Chapter 450: Where Are The Clues?
「Alright then, explain yourself.」
Tristan, who sat down on my left side, scrunched up his face as he received uncomfortable stares from Erich and all the staff officers.
「Where should I start…… well, I had to interpret the contents of the book first. I investigated the parts missing on the pages of this book with that of another book and other various testimonies. The details are in this book, so let me read a paragraph……gueh.」
When Tristan places the stack of papers on the table, Erich and the staff officers stare more intensely.
I give his back a shove.
Tristan loves researching and has a desire to explain it to others.
However, we don’t really want to know about the history or background of the unknown weapon.
What we need to know is the identity of the weapon, and more specifically, the countermeasure.
「You can tell Irijina the details later. So, what are those things? And how do we deal with them? Talk about that first.」
I see Celia trying to take advantage of the opportunity and push Tristan in the stomach, but I take her hand away.
Celia’s face turns red.
「Why does it have to be this way…… ahem. Err, I don’t think you’ll get the first 10% if I don’t explain, but fine……」
If we’re using extreme logic, it really doesn’t matter what the thing is.
As long as we know how to send it flying, that’s enough to get full points.
「Geez, soldiers can be so…… whatever. Starting with the conclusion, I don’t know how to actually stop those things.」
The staff officers groan in disappointment and Erich clicks his tongue as he shoots me an angry glare.
Celia and I tag team to poke Tristan in the sides.
「Gu, gueh, ow, stop it! You’re jabbing my organs! I’m not finished yet!」
I reluctantly withdraw my hand and gently wrap my hand around Celia’s to stop her.
Celia blushes again.
「That’s why I said we can’t get anywhere unless I give some explanation. Regarding what that thing is, I looked at the clue which the Margrave picked up…… the cinders left by the fireball. And the result of my investigation found that it was mithril.」
Tristan places the string-like piece of charcoal that I gave him on the table.
「Mithril? You mean that legendary metal……」
「Who would have thought……this burnt thing is that? Unbelievable.」
Each member in the assembly hall let out voices of disbelief and I also tilted my head curiously.
Mithril means it’s the same as my Dual Crater, but comparatively…… no, it can’t be compared anymore with that strange being inside.
「Obviously, it’s not pure mithril. There are other metals mixed in such as copper and tin……as well as some other material which I couldn’t figure out. Ultimately, one conclusion we can draw is that the weapon is not of this world. I don’t believe it was created by South Yuguria and it’s very unlikely it came from the Federation or the Empire.」
Tristan stands up and begins pacing back and forth like he does when lecturing me.
「Mithril is, like someone just said, a legendary metal. It’s not unheard of for it to be used in swords or armor, but treating it as a disposable projectile is practically insane. It’s like launching a gold nugget with a catapult. I am almost certain, even though this is merely speculation on my part, that since mithril has magical properties, the enemy’s weapon uses some kind of magic.」
In the end, Tristan went on like he usually does.
Erich and the others still listened to him through his occasional passionate rants, so I guess it’s alright.
「What do you mean by it not being a weapon of our world? Doesn’t it exist at this very moment and stand in the way of our army?」
The staff officer whose name I don’t know is right.
「Yes. So we first need to investigate where it came from. Bring me that book. And that as well.」
Tristan makes a grasping motion.
Normally, I’d kick his ass, but Erich and everyone else is looking at me as if telling me to hurry up.
「Celia, take it to him.」
Celia rises abruptly in a huff and hands Tristan the book.
「This is the folklore of a savage tribe. This one is a chronicle of war from ancient times, ahaha, it’s the story of how a hero led two hundred people on a mountain and defeated a great army of five million. I wonder what the logistics would be like, or whatever. Next we have the superstition of the countryside……and then, this is……the delusion of a religious leader. This is the autobiography of a self-proclaimed adventurer, or probably the idle gossip of a drunk wanderer. For some reason, one week after taking one year to climb to the summit of the mountain, he chased after the hidden treasure of the bandits, but ended up sliding down.」
Erich is getting irritated at how Tristan is going off on a tangent. Hurry and get back on topic.
