Saturday, July 28, 2018

Alderamin on the Sky Volume 4 Chapter 1 Part 1

The Ebodolk Province Incident

Translator: Skythewood
Editor: N/A

The Ebodolk province situated in the southwest of the Empire was different from the rest of the nation as it was humid and warm all year long. Hence, their way of life was different from the other provinces too.


「Wahh! Amazing, it’s an entire farm field! This is the first time I have seen that!」


As she watched the scenery flashing by the carriage window, Haro cheered forthrightly. Compared to the other provinces that mainly grow wheat, the vast sceneries of farmlands were the symbol of Ebodolk province.


The air that was untouched by the dust was adequately humid, and the wind had the scent of fertile soil in them. Clean water flowed in the ditches beside the road, and there were frogs and fishes swimming leisurely in them. When think back of the dried and cracked land to the north, this scene felt really soothing.


「Hmm, the Kuna rice is growing well… I heard the harvest had been poor in recent years, but from the looks of things, the situation had improved a lot.」


Princess Chamille said with the expression of a ruler. However, the youth who should have reacted quickly to her had turned silent as they reached the end of their journey via carriage. The princess glanced at him sideways, as she sighed.


「……Matthew, I know you have plenty on your mind with regards to this situation, but leaving all that aside, you are coming back home after a long trip away. Your parents would want to see the energetic face of their son returning from the battlefield, right?」


「…… Yes, it’s as Your Highness says. But…」


「If you have any concerns, do tell me right now. I will try to do something about if I’m able to help.」


Aside from Sazarf who was riding in another carriage, the gaze of all five other passengers fell onto Matthew. Matthew sighed and scratched his cheeks.


「I’m not sure if it is really a concern… But if things kept going this way, all of us might be assigned to the new Regimental unit under the command of my father…」


「Yes, that will probably happen. And of course, the Ebodolk province would also need to arrange for the successor to Colonel Mirtog Tetzirich. Right now, the younger brother of the colonel, Lieutenant Colonel Zenbaruca Tetzirich, who is also acting as his subordinate, is a potential candidate.」


「It had already been decided that Uncle Zenba will take over the unit, so it’s fine for that to happen a little earlier… As for my dad, the sudden assignment before his imminent retirement is probably a surprise. But I already explained to him how all this happened, so he probably won’t turn us down.」


「Then what are you worried about…?」


「… If Dad is taking up a post in another place, then Mom would follow him too. I’m not sure how to put this, but my Mom─」


The carriage braked suddenly mid sentence. Yatori quickly covered the princess who was floating above her seat because of the momentum, and the other four also pushed against the wall of the carriage to keep themselves from falling over.


「What happened!?」


Yatori asked the driver loudly, and a panicked reply came immediately:


「There… There is a cow charging across the road…! It almost hit us!」


When they heard the term 「cow」, the members of the knights corp looked at each other. It wasn’t an attack by bandits or something, but everyone here were important personnel, so they couldn’t let down their guard. After letting Haro take care of the Princess, the other four people started moving to confirm the situation.


「Full alert! Be careful of enemies hiding in the crops field. Matthew, Torway, search for the enemy from the left and right carriage windows!」


「Okay!」「Understood!」


Ikuta gave out instructions immediately, and there was no hesitation in their responses. The naivety of recruits were gone from them. Unlike before, they had overcome the harsh battlefield of the northern rebellion.


Matthew and Torway opened the windows they had closed earlier, and observed the surroundings from the tiny gaps. At the same time, they armed their Sprite onto the barrel of their Air Shooter, and fed it a bullet. They reported back quickly.


「… No signs of the enemy to our right!」「Same with the left! To be safe, I will lay down covering fire… Huh? Ahh… That’s…?」


Torway sounded confused. Yatori who had her hands on the hilt of her swords and guarding the entrance listened carefully to any sound outside as she asked:


「Torway, what do your elf eyes see?」


「… There… There’s a cow attacking a person… No, a person is attacking the cow…?」


The youth who used a lot of effort to describe what he was seeing continue to stutter:


「… There is a beserk large cow in the field, and it is battling a person. That person… seems to be a woman…」


「Huh? A woman?… Shit! Could it be!?」


Matthew who heard that report quickly left the right window and moved to the other side, making space beside Torway to look outside. Yatori judged from the report that 「someone is being attacked by a mad cow」 and was about to jump out of the carriage when the slightly plump youth stopped her.


「W-Wait, Yatori. You don’t need to go there…!」


「… But why? Isn’t someone being attacked by a cow?」


「Anyway, it will be fine… There don’t seem to be any enemies around, so open the door and see for yourself.」


Matthew stated in a strangely exhausted tone, so Yatori took a look outside as instructed by him. To the left of the carriage was the corner of a wide field, where a well built cow, probably used for farming, was rampaging. However, what surprised Yatori was─


「Alright alright, stop messing around! You are a really naughty kid!」


A woman was suppressing the fierce cow from the front, and grabbing both its horns. She was tall and big for a woman, and had broad shoulders. She was wearing a brown one piece working clothes and a green work apron.


「Woahh, how heroic…」


Ikuta who was watching beside Yatori muttered with his eyes sparkling. Everyone expressed their agreement wordlessly. Although that woman was dressed like an aunt who was tilling the fields, she put up a intense fight against the cow five times her size.


「It’s about time for you to quiet down! Hyaaah!」


Probably judging that the match couldn’t be decided with a straight up fight, that woman jumped, with mud still sticking onto her feet, and grabbed onto to that cow. She then put the cow into a headlock, and strangled it with all her might.


「Uuuuwaaaaahhhhhh!」


That cow continued to struggle despite this situation. Shortly after, it lost its strength, bending its forelegs and sitting down in the field.


The woman looked at her panting opponent with merciful eyes, then stroked the neck of the cow.


「Alright, have you cool off now? Feeling better venting it all out?」


It wasn’t clear if the cow was exhausted or knew that resistance was futile, it just sat there obediently. The knights corps members judged that the incident had been resolved, and left the carriage.


A group of farmers that were dressed similarly to the woman who suppressed the cow came to her. They all lowered their head in gratitude. The woman smiled kindly and shook her head. The cow was leased and stood up a little while later, and was taken away docilely.


「Great~ It’s all settled now, right? I should go back to work too─ Hmm…?」


At this moment, the woman finally noticed the group standing beside the field and looking at her. She narrowed her eyes to observe them, and quickly brightened up.


「──Matthew! Ara ara! You are finally back─!」


The woman leap from the field, and charged at full speed along the path between the farms. She was as intimidating as that cow which shocked Ikuta and the others. The youth who had been called by his name took a step forward with a face of resignation.


「Yes, I’m home Mom─ Uwahh!」


「Hahahaha! It’s great that you are home safely, my son! Do you have legs? Are you a ghost! You little brat!」


「Whoooaaaa!」


The helpless Matthew became the sacrifice of a passionate hug. His body was constricted by a force that made a cow surrender, and his bones started to creak.


「I was just thinking that I haven’t heard from you for so long, then the war broke out in the north! Do you know how worried I was when even you got sent to the frontlines!?」




「M-Mom… I know, I really do…! So let me go… I will die…!」


Matthew’s scream sounded genuine. Locked in her vise-like arms, his waist had turned incredibly slender.


「W… What…? What’s happening…?」


Sazarf who alighted from the carriage in front of them was stunned by this scene. Aside from the two person in question, the others simply looked at the long awaited reunion between mother and son with their mouth open.


「Ara, I’m so happy! My son brought so many friends back with him!」






After taking off her one piece working clothes and putting on a normal one piece dress, and changing her work apron for a normal apron, the woman started busying herself between the kitchen and dining table. The six passengers in the carriage and Sazarf all sat in their chairs, and watched the dining table being set in a short amount of time.


「And there are three cute girls! I wonder which one will become our daughter-in-law, I’m looking forward to it! Isn’t that right, hubby!?」


「Hanna, I know you are happy that Matthew came home, but calm down a little. The Third Princess has graced us with her visit… Isn’t that right?」


A middle aged man sitting in the seat of honour on the host side stopped the woman who had been chattering nonstop. He was Colonel Mirtog Tetzirich of the Imperial Army, his round face and slightly chubby body resembles Matthew a lot.


「Hmm, are you saying Her Highness will marry into our family? That will be incredible, what will happen to our family registry!?」


As for Colonel Mirtog’s wife Hanna Tetzirich, both her appearance and forthright personality didn’t suggest any blood relations with Matthew. Even when she spoke to her husband, she laid out the utensils with movements that didn’t feel messy, and moved around to pour drinks for everyone.


