A Proven Capability
Finally the day to make a report from the victory came. Fortunately for Rion, the meeting was low-key and looked like a normal conference.
That said, the participants were rather extraordinary. The meeting was chaired by the King at the head of the table. The chairs on his left were taken by Arnold, the Knight Commander and Lancelot in that order. Rion and Ariel were also seated on that side at a rather uncomfortable spot near Maria.
In short, the seats on this side were for those who participated in the subjugation, with Rion being seated at the foot of the table in recognition of his merits.
In front of him, on the King’s right side, sat the government officials – The Prime Minister, the Royal Minister of War, the Marshal of the Crown, the Royal Wizard as well as their adjutants. This kind of lineup was something that Rion, a mere baron, would usually never get to see.
Which he frankly did not care about, since he had never wanted to come here in the first place.
「The main issue this time was an incorrect estimate of the enemy numbers. The failure to recognize the diversion was a secondary problem.」
The knight commander did all the presentation so far. With that being the case, there seemed to be no need for Rion to be here but he refrained from raising that subject again because he would hate to be told to take over.
「Is the extent of the casualties known?」
The main part of the presentation was concluded, so, the King started to ask questions.
「Precise calculations are yet to be completed, sire, the early estimations come at ten thousand.」
「That many, huh…」
It was the first time ever since the demon attacks had started the kingdom suffered this much. This information caused the King to frown deeply.
「My deepest apologies, Majesty. This was an avoidable failure and our fault.」
「We focused on defending Harcourt too much and concentrated all our forces there. This left the neighboring settlements practically defenseless and unable to offer any resistance to demon assault.」
「Wouldn’t Harcourt end up suffering if you had not done so?」
「This is why the wrong estimate of enemy numbers is the primary problem, sire. Had we had the correct intelligence and dispatched enough soldiers from the capital, the outcome would be very different.」
「Is that so…」
The King stared at Maria causing her to drop her eyes to the floor and shrink under his reproachful gaze. She was undeniably at fault. Fearing she would not be able to contribute much if the army was large, she acted to make the number of dispatched troops as small as possible.
But of course, the greater responsibility lied with those that accepted her suggestions. She had no knowledge of military matters beyond that what featured in the game, treating her ideas seriously was the wrong thing to do.
「Now that we know this, the problem is how should we proceed.」
Frederick was aware of all that. She might have come from the other world but they still had been foolish to trust her words uncritically. Still, he thought that scolding her would achieve nothing and it was more important to figure out what to do from now on.
「Where will the next attack happen?」
Guessing the Knight Commander’s intentions, the King softened his stare a little and asked Maria for the next target.
「Ah, yes. It will be Nyegert.」
「North-east this time, huh. When? 」
「In roughly two months.」
「I see. Not that far off, huh. In light of this failure, we think doubling of previous demon estimate is in order.」
「This may not be sufficient, sire.」
「Is doubling not enough?」
「That is my belief, sire. What is Lord Marshal’s opinion?」
The kingdom’s armies were in fact deployed and moved by the Marshal of the Crown. And Frederick decided to leave the planning in his hands this time.
「I concur. It was wrong to base the number of soldiers on the number of demons in the first place.」
「How should we proceed then?」
「Majesty, we should start by calculating the number of soldiers required to defend the city. Look at this please.」
Prompted by that remark, the Marshal’s adjutant spread some papers on the table. There, on two separate sheets, was a map of the Nyegert area and a plan of the city.
「Going by the size of the city, the number of soldiers required to hold it is three thousand. Considering the need for rotation and such, four thousand should suffice.」
Having a large number of troops didn’t really translate to having a tougher defense. There was a limited number of posts on the fortifications that needed to be manned and they could only hold so many soldiers. Any more would just become surplus to requirements.
「Is that not what we have done the previous time?」
「While four thousand mentioned will focus on defending, we will arrange for a mobile unit as well.」
「Hmm, last time we were unable to maneuver even knowing we faced a diversion.」
「Yes, sire. Now the problem lies in the scope of the area. On this map, I have marked the settlements around Nyegert, the numbers represent their known population .」
「What do we need that for?」
The King couldn’t understand just from looking at the markings on the map, he was not really that gifted when it came to military affairs.
「We will start by ordering all those places to evacuate. Not all of those people will fit into Nyegert, so we will move some to the second biggest town. Based on its location we identified three perfect places to intercept any hostile force moving there, we plan to station two thousand troops in each of them.」
「We see. And they are going to merge into one force if two thousand is an insufficient force?」
「Yes, Majesty. Even if they take their time regrouping, there will be no casualties since all the small towns will be empty.」
「Mhm. Not bad.」
The king seemed to be satisfied with the Marshal’s plan.
