8Li (35km) away from Sierck Fortress, in the northern city Tuonvell.
2 people in military dressing arrived with a high class carriage.
One of the men was short and skinny, his uniform decorated with medals and jewellery, and his eyes were slits like a fox.
A sabre hung from his waist.
The man was Becker.
A noble of the empire, serving as an inspector in the military department.
The other person was a giant fat man 27Pa (200cm) tall.
His face was like a boulder and a broad long sword was worn at his waist.
He was Becker's escort officer, Grade 4 combat officer Boislow.
Boislow put his hand on his stomach as he sighed longingly while looking at the shops along the streets.
"So good... they are roasting chicken over there, Sir Becker."
"You are talking about food again!"
Becker squinted his eyes as he kicked Boislow and spat on the road.
"Damn it, where is the welcome party!?"
"They should be in the northern plaza of Tuonvell."
"They want me to walk over? What a poor reception, that's why I hate the countryside. They have no manners at all."
Becker complained as he walked and knocked into a child who was running.
The child was a boy about 6 years old who blinked and lowered his head.
From his dressing, he should be a commoner's child. His clothes weren’t ragged, but they aren’t classy either. His shoes were made from linen.
In contrast with his uncouth behavior earlier, Becker smiled gently.
"... Ara~ are you okay, little friend?"
He took out a high class handkerchief from his chest pocket.
The child nodded.
"Yea, I'm alright."
"Are you sure? Are you hurt anywhere?"
"I am fine, Mister!"
"Is that so? But I don't think so... You are injured."
Becker held the handkerchief with his left hand while grabbing the hilt of his sword with his right.
Boislow was biting on his fingers as he looked at the stalls. He was ignoring the matter with the child completely.
Becker had a gentle smile on his lips while his eyes turned bloodshot.
"Where are you hurt? You really don't know? Let me tell you... It's on your neck...!!"
As he was about to draw his sword, someone called out his name from nearby:
The sound of hooves and a carriage closed in.
The blond youth on the military carriage was Eric.
"Are you inspector Becker!? I have come from Sierck fort to receive you! I am Eric Michael de Blanchard from the Beilschmidt border regiment."
After driving close with the carriage, he jumped off the driver's seat.
Eric was handsome enough to turn heads on the streets.
Becker gritted his teeth as he continued to smile.
He moved his hand away from his sabre.
"Ara, I am grateful... But this is earlier than we arranged..."
He took out a golden watch from his pocket to check the time. He could have done so through the clock mounted on top of the church.
Eric stood at attention with his feet closed and saluted by placing his right hand on his left chest.
"Her highness Marie Quatre had arranged for me to come earlier."
Becker's face changed when he heard the princess' name.
"Oh... Her highness made an arrangement for me?"
"Of course, inspector Becker. Her highness wants to hear news about the imperial capital. Please board the carriage. It might be a bit shaky because it belongs to the military, please bear with it."
"Hmmm -- We are leaving, Boislow."
"Ah, yes... Hah... I am hungry."
The inspector and the escort officer boarded the carriage.
A woman ran out from the crowd and rushed to the child who was watching blankly.
And lowered her head deeply in gratitude.
Eric breathe a sigh of relief and nodded in acknowledgement.
"That inspector was too much!"
Eric was uncharacteristically angry.
The location was in Regis' room.
"I see... Picking him up early was the right choice. He actually wanted to draw a sword on a child..."
Regis read his books as he answered tiredly.
Eric placed his hands on the table and leaned forward.
"It would have been a big tragedy if I was late. You knew this might happen!?"
"The weather was great these few days, so I presumed the carriage might arrive early. The snow might be piling up here, but it shouldn't be so bad on the road... And the lower nobles throwing their weight around when they are dispatched from the capital is already the norm."
"Yes, the antagonist in this book I'm reading is exactly the same as that guy."
"Fufufu... Sir Regis is always hiding your foresight in this manner."
Eric was staring at Regis.
I seemed to have earned his respect, I am grateful but... Regis seemed to sensed there was something more than that.
"... I wasn't trying to hide it though."
"Does the princess really want to meet that man?"
"Didn't you tell me that?"
"Ahh, that was just a social manners... I only told Altina the inspector was coming. She is not the type who can handle such people delicately."
"I am the same in that aspect alright?"
"Haha... Sorry about that."
"It's fine, since it's for Sir Regis. Anyway, that man is dangerous so be careful."
"Is that so... it's about time."
Altina needs to receive the letter of notice before dinner.
The letter could have been sent when the inspector arrived, but the aristocrats prefer following proper manners and protocol, making this a pain. They probably think they are great people.
Regis pouted because his valuable reading time was shortened.
After the storeroom was tidied up, it became the audience room.
A chandelier taken from somewhere was hung up, the walls were decorated with drapes, revamping the room.
The place for the princess to meet her guest can't always be in the courtyard-- the soldiers arranged the place under Evrard's instructions.
