Author's Note: Welcome back readers! As I suspected, people are saying the Pope fight was anticlimactic (and liking it that way over the canon fight so thank you!) But yeah, the Pope arc was long literally due to him and Naofumi talking, and the heroes arguing amongst each other. Eliminate the horrible cliche, you fix the time issue.
Without further adieu, chapter 20!
Disclaimer: I do not own Rising of the Shield Hero or any of its characters, only my own.
Every once in a while, we push hard enough that the light breaks through the clouds,
so the world beyond the war glimmers... Just out of reach.
Behind every gun sight is a human being.
We are those people.
If history only remembers one in a thousands of us,
then the future will be filled with stories of who we were and what we did.
But until that day comes, we will stand.
We will look death in the eye and we will fight.
- Battlefield One Storm of Steel
September 24, 2020,
"Today has been a very long day. First, we made our way to the border with the Bow and Sword Hero, Itsuki and Ren. When we got there, Motoyasu was waiting for us and tried to kill us. I had the other two and their companions fight Motoyasu's and the knights who attempted to intervene. If I'm being honest, the Spear Hero either completely sucks at fighting a properly skilled opponent, or it's just CQC and relies on ranged attacks and magic to keep his head afloat in a fight. In the middle of fighting, the Pope of the Three Heroes Church attacked all of us in an attempt to kill us. He failed, although I am not afraid to admit that he nearly succeeded at one point. When he managed to eliminate his weapons source of mana, his followers, he was no match for us. It was a… bloody battle to say the least, but it was necessary for our survival. Now, we are making our way to the castle with the Queen in order to deal with the king and Princess Malty, the latter currently riding with Motoyasu (who also has no idea what is in store for her)."
- Private First Class Leopold Wisniewski
In one swift motion, Leo closed his journal and stuffed it where it belonged in his pack. Looking around, he saw that his companions had delved into a conversation regarding their recent victory and meeting with the Queen. He understood their excitement. Who wouldn't be happy with not only beating a fanatical theocratic society, but also meeting (and possibly befriending) the most powerful person in the country?
Leo smiled as his team spoke, joked, and laughed. They had come so far in their time together that it only felt like yesterday that Raphtalia was a small child who was afraid of blood. Now, she's grown to be one of the strongest and bravest soldiers, no, people, he knows.
If only Klementyna were here. No doubt she would tease me for having nearly all females in my party. That, or she would be relaxing with the group, maybe telling some bad jokes or something. I hope that she's moved on from my disappearance. I know I could never if she were the one who got stuck in this situation.
Deciding to not interrupt the group's talk, Leo stood up and made his way towards the front of the cart. Lifting the cloth that separated the passengers from the driver, he saw the large stone structure of the castle looming over the army convoy as it began to pass over the bridge. From here, he could also see inside of Itsuki's wagon. At the moment, Itsuki appeared to be hugging the green haired female in his group. Rishia, if Leo remembered correctly. The girl appeared slightly flustered at the Bow Hero's embrace, but returned it tenfold nonetheless. Leo's smile grew slightly larger at the possible thought of the young hero also gaining a romantic partner while in this world.
Setting the cloth down, Leo sat on the bench on the right side of the cart, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting himself feel relaxed as the first carriage passed through the gate leading into castle town. His lone lax feeling did not last long however as Leo soon felt something rest on his left shoulder. Opening his eyes and taking a look, Raphtalia had sat next to him and was currently leaning on him, her head laying on his shoulder as if it were a pillow. Her eyes were closed and breathing soft, so Leo figured she must either be extremely tired after today's events, or is already asleep. Either way, Leo moved his left arm around her and lightly gripped the side of her torso, bringing her closer to him.
The sun began to set behind the castle as the last of the Queen's army entered the gate. When they came to a stop, Leo's party, save for Leo and Raphtalia, got out. Leo, who had decided to let Raphtalia sleep, slowly stood and picked her up bridal style. Her left arm hung as she rested her head against his chest just above his tactical vest. When he stepped out of the cart, Rifana simply gave the soldier a wink while the three younger members lightly chuckled. Leo silently rolled his eyes before scanning the area.
His fellow heroes and their parties seemed ok for the most part, a few of the adventurers appearing in a similar exhausted state as Raphtalia. At the front, Leo could see the Queen waving for the heroes and their parties to come with her while some older looking knights took control over the army of soldiers. After managing to pass through the crowds, Leo, Itsuki, and Motoyasu caught up with Ren and the Queen.
The Queen cleared her throat before speaking with a calm, authoritative tone. "I understand some of you have questions that you wish to be answered immediately. However, I also know that you all must be extremely tired from your journey today. With that, I shall have some of my maids lead you to rooms that you may occupy in order to rest. Tomorrow, I shall answer any questions you may have. For now, go get some rest, sir heroes. You've earned it." Mirellia then stepped aside, revealing a small group of maids and butlers which Leo had no doubt were Shadows in disguise.
One of the maids stepped forward and quickly had the four heroes and their parties follow her and the group of servants. Leo carried Raphtalia through the halls of the castle as they were guided to their room. Eventually, one of the maids stopped and guided Motoyasu and his party into an ornately decorated room. After being led a few more doors down, Ren was guided into a room of similar decor and design. Leo and his party were next, as their room was simply across the hall from Ren's.
