In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 109
A heavy feeling descended upon the room, like a hammer waiting to fall. A hammer such as the likes of the Soviet Union's entire military machine staring down at a nervous Poland, grinning with a mouth with far too many teeth and going "Oh hiii there~".
I took a deep breath and held it.
Then I exhaled. All right. If I was in any way responsible for this, then I'll own the consequences of my decisions.
A man who loves freedom was one thing, it was another to be a coward trying to escape the pain caused by his selfishness. I had a perfect example in the pathetic, self-serving excuses of my parents who were still absolutely convinced they were good people even as they greedily sucked the lives out of many.
I spent so much of my early life running away from anything that could cause me pain, I was such the spoiled brat. And I ruined lives, never once understanding why.
That was what actually convinced me that this was a reality, because if this world ran on narrativium I should have been killed while I was in the middle of my shitheel phase to learn valuable life lessons in this other world instead of when I'd largely already gotten my life together.
I looked around me, and how emotion passed through the faces of the people I knew. The King and the Duke looked grim, but they had been expecting things to go bad long ago.
Yumina looked lost and anxious. She understood that war was bad, but still only in an abstract way.
Olga Strand winced. Her fluffy orange ears flattened. This was a total political shitstorm.
Elze and Linze looked confused. They weren't around back then to see the King going "ROUSE!"
Yae looked concerned, and for a moment our eyes met. I had no idea what was that electric thrill that suddenly made my heart go doki doki, but on later thought it was probably how we both understood clearly the suffering of war and yet at the same time we ached for a chance to obtain glory in the battlefield. Mutual recognition of a guilty conscience, maybe?
Briefly I though of Zorah and her ilk. Goddamn we had been raising so many death flags. Really, I hoped this place didn't run on tropes. Real life generally made much less sense than fiction.
She looked as calm and all-accepting as always. And really, that was when she was the most dangerous. When she's bickering and disapproving, that's when she's just trying to correct my inappropriate clowning around. That's just being a dutiful girlfriend who wants her man to look good and be respectable.
But there - that was a smile that said /'I truly don't mind if you go out and murder feckloads of people.'/
"The Emperor of Regulus has not been seen in the past few months. There are rumors that he is ill and forced to lay invalid in bed. The Army has been conducting extensive but low-level recruitment these past months. The mood in Gallaria, capital of the Empire, is fraught with tension. Rabble-rousers speak not of loyalty to the Emperor, but the forgotten might of the Empire. It was subtle, but it is now made clear they have been building their forces in preparation for something big!"
I raised my hand. He motioned me to speak. "Your Majesty- just to confirm, this was happening long before we uh "uncovered" the "Regulus Plot" to weaken Belfast, right?"
"That is so."
"Just how certain are you of this intelligence? How trustworthy is the source?"
"Extremely. It would be impossible to suborn the many traders and travelers who travel from here to Regulus."
I frowned. "Then why pardon my saying is, is your internal intelligence gathering service"
"So much rubbish?" the King finished with a chuckle. "Servants usually come from inside a lord's fief. And more often than not are themselves the progeny of other servants of the family." And so it was actually surprisingly difficult to insert spies into their households and businesses. Few people were willing to betray their lords unless they had a very strong grudge, one that was strong enough to overcome their fear for their own loved ones under the grip of said noble.
In feudalistic society, a peasant revolt could simply not be allowed to succeed because it eroded the conventions of society no matter what the inciting reason. Unless it was nobles picking a fight with their own king, and then we get things like the Magna Carta.(1)
"That makes loads of sense. Thank you."
Then I suddenly raised my hand again.
"Why is military buildup irrational?" I asked.
"Because the situation between Regulus and the Rodmere Union has not changed at all. Emperor of Regulus has spent the last ten years building up goodwill and making promises of peace. The alliance between Rodmere, Felzen, and Restia is strong as ever. Regulus alone is the strongest land power- but the addition of Rodmere's allies overcomes them."
If one ranked Regulus as a () on the military power scale, Rodmere would be an (), while Felzen Magic Kingdom and Restia Knight Kingdom were a () and a () respectively. Even when they can only assist with 25% of their forces at most, that's still pushes the Rodmere Alliance to about () versus ().
Incidentally, Belfast was a (). She was a very mediocre sort of kingdom, but one could at least say she's not Refreese.
