Hinata returned from her attack on Tempest–which would later be called the “Templar Captain’s revolt”–having suffered a crushing defeat .
Without a single apology or excuse, Hinata resigned as the head of the imperial guard and cut all ties with the Holy Empire Ruberion .
As such, even the Empire’s representatives, the Seven Celestial Sages could not punish her . Therefore, they simply decided to continue observing the situation .
The Western Saint’s Church, however, could not stay silent .
She selfishly went off on her own and even lost . Losing to monsters is a problem in itself, but she even dared to return alive . And even confirmed that those remaining in Tempest were alive and well .
In other worlds, they came as assassins but were defeated fair and square . That’s not a mistake one can easily recover from .
In fact, had they all died, the Church could have attributed it to monsters’ wicked and cruel nature, rile up all of humanity, and… .
For the Church, this is by far the worst outcome .
Even then, Nicholas was happy that Hinata returned .
But that’s a different matter . The problem remains .
And then, to Nicholas, who was holding his head, Hinata so said:
「Just say that I acted on my own . Fooled the knights and acted without the Church’s approval .
Though it will contradict the Church’s dogma that all monsters are evil, but at least it won’t subvert all of it .
After all, the weak need the Church .
We can’t go around losing an organization that is willing to extend the weak a hand, now can we?」
Without any hesitation she proposed to Nicholas .
Just as before, as if looking down upon the world she presented the most logical conclusion .
If necessary, cut away one to save the whole–perfectly pragmatic .
Even if the one to be cut away is she herself, she would not hesitate .
But still, she seems to have changed a bit: no longer are her eyes filled with blind devotion to the creed .
Her face instead carries a smile of nearly divine kindness .
And this was a proposal Nicholas could not refuse .
Though her face now expresses heartfelt kindness, it did not change her nature . Her proposal is well thought out and the Church would suffer minimal damage as the result . Nicholas understood that too well .
「Hinata, did you change a bit…?」
「Have I? Can’t know yourself, now can you? But I do think that I was in too much of a hurry . To save people with my own hands, so I thought . I don’t think I was wrong to sacrifice the few to save the many . I can proudly say that I fought for what I believed in . But… I also don’t think it’s wrong to try to save everyone . I think I was too focused on the big picture and lost something important . I don’t want to save just the majority–I want to save everyone . Feel free to laugh if you think it impossible . I just want to see the world, judge it with my own eyes, and pick the path I truly believe in」
「Is that what the Demon Lord taught you?」
「No, not really . A beloved teacher admonished me, and I recognized the existence of a demon lord」
「Recognized… a demon lord?」
「Yeah . It was not pure evil . Just another soul living quite selfishly」
「Is that so… Well then, I will believe in you Hinata-sama . And the Demon Lord whom you believed in」
For Nicholas, Hinata is and was everything .
Even if she lost, he could not complain if she returned alive .
If the Empire decided to punish Hinata, he fully intended to use the West Saint’s Church to defend her .
This time, however, it was unnecessary because Hinata herself decided to resign from her post .
And disposing of the whole affair as the “Templar Captain’s Revolt,” Hinata became a stray adventurer .
One who gives hope to the weak–a Hero .
The knight who lived by the creed was dead, and instead the hope of the people was born . Nicholas understood this as well .
Thus, he did not oppose her actions . Later, he would come to regret it .
Hinata then assembled the Templars and the Blood Shadows and declared that she steps down from her post .
The Templars were content but the shadows opposed her declaration .
「Hinata-sama has been corrupted! She has become weak from her defeat . Actually, the demon lord must have seduced her . We need to open her eyes!」
And various other things the shadows said, troubling Hinata .
「In that case, that country’s demon lord has created a dungeon .
If you clear it you get an audience with the demon lord .
So if you want to “open my eyes,” go clear it first」
Hinata said, and the Blood Shadows, as if having received their orders, departed .
「Is it fine?」
「Probably . No one dies in that dungeon .
The Demon Lord manages it for fun .
But it just might become good practice for them .
Maybe they’ll go mad, but it just might reforge their spirits」
She said without thinking .
Having faced Demon Lord Rimuru once before she has some trust in him .
There’s also the fact that Arnaud is there and has related enough for her to make her own conjectures .
She also has a good idea as to how to clear that dungeon .
Besides, perhaps only Hinata could, but those shadows would be unable to clear the dungeon .
Blood crazed and seeing nothing but dogma, the labyrinth may only break their spirits .
In fact, later on this became a sort of pilgrimage for forging your spirit .
You would challenge that hell again and again, as long as your spirit doesn’t break .
As Hinata said, it became a place for those weak-willed to gain some mental strength .
And the remaining Blood Shadows returned to the Holy Empire of Ruberion .
Since they were affiliated with the Empire anyways, they simply swore loyalty to the Emperor .
And upon seeing these men again, Hinata
「Who would’ve thought…」
She lamented .
Their presence stank of blood .
That she noticed one time when she was reporting a matter at the Empire .
