… Rusworth palace’s grand meeting hall.
“High minister Redl, the ones found connected to Galleria’s feudal lords were ones of your faction. Do you not believe you must take responsibility in some shape or form?”
Surrounded by armed soldiers, the minister Redl made a chewed-up sour expression in his head. But on the surface, he skillfully played dumb.
“Now then, I’ve no recollection of such a thing. It’s nothing I recall ordering.”
With the mid and low-level government officers at the center, they presented their evidence as they restrained a portion of the authority. They listed the charges.
Similarly surrounded by soldiers, Elza sat on the throne, keeping silent as she watched over the situation. Among the soldiers, a robed magician… a woman held up a staff as she stood, while on the opposite side, a robed spearwoman kept her ground.
Judging from the air surrounding the two, they were likely reasonably skilled.
(They’ve hired some with considerable skill. I can’t make any thoughtless moves. Even so, for her not to rise to save me, what an ungrateful lass!)
Redl always made sure not to put his inner thoughts to mouth, but having come this far, that practice backfired on him. Elza wouldn’t hand down an order to spare him.
“But having you receive absolutely no punishment as the head of the faction won’t quite go through. Voluntary house arrest. If you don’t at least hole yourself in your own estate for two months…”
Hearing his opponent’s demands, Redl stroked his prided beard as if to insert his fingers through it. Inside, he couldn’t stop his own laughter.
(I see, so this lot understands that without me, politics will stagnate… they took a firm step to chip down my power, but they’re clever enough to know any further is impossible!)
With full confidence in his municipal prowess, the light sentence put him in good spirits. Then here it would be best to take the initiative, and accept the slap on the wrist. He thought.
“I must agree. Understood. I’ll put myself in voluntary house arrest. But it’s not my desire for our politics to fall to pieces in the two months I’m away. The lives of the people depend on my work. Your highness, what thinks you of this?”
Saying such a thing to Elza across the meeting room, he kept perfect manner as he directed quite a rude glance at the queen.
(Good grief, a lass useless anywhere besides the battlefield.)
Elza closed her eyes for a bit, and slowly opening them…
“… The high minister is restricted to his estate for two months. What of the others?”
The mid-level officer at the heart of it deeply lowered his head.
“They are ones who used ties to the enemy to fertilize their vaults. I believe capital punishment to be fitting.”
“Then let it be so.”
Saying that, she left the room. The authorities and high officials, surrounded by soldiers, with their fate set in stone, cried out.
“I-it’s a mistake! It was the high minister’s orders!”
“It wasn’t just me! That guy too! He’s also a traitor!”
“Don’t screw with me! Why only us… and why the hell are you all staying silent!?”
That there were others tied to the lords of Galleria, they screamed as they were led away by soldiers…
… Galleria’s Grand Duke House’s estate.
Having gathered up the lords, Gracia boldly declared.
“There are feudal lords who’ve betrayed the house, colluding with Rusworth. The proof is already before me, and punishment is currently being handed down to a portion of Rusworth’s high officers. A two way communication, yet no measures taken on our side? In the name of Galleria’s Grand Duke House, I proclaim for their suppression!”
There were lords not taking part in the meeting, and those faces were being treated as traitors.
Their original number was great, and among them, some spoke ill of the traitors with nonchalant faces. From the gathered lords…
“But to deliver punishment simply because such foul deeds were found on enemy soil…”
“I’ve only just dispatched my soldiers. I am rendered immobile for now.”
“Would it be too late to move after looking further into the matter?”
They were negative about. The ones who thought their own collusion may come to light were especially panicked. Even the ones who hadn’t turned coat had just taken part in war, making it difficult to send out troops.
“Then the Grand Duke House shall move of its own. Leaving traitors in or midst will have Galleria made light of!”
In the surrounding negativity, Galleria’s greatest firepower, Gracia herself said she would move. The lords… the feudal lords had their dissatisfactions, but as she had the legal authority, they couldn’t oppose it.
And at present, as they didn’t think the Grand Duke House could prepare an adequate number of soldiers at the current time, they abided by her decision.
No matter how strong she was, even if she could win alone, the processing to come afterwards, and rule of the snatched land would be difficult for her.
They’d have her blunder, and when the time came they could send soldiers, they thought they’d have her divide the land, and put out a reward…
While violent movements were running through Rusworth and Galleria.
I was processing paperwork in the Lorphan village close to both borders. Rather than paperwork, I was reading letters from Beim, while I plucked my hair.
This problem was a request from Fidel-san.
“Steal the authority of the merchant houses supporting Rusworth’s minister? And fork over an authority a level higher than the complex mess of merchants in Galleria? The bastard… keeps persisting this is equivalent exchange for his backing. Never said a word about any of this poppycock before…”
Inside the rebuilt house, Valkyrie Unit One presented some tea, so I downed it all at once.
