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Chapter 16: Poison that Rends Beim

Poison that Rends Beim

... At the point Lyle had run off from, Erhart was brimming with an urge to run away.

Around, the knights and soldiers of Cartaffs held up their weapons, while beyond the queen, who carried her longsword over her shoulder, two more women had come with their own forces.

The queen of Cartaffs was standing quite boldly. A woman with sea-blue hair, and a woman with silver hair... all three of them held violet eyes.

"I'll say it as many times as I must. I will be taking Lyle. That man isn't a caliber fit to be held at the side of a small country. My land of Cartaffs is the one worthy of him."

Piercing the spear as tall as herself into the ground, the woman shakily letting off flames... Gracia shot back at those words.

"If you'll let me have my say... I've already obtained approval. And Lyle is the holder of a considerable harem. I've obtained all its members permission before you. Be it of large lands or Cartaffs, a country taken over by a single Skillholder is worthy? You'd best keep those fantasies for your dreams".

Her staff upright in the ground, standing as if to use both her hands to push it in, Elza's atmosphere was one to freeze the surrounding air.

And in truth, around her alone, the breaths exhaled by troops were white.

"You come around later, and you'll take him as groom? We had already proceeded talks with four nations. There's 'no place left on the stage for Cartaffs. If you'll cooperate quietly, then that's fine in itself."

The opinions of the two... the knights and soldiers holding weapons behind them had serious eyes.

Erhart was backed into a huddle with his comrades, shaking.

"What's this? Hey, someone tell me! I can't recognize this thing as a harem. The harem of my dreams definitely wasn't this dangerous sort of thing!"

Ludmilla looked down a bit, laughed, and spoke as she flipped her hair with her left hand.

"Small countries that amount to nothing lest you gather four of them, sure know how to sound high and mighty. I'll throw this out there, but just by those of your level gathering together, you've yet to reach the national power of Cartaffs. Triple your forces. Then I'll hear out your opinion."

It was true that Cartaffs boasted more than double the national power of the alliance. The country of the north possessed that much territory and resources.

"But as the princess of a foreign land, I'll recognize you as Lyle's mistress."

Erhart timidly, timidly remarked.

"Eh? That guy already had more than ten women, right? They're all to be mistresses?"

Even if you didn't count the Valkyries, Erhart knew Lyle's had at least that many women. By rumor, there were talks of Zayin's Holy Maiden and former Holy Maiden as well.

Hearing that, Ludmilla and the others turned their eyes to Erhart.

"And what of it? Taking on an extra mere ten holds no problem to me. I have the national power to spare. If they fulfill their roles, I'll recognize them. Of course, number one will be me."

To Ludmilla's overflowing confidence, Gracia's flames burned higher, and Elza's chill grew colder.

Within all that, Erhart saw it.

(That woman's laughing behind this scene of carnage!)

At the end his eyes, leaning her body against the horse she rode, Miranda was delightedly looking upon the dispute of the three.

And to Erhart, it was as if he could hear her voice.

(Now crush each other.)

Her expression was one to say it.

Gracia lifted her spear from the ground, and yelled.

"Don't speak so highly, oh queen of Cartaffs! I'll crush you here! You're an enemy as well!"

Her sentiment was emphasized on the 'as well' part.

"It's a good opportunity. Let's put Lyle's Harem in order as we stand. And you're first, Ludmillaa!!"

Gripping her staff, and forming a blade of ice, Elza took a stance. The soldiers behind her wrung out their voices, and gripped their weapons, looking as if they'd attack at any moment.

Before the two of them, Ludmilla smiled... but that instantly turned to an expression of scorn.

"... How unfortunate. And I was even compromising here. Then I'll see out your ability."

As she pulled her longsword, and its red blade let off a dubious light, Erhart frantically looked around to try and do something. And he spied Lyle in the distance, looking on the scene from afar.

"Ah, Oy! Come back! Hurry and..."

... And do something, before he could hear those words from Erhart, Lyle turned the other way, and ran off.

Lyle had ran away. And seeing his back, Miranda urged on her horse to chase him.