Eric seemed to be the one who did the design.
Jerome might be a noble, but he was totally uninterested in this. If he really needed a room, he would use the one in the Margrave residence.
This was the first audience room set up in Sierck fort.
But as per Altina's request, it wasn't set up so that the guest have to look up at the host's chair. A table was placed in the middle like a dining room.
She sat down on the innermost seat.
Altina's left hand was still secured by a sling, so a cloak covered the left side of her body.
Besides her were Becker and Boislow. Security was relaxed since they weren't separated by guards, but Regis agreed to this since they were less dangerous than Diethart.
Clarisse wordlessly served red tea.
Oh~~~, Becker looked all over her with lustful eyes.
Altina spoke first.
"It must have been a long and hard journey, inspector."
"Ah, yes, this is my first time to such a far destination... Ah no, the scenery here is great."
"Ahaha... Don't need to worry. You must be shocked at how rural this place is."
The conversation progressed smoothly.
Before royalty, Becker had an attitude as well mannered as a dog.
Boislow reached out for the raisins and fruits that were served with red tea.
Altina was seated at the innermost seat of the table, to her right are Becker and Boislow.
To her left was Regis and Eric who was aspiring to be an escort officer.
Evrard and the other troops were standing by at the door, they were not participants, but guards.
Jerome should be seated here too, but he disappeared saying it was a pain, not even giving a proper excuse.
Eric whispered to Regis:
"... Did you tell the princess about the earlier incident?"
"... It would be bad if I did... She will definitely complain against the inspector. We will be marked by the military department if the inspector got hurt, turning this into a troublesome matter."
Regis replied in a volume only Eric can hear.
Indeed... Eric nodded as he replied.
"Did you bring a letter along?"
Becker slowly took out a letter with a lofty expression.
"This is from general Latreille."
"Latreille wrote this..."
Altina's face turned moody.
That was the man who exiled her to this place.
Even though they had different mothers, he was still Altina's brother.
She took the letter but didn't open it.
Her expression will darken even more if she read it.
"... Fort Volks?"
Altina handed the letter over to Regis.
She wanted him to read it.
He took the letter.
There was a long paragraph of social greeting, thanking his sister for her hard work at the borders.
After browsing through it, the summarized version of the orders was as followed.
-- to seize fort Volks of Varden Republic and the Germania federation.
Regis exclaimed with a sigh.
Altina leaned towards him.
"That is the amazing fort right? They want us to take it by ourselves, that's the order right?"
Eric's expression changed.
"To attack fort Volks with this regiment alone!?"
"Yes... That's the order."
"That's asking too much!"
Altina asked Eric.
"As I thought, is it very difficult?"
"Your highness, that is the invincible fortress! We had attacked it several times in the past, but we failed even with 10,000 men!"
"Now that you mentioned it, Diethart did said they can't attack Varden because of that fort."
Regis thought about the books he read.
"... I remember the records tell of 4 attempts by the empire. The first was 3000 troops, the 2nd were 8000 soldiers. The next two were 10,000 men each."
"We didn't win?"
"Erm... Ah, yes your highness. We failed."
Regis had to use respectful language in front of others.
Although Altina insisted that the choice of words doesn't matter.
"How large a force can we muster for the attack?"
"With 1000 staying for defense, we can send about 2000 men."
"Yes, that's all... The order stated the attack had to be carried out by February 12th, there is no time to increase our numbers."
It was only natural for her to have a troubled expression.
"Could it be impossible?"
"That is so..."
Eric stood up.
"I think so too! Anyway, such an order is too absurd!"
Evrard and the soldiers standing by at the door looked at each other.
The atmosphere turned rowdy.
Only Becker was smiling with ease.
In fact, he seemed to be enjoying himself.
"Isn't it rude to dismiss the order as unreasonable? That order was proposed by Field Marshal Latreille and approved by the Military Department, it is as good as an order from the emperor. As a soldier of the empire, there is nothing more glorious than this."
A voice filled with cruelty.
This man probably took joy in forcing unreasonable demands on others in the name of the emperor.
Eric glared at him.
"Ugh... If there is glory in this, why don't you lead the charge as the vanguard! You might change your view after taking a bullet from the enemy."
"Oh? You dare insult me even though you are just an underling... You... What's your name?"
"Eric Michael de Blanchard. Didn't you hear me introduce myself?"
"Hmmp... I have no interest in family names I have never heard before."
With the messenger delivering such an order, it was hard to maintain a pleasant atmosphere for their conversation.
And with the incident that happened on the street, the young Eric became emotional.
Regis raised his hand to stop them.
"... We have received the letter and the content is clear to us. That should be all."
"Hmmm. If you will carry out the contents, there will be no problems with the contents of the letter... But the inspection of this border regiment will be a separate manner."
"Let's not waste the princess' time with such routine administrative matters."
