… Miranda looked down over the lines of soldiers from the moving fortress.
On the stage that had been prepared stood Lyle in his armor. On top of his various gestures, Eva was putting on a musical accompaniment from the shadows, all while using her Skill to make his voice reach over two hundred thousand soldiers.
“It sure was a swift road to get here.”
One of the largest factors was the luck Lyle had been blessed with. No, you could call it chance.
To those making preparations, a pinch was a form of chance. Under a hopeless situation, Lyle took advantage of the recapture of Zayin to expand his influence.
While Lyle was once a good kid from some well-to-do upbringing, at this point he was giving an address to an army of hundreds of thousands.
“… If we wished to be clever, then our best bet would be to wait for Bahnseim’s exhaustion before our invasion. We would surely be able to achieve victory without any effort on our part. There would be no need for us to push ourselves to fight now.”
Listening to Lyle’s words as he suddenly denied this invasion, Miranda looked around. Lined up near Lyle were the ones who had fought alongside him from his early days: Novem, Aria, Shannon, Clara, Eva and May. Monica was working behind the scenes.
“But even as we speak, blood continues to flow. If we leave it be, Bahnseim will surely spread death throughout the entire continent. I cannot permit it. Overlooking evil and waiting until victory makes its own way to us; can you really call that justice!? No, that is no justice of mine! In order to save this continent, in order to bring about peace! No matter how difficult a battle it may be, I have resolved to fight! Ladies, gentlemen. Gallant soldiers! I beseech you lend me your strength! For justice, to save the continent from the evil deeds of Bahnseim, I beseech you lend me your lives! The outcome of this battle hinges on the work of all the heroic men and women of the army!”
He declared they were justice, and prepared a just cause of saving the continent. Even if he didn’t exaggerate it, word of Celes’ evil deeds had spread.
And being short on time was something Lyle shared. If he spent the time, he could definitely get his forces more orderly. He could assemble an army more powerful.
But rather than winning a war, the existence called Celes was too dangerous. Rather than winning a war, Lyle thought that winning against Celes would prove the more difficult.
Vera who moved the fortress watched Lyle from the window of a room. In the lines of troops were the forms of Gracia and Elza.
Where the higher-ups marched were Thelma, Aura and Gastone from Zayin. From Lorphys, Annerinne and the prime minister Lonbolt. There were the forms of merchants as well. Fidel, for one, seemed quite bored with his life.
Lianne and Adele were in that line as well.
And Baldoir and Maksim who commanded armies of their own stood lined in their armor.
“This battle will be remembered by the ages. Gallant soldiers. Win and add your name to the ranks of heroes! Justice is on our side! The goddess smiles down upon us!”
Standing to Miranda’s side, Shannon was positioning herself so the soldiers couldn’t see as she yawned.
“He sure runs his mouth. Fearing that Celes will be absorbed by Agrissa, he’s just trying to attack as quickly as he can. And we’re attacking because we know we’ll win anyways, right?”
The harvest was over, and the times had calmed down. It was the time of year when you could gather the most soldiers, and the most convenient for a battle. That was the same for Bahnseim’s side as well.
But in the exhausted land of Bahnseim, Centralle was the only one left who could put up any decent resistance according to the information they’d gathered.
“Knowing you’ll win without a doubt lowers your guard, and lowering your guard is dangerous. A sense of danger puts some desperation in your step. And it’s not like you’re certain to win as long as you’ve got a large army together.”
Miranda looked at the looks on the faces of the lines of soldiers. They were showing some motivation hearing the word justice. In all actuality, they did believe themselves to be in the right. If they didn’t think so, they wouldn’t fight. If it were for their families’ sakes, they’d take their weapons. But in a distant land, a place where none could tell if it would even benefit their homes at all, it was difficult to find a reason to fight on.
A just cause was necessary. No matter how grand an illusion it may be.
“They’re all looking at him with faces that know too well how he turned down a large army with a small force. It’s irritating. I mean, it’s like they’ll only ever fight if they have the absolute advantage.”
“And preparing such a situation is ours and Lyle’s job. Well, just leave your complaints there.”
Instead of the Katana hung at his waist, Lyle held up an ornamental sword for good show. The soldiers answered his voice and raised their cries.
The air shook, as if their zeal was to blow away the morning cold.
