In the library, Tina and I stand in front of each other in silence after the revelation she has dropped on me.
“You ordered the contract?” I ask whilst I massage my temples to calm myself.
“I do not have to repeat myself, do I?” Tina crosses her arms
“No, but why?”
Tina shakes her head in disgust, “I have always hated that man if you could call him a man. The Queen herself too. She ordered me to make this contract,” Tina sighs, “I did this for the Sister Army, to protect it, along with myself and the Queen.”
“General Pareyo is the worst in all of the world, if not, then next to Von Time,” Tina’s face expresses repugnance and scorn and clenches her fists. Her body starts to shake in fear and anger.
I hold her shoulders to steady her. “It’s okay. If you don’t have to tell me, then don’t.”
“You understand what happened?” Tina’s tears fall to the ground.
“I don’t, but do I have to?” I stare into Tina’s green eyes.
Tina grits her teeth and covers her face, “You have to destroy that detestable man,” She covers her face with her hands, “Every day when he is here, he always takes advantage of us, the Queen, I, the maids, and the Sister Army,” Tina’s tears flow through her hands, “H—he would do—
“That’s enough!” I place my hand on her head, and Tina brings her hands down and looks at me, “I get it, you do not need to say more.”
“Ah,” Tina looks at the floor, “I understand, thank you.”
“No, I should be thanking you,” I slightly wrap her in my arm to comfort Tina, “you even bothered to tell me this. I’m sorry, I should have understood it earlier.”
Tina’s voice breaks in silence, “I—it’s ok. Thank you.” She wipes her tears and looks at me and smiles. “T-this… is the first time I have spoken about this to anyone,” she weakly laughs, “thank you for hearing me out, and thank you…” her voice trails off.
“It’s alright,” I pat her on the head, “I’ll finish the contract.” I smile and release her.
She weakly laughs, “I see why you are special,” Tina holds my patting hand, “the Queen knew.” All I could do for her is to comfort her in silence, and time passes in the library.
We exit the library to see that the moon hasn’t moved much from the time we entered. “Time machine, huh,” I mumble.
We walk together aimlessly across the dark hallway of the castle, and Tina asks. “Why did you accept the contract?”
I take a deep breath before I answer, “If I say it, you should believe me,” Tina nods, “To enter the library.”
Tina looks at me and smiles in response, “I believe you. I get it now,” Tina shakes her head, “but being you who accepted the contract. It is unbelievable.”
“Why is that?”
“You are a foreigner who knows next to nothing, and you are unskilled in fighting, and yet the guild accepted you, and you noticed the contract on the board, and accepted the suspicious conditions. You are really brave to do that.” She nods as if to agree with another.
“Brave?” I contemplate the words for a time and shrug, “maybe it’s because I wanted to change.”
“Huh?” Tina tilts her head in confusion.
I shake my head. “It’s nothing. It’s trivial. Don’t worry about it.”
Tina stops by a door in the hallway. “This is the room.”
I look at the wooden door. “Should I do it now?”
“I suggest you do can you?”
I draw my sword towards the door
Tina holds the edge of my sword. “Deliruu-kun, you are unskilled at the sword, how will you do this?”
“Trust me,” I prepare to knock at the door, “you should leave.”
Tina nods and follows my instruction promptly.
I knock three times at the door and a harsh voice answers, “What is it? It’s already late in the evening!”
I wait at the side of the door’s opening, and a few moments pass, and I knock once more. “Gh!” muffled footsteps approach, “what do you want!?” the door swings open, and an old, but strong man appears in his sleeping clothes. “Eh?”
We stare at each other in silence using the moonlight to illuminate our faces. The man’s eyes fall to my drawn sword which was pointing at him.
“Who are you?” the man asks in an annoyed voice.
“Are you General Pareyo?”
The man closes the door behind him and stands in the middle of the dimly lit hallway. He nods at me, “So what?”
“Would you like a fair fight?” I ask without a hint of fear.
“Oh?” the man tilts his head and stands motionless, and he suddenly jumps in realization. “Maids! Maids! We have an intruder here!” I reach my sword for his stomach, but Pareyo pulls the blade causing me to trip and slide through the hallway. I quickly get up and face him with my sword pointing at him. “Hmph, an amateur trying to kill me? This in itself is an insult!” Pareyo casts a water ball from his hands at me. And my heart beats even louder, and my body feels heavy, and the water ball decelerates. I move out of the water ball's way and time accelerates. “Hmph!” Pareyo looks away from me, “you are one lucky amateur.”
Three maids appear from the hallway surrounding me.
“General Pareyo, what is the problem?”
