Saturday, June 8, 2019

Alderamin on the Sky Volume 7 (2 of 7)

Translator: Skythewood
Editor: Hiiro

In the south of the Dafuma Province where the search team of the three units had congregated. At a quiet corner of the forest, where a secluded village lies.

In the deepest level of the village that lies in darkness, Ikuta and Princess Chamille was facing the worst minister in the history of the Empire.

「You actually pulled this stupid plan off.」

The youth said with a shrug. The fox in front of him rolled his eyes:

「── Ara, what are you talking about?」

Trisnai pretended to be retarded, and Ikuta continued calmly:

「… The Igsem, Remeon faction and our Rising Sun Regiment. The Imperial Army had split into three sides and clashed in their search for the Emperor. Thinking back, doesn’t the circumstances leading to this situation stink of a guided intervention?

First of all, the one who issued the edict to take back the Hiored Ore Mines── is you, Trisnai. As a result, we started another war before the Empire can recover from the Northern unrest. With the unit from the former Eastern Stronghold as the core, an army was put together, and our 『Knight Corp』 were sent together to the battlefield… Just doing that was annoying enough.」

The youth stopped for a moment, then fidget his arm that wasn’t holding the Princess’ hand, trying to relax his tensed muscles.

「From the perspective of a high ranking officer, the decision to raise morale with our presence made sense. We were given the title of 『Imperial Knights』 for that purpose. It wasn’t our intention, but our performance in the northern territory also increased our fame. This was the best way to spur the rank and file.

But what if we only consider the decisions made by Field Marshal Igsem and General Remeon?── From that angle, there are many things that didn’t make sense. First of all, the Field Marshal won’t send the Princess to the frontlines. He will definitely avoid sending a royal into danger, and at best, will arrange for her to be back end support. Or rather, for personnel like us that does more good in a nominal role than actual combat effectiveness, this would be the norm.

Next is General Remeon. Since Torway is with us, his decision appears even more strange. Normally, he will recall his son before staging the coup. As the leader of his faction, he will want as many comrades as possible, even more so since he is a parent.」

Ikuta felt his mind churning with his words and analysis. He had to go at his own pace, and take the initiative in the conversation with his glib of tongue.

「With that in mind, it was clear to us that the Hiored Ore Mines campaign army wasn’t arranged by Field Marshal Igsem and General Remeon. So why were they forced to make these decisions against their wishes? It is easier to explain by putting the question another way── Who has the authority to override the decisions of the two head honchos of the Imperial Army?」

After listing everything that seems wrong, Ikuta asked his opponent this question.

「There is only one answer, the Emperor. Or the fox who is pulling the strings from behind── Hey, Trisnai. In your edict to take back the Hiored Ore Mines, you included the 『Knight Corp』 and Princess in very direct and unequivocal terms, right?」

Even after the youth pointed that out, the Chancellor’s smile remained unchanged. He rubbed his palms together and said:

「What good will doing that do for me?」

「Since the way you weigh things aren’t normal, there is no point in debating whether it benefits you. I’m just pointing out how that edict created this laughable situation.」

Ikuta cut off his opponent quickly, and continued:

「You are the one who ordered the retaking of the Hiored Ore Mines. Shortly after the campaign started, General Remeon staged his coup. The Igsem faction’s forces was diminished because of the campaign, so he judged that this was a good chance── falling right into your trap.」

The youth delved into the truth, and his blade of analysis gradually unveiled the entirety of Trisnai’s plan.

「The one who wanted the campaign, and gave the order. Given how elusive you were after the coup, it was clear that you expected the coup to happen. It was clear at this juncture── General Remeon’s coup is instigated by you.」

Ikuta reached his first conclusion from his deductions. Seeing his opponent didn’t react as he expected, he started going for his second point:

「… And that isn’t all.

Thinking back, the decision to hand us over to the Navy was probably the best arrangement Field Marshal Igsem could make without going against the edict. If your instructions was 『commit the Knight Corp to the very fore of the frontlines』, then we will have to travel by land and take part in battles. But if we take the sea route, we will at least be treated as 『guests』 during our journey there, which will keep us away from harm.」

The youth snorted, and put his palm on his forehead:

「Sigh, we were being nosy ourselves too, but that arrangement worked against us instead… In any case, we reached the mines safely. With the encirclement of the enemy completed, we weren’t given any dangerous tasks. Compared to the Northern unrest, this was much better. As I was thinking about that and probing the pretty white boy from Kioka… We learned about the news of the coup.」

His tone sounded bitter, and the fox deepened his smile:

「If I knew a coup might happen, I would have made some preparations. But that is still limited to what I can do, so in the great scheme of things, I had to be more conservative── but when it actually did happen, the situation was too good to be true. I had the Third Princess to back me up, and the commander of the campaign force was an old acquaintance, Major General Saba, and his subordinates were all officers associated to the 『Rising Sun Regiment』. As if the situation was begging me to create my own faction.

I’m woefully lacking in religious faith, and couldn’t accept that all these was pure coincidence.」

Ikuta stared at the culprit before him with obvious hostility:

「I can say for certain that like General Remeon’s coup, the revival of the 『Rising Sun Regiment』 was something you planned and hope for── you manipulated me, fox.」

With a burning rage in his abdomen, the dark haired youth stated his second conclusion. A short while later, Trisnai stopped rubbing his palms and started clapping:

「Fu- Fufufufu…! Well done, that’ more like it…!」

His quiet laughter echoed in the darkness. The fox’s mask-like smile turned rosy, which made him even creepier. The youth could feel Princess Chamille’s right hand trembling. Ikuta gripped tightly as if he was dispelling her fear, then said:

「… Ever since we saw each other during Lieutenant General Safida’s court martial, I thought you might see through my real identity. I tried to conceal it by using Major Sazarf as a front, but my position was still prominent, and I couldn’t hide entirely behind him.」

「That’s right, that’s right── I could smell it after that Major made his proposal for the aftermath of the war. The nostalgic smell of that man. I will never miss that… And now, you are giving out the exact same scent.」

「Maybe I should wear some cologne? Unfortunately, I have no intentions of dressing up for you at all. I’m the one who wants to pinch my nose.」

The youth said as he pinched his nose for real. Even in the face of that reaction, Trisnai just smiled at him happily. This feels like a conversation with some sort of monster or devil── even though that isn’t scientific, Ikuta couldn’t help thinking.

「In any case… The Imperial Army is now in the dire state of being divided into three factions as you wanted. With the Emperor missing, back then, no one knew how things would go. The chances of us reaching first is not high at all. So don’t even try to claim that you expected this to happen.」

When Ikuta pointed that out, Trisnai nodded relaxly:

「That’s right, I couldn’t tell that far. I was merely hoping. Hoping while I stirred the pot and brew war. If it is you, there might be a chance. If it was the son of Bada Sankrei── that’s how it is.」

When he said the name of the late hero, Trisnai’s face showed a strange obsession. Ikuta felt too creeped out to analyze that emotion, and spoke as if he was chasing away a chill:

「This is the result of your irresponsible cooking. Are you happy to see us struggling painfully in the stew?」

「Fufufu…! Indeed, the ingredients are fresher and stronger than I imagined, it will be troubling if they jumped out of the pot. I was wondering if I should increase the intensity of the fire.」

They then stopped speaking and just glared at each other. Seeing their back and forth had ceased, Princess Chamille mustered her courage and interjected:

「… You are still a first rate clown. There is no point behind your act now. Stop hiding things and state your intentions. What do you want?」

In response to her question, Trisnai’s narrow eyes turned to the Princess, as if he was elated at finding a new prey:

「Fufu…? Instead of asking me, shouldn’t you ask yourself? Third Princess Chamille Kitra Katjvanmaninik.」

「… What do you mean?」

「Stop your facade. I mean that this situation is exactly what you are yearning for. You understand too, right? All the necessary conditions are in place.」

Trisnai said with his arms open. That obvious temptation made Princess Chamille frown:

「… After being forced to the brink, you are trying to get on my good side now? I thought I already know about your corrupted nature, but you are really frivolous── Dear uncle.」

When he heard that term, Ikuta glanced at the Princess. The girl was still glaring at Trisnai and explained calmly:

「This rumor is often brought up in the palace… Trisnai Izanma was born to a mid class noble house, but if you check his history, his mother gave birth to him in her fifties. I won’t say that is impossible── but according to the testimony from back them, his mother in name, Hatarifa Izanma, didn’t show any signs of pregnancy.」

The fox listened quietly to the Princess. Even when the topic touched on the question of his birth, he didn’t waver at all.

