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He has four guards with him.


Walking up to the front door, I opened it for him.


[If it isn’t his Majesty…… Have you settled the situation there yet?]


[I’ve had the cleanup procedures prepared. I’ve already sent out instructions to all the various places. From here on out, I’ll leave the other matters to the Prime Minister for the time being. I came to see how your group is doing.]


The Mad Emperor’s gaze shifted behind me.


[I’ve already heard the report, and I’m glad to hear that the Forbidden Race is safe and sound. Seras Ashrain also seems to be safe…… but it seems like she needs some rest. What about your black horse?]


[The people his Majesty has arranged for are treating her.]


After that, a new liaison came in to replace Hawk.


He called himself Ibarra Seat, someone who seemed to be from the three Elected Imperial households


I then asked Ibarra if I could leave treating Slei to him.


“I will inform his Majesty.”


Business-like, Ibarra said.


An hour or so later, several people in long white robes arrived.


At the moment, Slei should be being treated by them in the simple stables.


Well then———- We can’t just leave the Emperor standing at the entrance all this time.


I tried to welcome him inside.


But with a gesture and a glance, the Mad Emperor refused, saying he’ll just talk to us here.


Silently agreeing to him……


[Your Majesty, my condolences about Hawk-dono…… It’s also our fault that we couldn’t save Hawk-dono. I’m sorry about that…… I, too, feel very sorry about this outcome.]


Behind me, I could feel Seras stiffening a bit.


In response to my words, the Mad Emperor’s long, thin lashes were downcast.


[He was an excellent vassal. But indeed——— perhaps, it’s Wright who will suffer more than I. He quite likes Hawk after all.]


Speaking of which, he was the first aide to Wright Mira.


[Even though my relationship with Hawk-dono was very brief…… I had the impression that he was a smart and capable man. Most of all…… He was a man of great character.]


[Such a good and honest man, whose character could be seen as simple just at a glance, is difficult to cultivate in a world such as this. It’s true that he would have been sorely missed.]


I felt Seras hold her breath at that moment.


[I- It was my———, ……Ah.]


Just as she was about to speak, a hand was held out in front of her———- Mad Emperor’s hand.


[You need not speak further. I have heard that Vysis sent out a Hero…… and that this Hero took Hawk hostage when he met you in this area. I don’t mind if you feel responsible…… but for me, this matter is already over. It’s up to you to repent, to feel regret and apologize for this incident. But I’m sorry, I have no intention of going along with that.]


It isn’t that he thrust her back indifferently.


However, he didn’t accept it gently either.


The Mad Emperor lowered his arm and let his gaze drift to his left shoulder, stroking the blond hair that hung loosely there.


[It’s just…… You will still have your role to play in the future. Hawk Landing wouldn’t want you to continue to be bogged down by guilt and have your feet stuck, unable to move forward.]


[Ah———-]


[It’s not as if I’m not partly responsible for sending Hawk here. However, this topic won’t end once this matter continues. We have to cut off the pursuit of such “ifs” at some point. Even so……]


Leaking out a sigh, the Mad Emperor’s gaze turns towards Seras.


[If you still feel responsible, you can use this as a foundation.]


[Foundation……]


[Let his death be the foundation of your sustenance. Vysis’ defeat, which we aimed at together with Hawk…… To achieve this, learn from the past———— refine yourself even further, and use it as sustenance for the future. Wouldn’t that be  good enough of a gesture to him———– to Hawk Landing?]


I couldn’t see Seras from where I was standing.


However, I could feel her lips pursing upon those words.


[———-Yes…… I will make sure of this.]


The expression on the Mad Emperor’s face softened slightly.


[That dangerous honesty…… is somewhat similar to Hawk’s. Some things just don’t fit in today’s society. Originally, Hawk was also a man who didn’t fit in with this dark madness that was going on and the matters involving the Imperial Court. Perhaps, it may have been unfortunate that he had the ability to adapt to “that side”.]


Raising his small, shapely chin, the Emperor looked up to the sky.


[While unadulterated honesty and deep, undivided emotions are precious, they are also double-edged swords, especially in this turbulent world. A world where honesty and compassion are acceptable is indeed an ideal one, but the reality is different. Pure goodness can’t conquer true evil…… That’s what I think. After all, this goodness could sometimes be the chain that binds their limbs and thoughts. In other words, goodness is both precious and at the same time———– a harsh disability.]


That way of thinking……


It’s similar to mine.


Good people are preyed upon by evil people.


He also thinks that only a more powerful evil can conquer true evil.


“Hmph”, the Mad Emperor snorted lightly.