After exchanging goodnights with Ren and Itsuki's parties, Leo, who had carried Raphtalia up to this point, quietly laid her down on one of the beds. Slowly, he removed her boots before moving on to her tactical vest. As quietly as he could, Leo took Raphtalia's body armor off and set it next to the bed. Finally, he quickly undid the buttons on her jacket, pulled her arms through the sleeves, and placed it with the rest of her equipment. Now left in her t - shirt, pants, socks, gloves, and undergarments, Leo was confident that Raphtalia would not overheat or be uncomfortable while sleeping. Gently, he covered her with the bed's blanket before removing his own equipment and sliding into the bed. The moment his head hit the pillow, sleep took hold of him as darkness filled his vision.
Leo woke up to a dark and quiet room. Sitting up, he allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness before glancing at his watch which read six o' four. After taking a moment to look around the room, he noted Rifana and Raphtalia's presence, or lack thereof, but figured that the pair had simply left for their morning workout.
Stifling a yawn, Leo quietly shuffled out of bed, careful not to wake the younger group members. Putting on his kit, save for his helmet, mask, and goggles, Leo silently made his way to the balcony door and out the room. The outside air felt cool as a light breeze blew through the dimly lit city. There, he found his two missing demi - human party members, one of which was leaning on the railing while the other was in the middle of doing push-ups. Rifana was wearing her jacket but no armor. Raphtalia was still wearing what she fell asleep in, albeit, wearing her boots.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Leo calmly asked. Just beyond the castle, the dim glow of lanterns strewn throughout the capitol gave the town a calm, almost warm, appearance. Raphtalia, who ended her push-ups, joined them at the railing, leaning on it and Leo at the same time. The three of them remained like that for a minute or so, the silence blending perfectly with the light breeze of the cool morning wind.
Leo smiled at the tranquility of the situation. How long has it been since they've been like this? How long had it been since he and Raphtalia got to enjoy life without having to worry about anyone trying to kill them? Too damn long if I have anything to say about it. Leo thought as he took a slow, deep breath.
Leo turned his head towards Raphtalia. Taking this moment, he took in each and every detail that he could see. Her soft tea red eyes blended perfectly with her light brown hair; the combination of colors giving off a warm, vibrant look to her. Her skin, which appeared almost angelic in the lantern's light, was seemingly soft to the touch. Her shirt hugged her body in such a way that showed off her tough but slender curves, strong physical build, slightly busty chest, and even a four pack, all of which being an effect of her intense training and fighting.
All in all, her features made her absolutely breath - taking in Leo's eyes.
The raccoon demi - human eventually turned towards Leo, almost as if she could feel his gaze. "Like what you see?" She teased with a smirk.
"More than you know." Leo replied as he smirked back. In a flash, he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into a kiss. Raphtalia was caught off guard for a second, but quickly reciprocated the affection as she pushed herself further into him. Even though she was slightly smaller than him, he still felt her soft lips dominate his own.
A forced cough brought the couple back to reality as Rifana stood off to the side with crossed arms and stared at them. The two lovers became slightly embarrassed under her gaze as Leo rubbed the back of his head. Eventually, the weasel demi - human grinned. "You know, we still have to train and eat breakfast, and we only have about an hour to do so."
Leo checked his watch after the statement which read six thirty, proving that Rifana was indeed correct. The trio only had a little over an hour to do some drills and get some breakfast before everyone else woke up.
"Alright then. Let's get to it."
Over the next forty five minutes, the three soldiers went on to do various exercises and drills, some of which were push-ups (both standard and rotational), sit-ups, and pull-ups via use of the stone wall. In the last fifteen minutes, the group went on to practice hand to hand combat, and out of ten matches, Leo and Rifana tied with three each while Raphtalia came out on top with four.
Their training concluded when the sun began to rise over the city wall, indicating that people would be out and about, including the other heroes. Before any of that could happen, the trio went to grab breakfast and, after eating what they could only describe as the best breakfast ever made, bathed and dressed in spare uniforms for the day. Leo allowed Rifana and Raphtalia to go before him, so by the time he was finished, it was nearly eight o' clock. Leo was tying one of his boots when an unexpected visitor came by in the form of her majesty.
Queen Mirellia was outfitted in a blood red color dress and similarly matching earrings with golden outlines. "Ah, good morning Sir Shield Hero. I take it you and your companions enjoyed your night's rest?" She asked in a polite manner.
Leo nodded after putting on his helmet, his goggles still clipped to it. "Indeed, your majesty. If anything, that was possibly one of the best nights I've had since I was summoned. However, I take it you're not here to merely indulge in idle chatter."
Queen Mirellia smirked at Leo's attentiveness. "You are correct, Sir Leopold. I suppose it is time that you finally get an answer to all the hatred that surrounds you. The other cardinal heroes are at breakfast, so this is the perfect opportunity for us to speak. Please, come." She said with an unreadable expression. The group of people followed the Queen out to the room's balcony. At this point, the sun had risen above the castle and the townsfolk had awoken, the bustling streets being proof.
There, Queen Mirellia stood by the guardrail while Leo and his team effectively surrounded her. "I'm sure Melty has already told you about where I have been these past few months, as well as what I was doing." She turned slightly to see Leo nodding in response. "I assumed so. Now, before we continue, I would first like to apologize on behalf of my idiot husband. He was never supposed to have the power to summon a hero, let alone all four, and due to his actions, I was forced to travel to each country and solve the situation as best as diplomacy would allow. As for Malty, I have tried again and again to get her to reform and abandon her horrible habits, yet it seems that I have well and truly failed. Again, I apologize for her behavior."
