The Contract with the Mercenaries
Editor: Ainz Ooal Gown, Darkdhaos
When Latreille ordered the assassination, and the tent was set on fire——
A place one hill away. It was almost dawn, but the hills were still dark.
Regis walked inside the forest.
And of course, his feet and head were attached to his torso just fine.
“Hah… Hah… How tiring…”
“So fast! We haven’t walked 30 minutes yet!? And you call yourself a soldier!?”
Walking on his right was Franziska. She had a short crossbow in her hand.
Fanrine on her left glared at her. Naturally, she wasn’t a mutilated corpse, and didn’t have any wounds on her skin at all.
“How rude!? Sir Regis took part in an intense battle in the day, it’s only natural for him to be tired.”
“Hah! Isn’t it normal to fight in the day and run away at night? Like I said, aristocratic ladies are really…”
“Ara ara, I thought this was a famous mercenary corps, but running away at night is normal huh.”
“As expected, I should just kill you! Big Sis, is that fine!?”
The woman walking in front of them—— Jessica said softly without even turning back:
“... Right now, we need the help of Sir Auric. This is for the sake of saving big brother.”
Regis might be very passive about this, but he wasn’t working with them just to safeguard his own life, but for Fanrine’s sake too. He was adamant about refusing to assist them if Fanrine was harmed.
“But this woman is really infuriating!”
“... I won’t repeat myself.”
Franziska shut her mouth after hearing Jessica’s cold reply.
“Even if I’m here, I don’t know if you can achieve your goals.”
“... It will succeed.”
“You are really confident huh?”
“... I don’t think you want to be killed by mercenaries who failed to achieve their goals. If Sir Auric helps us, it will definitely succeed.”
“Aren’t you overestimating me?”
“... This is the best way… The stars tell me so.”
She muttered as she looked up to the sky.
Regis nodded as if he was impressed.
“Stars?” Fanrine tilted her head. That might be so, but the strange thing was that they didn’t encounter any sentries. They should be able to leave the camp just like this. Regis looked around him. Walking in front of them was Jessica, besides him was Franziska and Fanrine. Six men from the mercenary group guarded the outside, advancing cautiously. Franziska said cockily: “Big Sis is awesome right!? Everyone calls her a Magician.” “The sentries are gone, what kind of spell is that?” In response to Regis’ question, Jessica answered. “... Bribery.” “What a realistic magic.” “... It is effective.” “Is that so? If they took the money, then capture the escaping group, they would get double the reward. Wouldn’t that work better?” “... I sent out scouts, and I will know if anything seems wrong.” Even though she used a stratagem, she wasn’t overly confident. It might be the basics of basics, but her arrangement was careful and adequate. As expected of the strategist of Renard Pendu. After that—— She added. “... Those things should buy us some time.” “You mean the headless corpses?” Regis sighed again. That was the body of a guard, which got disguised as Regis. As their stature was too different, Franziska mutilated the corpse horribly. Jessica was the one who came up with this scheme. If Regis had a choice, he would have objected... But now, for his own sake—— and also to protect the woman by his side, he didn’t oppose in the end. If he resist too much, the mercenaries would probably kill Regis. Even a corpse could be used in negotiation. There were many examples of dead hostages being used in successful negotiations. Fanrine said sadly: “Even so… was it really necessary… to do such immoral things?” Was there no other way? Regis didn’t know either. Maybe no one will visit the tent until morning. Even if he left on his own, the mission to recapture Grebauver was already done, so there wouldn’t be too much problems. However, after Regis dissect his own situation objectively, he realized that the chance he would be assassinated was very high. Fanrine thought so too. Jessica was absolutely certain that ‘there is no reason to let you return alive’. That was why she used the corpse as a body double. “... If it can delay the search party from being dispatched, it will increase the chance of us escaping.” “It’s quite difficult to walk with this on.” Regis borrowed the uniform from the Imperial’s First Army. It was too big, about two sizes too large. Fanrine had several dresses, and was wearing another one right now. The body double would be exposed by investigating it a little. After all, even the gender was different. Regis suddenly asked: “How many scouts did you send out?” “... Two.” “I see.” In that case, there was a chance they would be discovered—— Regis thought. A small group of scouts can detect large units, but they might not find a small group of sentries. If the sentry was better than the scouts, they might let the scout pass and wait for the main group instead. During a time like this, they should let four people walk ahead of them, just within