The disaster that struck the royal capital of Horus continued for some time even after Jijinbou was defeated. 


  That’s because even with the mastermind gone, the group of undead that was unleashed on the city did not stop attacking.


  But since those undead were just mostly low-level monsters, it didn’t take very long until they were cleaned up once the initial chaos subsided.


  Jijinbou probably never really intended to destroy the royal capital in the first place.


  If he had gone that far, the wedding ceremony that was scheduled for two months later between Canaria’s crown prince and Ad-Astera’s imperial princess will end up being affected as well.


  I believe that’s why he didn’t unleash any powerful undead in the city.


  The group of undead was cleaned up within the following day by the district guards, the knights of the capital, and the priests from the major temples.


  With that, the incident came to an end.
I then returned to Ishka without worries――something like that of course didn’t happen, as I ended up being questioned by Duke Dragunaut himself on every detail of the incident.


  The conversation between me and Jijinbou was heard by everybody that was present at the scene.
Since it was too late to play things off now nor did I have the intention to do so anyway, I told the duke what I knew.


  Not only was his daughter’s curse done by an empire’s magic practitioner, it was done with the goal of canceling the marriage between her and the crown prince.
Even if he’s a duke, he should have received a pretty big shock when he learned that.


  This incident was undoubtedly a part of an invasion by the Empire, and there was a high chance that the nobles of the kingdom who have been pushing for the crown prince’s marriage with the empire’s princess are in on this scheme too.


  If the truth is revealed, the Kingdom of Canaria will for sure be in chaos.


  That being said, I can’t pick the choice of hiding the truth.
That would only benefit the Empire.


  Of course, even if the incident this time became public, there’s no way the empire will admit to what they did obediently, and the marriage between the crown prince and the empire’s princess will probably still happen.


  If the Kingdom of Canaria breaks off the marriage from their end, the empire might use that as an excuse to start a war.
The Ad-Astera Empire has the national strength to do just that.


  There was a deep wrinkle on the forehead of Duke Dragunaut, the leading noble of the Kingdom of Canaria, and it did not seem like it was going to go away very easily.


  Even for me, this incident wasn’t just somebody else’s problem.


  Moving forward, there’s a good chance that the empire or my birth home will demand something like “Hand over the human who killed Jijinbou”.


  It’s also probable that the king or Marquis Kolkia (A noble of the Pro-Empire faction) will hand me over as a human sacrifice because they are afraid of being blamed by the empire.


  My conversation with the duke continued as I had such thoughts in my mind.


  In the end, we decided that we will hide my involvement regarding this incident.
Not only will we obviously hide it from the empire, but we will hide it from the Kingdom of Canaria as well.


  The one who killed Jijinbou will be Duke Dragunaut, and the intel he now has about the demon island and the Ad-Astera Empire will be from what Jijinbou told him.


  It might sound like the Duke is trying to take my credit at first glance, but I was actually the one who proposed to do that.  


  I thought that this current moment isn’t a good time for “Sora Mitsurugi” to come into the spotlight yet, so I decided to hide under the Duke’s shadow.


  The reason I’m taking such a measure is so that I can buy more time.


  Despite Jijinbou’s nature, he’s someone who had acquired soul equipment.


  If the fact that a human who understands the secrets of the phantom blade style was killed by me, who was exiled from the island 5 years ago, the demon island will definitely send people who are stronger than Jijinbou after me.
They will probably try to crush me in the honor of the phantom blade style. 


  I am not scared to go hostile against the demon island after all this time, but honestly, I would prefer to have a bit more time before a head-on confrontation.


  This is a good time to put an end to my matters with Iria and Miroslav.
I will clean『Falcon Sword』up and increase the number of people I could eat souls from other than Lunamaria――I want to at least have that before I run into any pursuers my home will send at me. 


  That was roughly what I had planned.


  However, if I were to hide my name, then Duke Dragunaut will naturally be the one who the demon island will go after for Jijinbou’s death.


  No matter how renowned he may be as “Thunder”, he will definitely be at a disadvantage against the phantom blade style users from the upper flags.  


  In that respect, I’m sorry for pushing that danger onto him like that, but the duke told me “don’t worry about it” with a smile on his face.


  From his standpoint, the one who started the fight was the demon island’s side in the first place.
It’s not like he has any other choice other than treating the ones who cursed his daughter and put her through more than a year of suffering as enemies.


