… Around the time Lyle was arguing about flan.
The source of this feud, who’d eaten three whole flans herself, Lianne had her pink hair tied back as she chewed on the end of a pen. The pen’s tip bobbed up and down, a document before her eyes. She dealt with papers off her massive pile one after the next.
And as she speedread through it, confirming its contents in an instant, she offered a word.
“This one’s no good.”
She searched for the name of the officer who’d filled out the form. She looked through countless pages every day, and it was a name she’d seen numerous times. Perhaps the officer wasn’t aware, but the price of goods was inflating.
Lianne had a general grasp of the prices, and she would overlook discrepancies to an extent. It wasn’t guaranteed that every single civil officer knew the exact price, and there were times the price was raised for purchases. They were in a hurry to gather goods together, so it was fine if they were overcharged a bit.
However, clear fraud was a different issue.
“Even to commit fraud, when it’s so clear, it’s an indication of their ability. They’ll be a bother even if we work them to the bone as a grunt, so… do you have a moment?”
Calling over a Valkyrie automaton who’s brought tea, Lianne removed the pen from her mouth before she spoke.
“We need to make an example to straighten out our officers. Make arrangements to station this person somewhere random.”
As she handed the document to the Valkyrie, Lianne was chuckling. Accepting, the automaton could guess the general just of the issue.
“… Random, is it. I shall make the arrangements.”
And taking the next paper in hand, Lianne confirmed its contents in an instant before signing her approval.
She continued processing them one after the next, but at times, her work would stop, and she’d think to herself.
“… Clara-san, was it? Since she couldn’t get any funding from Beim, she made the request to us. Good grief, the optimizing of the transport force is indispensable.”
The document in her hands was from Clara. It was also written that Adele had vetoed it. It was document on the Porter unit… meaning the unit formed to transport supplies. Lianne quickly did the calculations in her head, and could say nothing other than that it would be difficult to procure the necessary funding.
“Generally, we’d have to rely on tax yields. We’re somehow managing with the treasures sucked up and offered from Beim.”
The Valkyrie placed a cup of tea on the table.
“Offered? I am sure the merchants intended it to be a loan, correct?”
“That’s irrelevant. I plan to stick on some reasons to counterbalance. From end to end, Lyle’s too soft. Developing South Beim free of charge, conceding the rights to the ports… it would be troublesome if they took all our cooperation as a given. Vera-san, was it? When he’s got a merchant house girl with him, I can understand why he’d grow soft. But there are no ends to a merchant’s demands. You have to keep them in order.”
Lyle had given considerable favorable treatment to the merchants of South Beim, with Fidel as their representative. But Lianne could only see it as soft.
“Even if you’ve favors to them, there should be a limit. When he has some strangely downright nasty sides to him, he’s still soft here and there. How did he get all the way here?”
Determining it was possible to secure the funding, Lianne hurriedly drafted up the form. She had to give orders to all the relevant offices, but she also started drafting one for Adele in Beim.
The reason she’d stop all other work and go so far was because she had determined the transport unit’s optimization was an absolute necessity.
Lowering the number of horses required meant that just as many horses could be repurposed for other things. Horses for cavalry. Horses for agriculture, and other such uses could create some financial leisure.
“Adele-san has to broaden her field of vision a bit more. I’m sure she’d be fine on a feudal lord level, but perhaps it will be hard for her to manage an entire country. Well, she’ll just have to get used to it.”
Her work speed exceeded Lyle’s, and she processed them precisely.
Now that Faunbeux was their ally, she was a necessary personal to Lyle’s party.
“… More importantly, how is Lyle faring? I left enough flan for everyone to have one.”
Without stopping her working hands, she ran her mouth and awaited a response from the Valkyrie in the room. The monotone response was…
“On top of a battle over flan ownership, that flan struck Aria on the face, it seems. Right now, they are arguing in the corridor. I have received a few reports from my sisters. It’s the worst.”
As she relayed the reports of the Valkyries in the castle, Lianne chuckled to herself.
“Oh, how terrible. While I did take a generous portion, I did properly leave three for three people. Monica-san did say she made too much, and it was fine if I ate it. That they’re arguing about it is their own fault. No, perhaps Shannon’s fault? When I left the room, she was on her second flan.”
The Valkyrie asked her.
“Do you hate my master? Looking at the circumstances behind your engagement, I do feel it a little impossible to ask you to love him.”