Leo could tell by the way she spoke that she was genuine in her apology. "You did all you could, your majesty. Some people simply cannot be swayed, no matter who or what gets involved. However, this brings me to one of the biggest questions I've had up to this point. Why did the king hate me for seemingly no reason?"
The Queen was silent for a moment for replying. "To understand his hatred, we must go back many years ago to the war between Siltvelt and Melromarc. Before the war broke out, a group of demi - humans had killed his family, so by the time war broke out, he already had a deeply rooted hatred for them. At that point, Aultcray had already proven himself to be an intelligent tactician and excellent adventurer, earning the title of the Vassal Staff Hero. As the war progressed, Aultcray became one of the leading generals in Melromarc's army. As the war was approaching its final years, the cardinal heroes at the time eventually chose sides, with the Spear, Bow, and Sword Hero fighting on Melromarc's behalf, while the Shield Hero entered the war in favor of the demi - humans. This action made Aultcray furious as he believed that, as a human, the Shield Hero should have helped Melromarc. He believes that the Shield Hero would help the demi - humans wreak havoc on Melromarc and have his family killed once more. Now, that hatred has moved on to you, Sir Leopold. Aultcray may be a man who holds a grudge, but he does so because he cares and cherishes the family he has today."
Although nobody could physically see it, Leo was conflicted about what to do. On one hand, he hated the king for everything he had done to him and his party. On the other hand though, he felt sympathy for the man. If he was told about this a month and a half ago, Leo could have more than likely made amends with the older man. Who knows, maybe they could have even become good allies.
"And so the Three Heroes Church took advantage of that hatred and used it against us." Rifana said in a monotone voice. Rifana, even with all her hatred of the king, still felt some pity for him. Around her, she could tell that her friends were feeling the same way.
Mirellia let out a small sigh. "Correct. Now, with your victory over the Pope, I can finally rid my country of this cursed religion. Not only that, but I will personally have your name cleared, as well as provide five hundred gold pieces as a way to thank you for all the hard work you have done in repelling the waves, and for how harsh you have been treated by my people."
Everyone in Leo's party went wide - eyed at the amount of money the Queen was offering. "Holy shit, five hundred GOLD?!" Raphtalia exclaimed in a surprised but excited manner. Rifana was also in a state of shock, and while she did not vocally express it, she really wanted Leo to take her up on the offer. Filo seemed excited about the amount of food she could eat, while Keel was just happy to know that they were going to be well off for quite some time.
"I accept, your majesty."
The Queen appeared pleased at Leo's acceptance. Afterwards, she breathed deeply as if she were worried. "Now then, there is something that I wish to discuss with you and you alone, Sir Leopold." She then turned to face her youngest daughter who was standing with the others. "Melty dear, if you could please…" She said as she trailed off. Melty got the idea and quickly had the rest of Leo's party leave them. Once they were all ushered inside, she continued. "I wish to invite you and your companions to the castle, Sir Hero. It is there that I shall officially clear you of any crimes in front of the public in one hour, as well as where Aultcray and Malty shall stand trial for their crimes."
"We'll be there." Leo said without having to think. Mirellia nodded, giving a quick bow and farewell before turning and going inside. With her departure, Leo took a moment to stare up at the castle's entrance which now featured a small crowd that had already gathered there in anticipation for today's event. With a sigh, Leo turned away from the balcony and made his way back inside. The first thing he noticed was Melty waving at someone or something from the doorway with Filo standing nearby, an extra piece of hair sticking straight up.
"I'm guessing I missed something important?" Leo questioned as he went to sit next to Raphtalia. At the same time, Filo had managed to pull the extra piece of hair from her head, yet it grew back instantaneously, causing Leo to raise his eyebrows while she complained.
Melty beamed as she took up a chair and sat across from the two. "Oh, something extremely important, rare even! Fitoria, the Queen of all the world's filolials came by, congratulated you on your success with the other heroes, and then said something about a successor to the throne, to which she congratulated Filo! She gave her a tiara, which turned into the new strand of hair, bowed, and left! She was so glamorous!"
While Melty was in the midst of fangirling over Fitoria, Leo shifted his position in his chair and leaned over to whisper to Raphtalia. "I guess I did miss something important then." Raphtalia gave him a light shrug in response.
"So Leo, what did the Queen want to talk to you about?" Keel asked from nearby.
Leo took off his helmet and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I would say something equally as important as this 'Fitoria' character. She invited me, and by extension, you guys too, to the castle at nine to clear my name and have her husband and daughter stand trial as well as clear my name. If everything goes according to plan, we may finally get some closure in this mess," Leo said before mumbling something to himself, "and maybe even get some R&R."
"Wait, really?" Raphtalia asked to which Leo gave an 'mhm' in reply. Raphtalia quickly brought him into a tight hug before speaking again. "That's amazing! After everything we've been through, it'll be over!"
Leo smiled for a moment at his team's, especially Raphtalia's, happiness. Releasing himself from the hug, Leo checked his watch and noted that it read that it was almost eight forty. "Alright, the trial starts in twenty minutes and we surely don't want to be late to that. Let's not keep the Queen waiting, come on." Leo said as he put his mask, helmet, and goggles on. Once done, Leo began to make his way towards the door, his party getting out of their seats and following close behind.
It did not long for the group to make their way to the castle due to how close it was in proximity to where they had slept for the night. As they made their way to the bridge, one of the squadron's of knights stationed there had the crowd clear the path for Leo and his party. Entering the castle, they ascended the flight of stairs that would take them up to the throne room.
