Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 20 - Chapter 1

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Chapter 1: The Conqueror’s Kindness

“We’re out here in the middle of a bloody war here, but for all the sun is concerned, puny humans killing each other is an inconsequential trifle...” Such words slipped effortlessly from Ryoma’s lips.

Rays of warm sunlight flowed into the room, and outside his window spanned a clear, blue sky where white clouds drifted along. Looking at it gave one the impression they could soar wherever they pleased.

“What a fine day... Lying back in the garden with a book on a day like this while having some booze and a nice meal to snack on would probably be the best thing ever. Maybe I should ask Kikuna to fix me something to eat later... Nah, that would probably be inappropriate.”

Such thoughts filled Ryoma’s heart right now as even this conqueror, who many regarded as a hero, was a normal Japanese youth at heart. Now and then, he wanted to take a breather, especially when the weather was fine. Reading under the shade of a tree in the courtyard felt like the finest luxury. Sara and Laura would surely join him and offer him their laps as pillows.

But if the head of the Mikoshiba barony spent the afternoon loitering in his fortress’s courtyard reading books, it would reflect poorly on his reputation.

At least not while I’m fighting Queen Lupis and her northern subjugation army...

Ryoma was currently behind the third layer of Fort Tilt’s wall; looking out the window, he couldn’t see the battlefield directly. Fort Tilt was built with three layers of fortifications, and the northern subjugation army was still attacking the first layer.

As governor of the Wortenia Peninsula, Ryoma had to remain in the depths of this fort to command the war despite not directly overseeing the fighting. Even so, many soldiers continued dying on the front lines that day. The scheduled reports Lione, the commander charged with defending the front lines, sent him made the brutality of the fighting abundantly clear.

While the casualties on Ryoma’s side weren’t zero, they were still light compared with the northern subjugation army.

Thankfully, the losses on our side are slim. But given all the preparations I made to make that happen, that’s only natural.

After all, both flanks of the fortress were built along precipitous cliffs, making the long mountain road leading to the gates gradually narrow as one headed to the fort. No matter how large the enemy army was, these conditions limited how many soldiers could approach at any given moment. And the brutal outcome of that was the northern subjugation army’s current predicament.

The Mikoshiba barony army had minimized its losses by holing up in the fortress and relying on long-distance attacks, resulting in the northern subjugation army having its forces one-sidedly diminished every day. One could very well say the situation was clearly favoring Ryoma.

And so, the young conqueror who was the lord of this fort was brimming with confidence and ambition. His was the face of a man who was confident in the justice and validity of his actions.

But all of this is thanks to the defensive installations we set up when building the fort and the commanders on the field being able to put them to good use.

Terrain played a great part in securing a defensive position, and Ryoma deserved the credit for devising the idea of building the fort around these natural defenses. But he knew that his victories so far didn’t come down to just that.

I did read war manuals to prepare for this, so I had theoretical knowledge on conducting a defensive battle, but that’s just textbook learning. Referring to Lione and Boltz for input on the fort’s final layout was the right idea. The actual combat experience mercenaries have is ultimately indispensable, and commanders as seasoned as them are hard to come by.

The most important factors were employing an appropriate strategy and maintaining a firm chain of command. To enable this, Ryoma needed skilled vassals on his side. Finding those who adjusted to the constantly changing nature of the battlefield took talent and was difficult on its own.

All that was why Lione’s unit, the Crimson Lions, formed the backbone of the Mikoshiba barony’s army. As mercenaries with a wealth of combat experience and a firm chain of command, they comprised a highly tenacious and adaptable unit.

Yet they lacked the stormlike strength and penetrating force Robert’s cavalry unit had. The might of that unit originated from a combination of terrifying talent and a wealth of experience on the most menacing of battlefields.

Those two are just on another level, after all.

Robert Bertrand and Signus Galveria were two monstrous men, the kind that mere combat experience and average talent couldn’t produce. They were very much the two strongest spears at Ryoma’s disposal. For that reason, many saw the cavalry units they led as the strongest in the Mikoshiba barony. And so, Lione’s unit didn’t boast the same offensive might they did.

But to compensate for that, Lione and her unit have an adaptability the cavalry can’t imitate.

They were skilled at fighting on open fields and under siege; they could also function as infantry, archers, and engineers whenever needed. Whatever situation they were in, they could produce results. This adaptability was an unmatched boon in times of war, where situations changed by the minute.

What allowed the Crimson Lions this kind of multipotency was that, back when they were mercenaries for hire, Lione stationed them across different units to serve as commanders. This granted each member an abundance of live combat experience, which now turned Fort Tilt into an impregnable fort.

But even that isn’t enough to explain our success so far.

Ryoma’s lips curled upward into a dark sneer that scorned his enemies. Typically, this kind of emotion would be inappropriate at the height of a war. Perhaps the knowledge that his losses at the fort were minimal and this bright, clear sky made Ryoma more careless than usual. This was quite rare as he was exceedingly cautious in any situation.