Lianne made a bit of a perplexed face. She took a sip of tea.
“… I don’t hate him. I can’t say I love him. Even like this, I’ve been engaged once before, so I can’t change over to another man so skillfully. Well, the seat of empress is quite appealing, and I’m sure my home is supporting me for it, so I’ll make it my goal.”
Hearing the seat of empress, the Valkyrie tilted her head.
“Is it really so appealing? From a woman’s point of view, is it not happiness to be able to marry the one you love?”
The Valkyrie was made with an automaton’s core at its base, and its perfection was based on the standards of the ancients. Hearing that Valkyrie’s opinion, Lianne laughed.
“You do have a point. But nothing ever goes exactly as one hopes. If I truly loved Lyle from the start… then I’d have done my best to move and eliminate all the other women.”
The Valkyrie expressionlessly watched over Lianne’s laugh. But perhaps Lianne felt she didn’t want to be misunderstood, as she offered a revision.
“He was surrounded by women from the start. What’s more, I personally am not particularly interested. I’ll put some effort into loving him, but that’s a work in progress. Nothing I can do to speed it up. Then at the very least, isn’t it fine if I set my sights on the empress seat?”
There, the Valkyrie spoke.
“… Is that how it works? Very well, then this Valkyrie Unit Thirty Four shall do her best to facilitate the two of you. Leave it to me. To be honest, I could care less who ends up becoming empress. As long as my master is happy, I did not really have interest in the others. But it must be some sort of fate that I was stationed to serve at your side! I promise assistance to the best of my ability. First, to get a step ahead of the other women… why not build a physical relation with him? I shall open the lock of my master’s bedroom for you.”
Valkyrie… Thirty Four showed her motivation. With her long black hair bundled with a ribbon near its end, Unit Thirty Four expressionlessly lifted her clenched right fist towards the heavens.
Seeing the Valkyrie like that, Lianne seemed largely confused…
… The Walt House mansion.
At his desk, Maizel was writing a letter to his wife Claire, and one for his daughter Celes. Its contents stated his apologetic sentiment that he would be late to come to Centralle.
But in each letter he wrote, ‘I’ll definitely bring back a present that will delight you’. Looking at the letter’s contents, it was easy to surmise that meant Lyle’s head.
While he waited for the ink to dry, he prepared an envelope. An envelope for Claire, and an envelope for Celes.
A knock came to his room.
The one who entered was Beil. A knight with the position of Maizel’s trusted adjutant, and a reliable man on the battlefield.
“Maizel-sama, the preparations are in order. We can depart anytime… a letter?”
He looked atop Maizel’s desk, and Maizel nodded.
“Celes sent a letter telling me to come quickly. Claire said she would be heading to Centralle first. It’s no good to make a woman angry. I’ve prepared letters and some presents.”
A number of letters had come from Celes and Claire saying they wanted him to come to Centralle. Normally, the only one Celes would do something like that for would be her parents. In the case that someone else kept her waiting, treatments ranged from disposal by the surroundings to a personal torture and execution from Celes herself.
That’s just how important of an existence Maizel was to her. While other people held value akin to nothing, her parents alone were separate.
“Currying favor with women? It’s because even you’re like that, that I feel ashamed as a man.”
To Beil’s joke, Maizel laughed.
“I think it would be scarier if they stop showing any reaction at all. Now then, we must be off. And what happened to the Randbergh House’s participation in this war?”
As Maizel rose to his feet, Beil’s expression grew stiff.
“… They cannot send out troops. They used casualties from bandit subjugation as a reason, but how sorrowful a tale to hear from my own home. My brother’s grown old. And for my nephew Baldoir to suffer injury at the hands of a bandit…”
Seeing Beil’s apologetic face, Maizel spoke.
“Based on how things go, you may be succeeding the Randbergh House. Well, it’s somethine we can all get together and decide once we get back.”
The two left the room.
The Walt House was finally beginning its march on Rhuvenns…
Inside Rhuvenns castle.
The main members had gathered in the meeting room. Of course, the only ones able to gather at once were General Blois, Baldoir, Lianne and Monica. The others were off working elsewhere, and they wouldn’t be back for a few days.
I turned to those gathered in the conference room as I spoke.
