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Prologue

Prologue

The temple in Zayin's capital.

That temple that differed little from a castle looked as if it were shimmering when bathed under the light of the sun. A blue sky spread out, and around it gathered the citizens of the capital.

It was a place in which a war took place not too long ago. But now it had managed to regain its composure.

In that flurried space, the Holy Knights were formally declared the official knight brigade, and at the same time, the Divine knights were broken up.

As the Holy Maiden, Aura Zayin was trying to construct a new system of rule.

And in the ceremony, the ones who'd done meritorious service this time around were lined up.

But the Vice-Captain of the Holy Knights, Creit-san was wending a discontent look to his side. Where his eyes fell, Albano-san was lined with a grinning expression.

Albano-san's subordinates were lined beside him, and they were here because their work behind the scene had been evaluated highly.

Having been oblivious to their work, Creit-san looked quite irritated.

Wearing armor that served in appearance alone, I cautioned Creit-san in a quiet voice.

"Creit-san, we're in the middle of a ceremony."

A vexed Creit-san looked ahead, and scolded me.

"Lyle-kun, why did you invite Albano along? That one has no incentive, and his loyalty equates to nothing."

The earnest Creit-san was definitely skilled. But if he was going to be managing a knight brigade, he held the fatal flaw of being too straightforward.

In order to compensate for him, I thought Albano-san was a necessity.

"Regardless, I invited him. And wouldn't back-stage jobs prove hard for you? Like investigation or snooping around rumors, there are quite a few important jobs we'll need him to do."

"That's exactly the point! Leaving something like that to that man..."

During the ceremony, Creit-san was displeased from beginning to end.

I was quite busy with setting up Zayin's new order. We had few civil officials. The ones we had were a group of newbies.

On top of that, we dissolved the Divine Knight Brigade, so we would have to form a new unit for that.

(... We don't have enough time. It's impossible. If I was to see this through to the end, it would take years' worth of time.)

In the Jewel hung around my neck, the Skills of my ancestors were recorded.

I'm grateful that those ancestors put in their advice, but recently, there was something that caught my curiosity.

(Even so, they've been quite quiet as of late.)

Normally, they were more than loud enough, but recently, unless I called out from my side they wouldn't give a response.

It made me curious, but I was too busy to ask their reasons.

And I was trying to move the plans to the next stage.

(Now then, next is Selva. Lorphys' movements are dull, but will it be fine?)

By swiftly attaining victory in Zayin, we were trying to alter Lorphys' objectives towards maintaining the status quo.

(Hah, looks like I'll have to make a move on my side.)

-

-

-

Once the ceremony ended, I went right into processing documents in my room.

The ones assisting me were Novem, Miranda, Monica, and Clara. At times like these, Aria and Shannon, and Eva and May weren't of much help.

A mountain of paperwork was piled atop the desk, and as I went through them, I heard the Fourth's voice.

[Hmm, that's an important one, so put some money into it. Oh, that one's no good. It isn't a calculation error, it's intentionally been misreported. The one who drew it up is incompetent. Make note of his name, and demote him. The next one is... ah, that one's got a high priority, but it's impossible for now.]

The documents going around clearly weren't things I should have the authority to look at. The work they related to covered a lot of ground, and all of Zayin's info was going straight to me.

The reason such work was passed to me... a severe lack of personnel.

A knock came at the door. Some officials of the temple entered my room with yet another few piles of documents in hand.

When my face cramped as I looked at the papers, the officials...

"U-um... it's High Priest Gastone's orders. Recalling priests from the provinces looks like it'll take some more time."

I hung my head, and pointed for them to place their mountains in a corner of the room. After telling them to take away the forms that had been processed, I gave some work to Clara.

"Clara, I leave sorting the new documents to you."

She stood from her seat, looked at the new piles, and made the exhausted expression I'd been expecting.

A complaint.

"If only these were books, I'd be able to go without feeling this fatigue."

Saying that, she went into allotting the documents. Now the reason there was so many matters that needed to be sorted out, lay in that the High Priests and Priests were all of the opposing faction.

I had thought of apprehending them, but the Fourth gave his take.

[Ah, these guys are all useless. It'll be trouble, even if you send them to the outskirts. Deport them all.]

It's all because he had said that.

