Predicting the number of people – Part 2

While Elvis and Lux faced each other, Suzuran’s members were meeting in their own headquarter.

“Takumi has been taken into custody like Elsa reported.”

Mirta looked her comrades in the eyes one after the other with a serious expression.
The most important members of Suzuran – Karin, Kunon, Jil and Geiz – along with a couple of girls who ‘contributed’ in someway to this situation – Elsa and Lize – sat around the table.
Everyone was visibly worried. Wrinkles dug their brows.

“This is a delicate matter. If we were to rescue Takumi, the entire Suzuran would be charged with treason and get arrested.”

Killing the son of an overlord was a serious matter, but everyone knew that this time it was a groundless charge against the kind-hearted slave merchant.
Rescuing him now that the army was involved and the inquisition would hold his trial was going to be hard.
Their fate would’ve been sealed if they failed in the attempt.

“This decision cannot rest on my shoulders alone. I gathered you here today to hear what you all want to do about this. Shall we save Takumi or—”

“Of course we will!”

Lize stood up from her chair and interrupted Mirta.

“He saved me! He jumped head first into danger and taught me how to start walking on my own… I am the reason he is now in jail too.”

“Well… yes. Takumi has done the impossible to save you, and it brought Fortesea to take action against him… but you are currently here on behalf of Her Highness. Don’t forget about it.”

“Y-Yes… I beg your pardon.”

Mirta spoke calmly, trying to explain the situation, and Lize, feeling too much pressure from her friend’s serious tone, hung her head in shame like a child who gets scolded.
Now Lize was speaking as the Archbishop and as Queen Eluria’s messenger, and she was now responsible to gather information and grasp the current status of the capital, for Her Highness couldn’t move around freely. She wasn’t the only one to benefit from attending this meeting.

“Please, make sure that we understand what you meant just now. Did you mean that you, Lize Crest, want to save Takumi?”

The child rose her head again and took a deep breath to get into playing her role.

“I do, and so does Her Highness. Losing him is not in Her plans. I would help him even if I had to disobey our Queen. I will do all I can to hinder the inquisition.”

Mirta’s lips curved into a warm smile as she heard that.

“I see. Thank you, now I understand your intentions.”

The leader of Suzuran took a brief pause to look at everyone’s face. The silence filled the room for a moment, which lasted long enough for her smile to disappear.

“I have a favor to ask you all…”

The seriousness of her request loomed over them. It was like the air had turned denser, and everyone caught their breath.

“Can’t we just leave things as they are?”

“What?!”

All the people in the room said the very same thing at the same time, except Lize who slammed her hands on the table wearing a troubled expression.

“Yaaay~! We can’t help or save him! Meeting’s over, see ya~!”

“No, wait up, Kunon! Why is that?!”

“Because we’re six against one. The majority wins.”

“Karin, what are you…?! Mirta! Not even you want to do anything?!”

“I think he doesn’t really need our help. He can handle this on his own…”

Mirta’s dumb face didn’t show any worry and neither did Kunon’s, who looked bored, or Karin’s, who looked calm.
Lize was now pouting in dissatisfaction.

“What about everyone else?! Like… you, sully man!”

“I’m Jil. At least remember my name, Archbishop. We already met many times.”

“I have always seen you as a dangerous and scary man I occasionally meet up.”

“Am… Am I that scary?”

Jil’s sharp gaze pierced the child who hurriedly ran to hide behind Mirta’s back.

“Well, you do have this dark and scary aura.”

“Milady, you think so too…? Anyhow, I would just leave Takumi alone.”

The man lowered his tone of voice with a sour look on his face.

“If we fail and slip-up even once, the consequences of our actions will not fall on our shoulders alone. If Suzuran gets wiped out, our country might try to do the same with the rest of Listina’s slums. We’re deeply rooted within them, after all.”

“Her Majesty would never allow something like—”

“Let me make it clear now: Lord Elvis holds the military power of this city, not our Queen.”

Elvis Fortesea was Listina’s strongest and most influential Overlord. He was one of three and the city’s power had been divided between them.

As a former guest of Fortesea, Lize had the chance to meet him every now and then, and now she pondered on Jil’s words: what he meant was that there wouldn’t be any mercy for them.

“We’re talking about that guy. He will surely have a trick up his sleeve to make things go his way.”

Once Jil had mouthed his statement, all the people in the room nodded at the same time.
Lize, who was cracking under her pessimism, couldn’t hide the uneasiness darkening her face.

“None of you know the inquisition… do you?”

