180 – Landing on the Imperial Capital
Editor: Thor’s Stone
In the end, it was decided that our audience with the Emperor will be held after the Award Ceremony. We will be called over with the pretense of His Majesty wanting to exchange some words with the mercenary who was able to obtain a Gold Star which hasn’t been given out for the longest time.
More specifically, the audience will be held in four days, immediately after the Award Ceremony. We then decided to try out the clothes we will wear for the ceremony as well as take etiquette lessons from Mei.
“Hiro-sama, you look so cool!”
“I guess he does look decent enough.”
“Well, thank you, ladies.”
Mimi and Elma praised my appearance when I wore the clothes Chris bought for me on Sierra III as well as the two Noble-issue swords and my personal laser gun. Well, even though they were said to be clothes fit for Noblemen, they gave the impression of a formal Military Dress Uniform as well. Maybe it’s due to the influence of those Drawn Sword faction Nobles. I guess they wanted clothes that didn’t hinder their movements much.
“You two are also quite pretty.”
“Ehehe, thank you very much.”
“It’s because the dresses are excellent as well.”
Mimi was wearing the neat and elegant white dress and Elma was wearing the stylish light-green dress the two of them bought the other day. Both of them wore minimal jewelry and accessories that didn’t seem too flashy, but their looks were still comparable to Noble Princesses.
“……Man. To think one of you is an actual Imperial Princess and the other is the daughter of a Viscount.”
“Ah– ……Un, that’s right, I guess?”
“I just want to live my life normally though.”
It looks like the thing about her true blood ties has become a sort of taboo topic for Mimi. Well, I don’t exactly know how she feels, but…… She just found out that the grandmother she hasn’t even met was actually part of the Imperial Family, and that she also carried Noble Blood. Since it was all too sudden, it’s no wonder she’s still flustered and confused.
In the Graccan Empire, the Imperial Family is venerated to a great extent after all. For many Imperial commoners, instead of fearing them as they do with normal Imperial aristocrats, or feeling inferior due to the difference in social class, they feel something close to utmost respect and worship toward the Imperial Family.
Partly because she was far too overwhelmed by the prospect, Mimi decided to continue living as an ordinary commoner and serve as my ship operator without recognizing her relationship with the Imperial Family. I’m really glad she decided to stay with me though.
“It looks like you were able to wear your clothes perfectly, everyone.”
“Yeah, they sure look neat. You look really cool, Boss.”
“Un, they all suit you. How cool. Mimi-san and Elma-san also look really pretty.”
Mei, Tina, and Whisker were all praises when they saw us wearing our formal clothes.
“Are you two really not attending the ceremony, Tina, Whisker?”
“Uh, we’re just commoners, after all, Boss. It’s impossible for us to attend that ceremony and party filled with high-ranking aristocrats and royals.”
“We don’t have formal dresses to wear, and we’re also not official crew members after all.”
“I can just buy you some clothes you know. They’re not really all that expensive.”
“I dunno about a couple thousand Enels being cheap, but it just doesn’t feel right, Boss.”
Tina displayed a bitter grin and waved her hand in refusal.
“Is that so? How about you, Mei?”
“I’m a maid after all.”
“……I would certainly comply if you order me to attend, Master.”
When she saw how down I looked, Mei declared so after thinking for a few moments. Fufu, I’ve spent quite some time together with Mei already after all. I already know a few tricks to goad her into following my whims.
“Well then everyone, let us start the lesson.”
And so, we took a lesson on how to behave in the Award Ceremony from Mei–
“It looks like there’s no problem with you, Elma-sama.”
“I was a little uneasy since it’s been a while though.”
Elma received an OK from Mei on the first try.
“Kuh…… As expected of a true Noble Lady.”
“Elma-sama always carries herself well after all.”
As expected, Mimi and I needed more training.
“Can I leave Mimi-sama’s lessons to you, Elma-sama? I shall be focusing on Master.”
“Nn, alright. But why all the trouble though? It’s a bit suspicious.”
“It’s so we can guide them more closely.”
“Hm. Alright. Come over here then, Mimi.”
Mimi and Elma started their lesson a little distance away, and Mei started guiding me as well. Mei’s lessons were basically gentle, but they were also thorough and strict…… Mei really is quite strict when it comes to things like this huh.
I not only received lessons in manners and behavior but also lessons on how to brandish and fight with my swords while wearing formal clothes meant for Nobles. And so, the day of the Award Ceremony finally came. The four of us – meaning I, Mimi, Elma, and Mei – boarded Krishna and descended onto the Imperial Capital under the lead of Imperial Military ships. The mechanic sisters remained to look after the Black Lotus.
“But man, after seeing it up close like this, the Capital sure is something.”
The sight of an entire planet completely covered by manmade structures was awe-inspiring. The placement of the buildings seems to follow some sort of rules. When seen from outside the atmosphere, the Imperial Capital’s surface seems to be comprised of uniform geometric patterns.
“It really is amazing…… I can’t even imagine how they managed to transform a planet into something like this.”
“From what I’ve heard, it seems to be thanks to highly advanced gravity and environmental control technology, but I’m not too sure about the details as well. I think the total population of the Capital is about 25 billion if I remember correctly.”
“Yes. The population will be reaching close to 25.7 billion soon.”
“Man, that’s a lot. You said you produce part of your foodstuffs from under-level facilities, right?”