Until Miranda could catch him and bring him back, there were considerable casualties to the surroundings...

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When everything was over, I led the three country representatives into Beim, as I smeared some medicine over my face.

Perhaps it looked like we were returning from a hard-fought war, as on Beim's main street, the rubberneckers stood on both sides looking at the three nationalities of knights as they made sure not to block our paths.

It wasn't rare for a knight brigade to enter Beim, and it was considered a sort of exhibition.

As Eva had already entered Beim to spread rumors, we were welcomed by the city quite warmly.

By the residents, that was. If it were for the merchants and guild executives, that would be a different story.

Within the legion close to two thousand, there were some of the adventurer parties who were supposed to have attacked us as well.

With all the cheers, the adventurers stepped back, and were welcomed as the heroes who saved the Queen of Cartaffs.

Inside the Jewel, the Seventh put a cold opinion to mouth.

[They sure are care-free. If they knew of what we... no, what Lyle was going to do, there's no way they'd be able to laugh.]

In Beim, I had already knew adventurers had returned to their various branches. It was around the time where the Guilds would be in a scramble to collect information. I had chosen that time at my own discretion to return.

The Third spoke as if to soothe the Seventh.

[Isn't it fine? There's no doubt it's the triumphant return of a hero. A hero for whom, though, is a separate issue. Now them, it would be nice if the poison we set in Beim was spreading nicely.]

What I sent in were the favorably-treated East Branch adventurers, and the fact the Guild had given us information...

That wasn't all. The fact the adventurers who were sent to attack us were now accompanying us was surely something they couldn't understand.

The Fifth thought over what was to come, as he put it to mouth.

[With this, we've fulfilled our minimum goal. After that, it's on to confirm the seeds we sowed are budding. By our estimate, there's a high probability they'll take a strong action in regards to Lyle. That's why we riled them up after all.]

To put on airs, I road at the lead on horseback, the Guild's headquarters coming into sight.

"... Once the Beim takes some strong countermeasure, it's the end. East Branch, Trēs House... it also depends on how they move, but with this, Beim will split."

The city called Beim was a giant lump of authority. It held an authority more troublesome than a single country, and it had grown into a land that turned its surroundings into a sea of blood to syphon off the gold. Its system completed over the ages, changing it from the inside would be difficult, and I didn't have the time.

I wanted the support of Beim. In order to fight Celes, I definitely wanted it.

But I couldn't let myself be supported condition-lessly. If Beim did come to support me without conditions, then even if I beat Celes, a large problem would remain on the continent.

Beim would use me to become an even bigger, and even more troublesome city. Even if I defeated Celes, and laid hands on the country, I wouldn't be able to cut off Beim after they aided me. If I did, they would make me their next enemy.

So...

"... I'll have the city of merchants and mercs sink into their own sea of blood once."

... For my sake, I'd have them sin to hell. Even if there were irrelevant virtuous people in it, for the future... for me.

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... Guild Headquarters.

The gathered executives had rough voices without their usual composure.

There were complaints coming from the merchants too. That they didn't slay Lyle was a problem, but what the merchants emphasized was Cartaffs' protest.

That the adventurers sent by the Guild didn't work, and Lyle who'd came afterwards completed the request was a problem. But their biggest failure was trying to run away. It raised the issue of a large injury to Beim's credibility.

At the same time, there was the issue of Beim's East Branch suffering so little casualty. The mercenary brigade sent by the South Branch was practically annihilated, One first rate party the West Branch sent was wiped out, while the other was assisting Lyle.

Barely any of the ones the North Branch sent had returned. According to what the ones who'd returned had said, Lyle had overlooked only the East Branch adventurers, did he not?

Hearing that, they couldn't stay silent.

"You turned coat! You betrayed the other branches, and leaked information! How will you take responsibility for that!?"

The South Branch's executive slammed his fist on the table, and glared at the East Branch executive. Before his bloodshot eyes, Tahnia determined that no matter what was said, it wouldn't get through. Her superior executive was the same.

