Bertus called me to his room, not the terrace where we usually talked.
Bertus’ room wasn’t much different from mine. It wasn’t more glamorous or anything else one might associate with a room belonging to a prince.
However, for a guy with the talents to become a Sword Master, there were quite a lot of books here. He also had some training equipment, of course, but there were even more completely filled bookshelves in here.
What a hard-working villain. It wasn’t all that bad, but it still was scary, as I was now seeing yet another side of him.
“Let us drink a cup of tea.”
“Ah, what? Sure.”
Bertus brewed a cup of tea for me and himself. Rather than getting served by various people, like in the Imperial Palace, Bertus seemed to like doing things on his own.
He didn’t show any sort of overwhelming superiority towards anyone. That made him seem like a good person to others.“So, did you have a good rest during the holidays?”
“No, things were actually more exhausting than usual.”
In fact, during that terrorist incident, I felt like my head was about to explode, and after that, I was only focusing on training with Ellen. I worked myself to the extreme.
Rather, it seemed like my days off were cut extremely short. Bertus laughed loudly.
“Looking at your body, it sure seems like it.”
He probably reacted like that because he saw the bruises all over my body, not because of the muscles I build up. It seemed that me gritting my teeth and actually training hard left a good impression on Bertus.
If he valued strength, he wouldn’t have gone for me, but Ludwig, who would have been the perfect subordinate for Bertus. He was someone who could go up against Ellen in terms of stamina after all.
But why did he call me over? I didn’t think he called me here just to have some tea.
“Compared to how you were the first time we had PE, you sure are remarkable. Still, while training yourself is good, you shouldn’t overdo it. You might end up hurting your body. We’re still growing after all, right?”
“That’s how it should be.”
Bertus warned me several times that excessive training wasn’t good while one was still in their growing period. I was of the same opinion. I didn’t ask him anything. I didn’t want to appear too on guard after all.
“Honestly, I only called you over because I was curious about something, nothing more.”
“How did you and Ellen become friends?”
Wasn’t it enough for him to focus on his own situation? Why was he asking me something like this all of a sudden? Bertus shook his head and laughed.
“No, well, I tried talking to her a few times to get closer to her, but no matter what I did she’d always just give me some curt answers…. But you actually trained with her. You two talk a lot, right? I wonder if there’s a trick behind it.”
Obviously, Ellen didn’t speak to any other classmate other than me. If they knew about her background there probably would be many, who would try to forcefully get close to her, however, Bertus knew.
Ellen’s image in class at the moment was that she was extremely talented, but also really blunt, so she was a bit hard to approach. It probably was something like that.
“It’s pretty hard to put it into words.”
Come to think of it, it kind of just happened, so I couldn’t really tell him how I got closer to her when he asked.
“Huh…. To be honest, I feel like I never actually had the intentions of getting closer to her.”
“……You really have no idea.”
“Yeah, I don’t.”
Bertus sighed at my silly reply.
I wasn’t actually that nice to her. Strictly speaking, after I teased and poked at her, we suddenly became like this. Sometimes we would eat together, sometimes we would have some snacks together, and sometimes we would walk home together, then we suddenly just became friends.
Of course, even though we did become friends, nothing much had changed.
“Anyway, Reinhardt, aren’t you strangely capable? You’re saying it was an accident more or less, but you did end up getting close to Ellen, who is the hardest to get close to, right?”
And even Bertus, who said that talents at this level were worthless, seemed to severely overestimate Ellen’s ability. Of course, he was probably more focused on her background though.
“I’m asking just in case, but do you like her?”
“……No, not at all.”
We got along, but not like that. Why was Bertus asking me these things all of a sudden? He was staring at me as if he was trying to read my true intentions.
“Hmm…. Well. Yeah. What’s strange about you is that you don’t seem to have any interest in any of the girls at all. Didn’t you tease Saint-Owan quite severely?”
Bertus giggled, wondering if I just treated all girls that way.
“I guess I’m not old enough to be interested in them yet.”
“…Aren’t you at the age in which one usually gets really interested in girls though?”
“I don’t believe I am though.”
I spoke as if I wasn’t the one we were talking about. To me, they were just cute little brats. How nice it would have been if they were just a bit older.
“But why are you asking if I like her?”
“Hmm, why indeed?”
Bertus smiled, but didn’t give me an answer. He seemed to have some kind of intention, but I just couldn’t fathom what it was. Well, I didn’t see how this guy would ever tell me anything honestly.
“Well, it’s a bit late, but about this incident.”
As if he didn’t want to talk about this subject anymore he tried to change it.
Still, considering what I knew about his setting, he probably was very interested in Ellen’s power, not in her as a person. This wouldn’t change, even in the future.
So there wasn’t any reason for him to be interested in whether I liked Ellen or not. Why did he ask…?