But how else could he feel? Everything was going his way at the moment.




When defending a fort, the most important aspect was maintaining the soldiers’ morale. One could go so far as to say it influenced the success of a siege battle more than the number of troops, the quality of their weapons, or the size of their rations. One could secure all those things, and yet low morale might still lead to one’s castle falling. Even the healthiest and most skilled soldiers relied on their will to win battles.

If likened to a vehicle, even the car with the strongest, fastest engine was only a decoration without the gasoline to keep it running. Even if supplies and weapons were to run short, soldiers could hold their ground so long as they kept up their morale.

Realistically speaking, getting that close to starvation would mean the castle would fall anyway.

All the same, fighting against soldiers willing to fight to their last breath was a terrifying prospect. Morale was a factor that swung the tide of battles, which was why all famous generals took great pains to figure out how to maintain it. And this young hero, too, was well aware of its importance.

No matter how firm one’s defenses are, soldiers are aware they’re surrounded by the enemy at all times. This places a great strain on their mental health.

Of course, Fort Tilt was guarding the entrance to the Mikoshiba barony’s domain, meaning their supply line with their main stronghold, Sirius, was still intact. In this regard, Fort Tilt wasn’t like Xiang Yu of Chu when he was isolated and betrayed in the Battle of Gaixia, so the mental strain the soldiers were under wasn’t as severe as it could be.

Despite that, seeing an army several times your size stationed before the fort was still a threat the soldiers guarding the area couldn’t simply overlook. No matter how firm their walls may have been, the sight of bloodthirsty soldiers out to claim their lives was still demoralizing.

Unlike fighting on an open field, the soldiers on the defending side couldn’t inflict casualties on their own. The option to leave the fort and go on the offensive was always on the table, but this was an unusual tactic. Fundamentally, the defending side in a siege battle only responded to attacks.

But remaining on the defensive put considerable stress on the soldiers, and the outcome went without saying. Indeed, many history books told of siege battles that ended in the defending side’s defeat because its soldiers became demoralized by the prolonged campaign.

In other words, the defending side’s inability to take the initiative means they need some tangible proof of their success. And the most tangible way of showing that is through the enemy’s dead bodies.

The higher the attacking enemies’ corpses piled up, the more confident the defending side’s soldiers became in the firmness of their fortress and the inevitability of their victory. That they would not die in this war. This was an illusion; they were convincing themselves of something they could not prove. But this illusion was what allowed the soldiers to stave off their fear of death.

To do this, Ryoma made diligent plans and strategies and prepared many defensive weapons.

Well, the northern subjugation army’s losses aren’t that major, so we can’t be too optimistic, but... Yeah.

In terms of actual numbers, they had lost roughly ten thousand men in total casualties. That included the heavily injured who could not fight anymore; the dead only accounted for roughly one-third of that number. That is to say, a force about the same size as a noble’s single knight order had been slain throughout the siege.

To any aristocrat—even a duke, the highest noble rank—this would have been a crisis with implications for their house’s survival. But for the northern subjugation army, losing only ten thousand troops wouldn’t decide the outcome of the war.

Needless to say, having ten thousand soldiers drop out due to injury or death was immense. Those deaths resembled the population size of a medium-scale city. But to begin with, the northern subjugation army boasted two hundred thousand troops. While Ryoma’s trap in Epirus cost the army nearly thirty thousand of its troops, there were still one hundred seventy thousand troops remaining when the siege of Fort Tilt began. Another estimated ten thousand dropped out of the fighting, meaning they still boasted a sizable army of one hundred fifty thousand to one hundred sixty thousand troops.

Ryoma didn’t know their exact numbers, of course, but given the scout unit’s report, his estimate wasn’t too off the mark. Considering the enemy hadn’t lost even a tenth of their numbers since the siege began, there was no chance any northern subjugation army commanders would simply turn tail and run.

Especially given how the northern subjugation army is made up of privileged nobles who are sure they’re better than everyone else. Their dignity won’t allow them to admit defeat. Politically speaking, retreating at this point would be difficult.

Even if some nobles understood the current state of their army, it wouldn’t amount to much. A minority grasping the situation properly wouldn’t be able to influence the entire group’s decision-making. It was said that bad money drives out good money, and the stubbornness of hard-liners can fizzle out much the same way as sensible words can. But at the same time, no capable commander would be willing to continue the siege with no strategy.

Any commander worth their salt wouldn’t have tried to brute force their way through this fort, though.

As the man who built this fort, Ryoma would never have been foolish enough to try to force his way through it. Even if he didn’t know the general structure of this fort, he wouldn’t have made that choice. A cursory glance at the place made it clear just how firm of a fortress it was.

If one assumed Ryoma had no choice but to go on a brute-force offensive, he’d have at least made some preparations to draw out the fort’s garrison and defeat them in open combat.

Conquering a fortress that relies on its terrain requires that much ingenuity.

