A group of horsemen raced down the road to the west, heading for Italica.
Above them flew flags emblazoned with red, white and yellow roses. The sound of many galloping hooves thundered beneath them.
Their polished breastplates and helmets reflected gold and silver light, and the waving flags and upraised lances surged forward at great speeds.
The knight at their lead was particularly noteworthy.
She was a spectacularly-dressed female knight whose golden hair swayed in the wind. She lashed her horse repeatedly. Her mount mutely bore the pain and threw itself forward in response.
The countryside flew past the lady knight’s eyes, but it was too slow, far too slow. She gripped the reins tighter, and lashed the horse harder.
“Bozes! You’re going too fast!”
The woman whose voice was filled with even calmness caught up to the foremost rider.
She was a female knight with chestnut-brown hair. Behind her was a group of mounted warriors, whom she had left behind in her haste to catch up with Bozes.
The lady knight called Bozes replied in a voice like the tinkling of silver bells.
“We’re still too slow, Panache!”
“Your horse won’t be able to take it, and people in the rear can’t keep up with you. If this goes on, we won’t be able to fight even if we make it there on time.”
“It doesn’t matter, our objective is Italica, and the stragglers can catch up later. Time is of the essence now!”
“Even if only a few people arrive in the end, there are ways to fight with small groups. The most important thing is to get there is soon as possible, even if it’s by just a little.”
Bozes had said this much, and Panache could not convince her otherwise. All she could do was follow behind Bozes and convince her to slow down as much as possible.
After Bozes forced herself to loosen the reins and lower her speed, the unit behind her finally managed to catch up a little.
“Panache, will we make it in time?”
“It’ll be fine. If it’s the Princess, she’ll think of a way.”
It was all Bozes could do to suppress the uneasiness in her heart. Her energies were focused on the road which kept unfolding before her and the tiny point of Italica on the horizon.
Therefore, the first one to notice it was Panache.
Something was approaching from in front of them.
Although this was supposed to be a major road of the Empire, that meant it had been built long ago and exposed to the elements in the wilderness, and in places it would become very narrow, certainly not big enough for two wagons to fit side by side. If the riders continued like this, they would collide with the people in front of them.
Speaking of which, the entity approaching from in front of them was drawing near with a speed that surpassed their expectations. It looked like a box, and from a distance they could not tell exactly what it was, but it seemed to be a wagon of some sort.
“The hell you know! Look ahead!”
As Panache’s scolding brought her around, Bozes straightened up, clicked her tongue and pulled back hard on the reins.
Panache raised her left hand to signal a halt to the rest of the unit behind her, and she pulled on her reins to stop her horse.
The people behind them were slightly relieved, because they had a chance to give their exhausted mounts a chance to rest. Both man and beast panted heavily, sweating rivers.
“Ahhh, what a pain! Have them make way!”
Just as the knights behind them were about to advance to remove the obstruction, they saw Panache’s signal to wait and stayed where they were.
“They came from Italica. I’ll check them out and see if they have any useful information.”
With that, Bozes slowly urged her horse forward.
“You did what?!”
In her rage, Piña flung the silver goblet she was holding.
Bozes, who had proudly brought a prisoner of war with her in anticipation of a commendation, was completely taken aback by that reaction. She was stunned by Piña’s anger and the pain in her forehead, and it was only when she felt the warm wetness flowing down her face and saw blood on the finger she used to check it that she realized that she had a cut above her eyebrow.
The blood flowed down her beautiful cheek and dripped off her chin onto the carpet below, before slowly spreading out.
“Y-your Highness, why do you say that? What have we done wrong?”
Panache dabbed at Bozes’ wound while begging Piña for mercy. Bozes herself had collapsed on her rump in shock. Then, Hamilton reacted. Rather than shout angrily at them, she sighed deeply.
The knights had reached Italica at last. Bozes and Panache, relieved after seeing the peaceful streets, decided to report to Piña and apologize for not being able to make it to the battle. However, not only did Piña not blame them for that, but she even praised them for being earlier than expected.
Overjoyed from the praise, Bozes and Panache congratulated Piña on her victory and told her about their encounter with some foreigners who might have been the enemies who had taken over Arnus. They had captured one of them, and they thought Piña would have congratulated them on it, but once they brought him in front of Piña, she had struck them instead.
