Galleria… its official name was the 【Grand Duchy of Galleria】.
It was a country where, among its varied feudal lords, the one that held the most power, the Grand Duke of Galleria, had the role of getting the surrounding lords together.
The Grand Duke’s dukedom alone held more territory than Lorphys’ had before the war. But the greatest marvel of the country was of how the authority of a duke was recognized by surrounding lords.
After departing from Beim, we entered Lorphys, and upon crossing into Galleria from there, I could tell the atmosphere was different.
It was a country centralized around nobility, and one where the feudal lords held great power.
Sitting on Porter’s roof portion, I guarded the specially prepared carts, and the large-scale Porter- quite a conspicuous group- as I watched over the convoy that had stopped to complete the troublesome international passage procedures.
“… It really is a troublesome process.”
The one to answer my murmur was the Third.
『There’s no helping it. But once they verify it’s a delivery for the Grand Duke’s house, they’ll let us through for chump’s change, so just wait it out. They’ve agreed to barter entry for the Magic Stones and materials we obtained on the way, so it even reduces our load.』
The Valkyries stationed to protect the group wore robes, and carried their varied specialized weapons to appeal.
When monsters attack, they’d instantly respond, and annihilate them. And carrying out the dismantling, they’d retrieve the stones and materials as well.
『The feudal lords having power was the same in Bahnseim, but this land is the extremes of that. As a country, it has a questionable size, so even a baronet house would seem large… being a baronet here sounds quite profitable. Seems you’d have a considerable amount of influence to boot.』
The Third sounded envious, but even so, from my point of view, there were numerous problems. The feudal lords were managing their territories, so there were places where the roads were maintenanced, and places where they weren’t.
Every time we passed through a town, a passage toll would be taken.
Because we were using their roads, we would have to pay for it.
… I could only see it as an overly inconvenient country.
We passed through a number of territories, and even before we could enter the Grand Duke’s territory, the merchants had to negotiate with the nobles.
“With the scale of your convoy, the fee would be around…”
“No, but we’re delivering goods to the Grand Duke, so…”
“The value of bartered goods fluctuates, so please pay in gold…”
What I heard was just how much they were paying. And negotiations to how cheap they could lower it. Using the magic stones and materials gained on the way, the merchants were able to pass for cheaper than anticipated.
But thinking of the return trip made my forehead exceedingly painful. If we were to use the same course back, they would take our profits.
What’s more, you couldn’t move between Galleria and Rusworth.
It seems the merchants were keeping the toll in mind, and selling their goods for comparatively high prices, but to the buyers, the Grand Duke house, it must be quite an annoyance.
The Fourth quietly let out complaints.
『Road maintenance of this level requires that much gold? What’s more, there were plenty of check points in dubious places. Wherever there’s a lot of traffic, they use every chance to pluck money off of us. If they made it cheaper, and actually put the work into maintaining the roads, they’d earn several times what they’re making, dammit. What are they thinking, there lords? Are they idiots?』
In regards to territory management, he had formed the foundation among the heads of history, and it seems he was quite displeased with Galleria’s system of rule.
『Manage it properly!』
The Seventh was opposed to the Fourth’s opinion.
『It’s irrelevant to us. Well, I do feel it’s inefficient, but this isn’t our territory. You’re paying undo mind to it.』
At the very least, Bahnseim was a country set in order with the king at the center. It had a level of uniformity to it.
“So even with the same general structure, they can be different.”
Sitting on the same roof, Miranda answered to my muttering. From my words, it seems she noticed I was comparing Bahnseim to Galleria.
“Sure it’ll differ from a large superpower. But it’s true the feudal lords have much power here. It seems they don’t have anything like Imperial Nobles here. Can barely believe it myself.”
Galleria’s Grand Duke House didn’t have any Imperial Nobles, it seems. The duke had his retainers, but they weren’t treated as nobles, and they didn’t have a peerage. It seems all of them were treated just as vassals.
“So it’s a gathering of provincial nobles, huh.”
Seeing that the group had started to move, I took control of Porter. Behind, Clara was piloting the large-scale Porter.
The soldiers that saw Porter were staring at us, but I ignored them, and passed through.
After entering the Grand Duke’s territory, since we were the ones who’d been called for, we didn’t have to pay toll, and the other various expenses.
On the way to his manor, I found it strange he didn’t own a palace. But the city around it was a fortress city nonetheless.
The walls around it were similar to Beim’s, but it was of smaller scale, with a greater number of military installations.
Entering the city, we proceeded straight for the mansion.
There was no doubt the air of the city was different from Beim’s but the fact it reminded me of Bahnseim was perhaps due to the similarity of their structures.
When the rare sight of Porter came through, a crowd formed, and the children looked up at the Golem with their eyes sparkling.
“Maybe they’re inside?”
“Idiot, in that case, where’s the luggage going to go?”
