Some old men singing some song…
After preparing for 3 days for the coronation ceremony, everyone was in a state of hurrying along regardless of their posts within the castle. The people, taking part in Orsongrande’s national politics, didn’t reveal the details of the ceremony until the very last moment either.
This is due to Hifumi’s instruction. He has explained that it’s for the sake of not giving the enemies time to prepare hindering them to make thorough plans. On the other hand the side of the defence has been drilled in the techniques required for their guard duty at a fast pace by Hifumi and he has also given the necessary directions for the construction works.
Although only the date of the ceremony has been officially announced, so that things like food stalls etc. could be prepared for the festival on the land near the castle, the time and the details of the ceremony, even now three days before the actual event, still haven’t been released.
“So, why have even I been left out from the circle of the privy?” (Imeraria)
Imeraria asked in astonishment within her office.
Sabnak, handling paper work in the same room, raises his face due to Imeraria’s muttering.
“Please do understand. Since you are the leading actor, we want you to solely focus on the ceremony itself, Imeraria-sama.” (Sabnak)
“That excuse has been provided to you by Hifumi-sama anyway.” (Imeraria)
I’m not amused, Imeraria honestly thought. By now it can’t be helped anymore that he says such things due to Hifumi’s influence, but the pillars of supporting me to become the ruler give off a strange vibe.
After giving a fleeting glance at Sabnak, who turned his back and sorted the documents without saying anything as if running away, she sighed heavily.
These last days Imeraria had been completely disconnected from any practical work. As it reached the point that Sabnak followed her around as bodyguard all the time, he quickly dealt with any official work before she became aware of it with the important financial affairs being the only exception.
Of course Imeraria has been doing the final checks, however since he finishes all of it in a way that leaves nothing to complain about, her only work is to look the documents over and sign them. As he handles all the work very quickly, the civil officials have apparently been delighted as well.
Although I have to admit his efficiency all the same, I’m slightly not amused that it has been Hifumi, who recognised Sabnak’s abilities first and called him into the administration of his territory.
“Excuse me.” (Adol)
It was Prime Minister Adol who came entering the office.
Since the time Sabnak is shadowing Imeraria, his help in dealing with the work and his hints have been gradually decreasing. He hasn’t informed Imeraria of the exact reason for that, but he likely has some other goal in mind.
After giving a glance at the way Sabnak works, Adol made a retainer’s bow in front of Imeraria. Finishing a respectful greeting, he brought out a letter addressed to Imeraria.
“From whom is it?” (Imeraria)
“It’s from Earl Biron, your Majesty.” (Adol)
“… Let me have a look.” (Imeraria)
Listening to the letter from Biron, Sabnak also stops his hands and lines up next to Adol.
During the time she read through the letter, no one said anything.
“The king of Horant has personally visited Biron-san in Münster to propose negotiations and wants to attend my coronation ceremony without fail on this occasion.” (Imeraria)
“A-A foreign king, t-the coronation ceremony…” (Sabnak)
“It’s unprecedented.” (Adol)
It’s inevitable that the three people are brooding over it. Basically it’s unthinkable for a king to meet a fellow head of state in this world in the first place. Above a king being the national polity himself, it’s even rare for a king to leave his country as long as his country isn’t ruined.
“What’s his aim?” (Sabnak)
“Going by what Biron told me, he wants to interact with me from now on and talk about the post-war procedures. It seems he asked to pass on a message that he wants to request an exchange of technology through Hifumi-sama.” (Imeraria)
Although Imeraria tilted her head to the side asking “What kind of technology exchange is this about?”, Sabnak stroke his forehead with his right hand.
“Ah~ … At the time Hifumi-san entered Horant, the equipment of the troops of his own territory were delayed in getting into the country. Isn’t it likely that he is aiming for the same parts as Vaiya?” (Sabnak)
“… At any rate, I probably can’t afford to refuse him. Sabnak-san, please contact Biron-san and prepare to receive the king together with the prime minister and the collaborating guards. Let’s report this to Hifumi as well.” (Imeraria)
“As you wish.” (Sabnak)
“Which reminds me”, Imeraria realized.
“Even though Hifumi-sama is coming and going to the royal castle every day, I don’t see him. Somehow the number of knights being within the castle decreased too…” (Imeraria)
“Ah, that’s because he has the knights practising being on duty using the hidden pathways and the servant’s passages. Seeing that there are such passages within the castle, the royal castle of Orsongrande has a deep history as expected.” (Sabnak)
“… Though it’s the first time I heard about something like hidden pathways existing?” (Imeraria)
Imeraria and Sabnak were both surprised, while Adol hurriedly sneaked out of the office.
While Hifumi visited the royal castle several times, he discovered a number of passages with an unnatural air.
