audience chamber or something.
“Let us enter then. The Emperor is a friendly and tolerant person, but try your hardest not to utter or do anything rude, alright?”
“Yes, I understand, father.”
Elma then glanced in my direction. She’s probably worried about me. Okay, I get it. I’ll be fine. I’m a guy who can deliver when it counts after all.