「The ominous feeling turned true… No, I didn’t expect it to be subverted in the first place...」


The subject Matthew himself hugged his head and laid on the table. For everyone, it was embarrassing for their friends to see their family situations, but the strong personality of the mother had even overwhelmed the guests. In fact, the group couldn’t even find the chance to make social small talk.


The seven of them were led by Hanna to the Tetzirich house, which was erected on a hill that could could oversee the surroundings, and the grandiose architecture befitted the status of a famous military house since times of old. The three storey high building was built with stones, and the courtyard within its outer walls had several wells, gardens, stables and barns for livestocks. Maybe it could be fortified in an emergency? Just the facilities inside could feed the people inside for quite a long time.


「Alright, it’s done! Eat up! You didn’t get to eat proper meals during the war, correct?」


First was giant slabs of lamb chop roasted with herbs, followed by a giant pot of rice piled up like a hill, that was definitely more than ten portions. The strong aroma of spices filled the air. Although they had not gone through the formal greetings yet, they couldn’t do anything before finishing their meal. Filling the stomachs of the guests seemed to be Hanna’s way of welcoming them.


「Ughh! Delicious ! Mama Matthew, this is yummy!」


Was there any doubt about this? The first to dig in was Ikuta. He bit into the lamb chest meat with bones, then used a spoon to scoop up a large quantity of rice onto his plate, and then into his mouth. Just seeing the way he ate was enough to make the others hungry, and affecting them.


「Then… I will be digging in.」「It’s a rare chance, so I will…」


Haro and Torway also started eating. When they sent the food into their mouth, their eyes started to shine.


「… Uwah! It’s true! This rice is delicious~」


「Yes! The mutton is good too, but the rice that had absorbed the essence of the mutton taste even better!」


Princess Chamille glanced sideways at them eating, but couldn’t find the chance for her to reach for the food. Sensing that, Yatori gently placed the food that had been distributed onto small plates before the Princess.


「Please have a taste too, Your Highness.」 「Ah… yes, thank you Yatori…」


She was probably hungry after the long journey. Once she start eating, the Princess didn’t stop. Yatori tended to the girl in all sorts of ways and started dining too. And so, the dinner started getting rowdy before they realised it.


「Hmm… ughh… Matthew, why didn’t you tell us earlier that you have such a wonderful mother…」


「That’s exactly the reason! She is the type you like, correct?!」


「As expected of Matthew, you really know me. That’s right, it has been years since my heart is moved like this.」


Ikuta stopped eating and stared at Hanna with a passionate and mesmerizing gaze. Matthew who sensed danger from that action grabbed Ikuta from the side, and said in a vicious tone:


「Hey… If you dare lay your hands on my Mom in the future… You will definitely be shot in the back in the next war…」


「Thank you for the most murderous warning you had ever given me. I will keep it in mind, my dear friend Matthew.」


Besides the two noisy youths, Colonel Mirtog had started socializing with Sazarf who was seated closest to him. Sazarf couldn’t help cursing that such a task had to fall to him.


「My son has been in your care, Major Senpa Sazarf.」


Sazarf accepted a drink poured by Colonel Mirtog flusteredly and said:


「No, I can’t take the merit of having taken care of your son… In the series of harsh battles, he has fought on til the very end.」


Sazarf took the bottle, and pour a glass for the host. Colonel Mirtog replied with a smile:


「You don’t have to be so humble, I have also heard about the terrible conditions on the battlefield. Since he has returned with all limbs intact after the foray at the foremost frontlines, it must be his luck of meeting a good superior.」


「… The same goes for me too, I’m lucky to have good subordinates.」


Sazarf stated what he truthfully thinks in self mockery, and Colonel Mirtog tilted his head as if he didn’t quite understand.


「… You are not saying pleasantries, right? I’m surprised by how low you evaluated yourself. I heard you are the hero of the northern rebellion, so I imagined you to be a more confident man.」


「I’m sorry for disappointing you… But speaking of heroes, the soldiers who fought until the very last moment in the retreating battle deserves that title more than me.」


Sazarf said as he thought back of his many subordinates who fell in battle. Colonel Mirtog also understood the heavy meaning behind his words, and the two of them raise a glass for the soldiers who had fallen in the Grand Arfatra Mountains.


「You might have to accept a troublesome request this time…」


Sazarf wanted to open his speech with an apology, but Colonel Mirtog stopped him kindly.


「Let’s leave that for later. Let’s dine for now, Major Sazarf.」


「Ermm… But…」


「My wife is really happy to see my son return safely, I feel the same too. I hope you can leave the other matters aside for now, and accept my pure gratitude. Will that be alright?」


Since he put it that way, Sazarf couldn’t turn him down. The two of them clinked their glasses again with a different mindset. At this moment, Colonel Mirtog suddenly showed a stiff face.


「… But there is one thing I need to ask now, Major.」


「Yes, what would you like to know?」


The serious atmosphere made Sazarf sat up straight. The Colonel leaned in close and whispered:


「So, about my son… out of the three of them, who is he closest too?」


The Colonel stole glances at Yatori, Haro and Princess Chamille as he asked. Sazarf had to used all he had to suppress the sudden urge to laugh.


He exerted strength in his abdomen to suppress the urge to laugh as he felt how funny this superior officer in front of him was─ He is a father too… Sazarf thought.






After dinner, everyone rested for about an hour before the meeting began officially in the drawing room.


「… So he used the production of military logistics as the reason to hire the Shinaak as farmers? I see…」


After hearing Sazarf explain the whole story, the Colonel crossed his arms and appeared to be deep in thought.


「I think this is a good proposal… But you really took on a troublesome task. It should be much simpler to declare that this isn’t under your purview and ignore the problem, correct?」


Sazarf smiled awkwardly, while Ikuta who was seated to his right shook his head quietly.


「In the refugee camps to the southern part of the northern zone, the Shinaak tribes are shivering because of their uncertainty of the future, and their only hope is promise their chieftain  Nanak Dar made with us. If we abandon them now, then our actions would be no different from what Lieutenant General Safida had done.」


Ikuta looked at the base of his pinkie finger that had been cut off for that promise─ the wound had healed, but there was still lingering pains, which made his emotions tensed.


After quite some time of silence, Princess Chamille used this chance to speak:


「As for the political issues and the dispute in the place where the new Regiment will be based in, I can promise to resolve them within the limits of my status. My apologies for asking you to leave the land you have resided in for a long time… But can you accept this proposal, Colonel Mirtog?」


「……」


「It’s hard to say this, but there really aren’t anyone else who can take your place. It has to be an officer has a good track record in managing a Regiment, and can reign in the Shinaak tribe who are hostile to outsiders─ these are already tall orders. And this time, there is another problematic condition.」


At this point, the Princess looked at everyone who had gathered here.


「After numerous prominent battles, the 『Knight Corps』 has become an important political existence. The situation can be explained in a personal level too… But the issue that requires special attention is the fact that members of the Igsem and Remeon houses are in the same unit.」


Torway shifted his gaze to the flame haired girl who was sitting in the guest seat opposite him. At the same time, he thought about the additional star added to his rank epaulette not too long ago.


「Even if this is mostly a coincidence, it is also a sign that the imperial army has reached an equilibrium, showing the balance between the Igsem and Remeon factions. Torway’s promotion to Lieutenant not long ago was probably done with this situation in mind.」


Colleagues in the same unit and the same rank. The two person in question already understood that this was what the entire military was happy to see… Despite the complicated feelings in their hearts.


「And the next problem is, who will manage this group. If a soldier from the Igsem or Remeon faction is in charge, that will upset the balance. The superior officer of the 『Knight Corps』 has to be a firmly neutral party.」


Everyone focused their gaze on Colonel Mirtog. Yes, that was the second reason.


「There is no other candidate except you, Colonel Mirtog. You maintained a rarely seen sense of balance, and didn’t get absorbed by either factions. The strong willed Tetzirich house, the famed military family that had remained unchanged since the turbulent days of old… This sense of neutrality has even earned the trust of the Marshal and the General. Only you can take the Knight Corps under your command without unnerving anyone.」


Colonel Mirtog did not show unnecessary humbleness towards such an evaluation. The Princess was right, similar to the Igsem taking pride in their swordsmanship and the Remeon in their marksmanship, the Tetzirich took pride in their neutrality.


