The garden party organized by Charlotte would always happen together with the arrival of spring.
By the time the coldness of winter would lessen and the accumulated snow would melt and start to turn into puddles… Invitation letters would be being sent to all the parts. The only ones to be invited would be high ranking members of the Demon Lord army that had accomplished great contributions, and so, it was a distant world to Riku, who was only a mere field officer.
Normally, she wouldn´t even be aware that this kind of event even happened. However, at the time when she was still affiliated to the Dragon Demon division, because Leivein had been participating to those parties at that time, she was aware that the high society celebrated the coming of spring. But she was merely aware of its existence; it was something unrelated to Riku herself. All the times, the one Leivein would bring together with him was Piguro, and was never her.
Riku had always secretly desired to be able to accompany him someday, but she had never even imagined she would ever be able to participate in such party and always believed that it was impossible for her to.
…That was, until she received the invitation from Charlotte.
“Really… If people have the time to be doing this kind of thing, it would be better for them to spend it on training.”
With her brand-new military uniform on, she was acting moody.
At the peaceful garden, there was an ordinary table. On the table, there were sandwiches made with plentiful of spring vegetables and other things like very high quality pieces of cheeses and fruits sprinkled in honey.*1 Even comparing to when she used to live at the Barusak residence, those were rare and extravagant foods. But strangely, she wouldn´t feel hunger. While rotating the glass full of carbonated water, she gave a deep sigh.
“First of all, why was I even called?”
“Hmm… I suppose it is because of the achievements after all-de gozaru.”
The one to answer to Riku´s sighing was Asty. Until now, Riku had been going through nothing but battlefields. She was experienced with table manners in general, but it was the first time for her to actually put it in practice.
On this first time she was coming to the party, Riku choose Asty, who seemed to be used to these things, as the subordinate to accompany her. She is Gortoberuk´s grandchild, and so, she should have experienced the high society. Right now, Asty was actually enjoying the banquet more than Riku was. Even now, she had a glass filled with wine on her right hand, and a beautifully designed plate with all sorts of food onto it on her left hand.
“The one to save my honored grandfather and to take the head of Selestinna Bistolru, and also to save Charlotte-sama, was lieutenant commander Barusak-de gozaru. Besides, the one to drive away the army attacking Karkata was also lieutenant commander-de gozaruyo. That´s why, shouldn´t it be better to not worry about the little details and have pride-de gozarou?
To begin with, all of Riku´s actions weren´t for the sake of the [Demon Lord army], but for the sake of [Leivein]. However, there was nobody that could point it out by now.
“Ah, look, isn´t this tasteful beverage that famed wine-de gozaru? Lieutenant commander should also get your share-de gozaru!”
“Although this is a good opportunity, I don´t feel like drinking right now.”
Riku looked at the glass she was holding. The bubbles of the liquid inside were rising to the surface and vanishing one after another.
Even though just by going to the demon capital Taitas she already had to waste so much time, she didn´t know the reason why she was at such lively place that didn´t fit with her. Looking at the other guests, she noticed pretty much all of them were wearing a certain trend of clothes. People that were wearing military clothes like Riku were few.
In her mind, Asty was anxious. No matter who was to look at Riku, it was easy to notice she was bored. By being in a place like this with such a gloomy face, people might consider it as if she was picking a fight with Charlotte.
Because of this anxiety, she took out a letter that had been given by Vrusto Asuteroid before they had departed.
“Although he said it was a letter for in case something happened… Eii! This is the time to use it-de gozaru!”( ええい！)
Carefully opening the letter, she saw that single line… The magical words used to control Riku written down.
“…Lieutenant commander!! Look, lieutenant general Leivein is there!”
“Thank you Asty.”
The instant Asty pointed out where Leivein was, Riku started running to the direction with an unimaginable vigor. With her depressing expression she had previously vanishing as if it didn´t even exist, she made a face that seemed filled with happiness deep in her heart. She was like a puppy that was waving its tail with an incredible amount of energy.
