Soon after Naga returned back, he retold the whole story to everyone, making them drop their jaws at this unexpected turn of events.
“Those guys, what are they thinking?!”
Vita asked as if spitting it out.
“It’s just assumption, but, possible. I guess, their way of proposing ceasefire.”
And then, she made an expression of wanting to doubt.
“I am, serious.”
“Ah no, that’s not what I mean. I wanted to ask if those folks from Kasandora are seriously considering a ceasefire.”
“Will depend on what they want convey.”
“However, if they really do, it would be ridiculous.”
Kukuku – Vita chuckled while saying so.
“So basically, we will be both delivering and receiving the letter, right?”
Naga put up his hands, so as to have Ixine pay more attention.
“Lower voice, Ixine, or someone overhear.”
“Ah, sorry about that.”
Ixine hurriedly blocked her mouth using her hands.
“That’s true, I’ve similar thoughts to Ixine’s.”
Vita casted her staring eyes at Naga.
“In other words, Naga, you’ll be the one delivering that letter, right?”
“I will. Once I do, we check content and discuss with Harrigan regarding what we do. This time, there be messenger tag along, but, he should no suspect anything, even if let him stay at fort.”
“Certainly, I’m curious about what they want to tell us, will it be good news?
With that, their discussion reached its conclusion.
And then, they waited a short while.
Being accompanied by his men, Ligaya turned up in the waiting room.
“This is the letter I’d like for you to bring to the witches.”
One of his subordinates handed over a letter, sealed with wax, to Naga.
“Remember, you only have to pass it to them.”
Naga bowed down deeply while thinking about this.
(It looks like things have taken an unexpected turn. However, we can make use of it. No, we definitely have to seize this favorable opportunity.)
Naga and his troupe of performers were assisted by the guards on their way to one of Kasandora’s forts that was nearby the witches.
Once they arrived, one of the soldiers spoke:
“We’ll excuse ourselves here, as our presence might hinder your interaction with the witches.”
The soldiers gave an impression as if being prepared to flee, however, Naga and the rest would rather avoid the soldiers meeting with the witches.
“This much do. Thank you, very much.”
Naga bowed down.
And then, the troupe left the fort, went south and returned back to Fort Ein.
Because there might be someone watching, just to make sure, they were received as guests. Naga called out to the witches, who turned out to be Narcissus and Selena, that were there.
Selena, who could check the surroundings using her Heaven Eye, sensed Naga and the rest approaching, so she brought Narcissus with her to welcome them. However, upon their immediate meeting, it seemed as though Naga was distant in his attitude. Like that, all the concerned visitors were escorted and brought inside the fort.
“What’s the meaning of this?!”
Harrigan, Naga, and the rest faced each other inside a single room of the fort’s residential building. The head of the Heindler clan opened her eyes widely in surprise as she was retold the whole story of Naga’s interrogation.
“With that, we’ve been entrusted with this letter and arrived here to deliver it to you, who is the head of the witches. They hope you’d be interested to know its contents.”
Lela returned the charm on Naga to its usual level, so all the witches could understand Naga’s manner of speaking like they used to.
“Is that so? Then, shall we open it quickly?”
Harrigan received the letter from him and broke the seal in a casual manner.
And then, she took out its contents and quickly ran her eyes over it.
“Fumu, it’s just as Naga predicted. They are asking us indirectly if we want to stop fighting each other. What’s more, their style of writing is condescending.”
“So it was just like I thought, eh?”
“However, despite their haughty way of expression, it seems like the Kasandora Kingdom is at its wits end if they’re making this request to us.”
Saying so, Harrigan made an expression filled with mixed feelings.
‘You’re right.’ – Naga nodded down.
“Losing to us this badly, and eventually, their fort. On top of that, they’re being threatened by a large army of 3000-4000 enemy units. Misfortunes never come singly, or so they say. I guess, it’s not impossible for them to want to grasp at straws.”
“So we’re the straws?”
Harrigan made a displeased face, however, Vita laughed enjoyably.
“Hahaha, rather than straws, I’d say we’re more like poisoned steam buns.”
“Is this something to laugh about?!”
“Ohhh, Vita, that’s some nice comparison.”