[It’s just, those who were honest and compassionate…… I can’t seem to dislike them. I can’t bring myself to discard them.]


[………………]


[Fuuu…… You’re one of the disabled people, Seras Ashrain.]


[I was———–]


[I hope that Vysis’ defeat…… will make the world a better place for people like you and Hawk.]


[………………]


[Don’t let what happened drag you down too much. People like you who are too sincere about matters like these…… They sometimes get psychologically ill very rapidly. Well, with Fly King there by your side, I suppose you have nothing to worry about.]


I’m partly to blame for this incident.


Yes———- as I’m the one who entrusted this matter to Seras.


Hence, the words of the Mad Emperor just now.


I can’t say those words in my position.


“Don’t worry too much”


Only Wright or this young Emperor could truly say that to Seras right now.


[One more thing, something I say in a more personal matter. I mentioned some of my impressions as an Emperor earlier…… but I should also thank you for your heart in not abandoning Hawk and trying to save him. I speak of this just as Zine Mira.]


Those were also words that only he could have said.


Perhaps, he may be saying this to “have me owe him a favor.


However, I couldn’t let that “consideration” slide at this point.


I bowed respectfully.


[I thank your Majesty for your consideration, your thoughtfulness…… and for your generosity. To Seras———- and to me.]


The Mad Emperor’s eyes relaxed.


That smile that seldomly changes to one befitting his age……


That small smile on his lips doesn’t seem to be made up, one that came from his heart.


[Yeah———- I see. That is what…… captivates me. I can’t help but be somewhat surprised at the freshness of this movement of the heart huh…… At any rate———-]


The Mad Emperor sent me a glance that seemed to be hinting something.


[Putting me aside, you should instead be prepared for what Wright will say…… I had already summoned him back to the capital. Well———- I’m sure it will be alright. He too has the caliber to be Emperor. After this battle with Vysis started, he was already prepared to lose his subordinates, whoever they are.]


There, as if to calm himself for a moment, the Mad Emperor lets out a small sigh.


[……We’ve talked a bit too much before getting to the main topic.]


It seems that the main topic for his visit isn’t the one we just talked about.


[The items belonging to the Great Underground Treasury. I’m thinking of transferring them to your group.]


Saying this, the Mad Emperor glances in the direction of the castle.


[If there’s no problem, I’m now planning to bring you to the Great Underground Treasury. If you aren’t too tired or mentally overloaded, let’s get around to it……]


Seras and Munin said they don’t have any problem with it.


Of course, I have no problem with it either.


The Great Underground Treasury.


There were two things I wanted from it.


The Teleportation Stone.


The Purple Beetle———- The material needed to make Pigimaru’s final enhancer……


The final material I needed.



Under the Mad Emperor’s lead, we went straight into the castle.


Inside the castle, a flurry of activity was still lingering.


We saw many people coming and going through the corridors.


The Emperor’s group was walking through the corridors in succession.


At the direct request of the Mad Emperor, I was walking alongside him.


“Walking shoulder to shoulder with the Emperor”


It seems impolite, doesn’t it?


However, it doesn’t matter since it’s the Emperor himself who wanted it.


……This makes it easier to have a conversation with him, so there’s no reason for me to refuse.


As we walked along, our group caught the attention of the people we passed by.


[I’d like to hurry things up and head for the Sealed Room, but I’m going to wait until after Wright gets back. You never know what might happen in the Sealed Room. If something should happen to me, I will have to worry about leaving everything to Kaiser alone.]


We turn down a corridor.


[I wish I had been able to hand over the items in the treasury before that incident happened…… but as soon as we returned, we found ourselves in that situation.]


When we arrived at the castle, the vassals were rushing to the Mad Emperor in a panic.


Thereupon, one of them whispered something to him.


And so, that situation should have already been going on since that time.


Certainly, it would have been better if Pigimaru could have been strengthened before I faced the Drunken Sword Party.


However, a certain extraction process was required for the material, Purple Beetle.


Extraction would take at least three days.


And at that point, I didn’t have the three days to spare.


So, I put it off too.


It also seemed premature to use the Teleportation Stone at that point.


If possible, I wanted to use it in the upcoming battle against the Goddess.


Drawing the repatriation magic circle isn’t a task that can be done quickly after all……


Meanwhile, Seras and Munin don’t have anything on the list that they particularly wanted.


So, that leaves us with what the Faraway Country wanted———-


Even if we got them though, it will be a long time before we could give it to them.


Incidentally, there’s a reason why there weren’t that many other things they wanted.


“Almost everything that was useful for the battle was put into the Brilliant Squadron.”


That was what we were told when we were given that list.


