Billow Elka, a suburban town in Ponsonia. Despite being a suburban town, there were plenty of people out at night as it was a major transportation hub.
The moon sat high in the sky. Someone was walking down the streets. His blond hair was trimmed short, with a bull neck so thick, it was hard to know where his face started. Brawny, it looked like he didn’t need armor; his muscles were enough to repel blades.
The captain of Ponsonia’s Order of the Knights, Lawrence D. Falcon, strolled through the streets, producing a clink with every step. He donned a full-body armor made by joining chains as big as a thumb together—a chainmail—capable of protecting the body against light slashes and thrusts, while letting the body move freely with little to no hindrance.
Its downsides were the constant clinking of metal, and its weight, given that it was made of iron. Of course, with Lawrence’s strength, he didn’t mind at all. He wore the knights’ uniform over his chainmail, making his body even bulkier, but he didn’t care.
After the day he allowed an intruder in the castle grounds, Lawrence asked a dwarf blacksmith, who was on friendly terms with the Order, to make him armor that he could wear all the time, even outside of battle. The product was the chainmail.
The young boy made him realize he needed to be ready at all times and treat every place like a battlefield. If only he had worn the chainmail—which circled around his neck as well—back when he fought the boy, his attack would have been ineffective.
It wasn’t just him who donned the armor, but every member of the Order who looked up to him as well.
「You can always count on the knights」Some of the nobles’ comments were favorable.
「They’re so damn noisy.」「Are they trying to show that they’re working?」While some others weren’t so nice.
Lawrence walked down the patrol route. He didn’t want to rely solely on the other knights, so he went around himself.
After being sent to the frontlines in the war against Quibland, he was suddenly called back to the royal capital and this time ordered to maintain order within the kingdom—a fancy way of telling someone to “standby”. A while later he was summoned to the Imperial Council and was ordered to kill Margrave Grugschilt.
It was the reason they were in Billow Elka at present, the closest town to the Margrave’s domain. By the King’s orders, the knights left the capital.
「Welcome back, Sir!」
The knights on standby saluted as Lawrence returned to the residence that the Order was currently borrowing.
「How was the town?」
「It’s a nice, lovely town. And quite peaceful at that. I spotted a few drunkards, however. Send some guards out later.」
「What’s the status here?」
「A message arrived.」
「All right. Let’s head to a different room.」
Lawrence entered a room, bringing only a commanding officer with him. Three days had passed since they arrived in Billow Elka. If they were up against a foreign country, they would’ve acted faster. But their enemy this time was a fellow countryman — the stubborn, yet sincere and earnest Margrave Grugschilt.
「Ask the Margrave about his motives.」Princess Kudyastoria ordered as he was leaving the capital. Even if she didn’t say anything, Lawrence would’ve still made contact with Grusgschilt.
The current mission was just too odd. It would indeed be dangerous if the Margrave incited a rebellion while the kingdom attacked a foreign country. But the Margrave didn’t raise an army. All he did was question the legitimacy of the royal family.
What he did, however, could be deemed an act of treason. But was it really necessary to dispatch the Order? The whole kingdom knew about the deployment of the knights. Right now the atmosphere in the kingdom had changed from that of wartime to a potential civil war. Everyone was on edge since the enemy was their own.
「Here’s a letter from the Margrave.」
The commanding officer handed over the letter, and Lawrence read it through in one go. After that, he read it again.
「What did he say, Sir?」
Lawrence sat down on a chair—one too small for his body that it made a creaking sound—and frowned.
「He said to come to his place. The Margrave doesn’t doubt his own claims one bit. He says if I come, he’ll tell me everything. “Be loyal to the real throne”.」
The Margrave was saying that if his loyalty was real, having doubts about the legitimacy of the current ruler didn’t equal disrespect. If, however, he dismissed even his doubts, his loyalty would be tantamount only to a dog’s loyalty to his owner.
「What will you do, Sir?」
「This is hard. The Margrave has a point. But if we entered his domain without raising our swords at all, the King would be suspicious.」
Lawrence let out a groan in the dark room.
Around the same time, in the capital’s satellite town of Pond, the Adventurers Guild’s lights were on even though it was the middle of the night.
「There’s still someone in the guild?」
Jill, the receptionist, had just left the restaurant after drinking quite a lot.
「What do you think, Aurora?」
Aurora retched. Jill had brought her fellow gloomy receptionist along to drink.
「I-I… have… to go…」
Aurora headed home staggering. Jill made her drink a little too much.
「I might’ve estimated wrong. My bad. I should make her drink less next time. Hmm, I wonder what’s going on inside the guild. Let’s check it out.」
Staggering, Jill made her way to the Adventurers Guild a hundred meters away. A pleasant night breeze was blowing and the distance was just enough for someone drunk. But before she reached the guild, someone came out.
A well-dressed person. Jill had not seen them before. And Unken, the guildmaster, came out as well, as though sending the person off. When they left, Unken went back inside with a sullen expression.
「Sir Unken.」Jill called.
Unken turned around, surprise on his face. Jill felt the urgency and threatening aura from the guildmaster that she put herself on guard.
「Wh-What’s wrong? Who was that?」she asked.
「It’s none of your business. What are you doing out in the middle of the night?」
「Ah, I was out drinking with Aurora. Forget that. You look… different.」
「I said it’s none of your business. You should go home. 」
Jill had no choice but to leave. After bidding farewell, she made her way home. But Jill would soon regret that she left right away. It might not have been any of her business, but it was a serious matter for Unken.
The next day, Jill showed up at the guild with a hangover.
「Over here, Jill.」Gloria called with an unusually serious expression.「I heard there will be a different guildmaster soon.」
Unken had already left town.