Chapter 224

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Translator: “Hakou”                             Editor: “Weasalopes”


The Imperial capital, it is the heart of the empire, a country that dominates the western part of the Ost continent.
The entire city is colored in sandy tones because of the abundant stone produced nearby.
But now it is night. The light leaking from the windows of the houses did not allow us to determine the color of the city.

「Your Majesty, the knight commander wishes to see you」

He was relaxing in a private room at the back of the court when he heard a low knock followed by the voice of the head attendant.

「Let him in」

The emperor replies, his expression clouded by a bad feeling.
He doesn’t particularly have anything in mind about what it’s about. But urgent business is usually a bad thing.

「Your Majesty, please forgive me for disturbing you at this time of night」

The person who entered the room was an elderly military man. The emperor let out a small sigh of relief when he saw how excited he was.
It wasn’t anything serious, it seemed.

「I’ve received some news, and I wanted to inform your majesty of it as soon as possible」

Before he started talking, the emperor offered him a seat and told him to sit down. Apparently it was information he got from someone in the blacksmith guild.
The emperor, who is in the latter half of his middle age, sighed at the knight commander, who had grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren.

「This kind of information always comes to your place first, isn’t it gramps?」

“I wonder why’s that?”, The old warrior tilted his head curiously.
The knight commander is the oldest person in the Round Table Conference. His habit to say 『I want to retire』 made it clear that he does not want to climb the ladder any further.
That lack of ambition is the reason he never became the target of accusations. In addition, he is said to have a calm personality that he won’t take it to heart whatever you say against him.

「So, what is this about?」

Urged by the emperor, the knight commander bends forward a little and opens his mouth.

「Fake reports」

The square jawed middle-aged woman who is one of the members of the Round Table. A lot of remarkable results have been achieved ever since she has taken direct command of the blacksmith guild.
The inside informant insists that all of it is fake.

「He also said that recently there has been a strange movement within the blacksmith guild. It seems that a large amount of materials are being brought into the guild master’s office every day」

The knight commander continued while rubbing his mustache.

「Those who came to make accusations feared that the evidence would be erased. The sense of crisis must have pushed their back」

The emperor crosses his arms and wrinkles his brow.
The speculation that the pilot was an elf and the report from the blacksmith guild. Certainly, there was a discrepancy between the two.

(If the pilot of the Ghost Knight is an elf, then the source of its power must have came from the pilot’s magical power)

The emperor stroked his chin with his right hand as he proceeded with his thoughts.

(But the blacksmith guild had always assumed that the Knight was the source of the power)

It was no wonder. No one had never even imagined that the pilot would be an elf.

(Then where did all those research results come from? How could we receive reports such as 『The secret of the Ghost Knight will soon be exposed to the light of day』?)

It is certainly suspicious.
The connection to the fact that the pilot was an elf that would make him say, 『I see, that makes sense』. He can’t find it anywhere in the reports.

「What do you think about this movement, gramps?」

The knight commander closed his eyes for a moment. Then he thought about his colleague, the square jawed middle-aged woman.

「She’s trying to hide it… doesn’t seem to be the case」

He turns to the emperor who remains silent and gives his reasons.

「Perhaps she began to investigate in her own way. It is said that the movement occurred after the round table meeting. She must have wondered about the information about the 『Elven Pilot』」

The emperor’s expression relaxed a little.
The square jawed middle-aged woman was one of his subordinates from his time as crown prince. Not only did he appreciate her ability, he also appreciated her high level of loyalty.
He did not want to think that she was trying to deceive him.

「These fake reports… You mean to say that she didn’t realize that it was fake?」

The Emperor said, but the knight commander had a difficult look on his face.

「I don’t think that’s all there is to this case」

The old warrior continued to listen to the informant without interruption. By the time the informant had finished speaking, a certainty had grown in him.
He had found a similar case in the course of his life.

「It must be the unfairness of the punishment and reward system」

Seeing the emperor raise one eyebrow, he continued his words.

「Apparently she didn’t seem to appreciate the people behind the scenes and the people who had to do the heavy lifting at all」

Shrugging his shoulders, the old warrior sighed heavily.

