Chapter 20 – Like Toy Soldiers

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Completely disregarding the silent Pajou and the Orsongrande Knights, and the equally silent Alyssa from Vichy, Hifumi called out to Origa and Kasha.
「 Well then, let’s get a move on. 」
Saying so, Hifumi turned towards the horses, only to be stopped by a panicking Alyssa.
「 W-wait a minute! You’re leaving just like that? 」
An over-the-shoulder drawl came back,
「 Aa? I really don’t care about discussions. I was attacked, I responded. That’s it. 」
「 Don’t mind him, he’s just like that…. You’re from Vichy, yes? I am a Knight from Orsongrande, Pajou. And you? 」
「 Ah, I am Alyssa. That is, I don’t particularly have a title…. 」 [TN: she uses the male informal ‘boku’ here] Noting the difference in status between them, Alyssa unintentionally shrank and spoke timidly.
Pajou laughed elegantly, extending her right hand.
「 I’m pleased you were able to survive the incident. 」
As they shook hands, Alyssa composed herself.
Somehow, she gives off the feeling of an adult woman… (Alyssa)
「 Well then, let us speak of what to do after this. We will be acting as immigration control for our country until order is restored. Since the criminal was related to our country, please let us collect his and our soldier’s bodies. 」
「 Aah, y-yes. 」
Alyssa inadvertently agreed to Pajou’s smooth and flowing speech.
Originally, the Vichy side should be documenting the bodies and damage, becoming important in their investigations. Moreover, the scene of the crime was on the Vichy side, thereby falling under Vichy’s jurisdiction, no matter the involved parties.
Alyssa was definitely not going to avoid a penalty for this.

While waiting for Hifumi, Origa overheard the conversation. She gazed at Alyssa with pity in her gaze, Alyssa seemed to not have noticed the predicament she was in.

The poor girl…. (Origa)
Seeing that Pajou had skilfully monopolized the investigation with some underhanded methods, she chuckled to herself.
Entering Vichy would not be a nice event. The other side’s Knights would be the source of plenty of problems.
In any case, Pajou was relieved that no more complex situations would crop up.
「 Anyway, Alyssa-san, isn’t there going to be assistance from Vichy? 」
「 That’s right! Ah, but…… it’s impossible, there’s no one on the Vichy side but me. 」
Seals and signatures of approval are necessary from both sides for merchants and travellers to cross boundaries. In case either of them are missing, it is considered as an illegal entry into the country.
Of course, there is the aspect of national defence too, evacuating the place is a problem.

The Vichy side had been completely annihilated, leaving no available means of communication. Hifumi returned on horseback to where Alyssa was contemplating further actions.
「 Pajou, take care of the departure formalities. 」
Hifumi passed her the documents; Pajou took them and affixed the necessary seals and signatures on it. Meanwhile, the corpse of the soldier had been dragged over.
「 Ne, ne~.. 」
Alyssa called out to the waiting Hifumi without hesitation.
「 What? 」
「 I have a small request… 」
Alyssa asked Hifumi to relay a message to the first guardroom they saw on the highway after entering Vichy.
「 Please convey the current situation and inform that I am requesting reinforcements. 」
Hifumi considered for a moment, then nodded.
「 However, you will have to tell me about the town in Vichy. 」
「 Great! Thank you! 」
Entirely believing Hifumi’s made-up reason of sightseeing a large town, Alyssa happily gave them a detailed explanation.
「 So the capital city can be reached in about 10 days via carriage? 」
Alyssa replied to Origa’s question with a smile.
「 That’s right. From here, you can go to the capital, the highway passes near the Horant border in a wide curve. 」
「 Hee, the road passes by Horant, the place from where those evil magic tools came from. 」
While Kasha was smirking, Hifumi voiced a question.
「 Hm? Orsongrande and Horant’s borders also touch, did you take a deliberate detour? 」
To his question, Pajou explained.
Originally, when the genius magician established Horant as independent, a considerable part of Orsongrande was invaded. As a result, there were a few skirmishes and now there is little interaction between the two.
「 Alyssa-san, I have a request. 」
「 Ah, I understand. 」
Alyssa received and cleared Hifumi’s travel pass and Pajou continued,
「 Therefore, if a magician from Horant ‘lawfully’ enters, there is a possibility of obtaining formal permission to leave Vishy as well. 」
With someone from Vichy as a guide, and with the formal approval of Viscount Hagenti, it is possible to enter Orsongrande freely.
Therefore, though unable to discern at what level, there might be someone with power in Vichy connected to Horant in no small way, Pajou surmised.
「 Now that you mention it, it is highly likely that someone is behind Beirevra. 」
Though complicated in various ways, Hifumi is troublesome, but not irresponsible so as to decline the request that requires leaving the country.
「 Well then, in any case he’s entering Vichy to take in various sights. 」

