I Woke Up Piloting the Strongest Starship, so I Became a Space Mercenary - chapter 188
After three days, the melee combat competition was finally going to be held. The last three days weren’t exactly peaceful.
『My name is Shunji Gaiden! I desire to have a bout with you!』
『My name is White Rose! I would like to have a duel with you! It does not matter whether you opt for a spar or a serious match!』
『Hiro-dono, let’s train! The rest of the imperial guards are waiting for us already! C’mon!』
Drawn Sword experts who didn’t manage to participate in the swordsmanship competition, a suspicious person who wore a gaudy white mask and costume with a rose motif, and disappointing beautiful female imperial knights… These people kept bugging me to either fight or train with them nonstop for the last three days. I already told you guys I’m busy preparing for the melee combat tournament, right!?
Or rather, you imperial guards! Yes, I’m talking to you guys! Why haven’t you thrown out that weirdo in a white mask and costume yet!? The heck are you guys doing!?
『Um, it’s because Michael– I mean White Rose-dono has no problem regarding his background.』
Hey, White Rose! Your true identity’s already been found out y’know.
『Please just treat it as if you haven’t heard anything. He is the mysterious swordsman White Rose. He most certainly has nothing to do with Duke Greizes. Are we clear?』
Ah, I see. So everybody’s seen through the good duke’s gaudy cosplay, but they just chose not to expose him huh. Or rather, they can’t.
『He’s basically not doing anything particularly vile… or rather, he’s actually a big help since he uses his own well-built information network to get rid of nobles who do bad deeds, so he’s sort of like a local hero around these parts. Though he does make quite a ridiculous mess of things at times, so we have to break our backs trying to clean up after him. Haha.』
I see. So they treat him like an elderly nobleman who makes blunders from time to time huh. But dukes really have a lot of power and influence huh. By the way, Mr. White Rose was knocked out by a maidroid who made a late appearance and brought out of the room. She was a cool-type maidroid who possessed a different temperament compared to Mei. I feel like White Rose and she will become good friends with each other.
I fended off the advances of such individuals while continuing to prepare for the melee combat competition. The prep work was surprisingly troublesome as well, and I had to make a list of what I would bring to the competition in advance and submit it for approval.
Well, since I had to do it, I might as well be thorough. I have a lot of stuff I want to have approved after all. The nice thing is that the imperial family will cover all the expenses for consumables such as grenades, ammunition, and energy packs. I’m gonna go ham and hand a huge invoice over to that f**king emperor!
…Nah, it’s no use. Yep, no use at all. Consumables for melee combat aren’t particularly expensive no matter how much you buy after all. At most, I’d be able to use up a few tens of thousands of Enels. Oh well. Let’s stop thinking of unnecessary stuff and do what we gotta do, shall we?
“Hiro-sama, are you okay?”
Mimi called out to me while looking up at my face with a worried gaze.
We were now inside the training facility that will serve as the competition venue for today. A large number of audience seats have been hurriedly installed within the building for the tournament, and the facility already resembled an indoor stadium.
Normally, public events like this one weren’t really supposed to be hosted by military training facilities, so there weren’t any pre-installed audience seats. Even though there weren’t any originally, they made full use of the training facility’s battlefield simulation capabilities in order to create the seats on short notice. Man, the scale of the empire’s methods really is something.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about what happened these past three days.”
“Ahaha…… It sure was hectic, wasn’t it?”
Mimi smiled bitterly and laughed it off, but even she had it rough since Princess Luciada invited her every day for tea as well. I wasn’t able to observe what happened at those tea parties all that much since I kept getting bothered by those idiots, but it looks like they were able to properly get along at least.
By the way, Elma had it the easiest out of the three of us. She would either quietly drink some tea while fiddling with her tablet terminal or join Mimi and Princess Luciada at their tea parties.
“I’m sure you won’t get yourself injured, but be careful anyway, okay?”
“Understood. I’ll properly look out for myself.”
Our opponents are combat bots after all. The energy cells they use for their power source might explode due to a badly placed hit or two, so I really do have to be careful. As for their armaments, it seems they were equipped with training weapons to avoid causing the participants any injuries.
“I’ll be going then. Let’s go, Mei.”
I left the participant’s waiting area with Mei in tow– but Elma suddenly got in our way.
“Just hold on a minute, you! Why are you taking Mei with you anyway?”
“Huh? But she’s part of my equipment y’know.”
Elma and Mimi widened their eyes in surprise.
“It’s finally time! It’s the second phase of the tournament, the melee combat competition! The rules are as explained earlier folks! The participants will use the equipment they brought in to break through extremely harsh battlefields! Of course, really careless decisions will be given a death penalty, and the participant’s challenge will end there. If both participants are given the death penalty, we will determine the final outcome through the difference in their scores!”