The Archbishop read as much as she could about them, taking advantage of the documents she could access thanks to her status.
Whenever someone was charged with treason against the country, the inquisition held a ‘trial ceremony’ where the Holy Knights gathered to ‘purge the sins’ of the ‘criminal’.
They interrogated the suspect, who had to answer their every question pledging on the name of their Goddess, and then started the purification ritual.
At least, that’s how it looked like to people.

“They apparently hold a trial, but the truth is they borrow their pledge in the name of our Goddess to do whatever they want to get rid—which means execute, so killing—every traitor of the country.”

No one could tell if the charge was groundless or not.
It didn’t matter if the defendant was right and innocent: they would be condemned anyway.
Those guys hid all of this behind the name of their Goddess they sullied.

Lize never took part in their trials.
Calling them ‘trials’ was absolutely misleading—they were so gruesome that ‘lynching’ would’ve described them better.

“If none of us does anything to help him, he will never come back home! Is that okay with you?!”

“Nah, he won’t die even if he gets killed.”

The five members of Suzuran spoke again at once while shaking their head.
Lize couldn’t hide her anger and disappointment in front of the uncooperativeness of the other members of the meeting, and the sour taste in her mouth only spread faster as she looked at Mirta, who looked like she hadn’t a worry in the world, Kunon, who looked even more happy-go-lucky than ever, and Karin, who was drinking some tea with a surreal calm.

“I have had enough! If none of you want to save him, I will do it by myself!”

She then strode across the room, trying not to spill the tears that were welling in her eyes, and slammed the door behind her back.
For a short time, no one moved an inch or dared to make a sound.
Then, everyone sighed and let go of their facade.

“You know… Lize is so pure I feel guilty right now…”

“Seeing her so determined to save Takumi hurt more than expected…”

Karin and Mirta looked exhausted as they limply sank in their chairs.
Everyone in that room wanted to pursue Lize’s will, but… Takumi didn’t.

“Fairstadt, I want to hear it again. He wanted you to take him away, right?”

Elsa frowned in front of Jil’s question.

“Yes… I behaved accordingly to the guards’ orders, but if he really wanted to escape, I would’ve figured out a way to help him… and yet, he chose to be taken away.”

She started to push on her hurting stomach, maybe trying to quell her nausea and pain.

Takumi had probably readied everything in advance to escape from this situation, but he didn’t warn anyone or change anything either.
That probably meant that this time the best choice was not to act.
Everyone was sure that Takumi had a plan, but that wasn’t enough to wipe away the growing worry in their heart.

“Karin… did he tell you anything about rescuing him?”

“Do you really think he could be so honest with someone, Elsa?”

The captain of the guards closed her mouth for a brief moment, then tried to speak again after shifting her gaze to Kunon.

“Wolf-girl, what about you?”

“Lately he spoke a lot about the sauce for meaty food!”

“What the heck is he thinking…?”

Elsa’s tone was somewhat pitiful as she let her head limply fall on the desk. It gave off a loud ‘bonk’ on impact.
This time, it was evident that Takumi wanted to be framed, but everything else was unclear. This situation was just too delicate to dare a blind move and hope they got it right—the smallest slip-up could lead them all to ruin.
Their morale was slowly falling apart.

“Karin, Kunon… today you have to depart for Renunt, right?”

“Yes. We also have to appear somewhat like feudal lords, so we cannot help it.”

“I can’t wait to see what’s going on in there~!”

Now that Karin and Kunon were official knights of the Holy Kingdom of Richtert and got assigned to Renunt Village, they had to govern it and fix any problem that would ravage the place.
This was also a direct order from Elvis Fortesea. The demi-humans didn’t know why he did so in person, but their gut feeling spoke loudly: they were better not to go against him.

“Well, I guess that making us move away from here was just another step in their plan.”

Takumi was put in solitary confinement, and his ‘right arms’ – a significant part of Suzuran’s war potential – had to travel away from the capital. It took two days to reach Renunt by horses-pulled wagon, which meant a ‘round trip’ of four days, and they didn’t know how much it would take them to defeat all the monsters.
The best case scenario was to be away from Listina for about seven days.

The inquisition would presumably execute Takumi during their absence. Breaking through the countless magic knights who attended the trial was going to be quite the hard fit without Karin and Kunon.
They couldn’t stay in the capital and turn their back to their duties as knights either, since it would lead them to getting charged of treason due to leaving innocent people dying at the hands of monsters.
In the end, they only had one choice.

Takumi’s last words echoed in Karin’s mind—I leave everything specifically to you.
She took a few moments to reflect and rose her head.

“Geiz, how are you doing with the major company’s management?”

“Iiih! I-I’m doing exactly as Lord Takumi requested! Why is that?!”

