Idle talk – The People in the Dark, and a Collection of Brief Stories (1)
XX’s Point of View
This was a certain inn in the slums of the Royal Capital city of Ortoa. Basically, it was a room in an inn used by vagabonds when they get a little money or adventurers who are close to being criminals. There were several men there. They all wore black robes and hid their faces. They were operatives dispatched by the Crown and the Church. Furthermore, they are the commander class among the agents dispatched here to investigate the princess of Arland.
“Have you been able to identify the princess?”
A senior operative asked the others.
“There are five possible students alone. It seems that they sent people of similar ages at the same time so that she could not be identified.”
“What about that Count family’s young lady? She has the skills to do what they say the princess can.”
The face of Alice Fleur was already known to the agents. She is close to the princess from the rumors and is being monitored, but…
“Similarly as with the other four, Arland’s Special Service is still with her, and 20 of our operatives have been killed.”
We looked into her as well as the other candidates, but like the operatives who looked into the other candidates, all of them were killed, and as far as we were concerned, we couldn’t get any useful information. It is not that they are incompetent. The Special Service of Arland has that much power.
As for Arland itself, the internal defense system in Arland is even more powerful, so there are many false rumors, which makes it difficult to identify the princess. Another reason for the lack of information is that Princess Alicetia is not very outspoken and only engages in a minimum of social activities. In fact, few of the Arlandian nobles know much about the princess, and those who do are only the patriots in the upper echelons of society. On the rare occasion, a few ambitious people do provide a little information, but the operatives in Arland are in such great danger of being discovered that they rarely report it.
“His Excellency the Pope wants us to catch her. Find her, whatever it takes.”
“Is the princess… that important?”
One of the operatives asked. In fact, more than 50 operatives have been killed in the last few days alone. These men were also top-notch operatives, and one would normally be reluctant to let more than 50 of them die. Clearly, Arland is serious about the princess’s safety. It is clear that with the Special Service that Arland has deployed, we cannot win with the current strength of our own operatives, and it may be better to retreat temporarily.
“It’s not for us to know, but there is a danger that Arland will gain more power. Arland must be destroyed so that the Beastmen race does not grow any stronger. But the princess was deemed of use by His Excellency the Pope. She will be given a proper education in the Church, and will operate as the Saintess of the Church.”
They call it church education, but in reality it is just plain brainwashing. They use drugs, magic, and violence to destroy the ego and create obedient Saintesses. The Church has been creating and operating such Saintesses for the past 200 years, but the requirements for them are that they must be users of spirit magic and healing magic, and good people like that are hard to come by. The reason is that the number of users of spirit magic is far fewer than that of magicians, and since they are Saintesses, men cannot serve. Therefore, they are often forcibly captured as soon as they are found. Even if they resist, their ego will eventually break down, and they will become obedient puppets, so it does not matter who they are as long as they have the right skills.
“In a few years, the Empire will start to move, and when they invade Arland, they will mobilize their Heroes.”
An operative sprang up. The people here were the elite among elites and were given more information than other operatives. The Heroes are those who have been summoned via the Summoning of Heroes, and there are now several hundred of them in the Empire. They are superior in ability, and since they wear slave collars, they are nothing more than the dogs of the Empire.
The Church and the Empire believe that a force of Heroes, which is equivalent to hundreds of thousands of troops could quickly destroy Arland if deployed, but since the Empire is slow to move, they are waiting for the right time to deploy them. The reason is that they considered it dangerous to deploy only the Heroes.
There are two dangers. The first danger is the strength of King Arland, whose name is well-known throughout the world as he is always on the front lines, laying waste to Empire’s and Imperial State’s soldier. And the second, even more dangerous, is the Queen. She is almost a monster. She possesses a unique magic called “Happiness,” which allows her to turn everything in sight to her advantage. In a battlefield with these two, the soldiers of the Empire and the Imperial State would have to deal with the king under the worst possible conditions, so no matter how strong Heroes are, they would not have a good chance.
However, the Queen’s weakness has already been discovered. It has already been confirmed at the time of the Stampede that the “Happiness” is ineffective if she is out of sight. Therefore, the Imperial State believes that Arland would be destroyed if the next military action took place.
“In the meantime, find the princess and bring her back to the Imperial State. She is too good to die.”
“The Count’s young lady is certainly suspicious, but I doubt that Arland would make such an obvious move.”
“You mean, it’s a trap?”
Even the operatives were suspicious of the young lady, who gave herself up as a possible princess, when we could not find out the princess’ true identity, but it confused them. Why move so blatantly? Normally, this would be a trap.
But in a sense, this was also an information war. The reason why Gilbert and Alicia do not stop Alicetia’s movements is because they want to make them think that she is too obvious in her actions, and that it is a trap.
“It’s very likely. However, we should continue monitoring her. There’s a possibility that she just might not be able to control herself because she’s a child.”
“Understood. I’m curious about something, though…”
“The cardinal, deacon, as well as the knights of the Church who tried to get the magician who healed the king’s granddaughter the other day were obliterated. The magician was an adventurer who took action just as the candidates arrived here. They are registered under the name of Hollow.”
The leaders thought for a moment. It is a known fact that royalty in Arland become adventurers. This case is in line with that. Princess Alicetia is famous in Arland for her benevolence, and sometimes uses healing magic for the benefit of the commoners, even to the point of the decline of her own health. Naturally, without a reward in mind.
“Don’t act against that fella just yet. The operatives will be replenished in 10 days. Then we will look into them.”
With the loss of so many operatives, we can’t expand our reach to the adventurers as well. Perhaps they are a candidate, but we are short on manpower. The more we search, the more operatives get killed, so we decided to put it off until a replacement arrived.