The scariest part of the siege battle was that even by resorting to clever schemes, there was no guarantee you would win. This was why strategy manuals across all ages recommended using battering rams, siege towers, and burrowing sappers, or cutting off a fort’s water supply.

But tactics on that level would be something a skilled woman like Helena, Rhoadseria’s Ivory Goddess of War, would have come up with before the battle started.

That knowledge didn’t come from her reading strategy manuals but simply because of experience. She was a seasoned warrior who had survived many battles, which had earned her that lofty title.

Since they’re still going on a brute-force assault, I’m guessing Helena wasn’t able to keep the nobles in check.

As a general and a national hero of Rhoadseria, Helena was the northern subjugation army’s supreme commander on paper but lacked the authority one would expect from her station. This was because Queen Lupis, who nominated her for this role, didn’t trust Helena, so naturally, she tried to limit her commanding rights.

Still, Helena was unable to control the nobles in this situation because of their greed and desire for military glory. At face value, it would seem the nobles refused to obey Helena’s instructions and went on this overeager attack.

But for a moment, another possibility crossed Ryoma’s mind. What if Meltina or someone in their camp plotted to turn the tables and use this as a chance to flush out the fools who stood in their way?

Why not push allies they couldn’t control or restrain into the enemy army, using them to weaken the opponent? It was a reasonable plan. If nothing else, it was better than wasting supplies on attacks that didn’t even amount to starvation tactics. The more he thought about it, the more Meltina’s plan became clear to Ryoma.

I see... Honestly, not a bad plan.

But the sneer of pity and scorn lingered on Ryoma’s lips. The nobles were a group that put importance on dignity and blood ties, which was as true in his world as it was in this one. It justified their position as leaders and inevitably brought about a sense of entitlement. And even among the nobles of this world, the Rhoadserian nobles were especially privileged.

After all, they had gathered an army of two hundred thousand. It wouldn’t be unusual for them to assume they could easily crush an upstart baron. Or rather, Ryoma guided them to think so, and Meltina took advantage of this.

They intend to restore the royal family to its former strength so they can rule the kingdom, and most of the nobles are holding that back. The incident at the House of Lords whittled their numbers down, but there’s still plenty of parasites in this kingdom. In that regard, this isn’t a bad decision at all.

If Ryoma wanted to seriously reorganize Rhoadseria, he would first cut down the country’s noble houses, which were said to number anywhere from hundreds to over a thousand. In which case, one could say Meltina acted the same way Ryoma would have. This outlook came across as startling growth and contrasted with the candid, impulsive way she used to act and her sense of justice.

But Ryoma would have never chosen to dispose of the nobles like this. He wouldn’t have eliminated the nobles without setting up meticulous groundwork—or, to be more exact, would not have been able to do it otherwise.

The big point here is, does Meltina understand the problems that come from deciding to eliminate the nobility?

Her decision to rid the country of the nobles was fine, but doing so had consequences, and those required countermeasures to offset them. Ryoma doubted that Meltina had considered that.

I wouldn’t keep my hopes up about that.

Based on Meltina’s attitude during the House of Lords incident, Ryoma surmised she saw the nobles as an obstacle to Queen Lupis’s regime. As her closest aide, it only made sense that she would feel this way. But this didn’t mean her judgment was correct in this case.

“Seriously... I know she’s our enemy now, but I feel bad for Helena. Having to command those idiots and attack Fort Tilt...”

Which idiots did he mean, Meltina or the arrogant nobles she was trying to get rid of? Whichever, they were quite a weak point from Ryoma’s perspective. The essence of war was to take advantage of your enemy’s weakness and inhibit their strength, so he had no reason to think twice about pressing on that weak point.

When humans experience something painful, they, like all living things, learn how not to undergo that pain again. Meltina sought to expel the nobles because of the painful experiences the nobles put her through during the civil war. The fact she learned from her mistake would usually be worthy of praise. If nothing else, it was leagues of progress from how she was just a few years ago when she’d fixated on chivalry while Ryoma had been more broad-minded.

But that didn’t mean he had to praise her without some qualms. She’s matured; I’ll grant her that. But for some things, only realizing you did wrong after you failed is too little, too late.

Everyone fails at one point or another, and Ryoma himself had made plenty of errors in the past. So, he wouldn’t claim that learning your lesson after making a mistake was always pointless. But in war, the situation changes by the minute. The first move had long-lasting repercussions, and nothing happened as it did before. Some situations may be similar, but it was only on the surface. And so, countermeasures must suit each unique situation and be fine-tuned to match the particularities of that specific war.

Because of such unpredictability, assuming that each failure is a learning experience is dangerous.

Either way, our only option is to see what the enemy does.

No matter how arrogant and foolish most of the Rhoadserian nobles were, they would eventually realize this approach wasn’t working. Perhaps this was why the northern subjugation army, which relied on its superior numbers, hadn’t attempted to attack the gates over the last two days. While Ryoma couldn’t be complacent, he didn’t need to be terribly wary of them either.

