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The Girl Who Bore the Flame Ring (Web Novel) - Chapter 20: The Cogs Began to Turn

Chapter 20: The Cogs Began to Turn

This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog

“At last, the time has come. We will assault Bahar.”

He faced the rows of military officers and civil officials, his face full of resolve. Grohl’s words were brief, but clear. After a brief silence, the room erupted in an uproar. Everyone had known it would come to a war sooner or later, but it was no surprise that the decision being made at that time caused unrest. Gathered in the meeting were all those ranking higher than commander of one hundred, and at Grohl’s command, the message would be carried down to every single Coimbran soldier. Incidentally, Cynthia and Noel were both present for the meeting at the end of the column.

The civil official Perius took a single step forwards, and enquired into the specific meaning of the order, “What are you saying?”

Joking in that scenario would be inexcusable. Aside from the head retainers, it would be nearly impossible to impose silence upon all present. Without a doubt, the information would leak.

“I said that we will assault Bahar.”

“Is that what your true intentions are?”

“The time for negotiations has already ended. All of our emissaries sent to crossexamine Amil have been ignored. They did not accept that Ristih was Amil’s retainer. Look at the disrespectful note that they sent in return!”

Grohl took a crumpled letter from his breast pocket, and threw it to Perius who confirmed its contents. It was an invitation to at “ceremony of the rising sun” on the first day of the seventh month, requesting Grohl’s attendance.

“It can’t be! Amil will become the crown prince when that happens…”

Perius could not hide his scowl. There was no way that Emperor Befnam didn’t understand the consequences. So that his own two sons would compete for the throne, he had gone so far as to pour oil onto the fire himself. He would grant the throne to the survivor, but Amil was the favorite without question. If they didn’t act soon, Amil would take his place as crown prince.

This must be stopped. More than the pointless spilling of blood, at present, neither Grohl, nor the impoverished Coimbra can take on Bahar. If he can rein in his imperial ambition, Grohl can still live as a viceroy.

The ceremony of the rising sun was a system that the Sun Emperor Bergis had created after the Libelikan unification. It was a ceremony to inform the entire empire who was most fit for the throne. One would take all of his soldiers to the imperial capital, and display all of his military might and assets. It was an old practice in which one would crush his opposition with overwhelming force. That being the case, the ceremony of the rising sun could not be invoked without the consent of the incumbent emperor. Naturally, this was because mobilizing a large army was difficult, but also it was to avoid stirring up opposition. Before that could happen, victory over one’s rivals was a necessity; that and perhaps a purge. It was a ritual of what was called pre-established harmony. Grohl had twisted the corners of his lips so far that it looked as if he had gone insane; his face was pale, and his cheek was twitching.

“If we enter Bahar’s territory while they move their troops, much blood will be spilled, regardless of friend or foe. Why don’t we just throw away our men? This war does not seem like a good enough cause for that. We should send back His Majesty’s messenger with proof of the truth behind the rebellion. If it goes well, the ceremony might be postponed!” Perius raised his voice in complaint.

Even if, for argument’s sake, fortune was on their side and they took Bahar, the road ahead would still be thorny. Defeating Amil would not guarantee the throne. The probability that the other viceroys would name themselves candidates for the throne and set out to claim it under the pretense of righteously crushing insurgents was exceedingly high. Turbulent times would once again swoop down upon the continent.

“I don’t have good cause? What nonsense! Just how many Coimbrans do you think have already died at the hands of that bastard Amil’s plots!? We have a duty to avenge them!”

“Viceroy, we cannot act rashly. This must be a trap made by Bahar. Don’t be taken in!”

“Silence, Perius! It has already been decided; I won’t change my mind now! If it is a trap, we just need to destroy it!”

“No! Please think calmly, Viceroy. Is this not an obvious trap? More importantly, the people are tired after the rebellion. Now is the time to help them!”

