"That's me!" Aqua slammed her mug down and trotted over to the new arrival. "I guess you've come to reward me for all my hard work!"
The girl in the uniform, Sena, adjusted her glasses. "You are Aqua? The priestess who was in the Hero Mitsurugi's party?"
Sena did not smile. "I see. Yes, I am indeed here on behalf of the crown to make sure you receive what you've earned." She motioned to an empty table.
The entire guild hall had quieted, and they were all watching as the two women sat down. Kazuma was probably more intent than anyone.
"Don't tell me that moron is actually going to get rewarded for what she did," he growled.
Darkness sent him a sympathetic look. "She did help stop the Destroyer and save the city."
"And she brought everyone back to life except for Mitsurugi," Megumin added.
"Balls," Kazuma emptied his mug and waved for another.
The two girls sat down across from each other. Sena had been carrying a leather briefcase and set it on an empty chair. She opened it and pulled out a stack of documents along with a pen and inkwell. She began shuffling through the papers.
For her part, Aqua was bouncing up and down in her seat. "How big is my reward? When I took out Beldia it was three hundred million. The Destroyer has to be worth way more than that, right?"
Sena stopped sorting the papers and looked at Aqua. "You defeated Beldia?"
"That's right," Aqua nodded. "Technically, Mitsurugi delivered the death blow, but it was my party so I deserve the credit."
Sena adjusted her glasses. "I see."
"Hey! My party all quit so they don't deserve a share of the reward. I should get all of it!"
"You don't need to worry, sorting out exactly who is responsible is why I am here."
She set her papers down in front of her and took the one on top.
"Now, to begin with, I have a report that prior to the battle you made a public guarantee that you would defeat the Destroyer and save the city. Is this accurate?"
"It sure is!" Her head bobbed up and down so hard it was a blur. "And everyone was so grateful they all promised to convert to the Axis Church. But none of them have." Aqua looked over her shoulder at everyone. "People should really keep their promises you know?"
Kazuma spat his ale and started to choke.
"I see," Sena put the paper aside and picked another one. "I also have a report that you were the one who came up with the strategy and led the way. Is this also accurate?"
Someone from behind the bar spoke up. "It was Mitsurugi-"
"Yes, it was me," Aqua leaned back with a smug smile. "Mitsurugi always followed my orders. He was a great fighter but would have been totally lost without me there to tell him what to do. I think it's only fair to say everyone would have been lost without my leadership."
The adventurers all looked at each other. They knew the truth. It had been Mitsurugi who'd led the way. It had been Mitsurugi they'd followed into battle. Aqua had certainly helped with her blessings and boosts, but she'd been in a support role the entire fight. No one spoke up though. Aqua had resurrected every single one of them. Denying her would have seemed unbelievably ungrateful.
Kazuma had no such qualms and wanted to call her a liar at the top of his lungs. But he hadn't actually been there. He damn well knew that if he said anything it would just come off as him being bitter. So, he kept his mouth shut and drank some more ale.
"I see," for the first time Sena smiled. "You are quite an amazing woman, Aqua."
"Thank you! I'm glad someone appreciates me."
"Yes. I most certainly do. His majesty has declared a six hundred million eris reward to be paid out for defeating the Destroyer."
There were gasps throughout the hall. Everyone had expected a huge prize, but that was double the reward for taking out Beldia!
"I think everyone can agree that you are the one who deserves it, and deserves it in full. I have the authority to issue you the entire award. I only require you to formally accept sole responsibility for the battle with the Destroyer and its results." With a wide smile, Sena placed a paper in front of Aqua, dipped the pen into the ink and then held it out to her. "If you will just sign the bottom of that declaration everything will be settled."
"You bet!" Aqua snatched the pen from her hand and scrawled her name without so much as glancing at it. "There you go! Is there anything else?"
Sena retrieved the document and carefully blew on the ink to help it dry. She then held it up. One of the knights retrieved it and placed it in a satchel. Sena's smile had vanished. When Kazuma saw the look on her face he stopped drinking and leaned forward in his seat.
"No," Sena said. "That is all I need from you."