Listening to the such voices from the residents, we made way for the mansion, when Eva restlessly popped up on Porter’s roof.
“S-so many people… aah, I want to break into song.”
As her eyes sparkled, and she insisted her desire of having her songs heard, I pushed her back into Porter.
“We don’t have the time, so we can’t. It seems a war is close here, so hold yourself back.”
Not letting herself fall inside, with her head still pressed, she addressed me.
“You’re always like that! There isn’t a single time you’re not busy! So I’m begging you. Just a little bit of time is enough.”
Taken aback, I spoke.
“Aren’t you the one who said dealing with the local elves and organizations would be a pain? Please endure it. When we’re done with Rusworth, I’ll make some time in Lorphys.”
In these two unstable countries, it wouldn’t be strange if war broke out at any moment. In such a place, I didn’t want us to overstay our welcome.
“Wah, I knew it would be like this, but I’ve barely any chances.”
Spilling her complaints, Eva returned to Porter’s insides.
The masses of cargo lowered from the wagons, and the large-scale Porter were lined up in front of the Grand Duke’s manor.
The one responsible came from the mansion, confirming each piece with the merchants.
They were mostly tools you wouldn’t use in war.
Among them, there were things that made one wonder, ‘why would they even need something like that?’ but I chose not to mind it.
The vast mansion was definitely appropriate for a Grand Duke. It was at the center of the country, so it wouldn’t be strange for him to have a castle, but thinking of living in it, this way was definitely easier.
The responsible party that confirmed the cargo issued orders to his subordinates to carry it away. There, a single woman walked out of the mansion.
That woman, who bore long silver hair, let her silky locks sway as she came over to us.
Her violet eyes, and white skin made me feel the beauty of some artificial creation from her. She wore clothes that a knight may wear, giving the impression she was trying to disguise as a man.
Her atmosphere was stiff. And she was of tall stature, suited to military exploits.
When she walked over to me, she used her thumb to point out Porter.
“My apologies, but who would the owner of this article be? I’d like to talk with them.”
I took of my hood, and offered my greetings.
“My name is Lyle, and I’m the one in charge of this convoy’s security. I’m the owner.”
Monica was awaiting my orders nearby, and from her usual attitude, I thought she would butt in, but she kept her mouth closed, and erased her presence diagonally behind me.
(I-if she stayed this quiet on a regular basis, she’s be a perfect maid.)
The woman used her eyes to take me in from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head, before pushing out her large chest, and putting a hand on her hip.
“Are you an adventurer? I’m a little curious, but that doesn’t matter for now… I saw this one move. A wagon that needs no horse to pull it? So Beim’s even managed to develop something like this.”
What she had interest in was Porter.
And having her evaluate it made me a little happy.
“It hasn’t been marketed enough to catch on. And you would be?”
The surrounding people, especially the merchants were looking at me in panic. The people of the mansion were also looking at me with surprised expressions.
But the woman smiled.
“My apologies. I’m 【Gracia Galleria】. I’m serving as proxy Grand Duke.”
I thought I had heard a description fitting her somewhere before, but I never thought I would stumble upon one of the two maidens of war here of all places. Seeing her smile like that, I guess she does have a kind side to her…
“If we maintain these in large quantities, we’ll lessen the need for horses to pull our wagons. For that amount, we’ll be able to raise more warhorses, and flank Rusworth from all sides. Could you tell me of this one in more detail? If it will let me see that Rusworthen Witch’s face, I’ll purchase them at a pretty penny.”
Her violet eyes looked considerably serious. And seeing as she was smiling as she spoke of invasion, she was a war hawk.
From the Jewel, perhaps holding the same opinion, the Fifth.
『H-huh? CI thought these guys were fighting on set rules. You don’t mean to say they’ve been holding a serious war for years on end? That Alette wasn’t exaggerating it a bit?』
… He was confused.
The Seventh also drew back.
『A real war on this scale, is it? I’m surprised they didn’t pick at Selva when it was exhausted and collapsing.』
When I took a step back, my opponent took one forward. As she extended her hand to grab my shoulder, Monica, and Novem approached.
But from behind Gracia-san came a chastising voice.
“Gracia! You’re being rude to him, are you not!?”
Turning around, Gracia-san let out a sigh, and looked at the newcomer. She looked a little irritated.
“This isn’t a matter relevant to you, 【Leold】. You’ve gotten in the way.”
Silver hair, and drooping violet eyes. He seemed to be Gracia-san’s younger brother. Age-wise, he looked even younger than me.
When Gracia-san returned to the mansion, Leold-kun offered me an apology.
“I deeply apologize. As you’ve witnessed, when it comes to war, my sister’s field of vision narrows… Ah, more importantly, I give my thanks for guarding the convoy. My name is Leold. I’m the younger brother of the proxy Grand Duke.”
I also introduced myself.
“I’m Lyle the adventurer. The guarding was a request, so it’s nothing you have to give your thanks for.”
