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Chapter 7: Not Knowing is…

 Not Knowing is...

The thirty fifty floor.

A few weeks since we came to Beim. The training of the five thousand men who entered the Labyrinth had come to a single large stop.

Our lack of time was one thing, but we weren't able to advance any further. The plan of overwhelming foes with numbers was losing its applicability.

However, we were able to output an extent of results. A number of the small platoons were able to bring out individuals with the ability to lead mid-class forces.

Standard soldier to platoon leader, we were able to find a lot of those talents as well. More than that, that the platoons General Blois had his eyes on were able to exhibit their results was a large contributing factor.

In order to prepare to withdraw, Unit Two was using the pieces on the map to reproduce the movements of the Labyrinth in real time, but...

"... It's amazing. For their momentum to be so different from the others. They'll probably be able to make it fine on the floors beyond."

As I praised them, General Blois sounded delighted.

"I never thought they would be able to put out results to this level. More than that, the lost platoon you were lending an eye to is looking nice as well."

The lost platoon.

When we first challenged the Labyrinth, they were a gathering of problem children who separated from the main body, and found themselves lost. After that, they got lost three more times. All things considered, I thought it best to just dissolve them, but I could never find the time, so we continued putting them to use.

I did lend an eye to them, but I never thought they'd grow to such an extent.

"How should I put it, their habits are too strong. Like the unit you were paying mind to, when they have strong characteristics, or rather..."

There's also that the platoon was inadvertently a harem platoon, so within my heart, "I want some more comrades who can understand how I feel," or so it's true I held some impure incentives. So I did support them as an individual, but I never thought they'd grow so much.

General Blois shrugged his shoulders.

"All their members have experienced Growth twice. It was beyond our expectations for that platoon to get this far. But their characteristics are so strong, we'll only be able to use them as a raid unit."

Raid unit, how cool, or so I held such a simplistic impression as I watched Unit Two move the pieces across the map.

And folding my arms, I asked General Blois. From my eyes, it would be fine to call this Labyrinth Training a success. We had fulfilled our goal, so there wasn't a problem. But I was curious how the general felt about it.

"By the way, this time's training... how do you evaluate its results? I think it's a success."

There, General Blois put both his hands on the table, supporting up his body, as his gaze didn't shift from the map.

"I don't think it's a failure. But even if you call it a success... we're up against the Walt House army called the strongest in all of Bahnseim. If we wanted to be able to stand up to them, then I'm sure it's a success, but if you have victory in mind, it's insufficient. We've got a unit with momentum, and a unit with an unexpected nature. I do think the overall quality has improved. But what our enemy has built up is different."

For some reason, the Seventh in the Jewel sounded happy.

[So he does get it, this kid.]

I sure he was delighted to have the Walt House evaluated highly, but they were our enemies now. I'd like him to think a bit more before speaking.

Unlike the Seventh, the Third thought a little.

[We're not at an overwhelming disadvantage anymore. Well, it's a good thing. What's left is to withdraw, return to Rhuvenns, reorganize, and train some more. From Innis-chan's predictions and our thoughts, that's about when Maizel-kun will start to move, but... Seventh, do we have any prospects of victory?]

The Seventh once led the Walt Army. And he had also made a prediction of the timeframe my father would move, confirming its general scale and goal with Innis-san's predictions.

[... It's not in Maizel's personality, but at present, I do not believe he will be able to defeat us and take Rhuvenns back. Sparing that amount of soldiers will be difficult for the Walt House. I'm sure he wouldn't want some scattered landholdings, and his goal is Lyle's head... if he's thinking of getting a present for Celes, then after fighting and burying us, he'll head straight for Centralle, won't he?]

According to Innis' future predictions, using the Seventh's knowledge and experience, the enemy's goal... was my head. What's more, as a present to Celes.

That such a reason was accepted for moving the army was proof of how twisted it had become. But as some cruel joke, twisted as it was, their ability was the real deal.

[There are a number of military formations Maizel specializes in. We've prepared the formations to counter them, but... the problem is whether the soldiers will feel unrest on a special battlefield. They can't use the Skills and Magic Tools they normally depended on.]

For that sake, we had restricted Skill use in this training. But from the Walt House eyes, it was nothing more than putting on a show. Copying what they were trained to do for their military careers.

The Third muttered.

[... If they're coming to take Lyle's head, we can think of abusing that fact to crumble them.]

