The light is making a sound of gradually burning down. While Lauri relished that sound for no particular reason, he rubbed his hands, which got tired from all the paperwork. The chair’s back fit his spine well and allowed him to rest comfortably.
Casually he picked up the newspapers, which have been put into the scroll basket at his side. Untying the string, he stretches the top and bottom edges of the rolled-up parchment. A large headline is about the subjugation of the mounted bandits by the Hakkinen guard corps. As there were reinforcements from the territorial army as well, the writing brush has danced a lot more grandly than usual. It means that the censorship has become lax.
「『The bravery and ingenuity of Baron Hakkinen』, huh…? Hmm, I see… wow, this time it even mentions First Lieutenant Anel’s name, too. Both of them are displayed quite well… Jarkko and Oiva are… well, yea, those in the know, know them very well.」 (Lauri)
Lauri leaks a giggling laughter. The way of featuring Daniel Hakkinen was wildly enthusiastic in the newspaper space aimed at the cities and provinces. From the start he was a person having popularity due to his family name and his appearance. He lived in his mansion for a long time similar to a reclusive, but he has been playing an active role in the wide society alongside the foundation of the guard corps. It was only to be expected for his public support to grow.
And that has become a tailwind for him… Lauri closed his eyes partly and stroke his beard. He recalls the night immediately following the subjugation of the mounted bandits, where they stayed up all night in that small council room. Before anyone became aware of it, the persuasion of Marko changed into a strange oath. Marko said something to Daniel, who took the oath right next after Lauri.
“Make a comeback in the high society of the royal capital. Please befriend the “warmongers.” It’s also necessary to gain the trust of the military. Please remember the names I tell you from now on. Undoubtedly they will be helpful to you.” (Marko)
The names listed were those of several generals mainly stationed at the front. Once I asked, I was told they sent letters at the time of visiting the territorial capital, which became the opportunity to establish the guard corps. I don’t know how these people knew and why they continued the relationship after that, but it was a quite reassuring story. Lauri pondered about the investigation of the black-market salt in the Earldom Salmant and the Earldom Peterius. Was this the reason for gathering the information in detail?
The leaders were surprised about the reference concerning the warmongers, but for only one of them it was something that entered the ears easily. It was only Lauri. At any rate, wars will come around once again… with that being the major premise in regards to everything concerning Marko, Lauri had also recited front ballads alongside him.
After the “Festival of the Sacred Flame” the Asuria Kingdom and the Eberia Empire are only glaring at each other across the Plain of Wandering Calamity without any battles occurring. It’s because they are tied by a cease-fire agreement. But, if you heed the quantities of military goods being carried to the front-line, it’s plain as day that the military authorities don’t intend to maintain the status quo.
The warmongering nobles are deemed to be the driving force of those developments. If you talk about the central figures of authority in Asuria Kingdom, it’s the king, the 4 Marquis’ and the six Earls, but depending on the creation of factions, other nobles are possessing large, influential voices as well. It’s not like Lauri knows all the details, but he was told that the biggest warmongers is the faction centering around First Princess Eleonora, known for her blighted love with the brave.
“The outbreak of war, eh…? There’s a tendency for that.” (Lauri)
Lauri had a feeling that the characters he stared at, moved as if being living things. The illuminating fire is flickering. The oil is likely inferior as there’s no wind. Looking at its state, it was merely on the brink of being out of fuel. He adds oil from the can before the flame vanishes. Just as the fire is about to stabilize, it began to shine brighter than before in the spacious room.
Lauri thought about Marko and the village of the mounted bandits.
How many days have passed since he departed north by himself with 100 people in tow? As justification and disguise for releasing the prisoners he used 「Disposal of those who won’t endure the transfer to the territorial capital due to their injuries」 and realized it with the method of 「carrying the corpses on a cart made out of wooden boards due to sanitary reasons」. It will work fine if only Marko alone leaves the city.
The prisoners, who chose the hundred themselves, had an expression that it was already a praiseworthy act that it actually was 100 people. Even now, once Lauri remembers the way they accepted it, it caused something to stir within his chest.
100 people from more than 200… in other words, there was a single scapegoat for each of them. That doesn’t mean that there was a falling out. Those are the representatives that were chosen after they talked it over. Some entrusted something to those leaving. Their fate of being together diverged for each of them. The 100 people could already be seen as something more than a group of 100 people.
Lauri doesn’t consider Marko to be cruel because of that. From the start something like releasing all prisoners was impossible. Their number is the military achievement of the guard corps and the territorial army understands that aspect. The privilege to judge them lies with the feudal lord, Mathias Helrevi. That’s because the subjugation of the mounted bandits is a part of the internal politics.
Among the 100 others, who were left behind and transported away, ten people will be publicly executed, I hear. It’s a warning. It’s a ceremony for the sake of making the authority of the feudal lord and the stability of the territorial rule widely known. The remaining prisoners will likely lead a rigorous life as crime slaves.
