Being Dense and Deaf is the Protagonist’s Prerogative
With corpses all over the place… Or, rather, just her unconscious opponents… After a quick glance at the onlooking soldiers, Shirley turned to look at Glorious.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone else stepping forward… I take it that you will be my last opponent, Marshal?”
“No, no, you’ve already done more than enough. You really have shown us all some incredible martial prowess today.”
With a smile as enigmatic as ever, Glorious raised both his hands as if he was surrendering.
“It truly is deeply shameful for me to admit this, but I couldn’t convince all my troops that having adventurers join the royal guard was a necessity in an extraordinary situation like this… But, I don’t think any of the men will deny your skill now.”
It wasn’t as if they suddenly rushed to ask her for autographs, but there definitely seemed to be a sense of embarrassment amongst the soldiers as they all couldn’t meet her gaze. It’s clear that the most important thing when it comes to protecting others wasn’t status or bloodline, but pure and unadulterated power.
If you gave them a demonstration of that strength, then they would have no choice but to quit their whining and accept it.
“All of you, on this occasion I have decided to request the help of an outside ally. Now, how badly do you think it will reflect upon all of us if you refused to cooperate with her for stupid and selfish reasons… Well?”
“”” Yes sir! We understand!”””
“Shirley, if there are any soldiers that dare to give you trouble from now on, please report it directly to me.”
With those words from the Marshal, the very head of the armed forces, there wasn’t going to be so much as a peep from the rank and file.
“Then, there are people waiting for me, so I’ll take my leave.”
“Indeed. I look forward to your continued cooperation.”
Turning her back on Glorious, she made her way back to where her daughters were. As she made it, Shirley was greeted by Tio who held out a towel to her.
“Good work out there, mum. Here you go.”
“Thank you very much.”
She wasn’t even close to tired enough to have broken a sweat, but she accepted the towel gratefully all the same. If anything, Shirley longed for something like this to happen.
“…I am shocked. I was told that the soldiers of the Kingdom were stout and skilled, but to think that your mother cut down so many of them all alone…?”
Sophie puffed out her chest in pride for her mother at Hilda’s words, expressing the surprise that most of everyone feels when they see Shirley in action for the first time, since not even the rumours about her do the true article justice.
It was worth putting in the extra effort. To be looked at with such pride by her daughters, it was truly the height of happiness for a mother.
Shirley didn’t let it show on her face, but her heart was fluttering like a leaf caught in a spring breeze. Yet, she couldn’t stop that feeling from being expressed in a different way, as the ponytail running down her back shook side to side like a dog’s tail instead.
“…Yep, well, she sure is an easy person to read once you get to know her, huh?”
“It’s hard to imagine she used to be a noblewoman when that’s the way she shows off her prideful side, y’know?”
“Quite right. I am sure she could do it if she tried, but I do not think it would match her character.”
Alicia interrupted the whispered conversation of the rookie adventurers. Her expression was a strange one, a middle ground between soft melancholy and nostalgia.
“No matter how cold she tries to present herself now, that kind heart of hers deep down never truly faltered. She had always been a kind and gentle girl that put others first, that has not changed at all.”
“She didn’t change after having children?”
“I suppose, to an extent. But, that change was more in regards to how she carried herself. In the old days, Shirley always carried herself in a gentle way, it was a rarity to see her without a smile on her face.”
“…Are you really talking about Shirley!? That sounds like a completely different person though!?”
“Of course I am. It may be hard to imagine it now, but when she was the Empress-To-Be, she was so passionate and driven about her charity work for the poor she was even considered a saint by many.”
“…That’s… A little hard to imagine…”
As they heard that story from a rare person who knew Shirley from back then, the three of them look at her as if they couldn’t believe it.
When she’s immersed in her doting mother persona or being caught wearing some risqué outfit, the mask might slip, but for the most part they know her as the ever stoic and brutal sword demon, who cuts through the battlefield like a hellish wind of fury.
Not exactly the kind of person you would consider a ‘saint’. At the very least, not since she became an adventurer.
(But the reason she became so imposing was because of that after all…)
Emperor Albert and Empress Alice. Not to mention all of the people who supported the two of them.
She became who she is today because of what happened back then. Even if Kyle and his companions by no means meant to deny who Shirley was as a person now, the fact remains that she was tempered by the dark flames of her past.
It was a little disconcerting to think about. That gentle girl who lived her life for others was faced with a terrible tragedy that she could never have foreseen and had no hope of avoiding.