The announcer’s voice echoed throughout the training facility, and the audience – who were mostly nobles – cheered loudly in response. While that was going on, I stood by while wearing my personal power armor as I waited for the competition to begin with Mei and the other participants.
My equipment this time was my power armor, RIKISHI mk. III, along with my two new hatchet guns. And the weapon mount on the back was equipped with a standard plasma grenade launcher. This particular model was an auto-grenade launcher that fires using the power armor’s targeting system and was loaded with plasma grenades that cause super-heated plasma explosions. I’m planning on destroying most of the obstacles that will get in the way with this baby.
In addition, RIKISHI was equipped with a good number of fixed weapons such as shoulder-mounted laser guns. The hatchet guns I was gonna use for the first time today were close-combat weapons that doubled as laser shotguns.
“Now then, let’s check out the man of the hour, Captain Hiro himself…… Oh my. That sure is one evil-looking– I mean intimidating power armor folks.”
“Fumu, it’s a model I’ve never seen before. It’s a heavy-armored power type from the looks of it. Perhaps it’s specially built to counter other power armors.”
“I see. By the way, a maidroid is with him for some reason.”
“According to the materials I have on hand, he asked the tournament management committee if it was possible to bring in a maidroid as well three days ago. And after a thorough discussion, the committee saw no reason to refuse his request and granted it.”
“I see. I do think maidroids aren’t really suited for live combat though…… However, it looks like she’s carrying some pretty fearsome-looking weapons, isn’t she?”
Mei was carrying the laser launcher that was remodeled by the mechanic sisters. More specifically, she was carrying a modified laser launcher with a brutal feel to it. It seems she could freely use it as a close-range bludgeon without any problem. As a result of the mod, its weight was practically doubled, but it looks like Mei can wield it just fine. And, of course, the limiters placed on her were released, but just for the duration of the competition.
“That she is. It looks like he has quite a few female crew members on his ships, so the maidroid might have been specially customized to double as their bodyguard.”
“I see…… But if that’s the case, then why weren’t the other participants allowed to bring in combat bots themselves?”
“That’s because combat bots are expressly prohibited by the rules. It looks like Captain Hiro has successfully managed to take advantage of a loophole in the rules.”
The guest commentator, who seemed like a guy affiliated with the military, grinned wryly as he explained. Well, Mei ended up costing 470,000 Enels due to her extensive customization though. It goes even higher if you take into account her optional upgrades and other equipment. Honestly, you could probably buy a whole set of combat bots for that price. You can even buy a single specialized combat bot that would be able to somewhat exceed Mei’s performance specs with that kind of money. Spending so much to customize a maidroid that was originally more geared for domestic purposes probably seemed like a crazy idea to most folks.
“I don’t regret it one bit though.”
“No, it’s nothing. Let’s both do our best, Mei.”
“Yes, please leave it to me.”
I repeatedly fired my hatchet guns and cleaned up the combat bots deployed on a passageway with laser scatter-shots.
I struck one hatchet gun against a combat bot that suddenly jumped out from the side of the passageway and crushed it. Mei also wielded her custom laser launcher and freely smashed the combat bots by swinging it around. Is that really alright? Won’t its internals get damaged or something?
“Mei, what about our target?”
“We’re two walls away from it.”
I blew the wall to pieces with my plasma grenade launcher and cleaned up the waiting combat bots beyond it with my hatchet guns, shoulder-mounted laser guns, and Mei with her custom laser launcher. Since we came in from a spot other than the entrance, their response was one step late. That one step determined victory and defeat.
“Captain Hiro has reached the goooaaal! His opponent is still on Stage 2! Oh, he just retired folks. It seems he determined there’s no way to turn things around anymore.”
“That’s probably it. Under the competition rules, it’s more advantageous to quickly clear the stages instead of steadily accumulating points. There’s a danger of getting slapped with a death penalty if you get too careless while trying to speedrun the stage, however, if you do manage to reach the goal quickly without incurring a death penalty, it would be next to impossible for the opponent to reverse the situation. That’s probably why the other participant opted to retire and admitted defeat.”
The announcer and the guest commentator explained away without missing a step.
“But Captain Hiro’s performance is exemplary, isn’t it?”
“He does have the assistance of that custom maidroid and that excellent power armor, but that’s not all there is to him. His positioning is precise, and his situational awareness and tactical judgment are almost flawless. It’s to the point that he’s probably on par – if not better – than a trained professional imperial marine. I would even like to recruit him for my squad if possible.”
Gimme a break, man. I’m not gonna spend my days hanging out with military macho men, thank you very much.
And so, I was able to comfortably snag an overall victory in the melee combat competition. Yeah, I guess bringing Mei with me was a bit of overkill after all.
“You are excellent both as a knight and a soldier, aren’t you?”