Asty was shocked by the transformation of her superior. Because of how surprised she was, she became petrified, without being able to move for some time.
“A-as expected of second lieutenant Vrusto-de gozaru…”
While saying these words of admiration, she vacantly looked at Riku´s distancing figure.
While being completely ignorant of Asty´s inner thoughts, Riku rushed over Leivein. Piguro was beside him as well, but Riku could see nothing except Leivein. He was wearing his military uniform that didn´t have a single wrinkle on it and his heroic black dragon wings were full of luster. He was bearing an appearance more majestic than any of the demons gathered in the party, and seeing this manly appearance, Riku became proud of being his subordinate.
“It has been a long time, captain!”
Straightening her back more than her usual amount, she saluted.
Seeing Riku, as if he had become surprised, Leiven´s eyebrows slightly rose.
“…I see, you were also invited. I´ve heard about your last achievements.”
“Ha! It has been a honor.”
Until a few moments ago, Riku had been regretting coming here. However, Riku wasn´t regretting anything anymore. Rather, she felt it was good she had come.
“Are you enjoying the party?”
“Yes, I am.”
“…You looked like you were bored a few moments ago, though…”
Piguro muttered his uncalled-for comment. In dissatisfaction, Riku thought that he should have called her if he had noticed her before. Riku glared at Piguro, but it was only that. Piguro was higher ranked than Riku. She knew well enough that it was better for her own to not brusquely refute him.
“…It has been some time, staff officer Piguro.”
“You´ve finally gave your greetings to me, didn´t you? …I´ve heard about your deeds at Karkata, lieutenant commander Riku Barusak. No matter how one would look at it, it seems it had been a great victory. Apparently, the higher-ups had been talking whether to promote you to lieutenant colonel, and whether to reward you with a special medal.”
Keeping with a serious face, Piguro was carefully saying words of flatter to her. Riku was silently receiving the praise. And then, Leivein, who seemed to be satisfied, also added some of his words.
“The great victory of this last battle has made Charlotte-sama very pleased. I am also very proud of you.”
“Thank you very much! I will keep working to my upmost sincerity for the Dragon Demon division.”
Those words of praise that went straight to her heart felt to Riku as if she had ascended to heaven. Her body was enveloped by a sense of euphoria that made her body warm. However, on the other hand, for an instant, she felt an unpleasant tingling feeling . Wondering what that feeling that disturbed her happiness was about, Riku started to think about it for a few moments.
“…Is there something wrong, lieutenant commander Riku Barusak?”
“Don´t make this face on this party Charlotte has organized. It raises suspicion of defiance.”
Piguro and Leivein both spoke to her. The moment Riku had heard these words, she was able to realize the cause of this feeling that was welling up inside her. She didn´t know its true identity, but she knew its cause it. And so, she should act to solve this problem. Turning her face to Leivein, she lightly lowered her head.
“…I am sorry, but… I have one question I would like to ask captain Leivein. …Could I receive the permission to ask this question?”
“…This is something rare coming from you. Alright, I permit.”
“Ha. In truth… I would like captain Leivein to tell me about your ideals and goals.”
Although Piguro had made a face that seemed to be wondering why she had only asked him about this only now, he didn´t particularly care at all.
Raising her face, Riku looked at Leivein´s eyes. Those eyes that had the color of the sky which makes her want to extend her hand to had the figure of the serious Riku reflecting onto them.
“For the sake of the ideals the Demon Lord has strived for, I will devote myself until my last drop of blood. That is my ideal and my duty.”
As if it was very obvious, Leivein spoke of his ideals.
For an instant, Riku felt she didn´t understand what Leivein was talking about. On his eyes, the figure of the surprised Riku was being reflected. As if to explain, Leivein spoke.
