A Deep and Quiet Distraction
『Let me say one thing first. No matter how strong the folks you gather together are, if you won’t have a commander who can control them, they’ll be weak as a group. In contrast, no matter how weak each individual, a good commander can make good use of them.』
As I listened to the Third’s words, I drafted up the program. In the office, an empty cup I had placed on the desk in the morning was letting off steam.
This room’s air that wouldn’t heat up blew away my drowsiness. The Seventh took over from the Third.
『But groups are an interesting thing, you know. Just because the commander’s proficient, that doesn’t mean he himself is strong. But if he isn’t strong, the soldiers won’t follow the commander. There are no cowardly soldiers under a superior general is how the saying goes, and it means to say only an unreliable commander would let his man feel unrest… anyways, Lyle, do you get what I’m trying to say?』
Monica took care of my appearance, and after she left to prepare breakfast, I was the only one left in the room.
The Third gave a delighted reply.
『That’s right. That’s just how large a power past achievements hold. You have to raise a commander with achievements their surroundings can recognize. In my case, I only ever experienced small-scale war. So this time you’ll have to turn to the Seventh if you need advice on your plan.』
The Seventh sounded a little happy. Unlike the other ancestors, he had commanded troops on an even greater scale, so I’m sure he was confident.
I waited for him to say something but…
『Hmm, I’ll say I bluntly… it’s practically impossible to raise a commander in an instant.』
… He suddenly denied the whole plan.
“… I don’t need those sorts of jokes.”
『O-oy! Wait a minute, Lyle! Listen here, when the scale grows, the number of things you have to learn grows alongside it! The group’s rules, on top of everything else the people up top have to… you can’t think of someone who can command tens as the same type that can command thousands!』
“Oh? But aren’t the basics the same?”
I felt the room grow warmer, as I leaned my back into the chair.
『The foundation is just the foundation. But you have an overwhelming lack of time. You don’t have the leisure to let them grow. So just take some leaders who already command a considerable scale into the Labyrinth. Within the Labyrinth, your role is nothing beyond support. Give orders but have each squadron send out messengers to communicate. Let them experience the Walt House way in the Labyrinth, and have their bodies remember it.』
If I was to keep at nothing but support in the Labyrinth, then I’d be having them fight without support from my Skills as well.
I brought my right hand to my mouth.
“If I do all that, how much will it raise my chances of victory?”
The Third spoke in an aloof tone.
『Who knows? But if you don’t you’re setting yourself up for loss. Because you’re Skill specialized. Maizel is the opposite, the type who achieves victory on his base strength alone. What’s more, the enemy is used to not using Skills, or rather… it will be quite a disadvantageous situation.』
The Seventh had his misgivings.
『There’s also the Walt House history we’ve piled up. The soldiers will fight in the style dyed deeply in their bodies. On top of that, it’s an army specialized to Maizel’s way of fighting… Unless you borrow some plumes, you’ll definitely be pushed back.』
So if we don’t train in the Labyrinth, we won’t be able to put up a decent fight.
“… I’ll leave Baldoir behind, and take General Blois alone.”
Perhaps the two thought so as well. The Third put out some more conditions.
『I’m sure it’ll be a nice opportunity to talk about this and that. And there’s no guarantee everyone you bring along will gain something. In the worst case, around ten to twenty percent will succeed. There’s no helping if it’s nothing more than having entered the Labyrinth for the rest.』
The Seventh, in regards to that opinion.
『You just need to give them a clear goal. Just set a base level for them to meet, and say anyone who accomplishes the goal in the Labyrinth will get a promotion. Ask not knight or soldier, just send them at it. Not as individuals, if you evaluate them as a group, they’ll become quite cooperative.』
The Third, on that.
『Not as individuals, why not have the platoons compete? Yeah, that sounds nice. Prepare a few people to command smaller units, and have them contest amongst themselves. Yeah, that’ll be interesting. That’ll bring our ridiculous disadvantage back down to just a plain old disadvantage.』
Whichever the case, it didn’t change that I was at a disadvantage, apparently.
… While Lyle was busy preparing to head for the Labyrinth.
Novem was within Rhuvenns’ territory. Where the group sent out to develop villages and maintain the area was camping out… she beckoned her guest towards a certain tent.
Originally, the gnome Innis should have been in South Beim, but she had tagged along with the supply convoy, and come to see Novem.
“I never thought you would come to see me. Because we hired Rauno-san for a separate request.”
Within the tent, Novem seated Innis and prepared a drink. There were numerous problems on Rhuvenns’ territory. Magic specialist Novem headed the force, hastening revival efforts.
To move an army, the time for the march would multiply if the roads weren’t maintained. They also had to secure places for them to rest. For that sake, Novem led the engineers.
Innis took the drink from Novem.
“They were training the transport forces in South Beim, so I tagged along with them. I was worrying over who to ask, but… as I thought, you’re the person for the job, Novem-san.”
Novem sat in a chair, her expression unchanging as she looked at Innis. While she was smiling, Innis felt dread in her heart. Not out of fear. When she looked at Novem, she couldn’t help but feel relieved.
(Being liked by another without any reason… I can’t think she has that sort of Skill.)
Innis’ Skill 【Information】 was one that allowed her to use whatever information she had on hand to perform a prediction of the future. It had a high accuracy, and there were numerous times when Rauno found himself relying on that Skill.
As a result of using it, Innis’ request… no, in order to make Rauno a knight, she had determined Novem’s assistance would be necessary.
Of the numerous women close to Lyle, she had chosen Novem.
As Novem smiled, Innis spoke.