"Hmmm? You are right."
He moved as he spoke sarcastically.
"I heard that the regiment had been bolstered by many irregular troops... I looked forward to your grandiose achievement for the emperor."
"... Irregular troops? We did hire some maids from the streets not long ago... You wish for them to help in attacking the fort?"
Regis pretended to not understand what he meant.
After the hostile meeting ended.
Regis explained the documents to Becker.
The inspector wasn't dispatched here as a courier. He was here to audit the documents and make sure the orders are carried out. It was their job to report any issues to central.
Regis thought it would take a lot of time to go through the huge amount of paper work... But Becker seemed uninterested and returned to his guest room surprisingly early.
It was already evening, so candles were lit in order for Regis to sort out his documents.
Someone knocked on his door as he did his admin work alone.
"Hmmm? Please come in..."
The door was opened.
The visitor was a girl with crimson hair.
"Ah... Altina... You came again at such a late hour..."
"Nothing... Although it's fine, but take care not to let bad rumors spread."
Altina tilted her head, she doesn't seem to understand.
Regis gave up explaining and simply told her "Don't visit others at night too often."
"As usual, papers of unknown purpose are piled around here."
"... There are documents you need to sign here too."
"Ara? If you just need me to sign, I can do that right?"
"Really? Then take it away later. This pile that pile, and that small mountain over there..."
"I can't write very fast though."
"That inspector must be up to something."
"... That's right. he checked his watch multiple times during dinner, that is unusual."
"Not that... It just give me a bad vibe."
"Ugh... Well, probably."
"Do you know something?"
"I heard something from Eric. He had been auditing my documents so far... instead of whether the administrative matters are done properly, he was more interested in bribery."
Altina widen her eyes.
"This means no matter how well the report was written, he will find fault with it saying this part was hard to understand, that part was not to his liking or this word is smudged."
"So he is looking for trouble!"
"... 'Give me money if you want me to go easy on you', that's how it feels."
Jerome accused Regis of bribery the first time they met because he met too many people of this kind.
Altina turned to leave, reaching for the door handle.
"I will teach him a lesson!"
"Wait wait! Such arrangements had turned into the norm! Even though he might be a bad egg, he is not the only one."
"Did you give him any bribe!?"
She stared at him sternly.
Regis shook his head.
"It will make you angry, so I won't do that... I think things will be easier if some were given in moderation."
"I won't forgive that."
"Won't forgive him? Or me?"
"Both of you!! I need to correct that man's twisted character!"
"That would be troublesome. He has connections within the military department, it won't be so easy to settle it if you make him angry... You might even get summoned to face the disciplinary committee.."
"They won't summon you since you are the princess... In this situation, the one to be summoned will be me."
It was a bit too much to play the role off the hostage -- Regis thought, but it couldn't be helped. Altina wouldn't be able to build up her own base if she rampaged here.
"The inspector should have some connections within the military department... He wouldn't be inspector if not for that... Making enemies is not the right move."
"He has a strong backing, that's why he keeps taunting Eric asking for bribes."
"That's how it is."
He even dares to look at Altina and Clarisse with lustful eyes, although Altina didn't notice. Now is not the time to fan the fire.
Altina's fist trembles as she couldn't find any outlet to vent her wrath.
Regis changed the topic.
"Rather than this... You are here to discuss the orders from prince Latreille right?"
"Ah, right! What should we do?"
“Fort Volks huh..."
"What kind of fort is it? I have never seen it before."
"Me neither. If possible, I don't want to ever see it... According to the books, on a smooth slope, there is a cliff just like a wall that is about 225Co (100m) tall."
That was 6 times taller than the Sierck fort they were in.
"And there is a platform on the cliff fixed with cannons, about 100Co (44m) in height."
"That is taller than the highest structure in the empire."
"The cliff covers the south and east, north and west of it are the mountain ranges."
"Can't we attack from the mountain range side?"
"A deep trench was dug in the west when they were building the fort. It is possible to avoid the cannons when you approach it, but there is no other way other than to go down that trench before climbing out of it to reach the fort, so it's not much better... There were caves to the north when it was simply used as a mine. It is less steep, but it is still a trench, and it seemed to have been turned into a pond because of the water trapped in it."
"Can't we ignore the fort and go straight for their capital?"
"We will definitely lose if our opponents right behind us are disrupting our supply route.... They will have a steady supply of resources, while we will have to raise the white flag after exhausting our food supply."
"Ah, that's right. How about attacking the enemies while they are out of the fort?"
"They will just escape back to the fort correct? If you pursue them, that would be no different from attacking the fort head on... The cannon balls will come flying."
"During the past 4 attempts, the empire tried raiding at night and laying siege..."
They are in this situation right now because those attempts failed.
The fort was excellent and the enemy commander was brilliant too.
"If possible, I really don't want to do this..."
