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Youjo Senki, Volumen 3, Capitulo 2, Parte 4



MAY 28, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, COMMONWEALTH HUMANITARIAN AID GROUP PEACE WORLD’S HOSPITAL ADJACENT TO THE REPUBLICAN RHINE ARMY GROUP HEADQUARTERS

“…Ngh. I don’t know this ceiling…”

Forcing his muddled consciousness to function, Captain Cagire Caine from the Republican Rhine Army Group headquarters took stock of his situation.

Okay, here he is, thought John as he casually pushed the nurse call button. He was being considerate because Caine had to be totally fatigued.

He must be on a potent drug, some kind of long-acting sedative.

Well, that’s probably the kindest thing to do for a man who was half-dead from horrible burns and carbon monoxide poisoning, rather than letting him thrash around.

Anyhow, as long as I can talk to him, that’s fine. I should just ask what I need to ask. That’s what he decided to do, but…if he was being honest, he felt that someone returned from the brink of death had the right to a little peace.

His vision must be okay. If he can make out the ceiling, he can see colors. That said, since he can’t move his body at all, his field of vision is limited. But his ears and mouth are working normally. It’d be nice if he’d realize I’m here.

Anyhow, he’s alive. Given that, an Intelligence agent would be trained to wonder where he is.

Then John thought he should respond to Cagire’s confusion. If this pain-in-the-ass Intelligence guy mistakes me for an enemy, it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth.

“So you’re awake?” John addressed him calmly in a voice the captain should have been able to recognize.

“…Who are you? I beg your pardon, but please give me your name and rank.”

John didn’t expect to be asked that, but he couldn’t fault the fellow for following procedure.

Although he would remember if he weren’t utterly incapacitated.

“Sure. You’re Captain Cagire Caine, and you can call me Mr. John. I’m from the Commonwealth. Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Oh, Mr. John.”

He pretended to understand. Well, even I have to admit it sounds pretty fishy, but a soldier doesn’t ask questions when they’ve been told not to go poking their nose around. Anyhow, they knew each other’s faces.

As far as the previous intel went, at least, they weren’t enemies. They were on friendly enough terms to cooperate and exchange intel. Hence, “Mr. John” was enough to be understood.

“So, Mr. John, why am I tied down?”

No wonder he was so confused, questioning why he was bound to the bed.

“Ahh, you’re not really tied down. Your meds are mostly pain-killers.”

“Huh? So I lost almost all feeling in my body from pain-killers?”

From the file the nurses brought when he pushed the button, it didn’t seem like he should be fully numb, though. Maybe some of his nerves are shot.

…And so young, poor chap. May the Lord have mercy…amen.

“If writhing in pain is a masochistic quirk of Republicans, then I suppose we’ve committed a cultural faux pas.”

Geez, at this rate, it doesn’t seem like I’m going to find out where the imperial mole is hiding.

And apparently, his pessimism wasn’t misplaced.

Caine suffered from memory loss due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Frustratingly, he wasn’t in any position to provide useful information.

“Get well soon.”

With that, John left the room and heaved a sigh. Then he picked up the hospital telephone.

He had to notify the Republican Army that he’d just barely managed to save one of their officers’ lives. But he had to say what he couldn’t say earlier that the way the man was, he was closer to a corpse.

The only thing he learned was that Caine didn’t know what had happened immediately before he was injured. Sadly, his condition rapidly deteriorated after their conversation.

The top drily responded that he should be promptly turned over rather than probed for no good reason, so there was John giving the notice.

…Given the Republic’s changing circumstances, this is my only choice. A calculating thought came to mind. It was true that if the fellow didn’t last long, they would no longer need to have a “charity organization” based in a “hazardous region.”

Also, John mentally added, considering how furious General Habergram is going to be, the Republic should bear some of the blame.

And it’s regrettable that my flight back was set up so efficiently. Just the thought of how grouchy Habergram must have gotten made him want a smoke. This is one of those times I just want to unwind with a few cigars and not think about anything.

True to his desire, he took out a cigar, put it in his mouth, cut it, lit up, and puffed.

Thus exhaling smoke in lieu of sighing, John, with his somewhat aloof John Bull spirit,7 cursed the heavens. Of course, he was proud of his ability to keep calm and collected in any situation, but even for him this one was a challenge.

I can handle the homeland’s “cuisine,” but spare me Habergram’s angry screams. More than a few from Intelligence grumbled in that vein.

Reluctantly well and truly reluctantly John disembarked in the Commonwealth.

Besides tea, there was nothing that could soothe his heart.

Ahh, he lamented, but he would do his best. He just had to think of the cancellation of his vacation and sudden business trip to the Republic as earning money for his family.

Good grief. With that mental murmur, he plunged into the storm of making his report.

He got a sense of the situation from the looks on the faces of the people passing by, but he still had to go. Granted, he wasn’t sure if his meager salary covered observing a man who was like a dragon when he flew into a rage.

Grumbling internally, he didn’t let it show on his face as he entered the room.

He gave the waiting major general an oral report that covered the main points.

