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Chapter 4: Preparations

Preparations

From the start, there was little time to prepare.

On top of that, the village facing the monsters attack had been facing damages for quite a while.

A knight crusade to eliminate monsters.

Having received a request to participate as a volunteer, I was called for a conference with the six ancestors.

Just how did I plan on surviving through this? And how am I to protect my targets?

We were thinking over those two points.

As I barely had any experience as an adventurer, it was also the first time I'd taken up this sort of request.

I mean, the fact that I'm not in a leadership position is going to make things somewhat troublesome.

Taking on a mediator position, the Fourth put down all the information we had so far on a blackboard.

[The knight's departure is set for tomorrow. Let's just say that we've gotten together enough equipment for the two you're supposed to be guarding, now the problem is our own provisions. You haven't put together your arms or armor at all. Even if you have some leisure when it comes down to expendable goods, this truly will be difficult.]

I lightly raised my hand.

Pushing up his glasses with the middle finger of his right hand to correct their positioning, the Fourth glared at me.

[Yes, failure Lyle-kun?]

"Failure!? Isn't that just a little harsh? Um~ how should I put this, I'm sure I already have the protective gear and weapons."

When I said that, the Third broke into a large burst of laughter.

I was taken aback, and the Seventh Generation cleared his throat as he glared at the Third.

With an expression that implied, 'oh dear,' the Third began to explain.

[When you know your enemy's one that flies through the sky, you've too little equipment adequate to deal with that. I've fought a Hippogryph a couple of times, and trying to aim magic at them is quite a pain.]

Against a flying enemy, I had assumed that magic attacks would be fine, but to that, the Second spoke.

[Bows are also quite difficult. It's great if you manage to hit one in the eye, but how many archers of that level of skill do you think there are out there... I really hope you're not thinking you'll manage somehow with a sabre.]

I tried explaining to the two of how I planned to do it with magic.

"I was planning on using widescale instead of focused magic attacks to..."

Hippogryphs are the same, but it's hard to aim precisely at a flying enemy. Then what should you do?

Suppress them with numbers, or attack a large area.

Hearing that, the Second spoke.

[Fooool! What about the place? Coordination? On top of not even knowing if you're commander's capable, on top of there being a high probability a large number of the troops are going to be deployed up front to crush it, what are you being so carefree about?]

When you use magic, it's necessary to make sure no one gets drawn into it.

If allies were around, then magic use wasn't happening.

Of course, it's a different story when those allies were luring the monster out.

The Fifth let out a sigh.

[Ralph's confirmed the equipment of the knight brigade, right? With a sword and spear, just what is it they plan on fighting?]

As per usual, the knights were mainly armed with sword and spear.

Projectiles such as bows and crossbows weren't spread among the knights of Centralle.

No, while there wasn't a trend to use them, it's not like they weren't there.

With a convenient ready-to-use firearm called magic in hand, there was a trend, where it was thought such weapons weren't worthy of knights.

The Sixth snorted.

[It's because big game rarely comes out in the area around the capital. I doubt they're evaluating the Hippogryph too high. While it may be weaker than an Ogre... they're underestimating the threat of its aerial capabilities too much.]

The Seventh agreed.

[If they're truly from a skilled lord, then a Hippogryph would be nothing but prey. It's because it's quite often that a Feudal Lord has to request for the subjugation of bandits and beasts.]

I felt the atmosphere surrounding me grow tense.

(The nobles of the capital, and the provincial nobles don't seem to get along too well, or how should I put this...)

I tried asking them all.

"Um, about the court nobles and knights of the Imperial Capital, um, how do you all, well..."

After I said that much, Second up...

[I hate them.]

[I hate the king as well.]

[I can't say I like them.]

[Noisy rats.]

[Complete hate.]

[It's not a matter of like or hate. I want to kill them all.]

But the First Generation was a former court knight.

As the third son, it's not like he was succeeding that peerage, but the Walt House did have some relation to the Imperial Nobles.

"Eh, but, didn't Milleia-san marry in, and there's this relation and that, and..."

When I said that, the Third responded with a bright smile.

[Lyle, let me teach you an important phrase... this is this, and that is that!]

My face twitched, and the Fifth continued.

