Stealth Kid, on to the Royal Capital
The kingdom of Ponsonia’s royal capital, G. Ponsonia, was also known as the Flatland Capital.
There were benefits to having level land; it was easier to expand towns, transport routes, and agricultural fields. Huge granaries – Ponsonia’s hallmark – spread out far and wide near the capital. During fall, the whole plantation looked like a sea of gold.
The kingdom was surrounded by both allied and enemy nations; the latter was dealt with by nobles who lived near the borders. They were called Margraves, allowed by the kingdom to build their own independent army.
Since the Margraves solidified the kingdom’s defences against external threats, the granaries inside could flourish. Cheaper grain products enriched the masses. Ponsonia was at the height of its prosperity like never before. As such, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the kingdom harbored an ambition to spread its influence abroad.
Being a flat and landlocked nation, Ponsonia was easy to invade. To counter this the army developed something unique – a moving fortress, the Heavy Infantry which Ponsonia was known for. Though not all that mobile, it sported incredibly high defensive prowess.
「So that’s the Heavy Infantry I’ve heard so much about. Their equipment looks light though, if you ask me.」
A large-scale exercise was being held just at the edge of the royal capital. There were two reasons behind this: First, was to show to people entering the kingdom – spies included – that it had a powerful army. The second reason was extremely simple. Carrying around heavy equipment like that was difficult, so regular training was done inside the capital and large-scale exercises in an area nearby.
「It’s incredible. This is my first time seeing it as well.」Lavia said.
「You too, huh? But isn’t that basically Ponsonia’s trademark?」
Inside a rocking wagon, Hikaru and Lavia were talking. The other passengers were seated a distance, so they could speak in low whispers. They could see the exercise outside the window. It was a remarkable scene. Plate armor covered the infantry’s whole body all the way up to their faces. The plates themselves were uniformly painted in either green, purple, or blue, dividing the soldiers into three units according to color. They had long spears as weapons which had axes as the spearheads – halberds. Hikaru wondered if halberds counted as long spears when it came to the Soul Board stats. The soldiers brandished their halberds, charged, and jumped. They even let themselves be thrown on purpose to practice how to fall properly. There were others that performed backflips.
「…Are they using magic?」
「Of course. It’s not the man himself that’s excellent, it’s the armor. I read that in a book. 」
「Oh, I see.」
It all made sense now. The plate armors themselves were most likely magic items. They either made one lighter or improved the physical abilities of the one wearing it. A very efficient method indeed. Instead of training the troops one by one, the armor they wore was enhanced, upgrading the whole forces overall. It didn’t work without mana, though. The enhanced equipment could probably only be used for a limited time.
A war without guns, huh… I want to see what that’s like. Though war is pointless anyway.
In a conflict, the fruits of victory pales in comparison to what’s lost. For those defeated, it’s way worse.
「I can see the capital. 」Lavia said.
Hikaru looked ahead. In the distance, he could see what looked like the spires of a castle. Around it buildings sprawled with the castle at the center.
「It’s quite huge.」
That was Hikaru’s impression at first.
But soon, he started doubting his own eyes. From a distance, the size of the castle didn’t seem to change much, and yet the wagon they were on was already running through town. Hikaru recalled what Jill said about the capital having a population forty or fifty times more than that of Pond. Back then he never really realized how big the number was, but now he gradually did. What’s with this place? Just how big is it?
「Wait, there wasn’t even any inspection.」
His voice was a bit loud that a well-built man, who looked to be a merchant, laughed.
「Hahaha! That’s right, kid. There’s no inspection here. A place as big as this, that’s just impossible.」
He seems to be a nice man, Hikaru thought. He proceeded to thoroughly get some information.
「That makes sense. So can you go anywhere in the capital?」
「Closer to the royal castle, there’s an area called the nobles district. In addition, there’s also the first and second residential districts. They’re within the walls, and there’s inspection before anyone could enter.」
「I see. It doesn’t feel that safe knowing inspection is only done over there.」
「It’s all right. Even though this area right here is far away from the castle, it’s still part of the royal capital, so there are guards patrolling around. It’s strange, though. We would’ve seen one or two of those patrols by now, but I haven’t spotted one today.」
Patrols? Will they do surprise inspections? Feeling a shiver run down his spine, Hikaru looked outside the window. All he saw was wagons and civilians walking – no patrols. A lady sitting beside the merchant, who appeared to be his wife, spoke.
「It’s because there’s a war happening soon, Dear.」
Their expressions grew dark. The kingdom couldn’t spare men for patrol due to war preparations. The large-scale exercise could have been a bluff, then – to show that even though the kingdom was preparing for war, it still had plenty of soldiers available.
「Anyway, why are you headed to the capital? Me, I have a store…」
The couple seemed to be worried about them since they were kids. They offered help, but Hikaru gently turned them down.
There’s some nice people around here. I guess that’s only natural…
And so Hikaru and Lavia entered the royal capital without any trouble at all.
「I have received the package. Thank you.」
The royal capital’s Adventurers Guild was approximately ten times bigger than the one in Pond. They had seven receptionists at the counter. Though for its size, it felt deserted. The war was probably affecting the guild as well.
Hikaru’s job was to deliver one sealed letter addressed to a merchant in the capital. The request was fulfilled once he handed it to the guild. Delivering the letter from the guild to the man himself was a different request in itself.
Just like in Japan, there was a postal service in this world as well, where letters were delivered from one town to another. Although the service was available only to major towns. Adventurers with spare time would deliver letters to remote areas like villages deep in the mountains. Even then, the success rate was low.
