I had been naïve.
I never thought it would turn out this bad.
Looking over the disputing groups, that’s the impression I held.
Clark-san adopted my proposition, and collected the volunteer troops into several manageable masses.
It was fine up to there.
But the problem was with the groups themselves.
With around ten names being thrown about, it would all be fine if a knight took charge.
But the captain said that if we were grouping them together anyways, then it wasn’t necessary to put a knight over them to monitor them, and stopped it at that.
That as long as a guarding knight with their soldiers was placed between the groups while moving, that would be enough…
Yes, if it were only during movement, then that would be fine.
But when it came to choosing a person responsible, the disputes broke out.
Even if you call them the responsible party, they were just the existence in charge of confirming numbers, and writing up reports.
Getting that position came out as quite a scramble.
“I’m the one with the higher rank dammit!”
“For someone without any decent armor, you sure have quite a mouth on ya’!”
“As if I’d let the long-awaited chance escape me!”
Among their petty contest, they greatly disputed over the assumption they would be selected as sub-captain.
The reason many even agreed to join in on such a grouping was so they could be put in charge.
Seeing that situation, I felt nothing but worn out.
“… Why is something of this level enough to…”
As I said that, Marcus-san spoke to me.
“It’s not like I don’t get where they’re coming from. If they get into a position where they lead others, the number of chances they’ll have to put their hands on glory’ll increase. It ain’t strange for them to think that way.”
I was sure it had been a simple request.
Yes, the Hippogryph was definitely dangerous.
But it wasn’t an enemy out of our league.
That’s what I thought, but I had never even considered my allies would be this bad.
I realized how terrible our movements were on the first day, but now I’m even beginning to doubt if this platoon can even fight.
From within the Jewel, the Third let out a laugh.
『The hell’s this supposed to be? Simply terrible.』
The Second was the same. But it seems he had some flexibility.
『They sure are arguing. What’s more, they’re all the more vicious because they think their livelihoods are on the line. Even when, looking at the girly leading the mission, they know they aren’t being thought of as anything at all.』
The Fifth spoke.
『If it were me, I’d never want to lead such a mob.』
『If I had three months, I’d cut their numbers down to more than half, and make them somewhat usable.』
When my expression cramped up, Miranda came up to me.
“Look, let’s just get our meal over with already, and prepare to depart. Monica’s already finished the preparations for breakfast.”
While staring at the quarreling mob, I went off to my comrades eating around Porter.
During movement, I rode on the loading tray of Porter to get in some rest.
The tray was quite full, but since Monica and Shannon were to ride it, we modified Porter to be able to store people.
There was a nice blanket placed there, and it was a considerably pleasant environment.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Seeing Shannon, I noticed that she was exchanging hand-knitted wool with Monica.
Every time the wool was handed over, it passed through their fingers, and changed in shape.
Besides that, there were some coiled threads letting out rustling sounds, and other toys spread about the luggage tray.
“I’m bored! When we’re moving, I’m generally doing nothing but sitting. If I went out to walk around, it’d be cold, and my vision spins round and round, giving a horrid feeling!”
Angrily, Shannon accepted the wool from Monica, and perhaps she failed, as the shape fell apart.
“AAaaAAAh!! What are you going to do about this! Just how many defeats do you think that makes it for me!?”
As Shannon gave a vexed face, Monica showed off a grin.
“How naïve, little girl. I, Monica, have put more ways to kill time to memory than you could ever imagine. How laughable for you to think you’d ever win a game against a special model. Ah, I’ll give the chicken over there a moderate chance of victory. Otherwise, it won’t be any fun.”
Once you hear about that business-like play, it doesn’t become any fun anymore.
“Che, if I can’t win, I don’t care anymore. I’ll go knit or something.”
The unseeing Shannon took out a knitted work in progress, and began to braid it.
Seeing that, Monica began cleaning up.
“You sure knit well despite your lack of eyesight.”
When I gave my impression, Shannon bent her back in pride, and made a gesture of pushing out her non-existent chest.
“I just can’t see as you can, but I am properly taking in the information around me. Unlike you.”
I grabbed her scoffing cheeks, and pulled them apart.