Grohl might not have had what it took to be emperor; however, he was by no means the despot that he was rumored to be. Perius knew that after his long years of service. He had turned his ears to the civil officials and put in great effort to alleviate the poor conditions. Mercifully, they had been able to put down the Red Circle Army and prevent the worst case scenario. There was no more reason to rush. If they didn’t move, neither would Bahar. What was truly important was what happened from then on. They had already started slowly building an industry that didn’t rely on the gold mines. They needed to maximise the profits from their fertile plains, and vast oceanic resources as they were things that the inland plains could never produce. If the capital Madress could flourish, trade would once again be stimulated. It wouldn’t happen instantly, but the seeds had already been planted. It was not the time for a foolish war.

“Aah, I’m not going to listen to this! This is not the time to move slowly! I have no need for retainers who wag their tails for Amil!”

“Please listen to all of what I have to say. We are about to see the fruits of our labours. The day that your plans finally bloom is almost at hand. Until then…”

“Viceroy!”

Interrupting Perius as he was about to continue, Major Generals Wilm and Gaddis stepped forward and saluted.

“Oh, Wilm and Gaddis! What do you two think? It can’t be that our Major Generals have lost their nerve like Perius?”

Wilm shook his head as Grohl looked at him to confirm.

“You have misjudged me. Those in the Coimbran army are here to become the province’s sword in times of war. We will not forget that even if only a single common soldier remains. We will destroy all who stand in our way!”

Vaguely performatorily, Gaddis raised his voice too, “It is obvious that Bahar was behind the rebellious uprising that spilled so much blood. Furthermore, what happened to Lady Sarah was all the fault of those rebels. All those in their right minds will acknowledge that either reason is justified. Viceroy, please follow your heart. We will follow you to the ends of the earth!”

The more or less perceptive of them were likely able to notice his slight pallor, but Grohl had been overcome with emotions to the point of tears. His eyes were clouded with hatred, anger, and jealousy towards Amil, and his beloved Sarah was in critical condition, so he had completely lost hold of his composure. All that occupied his mind were thoughts of destroying Amil, and taking his place as the crown prince before Sarah passed away. He wanted to give his wife a taste of glory before she went to her death.

“As expected of my most trusted men. Your loyalty and resolution are known by all. Moreover, should we not assault Bahar, and make Amil’s sins known to the world? He does not have the honour of the rising sun, but we can feed him as much of the dishonour of the setting sun as he pleases!”

“Yes sir. We military officers all swear for your sake, Lord Grohl, and for the sake of Coimbra, to fight to the bitter end!”

“Wilm and Gaddis both, I’m greatly anticipating your efforts!”

“I am grateful for your words. I, Wilm, intend to absolutely live up to your expectations.”

“Betting my honour as a commander, I will absolutely bring victory to our viceroy!”

Glancing quickly at one another, Wilm and Gaddis returned to the column.

“With that our path is set in stone. The filthy shame that I have had to put up with until this point, and my previous anxieties must needs be cast aside. For this reason we have gained an alliance with Gemb, and the majority of the supplies from Giv have already arrived. And now, I have an even greater report for you gentlemen.”

Grohl, beckoning, summoned forward a single man from the column of civil officials. He was a blond and thin middle aged man, dressed fully in extravagant clothes, with a distinctively long goatee.

“This man is a special envoy from Ribeldam, Mr. Griel. Our secret negotiation has been completed, and at last, I can introduce him to you.”

The room filled buzzed at the mention of Ribeldam as one would expect. Ribeldam had recently begun paying tribute to Bahar, but had been neglecting Coimbra. It had been primarily because of the exhaustion of the gold mines and suspension of foreign trade, but the final reason was that the maritime cities of Ribeldam had experienced remarkable growth. A new trade rout between the southern islands, Ribeldam, Bahar, and the imperial capital had been opened, bringing floods of people, wealth, and happiness into the region. In contrast to the decline of Coimbra, it could easily be said that Bahar and Ribeldam had developed remarkably.

“I am honoured to introduce myself. I am Ribeldam’s secret envoy, Griel. What is most important now is that we have reached an agreement with the Coimbran administration.”

“Is this about maintaining neutrality? Viceroy, you surely can’t intend to believe Mr. Griel’s words!?” Perius questioned Grohl.