Princes Latreille had adopted an excellent measure to turn the situation like this. The prince seemed adept in dealing with opponents who obtained powers beyond his expectation.
Altina stated her resolve.
"We have to do this! Latreille must be sure we can do it when he gave that order."
"... What? The orders are here, that means he is certain we can take the fort right?"
Altina looked amazed.
This child is too pure and innocent.
"What Latreille wants... Is for you to lose most of your forces after attacking the invincible fort, diminishing your influences and soldiers under your command."
"Why? The plan will fail?"
"But it will cut off the border regiments power which had grown unexpectedly right? That's the intent of that order."
"What did you say!?"
Altina's face turned red in anger again.
She slammed her hand onto the table.
Judging from the sound that echoed in the room, that must be painful.
"-- what does he think the lives of soldiers are!?"
Latreille definitely values them on the same level of chess pieces.
"Calm down Altina... I don't plan to sacrifice the troops."
"You have any ideas in mind!? Ah, you have to carry out the order though."
"With inspector Becker here, we can't fudge this."
"Even if we fought as ordered, he will probably report it as a halfhearted attempt."
"That's why we need to appease him..."
Altina fell into deep thought. She was working hard in her own way to protect the soldiers.
"Eh... What will happen if we ignored the order?"
"That will be treason... We will be branded as rebels and the empire's first army will campaign against us."
"You are already prepared for that right?"
"That's true... But they are strong right?"
"Yes. I mentioned it before briefly, the first army gathers the strongest soldiers within the nation and equipped them with the newest gears, the best army in the empire. They have intelligence about the situation at the borders too, if we were to fight... It would be dire."
"We can't win?"
"Going by common sense, that's impossible... We won't know if Jerome and Evrard will fight on our side. The soldiers are not ready for a clash with prince Laterleo."
Altina bit her lips.
"... That is true... What should we do?"
"We have to attack the fort... And minimize our casualties. To achieve this, there was no other way then leaving a good impression on inspector Becker so he will report in our favor to the military department."
"What a simple comment. I feel the same, but it can't be helped."
Regis opened the book on his desk.
"Well, I have already researched intensively on the details of Fort Volks, so you need to heal your left arm as soon as possible."
"I know... Hmm?"
"What's the matter?"
Did she finally developed an interest in books? Altina looked at Regis' desk.
It was a book made by an old technique, using leather ropes to bind the pages together and carving the book title on the book jacket. A book that was made delicately.
It was old and the colors were fading.
"Could this be a book about Fort Volks?"
"Ah, I suspect this might happen... Well, not really, I just found this while walking the streets. This book was made 40 years ago and chronicles things that happened in the past."
50 years ago--
Year of the empire 800, before the current emperor Liam 15th was crowned.
It was the reign of the previous emperor Vicente. He chose his ministers based on their talent in poetry and literature and was talented in the arts, making major contributions to the culture of the empire.
The technological advance in paper and printing were the results of the emperor investing a substantial budget in it.
But the budget for military expenses were cut, and without the proper recruitment of talent, the empire was losing its war on all fronts.
The territory near Tuonvell were also taken by the Varden Duchy for a long time.
After Emperor Vicente succumbed to illness, the young Liam the 15th succeeded the throne.
General Corneille was promoted to Field Marshal. The emperor was the commander in chief of the army, so the rank of Field Marshal didn't exist. But the situation doesn't allow the emperor who wasn't well versed in military affairs to take command.
The empire lost 30% of its territory during this period.
Corneille reorganized the weakened military and made war on all fronts, defeating the enemies of the empire and pushed the front lines back.
The northern borders were seized back from the Varden Duchy. The Duchy was pushed all the way back and the army advanced towards its capital.
The hills of the Varden Duchy contains high quality iron ore, so a mine was set up.
That was the Volks mines.
The empire army never imagined the mines they set up to become the invincible fort.
10 years later-- Field Marshal Corneille died in battle and the military once again falls into chaos, the empire suffered counter attacks from all sides.
In the end, the front lines were pulled back, becoming the current situation today.
Year of the empire 812, The Duchy transforms the Volks mines into an impenetrable fortress, the focus of defense against the empire.
On the other hand, the empire rebuild the farming village of Tuonvell into a border city, constructing a stronghold to oppose Fort Volks.
And that was Sierck Fort Regis and the others were in.
"-- and so, it is a book about the details of the Fort."
"Is it a book from that era?"
"That's right, like I mentioned, it chronicles the events up to the fortification of the Volks mines, it was written about 40 years ago. It was part of a series of books recording the recapture of the northern regions and Tuonvell history. It was one of 8 books... Although paper making techniques were quite advance, the bookbinding skills were less developed. So this book was made in quite a unique way."
"Hmmm~ it must be expensive."
Altina attacked from an unexpected area.
Regis became stiff.
"Where is your sword?"
"I will only hurt myself if I swing that around."
"Where is it?"