This is politics. It’s the reality of people controlling people and people managing people.
However, Lauri also felt curious. Although one can say that Marko rather rescued 100 people, it doesn’t appear that the 100 people felt a debt of gratitude for their lives. I recall that fearsome speech. It was a terrific speech as if a certain someone outside the common norm peeped into them and smashed their daily life.
What was reflected in Lauri’s pupils was that all of those 100 people are resembling Bertrand.
Bertrand’s way of life is to revere Marko as god and he is displaying a loyalty to a degree that gives Lauri an eerie feeling. He is far too blindly devoted. Probably he has ended up releasing himself from all kind of reason… Lauri analyses it in this way and believes that to be scary.
(That person, if Marko-kun told him to wear female clothings, he will make it a rule to cross-dress with a smile.) (Lauri)
The hundred people are somewhat close in their imagination of Marko. They were crazy about trying to obey him. Even if it’s not at Bertrand’s level, they also have averted their eyes from reason quite a bit and Lauri believes that they stared at no one but Marko. The one, who had especially strong eyes showing no doubt, is the boss of the mounted bandits called Kustaa. He, who was there as single person among the 100 people, was more enthusiastic than any of the others. Even though he fell from his horse after being shot in both shoulders with arrows.
They, the mounted bandits’ will likely entrust their hands and feet to Marko.
There’s nothing else other than wielding those hands and feet in the coming wars.
Lauri, who drew such conclusion within his heart, blinked his eyes in order to continue to stare at the appearance of the burning light. Shaking his head as well, he corrected his position on the chair. There was an occasion he caught sight of Marko sitting motionlessly staring at the flame of the fireplace, but Lauri thought it takes quite the talent to look at fire.
(A dragon flies through the air and also fans fire with its breath. It ain’t only a sky scenery that someone, who caught a scale, sees.) (Lauri)
Lauri thought about these more than 4 years. Currently he is the leader of the office work related business of the Hakkinen guard corps. He possesses an influence that can’t be compared to the one during his time as peddler. There’s no place within the territory his hands don’t reach. There’s also no distribution of goods he isn’t involved with. And that’s only natural since he is a merchant that controls the roads and possesses military power.
And, he is certainly increasing that influence, but that is Lauri’s task as ordered by Marko.
The plan to reduce the military force of the guard corps hasn’t changed, but there are their own bases in various places and the still remaining stables attached to those. The built-up trust is increasing and certainly not decreasing. There are some people possessing equal influence as merchants, in the meaning that they can gain control of the market, but Lauri has a market that is only for himself. He is able to overpower them. It’s the market of the small to medium villages contained in remote regions.
Currently the circulation of the white transparent gloss has reached the furthest corners of the territory. Moreover, it’s at the stage of selling it by weight and not by jars. It is spreading as necessary article for livelihood. This is also the outcome of making the bold move to mass produce it and to divide it separately by grade, but, at the same time it’s also the result of Lauri employing a great number of peddlers and having them form small markets.
If you compare it to the human body, the markets connecting city with city are like thick blood veins. If you transport a lot of goods, it will likewise yield a lot of profit. On the other hand, Lauri stretching the investments of his own funds is like the bunch of micro blood veins extending to all ends of the body. By themselves they won’t yield much more than an insignificant amount of profit, but that also only applies if you are unable to make use of the entirety of them. As consequence of having the liberty to freely use the personnel of the guard corps, the villages impression of the Hakkinen guard corps might currently incline more towards them being merchants rather than mercenaries. In fact, there is even office staff originating from that Kikomaru among Lauri’s subordinates.
If you add one thing to the other, the teaching of how to cook and cultivate qwamp to the villages has been enlarging Lauri’s clout. He obtained permission from Marko for that. For Lauri there was also the suggestion to neglect the villages, which cry about continuous cold-weather damage, but as they immediately arranged for documents and seeds, he understands that it was Marko’s plan to change that as well.
Furthermore, Lauri was granted permission to disclose the method of producing the white transparent gloss. That doesn’t mean that he strongly insisted on that. It means that he doesn’t mind leaking a certain degree of the secret for the sake of ensuring the amount of supplies. It’s because a stable supply at low prices is important. Even so, this likely bolstered Lauri’s influence once again.
(Production and consumption. What it all comes down to are farm villages and the army, right? I’m not able to fan fire with my breath, but… even so.) (Lauri)
Stiffening his body with a jerk, Lauri once more began on the documents of the battle. It’s troublesome that there is actually plenty of work that no one but me is able to do. It has no relation to fierce battles or large decisions, but if these several pages of parchment were lost, it would cause a small wave that would grow bigger and bigger… before long it would invite a huge failure.
At the time he remembered the thirst of his throat, there was a moderately knocking sound at the door.
“Don’t work until it’s too late.” (Daniel)
It’s Daniel, who came entering. They share the relation of carrying the heavy responsibility of the guard corps’ headquarters located in this territory’s capital. In his hand he held a bottle of wine and 2 glasses. It’s a clear way to show his intention to visit.