The two of them did not know why Piña had not only scolded them, but had even thrown a goblet at them.
“We broke the treaty in less than a day, and it just had to be him…”
Hamilton peeked at their prisoner, who was in the corner of the room.
Itami lay there, his body devoid of strength.
Hamilton placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him while shouting, “Itami-dono, Itami-dono”. But Itami was covered in abrasions and he sported many bruises from being beaten by many people, so his physical and mental stamina was depleted, to the point where he couldn’t even answer her.
It was not hard to imagine what had happened to him on the way back here from looking at him.
“Hamilton, how is Itami-dono?”
“It looks like he’s been hurt pretty badly, we need to get him care immediately.
Piña summoned the chief maid of House Formal and said, “Sorry, we’ll leave him to you”. The old maid and butler replied, “Understood”, and then the maids came together to form a human wall around Itami. He was transported away in this manner.
After watching Itami leave, Piña fiercely snapped her head back.
She looked just like a demon then, and after slapping Bozes — who was a bit taller than her — square in the face, she began questioning her.
“What on earth did you lot do to Itami-dono?!”
“We, we just brought him here the way we would a normal prisoner…”
The normal way of treating prisoners, for the Empire, usually involved dragging them behind a horse, and when the prisoners collapsed from exhaustion, they would be poked with spears or lashed with the flat of a blade, forcing them to rise and continue. Even if they did stand, however, they would still be brutalized with fists and feet. In this way, the prisoners would lose the will and strength to resist or flee, and it was also part of the process of breaking them before selling them as slaves.
Piña muttered, “This is bad, this is really bad”. She grabbed her head with both hands and shuddered as she tried to suppress the rage running rampant through her body.
If one thought calmly about it, it was not entirely Bozes’ or Panache’s fault. After all, they had been handling an enemy who had taken over Arnus, and they could not possibly have known Piña had signed a treaty with them.
However, sometimes, unlikely things like this simply happened. The fact was that the JSDF had immediately withdrawn from Italica once the treaty took effect. Excuses like “they did not know” or “they were told too late” would not work. After all, the ones who wanted the treaty to take effect immediately had been Piña’s side. Itami had been captured after the treaty took effect , and worse, it had happened within House Formal’s domain, where they were guaranteed free passage.
These actions would break the treaty. There was no doubt about it.
This was a preferred tactic of the Empire, starting a war on the pretext of a treaty violation. Violations of treaties often happened in a world with poor communications like this one, with subordinate units fighting on long after the rest of them had surrendered because nobody told them to stop.
It was because the Empire did these things often that they felt the JSDF would do the same to them.
A chill ran down Piña’s spine.
The music which rang across the sky and the Valkyries’ sneer now echoed inside her ear. She could not help but imagine her knight band, Italica, even the whole Empire, burned to ashes by the flames of hell.
Bozes and Panache, who had learned about the agreement Piña signed with the JSDF from Hamilton, finally realized what they had done, what Itami had meant by “Let’s talk this out” and why he had not resisted his capture.
“Itami’s men should have been there, what happened to them?”
“The ran off just like that.”
They had laughed at Itami because Itami’s subordinates had run off instead of trying to rescue him. However, they now knew why they had chosen not to retaliate, but flee.
If they could have taken them all captive at the time, they could have wiped them all out under the pretext of the unit going missing, but if everyone else escaped, that would have been useless. Not that they could have captured them in the first place — they had Rory the Reaper with them.
“Your Excellency, we are fortunate that nobody’s life was lost here. Rather than try and come up with some clever ruse, I feel we should sincerely apologize to them.”
These were the words of Gray Co Aldo, who had been listening quietly from the side of the room.
“But these were the people who even asked us to treat these bandits ‘hyu-main-lee’, and they even asked us not to abuse them. If they found out what happened to Itami, don’t you think that would get them mad enough to attack us?”
“Then we just need to atone for that as well.”
“That is, you want me to atone for that, right? But what if the other party asks us to hand over or execute the responsible parties?”
“Well, what else do you want to do? Declare war? These are opponents who ride iron pegasi and have magic that can set the earth ablaze, and then you have the Grim Reaper Rory Mercury to worry about. If it were me, I’d rather not chance that.”