earshot. Shortly later, Regis’ prediction turned true. “Hey, halt!” The person who emerged from the shadow under the woods was an Imperial soldier. He was just a light infantry, but he had the uniform of the Imperial First Army. There were four of them. Three of them stood in front, the one behind didn’t have a sword, but a whistle. They appeared well trained. The person in front drew his sword. “Jackpot!” Another one of them said. Seems like they let the scouts pass and checkmated the group behind. The soldier asked intimidatingly: “From your clothes, you are mercenaries!? Who are you people!? How did you come from inside the base!? And where are you going!?” “... I should be asking you, you are not soldiers based here right?” Jessica answered calmly as usual. Impressive guts. Even though the mercenaries around her and even Franziska looked tense. And of course, Regis was nervous too. He looked to the left, and Fanrine was smiling for some reason. —— Eh!? “A-Aren’t you scared?” When she heard Regis’ whispers, she answered confidently: “Of course not. Sir Regis is here after all.” “Eh——” Now she mentioned it, it was time for him to take the role of negotiator. Regis raised a hand. “Erm, sorry, can you wait?” The soldier with the sword looked towards the suspicious character. “Hah, so you are a regular soldier. Where are you going with your strange companions at such a time? State your unit.” “Well… I am from the Imperial Fourth Army. I’m seconded to the Imperial First Army right now…” The soldier’s expression twisted menacingly. “Don’t spout nonsense! Why would we borrow troops from our political adversary, the Fourth Princess!? And the Fourth Army are just a motley bunch of defeated soldiers and farmers!” That was really mean. “Ara, but I was asked by the Field Marshall.” “Field Marshall...? Eh, the Field Marshall!? How insolent!” The other party got even more agitated. What a pain—— Regis scratched his head. Fanrine stepped forward. “Insolent you say…? Which unit are you from?” “What, a woman!?” “I am General Affairs Officer Fanrine Veronica de Tiraso Laverde. The Ministry of Military Affairs sent me.” “What!?” The blood drained from the soldier’s face. As the command system for the Ministry of Military Affairs and the Military were separate, it wasn’t right to say that the General Affairs Officer ranked higher. But the Ministry of Military Affairs was in charge of promotions and bonuses, soldiers wouldn’t want to leave a bad impression on them. Urged by her, Regis took out a parchment from the bag on his shoulder. It was Latreille’s written orders.
“I don’t really want to show this to others but…”
His heart felt heavy when he thought about this.
The soldiers stared wide eyed at the parchment. “Eh… Auric…? I-Impossible… That, famous…? The one who guided this war to victory, the unmatched… Strategist…?” “I am just an assistant Strategist though.” “T-Then you really are…?” “Yes, but I only have this on me though.” Regis shrugged. Fanrine narrowed her eyes. “Are you telling me you don’t believe him? How obnoxious. If you bring us back to the basecamp because of your ignorance, and his identity is proven to be true, how are you going to take responsibility for this? A mere soldier disrupting the movement of a staff officer, you think you can get away from this scot free?” “Ugh…” “It’s another matter if we didn’t have any Identification Documents on us, but you have already seen the appointment letter signed by the Field Marshall and you are still doubting us? I should be the one questioning your allegiance.” “No, we are light troopers from the 36th infantry…” The soldiers started to panic. Jessica asked once again: “... What are you all doing in a place like this?” In this era, men in the Belgarian Empire had higher status than women, so the sight of a woman speaking in a lofty tone was rare. The soldiers looked baffled and had a displeased expression. However, they would be punished if the man before them was really Regis. The trooper holding the whistle at the back stuck it back onto his waist pouch and answered: “A guy from my unit said that there would be a reward if we capture suspicious characters passing through here.” “... How much is he paying?” “Well, if I caught them, he will write off my gambling debts.” They were betrayed. Jessica frowned instantly. And muttered. “... To sell us out for just this much… How foolish.” No matter what, they made it through. Regis said to them: “Sorry, but we have to carry out a special mission. Please keep your encounter with us here a secret.” “Y-Yes.” They answered with a salute. Regis returned the salute. “Well then… Please maintain your vigilance.” “Understood!” The soldiers turned to leave. Phew, Regis exhaled in relief. Fanrine patted her chest too. Jessica pointed at the soldiers wordlessly. ——What? Franziska braced her short crossbow silently too. Regis yelled out without thinking: “You all——!?” Chink, with soft metallic thud, a short metallic bolt flew out from Franziska