"... We didn't betray. We've identified the one who sold the info. It was one of our receptionists. I'm sure she had some sort of circumstance, but it isn't something to be forgiven."

The North Branch's executive's stare was also stiff.

"It's a protest straight from the Queen of Cartaffs. That's a vital port to the merchants. And we've even made an enemy of Galleria and Rusworth, where we're to gain the rights to construct a port... do you plan to push this time's responsibility onto a single receptionist?"

The West Branch's expression was pale and senseless. The Labyrinth managed by Beim had a depth exceeding a hundred floor. To that extent, its management demanded considerably delicate interaction.

Adventurers capable of exceeding the sixtieth floor were extremely essential existences. They weren't something that could be replenished so easily once lost.

The surviving party held suspicious the Guild had sold them out. And that the Guild had told Lyle they were going to attack, was evidence enough.

And of all things, they were quite wickedly broadcasting that fact all over town. If the West Branch cut off a first class adventurer party, it would raise even more suspicions.

It was difficult to wipe them out, but in truth, one such party had already disappeared.

Rumors spread, and the adventurers thought they had been dragged into a Beim factional war. And because that wasn't mistaken, it was worst all the more. Lyle truly was vicious towards the Guild.

"Nonsense... that's nonsense! Do you understand what trials the West Branch will face because of your betrayal!? What's that receptionist's name!? Give me a name!"

Tahnia's expression didn't crumble as she clenched her fist. The one who sold the info was Marianne. She had obtained Guild documents, and they investigated it well enough to be sure she handed them to Lyle.

The East Branch's executive let out a sigh.

"Marianne of the private receptionist desks."

The South Branch executive turned an eye to the Sweeper behind him. That Sweeper, who was also a sort of guard, lowered his head, and left the room. The guards of the other branches were the same.

The East Branch executive spoke.

"Tahnia, you should be off too. I'm fine here alone... if you're the one to get to her, make it painless."

Tahnia lowered her head.

"... Yes."

Tahnia left the room, moving alongside the other sweepers to clean up Marianne...

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Before I could hear the explanation of this matter from Guild headquarters, I went to the Trēs House's mansion. Aria came along as a sort of guard.

"The moods somewhat strange here."

It was as she said.

The employees were busily moving around. Getting luggage in order, the subordinates were taking a strange sense of distance from one another, and it felt as if they were feuding within the same mansion.

I waited in a waiting room, and without calling me to the parlor, Vera and Fidel-san came in.

Fidel-san had removed his overcoat, and rolled up his sleeves. He didn't have his usual refreshing air, but the sharp glint in his eyes was even greater than before.

From the Jewel came a delighted voice. It was Milleia.

[Oh? Is he the type that exhibits his best when cornered?]

When I thought of how we were the ones who cornered him, I couldn't find it in me to laugh. Vera and Fidel sat on the sofa, Fidel-san being the first to break the ice.

"... It seems Beim decided to cut you off. And while it looks like you've returned safely, there will be no change in that verdict. At best, an exile from the city. And we who supported you have been dragged in as well. Do you have any excuses?"

He was saying it was my fault, but in most cases my position would be one where that would be a false charge. In this specific case, I had aimed for it and brought it about, so I had nothing to return.

"I have no words to return. It is just as you say."

Fidel-san's eyebrow twitched.

"I see. Then I'll have you work back our support in kind. Our expulsion from Beim will be set in stone next merchant conference. You seduced the Queen of Cartaffs, did you? Have her allow our use of her port. And prepare a point for us to set up base. Anywhere is fine. Rusworth, or Galleria, or anywhere else."

If a stranger heard it, they'd be irrational requests. But I had thought over them. No, I had intended to do at least that much.

"Understood. In regards to the base, my current stronghold has a suitable plot of land. I'll prepare it there. Ah, of course, I'll hire workers, and get this and that in order. I'll also get permission for the port's use."

Fidel-san's eyebrows were twitching up and down. Since I had taken all of his conditions, on the contrary, he was suspicious.