If it was as Perius was suggesting, it was highly unbelievable. Conversely, it would make the most sense that they were planning on siding with Bahar and attacking. That was how stormy their relationship with Coimbra was.

“I do not believe in their words, but in their history. They are merchants to the core. They look for opportunities. They have recognised the power we displayed when we crushed the rebels. As proof they have given us vast funds. In return, when I win, I will not inflict any harm on their province.”

Grohl tossed another paper to Perius on which was recorded the sums of gold that Ribeldam had supplied them with.

“That is what you say, Viceroy, but I find it extremely hard to believe. Please, think about it calmly. Ribeldam is the province with the closest ties to Bahar, so is it not as believable as heaven and earth switching places for them to ally with us? What they sent us is trivial when compared to their total assets; it guarantees nothing.”

“Viceroy, I fear I am of the same opinion. Please reconsider.”

“As Mr. Perius says, now is not the time to rush. One mistake now, and great calamity will befall us!”

Those civil officials who were close to Perius raised their voices in agreement. Everyone knew that the people of Ribeldam were merchants through and through. They valued money more than life, and would do anything for a profit, a temperament all the more prevalent among their contemporary merchants. It would be nothing for them to put on a performance for the sake of a wealthy future customer like Amil. Trusting in the lies of Ribeldam and starting a war was insanity, but…

“Have you lost your nerve again, you coward!?”

“The viceroy has already decided. It is treason to go against his will!”

Members of Wilm and Gaddis’ cliques raised their voices at the civil officials, sparking a debate.

“We are not treasonous! It is obvious to want to avoid an unnecessary war. Are you not succumbing to petty pride!?”

“Silence!! Lord Wilm and Lord Gaddis both agree, and the viceroy has decide on war! Coimbra’s path is set in stone. Why don’t you cowardly bastards go hole yourselves up in a castle and count some money!”

“That’s right. The time for waiting has passed. Mr. Perius, if you know any shame at all, get yourself to work!”

Perius indomitably shouted, “You fools have gotten lost in your fervour and refuse to listen!”

The military officers briefly flinched at his force, but quickly returned to their naysaying. The ones with the power at the meeting were Gaddis and Wilm; apart from whom, the rest could be separated into three groups. Most of the independent military officers were also in favour of starting a war. The head of the anti-war faction was Perius, with his civil officials, and some military officers. It was only the people who could see the situation clearly, but their biggest concern was the spread of disaster to Coimbra.

“Viceroy, do not be taken in by their honeyed words. A war cannot be easily stopped once it has begun. It will not end until one party meets a bloody end. Seeing that we are the weaker province, Ribeldam will surely invade!”

Hearing Perius’ words, Griel burst out into a loud laugh.

“Hahaha, you’re saying some outrageous things, Mr. Perius. In this war you have the disadvantage? In other words, you’ll be defeated. Would not all of the other surrounding provinces invade you as well?”

“What are you trying to say, Mr. Griel!?”

“Exactly as I’ve stated. Ribeldam will provide funds and remain neutral. What choice will we have but to side with Bahar if you refuse to believe us?”

“Do whatever you wish! I would like to end the discussion of starting a war! There is no need for a pointless war within the empire!”

“That was rude of me. I jumped to the conclusion that Lord Grohl had already made up his mind. You have my apologies.”

Griel bowed deeply to the indignant Perius. Seeing that, Grohl raised his angry voice, “You aren’t holding back, are you Perius!?!? Mr. Griel, my retainer has been rude. I have already made up my mind, just like you thought!”

“Hahaha, I don’t mind. We have repeatedly made clear that we intend to remain neutral, even if it results in poor reputation. And my goodness, is reputation hard to fix.”

Grohl knew what it was like to have an unfavourable reputation, and Griel made it a backhanded compliment by nodding to him as he finished; however, Grohl was too excited, and did not notice.

Twisting up the corners of his mouth, Griel continued, “Lord Grohl, the main point is that it is best for you to win. To summarize, let us make this a war in which you retake the crown. If you win, you will be justified. We shall be your vassals, for we are betting on your tenacity that shines like the sun. That persistence is what moves people’s hearts.”

