“Who’s the retainer with the most achievements?”
In later years it’s said that a certain person asked that question to the Divine Child of Destruction Kisaki Soma.
Soma answered it in no time,
“Michena Elbagis, of course.”
It’s said that all the arrayed courtiers uniformly tilted their heads to the side in doubt.
Certainly, Michena is a retainer that’s served Souma since he raised an army in Bolnis. Yet, she wasn’t a figure that had achieved any special, large meritorious deeds.
Continuing, Soma said to those courtiers,
“There hasn’t been a single person who’s exceeded her achievements in times of peace. And once a battle begins, not a single person would be able to do something without her. She is likely the person who has rendered the most distinguished service.”
Not a single person among the courtiers present could offer an objection to that.
In the future there are three people who would be referred to as Three Horns of the Divine Child of Destruction.
Horns as in the ones growing on heads. For that reason horns are regarded as a symbol of intelligence and authority. They, who have been named as horns, are humans that supported the supremacy of the Divine Child of Destruction with knowledge and wisdom, not so much with military power.
The one who came first under Soma among those Three Horns was a woman called Michena Elbagis, commonly called “Cold-blooded Female Secretary.”
It’s said that she had been born as the daughter of a junior official of Bolnis.
Her father suddenly died from a common disease in her childhood.
With the breadwinner gone, it seemed like her life was slated for poverty. But thanks to the money that her father had saved and his lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic, her family somehow managed to eke out a living.
What was also fortunate was that a friend of her father, who was likewise a junior official in the city of Bolnis of that time, felt pity for her and employed her as assistant.
There, she apparently distinguished herself quite clearly.
Once you examine the scarcely remaining materials of that period, you will be able to see a great number of traces in important documents that were written in her handwriting.
Back then, the standing of women was fairly low. The fact that she was entrusted with this amount of important work was proof of her having been quite highly valued for her abilities.
Also, when Soma occupied Bolnis, her social position was that of a common official.
In those days it was necessary to have a noble supporter to advance to the rank of a common official. If you didn’t have such a backer, you would have to serve for at least 20 years to rise from junior to common official.
Her having been able to become one in less than 20 years without any backer might be the largest piece of evidence when it comes to her extraordinary talent.
Moreover, she was apparently an ambitious person befitting that rare talent of hers.
Taking advantage of the chaos in Bolnis after Soma Kisaki gained total control, she led the government officials, who were her superiors, cleverly into traps one after the other. And then, having exiled all her superiors that were an eyesore to her from the city, she triumphantly had an audience with Soma Kisaki.
“I’m the highest-ranking official in this city.”
It’s said that far from blaming her, Soma Kisaki welcomed Michena, who introduced herself like this without being timid over having tricked her superiors, with open arms.m
“That perseverance of yours is excellent, I believe. This Divine Child of Destruction shall value you highly.”
Like this Michena managed to obtain the highest seat among the officials, but, no matter how much of a determined plotter she was, in the end she was nothing more than a human. The evil Divine Child of Destruction Soma Kisaki excelled her by far.
It’s said that Soma grabbed Michena’s intestines with his dreadful magical power.
“Ah! My intestines were stolen by the Divine Child of Destruction! I can’t defy that man any longer!”
In the end even Michena had no other option but to swear absolute obedience to Soma.
Forced to serve Soma like this, she won over the junior officials by giving them money and goods, and laid the foundation for a bureaucratic organization that supported the later supremacy of the Divine Child of Destruction from the shadows.
A hysterical voice raised by Michena reverberated in the office of the Chief of Financial Affairs.
“Eeeh~! I will be attached to his new Lordship!?”
Michena, who did her work as usual on this day, was suddenly summoned by her superior, the Chief of Financial Affairs. Michena was anxious wondering whether she had made a mess of something that deserved some kind of reprimand, but the chief had instead sentenced her to attending the feudal lord.
“Are you unhappy with something?”
The chief stares at Michena with dangerously glaring eyes.
In this era it’s inexcusable to raise an objection towards the order of a superior. All the more so, seeing the low standing of women.
However, no matter how you look at it, suddenly being assigned to the feudal lord is outrageous.
“B-B-But, I have a lot on my shoulders! It’s too much of a heavy burden!”
Michena frantically protested.
However, it didn’t get through to the chief.
“As I hear, the king of the beasts is apparently incapable of reading and writing. Since he wants to know the financial situation of this city, he begged me for help.”
The chief said while openly loading his words with contempt.
In this era, reading, writing, and calculations are rare skills only usable by a small fraction of humans such as nobles and merchants. For the Chief of Financial Affairs, who obtained his current post thanks to those skills, a human unable to read and write was resented even for just wanting to interfere with the financial affairs managed by him and his subordinates.