「And of course, it’s not just the five members of the 『Knight Corps』, there is also the issue of what to do with myself who is closely related to them, as well as the hero of the northern rebellion, Major Sazarf. These are also problems for the higher-ups. That is why we hope you can shoulder all these responsibilities in one shot.」


「……」


「I know this is a shameless request, and I’m also humbled by own my powerlessness… However, can you consider it? Not for us, but for the thousands of Shinaak refugees who are still living a harsh life inside tents…」


The Princess got up from her chair and wanted to lower her head to plead her case, but Ikuta suddenly got up and grabbed the defenceless back of the girl’s head with both hands. This reckless move made Colonel Mirtog open his eyes wide.


「Hyaa…! S-Solork… What are you doing…!?」


「I know you want to express your sincerity, but don’t lower your head so easily, Princess. Under such circumstances, if the Princess lowers her head, then Colonel Mirtog would be forced into a corner.」


After understanding what Ikuta was implying, the Princess sat down again with her face flushed. Their interaction was so unexpected that Colonel Mirtog was momentarily dumbfounded.


Using the chance when the conversation had stopped for the moment, Hanna walked into the room with a large jug full of grape juice in one hand.


「It’s fine, just accept it, hubby.」


She refilled the empty glasses as she expressed her opinion.


「Or rather, you have no reason to turn them down, correct? While we are living peacefully in our homes, these children are risking their lives in the frontlines.」


Colonel Mirtog nodded firmly, while Princess Chamille felt uneasy. Because she was the only one who didn’t deserve the compliment of 「risking her live in the frontlines」.


「Even though there are issues they had no choice but to bring back with them, we should step up and take care of these trivial matters. Make up your mind already, there are just 4,000 Shinaak refugees, correct? We can take all of them in.」


Hanna claimed that there were just 4,000 tribe of another race, her boldness made Colonel Mirtog smiled wryly. The cautious husband and the wife pushing him from behind─ maybe this was how this wedded couple got along.


「… It is as my wife said. Personally, I want to just take on this mission without a second thought.」


The Colonel drank all of the refilled juice, then turned to the Princess again:


「… However, I have the obligation of managing the military personnels of this province, so my station doesn’t allow me to answer so easily. For now… Please give me some time to consider this.」






It was getting late, and the meeting was adjourned for now. The Princess and her entourage were brought to their own quarters, and spent the night on a warm and clean bed which was an impossible luxury on the battlefield.


However, a few hours later. Someone woke up before the break of dawn, and got off his bed quietly.


「Phew… It’s about 3am now? Anyway, no one else should be awake…」


「What’s the matter, Matthew? It’s too early to be up.」


In the dim room, the old wooden bed used since the last generation and the cupboard took up half the floor space. The sprite Tsuu who was resting inside a basket beside the bed got up when it noticed its master was moving. The slightly chubby youth looked back at his partner.


「I had to get up earlier, or I would be stopped. Alright, let’s get going.」


Matthew who had gotten up swiftly changed his clothes and left his room with Tsuu. He walked as quietly as he could to the first floor, made a detour to the kitchen and packed two meals worth of food into his bag, then exited from the back door.


He first went to the stables located near the manor. The almost 20 horses in the stables woke up one by one, and Matthew quickly shushed them. Before long, he found his target horse and went near with a smile.


「It’s been so long, Narun. Do you remember me?」


Matthew reached his hand out, and the brown horse leaned its head over as if in answer to his question. After enjoying the happiness of reuniting with his beloved horse for a while, he placed a saddle onto its back, let the horse bite into a rein, and brought it out of the stable.


「Alright, let’s go─!」


As Matthew was able to put his leg into the stirrup, someone tapped his shoulder suddenly.


「Where are you going, my dear friend?」


「… Huh?」


A familiar voice came from behind him. Matthew turned around with a scrounged face, and as expected, a black haired youth who was all smiles stood before him. There was also another youth who looked a little troubled standing beside him.


「You… You two… but why…?」


「I’m the one who asked first. This is troubling, Matthew, where are you going by yourself? And you even came to secure a horse, and packed lunches with you?」


「Sorry, Ma-kun… Ik-kun woke me up…」


Ikuta pressed Matthew for answers, while Torway sighed with a bitter smile. The pudgy youth ruffled his own hair with an expression of hatred.


「… I have something to attend to. It has been so long since I came back home, and I have a lot of things on my schedule.」


「So you need to ride somewhere far? Alright then~ we will accompany you. Don’t need to thank us, we have time anyway.」


「You should let things rest during times like this… Ah~damn it, I even got up early to avoid this from happening.」


Matthew grumbled with a sour face, but gave up quickly this time. He sighed deeply, then pointed to the stables.


「… If you want to come with me no matter what, then hurry up and get a horse. I will be riding very fast, and will leave you behind if you can’t keep up.」


「I’m not confident at all, but I will do my best. So, which horse is the smartest and easiest to ride?」


「My house don’t have very difficult horses… but it’s best to avoid the 2nd and 7th horse from the right, and the 5th from the left, their personality is a little intense. Don’t take the innermost two either, they belong to my parents. The saddles and reins are over there─」


Matthew got onto his horse and gave pointers to the two who entered the stables. Before he stated where the horse riding equipment was, he realised suddenly that he could leave the two of them behind by spurring his horse ahead─ but surprisingly, even after realising that, he didn’t execute this plan.


「… The saddles and reins are in the closet beside the entrance. Don’t take the old ones at the bottom, the splinters will hurt the horse’s ass.」


The three of them rode side by side in the fresh morning air, and the scenery of the lush farmlands flew right pass either side of their field of vision. They enjoyed the comfortness of the speed and started to chat:


「… I will be greeting the local residents around here. The farmers all get up early, so if you want to go somewhere further later, it won’t be too early too. That’s why, nothing interesting will happen even if you tag along.」


「If you are doing something boring, you don’t need to do so alone. Don’t worry about us, Matthew.」


Ikuta rode his horse with below average technique as he answered. Torway who was on the left and opposite side of Matthew also smiled:


「… I think it’s interesting, Ma-kun. Think about it, this is the first time the three of us rode so far for something unrelated to missions or training. Riding alongside friends in an unknown land─ just that is enough to fill me with excitement and anticipation.」


「I’m the only one who has returned to his hometown, so that’s not fair… If you really think that way, then let’s go to your place next time, Torway.」


「My place huh… of course it’s fine, but unlike your house, my house isn’t a place where you can relax. Ah, but my mother’s cooking taste as good as Aunt Hanna’s.」


「─ Oh~ I feel intrigued, introduce your mother to me next time, ikemen. Ara~ to think I missed something so important. The origins of that irritatingly proper face is very likely from a beautiful woman!」


「Didn’t I tell you not to hit on your friend’s mother!? Hey Torway, don’t ever bring this guy to your house, the rumoured tragedy that happened to the Mittokarifu house happen to you!」


As the group was squabbling, the horses they rode on continued galloping. Shortly after, the sun rose from the eastern horizon and banished the lingering darkness, bringing light to the earth.


「Wow…」


Torway was moved and sighed. The vast farm seems endless, and the brilliant light from the morning dew on the crops made them opened their eyes and watch the beautiful scene unfolding before them.


Even expressing their comments would spoil the mood, which made all three of them shut their mouth without being prompted to. Until this short moment of dawn ended, the three of them continued riding in silence.






「─ Ara, aren’t you the young master of the Tetzirich house!? It’s been so long!」


「I heard about your exploits! To think that sniveling brat will return triumphantly as a knight!」


At every house and farm, Matthew would greet the local residents warmly and chat with them. Seeing how he was welcomed with smiles wherever he went showed the status of the Tetzirich house in this Ebodolk province.


「Ah! It’s Matthew onii-chan! Erm, where is the gift from central?」


「I didn’t prepare that stuff. It’s just been a while, but you have grown, Kena.」


「No, even though his body has gotten bigger, he is still a kid inside. He will play around the whole day, and seldom help out in the fields.」


The father was smiling wryly, while Matthew looked surprised as he patted the head of the child running towards him. Ikuta and Torway dismounted a short distance away and watched this scenery.


「Ma-kun sure is popular, I’m not that close to the residents around my house.」


「Yes, it is a given that you will lose in terms of popularity at your hometown. After all the Tetzirich house has been stationed here since the era of strife.」


Torway nodded without surprised at Ikuta’s analysis─ as the 「The Three Loyal House」 which includes house Remeon returned their territory back to the emperor after the era of strife ended, there was a time when their bonds with their territory were broken. Although they were compensated with the rights to organize the national military, they had relinquished most of their influence over their old territories.