"Morning Leo!" Itsuki called out from the top of the staircase with a wave which Leo appropriately returned. He appeared to be in a better state than when Leo last saw him; his clothes were cleaned, hair washed, and face clear of all the dirt and grime from yesterday's battle.
"Good to see ya man. How'd you and your party sleep?" Ren asked. Today, his normally neutral expression held a light smile as he shook Leo's hand.
"Probably the best night's sleep we've had. How are you guys feeling after yesterday?"
Ren shrugged. "Some bumps and bruises here and there, but nothing we haven't dealt with before. I'm honestly just glad we all made it out in one piece, I don't know what I'd do if any of my companions died on me."
"Hey, speaking of companions, have you guys seen Myne around at all? She wasn't there when I woke up." Motoyasu said as he looked around, intervening in the conversation.
"From what I was told by Queen Mirellia, she's going to have a rather busy day today." Leo replied with an expressionless tone. Before Motoyasu could ask what that meant, the four heroes, alongside Leo's party, stepped up to the main doors that led into the throne room. The pair of knights who stood guard pushed the large wooden doors.
The sun broke through the large glass pane windows of the room. At the head, Queen Mirellia sat in one of the chairs meant for royalty, the other being empty. As the four heroes stepped forward and lined up, Melty left Leo's company and went over to stand next to her mother.
"I thank you for coming today, cardinal heroes. It is a pleasure to officially meet you without the burden of warfare cutting things short." Queen Mirellia said with a rehearsed, but naturally warm smile.
"Excuse me, your majesty, but do you know where Myne is?" Motoyasu asked, confused at her lack of presence amongst the Queen and Melty.
Itsuki was the next to voice his concerns. "I'm sure she's busy with something else Motoyasu, but what I'm worried about is where the king is. Is he sick or something your majesty?"
Queen Mirellia exhaled a breath, losing her smile completely. This time, with an unreadable expression, she spoke. "I guess it is time. Bring in the prisoners!" She exclaimed to the guards across the room. Complying without question, the pair of knights opened the door revealing both King Aultcray and Princess Malty in chains being escorted by another pair of knights.
The heroes watched as the two members of royalty were pushed forward into the room, the large doors closing behind them. "Myne!" The Spear Hero shouted in shock. "Your majesty, what's happening? Why is she and the King in chains?!"
While Motoyasu was slightly panicking about the situation, another set of knights brought forth two stands. The Queen watched the preparations with a forced calm expression. "Isn't it obvious Sir Spear Hero? These two are criminals who have caused more damage than almost any other group within my country." She replied with a hint of anger. "So now, I, Queen Mirellia of Melromarc, authorize the trial of the foolish king consort and treacherous first princess for their crimes against Melromarc!"
King Aultcray grew a bit enraged at the notion of being called a criminal. Next to him, Malty became hysterical, fear taking hold of her. "Mama, I beg of you, please don't do this! I haven't done anything wrong, I swear!" She cried at the top of her lungs.
"Your majesty, why are you doing this?! That's your own daughter for God's sake!" Motoyasu exclaimed in a futile attempt to challenge the Queen.
"Because Sir Spear Hero, I know my daughter more than you ever will! She is a pathological liar who is willing to manipulate anyone just so she can get what she wants, including you!" She shouted as she lost her patience, the remark forcing him silent. The Queen let out a deep breath so as to regain her senses. At the same time, a robed man, more than likely a royal aid, stepped up to Queen Mirellia with a tray in his hands.
"Leo, is that what I think it is?" Raphtalia whispered to the man standing next to her.
"I think so. Things are starting to get interesting." He whispered back as he continued to watch the events unfold in front of him.
Malty's panicked cries became louder, her movements becoming more erratic in an attempt to resist. "No, please! I'm a good girl, I swear! I beg you mama, don't do this! Sir Motoyasu, help me!" It was no use as the aid dipped a small paintbrush into the bowl. The two knights at Malty's side restrained her long enough for the man to apply the crest onto her chest, causing Malty to cry out in pain as the crest burned its way onto her skin.
"Now that that is done, let us move on to the proceedings." Queen Mirellia announced. "Before we get to the prisoners, I would like to touch on recent events. Yesterday, Pope Biscas T. Balmus and his followers utilized a fabricated holy weapon in the hopes of killing the four cardinal heroes and frame the Shield Hero. Thankfully, he and all of his followers who joined him were killed in the attempt. To our knowledge, thanks to the heroes' efforts, nearly every member of the church was killed with less than two dozen remaining, all of which were swiftly captured."
"And what does any of that have to do with Malty and the King your highness?" Motoyasu asked in a sarcastically aggressive manner.
"Don't you dare disrespect the Queen like that you idiot! After everything that's happened, you still wish to believe Malty is innocent?! News flash Motofucksu, she's not! So shut up and let her speak!" Leo shouted at the man, his patience finally crumbling under Motoyasu's constant claim about Malty's innocence. Motoyasu grit his teeth and was about to respond before the Queen quickly stepped in.
"Thank you, Sir Leopold. As for Sir Motoyasu's question, it has come to my knowledge that both the first princess and the king were colluding with the Three Heroes Church since the beginning. Of that, they are both guilty."