He was, in a manner of speaking, in the eye of the typhoon right now, which gave him the leisure of time to visit his recuperating vassals’ rooms.

We’re in a lull until the enemy comes up with their next plan. But it won’t be long until they realize the dire straits they are really in. As he thought about this, he had already laid the groundwork for when that would happen. He then headed toward a door but stood still. Now this is making me pretty nervous.

Unlike how he brimmed with confidence earlier, Ryoma now looked like a boy his age. He must have been quite nervous. All he had to do was knock on the door and announce his visit, but he couldn’t quite come up with the words. Perhaps aware of how he must have looked, he scanned the area swiftly.

Although he was visiting one of his retainers, this was still a young woman. So it only made sense that he, as a man, would mind his appearance. As a ruler amid a war, he also couldn’t afford to have rumors going around that he was infatuated with a woman.

Of course, Ryoma was probably overthinking things and being extremely self-conscious. But the way a person’s emotions worked made it so that even if he knew that, he couldn’t help but feel this way. In this sense, Ryoma was still an inexperienced boy.

All of this was just from Ryoma’s perspective. He had no way of knowing this, but his retainers in the Mikoshiba barony honestly wanted him to hurry up, pick a wife or a concubine, and produce an heir. Perhaps not right now, in the middle of the northern subjugation war, but the question of their lord’s successor weighed on his vassals’ hearts.

After all, Ryoma was the first head of the Mikoshiba barony, and the Mikoshiba barony’s bloodline would end if he were to die. The chances of that happening were slim but not impossible.

Even putting aside such pragmatic reasons, his concerns were still unfounded. Basically all of his female retainers—from the Malfist sisters to Lione and Simone—had some feelings for him that he couldn’t write off as simple loyalty to their lord. The dark elf Dilphina would gladly offer herself up in matrimony to bridge the gap between their races if he sought to do so. Her father, Nelcius, firmly instructed her to share his bed if given the chance.

So if Ryoma were to seek a relationship with any of them, none would particularly object. The same lack of complaints applied if said relationship reached as far as an official marriage, even if it was a different situation. In fact, they would be sincerely happy to see him be so forward since it would offer a solution for the burning issue of the house’s succession.

But since Ryoma was unaware of his retainers’ feelings, this situation felt like an issue prone to dangerous misunderstandings. Even with all those risks, Ryoma decided to visit this room for a reason.

Now then...

Glancing at his reflection in the window’s glass pane, he brushed his hair. The reflection gazing back at him was his usual mature-looking face. He was, however, dressed in a noble’s formalwear with his hair thoroughly brushed down and swept back. He stood there with all the majesty of a king.

This should do.

Laura and Sara were the ones charged with his personal grooming, so it was unlikely anything was too wrong. However, he checked himself out one last time before entering the room despite normally not being concerned with his appearance.

Not that he would go around in unwashed, smelly clothes or anything like that. But he did think that as long as his clothes were clean and had no holes in them, everything was fine. He wasn’t the kind to coordinate outfits based on fashion magazines, nor was he that particular about his hairstyle.

Ignoring that his face looked several years older than he really was and his expression was overall curt, Ryoma was relatively well-kept. Girls had asked him out a few times, but Ryoma turned them down because he wasn’t very interested in girls his age. Not because their appearances or age were an issue but simply because he felt they were mentally and emotionally immature.

It was for this same reason that Ryoma lacked friends from his age group. He interacted with his peers but did so at the bare minimum that was expected of him, and he didn’t grow any closer to them than that. Whenever young people his age talked about fashion magazines, it just struck him as double Dutch. When asked about clothes, Ryoma was more likely to care whether they were slash-resistant or had room to conceal a weapon.

Since being summoned to this world, maintaining a minimal standard of appearance was the most he could care about. Here, most people wore whatever clothes they could, and only nobles cared about their outfits.

Due to this, Ryoma was quite surprised when the Malfist sisters reacted so adamantly when he told them he’d be visiting Sakuya’s room. Thinking back to their words made Ryoma smile uncomfortably.

“You simply don’t understand a woman’s heart.” Huh?

Bewildered by Laura’s words, Ryoma was forced into a chair where she combed his hair and applied some fragrant oil to it. Meanwhile, Sara brought out an outfit similar to the one he wore at the House of Lords out of nowhere and ordered Ryoma to change into it.

Overwhelmed by the sisters’ ardent attitude, the young conqueror could only submit to their demands. They gave him a pass on the get-well present he had prepared for Sakuya, but they would have gotten angrier if he hadn’t arranged things ahead of time.

I didn’t think those two would get so upset with me.

They had been his closest confidants since being summoned into this world, and he’d been through thick and thin with them. So having those two find fault with him weighed heavily on Ryoma’s heart. He couldn’t help but feel like their reactions were excessive.