[Well, I doubt they think too highly of Feudal Lords either. I mean, based on the times, they occasionally have to go at each other's throats.]

The Seventh made a serious expression.

[Yesterday's drinking buddy, today's enemy... it isn't a rare case. But it's not like the world is divided so easily. That's why.]

"This is this, and that is that... is it?"

When I said that with a tired tone, everyone nodded.

The Fifth kindly informed me.

[Even if a factional dispute breaks out, a Feudal Lord should only assist if there's something to be gained. And that is supposed to work for both side's sake. In truth, that zone's quite flexible. Now then, to return to topic, get your equipment and members together soon. It's not just Lyle's responsibility alone.]

Thankful for the Fifth's plain follow-up, I tried asking for everyone's opinion.

The ones reliable on this sort of expedition were the Second and the Third.

The Fifth and Sixth did have similar experience, but they barely had a chance to experience fighting under another's lead.

The Third spoke.

[You should've learned what the commanding knight missy liked, and sent in a bribe. ]

The Second agreed.

[Right. If possible, if you had Marcus take it over, it would make discussions end quickly.]

"Eh? Bribe?"

While I did think that was a bit much, the Second sent me a serious look.

[You really are that, aren't you. Too good a kid.]

On the Second's tired tone, the Third laughed as he spoke.

[It's fine and all to think about it with that mindset too. It's just that...]

The Third halted his laughter, and turned serious as well.

[If it's going to save lives, that's a small price to pay. What's more, it isn't just us this time. Those useless two are tagging along. On top of that, your request is even supposed to be to guard them.]

Both Marcus-san and Breid-san had little experience camping outside and defeating monsters.

Marcus-san just took up seasonal defensive jobs.

The Second spoke.

[If it turns out to be impossible no matter what, then prioritize your own companions, and abandon the two. If Novem-chan dies, I'll be cursing you for the rest of your life.]

On the twos' threats, I gulped down some saliva, and perhaps thinking his coercion had worked, they crumbled their earnest expression.

The Third laughed as he spoke.

To the two of them, bribery was just a single method.

Calling it bribery was putting it in a bad light. In truth, it was a method to smoothly proceed human relations, or so he said.

[It's a single method. Here's a gift, I hope we get alone, that sort of thing. It's best you don't think too deeply about it. I mean, you accomplish your end goal. But this time's opponent is a little questionable. She seems to be the type that only wants achievements, after all.]

The Second seemed to be of the same opinion.

[Yeah, they exist. Those guys that work you to the bone to hog the merits for themselves. Well, in the end, they usually get the resentment of those around them. It's never a decent end to them.]

The Fourth interposed.

[A knight who had barely become twenty, was it? She's probably lacking in experience, and if she doesn't have any experiencing commanding on the scale of this mission, it sure makes one anxious.]

I did look a little into the female knight, [Norma Arnette].

With her strong desire for a promotion, she was an individual for which the bad rumors simply wouldn't die down.

When you think of why such a person was selected as the person in charge, the conclusion one would reach is...

[She's a knight that it wouldn't really matter whether she was there or not. As talented as she may be, she disrupts the peace. That sort of thing.]

On the Third's words, everyone nodded.

The Seventh spoke.

[Yeah, they do exist. Those that do unnecessary things to provoke the resentment of those around them.]

The Fourth hit his hands together.

[Yes, yes, the conversation derailed again. Now then, let's think about how to raise Lyle's group's chances of survival.]

The Second scratched his face.

[Well, we can't just go about hiring more hands willy nilly. If there was a little more time, then...]

For our expedition to come, we did have some leisure in purchasing supplies.

But our party had very few acquaintances here.

There wasn't really any adventurer work, so I've no idea what sort of people I'd find of our same trade.

I couldn't really bring along anyone useless, and properly inviting someone would take more time than we had.

The Third spoke.

[It may be nice to gather up Marcus' and Breid's acquaintances, but I doubt they'd even have any equipment. What's more, they'd likely be a hindrance.]

The Fifth spoke.

[If you had some more time, you could've hired some skilled guys with money. Well, this time our request's just to protect those two, and it's not like we have to defeat the monsters.]

The Sixth spoke.

