One was the royal Princess Altina who was despatched to a Border Regiment at the tender age of fourteen.
One was a bibliophilic who was terrible in using swords and bows.
This was a story that happened before their fated meeting ——
Regis Auric was a dropout in the military academy.
He will cut his own leg if he wields a sword, fall off if he mounts a horse, and couldn’t lift lances or shields either.
He wasn’t very passionate about life.
Whenever he was free, he would engross himself in reading.
The evaluation of the instructors was ‘the first time we saw such a hopeless one’.
Despite how useless Regis was, he had never lost a tactics battle starting from his enrolment to graduation.
Even the instructors were not a match for him.
However, war in this era was an affair of lances and arrows.
As the weirdo who held the record for fewest points in numerous subjects in the academy, he had braced himself on the possibility that he would never graduate.
But he was recruited by an elderly noble.
Why was he so lucky? After graduating military academy, Regis participated in a recruitment event organized by the army of the new nobles.
Regis’ employer Marquis Thénezay wasn’t known for his martial might, but was a good man beloved by the people for his frugal policies.
Regis thought Thénezay only wanted him as a chess opponent, but unexpectedly, Marquis Thénezay believed in Regis’ talent.
“Study well, and contribute your knowledge to the Imperial and Noble armies” —— Not only did Regis get to read the Marquis’ book collection, he also had permission to enter the Military Library.
And he was given a meagre salary as an apprentice strategist ——
Two and a half years passed in a flash.
For Regis, it was a busy and fulfilling time
But good times never last ——
Altina woke up in her bed shivering.
“Brrr… It’s cold”
She could really feel during times like this that she was not in the capital any more.
Fireplaces were everywhere in Le Brane during winter, and it was as warm as spring.
I have to get used to the cold as soon as possible — She got up from the bed with such thoughts in her mind.
Her skin was pricked by the freezing air the moment she got out of her blanket.
Her room had mottled walls and wooden ceilings that had never been dusted before. To segregate the room from the outside world, only a small window to illuminate the room was installed.
It was like a prison.
— No, if she was locked inside the strong door, it would be a real prison.
Altina got up with a feeling of unease, rushed to the door and pulled the handle.
The door opened slowly with a creak…
“Ah, that’s great.”
“It’s not great at all, you haven’t dressed yourself yet, Your Highness.”
A young woman in maid attire stood at the door. This beautiful girl with brown hair and eyes was Clarisse.
She was one of the maids who served Altina in the capital. When Altina was exiled to the frontlines at the borders, she was the only one who volunteered to follow.
Despite that, one couldn’t tell if Clarisse was infatuated or loyal to Altina from her usual behaviour. She was an unfathomable woman.
“It’s not that early anymore.”
“But it’s not that late now right?”
“You got up earlier than most people, so the timing is just right? All the soldiers are up.”
“Ughh… I know.”
She returned to the room with Clarisse.
And closed the door.
Clarisse took off Altina’s night gown.
Revealing the Princess’ bare body.
She didn’t have the habit of wearing underwear while she slept.
After all, even royals couldn’t obtain rare materials like soft cotton cloth and silk in this era.
Clarisse wiped Altina’s body with water and then put a corset on her.
Corsets weren’t only designed to cover the chest and waist, but also to sculpt the body.
“But, this is too tight… ughh…”
“It can’t be helped, you can’t look like a boy.”
Clarisse pulled the corset tight behind Altina’s back.
It hurt her stomach.
“Yeah… I will be laughed at if I look like a boy, sigh…”
“I won’t laugh.”
“I will just think you are sick.”
The dress she wore on the outside constricted Altina’s waist further.
After putting on her clothes, Altina sat before the mirror.
A girl with vermillion hair and crimson eyes was reflected in it.
This was the fourth Princess of the Empire, Marie Quatre Argentina de Belgaria.
As the result of a power struggle in the courts——
Despite being a girl fourteen years of age, Altina was appointed the commander of the Beilschmidt Border Regiment.
She just took up her post at Fort Sierck a few days ago.
The frontline far away from the capital.
And she was an amateur with no combat experience.