The Seventh understood his implication.

[Normally, he'd likely avoid chasing the boy too far. But if Celes twisted him... the possibility exists.]

How ironic. That we would be fighting the Walt House army using Celes... having been twisted by the girl, that was becoming the Walt House's weakness. An army with strength and the ability to overcome, Bahnseim's strongest army...

"So the best bait would be me."

Hearing my murmur, General Blois raised his face, so I shook my head, and said I was just talking to myself.

As I stretched on the spot, I became curious as to how things were going in Rhuvenns.

"It'll be paperwork hell once we get back. Hah, I do hope nothing's gone awry on that side."

As I said that, General Blois smiled and agreed.

-

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-

... Inside Rhuvenns castle.

An underground escape passage used by the royal line.

It led into a waterway, and there was a group raising a sheet of spray as they ran through that passageway. With Count Bagdia at the center, the gathering of nobles were running from something.

A few of the knights had prepared magic lights on their left hands, the soldiers constantly looking back as they ran.

Surrounded by guards at the vanguard, Raebel made a panicked expression.

"Don't screw with me. Don't screw... I only made a proposal. A simple gathering and they stand to their feet...!?"

The Bahnseimian nobles in Rhuvenns castle. Mainly those who'd surrendered to Lyle had gathered, and while it wasn't a secret get-together, Raebel had drafted up a banquet. They had held a few drinking bouts beforehand, and he even got permission.

But the banquet hall was suddenly surrounded, and they were about to be apprehended on the suspicious of treachery. Albeit, they had planned to do so, but they were still at a stage where everyone was moving discreetly.

At the present stage, he hadn't even voiced the word rebellion. He had just gotten those building dissatisfaction together, and was building friendly relations with them.

After that, based on how things went, even if they were taken in by Lyle, he would be able to make a large faction. Defeating Lyle and going independent, or perhaps handing him as a present to Bahnseim. He was at a stage where he was still considering the specifics.

"Count, we should be able to get out. By the escape ways we confirmed beforehand, the exit should already be..."

As the guard knight without any decent weaponry- as he'd been taking part in a party- said that, he collapsed and sprayed water onto Raebel. The guard knight no longer moving, those around turned their lights onto him, revealing a few arrows pierced into his chest and vitals.

Seeing the knight floating in the water, Raebel pulled the sword at his hip.

The others went in front to protect him. The other guards pointed their swords towards the tunnel's exit. If an arrow had come flying, it could only have come from there.

Without any lights about them, a group wrapped in robes appeared from the depths of the passage. Something lit up at the center. Under the glow of the magic light, Miranda's green hair was revealed.

Her armor on her body, in her right hand, the blades of two daggers were held between her fingers.

"Yes. This way's a dead end. Too bad for you."

Behind the group in black, fully armed knights lay in wait. There were a few dozen of Baldoir's iron pipe corp among them, directing their gunpoints.

Raebel looked at Miranda.

"... Do you understand what you're doing? If you kill me, the other nobles won't keep quiet. And I'm..."

"... Close with Lyle's other betrothed; is that what you wanted to say? What an innocent man. I'm here because they asked me to be. When I was busy all around, it sure was a bother. Well, I'm sure Aria isn't suited for this sort of thing, so the duty naturally goes to me."

As Miranda said that and laughed, a shock raced down Raebel's spine. On top of goosebumps, he was breaking into a cold sweat as he swallowed his breath.

(I have to get through this... looks like breaking through with force is impossible. Then negotiate, and lower their guard...)

His thoughts were accelerating, but outside of that, the black-clothed group around Miranda fired their arrows regardless. The knights and soldiers around him fell one after the next.

"W-wait!"

One of his guard knights cut down an arrow flying at him, firing magic from his left hand.

"Fire bullet!"

A smile fireball headed for one of the black robes, causing its wearer to discard it and show his concealed figure. What came out was the form of a dark elf.

Seeing that, Raebel muttered.

"W-why. You should be with the elf woman... speaking to factions, that would be Novem's..."

Miranda spoke without any interest.

"I borrowed them. There were rats who increase our workload when we're so busy, so I was asked to exterminate them. When I said I wanted some helpers, she prepared them at once."

Raebel knew Lyle's fiancées did not get along by any means. Especially Novem and Miranda, she had investigated that they always kept a distance between themselves. He couldn't believe they would ever work together.