「Now then, with this vision as the basis of our plans, let us formulate a detailed strategy.」
The conference might have been called to prepare for the upcoming demon assault but Maria’s participation this time was limited to announcing the next target attacked. Once that was done, the Marshal and the Knight Commander took over completely to work out a plan.
On the previous occasion, the kingdom had considered the demons to be a threat on the scale of everyday harassment by demonic beasts, if somewhat wider in scope. This time, however, there was no more of this kind of naivety. They recognized they were at war and that meant planning the response was the job of the military personnel.
Nevertheless, there was a person that disagreed with the strategic approach adopted by the Knight Commander and Crown Marshal.
Lightly poked by Ariel next to him, Rion finally noticed the Knight Commander had been calling him.
「If you have thoughts on this matter, we would hear them.」
「Sir Frederick!? I believe there’s no need to ask amateurs for an opinion!」
The Crown Marshal objected immediately. Even he agreed that the previous failure was caused by giving undue weight to Maria’s suggestions.
「Baron Frey’s achievements in the previous campaign were unmatched. Shouldn’t we at least hear his opinion?」
「I do not dispute that, however…」
「Just because we hear what he says does not mean our plans need to change. If there is no merit to his argument, we shall proceed as before. Which is not unlikely to happen in my opinion.」
「…Very well. Let the man speak his piece.」
Most people present did not expect Rion to say anything that would make them change the current strategy, so the Marshal eventually agreed.
「You heard us. Speak your mind.」
「Even if you tell me that…」
「Do you really have no ideas of your own?」
The Knight Commander had been keeping Rion in his sight all through the conference. He had noticed that he had seemed to be lost in thought ever since the Crown Marshal’s map were spread on the table.
「…Haah. Alright, let me start with a question to the person sitting next to me.」
Maria turned to Rion surprised by the sudden turn of events.
「Who else? If I wanted to ask Ariel, there would be no need to notify others.」
Rion retorted without even looking at Maria, not even taking part in this conference would make him change his attitude to her.
「Are the demons, or should I say the devils, attacking Nyegert going to use magic?」
「…Yes, they are.」
This was a surprise only for the other participants of the conference, none of them even considered it possible for the demons to have the ability to employ magic.
「As everyone can see, the defense arrangements for Nyegert need reviewing. Ask this person for details on expected hostile magic later.」
The existing plans would have to undergo huge changes depending on the presence and type of hostile magic. The worst case scenario would mean they could not passively remain within the city fortifications and just focus on defending the outer walls.
Just one question from Rion’s lips had thrown the strategy into disarray. Frederick’s intuition was spot on, moreover, he wouldn’t allow the young baron to get away with just that.
「The map you spent all this time glaring at was the one of the wider area, not the city plan. Your big idea cannot be related to presence of magic during the siege.」
「…Crafty old bastard.」
「What was that!?」
Rion had purposefully muttered loud enough to be heard by Frederick. He had not a shred of respectful obedience towards the man and was still bitter about being so one-sidedly beaten by him in the past.
「I said, we could just attack them.」
「We could what?」
「We should stop just waiting for the demons to attack us and just go after them ourselves. That’s what I think.」
「If that was possible we would not be forced to bear with all this.」
「I can’t see why it couldn’t be done, though?」
「How? We cannot even figure out where they are going to attack from, you know?」
「Why is that? 」
「Are you not the one who reported that they are using transportation magic?」
This question too made people present somewhat surprised. Most of them did not know this piece of information came from Rion.
「Certainly, but why can’t we just figure out where they will transfer to?」
「You really need more explanations? Nobody ever managed to observe one of those summoning places but they are certain to have a magical circle. You know that, right?」
While clearly showing that he was bothered by having to explain this, Rion was nevertheless stingy with words.
「Just explain yourself properly already, boy!」
「…At least try to use that head of yours.」
Again, Rion deliberately complained loud enough for Frederick to hear. However, this time, the Knight Commander wasn’t angry. He was more interested in what Rion was trying to say.
「Fine already, just explain properly.」
「Maaan… The magical circles will be placed in locations that are uninhabited and avoided by people.」
「…Ah, so that’s what you’re at.」
Just hearing that was enough to make Rion’s point obvious. It was true they didn’t know where would the demons come from. The transportation spell that moved them around did, however, require a magic circle to be placed ahead of time. And those would have to be prepared somewhere no one would look at.
「So we are looking for a place in the vicinity of Nyegert uninhabited and far from the road network. Most likely within a forest or inside a mountain range.」
「And if we can pinpoint those locations…」
Even if the citizens are evacuated, it would still take time for the cities and villages attacked by the demons to recover. That period would be very harsh on affected people ultimately damaging the strength of the nation.
All the government ministers present wanted to protect the land if it could be done.
「That is impossible. There are too many places fitting that description. Just how many soldiers do you want to invest into this search?」
The Crown Marshal disagreed with the plan and he was not wrong doing so. Rules of strategy dictated that dispersing one’s army too much was a mistake, not to mention the outrageous manpower such a search operation demanded.