[But I doubt those two'd be satisfied with that. They do seem impatient to get some service in, but whether they'll be able to move immediately or not is...]

When I opened my mouth, the air around became quite awkward.

"Um, if they received training, shouldn't they be able to move to an extent? I don't think they'll be completely useless. Also, Marcus's a knight, so he must be practicing properly."

The Second put his hand to his face and spoke.

[Yep. That's quite right. If everyone practiced properly, there wouldn't be a problem... 'If he did it properly', that is.]

The Seventh followed through for me.

[... It's because Lyle's a capable child. Look, it hasn't even been a year since he ventured into the world of society. I think it's natural for him not to understand things in that field.]

The Fifth looked to me with a doubtful face.

[No... yeah. I do think you're quite competent. In truth, you have succeeded time and again, and you're putting out results beyond imagination. It's just, you see...]

The Fourth spoke.

[You're too capable, that you're no good. You can't understand the rest of them.]

The Third spoke.

[It's because starting with Novem, you've only been surrounded by competent people. If you're looking for a truly no good child, then perhaps Shannon-chan's your best bet?]

The Sixth offered opposition to that opinion.

[While she may be no good, she's cute, is she not!?]

The Sixth did offer some favor to Miranda-san and Shannon.

When I sat troubled, the Second talked to me.

[Anyways, what we're trying to say is this. Don't just assume that everyone around you is a wise guy like you.]

I couldn't really understand those words.

-

-

-

In preparation for tomorrow's departure, we went over everyone's equipment once more.

Having bought himself chainmail, and procured a weapon, Breid-san looked much more dignified than before.

Marcus-san had changed the sword hanging at his waist to a new one.

As for us, we had draped fur robes over the equipment we obtained in Arumsaas.

My armaments were a sabre and a bow, and the rest of them were equipped with their usual weapons.

I did think about having all of them carry a bow or crossbow, but there wasn't the time to train, and even if these numbers had a means for long distance attack, I concluded it wouldn't produce too much an effect.

I mean, we don't have too many.

If we had more people, it would be thinkable to gather up crossbows.

But with nine, and a high probability we can't trust the rest of the legion, it was likely safest to use the equipment we were each best suited with for self-defense...

(Even when we're going out to hunt monsters, for me to have to pay caution to allied units as well...)

The request was for me to protect Marcus-san and Breid-san.

I want to keep the both of them out of danger, but then they wouldn't be able to rack up any achievements, so there was a possibility they would run wild.

Breid-san gave me his thanks.

"Thank you, Lyle-kun. With this, I can finally stand on the starting line."

When I returned him a sarcastic smile, Miranda-san appeared to become sullen.

I didn't understand the reson, but Marcus-san did seem pleased.

"With this, at least our appearance is in order. Now then, about this gathering's leader..."

Leader.

Right, this party's leader wasn't me.

There was status and such to consider, but to the end, I was just here on a request from the Circry house to protect them.

On paper, I was participating as a soldier hired by Marcus-san.

From a smile, Breid-san's face instantly turned to a pout.

"Well status-wise, that would be you, I'll bet. But I've no intention to work under you."

"... Oy, so you plan on acting alone?"

As Marcus-san's expression turned serious, the party of two in dresses...

Doris-san and Lucy-san stuck themselves in.

"The leader has to be Breid, right!? Just who do you think you guys are working for!? It's father's orders. Then obey the one directly related to the Circry House, Breid!"

Doris-san continued glaring at us.

And Lucy-san was...

"Why must Marcus obey a mere servant who isn't even a knight!? If you're going to be following someone, follow Marcus!"

If you forced me to say, then both of them are inexperienced, and unreliable.

(No, unless we work together, no one's going to be commended for anything.)

But it seems compromise wasn't an option here.

There, Miranda-san hit her hands together.

After gathering the surrounding gazes on her, she promptly began giving instructions.

"On paper, Marcus-san will be the leader, and in essense, we'll be moving on Lyle's orders. If you don't like that, then I'd appreciate you didn't take part in the expedition."

Breid-san stood in front of her.

"Milady, that's a bit..."

That wasn't acceptable.

Perhaps because I was younger, or because he wanted to be leader himself.

But Miranda-san continued to stick her glare on him.