It was the same for the other famous military family of old, only the Tetzirich house was slightly different. Using the reason that they have very deep support of the local residents, they were permitted to continue staying in the land passed down from their ancestors. And of course, the number of soldiers garrisoned there were drastically reduced, and their status was relegated to that of soldiers assigned to this place on the orders of the military… But the fact was, for the past few centuries, the highest ranking commanding officer of the unit garrisonned in the Ebodolk province had always been a kin of the Tetzirich house.


「It might be true that they just wanted to protect the priviledge that had been passed down their family. But the amazing thing about the Tetzirich house is that they quickly abandoned their attitude as rulers, and adapted their way of life to match the prevailing style of the times… Even after the bureaucrats sent from central took over governing powers, they didn’t do anything to gain more powers. They retreated to the sidelines as seniors with wealth of local governance experience, and lended aid to the troubled governing executive to make their presence more prominent.」


To Ikuta, this flexible and realistic attitude felt really pleasant. But did that mean he agree with this wholeheartedly? That wasn’t true either. Leaving his personal preference aside, there are issues in other areas.


「… Maybe the Tetzirich house is too excellent as political consultants. They were too heavily relied on for all sorts of matters, which led to the actual governing officials forgetting their original duties. Although this isn’t limited to just the Tetzirich house.  Many high ranking military officers assigned to the various provinces in the Empire also ended up in the same situation… But even so, judging from the results, the way the Ebodolk province was managed in the past is already an indication of the Empire’s future.」


The conversation turned into a monologue midway. When he realised that Torway beside him was opening his eyes wide from surprise, Ikuta got back to his senses. He shook his head to expel his thoughts, and Matthew who had finished his greetings just happened to come back.


「I’m done here too. The sun is already that high up, let’s eat at the next place.」


「A wonderful proposal! So Matthew, did you include our lunch inside your bag?」


「Of course not, I was planning to act on my own.」


When he heard this answer, Ikuta looked so depressed that he collapsed onto the neck of the horse. The youth with a slightly bulging build didn’t really care, but still lent a hand.


「… Never mind, the people we are visiting next would probably treat you to a meal. I had been in their care in the past too.」


「Where are we going next, Ma-kun? Another farm house?」


Matthew shook his head and pointed to the north:


「Over there is a factory for woven products. Women who couldn’t protect their farm for various reasons… for example, widows all work there. It’s lunch time, so if we visit…」


「Charge, my lovely stead! Full speed ahead!」


Ikuta didn’t wait for Matthew to finish and gallop on ahead. Older woman and food, these two factors revived him instantly.


「Ah… Ik-kun…?」 「Hey… even if you go first, you don’t know where it is!」


Seeing his figure growing smaller in the distance, Matthew and Torway also quickly push their horses to give chase.






After going north for about ten minutes, the destination appeared before them. It was a short and plain building built with planks. But as they got closer, Matthew’s brow started to furrow.


「…? Ma-kun, there don’t seem to be anyone here?」


Torway pointed out how things felt out of place. This building was very quiet. If there were many people working in there, it was strange for their voices and the sound of them working could not be heard outside.


「Hmm, this is weird. I don’t think they will close the place to rest…」


Matthew tilted his head puzzledly, but still went around to the main entrance of the building. He got off the horse, pushed open the door, and─ not just the workers, there wasn’t any equipment or machinery at all, just a barren place.


「… This… How did...」


Matthew who walked in stood on the spot in a daze. Ikuta who followed surveyed the surroundings.


「Seeing how thick the dust on the floor is, this building wasn’t deserted for just a couple of days. But not to the extent of several years either, probably about two to three months?」


「Even if you say that… there were many people working here.」


The mildly overweight youth couldn’t believe his eyes, and wandered around the building, but there wasn’t anything here. The only thing he could tell was that this factory was an abandoned factory.


With no other choice, the group left the building and wondered what to do. At this moment, the figure of a panting woman entered their field of vision. She was probably in her early thirties? She had a slender build and wore a blue worn out one piece dress, with a small bag on her shoulder. Matthew’s face lit up immediately after seeing that woman.


「… Nee-san! Aren’t you 米妮耶-nee!?」


「Huff… Puff… Ah, it’s really Matthew. I’m glad that I made it, because I saw you riding over…」


「Long time no see. Well, I saw the inside of the factory… What happened? Nobody works there anymore? But why…」


The terribly confused Matthew raised several questions. The woman named 米妮耶 spent some time catching her breath, then answered him:


「… It’s unfortunate, but the factory has closed down. That was two months ago, due to a lack of workers.」


「Lack of workers…? How could that be, there were so many people when I was here, it has always been so lively!」


「In the past three years, our colleagues had resigned one after another. This couldn’t be helped, since the wages here was not enough to live on… there were many who disappeared without saying anything. Only me and a few experienced old ladies stayed until the very end, but we had all gone our separate ways now.」


「Did the wages fall drastically? I knew it was meagre, but it’s not even a living wage…?」


米妮耶 looked at Matthew’s sullen face directly.


「… From your reaction, Matthew hadn’t heard yet, right? Let me tell you everything. The reason we couldn’t live off our wages, isn’t because the pay got cut drastically─」


Her dried lips told them what actually transpired, while Matthew and the three others listened to the detailed contents with stiff expressions.






「─ A heavy poll levy?」


The Princess said with a stern expression. When Matthew and the others returned to the manor in the evening after visiting the locals, they gathered all their comrades into one of their rooms and held a meeting. The agenda was about the shut down of the factory they learned from 米妮耶.


「News of such hardship is too sudden. Has the residents of this province been levied with such heavy taxes that they can’t even eat proper meals?」


Sazarf who was seated on the edge of the bed groaned. As this was a double room, even after bringing three chairs, they were all given to the girls. The boys sat on the two beds that were placed side by side.


「More accurately speaking, this was limited to the women. This 『poll tax』 has nothing to do with economic capability or tax tiers, but a fixed sum on every liable individual. I heard that all the women living in the Ebodolk province had to pay heavy taxes.」


Torway summarized the key points. Ikuta fell back onto a bed and said:


「Simply put, the target demographic for this tax are women. And the tax collection has been incredibly harsh, even forcing those living impoverished lives to the brink.」


「That… That’s strange! I don’t really understand economics, but taxes are levied for the sake of bettering society and make it easier to live in? If the tax collection is making the people starve, then that’s putting the cart in front of the horse!」


Haro objected with furrowed brows. Matthew agreed with her indignant reaction, then crossed his arms and showed a face in deep thought.


「… I went to ask my dad about it just now. He knew about the heavy poll tax levied on the residents, and the closure of that factory… Or rather, the issues related to this heavy taxes is the reason why he is hesitant about leaving the Ebodolk province right now.」


「… I see. I also felt there was something holding him back, so its something like this.」


And this was had in turned bounded them too. The Princess nodded in understanding, and continued:


「─ Since we know there is something obstructing Colonel Mirtog’s path to reassignment, then now isn’t the time to sit around and wait for answers. Furthermore, this problem is related to the governing executives… Looks like the personnel is decided. The only one who can interfere directly with the governance is me.」


After hearing Princess Chamille announced that so determinedly, the gazes of the others fell onto her.


「The executive governing officer of Ebodolk province─ who is the chairperson of the governance executive council, an aristocrat of the Empire, Viscount Thezeni Hamatoll. The enactment or abolishment of all tax related matters are all vetoed by him. If we want to set a target, then we should start from him.」


「That means interfering with the governance of the province, can Your Highness actually do this?」


Yatori asked with concerned, and the Princess didn’t give an immediate reply. She crossed her arms and didn’t give an immediate reply, falling into deep thought.


「… Normally, this will be hard. The governor is an important official appointed by the Emperor to govern the provinces. Although his authority is much more restricted compared to the land lords of the past, but they have free reign to run certain aspects of the government, especially those of tax collection. Even if I tried to interfere with my authority as a royal, I would probably be laughed off. It will be a different matter if there are something I can use as bargaining chips.」


「You mean it’s useless to strongarm him…」


「That can’t be helped. Even a poorly thought up law still have to be respected. If the establishment is overturned because of the words of an influential figure, then the political situation will fall into chaos.」


Princess Chamille placed the order of law as a precondition before evaluating the extent of her abilities.


