Clown: “I-it’s not like I translated this chapter for you or anything… b-b-b-baka!!!”
Although they solidified the national border, many of the new fortresses belong to Orsongrande in name only—they are unoccupied.
The invasion so far, primarily due to the fact that preventing people from getting out also slowed down the speed at which news travel, has continued without much opposition from Vichy.
And now, via these fortresses, some people are leaving Orsongrande for Vichy.
Hifumi, who observed this happen, merely marveled at how few actually emigrated.
Yet their hesitation to leave their home cities and villages is predictable: the roads are underdeveloped and their only means of substance comes from the businesses they took years if not generations to develop.
The only who do travel are the seconds sons, the unemployed, and the wealthy.
「Frankly, I thought you might just decide to massacre everyone…」
Kasha said, while partaking with Hifumi the lunch the supply corps prepared
「Civilians are not the enemy. Only the enemy needs to be slaughtered. But fighting tens or even hundreds of soldiers is inefficient and boring. Instead, it’s best to force those Vichy bastards to become afraid and to strengthen their ranks with more people. Then, they might finally come at us for real」
「・・・If they do, wouldn’t we lose?」
Alyssa was there among them. Only Origa and Pajo have not returned from their respective tasks. In fact, Origa has been intentionally avoiding Kasha since yesterday.
「・・・Right, we might lose」
Kasha froze mid-bite at Hifumi’s nonchalant declaration.
「The soldiers here have only crammed knowledge of infiltration and assassination. Even if they had any worth as soldiers before, they would simply be overwhelmed numerically」
「But then, what should we do?」
「We’re fine as long as we don’t fight them head on. We need to dictate the environment and attack them after dividing them into smaller groups. Besides, we don’t really need to wait for our enemy to gather their forces, and even if they do, we just need to have them scatter a bit」
But should there be a person more capable than I among them we’d lose, Hifumi concluded while putting the last piece of meat in his mouth.
「But they teach soldiers never to consider defeat・・・」
Alyssa murmured, and Hifumi rebuked her,
「Don’t be a fool: how could you think of cutting someone down without considering being cut down?」
「Says a guy who could easily cut down hundreds」
「A hundred may not pose a problem, but I too am human. I too need to rest, and I cannot fight continuously for many hours. If I fail to dodge even a single slash out of fatigue, I will die. No matter how strong you become, this fact never changes」
That is why killing is just as fulfilling as living, Hifumi said.
These words were imprinted in Kasha’s mind: even these monster of a human considered death.
After lunch, Hifumi observed the border with Alyssa, and called out to three men attempting to leave.
「Yo, could you wait a minute?」
「O-oh my, Viscount-sama」
The first of the three burly men responded to Representative Hifumi.
「You are spies from Vichy, aren’t you?」
「N-no, we are simple traveling merchants・・・」
Wiping the sweat from his brow the man replied, but Hifumi grabbed his hand and pointed to his palm.
「Merchant’s don’t have hands like this. Drop the obvious lies」
The smile on the man’s face disappeared, and his looked down, serious.
「As expected of the Expeditionary Force General, I presume. I applaud you. I am indeed a spy deployed by Vichy’s Central Council」
While this man was already in Anarazel city when it was occupied by Orsongrande’s Expeditionary Force, he was away from the representative’s manor and thus avoided capture. So he pretended to be a merchants and sought to join others on his return to Central.
「Seems like I am fated to perish here. These two men are indeed in my employ, but I have hired them here—they know nothing about my purpose. I beseech you to have mercy」
「What are you doing talking to me like I’m some homicidal maniac? I didn’t stop you to kill you. You’re headed to Central, so I wanted you to deliver something for me」
「A delivery, you said? Should I… Should I hand it to the Council?」
Once the spy noticed the document Hifumi took out, he immediately realized it was addressed to Vichy’s government.
「Yeah, so after they get a grasp on what has happened here, I need the response to this letter… let’s say twenty days from now」
Since it takes seven days to reach Central from here, he gave them plenty of time.
「・・・Understood. I have matters to report to Central, so this shall be no problem」
「Vinu, your grace」
「Now then, Vinu, these documents are important. Don’t go and get killed by a monster or something」
「Understood. I shall deliver the letter without fail」
Vinu bowed, reverently accepted the letter, and set off towards Vichy.
「Hifumi-san, what’s in that letter?」
Alyssa, who up until quietly observed, asked out of curiosity.
「・・・Right… well, I guess it’s fine」
Hifumi said after concluding that nothing will change even if she were to know now.
「So you know there’s this man that Origa and Kasha are looking for—Beirevra? Apparently he’s one of Vichy Council’s spies. Rather than having to run around all of Vichy looking for him, it’s a demand to have him extradited」
Hifumi could only laugh thinking that this document had Imeraria’s signature on it. Now, Vichy could simply blame Beirevra as the cause of his war, or respond in silence and face condemnation as a country that harbors criminals. One way or another, they were being pressured.
「So their choice is either to sacrifice Beirevra to appease Orsongrande or attempt to push us out with their military might」
「So what will we do for now?」
The answer was not due for another twenty days, so they had lots of time. Hifumi decided to take that time to carefully tour his dominion.
「Reinforcements are bound to come from Orsongrande soon. I’ll leave the occupied territory to them and go see my land」
「Should I come along?」
「Do as you wish」
The following day reinforcements arrived to the frontier and, while strengthening control over the new territory, decided to convert the town of Rhone into a military base.
