The Kingdom of Faunbeux
… The Kingdom of Djanpear.
Having acquired a promise of cooperation, Novem’s party discussed matters with Jules.
How much force could be sent out was one thing, but the main issue was how the soldiers of Djanpear would fare on level ground.
Numerous mountains made for mountainous warfare, and with their sea, the soldiers could fight adrift. On their unique terrain, they could amply exhibit their strengths. And precisely because of that, whenever Bahnseim tried to invade Djanpear, they’d always throw in several times the resident force, and face defeat.
Losing their war potential before they could cross the mountains, and even passed them, the climate and environment were so different, there were many soldiers who would fall ill.
But this time was the opposite, where soldiers would be sent out from Djanpear.
Novem and Miranda, and Jules with his guards nearby, enjoyed some tea as they spoke.
“My apologies. We had much to discuss, and ended up wasting your time. Speaking to results, we will be assisting you. But the manpower we can put out is fifty thousand at most. Any more will be harsh. There is too little time.”
Supply, equipment, and training… they couldn’t just gather people together. In usable numbers, Djanpear currently held fifty thousand.
Novem, in regards to that.
“That is greater than our estimate. Pardon my insolence, but I had anticipated thirty thousand from Djanpear.”
In the warfare with Bahnseim to that point, Djanpear had been defending with around fifty to sixty thousand troops. So Novem had thought they would only be able to prepare thirty to forty thousand on top of that. While there was little level ground to be found, it was a plentiful land.
In the past, Bahnseim had also longed for it, its ports built up, and prospering from trade. To the land-locked Bahnseim, it was a land they had to gain at all costs.
And the country that had continuously turned the tables on them was Djanpear. But lately, they hadn’t been actively fighting one another. And Djanpear was a country that, while skilled on the defense, wouldn’t assertively invade others. Rather than saying they were satisfied with their bounds, Novem thought it more that they weren’t confident in their offensive prowess.
Jules didn’t try to hide anything, as he sipped his tea.
“The sky’s been looking rough over Bahnseim. So I prepared troops for the occasion, is how it is. Originally, I wanted to spend more time, and prepare a hundred thousand.”
Miranda’s eyes turned sharp.
“I can’t think that’s a number you can maintain, though?”
As she determined that based on the country’s scale, Jules mumbled something like, ‘good eyes,’ and laughed.
“We want some flatland for ourselves. Bahnseim will fall to ruin under Celes, and the surrounding countries will start into a scramble for its remains… I expect that much. Of course, I never thought there would be movements so soon.”
Novem listened to his words, and reaffirmed he planned on getting his forces ready for that moment to shave away Bahnseim’s land.
“Truly, one hundred thousand is a large number. But with that alone, Djanpear’s objective–”
“— Is an expansion of land. And to hold a voice once Bahnseim is subjugated. So I’ll be placing my expectations in that area onto your leader. The price for our collaboration is land, and a say.”
“Certainly, we can consent to that. But do you have no worries towards battle on level ground?”
Jules nodded frankly.
“You’ve a point. If we were fighting on mountains, I don’t have a feeling we would lose. I’m confident we could keep company a foe three or even five times our size. To us, the mountains are the same as a fortress all around. But when it comes to flatland, it really is worrisome. For that, I’ve been increasing our forces and training them. We won’t be a hindrance.”
Able to freely traverse the mountains, the soldiers of Djanpear held strong legs. But there was no guarantee that all battle would be in places they favored.
And because of their special environment, they had few horses. No cavalry to speak of, their army was centered on foot soldiers. Though there wasn’t a doubt those foot soldiers were strong.
Novem put the information of their forces together, and addressed Jules.
“Understood. Then next is the chain of command. This alone I cannot step down on. You will recognize Lyle-sama… Lyle Walt as the supreme commander.”
Jules nodded, but he stuck up his index finger to put out one condition.
“I mind it not. After Cartaffs and the four nation alliance have recognized him as such, we cannot be the only ones to refuse. But can I put out just one condition?”
Miranda asked cautiously.
“And that would be?”
Jules spoke with a smile…
“I’d like to have a drink with that Lyle Walt. When I heard of him, he piqued my interest, you see. That much should be fine, right?”