「There are also questions on how he got so close to the Emperor. He didn’t achieve anything outstanding as a bureaucrat, but Trisnai and the reigning Emperor had known each other even before he became Chancellor. It couldn’t be explained away with bribes. The Izanma house’s financial prowess is top of the mid tier at best, and there are plenty of houses richer than them.」

Princess Chamille stopped here for a moment, casting her gaze to Trisnai’s side── where the bandaged Emperor was lying.

「… Before he was coronated, the Emperor was just one of numerous Princes. Since he couldn’t completely trust anyone around him, that person laying over there── the young Arshankrut Kitra Katjvanmaninik was probably very lonely. It was a common problem for all royals, as finding a sincere friend was rare. Commoners can rely on their family, but for royals can’t relax around their siblings. Life in the palace is a fight for the right of succession── where brothers often kill each other.」

The girl spoke from her own experience. She knew better than anyone how twisted the environment of a royal was.

「In this confined environment, his solitude must be growing stronger with time. As his suspicion grew wider and wider, the urge to have someone who he could relate to by his side will grow stronger. And then── what if such an exception appears? Someone with the same blood, but is just a lowly bureaucrat without any backing, and fated to be excluded from the line of succession. If he met someone like that, wouldn’t it be only natural to want that person to stay by his side?」

Solitude also presented an opening. After digesting what she just said, Ikuta asked quietly:

「… So that exception inherited the bloodline of the Eternal Sprite Tree, but isn’t a royal?」

「The Emperor has to be perfect. His bloodline must be untainted. A contradiction that arises from the delusion of nobility. Solork, you should be able to guess what will happen to a royal that has an obvious flaw at birth.」

After saying that coldly, the Princess pointed at the person before them:

「They will be wiped from existence. Just like him.」

Trisnai squinted his eyes. He seemed really happy, like a father watching the growth of his child.

「Your intellect is proof that you have inherited the royal bloodline. Chamille the wise── my cute niece.」

As he was being watched, the fox pulled up his kiaki shirt and undershirt, revealing his body, making the youth and the Princess gasp. His bones were deformed. Several ribs on his chest were twisted or missing, and the middle of his chest was obviously sunken in.

The most serious of all was his heart. His heart that should be protected deep within his ribs could be seen through thumping through a thin layer of flesh and skin.

「I had no intention of hiding this from the start. This is the secret that the royals is adamant on hiding, but isn’t a weakness for me. I’m even happy that you acknowledge that we are related by blood.」

「Is inheriting this bloodline something to be happy about…? We can’t understand each other after all.」

Ignoring the Princess’ comment, Trisnai put down his clothes. His strange skeletal structure was completely conceal. In order to hide his silhouette, he seemed to have some sort of fillings in his clothes.

After seeing the truth, Princess Chamille sighed deeply:

「I can only make deductions about the past, but it has been proven now. He was the second son of the previous Emperor── and the younger brother of the reigning Emperor… However, he can’t be entered into the royal family registry.」

「So he can’t revert back to being a royal?」

「There is no way. The royal family law states that all royals must meet with the Emperor’s personal sprite within one month of their birth, and joins the royal family registry through this process. But Trisnai didn’t have the chance, and unlike royals who had been removed from the royal family registry as punishment for scandals, he was never in the registry in the first place. He can’t recover this right.」

Princess recited from her memory. Ikuta nodded and look at the fox:

「Which means… the highest position you can achieve is the Imperial Chancellor, Trisnai? If you can’t accept this, then you will have to find another path towards building an Empire, but that’s not your goal, right?」

The youth said half seriously, but evoked a big reaction. Trisnai furrowed his brow, and showed a sincere look of regret:

「What an impudent thing to say, Sankrei. Isn’t truth obvious to everyone? Aside from the Eternal Sprite Tree, there are no other orthodox Empire in the world. All other nations are insignificant.」

When he heard Trisnai’s passionate declaration, it was the youth’s turn to frown:

「… You want to talk about the orthodox right of rule? After turning the Emperor into your puppet, and making a mess of this country by abusing your power?」

「It’s regrettable that you think that. I’m telling the truth, no one loves the Empire more than me.」

「Hey, you can say what you want, but do it in a language I understand.」

Ikuta snorted, as if to show that he was out of ideas. Their conversation paused for a moment, and the fox turned to the Princess:

「Princess Chamille, you pointed me out as a royal that was wiped from existence── but do you know, you almost ended up the same way?」

An ominous light shone from his narrow eyes. The Princess backed away unconsciously, and asked:

「… What did you say?」

「It happened at Your Highness’ birth. As the fourteenth child of the reigning Emperor, you were born as the Fifth Princess. As you know, two of your elder sisters died within three years, and you were elevated to the Third Princess. Don’t you find it terrifying?」

「… I heard the struggle for the line of succession was very intense back then. Aside from paintings, I had never seen my sisters. However… I heard that the both of them died of unnatural death.」

「The elder one was strangled in her chambers. The younger died in terrible pain from poison in her food. During the same period, one of the Princes went missing. It was no exaggeration to say that all royals in the palace lived in fear of being murdered.」

「I can imagine that. I don’t deny that I was on the same perilous path.」

「No, that’s not what I meant. Your first crisis wasn’t life in the palace, but even earlier── when you were just born.」

There was a gloom in Trisnai’s voice. She knew she shouldn’t listen, but the Princess still perked up her ears:

「Back then, the Emperor was sadden by the heated power struggle between his children. The fight for the right of succession was closely related to the backings of powerful nobles, and even the Emperor couldn’t stop them. The Princes had already lost the heart to heed their father’s advice, and His Majesty felt annoyed at the sight of his own scions── as the mental state of the Emperor fell into this terrible state, you were born.」

Trisnai said with a sigh. Ikuta nodded at his pretentious actions. He witnessed countless drama throughout his years in the palace, including the birth of Princess Chamille.

「He didn’t want more Princes or Princesses. Even with that thought, he didn’t stop summoning women into his chambers every night, which was something His Majesty would do. Only when he was playing with his concubines, did he felt in absolute control. In other words, the Emperor was only after the pleasure of the flesh── and wasn’t interested in the consequences of his action. No, he hated it.」

Realizing halfway that the contents would be horrible, Ikuta went around the Princess’ back and covered her ears. Trisnai smiled at the sight of that, and increased his volume:

「That was why, when I reported news of your birth to His Majesty, he ordered angrily──」

The fox stuck out his tongue with his hands on his neck, and said with all the malicious feelings in his heart:

「『I don’t want her. Strangle her and throw her away!』」

The impact went through the youth’s palms and shook Princess Chamille’s entire body. Before she could recover, Trisnai continued:

「His Majesty was serious when he said that. Normally, the Emperor’s will wouldl be carried out before the baby was bathed for the first time── But since Your Highness is standing here, it is obvious that didn’t happen. Hey, do you know why?」

Ikuta hugged the Princess’ head tightly and shouted: 「Shut up!」. Treating that admonishment as a cheer, the fox continued talking:

「I was the one who persuaded His Majesty. I pleaded him to calm down, and accept the birth of the Princess── Do you understand? You are only standing here because I saved you!」

Hard to accept facts came one after another, as the Princess’ turned blank from the horror.

「Cute Chamille, smart Chamille. That’s not the only time I saved you. How else could a child survive in a hellish environment where even her own father detest her? To spare you from being harmed by your siblings, and not become a puppet of the nobles, I used all means available to me. Handing you to Kioka was one such methods. I bestowed you value as a political hostage, and kept you away from the succession war.」

Trisnai kept boasting his contributions as he looked at the Princess with passionate eyes. There was even something akin to love in his eyes.

「Do you understand now? I have no intention of currying favor with you. I don’t have to do that to be your guardian, you must realize what I’m after and realize my wishes. That is only natural, since I have given you so much!」

Princess Chamille started quivering. Ikuta hugged her tightly, enraged beyond words:

「… Why do all of you… Want to curse this child?」

With the Princess in his arms, he turned towards the enemy and declared:

「Hey, fox, this might be a waste of time, but let me tell you some common sense── when a child before you is in danger, it is only expected for an adult to help her. Hence, adults shouldn’t demand anything in return for offering their aid. You got that wrong right from the start and your argument can’t hold any water── Also…」

It became harder for Ikuta to keep his emotions in check as he spoke. The thoughts of the unreasonable things tormenting the girl in his arms made him yell from the bottom of his arms:

「… Just keeping this child alive but watching idly as her soul gets ravished and broken, you have no rights to call yourself a guardian!」

This roar reverberated within the dark room── at this moment, the Princess’ quivering started to ease. The fox’s words that attempted to corrupt her soul had been dispelled by a stronger warmth.