The King, for the first time since Leo had stepped foot into this new world, kept his mouth shut when being addressed. Malty on the other hand began to spout nonsense about her involvement. "I would never collude with those religious scumbag-!" Her statement was cut short as the crest gave her a few seconds of shock. Once the short punishment was over, Malty was left panting as she leaned over the wooden podium.
"I find it deeply horrific that the first princess would attempt to overthrow the state. You truly are no daughter of mine if so." Queen Mirellia stated without remorse as she gazed directly at Malty.
Malty pushed herself upright, unwilling to be cowed so easily under her mother's gaze. "I would never do such a thing!" She snapped back. "It was the Three Heroes Church who wished to do so! They even tried to kill me and the other three heroes in their attempt to seize power and kill the Shield Hero!" Amazingly, her crest did not shock her, causing many people, including Leo and Queen Mirellia, to be impressed.
Huh, so the lying harlot can actually tell the truth. Who knew. Leo thought as he entertainingly watched Malty's undoing. Motoyasu was about to speak up, but not before Leo stared him down with his covered face causing the man to quickly seal his lips.
"Moving on, let us discuss your next charge: The attempted assassination's of Princess Melty in order to claim right to the throne, and her framing of the Shield Hero." Queen Mirellia claimed, a burning sense of anger lurking in her eyes. This brought about mutterings throughout the entire hall, as councilman, servants, and knights all began to speak to one another about whether this was true or not. Soon enough, they would have their answer.
Malty grit her teeth. She knew she wasn't going to get out of this, but damn it all if she wasn't going to try. "Why would I do that?! I care for my sister just as much as yo-!" Once again, her testimony was cut off as the slave crest shocked her for an extended period of time.
Everyone was appalled at what the truth had just uncovered. Even Aultcray appeared to be shocked at learning the information. I guess he does love his family after all.
"M- Malty, no, please tell me you didn't!" Aultcray stuttered, horrified at his daughter's actions against her own family.
"I promise you papa, I didn't do it! It's not tru-!" The crest shocked her once more, causing her to scream in agony as the pain became worse and lasted longer. Aultcray could only stand there in shock, completely taken aback by what the princess, his daughter, had tried to do to her kin.
"You conspired with the Three Heroes Church in order to have your sister assassinated so that you could become heir to the throne." The Queen continued, unfazed by her daughter's cries of pain. "When that failed, you falsely accused the Shield Hero for abducting Melty, and after she managed to escape your grasp thanks to the efforts of Sir Leopold, Sir Ren, and Sir Itsuki, you set the forest that she fled into ablaze. Do. You. Deny It?" Queen Mirellia asked in a way that felt like she was challenging her daughter to lie to her one more time.
Malty grit her teeth as she continued to overcome the pain of the latest shock. "Of course I deny it! I would never wish to har-!" And just as before, Malty was cut off when another, even longer and more painful shock forced her to just barely hold herself up against the podium.
"It's true. Ren and I were there when she threw a fireball at Melty. Thank goodness Leo was there to block it. We did our best to fend Malty and her soldiers off while Leo and his party took Melty and escaped." Itsuki said. The word of a cardinal hero against the lying princess was even more damning evidence that got stacked upon the tower of the lies that were exposed.
"Malty… daughter… why…" King Aultcray stammered, a mixture of defeat and failure thrown into the already mixed bag of emotions.
"King Aultcray," Queen Mirellia suddenly continued, "you are also guilty of conspiring with the church! You went against my authority and worked with the church in order to summon all four cardinal heroes, even though you KNEW that I was discussing how the summoning process would go with the other world leaders! Your actions nearly caused open warfare with the other kingdoms, a war that I spent nearly an extra month trying to end before it started. What say you?"
Leo had to give Aultcray credit, he didn't back down nearly as much as Malty under his wife's burning gaze. "The reason I did so is because Melromarc needed the heroes in order to help defend it against the Waves of Catastrophe! And besides, not even a day after their arrival, the Shield Hero committed the greatest act of evil in the kingdom! He assaulted Malty in an attempt to rape her!"
Of course he would play that card. Leo thought bitterly. He had to take a few deep breaths in order to keep his cool at the sudden return of the accusation that nearly ended his career as a hero. Next to him, Raphtalia broke her stance, took Leo's hand, and gently squeezed as if to say, "I'm right here, everything's going to be ok." Even if she was in a similar state of rage, she was not going to let herself, let alone Leo, succumb to such darkness. Leo promptly squeezed back, his Kevlar gloved hand engulfing her fingerless gloved one.
Ren, Itsuki, and Rifana however all took this moment to cast a deafening glare at the older man, the final of the three even snarling at him. Leo could see a hint of fear in the king's eyes at the reaction of the other heroes and his party member.
"Yeah, that's right! Myne even came to me for help in order to protect her!" Leo nearly took a step towards the Spear Hero. How can he still blindly agree with them even after all the evidence has been laid out? I was right about him after all: He thinks with his dick, not with his brain.
Rifana was the first of Leo's companions to finally crack. "How can you still agree with that fucking kurwa you braindead piece of shit!" She exclaimed as she pointed a finger in Motoyasu's direction.
Once more, Motoyasu opened his mouth ready to give a response. Once more, the Queen cut him off. "Sir Spear Hero, I do believe it would be in everyone's best interest if you ceased your defense of my daughter. You are doing nothing more except making a fool out of yourself with each passing moment. As for the accusation, we shall simply ask Malty if this is true" She sternly said as the grip on her chair grew stronger. Everyone's gaze, both in the room and throughout the kingdom, was now on Malty as she panted at the podium so as to regain her breath. "Malty, since you are my daughter, I will give you one chance to speak the truth. If you lie, then there can be no salvation for you. Now, did the Shield Hero assault you?"