— The soldiers around me must be more troubled than me by this, Altina thought.
“It’s good that you get along well with the troops… But it would be great if everyone acknowledges you.”
“It’s not time yet, we can’t rush.”
Clarisse lowered her body and brushed Altina’s bright red hair carefully.
“Could it be that they don’t trust me as a commander? It feels like they are treating me like a guest.”
“It’s because you are very beautiful, Your Highness.”
“It’s not a compliment if you say it here.”
“People are jealous of you in the courts, and treat you like a vase in this fort… it must be hard on you.”
“Hmm... I wonder what should I do??”
“It would be fine for Your Highness. Everyone will love you. Because you are super cute, Princess… So cute, Your Highness, so very cute.”
Clarisse caressed Altina’s cheeks and neck lightly as she brushed her hair.
It was itchy.
“Hmmm… Wait, stop. I don’t need things like love. I want to be a real commander, so what I need is trust and loyalty!”
“You had a hard time living in the capital, but the general in this fort is a hardened veteran, and the soldiers are elite, Your Highness.”
“It is safe if I pass my time quietly.”
“I know that very well but…”
That isn't much different from a jail — Altina bit her lips.
* * *
To earn the trust of the troops, she needed to let the regiment see her. And so, Altina started patrolling inside the fort every day.
She wore the minimum amount of armour on her dress, and hung a longsword at her waist.
The sword she was bestowed with after much drama when she left the capital — Grand Tonnerre Quatre—
Was inconvenient to use.
That sword was custom made according to the height of the founding Emperor, and was 26Pa (192cm) long.
In the narrow corridor of the fort, she would often scratch the wall and knock things and people over with her sword.
For practical purpose, she wore a normal longsword at her waist.
Clarisse followed cheerfully.
“Going for a stroll, Your Highness?”
“It’s a patrol. Pa! Troll!”
“Alright. Time for a stroll lala~~”
“Ehh…. I think I should start by earning respect from Clarisse.”
“What do you mean!? I have always held the greatest respect and loyalty to the Princess!? I will offer my life if you order me to do so, and can strip right here if you will it!”
“I won’t ask for that!”
“Fufu… I really adore you, Your Highness.”
Clarisse had been her personal maid for over six years, although she has been saying strange things since Altina knew her.
Normal maids would refrain from talking and keep their distance to avoid offending their mistress.
However, Clarisse was quieter than other maids in the presence of people other than Altina.
Loud shouting could be heard the moment they exited the central tower.
The soldiers were training in the courtyard.
“Slash faster! You are all so slow that dragonflies can stop at the tip of your weapon!”
The soldiers did their training as well as they maintained their equipment spontaneously, which showed the discipline of the army.
Altina’s impression of the garrison unit in the courts felt graceful, but this was how all units in the frontlines were like.
She turned and walked on.
Her patrol route followed such a schedule:
The living space of the officers in the east.
The northern gate and parade square.
The zone of the rank and file to the west, which was the messiest place.
And finally, the warehouse and stables in the south.
When they passed by the plaza in the south, Clarisse pointed to the warehouse.
“Your Highness, there is a dispute over there.”
“It seems so! Let’s take a look!”
In front of the warehouse.
About a dozen men were glaring at each other.
If not for the armour they were wearing, Altina would have mistaken them for hooligans.
A young knight was being shouted at.
“Ahh!? Sir Knight, you must have gotten something wrong!?”
“What, you are the ones who stole it right!?”
“Hahh!? No one will do that! Where’s your proof, you greenhorn knight!”
“Why you! I am a proud member of the Black Knights! I won’t stand for your insult!”
He was going to draw his sword.
Altina charged over there and took a deep breath.
The place turned silent instantly.
Altina coughed dryly.
And felt a little nervous.
“Soldier of the honourable Imperial Army shouting at each other like mad dogs is disgraceful. If you have something to say, just let me know.”
She felt a little happy to act the part of a commander.
The delinquent looking soldiers frowned.
The knight in black armour lowered his head carefully.
“This… I am sorry for the disturbance… This is an internal matter… There is no need to trouble Your Highness, just a small issue.”
