After once again rearranging the defense at the national border, Hifumi withdrew to Fokalore. letting the soldiers rest while the spear throwers were repaired and improved.
According to Hifumi’s prognosis, if Vichy was really raising an army, they’d need around a month before they arrive.
Even just rallying the troops split up in order to protect all their cities would take a considerable amount of time, and since there isn’t a clear head of the state, there will be disputes regarding who gets to be in command.
Hifumi thought about attacking Vichy while they were slowly assembling their army, but he was busy enough with governing Fokalore. A couple of city-states situated within Vichy, but close to Orsongrande, had shown up to show their allegiance to Hifumi, and it was necessary for him to deal with them.
“Even if they come here, we can’t unconditionally accept them. We’ll soon be continuing our war with Vichy, so any specific exchanges will have to wait until after that.”
“Understood. I’ll convey that to the messengers.”
Origa was the one who interacted with the messengers.
Hifumi could’ve done it as well, but as there were many things to think about, Origa was temporarily given that role. They can decide what to do after the war is over.
“I don’t have the ability to be a politician to begin with. I’m glad I decided to train those civil official slaves ahead of time. If I were to try and gather people now, there wouldn’t be any time to sleep.”
After seeing Origa off, he stretched out on the reception sofa.
Alyssa called out, having smoothly entered the slightly opened door.
Although it’s really a breach of etiquette, there wasn’t any need to hold back, as Hifumi was already aware of her presence. They had been conducting spy training for a while now though, in order to make her able to slip in and out soundlessly.
“I heard the metallic sound of the door, so you fail.”
Since Hifumi’s very strict when grading, Alyssa had yet to receive a passing grade.
“Th-that aside, you’ve got a visitor.”
“Well… It’s Kasha.”
So she came. Without letting Alyssa see, Hifumi sneered.
“Ehh, the talk about your endeavors have reached the capital. How you repelled Vichy’s army without any losses.”
“Aah, I see.”
After being let through to the reception, Kasha was sitting down, face to face with Hifumi, but the conversation wasn’t continuing.
Within the heavy atmosphere, Hifumi was observing the quiet Kasha as if he could see through her.
「 Well… Er… 」
As she became flustered, there was a knock on the door, and Origa entered.
“Alyssa told me there was a visitor…”
Discovering Kasha, Origa instinctively stopped, and she quickly lost the smile on her face.
“So you’re here. Take a seat.”
Hifumi deliberately didn’t mention in what seat, nor make any hand gestures.
As Origa unhesitatingly chose to sit down next to Hifumi, Kasha showed a hint of sadness.
“So, what’s your business, coming here?”
“W-well, you see… I’m quite limited working alone as an adventurer, and partnering up with someone else now feels a bit…”
“After receiving such a big favor and selfishly leaving, you think Hifumi will let you back again?”
Hifumi was listening to their exchange in silence. If it kept going as it currently was, it would just end with Origa one-sidedly throwing accusations at Kasha, who would end up being chased away. It’s about time to give her some timely help.
“Well, ‘accept those who comes to you, and don’t chase those who leave’, they say. I don’t really mind employing you again. We’re lacking manpower, after all.”
Seeing Hifumi approve as if nothing had happened, Origa clung to him to protest, but Hifumi put his hand on hers to calm her down.
“Your workload has increased considerably. If it’s an acquaintance whose abilities you know, it should be easier to divide the workload, wouldn’t it? Besides, there’s also the next battle. I don’t want to work you too hard.”
With Hifumi showing concern for her, as well as holding her hand, Origa blushed.
What an easy to understand person, Hifumi thought, while Kasha raised some suspicions about him, saying such transparent words.
“Well, I won’t reinstate you in the territorial army. Having someone who left just to later return giving orders would be a bitter pill to swallow, right?”
Even if it’s like this, we’ve got to take things like the morale into consideration, Hifumi said with a smile.
“For the moment, I’ll have you be my guard and secretary, so please give me a hand. A room in this mansion will be prepared for you.”
“T-thank you. I’ll do my best, so please take care of me.”
“Right. There is plenty of work to be done, so work hard.”
Calling the maid, Hifumi ordered her to show Kasha her room, before leaving the room with Origa.
“It’s important to meet the other side’s expectations to some extent, at least.”
Although Origa didn’t understand what Hifumi meant, she did understand that his actions were backed up with confidence in something, so she didn’t say anything else.
The news about the annihilation of the pursuit unit from Vichy was quickly relayed to the central committee from the city accepting one of the fleeing soldiers.
Hearing the news, the committee members who gathered in order to deal with the situation stayed calm.