Even a hardened veteran like Gray was shaken to the core after seeing those horrible scenes. Piña was steeling herself to undergo any kind of humiliation as long as it would allow her to successfully atone for this.
That might be so, but, there was nobody present who was higher-ranked than her. Piña needed to avoid a situation where she might be forced to forfeit her life after Bozes and Panache admitted their guilt.
The air turned cold and heavy around them.
After a brief silence, Gray attempted to break the tension by saying in a humorous tone, “Well, in the end, the situation depends on what Itami-dono thinks about it.”
In other words, he was telling all the women present to please Itami by any means possible.
There was a musical theater troupe called the Takarazuka Revue in Japan.
It featured an all-female cast who could sing and dance, in addition to putting on plays; and its founding dated back from before World War II. To Itami the Otaku, they were a world that was far removed from him, but recently they were performing “Rose of Versailles”, a play whose manga form Itami liked a lot, so he had considered going to watch them.
Come to think of it, the knight band they encountered on the way back to Arnus from Italica had reminded him of an outdoor performance of the Takarazuka Revue.
Everyone he saw with his amazed eyes were women, and all of them were beautiful, graceful, cute and charming young girls.
Even if there were some men hiding within their number, after seeing that the first half of these ravishing beauties were wearing men’s clothes, he might have assumed that everyone in the back was a woman too.
Then there were their ornately detailed flags, weapons and armor, the decadently decorated horse barding that gleamed in the sun, and the uniforms made from cloth of gold and silver, all of which might make one think of a romance manga set in the high society of the 18th century French court.
The woman who raised her hand to signal a halt urged her horse forward.
She was mounted on a white horse, and she had a head of chestnut-colored hair. Her silver-colored breastplate was decorated by a white tabard stitched with silver thread, and she wore a white cape. She had a cavalry saber by her side, a slender sword whose hilt and guard were covered with elaborate flower-themed decorate, and of course its blade boasted an immaculate sheen.
Her eyes were cold and sharp, with a hint of trying to look cool. She gave off an air of a female actress trying her best to play a male role, and if a high school girl who liked this sort of thing saw her, she might squeal in delight.
Kurata sat there with a goofy expression on his face and said, “This is the first time I’ve seen drill hair IRL.”
He was looking behind the lady in white, at the woman who seemed hostile. She rode a black horse, and her luxurious golden ringlets descended to her waist. So, this was the legendary drill hair. Was there some sort of special ability associated with it? He could not help but wonder about that as he saw the huge ribbon on her head.
At a glance, she was a beautiful woman who held herself like a daughter of nobility, and the way she looked down imperiously on them (The fact that she was mounted and thus had to look down on them only added to the effect) seemed to say, “Kneel and lick my toes, you pig bastard”. If she actually said that, he might have simply answered “Yes, ma’am” and gotten to it.
Itami turned his attention from the female knights to the rose-emblem flags, and mentally named the chestnut-haired woman the “white rose”, and the high-class blonde the “yellow rose”.
Kuwabara contacted the rest of the team over the wireless, and they gripped their rifles tightly as they went on alert. Sensing this, Itami immediately ordered them to hold fire in order to avoid breaking the treaty. At this moment, Rory and Lelei were dozing in the back because they had been up all night.
Of the three vehicles in 3rd Recon’s convoy, the one at the head was the Type 73 truck, the second was the HMV, and the third was the LAV. The female knights approached the Type 73.
The white rose spurred her horse toward Tomita before speaking.
Staff Sergeant Tomita, age 27, Ranger trained. He was a person who could only communicate with this world through the use of a phrasebook, and poorly at that. Under these circumstances, he could only respond to the white rose’s question with frantic body language and frequent references to his phrasebook.
Said the white rose: “Where are you from?”
Replied Tomita: “We are, from Italica go out.”
Due to the language barrier, he had to try and assemble the sentence from individual words in the phrasebook, and then speak slowly and carefully so the white rose could understand. On her part, the yellow rose treated the tongue-tied Tomita as an idiot and turned up her nose at him.
The white rose asked: “Where are you going?”
Tomita flipped through his notebook and replied: “Arnus Hill.”
As she heard this, the white rose shouted in panic, “You said WHAT?!”
Only an enemy would want to go to a place taken over by foreign enemies.