“Naga, you too! Is this the right time to be praising others?!”
“Don’t be so grumpy, Harrigan.”
“Still, Naga, they might be putting their hands up and offering us a ceasefire due to them being in a crisis right now, but, don’t forget they’ve been causing us lots of pain, so they can’t be fully trusted. Maybe, it’s better to let them get attacked and crushed?”
“I’ll agree with you on the part that they can’t be trusted, but, with how things look right now, we’ve got to make use of this situation.”
“Make use? What do you mean?”
“Isn’t this a favorable opportunity to demand gratitude from them?”
“Gratitude? You mean accepting their request? What good will come from doing that? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for us to let the Kasandora Kingdom perish in a fight with other countries?”
“That would probably work short-term, however, there are more gains for us in the long-term if they survive.”
At Naga’s words, Harrigan frowned and made a doubtful face.
“Is that…. true?”
“The information regarding the approaching troops is partial, so I can’t tell for sure, but according to what that adjutant Ligaya said, the troops are led by the Church. If the Kasandora Kingdom suffers a complete defeat, we’ll be next in line to receive the Church’s onslaught. Rather, they will become even more motivated to charge at us after gaining victory over the Kasandora Kingdom. And at that rate….”
Naga shrugged his shoulders a bit.
“We’ll be forced to throw away the fort we captured and retreat back to the forest. However, whether we can protect it or not remains as a question.”
“But…. just because we comply with the ceasefire, it doesn’t mean the Kasandora Kingdom will turn into our ally. Also, there’s no telling if those folks will really fight against the extermination group.”
“That will depend on how we play it, you see.”
“W….What do you mean?”
“We will create a situation where both sides won’t be on good terms with each other, even if they don’t fight. This will become our advantage.”
“What do you mean, Naga?”
Both Harrigan and Vita, as well as the other witches, turned their puzzled looks at Naga.
“In other words, if we make Kasandora Kingdom and the extermination group glare at each other, we can thwart the church’s plan, right? They won’t be able to charge at us with their full army while having Kasandora Kingdom at their backs. Naturally, this will slow down their military movements. Our aim is to buy us some time, proceed with our preparations, and try to counter the extermination group with all that we’ve got.”
‘I see.’ – Harrigan nodded down.
“Still, is there any guarantee that the Kasandora Kingdom and the extermination group won’t join their forces together?”
“True, there isn’t. Far from that, it’s possible that the Kasandora Kingdom will do so due to them suffering a crisis.”
“In that case, shouldn’t we consider our plan with that in mind?”
“That’s why, I’m telling you we won’t be relying upon others but ourselves to create our desired situation. And then, prolong it.”
“No…. I don’t get your idea.”
Harrigan, whose face looked pitiful, turned her sight toward Vita. However, the latter merely lightly shook her head.
“I too, can’t comprehend that. Do you mind, explaining it in a more simple and concrete way, Naga?”
“That’s to say, this, you see.”
Naga explained his strategy to the best of his efforts.
“….With that, we’ll put on the Kasandora Kingdom Army’s uniforms and give the extermination army some hard times. If we do so, it’s inevitable for both sides’ relationship to turn worse, right? Not to mention, the extermination group will put the blame on Kasandora for something the latter hasn’t done, so they will no longer be able to come to an agreement.”
All the witches shook their heads up and down with dumbfounded faces.
“You’re truly an evil person.”
Vita stated so with an astonished expression, following that, Harrigan too, nodded in agreement.
“Good grief. And to think we witches are regarded as heinous by humans. Don’t we look the same as babies in front of Naga?”
“Naga-san, you’re quite vicious, aren’t you?”
This time it was Kay’s turn to carry on.
“No no, I’m surely not vicious, right?”
“That’s right. I think you’re exaggerating, Kay-chan.”
“Ais, you do understand, right?”
“Rather, there’s no end to him being treacherous.”
“Doesn’t it make me look even worse?”
“Just how did you come up with such a heinous idea?”
“As expected, isn’t it because of his character?”
“Vita, Harrigan, don’t say those cruel things.”
“They aren’t. We think they reflect the truth.”
“Ah no, this much of an idea is normal for me.”
