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Chapter 6: Obligation

Obligation

... Near the border of Beim and Zayin, Zayin's side had sent out forces.

The one left to the command of over a thousand troops was Creit Benini. With a neatly set hairstyle, he rode his horse on standby at the border. It was because of predictions that Bahnseim had sprung to action, and was going around looting.

But they weren't deployed to protect Beim's villages. They were there to protext Zayin territory... the people of Zayin.

Creit's subordinate rode his horse up close.

"Captain Creit!"

"What's wrong?"

"There are more people flowing in from Beim. Seems they want safe haven."

And they were also there to block the flow of people from Beim. It's not as if they were denying them. But the treatment of people in Beim and Zayin was different. That was something Beim's side didn't understand.

"Turn them back! We cannot move any further from our station."

Seeing Creit's mortified face, the subordinate raced his horse off. At first, Zayin had tried to offer relief to the people flowing in from Beim. But Beim had a particular national color. Ruled by the merchants, its armaments made of adventurers... their sense of values were too different.

The safe haven they spoke of was a request for the army to protect their village. And as long as they paid the reward, they thought they would help.

"... We are already knights of Zayin. Why can't they understand that?"

Unlike Creit who yearned of knighthood, the people of Beim knew little of kings and knights or the affairs of other lands...

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... Zayin's temple.

There, Aura Zayin sat in an extravagant chair as the Holy Maiden. On one side sat former Holy Maiden Thelma Zayin. On the other side, the High Priest Gastone Bonini. It was a meeting-room like space with a table in the center, and before them was a merchant who held a large shop in a town of Beim.

He also had a role of something like a town chief, and he was a man who carried out commerce in a relatively large town In Beim's northern quadrant. With Beim's city sector the further of the two away, he had come to seek help from Zayin.

Thinking he didn't want his status to fall below any merchant who did business with this so-called Holy Maiden, and having never traded anywhere outside of Beim, there was a problem with his attitude.

"Why is it!? We'll pay the reward. The surrounding villages have already been attacked, and there are even some that have been slaughtered entirely! I won't ask for thousands. Even five hundred is enough. I would like you to put out troops!"

Desperate as he was to protect his life and fortune, Aura stuck her elbow into the armrest, and rested her face on her hand. Her posture crumbled, and while Gastone condemned her bearing, she ignored.

Aura thought that disrespect should be repaid in kind, that was all.

"I understand the severity of your situation. We have dispatched troops to our border and prepared ourselves. That's how our situation is, so we cannot spare troops for you. To add to that, if I may... there's no f***in' way in hell we're arbitrarily dispatching troops to Beim's territory! And dude... why is there a need for me to send troops for your sake in the first place?"

There, Thelma beside her came in to stop it.

"Aura! ... my apologies. But please understand our standings. Crossing the border of our own accord will be to Zayin's disadvantage. People who've lost their homes have flowed into Zayin, and our situation is one where we can accept your village as well. But that's the most we can do."

The merchant unsatisfied with Thelma's explanation tapped his staff on the ground, and explained the situation.

"Why can't you understand!? Once Beim falls, they may target Zayin next! Is overlooking the barbarity of Bahnseim the will of your goddess!?"

There was some sense to his words.

If Bahnseim was left as it was, Zayin would be exposed to danger. But would saving a town and maybe a few villages in Beim's territory really change that? It would not.

Gastone opened his mouth.

"I understand your sentiment. And it is true we cannot ignore that matter. We cannot, but... the one who invited in Bahnseim's anger was Beim. What do you want to accomplish by dragging us into the mix? Do you think we can send out troops and win against an army that numbers over three hundred thousand? We don't want to make any needless attacks on Bahnseim. Please understand."

The merchant's face turned bright red.

"Then what should I do! Say you I just wait to be killed!? While singing praise to your goddess, you'll tell us to die off!?"

Aura snorted at the merchant. Of all else, the words coming out of his mouth were right. And it was precisely that righteousness that made her laugh.

"... You sure are assertive. After making Zayin your battlefield and cash cow for so many years, it sure is different when it comes to Beim. You're asking us to go and fight in a battle without any prospects of victory. When you're that arrogant, it crosses into the realm of refreshing, let me tell you."

The merchant averted his eyes from her. Perhaps everything they'd done to Zayin had just crossed through his head.

There, Thelma threw out a life boat.

"... But we cannot continue ignoring Bahnseim's brutality like this. Then let me offer a condition."

"A condition? What is it!? If it's money, the amount we can prepare at a moment's notice is..."

Thelma kept up her smile as she spoke.

"Accept the rule of Zayin. If you do, it will create a reason for Zayin's soldiers to move. It will be to protect their homeland."

Hearing Thelma's words, the merchant found himself unable to open his mouth...

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... Before the town the pillaging force set as its next destination, the marge had halted, and discussion had begun.

A tent was prepared, and the ones talking were a Baron and his vassal. A mercenary brigade chief was called out to verify the situation.

"Wasn't that part of Beim's territory? I can see Zayin's flag, you know?"

The mercenary shook his head.

"Until just a while ago, it was undoubtedly Beim! And it's across the river that marks the border. Crossing it after so long is just strange!"

Hearing those words, the Baron heard out his vassal.

"Now then, that's how it seems to be, but... if they're really part of Zayin, it will become something troubling."

The vassal knight gave a belligerent opinion.

"We need only attack them. We've an army surpassing three hundred thousand. There's no need for us to mind a small country like Zayin."

However, a different vassal... an elderly knight advised the opposite.

"We should step down. We've country's soldiers there. If we fight, on top of facing casualty, Zayin is a country that's tied a pact called the Four-Country-Alliance, it seems. And what we have here isn't an army of three hundred thousand, we only have ourselves."