It was nice and cool, but as I thought, the tea Novem and Monica put out was something else.
When I gave my thanks, Unit One lowered her head, before pouring a refill into the cup. I held the pen in my mouth, and thought over what to do with this problem when the Fourth offered advice.
『Lyle, your opponent… Fidel-kun doesn’t actually believe all his demands will go through. It’s about how much you have to accomplish to satisfy him. By the way, accomplish all that, and the anger of local merchants will come your way.』
When I’m dealing with it for him, he’d have the dissatisfaction come my way. Or perhaps, those sentiments would go to Gracia-san and Elza-san.
For Gracia-san, perhaps that way was actually best. But for Elza-san, I wanted to do a good job of processing it.
“I need to set up a plan for those around hold a level of dissatisfaction for Gracia-san, so she can pass on the Grand Duke position to Leold-kun in the near future… now then, what should we do about Elza-san.”
In her case, as the High Minister had a high popularity rating in Rusworth, any offhand behavior would instantly let complaints fall onto her. Of all else, even when the outskirts hated him, with charges brought onto him in the capital, he took action with the ‘country’s best interest’ in mind: cleaning up after the idiots of his faction. Or so they said, and even now, his popularity was high as ever.
(Fixated on the country’s center, and there’s no doubt that to the populace around the capital, he was a wonderful prime minister. He really is troublesome, this person.)
But ignoring Fidel-san would also become a pain. We needed his aid, and the need was coming to consider aid from other mercantile houses of Beim.
Watching my mulling form, the Fourth sounded like he was having fun.
『Mull over it all you can. And set the basis on pure and true information. Try to remove as much of your wishes and expectations as you can, and consider it over again with certain facts as the base.』
“… I will make the minister fall soon. If the House that was backing him finds another figure to back… no, I’ll have to set up a merchant of Beim while I can.”
After thinking it over, I weighed merit and demerit.
While I was pondering it like that, the information collected by the mass-produced Valkyries was sent to Monica, who was similarly connected to me with a line. She organized it, and sent it back to me.
But these Connection-based dealings… they were a plain Mana drain. There was some distance between us, but more than that, they were sending quite an amount of information to each other through me.
I wanted them to cut me some slack, but it was a necessity, so I bore with it.
The information sent from Monica informed me that a portion of Galleria’s lords were preparing for war.
Scope-wise, it would be a battle of a few hundred men. In Galleria, the Grand Duke house boasted the greatest power. Because of that, in a situation like this, they could easily grasp victory.
“… So as long as they had a ‘just cause’, they could deceive their surroundings.”
With the truth of there being traitors, the others couldn’t complain at the Grand Duke’s counter response. Or perhaps they couldn’t speak out too strongly.
I immediately dispatched Valkyries, putting them on information gathering in a new territory. But in this case, it would be quicker for me to venture to the site.
“Once I end this, I’ll head to Galleria… no, returning to Beim, and hearing Eva’s report is also… that’s wrong, a detailed meeting on Rusworth it also necessary…”
I fell over the desk.
I got a feeling the Fourth was watching over me with a grin.
Waiting for The Vera Trēs to arrive at port, I gave Eva and May some spending money, and told them to do as they pleased in the city.
Eva had some work to do in Beim, so she could only play a bit on the side.
When I had returned to Beim on May’s back, I had first dropped by our greatest supporter Fidel-san… No, the Trēs House in high spirits.
But even if I said that, my biggest aim was Vera.
The large ship entered the port, a gangplank was fastened, the sailors descended and went into their work.
There, one of the sea men seemed to have noticed me.
“If it isn’t Boss Lyle!”
He lightly raised his right hand to give greeting, before calling loudly for Vera. There, Vera popped her face over the deck, and spotted me.
“What is it… oh, Lyle!”
As she descended the ship in hot haste, I moved to meet her.
“Long time no see. I didn’t get the chance to meet you last time, so I came to see you.”
There, she blushed a little.
“You, didn’t you say you were busy in Galleria and Rusworth? No, I’m happy, but…”
“How about we have a meal together? See, if I don’t do something once in a while, I can’t sit still, or rather… yeah, I’m not sure how to put it, but let me treat you to lunch!”
On my request, Vera looked a little shocked, but she smiled, and nodded. I didn’t like the situation where she was just putting out money, so this time I wanted to treat her on the money I’d made.
“You don’t have to be so mindful. Well, I guess I can let you treat me.”
Chatting with an embarrassed Vera, I ended up waiting until she finished up with her work. When she returned on board to retrieve her luggage, a voice came from the Jewel.