「Anyways, after gathering up this collection of useless information……I found this.」
Tristan takes the old musty scroll from Celia, who pinched the edge with two fingers and held it away from her body, and spreads it on the table.
Everyone, including me, leans forward.
「Ancient Jirubiru technical civilization? A boat without rowers that runs using steam and gears, mechanical puppets indistinguishable from humans walking around the town, utilizing the power of magic and lightning, the town staying as bright as day even during nighttime――how stupid.」
If I wanted to hear this kind of story, I could have treated a braggart at a bar with some alcohol.
In a Rafen bar, people were talking about how a strange man was abducted by a round flying luminous object and had his body played with.
I remember it well because the next day, there was a weird incident where cows in the nearby farm had their guts ripped out without suffering any external wounds.
I lose interest and get ready to give Celia the ‘OK’ sign.
Celia’s can’t wait to kick Tristan’s ass.
「That’s what you would normally think. If not for this.」
Tristan rolls the scroll out and reveals more of its contents.
There was a rather crude illustration depicted on the paper.
It was a rock that was roughly cut into the shape of a cube.
The light emitting from the cube was blowing up the ground along with people.
Drawn next to it was a smaller rectangular object spraying innumerable specks that turn the ground into a sea of fire.
Then, with a loud clunk, cups and maps on the table were flung to the floor.
It was Erich who swept all of it away with his arm.
「Is there anything else we know about this Jirubiru?」
「Not really. The name of the place was shown on the scroll, but it can’t be found on any maps today. This scroll is at least four hundred years old, yet it describes an ancient civilization, so there’s a good chance this was thousands of years ago. The name of the nation and place has likely completely changed since then.」
Erich slams his fist on the table annoyingly.
He was frustrated unlike the slight disgust he felt earlier.
I know how Tristan talks.
He is different from Leopolt who is straight to the point and is more like Adolph who tends to prefer lengthy explanations.
「I know you and I know that there is something you found out. Spit it out.」
Tristan scratches his head and then opens up a new book, which he recently wrote in.
「That was all I know right now. I couldn’t find any other documentation. So what I’m about to say is my theory.」
Tristan picks up the map Erich knocked off and puts it back on the table.
「The river use situation, the war description of the opponent and marching path…… if we put them all together, we can surmise Jirubiru existed here――」
He draws a circle on the map with his pen.
It was within the territory of the group of city states.
「Inferring based on the depiction of the terrain of the mine, I believe there wasn’t a precipitous mountain before. That’s because there is a bridge drawn across the gorge.」
Tristan draws a smaller circle inside the first circle.
The place highlighted is――
Everyone spoke at the same time.
It was obvious now that he mentioned that name.
「I don’t know the weakness of this weapon. After all, this is the first time I’ve heard of its existence, besides you won’t find a single person on the Central Plains who is knowledgeable about it. Unless you are a ghost who is hundreds of years old.」
An image of a beautiful woman flashes in my mind, but I restrain myself.
「However, there should be a clue in that place. With so many of those weapons, they could not have been buried in the field, so they must have found ancient ruins. It’s more unnatural to think the weapons were carelessly laid out in the open.」
I stand up immediately.
「Let’s get going to Meldora.」
But Erich lets out an anguished voice as he grasps his bangs.
I don’t think there’s anything to be troubled over.
「It’s not that simple. Meldora is already behind us. If we were to head there, we’d have to retreat in name alone……they would see it as a rout.」
It doesn’t matter if we win in the end.
「We just experienced a case with traitors recently. If they see how the state of battle has turned on us, they might show up again. ……plus, we also have to account for His Majesty.」
He whispers the final bit close to my ear, ensuring that I was the only one who heard it.
