When we arrived at Johnny Village, what awaited us wasn’t a Hippogryph, but a Gryphon.
A commander of Hippogryphs, it was a monster that would even take elite forces among knight brigades to deal with.
The expeditionary force hadn’t the slightest idea that an enemy like that awaited us…
I was conversing with Clark-san about what was to come.
“Can I leave persuading Norma-san to you?”
What’s important was the right to command.
According to the ancestors, it wasn’t impossible for my party to deal with it by ourselves. But in that case, it would be just as planned for the Imperial Nobles, and no fun at all.
We were speaking in the recesses of a house, and Clark-san made a difficult expression.
“To put it bluntly, it’ll be hard. I’ve never been stationed with her until this mission, and she’s…”
Of whom I’d only ever heard bad rumors of, the female knight Norma.
I did see her form in battle, but I was able to clearly understand why her disposition caused her to be hated.
Her appearance was on the nicer side, so I’d like it if she calmed down a little, and behaved more like a commander.
Letting out a low voice, the Third…
『How about we give it to her straight?』
The Fifth was in agreement to that.
『An incompetent commander will put the entirety of the forces in danger. I don’t see her as much of a lucky one either… how about we casually nudge her to a noble death in battle?』
This man’s scary!
To Clark-san’s strained face, I tried asking about the state of the knights and soldiers.
“Clark-san, if she were to learn of the existence of the Gryphon at this stage, how do you think Norma-san would move?”
The most troublesome course would be if she stirred up a panic, and fled.
In that case she would have no option left, but to be a traitor to the state.
Clark-san shook his head.
“She did look on a Hippogryph quite lightly. In the worst case, she’d run, and at best, she’d try to raise her name by taking it down… no, she does have quite a pragmatic side to her, so it’s hard to determine. From my point of view, if we were able to run, I would.”
All I understood was that we couldn’t anticipate anything.
In that case, we’ll have to prepare to take flight.
The serious ancestors gave a prompt judgement upon hearing Clark-san’s words.
The Fourth spoke.
『Lyle, how about you snatch up the commanding authority.』
My eyes widened a little.
Seeing that action, Clark-san’s body reacted in shock.
The fact that he was afraid of me stung in a strange way.
(If I could take it so easily, we wouldn’t be going through such troubles…)
I’m an adventurer, and she’s a knight.
Even if she didn’t hate adventurers on the level of the Seventh, my name wasn’t spread in Centralle at all.
The Second spoke.
『… Lyle, we’re going to go speak to the village chief. Have Clark speak with Norma on your behalf. If she wants to run, then let her. Oy, it’s your turn.』
Saying that, the one he left it to was the Fourth.
『It’s at these times that you have to be gaudy with your spending… from the numbers… perhaps five hundred gold coins will be enough for the lot? It pains me that I don’t know the current pricing of a Gryphon. If we asked Clara… no, let’s palm it off at Centralle. I do feel they’ll buy it at quite a nice price. Okay, Lyle…』
The Fourth seemed to be having fun. He liked saving up money, and gave off an image as if he hated spending it.
『… Pay out one gold for every goblin body. Also, orcs, and things of that level for five gold. Fifty gold per Hippogryph, and a hundred for the Gryphon!』
As rewards, they were quite extraordinary.
(He really is quite bold when he decides to spend it.)
As I thought that, the Fourth…
『The expected profit margin’ll be over seven hundred!』
… But he was the same Fourth as always.
I asked Clark-san to persuade Norma-san.
“Can you notify her of the presence of a Gryphon? If I’m held in doubt, I can prove the authenticity of my Skills. Also, I would like to have a word with her as well, so please gather together the knights.”
Clark-san’s expression was still as strained as ever.
“What are you thinking of? You’re not just going to gather us all up, and attack in mass, right?”
He was quite anxious. So he thought I’d take charge, and order everyone to attack…
After being told that much, I decided to smile.
If possible, keep the other party in anxiety.
(Come to think of it, I haven’t done something like this since Dalien…)
Directing a smile, I spoke to Clark-san.