“I’m asking for the details. You received the record books, right?”

“Y-Yes… The agreements with the maritime states are sealed and so is our commercial route. What’s pressing us the most right now is to keep the other major companies under control…”

Karin’s lips curled into a smile. She finally got to hear something positive.

“Mirta, can I leave Lize to you?”

“Eh? Well, I was worrying about her anyway…”

“No, I mean, I’d like you to help her doing what she wants.”

“Helping her…?”

Mirta tilted her head in thinking and Jil wore a sullen face.

“Wait. Suzuran just decided not to act, didn’t we?”

“Exactly, Suzuran won’t act. But if the messenger of Her Highness is moving, don’t you think that we, as a major company, should support her as we can?”

“Do you really want the Archbishop to shoulder all of this on her own?”

“I’m not. We’re just deeply impressed by an innocent girl who is trying her best to save the benefactor who saved her. As a virtuous major company, we’re only doing our best to support her.”

Jil held his breath when the elf tapped on her temple.

“Are you trying to mimic him?”

“This is not about me. It’s all about meeting his expectations. Do you really think that our current situation is just a coincidence? Geiz can take a breather from the exhausting negotiations between the companies, and we hardly have work with the slums’ relationships right now.”

She understood that this ‘coincidence’ wasn’t a stroke of luck at all.
It had been created by her boss, the same man who assumed that Lize would decide to rescue him on her own.
She was sure that he didn’t wish for a simple rescue, but since she had yet to grasp the full picture, she had to figure out the right thing to do too.

“Takumi might think that Lize’s actions are essential. This means that we should let her do whatever she wants and support her as much as we can.”

“And… will we rescue Takumi like this…?”

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter.”

“Wow, you said it for real…”

“It would be great if we did, but it doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail in the attempt. He will surely figure out something on his own. I bet he’s in jail right now, grinning as he whispers that everything’s going according to his plan or something.”

“That’s… indeed very easy to picture…”

Mirta smiled wryly at Karin, who shrugged her shoulders.

“He doesn’t need to be saved. Just do your best to support Lize, okay? Send us a report or contact us with this if anything happens.”

“Lize made that, didn’t she? Is it the improved version of the bug tool she used before?”

Mirta rose her face lightly as she recalled that matter: they found out that Kiad had installed a bug in every defensive tool they made.
Lize proceeded to dispose of both their data and materials. Then, Takumi asked her to drastically change them to create a tool that could make people keep in touch with each other no matter the distance, and so she created a new law formula.

“I-It won’t break if I touch it, right? Right?”

“It might break if it was built by an amateur, but we’re talking about one of the Archbishop’s creations here. Do you really think one of her tools would break so easily? If you’re so afraid, ask Lize or Killfer for help.”

“Wait, what? Killfer knows how to use this?”

“That bookworm reads mountains of books, he is pretty knowledgeable. Also, he copies law formulas and transcribes stuff related to the Holy Text, so he will surely be of help.”

“O-Okay, I got it! I’ll go ask him!”

Mirta brought a hand to her chest and let out a sigh of relief. Karin succeeded at convincing her and looked more relaxed.

“Now… Elsa, can you come with us?”

“Mh…? Shouldn’t I stay in the capital as well?”

The Captain of the guards was somewhat thrown off by that moment.

“I mean, we’re demi-humans, right? No matter our status, no villager would accept us, let alone listen to our management orders or suggestions… especially when the most influential member of our company has been thrown in jail.”

“I see… So you’d like one of the Fairstadt to substitute him to prove everyone that we’re supporting you…?”

“I knew I could count on you.”

“You look just like him right now and it creeps me out!”

“Yaaay~! I’m so glad you’re coming with us, Captain~! Now we’ll have a lotta fun~!”

“Can you please calm down for once…?”

Kunon didn’t hide her enthusiasm, moving her ears in a funny circular way, unlike Elsa, who let out a breath so heavy that it sounded like it escaped from lungs of lead.

“Look forward to the reward. Let me write a few info.”

Karin’s pen raced so fast on the paper that everyone could barely follow it. The next moment, she tore the page and handed it over to Elsa, who blinked a few times to realize what just happened. Her big jade-colored eyes scanned through it the next moment, and they started to sparkle.

“Karin, is it…?!”

The elf brought a finger in front of her lips to interrupt her.

“It’s your reward. I’ll fill you in once we’re on the wagon.”

Then, she got up and looked everyone in the face.

“That’s all. Let’s work hard to support Lize as much as we can.”

The people in the room nodded firmly.
That marked their decision—Takumi was to be left alone.


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