"So either they're total idiots hopped up on delusions and fanaticism" not such an unrealistic scenario either, consider Imperial Japan in WW2 who decided that "let's fight the most populous nation on Earth /and/ pick a fight with the most industrially potent nation on the planet *at the same time*" and thought that was a dashed good idea that could possibly end without them being utterly facestomped "or they do have some sort of unique new force multiplier to compensate."
"We must act according to the worst possible scenario," the King replied with an approving nod. "So do you all understand the importance of this diplomatic mission? Once more, I ask forgiveness for the perfidy of my subjects, Miss Strand. I hope your King can forgive us."
Olga's ears perked up in attention again. "Do not worry, Your Majesty!" she exclaimed as she dropped to one knee in a respectful bow. "It is clear this has all been a plot by Regulus to incite war between our kingdoms! This perfidy cannot be allowed to stand! Please don't worry, I will do my utmost to convey your concerns!"
The King glanced at me. Our eyes met. Our hearts did not go doki doki, but we minutely cringed in shared awkwardness. Was it actually a Regulus plot?
It sounded terribly suspicious that if Belfast was weakened in a war of succession, there's also how regicide was already attempted once, and it would be an excellent casus belli for Regulus to invade if we were implicated in harming their monarch.
Shite, could it possibly be some global conspiracy? I really really really hoped this world didn't run on such tropes. I didn't fancy the thought of needing to play the role of Solid Snake or Ezio Auditore.
The King grinned after I explained as such. "Yes, that is why both speed and confidentiality is of the essence. Sir Zah, I thank you also for your help in this endeavor."
Olga got up and turned towards me. She put her hands together and bowed again. "Sir Chara, I've learned that it was you who really uncovered the plot and saved my life! I owe you so much. I apologize for thinking um no that doesn't matter now, I will not forget this either! My life is in your hands."
Ahahaha it's fine. It's fine. Please just raise no more flags.
The mission, officially, was to escort and protect Olga Strand and the rest of the Mismede delegation back home. Unofficially, it was to set up a clandestine face-to-face meeting between the King of Belfast and the King of Mismede.
"Why couldn't you guys just use Alan?"
"Alan can only bring along one person," the Duke replied. "Also, to open a [Portal] between Belfast and Mismede means he'd have to travel TO Mismede, open a [Portal] there to bring in Tristwin who could cross through. And then they'd both be stuck there having to travel back to Belfast the long way."
Right. Assuming that Belfast was the [Point A] portal. Traveling to Mismede means setting up the [Point B] portal. Traveling back to Belfast is the free use of the [Point B] portal going through it again and bringing along the King would turn the [Point B] portal into a [Point A portal], freeing up the slot to lay down another teleport circle.
Unlike Diablo's Town Portals, Alan's [Portal] ability operated in pairs and can't be anchored.
"Hm. Isn't the existence of someone who can transport whole armies with no limit whatsoever also an excellent reason for war?" I hummed. At some point someone's going to figure out the [Boom Tube] was much more flexible than that.
"That is why the secrecy is paramount!" the King replied. "By the way, I have to say that I am immensely pleased that earlier, you said "we" in regards to the fight against Regulus."
I tilted my head to the side. "What? We you expecting me not to fight for you or something? The people I like LIVE HERE." I gestured aside "Well, I wouldn't want to drag the others into a fight that isn't any of their business"
"We'll follow where you go, Mister Zah!" Linze piped up.
"I didn't become an adventurer to /kill people/, Playa" said Elze.
Yae only nodded in return. She was fine with killing people.
As Crown Princess, Yumina was embroiled in this no matter what anyway.
Monika was not in the room, because she was bored with military otaku talk. It was one thing to be a fan of Gundam, she could understand the thrill and pathos of a war story, but just talking strategy before battle was not very exciting.
Which was almost blasphemy; I resolved to get her to watch The Legend of the Galactic Heroes with me at some point. The gold standard of all space opera was pure literature in motion, a true classic that was equal to War and Peace or Lord of the Rings. That it started as a voluminous novel series might help.
"That's fine too." I smiled and nodded towards her. "Most of the reason I'm fine with lending my strength to this kingdom, despite how much I was running from the shadow of war before, is how we are all going to be defending innocents. We're not going to be the aggressors here, right?"
"Of course not!" said the King.
"Right. So. Greater than tactics is strategy. Greater than strategy is logistics. How ready is Belfast to fight this possible war? If they attack while we're in Mismede-"
"At least my daughter will be safe," the King breathed.
