Evade the Hero and Flee! 173 #20. This World Doesn’t Want to Leave Me Alone (2)>
#1 Their circumstances: A certain hero’s circumstance
“What did you say?”
For a moment there, I thought my ears were malfunctioning.
But that’s because what Mirua told me was utterly nonsensical.
“Dress up like a woman.”
Unfortunately for me, though, the words coming out of Mirua’s mouth remained the same as a few seconds ago.
“Only then will the instructor not notice you.”
Our instructor managed to slip through our fingers.
It was already very difficult to find his traces and go after him. However, openly making moves while chasing after him would only make it easier for this kingdom’s princess to capture me.
That’s why… I got the reason why we needed to be covert, yes, but still…
“Why do I need to dress like a woman?!”
But, that was not reason enough for me to put on a dress, now was it!
“You’re right. I’m not a bad superior who one-sidedly demands stuff from my subordinates. So, if you have any objections to my order, then it’s fine to say no.” Mirua replied as such, entered into deep thought at my continued refusal, and then asked me a question while nodding away. “Why, you hate the idea?”
“Of course I hate the idea. A man dressing up as a woman…?”
“Dressing up as a woman is not manly?”
“Sure, you could say that.”
Dressing up as a woman…
This was an act where a man disguised himself as a woman, and most of the time, the end result was so terrible that it’d be seen as a dark period in the man’s history.
Of course, looking good in drag would leave behind its own type of dark history, too!
“If that’s your only reason, then I can’t accept it. Dressing up as a woman is the manliest thing to do, after all.”
But what Mirua replied with completely rejected that very notion.
“What are you even talking about?”
“Dressing up as a woman can only be done by a man, you see.”
“If a woman dresses up as a woman, that’s just a regular disguise, not being in drag.”
Those words made me recall our instructor out of the blue. Definitely bullsh*t, but somehow… also logical?
Wasn’t that what our instructor used to say often to us?
“Well, that might be true, but…”
What Mirua said was technically correct. A man in drag was dressing up as a woman, wasn’t it? If a woman put on a dress, that… couldn’t technically be called in drag, after all.
But that wasn’t the only reason why I refused to be in drag, you know?
“There, you see? Let’s be real, you dressing up as a woman is possibly the manliest thing a man can do, you know? You get it now, don’t you? So, do it.”
However, Mirua insisted that her opinion was the correct one and demanded that I put on a woman’s dress.
“N-no, hold on! Aren’t you being unreasonable here?”
“I’ve already listened to everything you have to say about this. It’s enough already.”
“No, it’s not even close?!”
“Alright, fine. Explain why dressing up as a woman doesn’t suit a man.”
“It just doesn’t, okay!”
I shouted at her, but Mirua simply extended her hand, stopped in mid-air, then began scanning me from top to bottom. “Hmm~. But if it’s you, I think you’ll look good. Have more confidence in yourself, will you?”
Mirua’s eyes landed back on my head, then she began to slowly lower her gaze while seemingly appreciating various parts of my body.
“Hnng~ It’s gonna suit you even better than I expected. Guys~?”
Mirua lightly snapped her fingers, prompting ten people to instantly appear out of nowhere to encircle me.
“H-hold on! I might look like this, but don’t forget that I’m a dragon slayer!”
Although I shouted that out, every single one of these people emitted quite powerful air. It felt like I wouldn’t have an easy time beating them in one-on-one combat, yet there were ten of them showing up… Uh?
“Hang on a second?! Why are you among these people?!”
One of the ten newcomers happened to be a familiar face sporting brown bob-cut hair and blue eyes.
“I also got captured, that’s why.”
No.17 cackled ominously while slightly raising her head. Around her throat was a rather similar collar as mine.
“Give up. Giving up makes things easier.”
“Haha, a classmate of our team leader, is it? That means he’ll get used to it pretty quickly.”
“Dressing up as a girl. In drag, is it… I mean, what’s so wrong about something so measly like being in drag?”
“Leader is right. Only men can dress like a woman. The manliest hero will now be in the manliest drag ever!”
“Kyah~, look at that explosion of masculine beauty!”
The people appearing alongside No.17 were all staring at me but their eyes were dead.
That look on their faces… I’ve seen that before.
“J-just what kind of a life did you have…”
“Hmm? You should know, right?”
Right. I knew what No.17 meant by saying that. Probably better than anybody.
That’s because that look on their faces… I’ve seen that every single morning in the mirror during my hellish trainee days under the instructor ten years ago!
To be more specific, that was my face!
“I know, and that’s why I’m asking you. The instructor is not around, so what could have possibly happened to you?!”
