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  The Public Debate  

Summer was winding down, and the season’s hottest days had come and gone. It was the time of year where the sun’s intensity waned, and its heat became pleasant rather than overbearing.

At long last, it was time for the final debate between the Principles Party and the Reform Party.

Some of the people who’d gathered in Dulleskoff’s central plaza to watch were from the city, but far more had rushed over from nearby villages. The plaza was completely packed, and the crowd was so large that it spilled out onto the city’s main road. All in all, there were easily over a hundred thousand people in attendance.

Naturally, most people in Elm couldn’t make it to Dulleskoff in person, but thanks to the “obelisk” speakers Ringo Oohoshi had installed in every settlement in the country, they were able to listen in to the debate.

It was no exaggeration to say that all eyes in Elm were on the debate. There had been several smaller gatherings with minor candidates facing off against their local opponents, but this was the first time that the two major parties’ key representatives would square off.

Everyone was dying to know what the leaders of each side had to say.

And with all of Elm watching—

“All right, everyone, let’s get this public debate between the leaders of the Principles Party and the Reform Party started.”

—Elch, chairman of the election steering committee, stood atop the stage Bearabbit had prepared in the plaza. With a mic in hand, he gave the opening announcements.

“Before we get into the debate proper, each side will get a chance to speak briefly about their campaign promises and policy positions. Reform Party, you have the floor.”

Elch stepped back to the rear of the stage and traded places with one of the people waiting in the wings.

Excluding Elch, four people were atop the stage: Tetra from the Principles Party, Juno from the Reform Party, and each of their advisers.

Juno, the one Elch had ceded the floor to, rose from her chair, strode to the center of the platform, and addressed the crowd.

“My name is Juno, and I’m here representing the Reform Party. The first thing I’d like to do is address a misconception I’ve heard a lot lately. People seem to think that the Reform Party holds little respect for the divine teaching of equality for all, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Similar to the Principles Party, we of the Reform Party drafted plans with our national creed of equality for all in the forefront of our minds. Unlike the angels of the Seven Luminaries, we’re only human. There are limits to what we can do, and because of that, we have to establish priorities.

“As you’re all aware, the Republic of Elm has yet to fully recover from our last war. Some people have been disabled and left without homes. Many have even lost their families. And the relief we’ve been able to offer them has been far from sufficient. A nation and its government have a duty first and foremost to its own people. Until we’ve made sure that everyone within our borders is okay, offering aid to other countries has to wait.

“Our policy platform is based around three central pillars. The first one is…”

The Reform Party’s agenda and policies were structured around three main ideas: peaceful diplomacy, disarmament, and welfare.

Specifically, they wanted to maintain peaceful relations with the neighboring Freyjagard Empire, reduce armaments in concert with the continued use of foreign trade to expand their economy, and make a dedicated push to improve education, increase access to medical care, and strengthen financial safety nets across the country.

Juno explained all that to the masses in plain, easy-to-understand terms. Her voice was free of faltering or hesitation, settling gently in the voters’ ears all across Elm almost like a pleasant tune. The woman clearly knew her party’s campaign promises backward and forward. Her address went on for about ten minutes, and after she was finished, she bowed to the crowd. Then Juno returned to her seat amid scattered applause from her supporters.

Then, Principles Party representative Tetra rose and began her statements. Like Juno, Tetra’s promises were structured around a trio of ideas: aggressive diplomacy, armament expansion, and rescuing Yamato.

In keeping with the nation’s core principle of equality for all, one of the party’s top priorities was rescuing Yamato. Tetra’s plan was to increase Elm’s military capacity massively, then use that to pressure the Freyjagard Empire into returning Yamato’s sovereignty. If Freyjagard refused, they would then invade Yamato and liberate it by force. That was the future the Principles Party envisioned.

Tetra gripped the mic so tightly, it seemed about to break as she outlined her platform, reiterating her points over and over. Her cries were so animated the crowd could see the back of her throat, and the fact that she was sending spittle through the air didn’t slow her down in the slightest.

If Juno’s speech was akin to a song, Tetra’s was a violent roar.

The way she was shouting was wholly unnecessary. The crowd could hear her just fine through the mic, and if anything, all her volume was doing was causing audio feedback. Tetra didn’t care, however. She continued crying out at the top of her lungs.

Glaux was the brains of their operation, and she was following his instructions strictly. The Principles Party’s philosophy was one of action, and there was nothing less compelling than a decisive plan delivered in a mellow, emotionless tone. Glaux knew that the way to reach people was with passion and vigor, even if it meant sacrificing some audio quality, and his tactic was a complete success.

Tetra was a conventionally attractive woman by just about any standard, so her valiant willingness to abandon that dignity as she championed her holy war gave her a different sort of beauty altogether, a mysterious charisma that filled men’s hearts with valor and women’s with admiration.

“If they’re willing to magically manipulate their people’s minds, who knows what other cruelties they’re subjecting the Yamato populace to?! Even as we speak, the danger to their lives grows! As humanitarians, we cannot allow the Yamato situation to persist for even a second more! God Akatsuki blessed us with the grand cause of equality for all, and we must not allow it to be stained!!”


At Tetra’s call to action, a thunderous round of applause erupted from the crowd.

“She’s right, dammit! We need to step up!”

“We’re God’s vanguard! We’ll never back down!”

“It’s time we taught those imperial thugs a lesson!”

Tetra’s words resonated with men and women of all ages. As their applause shook the air, Juno’s adviser gulped from the seat beside hers.

“Things aren’t looking great for us, are they? If this frenzy carries through to the election, we’ll have trouble getting even a third of the seats, let alone a majority…”

“Don’t worry,” Juno assured him, brushing her compatriot’s worries aside with a tone as sharp as a knife.


The man couldn’t help but glance at her doubtfully. There wasn’t so much as a shred of fear or hesitation in her expression. Instead, determination shone in her eyes as she looked on at Tetra.

“After that big flashy speech, it’d be weirder if the crowd wasn’t on their side. But that’s about to change.”

The debate between the two representatives taking place that day wasn’t just some street fight. Before he left for Yamato, Tsukasa Mikogami himself had organized the event so that it would give as much useful information to the voters as possible. The event followed a series of strict rules.