“Uh, well…… I am greatly honored by your praise.”
The dinner I had after snatching victory in the melee combat competition wasn’t the usual dinner for three people. I was currently together with Princess Luciada. More specifically, I alone was invited by Princess Luciada to have dinner with her.
When the competition concluded earlier, imperial guards suddenly came before me with a message from the emperor that went something like ‘As congratulations for winning the competition today, I shall especially allow you to have dinner with my prized granddaughter.’
It would be bad if I refused, right? When I asked Mimi, Elma, and Mei, I was told to just go along with it because it really would be bad if I refused. And so, that’s how I got myself in my current situation.
“Rather, you are as beautiful as always tonight, Your Highness…… Is that what I should be saying next?”
In fact, Her Imperial Highness, Princess Luciada always wore dresses and accessories suited for a highborn princess and looked very beautiful even with just some light makeup. Instead of calling her cute, lovely or beautiful might be more appropriate. Mimi would always appear cute no matter how hard she tried, so this might be a result of the natural elegance and subtle gestures the princess was able to internalize due to her upbringing.
“And I would reply with a polite thank you.”
“You look like you’re tired of hearing such compliments though.”
Princess Luciada just smiled in reply. I see.
“So, just between you and me Your Highness, you were the one who wished for this dinner to happen, right?”
“Why do you think so?”
“I’m sorry for saying something that may sound rude, but this kind of reward is a bit too plain for His Imperial Majesty who seems to like flashy stuff.”
That damn emperor would have surely given a flashier reward that would trouble me to no end. For example, he might just hand me ownership of an underdeveloped habitable planet somewhere. No, seriously. He just might. Man, just give me a damn break already.
“So you think dinner with me is plain, do you?”
“That is not what I meant, Your Highness. Also, puffing up your cheeks like that is seriously cute as heck, so please let me off already.”
When she puffs up her cheeks in dissatisfaction, her beautiful impression gets thrown out the window and changes to being cute. She actually looks exactly like Mimi in moments like this.
“I haven’t had any opportunity to talk at length with you, so I asked His Imperial Majesty to create one. It’s unfortunate that you seem to find it unpleasant.”
“Please don’t pout like that. I don’t really find it unpleasant. Honest.”
“Really? So, then, Captain Hiro. You’ve been avoiding me, haven’t you?”
Princess Luciada pressed me with furrowed brows, and I ended up averting my gaze.
“Well, you see, you’re aware you look a lot like Mimi right, Your Highness? ……I wanted to avoid saying something or acting in a rude way, so I tried to keep a respectable distance.”
“What do you mean?”
“Uh, in other words, if you keep furrowing your brows and pouting cutely like that, I might just end up giving you head-pats and such…… Also, I’m actually bad at talking in polite speech y’see.”
I can, of course, converse politely to some extent depending on the other party. Yep. It depends on who I’m talking to. I’m obviously out of my league when my partner is a princess of a space empire. It would be troublesome if I get pointed at with a sword by the imperial guards if I said or did something rude to royalty, so I tried to keep away as much as possible.
“But I want to talk with you more. You do not have to watch your words. It would be different if my speaking partner was a noble, but I will not hold it against a mercenary like you or a normal girl like Mimi-san if you do not converse with me in a formal manner.”
“Well, thanks then.”
It’s all well and good if you see it like that, Your Highness. But you see, I’ve already been marked by a strange guy for acting rude toward you or something a few days back y’know. With that, I think it would be impossible not to mind my words.
“Anyway, it’s not like I’m personally dissatisfied with being with you, Your Highness. If anything, my actions were unavoidable in order to protect myself and the others from unnecessary trouble, or perhaps you could say I was just acting in accordance to my station.”
“Well then, considerations like that will be unnecessary from now on. You can talk with me in the same manner as you do with Mimi-san and Elma-san.”
“……Is it really okay?”
I gave a quick glance at the female knight who was glaring sharply at me from behind. The female imperial guard – it looks like it wasn’t Isolde tonight – looked at me with an even sharper gaze, but since Her Imperial Highness already gave me permission, I decided not to mind it.
“Yes, please believe me.”
After saying so, Princess Luciada turned her gaze toward the female knight who was glaring at me, and the female knight finally averted her eyes. Man. Now that’s royal power.
“If you’ll excuse me then…… What sort of thing do you want to talk about, Your Highness?”
“Can you tell me in your own words about your battle with the crystal lifeforms from the beginning?”
“OK. But I’m not a professional bard, so I’m not sure if I can relate everything in a proper way. Are you fine with that?”
“No, I expect you to do your best.”
“Eh…… How strict.”
And so, I started talking about the Crystal Campaign with Princess Luciada, who kept smiling angelically even after demanding some pretty harsh storytelling standards, as I scratched the back of my head.