There, Leold-kun lowered his eyes a little, and gave a bitter smile.
“No, most merchants and adventurers find their dissatisfactions on the way here.”
Watching Leold-kun’s response, the Fourth judged him.
『This kid… he’s a good kid at the base, but he’s no good. If she’s proxy, does that make this a male lineage? If he can’t inherit its status, rather than being too young, I can only think that he was found unworthy of it. And it’s no good to immediately give an apology as well. Just look around.』
I looked around to find the people of the mansion sending defiant gazes Leold-kun’s way.
The Third observed the surrounding situation.
『Big sister was too strong, so things have assembled with her at the center. But isn’t it strange? … These sorts of things usually don’t make for fun tales. It isn’t rare to be assassinated for being too strong. And little brother looks much easier to manipulate. For some reason, their unity feels weaker than what we’ve heard.』
Seeing the surroundings direct hostility, I sympathized with Leold-kun. I ended up overlapping him with me.
(Is he the same?)
Perhaps he noticed the surroundings looks, as he sent a smile at me, before returning to the mansion.
“My apologies. I was in the way, was I? Well then.”
In contrast to his sister Gracia-san’s military officer air, Leold-kun was a young boy with more a civil officer vibe to him. A contrastive pair of siblings, is it?
The merchants finished delivering the cargo, accepted the reward, and left the mansion. We the guards followed along, and after two nights in the city, we would return.
But of this country inclined to the extremes towards war, I felt a little… no, a considerable sense of doubt.
… In Galleria’s Grand Duke’s mansion, Gracia had called Leold to her room.
The boy who would be rebuked if anything happened, Leold, was made light of by those of the manor.
A brother unworthy of his strong and beautiful sister. A brother unworthy of Grand Dukeship, and an environment that recognized that fact.
“Leold, you don’t have to force yourself to follow through for me. You really don’t have to mind it.”
Gracia showed him an attitude different to what she usually wore around the mansion. It was the attitude of a sister worried for her brother.
Leold knew that as well.
“But at this rate, the other lords will keep squeezing out the merchants, and the prices will rise… when we’re already troubled with finances.”
At a glance, Galleria looked as if it had gathered its lords under the Grand Duke’s name.
But that wasn’t the case.
They were using the Grand Dukke House to commence war with Rusworth.
“I understand your worry. But if you say too much by it, you’ll definitely be assassinated. At present, I’m not asking for your opinion, so you’re being looked upon lightly.”
The lords had strong authority, and even by the Grand Duke’s orders, if it was to cut into their precious income, they would revolt.
Gracia and Leold’s parents had died of doubtful circumstance. Exhaustion by long years of war, and the decline of their national power couldn’t be concealed. If the Grand Duke put on a show, no one would follow, and after so long, the Grand Duke couldn’t cut itself off from its surroundings either.
The moment they did, the country would do the same, and its lands would instantly get stormy.
Gracia herself didn’t actually wish for war. But the talent she was born with wouldn’t permit it. As Galleria’s maiden of war, the surroundings requested her to fight.
Originally, she wasn’t supposed to stay a proxy, leaving the true title to Leold.
But Leold was stubborn as well. He believed that any further war was pointless, and was trying to make appeals to the feudal lords on the border.
If his appeals would actually get their assistance, then so be it, but it was uncertain to what extent they would actually listen. And to the lords that didn’t hold a border, their plunder from war produced an extraordinary profit. If anyone asked to stop, it was a situation where ample resistance would pop up.
“Anyways, until you become an adult, I’m the proxy. But you should also think up a road to live free. As things are, you really will be killed.”
Her words were ones to throw away the status of Grand Duke. But they were merely the words of a worried sister.
“… But if that’s the case, then you’ll be forcibly married off, won’t you? Have you forgotten how they said it was best if the maiden of war had as many children as possible in the last meeting? They seriously mean to push men onto you. That’s strange! You don’t even want to fight to begin with.”
Gracia understood her own strength. And perhaps that’s what the surrounding lords feared. But Gracia alone couldn’t carry out a war, and if the lords around her attacked, she would lose either way.
And to such a girl, a number of lords had proposed for joint control. While they were under the name of joint control, their contents weren’t as savory.
She would have to bear the children of multiple houses. Such was the value of a magician’s blood. She had sent them back, but even so, they were made thinking of the possibility her powers may backfire on the country.
That’s exactly why war was so important to her. As long as war raged on, she could live at peace. An opponent only she was able to fight… because 【Elza Rusworth】 was there, Gracia was left alive.
If she didn’t exist, by this point, she really would have to birth children under joint control, perhaps facing assassination once she was done with.
“… Even so, I cannot run away. So even if it’s you alone.”
The worried pair of brother and sister spoke their minds in the room. From the outside, everything looked together, but the inside was in tatters.
And to be blunt, Galleria’s present situation was closing in on itself…