“The Demon King is feared as a strategist, but he is really a coward. After all, he constantly ignores me in all my beauty.”
I never held her hand back.
I never kissed in the morning.
I never visited the baths when she was there.
The list went on. Apparently, these things were all great crimes to her.
As it seemed like she would be like this for some time, I asked Eve to take her away.
“Jeanne. I think it’s time you returned to the carriage and got some rest.”
She said as she supported her.
Jeanne wasn’t immediately willing, but Eve rectified that by whispering something about there being sweets in the carriage.
A good maid knows how to deal with drunks.
Silence fell once they were gone.
We ate and drank quietly for a while, and then Ryoma broke the silence.
“…You have very interesting subordinates, Demon King.”
“Interesting, but also reliable. In spite of what you saw, Jeanne fights like a demon on the battlefield.”
“Well, I did get to see some of it earlier. Besides, there are rumors. You have two generals. One is a samurai and the other is a saint. And both are invincible.”
“Oh, I suppose it’s well known among merchants then?”
“Aye, very. Not just them, but how you use them.”
“And what rumors are there about me? Well, I have an idea.”
“…Cowardly, calculating… Well, there is good and bad. Fifty-fifty.”
“Praise and criticism.”
“Indeed. You are sly and will do anything to win, no matter how low. A trickster.”
“I can’t deny it.”
I said with a laugh.
“On the other hand, you can be merciful and are loved by your people.”
“Now that’s an exaggeration.”
“Yes, it is quite strange to have such differing reputations. Usually, the bad rumors spread faster. But both seem to spread equally fast in your case. So perhaps the benevolent side of you is actually the true one. That is what I think.”
I answered without saying anything.
It felt embarrassing to agree or to deny it.
“And so I wanted to talk to you. That’s why I approached your maid and sold her the coffee. Surely you would be intrigued by something so very rare that’s from the south.”
“You weren’t wrong. And then I suppose you spread information so that I would be lured here?”
“Lured is such a negative word. But, yes, that’s what I did.”
“And what is your opinion of me now?”
Ryoma put a hand under her chin.
She looked me up and down before continuing.
“You are like a drum.”
Now that was surprising.
I asked her what she meant by that.
“You look like you’ll make a sound if I hit you.”
“…Hit hard and you will echo loudly, hit soft and you will echo quietly. A man whose limits are unknown.”
Those were the words that Sakamoto Ryoma had once said to Saigo Takamori.
Someone who is able to change their strategy depending on the opponent’s position and the situation. That’s what it meant.
It was quite a compliment to be compared to him, but given that she was a half elf who was born and raised in this world, she likely didn’t mean it in quite the same way.
Perhaps it meant little at all.
And so I asked her where her father was.
Upon hearing this, her eyebrows lowered.
The atmosphere changed in an instant.
I asked her if I said something wrong.
She shook her head.
“It’s not your fault. In the first place, I wanted to meet you in order to talk about my father.”
Then she bowed her head.
“I received information that my father is in a labyrinth that is below Sabnac’s castle. Lord Ashtaroth. Will you help me find him?”
She said with a sincere expression. It seemed to be a complicated matter.
And so I decided to ask for more details.