Winter gradually ended, and spring arrived.
I discussed that with Orsted and we came up with 3 courses of action.
The first is to construct an organization for intelligence & random duties that's focused on intelligence gathering.
For that, we'll use the Rudo Mercenary Company that Aisha and the others created.
Have it collaborate in every way with Orsted behind the scenes, then expand the organization globally.
Link them all and gather each country's information in the main office.
Even if you don't go to the main office, if you go to the branch office you'll be able to find out in detail what's happened around there.
Rather than supporting Orsted, that's more of a system that supports my actions directly.
The second is people with political power.
Or perhaps, people who seem like they'll have political power later on. And winning them over as comrades.
Orsted said that Laplace will start a war when he's revived.
Thinking about it properly, he ought to wage war on each of the human nations.
At that time, how well each country is able to respond should depend on whether or not they know that will happen.
Thus, we'll make sure that influential people are informed in advance that there will be a war, arouse their caution, lend them our meager support, and gradually set things up for 80 years in the future.
When waging war against Laplace, whether the Rudo Mercenary Company can take action effectively should depend on whether or not each country is cooperating.
The third is a group of warriors who will be focused on battle.
Tentatively speaking, they'll be focused around Orsted.
We'll gather comrades who will fight Laplace in place of Orsted.
We'll have them fight Laplace in place of Orsted.
If the curse is lifted and they work together with Orsted, it would be nice to have them accompany him in the decisive battle against Hitogami too.
Who'd be good... is something that was decided after consulting with Orsted.
"People who already had the fate of fighting Laplace, and who won't easily become Hitogami's disciples."
That was the conclusion.
People like the Ogre God and the Dwarf God, who don't have a relation to Laplace in the present era but will confront him later. 1
The Water God Style and the Sword God Style don't have a relation to him in this era either, but their disciples will confront him.
Also, we plan to contact North God Karuman III and Death God Randolph who are long-lived.
There's also people who have personal grudges against Laplace.
Ruijerd is one of them.
For people whose whereabouts are unknown, the Rudo Mercenary Company searches for them, then I go there directly and use kowtow diplomacy.
Depending on the case, there's a possibility I might need to help them out and then pressure them into returning the favor.
For now, the plan is to contact every single strong-seeming person.
Now then, even when we gather those people, there's an existence which serves as a bottleneck.
Knowing him, he'll probably use his disciples to interfere.
Hitogami's disciples are basically impossible to identify in advance.
According to Orsted, it seems there are people with a low or high possibility.
But in this loop, it seems like people with a low likelihood have become disciples, and it's difficult to distinguish them.
With all the actions I'll be taking, people outside of Orsted's expectations will end up becoming disciples.
As for a countermeasure against that... honestly, I couldn't come up with one.
So I'll just stop thinking about it.
In the first place, I don't know what kind of standard Hitogami uses to decide on disciples.
Orsted said, "He has a tendency to choose people with strong fates."
However, in recent times, people with weak fates have also become disciples.
To begin with, I don't really understand what determines the strength of a person's fate.
It seems like a rule that only Orsted and Hitogami know.
Even if I consult with Orsted about each and every rule, I get the feeling that I'll just gather unnecessary anxiety and that just thinking about it is pointless.
For beginners to a game, there's a way of conducting yourself suited to beginners.
For now, I'll establish the motto "Don't believe in revelations from dreams" among the guys who become our comrades.
But even so, disciples will appear.
When someone seems suspicious, check if they're a disciple, and in each case, kill them.
It's a tough job, but I'll do it to the best of my ability.
Aside from me having it tough, there's no problem with just continually increasing our numbers from now on.
After all, Hitogami only has 3 disciples.
When it comes to increasing our numbers, the more we do the more we'll be at an advantage.
For example, if we have only 5 people, and one of them becomes a disciple and betrays us, our military strength goes down 20%.
The enemy's strength also increases, and the battle becomes risky.
But if we have 10 people, or 20.
Or 100, or 1000.
We won't become unsteady if just 1 or 2 people betray us.
If 1000 people manipulated by a leader became enemies, that would be bad,
but I'm basically the leader, so it's fine.
I'm a little worried about what happens after I die, but there are many people more excellent and capable than I am.
Someone capable of entrusting things to should appear.