“Not ‘Your Highness’, it should be commander.”
“That is true… I misspoke.”
“Since it is an internal matter, I will need to know. After all, I am responsible for the Regiment now.”
“So, what happened?”
Altina urged, and the knight explained anxiously.
He held an account book in his hand.
“I am Aubert of the Black Knights, and I’m tasked with the management of this warehouse.”
He then showed the account book made by bundling papers in his hand, which listed the time something was received and the balance stocks.
By the way, papers were produced by paper mills using wood, which was popularized fifty years ago. It has widespread usage among the populace now, but it was a high grade item comparable to silk in the past.
Altina tilted her head.
“A knight managing the warehouse?”
“Erm… Yes. The warehouse manager isn’t here, so…”
Aubert looked troubled, and it was clear he didn’t take on the task on his own accord.
He was a young knight, so his seniors probably forced him.
The problem was with the account book.
“The high quality wine listed here is gone.”
“An entire crate of grape wine for the exclusive use of the officers is missing.”
“The entire crate!?”
“It’s too heavy for one person to move, and it is too much for anyone to drink. This is obviously embezzlement!”
Altina opened her eyes wide.
Both were serious crimes in the army!
A tall man on the other side shouted:
“Hey, don’t keep shooting your mouth off!!”
The delinquent who was acting like a squad leader stood in front of the five armoured men.
“Princess, don’t believe what that knight fellow said!”
“I will listen to what you have to say. Also, I am the commander…”
“I am the sentry of the warehouse, just call me Deffand. This warehouse is guarded in shifts at all times by five men, it’s impossible for thieves to break in! Hey, it must be you who miscounted, jerk ass knight!”
The guard commander Deffand snorted.
Aubert showed an angry expression with his accounts book in hand.
“That’s impossible! Isn’t the guard commander the most suspicious!? You all are the only ones who hold the keys!”
“Damn it! We are the one who will be punished if things go missing in the warehouse!! It’s impossible for us to steal!”
The guards behind Deffand concurred: “That’s right! That’s right!”
If she believes what Aubert holding the accounts book says, then it is the responsibility of Deffand and his guards.
If Deffand and the others were innocent, then it was the fault of Aubert, the temporary manager of the accounts book.
They were still arguing—
At this moment, a man who was sitting at the side barged in.
He came from a group of three without armour, just here to help carry the cargo. The man Indri was their representative.
“Erm… Can we go back now?”
There was one more person.
A middle aged trader called Trepreneur who frequents Fort Sierck for business.
He brought woven products from the capital today, such as curtains, tablecloths and clothing.
“Erm, it would be troubling for us too. I still have another trade to make, and it is almost time for me to go.”
“... I will listen to what you all have to say alright…”
* * *
These were the things that happened this morning:
The trader Trepreneur brought the woven products over.
He was hired to transport the goods, and came with Indri’s group to carry the cargo.
The Knight Aubert had his hands on the accounts book at all time.
The guard commander Deffand and four of his men kept guard over the warehouse.
Deffand held the key to the warehouse.
When Trepreneur carried his goods into the warehouse, it was discovered that a crate of high grade wine that was stored inside half a month ago was missing.
And so, the group started squabbling.
While they were doing that, Altina and Clarisse arrived.
“... So that’s it?”
“Yes, I swear it’s the truth Your Highness”
The accounts knight Aubert said.
“My men and I didn’t enter the warehouse, Princess.” Guard commander Deffand said.
“Princess, we are not involved, right?” Indri who was helping out chipped in.
“Erm, I have to go for my next business deal…” The trader Trepreneur said.
I can’t get rid of this princess thing — She decided to pursue the matter next time.
Wrong! The missing wine is the real issue here!
“I see… I don’t get it at all.”
She gave up.
Clarisse sighed softly.
But she didn’t say anything, Clarisse could only keep quiet like a normal maid right now, as there were other people around.
She approached Altina quietly.
Even though Clarisse didn’t say anything, Altina knew what she wanted to say.
Altina could wield a sword taller than she was, but she was not good at thinking.