“So, what do you think about this incident?”
Bertus brought up a topic that was much too large for just a simple subject change.
Hence, I doubted my ears when I heard him mention it.
“This incident. You heard about it, didn’t you?”
No matter how favorably he looked upon me, why would he ask someone from the streets for their opinion on something like that? Obviously, because I was someone from the streets, so he might think there weren’t any clear boundaries that bound me….
“Erm…. I heard about it…. I think it wasn’t that big a deal though.”
I tried to give a very vague answer that an ordinary person would give. The demons caused a terrorist attack in the Imperial Capital, but it wasn’t actually that big an incident, right?
Bertus nodded his head slowly while letting out a low hum.
“Is that all?”
Bertus looked at me and asked me again, seeming as if there was an answer he was hoping for me to give. Of course, if I seriously thought about it, I didn’t know if I could actually give him a satisfactory answer that was different from the perspective the perpetrator of the case had. It was already dangerous enough for me to comment on this. I might end up talking about things that I shouldn’t know after all.
Bertus didn’t seem to doubt me though. He wasn’t really interrogating me.
However, he did seem to want me to give him an unusual answer.
It felt like he was testing my insight.
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Then an answer I could give him appeared in my mind.
“Well…. I’m wondering how this could happen just after the Demon World War ended. Why did they do it….? Did they have some sort of conflict with the Knights Templar? Maybe they had a reason that wasn’t generally known…. Something like that? I’m still in Temple, so I don’t really know the details.”
That was the thing Ellen once told me. There might have been other reasons that were left unseen. Otherwise, there would be no need for the demons to fight the Knights Templar without any bigger goal.
As if he found my words valid, Bertus nodded his head.
“The cause of this incident, huh?…. It’s kind of hard to tell you the details, but yeah, those are valid questions.”
Going by the analogy Charlotte used, it seemed that the one’s behind the black market were part of Bertus’ camp. No matter if Bertus took the initiative in this or not, they eventually tried to open an illegal auction, and information about that was leaked to the demons.
That was why she sarcastically told him to manage his people better. It was the first time in history that there was a terrorist attack in the Imperial Capital, as well as this slaughter of hordes of demons.
But Bertus didn’t actually look all too bothered. Assuming that he actually showed how he felt right now.
“As you know, there is no one else in Temple to whom I could talk to normally, except you.”
Someone who knew his true self, he could talk to, to some extent. Even though he was part of the Imperial Family, Bertus actually didn’t have anyone to really talk to in Temple.
Everyone wasn’t that strong yet, and Bertus held a gentle image at the moment. He folded his arms and furrowed his eyebrows.
“It’s a mess. However, even though everything ended up like this, I’m wondering if this really is such a bad thing.”
This was quite the shocking remark for the Imperial Prince to make.
Bertus didn’t even bother to warn me that I’d be dead if I told this to anyone. He probably thought, I’d be smart enough to know that I shouldn’t spread this around.
But how could this not be a bad thing?
The black market he planned on opening got destroyed. The prestige and honor of the Imperial Family got smeared, and they gave their political opponents a gap to attack. So how was this not a bad thing?
“Do you think the system of a single Empire dominating the entire human continent could have been possible without the demons?”
My eyes twitched at Bertus’ words.
“Without a common enemy, humans wouldn’t be able to unite.”
“No, shall I put it differently? Humans create enemies so that they can unite. That’s how targets like Scarlett are created.”
Humans needed a common enemy to unite. In order to unite, they deliberately made someone an enemy who wasn’t actually one.
In small groups this would be called bullying.
On a bigger scale, it was the state announcing a country their enemy and inducing the people to unite under one banner.
Humans only united when they had a common enemy. And those who wanted to induce such unity created artificial enemies.
That was what Bertus was talking about.
Examples for that were the Nazis and the Allied Forces, the communists and the capitalists and those other numerous conflicting factions.
In the end, Bertus was saying that this concept wasn’t much different from bullying.
Creating enemies to unite.
“Now that the Demon World War was over, the Empire’s situation would gradually become more unstable. The enemy we as a species faced together is now gone, so now would be the time to sate one’s own greed again.”
The existence of this gigantic adversary called the Demon Realm became a great cause for the humans to unite.
That was how this Empire could exist. It was thanks to no one else but the Demon Realm, but now that the War ended in the humans’ victory, they didn’t have an enemy left to defeat now. So Bertus was predicting that the Empire would end up divided in the future.
Actually, I once thought about proceeding with such a storyline after I ran out of slice-of-life material.
I was planning on creating a scenario in which the Empire fell apart, leading to a war between the different nations.
However, in the end, I decided on that Gate opening thing, not that scenario.
Bertus, of course, didn’t know about the Gates yet, so he was predicting the most likely scenario to happen with his current knowledge.
