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Chapter 12: Letter

Letter

Rusworth's royal palace.

Me and May headed for the inner court, and following the words of the adventurer we'd taken over letter duty from, we set our eyes on Elza Rusworth's room.

While sensing the presences moving around, I used the Skills... Dimension and Spec... to identify the persons they belonged to.

(It's a good thing I confirmed her presence last I saw her on the battlefield.)

Verifying Elza-san's presence, I pulled up my hood, and tossed a pebble against the window.

There, the curtains spread, and the window opened. Elza-san stood there in casual clothing, and seeing me riding May, she clenched the staff she held in her right hand.

She seemed to be wary, and the response from the Skills turned from yellow to red.

I took a letter from my breast-pocket.

"A letter from Gracia-san. From here on, I will be the one carrying out the letter exchange."

There, wary as she was, Elza-san stroked her sea blue hair, as she pointed her violet eyes our way.

"I'll have you hand the letter over first. Any suspicious movements, and... I'll kill you."

That sharp glare undoubtedly contained malice, and for a brief instant, I thought I would extend a hand to the Katana at my hip by reflex.

To the queen that possessed a different cold air from Gracia-san, I tossed the letter.

The thrown letter spun horizontally, as it came her way. She pinched her fingers together to stop it, before going right into breaking its seal.

Remaining wary of us, she confirmed the writing style, and let out a sigh.

"... Understood. So we can't use the previous adventurer anymore. But I've heard you were quite the famed adventurer yourself."

As the queen sent a provocative glance, so I removed my hood.

"She wrote of me in the letter as well?"

There, Elza-san laughed.

"No. But when it comes to quilins, the one that comes to mind is the one who's gotten a name for himself lately, the Holy Knight Lyle alone. I'll prepare a response at once. Come in and wait."

There was a balcony in front of the large window, and letting May land there, I took to waiting on it.

But Elza-san was...

"Come in. You'll stand out, out there."

Hearing that, I went inside, sent a look to May, and nodded. May jumped, making a single spin in the air before taking on human form.

Seeing such a change, Elza-san spoke.

"... So quilins could transform into human shape?"

Entering the room, I found it quite dreary. It felt as if it contained but the minimum necessities of life, and while the furniture was certainly expensive, it really was much too tasteless for a young girl's room. The stylish small bottle of medicine atop the table stood out.

(A present from Gracia-san, was it?)

I spoke in jest.

"Is it really alright to let a man into your room?"

When I said that, she disinterestedly produced some paper from the drawer of the room's desk, and took a seat.

"It's a huge problem. If you're found out, it will be torture, then execution, whichever comes first. So watch yourself."

From the way she smiled, it felt as if she was used to these sorts of exchanges. Perhaps she had spoken like this to the previous adventurer as well.

Using a tool on the desk to make some light, she reread the letter a number of times.

"... There's something I'd like to confirm. Gracia-ch... Gracia's brother found success in cultivation, but his sponsor was you, correct?"

Her face reddening a bit as she tried to add a -chan to Gracia-san's name, she looked at me as she confirmed it.

IT does seem that Leold-kun's name was selling quite nicely in Rusworth as well. And the speed of the information relay was clear proof of conspirators in Galleria.

"That sure spread fast. That's right. I'm the one who backed him."

'I see', she said and nodded.

"I assume you used the matter with the letters to threaten her, but our countries are standing atop a dangerous balance. I ask you don't scratch at it too much. I don't want to fight you either, Holy Knight."

A faint smile floated on her face, but I was the same.

Gracia-san and Elza-san were both fighters with a large area off effect. While their individual battle prowess was surely high, the most troubling part would have to be their original magics.

If I were to fight them, if I didn't gather all the info I could, and form countermeasures, they would be dangerous foes.

"It's not like I'm trying to lead either country down an unfavorable path. More so, thinking of what's to come, it may be possible to resolve the war problems that have been plaguing them."

On my opinion, Elza-san giggled. Unlike Gracia-san, she held onto her somewhat-cold atmosphere, and it felt as if she was looking down at me from above as she laughed.