From the news they’ve collected about Hifumi, it wasn’t a mystery about that they were repelled as the pursuing soldiers only numbered 300. They were, however, dissatisfied with the loss of soldiers due to them fooling around.
“It was a miscalculation by the appointed commanding officer. But it’s pointless to place the blame on a dead man.”
“But we now know what weapons they’re using, so isn’t it fine thinking of this as reconnaissance for the upcoming all-out recapture operation?”
“After all, it’s just some troops gathered from small cities. They’re able to pursue, but aren’t good enough to have serve a purpose on a real battlefield.”
Even before Debold came as an envoy, Vichy had decided to resist with force, so everyone calmly accepted that they were going to fight.
“At any rate, that new viscount… Hifumi, was it? That man is dangerous.”
“If you look at it from the other side, if that Hifumi dies, won’t we stop Orsongrande?”
“But, the letter was signed by princess Imeraria, was it not?”
Amongst them, there were a couple who had seen princess Imeraria in the past. She had given them the impression of a girl unrelated to politics, and kind towards the populace. But these chains of events in Orsongrande have been sending mixed signals.
They didn’t know whether it was because she thought of something after the king’s death, or because Hifumi was discovered, but she disregarded the prince who was supposed to inherit the throne, proactively moving the country herself.
“Either way, like the old man said, if we can stop Hifumi, we can end this without some arbitrary reconciliation.”
“As the goal is to exceed a certain amount of military gains, we need to plan when to request a dialogue.”
“So, about how many soldiers are we going to send?”
In response to that question, the chamberlain who was taking notes distributed a document to all the members.
“15000, huh? The Orsongrande soldiers we need to stop from going from Rhone to Arosel would be the viscount’s territorial soldiers and the border security, around 200 in total. Isn’t this excessive?”
“100 of them crushed our 300 soldiers just about uninjured. We need to leave personnel in the recaptured cities too, so I wouldn’t say it’s excessive.”
“It’s better to have some flexibility, but… aren’t we just throwing money away?”
Saying that, doubts started appearing in the elderly committee member’s head.
(What’s Orsongrande’s goal with attacking Vichy? To expand their territories? Their official reason is retribution, but it’s too severe to just be a matter of honor.)
By no means could he even imagine that it was because of an irrecoverable rift existing between Imeraria and Hifumi.
“No matter how much we rush it, the gathering of the troops will take around 3 weeks. After that, we need to organize them in units, so we need around a month before the recapture operation can be started.
“Hmm. Until then, materials needs to be gathered. How annoying.”
In front of the biggest gathering of troops since the founding of Vichy, the committee was in an uplifted mood. In the place they were normally noisily scrambling for profits, cursing each other, their wishes for victory above profit was ironically what brought them together.
Until now, the committee’s discussions have never proceeded smoothly, so they were having a strange sense of satisfaction.
“Well then, all that’s left is to place our hopes in our soldiers.”
Everyone nodded, and the meeting was finished.
The room Kasha was shown was on the same level as those Origa and Alyssa were living in.
The room was equipped with a splendid bed, and a low desk. The size of the room was at least three times bigger than the room she was living in at the inn in the royal capital.
“Somehow, it’s like we’re living in different worlds.”
Sitting down on the bed and mumbling that, the maid who showed her to the room gave her a tour of the mansion, as per Hifumi’s instructions.
Having received a complete restructure, the first floor had a couple of conference rooms and offices, and in order to make the passage through the entrance easier, making more space, it received an expansion. Inside was now a front desk, with five staff members working side by side.
“It looks like at a guild, when they work side by side like that, but what are they doing?”
“According to Hifumi’s instructions, we’re registering all the citizens and we’re making it obligatory to report births, deaths, and marriages. The reception desk is there to deal with that.”
The maid smoothly responded in a flat voice, but you could hear her respect for Hifumi from her way of talking.
“Isn’t it difficult to do all of that?”
“If they report that someone was born, or married, we give them some congratulatory money, and in case of death, they receive some monetary condolences. In the beginning, everyone were sceptical about it, but after generously selling off the mansion’s artwork, and the staff members becoming better at receiving them, I heard that most of the citizens are receiving it favorably.”
For those who didn’t understand what use all this had, the staff members were explaining with a smile on their faces. For the old woman who came to report a relative’s death, a staff member was expressing their condolences with a smile, while shedding tears.
Kasha couldn’t see it, but behind the counter were the desks of Caim, Brokla, and Paryu, checking that they worked hard. Because of that, even if they were clumsy, the staff members did their best.
Seeing Hifumi being kind towards the populace like that, Kasha was once again seeing a side of him she hadn’t seen before. But isn’t this just a camouflage of some sorts? She shifted her attention towards her doubts filled with some expectation.