“I will take the authority to lead. It’s alright. When it all comes to an end, they’ll still be the merits of you guys and the volunteer soldiers. You can hold some expectations for the reward for exterminating the Gryphon.”
Hearing that, Clark-san’s mouth opened and closed silently.
The Sixth spoke.
『Good! Sink in the finisher!』
I put my hand on his shoulder, and went on.
“It’s alright. We’ll be heading out in the best of conditions. I want to see the people of the palace rejoicing. The expeditionary legion they never thought to return came back, with a Gryphon in tow… Let’s pass through that gate, and prance gallantly down the main street.”
With his face still quite pale, it looked like his mouth would start frothing at any moment.
“No, the palace… even if you call it a triumphant return…”
“Bringing trouble to the imperial nobles that tried to cut us off, and achieving distinguished service for ourselves… how about it?”
When I made a serious face, Clark-san started to look troubled.
He was a relatively earnest person, so I’ll bet he has quite a bit to think over.
And he dropped his shoulders.
“… If you’re telling the truth, there’s little chance we’ll survive. But how do you plan to go about bringing down a Gryphon? Even if we were to prepare for it, we only have a few crossbows.”
Hearing he had brought along crossbows, the ancestors rejoiced.
The Second was…
『This knight is able. You should learn a little from him.』
He was likely referring to my own lack of preparations.
“I’ll show you. In front of everyone, that is.”
I parted from Clark-san, and walked towards the village head.
When I looked around for the village chief, I found him issuing orders to the villagers.
Helping with the construction of the tents, he left the preparation of food to the other residents of the village.
They were all making dark expressions.
The Second spoke.
『A squadron of a hundred for a small village. On top of that, the villagers already lost a number close to forty… It isn’t strange for them to despair. What’s more, this expedition’s a gathering of deadbeats.』
(… Come to think of it, in the Second’s time, the territory just consisted of a few settlements, and it was more of a village.)
The First cut open the path, and made the barbarians obey him.
The one who made the basis for the house in the truest sense was the Second.
Constantly compared to his father, constantly complained at, he still put its shape in order, and expanded the village.
The Third had said he was only proceeding with work according to the Second’s plans.
I called out to the chief giving orders.
“Can I have a little of your time?”
“Eh? Ah, yes. What business do you have with me, dear knight?”
Hearing myself called a knight, I smiled.
“I’m an adventurer. I accepted a request from one of the knights participating, and that’s why I’m here. With that being the case, would you still be willing to listen to me?”
The chief made a reluctant face.
He must be busy.
But I can’t just pull back here.
I took out a small bag of silver coins from my breast-pocket, and handed it to him.
Inspecting the contents, he told a nearby youth that he’d be leaving for a little, and took to listening to my words.
(But all I did was hand over some money.)
The Fourth spoke.
『The power of money is a grand one. Well, if you think of the future of this village, it will be rough if they don’t have as much saved up as possible.』
And after the chief took me to a place we could talk alone, I confirmed the situation.
“When we were dispatched from Centralle, we were told that the monster we would be dealing with was a Hippogryph. Is there any mistake in that?”
The chief opened his eyes.
“That can’t be! I made sure to properly write out the name ‘Gryphon’! Within the village, there were many who saw its form in the nearby forest! Why was something like that mistaken…”
According to him, the state-appointed Governer had run away, and had yet to return.
Truly, hearing about a Gryphon was something to make one want to flee.
“… Will you run as well? Will your army abandon this village as well?”
The chief looked at me with a ghastly expression.
But I spoke with a smile.
“No. We’ll take care of it. It’s just that there’s something I’ve been concerned about… that captain. She’s the female knight from before, but she’s under the impression that even if casualties arise, it’s fine as long as the matter’s resolved. It pains my heart to see any more deaths in this village, so that’s where you come in.”
“I’ll have you cooperate, chief. It’s alright. We’ll protect the village, and defeat the Gryphon. That’s all there is to it. But she isn’t fit to lead this mission.”
