Editor: Thor’s Stone
“To today’s victory. Cheers.”
Mimi and Elma responded with gusto when I raised a toast. However, I drank carbonated stuff bought straight from the capital, and Mimi got 100% All-natural fruit juice for herself, so there was only one person actually drinking alcohol in the room– No, make that two.
“I got splendidly trounced by you though.”
The one who raised a voice in protest and sported a sour look unfit for the celebratory mood was a handsome man with long, pointed ears – Elma’s brother, Ernst.
“Since the match is over, let’s just let bygones be bygones, right, brother-in-law?”
“I told you not to call me brother-in-law…… Haaah.”
Ernst sighed in defeat. His gestures really resembled Elma’s. I guess he really was her brother. Who knows? Maybe it was actually Elma who took after Ernst.
“Though it pains me to admit so, it is a fact that you have bested me. And it looks like Elma recognizes and accepts you as well. It doesn’t seem like you are holding her hostage using her debt as an excuse. You have bested reputed knights and noblemen in single combat. You are also the holder of the Silver Sword Wings Assault medal and Gold Star, in addition to being a certified Platinum-rank mercenary. It seems I have no choice but to accept you. I still do not want you calling me brother-in-law, but yes, I do recognize you.”
“Hey, Elma. Why is this guy so uppity?”
“Don’t tease him, you.”
Elma playfully pinched my nose in exasperation. Nuu, I got told off.
“You really are Elma-san’s brother……”
Mimi intently stared at Ernst’s face while holding her cup with both hands. T-That’s no good, Mimi! He’s certainly a really handsome guy who resembles Elma…… but that’s no good!
“Well, I admit we do look alike.”
“Elma and I both take after our father more after all.”
They looked at each other’s faces and shrugged in unison.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean the way you just can’t be honest with yourselves sometimes is really similar.”
Elma sat down beside Mimi in a huff and glared at her. Then she started to pinch Mimi’s cheeks. What a lovely sight. Not being honest with themselves huh……? I met gazes with Ernst. I saw an unpleasant expression on his fair face. It was a face of denial.
“However, I did not think I would ever get to dine with Elma in a private guest room within the imperial palace. I could not imagine this ever happening five years ago.”
“I’m the same, dear brother. I even thought I would never set foot on the capital ever again.”
“So it’s like meeting Hiro-sama paved the way for you to restore the relations between you and your family huh, Elma-san. How wonderful.”
“Uh, isn’t that a little bit of a stretch……?”
“Well, I probably wouldn’t even come near the sectors close to the capital if I didn’t meet you, Hiro. So I think it’s not that farfetched of a story.”
After hearing Elma’s statement, Ernst’s eyes widened in shock. It looks like the thought of Elma not wanting to come home didn’t even cross his mind.
“……Regardless of what happened, it is true that you have brought Elma back to the capital and her home, so I suppose I do have to thank you for that.”
“He’s suddenly being so agreeable. Just how worried are you about your sister getting together with me anyway?”
“You might not like hearing this, but in my eyes, you mercenaries are just a loose group of thugs who possess a weak sense of belonging to our fair empire. Tell me then. Why should I not be worried about my frail and lovely sister getting together with you?”
“Frail and lovely……? Uh, I guess I agree with the ‘lovely’ par– Oow! Oooow!”
Elma pinched my thigh in displeasure. See! You call this frail!?
“But didn’t you help me run away from home in the first place, dear brother?”
“Come now, Elma. What kind of brother would allow his sweet and pretty sister to get preyed upon by all the crafty and repulsive trash out there? But that is that and this is this. There hasn’t been a day when I didn’t worry for my dear little sister who had jumped out into a dangerous world beyond my reach.”
“Man, you really are a hardcore siscon.”
“You have a very nice big brother, Elma-san.”
“I’m already used to his overprotectiveness, but I’m not sure if I should be thankful for it…… Come to think of it, whatever happened to that guy anyway? I heard the engagement fell through after I hid my whereabouts?”
Engagement, you say?
“Ah, there’s no need to worry about him any longer. There was no way for the engagement to hold since you already escaped on a small-class starship and got listed as missing after all. Father handled things well and cleanly broke off the engagement. Things would have been great if this guy wasn’t here and you decided to come back home on your own instead, Elma.”
After saying so, Ernst turned a spiteful gaze at me.