“General Pareyo, who is the intruder?”
“Master, should I kill him?”
Three maids speak at once to Pareyo with their daggers drawn against me. And among the three of them is Sina. Another is pink-haired, and the other is black-haired.
“Oh, I’m dead,” I mutter.
“Hmph! I won’t waste time on an amateur like you!” Pareyo points at me, “take this trash out.” But the maids don’t make a move, and Tina’s voice calls out, “Stand down maids, I contracted him.”
The maids look at me in shock or disbelief.
“What the— Tina, what was the point in that?” I mumbling.
“I wouldn’t permit you killing them,” Tina seems to have heard my mumbling.
“Ha! I knew it. You were conspiring in my death. But this mere mercenary can’t kill me. I am the Four Swords Ace, and you?” Pareyo points at me, “you are nothing compared to me.”
“You don’t get to decide that!” I shout as I lunge toward Pareyo, but something slices at my right shoulder, I stop after passing Pareyo and check my shoulder and see blood. I cover the wound.
“Hmph, that is only but a scratch, but you seem to react too well on it.” Pareyo reveals a sword at his right arm, “take this as your final warning before entering a duel leagues higher than you!”
“Kh!” I click my tongue. “My mistake was attacking first. I thought my power would activate,” I think to myself after realizing the trigger of my power. “I have been initiating the conflict, you coward!” Pareyo flinches, and I spite him further, “then, it’s your turn to attack me, self-proclaimed Sword Ace!”
Pareyo makes a swirl with his sword at his right hand, “As you wish, your death!” Pareyo thrusts his sword toward my face, but it decelerates along with the surroundings. And I can hear my heart thump faster and louder, and my body feels like it is carrying something heavy, and my vision is slightly distorted. I look at the Pareyo’s sword inches away in front of my face, and I duck under it and thrust my sword into Pareyo’s stomach. Time accelerates to normal again. “Gah!” Pareyo looks in front of his sword and sees nothing but the three maids and Tina watching. He looks underneath his sword and meets with my eyes. He looks at his stomach with my sword pierced through him. “H—how—”
I quickly pull my sword and backing off to take a defensive stance.
Pareyo holds his wound to stop the bleeding while his sword still pointing at me, “Y—you…” his face turns into anger, “you think a stab will stop me?” He begins to make motions with his hands signaling that he is casting magic. “May water and fire consume you. May the ground be shaken under you,” he holds his sword lengthwise with his left hand perpendicular to the blade, “And may air cut you in half!” At this, he pounces at me, but time slows down for me again.
I look around to see my surroundings moving slowly. I look at Pareyo and see water and fireballs going toward me, I look below me and see soil and stone rising toward me. I think of a way to avoid the attacks, and the only way is forward. I move sideways to the left of Pareyo with my blade outstretched to my right aiming for his right arm. I run through the slow time with all my might because it takes an effort to move when this happens. Once my sword hits Pareyo’s flesh, time accelerates again, and I look back.
“What the—” Pareyo looks over to his right shoulder which is now missing an arm. He looks down to the floor and sees his right arm holding Pareyo’s sword. “Gah!” Pareyo holds his right shoulder and writhes in pain.
The maids and Tina make no movements to defend Pareyo and watch on with satisfaction on their faces.
“You…” Pareyo shakily points to me with his left hand, “…who are you?” He kneels to the ground.
I face the maids and Tina. “Tina, you can do the honors.”
Tina shakes her head, “You must finish your contract.”
I sigh heavily. I didn’t want to kill another person, but maybe Pareyo could be an exception. I walk over to the kneeling General and lift his chin, “Should you apologize for your actions?”Pareyo looks at me with disdain and does not respond.
“Very well then.” I bow my head and close my eyes and thrust my sword into his body. I stand up without opening my eyes and turn to where Tina would be. “It’s done,” I open my eyes and take the contract’s token out of my pocket and hand it to Tina, “please.”
Tina takes my contract's token and instructs the maid to clean. The maids do so with smiles on their faces. “Creepy,” I mutter. Tina leads me through the castle to a large wooden door that opens to reveal the throne room.
“Oh, Tina!” Queen Majiro stands up from her throne.
We approach the Queen and Tina promptly kneels and bows her head before her, and I do the same.
“General Pareyo is dead,” Tina looks up to the Queen and smiles in tears, “he is dead. It’s over.”The Queen gracefully walks over to Tina and kneels with her. “Thank you.” She hugs Tina.I make a sideways glance at this emotional scene and am feeling out of place.
Once they finish their teary celebration, the Queen stands before me. “Is this the contractor?”
“Yes, your Majesty. He has successfully taken down the target,” Tina answers.