“… So what needs you from us? And if the higher-ups were to learn of such a thing…”
By higher-ups, he likely meant the governor, and those in charge of this area.
Inviting in the rage of Centralle, and based on the persons involved… the village may even be laid waste to by the knights. It appears the village chief was fearful of such a thing.
“Please rest at ease. I’ve already come to an agreement with the adjutant. If we find opposition, the Captain will be a noble loss in the battle to come.”
Saying it myself left quite a bad taste in my mouth.
And the chief looked at me.
“… What is your collateral? Doing this much, if you’re to fail…”
Well, if I fail, I die, but my greatest goal is…
What floated in my head was Ralph-san’s face.
I was sure he was an earnest father, but it seems he was quite a cheat.
Thinking back, he was a person who’d lived long as an imperial noble.
“There’s a man I’m finding a little difficulty in forgiving. He’s got a nice place in Centralle, and giving him a spot of pain is my current objective.”
His expression said that he kinda understood, and kinda didn’t. But I began to ask my favor of him regardless.
(Somehow, I’m gradually starting to hate learning about society.)
After the preparations finished as per my ancestors’ words, I headed back to Novem and the others.
… The house Norma was taking a break in.
It was a vacant one that had lost its owner. There, Clark was being reprimanded by Norma.
“Gryphon, you say? Even fools should learn to think carefully sometimes! We’ve come here on royal orders to subjugate a Hippogryph. Yet you listened to the words of that dubious adventurer so easily… this is why you can never get a promotion!”
While being rebuked by a female knight younger than himself, Clark contained himself, and continued his explanation.
“But it’s strange, no matter how you look at it. That adventurer does possess a Skill, and he said it was alright if he proved it… You should be well aware of how great a meaning revealing one’s Skill has, not just to adventurers, but to Knights as well.”
Lyle proving his Skill meant that he would be teaching others what he was capable of.
Teaching such a thing to others held high risk, even if one wasn’t an adventurer.
Perhaps finally noticing that, Norma made a questionable expression.
“Even in the case there really is a Gryphon, that is separate from our mission. We will pull back at once! Bring that adventurer over! If he can prove his Skill, we’ll begin the preparations for retreat immediately!”
To Norma, she wanted merits, but she valued her own life.
If she sensed the danger, she was set to withdraw.
(If that cowardice of hers only showed itself a little bit more during the preparations…)
Clark lamented, but he did begin explaining what would happen if they retreated.
“If we run away like this, we will be named as cowards, and will be unable to live on as knights. Even if we have definite proof of a Gryphon’s existence, we’ll always be condemned for having abandoned post. Also, you should be aware of the recent rumors, right?”
“Rumors? What are you on about?”
It seems Norma truly did not know.
(Ah, dammit. This girl… she’s quite oblivious, even to her own colleagues.)
She was too rushed to attain her own success that she saw all around her as enemies. In truth, Norma had very few she could call allies.
No, perhaps it was best to say she had none.
By repeatedly snatching away feat after feat, she was a female knight who reached her position at a young age.
Everyone around her was an enemy.
(I see. So that’s why she was chosen. Not that I can say much, having been chosen as the aide to such a person.)
A depressed Clark began to explain the rumors circulating around the palace.
Of how the nobles and knights had grown too great in number.
Of how, for that sake, there was a need to cut down on numbers.
That the participants for such a plan were none other than their own squadron.
“So even if there really is a Gryphon, there’s a high possibility we’ll still be criticized, and our ranks will drop. With a dishonor that great on our backs, living on as a knight would be…”
Hearing that, Norma shouted out.
“W-what is the meaning of this!? Then why!? Why was I chosen!?”
Seeing Norma’s panic, Clark spoke.
“Please calm down! Right now, we should be thinking of just how we’re going to attain victory in this…”
“Victory!? Are you a fool!? With a Gryphon as our opponent, then not a decurion such as me, they’d send a centurion… no, a legatus! As if I could calm down in a situation like this…”
Seeing her disarray, Clark thought her less fitting of the commanding position than anyone he had served under before.