“I won’t lose to Amil. I will absolutely claim victory, and I take the seat of the sun into my hands!”

“That’s the spirit. Lord Grohl, you don’t have to rush. Carefully seizing control of Bahar with well disciplined troops will be a necessity. Losing a single war is fatal. We must never forget that.”

“Thank you Mr. Griel for your advice. We will not err in our haste.”

Grohl nodded gravely at Griel’s council. Confirming it, Griel sprouted a satisfied smile, and made his exit.

“Inform all of the troops. So that we can bring down the hammer on that treacherous bastard Amil as he aims for the throne, we will prepare all of our Coimbran soldiers. Make preparations to quickly depart for the front so we can take Fort Carness and flood into Baharan territory. Wilm and Gaddis will inform everyone of the specifics. Everyone, make sure to carefully prepare!!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Long live Coimbra! Long live Lord Grohl!”

Grohl stood, increasing their fervour, and the military officers saluted him. No longer able to stop the outbreak of war, the civil officials who had opposed it could do nothing but look to the heavens and sigh. Perius was forced out by the palace guard as he had tried to stop it anyway.

Incidentally, at the back, Noel had long since fallen asleep, completely resting against Cynthia’s back.

Wilm returned to his office, and Leue called out to him in a stifled voice.

“Father, is this acceptable?”

“Is what acceptable?”

“In a war, Coimbra will suffer serious damage. We can no longer avoid losing territory and men. Should we not quickly restrain the viceroy, maybe even have him die. Is this not a situation that will gain great infamy?”

Leue was suggesting an active removal of Grohl. The reigns to the military might of Coimbra were held mostly by Wilm and Gaddis. If Wilm revolted against Grohl and restrained him, things could end without coming to a war.

“Don’t act recklessly. We should not remove the viceroy right now, and furthermore, the war is likely what Lord Amil wants. He wishes to use the viceroy as a stepping stone to furthering his own reputation.”

“Are you saying that it has to be Amil who captures the viceroy?”

“Amil has strong ambitions, so he likely wants to do this completely with his own hands. If he can raise his military fame now, he will be able to keep the continent together peacefully later. I too wanted to avoid a pointless war, but… hmph, if it hadn’t been for that girl, this could all have been avoided!”

He had remembered Noel’s face as he hatefully spat his words. Knitting his eyebrows together, he breathed deeply to calm down. He had truly wanted to prevent a pointless war. The only one he wanted eliminated was Grohl, and he hadn’t wanted to waste Coimbran lives and throw the province into turmoil. There was no honest reason for him to support Grohl’s foolish way of thinking.

“Did you spur him on because you knew that, father?”

“That’s right. Otherwise there was no way that Gaddis and I would back such a thing. We are generals of Coimbra after all.”

Alongside Wilm’s own manoeuvring, Gaddis’ clique had likely also reached a deal with Amil. There was little doubt remaining about it. It was becoming a deal in which Gaddis and Wilm would rule Coimbra after the war.

“But, Lord Perius has seen through the situration.”

“His persistence was beyond expectations. He almost pushed through. It’s regrettable that he became a civil official.”

Wilm’s voice had won partly because of Grohl’s deep trust in him, but moreso because he was saying what Grohl wanted to hear. Perius’ opposition likely grated on Grohl’s ears.

“It is truly ironic.”

“When the viceroy is enraged, opposition with sound arguments becomes impossible. I have served him for a long time, so I know his character better than anyone. I wonder how great it would be if he just learned how to hold himself in check.”

Wilm sighed a tired sigh. If Amil had been viceroy of Coimbra, then Wilm would have served him happily, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do the same for Grohl. He could not bear to serve a young man who was obviously much more foolish than himself until he died. That was why he had betrayed him. At present, only Perius and a few other civil officials cared for Grohl. Ignoring their advice, Grohl didn’t have a good eye for people. If he had, Wilm would have likely already lost his position. Furthermore, aside from being unable to read a man’s nature, he didn’t have the self control to put down his emotions and make calm decisions. It was plain to see that Grohl did not have what it took to be a ruler.