Even now, there's Roxy and such.
Also, aside from gathering comrades, there are many things I need to do or obtain.
The first is securing a method of contacting Orsted.
In the previous incident's fight, Pax was allowed to die because of a lack of communication.
Of course, there were many causes besides a lack of communication.
But... If I'd had a secret method of contacting Orsted, I should've been able to avoid it.
I'm not thinking about completely relying on Orsted.
But from now on, I'll be taking action separately from him even more often than now.
For that reason, a method of contacting him is indispensable.
When the situation is important, there ought to be more cases where it would be better to act after consulting with someone rather than acting based on my own judgment.
If you know about the other person's dilemma, you can also rapidly take action.
Although I can't imagine a scene in which I save Orsted.
In any case, as I thought, a cell phone is essential.
Even if it's not a phone, it would be fine if it can send information one-way.
With all this in mind, I tried consulting with Orsted about it.
While explaining about the existence of something that can make phone calls, I asked if a similar thing existed or could be constructed.
"So it's a magic item that can send voices or writing."
"Even just writing would be good, but basically I was just thinking it might be good to be able to exchange information even when we're far away, or have a discussion when we're having trouble deciding something. It can't be done, right?"
I figured it would be impossible.
Society isn't that convenient.
"There are similar magic items among those of the dragon race. If those are reproduced, it would probably be possible."
That's what I'd been thinking, but Orsted's answer was unexpectedly optimistic.
"Ooh, so there are things like that."
"Yeah, you should have seen them too."
Where was there something like that?
If so, I should have thought "That's convenient, I want one too."
"The Seven Great World Powers stone monuments, and the adventurer guild cards."
Now that he mentions it, that's true.
The adventurer guild cards had voice input, and the Seven Great World Powers stone monuments have the same words but are scattered throughout the world.
So the the adventurer guild card was a rip-off of the dragon race's creations.
Come to think of it, it did give off an "overtechnology" vibe...
"A bit of improvement is necessary, but I'll try making it."
"Eh? Orsted-sama will be personally making it?"
"At any rate, since you've appeared, my schedule keeps getting thrown out of order. If there's a need for it, it would be good to make it... I'll make use of it in the next loop, too."
And thus, it was decided that Orsted would be personally manufacturing it.
It was a happy miscalculation.
Since it seems like Orsted is thinking about recruiting me to be his comrade in the next loop too, I'm truly happy.
"It's possible I won't be able to make it, so keep that in mind."
And so the telecommunications business was approved.
One more thing.
Looking back at the failure last time, there's something I need to create.
A method of transporting the magic armor.
Last time, the Magic Armor MK-I that we went to great lengths to bring ended up only being used for transportation.
It took a lot of time to transport it from the city to the fort.
It wasn't brought into the castle, and wasn't even made use of during the battle with the Death God Randolph.
From now on, I don't expect to fight with Death God-level people very often.
But there still ought to be a lot of enemies I can't face with the MK-II Revised.
I want to do something about it.
Of course, to resolve that, we're advancing development of the MK-III which is small and has good performance.
But it will still take a lot of time to produce the MK-III.
Zanoba is all-out collaborating on it, but it's not something that will be complete in 1 or 2 years.
And so, I came up with an idea.
Regarding whether it would be possible to summon the MK-I as-is.
According to the lessons I had with Sylvaril before, it seems like I can't summon inorganic matter, but...
Well, you know, if I just do a little more of this or that, or change my way of thinking, I get the feeling I can summon inorganic matter.
This is something I intend to personally test out a little.
If it's no good, then I'm okay with that.
Well then, the course of action regarding gathering comrades has been set.
For the time being, we'll expand the Rudo Mercenary Company while establishing connections with each country's powerful people and making them comrades.
At present, it should be fine to act so as to make each country's powerful people into our comrades.
First of all, Cliff and Ariel.
The relative of the Pope of the Milis religious order, the next queen of the Asura Kingdom.
Those two who are like half-comrades will officially be incorporated into Orsted's faction.
Which of the two will be first?
Of course, Cliff who lives close by.
If Cliff becomes a comrade, I can form a connection to the Milis religious order.
The Holy Kingdom of Milis is a strong nation.
When it comes to the war against Laplace, they'll become an extremely strong military power.