After thinking over it a little, Novem took up Jules’ condition…
… Novem and Miranda confirmed the baggage loaded onto May.
A letter containing the internal affairs of Djanpear. After dipping the pen in a vial of water-like liquid, and writing with it, the letters quickly dried, and became illegible.
Watching over the process, Novem folded the letter closed, and stuffed it into the bags.
Near quilin-form May, Eva tilted her head.
“Hey, is that really necessary? Wouldn’t it be faster to leave a verbal transmission to those girls?”
The liquid was something of mana-imbued water. Using it to write invisible symbols, Novem explained it to Eva.
“It’s all in the preparations. And we’ll be properly using this method later on, so we have to check and see that it works alright.”
Valkyrie Unit One who’d accompanied the party looked mortifyingly at the letter. Unit One alone boasted the same blond twin tails as Monica. A difference being in the overly reserved build of her chest.
“Kuh, when we’re much more useful than some bloody letter…”
Miranda also wrote something on a blank sheet with a special ink. She inserted it into the pouch around May’s neck.
“It’s important, so you just have to bear with it. And did you tell Lyle that May was coming over?”
Unit One made a pose, and spoke expressionlessly.
“Of course. He has already entered Faunbeux, with hostages from the Margrave, and it seems he is preparing for negotiations. I’ve informed him of the rendezvous point.”
May shook her head.
“No, as long as we’re close, I can at least make out his presence, you know. All I have to do is feel for the Jewel he carries, anyways.”
When May mentioned the Jewel, Novem looked down a little.
(Why… do the ancestors deny me, I wonder. I do want to meet them so.)
Immediately deciding there was some sort of reason behind it, Novem raised her face, and went into preparations…
Entering Faunbeux from Bahnseim, entering a town near the brim, we got into contact with the lord charged with the stretch of the border.
From Cartaffs and the alliance, we had prepared a number of documents, to seek an audience with the king of Faunbeux.
Under the feudal lord’s surveillance, we spent a few days in town to wait for a reply.
In the lord’s castle, looking out at the castle town I could see out of the room I’d been afforded, I muttered alone.
“The Margrave’s land was the same, but this area really is similar.”
Atmosphere, perhaps? The air of the Margrave’s territory, and the town on Faunbeux’s border were quite similar.
Different from my homeland and Centralle, that sort of air. There were many similar building structures, and while it’s not like all of it was reminiscent, that was the feeling I got.
There, the Seventh explained.
『That’s because it’s not like everything will change just because the one in charge does. There are many things that won’t change in a few mere decades. Right… given fifty, a hundred years, perhaps it will be dyed by Bahnseim.』
The Third’s opinion was similar.
『It’s land stolen from Faunbeux, so it’s only natural it’s similar. Because the sovereign or ruler shifted, that doesn’t mean everything suddenly goes pop. Push it, and there’ll be quite a few rebellions too.』
The Fifth, reminiscing.
『That’s right. There are always things you could call the rules of the land. There are often reasons they shouldn’t be changed, and it’s quite a hard field, you know.』
Milleia-san spoke of her own experience.
『When I married off, the differences in their mansion’s rules troubled me considerably. I only have vague memory of it, but I was told off by my husband a bit. This is why country bumpkins are… or something. Quite a bit on my eyes as well…』
The seventh laughed.
『Right, he did say something like that. I know how the story ends, so I won’t say anything, but it really was an aunty-esque result… truly an aunty-eesque result.』
I wanted to ask just what had happened. But I got the feeling it was something I shouldn’t pry into, so I stayed silent.
After a knock sounded on my room’s door, Monica and the others came in. Before that had come, I had confirmed they were there with the Skills, so I didn’t particularily have anything to say.
Monica relayed the reports from the Valkyries.
“Chicken dickwad, it seems May is headed our way. A letter has been prepared to confirm that previous matter.”
In the room, everyone’s eyes gathered on Shannon sitting on the sofa. Shannon extended a hand to the baked sweets on the table.
Aria sounded worried.
“Shannon-chan, your reading and writing are up to par, right?”
Clara sounded a little nervous.
“There’s quite a bit of insecurity, but she’s been especially enthusiastic about it this day. So I think it’s alright to trust her.”
Having come so far, her usual conduct was raising worry. I turned my eyes to Shannon.
