"Master, still as strong as ever, huh~?"
Rose sang her words as if she were just going in for a friendly bout.
The scenery around me isn’t so calm, though. The clothes that I bought at the last minute are also in bad shape due to the blood splatters. They were so expensive. I wonder if I can get the blood washed off.
"… Well, this is the extent of what we’re dealing with," I said.
I was able to control that number without any struggle. Their skill should be inferred from that. It really was just a matter of numbers advantage.
At the same time, I flicked my sword to get rid of the blood.
It’s a sword that’s a little too sharp to cut up a familiar face. No, I haven’t decided to fight her yet, but an unpleasant premonition in my mind makes it seem inevitable.
"… Why did you let the thugs through?" I asked.
In the end, I managed just those words.
What do I want to hear back? Did I want Rose to deny it completely? The suspicions about her are clear from the circumstantial evidence alone.
"Mhm-hm-hm, just what are you talking about? I was fighting properly~!" Rose replied.
Rose’s posture does not collapse. She has been smiling all this time.
But do I really think that’s the case?
No, that’s probably not possible. She has an air-headed personality, but she doesn’t have ill intent.
Rose’s armor is heavy and beautiful to look at. It is a fine armor suitable for the position of Vice-Captain of the Knights of the Faith.
The armor still has no blood, dirt, or scratches. It was the best proof that she wasn’t fighting properly.
"Why are there no dirt or scratches on your armor?"
When I pointed that out again, her eyes snapped down and she lowered her head as if she had just noticed it.
"… I knocked them away with my shield~," Rose said.
"… I see," I said.
The next thing that came out was an excuse that didn’t make sense at all and could have been from a small child.
I think a little.
As I said, she has an air-headed personality, but she’s not dumb. She must have the power to think and see into people more than the average person, and if there is a shortage in that aspect, she should not be able to take the position of Vice-Captain.
However, she continued to make terrible excuses until this happens. Anyone could see that her true intention wasn’t for escorting our targets at all.
Is there a reason she can’t tell anyone, or should I say it’s because she’s our opponent?
Do I really want to know what the truth is?
"But then, it seems that you’ve been letting through a lot of those thugs," I said.
"… Now, now, there," Rose said, "I think even you can be out of form, Master~."
Rose has been using an estoc.
However, the sword is still beautiful. It hasn’t been bathed in blood. That means she wasn’t really dealing with the assassins.
"I wonder if it would be inconvenient for you if Prince Glenn ascends to the throne," I said.
Now that it’s clear, I’ll try to mention what I heard from Lucy.
Only at this point did the smile disappear from Rose’s face.
"… You’re not only strong but also knowledgeable, huh, Master~?"
"No, it’s just what I’ve heard about," I said.
I don’t know what exactly is happening in Supheniardvania right now. I don’t know which is right, the Papal Faction or the Royal Faction, and I don’t even know what their positions are.
Perhaps the Papal Faction has a cause that I don’t know about. However, even with that in mind, the bloody plot of assassinating the royal family could not be overlooked.
"… So even you couldn’t figure it out at this level, Master?" Rose asked.
"… I’ll take it as a compliment, for the time being," I said.
I thought it would be impossible to squeeze any more information, or rather Rose’s expression changed.
Well, there were certainly a lot of opponents, but that’s it. Alexia and Henblitz also escorted the Prince and Princess, who were the main concerns.
In that case, I wouldn’t be some old geezer defeated by that caliber of attack. I wouldn’t even have known if that first attack was organized.
"… Master," Rose said, changing her tone a little.
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Master, what would you do if your country was in crisis?" Rose continued.
It’s a little difficult question to ask an old man from the countryside.
I don’t understand politics. Even if I became a king or someone in a similar position, I wasn’t confident that I could manage my dominion well.
"I’m an old man from the countryside… I don’t know about politics," I said.
Perhaps this question is what worries Rose.
If so, I think I need to express my thoughts as her mentor, even if it’s outlandish.
"First of all… I’d think of asking all the people. What are their problems?"
"… That’s right~," Rose said. "That may be the form of a good politician."
Well, the impression that there is no choice but to listen to their complaints. Hear out the opinions of the people about their troubles, think about it, and clear them one by one.
With my mediocre mind, I could only think of that.
Again, the smile disappeared from Rose’s expression.
"If the politicians of the country are fighting each other, instead of for the people. If the country is exhausted year after year due to petty power struggles and the national power continues to decline. Don’t you think it would be necessary to purify the core of the country as soon as possible? If everyone only thinks about fighting to sit at the top, and they were battling in such ugly ways."
She lets it out all at once.
"What would you do, Master?" Rose asked, her face full of anguish.
"… I don’t know. As you know, I’m neither great nor wise," I said.
I’m sure that as it is now, I can’t open her heart with just words.
Behind her smile, she had a fierce determination to get this done. As Lucy predicted, she would like to secure the Papal Faction’s advantage with Prince Glen dead.
However, there is no guarantee that the country will come together. No, but someone may have argued that it’s better than all the infighting and the exhaustion of their national strength as is.
And now Rose got on that plan.
I don’t know how much distress and conflict there was in the process, but it shouldn’t have been decided lightly. That is what her face tells me.
"… Despite all that," I said.
No matter how much she has struggled and agonized over her decision.
"I can’t turn a blind eye when I see my ex-disciple stepping off the right path, even for a good cause."
There was no reason to allow a coup d’etat.
"… Is that so? You’re a good person, after all, Master~," Rose said, smiling again.
But, if I’m not imagining it:
Her face looked like a child desperately trying to hold back her tears.
"I thought you were a ‘good person,’ too," I said.
"… Hm-hmm, how about that~?" Rose asked.
Rose was often at the dojo, dealing with and caring for the small children, she showed a different kind of care than Alexia.