Harrigan pulled her head back and glared at Naga with scornful eyes.
“I wonder about that.”
“That’s probably like him.”
“Well, regarding how vicious he is, let’s leave that matter aside.”
“Don’t just leave it aside!”
“Then, will this really work? This is the real question. And how are you confident of its success?”
“…..You usually tend to find a solution when seeking a way out of a desperate situation, Vita.”
“It’s not necessary false, but well, I guess it will only show during a contest. Till now it’s been always like this for me, I think. Back then, when we fought against 2000 soldiers, did you think you’d win?”
Harrigan responded to Naga’s remark.
“Umu, that’s right. We thought it was useless for us to fight back, without even trying. I guess it’s a bad habit of ours.”
“That’s right, Harrigan. You should always try to do your best. And if it fails, try something else. And if, again, it doesn’t work….”
“If it doesn’t work?”
“Then run away. Run away and start again from the beginning.”
Kukakaka – Naga laughed while saying so.
(So there was such a way of thinking? Good grief. Whenever it comes to this guy,)
“I think humans…. no, even us the witches can’t comprehend your way of reasoning. But, for a fool to be able to break through these obstacles, perhaps, you’re no longer different from a genius.”
Saying that, Harrigan leaked out a scornful laughter which she couldn’t hold back.
“If I were to say, rather than Naga-sama being a genius, he’s more of a natural disaster. Especially, for his opponents.”
As soon as Raibach stated this, the present witches smiled and broke into laughter.
A fearsome being that could be regarded as a natural disaster for its opponents, but reversely, a trustworthy being for its allies. In fact, wasn’t it because Naga had won easily against the advancing army of Kasandora Kingdom just like stopping a violently blowing storm? Recalling that event, the witches told themselves they could place more hope in their future.
“Then, let’s make the best of our time and proceed with our preparations while the Kasandora Kingdom and the extermination group haven’t struck a deal, Vita.”
“Umu…. that’s right…”
“What? Is there still something on your mind?”
“Well, I agree with what you’ve just said. Still, there’s one more concern.”
Naga squinted his eyes and urged Vita to speak.
“One more concern? What could it be?”
“If memory serves me right, among the information which you acquired in Kasandora Kingdom, there was one regarding troops that falls under the direct control of the church. That is to say, information that’s supported by the rumor we had heard in Lancel. Apparently, those guys are strong, you know?”
Naga lean forward his body while making a serious expression.
“Are they that strong?”
“Umu. I too have only heard about them from rumors, so I can’t say for sure, but, apparently, they’re combat troops that are referred as brigades. Their soldiers wear silver armor, which is highly resistant to magic and dulls it.”
“To what extent?”
“We won’t know that unless we try. It would be different if it’s just 1 or 2 soldiers, but, we’ve never fought a troop consisting of all soldiers wearing silver armor.”
“For real….? Then, does it mean that everything will depend on the outcome of this battle?”
Naga made a difficult face while groaning in a low voice.
“And that’s not all.”
Naga raised up his head at Vita’s words.
“We still don’t know how many of those brigades there are. I’ve only heard about this, but I think there are supposed to be 7- 8. That’s why, I’m worried about the number of brigades coming here this time.”
“So, based on Vita’s statements, should I understand that….. those brigades each possess a different fighting strength?”
(As usual, this guy is sharp.)
“What part of them is bothering you?”
“There are 3 rumors that describe their exceptional strength, especially the one in which apparently there’s that annoying troop referring to themselves as ‘the Brigade of 88′”
‘This too, is a rumor I learned from hearsay, but…’ – Vita revealed the meaning behind the brigade’s name followed by a story of the brigade holing up.
“Hohou. Indeed, they’ve got some terrific fighting style there.”
Naga ooh’ed in admiration.
“That’s why, I think we should avoid any hard fights involving the Brigade of 88 if they come.”
“I guess, we need to check more on that Brigade of 88.”
“How do you plan, to do that?”
“By kidnapping 1 or 2 soldiers and questioning them?”
“That measure is way too extreme!”
“Having you say it’s extreme, kinda makes me feel uneasy.”
“What’s the meaning of that?!”
“Ah no, nothing in particular. Don’t mind it.”