hands. It pierced the throat of a soldier from behind. They are sealing their throats!? The other mercenaries dashed forth at almost the same instant. “!?” “What, you——!?” The soldiers tried to draw their blades, but every mercenary in Renard Pendu were elites. And the six of them were the cream of the crop, taking advantage of the element of surprise. Even the soldiers of the Imperial First Army couldn’t last a single round. The one soldier who managed to block the first blow was also killed before he even got the chance to scream. “I already… believed… you…” He fell after spewing blood. Jessica looked down at him with cold eyes. “... How foolish to weigh your doubts and trust on the same scale. Trust is water, doubt is mud… Just a bit of mud would be enough to turn clear water muddy.” The sight of the soldiers’ dead bodies made Fanrine lash out. “W-Why!? Why do you have to kill them!? This is too much…!” “... Keep your voice down. It will be troublesome if the other sentries notice us. Or do you want the number of bodies to increase?” “No…” Fanrine said timidly. But Jessica had already moved ahead. Urged on by the mercenaries, Regis also strode forth. This wasn’t a place for them to linger in the first place. If they let the soldiers leave like this—— What would they do after returning to their unit? Would they obey Regis’ instruction and keep their encounter a secret? Regrettably, such a possibility was very low. News would probably reach Latreille in no time. The body double trick would then become meaningless, and they would know the direction of their flight. They might even seal off the mountain paths leading towards the capital. —— Sealing their throat wasn’t meaningless. But… Regis sighed. “Even so, there are ways that doesn’t involve killing them…” Jessica narrowed her eyes and stared at him. “... As expected of your style.” “What do you mean?” “... I heard Sir Auric’s personality isn’t like a soldier at all… ‘He wants to even spare the enemy’. Isn’t that hypocritical? Since you support the Fourth Princess, this will turn into a civil war one day.” “But I want to avoid unnecessary death as much as possible.” “... You… think that the killings earlier was unnecessary?” “Maybe.” “... Even though the people you kill always numbered in the thousands, but you think that the handful of men before you… If the situation might endanger your life, there wouldn’t be any reason to let them go. That’s hypocrisy.” “Of course I know that it is inevitable when the situation calls for killing others in order to survive. But ‘not willing to kill even at the peril of one’s life’—— are things only those who didn’t need to kill and in a position of safety would say.” “... Seems like you believe those soldiers would keep your tracks a secret? How laughable. You actually survived this long with such pedantry.” “No, I think they will report it.” “Then…” “It’s fine if they report. That will be a good feint. Prince Latreille would definitely think I escaped and pursue us. Since his actions would be known, we can make use of that.” “... I think the best strategy is to not let them know we escaped.” “Is that so? Can you guarantee that the body double disguise won’t be seen through?” “... Then we should act with the assumption that it had been seen true.” “You have a cautious personality, so that’s what you would do. In that case, we won’t need to change our course of action even if those sentries reported back right?” “... If it wasn’t seen through, then killing them would improve our safety. It’s better to be safe.” “Really? Instead of killing them to increase our chance of survival, isn’t this just to give yourself peace of mind? I can’t agree with killing others to make yourself feel less uneasy.” “……” It was rare seeing Jessica not answering. As she was walking ahead, her expression could not be seen. “... For us, there is no reason to let the Belgarian soldiers leave alive. We will kill any enemy we feel is a threat. Including you.” “You are mercenaries, but you are not in anyone’s employ right now, correct?” “... Yes… Because of that… Everyone other than us are enemies. To make us an ally, there needs to be a contract.” “I see. Well then, let’s sign a contract.” “... The joke's not funny. Don’t kid with me.” Jessica’s voice turned stern. The faces of the mercenaries around them grew sinister. Franziska pointed her short crossbow his way. “Remember this well if you are a strategist. We mercenaries risk our lives to work! If you make a joke about signing contracts, I will be angry enough to kill you!” Regis scratched his head. “Not at all. Does it look like I am not putting my life on the line? There is a crossbow pointed at me right now. I don’t like to lie and I’m bad at telling jokes. I am serious about employing you all. After all, there is no one more reliable than you here.” Jessica went back on topic. “... You are our prisoner. Just a negotiation chip, not a negotiation subject.” “You want to negotiate by using me to trade for the mercenary