“… All troops, advance!”
By Eva’s Skill, Lyle’s voice reached every single one of the gathered troops…
… As Lyle marched, Lianne had work in the rear, so she was to return to the castle at once.
But Unit Thirty Four had a duty to guard Lyle, so she couldn’t accompany her this time. In front of the carriage, the Valkyrie conversed with Lianne.
“Even if I’m not with you, you can’t put in an extra serving of sugar.”
At Unit Thirty Four’s spiel, a vein was popping up on Lianne’s forehead.
“You’re truly a rude person to the end.”
Unit Thirty Four touched a hand to her mouth.
“Too bad. I’m an automaton.”
Seeing Unit Thirty Four’s laugh, Lianne let out a sigh.
“Come back soon. I’ll work you to the bone.”
The Valkyrie smiled. Not in her usual maid uniform, she wore a blue set of armor with a wing-like binder on her back. For the Valkyries’ usage, there were simple horse-shaped automatons prepared, and to Unit Thirty Four’s side was a horse of clockwork construction.
Saying there was no elegance to a bike, the Valkyries were quite insistent on the horses.
“Is that supposed to be tsundere? Unfortunately something of that level is nothing more than a reward to us. Even if you say you hate me, I shall keep serving you until you are ruined without me.”
The tip of her hair had been fastened with the pink string she received from Lianne.
“… Hah, no matter what I say you find delight. You must live quite the happy life there. Well, it’s good to have a person who’ll let you work them to the bone. And it’s good you don’t betray.”
On Lianne’s speech, Unit Thirty four touched her mouth with her hand.
“If you bare fangs at my master that is a separate story. Do not worry. The chick alone I will take responsibility for and raise. Like a loving mother, like a loving sibling, like a loving lover… wait, what!? Could it be that way would be the most interesting?”
As something quite unsettling ran through Unit Thirty Four’s head, Lianne gave it a good whack.
“Just go already! When you get back, I’ll be correcting that personality of yours.”
As Thirty Four got on her horse she smiled.
“That’s impossible. This is the standard installation.”
She said as she parted from Lianne…
While we marched, our main force generally consisted of a hundred thousand.
Baldoir and Maksim-san each led fifty thousand down a separate route, and to make sure we weren’t assaulted from behind, we surprised the important points as we advances.
“Commence the bombardment!”
On the third floor of the moving fortress was the machine built to move it. There, Vera and the Trēs House captain and sailors operated the fortress.
As fire was set to the cannons protruding from its mechanical bulk, the fortress shook.
By the bombardment Vera ordered from the moving fortress, the outer wall of a Bahnseim fort was easily breached.
A fort with only a handful of knights capable of using magic was no foe of ours. The white flag came up at once, and I gave the order to take the fort. With that alone, the forces moved and suppressed it.
“There’s nothing to do.”
“Sitting quietly is also a job. Well, to the rank and file, this is their time to earn some merits. Don’t do anything too crazy.”
General Blois was nearby, sitting in a chair.
I had taken ten thousand off the main force, left them to Aria and Miranda, and turned them towards the lords who wouldn’t make their stance clear.
Monica nearby skillfully poured tea in the swaying fortress and offered it to me.
“Message in from Miranda-san. Alongside Elza-san, she has successfully taken the designated village. Just surrounding them was enough for them to surrender.”
General Blois took some tea as well.
“I’m sure they would. From the start of our march, it’s only taken a few days to get quite a distance. We’ve got a momentum where we’ll crush them down if they oppose. What do you intend to do to the lords who’ve surrendered?”
I took a sip of tea as I spoke.
“I’ll lower their status to knighthood and send them out pioneering.”
“So you’re driving them off to the corners of the continent? That’s one way to get hated.”
I laughed a bit.
“I’m already hated plenty.”
There Monica spoke to me.
“Aria-san is facing a hard battle.”
My eyebrow twitched.
“A hard battle even with Gracia by her side? So they had some talented ones left?”
The place I left to Aria wasn’t on a scale to take on an army of ten thousand. As I wondered what sort of problem could have happened, she continued on.
“No, it seems they are carrying out negotiations for surrender, but talks aren’t getting through to the other party. They demand peace for their territory, and a worthy status once a chicken reigns victorious. In the case you refuse, they are willing to put up a do-or-die resistance.”