Maybe you could say “luckily,” or maybe you would just say he was used to it, but he had enough time to plug his ears as he finished speaking.

Naturally, he made use of it immediately.

“……………DON’T FUCK WITH ME!”

Forged by salty tides, the natural voice of a seaman who had been with the navy since the days of sailing ships was loud enough to thunder over even a stormy ocean. And this angry general’s screams were even louder.

Major General Habergram of the Foreign Strategy Division.

The fist he pounded down was bloodied, but it broke the desk nonetheless the desk made of oak, known for its durability. What magnificent power. John watched with a somewhat faraway gaze and endeavored to understand his boss’s eccentric behavior in an objective way.

He could probably even make a living as a baritsu instructor.

“Ah. That said, you know, the sole survivor was apparently burned before he knew it.”

“Mr. John” feigned a sigh, all but saying he had plugged his ears because he knew he would be screamed at.

John had known Habergram for a long time. As a result, he also knew what might calm the man down a little.

“The survivor is in an extremely precarious condition. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be able to hold out much longer. He only finally spoke just a little while ago.” John explained why they couldn’t question the survivor before being asked. “We have no choice, so I think we should send him to a facility in the Republic for urgent care to save his life and consider what we have, all the new information we were able to get. I don’t think we can expect a follow-up report.”

He knew, however, that these words would have very little tranquilizing effect on Habergram, who was practically exploding with rage.

“Thanks to the fires, there are no documents left. Everything’s vanished.”

To put it plainly, the results of their investigation were not good. All the classified documents they had collected had burned up. The loss of veteran agents who might have discovered something was also huge. The only thing they had managed to learn from the Republican survivor was that they had been burned up before they even realized what was going on.

Anyhow, in exchange for that meager piece of intelligence, they were now stuck writing letters explaining that all the personnel they had dispatched “died in an accident during training.” And at this rate, they would have to blame someone for this huge accident and somehow fake it in a believable way.

The human loss was too major to brush off. On top of that, the questioning of the survivors was not going well.

“…How? How is it that a station so secret you can’t even tell me about it gets targeted and attacked by imperial mages?!”

Agh, if there was ever a headache worth griping to the heavens for, this is it.

Now even John was being suspected. He had to sigh.

Is that any way to talk to an old man who’s ground his bones down with hard work? Has the boss finally succumbed to paranoid delusions? John had to wonder for a moment as he retaliated with a hard stare.

But faced with Habergram’s impatient return stare that confidently asked, Got a problem with that? John was the first to back down. Well, with such serious suspicion that we have a mole, everyone will be under scrutiny.

Not many people knew, but the Commonwealth’s intelligence agency had been suffering a streak of failure. There were just too many “unfortunate coincidences.”

It may have been an unfortunate tragedy that the section dispatched to the Entente Alliance got shelled into oblivion along with their observation post. When the imperial mages unexpectedly encountered the Entente Alliance fleet, it was possible that their stray shots just happened to concentrate on one spot even if, in a turn of bad luck, someone the Commonwealth was doing its utmost to protect happened to be in that location. Probability theory showed that it wasn’t impossible.

And the subsequent discovery of their submarine was also theoretically possible. Given the nature of boats, the chances were nonzero.

In other words, even if they could declare the chances were too low for mages to have possibly encountered ships at sea, it was not unheard of. Thus, the current silencing of any discussion regarding the cargo due to confidentiality concerns might have been the result of the product of an unfortunate coincidence.

So yes, one could argue those cases were bad luck, despite the astronomical odds. Then this happened.

When people voiced suspicions that perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence, that it could have been a leak, an investigation was only a matter of course. Naturally, in order to conduct such an investigation, it was necessary to keep secrets. So the Commonwealth’s intelligence cooperated in utmost secret with the Republic’s intelligence agency. The secret facility where they worked together was extremely well protected.

Of all the things that could happen in the great big world, perhaps imperial mages just happening to also attack that facility during an assault on headquarters was just one more possibility.

Well, coincidences are just horrible horrible enough that it wouldn’t be strange to discover a mole in the Commonwealth… There John stopped thinking.

Frankly, what they needed was a realistic plan of action, not idle speculation.

It may have been an unbelievable story, but if it was a coincidence, he had to prove it as such or the specter of suspicion would torment him forever. If it wasn’t a coincidence, there had to be an awfully big mole scrabbling around. If that was the truth, he had to shine a light on it and drag it out.

“Well, all we can do is make an inquiry.”

“…But we’ve done that several times.”

Hmm. Maybe moles can burrow unexpectedly deep. Should we look even if we have to dig? John adjusted his appraisal of the spy. “I’ll see what I can find.”

It’s a bother, but maybe I should shake down the Home Office, too.

He revised his plans in his head. If he was looking for a mole, he had to consider the possibility of leaks from other departments, too. Sadly, he didn’t have much time.

The collapse of the Rhine front was coming. All military specialists agreed. Incidentally, “Mr. John” didn’t have any issue with that judgment, either. It was more about whether he had time for a leisurely mole hunt or not.

John was the type who knew his limits. In other words, when something was impossible, he thought, Mm, yeah, this is probably impossible.

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