The room was left silent as everyone stood and watched in anticipation for Malty's answer. When she finally looked up, her eyes were slightly red as if she had been crying. "...No." She mumbled.
"Speak up first princess. I do not believe the crowds can hear what you have to say this time." Queen Mirellia sternly ordered the crying female.
A few seconds went by before Malty finally broke down in tears, afraid of the punishment awaited her. "No! I lied! There, I said it! It was all a lie!"
Motoyasu was left stunned at what the truth had just exposed. "So everything I thought, everything I believed her for, it was all for a lie? For nothing?"
Malty looked at Motoyasu with what appeared to be genuine pain. "Sir Motoyasu, please… don't let them do this to me." She weakly begged. When her eyes made contact with Motoyasu's, she felt a slither of hope that he would actually try and do something to rescue her. That hope quickly died as she watched the lanky blonde slowly step back, his head hanging low in defeat.
She could only watch in horror as her next charge was brought forth for all to see.
The past fifteen minutes had been satisfying for Leo to say the least. In those fifteen minutes, the trial had come to follow a certain pattern: The Queen would expose the various crimes that they were being charged with before asking if they would deny it. Throughout the entire thing, King Aultcray remained silent, never confirming nor denying the charges. Malty had officially broke as tears were currently streaming down her face as she confirmed the charges against her. The sight made Leo almost have a small bit of pity for her. Almost.
Finally, after the last of the charges were dealt, Queen Mirellia gave one last blow to the two guilty royal members. "I hope that everyone here today now understands that, despite their royal status, King Aultcray and Princess Malty had fallen victim to the use of dirty tricks in order to eliminate those who either opposed them or were deemed as a threat to the power that they held. Despite the fact that their concern should have been for the country and its people, they threw it all away just so that they could obtain more unwarranted power for themselves with little care for the people of this country."
For the first time since Leo had known Malty, she remained quiet, a mere shell of her former narcissistic, lying, cheating self. Aultcray's face scrunched with anger as he gave one last testimony. "I shall admit that my actions were truly unbecoming of how royalty is supposed to act and that I stand here today for it." That drew a few surprised gasps from the audience, both in and outside the castle. "However, I did what I did so as to protect the things I love: My country, my people, my family!" Aultcray exclaimed with a passion that shocked those who listened, including Queen Mirellia, Leo, and Raphtalia. "I was not going to stand idly by and watch the cursed Devil of the Shield bring destruction upon those I hold dear to me again."
The tension that overcame the room as it flushed into a deep silence was so thick that it could be cut with a knife. Leo noticed that the Queen let out a sorrowful sigh, so he knew that this would not end well for the two members of royalty.
After taking a moment to recollect herself, she spoke with less authority than she had previously. "I have reached my verdict. With all of the evidence shown today, I, Queen Mirellia Q. Melromarc, sovereign ruler of Melromarc, find both King Aultcray XXXII and Princess Malty guilty of high treason and conspiracy against Melromarc and the Cardinal Heroes. I hereby strip them of their status as royalty and sentence them to death!" She exclaimed, a hint of guilt in her eyes.
Everyone in attendance, both in and outside of the castle gasped in shock at the Queen's verdict. Malty began bawling her eyes out while screaming in panic at her mother, while Aultcray was frozen in a mixture of shock and fear.
Leo's voice encompassed the large room, silencing the many voices that plagued the room. Stepping forward, he turned his attention towards the Queen. "Your majesty, I personally request that you lower the sentence of Ex - King Aultcray."
This came as a small surprise to Queen Mirellia as she raised her eyebrows in question. "And why would you seek such a request, Sir Leopold? Was it not Malty and Aultcray who ruined your reputation only days after your arrival?" She asked in a slightly confused manner.
Leo nodded. "While yes, that is true," Leo said before pausing to turn towards Aultcray, "I have… thought some things over." Slowly, he walked over towards Aultcray's podium. He pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment before looking the older man in the eye from behind his goggles. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but… Aultcray, for as much I despise you for everything you have done to me and my friends, I cannot help but find myself being impressed by your actions. From what I witnessed in how you spoke today, you care for your family more than your own life, do you not?" Leo asked, to which the man nodded. "Then I guess I must say it. You have earned some of my respect, and it is out of that respect that I once again request that you be taken off of the death sentence." Unbeknownst to everyone in the room, Queen Mirellia let out a quick sigh of relief at Leo's intervention.
Aultcray was expected to be attacked, denounced, or insulted by the very man that he had shown so much hatred for over the past two months. However, he was shocked, but also relieved, when he got the exact opposite that he had come to expect from what could be labeled as his mortal enemy. "What about my daughter?" He simply asked. Criminal or not, she was still his little girl.
Leo scoffed at the subtle notion of helping Malty escape her own death sentence. Without hesitation, he replied, "Oh, fuck her. You had at least some sort of logical reasoning that even left your wife stunned at some point during the trial. Malty on the other hand, well, she's simply a manipulative, greedy, selfish bitch who only cares about herself. Although…" Leo said as he trailed off so as to get a good look at Malty, who was now out of tears and on the floor. "I suppose I should thank you for one thing."
"A- and what's that?" She simply said, her mind too tired to think of an insult.
