After a few days, Shin and Schnee (disguised as Yuki) joined Hilamee’s group and entered the royal castle.
Inquiries were usually held in a special underground chamber, but this time it would be done in a special hall for the exclusive use of people above a certain rank. They wondered if it was okay to let a devil inside the castle, but concluded that there was no other way to hold the inquiry.
Normally, Shin and Schnee did not have the right to participate in the inquiry, but Hilamee insisted that they had an important role in the matter, so special permission was granted. Only Shin was allowed inside, however, so Schnee would have to wait outside the inquiry room.
“They’re pretty spooked, aren’t they?”
Shin whispered while looking at the soldiers surrounding them, as they followed the soldier leading them to the hall.
“Obvious, isn’t it? No matter their number or how well equipped they are, I can turn them into mincemeat with a flick of my wrist. Yet they have to accompany me…working in the castle can be rather harsh indeed.”
“It would be enough to just have someone guide us there then. There would be just more casualties this way.”
“They have to save face, I guess?”
“You two, walk quietly. They can hear you.”
Shin and Luxuria were whispering, but the corridors were so quiet that footsteps could be clearly heard, so there was no way their conversation was unheard.
After Hilamee’s rebuke they looked forward again and found the soldiers with a stiff expression and complexion so pale they seemed anemic.
Usually, at least a couple soldiers would be smitten with Schnee, but this time none of them acted as if they were, they sternly looked ahead. They probably heard what Shin and Luxuria said, but there was no response. They possibly felt that if they said anything they risked turning into a target.
“Isn’t it better if they learn that it’s possible to hold normal conversations with me?”
“That might be true, but…don’t scare them for nothing, okay?”
“Do not fret, I will never oppose my ‘master’.”
Luxuria then flashed a chilling smile, which she regarded as more “devil-like”.
She had just changed the way she smiled: she was wearing her usual sweater, tight skirt, and white coat, just like she did in the institute.
The major difference was the large black collar around her neck: the collar, one cemel wide, looked just like the 『Submission Collar』 used by the church in the holy woman kidnapping incident.
It only shared the appearance with it, however: what Luxuria wore was just that, a collar made of metal. It did not have any special effects and she could crush it with one hand if she wanted.
“This way, please enter.”
Guided by the guard’s stern voice, Shin and the others entered a room. The inquiry hall was larger than Shin expected, with the location for the inquiry subject to stand on at the center.
On higher seats all around this subject stand sat the commission members.
The member seats were placed along the round walls. At their center sat a fairly obese man in his forties and a man in his sixties with white hair slicked back, on seats higher than the other members. They directly faced the subject stand, so they were probably the members who would lead the inquiry. Their appearance was, respectively, of a typical noble used to a life of luxury, glittering with jewels, and the latter of an “old-fashioned” noble that conveyed a strong sense of authority.
As Shin expected, Luxuria and Hilamee were invited to go to the center. Shin could simply stand behind them.
“We shall now commence the inquiry of lady Hilamee Hirasato and lady Luxuria.”
The old noble announced the beginning of the inquiry. His low voice echoed in the hall.
“Presently, Ms. Hilamee is suspected of inviting the devil of lust, one of the Deadly Sin devils and personification of misfortune, into our kingdom, and concealing it for a long period. There is also the suspicion of trying to beckon the devil of greed into our kingdom.”
The old noble glared at the two women as he spoke in a frank tone.
“Sir Zear. Suspicions, you say? Are those not undeniable facts?”
The old noble, called Zear, was interrupted by the obese noble sitting next to him.
“Sir Cobal. Refrain from personal comments during the inquiry. These suspicions have not yet been confirmed as facts.”
“There is no need for inquiries. If that woman truly is a deadly sin devil, we are already under her influence.”
“That is not for you to decide, sir.”
Cobal was trying to hasten the resolution, ignoring Hilamee and Luxuria, but Zear did not budge. Shin quickly realized that Cobal was an enemy.
After a while the inquiry started again: the first point of discussion was Luxuria.
“We have been informed that you, lady Luxuria, oppose the greed devil and would cooperate to defeat it, is that true?”
“Sir Zear!? You cannot speak with a devil, your mind will fall under her control!”
“Do not worry, such a thing will not happen. She is already under someone else’s control.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
Zear stopped Cobal’s panic with a gesture, then looked at Hilamee.