One of those guidelines prevented candidates from offering rebuttals or comments during their opponent’s opening statement. If both sides were free to say whatever they wanted, it would be all too trivial for them to drown out the opposing side’s opening statement with ad hominem attacks and pointless questions. Doing so would plunge the audience into chaos, preventing them from understanding what points were even being made.

Limiting all interaction defeated the purpose of a debate, though, so Tsukasa had deliberately divided the event into two parts: the opening statements phase and the discussion phase.

At the moment, the debate was still in the first stage, where the voters were given a chance to listen to and review each side’s philosophy. No matter how many objections one side had to what the other was saying, they weren’t allowed to interject. The rules dictated that they just sit still and listen.

Once Tetra was done, the time for review would be over. Then, the real debate—the decisive battle between the Principles Party and the Reform Party—would begin.

“They’ve got a glaring flaw in their plan. Once I get a chance to point it out, their whole position will come tumbling down,” Juno whispered. It was no secret that the Reform Party was on the back foot, but Juno planned on turning the tables on the Principles Party with all of Elm’s voters watching.

…It’ll be okay. I can do this.

The petite woman glanced down at the document on the table before her. That file was the weapon she’d prepared to take charge of this showdown.

Juno took heart by reminding herself that the facts were on her side.

“All right. Now that both parties have restated their campaign promises, we’re going to move on to the debate between the representatives. If either side has comments to make on the other’s positions, please raise your hand. And both of you, let’s make sure to keep things civil,” announced Elch.

Immediately, Juno thrust her arm into the air like a mighty warrior raising their sword. “The Reform Party has a question.”

“Then you have the floor. Unless there are any objections?”

Tetra gave Elch’s question a shake of the head. “Please, be my guest.” She was confident she could handle anything Juno lobbed at her. There was no doubt in Tetra’s mind that her side was just. However, Juno felt the exact same way.

Uncowed by Tetra’s piercing gaze, Juno rose from her seat and went on the offensive.

“This is something that’s been on my mind for a while. Based on your speech, my takeaway is that the Principles Party is determined to liberate Yamato, even if it means taking up arms against the Freyjagard Empire. This is because the principle of equality for all doesn’t stop at Elm’s borders, but applies to the people of Yamato as well, and by extension, to all the people of the world. Do I understand that correctly?”

“You do. God Akatsuki taught us the importance of fairness and demonstrated his faith in us by asking that we steward Elm’s path ourselves. Turning our backs on that philosophy out of base self-preservation would be a gross betrayal of that trust. Just as we were once saved, it now falls on us to save the people of Yamato. As God’s vanguard, we have a moral obligation to do so.”

Behind her glasses, Juno narrowed her gaze at Tetra’s answer. “That’s what I thought.”

Tetra was overlooking something. Something huge.

“I must admit, I’m impressed by your piety. Unfortunately, your plan won’t work.”

“What are you talking about? Are you suggesting that the empire is stronger than us?”

Tetra made no effort to hide her indignation, but Juno just shook her head. “Not at all. It’s not an issue of winning or losing.”


“Even if your military push successfully frees Yamato, the battle with the empire will leave countless people dead and wounded. We’ll need to offer substantial amounts of public aid to families who’ve lost their livelihoods and to soldiers too badly injured to work.”

“We will, and my talented staff has drawn up a budget accounting for that. Thanks to the current economic boom we’re experiencing, I can guarantee we’ll be able to provide for those in need. The financial details are all listed in the policy document we sent you. Have you not read it?”

Tetra was referring to a pamphlet that detailed all her party’s campaign promises. With assistance from the election steering committee, they’d been able to distribute copies to both parties’ candidates as well as to any voters who wanted one.

Not only had Juno read it, but she’d also gone over it with a fine-toothed comb. That was why she spoke with such confidence.

“I’m sorry, but your calculations have a flaw.”


“The thing is, they don’t take into account the public aid to Yamato’s dead and wounded.”


When Juno made her declaration, an audible stir ran through the crowd.

Everyone was baffled. Why should they have to shoulder the bill for Yamato’s war victims?

As Juno was about to point out, though, that was because their conceptions of war were stuck under old paradigms.

“Fighting a war in the name of equality means it can’t be a conflict of aggression. It must be one of liberation. You can’t fund it with pillaging like people used to. Once Yamato is free, Elm will have a moral duty to treat its citizens with the same consideration it does its own. You aren’t planning on enslaving them after you save them, are you?”

“O-of course not!”

That was the obvious answer, coming from the Principles Party. However…

“The problem is, the expansion of armaments you’ve promised to carry out is going to drain the budget to the point where we simply won’t have the money to help Yamato. In other words, even if you win your war against the empire, Elm still won’t be able to save anyone. I’ve prepared an amended version of your budget that takes the aid and infrastructure repair Yamato will need into account.

“Now, I have some doubts about your one thousand five hundred percent projected economic growth rate, given that we’ll have just gone to war with our biggest trading partner, the Freyjagard Empire, but we can leave that as it is for the moment and just take a look at the costs that will come after we free Yamato.”

At this, the man beside Juno stood, then walked across the stage and handed copies of the revised budget Juno had prepared to Tetra and her second-in-command.

“If anyone in the audience wants to take a look, we’ll be distributing copies later. However, to sum it up for you…the amount of money we’d need to liberate Yamato comes out to triple our next year’s projected tax revenues. If you force this plan through, it’ll completely destroy our economy. How do you intend to square that away? The Principles Party has an obligation to the people to explain themselves!”


A flicker of unease flashed across Tetra’s face at her opponent’s attack. Juno had worked as an accountant in a relatively sizable town, and she had more significant experience in this area. Although she knew on a conceptual level that waging a war of liberation would be costly, the thought that the newly liberated Yamato people would need an even larger sum of money hadn’t even crossed Tetra’s mind.

The leader of the Principles Party floundered for a response. The silence in the air was palpable. She was visibly flustered. Juno’s statement had struck Tetra right where it hurt.

Nations tolerated spending vast sums of money on war because they planned on making it back through plunder. When you defeated someone in war, you got to take their land, money, and even manpower.