“Yep. The food production plants here are much larger and more advanced than the ones we saw in the Alein system.”
As we continued conversing, a huge, solemn-looking structure got displayed on the main cockpit screen.
“So that’s the Imperial Castle huh…… Man, that’s huge.”
It was like a mountain. No, it was more like an entire mountain range. Bigger wasn’t always better of course, but with that imposing size, one can instantly tell it was the Imperial Palace at first glance.
“The entire structure is considered the Imperial Palace, but in truth, only a small part of it is actually used as living space. The interior facilities are used by the various government bureaus and the military.”
The leading Imperial ship guided us toward the Military facility situated near the center of the Imperial Palace, where a dock for small-class starships was located.
By the way, Krishna was still currently armed, but all weapon systems were locked by the Imperial Military, and the navigation controls were also handled by them, so it was more like us being towed to our destination.
As expected, the security measures implemented within the Imperial Castle where the Emperor and the rest of the Imperial Family resides was pretty strict. According to Mei, the system lock was performed via the cooperation of multiple independent AIs cooperating with the Military, so even with her abilities, it was next to impossible to get rid of the lock.
Well, this was the heart of the Graccan Empire after all. I don’t have the guts to arbitrarily fire off high-caliber laser cannons or anti-ship torpedoes here, so they didn’t have to worry at all. I’ll say no to being erased from the face of the galaxy through the full might of the Empire.
“It looks like we’ve landed.”
Krishna safely landed on the small-class starship dock within the Imperial Palace. The auto-docking function did its job swimmingly today as well.
“Let’s do our best, everyone……!”
“Try not to get too worked up though.”
Mimi clenched both fists in front of her in her usual guts pose and Elma warned her while sporting a wry grin. Mimi should be pumping herself up right now so she doesn’t get too flustered when she gets turned into the center of attention later in the ceremony.
“It looks like the right clothes can make even the most unrefined boors into proper gentlemen huh… Ehem. Do excuse me for that.”
“What? If you have something to say, then don’t hold back and just say it.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena, who got off the lead Imperial dropship that led Krishna to the Imperial Palace, made a rude remark the moment she saw me. Lieutenant Commander Serena was in her crisp Military uniform as always.
“Lieutenant Commander, it’s nearly time.”
“Right. Let’s depart then. It would be a shame for the Guest of Honor of this Award Ceremony to arrive late after all. And it would reflect badly on us guides as well.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena nodded after Lieutenant Robbitson’s warning and started leading the way for us. I followed right behind her, and Mimi and Elma followed after me. Mei walked at the very back of the procession.
“I’m sure you already know, but pay attention to your posture and manners even when walking.”
After Elma whispered a warning, I straightened my spine and made sure to walk in a supposedly elegant and dignified manner. I couldn’t see their postures since they were behind me, but I’m sure Mimi and Elma were also walking elegantly. And I didn’t have to worry about Mei.
We left the dock and went inside the Imperial Palace. We found a boarding platform inside. What sort of boarding platform? It was a platform for what seemed to be a small-sized linear motor train. It was probably similar to those used in a colony’s goods delivery network.
“We actually need to ride something like this inside?”
“The Imperial Palace is quite large after all. If we walked the entire way, the sun will set before we reach the venue.”
As soon as we boarded the train car with Lieutenant Commander Serena, it started to move. It was moving at tremendous speeds, but we hardly felt any Gs due to the acceleration. It must be equipped with an inertial control module just like the one installed on Krishna.
“Uu…… Now I’m starting to get nervous.”
“You can just follow behind us later, Mimi. It’s not like I prepared some sort of speech myself.”
At the ceremony, the Imperial Military top brass will give a speech and report on the circumstances and results of the Crystal Campaign, but all we had to do was sit tight and listen. After that, the Award Ceremony will begin in earnest, and we would just have to come to the front once our names are called.
I’m actually the only one who will receive an award, but it was customary for the rest of the crew to join me as well.
“But I’m a little scared when I think about what could happen after this.”
“It’s not all that unusual for you to feel that way. No one will possibly act up later since doing so would be considered a great disgrace.”
“For now, I guess. It might be okay today since we were basically invited by the Emperor himself, but I’m not sure what would happen tomorrow onward.”
“They would be quite busy in the coming days, so I think they won’t have the time to bother you all in the first place.”
“……I sure hope so.”
“Wha– Will you cut that out!”
Elma’s lips twitched when she heard my pessimistic muttering and Mimi smiled bitterly. Oh c’mon. It’s us, you know? You guys really think things will remain peaceful with us involved? No, not a chance, I say! I’m almost totally convinced some weird Noble or something will try to bother Mimi. This is based on prior experience!
“I know your penchant for attracting trouble, but this time…… Ugh. It’s actually possible huh. Based on all the prior incidents involving you, the chance is quite high.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena gave me a reproachful stare. For some reason, Lieutenant Commander Serena keeps getting involved in troublesome stuff together with us as well…… There’s Elma’s runaway starship incident, the battle with Vereverem Federation, the attack on Sierra III, the battle with that rogue fleet, and the latest Crystal Campaign. All of it involved us in some fashion, and almost half the time, we actually implicated her in the incidents. But I won’t apologize, okay. I really won’t.
“Please try not to act rashly for once. Is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am. I will do my best to the extent of my abilities.”
I gave her a crisp salute, but Lieutenant Commander Serena’s gaze was still quite icy.