「If it’s like that, people will only gather in that one department where they can flourish, huh. How can a flower bloom if it lacks roots, stems, and leaves?」

The emperor, who was not a fool, understood the explanation. He then said with a bitter expression.

「If it doesn’t bloom, it will be plucked. Then, they will have no choice but to make it bloom even if they have to force it. That’s the kind of environment she has created, isn’t it?」

The old man nodded and then shook his head with a sorrowful expression.

「Rather than the subordinate cheated the boss voluntarily, it’s more like the boss cornered them to the point they had no choice but to do so」

“Then, could it be…”, he continued.

「She drove out all of her subordinates who were sincere in their work and left alone those who responded in a way that was pleasing to her ear」

This is also an act I have seen many times in my long life as an old warrior. There is no doubt that this is the reason for the increase in the number of reports.
After he said that, the old man closed his lips tightly and closed his eyes. Seeing that, the emperor frowned.

「Are you suggesting that I am the main cause of this? The Ghost Knight is a dangerous thing. You can’t blame me for expecting good results from her」

The emperor scratched his cheek and spoke up to the old man who did not answer.

「All right, I get it. I guess the most responsible for the matter this time is myself. I will not give that person and her subordinates a severe punishment」

“However…” he added while narrowing his eyes and sharpening his gaze.

「Scheming against me at this point. Or putting the blame on others, that’s a different story」

The knight commander opened his eyes and nodded firmly.

「Of course, that goes without saying」

What floated in their minds was the middle-aged man with a mild-mannered face. He was one of the members of the round table and was in charge of gathering information.
Not only was he hiding his own mistakes, he was also putting the blame on others, even on his colleagues, the members of the round table.

『Twisting the results to save one’s own skin』

A person who does such a thing can be a deadly poison in an organization. The emperor has no intention of allowing that to happen.

「The ones she forced to quit. Find them and convince them to come back. They’re definitely valuable resources」

He instructed the knight commander, who returned with a nod.

「And also, call that person here for me. I want to talk to her in person」

The person he meant must be the square jawed middle-aged woman. The old man nodded deeper.
He looked somewhat delighted.

***

The next day, just before noon. The square jawed middle-aged woman gets a summons.

(Could this be about that matter?)

On the carriage ride to the court, her anxiety swelled. After frantically examining the reports, it became clear that those reports cannot be trusted.
In other words, everything they had achieved so far was a lie.

(No, we don’t know if all of it was false yet. Half of it might be true)

She convinced herself and prayed. That’s why she wanted a little more time.
The golem carriage from the blacksmith guild arrived at the court in no time at all. The square jawed middle-aged woman walked behind the attendant guiding her.

「You may sit down. There was something I wanted to ask you today」

She was brought into the office and offered a seat by the emperor himself. The question that followed made her realize that everything had been exposed.

(Now that it comes to this, I have no choice but to answer honestly)

The square jawed middle-aged woman resolved herself. She looks firmly at the target of her loyalty and opens her mouth to tell the story.
It’s a long story that begins when she takes direct command of the blacksmith guild. But there’s only one important point.

『My sincere apologize, Your Majesty. For unable to see through my subordinates’ lies』

It must have been the truth, from her point of view. But that answer only disappointed the emperor.
As long as she did not change her mind, the square jawed middle-aged woman would repeat the same mistake over and over again and the same kind of blunder.

「……Alright, you can return」

And in the next roundtable meeting, there is no seat for her anymore.

***

The stage is set from the Imperial Capital to the Royal Capital. We move to the headquarters of the knight order in the north of the royal castle.
In the back of the reference room, a girl in a pilot’s uniform was looking for something. She has a slightly stern face and her hair is pulled up in a ponytail.

(The giant turtle in the eastern lake, last year. Hmm, let’s see…. Here it is)

The other day, she and her best friend went on a mission to subjugate giant turtles that appeared in the lake. They succeeded in driving back three giant turtles into the lake.

(That expression… I can’t get it out of me)

It should have been a good enough result, but the momentary disappointment that the client showed was bothering her.
She wondered if she was being compared to someone else, so she checked the records.