“Riku, we are honorable members of the Demon Lord army. Therefore, isn´t it obvious we would be fighting for the ideals of the Demon Lord? The weak die and the truly strong reign at the top. For the sake of having that world come true, we, the Demon Lord army, fight.”
Riku remembered her meeting with Leivein.
Leivein had easily defeated the slave traders she couldn´t oppose. He accepted her loathsome red hair. Despite how she did not have talent as a spiritualist, he had given her a place she could use her own power to her heart´s content. He gave her a place to live. But this was because Riku was strong. If Riku was weak, he wouldn´t extend his hand to Riku at that time, and Riku would have died a dog´s death at that alcohol stinking back-alley, or would have been forced to work as a slave until her death.
Leivein was stronger than anyone she knew. Even at that time at Derufoi, when he fought those spiritualists, he had handled tens of spiritualists by himself without breaking a sweat. Riku´s feelings about his captivating strength went beyond simply aspiration and were closer to worship.
That´s why Riku couldn´t understand. No matter what, she didn´t want to understand.
“In… in that case why… Why do you serve Charlotte-sama?”
Riku put the reason of her bitter feelings in words.
If he was to follow the demon lord, she would still understand. She didn´t want to accept, but even since the time she was still living at the Barusak family, she had been raised hearing about the dreadfulness of the Demon Lord. Probably, he was the owner of a power much greater than Riku could imagine which could turn the tide even on the worst situations.
But then, what about Charlotte?
If she had a sword, she could be said to be strong. However, the only impression Riku had received was that she was just a little girl that couldn´t fight. She was only a promiscuous little girl that willingly followed that spiritualist and let her escorts die, and after having brought over fifty spiritualists when she had been running away, she could only wait for the battle to be settled in Vrusto´s shadow.
All Riku had seen of Charlotte until now was only that she was some weak demon that was the Demon Lord´s little sister and would bring disaster. Even right now at this moment, with her strength, she was capable of killing her. If she herself was able to do so, there was no way Leivein wouldn´t. Rather, in order to create the world were the strong stand at the top, Charlotte would be someone to eliminate.
“I see. Indeed, comparing to the Demon Lord, Charlotte-sama is weaker.”
“But the Demon Lord has accepted Charlotte-sama´s strength. Therefore, Charlotte-sama leads the Demon Lord army as his substitute.”
Therefore, he serves her.
With a gaze that seemed to say the conversation was over, Riku became unable to say anything else.
If Leivein had accepted Charlotte, no matter which kind of bitter feelings she had, she would accept her as well. No matter how much she was weak and how she was a dead weight that would wave her tail to the enemy, if Leivein was to say so, there was no other way except for her to accept her.
“Understood. Thank you very much.”
Riku´s head quietly dropped.
She couldn´t completely accept it. But she was able to know what Leivein´s ideals were. Only by that, she was already satisfied. There were no problems. Riku could accept the world that the strong ruled over the weak Leivein aimed for. Having the strong standing above the weak regardless of the family bonds was truly a wonderful thing. In order to have it come true, Riku would eagerly fight for Leivein.
Only, what she couldn´t accept was how Leivein recognized Charlotte, and by turning a blind eye on that only, everything could be easily sorted out.
Yes… In other words, all this was about was her enduring the pain of this single thorn.
“…Are you dissatisfied?”
Leivein spoke as if he had seen through Riku. In an instant, her complexion paled.
“No, there is no such thing!!”
In panic, Riku said in answer. But Leivein didn´t return her words. For a short while, Leivein was thinking about something while looking at Riku. A strange feeling of tension started to hang in the air. And at the moment Riku swallowed the saliva in her mouth due to that tension that felt like it was stinging her skin, it happened.
“Charlotte-sama! There is something I must report- nya!!”