"For bringing me and Raphtalia together. If it weren't for you, I doubt I would have ever met the love of my life, nor any of her friends."
That single statement put the biggest smile on Raphtalia's face, her posture faltering slightly under the knowledge that Leo well and truly loved her. When Rifana put a hand on her shoulder, she turned around only to be met with her childhood friend flashing her eyebrows in a suggestive way.
"However, do not mistake this as you getting off scot free Aultcray. Just because I don't want you dead doesn't mean you're not going to suffer the consequences. You've earned my respect, NOT my forgiveness." Leo said in a slightly more aggressive tone than before, garnering everyone's attention.
Queen Mirellia stared at the Shield Hero, a puzzled look on her face. "What do you have in mind Sir Leopold?"
Leo took a moment to think about it, his lack of movement showing just how much thought he was putting into his punishment. "How about this." He suddenly said as he stood over Aultcray with clenched fists, his equipment and overall height making it appear as if he were towering over the older man. "Due to the king's efforts to kill me and my team, as well as for his treason against her majesty's orders and the people of this country, I propose that the king either spend the rest of his life imprisoned with only one meal a day. Alongside that, he is to be renamed to foolish fuck and must repay a now infinite debt to the kingdom in some way of your choosing your highness. He is to not be treated as a fallen royalty, but as a lowly fool who has wronged the country in more ways than one." Leo stated as he grit his teeth at Aultcray from behind his mask and goggles.
Leo then turned to Malty, his shadow engulfing the smaller figure that laid on the ground on her back. "Now as for you." Leo said as he looked down on her. "You've manipulated, lied, cheating, and hell, almost murdered on your quest for power. You're nothing more than a cunt with no moral code who's caused pain and suffering to hundreds, if not thousands of people. So here is my idea. Death would be too easy for you all things considered, so how about this. Since you love using your body so much as a way to manipulate people, then how about we use that as your punishment?" Leo asked before turning his attention towards Queen Mirellia. "Your majesty, I personally recommend that Malty be reduced to a mere slave for the rest of her life. Of course, whatever they do with her is and will be her problem. Now, while I condone the act of slavery, I will allow her to be the one exception I give this country. As for who she serves, I will leave that up for you to decide. Also, under NO condition is her crest to be removed. Anyone who attempts to do so will face life imprisonment or even death. Now, due to her lack of morals and overall treatment to the people of this country, she is to have no rights under her name nor be allowed to make decisions of her own for the remainder of her pathetic existence." Leo said as he cast a covered glance in malty's direction. "Also, she is to pay for both the damages she has caused to the kingdom and compensate the demi - humans that suffered under her."
Queen Mirellia, seeing that Leo had nothing more to say, sat a little taller as she spoke. "I declare the Shield Hero's decision to be fair as a result of the crimes these two have been charged under. Guards, take them to the dungeons! I shall personally oversee the princess' punishment be put into effect. I hereby declare this trial over!" She exclaimed in a large, dominating voice. The knights who stood guard in the room did exactly as they were told, cuffing Aultcray and Malty and leading them out the door to their awaited fates.
The tension that once filled the air was soon replaced with a round of applause and light cheering from the remaining individuals, including the other heroes.
"Hey Leo, congrats. That was some nice work for delivering justice." Itsuki commented as he crossed his arm with a light, joyful smile. In the background, Leo could see Motoyasu keeping a small bit of distance from the trio, no doubt embarrassed and saddened by the events that just took place.
Ren came up to Itsuki's side with Ren's normally stoic demeanor replaced with a smirk of his own. "Totally, congrats man. Always knew you'd be able to pull it off."
Leo nodded as his group slowly began to swarm him. "Thanks. I couldn't have done it alone, so I have to give you guys credit too."
Suddenly, Queen Mirellia and Melty had also found their way to the now renowned Shield Hero. The look on her face displayed that of content and glee. "Sir Leopold, I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for Melromarc and her people. Your contributions today have shown the people that you are indeed the hero that we needed, and for that, I would like to hold a celebration in your honor, if you decide to join us."
Leo quickly turned down the offer with the wave of a hand. "Sorry your majesty, but I think I'll have to decline. I've dealt with royalty enough to last a lifetime at this point. For now, I think I'll just relax with my team for a bit if that's ok with you." Leo stated genuinely as he put an arm around Raphtalia's shoulders causing her to beam brightly.
Queen Mirellia smiled at the notion. "Of course. Go and spend time with your companions. If you ever do change your mind, you are always welcome to join the festivities." Queen Mirellia told Leo in a formal manner. With a bow, she and Melty took their leave, leaving the heroes behind.
"Are you sure you don't want to come Leo? I mean, it's all about you. Heroes are meant to be celebrated!" Itsuki exclaimed in disbelief at the fact Leo turned down the Queen of all people.
Leo shook his head. "Being a hero isn't about being thrown a celebration or placed on some sort of mantle. It means that you do what's right for the people you care about, no matter how horrible things get. And right now, those I care about need a break from all this bureaucracy shit." Leo's joke caused those around him to chuckle, especially Raphtalia.
Ren slowly nodded his head as if he understood what Leo was saying. "Well then, we'll leave you guys be. Itsuki, come on. We have a party to catch." The Sword Hero said, his teenage friend quickly following. Motoyasu was a bit hesitant but followed nonetheless, leaving Leo and his companions as the only ones left in the throne room.