His smile disappeared for the first time as Trisnai glared at the two of them:

「── I see. So you are her guardian now, Ikuta Sankrei?」

「I know very well that I’m far from qualified to be a guardian, but I’m much better than you.」

「… Fufufu! Ara, I sure am hated.」

His clown-like attitude returned immediately, and the fox suddenly pressed his finger between his brows:

「… No, no. Chatting with you is too stimulating, I will forget the time if we continue. Before that, let’s get back to the main topic.」

Ikuta turned tense. All that talk was just a prologue.

「By order of the reigning Emperor, Arshankrut Kitra Katjvanmaninik, I, Chancellor Trisnai Izanma declare that a royal conference will be held today. There is only one royal in attendance── The Third Princess Chamille Kitra Katjvanmaninik.」

Trisnai declared with mesmerized eyes, and prostrated himself respectfully.

「Congratulations, Princess Chamille. You are just one step away from the throne. After lying in wait for such a long time, your chance to realize your dream is just one step away.」

The chancellor said gleefully. Unwilling to let his opponent dictate the pace, the youth cut him off:

「Don’t get ahead of yourself, fox. There are other royals aside from her, and there’s no meaning in discussing about the succession here… As a preventive measure against the Emperor passing away suddenly, make the Princess the first in the line of succession, which should be enough as an insurance. There is no need for the Emperor to abdicate, just appointing a regent to rule in his stead will be enough.」

Ikuta had no plans to let the girl in his arms carry the burden of the throne. If the Emperor suddenly died, she would have to take the throne, but she just had to hand the seat over to another royal when the situation has stabilized. He promised the vermillion haired girl to protect the heart of the Princess this way.

「If you understand, then do that quickly. You are acting on behalf of the Emperor, so you have the authority to change the right of succession, correct?」

「That’s to be expected. Since Princess Chamille is the only royal who came here, I have no intention of giving the throne to anyone else. I had given them a fair chance, but they didn’t prove their bloodline of the Eternal Sprite Tree. How unsightly, how foolish…! Such imperfections should naturally be expunged from the records! Their existence has to be erased!」

His shout was dripping with grudge and resentment, but that seething hate calmed down instantly. Trisnai turned to the Princess with all smiles.

「Hence, there is only one person qualified to lead the next generation. Princess Chamille── as the Imperial Chancellor, I’m prepared to bestow upon you the grandest title. In my opinion, taking the long route of a Regent is useless, but if that is your wish, then it shall be done. The result will be the same in either case.

You are just one step away from the peak of the mountain── to ascend to the greatest height, I have only one condition.」

His plastered on smile deepened. Unveiling the demonic nature behind his mask, Trisnai told them:

「Destroy the Igsem. Gather the Remeon forces with the authority of your edict, and ravage the false Imperial Army under the red hair marshal. Wear the blood from that battle as your mantle, and ascend to the peak as the absolute ruler!」


Princess Chamille stopped breathing, as if an icy hand had seized her heart. When the fox said ‘destroy the Igsem’, it sounded to her like── kill Yatori.

「You have gone too far, fox.」

The youth said in an ice cold voice, and gestured to the windgunners behind him to aim their muzzles at the corrupted bureaucrat.

「There is absolutely no reason to spare you. No need for talk, just die here.」

After saying that without any emotions, Ikuta held the Princess’ head tightly with both arms. Not just her ears, he even covered her eyes, shielding her heart for unnecessary damage.

With the resolve to shoulder all responsibility, the youth was about to give the order── when it happened.

『── Assault against authorized personnel detected. Warning to intruders. The death of the authorized personnel will affect the AE series human assistance system. All programs related to the country unit 「Katjvarna Empire」 will then be set to default. 』

A sprite on the bed said. Was it the Emperor’s partner sprite?

『If you execute this action, the upkeep cost of all humans in this country unit will increase by more than ten times. Given the legal, ethics and upkeep efficiency, the intruder is advised to ceased the assault. I repeat the warning to the intruder. The death of the authorized personnel will affect the AE series human assistance system──』

Ikuta felt something so ominous that all the hairs on his body stood on ends, and he shouted on reflex without waiting for his mind to process all that:

「── Put down your guns!」

The soldiers who were ready to squeeze the trigger put their rifles away quickly. With a chill down his back, the dark haired youth asked in a hoarse voice:

「… Trisnai, what is that?」

The chancellor didn’t flinch despite his close brush with death, and gently place his hand on the edge of the bed:

「As you heard, that is the ultimatum the sprites is giving you. It included many foreign terms, but you get the gist of it, correct?」

「… Your death will have great adverse effect on all citizens of the Katjvarna Empire. Unless my ears have failed me, that is what it sounds like.」

「Impressive, you get it really quickly. Yes, you can interpret it as such. This is no exaggeration── if you kill me or do something to the similar effect, then this country will lose the blessing of the four great sprites forever.」

Trisnai answered with his arms spread. The chill he felt intensified, but Ikuta tried his best to stay calm and asked:

「What bull shit. Where did that nonsense come from?」


The fox suddenly named a well known country, and started explaining:

「The nation you fought with in the Northern Territories. After that battle, they had stopped military maneuvers for now, cooperating with Kioka and lay in wait along the Grand Arfatra Mountains. That might be so── but if you think diplomatic relations with them had been completely cut off, then you are very wrong.」

The fox said sarcastically. Ikuta twitched the corners of his lips. There was no one in the Empire who could grasp the fox’s actions in its entirety.

「You might have forgotten, but I’m the chancellor, chief of all bureaucrats. Politics is my battlefield. And that is why, when I have the chance to go on a punitive campaign, I won’t permit the unsightly result of returning empty handedly.」

Trisnai said in a firm tone, then gently put his hand on his chest:

「What I won is this. The post of a archbishop── which is a title second only to the pope. Right now, I have the blessing of the four sprites and god. Do you understand what a heinous sin it is to point your guns at me!?」

Trisnai shouted menacingly. The youth shook his head, unfazed by his attitude:

「The sprites will abandon the Empire on your death just because you are an archbishop? ── What horse crap. If high religious titles are so great, Aldera would have conquered the Empire long ago.」

「It is as you say, the title doesn’t confer such authority in this country. That is only natural, since the Aldera church didn’t state that. No one can order the Sprites to 『give up on humans』. Because helping humans with their lives had been their instinct throughout the times.」

「What you said contradict each other. So why will your death result in people losing the blessing of the Sprites?」

「The most happiness of the many── I used this reasoning to understand the authority of personal sprite. If the sprite is the Emperor’s partner, it will have more special ability such as Jewel Voice Broadcast. But what is the limit of its power── no one can tell for certain. I found a research topic worth studying here. How much can a personal sprite influence other sprites?

Let me tell you the answer. For sprites from Empire, depending on the triggering condition, it is even possible to forcibly stop them completely. Do you understand? That is what it meant by losing the blessing of the Sprites.」

Even Ikuta couldn’t answer immediately, and fell silent as he analyzed the content. During this time, the fox continued proudly:

「Right now, I’m the chancellor acting on behalf of the Emperor, harming me is detrimental to the Empire as a whole. My death will result in the death of many others── No matter what the truth might be, the personal sprite think so and set a punishment to stop you from killing me, which will lead to more humans living happily!」


「In all of history, I’m probably the only individual whose death will result in such a heavy penalty. It took a lot of effort to convince the personal sprite, and the title of archbishop I worked so hard to get is also to increase my importance to this country. For the Empire’s future, I can’t die, and there is a need to set a serious punishment to deter others from killing me── it took me more than a month to convince the sprite of this logic.」

When he heard that, the youth finally understood what the Chancellor did:

「… You are using the contradiction in logic to guide the sprite’s thinking…!」

「That’s right. The principle is the same as the method in making Fire Sprites produce 『Dynamic Air』. As you know, the sprite’s thinking is clumsy compared to us, but they can’t just ignore the problem at hand, and will try to find a way through the conditions laid out by humans. Aren’t they so tenacious and cute? Their self sacrificing attitude to ensure my safety made them even cuter.」

The Chancellor took the personal sprite from the bed and lift it high, and laughed mockingly:

「If you still want to kill me after hearing all that ── then carry on. As you can see, it’s simple to stab me in the chest. But when you do so… You have to brace yourself for the death of all 20 million citizens in the Empire.」

Faced with his threat, Ikuta and Princess Chamille couldn’t help shivering. If they really lose the blessings of the four great sprites, the losses will be incalculable. Most of the Imperial citizens were dependent on the sprites in their lives.

