It was finally the day of the conference.
In case you were wondering whether or not the Pope herself would be physically present, our arrangement was that I would be standing behind the curtain while Misha uses her wind magic to deliver the Pope’s voice.
In other words, I was going to be the one attending the conference in person.
Back when Lishe-sama explained the plan to us,
“If Her Majesty Dorothea finds out about this, she will likely be furious, but we have no other choice.”
She said, her tone filled with shame.
Probably because it was not what the Church intended to do.
I was already finished with my preparations and stood behind the curtains.
All that was left was to stay on stand-by and wait for Dorothea to come out.
There were a lot of security officers and soldiers standing around the curtain, including Claire-sama, Lily-sama, Misha and the Pope, who was still disguised as me.
The Pope was standing somewhere by the curtain that was on the other side of Dorothea’s seat.
In other words, from where Dorothea would be sitting, she would not be able to see the Pope move her mouth.
“Her Majesty Dorothea has arrived.”
Dorothea, who finally showed up, was donning her jet-black armor, just like usual.
Perhaps that was what she considered to be her formal wear.
Her cloak flowed behind her as she walked briskly towards her seat and stood in front of it before introducing herself.
“I am Dorothea Naa. I hope something will be able to come out of our conference today.”
She said briefly and she took a seat.
Her attendant appeared to have a pale face, but she herself looked calm and collected.
As always, she was still an egocentric person.
To her, this was probably what she considered to be “rational”.
“I am Claris Répète III. Thank you for having me today.”
The Pope, on the other hand, was the type that would always go at her own pace.
The fact that she didn’t hand out any fake compliments and dropped all diplomatic formalities was probably because she took Dorothea’s personality into consideration.
The Pope continued.
“Before we begin with our discussions, may I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“Were you the one who sent Sandrine after me?”
The entire meeting hall was shocked at the Pope’s directness.
Even I was quite surprised.
Despite how much Dorothea appreciated straightforwardness, wasn’t this going a little bit too far?
“Hm. So the rumors of somebody coming after your life were true. It wasn’t me…… although, if I said that, would you even believe me?”
“I would. You are not the type of person who would lie.”
This was off to a turbulent start.
The atmosphere of the entire conference hall felt tense.
“Hah……. Hahaha! It seems like the Pope of this generation is quite an amusing person. You’ve caught my interest.”
“Thank you very much.”
Dorothea burst into laughter while the Pope also gave a warm response in return.
All of the representatives for both the Empire and the Church were washed over with relief.
“I’m not interested in taking your life. Right now, my empire doesn’t have enough spare power or resources to make an enemy out of the Church. Your safety is guaranteed during your stay in the Empire.”
“Your words are very reassuring. Now then, let us begin with our meeting.”
Just like how it was previously discussed, I held out my hand from the half-raised curtain.
The Empress reached out and shook it.
Her grip was incredibly strong.
“Hmm……. So that’s how it is.”
The Empress spoke to herself as if she was affirming something.
I wasn’t sure what she was so convinced of, but the Empress was grinning.
After that, the meeting continued without any trouble.
The topics that were discussed included the Pope’s complaints about the Empire’s extremely aggressive policies, and although the room felt a bit tense when the Empress refused to cease her meddling with domestic affairs, they negotiated on it from the beginning all the way to the end.
I felt nervous the whole time, but I didn’t sense any sort of danger in particular.
Right as I thought everything was just about ready to get wrapped up, something happened.
“By the way, Your Holiness, is using a substitute for the leader considered some sort of fashion trend in your culture? I think that’s a bit impolite, even if somebody is after your life.”
The Empress grinned as she spoke, but her words caused the atmosphere of the hall to turn even tenser than it was before.
……. Were we found out?
“What might you be speaking of?”
“Don’t play dumb. Well, it doesn’t really matter. However, there is something that I can’t overlook. To that woman over there, don’t you think it’s strange how your magical tool isn’t working?”
The Empress’ gaze was focused on a single woman.
It was Lishe-sama.
“W-What are you talking about?”
“That ring you’ve been trying to activate up until now – that’s a magical tool, isn’t it? Unfortunately for you, that thing isn’t going to work.”
“It seems that your hint has come in handy, Rei Taylor.”
Dorothea looked over at the curtain as she laughed.
Lishe-sama distorted her face for a moment before she also glanced over at me.
“I apologize, Lishe-sama. I replaced the magic transferring tool that you tried to bring with you.”
Lishe-sama looked enraged.
So she was the culprit after all.
“How did you even know……”
“I had my suspicions from the night Sandrine-san attempted to assassinate me. There was something that you said, Lishe-sama. ‘To think that even a rosary could be used for this’.”
“What was so strange about that?”
“It was weird. I mean, sure, the murder weapon used was a rosary, but I was holding onto it so there was no way you could have seen it, Lishe-sama.”
“B-But there were marks left around your neck.”
“In that case, wouldn’t you normally assume that I had been strangled with something like a rope? Isn’t it strange that you immediately assumed I was attacked with a rosary?”
It was a simple and subtle slip-up, but it was more than enough for me to place my doubts on her.
Upon presenting my evidence against her, Lishe-sama bit her lips in resentment and said,
“I see…… Of course, you’d find out about it. So when you exercised your authority as the Pope back then, was that just out of spite?”
“That wasn’t it. I was really hoping that my deductions were wrong. I wanted to believe in you.”