In addition, they had carriages that could move without being pulled by horses, and they carried unfamiliar weapons. The knights had held their doubts ever since they saw these people.
The female knights bristled with hostility as they heard his reply. “What? Enemies!” they shouted, and then their lances, originally held upright, were levelled straight at Itami’s team.
The riders swiftly assumed their formation, which spoke of their excellent drilling, and Itami realized they were nothing like a theater troupe, but a professionally trained military group. The reason why they had lined their horses up went without saying.
As they saw this, Itami’s men immediately assumed firing positions with their rifles, and Sasagawa swivelled the LAV heavy machine gun over to point at them, with a deep clanking of metal from the pintle mount.
The yellow rose alighted, a cold expression on her face, and she drew close to Tomita before grabbing him by the labels and telling him in a threatening tone to “Repeat yourself”.
In order to make sure this foreigner had not misspoken, she asked him again, “Where did you come from, and where are you going?”
It was hard for Tomita to breathe with the yellow rose grabbing his collar, and while he blushed for a completely unrelated reason, he forced out “Italica come Arnus go”
Itami could not bear to see Tomita suffering, so he told Kuwabara, “Pops, we cannot be the ones to make the first move under any circumstances” before leaving his rifle, handgun and bayonet on his vehicle.
Then, he called out to the white rose and the yellow rose in the local language.
“About that, I’m sorry, did my subordinate offend you?”
However, the hysterical woman was stirred into a rage by the relaxed tone of those words.
Itami suddenly felt them staring at him like he was some sort of criminal, and he nonchalantly said, “Calm down, let’s talk about this.”
However, the female knight was no longer listening to him.
This was the first time she had ever been deployed in her life and she was wound up enough that she had no energy left to spare on thought. And right now, the veteran officers and NCOs that were so desperately needed to maintain order here were somewhere far away instead.
Not to mention, the lack of fluency with the language made the knights suspicious, because there was no way to tell if they were safe or threatening. Their suspicion toward the people in front of them grew by leaps and bounds. And when their suspicion reached a certain level, it was only natural that it would result in them drawing their weapons. Panache, the white rose, pointed her sword at Itami who appeared to be completely unconcerned and ordered him to surrender.
They would not feel safe until they rounded up and disarmed this mysterious group of people.
They had no idea why the enemy would show up here, but they did not dare take chances. At least, despite some weird movements among them, they had not launched an attack yet. And just as the tension was rising ever higher, a man saying “Let’s talk” kept trying to cut in.
The JSDF were filled with murderous intent as they saw this, but Kuwabara stopped them by shouting “Wait!” and Itami added, “Now! Run away! Run away now!”
And so, with the roar of their engines causing the knights’ horses to panic, 3rd Recon fell back, tires squealing. Because it had happened so fast, the effort which the knights put into calming their startled horses was wasted, because the JSDF vehicles had long since vanished in a puff of smoke.
Several knights spurred their horses to try and chase them, but they could not catch up at all. Meanwhile, Itami had been left alone in the midst of the enemy.
“Ow, ow, ow...”
His head hurt, his back hurt, his legs hurt, his right eye hurt, in fact, most of his body hurt.
After regaining consciousness, he painfully forced his eyes open to see nothing but darkness.
Was it night-time, or had he just been locked up in a dark room… either way it was pretty dark.
However, what made him nervous was the sensation of a soft down blanket on him, which was so comfortable it filled him with foreboding instead. He looked around to try and see where he was. His head still hurt, but he tried to prop himself up on his shoulders.
And then, a pair of soft hands stopped him from rising.
This pair of hands gently pressed him down onto the bed and covered him up.
After that, someone brought a candle over, and the warm light illuminated Itami’s surroundings.
The faces of smiling maids appeared in the candlelight. “Are you awake, Master?”
“What, where, where, where is this?”
The Japanese he had spoken by reflex seemed to have confused them. Itami did not recall going to an Akihabara maid cafe or maid hotel.
“Where is this place?” he asked after he managed to get himself under control.
“This is Formal Manor.”
Itami nodded, as if to say “I see”, and began trying to make sense of the circumstances.
A quick look around suggested he was not in a jail or dungeon or something similar.
