The Underside of a Promotion
… Within the palace.
Having been called there, Clark and Norma stood still as they accepted their paperwork.
Norma shouted out a protest to the minister before her.
“What is the meaning of this!? A demotion to award success!?”
The minister spoke.
“Demotion? Are you not making a mountain of a mole hill? It has been accepted from times long passed that granting land to a knight who performs well is a valid reward. Just think about it… your current annuity, or an income much greater than that of your current position.”
Such words came from the minister’s greasy face, but Norma still wasn’t satisfied.
She had kept at it as a knight of the imperial court.
She couldn’t accept suddenly being made into a provincial noble.
Even if they were calling it land, it was merely a remote region the court was having trouble deciding on a governor for.
Its population didn’t even cross two hundred.
Clark asked the minister.
“B-but sir. S-should I not be made a decurio…”
“Your loyalty has been factored into evaluation. You’ve done your part finely for over ten years as a knight. With this, you have your own peerage as well.”
He was granted his own court rank, and accepted as a feudal lord.
What’s more, his remote region made him Norma’s neighbor.
“… Are you certain this isn’t a demotion!?”
When it came to finances, a court centurio did, sure enough, fall behind a feudal lord noble.
But living in the capital and the sticks couldn’t be compared.
Managing a territory was quite hectic work.
Living in the capital was the option much more appealing to Norma.
“I’m telling you to shut your mouth. You’ve received such favorable treatment simply because the public sees you as heroes. The knights who rose in rank. Those that have become knights from this point onwards… I wonder just where their salary is going to come from? Be thankful that you even got awarded anything.”
(But you just threw out some remote region you thought of as a pain to manage yourselves!)
His situation was practically identical.
A settlement of around a hundred and twenty heads.
“Don’t think too hard on it. The peerage within the capital strives to maintain the status quo. Even if you’re the lowest rank, you’re a splendid noble, you know?”
Provincial nobles didn’t have to pay taxes to the palace, but at the same time, their income didn’t come from it.
Knowing that, Clark had worried over the possibility ever since he had returned alive.
Norma was truly making a pale expression.
“It’s an award from his majesty. It couldn’t be that you’re denying it, are you?”
As if he knew everything, the minister was making quite a splendid smile.
And his face turned earnest.
“An important guest is paying a visit to Centralle. We can’t be spending all our time on these paltry maters. Now return and finish your paperwork with all due haste.”
… The Circry House.
Ralph made a fist, and slammed it down hard on his desk.
The Hippogryph he had bought under Lyle’s deception was in pieces once the ice melted.
… This is the Hippogryph your dear daughter slew…
… Thank you for the purchase! Parental love FTW…
Was written on the paper stuck to the back.
The rumors had it as two Hippogryphs and one Gryphon.
When the expeditionary force had returned, he had confirmed their two Hippogryphs.
Just when he had been feeling relieved, a rumor came to ear of how a merchant purchased the Gryphon.
Letting out a strained voice, Ralph stared at the document on the desk.
He had hoped for the annihilation, or heavy loss of the expeditionary force.
That didn’t go so well. When the squadron returned with merits on their backs, the palace hurriedly moved to gather the appropriate funds.
But a number close to one hundred got promoted.
Bitter as it may seem, if they didn’t issue out promotions, the palace’s reputation would plummet.
The plans within the palace were torn up, as they searched for means to deal with it.
And the Circry house went through a large change due to the issue.
Due to his mistake in presenting the Hippogryph, he had some responsibility shoved onto himself.
His peerage was lowered a rank.
His position and status followed along.
The Circry House was now demoted to a Baron House.
Those around likely recognized them as on the road to ruin, and their relations would likely start to gradually decline.
“Just how hard do you think our family’s struggled to maintain this position…”
He was overcome with irritation, but managed to reset his expression with some deep breaths.
He changed his train of thought.
“I’ll have to cut down on a number of servants now. I guess I can finally be free of Breid…”
Deciding his first course of action would be to fire Breid, Ralph thought over Marcus, who had moved up a rank in the imperial court from his achievements.
“… I guess he’s more decent than Breid? But that isn’t nearly enough to maintain the Circry House. Whether they marry or not, it looks like I’ll have to place my hopes on whatever grandchildren I’m to have.”
He stood, and turned his mind to his two remaining daughters.
The second daughter Doris, and third daughter Lucy. All spoiled because Miranda was already there.
Somehow to get those two off to an outside…
He decided to send them off to some provincial noble for the purpose of education.