Battles are about money and numbers, after all.
When the time comes, it won't be bad to have a connection.
I could say a lot about Cliff, but let me just say that he's my true friend.
He's been cooperating regarding Orsted's curse, so it should be fine to just get a verbal commitment from him.
I can imagine him immediately saying "Okay."
Thinking that, I headed toward the apartment where Cliff lives, but unfortunately it was the usual "that".
I heard Elinalise's carnal voice and immediately turned away.
The walls of that house are thin.
What's with that "You can't, Cliff! Clive is watching!"
Then do it when Clive is sleeping, sheesh...
For now, I just left him a note saying "I'll come by in the evening."
I decided to go to Zanoba's house.
Zanoba is no longer a prince.
He sold off his royal things to raise money and took up residence near my house.
It was a snug two-story house.
It was created so that he'd be able to manufacture dolls, so the first floor is wide open like a garage.
The living space is mostly on the second floor.
It seems like he's living there with Ginger and Julie.
It has plenty of space for three people to live in.
Although I don't know what'll happen between these three people from now on...
Maybe they'll get married or something.
Anyhow, for the time being he has savings, or rather the money he received as royalty, so he's fine,
but from now on it's just going to decrease, so we decided to pay him a salary for working on the production of the magic armor.
It's research and development costs.
Zanoba took it, but he didn't have a very pleased expression.
"I didn't make it on my own, so for me alone to receive money somehow feels wrong."
He said that with his eyebrows in the shape of a ハ.
It's not like I don't understand what he's saying.
The magic armor is something that myself, Zanoba, and Cliff made together.
Zanoba alone is receiving the R&D funding for it.
It doesn't seem reasonable.
But be that as it may, if he says that, the most unreasonable person is me.
I wear the magic armor, go to work, and receive compensation for it.
In other words, up until now only I've been getting money.
With the magic armor that all of us made.
The magic armor isn't something that we made to earn money.
But even so, humans are living things who kill each other for the sake of money.
If he says that we should be fair, then we should pay Cliff too.
Then again, Cliff doesn't lack money, so it's questionable if he'd accept it.
Well, enough of that.
At the very least, if someone needs money, there's enough to pay them.
There isn't anyone among my acquaintances who's greedy enough to overcharge to get an obviously excessive amount of money.
I personally also have enough flexibility when it comes to money to give it to someone who needs it.
Humans really need to treat one another well when they have enough money to comfortably do so.
Well, the magic armor is necessary, and Zanoba's figure manufacturing craft is also necessary.
You pay money for what's necessary.
That's the way it is, so for now you could say that Zanoba has a steady livelihood.
But when entering, I properly knock.
That's called courtesy between close friends.
"Zanoba, it's me! Open up!"
I rang the bell a few times while calling out to Zanoba.
"Ooh, Shishou. Please, please, come in."
The response was extremely quick.
But I'll be extra considerate.
"Really? It's okay to open it? I'm really opening it? If you want to stop me, now's the time? When I start to move, it's too late to stop me?"
Last time, I wasn't careful enough and it was a really close shave.
"I don't really understand, but I will not stop you, so please enter."
"Really? There's no woman changing clothes next to you or anything?"
"I'm saying that it's okay."
I believed in him.
I believed in Zanoba.
Even if the world turns upside down, I'll believe in Zanoba.
"All right, pardon my intrusion."
When I opened the door and took a step forward, I was already in Zanoba's workshop.
In the spacious room, two manufacturing desks had been placed, and wooden boxes and dolls were scattered here and there.
Zanoba sat at one of the desks.
Julie was with him.
If I just say that, then it's like usual, but the atmosphere was a little different today.
Specifically, the place Julie was sitting was a problem.
Usually, Julie sits at a desk that's placed a little ways off from Zanoba, and makes figures.
But today, she wasn't sitting at that desk.
Julie sat on Zanoba's lap.
While sitting on his lap, she applied color to a figure with a serious expression.
As for Zanoba, he was prudently shaving down one of the the parts of the magic armor above her.
Shaving dregs were falling onto Julie's head, but she didn't seem to mind.
"Zanoba...... When I wasn't looking, you sure got close to Julie, didn't you?"
"Fumu, is that bad?"