“… Word came in. It seems the Walt House began to move. Around eighty percent of their vassals are tagging along, and on top of that, the neighboring lords have move. Their numbers are fifty thousand. Their pure fighting force is around thirty five thousand, apparently.”
General Blois touched a hand to his chin.
“That’s a bit much. If it were fifty thousand, I thought their fighting troops would number below thirty thousand. The Walt House seems to put a firm effort into rear support, after all.”
Monica relayed the contents of the report to everyone.
“They are making use of the Porter developed in Arumsaas. They have the personnel gathered, and it seems they’ve greatly optimized their transport.”
Lianne listened to the report.
“We’ve made some progress there as well. If the enemy comes to invade, the battlefield will be our territory, so we’ll be at an advantage when it comes to resupplying, but… let my ask bluntly. Are the preparations ready?”
What Lianne asked was about the military. Were we ready?
I was a little discontent, but I spoke the truth.
“We’ll be fighting near the border, so the preparations are underway. But that’s at seventy percent. We have a grasp on the terrain, and the preparations to intercept them, but there’s a slight problem with the troop formation.”
Baldoir took over my explanation.
“Our horses and equipment is insufficient. We have more troops than the enemy, but it is not an overwhelming difference. In pure fighting soldiers, we can mobilize fifty thousand.”
Lianne put it plainly.
“So while we win in numbers, we can’t reach double. If we put out too many casualties, even if we win, it’ll be a huge problem. It will be difficult to supplement our troops.”
Right. It was difficult for us to secure troops. There were no inhabitants of the ruined land of Rhuvenns. Beim was quite exhausted. Regardless of whether we lost, or won at great cost, there would be a problem with securing troops.
General Blois let out a sigh.
“More than simple numbers, there’s a problem with quality, you see. The Walt House… it has an adequate reason to be called Bahnseim’s strongest. How should I put it. Even among the soldiers, there are many stronger than the average knight. It’s a bit hard to understand why they’d have to train them to that level.”
There, the Third and Seventh in the Jewel gave voices that indicated they didn’t feel sorry at all.
『Sorry Blois-kun. See, the Second told me to do it. I just followed his words. Really sorry.』
『… A single large reason is that Centralle kept relying on the Walt House, forcing us to build up the knowhow. Well, it’s the Walt Army we raised up. There’s no way in hell it would be weak!』
Starting with our founder, the army passed down to my father, the Eighth Generation Head Maizel Walt.
I knew it already, but how troublesome.
The dead men led by Breid was one thing, but this time, on top of being resolved for death, they were Walt House soldiers. What’s more, Skills were unusable. Though I’m not sure to what extent.
Lianne, in regards to us.
“At the very least, to bring about our final battle with Bahnseim, we’ll need at least a hundred thousand troops. You’re all more knowledgeable on battle than me, but the problem stands that if our Leader Lyle doesn’t have enough troops, the surrounding countries shall make light of him.”
It wasn’t that all would be well if we won. And I had to fight my father under that situation.
I looked over everyone.
“To speak to the contrary, if we grasp victory here, we will be that much closer to taking Bahnseim down. Surrounding it with enemy countries, rendering Bahnseim’s capital… Centralle immobile, we’ll be able to approach with ease. Bahnseim lost troops in the previous battle. If we can defeat the Walt Army here…”
General Blois shrugged his shoulders.
“… It’s been nothing but rebellions within the countries. I’m sure you’ll get loads of feudal lords who’ll cooperate if you do.”
In a sense, this battle seized the light and dark of my fight with Bahnseim. If they inclined once, it would be hard for Bahnseim to recover. Even for Celes.
And Baldoir addressed all.
“The Walt House is a threat, but the other lords taking part are a threat as well. Among our former friends, I think we should be plenty wary of the Forxuz House.”
Hearing that Forxuz House, Lianne.
“That would be Novem-san’s House. Are they really so threatening?”
I recalled the Forxuz House. Novem… tribe of the evil god. Novem who was strong even among them was at my side, but that tribe was included in my father’s troops.
“Of course. They’re akin to master and servant with the Walt House, so while they’re often spoken lightly of… having seen them myself, they’re an ample threat. Especially their family heirs, they have always been first-rate experts at magic. I believe you will understand if you look at Novem… sama’s ability.”
In a battlefield without Skills, Magic would become a vital point. At such a time, the Forxuz House excelling in magic would become a threat.
(How does Novem feel about fighting her home?)
I thought, as I issued orders around.