After she left the feudal lord’s office, Michena returned to the room allocated to low-ranking officials with an unsteady stride. The place was crowded with many low-ranking officials that were wearing uneasy expressions. Michena, who’s surprised by that, gets surrounded by them in a flash.
“Say, Michi, just what’s going on?”
“Just when I wondered where the top staff had gone, they were walked off by zoan…”
Michena tries to calm her colleagues, who are trying to extract any information from her with their faces darkened in worry.
“Umm, please settle down first. I will give you a proper explanation.”
After Michena took a deep breath to calm herself down first, she suddenly called out the names of several reliable veterans among the officials crowding around her.
“The people whose names I listed just now will be finance stewards from today. The others will be finance bureaucrats.”
The finance clerks looked at each other with surprised expressions, but shortly afterwards a dry laughter is raised by someone among them.
“Hahaha, Michi, that’s a good joke…”
“No, that’s no joke, it’s the truth.”
After that, Michena explained the chain of events on how this came to be. Once Michena finishes the broad run-down, the finance clerks start to murmur with joyful looks even while still being half in doubt.
Michena gave those merry finance clerks a warning.
“B-U-T! From now on it’s prohibited to take a portion of the taxes for yourself as has been happening until now. If you violate this rule, you will be punished severely!”
Several people raised dissatisfied voices in response. Even all of those who stayed silent look sullen. The people present can’t make a living unless they take a bit off the top as side benefits.
“Please be quiet. As a result of our rise in status, our wages will increase as well! And it’s not just that. It’s been decided that the salary of government officials will be raised as a whole!”
When Michena concretely tells them how much of a raise it is, they cheer in delight. However, among them were also some who showed disapproval towards parting with the extra income gained from taking a portion of the taxes. Michena simply tells them,
“Please consider it veeery carefully. We, who have been low-ranking officials until now, only pilfered small amounts from the taxes. Compared to that, the salary we are going to receive from now on will be several times that. We will be able to live decently off it even if without embezzlement and side jobs. Stealing a small sum of money by altering the account book with difficulty, or receiving a manifold salary by simply working honestly; if it’s all of you, you should know which of those two is the smarter choice, right?”
Agreeing statements of “That’s true as well” are audible here and there.
In front of her colleagues who are exhilarated with joy, Michena now finally felt that she was not only promoted to Chief of Financial Affairs, but also that she’s going to receive a salary, which is several times higher than the one she received until now.
I guess my family will be happy once they hear of this. Ah right, let’s celebrate today. I will splurge a bit and buy freshly baked bread, a big fish and maybe even a chicken. Also, it might be fine to drink something like wine instead of cheap ale.
Once she pondered over these things, her stomach rumbled.
Michena held her stomach while her cheeks flushed out of shame, but fortunately it hadn’t been heard by her celebrating colleagues. Stroking her chest in relief, Michena reveals a faint smile.
It’s true what they say. The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.
Such thought pops up in her mind.
But, by no means was it a bad feeling.
Dvalin, who manages the dwarven craftsmen, arrived at Michena’s new office as the new Chief of Financial Affairs, with loud footsteps.
“Howdy, missy. Sorry, but I’ve got a request.”
The loud voice of the insolent Dvalin talking about a request reverberates inside the office.
Having processed the documents on the desk so far, Michena sluggishly lifted her face due to Dvalin’s appeal.
“You again, Mr. Dvalin…?”
If someone, who knew her previously, saw her now, they would probably be startled.
Compared to several months ago, deep shades of fatigue clung to her face. Her freckled cheeks have become hollow and her eyes are fallen in with dark circles around them. Her voice is lacking any power, as if it had left together with her soul.
However, without paying any attention to her state, Dvalin handed her the paper in his hand.
“Aye! We want to create new tools and furnaces again. I want you to provide money and materials!”
Glancing at the paper as Dvalin says so, she spurts out a very unwomanly sound of “Buho!”
“W-W-W-Wh-What’s this!? What’s this amount of money and materials about!?”
“Mmh? Is it possibly too little?”
Dvalin replies indifferently, in contrast to Michena, who stood up while kicking her chair away in a flurry.
“It’s not too little, but too much! Besides, why is a cask of ale included in the materials!?”
“Yeah, for us dwarves ale serves as fuel and lubricant to function. There’s no way that we can lack this.”
Michena feels lightheaded due to Dvalin saying that so casually, and she staggers and slumps back down on the chair.
At that point the red-furred zoan Kraga Bigana Zurgu suddenly turned up.