“From here on out, how should we move?”

“I’ve received a secret message from Lord Amil stating that after the war begins, that restraint won’t be necessary. If we don’t do anything, we’ll likely be crushed together with the viceroy.”

Wilm gave Leue a grim look.

“B-but… I thought we were allies of Lord Amil. I don’t think he’ll see us as enemies.”

“That’s naive. They won’t think that way at all. If we’re seen as a hinderance, we’ll certainly be annihilated. Listen well Leue, we’ll have to precisely measure the flow of the war. If we mistake the current, we’ll get caught up in the mud and fall to ruin.”

“I, I understand.”

Leue confirmed with a nod, and Wilm opened the window, raising his gaze to the sun. Intense sunlight struck his eyes, causing him to narrow them.

“Father, would it be alright for me to ask you one more thing?”

“What is it?”

“Lady Sarah’s condition is worsening; could that have possibly been at your suggestion?”

Leue was suspicious that Lady Sarah’s condition was Wilm’s doing. He had certainly ordered Riglette to get Sarah a new doctor, but there was no indication that he was at fault.

“That’s incorrect. All I requested was information gathering because Grohl always consults his wife on every major decision. He should be treating her as usual. There is no reason now to eliminate Lady Sarah.”

“Is that so? I apologise for asking something so rude. I seem to have jumped to conclusions.”

“I don’t mind. Well, this is likely fate. It was miraculous that Lady Sarah and the viceroy had been saved by that infuriating girl, but it’s all the same in the end. Lady Sarah’s death to disease, and the viceroy’s fall to ruin show that their fates have not changed. That’s right, the viceroy’s lot has already died.”

“…”

“Listen well Leue, we must not be swallowed up in their fate. We will absolutely survive. Our mission is to reorganise Coimbra.”

It would likely come at the cost of many soldiers’ lives, and the suffering of the people. Even still, Wilm would continue. When Amil became the next emperor, Wilm would be rewarded for his merits with the reigns of Coimbra. It was disloyal to Grohl, but Coimbra’s history would have just as many loyal retainers, for he was treating the boils the province had developed.

“I understand.”

“Then that’s fine.”

“By the way, what will become of my sister? As aide to Sir Noel, who is rather skilled in combat, the probability is high that she’ll end up on the front lines. At this rate it seems she’ll be caught up in the current.”

Leue was concerned for Riglette. Their relationship was troubled, but it seemed that he still valued blood relations, but Wilm was not so. He had only refrained from eliminating her so that she could be used. When her mission was completed, he couldn’t care less what became of her.

“Whoever opposes the flow will be destroyed. It is up to Riglette if she wishes to survive. I have no intention of helping her.”

Wilm had spoken his cold words over his shoulder. Riglette’s final mission was the observation of Noel. That little girl that Wilm couldn’t read… that beast he could not understand was a fool who had saved Grohl when he should have died. She did appear to have some skill, but that was all. The outcome would remain unchanged, and there was nothing she could do to alter it; however, he would not overlook any more unnecessary intervention. He also had to consider what Amil saw.

If it wasn’t for that, such a troublesome situation wouldn’t have happened. Truly, truly she is an infuriating little girl, but she will soon receive her reward. All who stand in the way should die!

When that time came, it was likely that Riglette would meet the same fate. Grohl, Noel, and Riglette: the endlessly troubling group would all be taken care of. That was it; he had to take drastic measures, after all. The corners of his mouth slightly raised, Wilm began to devise a plan of action.

Several days later a grand military parade was held at Madress Castle under Grohl’s orders. Rumors that a war was afoot had begun to flow, such that not only the plebeians, but also the nobles had begun running about in an uproar. Against the famous military might of Bahar, there were obvious doubts as to their chances of winning. Nobody knew if it was a good thing, but the capital had regained some of its former bustle. The scores of soldiers from all over Coimbra numbered 50 000. Each unit’s crack troops were assembled before the castle, listening to an address from Grohl as he stood upon his balcony. Seeing the magnificent appearance was encouraging enough to cheer anyone up; the actual state of affairs aside.