“It has to be as strict a place as possible. That’ll give them all the more opportunities to learn of reality. We really should keep a distance from Centralle until things work themselves out.”
Since the Walt House was visiting Centralle, Ralph had raised his vigilance.
“… It may become surprisingly rough here. I’ll play with the fringe parties a while.”
Having misgivings of the state of the capital as of late, Ralph was to use this opportunity to gain a little distance from it.
“… ‘Tis a pity for Miranda. But with a man that competent, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Shannon will be safe enough as well.”
Making the momentary expression of a father, he quickly returned to his earnest face.
“I’ll admit my defeat this time around. For him to be so crafty at that age… There’s no way that boy’s going to become a decent adult.”
While thinking over how he wasn’t one to talk, Ralph walked down the halls of his mansion…
“… How strange.”
I dropped by a certain casino in Centralle, but after entering the establishment with a single gold coin in hand, I ended up leaving with one gold and one silver.
Card, coin, I tried my hand at various things, but it never seemed to click with me.
“What should I do… this isn’t fun at all.”
When I said that, the Sixth spoke.
『Lyle, do you hate to gamble? You know, that adrenaline rush that comes when you risk it all?』
I rolled the Jewel with my fingertip to signal my denial, and the Fifth called out.
『Just what fun is there supposed to be in gambling? Sixty spent, forty earned, was it? You’d surely earn more by owning a casino itself. Nothing but a complete waste of time.』
An opinion fitting of one devoted to efficiency.
『No, but this sort of thing’s important too. The real problem was that if you didn’t control them, they started getting less legal by the minute, so I left the Virden House to manage them.』
Hearing that, those besides the Third, Fourth up…
『Wait… the hells with that!?』
『Oy, could it be that big boss of the underground was…』
『… No wonder I could never smoke him out. The Virden House… Dame ungrateful bastards!!』
『With that loyal mask of theirs, were they laughing to themselves as they participated in the countermeasure meetings against them? Just how much pain do you think I…』
(Ah, come to think of it, there was something like that on our territory…)
When I recalled the underground organization keeping the brigands of the Weiss territory in order, the ancestors began quarrelling over the measures they had raised to put a stop to them in the past.
The Third spoke in a cheerful tone.
『Ah, I forgot to tell you. Sorry, sorry, my bad. I mean, I totally died in battle, you see?』
(There’s really no objection you can raise to that defense.)
The Fourth spoke.
『That may be the case! Yet still, you freaking formed an evil organization for your own agenda, and put us through tribulations for years to come… AAAaaaAAaaAH!!』
The Virden house.
I remembered the next head of the Virden House, my senior disciple.
When I went to learn swordsmanship, I received training alongside him.
He’s already sworn allegiance to my sister Celes, and one of those who called me the good-for-nothing of the Walt House.
Up to a point, I’m sure he was a kind brotherly figure, but at present, I don’t have any decent memories left of him.
Passing through the exit of the casino, I listened in on the voices from the Jewel as I merged into a crowded street.
Using Skills, I kept my distance with whatever pickpockets were interested in me, and continued listening in.
『And when I tried marrying off a daughter, they rejected! Did they think we’d find them out? God dammit…』
The Fifth reminisced on his own time, and stored in some anger for the Virden House.
The Sixth as well.
『They never had the intentions of hostility. They just wanted to parasitize off of us… no wonder my Skill never reacted!』
Vexed. Quite vexed he was.
『Damn you Virdens… drinking up all the honey we offered, and sneering at us all the same!』
There, I thought.
(Can the current me beat Alfred?)
At least in sparring, I was never able to win to the end. There was our difference in age, but that last time, we locked blades without holding back.
I remembered feeling something that could be called bloodlust, and cramping up.
“Ah, it’s the hero.”
Almost jumping at the sudden voice, I looked around to find- wearing comfortable clothing on the top, and short pants that looked as if they were stuck fast to her body below- Eva waving her hand at me.
She was making a slightly tired expression.
“Eva? … -san?”
“Oh, you really are quite different from yesterday. That was interesting, so I wanted to talk to that you at least once more before it wore off.”
As she directed a smile like that of a mischievous child, I scratched my face, and felt it redden.
“So what business do you have with me, Eva-san?”
“Just Eva’s fine. I thought I might as well give thanks for last time. I did earn quite a bit from it.”
And to her, I…
“Well I’m glad for that. By thanks, you mean…?”
“How does lunch sound?”
I thought for a moment.
“Then make it on my treat, and treat me to some dessert. I made just a little at the casino.”
When I said that, she asked me.