“Yo! Missy, we will soon hold a banquet that will also serve as an occasion to recognize the warriors’ services. I’d like to get some booze and food again!”
Zurgu stands there with his arms folded cockily, as if saying, “Hand it over now.”
“A-A banquet, you say!? You just had a marriage celebration for a young warrior or such the other day, didn’t you!?”
“Was there something like that? Then, this time—”
After groaning for a little while while tilting his head to the side, Zurgu claps his hands once.
“—Right! They young warrior, who married the other day, had his first matrimonial quarrel, but he was utterly beaten up by his wife. It’s a banquet for the sake of recognizing that guy’s services.”
Obviously it’s a reason he came up with on the spot.
Michena places both her hands on the desk while looking down. Bit-by-bit her whole body begins to tremble.
Certainly, thanks to his new Lordship, my life became affluent. We’re not starving. And we were also able to move from that terrible shack with its roof leaks and drafts to a rented house with a sturdy build. Because of that, the complexion of my aged mother and my young siblings improved at a glance.
My family and I are very thankful for that. My mother is worshiping each morning and night towards the feudal lord’s residence without fail.
But, Michena wonders, isn’t this work too brutal, no matter how you look at it?
A mountain of documents that doesn’t diminish no matter how much she processes, petitions that are sent one after the other by her subordinates and the city’s influential people, and negotiations with merchants; due to things like these, she’s so busy it’d make one dizzy even at the best of times.
And yet, these idiots, each and every single time…
Gradually anger bubbles forth from within Michena’s chest. However, without being concerned about Michena’s state, Dvalin and Zurgu demand the handing over of the materials.
“Come on, I need the money and materials!” Dvalin says.
“Come on, I need the booze and meat!” Zurgu says.
At last the two start to get carried away, matching their voices as if chanting in a chorus.
Due to that Michena finally snapped.
“Geeze, give it a rest already, please!”
Michena grabbed some documents spread out on her desk and roared while violently beating the desk with those.
“Because of your thoughtless wasting of resources, our reserves are rapidly diminishing! I won’t give you a single bronze coin, cup of booze or piece of meat anymore!”
Dvalin and Zurgu together receive a shock due to Michena’s words.
“You! What cruel person you are! Are you telling us dwarves to drink water!? You cold-blooded fury!”
Once Dvalin says that, Zurgu agrees with him,
“Good grief, what a heartless person. There’s no doubt that there’s ice flowing through her body instead of blood!”
“Yeah, right, right! A cold-blooded woman, that she is!”
Michena, who was given a groundless stigma in front of her eyes, points a finger, which trembles due to her uncontrollable rage, towards the exit of her office and yells,
“Get out of here at once!!”
It was a loud, angry voice that seemed to echo throughout the feudal lord’s residence.
Michena’s angry yelling reached even the feudal lord’s office which was slightly apart from Michena’s office.
“Hmm. That Michena seems to have gotten quite used to everyone.”
Shyemul says as she listens carefully to Michena’s yelling while looking deeply moved.
“For that Michena, who was obedient like she was a rabbit surrounded by wolves, to have now at last reached the point of opposing those two idiots. She has grown considerably.”
Due to her speaking like a mother, who celebrates the growth of her hopeless child, even Souma gave his agreement while laughing quietly.
The other day he was begged in tears by Michena as she was troubled over being unable to decline everyone’s demands, but far from cautioning those people, Souma instead threatened her to solve it herself by implicitly hinting at a salary reduction with the words: “As such troubles are included in your salary, it’s inevitable.”
Of course it would have been simple for Souma to directly caution the others without doing something so troublesome. But then the same thing would continue to repeat itself without Michena growing up, no matter how much time passes. In order to entrust her with all financial affairs from now on, he wanted her to settle matters of this degree by herself.
And what Souma wanted above that is to wipe away a wrong notion.
At present, the residents of the city were thinking that all of the races besides humans were controlling the city as some dreadful rulers. During quarrels between the humans and the other races, it very often happened that the humans yielded on their own accord, even if they were in the right.
In such a situation Souma won’t be able to create a country where all races can live equally.
For the sake of wiping away that false notion, he tried to establish the human – and moreover woman – Michena as someone who equally confronts Dvalin and Zurgu.
Of course he trusted Dvalin and Zurgu that they wouldn’t raise their hands against a woman because of a mere argument. As for the worst case scenario, he had planned to have Shyemul force her way through. Still, Souma felt relieved that it didn’t develop into a bad situation.