king—— correct?” “Yes… Just from your merits in this battle, this is definitely possible. Thank you for accomplishing such a feat. The aid I rendered is very meaningful right?” Her lips turned up in a smile. “Ahh, speaking of which, the sudden withdrawal of the mercenaries played a large role in shaking up the battle.” “... If your fame is good enough, it would increase your value as a negotiation chip.” “You want to sell me a favour—— That’s what you mean? If the battle continued, it would be difficult to withdraw—— that’s your judgement right?” “... In a serious fight, the numerically inferior Imperial forces would have a hard time right?” “I already have a plan for this.” And she must have known about that plan. After all, they got access to Regis’ study room by disguising as maids. They wouldn’t just be simply changing the sheets. Jessica didn’t reveal her true intention. Although the basics of negotiation includes letting the other party believe you weren’t lying, completely hiding your true intention wasn’t a mistake. Jessica was planning to reorganize the mercenary group. But Regis couldn’t see through her true intentions—— It was probably why she needed to put up such an act. However, Regis didn’t back down. Even if the mercenary had a blade to his neck, he can’t submit so meekly. “The price for losing your credibility at Grebauver isn’t cheap.” “... Is that so? What has that got to do with you?” “Of course it does. I am negotiating with you after all—— that battle is watched by many countries. With the battle on the line, the Renard Pendu mercenary corps withdrew from the battle. What a cruel betrayal. The neighbouring nations saw this scene clearly.” “... So?” “What are your plans after getting back the mercenary king by using me in a hostage exchange?” “... Elder brother will figure out what follows.” “Do you think any country will hire a mercenary corps that committed such a devastating betrayal?” “... You underestimate the capability of the Renard Pendu mercenary corps. If Elder brother returns, we will——” “During the attack on Fort Volks, you retreated in just one night. Despite being equipped with the latest model of rifles in west Lafressange, you still lost the supply unit. And in Grebauver, you all deserted when the battle was still at an impasse. With such a nefarious fame, you think you can haggle for a good price?” He laid out his negotiation chips. Jessica glared at him angrily. “... Isn’t that all your doing?” “Well, I don’t deny that.” They could win all their battle except the ones against Regis—— Even if they insist on this point, it would not repair their lost reputation. They entered the dense forest. “How about it? For me, I wish to return to Fort Volks safely, and would like the means of travel and protection. Since you are sure that the mercenary king will return, you will need new employers. You will want the chance to regain your lost reputation correct?” “……” Jessica didn’t reply. Regis followed her as he waited for her reply. She didn’t answer immediately in the end. The group walked in the forest that was becoming brighter gradually. At this moment, Franziska who were silent all this while raised a hand. “It’s everyone!” The other mercenaries also looked relieved. They seemed to have linked up with the main body of Renard Pendu. Regis was surprised that they got so close to the Imperial base camp. Their vision was blocked by the trees, so it was hard to make out their numbers, but from the intel he gathered before the battle, they should be 700 strong. They were small in numbers. But this group was reputed to be the strongest mercenary group in the continent. During the fight with the Imperial First Army, they were also positioned at the center of the enemy forces, strong like a unit’s backbone. ——Since fighting Prince Latreille was now a fact, he would want to obtain this fighting force that could stand up against the First Army. But he would want to pay as little as possible. After all, the Fourth Army’s budget was really tight. Regis calculated in his head. Suddenly, someone tugged the sleeve of his uniform. “Hmm?” “E-Erm… will it be fine?” Fanrine appeared more nervous than the time when they encountered the Imperial patrol. Regis smiled wryly. “Yes, don’t worry. Instead of negotiating with corpses, we are more valuable alive.” “I… see.” She exhaled in relief. —— They won’t be killed. If the hostage exchange for the mercenary king doesn’t fail… But… Regis didn’t voice his doubt in order to sooth Fanrine’s worries—— Imperial year 851 August 10th—— It had been 15 days since they escaped from the First Army’s base camp. Regis’ group walked inside the forest, and in order to evade the persistent searches by the First Army, they made a huge detour in the hills. After spending several a lot more time than it should be, they finally made it back. The weather was nice and clear. They could see the capital from the top of the hill “Hah… We are finally here… I can’t move anymore.” “Sir Regis, just