“The collar around her neck limits her actions and forbids her from using mental skills or to harm people.”
“A devil, a monster capable of obliterating entire countries, is under someone’s control? Utterly ridiculous!”
“It is true, however. The adventurer standing behind her is her current master.”
The entire commission’s eyes turned towards Shin.
“I am indeed that adventurer. My name is Shin.”
“The weapon you carry…is that the rumored Slashing Hammer’s…?”
“I have been called that, yes.”
Shin made it a point to visibly equip 『Kakura』, as he thought that if his name was heard along with it, people would recognize him from the rumors. If no one did, he planned to introduce himself as “Shin the Slashing Hammer”.
“The newcomer who distinguished himself in the Balmel battle and reached rank A in one fell swoop, is it? Is what lady Hilamee said true? Is this devil really under your control?”
“Yes. I am the descendant of a clan which earned its living hunting devils. I believe I am more knowledgeable than most about devils.”
“Do you have any proof? You could be under her spell yourself, could you not?”
Zear did not blindly believe Hilamee’s words and asked Shin to prove his words.
“A fair suspicion. But, as a member of a clan that thrives upon hunting devils, do you not think that I would prepare fitting countermeasures?”
“You probably would. Yet the devil in question is one of the Deadly Sins, a being on a whole different level than average monsters. Naturally, the power they wield is on a different plane as well. I do not think it bizarre for us to be concerned about that.”
“Indeed, you are right. As you are probably already aware, I am a Chosen One. I, as well as my clan, possess strong defenses against mental skills. This item further increases such defenses. In our past battles against Deadly Sins devils, no one has ever been controlled. Furthermore, while I may sound arrogant, my fighting abilities are said to exceed my ancestors: I am positive that I will never be controlled.”
“Is that so?”
The item described as increasing defenses against manipulation is the 『Age of Gods Earring』 Shin had equipped. Not only did it raise such defenses, but it neutralized these attacks unless the opponent was incredibly powerful.
Zear’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized Shin to determine whether he spoke the truth or not, but Shin returned his gaze calmly.
The neutralization of mental skills was a huge advantage against devils: when fighting against them, the greatest danger was having your allies turn against you.
“Why would the descendant of a devil-hunting clan appear with such convenient timing? I have never even heard of the existence of such a clan. Have you made it all up to dodge our questioning?”
When Zear finished speaking, Cobal intervened. His doubts were surprisingly pertinent, considering how he had one-sidedly treated Hilamee as a criminal.
“I am always on the hunt for devils, so it is only natural for me to be in places where devils are or that devils target. I have only come here because I detected the Greed devil’s movements in the area. The existence of my clan is normally kept hidden, to prevent our enemies from finding us and giving unnecessary worries to the general population. Whenever we appear, a devil is nearby: this fact can give security, but also fear, a perfect gap for devils to strike.”
“If so, how come that devil is under your control? Could it be that you are in fact behind all this? If you can control devils, it would be easy to use them to increase your fame and reputation.”
“Among adventurers there are Tamers, who train monsters to fight alongside them. In a way, devils are a type of monster too, thus they too can be tamed. Normally they are not this docile, however: the most one can expect is to prevent them from going wild. This technique was originally used to prevent them from causing damage to their surroundings, or to keep such damage at a minimum. The fact that it is possible to talk normally with the devil proves that it obeys me from the heart. Using devils for our own personal gains is one of my clan’s greatest taboos. Allow me to clearly state that it is simply unthinkable.”
During the game era taming Deadly Sins devils was not possible. In this world, however, the rules set by the game were more lax. That was why it was also possible for Tiera to form a contract with a divine beast such as Kagerou. Following this train of logic, it was impossible to deny that Deadly Sins devils could be tamed, even if it was not possible before.
The suspicion of controlling devils for personal purposes too hit the mark, however, so Shin added that if the control was ever broken, the user would die.
“This condition was set to prevent the presence of traitors within the clan. Not even Chosen Ones can undo it. If one of us ever fell under control, this condition would activate.”
“Considering who your enemies are, you are in need of such countermeasures, I see.”
“Yes. If a hunter of devils turned evil themselves, the potential damage would be much greater than just a devil’s rampage.”
Shin agreed with Zear’s comment. He had discussed beforehand with Hilamee and Luxuria about the questions that might arise, so he never fumbled his answers.