But he was also aware that, as head of the Mikoshiba barony, going around in his usual black shirt or armor wouldn’t be appropriate. Nobles or royalty didn’t maintain fancy attire solely out of a desire to show off. They did so because they understood that their presence and appearance were symbolic to an extent. And no one would want to have to work under a banner with an unsightly, shabby symbol.

And I guess these threads are what I should be wearing now.

Ryoma wasn’t a Japanese high schooler anymore. He was a noble and a conqueror, his hands stained with the blood of tens of thousands. His words carried authority over an army just as grand, so he had to dress the part.

With that thought in mind, Ryoma took a deep breath to steel himself and knocked on the door—right now, he had a task to attend to.

That day, an unexpected visitor arrived in Sakuya Igasaki’s room. Seeing him made her regard him with an expression of surprise and shame. If she could bury herself in this moment, she would do so.

I didn’t think the lord would come here. With that thought in mind, Sakuya, clad in her sleeping gown, pulled up the blanket to cover herself. It was too little too late, though. I’d have much preferred it if someone had informed me he was coming. Then, I could have prepared myself properly...

Sakuya lay in bed, recovering from the arrow wound she had received the other day. When she heard the knock on the door, she assumed it was a maid who had come to tend to her.

She carelessly said, “Come in.” But this was how she had landed in such a conundrum. And I can’t ask him to leave now.

This was her lord, after all. If he hadn’t entered the room yet, she might have still been able to refuse. Now that she had let him inside, there was no taking back what she said. She couldn’t tell her respected master that she’d let him in by mistake and wanted him to leave.

Of course, Ryoma being here was an unusual development, to say the least. He was the lord of the Mikoshiba barony, and a man as busy and influential as him wouldn’t often pay courtesy calls to his retainers’ rooms. If nothing else, this wasn’t what nobles typically did in this world.

So when Ryoma opened the door and entered, it took Sakuya a few seconds to fully process what happened as the event drained all the color from her face. Regardless, she was currently under medical care in her room. She was only in a sleeping gown to rest comfortably, even if it resembled modern pajamas.

Normally, this wouldn’t be particularly revealing or improper, though Sakuya had to curse her carelessness as a young woman. She gripped the covers, her cheeks flushing and her emotions clear on her face.

Ryoma, however, was oblivious to her feelings. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he actively pretended not to notice them.

“Well, think of this as a get-well present,” Ryoma said with a smile as he handed her a box of sweets. “I asked Kikuna to make these macarons, so they’re guaranteed to be good.” He looked like he was trying to maintain his composure at a glance. On closer inspection, he was clearly averting his gaze from Sakuya, which made it all meaningless.

“Thank you,” said Sakuya with an awkward smile as she sat up. She accepted the box and placed it on a stand beside the bed. Ordering his chef to make sweets, especially for me?

While Kikuna Samejima wasn’t a pâtissier, this was still the handiwork of a French chef, so it was close to the authentic French flavor. A sweet of this quality would even be hard to come by in modern Japan. In this world where sugar was terribly scarce, so very few people, if at all, had the privilege of tasting something like this.




But Ryoma’s sensibilities as a Japanese person made him uncomfortable visiting a hospitalized person without a get-well present. So he chose something that would last a few days, even though he’d just handed her pure gold.

The fact that it was him giving her this present only made it all the more embarrassing. Even a coldhearted ninja like Sakuya couldn’t keep her cool, and a heavy silence hung over the room.

Goodness, what do I do? I need to say something...

That emotion alone gripped Sakuya’s heart, and unable to come up with an answer, she remained silent. She could have said something along the lines of, “These look delicious. Shall we have some together?” While she could have used this to jump-start a conversation, she couldn’t bring herself to utter the words.

It was all but decided that she would eventually become one of the elders guiding the Igasaki clan, and her subordinates greatly trusted and respected her. But in truth, Sakuya was still a young woman. Her grandfather Gennou had only taught her assassination and unconventional warfare skills, including the technical skills of a superior ninja who commanded lower-ranking ninjas.

While she was a skilled ninja, she was a complete amateur in the kind of lovemaking and seduction skills that female ninjas—kunoichi—have been known to employ to gather information. She had the basic knowledge of these arts but no practical experience, which was to be expected.

The Igasaki clan comprised ninjas that excelled at gathering intelligence, and some among them had the skills and knowledge necessary to masquerade as prostitutes and infiltrate brothels and taverns. As a future elder, Sakuya was spared from such dirty work, which was why she had no experience with men.

If her duties called for it, Sakuya wouldn’t hesitate to debase herself like that. The principles that Gennou instilled in her would spur her to sacrifice her happiness as a woman in favor of the clan’s success and survival. Gennou, too, was willing to sacrifice Sakuya for the greater good if needed. But only if necessary.

One could say that these emotions were contradictory, but he didn’t mind. As an elder of the Igasaki clan, he was torn between his duties and his affection for his granddaughter. But the same could be said of Sakuya. This contradiction only happened when the strongest sword and the sturdiest shield clashed. So long as there was no need for them to clash, the two could coexist.

