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Noel temporarily returned to Madress. The castle already flew both the reunified Coimbran red circle and scale, alongside the recently founded Libelikan Commonwealth banner. Thereafter, Coimbra would aim to rebuild as a member of the Commonwealth. Of course, they had to prepare for a counter attack from the empire. The road ahead remained long. Greeting Noel were the people of Madress and the soldiers of Coimbra, all of whom were lined along the streets to see their new king Elgar and the rumored new governor general. In front of them all was Barbas, with a proud expression, bearing a medal on his chest with poor calligraphy that read: Governor General’s #1 Subordinate. It wasn’t a handmade medal from Noel, but one he had seemingly made on his own.
“Captain, no, Governor General Noel! Welcome back! You know, I was so shocked when I heard the news, I thought I’d throw out my hip!”
“Thanks. Oh, and I brought back souvenirs, so be sure to share it with everyone. There’s wine, of course.”
“Hehe, thank you very much! Listen up you rascals, this here’s the work of her excellency, the governor general! Take it gratefully!”
“Thank you, Governor General Noel!”
“Long live the Governor General!”
“Long live Miss Fiend!”
The Willa garrison seemed like they were always going to call her Miss Fiend. As it seemed like a term of endearment, Noel thought it fine to let them do as they pleased.
“Well then, I’ll see you later!”
“We’ll be waiting in the grand dining hall! We’ll feast till tomorrow mornin’!”
After she was seen off by Barbas and the plebeians had all scattered, Noel received words of gratitude from countless important-looking people, and gave out countless handshakes before she finally made it to the castle. At some point, even Cynthia, who had been following her, seemed to look worn out.
“Ah… I’m really wiped out!”
“Mnh, I feel the same. I know everyone has their expectations, but it really is tiring.”
“The feast is starting, what’re you going to do, Cynthia?”
“I think I’ll show up after getting my reports in order. I also want to thank the soldiers who have been fighting for us.”
“I see. Then, I’ll see you then!”
“Okay, then… I mean, understood, Governor General Noel, your honour.”
Cynthia’s praise had Noel deeply disturbed and it showed on her face.
“It’s fine to be like usual. It’s kind of… really disturbing.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. If you overdo it you’ll get more wrinkles and gray hair.”
For an instant, Cynthia was glaring at her fiercely, but she gave a small nod. Recently, it seemed that Riglette had rubbed off on her, and she said things that would anger people more often. Noel admonished herself for going too far with the comment about wrinkles. Wrinkles were too far.
“Well, if you say so. The truth is, I’ve received my orders for the campaign. Basically, I’ll be continuing your training.”
“Don’t you say that. I’ll have you learn the correct etiquette and manners of speech for a governor general. Naturally, you can’t neglect actual military affairs.”
“Psh, what a pathetic sound for a governor general.”
After Noel had been appointed to her post, limits on the power of the governor general had been decided. It wasn’t as simple as giving her total control of the military with no interference. She had to gain permission from the council before undertaking any military action outside of emergencies, and she would immediately have to step down if the council ever determined her unfit for her role as governor general. In the event of her stepping down, she would be temporarily confined. On top of that, the governor general was assigned a great many advisors and observers. Each kingdom had sent several men to report in detail her every move. Much authority was given to the observers. They had the right to invoke a motion to dismiss her if she undertook inappropriate action, and dismiss her with a majority vote.
Incidentally, Noel herself had the same right, having secretly snuck it into the paperwork with the intention of invoking a motion to dismiss herself if she ever got tired of her role, or if it became too troublesome. The reason why she had resorted to such methods was because Siden had glared at her with incredibly terrifying eyes when she had casually asked him what to do if she wanted to resign. Siden would subtly harass her if she made him angry, so she had to be careful. Her meal size would decrease, or her snacks would go missing, or she’d have mountains of dull work. Noel had become the governor general, so she couldn’t just run this time. It was a truly hazardous situation.