Hifumi, who had collected the permit from Alyssa announced their departure to Origa and Kasha.

They advanced along the highway, reaching the town called Aroseru by carriage in about 2 hours.
As per Alyssa’s explanation, a town enclosed by a wall came into view. Being close to the border, it seemed to be made in a similar fashion as Fukaroru in Orsongrande.
「 Somehow, it does not look too different from our country 」 (Kasha)
Hifumi had a similar impression to Kasha. Was it because they were close by? Culturally there seemed to be no difference. To be frank, the food in Orsongrande was all right, but he had concerns about the food in Vichy. Then again, being close to Fukaroru, it would probably not be a problem.
While showing the permit at the entrance of the town, the soldiers there directed him to their in-charge in the guardroom.
「 Surprisingly undefended. Or, how should I put it, the gatekeeper had a strangely mechanical vibe. 」
「 Mechanical? 」
「 No emotional ups or downs are visible. Just like repeating a fixed motion. 」
「 Ah, but aren’t serious soldiers supposed to be like that? 」
「 …. Not quite… 」
Though somewhat cautious, it couldn’t be helped so Hifumi entered the guardroom. He displayed the coin denoting his peerage to the person in-charge.
A man in simple armour of medium height and build came out of the interior, and looking straight at Hifumi asked what business he had.
His eyes were unfocused.
「 A soldier called Alyssa asked me to pass on a message. 」
Hifumi explained that all the soldiers at the border post have been killed, apart from Alyssa. When he explained that immediate assistance was required, the man thanked him for his cooperation in a smooth voice without looking the slightest bit thankful.
「 Are you staying here today? Have you decided on a hotel? 」
「 We are staying here, yes, but the hotel has not been decided. 」
「 Then if you head towards the interior of the town, there is a hotel with nice and clean rooms. There isn’t another suitable for a noble to live in. 」
「 Is that so? We’ll do that then. 」
Though slightly wary of the man’s appearance, Hifumi decided to go along with it.
「 Then, we must be going to the border post, please excuse me. 」
With a perfunctory bow to Hifumi, the man left along with a subordinate.

「 Somehow the reaction of the in-charge and the soldiers at the gate seemed a little strange. 」
Origa peevishly stated that she thought they were quite impolite to her master, a noble.
「 I’ve seen someone in a similar state before….. where was it? 」 (Hifumi)
「 After all, like in Fukaroru, are the people here planning a dirty trick too? 」(Origa)

While they were taking, they reached the hotel. Since Hifumi had learnt the written characters, he could recognise the name.
「 Here? 」
The horses were tethered outside,they pushed open the wooden door and went in. There was a small counter in what appeared to be a spacious dining hall.
「 Welcome! 10 silver coins for one room for a night. There are 17 double rooms. There is no room to put 3 or more people in one. 3 silver coins per horse. They will be moved to the stable in the back. 」
There was an old man with an unsociable expression on his face sitting at the counter.
「 One single room, my companions will take a double room. 」
After depositing a pile of silver coins on the counter, the old man took out 2 keys from under the counter.
「 This is for the single room, this one is for the double room. The second floor is entirely guest rooms. Dinner will be prepared before nightfall, and served in this hall. 」
The old man fell silent after telling them the necessary information and writing down the key numbers.
Taking the key, the trio went up to the 2nd floor.
「 Lie down a bit before dinner. We may have to move at night. 」
「 Is something going to happen? 」
「 After the group confirms the situation at the border, some will return to report. By that time it will most likely be night. If we have to move, it will be then. 」
After a light lunch, it was decided that they would rest and after dinner, observe the street from their rooms.
「 Our opponents will not be simpletons without strategies like Alyssa. 」
Hifumi entered his room immediately after saying that.

