Those Who Wait
The day after I met the adventurers who had arrived at the site beforehand.
In the room next door of the inn we used, a two-man adventurer party pretending to be innocent bystanders had taken up lodging to watch us.
I was impressed by the rigor of my own surveillance.
“Would you usually go that far?”
Maksim-san looked at me, and touched a hand to his chin.
“It just means that’s how high the other side is evaluated. I heard they were a first class adventurer party that surpassed the sixtieth floor, so I doubt they’ll be negligent in preparations.”
Voices didn’t carry out of the room.
It looks like they didn’t know which inn we would use, and the adventurers had marched in after we rented the inn, so they weren’t able to fully prepare.
If you call it soft, it may be soft, but they made sure not to take their eyes off of us.
Damien sat in a chair, embraced his staff, and sat in a slouch. Perhaps he was tired, as he was yawning.
“But good on them to say the Queen wasn’t in the castle dungeons, but imprisoned in a cave a little bit out of town. It’s the worst, feels like they’ll try to bury us alive.”
The cave was in a forest, and it seems they were trying to entice us into it. As they arrived first, the adventurers said that it took some time to search it out, so they would be resting for a while without making a move. Or so they did well to make it look that way to us.
As I thought, we were out of our field. Saying they would depend on an adventurer of the East Branch, they surrounded us, and started up a merry banquet, so they truly were cunning.
I took a memo in hand.
“Anyways, by the info from Rauno-san, the Queen is in the dungeons beneath the castle. There’s no doubt she’s imprisoned there, but it looks like the Guild and the women at the castle are all under the influence of Larc’s Skill. I get the feeling they’re also keeping watch around town, but I’ll bet they’re looking out for outsiders.”
As I said that, Maksim-san smiled.
“After rescuing the Queen, and completing our first objective, I’d like to run. Looking at numbers alone, they’re close to a hundred. The main force, and the reserves… their strength is considerable.”
That strength tempered in the Labyrinth. Having fought on and on and repeated Growths, the adventurers planned to attack us were troublesome existences.
There, the Fifth offered some advice.
『… Lyle, while they’re definitely trouble, the enemy are Labyrinth-specialized anti-monster pros. Not pros against humans.』
Hearing that, I rolled the Jewel with my fingertip to indicate my denial.
Within the Labyrinth, there were many conflicts between adventurers. Having experienced a number of those fields, I thought I couldn’t make light of these folk.
But the Third agreed with the Fifth’s opinion.
『To say it to the extremes, their experience is one-sided. You saw Marianne-chan’s documents, didn’t you? Labyrinth specialists that became first class a few years ago, but they’ve only been working in the Labyrinth the whole way. I’ll admit that it still makes them strong, though.』
The Seventh gave advice.
『Think carefully, Lyle. It’s true that it’s important to pile up experience from defeating all sorts of monsters. But think of the present state, where the continent isn’t being ruled by adventurers. A small group being strong doesn’t have any meaning. There are any number of means.』
I took out Marianne-san’s documents, and looked through them again. This could become a trump card, and it was definitely necessary. Not just as information.
It was information on adventurers kept by the Guild. I couldn’t mistake where to use it.
“Me, Damien and Maksim-san. Then three automatons, and one of Damien’s golems makes four more. We have to guard Erhart’s party of five. War potential-wise, it will be harsh.”
Looking at my forces alone, I determined it was clear that we fell short. It was certain we would lose if we faced them up-front.
I carefully put the documents away in a bag.
“Then let’s count on Rauno-san. Whatever the case, moving now won’t help anything.”
Maksim-san lowered his shoulders.
“Hah, just how long will it be until I can reunite with milady?”
He said, and slumped.
… The stronghold prepared for Labyrinth Subjugation.
A that base, Novem and the others had completed their preparations. Building walls like a simple fortress, and setting traps in the forest.
Novem comparted the data Lyle obtained with the information Rauno had collected. Nearby were Rauno’s colleague Innis, and Clara with her staff illuminating the area.
Turning the pages, she discovered a number of disparities.
There were Valkyries posted as guards around, with their lights on as they patrolled the base in the forest.
While the atmosphere was heavy, Innis didn’t seem disturbed.
“… I’ve caught sight of a number of differences in how they’ve listed their Skills. Perhaps there’s a difference in how it seems looking from the outside, and from looking within. Or could a false report have purposely slipped in somewhere.”
Innis, in regards to that.
“There’s no mistake in information Rauno-san has collected. And the results the Skills bring about are the same.”
Novem denied those thoughts.
“That’s wrong. A small mistake can spell life or death. But as expected, there are a lot of Skillholders. Perhaps the Labyrinth-specialist adventurers will be difficult. If that’s how it is…”
Before Novem could say the rest, Innis opened her mouth.
“… Is it alright if I asked something?”