Itami mused that since he had been dragged back to Italica, it made sense that this should be Italica, not to mention the people taking care of him seemed to be House Formal’s maids.
After seeing the improvement in his current conditions, he realised that Piña did not intend to break the treaty. In other words, it seemed Itami had a chance to be released safely, so there was no need to push himself to escape from here.
“Then, could you get me a glass of water?”
The maid smiled and said, “Understood” before bowing and stepping outside the room. Replacing her was a tall maid wearing pince-nez glasses. She knelt beside Itami’s bed to look at him.
Itami looked at the maid’s face, blinked, and looked again.
“Is there something on my face ~nya?”
“No-no, no, it’s fine.” In his heart, he reflected that a world like this ought to have things like this, and forced himself to accept it.
What Itami had seen was a pair of cat ears on the bespectacled maid. Given that they even moved by themselves, they were probably not fakes worn as accessories.
“May I ask what is going on?”
“Er, no… I mean, what’s the state of the town, of the manor? Or maybe how I got here?”
The cat-eared maid froze, a troubled expression on her face.
However, the chief maid who had appeared beside her said, “It is now past midnight, and many of the people in the town are asleep. The town is at rest.”
The chief maid must have been trying to say that peace had returned to Italica. She also mentioned that they would have a memorial service to mourn those who had fallen in the town’s defense. However, she was not sure how much damage had been done to the villages outside the town, and she did not know how long the domain of House Formal would take to recover from this. It might be a long time.
Piña’s knight band had trickled into Italica, mainly infantry and cavalry who could not catch up. Now that over 80% of them were gathered, Piña had ordered them to patrol the interior of House Formal’s domain and secure it.
“And so, Lady Piña ordered us to treat Itami-dono kindly, and she has punished the knight leaders who treated you with disrespect.”
The white and yellow knight leaders had felt Piña’s wrath, which for Bozes (whom Itami knew as the yellow rose) had taken the form of a thrown silver goblet that had left a deep cut. It might even have left a scar behind, which was why Bozes had the entire knight band’s sympathies.
After that extremely detailed explanation, the chief maid bowed deeply to Itami.
“We are very grateful for your aid in saving this town.”
The other five or six maids bowed deeply as well, and Itami realised that they didn’t just have cat-ears among them, but bunny-ears too.
“We, the staff of House Formal, as well as the people of this town, are deeply grateful to Itami-sama and his men for saving Italica. Regarding the injuries done to Itami-sama, we pray that he will let the matter go with his kind and noble heart. If Itami-sama wishes to vent his anger by destroying this town in retribution, please know that we will all gladly aid you in doing so. We ask only that Itami-sama spare Countess Myui, the heir to House Formal.”
After saying that, they bowed deeply again, letting Itami know all the fears and worries in their hearts. Itami realised that they were loyal to neither the princess nor the Empire itself. These maids were loyal only to their liege lady Myui, and if they decided that Piña’s existence no longer benefited Myui, there would be half a dozen knives in the Princess’ back. Itami sensed that the same might apply to him as well.
The chief maid and the other maids had lowered their heads to him for House Formal’s benefit. Anyone who could act incautiously around them after knowing their motive must be the most clueless lecher in the world.
Because he could not drink water while lying down, Itami decided to sit himself up. The cat-eared maid in glasses helped him up, which he was glad to receive because his entire body was sore from his injuries.
“Itami-sama. These girls are Mome, Aurea, Persia and Mamina. From now on, the four of them will be your personal attendants. Please feel free to ask them for anything you need.”
The girl who poured the water was human. Then there was the girl with the glasses and the cat ears. Then there was the bunny-eared maid. And then there was one who looked like a human, but her red hair was a mass of writhing snakes. The four of them knelt before Itami with their heads lowered.
“Please ask us for anything you need, my master.”
Itami had no idea how to answer the cute girls and beautiful ladies who were saying this to him. Even if the logical part of him knew that doing anything ungentlemanly to them was dangerous, Itami had to forcibly suppress the thought “Maybe it would be okay to fool around with them a little”, which came from the bottom of his heart.
A little bit earlier, on the outskirts of Italica at evening
Outside Italica, the members of 3rd Recon, minus their commander, lay prone on the ground to conceal themselves as they waited for dusk to fall.
“You think he’s dead?”