Had Gennou been in the room, he’d have grown angry at this awkward silence and shouted at them to get on with it. He’d also have regretted that Sakuya didn’t have more experience as a kunoichi.

If Grandfather were here, he’d say I’m lacking in resolve. Perhaps he’d send me back to train under Lady Oume and Lady Osae.

The two old ladies Sakuya thought about were experienced ninjas who managed the training and deployment of the kunoichi. Since they were now elders, they didn’t take to the field personally. But both were known to be quite beautiful in their youth and skilled with bedroom skills, seduction, and coaxing information out of men.

Rumor had it that nobles and royalty were powerless before their seductive ways as they were like goddesses regarding sensual pleasures. Perhaps their training would have made Sakuya more skilled in this field.

And, honestly... Maybe that wouldn’t be too bad. Sakuya attempted to look away from this situation and cracked a self-deprecating smile. Maybe training under them again would teach her how to conduct herself in a situation like this, but that would only help her improve in the future. It wouldn’t solve her current predicament.

Looking at Sakuya, Ryoma tilted his head and asked, “Does your wound still ache?”

Sakuya noticed the bitter smile on his lips. He looks uncharacteristically anxious.

It almost came across as timid. But this was proof that he was concerned for her.

“No, the nostrum I was given closed the wound. It doesn’t hurt anymore,” replied Sakuya as she shook her head.

She wasn’t lying—the arrow wound she received the other day was already gone without a trace. Such a wound couldn’t possibly heal that quickly, but it wasn’t fatal or terribly crippling. Not having it properly treated would have meant she could bleed to death, and it did run the risk of her getting infected with a disease like tetanus.

But for how unlikely it may have seemed, Ryoma nodded, satisfied with her answer.

“The nostrums the dark elf thaumaturgists make really are impressive...” she said.

“Yes. It may not have been a fatal wound. Still, I didn’t think it would heal that quickly. It truly lives up to its name as secret medicine.”

Such remedies were rare, valuable medicine that only the most skilled dark elven thaumaturgists could produce. It could even reattach severed limbs with no aftereffects, even though it only worked if used shortly after the limb was severed.

If someone who didn’t have trade relations with the dark elves were to get their hands on such a remedy, it would likely sell for unimaginable prices. It would truly be priceless. But despite having been provided with such precious medicine, Sakuya’s tone came across as dark and heavy. And for how reserved he was with romance, Ryoma could read into her emotions here.

“Are you displeased that you were ordered to remain in bed and recover?”

Hearing this question made Sakuya’s hand clench for a moment. His question hit the mark perfectly, but Sakuya wasn’t foolish enough to speak to this emotion openly.


She couldn’t deny she was displeased at being ordered to rest and recover. The northern subjugation army was stationed outside Fort Tilt, and the fighting still raged on as they spoke. And while the Mikoshiba barony, the defending side, had the advantage, the state of the war was still fluid and could change at any moment. Additionally, many of the Igasaki ninjas were out and about on Ryoma’s orders, laying the groundwork for future plans.

Amidst all that, Sakuya remained in her room to recover as ordered. Despite being injured, she’d recovered to the point of the wound not impeding her in any way. It struck her as unnatural, but at the same time, she couldn’t quite complain about getting favorable treatment.

This wasn’t the sole concern weighing on her heart, however. More than anything else, she was full of sorrow at having betrayed her master’s trust, as well as anger toward herself for her failure.

“I did not meet your expectations, milord...” she muttered in a soft, nearly inaudible voice. Somehow the words echoed loudly in the room, regardless.

“Did not meet my expectations, huh?” Ryoma said and nodded. “So that is how you feel.”

It became clear what was bothering Sakuya so much. She and her group succeeded in the large-scale razing of the citadel city of Epirus, striking a painful blow against the northern subjugation army. But when Helena gave chase, Sakuya was forced to discard the hang gliders that were one of Ryoma’s trump cards.

“I believe I told you that wasn’t an issue, though.”

Ryoma had no intention of blaming Sakuya, but she shook her head silently.

She then thought, The lord would say with a smile that considering they could have fallen into enemy hands, that was a necessary choice, but...

It did mean that they would have to reconsider and adjust future tactics. No one would blame Sakuya for doing what she did, not even Gennou. Everyone would have agreed that, given her predicament, Sakuya made the right choice. Even so, she didn’t feel that way and couldn’t justify her actions. Having resolved to devote herself to ensuring her lord’s conquest, this wasn’t a blunder she could overlook.

Seeing Sakuya’s dispirited response, Ryoma sighed and whispered, “You really are earnest to a fault, you know that?” He dropped his eyes on the sweet box sitting on the table.

He then reached out his large hand, as thick as a glove, and gently patted Sakuya on the head like he was trying to console a little girl.

“Eat something and relax a little, would you? You won’t last if you don’t take breaks sometimes.”

Sakuya regarded her lord with baffled eyes, taken aback by his words. She echoed his words, “Earnest to a fault?”

