Returning to the capital and also after completing Imeria’s proposal, there was a huge pile of work waiting for Pajou without giving her the chance to take a day off.
Because it was necessary to reconcile the Third Knight Unit with the other Knight Units, many reports had to be submitted to the management department of the royal castle.
The Third Knight Unit’s office was next to the royal castle.
It was the place where Hifumi had come previously to enjoy teatime with Pajou and where the dead Gothras had picked a fight with Hifumi.
Currently, besides Sabnak and Midas, Pajou had assembled the unit members who more or less knew about Hifumi.
“I think that it is a dangerous gamble. At least Vichy hasn’t managed to gather 10.000 to 20.000 soldiers. If they assemble such an amount, it will be unknown whether that man would be able to stop them.” (Midas)
Midas listened to the Imeria’s adopted plan following Pajou’s suggestion. After folding his arms and brooding over it for a short while, he clearly stated that it would be dangerous.
“Although I understand your anxiety, Midas-senpai, I believe it is a good plan. Even if the military of Fokalore did such a thing like recruiting from the citizens, they won’t surpass 200 either way. No matter how powerful the individual may be, it is pointless with the difference in numbers. Besides, because it isn’t wrong to say that the war was established by Vichy to begin with, it can be said that the part of not particularly antagonizing Hifumi-san is good.” (Sabnak)
Sabnak rebutted Midas’ opinion.
Going by what was talked about Hifumi, even though the area Hifumi had invaded became unofficially known as “New Territory”, it was decided to call it like that until the current war was settled. As consequence of fulfilling the inhabitants dream of a full day of holiday, they had now become completely full of spirit.
With the pros and cons of the two’s opinions only more opinions rose up, not to mention that all of them weren’t able to agree on one common point either. Since the plan had been accepted by Imeria in the end, in addition to us having to abide to our duty, it could be said that due to our work we have to watch over the state of affairs.
“Rather, I guess no matter the various things said here in relation to the situation, since the plan has already started it’s now too late anyway.” (Sabnak)
“That’s not quite so. Besides, we have gathered here to discuss about the work from here on.” (Pajou)
“From here on?” (Midas)
Seeing that they understood the general state of affairs, Pajou began to talk about the purpose of this gathering.
“Although this a not yet fixed prediction, I think that the stage of the peace talks between Imeria-sama and the Vichy representative will likely become Fokalore or Arosel.” (Pajou)
The knight unit’s members mostly understood Pajou’s prediction.
By no means would either side travel as far as to be close to the other side’s capital. Apart from talking about what they will do about the one in the superior situation, it was custom for the peace talks to be held at a place on the winners’ side close to the border.
In the current situation, the only difference would be whether it was the new border or the old border. Everyone could agree that it could become either one depending on the postwar circumstances.
“This time the Knight Unit planned to accompany as guards for the peace talks isn’t the First Knight Unit, but us, the Third Knight Unit.” (Pajou)
“Us? Not the First or Second?”
“Yes. The First Knight Unit feels like challenging Hifumi. We don’t want to unnecessarily provoke him. Furthermore they can’t leave from guarding the royal castle which harbors His Highness the prince… something like that will likely put forth as excuse. The Second Knight Unit has the duty of defending the capital. Since there are also some people among the populace using the cover of guarding such conference to incite something, I think the realm would be weakened if they left.” (Pajou)
All members had the atmosphere of having understood it and were in an uproar over the excitement of preparing such a big stage.
Even though they were all proud of protecting the royal capital and castle from the shadows, there were only few chances to openly partake in such a big job. Thus it couldn’t be helped that they felt enthusiastic about the chance to display their competency either.
But, due to the Pajou’s words following afterwards, everyone’s excitement instantly subsided.
“Because royalty will join the conference held by the border, it has been decided that a war potential of several thousands will be taken along, as precaution so to say. And, depending on the circumstances… Hifumi-san will be subjugated.” (Pajou)
“Na… what kind of circumstances?”
“Of course you are not to tell a word about this to anyone except those gathered in this place. Those are the plans of Imeria-sama. If he is in a situation of having fallen or a critical condition due to being injured after having successfully attacked Vichy, we are to pretend leading military forces from our side as reinforcements and attack him from the rear.” (Pajou)
In the room that ended up sinking into silence, Pajou tasted some black tea to moisten her mouth.
“Only those members present here will march to that area. After everything is finished, it will be announced that he committed suicide due to being driven into a corner.” (Pajou)
“D-Don’t say such absurd things. There is no way that an amount of several people will be able to kill him.” (Midas)
Only Midas had seen his appearance as he simply turned the tables on 10 assassins. Even in his imagination he couldn’t see himself standing up to that in front of his eyes.
“Of course, if he isn’t in a condition to that degree, since the conference is held for the sake of peace according to the ostensible reason, it will come to a close with the recognition of right to own the territory close to the national border for Hifumi-san. But if the chance presents itself to somehow deal with him as intended by Imeria-sama’s plan, I will also support it.” (Pajou)
Although having also been helped during crisis, having participated in joint operations for several days and being nobles of the same country, Imeria and Pajou, rather than seeing him as companion, they regarded Hifumi as dangerous.