"... Before we go any further, I want to make this clear... That wasn't issued by the government, but is my personal item alright?"
"Yah? And where did you put it?"
"Tuonvell city's... Pawn shop. If it hasn't been sold."
"How can a soldier pawn his sword!?"
Shya-- Altina pressed forward menacingly.
Regis leaned back in his chair, almost toppling over.
"Because it was rusting from lack of use..."
"How much is that book!?"
"It's not that expensive, 200..."
"Phew~ hmmm? 200 copper coins? You should be able to afford that with your weekly wages, but that is still too expensive."
"No... It's silver coins."
A silver coin was worth a dozen copper coins.
Altina's shoulders were creaking from rage.
Her silky white hand grabbed Regis's head. Her left arm was secured in a sling, so she only used her right hand.
"Are you an idiot!? Hnng!? You are definitely an idiot!"
"Am I one or not? Although I don't regret this..."
"Regret it right now!"
"But, but this is a valuable book. The contents are amazing, and it's historical value..."
"How did you come up with 200 silver coins!?"
"Well~ I was probably pushing myself... Words had spread in town that I am now the strategist. So the shopkeeper was fine with me putting me on his tab."
"And now you are in debt!"
Altina's fingers grabbing Regis' head tighten.
"No no, that's just keeping a tab, it's different from owing a debt..."
"My mother told me this-- commoners live in poverty, but they won't lose their life because they are poor. If they don't owe any debts."
"Well, the empire is rather prosperous."
"If you understand then don't borrow money to buy books!"
"That hurts... Painful, Altina, your hand is creaking... My head..."
"If you need such an expensive book, discuss it with me! You are my strategist."
She looked at him sincerely.
Regis felt guilty once again.
"... I can't do that."
"Because this book... Wasn't bought out of the regiment needs, it's purely for my own hobby pain pain pain!?"
"You are splurging money!"
He can't deny that.
Finally, Altina released her hand.
She can wield that heavy sword with one head, so it was so painful that Regis' tears were falling, even though she wasn't being serious.
"Ever since I made my sister mad by enrolling in the military academy, no one had lectured me like this,"
"Your sister was having a hard times too... Can't be helped, I will lend you the money, so return it as soon as possible."
"Eh? No, that's a bit..."
"That's better than rumors spreading in the street about the strategist owing money right?"
"What's the matter? You don't need to hold back okay?"
"Really? Since I will be borrowing money, there are 2 more books I really want... Ah, nothing, it's nothing!"
"Ah, really, what a book nerd--!!"
The next day, Regis cleared his tabs.
There was only one carriage trip a day, so Regis spent the night at the guard post before returning the next day.
When he opened the door to his room,
Eric who was sitting on the chair jumped.
That squeal was just like a girl -- Regis thought.
"... Erm... What's wrong? Why are you in my room?"
"Ah, that's... I'm very sorry... I entered to look for you since you seemed to be absent..."
"I took a trip to town. Didn't the princess tell you?"
"I see. The princess is not someone without status can talk to easily. Sir Regis is special."
"... I see."
Altina had a casual attitude and it confused Regis sometimes. But she is the princess and commander, not someone you ask if you want to find a 5th grade admin officer.
Not having a reporting officer or subordinate was inconvenient in such cases.
"But why are you sitting on my chair if you were looking for me...?"
"Ugh... That... Erm... I was wondering... What Sir Regis usually thinks about..."
He said these words while blushing.
His bashful and uncertain movements were nothing like a knight, he was acting just like a girl.
Regis' lips cramped for a moment.
"... What a refreshing way of looking for someone."
"My, my apologies."
"Well, it's fine... you have anything for me?"
Eric took a deep breath and calmed down, turning back to his usual serious expression.
"Phew... It's about the fort. It might not be appropriate for me to ask, but what do you plan to do?"
"Ugh... It's about time to make a decision... But no matter what, we will need time to prepare."
Going by Latreille's orders, they have about a month left to execute the attack.
They need to discuss about this.
Regis gave instructions to Eric.
"Can you help me invite Sir Jerome and Mr. Evrard to the conference room? I need to invite the princess, so I will make a move first."
"Understood. They are conducting training outside the fort right now. Please wait for a moment."
"Training huh, how passionate."
"Attacking Fort Volks is a serious matter."
"I will take my leave."
Eric stood at attention and left the room briskly.
Regis tidied up the necessary documents and left for Altina's room with the bundle of papers in hand.
He passed by the dining hall on his way there.
He heard a faint scream.
He headed into the dining hall. The tables were clean and arranged neatly as usual. The clock on the wall indicated the time to be 2pm.
The officers had been mobilized for the training by Jerome, no one was around.
Regis noticed the rag that was left on the table.
Clarisse was the one cleaning this hall. If it's her, she wouldn't leave her job half done...
There were always exceptions. It won't take much time to bring the rag from the hall to the kitchen.