“Shouldn’t it be fine, to have Linne and Linna overhear some soldiers?”
“…….True. I guess it’s more convenient that way, isn’t it? There’s the possibility that the Kasandora Kingdom might become wary if their soldiers are kidnapped. They might even consider it as a surprise attack, so it’s better not to have them be alert. That being said, in addition to Linne & Linna sneaking inside the city, we need to determine the position of the extermination group. I think I can only entrust Yuuki and Selena with that task.”
“It can’t be helped. Well, shall we get moving then?”
—Why is Yuuki always acting this high-handedly?—
Kay whispered this question to Nonoel.
—Isn’t it because her head’s always in the clouds when she’s flying?—
—Nonoel, that was good!—
“Hey there! what are you whispering to each other?!”
Yuuki raised her eyebrows and stared at them both.
“Nothing in particular~~~”
‘Hmph’ – Yuuki snorted and turned back her face.
“Anyway, I’ll set off tomorrow and fly near the royal capital to conduct a regular scouting.”
“Then, will you take this mantle with you and place it near the city, so that I can teleport with Selena?”
Elysione made such a suggestion.
“There are also guards inside the city, so they might notice something strange. Maybe, if you add some more mantles…”
“That’s right. It should be much more convenient if we increase the number of spots where Elysione can teleport to. And If we mark the targets, it will be also easier to transport Selena. I’ll be relying on you, Elysione.”
*Biku* – Once Naga lightly bowed down, Elysione drew back with a start.
“Ah…. yes, I, I’ll take care of that.”
(For some reason….my heart, skips a beat whenever this person bows down.)
Unaware of Elysione’s bewilderment, Harrigan faced toward Naga with a stern expression.
“By the way, how do we reply to the letter? It was written they would like to receive an answer from us, but…”
Naga quickly responded, following Harrigan’s question.
“It should be fine if we just say we don’t plan to interfere with them.”
“Will they believe in such an ambiguous reply?”
“For now, it’s better that way. Still, that’s right, should we also add they better do the same?”
‘Fumu’ – Harrigan folded her arms and groaned.
“So it’s come to this? Indeed, it’s hard to strike a bargain.”
(I don’t think so. After all, you have done so way too many times.)
“It should do if we hand our reply to the troop nearby, watching us. We’ll just compose a proper reply and have them deliver it to their superiors.”
“Have you considered…. they might try and arrest us when trying to hand the reply?’
At Ais’ question, Naga denied with full confidence.
“I don’t think one or two soldiers from a scouting troop will attempt to catch you. If they could, they’d have long since won this war.”
“You’re right. If there are just 10 or 20 soldiers, then we can somehow manage. Speaking of which, Lela, I’m sorry, but, could you please take care of writing the reply? Once you’re done, go together with Kay and Cu to where the troop is stationed and pass it to them. Selena will observe their position, so you’ll know where the scouts are hiding.”
“Understood, Ane-sa, ma.”
“Apart from that, Harrigan, there’s one more thing I’d like to ask. Can someone from your group go to Lancel?”
“Lancel, again? For what purpose?”
“I happened to see slaves there on sale back when we were visiting Lancel.”
Harrigan made a doubting face after hearing Naga’s words.
And it wasn’t just her either. The other witches, as well as Raibach, had doubting, or rather – curious expressions, while being unable to understand what Naga was trying to imply.
“Certainly, slaves are bound to be there as well. After all, that port city is a place which thrives in trade. What’s more, there’s no limit to the amount of food and articles sold.”
“Oh and by the way, we managed to sell your gadgets and jewelry for high prices.”
“I guess, that’s very like of you…. Speaking of which, I received a brief report from Ais and Lela the other day, when you had passed through here on your way to the capital of the Kasandora Kingdom, but…….”
The complexion on Harrigan’s face, which seemed to express her doubt, turned more and more thick in color. Rather than doubt, perhaps it was better to say, of misgiving.
“Sorry, but, can we sell more gadgets and jewelry from your warehouse?”
“Haaa? What, are you talking about? What do you intend to do?!”
“If possible, I’d like to have you, Vita, help us too.”
Being told so, Vita couldn’t hide her puzzlement.
