金金金The castle’s west bank transitioned into a beach, and a large harbour was built there. In all other directions sprawled vast swaths of castle town, and many wonders remained from its days as the largest trade city of the continent. It was largely unaffected by the ramshackle defences, and wanton destruction of the war. The northern mines had run dry, and the trade with Mundonovo had been interrupted, yet as long as there were people and food, trade would continue. The rebellion may have even driven refugees into the city. With the approaching crisis directly in front of their eyes, the people did almost nothing out of the ordinary. A result of this was the capital appearing fairly prosperous.
“So this is Coimbra province’s Madress. It really is a massive city.”
“Now isn’t the time to be leisurely. We must quickly make our report to the viceroy. The situation is urgent.”
金金金Cynthia poked Noel with a stick. A messenger had already delivered the basic information, but the circumstances obligated them to report the details of the situation in person. When they had joined with the reinforcements, the news of Rockbell’s fall had already been reported. The commanding Great General Gaddis had been unexpectedly cautious about the number of enemies, and he was already planning for his own retirement. Though they rushed on the way to Rockbell, it had already fallen by the time they had arrived, and its lord was already dead. So when they had successfully retrieved the viceroy’s wife and child, who had been saved from the worst of it, they felt no need to hurry back. A party in their rear was serving as a screen for the main body. Cynthia’s own party had joined up with the main force, and in several days time had returned to safety.
“Be sure to come back. When I’ve returned, I’ll receive my reward, okay. That was the promise you know.”
“What are you talking about, you are coming too. You are the one who killed Ned, and you’re also a witness to his talk about Bahar. You need to report to the viceroy from your own mouth th…”
金金金Cynthia cut off her own words after only getting that far because Noel’s presentability had become horrible. She was wearing armour as the reinforcements had not prepared any spare woman’s clothing. They weren’t a part of the expedition and so their resupply had been minimal. As expected they had prepared a lovely set of clothes for Lady Sarah, but there was no portion for Noel; they did manage to secure her some underwear however. The current Noel was wearing a bloodstained leather cuirass, a bident was on her back, and a war hammer was dangling from her belt. They had tried to rinse her off on the way back, but in the end were unable to fully erase the blood and grime.
“Hey, would it be alright if I took a little stroll through the city? There are all kinds of things to look at, and I feel like there will be many treasures to be found.”
“No. First off, we’ll have to change your clothes. Do you think you can see the viceroy dressed like that?”
“I don’t really need to meet him though. It seems like a pain.”
“Ah, be quiet! Just follow me!”
“Ah, um, what are we supposed to do?” Mirut nervously asked as the other villagers gathered behind him with similar expressions.
“For the moment, you’ll be led to the barracks. It would be best if you ate there, and recuperated. Once you’ve calmed down, be sure to think about what you plan to do from here on out.”
“What to do?” Mirut and the volunteers made confused faces.
“Whether you will stay like this, or return to your village. That place is still within the rebel army’s sphere of influence right? You will probably have to fight the remaining rebels before you can properly return.”
“No way! We won’t even be useful!”
“This province isn’t wealthy enough to support people who do nothing. The city may seem lively at first glance, but the reality is not so rosy.”
金金金Having finished her harsh words, Cynthia turned on her heel, highhandedly dragging Noel along with her.
金金金Arriving at the officer’s barracks, Cynthia made her way to her room. It was the prepared residence for all officers in charge of more than one hundred men. Different from the regular barracks, it had private rooms and a more sturdy construction. Originally she had lived in a mansion, but as the Edrich house didn’t have the income to afford a servant, when she had become alone, she sold the estate. It was incredibly lonely for her to live alone in a large mansion, and so she moved into the barracks during her training. Although she knew it would give her the reputation of a fallen noble, as the entire province had fallen on hard times, she didn’t mind it. She half smiled, half grimaced at her situation.
“This is my room, hurry up and enter.”
“It isn’t like I don’t own anything so be sure to show some restraint. Quickly get changed, and we’ll head off to the castle.”
“I, I get it, please let go.”
金金金Noel had entered the room having been dragged in. She saw a fluffy seeming, pure white bed, a frugal desk, and a large wardrobe. Beside it hung things like helmets and armour. Somehow finding herself worked up, Noel flung herself to the bed she was facing. Regrettably, her hair was caught, preventing her from reaching her fluffy goal. Just before the bed, she was held back. Having been pulled from behind, her head was at a strange angle, and she stopped there for some time.
“It hurts, you know.”
“Well, I don’t want you flinging yourself onto the bed with your current appearance.”
“Its fluffiness is making me tired.”
“Your biggest mistake was being so horribly dirty! You idiot!!”
“Can I sleep for a little while?”
