「尚文の凱旋」 (Naofumi no Gaisen)
“Naofumi’s Triumphant Return”
Ding dong, the witch is dead.
Well, maybe not dead, though it was a close call. Rather, she’s been disgraced and humiliated, revealed as a liar and attempted murderer for the whole kingdom to see. By royal decree, I’m not even entirely sure that I can refer to her by name anymore. At the moment, I’m leaning towards referring to her as The-Adventurer-Formerly-Known-As-Myne, but for now we’ll stick with her given name, Malty.
After nearly sacrificing his own life to take down the Pope, Naofumi awoke to what had to be the best news he’s heard since he arrived in Melromarc – the King Consort Aultcray and Malty were going to be put on trial for treason and attempted fratricide. The Queen’s Shadows have been watching events unfold just as we have, and they saw what Malty tried to do to her sister during the chaos which resulted from her accusing the Shield Hero of kidnapping and brainwashing her sister. Once on trial before the Queen, the king consort and Malty were given slave marks that forced them to tell only the truth. However, no matter how many times Malty was tortured for her lies, she continued to insist she’d done nothing wrong. Even the most deceitful person would start telling the truth after being shocked to unconsciousness the first time, yet the transition from Motoyasu asking her questions to the execution seemed to suggest that the trial went on for quite some time longer before he was satisfied that Malty truly had been deceiving him for the entirety of the time they’d spent together.
For the first time, Naofumi had those who had wronged him completely at his mercy, but instead of reveling in their deaths, he pitied them. Sure, he was angry at himself for it, but at their core, Malty is so twisted she literally couldn’t tell the truth to save her life and her father, while severely misguided, genuinely believes that everything he’s done was for the best. Whatever tragedy befell him in the past, the Church used it to corrupt him, just as they used Malty’s ambition to corrupt her. They’re not victims, per se, but they’re not necessarily evil, either. And, clearly, they have people in their lives who love them in spite of their faults. Letting them live out the rest of their days by playing the role of villain once again had to be one of the hardest things Naofumi has ever done, and he’s done plenty. Yet, oddly enough, by stopping the execution with the smuggest look on his face imaginable, Naofumi proved without a doubt that he deserves to be a hero.
Had he not stepped in, though, the Queen would have offered her life up in exchange, leaving him no choice but to accept. After all, to ignore her heartfelt plea in front of the entire kingdom would have ended in him painted as a villain once more, and this time, he would have earned it. Luckily, nothing that has befallen Naofumi has managed to stamp out the goodness in him entirely. This is largely due to all of the girls in his life (and the blacksmith), but it’s clear that Raphtalia will always be special. She stood by him from the beginning, witnessing every injustice he endured and how it wore him down, and then saw him rise again to stand proudly as one of the Four Cardinal Heroes. When Naofumi shared the news about the trial, she was the only one who seemed to fully grasp how much it meant to him to finally clear his good name.
Once the trial was concluded with the king consort and his daughter’s names changed to Trash and B**** respectively, or S*** if she wants to go by her adventurer name, the Queen politely requested that Naofumi stay in Melromarc. Strange that, considering all the damage control she had to do after her husband greedily summoned all four of the heroes when it turns out that each of the countries were meant to summon only one as a protector, but Naofumi made it clear that while he’s not unwilling to work with her, he also has no intention of abandoning the other kingdoms or of being in her debt. It’s a mature decision which the Queen respects. Plus, it means that we’ll be seeing even more worldbuilding in the future now that Naofumi is free to travel and beloved by the people. Although this series isn’t quite over yet and the Shield Hero’s journey has only just begun, I truly can’t think of a more satisfying ending.