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Chapter 14: Who was Being Chased Again?

Who was Being Chased Again?

... The leader who'd run into the forest managed to reach the exit with a few of his reliable comrades.

A break in the trees... once they breached it, what they witnessed was the blazing sight of the camp without a hint of any moving men remaining.

After one confirmed the surroundings with their Skill.

"... Leader, there are three survivors."

In a place where there had been more than five hundred names, there were only three who survived. If they took flight, then that was fine, but looking at the situation, he couldn't tell how many were able to get away.

Black charred corpses littered the ground, and in that place where the stench was so harsh it made everyone drape clothes over their faces, the adventurers walked on.

They knew there were no enemy presences left around, as they had a member with such a Skill. Those reliable comrades had known the leader for many a year.

Heading for a survivor, they found a young man leaning on a crate that had yet to catch flame. A man who had been doing odd jobs under the mercenaries.

"Oy, get a hold of yourself."

After one of the adventurers fed him water, the odd-jobs man opened his eyes.

"What happened?"

On the leader's question, the man held his head, and wept as he spoke.

"Those things... those things woke up. They burned everything... and recovered their equipment. The guys who tried wearing women's armor as a joke were...!"

He had seen quite a terrible scene, and his breathing was all over the place. And he left the leader an important fact.

"They asked everyone. Are you a member of the East Branch? ... and after we showed our Guild Cards, only the East Branch adventurers were left to flee..."

Hearing that, the leader guessed those things meant the Valkyries. When he thought he had defeated them, they had only let themselves be defeated. Thinking over how terrible a means they'd used, he felt anxiety at how the East Branch was spared.

His comrades were of the same opinion. One spoke up.

"Leader, this is a troublesome one. It's possible this was all a faction-war within the Guild. I knew it was strange. When they said to go teach the Hero of Fort Redant who saved us all a lesson."

You don't have to say it so late in the game, thought the leader, as he looked at his few surviving comrades. Not having made it through for nothing, they were all skilled members.

But thinking to the ones he had lost, it was unbearable.

(How many years will it take to get back on our feet from here? We'd finally breached the sixtieth floor, and been recognized as first rate, yet... three years? No. Five years at the very least. If things don't work out, ten... even if I use my life to revive the party, I'll be retiring first.)

Age-wise, he was a little passed his golden years. Even if he could fight without problem for the next few years, it wouldn't go that way any further than that. Reviving his party as first-rate was a hopeless prospect.

"... We're returning to Beim. What of the dolls?"

As the leader stood, the odd-jobs man's eyes pleaded to him. But the leader ignored it. Now wasn't a time to save another.

A reliable adventurer looked around before shaking his head.

"There aren't any nearby. Let's go."

Running right off with their few, the Leader headed for Beim...

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... Inside the forest.

The mercenary chief captured by dark elves had an arrow through his leg.

By the time he was dragged before Novem, the survivors had already reached an easily countable number.

The mercenaries bound by Miranda's threads.

Novem sent a glance to the back of a tree a little ways away, and perhaps the dark elves understood something from that, as they surrounded the immobile men.

The chief was kicked over, and collapsed in front of Novem. Looking up at her, he gave a wide grin.

"How about you show a bit more charm, girly? You could at least show me the insides of your skirt before I go. Well, I'm not expecting much from a woman who's made it as an adventurer. Though if you were a harlot, I assure you'd be popular."

Hearing that vulgar laugh and provocation, she understood her opponent had resolved himself for death. You could also say his senses had dulled towards that called the end.

To such a chief, Novem produced a bundle of papers from her bag, and left them on the ground so they'd be clearly visible.

At first wondering what sort of papers they were, and hoping for the prospect of survival. But upon inspecting them, a wrinkle descended on his brow.

"Who was it. Who betrayed us!?"

The chief glared at Novem, and yelled out. What was written were the details on the mercenary brigade... the information maintained by the Guild.

With the format, and the information on them from other guilds as well, it didn't look like anything any information dealer could have gathered and written up.

The chief instantly suspected a traitor, but Novem spoke expressionlessly.

"No one betrayed anyone from the start. That it would come to this was but an inevitability."

Novem hadn't spoken a lie. The Guild had no intent to betray the adventurers they'd chosen as attackers, and from the start, it was only that Lyle's party had information from the start, and prepared for their victory.