“Wow, they’re soft.”
“Ow! I’m tellin’ ya’, that hurts! It’ll rip! Stop it! It hurts, doesn’t it!?”
Hearing that, Monica began to fidget. She took fleeting glances at the door installed on Porter’s rear, and she appeared to be waiting for something.
“What are you doing?”
As I asked that, I removed my hands from Shannon’s cheeks. She clicked her tongue.
“Che! I thought that people misunderstanding the situation from those words would storm right in! I was sure of it! Why is it that such conventions are falling flat now, of all times? … Read the mood already.”
Leaving misunderstandings aside, isn’t the one failing to read the mood Monica? While I was thinking that, Porter came to a stop.
It was too early for a break, so I stood, and immediately jumped outside.
I closed Porter’s door behind me, and confirmed the surroundings.
Aria, who had been walking behind, gave me an explanation.
“It’s a monster. The knights are taking it on. Even so, it doesn’t look like they have any intention of putting us to use.”
When I looked in the direction of Aria’s eyes, I saw an orc surrounded by knights.
They did have their weapons held aloft, but just by surrounding it, they were unable to land a finishing blow.
The one who finally ended it was Clark-san.
Still mounted, he fired off his crossbow, embedding an arrow through the orc’s head.
I heard a voice from the Jewel.
『Heh, the man’s not half bad.』
It was the Second’s voice.
But as the pierced orc fell to its knees, a single female knight rushed up on her horse, and leapt off.
While falling towards the orc, she swung her sword, and imbued her blade with magic as she cut off its head.
It had a bit of flashiness to it, and it seemed like quite a user-friendly magic.
But my impression was different.
Aria let out a whistle.
“Amazing. The damn thing burst into flames.”
The orc before my eyes blazed up, and the female knight returned her sword to its scabbard.
But Aria hadn’t been speaking praise.
“But was there really a need to go that far? It looked like it was already over.”
An arrow through the head.
After that, they just had to keep it surrounded, and under surveillance. Even if a final blow was still required, there was no need to purposely go that far.
(Did she do it to stand out in the end?)
As I thought that, the young man Novem had treated called out to me.
After saving him, we negotiated to have him follow our orders, and at the moment, we had him accompany along Marcus-san.
“As expected of a real knight, I guess. She’s a decurio, right?”
The youth who didn’t possess any decent equipment himself sent yearning eyes.
“I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be like her.”
Of the two he brought along, the older man let out a slightly tired voice.
“You guys are never serious when it comes down to it, so why is it only at times like these that you’re…”
He seemed to have noticed.
Seeing them, Aria looked a little disappointed at the party of three.
(If they’ve never went outside to combat monsters, I guess that’s how one would feel.)
Seeing the ability of the knights, I truly did feel the female decurio did have an extent of skill to her.
But the one whose movements were the best was Clark-san.
If possible, the female knight who forcibly came to land the finishing blow, Norma, wasn’t one I’d like to fight alongside on the battlefield.
After the fire went out, the soldiers that had been accompanying the knights began collecting up the magic stones and materials.
During that time, Clark-san remained vigilant of the surroundings, and issued out orders.
He knew what he was doing.
Even so, Norma-san had mounted her horse again, and returned to the head of the troops.
The Seventh let out a fed-up voice.
『Why can’t she leave the work to her subordinates? She’s supposed to be the commaner of these troops, is she not?』
The Third laughed.
『If you look at her as a single knight, then sure, she’s skilled, but she’s useless when it comes to managing people. Well, she’s young, so perhaps she wants some merits. When they kill monsters, doesn’t the army rack up a kill score, or something?』
To the knights of the imperial capital, the number of monsters one defeated was regarded as an important proof of having fulfilled one’s duty.
And it was also a proof of one’s strength.
Small fries of goblin level weren’t going to be counted in, but orcs and ogres made for ample results.
The numbers dealt with one-on-one were especially emphasized, it seems.
Aria watched Norma return, and as the group had begun to move on, she stared at the soldiers that were still stuck on gathering the materials.
“We’re moving already? It would be fine to wait a little, right?”
I spoke to Aria.