“After all, it’s plain as day that he only wants to gloat that he’s the city’s ruler. This is why I can’t stand that illiterate fellow who lives together with beasts. Just how’s there any need for us to spare our precious time for such a guy? I’m right, am I not? Thus, I’d like to ask you to handle it.”
However, that was not the chief’s sole intention.
He looked down on Souma as savage, ignorant hick, but at the same time he also feared him for being a ruthless ruler, whom the brutal zoan obey.
It would be a very serious matter, if the subordinate I sent to that country bumpkin was guilty of any misconduct. Leaving aside if it’s only that subordinate; it would be intolerable for the sparks to even reach me.
At that point the chief came up with the idea to have a woman handle it.
Even if a woman made a slip-up, no trouble would extend to me as long as I make her compensate with her body. Rather, wouldn’t I be able to win the new lord’s favor by doing it this way? He thought like this.
But, the problem is: who should I send as a scapegoat.
The conditions presented by the new lord require a human capable of reading, writing and calculating, as well as being knowledgeable about the city’s financial situation.
However, in this era, women capable of reading, writing and calculating are extremely rare. Moreover, most of those women are either my relatives or hold a reasonably high position within the city, making it impossible to readily send them.
Accordingly, the one he selected was Michena.
Since she’s working as assistant of a finance official, she’s naturally able to read, write and calculate. She’s also well-informed about the city’s financial state. Besides, even if she turns into a problem later on, I can just discard her since she’s the daughter of a commoner. Her face is plain, but it will probably be alright since the new lord is a pervert that seems to have beasts like zoan intimately wait upon him.
For the chief Michena was a sacrificial pawn with good utility.
Although she wasn’t able to get a read on all of it, Michena sensed that her chief is trying to use her for his own good and thus resisted desperately.
“But, I’m a simple finance clerk. I’m in no position to directly meet with his Lordship.”
Finance clerk relates to junior officials that are in charge of financial affairs.
Holmea, which is a feudalistic state, refers to the people that were bestowed a territory, or fief, by the king as feudal lords. In the territory granted by the king, these feudal lords are given the autonomy in jurisdiction and taxation authority.
However, in this epoch, which still required feudal lords to have excellent military prowess, feudal lords were not always excellent administrators. Rather, a feudal lord excelling in military arts placed all the more emphasis on military prowess and looked down on finances as something done by lowly merchants.
It was clear that leaving the administration of a territory to such a feudal lord would soon lead to financial bankruptcy. Accordingly, people actually managing and controlling the fief instead of the feudal lords were indispensable.
They are the government officials in charge of administration.
Those officials have the general classification terms of steward, bureaucrat and clerk.
First of all, stewards, who are called senior officials, are people appointed by the king in the same way as the feudal lord. Furthermore, the ones appointed in the territory by the feudal lord and the stewards are the bureaucrats or common officials. And then, the clerks called junior officials, are merely gofers even below errand boys.
If you convert this into terms of the modern era, the king is the company president, the feudal lords are branch managers, the stewards belong to the management of those branches, the bureaucrats are ordinary employees and the clerks are part-timers.
You will likely be able to understand Michena’s agitation if you consider a simple part-timer one day suddenly being selected as exclusive secretary of the president.
“Oh, that’s true, isn’t it?”
With the chief finally showing understanding, Michena leaked a sigh full of relief.
“Yes, right! That’s why, someone else…”
But, as if drowning out Michena’s words, the chief said,
“Then I will have you rise to the rank of finance bureaucrat.”
“As I said, you are now a finance bureaucrat.”
“P-Please wait a moment!”
“Be delighted. Even bearing in mind the matter of being a woman, it’s an exception amongst exceptions for someone to become a common official at such young age. Your salary will also increase beyond what you are earning now. Any complaints?”
Rather than confirming with Michena, it’s a compulsion.
Understanding that it would be pointless no matter what she might say, Michena dropped her shoulders in depression.
The Chief of Financial Affairs looks at Michena’s state in satisfaction.
“Then go to the office of his Lordship right away. Be aware to not offend him by any means, got it?”
He tells her to leave the room. Suddenly, as if having remembered something, the chief called out to the back of Michena, who is about to leave the room with her head hanging.
“I forgot to tell you something important. Make sure to give him a good and long explanation about the documents put together by me.”
“Why, do I have to…?”
Michena griped as she walked through the corridors while holding a large bunch of documents she had taken out of the archives.
Her fellow finance clerks, starting with her father’s friend, are all good-natured people. However, the finance bureaucrats, which are their superiors, looked down on Michena who is a woman on top of being of low social status. So far, she had been worked to the bone by them for their own sakes.
In fact, it became commonplace for even the records and calculations that should have been their job being pushed onto her due to their troublesomeness.