「So says Lord Marshal of the Crown, do you disagree?」
The Knight Commander, asking that question, believed that Rion had something in mind for that problem. He was not the type to say so much without thinking it through to the end.
「Before I address this, I want to know the sizes of the magical circles that have been found until now.」
And sure enough, Rion did have something in mind.
「Size of the magical circles?」
「I believe the ones our enemies are using are disposable. If they are not going to be used multiple times, won’t we be able to figure out how many demons can be sent at once from the size of the used up magical circles found?」
The question was addressed to the Royal Wizard who had kept silent all this time.
「All found of thsame size. Hypothesis : one variety only.」
「…Can multiple ones not be placed together? That would multiply the capacity.」
「Analysis not complete. Hypothesis : huge variety of mana required. Hypothesis : all mana in the circle’s area absorbed by the spell.」
「So your excellency is saying that those things are not something that can be used numerous times?」
The Royal Wizard, like Rion was a man of few words. Some people turn eccentric knowing their minds work different from the norm and he was one of those.
「Hypothesis : likely.」
「Is that so. How did you notice that, boy?」
Frederick returned his attention to Rion again.
「How? I just discovered it now myself」
「…This damned brat.」
This couldn’t possibly be the case. Frederick was certain that Rion said finding the locations was doable knowing about the magical circles from the start.
In fact it didn’t have to be Rion, anyone able to use magic would know this. However, that person would have to inspect a magical circle not long after activation. Doing that would lead to the discovery that all mana in the area, spirits to Rion, was in a complete disarray.
Those magical circles were inhumane magic that so forcefully absorbed the mana-spirits around them that whatever remained was damaged.
「Thanks to sir Wizard’s information we now know we can find and accurately estimate the number of enemies about to invade the area. This lets us send adequate number of soldiers in response. The next step is to find their likely gathering points of the horde and hit those in rapid succession. That’s about it for the plan.」
If all this was accomplished, the damage suffered to the civilian infrastructure would be smaller than in the plan outlined by the Crown Marshal. On the whole Rion’s words not only affected the plan, they provoked its complete overhaul.
「…We think this is not an opinion that can be ignored.」
With the Knight Commander staying silent the King took the reins of the conversation and the conference.
「It is still based on pure speculation that the demons will come from many different places at once.」
The Crown Marshal, looking like he had discarded his own plan, started pointing out the flaws of Rion’s strategy.
「True. But the assumption is believable. And it would be a shame to abandon those villages just to reduce commoner casualties.」
With this supportive comment from Frederick everyone in the room knew that the previous plan was now abandoned. That was exactly why the King had to lead this transition himself.
「We wonder, can our armies not do both of the things proposed in parallel?」
「Sire, is it really fine to just concentrate on the Nyegert, though? There are various other places suffering from the demon attacks as well.」
「Surely there is no need to worry about this. Can we not leave things in the hands of the local militia?」
「Of course, sire. However, the territorial armies are rather small and will be of little help in many places.」
「Then we shall have the Marquess retinues act instead.」
In some of the vassal fiefs of the Crown the local militia was so small it couldn’t even be called an army. A big body of troops required a comparably sizeable budget, something that wasn’t really a priority for the landed nobles away from the borders of the kingdom. That was just a reality of life.
On the other hand, the mighty Marquess houses had retinues as extravagant as their equally sizeable treasuries allowed. So big in fact, that it made the central government suspicious of their actual purpose.
「…Those are already deployed, sire. However, their actions so far are restricted to things that benefit their patrons.」
The Marquess Houses, even now, acted only for their own selfish interests. That was painful to hear for Lancelot and the others belonging to those houses.
「In light of that fact, sire, should the Royal Guard be dispatched?」
If the Chivalric Order of the Kingdom was tied down with defensive duties then another military formation of that calibre was required. However, deploying the Royal Guard was a serious matter as it was technically the private army of the royals.
「I guess we have no choice. Prime Minister, what is our schedule for today?」
The King, thinking he should dispatch his own army personally, wanted to verify his plans for the day but he was interrupted.
「There is no need for that, sire. This Royal Guard deployment will be led by Baron Frey.」
By saying this Frederick surprised absolutely everyone, if for different reasons. The people not aware of the secret behind Rion’s origins found the idea of Royal Guard being led by a mere Baron abnormal. The King, however, could not comprehend what the Knight Commander was aiming at by hinting at Rion’s true, top secret background so strongly.