I looked at Yumina's cute frown then back to the situation map projected onto the table. The distance between the capital Alephais and the border was roughly twice the distance between Reflet and Alephis, but that's by wagon. Maybe ten, twelve days. Which really just struck me more, how does Zorah have the time to play around so far away from the Zenovivi border; what the hell. Zanac *is* pretty safe while pretty far from the danger zone though.
Unless they arrive by boat, but really using landing ships to bypass a fortified border was blindingly obvious. Regulus was the strongest land power on this continent, but because it was largely landlocked except for its northern coast and south opening into the Great Lake that's shared by Mismede to the east, Regulus to the north and the Rammish Theocracy to the east like a triangle, its naval power was quite limited.
No, there really was no other way but to ram as many people down the Zeno gap as possible and don't give up until your enemy runs out of men faster than you.
The King answered my question, "Even if we mobilize everything and everyone, it will be hard just to survive. That's all we can hope for in this war."
Belfast really had only just recovered from the War twenty years ago. Fortunately Regulus also bled a lot from that war, and could not think of anything against a weakened Belfast when they needed to guard against a perfectly strong Rodmere on the other side.
"This is insane," I muttered. "Zorah and her family might be bugnuts, but I can't believe that Regulus would do this unless they have some way to counter the defender's advantage."
"On the other hand, attacking us is different from picking a fight with the Rodmere Union, *because it is the Rodmere Union*. It is unfortunate but Rodmere can't help us at all, that was proven twenty years ago," said the Duke. "We are too far to support militarily and can't be reached with ships if Regulus decides to close the River Gao. At least if fighting us, and only us, they will win. It will be hard, but it can be done."
"Maybe they have better ships? New weapons?" Maybe some other isekai person been cajoled into their service? I mean, what rule is there that there can be only one reincarnated person in a fantasy world at any one time? If guns had already been introduced to disturb the balance of power in this swords and magic world, we would need to work very hard to catch up.
It could be anything! Right. We needed to prepare for the worst.
"To be honest, if it wasn't for how important it is to get this alliance going, I'd feel like I'd be most useful actually going there to Regulus to gather information. Basic Sun Tzu; know your enemy as you would yourself, and you shall not have to fear a thousand battles, and all that"
"Is is that the reason you don't allow anyone to see your face, Sir Zah?!" Yumina squeaked.
"No." I didn't elaborate any further.
Yumina looked at me curiously, and then gasped. She looked frightened for a moment, and looked towards her father. The King nodded slowly, but smiled gently as if to say 'there is nothing to fear'. Yeah whatever silent conversation you're having, leave me out of it. (2)
I stared intently at the King. "Right. That boon. I'm calling it in."
"Whatever you want, Sir Zah!" the King boomed out.
"Land. I'm going to need land."
"Not a problem! Lady Monika has already spoken to us you might ask for this earlier. Are you really sure you do not want to become a formal noble? It would make things so much easier."
"A mansion near the capital would make it easier for you, would it not? You do not have to keep exiting your [Boom Tube] in the woods just to hide how you travel. That is not an issue but if you need more open land, just let us know where. It is customary to have a mansion in the city and a larger estate out of it."
Unfortunately people in Reflet were already too familiar and annoyed by it which is really a good point. Good work, Monika. We should do this indoors in a soundproofed and sound-absorbing chamber.
I licked my lips. "I'm going to need enough land that no one is using. No one is using the Old Capital, right?"
"That's you do know that it would be difficult to turn that place into farmland, right? There's good reasons why it was abandoned, it's not just the fact that the Night Baron rules it all."
"It's not for any income that I want land." Sorry for the adventurers that will be losing a steady source of income, but monster-filled land suited my purposes just fine.
Enough land to build an airfield.
Enough land for me to throw up walls.
Walls that become the foundation of something new.
I sighed and whispered. "All of life is spent moving just towards two things to achieve happiness, or to avoid pain. But since I have already found happiness here, I can't just half-ass it and run away to avoid the pain of losing it. Which would be the same damn thing. Dammit..!" I growled. "I've grown attached."
Caring for people was a weakness, yes! Because it makes you feel afraid for them. But it was also a strength, because courage is to act *despite* fear, not the absence of it!
Fleeing from the pain of living is never liberty, just mollycoddled cowardice!
So I slammed my palm down on the table and over the Old Capital a pink diamond flickered into being, hovering and spinning slowly in the air.
"I am going to need my Diamond Dogs (3)."
(2) The ones who most need to hide their faces are not spies, but burglars, executioners, and *assassins*. Remember how ridiculously quickly Playa apparently figured out the assassination plot from their perspective?