“That’s surprising. You don’t look like the type. So how much did you win?”
“One gold coin invested, one silver profit.”
She made a questionable expression.
“I-I see… a gold’s a bit too large for my wallet. One gold invested, and a silver earned… d-dicey, perhaps? In that case, I’ll leave the meal to you and buy you a dessert. I was just getting hungry.”
The hour was a little passed noon.
I took Eva around to find a moderately priced restaurant, and she gave her own recommendation.
“There’s a store I heard about upon coming to Centralle that I don’t mind leading you to. Follow me.”
Saying that, she led me off to a store quite separated from the main road.
Entering, I found it relatively compact, but well-tended to.
A large majority of the customers were elves.
“Is it alright for me to enter?”
“It’s fine. You’re a customer as long as you pay for the title.”
She went and sat at a counter seat, so I took a seat beside her.
As she started talking of how her earnings for the day were the best since she had come to Centralle, the elf manager came over to our seats.
“Eva’s boyfriend? Even when you said songs would be your only love… the young’uns will grief over this one.”
The one who said that with a smile was a young male elf.
But Eva was…
“Can it, old man. Ah, this man is Lyle, my precious source of information! Cut him a discount, will ‘ya?”
I raised my head in shock upon hearing the manager be called an old man, and perhaps understanding from the gesture, he began to explain.
“It’s because elves show signs of age slower than the other races. It’s been quite a while, and yet I still look like this. Now then, about that discount for our precious customers. I guess regulars are important.”
I left it to Eva, so she began ordering.
The manager returned to the depths of the store, and an waitress hurriedly came up to us.
“I-I’ve brought your water.”
“You… the manager already took our order, you know.”
On Eva’s tired expression, the young female elf girl hung her head.
“Eh? Is she the manager’s daughter?”
When I said that, Eva shook her head.
“She isn’t that much older than me, but she’s the wife. Don’t try hitting on her or anything.”
“… And I’m just wondering exactly what impression you seem to have of me.”
There, a voice came from the Jewel.
It was the Fourth.
『I doubt there’s any helping it. Think back to these past few days, and just try giving an objection. Out with it!』
His voice was quite cheerful, and it ended up bringing back memories of the past few days.
The more I tried to bury them, the more vividly they revived in my head.
(Wrong. That me surely isn’t the real me!)
The Fifth spoke.
『Normally, you’d be able to manage it better the more times you experience it, but in your case… if a normal person had your Skill, perhaps they would have gone through more than five growths by now. You need a ridiculous amount of experience, and grow in proportion, so I don’t think your psyche can build up a resistance, you know.』
Even if you lay it out like that, like hell I’m just going to accept it!
My expression became dark. Eva moved in to console me.
“W-wait! It was just a joke. And wait, when you have so many women following you around, why is it that your mental fortitude is so low?”
I spoke to her.
“A past I wanted to forget simply came back to me. Don’t you have something like that as well?”
She shook her head.
“In the high tensions following a Growth, all that happens is that I recall some old songs and such. I’ve heard quite a lot, but… we don’t go through as drastic of changes as humans do.”
I’m beginning to envy the elves.
“But it was interesting, so isn’t that enough? It’s something to talk about in times to come, so why not get over it?”
“I never asked for this!”
The surrounding employees nervously attempted to halt our momentum.
After finishing my meal with Eva, I began contemplating just how I should spend my day off again, when I spotted Clark-san looking to be in quite a hurry.
He was paying a visit to a store dealing in agricultural tools, and ferrying out negotiations.
The shopkeeper declined him with a strained expression, and on hearing that, Clark-san hung his shoulders.
Unable to fathom why an imperial knight like him would have a need for farm tools, I decided to call out to him.
Oh, it’s Lyle-kun.“”
We sat on a nearby bench together, and after hearing out his situation, the Third spoke.
『A settlement of population under a hundred and twenty, is it…』
To the man who had suddenly become a feudal lord, I had absolutely no idea what to say.
“So you’ve become a lord all of a sudden?”
“I was surprised myself, but I’ve no choice but to abide the royal decree. Still, I haven’t the slightest idea what to do with everything going on…”
Norma-san was to become one as well, apparently, and she didn’t seem too happy about it.
The Fourth spoke.
『It’s because there’re various types of settlements. If they don’t have the right skilled workers, they’ll be forced to cooperate with the surrounding provinces. Perhaps it’s simply too hard on an imperial knight…』
The Fifth was…
『The lord of a settlement, I see. Well, based on location, it may be a tasty proposition, but a large majority of them are fated to be destitute.』
『We have more knowledge on managing settlements than anything the man’ll find on paper over here.』
『Personally, I think he should get in touch with whoever’s going to be his superior. If he doesn’t get a better grasp of a situation, He can’t make a proper move.』
Hearing that opinion, the Third laughed.