“I waited until you finish, but I have a hunch that in Lauri’s case it will never end. I got my hands on fine alcohol. Won’t you join me for a bit using this as a break?” (Daniel)
Daniel, who said this with a smile, can’t hide the colour of fatigue in his eyes. With it being recently a transition phase of the guard corps, both of them weren’t able to get sufficient rest as exhausting work followed one after the other. Looking at the face of his company, it’s an analogy to his own fatigue each day.
Therefore this invitation isn’t only a recognition of my service either, Lauri immediately realized that. If the other party doesn’t take a break, I won’t take a break either. Lauri smiles wryly. He believed this manner to be clumsy for two grown men.
“Wow, thanks for the invitation. My throat was just at the point of being thirsty.” (Lauri)
“That’s great. You don’t mind if the place is here, right?” (Daniel)
“It’s quite messy though. Ah, we have to choose some snack to go with the drinks.” (Lauri)
“Oh, if it’s about that, I have this.” (Daniel)
Daniel took out a small jar from within his pocket. Lauri has a feeling that he had seen that in a corner of a desk in the dining hall.
“It’s salt. I thought it might be appropriate for us.” (Daniel)
“Indeed. Our master might have dug that up.” (Lauri)
Laughter repeatedly resounded. Lauri and Daniel sat at a small table different from the desk for official duties. They exchange wine glasses and associate by implicitly praising each other for their strenuous efforts regarding what’s on each other’s desk. It was a high-grade wine that penetrated throughout one’s body.
“Umm… isn’t that in fact an outrageously expensive wine?” (Lauri)
“I think so. It’s a gift from the Marquis Yurihalshira (T/N: >> Yuriharushira <<) family after all.” (Daniel)
Lauri barely resists spurting out the contents after hearing him mentioning the details without hesitation.
“Yu-Yurihalshira, you say… aren’t they leading characters of the high-ranking nobles even among the Marquis households?” (Lauri)
“Yea, it seems to be a congratulation for playing an active role in the subjugation of the mounted bandits. And when their son heard the talk about that bravery, he announced that this had to be given to us. If I remember correctly, wasn’t their second son at the same age as Marko?” (Daniel)
Talking about some gossip, Daniel took a pinch of salt and placed it on the back of his hand. Licking that, he drank from his glass in a curt manner after tasting it within his mouth plentifully. He is a lady-killer, who gathers the gazes of many flowers on any elegant ball, but he has such a rustic way of drinking his alcohol, too. Moreover, since the wine itself is a super-high-grade item, Lauri can do nothing but laugh.
“Will you go?” (Lauri)
“I’m considering to do so. Although Marquis Yurihalshira himself is a person belonging to domestic affairs, his family is affiliated with the faction of the first princess. I believe this is a rare opportunity, but… do you approve of it, Lauri?” (Daniel)
It was a sincere question. Comprehending all aspect it encompassed, Lauri replied,
“I will support you. You should go by all means. The chance to form a friendship with Marquis Yurihalshira, there’s is no doubt that it will be largely helpful for your future as Baron.” (Lauri)
Lauri displays a reassuring nod. It is an answer taking into account that this will bring about a decisive change for the Hakkinen guard corps.
“… Can I entrust things to you?” (Daniel)
“Of course. It would be different if it was only me, but there’s also Oiva and the sergeant. I will be alright.” (Lauri)
“Please leave it to me”, Lauri lightly hit his chest. Once Daniel leaves towards the royal capital, he won’t return to the guard corps anymore… if he ends up returning, it will spell the failure of the mission he had received from Marko.
There is anxiety, but I knew that.
Lauri gulped down the high-grade sake with a vigour that was out of character for him. What passed by his tongue was drank up by his throat. I shouldn’t remain behind if there’s a new opportunity. The battle has already started. I cannot afford to be defeated by anxiety.
For those gathering under Marko it won’t do if each of them doesn’t head towards success in these who-knows-how-many years until Marko, who left, returns. It’s no good to have our hands pulled by that master, who’s clad in mystery. If we don’t exert our feet and our everything, there will likely come a moment where we will be left behind.
Those, who want to be together with a dragon, have a duty to demonstrate their full capacity.
(Although I have already seen the expected scenery, it wasn’t something to be seen only by me… however, the world still doesn’t know about Marko. That will change soon. This scenery is still at the height where you can meet other humans, but the scenery of a dragon is far beyond that.) (Lauri)
Lauri licked the salt. Naturally it is salty. He also drinks the wine. This is also extremely delicious. In front of his eyes is a companion, who has taken the same master, and there is official work close-by to a degree that it won’t be finished even if done in high spirits. For some reason power surged forth in his body.
“No, well, it’s also a problem for the wine to be this great!” (Lauri)
“That’s true. Let’s do this again, friend.” (Daniel)
Lauri moistened his throat blindfolding himself a bit from the future where his paperwork is going to be twice the amount.