That wouldn’t work for Elm, however. As long as they operated under the philosophy of equality for all, they weren’t going to be able to loot and pillage their enemies. For them, war was nothing more than a giant money pit. It simply wasn’t viable.

Juno could feel it—her question had cut deep. Her heart brimmed with hope. If she was lucky, this would pull all of the Principles Party’s support right out from under their feet. Unfortunately…that was not to be.

Tetra might not have been much of a thinker, but she had someone with her who was capable of picking up that slack.

“If I may.” The old man sitting beside Tetra raised his hand and slowly rose to his feet. “My name is Glaux von Einzgarm of the Principles Party, and I believe I can answer your question.” As he spoke, a temperate smile danced across his lips.

Juno knew this man. Glaux von Einzgarm was a former noble and current candidate running as a Principles Party member in the Gustav province. If he was the one standing up now, then it meant that Tetra was just the Principles Party’s figurehead, and he was the one who actually controlled the party.

Juno realized this when she saw his composed smile—

“Go ahead.”

—and she shifted her gaze to him, knowing that he was her true adversary.

Glaux gave Juno a calm bow, then offered her his reply. “The Reform Party makes a valid point, and I certainly understand where you’re coming from. Taking care of Yamato’s dead and wounded will cost money; that much is true. However, as the person who drew up those budget estimates, I can assure you I was aware of that when I did. The thing is, my original draft takes Yamato’s welfare into full account, so your revisions won’t be necessary.”

Juno cocked her head to the side. “I don’t understand. The budget you sent out didn’t have a line item for restoring Yamato.”

“Oh, of course not.”


Juno couldn’t make heads or tails of Glaux’s statement. What was he talking about?

As confusion began creeping into her expression, Glaux maintained his genial smile—

“Our recovery efforts will include substantial welfare efforts for the people of Yamato, and the Principles Party intends to make the Freyjagard Empire foot the entire bill in the form of reparations.”

—and gave her an utterly outrageous reply.


“So, as you can see, we don’t need to amend the budget at all.”

“D-do you even hear yourself right now?! You want to seize an imperial domain by force, and you plan on demanding reparations on top of that? The empire will never agree!” Glaux’s claim was so ridiculous that Juno couldn’t help but shout as she made her rebuttal.

If all they did was free Yamato, that would have been one thing. After all, the empire barely even wanted it. The Resistance’s presence made holding the land dangerous, and Yamato had no major industries to make that risk worthwhile. Nobles refused to govern the region, so even after Freyjagard had gone out of its way to invade and annex Yamato, it had to name the country a self-governing dominion, embarrassing Freyjagard in the process.

Despite being part of the Reform Party, even Juno had to admit that taking Yamato wouldn’t necessarily sink their relationship with the empire. Demanding that the empire pay for the reconstruction efforts would be an entirely different story.

“If you do that, then the Yamato self-governing dominion will be the least of our worries! It’ll mean an all-out war between Elm and Freyjagard!! You want us to march into battle with the scars from the People’s Revolution still fresh?! We don’t have the military strength or the finances to fight a conflict that big!! It’s simply not possible!!”

Glaux’s promises were, at best, irresponsible and, at worst, outright lies. Given his position as someone trying to earn the trust of the people, that was unacceptable.

However, when Juno bellowed indignantly at his dishonest answer—

“Impossible?! Nothing is impossible!!”

—Glaux’s calm demeanor vanished, and he met her volume, roaring back at the woman.

“How dare you flippantly declare that it isn’t possible?! Why, we’ve already proved that it can be done! The Republic of Elm started as a humble, remote village, and the People’s Revolution forged us into a nation! We need only repeat what we’ve done!

“It was a lone village, up against the full might of the Freyjagard Empire! Think about how much simpler the task before us is! The citizens of Elm stand strong and free, and together, there’s nothing we can’t do!

“You would turn to those needy villagers and talk of budgets and pinching goss?! As a proud citizen of the republic, you should be ashamed of yourself! We have a duty to offer these people a helping hand, just as God Akatsuki did for us! What other option do we have?!”

“You aren’t addressing my question at all!” Juno replied. “I’m talking about how realistic your campaign promises are. Please stop dodging the issue!”

“Dodging the issue?! If anyone’s evading the problem, it’s you, young lady!”


“Fighting wars because you have money, negotiating peace when you’re broke? That’s not what we’re talking about here! This is a discussion about rescuing Yamato from the wicked empire. And if we need more money to do so, then it’s our job as politicians to do whatever it takes to produce that capital!

“All you’ve been doing is rattling off flimsy excuses about why you should get to sit on your hands, nothing more! If finances are an issue, we can solve that problem when we get to it. Everything else must come second to spreading equality across the world!” declared Glaux.

“All-out war against the Freyjagard Empire, who controls their citizens through force, is nothing to scoff at!” Juno hurriedly shot back.

Glaux thrust his fist into the air as he spoke. “The empire is nothing to fear! When our forces march on Drachen with freedom in their hearts, those who suffer under the empire’s oppressive rule will welcome us with open arms. Why, they’ll take up weapons themselves and join our cause…!!”

Juno was aghast. He’s talking a lot, but he isn’t saying anything!

After shouting down her question, Glaux had gone on to make an impassioned speech full of sound and fury, but he hadn’t even attempted to address her concerns about how unrealistic his pledges were.

This nonsense wasn’t a debate. This was a mockery—a gross display of contempt for Juno and the intelligence of every voter listening. There was no way anyone would fall for such a blatant—



“You tell her, Einzgarm!”

“We’re not gonna sit here and let the empire push us around!”

“Hell yeah! We beat ’em once, and we can do it again!”

“We’re proud, we’re free, and we’re gonna save Yamato!”

Cheers erupted from the crowd, and everyone raised their fists in the air one after another, just as Glaux had.

Juno was flabbergasted at this enthusiasm. What were they cheering about? It didn’t make a lick of sense. Eventually, though, something dawned on her.

Do they not realize that he’s mocking them?!

Hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh… Glaux watched through narrowed eyes as Juno’s face went pale from shock at the crowd’s unexpected response. He sneered to himself beneath his bushy white mustache. You’re a clever one, girl, so it’s no wonder you don’t understand their reaction. I never gave you a proper answer, and I didn’t say a single thing of substance. Yet they take my side all the same.