「It all has to depend on the actual situation─ that’s all I can say now. From what I have heard so far, I don’t think this policy is normal. But the local government has to carry out policies that is best for their own provinces, and can’t be overturned because an outsider came in and overrule them… If we investigate the current situation in the Ebodolk province, we can then understand the intentions of the governor, and if there is room for negotiation. That’s what we need to do first.」


Everyone nodded in agreement to this plan. As this issue happened to be her expertise, the Princess was more driven than usual. Ikuta looked at her from the front, and said in a serious tone:


「… It’s as the Princess says, of everyone here, you are the only one who can negotiate directly with the governor. We will do everything within our means to assist, but the key component will be handled by you.」


「… Yes!」


「It’s great that you understand that. The main character of this plan is you, so please work hard─ and try to let me take it easy on the sidelines.」


After encouraging the Princess, Ikuta laid back down again. Despite looking calm, the Princess felt a little excited─ After all, this is the first time that youth had entrusted something to her.






「First, I want to visit the actual scene. Can you tell me where the problem of this tax would be most prominent?」


The next morning. The group had gathered for breakfast, and the Princess who had spent a lot of time last night thinking about this problem before sleeping raise this topic. Her enthusiasm was clear could be seen clearly on her face.


「… Ah… Oh… Erm, well…」


For some reason, the key personnel Colonel Mirtog was hesitant to speak. The anxious Princess wanted to press him for an answer, but Ikuta spoke as if he was trying to drown out her voice.


「Ara~ the breakfast is marvelous too! Especially this rice congee, it’s very delectable. The rice is brewed with milk and then raisins are added, I have never seen such a cooking method before.」


「Oh, this is a local cuisine. Because it is nutritious and easy to digest, you can eat it even if you don’t have any appetite. When my son stopped being breastfed, we fed him this too.」


The topic was changed really quickly, and the Princess’ request dissipated into thin air.


「There’s no need to bring that up… Hey Ikuta, stop sucking up to my Dad and eat your food. Or else my Mom will keep getting you seconds.」


Matthew said with a sigh. At this moment, Hanna also came in from the kitchen, and added three rather large chunks of sausage into her son’s plate that was almost empty.


「There are still meat, congee and fruits! Eat up, everyone!」


「Ah… No… I’m already…」


The Princess who was almost full wanted to turn her down, but her subtle gestures didn’t get conveyed to the other party. With several thuds, her plates were filled with freshly grilled sausages and reheated vegetables.


「Your Highness is still growing, you won’t get bigger if you don’t take in more nutrition!」


Hanna said as she went around the table and replenish the food on everyone’s plates. The size of the portion made her panic, but Princess Chamille who think that it was proper etiquettes to finish her food could only steel herself and pick up her spoon.






「Ugghh… this hurts…」


As expected, there were quite a few people who couldn’t move because they ate too much. Princess Chamille, Torway and Sazarf laid on the couches on the drawing room, with Yatori tending to the Princess while Haro attended to the other two.


「Your Highness, are you alright? If you feel really unwell, we can let Haro prescribe you some stomach medicine.」


「No… No need, it’s not that serious… But I can’t accept this… Haro and you ate as much as me, right? Aside from me the petite me, two grown men also become like this, so why are you two fine?」


With the Princess looking at her with suspicious eyes, Yatori coughed with an 「Ahem.」nonchalantly, while Haro laughed vaguely with a 「Ahaha」. In other words, that was the reason.


「Yatori and Haro are big eaters. Ahh~ that’s nice.」


Ikuta intentionally said without any tact. He has been stuffing some food from a basket into his mouth since just now. It was a dessert made by deep frying rice and sprinkling it with sugar. It was meant to be eaten as snacks with tea, but Ikuta asked Hanna to give him some.


「I don’t want to hear that from you. You have gone beyond having a big appetite to eating indiscriminately.」


「If you are talking about eating bugs, that’s just the difference in food culture.」


The youth answered confidently. Princess Chamille continued laying down on Yatori’s lap and interjected:


「Solork… why did you interrupt me during breakfast?」


「I’m just smoothing the scenes. Because the Colonel is troubled, and the atmosphere would get awkward if I leave things be.」


「Yes, I noticed your intentions. But I don’t understand what I was doing that troubled the Colonel. He seemed to be really bothered when I asked him to tell me which place is affected by the increase in levy the most─ What’s so inappropriate about asking that?」


When the youth saw the sincere eyes of the Princess who was seeking answers, he stopped eating and turned around. At this moment, Yatori already knew how things would play out, and sighed as she continued watch things unfold. Ikuta started explaining with a smug face:


「You will understand if you follow everything to its logical conclusion─ First, the only problem in Ebodolk province right now is the heavy poll tax levied against women, right?」


「Yes.」


「But in principle, the management of the taxes are done by using families as a unit. I think the Princess already knows this, but do you know the rationale behind this?」


「It’s simply because it’s more effective to do it this way, correct? For example, in a family of four with two parents and two adult children, not everyone can earn enough income. Hence, the most typical situation would be the father who is the pillar of the family will be their primary breadwinner, while the others supplement the family with their earnings, correct? Then the tax collector should do so by using families as a unit— so taxing the income of the father who is the bread winner will be less of a hassle, and minimise mistakes.」


「That is correct. But for the earlier example, the burden of the 『levy imposed specifically on women』 would be shared by both husband and wife, and will be no different from just a simple tax increase.」


「That’s true… At least they won’t be affected too much by the 『levy imposed specifically on women』.」


As expected of Princess Chamille, her speed of understanding things were incredible and praiseworthy. However, some ideas were stuck because of things aside from intelligence. Ikuta slowly showed his malicious face and continued:


「For the women in such families with good income, this tax isn’t too bad. On the flip side, who will be affected the worst by this tax?」


「The first thing that comes to mind is single women. Compared to single men, their choice in career are limited, and their income has the tendency of being low. They had to bear the burden of the tax increase by themselves too.」


「You are right again. In other words, the 『levy imposed specifically on women』 will be most prominent in places where single women are gathered. The weaving factory we visited yesterday fulfilled these conditions, and I can think of a few other workplace where women without families are gathered─ but amongst these answers, there should be a place that is very prominent in scale, correct?」


At this point, everyone aside from the Princess knew the answer. Ikuta noticed this atmosphere, but continued playing dumb and listed out the conditions.


「Since Colonel Mirtog knows about that place, it should be a venue that has deep ties with the military. At the same time, it is of the type that is hard for him to tell the Princess over the dining table—」


「It’s a brothel, Your Highness.」


Yatori cut off Ikuta who was starting to get arrogant and spilled the answer. The youth stood there stiffly as if he was frozen.


「A place where single women gathers, and closely tied to the military that has many single men. It is also an inadequate topic for breakfast. This is the only place that fits all these criterias.」


The Princess got it quickly, and her head that was resting on Yatori’s lap slowly turned red. At the same time, collapsed on his knees with a defeated look.


「Too much… That’s too much… Yatori, you are too mean… I wanted to keep teasing her until everyone aside from the Princess knows the answer before revealing the answer…」


「Since your intentions are so obvious, it is a given that I won’t let you have your way— Your Highness, please don’t mind him. It doesn’t matter even if you didn’t realise the answer.」


Yatori’s quick wittedness minimise the damage, it still had a big impact on the Princess. Seeing her turned silent, the flame-colored hair girl held the Princess’ hand to console her, and looked at the culprit with a cold gaze.


「… Aside from this meaningless bullying, you have some constructive thoughts to share, correct?」


「Yes… Regarding that, since the Princess wants to visit the scene, let’s follow this plan.」


Ikuta recovered from his depression, and sweep his eyes over all his comrades with a hand on his chin.


「As Matthew is the local, he will have to pass… Let’s decide the members with elimination. First will be the ikemen, then Major Sazarf… The two of them and I will go investigate.」


「Ah… Ok─」「No, wait! Don’t agree so hastily, Lieutenant Torway!」


Torway wanted to accept on reflex, but his supervising officer raised a hand in objection.


「… Hey, Lieutenant Ikuta. I might be overthinking this, but from what you are saying, the investigation seems to mean going…」


「If you want to ask me, the place where women spill their secrets most easily is─」


Ikuta didn’t let the Major finish his question, and started to rumble on:


「My immediate answer would be… on the bed.」


「… Huh?」


Torway who was almost as innocent as the Princess finally realized the conclusion he didn’t explain. Ikuta leaned in close to Torway with a malicious smile, then grabbed his quivering shoulders firmly with both hands.