People could only live safely in places with sparse rainfall, because water sprites guaranteed access to clean potable water. They could act after dusk because illuminate sprites provide them with light. They didn’t have to start a fire to cook as the fire sprites readily share their tinder. War between the Empire and Kioka was only possible because the wind sprite was willing to embed itself in guns. If all these were gone, the living standards of Imperial citizens would regress by centuries.

The problem wasn’t just on the practical level. The sprites were already deeply rooted in the lives of the people, and the position given to it by the Aldera church made them the mental support of the citizens. The Sprites disappearing would definitely cause major upheaval to Imperial society. As the country abandoned by god, the royals would lose their mandate to rule.

If that happens── their destruction would be inevitable.

「… We will restart the negotiations later.」

Seeing that the situation had taken a bad turn, Ikuta took Princess Chamille’s hand, then turned to leave. Trisnai’s stern voice came from behind:

「The royal conference has began. Do you think anyone will be permitted to leave this solemn meeting?」

The youth stopped momentarily, then glared at his opponent with a sideway glance.

「So what if you don’t permit it? Are you going to strip the Princess of her succession rights for leaving midway? ── That’s impossible. I know that will go against your plans, that isn’t a threat at all.」

His rebuttal left the fox speechless. Ikuta grunted and continued walking:

「If you can’t spell out any other punishment on the spot, that means you don’t have that many cards to play── just shut up and wait here. Don’t need to rush, I will drag you out of this protective shell you are so proud of.」

He left the half underground building and returned to the surface, then headed to the camp at the edge of the village together with his comrades waiting for him. Everyone changed as per Haro’s instruction, washed their hands, rinsed their mouths, then wiped their entire body with towels soaked in disinfectants.

After washing up, Ikuta gathered the members of the 「Knight Corp」 again. After everyone arrived in the officer’s tent, the first thing he did was check on his comrades:

「Have everyone disinfected properly? Rinse your mouth and washed your hands?」

「Yes we did, Ik-kun.」「You repeated that so many times.」

「Of course I did, I also cleaned Her Highness with extra care. Don’t worry!」

When he heard their answer, Ikuta nodded with a smile. However, Matthew still look worried.

「… But will that be enough to prevent the contagious diseases? Just one person getting infected will cause a whole lot of trouble.」

「Most of the soldiers are standing by outside the village, and I ordered the troops who entered the village to clean themselves like we did. To prevent anyone from taking things lightly, they will do this in pairs. And naturally, we won’t approach or let the residents come near us, I also asked them not to go near vomit and excrements, or stand downwind from them. It is true that there is still some risk, but…」

Ikuta paused, then after hesitating for a moment, he said with a complicated expression:

「… I don’t want anyone to let their guard down, so I had been reluctant to say this. Right now, this village probably don’t have any patient with terrible contagious diseases. Haro, did you find any patients with such symptoms?」

Haro poured tea into cups that matched the number of people present, and shook her head:

「… I can’t be certain without going near for a diagnosis, but from what I know, the residents wandering outside don’t have any specially contagious diseases. And… if such a disease is rampant here, the village would be in an even more terrible state.」

「I-Is that so? But they don’t look healthy…」

「But they have not contracted contagious diseases. If I have to say, they are ill with disease that others are afraid of catching.」

Ikuta said with a sigh, and a steaming tea cup was placed before him. After taking a sip, the youth continued:

「In the past fifty years, there had been no reports of major epidemics in the Dafuma Province. I checked with the Princess, so that can’t be wrong. Sigh, speaking from common sense, if a province near the capital had an epidemic, it would be strange that there isn’t any uproar.」

When he saw his comrades show relieved faces after learning that, Ikuta looked depressed:

「… What I’m going to talk about next isn’t a cheerful topic. Although there won’t be any epidemics, there still will be people being sent to quarantined villages like this. Or rather, as long as the people around them feels that 『I don’t want to catch that sickness』, that will be reason enough to quarantine the patient. In most cases, whether the disease is contagious or not isn’t important.

It might not be contagious, but people who got them will be isolated── most had clearly visible symptoms. I’m sure all of you know some well known examples.」

The four of them turned quiet with heavy faces. Seeing their reaction, the dark haired youth nodded quietly:

「Anyway, places like this are usually a haven for citizens ostracized by their villages, and not a place for patients with contagious disease to wait for their end. The fact that this village can sustain itself for such a long time without being ravaged by contagious diseases is enough proof. People are banished here at a considerable rate and contagious disease… so the fox chose to hide here. There aren’t dangerous patients here, and it’s suitable to conceal himself.」

Ikuta said bitterly and shook his head lightly:

「Sorry, I got off track── the reach of catching contagious disease is low, but we must keep up with the mouth rinsing, hands washing and disinfection. Given the situation, just catching a cold will still be very troublesome.」

Seeing everyone nod, the dark haired youth changed the topic:

「It’s about time to discuss the main issue, which is Trisnai Izanma and the Emperor.」

The youth explained the entire conversation he had in the dark basement, only leaving out the parts regarding Princess Chamille’s past. The atmosphere grew tense:

「… What does this mean? So that chancellor is holding all the Sprites and citizens in the Empire hostage?」

Matthew said with a face of disbelief. Feeling the same way, Ikuta twitched his lips:

「If we take everything at face value, then you are right. But 90% of that is just a bluff.」

The youth concluded with firm conviction, and Haro opened her eyes wide:

「I-Is that true?」

「Of course. Forcibly stopping all the Sprites in the Empire── if he can really do that, he would have shown us a demonstration on a small scale, such as stopping my kusu. Just that example will make things much more convincing, but he just droned on and on. Something definitely don’t add up.」

When he pointed out this suspicious point, Torway nodded in agreement:

「Yes, that felt unnatural to me too. Saying he can and proving he could are worlds apart. Since he didn’t do so, then it is only logical to be dubious about his prowess.」

「That’s right. In any case, his words are no different from yelling 『you will suffer divine retribution if you kill me!」 If he did that, I would have scoffed it off── but the problem is, unlike the dubious existence of god, the Sprites do exist before our eyes.」

The four aside from Princess Chamille looked at the Sprites on their laps.

「Their abilities are an enigma to us. We benefit greatly from their functions, but have no idea on the theory on how the Sprites work. The mechanism behind Kusu’s light, Safi’s wind and Miru water creation are all unknown. Even 『Anarai’s box』 couldn’t move beyond theories.」

Ikuta stated this fact with reverence, and caressed Kusu’s head with his fingers:

「And for the Emperor’s personal sprite, the mystery deepens. That sprite is obviously different from normal ones. Jewel Voice Broadcast, the royal registry, and the sharing of information regarding the reigning Emperor── these are all extraordinary abilities it actually possess.」

「In that case, we can’t be sure if it possess the power to stop all sprites… That’s what you are saying, right?」

The youth nodded and concurred with the Princess. Matthew crossed his arms and groaned:

「We know that 90% of his words are bluffs, but we only have circumstantial evidence to confirm that… Correct?」

「If we pressed on by assuming it’s a bluff, the risk will be too great. Without Sprites, people won’t be able to survive.」

Ikuta said with a bitter face. Haro bit her nails with a worried look:

「… What should we do? The chancellor said the condition for Her Highness to take on the role of Regent is to 『destroy the Igsem』, right? That is definitely impossible. Our goal is to mediate for the coup… And also, Yatori-san is…」

The atmosphere became even heavier. That worried Torway, who then said:

「Everyone, getting depressed won’t help with anything, let’s sort out the situation first.