When you combine Julie's shortness with Zanoba's tallness, they look like brother and sister.
Well, this is in the safe zone. If it's just at the level of sitting on his lap and making dolls together...
It should be fine to conclude there's no suspicion of obscenity.
No, it's not like it's "out" if they do it, either.
There's no laws about age of consent in this world, so I won't find fault with him.
But it's kinda, you know.
I made such an effort to be considerate, so I wish they'd separated.
"No, it's endearing."
Saying that, I dragged over a stool from the corner of the workshop and sat on it.
"So, Shishou, what brings you here today?"
Of course, I didn't visit Zanoba just to chat with him.
I've entrusted Zanoba with the production of the magic armor, but there's one other job I'd like to entrust to him alongside that.
"Actually, Zanoba, today I came to deliver to you a notice of personnel change."
"Haah... A notice of personnel change?"
"Yes, a notice of personnel change."
While saying that, I took out a piece of paper from my chest pocket.
I held it out to Zanoba reverently with both hands.
"Oops, excuse me."
Zanoba hastily set aside Julie, brushed off the shaving dregs from his chest, and respectfully received it.
He's a man of etiquette.
"Fumu... 'Zanoba Shirone has been appointed to the position of marketing supervisor for the Ruijerd figures' is written here."
"Umu, accept it modestly."
"I'm fine with accepting it, but...... wasn't that project postponed?"
In brief, this notice signifies the start of the project to sell Ruijerd dolls that has been planned for some time.
You might ask why now, at this particular time.
But the current circumstances are exactly why we must do it.
From now on, we'll be winning over powerful people from each nation,
and at the same time gathering comrades to fight against Laplace.
But there are several people whose whereabouts we don't know.
For example, that's right, Ruijerd.
In the original history, he'd be in the demon continent,
but in this loop he traveled together with me to the central continent.
Recently there haven't been any letters, and I don't know where he is.
Since it's him, I don't believe that the unthinkable happened to him, but he's in a situation where I can't immediately meet him and request his help.
Well, it's not like he's in hiding,
so while searching around, we might find him.
But to be frank, he's the first person that I want to ask, "Please cooperate with us to defeat Laplace."
That's how I feel.
I want to do whatever it takes to find him and directly ask him.
I want to give him the chance to exact his revenge on Laplace...
That's the public half of it.
I simply want to meet Ruijerd after a long time.
It would be nice to meet him and once again work together toward the same goal.
That's the other half.
They're basically selfish reasons, but that's how I ended up deciding to begin the sale of the Ruijerd figures.
Instead of a simple search, this plan will speed things up.
And creating a better image for the Supard tribe has been the plan for some time.
I've tentatively set up other public justifications too.
For example, regarding the magic armor.
It's true that Zanoba, Cliff, and I have felt like we're at an impasse with just the three of us working on the weapon called the magic armor.
At this rate, there's a possibility that the MK-III won't be made.
Hence we'll begin large-scale figure sales.
As we scale up our business, we'll solicit help from craftsmen and train them.
Specialists who are familiar with Zanoba's and Cliff's techniques will increase, and if each one repeats trial and error, there will be a higher possibility that some innovative idea will be produced.
No matter what world you're in, it's important to cultivate your engineers.
"...So that's how it is."
I explained the above in detail to Zanoba.
"It's true that it's just something I want to do, but I also want to improve our development of the magic armor and figures from now on. I want to entrust the management to you who understands it better than anyone else."
"To support you, I'll give you members of the Rudo Mercenary Company who I've had my eye on for a while. Of course, Aisha or I will assist you with setting up the first shop...... Will you do it?"
"Yes, leave it to me."
Zanoba readily nodded and kneeled respectfully.
Julie who was watching from the side quickly went down on her knees too.
"Grandmaster! What would it be best for me to do?"
"Julie, stick with Zanoba and follow his instructions."
I'll be having Julie take on a lot of work, too.
From now on, she'll be entering the mass production structure for the early line of Ruijerd figures.
Earning money for Zanoba's sake.
If she hears that, she'll probably be motivated.
"Well, we'll leave the details for a later day. That's it for today."
For the time being, the project has taken a step forward.
Evening arrived as I approached Cliff's love nest.
It seems that their liaison has ended, as the apartment has fallen silent.