“Um… It’s about Rauno-san. Rauno-san is a former knight and… he was a knight of Cartaffs. He was charged with all the dirty work, and in the end was driven out of the country…”
Innis thought over what else to add, but in front of Novem, her words suddenly wouldn’t come out. No, she was exhibiting a violent resistance to lying.
“I see. I did think there was something somewhat off about his conduct as an information dealer. So that’s how it is. And so… what are you asking of me, Innis-san?”
When Innis looked at Novem, she could no longer take her eyes off.
“U-um… please make Rauno-san a knight! While he keeps saying he doesn’t mind it, he still has some regret left over, and he sometimes grumbles about it… so for Rauno-san… I want you to act as a mediator with Lyle-sama!”
After taking a sip of drink, Novem continued smiling as she spoke to Innis.
“Do you understand what that means? Let’s just say I listen to your request, and mediate with Lyle-sama. Some troublesome folk will come to me thinking anything will be possible if they bring it up with me. And there are other women around Lyle-sama. There’s also a possibility people will gather wary of my actions.”
… Meaning Novem didn’t want to collapse the current balance. Innis understood that. And that’s precisely why she relied on Novem.
“Just the fact I came to meet you here will create rumors.”
“I’m sure. But I shan’t mediate. If Lyle-sama deems it necessary, I’ll actualize it. That’s all.”
To Novem’s unchanging expression…
“I have a Skill. It’s a special Skill, and it’s one that doesn’t develop to further stages. It has no aptitude for battle. But my Skill will prove extremely troublesome.”
Novem extinguished her smile, going expressionless. Innis broke into a cold sweat as she spoke on.
“Information. A skill similar to future divination. To use it, all I have to…”
Simply upon hearing the Skill name, Novem made an immediate decision.
“Very well. If you’ll use that Skill for Lyle-sama’s sake, then I shall take responsibility and actualize the matter with Rauno-san.”
Her attitude was as if she knew all about her Skill. And once Novem stood, she brought her lips to Innis’ ear.
“As long as you use that Skill for Lyle-sama’s sake, I will offer you shelter. But even if you wish to use it for other purposes, know that the right to decide lies with me. In exchange, I promise Rauno-san will receive a suitable status.”
As if Innis had been grasped by a giant invisible something. Her body wouldn’t move at all. She felt fear, but even so, she desperately brought her head to nod a number of times.
Seeing Innis like that, Novem backed away a bit. And by that on her release, Innis’ remembered how to breathe, rough as her breath became.
“… You definitely cannot tell of your Skill to another. It’s troublesome when used for misdeeds, but more than that, you’ll become a target of assassination. Innis-san, accompany me to Rhuvenns castle. And…”
Innis looked at Novem’s face. She looked a little worried.
“… Don’t do something like this again. Rauno-san is talented. Even if you didn’t speak up, Lyle-sama would have took him in.”
Innis spoke to Novem.
“But he specializes in jobs you can’t make public, right? I won’t say that’s wrong. I think it’s good as long as Rauno-san makes the best of his Skill. But for him to do such work in his standing… and without anyone behind him…”
Novem understood what Innis wanted to say, and didn’t say any further…
… Arriving at Rhuvenns castle, Novem brought Innis to Lyle’s room.
She chose a route with as little pedestrian traffic as possible, but naturally as it was, getting to Lyle would mean you’d encounter guards. The Valkyries on top of knights and soldiers. And there were many civil officers racing hurriedly around the palace.
To top it all off, she had met a troublesome foe.
The one Novem and Innis encountered was Lianne.
“Oh my, how rare. You’re Innis the gnome, right? I thought you were in South Beim, you know?”
She knew of Innis, and as a matter of course, it seems she had investigated her ties to Rauno.
Surely Lianne was gathering information on those around Lyle as well.
“… She requested a meeting with Lyle-sama, so I guided her to the castle.”
After Novem said that much, Lianne seemed to understand. She looked a little disappointed.
“Is that so. In that case, that means Rauno-san’s also joining Novem-san’s… how unfortunate. He was a talented one. If it wasn’t so busy, I’d have been able to meet him directly.”
She had likely thought to take him in. Innis didn’t know what to say… it was troubleing for her to make such an expression.
Seeing Innis like that, Lianne let out a light laugh.
“If anything happens, you can count on me, Innis-san.”
Saying that, Lianne parted from Novem. While knowing Rauno had come under Novem’s umbrella, she stated she would take them in if something unfortunate happened. To Novem.
Novem looked at her back as she walked off.
(She truly is a proficient one. But if I leave Innis-san by her side, it will become something troublesome.)
Lianne was aiming for the legal wife seat. There were actually quite a few who weren’t gunning for it, but the ones quite blatantly going for it were Lianne and Ludmilla. Miranda had taken a step back, but if the slightest gap was opened, she’d come and snatch it away.
While they weren’t thinking too deeply into it, Gracia and Elza were the same. With such an increase in personnel, maintaining the balance had become an exceedingly difficult thing to do. If she unskillfully let them gather around him, it would end up dragging Lyle’s feet.
Keep it to a bare minimum, everyone was wary of it. Lianne had seen Novem taking Innis along, but she wouldn’t get any more involved.
(… Lorphys’ princess. It’s a huge help we were able to prevent a marriage to that one. I wasn’t in the palace, so I was worried on how it would turn out.)
It was rare to find Lyle moved by emotions. But thinking of the ties between countries, it was quite thinkable he would give in.
(No, the ancestors in his Jewel would…)
Once she had thought that far, Innis called over to her. By the time she noticed it, Lianne could no longer be seen.
“… My apologies. Now let’s go meet Lyle-sama.”
Novem walked off. And she thought…
(I can’t let such a thing bother Lyle-sama. Now then, what shall I do…)