The Emperor and chancellor are in our hands now. We plan to use this authority to end the coup peacefully, but Trisnai added an impossible condition at the last moment to mess things up. We want to dispose him, but he claimed that all the Sprites and citizens in the Empire are his hostage. We know that it is 90% a bluff, but we only have circumstantial evidence to refute him… That’s how things stand.」

After hearing the youth summarize the situation, the dark haired youth nodded:

「Hmm, your description is right on point… I see, so you are finally willing to take the initiative to act as a mediator.」

「Ah… sorry, am I overstepping my bounds?」

「No, stupid, this is good. If you don’t step up, then who will? Don’t forget, after this coup ends, the Remeon house will take centerstage.」

Torway nodded firmly in response to Ikuta’s word of warning. Their interaction spurred the competitive spirit of the pudgey youth, who lifted his hand up high:

「I-I have a proposal! Erm~... why don’t we ignore Trisnai for now, and link up with the Remeons? This might seem like we are avoiding the issue, but it’s fine to ignore him, right? Just getting hold of the Emperor will be enough to give us the edge when we negotiate with the other factions.」

When Matthew said that, Ikuta turned to him in surprise, which made him anxious:

「H-Huh…? Did I say something wrong?」

He thought about what he said, but the dark haired youth before him shook his head slowly:

「… You are absolutely right, my dear Matthew!」

After saying that monotonously, Ikuta tapped his head with a clenched fist:

「Oh no… it seems that I’m less calm than I thought. I’m only focused on taking care of that fox right now, and completely forgot the big picture.」

Everyone looked at the youth who realized that he was not in his best condition. Matthew said with empathy:

「You are tired. Since we set off from the Hiored Ore Mines, you have been hard at work as the ranking commander, right? The pressure behind each of your orders is much greater than before. It is only natural for a mere Lieutenant who gets thrust into the limelight to get burnt out.」

When he said it out, it sounded only natural. Haro agreed with this sentiment:

「… That’s right. I think we are giving Ikutasan too much pressure. I know that the situation might be unpredictable── No, precisely because of that, why don’t we have a rest?」

「I agree. Letting Ik-kun stay at his best condition is the quickest route to our goal. Have a good rest, Ik-kun. We will take care of things while you sleep.」

Torway promised with a firm tone, and patted his chest. The dark haired youth nodded with a wry smile:

「… I can’t find any reasons to refuse. I understand, I will accept everyone’s kind offer. I will rest for half a day now.」

「At least sleep for one day. You can’t breath easy unless you slack several times more than others, right? … It’s decided then, so hurry up and go.」

Chased away by Matthew, Ikuta obediently got up from his chair, and took the hand of Princess Chamille who was sitting beside him. She looked at the youth bafflingly:


「You are coming too, of course. Both of us didn’t sleep much, so don’t say you are not tired.」

Ikuta pulled the Princess up, then started walking while holding her hand.

「Okay, I will turn my head that way. The luggage is over there, go on to bed after changing into your pyjamas.」


Princess Chamille was brought to another tent, and started looking around. She realized something a moment later. There was only one bed here.

「T-Together── we are sleeping together? You want me to sleep with you on the same bed?」

「You are three years too early to be so shaken. Enough, hurry up and change.」

「N-No, but…!」

「Ahh~ While we are talking, time is being wasted~ my precious vacation~ my irreplaceable break time~」

Urged by this slow sighing sound, the Princess alternate her gaze between her pyjamas and the bed several times. After a heated struggle, she gulped and gently touched the buttons on her clothes.

The sound of her clothes sounded exceptionally clear to the girl. She turned her head to check behind her several times, and took twice as long as usual to change into her pyjamas.

「… I-I’m done.」

「Then, ladies first.」

Ikuta turned back and pointed at the bed. The girl needed enormous courage to follow his instruction. After hesitating for a long time, Princess Chamille laid down cautiously near the edge of the bed.

「… I-Isn’t this bed too small, f-for two?」

「I’m used to it. And since I’m sharing it with the Princess, I think it’s too spacious.」

「Horrible! What you said is horrible in both layers! That’s the most shameless and detestable words I can ever imagine!」

「Ah~ you are so noisy.」

The youth took off his shirt and hang it on the chair, then laid on the bed without any hesitation:

「I might reek of sweat a little, but bear with it. We can’t afford the luxury of showers yet.」

「Don’t bring that up! M-Me too… So, we don’t have to sleep in the same bed…」

「Stop joking. After that thing happened, how can I leave you by yourself for an entire day?」

Ikuta said to her in a firm tone, and pulled her over. He pulled Princess Chamille who might fall off the bed if she turned in her sleep to the center of the bed, then gently stroked her blonde hair with his fingers. As the thumping of the Princess’ heart almost reached its peak, the youth whispered into her ears:

「Go to sleep and forget all this. You don’t need to hold on to anything. No matter what your past might be, it won’t bound your future.」


「Good night, Princess. Try to have a sweet dream. I will keep watching you until you fall asleep.」

Tears appeared in the Princess’ eyes. Her tense body started to relaxed, spreading from the place where the youth’s fingertips were touching.

「Do you know? ── all children have the right to dream.」

Chapter 2: Two In One

A small boat floated on the water at dawn. Two children holding fishing rods were in the boat.


Ikuta and Yatori stared at the murky green waters. They were motionless, at most passing around a water canteen and drinking water. Their eyes were on the rod even when they drank. The amazing thing was, they had been keeping at this for more than an hour.

Suddenly── the angling float linked to Ikuta’s fishing rod sunk suddenly.


The tip of his rod bent two and three times in rapid succession. Feeling his tension, Yatori turned around on the boat. Shortly after, the weight in the youth’s arms increased drastically.

「I got a bite──!」

Something connected to the fishing line flashed across the surface of the water swiftly. When she saw that, Yatori toss her rod aside and stood up.

「Hey, what’s going on, it’s really strong! Is it really a fish? My body is getting dragged in!」

「Lower your waist and pull! You just need to pull it near the water surface, and we can deal with it!」

The girl grabbed on to the boy’s belt, and tugged his waist back down. They chose hooks, lines and rod that were exceptionally rugged in case of such a situation, but they couldn’t do anything about their weight. The two of them worked together to handle the prey they couldn’t take on alone.


Ikuta pulled with all his might. Shortly after, a large shadow appeared near the water before him. The boy’s face was red from exertion, and it was clear from his trembling arms that he wouldn’t last much longer.

「Just ten more seconds, hold on!」

After saying that, Yatori picked up a knife for cutting fishing lines and jumped into the water without any hesitation. After enduring the impact of the water, she felt the slithery sensation of the fish’s body on her arms as she grab hold of her prey.

Her prey struggled violently to shake her off, but the girl didn’t back down and continued holding on strongly. Not only that, she used the opening when her target’s movement slowed for an instant to stab the knife in her right hand into the fish’s head. She could feel the tip of the knife hitting bones as it sunk deep into the fish.

「── Fuwahh!」

Yatori floated gently out of the water while she still had some air left. She used her buoyancy and the flexibility of her upper body to return easily onto the boat that was above her eye level.

「I dealt a heavy blow to it! How is it now?」

The boy pulled at the rod with rugged breath, and felt far less resistance than before.

「Caught it caught it! Caught it~!」

The victorious cheer echoed throughout the base. Pulling a hand wagon laden with his prey behind him, the dark haired boy puffed his chest out happily, and Yatori beside him looked gleeful too. Soon, the soldiers who heard his cheers gathered near him.

「What is it, Ikuta-kun?── Uwah! What’s this thing!?」

「Ohh, it’s huge! It’s around our height in length.」

「Did the two of you caught it? Well done~」

The soldiers were impressed. Grandma Mari who came to check the situation opened her eyes in surprise:

「Ara, I was wondering what you caught. Isn’t that a Gar? To think you two can catch a monster-like thing like this.」

「Grandma Mari, you know this fish?」

「It’s a Gar. It lives in large rivers or lakes, where the water flows slowly, and can live very long and grow really big. A large one like this would get caught from time to time, I saw it a few times when I was young.」

The old lady said nostalgically. When they heard that, the soldiers around them looked at each other and said:

「When Grandma Mari was young…」「It should be during the rule of the Emperor from several generations ago, right?」「Definitely before the war strife era.」「Get the others here, let’s listen to the valuable experience of someone who had witnessed history.」

「Hahaha!── You lot must have grown tired of living!」

The joking soldiers scampered away in a panic. After beating off those impudent troopers, Grandma Mari walked back as she cracked her knuckles:

「By the way, what do you want to do with the fish? It might be big, but it’s still useless.」

「Huh!? Can’t we eat it?」

「It’s still a fish, so it can be eaten, but I’m not confident that I can cook it well. The body structure of this fish is special. Trying touching the scales.」

The two of them touched the skin of the Gar, and noticed something was wrong:

「I can’t peel the scales off…?」「It’s true, it’s stuck on really firmly.」

「Instead of a fish, it feels closer to an alligator skin, correct? The mouth is as big as a shark too. No matter how many times I see it, I still find it to be a weird creature.」

Grandma Mari said with a shrug. This time, a group of Scientists in white clothes rushed to the three of them. They probably caught wind of the commotion.