After another round of congratulations from the officers and civil officials, Noel turned to leisurely stroll to the barracks. Her current outfit was a military uniform that Gemb had prepared for her and it made a point of being red. A garment of red made her stand out rather blatantly, but it had a big medal on it, was bright like the sun, and cut a dashing figure on her. She had become a redhead in red clothes, but wasn’t particularly dissatisfied. Her hair was tied back and she had Cynthia’s seal of approval for attending any ceremony while so attired. Confirmation was found in the splendid military figure Noel saw reflected in the mirror. She looked like a different person, so Noel had tried giving a sloppy grin and it really was her in there after all. The others were all nodding around her so there was no mistake. People were such that they could change painlessly with just status and clothes.
I want to be proper like a real governor general, but it’s a pain to always make a face, Noel thought as she walked, yawning, and with wine in one hand.
She spotted Riglette leaning against a wall with her usual military police uniform and her aura that clearly didn’t want anybody coming too close. As soon as she spotted Noel, she straightened up, fixed her glasses, and gave a salute.
“Welcome back, Governor General Noel, your honour!”
“Yes, good work. How was the castle in my absence?”
“No problems at all, sir!”
“I see, how splendid. You’ve fulfilled your duty well, so you may retire for the day!”
Noel saluted, and was going to continue on her way as she was, but she unexpectedly found her uniform caught behind her. She thought it would have been funny to leave things as they were, but it looked like that wasn’t going to happen after all.
“Just wait a minute! There is a reason that I came all this way to stand there alone, waiting for you. Just how long do you intend to keep me waiting, you idiot!?”
“Your saying that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t know.”
“I’m not saying anything!”
“You’re really getting things mixed up now.”
Noel unintentionally smirked and Riglette grabbed her by the lapels, grinding her teeth. Noel didn’t expect to be attacked, but she readied herself a bit just in case. If her counterattack didn’t go well, Riglette would be seriously injured.
“In the first place, why did you of all people suddenly become the governor general!?!? That’s unreasonable!! I really, truly cannot comprehend it!”
Riglette was stamping and tutting as if she had lost her mind. Noel thought it looked like it would be a pain, but she was already caught.
“I heard it a few days ago. So now you’ve skipped becoming a major general in Coimbra, and gone straight to being the first governor general of the Libelikan Commonwealth? ‘The birth of a great hero to fight the evil empire!’ Aaaah, damn, damn, damn!! I can’t accept this!!”
“Uh, why’re you angry? Did I do something wrong?”
Finally having freed her lapels, Noel went to gently pat Riglette’s shoulder and was strongly shaken off.
“Shut up! I’m just jealous!”
“Why is it only you that gets good things!? What’s the difference between you and me!? Is it inborn talent? Shit, or will you say it’s the will of god or something!? Shit! Fuck!”
“Uh, would you like to swap places? If I talk to Siden, I might be able to work something out.”
But probably not.
“You retard! As if that would work!? Try thinking a bit more before you speak you ginger! Or are you trying to make me angry on purpose!? Aaaaaah, it’s infuriating!”
As Riglette was going on about not being able to take it anymore, her glasses fell off. Surprisingly, her skin was healthy and void of blemishes or wrinkles.
“Um, so what should I do? It’d be weird to apologise.”
Riglette put on a mask of calm after a deep breath; the corners of her mouth were still twitching, though.
“Of course. This is just an outburst of anger from a foolish woman. I feel refreshed now that I’ve vented at the great Miss hero… I’m very sorry. I shall be calm now.”
“Yup, okay, here. Thankfully, it looks like they didn’t break.”
Noel picked up the glasses and passed her them. Riglette accepted as if nothing had happened.
“In reality, it isn’t as if I have no positive reaction to it. You are, tentatively, an acquaintance of mine. I never thought that somebody I knew would become the grand hero and face of the Commonwealth. As a woman myself, I am slightly proud of you. Only slightly, though.”
The look in her eyes was obviously malicious, which surprised Noel a little.
“Ahaha, you’re nice and docile today, eh? If you were always like this, I think you’d have more friends, though.”
“It’s only for today. Tomorrow I will return to being a glasses adjusting wily woman. More importantly, I have something important to discuss. Would you come over here a little?”