“Such a…” (Sabnak)
“… If that’s Imeria-sama’s wish, then I will obey to it. As for myself, I can only pray that the result will be him settling down in the Viscount territory.” (Midas)
Sabnak became speechless due to his considerable feeling of fascination towards Hifumi. Whereas Midas chose to indifferently accept matters.
“But, how will you know in what kind of situation he is? We will end up being sensed before we can approach a visible distance, don’t you agree?” (Midas)
“As for that, there is a person I thought of asking for cooperation. If it’s her, I don’t expect any problems for her being close to Hifumi-san.” (Pajou)
“That is…” (Sabnak)
As if he suddenly understood who that person was, Sabnak looked at Pajou with eyes of disbelief.
“Because I am quite aware of something like this being called an act going against humanity, don’t look at me with such eyes. But, there was no other plan I could think of either.” (Pajou)
No one was able to agree or disagree with Pajou in this situation. The meeting of the Third Knight Unit ended.
After Hifumi and the troops arrived at the new border close to Rhone, ten days had passed.
During that time large parts of the city Rhone had been restructured leaving only the lodging for the soldiers and the fortress at the newly established border.
With the inhabitants annihilated and since the buildings were almost completely undamaged, there were heaps of materials to construct something. As several dwarves were brought along and with the engineering soldiers, there were plenty of hands available.
There was no way that he wouldn’t make use of that. Disregarding the border guards dispatched by the capital with a look of suspicion, Hifumi instructed to make changes all over.
No matter how many houses they dismantled, the dwarves and soldiers continued to produce one thing after the other every day even though they didn’t quite understand the unclear explanations.
This daily life came to an end on the eleventh day.
Worn-out and sullied Debold came to take refuge in Rhone making sure to cling to his horse.
As he was sheltered by the border guard, immediately a report came in to the person with the highest rank in town, Hifumi.
“Ou, you made it back, huh?” (Hifumi)
Was my prediction off at the time I saw him off? While laughing he clapped the shoulders of the soldier who came to report.
“If I remember correctly, wasn’t Debold dispatched to prepare the peace talks?”
“Peace? As the central committee of Vichy has no attachment to their fragmented country either, it may be possible to advance the peace talks.” (Hifumi)
At the time he held up the the handwritten letter Debold possessed against the sun, Hifumi managed to steal a peek at a part of the contents. He understood that the contents in this situation could be still judged as lukewarm even though one might call them a provocation towards Vichy.
“If you thought of that letter being received as means to get along with, I guess that person would have their aspirations being destroyed now.” (Hifumi)
Accompanied by Origa, who wore a face full of questions, Hifumi conveyed to Alyssa to start deploying the soldiers for a quasi-war.
The soldier who came to report departed the room at a quick pace.
In a building, which was formerly a private house being confiscated to be utilized as office, Debold received medical treatment.
Although one might say that, other than him being fatigued there was no injury standing out. Given that he raised hell over the degree of a trifling scratch, a fake medical treatment was done to the extent of simply coiling bandages.
Debold, whose arms were coiled in bandages, rested on top of a bed. He flared up as soon as he saw the face of Hifumi entering the room.
“I-It’s your fault! Because of you I had to suffer like that!” (Debold)
Returning Debold to the bed after having grabbed him and kicking him in the belly, Hifumi said in a calm voice.
“Concisely report from the start to the end. Since we have to deal with the situation on this side as well. What happened in Vichy? What about the guards that accompanied you?” (Hifumi)
Relucantly Debold began to talk. Apparently the guards had been completely annihilated.
Debold boldly entered the city Epinaru, where the central committee of Vichy assembled, as messenger. The very same day he obtained the permission to meet with the committee. The next day he was able to talk with each and every member of the committee.
He passed the handwritten letter to a member of the committee. During the time while the committee members read it, he talked about what a deeply benevolent person Princess Imeria of Orsongrande was making it inevitable for him to obey as loyal retainer bearing such adoration for her. Rudely throwing back the handwritten letter, they were attacked by the soldiers in the assembly hall, he said.
“The committee members of Vichy blamed you, bastard, for coming to this town and slaughtering everyone. No matter whether it was you, son of a bitch, who attacked this town or not, the war will continue as long as Orsongrande doesn’t execute you! You trampled on the kindness of Her Highness… ga?!” (Debold)
Hifumi grabbed the head of Debold, who continued running his mouth in wild agitation, and pressed it against the wall.
“It is particularly convenient for them to lay the blame on me for destroying this town. I guess all of the guards have been killed. What happened to the chamberlains?” (Hifumi)
“I-I don’t know… They remained waiting at the inn because I went to meet the committee… Leaving that aside, r-release me!” (Debold)
As he tried to act violently by struggling, Hifumi’s thumb and little finger dug into the temple of the forehead making a grinding sound. Debold didn’t have any strength left due to the pain.