“Hey, we can’t hear what the viceroy’s saying at all, eh?”

“…”

“Could it be that you can hear him? Hey, if you can hear it, tell me what he’s saying.”

“…”

It seemed that Cynthia was irritated and wanted to pinch Noel’s cheeks. It was rather amusing, so Noel proffered a question.

“He~y, little miss girl-turned-into-an-old-woman, Cynthia, can you hear my voice~? If you can hear me respond as vigorously as…”

As she closed in on Cynthia’s ear with her voice raised, a clenched fist came flying up. It wasn’t unexpected, but it couldn’t be stopped anymore. That was simply because it had been so much fun. Pain was certainly no good, but the trivial back and forth was fun. It might have even been appropriate to call it some small happiness.

“The viceroy’s speech will be posted up later. For now, just take in the atmosphere. If you get it, just do as you’re told!”

“Oh, so everyone’s just pretending to hear, eh? Ahhh, now that I’ve figured it out, I’m getting sleepy.”

“It seems like you want another punch, Commander of One Hundred, Noel.”

“I’ll hold back, Senior Captain of One Hundred, Cynthia, Sir!”

“It won’t help if you’re only posturing, you fool!”

A second punch was already on the way, but it didn’t hurt much. It seemed like she was holding back this time. Rubbing her head, Noel looked to the sky which was unfortunately cloudy. Mr. Sun was in hiding. There was something good about sunny days; there was something wrong with rainy days; and with rainy days, she couldn’t tell which way it would go. That was why she neither particularly liked, nor hated them.

“Haa, a war is coming, so there isn’t much time. Please take on some of the gravity of a captain. I will be embarrassed as your aide otherwise. It’s lethally irritating.”

Riglette sent a disgusted look at Noel’s back. After laughing as if it was funny, Noel broke into a dramatic stretch. Then she turned around.

“Ahaha, sorry.”

“If you get it, it’s not a problem.”

“Cool.”

“…”

After Noel’s frank apology, Riglette hesitated, seemingly troubled. She decided to ask her upfront.

“Hey, is there something you want to say? Are you thinking up some more abuse? I’ve already heard that there’s something wrong with my head, though.”

“N-no. It is nothing. Don’t mind me.”

“I see. Then, is it fine if I ask you something else?”

“W-what is it?”

Riglette seemed somehow troubled. It was a rare expression that Noel didn’t find funny.

“Who was it we’re going to be fighting again?”

“What are you saying at this point? Isn’t Bahar our enemy as always? Has your mind slipped even further in the summer heat?”

Massaging her temples, Riglette insulted her. The wondrous mood from earlier had been destroyed. Riglette was very lively when she was ridiculing people.

“Then, why was it that we have to fight Bahar, again?”

“Hmph, isn’t that simple? It is obvious that the recent rebellion was Bahar’s doing. Without making amends for that, they had the audacity to aim for the throne. That is why the viceroy has decided to start a war. That much should be obvious to all commanders of one hundred.”

Riglette snorted.

“But Bahar’s a province in the same empire. If we make it into a war, than we’ll be traitors who needlessly threw the world into chaos. No matter how it’s fluffed up, we’re still the ones to move troops first.”

“Try thinking with that what little brains you have. If we win, what we said will be correct. It’ll be likely for Bahar to lose face, and the viceroy to take the seat of the emperor. That’s the real aim of the war.”

“I see. If it all goes as Riglette says, it’ll be perfect. As expected of my aide. Amazing, amazing.”

A vein bulged on Riglette’s forehead as Noel attempted her jokes. When she tried to poke fun at her via mimicry, it seemed to anger her. Incidentally, Noel knew that much without even needing to hear it, but she had to confirm as it was all knowledge that had been forced into her head back in that place; things such as military science, the art of war, training with various weapons, and the many ritual oaths of loyalty to the empire. There were other things that she understood, but those were largely things considered common sense in the world which was why Noel spoke so often to seek confirmation. Doing so would expand everyone’s world, not only her own.

