From somewhere far away, I heard a cry.
A terrible sort of cry that pierced my ears, and eventually realizing the cry was coming from a baby, my body shuddered.
On the first floor of the hospital were various sorts from children to elders, and within that was a middle-aged woman holding a baby.
At first, the baby let out an earnest cry, but comforted by his mother, the crying gradually stopped, and he eventually smiled.
That smile without any wickedness in his heart was truly an angel. But the current me could only doubt what sort of deep darkness was embraced behind that smile.
December, still a season for the snow to be in full bloom, I was a person(s) concerned, and from here on, I would have to fill out various paperwork before I could head to the hospital room.
I confirmed the nameplate on the room read Claudia Rheinland before I entered without knocking.
In that room provided to accommodate severely ill patients, there was only one bed. Atop the bed, Claudia in a clean, white patient gown closed both her eyes, as she lay.
She looked alive enough from the side. But with a gentle expression on her face, she wouldn’t make the slightest move from the bed as she faced up.
I approached the bed, and pinched her small nose so she couldn’t breathe. “Oy, wake up.”
After a while, Claudia’s pale skin rapidly began turning red, eventually, “I-I’m dying…” she led out a small groan. It felt as if she really would die, so I removed my hand, and tapped against her forehead.
“Ow! Ah, Mr. Lawyer, good morning.”
“Morning. How are you feeling?”
“The worst. I was seeing a good dream partway through, but it suddenly became a nightmare.”
“Hmm, I see. What sort of nightmare?”
“… I’ve forgotten.”
“Why are you here today?”
“Yeah, today I came with some important notices for you. First, the demon lord just died.”
I thought she would be more surprised. But contrary to my expectations, Claudia was calm, closing her eyes, as she muttered, “Is that so.”
“Yeah, but he came back. The demon lord had stored one of Death’s Jewels in his body. He returned to zero years old, apparently.”
“Did they let him die on purpose because they wanted to see that?”
Claudia made a dubious face.
… When she was the one who delivered the fatal blow.
I stared at the holy sword carefully placed on the bedside table as I sighed.
“No. They were too late. That’s all. Of course, the same could be said for you. Good work coming back from the land of the dead. I’m glad you look well.”
“… I learned quite a bit in my hospitalization. This country’s medical technology is amazing.”
… But, Claudia said as she stared out the window.
“The scar is going to remain for the rest of my life, it seems.”
Claudia’s chest and back had a mark from when the demon lord pierced her through.
“The world’s a vast one. I’ve heard there’s a magician out there who can mend scars even medicine cannot.”
“No, I’m fine. I’ll keep this wound company for the rest of my life. More importantly, what will happen to that person?”
… That person? Oh, the demon lord.
“Sorry to say, he will receive judgement. Since we don’t have any international treaties, we can’t judge him for his war crimes, but he has been indicted for murder. That is all.”
Of course, now that the accused was zero years of age, I can’t say for sure what sort of legal procedures they would take against him. I’m sure that female prosecutor will do something about it.
“I see. It seems things usually work out one way or another, surprisingly enough.”
“That’s right. There’s no need to make yourself feel responsible or anything. If you push all the troublesome stuff onto someone else, it usually gets resolved.”
… But, I added on,
“I was saved because of you. To me, you’re a splendid hero. Thank you.”
“Ah, um, that’s well, I’m the one who should be thanking you this time.”
She looked like she was going to cry for a moment, but she immediately pushed through, her face turning red as she said it.
Perhaps she was embarrassed.
“No, I don’t need your thanks. More importantly, I have something I have to give you.”
Exceedingly calm, I took out a bundle of papers from my bag.
Ignoring Claudia’s blank expression, I smiled as I spoke.
With a thud, I slammed the invoice onto the table.
“First, the hospital’s impatient fee, treatment fee, medical examination fee. Adding them all up, that comes to five hundred thousand gold. Next, we come to property damage. Claudia, it seems you rampaged your heart out in the detention center. And as you injured both guards and inmates, you’ll have to cover their medical fees. And next is this, inflicting bodily harm to the demon lord, that’s a three hundred thousand gold fine. Adding them all together, it easily exceeds a million gold. Well, just be glad you weren’t arrested.”
“Um, well, I don’t have any money.”
“I see. Then you’ll have to pay in installments.”
“B-but can’t this be covered by public expenditure?“
“If you were a citizen of this country, and you properly paid the insurance premium, then sure it would. But you don’t have a nationality, do you?”
Claudia tapered her mouth, making an unpleasant face.
“Don’t start sulking now. Here, I’ll give you this.”
Besides the invoice, I handed over a certificate of residence.
“Trouble this country a little longer.”
“Eh? Are you sure?”
“Yeah. You don’t have anywhere to go, right?”
“Um, um, thank you.”
“Don’t mind it. For processing all the paperwork, I’ll be demanding a hundred thousand gold later.”
“… Even that costs money?”
“Of course. This time, I just happened to take on a criminal case, but I’m specialized in civil cases to begin with. These sorts of paperworks are my specialty. So I have to charge for my services.”
As she hung her head heartbroken, I spoke.
“It’s too early to feel down. The demon lord is still alive. Let’s go demand some consolation money out of him. He’s surprisingly an economist, so he has quite a bit stored away, apparently.”
… We’ll go take everything he has, I said, and Claudia made a smile for the first time in a while. There, “Ah, it hurts, ow, ow, ow.” She raised a groan as she held her chest.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m not alright. Saying such a thing to a critical patient, you’re quite an evil lawyer.”
“There’s no helping it. The world runs on money. I just found myself working as a court-appointed lawyer. I don’t have much financial leisure.”
“… I never said I wouldn’t pay. But as I’ve said, I don’t have any money.”
“Then go work.”
“I can’t work. Um, I don’t know how to work.”
After letting out a deep sigh, “Then there’s no helping it,” I continued.
“One of our office’s clerks quit just recently. I’m short on hands. Want to work at my place?”
“Are you sure?”
“Why not. In exchange, I’ll work you to the bone.”
“Yes, I’ll leave it to you.”
Something large had begun to move. That’s the feeling I got. Claudia deeply lowered her head, eventually looking at me. Her expression was bright without a single cloud.
I can’t say she had a rosy future, but if it was this girl, I got the feeling things would work out.
“Ah, come to think of it, you were sued.”
“Eh? By who?”
“The demon lord. Remember, you attacked him. With the holy sword. He’s demanding compensation for that, it seems.”
Of course, he was only buying time. Now that he’d used Death’s Jewel to revert his age, that demon lord didn’t have a fragment of magic left in him.
He would need power if he wanted to break out. So he was buying time to regain his magic, I’m sure.
It was idiotic to keep his filibuster company, but this was a country of law. If you’re sued, you have to take the adequate response. It was exceedingly a pain. If during that time, the demon lord stored up his power and broke out, it would be an even greater pain. But if that happened, I’m sure someone would do something about it.
Claudia made a troubled expression.
“When he’s a demon lord, he plans to charge the hero?”
She said, laughing a little at the end.