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Chapter 11: Look Ahead

Look Ahead

Inside the Jewel.

I sat around the round table with my ancestors, but their unusual attitude caused me to stare in mute amazement.

"Eh? So you don't have any plans like you usually do?"

On my words, the Fifth looked fed-up. And he pressed his left hand to his forehead.

[Are you an idiot? I've said it before, have I not? War is about numbers. It's a defensive war, so you'll have the advantage, to an extent, but a few tens of thousands is going to take on a great army of hundreds of thousands? Like hell you can win that easily.]

Perhaps the Third shared his sentiment, as he laughed like he usually did.

[You can't overturn this sort of simple numerical difference. You've got just a bit of time to go, so just do whatever you can.]

The Fourth took off his glasses.

[You think a plan we can come up with was never before thought up by our predecessors? At the very point a Labyrinth went out of control, it was already a failure. At times like these, looking at reality is number one.]

Then why did you recommend I go to the front lines?

"But does that mean we cannot win? Why did you decide I should take over the front lines then!?"

There, the Seventh gave a grin.

[Because the victory Beim seeks, and the victory you seek are different things. It's true that from Beim's point of view, they can't really call it a loss. But we will win.]

When I tilted my head, Milleia-san standing behind me breathed out a sigh.

[Lyle, take up a wider field of vision. A small country that let a Labyrinth run rampant. Beim would never go to its relief, right? Even if this rampage does end, would Beim ever assist in reconstructing that country? Would they ever move to get it under control?]

Beim didn't have too much territory.

They had a bit of a strange method of ruling, and even if their territory grew, they wouldn't be able to maintain it. No, even if they did, they believe it wouldn't be profitable enough to keep up.

When this Labyrinth went out of control, they did warn the surrounding countries. But by the time those countries moved, it would already be too late, and we were in a state where everyone was only waiting for it to burst.

The problem was the proximity of that Labyrinth to Beim, and the fact that monsters would flow into the city with absolute certainty.

The Guild estimated that a majority of the monsters would head for Beim, and in all actuality, monsters had a trend of heading towards cities with the highest populations.

As I couldn't understand what was going on, the Third explained.

[Now then, because of its policy, Beim doesn't care about ruling land. But it's not like all countries are like that, right? Now what's on the other side of our distressed neighbor, Lyle?]

"It's Bahnseim. Will they make a move?"

The Fourth let his glasses catch the light as he spoke.

[Yes, they'll make a move. More than that, they should be gathering an army on the border. It will be for defensive purposes, but once that's gone and done with, there's a possibility they will invade. They can prepare reasons like reconstruction and relief if they want, but the biggest problem is that, you know... you can't trust a country that let a Labyrinth run out of control.]

If it happened in a remote, uninhabited region, it would be understandable.

If a Labyrinth popped up somewhere no one ever ventured, it's natural that the countermeasures run late. But feudal lords exist so as not to let that happen.

The ancestors were looking... beyond the victory of this defensive war.

The Fifth spoke.

[Bahnseim will become our neighbor. Even if they don't move at once, Beim will have to deal with them... You think a measly fort on the border is enough to set their minds at ease? It's likely Beim wants to buy some time. They've gained full power over that fort, and I think they'll move quite a few hands.]

If you want to speak to the extremes, Beim was fine as long as the city was safe. Even if they lost surrounding towns and villages, even if their self-sufficiency in food fell by a wide margin, as long as the city district was safe, Beim would be able to get back on its feet.

The city of merchants and adventurers could use its over-superfluous assets to purchase masses of produce.

Because of that, the main forces of this war were hardened around the fortress city of Beim.

Evacuation was also promoted around, and quite a large number of people were gathering there from the surrounding regions.

The gathering men were likely planned to be used as make-shift soldiers.

The Fourth.

[So let's add on to the fort. It isn't just for this defensive. We'll be glaring at Behnseim from there in the future.]

"You're thinking that far into it? You really do like war."

There, the Third made a fed-up expression.

[Hah? I hate it. I'm sure I told you before.]

"Eh? But..."

The Seventh, as if to warn me.

[Listen here, Lyle. War is but a single means. It isn't something you do because you like it.]

"No, but you all look quite eager."

The Fifth spoke quite plainly.