But wrist power was useless right now.
“T-This doesn’t mean I am stupid! Nobody here knows the answer, so this question must be too difficult.”
Delegating tasks to subordinates reasonably was the duty of the commander, so she had to rely on someone smarter than her to work out the problem! Probably!
Altina poked the maid besides her.
“Clarisse, do you know the answer?”
“Anything at all? Did you notice something?”
“There is a simple way to solve the problem.”
The men shouted “Really, I’m counting on you!” “Oh, let’s solve this quickly!” “We have other work to do, that’s a big help!” “Ah… Can I go to my next deal now?”
Clarisse was expressionless.
She raised her finger to her throat and moved it side to side.
And in a calm tone,
“...Just execute all of them, Your Highness.”
These fools had all forgotten.
In this era where the authority lies with the lords, aside from criminal proceedings in accordance to the law, the aristocrats could issue capital punishment in their territory.
But most lords avoid acting in such a devilish manner so that their vassals and family wouldn’t accuse them of being inhumane.
The girl with vermillion hair might be fourteen, but she was a royal and the commander of the Border Regiment. Who dare say she won’t execute anyone? No one could guarantee that.
The group’s face turned green.
Altina slouched her shoulders and sighed.
She then waved her hands.
“I won’t do that. Wouldn’t the innocent be punished too if I do that?”
“Yes... pardon me.”
The brown haired girl bowed deeply.
She showed a happy smile momentarily on her face hidden behind her fringe. “No matter what, I can’t execute innocent people” — Altina chided.
“Phew——” The men sighed in relief.
Altina crossed her arms.
Sound of friction came from her chest armour.
She couldn’t think of a good plan.
“Ugh… Anyway, let’s check the warehouse. Since the crate was stolen, there might be a hole or something.”
After Regis graduated from Military Academy, he joined the Marquis’ army as a staff.
After working for two and a half years, he moved up a grade which made him a Fifth Grade Admin Officer.
But good times didn’t last.
Thénezay died in battle.
“... Even though he was a good man.”
That was the first time Regis cried since his parents’ funeral.
Before the War Administration Ministry decides on his assignment, he has a short vacation. But if he leaves the capital, there was a chance he would be charged with desertion.
Which meant that he was waiting for his punishment.
He would probably be demoted.
There was something that was certain, his next posting would be to the front lines at the borders.
The Belgaria Empire right now was at war with its neighbouring countries, and was embroiled with raids by barbarians and internal strife.
There were countless battlefields.
“Well… I won’t have a say on where I would be posted… Gillianus' work 'Merleau's adventure’ also stated —— No matter what troubles tomorrow brings, there is no need to stop and sigh this day.”
Regis visited the book shop as usual.
The one he frequented was along the main street, a grand two storey building.
The book shelves formed narrow aisles.
Decades ago, books were written by hand, and were valuable items only the upper crust of society could access.
But because of the spread of paper and the printing press, the commoners could get books easily too. It was rare to see someone like Regis who was always reading — he called himself an avid reader, but he was actually Le rat de bibliothèque.
“Ara, welcome Mr Regis.”
The one who greeted him was the lady shop owner.
She had shoulder length black bob haircut, pale skin and wore a blue apron.
Her name was Carol, and inherited the book shop from her parents.
“Mr Regis, what kind of books are you looking for?”
“... Any strange books?”
“I just feel like reading something novel now.”
“Ahh, is that so? How about this one?”
“What is it about?”
“The main character is a dog.”
“Fufu, I see… a mystery story huh…”
While they were conversing, a traveling merchant with a cape on his shoulders entered.
Regis judged him to be a traveling merchant because he always had his bag on him, and wore comfortable and tough boots. Those who wore boots on the streets were usually travellers with a small bag on them.
The merchant nodded to Regis who was in uniform.
He then greeted the shop owner.
“It’s been so long, Ms Carol.”
“Ah, isn’t this Trepreneur!? I heard you went to the northern front.”
“That’s right, I just got back.”
“I heard there will be a huge battle in the north soon, what are you thinking, going there during a time like this.”
“That’s why I went! This is the time to rake in the money!!”