  Furthermore, even if he hands me over, it doesn’t mean that the empire’s hostility towards him will disappear. 


  To the empire that is trying to invade the Kingdom of Canaria, the duke will continue to be a nuisance in their eyes.  


   Whether he hides my name or not, the Empire will be after his life.
Therefore, my concern is unnecessary――was what the duke said.


  After all that, my return to Ishka was finalized.


  Of course, if anything happens, I intend to ride Clau Soras to the capital at any moment.


  When I told the duke that at the dinner table, the one who reacted first was his second daughter, Claudia.




  「Father, if that’s the case, I would like to go to Ishka as well」




  The duke was stunned as he looked at his daughter who had said something unthinkable as the first thing that came out of her mouth. 


  「What are you saying all of a sudden, Claudia?」


  The bewildered duke asked her.


  In response to that, Claudia said some dangerous sounding words with a light-hearted smile on her face,


  「I’ll be a hostage, father」




  I did not understand what she meant, but Duke Dragunaut seems to have guessed his daughter’s intention.
He looked at Claudia with an expression as if he had just drunk vinegar.


  I then interrupted them in a hurry.


  「Um, I think I just heard something I can’t pretend I didn’t hear…」


  Judging by the flow of the conversation, it sounds like Claudia is going to be the hostage, and I’m going to be the one who will have her as a hostage.


  Why would we do that?


To nobles, there are times when we have to throw our emotions away depending on the situation」


  Claudia spoke with a serious expression on her face.


  And for me, I could only listen to her seriously.


  「After you return to Ishka, father could go back on the promise he made with you.
For example, hmmm…Let’s say the Empire tries to start attacking the kingdom because of the incident this time.
However, they say that they will let it go if we hand you over.
If they bring out such a condition, his majesty and Marquis Kolkia will definitely agree to do so, don’t you think?」


  「――So you’re saying your father will also follow suit?」


  「Of course father will object to it.
But father is a vassal, a vassal of the king.
It will be hard for him to forcefully go against his majesty’s orders.
If he insists on doing that, it will end up as treason.
If that happens, our servants, citizens, and even their families; thousands, or tens of thousands of people could be exposed to war」


  The responsibility of the head of a noble family is to ensure their family’s survival.
It’s unacceptable for them to put their people in danger because of personal emotions.
If the situation becomes as she said, the duke will probably have no choice but to sacrifice me――Claudia declared like so with an uncharacteristic expression on her face and logic that was uncharacteristic of her to use.


  「……I see.
Therefore a hostage, huh?」


If the situation becomes like that, please take the appropriate actions with me」


  「……In order to come along to Ishka, you really did your best to come up with that reasoning, huh?」


  「Yes! I worked hard to come up with that together with big sister!」


  Yeah, that’s a nice smile.

  And Astrid, you were in on this too? That explains why that logic did not sound like something Claudia would say.


  Their father was showing a bitter smile as well.


  Then, Claudia continued with a serious look on her face still,


  「And also, I think it will be helpful to you as well if you have me――Duke Dragunaut’s younger daughter by your side.
There aren’t many people who could mess with the people I live with」


  「Well, I guess you’re right about that」


  To have already decided that we’ll be living together…There are so many things I could complain about here, but as a simple fact, if the duke’s younger daughter is in my home, my influence in Ishka will rise higher than it’s ever been.

  Even the adventurers’ guild will not be able to take me lightly.

  It will also soften any hostilities people have toward Suzume who is going to live in the same house as her.


  I shot a glance at the older sister, Astrid.


  Why did Astrid help Claudia in coming up with this plan?

  She must have done that because she wants to keep her little sister away from the capital so that she doesn’t get sucked into political conflicts again.


  With Claudia’s marriage with the crown prince canceled, it’s not likely that she will be cursed again as the target of an assassination, but if she has fully recovered, it’s possible for that past engagement to be reintroduced when the scheme of the Empire comes to light. 


  As her older sister, Astrid probably doesn’t want such things to be bothering Claudia.


  Moreover, in the case of the Empire attacking the duke’s residence again, if Claudia is in Ishka, their family’s bloodline will go on even if they get completely wiped out.


  Since Astrid had witnessed the power of soul equipment users, I think she came to her decision after she had taken that into consideration as well. 

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