Celia strained her ears as much as possible to catch those words, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
「I’m not saying no because the king’s memory is getting worse. This Tristan, I’m sorry to say, has no special rank or title, and shouldn’t be speaking in the war council to begin with. No matter what I say, I can’t explain how the entire army’s policy was changed due to someone of such standing. Worst case, His Majesty’s suspicion will return and he might march over here.」
That would be terrible.
「Then what if you made it my opinion……」
I’ve accomplished quite a bit somehow or other.
I don’t think he would view the idea as a strange one if he heard it came from me.
「While that might be fine, would you be able to explain the details to His Majesty? Try repeating your subordinate’s explanation. You’ll be in trouble if you mess up.」
「Your subordinate’s investigation was well done, but it’s still unconfirmed. It is also too late to send spies into Meldora now.」
Erich turns to Tristan.
「There are clues in Meldora on how to defeat those things. Are you certain?」
「The possibility is high. The reason is the timing those weapons appeared on the battlefield. If they used such powerful weapons in the first battle, there would have been nothing we could have done. It means they either dug them up recently or discovered them and didn’t know how to use them until finally reading the instruction manual. I can’t imagine they would throw away such a precious manual.」
Erich mulls over the proposal again.
I also show my support for Tristan.
「Definitive evidence doesn’t exist on the battlefield. If the possibility is high, we should conquer it.」
The staff officers don’t say anything, simply discussing amongst themselves, and looking slightly concerned.
「I understand…… but I can’t have the entire army change course. That would look like we were routed and invite an unfavorable reaction.」
「But if we can’t best those weapons, we won’t advance further even if we stay here――」
My objection was interrupted by Erich.
「Therefore, I order Margrave Hardlett to lead a separate detachment to conquer Meldora while the rest of the army remains here!」
The soldiers cheered loudly.
Wait. If the whole army is staying behind, that means I’m left with my own troops.
「Not to worry, you have excellent subordinates. You won’t have any issue with command.」
「……No, I mean if I didn’t have them, I would be charging into Meldora by myself. 」
Is this a roundabout purge? That can’t be it.
At that time, some of Celia’s hair suddenly points upward in a threatening manner.
One moment later, a rugged hand rests on my shoulder.
「Do not fret, my friend! We are here!!」
The warm breath against my neck gives me the shivers.
I don’t have to turn around.
Erich nods in content.
「Umu, we will push on the main battle front and His Majesty Gildress thinks it’s also time to withdraw. In addition, Meldora is not the main enemy, though there is a risk of them attacking from behind. That’s why we’ll finish off Meldora with the return blade. Hardlett will provide assistance! ――and report back to His Majesty.」
Erich mutters the last part again.
「We have a bit of fate with Meldora! It may be an insignificant grudge, but it’s only proper to answer when they picked the fight!! Don’t you think so!?」
「「「Aye!! To Meldora!!」」」
I hear cheers outside from the Aless soldiers.
The council is supposed to be confidential, but Gildress’s voice is too loud.
In other words, I have to act separately from the main army and conduct a campaign with the Aless soldiers?
「I’d prefer if I was alo――」
Before I could finish my sentence, Gildress placed his arm firmly around my shoulder.
「As expected of a real man to want to fight alone!! But Meldora, while weak, is a large Polis. The burden of challenging them on your own is a little heavy to take.」
This guy really doesn’t listen to anybody.
「But if we go together, there is nothing to fear! I don’t know what kind of new weapon you’re talking about, but nothing the weak have will scare us! The men of Aless will protect you! We will surround you! Isn’t that right!?」
「「「Aye!! No one can stand against true men!!」」」
A loud shout once again answered back from outside.
Erich chuckles as he comments to me.
「I see you are very well-acquainted with them, but dealing with them by yourself may be difficult still. I cannot let go of personnel at commander level, but you can request for anyone else to accompany you. Take someone who won’t influence the command of your subordinates.」
「We don’t get along well at all.」
I’ll protest the only part I absolutely can’t accept for now.
