45.1 The Ladies Dread the True Power of the Frontier
── Governor Kittle’s Territory, The Lady’s Manor──
[Reines-nee-sama! What have you done?!]
Reines-hime’s manor, Governor Kittle’s domain.
The suehime, Silvia Kittle, brushes aside the maidservant and forces open the door of her older sister’s room.
[My, my, I was wondering why it was so noisy, but if it isn’t you, Silvia? How do you do?]
[I asked you a question, Nee-sama! What have you done?!]
Silvia screams at Reines who is unabashedly enjoying a cup of tea.
[Of all things, to meddle with the frontier…… what are you thinking?]
[I could say the same thing to you. What are you so agitated for, Silvia?]
[Please have a look at this!]
Silvia slams a wooden slip onto the table lined with teacups. On its surface are letters written in charcoal. It is a mokkan1, something commonly used for exchanging messages in that region.
[This apparently was found in front of the castle gate this morning. As it was addressed to me, the gatekeeper thoughtfully brought it to me. Surely you realize what’s written on it, Nee-sama?]
[What a strange to say, Silvia. How could I possibly know the contents of something addressed to you?]
[This…… was written by the king of the frontier.
The swordsman Dims and his company attempted to infiltrate Hazama Village while armed with weapons! We have disabled and captured all of them. Dispatch an envoy so I that can hand them over to you!]
Silvia-hime, unable to bear it, shouts.
[I know that Dims went on to serve you after he left my service. That person was humiliated in the frontier and may be resentful about it as well! Nee-sama, what in damnation have you done?!!]
[……Nothing worth shouting over, I suppose?]
Reines wears a gentle smile as she offers Silvia a cup.
[It’s tea from the capital. Silvia, I believe you like it with honey? I heard you were coming today, so I had some prepared. Please, enjoy.]
[……Nee-sama, if you want to turn the frontier into your enemy and perish, do as you wish. Don’t get me involved!]
[As I said, what are you so agitated for……]
[The one who rules the frontier, the 『Aberrant Overlord』, extinguished scores of mamono simply by uttering some words.]
Silence falls upon the parlor at Silvia’s words.
A breeze blows in through an open window, swaying the dresses of Silvia and Reines. The silence is so pervasive, one can almost hear the sound of their garments rustling. The maids standing by their sides, the elder who came with Silvia ── even the butler ── none of them make a single move.
[……Surely you jest.]
[If you’ll pardon me, may I speak freely?]
[Dougal? Very well. Tell me what you saw.]
[……I, with these eyes, saw mamono evaporate. A score of soldiers share this experience with me.]
The elder standing at attention by the door speaks with a tremble in his voice.
Silvia nods back to the elder Dougal.
Dougal was by Silvia’s side when she met with the 『Aberrant Overlord』. Furthermore, when Silvia and Reines were young, he was their tutor. As such, his testimony carries weight.
[As you may already know, Nee-sama, the king of the frontier and I have entered into an alliance. At that time, I was keeping my soldiers hidden, just in case. During that time, they were attacked by mamono. 『Black Centipedes』 and 『Goblins』 sent them into a panic.]
[Then…… the 『Aberrant Overlord』…]
[The king breathed a flame. It never even touched the mamono, yet they were all vanquished. In fact, a girl was beside the king, one whom could not be reached by a single spell.]
[What it means to make that king into an enemy, I shall not say anything more to my wise Nee-sama.]
As if to say, ‘We are finished,’ Silvia bows.
[I will now visit the 『King of the Frontier』 to provide him an explanation. After all, I was who suggested our alliance. If someone who was formerly my subordinate intrudes upon the frontier, then part of the responsibility falls upon me. Naturally…… I shall tell him the truth, Nee-sama?]
[Ju, just a moment, Silvia!]
[I shall say that the one who took in Dims was you, Reines-nee-sama.]
Silvia gives her a cold smile.
[I have never hated you, not even now as we compete for the position of Otou-sama’s successor. In truth, I wish to drink the tea you brewed for me. I truly mean this, Nee-sama.]
[……Why don’t we simply…… let this be?]
[If I do not go and provide the 『King of the Frontier』 with an explanation, he may come here himself. Should I happen to be dead when that happens, he shall most likely knock on the doors of this estate.]
Dims the swordsman, along with his score of men, are already under the custody of the 『King of the Frontier』. Some of them are likely to be under the direct control of Reines. It is only a matter of time until they learn that Reines Kittle is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes.
[If you doubt my words…… why don’t you come with me, Nee-sama?]
Silvia looks back from the door to Reines.
[Disguise yourself as my maid and behold the 『King of the Frontier』 with your own eyes.]
[……Do you intend to harm me during our travel?]