Kuribayashi said that as she observed the town through her binoculars. They had watched Itami being dragged around and beaten by the knights after they captured him, so her words were unconsciously phrased as a wish.
Kuribayashi Shino had a little known habit — when she encountered people of the otaku persuasion, she would instinctively react with “Die, otaku scum!” She would point her rifle at Itami’s head from behind in order to save him. However, since she was the sort of person who said things without thinking about them, Itami called her the “brainless titty monster”.
Understanding her personality, Staff Sergeant Tomita replied, “He wouldn’t die from just that much, right?”
Tomita was already in camouflage.
Waiting along with them were Lelei, Tuka and Rory, who had camouflage paint on their cheeks, the tips of their noses, their foreheads, and other places which would easily reflect light. Kuribayashi had applied it for them personally. However, since they did not have enough camouflage uniforms, they remained in their usual clothes.
“I mean, he’s a Ranger, that ought to count for something?”
“Who’s the Ranger?”
“Who else but Lieutenant Itami?”
“What? That’s bullshit, right?”
“No, no, it’s the truth.”
“It’s the truth.”
“No way~ It’s impossible~ give me a break~”
Kuribayashi, who had long coveted the Ranger badge, felt her dream becoming tainted in that instant.
Rory and Tuka did not understand Japanese too well and were quite confused, while Lelei, who was more familiar with the language, had no idea what those words meant. To satisfy her curiosity, she asked Kuribayashi why it was impossible for Itami to be a “Rain Jar”.
The tormented Kuribayashi smiled bitterly and said, “Itami doesn’t fit the image of a Ranger at all!” Rangers had wills as strong as steel, could endure any sort of hardship to complete a mission, and so on. At least, that was how Kuribayashi described her idealized image of her ranger, exaggerating their greatness by at least 240% in the process.
Even Lelei, who had a calm and levelheaded personality, could not help herself smiling.
After all, everyone’s impression of Itami’s spirit was that it was as soft as a slime (however, it was so soft that it couldn’t be broken), and he was the sort of person who would run away from difficult tasks, while finding a way to muddle through any tasks given him. Some might call him “easygoing”, while the less polite would describe him as a “slacker” instead.
Of course, Lelei knew that 3rd Recon had not only saved the people of Coda Village, driven off the Flame Dragon, helped the refugees settle down in the Arnus Living Community and defeated the bandits ravaging Italica, but she had also seen these things with her own eyes. However, these things were not the personal effort of Itami, but the result of 3rd Recon working together, as well as due to other combat elements of the JSDF.
When Lelei translated for Rory and Tuka, they laughed too. Kuribayashi’s idea of mental strength described Kuwabara and Tomita well, and maybe Kuribayashi herself, but it seemed completely incompatible with Itami, who spent his time reading books (usually manga).
On many occasions, they had spotted him stringing up a hammock under a tree and napping, or flipping through a thin softcover book (rare doujins, only available at Comiket), in Arnus forest or near the refugee camp.
“That’s enough, isn’t it about time?”
Tomita rose from the ground as he said that.
The sun had set during their entertaining discussion, and the veil of night now cloaked their surroundings. It was the best time to move out.
Kuribayashi muttered to herself.
“Staying up this late is bad for my skin…”
That said, after last night’s wild melee and exercise, her skin was practically glowing with satisfaction. She and Rory might be the only two in the group who felt that way.
And so, after last night’s intense combat, tonight they would be conducting an infiltration.
Well, it should have been an infiltration, but Italica’s defenses had grown lax to the point where even a monkey could just waltz right in.
The local guards were too exhausted from combat to keep their guard up.
In addition to that, those obnoxious noble ladies from the knight band had shown up and demanded, “You, show me around.” “Hey, where’s the barracks?” and so on in a bossy way. It was a pain taking their horses to the stables or making sure they were fed and watered. After that, a whole bunch of troops they had never seen before showed up, and they made things worse by treating the locals like a bunch of idiots.
And of course, since the local guards and townspeople had never seen the people from the knight band before, nobody would notice one or two more unfamiliar faces.
In this way, Rory, Tuka and Lelei proudly walked into Italica through the front door and successfully “infiltrated” the city. Even if they were spotted by the sentries, they would only think “Eh, why did they come back?” and so on.