“You are the same as usual. Mr Trepreneur, I’m glad you are safe.”
“Sigh— It’s not that safe— I was almost beheaded—”
“Don’t worry, my head is still attached to my body, and I received my money, hahaha—”
“Fufu… Please tell me about it.”
In front of the shelves — at a corner of the book shop, there was a space where they could have coffee.
Regis was invited too.
“How about coming along if you have time?”
“... Pardon my intrusion.”
Everyone sat down.
The traveling merchant was the friend of Carol’s father, and would drop by once in a while.
* * *
Three coffee cups were served.
In large book shops in the Empire, it was common to find a cafe working together with a book shop.
During the time when books were a high class item, there were two ways to sell them. One was to display them on the walls just like how art merchants did, the other was to place a bookshelf at the corner of a cafe.
Back then, there were many businessmen who visited and communicated here. Carol’s shop belonged to the latter, and maintained the space to drink coffee.
Because you can’t take the book away before paying.
As they sipped on the coffee—
Carol asked the merchant:
“Did something happen when you delivered the goods that put you in risk of being beheaded?”
“No— it was before I handed the goods over—...”
Regis drank his coffee quietly as he listened to their conversation.
In the warehouse of a fort somewhere, a crate of high class wine went missing.
That was what triggered the entire incident.
There were even dangerous discussions about beheading everyone involved.
“Well, it was just a joke. I understand because I am a merchant and wasn’t worried at all!”
“Fufufu… I see. But the fact that an entire crate of wine vanished is strange. The accounting done by the knight probably didn’t match… right?”
“I think so too. Speaking of which, there have been instances of things going missing in the past too. That knight is really not suited for accounting, hahah!”
Trepreneur’s body kept shaking as he laughed, and knocked the coffee over.
Carol gave him another cup of water.
“What do you think, Mr Regis?”
“... Even if you ask me… I am not a detective.”
“You are too humble, aren’t you a strategist?”
“Eh— you are a tactician—?”
Carol puffed out her chest proudly.
“That’s right, Mr Regis is an outstanding strategist, the rising star of the Marquis army.”
“Ehh! Isn’t that amazing!?”
“No… I’m just an admin officer, and I am out of a job now…”
“Even so, didn’t you command the unit splendidly a few days ago? I heard plenty of people say so.”
“No, erm, I’m just giving advice… I didn’t really direct…”
“You are the same as usual, Mr Regis. Leave the battle aside, let me hear your opinion on the vanished wine.”
Carol gazed at him with anticipation.
Trepreneur looked at him with appraising eyes.
Regis’ personality had nothing to do with confidence.
After all these years he had been criticized to be incompetent and holding the others back in the Academy, so he was used to being treated like a fool, and wasn’t comfortable with being praised.
So he wasn’t good at giving his opinion when asked.
That might be so, but I don’t want to disappoint Carol who has been taking care of me — That’s how he felt.
“... Is there any books that could be used in such a case?”
Regis fell silent.
And closed his eyes.
Browsing through the book shelves in his mind, he picked a book and flipped it open. He read a similar story before.
I see, I remember.
“... Hmm… I don’t think there is any problem with the accounts book. High class wine doesn’t come to the front lines that often. That was why the knight doing the accounting noticed.”
“Ahh, I see! He will remember the valuable items, and won’t notice if he actually forgot!”
“Hmm? Let me think. So the suspicion lies with the guards?”
“... Really? The guard says that they would be punished if things inside the warehouse go missing.”
“T-That’s true? Impossible right?”
Trepreneur’s eyes wavered.
Carol looked like she was thinking.
“In that case, it is the merchant and the soldiers helping out?”
“Eh—— !? The merchant is me— That’s impossible—— !?”
“Fufufu, just kidding!”
“... If that is so, Mr Trepreneur’s behaviour is weird. He has nothing to gain from spreading this to others.”
He relaxed, so the only ones left were…
“So —— only the soldiers who helped me are left!?”
“Wait! It might people who are not related too.”
Carol raised her doubt.