「Oh. With this delivery request complete, only two more requests for you to be promoted to rank F.」
This was one of the reasons Hikaru took the delivery request. Right now he was rank G. He wanted to climb to rank E so he could enter the dungeon managed by the Adventurers Guild.
The condition for promotion to rank F was to complete requests that required going from one Adventurers Guild to another. The simplest requests one could take in this case were either Delivery or Escort jobs, but there wasn’t anyone eccentric enough to hire lowest-ranked adventurers as escorts.
「Do you have any reasonably easy requests available?」
「We have a lot right now. We’re short-handed at the moment since adventurers are also being recruited for the war.」
「Adventurers sent to war, huh…」
「Yes. That means His Majesty is serious about this.」
The receptionist looked sorrowful. She couldn’t criticize the king in public.
Hikaru checked every last bit of request on the request bulletin board. Delivery in the capital, assisting in a major cleanup, helping the elderly, carrying luggage… pretty much the same as the ones in Pond. They were only rank G requests, after all. No jobs that required fighting was available; since the military used the area around the royal capital for exercises, they’ve already killed all monsters. But there could still be something…
「Should be enough. Let’s go find an inn.」
They left the guild. Hikaru started planning in his mind about the things he needed to do while in the royal capital.
「We’ve got a long day ahead of us.」Hikaru said.
「You look like you’re having fun, though. No, wait. That’s not right. In your case, it looks like you’re planning one of your schemes again.」
「Weird. That doesn’t sound like a compliment.」
「I regret not being of any help in your night activities.」
「You don’t have to worry about it. With my current abilities, taking you with me is a bit of a tall order.」
「You won’t tell me what you’re up to, will you?」
「Sorry. It’s a secret for now.」
Hikaru still didn’t want to tell Lavia everything, including his abilities. It wasn’t like he didn’t trust her. He just didn’t see any benefit in telling her right now.
「I think you won’t get bored, though.」
「Why not? I think I’ll be extremely bored without you around.」
「What are you saying? We’re in the royal capital, Milady.」
「And? I’m not going outside.」
「There’s a huge bookstore here.」
Lavia’s eyes widened.
「Well? There’s bound to be lots of adventure novels—」
「Let’s go get a room, quick! Preferably one with a huge table where I can use all the magic lamps I need!」
Hikaru couldn’t help but smile seeing Lavia in high spirits.
「…That’s all for my report to His Majesty tomorrow.」
The inquisitor had visited the captain of the Order of the Knights in the middle of the knight in his office located in the royal capital. The office itself was inside the castle grounds, in a solid, stone-built building.
It was a dreary and austere room with no fancy décor. The inquisitor was seated on a chair made of oak that had no cushion. Opposite of him was the same kind of chair that was big enough for the inquisitor, but was too cramped for the man sitting on it.
He had thick legs like logs. His body, as huge as two people, had barely any fat, and his muscles pulsed. The man had a heavy, thick neck; if his head were to be slammed to the ground, he would surely be fine. And yet his eyes looked kind and gentle.
The knights’ captain. He was about forty years old, with a huge scar on his face. His blonde hair was trimmed short which would surely remind Hikaru of a baseball player.
「Sir Lawrence?」the inquisitor asked the captain who remained still.
「Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about what you said. There are many inconsistencies indeed.」
Contrary to his looks, the captain had a youthful voice and just like his eyes, it was gentle. But as his robust body suggested, he wasn’t just kind – he was that, and a lot more. This man, known as a Master Swordsman and a Master Fencer, had undergone extraordinary training. Although using the word “training” was questionable – his regimen involved being at a hair’s breadth from death, after all.
「So that’s your report to His Majesty?」
「I am fully aware that my report contains things that will bring dishonor to the order, but I cannot change any of it. Discussing this with you right now is not exactly right, either.」
「I understand. I am not worried about that.」
The King’s sword and shield – the knights, and the people who maintain public order, the inquisitors, belonged to different sectors with separate chains of command. Informing the Order of the Knights of what an inquisitor had gathered before making it public was therefore an ultra vires act. But the matter at hand concerned the Order and he believed Captain Lawrence D. Falcon to be a trustworthy man, so he explained things to him first. Of course, the inquisitor had consent from the bureau as well.
「East was inexperienced. Heavy punishment awaits those who sully the honor of the knights. He can only atone for his mistakes with death.」
「So he belonged to the 6th squad. They might be slacking off. I must personally whip them back into shape.」
The inquisitor closed his eyes upon hearing the captain’s words. Perhaps East is actually fortunate to be sentenced to death, he thought. Lawrence said he was going to work them hard personally. People in town knew how severe his training regimen was. I just hope there won’t be any casualties.
「Hmm? Who’s there?」the captain asked.
A knock came at the door. A young knight from the Order stepped into the room.
「I apologize for coming here late at night, Captain.」
「It must be urgent. Forget the pleasantries. Just tell me what you’re here for.」
The knight, whose face was pale as a sheet, cold sweat glistening on his forehead, shot a glance at the inquisitor. The inquisitor was about to get up from his seat, thinking it was a private matter, when the captain raised his hand to stop him.
「He’s good. Now, your report.」
There were two possibilities as to why he allowed the inquisitor to stay. Perhaps it was to return the favor since he was considerate enough to inform the captain of his report before submitting it. Or it could be that his instincts were telling him that the young knight’s report had something to do with the inquisitor’s report as well.
「Yes, Sir.」the knight said, swallowing to wet his tongue. 「The commander of the 6th squad, Scott F. Lands was attacked in his bedroom at his own home. Fortunately, he only suffered multiple broken bones, and his life isn’t in any danger. According to him, it was a kid that attacked him. He wore a cloak that covered his whole body and a mask of the Sun God.」he said in one breath.