During that time, Hifumi pulled out the document protruding from Debold’s breast pocket.
It was the handwritten letter which was crumpled before being thrown back.
Quickly opening it with one hand and checking it, it contained Imeria’s signature without a doubt. Looking through the content it matched with what he had seen when he held it against the sun.
“This may have usable value from now on. I will keep it.” (Hifumi)
“Bastard, this was entrusted to me by Her Highness… ah… aaahhh!” (Debold)
“Your role has come to an end. Since I will play with the guys you lured in from Vichy from now on, an actor who has finished his turn has to promptly leave the stage.” (Hifumi)
While saying this, Hifumi steadily raised the strength he put into his hand. His fingers already broke the temple and sank in.
“Never! … St-Stop it, don’t, please sto… gu gi” (Debold)
Releasing a wet sound of *gushu* Debold sank into eternal silence.
“Origa. The enemy will be here soon. Go to Alyssa’s place and tell her to begin the military operations and to take their stations.” (Hifumi)
Origa, who watched Debold’s manner of death calmly, left the room quickly.
At the time Hifumi turned his back on the room and left, the soldiers of the border security had already been instructed by Hifumi’s soldiers to take refuge in the fortress.
“Well then, Imeria. It appears that during the time I was in Vichy, Lady Luck has visited that fool. Did my calculations go amiss? Or did you foresee until here? At least, the handwritten letter being here must have been unexpected, I guess.” (Hifumi)
While storing the handwritten letter in his breast pocket, Hifumi laughed.
The Vichy soldiers chasing after Debold reached a number of 300.
Knowing the numerical figures of Hifumi’s private army being around 100 soldiers, as they had received the intelligence from a spy, the objective was to move the maximum amount of military forces available to immediately move out.
The troops organised and assembled from the committee member’s private armies, although they were lacking leadership, the amount of them was quite excessive for chasing a single enemy.
“Soon we will be at the town Rhone.”
To the adjutant’s words, the man leading the troops as commanding officer silently nodded.
While advancing on horse, this man planned to use this opportunity to take back Rhone.
Even though his order was to chase and arrest the fleeing messenger from Orsongrande, if it happens that his prey takes refuge in Rhone, it was also possible to give the excuse that there was no other way but to retake it.
For the sake of this excuse, he also kept the speed of the pursuit low, which was the reason why Debold was able to return to Rhone alive.
“Though the town has come into view, there don’t seem to be any guards on watch…”
“It’s the place they insist on being their national border. I guess they will come out from the other side of that gate. Everyone, draw your swords in preparation for combat! We will slaughter the enemies coming out of the gate in one go!”
While listening to the shouts of the soldiers agreeing to his instructions, his expectations got big as he imagined the possibility of him becoming the feudal lord of some city-state if he were to successfully recapture Rhone here.
Those expectations pushed the man’s back .
The 300 soldiers formed a line and the first of the vanguard rushed into Rhone.
When about half of them started running, just as the commanding officer decided to advance on his horse, screams began to arise from the leading group.
“What is it!”
A messenger ran up from the front. Because of a rope being stretched across the pathway, several soldiers were tripped up and tread on by those following them resulting in casualties.
“What foolishness! Don’t they watch what’s below their feet! Tell them to drop the speed of invasion!”
While raising his voice in anger, the commanding officer thought that it was good that he stayed behind the vanguard.
Falling from the horse to get buried beneath the horse’s feet, letting alone the disgrace, he would receive serious injuries and in worst case it wouldn’t be unlikely to be killed.
Having the wind taken out of their sails, as they slowly advanced into the city with a large number of people, the Vichy soldiers were dumbfounded when they saw the state of the town.
Even the commanding officer, who was late in entering, was overcome with surprise seeing the strange scene in front of him.
Continuing straight on the main street from the town’s gate, there should have been many flourishing stores when the town was filled with people.
As there wasn’t a single person there, he understood that this place was deserted.
However, the entrances of all buildings were closed with nailed boards. Even the passages between the buildings were blocked with lumber up to the height of the waist.
It was almost as if telling them that there was only one road in front of them to take.
And, far down the road a single man in unusual clothing was standing about 500 meters ahead of the vanguard.
The man held a thin weapon you could consider to be a sword in his right hand. The man, standing in a relatively relaxed posture, slowly beckoned them.
“Gentlemen of the pursuit party, it’s nice of you to arrive here. It is unnecessary for you to introduce yourselves. Hurry up and come. Since you will be killed anyway.” (Hifumi)
Merely a single man recklessly provoking 300 soldiers, the commanding officer gave the order to advance as he laughed scornfully.
“There is only a single great utter fool! Kill him immediately and use it as chance for our country to counterattack! Go!”
The leading group set up their swords and broke into a run.
This was the beginning of the second massacre carried out at the town of Rhone.