“Well, if it was going to be like this, we wouldn’t even have needed to put on the camouflage…”
As she grumbled, Tuka called on the spirits of sleep to visit the guards watching the wall, putting them out until dawn.
After that, they signalled to Kuribayashi, Tomita, Kurata and Katsumoto, who were waiting outside the town. The four of them poked their heads up one after the other.
Silence reigned in Italica, and nobody noticed Tomita and the others moving around. In this way. they easily made their way to Formal Manor.
Although there were alert sentries here, nobody noticed Tomita and gang.
After all, the sentries did not have night vision equipment and could not spot anyone hiding in the darkness. As such, everyone waited until the patrolling guards passed and quietly advanced, using the tall grass for cover.
Eventually, they reached the side of a building, and Tomita found a window (these were spaced evenly along the exterior of the building). He broke it down and entered.
“Please ask us for anything you need, my master.”
A pair of bunny ears suddenly erected among the four heads which lowered themselves.
The way they had stood up resembled a wary rabbit, and barely a moment later, a pair of cat ears twitched and stood up.
“Mamina, what’s wrong?”
The old chief maid directed a cold look to the bunnygirl called Mamina.
“I heard the sound of wood breaking downstairs. We might have an intruder in the manor.”
Although she was a maid with bunny ears, she was radiating the aura of a vicious killer. The cat-eared maid seemed less like an adorable housepet than a prowling leopard.
“Nobody in the town would dare intrude on the manor, and Piña’s men would come in through the front door. Since the bandits have been exterminated, it should be Itami-sama’s men.”
The chief maid spoke thus: “Persia, Mamina, the two of you will lead Itami-sama’s men here.”
“What if they aren’t Itami-sama’s men?”
“Then deal with them as usual.”
The cat-eared girl and the bunny-eared girl stood up. Their dextrous movements would make one think of wild carnivores as they silently left the room.
This piqued Itami’s otaku curiosity, and he asked the chief maid a question.
“Are those two who just left maids here? What species are they?”
“Mamina is a Warrior Bunny, and Persia is one of the Catpeople. Aurea here is a Medusa, and Mome is a normal human.”
“Uwah, that’s a lot of species. Is it normal to have so many together in one place?”
“No, actually it is quite rare. The previous Count Formal was an open-minded gentleman. He felt that pointless friction between the species would only bring difficulty to all of them, so he set out to employ as many demihumans as possible. Then again, it could have just been his personal interests at work.”
“The previous Count seems like a man after my own heart.”
“Well, Itami-sama does have the same feeling as the previous Count~”
Aurea reached her wriggly red hair out to Itami, but it was smacked aside by Mamo with a solid “Thwap!”
“Ow, ow, ow~”
“Don’t do rude things to the master.”
Aurea had a pitiful look on her face, like a cat whose food had been snatched away. Although she looked cute and adorable, the chief maid stressed repeatedly that Medusas fed on spirit energy, so her hair would absorb the energy of others. Even though she had been trained to control herself, sometimes she would lose out to her instincts, so Itami would need to take care around her.
After a while, the door opened.
Persia and Mamina entered, followed by Kuribayashi, Tomita, Kurata, Katsumoto, Rory, Lelei and Tuka, one after the other.
As she saw Rory’s face, the chief maid and the other maids went “Oh! To think your Holiness would personally come here!” and gathered around her.
In the face of the pious devotees kneeling before her and asking for her blessing, Rory looked at them with a kind expression and quietly held out her palm to them. It seemed as though a divine light was radiating from her hand, and the faithful were bathing blissfully in it.
Speaking of which, since Emroy was the god of death, judgement, madness and war, Itami could not help but think anyone devoted to him would be bad news. After all, there had been cults who used Sarin gas to murder people, and there were a bunch of crazy people who believed in them. However, the worshippers of Emroy might be worse than those cultists.
And the one who ruined the atmosphere was Kurata, who quietly sidled up to Itami’s bed and whispered, “Well, looks like you lucked out, Lieutenant…”
Itami knew Kurata was mad about moe monster girls, so he slyly grinned, “Oh? Jealous, are we?” Although Itami wasn’t a huge fan of monster girls or maids, someone who did like them would probably be in heaven.
“I’ll introduce you to them later,” Itami whispered.