There are the sideways used by the servants, but those are located in the ceiling and under the floor. There is a strange dead space between the walls.
While examining those by knocking on the wood used as cover, he found pathways and secret chambers, even apart from the servant’s passages, apparently intended as connected escape routes in places such as the hall, the audience hall, Imeraria’s office, the bedrooms of royalty, etc.
Since he found those at great troubles, it would be fine for the guards to use these pathways and he even established new camouflaged exits and entrances to a part of the pathways. He completed a network of secret pathways that even the master of Orsongrande’s royal castle didn’t know of.
Each place has a dormer window that also serves as peeking hole, which can’t be spotted from the hallways and rooms if one holds his breath in the pathways. Also, he put short spears and shurikens in shelves, which were placed midway, making sure that weapons are available in times of emergency at those places.
“So, if there’s some guy who can be considered suspicious, you can check his words and behaviour like this and, if necessary, drag them in here and dispose of them.” (Hifumi)
Taking along several of the knights practising to be on duty, Hifumi is explaining the details for the nth time. Given that there are already no knight here who are holding doubts towards Hifumi’s abilities, there isn’t any refusal either.
“Do you believe it to have some meaning to erase a target behind the scenes without uncovering them in public? Isn’t it alright to openly defeat them, if we can prove the disturbing elements to have properly disappeared?”
“This depends on the objective. Excluding some sorts of performances, if, for example, you dealt with the masses badly, you might end up failing to give them a sense of security. However…” (Hifumi)
Pointing at the peeking hole in the gloomy pathway, Hifumi instructs all of them to look at the situation outside.
What can be seen is a mid-sized hall within the castle used for such things like parties.
“Try to think there was some kind of ceremony going on in this kind of place. Will you interrupt the ceremony just because one rat has evaded the observation? Do you believe it to be right as knights to boast your accomplishments while neglecting the princess just because you defeated a single enemy, who obstructed the upcoming coronation ceremony?” (Hifumi)
Of course there will be important ceremonies once the princess becomes the queen. It’s unthinkable for them to use these as stepping stones for the sake of raising achievements for themselves.
“To the very end, consider being a guard as job of working behind the scenes. Believe it to be just right, if there is no opportunity of publicly announce that “nothing happened.” Besides, it would be probably better if you didn’t go public on how they died at that time either.” (Hifumi)
While endlessly continuing such explanations, they are moving around from one end to the other in order to fully grasp the hidden paths.
It’s not just walking. While crawling around, they are training to move to not be noticed by anyone in the adjoining rooms and hallways by not producing any sounds.
Related to these things, the knights hailing from the former Third Knight Order are grasping the concepts a lot faster than those from the former Second Knight Order, too. Even Sabnak, who joined the first group to be guided, has learned the method of moving by grovelling on the ground without hesitation.
“All of you, don’t talk. Let’s now try to listen to the talks of the lot in this room.” (Hifumi)
Upon Hifumi’s words, the knights held their ears against the wall of the pathway quickly. The conversation of two men was audible to their ears.
“So, how’s the coronation ceremony project going?”
“Don’t know. The details of the ceremony still haven’t been passed down to anyone but a selected few. On the contrary, even the princess doesn’t seem to have been informed.”
What the knights could see through the peeking hole were two middle-aged civil officials, appearing to be nobles, having a private chat in a small conference room.
“As the Second Knight Order was destroyed, the management of the event ended up being completely handled by the princess. As it is now, we will loose the ability to arrange the agreed positions for the other nobles.”
“Don’t be impatient. Rather than that, let’s think about something else.”
“Don’t be impatient? You should be a bit more tense! We already received the money. At this rate we will be killed by our client.”
“Restrain your voice. If you consider the preparations of the venue and cooking, it won’t be strange for them to announce it by today either. Since the number of knights has decreased, the number of knights on guard duty shouldn’t yet be sufficient. It’s probably possible to slip in as temporary guards there.”
Although one person is pretending to be talking with composure, their voice is gradually trembling.
“… But, I heard the guards have been influenced by that Earl Tohno.”
“What can a single person do anyway? Those sons of nobles, who bought their way in, will be defeated by trained rogues, even if they are accompanied by prestige.”
Having listened up until there, the knights looked at each other’s faces. They heard a conversation that could be regarded as completely wicked.
And everyone’s view converged on Hifumi.
“You heard them. Well, if you deal with them secretly for argument’s sake, do you think you will be able to kill their clients within the castle as well, if they gave away their client?” (Hifumi)
Showing them a demonstration, Hifumi quietly intrudes the room, where the two are still continuing their private talk, by entering through a hidden door.
“So, how many people have to infiltrate the castle at the very least?”
