The Sword Demon’s Demands for Her Daughters
“Ah! That person is…!”
“Why is the lady from the Empire in the Kingdom…?”
The five people standing behind Shirley didn’t look at Philia at all… Instead, they were looking straight at Lumiliana.
They remembered that the knight who looked at Shirley now was the very same swordswoman who had squared off against Shirley in the Duel Ordained by the Goddess, back in the Imperial capital.
“…Let me introduce you.”
Whilst her daughters didn’t recognize Philia at all, Shirley introduced the girl who should have one day been her true sister-in-law to the people around her.
“This is Philia, a noblewoman from a territory in the north. I happened to make her acquaintance some time ago.”
“I am pleased to make all of your acquaintances as well, I am the second daughter of Earl Aigner, Philia Aigner. She is Lumiliana, my personal guard. I have already heard about why all of you are here.”
Half of what came out of her mouth was true, the other half was pure fabrication.
Just like how Lumiliana called Philia ‘my lady’ instead of ‘your highness’ before, this was part of Philia’s way of arriving in the Kingdom’s capital in disguise.
The Princess of the Empire in a hostile country, forming relationships and striking deals with the upper crust of the Kingdom’s notables in order to further weaken her brother’s hold on power, it was best to have as few people as possible know that she was here.
“There’s no reason to be too surprised, the territory of the Aigner family recently changed hands from the Empire to the Kingdom, so you don’t need to be so suspicious.”
“Yes… Around the time of the kidnapping incident.”
Shirley, somehow managed to grasp Philia’s situation and introduced her to the others calmly, using what little information she had to corroborate her story.
It seemed like all that education she received to be the next Empress had paid off after all. The houses and politics of all the hereditary territories in the land had been knocked into her head, so she was able to navigate the conversation without blowing her cover.
…Of course, the person in question wouldn’t have minded if Shirley didn’t have perfect tact, but it was too late for that now.
“By the way, why are you here today?”
“I wished to talk with Her Highness in person and introduce the products of my territory… Although I would like to stay to see it, I will be leaving before the Summer Solstice Festival. I don’t want to add any further strain to security.”
Whether she came on false or true pretexts, that last part was the truth. Even though there were nobles and dignitaries from other territories and countries arriving for the festival, it would be a massive inconvenience to guard a princess from a hostile country on such a momentous day, considering the preexisting security threat.
“Even if I would have loved to stay and enjoy the festivities, I have no desire to give you all any more work. I will still be staying for a few days, so I hope we can talk again. Now, Your Highnesses, I must take my leave.”
After a pretty and elegant curtsey, Philia left with Lumiliana in tow.
“Haa… I really didn’t expect to meet her in a place like this.”
…She originally had wanted to introduce herself to Shirley’s daughters as something like their aunt. But, considering that the only reference point for the Imperial family the twins had was Albert, Philia had no wish to thrust that upon them. So, she left like that, without raising their relationship to anything more than mere acquaintances.
“It seems like the discussion is over? Well then, Princess Grimhilda. There are plenty more people to greet.”
“Yes, I hope to see you again soon.”
As Alicia left with her maidservants flanking her, Hilda saw her off respectfully, but that arrogant attitude of hers kicked in straight away as she turned back around towards the adventurers.
“Now then, everyone, it’s time to meet all the important dignitaries from all sorts of countries! Please make sure to keep three paces behind me at all times! Oh ho ho ho!”
“Just what kind of domineering master is she?”
“Well, it’s not as if she said anything wrong. Sophie, Tio, make sure to follow Her Highness properly.”
Just like Alicia’s maids, Sophie and Tio took to following Hilda like her attendants. That said, as those young girls walked down the corridor, they chatted to each other like friends instead of master and servant.
As Shirley watched them go, her mouth twitched ever so slightly towards a smile. Leia looked at her in surprise.
“Aren’t you feeling lonely at all, since Sophie and Tio are spending time with their new friend?”
“…Lonely, you say?”
After thinking on it for a while, Shirley nodded once, slightly meekly.
“You might be right… It’s not as if I can enter a conversation between friends like that… But, in a way, I think this is a good thing.”
Relationships with friends are a wonderful experience and can enrich the world around you. And although Shirley had shunned it for many years, recently she couldn’t say that having friends and companions was a bad thing, if anything she should welcome her daughters gaining more.
“If my girls are having fun, then that’s enough for me.”
As a mother, she was glad that those girls had grown up to be so kind and attached to her, but Shirley also knew that it was best for them to have relationships with other people as well.
She wanted them to lead a rich and fulfilling life, even in the places where she as a parent couldn’t reach… When the time came that Shirley was no longer with them, she wanted them to be able to continue smiling, even after she was gone.
She wanted them to feel joy, not sorrow. That’s all that Shirley would ask of them.
“…Hmm? So what you’re saying is, that if there was ever a man in their future, you would be fine with that?”