“Shannon, we’re counting on you. It’s all on you.”
After meeting all the eyes around, Shannon puffed out her cheeks.
“Then place some more credibility in me!”
The vital point was to come. We needed Shannon’s power by all means. A moment later, the lord of the land personally dropped by our room. His eyes as he looked at me were a little doubtful. I was a man of Faunbeux’s hated enemy, the Walt House, so perhaps there was no helping it.
“We have managed to make contact with the messengers. It seems you’ll be able to have an audience at once. I can prepare you a carriage, but… shall I?”
As we didn’t have a wagon or carriage, he was being mindful. But he seemed wary of how light our luggage was despite our lack of any of those.
I refused with a smile.
“Thank you. The sentiment alone is enough. If you can prepare a passage permit, or any other necessary forms, that would be more than enough.”
The feudal lord nodded.
“… Is that so. Then I shall prepare them at once.”
Not wanting to talk with me too long, the lord soon left the room.
Within the Jewel.
We were on the journey to Faunbeux’s capital.
Moving Porter down the highways, we couldn’t help but gather attention. It seems Porter was known in Faunbeux to rumor’s extent. But that no one had ever seen the real thing was the same as in Bahnseim.
Sleeping on such a Porter’s loading tray, I had sent my consciousness into the Jewel.
Today, I saw the Fifth’s memories.
The Fifth’s era of Baronhood. Sitting in a chair of the mansion’s office, the Fifth was looking at the four woman lined up across it.
To his side, his legal wife stood, and stretched.
The Fifth scratched his face with a finger.
『… There is a limit to the number of children a single woman can birth. At most it can exceed ten, but to be blunt, that isn’t enough. The Walt House has no branch families, or any vassals tied to us through blood.』
His solution of this was plain and simple. He would increase the number of women who would birth his children. This conclusion, while incredibly questionable, did successfully resolve the issue.
『I couldn’t just kick back and wait. I intended to crush every single surrounding territory within my generation. I explained the situation, and got her consent, but… thinking back on it now, I should have searched for a better methodology.』
Watching him was the legal wife woman. She had met Fredricks through a marriage interview and married him.
At that time, the Fifth had lost the one he loved, and was on the brink in various ways. He swore vengeance, and to efficiently get the land together, he put his hands into everything he could. Having prepared the foundation for the Walt House’s military, he fought the units of other territories that proclaimed themselves bandits, and solidified the foundations of war, it seems.
Meaning he didn’t have the leisure. The glint in his eyes wasn’t the gentle one of his childhood. His eyes were sharp now, and there were heavy bags under them. They were colder than all else.
Such a Fifth… Fredricks opened his mouth before the four women.
『My heir will be chosen from this woman’s children. All I ask from the rest of you—I care not if they be man or woman—birth children. Once you have and educate them, I will be using them to harden our stronghold in the area.』
A terrible speech. If I was told to say such a thing to Novem or the others, I would refuse full force.
But the women nodded. When I sent a look to the Fifth seeking an explanation, he was ruffling up his hair. Was that embarrassment?
『… There was some money the Fourth had been saving. So I used it. I sought out proficient women from far and wide. Because of that, I was treated as a womanizer, but at that time, I couldn’t care less. These four hailed from Imperial Noble houses, and while they were worlds apart from Provincial Nobles, what they all shared at the time was that they had no money. There were various reasons, but I searched for houses with such circumstance, and searched out talented women from them. If you want to call it what it was, it was human trafficking.』
A relationship where both sides had given up on a happy married life. Looking at it felt lonely. The four women seemed to understand, as they didn’t ask for much.
But when the scene changed, that didn’t seem to be the case.
One of his mistresses showed Fredricks a letter from her house. Before the shrinking woman, he confirmed its contents.
『… The Walt House shall take attendance? They should be aware of our relations. So we just have to go there together?』
The woman was hanging her head, but she raised her head in surprise from Fredricks response.
『Y-yes! It seems my House wants to show they have a connection to the Walt House. Um… they want you to take along the Walt House’s troops, and show their prowess to the other Imperial Nobles, it seems.』
The mistress was an Imperial Noble daughter, yet the letter wrote for the Feudal Lord Fredricks to take his troops along to Centralle.