And because of it, Gastone-san was going sleepless nights, and my party was resting on rotation. The fact that Monica could process documents faster than I had anticipated was a saving grace.

But they kept on coming and coming, and we weren't able to output them faster than the input rate.

Monica shook her golden twin tails into a mess.

"Why is it analog!? If it were data, I'd be done by now! If it were digital, I'd be able to manage this country alone!"

I looked at Monica.

"Are you getting tired? You can take a break already. Rotate out with Miranda."

Miranda was taking a nap on the sofa, and I told Monica to switch out with her. There, Monica stood, and spread out both her arms.

"What's with your attitude!? Please care about me more! I worked really hard! I worked through the nights to make those costumes and armors, and I even modified Porter... yet you still treat me so lightly! Just because he's being called the Holy Knight of Love, the Chicken Dickwad has evolved to a tengu!"

I felt irritated, as I stood, and pointed at her.

"I'm not being called that because I like it! All I said was to rest if you were tired, so what is it you're so displeased with!?"

Monica spoke.

"God dammit!! Just how am I supposed to get my magnificence through that damn chicken skull of yours!!? ... Hah, I'll prepare some tea. A light snack too."

Maybe yelling calmed her down, as she left the room to prepare tea.

As she sorted through papers, Clara...

"I'd like a sandwich."

As she indifferently went through the papers, Novem lifted her face as well.

"Same here. Because that will surely be easier to prepare."

Irritated by Novem's words, Monica turned her eyes to me.

"... So three peoples' worth of sandwiches and drinks. No, I'll prepare four."

Miranda slowly rose from the sofa with her hair in a mess. She looked quite tired, and as she stretched, the chest area of her shirt was open, making her brassiere visible.

I immediately averted my eyes, and the Fourth...

[Lyle, your face is red. What's getting worked up over something like this supposed to accomplish?]

When I thought him loud, the Fifth reported on his condition.

[... No, your face is just as red, you know? If mama were here she'd smack you.]

[Don't tell him!]

I turned back to the papers before me. As I did that, Monica left the room mortified.

"Even when he doesn't show a response when I give some light flashes... you damn chiiiiicken!!"

She pretended to cry as she left. But she properly closed the door behind her. What a conscientious lass.

The room quieted down, and Miranda left the room to wash her face. Without any words exchanged, we restarted our work.

-

-

-

... Lorphys' royal castle.

In it, Lonbolt had gathered the ministers to hold a meaning.

"A few days prior, Zayin formally sent a messenger to request the formation of an alliance. That one's fine. At the same time, they told us to proceed with that matter."

It had been some days since May had delivered the letter.

An official messenger followed to apologize, and say that in the current state, Aura couldn't leave her post. With things as they were, Lorphys hadn't even requested an apology from her.

In the first place, Aura had little relation at all to the hostilities between Lorphys and Zayin. More so, from Lorphys' side, she was more of an ally.

But the problem was the matter in question... that was the issue of teaming up to invade Selva.

A single minister spoke.

"If we cannot recover land from Zayin, then there's a necessity for us to take some from Selva to recover our national power. What need is there to hesitate!? And I'm sure both sides have already agreed."

The knight captain as well.

"We've already gathered masses of mercenaries in Lorphys. If we agitate them any further, they may cause issues within the country. I support the invasion of Selva."

Prime Minister Lonbolt had conducted a deal with Gastone.

After retaking Zayin, they would invade Selva together, and the land gained would be given to Lorphys. In exchange for not returning the land Zayin'd taken from Lorphys, the matter was settled with them lending out troops.

But up to that point, Lonbolt hadn't thought they would win.

If he had to say, he did want to invade, and recover the country's national power. But while everyone had grasped the fact that Selva was moving behind the scenes...

"The royal princess has declined. War has already ended, she said. And she's no intentions to annul her marriage with Dario, it seems."

The leaders that employed their minds to the country. One of them slammed his fist onto the table.

"Just what is she thinking!? After those bastards have done so much, what meaning is there in offering them forgiveness! Prime Minister, are you sure you haven't failed in educating the girl!?"

The knight captain glared at the angry minister.

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that statement. But there will be no next time."

In his irritation, the minister lowered his fist again. Everyone shared the same sentiment. After a while passed without anyone opening their mouths, Lonbolt...