Glaux understood that the facts were on Juno’s side. Not only did Elm have no way of making the empire cough up the money to help Yamato, but the budget he’d concocted was a complete fabrication.

A month ago, the Elm Ministry of Finance had put out an estimate for their trade surplus for the next year, and the Freyjagard Empire had accounted for about 80 percent of it. The hope of reaching that 1,500 percent growth rate after declaring war was a pipe dream.

Furthermore, even if the Republic of Elm was able to hit that number by some miracle, no pillaging to offset war costs meant that a drawn-out conflict would leave the nation in ruin before long.

All your doubts are justified, girl, and yet despite that—or perhaps because of that…

Juno had failed to realize something critical.

Being correct never guaranteed that people would agree with you.

You’re a clever one, girl. Sadly, the voters aren’t nearly as bright as you give them credit for. Most of them used to be commoners. The minute you start talking about accurate or inaccurate budgets, you’ve already gone over their heads.

Glaux knew that Juno might as well have been speaking a foreign language to the masses.

All they understand is how things feel to them, so just make as many bombastic campaign promises as you can, and they’ll be eating out of your hand. Consistency, how you’re going to pay for it… None of that matters. Once you get elected, you can just ignore every oath you ever took. You could even do exactly what you swore not to, and the rabble will have no way of stopping you.

Trying to win votes through honesty was a sucker’s game. Reality could never compete with dreams, and when the voters couldn’t tell the difference, it only made things easier. Of course, Glaux could never admit all that in front of his prudish leader or her Principles Party true believers.

To assembly members like me, people who don’t attempt to run for election are nothing more than kites floating through the air. They’re not like you, girl. They aren’t planning for the future or acting with clear goals in mind. All they do is drift about and follow the crowd.

Now that Elm was finally free from the empire, there was a solid anti-Freyjagard sentiment in the air. Playing nice with the empire was the last thing anyone wanted to do. People wanted to act tough, even if it didn’t accomplish anything. The fact that the Principles Party would come out on top had been obvious from the get-go.

That’s why I’m sitting over here and not there next to you.

Glaux had one more ace up his sleeve, too. He was aware of something that gave the Principles Party an insurmountable edge over the Reform Party. It was connected to the Yamato situation.

I’m going to reveal it in front of everyone…and choke out what little life the Reform Party has left.

“Now that I’ve satisfied the voters, I have a question of my own I’d like to ask.”

Satisfied the voters?!

Glaux’s declaration made Juno want to scream, but she restrained herself. Nothing he said had even come close to a satisfactory answer. She had accused the Principles Party’s ideals of being hot air, and Glaux hadn’t actually refuted it.

When Juno peered down at the crowd, however, she realized that the former nobleman was correct; his statement had satisfied them. If she kept hounding him, all it would do was lower their estimation of her.

Juno choked back her frustration and nodded. “…Go ahead.”

“Thank you for indulging me,” Glaux replied with a relaxed bow. “After hearing the Reform Party’s campaign promises again, I was reminded that despite our differences, your ideals are worthy of admiration as well. If you were able to implement all the public welfare reforms you intend to successfully, Elm would become a great nation indeed.”

“There’s no ifs about it. We’ve performed dozens of calculations, and as we’ve detailed in our pamphlet, our campaign’s plans are based on a reliable system that Elm’s budget can support. When the Reform Party takes office, we will make that a reality.”

All of Juno’s assertions were based on numbers. Elm was a fledgling country and in desperate need of startup funds. Thus, the angels’ provisional government had issued bonds in lieu of just confiscating land belonging to former nobles. Juno knew that by expanding those bonds so that anyone could buy them, she could raise the funds she needed for her party’s welfare projects.

The young woman was a longtime accountant, so she was perfectly at home handling those sorts of issues. The Principles Party’s promises may have been founded upon smoke and mirrors, but hers were firm as concrete.

Glaux gave an exaggerated tilt of his head. “Would you, I wonder?”


“The plan you published was marvelously constructed, to be sure. I do not doubt that your new bonds could raise the amount you hope for. Yet ultimately, the task of allocating those funds will still fall on people.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re implying.”

“Then let me be blunt: I have serious concerns about whether the Reform Party will actually use those funds to advance social welfare.”


Juno’s adviser, unable to restrain himself, let out an indignant roar. “You callin’ us liars?!”

Glaux was content to ignore the outburst and instead kept his gaze trained on Juno. “I’ve read up on you, Ms. Juno. You work as an accountant in Narnia City in Buchwald, is that correct?”

“…Yes, so?”

“I actually made a stop at Narnia on my campaign trail. It might not be the biggest city around, but it has a lot of beauty and heart. As its auditor, you single-handedly oversee the entire municipality’s finances, and I’m sure you command quite a respectable salary for doing so. I hear you even paid your entire election deposit in cash. That’s quite impressive, especially for someone your age.”

“I don’t see what my personal funds have to do with this election.” Juno tried to suppress it, but her annoyance leaked into her voice all the same. She had no idea what Glaux was getting at. What did her profession have to do with how trustworthy the Reform Party was?

“Why did you have so much money saved up?”

“Excuse me?”

“Allow me to rephrase. Why didn’t you give it to the poor?”


“If you truly cared about others, amassing wealth should have been the farthest thing from your mind. You should have donated as much as you could toward helping the widows and orphans that you yourself just admitted required aid. But you didn’t, did you? You hoarded it all away for yourself. And yet now you want us to believe that you’re prepared to work selflessly for the sake of our nation’s people?!”

Oh, I get it. That’s his angle?

When Juno finally deduced Glaux’s attack plan, it left her appalled. The whole point of the debate was for both sides to get a chance to raise and answer questions about campaign promises to give the voters more information to make their choice. However, Glaux’s question—if it could even be called that—was only a thinly veiled dig to try and undermine the populace’s trust in her.

Unable to conceal her hatred for the old man standing across from her any longer, Juno fired back. “That’s a bold accusation, especially coming from the wealthiest man in Archride. Why, I could say the exact same thing about you, former duke Glaux von Einzgarm. Or are you going to pass off your predatory lending practices as some sort of great public good?”