Regis took the rag on the table.
It was wet, meaning it was being used just now.
"... Did something urgent happen?"
Faint sounds could be heard coming from the kitchen.
Someone was probably preparing for dinner? That might be Clarisse.
Regis walked towards the passage leading to the kitchen.
"Erm, sorry for intruding..."
He said as he peeped inside.
The kitchen was a semi-circle that seemed to protrude out of the tower.
The preparation stations were on either side of the stove.
Standing there were a skinny man with fox-like slit eyes in military uniform and a boulder like giant man. They were inspector Becker and escort officer Boislow.
And opposite them--
A girl with her brown hair tied behind her and wearing a blue maid uniform was lying on the floor.
Regis suspected his eyes weren't working.
The girl who lifted her head was definitely Clarisse.
After glancing this way, she lowered her eyes.
"Sir Regis... you can't come here..."
"What are you... doing!?"
"Hmmp, you didn't give the things you should give, so I came to look for replacements. Or did you change your mind?"
"... You... I heard that inspectors were mean people but... to go this far!"
"Hey hey, you are just a lowly non-commissioned officers. I am an inspector alright? Are you sure you want a lousy report?"
"Ugh... Ms Clarisse! Come here. The princess won't be happy even if you followed the orders of this guy."
"That is... I understand but..."
She stood up and walked towards Regis with fearful steps.
When she reached him, she hugged Regis tightly.
She was shivering.
This was the first time Regis saw Clarisse acting so weak.
"What, I thought you were just an inept strategist, now you are role playing as a knight? No money and no honey, what kind of joke is this! No, this won't do. Seems like this border regiment is planning a revolt~ Hmm?"
"Don't talk nonsense... Your actions are clearly against military protocol. Inspector Becker I will lodge a complaint against you in military court."
"Oh, did I do something? I didn't, so don't make me laugh."
"Asking for bribes, attempted rape... Just this will be enough. There will be more dirt to dig up if we investigate the places you were assigned to, right?"
Becker clicked his tongue.
He gestured to Boislow with his chin.
"Shut him up forever."
Regis hugged Clarisse tightly as he retreated.
His documents fell all over the ground.
"Haha! I will shut your mouth!"
Regis felt killing intent.
Becker mumbled as if this doesn't concern him.
"Ah~ That's a good woman, such a pity."
Regis left the kitchen and went into the dining hall.
He pulled Clarisse by the hand, running through the gaps of the tables and head for the door.
But Boislow had a speed that doesn't match his large body.
No, maybe Regis was simply too slow.
Boislow took another path and made it to the entrance before they did.
The officers dining hall was situated on the first floor and had no large windows. There were some small windows letting in sunlight, but it was too small for anyone to fit in.
Like a beast licking its lips before its prey, Boislow slowly drew his sword.
Suddenly, Clarisse grab Regis' hand with both of her hands.
"Sir Regis... I just need to bear with this... It will be fine. Such things are unavoidable."
"Sacrificing you to save myself? That's the worse... I would rather die."
"You are someone irreplaceable to the princess."
"Ms Clarisse... Everyone will die some day. I believe a person who abandoned his principles is dead from that very moment."
"Even so, there will also be times you have to bear with the humiliation before you can achieve something."
"... If it was me enduring the humiliation, I can take it somehow... But I cannot let it go if someone like you were to suffer."
"Sir Regis... A woman like me... saying such words to me is forbidden."
Boislow closed in.
He was right before them!
"Hahaha, both of you can lose your heads together!"
The giant man raised his sword towards the roof and swung down.
Regis hugged Clarisse tightly to protect her, Clarisse was also hugging Regis. Regis was frustrated with himself for being so useless that he can't even be her shield.
Boislow who was grinning like a carnivorous beast--
Made a pained expression suddenly.
A large of amount blood was spilled onto his feet.
The giant man fell.
Regis didn't understand what was happening.
A young man was standing behind Boislow. It was Eric who was holding a bloodied sword in his hand.
"Hah, hah, hah... Are you alright Sir Regis!? You too Miss..."
Regis nodded silently.
Regis looked at Boislow who was lying on the ground.
"Is... is he dead?"
"I avoided hitting his vitals."
The giant man was moaning on the floor.
Blood was flowing out of a large wound that went from his buttocks to his right inner thigh. It was indeed a non-fatal wound.
But he was in no condition to chase them or swing a sword.
Regis put his hand on his own chest in relief.
"... We are saved... Thank you Eric."
"Don't mention it, I am glad to help Sir Regis."
"How did you know where I was?"
"You were not in the conference room, so I was looking for you. Thankfully, you are safe... Next will be punishment for him."
Eric looked towards the interior of the dining hall.
Becker had a bitter face.
"Ugh~ Isn't it despicable for a knight to strike from behind?"
His eyes were glaring dangerously.
Like a demon mentioned in the bible.