"That one's impossible. Rusworth and Galleria are the same, and both sides desire for war. In Rusworth, if any damage comes out, it will be on the borderland. And the ones profiting are the knights of the center... the officers. Plunder and promotion... Is Galleria not much the same? If they don't go to war, it will instantly break down into internal uproar. Similarly, the reason our remote regions don' act up is because of the threat called Galleria."

So a war desired by both sides had repeated time again.

Well, to me, this situation was bad. Because I couldn't use it.

"Just crumble that unsteady balance already. In two to three years, Galleria's national power will be reinforced. If all goes well, even if it doesn't double, it'll reach a result close to that. Give it another ten years, and I don't think it'll be an easy task to fill in that gap."

Elza-san's eyebrow twitched.

The Fourth let a laughing voice from the Jewel. But that voice could only be heard by me.

[It's no good. Even if she's a decorations, you've got to properly explain that area! That in this world, it's not like the war grounds alone determine the outcome of war.]

Ignoring his delight, I smiled a little.

"Well then, shall I receive your response? Also..."

"What is it?"

I took out some perfume in a small bottle from my breast-pocket.

"It's a perfume that's gotten popular in Beim. Accept it as a sign of our acquaintance."

When I handed it over, Elza-san made a confused expression. But it didn't feel it was because she wasn't used to receiving presents.

"... Even if I accept it, I can't use it, you know?"

If she had a scent different from normal, surely the stray high minister thoroughly managing everything would hold doubt.

"Well, I doubt the minister will go as far as to inspect the contents of your room. And it isn't anything strong. It's merely a sign of acquaintance, so if you like it not, feel free to throw it away."

Elsa-san folded her letter into an envelope, and handed it over. Accepting it, I accompanied May to the balcony. The Fourth spoke nostalgically.

[For that Lyle to be able to give a girl a present so naturally... looks like there's nothing left for me to teach him.]

(No, rather than teach me, you were just finding fault in me, weren't you? Well, whatever.)

Keeping wary of the surroundings, I mounted quilin-form May, and raced off through the sky.

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Having returned to Galleria, it was the day after I'd handed the letter to Elza-san.

Miranda had suggested I hand over perfume with the letter.

In exchange, I didn't forget to get souvenirs for Miranda and the other girls. I hadn't forgotted, but in the end, Miranda...

"Perfume for your new women, and candy for us? ... This is going to cost you quite a bit."

When she said that with a smile, I laugh, and fled.

May spoke.

"I prefer the candy, though. But as I thought, maybe you didn't give her enough?"

She said something like that. If possible, I wanted May to remain like that.

And returning to the village I'd taken a stay in Lorphys, I received a report from Novem and Eva.

For Eva, I had requested she circulate rumor in Galleria and Rusworth.

In the rebuilt house, I sat in a chair as I confronted them across a table, and asked about their results.

"I spread rumor of Leold-kun through Galleria. Rather than the internal forms, they bit onto the fact he kicked out the resident monsters. Could this be the national character? Well, in songs and readings, it's true the cool fights sell better."

I confirmed Rusworth's situation.

"What about the high minister?"

"In the center, it wasn't possible. His popularity's too high, so even if you let ill rumor flow, no one believes it. Even if they did, it wouldn't bring profit to themselves, I'll bet. But the outer regions seem to have built up considerable frustration, so it went quite well. The scoundrel pulling the queen's strings from the shadows, or so it goes... and wait, Lyle, you're as terrible as ever. You've never made us be this thorough before."

I had her spread rumors of the minister. Of course, a majority of them were true. Making the queen an ornament, and doing as he pleased with the country of Rusworth. Those sorts of rumors.

While we were at it, rumor that Galleria was strengthening its ties to Zayin and Lorphys.

"Say what you will. Never be negligent is a stable doctrine. If it goes well, they may make contact with us in the near future."

The reason we were purposefully taking a stay at such a conspicuous point was to wait for contact from Rusworth.

There, Novem spoke.

"Lyle-sama, recently around the village, some disguised as peddlers have been looking into us. They were definitely from Rusworth, or so Rauno-san said when he dropped by a little while ago."

It seems they were investigating us already.

"That sure was fast. That aside, Eva?"