[If you've decided you're going to do it, then you'd better be thorough about it. If possible, I wouldn't want to do something like war, and it's best it never happens. It wastes money, you lose the talents you've brought up, you lose supplies... it's the worst. Even so, if you're going to do it anyways, you just have to put the maximum amount of effort into it.]

Milleia-san didn't put in her mouth.

There, the Fourth looked at me.

[Lyle, feudal lord is a profession where war is just an extension of our usual duties. If you can avoid it, then avoid it, and hold a military so your enemies don't invade you however they want. You'd do best to remember this. Fighting monsters is the same. Never forget your goal in it. Fight because it is necessary. That's all there is to it.]

Seeing their four serious faces, I silently nodded.

There, the Third raised his hand.

[So is that talk over yet? Then let's move to the main topic... next, we should go to the Guild to tell them to send out some people of their own! Like hell they'd actually do it, though!]

To a delighted Third, Milleia-san opened her mouth.

[Oh my, then why call out to them?]

[Because I want the fact we asked for cooperation, and they refused! For the sake of the future, we should pile up these sorts of 'truths' while we can]

[So it's to steal their authority in the future, I see. How wonderful!]

Watching those two laugh so happily, the Fourth complained to himself.

[I'd like to extort some more from that Fidel bastard. That guy's definitely still got some financial leisure. It's painful that this much isn't enough to shake Beim at all.]

The Fifth looked at the three dimensional map of the fort and its surroundings projected on top of the table.

[We have the time, and we have the people. If we have the funds, then we can do some large-scale construction here. If we're to prepare traps, then what types should we choose... I wonder.]

He was smirking as he thought over where to lay the traps.

The Seventh spoke with a smile.

[And there's ample forces behind our line as well. There's no harm in letting some monsters through. And we're taking home the magic stones and materials we recover. It seems Beim intends to buy them off, but no one said we have to sell.]

The Third laughed.

[The advance force has already reached the fort, and the preparations are moving forward. Because Beim said that point wasn't going to hold anyways, and that we could do whatever we wanted! So let's make it flashy!]

I looked at the five, and thought.

(That was a lie. These people are definitely having fun!)

-

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... In[Fort Redant], a fort on Beim's border, the soldiers were undergoing a change in leadership.

There was usually a small number of men maintaining the fort, and a few mercenary brigades were hired for defensive purposes. The border was not a tense one, and all the fort really stood for was eliminating the surrounding monsters to guarantee safety in the area.

The country it bordered had a debt to Beim, and it couldn't carelessly invade. The fort was only stationed for appearance's sake.

And in order to escape from that decoration of a fort, the leader of the soldiers was handing authority to the new one in charge.

That new one's name was [Noy Verdell].

Captain of Zayin's Holy Knight Brigade, and one who had led over nine thousand men to the fort.

"U-um..."

"Something more you wish to say?"

When Noy said that, the head soldier looked towards the new legion coming down the main road.

Judging by the flag, it was Lorphys' knight brigade, with their soldiers following behind. Their numbers were equal to Zayin's.

"No, I heard you were to defend this point, but are you serious? This is, well... more a decoration than anything else."

When he and his soldiers were going to evacuate, hearing of how people of foreign lands were coming around for defense, the head soldier couldn't help but think it foolish.

But in all truth, some tens of thousands were gathering around the small fort. Is it really alright that we run away? Thought the soldier.

"Those are my orders. Oh, we'll try our best not to let them get passed. But it really is small. I've passed through here before, but what shall I do... I've been ordered to wait for Lyle-dono's instruction..."

Noy was originally an adventurer of Beim. A former noble of knight lineage. Once that lineage collapsed, he had flowed all the way to Beim.

But Lyle had handed him the knight captain position, and he was now a knight of Zayin.

As the head soldier looked around in confusion, a large metal box was heading for the fort down a different road...

-

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-

... Not having a fort built over it for nothing, that location was quite suitable for defense.

It wasn't placed on flat ground, and while you couldn't call it a natural stronghold by any means, it was adequate enough for a fort.

Controlling Damien's Porter, Clara confirmed the information about the fort before addressing the automatons she'd borrowed from Damien, No. 2 and No. 3.

"Well then, shall we take in the finer details, and get them all together? I think Lyle-san will be coming, so by the time he does, we need to get as good a grasp of the terrain as we... are you listening to me?"