「I heard you caught the Lord of the swamp?」「Uwah! Is that the one! What a big catch!」

The young man and woman walking at the fore said. They were Nazuna and Bajin── Of all the many disciples of Anarai, Ikuta knew them the longest.

「Catching it is great, but the problem is what should we do with it now. Nazuna-nee, Bajin-nii, any ideas?」

「You have no use for it? How about giving it to us? There are still many unknown regarding the diet of large fish, so I want to use this chance to do an autopsy and inspect its organs.」

There was a gleam of curiosity in Nazuna’s eyes. When Ikuta heard that, she turned to the girl beside him:

「Will you be fine with that, Yatori?」

「It’s fine. I’m glad that the prey we caught can be of use.」

The decisive nature of the vermillion haired girl made her nod in agreement without any hesitation── For the past month, Yatori took reference from Nazuna and the other female researchers, and changed the way she usually spoke. Her stiff military style of speaking was just a distant memory now.

「Okay, the mission to 『catch the lord of the swamp!』 is completed. Next will be──」


Grandma Mari grabbed the collar of the two children who were eager to move on.

「You must have a hard time pulling this big fellow out of the water. You two are both wet and smell like mud.」

「Hmm… Really? THis much water will dry in no time in the sun.」

「It will be fine if it’s just you, but don’t forget that your partner is a maiden. If you want to be a proper man in the future, then take better care of the girl beside you.」

The old lady instructed the boy carefully. Ikuta groaned with his arms crossed.

「… You are right.」

「If you understand, then hit the showers… No take a bath. That will be better. Ikuta, don’t you have a bath in your house?」

「We have, but it’s really small. I prefer the large one that everyone uses.」

「The bath house uses the hot spring, and it takes a lot of work to adjust it to the right temperature. We can’t trouble the soldiers just for the sake of the two of you.」

After nonchalantly teaching them the proper way to act, Grandma Mari pushed the two children towards the direction of the Sankrei house.

「Hurry on then. And help me tell Madam Yuka that the snacks she sent some time ago── I think it’s called  paste cake? I shared it with the kitchen staff, it was delicious.」

「Yes, I will tell her!」

Ikuta answered energetically, then ran with Yatori towards the center of the base. The old lady sighed, and watched the two small figures leave with her hands on her hips.

「… Dripping wet.」

Yuka commented when she saw the children at the entrance. She saw at a glance what they needed, and took action immediately:

「I will borrow, wind sprites from the neighbors. Yatori’s partner, can it help too?」

「Of course. Shia, I’m counting on you.」

「Thank you. Can you prepare, the bath water? Just do it, like how I taught you, before.」

From their conversation, it was clear that Yatori was familiar with this place as she visit the Sankrei house often. The two of them fetched water from the well to fill the bathtub. The wind sprite and fire sprite will heat up the water, so they just need to fill the tub.

After staying in the living room and playing chess for tens of minutes, a call came from the bathroom:

「The water is ready. I will prepare a change of clothes, so take your time to bathe.」

After putting the soaked clothes into the basket prepared by Yuka, Ikuta and Yatori went into the steaming bathroom. They washed all the mud on their body, then stepped into the bathtub.

「「…… Phew──!……」」

They sat shoulder to shoulder in the cramped tub, and when their shoulders sank into the water, both of them breathed out.

「… To think that this house has a bathtub.」

「…Ah~ Yes, it’s uncommon to find such a small one.」

An awkward smile appeared on the boy’s face. He placed his arms on the edge of the bathtub, and explained the origins of this bathtub.

「Dad built this for Mom. Mom loves to bath, but she isn’t used to staying with in a place with many people, and always looks uneasy in the bath house. So Dad discussed it with Professor Anarai and made this mini bathtub. Mom was overjoyed back then.」

Ikuta suddenly looked up at the ceiling as if he remembered something and muttered:

「That’s right── ever since you came, mother seems more cheerful than usual.」

「Is that so?」

「Yes. She seemed happy that I’m playing with you. I seldom play with kids my age, so that’s probably the reason.」

「Speaking of which, you have introduced many people to me, but none of them are our age.」

「One reason is because this is a military base… I also feel happier playing with Professor and the others. I also know some kids my age, but how should I put this… When I want to venture deeper, they won’t follow, and when I find something interesting, they would just stared with eyes wide open.」

The boy grumbled unhappily, and pouted. But his mood suddenly turned for the better, and turned to Yatori beside him:

「I was worried that you will be like them, so this is a pleasant surprise. Instead of leaving you behind, I’m in danger of being left by you in the dust.」 When she heard that, the girl puffed up her chest a little:

「Taking the initiative to work hard is only natural. If I just move according to orders, then I won’t ever become an independent commander.」

「Commander, huh… That’s fine, but why don’t you become a Scientist?」

Ikuta suggested out of the blue. Yatori looked at him stiffly.

「… Be a Scientist?」

「That’s right, a Scientist. You can analyze the mysteries of the world together with us. If we team up together and take up the challenge, we won’t ever be bored again.」

「Specifically speaking, what do you want to do?」

「Everything. Search for unknown creatures in the new continent to the north, find the one piece  of legends that sunk in the eastern ocean. There are countless mysteries in the world, can you leave them alone? As for me, I can’t do that!」

The boy explained passionately, and lifts his arms up high from the water. The girl fell into deep thoughts with a frown:

「… I can’t imagine it.」

「Is that so? But I can. For example, when a large monster attacks us when we are exploring a cave, we will work together to fend it off. Arrows can’t pierce it’s hard body, but we realized that for that creature living in the dark, light was its weak point. We will chase it out with the searchlight of a Luminous sprite, then lure it to the sunlight at the entrance!」

「What Luminous sprite? You don’t have a Sprite, and my partner is a fire Sprite.」

「I just need to form a contract before that time comes. Another example is a blood chilling monster attacking the east bound ship, and we cooperated to chase it away. You cut off the tentacles wrapping around the ship, and when it falters, we will blast it with a secret cannon. The monster won’t stand a chance against the cannon that utilize the power of Dynamic Air!」

「Why is it always monster attacks? Isn’t there anything else?」

「Something else? Hmm… But titans or dragons doesn’t sound too scientific…」

「Enough with enemy attacks, I’m not talking about that. Since it’s a journey to an unknown world, there should be all sorts of discovery instead. Like people wearing exotic attires speaking foreign languages, or houses with designs we have never seen before…」

Yatori recounted her experience when she first came to this base. When he heard that, Ikuta’s face shone brilliantly.

「See, you can imagine it too. How about it, do you want to see all that with your own eyes?」

When the boy asked her that, images the girl had never seen before flashed across her mind. However── her self restraint activated a second earlier, cutting off her train of thought forcefully:

「… There’s no point in thinking about all that. From the very beginning, I’m destined to walk the path of a soldier.」

「Hmm~? That’s strange. Isn’t what you want to be the important thing?」

「It’s not strange. Just like dragons giving birth to dragons and phoenixes are born to phoenixes, I know right from the start what kind of life I will live as an Igsem. That is all there is to it.」

Yatori said firmly with a calm tone. Ikuta blew bubbles in the bath, expressing his dissatisfaction with her rationale:

「… I can’t accept that.」

「You don’t have to.」

「It is important to me. If you are not with me, I might get eaten by monsters.」

The boy grumbled, and pouted. The girl beside him smiled gently:

「Is it that easy to run into monsters?── I’m going to wash my body.」

After Yatori was warmed up, she stepped out of the bath, picked up the towel and soap, then started cleaning her body. Ikuta stayed silent in the bath for a while, then cast his gaze towards her── In that instant, he opened his eyes wide as if he was struck by lightning:

「…Yatori. Your body is very pretty.」

Her well proportioned bones and muscles, the thin layer of fats and her smooth skin glistening with water droplets── The boy stated his sincere thoughts without rhetorics. The vermillion haired girl stopped moving and looked back at him:

「… This is the first time someone told me that. I’m still growing, so my body is nowhere as feminine as Aunt Yuka.」

「Of course, Mom is the most beautiful woman in the world… But you give a completely different impression. Your entire body had been trained thoroughly, but it don’t feel stiff or tough at all. It’s slender and strong, how should I put this…」

The boy took a long time to find the proper term. After a long deliberation, he found a metaphor:

「… It’s like a carefully crafted sword. When I look at you, I felt like── I’m on the verge of tears.」

「It will be troubling for me if you did cry. Come out of the bath, I will wash your back.」

With no idea how moved he was, Yatori waved the boy over, and sat him down in front of her. As she scrubbed his back with a towel soaked with soap, Ikuta said quietly:

「… Do you know? Pure iron is brittle, and will be stronger if impurities are added.」

「What are you saying?」

「I’m talking about you. It will be great if it includes me too.」

Ikuta lowered his gaze bashfully, and stopped talking. Yatori couldn’t understand what he was talking about── with no regards for her confusion, Ikuta’s feeling probably first took form at this very moment.