It’s really fun talking about whatever I want.

Ever since she had left, she hadn’t been hit for unnecessary chatter. She had to deal with Cynthia’s fists, but there was no hatred in them. It was completely different from the trash. Noel had done lots of talking, and so she could tell. Noel had become free when she left, and had changed again when the rebellion was put down. She had been able to gain all manner of things.

“Noel, is there something you’re curious about? You’re making a rarely serious face. It’s not like you.”

“That’s pretty mean. The truth is that I’m just thinking about something a little… hey, I know this is sudden, but do you like war, Cynthia? I want to ask Riglette, too.”

“I was wondering what you were going to say. I doubt there’s anyone who likes war.”

“There is no need for me to answer such a foolish question. You’re really annoying, so please stop speaking to me.”

Cynthia was smiling bitterly, and Riglette had turned aside. There wasn’t a human who liked war.

Thinking I see, so it’s like that, eh? Noel made note of it.

Noel thought of another question, and decided to ask about it, “If that’s what you think, Cynthia, why are you in an army that must go to war?”

“Because it is my, and all knight’s, duty. Knights fight to protect the weak, and devote themselves to their lords. I believe there is a justice that must be protected.”

“I see. You’re amazing, after all, Cynthia, to go so far for anyone.”

Noel thought it was truly incredible from the bottom of her heart. She would wager her own life for people that she didn’t know, and couldn’t see. It was something Noel couldn’t do, and so Cynthia was amazing.

“Yup, Cynthia’s amazing, and must surely be just.”

Of course, the weak she included were likely limited to those of Coimbra. Even Cynthia was like that, but she probably didn’t want to say it. Noel had learned that such was the way of the world. If there was one only true thing in the world, it was unmistakably that fact. There was likely also a second, a third, and a great number of other true things, that was, if everyone published their various truths, thinking them to be correct. At that time, the person with the loudest voice would be correct. To push one’s truth, one accumulated assets, threatened others with violence, and silenced one’s adversaries with a sharpened blade. Such a state had repeated countless times in the history that Noel had learned in that place. She had learned to become the sword of the emperor of the sun, and to kill his enemies; to sacrifice her body as his shield. That one phrase had been beaten into her countless, countless times. It still lingered with her in some small way. That place was likely a place to manufacture people for the sake of the one with the loudest voice, though it had ended as a massive failure.

It serves you right. You’re plan was a failure.

Ironically, only Noel had survived, despite being seen as a failure. She had no intentions of becoming any sort of sword or shield for the emperor of the sun, and she was not the only one to think so, her companions did too. If she did ever see the emperor, she would point and laugh. She was curious as to what it would feel like to be laughed at by a failure.

“In that case, what about you? I’m sure that you have people and places you want to protect.”

“I wonder how it is? Hmmm, I don’t really know, do I? Ah, I might want to protect my companions.”

“Why don’t you speak as confidently as usual? Your eyes are icy.”

In response to what Cynthia had pointed out, Noel tried swimming her eyes around. What came for her was not a clenched fist, but a sigh. She would protect her companions as much as she could, but she had no intention to throw her life away for somebody who was merely an ally. If she would do that, no matter how many bodies she had, it probably wouldn’t be enough. Cynthia was amazing for wanting to protect all the people of Coimbra.

“It’s harsh to say that so suddenly. Ah, I don’t want to die for the emperor. Yup, even if I died, I’d hate it.”

She would by no means die for the Sun Emperor Befnam. Saying as much, she elicited a hushed rebuke from Cynthia.

“Hey, be careful with that blasphemy. You’re a fine knight now, so at least carry one conviction. If you fight without thinking about anything, you’d be nothing more than a beast.”

It was true that beasts probably didn’t think about anything, but they would fight to survive. That was their instinct. After thinking a short while on how she was surely similar to them, Noel tilted her head.

“Hmmm, conviction, was it? My thoughts are a bit different from yours, eh Cynthia?”