The moment the words left her lips, Glaux’s narrowed eyes gleamed.

“Oh, of course not. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly—I’m no more trustworthy than you are. Earning people’s trust requires performing noble deeds, a field in which I’m sorely lacking. And that’s precisely why I declined to serve as the Principles Party’s representative.”

“Ah—” A shiver ran down Juno’s spine.

“As you and our audience are undoubtedly aware, the heroism of Great Scythe Tetra, our party’s representative, is second to none. When the Gustav domain was in crisis, she took up arms with no concern for her own safety and fought to protect her neighbors! With her at our helm, the Principles Party can offer the voters pledges they can believe in. They can trust her to work tirelessly for the public, never once being swayed by personal interests. But you? What can you and your Reform Party offer as a guarantee? Why should the people believe a woman who covets wealth and has never sacrificed for others in her life?!”

The crowd stirred.

“That’s a good point.”

“Will someone who only thinks about herself really decide to help the needy?”

“Who’s to say she won’t help herself to our public funds?”

Oh, this is bad…

When she heard the vitriolic whispers coming from the crowd, Juno broke into a cold sweat.

As he watched her face grow ever paler, Glaux chuckled.

Finally realized, have you?

Juno didn’t own territory or have a title the way wealthy nobles did. She was just a commoner, albeit a relatively well-off one. Saving her money when she had extra to spare was the smart thing to do. If anything, Glaux was the odd one for lambasting her fiscal responsibility. Compared to Tetra, though, Juno came up short.

Tetra had built a volunteer army and put her own life on the line. There was no competing with that. At best, Juno looked like a nobody, and that was why Glaux had sided with the Principles Party. Tetra had what Juno didn’t. She possessed a history of working selflessly for others, which gave her an undeniable appeal.

And if you want people to follow you, young lady, you need charisma more than anything.

Juno was talented, but her proficiencies lay on the bureaucratic side of things. Being a successful politician demanded something else—prestige.

It could come from your pedigree. Perhaps you were even a relative of the emperor’s. Or maybe you were a general with a distinguished military career. Regardless, your renown had to come from somewhere, and when it did, people listened to you. Even when what you were saying was nonsense, they would support you all the same. Illogical as it was, Glaux had seen things play out that way many times during his tenure in the Freyjagard government.

Nobles and commoners alike adored notoriety. They couldn’t get enough of it, whether you were a fast runner, kind of cute, or had the benefit of others simply recognizing your name. You might not think it, but a lot of people voted based on such qualities. The combination of Tetra’s valiant military background and the fame that accompanied it gave her an overwhelming advantage in the election. Juno would never be able to surpass her opponent on that front, and Glaux understood that focusing on that was a surefire way to ensure the Principles Party came out on top.

“You’re right. I don’t have experience doing this kind of work,” Juno responded. “But there’s no time like the present, and when the provisional government announced that they were going to ignore the empire’s demand to turn Princess Kaguya over, I knew that something had to change! Elm is heading on a course for war again, but it’s not too late to stop it, and I’m prepared to do everything I can to make that happen! Please believe me. All I can do is ask for your trust…!”

“But you would say anything, wouldn’t you? Especially if you intended to embezzle the country’s funds for yourself. Or worse…perhaps your plans to scale back our military are so you can hand us back to the empire on a silver platter! We have no way of knowing what brand of wickedness truly lies within your heart.”

“I would never—”

Juno scrambled to assemble a counterargument, but Glaux laughed her off. The talk among the audience shifted more to his side with each passing moment. Cold looks were hurled at the Reform Party from every direction.

Juno bit her lip in frustration. There’s nothing I can do!

Glaux was right. There wasn’t anything she could say that would make a difference now. Juno’s lack of philanthropic experience wasn’t the sort of thing that could be outweighed by an impassioned speech or two. She had carried out her professional duties with aplomb, never committing even the smallest of indiscretions and always giving work her best effort for the sake of her town. Anyone who lived there could attest to her dedication.

Unfortunately, it was only a job. There was no way something like that could hold a candle to the paragon of selflessness that was Tetra.

“Mr. Glaux, I think that’s quite enough!”


Right as Juno was about to consider defeat, help came from the last place anyone would have expected: Tetra. Her voice cut through the air as she admonished Glaux and turned her furious gaze upon him.

“There’s nothing wrong with finding your calling later in life! I admit that I got a bit heated myself the first time she and I met, but although our approaches differ, Juno is fighting on behalf of the Republic of Elm just as we are! I would ask that you not slander her good intentions!”

The rage in her eyes and the indignation in her voice were the real deal. Upon receiving the full brunt of them both, Glaux turned to Juno—

“Of course, my apologies. You’re absolutely right; I went too far. We took as much time in choosing this vocation as Ms. Juno did, after all. I hope you can forgive me for my uncouth remarks. I have no further questions.”

—and halted his offensive, then took his seat.

Tetra offered Juno an apology as well before sitting back down alongside him, leaving Juno the only one standing.

They played me…! she thought as a bitter feeling spread throughout her chest.

“Sigh… That Tetra, always so gallant…”

“And noble, too… Y’know, those imperial knights could stand to learn a thing or two from her.”

“That Juno probably isn’t a bad person or anything, but if I had to pick one to trust, it’d be Tetra every time.”

Forcing Tetra to intervene had been Glaux’s plan. Juno hadn’t been able to deflect the former nobleman’s questions independently. Instead, Tetra had stepped in to save her with everyone there to see it. If the power dynamic between the two of them hadn’t been clear before, it was now. The Reform Party had been defeated in the worst way possible.


Glaux had her dancing on the palm of his hand throughout the whole event. Juno trembled at the realization, and she had to fight desperately to make it stop.

No, I can’t cry! I can still…

She could still fight.

As the bespectacled young woman’s heart threatened to break in two, she tried her hardest to find her confidence again.

Akatsuki looked down, watching the debate from his special seat atop the rooftop terrace of a nearby four-story building.

“Phew… I was afraid they were going to start brawling right there on the stage. It’s a good thing Tetra stepped in when she did.” As he breathed a sigh of relief, he turned and looked at Keine, his bodyguard and seatmate. “By the way, Doc, who would you rather see win?”

