All of a sudden, the speed of the sword slowed to a crawl as the flat of the blade lightly tapped against my left shoulder.
“A title befitting the accomplishments of the two of you,” King Reginald proclaimed.
Eryn and I looked up at the unexpected words. The grip on my knife relaxed as I lowered it to my side. Having drawn Eryn close, she gently detached herself from me.
“What? What do you mean, your Highness?” Eryn asked in confusion.
“Hmph. Although you may have slain a member of high nobility, I have been informed of the reason behind these circumstances.” The King looked behind us.
Following his gaze, we turned around to see Cornelius and the Chancellor walking up to us.
“For plotting the usurpation of the royal family,” Cornelius began.
“For his public confession of all his crimes against the nobility and the kingdom whom they serve under,” the Chancellor followed up.
“We have proclaimed that Duke Casper Charlemagne be stripped of his title and thereby executed for treason!” The two of them said in sync.
“So you see, the two of you have merely executed a criminal who is no longer affiliated with this kingdom. Such is not a crime, but an achievement!”
I had let out a sigh of relief, inwardly thankful that I had paused my attack, seeing that the sword had slowed down. If he had struck me, I would’ve certainly returned the favor. However, I found it a bit strange that the Chancellor had suddenly defended us as well.
“Don’t think I didn’t notice your aura of bloodlust though, Chef Claude Evers, familiar of Eryn Faulkner. I could tell that you had every intention to strike me down if I had followed through.” The King narrowed his eyes.
“Such impudence! From a mere commoner!” Prince Oswald stood up from his chair and yelled.
“Hold your tongue, Oswald! This was merely a test. To understand the sort of man, who the people call the ‘Demon Cleaver’, with my own eyes,” the King retorted at the outburst.
Unable to argue further, Oswald merely sat back down in annoyance.
“Yes, a man loyal to his master, and unwavering in the face of adversary. Befitting of being henceforth called, Knight Claude Evers, do you not agree?” The King looked around at those present.
Eh? Knight? Did I just hear correctly?
“A commoner chef as an honorary knight? How preposterous! Even if he is an Electi…,” Oswald muttered.
“A chef who has slain a demon and shook the foundations of this kingdom many times. His achievements speak much more than any other knight in our kingdom,” Katalina spoke up with a smile.
“Now then, do you accept?” The King looked directly at me.
I looked over at Eryn for some hints on what to do. Seeing her still in a state of shock, I looked over at Cornelius, who just stood there with a smile.
“I guess? I mean, I don’t know what being a knight means but if you think I’m worthy of it, then sure?”
Despite my lackluster affirmation that was full of doubt, the King simply nodded.
“Then, you may lift your head in pride, Honorary Knight Claude Evers. Next, Miss Eryn Faulkner!”
“Y-Yes!” Eryn stood at attention.
“I believe your ascension into the nobility ranks has been delayed long enough. Only at the urging of the former Duke had I hesitated to proceed. Senior Knight Eryn Faulkner, for all that you have done for the kingdom, I hereby grant you the title of… Viscount!”
Eryn looked up in surprise. “Two ranks?”
“Are you unhappy with that?”
“No, I’m not! Certainly no!” Eryn had only been aiming for the title of Baron, so being given a title above that had been more than she expected.
Looking behind us, the King continued.
“Cornelius von Reichenstein, though you had to fight against Chancellor Willingham, you stayed true to your beliefs and loyalty to the kingdom and its royal family. The path of a ruler is fraught with uncertainty, and I understand the views that each of you held leading up to the skirmish. I would be pleased if you would accept the title of Marquis.”
“With pleasure, your Highness.” Cornelius bowed.
With that, it seemed like the case of the Duke had been wrapped up. Returning to his chair, the King made one more statement.
“Knight Evers, I would like to offer you a position.”
Eh? A job right off the bat? I scratched my head wondering what it could be.
“That skill of yours — the ability to see mana, the ability to obliterate the strongest of equipment – to be frank, I wish to possess it. Would you accept a position as part of my royal guard? If it is within my power, I will offer you anything in return. Even the hand of the princess who I hear has favorable ties with you-”
“Father!” Katalina stood up in surprise before sitting back down with a hand covering her mouth.
I shook my head at his offer. I could tell Katsys merely saw me as a friend, and I didn’t want to tie her down in a forced marriage, knowing how she felt about them.
“No, your Highness. I’ve found my place in this world. It’s right here,” I said, clasping Eryn’s hand and bringing it forward.
“I see. I had expected as much.” The King waved his hand to signal our dismissal.
Titles, money, fame – none of those seemed to matter as long as I felt the warmth of her hand. As the two of us walked hand-in-hand out of the castle into the evening sun, we returned to the place we both called ‘Home’.
Two weeks later.
“I think this is the last of it.”
I placed a heavy box into the bed of a large wagon. I looked back at the Faulkner home, the place that we were now leaving. After Eryn was granted the title of Viscount, she was allotted a portion of land to oversee. This was why we were now bidding her present home farewell.