“Ng, well, it’s nothing much, really. It’s just that, the imperial court… No, Her Imperial Highness’s army functions like how our instructor used to train us.”
Suddenly, I began hating my brain for oh-so quickly figuring it out. That’s because… this damn brain of mine showed me the images of the future lying in wait for me.
“N-no, it can’t be… Again?”
“Ah, hang on. What you’re thinking about isn’t happening there.”
However, Mirua quickly denied my fears.
“Well, we don’t have the metal bat nor our instructor’s technique of torturing us but not up to the point of killing us, after all.”
What a relief, then…?
“Except that we do have the wooden bat we all have experienced before and also, the constant fear we might really die at this rate.”
“That’s even worse!”
The instructor’s training program might have been cheap and dirty, but it was also famous for producing zero casualties.
But now, the imperial court’s… No, more correctly, the imperial princess’s army was in a training program where people might really die due to the lack of technique.
“It’s fine, though. We have various religious orders nearby and those infamously expensive recovery potions prepared by a bucket load, after all.”
“Ng. At the very least, no one has retired so far from grave bodily injuries.”
The two of them – No.17 and Mirua – were yapping away while nodding sagely, but I was someone trained by the instructor. It was easy for me to discover something suspicious about what they were saying.
“No one retired from physical injuries? In that case, what about injuries not to the body?”
The two of them clamped their mouths shut, but I had already got my answer by then.
“Not from physical injuries, but from psychological problems, is that it?!”
Mirua neither confirmed nor denied my accusation and simply ordered her underlings.
I yanked my sword out and smacked away an incoming sword attack.
“…A sword light?!”
The moment our blades collided, I activated my own sword light to chop the opponent’s weapon in half but, as it turned out, I was dealing with a swordmaster.
No, to be more precise…!
“What the hell is this?!”
Three of the ten underlings were swordmasters.
“What is up with this ratio?!”
Three swordmasters should be the average number of swordmasters found in your regular small kingdoms.
But some nations out there didn’t have a single swordmaster, so three of them all moving at the same time was on the level of posing a national threat!
Yet such a powerful combat force was right here?!
“I’ve only brought the ones that could be mobilised right away, you know. You have to be a swordmaster or something if you want to be my subordinate.”
Unlike No.17, who would be considered a beauty by pretty much everyone, Mirua suited the description of ‘adorable’ than ‘beautiful’ a lot better. Even though her figure had grown up a lot compared to when she was still a little kid!
So, uh… How should I describe this scene of her proudly boasting about herself while pushing forward her flat chest? Should I say, that sight didn’t really suit a team leader answering directly to the imperial princess, the one who was really driving this empire forward?
The sense of incongruity was genuinely strong with this one.
Mm… Aha, could it be that her old malicious self had become a lot softer now? If she was a super-sharp blade in the past, then she felt a bit softer-edged these days? Something like that?
“You must be eating well these days, then.”
“It’s not just on the level of eating well, though.” No.17 sighed grandly while shaking her head. “She’s gorging herself.”
“Right, she still finishes her food even at the face of Her Imperial Highness’s command, after all.”
“And when His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince came to visit, she ignored him because she was in the middle of her meal! Now that was incredible.”
“Heh, even His Imperial Highness was no pushover, either. After being told that she’s having a meal, he said he’d wait and sat directly in front of our leader, didn’t he?”
“Well, he also has the same bloodline as Her Imperial Highness, after all. He should be able to do that much, at least.”
“No, that’s not right. From what I know, Her Imperial Highness is a special case even among the imperial family, you know?”
“Well, our leader was really amazing back then when she dared to ignore His Imperial Highness, the future ruler of the empire, even though he was sitting right in front of her and finished her meal first.”
“It’s not merely on the level of amazing, though. She even ordered three extra servings as if to rub it in on His Imperial Highness’s face, didn’t she?”
“If it was me, I’d have gotten indigestion and failed to finish the food.”
“But our team leader nonchalantly eats in front of Her Imperial Highness, no? So, I mean, a mere Crown Imperial Prince is…”
“It’s just having a meal, yet she’s so scary…”
“Even so, she’s also still amazing. We can’t help but respect that about her.”
“You’re so right…”
Something was quite off about that conversation just then, but it still managed to scare me.
Even though the world’s strongest empire’s successor was waiting for her, she actually ordered extra food? Not only that but when he was literally right in front of her face?! Also, she continued to eat even when the imperial princess showed up?!
I knew it, Mirua was someone far exceeding my imaginations. And it seemed that being herself earned her underlings’ quite badly misplaced respect!