As Leo and his companions stepped out of the castle and onto the bridge that separated the city from the large stone architecture, the afternoon sun began to set behind the mountains in the distance, the vibrant orange colors causing the world to appear as if it were glowing. It was here that Melty rendezvoused with Leo, her eyes slain with tears of what Leo could only hope were joy. His suspicions were rendered correct as the younger princess suddenly launched herself at the man.
"Woah Melty, what's this about?" He asked as he caught the small girl and regained his footing.
"Thank you so much Leo!" The princess sobbed as she clutched herself to Leo. "Thank you for keeping me safe and bringing me home! Thank you for…" She trailed off as she let go of Leo and allowed herself to be gently set on the ground. "For sparing my family. You had every right to not to, and you did so anyway! So thank you." She said once more before giving Leo another hug.
Leo smiled as he used one arm to return the gesture, the other being used to pull up his goggles. Releasing Melty, he looked her straight in the eyes, her purple one connecting with his emerald green. "No need to thank me Melty. I promised that I would keep you safe, and that's what I always intend to do." Leo stated.
Leo took a step back so as to allow the rest of his party, especially Filo, to give Melty a hug, the filolial obviously doing so the longest whilst asking a hundred questions a second. Eventually, Melty dried her tears and let the group go.
As Leo and his companions turned they suddenly found themselves overcome by a crowd of people, the very same crowd that had watched the trials earlier that day. Many were cheering for Leo and his team for their victory. Amongst the sea of people, Leo could barely make out the shape of a few of the people he's come to know along the way, most notably Erhard and Beloukas.
Further down, two lengthy rows of knights stood along the side of the walkway, providing an opening for Fireteam Eagle to walk through. As the group approached, the new knight commander ordered the rows of knights to salute, to which they pulled out the swords and held them close. Amongst the ranks, Leo could see Ake standing proud with a large smile on his face.
As Leo passed the gates and walked away from the castle, he looked over the horizon at the new future that was now set for him. And no matter what comes our way, we'll be ready. I'm not in this alone. I never have and never will be. I have my friends, and they have me. We are guardians, defenders of the innocent. We are soldiers, protectors of nations. We are heroes, saviors of this land. And we. Will. Fight.
Author's Note: So, I already know that some people may not like the fact that I had Fitoria in the story in some way, shape, or form. However, this story, while with an alternate character(s), is not a full on AU, so I was forced to introduce her at some point. Honestly, I don't really care for Fitoria that much when compared to other characters, so I made her time in the story as limited as I could.
P.S: Here is an alternate ending for the rewrite
Leo then turned to Malty, his shadow engulfing the smaller figure that laid on the ground on her back. "As for your punishment, there is no salvation for what you've done. While your father abused his power and committed horrific acts, you've been nothing but a pain in my ass ever since I got here. You've manipulated, lied, cheating, hell, almost murdered on your quest for power. You're nothing more than a cunt with no moral code who's caused pain and suffering to hundreds, if not thousands of people, which is why I still want you to be sent to death. I'll see you in Hell, princess." Leo said with a tone of mockery.
Mirellia and Melty gasped in surprise at Leo's decision. Malty's breathing quickly became unsteady once more as fear hit her like a freight train. "N- no! Please! I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't do this!" She begged, her crest remaining silent. Leo didn't budge as he hovered over her. Instead, with his verdict complete, he slowly took a few steps back showing that he was not going to change his mind.
Queen Mirellia, seeing that Leo had nothing more to say, sat a little taller as she spoke. "I declare the Shield Hero's decision to be fair as a result of the crimes these two have been charged with. Guards, take the foolish king to the cell's, we shall deal with him later. Right now, the treacherous first princess shall be put to death for her crimes against the kingdom and her people!" She exclaimed in a large, dominating voice. The knights who stood guard in the room did exactly as they were told, cuffing Aultcray and Malty and leading them out the door to their awaited fates.
"Sir Leopold, please, change your mind! I beg of you!" Melty exclaimed as she stood next to Leo. He, his party, the two remaining members of royalty, and the other three heroes were up in the stands of the arena, the rest of which being filled to the brink with people. Below them, the crowd was shouting insult after insult at the red headed female who was locked in a guillotine - like device.
When the trial ended, the king was put back into chains and escorted away from the throne room towards the dungeon. Malty on the other hand was taken straight to the arena and was forced to wait as the knights set up the guillotine, causing her already panicked state to become worse.
"I wish I could say that I was sorry princess, but I just can't. Your sister has been given many chances to turn her life around by your mother, and her inaction to do so is what led her to this fate. She chose this path in life, so this path chose her end." Leo calmly replied to the now saddened younger princess. Melty could only hopelessly watch as her mother raised her arm as a signal for the knights to be ready to drop the deadly blade atop her older sister's neck. Looking over at Queen Mirellia, Leo could tell that she was hesitant about actually committing the action, no doubt afraid of her daughter's death.
In the execution square, Malty was screaming as loud as she could, begging anyone to help her, including the other three heroes at one point, to which they all turned away from her. When she got to Leo, she cried and begged but got nothing except a cold, blank stare from his black mask and tinted goggles. It mattered not however as her mother's arm came down. Malty could only look on in horror as the blade came down and cut clean through her exposed neck.
As her head fell off the wood stage, Leo felt a heavy weight be lifted from his shoulders. By no means did he take unholy satisfaction from her death. No soldier should. This did not mean he did not enjoy seeing his tormentor for the past few months finally come to end. Did he have regrets about his decision though? No, of course not. She's caused too much suffering to her people to feel bad for.