“…If a man wanted to associate themselves with Sophie or Tio, they would need to have their finances strong enough that they could live together in comfort, never have unfaithful thoughts, he couldn’t smoke or drink as those vices lead to addiction and violence in the home, he would always put family first and he would have to be kind-hearted and gentle. I would put all those stipulations into a marriage contract bound with magic that would cause him to die if he violated it. But the most important part of all is… That he would have to be a man who could defeat me. In the first place, before he even came into contact with my daughter, I would need to exchange letters with three character references…”
“Isn’t this completely different to what you were just saying!?”
“Character references… Actually, having a mother-in-law like that… That sounds impossible!”
Shirley, who was a victim of an unchaste man in the past, was unquestionably severe in her demands. Driven by that experience with the unfaithful in her past, Shirley was determined that she would make it absolutely impossible for the same thing to ever happen to her daughters.
“Oh my, what’s wrong?”
“N-No… I just felt a cold feeling…?”
“A-Are you feeling unwell? Should we go back to my room…?”
“Mm. We’re okay.”
Any man in their future wouldn’t be able to cheat on pain of death… As those three girls chatted, they suddenly felt a wave of negative energy from Shirley who wasn’t even within earshot. Meanwhile, through some magical phenomenon, all the boys in their class who had ever gazed at Sophie and Tio felt a cold chill run down their spine.
Eventually, the evening came. After greeting what felt like an endless amount of people, they returned to the guest quarters where Hilda was staying… Sophie, Tio and their mother Shirley were given the two rooms that were set aside for aides and servants.
“Waa! The beds are so fluffy! They’re so bouncy as well!”
“I thought it would be a plain room… It’s so luxurious.”
Sophie and Tio jumped up and down on the bed happily, one that was clearly much higher quality than what they were used to as commoners. On the other side of the wall, they could hear Leia shout with similar delight, it seemed that they also got very nice rooms too.
“Even if they’re called servants, in many cases the close aides of royalty are also from noble families themselves. It only makes sense that they’re treated like upper-class guests as well.”
Shirley pulled aside the curtains and opened the double glass doors that led out onto the veranda. Located about halfway up the royal castle, that commanding view let her see the entire town dyed red in the glow of dusk, but the only thing she was interested in was the night of the summer solstice.
(The summer festival in the Kingdom spans an entire week… Canary said that the fireworks she had prepared will go off on the evening of the fourth day. Canary even set things up so that all three of us could be together to enjoy the fireworks, and from a room with such a great view as well.)
Did Canary whisper it in her ear? Alicia had lodged them here specifically until the day after the summer solstice festival ends when Grimhilda is set to go back to the Land of Demons… In other words, both Shirley and Kyle’s groups had free use of these rooms until the festival was over.
The Phantom Thief had never stolen the target later than his calling card suggested. Did he have some strange sense of honour? In any case, rather than simply protecting Grimhilda until the festival ended, she would much rather capture this Phantom Thief before he became a threat.
It would remove the need for Shirley to guard her as well. Once the fourth day comes, Canary was due to arrive and bolster the level of protection around Grimhilda, so on that day, she would be able to enjoy the sight of the fireworks with her daughters freely.
(In the meantime, they can visit the royal library with the princess to do some more work on their free research project. Not to mention those girls getting some experience of travelling, this request wasn’t all too bad.)
The education-minded Shirley secretly clenched a triumphant fist. So long as she cuts down the Phantom Thief, then everything will be fine.
“Hey, mum, is it true that there are lots of parades in the royal capital for the festival?”
“Yes, I haven’t seen one for over ten years, but apparently they hold a different parade every day of the week during the course of the festival.”
“That sounds fun! I’m really looking forward to seeing it, mama!”
Standing either side of Shirley, Sophie and Tio’s eyes shone as they looked down on the capital that was preparing for the celebrations.
“But, I didn’t expect them to do something different every day of the week… It’s kind of a shame.”
“You’re right. Since we’re in the capital to work, we can’t enjoy everything in one week.”
“Well… Something like that can’t be helped.”
Perhaps next year… Was what she was about to say, but as if they were thinking one step faster, her two daughters look at her with glittering eyes that rivalled the setting sun behind them.
“That’s why someday, after we become adventurers, we’ll earn enough money to travel back to the capital and see the festival with you, mama!”
“Mm. We’ll take a week off work to come and see it. It might cost a lot, but it’ll be worth it.”
Shirley’s mouth hung open slightly, that iron expression of hers well and truly shattered. She quickly reached out and tussled the hair of her daughters, trying to hide her flushed cheeks and the bashful smile that was spreading across her face.
“…Yes, that’s right. When that time comes, I’ll be looking forward to it.”
It was just a thought, it wasn’t as if they’d made arrangements or signed a contract. Yet even if she wondered whether or not it would really come to pass, Shirley looked forward to it all the same.
“Sorry to have kept you all waiting. It took me some time to prepare.”
Just then, Hilda opened the door to the room behind them. She had changed out of her formal wear with Sophie and Tio’s help and was now wearing more comfortable attire, with the soap that she had bought back in the frontier town in her arms.
After checking the person who stood in front of her, Shirley organized a change of clothes and their soaps and shampoos also.
“Then, let us depart. I, Grimhilda Eisen-Quartz, shall test the majesty of the royal baths myself!!”
Volume 2 cover. Looking very cool, Shirley. Expect the illustrations on the 9th of March.