If Hifumi wasn’t a bad person, Kasha wouldn’t be able to make herself do it.
“Well then, I’ll introduce the second floor next.”
After being shown the offices and storage spaces, and led back to her room, Kasha threw herself on the bed.
The level of injustice has drastically fallen, and without any chaos ensuing, an impartial, yet thorough, system was imposed in a well-organized way. Even Kasha understood all of that.
Although that’s how it looks, Hifumi might have some terrifying goal in mind, but after speaking to him face-to-face just now, Kasha couldn’t find anything to criticize him for.
As Pajou was sure that just the existence of Hifumi will be the primary factor in wars being caused, she sought Kasha’s cooperation. After listening to Pajou back then, as well as the shock from when Origa chose to stay by Hifumi’s side rather than return with her, she accepted. But in reality, she thought that the governing Hifumi was doing was good.
Shaking her head, she dispelled the doubts arising.
“Unless Hifumi does something unreasonable, it won’t become my turn. If I think of too many unnecessary things and am driven out, it will all have come to nothing. I should also talk with Origa, trying to reconcile with her.”
Besides, she had to start working by Hifumi’s side tomorrow. Getting a better than expected opportunity to observe Hifumi was a stroke of luck. Now, what remains is to work hard in order to not be suspected. Trying to quickly get rid of the fatigue from traveling, Kasha slept until she was called for dinner.
“Yeah. The creation of the family register is mostly completed, but there’s a problem with the public order in the slums, so it’s difficult for the civil officials to enter.”
Origa explained the information she got from Paryu, the civil official slave in charge of the family register, to Hifumi as he sat by his desk. She didn’t as much as glance on Kasha who stood next to him. Kasha had tried to get in contact with Origa a few times already, but she was brusquely warded off.
“So there’s an area like that.”
“As long as the city is of a certain size, there will be a slum. Even the royal capital has it.”
The political system, aside from not having created a family register, had plenty of people who were forced out from the sphere of a daily normal life due to crime and poverty. Especially in this world where if you leave the city and stray a little off the highway, the possibility of being attacked by a monster skyrocket.
Slaves and penniless people run away from things like crime, entering the underworld, which in itself, would employ its inhabitants. Every day, people are dying, but the same amount of new people are streaming in.
“There are many wannabe adventurers, so there will be people undertaking shady jobs the guild won’t accept. Like the “Hidden Serpent” guys you crushed in the royal capital. Those kind of people mostly come from the slums.”
“According to the information collected from people throughout the city, it seems there is a group managing the slums. We don’t know what their numbers are, but they are involved in things like abductions and robberies.”
For now, it seems they were laying low in order to get a grasp on the new lord’s attitude.
There had been patrols of a couple of soldiers before, but when the inhabitants of the slum saw the soldiers, they went inside their rows of shacks, and didn’t come out, apparently.
They didn’t know how big of a population there was there, but if the slums were left alone, wouldn’t they once again emerge in the city and commit crimes?
“If I receive your permission, I’ll go settle that problem.”
“Isn’t that a little danger…”
Origa’s gaze caused Kasha to turn quiet.
“Origa, get along a little with Kasha. I might entrust you with work where you need to work together. As for cleaning up the slums, I’ll be doing it.”
“I can’t be causing trouble to…”
Calling her name, interrupting Origa, Hifumi looked straight at her and smiled.
“This is my job, and it’s something I want to do.”
Standing up, Hifumi strapped his katana to his waist, and put on a mantle on top of his usual clothes.
It was something delivered from the royal castle, to show that you are the lord of a territory. On the left shoulder was the royal family’s coat of arms, and on the right shoulder was Hifumi’s newly designed family crest. It was a symbol with the motif of a katana and a kusarigama.
“I’m off to the slums. I’ll entrust it to you two afterwards.”
Seeing off Kasha, and the bowing Origa, Hifumi left the office with a wave of the mantle.
While revising the system to quickly put the territory in order in his head, he then thought about the likely coming counterattack from Vichy. If Hifumi’s estimations were correct, they just had one short month.
“…I must begin doing the preparations in earnest.”
As Hifumi was carefully preparing, he felt the same kind of excitement as from the fight in Rhone. This time, is it 10000? 20000? At the very least, he wouldn’t be bored. Moreover, under the influence of Pajou, Imeraria’s troops might be joining too.
That would be good, so let’s give it a go. Hifumi smiled as he walked with light steps, like a beautiful girl who couldn’t calm down before a date. The staff members on the first floor who saw Hifumi walk out, pleasantly thought that him being in a good mood was something nice.