At that point Dvalin and Zurgu come running with noisy footsteps.
“Yo, Sir Soma! I came here since I was told that I need your permission to receive booze and food!”
“Me too! Hurry up and give me your approval, since I want to shut that cold-blooded woman up!”
Souma is taken aback due to their threatening attitudes as they drew their bloodcurdling faces near him.
Come to think of it, the most powerful person in this city is me. If they can’t get Michena to approve their budget, it’s only natural for them to turn up at my place.
Noticing that, albeit so late in the game, cold sweat gathered on Souma’s face and dripped down.
When Michena was troubled, he thought that it would probably be solved easily if he cautioned them himself, but now that those sultry two are closing in on him, he finally realizes that it would be a very difficult matter to do so.
“U-Umm…Dvalin, it was the same before. Same for your banquet, Zurgu—”
The two rattled on as if to drown out the words of Souma who timidly tried to line up reason to reject them.
“Of course I believe that it will be approved, if it’s you, Sir Soma! You are different from that cruel, heartless and cold-blooded woman!”
“Aye, aye. —That is so. That cold-blooded miser!”
In front of the two, who are repeatedly calling Michena “cold-blooded,” Souma, who was greatly perplexed about what to do to make them obediently go back, replied with a dry laughter of “Hahaha.”
Michena being called “cold-blooded female secretary” is a story that will take a little while after this.
As stated at the beginning, Michena Elbagis is not someone with huge achievements.
The sole accomplishment that can be accounted to her was the adoption of numbers, said to be invented by Soma, in official documents for the first time.
However, even this is actually just her obeying the decree of the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki, who received it as a recommendation of the Great Sage Solon, referred to as Second Horn, with the words “We should use these new numbers.”
Michena has also evaluated herself like this:
“I have no function besides faithfully carrying out my professional duties.”
It’s a modest manner of speaking, unbelievable for an ambitious person who banished her superiors by leading them into a trap.
In regards to this, Soma Kisaki has replied with the considerate words:
“Diligently accomplishing one’s professional duties; I wonder how many humans are capable of that? It’s a talent that’s truly hard to obtain.”
Indeed. Just as Soma says, she has diligently fulfilled her duties. This seems to be simple, but I wonder just how many people can actually pull that off?
But even so, if you only examine the accomplishments, Great Sage Solon, who is said to have built the foundation of the country together with Soma, likely has far bigger results to show than her.
For that reason there are also many people who regard Solon as the true leader of the Three Horns.
However, the great history scholar Soklas has left the following words behind that evaluate her as highly as Soma:
“If Michena Elbagis hadn’t been there, the Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki would have allowed several hundred thousand people to starve and moreover a manifold more people would have likely been turned into refugees. I’m sure, if that had happened, Soma Kisaki would have lost his country right then, to say nothing of invading the Empire. If you consider that, it might be no exaggeration to say that Michena Elbagis was surely one of the perpetrators that brought about the calamity of the Divine Son of Destruction to the Empire.”
Like this, beginning with the Divine Son of Destruction, there are also people who evaluate her achievements highly, but it still doesn’t change the fact that they are plain.
For that reason, a small horn growing on the forehead was assigned to her in the painting of “The Divine Son of Destruction Soma Kisaki” drawn by the Master Painter Numari. Compared to the other two horns, that far too small horn has been drawn as if it’s shining radiantly for some reason.
It’s not clear whether Numari drew it like that with some kind of intention. But, people in the future discovered Michena Elbagis, whose accumulated achievements couldn’t be ignored no matter how inconspicuous they were, due to that horn.
This is the reason why she’s referred to as “The Most Radiant Small Horn.”
I will add a few more words.
The anecdote where Soma Kisaki was asked about the name of the retainer, who obtained the most achievements, at the beginning, has a little continuation.
The person, who asked that question first, beyond doubt believed that Soma would name Shyemul. Hence it’s handed down that he unintentionally asked, “It’s not Lady Shyemul?”
Soma laughed slightly at that and after glancing back at Shyemul, who stood behind him, he replied with the following:
“Didn’t you ask about my retainers? No one will refer to their other half as retainer.”
Back then Shyemul pretended to be calm, but it’s said that she was very happy about Soma’s words. Later on following complaint was supposedly raised by Garam:
“I’d like you to not flatter my younger sister too much.”
It’s easy to imagine how Shyemul, who kept a formal expression in front of other people, very fondly and pridefully spoke of her loved one in front of Garam, her blood-related elder brother.