Eric took a stance with his sword fearlessly.
"I will gladly accept if you want to press charges against me... But that will be after you get thrown into the dungeons!"
Regis stared at him unconsciously.
Not just his looks, Eric's action was just like a knight from fairy tales. It might be a bit too exaggerated, but it really described him well.
Becker's eyes we're bloodshot.
Drool was dripping from a corner of his lips.
"You you you... Plebeian! You dare throw me in the dungeon!?"
Becker didn't draw the sword on his waist, but the hidden short barreled gun from his shirt.
That was the latest design of short barreled gun from high Britannia.
There was a need to load the bullet first, but it saved the hassle of lighting a fire, it was ready to shoot once you aim it.
Eric bit his lips.
He stand a chance if this was an open plain, but this place was cluttered by the groaning giant man and tables, it was hard to take the initiative with his sword.
The gun needed to be reloaded after a single shot, there will be a way if they defend the first bullet. But they would definitely be hit at such a close distance.
And Becker can kill Regis and Clarisse after shooting Eric with the gun. He seemed to be considering how the scenario might pan out, so he didn't attack immediately.
Regis flipped through the books he had read in his mind, looking for a solution.
"... This, is probably the best way."
"What are your plans, Sir Regis?"
Clarisse held on to the sleeve of Regis' uniform.
"... I have never lost in chess before, leaves this to me."
He gently push her hand away.
Clarisse looked as if she was sobbing.
To save all 3 of them without risking anything in such a situation. Such magic doesn't exist.
The basic of chess was to use the weaker piece as bait in order for the stronger piece to survive.
In this cases, Regis was the weaker piece.
Regis charged at Becker.
He yelled while running.
That was unexpected, shocking Becker.
"Huh!? Don't look down on me!"
The fight will be decided once Becker shot Regis... But Regis' weak point was sword fighting.
Becker shifted the gun to his left hand, drawing his sabre with his right.
Regis was forced to stop 3 paces away by the sabre aimed at him.
He raised his hands.
"... I messed up... I should read more action series books."
Regis knew Becker had a sabre, but he didn't expect him to draw it so fast. Regis was bad in judging combat capabilities.
Becker raised his sabre.
"I will start... With you!!"
"Let's make a deal!"
Becker stilled his sabre because of Regis' words.
Eric and Clarisse who were watching them intently held their breath.
The air was tensed.
"... Let's make a deal, inspector Becker... Do you think you can get away after killing the 3 of us? What about Eric after taking me down? Shoot him? I think Ms Clarisse would run away while you do all that."
"Hah! I can catch up with a woman in no time."
"... What are you going to say to the soldiers who hear her screams? The princess likes Ms Clarisse so much that she brought Ms Clarisse along all the way from the imperial capital."
"... Inspector Becker... How about letting us go this time? This way, we can pretend we didn't witness any of your crimes. How about it?"
"You think I will believe that?"
"You are worried about that? If we were to press charges, you just need to deny them. Don't you think an unused gun is more advantageous in the court of law?"
"It's faster to just kill all of you!"
"Using your sword and gun? How would you prove your innocence with a bloodied sword and fired gun in your hands? Or did you think you can exert pressure on the princess through your noble lineage?"
"It would be better to think this over... I am now a hostage, so Eric can't make any sudden moves. This is a question that will decide your life. If you consider it carefully, you will see my proposal is a better solution. Ah, right, there we're similar incidents like this. I will explain them briefly, please listen--"
Regis gave 3 stories depicting successful negotiations.
Just when his hands that was raised were tiring.
"What are you doing!?"
The girl with crimson hair showed up in the dining hall, it's Altina!
Behind her were Jerome and Evrard.
Eric and Clarisse relaxed.
Phew~~~~~ Regis breathe easy.
"Even Eric didn't came back, so I decided to take a look to see what happened... What is going on!?"
Becker's face turned pale.
"Not, nothing... This... Is a misunderstanding!"
Regis can finally lower his hands.
"Clarisse was being assaulted... When I said I will press charges, he charged at us."
"You little!? Didn't you want to make a deal!?"
Regis shook his head.
"My apologies... But proposing a deal is a way of buying time. Man will lose their cool when an opportunity presents itself. For example, when you had to kill 3 people and one of them charge at you first. A charming proposal might be bait for a trap... It is normal to be confused, it's a decision that will decide the future of your life... Well, someone will come if I drag for time."
Becker's eyes turned bloodshot.
Will he shoot because of agitation? Regis was worrying about this... But Becker suddenly sighed.
"Oh~~, why did it turn out this way! My subordinate was attacked from behind without reason, I had no choice but to draw my gun, now you are pushing the blame on me!? This is a conspiracy! A trap to frame me!"
"... What are you trying to say at this late juncture?"
"I think I will report it this way when I return to the military department in the imperial capital... Beilschmidt is a well disciplined and excellent army, charging Fort Volks courageously and was forced to retreat after taking heavy losses... Fufufu, how does that sound?"