"How soon can I get my money?"
"I can have your reward applied against your debt effective immediately."
There was a moment of confused silence. "Eh? Debt?"
"That's right, you must pay what you owe."
"Are you talking about the wine merchant in Algard? Or the one in Tuscan? Or is this about the innkeeper in Lancaster? Is he still mad about me flooding his place?" Aqua waved a dismissive hand. "Sure, I don't mind. All of it probably comes to a few million eris."
"That's not the debt I'm referring to." Sena took the next paper from the pile and held it out. "This is an estimate for the damages incurred in this city and the estimated repair costs. Restoring the outer wall is going to be a particularly expensive. As you can see, the total comes to three billion eris."
"THREE BILLION?!" Aqua screeched.
"That is only the original cost, as I said your reward will be applied towards it. So, you will only be held responsible for two point four billion." Sena's face and tone were cold and businesslike.
Aqua leapt to her feet. "You can't make me pay this! What happened isn't my fault!"
In an instant two of the knights appeared on either side of Aqua. Each put a hand on one shoulder and shoved her back down into her seat. They then remained there standing over her.
"You just signed a statement accepting responsibility for all debts and obligations resulting from the battle with the Destroyer. You did so of your own free will, as dozens of witnesses can attest to. Legally and morally you are the sole responsible party and will be required to repay the outstanding amount back to the kingdom of Belzerg."
"You tricked me! Everyone saw it! They won't let you get away with this! Right guys?"
There was silence.
Aqua looked around the hall. People turned their faces to avoid meeting her eyes. When she looked Kazuma's way he met her glance with a big smile and lifted his mug.
Aqua began to look very nervous and gulped. "Wait, my church will help me with this. My followers are faithful and completely loyal. They won't stand for this outrage."
"Ah, yes, I actually had a short stop in Alcanretia on the way here and discussed the situation with the cult leaders." She took the next paper from the pile.
"It's a church not a cult! Be more respectful of my followers!"
"Read this." Sena held the note out to her.
With a huff Aqua grabbed it and began reading. As she did so her eyes got wide and her jaw fell. "No way! This is fake! This has got to be fake!"
"They say I'm not a saint anymore and that I'm a heretic?! I'm their goddess! They worship me! How can I be a heretic against myself?!"
"Huh, so they were telling the truth about you pretending to be their goddess. Most religions do frown on that sort of thing."
"I'm not pretending! I am their goddess!" Aqua tried jumping to her feet, only to have the two knights force her back down.
"The kingdom doesn't have any specific laws against claiming divinity. However, for your own sake, I'd recommend never visiting Alcanretia again. The cult leaders spoke of burning you at the stake if you ever do."
"How could they do this to me?!"
"I suspect trying to avoid any possible obligation to your debt had something to do with it."
"This is impossible," she wailed. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"If you are responsible for something you must accept both the credit and the blame. That is the entire point of the rule of law."
"But there's no way I could ever pay that much! It's totally impossible!"
"That does appear likely; however, you are a skilled healer and those are often in demand. Even if you are no longer a member of the Axis Cult you should still be able to earn funds as an adventurer or as a healer for a different church. Out of appreciation for what you did by stopping the Destroyer his majesty has decided not to have you incarcerated in debtor prison. Instead you will be free to travel and work within Belzerg, if you attempt to leave the country though you'll be treated as a wanted criminal. Whatever employment you find seventy percent of your payment will be confiscated and applied to your debt. And if you should join an adventuring party seventy percent of any reward or treasures found will also be confiscated."
Kazuma laughed out loud, drawing stares. "Good luck joining a party now!"
Aqua paled as no one contradicted him. No matter how good she was at healing, no matter how grateful people might be at being brought back to life, no party in their right mind would ever let her join them.
"There is one additional matter," Sena took the final sheet of paper. "The remains of the Hero Mitsurugi were delivered to archpriests to the Church of Eris and Regina. Both reported not only that they had failed at resurrection, but that there seems to be no connections between his earthy remains and his soul. According to standard religious doctrine this only ever occurs when a soul has either become undead or has permanently passed on to an eternal reward. Both archpriests claim that such does not happen immediately after death under normal circumstances."