At the same time, it was quite clear that if he fought under her, they would face defeat.
If looked at as a single knight she was skilled.
If she had paid a little more mind to her surroundings, then perhaps centurion or legatus status was possible for her.
“Caption! Vice-captain! The town’s residents have gathered! An adventurer a guy called Marcus hired told them to go to the plaza! Also, those villagers are saying it wasn’t a Hippogryph, but a Gryphon that they saw… just what is going on!?”
To the knight that asked if he should subdue them, Clark shook his head.
Looking at the confused and young knight, he spoke.
“Captain, we should go as well. It looks like everyone’s gathering up.”
Whatever the case, there was nowhere to run.
The probability that an army under his lead could win was low.
(So I’ll have to bet on the boy…)
And as always, Clark worried…
Before the residents lined up in the plaza, I gave an address.
No, it’s not like I wanted to do it.
But I let out a loud voice from my stomach, and followed after the ancestors.
The one in charge was the Sixth.
He gathered the residents, and appealed that their assistance was essential.
But even if it was for their sakes as well, it’s not like they were all eager to do it.
So there, the Sixth told me to do as he said.
『Good, now there Lyle, turn to look at the children! Are you alright with the lives you’re giving these children? Your own parents and grandparents would look upon you with shame!』
I followed the Sixth’s delighted instruction.
“Will you show your children such miserable sights? Do you want your parents and grandparents in heaven to laugh at you as cowards who turned tail from the monsters!? Do you want to be despised as the ones who didn’t even try to do what you could!?”
I used various gestures, and wore all of the most attractive armor pieces we had among us as I shouted while standing atop Porter.
The villagers raised their voices.
“T-there’s no way we could fight something like that!”
“Right! No matter how painful it may be, the power to fight them is… isn’t that why we called over you knights in the first place!?”
“Even the governor turned tail! You guys will be soon to follow, I’ll bet!”
The surrounding knights and soldiers gathered, hearing the villagers’ voices.
Because they hadn’t learned of the Gryphon until now, there were even some hurriedly making the preparations to run away.
I think it’s too late for that, you know. Also, if they did end up running, I doubt any decent life awaited them.
If they fled to Centralle, I wonder just where they planned to go.
I pulled my sabre, and pointed its tip at the sky before using magic.
In order to make it flashier, I made use of the First’s 【Limit Burst】.
In order to pull off that display, I had purposely cleared a space in the plaza beforehand.
And that’s where I directed it.
The sky had been cloudy, and thunder resounded, as lightning fell on the open space.
A violent sound echoed through the area, and among the townsfolk, there were some who had fallen to the ground in fear.
(T-that scared them, right? And wait, was there really a need to go that far?)
I hung my sabre against my shoulder to make sure they didn’t notice my anxiety, and spoke disinterestedly.
“It’ll be hell if you run. It’ll be hell if you remain. Then… you’ve no choice but to fight.”
The form of the Sixth giving a wide grin as he surveyed the area floated in my head.
『The knights’ve all gathered. You’ve finished the opening act. Lyle, now’s the time.』
I gave my address in repetition of the Sixth.
“Centralle… the palace has abandoned us, and now, there’s no path left to us but to be crushed here, or become enemies of the state. Does it not irritate you? The satisfied faces those guys up there waiting for our demises will make when they hear of our annihilation? If we survive, we’ll be ridiculed as cowards, and if we run, you’ll be disgraces as knights. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a hired soldier. You’ll always be sneered at and scorned… are you all really fine with that?”
All of their eyes were gathered on me.
With my flashy use of magic, there were even some looking at me with fearful eyes.
I wasn’t playing the foolish son as I had in Dalien.
Right now, I was giving an address as Lyle.
Those cut out for the bottom.
Those who had fallen to their pitiful states.
There were various gathered, but they were all making the expressions of people who had given up.
“… If we return here, the castle will have us cut down. They’ll put out quite a just cause, and we’ll be killed. And they’ll surely rejoice. But in that case, wouldn’t you rather see their bitter faces?”