"I've made no mistake. I've overtly spread only enough rumor of us that opinions may split, and bring them to a standstill. It's just, perhaps your popularity is relatively high, but they bit on too well."

To work with the differing opinions on us, she spread rumor we weren't moving from this declining village. I thought it would be nice if they bit on, but for some reason, it seems they moved immediately.

It doesn't seem we'd have to go promote the idea.

I touched a hand to my mouth.

"Eva, you spread of how the High Minister was connected to Galleria's feudal lords as well, right? If we make rumors in accordance to their movements next war..."

Novem continued on from me with a serious expression.

"... Will they move as you want, Lyle-sama?"

Move. Rather than that, if a level of disorder was born, I planned to take advantage of that. Rusworth was a country harder to infiltrate than Galleria. As the whole country was put together centered around that high minister, even if adventurers like us got positions, we'd have to start from grunt work.

But as long as we could create a little chaos... or so was the plan.

From the Jewel, I could hear the Fifth's voice.

[Do everything you're capable of. That's all. Now then, how will they move from here on...]

Galleria's movements came a few days later.

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A few days later, a messenger from Rusworth came to the Lorphan village we were staying at.

As if concealing themselves, the ones who stopped by the borrowed house were one mid-level government official, and some lower level ones, eight members in total if you counted the guards.

They left a letter at the house beforehand saying they'd come, and when night fell, three representatives and one guard moved to enter the house.

In regards to the four with meek appearance, I confronted them in casual clothes without a weapon on me.

Naturally enough, the house rebuilt from the ground up was rigged, and from hidden spaces, armed Valkyries waited on standby.

May and Eva were outside, keeping watch on the movements of the other guards.

Me and Novem spoke with the representatives.

"... I'd heard, but you really are quite young. For you to be even younger than our queen..."

The mid-level official looked at me, and gave his impression. In all truth, I wanted to give a light response of, 'I know right? It's quite a trial,' but it wasn't the atmosphere for that, so I gave a leisurely smile as I sat in a chair.

"So what's your business?"

The three made up of low officials and guard stood without sitting. They seemed tense, as they looked at me. And the mid-level official opened his mouth,

".. It's about Galleria. Your comrades have taken governmental service in the country, and you've backed them from behind. If an adventurer with a moniker, and a national hero is to do such a thing, it makes people like us suspicious. I'd like to ask your true intentions. Rummors have already spread within the country that you mean to make an alliance of Galleria, Zayin and Lorphys. There's even talk that you can get Beim to sponsor it."

My smile didn't collapse. The other party drank the tea Novem prepared, and got his breath in order. The latter half of his words had been somewhat excited, so he was a little tired.

In the light of the lantern on the table, I looked at the ceiling.

"Every bit of that is true. I can't just leave so many threatening countries next to Lorphys forever. I know the internal states of Rusworth and Galleria. So it wouldn't be a bad choice to side with one and crush the other, right?"

Your continued conspired wars are leaving Lorphys uneasy, so I have to do something about it. Is how I explained it.

In truth, Lorphys had never put out such a request, and neither Zayin nor Lorphys would take part in war. If I rallied for it, maybe they would, but the merit for both lands was faint. Lorphys had its hands full with managing its expanded territory. They'd fall flat if I needlessly added onto their lands again.

"... You mean to say you mind not if Rusworth is crushed?"

When one of the lower officers took a step forward, the guard held him back. He was looking around, after his eyes locked on where a Valkyrie was stationed. It seems he had noticed they were surrounded.

"Galleria was more accommodating. That's all there is to it. Or could you mean to say Rusworth will stop it's war, and take up a seat to talk? I said I know the affairs of both countries, did I not? I also know you're in a situation where you can't stop your wars."

The sitting mid-level officer hung his head. And with a sharp glint in his eyes, he glared at me. He didn't have too ill intentions. Nor did he hold any bloodlust.

"... Then I'm sure you already understand how the policies the country pushed for are inclined towards its center, right? And of how, because of that, the outskirts are neglected, the points that become battlefields unthought of, and the profit of war all going to the central district as well?"