Regis added on:
“It’s hard to imagine that the wine theft was committed by unrelated people… The management of military resources are marked with serial numbers. It is impossible to know the content just by seeing the crate of the wine. Stealing the valuable items without opening the crate is evidence that the thieves already knew the contents. For example, the helpers carrying the goods.”
“I see, that’s it!”
“Hmm? Let’s assume the helpers are the criminals, we still don’t know how the theft was committed?”
The biggest riddle was how the theft was committed.
Trepreneur explained the structure of the warehouse again.
“Hmm? The walls are 27Pa (200cm), the ceiling are made of thick masonry, the roof is made of wood. With guards around them, it would be hard to approach it.”
“Will it collapse if a cannon hits it?”
“What about the floor?”
“Impossible. We considered the floor, but it’s covered with large cobblestones to withstand the heavy weight of the goods.”
The two of them looked at Regis.
They were treating him like a detective who was explaining the crime—
Regis felt uneasy.
“... What? I am not a detective… A real detective would be quicker in his explanation.”
“Huh? What about interrogating the soldiers to determine who the criminal is?”
“If you do that, they will push the blame to each other—”
“... There is another way… ‘Those who gain without labouring will never forget the easiness, and will repeat it until their fall’, from ‘The lawful dog and the outlaw wolf’.”
As he chatted casually while sipping his coffee, Regis never thought this would change his destiny.
Half a month later, Fort Sierck.
Clarisse jogged with the receipt that was prepared earlier in hand.
She handed the document signed by the Princess to the merchant Trepreneur.
“... Sorry for the wait.”
“Not at all, thank you— Is Her Highness busy—?”
“Yes— Her Highness doesn’t have time to leave her room.”
“Is that so? It’s a shame that I couldn’t see her beautiful figure—”
Trepreneur said as he sent the goods he brought from the capital to the warehouse.
The wooden crate about the size of a coffin was really heavy.
The one helping was still Indri’s group.
They came to help as they asked Trepreneur to give them tips.
A vague reason…
The accounting knight Aubert recorded the items carried into the warehouse.
The guard commander Deffand and his men had a tense aura around them.
It was different than usual.
Aubert asked Trepreneur:
“Ah… T-This looks really expensive…?”
He said his line stiffly. It was obviously an act, but on an amateur level.
Trepreneur frowned and Clarisse sighed quietly.
Aubert’s face turned green.
“Ah ha!! That’s right—!! This is a sculpture gifted by a certain grand noble— An unimaginably valuable item—!!”
Trepreneur said exaggeratingly.
According to the original plan, Aubert should be the one asking — but judging that to be impossible, Clarisse asked in his stead:
“... An expensive piece of art huh. How much can it be sold for if you sell it in the city?”
“Ara, the price would be above 1000 Livres!!”
“… That’s a lot.”
Clarisse didn’t have much reaction, but the soldiers opened their eyes wide.
The annual income of a soldier was typically 20 Livres.
So it would take them 50 years to earn that amount.
“Hahaha! It’s a huge sum, so be careful everyone!”
Trepreneur raised his voice, Indri and his group carrying the crate nodded.
They carried it to the wall of the warehouse carefully.
Indri and his group looked at each other and smiled.
* * *
Late at night——
The thick walls in the warehouse isolated the room from the outside, as temperature dropped drastically.
However, the stone walls not only kept light and sound out, it also kept heat in.
There wasn’t any light or sound in this place.
The crate with the expensive sculpture lay quietly amidst food stocks and other resources.
A sudden noise.
It was the sound of hard objects colliding with each other.
Followed by stones sliding against each other.
A ray of light illuminated the darkness.
A large slab of stone was lifted off the ground.
The slab was held in place by a piece of log.
One man slipped out from the gap. The lantern in his hand lit up the dark warehouse.
“Hey… Lift it higher, the crate won’t fit.”
The man who was suppressing his voice was Indri.
“How about breaking the crate open?”
His friend’s voice came from below.
Indri shook his head.
“No, the sound of nails being removed could be heard outside through the stone walls and metal gate. Alright, let’s get to it, adjust the height of the jack. Lift the slab higher.”