Someone raised a voice.
“Bitter… you can’t mean…”
“Defeat the Gryphon. Save the village. Do it all, and make a triumphant march back to the capital! We’ll be famous in a single bound. There’s no way those nobles in the palace can go about refusing to reward the heroes who slew the Gryphon. The troubadours will surely sing of us on the capital streets. Perhaps we’ll be sung of throughout the country. Return as heroes, and stand before them with pride! Isn’t it the greatest revenge!? Get money handed to you! Get status handed to you! Get your hands on… everything!”
Among the townsfolk, a few youngsters stood.
And out of nowhere, a voice came.
“I-I’ll do it! I’ll get my hands on it all! As if I’d let it end in a place like this!”
And another person or two stood up.
When their numbers became numerous, the knights and soldiers began to stand as well.
From atop Porter, I could see Captain Norma, and Vice-captain Clark-san looking at me.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime victory. The heroes who slayed the Gryphon. Your families will pass down the legend! … Win this battle, and lay hands on everything!”
Many stood, and let out their voices.
“Do you want money!?”
“Do you want status!?”
“Do you want fame!?”
“Then fight for it! I will make you all emerge victorious!!”
The villagers, the knights, the soldiers cried out, and broke into applause.
『Yeah~ as I thought, it’s at times like these that hired applauders are oh so important.』
The Third gave a spoiler.
The first ones to stand and endorse it were ones we had prepared ourselves.
The Sixth spoke.
『It’s because preparations are important. If they were just going to be surprised, seeing his magic, it wouldn’t be any fun after that.』
While that may be true, I get the feeling something’s wrong here.
And the Fifth saw that Norma-san and Clark-san were looking at me, so he called out.
『Now then, if you’ve seized their hearts, next comes the coins.』
Coins… profits. Meaning money.
After the address, I had the chief set up a desk we had prepared before hand.
And Miranda-san carried over a box, and turned out its contents.
Inside, was the five hundred gold coins I had prepared, piled up like a mountain.
Around, in order to make sure it wasn’t stole, I had Aria, Marcus-san, and Breid-san as well as the three we had saved stationed.
Novem and Monica were filling out paperwork.
Shannon was carrying around a signboard Monica had drawn up.
“I-it’s heavy, so hurry up…”
“You really don’t have any stamina, do you?”
I was mildly taken aback by a pouting Shannon as I spoke to all.
“If you fight under my command, then I’ll put out one gold coin per monster defeated! There’s quite a number here, right? To those leading larger forces, there’ll be a separate reward. The leader of the party that takes out the most will get yet another grant.”
On Shannon’s board… First place, ten gold. Second place, eight gold. Third place, five gold… was written.
“Goblins count for one gold! Orcs and ogres for five!”
Hearing that, the knights and soldiers gulped as they looked at the mountain of gold.
And the civilians too…
“As long as you aid me, there will be a reward. Woman are also warmly welcomed. Cooking and miscellaneous jobs, there’s a mountain of things to do.”
Some stood excitedly.
The Second spoke.
『As I thought, it really is different when there’s a reward in store.』
The Fifth spoke.
『It’s because a reward you can see with your own eyes is just that important. Even if one’ll benefit as a result either way, there’s a clear difference in motivation.』
Seeing their forms, I experienced once more my own naïve perception of the world.
To me, it was a sum I could earn at once, but there were plenty of people who could barely ever lay hands on it.
I couldn’t speak ill of the people entranced by the gold before their eyes.
But I did understand what the ancestors were trying to tell me.
“We’ve written up contracts. The payments will be dealt with reliably. Even if I’m to tell a lie, you can legally make a claim afterwards.”
There, a single knight raised a hand.
“U-um… letters are a little beyond me…”
“All forms are the same. Confirm the details with those that can read. All those that want to enter into a contract, please line up.”
While Miranda-san was putting away the gold coins, Clark came to stand before me.
“Lyle-kun… do you have a moment?”