Humans who lost their common enemy would end up dividing again, so although the Empire had entered its golden age at the moment, humans would start wars among themselves again because of various reasons.
If the Gates didn’t appear, history would certainly flow into that direction.
“But at a time like this, the demons did something like that in the middle of the Imperial Capital.”
The power of the Demon Realm, which was thought to have died down completely, led a team to the Imperial Capital.
Therefore, the people’s fear of the Demon Realm got reignited, and the Empire would be able to maintain this solidarity just like before as long as this fear existed.
“Fear is very effective for governing a country as well as uniting its people.”
Therefore, even though Bertus suffered a considerable loss, and the people were absolutely terrified because of this incident, he evaluated that this event was something necessary for the Empire.
It was true that he took some damage, but Bertus was looking even further ahead. The demons’ terrorist attack actually helped maintain the Empire.
In fact, Bertus already knew that the Darklands wouldn’t be able to pose a threat to the humans. So, he wasn’t bothered about those demons, who were only remnants. They wouldn’t be able to destroy the Empire or inflict any significant damage. In the end, their existence was beneficial for the Empire.
I had to agree to a certain extent to Bertus’ bold opinion.
Looking at how he was at thinking, it actually seemed like he’d be rather happy to know that a Demon King candidate was still alive. If the existence of an enemy nation helped keep the humans’ unity, he probably would want the Demon Prince to rebuild his power.
Of course, that was just another reason for me not to reveal my identity. Bertus seemed to try to see if I was able to think so far ahead. Or, maybe he just wanted to see if I agreed to him.
I didn’t know what reaction would be good. I also didn’t know what Charlotte thought about this matter.
It was quite the strange feeling, seeing the mastermind of it all analyzing this incident.
I wondered if Airi and Eleris were doing well.
That was it.
I had more important things to worry about.
Harriet de Saint-Owan and Liana de Grantz.
I had to somehow stop these two from taking their leave of absence. I wasn’t really a close friend to Harriet no matter how one looked at it, and I never even spoke a word with Liana de Grantz.
What should I do? I could say something to Harriet, but in Liana’s case, if someone she didn’t even talk to usually told her to not take a leave of absence, she probably wouldn’t even pretend to listen to me.
Putting all my worries aside, I went to look for Harriet in the dormitories.
And that was where the problem lay.
“……Where did she go?”
She wasn’t in the magic lab, not in her private room, not in the lobby and not in the dining room.
Come to think of it, I only knew Ellen’s encounter spots. If Harriet wasn’t in the dorm, she was somewhere outside…
Fortunately, there was still someone I could ask. Although Harriet wasn’t in the magic lab, there was another person.
I went back to the magic lab and opened the door abruptly.
The girl who answered back seemed slightly frightened.
This person was the only one beside Harriet who majored in magic in Class A. So, they should know each other well.
Number 7, Adelia.
Her talents were summoning magic and magic crafting.
So her specialty lay in creating things with her magic. Her talent for magic crafting was very crucial.
She could create things like Magic Lanterns on a small scale with her magic crafting, but later on, on a large scale, she’d be able to design things like magic trains.
I had never talked to her, but I thought she was quite scared of me because of the things I did.
“Where did the idiot go?”
“I, idi…. Idiot?”
Just me calling Harriet an idiot made her feel terrified.
“Come on. Where did she go? I can’t find her.”
I visibly saw the gears moving in her head. If she told me where Harriet was in this situation, she’d admit that her friend’s nickname was Idiot. Her lips quivered while she quietly mumbled something.
“Fricking hell. Did I do anything to you? I’m just asking you where she is.”
Why was she trying to make me out to be the bad guy here? Honestly, I’ve never kicked someone’s ass who hadn’t tried something with me, okay? Why was she like this?
…When I thought about it, that might actually be useful.
When I went towards her, she nervously shook her head.
“Tha, that’s…. She went to the communicator….”
In the end, she had to admit that Harriet’s nickname was Idiot, so her guilt was evident on her face.“Oh, she’s there?”
Although, the disadvantage of communicators was that the person one wanted to reach needed one as well, there were some places in the Royal Class’ dormitory in which one could use magic devices for communication. I didn’t really have a use for that, but if one’s parents were powerful and rich enough to have such communication tools, one would be able to keep in touch with their parents regularly.
Anyway, it seemed like Harriet was there at the moment.
Adelia kept looking at me as if she wanted me to leave if my business with her was over.
Harriet didn’t go that far away, so this probably meant that she’d go back to the dormitory pretty soon. Adelia kept looking at me as if she couldn’t do anything else because of my presence.
“Hey, talk with me.”
“Hu, huh? Y, you and me?”
“Who else is here besides us?”
Adelia was shaking hard. It seemed like she was about to die of fear.