At my dojo, there were many children, she felt like an older sister, and I think my students loved her.
"I should have taught you swordsmanship to protect people," I said.
This is not a story of swordsmanship skills or the dojo, but a story of spirit.
The sword is a weapon. It may kill people. I have just cut down a lot of people. I have no intention of claiming to be a swordsman who has never taken a life.
But don’t misunderstand why you wield the sword. With great power comes great responsibility. 1
That’s how I taught the sword.
"This is also a sword to protect a great number of people," Rose said.
However, it seems what she took away from her time at my dojo was a little different from what I expected.
"Blood will spill. Many will die. But, this is salvation," Rose said.
"That’s wrong, Rose," I said.
As I said earlier, I don’t understand politics.
For that matter, I’m not interested. I wish I was happy with my wielding the sword, my disciples wielding the sword, and the very narrow circles that surround them.
However, there is something that even I, who is illiterate in politics, can understand.
"There can be no revolution on the basis of bloodshed," I said.
If you wield a blade of death and destruction, grudges and vengeance will always follow you.
To prevent that from happening, I have to decide long and hard about whether I should even swing my sword. Otherwise, a swordmaster is just another murderer.
"… And there’s one more thing to worry about," I said.
"… And what is that~?" Rose asked.
She wants to achieve her salvation even if she has stained her hands with outrageous amounts of blood.
I was worried about the specifics and the internal situation of a country that leads its citizens to that decision, but there was something that bothered me even more.
"You, why are you doing this?" I asked.
"As I said, I’m worried about the current situation of my country–" Rose started.
"That’s not it," I said. "There’s something more than that."
I understand that Rose is worried about her country. And she thought it would be acceptable to attempt to assassinate the successor to the throne as a means of solving those problems. It wasn’t good enough, though.
"What on earth would make you go this far?" I asked.
However, I have no idea what drives her.
Suppose that the assassination of Prince Glen was successful and that the Papal Faction took control, and the country was united.
Then what happens from there? Rose may be celebrated as a knight of salvation. She may gain more power and status.
On the other hand, she may be judged as a rebel who was responsible for shedding so much blood.
"Do you want power as a knight of salvation? Or do you just have to kill Prince Glen? I don’t think either is right," I said.
From her actions, I can’t see what future she imagines.
Having a cause is fine. I don’t have a purpose that grand. You could say that trying to fulfill your oath as a knight in your way is wonderful, no matter the means.
"Rose. I think your goal of salvation is fine. But it’s just a means," I said. "It’s not the purpose in itself. What drives you to save your country and make you happy?"
Beyond her cause. In the future, to put it simply, I cannot see Rose being happy.
It may be one of her duties to die honorably. However, Rose does not have that kind of personality. That’s what I felt again when I spoke with her the other day. She seemed to have no choice but to be ordered by Gatoga to join the Knights of the Faith.
"… Master. Can you hear me out~?" Rose said, still hesitant to speak.
"Of course," I said.
"You know I like children," Rose said.
"Yeah, I know that," I said.
I’ve known Rose’s love for children since she was in the dojo.
She’s the kind who takes care of others in any way she can and loves doing it. Many children have been saved by Rose’s dedication.
"The children are hungry, cold, and dying every day," Rose said.
"… I see," I said.
To save and serve all the people. That is the ideal as a nation.
However, on the other hand, it is a theoretical ideal. I know it won’t be realized.
No matter what, some people will be left out of the protection of the country. Like it was with Miu. The difference between rich and poor, or more specifically, the value of life, is not equal, though it is a matter of degree.
"The Pope said that once the country is united, the people will be free from suffering," Rose said. "No children will die before my eyes."
"… Did you believe him?" I said.
It was convenient.
It’s easy to conclude that.
But even if I were to confront Rose on that here and now, she wouldn’t stop. To begin with, even she is aware of that.
"Who else should I believe in? I’m a Suphinist, aren’t I~?" Rose said.
"… You could have had a hand in it without daring to shed blood. For that matter, you could have taken power as well," I said.
What she is trying to do is a little too hasty.
It should not be so easy to transform a country. It takes a long time. Even if you could temporarily suppress a civil war with force, your reign will not be secured until much later.
In addition, it operates on the premise that the person who takes the leadership after ending the internal political conflict is a good, capable politician. It’s hard to believe that people who think this is acceptable can have a decent, good government.
"… I can’t do it in time," Rose said, laughing.
"I can’t say, ‘I’ll take my time!’, you see~?" she continued. "Even as we speak, the gap between the rich and poor is widening in Supheniardvania and the people are dying."
"So you want to overthrow the Royal Faction and forcibly build a strong, one-party system?" I asked.
"Yes~!" Rose said.
There are many holes in her theory. I think that Rose can’t be unaware of those.
I think she was troubled.
She must have agonized over it.
On top of that, she probably made a tough decision.
"… Even I know that this is a pipe dream," I said. "How do you think you can hold the children with your bloodied hands? In the end, you’re in the wrong."
In the end, I have to say that her decision is wrong.
"… But—no, no more," Rose said.
"… I’ll let you say the rest after I stop you," I said.
I close the distance with Rose.
On the other hand, she didn’t show any attempts to keep her distance from me. She just held her estoc and kite Shield a little loosely.
"Mm-hm-hmm. What if I say, ‘I’m not going to let you.’?"
The expression that had been gone returned the next moment.
With the same smile as before, Rose returned to her sing-song tone.
"… I’m sorry, but we can’t choose the means," I said.
I ready my sword.
That we have talked this much yet haven’t stopped means any more diplomacy is a waste of time.
Rose will not just stop on her own.
Then, someone has to stop her assault.
Though wet with blood and gore, the Xeno Glaive sword did not lose its brilliance, it shone crimson in the sunlight.