『Ahahaha, just what do you think you’re talking about, men… there is absolutely nothing he can do at this point.』
I gripped the Jewel in search of an explanation.
Seeing Clark-san’s enervated expression, I wanted to have some advice to give.
(Please throw me a bone here!)
Sensing my intentions, the Third went on.
『Listen here. Even if a Feudal Lord is dispatched all of a sudden, he’s pretty much a stranger. He’s got to live a year or two there, and learn the rules of the land. While the palace’s may be muddled, the human relations of any small settlement can be just as varied. Only after understanding all of that should he think about the direction to push the territory.』
The Fourth spoke.
『… If there’s a governor at the moment, meeting him may be a good idea as well. If that governor has a manor or something there, he’d better set up a meeting while he’s still in the capital, or it will become a pain.』
The Third spoke.
『Just buy the manor, why don’t you? If I may add on, information on the present state brings in money. Whatever governor’d be happy to divulge information to the hero who slayed a Gryphon, I’m telling you!』
In a sense, isn’t that a threat?
As I thought that, the Third Generation offered some advice.
『The standard is to hear a specialist’s opinion, make modifications, and mediate if a problem pops up. Even if you call them all feudal lords, it’s not like all of them take care of everything, and all he really has to do is socialize with his villagers while keeping a set distance. Do what you have to, and don’t get too involved. That’s all it takes for one to be thought of as a splendid lord.』
Is that really enough? That’s what I thought.
But here, the Fourth…
『Right. You should ask Clark if he has any heirs. I’m sure he can make a few petitions to the court as well. The knowledge from my time is old, so I’m not fully certain.』
The Third spoke to me.
『Lyle, look at who you’re speaking to. Clark-san will find a way fitting of him, so just give some safe advice for now.』
I passed on the advice to Clark-san.
To a depressed Clark-san, I handed on the Ancestors’ advice.
… After proceeding to the palace, Clark carried out a petition for a transition of authority.
“Father, I’m quite certain that fifteen is quite a bit too young for a feudal lord.”
The boy who was a little shorter than Clark was quite flustered.
In regards to his son, Clark spoke.
“Even if it may just be in shape, it’s not a bad deal to have you become a lord here. Returning and requesting an audience after we head all the way there will take a considerable amount of time. And if it’s now, they should be a little more accommodating.”
“Because you’re the Gryphon slaying hero? While I know you’re earnest, I still can’t believe you really did anything like that.”
While thinking over how his son really had a good eye for people, Clark continued pacing in the palace.
He was going to stop by the house of the knight previously dispatched as governor to the land, and if that man held a manor there, he was going to buy it off of him.
A majority of governors did have something like that, and they were discarded as easily as loose change.
(If you pile up dust… not the nicest story.)
(TL: This is half of the idiom ‘If you pile up dust, it will eventually become a mountain.’)
In order to carry out life over there, he asked for necessary information from former governors, and made preparations according.
Clark’s son seemed quite worn out from the succession paperwork and all else.
“We’re just going right home after this one, right?”
“Sorry… after this, you’ll be having a marriage interview.”
Clark persisted he had forgotten to bring it up, and offered an apology.
“All the way over there, well… it seems finding a wife will be a living hell. And it seems keeping some connection to the capital is best.”
“I-I never heard of this!”
To his panicked son, Clark desperately spoke up the things he had forgot to mention.
“I’m sorry! But they have it hard on their side as well. I mean, they have all the meetings with the second and third sons of craftsmen, and have to pay visits to them too… and you see, if it’s now, the name of the Gryphon slayer will get you through. Now’s all we have.”
“… With this, I’m sure we’d all be better off if you didn’t kill the beast.”
“… Don’t say it.”
His son only knew the official story on the matter, so Clark didn’t get angry at him.
(Even so, there’s quite a lot to do.)
He was better off than not knowing what to do at all, but now his head was spinning from the excess work. On top of that, he was also thinking to take up immigrants from Centralle.
If he did that, the population would increase, so the palace would pay out an additional subsidiary aid payment.
(Next, for whoever looks like they’d be reliable on military matters… I really should have learned a bit more from Lyle-kun on that one. Never thought he’d know that much alone.)
Clark was thankful, but he hadn’t the slightest idea his knowledge on the matter came from the ancestors in the Jewel…