The Fifth explained.
『Imperial Nobles had merit in linking arms with us. Troops. Imperial Nobles can live at the capital, but their income comes from elsewhere. So they have to hire people, and there’s a fundamental limit to that. For all houses, if they’re of the same rank, they hold the same power there. Though there’s some slight differences.』
It changed by post, but even so, it wasn’t a large gap. Because the monetary sum they were allotted for it was the same. But if they united with a powerful feudal lord, the story was different.
『To intimidate the surroundings, you simply need more troops. We can gather this many people, and move them. If you can show it, you’ll put your foes on guard.』
“Fifth, so… the two of you went to Centralle?”
『Yeah, we led some troops there. From the Fourth’s time, the Walt House had been steady in its land management, after all. While there were traitors, we were growing steadily, so we could at least dispatch men. With the talents we raised, we even had commanders to spare.』
Returning my eyes to Fredricks, he had stood form his seat.
『I’ll prepare. Tell your House I’ll send one thousand. But leaving the territory for prolonged periods is foolish. Our stay will be a short one.』
The woman looked a little surprised, but she nodded a few times.
“That’s surprising. I thought you would treat them more coldly.”
The Fifth stared at me.
『At the time, I was repenting a bit. But I had already welcomed in mistresses, and do you think I could believe I could stop my revenge at that point in time? I held responsibility for taking them in to begin with. I wanted to answer their wishes to a plausible extent.』
I found out he was surprisingly faithful to his wife and mistresses. Or rather, he really should have taught that faithfulness to the Sixth.
The Fifth let out a sigh.
『… When you have more than thirty children, treating them all equally is impossible. So I tried hard for these girls who looked after all the children. They had fulfilled their role, yet they began working for the House, and even helped us rise in status. So at the very least, I thought I could make it so my children wouldn’t have to go through the same memories as me.』
The same memories meant he wanted to break down the situation where we were surrounded by nothing but enemies. To the vassal houses, sending sons and daughters that carried the blood of true nobility was to increase allies.
And so the dissatisfaction wasn’t turned towards Fiennes… the Sixth, the Fifth completely refrained from being involved with his children, it seems.
『Even I would’ve preferred a single wife. She’d have supported me. Having a boy, and some kids after that. I thought time and again to stop along the way… but I was scared of Fiennes ending up in the same environment as me. I was… scared of it.』
As he said that, he looked down.
『I thought of nothing but to use my children in my revenge. So what now, I thought? My parents cried when they looked at me. It was painful. Truly painful. That mama would cry for someone like me. But I had no idea what I could do.』
Moving with vengeance in his heart, by the time he noticed it, he couldn’t stop. When I listened to the heavy stories of the Fifth, I began thinking over what I would’ve done there. Think it was alright to take it slow, and gradually build up the foundation in the area?
If all the girls were killed, would I have thought to take level-headed vengeance like the Fifth? Perhaps I’d have picked fights around, and exhausted out my territory.
Did Milleia-san notice the Fifth’s sentiment? Is that why… after thinking that much, the surrounding scene changed.
The Fifth’s sorrowful expression did a complete change, and he began panicking.
『L-Lyle! Leave this room at once!』
“Eh? But some sort of memory is…!!”
The scene changed, and when color returned to gray, the legal wife was talking with Fredricks in the hall.
『Fredricks, it will be troublesome if you get something so expensive. How many daughters do you think you have? Put on a show for one marriage, and if a difference in treatment comes with the other daughters’ marriages to come, their dissatisfaction shall…』
In regards to the merchant who’d dropped by the mansion, the Fifth ignored the woman’s opinion.
『Make a complete set with that one. I’ll prepare the money in gold. Ask her and her daughter for the specifics.』
Among the number of samples he had brought, the merchant looked delighted as the most expensive was selected. What’s more, an immediate payment in gold multiplied his joy even further.
『I’ll talk with the craftsmen at once. If you have any wishes in regards to the design, then say anything. And milady, I’ve brought quite a few samples, so would you like to go over them?』
When Fredricks immediately tried to leave the spot, the woman grabbed his arm.