[『In the name of our proud father, I have no intention to harm you along the way. Thus is Silvia Kittle’s oath to the Dragon Emperor.』]
Silvia calmly approaches Reines and drops a cup from the table onto the floor. A loud crash resounds as the cup breaks. Silvia then picks up a shard and uses it to prick a finger. She allows a drop of blood to fall into the tea.
[It is informal, but this shall serve as my pledge.]
[……You…… why are you going so far for this?]
[What would happen if the 『King of the Frontier』 were to come into conflict with our father? Of course, father would come out victorious, but his conquest against the corrupt courtiers in the capital would be delayed by just as much. We already have plenty of enemies. In order to support our father’s domination, we should appease the 『King of the Frontier』’s wrath.]
Silvia makes a resolute declaration.
[In a few months, father will target the capital. Until that time, relieving him of any concern that he might be attacked from behind is the only appropriate action we can take. If Nee-sama wants to take the responsibility as the second daughter of House Kittle, then I believe you should see this through to the end.]
Silence falls upon them once again.
Reines Kittle clenches her fists and quietly begins to tremble. Then after a moment passes, she lifts her head,
[Very well. If you will insist this much, I shall ascertain how capable this 『King of the Frontier』 is with my own eyes.]
She answers with a whisper.
──A few days later, a road near the frontier──
Silvia Kittle’s procession is headed for 『Hazama Village』. A carriage at the center of the envoy is secured by soldiers from the front and back. Inside it are Silvia and Reines Kittle.
While Silvia wears the same dress she wore when she last came to the frontier, Reines has donned the attire of a maid. At present, she has assumed the position of Silvia’s maid.
Of the soldiers surrounding the carriage, half are under Silvia’s command while the other are under Reines’. At their core is the elder, Dougal. He supervises both sides with a sharp eye.
[Halt the carriage, Silvia.]
Reines, who was looking out the window, suddenly speaks.
[What is the matter, Nee-sama?]
[……There is something strange in the meadow. What…… is that?]
Silvia and Reines put their faces to the window. In the middle of a meadow, they see a gray object lying on the ground.
It has a width several times the height of a person. Furthermore, it’s quite thick. There are also traces that something had been dragged across the meadow.
Could someone… have been transporting it?
[Certainly… that is something strange, Nee-sama.]
[Dougal, are you there? Do you know what that is?]
Reines opens the window and calls out to the elder.
He also turns his head to the meadow. Then, her gives a troubled tilt of his head.
[Oh, someone from a nearby frontier village has just passed. Shall we ask that person?].
[I don’t mind. Bring that person here.]
Silvia nods at Reines’ reply.
After a bit, a villager pulling a wagon comes before Silvia and her envoy.
[I wish to inquire something, noble one. What is that grey thing in the meadow?]
[It’s a wall.]
[Yes, apparently the 『Aberrant Overlord』-sama is having them placed along the main road to protect the frontier. He’s planning to put up a huge wall and use it in lieu of a checkpoint, I think……?]
Reines covers her mouth.
[HA, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How ridiculous! This 『King of the Frontier』, does he believe he’ll be able to prevent soldiers from invading by putting up that slab of stone on the main road? He has had people transport such a thing for that reason?!]
[……Certainly. That sounds quite difficult.]
[Of course! It’s ludicrous!]
Reines Kittle slaps her knee and moves her face close to her imouto, lady Silvia.
[The 『King of the Frontier』 is a threat? Silvia, isn’t that just a cover? You realize he is forcing his people to needlessly labor away transporting heavy, stone slabs?]
[Except, don’t you think the technology needed for cutting out such slabs is dangerous in of itself?]
[You have a point. However, he made a mistake in how to use that power. Using manual labor to transport something like that──]
[Hm? Did you say something?]
[No, I did not say anything.]
Reines and Silvia look outside together. They don’t see anything strange happening. All that surrounds them is meadows. The procession isn’t moving either. Only the villager with the wagon is nearby.
The slab lying in the meadow also hasn── it changed──
[What is it, Silvia?]
[That slab. Doesn’t it feel as if it is a bit closer than before?]
[Don’t speak nonsense. As if a slab could move.]
[……That is true.]
[We’ve taken up too much time. Let us proceed.]
At Reines’ words, Silvia gives the signal.
[Our apologies for taking up your time as well. Dougal, our gratitude.]
The elder Dougal hands the villager with the wagon a silver coin.
[Nevertheless, how strange. Is the 『King of the Frontier』 truly having his people transport that stone slab?]
The procession begins to move.
Gari gari, the wheels of the carriage start to turn.
[…………It moves by itself once it gathers enough mana. In about two months, it should reach the main road──]
[──Eh?] By the time Silvia asked, the procession had already begun to move. Therefore, she doesn’t hear the end of the villager’s words.