The voice that had broken the feeling of tension between Riku and Leivein, and even the tranquil mood of the meeting, resounded through. Not only Riku, Leivein and Piguro, but everyone that was at the party turned their gazes to the owner of that voice. The one standing there was a girl that had an outer appearance of about the same age Riku did. Her short brown hair was tied by two scrunchies. Because her uniform was one similar to the one Roppu normally used, it could be assumed that the girl was a messenger.
However, despite how she added a nya at the end of her lines, her fluffly years were ones of a dog. Looking at her tail that went through the gap of her clothes, it wasn´t the tail of a cat, but of a dog. That demon which it couldn´t be decided whether she was a dog or a cat ran straight to where Charlotte was. Having her guards step back, Charlotte walked to the front of the messenger.
“From the first army, I am first lieutenant Mei Asuteroid. There is something urgent that I must have Charlotte-sama know.”
“Hmph, what are the matters?”
Holding her fan, Charlotte hid her mouth and quietly looked at the first lieutenant Mei Asuteroid. For the problem to be to the point of her jumping in such a distinguished meeting, one could only wonder what in the world happened. Riku had assumed that Perikka or some other city had fallen, but Mei´s expression was cheerful. While Riku was thinking about what it could be, Mei hurriedly spoke.
“We have found the location of the crown of the Demon Lord-nya!”
By the words “crown of the Demon Lord”, the place was engulfed in agitation.
Everyone had their eyes sparkling. They started whispering to one another with the people next to them. However, because Riku didn´t care about the crown, she didn´t receive any impact from it.
“Really, lieutenant commander Riku Barusak, you should read more books.”
Shocked, Piguro shook his head. And then, in a way Riku would understand, he explained it to her.
“The crown of the Demon Lord is a crown that has part of the Demon Lord´s power stored in it. It is said that by releasing the power inside the crown, it is possible to display a power many times greater of one´s usual amount. Although originally the Demon Lord had enough power to have the ground tremble, by using the crown, he would have the power to blow mountains away and split seas… It was something that was thought of not existing anymore.”
With words filled with admiration, he explained.
Charlotte as well, as if it was because they had found something the Demon Lord possessed… she was excited. While showing a joyful expression, Chalotte had her face closer to Mei.
“I see! We must immediately go retrieve it… Then, where is it?”
Being inquired by Charlotte, Mei´s expression became gloomy. It seems that from then on, she would be reporting bad news. The fluffy dog tail went down.
“Actually… It seems that it had been sealed deep inside a spiritualist temple located at Sherr island-nya.”
With the words “spiritualist temple”, it was possible to notice the growing mood that had been withered down. The cheerful light in Charlotte´s face also had vanished. Right now, with gloomy expressions of their faces, the people at the surroundings started to whisper to each other.
“A spiritualist temple… Isn´t it a bit too dangerous?”
“But, if we were to send a large amount of troops, perhaps with the power of numbers… We could
“No, wait… The Sherr island is isolated, you know? Because how it seems the water currents there are fast, isn´t it impossible to send a large amount of troops there?”
“Are you kidding? Then, there is no other way but to select a few of the elite to go.”
“But, to face the spiritualists in such low numbers, isn´t it a bit reckless…”
Gradually, the situation was turning ominous.
It seems retrieving the Demon Lord crown will be a hard task. While Riku was thinking this was something unrelated to her, she ended up meeting her eyes with Charlotte. A very bad presentiment went through her. She didn´t want to display a shameful behavior in front of Leivein, but she wanted to run away at all costs.
“Oh, ooh! That´s right, there was you!!”
But she wasn´t given the opportunity.
While showing a happy smile, passing through the people at the surroundings, she approached Riku. While imposingly putting one of her hands at her waist, she openly pointed her thin finger to Riku. And then, Charlotte gave her the imperial command.
“Listen, lieutenant commander Riku Barusak. You are to immediately lead an army and go retake the Demon Lord crown!!”
1.Maybe it is actually that the fruits are fruits in conserve. Conserving fruits inside honey is actually a thing. 0.0