General Blois made an understanding expression.
“Ah, they’re out there. The feudal lords who don’t look at the surrounding situation. As I recall, he should be a Baronet, and a vassal to another.”
I reached my hand towards the Jewel, but partway there, I clenched my fist and endured it.
(I’m too quick to try and rely on them. That’s no good at all.)
I recalled the words of my ancestors.
“Tell Aria I’m leaving it to her. I could go out if I had to, but this is something she needs to learn. If there’s no way she can work it out, tell her to send another message. And make preparations to send reinforcements of twenty thousand at a moment’s notice.”
General Blois spoke.
“You should have assigned her someone good at negotiations.”
“Well, she’s got to be able to do this much. And an even tougher opponent awaits right ahead.”
The general made quite a reluctant face.
“Ah, the feudal lord in question. If this is the vassal’s attitude, perhaps the vassaler is just as bad.”
… With the negotiations left to her, Aria faced Gracia.
The reply from the Valkyrie was, ‘all yours,’ so Aria and Gracia were mulling their heads over it.
Gracia’s line of sight was swimming around the tent.
“W-what do we do? I can usually handle these sorts of negotiations with power, but should we invade with a few thousand to show off our might?”
Aria was troubled. Gracia was even more of a muscle head than she was, but she never thought she’d be this inept at everything apart from battle. Since she was leading a single country, she had thought she would at least be good at negotiations, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
“No, that’s not quite right. They’ve already said they’d surrender, so we’ve got to negotiate, for argument’s sake.”
But Gracia cried out.
“Then you mean to say you’ll accept those tones!? When we’re seizing the other territories, what’s more, apprehending their lords, that guy alone gets his safety guaranteed!? It would be much quicker just to invade and take it!”
The territory only had a few hundred soldiers, but they were quite strong-willed.
“I can’t comprehend why they’d be so stubborn either!”
There, a knight entered the tent.
“Um, they’re getting impatient over when you’re going to send the negotiator.”
When Aria and Gracia turned towards him, the knight let out an, ‘Eeek!’ The two women hurriedly formed tranquility on their faces and sent him back peacefully.
“A-anyways, we have to teach him the reality of the matter.”
Gracia made a reluctant face.
“I don’t think talks will get through. He’s looking down on us for some reason.”
When they were leading an army of such scale, Aria never thought their opponent could act so stubborn. And as Gracia said, she thought it would have been much easier if had come down to a battle…
… On the other hands, on Miranda’s side.
Sitting in a chair of her tent, she folded her legs in her armor.
There was a Baronet before her eyes, trying his best to plead for his territory’s stability. Without a negotiator role to mediate, she had called right for the feudal lord.
“… We have no choice but to follow our lord’s will. I’d like you to take our circumstance into consideration.”
Miranda directed the feudal lord a smile.
“So you’re fine if you’re attacked, overthrown and destroyed in our march? And you’ve officially declared you’d side with the throne of Bahnseim, did you not? When you proclaimed your hostility, I don’t think you understand your position.”
The Baronet… speaking to his territory’s scope, he was a lord with a few hundred soldiers under his belt, but the lord he was vassaled to, the one with the largest land in the area was of the Bahnseim faction, so he had declared hostility towards Lyle. When it really came down to it, no aid was coming from his lord, and the enemy forces numbered several hundred thousand. What’s more, ten thousand soldiers had already come to surround them.
Even if the lord and other vassals scraped what they had together, first off, it would be impossible to put out ten thousand troops form this territory.
“… Your territory is confiscated. If you want your family name to live on, then start over from knight rank. You’re permitted the right to claim uncultivated land. If you don’t like that, then fight until you’re the last one standing. Of course… I wonder who your people will be siding with.”
On Miranda’s words, the feudal lord made a pale expression. From the peoples’ point of view, it was a light sentence if they could get off with a simple change of lord.
“It’s a good opportunity to test just how beloved you were by your people. Go forth and prepare yourself. I’ll give you the time.”
If he was beloved by his populace, there was a possibility they’d help him resist to the bitter end. But prior investigation had already made clear that wasn’t happening.
“I do hope you’re not killed by your own people.”
Miranda said it to him with a smile.
A cold sweat flowed down Elza nearby as she watched Miranda.