There were no weapons, armor or magic tools listed on it.


If they didn’t know what they were, the Teleportation Stone would look like jewelry.


The Purple Beetle, for those who didn’t know its value, would be the carcass of some strange creature.


And so, these things remained on the list.


On top of that……


[Many of the items in the Great Underground Treasury whose official names we don’t know. I have explained so before, haven’t I? So, we gave them a tentative name for management purposes, and drew them…… but of course, some of them couldn’t be fully drawn.]


[So you’re saying that if there’s something we want that wasn’t on the list, you can give it to us on the spot?]


[That’s right. If you see it with your own eyes, you may find something of value, even if we don’t know about it ourselves, right?]


I see.


That’s why he brought us here in person huh.


We descended a spiral staircase to a basement.


At the end of the stairs, a corridor appeared.


From here, it seemed that the guards would precede us with lanterns in hand.


I have my leather bag and Seras have her Light Spirit…… but well, I suppose we’ll just leave it to them here.


The walls of the corridor are made of a marble-like material.


The polished walls had this sheen to them.


The floor has almost no unevenness.


How should I say this…… It was like the floor of a first-class hotel or a museum.



Soon, a double door came into view.


It was a considerably large door that had a texture like bronze.


The Mad Emperor took out a large key from his pocket and handed it to the guards.


Thereupon, three guards rushed to the door.


The one with the key unlocks the door.


Meanwhile, the other two, standing on either side, grabbed the handle and began to pull.


It took them a lot of strength to pull it open, but soon after, the door was opened wide.


This time, the Mad Emperor took the lead and started walking.


Then, he put his white hand on the wall right after entering.


[Wait a moment———- I’ll turn on the lights now.]


In the previous world, there would have been a nearby light switch near the door.


In its place though, a crystal slab was fitted into the wall.


Groove-like lines radiated from the plate, seemingly made of crystal.


Thereupon, the Mad Emperor’s hand glowed a pale white.


The crystal plate then glowed, and the light traveled from there to the crystal lines.


The ray of light went from the walls of the room to the ceiling, and then to the floor.


The light circulated throughout the room.


The amount of light eventually increased, and with it, our field of vision opened up.


I see.


He filled that crystal plate with magic power, and it became the light source of this room.


Thanks to the light, I could see the room clearly.


Large shelves were neatly lined up.


This room kind of reminds me of that basement where Erika and I searched for things around.


The size, or rather, the scale of the room inside is different though.


The ceiling was high.


The lines of light make a beautiful pattern around the room.


As for the room’s shape———- I think it was almost rectangular.


The shelves went all the way to the back.


If I had to describe it……


Rather than treasures piled up in disorderly stacks, it looks more like a huge warehouse of a thoroughly managed online shopping company.


This aspect of the room reminds me of Erika’s other storage room.


Ladders are neatly lined up against the walls.


Nearby, a number of stepladders can also be seen.


There was also a corner lined with what looked like work tables.


Further back, it looks like a museum display area.


They are probably displaying items there that are difficult to put on shelves.


[It’s a little dusty, but I hope you’ll just be patient about this matter.]


The Emperor said.


[If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. The three guards I brought with me are also involved in the management of this place. You may also ask these three if you have any questions.]


One of them looked like he was the Emperor’s full-time guard, but the others seem to be people who are involved with this place on a regular basis.


Perhaps, they may be from a lineage of imperial painters.


Looking down at his elegant pocket watch, the Mad Emperor spoke.


[There’s a limit to the amount of time I can stay here with you———- but take your time and look around until then.]



The items we had requested in advance had already been prepared on the table near the entrance.


Of course, the Purple Beetle and the Teleportation Stone were there as well.


I picked them up and checked them out.


The Purple Beetle———- It looked just like in the illustration in the “Encyclopedia on the Forbidden Arts”.


There was no doubt that this is the real thing.


[Seras-san, look! Don’t you think this is a lovely necklace!?]


Seras and Munin parted ways with me and both of them went to the shelves first.


Or rather, Munin invited Seras to do that.


On her hand was a thin silver necklace.


Munin, with a smile on her face, brought it in front of her neck.


It kind of reminds me of the gesture people often make when shopping for clothes.


[Y- Yes…… I think it’s very nice.]


Seras glanced at me, who was looking at them from a distance……


[But Munin-dono, we’re here to find something useful for our purpose…… An ornament for dressing up is just……]


[Ehhhh!?]


Don’t tell me, Munin……


She seriously wanted to get what she wanted?


No, well, if we request it, we could acquire it but……


[No waaaaay…… I wonder if it’s no good?]