The land that we were given was formerly governed by the Madiswil family, who had been slaughtered months before. The governing town had been ruined by a swarm of demonic beasts. Therefore, a new town would be constructed in another part of the region, while the ruins would slowly be demolished. Of course, a new lord was needed to take over and rally the people, who were slowly returning to rebuild. Eryn was naturally placed into that role.
“Lady Faulkner, Sir Claude, there are matters that I would like the two of you to attend to when we arrive at your new home.” Dengel walked up to us, with his trusty notebook open in front of him.
After the Duke’s demise, Dengel had volunteered to serve under the new Viscountess, being somewhat intrigued by our characters. In addition, he saw great opportunities for the Faulkner trading company to expand its influence. Welcoming his service, Eryn immediately put him in charge as head of the trading company. Though I wondered if that was just her pushing her responsibilities onto someone else, Dengel didn’t seem to mind. It was apparently much easier than managing all of the connections that the Duke had imposed on him before.
“Okay. We’ll be heading over there soon. I just want to make a stop somewhere along the way,” Eryn said with a smile.
She took one last look at the only home that she had ever known. With a slight bow, she thanked the place that housed all of her memories up until now.
“Claude, let’s head out.”
“Of course, my lady.” I gave her a proper bow, befitting of one that served a noble. I had the feeling that I would be doing this quite a lot from now on, at least when we were out in public.
We stopped in front of a set of tombstones, two that showed signs of age, and another that had been freshly placed. Eryn walked up to them.
“Mother, Father, Uncle, I’ve finally become a proper noble. It’s been a long journey, but it’s finally happened. If you were alive today, would you be proud? Would you rub my head and congratulate me like you did years ago?”
Tears trickled down her cheeks. She paused a moment to take a deep breath.
“I’m fine now. There are people at my side. People who have stood beside me. People who share my burdens. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’ll continue to move forward. As a knight like you, Mother. As a merchant like you, Father and Uncle. I’ll accomplish the things that you never got the chance to. And one day, after all of that has been said and done, I’ll meet you on the other side again, with my head held high. So for now, this is goodbye… Thank you.”
As tears dripped down onto the earth in front of her, I gently wrapped my arms and embraced her from behind.
“Yes, and I will be there each step of the way…this is my home now. The place next to you,” I said softly against her ear.
Eryn reached up and squeezed my forearm and continued to let her feelings flow for the next few minutes.
After a while, the two of us left the cemetery. Hailing a coach to take us to our new home, the two of us sat in silence for a bit. As the sight of the capital was left behind, Eryn was the first to break the silence.
“You know, I never did thank you for coming to save me. I was truly relieved when I realized it was you behind the disguise.”
“Of course. How could I leave you behind? I’ll always be your support.” I smiled in response.
Eryn looked down for a moment.
“Even though I used you… for my own personal gain? I was concerned about nothing but gaining a title after all. And there were times that I put you in danger because of it…”
“Is there anything wrong with that?”
“What?” Eryn looked up in surprise.
“I’m your familiar. Aren’t you supposed to use me to achieve your goals? I’m not stupid. After all this time, you treated me kindly, regardless of your motives. I trust you. It’s as simple as that.”
“I see.” Eryn sat back and stared at my face, seemingly convincing herself of that statement. “Then, as your master, I should give you a reward in gratitude. What would you like to request?”
“Hmmm… Oh! There is one thing!” I summoned my Item Box and pulled out a large box.
After the whole fiasco, Katsys offered to upgrade my Item Box tool, as a thank you for uncovering the plot against the royal family. Now, it seemed like I could store a wagonful of stuff. The portal was enlarged so that I could pull out larger objects. It apparently drained more mana from me when I used it, but with my increased level, I hardly noticed. She never failed to amaze me.
Handing Eryn the box, she looked at it strangely before taking the lid off. Her expression went slack as she realized what was inside.
“Bikini armor. I had it made because I wanted you to wear it. Apparently, the tailor’s great grandfather was an otherworlder, so she knew what I was looking for.”
I had sought out the shopkeeper of the Spiffy Chicken after things had died down. After mentioning all of the weird outfits that she had sold to the Duke, her interest perked up when I told her that there was something that I wanted personally made. As a proof of our ‘friendship’, which I was a bit hesitant to accept, she had presented me with a bikini armor of the highest-quality, one that far surpassed the stats of Eryn’s normal outfit.
“You-You expect me to wear THIS?!” Eryn lifted up the outfit and barked at me.
“You wanted to show your gratitude, right? If you wore this, I’d follow you to the end of the world,” I joked in response.
I pouted at her blatant refusal as she dumped the box to the side.
“Honestly, you otherworlders… Putting this aside, I had actually prepared something else to thank you.”
“Oh, what might that be?”
“Look outside! Looks like we’ll be arriving soon.” Eryn pointed out the window.
Civilization once again came into view, as I saw a number of partially constructed buildings in the distance. As the coach skidded to a stop, I saw a large group of familiar faces in front of a building, waving to greet us.
Cornelius, Dengel, Pietro, Carina, Ludmila, Katsys with Gerald hiding off in one corner, Saki, Biggs, Wedge, our fellow knights, and even some of the townspeople – they were all waiting for us.
As the two of us walked off the coach, they all yelled out.
“Welcome to your new restaurant, Sir Claude Evers!”