“An interesting question,” she replied before considering her answer for a moment. “While I can certainly appreciate the points Tsukasa made about morality, I must say that as a physician, I was quite taken with the pragmatism of the Reform Party’s ideas about how to advance the nation’s medical care. From what I can see, however, it doesn’t look like our Reform Party friends are doing too well.”

The immediate reply to Keine’s musings—

“They’re not, but more importantly, they picked a fight with the wrong man.”

—came in a deep, booming voice slightly hoarsened from a touch of alcohol.

It certainly hadn’t come from Akatsuki. When the two High School Prodigies turned to look, they found a familiar face and figure standing at the entrance to the rooftop.

“Marquis Archride. It’s been too long.”

“Please, Dr. Keine, I’m just a humble vice-minister of defense now.”

The man’s impeccable posture and muscular frame belied his advanced age. He was known as the Shrewd General of the North, and as the former lord of the Archride region, he’d once gone up against Tsukasa on orders from Gustav. Now, though, as he’d just pointed out, he was a Republic of Elm cabinet vice-minister working under Tsukasa’s command and overseeing the Ministry of Defense and its military arm, the Order of the Seven Luminaries.

“And God Akatsuki, it’s been some time.”

“A-ahem! V-verily! So it has, but worry yourself not! Bwa-ha-ha!”

“Mr. Archride, I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t run in the election yourself. Your reputation would have made you a front-runner,” Keine remarked.

“Perhaps, but it would have been irresponsible for me to abandon my duties so soon after taking them on. Moreover…the people won this nation with their grit and determination. It would have felt wrong for me, a former noble, to force my way into their national assembly. We had our day, and now it’s time for us to assume advisory roles so we can help the populace as they shape their new country themselves,” Archride responded.

The man strode over to the terrace railing and directed his gaze down to Glaux. The look in his eyes was sharp, almost reproachfully so. “Not everyone shares my sentiment, however. I knew he would show his face eventually, but I never imagined he would make his move in the very first election.”

With doubt in his voice, Akatsuki questioned, “Is the old man really all that?”

“He was the foreign chancellor under the previous emperor.”

That was enough to earn a reaction out of even Keine. “Goodness. He must really be quite something.”

In the Freyjagard Empire, the foreign chancellor held near-complete authority over all matters related to diplomacy. Although they were sometimes looked down upon for how little domestic power they possessed compared to other members of the Five Chancellors, the fact remained that it was one of the highest-ranking bureaucratic titles in the Freyjagard Empire.

“He was forced to flee the capital after losing a power struggle against Archduke Weltenbruger, but his mind is as sharp as ever. During my time as a domain lord, his council saved me more times than I can count.”

“So, if he’s siding with the Principles Party, then…does that mean the Reform Party’s going to lose?”

Archride gave Akatsuki’s inquiry a nod. “Miss Juno is a clever one, but she is yet young.” Juno had come into the debate under the assumption that it would be the election’s deciding moment, but as Archride went on to point out, she had it all wrong. “When you gather this big of a crowd together, the side that currently has more supporters is going to have an overwhelming advantage. With the sort of fervor and enthusiasm they’ll bring, trying to change the tides and get them back onto your side is all but impossible.

“The true turning point wasn’t today, it was everything up until now, and Mr. Glaux knew it. That’s why he was willing to pay through the nose to hold public events across the nation and stir people up with anti-Freyjagard sentiments. He wanted to make sure that his side would be so impassioned on the day of the debate that they wouldn’t dream of reconsidering their votes. Everyone here—the audience, Miss Juno, even Miss Tetra—they’re all dancing to his tune.”

As a practiced controversialist, Glaux knew exactly where battles like this election were won and lost.

“…Perhaps it was a mistake for me not to run. The way things are going, everything will end up playing out exactly as he intends.”

Archride only had a vague notion of how dangerous that would be for the Republic of Elm, but even that was enough to frighten him. He knew better than most what kind of people nobles tended to be.

The debate went on for another hour after that, but its proceedings were just as lopsided as Archride predicted. Juno tried attacking the Principles Party’s shaky foundations from every angle she could think of. However, Glaux’s masterful audience provocation ensured that nothing she said stuck with people. He continued stirring up more and more anti-imperial sentiment and convinced the crowd that they were mighty for having bested Freyjagard.

It was odd when you thought about it. Most of those present had nothing to do with the People’s Revolution the High School Prodigies had started. It had begun without their knowledge and ended in the same way. Yet despite their connection to the actual revolt being nonexistent, they cheered for it now and called for another war as though they were already on the front lines.

The habit of taking predecessors’ successes as one’s own and gloating about them was a common occurrence. Perhaps that was due to the social nature of humans.

Glaux’s time as a noble had taught him all about that psychological quirk. He had seen how it was in a person’s nature to cling to things like lineage. Some grew so enamored with the prestige of those who came before them that they tried to claim a part of it for themselves. And because Glaux knew about that tendency, he was able to exploit it.

Once the discussion portion of the debate had concluded, it was time to take questions from the audience. The exercise made painfully clear the difference between the two sides’ prospects. The idea was to have the candidates look through the crowd for people with raised hands and call them up, but so few people had inquiries for the Reform Party that Juno had to strain her eyes to find enough. Meanwhile, the Principles Party had no end of questions to choose from, even after responding to two dozen.

The audience had all but completely lost interest in the Reform Party. They were so enraptured by the Principles Party buzz that all they cared about was its plan. It was plain that many were assuming that Tetra’s victory was assured now.

“What do you plan on doing for the people fighting for Yamato who die or get injured too grievously to work?”

“I’m totally on board with the war, but won’t it mean higher taxes like with past conflicts?”

“I’m no fan of toadying to the empire like the Reform Party wants us to, but…I’m no fan of us spending all our money on fighting them, either…”

In between quick consulting sessions with Glaux, Tetra satisfied all inquiries with a smile.

“Elm shall regard all who suffer casualties as heroes, and it will be the government’s privilege to ensure they are cared for! Families of the fallen will receive enough arable land to live comfortably on, and a tax exemption, to boot. Those incapable of providing for themselves will receive a substantial solatium as well as a large enough annual stipend that they’ll never need to worry about going hungry!