In that afternoon, a seminar for soldiers and scientists to exchange views took place. Following the directives of the commander, the Rising Sun Regiment often held such activities. Yatori naturally expressed her interest to participate, and after getting permission, she joined the discussion together with Ikuta, who was a regular.

「The topic today is the review of ancient battle, the battle of Gashnak, the early days of windgunners being deployed in battle. By using this battle as a reference, we hope to re-evaluate the effective deployment of the imperial military forces.」

Anarai who was chairing the seminar drew the location of the forces on the chalkboard, and directed the attention of the participants there:

「This was a skirmish that proves advantage of windgunners over the main forces of that era, when engaging from mid distance. In contrast to the one thousand strong imperial pikemen, the windgunners from Garum kingdom numbered just five hundred. The terrain was a flat straight road which was 800 m long and 50 m wide. The two forces detected each other at about 200 m away, and launched an attack at the same time. The result was a crushing defeat for the Empire. Compared to Garum that lost 20% of their forces, more than half of the Imperials were killed── in military terms, they were effectively destroyed.」

The Professor stopped writing the numbers, and turned to the participants:

「Why did the Garum windgunners win, and the imperial pikemen lose? Is there anyway to turn this around? In retrospect, what significance does this battle have in the history of battle? I hope you can discuss these topics.」

On the Professor’s urging, Yatori raised her hand first. Anarai nodded, and she stood up:

「I think there are two reasons why the imperial unit lost in Gashnak. They lack experience in fighting windgunners, and their pikemen has low morale.」


「The experience of fighting against the windgunner’s volley is crucial for the commander and soldiers. They had never felt the threat of windgunners in formation before── we can’t dismiss this reason.

According to the records, the commander of the pikemen was Captain Rilgin Kade. The reports said that he stayed in the very rear where the bullets wouldn’t reach, and ordered the soldiers peltered by gunfire in the front ranks to charge. That might be the right attitude for an officer, but the way he conduct himself cause the morale of his men that were under fire to plummet.」

「Yes~I get that.」「Their superior officer is barking orders from a safe place, of course morale will drop.」「It makes me wants to say 『Why don’t you go first』.」

The scientists were forward with their comments, but while some of the soldiers nodded in agreement, others shook their heads as if to say 「you don’t understand」. She was confused by the harmonious atmosphere, but the vermillion haired girl continued:

「He didn’t have to go all the way up to the frontlines, just moving to the middle ranks will improve morale substantially. And for the problem with morale, it wasn’t just because of the command in this battle, but stem from earlier battles── or even the training course of the troops.

In conclusion, they lacked courage. They couldn’t muster the courage to charge 200 m to close with the enemy. As a soldier in the current era, I think the failure to nurture brave soldiers is a point of reflection we can learn from the defeat in Gashnak.」

Yatori concluded her argument. As she waited for the reaction from the other participants, a voice came unexpectedly from her side:

「I don’t think so.」

Ikuta Sankrei raised an objection against the girl’s view. Anarai urged him to speak with a gaze, and the boy presented his opinion in the hall of adults:

「Losing the battle because of a lack of courage── that might be true, but the reflection point isn’t that. Anyway, the Empire lost because they didn’t have windguns, right? Losing a battle because of the lack of resources was to be expected.」

Yatori raised her hand again when the boy stopped, and the Professor gave her permission to rebuke:

「Wait, you are straying too far from the topic. The battle of Gashnak was fought between imperial pikemen and Garum windgunners. Since we are reviewing an ancient battle, shouldn’t we do so within these boundaries?」

「You mean discussing 『losing because of this』, 『winning if you did that』, right? I am already disagreeing at that level. Because, this is a battle that we are lucky to have lost, correct?」

The girl frowned at his dissent at the fundamental level. Ikuta explained further:

「Because my knowledge is limited, so part of what I’m saying are assumptions. This battle happened when the windgunners were just starting out, so we can assume that the Empire made use of windgunners later than Garum, right? Because of this defeat, the Empire started to realize the importance of windguns as weapons. Anything wrong so far?」

「… That is probably true. Since this was treated as a significant battle where pikemen lost to windgunners, it is only natural to think of this as the reason the military equipment was reevaluated.」

「Then, I tried thinking about it the other way. If they win the battle, then the Empire will incorporate windgunners much later.」

The boy said as he turned his eyes back to the battle map on the blackboard:

「Captain Rilgin lost terribly in the Gashnak battle. It’s fortunate that he lost. If he won convincingly, by a close margin or── hmm……」

Ikuta couldn’t remember the terms, and Anarai helped him quietly:

「Narrow defeat?」

「Yes, that’s it. If it was a narrow defeat, then this battle won’t become the reason to reevaluate the military’s equipment. It will have to wait until the next time someone lost horribly, which might cause even heavier losses. Shouldn’t we be glad that he lost at the right time?」

The boy said as he turned to Yatori besides him. She shook her head without any hesitation:

「I can’t be certain on how things might have turned out, but I can’t agree with this. This is just consequentialism. In a war, except for strategic retreat to feign defeat, there are no battles that we are better off losing. This is the basic principle of military affairs. For Captain Rilgin who is the frontline commander, he didn’t have the authority to prioritize any goals aside from achieving victory before him.」

「You might be right, but even so, should we place the blame squarely on the frontline commander, Captain Rilgin? Assuming he is a mighty warrior and won the battle, it would be a hollow victory that won’t lead to a future where windgunners are incorporated into the army. If we have to find a point of reflection, shouldn’t we talk about someone with more authority?」

「Higher authority… wait, just how far are you planning to pursue this?」

「All the way to the top. I’m complaining to a General of the Imperial army every day, you know.」

Ikuta said unhappily. His arrogant attitude made the vermillion haired girl sigh:

「… Completing the mission assigned to you by your superior officer is the standard practice for soldiers all over the world. If you ignore that and just focus on criticizing one’s superior, it is only natural to be punished for failure to comply with orders.」

When he heard Yatori’s harsh criticism, the boy pouted unhappily:

「Unfortunately, I’m a scientist, not a soldier. Anyway, you don’t have such constraints either. You are not a soldier, and might not become one too.」

「I definitely will. Like I told you, that’s how it is to be born an Igsem.」

「I don’t care about the Igsem. I’m talking to Yatori.」

His rebuttal turned even more childish, and Yatori’s tone turned harsher from her anger:

「What do you think soldiers are? Given the commanders position, he can’t ever say 『I’m glad that I lost』. No matter how history views this battle, it is still a fact that soldiers will get killed or wounded in war. Any commander will be frustrated by his own powerlessness if he lose the battle.」

「I’m not saying that kind of attitude is wrong. However, it is strange to let the people who need to reflect on this the most hide behind this sincerity. If you are saying that they lack courage, and that Captain Rilgin who stayed in the rear ranks is timid, then isn’t the top brass who issued the order from even further back even more of a coward? Why not blame them?」

「The necessary qualities of a frontline commander and high ranking officers are different, of course! The high ranking officers had frontline experience as junior officers in the past too, since they need substantial achievements in the frontlines to be promoted up the ranks. It is wrong to accuse the high ranking officers of being cowards just because of the position they are in!」

「It might look that way on the surface! But after climbing up the ranks, they won’t give up their position to their subordinates so easily, right? It is always the junior officers who are killed in battle, and the Empire army is growing more dependent on their hard work to make up for the incompetent top brass!」

The more they argue, the more emotional they got. As they watched the two children hold on to their viewpoints steadfastedly, the other participants who had been relegated to observers whispered quietly among themselves:

「Incredible, the sparks are flying from the debate.」「We have been completely sidelined.」「It’s too hard to join in~ Just the sight of them is enough to scorch me from the brightness of their youth~」「What a high level quarrel between kids.」「Want to bet on the winner? 500 on Yatori.」「You are on, I bet 500 on Ikuta.」「How do you decide on the winner of a debate? When one side gives up?」「It will be better to bet which one runs out of breath.」「Or the one who bite their tongue.」

The scientists started chatting idly. The two subjects weren’t aware of that, as they stood so close together that their foreheads were almost touching.