"Y-you tricked us. In order to bait us in, you played..."

Miranda cut in at once.

"Wrong. I hate Novem, and I pretty much hate everyone else. But that doesn't mean I'll try to kick them down when there's so much work to be done. We won't drag each other down. I mean, of course we won't. Lyle would be troubled. If there are a few noisy rats, we'll hand them some bait and let them be, but... you were trying to change for Lyle's sake, weren't you?"

As Miranda went expressionless, she swung her right hand to the side. The daggers flew, sticking into the heads of the two knights that were before him.

Looking at the two men collapsing before his eyes, Raebel smiled a bit.

"... I had misread. If I knew, I'd have seriously tried seducing someone."

He was serious. While he did hate him, for the sake of the goal, for Lyle's sake he acted, and evaluated the women he cooperated with at times. And he learned Lyle was more wary a foe than he had imagined.

"If you knew... it's too late for that."

Miranda shrugged her shoulders.

"If you restrained yourself a bit more, perhaps one of us would have gotten in contact with you. How unfortunate, Count... your choices were mistaken."

Miranda raised her right hand and lowered it. Arrows and shells discharged coming down on what remained of Raebel's forces.

Deploying a magic shield in front of him, Raebel laughed.

"But this won't be enough to end me!"

Saying that, he gripped his hilt and started forward, the knights and soldiers close to him following behind.

Miranda smiled.

"I actually like this sort of idiocy. Has that boy-ish feel to it... but this is the end."

Miranda leisurely clenched her right hand, starting with her pinky. A number of spears appeared from the walls of the passage. It looked as if there had been a trap prepared there from the start, but all of the spears had been made by winding wires from her Skill.

Successively pierced by wires and cut apart, it became that Raebel was only attacking Miranda with a handful of men. As he lowered his sword at her, Miranda pulled the dagger hung at her hip with her right hand, parrying it. With the dagger in her left hand, she sliced open his stomach.

As Miranda was forced to undo the magic light in her left hand, the surroundings went dark. And once the light was lit once more, Raebel was floating in the water...

-

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-

The training over, we pulled out the army and returned to Rhuvenns. So I was left to look upon the mountainous pile of papers in the office.

The Third took in the scene.

[It's because this sort of work increases that I'd rather have a moderate amount of territory to laze around in. Well, Lyle's already beyond the point of no return, thought.]

I touched my right hand to my face, looking down a bit. I knew this would happen, but there was too much work. True as it may be that it was best I participated in the training.

I wanted to believe that my constantly-active Skill Experience had some sort of effect, and in the case the absence of adventurers had caused an extreme increase in monsters, I had to manage the Labyrinth.

I understood it wasn't a complete waste of time.

In the office, and armored Unit One locked both her hands with Monica's, testing her strength.

"What a dirty girl to try building a market for yourself with the chicken while I was away."

"Master would never be satisfied with a scrap like you. Hand over your position already."

I heard a strange grating noise from both of them, but are they alright? I addressed Monica.

"Leave it at that. And did anything happen while I was away?"

Monica kicked Unit One aside, corrected her posture, and directed me a smile.

"There were a few minor problems, but because of Rauno-dono and Baldoir-dono, everything went off without a hitch. Some disturbing elements slipped in, but it was safely resolved. So we are in the middle of preparing a conspicuous reward for those two. As you have returned, it may be best to hold a ceremony for them alongside the knights to be promoted from your training."

Was it anything serious? Well, if it was safely resolved, then all's well.

"Baldoir's quite capable. And I'm always being helped out by Rauno-san. I guess I'll use this occasion to officially appoint him as a knight. So who made a move?"

Monica smiled.

"It was centered around a portion of Bahnseimian nobles. It let us put a nice, tight hold on the rest of them.

Don't say it with a smile. That's scary, is it not. As I thought that, I rolled my shoulders and made for the piles upon piles of paperwork piled on my desk.

Monica tried approaching with a smile, but Unit One's arm came flying over, pulling her away from me.

"Y-you deteriorated defeccctt!!"

"I'll scrap you on the spot, scrap metal!!"

Perhaps not to cause any trouble for me, they took their battle outside. Their faces were identical, so couldn't they get along a bit better

Or rather...

"Hah, why can't any of our women get along, I wonder."

I couldn't help but mutter it.