“How so?”

“I don’t really dislike fighting. I’ve fought until now without any convictions. All that I’ve thought until now was that I didn’t want to die.”

“…”

“But, it turned out I had to fight, and because of that I ended up with all sorts of things. I’ve become friends with you and the young master, and even became companions with Barbas and the rest. That silly Riglette even became my aide. I’ve piled up treasures in my room, so I wonder if I might actually like fighting.”

Noel was smiling innocently, Cynthia drew in her eyebrows, and Riglette’s eyes were wide with shock.

“You shouldn’t ever say that you like to fight again. It wouldn’t be strange if you got yourself treated as a lunatic.”

“But it’s true. Won’t I get way more treasure if I keep fighting?”

“Silence. That’s an order! Either way, you are forbidden from saying that!”

“That’s not fair… then is it okay to say that I appreciate the profundity of combat?”

It was vocabulary that Cynthia had taught to her earlier.

“That’s basically the same thing, though. I can’t believe how you only remember such extraneous things!”

“Ehh, but weren’t you the one who taught me that, Cynthia? You even told me to remember it.”

“S-silence! This and that are two separate matters!”

Noel raised both her hands in disagreement, and words burst out from the person beside her who could no longer stand to remain silent. He was the bear like man from Gemb, Kai, who was most memorable for the great scar running across his cheek. If one had to say, he would probably be described as a similar man to Barbas.

“I’m sorry, this must be rude, but those words, I couldn’t help but wonder at them. The profundity of combat, that is. We Gembites have similar thoughts on the matter as Sir Noel.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes. We warriors of Gemb are brought up and trained from a young age to become stronger than anyone. In summary, the fight is our way of life.”

“The fight is your life? Thats… somehow super deep, isn’t it.”

“Haha, that may be. If you would like it, perhaps you should visit our province some time. We’ll welcome one as skilled as you at any time.”

As he spoke, Kai vigorously patted Noel’s back.

Feeling that she had again grasped all sorts of things, Noel responded gladly, “Then, it’s a promise, eh? I’ll absolutely come to visit one day, okay.”

“Good, come whenever you like! I will show you around.”

Kai gave a very deep nod, and Noel responded in kind, with good humour. As for Cynthia, she gave a very deep sigh, likely unable to find any words. That was an interesting phrase that she had learned from Cynthia earlier. There were words for when there were no words. It was truly a magnificent miracle.

“Ahem. Anyway, what we need to do now is focus on fighting. Once this next war is over, an era of peace will surely follow.”

“Yup, I get it. I’ll focus on the fight too. I’ll fight and fight, and until the very end, I’ll keep fighting. If I do, surely…”

Noel stopped her words there as it seemed that she had angered Cynthia yet again. Noel was who she was because she had fought to the end. That was why she had to continue fighting. No matter what, if she could keep fighting, she could find happiness. It seemed to be that doing so was the best way to achieve happiness.

Such were her thoughts.

Author’s Note

I went until I hit a good place to stop.

Here is a great place to stop.

Anyhow, a war seems about to begin!

Translator’s Note

We got some lovely Noel POV this chapter. I’ve been getting used to Cynthia’s more literary thoughts, but a return to Noel is a return to occasional extremity of both shallow and deep phrases in the narration itself.

Editor’s Note

Did you think the editor wrote this? Sorry, that hasn’t happened this time either.

I’m seriously getting sick of how many times I have to reread my chapters. Basically at this point, I’m only briefly skimming them rather than fully reading them out to myself to see how the prose flows. When going over my own stuff without fresh eyes, I tend to miss awkward sentences anyway. I’ll get back to these chapters eventually. Honestly, it would be great if my editor would even just read these and point out the awkward parts. The result of this is probably just slightly more repetitive prose, though the author hasn’t exactly helped me out in that regard. Also, I’ve probably misspelled more words, but I’m just following the time honoured English tradition of having no concept of standardized spelling. You could also interpret it as a Canadian who has given up after reading too many alternate, yet simultaneously correct, ways of arranging letters.

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