Kasha shook her head resignedly while Origa laughed.
「 But I think it’s a good thing that we can even randomly look a little for Beirevra. 」
Origa entered the room while Kasha followed, lost in thought.

「 ……. Those fellows are easy to understand. 」
On the second floor of the hotel, Hifumi murmured, lying in wait. The room was pitch-dark.
Several armoured men passed by on the street after darkness fell and pedestrian traffic declined.
Hifumi, who had completely acclimated his sight to the darkness saw it clearly. With hands bound behind the back, a diminutive shadow was visible walking unsteadily between two men. When they passed by the front of the hotel, it was clear the person was Alyssa.
Badly beaten up, left cheek swelled and dried streams of blood coming from the mouth.
It seems they have been walking for a long time, and occasionally her foot slowed, only to receive a kick from behind every time to forcibly advance.
Watching the sorry situation, Origa and Kasha both murmured “How cruel”.
「 Taking her to a spot different from this afternoon’s guardroom. Well now, what to do, I wonder… 」
「 Why was Alyssa arrested? A soldier from their own country…. 」
Though her face was not visible, the speech pattern and voice identified the speaker as Origa.
「 She was the only one who survived the scene of the crime, could that be it? 」(Hifumi)
「 But why not make the most of it? Or could it be a chance to bump off the eyewitness who knows what happened? 」
「 It would be to confirm what the witness knows and to keep secrets that may get someone else into trouble. Torture, drugs…. Drugs? 」(Hifumi)
Hifumi remembered the state of the soldier when they came into the town.
「 That’s it, drugs! If I remember correctly, there were drugs to stabilise the mind and if addicted, it leads to a state of losing emotions. Similar to the fellow who had that magic tool attached to him… 」
Guessing and putting his thoughts in order, Hifumi suddenly raised his head.
「 Is something the matter? 」
「 Do you need to wear armour? It seems that they are also attempting to capture us. Around 10 people are coming towards the hotel. 」
「 Fight here? I’ll pull out the lighting magic tool…. 」
「 No, no need. Before that, I’ll need to find Alyssa, she does not seem to be too far. 」
「 Eeh!? 」
「 Kasha, why are you so surprised? 」
「 No, saving a girl while enemies are coming, it does not sound like master…. 」
Seeing Kasha honestly surprised, Hifumi thought it quite vexing that his reputation was that bad.
「 I said a while ago that I was not a homicidal maniac. What Alyssa knows and may hear in the future may be valuable information. Besides, 10 people isn’t bad for a warm-up, and you two have not been instructed on how to fight in the dark. In any case, we’ll meet guys like these again. At that time, kill them well. 」
Kasha was relieved when Hifumi mentioned killing.
Apparently Origa too, from her relieved expression and a quietly muttered 「 As expected from master. 」
They aren’t making fun of me are they?  (Hifumi)
Mulling over those doubts, Hifumi quickly pulled out his kusarigama, stuck it in the roof and quietly climbed up.
While Kasha and Origa were staring at the swinging chain, they heard Hifumi’s voice from above.
「 Grab the chain and climb up. One at a time. 」
Though scared, they somehow managed to get onto the roof. The door of the room opened. It seemed that the landlord had a key.
「 ….. Escaped huh. 」
It was the voice of the person in-charge at the town gate. After noises that indicated searching for a while, they left.
In the dark of the night, the soldiers left in the same direction Alyssa was taken.

Hifumi stood on the roof smiling, pleased at having a new prey.


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