“They must be in a hurry. The numbers of times we’re encountering monsters is rising, and every time, the platoon comes to a stop. Perhaps our arrival time will be much later than predicted.”
Aria seemed unsatisfied.
“Lyle… why did you accept this request? You’re supposed to be our leader, and I don’t want to put my mouth into your decisions in that field, but even if it was from Miranda’s father, I’m sure you could have refused.”
I walked forward, and looked at the sky.
And I muttered the reason I had taken it on.
“… I probably took it too lightly.”
When I said that, Aria began staring at me reproachfully.
“Hey, why is it that you sometimes act so carefree? I’m sure our lives are just a little bit at risk here, just to let you know?”
Having been told that, I scratched my head.
I mulled over whether to state the real reason, but that wouldn’t change that I had taken it lightly, so I kept my mouth shut.
(Even if I tell her my ancestor didn’t want to see a village sacrificed, I doubt that would get me anywhere.)
The Second especially, was quite irritated when he heard of this mission.
It’s true that even I had held some sentiment like, ‘if my naïve thoughts can save someone, then…’
As a result, we were now in quite a terrible situation.
(Yeah, before I accepted it, I really should have investigated it more. I really am naïve. That’s for sure.)
The sky was clouded over, and the sigh that escaped my mouth was white.
We arrived at Johnny Village on the fifth day.
On the way there, the division into groups did end up bringing some results.
Preparing campgrounds, and keeping watch. The troops also began to learn to act as a group.
Even so, from the ancestors’ points of view, they were still as inept as before.
When we arrived, the one to greet us was a man with graying long hair, that was quite tangled up.
The man who was the village’s chief, looked much more aged than his actual years due to the enervation apparent in his expression.
A few of the housing structures were partially destroyed, and the logs that had been erected around to defend the village had collapsed in some places.
Perhaps they had been attacked time and again. All of the villagers had the same tired faces.
And they looked to us in fright.
As I received those stares, as if they were looking upon an enemy, Novem, who was quite close to me, spoke.
“… It looks like we’re scaring them.”
“We did come planning to rescue them, though.”
When I said that, Novem kindly informed me.
“It does look like quite a small village, so just having over a hundred armed soldiers arrive is enough of a fright. Also, they’ve likely been assaulted a number of times.”
The nearby monsters had settled into a routine of using the village as their feeding grounds.
The frightful villagers looked at me from the windows of the houses.
When I returned their gazes, they slammed them shut.
Marcus-san looked at them and spoke.
“How unpleasant. Even after we came all the way here.”
While making his sarcasm quite blatant, Breid-san agreed.
“Perhaps because such a villainous-looking knight was among us? That aside, it really isn’t a good sight for the soul. For them to be taking that attitude.”
From our point of view, it surely looked that way.
But to the two of them, Novem spoke.
“… Even if you continue to hold such sentiment, I ask that you don’t speak it to any of the villagers.”
Both of them looked in wonder.
I was the same, but in my case, the Second was there to explain it.
『Help has arrived? It’s because you guys hold such feelings that it’s no good at all! This is an area under direct imperial control! It’s what you damn imperial knights are obligated to protect! Who do you think you should be thanking that you can put bread on the table!? When bastards who don’t understand that much show up all high and mighty…』
While the Second started to complain, the Seventh called out.
『They’ve grown too large, that their roles have been divided. Perhaps they don’t feel such a sense of responsibility for this land. I’ll bet the palace is the same. Regardless of what tiny village falls to ruin, or finds salvation, it’s but a minor fragment of an occurrence.』
It wasn’t their responsibility.
While it certainly wasn’t Marcus’s job, as he didn’t have any relevant position, if you asked whether or not it was his responsibility, the answer would be dubious.
Marcus-san was a knight who didn’t even particularly want much work.
But the very fact he was a knight gave him an obligation to protect the people.
(They really have it rough. Imperial knights and nobles.)
Novem looked towards the party of three operating with us.
“You gentlemen as well.”
The man with a bad mouth to him nodded, due to his debt to her.
“No, well, I’ll abide because I’ve been saved by you, but isn’t this village’s attitude the pits?”