“Devils can be subjugated. I still find it hard to believe, but if it is true, it will be an effective countermeasure against the Greed devil. Let me confirm once again, that devil cannot use mental skills now?”
“Yes, I guarantee it.”
“If so, answer the first question we asked, lady.”
“My, how surprising. You believe the words of a man, coming from outside your country, from who knows where?”
“We have gathered our own information. I already knew that you haven’t created any casualties around you.”
Hilamee’s involvement and the training dungeon events were already known too.
Even so, speaking directly to a devil required a healthy dose of courage. Cobal and the other members silently witnessed the exchange, with stiff expressions on their faces.
“My, I see. I had heard you were the military type, but I suppose this much must be expected from a duke.”
“Information gathering is vital for fighting as well. I am sure an accomplished researcher such as yourself knows that well.”
Zear responded to Luxuria’s grin with a smile himself. The exchange seemed peaceful, but Shin could tell that both of them were being extremely cautious.
“I know that much, yes. Allow me to answer, then. Greed’s objective is to absorb me, thus nearing a complete form. I am not interested in the slightest, however. You might scoff at a devil saying something like this, but I quite enjoy my current life. Greed will never be satisfied by such an answer however, and will do whatever it takes to reach his goal. I too want him to disappear. In such a case, working together would be more effective.”
“A devil wants to kill its brethren? O sir Zear, have I fallen prey to her spell already?
“Compose yourself, sir Cobal. It appears that she is not lying.”
Zear rebuked the agitated Cobal. It seemed clear that Zear did not doubt Luxuria’s words.
“Oh my, you believe a devil’s words so easily?”
“I am not so foolish as to believe a devil’s words so quickly. Yet, as lady Hilamee and sir Shin stated, I understand that you are not using skills while you talk to us. Besides—”
Zear paused for a moment and looked at Shin.
“With an ally much more threatening than a devil, we can be at ease too.”
Zear’s words and look showed that he understood that Shin was more powerful than Luxuria.
Maybe because of the people standing outside, Shin considered the Chosen One aura emanating from outside the room as he tried to dispel his restlessness. Hoping that it didn’t show on his face, he firmly returned Zear’s look.
“Hmm, I see it is time to draw a conclusion. Shall we have lady Luxuria exterminated, or use her? Raise your hand to vote for extermination, do not move to vote for using her.”
Zear looked at his surroundings, then spoke. He probably chose the term “use” because putting it as cooperation would not sit well with some members.
The other members’ reactions were varied: some seemed calm, some smiled, some looked sour, others were agitated. It did not seem that they would reach total consensus. No one raised their hands, however.
In conclusion, all members voted for using Luxuria.
“Thus we declare lady Luxuria as one of the countermeasures against Greed. Lady Hilamee’s judgment will be decided at a later date, depending on lady Luxuria’s achievements. Dismissed.”
Zear declared the conclusion of the inquiry and all members shuffled out of the room from the doors at the sides.
Ultimately only Shin, Hilamee, and Luxuria remained: the soldier who guided them in then motioned at them to exit through the door they used to come in.
“—good work out there.”
“Ah, yeah, I guess.”
Shin was a bit confused in his reply to Schnee’s words. He didn’t say it because of the soldiers’ presence, but while the end result was positive, the inquiry was very different from what he expected.
The inquiry was almost completely Zear’s one-man show, and the extermination faction, which Hilamee was concerned about, did not protest at all. Cobal, who was probably the faction’s major member, only asked obvious questions, excluding his very first comment. It felt silly to worry so much.
“Hm? Aren’t we going in the wrong direction?”
Shin was reflecting on the inquiry, wondering if there wasn’t anything strange. After a while, he realized that the soldier was leading them towards the back of the castle.
“No, this is the right direction. A certain person is waiting for you.”
“Oh my, ‘a certain person’, really…”
“I think it’s better to stay quiet for now…”
Not even Hilamee seemed to know who was waiting. If they caused a commotion here and the inquiry’s conclusion was reversed it would be a big problem, so Shin’s group simply followed the soldier.
Even if the extermination faction waited for them to lower their guards to take care of them all together, Shin and the others could repel their ambush.
However, despite their suspicions, Shin’s group was led to a room that did not seem to have any traps. They found a gorgeous sofa and table, so they inferred that it was a room used to welcome guests.