“If only I were there with Shirley-san, I could have taken her away from there… We could have escaped to live together in the forest with no one around…”
“At night after taking off her X X X her skin would become one with the rope, and as she lay down on the bed with her Y Y Y laid bare, and then I would say ‘If you want me to be gentle, whisper it in my ear’….”
“Wait a minute!? Why are you trying to make up a monologue for me without my permission!?”
“My, how indecent. Hee hee.”
After whispering those unthinkable things in Kyle’s ear, Alicia giggled as she flashed her fan elegantly, hiding her smile. It really is surprising to see someone from the upper crust of society spout off a string of unmentionables like that… Maybe that’s part of the reason why she’s a Queen so beloved by the common people.
“But, you have thought about it, haven’t you? What you would do if you were there.”
“I might have thought about that first part, but that other thing you were talking about is completely off!?”
“What’s wrong? I heard you mention my name…?”
“Everything! Nothing is wrong!?”
Shirley (unintentionally) made the conversation even more of a mess by interjecting. Fortunately for Kyle, she doesn’t seem to have heard the main thrust of the conversation, but everyone else definitely did…
“…As I thought, Kyle really is dangerous. In lots of ways.”
“…Mm. Compared to other men, he has gotten too close.”
“Rope? Then with her Y Y Y… What does that mean? …Wait!? U-Unthinkable… You do it with three or more people… That legendary thing… You’re talking about skipping with a long rope, yes!?”
“Hilda… Just stay like that forever.”
Meanwhile, Sophie and Tio hugged Shirley’s waist as they looked warily at Kyle… Although they spared Hilda herself a sympathetic look.
“…??? You two… Why are you glaring at Kyle like that as you hug me?”
Of course, the only one somehow even more in the dark about this situation than Hilda was the Sword Demon herself. For some reason, that extraordinary hearing of hers doesn’t apply to situations like these.
“…It’s fine then, isn’t it? Alongside Shirley-san’s denseness, it’s like she’s selectively deaf only when stuff like this happens. Since she didn’t realize, you’re in the clear.”
“Thank you… Even if it’s not really that comforting.”
Kyle’s head was in his hands out of embarrassment. He doesn’t know whether or not he should be relieved that the person in question didn’t hear all that, or depressed that her daughters did and were now glaring daggers at him.
“Mama, be careful, okay? One of the adventurers back at the inn told me that all men are beasts.”
“Mm. I’m worried about mum being targeted… Especially from those nearby.”
“…??? I’ve been wondering about this for a little while now… But, you couldn’t possibly be talking about Kyle, could you?”
With a sigh, Shirley gently stroked her daughters’ heads.
“I am already in my thirties, there’s no way that such a young man would have shameful feelings like that for a woman twice his age. Moreover, Kyle is an innocent gentleman. He would never think of women like that.”
Kyle didn’t feel an ounce of happiness despite hearing that praise, whilst Cudd and Leia meanwhile were aghast at the levels of density that Shirley was reaching.
(So the legends about astonishingly beautiful woman not realizing their own charm are true after all.)
(It seems like Kyle is somehow being seen as less and less of a man by Shirley-san every time.)
According to Shirley’s evaluation of him, Kyle was a kind and sincere gentleman much younger than herself, who could never hold any sort of lurid desires for woman. Although he really wanted to be pleased about how highly she thought of him in one sense, he was deeply frustrated in another.
“Isn’t that right, Kyle?”
“…Y-Yes, of course.”
As he was looked at with those pure eyes that contained not a single cloud of doubt, Kyle couldn’t meet that gaze. Sophie and Tio weren’t convinced in the slightest, but Shirley didn’t seem to hold any suspicions about his behaviour.
“And so… How long are you going to hide?”
Suddenly, Shirley turned to look at a passage leading back towards the castle.
Everyone wondered if there was someone suspicious for a moment, but the person who emerged was a female knight with red hair.
“Oh my. Just how long were you there?”
“…My deepest apologies, Your Highness Queen Alicia. Due to the current situation, I kept myself hidden as a precaution.”
As she bowed her head, a red ponytail flowed down her front. It was Lumiliana, the strongest of the Imperial Knights, and the Philia’s personal guard.
“Now then, my lady… You came to greet Queen Alicia and Princess Grimhilda, didn’t you? You can’t hide like this forever.”
“W-Wait just a moment, Lumiliana…! I’m still worried about…!”
And because she’s there, naturally her charge could only be that person.
“I-I am very sorry about my delayed greetings, Queen Alicia and Princess Grimhilda… And, my sis-… Or, rather, Shirley-sama.”
In the midst of enemy territory, the Imperial Princess Philia had appeared, her fair and swaying hair reflected in Shirley’s eyes.