The frivolous-looking man that was his comrade was the same.
“Right. We ran all the way here from Centralle and all.”
The older man, who seemed to be the one in charge of them, let out a sigh.
“On top of receiving extensive treatment, and receiving a share of their meals, where’s this backtalk coming from? Sorry about that. I’ll also be sure to caution them.”
The older one did seem to be relatively reliable.
I looked to the village chief, who was busy conversing with Norma-san.
With a pale face, he was making a desperate appeal.
“So the last attack was this morning? Then you’ll be safe for a while more.”
“Don’t be like that! Please defeat them as soon as possible. There are many villagers who are too scared to even sleep at night. They even lead along the goblins in the area, carry off the villagers, and… our casualties are already over forty!”
“We’ve only just arrived. I need to give the troops some rest. Please make preparations for a meal.”
“If they attack again, we’ll be the ones to deal with them! You just have to do as you’ve been ordered!”
Looking at Norma’s attitude, I did understand it was no good at this rate.
While a strict manner may be required to make people move, shouldn’t there be a better way to phrase things?
I looked at the village.
I did get the feeling that there were too few villagers.
Using my Skills, I found that quite a few of the houses were now uninhabited.
“… This is bad. Novem, gather everyone up. I’ll go tell Clark-san.”
“What’s the matter, Lyle-sama?”
Novem tilted her head as she looked at me.
The ancestors within the Jewel were able to gain information through me.
The Second spoke.
『Hippogryph? Like hell. They freakin’ hid the big one.』
The Third was in agreement.
『Yes, if it was just a Hippogryph, I get the feeling it would work out one way or another…』
The Fourth spoke.
『They really do sell for quite a bit. But at this rate, you’ll be tortured to death.』
『Well, they are considered as a sort of boss of the Hippogryphs.』
『Though they usually just take on the Hippogryphs as convenient henchmen.』
The Seventh voiced the name of that monster.
『I was a little uncertain of your victory up to know, but now it’s quite clear. At this rate, you’ll lose. I never thought… a Gryphon would be here.』
The head and wings of an eagle. The body of a lion.
Much larger than a Hippogryph, a ferocious monster.
A threat from the skies, and if they took along some Hippogryphs with them and launched an attack, a number of villages were fated to disappear.
In order to not stir up her fear, I spoke to Novem.
“I’ll go make a report first. Please gather everyone together. If we’re going to be entering a break now, then we’ll have to park Porter in an appropriate place… I’ll have to find a villager to talk to as well. I’ll leave the negotiations in those areas to you.”
Perhaps because I had left it to her, Novem formed a smile.
“Yes. Then me and Miranda-san will carry out negotiations. If we go with too many, it’ll feel like we’re threatening them.”
(Right. Even if they’re all women, if they have the numbers, it starts to look like coercion.)
“Sorry. Please do.”
And in order to find Clark-san, I quickly walked away.
Finding Clark-san issuing orders to his men, I decided to blatantly tell him the truth.
I wasn’t an acquaintance of Norma-san’s, and Clark-san did seem quite reliable.
Hearing the information I gave, his eyes opened wide.
We spoke in the back of a small private dwelling.
Of how I had Skills.
And of how I discovered a Gryphon with those Skills.
“Gryphon, you say… that’s a foe to send the elites at. It isn’t too great, but for a mismatched legion like ours…”
Clark-san’s mortified face had turned pale.
I knew it was rude, but I decided to ask.
“About the aptitude of the captain and her knights, um…”
Clark-san shook his head.
“Since they are part of a knight brigade, they’ve all been properly trained. But all of them besides Captain Norma, me included, are lower in ability. I was wondering why we were sent with this formation, but I never thought it would be this… while I know it may be rude to ask, has your Skill ever been off?”
Clark-san’s eyes were focused on my blue Jewel.
“… Never. There’s definitely a Gryphon.”
“I see. I did think this brigade would be somewhat reliable for the task at hand… while there’s the possibility you’re lying, it doesn’t seem like the atmosphere for that. And there is something that comes to mind.”
It seems Clark-san had found it suspicious from the start that they were to go on a dispatch with these members.