a bit more, please work a little harder.” “Yes, right… Are you okay?” “I am tired, but I want to wipe my body with water. And change my clothes.” Fanrine looked down at her body. It was impossible to wear her dress and hike in the hills, so she was wearing pants made from linen. “It would be great if I can wear normal clothes too.” “Ara, I think this attire suits you though.” “It’s a little too heavy.” Regis wasn’t wearing the uniform of the First Army, but the clothes of a mercenary. He won’t be able to move even if he wore light armour, so he only wore leather chest armour and a short sword on his waist. After hearing the conversation between the two—— Jessica proposed: “... Well then… do you want to wear clothes that are lighter?” “Oh, you prepared civilian clothes for me?” “Hmmm… You will be dead if the Imperial Army finds you, so I already made the necessary arrangements.” Her lips twisted for a moment, revealing a devious smile. Regis’ face tensed for a moment. Versailles, the capital of Belgaria, was a huge commercial city. As cargo and mercenaries frequent this place, Regis and the mercenaries from Renard Pendu got in easily. But 700 mercenaries would be too prominent, so most of them camped out in the wild. The group walked along the streets of Versailles. On Regis’ left was Fanrine, on his right was Jessica. Further to the side was Franziska. Right now, she was concealing her weapon under her robes. They were groups of three mercenaries in front and behind them, but they were at a distance where normal conversations couldn’t be heard. From the perspective of others, they wouldn’t think the mercenaries have anything to do with Regis’ group. After all, people would wonder if they were big shots if guards followed them too closely. If Latreille knew Regis was still alive, he might send assassins. He couldn’t afford to be discovered. It was dangerous in the capital too. But, was this really necessary, Regis thought. “I know this is important… But…” He looked down at his clothes and sighed—— Two hours ago—— Jessica shook her head. “... Sir Auric wants to return to the capital too? Sorry, but I have to refuse. There is no reason to bring you along. Although we do need to resupply at the capital before heading to Fort Volks.” “I explained this before—— what happens after getting the Mercenary King back is important too right? You didn’t give me an answer back then, but you already arrived at the conclusion yourself right?” “……” Jessica looked his way with an intimidating gaze. Regis withstood it directly. He might back away in the past, but he seemed to be braver now. It wasn’t clear if that was a good thing though. The mercenary corps made camp on a hill overlooking the capital. That might be so, but they didn’t prepare any tents, with just a temporary stove and clearing stones from the ground for a place to lie down. Regis and Jessica conversed under the shade of a tree some distance away. They seemed to be mindful of Fanrine and Franziska. “As for me… I know Prince Latreille is after my life. Leaving your methods aside… It is undeniable truth that I got help from you. I am grateful for that, and won’t plan anything nefarious against you.” “... You want me to trust you?” “Yes.” “... Are you kidding? Who will believe something a prisoner says?” Regis smiled wryly. “There are countless examples of this in stories. I wouldn’t finish even if I start recounting the tales before we reach Fort Volks. But we have to visit the capital before that of course.” Jessica frowned. “Such made-up stories…” “Isn’t that the same with you?” “... What are you trying to say?” “To make the mercenaries believe in your strategy, you brand the results of your deductions as ‘the guidance of the stars’. When things aren’t going well, you will cover it up by saying ‘I already know, but I wasn’t permitted to say’.” “... Sorry about that.” “No, I actually wanted to say this more gently.” There shouldn’t be anyone in the vicinity who heard this conversation. Jessica lowered her head. “... No matter what others says, the mercenaries will believe me. I am not certain about what you said though. Especially after they witnessed that battle… Maybe some of them will doubt my actions.” “I think you are evaluating me too highly. But if you do think this way, that will be good for me too.” “... I know this is a ridiculous lie. Even so, I still need the title of Magician. In order for the mercenaries abandoned by the church to believe they will prevail on the battlefield, they have to have faith that someone amazing is supporting them from behind.” “I understand.” Jessica glared at him. “... As expected… I should have killed you in the beginning.” “H-How scary. ‘Renard Pendu’ can only fight at it’s full potential under your command and the mercenary king’s martial prowess right? I won’t do anything foolish like incorporating you into our command structure and weakening the mercenary corps. Please don’t worry.” “... You look harmless, but your tactics are