"By yourself, you couldn't even get your equipment together, nor do you even have any battle experience. I truly hope this isn't the first time you're ever leaving the capital, right? There's no way I'll follow the orders of such a man."

Novem agreed.

"Right. I think having Marcus-san named as the official leader, and having Breid-san under him is best. There's no problem in an actual knight such as Marcus taking the position, but the other way around is a little..."

I doubt anyone around would understand why a servant was leading a knight.

That's the society we lived in, and in truth, there were many knights in positions similar to Marcus-san.

Breid-san spoke on with a face full of resolve.

"In that case, I alone will..."

"Who's the one who put up the money for that armor? It would be troublesome for us if you went off and died on your own. The guarantor for your debt is my father. That father of mine... the Circry house's head left the protection of the two of you to us. If you're going to be going off by yourself, I'll have you pull out of this operation as a whole. And if you don't like that, cast off your equipment, and join in naked."

Miranda-san's harsh words caused Marcus-san's expression to cramp.

He spoke to me in a quiet voice.

"Hey, I heard the Circry's eldest daughter was supposed to be the kind one..."

I averted my face, and responded.

"Eh, no... s-she's kind. Surely."

From within the Jewel, I heard the Third's voice.

[Yes, she really is kind. To Lyle and Shannon-chan only, that is.]

The ones unsatisfied by that arrangement included Doris-san and Lucy-san as well.

To the two of them, Miranda-san spoke.

"If you're going to act all high and mighty, do it after you pay the money for it all. Why not understand for a second that you're forcing your lovers to their deathbeds?"

Doris-san shot back.

"What's with you!? It's just a knight excursion, isn't it? Also, unless Breid-san goes this far, he won't even become a low ranked knight! He's different from that man who looks like a villain standing over there!"

Marcus-san was scratching his head awkwardly.

I'll bet he was quite conscious of the fact he looked like a delinquent.

Regardless, the atmosphere he gave off was quite light.

Lucy-san also butted in.

"Marcus-san is a splendid knight! Don't lump him together with some lowly servant!"

And looking at me, Lucy-san went on.

"I know it. That man over there was the former heir of a Count House, and he was kicked out for his ineptitude. How perfect for oneesama. One abandoned brat for another."

While thinking of how she sure liked stabbing it in the painful places, I turned to Breid-san.

There, I felt a somewhat gloomy something that hadn't been there before.

(So I've no choice but to hunt monsters with these members. That's just great.)

If it's like this, it would've been better if or party did it all by ourselves.

But I did accept the request, so there's no helping it.

(I guess I was too na?ve.)

Miranda-san hit across Lucy-san's face with the palm of her hand.

From within the Jewel, I heard a voice.

It was the Third.

[You sure are loved, Lyle.]

Lucy-san, who had fallen on the ground, and Miranda-san nearby.

The servants watching the scene up-close were unsure of what to do.

Even if she was driven out of the house, she was once the eldest daughter of the House.

One of them ran off inside the mansion for help, and a voice came to stop it.

"M-milady, any more is..."

"Shut it! Lucy, I will not get involved with the Circry House any longer. It's because I was kicked out of it. But on top of sending your boyfriend to his death, you can't even determine what's alright and what's not to say to the one protecting his life?"

Doris-san was hiding behind Breid-san.

She probably had never seen Miranda-san's angry face.

Lucy-san was also afraid.

"B-but it's just a knight dispatch, and..."

"... Go and ask father. If it really was safe, he'd never have made the request to us."

And Miranda-san turned back to us.

"At least on the surface, we'll make Marcus-san our representative. He's a knight, so there won't be a problem, and Breid doesn't have any experience in real battle. Objectors are to be left behind. With their equipment confiscated."

Marcus-san and Breid-san reluctantly nodded, and like that, Miranda took complete control of the situation.

"Look, you two are in the ways, so scurry off somewhere."

She drove away her two younger sisters, and began discussing the departure set to happen tomorrow.

The Fourth spoke.

[Lyle, you're the one who's supposed to be taking charge here, you know.]

Yes, I knew that myself, but I had not the will to interfere with Miranda-san's momentum.

(I-I'll be careful next time.)

-

-

-

... The day of departure.