“It would be reasonably for many to be there. Please wait for a moment…”
The man, who was being asked, dropped his sight. In the moment he tried to take out a memo from his pocket, Hifumi plugged up the nose and mouth of the other man. While quickly dragging him below the desk, he pressed down on his carotid artery with his free hand and made him faint that way.
“Oy, where did you go?”
As the man is looking around restlessly trying to find his companion, who can’t be seen anywhere, after raising his face, he was easily made to faint by Hifumi, who attacked from the back after getting up on his feet.
“It’s fine to come out.” (Hifumi)
The knights, coming out in groups, had their faces turn pale evenly.
Although the opponents weren’t military officers, it apparently caused a big shock to them how easily Hifumi strangled and defeated those two.
“It’s plenty even if you only cover up the nose properly. With only that you will suppress “sounds” quite well. It can be considered good, if you stay completely hidden. It’s very good if you aren’t discovered until the instant you defeat the first guy, if there are two opponents.” (Hifumi)
Following Hifumi’s instruction, they dragged the two blacked-out men into the dim hidden pathway.
“Train to be able to do these kinds of movements with a group of three. The group, who is able to do this smoothly, will arrest the “client” of these guys.” (Hifumi)
The knights showed a distinct determination due to these words. It looks like there is a considerable attitude of wanting to raise achievements as knight after all.
(If they improve well, it will become fun to fight these guys, too.) (Hifumi)
I will have them accumulate plenty of experience for now, Hifumi fired up himself.
Adol’s daughter, Shibyura Winger, was fairly famous as being an excellent maid within the castle. Above that, she was famous among the other maids for being a woman indifferent to people of the same sex and having scarce facial expressions.
Even so, she was continuing her work within the castle without minding the assessment of her surroundings. Accordingly she was an extreme individualist adhering only to her own accomplishments. The matter of her father being the prime minister didn’t have much of an influence on that.
“… Cleaning complete.” (Shibyura)
She finished cleaning Sabnak’s office by herself, without borrowing the help of anyone today just as every day.
Recently the times of the master of this room being in the office of the princess have become long, but Shibyura considered this to make the cleaning easier.
The cleaning, that started with dusting off, was completed by even tending the furnishings and brushing the carpets. All that is left now is to throw away the trash.
The objective of her cleaning is the ideal of “the person being able to use it in a clean state without noticing it.”
There are pens and documents scattering about on top of Sabnak’s desk, that are unexpectedly difficult to sort in contrast to the speed of disposing of them. But even while wiping the desk, she perfectly keeps the things in the original state without having a single look into the documents.
She was satisfied the moment she was able to to keep the current state of before and after the sweeping without changing anything while cleaning it.
“He didn’t come back today either.” (Shibyura)
She puts back the washed tea set, which wasn’t used today either, into the shelf in the plain cooking space, which takes up a small part of the office.
Checking the remaining quantity of tea and sugar, she memorizes the amount she has to take from the kitchen tomorrow morning.
With this her first job of the day finishes, but there is still plenty of time left. As far as people, who have a fixed and exclusive role attached to them like her, are concerned, they can freely decide the allocation of tasks, but as a type, who stays silent starting first in the morning, she has almost one hour time left every day.
“… Alright.” (Shibyura)
Shibyura, who suddenly rolled around on the carpet with its long hairs, extends both arms straight ahead and rolls around to the right and left side. She enjoys the feeling of the carpet’s hairs tickling her face and limbs.
And yet, her cleaning was to the degree that one can say she can keep up her appearance without getting the clothes dirty.
Being called upon suddenly, Shibyura came to a halt as she looked upwards.
Once she shifted her sight timidly, it was Sabnak, who turned up from within the shadows of the cupboard.
“S-Sorry. I didn’t intend to look at you, but once I observed you from the back, leaving or staying…” (Sabnak)
Although Sabnak slowly believed it to have been better to stay silent, he regretted that he didn’t stay hidden until she left.
“Welcome back.” (Shibyura)
She bows while laying on top of the carpet.
“Do you want to drink some tea?” (Shibyura)
“A-Ah… please.” (Sabnak)
Watching Shibyura, who starts to prepare tea as if nothing has happened, Sabnak began to deal with the documents on his desk in relief.
The serving of tea, she did, was as splendid as usual.
“Please keep the matter from before secret. If you told this to anyone, it would…” (Shibyura)
“I-It’s fine! I won’t tell anyone. No one will believe that an excellent maid such as yourself is doing something like that anyway!” (Sabnak)
“Understood. Then I will keep it a secret that you peeped at me as well.” (Shibyura)
“That’s far too scandalous!” (Sabnak)
He’s an interesting guy after all, Shibyura laughed within her mind.