Ryoma nodded with a smile, then rose from his chair and turned around. Waving goodbye, he left the room as if telling her to find her own answer. Sakuya could only watch him leave until he closed the door behind him, still feeling the residual heat of his large hand on her head.

The following night, Sakuya received another unexpected visitor. This visitor wasn’t a surprise at all, unlike when her master entered the room. It was her grandfather, Gennou Igasaki; it was perfectly natural for one to visit a family member in their room. But this time, there was a caveat involved. Sitting by the window was a plate of colorful macarons as well as teacups full of fragrant, steaming tea.

“I see you’ve returned,” Sakuya said, bowing her head in a perfect show of respect. “I’m glad to see you safe and sound.”

Gennou nodded curtly, picked up one brown macaron from the plate, and bit into it, likely wanting to taste these sweets before getting into the topic at hand. This wasn’t him having a particularly sweet tooth or being a glutton, but more that he had to confirm the taste of the sweets Ryoma brought if he were to complete the task his master gave him.

Indeed, a moderate sweetness mixed with the wonderful fragrance of fruit.

It was a flavor Gennou had never experienced in his long, storied life. After nodding once, he sipped on some tea and reached for an orange-colored macaron next.

“This one had fruit peels kneaded into it... Truly delectable,” Gennou said in amazement. “But was there any reason to put so much effort into it? Its flavor goes beyond just sweetness.”

Its sweetness was beyond the description of just an abundance of sugar. The treats had been made with a truly elaborate recipe, with cut-up fruit peels and crushed nuts mixed into the dough. There was a likelihood each macaron used different dough with unique flavors.

There are at least ten varieties here, and each one has a different flavor.

This was likely done to keep those eating them from tiring of the flavor. Through this, Gennou could feel Ryoma’s consideration for Sakuya as well as the intent behind this present.

“The lord was worried for you... You should be very grateful,” said Gennou from the bottom of his heart.

If Ryoma were the type of ruler who cared nothing for his retainers, he would not have put so much care and investment into this gift. The same applied if he was occupied solidifying his reputation as a kind ruler. As far as Gennou could see, these sweets were the culinary equivalent of gold.

After all, even a simple gumdrop was a precious luxury in this world. But in this case, those who had made them put the utmost care into using fruit to enhance the flavor of these sweets. Things like this were terribly hard to come by on this continent, since this used fruit that even Gennou, who had explored the land to gather information on warring countries, wasn’t familiar with.

These were likely imported from the southern or central continents.

This made it clear how valuable this gift was and showed how much more Ryoma cared for his retainers compared to this world’s standards. But this didn’t mean he treated all his retainers equally. There was bound to be a difference based on their performance, achievements, and how much he trusted them. As such, there were very few retainers Ryoma cared for this much, with the Malfist sisters being the clearest example.

If nothing else, this isn’t something he’d give to any retainer. The fact he sent this to Sakuya means he trusts her a great deal.

In that regard, it was clear how much Ryoma believed in her. But while Sakuya seemed happy about what Gennou told her, she also looked downhearted. This was enough to make Gennou realize how conflicted his granddaughter’s mental state was.

“Is it that hard to forgive yourself?” he asked.

Sakuya nodded wordlessly.

“I see,” he said silently. “I can see why he ordered you to rest, then.”

“What do you mean?” Sakuya looked up at him, her eyes full of confusion and doubt.

This was proof that she truly didn’t understand why Ryoma acted the way he did. Gennou just sighed heavily.

“He wouldn’t possibly come here just to visit you, would he?”

“Well...” Sakyua was at a loss about how to reply.

She wasn’t sure why Ryoma would come personally to visit her room. Not to say he wasn’t concerned for her, but her life wasn’t at risk. The dark elven medicine healed her to the point that no scars lingered. However, they were in the middle of war, so having Sakuya stay in her room at a time like this was self-evident. But right now, she couldn’t see this obvious reason, even though she would normally realize it.

Yes, if she was in her usual state of mind...

And Ryoma realized that her state of mind wasn’t currently sound. Outwardly, it only came across as a slight sense of unease, but Sakuya’s emotional balance was compromised.

It won’t affect anything right away, and given time, she’ll calm down. So there’s no cause for concern. However...

Time heals all wounds, as the old saying goes, but that was only a general statement. There were no one-size-fits-all answers when it came to the human heart. Her inability to return to her former confidence was the least of her problems. Since they were in the middle of a war, her emotional state could end up costing Sakuya her life.

That her emotional imbalance was too subtle to see was the biggest problem here. If this issue visibly impeded her performance, Sakuya would have noticed something was wrong. But the fact it was not clearly visible meant she couldn’t tell there was any problem with her.

“Sakuya, you’ve convinced yourself you failed to complete your mission and are desperate to compensate for that blunder.”

“I’m...desperate?” Sakuya asked, unconvinced, and Gennou nodded severely.