「You don’t even know that much about the inner workings of the organization, and you are pretending to be knowledgeable…!」

「Your position isn’t that different from me, but you are always saying things in a disillusioned way!」

They were enraged, but didn’t get physical because of their pride. If they throw the first punch in an argument, that was as good as admitting their loss. They could tell right from wrong despite their young age, and only fought with their words.

「── Erm, well, I know that I’m being harshly criticized.」

A hoarse and casual voice interjected into the heated torrent. Everyone turned their gaze to the entrance, and found Bada Sankrei standing there with his hand on the door.

「Gramps Anarai, is that the topic for today?」

「The topic was about the battle of Gashnak, but the debate leapt exponentially, and became like this.」

「You are just pretending to be retarded. You have no intention of mediating the flow of the discussion.」

「If I don’t let them become aware of the parts they can’t stay calm about, we won’t be able to have a calm discussion.」

The old sage feigned ignorance, and gave up his spot to Bada. The commandant of the Rising Sun Regiment stood on the podium in Anarai’s place, then grinned with his elbows on the table.

「Since I’m being accused of being a villain clinging onto my position, then I have to say a few words. Both Yatori-chan and my dumb son has their logic. Yatori-chan pointed out the tactical error from the perspective of a frontline commander, while my son used the fearless perspective of a scientist to highlight the mistake on the strategic level. Let me give a quick explanation, tactics is about the way to fight in a battle, while strategy involves how a war is fought.

Your difference in opinions stem from the difference in your perspectives── but it will be troubling to determine which perspective is right.」

Bada scratched his head and looked at the vermillion haired girl:

「From the viewpoint of a soldier, Yatorichan is definitely correct. After all, the rank and file had to follow orders from the top. As we have to execute dangerous mission with the risk of death, if the relationship between the commander and the soldiers isn’t solid, then the organization can’t operate properly. That is the reason why soldiers aren’t permitted to criticize their superiors. Be it now, the present or the future, the military will always be an authoritative and tall structure organization. My stupid son doesn’t understand this basic rules, what a pain.」

Bada turned to his son and shrug with a sigh. Before the boy could retort, he quickly continued:

「However── when I was running around as a frontline commander, the most torturing thing for me is the inflexible organization where subordinates can’t question their superiors.

In this system, if the superior officer is incompetent, then everyone under him will suffer. And this will carry on until that officer admit his mistakes, which is usually after we suffer heavy loss on the battlefield. My son is right about this, high ranking officers usually won’t admit their mistake. They had to take responsibility for formulating the strategy, but it is hard to determine if they are successful or not. I went out of my way to submit a proposal to amend the plan, but my superior will rebuke it most of the time, saying 『that’s unnecessary, the battle will turn for the better』... To be honest, it will be great if that dumb Colonel fell down the stairs earlier.」

Bada couldn’t help grumbling. He cleared his throat and pretend nothing happen, then continued:

「I can only say this now, but there were many battles in order to make excuses to ignore the orders of superiors. What a pain~ to be frank, I want to shout:『Enough, just shut up and let the people in the frontline handle everything!』 However, there is no helping it if strange orders comes. For example, an order to defend a fort for a month with three days worth of food, and without any resupply…? What is this? Are they expecting us to eat dirt? Are they retarded? Are they trying to kill us?」

The soldiers all smiled wryly at his words. As he reminisced the harsh battles he had to face in the past, Bada sighed deeply:

「If it is the job of soldiers on the frontline to take care of problems their superior throw at them, then there’s nothing more to discuss. But I really hated such a being in such a position, and don’t wish my subordinates to go through the same thing I did. So I decided to do whatever I want when I have my own army. That is the reason for this seminar── look, you can see how unceremonious this bunch are, right?」

Bada said as he pointed at the group sitting in a row. That was true, there wasn’t any barriers between the senior officers and troopers, even the scientist in white that weren’t soldiers didn’t look out of place. This scene showed the current state of the Rising Sun Regiment.

「This isn’t a war council, but a seminar to exchange views, so everyone could share opinions from their perspective without any fear of repercussion. So the opinions of Yatori-chan and my son are equally valid. As long as you follow the etiquettes for discussion, there are no restrictions on criticism against superior officers.」

Bada smiled after saying that. The vermillion haired girl couldn’t accept this immediately and said:

「… Can a military organization function if you permit soldiers to question authority?」

「There are adverse effects, but it has been functioning so far, and I plan to continue it in the future too. This is my ideal army with 『clear communication channels』.」

After making this conclusion with a mild tone, Bada raised the corners of his lips:

「However── Yatori-chan and my son are too young, and won’t stop your squabbles just because an adult like me intervened.」

As he stared at the two children with his dark eyes, he announced slowly:

「Have a match then. You don’t need to be reserved, it is the nature of the young ones to feel dissatisfied if their difference isn’t resolved.」

「Your debate is about the responsibilities of a frontline commander and the commanding officer── simply put, it’s the issue of how to make use of your subordinates. If you want to understand the situation, the best way is to try running a group for yourself.」

Bada brought Ikuta and Yatori out of the seminar, and mustered the soldiers after stating the topic. He seemed to have made arrangements ahead of time, and the men were gathered in no time.

「So I will lend you a battalion, use them to complete the 『missions』 in the future.」

The two children stood blankly in front of the 600 men in tidy formation. Yatori came to her senses a few seconds later, and asked anxiously:

「… W-Won’t this affect the operation of the regiment?」

「They are volunteers from the reserves, so you don’t need to worry about that. Besides, answering to the needs of children is the responsibility of adults.」

Bada declared readily. The vermillion haired girl fell into deep thought with a troubled face:

「… Right now, I only have experience with an infantry platoon.」

「Really~ the Igsem house have practical lessons to such an extent…? But even so, the toys I prepared are much bigger. Fufufu, I will boast this to Sol next time.」

It was his son’s turn to ask the deviously smiling father:

「So Yatori and I will command 300 men each?」

「No, that’s not it. Like I said, what you need to learn is the difference in requirement and scope for frontline commanders and the commanding officer. Your mission is to take turns to command these 600 men.」

「So I will be the commanding officer for today’s mission, and Yatori will be the commanding officer for tomorrow’s mission?」

「That’s right. But the mission might not be completed within one day, and you will need to assume the same role for several days. Of course, you will take turns to share the opportunities equally.」

The boy started groaning in deep thoughts after hearing the explanation. Yatori then asked:

「The duties of the commanding officer is to draw up the battle plan, roster the unit, and prepare the logistics to accomplish the given mission, correct?」

「That’s the gist of it, but don’t push yourself too hard. We will take care of the trivial and troublesome routine work, your life in the base will be the same as before. Just take it that your job as the commanding officer will start when you set off from base, and end when you return.」

「After the unit set off according to the plans, will the commanding officer just wait in the base? Isn’t that boring?」

「It’s not that easy. The commanding officer will have to tag along, but the frontline commander will have the authority on the grounds. Which means── no matter what happens, you can’t intervene.」

When they heard that, Ikuta and Yatori fell silent. Bada smiled quietly, having seen through their worries:

「Oh, both of you realized it? That’s right── you will witness from the box seat the results of your orders and the flaws of your plans. It will be too late even if you realize your mistakes on the ground, and couldn’t do anything except cowering as you listen to the grumbles of the troopers. Being responsible to the smiles or tears of 600 men is really painful.」

After saying that with a taunting tone, he looked at the faces of the two children in turn:

「Oh, are you scared? At this time? Want to call it off?」

Bada smiled cockily. Ikuta and Yatori glared at him with eyes full of spirit:

「Of course ──」「── not!」

After receiving similar answers from them, Bada nodded approvingly.

「That’s more like it, young ones. Then I will give you your first mission── are you ready?」

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