A creaking sound could be heard, like the grinding sound of a mortar.
The log turned as it lifted the slab higher.
After reaching the adequate height, three men emerged from below the slab.
“Ok, let’s carry it out.”
“Fuhahaha, a treasure worth 1000 Livres!”
“Let’s sell this off and live a life of luxury! We don’t need to return to the army anymore!”
The men laughed quietly.
And put their hands on the crate.
The loud voice of a girl came out from it.
“That’s as far as you go!!”
The cover of the crate then flew off. A violent sound echoed in the warehouse. The men retreated.
“What is that… Ughh.”
Indri groaned as he shivered, the other two showed the white of their eyes.
A pair of legs came out from the crate that supposedly had a sculpture inside.
And the figure of a person rose slowly after the legs.
This was the person who kicked off the cover from the inside.
Under the shine of the lantern, the figure of a person became clear.
She had a slender waist and her chest was covered by a plate, she also armour on her thin wrists.
And then there was her beautiful face.
If this was a sculpture, it would be worth more than 1000 Livres. On her pretty face, ruby like eyes were gleaming.
The men forgot the situation they were in and lost themselves looking at her.
The girl had hair that was redder than the flames of a lantern.
“Fu, I see. A tunnel huh? And lifting the stone slab with jacks used for building houses.”
Indri couldn’t say anything.
He was found out by the commander of the Border Regiment, the Princess.
There was no way he could talk his way out.
Did a person of her status not care about nailing herself into a crate that looked like a coffin!?
The girl looked at the men.
“You helped to carry the cargo in order to identify the highly valued items. And to avoid placing anything onto the slab, you covered the tunnel… Isn’t that right?”
Indri gritted his teeth.
Relaxed his shoulders.
“... Hmm, I see Princess… So you already knew we are the culprits?”
“That merchant Trepreneur knew an excellent strategist. He identified the culprit just by listening for a while, and even taught him how to apprehend you all.”
“I see… So there was such a person here… But did he forget to warn you?”
“Warn you… You can’t defeat us alone, Princess!”
Indri drew his short sword.
The other men drew the blades on their waist too.
“A-Are we doing it Indri!?”
“She’s a Princess!?”
“That’s not important! Just kill her and run! That’s the only way!!”
The three men lifted their swords.
“It’s just as that strategist said… I thought preparing this was unnecessary, but…”
She squatted down into the coffin like crate.
Grabbed a decorative hilt.
And pulled it out.
If it was just Altina, the crate didn’t need to be so big. Furthermore, it wouldn't have been too heavy if it was just Altina in there.
While she was inside the crate, there was something else inside that made the men work so hard to carry it.
It was taller than the girl.
A heavy sharp blade that was gleaming silver.
It was a sword.
Several times larger than a normal one.
Altina lifted the colossal sword ‘Grand Tonnerre Quatre’.
There was a relief engraved on the mirror like body of the blade, emphasizing that this was a sword of a conqueror.
“As Imperial soldiers, you should be defending the Empire, but you all are stealing military necessities for your selfish greed. Don’t think you can escape!”
“Ku… There’s no way she could wield such a huge sword!”
“W-We have to do it!”
”She’s just a woman! Don’t be scared! Kill her and run!”
The men charged with their swords raised.
They did not waver, as they were elite Belgarian soldiers.
However, the reach of the blade brought an overwhelming victory for the Princess.
Before they could swing their swords —
The silver blade was right before their faces.
“Uwwaaahhhh —— !!”
‘Grand Tonnerre Quatre’ that was forged from Tristei sent the men flying.
She used the flat side instead of the edge.
—— Day break.
When the warehouse door was opened because of the commotion, the three men had already fainted.
There were bruises and fractures, but nothing life threatening.
The guard commander Deffand tied them up.
Clarisse approached Altina.
“Hah, it worked! The plan succeeded splendidly!”
“Are you hurt!?”
“Of course not. As you can see, not even a scratch.”
Altina smiled in reply.
Clarisse sighed deeply.
“Sigh… You don’t need to do this personally, Your Highness… There are plenty of knights in the fort.”