This was a truly sensitive topic, and Ryoma telling her this would have made her cower even more. If her colleagues, like Lione and the Malfist sisters, had told her this reason, she would have gotten upset and argued to the contrary.

And that’s why he called me. Gennou was in Sakuya’s room tonight because Ryoma ordered him to return. To do this, Gennou had to change his plans on short notice since he was commanding an operation against the northern subjugation army, where they were laying the groundwork for the eventual decisive battle. In other words, these preparations were crucial and could decide the fate of this war.

He left the management of this crucial task in the hands of his assistant Ryusai and returned to Fort Tilt because of an unexpected order from his lord. But only when he saw Sakuya’s state with his own eyes did Gennou realize why Ryoma gave that order.

Seeking to complete your jobs isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But the emotion at the core of this desire is arrogance on Sakuya’s side. And well, that’s simply because she’s performed a bit too well so far.

Sakuya Igasaki overflowed with talent as a ninja. She was more than proficient with her skills, and aside from Gennou and the other Elders, few in the clan could match her. Until now, Sakuya had accomplished her tasks without incident and had only failed at a mission once.

During the previous civil war, their clan received a mission from Furio Gelhart, the head of the nobles’ faction, to assassinate Ryoma Mikoshiba. At the time, the Igasaki clan didn’t follow a master. When she failed, Gennou noticed Ryoma’s skills and intervened, so Sakuya wasn’t criticized for her failure.

But things have changed. Right now, we have a lord we trust and believe in.

This was the Igasaki clan’s most cherished desire, which they had pursued in the five hundred years since they were summoned to this world. And indeed, Sakuya harbored absolute loyalty to her new master.

And that’s an admirable trait. But...

Failing a mission given to her by her beloved liege left a chink in Sakuya’s heart. From Gennou’s perspective, her blunder didn’t register as a failure. Yes, she’d lost the precious hang gliders and struggled with Helena Steiner’s pursuit, which got Sakuya cornered and nearly cost her life. This incident even required Ryoma to rescue her. But her razing of the city of Epirus did successfully claim the lives of many of the enemy army’s soldiers.

So while she didn’t do a perfect job, one couldn’t even say she failed to stick the landing. Everyone in the Mikoshiba barony, Ryoma included, would agree she accomplished what she set out to do and did it well despite that minor mistake.

But Sakuya alone failed to see this and had convinced herself that this had been a major failure, leading to that compulsive idea torturing her heart. Because of this, Sakuya felt driven to persevere by never failing and following her master’s orders to perfect completion.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection, of course. But a ninja’s teachings say to stow away one’s heart when you pick up the sword, lest doubt dull the blade.

Those teachings applied when dealing with both foe and friend—but also yourself. One had to remain calm, coolheaded, and collected at all times. In that regard, there was a clear risk to having Sakuya handle missions in this state.

This is the case especially now when the tide of the war will swing greatly in the coming days.

Gennou’s intelligence stated that the northern subjugation army was considering giving up on a frontal assault against Fort Tilt. The army had instead elected to spread out in the surrounding mountains to circle around the fort and cut off its supply route.

Such was an admirable strategy as any fortress, regardless of its strength, would eventually fall without a line of supplies. Thus, Ryoma ordered a mixed unit of the Igasaki ninja and Dilphina’s dark elf warriors to intercept these forces. The dark elves were skilled verbal thaumaturgists and adept hunters who lived off the land on this peninsula. With the Igasaki clan and its expertise in unconventional warfare, the mixed unit was expected to perform well in the steep mountains and dense woods. But the only question was: who was to lead this mixed unit?

Lady Dilphina could certainly fit the role, but...

Dilphina, who drew on the blood of the Mad Demon Nelcius, was a fearsome warrior like her father, but she wasn’t a commander. Trying to force her into that role would only stifle what she did best. Since Gennou and the other elders were currently away from Fort Tilt on their lord’s orders, only one person remained who could possibly lead this mixed unit.

But as she is now, it’s too dangerous to entrust this crucial task to Sakuya.

Impatience had a way of making people’s sense of judgment fail and lead them astray. Her desire to succeed could make her impatient, and that could eventually cost people their lives. There were no guarantees, of course, and this wasn’t to say Ryoma was convinced Sakuya would act recklessly. But he decided to order Sakuya to rest for a time out of a desire to minimize all risks.

He basically gave Sakuya a grace period to refresh herself and calm her wavering heart. It was truly the type of foresight one would expect of a good ruler. But sadly, Sakuya could not grasp the kindness and consideration of this decision.

“From the looks of it, you still don’t understand why he came to visit you,” Gennou said, his voice full of resignation and disappointment.

Sakuya’s shoulders trembled. She noticed that she didn’t understand Ryoma’s intentions, which made her feel small and disappointed with herself. Doubt in her own abilities was why Ryoma went to great lengths to have Gennou return.

Then what I must do is clear.

Gennou grimly parted his lips to fulfill the role his lord had entrusted him with. He believed all the while that doing so would give his wavering granddaughter the ray of light she needed.

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