Reluctantly following the summons of the King, I arrive at the specified time. As I walk through the door to the court that I met the King in last time, I am surprised to see some familiar faces.
“What in the world are you doing here?” I ask Juire, who is standing close to a quivering guard with a smug look
“Why else would I be here, but to accept the winnings of my little wager.” He says as he notices me enter and walks away from the guard
The look on the guard’s face is conflicted. He seems to be grateful for what I did, but he clearly doesn’t want to show it.
“I didn’t think he would schedule it for the same day. My understanding is that this ceremony is a public showing. I figured him giving you your prize would be a lot more under the table.” I explain as I scan the room
Several well-dressed people are sitting in various chairs lined up to view the center of the court. From the position we are standing in it is easy to feel as though their gazes are judging us, though I imagine that was the intent of the design. The illusion is somewhat broken however since half of the seats, dotted randomly amongst the crowd, remain empty. I guess calling the entire court during this situation isn’t all that easy.
“Oh, he lost his chance for that already. I waited patiently for quite a while already for him to hand me my bounty behind closed doors. Since he has waited this long he clearly must want to present us our rewards together, wouldn’t you agree?” Juire says with a wicked smile
“You weren’t invited were you?” I ask with a snicker
This really shouldn’t be cheering me up, but something about Juire’s attitude is a bit refreshing.
“What an accusation! Clearly, my invitation simply got lost in the post, after all when I arrived the guards were all too ready to make way for me to enter.” He responded with a chuckle of his own
“Um, Mano-san? Who is your friend here?” Anata says as she slowly approaches us
I’m somewhat surprised to see her here. Both she and the mage from the Yuusha’s party were requested, but she seems to dread interaction with her father even more than I do. With Juire here I can’t tell if that is going to make matters better or worse.
“I guess he’s my plus one? He and your father were betting on who would win the tournament. I don’t think I need to tell you who your father was voting on.” I say jokingly and with a bit of unease
Bringing up the Yuusha around Anata is always a mixed bag, but considering the circumstance, it’s probably unavoidable. Starting things off a bit more lighthearted might soften the blow when her dad inevitably approaches the subject with zero tact.
“So… does that mean your friend here bet on you?” She asks while giving him an odd look
“What can I say? I’ve always been a good gambler.” Juire says with obvious discomfort
Anata seems entirely unaffected by Juire. Even if she shares her father’s skills, she should still seem a bit nervous around him. Does she possess a unique skill?
“Clearly you have a good eye for people! Not only did you see the potential in Mano-san, but you also managed to beat my father in the process!” She says with sparkling eyes
Is it really that rare that someone manages to win over her father? He’s not exactly a genius. I guess he must use the throne as a means to keep people away. You can’t exactly lose a battle you never took part in.
“You, uh, certainly have some interesting friends don’t you?” Juire says as he backs away from her a bit
“Oh, you don’t know the half of it,” I say slightly exasperated as I look around the room
I’m almost glad my party wasn’t invited, even if it was just a petty show of favoritism. I think I have my hands full with just these few loons.
As I am thinking such fanfare begins to play. Does he seriously do that every time he enters the room? I’ve only been here twice and it’s already gotten old.
“Humble champion of the tour- You! What are you doing here?!” The king yells out as he walks into the room and stands in front of his throne
“I’m just here to accept my prize my liege,” Juire says with a smile from ear to ear as he gives a small bow
I wonder if he is going to be lonely once he leaves the capital. I’ve never seen him happier than when he torments the king.
The king seems even more on edge than usual, as this slight provocation already has him turning a deeper shade of red. He makes a visible effort to collect himself before continuing.
sigh “Fine, then we will handle the paperwork for your prize today as well. I suppose the more I can get off my plate the better.” He says as he lowers himself onto his throne
I would commend him on his patience, but the look on his face betrays him. Rather than calming down, he simply looks too tired to remain angry. This entire disaster must have really hit him hard.
“In this time of crisis, we need now more than ever to retrieve the items from the previous Maou’s castle. I had hoped to save much of its spoils to help the Yuusha on his journey, but it seems he has… other priorities to attend to. As the winner of the tournament, you have proven yourself to be able to handle the perils of that dastardly place.” He continues
When I received this summons, I really thought that I would be the most miserable person here, but it seems I was wrong by a long shot. If you weren’t looking closely you would think that he was being honorable, and living up to his promise. The dead look in his eyes, too tired to fight, but clearly dreading the words coming out of his mouth… I almost pity him.
Confused myself on how to feel about the sight in front of me, I look to Anata. She is frozen. Looking at her father with a look of pure surprise. I would think this would be the best-case scenario for her, but in her confusion I see no joy shining through.