As if she’s trying to mend the situation, Seras wryly smiles.


[I- I’m not sure? We’ll have to ask Milord or the Emperor about that……]


[Considering it could boost the morale of the gentlemen, I don’t think it’s meaningless at all! I think even Lord-sama would be inwardly pleased, wouldn’t he!? For example, if Seras-san were to wear this without a string of clothing on your body, it would be very…… ummm, very…… No, wait a moment there! That won’t do…… No matter how I think about it, that’s too dangerous! T- That would just be too stimulating…… Haahhh…… Haahhh……]


She just unfolded her own delusions in her mind.


Her face then turned red on her own.


And then, this woman who is supposed to be the Chief of the Kurosagas, toned down by herself……


[Munin-dono……]


Seras just wryly smiled, but at that moment, Munin’s gaze on her narrowed.


[Seras-san———- Don’t move, hold still.]


[? Is there a bug stuck on my face……?]


[Don’t you ever move, okay?]


[Y- Yes……]


[Ei!]


Munin put the necklace over Seras’ head.


[Eh!? U- Ummm, Munin-dono!?]


[Ara!? I know I said it would look good on you without a single string on your body…… but it still looks great even with your clothes on! You look too good, Seras-san! You’re so lovely!]


There, for some reason, Munin vigorously hugged Seras.


No, rather than hugging her, it’s more like she held Seras to her embrace.


[M- Munin-dono……?]


Munin slightly pulled her head back.


Their faces are now facing each other at close range.


Thereupon……


[Hngghh!?]


Munin looked as if she had been struck by lightning.


What is it now?


[T- This is———- Adding this necklace…… with this face, i- in such a close proximity……]


[ ? ]


[Too…… Too bewitching———–]


[Ummm……?]


The Princess Knight and the Chief of the Kurosagas looked at each other.


However, why does Munin look slightly like those girls from Versailles-style anime who were swooning upon someone……


[Will you———– marry me?]


[……What?]


[Ummm, may this young lady know your hobbies?]


[I- I like to read……]


[……………What the heck are those two doing?]


Also, why is Seras answering like normal too?


Thereupon, Munin smiled and smoothly walked behind Seras.


Then, standing from behind Seras, she placed her hands on Seras’ shoulders.


[Fufu———– Well, how about we put the jokes to rest and go through the treasury together?]


[Eh? Ah…… Yes.]


Munin pushed the perplexed Seras forward.


[Fufufu, I’m kinda having fun. Seras-san goes along with my whims without making a sour face, so I end up acting spoiled.]


Seras’ face broke into a soft smile as understanding dawned on her.


[Fufu, I see…… If that’s the case, you’re welcome to act as spoiled as you want. However, I don’t really understand jokes that much…… so I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it well.]


[Does this not bother you, Seras-san?]


[No…… Thank you. I think I’m also being saved in part by Munin-dono’s cheerfulness. For example, yes…… It makes me think that it would be great if I had a sister like you.]


[Ara♪ Geez, Seras-san…… I really love you so much!]


Munin vigorously hugged Seras again from behind.


[Since I’m here, how about you have a taste of my tickle attack?]


[M- Munin-dono……! That’s not good……]


[Come on, you’re gonna look around with Big Sis, right? Alright, that’s a good girl.]


Even though what was on her lips was a wry smile, there’s no trace of bewilderment in it now.


Well…… That should just be Munin’s way of cheering Seras up.


Going through that route to cheer her up would be impossible for me after all.


I mean, if I suddenly had that kind of tension around me, I feel like that would be akin to horror in Seras’ eyes.


……Now then.


I guess I’ll have a look around———–


[Hmm?]


A certain someone beckoned to me from behind a shelf.


That gesture was somehow out of character for him———-


No, perhaps, I should instead say that such a gesture is befitting someone his age.


Walking up to him……


[Is something the matter———- Your Majesty?]


[I assume you are also going to take a look around the Great Underground Treasury, right? I know the place reasonably well. I think I’m the right person to guide you.]


The Mad Emperor looks around the treasury, before returning his gaze to me.


I see.


[In that case, please allow me to accept…… Besides, I have always wanted to have a private word with his Majesty.]


I wanted to have this opportunity sooner or later.


This is something I’m just hoping for.


The Mad Emperor slightly tilted his head and gave a faint smile.


He was pleased that his intentions were immediately understood huh.


It seems like this Emperor had this part of him.


[We can’t exactly say we’re completely alone———- but we’ll eventually come to that.]


And so, we began walking side by side.



<Author’s Notes>


I’m sorry, I’m behind schedule…….


I hope I will be able to update the next chapter sooner.



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