The chief was mortified.

"... I beg of you! Take me back to Beim. There's no way I can forgive it! No way in hell I'd forgive the bastard who set me up! If it's money, I've some hidden in the city! So let's join hands! We'll teach that guild how scary we..."

He had been dragged into a factional war of the Guild. It seems that's how the chief felt.

Right after he said that, by the three Valkyries... Units One, Two and Three, he was stuck through with spears.

Novem looked over the scene.

"There is no need. We will be having you all disappear here. I won't let a single one return alive. And it seems you've been mistaken."

Novem leaned over for him, and smiled.

"The verdict on Beim is unanimous. That is all."

Upon hearing those words, the chief's face twisted in despair, as he retired his breath. Around him, the mercenaries who'd witnessed the scene began pleading for their lives at once, but...

"You've run amuck as much as you pleased. You should've understood what would happen if you ever lost, right? And over those that beg for their lives, I prefer those that fight on to the end. How unfortunate for you."

The Valkyries held weapons in their hands, ending all the adventurers who'd survived.

At that moment, an unnatural sound came from a tree a little away. But no one tried to turn towards it.

After Novem said to clear away the bodies, she gave an order to retreat from the site.

At the end, after sending a glance to the adventurer hiding in the tree...

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The adventurer party that said they would help in Cartaffs.

On top of five hundred Gallerian soldiers. And five hundred soldiers of Cartaffs. Using that many spare hands, we took a break on the road leading to Beim's territory.

We had split into a number of units, to lay in wait.

There, one of the fleeing adventurer parties headed over to us.

"Please help us! We're being chased!"

I was wearing a hood, and on those words, I removed it.

"Would the ones chasing you happen to be my comrades? I mean, you're... the ones who launched the attack, right?"

When I said that with a smile, the adventurers' faces froze.

But one among them was an adventurer of the East Branch. I'd seen his face a number of times around the Guild, and I nodded.

"Ah, that person can pass. Good work over there."

When I said that, the adventurers' eyes gathered on one.

"Eh? Ah... huh?"

He seemed to be confused, so I issued orders with a smile.

"Please give him a share of water and food. There's a distance to Beim, so would it be best we at least give him a dagger? Ah, would you like some rest first?"

When the East Branch adventurer nodded awkwardly, he was led further in. And to the other adventurers.

"Now the rest of you are over. Good work to you as well."

One of them gave a protest.

"Don't screw with me! Why is he to survive, and we... could it be that from the start...!"

I looked over the adventurers from some other branches, and spoke.

"And so? When you're attacking someone's comrades, you better not have thought you'd be left alive if you lost, right? Don't you think that sounds just a little strange?"

There, the adventurer put a hand on his weapon, and faced me.

I put a hand to my Katana hilt, but the one to move first was Ludmilla-san. Drawing her long sword, its red blade warped like a whip and expanded.

It moved as if it had a will, and carved into the adventurers in an instant. The adventurers collapsed, and Lumilla-san walked a little away.

The sword had already returned to its original form

"You sure do some terrible things. Or should I say, well thought out."

While I thought she would a bit unnerved, Ludmilla-san looked like she was having fun. Rather, this person was definitely wealthy in battle experience. Even when cutting down humans, she wasn't perturbed in the slightest.

"... It's to win."

When I said that, Ludmilla-san laughed.

"Does it weigh on your mind? If you can carry out such a plan regardless, I'll rate you highly. You're a man who carries through when the time comes for it."

I don't think myself kind. But it's true that here I was, weighed down by it. I wonder if my heart is weak?

As I thought that, Milleia-san let her voice from the Jewel.

[Lyle, regret it after you've done what you must. You can have your regrets once it's over.]

And delightedly spoke the Seventh.

[Nice. Strong, and a Queen who doesn't just spit pretty words... her bloodline's also the best. Lyle, make Ludmilla the legal wife.]

There, the Third gave a protest.

[Hold it right there! I won't say it has to be Clara-chan. But back when Lyle was helpless, Novem-chan is the one who sold her dowry to make money! Not making her the legal wife... I definitely won't permit it!]

Within a Jewel heating up. As the Third and Seventh exchanged intense argument, the Fifth alone was doing things at his own pace.

[... The ocean, you know. It would've been nice if that Divine Beast whale was a bit smaller, you know. Then it should have been more fun. I don't care about legal wives, but I think a small whale is a yes.]