“What is your name?” the Queen asks me.
I look up to the Queen and start to answer her, “My na—”
“Wait,” the Queen interrupts me, “haven’t I seen you before?”
“Yes, I ha—”
The Queen’s face turns red, “W—w—w—what are you doing here?” She hides her face.
The Queen squeals and runs out of the throne room, and I tilt my head in confusion.
Tina sighs. “We just have to wait for her here.”
I and Tina seat at a nearby table off to the side of the throne room. I take my time scanning the place. The throne room is massive, almost the size of an aircraft’s hangar. There is a massive chandelier. The ceilings are lined with gold. The floor is sparkling marble almost like a mirror. The throne is adorned with precious stones that I don’t even recognize the names of. And the violet carpet leading to the throne is fluffy as the inn’s bed.
“Wow,” I take in every detail of the room, “but why violet carpet?”
“Her Majesty didn’t like red,” Tina explains.
“Oh.” I thought it had a special meaning to it.
The door to the throne room opens and the Queen enters in a more composed state. “Bari Deliruu-dono,” I rise from my seat and bow to her, “thank you for your service. We have been waiting for so long for someone to accept this contract, and we are all the more grateful that you have accepted this contract. Now for your reward.”
The Queen sits on her throne and motions me to kneel before her. I look at her face and notice that her face is still red. “My Majesty, are you okay?”
“H—huh? Huh?” The Queen looks at me with wide eyes and squirms in embarrassment, “y—yes, I—I am doing absolutely f—f—fine,” her eyes flicker multiple times a second, “w—w—wh— anyway,” she clears her throat, “that isn’t important.” She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.
Tina comes forward and brings the Queen a ceremonial sword. Then the Queen stands before me and raises the sword above my head. The Queen then taps the sword on my right and left shoulder, “I hereby declare you the First General of the Sister Army.” She rests the sword on my head.
“Huh?” I look at Tina and the Queen in shock.
The Queen sheaths the sword, and Tina takes it from her hand. “This is your reward,” the Queen states.
“Wait a moment!” I stand up in a panic. The sense of responsibility in that word, “First General,” is overwhelming. Let alone leading an army! I didn’t know how to manage an army. I can only manage a business. This is far from my expertise. “Could you at least change my reward in money?”
“What? You are not pleased with the reward?” Tina asks.
“W—well…” I bow my head in thought.
“Then there shouldn’t be any problem then,” the Queen states, “and also,” the Queen squirms, “y—you have to t—take r—r—responsibility for me.”
“Huh? Huh!?” Maybe Pareyo isn’t the bad guy after all. I feel guilty for killing him. Or maybe he wanted to die. No, the Queen is extremely infatuated with me for some reason. It’s problematic. “My Queen—”
“Oh, and you don’t have to call me ‘My Queen’ or ‘My Majesty,’” the Queen smiles, “you can call me by name, Amina.”
“What? But how come I don’t get to call you that?” Tina complains.
“Eh? Haven’t I already told you that you can?” Amina reminds.
“Did you?” Tina scratches her head.
“Anyway, Deliruu-dono, you will be taking place of the deceased general, and you mustn’t speak that you killed him,” Amina instructs.
“Of course I won’t,” I say weakly.
“If someone were to ask you about him,” Amina faces Tina and me, “tell them, General Pareyo was poisoned by Ugibiris’s Army.”
“Will do,” Tina and I say in unison and promptly bow.
“Deliruu-dono, you can now stay as a resident of this castle,” Amina tells me, “there will be a maid at your service.”
“Woah,” I shake my head, “isn’t this a bit much?”
“As the General of the Sister Army, it isn’t,” Amina waves her hand dismissively, “especially now that you can no longer be a mercenary.”
My head bows down in sadness. I haven’t been able to show my success to Risho, and she hasn’t returned either, but if she does, I might not be able to see and inform her. I think back to how far I have come, and I remember the twin sister’s kindness. I raise my head to the Queen to ask, “Can I do whatever I please?”
Amina’s eyes go wide, and Tina glares at me
“As I thought, you had ulterior motives,” Tina grips the hilt of her sword.
“Y—you can do anything, even i—if it is to me,” Amina’s face turns red again.
“No! That’s not what I meant!” I wave my hands in the air frantically, “I just have to repay someone.”
“Oh,” the Queen calms down, “well you could do almost anything.”
“Thank you,” I bow deeply to the ground, “I shall fulfill the duties of being your General, my Queen.”
“I will be looking forward to it, General Deliruu,” the Queen, Amina Majiro, replies as Tina looks at me with a warm smile.