Behind him was Norma-san.
All gazes were directed at her.
Borrowing the village chief’s house, I talked alone with the two of them.
Pertaining to this time’s Gryphon subjugation.
But it was different to what I had expected.
The Seventh seemed fed up.
『What a girl. Well, it’s more decent than having her go on a rampage. Saves us some effort.』
Personally, I thought it would be fine if Norma-san didn’t raise a hand, but on the other hand, here I was feeling oh-so-tired.
On the other side of the table, Norma-san was making quite a serious expression.
“To summarize, the right to command still falls to me at the end… the results are also mine.”
She was negotiating with a serious face, but from the start, I didn’t want any glory in Centralle. It would just get in the way.
If Norma-san was no good, I planned to have Clark-san take up all the results when he returned.
“Captain, that phrasing is…”
When Clark-san tried to step in, Norma-san burst out.
“It’s an important matter! We’re talking about the achievement of having slain a Gryphon here! On top of him doing it for us on his own, if he fails, it’ll be of his own judgement. There isn’t a single demerit to me!”
If you do look at it realistically, there really is little demerit to her.
When it comes to not being able to run away, Norma-san was in the same boat.
But even if she fought, failed, and died, she would be a brave and noble warrior who threw down her life.
The Fifth spoke.
『… I guess I can at least evaluate her on her swift ability to change her thoughts, and to not mull over the details. It’s good that she won’t be getting in the way, at least.』
“As long as you agree to abide all of my orders, then all the achievements can be yours. However, I’ll be reporting the work of those that participated as well. If I don’t, you understand what will happen, right? Every person here will become your enemy.”
She did understand, as Norma-san began to nod.
“I-I know. I’ll write of how everyone performed greatly on the report! If that’s what’s needed for me to get a promotion, then…”
I ignored Norma-san, as she hung her head and gave a dark smile, as I turned to Clark-san.
“Are you alright with that as well, Clark-san? Personally, I would like if you followed my command.”
Letting out a sigh, Clark-san shook his head.
“If I said I didn’t accept your command at this point, then all the troops, Captain and all, will come for my head. It’s just that, I’m fine with just earning for the part I play. If the reports are to hold truthful, I don’t mind listening to you.”
Hearing that, Norma-san laughed.
“Fool. Honesty never pays. A textbook definition right here.”
Clark-san whispered sorrowfully.
And like that, we cleaned up the issues with management, and I had work to do, so I left.
(Honest, is it…)
Clark-san accepted the bribe.
That’s how the system worked, but he wasn’t just a stubbornly honest man.
He wasn’t one I could bring myself to hate, though.
(I wonder why he was chosen for this expeditionary force.)
I could only think over it in wonder.
Perhaps the imperials had thought that anyone would do.
When I returned to Novem’s side, it seems that some sort of problem had arisen.
While Novem was making a troubled face, by her side, Monica was finishing up one contract after another.
The one she was dealing with was a child.
“I want to fight! Dad already kicked the bucket, and there’s only mom left, so if I don’t fight, then…”
The young boy with short brown hair was quite unkempt.
Age-wise, I doubt he had even reached ten.
While she was reliable, I guess even Novem would be troubled.
“You’re still quite young, so how about assisting with the tasks in the village? Also, even if you call it fighting…”
The reason she was bewildered was likely because the one she was dealing with was quite serious.
With an earnest expression, he frantically offered his complaints.
“Yeah, no, that age is impossible.”
Saying that, I tried to draw closer, but the Third stopped me in a tone besides his usual cheerful one.
『… He sure resembles brother.』
Perhaps I should call him serious, or solemn.
There was some sadness mixed in, and the Second also…
『Identical. The voice, that appearance… and, that straightforwardness of his.』
The Second’s tone held some nostalgia.
When I mulled over what to do, the Second spoke.
『Hey, Lyle… just a little is fine. Really, just a small bit, alright? Can you try looking over that child a bit?』
On the voice the Second wrung out of himself, I found myself unable to refuse.