I ignored the conversations of the Jewel, as I used the Skill... Search... to detect the next approaching group. I immediately raised its stage to Spec and Real Spec to view information on the other party.

They were adventurers who were central members of Labyrinth Subjugation.

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... The Trēs House's manor.

There, the ones who had jumped on board Gina's thoughts were surrounding Fidel.

Vera and Fidel surrounded together, and those sympathetic to Fidel were surrounded as well.

Those called the military force of the Trēs House had sided with Gina as well.

To Gina's side, wearing a specially given suit, Roland was sweating profusely with the collar of his shirt loosened.

He looked nervous.

Vera glared at Gina as she spoke.

"Gina, you understand what you're doing, do you?"

The younger sister Gina looked at her sister Vera, and made just a bit of a regretful expression. Lately, she'd been trying her best to talk her and Fidel out of it.

But even when it had come down to brute force, she never thought a majority of the staff would side with her. Fidel looked at his subordinates, feigning a calm composure, but inside, he was surely feeling indignation.

Roland was quite the same.

Fidel spoke.

"I was expecting great things from you, but for you to aim for the Trēs House head's seat like this. You aren't enough to fill it. Gina, it isn't too late. Please rethink this."

Gina shook her head.

"The one who doesn't understand is you, father. In the Beim of today, there are plenty of houses who aren't too pleased with the Trēs House's newly-gained rights. It's because you monopolize them while understanding all of that, that there are those coming out to destroy the house!"

Within Beim, there were movements against the Trēs House, whose power had suddenly expanded. But to Vera and to Fidel, there was no way they didn't know that already.

"And so we give up our interest? Don't be stupid! The ones who invested in Lyle were only a small portion of merchants, starting with the Trēs House. If we yield to the folks demanding a share after the pie's been cut, it's plainly visible we'll only be taken from again and again henceforth."

Vera, who'd rode ships around the world, and watched the work.

But Gina's opinion was different.

"So the Trēs House grows bigger, and you plan to be the substantial rulers of Beim? To support a house so big, just who will you ask to be your sacrifice? You have it nice, Vera! Supporting that man, and succeeding in sales! Even father, if he makes it big enough, surely father will recognize your marriage. But what about me!? For the sake of the Trēs House, will I be marrying a man I don't even love? Will I be pushed into the crowd?"

Fidel didn't deny that. The reason being, Lyle aside, when even now Roland wasn't a match with her present status, if the Trēs House grew larger, if the House grew any larger, there was no way the other merchants would keep quiet about Gina's marriage.

It wasn't possible to push a marriage with Lyle aside, but what about Gina? There were many folks who thought that, and Fidel was also a merchant. There's no way he would choose Roland.

"... Gina, it's not as if I haven't recognized Roland. He's proficient and diligent. But he's too straight-forward to lead a merchant house. He isn't of a caliber to hold up the Trēs House. You understand how it's not all about pretty words, don't you?"

Fidel had given an eye to Roland as well. Earnest, and devoted to his work. So he had lived his life close to the house, and he had plenty of chances to come into contact with Vera and Gina.

But he was a talent not suited for head.

Gina seemed to understand that as well. So she spoke.

"Then I need only make it a weight he can support. We'll pull our hand from a number of enterprises. I've always thought our weapons industry was unnecessary. And I've already had a talk with the other merchant houses."

Vera, upon hearing that.

"Do you understand the meaning of that? It isn't just a problem of the House. What of the craftsmen and customers who've known us all these years?"

Fidel, within all of that.

"She says. Now if you're done with that little talk... Roland, you bastard!"

Roland lowered his head towards Fidel.

"I deeply apologize! But Beim intends to crush Lyle-san. To set an example for the House. Any more, and a violent faction war really will go on in Beim. I can't stand to see blood flow."

Hearing that, Fidel looked at his subordinates.

"So you intentionally withheld that information from me? No wonder it felt so quiet. Even the ones I sent to reaffirm it... you planned to watch your employer fall to ruin!?"

Those you could call the dark side of the Trēs House were assisting Gina. To both Vera and Fidel, that was simply strange. If their employer's scale grew smaller, their treatment was sure to change.

"Roland, you don't get it. What's wrong if blood flows in Beim alone? The way things are going, Beim will light the surrounding sparks once more, and raise the flames of war. In the worst case, they'll rile up Bahnseim! Do you think it fine if only Beim is at peace!?"