As for who I’m taking…… well, I’ll choose freely.
「I will go with you! It smells really bad, but leaving Aegir-sama alone with them doesn’t feel right!」
Celia psychs herself up twice before raising her head.
「Recently he’s been unconsciously saying “nuun” and his face looks oddly similar to that guy when waking up in the morning…… and there’s more.」
I’ll let that go. No, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it.
「Alright, let’s go to Meldora!!」
「「「Uooooooh!! To Meldora!! To battle!!」」」
I keep telling you not to shout. People outside can hear you!
South Yugurian spies are skilled and we don’t want information to leak to them…… or perhaps they’ll think the destination being yelled out so obviously outside the council hall is false information.
In any case, we have to make our way there.
I’m getting a strange feeling about this.
It’s not the feeling that only something bad will happen. There’s something else that’s strange about this expedition.
I somehow managed to stop Gildress from running off right away and tell him to depart the next morning instead.
I haven’t decided who else would be coming and haven’t prepared food or water supplies either.
When I pointed that lack of preparation out, the Aless idiots claimed they didn’t need anything besides their canteen of water, a stash of dried meat and a spare set of leather pants, so I had to knock them down to get them to listen.
Moreover, Tristan, who felt satisfied after completing the task of presenting in the meeting, slumped his shoulders when I told him to get ready.
He should be crying himself to sleep with Irijina watching over him right now.
「After that, whatever happens happens.」
A lot of things were decided in a hurry, but it was all necessary.
And although I don’t know what we’ll find, that’s also a part of war.
I light the candlestick on the desk, and lay out a pen and a letter.
I wanted to write a letter to Nonna.
The war has been going for a while, keeping me away from home.
Not sending any word to Nonna makes it seem like I forgot her.
Nonna’s especially sensitive about these things.
I wrote about the current events, how Yakov was kicked by Celia, how Leopolt got angry at the other soldiers, how Irijina threw a strange mushroom into a stew, how Celia took down 20 soldiers by herself, how I tried to seduce a girl in town―― no, I shouldn’t mention that last one. What am I doing? ―― I’ll scratch it out with double lines. I’ll choose some pleasant stories to fill the space.
I’ll briefly gloss over Gido’s injury.
It doesn’t make sense to go into more detail in this letter than the one I sent to his wife.
「Fumu. That should do it.」
I mutter to myself as I put down my pen and rest my empty glass on the letter to hold it in place in the middle of the desk.
Then my eyes shifted to the window…… and I pounced.
My left hand opened the window and my right hand stuck out almost simultaneously.
The presence I felt outside the window wasn’t my imagination and my right hand grabbed someone’s neck.
「Who are you?」
I ask my question as I slam the person into the floor.
「Kah! Pleased to meet you. I am a messenger for Her Majesty, Wilhelmina.」
I stopped myself from breaking her neck once I heard her voice was female.
「What about the guards outside?」
There should be two of them.
「I didn’t think they would allow me to pass even if I named myself, so I put them to sleep.」
I take a peek out of the window and find one of them laying face down on the ground and the other collapsed with a piece of cloth over his face.
They’re groaning so they aren’t dead.
「I have nothing to talk to you about now.」
I could understand if I sent a messenger to Goldonia, but I don’t remember personally sending anybody.
「That depends on what I have to say.」
「No, I don’t think so. Since you’re a woman and you didn’t kill my soldiers, I’ll let you go. Now go back home.」
I wave my hand to shoo her away.
「If it’s to let me talk, I can give you a payment in advance.」
The messenger suddenly strips.
After instantly getting naked, she lays her back on the bed and slowly spreads her legs apart for me to see.
Her large beautiful breasts, her white thighs, neatly trimmed pubic hair and slightly plump genitals are in plain sight.
The bewitching nature of the woman’s body illuminated by the candle flame flickering in the wind was further enhanced.
「Fine, I’ll only be listening.」
I throw my clothes off and jump into bed.