“If I settle it personally, they will acknowledge me as the commander right?”
“... I told you before you got into the crate, a commander shouldn’t be taking on such missions.”
Clarisse who was quieter than anyone was very worried.
She spoke much more than usual.
Altina swung her sword confidently.
“I need to lead from the front if there is anything dangerous or troublesome. I am not a Princess who only needs protection.”
“... But you are a Princess.”
“You are right, but even so, I want to be someone the soldiers will trust!”
Clarisse lowered her head.
“I believe that the Princess won’t lose to the thieves… But that doesn’t mean I won’t worry about you getting hurt…”
“It’s fine. I appreciate your thoughts.”
“... I am just glad that you are fine, Your Highness.”
Clarisse finally reverted to her emotionless expression again.
Altina would prefer her to smile, but it couldn’t be helped with so many people around.
Trepreneur rubbed his hands together in flattery.
“Hya — Amazing!! Beautiful and skilled in combat!! As expected of Your Highness!”
Altina had already gotten used to such flattery, and smiled gently in return.
“Thank you very much Princess! We were so close to being punished! It’s all thanks to you that we can prove our innocence!”
“No, who would have thought that there was such a contraption in the warehouse. It must be hard on you all.”
The guards thanked her profusely.
The accounting knight Aubert came over and bowed deeply.
“Thank you Your Highness… Also, Deffand… I am very sorry for doubting you.”
“Huh!? It’s fine, I should be apologizing for saying all that to you, Sir Knight.”
It seemed that their relationship had improved.
Altina sighed in relief.
She stabbed her sword into the ground.
The silent Clarisse asked with a look from her eyes: What’s the matter?
Altina stretched her neck.
“How should I put this… It’s amazing. The person who solved the incident after listening to the details.”
“...... Yes, it is shocking.”
“Hey Clarisse, will I get closer to my goal if I have such a strategist by my side?”
“... You want to meet him?”
“Yes. Meet him in person and… talk. What is he like? Speaking of which, I didn’t hear how old he is, is he an old geezer?”
“... But for the Princess, you want a sage who can state what he really thinks.”
“Ah, that’s right.”
As the Fourth Princess of Belgaria and the commander of Beilschmidt Border Regiment, there were few which Altina truly wanted to meet.
If that person is a sage, it would be great.
Superficial words in a social setting wouldn’t be good enough.
“Hmm, we need to ask how the person who thought up the plan felt. Hey, Clarisse has to think about it too.”
“Yes, but the Princess thinks she can trick the strategist…”
Altina knocked her own head lightly.
“Ah, a good idea! I have thought of a way to ask how he really thinks!”
“... How would you do that?”
Altina whispered to her excitedly and Clarisse frowned.
* * *
—— A few days later.
In the capital.
Carol’s book shop.
“Morning Mr Regis… Erm, are you okay?”
“... My mind? Or my future? You advised me on them both.”
“Your body! Your face looks terrible, and there are dark circles under your eyes.”
“Ahh… The book I bought last time was so interesting that I didn’t eat or sleep much. Have the new releases from that author arrived yet?”
I am happy for the income, but you want me to be a murderer?”
“Fufufu… Killing someone because of the book you sell…. Cough!? Hack cough cough!”
As Regis was coughing non-stop, a man walked in.
“That is really tiring —!”
It was the traveling merchant.
“Ara, isn’t that Trepreneur?”
His face was green. A few days ago, Regis received a gift from the fort to the north through him, which was really heartening.
“Cough… What’s the matter?”
Regis asked as Carol patted his back.
It seemed to be a big matter.
Trepreneur sounded anxious.
“They are coming, the nation in the north is attacking — !!”
“Oh no, is it war?”
“Yes! That’s it —! That’s why I couldn’t sell the oil in the northern fort!!”
It was a business matter.
Carol said uneasily: “Isn’t it dangerous to stay there?”
The borders were the frontlines, and was always accompanied by battles.
There were many who didn’t return.
Regis thought about the war in the north.
“... One day, I will have go to a place like that.”
And then ——
Regis and Altina would meet in two months time.