Automatons No. 2 and No. 3 were making expressions even more unmotivated than usual, as they dropped their shoulders on the spot.

"For me to be unable to work by my master's side."

"When that scrap metal Poyopoyo remained behind, why must I... she should just be scrapped."

It had been decided that Lyle would ride May to the fort later, and Clara couldn't see any motivation in the automatons she had borrowed.

"Um, if you don't do your work, I'm sure Professor Damien will be troubled when he comes...?"

She tried using Damien's name.

"Master doesn't have any interest in the finer details."

"Well, we'll do what you ask. Whatever you ask. But there's no helping if we can't get motivated as we do it. I mean, we're maids after all."

Clara corrected her glasses' positioning with a finger.

(That's definitely irrelevant to being a maid.)

With that on her mind, she turned back to the fort.

"Largescale construction here... Lyle-san, what could you be thinking?"

Even if he hurried to make the fort larger, before a hundred thousand monsters, it would be rendered pointless. Unless they used some special construction, the monsters' attacks would blow it all away.

Tools and the like were loaded onto Damien's jumbo Porter, but even if the fort's constructions made it in time, it would only be for show.

Clara instantly confirmed her surroundings, and planned her trip back to Beim. There, she would receive another load, and return her once more.

And as her guard, Aria had been selected.

She jumped down from the Porter, held up her spear, and let out a yawn.

"Hey, is it really alright that Adele and Maksim-san be the ones giving orders here?"

When Aria asked, Clara nodded.

"That's Lyle-san's orders after all. It seems Adele-san's an expert on that sort of thing, and Maksim-san is her guard."

Clara's party had arrived at the fort beforehand.

And from Porter, Maksim stepped down with Adele on his back. She had gotten drunk on the way, and rendered useless.

Maksim called out to Adele in worry.

"Milady, are you alright?"

"S-sorry. I can't go on..."

Aria, seeing Adele like that sounded quite worried for a different reason.

"Will we really be alright?"

After mulling over a bit, Clara just gave a quiet nod...

-

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-

When I went to the guild to ask for manpower, they offered a gentle refusal.

I asked them to spare some capable personnel, but as expected, they were concentrating their forces on the defense of the city, and they refused me.

Taking Novem and Miranda along, I left the Guild headquarters, and headed for Rauno-san's office.

Miranda, perhaps unable to understand my actions.

"You stepped down quite easily. I thought you would negotiate some more, you know? On the contrary, you ended up surprising your negotiation partners."

If I continued negotiation, perhaps they would have dispatched some personnel that wouldn't hurt too much to lose.

But if that was the case, it would be more beneficial to our cause if they remained uncooperative from the start.

"There was a meaning to it. The fact they didn't want to help us."

It seems that was enough for Miranda to get my meaning. She narrowed her eyes.

"I'm not sure your intentions, but I get the feeling it's too soon to make an enemy of the Guild, you know?"

Novem didn't say a thing towards my actions.

But...

"Lyle-sama, what shall we do with Eva-san? Even if you get the cooperation of the elves, numerically, you may get a few hundred at most."

I had Eva call out to her brethren, and ask for their assistance. I really wanted Novem to do it, but she declined with a vague smile.

If I pleaded a bit more, perhaps I could get her to call out, but I put a stop to it on my own judgement.

"Even a few hundred can serve its purpose. They're a former hunter race. Those living in the city may have thrown down their bows, but they have their song. Don't you think manipulating information is important?"

Miranda shrugged.

"You're already thinking of after your victory? You already have a lot of songs about you, don't you?"

I still had to make connections while I could. And I needed even wider fame.

For that time, getting the elven singers on our side was a vital point.

Novem looked at me.

"Do as you like."

But that's all she said.

(Here, victory isn't our end goal. Right. My goal is...)

They're still thinking of it as fire on the opposite shore. And before the fear of the monsters before them, Beim wasn't seeing the danger of Celes just beyond them...

I had to instill in them a sense of crisis.

And before that crisis came, I had to get a certain level of fame.

As I walked around with the two of them, I heard Milleia-san's voice. It seems she thought of something as she looked at Miranda.

[She's got talent. But as I thought, it's a bit lacking. Lyle, could you invite Miranda to the Jewel sometime soon? Ah, bring Shannon along, 'kay?]

I had a bit of a bad premonition about this.