“That’s why, I’m asking what do you intend to do with the money…. hmm? Don’t tell me, you plan to purchase those slaves?”
“Ohh, how sharp of you, Vita.”
“W, What are you angry about?”
“Despite us being in a life-and-death matter, you’re telling us to sell our items to buy young female slaves… no, just what are you making us do?”
Ais stood up while swaying.
“Naga-san, so it’s all about that? Is this what you’ve been thinking about?”
‘Oh, that’s right!’ – Kay looked up in the air as if recalling something.
“Back then, Naga-san would frequently ask about slaves.”
“I misjudged you, Naga.”
Harrigan’s hair drifted in the air.
“Wait wait wait! You lot are misunderstanding something!”
“How are we supposed to misunderstand you?”
“I told you I want to buy slaves, however, I didn’t say they will be females. They’re male slaves! On top of that, robust ones!”
“Naga-san, could it be, that you swing in that direction?”
“You’re running your imagination too far away, Ais!”
“….Am I wrong?”
“Ah, for god’s sake, these girls are. Why won’t you first listen to what people have to say?”
Naga held his head.
“Isn’t it because there’s a problem in your behavior?”
“Right? Suddenly falling into a bathroom and rubbing Ane-sama’s chest. You could only think of Naga-san buying females when he mentions slaves with that in mind. Don’t you think your conduct is what forces us to think that way?”
“Ah, no, Ais, why are you….”
Harrigan, whose face was red, chided Ais.
“Ehhh? Naga-sama, have you really done such an envious…?”
Raibach looked at Harrigan with an envious face.
“D, Don’t look at me with such eyes!”
“So, Hari-nee had her chest already rubbed by Naga-san?! I’m envious~~~~ Right, Nono?”
“Noooo? I, I’m not particularly, not at all, envious about that!”
“That’s why, don’t tell people things that are easy to misunderstand!”
Harrigan gazed at Ais with fearsome, murderous eyes.
“Eh? But, isn’t it true? Isn’t this what Yuuki, who witness the event, clearly said?”
Yuuki, whose name was suddenly called out, turned away and averted her eyes. On the other hand, the other witches who were unaware of that fact besides Ais and Lela drew back their heads and looked at Harrigan with scornful eyes.
“I’m telling you it’s wrong!”
“Do you now understand a bit this pain of being misunderstood and ignored by others?”
“I do…. However, being pointed that out by someone, who tries to fulfill his lust by buying slaves, makes me incredibly annoyed.”
“Just how untrustworthy can I be?”
Naga sighed while having a miserable expression.
“Just as I said, I’m going to buy male slaves.”
“What do you plan to do with them later? Make them help with strengthening this fort? Certainly, someone else’s hands would be welcomed for construction jobs, but, it’s meaningless for now, isn’t it? Weren’t you also the one who said that?
“Obviously, I won’t be using them for that purpose. I’m going to make them into soldiers.”
Vita bent her face in amazement, whereas all the other witches and Raibach opened their eyes widely.
“No matter how many of you are mighty warriors, the number of witches is way too scarce. After all, your enemy is an army of 3000-4000 units. What’s more, if the war continues to escalate, we’ll need hands for carrying food, weapons, and armor. Not to mention, you may also have to cross swords or strike each other if a battle becomes intense. I’m not saying you lot possess no hand-to-hand combat skills. It’s just you’re more suited for long range fighting. Now that it’s been mentioned, we’ll also need people who can shoot with bows and those who can march into an enemy’s camp with swords and spears. We’ve gotta supply ourselves with those soldiers.”
Despite Naga finishing his explanation, everyone was left open-mouthed while being unable to utter a single word.
“What are you amazed at? A battle is primarily more about quantity than quality, so raising the number of soldiers is the basic of basics.”
Harrigan and Vita exchanged looks.
“Are you of the same mind, Vita?”
“I’ve never participated in a big war before, so don’t ask me.”
Harrigan pulled herself together and faced toward Naga.
“Still, even if we buy those slaves, will they do as they’re told? Will they fight for our sake? Or will they go against us?”
“Slaves probably consider their buyer as their owner. It doesn’t matter to them who that person is, or from where it is.”