"They've won so much. And so clearly. If we end it all here, then casualties really will be kept to the absolute minimum."

Lyle's victory was so clear, that Lorphys was slow to respond.

Of all else, they had anticipate it would take a few months... or even a few years. They had never thought for him to accomplish it in such a short time.

After the country suffered some damage, Lonbolt had intended to turn the sentiment of the people... their dissatisfaction towards Selva. But the war had ended with only a skirmish or two.

A single minister.

"Cut the crap! I know she treasures the sentiment of the people. But she should know full well what sort of situation we're in! What emotions we've been forced to endure... our knights became adventurers to earn for their families, threw down their swords, and some have even taken up garden hoes."

More than twenty years prior...

Zayin had snatched land from Lorphys. That was back when Fort Noinyl was still the front most line.

But with the passage of time, and the princess being born after that had happened, it's true that she had come to take it as natural.

Lonbolt breathed out a sigh.

"... It's not that we're hesitant to attack Selva. What we truly fear is Zayin. They'll take the front lines in invading Selva, and what say do we have that they not snatch Lorphys away while they're at it? The other party is a man who took Zayin with only a hundred to his ranks. If it's now, wouldn't he be able to take Lorphys in his hands?"

With those words, the gathered leaders closed their mouths.

When they saw him in the audience chamber, they hadn't been that conscious of him. According to Alette, he was a skilled adventurer... from the way he stood, they thought he might be a fallen knight.

But when they tried investigating him, the name of the Walt House of the country of Bahnseim came out

They were only lords within that country's lands, but their territory much exceeded what Lorphys held. Was he really the son of the Walts'; of Bahnseim's strongest House?

That was what they wondered, but now such things were irrelevant.

As amazing as it was to defeat a large army with a small force, Lyle had taken a country with a hundred. That truth struck fear in Lonbolt.

There, the knight captain opened his mouth.

"But it's true that we accepted the deal. If we one-sidedly annul our contract, he may use that as a reason to attack us. There are still mercenary brigades remaining in Zayin."

No matter what they did, the leaders felt as if they were dancing atop the palm of Lyle's hand. Honoring the promise was scary. Breaking it as well.

And without a decision being reached, the meeting welcomed its conclusion...

-

-

-

"Lorphys isn't moving."

Letting myself fall over the desk, I felt like crying into the unfinished pile of documents.

Novem began to pat my back.

"I-it's alright, Lyle-sama. I'm sure they're just in a panic right now, and that they'll begin their preparations soon enough."

When I raised my face, I felt despair as I looked upon the mountains of papers before me.

"... I promised to help out here until the next war. If it isn't coming, then will I be left on desk work for the rest of my life?"

There, Miranda stood, and unsteadily walked her way outside.

"Miranda?"

"I'm getting Aria and the rest of them. We're short on manpower. If I just teach them a bit, then something like paperwork is..."

She wasn't the usual composed Miranda. She looked like an avenger trying to drag everyone down to the depths of hell alongside her.

I stopped her.

"Think back to the first day! We won't hold up if we take out the time to teach Aria, is what we all decided, isn't it? Even if one person ran themselves ragged trying to teach her, we concluded it would take some weeks, right?"

There, Miranda turned around, and burst into tears.

"But if there's no change in the situation, we're never going to get out of this work!"

She was cornered. We were all cornered to an extent greater than what we'd found on any battlefield.

Novem also looked at the mountain of papers.

"Monica-san has work elsewhere as well. She's taking care of work we can't do ourselves. Aura-san and Thelma-san are busy. And Gastone-san is doing the same, or even more than us."

He called back priests of the same faction to put them to work. But they weren't making it in time.

I turned my eyes to the document on the top.

It was Creit-san's handwriting.

On it was a proposal for the unification of armaments issued to Holy Knight soldiers, and he had the design all drafted up.

The Fourth let out his voice. It was a dry, laughing voice.

[Ahahaha... rejected. And Lyle, how about increasing the training and work given to Creit-san and the rest? It looks like they still have time to work on trifling things like this.]

I resolved to increase Creit-san's workload in my head, as I thought.

(Why isn't Lorphys moving!? At this rate, we'll never be able to escape from this hell!)