She concluded that their journey to the dungeon was the reason for their much to mechanical and artificial movement .
But back to present time,
Excusing herself before the Seven Celestial Sages was a trial in itself .
If she fought would she win or lose? The thing is, they gave off magic power unbecoming of humans .
Why she had not noticed it was a mystery in itself .
(It’s because her “Hero” egg has increased a level allowing her to feel their real presence, but she did not know this at the time . )
She figured that being focused on the whole made her blind to such an obvious fact .
So even though she was not wrong she simply was not right either . And this mistake too would lead to her growth .
Holy Empire of Ruberion was most likely a temporary form .
The real form was of a city controlled by powerful, demon lord level, monsters .
A monster city undiscovered for many hundreds of years, where human thoughts are manipulated .
Not that they are being brainwashed, but undoing the teachings of the Empire is most likely impossible .
What terrifying foes they are, Hinata thought .
At this point, Hinata could not raise a sword against them .
A monster who does not wish to recognize other monsters? No, not simple lack of recognition, but outright hostility?
Either way, an enemy who hides behind a veil of humility is far more dangerous than one in plain sight .
Before, Hinata would have charged at them demanding a fight . But now she fully thinks through her actions .
Because she wishes to think through things in greater depth .
Not picking the path of least resistance but also considering the longest alternative .
So it’s not like she’s lost right no . w
Hinata left the West Saint’s Church .
Nicholas and the knights follow behind her .
She asked him to make Vice Captain Leonard the Captain and Arnaud remained as his Vice Captain .
「I hear and obey . I will do as you have instructed without delay .
However, Hinata-sama, this is also your home .
Please return to us at any time . We shall await your return」
And at Nicholas’ words, other knights also bowed their heads .
Even recalling this scene now, these words warm her heart .
Though she lived discarding what she had no use for, she was able to acquire truly kind comrades .
For their sake she should not remain there any longer .
「Are you okay?」
Without turning around she asked one of the people following her .
「No problem . My spirit was broken quite a few times during that fight .
That curr (Ranga), was it…
Besides, after talking to them at that banquet, I have realized my own narrowmindedness .
Please take me along with you . Besides,
The West Saints’ Church needs people, so they won’t be able to spare any as your guards .
Well, I probably do for a poor guard, but please let me do it!
We probably would never meet another monster like that curr again!」
「Do as you like . What a whimsical fellow .
Ah! When I said do as you like I didn’t mean you are free to crawl into my bed . That I won’t permit」
「Wha! Who do you think I am?!
I would never dare to touch Hinata-sama!
Besides, I would be crucified by Cardinal Nicholas」
“That guy seriously doesn’t know how to hold back, he’d seriously kill me!” And various other such lines Fritz mumbled, causing a small smile to break out on Hinata’s face .
Fritz saw that smile and was immediately at loss for words .
This is bad, he thought, seriously… For a second, I would not have minded being killed…
Feeling a chill, Fritz dispelled these thoughts .
Beautiful but lacking humanity . Overwhelming in strength, but lacking in feminine charm .
So was she known among people . Fritz was no exception and did not see her as a member of the opposite sex .
But, that smile blew all these preconceptions away .
This is bad, he thought, didn’t think this post would come with such a side benefit… but if others find out, I’ll have more people to compete against!
Having come down a bit, Fritz tried to order his feelings .
It’s alright, no problem . He steadied his trembling heart and oriented himself towards his normal train of thought .
Completely oblivious to his struggles, Hinata put on her glasses, leaned her head on his shoulder and looked up at him .
And with a weak smile,
「Yeah, you’ll take care of me, won’t you? Fritz」
She said .
And that was the death knell of his reason .
(Cardinal Nicholas, I’m sorry, but it’s open season now!)
This was the moment when Fritz decided to treat her not as a guard captain but as a woman to be protected .
And his feelings towards her were not of loyalty towards a guard captain but of an earnest desire to follow her .
And thus their journey began .
Hinata was concerned about the five children Rimuru mentioned .
Nearing Kagurazaka Yuuki is dangerous but she had her anti-mind control item equipped . ANd she did not intend to be reckless .
She merely wanted to confirm the situation and rescue the kids if possible .
What relationship stands between Yuuki and Chaos Lord Gazalim is a concern, but she intended to avoid any and all contact with him .
She did not think she would lose, but Shizu-san asked her to avoid him and she intended to keep her promise .
But, Chaos Lord Gazalim .
If he is manipulating Yuuki… she would not allow that to go unpunished .
Having been manipulated for over ten years it isn’t something she can forgive .
In her memories Yuuki was a boy with a wide smile .
(I must confirm if that smile was genuine . And save the kids . )
If there’s a will there’s a way . Thus Hinata decided to act .
She headed out to Ingrasia Kingdom .
The city brainwashed by Yuuki, or perhaps by Gazalim .
Traveling by the magic circle may alert him, should there be spies, so instead she journeyed there on foot .
And a new struggle was on the horizon…