It was the Fourth. He had been calling out to me especially frequently these days.
『Lyle, do keep in mind that treating her once doesn’t change the fact you’re a gigolo.』
(… I-I know that.)
… Within the Jewel, the ancestors watched over a scene of Lyle and Vera clumsily eating lunch together.
Milleia, as she watched them dine at a relatively high-class shop.
『How should I put it, when he has so many woman waiting on him, he’s too innocent, or rather, pitiful… though it’s interesting to watch.』
Lyle himself, even when eating in a high class restaurant, his etiquette was perfect. But while he was conversing with Vera, something felt awkward.
He was being too mindful of the other party.
The Third was watching such a Lyle with a grin.
『This carries a different intrigue from how used he’s gotten to it. Well, Lyle himself never thought too much of a harem after all. Unlike the all-affirmative Novem-chan, I’m sure he’s got a lot to think over himself.』
Milleia muttered Novem’s name.
『Novem-chan, is it… well, that kid’s, for better or worse, affirmative of Lyle. Even after she’s seen that pitiful form so many times, good of her not to have abandoned him yet. As I thought, it’s in her Forxuz blood.』
The Walt House was, for generations of heads, supported by the Forxuz House. They had been together for enough years that they didn’t think it strange, and the faces gathered here had thought in their times that it was just the way things were.
The Fifth watched Lyle as the boy hesitated when Vera’s face suddenly turned red.
『That boy, he sometimes just naturally makes passes. It’s scary. He’s usually no good, but at the important places, he definitely never misses, and more than that… are you sure he isn’t actually aiming for it?』
Seeing how Lyle had flushed Vera’s face with a single line, the Seventh laughed.
『With this rhythm, I’d like him to move onto seducing the two maidens of war, no the two witches.』
Within all that, the Fourth was making a bitter, somewhat lonely smile. He looked up at the images projected onto the Jewels ceiling.
『… In truth, somewhere far away, alone with Novem-chan. Running away somewhere far beyond Celes’ reach, and living a laidback life would’ve brought him the most happiness. It’s all because he had to choose to fight Celes.』
Milleia turned her eyes to the Fourth, before swapping to, and staring at the fifth. The Fifth averted his eyes.
Milleia let out a sigh.
『Good goddess, why must you be so stubborn… Fourth, no, grandfather.』
『Yes, my dear?』
Correcting the positioning of his glasses with a finger, the Fourth crossed his legs, and left his hands on top of them. He looked at Milleia with a smile.
『I’m a guide for Lyle’s sake. I do wish for you ancestors to fulfill your roles, but right now, it’s your knowledge that Lyle needs more than your Skill.』
Hearing that, the Fourth laughed. Not to mock, or because he felt strange, he simply laugh.
『You sure say some pleasant things. So my knowledge is more worthwhile than my Skill… truly, you’ve got a point there. Probe into it, and a Skill is but a tool. Instructing him until he can handle it properly is our role. But hearing we have a value greater than that is pleasant on the ears.』
While he said he was happy, the Fourth looked a little lonely.
『Even so, Lyle will need to stand on his own someday. That’s the sort of road he’s chosen, and eventually, we’ll become nothing but hindrances. Staying around to teach Lyle my way of doing things is easy, but if that goes on, a Lyle-ish way of doing it will cease to be. There’s no need to go as far as to destroy a new possibility to choose my means.』
The Third opened his mouth without looking the Fourth’s direction. His eyes remained locked on the outside scenery of the ceiling.
『… Originally, I’m sure I was supposed to have disappeared first. It sure is tough having a potent Skill.』
Was he joking or serious. That wasn’t the problem.
The Fourth gave a bitter smile as he spoke to his father, the Third.
『Third, no… dad, no matter the situation, you’ll probably be able to deal with it, so I can leave Lyle to you with relief. From your dubious standings, your methods that got you on so well in the world… I do respect your evil, villainous Skill.』
The Third, quietly.
『That didn’t sound like respect at all. But there’s a good time for everything.』
The Seventh silently listened to the conversation of father and son.
Perhaps the Fifth found himself unable to stand the atmosphere.
『Even when time-wise, mr. lyle is sure to come out soon? Are you sure you can’t put it off to a little later?』
Hearing that, the Fourth raised a grand laugh.
『Yep, it’s truly a shame. A little more, and I could see Lyle go mr. lyle again… Before that, I’ll pass down my Skill, and disappear. It’s that. I never thought it’d feel this lonesome at the start. That I could come to expect so much of that unreliable Lyle.』
Watching, projected on the ceiling, Lyle nervously eating his meal with Vera, the Fourth gazed on with a smile across his face…