Becker smiled coldly and looked towards Altina.
He meant using a false report to trade for dismissing his crimes, a proposal like this.
The tables had turned.
The difference was in reaction speed.
Regis came to a conclusion instantly and was about to speak. But Altina rushed out faster than him.
She clenched her right fist.
And threw it at Becker's smirking face.
With that man's face as the target, Altina raised her right fist -- and punched!
His back hit the dining hall's wall.
The sabre and the short barreled gun rolled on the floor.
Thankfully, it didn't misfire.
Blood flowed out from the battered nose.
"Woah... Blood... From my... Nose... Blood.... My nose!?"
"I will only say one thing to you!"
Becker pressed his nose and looked up.
Altina was standing before him.
"I would rather die than negotiate with bad guys!"
Becker slid down the wall he was leaning against and collapsed onto the ground.
Evrard and Eric restrained Becker and Boislow immediately.
The guards on patrol finally showed up.
Clarisse seemed mentally exhausted, so she was escorted to her room to rest. Eric was sent to look after her.
Becker and Boislow were tied up and surrounded by soldiers. They were sent to the dungeons by Evrard.
In the end--
Only Regis, Altina and Jerome were left in the dining hall.
"Let them cool their heads... Send them back to the capital after the escort officer's wounds heal... The disciplinary report against them will follow too."
"Hah! Just kill them and be done with it."
"Sir Jerome, you are taking lives too lightly."
Jerome just shrugged Altina's comment off.
The smell of blood still lingered in the air.
Jerome took a bottle of red wine from the kitchen, pulled off the cork with his teeth and drank heartily.
"Fufufu... But the inspector's proposal isn't bad though. Everything will be solved if he made that false report."
"You are joking right?"
Altina looked at him coldly.
Jerome sneered coldly in response.
The old Jerome might agree with Becker's proposal.
Regis said gloomily:
"... In the imperial army, such bribery and injustice are rampant. Not many are as preposterous as him though."
Jerome didn't agree.
"That's mild compared to others... You guys didn't know?"
"... Well, I only knew things I read."
Altina banged the table with her right fist.
"... Calm down, princess... Instead of that, there are more important things that threaten the lives of everyone."
"Ah." Altina stared at her hand.
"Because I punched that guy?"
"... That's right. Even the escort officer was wounded, we can't count on a report backing us up even if we fail to take the fort."
"I would rather fight Latreille than bow down to that guy!"
"Fufufu... Is that fine? Saying such things out loud?"
"Why? You want to snitch on me to the military department?"
"Good idea it might be refreshing for my annoying commander to disappear. But I am pissed off with that irritating 2nd prince."
Due to Jerome's situation and personality, even if he knew Altina had the intention to revolt, he would not sell her out. Regis did thought this will happen...
Jerome had hidden his budget from the Military Department too.
On the grand scheme of things, both of them were on the same side right now.
But it was still too early for that.
Regis used a tone as calm as possible to explain.
"... We won't clash with the first army. Like I said, we don't have the forces for that."
"Well, what should we do?"
"There is no other way other than attacking Fort Volks."
"But even if we give it our all, it is meaningless if the report gets toned down!?"
Jerome laughed coldly:
"Fufufu... Show them we have been wiped out? If the soldiers that were deployed from the fort are all dead, the military department would have to acknowledge that we held nothing back."
"We can't do that!"
"Even I won't follow such an order-- What are your plans?"
Altina and Jerome stared at Regis.
There was no way to tell if it would work...
Even so, they had to do this.
"We attack Fort Volks. After seizing it, the Military department has to acknowledge us."
The two were dumbfounded.
Was it time for jokes! Before being shouted at, Regis started the next phase of explanation.
He displayed his researched on the long table.
It was soaked and had the footprint of a huge man on it, but the paper was relatively intact.
"... Listen to me. That fort has the reputation of being invincible, but the number of troops stationed there must be small. The problem is the terrain and the countless cannons."
Altina leaned closer, her ruby like eyes almost reflecting Regis' face.
"Erm... Princess... Not me, please look at the documents..."
"Are you being serious?"
"Do I look like I am giving up or acting insane?"
"Are you serious or not?"
"I would be really happy if you trusted me just now..."
Bang! Jerome slammed his hands onto the table and stared at the documents.
"Talk. I will listen. You are no different than trash in my eyes. But you are trash that can be used. I will judge from your explanation whether to throw you into the same cell as that pest inspector!"
"... I get it."
Jerome looked at Altina with an icy gaze.
"Princess, didn't you trust this strategist deeply?"
"But I can't just dump everything on him. I believe the Regis who utilized his intelligence together with me."
"Fufufu... I see."
"I trust Sir Jerome too, especially your prowess with a lance."
"Hmmp, that's a given."
Jerome pushed Regis to go on.
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