“No! I can assure you here and now that the Republic of Elm will never force its people to labor under onerous taxes like the villainous empire did, for we are executors of justice! The brightest minds in the Principles Party have calculated how we’ll be able to fund military campaigns with some innovative fiscal effort, so rest easy and leave it all to us!

“The Principles Party has no intention of slacking on the domestic front, either! Isn’t that right, Mr. Glaux?”

“That’s correct. The education and public health revisions the Reform Party laid out are a great starting point, but we intend to give you more still, even if the money has to come from our own pockets. If push comes to shove, we’re prepared to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of this nation’s people. If we did anything less, we’d be failing to live up to the example set by our leader, Great Scythe Tetra, hero of Gustav and champion of the weak!”


As Juno listened to the back-and-forth from the other side of the stage, she hung her head. Her head began to swim. The things the Principles Party was promising didn’t make a lick of sense.

They were going to massively expand the military and offer better public services than what her faction proposed, and yet somehow, they were going to pay for it all without raising taxes? The Reform Party’s comparatively modest plan had presumed that they would stay on good terms with their biggest trading partner, the Freyjagard Empire. Even then, they would have needed to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance it all. The Principles Party could swear to pay for it out of their own pockets all they liked, but no matter how you sliced it, their group only had fifty people. No organization that small could support an entire country’s budget, regardless of how rich they were. They might hold out for a year at the very best, but it certainly wasn’t sustainable.

A twisted spectacle was unfolding before Juno’s eyes, yet she was powerless to stop it.

Am I…going about this all wrong?

In a democracy, politicians held power conferred to them by citizens who used their priceless votes to put their trust in those representatives. Juno took that to mean she needed to be sincere with her constituents, never lying about her beliefs or promising them the impossible to secure votes.

Evidently, that had been the incorrect model to follow. The final debate was about to end with the Reform Party in abject defeat, and the election was barely more than a week away. There was no time left to mount a comeback.

As the inevitability of her defeat started sinking in, Juno’s thoughts turned to the little girl she met at the orphanage cowering at the holy war’s growing support.

I’m sorry, Sara…

Shaking at her own inability, Juno whispered a silent apology—

“Now then, young lady, I believe you had a question. Could we get your name, please?”

“I, um, I’m… I’m Sara…”

“ ?!”

—only to jerk her head up when her ears caught a familiar voice. The very girl Juno had been thinking of was now on stage and standing next to Elch, the moderator.

“The Principles Party has no intention of slacking on the domestic front, either! Isn’t that right, Mr. Glaux?”

“That’s correct. The education and public health revisions the Reform Party laid out are a great starting point, but we intend to give you more still, even if the money has to come from our own pockets. If push comes to shove, we’re prepared to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of this nation’s people. If we did anything less, we’d be failing to live up to the example set by our leader, Great Scythe Tetra, hero of Gustav and champion of the weak!”


Excited cheers rose from the crowd.

Tetra could feel their enthusiasm in her bones. It filled her with a profound sense of accomplishment, and she knew she had Glaux to thank for all of it. No amount of thanking him would ever be enough to express the gratitude she felt for the kind old man standing next to her.

Not only had Glaux devised the idea for their nationwide promotional campaign, but he had also gotten hold of the troupes himself, and he’d even paid the actors’ fees out of his own pocket. And when Tetra’s lack of book smarts got in her way, he was always willing to step in and handle the bookkeeping and draft campaign promises. Tetra had no shortage of passion but little mind for tactics, so Glaux was perfect for covering her weaknesses.

She couldn’t have asked for a better running mate.

The applause swelled. The people’s hearts were united, and they were ready to rise up for the grand cause of equality for all. Fire and energy burned beneath the surface of everyone in the audience. All they were waiting for was that tiny push that would cause them to erupt.

The Principles Party was going to give them that nudge.

Judging by the crowd’s response, winning thirty-four seats and controlling two-thirds of the assembly was well within reach. Once that happened, the Principles Party could pass whatever measures they liked, and the Reform Party would be powerless to stop them. Nothing would stand between them and their holy war.

When the Principles Party urged the populace, the resulting support would enable them to mete out justice as they pleased. The Yamato people, who were so oppressed that they weren’t even allowed to suffer, would finally be free.

And that’s just the beginning! Tetra thought excitedly.

After that, the true campaign would begin—the war to make every nation in the world a democracy so that everyone was governed by those who cared about the powerless. Ideas like that had once seemed farther than the distant reaches of the sky, but after today, Tetra was certain that she was at least on the right path toward reaching that utopia.

“We’re running out of time, so this next question is going to be our last one. Tetra, the choice is yours.”

“Thank you.”

On Elch’s instruction, Tetra cast her gaze out over the throng of attendees vying to raise their hands higher than one another.



—she saw something unusual.

Buried within the crowd, Tetra spotted a tiny hand. She strained her eyes and glimpsed a little girl standing on the tips of her toes with her arm raised as high as she could manage. The child obviously wasn’t of voting age, but seeing her like that filled Tetra’s heart with joy all the same.

To think that someone as young as she was interested in her nation’s government! Tetra couldn’t imagine a grander sight. During the empire’s rule, such a thing would have been unthinkable. Tetra wanted badly to call on her. She might not have been able to vote, but she was the Republic of Elm’s future.

Still, it was a disadvantageous move that wouldn’t win any more votes. Tetra couldn’t make this call, not on her own. She turned to Glaux for advice—

“Tetra, why don’t you call on the girl in the red dress?”

—but before she could even say anything, Glaux whispered something unexpected in her ear.

“I—are you sure? She’s a minor.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Glaux replied, giving Tetra a relaxed and gentle smile. “She might not be able to vote herself, but giving her a sincere answer will earn us more favor with the voters.”

Aha, Tetra realized. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Once again, she found herself amazed at Glaux’s insight. She didn’t feel great about using the child as a prop like that, but she’d wished to answer the girl’s question from the get-go. Thus, Tetra chose to follow her gut.

“Mr. Elch, would you be so kind as to bring that girl in the red dress up here?”