And when I accepted all his requests, he was making an expression as if it wasn't enough.

Fidel-san closed his mouth, and Vera's turn came. But her expression wasn't the best.

"... Lyle, I can't give you any satisfactory support from here on. I understand my own worth. So if you're going to cut me off, then I'd like your decision soon. I don't want to be a burden."

All she could do ended here. Saying that, Vera tried to back out.

There, Milleia-san's atmosphere made me feel she was nodding as she spoke.

[She does understand her value. And it's a good thing she knows when to opt out. But that's no good. We'll be taking you along to the end. Lyle, make a cool decision. If you throw away a woman you've gotten hands on to rise higher... I'll curse you.]

Rather than the ancestors cursing me, Milleia-san cursing me was several times worse. It felt like that person's curse really would work. It felt like she would do any and all forms of harassment.

I sat deeply into the sofa, and looked at Vera.

"I see. Then I'll take all you have left, and bring an end to it."

Vera smiled. But Fidel-san's face was bright red, and he was making a fist.

"Yes, that's a load off my mind."

I stood, approached, Vera, grabbed her arm, and stood her to her feet. I put both my hands around her back, and embraced her, to rest my chin on her shoulder.

Aria's face went red.

"... So he really has grown in this sort of thing."

Or so she said, as she averted her eyes. Fidel-san made a conflicted expression.

"I said I'd take everything. You're mine. You don't need to have anything, just stay by my side. I'll always accept you"

"... Lyle."

Vera wrapped her arms around my back as well.

Fidel-san spoke in an expression I couldn't tell was happy of irritated.

"Dammit, should I rejoice at how you won't throw my daughter away after using her, or feel embarrassed as a parent that I have to overlook this damn gigolo taking her... why is it, when he isn't like this, it's like he's not the damn gigolo I know."

There, the Third seemed intrigued.

[... Doesn't it feel like Fidel-kun was waiting for you to rile him up? This, I'm sure he was lonely because Lyle didn't come to contest or rile him.]

There, Milleia-san had some fun.

[Quite right! Now, Lyle... rile Fidel-kun up. I'm sure he'll be delighted. I'll grade how well you've gotten at adding fuel to the flames!]

The Fifth, quietly.

[... You guys really have some nice personalities there.]

I thought a little, before whispering into Vera's ear. She had been on the verge of tears, but upon hearing that, she nodded.

And touching a hand to her stomach, she looked at her father Fidel.

I turned a smile to him.

"Well, quite a bit happened, but let's get along from now on, father-in-law."

When I said that as I wrapped a hand around Vera's waist, Vera touched both hands to her stomach, and looked down.

Having seen that, Aria took a step back and froze.

"L-Lyle, you couldn't have!"

Fidel-san fell from the sofa, and struck the floor.

"So you'll even take my Vera from me, you damn gigolo! Daaaammittt!! As I thought, you're my enemy!! To the end of the end, I'll drop you to the bottom of the sea!"

For some reason, Fidel-san writhing on the floor looked just a little happy, but I'd like to think the light was playing a trick on my eyes.

When I thought I had succeeded, some cold voices came from the Jewel. The Third let out a sigh.

[Lyle... that riling was no good. A complete failure.]

The Fifth seemed to sense something.

[It was interesting. That Fidel was really shining his best. But no, go die.]

The Seventh seemed worried for me.

[... Lyle, that sort of riling will cut down your life-span.]

Milleia-san rejected it as well.

[Just riling isn't enough. I can't accept anything that will waste you away. You've still a long way to go.]

I don't really get what she was trying to say. To me, the Third spoke.

[Lyle, this time, you get a zero. I'm sure this will bring you some pain to come, so resolve yourself. Well, those sorts of experiences are important as well, and it'll be fun, so we're watching over you.]

My first zero in a while.

And with a bit of a red face, Vera spoke as if recalling something.

"Oh right, Lyle."

"Hmm?"

"It seems the Guild is searching for the traitor, but are they related to you? If you aren't quick, they may send a Sweeper or something."

It seems my work in Beim had yet to end.