After Riglette carefully checked their surroundings, she took Noel by the arm and began to walk, taking her in that way to what appeared to be a room used for servants.
She turned with a question, her eyes filled with determination and resignation in an expression hitherto for unmatched in its gravity, “I apologise for my sudden rudeness, but this cannot be overheard. Again, it cannot be overheard.”
“That’s fine and all, but what do you want in such an unpopular spot?”
“I’m here to ask your true intentions.”
“My true intentions?”
“That’s right. You have been elected governor general by the kings who have recognised your bravery and meritorious deeds, and have become the face of the Commonwealth. It cannot be described as anything but a grand exploit.”
“Yeah, that might be true.”
Noel was essentially of the same opinion. She didn’t mean to be conceited, but it was probably something that she could be proud of. There probably hadn’t been a plebeian in all of history that had been so impactful and had risen so high. Naturally, Noel knew well why she had been entrusted with her position: the kings wanted the support of the plebeians. It was also favourable that her support was from Elgar. Siden had decided that he wasn’t planning on using Noel for any plots. Furthermore, she was disposable if she failed. If she lost a decisive battle with the empire, she would probably be replaced. It was easy to push the blame onto her as she held no fief. While it would cost the Commonwealth some momentum, it would do minimal damage to the influence of each individual king. In that case, they would probably create a new hero to appoint as governor general. Noel had accepted her position knowing all that as she had wanted to become a big shot.
“You’ve settled into a place where you can grandly oppose each king despite being a commoner, moreso, a woman. This is very nearly a miracle. You will probably be given command of fifty thousand of the choice troops from each kingdom.”
“That’s enough military force for an entire kingdom. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Riglette drew her face in close, and though Noel could meet her gaze, she couldn’t respond.
“If you conduct yourself well hereafter, you may become the ruler of the continent. Military prowess, leadership ability, good luck; I believe you have all of these things. Even if you don’t want to talk about it, you must have noticed. You may be an idiot, but I saw earlier how you can get things done.”
Noel had nothing to say in response. It wasn’t just a delicate subject, the topic was completely hazardous. At the very least, it wasn’t something that even a close aide could say.
“You’re oddly skilled at gaining the soldiers’ trust… and the man who once conquered the continent, the sun emperor Bergis was the same. The charisma that draws people in regardless of background. It is said of his soldiers that they advanced on and on without fear of death. Bergis used that power to conquer the entire continent. It might be possible for you.”
Noel checked her surroundings. Thankfully, nobody was around. If somebody heard it, he would have to be silenced for Riglette’s sake.
“If you wanted, you could doubtlessly win over Elgar’s Coimbra. Look at the state of things: if you raised a third power, it would rival anything on the continent. I’ll ask this just once: do you intend to use the empire and the commonwealth as stepping stones to continental conquest? If that is the case, I have made my resolve to work to that end from here on out.”
“Can you… wait a little?”
Riglette’s face was dead serious, so Noel gave her response due diligence. To speak of ambition: Noel had none at all, but she had wanted to become important. Hence becoming the governor general. The logical conclusion of aiming for status would be the ruler of the continent; it was obviously the summit, and nothing was above it. If there was, it would be an expedition like Amil’s, but Noel did not have any interest in that.
Hmmmmm, a third force, eh? Would it really go well?
If Noel had to say whether or not she could do it, the only thing she could say is that it would be difficult, but rationally thinking it over would probably grant her about a twenty percent chance of it. Firstly, the empire would have to be defeated, and the third power would have to rise out of that confusion. There was also the possibility of assassinating Siden and usurping the throne of Gemb via a puppet. If the special quality that Riglette saw in her was the real thing, there was an even higher chance that it would work.
If I just play around I won’t have to worry about it at all, though.