Novem answered as she looked over the documents. She had looked over them a number of times before, but her hands were free, so she checked them again. The documents were carefully being kept by her, and as they were always close at hand, they were easy to check.
“Isn’t the Guild fearsome? In Beim, to the adventurers, the Guild is a giant mass of authority. They normally offer kind support, but if you go against them, I’ve heard they’ll use any means to crush you. In truth, even famed adventurers cannot defy the Guild. I’ve heard the relation of adventurer and Guild is different elsewhere, but are you not making light of Beim?”
The one to answer Innis’ question was Clara, who had been reading a book under her light. Perhaps she had finished, as she closed the book, and left it atop the crate she was sitting on.
“It’s true there are differences in other cities and towns. The place I was had a Guild cold towards its adventurers. It was a city centered on its university.”
Hearing that, Innis made a guess at her home town.
“That would be Arumsaas, right? I’ve heard their library is famous. It’s true Arumsaas is also a large city, but Beim exceeds that. No, it’s in a different league. I’ve been curious for a while, but do none of your party fear the Guild?”
Novem neatly got the documents together, and after carefully storing them in a bag, she turned her body to Innis. But her expression felt even colder than usual.
“We know the Guild is conspiring with the merchants, and we know how dreadful those merchants are as well. The Guild has money, and their support is perfect, so I’m sure they’ve sweepers as well. But…”
Innis looked at Novem, and tilted her head.
“… It’s not as if we intend to win against Beim. Because we can’t. Lyle-sama understands that as well. What’s important is what’s to come afterwards.”
Clara had extended her hand to her next book, and while Novem said there was no way to win, she seemed exceedingly calm…
Inside Dingo’s house, Rauno recalled Innis’ prediction.
Her Skill… Information… was one to derive a prediction of the future from gathered information. If you used it in gambling, it didn’t exhibit any useful effect.
It is certain that Rauno will lose more than he wins, it gave a result that didn’t even give room for dreams.
But the higher the precision of gathered information, the more accurate the prediction of the future would be.
Putting his chin against the back of the chair, he sat in it backwards, as he remembered Innis’ words.
『… This time, no matter what measures the Guild uses against Lyle-san’s party, they will be crushed. Even if the attack fails, they will use the casualties that came from it as a reason to corner them. Lyle-san’s party will receive an exile verdict from Beim. For Beim to draw the interest of their next negotiation partner, Celes of Bahnseim… however…』
Weighing Lyle and Celes on the scales, whatever hero he may be, it was only natural for Beim to choose Celes, the one with more to offer.
To add onto that, Lyle was the individual moving behind the formation of the four-country alliance. If he disappeared, the probability that plans would fall through was high.
Official talks hadn’t even begun, and it’s not like it was all profit for all sides. Naturally, if there were pros, there were cons as well.
With such relations, for better or worse, by a single human called Lyle, the four-way alliance had come to reality.
And if he was gone, mercenary work would increase with the skirmishes going on as they had before. To Beim, having a war nearby was an important thing. Keeping a moderate distance, so as not to be dragged in, as the premise, that is.
(It’s Innis’ prediction. I doubt it’ll be off by much… even so, why does she always grow vague when it comes to Lyle’s party?)
There was some decisive lack of information. Rauno felt it so.
Even Innis’ Skill was troubled to decide.
『… However, Lyle-san has aimed for this matter, and brought it about. He has forecast the possibility of Bahnseim invading Beim, and there is even a possibility he believes it isn’t a problem if Beim and Bahnseim link hands as a result. But there is no doubt the one to win in the end will be Beim.』
Despite his youth, Lyle who used dirty means through thick and thin. To Rauno, it was as if he were some sly old man.
(The possibility of him having memories from a past life… yeah, no.)
As he gave a bitter smile at that absurd thought, Dingo came over to him.
“Hey, did you hear? At the port, an excessively imposing group has… Rauno, are you laughing?”
With his laugh witnessed, Rauno cleared his throat, and decided to ask on that previous matter.
“No, it’s nothing. More importantly, what happened at the port?”
“That large mercantile house’s ship returned after a relatively short period of time. When they got back, some sturdy men came down with weapons and the like. Even when the soldiers checked with them, they just declared their equipment was merchandise, so they had to go to the higher-ups with paperwork, and get it approved. Good grief, they’ll always be stubborn, won’t they.?”
Rauno knew of that information, he himself having been the one to send the bribe to the one in charge, so he just gave a nod.
“Well, this country’s always been inflexible. Its strange parts aren’t changing anytime soon.”
Dingo looked at Rauno with a little loneliness.
“Rauno, you had a Skill unworthy of a knight, so they always pushed the dirty jobs onto you, after all. Even when it would’ve come in handy with recon and intel gathering. So when you were driven away… you should’ve given more a protest.”