「Hey, ikemen. I heard that just now, you said 『okay』, right?」


「W-Wait! Hold on a minute, Ik-kun…!」


「What’s there to hesitate, the chance for you to use that pretty face of yours is finally here. After all, speaking of brothel, you will have to investigate by infiltration. It’s no big deal, you just need to whisper sweet nothings into their ears, then they will tell you everything on their mind without a second thought. Hehehe… Sigh~ I’m so envious… this is really maddening, damn it ahhh…!」


「Calm… Calm down, Lieutenant Ikuta! At least decide if you want to laugh, cry or get mad!」


Seeing Ikuta shaking Torway’s shoulders hard with a scary expression, Sazarf tried to pull him away frantically. But the youth still clung on stubbornly, and the trash bin thrown by the Princess hit the back of his head.


「Just… Just how vulgar are you…! Who permitted you to do an infiltrating investigation!」


The youth brushed off the rubbish on his head, and smiled boldly.


「Hehe… Those who act according to orders are second rate, and those who don’t need orders to act are first rate. It’s useless to stop me, Princess. I made up my mind, and no matter what sacrifice I have to make, I’m determined to carry out this mission!」


「This… This guy is sick in the head…! He is saying something retarded with such serious eyes…!」


「His goal and his methods have been switched…!」


Matthew and Haro who were standing shoulder to shoulder were completely dumbfounded. Ikuta’s completely shameless attitude threw the entire place into chaos, and the Princess remained adamant in her objection.


「No no no! I won’t allow it! Definitely won’t allow it! No matter what you say, I forbid you!」


「That’s too tyrannical! There are no questions on the effectiveness of an infiltration mission! Princess, do you have any proper reasons to refute this? No you don’t! It’s impossible for there to be any!」


「That… That’s… Basically, Torway isn’t willing! Major Sazarf isn’t too keen either, you are the only one who wants to do it!」


「… Oh? It’s true that these guys look unwilling…」


Ikuta shifted his eyes away from Torway, turned around and looked at his superior officer standing behind him.


「……Major Sazarf. May I ask, do you hate brothels?」


「… Huh? Ah… No… Well...」


「Alright! Being hesitant means the answer is no! As you can see, the Major is willing to go!」


The instant she heard that, Princess Chamille looked at the two men with a gaze below freezing point. She ignored Sazarf’s desperate pleas, and racked her brain to thwart Ikuta’s plans.


「… A replacement plan, if I have a replacement plan, then you won’t have a problem, correct!?」


「Oh? We need to gather intelligence from the brothel, so can you find a replacement that is more effective than infiltrating it, Princess? Interesting? Pray tell us.」


Ikuta asked her, but the Princess didn’t have anything in mind. She kept weighing the chips she had on hand.


「… Funds, if we pay them, we can obtain information from the harlots easily…」


「It’s regrettable, but that’s out of the question. Given the current situation, giving out money freely won’t be more effective, it will draw in more fake news instead.」


Ikuta gave a haughty laughed. The Princess grit her teeth vexingly, but continued thinking. Since money can’t buy intelligence, then they just have to offer something other than money.


「… Instead of money, we just need to appeal to their emotions, is that it?」


「And to achieve our goal, the most effective way is through pillow talk on a bed.」


「There… There’s another way! Human emotions aren’t limited to those between a man and a woman!」


After saying that, the Princess glared intensely at Ikuta. Without even knowing why she was so stubborn about it herself, the young girl didn’t think through it clearly before blurting out the idea that just came to her.






Mactech is situated at the junction between the east west and north south main roads, and was famous as the 「most prosperous city in the Ebodolk province」.


Even though it wasn’t as bustling as the capital Banhataal, there were still plenty of people coming in for the purpose of trading and transporting Kuna rice; more importantly, the public order was very good for a city of this scale. This wasn’t just because of the population density, the Ebodolk province being a prosperous land also reduce the number of people who had to resort to crime out of starvation.


That might be so, the public order definitely didn’t form naturally when the people gathered. When the city was developing, all sorts of problems affecting public order sprung up. One of them were the brothels that existed all over the city when the laws regulating them had yet to take shape.


Having brothels between residential houses and shops caused a lot of commotion between the citizens, such as injuries that arose when adultery was uncovered. But the serious problem was that normal taverns and inns were also forming alliances with the brothels. Some harlots would head to taverns they were familiar with to hook up men, and would rent a room in the nearby inn if she secured a client— In such a way, the various businesses worked together in the pursuit of profits. There were even some who said that the harlots waiting in the brothels for customers were the minority instead.


Where was the boundary of prostitution and normal business operations? How could harlots be differentiated from other women? The men were confused. If they got laid without completely understanding the situation, there might be misunderstandings.


An example would be something like this. One morning, a man who hooked up with a woman in a tavern and spent the night with her. When she woke up, the woman was gone and his wallet was cleaned out. The man who realised his money was stolen while he was sleeping searched for the woman in a rage, and found that woman at the tavern they met the day before and flirting with other men.


「You damn broad, how dare you lie to me and steal my money!」 The woman retorted coldly:「What foolery are you saying? I let you enjoy for a night, so of course I took the money I deserved!」──That’s right, this woman was actually a prostitute.


In the end, both sides refused to back down. The man claims he 「never intended to use money to buy a woman」, so it was unreasonable to force him to pay; the woman insisted that 「she attended to the man as a prostitute」, so receiving payment was only right. Even though whether the 「woman informed the other party she was a harlot before committing the act」 turned into a point of contention, it was just an argument of his words versus her words since no one else aside from the two subjects knew the truth. If this sort of argument gets escalated, they might turn to a third party that uses violence, the mafia, to resolve the issue.


If such incidents keep happening, the men wouldn’t dare to flirt with the women easily, and the harlots have to worry about customers being too scared to visit. Worst of all, the mafia would start get a pimp cut of their income. Feeling that this wasn’t sustainable, some of the brothel owners discuss this issue with one of their main clients in the past, the Ebodolk province garrisoned army. And the commander at that time was of course, the head of the Tetzirich house.


After learning the troubles of the business owners, the Tetzirich head thinks that with the huge increase of brothels, there were a need to manage them. He concluded that the brothels should be moved to a certain restricted zone with the approval of the government and the protection of the army. After planning out the specifics, he proposed his idea to the governor of the province. As this would ensure a new tax avenue, the official back then gladly approved of the plan.


And so, renowned in the Empire for its scale─ the red-light district of Mactech city was born.






「Okay okay! Stop dazing off! The exhibition time will start in another hour! Natiki, Srinka, put on your make up too!」


This was the room where the harlots waiting to be called used for preparations. A short man shouted in a shrill voice as he walked past. The harlots answered him without much enthuse as they focused on themselves through the mirror.


「Okay okay~... Ah, Srinka, can you pass me that essential oil?」


「Rose oil? Or sage plant oil?」


「I want the sage plant oil… Say, don’t you think the manager seemed very hysterical?」


「Because two more people flown off last week~ He probably got scolded by the higher-ups. How self-centered, the ones who are doing the work is us~」


She watched the manager left the preparation room cheerfully with scornful eyes, the harlot with the longer face named Srinka snorted. The Natiki who was a bit older expressed her agreement, and covered the wrinkles in the corner of her eyes with powder.


「But it’s true that we can’t make a living if we don’t work hard, the tax will squeeze us dry.」


「That’s right~ I can make do with just three generous regulars in the past, but we need five now.」


「That’s why we can’t survive if we don’t make more deals. I even want to leave the man to sleep after doing the deed, and take on another customer.」


「Ahaha! Well said!」


When the two ladies who had finished their makeup and were picking accessories, the sound of the door chime came from the corridor. There was still some time before they were opened for business, but some impatient customer were already here.






「Ah~ I’m sorry, dear customers. We are still in the midst of preparation, please come back in about an hour—」


The manager tended to the visitor with a smiling face, but frowned at the sight he saw after opening the door. There were two neatly dressed youth standing side by side, and one of them was very handsome too— That was all good, but the problem is the tag-along who didn’t belong here.


「… Ah~dear customers, this place is… basically a venue for adults to socialize, so bringing a child with you is…」


The manager didn’t hold back and observed the young girl who was pulling back her shoulders and wearing a plain milk white short sleeve dress. She looked about 12 to 13, and her voluminous blonde hair was tied up behind her in a ponytail. She didn’t wore any accessories, and from her dressing, her family didn’t seem very well off. However, she had very beautiful facial features.


「… Ah, you want to sell this girl? If yes, please come by the back door—」


「No, that’s not it.」


The dark haired youth said. Compared to the stiff-faced pretty boy and the little girl, this youth acted very naturally.