“Oh? What? You wanna have another go? I won’t duel with you using real swords y’know? I ain’t brawling against you with fists either. I’m a staunch advocate of pacifism. If you really wanna have a go, then let’s use our starships and perform a mock battle instead.”
“Be clear if you wanna act tough or chicken out, you…… Now you’re just blatantly trying to goad him into fighting against you using your specialty.”
“You bastard. Didn’t you just win against me in a sword fight……?”
“That’s that, and this is this. I’ll pass on trading lives with swords any day. It hurts when you get cut, you bleed a lot, and you might die y’know. I won’t lose when it comes to ship-to-ship combat though.”
“That’s quite a bold claim.”
“Of course. I’m a Gold Star awardee after all.”
I responded to the sarcastic Ernst with a taunting grin. Fuhahaha, I’m a Gold Star awardee y’know? I’m a Platinum ranker too. It might sound presumptuous, but I don’t think I’ll lose to anyone when it comes to ship combat. I didn’t do much PVP since I found it troublesome, but since I was a solo merc, I naturally had plenty of combat experience under my belt. My main opponents were NPC and player pirates. I did fight quite a number of space monsters as well though.
“Hmm…… You will engage in the melee combat competition in three days, correct? It would be good if you manage not to lose face there.”
“Ah, that huh. How exactly would this melee combat competition play out anyway? We won’t be killing each other with power armors and laser guns, I hope?”
The swordsmanship competition was a series of matches using training swords, and the space battle tournament was a mock battle in space using starships. But I’m not sure what the melee combat competition is all about. Basically, my definition of melee combat was to forcibly board a starship and engage in CQC with the crew in order to take the ship over. It’s impossible for it to be a one-on-one thing, and there are differences in everyone’s personal equipment as well. Just how would they judge if you were good in melee engagements anyway?
“What? So you don’t know? Well then, I’ll be gracious and lecture you.”
With that said, Ernst began lecturing me about the particulars of the melee combat competition. To put it simply, the so-called melee combat competition can be likened to an extreme obstacle race. Think of it as an extreme version of the SAS*KE obstacle course competition you see on TV.
First, a major premise was for competitors to use equipment they’ve prepared themselves. Of course, this would cause a disparity in the equipment quality depending on one’s financial capability, but in this competition that emphasizes simulation of actual combat conditions, financial capability is treated as just another factor of one’s overall strength. And so, entrants unable to prepare decent equipment for themselves are kicked out from the start. Was your opponent better-equipped? It’s your fault for not bringing good equipment. Anyway, that’s the rationale behind it.
Yeah. It certainly was ‘extreme’.
The competitors will each rush into their own assigned battlefields and begin combat immediately. The battlefields are supposed to simulate various combat situations and environments, such as CQC combat aboard a hostile ship, inside colonies, or a jungle on some alien planet.
The competition will make use of a military training facility that could recreate such varied environments using a combination of hologram projectors and replicators.
“That sure sounds like a serious waste of tech.”
“By the way, the ones that will be serving as enemies in the competition are combat bot models from the various robotics companies based in the capital. It seems they will treat it as an opportunity to record valuable battle data as well.”
“Those profiteers. They just don’t miss any opportunity huh……”
Were they not worried about protecting classified tech or something? But, I see. I can bring my own equipment huh. I see… I’ll give the competition rules a good read later. Ah, I’ll have to get them to deliver the weapon stockpiles I had from the Black Lotus’s armory later. There are also some stored on Krishna as well. Wait. Should I just procure the consumables here? My power armor and main weapons are all stored inside Krishna anyway, so I just have to worry about procuring grenades and ammo.
“Um, you’re making that nasty expression again, Hiro-sama.”
“He’s probably plotting something again.”
“What are you saying, you two? You make it seem like I’m some despicable villain. I ain’t planning to use a mini reactive bomb or anything.”
“Of course you won’t! Elma, is this guy really okay?”
“He’s probably okay…… I think. Uh, well, I wonder though. He did make use of that Singing Crystal last time……”
Oops. Leave it at that, Elma. That’s a gray area that’s dangerously close to black y’know. If they found out, I’m doubtful I’d get away with just a reprimand. So don’t say anymore.
And c’mon. I’m just gonna use my equipment effectively, okay. It’s fine. Absolutely no problem.
“Rather than that, I’m more interested in Elma’s former fiancée. He won’t suddenly rear his ugly head again, will he?”
“I don’t think that will happen, but if it does, I’ll make sure to take care of it and not cause trouble for you, Hiro.”