merciless, Sir Auric… You might be talking about negotiation, but what you are doing is intimidation right? To think a prisoner is threatening me.” “No no, this is a negotiation. You have the right to make the choice. I am just offering good conditions that you have nothing to worry about.” “... That is to follow the Imperial Fourth Army? You can’t offer good remuneration anyway. Regis scratched his head. “You saw through that huh.” “... Of course. I had gathered at least this much intel.” “Can I talk about something else then? Something you probably don’t know.” Regis smiled Jessica showed a displeased expression. “... State your piece then.” “If ‘Renard Pendu’ helps Princess Argentina, she will grant you territory and recognize your nation with her authority as Empress when she rule over the Belgarian Empire. Not a colony or a subordinate country, but a nation of equal standing.” “... Are… Are you lying to me? Even Sir Auric who is trusted by the Princess won’t be given such authority. Are you trying to manipulate me with empty promises?” “No no, this is what Her Highness said to the mercenary king. I headed to the capital before the negotiations are done, but he seemed really interested about this. If you think I am lying, then you can just ask him yourself.” She opened her eyes wide. Unbelievable, but what if it is true—— That sort of expression. “...... The princess told elder brother… she will recognize our country…?” “Looks the same.” “Huh?” “When we were talking about this, the mercenary king showed the same expression.” For some reason, Jessica blushed. Probably from embarrassment. She then lowered her head in deep thought. “... Such a thing… Is too incredible for a reward. We are mercenaries after all, and won’t get our own nation no matter how much merit we achieve on the battlefield. If the Empire recognize us… That would be too unrealistic. Going by Imperial custom, when Prince Latreille takes the throne, Argentina will lose her succession rights. Even if she manages to take down the Emperor by force, she would just be branded a false Empress.” “Yes.” “... And Prince Latreille will be coronated in three days.” According to scouts reports, they found out that the capital was preparing for the ceremony. Even the citizens knew about this. A huge sign was erected in the plaza, and was reported on the weekly newspaper. Regis crossed his arms. “Yes… This might turn into a clash of arms, I want to avoid that as much as possible. I don’t plan to seize control over the Empire at all cost though.” “... You want Prince Latreille to forfeit the throne?” “That would be the most ideal outcome.” “... Impossible. His nature is that of a conqueror. His body and soul would be consumed by the flames of war, the stars… No, such a way of speaking.. Isn’t necessary for you.” “I rather enjoy such a performance though.” Jessica averted her gaze. “... Sorry… I can’t act if the other party knows, it’s too embarrassing.” She looked as if she was throwing a tantrum. Her profile looked really similar to the pouting face of her sister Franziska. It makes one think, they really are sisters. Regis resisted the urge to smile wryly. “From the actions of Prince Latreille so far, not only is he fixated on the throne, he is also a believer in hegemonism—— Isn’t that so?” “……Yes.” “I feel the same too.” He nodded firmly. Jessica sighed. “... This act of yours… I really hate it.” “Eh? What do you mean?” Was Jessica getting back at him for using the term ‘performance’? Regis felt a little conflicted. “... Sir Auric, you always place the important things at the back. I don’t think I am that dumb. You will state the gist of your deduction, and will slowly guide the other party to realize it, such a way of talking… Can you not do that when you talk to me?” “That’s troubling… I don’t mean to do that…” Jessica looked to the side with a hmmp. He seemed to have annoyed her deeply. However, she had a rational character, and seemed to acknowledge that this was an important topic. “... I haven’t investigated this part yet… But from Sir Auric’s confidence, Prince Latreille must have some ‘flaw’. If you aim for this, it would be effective enough to make him forfeit the throne?” “I hope so. Although it is very difficult.” “... If Prince Latreille is coronated, it would be meaningless for him to abdicate immediately. After all, Princess Argentina would lose her succession right by then.” “Yes.” “... You want to stop his coronation?” “No—— ahh, speaking of which, it is a bad habit to talk about the important parts at the very back. I will explain properly. I can’t go into the details before you enter a contract with us, but it is as you deduced, Prince Latreille has some shady dealings. However, I don’t have any evidence right now. So I have to go to the capital. Furthermore, if he really committed this crime, even if he takes the throne, it will still be invalidated. This is an important point.” Jessica narrowed her eyes. “... Such a devastating ‘flaw’... could it be… is