Watching over the Baronet as he led his knights from the tent, the Valkyrie on duty offered a word.
“With this, you have suppressed all the designated villages. I will send in the report.”
As Miranda stood, she asked the Valkyrie.
“So how are things going on Aria’s side?”
“… Negotiations are not going anywhere. It seems her opponent is making things difficult.”
“Aria, what are you doing. Good grief…”
Perhaps Elza thought it strange, so she asked Miranda.
“Look at the scale of our army. I’m sure that his lord would hole himself up in his own territory. Why did that baronet think reinforcements were on their way?”
Miranda looked at her.
“Even if reinforcements didn’t come, he’s survived by changing over to whatever side came on top. To this point that had always been normal, so he grew panicked when he heard his land was confiscated. See, even if you take away the land, you still need someone to manage it, right?”
“No I admit it’s necessary, but in that case, doesn’t that make it dangerous now that this area’s manager is gone?”
“It’s fine. This place will become one of the lands we’ll give out as a reward later. The rewards we can give are limited, so this area’s just going to have to become a sacrifice. They were unlucky. Well, a lack of luck is a fatal defect to one who stands above others. So this place will cleanly be up and gone. It’s their fault for thinking their provincial rule was going to carry on forever.”
Elza swore to herself she wouldn’t go against Miranda…
… On the other hand, on Aria’s side.
“Confiscation of the territory is out of the question! If we lose power, you think rule will be possible!?”
The strong-willed negotiator knight was a middle-aged, bearded man. He boasted a loud voice, and no matter how many times they explained it, Aria side’s words weren’t getting through.
“In the first place, what is the meaning of enlisting women in military service!? Your side’s shorthandedness is clear enough, and if you don’t have our cooperation, you will be unable to manage this territory! You think we can hand over the land we worked so hard to establish order in to such folk!?”
It’s not as if everything he said was wrong. But despite this level of will he displayed, the other party was of losing standing.
Gracia spoke irritatedly.
“Then go back and prepare for war. If our words are not enough for you, we’ll make it clear on the battlefield.”
“We’ve already voiced our surrender! To attack those who’ve surrendered to you, and you still call yourselves knights!? You’re no different from bandits lacking in common sense!”
Aria addressed the negotiator.
“And that ain’t the attitude of someone who’s surrendered! You listenin’? We’re telling you our conditions are the confiscation of the territory and its wealth. We’ll spare the life of the lord responsible.”
“What ignorance! I can see you know not the manners of war. There is no way this territory can be left to such a person. Call your superior!”
The country called Bahnseim was a large one. That’s precisely why when it came to wars between territories that wetn beyond skirmishes, taking everything from the smaller territories of vassals and the like would bring about problems in rule. Rule between different parts of Bahnseim was relatively similar so upon victory they’d take everything, vassals included, or perhaps just take a portion of the vassals for their own.
While there were times some fell to ruin, if they surrendered, accepting them in was the common sense of Bahnseim. This was a national policy, and Beim and other places did not practice it.
What’s more, perhaps the lord had told the negotiator to pull out the conditions no matter the costs, but the man was quite desperate as if his life was on the line.
With blue veins rising on their foreheads, Aria and Gracia carried an air as if they’d cut down the negotiator at any moment.
“You’ll pull your blades!? If you’re to cut down the messenger, the nature of your lord shall be known! Now kill me! Kill me and display my head if you will!”
The resident Valkyrie let out a sigh.
“Hah, the two of you come over here. There is a message from my master.”
Once the Valkyrie whispered into their ears, they turned back to the negotiator. Feeling anxious as she was, Aria spoke.
“… The lives of you and your family are guaranteed. And you’re a retainer, right? If it’s now, while you’ll be sent off to uncultivated land, we’ll prepare the title of knight and the funds for you to make a start. While you’ll be in a remote region, we guarantee you won’t be vassal to another. If you have anyone taken hostage, we will send around hands to rescue them.”
The negotiator man’s eyes opened wide as his face turned bright red. When they thought he was going to yell again.
“… Um, my daughter’s been married off, so I’d like if you could send word to that house as well. I’ve been in the care of the house she married into quite a bit. If you do, I’ll make preparations to accept your terms at once! I’ll be able to persuade the others!”
He folded so easily…