In the capital, the knight squadron was making final preparations for the trip.

The knight, [Norma Arnette], looked looked over the volunteer soldiers gathered before her blue eyes.

Her silky brown hair cut at a length that didn't touch her shoulders swayed in the wind.

"As I thought, it's cold."

The knight that was her aid nodded in agreement.

"More have gathered here than expected. Food as well, but we may even be short of firewood. We'll have to gather some on the way."

He was a middle-aged man, and he had a slight mustache growing on his face.

"Then our movement speed will drop. As long as we use them sparingly, there won't be a problem."

"B-but in this sort of cold, that's too..."

Even when he was the older one, the man unable to get a promotion was stuck as Norma's aide.

His name was [Clark Usher].

He had a wide forehead, and in order to conceal that, he had grown out his bangs. Light brown hair, and black eyes. A plump knight of short build.

(This is why you can never get a promotion. You are... the adjutant to these knights. Just what are the higher-ups thinking?)

The weapon in his hand was a crossbow.

There was a sword hanging at his waist, but he had snuck out a crossbow said to work well against monsters like Hippogryphs from the storehouse their brigade had been charged with.

Norma hated her aid, who had taken such an arbitrary act on his own.

"We can't go about caring for each and every volunteer. We just brought up the proposal because we were short on numbers."

Hearing that, Clark dropped his shoulders.

"... I'll go confirm the number of volunteers then."

Seeing Clark leave the scene, Norma scoffed.

Her standing form, even in armor, was splendid enough to make for a pretty picture, but she was a woman who gave off quite a thorny impression.

She looked at the surrounding soldiers.

(I'll have to do whatever I can to get some achievements on this voyage. But there really are a lot of volunteers. Not that there's anyone out there to steal up the glory.)

As a knight, Norma had confidence in her own skills.

As she waited for the scheduled departure time to come, things suddenly began to get noisy.

"What is it. Just what... is..."

Before her eyes, a lump of iron was heading in her direction.

In front of it, were two well-equiped men, and some lightly armored women.

Pushing aside the noisy soldiers and volunteers, Clark came running.

"Captain Norma, That is the volunteer applicant, Marcus Carning. It seems he hired some adventurers, and that is something like those adventurers' horse-drawn carriage."

Norma looked over Clark with tired eyes.

"And just where exactly do you see a horse? Why not confirm it properly for once!?"

"No, according to those involved, that's some sort of Golem, its name is Porter, and while there aren't any real horses attached, it's purposed for baggage carrying without a doubt..."

Norma wanted to avoid any disorder upon coming here.

But even if they were in a rush, their appearances were in order, and sending them away would give worry about their fighting force.

Among the volunteers, there were plenty who didn't have any proper equipment.

"Che, fine! If you've confirmed everything, then we're moving out already. For anyone petitioning to join in, turn them away if they don't have their own weapons!"

Clark spoke in sarcasm.

"Captain Norma, normally, shouldn't these checks have been done beforehand? I was also assigned to be adjutant for this squad quite suddenly, but if you knew about them from the start, then shouldn't you have..."

"I don't have the time to meddle in such trifling matters! Let's just finish the preparations to depart already!"

After driving Clark away, Norma headed towards where her own horse was stationed.

There, knights were conversing with their own subordinates.

When Norma came close, the talking stopped.

(They're much too lax. Why is it that the men assigned to me are always...)

Put in the leadership position of this mission, Norma had taken quite a few measures in her own way.

She had gone around to viscount mansions all around, and consulted whether she could procure any funding from them.

(I've made sure to assemble knights capable of magic. Now all we have to do is let them deal with the Hippogryph.)

She had much experience of working under another, but today, she was the one in charge.

After a while, Clark ran up again.

"Captain Norma, there are much too many without proper equipment. Turning them away will..."

"Make it short, Clark!"

Seeing Clark being yelled at by a woman younger than himself, the young knights in the area began to grin.

Perhaps deciding to do as he was told, Clark headed towards his own horse.

Confirming that the preparations were in place, Norma spoke.

"Henceforth, we will be heading off to subjugate the Hippogryph at Johnny Village!"

Through the large gates of the Imperial Capital, came Norma, with her mass of troops not equipped to satisfaction...