As Vera was disappointed in Roland's narrow field of vision, Fidel spoke to Gina.

"Gina, stop this. You can still make it in time. Beim is more dangerous than you could ever have imagined. It's relied too much on war. Why can't you understand it's finally the time for Beim to get itself in order!?"

There, a man in black clothing opened his mouth.

"But that'll be troubling, Fidel-sama."

"You're..."

That former adventurer man was wearing a hood, and his face wasn't visible.

"I've got some connections of my own. There are folks out there who can only live in war. After selling so many weapons, you're not putting on a good guy mask are you? Moderate war is a necessity."

Moderate war. Hearing that, Fidel spoke.

"You lot really aren't seeing the situation. Or have you lost your nerve!?"

Gina looked at Fidel, and spoke sorrowfully.

"The ones without eyes are my father and sister. So the Trēs House doesn't shed blood in a factional dispute, so blood doesn't flow through the streets of Beim, I'm certain it is fine if the Trēs House shrinks in scale."

In a sense, Gina's opinion was correct. Thinking of the residents living in Beim, they were the ones who would be tangled up and devoured in a war of merchant and guild.

But outside Beim was different.

Vera turned a tired look to Gina.

"You... think the world is all in Beim? And you're just throwing on a reason to make the scale smaller for Roland's sake, aren't you?"

Gina didn't say anything. Vera had hit the mark. But it was a fact she was thinking of Beim.

Fidel spoke to persuade her.

"Gina, the situation has already changed! The surrounding countries have gotten together, and a power beyond our means now borders us. The means that passed up to now won't work any more. Putting out money and goods, leaving the rest to the mercenaries isn't enough anymore! Have you ever thought of how the outsiders see Beim!?"

But Gina's will was solid.

"... I shall deprive father of his status as head. I've gone through the talks at the merchant conference, so Roland shall immediately be instated as the next head. His marriage to me, or at least the formalities could even take place tomorrow. Father, sister... you'll be taking a leave from Beim. I don't mind if you take your ship that's close to completion, or Vera's ship either. I won't be able to manage them myself."

Fidel crumbled at the knees.

He was remaining wary of his surroundings, but he never thought his daughter would betray him.

And Vera muttered.

"... Lyle, your prediction hit the mark."

Making an enemy of Gina, Beim had seriously come in to crush them. Vera, who had been informed of all that beforehand, hadn't imagined Gina would go that far.

"I took her lightly."

Vera supported up her falling father, and spoke to the subordinates.

"... It is as you see. Those who'll stay with us, follow along. You'll likely be driven from Beim, but if you're alright with that, we'll take you along. Come on, you too Father!"

Hitting Fidel's back, she knocked some life into him.

"Vera, do you understand? She's already turned the entirety of Beim against us. If the Trēs House is driven out, going against them is..."

Before the frustrated subordinates, and her depressed father, Vera pulled her gun from her holster, and discharged it at the ceiling.

Everyone looked at her.

"Two state-of-the-art ships. And the sailors will follow me. With that much, we'll be able to make it anywhere. As long as we have a port, the Trēs House can stand up once more. We don't have the time to cry or complain. Now get to your feet! Lets go make some earnings! The world isn't Beim alone."

Fidel looked at Vera, and nodded.

"That's... right. Right! Two ships, the seamen... if she's left that much to us, then I've no time for depression. I'll recover it all in no time. By Gina's tone, Beim's gotten to cleaning its closet. I doubt it'll end with just us driven out. So let's gather those sorts and move. I'll call out to the craftsmen as well. Get to securing funds at once! Beim shall regret the day they made an enemy of this Fidel Trēs!"

Fidel stood, while the subordinates sympathizing with him nodded, and moved on his orders. And Vera spoke.

"Also, I've an idea where we could move to. Let's rely on Lyle."

Hearing Lyle's name, Fidel made a blatantly reluctant face.

But...

"Hm... after using us as he pleased. It seems the Guild's done something, but that damn gigolo won't roll over so easily. Okay, how about we use and abuse him this time? Just you wait, whelp... I'll wring you out to the marrow of your bones!"

Seeing Fidel's motivation, Vera gave a bitter smile. Because up to now... everything had gone as Lyle anticipated...