"Of course I do. Your high minister is considerably popular in the center. It's quite troubling."

My expression didn't crumble. Holding her staff nearby, Novem expressionlessly watched our guests. If they made the slightest suspicious movements, she would take the lead of the hidden Valkyries.

"At present, high minister Redl's faction is exercising it's power around the center. You could say that all high officials are of his faction. There is no faction that opposes them. Among high officials, there are those of nobility, but there is nothing that can be done of the present situation."

I listened to his story with a smile.

"You sure have it rough. But it's all irrelevant to me."

The mid-level official looked at me.

"... We understand that her royal highness alone is unable to fight against multiple countries at once. Is there no way you would consider moving towards Rusworth's continued existence?"

"That's troubling. I have things I could call plans of my own. And wouldn't that be difficult at present, with the high minister in power?"

Saying him being there made it difficult time and again, I implied, 'the high minister is in the way, so do something about it.'

After a while, the officer spoke with a resolved face. He straightened his back, and while those around tried to stop him, he ignored them.

"Among government officials, there are those who come from the center, and those formerly of the outskirts. A majority hail from the outskirts, but a glass ceiling has made to keep them from rising above mid-level. The minister who blatantly favors the center has no popularity among those from elsewhere. The queen is on his palm, so she's unable to move, but... if she has the assistance of the national hero of Zayin, the possibility exists. Will you lend your power to us?"

I extended a hand to my cup, and sipped some tea. I had anticipated it when I heard a mid-level officer would be sent, and it seems I've come into contact with one holding resentment for the high minister.

I was sure they existed, but good job getting sent here. The Jewel turned lively.

The Third rejoiced.

[Is that an invite to a coup d'état? I happen to be an expert on the subject!]

The fourth seemed to be calculating this and that.

[So it'll be a gathering of mid and low-level officers... if their numbers are great, then it'll probably work out if you do a clean sweep.]

The Fifth, in his usual unmotivated tone, began warming up.

[Don't miss the timing to take the castle.]

The Seventh was cheerful. Even when he was down all through the internal administration, when fighting began, his tensions were high.

[If the high minister is suddenly taken out, there's sure to be strong opposition in the center. In that case, first drop the other important members. How about just publically connecting them to Gallerian feudal lords? It isn't a lie after all! After that, continue revealing his ill deeds, and dropping his fame before you bring him in for judgement!]

Milleia-san was also crying out for joy...

[Why not get allies in the outskirts, while you seal the high minister's movements. Get Galleria's bad lords to disappear as well.]

On Milleia-san's words, the third laughed.

[What's wrong. There's no such thing as a bad feudal lord. All that's there is lords who've mistaken their judgements. Well, they've been drinking the good stuff up to now. There's no way they haven't considered the risk, so let's just have them honestly disappear. As expected, it's not like you can deal with all of them, so pick out the ones that'll probably be in the way!]

The Fifth, as if recalling something.

[If you have Leold lead Galleria's punitive force, revolt will come out... okay, leave it to Gracia. Let's start cleaning out both camps. ]

My head was starting to hurt. When I sighed, the mid-level officer looked a little anxious.

"Lyle-dono?"

I made a smile, and proclaimed my desire to jump onto his proposal.

"Very well. I will take those words. Because it does sound easier than destroying a whole country. But I'll have you follow my plans."

The low-rank officers were a little excited for joy. Their responses from the Skill... Search... turned blue. A color to signal allies.

(No, that's way too fast, I tell you. How about you be a bit warier?)

I spoke to everyone with a smile.

"However, the high minister will have to stay. Could you write up a list of the important members of the high officials? We'll have to start with some large chips out of his power."

The mid-level officer questioned my opinion a bit.

"If you don't take the minister down, his faction will only expand."

On top of looking down a little, I spread my mouth with to form a smile.

"I mind it not. We need only grab the center in that timespan. And the minister is loved by the center... by the people of the capital. If he's suddenly deposed, problems will come out."

He made a conflicted face.

"T-truly."

I raised my face, and spoke in my usual smile.

"Well... let's just have some fun with it. Now then, the detailed plans shall be left to a later date."

Saying that, I brought it to a close.