金金金Being forcibly held back by Cynthia’s hands, Noel made small unconscious noises as she made longing eyes at the bed. She swore to any god that was listening that she would succeed in her second attempt, although she would most likely never be forgiven for doing so. As she feared, there was no god.
“Ah, my head might break.”
金金金Although Noel complained, Cynthia was hearing none of it.
“You aren’t employed by the military, but for the moment why don’t we put you in a military uniform? You did participate as a volunteer soldier. This is one I received when I was only in charge of about ten. It’s a bit long though…”
金金金Saying that, she handed over a white uniform. It wasn’t the uniform of a high rank, and so had no shoulder strap; however, it did have the Coimbra scale. The trading city had a proud insignia. One side held golden coins, and the other weighed goods. Cynthia had been quickly promoted to leading one hundred, and so her uniform from her time in charge of ten was as good as new. Although they wore armour on campaign and on the battlefield, the uniform was used for all other occasions, and in recent years hardly any battles, or even bandit subjugation, had occurred.
“I’m only lending it to you. We are meeting the viceroy, and cannot do him any discourtesy.”
“I know. Hey, these look good. Don’t they have good style?”
金金金Saying such things, Noel threw off her dirty garments. Although she should have had some trouble with an outfit she was unused to, Noel managed to quickly and nimbly change into it. She didn’t at all look like the sort to have practice with that kind of thing, so how she managed it was mysterious. She dressed not with the fumblings of a new recruit, but like a recently promoted female officer. With a serious expression, and a gallant air, she inclined her head after she was fully dressed.
“Hey, do I look good?”
金金金Cynthia watched without thinking as Noel approached the desk and took something in hand. What had been drawing her gaze, she without hesitation took up in a tight grasp. They were the glasses worn by Cynthia’s late brother. Not like a person taking a souvenir, but rather more like an abandoned child, she appreciated the frame.
“Take that, and tie my hair behind my head. There, do I look good?”
金金金Wearing the black rimmed glasses, with her hair tied behind her head, she turned around. From every angle she looked like military personnel. She appeared to be an efficient secretary or staff officer. Anyone who didn’t know who was inside that shell would easily be deceived. Even knowing what was inside it, Cynthia felt she was being fooled somehow.
“Um, this time…”
“What is this, you suddenly straightened up.”
“Sir Cynthia, your orders. The preparations are well in order.”
“W-what is this all of a sudden…”
“There is nothing particular about it, it is just my way to cope. Please leave everything to me. Well then, excuse me for today.”
金金金With a sage expression, in the manner of a bureaucrat, she pushed up her glasses, turned, and briskly left. For Cynthia, this was the biggest shock of them all.
“W-wait! Don’t just deal with this on your own! And what’s with those glasses!?”
“Aw, and I thought it was going well.”
“Appearance is good and all, but you need to do something about your inner self! You idiot!”
金金金Cynthia shouted, and Noel covered her ears with both hands. The grossly inappropriate stance she took whilst in the form of a reliable staff officer gave birth to a whole new type of unease for Cynthia to feel.
“Hey, more importantly, can you give me these glasses?”
“What are you saying all of a sudden?”
“Because I was going to get a reward. I think these glasses are really pretty.”
金金金Wavering for but a moment, she decided that there was no reason not to, or rather, as it wasn’t expensive she had reason to rejoice. If she didn’t honour the deal, there was no telling what Noel would do, but it was certain she would do something; maybe even involving a hammer in one hand, and a bident in the other. Flashing her teeth, Noel attempted to drive her into a corner. Without realising it, shivers ran down her spine, and to clear her thoughts she coughed.
“I would like to say that it is no good, but a promise is a promise. Do what you will.”
“Yes! I’ll treasure it. With these on, I look smart right? They’re glasses that make me smart, the curious glasses.”
“Oi, don’t tell me that’s why you put them on…”
“Yup. The world looks amazing. It really is clearly visible now.”
金金金Cynthia was going to tell her that of course the glasses would do that, but they had little time.
“That’s good. While you were fiddling around we ran out of time, so hurry up and go. I’ll warn you in advance: do not say anything rude to the viceroy. I will only speak in response to questions.”
“I get… no, I understand Sir Cynthia. Please leave everything to me.”
金金金With her manners prepared, her body felt itchy.
“Please stop making fun of me. Next time I think I’ll pinch your cheek again.”
“Why? I even used proper speech…”
“Silence, I absolutely will!”
“It can’t be helped then. I get it Cynthia.”
金金金Arrogantly patting her shoulder, Noel walked ahead by herself. Even the Great General couldn’t match her confidence. Sitting a moment longer, half in protest, Cynthia yet again released a sigh, unable to understand Noel, she stood up and followed after her.