it true?” What an intelligent woman. She deduced this much just from their earlier conversation. Her lips were trembling a little. In the face of such a serious crime, even the mercenary from a foreign nation was shocked. Regis nodded without a word. Jessica looked up to the sky. This was probably a habit of hers when she was thinking. As if she was searching for the stars that were impossible to see in daylight. “... If that is true… then it might be possible.” “How about it? Will the mercenary corps ‘Renard Pendu’ sign a contract with the Fourth Army?” Looking away from the sky, she stared at Regis. “... I refuse.” “Oh, I see…” There was a winning chance. But they would definitely need to clash with the new Emperor. Hence, they need to gauge the rewards in success and the losses in failure. Or rather, this was only natural. Regis sighed with his palm on his forehead. If he couldn’t go to the capital now, he would need to rethink his strategy. And the backup strategies would be limited in effectiveness. “How troubling. What should I do. Leaving the contract with the mercenary corps aside, can you allow me to enter the capital?” “... Sir Auric, do you really understand? You are already dead… Maybe assassins are looking for you everywhere right now? You will have nowhere to run if you are found in the capital.” “I know. After all, I can’t even ride a horse. But I can’t avoid this despite the danger. Because I already made a promise with her.” “... Promise?” “Together with the Princess—— we will change the Empire.” Just putting out the sparks falling onto his own body wouldn’t be enough. Or rather, if he don’t throw himself to the scene of the fire, he wouldn’t be able to overturn the current situation. Jessica stared at Regis’ face. “... Is that so… Can I ask one thing?” “What?” “... Why would go so far for Princess Argentina?” “Because she will make my ideal come true——” “Sounds like Sir Auric values your ideals more than your own desires.” “Yes.” Although Prince Latreille want to recruit Regis to be his Strategist, Regis refused without hesitation as he was against hegemonism. Not only did he lose the unprecedented chance for a civilian to be promoted, his own life was in peril. “.... For the sake of your ideals—— You are using of Princess Argentina to make pacifism a reality?” “I am not really using her. I am striving alongside her. Well, I won’t refute you for now. And then?” “... If someone who is more capable of realizing your ideals appears, what would you do? For example, if Prince Latreille wants to achieve pacifism? Will you abandon the Princess and follow a new master?” “Then the three of us will work on it together.” “... And if the condition is for you to work under him?” “I see, I never thought about this before. It is a little fantastical… Well, I don’t dislike thinking—— if I could realize Her Highness’ ideals by staying in the capital, I won’t have any qualms about that.” “... Is that how you truly feel? Giving up your own lifestyle for the sake of your ideal?” “This has always been something I am willing to bet my life on.” However, when Regis imagined the scene of leaving Altina to serve the emperor at the capital, he felt an unexpected feeling of sadness. —— Why is that? This was a familiar feeling, Regis felt like this when his sister left after getting married. But the feeling was much heavier this time… He never felt like this before. It wasn’t so heavy when he left the Fourth Army and headed to the capital alone. Regis shrugged. “Maybe… I would feel a bit lonely. I don’t really understand, but I would feel a sensation of loss… I am not certain.” “... Even so, do you think it’s fine?” “It will alright if I can get closer to my ideals. I will be fine if I have my books, that’s how I am after all.” Hahaha, Regis laughed. That wasn’t a lie. But that wasn’t everything either. It was a question he found it hard to answer. It was natural, since the matter of Regis’ feelings couldn’t be found in any books. Jessica lowered her gaze. “... Even though you seem to know everything like some kind of god, there is an innocent child-like side to you too.” “C-Child?” “... It is rare to see someone uninterested in their own well being like you. Most people will prioritizing their own position when they think about things .” “I am just a dull normal human without any good points. Instead of considering my own circumstances, reading books would be more interesting.” “... What a weirdo.” “Ughh.” What a direct comment. “... I did reject the contract—— that’s because this is a matter between the mercenary corps and the Fourth Army. I can’t decide the fate of Renard Pendu alone.” “I see. Then, is there any other way?” “... Yes… If it is just me, then I can accept this.” “Really!?” “... Like you said, the path after we get Elder brother back would be arduous… It’s not a bad idea to put the Empire in our debt.” “I see. So you will make an agreement with me on the personal level, and when the mercenary corps is reorganized, this