Norma-san had been chosen as the commander, and it felt as if they had gathered up all the knights that were usually causing problems.
“There was a rumor about it. That the economic difficulties would be solved if the overbloated number of nobles was cut down. I see… I did hear that some of those up there were letting the second and third sons take the house as of late, and that such a thing was difficult…”
I supported the man’s body, which looked like it would collapse.
I wasn’t too knowledgeable about the matters in Centralle, but it was obvious there was an underside to it.
The Fifth spoke in a low voice.
『The bastard… it’s quite likely he already knew about it.』
Bastard likely referred to Ralph-san.
The Seventh spoke.
『He purposely let his daughters listen in on the information of the expedition to entice them? Well, those imperial rats are quite skilled at that sort of thing. Erase Lyle and Marcus, and have Miranda return to welcome a groom as she’d fully finished her education, perhaps… Whatever the case, there’s little loss to him. If Lyle didn’t take it up, two would die. If Lyle accepted, and left Miranda with him, Lyle would die, and his daughter would have returned. It really feels like we’ve been rolling around on his hand.』
The Sixth seemed amazed.
『But the one who accepted the request was Lyle… it’s just that…』
For some reason, I got the impression the Sixth was giving a grin in the Jewel.
The Third laughed.
『He’s really looking down on us. If he thinks this is enough to take our heads, he’s way off.』
The Fourth was the same.
『This really is where we should get some huge brownie points, and return to Centralle in glory. Those capital dogs will rejoice! I mean, it’s the party that took down a Gryphon! There’s a possibility, you may have a peerage made for you! I wonder how many’ll get promotions? I’m sure the capital’s public finances will go into an even greater state of ruin!』
The Second was of the same opinion.
『If this number of people were to disappear for the sake of a single village, I’ll bet there’ll be many who’ll celebrate… but you see, it really is fun seeing the pissed faces of guys like that!』
I wonder why.
The Ancestors all seemed to be quite happy.
Clark-san looked at my dubious expression, and likely thought I was pressing at his own faintness of heart.
He gave an apology.
“I’m sorry. I’ll always be stuck an ordinary knight, but if I gave up here, I’ll be too shamed to even call myself that. Lyle-kun, I won’t force you. But if you’re going to run, then please take along the women and children and…”
And I spoke.
“What are you talking about, Clark-san? This is your big chance.”
“… Chance? No, Lyle-kun, I don’t want to say it, but a Gryphon is an enemy a knight brigade with highly ranked ability is to take care of. I’m not even sure if Captain Norma reaches mid rank or not. We’ll buy some time here, so you young’uns should…”
He was beckoning me to flee, but the ancestors were raising their voices as well, so it was all too noisy.
From Second and up.
『Now then, first, let’s go get the cooperation of the villagers. I thought this would be a good chance to teach Lyle about society, but this is quite interesting in itself…』
『If you seize hold of the troops, it’ll be easier… well, if they don’t obey, they can be used as monster bait. As long as you have more than half, and get the villagers on your side, it’ll work out one way or another.』
『Lyle, how about I teach you about the glorious magic of money? It’ll be quite a nice lesson to learn.』
『What’s this… this thrilling sensation. Get a grasp of the terrain, station your troops… wait in ambush, or press forth ourselves…』
『It’s a big one. One that, in our time, we would compete to see who would take its head first. I vote for going on the offense.』
『The head sure makes a good mount. If all goes well, you’ll get to stuff its entire body. What’s unfortunate is you don’t have a place to show it off, I guess.』
(H-huh… none of them feel very heroic at all. A Gryphon’s supposed to be formidable, right? And wait, it’s stronger than the boss in the labyrinth, right?)
The Seventh seemed to only worry about the fact that we had nowhere to display it.
In the first place, the point he was stressing wasn’t the important one.
“It’ll be alright, Clark-san…”
『『『It’s finally getting fun around here!!』』』
I think I was probably making quite a complex expression.
Clark-san looked to me with a pale face, for different reasons than before.
The Ancestors were rowdy, and the words I let out to put Clark-san at ease…
“Let’s just have some fun with it.”
Clark-san raised and lowered his head swiftly, as he nodded a number of times.