“You… You got it.” The request momentarily caught Elch off guard, but he swiftly recovered and hopped off the stage, waded through the crowd, and retrieved the girl and her family.

“Now then, young lady, I believe you had a question. Could we get your name, please?”

“I, um, I’m… I’m Sara…”

A woman accompanying Sara bowed apologetically. “I-I’m so sorry! I told her that children weren’t allowed to raise their hands, but she refused to listen…”

At that point, Tetra noticed how dissimilar the two of them looked. Five other young children were also accompanying them, all of whom had different facial features. Some were byuma, too. Tetra had initially assumed that they were a family, but she could see now that wasn’t the case.

“And who might you be? I take it you aren’t her mother,” Tetra asked.

“Ah, forgive me for my rudeness,” the woman replied, then introduced herself. “I work at their orphanage…”

The lack of resemblance made sense now.

“I hope you can forgive us for this. She’s normally such an obedient girl, so I have no idea what got into her…,” the woman explained with embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Director…,” Sara responded, eyes downcast.

When the orphanage director started admonishing Sara for raising her hand despite not being eligible to vote, Tetra stepped in. “Oh, no, don’t worry about it. I’m the one who called on her, after all.” Then, she stooped down to get on Sara’s eye level. “Being able to vote or not doesn’t matter here. This is something that affects everyone in the republic. Go ahead, Sara. Ask me anything you want to.”

Sara appeared to lose her nerve for a moment, but after shutting her eyes tight and steeling her resolve, she posed her question.

“Okay, well, Ms. Director always tells us that fighting is wrong. And back when I still had my mommy, she always got mad at my brother and me when we fought, too. She got so angry that it was kind of scary. But lately, everyone in the village has been practicing fighting. They all have such scary looks on their faces, and they talk in such scary voices… I don’t like it at all. Miss, why is it you want to fight so bad?”


Tetra had just likened the masses’ righteous fury to magma, but she could imagine how anxious it was making poor Sara. Perhaps some of that was inevitable, but Tetra still wanted to teach the child the difference between their holy war and the kind of conflict she was talking about. Unfortunately, Tetra wasn’t sure how to do so.

The leader of the Principles Party turned to the girl’s guardian, the orphanage director. “Pardon my asking, but she wouldn’t happen to be from Gustav, by any chance?”

“Sh-she is, ma’am. She lost her family when the capital burned down during the Blue Brigade attack…”

“…I see.”

Tetra had expected that.

Although a handful of soldiers had perished during the Seven Luminaries’ People’s Revolution, the number paled before the death toll of the battle between the Fastidious Duke and the Blue Brigade. And to make matters worse, the fight had consumed an entire metropolis in flames, meaning there were many civilian casualties.

Handling war orphans was a major issue plaguing Elm at the moment, and that one skirmish was responsible for no small percentage of them.

“Sara, if you were in Gustav, then I’ll bet you remember what things were like a few months ago better than you’d like to. Do you remember how sad and hungry everyone was? Well, it was because the evil lord was bullying them. God and the Blue Brigade fought to get rid of him. That’s why you and I can enjoy the freedom we have now.”

Tetra knew that Sara had seen the exact same hellscape she had.

“It’s true that warring for selfish reasons is wrong. Yet…sometimes you have to because it’s the only way to help people who are hurting. That kind of fighting is good and brave. God saved us when we were suffering, but now the people of Yamato are in trouble just like we were. It’s our job to assist. Ignoring those in need just to keep ourselves safe would make us cowards.

“Our battles will be for the correct reasons. Everyone in Yamato is waiting for us, so there’s nothing to be afraid of… Does that all make sense?”

Surely that would get through to her. After living through hell in the Gustav domain, Sara surely comprehended that kind of helplessness, and she was undoubtedly grateful to have been rescued from it.

Tetra placed her hand atop Sara’s shoulder, confident that she had explained herself well. The moment she did, Sara’s well-mannered expression contorted like crumpled paper—

“No! If everyone’s gonna die, then I don’t want to help!!”

—and she began shouting. Fat tears rolled down from her big, round eyes.

“I don’t care if I don’t get much to eat! I want my mommy and my brother back…!” Her voice trembled with the trauma of one who was forced to listen helplessly as her family succumbed to the flames consuming their home.

Tetra had gotten it all wrong. Sara hadn’t been saved—she’d been robbed. The justice Tetra championed had stolen that girl’s precious family from her. From Sara’s perspective, Tetra and the Principles Party’s quest to begin another campaign of bloodshed made them no better than Gustav.

“I don’t care if I have to be a coward or a scaredy-cat. I just don’t want anyone else to die! I don’t want the people in my village to disappear…and I don’t want them to have to kill anyone, either! Is it really so wrong for me to feel this way?!”


Seeing the innocent tears stream ceaselessly down her face as Sara made her desperate plea left Tetra at a loss for words. And it wasn’t just her, either. Everyone there, Glaux included, lapsed into an ashamed silence.

And honestly, who could blame them? If prodigy politician Tsukasa Mikogami had been there, he likely would have done the same.

Profit, self-preservation, status—when faced with the innocent love of a child who had nothing, none of those things even seemed worth mentioning.

Sara would have died alongside her family if Gustav’s rule had persisted. Even if she was the only survivor, that alone was something to be celebrated. The logic was sound, but hollow, and poor consolation for a distraught child.

The earth-shaking fervor and applause from just moments ago had vanished. There was only the sound of Sara’s crying.

What effect did that girl’s tears have on the election’s course? How much had she altered the hearts of the voters? It was impossible to know. Those innocent tears forced the people drunk on enthusiasm to grapple with difficult questions.

What was it that really mattered to them? Who was it they truly wanted to protect? After a few weeks, would they find themselves in the same position as that girl?

The consequences of the actions they championed quickly became more evident. The Principles Party had dominated the final debate from start to finish, and many had expected the public opinion polls to reflect that. And although they managed to hold on to their majority, they ended up polling short of the two-thirds supermajority they needed to force through whatever bills they wanted.

Despite the insurmountable enemy she faced, Juno’s uncompromising dedication to addressing the populace honestly and plainly kept the Reform Party alive.

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