『Fredricks, no matter how you look at it, it’s too expensive. Our income isn’t the problem, but with this many goods, the charge will…』
『It’s fine. No problem. I’ll just use whatever I have on hand.』
『On hand, wait… you mean.』
The woman sighed. Fredricks turned, with a bit of an awkward look on his face.
『I-I at least want to put out the money to prepare for them going independent. You definitely can’t tell them I prepared it. You got that, definitely!』
The woman looked tiredly as Fredricks left as if running off. But she looked just a little happy. And to the merchant man.
『You will forget everything my husband just said. Understood?』
On the sharp glint in her eyes, the merchant nodded his head with amazing force a number of times.
The woman sighed, and looked down as she smiled a bit.
『Good grief, he could just honestly rejoice. It’s because he’s so awkward that…』
Once Fredricks had completely disappeared from the scene, the surroundings turned grey. I turned my eyes to the Fifth, and he was hiding his face with both hands.
“What, so you did do things for them, didn’t you.”
『… Weapons and horses for the boys. Trousseau for the girls. It’s important, dammit. And you know, aren’t you forgetting how Novem sold her own dowry at the start to get your things in order? I’m sure I’m a failure as a bride’s parent, but even I was taken aback by that one.』
On the Fifth’s words, I let my eyes wander.
“I-I swore I’d get it back for her one day… but ‘now’s an important time’ she keeps saying, and she won’t accept it from me at present, so…”
For some reason, the air between us grew dubious.
『… So, what are you going to do?』
When I tilted my head, the Fifth covered his face with his right hand. And he spoke to me.
『I’m asking who you’re going to make legal wife! Listen here, in this world, equality’s a dream within a dream. It’s only natural there’s a number one. Are you going to choose Novem, Aria, or Miranda? The ones who tagged along from the start? Or the ones with considerable power like Elza or Gracia? I’ll just say it, but if you choose based on national power, Ludmilla is all you’ve got.』
“… Um, I didn’t hear Clara’s name in that.”
『Idiot! Clara isn’t a noble! And you think she can take command of those members? Shannon’s also out. It’ll create discord between her and Miranda. Eva and May are out of the question. Vera will be difficult with her position as a merchant’s daughter. It isn’t just those girls. The Houses backing you, and the countries! It isn’t just you alone!』
Hearing the portion I had been leaving vague, I felt troubled. Who would I make legal wife?
To be completely honest, if it was for power, then Ludmilla-san. But if I did that, I got the feeling that even after the war, there would be much more strife to follow.
“Hey, can’t we just discuss who’s best in the Jewel?”
When I joked around, the Fifth grew seriously angry.
『There’s no way that’s good at all! You’re not playing harem here, damn fool!!』
… The round table room.
Milleia was peeking into the room of memories from outside.
『Good grief, both the Fifth and Lyle are no good.』
The Seventh touched a hand to his chin, as he looked intrigued over the Fifth.
『So he wasn’t as cold a man as has been passed by mouth. I see, so that’s why the Sixth followed him.』
The Third shook his head to the side.
『Good grief. Me and Max’s responsibility must’ve been heavy. At the very least, if he had a little sibling or two, perhaps it’d have been different.』
Seeing the Fifth put his utmost effort into teaching Lyle about harems, Milleia laughed, and turned off the image.
『When all’s said and done, you can say whatever you want. Because it’s impossible to change the past, he can only do his best for now. Now then, I’ve gone out of my way to leak the Fifth’s memories, but their talks have gone in a strange direction.』
It seems it was her doing that the Fifth’s memories were arbitrarily broadcast. And the three seemed to be having fun.
『I can’t wait to see who he’ll wife! For me, I guess it’s still Novem-chan after all? I mean, she even sold her dowry to make money for him!』
『No, no, no, you can’t underestimate the power of a large country. Ludmilla is the safe choice.
『What are you all talking about? Miranda is the alpha and the omega. My great granddaughter for crying out loud. Anyone else is out of the question.』
The three of them then went into some predictions. And the Third laughed a little sadly.
『… Well, it’s not like we’ll be there to see it to the end, so I’d really like if Lyle told us his decision alone. But with him like that, it looks like it’ll be hard.』
Thinking of their own roles ending, they wouldn’t be able to see the conclusion of it all. As the Third muttered that, the Seventh and Milleia also nodded a little sadly…