“How naive. If I were in your shoes, I would’ve sentenced myself to death the moment I had my suspicions.”
“That may be so, but you are still Yuu-sama’s mother.”
When those words left my mouth, Lishe-sama looked surprised.
“Let’s end the farce here. Hilda, restrain her.”
On Hilda’s instructions, the soldiers came forth.
Lishe-sama’s expression looked like she had already given up and provided no ounce of resistance.
However, at that moment,
“No, no, no, that’ll be problematic for me, Lishe-sama.”
A familiar, malicious voice resounded in the hall.
“Where are you!?”
“Good day to you, Rei Taylor, Claire François. And goodbye.”
Along with Salas’ mockery, a surge of magical power filled the room.
“Hilda, give me an analysis.”
“Got it…… T-This is……!”
Hilda, who was standing by her side, turned pale.
“It’s transfer magic! Somebody’s coming!”
“Hmm…… Hey, lady, does anything come to mind?”
Lishe-sama remained silent.
However, her face was pale, and it was obvious that she was involved and knew what was about to happen.
“Mother, what are you planning to do!?”
Yuu-sama cried out.
In response, Lishe-sama said,
“Everything is for your sake, Yuu.”
She smiled as she spoke.
Although her smile reminded me of a broken doll.
In the next moment, it appeared.
“Hoh…… A demon, huh?”
Unlike Arist or Plato, who took on the appearances of a human being and a primitive man respectively, this demon looked different.
It had a large frame and its huge body was made out of shiny, hard metal.
The demon, whose body was colored jet-black, had the upper body of a human being, but its lower half was just like a bug’s.
“Give me your name, demon. I’ll leave you with a good memory and grant you the honor to speak.”
“I am Rates. I am one of the Three Great Archdukes, Rates.”
Using the hand on his humanoid upper body, the demon named Rates pointed at me.
No, it wasn’t directed towards me.
He was pointing at the person behind me―― the real Pope.
“I have come to harvest that young girl’s life. As long as you don’t stand in my way, I’ll spare your lives.”
He slowly approached the Pope as he spoke.
“Everyone, get into battle formation! Rei, please help us fight as well! Our body double trick has been discovered already anyway!”
Claire-sama immediately started giving instructions.
All of the security bodyguards sprung into action accordingly.
I jumped out from behind the curtain as well.
At the forefront, the Church’s priest soldiers brandished their morning stars and bombarded Rates.
“You’re in the way.”
Rates did not set up for a counterattack.
Instead, using the front two out of three of his insect feet, he managed to cut them down.
Just with that, the priest soldiers were blown to the wall.
“Refrain from fighting close-quarters and attack with your magic instead!”
Seeing that the enemy’s melee strength was quite high, Claire-sama revised her instructions.
Following her orders, the guards started firing magical bullets instead.
Although the meeting hall was rather large, we were still indoors.
There was no room for somebody whose body was as large as Rates’ to escape.
All of the magical bullets landed on him.
“Didn’t I just say you were in the way?”
It did not stop the demon from moving forward at all.
He did not falter whatsoever as he walked out of the plumes of smoke.
“What about this!?”
Claire-sama was prepared to fire her magic rays.
Unlike last time when she was fighting against Arist, she was in perfect condition and not worn out.
When she fired her four light rays, he countered it with four beams of darkness.
The pillars of darkness completely overtook Claire-sama’s magic rays and was headed straight for her.
“Claire-sama, look out!”
I jumped towards Claire-sama and knocked her down.
The beams of darkness flew over our heads immediately after.
It hit the wall on the opposite side and completely obliterated it into small pieces.
“What amazing power……”
Claire-sama murmured, stunned.
It was clear that Rates’ strength was far more powerful than Claire-sama’s magic rays.
“That magic…… You must be Claire François, huh. After I get that other girl, I’ll be coming for you next. Wait your turn in line.”
He gave us a backward glance as he walked by us while we were still on the ground.
“I-I won’t let you.”
Yuu-sama and Lily-sama were standing in front of the Pope.
All of the other soldiers had already lost the will to fight.
A cold light encased Yuu-sama’s sword.
As I may have explained it before, she was a magic swordswoman―― with her former nickname being the Prince of Ice, now known as the Princess of Ice.
Yuu-sama flipped her wimple as she narrowed the gap between herself and Rates and slashed his front feet.
However, the blade was only able to inflict a shallow injury on Rates’ feet.
Rates did not stop walking forward and tried to crush Yuu-sama on the spot.
“Rates! Didn’t we make an agreement!?”
When Lishe-sama cried out, he stopped herself from delivering the blow to Yuu-sama.
“Oh, that’s right. I have to keep my promises. I’ll let you off. You’re free to go.”
Rates shook his feet and kicked Yuu-sama aside, sending her body flying.
Lily-sama hurriedly rushed over to try and catch her.
“Yuu-sama, hang in there!”
Lily-sama desperately tried to heal her with recovery magic, but her wounds were probably deep.
With this, our forces were almost completely wiped out.
No one was able to land any attacks that were effective against Rates.
Rates was already standing right before the Pope.
There was nothing more that could be done―― that was probably what everybody was thinking.
“As long as I am standing before you, I won’t let you have your way, demon.”
The woman pulled out two black swords from each side of her hips and smiled like she was about to hunt down her prey.
It was Empress Dorothea.
A heroine whose second name was widely known as the “God of the Sword” stood right before Rates.