The Expeditionary Force, now relieved of their duty, were scheduled to patrol Hifumi’s domain.
That day Hifumi gathered his troops and announced their return to Fokalore.
「I have matter to report to the royal capital, so I shall return there」
Pajo stated, and Hifumi nodded in understanding.
Kasha, fidgeting about, timidly continued,
「Umm… if it’s not a problem, I too would like to return to the capital・・・」
Origa remained silent but looked at Kasha with an ice-cold glare.
「You mean to quit the military? Have you abandoned your revenge?」
Kasha cleared her throat and responded to Hifumi’s question.
「Thanks to Hifumi-san’s and Imeraria-sama’s efforts, I have regained my freedom and even killed the soldiers responsible… so how do I say this, I think I have exacted my revenge already. Frankly, I’m just tired, I want to go back to my carefree adventuring days」
「If that is what you wish for, then so be it. Follow with the squad until Fokalore, and feel free to do as you wish from there」
Hifumi said, and looked at Origa. He had thought that Origa wanted to the same, but she remained silent.
「Is that alright? Weren’t you together for like forever?」
Alyssa said but regretted it immediately, praying to take back what she had just said.
「It wasn’t even that long. I merely bought and used them; our goals merely overlapped. That is all」
As long as they themselves chose their path, it didn’t bother Hifumi that much, but then Origa stated,
「I will follow Hifumi-sama! No matter how much suffering lies ahead, this life was saved by Hifumi-sama. I will follow you until the end!」
「・・・Do as you wish」
「Yes, I will!」
Watching this, Pajo could not understand why Kasha recoiled at those words as she did, but she clearly saw that Origa’s loyalty to Hifumi only deepend.
(Perhaps she too is a danger)
She might become a second set of eyes for Hifumi, smelling out dangers that lie ahead. Perhaps she had to eliminate Origa first.
Being deep in thought, Pajo noticed a bit too late that Hifumi’s glare was focused on her.
「・・・What is it?」
「Thinking things through is alright, but watch your step. Some who think to hard tend to do the stupidest things」
「I-I see. I will keep that in mind」
Pajo’s pulse quickened at his warning, as she could not figure out if he had figured her thoughts out or not.
「I wonder if the country is just trying to kill me…」(Sabnak)
After reaching Fokalore after a few days of travel, they were met with but a ghost of Sabnak.
Managing the reinforcements for the Expedition Force and ferrying Pajo’s reports, managing Fokalore’s affairs and negotiating for troops, all of these matters – none of which befit a knight – fell on poor Sabnak’s shoulders.
「Anyways, I am glad that you have returned, Hifumi-san. I can finally return to the capital」
Sabnak exclaimed, laughing with tears streaming down his face, thinking of how he could finally hand over the office and affairs of late Viscount Haagenti to Hifumi. All of Haagenti’s officials and servants were either eliminated or escaped, so even living in the manor was a challenge.
「How are the civil slaves I bought?」
「Civil servants you mean… they have already arrived. They have spent every waking hour silently digesting the information you gave them. I have briefly looked at their work and must admit that it exceeds my own education.」
And nonchalantly dismissing the question of whether that much education was even necessary for them with a “those are just basics,” Hifumi responded,
「If the civil slaves are ready to take over the affairs, feel free to join Pajo and Kasha on their return to the capital. If there are any soldiers who wish to accompany you, please take them along」
The major points were summarized well: economic situation was stabilizing rapidly, faction representatives abstained from any major action, certain statesmen have been replaced, and a list of merchants entering and exiting the domain was compiled.
「Aren’t you fit for this kind of work more than that of a knight?」
「Please, don’t. I’m a knight. And after returning to the capital I intend to rest for a while. It’s unnatural for a person to spend so many nights awake」
Representatives have been changed in the past and normally these take control of their land immediately; but never before has there been one like Hifumi who immediately set off on an expedition.
「About that… I assume you know… but you have heard about the town destroyed within Vichy, right?」
「Yes, the news of that matter and the possibility that magic item was used is known here」
「Well, about that… you’ve been assigned to investigate that case」
「That’s what the captain of the reinforcements asked me to tell you; at least investigation of magic items fits a knight」
Hifumi said while smiling and sipping tea. Tea was prepared by a proper maid, so it made even Hifumi relax.
Feeling as if he’s been influenced by this world too much, Hifumi placed down his cup and sighed.
「C-can’t you leave it to Pajo-senpai?!」
His dreams of a rosy vacation drifting further and further away, Sabnak was in a state of panic; Hifumi, however, merely stared at the ceiling.
「Pajo, huh… You know how she is, she is probably busy working for the queen」
The ceiling was decorated with carved lumber, with the depictions of dragons and phoenixes visible. These beings too are present in this world.
「For Imeraria-sama’s sake, you say?」
Sabnak turned his head and was met with Hifumi’s laughter.
「Yeah, and a big job I bet it will be. Now then, how about I meet the slaves. They’ll get busy from now on as well」
「Huh? Ah, understood」
Hifumi started for the door, but then stopped.
「By the way, how many soldiers does Orsongrande have?」
「Soldiers? Those loyal to the crown number around 10,000; under the control of the nobles there may be up to 30,000 more」
「Oh, and there are currently three thousand soldiers stationed at Horant. Why do you ask?」
Sabnak answered as if trying to shoot down any requests for additional troops. But that is not why Hifumi asked.
「Not to increase our troops. If there are more people, it’s easier to trip over. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”」
「・・・How do you mean?」
Without turning to look at Sabnak, Hifumi left the room.