「We have our reasons, actually… We are looking for the mother of this girl.」


「Huh?」


「I’m just accompanying her, but please hear me out. This girl is born in Mactech, and has been working in this chap’s house as a maid for the past two years. As a reward for her hard work, she was granted a long leave for the first time. That’s why this girl asked this chap who has business in Mactech to bring her along, so she can see her mother again after such a long time. However…」


The youth sighed and shrug in front of the troubled manager.


「How pitiful! Even though she visited her old home, the girl’s mother is nowhere to be found. We heard that she got evicted because she can’t pay the rent. After that, we heard rumours had fallen to working in the red-light district during our search for her.」


The manager finally understood the situation, and the raven haired youth leaned in close:


「Please, just a short while will be enough, can you let this girl see the harlots working here? Even if her mother isn’t here, there might be someone who knows, so let us talk to them for a bit…」


「No, I’m sorry to say this, but we are busy preparing for the shop’s opening…」


「Of… Of course, I’m not asking you to help us free of charge!」


After the manager spoke as if he was going to turn them down, the youth anxiously took out his purse. He then picked out three silver coins, and after thinking about it for a moment, he kept one of it and shoved two of the coins into the manager’s hand.


「Please consider it in exchange for this…! We won’t disrupt your preparation work, and will leave before the shop opens!」


「P… Please!」「Please help us!」


The pretty boy and little girl also pleaded sincerely alongside the black haired youth. Lowering their heads and pleading others for help just for the sake of a mere maid, so there were great masters like that in the world too— the manager thought as he put the coins into his pocket.






「… You must leave after thirty minutes.」


Princess Chamille followed the manager into the brothel, and by using Torway who was between her and the manager, she whispered to the other youth.


「… I thought you can only collect false information if you throw around money?」


「This isn’t payment for the information, but compensation for causing them trouble. And I also acted as if my funds are limited, so that manager and the others won’t think that they can get any money from us. If anyone who heard that story tries to be pushy and sell us 『information about the mother』 we can just ignore them.」


「That might be so… but that manager didn’t look like he was moved at all.」


「Of course, this don’t matter much to him after all… And Princess, your acting is really lousy, you should say 『please, I beg you good sir, help us』 instead of 『Please help us』, right? Pull yourself together, this is your plan after all, Your Highness.」


「S-Sorry… I was careless… I will be more careful.」


The Princess showed her serious face after saying that, but neither she nor Torway were good at acting. However, Ikuta’s covered for their stiff acting with his brazen attitude.


「This is the preparation room before the harlots head to the exhibition area─ Hey, it’s me, I’m going in!」


The manager announced before opening the door, and there were more than ten gaudily dressed women putting on makeup and picking out accessories. They were all dressed, but some of them had exposed their skin to put on perfume, which made Torway hesitate from stepping in.


「This little girl wants to find her mother who seemed to be working in the red-light district. If you are the mother, then raise your hand and admit it; if not, tell them what you do know.」


After the manager said the main points, he left immediately. The gazes of the harlots all fell on the three who were left behind. Very soon, the women who were interested left their seats and approached them.


「Hmm? What? What’s going on here? You are looking for the mother of this child?」


「She looked about twelve or thirteen? That’s pretty old… So Srinka, she’s your kid, right?」


「I have never abandoned any child I bore…. And Yumi, come over here and let me punch you!」


「Erm, don’t you think the taller boy looks really handsome? That’s a rarely seen high standards, he is making my heart race!」


When the first one got the ball rolling, the other harlots also joined in quickly. Before long, Princess Chamille and Torway were overwhelmed by this atmosphere, and only Ikuta remained at ease and started getting down to business.


「Good day, ladies. My apologies for intruding on your precious preparation time, but we have our own troubles too─」


After opening his speech with that, Ikuta explained the situation with much more emotions than the manager, and no matter how one diced it, it was already a 「story」. When Ikuta spent almost 5 minutes to explain the entire matter, some of the harlots were tearing up to this fictional script.


「Boohoo… Is that so… Chammy-chan has a hard life…」


「Here here, this candy is for you.」


Her father went missing shortly after her birth, and in order to help her alcoholic mother, she started working in a kitchen of a restaurant when she was eight. But she couldn’t keep up with the expenses, and went to work in a rich family far away as a maid some time later. She was bullied by mean seniors there too, and after enduring harsh conditions, she continued sending more than half her pay to her mother— Ikuta told the harlots the girl’s tale. Anyway, through this sad story filled with hardship, Ikuta succeeded in earning the unconditional sympathy of the harlots towards the Princess… No the impoverished but strong willed girl Chammy.


「Thank… Thank you…」


Princess Chamille took the candy from a harlot and a sense of guilt welled up within her. She felt it was despicable to gain the sympathy of others by using a fictional tale.


「… I… heard that times are tough lately for everyone working in the red-light district… If my mother is really working here, I don’t know if she can make a living…」


The Princess suppressed her feelings of self-loath, then proceeded as planned to find out the effect of the taxes on the workers in the red-light district. The harlots all frowned and groaned.
「Hmm~… Since Chammy-chan is at this age, that means your mother is above 30? I don’t want to say this, but it will be tough for her to survive in the current red-light district…」


「Because you can get more customers when you are young. There are those who work past their twenties, but starting out in her thirties is a little bit… Leaving other things aside, just the incredibly high taxes will eat up a lot of her income.」


「By the way, one of our colleagues who flown last month was almost 40… I heard she went to the neighbouring province.」


One of the harlots suddenly muttered, which caught the Princess’ attention.


「What do you mean by 『flown』?」


「… It’s a term used in this industry, meaning running away in the middle of the night because of debt. It might sound uncomfortable, but this isn’t that rare, and happens more often after the tax increase. Every month… No, when it is really bad, I think someone will disappear every week…」


「Where do the woman who has flown go?」


「It differs from person to person, but leaving the province is the more basic choice, as the debtors won’t be able to find them.」


「But migrating to another province requires permission from the authorities, if they migrated without permission, they would find it hard to find a job or do anything in that new place. However, it’s hard to imagine permits being issued to people who are embroiled in financial troubles...」


As she was focusing on her thoughts, Princess Chamille started talking in her usual tone, and the harlots all looked at her with dumbfounded faces. After a long while, the Princess realised she was letting up her disguise, but the harlots seemed very impressed instead.


「I don’t understand what you are saying at all…. Chammy-chan knows some very difficult terms~」


「Yes… She was thought to read and write after coming to my place, this girl is very outstanding…」


Torway who was surrounded by the harlots like a mosquito trap started sweating profusely, but he still tried to cover for the Princess. If they spent too much time here, they might blow their cover─ with that in mind, Ikuta decided to look for a chance to leave.


「Ara~ Thank you everyone for your information. It will be troubling if we intrude on you for too long, so it’s about time for us to leave. If there are any leads on her mother, please send someone to this inn.」


Ikuta handed a slip of paper with their address to a harlot, then signaled to the other two with a look.


「Huh, you are leaving already? I’m sorry we weren’t much help, Chammy-chan.」


「No, it’s alright… You have been a big help, thank you everyone for sharing your valuable information with me.」


The Princess bowed her head low in thanks, and said the only truthful thing during this hypocritical episode. Even though the trio had already walked far down the corridor, the harlots continued waving at them.






They then spent three whole days investigating the red-light district of Mactech before returning to the Tetzirich manor.


It was inevitable that Princess Chamille would get tired as she wasn’t used to putting on an act. However, Torway was even more exhausted than her. He suffered a lot during these three days as he lacked immunity towards women.


「Anyway, we finally have a rough gauge on the situation of the harlots.」


Ikuta who was seated on the bed reported. They all gathered in a room to hold their conference.


「I see… As for us, we went to ask the garrisoned soldiers. As expected, a lot of them are anguished over the current situation, as their favoured harlots had all fled by night.」


「Their grumbles probably reached my Dad that way. For the soldiers who are single, their monthly visits to the brothels are like the oasis for their mind, so this isn’t a laughing matter to them.」


Sazarf and Matthew started pondering, and the two ladies who stayed behind with them expressed their opinions.