You know, with them doing that every day, their neighbors probably can't live in peace...
No, normally they do it in the school's laboratory, so it should be just at night.
When I stepped into the room, a haggard Cliff greeted me.
He seemed energetic from the time she was pregnant until shortly after the child was born, but recently he always has a pale face.
I'm worried that his internal organs will fail soon.
"Ara, Rudeus. It's rare to see you."
In contrast, Elinalise was gleaming.
She offered her breast to the baby with a satisfied look on her face.
She was naked above the waist, and wore just panties below it.
It might be that they're taking a short break now, and after the feeding is over they'll continue.
"Yeah, there was just something I want to take care of."
All things considered, an oujo-sama type blonde beauty breastfeeding a baby while half-naked makes for a prettier picture than I'd imagined.
Since she's an elf, her entire body is slenderly well-proportioned.
Her usually slutty attitude, and her current Virgin Mary-like manner.
This might also be a kind of gap.
When I look at Sylphy and Roxy, I also sense a kind of gap.
Recently, I sense a gap with Eris too.
When that Eris cradles an infant, she just stands still and lets her breasts get sucked without raising her voice or punching the person sucking them.
The appearance of a woman who has become a mother is truly mysterious.
"Rudeus, would you not look at her so intently?"
"Eh? Ah, I'm sorry."
Since I was thinking about this and that, I got a warning from Cliff.
It's not like I was looking at her with a dirty mind.
"Lize, too. There's a guest, so at least put on some clothes."
"Ara, Cliff...... Are you jealous?"
"Yes, I am. Although Rudeus might be something like family to you......"
Elinalise shrugged while withdrawing to another room, still embracing the baby.
"Rudeus, you too. You have three wives, so would you not look lustfully at someone else's wife?"
Wasn't doing that.
Is what I wanted to retort with, but it's true that I was watching her.
Even I don't want Sylphy and the others to be seen naked.
"No, I'm sorry. I'll be careful next time."
Cliff sighed and sunk back into the sofa.
He looks tired, but he also seems like he's kind of in a bad mood.
I wonder if there's some problem with his sex life.
"So, what's up today?"
"Right, well, I have a little favor, or maybe I should call it an invitation......"
Cliff looked at me with glazed eyes.
It feels hard to speak.
Maybe I should come again.
No, before doing that, how about I at least hear the reason.
"......Did something happen?"
"Nothing in particular......"
Cliff started to say something, then shook his head.
"No, this is a good time. Since it's something I'll have to tell you about anyway......"
That's a very profound lead-in.
It reminds me of the previous incident with Zanoba.
"The truth is, I got a letter from my grandfather in the Holy Kingdom of Milis."
The pattern's the same too.
In which case, maybe this is a trap to lure out Cliff.
Maybe another war.
Maybe another of Hitogami's traps.
No, either way, I'd been thinking of asking Cliff to be an intermediary with the Holy Kingdom of Milis.
The person himself seems to have that intention, too.
I won't tell him something half-baked like "I'll bring you back."
Of course, I certainly want him to stay in Sharia, but I'm focused on my objective.
Cliff stood up and took out a letter from a shelf.
This also gives me a strong sense of deja vu.
I'm sure that in that letter,
Cliff's grandfather talks to him about how much money has been spent raising him.
And why that money was spent.
For the sake of him aiding his family's faction.
When will you help us?
Something like that is probably written there.
I must read it with caution.
"Oh, it's not that serious a problem."
Cliff scratched his cheek while saying that.
He has an uncomfortable expression.
"We already talked long ago about how I'd return once I graduated. He's just concerned about the cost of travel and the journey back."
Told that, I looked at the letter.
It started off with words of concern for Cliff's body.
After that, advice about how if the travel costs are too much, to show the enclosed Milis religious order leadership insignia to the Milis church.
A stern part about how the conflict is in an unfavorable situation, and he should resolve himself if he returns, and that if he's not resolved he doesn't have to return.
Lastly, he closes with words about how although he'd written some severe things, he wants to see Cliff's face again and looks forward to his return.
Overall, it was a heartwarming letter full of concern for Cliff.
I've never met Cliff's grandfather, but he seems like a nice guy.
I wonder what part of this is a problem.
"To be honest, I'm hesitating."