“That may be true….. but…”
“In that case, you shall be their owners. Or could it be that only humans can trade slaves?”
“Ah no, I don’t… think so.”
“Then, there shouldn’t be any problems.”
“Even if you throw out your chest like that…”
“Slaves usually tend to live in harsh surroundings. They might thank us If we provide them with proper meals and warm beds. And if we promise to set them free after they perform well in battle, they might become even more excited to work for us. Be it humans or the witches, for slaves, it should make no big difference. It’s how they’re going to be treated that matters the most.”
“You’re talking about slaves as though you can understand them, aren’t you?”
Despite Vita saying this in a teasing manner, Naga puffed up with pride and answered while remaining calm.
“I don’t. More like, I can picture them. Since we can’t raise soldiers using straightforward methods, using slaves as soldiers is the easiest and fastest way. Don’t you think?”
“If I were to say…. Yes, you might be right.”
“Now then, Harrigan, I’d like for you to carry your items to Lancel, convert them into money, and then use it to purchase the slaves. Vita, you too, I’ll appreciate it if you could help us.”
“I don’t mind, but….. just how much time would it take to transport our load from a village to the city?”
“Is that so? Since Elysione won’t be coming with us….”
“No, even if that girl did, she wouldn’t be useful at all. After all, she can’t carry things using her mantles, not to mention, the clothes we put on.”
“Yeah. Certainly, it’ll take way too much time to load the cart and transport the items.”
“Then, how about we use Yuuki?”
Yuuki had been deliberately turning away all this time, but, she couldn’t help it when everyone’s gazes were focused on her, so she turned back around
“Fine with me, but, I’ll have to go and return many times, since my board can’t carry that much, you know?”
“We don’t mind. However, I still think it will be much faster than carrying it on the cart. Also, as I fear, we’ll need to have someone who can evaluate the items, so…”
‘Well, certainly, that’s true’ – Yuuki puffed her cheeks in displeasure, but nevertheless, she answered reluctantly.
“I’ve no discerning eye when it comes to an item’s value.”
“I’ll have to return back to the forest to get my items. Then, how many slaves should we gather?”
“I don’t know how much a single slave is worth, and also, how much can we gain from selling your items, so probably, it will depend on the outcome. We’ll gather as many slaves as possible based on their costs. I’d like to have at least 100 of them, but, I’m not sure if there are slaves capable of fighting at a reasonable price on sale. In the worst case-scenario, I won’t mind even if we manage to get just 10-20.”
“You mean it? I guess, we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
“Right. Then, we need someone who can take care of them…..”
Naga looked around at the present people and stopped his sights on a single one.
“I entrusted you with the sale of the items the previous time, but, as expected, the only one who can choose and buy slaves is you, Raibach.”
Raibach whose face looked stupefied pointed at himself.
“Yes. If it’s you, who has led soldiers before, then you will somehow be able to manage the slaves, won’t you?”
“That’s, well, yes.”
“On the other hand, the same can’t be said about the witches. Don’t you agree, Harrigan?”
Harrigan shrugged her shoulders.
“Right. We’ve never swung swords or spears, so we haven’t the slightest idea about what kind of a person is suitable to become a soldier.”
“And with that, Raibach, you’ll be in charge of supplying us with slaves.”
“Understood. I’ll try to do my best.”
Later, a talk regarding each person’s duty would be decided, with Naga being the main character.
Early the next morning.
Having confirmed the reply addressed to Kasandora, Lela took Cu, Kay, Nonoel, and Selena with her and left the Fort Ein.
The remaining witches worked in a hurry, so as to bring the items from their village hidden inside the forest, and prepare to repel the extermination group.
Lela and her team quickly returned back after they passed the reply to a scouting troop’s leader they had discovered.
Soon after Naga received the report from Lela, he started to do calculations inside his mind.
(Well then, I wonder, how much time did we manage to gain? Even if the extermination army reaches Kasandora Kingdom, they won’t be able to simply move, so perhaps we have around 10 days. If that’s not enough, should we put on the Kasandora army’s uniforms and attack the extermination army’s troops? I guess, I’d rather utilize that additional time and fully prepare before meeting them.)