Sena set the paper down and gave Aqua an icy gaze.
"In other words, returning the Hero Mitsurugi should be possible. At the very least there should still be a connection to his soul. His majesty has a very great interest in finding out why that is not the case."
Not just Sena's but all eyes started boring into her.
"Ah, I can explain that. You see, there's this really ditzy goddess by the name of Ritsa who was temporarily covering for Eris. She pads her chest by the way. Eris I mean, not Ritsa. Anyway, there's this dumb rule about reincarnating people from other worlds and-"
"You're not taking this very seriously. Perhaps a few days of interrogation will help you be a bit more forthcoming." Sena nodded to the knights.
They grabbed by the arms and hauled her up. As she started crying the knights dragged her out the door. No one said a word.
As soon as she was gone Kazuma leapt onto the table. "Drinks on me!"
The guild gave a raucous shout.
Five days later
Aqua showed up at the guild hall looking exhausted and with eyes red from crying. She didn't tell anyone what exactly happened to her during the past five days, but given how proficient she was at healing it only made sense there wouldn't be any injuries.
After everything that had happened the feelings most of the guild had towards her was ambivalent. She had still saved them and people were still grateful. But after what had been said prior to her arrest most people also thought she had done something to prevent Mitsurugi's resurrection. And even the most sympathetic person was not about to get too close to her, lest they somehow get dragged into her financial woes.
In practical terms what this amounted to was that there was still enough sympathy and sense of obligation for people to pay for her to have a clean room and as much food and drink as she wanted. But a hard line was drawn there. No one would loan her money or offer her jobs. Most actively avoided her.
Eventually, at the end of the night, she staggered out to a back alley where she puked up rainbows.
Aqua turned around to find a beautiful silver haired girl in a dress standing behind her.
"Eris!" Aqua lunged at her and hugged her around the waist as she bawled. "I'm so happy to see you! I don't even care about all the rags you have stuffed in your bra!"
Eris sighed. "I thought I should come have a talk with you."
Aqua let go and rubbed at her eyes with her sleeve. "You have no idea how awful things have been for me! No one believes I'm a goddess, people are mean, I get blamed for everything, and they even want me to pay an insane amount of money when I saved everyone! This is so unfair!"
Eris gave her a stern look. "Aqua, are you still not going to take any responsibility at all for your actions?"
"Huh? What do you mean? I haven't done anything wrong. Everything that's happened to me was all that NEET's fault."
"His name is Kazuma."
"I know what his name is! Anyway, everything that happened to me was because of him."
Eris closed her eyes and shook her head. "If you'd been even just a little nicer to him he would never have picked you as his tool. And even then he technically didn't do anything wrong since his decision was approved. You're the one who abandoned your responsibility."
"What are you talking about? I was helping Mitsurugi stop the Devil King. Even if it was rough, I was still doing my job down here."
"Aqua-sempai, I have a question for you. What happened to Gram? Mitsurugi's magical sword, the tool he chose to bring with him?"
"Anna sold it in a weapon's shop and split the money with everyone else." Aqua pouted. "I didn't even get a share."
"Right, so even though Mitsurugi has passed on, the magical tool he was assigned stayed here on this world."
"No duh, that what happens to all the magical tools that get sent here."
Eris didn't say anything, she just stood there staring at Aqua.
"Do I really have to spell it out?"
"Spell what out? What are you talking about?"
Eris sighed. "Aqua, you didn't travel to this world of your own free will. You were sent here as Kazuma's tool. The tools stay here permanently, unless they help their chosen user defeat the Devil King. So, unless you help Kazuma defeat the Devil King you will stay on this planet until time resets. When all life here has died out and the local sun has gone supernova and this world is nothing but an empty rock floating in space, you'll still have three trillion more years to wait!"
Aqua was staring at her in horror. "Y… You can't be serious."
"And stop making fun of my chest you damn lush. None of my worshippers ever wanted to burn me at the stake!"
Eris disappeared leaving a stunned Aqua alone in the alley.