「I have also asked the views of the unwed female soldiers. It might sound strange, but their reaction aren’t as big as the men. Because they are guaranteed bed, lodging and meals if they stayed with the unit.」


「But no one liked the tax increase. After all, the money they can send home has decreased…」


Haro probably thought about her family back at home, and looked a little melancholic. After listening to their report, Ikuta said to Princess Chamille:


「The situation seems really clear. What do you want to do, Princess?」


「Hmm… The most prominent effect of the tax increase is still the harlots going missing.」


The Princess groaned, then placed her hand on her chin and pondered. She felt a sense of dissonance that she couldn’t shake off.


「No matter what, I have personally observed the situation in the red-light district. I will need to visit the source to investigate any further.」


Aside from Ikuta, the other five all had serious expressions. The Princess thought─ even though the obstacles were still there, they had cleared a small path, so it was time to strike at the heart of the matter.


「Make the preparations, I want to visit the governor of the Ebodolk province, Thezeni Hamatoll.」






Princess Chamille intentionally didn’t give any advance notice, and aside from Sazarf who would hold the fort, the other five members of the Knight Corps visited the government office staffed by many employees in a manner similar to a sneak attack.


「Please… Please wait…!」


The staff at the counter pushed the responsibilities of tending to their visit to each other, and this confused reaction was only natural. However, right until the moment the unexpected guest arrived, the table which was surrounded by the group had other issues.


「… I’m shocked, to actually gamble on snakes and ladders so brazenly during working hours.」


The Princess looked at the square board with boxes drawn on it and the dices around the table and sighed… The surprised visit was meant to catch the governor off guard, they had no intentions of inspecting the work of the staff.
「Forget it, this is probably the norm. This is probably one of the better places since I don’t see any alcohol.」


Ikuta answered with a yawn, and Princess Chamille could only grit her teeth as the reality proved that she couldn’t refute his words. Before even meeting the governor, her mood was started to worsen.


「─ The Third Princess! Ara, my apologies for the poor reception…!」


After being brought to the meeting room for about five minutes, the governor of the Ebodolk province, Viscount Thezeni Hamatoll appeared before the group. The high ranking administrative official who was over 50 years old and had a fat figure apologized for welcoming the Princess so late, and kept wiping his forehead with a handkerchief.


「I should be apologizing for the sudden visit, you must be very busy.」


「No no! If I know that the Princess is honouring us with a visit, I will push all matters aside and rush over! Please don’t doubt the loyalty of your humble servant!」


It seemed that he made full use of the five minutes before he came in to prepare his face and his pleasantries. Princess Chamille and Hamatoll who was all smiles sat opposite each other at the table. Ikuta and the others who were here as her escorts continued standing behind the Princess as they went into the main topic.


「I’m here today to clarify some matters.」


「Yes! Do ask away.」


「Well, I heard that the Ebodolk province has imposed a heavy poll tax targeted towards women.」


She made the first move. The Princess observed Hamatoll for any reaction, but his smile remained unmoved.


「Yes, this province is adjusting our tax collection in such a way. May I ask if there are any issues with that?」


「I want to know how did things evolved into such a stage? After all, I’m not very familiar with the situation in the Ebodolk province.」


「Yes, then may I assume you are here to conduct an inspection?」


「There is no need to be so formal. It’s just my personal interest.」


It was obviously a superficial excuse, even the Princess herself thought it sound that way. The governor began with an 「Umm」.


「How did things evolved into such a stage….? Well, where should I start…」


「The reason for the increase in taxes and the means of collecting them. Please explain in detail in such that order.」


「Thank you for your kind instructions. Then let me start with the reason— the harvest of the main agricultural product of the Ebodolk province, the 『Kuna rice』, has been poor for the past 3 years.」


「Since the harvest is poor, isn’t the norm to reduce the tax collection?」


「No, the situation for Kuna rice is a bit different. The taxation system for the Ebodolk province is generally collected in the form of money, and only some of the crops could be submitted directly as tax. And Kuna rice is the exception to these crops, because the amount it is taxed─ which is its tax rate is set rather high.」


「I see, it means we don’t collect tax from farmers in the form of money, but rice. But the poor harvest of the Kuna rice meant that they had to pay tax in cash instead, leading to a fall in tax collected?」


「Yes, for the Kuna rice, we have already secured the means to sell them for a high price after collection, so for me, collecting tax in the form of goods is better than collecting money. The tax rates were set with this in time; however, the poor Kuna rice harvest resulted in monetary collection becoming the norm. So there is a need to readjust the collection rates.」


Which meant that they were dependent on collecting crops as taxes, and earn money by reselling the Kuna rice at a high price. This reason sounded convincing.


「Then next is the method of increasing taxes… As your highness already knows, I used the method of increasing taxes on women. However, since taxes are collected with a family as a unit, then you should understand that this is no different than a simple increase in taxes. This is done out of a sense of 『fairness』, since the taxes imposed on men is higher.」


「What about the extra burden imposed by this policy onto women living by themselves?」


「Imposing taxes on singles without any family has always troubled me… There are many people without fix jobs or even homes, so there are many cases of tax evasions. Although we had never expected such people to be a healthy source of tax income, but you can say that this is the result of the negative influence from the past.」


「But I have also heard that this policy resulted in single women migrating to another province.」


At this instant, Hamatoll’s face twitched, and the Princess didn’t miss that.


「Thank you for your kind advice. There might be a need for us investigate and take action.」


His wavering expression was gone in a flash, and the governor quickly concealed his emotions behind his politeness. But right after he finished talking, the Princess tried probing again.


「I also want to ask about the detail behind the poor harvest of the Kuna rice.」


「Like I mentioned earlier, the harvest for the past three years had fallen drastically…」


「As all the provinces submit a summary of the main crops that had been harvested, I also know about that. But what’s the reason behind the poor harvest?」


「This probably isn’t the only reason… But it seemed to be the adverse effect of insufficient rainfall.」


「From the numbers, that appears to be so. But, regarding that…」


The Princess said as she pulled out several pieces of folded paper, which she then opened and laid out on the table. The papers were full of numbers.


「This is the rainfall records of the various provinces in the south of the Empire for the past two decades. It’s just as you say, the numbers for the Ebodolk province has fallen drastically for the past three years. However, there are a few weird things.」


「You are referring to…?」


「Look at the numbers for the neighbouring Kuntsui province. The east of the Kuntsui province shares a border with the Ebodolk province, but its rainfall didn’t change significantly for the past twenty years. It’s the same for the other neighbouring provinces. The only place that is seeing less rain is Ebodolk province.」


「That’s the problem with weather, I think such a situation is very possible.」


「Indeed, the weather seems unpredictable at times. However, with enough records, we can tell that the mood of the weather has a fixed tendency. What I mean is— aside from the past three years, the amount of rainfall in the Ebodolk province has never been less than that of the Kuntsui province.」


「Erm…」


「And this isn’t just for the past twenty years, but the conclusion I got by studying similar weather records for the past 82 years. Take a look at this paper, there are too many numbers, so I omitted the other provinces aside from the Ebodolk and Kuntsui provinces…」


「Please… Please wait, Your Highness, hold on for a while.」


Hamatoll interrupted the Princess with a troubled face.


「Pardon me, but where did these numbers come from? Even this government office don’t have records that goes back 82 years…」


「…? I’m just referencing the documentation kept in the Empire’s central library.」


「Then, did you copied these numbers down from the library before leaving central?」


「No, I wrote them after coming here.」


Their conversation seemed a little misaligned, which confused the governor even more. However, what Princess Chamille said next crush all these emotions.


「I browse through the records in central in the past, then just recall the necessary parts and wrote them down. Did I mention anything that is hard to understand?」


Even the members of the Knight Corps behind the Princess felt a chill─ the amount of rainfall of the southern provinces dating back twenty years, and the rainfall of the Ebodolk and Kuntsui province for the past 82 years. The Princess claimed that she had at least memorized all the numbers that matched these two conditions.


「Ha... Haha…」


Hamatoll showed an awkward smile, but Ikuta who was behind the Princess noticed that the air about the Viscount had obviously changed. At this moment, the governor stopped what the girl before him was doing.


「─ Such a situation isn’t impossible either. If we continue our observations, there would be a day when a day with such unprecedented weather happens again. And the Ebodolk province just happened to experience such a period for the past three years.」


The Viscount with a perfect poker face used coincidence as his shield, and fended off all allegations. Everything was blamed on the everchanging weather— if he continued to say that, the Princess wouldn’t have any way to defeat this excuse. No matter how many numbers there were, a past record was just a past record.


Knowing that this was the time to stop, Princess Chamille switched the topic, and only engaged in idle chatter. Even though the Viscount maintained his humble demeanor, the wariness in his eyes never waned.


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