would be a back up support. After getting the leader back, if the group falls into a pinch because of a lack of funds, and the Imperial Army sends you money and weapons… It would be like Magic.” “... It will boost the morale of the members too. This is the most important part.” “Indeed.” The corner of Jessica’s lips rose. Like the devil described in the bible. “... You think I’m a bad woman right?” “I told you before, I like your performance. In the first place, if you are acting for your selfish desire, becoming a consort of a landlord somewhere could be done easily. But you didn’t do that for the sake of your siblings right?” She was surprised. “W-What… are you saying? I’m a mercenary. How could I marry a nobleman…” “To be tied by marriage to the mercenary king that is the strongest in the continent would be a wonderful pact for a regional landlord. Or rather, there should have been one or two proposals already right? Since you are beautiful.” He unwittingly commented on the appearance of a lady. Jessica glared at him with sharp eyes. “... I am a mercenary, my fighting service is for sale, but not my body.” “T-T-That’s not what I mean!? Really!” Regis was completely flustered. I thought I have improved recently and won’t panic over trivial things. Guess I am mistaken. She took a step back away from him. “... All men are the same.” “No no… Well, beauties seem to have more troubles. But don’t worry, I am not interested in that at all.” “I heard such excuses plenty of times before.” “No matter what era it is, soldiers will always drink, gamble and talk about women when they are free. Not just in stories, many people are like this in real life. But if I have the money and time to spare, I will buy books. I just want to read books.” “... Are you telling the truth?” “It’s true! It’s just that everyone doesn’t know the joy of reading. I think reading is more interesting than any other game.” Jessica smiled wryly. It was rare seeing her laugh. “Fu, fufu… As expected, you are a weirdo.” “Well, many people tell me that…” “I like reading books too.” “Really? You too!? What did you read recently? Ah, you mentioned books, but there are tactics and management books too right?” “I read anything. Books are hard to come by in the first place. The last book I read is ‘Crescent Knight’. Do you know about this?” “Ohh, isn’t that a book by Baron Visuveul!?” “I think that’s him. A female knight plays a large role in this story, which is uncommon.” “Yes, it’s a nice tale. The scene where she fought a duel with her elder brother’s sworn enemy is amazing. Well, just like in his previous books, the baron ——” “Ah, you can’t!” “Hmm?” “... E-Erm… I didn’t finish the book.” “Ahh, sorry!” “Really now… this is your fault in the first place.” Compared to the earlier tense atmosphere, her tone had relaxed a lot. Maybe Jessica had always been acting the part of an unapproachable beauty, and she would only revert to her true self when she talks about books. “My fault?” “That’s right. That night, I was reading in my tent happily when someone created a fog and attacked… In the end, not only did I have to abandon most of my luggage and escape, I had to leave the book I read halfway in the tent. Was it burned, discards or sold… No matter what, it won’t be coming back.” Regis remembered—— That was the ‘battle of west Lafressange’. In order to defeat the High Britannia supply unit that was escorted by her mercenary corps, Regis used the tactic of creating fog. Because the long ranged rifles and powerful cannons would be rendered useless when shrouded by the fog. The tactic was a success, and the Imperial Fourth Army defeated the supply unit successfully. It seemed that Jessica was reading ‘Crescent Knight’ intriguingly during that time. Regis slumped his shoulders. “Ughhh… Is that so… I am very sorry.” Tears was about to flow from the corner of his eyes. Jessica started to panic. “Eh!? Y-You don’t need to cry over it right!? Well, it is a war after all… I only mentioned it because I felt it was a bit of a pity.” “If I was in your shoes, I would definitely cry. Not only was your reading time interrupted, you can’t read it anymore! That’s too cruel! It is just like hell.” “Not to that extent… Well, forget it, I will buy a new one if I have time and read it again. Can I count on you to foot the bill as my remuneration?” Regis rubbed his eyes. “Yes, of course—— Well then, I will be counting on your help on the personal level.” “... Right. Before Elder brother returns, I will help you. The remuneration would be supplying us with enough fund and equipment to complete our next job. Is this much alright with you?” “I can guarantee that you will be treated in the same manner as the soldiers of the Imperial Fourth Army.” “Just like regular troops? I like a generous employer.” Jessica reached out her right hand. Regis extended his right hand too, and the two of them clasped their hands. “I also made a very reliable comrade.”
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