“It’s all in the past. And I’ve no intent to return to knighthood. I don’t have to do dirty work, and spotting a person’s weaknesses to wring money out of them is just right for my personality.”
Rauno was once a knight of Cartaffs. He had taken it with passion in his youth, but it had been determined the Skill he manifested was unnecessary for a knight, and he had all the grunt work pushed onto him.
Dingo let out a sigh.
“If that’s alright with you, then fine. Even so, it’s getting dangerous these days. Is it because they leaked that rumor of the Queen marrying whoever saved her? Or rather, just how did that rumor get out in the first place?”
Seeing Dingo sway back and forth, Rauno frantically contained his laughter at all he knew going on behind the scenes…
Night, a few days later.
I stood before the soldiers of Galleria that had arrived.
“Did you enjoy your trip by sea? Even so, Leold-sama sure is generous. So the ones he sent were Galleria’s elites.”
Soldiers under Galleria’s Grand Duke house.
Five hundred members in all had boarded the Vera Trēs.
Maksim-san looked at that number with a dubious expression.
“Are they really fine with letting this many foreign troops onto their soil? If it were me, I’d definitely prevent it. And wait, I’m surprised they let it pass on pocket change.”
In regards to things that had been decided before, those of Cartaffs would faithfully carry through. Hearing that reputation, Maksim-san’s face stiffened.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, the sailors did make a bit of a… clerical mistake. The truth of the matter is that they’re treating it as twenty-odd youths wishing to raise their names asking for entry to the country.”
Damien put his staff over his shoulder, and looked at the castle nearby.
“But I do think it impossible to drop by a castle this sturdy with five hundred men. You don’t have any secret weapons, do you?”
I nodded at Damien’s words, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t have any means.
“Well, we’ve got to take care of this first, or they won’t get panicked for us. Rather, what small force would challenge a force several times their size lying in wait for them? If there was someone who’d do something like that, I’d like to see his face.”
Maksim-san looked at me, and sighed.
“Lyle, the current situation is much worse than challenging the adventurer party. Challenging a castle with only five hundred, you just turned up the difficulty. Shall I prepare a mirror for you?”
I’d broken the ice considerably with Maksim-san as well.
But it’s not like a castle was always prepared for war. And precisely because it was a sturdy castle, there were methods that would work out.
“Well, we’ve various means to use. And I had Rauno-san prepare a map of the castle, so we’ll be alright. It’s a straight line to the dungeons.”
Erhart’s party, who’d been roused from their sleep, came out and looked around in surprise.
“Now then, I’ll be leaving three hundred troops to Maksim-san, and…”
“Hey, I’m not sure what to think of questions while I’m in the middle explaining… but so be it. Yes, Erhart-kun.”
When I nominated him, Erhart pointed around.
“What’s with this situation!? And wait, what happened to rescuing the Queen!? Why did things turn towards attacking the castle!?”
I shook my head.
“No, it’s because the Queen is in the castle dungeons. And Erhart-kun… numbers are important in battle.”
Erhart ruffled his hair with both his hands.
“As if that explains anything!? I’m talking about how hard it is to gather those numbers!”
The Fifth, quietly in the Jewel.
『Well, for gathering numbers, us feudal lords are more skilled than adventurers. Though we just borrowed them this time.』
Knights and soldiers, while I tried to get him to understand we were commanding those elites, the Seventh was buoyant.
『Fufufu, this brings me back to when I reclaimed the fort Faunbeax took down. That day was also a quiet night like this. Infiltrated the solid fort of those worn out from their merrymaking, and filled them with holes. I’ve taken down quite a few forts in my day!』
As the Fifth was strong in defensive battles, the Seventh was strong in sieges.
『Brod-kun, don’t get so worked up just because it’s your field of expertise. Well, if you get as far as the dungeons, I’m sure the rest will be fine. Even so, when they learn of the queen’s rescue, how will those adventurers move? I can’t wait to see. I’m sure around now, those kids keeping lookout of you are hurriedly trying to escape those ropes.』
As always, a terrible personality. The two adventurers on watch were attacked, and tied up. We did knock them unconscious, but it was possible they were already reporting to their leader by now.
Well, by the time they get here, I’m sure it’ll be over. With greater numbers, it’s quite a trial to prepare. They were quite the cautious types, so it’s thinkable they be rendered immobile by moving to information gathering.
The Third laughed.
『There’s no way anyone’d go to the place they prepared a trap. And wait, rather than scurrying home, I hope they show enough guts to attack Lyle on the way out. I really can’t wait!』
The Fifth sighed, and acted as a proxy for my feelings.
『… You lot really do have some good personalities on you.』
『Don’t praise me so, father.』
The Third also caught his sarcasm.
『Even like this, I think of myself as a diligent and honest human being!』
I thought it my heart. ‘Yeah, no’.