The mercenary chief spoke to the knights.

"It's a bluff. Just attack it. And with how close that town is to Zayin's border, it's sure to have made a fortune."

But the answer the Baron gave was a safe one.

"... The day we must meet up isn't far off. It's out of the question to be late. If it will be a lengthy battle, then we shall prioritize rejoining the main force."

"What!?"

The mercenary chief looked displeased at his inability to pillage the town he had been counting on...

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Having returned to South Beim, I heard the information that Bahnseim had dispersed through Beim to pillage, and moved onto the next stage of the plan.

In the meeting room, I called Miranda and Aria, having Adele-san and Maksim-san in attendance as well.

"Any requests for aid from the nearby villages?"

Adele-san shook her head.

"It's because you made an enemy of the top brass. I don't think the surrounding villages will request any aid."

Aria looked a little vexed.

"Why's that? The rumor's already gone around."

She seemed annoyed that she couldn't help them, but from our point of view, there was a necessity for the people of Beim to shed some blood. Individual emotions were a separate problem. Saving them was possible. If they sought refuge, we'd accept them.

But the people of Beim wouldn't accept that. And their movements were surprisingly dull. Miranda sighed.

"Having too much peace is something to think about. Maybe they're dull because they still can't believe it, or they were making light of it."

Maksim-san folded his arms.

"... Their situation is different from Bahnseim, where they have a skirmish somewhere every year or so. Even so, close to a hundred fifty thousand soldiers aren't pillaging, huh? Attacking their main force won't work out."

I didn't plan to do so from the start, but that really was troubling. If the people of the main force remained, then the a hundred and fifty thousand moving around must be the armies of the feudal lords. Perfect to take them down one by one. The Seventh looked over the pieces laid out on the map draped over the table.

[If we move around crushing the pillaging units, the main force will make a move on us first, or they'll send a number we won't be able to deal with... if possible, I want to properly knock down the royal guard elites. It wouldn't be strange if they moved anytime...]

As the Seventh waited for a movement, some Valkyries entered the meeting room. The mass-produced Valkyries all shared blue armor, and black hair. However, I could see more variations in their armor and mechanical parts than before.

Because of Damien and old Letarta, their specs were rising. The one beside that Valkyrie was Shannon who had brought tea to the meeting. Everyone was busy, while Shannon was helping out.

"These things, they're automatons, yet they put me to work."

Shannon directed teary eyes at Miranda. Bit Miranda smiled.

"Then work, Shannon."

Shannon put the tea she'd brought in on the table.

"I ammm working! Goddess, I'm working the hell out of it!"

Swelling her cheeks in rage, she poured enough cups for those gathered before leaving. The Valkyries confirmed that everyone had seen Shannon off with a smile before speaking.

"Master, a letter from the fortress."

"So it's here!"

Accepting it, I read its contents aloud.

"Successful first contact. Objective: isolation... target is hurriedly seeking merits! This is it!"

In my delight, I turned a smile to Aria and Miranda.

"Let's save the nearby villages. Aria, Miranda, and... let's send Baldoir too! Let's make an excuse for a merit-starved enemy to head our way. Prepare to surround them and beat down the enemy! Set up traps as well.

The Valkyries looked at me.

"What about our allies in the fortress? If we don't inform them, there is a fear they will be drawn in."

I didn't even have to think about it.

"Inform them of the trap placement, and have them take a detour. If they rejoin the main force just like that, we can greatly chip down Bahnseim's military force!"

There, Adele-san looked worried.

"... Will it really go that well? Personally, I'll say it because I've met them before, but there are quite a few dangerous people."

A worried Adele-san. Everyone in the meeting room looked at Maksim-san. There, Maksim suddenly realized something, and moved to cheer her up. In these times of cruel battle to come, I felt just a little relieved.

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... Redant Fortress.

There, cutting the seal on Lyle's letter, Breid laughed before the two Baronets.

"It seems Lyle is moving because he cannot overlook this situation. Perhaps he thinks we're panicked, as he calculated we wouldn't be able to move very great of a force. He even politely wrote out the placement of traps."

The two Baronets praised Breid.

"This is all because of you, captain. The knights who moved for Lyle's plan, and that there seems to have been an effect in spreading the rumor that General Blois is trying to disperse the other generals."

"By that rumor's outbreak, some doubt is falling onto General Blois. I'm sure this much is enough for now. Get some achievements as royal guard captain, and if we prepare some official proof..."

Breid smiled as he held up a hand to silence them.

"You make it sound as if I'm forging evidence. It would be troublesome if you misunderstood. The one who recommended I cross that mountain was Blois, you hear."

By Blois' plan, he had chosen mountain crossing, and that he didn't make it to the battlefield was Blois' fault, was the outline Breid had drafted out.

Eliminating the knights who made contact with the generals when they heard of a letter from Lyle, and isolating Blois. In the letter was written if it was up to five thousand, they'd be able to deal with it, and seeing that, he couldn't stop his laughter.

Breid looked at that letter marked with Lyle's ambush stations and trap placements, touching a hand to his chin.

"... Lyle's party will move, and when the feudal nobles face casualty, I will volunteer to subjugate him. Of course, you'll follow me, won't you?"

The two Baronets nodded and smiled.

"Of course. As long as you'll report our achievements to Centralle as well."

Breid swore he'd definitely honor that promise as he laughed in his heart.

(Lyle, this is the difference between you and me. You've lost your head in your schemes. I'm sure you thought all was going well, but I'm several levels above you.)

Knowing Lyle's plan, and imagining himself coming out on top, Breid was excited. Standing to prepare for his assault, he took the two Baronets along to move...