「While I did say Royal Guard, I meant to use squires and apprentices. They do not represent enough war potential to warrant sire’s personal involvement and should not have a significant impact on our existing plans.」
「…Is that not simply throwing their lives away before they are ready for combat?」
「They may be squires, sire, but I have trained all of them with my own hands. They do have considerable combat skills already.」
「Individual combat skills, perhaps, but that is never eno…」
「An experienced officer will be attached to oversee them. I believe Sol Aristes is free at the moment」
This confused both of the royal family members present so much, they simultaneously called him by his name like when they were children.
And others that had knowledge of what went on in the capital understood why. Sol was a very important figure in the ranks of the Guard.
「With this I believe both plans are finalized.」
The Knight Commander continued talking ignoring the outburst of the monarch.
「…I have never said I agree to do this.」
「Nobody asked, boy. This is a royal order, you will comply.」
「I hate your guts, old man!」
「Like you have the right to say that? If I have not asked for your opinion, you would never have volunteered your plan, right?」
「Only because I heard that the comments of a mere beginner are unnecessary.」
This jab was aimed at the Marshal of the Crown.
「And I am sure the small detail of demon’s magic abilities would be no different. What do you think would happen if we continued to plan without knowing about that?」
「Nothing. The heroes of the kingdom would surely make up for the flaws in the defensive strategy.」
And this jab was aimed at Maria’s group.
「…You might have have been charming when you were a child valet but now all that is left in that body is just a grumpy old man, huh?」
「O-Old man? I am not old.」
「I am talking about your mental age, not appearance, boy.」
As Rion bickered with, and started to be bothered by Frederick he heard Ariel giggling beside him.
「Not the best place to laugh, my dearest husband?」
This made Rion sulk. And that, in turn, made Ariel pinch his face wide.
「….I-It hurts. W-why?」
「Hearing Rion described as a valet made me feel nostalgic.」
「D-Do people, p-pinch other’s, f-face when they feel nostalgic?」
「Oh details, I used to do that back then all the time.」
「…B-But we’re c-currently at a v-very important c-conference.」
「And I am bored.」
Seeing them being like this was not just adorable but pleasant to the eyes. For all those people that did not have Rion’s trust, he suddenly started to look like a different person from before.
「Can you stop that already? It is nice to see there are no problems in your marriage but we are trying to have a serious discussion here.」
「What, are you envious, old man?」
「To think that you would feel envy towards a couple that could have been your grandchildren. You are actually pretty young at heart after all, keep it up.」
「T-This stupid brat!!」
It was still too early to say that Frederick had opened to Rion. What could be definitely seen, though, was that the strict Knight Commander was allowing his feelings to show in the matters regarding the boy. Which made all that had known the old man doubt their eyes.
「…While seeing spectacles like this one is heartening, we are in fact quite busy. Baron Frey, as sir Frederick just said you are hereby given a royal order to lead our Guard to subjugate the demon threat.」
「Sir Frederick, we shall leave final details of the defense around Nyegert in your capable hands. You are to proceed without worrying about the good Baron’s plans.」
The royal approval of the plans was granted. With this nobody had any grounds for complaint left and they would now had to do as ordered. Especially Rion who suddenly found himself at the head of an army and was facing a very busy future.
He left the conference immediately, fully aware of what was in store for him. And honestly, he didn’t want to stay there for one second longer than necessary anyhow.
Others departed not long after, they had no more reasons to linger even if, like Maria, they were not really happy with the outcome.
The only people left in the room were the King and the Knight Commander.
「So, what are you up to?」
It wasn’t exactly a coincidence, the monarch wanted to pick his Knight Commander’s mind.
「I just thought it would be too much of a waste to leave his talent in obscurity.」
「…Does he have that much of it?」
「Maybe? By all rights he should be an amateur at strategy. Yet he came up with this.」
「It will be trouble if he ends up in the spotlight.」
The King was not worried about Rion’s military talent but about the charisma that instantly took control of the meeting with nearly a single word. And rendered the Crown Prince nearly invisible and his presence in the meeting mostly irrelevant.
「Yes, but if he becomes a royal guard…」
「I figured this may be a way of repairing their relationship, especially if we can groom him to lead the Royal Guard in the future.」
「So you see him as retainer. Why Sol, though?」
「Having his talents rot is an even bigger waste.」
「Is it wise given he will not be told the truth?」
「…Honestly, this is a gamble. But it does not stop me from having that silly hope he will figure out the truth anyway.」
「Is that so…」
Sol Aristes was the Royal Guard chosen to personally protect the second child of the royal couple. The unlucky princess that had been suddenly kidnapped on the day of her birth and vanished from the face of the earth.
Despite that Sir Aristes had remained abnormally loyal towards the princess he had never met and refused all offers to guard future royal children instead. Even now he had been waiting for the missing princess to be found.
This made him a knight who should’ve been Rion’s royal guard from birth. And even the Knight Commander who arranged them to meet again did not know what would come from this.
Probably derived from the greek name Aristos which means “best”. This makes his name “Sun the Excelling/Sun the Best One.”