She doesn’t know how often she thought of quitting as a finance clerk. But, she has her old mother and three younger siblings that depend on her support. There was no way for her to readily resign from a job that she obtained at great pains.
“A-Anyway! I have to make sure to not anger his new Lordship…”
According to the gossip, he’s a frightening person that seems to suddenly threaten others that he will cut off their heads. If I displease him in any way, I might end up beheaded in that very instant.
Imagining the view of her own head dancing in midair, Michena’s feet naturally become sluggish. When she finally arrived in front of the feudal lord’s office while dragging her heavy feet, she abruptly realized,
“What should I do…?”
Quite a lot of etiquette exists when having an audience with a nobleman.
Because she has experience having been used as document-holding servant when her superiors had audiences with the feudal lord, she roughly knew what is permissible.
But, the problem is the mountain of documents in her arms. She won’t even be able to give a proper greeting while burdened with such huge luggage. But still, something like placing those important documents on the floor around here was an intolerable conduct.
The finance bureaucrats use servants when they have too much luggage with them. However, Michena, who had just been suddenly promoted from being a finance clerk, unconsciously brought the documents herself.
Returning to the archive once to lower the amount of documents or go find a free servant, wondering which might be faster, Michena doesn’t know what to do as she stands right in front of the feudal lord’s office. Hence she didn’t notice a single boy showing up after pushing his way through the thickets in the courtyard.
Seeing Michena groaning while standing still in the corridor, the boy tilts his head slightly to the side in confusion and calls out to her,
“Did something happen?”
Immersed in her own thoughts, Michena ends up surprised by the abrupt voice and lets a great bunch of papers in her hands fall down at her feet with a rustling. She tries to pick up the documents in a hurry, but she just makes matters worse and loses the documents left in her arms, agitating her even more.
Due to that, the boy smiled wryly for a short moment and then started to gather the documents for her.
Seeing this view, Michena felt a deja vu.
“You are, from the other time…”
The boy let his eyes wander for a while upon Michena’s words and then quietly muttered “Indeed.”
“With this it’s the second time.”
Tempted by the boy’s faint smile, Michena answered with the same kind of smile.
After that Michena gathers the documents together with the boy while secretly stealing glances at him.
At any rate, just who the hell is this boy?
Michena was suspicious.
Although quite a bit of time has passed since she has been employed in this feudal lord’s residence, it was a face she had never seen until now.
Since he’s picking up the items I dropped for me who was no more than a poor finance clerk, it doesn’t seem that he’s a person of standing. Besides, even his attire is something worn by the city’s commoners, not something fancy belonging to a person with a higher social position.
But, even as a bad joke, this here is still the feudal lord’s residence. There no way that there’s any reason for a mere commoner to be here.
Once she judges so, she wonders whether this boy is a new apprentice.
A considerable number of people among those who had served in the feudal lord’s residence until recently had escaped the city due to the zoan occupation. For the sake of filling those vacancies, new people are apparently being hired, so he might be one of those.
Accordingly Michena tried to ask a leading question.
“It’s terrible if you aren’t used to the work, isn’t it~?”
She says it vaguely so that she can gloss over everything later on.
“You’re right. I’m troubled as I don’t even know what I should do next.”
With the boy’s answer, Michena confirmed, he’s a newly joined apprentice after all.
However, that doesn’t mean that I will be careless. It would be terrible if she put on a patronizing air just because he’s an apprentice, and he turns out to be the son of some important person.
Since it doesn’t connect to a conversation with a suitable topic, she asks yet another leading question.
“Isn’t it easy for someone who succeeded their parents’ family business?”
Hearing that, the boy’s eyes become glassy as they stare in the far distance.
“My home, my father and mother are in a very far place, so…”
Due to the boy’s sad tone, Michena regretted having asked something insensitive.
A very far place…
He certainly must mean that his home and parents are gone!
And it’s not just that. Once she sniffs a bit, she can smell a faint beast scent from the boy’s body. At first she wondered whether he might be a stable boy apprentice, but his clothes were too clean for that.
Isn’t that the reason why the boy, who lost his parents, led the life of a vagrant for a while?’ Michena pondered. Very likely the smell, which deeply ingrained itself into his body back then, can’t be removed easily.
Even while having such a hard time, this boy tries to keep living resolutely by himself as an apprentice here. Indeed, what a praise-worthy yet pitiable boy he is!
“It was difficult, wasn’t it? But, let’s do our best! Since you can at least consult your worries with me, don’t hold back and spill your heart!”
The boy ends up perplexed due to Michena suddenly encouraging the boy with moist eyes and a worried tone.
Perceiving that as hesitation, Michena admired the boy with, What a modest young man.
At that time Michena suddenly came up with an idea.
Won’t it turn into a good chance to gather experience if I employ this boy as a servant?
Considering that an ingenious idea, Michena proposes it to the boy.