When he says hesitating, I suppose he's referring to that stuff about resolving himself.
"My intention was to immediately return to Milis after graduating. I've been training for that, and up to now that was always my intention. I had the confidence that I could fight my way through the scheming within the Milis religious order and win."
"I thought so."
Cliff has always been going on and on about that.
He said that after graduating, he'd return to the Holy Kingdom of Milis, and succeed his grandfather...
Although recently, he'd appreciated how difficult it is to become the successor to the Pope, and had been steadily training as a priest.
Cliff sat in the sofa with his head in his hands.
"I've gotten married, and have a child now."
With just that, I understood his worries.
In short, it's the same type of thing that I'm always worrying about.
"The Milis religious order readily targets the weak... the enemy's family."
"Lize is one thing. She has the ability to protect herself. But Clive can't even stand on his own feet yet. I....... don't have the confidence that I can protect him."
I understand his feelings of worry.
You always want the people who are important to you to be in a safe place.
"First of all, I haven't even told my grandfather that I've married. If it's known that the Milis Pope's grandson married an elf, an unexpected scandal might occur. He might be dragged down by that and get overthrown."
The Milis religion has strong feelings toward other races.
The elves are a people of the Great Forest, so they aren't rejected that much,
but some of the radical factions persecute anyone who isn't human.
And Elinalise isn't looked upon that well by other elves, either.
"When I keep going in circles thinking about this, I no longer know whether I should return or not, and I just let Lize spoil me...... Recently, that's been repeating...... Only now do I finally understand why Zanoba acted so stubborn back then......"
Cliff himself probably wants to return, and thinks that he needs to do so.
But he'd be exposing his wife and child to danger.
Furthermore, because of his wife, his grandfather might even become in danger.
In this situation, is it okay to continue on your own path?
He doesn't know.
I don't know either.
But today, I came here to talk with him about this issue too.
The current me is capable of sending him a rescue boat.
"Would you be willing to officially join Orsted-sama's faction?"
Cliff looked at me with a puzzled expression.
My way of phrasing it may have been poor.
But I don't want to say "become my comrade" and have him misunderstand.
It would be better to say it clearly.
"What do you mean by that?"
"If you become Orsted-sama's subordinate, Orsted-sama and I can go all-out to back you up. It would be possible to protect Elinalise and Clive while guiding Cliff-senpai's faction to victory."
Cliff furrowed his brow.
"If I receive that backup, what should I do?"
"Mainly, we'd have you prepare for Laplace's revival."
Saying that, I then spoke about the plan.
The plan 80 years later with Orsted playing the leading part.
I had already talked to Cliff about Hitogami, but I thoroughly talked about everything starting from the basics.
After finishing talking about everything, Cliff had a complicated expression.
"What do you think?"
When I asked that, Cliff was silent for a while.
He folded his arms, shut his eyes, and groaned languishingly.
It shouldn't be a bad deal.
Cliff also knows that Orsted's radiated fear is from a curse.
Although he doesn't know the disposition of Orsted without the curse...
Even so, I won't betray Cliff.
If he doubts me, I'd be sad.
"Would you...... give me some more time?"
At the end of his pondering, Cliff squeezed out that response.
"The graduation ceremony will be happening soon. I'll decide by then."
When one decides is a personal decision, so I had no choice but to nod my head.
I wondered why he couldn't just simply agree.
But Cliff himself might not even know why he's hesitating.
"If you're so inclined, please consult with Elinalise-san too. Because there's no worry you need to bear on your own."
"Eh? Yeah, that's right. Thank you."
This time, Cliff nodded meekly, expressing a frail smile.
Elinalise heard our conversation just now.
From a while now, I've been noticing blonde hair flickering through the crack in the doorway.
If it's her, she'll be able to skillfully guide Cliff.
That result might not go the way I think it will, but......
If so, that's fine.
"Then, I'll come again."
"Yeah. Sorry about all this."
"No, I also have times when I'm worrying or troubled."
Saying that, I left Cliff's room.
At the end, I didn't forget to wink at Elinalise.
For now, I'll hear Cliff's response at the graduation ceremony.
There are about 2 months left before the graduation ceremony.
In the meantime, how about I advance the creation of Zanoba's Ruijerd figure shop?