She would probably have gladly accepted the challenge in a board-game for practice. The confusion would be amusing. This, however, was no game. Many of Noel’s friends and companions would die. Siden had a rotten disposition, but aside from that, he wasn’t too bad. The other kings had seemed pompous enough to die, but when she actually talked to them, they turned out to be perfectly interesting people. Riglette’s proposal lead down a bloody road. Noel had to consider things not just for her own amusement, but with the gravity of one who is responsible for the lives of others. At any rate, there was no mistaking that it would be a painful road to take. How long would the fighting persist? Elgar and Coimbra had a high chance of going along with her just like Riglette had said, but Siden and Kai and the others were a different issue. Many soldiers would return to their homelands, and above all, those who accompanied her would die in droves. Noel wouldn’t be happy even if people went gladly to their deaths over a dubious special quality. Noel did not want that. She did not want her playful, boisterous companions to die off. Noel wondered if she would really be happy in a seat of glory after crossing a mountain of corpses to get there.
It’d probably be empty. That’s how it feels.
She had no basis for assuming that, but it was still what she thought. It could be more or less gathered by looking at the various emperors of history. For them, happiness had to be sought, starting from the position of ruling the continent.Humanity would never be satisfied with merely maintaining the status quo. That was exactly why the incumbent emperor Amil had enacted his reckless expedition to the other continent in pursuit of his own happiness. Emperor Befnam had sought out his dream by using his own subjects as experiments to further humanity to its next stage. Noel wondered if it was truly happiness if it sowed thorns among allies and enemies alike; no, it most likely wasn’t. Surely, such a thing would wrap one in an indescribable sense of irritation. She did not want to be like that; like those who had died in that shitty place. Noel would hate it if she only increased their numbers. Even as she thought of those things, she wondered if she would change if she rose to the top. She did not want to change. Noel was fine as she was.
“I… don’t intend to rise any higher, you know. I don’t want to become the ruler of the continent.”
“Simple: I’d lose more than I’d gain. And don’t mention this again.”
Noel put a finger to her lips and strongly insisted that the conversation would never leave that place.
“I think that being a governor general is grand enough. I mean, this uniform is super cool. Everyone also calls me ‘your excellency’ you know. Ahaha, It’s really amazing, isn’t it?”
Noel stood as she quickly rattled off her reasons, and after breathing a deep sigh, Riglette tutted and her face returned to its usual, suspicious expression.
“What’s with that? It makes me look like an idiot for coming up with so many plans. Even though I’d prepared all kinds of steps for you to gain military control. Did you know that I’ve been mostly sleepless recently over this? Damn, was all that just a waste of time?”
“Ahaha, well I guess you’d better burn those plans and forget them right away. Nothing good will come of any lingering attachments to them!”
“Even if you don’t tell me to, I’ll just drink enough to die and my mind goes blank. Ahhhhh, how stupid. Even though the summit was right there…”
“I don’t even think that standing at the summit with a load of territory would even be a good thing. You’d have to think up all sorts of things, and above all, it’d be so huge, you’d never be able to clean it well!”
“Kingdoms and houses are totally different, you ginger! Ahhh, that’s enough. I’m going to eat and drink and not leave my bed for the rest of the day. I’ll forget it all!”
Riglette snatched the wine out of Noel’s hand and began to gulp it down straight out of the bottle, spilling it all over her uniform.
“Then, let’s hurry and return to the barracks since I think that wine might stain. I’m sure that it’ll get lively.”
“Okay, okay. I shall gladly accompany you, Governor General Noel, your excellency.”
“Good. Then, shall we go, Staff officer Riglette.”
Riglette tutted irritatedly at Noel’s jest. Unfortunately, the tut wasn’t particularly clean that time.
When they arrived at the barracks, the festivities had already begun. Everyone was drinking happily and discussing the future of the commonwealth with rosy cheeks. Only now did it truly feel as though they were finished with the grueling task of liberating Coimbra. When the men noticed Noel’s arrival, they greeted her with applause, and to get things rolling again, a man began a marching song as a toast.
“Listen up ya bastards! I will sing our Governor General Noel, her excellency, a marching song as a toast! Listen gratefully! I’ll fuckin’ send ye flyin’ if yer too annoyin’!”
“Ain’t you the most annoyin’ one here, pops!?”
“I can’t see the governor general, so fuckin’ move ya dirty bastard!”