Elma declared so with a sour but determined look. I responded by flicking Elma’s forehead.
“Idiot. I don’t really mind that sort of trouble. Instead of getting worried on your own, it’s better to consult with us and think up countermeasures together.”
“Can you not flirt with my sister in my presence?”
“No way. So, what kind of guy is he anyway? Both brother-in-law and Elma seem to hate him a lot.”
“I already told you not to call me brother…… Haaah. Fine. The identity of Elma’s former fiancée is the second son of Marquis Elzar. He’s total garbage who switches women as often as he switches his clothes. It would be good if he was just your typical womanizer, but he also makes use of his parent’s influence and power to his heart’s content.”
“He sounds like the stereotypical hopeless aristocrat, but why are they letting him do as he pleases? Or rather, even if he’s the second son of a marquis, how could you bear to match Elma, who’s the daughter of a viscount, with scum like him?”
Sure a marquis is higher in rank compared to a viscount, but how could a father bear to offer his younger daughter to such a notorious playboy?
“The marquis directly came to father and begged him on bended knee to marry Elma to his second son. It seems like he was hoping to put a leash on his wayward son’s behavior by marrying him to Elma.”
“Elma is sweet and beautiful, but she’s also reputed to have inherited the strength of body and character of a true member of House Willrose…… Well, that led to her fleeing from the imperial capital in the end though.”
“In other words, you’re saying she’s considered strong enough to completely hold down that prodigal so– Gaaaaah!?”
Elma swiftly caught hold of my arm and subjected it to a painful joint lock. This! They were referring to this!
“Umm…… So, is there a possibility that the second son of Marquis Elzar will try to get in touch with Elma-san again……?”
Since I was subjected to Elma’s tyranny and physical violence, Mimi swiftly took over the conversation. That’s my Mimi. So considerate. But could you also do something about this ferocious elf?
“Well, by the decree of His Imperial Majesty, people are expressly forbidden to lay a hand on Hiro’s loved ones after all. Of course, that extends to you, my sister, and those twin dwarven engineers stationed at your ship. However, once the tournament ends, that decree will be rendered ineffective. But even so, I suppose most imperial nobles will still think twice about laying a hand on you all after the tournament ends. They do not want to attract our Emperor’s ire after all. I think you do not have to worry so much under normal circumstances.”
“So what about the possibility of that second son popping out to bother Elma?”
I managed to free myself from Elma’s joint lock and asked Ernst.
“I cannot completely dismiss such a possibility. He’s a fairly impatient and impulsive sort of person after all. However, I believe it is Lady Mimi who’s more in danger as opposed to Elma.”
Mimi let out a shocked cry. I wasn’t surprised though. If you think about it, it would be more likely for that second son of Marquis Elzar or whatever to focus on harassing Mimi. She’s an easier mark, so to speak.
Elma’s the daughter of a viscount, so there’s a risk of antagonizing House Willrose if he pushes his luck. But Mimi was a commoner. At least, that’s what’s on the official records. For a nobleman who’s drunk on abusing his power, it was far easier to lay his hands on Mimi who was a commoner.
He probably treats the Imperial Princess as an untouchable flower on high even for the second son of a marquis. Don’t mention flirting. Maybe he doesn’t even have that many opportunities to catch a glimpse of her.
So what would that guy do when he hears about a commoner who looks exactly like the princess? For a serial womanizer like him, it would be something too good to pass up.
“Even so, something like that won’t happen normally.”
She might not be comparable to Princess Luciada, but Mimi, who was well known as a member of my crew, was considered as a sort of untouchable existence for most nobles too. I already displayed my prowess in the swordsmanship competition, and I plan to make even more of an impact in this upcoming melee combat competition. I think they won’t dare provoke someone like me who can be seen as violence incarnate.
“Well, that’s true, but…… that guy isn’t normal after all.”
“I see. He isn’t normal huh……”
It looks like I can’t let my guard down any time soon. Geez. How troublesome.
Anyway, I’ll focus on preparing for the melee combat competition in three days. Let’s deal with the most pressing issue first.
 TL Notes: SASUKE is a Japanese sports entertainment TV special that’s better known in the West as Ninja Warrior. It’s been airing in Japan since 1997 and is basically a four-stage obstacle course competition with a hundred participants. It’s named after Sarutobi Sasuke, a fictitious shinobi. And no, he’s not someone from Naruto.