“Hey, you. I have a little request, but…”
“What is it?”
“Can you help me with carrying these documents?”
Once Michena pointed at the entrance door of the feudal lord’s office, the boy nodded as if having comprehended something.
“Ah, I heard of you. —Yes, that’s fine.”
Michena was surprised that the story about her having risen to the rank of finance bureaucrat had already spread this far. Leaving her behind, the boy starts to briskly walk while holding onto the documents.
“W-Wait a moment!”
Michena calls the boy to a halt in a hurry.
It seems this boy doesn’t know the manners of a servant. It will be bad if I don’t teach him properly, Michena assessed.
“Listen, I will teach you, so learn it by heart, okay?”
“Yes. Please treat me well.”
The answer is fine, but the boy doesn’t seem to understand at all. As he nonchalantly tries to enter the office, Michena wedges herself in front of the boy and yells,
“Finance Clerk…no, Finance Bureaucrat Michena has come to visit upon thy summons!”
“Very well. Please enter.”
Even though she especially gave her greetings and went out of her way to ask for permission to enter the room, the one who answered her was the boy behind her. Due to such a perfect, dead-pan interjection, Michena seems like she’s about to crumble to her knees.
“Stay silent for a moment! We must get permission from the people inside before entering the room!”
“Is that so?”
Due to the boy tilting his head in doubt while looking mystified, Michena regretted with “It might have been a mistake to have brought him along,” but by now it’s already too late. A woman’s voice saying, “Please enter,” was returned from within the office, making it impossible to send away the boy at this point in time.
While praying to god, ‘Please make sure that the boy doesn’t do anything silly,’ she nervously enters the office.
She had been taken along into the lord’s office several times by the finance officials, but its appearance had completely changed from the one in Michena’s memories.
When His Highness Vulitas, the crown prince’s younger brother, was the feudal lord, there were plates full of food and alcohol bottles, as well as the occasional prostitute or sex slave, placed on the huge work desk installed further inside the room. However, it had been completely tidied up, without a trace of all that remaining.
Instead a zoan woman, letting loose a dignified atmosphere, with a clearly proportioned body and a fur beautiful enough to make even Michena, who can’t distinguish the beauty and ugliness of zoan, unintentionally charmed, stood still by herself next to the work desk.
“I’m sorry, but right now Soma is absent—What, even though you said that you have some business to take care of, you expressly went to meet her?”
In the middle of it, the zoan woman’s tone becomes awfully tender filled with affection. A voice answering to that became audible next to Michena who is baffled as she doesn’t understand what is going on.
“It’s different. Just when I came back, this person was there.”
As the boy she had brought along as document-holding servant calmly spoke to the zoan, all of the color instantly drained from Michena’s face.
In this era, servants of lowly status are treated as accessories of the people that brought them along—they are treated as things. Hence, fine etiquette isn’t required from a servant, but still, talking as they please is something unforgivable.
And, the mistake of the servant turns into the mistake of the person who brought them along.
Michena became completely shocked.
I have no doubt that this zoan holds a high position, seeing as she’s allowed to be in the feudal lord’s office. She couldn’t imagine to simply get away with it as he had committed such discourtesy to that person.
Yeah, it’s over now. I’m sure we will be shred to pieces by those claws!
Having the worst possible development instantaneously pop up in her mind, Michena’s waist gave in and she ended up weakly slumping down on the spot.
With a sidelong glance at Michena, the boy crossed the room without any permission and not only did he place the bundles of documents on the large desk, but in addition he calmly sat down in the office chair that may only be used by the feudal lord.
The behavior of the boy went beyond rudeness and should be called an outrageous conduct, but not only didn’t the zoan woman try to find any fault with it, but she even went behind the boy as if that place was her usual position.
Once the situation has developed this far, even someone as dense as Michena was able to realize the true identity of the boy.
“Now then, let me tell you once again, I’m glad to meet you. —I’m Kizaki Souma. More or less, I’m the ruler of this city, I guess?”
The contents, which the boy posed in the shape of a question for some reason, mostly didn’t enter Michena’s ears.
By now it’s far beyond the level where you can call it discourtesy or such. I addressed the new Lord, a conqueror leading the brutal zoan, without using honorific speech. I had him hold documents after treating him as a servant. And finally I even reprimanded him.
It’s already in vain. My head! My head will be cut off and put on display at a street corner!
The view of her head being exposed vividly comes to Michena’s mind, as if replaying reality.
“Umm? Are you listening? Hello, heeello?”
While hearing Souma’s voice in the far distance, Michena began to swoon.
Souma reviewed the financial situation of the city thanks to Michena.
He felt like something was out of place.
And, Michena’s careless remark will lead to chaos in the city.
Story 4: First Horn – Numbers
Michena 「Are you telling me and my family to die?」