“Indeed, she deserves our respect.”
“She’s always like that but exposes no openings whatsoever.”
“And even though she displays such an attitude, her ability is so good that not even Her Imperial Highness expresses dissatisfaction.”
In that instant, this deathly chill crept all over my skin.
“It’s really impossible to figure out what’s real and what’s fake about her.”
“It looks like she’s just being herself only for it to be nothing but an act, and sometimes, it looks like she’s acting but it turns out to be her true self.”
“Even while being like that, she predicts everything and makes a move first, too.”
“You’re so right. She can be really scary, you know? It kinda feels like you’re dancing on her palm or something?”
After the initial round of attack, the underlings didn’t show any intentions of attacking me again. They merely displayed their strength, then proceeded to yap among themselves.
At first, I thought they were like this because they believed in their abilities and superior numbers. But now, I came to realise something else. I realised that this was just a trap.
…That they received an order to behave that way so that I’d end up letting my guard down!
And the one who ordered them in the first place was…
“A dragon slayer isn’t all that much, now is it?”
Mirua was already holding my right hand wielding the holy sword, while her other hand was pressing a thin needle against my throat!
Although my question sounded random, Mirua seemed to have predicted that I’d ask it anyway, judging from how quickly she replied to me.
“Mm… Since when we just about captured you?”
“What? But how?”
“Think about it this way. Instead of doing something as annoying as this, I could have used your comrades as hostages.”
She was right.
If Mirua used Hill or Selena as hostages and demanded that I dress up as a girl, then for sure, I would have put on the dress without much resistance.
But Mirua said some crazy nonsense to provoke me, then called out her underlings to force me into a dress.
No, wait a minute. The reason why I yanked my sword out wasn’t some dang dress, but because I heard what kind of an army the imperial princess’s army was…!
“Ng, you’re right. I deliberately said some stuff that would’ve made you want to escape.”
“H-hey, I was still in the middle of thinking that, you know?! I haven’t even said anything yet!”
Even before I could voice my thoughts, Mirua replied first as if she knew everything already.
“Mm… It’s all written on your face, you know?”
The sound of her faint little chuckle coming from near my ear sent shivers down my spine.
I dearly wanted to put some distance between her and me. But the needle pressing against my neck seemed like it’d stab me if I moved a muscle, preventing me from acting rashly.
“Then, why did you even provoke me?”
She already had enough methods at her disposal to deal with me, yet still made me struggle pitifully by mentioning things like getting in drag or my life being in danger.
Why would she even do that?
“Our instructor told us, didn’t he? When trying to control people, it’s sometimes necessary to demonstrate the gap between the target and me.” Mirua said that then went ‘Mm!’ before clearing her throat to whisper the following in my ear. “Kneel. This is the difference of greatness between you and me.”
“You… You only wanted to repeat what the instructor used to say to us, didn’t you?!”
Mirua repeated the line we’ve all heard many times in the past under the instructor’s tutelage, then exploded in a peal of laughter as if she was just an ordinary girl.
“You’re right, but me telling you to get into drag wasn’t a lie.”
Just before I could groan loudly at her laughter…
When my guard went down again, her thin needle stabbed me in the neck. Mirua then muttered in a slightly excited voice. “I really wanted to see No.1 dressed like a girl, you see?”
Just because of something that trivial, you actually stabbed another person in the neck with a deadly weapon?!
That’s what I wanted to shout out, but…
I tried so hard to open my mouth, but I couldn’t exert any strength on my chin.
“Well, then… Beautify him until he gets my approval.”
“Yes, team leader.”
My whole body was so paralysed that I couldn’t even close my eyes. All I could do was just stand there and watch them approach me one by one, then be subjected to the worst humiliation in my life.
“I knew it, you’re so pretty!”
When I heard Mirua’s impressed voice, I almost started crying.
This was so unfair. What did I do to deserve such treatment?!
I mean, I’m supposed to be a hero, right?!
“This is all because we’re trying to catch our instructor. Even someone like him will never guess that you now look like this.”
“Give up, will you. Giving up will be better for your mental health. That girl has already become the completed villain, the one our instructor used to tell us about.”
I was about to say what’s in my mind to Mirua bursting out into a peal of carefree laughter, but No.17 grabbed my shoulder just then. I saw her expression and promptly clamped my mouth shut.
Because… the despair in No.17’s eyes was far deeper than mine.
“Well, now. Where should I place the bait, then?”
Mirua began humming to herself, but I couldn’t even reply to her. All I could do from then on was do exactly as she told me to.