Barbas raised a bottle of wine, ignoring the boos and jeers, “Shut up! It’s fine if it’s me you retards! Hey, you, the treacherous woman over there, hurry up and sit down!”
“Tsk, you’re as annoying as ever you white haired monkey! I can sit without you telling me to! Out of my way, you nuisance!”
“Ha? Who do you think you are, coming so late!?”
“What was that?”
After the White Ant Bloc had it out with Riglette for a while, the room finally went quiet.
“Ummmm, I’m the one who just recently became the first governor general of the Commonwealth: Noel Bosheit.”
Great cheers erupted when Noel gave her greeting as she stood before them, the sight of which caused Noel to quietly smile.
“Thank you for celebrating with me. I’m incredibly happy that I’ve been able to have so many companions.”
As they cheered, Noel decided to speak mostly seriously. There was a chance that such an opportunity would never come again, so she would tell them what she needed to say.
“This is really important, so I want you all to listen carefully… once the preparations are complete, I will be established as governor general in western Bahar where I will be the front line in the fight against the empire. I will once more have to fight the most elite unit of the imperial army: the black sun cavalry. Not only that, but I must engage in a prolonged fight against many enemies as per my duties as the governor general.”
The soldiers listened quietly to Noel’s words, and the various voices died out in the hall.
“I fully intend to fight as hard as I can. I promised that when I became the governor general, but I can’t win all by myself. I’ve learned that there’s a limit to how much a single person can do,” after a brief pause, Noel continued, “but if we’re all together, no matter the enemy, I think we’ll be able to fight to the end. That’s why I would like you all to please fight to the end. Of course, if you think it is impossible, you don’t have to come. This is a war, so there will be many casualties. I don’t want you to come because of my orders, but because of your own thoughts. This isn’t just a celebration, but also a farewell party.”
Barbas immediately stood when Noel finished speaking, “I’m going with you, Captain! No matter where, and no matter the enemy! You lot, though, you don’t have any obligation. Just like in the mines, use your own heads to think it out! I’ll fuckin’ kick the shit outa you if you complain after you’ve decided!!”
“We’re gon’ fight with miss fiend right till the end. We’ll follow wherever you go.”
“M-me too! I don’t quit halfway! I’ll protect my land with my own hands!”
The White Ant Bloc, the garrison from Willa island, and even Mirut stood up. One after the other, every they rose to their feet. Riglette, Cynthia, and Elgar had joined in at some point, too. Most likely, there were many of them who had been merely caught up in the momentum. That was just how morale worked, but Noel was still glad. She had asked them to follow her, and they had answered with their feet. That made her think that it was okay.
“I see. You can’t be helped, can you? Even though I said that many would die… even though I said that you can leave…”
“Hehe, are you really goin’ to say that, Captain? You’re always headin’ off to the front.”
Noel scratched her nose to hide her embarrassment at Barbas’ words.
“It’s cause I’m impatient.”
“Then hurry up and strike a toast. Whew, my throat’s dry and I can’t wait any more.”
Barbas poured wine into a glass.
“Yup, got it. Are you ready everyone?”
“Whenever you are!”
“Okay, then, here’s a toast to everyone here, a toast to our companions in the Commonwealth!!”
“Cheers to her excellency, Governor General Noel! Long live the Commonwealth!”
At the signal for the toast, the hall erupted in a greater uproar than it was in before. Elgar was crushed in a throng of drunk female soldiers, and Cynthia hurriedly pulled him out. Barbas was angrily throwing wine bottles at Riglette. Mirut and Cal were slowly sipping away at their wine amidst the merriment. Leue and Perius were quietly tucked away in the corners. At some point, the father daughter pair of Irvan and Illum had arrived along with the adherents, and they were performing some strange congratulatory ritual while drinking with the rest. The rest of Madress was likely the same.
People from all over are all together in a lively gathering. If the whole world was like this, I bet it’d be more fun.
That was, if the barriers of social status, race, nation, and religion could be scaled. It would be highly difficult, but Noel could see it playing out before her very eyes. It was possible at the very least. With that in mind, Noel felt better, and dove into the circle of soldiers.
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