『Two or three giant turtles have appeared on the shore, interfering with traffic on the highway. The merchant guild is handling the situation, but no request was made to the knight order』

This was all that was written.
If a demon beast had appeared on the highway, the merchant guild would have been in charge of dealing with it. The fact that there was no request for support from the knight order meant that they had taken care of it themselves.

(The merchant guild? That’s the place where that man works, isn’t it?)

When I was a part-timer at a low-class brothel, that coward would show up day after day and violate me.
Remembering that time, I made a grim expression and swallowed my saliva. The reason why I was in a half sitting position now was for personal reasons.
Incidentally, if someone patted my butt now, I would have screamed out.

(But that doesn’t mean he fought them. I heard that they used to ask the adventurer’s guild for help when they can’t handle it)

I thought I overheard something like that when we were chatting. Since one of my colleagues who joined the knight order is a former adventurer guild’s Knight pilot.

(Let’s ask those old men first)

Ponytail left the cold archive room and headed for the office.

***

After stopping by the restroom, she buy a cold drink. With it in her hand, Ponytail walked through the office.
She spotted a pair of old men who were filling out some paperwork and called out to them.

「Giant turtle subjugation in the lake around this time last year?」

They looked at each other and said that they didn’t remember doing something like that. They must have gotten bored with their paperwork, so they took a break from their work and talked with Ponytail.

「We used to get requests from the merchant guild in the past. Then one day, they just stopped coming」

The single man next to him nodded silently at the married man’s words.

「When is this one day?」

She had a bad feeling about this, but still asked him. The answer was as she had expected.

「I think it wasn’t until the pilot of the merchant guild Knight changed. Even though they only have one Knight, they subjugated one demon beast after another, making our business dries up」

It was delicious, though, to raise the price by being rushed. The married man continued with a bitter expression on his face.

「Hmm, is this merchant guild Knight really that strong?」

When she asked them, pretending that she had no idea, the old men groaned with a difficult expression.
The married man spoke again while shrugging his shoulders.

「Seeing by the results alone, he is certainly amazing. But I don’t know how far we can trust it」

“The credibility is a bit…”, added the single man.

「What’s that? What do you mean?」

An obvious question from Ponytail. After looking at each other, the old men answered.

「I’m sure he’s killed a lot of weak demon beast」

The single old man paused and turned his eyes upward as if thinking. Then, “But…”, he continued.

「A powerful demon beast, like the one that was rumored. No one has ever seen him fight it」

The married old man also interjects with one side of his face distorted.

「The adventurers who assisted him are also exclusive to the merchant guild now. Thanks to that, there’s no information coming to us」

“Moreover…”, he shrugged his shoulders with both palms facing up.

「I’m sure you’ve heard of the story of how he defeated the Heavy Stone Golem. But come on, the Knight of the merchant guild is a B-class Knight, you know. There’s no way that it was true」

His partner, the single old man, also strongly nodded his head in agreement.
The Knight of the merchant guild is Old Lady. As the name suggests, the Knight is old, small and slender.
She was thought to be less capable than the average B-class Knight.
How much of this is true and how much is a bluff? The old men began to develop their own theories. But for Ponytail, the story so far was enough.

(The one who killed the giant turtle last year was him, that’s for sure. And he probably did it better than we did)

Judging from the client’s reaction, it would be natural to think so.
The kingdom knight order fall behind the Knight of the merchant guild. It’s humiliating, but it can’t be helped.
Setting aside the way he fights, he was stronger than her when they were students.

(I’ve got to work on my skills)

When fighting spirit is burning in her heart, the married old man raises a question.

「By the way, where did Oppai-chan go?」

The old man’s gaze landed on her chest, as if he was comparing her to her best friend.
Ponytail raised her eyebrows in annoyance and replied pensively.

「She took a day off. She said she’s not feeling well if Lightning isn’t here」

The old men shrug their shoulders. Lightning, her best friend’s crush, is on vacation to participate in the Divine Tournament in the Holy City.
The biggest problem, though, is that Lightning has a wife and child.


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